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Kiss With a Fist

Chapter Text

In all fairness, Taehyung should have probably seen it coming.

You don’t spend five gruelling months locked in this hellhole and not expect to be knocked the fuck out the second you turn your back on the enemy. He should have expected it but the fist that makes painful contact with his head is still a shock.

The hard tarmacadam of the prison’s dismal exercise yard is unforgiving as it rushes up to meet him. His head cracks against it and suddenly he’s seeing stars. He should have known better than to turn away, even if he thought the fight was over. But he was too confident, cocky even, celebrating his ‘victory’ and taking his eyes off his supposedly downed opponent giving said opponent ample opportunity to sneak up behind him and fucking deck him. Fuck.

As he is kicked in the stomach hard enough to make him want to be sick, Taehyung blames Jungkook. If it hadn’t been for that damned kid he wouldn’t have looked away. If it hadn’t been for Jungkook and that damned smirk of his always distracting him, he wouldn’t be getting the shit kicked out of him right now.

As he curls up into a ball in an attempt to minimise the amount of him his opponent could stomp the living daylights out of, Taehyung wonders if Jungkook is watching him now. Through the pain that is singing all throughout his body, Taehyung wonders if the kid is smirking like he was when Taehyung delivered the final punch sending his opponent crashing to the ground. Or perhaps he’s wearing a different expression now, he can’t be sure, he’s too busy trying to shield his head.

The man is relentless and despite sustaining as many if not more injuries than Taehyung in their little ‘disagreement’ he continues to kick Taehyung with an admirable amount of vigour and energy. If Taehyung hadn’t been in so much pain he would have congratulated the guy. Not everyone can get up after taking a haymaker to the jaw and proceed to trample someone half to death. Well done man.

Taehyung feels something crack in his chest and knows he now has some freshly broken ribs and it. is. agony. Every breath is now torture; more pain on top all his suffering. His mouth fills with blood and he can feel it dribble down his chin to splatter on the tarmac next to his head. The blood is a beautiful red against the grey of this damned prison and despite the fact he’s on the verge of passing out due to all the pain, he still appreciates the beauty. He’s always loved the sight of blood, that’s largely the reason he’s in here in the first place, but he prefers when it’s someone else’s, thanks.

The man kicks his head and Taehyung’s vision blurs, and now everything is muffled, the roar of the gathered crowd nothing but a distant rumble as his own heartbeat thunders in his ears. He wonders if he’s going to die right here in the prison yard. What happens to prisoners after they die? Will they bury him here? Or maybe they’ll take his body out, free at last.

Taehyung’s not sure how much more he can take. He’s been in fights all his life, been in some real nasty ones too, had a couple close calls but this, this is a bad one. He curses himself for letting his guard down, and then he curses Jungkook too for good measure.

Taehyung closes his eyes and the last thing he sees is the man’s foot swinging back ready to deliver the final kick. The man’s prison shoes are stained with a mixture of dust and blood and part of Taehyung is sad that this is the last thing he will ever see.

But the kick never lands and when Taehyung opens his eyes his opponent is once again on his back and someone is standing before him, right between him and the man who was seconds away from kicking him to death. It dawns slowly that someone has just saved his ass. Now that’s what Taehyung calls unexpected. Here, no one helps anyone unless there’s something in it for them. It’s kill or be killed and no one’s willing to risk their neck for someone else.

Except someone is apparently willing to risk their life for Taehyung and when he turns around Taehyung isn’t even really surprised to see Jungkook smirking down at him. He really wants to wipe that smirk off the kid's face. Preferably with his mouth. Maybe once he’s spit out all the blood and teeth that have been knocked loose.

“Need a little help, love?” Jungkook asks, teasing him. Normally Taehyung’s pride would never allow himself to need to be rescued like some damsel in distress but perhaps he can make an exception for Jungkook.

“Nah I had it all under control, sweetheart,” Taehyung answers with a smile, blood oozing from his split lip. Goddamn even smiling hurt now. Fuckity fuck fuck. Jungkook only rolls his eyes, his cocky smirk never slipping and Taehyung almost forgets how much pain he’s in. 

Almost.  

Jungkook turns his back as the man groans and attempts to struggle back to his feet. Taehyung has to hand it to the guy, he is not a quitter.

Crouching down, Jungkook is now at his level. Their eyes meet- or at least Jungkook’s eyes meet one of Taehyung’s, the other is now swollen shut. For the first time since the fight began, ended and began again, the smirk is gone and Taehyung thinks he can see genuine concern in Jungkook’s dark eyes. But then again he did just have a full grown man stamp on his head so he can’t really be sure.

“You okay Tae?” Jungkook asks his voice low and Taehyung shudders. He feels half dead but he’s not so he smiles again and nods. Taehyung’s always been an impulsive person, never really been the type to think too much about the consequences of his actions so he isn’t thinking when he grabs Jungkook by the front of the tank top he wears under his orange prison jumpsuit and pulls him in for a heated kiss.

They’re in the middle of the prison yard, he had at least two broken bones and a mild concussion if he’s lucky but Taehyung doesn’t care. All he cares about is the fact that Jungkook’s lips are on his, his tongue dipping into his mouth in a searing kiss that is all heat and teeth and passion. When they pull apart Taehyung is breathless.

Behind them the man has just gotten to his feet and like the trooper he is begins to bellow and staggers towards them, murder in his tiny eyes.

“Kick his ass for me, baby,” Taehyung breaths his mouth still only a fraction of an inch away from Jungkook’s, their foreheads pressed together. 

Jungkook’s smirk is back in place as he stands up and Taehyung has to admit, he missed it, just a little.

Jungkook winks at him and it’s so incredibly arrogant that Taehyung can’t help but love it.

“Whatever you say, sweetheart,”

Chapter Text

Prison, Taehyung decided, was a little like high school.

Same mind numbingly boring routine, same shitty food, same psychotic authority figures, same cliques. At least with high school he had been able ditch the majority of his shitty classes and had eventually managed to drop out completely. No such luxury here; no saying ‘fuck this’ and walking away. Prison apparently doesn’t work like that. Taehyung had asked on his first day and the warden had hit him with the baton thingy. Apparently being a ‘smart ass’ was a no no here as well. Duly noted.

It was the day after he was nearly beaten to death in the prison yard and had been saved by Jungkook (who hospitalised the other guy by the way) and Taehyung was sitting alone in the prison cafeteria. He always sat alone, from the moment he had arrived in this shithole.

Okay, that part was a lot like high school.

But at least back then the people who wanted to kill him probably wouldn’t carry through with all their threats but here? Well that was a different story entirely.

Taehyung was fully aware that the only reason he hadn’t been torn apart yesterday for kissing a guy was that that guy had been Jungkook and if there was one rule here besides don’t be a smart ass, it was you don’t fuck with Jeon Jungkook. Or at least you don’t fuck with Jeon Jungkook and expect to go on living.

Taehyung wasn’t too sure what Jungkook did to guys who kissed him and he really didn’t want to find out. His relationship with Jungkook had up until this point been kind of… odd? He seemed to amuse the kid, so for whatever reason Jungkook put up with Taehyung calling him cupcake- for the most part. They never really interacted or hung out much, Jungkook more or less leaving him alone unless they happened to cross paths. But now? Now he had no idea what Jungkook was going to do. After nearly killing Taehyung's opponent he had walked away with only a quick glance over his shoulder with an expression Taehyung even now, could not decipher. He hadn’t had long to think about it for as soon as Jungkook left, Taehyung had made himself scarce before his fellow inmates could finish the job.

 He could feel eyes on him, like everyone in here was watching him. Taehyung did his best to ignore them as he pushed the tasteless sludge that passed for food in this dump around his metal tray. He had actually been banned from using metal trays for a month pretty early on in his stay. Some guy had tried to start something in the line for food so Taehyung had hit him across the back of the head with the tray and knocked him unconscious. It did not make a quote ‘positive first impression’ end quote; according to the lovely warden, who had proceeded to hit him with the baton, again, and take away his tray privileges.

He was glad to have his tray back, especially since he had the distinct feeling he was going to need the impromptu weapon again soon. Half of the inmates definitely wanted to kill him and the other half probably wanted to fuck him and Taehyung couldn’t decide which was worse.

Taehyung supposes he's a good looking guy; from his pretty eyes to his sharp cheekbones and plump lips (if he did say so himself). He knew he was too pretty for prison, it had been obvious but that didn’t stop the bastard judge handing down a life sentence now did it? The problem was Taehyung didn’t look tough, never had and probably never would (unless he got some of those sick prison tattoos but the thought of needles made him feel queasy) so he had known going in that prison was going to be extra hard for him. That was a large part of the reason he got in so many fights in the first place. You have to show them that you aren’t weak, that if someone lays a hand on you they’re going to walk away with a broken arm.

Thankfully his roommate (or sorry, cellmate) was actually a pretty decent guy. And by that Taehyung meant he hadn’t tried to physically or sexually assault him. Funny what constitutes ‘decent’ in prison isn’t it?

Taehyung is so caught up in his own thoughts he doesn’t even notice the incessant babble die down around him. When realisation finally sinks in he looks up only to see none other than Jungkook smirking down at him and his mind freezes. If he had actually bothered to try and swallow some of the mush he would have probably choked on it. Despite how casual and at ease Jungkook looked there was still this intensity that radiated off of him and filled the room. The air sparked with tension and every single inmate, including Taehyung, held their breath and waited for Jungkook to speak.

Jungkook, on the other hand, was patiently waiting for him to speak. God fucking damn it. He just wanted to pretend to eat the ‘food’ in peace before sneaking off to the safety of the library. In that moment he wishes he had never kissed Jungkook (okay that might have been a lie)

Out of the corner of his eye Taehyung could see the rest of Jungkook’s gang loitering off to the side, subtly blocking all routes of escape. Usually when he saw Jungkook he would say something dumb like ‘hi darling,’ and Jungkook would reply with something equally stupid like ‘hello pretty boy,’ but today Taehyung couldn’t seem to force the light remark out of his mouth.

“What? No greeting today sugar?” Jungkook’s voice could easily have come off as cruel but somehow it didn’t and his smirk was playful. But Taehyung still didn’t trust it. Jungkook always had a pleasant enough demeanour but Taehyung had seen him snap in seconds and knew something dark and dangerous hid behind that smile.

“Uhh,” was the only sound he could make before Jungkook grabbed him by his collar and dragged up from his seat, the metal tray clattering to the ground along with his chances of using it against Jungkook. 

Taehyung didn’t protest as he was hauled out of the cafeteria, the rest of Jungkook’s lackeys in tow. He really didn’t see the point. The only person who had ever stuck their neck out for him was the same guy who was now tugging him along; probably bringing him somewhere they could stash his lifeless body.

When Taehyung was nervous he babbled, always had since he first learned to talk and now was no exception.

“Hey! Namjoon, you look really good! Been working out?” the tall man slouching behind them smiled showing off surprisingly non-threatening dimples.

“Thanks Taehyung I’ve been hitting the weights a lot recently, glad you noticed.” A guy with broad shoulders and a really handsome face that he’d heard the others call Jin, also smiled and patted Namjoon’s shoulder.   

“And Jimin! Orange really suits you! How did you manage to dye your hair in here?” he asked and the short but well-built guy grinned running a hand through his freshly dyed locks.

“You like it?” he asked with a cute smile, “I had some hair dye smuggled in,”

“Don’t tell him that moron,” a guy who’s name Taehyung was pretty sure was Yoongi or something, admonished.

“Awesome!” Taehyung said his voice wobbling as Jungkook’s grip on the back of his jumpsuit tightened.

“And Hoseok-”

“Okay time to shut up now,” Jungkook announced as their little party came to an abrupt stop outside the bathrooms. Taehyung’s heart dropped. Nothing that happens in a prison bathroom is usually fun.

Jungkook threw open the door with such force it bounced off the bathroom wall with a loud bang.

“Everyone,” Jungkook raised his voice as Taehyung stumbled in behind him, the rest of the gang on his heels and the few inmates at the urinals and shower stalls looked up angrily until they saw who it was, “Get the fuck out!”

There was a pause as everyone just blinked at him but no one moved.

“Are you fucking assholes deaf or just fucking stupid?” Taehyung had never heard Yoongi yell and it was scary as fuck. His voice was rough and judging by the furious look in his eyes Taehyung wouldn’t be surprised if he bit someone. “Get the fuck outta here before I drag your lazy asses out!”

That did it. The moment of stunned surprised passed and to Taehyung’s amazement they all walked out. None of them looked exactly happy but they all eyed Jungkook and his gang wearily before leaving.

“Okay you guys get out too,” Jungkook said and Taehyung gulped nervously, “guard the door. No one gets in, got it?”

The five guys nodded and turned, walking out closing the door behind them, leaving Taehyung alone with Jungkook, just the two of them. Alone. Fuck.

Jungkook doesn’t say anything, just silently drags Taehyung along behind him, still gripping a fistful of his hideous jumpsuit as he kicks open the bathroom stalls one by one, checking to make sure they’re empty. Don’t want any pesky witnesses after all now do we?

Taehyung tries not to whimper as the final door is kicked in and, upon discovering it empty, Jungkook manhandles him inside, closing out the door and shoving him against it.

“We need to talk, sweetcheeks”

Well that was slightly better than ‘I’m going to murder you now.’

Taehyung’s back was pressed fully against the door, Jungkook’s muscular, tattooed arms caging him in. As scary as the experience is he can’t help but find it a little thrilling too. There’s so much latent strength, so much power in his presence, just under the surface like Jungkook is holding back. Jungkook could hurt him, there was no doubt about that but Taehyung could probably hurt him as well and that was a little bit exciting. Scared and slightly aroused, that's a new one on him.

“About what Jungkookie?” he’s still nervous. There’s still a chance Jungkook is going to kick his ass but he’s starting to calm down, his heartbeat evening out as he meets Jungkook’s dark eyes.

“You kissed me,” Taehyung’s not even surprised that Jungkook is straightforward. A bead of sweat rolls down his forehead. He can’t tell what Jungkook is thinking. He’s not sure if he’s amused like he usually is or if he’s seconds away from ripping his head off.

“Well you saved me!” he protested feeling the need to try and defend himself even if there’s no excuse other than Jungkook looked so damn fine when he smirked.

“And you kissed me!”

“Because you saved me!”

Jungkook presses his lips together as his eyebrows furrowing and Taehyung just hopes he hasn’t pissed him off.  The wheels are turning in Jungkook’s head and Taehyung can do nothing but wait. It's times like these he remembers how young Jungkook is. He must just have been old enough to get sent to an adult centre rather than juvie.

“You kiss me because I… saved you?” he asks and Taehyung looks away. He really should have thought through how that might sound. That hadn’t been the reason. He hadn’t kissed Jungkook because he felt indebted or any of that bullshit. He’d kissed him because Jungkook, despite being locked up for life for a laundry list of offences that would make ninety per cent of people in here wince, looked kissable.

“Not exactly…” Taehyung said still not able to look at Jungkook, sure that if he did he would give everything away.

“Then why?” Jungkook sounds frustrated and the last thing Taehyung wants to do is aggravate him more. He isn’t able to get Jungkook’s strong arms out of his mind. Those arms could rip him apart but they could do a lot of other things too….

“Just because,” Taehyung feels lame saying and he’s pretty sure he’s about to be beat down because of it but it’s too late to worry about that now.

“Just because,” Jungkook repeats and his smirk is back, playing at the corners of his lips and suddenly he’s so close. His face an inch from Taehyung’s and next thing he knows  Jungkook’s lips are pressed against his for the second time and it's just as good, if not better than the first time. It’s slightly hesitant but there’s still force there. Jungkook is firm and it takes Taehyung’s brain a few moments to comprehend what is happening and even when he does he still doesn’t understand it. Jungkook is kissing him? Not trying to kill him? What??

Jungkook pulls away and Taehyung finds himself missing the feel of his lips. Jungkook’s lips are redder than usual and slick with spit and Taehyung can’t think of anything but wanting to taste them more.

“Now we’re even, love,” Jungkook breathes and Taehyung feels dizzy. If Jungkook doesn’t kiss him again he might just die. This is oddly right, Jungkook is amused and Taehyung no longer feels so on edge. In fact, he’s feeling brave.

“I don’t play to get even, darling, I play to win,” he says and pulls Jungkook down for another kiss. And this time there is nothing hesitant about the way Jungkook dominates his mouth. It’s like they’re both starving, desperate for more. Jungkook bites his lip in a way that should have been painful but only draws a needy moan that has the younger boy growling against his mouth.

Jungkook’s hands are all over him, one gripping the back of his neck, keeping him close, the other is tangled in his hair pulling his head to deepen the kiss and Taehyung lets him. He lets Jungkook do what he wants, tugging him this way and that, moaning as heat courses through his body. He throws his arms around Jungkook’s neck pulling the other boy’s body flush against his and is shocked by a sudden burst of pain that accompanies Jungkook’s hard muscle pressing against his sore ribs.

He gasped against Jungkook’s mouth and the boy pulled away look down at him with hazy eyes, lust and confusion swimming there.

“What’s wrong, Tae?” it hurts so much he doesn’t even have time to wonder about the nickname.

“My motherfucking ribs,” he groans, the pain is dying down but it still hurts like a bitch.

“Let me see.”

“What the fuck?” Taehyung weakly protests as Jungkook grabs the zipper of his jumpsuit and pulls it down before Taehyung can stop him. He hisses as Jungkook pushes his vest up to run his fingers over the bandages there.

“I remember the first time I broke my ribs,” Jungkook says, his lips quirked into a wry smile and Taehyung lets out a little laugh, that only made it hurt more.

“Yeah? Well I remember the first time my dad broke my ribs,” he says. “They’ll heal.”

Jungkook opens his mouth, a strange look in his eyes that Taehyung cannot begin to understand right now. But he never gets a chance to speak there’s a loud banging on the door startling both of them. Jungkook frowns, displeased, his hand still resting on Taehyung’s chest.

“What!?” he barks.

“Uh, Jungkook,” Taehyung can’t be sure but that deep voice sounds like Namjoon’s, “I hate to, um, interrupt or whatever but we gotta go, guards are making their rounds.”

Jungkook sighs, his head falling to rest on Taehyung’s shoulder for the briefest second. They stay like that for a moment. Taehyung doesn’t know what this is but right now he doesn’t care. He just wants to be with Jungkook.

“We’ll be out in a second,” he said and they listened as the door closed again behind Namjoon, silence restored.

“Well I gotta run sweetheart,” Jungkook says with a small smirk as he zips Taehyung’s jumpsuit up again, hiding the bandages from sight. He steps away from him and Taehyung feels cold.  

“Yeah,” he agrees even though he wanted nothing more to kiss him. Again. And again. And maybe again. 

He steps forward allowing Jungkook to open the stall door. They stop at the main door, their last few seconds of privacy almost up.

“Jungkookie?”

“Yeah?”

“Why’d you help me yesterday?” Taehyung isn’t sure why he’s asking, maybe he just likes to push his luck, see how far he can get before everything collapses.

Jungkook smiles, something between a smirk and a real smile. He leans in to press another quick kiss to the corner of Taehyung’s mouth.

“Just because.” He says, echoing his earlier words and part of Taehyung wants to punch the obnoxious smirk off his lips. But his knuckles are still bruised and turning a nice purple. So maybe he should just kiss him again.

Jungkook’s hand is on the door when he hesitated and turned to Taehyung, his dark eyes glistening. “Also, it’s hard to tell right now because it looks like you’ve been hit by a fucking truck, but you actually have a pretty face, sweetheart, so we can’t let anyone ruin that too badly now can we?”

“Fuck off Jeon,” Taehyung says but he’s smiling as Jungkook walks out the door.

Chapter Text

Five months earlier

Taehyung has never in his entire life been to summer camp. His parents hadn’t cared about him enough to bother with anything like that. Not that they could afforded away camp even if they’d wanted to.

Taehyung didn’t care of course. He didn’t give two shits that they hadn’t shipped him off every year, even if getting away from them would have been nice. Though to be perfectly honest, summer camp sounded only one level up from school in terms of things that would make him want to slam his head against the nearest wall. At least he wouldn’t have to make macaroni art in jail or sing campfire songs or any of that bullshit, so yeah, that’s a big plus.

Sitting in that old prison bus as it trundled along the long dirt road was a lot like what Taehyung imagined going away to camp would feel like. He was all alone, heading off to a new scary place, civilization fast becoming merely a memory on the distant horizon. He had only one small bag resting on his lap containing all the possessions he owned in the world.  There was a grand total of five other prisoners on the bus and two stony faced wardens who looked like they wanted to beat the crap out of him right then and there even though he hadn’t even done anything. Yet.

Yup, he could already tell prison was going to be fun.

Taehyung didn’t think of anything much as they rode on. He rested his head against the bouncing glass, watching the barren land slip by as they drew closer and closer to their final destination. The other five prisoners were quiet for the most part, one man who looked to be in his late fifties muttered to himself in the back despite being told to shut up by the guards. The other four men were also older than Taehyung, even the youngest still probably had a good ten years on him.

He didn’t think about how these were bad men, didn’t think about how they’d done horrible things to be where they were and he definitely did not think how he was probably worse than all of them.

The bus finally came to a stuttering stop outside the sprawling prison building, giant grey walls looming over him. They were ushered off the bus, the wardens bellowing at them to '-move faster goddamn it-'. They moved as quickly as the chains around their ankles would allow. Taehyung hopped off the bus making sure not to face plant (that would not be the best first impression now would it?). He took a moment to pause and take in the view, the dismal, dismal view. He had only stood still for a second when a boot made contact with his back forcing him forward causing him to stumble but thankfully he stopped himself from falling.

“Move forward maggot. No one told you to stop,” the guard barked behind him and Taehyung had to grit his teeth to stop himself from saying something he would regret. The guy next to him chuckled and Taehyung glared but the man only leered at him. This was going to be hell.

Processing was a nightmare. A literal god awful nightmare. They’d taken his stuff, leaving him with nothing and handed him an ugly orange jumpsuit and a spare change of clothes and some boots. He’d been searched thoroughly and when he said thoroughly he meant thoroughly.  Taehyung winced at the memory, feeling sick to his stomach but he stubbornly pushed those feelings down. Those days were over.

“Now before you’re escorted to your cells, do you pieces of shit have any questions?” Mr Lee, the ever cheerful warden who looked as if he’d just heard his dog died, asked in a way that implied he really didn’t want any questions. However Taehyung was never one to let an opportunity slide so he raised his hand and Mr Lee rolled his eyes.

“What?” he snapped and Taehyung grinned.

“Yeah I got a question,” he said, “when can I leave?”

Needless to say, Mr Lee was not amused.

Taehyung has to give the old man some credit; he’s a lot faster than he looks. No sooner had Taehyung finished speaking than the warden was there, baton out, bringing it cracking across his face. Pain exploded through his cheek and Taehyung almost crumpled to the ground. None of the other prisoners were laughing now.

“I’ll take that as a ‘not anytime soon’.” Taehyung gasped his head reeling, hand pressed against his sore swelling cheek. Damn that hurt like hell. God damn it had the old bastard broken his fucking face? Probably not but it sure as hell felt like he had. Fuck. 

“Listen here you little shit,” Mr Lee hissed getting all up in his face and Taehyung had to try and not gag on his sour breath, “one thing you are going to learn real fucking quick in here is that you keep your damn mouth shut, got it?”

“Got it,” Taehyung croaked, still smiling through the pain, refusing to back down, “sir.”

~

Taehyung wasn’t nervous about meeting his cell mate. Scared absolutely shitless would probably be a more accurate description of his emotions as he stepped into that cell.

This was the person he was going to have to live with or more accurately be locked up with. Alone. If they didn’t get along, or worse, if his cellmate hated him, it was going to make his stay (his fucking long stay at that) uncomfortable to say the least. If there was one person in this shithole he needed to at least somewhat get along with it was this guy. Whatever about guards and wardens, being friendly with them wouldn’t get him shit. It was the inmates you needed as your allies. Not that Taehyung planned on making friends, he just didn’t want to get on anyone’s bad side.  Basically he needed to make a good first impression.

His cell mate was there when he was shown inside. He looked like he could most definitely kick Taehyung’s ass if he felt so inclined; tall, muscular with an impressive array of tattoos and piercings. He was stretched out on the bottom bunk and only looked up briefly when the heavy door slammed shut behind Taehyung.

“So you’re the new guy?” he asked as if that wasn’t incredibly obvious. Taehyung nodded as the guy propped himself up on his elbows to give Taehyung a once over. He was lean and well built, his face was sharp and his hair hung over his forehead and was bleached with the ends dyed blue.

“I give you a week,” he said dismissively as he lay back down closing his eyes again, “maybe less.”

“Well fuck you too buddy,” he said before he could stop himself. So much for a positive first impression but Taehyung hated when people treated him like he was nothing. If you didn’t demand respect here you sure as hell weren’t going to get it. Taehyung didn’t know much but he knew that for damn sure.

The guy cracked one eye open looking at him again, this time with a tad more interest.

“What’s your name kid?” he asked eventually.

“Taehyung, what’s yours?” Taehyung smiled and the guy frowned (he made a mental note to maybe not smile so much, his smile was not intimidating, in anyway. He should probably work on his scowl in the mirror or something.)

“You can call me Wonho,” the guy, Wonho, said sitting up properly, still staring at Taehyung like he was trying to figure him out.

“And what are you in for Taehyung?” he asked and Taehyung shifted uncomfortably. He most certainly did not want to go there thanks.

“Oh you know, this and that,” he shrugged, “mostly shoplifting,” he lied and from the look on Wonho’s face Taehyung could tell the other man wasn’t fooled, not completely anyway.

“What about you?” he asked steering the conversation away from himself as quickly as he could without it looking too suspicious, “What did you do?”

“Robbed a bank,” Wonho said casually, “got caught,”

He stood up, walking towards Taehyung, an easy swagger in his step that demonstrated power and confidence. They were more or less the same height but Wonho still seemed to tower over him and part of him wanted to step back but he stood his ground. Never back down. Wonho stopped an inch before him looking down at him and Taehyung couldn’t tell what he was thinking.

“I still say you aren’t going to last long,” he said eventually, his voice low and serious and Taehyung swallowed nervously, “the pretty ones never do.”

That sounded like a challenge if Taehyung’s ever heard one. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“We’ll just have to see about that now won’t we?” he said and for the first time since they’d met, Wonho smiled.

“I guess we will, pretty boy”

~

Wonho, despite constantly predicting his grisly demise within the first week, was actually a pretty nice guy. It was clear he didn’t want much to do with Taehyung but that suited him just fine. He had been planning to keep mostly to himself anyways. He did, however, offer to show Taehyung around on his first day.

“Just try not to be alone too much,” he said as they walked into the cafeteria area, “still think you’re going to die but you might survive a little longer but just don’t make it too easy for them, yeah?”

“Got it,” Taehyung muttered scanning the crowd. Nothing but mean, hardened faces stared back at him with cruel intent written all over them. Just rows upon rows of cafeteria tables of hostel people waiting for weakness like sharks sniffing for blood in the water. Wonho had spent the first half of the lunch telling him who was who- who to avoid, who he could buy cigarettes from, who cheated at cards, who was most likely to assault him or murder him. Taehyung listened carefully and made mental notes. He wasn’t sure if Wonho was exaggerating of if everyone really did want to murder him (or worse).

As he looked around his eyes caught on a group of people Wonho hadn’t introduced yet. Once Taehyung laid eyes on them he couldn’t look away. There was six of them all sitting at the one table in the centre of the cafeteria like the popular kids used to do back in highschool. They all seemed to be around his age maybe a little older which surprised him, so far the majority of inmates had years on him. Taehyung had only been here a matter of hours but it was already apparent that this place was full to bursting with gangs and groups and cliques. Everywhere he looked were huddles of men with matching tattoo and murderous looks, talking quietly amongst themselves.

This group of six was no exception. Two of them were pretty tall, another pair of them had shockingly bright smiles, one of them looked grumpy and a little mad but only one of them truly looked like a leader. Even from where Taehyung sat he could see the lazy power that emanated from this- this kid. He could not have been older than Taehyung and yet he sat with all the authority and incredible aura of a man much older and much more experienced. So confident and self assured it was almost palpable. 

Taehyung didn’t mean to stare, he really didn’t but he honestly couldn’t physically tear his eyes away. On top of being imposing as fuck, this guy was also smoking hot. A distant part of his mind registered that all six of them were good looking (especially by prison standards) but the leader stood head and shoulders above the rest in terms of sheer hotness. He was built; all hard, defined muscles emphasised by the black, tight tank top he wore underneath his unzipped jumpsuit. Taehyung’s eyes dipped to his pronounced collar bone before back up to that face and what a nice face it was. Dark hair, almost purple, styled and parted to reveal his forehead. Straight nose, pale skin, sharp cheekbones and even sharper eyes. Those eyes were dark, enigmatic and so keenly intelligent it made Taehyung shudder. Maybe prison would not be so hellish after all.

The kid looked bored, that was the only way he could think to describe it. That arrogant type of bored that came with thinking you were better than everyone else and Taehyung would not have been surprised if that was exactly right as the guy gazed lazily out over sea of faces with all the grace and authority of a king observing his subjects. Taehyung got the feeling he could make people jump with a mere wave of his hand.

Taehyung should have looked away, he knew he should have but he couldn’t. It was as though he was transfixed, like this kid had some power over him that he couldn’t explain. Then, as if feeling eyes on him, the kid looked up and their gazes met. Taehyung was too stunned to do anything but stare back no doubt looking like a deer about to be splattered all over the highway. The guy stared him down, unblinking, for a few moments longer with an unreadable expression, his dark eyes boring into his before his lips quirked into a smug smirk and only then was Taehyung finally able to look away.

“Who’s that?” Taehyung breathed, feeling oddly dizzy. Wonho looked up to see who Taehyung had been staring at. His eyes fell on the gang and its leader who was no longer looking his way much to Taehyung’s relief. He’d felt far too much like prey caught in a predator's gaze for his liking.

Wonho looked back at him, confusion etched onto his features. “You don’t know?”

“No, who is he?”

“That’s Jeon Jungkook,” Wonho said as if stating something incredibly obvious and to be fair that name did ring a bell, he’d probably heard it on the news. “He’s the son of the head of the Jeon dynasty, one of the most powerful criminal families in the whole damn country. He was shaping up to be the next leader too.”

“If he’s so powerful how the hell’d he get stuck in here with us?” Taehyung asked, genuinely perplexed. This Jungkook kid most certainly did not look like he belonged in here, caged up.

Wonho just shrugged, “who knows? The cops musta got lucky because they managed to get him on some pretty solid charges and see the other five guys? Those are his most trusted underlings; they managed to get them too."

Taehyung looked back at the guys surrounding Jungkook. None of them were as menacing or eye catching as their leader but on closer inspection they too had an air of easy violence and all gave off some serious 'fuck with us and see what happens' vibes. Wonho watched him quietly.

"One word of advice," he muttered when Taehyung turned back to him. "Don’t. Just don’t. Don’t mess with Jeon. Don’t look at him. Don’t stick your nose in his business. Basically- don’t even let him know you exist. If there is one person in here you don’t want to notice you it’s Jeon Jungkook.”

Taehyung swallowed as he glanced back at the table. Jungkook wasn’t looking at him anymore but he still had the distinct feeling of eyes upon him like the other boys stare had been burned into his skin like a brand.

If there is one person in here you don’t want to notice you it’s Jeon Jungkook

Well it’s a little late for that now isn’t it?

Fuck. This was going to be interesting.

Chapter Text

Still five months earlier

One thing Taehyung had definitely not expected about prison was the boredom.

This boredom was mostly down to the fact he had to do chores. Like actual chores as if he was seven again trying to earn pocket money (not that his parents ever paid him but yeah). Cooking and cleaning and sweeping and scrubbing and serving all the shitty cafeteria food, the whole fucking lot.

 He had pretty much expected the terrible food, the atmosphere of unease and underlying tension, the scratchy jumpsuits, the grey exercise yard, the cramped cell and the constant fear that at any moment someone was going to attack him. He expected the dread and paranoia but he hadn’t expected the boredom. He’d seen movies, he knew more or less what went on or at least he’d thought he did. What movies fail to really get across is the amount of damn chores you were expected to do and all the time they gave you to think. Sure it wasn’t hard labour or anything like that but it still fucking sucked.

The worst by far was bathroom duty. Those bathrooms were fucking disgusting and he had to scrub every inch of them as punishment. Mr Lee had put him on bathroom duty three fucking times in the month or so he’d been here and if that wasn’t sadistic Taehyung didn’t know what was. And what’s worse he put him on bathroom duty alone. Usually it punishment for wearing his jumpsuit wrong or looking at him wrong or some other bullshit like that. The man would look for any little imperfection as an excuse to punish Taehyung. The truth was the man just hated his guts and wanted to make his miserable existence even more miserable than it already was. Fuck his life and fuck Mr Lee too for good measure. 

Bathroom duty alone was both a blessing and a curse. A curse because cleaning bathrooms by yourself was nasty as shit and a lot of hard work on top of that but at the same time it gave him some time alone. Deep down Taehyung kinda hated being alone. He had spent so much of his childhood isolated, shunned, alienated but as much as he hated it he was used to being alone. At this point it came naturally. Besides the more time he spends locked up in here the more he learned to appreciate the peace that came with solitude.

 At least when he was alone there was no one leering at him or threatening him or harassing him, telling him how much they’d like to hold him down and fuck him and how’d he’d make a good little bitch. He’d heard it all about a thousand times by now and it had become scarily standard at this point.

 He’d almost lost count of how many fights he’s been in in the two weeks since he arrived. He’s dealt with bullies all his life and if years of misery and abuse taught him anything it’s that you have to stand up for yourself, you have to let them know they can’t push you around. It’s frustrating though, it seems no matter how much he fights back, no matter how many guys asses he kicks it never stops, it never deters them. No sooner has he dealt with one asshole then there’s another one to take his place. It’s bloody exhausting.

He wasn’t even entirely sure what he had done wrong this time but somehow he found himself back in the filthy bathrooms with a mop, a bucket of warm soapy water and instructions not to leave until everything was spotless. He real hated his life at the moment. His high school bathrooms had been dumps but they didn’t have a patch on the literal shithole that was the prison bathrooms. A row of yellow urinals stood opposite a couple stall with a room of open showers adjoined. 

It was lunch time right now (which he was, of course, being forced to skip) so that meant he had about an hour to get all the work done before people started bothering him again. Not want to be caught in here on his hands and knees he set to work, allowing his mind to drift as he scrubbed layers of grime and dirt off every surface. It was unpleasant work but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was all the time he now had alone with his thoughts.

Taehyung knew prison was about reflection. You went here to reflect on your wrong doings, you repented so you could once again become a nice normal, functioning member of society. Despite knowing this Taehyung avoided reflecting like the plague. If there was one thing he refused to it was confront the past. What was the point? It wouldn’t change a damn thing. What was done was done and there could be no undoing it. Usually, to avoid getting caught up in unpleasant memories, he kept himself busy.

He had started reading a lot, way more than he ever used to when he was living on the outside. Books were a wonderful means of escape and the library often provided a nice get away from the hordes of viscous men. He spent the rest of his time either working out, which was awful, he’d always hated exercise and now it was twenty times worse with a bunch of other dudes staring at him like they wanted to rip him (or more accurately his ass) in half. Or he talked to Wonho when the other boy would tolerate him. They never talked about much, just small talk and Wonho telling him he was probably going to die soon and that he was amazed he had survived this long. But this Taehyung hated the most because the monotonous task of cleaning the bathroom left him with nothing but endless time to be consumed by his thoughts.

To keep his mind occupied with something other than the thoughts he let himself think about random things. Daydreaming of escape, the outside world, of good food, of burgers and chips and music and movies, all the things he was missing out on. He began to wonder what his sister was doing right now. He hadn’t spoken to her since he was arrested. No one had told him if that had her choice or not. His first visit would be in a few days and he wondered if she would show up then. He hoped so.

Not liking to dwell on such things he let his mind wander to nicer things like thoughts of Jungkook.

Since their first encounter of sorts when the younger boy had stared him down in the cafeteria on his first day, contact between them had been minimal. Despite Wonho’s ominous warnings about not wanting to catch Jungkook’s attention nothing had become of their initial contact. The younger hadn’t sought him out or tried to make his life hell in any way for which Taehyung was grateful.  

Grateful but confused. It wasn’t like Jungkook wanted nothing to do with him. Every so often he would feel a pair of intense eyes on him only to look up and see Jungkook staring at him, face neutral save for his little signature smirk. He couldn’t tell if he wanted something, or what his intentions were which was so unusual here, where everyone else made it crudely obvious what their ill intentions towards him were.

Jungkook as a whole confused him. He had no idea what to think of him or even where to begin. He was a different level entirely. Like a lion walking amongst a pack of stray dogs. Everyone respected him or at least they feared him enough to pretend to. He seemed so cold and controlled all the time but Taehyung saw darkness and something dangerous lurking behind his eyes. Yes Jungkook hadn’t hurt him yet but there was always the acute awareness that he could and that he was merely choosing not to. It gave the boy a power over him and Taehyung hated it.

As he scrubbed the dirty tiles of the shower floor he wondered how Jungkook had managed to get caught. Surely someone from a family like his with the power they had, had the means and influence to escape prison time. Weren’t the mafia or whatever the Jeon family were meant to be supposed to have the police and judges in their pocket? If so how had their heir ended up behind bars like a common criminal?

Taehyung was so wrapped up in his thoughts he almost didn’t hear the doors to the bathroom being opened. Thankfully at the last minute a muffled cry and the sounds of a scuffle near the doors of the bathroom alerted him to the sudden presence of other people. People who were not supposed to be here right now. Taehyung didn’t have time to think. He didn’t care what they were doing here all he knew is that he did not want to be caught alone with them. Grabbing the mop, bucket, bleach bottle and any other signs he had been there, he quickly ducked behind the shower wall. The little dividing wall was low but not so low that he couldn’t curl up and been completely hidden by it.

Taehyung held his breath, clutching the mop to his chest as he listens to the sound the scuffle grow closer. It was a group of them, he now realised, not just one or two like he had initial thought. Multiple voices spoke in hushed tones grew closer as something, or more likely someone, was dragged along with them.

They entered the shower area, much to Taehyung’s dismay. If they had stayed out amongst the cubicles he would have been hidden from view but it they came into the shower are they would be right next to him, a mere five feet or so away from his hiding spot. All it would take would be for one of them to glance sideways and he’d be caught. It was too late to run. His only option was to keep as still and silent as possible and hope they were too focused on whoever they had brought with them to notice him.

Taehyung was not the praying type but as the voice got closer and closer he found himself squeezing his eyes shut and thinking, hey god, it’s Taehyung. Look, I know I haven’t been a good person, I mean obviously I would be in this position if I was a good person but please don’t let them kill me. Thanks a bunch. Say hi to grandma for me. Oh and please look after Sojung if I do die. Just let her know I wish I could have been a better brother yeah?

The men enter the shower area, sure enough they settle only a short distance Taehyung but thankfully no one looks over. There’s five or six of them he can’t really tell, all he sees is a group of them dragging another man behind them, he kicked and screamed but they were stronger and Taehyung sure as hell wasn’t about to help.

They look familiar but he can’t quite put his finger on it. that is until he hears his voice.

“Let him go,” there’s so much power in Jungkook’s voice and the men, who Taehyung now recognises as his closest henchmen, step back leaving the man sprawled on the floor too stunned to try and make a run for it.

The man Taehyung doesn’t recognise but he looks in pretty bad shape, ugly bruises already forming on his scared face. From this angle Taehyung is watching them side on and cannot see Jungkook where he stands. Something about not being able to see the other boy terrifies Taehyung.

Taehyung doesn’t give a shit why they are here. He doesn’t care what the man has done to piss off Jungkook and he certainly doesn’t give a damn what Jungkook is going to do to him. He really could not care less. He has no intention of stepping in or trying to intervene in anyway. He just wants this to be over.  They could kill the man for all he cares. He’s only looking out for himself.

Jungkook says something in a deadly voice so low Taehyung can’t hear it over the blood pounding in his ears. The man shudders and says something in garbled protest. Again Taehyung can’t make out what he said but if the way one of the gang aims a vicious iick at his back, his answer had certainly not pleased Jungkook.

“I swear, Jeon, please it wasn’t me, it wasn’t me,” the man sounds wretched but no pity stirs Taehyung’s heart. No one in here is innocent, no one deserves his sympathy. That’s what Taehyung tells himself over and over again as he forces himself to ignore the man’s pain. There’s nothing he could have done anyways.

“Then who?” that’s the first hint of anger Taehyung thinks he’s ever heard in Jungkook’s usually icy calm voice. He sounds frustrated.

“I don’t know,” the man wails, pathetic tears trailing down his battered face, “I swear I have no idea, please.”

The silence is by far the scariest part. Jungkook doesn’t speak but some silent order must have been communicated because the gang, as one, attack the man and Taehyung closes his eyes, not wanting to watch.

Only when the sounds of violence have died down does he dare to open his eyes again. The man is nothing but a crumpled heap on the ground, his blood slowly spreading over the tiles Taehyung had been scrubbing only minutes prior. He wasn’t dead. Taehyung could make out the unsteady rise and fall of his chest. No one I s paying attention to him anymore, all eyes are turned presumably to where Jungkook stands, still just out of sight.

“What do we do now?” one of them, whose name might have been Namjoon, asks.

“We keeping looking,” is Jungkook’s solemn answer and Taehyung breathes out a sigh of relief. It sounds like they’re done here and once they leave he can make his escape and pretend he never say a thing.

He so nearly made it. He was so painfully close to getting away without being noticed. So damn close. If only he hadn’t moved his arm and accidently knocked against the bottle of bleach next to him. If only the bottle hadn’t toppled over with a loud clatter. But it did and all five faces turned to look directly at him.

“What the fuck?” A short man with blond hair scowled and Taehyung’s life flashed before his eyes.

Taehyung never really thought he would live to an old age or anything but he also never thought he would die at twenty three in a prison bathroom he hadn’t even finished cleaning yet. But here he was faced with a gang of killers who now knew he had just witnessed them beat a man half to death.

There’s no time to think, only time for action. He’s up and sprinting, mop still in hand, before he even knows what he’s doing. There’s an angry shout behind him and he knows they’re going to catch him but he has to try anyway. If he can just get out the door he would be safe. He’s over the short wall and just passing the bathroom stalls when a hand grabs the back of his jumpsuit and pulls him back.

There goes any chance of escape. When flight is no longer an option there is nothing left to do but to fight. Using the only weapon he has available he swings around and hits whoever grabbed him with the end of the mop as hard as he can. The person (Jin?) lets out a startled cry and stumbles backwards. Wielding the mop like a sword Taehyung begins to thrash wildly hitting at anyone who dared to get close.

“What are you morons waiting for?” he can hear Jungkook’s irritated voice over his own pounding heart, “just grab him already.”

One of them, shorter than him moves to tackle him but Taehyung smacks the handle across the guys face with a painful cracking sound.

“Jimin!” another guy, the angry blond one cries, even angrier now as the short guy, Jimin, stumbles away holding his face.

Angry blond guy lunges for Taehyung next murder in his dark eyes but Taehyung jabs the mop handle into his stomach and the guy crumples. Adrenaline is thundering through his system and Taehyung is buzzing with it, he feels terrified and electric at the same time. An optimistic part of him celebrates, you can do this? How many men have you beaten before you? You’re a fighter you. You will fight and you will win.  

He doesn’t stop, every time one of them gets near he beats them back with the mop. He’s moving closer and closer to the door, to freedom when Jungkook suddenly speaks up again, clearly not impressed by his men’s inability to bring down Taehyung.

“oh for fuck sake,” he growls, “do I have to do everything myself?”

Jungkook moves fast. Scarily fast. So fast in fact Taehyung doesn’t even register it until he’s right there in front of him, eyes flashing as he grips the mops wooden handle and shoves it back into Taehyung’s face with surprising force.

Solid mop handle meets nose and blood gushes everywhere. Too stunned to even cry out Taehyung’s hands slip from the mop and Jungkook easily takes it from his slack grasp. Jungkook then proceeds to bring the mop crashing down on Taehyung again and again and again as if he’s working out some of that frustration Taehyung heard earlier. Every time he tries to stand he’s beaten back down. Jungkook is merciless and relentless and for the first time since his arrival Taehyung actually fears for his life.

There is no way he can win against Jungkook.

Jungkook finally stops and Taehyung can’t find the strength to push himself off the ground. Pain radiates from ever part of his body and he wants to cry. But he would rather die than show such weakness in front of these men.

Someone grabs him by the hair and drags his head up so he has no choice but to look up at Jungkook who is standing before him. Jungkook brings the mop down over his knee breaking it in two with a loud crack and splintering of wood and Taehyung has the awful feeling it’s him that Jungkook really wants to break.

“And who,” Jungkook voice is still low and a little rough around the edges, “the fuck are you?”

The hand in his hair tightens and he knows if he doesn’t speak it will only mean more pain. Jungkook knows him, or at least knows of him but it never occurred to Taehyung before now that the other boy didn’t actually know his name. A stubborn part of him wanted to keep it from him but he knew that would be foolish.

“T-Taehyung,” he hates himself for stuttering but Jungkook doesn’t seem to notice or care, his black eyes trained on his face.

“Taehyung,” Jungkook repeats slowly, not even blinking as he holds one half of the broken mop, “and what were you doing here Taehyung?”

“I was cleaning,” he says, it’s the truth and he can’t think of a better lie. At least the mop and bleach back up his story.

“Well that is unfortunate,” Jungkook murmurs, still idly twirling the mop handle like a baton, “for you, that is.”

This is it. Wonho was right. He’s about to die. Jungkook is going to kill him and probably shove his body down the toilet.

“So Taehyung,” Jungkook continues, his voice taking on an eerily calm tone, “what are we going to do now?”

He’s going to die anyway and so there is no way he’s going to spend his last few moments on this earth pleading and crying like a little bitch.

“I have a suggestion,” he says and Jungkook actually looks a little taken aback for the briefest second before he recovers and raises an eyebrow and smirks “go on.”

Taehyung licks his lips and tastes blood. He says one more silent prayer before sealing his own death warrant with a smile, “why don’t you take that broom handle there and shove it up your ass sweetheart?”

Needless to say no one laughs. In fact no one moves or says a thing. Hell, no one even dares to breathe. All eyes are trained on Jungkook whose face now registers a look of shock. His eyes widen and his mouth opens and closes like he’s having a hard time processing what Taehyung just said.

None of his goons are smiling, they’re all grim faced like they’re just waiting for Jungkook to give the signal to tear Taehyung apart. The tension is thick and heavy and seems to weigh down on him (or that could just be Hoseok’s (?) knee digging into is back.)

“You. Little. Fuck,” Jungkook says it slowly, word by word, his voice incredulous before he bursts into raucous laughter. He laughs so hard he nearly doubles over and the sound is so sudden and unexpected everyone in the room aside from Jungkook himself freezes, this time unsure of what to do.  No one else joins him but the tension has been broken and for the first time Taehyung can breathe just a little.

Jungkook crouches down still chuckling so he's closer to Taehyung’s eye level. Taehyung is still weary, Jungkook might be laughing but that did not mean he wasn’t about to bash Taehyung’s skull open with the mop. He doesn’t do that though. Instead he pushes the handle under Taehyung’s chin using it to force his head upwards to once again meet his eyes. But this time instead of dark and menacing they dance with amusement.

“I like you, Taehyung,” Jungkook says, “you’ve got guts I’ll give you that. I should really kill you but I won’t. I’m going to let you live but if you breathe a word of what you saw here to anyone I am going to personally break every bone in your body and shove your mangled corpse down the laundry chute. Got it, love?”

Taehyung cannot believe his luck. Here is the great and terrible Jungkook actually showing him mercy. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth Taehyung springs up as soon as the hands in his hair relax their grip.

“Got it!” he says as quickly as he can with a wink over his shoulder and he’s out the door before Jungkook can change his mind.

~

It’s been almost a week since what Taehyung likes to think of as the great bathroom escape of week three, and things seem to have gone back to normal. Part of him feared even as he sprinted out of the bathroom, that Jungkook was just playing with him, like a cat tormenting a mouse and that he would track him down eventually and actually murder him.

But that never happened and Taehyung gradually stopped looking over his shoulder.

Taehyung hated showering in prison. The open layout meant that privacy was non-existent and if he thought the way the other men looked at him while he wore the jumpsuit was bad, the way they looked at him naked was a million times worse. He felt dirty and violated just standing there with them and after he was attacked for the seventh time he decided to start taking showers at a time different to everyone else. Of course the wardens wouldn’t allow this so Taehyung pissed off Mr Lee until he was put on solo bathroom duty again. He cleaned the bathrooms as quickly as he could, part of his mind still scared Jungkook and the gang were going to burst in any second. But they didn’t and Taehyung finished cleaning with fifteen minutes to spare.

Fifteen precious moments where he could shower in peace without have to ward off horny criminals.

Not wanting to waste any of his valuable time Taehyung stripped off, folding his jumpsuit and proceeded to turn on the water, letting the warmth wash away the grime and sweat of the past few days. Showering alone also allowed Taehyung to sing. He missed music a lot and spent quite a bit of his allotted internet minutes looking up his favourite artists on YouTube. Still he wished he had an iPod or radio but singing in the shower was a nice way to relax.

“You have a nice voice,”

“Jesus Christ!” Taehyung yelped whipping around so quickly he nearly fell.

“Close, it’s Jungkook actually,” sure enough there was Jungkook in all his cocky glory leaning casually against the wall Taehyung had hid behind a week earlier like he owned the place. He smirked as his eyes travelled up and down Taehyung’s very naked frame and he felt the sudden need to cover himself.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” it occurred to him in the back of him mind that he should probably be politer to Jungkook but he’s so incensed his irritation is overriding his common sense.

“What do you think I’m doing here?” Jungkook asks as he begins to unzip his jumpsuit.

“You’re not supposed to shower now,” Taehyung points out and blushes when Jungkook looks pointed look at the suds still dripping down his naked body.

“I do what I like, sweetheart,” Jungkook, now fully naked says and steps under the spray. There only one shower head going and rather than turn on another he steps under Taehyung so their bodies are practically pressed up against each other.

Taehyung takes a step back averting his eyes (because, okay yeah, Jungkook might be, okay Jungkook is hung like a fucking horse and Taehyung doesn’t need that imagine in his mind more than it already it thank you very much.)

He’s so busy looking anywhere but at Jungkook’s nakedness that the soap he had been holding slips from his grasp to go sliding along the floor.

They both stare at the fallen soap in silence for a minute the only sound the noise of pouring water.  

“Going to bend over and pick that up babe?” Jungkook asks in an oh so innocent voice, his lips twitching into that smug smirk that Taehyung itched to slap off his face.

“Fuck you,” Taehyung says and Jungkook quirks an eyebrow, tilting his head to the side but doesn’t rise to the easy bait.

Taehyung wants to leave but if Jungkook took the time to seek him out there’s no way he’s leaving before Jungkook allows him to. There's nothing else for it but to just get it over with.

“What do you want?” he asks and Jungkook looks at him, his eyes still have that twinkle of mischief.

“What not calling me sweetheart anymore? That hurts.” Taehyung snorts.

“You know what else hurts?” Taehyung asks and Jungkook waits.

“Getting hit multiple times with the handle of a fucking broom,” he says, his voice as close to insolence as he dares let it get.

“Why don’t you tell that to Jimin? Or Yoongi? Or Jin?” Jungkook replies and Taehyung doesn’t have an answer. He doesn’t usually think of the wellbeing of the people he fights.

Jungkook raises a hand to run it along the fading bruises he left on Taehyung's ribcage with the handle. His touch is gentle but his fingers burn wherever they come into contact with his skin and when Taehyung flinches (much to his chagrin) Jungkook pulls away.

“What do you want Jungkook?” Taehyung asks again suddenly feeling very tired. He can’t read the expression on Jungkook’s face any more and he’s tired of whatever game Jungkook is playing.

“I’m curious Taehyung,” he says, “why are you in here?”

"I'm showering."

Jungkook's eye twitches at this and Taehyung knows he's pushing it.

"I meant, why are you in prison?"

“Shoplifting,” Taehyung deadpans and Jungkook’s lips quirk into a knowing grin.

“They hand out life sentences for shoplifting now do they?” he asks and Taehyung’s blood runs cold.

“How did you know that?” he asks, his mind running into overdrive. Did he know? Who told him? Jungkook couldn’t possible know, could he? Oh god.

“I know a lot more than you think love,” he says, the self-assured confidence is unmistakeable in his voice.

“If you know so much then why are you asking me?” he asks grateful his voice doesn’t shake. For the first time a small frown creases Jungkook’s forehead.

“That part of your record is sealed,” he admitted and Taehyung breathed out a sigh of relief.

So he doesn’t know after all.

“Why do you care?” Taehyung asks and Jungkook is suddenly in his space again, pressing up against him, looking down at him with a look of such intensity it takes Taehyung’s breath away.

“I told you, darling,” Jungkook’s voice is a low rumble in his chest and Taehyung can’t find it in himself to pull away even though every fibre screams to do so, “I like you Taehyung. You fascinate me.”

Taehyung can’t breathe. Jungkook is too much, too overpowering, overwhelming his sense and making his head spin. He can’t think clearly around Jungkook.

“So tell me, Taehyung,” Jungkook purrs next to his ear, “what did you do?”

A large hand runs down his bare wet back and Taehyung is frightened at how much he wants to just give into the sensation, the physical affection he never realised he’s been starving for. It scares him how much he wants to give in to Jungkook. But he can’t let that happen, he won’t.

“You wanna know what I did that badly?” he leans in to whisper in Jungkook’s ear. The other boy just hums in response as his hands continue to trace Taehyung’s spine.

“Then figure it out for yourself, darling.” And with that he pulls away, grabbing the jumpsuit, leaving Jungkook still standing under the spray of warm water.

To Taehyung’s immense relief Jungkook makes no move to stop him or even to follow him.

“Taehyung,”

When he looks over his shoulder Jungkook is smirking at him but he hasn’t moved.

“Yes?”

“If you ever need anything let me know, yeah?” Jungkook actually sounds sincere and so rather than dismissing it out right like he was tempted to do, Taehyung gave the boy a small smile as he slid the jumpsuit back on.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” he says over his shoulder as he walks out of the bathroom, the sensation of Jungkook’s gaze boring into his back, never leaving him until the door swings shut behind him.

Chapter Text

Present day (five months later)

It had been a grand total of five months since Kim Taehyung arrived in his life. Actually, if Jungkook wanted to be accurate he would say Taehyung crashed into his life like a meteorite destroying his peaceful prison existence and overturning his routine. 

It had been four months since he had first discovered him in the showers after they’d beaten the man whose name Jungkook was struggling to recall. It had also been roughly four months since he’d found Taehyung alone in the shower afterwards (and for four months he's been thinking about it non stop).

It had been about a week since he’d saved Taehyung from being kicked to death in the prison yard and Taehyung had kissed him for the first time and it had been six days since he had kissed Taehyung back.  

They hadn’t properly spoken since.

On the surface things hadn’t changed between them. They still smiled at each other like they always had and flirted casually when they happened to pass each other. But, despite this, something had definitely changed.

The way Taehyung looked at him was different. There was something else there that hadn’t been there before, something akin to desire and whenever Jungkook saw it he just wanted to kiss him all over again. It made him want to do other things as well…

“You’re staring. Again.”

“No I wasn’t,” he spoke too quickly. He sounds too defensive and he knows it.

When he looks up he is greeted by the sight of Jimin’s smug face an inch from his own, looking like a middle school girl waiting for the latest gossip and not some inmate locked up for life with the rest of Jungkook’s gang.

“Oh yeah?” Jimin sing songs, wiggling his eyebrows and Jungkook kinda really wants to punch him.

“Yeah.” he is not in the mood for this. It’s not his fault Taehyung manages to looks so good just sitting there or that his shit head cell mate whose name Jungkook doesn’t give a shit about is always hanging around him like a fly.                 

“You were definitely looking at him, kookie,” Namjoon adds and Hoseok nods. The bunch of traitors.

“Yeah, you’re not subtle at all,” Yoongi says settling down at their table, tray in hand. Jungkook frowns.

“You only just got here,” he points out and Yoongi shrugs. “You’ve been staring at him all week,”

Seokjin nods sagely and Jungkook wants to roll his eyes, “at this point it would be weird if you weren’t staring at him.”

“Not that we can blame you Jungkookie,” Hoseok says with a sly smile, “he sure does have a pretty face and that ass-”

“Shut the fuck up,” he snaps and Hoseok closes his mouth but the shit eating grin remains. They all exchange looks and Jungkook feels like he’s just fallen into a trap. Remind him again who the fucking boss is? 

 To Jungkook’s immense relief, no one pursues the matter, no one dares to. He might be younger than all of them and at time it’s hard to tell but he’s still in charge here and his gang respects him.

Well, everyone lets it go except for Jimin, of course. God forbid Jimin ever let him live. He never has and Jungkook has the uneasy feeling he never will. Jimin is the closest to him in age and due to this he’s also the closest to him in general. They’ve known each other since they were in diapers and there’s nothing Jungkook can hide from him.

“Have you ever thought of talking to him?” Jimin asks speaking quietly as the rest of the gang go back to their own conversations, wisely choosing not to irritate Jungkook further.

“Have you ever thought about not speaking out of your ass?” Jungkook sneers. He’s not usually quite so much of a dick but a combination of Taehyung laughing at something his cell mate said and the his gangs teasing has put him in a really shitty mood. Instead of being offended Jimin just laughs him off, “I’m just saying if you want to romance him, dragging him off to the bathrooms for whatever you two did isn’t exactly the most, well, romantic.”

Jimin, Jungkook realises with sudden clarity, has finally lost his goddamn mind.

“What the actual fuck Jimin? I don’t want to romance him. This isn’t a shitty rom com and this isn't love,” he scowls the words tasting bitter on his tongue as he tries to fathom just how Jimin got such a ridiculous idea into his thick skull.

“So you just want to fuck his brains out?” Jimin asks bluntly his smile growing wider until it’s honestly just obnoxious and Jungkook splutters. What he wants is to eat his shitty lunch in peace and maybe stare at Taehyung’s face just a little (because Hoseok, while out of line, was not wrong). He does not want to discuss fucking anyone especially Taehyung with Jimin (even if he wasn’t exactly wrong either).

“Where is this all coming from?” he asks instead hoping Jimin just stops. No such luck.

“I’m just saying if it was just sex it would have happened by now, no?” Jimin looks so fucking smug and it’s the same expression he wears when he knows he’s right or when he at least things he's right.

“Jimin, I swear to god if you don’t leave it right now…” Jungkook threatens. He wonders if he should strangle Jimin and weighs the pros and cons of killing off one of his closest friends and subordinates and whether or not it is worth the silence that would come with it. It probably isn’t but Jungkook is sorely tempted.

“So that doesn’t bother you then?” Jimin asks and Jungkook swallows the rant he was just about to unleash on him.

“What doesn’t bother me?” he asks, not entirely sure why he’s humouring him as Jimin points over his shoulder. He knows before he looks around that he is pointing at where Taehyung is sitting. His mind starts to race and an unpleasant feeling wells up in his gut. It ugly and jealous and if he turns around and sees what he thinks he might see, it’s probably going to explode.

He looks around and sure enough there is Taehyung, sitting right where he was the last time Jungkook looked. Or, wait, that wasn’t right. He wasn’t sitting exactly where he had been, in fact, he’d moved quite a bit. Now he was sitting way too close to that fucking cell mate for Jungkook’s liking.

The feeling in his gut intensifies as Jungkook’s field of vision narrows so that all he can see it Taehyung laughing at whatever that fucking shit head has just said. Taehyung looks radiant when he laughs and while Jungkook would love to see more of it he is positive nothing that moronic cell mate said could be that fucking funny. The plastic fork he’s holding shatters in his grip.

“Um Jungkook?” the blood is pounding in his ears and he isn’t sure which of his friends just addressed him but when he turns around they’re all staring at him with varying degrees of concern.

“Who the fuck-”

“Shin Hoseok better known as Wonho,” Yoongi speaks up before Jungkook can even finish talking and he’s not surprised. If you ever need to know almost anything about almost anyone ask Yoongi. He brushes sharp pieces of plastic fork off his palm.

“Twenty three years old. History of gang affiliation and violence, currently doing twenty five to forty for armed robbery and aggravated assault,” Yoongi rattles off with ease and Jungkook suspects he has already looked into this. “and he’s Taehyung’s cell mate,”

“I fucking knew that,” Jungkook says through clenched teeth. The shards of plastic have left little cuts all over his palm but Jungkook doesn't even notice. 

He’s never heard of Wonho but Jungkook has been around long enough to know it’s the ones you don’t hear about, the quiet ones, who are the most dangerous. Loud mouth braggarts will always be exposed, their pride and lack of self-control will undoubtedly be their downfall but quiet people? They will sit back and watch for their opportunity to tear you apart.

Jungkook stands and Jimin sighs, over dramatic as always.

“Where are you going Kook?” he asks and Jungkook doesn’t turn around as he speaks. His body’s too tense, too tightly wound and standing still on makes it worse. The restless energy building and he wanted to scream.

“I’m just going to talk to them,” he says as he begins to walk towards the table where Taehyung and this ‘Wonho’ dick are sat.

“Just don’t kill anyone,” Jimin calls over his shoulder and Jungkook can't tell and frankly doesn’t care if he’s joking or not.

Taehyung looks up as he approaches his eyes meeting Jungkook’s. A look of surprise flickers across Taehyung’s face but in a second it’s gone and he’s smiling. His smile is really fucking beautiful and for a moment it throws Jungkook off.

Then this ‘Wonho’ guy coughs and Jungkook remembers just how pissed he is although he still can’t quite understand while Taehyung is inspiring such strong feelings of jealousy and the need to own. 

“Hello darling,” Taehyung greets him in an overly sweet voice and Wonho wrinkles his nose. Jungkook isn’t really in the mood to play, not today.

“Hi Taehyung,” he doesn’t miss the small frown that creases Taehyung’s brow at the lack a nickname but he hides his disappointment well.

“Who the fuck is this?” he asks never actually looking at Wonho. Taehyung’s eyes slide between them, his lips press into a thin line for just a moment before realisation dawns in his eyes. Jungkook has no idea what he thinks he realised but he’s so annoyed he doesn’t care right now.

“Ah Jungkookie this is Wonho! He’s my cell mate,” Taehyung says all cheerful smiles and pleasant introductions, “and Wonho this is-”

“I know who you are,” Wonho says and stands and if Jungkook didn’t know better he’d say the other guy was challenging him. He’s not as tall as Jungkook but he has to admit the other boy has an intimidating aura. Not that Jungkook was scared of him, of course. In fact he was seconds away from knocking him the fuck out. The look of insolence in his eyes is more than Jungkook will stand for. In this prison he demands one thing: respect.

“Then you should know not to fucking look at me like that,” Jungkook hisses and Wonho’s fists clench by his sides.

Do it fucker, Jungkook thinks, just give me an excuse.

“Hey Jungkook, are you okay? Something wrong?” Jungkook doesn’t look at him but Taehyung’s voice takes on that same tone it always does when he teases him. He blinks up through his eyelashes with an innocent look that Jungkook can see right through.

“Just fine Tae,” he says with a cold smile as he refuses to look away from Wonho. He’s so focused staring the other boy down he doesn’t notice Taehyung has stood up until he claps him on the shoulder. Jungkook starts at the touch. It’s the first time Taehyung has touched him since their little meeting in the bathroom stall.

“That’s good sweetie pie ‘cus Wonho and I gotta go! Dishwashing calls,” Jungkook doesn’t know why the thought of those two washing dishes makes him so mad but it does and suddenly he wants to smash dishes over Wonho's stupid head or maybe drown him in the sink. 

“Fuck dishwashing,” he says turning to look at Taehyung. Taehyung just smiles and playfully pats Jungkook’s cheek and in that moment Jungkook can’t think of another way to ask him to stay.

“I wish,” Taehyung laughs, “see you around Jungkook.”

He turns to walk away with Wonho by his side and Jungkook is so close to ignoring Jimin and killing everyone he can see. Fuck. What the fuck?  The stifling feeling inside Jungkook won’t stand for this. Taehyung was his damn it he can't leave.

“Taehyung,” he calls out and Taehyung freezes. Wonho turns around and gives Jungkook a cold glare but he could care less. “Taehyung come here.”

For a moment he thinks the other boy won't listen then Taehyung turns walks slowly over to him, his hips swaying noticeably with each deliberate step until he’s within reach. Jungkook wants to touch him so badly but he holds himself back, for now.

“Taehyung,”

“Jungkook,”

“Stay away from him Tae,” Jungkook didn’t mean to say it like that, so blunt but he can’t think of any fancy way to dress this feeling of jealously so he doesn’t even try.

“Why?” there’s that look, that spark in Taehyung’s eyes. Defiance, a challenge and Jungkook wants to take him right he in the goddamn cafeteria. He reaches out to grab Taehyung pointed chin not to hurt but to hold, force but no intention to really use it. Tilting Taehyung’s chin up to face him, the other boy offers no resistance only stares back at Jungkook with quiet disobedience.  Everyone is watching them but Jungkook doesn’t care. Let them watch.

“I’m warning you love,” Jungkook says lowering his voice to little more than a steady rumble, the familiar nickname once again rolling easily off his tongue and Taehyung smiles, the muscles of his face moving under Jungkook’s fingers. “Don’t make me mad.”

“Or else what, sweetheart?” Taehyung’s voice is low too and Jungkook’s fingers instinctively tighten around his chin, his hard fingers digging into Taehyung’s soft skin. He hopes he leaves marks for all to see. “Are you going to punish me?”

Jungkook lets a wolfish smile spread across his face and Taehyung licks his lips, his pink tongue darting dangerously close to Jungkook's fingers, “darling, you have no idea what I’m going to do to you.”

Taehyung takes a step forward closing the distance between them so all Jungkook can see is Taehyung. His hand slips from his chin to rest on his throat, a light barely there reminder that if Jungkook wanted to he could squeeze. Taehyung was at his mercy but so unafraid it was thrilling.

“I can’t wait to find out, babe,” Taehyung’s warm breath hits his cheek and Taehyung is so close but it’s not enough, “some other time though.”

And with that he’s gone, cold air rushing in to replace his warmth and Jungkook can’t do anything but watch as Taehyung retreats with nothing but a sly smile and cheeky wink. Part of Jungkook wants to laugh but another part, the jealous part that bubbles up into his chest filling his lungs like he’s drowning wants to grab Taehyung and make him stay.

But before Jungkook can act on his worst impulses Taehyung is gone, leaving Jungkook cold, slightly aroused and very, very pissed off.

Chapter Text

Jungkook was not having a good day. He was actually having a very fucking bad day. Watching Taehyung leave with that motherfucker Wonho had put him in a downright foul mood. He had been left standing there like a fool, feeling a little murderous. Okay fine, he was feeling a lot murderous.

If Jimin hadn’t come up to him in the wake of Wonho and Taehyung's departure he would have probably broken the table with his bare hands or something. Goddamn, he was frustrated.

Fuck Taehyung. Literally, if he had his way. 

His mood was only marginally improved when they went outside later that day and he saw Taehyung huddled on the bleachers at the other side of the exercise yard, alone. He looked downright adorable (ugh since when did he, Jeon Jungkook, son of one of the most notorious and feared gangster in the entire country, actually think of anyone, let alone another inmate, as cute? Fuck sake).

Winter was setting in and there was a chill in the air. Taehyung didn’t seem too effected by the cold though his nose and cheeks were a pretty rosy red but he looked content as he sat there and read a book. His good mood was greatly helped by the fact that shit head Wonho was nowhere near him. Just how it should be, in Jungkook’s humble opinion.

Ever since Taehyung told him to shove the broom handle up his ass nearly four months ago Jungkook hasn’t been able to stop thinking about him. No one had ever talked to him like that before, not even Jimin. Never before in his life had someone addressed him with such a lack of respect, with such blatant disregard for who he was. He should have cracked Taehyung’s skull open with the mop right then and there for his insolence and had it been anyone else he probably would have. But something stilled his hand. Here was this guy, who knew he was in danger but still had the balls to mouth off to him. If there was one thing Jungkook admired above all else it was bravery and Taehyung was most definitely brave. Perhaps a little stupid but brave too.

“You’re staring again,”

“Fuck off Jimin,” why couldn’t anyone just let him have this?

It’s not like it was his fault Taehyung was ridiculously attractive on top of everything else. Prison was strange, no doubt about it. Being locked up did things to people. It didn’t matter how straight someone claimed to be going in, after a couple months here and guys like Taehyung started to look pretty good.  

Not that Jungkook wouldn’t have found Taehyung attractive outside prison, in fact Taehyung was probably one of the most beautiful people Jungkook had ever seen, ever. Even in that ugly orange jumpsuit he looked like a model. Soft gorgeous tanned skin, delicate, sharp features, stunning smile, soft blond hair, toned lean body and ass to die for, Taehyung had it all and Jungkook had none of it. Yet.

As he watched Taehyung (he wasn’t staring Jimin, he just happened to be looking in Taehyung’s general direction okay?) a group of three guys sauntered up to him, greasy smirks on their ugly faces, their bad intentions written all over. Jungkook tenses as Taehyung looks up from his book wearily. If they lay so much as one finger his Taehyung he is going to kill them.

“Hey kookie relax, Tae can handle himself okay?” Jungkook didn’t respond to Namjoon’s reassurance. Partly because he knew he was probably right. Another thing that had surprised him about the Taehyung was his ability to take care of himself. Pretty boys like him never lasted long. They always ended up as someone’s bitch but Taehyung was stubborn. Jungkook liked that.

Jungkook watches, ready to spring into action as one of the guys says something, undoubtedly vulgar to Taehyung who gave them a seemingly sweet smile but even from here Jungkook could see the acid in it. Jungkook loved that smile, it meant Taehyung was about to kick some ass.

The bruises on his face from last week have almost healed and from the way Taehyung moves Jungkook guesses his ribs were almost better too. It was such a shame he was about to go and fuck it all up again.

If he was Jungkook’s, he could protect him. If Taehyung was his he would never have bruises again. 

In that moment Jungkook recalls Taehyung voice, humourless as the thin smile on his lips as he said, I remember the first time my dad broke my ribs.

Jungkook remembers hearing that and wanting to protect him even though he knew the stubborn boy would never accept his help. He still doesn’t know a thing about Taehyung’s past or what he’d done to land himself in here for life but one thing was certain: the world had not been kind to him. 

One of the men reaches out to touch Taehyung’s hair. Before he can Taehyung’s hand darts up and grips the man wrist and twists, the book falling to the ground as the man screams. Jungkook grins as Taehyung brings the bigger man to his knees, an odd sense of pride bubbling up in his chest. That’s my boy.

The other men make to grab Taehyung but he avoids their advances easily, leaning out of the way and delivering some vicious well placed punches of his own. He catches one of the men on the jaw hard enough to send him sprawling with his friend but the last man was quicker and came up behind him wrapping his arms around his middle trapping Taehyung’s arms by his side. The man began to tighten his hold like he was trying to squeeze the life out of Taehyung and Jungkook could no longer sit back and watch.

Jungkook’s heart is hammering like a damn jackhammer as he made to stand only to be restrained by Yoongi who gripped his sleeve.

“Let go-”

“Watch.”

No one tells Jungkook what to do and he was about to brush Yoongi off and storm over there when he looked up just in time to see Taehyung bring his own head crashing back into the man’s face.

Skull hits nose and blood gushes everywhere and Jungkook silently cheers.

“Talk about using your head,” Seokjin says and nearly falls over laughing at his own lame joke. Jungkook rolls his eyes but he’s satisfied as the man bellows in pain and releases Taehyung to hold his swollen bloody nose.

The three men now look furious on top of bruised and Jungkook knows it isn’t over yet. This could get a whole lot uglier before it got better. One of the man staggers to his feet and looks like he is about to attack  Taehyung again and Jungkook isn’t really worried, Taehyung can take him. But then shit head appears with his stupid blue hair, sweaty from pumping iron on the other side of the yard and glowers at the men. The men seem to think twice about going after Taehyung as they turn to flee presumably to lick their wounds. He’s glad Taehyung is no longer in danger of course but Wonho’s sudden presence displeases him greatly. How dare he touch his Taehyung?

Taehyung looks up and their eyes meet across the prison yard. Jungkook glares and Taehyung just smiles before stepping even closer to Wonho even going so far as to wrap his arm around him and pull him into a sort of half hug that makes Jungkook’s blood boil.

They were so close it made Jungkook sick. Seriously, what reason could there possibly be for their proximity? Was it the cold? If so, Jungkook could think of a few different ways he could keep Taehyung warm and not one of them involved Wonho and his stupid hair. Jungkook narrowed as Taehyung actually rested his head on Wonho’s shoulder looking content and Jungkook clenches his jaw shut so hard it ached. The sight of them touching made him so mad he could barely comprehend it. He’s about to storm over there and remind Taehyung of his earlier warning to stay the fuck away from him when someone clears their throat.

“Jungkook,” Hoseok says sounding more serious than usual.

“What?” he snaps, his earlier dark mood having come crashing back full force.

“Sung-yeol is here,” and as much as Jungkook wants to deal with Taehyung he sighs, relenting for now.

“Send him over,” he says tearing his eyes away from Taehyung and fuck face. No matter how pissed off he is he will always make time for his father’s friends. Especially when they’re helping him.

Sung-yeol is around his father’s age but his hair is greyer and his face has more wrinkles and Jungkook wonders if that’s what prison does to you, just drains the life right out of you. He can’t wait to leave but before he goes there’s something he has to do and it’s taking longer than he thought, a lot longer in fact.

 Sung-yeol is a large, round man who smokes too much and has a raspy laugh but Jungkook’s known him all his life and trusts him completely. He’s practically family.

“Jungkook, it’s good to see you,” Sung-yeol moves slowly and Jungkook remembers something about him having joint pain and makes a note to have his father smuggle in some medication for him, “How’s your father keeping?”

“He’s doing well, thank you,” Jungkook knows he’s being curt, bordering on rude but today he has no time nor desire for useless small talk so he cuts straight to the chase. “Any news?”

Sung-yeol chuckles, air rattling from his smoke corrupted lungs as he sat next to Jungkook, the bench groaning under his ample weight. “You kids, so impatient.”

Jungkook scoffs but waits, patiently, for Sung-yeol to settle himself comfortably.

“I do but not the type your expecting but I think you need to hear this,” Jungkook raises an eyebrow. Sung-yeol is one of his main sources of information in this place and if he says something is of interest to Jungkook he believes him.

“The guy you hospitalised last week? He’s not doing so well. Brain damage, collapsed lung, spinal fracture. They’re saying he might not make it,” Sung-yeol says and Jungkook snorts.

“Why do I give a shit if that scum lives or dies?” he asks, “what are they going to do? Add more time to life? You know I’m getting out of here as soon as I can regardless.”

“I know that but if he was really just some bottom feeder do you think I would bother telling you this?” Sung-yeol asks, “he wasn’t just anyone he was part of Taeyang’s gang, low down but if you think for a second they won’t use this to start something…”

Jungkook swears and the rest of his gang look grim. There is no doubt Jungkook is the most powerful inmate in here. His reputation alone ends half the fights before they start and the other half are ended by his gangs raw savagery but no doubt Taeyang and his gang were a close second. And what’s more Taeyang had made it clear he wanted Jungkook’s top spot. Jungkook killing one of his men was the perfect excuse to start a gang war and try to seize power. Gang wars were ugly business, bloody too and something Jungkook would really rather have avoided altogether. Fuck.

Jungkook sighs and runs a hand over his face. Suddenly he’s tired. This really has just been the worst day.

“Please tell me you’ve got some good news,” he says and Sung-yeol gives him a sympathetic look that just pisses Jungkook off. He doesn’t want fucking he wants results.

“I’m afraid not Jungkook,” he sighs, looking out over the exercise yard, his old eyes tired, “My boys are doing the best we can but the last lead went cold. So we’re starting again from the bottom.”

“Shit. Shit, shit, shit,” well, Jungkook’s bad day just got a whole lot fucking worse. In fact at this point it’s hard to see how it could possibly get any more worse, Unless maybe he died although at this point he'd probably count that as better.

“It’s been almost a fucking year and we’re still no closer to finding him?” he seethed, “how is that fucking possible?”

“These things take time young man,” Sung-yeol soothes, “trust me. I’ve found informants before, it’s not easy, they’re protected by the guards but this guy is no different. We’ll catch him I promise.”

“But when?” Jungkook snaps, “How long am I going to be stuck rotting in this shithole? You know we can’t even start to think about a break out until we find this snitch. Someone betrayed my family, Sung-yeol and I’m stuck here until I find them so where are they?”

“I know it's frustrating Jungkook, I know,” Sung-yeol is infuriatingly calm as he pulls out a packet of smuggled cigarettes that Jungkook gave him last week. He proceeds to light up his eyes still wandering over the yard, “all in good time. Besides I wouldn’t think you’d be so eager to leave right now.”

“Oh yeah?” Jungkook asks with a snort, still mad as hell, “And why is that?”

“Well, sorry to be crude, but when you got a piece of ass like that,” Jungkook follows Sung-yeol’s line of sight and sees he is, of course looking at Taehyung, who now, to Jungkook’s immense displeasure, has his arm slung around Wonho’s shoulder. Fuck. “Well when you got something like that you might not want to leave it. Although he’s awfully close with that guy. You two sharing or something?”

Taehyung leans in to whisper to Wonho, his pink lips practically brushing the other boy’s cheek and Jungkook has had enough. That’s it. The final fucking straw. He’s so fucking done with everything and there is no way he’s just going to sit by anymore.

“We are not sharing,” Jungkook grinds out between gritted teeth, “I don’t fucking share,”

He gets up and begins to walk away without so much as a quick goodbye to Sung-yeol and he knows his father would scold him for being impolite but Jungkook is so beyond giving a shit. He just wants to realise all this anger and frustration that has been building inside him. If he doesn’t he is surely going to explode.

He can hear Seokjin offering rushed apologies over his shoulder and Sung-yeol chuckling about being young and hot blooded or some shit like that. Jungkook isn’t really listening anymore. He’s aware at least some of his gang are following but he only has eyes for Taehyung.

Jungkook gets a sense of dejavu as he draws closer to the bench where Taehyung and Wonho are now looking oh so fucking cosy together. Gross. 

This time Taehyung watches his approach with a twinkle in his eye and Jungkook is too mad to think about what’s got him looking so damn pleased with himself.

“I told you to stay away from him,” Jungkook’s voice is a growl as he grits his teeth to keep himself from yelling.

“Hello to you too darling,” Taehyung smiles sweetly and Jungkook can feel the vein under his eye twitch. He was not in the mood for games.

“Don’t fuck with me sweetheart,” he seethes and Wonho stands, hard gaze fixed on Jungkook. For fuck sake it’s this morning replaying all over again. Only this time it’s going to end differently. This time Taehyung is not going to walk away from him.

“Don’t tell him what to-” Wonho starts, obviously still not aware of his inferiority to Jungkook, so Jungkook decides to remind him with a solid right hook to the jaw. Pain thrums in his knuckles but the sight of Wonho crashing to the ground is so satisfying he doesn’t care.

“What the fuck Jungkook!?” Taehyung isn’t smiling now and Jungkook feels himself smirk. It felt so damn good to finally knock that asshole out.

“I did warn you love,” he says.

Wonho sits groaning but conscious much to Jungkook’s distaste. But rather than waste any more time on irritating cell mates he takes Taehyung’s hand and drags him away. No one follows them as he pulls Taehyung into the grey prison building. Taehyung doesn’t try and resist until Jungkook shoves him into the nearest supply closet and slams the door behind them plunging them into a warm semidarkness.

As soon as he lets go of Taehyung’s hand the other boy slaps him, his palm cracking across his face, a sharp pain radiating in his cheek. Taehyung raises his hand to hit him again but this time Jungkook is ready. He catches it before the blow and land, gripping Taehyung’s wrist tight enough to hurt but not so tight as to do damage. Using his superior strength he pushes Taehyung back until he hits into the shelf behind him. Bottles of cleaning product wobble and almost fall as Taehyung makes contact.

"Don't you dare, love," he warns but Taehyung doesn't even flinch.

The supply closet is dark and cramped and smells of detergent and bleach but he’s so close to Taehyung who is glaring up at him that Jungkook doesn’t mind. He can hear the others wildly beating heart as he draws one deep breath after the other, he can smell him, strangely sweet underneath the usual musk and feel the warmth emanating from his body. Taehyung is so real and so close and Jungkook has been thinking about this for so long.

He’s still holding one of Taehyung’s wrists so he presses it above the other boys head, keeping the other one clasp firmly at him side.

 “What the fuck?” Taehyung isn’t yelling anymore in fact he seems calm and his words lack any real bite. They both know Wonho is a big boy who isn’t about to cry over something as minor as a little punch.

“I told you to stay away, angelface,” Jungkook says his voice dropping a couple octaves in the intimate quiet.

“Oh sorry, I forgot you owned me, love,” Taehyung responds, voice dripping with sarcasm, his eyes alight with fierce determination and Jungkook falls for him a little bit more. With one hand still keeping Taehyung’s wrist fixed firmly above his head Jungkook reaches up with the other to wrench Taehyung’s face up and there’s nothing gentle about how he touches him now, that time has passed.

“Oh but darling I do own you, I would have thought someone as smart as you would have figured that out by now,” he whispers and Taehyung’s eyes flash with the challenge. He’s smiling again, a hungry smile that Jungkook imagines looks a lot like his right now. His fingers tighten and all he wants to do is devour Taehyung right there and then.

“Forget the guards, forget the wardens I run this place. Me,” he continues, his warm breath fanning Taehyung’s now flushed cheeks. He was breathing heavily, they both were, the sound of their panting loud in such a confined space.

“I am in charge here, baby,” he says his lips ghosting over Taehyung’s ear, tongue darting out to taste his salty skin and Taehyung squirms against him. His grip on Taehyung’s wrist tightens and Taehyung bites his lip as if trying not to moan.

“you do what I say got it? If I say jump, you jump. If I say sing you sing," Jungkook presses his lips against Taehyung's throat as he speaks, his teeth grazing his thundering pulse. "and if I say kneel, you get on your fucking knees.”

Taehyung’s lips are wet and shining from biting them and they part as he draws in a sharp breath. His eyes remind Jungkook of how they looked when they first met, rebellious and brash and so fucking beautiful.

“Make me.” he breathes.

Now there’s the Taehyung he knows and loves.

He presses his body even harder against Taehyung’s pinning him in place and the other boy gasps.

 “You think I don’t know what you’re doing love?” Jungkook snarls, pressing harder up against Taehyung earning him a muffled whine, “you think I’m stupid huh? You think I don’t see that you’re doing all this on purpose? You really want me to punish you that badly?”

He sinks his teeth into the sensitive skin behind Taehyung’s ear and this time the other boy is unable to stop the needy whine escaping as his body tenses against Jungkook’s. His pinned hand clenching into a fist and his whole body thrums with tension, just begging for release.   

Jungkook continues to attack Taehyung’s neck, biting and nibbling and sucking as Taehyung throws his head back giving Jungkook better access. He chuckles against his skin; Taehyung was being such a good boy. He makes sure to leave as many marks as he can, vivid purple and red hickeys staining the skin in his wake so everyone will know that Taehyung is his and his alone. Every time he bites down particularly hard Taehyung would moan, the noise vibrating in his throat and Jungkook savoured the lewd sound.

Satisfied with the array of love bits Jungkook crashed their lips together in a kiss that was all teeth and insatiable hunger. Taehyung tasted better than anything Jungkook had ever had and he just couldn’t get enough. He wants to eat Taehyung whole.

Blood was rushing south as heat gathered in his stomach as he continued to press closer to Taehyung. He slips his tongue into Taehyung warm waiting mouth and the other boy groans in response, Jungkook eagerly swallowing up the delicious sounds. His beginning arousal brushes against Taehyung’s firm thigh. Taehyung must feel it as he presses back, moving in a way that creates the most wonderful friction that has Jungkook’s mind short circuiting.

He wants it so badly. He wants Taehyung, all of him and he’s going to have him.

Jungkook goes to pull down the zipper of Taehyung’s jumpsuit and rid him of the ugly garment but Taehyung moves and the next thing Jungkook knows he’s on his back and Taehyung is straddling his waist looking down at him with a beautiful victorious smile. The fall knocked the wind out of his lungs and he struggles for a moment to breath, his lust filled mind a muddled mess as it tries to comprehend what just happened. Then Taehyung grinds down and any semblance of rational thought Jungkook might have had flies right out the window.

Taehyung leans down so his face is centimetres from Jungkook’s. He looks so beautiful with his pupils blown wide and a pretty blush colouring his cheeks and Jungkook cannot wait to see what Taehyung will look like when he wrecks him.

Taehyung presses his lips to Jungkook’s in another kiss and this time Taehyung bites his lip, it’s painful and Jungkook tastes blood but he wants more. Unfortunately, to Jungkook’s immense annoyance, Taehyung pulls away, licking his lips, his eyes shining.

“Listen honey,” damn, his voice is so low and rough and Jungkook can only imagine what it will sound like screaming his name.

“If you want this you are going to have to earn it, babe,” he says with a wink his voice low and sultry and Jungkook cannot believe what he is hearing.

“What the fuck?” he makes to sit up but Taehyung pushes him back down with a little smirk. He looks so damn good on top of him and all Jungkook wants is for Taehyung to ride him. Fuck.

“Let's get one thing straight, you don’t own me darling,” Taehyung says and really, Jungkook’s not even surprised.  “I’m not a bitch and I am not yours.”

Taehyung stands and Jungkook just watches him.

“Not yet,” he says and it’s a promise. He’s still horny as fuck and part of him wants to murder Taehyung for working him up only to leave him like this but mostly he just wants to laugh. Of course Taehyung is stubborn as ever. Of fucking course it wouldn’t be this easy.

“We’ll see about that,” Taehyung says as he reaches for the door and the reality that he is actually just going to leave him there, half hard on the supply closet floor is just sinking in.

“Fuck you,” he says and it’s not cruel and Taehyung just smiles.

“Maybe later sweetheart,” he says as he blows Jungkook a kiss before slipping out and closing the door behind him and in that moment when silence and darkness rushes back in Jungkook hates Taehyung. Almost as much as he loves him. Fuck.

Chapter Text

“I’m sorry,”

Wonho looks up as Taehyung hovers in the doorway of their cell. His jaw is starting to swell where Jungkook’s fist landed. He has a small gel ice pack pressed to his wounded face and Taehyung knows despite this, it will still bruise a nasty purple over the coming days and guilt sparks in his chest. He should have been more careful when provoking Jungkook. He honestly hadn’t thought the younger boy would go after Wonho like that. Although, to be fair, he hadn’t actually expected Wonho to come to his defence either. Looks like everyone is just full of surprises today, huh?

“For what?” Wonho asks, removing the ice pack so he can speak and Taehyung steps inside the door shutting behind him, closing for the night.

“For, you know, that,” Taehyung mumbles gesturing at the other boys injured jaw. Wonho’s face remains impassive and Taehyung just prays his cell mate doesn’t hate him now. Wonho was his only friend here apart from Jungkook and his gang and Taehyung can’t say for certain exactly what they are. ‘Friends’ just isn’t the right word.

“I don’t know why you’re apologising,” Wonho says with a dismissive shrug, “you ain’t the one who punched me.”

“I know, but it was my fault-”

“Don’t,” Wonho says cutting off the apology before Taehyung can get the words out, “don’t say sorry for things you can’t control. And that Jeon brat is certainly something you can’t control.”

Taehyung opened his mouth but closed it when he found words had abandoned him. He knew from day one that Jungkook was dangerous. Hell, that day they met in the bathrooms for the first time Taehyung had been sure the other boy was really going to kill him. But since then he had forgotten or maybe he’d forced himself to ignore just how dangerous Jungkook could be. Messing with Jungkook was like playing fire. Only this time, Taehyung wasn’t the one who had been burned.

They stood in heavy silence and Taehyung felt reluctant to venture further into their cell.

“You okay?” Wonho asks and the question takes Taehyung by surprise. He guesses he still isn’t used to people caring about his wellbeing.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he says quickly as the image of Jungkook looming over him, pinning him against the shelves of the supply closet flashes through his mind, “totally fine.”

“Oh yeah?” Wonho raises a disbelieving eyebrow as his eyes lower to Taehyung’s neck and Taehyung remembers with an embarrassed start the undoubtedly vivid array of hickeys decorating his throat. Thanks Jungkook, you little fuck.

Taehyung can feel a warm blush spread across his face under Wonho’s critical gaze.

“It’s nothing,” he says and he knows Wonho doesn’t believe him.

“Taehyung,” Wonho says and his voice is gentler than Taehyung has ever heard it, “if he hurts you, you can tell me.”

Again Taehyung’s mind wanders back to the dark supply closet. This time he sees Jungkook below him looking up at him with bright, hungry eyes like he wants to eat Taehyung whole. Taehyung remembers the surge of power he had felt then like he had Jungkook under some kind of spell. He knows what he had done, leaving Jungkook all wound up like that, could have blown up in his face. He’s not stupid nor is he naïve, he knows Jungkook is violent and not someone you want to piss off but at the same time he knew in his gut that Jungkook wouldn’t actually hurt him.

“He hasn’t- I mean, he won’t-” Taehyung starts but can’t quite find the words. How did he know Jungkook wouldn’t hurt him? What if he pushed Jungkook too far? But then again, how much father could he push him?

“Just, be careful okay?” Wonho says, looking mildly uncomfortable as he offers advice. “Jungkook ain’t the kind of guy you say no to, you know? Guy like him? From a family like his? You really think anyone’s ever said no to him in his life? Just… watch yourself okay?”

Taehyung is touched, really he is. He never realised how much Wonho cared about him. Ugh, if this continues he’s going to get emotional, all teary eyed and shit. That would totally fuck what little reputation he had here right up wouldn’t it?

“Thanks,” he says and means it, “but I know what I’m doing.”

He definitely sounds more confident than he feels.

“Whatever you say kid,” Wonho lets out a weary sigh as he flops back on the hard mattress and Taehyung can’t help but notice how tired he looks as he climbs onto his top bunk.

“Hey Wonho?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you okay?” he asks. Normally he would never dream of asking another inmate something so personal. Concern here was a sign of weakness but now things were different, things between them are different.

“What do you mean?” Taehyung lies flat on his bunk, Wonho lying on the bed underneath him so he can’t see his face but the other boys sounds guarded. Taehyung pauses. A beat of steady silence descending between them and Taehyung is tempted to let it drop.

“I just mean you seem tired,” he says eventually and Wonho lets out a huff that could have been a sigh or a laugh.

“Little nosy aren’t we, Kim?” Wonho asks but he sounds almost amused and Taehyung freezes before Wonho continues, “I… haven’t been feeling well, is all. No big deal.”

Taehyung leans over to peer over the other side of the bunk to look down at Wonho, who gives him a tired little smile.

“You know what helps when you can’t sleep?” he asks and Wonho rolls his eyes but he stays quiet and waits for Taehyung to continue, “hot water,”

“The fuck? Hot water? Like tea?” Wonho asks wrinkling his nose at the suggestion.

“No, no like just hot water. You drink and it helps you sleep!”

“Fuck off Kim, you’re making that up,” Wonho chuckles and Taehyung pouts leaning further over the edge of the bed.

“No I’m not all the old ladies in my building used to do it! Mrs Park swears by it,” Taehyung smiles a little as he recalls little old wizened Mrs Park with her mug of steaming water, telling him and his sister how it helped her joints. It must have done something because she was old as shit.

“You’re weird, Kim,” Wonho says and Taehyung forced a smile. Not the first time he’s heard that one. Wonho must have noticed the look on his face before he lay back on his bunk.

“That’s not a bad thing, you know,” Wonho says and he sounds hesitant like he hasn’t yet decided what he’s going to say next. Eventually in the quite he says, “You actually remind me of someone I know on the outside.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. I miss him like crazy,” Wonho’s voice is strained and so full of an emotion he can’t quite place but tugs at Taehyung’s heart none the less. He doesn’t know what to say. He wants to ask about this person who meant so much to Wonho but he got the feeling that would be pushing things too far.

Silence falls once again and just when he thinks Wonho won’t speak again, his rough voice drifts up from the bottom bunk, “night Kim.”

Its blunt but it’s so Wonho that Taehyung knows things are okay between them.

“Night Wonho.”

~

The library was probably Taehyung’s favourite place in the entire facility. But then again, here that does not mean much. It’s not had to be the best when the competition was shitty toilets, grey walls, dull exercise yards and stuffy cafeteria.

It wasn’t even a nice library. The books were in crappy condition and all about ten years old but Taehyung had never really had access to books growing up even though as a child he had loved to read. His mother had read to him and his sister when they were young. Then she fucked off and no one read to them anymore and things like reading took a back seat as his life got a whole lot more difficult.

The prison library had become a sort of refuge for Taehyung, a sanctuary if you will. When he wasn’t doing chores or with Wonho he was there, reading. It was quiet and there was a musky smell of books that Taehyung loved and the sunshine always seemed to filter beautifully through the windows. Funny isn’t it? Taehyung never thought he would ever consider anything in this hell hole beautiful (except maybe Jungkook but Taehyung would never admit that). Plus there was significantly less likely to be harassed and assaulted in here, which was, you know, kinda nice. Fuck sake.

It was the next day and Wonho was out in the exercise yard and as much as Taehyung liked watching Wonho’s muscles move (because damn) he was also sick of the exercise yard. There was only so much scary muscly men one could take before one had enough.

So he’d gone to the library, found an old copy of ‘to kill a mocking bird’ that he was pretty sure was missing some pages. They’d studied this book in high school but Taehyung had skipped so many classes he could barely remember any of it.

It’s pretty good but Atticus kinda bums him out a little. No way anyone has a dad that nice, no fucking way, it's just not fair. Or maybe it's actually totally fair and shitty dad's like his only exist because all their goodness was taken out and put in dads like Atticus Finch? That would explain a lot.

The only thing worse than reading about Atticus’ kindness was reading about the trial. Since coming here Taehyung has done his best not to think about his own trial.

The trial lasted a little over a week and Taehyung can say with confidence it was the worst fucking week of his entire life. He doesn’t regret what he did, he really didn’t. Didn’t then, doesn’t now and never fucking will. But he hated what had happened to his life afterwards and the trial, when everything he had done was laid bare in excruciating detail for the world to see? That had not been easy.

He doesn’t give a fuck about the judge’s grim condemnation or the horrified jury or the media shit storm but the image of his sister’s face was one thing that would be forever burned into his mind. Teary eyed disappointment, fear, confusion, all made unbearable by the fact she looked at him like she didn’t even recognise him anymore. It still hurt like hell to think about it now.

“Fancy meeting you here, sweetheart,”

Much to his mortification Taehyung actually jumped in his seat at the sound of Jungkook’s low voice from right behind him, so close he can feel warm breath against his neck.

“You scared the shit out of me,” he hisses as Jungkook slides easily into the vacant seat next to him, chuckling.

“Sorry about that babe, didn’t know you were so jumpy,” he smirks and Taehyung narrows his eyes. Yes Jungkook was undeniably freaking gorgeous but he could also be a total tool at times.

“Now why on earth would I be jumpy, babe?” he says in an icy tone and to give him some credit Jungkook at least has the good grace to look a little bashful.

“What are you doing here anyway?” Taehyung asks deciding to change the subject and Jungkook just shrugs, smile creeping back onto his lips. Not that Taehyung was looking at his lips or anything.

“What? A boy can’t read without being questioned?” Jungkook says with wide ‘innocent’ eyes and the sight is so strange Taehyung almost laughs.

“Okay, what are you reading then, love?” he asks and Jungkook reaches out to pick up the nearest book and proceeds to look at it upside down before righting it and reading the title.

“’The great Gatsby’,” he says and Taehyung snorts. He never thought he would say this but the scary, mafia heir Jungkook is actually kind of cute. Kind of.

“It’s pronounced gats-bee not gats-bye, dummy,” he says and Jungkook rolls his eyes and drops the book back where he found it.

“Whatever, you got me hun, I don’t give a shit about gatsbee or gastbye or whatever,” he says throwing his hands up in mock surrender. This statement surprises approximately no one.

“So why are you here, darling?” Taehyung asks as if he doesn’t already know and Jungkook leans in closer, smirking once again.

“If you must know, I was actually looking for you, love. I want to talk,” he says and Taehyung raises an eyebrow.

“Is this like the last time you wanted to ‘talk’ where you dragged me into the bathroom and kissed me?” he asks and Jungkook’s eyes flash and his tongue darts out to wet his lower lip.

“Ye- I mean, no, I actually just want to talk to you, like talk talk,” he says and okay, that one actually surprises Taehyung. He can honestly say he did not see this one coming. Jungkook seems sincere but something in Taehyung still doubts.

“Oh yeah? And why is that?” he challenges and Jungkook rolls his eyes, grumbling under his breath.

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” Taehyung says leaning in hand cupping his ear, “I couldn’t quite catch that, babe.”

“Jesus Christ okay, fine, I said,” Jungkook repeats, louder, “I wanna get to know you and shit. I told you back then that you fascinated me and you still do.”

Is this some sort of a love confession? Did notorious gangster Jungkook just admit he wanted to ‘get to know’ him? What the actually ever loving fuck? Jungkook just keeps surprising him today, doesn’t he?

“This wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with what I said about earning it now does it?” Taehyung asks and Jungkook, ever the shameless bastard smirks.

“Maybe a little,” he admits and its Taehyung’s turn to chuckle. Okay so not quite a love confession but still.

“Alright then,” he says because honestly Jungkook isn’t the only one fascinated here and he would be lying if he said he didn’t want to know the other boy better, “but first I think you owe me an apology, love,”

“You’re not serious? I don’t fucking apologise to anyone, sugar,” Jungkook scoffs but Taehyung only smiles as he makes to stand.

“Okay if that’s how you feel. It’s a shame though, I was actually looking forward to talking-”

“Wait, sit back down,” Jungkook says reaching out to grab Taehyung wrist in a tight grip, tugging him back to the table. Taehyung sits and waits, eyebrow raised in expectation.

“Okay, I’m sorry I dragged you out of the yard yesterday,” Jungkook says through gritted teeth, clearly not sorry at all. When Taehyung doesn’t say anything he sighs and continues, looking pained. Drama queen.

“and I’m sorry I shoved to into the closet and, um, I’m sorry I pushed you and what else, oh yeah I’m sorry for those,” he added not able to hide his satisfied smirk as he gestured towards the hickey’s he’d left on Taehyung’s neck.

Taehyung cleared his throat and resisted the urge to pull up his collar.

“There. Are you happy?” Jungkook asks, like a petulant child who’s just finished writing out lines on a blackboard.

“Well I didn’t actually want you to apologise for any of that,” he says and Jungkook’s eyes bulge.

“Then what the fuck am I supposed to be sorry for?”

“How about sucker punching my friend in the yard yesterday?” Taehyung asks and Jungkook scowls. His eyes darken as his smirk disappears.

“If you think for one second I’m-”

“Jungkook,”

“Fine, I’m sorry I punched that dickhead. He might not have deserved it. maybe.”

It’s a shitty apology and Taehyung knows Jungkook doesn’t mean a word or it and would probably happily punch Wonho again but at the same time he knows it’s by far the best he’s going to get.

“Thank you,” he says and Jungkook looks away before muttering, “You’re welcome.”

Jungkook looks back at him and their eyes meet once again and suddenly Taehyung doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know if there’s even anything to say at all.

All he can see is Jungkook and those dark eyes staring right back into him. It’s something Taehyung has never felt before and he wonders if Jungkook is seeing a part of him even he doesn’t know.

“Can I kiss you?” Jungkook’s voice is quiet and husky and Taehyung can feel a shudder race down his spine. They’re so close now all he would have to do to close the distance between them would be to lean forward just a tiny bit.

“we’re asking now are we?” he breathes and Jungkook rolls his eyes before pressing his lips to Taehyung’s and Taehyung allows his eyes to close and the sensation of Jungkook kissing him to take over.

Every time they kiss it’s something new. Sometimes it’s shy and hesitant, sometimes fierce and hungry and sometimes somewhere in-between. This kiss was new too, it meant something different but Taehyung doesn’t dwell on it as he feel Jungkook’s tongue swipe across his lower lip. ‘To kill a mocking bird’ with its yellowing, dog eared pages slip from his grasp to fall somewhere on the floor next to him but he doesn’t care as suddenly Jungkook’s hands are running through his hair. He throws his arms around Jungkook’s broad shoulders and Jungkook takes that as a sign to press closer. It’s probably the laziest kiss they’ve shared. There was something wonderfully leisurely about it, like they had all the time in the world.

But, of course, they didn’t.

“Jungkook? Jungkook oh my god-” Taehyung pulls away with a start at the sound of a familiar voice.

“Jimin I swear to god-” Jungkook doesn’t look away from Taehyung as he speaks, his forehead still pressed to his, his eyes closed and brow slightly furrowed like he’s suddenly been struck by a headache, “we’re busy.”

“Yeah I can see that,” Jimin says with a smirk that could rival Jungkook’s and Taehyung feels himself blush.

“What do you want Jimin?” Jungkook snaps, clearly not amused.

“Oh yeah,” Jimin says totally unfazed by Jungkook’s sudden moodiness. “If you crazy kids are finished sucking face you’ve got to see Yongguk today, remember?” and Jungkook groans.

“Fuck,”

“Please Jungkookie this is a library, let’s have some decency,” Jimin says and Taehyung snorts earning him a glare from Jungkook.

“What? that was funny,” he smiles and Jungkook glares back and forth between the two of them before closing his eyes in defeat.

“We’ll talk later babe,” Jungkook promises with one final peck before he stands and follows Jimin out of the library. Jimin turns and winks at Taehyung giving him the thumbs up which Taehyung returns with a smile.

Well that had certainly been interesting.

~

Mr Lee hates Taehyung.

There’s no doubt in Taehyung’s mind that the fucking bastard hates his guts.

He’d been minding his own business as he left the library to make his way to the cafeteria for dinner when out of fucking nowhere two creeps had jumped him. At this point Taehyung wasn’t surprised, random attacks were becoming depressingly routine but what had shocked him was how Mr Lee reacted when he came across the scene.

The two men were on the ground and Taehyung had been collecting himself. You never escape a fight uninjured and one of the fuckers had managed to punch his nose. Usually he would have run before the wardens showed up but he had then been distracted by the beautiful red that stained his hands.

That combined with the memories of the trial that had been dredged up earlier really fucked Taehyung’s state of mind. All he could see was the blood and it was like he had been transported back to that day as memories that had been supressed came crashing down and the sound of gunshots rang, deafening in his ears.

Bang

He should have run.

Bang

But it was too late

Bang

Blood

Bang

Everywhere

Bang

Beautiful

Bang

Mr Lee had shown up and because he apparently despised Taehyung, decided he was the one who needed to be punished and not his attackers. Taehyung was never one to call himself a victim no matter how much everyone liked to label him so but even he had to admit punishing the one who was almost raped was despicable.

Arguing had resulted in a baton to the stomach and an extra two hours on top of the extra kitchen duty he had just been assigned.

So that’s how Taehyung found himself, alone because of course Mr Lee would make him do the fucking work all by himself, in the kitchens after dinner, scrubbing all the nasty, greasy pots and pans. He had been stuck in the kitchen for almost three hours and had spent the time alternating between thinking of how Jungkook’s lips felt against his and murdering Mr Lee, you know just fun, harmless things to pass the time.

He had been almost finished cleaning the final huge pot when the door from the cafeteria swung open and Taehyung instinctively ducked down out of sight as at least two men walked in, talking quietly.

Taehyung had no idea who they were but he wasn’t taking chances. The only people who were in the kitchen this late, who hadn’t been condemned here by fucking sadistic prison wardens, were up to no good. They might have been here for non-evil purposes but after why he had been sent here, he wasn’t taking any chances.

The men were talking quietly but Taehyung could hear them well enough. Breathing slowly and trying to calm his heartbeat, Taehyung listened to what they were saying.

“…smug little bastard, walking around here like he fucking owns the place,”

If Taehyung didn’t know any better he would have said they were talking about Jungkook.

“Calm down Chanwoo,” another voice says, calmer and deeper than the first, “we’ve got to be patient if we want this to work.”

The first man, Chanwoo, grumbles, “So what’s the plan?”

Taehyung sneaks a peak over the counter top making sure not to make a sound. The two men have their backs to him but he notices a large scar on the taller man’s hand. Ducking down before they could see him Taehyung tried to figure out what was happening.

“He’s going to be around cell block H later tonight, he’s meeting Dohun and you know how paranoid that fuck is, so he’ll probably be alone,”

“And then?”

There’s a nasty undertone to Chanwoo’s voice, the type of awful cruelty that always made Taehyung’s skin crawl. He was sweating now, fear clawing its way up his throat. He didn’t like where this was headed not one little bit. They couldn't really mean…

“And then,” the other man says and Taehyung’s heart drops when the man speaks again, his voice equally full of gleeful malice, “well then, my friend, we are going to kill Jeon Jungkook.”

Chapter Text

We are going to kill Jeon Jungkook.

Taehyung could not believe what he had just heard. What the actual fuck!?

Kill Jungkook.

Huh?

Those words made sense individually but when you put them in a sentence together and Taehyung just couldn’t wrap his mind around their meaning. These men wanted to… kill Jungkook? They wanted him dead? Was that even possible? Jungkook was so strong, like a fucking lion. No one messed with him, no one. People feared him and respected him and tried to suck up to him and yes, the majority of people in here would probably be delighted to see the boy six feet under but Taehyung never thought any of them would actually attempt something so ridiculous. Surely what they were proposing was suicide.

As he crouched there behind the kitchen counter holding his breath and waiting for the men to leave, Taehyung couldn’t imagine a world without Jungkook. Without Taehyung even fully realising it, Jungkook had become such a huge, unavoidable presence in his life and now the thought of him just suddenly not being there was odd. Odd in the same way the sun not rising the next morning was odd.

Yes he had wanted to kill Jungkook himself at times. He was arrogant to the point of being almost insufferable, cocky and self-centred. He was also violent and short tempered and to make matters worse had a petty streak a mile wide. Jeon Jungkook was a self-important, egotistical, entitled little brat who needed to learn to keep his hands to himself.

But

Somehow, he had become a self-important, egotistical, entitled little brat who was important to Taehyung and he didn’t want to lose him.

Jungkook not smirking at him, not staring at him, not asking to get to know him like the young boy Taehyung forgets he is, just not being there was so wrong and Taehyung realised he couldn’t stand for that. He wouldn’t.

He contemplated ambushing the men there and then, nipping the problem in the bud and stopping them before they even had a chance to get to Jungkook. But what if he screwed up? He had already been in one fight today and if he lost he would be unable to warn Jungkook of the danger.

Something akin to panic buzzes under Taehyung’s skin, an unknown fear roils in his gut and his heart is beating so fast he wouldn’t be surprised if it beat right out of his chest. Why is he afraid? He’s not afraid for himself, all he has to do is stay quiet for a few more seconds and the men will leave. So what is it? Surely he’s not afraid for Jungkook, is he? No way. He’s just… a little concerned is all.

Having finished discussing their little scheme away from the listening ears of the other inmates the two men turn and leave and Taehyung counts to ten, waiting as long as he dares for the coast to be clear.

Cautiously he peaks over the counter top and sure enough Chanwoo and the man with a scar on his hand are gone. Hearing no voices in the hall outside Taehyung leaps up and sprints out as fast as he can leaving behind the unfinished dishes that Mr Lee is no doubt going to give him shit over behind. The only thing on his mind now is warning Jungkook about the danger he’s in.

He knows Jungkook and his gang like to hang out and gamble in the rec room so he heads there first hoping to find him. But when he stumbles in flushed and breathing heavily all he sees is Namjoon and Yoongi playing cards while Hoseok watches the TV. No sign of Jungkook anywhere. Damn it.

“Taehyung, are you okay?” Namjoon asks, concern flashing in his eyes as he takes in Taehyung’s dishevelled appearance.

“Yeah, Taehyungie, something the matter?” Hoseok chimes in as he tears his eyes away from the glowing screen to land on his face and Taehyung remembers that he must have bruises from his earlier fight.

Yoongi doesn’t say anything he just watches in silence, his sharp eyes alert as Taehyung gulps down air as if he can sense that something is wrong.

“Jungkook,” he gasps, “where is Jungkook?”

Namjoon and Hoseok exchange a quick look and Taehyung is too winded to catch what it might mean. Yoongi’s eyes narrow as he continues to burn a hole in Taehyung’s forehead with his intense gaze.

“He’s not here,” Namjoon says and Taehyung wants to scream. He’s not blind, he can fucking see that, “What do you need from him?”

“I need to tell him something,” Taehyung says, the panic growing, as if every second he’s not helping Jungkook is another itch under his skin, “we have to hurry, there isn’t much time,”

The men had said this evening and the sun was setting. For all he knew Jungkook could be walking into a trap right now as he stood here wasting time.

Yoongi stood and Taehyung briefly wonders how someone so short can manage to be so intimidating.

“Taehyung,” he says his voice firm, eyes flashing dangerously. A card he had been holding from the now forgotten game flutters to the table. King of hearts, the blood red heart stares up at him and Taehyung needs to run. Now. “What’s going on?”

Taehyung wants to tear his hair out but he forces himself to stay calm, “Jungkook. He’s in danger. I can’t explain right now but I need to warn him!”

His announcement is met with stunned silence. The smile slips off Hoseok’s face and Namjoon stands knocking his chair to the floor with a bang. The other inmates in the room turn to stare before going back to minding their own business. Yoongi freezes for a split second, his whole body tensing as he meets Taehyung’s eyes and Taehyung knows what he’s thinking. Right now he’s wondering if Taehyung can be trusted or if this is some kind of trick. There’s nothing more Taehyung can say so he wills the blond man to believe him with his eyes.

“Alright,” Yoongi says eventually, “let’s go.”

He lets Yoongi lead and follows as they leave the rec room behind and head towards block L. Taehyung tries to distract himself by memorising the route, he’s never been to Jungkook’s cell before and he doesn’t even know where it is. But it’s useless, the scratching under his skin gets worse and the seconds seem to drag. Why are they walking so slowly? Don’t they realise how serious this is? Move faster!

Taehyung is so distracted by his worry he didn’t notice Yoongi had come to a halt right in from of a cell door and walks straight into his back. Yoongi turns back to glare at him and Taehyung takes a step back his hands raised. Yoongi frowns but to Taehyung’s relief turns away again muttering under his breath.

“We’re here,” Namjoon announces and Taehyung tries not to roll his eyes at Namjoon’s sudden fondness of stating the obvious. He pushes open the cell door and walks in, followed by Hoseok, Yoongi and finally Taehyung. The cell is a one person cell and yet it’s bigger than Taehyung’s and Wonho’s. It’s nicer too, nicer than Taehyung thought a cell could ever be. The bed actually looks comfortable (and big enough for two, what the heck Jungkook?) and there’s a desk and some book shelve and a nice TV in the corner. Maybe Jungkook wasn’t joking when he said he runs this place, holy shit. Jungkook’s prison cell was ten times nicer than Taehyung’s apartment on the outside and if that wasn’t unfair Taehyung didn’t know what was. The perks of your daddy being a notorious gangster, Taehyung supposes.

It’s a nice room, no doubt but Taehyung would have liked it more if Jungkook was actually in it. The room is empty and Taehyung’s heart drops. They were too late. Fuck.

Namjoon must have seen the look on his face because the smile he offered him was oddly reassuring.

“Don’t worry, Tae,” he says, “sometimes Kook hangs out in Jimin and Jin’s cell,”

“Let’s go then,” Hoseok says and Yoongi nods grimly.

Jimin and Seokjin’s cell is nice too even if it isn’t a one person room like Jungkook’s. When they walk in Seokjin is reading a magazine and Jimin is flicking through the channels but once again Jungkook is nowhere to be seen.

Jimin looks up when the four of them walk in and his eyes immediately fall on Taehyung and his bright smile falters as confusion blossoms in his eyes. It must be something about the look on his face, perhaps the panic in his eyes because Jimin seems to sense immediately that something is off.

 “He’s not here,” he says and Taehyung can’t for the life of him understand why people continuously feel the need to point out things that he already knows. But instead of screaming and pulling out his hair he just nods, feeling suddenly distant. A dangerous calm had descended. By now everyone knew something was wrong and the air was tense with that knowledge.

“Where is he then?” Taehyung asks, his voice sounds dull as it drifts to his ears.

“He’s gone to see Dohun,” Seokjin says, his voice wobbling slightly, the magazine in his hands forgotten as he looks from face to face, worry in his eyes.

Taehyung knows that name, that’s the man Chanwoo and his friend knew Jungkook was going to see, alone. And by the looks of it they were right. Fuck.

What else had they said again? Where was this Dohun? Oh yeah, the H block, that was right by Taehyung’s block.

Without another word Taehyung turns and sprints down the hallway, retracing their earlier steps ignoring the cries behind him. He runs faster than he’s run in a long time and his muscle burn with the exertion. His whole body hurts from the beating he took earlier but he can’t stop. He might already be too late. Jungkook could be badly injured by now or worse…

The H block looms but Taehyung doesn’t stop, he doesn’t even slow. He has no idea where Dohun’s cell might be but he’s ready to search this whole fucking building if he has to. There are no guards and the place is eerily silent. All the cell doors around him are shut and Taehyung doesn’t even know where to begin. Over the sound of his tired pants he can hear footsteps around the corner. It could be then men but there’s a chance it’s Jungkook. He sprints even though it hurts and when he rounds the corner and lets out a sigh of relief when he catches sight of familiar broad shoulders and dragon tattoo wrapping itself around Jungkook’s muscular right arm.

“Jungkook,” he calls out not stopping as he nears the other boy. He reaches Jungkook and only comes to a halt when he feels the hard muscle of Jungkook’s back against his chest as he throws his arms around the boy to stop him from going any further.

Jungkook stiffens under his touch, his whole body ridged as Taehyung rests his forehead between Jungkook’s shoulder blades, catching his breath.

“Taehyung?” he asks sounding comically confused and if this wasn’t a literal life or death situation Taehyung might have laughed, “What the fuck are you doing here? How did you find me?”

“I need to tell you something,” Taehyung says releasing Jungkook and taking a step back putting some distance between them once again. With Taehyung no longer back hugging him Jungkook turns around his eyes flickering over his face and he frowns.

“Who did that?” he asks and Taehyung is momentarily thrown off until he realises Jungkook is talking about the fact that his nose is considerably more swollen than it was when Jungkook got up close and personal back in the library.

“Doesn’t matter,” he says but Jungkook cuts him off before he can continue.

“It does matter, Tae,” he says softly, tilting Taehyung’s face to examine the wounds in better light, “just tell me who hurt you and they're dead,”

“As much as I would appreciate that Jungkook,” Taehyung says knocking Jungkook’s hand away from his face, “I already took care of it. Besides, I don’t know who they are,”

“Then describe them to me, Yoongi can find-”

“That’s not the point,” Taehyung says, frustration rising. He didn’t have time for this bullshit, the men could be here any second, “you’re in danger.”

Jungkook blinks confused, “What?”

“I overheard these two guys talking about how they were going to ambush you,” Taehyung explains and Jungkook’s eyes widen but this time there’s anger there.

“What?” he says and Taehyung knows this time it’s an expression of disbelief, like Jungkook couldn’t understand how anyone would dare try something like that.

“They said they were going to kill you,” Taehyung says.

“Who were they?” Jungkook asks and Taehyung tries to remember everything he had seen from his brief glimpses of the men.

“There were two of them. One was tall and had a scar on his hand, the other was named Chanwoo and he had kinda browny orange hair,” he says and the scowl on Jungkook’s face deepens.

“They don’t sound familiar,” he says and reaches out to take Taehyung’s hand.

“Come on, let’s find the others, we need to track these shits down, I-” Jungkook makes to move but he stops when a shadow appears around the corner. It’s joined by a second and Taehyung’s heart drops. Fuck. They had been so close to actually getting away.

Sure enough Chanwoo and his friend round the corner, their eyes falling on Jungkook who is still holding Taehyung’s hand. They sneer, their already ugly faces growing uglier and the amount of hatred burning in their eyes is disturbing. The man with the scar has a knife and Chanwoo is carrying a lead pipe and Taehyung almost wants to laugh, hysterical chuckles bubbling up in his chest like sickening moths. Kim Taehyung, in the prison hall, with a lead pipe. Ha fucking Ha.  

Jungkook swears, his whole body suddenly tensed for a fight. Neither of them have any weapons and Taehyung really doesn’t see a way out. Why had he done this? Why had he risked his life for Jungkook? But even as the men approach with murderous grins and the sense of impending violence crackling in the air, Jungkook tugs Taehyung behind him, putting himself between the men and Taehyung and Taehyung can’t bring himself to regret his decision.

He should have died the day he was fourteen and his father pushed him down the stairs and he fractured his back.

He should have died that day he was seventeen and Sammy Rodgers and his gang kicked the shit out of him and left him with five broken ribs and a concussion in a McDonald’s parking lot.

He should have died that day he was nineteen he took too many pain killers.

He should have died that day he was twenty two and took a gun and decided to take back his life.

He should have died in the prison yard but Jungkook saved him.

And now it looks like his luck, if you could even call it that has finally run out. And Taehyung isn’t sure if he’s relieved or not. Mostly he just feels tired. Looks like he’ll never have a chance to tell his sister he’s sorry. Not for what he did but for how it hurt her.

“Hey Jaehwa, I thought you said he was going to be alone,” Chanwoo drawls, deftly hefting the lead pipe over his shoulder.

This time he’s going to really die. He’s either going to have his skull cracked open or he’s going to be stabbed. Neither sounds pleasant but nothing in Taehyung’s life has ever been pleasant. Dying with Jungkook by his side doesn’t sound awful either.

“He was supposed to be,” the man with the scar on his hand, Jaehwa, answers, gripping the handle of his knife tighter.

Jungkook has slid into a fighting stance and looks ready to tear the two men to pieces with his bare hands. Maybe Taehyung shouldn’t write them off so quickly. Jeon Jungkook is many things but a quitter is not one of them and by the looks of it he isn’t going down without a fight.

“Well he ain’t now is he? Brought his little bitch along,” Chanwoo leers, his crooked teeth showing between his sneer.

Taehyung’s been fighting all his life and as tiring as it might be he doesn’t see why he should stop now.

“So what do we do now?” Chanwoo continues swinging the pipe menacingly.

Taehyung places a hand on Jungkook’s shoulder as he steps forward to stand by his side. Jungkook glances at him and their eyes meet for one brief second and in that second a world of meaning passes between them.

I’m going to fight with you, don’t even try to stop me.

Okay.

An understanding as natural as breathing. If they go down they go down together.

“It’s simple,” Jaehwa says with a blood thirsty smile and Taehyung clenches his fists, Jungkook by his side doing the same.

 “We kill them both.”

Chapter Text

“You motherfuckers really think you can touch me?” Jungkook laughs, actually laughs. Not the kind of laugh that implies he actually finds anything amusing though. It’s cold and hard and sends shivers down Taehyung’s spine. Jungkook is not playing around, “I’d like to see you fucking try.”

“You talk big, Jeon but we’re sick of seeing your punk ass walk around here like you’re some kind of king,” Chanwoo snarls, “In fact, I’d say it’s time someone took you down a peg or two.”

A savage grin spreads across Jungkook’s lips and Taehyung’s mind wanders back to that day in the court yard. He’d been disoriented from the amount of times that asshole had kicked his head but one thing had been so clear, despite his blurring vision. The expression on Jungkook’s face as he attacked the man who had almost killed Taehyung was something he would never forget. In all his years he’d never seen something so defiantly ferocious. Jungkook didn’t smile, he bared his teeth, a reminder that he was going to tear out your throat.

“Now who’s doing all the talking?” Jungkook sneers and his muscles bulge and shift as he moves and Taehyung is reminded of that dormant strength Jungkook carries with him so easily everywhere he goes. His own body is tingling, nerves and excitement fizz through his veins as he feels the restless energy pouring off Jungkook. “Are you going to stand there and bitch or are you actually going to do something you bastards? You better hurry, I’m getting bored.”

“What’s the rush Jeon, we ain’t even getting started yet,” Jaehwa says and there’s a nasty twinkle in his eye that Taehyung doesn’t like, not one little bit, “we ain’t even all here yet.”

Taehyung has barely even processed what the sneering man said when he hears the footsteps, heavy and dull but relentless, just around the corner and getting closer by the second. His heart rate doubles as Jungkook stiffens but the relaxed expression never slips, his confidence unwavering.

“Good,” he snarls, fists clenched, “wouldn’t be a fair fight otherwise.”

Jungkook talks a big game but the sight of another shadow around the corner is nothing but bad news to Taehyung. He’s been outnumbered almost all his life, granted he’s never had someone like Jungkook by his side but still. He’s gone through enough to know the odds are shifting ever out of their favour. Not that they were fucking spectacular to begin with. 

Everything inside him is screaming to run but the two men block the exit and part of him suspects Jungkook’s pride would never allow that anyway. Taehyung briefly wonders when Jungkook’s pride made it onto the very short list of things he’s willing to risk his life for. Too late to wonder though because it doesn’t matter now. The only that matters now is that they’ve been backed into one hell of a corner and the only way out is to fight.

The man who rounds the corner is freakishly tall, much to Taehyung’s dismay. 6”6 at the very least and looks like he spends every minute of every day either pumping iron or eating it. He looks like he could literally snap Taehyung over his knee as easily as Jungkook had that mop the day they first met. Tattoos littered his body, even his shaved scalp. Muscles rippled as the brute stalks towards them, murder in his small dark eyes. The only weapon Taehyung could see were brass knuckles on each meaty hand but he had no doubt that was more than the man needed to kill him.

Beside him Jungkook has stilled, his whole body freezing and for the first time, probably ever, Jungkook hesitates.

“Motherfucker,” he breathes as he stares at the man, then, “Tae you need to leave, now.”

This startles Taehyung. Yes this man was scary as fuck and probably ate guys like Taehyung for breakfast, lunch and dinner but that didn’t mean Taehyung was going to back down. No way in hell was he leaving Jungkook to die alone.  

“No way,”

“Tae, they’re only after me. Leave now.” Jungkook doesn’t look at him, his eyes are trained on the new arrival.

“I said no,” Taehyung says planting his feet firmly on the ground, “no fucking way,”

“You’re so fucking stubborn,” Jungkook grits out but there’s the tiniest hint of fondness underneath the frustration.

“Touching,” the new man rumbles a filthy smirk of his unshaven face, “what a loyal bitch you got Jeon. Don’t worry we ain’t going to kill him. We’ll take real good care of him once you’re dead.”

“Like fuck you will,” Taehyung snaps, careful not to let his repulsion show, no weaknesses, “I’d rather die thanks,”

“You’ll change your tune sweetheart,” the guy says and the nickname he’d grown accustomed to hearing from Jungkook suddenly sounds sick and wrong, “I’ll have you begging on your hands and knees.”

“Shut you goddamn mouth you fucking animal,” Jungkook hisses, his composure slipping to reveal how the younger boy seethed underneath, “one more word and I’m going to put you in the fucking ground,”

“Is that anyway to speak to an old friend?” the man asks refocusing his attention on Jungkook.

“Neither you nor your damn boss are any friends of mine,” Jungkook spits, “what the hell does Taeyang think he’s doing anyway. Is he looking for war?”

The man chuckles and Taehyung decides it’s his new least favourite sound ever.

“He’s not the one starting this war Jeon, it’s already begun and it’s your fault,” he says and Jungkook’s eyes narrow dangerously.

“What the fuck are you talking about, Kang? I didn’t start shit,”

“Don’t tell me you forgot about Kwang-hoon?” the man says and the name means nothing to Taehyung. From the blank look on Jungkook it means nothing to him either.

“Who the fuck is Kwang-hoon?”

“The man you hospitalised last week, remember now?” the man replies and Taehyung does remember. It’s kinda hard to forget the face of the man who nearly beat you to death, no matter how many times he stomped on your skull. Recognition sparks in Jungkook’s eyes as well.

“What about that son of a bitch?” he asks and the brutish man, Kang, grins and it’s one of the most blood thirsty smiles Taehyung has ever seen. Almost as bad as Jungkook’s. Almost.

“That 'son of a bitch' died last night,” he says and Jungkook’s jaw clenches and Taehyung doesn’t know what it means but it’s clear it’s something significant. Dread creeps down his spine, an awful unknowing knowing burrowing in the back of his mind. Whatever unpleasant events were about to transpire were going to be his fault. If it wasn’t for him Jungkook wouldn’t have attacked that guy and if Jungkook hadn’t attacked him he wouldn’t have died and if he didn’t die whatever was about to happen next might have been avoided.

“He was part of our gang, Jeon, he was one of us. He worked for Taeyang and that means you’ve killed one of his men,” Kang says, his smile growing ever wider as he cracked his knuckles under the dusters, “and that means war.”

Jungkook is still for a moment but Taehyung can tell all the possible outcomes of this situation are running through his mind. This very moment Jungkook is weighing up all the pros and cons and deciding what to do. He was looking at Chanwoo with his pipe and Jaehwan with his knife and Kang and he looking for a way to beat them. Part of Taehyung still wonders if they can run but then he sees resolution dawn in Jungkook’s eyes and knows it was never really an option to begin with.

“Fine,” Jungkook snarls, every bit the imposing gang leader Taehyung first saw when he arrived here, “You want war? You got it,” 

“Bring it,” Kang yells as he lunges for Jungkook. The standoff is broken and there’s no more holding back. Jaehwan follows Kang and both men fall on Jungkook who dodges the blade easily and lands the first vicious punch on Kang’s jaw. The man stumbles slightly but nothing more. The fight is only just beginning. Jungkook fighting is a beautiful thing to watch. It’s almost like dancing and Taehyung marvels at how Jungkook can make something ugly and brutal look effortless and graceful. He weaves in and out of the two men’s reach easily, darting smoothly in to deliver well placed punches, each blow landing and each blow doing damage. It might not be an even match but it’s pretty damn close. Taehyung feels as if he could watch Jungkook fight all day. But unfortunately Chanwoo has other plans.

“Let’s play kitten,”

He comes for Taehyung, lead pipe raised ready to bring to crashing down on his skull. Chanwoo is the shortest of their three attackers and it shows in his speed. He’s fast Taehyung will give him that but Taehyung is faster. He sidesteps out of the pipe paths and it clangs harmlessly against the hard stone floor, the noise mixing with the sounds of pained grunts that now fill the air.

Not hesitating for even a second Taehyung moves, punching Chanwoo’s ribs and kicking out at the back of his knees. The man turns swinging the pipe and Taehyung is forced backwards. He’s aware that off to the side Jungkook is fighting the two men but he’s too focused to Chanwoo and avoiding the pipe to take much notice anymore.

Taehyung has never liked fighting. He’s fought all his life but never once has he truly enjoyed the thrill of the adrenaline rush. Fighting is hard and painful and he’s only ever fought to survive. But just because he doesn’t like it doesn’t mean he isn’t damn good at it. His body has been honed over the years without him even trying, naturally shaping itself into a weapon. Quicker, faster, stronger. The weak die. His instincts were sharp which made it easier to avoid the deadly swing of the pipe.

“Your good, I’ll give you that babe,” Chanwoo snarls, breathless, “I’m still going to batter you to a pulp,”

It’s all about timing. Wait for him to swing then move when the pipe was still in motion. Never give him a second to recover. Taehyung’s good but Chanwoo is getting mad and unlike most opponents his anger doesn’t make him sloppy, it makes him unstoppable. His swings grow wilder and stronger and Taehyung finds himself forced back, farther and farther to avoid it. With a jolt of fear Taehyung realises he’s being backed up against the wall. His escape routes are disappearing rapidly and from the glint in Chanwoo’s eye he knows it too. Fuck.

In a split second Taehyung weighs his options and decides to try and make a break for it. Big mistake. Big, huge fucking mistake.

He darts forward and he almost makes it but he’s just not quite quick enough.

The pipe catches him on the side of his head and at first the pain doesn’t even register. The world tilts around him and suddenly sound is muffled as the floor rushes up to meet him. He can’t even properly recall falling. All he knows is suddenly he’s lying on the floor, his ears ringing and the sound of what could have been Jungkook calling his name in the distance. Pain belatedly explodes through his skull and his vision dims and he curses his stupidity. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. He’s going to die. He’s actually going to die. His heart is racing and his mind is nothing more than white noise.

He can almost make out Chanwoo laughing somewhere above him and then pain strikes in his shoulder and he vaguely registers he’s been hit again. He tries to get up but his body is sluggish and won’t seem to listen to his minds desperate chant of ‘run run run damn it’. Chanwoo hits him again and he crumples.

He wants to lie there and give in to the weariness but he can't give up. Not now. Not after all the shit he's been through. 

He manages to half stumble half crawl another few feet away before collapsing again. He knows Jungkook can’t save him now. He’s got problems of his own but damn it Taehyung doesn’t need saving. He came to terms with the fact that the only one who’s going to save him is himself a long time ago.

He props himself up on his elbows and looks down at the grey cement just inches from his face. His ears still hum with a painful buzz but his eyesight is clearing and he watches in fascination as ruby red drops of blood trickle from the wound on the side of his head to fall like tears to the floor. The red is so startlingly vivid against the grey, so beautiful.

Something dark at the back of his mind, shaken loose by the blow to his head, stirs at the mesmerising sight. So beautiful, he needed to see more. The darkness in his mind unfurrows like a beast awakening from its slumber. It’s been a while. The last time the darkness took over like this was that day. That day he made everything beautiful and red.

Chanwoo’s by his side again, standing over him and laughing, an ugly, scratchy laugh that grates in Taehyung’s brain. He tears his eyes away from the red before him in time to see the pipe once again swinging towards him only this time he’s ready. He reaches out and catches the pipe before it can land. Pain smacking across his palm. The metal is cold and blood-stained, covering his hands in red.

“What the-” Taehyung takes advantage of Chanwoo’s momentary surprise and wrenches the pipe out of his grasp. Standing, wobbling only slightly, he hits the man across the face with it sending him tumbling to the floor. He throws the pipe aside and it skitters somewhere off to his left, out of sight. He wants to hurt the man with his bare hands so empty handed he launches himself on Chanwoo.

Taehyung punches him, ignoring the pain in his knuckles, once, twice, again and again. He punches him over and over again until blood pours from his nose, oozing down his face and for a moment the ugly man looks beautiful. Just like that day. Even the most hideous things look better covered in red.

He should probably stop but he can’t. He just keeps punching even when Chanwoo has ceased to move. It’s like he’s not even in control anymore, like his mind has taken a back seat and he’s going off pure, raw instinct, the engrained need to destroy anything that poses a threat to him, to those important to him. Jungkook, his sister. His sister, Jungkook. He doesn’t even know who he’s hitting anymore, the phantom image of his brutal father and Chanwoo blur until they’re both just dark shapes with hints of pretty red.

The wound of the side of his head aches and he can’t recall if his father hit him or Chanwoo. Does it matter? Pain is pain after all. Father, bully, inmate what does it matter who hit him when it all just hurts.  And it does hurt. It hurts so fucking bad.

His knuckles ache too, bad enough to make him pause and wonder if he’s fractured something. The dark haze that had descended lifts a little and for the first time since Chanwoo hit him he can truly see clearly. The man beneath him is a bloodied mess. Broken nose, split lips, bruises and cuts galore. Good.

Taehyung stands on shaky legs, looking down at him blood-stained hands. He presses one red finger to his lips and tastes salty, bitter blood.

A cry from somewhere beside him distracts him and Taehyung turns in time to see Jungkook send Kang sprawling to the floor with an impressive kick that lands right in the centre of the giant man’s barrel chest.

Jungkook wastes no time gloating, not yet anyways, as he’s busy turning his attention to disarming Jaehwan who is still desperately trying to stab him. He lunges but the blade misses its target and Jungkook grabs the man’s wrist and they grapple, Jungkook trying to rest the knife from his grasp and Jaehwan doing his best to resist. They are so intent on wrestling neither seem to notice Kang stir and stagger to his feet.

The hulking man’s eyes are ablaze with insane fury. He’s been pushed too far and someone is going to die for it. Taehyung watches in muted horror as the man picks up the lead pipe from where he discarded it earlier and Taehyung curses himself for being so stupid, so fucking stupid. Once again Jungkook is going to pay for his mistakes.

Pipe in hand Kang turns and his intention is clear. His burning eyes are fixed on Jungkook who is still struggling with Jaehwa and hasn’t noticed Kang move. There’s so much hatred there, so much terrible rage and Taehyung knows if he doesn’t do something Jungkook will certainly die.

He watches Kang near, watches him raise the pipe, ready to bring it down on Jungkook’s head. One blow is all it would take. Just one.

Taehyung doesn’t even know what he is doing as his body moves on its own before his thoughts even have a chance to catch up. He’s running straight toward Kang and Jungkook, no thoughts, the time for being rational has passed and now there is only action left.

He realises what he’s done only when it’s too late. Without even knowing Taehyung has thrown himself between Jungkook and Kang, shielding the younger boy with his body. Surprise flashes across Kang's face but the pipe never slows. There's no more time. This is it. The pipe gleams in the harsh florescent light and even now Taehyung admires the bloodstains on it.

Only then does Jungkook look up and notice but that comes too late too. His startled bellow of pain and protest won’t make a bit difference and as Taehyung watches the pipes deadly decent towards his face, he can’t bring himself to regret a single thing.

Chapter Text

“Okay, let’s go over this one more time.”

The clock in the hospital ticks distantly as Taehyung stares at the white walls. The social workers soft voice is strangely loud in the muted ward.

The heart monitor beeps out his steady heartbeats and to Taehyung it sounds ominous, like its counting down.

“What’s your name?”

“Kim Taehyung,”

“And how old are you, Taehyung?”

“Fourteen,”

“How long have you been fourteen?”

“Three months,”

The social worker nods, her glasses slipping down her nose as she writes the details they both know at this point down in her little notebook. Taehyung knows what’s coming next and he closes his eyes. Maybe she’ll finally take the hint.

“And can you tell me what happened, Taehyung?” she asks her voice still calm and pleasant her concerned gaze fixed on his bruised and bandaged face, “How did you break your arm?”

The skin under the cast itches and he’s dying to scratch it but he doesn’t. The pain has been numbed to the point he is able to ignore the dull ache of broken bone. The ulna, clean break the doctors say, should heal well.

“Accident,” he says staring straight ahead at the blank walls. He feels trapped, the sterile monotony slowly driving him mad. If he wasn’t so afraid of going home he would want to leave now.

“Taehyung,” the woman’s voice sounds strained for the first time but he refuses to look at her pleading eyes. They’ve had this discussion before and he has no idea why she thinks it will end any differently today, “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what really happened.”

‘You can’t help me anyway,’ he thinks and it’s gone beyond the point of being bitter. Now it’s just the tired truth. No one can help him, not even this social worker. He knows her heart is in the right place but he’s seen too many good people trying to do the right thing and none of them, not one single one, has ever been able to do shit. Aside from make everything worse that is.

“Taehyung, who did this to you?”

“No one,” he says his voice just above a hoarse whisper, “I fell down the stairs. Again.”

The pipe is coming rapidly closer, its deadly arc almost complete and Taehyung’s mind blanks, any and all thought abandoning. It’s strangely peaceful and he can’t remember the last time his head was this quiet. Jungkook is still screaming but he can no longer make out the panicked words over the roaring of blood in his ears. He doesn’t have any more time to think about Jungkook. He just feels and it feels right.

At the last second his instincts finally kick in and he throws his arms up moments before the pipe can land, in an attempt to protect his head. He squeezes his eyes shut not wanting to see what came next.

Pain like no other erupts through his arm, overpowering and sharp as a knife as his bone shatters under the brutal impact of the pipe. The sound of cracking is sickening and he feels, with excruciating clarity, his arm breaking. He screams and white hot shards of pain surge up his arm. He stumbles backward, his mind alive with nothing but agony. Strong arms catch him before he can fall to the ground but Taehyung hardly notices.

He screams again as Jungkook accidently brushes against his arm that is now swollen and ugly red where the pipe it hit it. It’s crooked too, bent at a nauseating angle. His whole body trembles uncontrollably and shock floods his system as Jungkook lowers him as gently as he can to the ground. Taehyung’s vision blurs as his eyes sting with unshed tears but he will not cry in front of Jungkook. No weaknesses.

It’s not like this is the first time he’s broken something. In fact, he still has a faint scar almost exactly where his arm is broken now from where he was fourteen and his father hit him hard enough to fracture bone. His mind flashes briefly back to that white hospital room, the smell of sanitizer, the white walls, the social worker looking at him helplessly. Suddenly the scene in his mind is disturbed by the looming mass of his father, the ever-present stench of drink and flashing eyes, filled with impotent rage and he screams again. Pain and fear mix and becoming one. He wants to get away, pain fills his mind and he’s unable to think of anything other than escaping the monstrous image of his father hulking towards him.

I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what really happened

I can’t help you

Can’t help

Help

 

You can’t help me anyway.

“Fuck, Tae what the fuck? Why the fuck did you do that!?” Taehyung’s eyes manage to focus on Jungkook through the haze of pain. An expression Taehyung has never seen before twists Jungkook’s face. Try as he might Taehyung can’t name it. Perhaps it’s some ungodly mixture of concern, fear and anger. Maybe it’s all of it or maybe it’s none? He doesn’t know. No one has ever looked at him the way Jungkook is looking at him now.

“Dunno, didn’t really think about it,” he mumbles suddenly weary, his words slurring. The adrenalin rush that always accompanies horrific injuries is fading leaving in its wake only exhaustion and crushing numbness. Jungkook is gripping him so tight, too tight but Taehyung can barely feel it. He looking right at him but Jungkook seems so far away his voice growing ever more distant.

“You little fuck,” it might just be Taehyung’s pain addled mind but did the mighty Jeon Jungkook’s voice just tremble. “You’re so fucking stupid. Why don’t you ever think?”

 “Fucking touching,” Kang growls still holding the lead pipe, quickly recovering from his surprise, “don’t worry baby, a broken arm is about to be the least of your worries.”

In an instant any concern drains from Jungkook’s face leaving it hard and vacant of any humanity it might have once possessed. The traces of warmth in his eyes extinguish like someone blowing out a candle leaving only cold, endless darkness and something else...

Rage

Pure, unadulterated, unstoppable fury is the only thing Taehyung can see as he looks up at Jungkook. Murderous intent pours off Jungkook in toxic waves, polluting the air with the dread of impending violence. He has never seen the other boy like this before, ever. Not in the five months he’s known him, not in the showers, not in the prison yard when he hospitalised that man.

Yes, he’d seen Jungkook angry before but never this out of control. Whenever Jungkook lost his temper in the past he had always retain an element of calm. Now that was all gone, vanished like it had never been. The composure had disappeared and wrath had taken its place and Jungkook looked seconds away from tearing Kang limb from limb with his bare hands.

Without a word Jungkook stands and Taehyung’s head reels and the world dims but he forces himself to stay awake.

“You’re going to regret that,” this time Jungkook’s voice really does tremble, with rage. Jungkook’s hands are balled into fists so tightly his knuckles turn white, his whole body spasming like he can’t control the fury that has built up inside of him. He speaks quietly, so low Taehyung, who is sitting right by him can barely make it out. But there’s so much anger there that it sends shudders down his spine and in that moment he is well and truly afraid of Jeon Jungkook.

Kang licks his lips and for the first time he looks uncertain. Taehyung hates the man but looking at Jungkook now he almost pities him. Perhaps he should call out to Jungkook, tell him to stop but one look at the boy’s face tells him that nothing and no one can stop Jungkook now.

The gates have been thrown open and Jungkook is about to unleash hell.

“Oh yeah, brat?” Kang taunts but the bravado can’t hide the fear, “what are you going to d-”

Kang never has a chance to finish his sentence and judging by the awful sound his jaw made when Jungkook made contact, he’ll be lucky if he can ever talk again. A single bloodied tooth skitters across the ground as the force of Jungkook’s blow snaps Kang’s head to the side so hard it’s a wonder it didn’t break his neck too.

Jungkook doesn’t relent for even a second. No sooner has his first punch landed then comes a second, equally vicious one right to the man’s gut causing him to double over in pain, the lead pipe slipping from his grasp to land on the floor with a metallic clatter. Never breaking strike Jungkook scoops it up and smacks it across Kang’s head all in one smooth motion.

The man stumbles and cries out and Taehyung flinches, all too familiar with the feeling of being on the receiving end. Blood trickles down Kang’s scalp and Taehyung watches its progress. Jungkook hits him again this time hard enough to send him crumpling to the floor.

Kang tries to scramble away but Jungkook stamps on his leg until there’s an audible crunch of bone and Kang lets out a bloodcurdling scream. Taehyung watches with a mix of horror and fascination as Jungkook continues to pummel the fallen man with ferocious strength. His anger never seemed to be calming only growing with each blow like a wild fire blazing out of control. Each time the pipe lands Kang cries out and more blood decorates his body.

Once, when he was younger, Taehyung took a baseball bat to an old car to work out some of the hopeless frustration he carried within himself and watching Jungkook now he was reminded of the damage the bat did to the car. Same desolate rage and desperate fear. Broken windows, smashed headlight, dented bumper, split skin, ugly bruises and broken limbs. Another blow more broken fingers, more blood, more screams and still Taehyung doesn’t move.

If Jungkook didn’t stop soon he was going to kill the man. Taehyung didn’t doubt that was what Jungkook intended. He honestly doesn’t care if Kang lives or dies. What he does care about however, is how much trouble this could get Jungkook in. if they came after him for killing one guy how would beating another to death help. Besides, this side of Jungkook terrified Taehyung. The lack of restraint meant Jungkook was releasing the full extent of his anger and that would be enough to scare anyone. He has to stop Jungkook before he takes this too far.

He tries to stand and almost falls. The slightest shift sends slivers of pain shooting up his arm as he jostles the broken bone. His legs wobble and his head is still spinning. Or maybe it’s the world that’s turning around him at an alarming rate. Either way he has to concentrate hard on not falling right back down again. Once he feels somewhat stable he begins shuffling in Jungkook’s direction. The other boy is so intent on pulverising ever bone in Kang’s body he doesn’t notice Taehyung’s approach. He supposes it would be hard to hear anything over the sound of pipe beating flesh and the occasional crunch of something harder.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung calls out and his voice is strained and sore from screaming. Jungkook makes no indication he’s even heard him. Undeterred he continues forward, each step causing new pain in his arm.

“Jungkook,” he says, pleads, “stop this,”

By now he’s close enough to reach out and grab the boys shoulder. Kang is still conscious below him but barely. He lets out a low shuddering groan his eyes rolling back in his head.

Jungkook doesn’t still at the touch instead he merely glances at Taehyung, unstoppable madness searing in his dark eyes before he pushes him roughly aside with a grunt. Pushing him aside as if he was nothing. Taehyung stumbles and falls, crying out as pain explodes in his arm and it feels like its being broken all over again. Through teary eyes Taehyung watches Jungkook raise the pipe for the final blow.

“No!” he screams but Jungkook is beyond listening, deaf to everything around him. He tried but deep inside Taehyung knows nothing he could have down would stop this. Trying to stop Jungkook’s wrath would be like standing on a beach trying to stop a tsunami that was about to obliterate a village. There are just some things in this life humans can’t control, forces of nature, acts of god and Jeon Jungkook.

He watches helplessly as Jungkook, like a hunter finishing off his wounded prey, stabs the pipe into Kang’s chest, the metal jutting out between his ribs as blood gushes everywhere coating Jungkook, some even landing on Taehyung’s face. Kang coughs, more blood gushing between his lips before letting out one last rattling breath and falling still. Dead.

Taehyung is by no means a stranger to death but still the brutality of it all shocked him. Jungkook’s savagery had been unlike anything Taehyung could have possibly imagined. The cruelty with which he had attacked Kang had just seemed so… unnecessary.

His body trembles and he knows it should be relief. Relief that they’re both alive, that they won. But it’s fear. He’s afraid. Afraid of what Jungkook has just done, afraid of what he has become. His heart rate has doubled and he feels like he’s going to pass out.

Jungkook is breathing heavily, his chest heaving as he drew deep, hopefully calming breaths.  

When he turned to him, Taehyung’s breath caught in his throat.

Jungkook was covered in blood and it was a beautiful sight. Red really was Jungkook’s colour.

But as much as Taehyung loves the sight of Jungkook stained crimson he could help the fear the coursed through his chest at the sight. He couldn’t recognise Jungkook, the rage had been depleted but it was still there, glowing in his eyes.

 Jungkook looked like a monster.

Taehyung has lived with monsters all his life, he knew that violent rage too well, feared it and suddenly it wasn’t Jungkook standing before him but his father, the monster and all his childhood fears resurfaced like bloated corpses floating to the top of a stagnant lake.

Suddenly he was six years old and hiding in his closet as his parents screamed at each other. He was eight years old and volunteering to stay late after school to help out just so he could delay going home for a few hours. He was ten, trying to explain to his teachers why he came in each week with new bruises. He was twelve and some spoiled jock was laughing as his cronies kicked him as he tried to curl in on himself on the bathroom floor.

Jungkook reaches out to him and Taehyung is fourteen again, about to have his arm broken for getting between his father and his sister.

“Don’t touch me,” his voice tears from his throat and his whole body is shaking violently now and he feels like he going to be sick. Sweat pours from his forehead, mixing with blood from his head wound as it trickles down his face, “Don’t fucking touch me!”

Jungkook’s face had softened as he stepped towards Taehyung, the rage melting away to be replaced by concern but as Taehyung shrieked at him the only thing that crossed his face was hurt.

But only for a second before it was replaced by anger once again.

“What did you say?” Jungkook demands and Taehyung shrinks back.

“I said don’t touch me,” he repeats, still yelling, his voice wobbling as he continues to back away from Jungkook who is becoming increasingly agitated. “Stay away from me!”

“How dare you?” Jungkook seethes as he darts forward grabbing Taehyung by the throat. Panic eclipses all rational thought and Taehyung feels as though he’s going mad with fear. It’s not Jungkook in front of him, it’s his father, no its’ Jungkook again, no wait it’s him. Taehyung can’t breathe. His damaged arm dangles by his side, radiating constant pain while the other reaches up to try and pry Jungkook’s hand away from his neck, scrambling fingers, nails digging into unyielding flesh.

“What’s wrong with you?” Jungkook asks eyes narrowing, “Why are you acting like this? How fucking dare you, you ungrateful-”

“Jungkook what the fuck?” suddenly someone is dragging the incensed Jungkook away from him and air rushes back into his lungs. His legs are no longer able to support him and he tumbles to the ground. He’s vaguely aware of movement and chaos all around him as more people pile into the room. Moving his heavy head sluggishly he can make out the image of Yoongi and Namjoon shoving Jungkook backwards. They’re all yelling at each other but to Taehyung it’s all just noise. Someone is calling his name but it sounds like they’re far away or underwater.

Seokjin’s face swims into view. His bright eyes shining with worry. Jimin is there too. They both look like they've just been fighting, fresh cuts and bruises litter both their faces. JImin places a concerned hand on Taehyung’s shoulder but removes it when Taehyung flinches away. Seokjin is speaking but Taehyung can’t decipher the words. He just stares at the older boy blankly. His ears are ringing again but the pain is gone. Or maybe he just can’t feel it.

That’s a good thing right? Maybe not but Taehyung can’t bring himself to care anymore.

Arms wrap around him and someone is lifting him off the ground.

Jungkook?

No, he looks up to see Hoseok. The man isn’t smiling which is weird. Taehyung wants to ask him what’s wrong, why he isn’t smiling like always but his tongue is heavy in his mouth and he can’t form words.

Seokjin is talking again, his muffled voice drifting over Taehyung’s head. He can just barely make out the older boy’s pleas to “stay awake, Taehyung, don’t close your eyes.”

But it’s too late. Darkness is setting in, encroaching on the edges of his vision and he’s too tired to try and resist it anymore. He closes his eyes, letting himself sink into blissful oblivion.

The last thing he sees before the blackness takes over is Jungkook’s face, so vulnerable and hurt even if only for a second and he can’t help but wonder, 'what have I done?'  

Chapter Text

Jungkook isn’t stupid.

He fucking knows he isn’t. He’s actually very smart. You don’t spend your childhood with the best tutors money can possibly buy and grow up stupid.

But as Yoongi and Namjoon push him away from Taehyung, who actually cowers away from him, eyes wide and afraid, he feels like a total moron and it only makes him madder. If there is one thing Jungkook loathes its feeling stupid.

He has absolutely no idea what’s going on. Hell, he can barely even comprehend what just happened. Nothing makes any sense to him anymore. Why was Taehyung looking at him like that? Like he was the one who had hurt him? What? It’s honestly baffling.

Everything happened so fucking quickly and as the red rage that had taken over continues to burn away any sense of reason he possessed he still can’t process any of it.

One minute he had been on his way to see Dohun to try and get some more information on the rat. It was supposed to be a totally casual meeting and he'd only told Seokjin and Jimin about it. Needless to say he had not been expecting any trouble. Then out of nowhere Kim Taehyung had appeared to warn him about the supposed danger he was in. Then fucking Kang and some more of Taeyang’s shithead goons had arrived declaring war on him. After that it was all a bit hazy. When Jungkook fights he doesn’t exactly think. He does, however, remember in awful detail, the moment Taehyung appeared before him to throw his body between Jungkook and the metal pipe. He remembers watching helplessly as the pipe made contact with Taehyung’s arm, the sound of breaking bone audible. Taehyung’s pained screaming still rung in his ears as he watched him fall, clutching his damaged arm. He knows it could have been much much worse but the fact still remains seeing Taehyung do something so reckless for him scares him to death.

Jungkook’s honestly not too sure what exactly happened after he caught Taehyung. When he tries to think about it all he can see his rage clouding his mind, one single thought, one purpose thudding through his veins in time to his rapid heartbeat.

Kill, kill, kill.

He hadn’t even realised Kang was dead until he was sitting on top of the fucker staring at the pipe protruding from his chest. A feeling of triumph had flowed through him. He had killed the monster who had dared to hurt his Taehyung. It was indeed a sweet victory even if the sweetness turned out to be short lived.

He’d won. They’d won. Taehyung should have been happy, grateful even, but when he turned to the other boy, the anger slowly dispersing from his mind, all he saw in Taehyung’s face was fear.

The other boy had looked at him with huge glassy eyes and Jungkook wasn’t even sure Taehyung could see him. He’d tried to reach out and what had Taehyung done?

He’d rejected him.

He’d yelled and backed away like Jungkook was something horrendous, screaming at him not to touch him.

That had hurt, like really fucking hurt. As much as Jungkook hated to admit it, Taehyung’s disastrous reaction had hurt more than any injury he had sustained in the fight. The glancing blow to his side from the dagger? Nothing compared to the look of fear Taehyung directed at him. Kang’s blow with the knuckle dusters to the face? Painless compared to the way Taehyung had backed away from him like a panicked animal.

Instead of letting the pain in and letting it fester Jungkook had allowed his anger to rear its ugly head. Let all the fury come rushing back like a flood from a burst dam, obliterating any trace of the pathetic pain Taehyung had caused him. It was so much easier to be angry than it was to be hurt.

“Calm down Jungkook,” Yoongi growls in his ear as he gripped Jungkook collar in an iron grip, “calm the fuck down!”

“Let go of me,” he snarls pushing back which only results in the grip on his clothes tightening.

“Not until you calm the fuck down,” Yoongi says shoving Jungkook farther back with the help of Namjoon, whose face was determined and drawn.

Beyond them Jungkook could just about make out Seokjin and Jimin crouching down by Taehyung who had fallen once again without him there to catch him. He wants to scream at them to get the fuck away from Taehyung but Yoongi’s shaking him, yelling at him to get a fucking grip.

Jungkook doesn’t want to get a grip. Jungkook only wants Taehyung.

Hoseok’s there now, gently bundling Taehyung into his arms and something in Jungkook’s mind boils over.

“Put him down!” he yells but Hoseok ignores him as he begins to carry Taehyung away, it feels like something is being torn from Jungkook, like he’s losing a part of himself and if he doesn’t act now it will be gone for good “Bring him back to me!”

Seokjin is too busy murmuring gentle words, jungkook can't hear, softly to Taehyung, whose face he can no longer see clearly but Jimin, who was trailing after them turns and casts one furious glare over his shoulder before the trio take Taehyung from Jungkook’s sight.

“Come back here!” Jungkook roars as he struggles against Yoongi and Namjoon who stubbornly refuse to release him, “I swear to god get back here right now or I’ll-”

His sentence is cut off abruptly when Yoongi slaps him, catching him full on the right cheek with the palm of him hand. Jungkook’s head reels, his cheek stinging where Yoongi hit it and he opens his mouth to speak or yell when Yoongi slaps him again, this time of the left hand side of his face.

Jungkook is left stunned, both cheeks smarting and he feels twelve years old again being struck by his father for skipping out on his French tutor. He is so caught off guard, the sudden nature of the slaps completely blank his mind, the anger vanishing as he stares opened mouthed at Yoongi.

Both Yoongi and Namjoon have let go of him now that he’s no longer struggling. They both stand waiting for his next move and Jungkook knows if he struck Yoongi back the older boy wouldn’t protest.

He doesn’t though. He doesn’t even move. His mind is finally, gradually beginning to deal with the events that have just transpired but it’s slow and muddled and he’s still so confused.

“What- what the fuck happened?” he says and he’s not sure if he’s asking them or just thinking out loud. Both Namjoon and Yoongi let out sighs of relief and visibly relax where they stand.

“What the fuck is right,” Yoongi mutters and for the first time since they arrived Jungkook gets a good look at their appearances. They don’t look great; in fact they look as though they too have just been fighting. Between them they have two split lips, three black eyes and enough cuts and bruises to last a month.

“Tell me what happened,” he says his mind sharpening, the last of the hazy anger gone. As much as he would like it to be otherwise, he can deal with Taehyung later but for now he has more pressing issues to sort out.

“Okay, so Taehyung came to us and said you were in danger,” Yoongi began, “at first I didn’t know if we should believe him or not but the kid was really upset so we took him to see you but we could find you anywhere. Jin told us you went to talk to Dohun and that’s when Taehyung takes off like a bat out of hell.”

“You should have seen him,” Namjoon continues, “he looked frantic so we knew something was definitely wrong. He was so fast but we figured he was heading here so we follow him only to find a group of Taeyang’s men waiting just inside the H block. There must have been at least seven of them and they attacked us Jungkook, actually attacked us. What the fuck is going on?”

Jungkook curses. So Kang really wasn’t lying, this really was war.

“That fucker died,” he says and yoongi frowns.

“Who?”

“The one I put in hospital for attacking Tae, he fucking died and apparently he worked for Taeyang so you know what that means,” he says with a wry, humourless smile and its Namjoon’s turn to curse.

“War,” he says and Yoongi nods gravely.

“Fuck Jungkook, for fuck sake,” Yoongi looks furious and Jungkook wonders if he’s going to hit him again.

“All you had to do was not cause trouble and find out who the mole in the family is but what do you do? You go and start a motherfucking gang war with motherfucking Taeyang of all people that’s probably going to get us killed and over what? Some pretty face? A piece of ass? For Fuck sake,” Jungkook lurches for Yoongi and grabs him by the front of his prison jumpsuit. Yoongi doesn’t so much as flinch, just glares back at him defiantly.

“Don’t you dare speak about Tae like that,” he hisses, fury sneaking back into his mind.

“Why not?” Yoongi snarls back, “all he’s done is cause us trouble! You’re weak when you’re with him Jungkook, he makes you soft. If he was just some other fuck toy I could ignore it but he’s fucking not is he? He’s more than that and it’s going to get you killed, it’s going to get us all killed!”

“Shut your mouth,” Jungkook warns and he’s not sure how much longer he can restrain himself. How dare Yoongi speak about his Taehyung like this? “If it weren’t for Tae I would be dead now,”

“And if it weren’t for him we wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with now would we?” Yoongi yells and Jungkook pauses. He can’t remember the last time Yoongi yelled at him.

“That’s enough!” Namjoon says intervening, pulling them apart before Jungkook has a chance to get worked up again, “look, the guards are going to be here any second and I know you have half of them in your father’s pocket but let’s not be here when they arrive,”

Jungkook glares at Yoongi who glares right back and if almost anyone else looked at him that way he would have killed them by now. He knows what Namjoon says is true and the wound the knife left in his side his leaking through his shirt and he should probably have that looked at. Reluctantly he breaks the stand off with a muttered warning to Yoongi to watch his mouth.

“Okay,” he says, as he wrestles his emotions under control once again, “Okay let’s get out of here. But first-”

Kang was dead and the man Taehyung had fought was unconscious and by the looks of it it would be a while before he awoke. Jungkook paused to take in the amount of damage Taehyung had inflicted. He had been too busy fighting the other two to really pay attention to Taehyung but now he wished he had. He knew Taehyung could fight but damn, this was something else. A low groan reminded him of what he wanted to do.

He strode briskly to the only other conscious man here, the one who had attacked him with the knife. He was only just waking up as Jungkook crouched next to him and he looked up at him with bleary eyes.

“Sleep well, sweetheart?” Jungkook asks in an icy tone and the man, now realising who it was opened his mouth to cry out but Jungkook grabs his hand before he could make a sound.

“Listen and listen well scum,” Jungkook hisses, bringing his face close to the other man’s, “I want to to bring a message to your leader,”

As he spoke Jungkook took one of the man’s fingers and bent it back until it snapped. The man screamed and Jungkook waited patiently for him to shut up before he continued.

“I do not appreciate being ambushed,”

Snap

“In fact, it pisses me the fuck off,”

Snap

“You failed to kill me and now I’m mad,”

Snap

“Tell your boss I’m coming,”

Snap

Having run out of fingers to break on one hand Jungkook picked up the other, the man was too busy howling to notice. He broke a sixth finger and by now the man looked on the verge of passing out.

“Tell him he is going to pay for what he did,”

With one final snap Jungkook dropped the mangled hand to join the other, leaving the man a blubbering mess.

“Okay,” Jungkook says to Namjoon and Yoongi who look completely unfazed by what they just witnessed, “now let’s go,”

And as they walk away, the man’s cries fading into the background, Jungkook feels a little better.

Chapter Text

When Jungkook said the knife wound to his side was minor he may just have been downplaying it. Just a little.

Warm blood soaks through his jumpsuit, although admittedly he probably didn’t help matters by struggling against Namjoon and Yoongi. Still, it’s nothing he can’t handle, just a scratch, that’s all.

No big fucking deal.

At least that’s what he tells himself as he begins to sweat, suddenly lightheaded.

Namjoon notices because of course he does and Yoongi is too busy storming ahead of them.

“Kook, you okay?” he asks and Jungkook smiles but forgets to actually speak. Namjoon frowns as he stumbles, his eyes traveling down to where Jungkook is now clutching his side, blood leaking through his fingers.

“Wait Jungkook is that your blood?” he asks and of course, Jungkook remembers he is still covered in Kang’s blood, which would explain how neither of his men noticed he was bleeding out earlier.

“Nah, it’s all good,” he says because they don’t have time to worry about minor things like this. There’s so much to do before he even has a chance to find Taehyung that is.

“No it’s not all good,” Namjoon says and by now Yoongi has turned to see what the delay is. His sharp eyes instantly narrow in on Jungkook’s wound and his mouth sets in a hard line.

“Did you get stabbed?” he asks incredulously striding over to pry Jungkook’s hand away to inspect the injury better.

“Just a little,” Jungkook says, really not seeing why they need to make such a big deal out of this. He’s had worse. A few stitches and he would be good as new.

“’Just a little’ my ass,” Yoongi grumbles under his breath looking supremely displeased, “let’s get you back, you brat, this needs to be treated,”

“No way,” Jungkook protests attempting to push Yoongi’s hand away but the older boy is having none of his shit, “I can’t go back now, I need to have a little talk with our friend Dohun,”

And by ‘little talk’ he means possibly murder.

“No,” Yoongi says in that voice that means he doesn’t care if Jungkook is the leader he’d better not argue with him, “you have to make sure you don’t drop dead. We’ll deal with Dohun,”

Jungkook wants to argue, to protest but one look from Yoongi and he shuts his mouth. As much as it pains him, he relents. It’s not like he didn’t trust his men but there were some things he would rather handle personally. Betrayal was one of them.

“We have to hurry,” Namjoon says, ever watchful, eyes scanning their surroundings, “we can’t have anyone seeing you like this,”

Jungkook grits his teeth because he knows when Namjoon says like ‘this’ he means ‘weak’ and Jungkook hates it.

With the help of Namjoon and Yoongi he manages to limp back to his cell, a trail of blood dotting in his wake. When he gets there Hoseok it waiting for him, looking just as bruised as the others. He isn’t smiling and Jungkook’s brain leaps straight to thoughts of Taehyung.

“How is he?” he asks and Hoseok purses his lips.

“Jin’s taking care of him,” he says and Jungkook wants to scream at that non answer but Hoseok is already walking out talking quietly with Yoongi, their heads bowed.

Jungkook falls back on his bed, not caring about how the blood would stain his sheets, it’s not like the guards would care, not when his father paid half of them. He suddenly feels very weary.

“He’ll be okay, Kook,” Namjoon says, patting Jungkook awkwardly on the shoulder then wiping the red off on his own jumpsuit, “he’s a fighter.”

“What if he hates me?” he asks quietly, not able to bring himself to even look at Namjoon.

What were these emotions? Fear, confusion, uncertainty, shame? They were foreign and strange and Jungkook hated them. Why did Taehyung keep making him feel things he had never felt before?

For the first time Jungkook allows himself to think of Taehyung and how he had looked at him. He had never seen the other boy look so afraid. Not the first time they met when he told him to shove a broom up his ass, not when he got into fights in the prison yard, not even when they faced three murderous thugs that wanted to rip them to shreds. No, Jungkook was the thing that had frightened him and he didn’t even know why. He hadn’t even done anything wrong.

“He doesn’t hate you,” Namjoon says softly but he doesn’t sound like he fully believes it himself and Jungkook almost wants to cry. Almost. But he didn’t because Jeon Jungkook cries over no one. Not even boys like Kim Taehyung, who he is now realising has the power to break his heart.

“Hey,” both boys look up as Jimin appears in the door way slightly out of breath. He isn’t smiling either. No one seems to smile lately.

“Hey, Jimin,” Namjoon greets. As he passes he leans down to whisper something in the younger boy’s ear before he walks out with one last wave at Jungkook.

“I heard you got yourself stabbed, moron,” Jimin says as he walks in closing the door behind him. Jungkook doesn’t bother to grace that with a reply as he notices a small black kit in Jimin’s hands and he frowns.

“Where’s Jin?” he asks. Seokjin was by far the best at this whole first aid thing. Not that Jimin was bad and he was certainly better than Namjoon who was honestly more like to kill you than make you better.

“Taking care of Tae,” Jimin says as he stops before him, “so looks like you’re stuck with me.”

“Oh,” Jungkook breathes and he’s glad Taehyung is being looked after, “how’s his arm?”

“Fucked,” Jimin says, his face unusual blank and Jungkook flinches, “but I trust Jin. I’m more worried about his head injury,”

“Head injury?” Jungkook asks feeling his heart lurch in his chest.

“Yeah don’t tell me you didn’t notice,” Jimin says as he motions for Jungkook to unfasten his jumpsuit. Jungkook complies, undoing the zipper and sliding it off his shoulders, “he was hit in the head with that pipe,”

Jungkook swears, feeling his temper surge at the thought, “Motherfuckers, I’m going to-”

“What?” Jimin snaps as he yanks up Jungkook’s vest which was sticky with blood, causing the younger boy to hiss, “You’re going to kill them like the tough man you are Kook huh? Well it’s a little late now isn’t it?”

“You sound like Yoongi,” he mutters and Jimin scowls, “besides I only killed one.”

“You think this is funny Jungkook? You think starting this shit with Taeyang is funny? You think what you did to Taehyung is fucking funny? You need to control your damn temper Jungkook,” Jimin asks as he begins to clean Jungkook’s wound with far more force than necessary.

Jungkook bites his lips. It’s not like he hasn’t heard this before. He knows he has a temper but he can’t help it. Sometimes he just sees red.

“I didn’t mean to- I would never hurt him Jimin,” Jungkook whispers and he means it no matter how pathetic he sounds. He could never hurt Kim Taehyung. Jimin just sighs and looks Jungkook in the eye his stare searching.

“I know Kook,” Jimin says with another weary sigh, “but you did.”

Jungkook flinches as though he’d been struck, Jimin’s words knocking the air from his lungs.

“But how?” he asks, desperate, “I didn’t do anything-”

“Didn’t do anything?” Jimin asks as he examines the wound, probably wondering if it needed stiches or not. He looks up, disbelieve in his eyes, “Jungkook, you had your hands around his neck when we arrived what would have happened if-”

Nothing,” Jungkook says with as much force as he could muster, “Jimin I swear nothing would have happened I just- I wasn’t thinking.”

“That’s your problem Jungkook,” Jimin says obviously deciding to Jungkook’s relief that stiches would not be required as he takes out some clean bandages, “you never think.”

“You don’t understand,” Jungkook says as he leans back, “the way he looked at me, I don’t know, it was like he didn’t even see me. It was like he was looking at a monster or something. I did it for him and then he looks at me like that? I just- I just couldn’t-”

“Jungkook I know you did it to protect him,” Jimin says making sure the bandage is in place, “but I saw what you did to that man and fuck I was scared. I don’t blame him for acting how he did.”

“But you don’t understand Jimin, it was like he thought I was going to hurt him. He kept screaming for me to not even touch him,” Jungkook says and he feels frustration build in his chest. None of this makes sense and he’s trying to understand but he just doesn’t.

“Jungkook,” Jimin says softly as he cleans a cut on Jungkook’s cheek, “Taehyung isn’t like us or at least not like you and me.”

“What do you mean?” Jungkook asks, “He’s in here, he’s hardly innocent.”

“Maybe, maybe not but you and I? We were born into this world, we were made for it. My family has served yours for generations. Bloodshed and violence is in our bones but Taehyung?” Jimin pauses and he’s only an inch from Jungkook’s face, “I think he’s more like Yoongi.”

Jungkook blinks, “Yoongi?” he says slowly, not entirely sure he heard right.

Taehyung and Yoongi could not be more opposite if they tried. What the fuck was Jimin talking about?

“I mean not personality wise but more like they’re backgrounds are similar,” Jungkook stares at Jimin.

“They’re backgrounds? But Yoongi’s like you and me, he works for my family,” he says.

“But not always. Remember before he joined, his father-”

“But Yoongi’s dad was-”

“Exactly,” Jimin looks grave and Jungkook just sits there in shock.

“But how do you know? Did he tell you?”

“No, but you can sort of tell. The way he carries himself reminds me of how Yoongi did when he first joined, like someone’s going to attack him any second,” Jimin sighs, looking about as tired and Jungkook feels, “I have no idea and I could be wrong but someone has hurt Taehyung. Badly. You can just see it in his eyes.”

Jungkook’s mouth opens and closes but his brain can’t even form coherent thought. How had he not noticed this? Why had Taehyung not trusted him enough to tell him? He knew so little about Taehyung. He didn’t know why he was here or who he had been before he’d been locked away but he wanted to, so badly. If only Taehyung would just let him in.

“I didn’t know,” is all he can think to say. Heat rises to his face and he can no longer deny that it’s shame. He hurt Taehyung. Taehyung who had been through so much and had been so afraid and Jungkook had laid hands on him.

“Does he hate me?” he asks, his voice sounding distant to his own ears and Jimin shrugs, his eyes flashing with pity. Jimin was scary when he was mad but he could never stay angry with Jungkook for long. Despite what he was, Jimin had a surprisingly good heart.

“I don’t know Jungkook, you’ll have to ask him that yourself,” Jimin reaches out to take Jungkook’s hand, their matching tattoos, little black butterflies, the same as Namjoon, Yoongi, Hoseok and Seokjin, almost touch and Jungkook squeezes. It’s been a while since he’s felt so lost.

Jungkook opens his mouth to speak but is interrupted by his cell door slamming open. Jimin steps aside as Namjoon, Yoongi and Hoseok all pile in dragging with them a struggling figure.

Jungkook quickly erases all hint of emotion from his face as his men dump the man at his feet.

“Jungkook please! What is the meaning of this? Why have you brought me here?” Dohun looks up at him his small eyes darting back and forth like a rat. It was hard to tell if the man was this nervous because he was guilty or if he was always just this nervous. Dohun might be a handy ally but he was also one paranoid fuck.

“Well my old friend,” Jungkook says in a calm voice that is clearly anything but, “I would have gone to you but it seems I was attacked on my way there. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that now would you?”

Dohun’s eyes widen until they look as though they are about to pop out of his skull. His skeletal thin body is shaking like a fucking leaf and if Jungkook wasn’t in such a bad mood the sight might have been comical.

“I swear to you I had nothing to do with it!” he says his voice trembling and it’s all just so pathetic.

“Oh no? So you didn’t let Taeyang know I was going to be paying you a visit, alone. Because it’s a pretty big coincidence don’t you think?” Jungkook says and Dohun shakes his head frantically babbling his innocence. As words rushed from his mouth Jungkook glanced over at Hoseok was watching the man intently. Hoseok was one of the best at distinguishing between truth and lies. Jungkook raised an eyebrow but Hoseok shook his head. Not guilty then. Damn it, Jungkook was looking forward beating the shit out of someone.

“Shut up!” he snaps and Dohun’s mouth shut so quickly his teeth clacked audibly.

“Jungkook, please I swear-”

“I said shut up,” Jungkook frowned, his head was starting to ache, “Let’s say I believe you, how the fuck did they find out I was going to be alone?”

“That’s what I was going to tell you, I think it’s the same person who you’re looking for,” Dohun breathes his voice shaking and Jungkook sits up straight.

“You know who the rat it? Who? Tell me,”

“W-well, I don’t know his name but I have reliable information that the informant you are looking for is in Sung-yeol’s gang,” Dohun says and out of everything that is the last thing Jungkook expected to hear.

“What?” he says and Dohun winces, “are you telling me Sung-yeol, whom I might add, is good friends with my father, is the traitor I’m looking for?”

“N-not exactly, I think the traitor is a member of his gang,”

“But Sung-yeol is assisting me in finding the traitor. So are you saying he’s assisting him?” Jungkook can feel the rage rising once again and Dohun looks terrified.

“I don’t think so? How closely do you look at the people you trust? Would you ever suspect one of your men of treachery?”  Jungkook pauses. That actually made some sense. Fuck. Things just got a lot more complicated.

“We need to look into this,” Jungkook says and Namjoon nods.

“But we can’t be obvious, especially with this thing with Taeyang we need all the allies we can get. If he thinks we suspect him it’ll offend him and we can’t have that,” Yoongi nodded looking grim, “this could be tricky, we have to investigate without him realising.”

Jungkook closed his eyes and let out a weary sigh. The ache behind his eyes was growing, he couldn’t deal with this tonight.

“Okay, I’ve heard enough,” he says, “everyone get out we’ll discuss this tomorrow and figure this shit out,”

“Thank you,”Dohun says, looking pathetically happy now that he’s realised Jungkook isn’t going to pulverise him into dust, “Thank you I-”

“Get out!”

Dohun doesn’t wait to be told twice. He scrambles to his feet and runs out of the cell like he’s been set on fire. The rest of his men follow with muttered goodnights. Everyone is tired, especially Jungkook but he can’t rest, not yet.

He stands his whole body aching. Jimin is watching him carefully; Jungkook can feel his eyes on him.

“What?” he asks.

“Where are you going?”

“I still have something I need to do,” even though there was no way he was going to tell Jimin he has the strangest feeling the other boy already knows.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Jungkook,” Jimin says softly but since when has Jungkook ever cared about what other people thought was a good idea. Still he pauses in the doorway, hesitating for just a second.

“Maybe not but I have to see him,” he says and Jimin just sighs.

“Okay, just try not to be an ass alright?” Jimin says his lips quirking into a small smile and Jungkook snorts.

“I’ll try my best,”

~

Jungkook knows the way to Seokjin and Jimin’s shared cell by heart. The pain in his side flares as he retraces the familiar steps but he no longer leaves bloody footsteps. He’s still covered in the stuff and he makes a mental note to shower before he sleeps.

But all that comes later. Right now there is only one thing that matters to him.

Taehyung.

He comes to a stop outside the cell. The door is closed and Seokjin is standing there like he’s been waiting for Jungkook.

“Jungkook,” Seokjin greets as he nears. His voice is fairly natural but the only way Jungkook can think to describe the look in his eyes is disappointment, “how are you?” he asks eyes flickering over the bloody jumpsuit and bandages.

“I’ll live,” Jungkook says with a shrug, “Jimin took care of it.”

Seokjin gives him a small smile but doesn’t say anything. Jungkook wonders if maybe he’ll leave but he just stands there and if jungkook didn’t know any better he would have said Seokjin was guarding the room.

“I want to see him,” Jungkook says eventually when it becomes clear Seokjin isn’t budging.

“He’s resting,”

“I just need to talk to him, just for a second, I need to-”

“Jungkook,” Seokjin says in a low, stern voice, “he doesn’t want to see you.”

Jungkook felt as though he’d been punched in the gut.

“What?” his breathes and the hard look in Seokjin’s eyes melts just a little.

“It’s not a good idea for you to see him now, or anytime soon,” he explains gently, “he needs time to recover, you can’t rush it.”

“You’re not serious?” Jungkook says, “I need to explain. Let me in.”

“With all due respect, boss,” Seokjin says a slight sneer on his lips, “No.”

“Move,” Jungkook orders his fists clenching and unclenching by his side, “Just let me in Seokjin, I’m warning you.”

“Listen carefully,” Seokjin says still in that quiet, no nonsense voice as he pushes Jungkook back, “you have got to learn that you can’t have everything. Taehyung doesn’t want to see you and you’re just going to have to accept that. You can’t force these things and if you try you’re only going to break him. Grow the fuck up Jungkook and understand that your actions have consequences.”

Seokjin is still fuming and Jungkook is speechless, his head is chaos and confliction.

“I thought you were better than this,” Seokjin says and there’s that quiet disappointment again, “Hana would have been so disappointed in you.”

“Don’t you dare talk about her,” Jungkook snaps but there’s no real anger there. Only weariness and behind it, a terrible sadness.

“Goodnight Jungkook,” is all Seokjin says, “Go and get some rest. You look like you need it.”

Jungkook wants to argue but instead he turns and walks away. His feet drag and it feels as though he’s sleep walking. In his mind all he can see is Taehyung. Taehyung who was strong and beautiful and never afraid to talk back to him. Taehyung who could handle himself in a fight and called him sweetheart with that smile of his. Taehyung who liked to read books and occasionally looked so sad when he thought no one was looking. Taehyung who had risked his life for him and now probably hated him.

As Jungkook walked he felt an odd wetness trail down his cheek. At first he thought it was blood but when he touched it his hand came away clean. With a start Jungkook realised what was happening and it shook him to his core.

Jeon Jungkook, son of the infamous mafia boss, Jeon Woohyun and heir to the entire  Jeon criminal empire, was crying.

Chapter Text

The darkness was warm and heavy as it swallowed Taehyung whole. Silence filled his mind as he allowed himself to sink further and further. He was drowning but he wasn’t afraid. Everything just felt right. He was at peace as he drifted away. Nothing could touch him now.

“-yung. Taehyung!”

A voice he didn’t recognise, somewhere far away and muffled was calling to him but Taehyung didn’t want to awake up.

Just let me sleep.

The darkness is pulling him farther, dragging him down and down. He isn’t even sure he could have opened his eyes anymore even if he wanted to. Too late.

“Taehyung, you need to stay awake, Tae, open your eyes!”

Something is shaking him and he’s distantly aware of the tingling sensation of touch. The falling has stopped even if the darkness remains. His mind is foggy, his thoughts moving sluggishly as if through quicksand but as the voice continues to call him it gets clearer, the mist lifting. The voice is familiar but in this state he can’t quite place it.

The darkness recedes and reluctantly Taehyung cracks his heavy eyelids open. He squints against the harsh prison light that sway above him. Immediately he notices the pain. His arm hurts so fucking badly he wants to cry or to escape back into the darkness. That sounded pretty good right now actually, better than crying anyway. His head hurts too but it’s more of a dull ache, a painful throbbing that’s somewhat more bearable.

The world is indeed swaying around him, the ceiling moving to and fro and he realises belatedly that someone is carrying him.

Jungkook?

He stares up blearily and is just about able to make out Hoseok’s face, battered and bruised but undeniably him. He notices Taehyung looking at him and gives him a small, slightly strained smile.

“Good to have you back,” he says as they continue down the hallway, Taehyung not even bothering to try and figure out where they are taking him, “Stay awake now yeah? Jinnie was about to have a proper fit when you closed your eyes,”

“Yeah you scared us Tae,” another voice off to his right chimes in and Taehyung lolls his head to see Jimin keeping pace, looking at him with concerned eyes.

“Jimin,” he mumbles his lips move around the words clumsily and his tongue is too big for his mouth, he wants to apologise but the nothing seems to want to cooperate with him, “Your hair is orange,”

Jimin glances at Seokjin and the two share a look. Taehyung wonders what has them looking so worried.

“Yeah Tae, it is,” he says with a tight smile.

Orange looked really nice on Jimin, so bright. Taehyung wanted to touch it and without thinking he moves his right arm to reach out. He lets out a cry as broken bone shifts sending more pain radiating up and down his arm.

“Hey, hey,” Seokjin appears in his line of sight and Taehyung blinks up at him, “don’t move it Taehyung, your arm is broken so try to move it as little as possible okay? Can you do that for me?”

Taehyung nods numbly, unsure of what else to do.

“We’re almost there,” Hoseok grunts and again Taehyung wonders where ‘there’ is but he doesn’t bother to think about it too hard. It’s not like he can do anything about it anyway. He’s in no condition to take them on.

His arm is broken? If the pain is anything to go by Seokjin isn’t lying but how the fuck did that happen? And why the hell was his head so sore? Had he been fighting? If so it must have been a pretty bad one, he must have lost as well and Taehyung wonders if Jungkook had to save him again. Speaking of Jungkook, the other boy was nowhere to be seen. It was rare for his men to be here but not the leader himself. Was he okay?

 Taehyung took a deep breath and tried to remember what had happened. He remembered being library with Jungkook that afternoon. They had talked. Jungkook had apologised and asked to kiss him, that he was sure of. He was also sure he had been in a fight too, one had had resulted in him being punished by Mr Lee but what then? Everything after the fight was a muddle of fear and panic and a rush of adrenaline.

What had happened to make him feel like that?

We are going to kill Jeon Jungkook.

The words echo back to him and with them more memories. That’s right, he’d over heard the two men planning to kill Jungkook. He’d gone to tell Jungkook, to warn him but they’d been unable to find him.

Taehyung recalled the sense of growing dread as they had failed again and again to locate Jungkook. But then he had found him, just in time. They’d been going to leave when… when..

The men had shown up. They’d shown up with knives and pipes and brass knuckles and what had they told Jungkook? They were at war?

Yes, the biggest man, Kang or something had told Jungkook that Taeyang had declared war and now Taehyung seemed to be caught in the middle. Caught in the crossfire, collateral damage. Is that what his broken arm was? Another casualty of their war that he wanted no part of?

Now that he has started remembering he can’t stop even as images of the ensuing fight flash through his mind. He’d fought with the man with the pipe, whose name he could no longer recall but that wasn’t where he had broken his arm.

In his mind’s eye he can see it all so clearly now. The wounded Kang picking up the pipe, the one he’d foolishly discarded, ready to attack an unsuspecting Jungkook. Taehyung recalls the fear, bitter in his mouth, like bile. He remembers how his body acted totally on its own as though it was obeying some primitive instinct, reacting before his mind could catch up.

He remembers running to get between the pipe and Jungkook. Looking back on it now there were so many other things he could have done that probably would not have resulted in such serious injury. He could have pushed Jungkook out of the way or attacked Kang and gotten the pipe away from him but no, he hadn’t done that. Instead he had put his fucking life in danger to save Jungkook. It was stupid as fuck but even as his arm jars with every step Hoseok takes Taehyung can’t regret it. Not quite.

He’d saved Jungkook but what had happened after that? He had fallen but he hadn’t hit the ground so Jungkook must have caught him. He can remember nothing but pain and Jungkook’s arms around him, if only for a brief second to stop his descent. Jungkook had seemed so genuinely surprised, shocked by what Taehyung had done, his stupid recklessness. He had also, for a fleeting second looked so very afraid.

But after all the fear and confusion what came next?

What next?

What?

Oh yes, how could he possibly have forgotten Jungkook’s wrath? His anger had been a wildfire burning out of control, the flames so wild and unstoppable Taehyung had been sure he was going to be burned too. Jungkook had been on a warpath devastating everything in his way. Why? Why had he been so angry? Could it possibly be because of him? Wonho had warned him about Jungkook but Taehyung hadn’t really believed it until he saw with his own two eyes Jungkook break that man’s face with the metal pipe.

He had tried to stop it but he had been so powerless against Jungkook’s rage and against his sheer strength. Ah yes that feeling of helplessness, of being so fucking useless and insignificant. He hadn’t forgotten those feelings either, they had become so familiar that he couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t carry their weight inside of himself.

Darker memories crowded on the edges of his mind sending uneasy ripples through his brain like the clam surface of a lake being disturbed by what he had seen Jungkook do. Something about that violence had reminded him of what he’d spent so long trying to forget.

Over the years he had managed to shove all those memories that he couldn’t bear to relive into a little box at the back of his mind and it had worked too, for the most part. When he slept the box would creak and bad things would creep into his dreams but the majority of the time he could function without images of cruel hands leaving bruise all over his skin replaying over and over.

But now Jungkook and his anger had, without even meaning to, had come along and smashed that box to smithereens and he could no longer stop the childhood memories running rampant in his mind. Even now he could see his father screaming at him lumbering towards him with all the grace and delicacy of an enraged bull.

You little brat? What are you crying about huh? I’ll give you something to fucking cry about!

Taehyung squeezes his eyes shut and forces the memories back down. It’s temporary, like trying to patch a burst tire with duct tape and he knows they’ll be back but he’ll deal with that later but for now it’s the best he can do.

Seokjin looks over at the sound of him whimpering and gives him a sympathetic smile, misreading the pain in his mind for physical pain. Taehyung has to admit, he’s a lot better at faking a smile than either Jimin or Hoseok.

“It’s alright Taehyung we’re here now, I’ll fix you up,” he says as he opens the door to presumably his and Jimin’s cell, “it won’t hurt for long.”

Hoseok sets him down gently but that doesn’t stop him from knocking his arm off the side of the bed. He bites his lips to hold back the string of curses as Hoseok apologises sheepishly.

“I’ll go check and see what Jungkook and the rest are up to,” Hoseok announces as he stands. He gives Taehyung one last pitying smile and Taehyung is reminded how much he hated being pitied, “Get better yeah?”

Taehyung nods, utterly exhausted and Hoseok takes his cue to leave with a small wave.

“Okay Tae,” Seokjin says in a soothing voice and Taehyung tears his eyes away from the empty air where Hoseok had been only seconds ago.

Jimin is watching him carefully while Seokjin rummages around looking for something. Taehyung blinks again. Jimin has really fucking nice hair.

“Jimin,” he mumbles. His eyelids were growing heavy again and all he wanted was to sleep.

“Yeah, Tae?”

“Your hair is orange,”

Jimin gives him a small smile but it doesn’t reach his eyes.

“I know Tae, you already told me,” he says gently and Taehyung frowns.

“I did?”

“Tae are you feeling okay? Sleepy?” Jimin asked. He reaches out to brush his fingers gently along Taehyung cheek. His brain was too tired to even flinch away from the touch. When Jimin brought his hand away Taehyung noticed dark flecks of blood there. Was he bleeding? Oops.

Seokjin appeared by Jimin’s side murmuring to the orange haired boy too quietly for Taehyung to hear.

He just watches as they whisper between themselves until Seokjin nods and turns to him, bright smile plastered on his face.

“Okay, Tae, I have to check if you have a concussion or not,” he says and Taehyung tries to sit up. “Then we’ll get to your arm but for now take these for the pain,”

Taehyung takes whatever pills Seokjin offers him trusting the boy gave him the right amount of the right kind. He’s learned the hard way what happens when you take too many painkillers. 

“’M fine,” he mumbles, the pain in his arm already numbing, much to his relief, “just let me go I’m okay. I’m good, I’m okie dokie Jinnie,”

His arm still looks disgusting, all bent and swollen and just wrong. But he knows broken bones, if set right, can heal well and leave little more than faint scars. Seokjin, to his knowledge is no doctor but hopefully he can patch him up.

“I know, I know,” Seokjin hums as he gently pushes Taehyung back down, silencing his feeble protests. “But let’s just make sure yeah?”

“Whatever,” Taehyung huffs, closing his eyes as he settles back down. What was the point in fighting he was too tired. Fuck.

“I’m going to ask you some questions Tae, alright?” Seokjin asks and Taehyung nods, feeling dizzy.

“What is your name?” he asks and if his head wasn’t spinning he would have rolled his eyes.

“Taehyung,” he says and the face of that kind social worker surfaces in his mind and he swallows thickly, “Kim Taehyung.”

“What day is it?” Jimin asks over Seokjin’s shoulder as the older boy delves into what must be a first aid kit. He wants to ask how the hell he got medical equipment but he supposes he shouldn’t be too surprised. He works for Jungkook after all and he would put anything passed Jungkook. He could probably get a fucking rocket launcher in here if he wanted.

“Tae? What day?” Jimin prompts gently.

“Tuesday?”

“Are you asking me or telling me?” Jimin asks and Seokjin examines the side of his head.

“Telling you?”

Jimin laughs but it sounds nervous even to Taehyung’s tired mind. It’s not his fault though, even if his mind was clear he rarely bothers keep track of the days. It’s not like it matters, in here they all blur into one anyway. Endlessly.

“Do you remember what your cell number is?” Jimin asks and Taehyung wonders when all the questions will stop. He felt like at any second Jimin will start asking him if it was his father who hurt him.

I can’t help you if you don’t tell me tell me what really happened.

“I dunno, M 271- something,” he says as he pushes memories being fourteen and sitting in that hospital lying to the social worker. Jimin purses his lips but doesn’t ask anything else.

“Are you having difficulty concentrating Tae?” Seokjin asks and Taehyung shakes his head.

“Does your head feel foggy?”

“A little,” Seokjin hums at this frowning slightly, “do you feel like you are going to be sick?”

Taehyung was nauseous but he shook his head.

“I’m fine,” he insists but it’s clear neither of them believe him.

“Headaches?” Jimin asks and Taehyung snorts.

“I was hit in the head with a pipe of course my head fucking aches,” he doesn’t mean to be rude, really he doesn’t but talk about dumb questions. Nearly dying doesn’t exactly put him in a good mood either.

“Fair enough,” Jimin says and actual amusement sparkles in his eyes, alongside all the concern. 

“Okay we’re going to check your eyes,” Seokjin explains pulling out a torch.

“They’re still here,” Taehyung reassures him but Seokjin just smiles and shines the torch in his eyes. The light hurt and he shies away.

Despite how tired his head is he knows what they’re doing. The light in his eyes, the questions, all of it. He’s had doctors check for concussions before, he knows the routine by now. When his father pushed him down the stairs he had suffered a concussion then, a really fucking bad one too. When the doctors had asked him what his name was he had been unable to answer them.

“Okay, pupil dilation is more or less normal, Tae,” Seokjin says finally, turning off the light and Jimin lets out a relived sigh as though he actually cares about Taehyung’s wellbeing or more likely he’s just worried what Jungkook will do if something happens to him. No, Taehyung does not want to think about Jungkook or what he might do if he gets mad again, not now anyways.

“You may have a mild concussion though so keep an eye on it, if you start to feel sick or faint let me know okay?”

Taehyung nods. It’s like being back in the hospital all over again, especially when Seokjin takes out some sterile wipes and begins to clean his head wound. Instinctively he leans into Seokjin’s touch despite how the added pressure makes the wound throb. It’s been a while since anyone has been so gentle with him. He’s so tired it takes all his will to stay awake. He watches through half closed eyes as the older boy throws away pink, bloodied wipe after the other until he’s finally cleaned most of the blood from his face. Taehyung feels relieved, he’s never liked the sensation of blood when it dries and hardens. He only likes it when it’s warm and vivid and beautiful.

“I’ll let you take it from here,” Jimin says, another small kit in hand, “I’ll go make sure Jungkook hasn’t died yet,”

Taehyung likes Jimin. He’s by far one of the kindest of Jungkook’s men but he knows that even with the pills what Seokjin is about to do isn’t going to be pretty and it would really prefer if as few people as possible saw him cry. So he waves weakly as Jimin pops out the door with on final instruction to ‘not die on us like an idiot’.

No promises pal.

“Okay Tae, this is still going to hurt,” Seokjin says as he gingerly picks up Taehyung’s mangled arm to examine it. Taehyung grimaces because he fucking knows it’s going to hurt but it hurts now too so might as well try and get it to stop hurting.

“I know,” he says and Seokjin looks at him.

“You’ve broken your arm before?” he asks and Taehyung nods.

“A few times, never as bad as the first time,” he admits.

He must be tired, why else would he come so close to sharing such unspeakably personal things. There’s an awful knowing in Seokjin’s eyes but unlike the woman all those years ago he doesn’t push it and Taehyung is grateful.

“Okay your bone is only broken in one place and it hasn’t broken the skin thankfully,”

“Thankfully,” Taehyung mutters not feeling particularly thankful in that moment.

“It means I can probably set it here myself and we don’t have to go messing with the nurses here,” Seokjin explains still holding his arm carefully. “You won’t need plates or pins or screws to hold the bone in place either,”

“That’s good,” Taehyung mumbles and Seokjin gives him a sympathetic smile. It’s marginally better than pity but it still makes him uncomfortable. 

“Unfortunately I don’t have general anaesthesia, I might be able to steal some but-”

“Just do it,”

“But Taehyung the pain-” Seokjin begins but Taehyung shakes his head. He just wants this over as soon as possible. He’s no stranger to pain. He can handle it, “do it. Please.”

“You’re so stubborn,” Seokjin sighs before muttering under his breath, “It’s like you and that brat were made for each other.”

“I have some local anaesthetic so that should help some,” Seokjin says as he produces a syringe. Taehyung internally cringes at the sight but refuses to back away.

“This will hurt but it will help,” Seokjin says and Taehyung nods gritting his teeth.

Taehyung looks away as the needle pierces his skin. There’s a sharp pain followed by numbness that floods the limb. He doesn’t even realise Seokjin has removed the needle until he dares to look back. A single drop of red blood trails down his swollen arm to drip onto the white bed sheets.

“You might not want to look at this either, Tae,” Seokjin advises and Taehyung looks away again. He knows what’s coming and he can feel irrational panic rise in his chest making him feel even sicker. His heart is hammering and as much as he hates to admit it Taehyung is a little afraid of what is about to happen.

“I’m going to count to five and then I’m just going to push the bone back into place, it’ll be over in a second,” Seokjin is majorly downplaying it but Taehyung appreciates the effort. That or he's never had someone set his broken bones. 

“One, two, three-”

Without warning Seokjin moves, pushing and pulling simultaneously in opposite directions forcing the broken bone back into shape. Taehyung doubts all the anaesthetic and pills in the fucking world could have numbed that pain. It hurt more than getting the damn thing broken in the first place and he’s not even sure how that’s possible. He screams into his hands, doing his best to muffle the sound as tears spring to his eyes.

“Shit, shit, shit, oh fucking shit,” he hisses biting the palm of his hand until he tastes blood.

“It’s okay,” Seokjin soothes, sounding almost exactly like one of the doctors he used to see and Taehyung wonders if he’s going to offer him a lollipop. “It’s over now, I’ll just get a splint then it will be all over,”

“Fucking hurts,” Taehyung knows he’s whining but as much as he hates it he can’t help himself. Tears start to fall, one by one, and it’s humiliating.

“I’m sorry,” he says but his traitorous voice wobbles and he wants to die, shame making his face warm, “I’m so fucking sorry I don’t usually, I just, I’m not-”

Seokjin, to Taehyung’s eternal gratitude, shushes him before he can work himself up into full babbling hysterics, “It’s okay Tae, no one likes broke bones. One time when Jungkook broke his wrist he cried for hours. He was also eighteen at the time.”

That actually makes Taehyung feel a little better, even though he suspects Seokjin is making it up so he feels less embarrassed. 

“How long have you known Ju-Jungkook?” he asks clearing his throat. Tears still slid down his cheeks and his nose is running like a faucet forcing him to snivel like a cry-baby.

“All my life,” Seokjin replies as he fixed the splint around Taehyung’s arm, securing it in place, “I was five years old when he was born.”

“So you’re… friends with his family,” Taehyung doesn’t know why he’s asking or if he’s even allowed to be asking these things. He’s all too familiar with how small time loan sharks and neighbourhood gangs work, has learned from painful experience but the mafia? That’s a whole nother level entirely. All he knows about crime families like that is what he’s seen on TV and in movies.

“My father worked for his yes and I guess you could call them friends. Jimin, Namjoon and I are all descendants of families who have severed under the Jeon family for generations. Hoseok is from another crime family who joined the Jeon dynasty and Yoongi, well Yoongi is a special case.” Seokjin says casually meeting Taehyung’s eyes, “We all work for Jungkook though, not his father.”

“What?” Taehyung has no idea why Seokjin is telling him all this. Maybe he trusts him or maybe they’re all planning to murder him later so it doesn’t matter how much they tell him. Either way Taehyung listens closely. Any information he can get about Jungkook that will reveal another side to the boy who both terrifies and enthrals him is precious.

“See this tattoo?” Seokjin asks holding out his hand and Taehyung stares at the intricate black butterfly inked there. It’s the exact same as the one on Jungkook’s hand. And Jimin’s for that matter, and Hoseok and probably all the rest too.

“What does it mean?”

“Well the Jeon family symbol is actually a dragon but this? This is Jungkook’s symbol, he chose it himself and all those who work for him have it, so so far that’s just the five of us,” the butterfly is beautiful is it’s bold, dark simplicity but it’s so unlike Jungkook. The fire-breathing monster that was the dragon suited Jungkook well. So well in fact, Taehyung can’t imagine someone like as ferocious and strong Jungkook picking anything so delicate as his symbol.

“Why?” he asks and Seokjin shrugs.

“You’ll have to ask him,” the thought of seeing Jungkook again sends slivers of fear running down his spine and Taehyung hates himself for being so weak and pathetic. He knows he's avoiding the inevitable but he's always been quite good at that.

He doesn’t want to think about Jungkook but he can’t help it. All he can see is Jungkook. Jungkook furiously beating that man with a bloody pipe until every bone was smashed to pieces. Jungkook covered in blood reaching out to him, extending his hand as if to help him up. The flash of hurt, so raw and real, when Taehyung yelled at him and then that all too familiar anger.

He had gone so long not thinking about his father or the violence and terror that once ruled his life but now with Jungkook it was hard to separate the two. Even if Jungkook wasn’t a monster his world was filled with them. If Taehyung gave himself to Jungkook he would drag him right back into the world of pain and death and fear that Taehyung had tried to desperately to drag himself out of.

“Jungkook isn’t a bad person, you know,” Seokjin says in the silence that fell between them.

“We’re all bad people Jin,” he says feeling tired, “how the fuck do you think we ended up in this hell?”

“Think what you want but I don’t think being here makes you a bad person. Take you for example, I don’t think you’re bad,” Taehyung actually laughs at that. It’s been a while since he’s heard anything so funny.

“That’s because you don’t know me,” he says and Seokjin frowns.

“I don’t think bad people exist, Tae,” he insisted, “Just bad circumstances,”

That hits Taehyung hard. He doesn’t want to think about that. Doesn’t want to think that if he had grown up in a nice home, with a good father who didn’t try and break bottles across your face or plunge you all into crippling debt, then he wouldn't have done what he did. He doesn’t want to think of the good life he could have led if only he’d been given the chance but Seokjin is relentless.

“That’s what I meant about Jungkook,” he presses on even though Taehyung doesn’t want to hear it, “he’s really a good kid, I’ve watched him grow up and he’s actually sweet by nature, shy too but he grew up in a world where kindness is stomped out. It’s weakness and in Jungkook’s world weakness will get you killed."

Taehyung can't imagine Jungkook as anything other than the fully grown young man he's always known. Thinking of Jungkook as a young child afriad of the dark too is too close for Taehyung. The more he gets to know Jungkook the further he sinks into his world.

"But that doesn’t make him bad," Seokjin says, "His temper, it’s scary but only because you haven’t seen the alternative. When he was young, something really bad happened to Jungkook and we thought we'd lost him for good. He got cold, Taehyung, emotionless. Nothing it seemed to get through to him. He would tear the wings off butterflies with this terrible blank expression, no pity, nothing.”

Taehyung shudders as he pictures an expressionless Jungkook with the once beautiful wings of a butterfly now crushed in his strong hands, no hint of anything in those dark eyes.

“How did you get through to him?” he asks. He'd encountered people like that, people who had lost it and descended into a state where nothing and no one could get through to them. Where he came from they were called lost causes. 

“We stuck by him, no matter how bad it got because we knew that the kind young boy was still in there and eventually it worked. He started to laugh again, to get angry again, to feel again. He stopped torturing butterflies,” Seokjin’s eyes are far away, a faint smile on his face, “he doesn’t do good things but that doesn’t mean there isn’t good inside him. His anger, it’s passion Tae, maybe someday you’ll see that.”

Bad stuff happened to Jungkook? Big fucking deal.

Another tear falls.

A lot of bad shit happened to his father but that doesn’t make Taehyung love him. Or forgive him. A lot of bad shit happened to him too but he knows what he did was unforgivable so why is Jungkook special?

 Jungkook grew up in a dark world and bad shit happened to him but that doesn’t change the fact he’s still reasonable for his actions.

Taehyung doesn’t want forgiveness, he just wants to forget and maybe, just maybe start over again. But with Jungkook he can’t forget because they’re all the fucking same. Jungkook, his father, him, they’re all the same and Taehyung hates all of them differently and equally.

“Tae, are you okay?” Seokjin asks as tears stream silently down Taehyung’s face and he’s so not okay it’s not even fucking funny.

“It hurts,” he says but he’s no longer talking about his arm, “It all fucking hurts so much.”

“You should rest here tonight at least,” Seokjin says and Taehyung panics.

“No! I can’t stay,” he says and tried to get up but he’s so weak that Seokjin easily pushes him back down. “I can’t let him see me like this, I can't-”

“It’s okay, Tae,” Seokjin says somehow understanding, “I won’t let him in, just rest okay?”

It’s not okay, nothing is but as Taehyung lies back down the exhaustion finally overpowers him and a deep dreamless sleep engulfs him and as he drifts off all he can see is Jungkook pulling the delicate wings off a beautiful butterfly and offering them to him.

Chapter Text

Taehyung knew she was gone as soon as he walked in the door.

He wasn’t sure how he knew. Maybe it was the quiet, a stillness in the air, an almost peace that was so uncommon in their cramped apartment it was eerie.

Something was missing.

He walked into the kitchen to find Sojung, hunched over the sink. Her brown hair was swept up into a pony tail and she was still wearing her school uniform.

“She isn’t here,” she says before he can ask. He can tell by her voice that she’s been crying and his heart clenches painfully.

“She’ll be back,” he says, trying to keep his voice light, for her sake, “she always is.”

Sojung turns shaking her head and sure enough her eyes are bright with unshed tears.

“Not this time, Taetae,” she says and Taehyung reaches out to comfort her, “she’s really gone.”

She presses her face into his chest, the way she used to when they were younger.

‘We’re still so young,’ he thinks as he rubs soothing circles on her back, ‘too young for all this shit.’

“She’ll be back,” he says again because he didn’t know what else to say, “She has to come back.”

Sojung shakes her head again and looks up at him and Taehyung can see the fear shining through and it breaks his poor heart.

“She opened the safe Taetae,” she whispers, a tear rolling down her cheek and his heart sinks, “its empty now.”

Taehyung can’t believe what he’s hearing, doesn’t want to. This can’t be happening.

Their mother had left before, usually after a particularly nasty fight with their father. Sometimes she was gone for days on end but she always came back.

And she had never stolen their money before.

It had taken him months and months of hard work to earn that money.

And now it was gone. Just like that. Well fuck.

No, please, anything but that.

He opens his mouth to offer comforting words only to find he had none.

Nothing.

There’s not a single word he can say to make this all better.

The door opens and they both freeze and step apart.

There stands their father silhouetted in the door frame, blocking out the light. He stands there unmoving and Taehyung wonders if maybe he too can sense the emptiness their mother left when she abandoned them.

He takes a slow deliberate step into the room and Taehyung tenses. He can’t smell alcohol but for once he wishes his father was drunk, that way he might have noticed something was off.

Today his eyes are too sober and alert as they scan the kitchen, like a hunting dog looking for its prey and Taehyung knows he knows.

“Where is she?” he barks and beside him Sojung flinches.

“I don’t know,” she whispers, terrified but even more terrified of what he’ll do if they don’t answer.

“What?” he raises his voice, stomping over and, before Sojung has the chance to shrink back, he grabs her ponytail and pulls causing her to cry out and stumble.

“Hey-” Taehyung starts but his father shoves him and he falls, smacking his elbow off the table. It hurts but he ignores the pain as he gets to his feet.

“I said ‘where is she?’” his father bellows yanking Sojung by the hair. Tears of fear and pain stream down her face but they are ignored and Taehyung feels something furious inside him unfurl at the sight of his little sister so distressed.

“Let her go!” he yells charging forward without a second thought, “it’s not her fault mom finally left your sorry ass!”

That did it. The hand fisting in Sojung’s hair slackens and she’s free. She looks over at him and their eyes meet. Taehyung just gives the slightest of nods. Sojung nods back, tears still cascading down her face. When she turns and runs to no doubt lock herself in her room Taehyung doesn’t blame her. In fact he’s glad. No twelve year old should have to go through this.

We’re so fucking young.

Too young.

“What the fuck did you say you little freak?” his father screams rounding on him. Everything in Taehyung wants to hide away from his father’s anger that is growing by the second but he knows if he doesn’t keep him distracted he might go back for Sojung.

“I said she left you and I can’t blame her,” he says, his voice a hundred times more confident than he actually feels, “I’m just surprised she put up with your shit for this long.”

“Shut your fucking mouth!” the blow sends his world spinning and he crashes into the counter and holds on to keep himself from falling.

“You think she left because of me you little maggot?” his father roars, grabbing him painfully by the hair and wrenching him up, “no, she left because she was sick of having to deal with you and your shit Taehyung. That bitch left because she was tired of raising a good for nothing son like you!”

‘Like father like son,’ Taehyung thinks ruefully as his father continues to drag his head back by the hair hurling one insult after another.

“I’m not the one who treated her like shit every day!” he manages to say through gritted teeth as he desperately attempts to escape his father’s hold.

“You better learn to watch your fucking mouth,” his father hisses before slamming Taehyung’s head against the counter. Pain bursts through his skull like a firework and for a moment the world dims. He’s too stunned to cry out even has his father pushes him once again to the floor.

“You think she cared about you?” his father sneers as Taehyung lays at his feet to dazed to move, “she wishes you were never born.”

Taehyung hates the traitorous tear that trickles down his cheek.

He can see disgust in his father’s eyes.

“Pathetic,” he scoffs and spit, a huge ugly glob of saliva hitting Taehyung’s cheek and all he wants to do is curl up and die.

Pathetic

Pathetic

Pathetic

The word repeats over and over like a mantra in his head as he watches his father turn and lumber up the stairs. His head hurts so badly and he can feel the spit dribble down his face, shame and nausea warring in his gut. He just wants to lay there and never get up, to close his eyes and sleep forever.

But he can’t.

His father is going upstairs and there is no doubt in Taehyung’s mind that he’s looking for Sojung and he cannot let him get to her. No way in hell.

He’s already half way up the stairs by the time Taehyung is upright again.

He wobbles after him as quickly as his shaking legs will allow. He takes the steps two at a time and manages to reach his father just as the man sets one foot onto the second floor landing.

He lunches forward, one last desperate grab and snags the back of this father’s shirt.

“Stop!”

Taehyung isn’t entirely sure what he had been expecting. His father does stop, pausing one foot still on the landing. He turns to glare down at him and Taehyung is shocked by the anger in his eyes but also something more, something almost like pain.

But he doesn’t have time to think about it as with a yell his father reaches out and Taehyung thinks he’s going to grab him but no, to his surprise and horror his father pushes him.

He feels himself fall back his centre of gravity shifts and suddenly there’s nothing behind him. He flails his arms out in desperation trying to grab something, anything that will slow his decent. But his scrabbling fingers close only around empty air and with nothing to stop him Taehyung falls and falls and falls.

The last thing he remembers before his head hits a step and the darkness takes over is the painful crunch of bone and his arm is pinned awkwardly underneath him.

He is fourteen years old and his mother has just left, probably forever, with his life savings.

He’s fourteen and he tried to stand up to his tyrant of a father and has been pushed down the stairs for his troubles.

He’s fourteen years old and he’s just had his arm broken for the first time.

~

“Rise and shine, sunshine!”

Taehyung really, really, really wants to punch the owner of that annoyingly chipper voice. It’s too early for this shit. He tries to block out the morning call and return to the comfort of oblivious sleep but the owner of the voice is clearly a fucking sadist and will not stand for that as a hand begins to shake him awake.

The last tendrils of sleep are evaporating and Taehyung can see light behind his eyelids and he is definitely going to kill whoever is shaking him and telling him to get up in a sickeningly sweet sing song voice. 

Then a thought occurs to him, who the actual fuck is trying to wake him up like this? There’s no way Wonho just called him ‘sunshine’ but who else would be in his cell?

He bolts upright, suddenly very much awake, staring blearily around trying to find some indication of where the actual fuck he is.

He’s in a cell that’s for sure, but it’s a hell of a lot nicer than his cell.

A shock of orange hair appears in his line of sight and Taehyung has to swallow down his cry of alarm.

“Jimin!” he exclaims, “What the fuck? You scared me!”

I scared you?” Jimin chuckles, running a hand through his bright hair, “how do you think I felt? I was starting to seriously worry you were never going to wake up!”

“What time is it?” Taehyung asks, still looking around, confusion lingering, “Is this your cell? Why am I here?”

“It’s a quarter past four,” Jimin begins and Taehyung frowns.

“In the morning? Then why the fuck were you trying to wake me?” he asks indignantly. He wasn’t lazy but Taehyung also valued his beauty sleep thank you very much.

“Not in the morning, it’s four fifteen in the afternoon,” Jimin explains and this throws Taehyung. He hadn’t realised it was so late.

“So does that mean-” he begins but hesitates.

“You slept here all day?” Jimin supplies and Taehyung nods.

“Yup!” Jimin says, still irritatingly cheerful, “Jin said it was best if you slept, of course that meant I had to stay here and make sure you didn’t stop breathing.”

“Um, thank you?” Taehyung isn’t sure what to make of any of this. There has to be a reason he’s here but his brain is moving sluggishly.

“Don’t mention it! If I ever suffered a mild concussion you’d do the same for me right?” Jimin grins and Taehyung finds his lips twitching into a smile even though the sound of a ‘mild concussion’ doesn’t really strike him as something they should laugh about.

“What are friends for?” he speaks without thinking the word ‘friend’ rolling clumsily off a tongue that has had little occasion to use it before and he prays he hasn’t over stepped some boundary.

But to his relief Jimin just smiles and pats his shoulder. Taehyung winces as pain sears up his arm at the touch. Seeing him wince, Jimin takes his hand away looking sheepish.  

“I’m sorry, I forgot,” he apologised, rubbing the back of his head.

Taehyung looks down and sees the splint and all the memories come back. This time it’s no huge revelation to him and he wonders if that means he’s come to terms with it. He no longer feels numb with shock, just sort of tired. Like he’s found himself in a tiny raft afloat on open ocean after a devastating storm. There’s no point in trying to reason with the force of nature that has just swept him up. No sense in looking at the wreckage all around him trying to find answers. At this point he’s just glad he survived at all.

“Here, this’ll cheer you up!” Taehyung opens his mouth to ask Jimin what the hell he’s talking about only to have something in a plastic wrapper shoved in his face before he can speak.

“What the-” he mumbles, fumbling one handed as he reads the label, “Mr Cinnamon’s hunny bun,”

“They’re delicious, Jin always has a whole supply smuggled in, I think he’s obsessed,” Jimin says as he opens his own hunny bun, taking a hearty bite, “but don’t tell him you got it from me, ‘kay?”

“Okay,” Taehyung agrees as he tears away the plastic from his own treat. The pastry inside is covered in a glistening coat of white icing sugar and his mouth waters at the sight.

He takes a bite and almost cries, like real tears. It’s that fucking good.

Maybe he’s a little biased because he’s spent the last five months surviving on the blandest food known to man but he swears then and there that he would sell his soul for another hunny bun.

“Oh fuck,” he moans as he takes another bite, shoving as much of the pastry as he can into his mouth.

“I know right?” Jimin giggles through a mouth full of sugary dough as Taehyung lets out another obscene moan of pleasure.  

“That was so fucking good,” Taehyung says as he licks the last of the sticky, sugary residue off his fingers.

“Jinnie has good taste,” Jimin agrees and Taehyung has to resist the urge to ask for another, he still has some pride goddam it. Instead he listens to Jimin chatter. He’s not fully following what the other boy is saying but it doesn’t seem important. Taehyung likes to hear Jimin talk and finds himself relaxing.  The one sided conversation lulls and Taehyung looks at Jimin, the conversation he had with Seokjin last night resurfaces in his mind. He licks his lips nervously.

“Jimin?” he asks and Jimin raises an eyebrow.

“You’ve- you’ve known Jungkook all your life, right?” he asks and Jimin doesn’t look surprised by the question. He smiles gently.

“Yeah, we grew up together. I presume Jin told you,” he says and Taehyung nods.

“Did Jinnie tell you anything else?” Jimin asks as if sensing what was on Taehyung’s mind.

“He told me a few things,” he admits hoping he isn’t getting Seokjin in trouble. Seokjin was older than Jimin but he had no idea how the dynamics of the gang worked other than the fact Jungkook was undisputedly in charge. Jimin just nods and waits for Taehyung to go on.

“He said something, something bad happened to Jungkook when he was young,” Taehyung starts, remembering the sadness in Seokjin’s eyes as he recalled Jungkook’s past. Jimin’s reaction is slightly different. His expression shifts subtly becoming less open, his eyes suddenly guarded as he watched Taehyung.

“Did he tell you what?” he asks and Taehyung is tempted to lie and say he knows more than he does in the hopes Jimin will give him new information but he sense that would not be wise.

“No,” he admits and Jimin visibly relaxes, “That’s why I wanted to ask. All Seokjin said was that whatever it was changed Jungkook.”

“It did,” Jimin says nodding slowly, his gaze far away, “I can’t tell you a lot. Jungkook was eleven years old at the time, I was thirteen. Hobi had been with us for a couple years and Yoongi had joined for about a year when it happened. I was the closest in age and his best friend but afterwards not even I could recognise him. He didn’t smile but that was to be expected. The scary thing was that he didn’t even cry. It was like he was just gone, you would look at him but there was nothing there.”

That sounded a lot like what Seokjin had told him, even the distant sadness in their voices was similar. Taehyung felt something tug at his heart. He shouldn’t feel sorry for Jungkook but…

“I walked in to his room one day and saw that he had broken a ton of his stuff in what looked like a fit of rage but the scary part was he wasn’t even angry. There had been no temper tantrum, or yelling or screaming. Nothing. He had carefully, calmly smashed in the faces of his dolls, torn the pages out of his favourite books, shattered his violin. When I asked him why he just looked at me blankly and said ‘because I can’.”

Jimin shudders at that and Taehyung feels fear tingle down his own spine. He had known Jungkook for five months and while admittedly he had not always known him well (hell, he still couldn’t honestly say he knew him well even now) but emotionless was never something he associated with him. Did Jungkook looked bored and totally uninterested in his surroundings at times? Yes but there had always been a light in his eyes, a spark, something that said he was always alert and watching. Seokjin’s words echoed in his mind.

His anger, it’s passion Tae, maybe someday you’ll see that.

He did see that, of course he fucking did he wasn’t blind. Jungkook’s anger was bloody terrifying but it meant in some twisted way he really did care. No way that violence was born from apathy. That passion had saved his life but it had also killed a man. A bad man sure, but he was no innocent himself so what gave Jungkook the right to decide who lived and who died?

“What happened to make him like that?” he asks instead.

“It’s really not my story to tell. If you wanna know the only one who’s going to tell you is Kook himself,” Jimin says with an apologetic shrug, “but fair warning Jungkook doesn’t talk about it, not even with us. It’s been ten years and he’s barely said a word.”

 Jimin pauses and looks Taehyung up and down, his brows knitting together as he stares at him thoughtfully, “although, you never know, he might actually talk to you.”

Taehyung feels warmth flood his face, much to his horror. He didn’t want to think about the implication behind Jimin’s words or why Jungkook would trust him with things he wouldn’t even tell his closest friends. So instead he coughs awkwardly, looking anywhere but at Jimin.

“Um, how did you guys like, you know, snap him out of it?” he asks. He’s not sure why he’s so curious. He tries to tell himself he doesn’t care about Jeon Jungkook or his sad past but he knows that’s a lie. Something saved Jungkook and he wants to, needs to know what.

“Jin didn’t tell you?” Jimin looks mildly surprised.

“Well, he was kinda vague he just said you guys stuck by him but was that it?”

“Well I guess there’s a bit more to it than that. Honestly I’m not entirely sure myself,” Jimin admits with a little laugh, “I mean, I did my best but I have to say it was mostly Yoongi who helped him through it.”

This surprised Taehyung. The thought of the surly Yoongi helping anyone through emotional trauma was slightly absurd. Mostly because Taehyung was pretty sure you needed more emotions than ‘anger’, and ‘slightly less anger’ to do so.

“Yeah we were all surprised,” Jimin chuckles, “I mean here we were, we’d known Jungkook since before he could walk and yet the only one who was able to really get through to him was this nobody from some unheard of little gang. But I guess Yoongi and Jungkook have always kind of gotten each other especially after Yoongi-”

Jimin stops abruptly uncertainty flashing in his eyes. This only peaks Taehyung’s curiosity. What had Seokjin said last night? Yoongi was a special case? Now that he thought about it he had no idea what that meant.

“What did Yoongi do?” he asks leaning in closer and Jimin looks conflicted. He seems to wrestle with himself internally for a few more seconds before sighing.

“Fuck it, I mean it’s going to apply to you soon so you would have found out anyway,” he sighs.

“Apply to me? What?”

“Okay listen, this is actually kinda important,” Jimin says and Taehyung listens so intently he almost forgets to breathe, “So there’s this thing in the mafia, a tradition of sorts where if you save the life of a member of the Jeon family you are automatically accepted into the family, no questions asked. That’s what happened to Yoongi. He was caught up with some low level thugs, minor drug dealers, petty criminals, that kinda shit. Long story short there was an attempt on Kookie’s life and Yoongi saved him and that’s how he became a part of our family.”

“How does this apply to me,” Taehyung asks. He knows of course, he’s not a moron but he needs to hear Jimin say it.

“well I don’t know the exact rules myself but technically you saved Jungkook’s life so there’s a strong possibility he’s going to ask you to join,” Jimin says and Taehyung can hardly believe what he was hearing.

Here he was thinking he could actually just walk away from Jungkook and his endless violence and his stupid war but it turns out he’s more involved than ever. Jimin said Jungkook might ask him but since when did Jeon Jungkook ask for anything?

‘He asked to kiss me in the library,’ a small voice in the back of his head reminds him, ‘but this is a little different now isn’t it?’

“What if I don’t-” he began but was interrupted by the sound of the cell door opening.

“Ah Taehyung you’re alive! And awake! That’s good,” Seokjin says as he steps inside, Hoseok following behind him. He gave Taehyung a bright smile that he automatically returned despite still reeling from all the new information.

“Jimin is that my hunny bun wrapper on the ground?” Seokjin says, his eyes narrowing dangerously and he sounds so much like a scolding mother Taehyung almost laughs. But any little spark of joy instantly dies when a pissed off looking Yoongi walks in and immediately sets his dark eyes on Taehyung.

“What the fuck is he still doing here?” there’s so much venom in Yoongi’s voice Taehyung flinches and beside him Jimin looks shocked.

“Yoongi-” Seokjin says frowning as he turns back to look at him but the short man isn’t listening. 

“Haven’t you already caused enough trouble?” Yoongi demands speaking directly to him now and Taehyung opens his mouth but his brain seems suddenly incapable of forming coherent sentences.

“I didn’t-”

“What? You didn’t mean to?” Yoongi mocks and Taehyung bites his lip, warmth rising in his cheeks. That was exactly what he had been about to say. Fuck.

“All you do is cause problems for Jungkook,” Yoongi seethes and Taehyung wants to shrink back but he’s already backed against the wall.

“Jungkook nearly died last night because of you,” Yoongi hasn’t raised his voice, if anything it’s gotten lower but that’s even worse. His words are filled with hatred and Taehyung just wants to be as far away as possible. He already knows it’s all his fault he doesn’t need a reminder.

“This whole fucking war is your fault too,” Yoongi continues relentless despite Seokjin and Hoseok’s attempts to shush him, “if he hadn’t had to step in and save your pathetic ass then we would be in this mess,”

Pathetic

Taehyung feels nauseous. He knows all this, damn it. He doesn’t need a murderous Yoongi to tell him. He knows he’s useless and nothing but a burden. He has been all his life so why should it be any different in here? Yoongi was right. He and Jungkook can never work. He just isn’t meant to be part of his world and the one and only way they can end is in disaster. They are two asteroids colliding and nothing but fire and rubble is fated to remain.

“Yoongi that’s enough,” Jimin says forcefully moving to stand in front of the furious blond boy, “it’s not Taehyung’s fault. He didn’t ask for this! Jungkook is a big boy and can make his own choices.”

Yoongi’s eyes flash dangerously and he opens his mouth but before he can speak again Taehyung stands.

“It’s okay Jimin,” he says, his voice, to his immense relief doesn’t waver, “I get it, I was just leaving anyway. You do have to worry about me. I don’t care about traditions, I just wanna stay out of your way.”

“But Tae,” Jimin says turning to him and Taehyung forces himself to ignore the hurt in his eyes.

“It’s fine Jimin,” he says and it actually almost sounds like he believes it himself. Almost.

“Tae, your arm,” Seokjin says but Taehyung once again waves him away.

“I’m okay Seokjin. You’ve done enough, thank you. I’ll be okay from now on,” he says and Seokjin looks like he wants to protest but Taehyung is already across the cell and out the door before he even has the chance. He can feel Yoongi's eyes burning into his back the whole way. 

“Bye guys, thanks for everything and I’m sorry for all the shit I caused,” he says with a quick wave with his good hand and without pausing he walks out letting the cell door slam behind him.

Taehyung only has a vague idea how to get back to his cell so he lets his feet carry him, not paying attention to his surroundings. He just wants to go back to the way things were, when they were simple. Now everything was so fucking complicated, so dangerous. How had this happened. Wonho had warned him is first day not to get involved with Jungkook but did he listen? No and now look at him.

He is so wrapped up in his own thoughts, not looking where he’s going that he crashes head first into a firm chest. He curses himself as he stumbles back. The last thing he needs now is to start a fight especially considering his crippled condition. He’s busy deciding whether he should stay and hope whoever he bumped into is feeling merciful or if he should just run and hope they’re not fast, when a familiar voice speaks.

“Taehyung?”

Taehyung’s head snaps up and his eyes meet Jungkook’s and suddenly he’s frozen. All thoughts abandon him and he’s left gaping at the other boy, who he notes distantly, looks equally surprised. No, he’s not ready for this, he’s so unprepared. So much has happened, so much as changed. He knows this meeting is inevitable but he’s not ready to face Jungkook now.

Jungkook’s eyes seem to take him all in, from the bandage around his head to the splint holding his broken bone in place and his expression is so filled with concern Taehyung almost doesn’t recognise it. He tries to remember if anyone has ever looked at him like that.

“Taehyung are you okay? Your arm-” Jungkook begins but Taehyung cuts him off. Fuck pity, fuck concern and fuck Jungkook. He can’t deal with this now.

“I’m sorry, I can’t,” he says and tries to brush past Jungkook. He almost makes it when a hand wraps around his uninjured wrist holding him in place. He stops and closes his eyes, feeling so exhausted. Of course Jungkook could never just make this easy.

“Taehyung wait,” Jungkook says and if Taehyung didn’t know better he might have said the other boy was pleading with him. His heart clenches and Taehyung isn’t sure how much more he can take.

“Jungkook,” he says and this time his voice does wobble but he doesn’t even care anymore, “let go.”

There’s a pause and it’s so heavy Taehyung feels like he’s being crushed. There so much unsaid between them. A life time’s worth of secrets and pain and conversations and Taehyung knows it’s still inevitable. As destructive as it may be they’ll cross paths again. Someday, but not today. Not if Taehyung can help it. Sure Jungkook could probably make him stay if he wanted to but Taehyung likes to think he has a little more respect for him that that. A lump has formed in his throat and he prays to a god he never really believed in that he doesn’t cry in front of Jungkook.

“I just, I can’t deal with this right now,” he whispers.

He’s greeted with silence then, without a word, Jungkook lets go.

Chapter Text

As Yoongi watches Taehyung scamper out of the cell like a startled rabbit as fast as his legs will carry him he hopes it’s the last he’s ever going to see of the boy but he knows better.

He just fucking knows, call it intuition but he can even feel it in his damn bones. He is going to see more of Kim Taehyung, a lot more if the look in Jungkook’s eye whenever he was near was anything to go by.

Yoongi doesn’t hate the kid, really he doesn’t. If anything, he respects the brat. His spirit, the fight in him, his refusal to be pushed around, all these are qualities Yoongi values dearly.

 He remembers so clearly that day in the bathroom when Hoseok had Taehyung pinned to the filthy toilet floor as Jungkook toyed with him like a grinning cat batting around a helpless mouse. Most grown men would have been in tears, trembling, if Jungkook spoke to them like that but not Taehyung. The kid had just stared back and told Jungkook to stick the broom up his ass. Not a lot impressed Yoongi but he had to admit he had felt a begrudging admiration for the boy at that. Of course that wouldn’t have stopped him from breaking his neck if Jungkook had taken offense.

But Jungkook respects bravery too and Yoongi knows it’s a large part of why their leader obsesses over Taehyung. For as long as Yoongi has known him Jungkook has always been very clear about what he wants. And what he wants Jungkook gets. Jungkook never loses interest or gives up. Once he set his mind to something, he won’t stop until he is satisfied. Nothing Jungkook did was ever half assed. With him it was always all or nothing. It was exhausting and frustrating at times but that was just the way his leader was and it was Yoongi’s job to make sure he didn’t get himself killed in the process of getting what he wants.

So while he didn’t hate Taehyung that didn’t mean he felt much love for him either.  He wasn’t family and what’s worse he was putting Yoongi’s family in danger. He values these five lives more than anything else in the entire world and any threat to them just would not be tolerated no matter how big or sad their brown eyes looked when he yelled at them. It didn’t matter that Taehyung hadn’t meant to or that it could be argued none of this was even really his fault. All that mattered was that it had happened and it had happened because of him.

The unavoidable, undeniable fact of the matter was that Taehyung was a danger to Jungkook and, by extension, to them all. And the worst part of it all was he didn’t even know how much of a threat he was. This boy could ruin Jungkook and not even realise what he had done. The amount of power he had over him was truly terrifying.

“Jungkook is not going to be happy about this,” Seokjin says breaking Yoongi out of his thoughts, a frown creasing his face and Yoongi glowers.

‘You mean you aren’t happy,’ he thinks bitterly but keeps his mouth shut.

Another thing about Taehyung that couldn’t be denied was how fucking charming he was, seemingly without any effort. They would never admit it but Jungkook wasn’t the only one smitten with Taehyung. Of course no one else loved him to the extend Jungkook appeared to but Yoongi could see it in their eyes. They actually cared about Taehyung. They worried about him and not just because Jungkook throws a bitch fit every time Taehyung shows up sporting new bruises. Jimin and Hoseok already treat him like a friend, Seokjin dotes on him and Namjoon smiles proudly whenever he beats the shit out of whatever creep was trying to grope him. And Jungkook was just fucking head over heels.

Yoongi well… he liked the kid well enough but that doesn’t change the fact he’s a realist and he refuses to let his emotions cloud his judgement. Taehyung is an outsider and a fucking troublesome one at that. The others might be ready and willing to accept him with open arms but Yoongi wasn’t. No way in hell. The fact of the matter was that they knew nothing about Kim Taehyung. They didn’t even know why he was in here. Life with no chance of parole was a serious thing and a sealed record on top of that? No matter how nice the kid seemed Yoongi just could not, would not trust him.

No fucking way.

“It’s true,” he says. He’s no longer glaring, the initial anger at seeing that outsider sitting in here liked he actually belonged had died down and he just feels tired. Things were going to get so much more complicated. A storm was coming and they needed to be ready to weather it. as it were Taehyung was an anchor weighing them down.

“It’s for the best,” he adds.

They might not see it now but in time they will.

“You don’t know that, Yoongi,” Jimin says and Yoongi can tell he’s annoyed.

That was always the kid’s problem. Despite growing up in such a cutthroat world he still had such a kind heart. Sometimes Yoongi wonders what Jimin could have been if he hadn’t been born into a world that dealt in death and suffering. He has the saddest feeling that Jimin could have been someone wonderful.

“Yes I do,” he says firmly and Jimin opens his mouth as if to argue but before he can speak the door to the cell opens and there stands Jungkook, shoulders hunched, head down.

“What did you say to him?” he asks looking up and to Yoongi’s immense surprise Jungkook doesn’t seem angry. His voice is level and his face is calm. For one terrifying moment images of a much younger Jungkook flash through his mind, expressionless with eyes as dull and empty as glass marbles.

But while his face is stoic Yoongi sees the pain glittering in his eyes and he realises the lack of expression is because Jungkook would rather die than wear his hurt on his face. Even if he couldn’t hide it in his eyes.

He must have seen Taehyung and the other boy wasn’t with him so that must mean something had happened between them. Something that actually hurt Jungkook. He had meant it when he told Jimin it was for the best but for the first time since Taehyung left Yoongi wonders if he is actually right.

“The truth,” he says pushing aside his doubts. Yes it hurt now but Jungkook would get over it. He was strong and Yoongi had watched him overcome heartbreak and tragedy before. It was definitely for the best. “He doesn’t belong.”

“You had no right!” Jungkook snaps suddenly like a vicious dog, his temper flaring but Yoongi doesn’t back down. It’s not like he isn’t used to Jungkook’s anger rearing its ugly head. Seokjin, Jimin and Hoseok are silent as they watch the exchange and Yoongi suspects they’re all still annoyed at how he treated Taehyung. The air was suddenly tense. No one moved but Yoongi knew they would if Jungkook really lost his temper. That rarely happened but no one knew how Jungkook would react to anything involving Taehyung. That kid made him so damn unpredictable.

“I am in charge Yoongi! Not you! This is my gang and you do what I say,” Jungkook says through gritted teeth as he takes a step forward.

“I know that and I respect that,” Yoongi says keeping his voice steady, “but with all due respect Jungkook, you don’t always know what’s best. For us or for yourself.”

“What the fuck gives you the right to make that call?” Jungkook seethes, storming closer, all simmering rage and sparking temper like lightening about to strike. “Remember your place, Min.”

Jungkook’s voice is so low and dangerous and the use of his surname is a slap to the face. He would never raise a hand to Jungkook unless he didn’t have a choice. It hurt but Yoongi had to remove his feelings from this, unlike Jungkook he would not let his emotions control him. Jungkook was hurting and a hurting Jungkook was an angry Jungkook. If Yoongi had learned one thing over the years by Jungkook’s side is that he had to be patient with the boy. Jungkook was a good kid and no matter how far he strayed from his true self Yoongi would always wait for him no matter what.

“I know my place well, Jungkook,” he says taking deep breaths before meeting Jungkook’s blazing eyes, “and it’s keeping you safe from pretty boys who have you wrapped around their little finger!”

“You don’t know a thing about Taehyung,” Jungkook snarls as he surges forward to grab Yoongi by the collar. Seokjin and Hoseok make to move but a subtle shake of the head from Yoongi stops them. Jimin watches with careful eyes from the bed. The tension grows impossibly thick as no one moves.

“But I do know you Jungkook,” Yoongi says. It’s times like these when he’s reminded how much bigger than him Jungkook is, how strong the hard muscles of his arms are and how quick he is to use that strength when he’s mad, “and I can see that you are so far gone right now you don’t even realise it. Jungkook, he makes you weak. How do you really think this thing between you two can end? It’s best for both of you if you stop it now before things can spiral anymore out of control.”

“You don’t know-” Jungkook starts but Yoongi has had enough. It was so difficult to make Jungkook see when the boy was so damn set on being blind.

“No Jungkook, you’re the one who doesn’t know. He has so much power over you.” he doesn’t mean to but his voice rises as he pushes back against Jungkook’s hold on him, confusion momentarily flashing through the younger boy’s dark eyes, “How far are you willing to go for him? Are you willing to risk everything just for him? What about us, Jungkook?”

Jungkook opened his mouth and closed it again, eyes burning so many complicated emotions joining the anger creating chaos but he says nothing.

“He is not your family Jungkook,” Yoongi says softly, his voice oddly loud in the quite of the cell, “we are. Remember that.”

He meets Jungkook’s eyes. There are no more words left, nothing more he can say to get his point across. He pleads with Jungkook through his eyes hoping he understands. Jungkook is breathing heavily, his jaw set, his eyes still furious and conflicted but he stays silent and Yoongi hopes, prays that Jungkook is considering what he’s said. The silence stretches on and on.

“Jungkook…” Hoseok begins disturbing the tense quiet but Jungkook just shakes his head.

“You had no right,” he says to Yoongi ignoring Hoseok as if he hadn’t spoken.

Before Yoongi can open his mouth Jungkook turns and stomps out. Yoongi sighs as he watches Jungkook’s retreating back. It looks bad, like Jungkook hasn’t taken a single thing he’s said on board. But Jungkook might be as stubborn as a fucking mule but Yoongi knows he cares about his family and would do anything to protect them. 

Jimin gets up, casts one more look that Yoongi can’t decipher in his direction before leaving, presumably to find the sulking Jungkook. Yoongi might have been the best at weathering the storm of Jungkook’s anger but Jimin was the best at picking up the pieces in the aftermath.

“Well that went well,” Seokjin says with a sigh and Hoseok lets out a little humourless laugh.

“Could have gone worse,” he points out and Seokjin rolls his eyes.

“Taehyung isn’t as bad as you think,” he says, “he’s a good kid.”

“Good kids don’t get locked up for life,” Yoongi insists and neither Hoseok nor Seokjin seem to have an answer for that. Hoseok shakes his head, stretching his long arms out in front of him until his joints pop.

“So what are we going to do now?” he asks his voice flippant as eyes but his dark eyes were serious.

Yoongi shrugs. While he knows Jungkook is determined and gets what he wants, the kid has never actually wanted another person before. Usually his gaols were confined to the family business, how to expands their empire, get rid of his enemies, impress his father, that kind of thing. In all the years he’s known Jungkook he’s never known the younger boy to fixate on a person like this. This was a first.

“I have no fucking idea.”

~

Taehyung can still feel the warmth of Jungkook’s strong grip around his wrist even as he puts more and more distance between them, refusing to look back.

As he staggers towards his cell his head is spinning with a tumultuous riot of conflicting thoughts, each one competing to be heard over the other creating nothing but noise. 

He hadn’t expected Jungkook to actually let him go. He knows he should be happy, after all it’s what he wanted, what he asked for and yet…

No, this is what he wants. He needs time away from Jungkook. He needs space to breathe and get his head together and sort the tangled mess of his emotions out. He can’t even think around Jungkook, this is most definitely for the best.

So why does his heart ache?

The thoughts of Jungkook are the loudest. Images of his dark eyes, alive with worry as he looked at him plague his mind. The sound of the boy’s voice rings in his ears, asking if he was okay.  The fact that Jungkook cares about him is something Taehyung’s not at all sure about how to deal. Uncertainty and endless questions repeat in his head. Doubts swirl like blood in water and Taehyung feels dizzy.

Does Jungkook only care about his body because he wants to fuck it? Or does he genuinely care about him? If so, why? Why the fuck did someone like Jeon Jungkook give a single shit about someone like him? No one else does.

‘You know why,’ a voice whispers but he ignores it.

He’s so caught up in all the noise in his head he doesn’t even realise he’s surrounded by four men until it’s too late.

Strong arms grip his biceps painfully and he’s dragged aside and shoved hard up against a wall. He opens his mouth to cry out but his injured arm jars against the concrete and he has to bite his tongue to stop himself from screaming in pain. The men around him laugh and it’s such an ugly sound. Hatred bubbles up in Taehyung’s gut.

A rough hand grabs his face, wrenching it up until he’s forced to look into the face of yet another menacing inmate leering at him, blatant hunger in his small beady eyes. His smile is crooked and his breath stinks as it washes over Taehyung’s face. He can’t make out the no doubt vulgar words that spill from his lips as the ringing in his ears gets louder and he remembers Jimin saying something about a concussion. Not that it matters, it’s not like he hasn’t heard it all a thousand times before. There’s only so many variations of the sentiment ‘I’m going to fuck you right now whether you like it or not.’

Taehyung’s heart beats like a panicking bird in his chest and fear tingles through him. He’s wounded and that makes him weak. Normally he wouldn’t hesitate to fight these assholes right here and right now but he knows that if there’s a fight he’s going to lose. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. A tiny part of him wants Jungkook to swoop in and save him and he hates that part of him.

Pathetic

Now is no time for fear, he has to find a way to get away from these men. His eyes dart around trying to see beyond them but their burly shoulders block his view completely. He’s completely on his own. No one is going to save him.

But what else is new.

“What’s this little kitten doing wandering all alone?” the man sneers, blunt fingernails digging painfully into his cheeks and Taehyung glares, “Finally got away from Jeon huh? Don’t worry I can fuck you better than he can.”

More ugly laughed at this and Taehyung’s skin crawls, burning where the man’s fingers touch. The look on his face only makes the horrible man laugh more.

“What’s wrong baby-” he begins but stops abruptly as Taehyung spits, a large glob of his saliva landing right on the man’s cheek. Taehyung only has a second to feel smug as he watches realisation quickly followed by horror and anger flash across the man’s face.

The man raises his hand no doubt to strike him but Taehyung doesn’t give him a chance to land ducking under his arms and sprinting like his life depended on it, because honestly it kinda did. When fight isn’t an option the only choice left if flight.

Taehyung’s fast and he’s spent a lot of time running but his head is still spinning. He stumbles and that pause is apparently all his attackers need. Someone pounces and suddenly his legs fly out from underneath him as he’s tackled to the ground.

He should be thankful he doesn’t land on his wounded arm but it’s difficult to be grateful when he air is forced out of his lungs but a two hundred pound man on his back. He tries to struggle but the man only forces his face farther into the ground.

The man above him is angry as he grunts furiously but Taehyung isn’t listening. His mind is going into overdrive; the only intelligible thought was that of escape.

‘I need to get away,’ he thinks even as meaty hands wrap around his throat and begin to squeeze.

He can’t breathe and in that moment, that terrifying helpless moment, Taehyung knows for certain he doesn’t want to die. Not yet. And not like this.

Jungkook-

The hands around his throat get tighter and the world around him is dimming. Taehyung wants to continue to fight back but it feels like he’s drowning, everything floating away.

Suddenly the weight lifts and air rushed back into his starved lungs. He gasps still sprawled on the floor dazed as the world comes back into focus. He scrabbles to his feet turning to see who rescued him.

Taehyung would have been lying if he said at least part of him didn’t expect to see Jungkook standing there, the man bloodied and groaning in pain by his feet. He would also be lying if he said he wasn’t a little disappointed to see, not Jungkook, but Namjoon standing there instead.

Taehyung had never seen Namjoon properly fight before and honestly it’s actually pretty impressive. Not as impressive as Jungkook but an image of Kang, bloody and broken with his face caved in flashes into his mind and Taehyung is suddenly grateful Namjoon isn’t like Jungkook.

He watches silently as Namjoon sends his attacker crashing to the ground with a single powerful punch. The older boy looks up and their eyes lock for a second. Taehyung stares into Namjoon’s dark eyes and can’t think of a single thing to say. He should thank him but the words stick in his throat. His feet shuffle nervously desperate just to get away but he feels pinned under Namjoon’s intense gaze.

Namjoon nods, seeming to understand despite Taehyung’s silence. It was the slightest inclination of his head but it’s enough for Taehyung. He nods quickly back, bending into a hurried jerky bow before turning and sprinting, leaving Namjoon to do whatever he wants to the men who attack Taehyung.

He keeps his head down and runs. He runs and runs and doesn’t stop until he reaches his cell. He lets out a relieved sigh and tries not to think too hard about how he’s come to associate a prison cell with not only safely but a sense of home. Tried not to think too hard because that was just another item on the ever growing list of reasons why he is probably totally fucked in the head.

The door opens and he slips into the darkness of their cell. The lights are off but he can still make out the motionless shape of Wonho stretched out on his lower bunk. It reminds him momentarily of when he first stepped foot in this cell almost five months ago to find Wonho in almost the exact same position. A bizarre sense of nostalgia washes over him. He must be exhausted because if there was one thing Taehyung wasn’t it was nostalgic. There just simply weren’t enough good things in his past worth getting sentimental over. And the things that he did miss he really couldn’t bear to think about.

He crosses the cell in silence so as not to wake the slumbering figure and he has every intention of sneaking unheard into his own bunk. But as he nears Wonho something causes him to pause. In his sleep Wonho looked peaceful and unguarded in a way that he never was awake.

The sense of nostalgia grew and before he knew it Taehyung’s lower lip was trembling and his vision blurred with tears. He was so fucking tired but more than that he needed to be with someone now. The thought of climbing into his bunk, alone, to face his own thoughts was intolerable, like jumping into a frozen lake with weights strapped around his ankles.

When he and his sister were young they used to always climb into their mother’s bed and cuddle with her. It was a source of warmth in that cold world, a small haven of comfort. Or at least it had been before his mother up and left taking almost all of their money with her plunging Taehyung even deeper into the hell that was his life.

When she left she took all the warmth and comfort with her. It had been devastating but Taehyung had learned to live without it. He didn’t need anyone else, he didn’t want anyone. That was what he told himself. He had become strong because he didn’t have any other choice. His thick skin didn’t come from nowhere.

But now he did need someone, as strange as it felt to admit that, he really fucking did.

“Wonho,” he whispers in the dark before his traitorous mind could conjure up images of a certain someone else.

The lump on the bunk starts at the sound of his voice and Wonho bolts upright, peaceful expression gone as his sharp eyes scan the darkness looking for a threat.

“Taehyung?” he asks as his eyes fix on him, sounding surprised and a little groggy, “is that really you?”

“Yeah it’s me,” Taehyung says and does his very best to muster up some semblance of a smile. Even in the darkness he can see Wonho’s eyes take him in, noticing every bandage and bruise.

“Are you alright Tae?” he asks, concern lacing his usually nonchalant tone and Taehyung is taken aback, “You look like hell, what the fuck happened?”

Taehyung wasn’t sure how he looked but he certainly felt like he had just been through hell. He opens his mouth and closes it, fidgeting with his splint. He wants to crawl into Wonho’s bunk and tell him everything but he doesn’t. They’ve grown close but there are still lines and boundaries Taehyung’s not sure he can cross yet.

Wonho must sense his uncertainty as he narrows his eyes at Taehyung’s silence. Taehyung bites his lips as the silence drags on.        

“Wonho can I-” he can’t think of what to say so he just gestures towards the bed and hopes the other boy gets it. Amazingly Wonho seems to as he pulls his blanket up and shuffles back making room, a clear invitation if Taehyung’s ever seen one. He can feel a weight being lifted even if it’s only a little bit.

He doesn’t hesitate to slide in next to Wonho, careful not to jostle his wounded arm as he settles down. Heat radiates off Wonho and Taehyung just wants to lay there and absorb it all. His head hits the pillow and fatigue engulfs him.

“Hey Taehyung,” at the sound of Wonho’s voice Taehyung cracks his eyes open. The other boy’s face is only an inch or two from his, intense eyes boring into him. “Did Jungkook do this?”

“Of course not,” Taehyung whispers, “Jungkook would ever hurt me.”

But even as he speaks Taehyung can feel the ghost of Jungkook’s hand around his throat. He swallows trying to ignore the sensation.

“What the hell happened, Taehyung?” Wonho asks and there’s so much worry in his voice Taehyung feels instantly guilty, “I was so worried about you.”

The words seem to surprise both of them, Wonho’s eyes widening before he lets out a little, disbelieving laugh.

“You know something,” he says, arm coming up to rest on Taehyung’s side, its warm weight reassuring, “I never thought going into this place that I’d actually care about anyone else. When I first saw you I thought for sure you’d be gone in a week. But here you are and here we are. You made me care about you Kim Taehyung, you little shit.”

Taehyung laughs and feels a little like crying. It’s not sadness exactly but a type of overwhelming tiredness mixed with every other emotion he was feeling right now, good and bad.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles, “I didn’t mean for that to happen.”

“Nah, ‘snot your fault kid,” Wonho says with an affectionate smile, “besides what did I tell you about saying sorry for things that aren’t your fault?”

Taehyung almost apologises again but catches himself in time.

They lay there in comfortable silence and Taehyung remembers how much he missed having another body next to him, the sound of a steady heart beat in time with his own coupled with slow, even breathing lulling him into a state of calm he hasn’t felt in a long, long time.

Even then his mind couldn’t leave thoughts of Jungkook alone as part of him wondered what it would be like to lie next to the other boy. Would he be warm like this? Would he smell nice? Could Jungkook ever bring him this feeling of home?

“Taehyung?”

“Yeah?” he’s tired and he remembers reading somewhere that people are more honest when their tired and that should really scare him but he trusts Wonho.

“What happened to you?” he asks, tone still serious, “You were gone for so long, Mr Lee even came looking for you, asking if you were with Jungkook.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I told him the truth, that I had no clue where you had disappeared to.” A gain guilt swirls in his stomach. He supposes he owes it to Wonho to tell him what happened. Besides hadn’t he wanted to get this off his chest? Who better to talk to than Wonho? After all the only other people he could tentatively call his friends were Jungkook’s gang (well, all of them except for Yoongi of course) and he couldn’t very well explain these feeling to them now could he?  

Maybe there was something to the whole ‘more honest when tired thing’ because even as his eyes drooped sleepily Taehyung found himself retelling everything that had happened to him, from the moment he stepped out of the library until now. He hadn’t meant to go so far but it was like a dam had burst and once he had started he could stop. The floodgates were open and the words just poured out of him.

He told Wonho of the plot to kill Jungkook and how he’d raced to find the boy to warn him. He told him of the war that was unfolding around him and how he was somehow stuck in the middle. He told him everything and Wonho listened, occasionally nodding but never interrupting, just letting Taehyung spill all his worries and fears in a way he never imaged he ever would.

He gets to the part were Jungkook loses control and falters, Wonho notices because of course he does and brings a hand up to run it comfortingly through his hair.

“It’s okay Tae,” he says, “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

But that’s the thing. Taehyung does want to tell him he just can’t find the right words to describe the sort of fear he felt and still feels to a certain extent. He knows, or at least he thinks he knows that Jungkook would never actually hurt him. That if the others hadn’t arrived Jungkook wouldn’t have really choked him. But all of that doesn’t change the fact that every time he closes his eyes he can still see Jungkook beating Kang with that pipe until the only twitching is from the force of the blows. Now every time he thinks of Jungkook he sees violence.

“You should have seen what he did to that man,” Taehyung whispers his voice faint as he shakes his head, “I’ve never seen anything like it he just went berserk.”

“I’ve heard the rumours, people are terrified,” Wonho says, “apparently they had to use documented tattoos and denial records to identify him.”

“Tattoos maybe but I’m pretty sure you need teeth to be identified by your dental records,” Taehyung says as the memory of a white tooth, covered in blood skittered across the floor.

“I just don’t understand it, Wonho, it was like Jungkook just lost it, I was- I was scared,” he admits and Wonho hums hand still combing through his hair and Taehyung has to restrain himself from leaning into the touch.

“This was after you acted like a total moron trying to save that brat and after that guy broke your arm right?” Wonho asks and Taehyung nods his eyes sliding shut.

“Yeah, so?”

“Well fuck,” Wonho sighs and Taehyung opens his eyes to look at him.

“What is it?”

“I can’t believe I’m about to say this,” Wonho says indeed looking a little pained, “but I can, well, I can kind of see where Jungkook is coming from.”

“What?”

Wonho sighs again, “Remember I told you that on the outside there’s this kid I miss?”

“Yeah,”

“Well I, I guess you could say he means a lot to me,” Wonho admits, the faintest blush rising to his cheeks and Taehyung realises somewhere in the back of his mind that this is precious information Wonho is choosing to share with him, “so if someone so much as laid a finger on him, let alone broke his arm, then well, I don’t know if I’d go as far as Jeon but I can promise you it wouldn’t be pretty.”

“You mean,” Taehyung feels stunned, of course he always kind of knew this deep down but to hear it from Wonho, who was not only someone who wasn’t a member of Jungkook’s gang but also someone who seemed to actively dislike Jungkook, really helped it sink in, “You mean Jungkook did it for me?”

“To protect you yeah,” Wonho says, “but don’t get me wrong that don’t mean your relationship or whatever is a bed of roses, I still don’t trust that kid, but it’s true that we do the ugliest things for the ones we love.”

We do the ugliest things for the ones we love.

Taehyung remembers that day, gunshots ringing in his ears redness soaking into the world beautiful and hideous at the same time. Why had he done what he did? For his sister of course. Those men had to die because he loved her so much.

What Jungkook had done, maybe the reason it scared him so much was because Taehyung saw parts of himself in that violence. That rage a familiar one that lived somewhere within him.

Taehyung knew what it felt like to be willing to die for the ones you loved and even more so what it felt like to kill for them.

Fuck. What was he going to do now?

“Wonho?” he can’t bring himself to think of all these things now. Maybe tomorrow he’ll attempt to sort them out but right now he wants nothing more than to drift off to sleep, “Tell me about that guy on the outside, please.”

He knows he shouldn’t ask, that Wonho’s probably told him everything he was willing to tell but his weary brain no longer cares about etiquette or boundaries.

Wonho is quiet for a minute and Taehyung isn’t surprised, he just hopes he hasn’t offended him too badly. He was about to give up and let himself drift off to sleep when Wonho speaks again.

“His name is Minhyuk,” he begins, and Taehyung closes his eyes for the last time, letting Wonho’s voice sooth him, “and he has the greatest laugh you’ve ever heard. He’s a bit of an idiot at times but his smile is like sunshine-”

Sleep comes slowly and the last thing Taehyung remembers before he falls asleep is wondering if someday, someone might ever love him that much.

Chapter Text

Jungkook hated walking away from anything but he knew if he didn’t leave the cell that second he was going to punch Yoongi in the face right there and then. Every word out of the older boys mouth only made him madder and as the rage built the urge to knock his teeth out increased.  With difficulty he had restrained himself and forced his feet to carry him away from his friends.

Jungkook normally highly respected Yoongi’s opinion. Yoongi was calm and level headed and had natural intuition like no one Jungkook had ever known. He might not have been born into a mafia family like the rest of them but he knew how to read people better than anyone and had adapted quicker than Jungkook would have ever believed possible. He was rarely wrong but Jungkook knew in his heart that he was wrong about Taehyung.

Yoongi simply didn’t know Taehyung like Jungkook did. No one knew Taehyung like he did. How could they? Taehyung was special, Taehyung was his. How could Yoongi possibly understand that?

The anger turning in his stomach was joined by other emotions, worse ones. Fear and doubt and uncertainty crept in. The look on Taehyung’s face when he had run into him in the hall flashed through his mind. The tremble in his voice when he told him to let go causing his heart to clench painfully. As much as it pained him to acknowledge it or even think about it, he could not deny the fact that Taehyung was afraid of him.

Jungkook usually has exemplarily self-control but in that moment with Taehyung’s hurt eyes burning into his brain that perfect self-restraint slipped and without thinking Jungkook punches the nearest wall as hard as he could. Pain instantly shot up his arm and it hurt like a fucking bitch.

 “Fuck,” he screamed the word tearing from his throat raw and broken as his knuckles throbbed painfully, “motherfuckering fuck.”

“What did the wall ever do to you?”   

Jungkook grits his teeth not looking up as the sound of Jimin’s footsteps approached him.

“Not the wall I really want to punch,” he hisses.

“You know he had good intentions,” Jimin says softly and Jungkook allows him to take his hand to inspect the red swelling knuckles, “it might be harsh but he means well. Yoongi would never hurt you unless he thought he had to.”

“I don’t give a fuck if he hurts me. It’s him hurting Tae that’s crossing the line, fuck,” he finishes with a curse as Jimin presses down on his injured knuckles.

“Did that hurt?” Jimin asks.

“Of fucking course it fucking hurt,”

Everything hurts and Jungkook is so fucking angry about it. He wants to lash out at everyone and everything and the struggle of holding himself together is getting harder and harder. He feels like he’s going to explode at any second.

“Stop clenching your hand, Jungkook,” Jimin says, kind up firm, still holding his hand, “you’re only going to make it worse.”

With great effort Jungkook forces himself to relax a fraction, uncurling his tightly clenched fist, hissing at the pain. Faint crescent moons had been imprinted in his palms where his nails had dug too deep.

“Fuck,” he says this time quietly and he’s not even sure what he’s angry about anymore. He feels like he’s angry at everything and it’s tearing him up inside.

“Well you’re lucky,” Jimin says with a small smile, “nothing’s broken, but I would recommend not getting into anymore fistfights with walls, ‘kay?”

“Funny as always, Jimin,” Jungkook says in a totally humourless voice because nothing was funny anymore, “so fucking funny I forgot to laugh.”

“Look Jungkook,” Jimin sighs releasing Jungkook’s hand, “I know you’re pissed at Yoongi and don’t get me wrong I think he was too harsh on Taehyung too but that doesn’t change the fact he has some good points.”

“Good points? Good points!? Jimin what the fuck? He straight up told Taehyung he doesn’t belong with us?” Jungkook seethes and Jimin closes his eyes like he can feel a headache coming on. “How is that okay? He had no right to say that to my Taehyung!”

Jimin’s eyes snap open and he cuts Jungkook off, “My Taehyung? My Taehyung!? Jungkook do you even hear yourself? This is exactly what Yoongi was talking about!”

Jungkook paused, stunned by what he was hearing.

“Not you too Jimin. I expect this from Yoongi, he’s always been like this but I didn’t expect this from you! You are supposed to understand me,” Jungkook’s voice trails off and suddenly he feels like he wants to cry. What the fuck?

Anger he could deal with, anger was easy you just unleashed it but sadness? What the actual ever loving fuck do you do with sadness? Fuck, Jungkook hated sadness.

“I do understand you Jungkook! I love you and I care about you but that doesn’t mean I don’t see the other side!” Jimin exclaims doing that thing he does when he yells where he tries to make himself look bigger than he is by squaring his shoulders, “I understand that you care about Taehyung, hell I do too, but I also know that’s dangerous. Like it or not Jungkook Yoongi’s right. Don’t try and say you think clearly around Taehyung because we both know that’s a lie besides like it or not Taehyung isn’t part of our family-”

“Not yet.”

Jimin pauses opening his mouth then closing it, eyes wide with shock as he gapes at Jungkook.

“Jungkook, I didn’t think-”

“This is happening, Jimin,” Jungkook says firmly. He’s never been more sure of anything in his entire life. Taehyung will be part of his family. Taehyung will be his.

“So you’ve asked him?”

“What?”

Jimin closes his eyes his brows furrowed as he massaged his temples.

“I said have. You. Asked. Him. Jungkook?” Jimin’s eyes are blazing when he opens them and for a second Jungkook is taken aback. 

“Wha- I, well, no I haven’t,” Jungkook says confusion blossoming, “and I don’t need to. What’s the big deal Jimin? He saved my life he’s part of the family that’s how it works.”

“Jungkook you’re a moron you know that right? That’s how it works with us, sure, but that’s not how it works with Taehyung,” if Jungkook didn’t know better he’d say Jimin was really pissed off with him.

“Jimin I don’t understand. Don’t you want Tae to be part of our family?” he asks hating not knowing what was going on, not being in control.

“That’s not the point Jungkook and you know it! And if you don’t know it then you don’t know Taehyung as well as I thought you did.”

“Jimin what are you talking about?” Jungkook felt the anger rise again. How dare Jimin say he didn’t know Taehyung? It might be tradition that once you save a member of the family you were automatically accepted but Jungkook didn’t just take anyone in. Only people Jungkook trusted could be one of them, tradition be damned.

“I’m talking about how if you think you can go up to Kim Taehyung and tell him he’s part of this family that’s not going to sit well. You can’t tell Taehyung anything. The harder you push the more you hurt him,” Jimin says and Jungkook feels like he’s just been punched in the chest by a sledgehammer.

“He has to join, Jimin,” he says. He feels weak and pathetic and horribly vulnerable. He loved and trusted Jimin but that didn’t mean he liked showing weakness to him, “he has to because- because I- I need him.”

There a silence so heavy Jungkook can’t breathe. Jimin looks shocked and Jungkook can hardly blame him. He hardly believes it himself.

Jimin closes his eyes and takes a deep breath like he’s trying to collect himself and Jungkook gets it. Jimin isn’t the only one who feels like he’s being scattered.

“You have to ask him Jungkook, not tell him,” Jimin says looking Jungkook deep in the eyes, “You have to let him decide. That’s all you can do. You also need to give him time, don’t go chasing after him right now.”

Jungkook swallows the lump in his throat and it’s painful, “Jimin, what if he refuses?”

Only after he says it out loud does Jungkook realise how scared shitless he is of the answer.

Jimin is his best friend and he knows Jimin would never ever lie to him.

“I don’t know Jungkook,” Jimin says placing a reassuring hand on Jungkook’s shoulder and Jungkook is grateful to have him in his life, “but that’s his decision, not yours.”

~

The bathroom was dark and cold and Taehyung is alone.

The distinct smell of blood hangs in the air.

His breath mists in front of his face and he never realised prison bathrooms could be so cold. He’s shaking and when he looks down at his hands even in the darkness he can see his fingers are turning blue.

“You’re trembling Tae,” Taehyung looks up at the sound of Jungkook’s voice. He had been alone seconds ago but here was Jungkook crouching before him.

The aroma of blood intensifies.

Despite all that had happened between them Taehyung’s heart stutters.

“Jungkook,” he whispers, his voice rough like he hasn’t spoken in days. His hands are shaking.

“Here let me,” Jungkook says as he takes his hands but Jungkook’s cold too. Taehyung pulls away and when he looks down his hands are no longer blue, they’re red.

He looks up and this time he sees Jungkook is covered in blood and the stink of it is now overpowering. His face, his hands, his clothes, all red and Taehyung can’t think straight as the beautiful colour fills his vision until it’s all he can see. Jungkook has never looked so beautiful, it’s intoxicating.

He can’t tell if it’s Jungkook’s blood or someone else but he doesn’t care.

“Jungkook,” he says again, the breath hitching in his throat. His tongue darts out to wet his lips. He knows it’s wrong but the sight of Jungkook coated in red is causing heat to pool in his stomach.

Jungkook’s eyes are burning with the same fire and Taehyung feels breathless under his intense gaze. When Jungkook reaches out a blood-stained hand to caress his face Taehyung doesn’t flinch away even when warm blood paints his face. In fact he leans into the touch and lets Jungkook paint him red too.

He leans in as their lips collide and he tastes blood on Jungkook’s tongue, the bitter metallic tang filling his mouth. Everywhere Jungkook touches is covered in blood but Taehyung doesn’t mind in fact he loves it. Jungkook’s hand trails up his stomach leaving blood in its wake.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung groans as Jungkook licks a strip down the side of his neck, tremors tingling up his spine and he shudders but this time it’s not the cold. He gasps as he feels the first hint of teeth on his jugular. Jungkook’s bloody hand is carding through his hair pulling his head back and caking more blood onto his scalp. It feels so good, that is, until Jungkook bites down. Hard.

He opens his mouth to scream but the sound dies and Jungkook sinks his teeth into his flesh leaving him gasping in pain. Blood gushes as Jungkook rips a strip of skin off his neck slowly. More and more blood covers Jungkook’s face but he doesn’t flinch. The intense look never leaves his dark eyes even as he tears Taehyung’s skin away with his teeth.

“J-Jungkook stop!” his voice breaks as pain bursts into life where Jungkook bit him, “That hurts,”

Tears stream down his face mixing with the blood that he now realises is his blood. All of it, it’s all his. Jungkook is covered in Taehyung’s blood and terror creeps under his skin. Jungkook is no longer beautiful, he’s monstrous.

He tries to scream again but Jungkook moves lower to bite his chest, this time even harder, taking a large chunk of his flesh. There’s more and more blood. So much that Taehyung is choking on it.  

“Jungkook,” blood flows from his mouth as he speaks and Jungkook’s eyes glint with malice and amusement as he bites Taehyung again and again and again. Jungkook was literally consuming him bite by painfully bloody bite.

“Jungkook stop!” he pleads and Jungkook raises his head, blood dribbling down his chin, Taehyung’s flesh in his mouth between his white teeth. Jungkook smiles at him, and its stained red and strangely sweet like he doesn’t even realise how much he’s hurting him even with his blood smeared around his lips.

Taehyung reaches up to push Jungkook’s face away but to his horror his fingers break skin, nails digging into his flesh of their own accord. He pulls away, bitter fear rising like bile in his throat but, without meaning to, he tears the skin and it comes away with his hands. Jungkook doesn’t so much as blink as Taehyung rips part of his fucking face off. He just keeps on smiling.

Taehyung moves his hands to Jungkook’s shoulders still desperate to dislodge him but the same thing happens again. As soon as he touches Jungkook’s shoulder his fingers dig in like claws and he can’t stop it. His fingernails tear past skin and nerves and muscle until he can feel hard bone but no pain registers on Jungkook’s face.

“Jungkook can’t you see!” he screams in a vain attempt to get him to stop, gnashing teeth getting ever closer to his face and Taehyung can’t breathe he’s so afraid. The smell of blood is so strong now he gags on it, “We’re tearing each other apart! Stop this! We’re going to kill each other!”

Jungkook takes his mouth in a painful kiss and when he bites down on Taehyung’s lower lip it’s too hard but Taehyung’s scream of agony is greedily swallowed up by Jungkook.

“Why?” Taehyung sobs wretchedly his lips torn and ragged and gushing blood, “Jungkook please! Why are you doing this?”

“Because,” Jungkook is breathing heavily and the spark in his eye now looks like the glint of madness. Despite all the blood and darkness his teeth still shine bright as he leans in to whisper in Taehyung’s ear, nibbling on the soft skin of his earlobe.

“Because I can.”

Taehyung awakes with a start, cold sweat running down his back and his heart hammering a million miles an hour in his chest.

A nightmare.

It was all just a nightmare. A fucking bad dream, none of it was real.

“Fuck,” he sighs sitting up in his bunk, his heart rate already slowing as he takes deep calming breaths. One look tells him Jungkook didn’t just try and literally eat him. His skin, while bruised and scarred, is free from bite-marks. There’s no blood, no Jungkook, nothing. It was all in his head. He doesn’t even want to try and think about what that might mean.

Even in the quiet of their small cell he can hear his own voice from the dream over and over again, terror unmistakable.

Jungkook can’t you see! We’re tearing each other apart! Stop this! We’re going to kill each other!

“I am so fucked,” he mumbles head in hand.

“Tae?” Wonho’s sleepy voice drifts up from the lower buck and Taehyung winces, feeling guilty for waking his cell mate.

“Yeah?” he says his voice husky from sleep and he remembers so clearly how it had felt to scream his throat raw in his dreams. He clears his throat before he speaks again, “Sorry to wake you.”

“Another nightmare?” Wonho asks as he pulls himself up onto Taehyung’s bunk, settling next to him so close their thighs pressed together. Taehyung sighs, rubbing his eyes and he knows he’s going to have awful dark circles there. Wonho’s  glowing watch tells him it’s nearly six in the morning and he knows there’s no way he’s going back to sleep, not now, not with the image of a blood soaked Jungkook sinking his teeth into his flesh burned into his mind.

“A really fucked up one,” he admits and Wonho hesitantly puts his arm around his shoulder and Taehyung is grateful for the comforting gesture.

“That’s the sixth time this week Tae,” Wonho says and Taehyung doesn’t know how to reply. After all Wonho is right, he has been having nightmares about Jungkook every night this week. It’s been almost a week since he last saw Jungkook, the other boy surprisingly behaving himself and giving Taehyung the space he asked for but that doesn’t change the fact that Taehyung has still seen him in his dreams.

Just fucking typical, even when Jungkook isn’t here physically he still can’t get rid of him.

That doesn’t actually annoy him as much as it should. In fact, if he was being totally one hundred and fifty per cent honest with himself he would have to admit he kind of missed Jungkook. Kinda. A little. Maybe. Fuck.

“I know,” he sighs and Wonho rubs his shoulders.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” he asks in a gentle voice.

“It was so fucked Wonho, there was Jungkook and he, he was eating me,” he says quickly forcing the words out of his mouth. He glances over at Wonho to see the look of surprise on the older boys face.

“He ate you?” he asked incredulously before lowering his voice, “like- like sexually?”

“What!?” Taehyung screeched, heat rising to his face as that mental image flashed through his mind, thanks a fucking bunch Wonho, “no! Not like that, I mean literally. He was literally eating me.”

“Oh,” Wonho blinks, a light dusting of pink on his cheeks, “yikes.”

Taehyung snorts because, yeah, that just about covers it.

“That is pretty fucked,” Wonho says.

“That’s no even the weirdest part.”

“It gets weirder?”

Taehyung nods, “I hurt him too, I didn’t mean to but every time I touched him I would tear at his skin but I couldn’t control it and I don’t know if he meant to hurt me either or rather he didn’t even realise. I don’t know. All I knew we were hurting each other and we couldn’t stop.”

Wonho lets out a breath, “well,” he says, “shit.”

“Yeah,” Taehyung agrees, “shit.”

They sit in silence for a few moments before Wonho speaks again.

“So what are you going to do?” he says and Taehyung raises an eyebrow.

“Do?” he asks and Wonho nods.

“Well you know they say that if you have a reoccurring dream then it represents something that’s bothering you,” Wonho explains.

“Yeah but it’s not always the same, I thought for a dream to be reoccurring they had to be the same,” Taehyung had never really thought about it much before. He lived by the philosophy that he spent as little time as possible thinking about his nightmares.

“Well you said yourself they all involve Jeon, that seems pretty reoccurring to me,” Wonho says.

It was true that while all the dreams had been different they had all starred none other than Jungkook. Sometimes he stood emotionless the ground around him littered with dead bodies and torn up butterflies alike, sometimes it was Jungkook in a rage with a bloody metal pipe in his hand and sometimes it was Jungkook with his hand around his throat. Okay maybe Wonho had a point about reoccurring.

“What should I do about it then?”  He asks.

“Well,” Wonho began before pausing, “shit I can’t believe I’m about to say this I sound like some kinda relationship counsellor and I’m not getting paid. Fuck.”

“Relationship counsellor?” Taehyung exclaims not trying to think about how the word relationship caused his stomach to flutter, “What are you talking about?”

“Look, if you got a problem you don’t sit in your jail cell and pretend that problem doesn’t exist. You don’t avoid that problem in the cafeteria and you don’t check the exercise yard to make sure that problem isn’t sitting out there too,” Wonho says and Taehyung has this sinking feeling in his gut.

“You think I should talk to him,” he says and Wonho nods.

“I ain’t saying you need to make up and be best friends or whatever you two were or any of that shit. In fact, if you ask me you should get as far away from Jeon as you can but I do think it would be for the best if you talked to him. If for no other reason than to see for yourself that Jungkook isn’t a monster. He’s a human being too.” Wonho says looking like that whole speech made him slightly nauseous. 

Taehyung opens his mouth but can’t find the words. Silence falls between them as Wonho waits patiently for him.

“He might ask me to join his gang,” he says quietly and next to him Wonho stills.

“Oh,” he says then, “congratulations.”

To say that Wonho sounded less than happy for him would be an understatement. His voice was flat and he sounded mildly stunned.

“Congratulations?” Taehyung asks with a small quirk of his lips, “What happened to getting as far away from Jungkook as I can?”

Wonho sighs, “I don’t know, things aren’t simple anymore.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Do you think Jeon Jungkook ask people to join,” Wonho looks serious and Taehyung is once again lost for words.

“I-I don’t know,” he admits and Wonho gives him a sympathetic look, “joining a gang’s not a bad thing Taehyung you know, it has its perks especially in prison. Its guaranteed protection.”

“You’re really good at playing devil’s advocate you know that?” he says and there’s something abstractly funny about all of this he just can’t see it.

“A fucking optimist that’s me,” Wonho says dryly.

“Aren’t you the one who said I’d be dead within a week,” Taehyung points out.

“Yeah and trust me kid, I thought I was being optimistic giving you a week,” Wonho says and this time Taehyung does laugh. When the faint laughter dies down Wonho looks at him and there’s something sad in his eyes.

“Do you want to join him?” he asks and the way he says it makes Taehyung feels as if he’s losing something.

Taehyung has no answer because even though Jimin told him earlier he hadn’t really considered actually joining. The thought doesn’t scare him like he thinks it probably should. Isn’t that interesting or maybe it’s just fucking funny.

 “I don’t know,” he admits, “I don’t have a fucking clue.”

~

Bathroom cleaning duty really hasn’t changed much.

He’d managed to avoid it for a while, having figured out that if he didn’t mind taking freezing cold, possibly hypothermia inducing showers he could sneak in at midnight.

However, turns out Mr Lee is still the same dick he always was decided he missed making Taehyung’s life miserable. At least the one good side of being put on bathroom duty again for quite literally nothing other than looking at him funny was that he could finally get in a nice warm shower. Well as warm as faulty prison showers ever get.

He even made sure to steal some cling film to protect the splint he still wore. He wasn’t sure when he should take it off, Wonho’s advice wasn’t much good and he had thought about going back to Seokjin but quickly dismissed the idea, his wrist still hurt so he decided to keep it on for now. Getting it wet also didn’t seem like a good idea, hence: cling film.

As he stepped underneath the warm spray, sore muscles relaxing in the steam. Thoughts from this morning come floating back to him.

He knows Wonho is right. He’s been thinking it himself, that a conversation was going to happen.  Their meeting is inevitable; there was no way they could ever stay away from each other for long. They had too much to discuss, too much between them drawing them back together no matter how far they strayed.

For the past week Jungkook hadn’t talked to him, he hadn’t so much as approached him but that didn’t mean Jungkook hadn’t been without presence in his life. He’d felt the eyes on him almost everywhere he went. Sure he’d spent most of the time hiding in his cell but when he did go out there was Jungkook, watching him.

His injuries had made him a walking talking target to the rest of the savages in here. If he thought he had it hard before, that was nothing compared to how he had it now. Attacks on him tripled but despite his weakened condition he’d had… help.

It had never been Jungkook himself but Namjoon or Hoseok or Seokjin saving his ass. There was no doubt in his mind Jungkook had made sure at least one of them would always be there for him. He remembered what Wonho had said, that joining his gang would be ‘guaranteed protection’.

Taehyung… liked that idea a lot. All his life he’d been alone, no one had ever had his back unconditionally. Sure he’d had his sister and he loved her but she was a young girl, she couldn’t protect him. All those bad things he’d done for her he’d done alone because he had no one there.

He’d grown up in an area crawling with all sorts of gangs and while he’d been way too close to some of them for comfort he did understand the sense of camaraderie that came with it, that sense of belonging and Taehyung would have been lying through his teeth if he said he didn’t want that for himself.

But, as with everything, it always came back to Jungkook.

What did he want? Did Jungkook want him to really be part of the gang? Was he just honouring tradition? Or maybe, just maybe he was still trying to sleep with him.

That hurt. The idea that that was all Jungkook was after fucking hurt like he didn’t think it could. It shouldn’t be a surprise to him at this point, after all it wouldn’t be the first time he used his body to get what he needed. But the thought of how many times he had been forced to get down on his knees made him sick. He’d left that behind him. Or at least he thought he had.

He wanted- he needed Jungkook to need him like that.

Uncertainty gnawed at him, eating away at him. Yoongi’s words from earlier drifting back to him. Was he a danger to Jungkook? Would he only be an endless source of problems for him? not to mention he still couldn’t bring himself to look at Jungkook without being brought right back to the shitty streets he had grown up on, barely survived on and nearly died on.

Taehyung was so caught up in his thoughts that he almost didn’t hear the door open.

Almost.

But the tell-tale creak caught his ear and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. He didn’t turn around, he didn’t have to. There was only one person that could be.

“Hello Darling,”

Taehyung wanted to laugh at the familiar nickname that rolled so easily off Jungkook’s tongue. Despite all that had happened to them it still sounded right.

“Sweetheart,” he answered without hesitation, his tone so light and airy he even surprised himself, “it’s been a while.”

The sound of slowly approaching footsteps echoed through the bathroom as Jungkook neared. Wasn’t this a familiar scene? The first time they had met like this Jungkook had caught him by surprise, he had felt frightened and exposed standing naked before him but there were none of those feelings now even as water poured over his bare skin.

“Well I thought I’d give you some time,” Jungkook said casually as Taehyung picked up the shampoo still with his back firmly toward Jungkook.

“Isn’t that considerate of you?” he remarked as he tried to open the bottle but his movements were limited by the splint.

There was a sound of a zipper being undone and the rustling of clothes behind him then Jungkook’s voice was right by his ear, “here, love, let me.”

Taehyung doesn’t resist as Jungkook reaches around him to take the bottle from his hand. He just stands there listening as Jungkook squirts some shampoo onto his hand before beginning to massage it into his hair.

Jungkook’s touch was surprisingly gentle, so gentle in fact that if Taehyung hadn’t know better he would never have guessed these were the hands of a killer. The very hands that were now massaging his scalp had beaten men to death.

Taehyung sighs leaning into the touch, his whole body sagging and he had to physically stop himself from collapsing into Jungkook’s strong arms right then and there. They stood in comfortable silence, the only sound was the hiss of the shower head and Taehyung occasional hum of pleasure.

“We need to talk Tae,” Jungkook murmurs, his low voice right in Taehyung’s ear and he shudders.

“Don’t we always Jungkookie?” he replies and he can feel the tickle of Jungkook’s laugh on the back of his neck.

“This isn’t like those times,” Jungkook says, his voice serious.

“I know,” Taehyung says, equally serious.

There’s no more running away, this is it.

“You saved my life, Tae,” Jungkook says, “I know Jimin told you about the tradition so let’s not beat around the bush. I want you to join.”

There it is. Jungkook asked him. Jeon Jungkook asked him to be a part of his family but as soon as he says it all that doubt comes crashing back down and Taehyung is drowning in them. His mind is awash with everything and it’s like a tsunami had torn through his head and he can’t think straight. The press of Jungkook’s body behind him and his fingers still tangled in his hair are the only things keeping him even remotely grounded.

He loves Jungkook but he hates him. He feels safe around him but he fears him. He wants to join with all his heart but he’d rather die than give in. He’s a danger if he stays and he’s a danger if he leaves. All these conflicting thoughts are tearing him apart. He can’t pick a side because honestly, either way he fucking loses. It’s just a matter of whether he’s willing to take Jungkook down with him or not.

But he looks into Jungkook’s eyes and all he sees are emotions he can barely comprehend, love, affection, concern, an overwhelming fondness.

And that’s when it hits him. Yoongi was right. In that moment he finally realises how much Jungkook cares for him but it’s too fucking late because he also sees with equal, painful clarity that that is exactly the problem. If he joins he will always, always be Jungkook’s weak point. He’ll be a constant liability and Taehyung can’t have that because another thing he’s only just npw fully realising is how much he also cares about Jungkook. Fuck.

As much as he wants to, he can’t join for Jungkook’s own good.

And if that wasn’t just the cruellest fucking joke ever played on him.

He knows Jungkook is patiently waiting for an answer, strong capable hands moving from his hair down his neck and back, caressing his skin, massaging his tense muscles. His traitorous body responds instantly, melting under Jungkook’s touch and he can’t help the groan that falls from his lips. He wants to get lost in the sensation of Jungkook’s hands all over his body.

“Come on baby,” Jungkook murmurs in his ear, taking the lobe between his teeth and biting gently, “Join me, let me take care of you. Won’t you be mine?”

At that Taehyung jerks away, snapped out of his trance. He turns to look Jungkook straight in the eye. The younger looks surprised by Taehyung’s sudden reaction, his dark eyes wide and clueless.

“I told you before I don’t belong to you.” He says calmly and Jungkook frowns but there something so much deeper moving behind his eyes.

“Are you saying you won’t join?” Jungkook asks and his tone is guarded like Taehyung has never heard it. And if he was talking to anyone else he would have said he even heard the tiniest hint of fear there.

Taehyung takes a deep breath his mind scrabbling for a reason that will convince Jungkook, “before I got locked up in here, I had a dream or at least I had a dream of a dream,” he began, his voice shaking slightly, he had never told anyone this before, not even his sister, “I mean where I grew up people didn’t have hopes or dreams, you just survived, you never became anything. Despite this I still dreamt of becoming something more.”

Jungkook was silent. Without a word he reached out through the water to rest his hands on Taehyung’s hips, pulling him closer until he could barely hear anything over the water fall. Then Jungkook leaned in to reach behind him and turn the knob stopping the water and letting silence reign. Taehyung took that as his queue to go on.

“It wasn’t a big dream or anything but I always loved kids and I thought that maybe, despite being who I was or coming from where I did that maybe someday, somehow I could have become an elementary school teacher.”

The look in Jungkook’s eyes is unreadable but his gaze stays locked on Taehyung’s face. Taehyung finds himself looking anywhere else besides at the boy who is now running slow circles onto his hips

“But then I- I did what I did and I got locked up. I know I should have given up then but I still had this tiniest little hope that if I was on my best behaviour maybe they would let me out before I died and maybe I could still follow my dream,”

“That will never happen,” Jungkook’s voice is achingly gentle when it should have been cruel to match those words. But it wasn’t, he meant no malice and Taehyung hated him just a little for that.

“You think I don’t know that?” Taehyung says, swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, “but it was hope that I could cling to. It’s no different than what I’ve always done. It might be stupid and impossible but that little bit of hope is all I have and if I join your gang, if I do that it’s gone for good. That’s the thing Jungkook, you’re asking me for my life, this is a commitment forever and if I agree I’ll never be anything more than a criminal.”

“Taehyung,” Jungkook says gently reaching up to brush away his wet bangs that the shower had plastered to his forehead, “Tae, I know what I’m asking and I wouldn’t ask it if I wasn’t sure it was for the best. I’m not going to be here forever, I’m leaving, hopefully soon and I want to take you with me Tae. If you come with me you won’t have to cling to desperate hopes anymore, come with me and you can find new dreams, better dreams, I promise Taehyung.”

Taehyung wanted that. He wanted it so fucking badly his heart ached like it was being torn out of his chest. But he had to be strong. For Jungkook.

Taehyung sniffed, the feel of Jungkook’s fingers still burning into his forehead, “that doesn’t mean I won’t be tied to you forever.”

Jungkook pauses, staring at him in silence so intently Taehyung swears Jungkook can see into his fucking soul.

“You’re making excuses,” he says finally and Taehyung’s heart drops, he had been so sure Jungkook would believe. It hadn’t been a total lie. He had had that dream and it had once been dear to him but he had buried it and come to terms with its futility a long time ago.

“You wanna know why?” he says and Jungkook pulls him even closer, their naked forms pressing together in a way that should have been overtly sexual but was instead strangely intimate. There was no lust in Jungkook’s eyes, only a kind of concern and it made Taehyung’s knees weak.

“Why Taehyung?”

Because we are doomed to destroy each other without even meaning to, he thinks the nightmare lingering along with Yoongi’s words. Because we are weak for each other and I might get you killed and I don’t think I can live with that.

“You scare me Jeon Jungkook,” he says instead, another almost truth and the look of hurt that flashes across Jungkook’s face stabs straight to his heart.

“Taehyung,” Jungkook takes a shuddering breath likes he’s trying to collect himself, when he looks Taehyung in the eyes again his stare pleads Taehyung to believe him, “I did it for you.”

“I know you did,” Taehyung says quietly like he’s afraid to admit it even to himself. He leans forward until his forehead is resting against Jungkook’s, their uneven breath mingled and he can even hear Jungkook’s heart beating, “I know exactly why you did it Jungkook and that’s what scares me. I know exactly what it’s like to be willing to do anything for the ones you care about and I know how reckless and how weak it makes you. I don’t want to and I won’t do that to you Jungkook because I care about you too.”

“That’s the reason huh?” Jungkook whispers and his eyes are closed.

“It’s one of them,” Taehyung feels so fucking honest it’s scary. Normally he would have stuck to his half-truths and almost lies but seeing Jungkook vulnerable does something to his heart that he can’t explain, he might want to join but that doesn’t mean the fear that has been engrained into his very bones is gone either. And if telling him that hard truth helps Jungkook believe that he doesn’t want to join him then so be it. “The other is that when I said I understand I meant it. I see who I used to be in you Jungkook and that’s truly terrifying. Every time I look at you I am reminded of what I did. You hold the pieces of myself that I tried to bury when I came here.”

Jungkook’s eyes are wide open now and they’re staring right into his and he can’t even hide the hurt anymore. It calls to the same hurt deep within him. They’re both wounded and it’s from injuries they caused each other.  

‘We are a ticking time bomb,’ Taehyung tells himself, ‘this is for the best.’

“I want to forget, Jungkook,” he whispers being brutally honest, “and with you I can never ever forget.”

Jungkook’s hands are still around his waist and suddenly he’s gripping him too tight, fingernails digging in until it’s painful.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung says cupping Jungkook’s face in his hands, “Jungkook you’re hurting me.”

The hold on his waist lessens and Jungkook reaches up to wrap his arms around Taehyung like he’s afraid he’s going to disappear at any moment and a selfish part of Taehyung wants to stay there forever.

“Tae,” Jungkook’s voice is raw with hurt and this is the way it has to be. This better for the both of them. Now he can’t hurt Jungkook and Jungkook can’t drag him down into his world of violence and death. Its better this way. Now they can’t tear each other apart.

“Taehyung, do you hate me?”

Of all the things Taehyung had expected Jungkook to say that had not been one of them. There’s a heavy, poignant pause before he can answer and Jungkook waits.

“No,” he says finally and presses one final kiss to the corner of Jungkook’s mouth. It’s all the goodbye they’ll need, “I don’t think I could ever hate you Jungkook but that doesn’t mean I want to see you again.”

And with that he leaves, grabbing his jumpsuit and walking away.

He doesn't look back once even though it breaks his heart.

 

Chapter Text

The silence in the cell is tense. It’s the silence that falls when there’s a lot to say but no one knows how to say it.

Yoongi likes silence. Normally. But this silence grates on his nerves. This silence was nervous and heavy as everyone waited for someone else to speak. Usually that someone would be Jungkook but their esteemed leader isn’t here, he’s holed up in his cell, sulking.

Jimin was with him because Jimin, who has the patience and empathy of a goddamn saint, is the best at dealing with a moody Jungkook. So with nothing else to do they sat in silence. Hoseok fidgets, Seokjin bites his lip and Namjoon looks sombre.

The door opens and four heads turn to see not Jungkook but Jimin walk in. Seokjin sighs and Namjoon buries his head in his hands.

“He’s still not talking?” Hoseok asks even though they already knew the answer. Jimin shakes his head and Seokjin rubs his temples looking a lot older than he is.

“What are we going to do?” Seokjin asks, “He’s so torn up. I can’t believe Taehyung said no.”

Yoongi grits his teeth at the sound of Taehyung’s name. He’s so fucking sick of hearing about Taehyung. Taehyung this, Taehyung that. Fuck Taehyung. Even when he’s not around he still manages to cause more trouble. It makes Yoongi seethe. Let Jungkook sulk, he’ll get over it and they can all go back to normal. It might hurt now but it’ll get better. Pretty boys come and go but family is forever. Jungkook knows this. Yoongi knows he knows, he just needs to make the younger boy remembers it.

“Who gives a shit about Taehyung? Jungkook will get over himself soon enough so let’s be ready to deal with Taeyang when that happens. Not to mention we still need to figure out if the traitor is part of Sung-Yeol gang or not without stepping on his damn toes,” Yoongi says because everyone else is too damned worried about Jungkook’s feelings, or even worse, about Kim fucking Taehyung’s precious feelings, to say what needed to be said. They have bigger problems than Jungkook’s temper tantrums.

“Yoongi-” Jimin says through gritted teeth and Yoongi can see he’s furious, his hands clenched into fists at his sides.

“Save the lecture Jimin, I’m not in the fucking mood,” he snaps and everyone, not just Jimin, looks taken aback.

“Excuse me?” Jimin says raising his voice as he storms over and Yoongi wonders if the younger boy is actually going to hit him.

It never gets to that of course because Namjoon, ever the peace keeper, steps in, wrapping one large arm around Jimin’s slim waist, holding him back.

“Yoongi might be a dick,” Seokjin says and Jimin continues to glare at Yoongi. He wants to argue but he knew they were all going to be pissed about so Yoongi holds his tongue and lets them be mad, “but he’s right. Jungkook isn’t here but we still need to sort this shit out.” 

Jimin pauses, scowl fixed on Yoongi. Yoongi meets his eyes and tries to convey through his gaze that he’s sorry, even if he’s only sorry they’re all upset.

“Fine,” Jimin huffs and goes to sit next to Hoseok and as far away from Yoongi as possible. Yoongi pretends he doesn’t care.

“Okay,” Namjoon sighs after a beat of stressed silence, “What the hell are we going to do?”

They do talk but they don’t get much done. No one’s heart is really in it and they all know they can’t really get anything of any value done without Jungkook here. They throw out ideas, half formed with the knowledge nothing they suggest will be acted on. They bicker, more often and more bitterly than usual and they all know that if they spent any longer together in a small cell they’re going to strangle each other. Even Hoseok’s blinding smile is gone and Seokjin's good natured patience is wearing thin.

“Okay, enough,” Seokjin says in a strained voice, “we’re getting nothing done so let’s all just take some time and we’ll talk again when Jungkook is up to it.”

Hoseok nods wearily and Namjoon doesn’t say a word just watches Yoongi. Jimin stands and glares at him, his mouth pressed into a thin line.

“You need to fix this,” he says quietly and it sounds like an accusation.

Before Yoongi can tell Jimin that Jungkook’s little bitch fit isn’t his fault Jimin turns and walks out.

Hoseok follows him out with barely a glance at him. Seokjin hesitates and the look he gives Yoongi is a mix between being stern and pitying and Yoongi isn’t sure which one irritates him more.

Soon it’s just him and Namjoon and another goddamn silence that’s filled with unsaid things and the irritation crawling under Yoongi’s skin makes him want to scream.

“Just spit it out,” he says and Namjoon raises an eyebrow, amused. Yoongi never had a best friend before he met Kim Namjoon. They thought the same, understood each other even without words. Brothers. And like brothers Namjoon knew how to annoy the heck out of Yoongi but he also knew Yoongi needed to hear things. He might not always like what Namjoon had to say but he sure as hell trusted him.

“I know you aren’t in the mood for lectures today,” Namjoon says, leaning back, fishing a packet of cigarettes from his pocket.

“But,” Yoongi prompts him.

“But Jimin is right, you know,” Namjoon says as he places the unlit cigarette between his lips. He holds the packet out for Yoongi and he takes a cigarette with a grunted thanks, reaching for his own lighter.

“Jimin’s right a lot,” Yoongi says and lights his cigarette, “it’s really fucking annoying.”

“He’s a good kid,” Namjoon says and instead of finding a lighter or asking Yoongi for his, he leans in real close, touching the end of his cigarette to Yoongi’s lit one. When the end of Namjoon’s cigarette glows, instead of moving back he inhales before blowing smoke in Yoongi’s face.

“Too good,” Yoongi says and Namjoon sits back, smoke pouring from between his lips, “He can’t see that Taehyung is bad for Jungkook.”

“He’s not stupid,” Namjoon says and Yoongi breathes in another lungful of smoke, “he knows. But he also knows what it’s like to care about people.”

“Are you calling me heartless?” Yoongi asks, tapping the grey ash off the end of his cigarette.

“I’m saying some people are blinded by emotions and some people are hindered by their lack of them,” Namjoon says like the goddamn philosopher he is. 

“That sounds pretty heartless to me,” Yoongi says. He knows he should be offended but he’s been called worse.

“I’m just saying did you think this would never happen?” Namjoon asks, taking a long drag, resting his head against the cell wall.

“That what would never happen?” he asks.

“That Jungkook would never fall in love?” Namjoon says so fucking causally and Yoongi coughs, smoke suddenly clogging his  lungs.

 “Are you serious, Joon? You think Jungkook loves Taehyung? I don’t know what you’re smoking but you must be high right now,” he laughs but Namjoon looks serious and Yoongi groans, “You aren’t fucking joking are you?”

“What do you call this then?” Namjoon asks and Yoongi shrugs.

“I don’t know what you call it but this is what Jungkook does. He obsesses the he gets over it and he moves on,” Yoongi mutters taking a drag, watching the smoke rise to the ceiling.

“Yeah, because he really seems to be moving on well,” Namjoon says sarcastically.  

“Taehyung makes Jungkook weak,” Yoongi says stubbornly feeling like a broken fucking record. He’s not sure how many different ways he can say the same damn thing, “he makes him reckless. He risked his life for Taehyung and don’t tell me he wouldn’t do it again without a second thought.”

“And do you know who else he would risk his life for Yoongi?” Namjoon asks, his eyes boring into his, “You. And me and Jimin and Hoseok and Seokjin. That’s what you do when you care about someone. That’s what love is. That’s what family is.”

“Taehyung isn’t family,” Yoongi points out through gritted teeth.

“Maybe he should be,” Namjoon sighs closing his eyes, the ash from the end of his cigarette falling into his lap, “then we could protect the both of them properly. Taehyung could be useful to us too, he’s smart, he can fight and take care of himself and that’s before we’ve taught him anything and maybe Jungkook can finally be happy for once.”

“That’s not fair and you know it,” Yoongi says quietly, “you act like I don’t care about Jungkook’s feeling at all. I do but I just don’t see why he should die for them.”

There’s a pause where Namjoon doesn’t speak just stares at him and Yoongi feels tired. He knows he’s right but the doubt is starting to take hold. It’s hard to believe in what you're saying when everyone is convinced you’re wrong.  

“Besides,” Yoongi sighs, “What am I supposed to do? He said no when Jungkook asked him to join.”  

“You know why he said that?” Namjoon asks, pressing the cigarette into the bench, extinguishing its little light.

“Because he doesn’t want to join?” Yoongi says because no matter what Hoseok says he does have a little sense of humour no matter how dry.

“Because you got in his head. He said no because he cares about Jungkook too,” Namjoon says standing up. “Jungkook would die for us and we’d all die for him but did you think maybe we aren’t the only ones? Whatever about what happened being Taehyung’s fault, he did save Jungkook’s life. Do you remember the fear in his eyes when he came and found us? Don’t you ever forget how he broke his arm.”

Yoongi takes one last drag before dropping it to the ground and crushing it under his heel.

“What exactly do you want me to do about all of this?” he repeats, “Jimin told me to fix this but how the fuck do I do that?” 

“Talk to him, Yoongi,” Namjoon says, running a hand through Yoongi’s hair like he was some kind of kid and had it been anyone else Yoongi would have batted his hand away, “He’ll listen to you.”

~

Jungkook is seated on the edge of his bed when Yoongi cautiously enters his cell. His head is bowed and he’s eerily still, like a statue, a lifeless stone shell. He doesn’t look up when Yoongi enters or calls his name.

Yoongi would have thought he was asleep but he knows Jungkook always sleeps on his side.He approaches slowly like one would approaches a cornered animal but if Jungkook noticed or cared about his presences he didn’t show it.

“Jungkook,” Yoongi says softly. He isn’t a soft person by any means but when Jungkook’s upset he’s fragile and volatile and most importantly dangerous.

Yoongi stops before him and instead of sitting next to him on the bed he crouches down in front of him so he can look into Jungkook’s eyes.

Yoongi has always been able to see everything Jungkook is feeling in his eyes. The younger boy may have learned how to school his features into the perfect emotionless mask but he could never hide the emotions in his eyes.

Jeon Jungkook has very honest eyes.

And right now those eyes were shining with pain and unshed tears. There’s so much sadness there, so much more than Yoongi had expected.

Could it be that he was wrong? Was this more than Jungkook falling for Taehyung’s pretty face? Namjoon’s words come back to him and Yoongi pictures that night when Taehyung burst into the rec room, his eyes alive with fear as he looked for Jungkook. He remembers how quickly Taehyung ran, how desperate he was to find Jungkook and guilt worms its way into his gut. He remembers finding them that night, bloodied and broken and although he had primarily focused on Jungkook and his injuries he had seen Taehyung. He had seen the bruises on his face and the blood that pumped from his swollen nose. He remembers his mangled arm and how Taehyung did what any of them would have done for Jungkook. Because they love him.

Because he is family.

 Yoongi curses himself. He’s supposed to be the most observant dammit. But Jungkook went and fell in love and he fucking missed it. Maybe he’s right and it’s not love or maybe Namjoon’s right and it is. Who fucking knows? All Yoongi knows is that Taehyung is important to Jungkook, in a way that might be more than physical. It’s painful to admit he might have been wrong but no matter how he looks at it he’s hurting Jungkook more than he’s helping him.

He has to fix this, he has to fix Jungkook.

Slowly, carefully he reaches out to brush Jungkook’s fringe out of his face. His fingers gently touch Jungkook’s forehead and for the first time since he entered the cell Jungkook stirs. His unfocused gaze lands on Yoongi, who is still crouched before him, his face close to Jungkook’s.

“It’s happening again,” Jungkook whispers so quietly Yoongi almost can’t hear him.

“What’s happening again, Jungkook?” he asks quietly, a reassuring hand resting on Jungkook’s knee.

“Back then,” Jungkook says then stops, there's a small choking sound like somethings got stuck at the back of his thraot. He sounds so fucking broken and Yoongi hates himself for it. His voice is raw and strained and it sounds like it hurts to even talk.

“I lost her, back then,” he whispers and Yoongi’s heart nearly stops. Ten years. Ten years and the amount of times he’s heard Jungkook even reference what happened that night can be counted on one hand. And most of those where when he was telling people never to speak of it again.

Jungkook lets out a wounded sound that might have been a sob or maybe some parody of a bitter laugh. One hand comes up to rest above his heart, clenching into a shaking fist right above where one of Jungkook’s most precious tattoos is located. Flowers and initials, right above his heart.  

“I lost him, Yoongi,” Jungkook says sounding wretched, unshed tears fill his eyes but stubbornly refuse to fall.

“This isn’t the same thing at all, Jungkook,” Yoongi says as gently as he can, “you know that.”

“I lost her and now I’m losing him too,” for the first time Jungkook meets Yoongi’s eyes as a single tear rolls down his cheek and it’s the second time Yoongi’s ever seen Jungkook cry in the eleven years he’s known him.

“I am so fucking sick of losing people.”

Chapter Text

Taehyung was officially panicking.

He had looked everywhere. He had torn the room apart trying to find it. But try as he might, no matter how hard he searched, he couldn’t find it.

He knows he hid it here. Knows he left it in that damn shoebox under his sister’s bed. He had thought it would have been safe there. Sojung would never steal from him, unlike their good for nothing mother and father. He had been so fucking sure they would be able to pay rent this month but that time of the month had rolled around and the money he had saved was nowhere to be seen.

“No, no, no,” he whispered, panic rising, seconds away from tearing his hair out. The shoebox laying empty at his feet.

Once he realised the money he had so carefully hidden in his sisters room was gone he headed to his room. He manically searched every inch of his room, looking for bit of spare change he could find. Coins in the bed sheets, crumpled notes in pockets of old coats, anything he could find and all of it but it wasn’t enough.

It wasn’t even nearly enough.

“Taetae,” Taehyung jumped the timid sound of Sojung’s voice from the doorway behind him.

He felt as though he was falling apart at the seams but he’d be damned if he let his baby sister see it.

“Sojung,” he says plastering his fake smile across his face like he always did.

“Rent is due today,” she says in a quiet voice and Taehyung’s eye twitches but his impeccable false smile never slips.

“I know,” Taehyung says his voice light but it feels like he’s choking on his words.

“Mr Park told me on the way in that he wants the money today,” she says, worrying her lips, her doe eyes filled with fear and uncertainty, “he told me to tell you.”

Taehyung feels sick, a cold chill running down his spine.

“He talked to you?” he says and he hates how afraid he sounds and he just prays Sojung doesn’t hear it too, “Jesus Christ, Sojung, he didn’t do anything to you did he?”

“No, he just told me to pass on the message,” she says and Taehyung feels just the tiniest spark of relief.

“He says he wants all of it too,” she adds and Taehyung nearly laughs because the only other option is bursting into tears.

Rent is due. All of it. All of it meant three whole fucking months. This months, last months and the month before that too. It’s all piling up and Taehyung is being crushed.

The money in the shoebox might have covered this months but not the other. Rent isn’t the only thing that’s due. They have overdue bills to pay and while Sojung would never tell him he knows she needs new school books.

The money he managed to scrap up in his room might put dinner on the table for a week. He can put off paying the bills until his next pay check. The old lady who lives upstairs runs a second hand book shop so Taehyung can try and ask her if Sojung can borrow the text books she needs but rent…

What the fuck was he going to do about that? 

“Sojung,” he says quietly, what little money he had was clenched in his hands, “Sojung the money I put under your bed…”

He doesn’t know how to finish. He’s not even sure what he’s asking really. He knows she didn’t steal it, that she would never but maybe she moved it? Tried to hide it somewhere else for him? It’s a longshot but Taehyung clings desperately to it with both hands. 

“It’s not there?” she asks, her eyes widening and that little glimmer of hope dies in his chest.

“No it’s not,” he says, his voice dull.

“He must be gambling again,” she says her voice trembling, “Taetae, I’m so sorry, I thought he wouldn’t find it, I-”

“It’s okay, Sojung, it’s not your fault,” he says trying to sooth her, fake smile perfectly back in place, “I’ll deal-”

Before he can finish, he’s cut off by a loud knocking at the door. They both jump at the sudden banging. That would be Mr Park, Taehyung thinks feeling sick. The man is knocking like he’s trying to break down the damn door. He can hear the man’s screaming, demanding payment and demanding it now. Fear runs like ice through his veins and he’s momentarily frozen in place. Mr Park sounds furious and Taehyung is lost. The man wants his money and he’s not leaving without it.

Only problem is, Taehyung has nothing to give him.

“Wait here,” Sojung says quickly, clearly put on edge by the thunderous pounding at the door.

“Sojung-” Taehyung says terrified that she’s going out there but he turns to her own room.

He follows behind her waiting at the door, doing his very best to pretend their irate landlord isn’t about to barge their way into their home.

“Here,” Sojung says hurrying back to him, something clasped tightly in her hands. She offers it him so he holds his hands for it. She drops something into his hands and when he looks down his heart pangs painfully.

“Sojung,” he says sadly, “I can’t-”

“Take it,” she says with a small smile, closing his fingers around the money she gave him, “I was saving up for your birthday anyway. Now I’ll just have to get you a different present.”

“It’s okay, Sojung,” Taehyung says his voice wavering as he takes the money, “Thank you. Don’t worry about my birthday either.” 

“It’s enough right?” she says looking up at him hopefully.

“Yeah, Sojung,” he says smiling as he lies to her face, “it’s enough; we’ll be fine this month.”

It’s not enough though. It’s not even nearly enough but he has nothing else. It won’t cover even this month’s rent but he has to face their landlord. He has to try. He has an idea but it makes him sick to even consider it. But he has no other choice. His options ran out one by one and now he has nothing left.

“I’ll go deal with him okay?” he says, “There’s some of last night’s soup in the fridge so why don’t you reheat it?”

Sojung smiles, looking more relaxed now that she thinks they can pay this month’s rent.

He turns to leave then pauses and turns back.

“Oh and one more thing,” he says and the smile is so forced it hurts but he refuses to let her see how fucking scared he is, “I have to discuss the faulty sink with Mr Park, and the old pipes so I might be a little while alright?”

“How long?” Sojung says and there’s the uncertainty again.

“Fifteen to twenty minutes,” he says in a voice that he hopes is reassuring, “A half hour at most okay?”

“Okay,” Sojung smiles and that bright smile makes everything worth it. Taehyung shoves his trembling hands in his pockets so she won’t see his fear.

“Good, then I’ll be back in a little while,” he smiles, “don’t let anyone in and if he comes home go lock yourself in your room okay?”

“Okay,” she says and he pulls her into a quick hug and for a moment he’s a little boy and he’s terrified but when she pulls away he smiles.

The banging has stopped which means Mr Park has stumbled back to his office. Taehyung is tempted to hope that he’s given up but he knows that’s not it. He’ll be back and next time it’ll be to throw them out onto the street and he can’t have that.

Mr Park’s office is shut but when he knocks and is told to come he finds it unlocked.

He steps in and the smell of smoke is overpowering. Mr Park is sitting with his muddy boots up on his desk, smoking a damn cigar like he is every time they meet. 

“That had better fucking be the rent in your pocket Kim, ‘cus I’m not fucking joking around if you don’t pay me right now I swear to god I’m throwing all you out on the fucking street,” his voice sounds rough from smoke and screaming and Taehyung knows he’s beyond pissed. They’ve pushed him too far, anymore and it’s the end for them.

“It’s,” he begins before hesitating torn between lying and begging, “It’s all I have. For now.”

Mr Park glares at him through a cloud of heavy smoke “Show me.”

Taehyung stumbles over on shaking legs. He pulls out most of the money, leaving only the slightest for food, and placing it on the desk between them.

Mr Park looks at the money for a second before looking slowly up at him, his dark, bloodshot eyes narrowed.

“Are you having a fucking joke Kim?” he asks in a dangerous voice, stubbing the cigar out on his desk, “’cus I ain’t fucking laughing.”

“Neither am I,” Taehyung says, glad his voice isn’t trembling, “but I told you, that’s all we have.”

“This won’t even pay for this month, you little moron, let alone the last two months that you haven’t paid for either,” Mr Park says glaring at him and Taehyung shifts uncomfortably, “why the fuck shouldn’t I throw you lot out and get in someone who actually fucking pays on time?”

Taehyung swallows. This is it. If this doesn’t work they’re finished.

“I’ll get you the rest of the money, I just need some time,” he says and Mr Park raises an eyebrow.

“Why should I give you more time?” he asks slowly.

“Because- because I can do, other things, to make up for what’s lacking in this month’s rent,” he says licking is lips nervously and he can’t help but notice the nasty glint in his landlord’s eyes as he looks him up and down.

“Other things?” he snorts, “should have sent your sister,”

“She’s sixteen, you fuck,” he says the disgust bubbling up like bile before he could swallow it down. He knows he’s made a mistake as soon as he sees the flash of anger in his eyes.

He stands, the old chair creaking and he storms over until he’s looming over Taehyung, so close he can smell the stink of smoke on his breath.

“You watch your pretty little mouth Kim,” he hisses grabbing Taehyung by the hair. He swallows down a gasp of pain as Mr Park wrenches his head to the side, “get this fucking clear in that head of yours: I am doing you a favour got it?”

Taehyung nods, wincing and the anger dissipates.

“How old are you?” he asks and that’s when Taehyung knows.

“Old enough for this not to be illegal,” he says and Mr Park gives him a sleazy smile, his yellow teeth poking out between thick lips.

“Good,” he grunts, reaching down with his free hand to undo his zipper and Taehyung flinches at the sound.

“Now get to work before I change my mind.”

There’s no running away now. Taehyung has never wanted to escape more in his life. But he can’t, he needs to do this. For Sojung.

So he takes one more calming breath as, with no other choice, he sinks to his knees.

 

Taehyung closes his eyes, pulling the thin prison blanket closer around him. It’s actually Wonho’s blanket and it smells like him. It’s a nice smell, Taehyung decides, comforting.

Not comforting to make the images of Mr Park go away. As much as he tries to he can’t forget being forced onto his knees in that stinking office, can’t forget what he had to do. His body’s trembling and he feels sick at the memories. He doesn’t know why he’s remembering all this now. He’s tried so hard to forget but Jungkook’s didn’t just disturb memories of his father, no all of its coming back. He tried to suppress it but he’s learning that no matter how well you hide the dirt from your past, it’s never gone and sooner or later it will bury you.

He can’t help but wonder how things would have turned out if he’d known Jungkook back then, if he’d had someone who had his back. If he hadn’t been so fucking alone maybe he wouldn’t have had to sell himself so they wouldn’t be homeless. He wouldn’t have had to put up with his father gambling away all his hard earned money. He wouldn’t have to look into his little sister’s eyes and tell her that the money she saved won’t even buy them a week.

It’s all useless of course. He didn’t have Jungkook’s support or protection back then and he doesn’t have it now. He wants it, so badly but he made his decision and he just has to stick to it. Jungkook would get over it then Jungkook would get over him and he’d break out and he’d leave Taehyung all alone.

A single stupid tear trails down his cheek. He doesn’t want to be left behind but he sure as hell won’t be the weight that drags Jungkook down either.

What was that stupid quote that always came up in overly sappy rom coms? If you love someone let them go? Well he loved Jungkook so it was time to let him go. He was better off without him anyway.

“Taehyung?” Wonho’s voice is soft but it’s enough to drag his from his self-pitying thoughts.

Taehyung turns and his heart tugs at the sight of his cell mate, his friend standing there looking at him with concern. He wasn’t completely alone he had Wonho. In fact Wonho was all he had left.

Which meant he would probably leave him too.

Everyone left in the end one way or the other.

His mother ran at the first opportunity she got. Sojung, his precious baby sister, the one he did all this for, hadn’t visited him in all the months he’s been here and now Jungkook, a person who had looked at him like he was actually something important, was gone too. It was only a matter of time before Wonho realised he wasn’t worth it.

“What happened?” he asks stepping closer. Taehyung just shrugs, not trusting his voice at all.

“Was it Jeon?”

Another shrug and Wonho slides into the small bed next to him.

“He asked you to join didn’t he?” he asks, throwing an arm around Taehyung pulling him closer. Taehyung’s body tingles where Wonho touches him and he wants more. He sick of feeling alone, unwanted, unclean.

Even if that’s exactly what he is.

“What did you say?” Wonho asks, a hand caressing Taehyung’s face, fingers brushing his cheek and he leans in to the touch.

“I told him I never wanted to see him again,” Taehyung sniffs, his visions blurring and he realises a second too late that he’s going to cry.

“Oh,” Wonho says unable to hide his surprise, “do you wanna talk about it?”

Taehyung shakes his head as the first tears start to fall, “there’s nothing to talk about,” he whispers, his voice strained.

“I’m a fucking idiot, Wonho,” tears are falling more freely now and Taehyung remembers the worst part about recalling what happened in Mr Park’s office, the worst fucking part was that even though he hated what he did and hated himself for it, what he hated most was even as he degraded himself part of him was happy to feel needed. It made him sick.

“I let him go because I’m not worth it, he was going to realise that eventually and leave me. This way I’m just saving him the trouble,” he says as tears and snot dribble down his face. He must look disgusting but that doesn’t stop Wonho from pulling him into a tight embrace, not caring about how his t-shirt is damp when they pull apart.

“Tae,” Wonho says his eyes warm as he looks down at him, “You are worth it and anyone who says otherwise is wrong.”

Taehyung opens his mouth to tell him he was wrong but the words that tumble out where not the ones he had intended, his tongue working before his mind could catch up.

“Kiss me.”

“Tae, what?” Wonho begins but Taehyung doesn’t give him a chance to finish. Instead he moves to press their mouth together in a clumsy, desperate kiss.

Wonho doesn’t move even as Taehyung presses his lips harder, begging wordlessly. Need me, want me, use me. Please.

Taehyung swipes his tongue across Wonho’s bottom lip and the other boy opens his mouth and Taehyung takes the opportunity to deepen the kiss.

A hand is in his hair now, caught between pulling him away and dragging him closer. He wants this, he tells himself as he tries to lose himself in the sensations of Wonho’s warm mouth finally moving against his. But all he can think about is Jungkook and he cries harder and hates himself for it.

He let him go. It was his decision. He’s not the one who is allowed to be selfish here.

He has to live with the consequences of his actions, even if they hurt like hell.

“Taehyung, stop,” Wonho murmurs as he pulls away, his bottom lips swollen.

He doesn’t look angry, only sad.

“You don’t want me?” Taehyung asks but it’s only barely a question. They both know the answer.

“It’s not like that Tae,” Wonho says, closing his eyes with a sigh. His hand is still in Taehyung’s hair. No longer gripping so tight but rather resting there, petting gently. “But we shouldn’t do this.”

“Minhyuk right?” Taehyung asks and he’s not even jealous. From the way Wonho spoke of him it’s clear Minhyuk is a good person and Wonho loves him. They deserve each other and all the happiness in the world.

And he deserves nothing.

“He’s part of it,” Wonho admitted, “but people also do stupid things when they’re sad or angry or hurt. If you do this you will probably regret it.”

“You think I would be the one to regret this?” Taehyung asks, “Because that’s not usually how it works.”

“You need to rest, Tae,” Wonho says, “If you want we can talk tomorrow but you’re upset right now.”

Taehyung sighs and can’t remember the last time he felt this damn weary. His swollen eyelids are sliding shut and he can feel sleep approaching quickly. Wonho’s smell surrounds him, the arm around him warm and reassuring and everything almost seems alright again.

“Wonho?” he murmurs his tongue heavy in his mouth.

“Yes Tae?”

“He asked me if I hated him.”

“What did you say?”

“I told him I didn’t think I could ever hate him,” Taehyung mumbles, eyes finally closed, head heavy with the fog of sleep, “but that wasn’t the whole truth,”

He can see Jungkook, in his mind, standing there naked under the shower, water running down his body. He can see the hurt shining in Jungkook's eyes as he watches him walk away and his heart hurts like its being torn in half all over again.

“The truth is, I think I love him.”

 

Chapter Text

It’s happening again.

That day. That day ten years ago when everything changed forever.

I lost her, back then.

That day Jungkook changed forever.

I lost her and now I’m losing him too.

Gunshots, the smell of acrid, blinding smoke and blood everywhere. So much blood. The same panic rises as he recalls how it felt to run, desperately trying to find Jungkook in all the chaos. The feeling that he was too late sinking in his gut like a stone in water.

He was too late, too damn late.

Jungkook was…

I am so fucking sick of losing people.

“You okay?”

At the sound of a concerned voice Yoongi startles out of his heavy thoughts, memories receding like a dark tide. He looks up to see Hoseok hovering in the doorway, leaning casually on the doorframe, his intense gaze fixed on him. He hadn’t even heard him sneak up and from the amused glint in Hoseok’s dark eyes, his lowered guard did not go unnoticed, much to his chagrin.

“You shouldn’t do that, you dick,” he mutters looking away from Hoseok’s gently smiling face. The cigarette in his hand has burned almost out, over half the stick now grey smouldering cinders. He taps the end and the ash falls away like a flurry of grey snow. He takes one last drag, inhaling smoke before breathing out and watching it rise slowly to the ceiling. Hoseok just chuckles.

“I think I can count the amount of times I’ve managed to sneak up on you on one hand, and that’s saying something,” he says walking in and settling next to him as Yoongi presses the glowing end of the cigarette to the bench between them. His mind wanders to a time so long ago now, when cigarette butts where pressed against his own skin and he has to stop himself from itching at old scars, “something’s got you distracted.”

“I talked to Jungkook,” Yoongi says after a moment of silence, wincing as the fresh cut on his lip reopens and blood wells up, bitter and metallic.

“Looks like you two did more than talk,” Hoseok comments and eyeing the array of freshly blooming bruises on his face.

“We had a little disagreement,” he says flexing his own bruised knuckles, remembering how they collided with Jungkook’s face, just minutes before. 

“Oh yeah?” Hoseok raises an eyebrow, big fucking grin on his face that Yoongi has the sudden urge to wipe off.

“Yeah,” Yoongi huffs wincing as his swollen nose throbs painfully, “I thought he should calm down and he disagreed.”

“He’s such a brat,” Hoseok laughs, “no respect for his elders.”

Yoongi snorts but it’s largely humourless. He really doesn’t see what’s so funny about Jungkook’s temper but then again, he’d stopped trying to understand what Hoseok finds funny a long time ago. That man just laughed at everything, even things that weren’t funny at all. He has a strange sense of humour that’s for sure.

“But seriously,” he says, “I thought Jungkookie was sulking. What did you say to him to make him so mad?”

“It wasn’t really anything I said,” Yoongi sighs. Maybe it’s because Jungkook punched him a few times or maybe it’s all the stress but he feels a headache coming on, “Jungkook is sad, he’s hurting, really bad and that makes him angry. He’s unstable and his temper is even more out of control than usual so he’s lashing out.”

“He’s really broken up over Tae, huh?” Hoseok muses, “never thought I’d see the day our Jungkookie gets his heart broken by some pretty boy he met in prison.”

“He’s always had a fucking temper but broken hearted it’s a thousand fucking times worse,” Yoongi says and Hoseok nods, “It’s not even about Taehyung anymore. He’s thinking about the past; his mind is jumping back to that day.”

“Oh,” Hoseok breaths out, “Shit.”

“Yeah,” Yoongi agrees, “Shit.”

“So, this whole mess has got him thinking about her,” Hoseok guesses and Yoongi nods only slightly impressed. Hoseok’s always been deceptively perceptive.

“He kept saying how he lost her and now he’s losing Taehyung too,” Yoongi says, recalling the despair in Jungkook’s voice, the tears in his eyes, so much pain, “and that’s when he lost it.”

“Why?” Hoseok asks, his nose wrinkling and Yoongi closes his eyes, the moment all that pain disappeared in a second to be replaced by rage, like a bomb going off.

“He doesn’t talk about it a lot but you know how it affected him, we all do but sometimes, especially when he’s angry all that happens gets twisted,” Yoongi says, “that night he was betrayed and he lost so much and it all gets mixed up in his head when he doesn’t think clearly. Her loss and the betrayal get muddled.”

“Death can feel like a betrayal too,” Hoseok murmurs, his slim fingers running over the tattoos on his hands, tracing the rosaybeads inked around his wrist, “even though we know it’s not fair we can hate those we lose, blame them even. Humans are selfish like that.”

“Well he thinks Taehyung is betraying him too and he’s pissed off,” Yoongi says and Hoseok’s eyebrows raise towards his hairline.

“He’s mad at Taehyung? That’s not good,” he says and Yoongi very almost rolls his eyes.

“No shit,” he says, “he’s not really mad at him he’s just been hurt by him and would rather translate that to anger than deal with why he’s so upset.”

“I always forget how good you are at reading people, especially Jungkook,” Hoseok says.

“Yeah well, I’ve always understood Jungkook,” Yoongi admits quietly, “I also get how it’s easier to feel angry than sad.”

“Especially when sadness is a sign of weakness right?”

“Right.”

“Well what are we going to do now?” Hoseok asks and Yoongi watches as his heavily tattooed hands fidget with the hem of his shirt.

“I was going to say we should try and get them to talk it all out but right now if we put them in a room together Jungkook might actually tear Taehyung apart,” Yoongi says tongue darting out to taste the blood on his lips and thinks how Jungkook’s anger hadn’t even been directed at him. He can only imagine what Jungkook will do when actually confronted by what he thinks the source of his anger. All he knew is that it wouldn’t be pretty.

“Maybe that’s not the worst idea ever,” Hoseok muses and Yoongi really struggles to understand his mind sometimes.

“Did you not hear me?” he asks, incredulous. Hoseok’s always had a unique way of seeing the world, some might even say skewed but this was ridiculous even for him. “I said he might kill him.”

“Jungkook wouldn’t kill him. If he does then his temper will have gone too far and I for one will no longer want to follow him,” Hoseok says simply and any twinkle of humour is gone from his eyes leaving them dark. Yoongi’s breath catches in his throat and he’s not even sure he heard right.

“What?” he breathes expecting Hoseok to burst out laughing and tell him it was another one of his jokes. He waits but it doesn’t happen, “you’re fucking serious.”

“Of course, we support Jungkook but even that only goes so far,”

“There’s no end to loyalty,” Yoongi growls, his hands curling into fists despite the pain, “we support him no matter what.”

“So you’ll support him even if he kills Taehyung?” Hoseok challenges and Yoongi hesitates for a second and Hoseok takes that as his que to continue.

“Just hear me out okay,” he says quietly even though there’s no one around to over hear them, “you know I love Jungkook like a brother and I am loyal to him just like we all are. But we also know his temper is a problem and will only continue to be a problem. If anything, it will get worse and worse. Temper is good, it scares people but only if it’s under control. If he can’t control his temper than it becomes a weakness too, a weakness even more destructive than sadness, a weakness that will destroy him and all of us too.”

“What’s your point?” Yoongi says, hating that what Hoseok says makes sense, hating that he’s touching on a fear that’s been growing in his gut for a long time now.

“Jungkook needs to learn to control himself or he’s going to ruin the family. It’s as simple as that and you know it,” Hoseok says, his fingers tracing the large crucifix on his throat and Yoongi watches hypnotised, “he’s in a really unstable place right now. He’s at his lowest point and that’s when his actions matter most. He’s being tested. Taehyung is testing him and what he does now reflects his true character,"

"So?"

"So if he sees Taehyung and gives into his anger then… well then, I think we’ve lost him. You said it yourself he’s not really mad, he’s hurting and he needs to see that and I think Tae is the one to do that.”

“You think Taehyung can help control Jungkook’s temper?” Yoongi asks and Hoseok grins at him.

“I think Tae can make Jungkook want to control his temper.”

Yoongi sits back against wall, the bricks hard and cold underneath his skull. His temples ache and he’s so fucking tired. He closes his eyes, wanting nothing more than to sleep.

“Nothing in this life is random you know,” Hoseok says quietly in the silence that fell between them and Yoongi opens one eye to look at him sideways. He knows where this is going and he’s in no mood for it, “God does everything for a reason. He set me on the path that led me to Jungkook. I think he sent Jungkook Taehyung for a reason.”

“Hoseok, you know I love you but I have no time for that bullshit. If you wanna discuss spiritauliy and magic men in the sky and all his plans for us go talk to Namjoon ‘cus I ain’t in the mood,” he says and the words aren’t as harsh as they probably could have been. Mostly because they’ve had this same conversation a thousand times before. Hoseok’s stubborn faith constantly clashing with Yoongi’s inability to believe in a God that let him suffer the way he had.

He remembers the first time they’d had this argument, how he’d asked Hoseok what kind of God let his father fracture his skull before he was even a nine years old and how Hoseok said that if none of that would have happened he might not had found Jungkook or this new family of his. Yoongi didn’t have an answer then and he still doesn’t. All he knows is that he only believes in what he can see as real, here on earth and thus the unstoppable force of Hosoek met the immovable object that was Yoongi.

Hoseok chuckles and Yoongi cracks a smile. Knowing them they’d probably have argument a thousand more times and somehow Yoongi’s okay with that.

“So let me get this straight,” Yoongi says, changing the subject, “you think I should get them in a room together and let them fight it out?”

“Or bang it out,” Hoseok says wriggling his eyebrows like some teenage girl and Yoongi really does roll his eyes. The mental image that brings up is not something he needed in his head.

“I could have lived my whole live without hearing that,” he says and Hoseok giggles.

“Don’t pretend this isn’t the most likely outcome,” he says and in Yoongi’s humble opinion he’s way too happy about what they’re talking about, “remember the time Kookie dragged Tae out of the cafeteria and we had to follow them to the bathroom.”

Yoongi groans, “how could I forget? And he made us stand guard too,”

“That’s right!” Hoseok cackles, “and remember Joon’s face when he lost rock paper scissors and had to go in to tell them we needed to go,”

Yoongi laughs, “he looked like he was going to cry,” and they both dissolve in a fit of giggles.

“But seriously,” Hoseok says as soon as the laughter dies down, “I think Tae is special. I see something in him.”

Yoongi pauses. The gravity of Hoseok’s words hitting him, “what do you see?”

“His eyes,” Hoseok says and his voice is so quietly it’s barely above a whisper, the air is heavy and still, “I’ve seen those eyes before.”

Yoongi’s eyes dart to the tattoo’s peaking up above his white tank top. Hoseok has the most tattoo’s out of all of them, bright colours all over his body, art depicting his life and his struggles, momentos of where he had been, what he had done, everything important to him. Angels, crucifixes bible verses mix with flowers and names and dates. He’s the artist that gave them all their butterflies. In fact, most of, if not all of his tatts are done by himself. They’re stories of his life and he talks openly about all of them except one. A pair of eyes on his chest just below his collar bones. They’re the most haunting eyes Yoongi has ever seen. A blue that manages to somehow seem like every shade of the night sky and dark iris’s like black holes swallowing the light. There’s so much depth in them, they’re full of unfathomable emotions. Hoseok’s never spoken about the meaning behind those eyes, not even to Jin.

“I see myself in him too,” Hoseok says with a quirk of his lips and Yoongi blinks. He had not been expecting that, “I think, with the proper training, he could be exactly like me. I don’t think we’ve even seen half of what Kim Taehyung can do yet. When he does join our family he’s definitely going to be a valuable member.”  

“You think he can be like you?” he asks and Hoseok meets his eyes and he’s not laughing.

“Well,” he says, images of Taehyung’s smiling face flashing through his mind. The thought that he could be anything like Hoseok was ridiculous, almost unthinkable, “Shit.”

“When are you going to talk to Tae?” Hoseok asks and Yoongi shrugs, “Tomorrow I guess.”

“Good. The sooner they get together the easier life will get for the rest of us.”

Yoongi can’t help but agree.

~

Yoongi’s on his way back to his cell, his head too full of Jungkook and his rage and Taehyung and the eyes on Hoseok’s chest that if thinks hard enough kind of look like Taehyung’s and how this dangerous game is going to play out. He’s so busy thinking he almost walks straight into a short figure standing in his way without noticing.

“What the fuck?” he blinks, Jimin’s shock of orange hair coming quickly into focus, “Fuck, Jimin what are you doing here?”

“I hear you’re going to talk to Tae?” Jimin says and Yoongi briefly considers killing Hoseok.

“Incredible,” he mutters as he steps aside Jimin to open his cell, “I literally told him ten minutes ago. Did he go straight to you or something?”

“Something like that,” Jimin says following him in without waiting to be invited in, “so is it true?”

“Yeah, it’s true, you happy now?” Yoongi admits and Jimin nods looking satisfied but Yoongi knows there more. With Jimin there’s almost always more.

“What is it?” he asks sinking onto his bunk. Fatigue weighs on him and all he wants is to close his eyes and drift off into sleep.

“Do you know?” Jimin asks quietly. He hovers by Yoongi’s bunk like some kind of phantom. It's uncomfortable in a way things have never been between them.

“Do I know what?” Yoongi sighs pressing his face to the cool pillow. Jimin comes to sit on the edge of his bed and usually Yoongi would kick him and tell him to get out or lie down and stop annoying him but he’s too damn tired.

“Do you know about Tae?” Jimin whispers, “about his father?”

Yoongi closes his eyes but that doesn’t stop the feeling of burning cigarette ends being pressed into the soft flesh of his upper arm. He doesn’t answer and Jimin goes on.

“He hasn’t told me or anything and I don’t know for sure but the way he moves, the way he looks, it all adds up. Kook also mentioned once that Tae told him his father broke his ribs,” Jimin’s voice sounds choked, thick with emotion and Yoongi wants to give out to him for getting so emotional over a stranger but the memory of the smell of singed skin and the pain linger and he can’t concentrate on anything else.

“I think Tae’s father abused him like-”

“I know.”

Jimin looks down at him, “What?”

Yoongi can’t bring himself to look at him he just pressed his face further into the pillow so when he speaks his voice is muffled, “I said, I know.”

“Yoongi, I’m-”

“Stop. Whatever you say I don’t want to hear it,” Yoongi knows he’s being mean but he’s too tired to care and the last thing he wants to talk about now is his asshole of father and how Tae’s dad was also an asshole and how the world isn’t fair and how it’s sad and fucked up and no amount of pity will fix any of it.

“Okay, Yoongi,” Jimin says and stands to leave. He walks slowly and it takes him longer than it should to cross the small room. He’s almost at the door when Yoongi speaks up.

“Wait,” he says and he’s not even sure what he wants to say. He just knows he doesn’t want Jimin to walk out that door, not when things were still so awkward between them. Yoongi doesn’t usually care what people think of him but for some reason Jimin’s opinion of him has always mattered.

“I’m sorry,” he says looking over at Jimin, meeting his eyes. He’s not good with words so he can only hope Jimin sees the sincerity there, “for being a dick.”

Jimin smiles, his eyes crinkling and Yoongi knows at least for now things are going to be all right between them.

“It’s okay, Yoongi,” he says, “besides you’re always a bit of a dick. It’s only when you’re being an unreasonable dick that we have a problem.”  

“You’re such a brat,” Yoongi mutters. He would have thrown his pillow at Jimin’s smug face but then he wouldn’t have his pillow.

“But you love me,” Jimin says in an irritating sing song voice.

“Get out!”

The pillow hits Jimin square in the face and Yoongi isn’t even a little bit sorry.  

Chapter Text

“Taetae, have you been listening to me?”

Taehyung blinks out of his daze at the sound of Sojung’s voice. He looks over at his sister. She’s peering up at him curiously, concern furrowing her brow. He instantly feels guilty for making her worry.

“I’m sorry, Sojung,” he says with a strained smile, “I spaced out for a sec. What we you saying?”

“You do that a lot these days,” Sojung pouts and Taehyung pokes her cheek, trying to get her to smile again, “I was talking about my graduation!”

“Oh yeah,” Taehyung smiles for real. Sojung graduating high school was a huge deal. He himself had dropped out to work two jobs when he was sixteen. He’d given up hope of going to college so he could keep them afloat so the fact Sojung was actually going to make something of herself made him glow with pride. Saving up for college was hell of course, his visits to Mr Park had doubled much to his destress and he’d taken a job serving tables at a sleazy bar where the costumers tipped well enough if you had a nice face and let them grope you. It was all worth it though. He would do it all and more to get Sojung the education and a chance at a good future she deserved.

“I’m so proud of you, sis,” he says throwing his arm around her, hugging her close, “why don’t we go get ice cream! It can be a treat!”

Sojung worries her lip and Taehyung hates that she hesitates, thinking ice cream is too expensive for them. True, ice cream is stupidly expensive but this is something worth celebrating.

Sojung making something of herself isn’t the only thing they’re celebrating of course. The money he’s been saving isn’t just for college. Sojung is so smart she got herself a partial scholarship so college itself wasn’t too expensive but accommodation was. The college she had been accepted to was too far away to commute to from their current home so they had decided to move. Just the two of them in their own little apartment. No drunken father who stole their money, no more visits to Mr Park, no more worrying if they were going to be homeless at any given moment. They would finally be free and Taehyung hadn’t felt so happy in a long time. For the first time their future was finally looking up. Sojung would go to college and he would work until she got a job. Then who knows? Maybe he’d go to college himself. Maybe he too could become someone.

“Don’t worry about it,” he says, “let’s go get some ice cream!”

He smiles and to his delight Sojung smiles back. Sojung was so beautiful when she smiles, like the sun. Taehyung would do anything to make sure she smiled forever.   

They had been walking home together from Sojung’s school and Taehyung knew a little ice cream shop that was only a fifteen minute diversion.

“So what were you saying about graduation?” he asks.

“Well it’s in a month and I asked my friend and he said I can borrow a suit,” she begins.

“You want to wear a suit to your graduation?” he asks and Sojung rolls her eyes, “no silly, it’s for you. You are coming, right?”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he promises and Sojung smiles, “So now that we know what I’m wearing what are you going to wear. If we start saving now we can-”

“That won’t be necessary, Taetae,” she reassures him, “Ms Lee upstairs is letting me borrow a dress. You should see it Taetae it’s so nice. It’s a light pink with flowers-”

Sojung was cut off by the loud screeching of tires. They freeze as three men leap out of the car and surround them.

“Kim Taehyung? Kim Sojung?” the man nearest grunts and Taehyung steps in front of Sojung, shielding her.

“Who wants to know?” he asks licking his lips nervously. The men step closer, closing in and his heart hammers in his chest, “What do you want? We aren’t looking for trouble.”

“You’re coming with us,” Taehyung barely even has time to think when arms are grabbing him and pulling him towards the car.

“Hey,” he screams, “What do you think you’re doing?”

To his right he sees the men grab Sojung and fearful impulses take over. He elbows the man behind him and ducks out of his hold, sprinting towards his sister and the man towering over her, gripping her thin arms too tight. He punches the man so hard his knuckles hurt but he doesn’t care. The man yells, his grip on Sojung loosening and she slips away from him.

“Run,” he screams as more strong arms grab him holding him down. Sojung hesitates for a moment. She’s fast but if she doesn’t run now they’ll catch her too. It’s too late for him but she can still escape, “Sojung run! Now!”

She hesitates a second longer before she blinks and turns to run. He watches her sprint, her slim legs carrying her farther and farther away and even as the man slams his head into the concrete he can’t help but feel glad. Sojung is safe, he can deal with whatever the hell is happening.

“You little punk,” the man above him growls lifting his head up to slam it back down on the street. The world around him dims momentarily as pain rockets through his head.

He’s too disorientated to fight back as the hands drag him up and manhandle him into their car. Panic fills his mind with fuzzy noise as the car doors lock audibly behind him. The three men pile in around him, their strong musk filling the car as they press against him and he feels so claustrophobic.

“What do you want?” he demands. One of the men is holding his arm so tight he’s sure it will break.

“Shut up,” the man to his left grunts and they don’t speak for the rest of the ride.

The windows are tinted so dark he can’t see out. By the time the car comes to a stop Taehyung has no idea where the hell they are. He tried to mentally follow where they were going but there were too many sudden turns and he just couldn’t keep up.

The initial panic and burst of adrenaline has subsided giving way to nerves and fear. The reality that he has just been snatched off the street is sinking in. He has no idea where he is or what is happening but these men knew him. They’d addressed not only him but Sojung too. They knew who they were and that terrified him.

“What do you want?” he tries again as he’s dragged out.

“I told you to shut the fuck up,” one of the men hisses as he twists his arm behind his back. Taehyung lets out a cry of pain before he can bite his lip to muffle the sound.

“Now walk,” the man pinning his arm behind his back growls pushing him forward causing him to stumble.

The building they bought him too looks like a run down office block. He doesn’t recognise the area, not that he had a lot of time to get a good look before he’s hurriedly shoved inside. The men behind him pushing him forward as a brisk pace. The building is a lot nicer inside than outside. The décor looks new and more modern than the shabby outside would have you believe. But it gives him no clue as to who might reside here, let alone what they could possibly want with him.

They shove him up flights of stairs and into an office. Its dimly lit, weak sunlight filtering through the shades. The room is filled with smoke and Taehyung coughs as he’s pushed inside. 

He stumbles toward the large desk in front of the window, his legs shaking. There’s three more men in the room and none of them are smiling. The chair behind the desk is turned around so he can’t see who’s sitting there. He wants to roll his eyes at the clichéd bond villainess of the whole scene but he can see guns tucked into the waistbands of every single man in the room and figures that would not be the smartest thing to do right now. 

One wrong move and he was dead.

His throat feels suddenly dry and his hands shake. The silence is heavy and he desperately wants to break it but he doesn’t dare.

“Boss, we brought him,” one of the men, the one that pinned his arm, says and the chair turns to reveal a man in his mid-thirties. The man has a piercing stare, his eyes are a cold, hard grey and a long scar runs down his face. It’s a decently handsome face, in that classic if not a little bland way, hard, square jaw, and dark hair. The man smiles and it sends shivers down Taehyung’s spine.

That is not a kind smile.

“Him?” the man asks raising his eyebrow. His voice is casual but there’s something darker lurking underneath, “he has a sister no? I remember asking for both of them.”

The man fixes the men who brought Taehyung in with a hard stare and they shift nervously, the air suddenly unbearably tense.

‘Oh God,’ he thinks, ‘they’re terrified of him.’

“Sir we-”

“Whatever you want you take it up with me. Leave her out of this,” Taehyung speaks up for the first time, well aware that what he was doing was probably incredibly stupid, this man did not look like the type who liked to be interrupted but he just couldn’t stay quiet anymore.

The man’s cold eyes slide from the men to Taehyung and he has to fight the urge to shy away. The man looks him up and down and he feels about two inches tall. There’s something so dangerous in the gaze like a predator and Taehyung wants nothing more than to flee.

“Kim Taehyung,” the man says slowly, “you have no idea who I am do you?”

Taehyung swallows. He meets the man’s gaze with difficulty.

“No,” he admits and the man smiles.

“My name is Mr Cho,” he says and that means nothing to Taehyung, “and I’m a loan shark.”

Everything clicks into place at that. Suddenly Taehyung can see the whole picture and what a damn ugly picture it was.

“Do you have any idea why I’m here?” he asks and he sounds so pleasant it’s freaking Taehyung out. He’s too nice, too calm. It’s the quiet before a devastating storm hits and Taehyung has the nasty feeling that he’s the one who’s going to be caught up in his wrath.

“My father,” Taehyung says, feeling sick, his tongue heavy in his mouth.

“Bingo,” Mr Cho laughs and it’s a grating sound, “you’re a pretty smart kid.”

“You’re a loan shark so I assume that means my father owes you,” Taehyung says letting out a shaky breath as Mr Cho nods.

This is bad. If he’s going after them it probably means his father owes him a lot and hasn’t paid any of it. This is the last thing Taehyung needs right now. All his saving need to go to their new home, he can’t afford to pay off his father’s debt.

It’s not fair.  

“How much?” he asks and his heart almost stops when he hears the answer. It’s so much, too much. How could his father possible have borrowed so much? There’s no way he thought he could ever pay it all back so what was he thinking? If they were to pay it, it would cost all their savings. They won’t be able to move out. They won’t be free.

That worthless, fucking bastard. Always finding new ways to ruin their lives. Taehyung was so damn sick of it.  

“You father has a nasty gambling problem. He’s also shit at gambling. He’s been coming to me for money for the past month and he hasn’t paid back shit. I want my payment, Kim Taehyung, and I want it now,” Mr Cho smiles, his dark eyes sparkling like Taehyung’s growing fear is funny to him.

“W-we can’t pay that,” he admits and the men shift, hands reaching for their guns. His heart is beating so fast, blood roaring in his ears. He feels light headed like he’s on the verge of passing out. He’s cold and hot at the same time, cold sweat dripping down the side of his face.  

“I figured,” Mr Cho says, “That’s why I brought you here. I’m sure we can work something out, some other means of payment. Any suggestions?”

Taehyung wants to cry. He clenches his jaw so tight it hurts. He curls his trembling hands into fists. He can’t pay without ruining any chance they had at leaving for good. he closes his eyes trying to take deep, calming breaths. It doesn’t help.

“I’ll do whatever you want if you’ll write off my father loan,” he says opening his eyes in time to see the smile on Mr Cho’s face widen until he’s positively grinning.

“You must really love your father,” Mr Cho says and anger burns through Taehyung and he’s not able to hold his tongue.

“I hate that Bastard. I couldn’t care less what happens to him,” he says through gritted teeth, “but I know that if he dies his debt goes to me and my sister. And seeing as he can’t pay, you’re going after us anyway. Either way we’re the ones getting fucked over.”

“Interesting choice of words, Taehyung,” Mr Cho smirks and Taehyung shuts his mouth, steeling himself.

“Look,” Taehyung says trying to ignore the way Mr Cho is looking at him, “I’ll do whatever you want on one condition.”

“You really aren’t in any position to be dictating terms, Taehyung,” Mr Cho says smiling like this whole thing is funny to him but he leans back, waiting for him to go on.

“Just leave Sojung out of this, please,” he hates how weak he sounds but he knows the unavoidable reality is that he is weak. He can do nothing but beg now because Mr Cho is right he really has no leverage to be negotiating with right now, “Please. Do whatever you want to me just leave her alone.”

Mr Cho pauses as if considering it. Taehyung holds his breath. There’s nothing he can do now. His little sister’ fate is in the hands of this smirking bastard.

“Very well, Taehyung, you will do whatever I tell you until you’re fathers debt is paid off and I won’t go after sweet little Sojung, how does that sound?” he says and Taehyung nods stiffly. There’s a beat of silence in which Mr Cho regards him and he feels as though he’s being dissected, the man’s eyes slicing him wide over, spilling his guys across his carpet for all to see.

Taehyung watches helplessly as Mr Cho waves a hand, a casual gesture but Taehyung has no idea what it means until the first man moves to punch him right in the face. The impact sends him staggering. His cheek hurts as he stumbles. He’s barely recovered when he’s struck again. This time the force of the blow sends him tumbling to the ground. The lands hard, the thin carpet doing little to cushion his fall.

He groans, his mind still racing to catch up.

‘okay, okay, okay,’ he thinks frantically as one of the men kicks his stomach almost making him sick. ‘So this is it. he’s not going to fuck me he’s going to beat me to a pulp. Okay I can deal with this. For Sojung I will deal with it.”

Another shoe meets his stomach and he wants to curl into a tiny little ball and wait for it to end. But years of living with his father has taught him that that doesn’t work. If you stay down they will continue to beat you until they get bored. If you wanna survive you gotta get back up. He can’t fight back, he knows he has to take this beating but that doesn’t mean he will take it lying down. He’s going to take it and he’s going to take it standing on his own two damn feet.

He scrambles out of reach of the man kicking him, struggling to his feet. His stomach hurts so badly and every move just hurts more but he pulls himself upright anyway. Somewhere off to the side, Mr Cho is laughing at him. Taehyung hates him with a passion.

“I like your spirit, Kim Taehyung, I’m glad I didn’t kill you.”

Another punch catches his jaw followed by another and another. The room is spinning and all he can think about is the pain.

‘you won’t break me,’ he thinks as an elbow cracks into his nose and suddenly he’s choking on blood, the metallic taste filling his mouth, ‘do your worst I can take it.’

Someone kicks him in the back sending him sprawling again. He moves to get up again but one of the thugs stamps on his shoulder pinning him to the ground while another stomps on his wrist. He bites his bottom lip until he tastes blood just so they won’t hear him scream.

‘no matter what you do I will survive. Sojung and I are going to be free. No matter what we are going to be free.’

He manages to struggle to his hands and knees before someone kicks his stomach so hard he actually goes flying, slamming into the nearest wall.

‘I am strong. I have endured and I will continue to endure. We will be free.’

The beating goes on and on for what seems like forever. The kicks and punches that land seem endless and Taehyung isn’t sure how much more he can take. Every time they knock him down he gets up but it’s becoming more and more difficult to drag himself back up and he knows he won’t be able to take much more. Pain radiates from every part of his body. He feels sore and battered, the men leaving him with more cuts and bruises than his father managed to give him in a month but he grits his teeth and he bares it.  

“That’s enough,” Mr Cho’s voice rings out but Taehyung’s ears are ringing so loud he almost doesn’t hear it. But he notices when the attack stops. The sudden lack of anyone trying to beat him to death is as abrupt as it is a relief. His whole body trembles, wracked with pain. Moving is the last thing he wants to do but he refuses to lay quivering on Mr Cho’s floor.

‘no matter how many times you knock me down I will get up.’

With great effort, he struggles to his knees, his body protesting at even the slightest movement. He’s aware of footsteps approaching but he’s too busy concentrating on not passing out to pay them much attention until Mr Cho’s shiny polished shoes fill his vision. He can see his own injured reflection in the shiny surface and he stares at them until the blood from his nose drips onto the black leather.

“Kim Taehyung, you are stronger than you look,” Mr Cho says and his voice is quiet and if Taehyung didn’t know better he would almost say a hint regretful.

But he does know better. Men like Mr Cho don’t get where they are feeling things like pity or empathy.

“That’s not going to stop you, is it?” he murmurs his speech slurring slightly, his spilt lip bleeding as he talks.

Mr Cho’s hand is under his chin forcing his swollen, bloodied face up so he has no choice but to look at him. His thumbs swipes across his lower lip wiping away some of the blood. The gesture is oddly gentle.

“No,” he says in a low voice, his fingers digging into his jaw so tight Taehyung wonders of he’s going to break it, “No it’s not.”

Hands are grabbing him again and he’s too sore to even try to resist as they drag him and dump him on a couch. He lets out a groan as he sinks into the cushions, every breath tinged with pain but he knows his ribs aren’t broken. He’s confused for a moment then he feels the weight of Mr Cho as he climbs on top of him and for the second time that day it all clicks into place and Taehyung can see with awful clarity how terrible his life is.

He should have expected this. He’d been so naïve to think that he could get away with just a beating. He feels numb, his vision blurry from the amount blows to the head he sustained. Mr Cho tears off his shirt exposing his skin to the cold air and he shudders.

“Relax baby,” Mr Cho mutters and Taehyung wants to be sick, his stomach churning, a bitter taste rising in his throat like bile. He tries not to grimace as he feels wet lips against his skin and he forces himself to relax. It’ll only hurt more if he’s tense. Tears well up but he refuses to let them fall as the man fiddles with his belt buckle before removing his pants.

“Just relax,” Mr Cho says forcing his legs apart, spreading them leaving Taehyung exposed and vulnerable. He has to stop himself bringing his knees back together.

He’s trembling now but it’s not only from the pain. His whole body is screaming ‘no’ but there’s nothing he can do. He said he could take it so he will. He got through the beat down he can get through this. He just has to grit his teeth and bear it. for Sojung. For freedom.

It hurts. Mr Cho is not a gentle man. Not that Taehyung really expected him to be. At times it feels like the man is trying to tear him apart, his nails digging into his flesh as he roughly fucks into him relentlessly. He bites his lips and the inside of his cheeks until they bleed so he won’t cry out in pain, he refuses to give the bastard the satisfaction of knowing how much he’s hurting him. Mr Cho’s hand fists harshly in his hair yanking his head side to side, strands of hair tearing at the roots. Tears run down his cheeks but he doesn’t care anymore. He feels distant and dizzy, getting farther and farther away as the pain intensifies. It’s so bad now like he’s being torn in half. There’s a little pleasure there but it’s wrong and unnatural and utterly drowned out by how much the man is hurting him.   

A hand is wrapped around his neck, fingers squeezing cutting off his air and his already hazy vision gets worse. Now he can’t cry out even if he wanted to.  He’s even more light headed now and it’s like he’s floating away. He isn’t even sure when Mr Cho finishes. One minutes he’s there grunting and thrusting into him and then his stomach is coated in white, warm cum much to his disgust and the man is gone.

 He’s left cold and empty, sprawled naked on the couch, surrounded by strange men who just stood by and watched. He should feel humiliated but all feelings are vague and muted. The only thing that’s real is the ache in his lower back. His head is filled with cotton wool and he can hardly even feel how much his body is hurting right now. He doesn’t even have the strength to sit up straight. He just lays there trying to collect himself, to pick up the pieces of himself that Mr Cho scattered around as he did his best to break him.

“Kim Taehyung, your father’s debt has been reduced,” Mr Cho says redressing as he goes to sit down back behind his desk like he wasn’t the cause of the blood running down his thighs right now, “but do not misunderstand, this is not enough to pay it all off.”

Taehyung can’t help the little bitter laugh he lets out because of course it isn’t.

‘Doesn’t matter. No matter what, I will do it and I will keep doing it until it’s done.’

“You will come back again this time next week,” Mr Cho says and he has to bite back the sob that bubbles up, “and the week after that and the week after that. You will keep coming back until your father’s debt has been paid off, understand?”

‘It’s not over but I won’t quit.’

“Understood,” he murmurs, his eyes drooping shut and he feels tears clinging to his eyelashes. But he’ll be damned if he cries now.

‘You won’t break me.’

“Good. Now get dressed and get out and remember, same time next week or I’ll have to go looking for little Sojung,” Mr Cho says with one last chilling smile. Taehyung wants nothing more than to punch that stupid arrogant look off his face but he can’t. There’s nothing he can do but obey. He sits up, trembling as he pulls his clothes back on not caring about the hardening semen or the blood between his legs.

The men are waiting to escort him back to the car and he leaves without a word, still dazed but resolute.

‘we will be free.’

 ~

The men kick him out of the car five minutes from their apartment complex. He staggers out of the car blinking in the fading sunlight and no sooner has he stepped out then the engines rev and they’re gone again.  

He stumbles toward home, ignoring the looks his battered appearance gained him but no one asks if he needs any help.

Sojung is waiting for him when he collapses in the door. He has work at six but he can’t face it. his mind is still numb and all he can think of his a warm shower (if their water hasn’t been cut off again that is) and to fall into his bed and pretend none of this happened.

“Taetae,” she cries as she runs into his arms. As happy as he is to see her he almost crumples in pain, “I was so scared! Who were those men? What did they want? Are you okay?”

She steps back and gets a good look at his messed up face and bursts into fresh tears.

“Oh God, Taetae what did they do to you?” she sobs her small hands curling in his shirt as her whole body shakes.

“I’m okay,” he says but his voice sounds hollow and he knows it’s not the truth. He feels as if he’s falling apart. His body aches and his mind is in shambles. He’s so far from being okay it’s not even the tiniest bit funny. But he’ll lie and hide it to spare Sojung. She doesn’t deserve any of this.

“What’s going on out there?” a rough voice rings out from living room and a hot flash of rage course through him as Sojung flinches.  

“Tae, don’t, it’s not worth it, he’s been drinking-” she tries to reason with him but Taehyung is sick of doing nothing, sick of not being able to do a damn thing to change his rotten luck. He hadn’t been able to do anything besides stand there and take his beating, he hadn’t been able to do one single thing other than lie there while Mr Cho-

He is done feeling helpless.

Anger, like a sickness, turned in his stomach as he stormed into the sitting room, Sojung trailing him behind him still begging him to stop. But Taehyung was beyond listening. This ugly anger was unlike anything he had felt before, made stronger by the pain and shame that shook his body.

“You!” he yelled entering the room. His father was there sitting back in the old beaten recliner chair, open and no doubt empty beer cans scattered around. The smell of sweat and alcohol is heavy in the air. His father looks up just as Taehyung grabs his collar, using all his strength to drag him out of the chair. His sore arms protest but he doesn’t stop.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” his father roars his greasy, stubbled face an inch from Taehyung, completely livid.  

“You fucking bastard!” he’s so angry now, he knows it won’t make a difference but he just wants to scream as if that might help relieve the unbearable pressure in his chest, “what the fuck do you think you’re doing getting involved with a loan shark? Do you know how much trouble we’re in?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” his father sneers shoving Taehyung so hard he falls back into the coffee table with a crash. He cries out as the table breaks beneath him magazines and empty cans go flying around him. Sojung lets out a little shriek.

“What gives you the right to talk to me like that huh? You little brat how dare you raise your voice to me?” his father screams lumbering toward him. His mind screams to get up but his back hurts so much he felt paralysed and couldn’t do anything but lie there and groan, “I’ll show you-”

“Stop!” Sojung screeches dashing out in front of him and Taehyung’s heart leaps like he’s just seen her run out in front of an oncoming train, “just stop please!”

His father hesitates but Taehyung knows he won’t hesitate to hit her too.

Taehyung stands with great difficulty. He moves in front of Sojung to stand before their father, the rage still simmering under his skin.

“If you gamble away another cent,” he’s not shouting now, in fact his voice is quiet and emotionless but filled with deadly promise, “I swear to God I will kill you.”

His father pauses and stares at him, his eyes as vacant and mad as an angered bull, dark eyes dull and stupid and Taehyung hopes his message sinks in because he’s not joking. Nothing and no one will stand between them and freedom. No one.

“Don’t test me,” he says, one last warning as he pushes his father back into his old chair, walking away.

Sojung follows him and to his relief they make is upstairs without any enraged fathers chasing them.

“Follow me,” Sojung whispers taking his hand and leading them to their cramped bathroom. Once they’re inside she tells him to sit on the edge of the bath as she locks the door and goes to find the one and only first aid kit they own.

He wants to tell her to go away, that he just wants to be alone. Despite standing up to their father he still feels so angry, impotent fury burning him up inside. He feels unstable like if he doesn’t lash out and release some of the suffocating pressure in his chest it’s going to destroy him. He’s not even sure who he’s mad at, everyone and no one. His father because it’s all his fault. Mr Cho because he’s the one who-

He’s even mad at Sojung, an awful, ugly part of him hates her for running and leaving him to be torn to pieces by those animals.

But mostly he hates himself.

He hates how weak his is. How pathetic. He hadn’t even fought back, he’d just let them hurt him. He even let Mr Cho-

He lets out a choked sob before he can stop it and the pressure in his chest reduces just a little bit.

“Oh Taetae,” Sojung says and the sadness, the pity in her voice tears at his poor heart, “I’m sorry Taetae, I’m so sorry. It’s going to be okay.”

He’s falling to pieces and he’s too wrecked to stop the tears. He tried so hard not to cry but now the tears flow freely and he sobs into Sojung’s shirt as she pulls him into a tight hug. His initial reaction is to flinch away from the touch but Sojung smells so familiar and comforting he allows himself to close his eyes and let her warmth surround him.

Harsh sobs wrack his body, partly pain, partly fear, mostly something else. It all hurts so much.

“it’s going to be all right,” he wants to believe her, he needs to. Needs to cling to the hope that the future would be better. That they would actually escape this hell, that they could live happily. He hugs Sojung tighter and tells himself that everything that has happened to him will be worth it.

He cries in Sojung’s embrace until he has no more tears to shed. Once he’s done crying he looks up at Sojung and she holds his bloodied face in her small, delicate hands, not noticing or not caring about red that stains her skin.

“Taetae, it will all work out, okay?” she says, a solemn promise and he can’t bring himself to smile but he almost wants to.

“I know Sojung, I know,”

She treats all the wounds on his face and arms but he doesn’t tell her everything, doesn’t tell her about the pain between his legs because there are somethings she can’t fix. Somethings that are too awful even to talk about. He just smiles as she carefully places the last bandage on his cheek and later as the thankfully warm water from their old shower washes away any trace of Mr Cho from his body he watches the red circle the drain until the water runs clear.

He feels almost whole again.

~

Jungkook is angry.

He’s beyond angry, actually, furious.

The rage in chest is a monster. Ravenous and out of control, burning through him like a wildfire, an inferno, towering flames that are consuming him. Nothing satisfies the rage either. Usually he’s able to work it out in a fight. If he punches someone enough times he feels better but not this time. He was sitting with the rest of his gang when they were jumped by another group of men, not part of Taeyang’s gang but no doubt allies of his. The fight had been quick and brutal. Jungkook hadn’t held back, attacking anyone who got close but they’d beaten all their attackers but he was still angry.

He stalked back and forth the man kneeling before him watching him closely with suspicious eyes. He clenches and unclenches his fists. He wants to murder this man, tear him apart limb by limb with his own two hands and he doesn’t even know his name. he doesn’t care, he doesn’t even care that the man attacked them first. All he cares is that the anger inside wants blood.

“You working with Taeyang?” he hears Jimin ask off to his side but he’s barely even listening.

The man is talking back to Jimin, laughing even though he’s afraid. He lets the man’s annoying voice wash over him, barely even hearing it over the roar of blood in his ears. He ignores him until he hears a word that ignites the anger in him to blaze to terrifying new heights. All he can see is red and he’s not even aware of what he’s doing until he’s pushed past Jimin and grabs the man by his prison jumpsuit hauling him to his feet.  

“What did you say?” he growls and the man’s bravado slips and he sees fear flash in his eyes. He opens and closes his mouth a couple of times but nothing but a strangled yelp escapes.

“I said what the fuck did you say!?” he yells shaking the man so violently his head rocks back and forth.

“I-I just said that bitch Taehyung-” the man is instantly cut off as Jungkook’s fist catches his jaw. He punches him so hard the man crumples to the ground groaning in pain. But Jungkook doesn’t stop, the anger inside won’t let him.

‘kill,’ it whispers, ‘kill, kill, kill.’

He’s on the fallen man is seconds, straddling him so he can reign down punch after punch. He doesn’t stop even when blood coats his knuckles and the man stops moaning. He feels bone crunch and skin tear but it’s not enough.

“Jungkook stop!” Jimin’s voice penetrates the haze of rage in Jungkook’s mind. He hears him but he just doesn’t care. He’s about to ignore Jimin and believe the final punch that he knows full well might kill this man when he feels someone grab him and haul him off the limp body.

“What the fuck?” he spits craning his neck to see Namjoon holding him in his strong arms a set look of determination on his face.

“It’s not worth it Kook,” he says, his voice a rumble in his ear.

“Let me go!” he grunts struggling to get free and finish what he started but Namjoon is bigger and he won’t budge.

“Not until you calm down,” he says stubbornly and Jungkook continues to fight against him.

“Jungkook you need to calm down,” Jimin is there in front of him, his eyes imploring as he speaks to him in a soothing voice and Jungkook stills, Namjoon’s grips loosens but he doesn’t let him go.

“Look, I know he insulted Tae-” Jimin begins but falls silent when Jungkook wrenches himself out of Namjoon’s hands fixing Jimin with an instense gaze, still seething.

“You think I give a shit if he insults that bitch?” he growls and Jimin looks taken aback, his mouth gaping as he regards him with wide eyes filled with shock. 

“Jungkook I-”

“Just hearing that name pisses me off,” he hisses and makes to stalk out, his words hanging in the air as the rest of his gang glance around at each other like they can’t believe what they just heard.

He’s still fuming, the fire in his chest hasn’t lessened any. But he doesn’t want it to. He has to feel the anger because if he doesn’t, if he lets it burn out then he is left with nothing but pain and sadness. He has to let Taehyung’s name ignite his temper because if he doesn’t he has to admit that it’s actually a pain like his heart is being torn out that he feels at the sound of that name. He would rather be angry than hurting any day.

How could he let anyone mean so much to him? How could he have been so stupid? He had given Taehyung a piece of himself and far too much power and it had blown up in his face and it hurt so fucking bad. He had told Taehyung how much he cared, he had worn his fucking heart on his fucking sleeve and what had he done? He’d thrown it right back in his face.

Jungkook lets out a cry of frustration and has to stop himself from punching the wall again. The anger is just building and building and building and there’s no release.

He feels like he’s going to explode.

“Jungkook!” at the sound of Yoongi’s voice behind him he walks faster. The last thing he needs right now is to fight with him. He doesn’t want to do something he might regret.

“Jungkook stop!” he keeps walking until Yoongi grabs his arm and spins him around so he has no choice but to look at him.

“What!?” he yells before Yoongi can even open his mouth, “What, Yoongi? What do you want? You want to lecture me? cus I don’t want to hear it!”

“Okay you need to calm down right now Jungkook,” Yoongi says in a steady voice pushing him backwards.

“Don’t tell me what to do,” Jungkook grits out between his teeth, curling his hands into fists.

“You know why you’re so angry?” Yoongi demands and Jungkook knew it, Yoongi always has something to say and usually it’s something he really doesn’t want to hear it.

“Because Taehyung left! He left me Yoongi, he-”

“You’re not mad at Taehyung,” Yoongi insists and Jungkook can’t believe what he’s hearing.

“Excuse me?” he asks incredulously, his fists are shaking and he’s seconds away from losing it.

“This isn’t about him and you know it,” Yoongi says and he’s pushing him back again, pressing him with all his weight against the wall. Jungkook would normally brush him off, Yoongi is strong but Jungkook is stronger but he’s too focused on not punching him in the face.

“You’re not mad at him and you’re not mad at me or any of us,” Yoonig says and Jungkook has had enough.

“Stop it Yoongi,” he growls, “I’m warning you.”

“You’re mad at yourself, Jungkook!” he yells, his voice ringing loud in the corridor and it’s been said and nothing can take it back, “But this isn’t your fault! It’s not your fault then and it’s not your fault now!”

“It was my fault!” Jungkook screams and he pushes Yoongi is hard he goes stumbling back, hitting the opposite wall, “it was my fault! She died and I didn’t save her. It’s all my fault!”

Pain floods his chest like a tsunami and Jungkook almost crumbles then and there. Old scars are being violently ripped open and that night fills his head. Gunshots, bullets tearing through the night air. Smoke obscuring everything but he can still hear her screaming. He’s running but he can’t reach her. There’s so much pain and all he can see is smoke and blood and it’s too late, too late, too late-

“It’s all my fault,” he whispers breathing heavily, heart thudding like an old ache in his chest and he wishes he could live without it. why could he be a heartless, unfeeling being of violence and rage? Why did he have to hurt like this? He slumps, the weight of the pain and the guilt is crushing and he doesn’t know how much more he can handle.

“Jungkook,” Yoongi begins in a quiet voice, reaching out as if to place a reassuring hand on his shoulder but Jungkook flinches violently away.

The pain is too much and he can feel the anger rising again to mask it, to smother any and all traces of hurt and replace them with hatred and rage.

“Don’t touch me,” he snarls and the look in Yoongi’s eyes isn’t so much surprise as it is sombre resolution.

“Jungkook,” he tries one more time but Jungkook is done. He turns to leave and this time Yoongi doesn’t try to stop him. He takes a few steps before pausing. He looks over his shoulder. Yoongi is still watching him, his shoulders set, an unreadable expression on his face.

“I don’t want to hear another word about this,” Jungkook says quietly, and Yoongi just watches him silently, “and I never want to see Taehyung again.”  

Chapter Text

The man, whose name Taehyung cannot remember, if he’d even been told it in the first place, is fast asleep, his gentle snores the only sound in the still night air. His small apartment is quiet, the silence resonating with the growing emptiness inside Taehyung. His temples pounds like he can still hear the obnoxious club music thumping in his skull.

Taehyung can’t sleep. His mind is too wired, buzzing with a numb nothingness. It feels like he hasn’t slept in weeks. Ever since weekly visits to Mr Cho became another responsibility weighing on him his health has been getting worse. He’s losing weight at an alarming rate, his ribs even more pronounced than usual. He’s paler too, his skin an unhealthy sallow, making the ever-worsening dark circles under his eyes even more noticeable. It feels as though he’s bleeding inside, internal wounds weeping as the emptiness grows, fear and hurt pooling in his chest until he’s drowning. His mind is frayed and he hardly recognises this bruised and beaten body as his anymore and it’s getting worse by the day.

He’d thought this would help.  

It had been his choice. He’d chosen to go to the club. He’d let the man buy him a drink, let him press close and whisper things in his ear. When the man asked if he wanted to come home, he’d said yes.

It had all been his choice.

Even as the man fucked him he told himself that he was the one in control. He even tried to tell himself he liked it.

So why didn’t he feel any better?

He had wanted this. He’d asked for it because he thought that if the sex was his idea, if it was consensual, it would make the ugly sickness in him go away. It didn’t work. He could still see Mr Cho hovering over him, can still feel his touch crawling all over his skin. He still feels disgusting and filthy like he’s covered in grime and dirt. His body hurts almost constantly and when he catches his reflection in a mirror on a nearby wall he can barely recognise the face looking back at him.

There was an aching void in his chest. A big dark hole swallowing up all the light within him leaving him more hollow by the day. It was growing and he was being consumed, eaten alive from the inside out. It had started the first time Mr Cho held him down and it hadn’t gone away since. It festered, rotting within him making him sick. 

He’d been so sure that if he did the same thing but on his terms then it would be okay. If he allowed it he could somehow reclaim his body, make it his own again.

He had been looking for something that had been lacking. It was all so mixed up in his head, feelings and trauma confused and jumbled making him ill, disorientating him. He hated Mr Cho, loathed him and the way he touched him. He hated his cruel smile and cold, hard eyes. And yet…

As much as he hated everything about the man, every time he touched him there was this longing in him and he despised it. How fucked up was he? This man fucked him when he didn’t want it, forced him to have sex with him and yet there was a part of him that still wished for something more.

He wasn’t exactly sure what. Mostly because he was too afraid to think too hard about it, too scared to find out to what exact extent he was sick in the head. He wanted, he wanted- what did he want?

If he dared to put a name on the terrible longing within him he might have called it a need for affection.

Wasn’t sex supposed to be linked with love? Wasn’t there supposed to be intimacy? Taehyung wasn’t totally naive. He knew getting fucked to pay off his father’s debt in front of half a dozen men was in no way intimate. He knew the world wasn’t the way movies portrayed it. But that didn’t stop a traitorous part of himself wanting some tiny show of care and affection. It was wrong and fucked up but he couldn’t help wishing that Mr Cho would look at him with something other than pure lust and hunger. Wanted just the smallest hint of praise and approval.

He wanted to hear, more than anything, ‘I’m proud of you, son’.

Taehyung jolted out of his thoughts, disgusted by himself, sickened to his core. Why had his mind jumped to his father? Was he really that broken? What the actual fuck was wrong with him?

The helpless frustration inside him was suffocating. He’d hoped that maybe this time he could find that little spark of intimacy, just a hint of connection, that he was someone of worth.

The man in the club was nice enough he supposed. He hadn’t hurt him, he’d asked his permission for everything. But it was painfully clear there was no love here, not even a trace. He was just another one night stand, a quick fuck and Taehyung was left feeling even dirtier and more used than before.

He pinches his naked thigh, hard. Slim fingers squeezing the soft flesh hard enough to leave a bruise. Just another dark blotch to add to his constant collection. It should hurt. He pinches harder and knows he should feel something but he doesn’t feel anything.

Not a damn thing.

The apartment is too warm, stuffy and he can barely breathe anymore. He needs to leave, now. There’s nothing here for him anymore. But then again there never was to begin with.

He stumbles up, untangling himself from the rumpled, dirty bedsheets. He feels awkward and exposed as he stands naked in a stranger’s apartment and suddenly he has a fierce need to get his clothes back on. There’s the shame he’s grown used to tingling under his skin.

He staggers around in the dark, collecting his clothes from where they had been strewn around the floor. He tries to be quiet but his fumbling must have woken the man. He stirs and turns over just in time to see Taehyung shimming back into his jeans.

 “Hey baby,” he murmurs still sleepy and Taehyung shudders, “ready for round two?”

Taehyung purses his lips to stop himself from shouting at the man. Not turning around, he does up the zipper, fasting the belt tightly around his hips.

“I’m leaving,” he says shortly, pulling his shirt over his head.

“What?” the man asks sitting up and Taehyung, still not looking at him, picks his jacket up off the ground. 

“Hey let’s not be so hasty babe,” the man says sliding out of bed still naked. Taehyung opens his mouth but before he can speak the man is behind him, wrapping his strong arms around his waist, “Stay a little longer,” he murmurs, mouth pressed next to his ear, “let’s have some more fun.”

“Don’t touch me,” Taehyung says his voice quiet and strained as it feels as though his throat is closing over. Everywhere the man touches seems to burn and Taehyung can’t stand it, “let go.”

“Hey what’s wrong with you?” the man asks, ignoring him as his fingers continue rubbing circles into his hips, “you’re so tense, babe, why don’t you just relax?”

Taehyung jolts violently out of his arms as the image of Mr Cho looming over him fills his mind, those same words falling so casually from his lips as if they were actually lovers.

Just relax.

“Wha-”

“I said, don’t fucking touch me!” Taehyung shouts his body moving on its own as he lashes out, punching the man in the jaw.

He lets out a surprised shout as he stumbled back and before he even has a chance to recover Taehyung is out the door, shoes in hands, running as fast as his aching body will allow him.

His head is racing and he’s not thinking of anything but getting as far away as he possibly can. He runs out of the apartment complex, not stopping even as his bare feet slap against cold, wet pavement. He runs and runs, his lungs burning, tears streaming down his face, cold night air biting at his skin. He runs until he can’t anymore. He stops, hunching over just in time to be violently sick in the bushes.

He wretches until his stomach is empty. His knees shake and his freezing hands tremble as he wipes vomit from his lips. A choked sob escapes his mouth and he wants to collapse.

He closes his eyes and tries to collect himself. He takes deep breaths of the cold night air, the fresh scent tinged by the sour stench of his own vomit.

His head feels just a little clearer, calmer.

He needs to keep it together.

He could do this.

They wouldn’t break him, they would be free.

His hands are still shaking but he no longer feels like he’s going to collapse.

He needs to get going. The cold is really starting to seep into his bones and he doesn’t have time to catch a cold. Not like they can afford medicine anyway.

He turns to start making his way back to his home, hoping his father was out, not wanting to deal with another confrontation. The last thing he needs was more injuries.

Not when he had to go see Mr Cho tomorrow. 

~

The guard was watching him and it’s makes Taehyung nervous.

He’s gotten used to men watching him almost constantly. The majority of the inmates openly ogling him whenever he’s near and it creeps him out but it never bothers him too much. He knows if they try to make a move he can knock them the fuck out. No one here really gives a shit about inmates fighting. Hell, Jungkook had straight up killed two inmates in the past month or so and so far there had been zero repercussions. Although, in fairness, that was probably because it had been Jungkook.

But a guard staring at him? That worried him. A lot.

He was free to fight all the inmates he wanted but ‘assaulting’ a guard? That would get him a one-way ticket to solitary confinement and if there was one thing Taehyung could not stand the thought of being locked alone in a tiny cell with nothing but silence and his own mind. No thank you, definitely not Taehyung’s idea of a good time.

So when he noticed a guard he didn’t recognise (and Taehyung is good with faces if he does say so himself) staring at him like he wanted to burn a hole in his back, it caused nausea to roll in his gut. If this guy tried to make a move he would be helpless to stop him. Fuck.

“Inmate 971027,” a voice barks and Taehyung looks up to see an old man with grey hair and a deep frown glare at him.

“What?” he snaps and the old man’s eye twitches.

“Stop spacing out like fucking airhead bitch and get back to work,” the man snarls and Taehyung bites his tongue as he grabs the rag to resume drying the mountain of pots and pans in the sink next to him. Fuck kitchen duty and fuck that old guy too.

With a sigh Taehyung reaches for yet another huge pan, hauling it out of the sink muttering curses under his breath. Kitchen duty second only to bathroom duty as the worst thing to do in prison and that was saying something. Although at least during bathroom duty he was alone, save the times Jungkook decided to drop in and surprise him. He’s hyper aware of the guard’s eyes on his back as he works but he forces himself to ignore him. There’s nothing else he can do.

“You’ve been scrubbing that pan for the past ten minutes,” a voice to his left says and Taehyung turns to see Wonho smiling at him, “already slacking off again?”

“Fuck you, I’m working,” Taehyung grins sticking his tongue out and Wonho just rolls his eyes, “I just like to do things right. You can’t rush perfection.”

“You call drying one spot perfection?” Wonho asks raising his eyebrow.

“If you’re so smart why don’t you show me how it’s done?” Taehyung says holding out the rag and Wonho just laughs.

“Nice try kid,” he says with a fond smile, ruffling Taehyung’s hair, “you almost had me there.”

“It was worth a try,” he says with a shrug, frowning at the pot that was still covered in suds like it offended him.

“I’ll tell you what, I’ll dry that pot and you go back to the store room and get another detergent, okay?” Wonho says and Taehyung jumps at the chance to get out of drying dishes.

“No problem!” he chirps tossing Wonho the rag and dashing towards the storeroom at the back of the kitchens. He opens the door and slips into the cold, dark room. The walls were lined with all manner of cleaning supplies and sanitary products. He glances around until his eyes fall on the detergent Wonho had asked for on a shelf against the far wall.

He ventures farther into the room his eyes adjusting to the dimness, the light from the open door casting his shadow on the floor. He’s almost crossed the small space when he hears a noise behind him. He turns just in time to see the guard from earlier standing there, closing the door behind him, plunging the room into gloom.

“What are you-” he begins but he’s cut off.

“Shut your mouth 971027,” the guard snaps but he doesn’t raise his voice and that worries Taehyung. It was almost like he didn’t want anyone out there to know they were in here. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

“What do you think you’re doing in here?” the guard demands and Taehyung blinks.

“Am I allowed to talk now?” he asks and instantly regrets it when he saw something flash in the guards eyes, something a lot like victory and Taehyung couldn’t help but think he had just stumbled right into a trap.

“Answering back now?” the guard says and ugly sneer on his face as he reaches for his baton and Taehyung balks. He was so screwed.

“Turn around and face the wall,” the guard orders, baton swinging menacing by his side. The way he speaks, the way he saunters toward him like he owns the fucking place, the smirk on his face and hungry glint in his eyes repulse Taehyung. He’s met men like this before. Arrogant men, men who think they can do whatever they want, take whatever they want. Taehyung might not be able to fight back but he wasn’t just going to give in either.

“No,” he whispers, his heart rate starting to pick up and sweat trickles down his spine. He wants to run at the man so badly, to tackle him to the ground and escape the room that now seems to be closing in around him.

“Disobeying orders,” the man drawls stopping before him, far too close for Taehyung’s liking, “that’s going to land you in a world of pain, boy.”      

“I don’t want any trouble,” Taehyung grits out, “sir.”

The man’s smile widens revealing uneven, yellow teeth. He leans in until his face is an inch from Taehyung’s, the baton trailing up his stomach.

“Then be a good boy,” he whispers. The baton is under his chin, forcing his face up and Taehyung closes his eyes. By his sides his hands curl into fists. He hated the thought of solitary confinement, the very thought made him ill but was he really about to let this happen to him again? His body is freezing, fear coursing through his veins but there’s anger there too.

Hell no.

No fucking way.

Never again.

The man leans closer but before Taehyung can act the door opens again, lighting up the dark. Taehyung lets out a sigh of relief as he sees Wonho standing in the door way. His was face impassive but his eyes were blazing.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” the guard asks spinning around and Wonho’s face doesn’t change but his eyes meet Taehyung’s.

“I was looking for inmate 971027,” he says sounding bored, “he’s on kitchen duty now.”

“I don’t give a shit, now get out and stop bothering me,” the guard orders but Wonho makes no move to leave.

“Listen, I don’t want to know what’s going on but I ain’t doing his share of work so either send him out or I’m going to get your supervisor and you can explain what you were doing in here with an inmate, alone, no cameras, no witness, no nothing. Now how does that sound?” Wonho says crossing his arms over his chest and Taehyung internally cheers.

“You threating me?” the guard snarls and Wonho just shrugs.

“Take it how you want but if you don’t let him go I think I saw Mr Yoo down the hall,” Wonho says half turning as if to go and the guard steps away from Taehyung and he lets out a sigh, finally able to breathe again.

The guard stalks towards the door, stopping in front of Wonho, pausing to glare at him. The standoff is tense but Wonho doesn’t so much as flinch, standing his ground until the man leaves, pushing past him with a muttered ‘watch it’.

As soon as he was gone Taehyung sags against the shelf his legs trembling, much to his embarrassment.  This whole incident was humiliating.

“Tae,” Wonho says walking over to him, the hard look gone replaced with one of concern, “are you okay?”

Taehyung gulps, opening his mouth to speak but he can’t find the words. His mind is reeling. It had almost happened again. He had sworn he would never let another man take advantage of him like that again but if it hadn’t been for Wonho-

His body had frozen exactly when he needed to act. He hadn’t been able to fight back. Pathetic. He was pathetic.

“I’m not okay,” he says in a dull voice, sinking to sit on the ground, his hands shaking and he hates it.

Wonho doesn’t speak. He just walks over to sit by Taehyung, close but he makes no attempt to reach out and Taehyung is silently grateful.

“You want to talk about it?” he asks gently.

“What happened to kitchen duty?” Taehyung mutters and Wonho snorts.

“Fuck kitchen duty.”

There’s a moment of silence as Taehyung attempts to gather his scattered thoughts. He takes a deep, shaky breath before speaking.

“it’s just, I’ve been thinking a lot lately, about- about my past,” he begins not looking over at Wonho, his eyes fixed firmly on the door, “when I first got here I told myself it was all over. I decided to forget everything that had happened because it didn’t matter anymore. I know it sounds strange but I wanted to start my life over, become a new person, a better person.”

“That’s not strange,” Wonho assures him and Taehyung wants to believe him.

“I have nothing left out there. The only person I ever cared about can’t stand the sight of me so I decided to forget about everything,” he says and Sojung’s smiling face is so bright in his mind. He wishes he could always see her like this but the image of her crying and the way she looked at him during his trial, he couldn’t forget that, “and it worked for a while, it really did. I- I guess I suppressed the memories, all the hurt, everything that made me weak I just… I just forgot it.”

He had been able to hide it all. His father and his violent temper, letting Mr Park and Mr Cho use him to pay for what he could never hope to afford, his mother leaving them in hell and most of all he had been able to forget how pathetic he had been, how weak. He had shoved all those terrible memories down into a little box that he had locked away in the deepest recesses of his mind. There they had stayed and Taehyung had had some semblance of peace.

And then Jungkook had happened like a fucking atom bomb in his new life. Ruining everything. Blowing that little box and Taehyung’s precious scrap of peace to pieces.

“I liked how I felt, I felt free,” Taehyung admits, “actually the minute I did what I did I felt free. I wasn’t afraid anymore. I forgot and I became a better person, a person that could fight back, a person who wasn’t afraid. That was the person who met Jungkook, that’s the person he likes.”

“Taehyung-” Wonho says but Taehyung isn’t finished. His thoughts are jumbled and if he doesn’t spit it all out now he might never.

“But that person wasn’t me, Wonho, that person was only there because I forgot about everything that happened to me, I forgot how weak I was. But that night, when Jungkook and I were attacked and I saw him go berserk it- I don’t know, it trigged all the memories of my past. Everything I had worked so fucking hard to forget all came rushing back and since then I haven’t been the same. I feel, I don’t know I feel scared and weak and I hate it. I want to forget again but I can’t because every time I look at Jungkook, every time I even think about him I can’t forget I-” Taehyung can’t breathe, he’s talking too fast and he can no longer draw breath. 

“Hey, Tae, it’s okay, breathe, just breathe,” Wonho says and Taehyung does. He draws air in through his nose, exhaling from his mouth until he feels a little less panicked.

“I’m just, I’m so messed up,” he says and it’s really really hard not to cry then and there, “what if he doesn’t like this me? What if he leaves me like they did? Everyone leaves me Wonho, everyone and he will too.”

“Hey,” Wonho says quietly, “Tae, look at me.”

Taehyung does, slowly, glancing at Wonho out of the corner of his eye like he was the sun waiting to blind him. Instead it was just Wonho, looking at him with a patient smile and Taehyung can’t for the life even begin to fathom what he did to deserve someone like Wonho.

“Look Tae, I know you don’t want to talk about it and that’s fine,” Wonho begins, “Maybe someday you will and when that happens I’ll be here to listen.”

“You’ll be there?” Taehyung asks quietly, the you aren’t going to leave me was left unsaid.

Wonho smiled a knowing look in his eyes, “Of course, Tae.”

Taehyung closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The spinning world stilled and he was no longer trembling so badly.

“Look, Tae, no one in here is here because they had an easy life and trust me, I know how tempting it is to want to supress it and forget all that bad shit,” Wonho says, “but Tae, that’s not healthy.”

Taehyung swallows, a lump forming in his throat. He nods, “I know,” he whispers.

“You say Jeon won’t like you because you aren’t the same but you are Tae, that brave you is still you and the past you is you too. People are made up of good things and bad things, weakness and strengths. They make you who they are. Remembering isn’t bad. It hurts like hell but the only way to find peace is to come to terms with the past and the person it made you. You can’t change what happened but you can decide how it shapes your future.”

Taehyung shakes his head, “It’s not that easy, it’s-”

“Taehyung,” Wonho says and Taehyung looks at him, “no problem was ever solved by running away, I can tell you that for damn sure. If you ever want to become that strong you again you have to accept the weaker parts of yourself too.”

“I hate those parts of myself,” Taehyung says and his voice sounds strangled. “Not being able to fight back, do you know how many times I’ve been unable to stand up for myself? I never want that to happen again.”

“Of course you don’t Taehyung, no one does,” Wonho says, “But I’ve seen you fight and I’ve seen you win, Taehyung and I know you’re stronger than you look. The fact that you’re sitting here right now means the skinny boy I said wouldn’t even last a week in here survived every single fight he’s been in.”

Taehyung feels stunned. He’d never thought of it that way. Survival had never seemed like winning.

Wonho reaches out and takes his hand and Taehyung doesn’t pull away.

“Even the weak you is stronger than you think. Don’t forget that, Tae,” he whispers squeezing his hand gently, “if you ever want to get over this you need to stand up to your fears, you need to come to terms with what happened. Don’t run away anymore.”

“Are you- are you saying I need to talk to Jungkook?” he breathes, holding Wonho’s hand tighter. His heart speeds up, from both nerves and excitement. Jungkook may represent so much of what he fears, uncontrollable rage, abandonment, a life of crime and violence and yet…

Taehyung could not deny he wants to see Jungkook.

“I think you need to figure out what you really want, Tae,” Wonho says and Taehyung nods.

“No more running away,” he says and resolve burning in is chest.

“Atta boy, Tae,” Wonho grins, standing, “now come on, let’s finish kitchen duty before that asshole bursts that vein in his head.”

“Not sure if I would mind that,” Taehyung mutters but accepts the hand Wonho offers and lets the older boy haul him to his feet.

~

“Ow! Ow, ow, watch it you son of a bitch, fuck, ow,”

“Why don’t you watch your mouth, brat? I’m not the one who nearly cut his fingers of cutting potatoes like a dumbass,” Wonho mutters under his breath as he finished applying the bandage to Taehyung’s bleeding fingers.

“There, all better. Want me to kiss it?” Wonho asks with a smile Taehyung kinda wants to punch.

“You wish,” Taehyung mutters inspecting the crisp white bandage on his hand, ruby red blood already leaking through. It looked so pretty against the clean whiteness.

Wonho hadn’t been exactly wrong when he said Taehyung had been a bit of a dumbass. Although to be fair, Taehyung blames Jungkook. He’d been spacing out, his mind filled with the boy and he’d been so distracted he hadn’t even noticed when the potato under the knife became flesh and bone.

It had hurt so badly and the cut had been deep but he wasn’t in any danger of losing the finger. There had been so much blood. It had gotten all over his station and the inmate with the beard and the bulging vein had chewed him out for ruining the food but all Taehyung had been focused on was not licking his bleeding finger clean.

He admired the good job Wonho had done with the bandaging. He was surprised the older boy was good at first aid. It reminded him of all the times Sojung had fixed him up in their cramped bathroom. It hurts to think about it now.

His right arm really was a mess. He still had the splint from his broken arm and now the fingers that were poking out the end were wrapped in bandages. Fuck. Maybe he really was a dumbass. 

“You all good?” Wonho asks patting his shoulder, his voice barely audible over the chatter of the kitchen.

“Yeah, yeah thanks, it’s just that-” he sniffs and looks up at Wonho, with wide, teary eyes and Wonho hesitates.

“What? What is it Tae?” Wonho asks suddenly concerned.

“It’s just that, now I can’t cut those potatoes so can you do it for me?” he asks blinking his long eyelashes up at Wonho.

“You are unbelievable,” he laughs, “you know that don’t you?” 

“Yup!” Taehyung says with a grin and Wonho rolls his eyes. He looked like he was about to say something but as soon as he opens his mouth all the noise dies down, an odd quiet descending.

Taehyung peers around Wonho and jolts when he sees who stands in the doorway.

“Since when does any of Jeon’s lackeys do kitchen work?” Wonho scoffs and Taehyung has to agree. He’s never seen any of them in a kitchen before. He had assumed no guard was going to force Jungkook and, by default, the rest of his gang, to do chores like the rest of them. So the question remained, what the hell was Min Yoongi doing standing there looking around the kitchen, his sharp gaze searching.

His dark eyes land on Taehyung and stay there boring into his and Taehyung knows he’s here for him. Wordlessly Yoongi walks over, inmates shuffling out of his way as he cross the room to stand before Taehyung.

He doesn’t speak and Taehyung doesn’t know what to say. Why is he here? Jungkook must have sent him, after all he had said he didn’t want to see Jungkook so it made sense that he would send someone in his place. He’s just surprised he sent Yoongi. It was clear the older boy was not his biggest fan. 

“What do you want?” it’s Wonho who speaks first, crossing his arms over his chest, moving himself to stand between them.

Yoongi frowns at him, his nose crinkling. Ignoring Wonho he looks around him at Taehyung.

“Can we talk?” he asks and Taehyung blinks.

“Um, sure,” he says standing, the cut on his fingers throbbing painfully.

“Tae, are you sure?” Wonho asks and Taehyung nods.

“If I’m not back in twenty minutes avenge my death,” he jokes but no one laughs.

“Oh I’m not going to kill you,” Yoongi says dead seriously and he’s not even surprised his sense of humour is non-existent.

“Great,” Taehyung says feeling more unnerved than before. Yoongi nods and turns heading out of the kitchen. Taehyung gives Wonho one last wave with his injured hand before jogging to catch up with Yoongi.

For someone so short, he sure could walk fast.

~

 They walked in silence. Yoongi leads the way and Taehyung follows behind as they walk outside, through the exercise yard to the metal bleachers. The steps creak as they climb to the top, the wind whipping around them, ruffling his hair and he shivers against the cold. From up here they can see the whole exercise yard and all the inmates exercising and hanging out. Yoongi drops onto the bench with a sigh. Taehyung hesitates, feeling out of place until Yoongi raises an eyebrow at him and indicates the place next to him and Taehyung sits.

The seat is cold, hard and uncomfortable under his ass but he doesn’t complain. He wants to ask what Yoongi wants, or more specifically what Jungkook wants but he wait for the older boy to speak.

Yoongi’s not looking at him. He’s gazing out over the prison yard but his eyes are far away like he’s actually looking at something beyond the drab grey stone of their cage. The silence stretches on and Taehyung starts to wonder if he’s been forgotten about. Yoongi sighs again and reaches into his pocket, pulling out a crumpled pack of cigarettes. He takes one of the orange and white sticks and places it between his lips while he roots around his other pocket for a lighter.

“Want one?” he asks, holding out the packet to Taehyung with one hand, lighting the cigarette between his teeth with the other.

“Um, no thanks, I don’t smoke,” he says and wonders if that was rude. Maybe he should have taken the cigarette to be polite. What if this was a test?

“Good,” Yoongi says and Taehyung looks at him, confused.

“It’s a disgusting habit,” Yoongi mutters as smoke pours from his mouth. He turns his head so the smoke doesn’t blow in Taehyung’s face, “don’t ever start.”

“I, uh, I didn’t know you smoked,” he says and Yoongi glances at him before inhaling again.

“I don’t usually,” he says tapping off the first of the ashes, “only when I’m stressed.”

“Oh,” Taehyung says. He has a pretty good idea why Yoongi would be stressed right now, “sorry.”

This time Yoongi turns to fully face him, an eyebrow quirked, “why’re you sorry?” he asks, the cigarette gently smoking in his hands.

“Oh well, um, because you’re stressed because of me? Because I started the gang war and all that?” he ventures and Yoongi looks back out over the prison yard bringing the cigarette to his lips again.

“It’s not really your fault,” he says quietly, “Jungkook is a big boy. He can deal with the consequences of his actions.”

“Did he send you to talk to me?” Taehyung asks not sure what answer he’s hoping for. Yoongi tilts his head as if thinking.

“No,” he says eventually, “he doesn’t even know I’m here. If he did he’d be pretty pissed right now.”

“Oh,” is all Taehyung can says, the disappointment heavy in his gut, “okay.”

So Jungkook was mad at him. he should had expected that, he supposes, after all he basically told him to go fuck himself the last time they met. It’s only natural he’d hate him now, he deserved it.

“I wanted to talk to you though,” Yoongi says and Taehyung looks up. What could Yoongi possible have to say to him? Sure he wasn’t openly hostile now but it was no secret he disliked him.

“About what?”

Yoongi takes another drag of the cigarette, still staring off into the distance at something Taehyung can’t see. When he speaks again his voice is distant.

“I hated my father,” he begins and Taehyung swallows his mouth dry.

“I don’t have a single good memory of the bastard,” he says, his face hard, set in a blank mask, “he was a vile, angry and violent man. Me and my mom lived in fear of him, every damn day. He used to beat us. First he’d hit her, then when I tried to help her he’d hit me.”

Taehyung’s hands are starting to shake again. He can no longer to bear to look at Yoongi so he too stares out at the prison yard. He almost thinks he catches a glimpse of what Yoongi sees.

“He smoked all the time, two packs a day. Every pack he’d get had a warning on the outside. ‘smoking kills’ and every single day I wondered, ‘why didn’t it?’ He used to use my arm to put out the cigarettes. He’d hold my wrist so tight that I couldn't get away, then he’d press the glowing butt against my skin. Hurt like a motherfucker,” Taehyung flinches and remembers the time his father broke a bottle across his face. He still has a scar of his left cheek.

“Still have the scars,” Yoongi says, echoing his thoughts exhaling one final cloud of smoke before grinding the cigarette into the bench between them. Close to Taehyung’s hand but not touching. Yoongi rolls up his sleeves and Taehyung gasps at what he sees. Dozens of small, pox like scars litter the pale skin, raised and slightly red. His hand moves to touch them but he pauses, glancing at Yoongi who still wears his carefully crafted emotionless mask.

“Can I?” he asks and Yoongi inclines his head, “go ahead. They don’t hurt anymore.”

Carefully he traces the small marks, feeling the rough scar tissue underneath his fingertips.

“Wasn’t just my arms of course,” Yoongi says, “I’ve got more to match these on my legs, some on my chest too.”

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says quietly and Yoongi raises an eyebrow.

“You always apologise for things you didn’t do?” he asks rolling his sleeves back down, hiding the marks save one burn Taehyung now notices on his hand, right next to Jungkook’s butterfly tattoo.

“I’m just-” he hesitates, every scar he’s ever gotten from his father seems to hum on his body like some kind of response to being so close to someone who is just like him, “I’m just sorry it happened to you.”

Yoongi is quiet for a moment before he nods, “me too.”

“Of course my dad might have been an asshole but my mom? She was an angel,” Yoongi says resuming his story, “she worked so hard to save up enough money so we could ditch his sorry ass. I was too young to work myself but every cent I found went towards our escape.”

Taehyung nods. He knows that feeling all too well.

“I was ten years old when she finally saved up enough money to move out. We didn’t end up moving far, just far enough so he couldn’t find us,” Yoongi says and Taehyung watches as he picks at the scar on his hand and he wonders if Yoongi is even aware he’s doing it, “it wasn’t easy but she did her best. She worked three jobs to make sure we got by. One of those jobs was the graveyard shift at this shithole of a diner. She hated working there the most. Said it gave her the creeps, being all alone under the florescent lights at four in the morning without another living soul in sight.”

Yoongi pauses and while his face remains impassive Taehyung can see the world of pain swirling in Yoongi’s eyes and he wonders why he telling him all this.

“One night, she was there alone because her bastard of a boss was too cheap to hire anyone else and two thugs robbed the place and-” Yoongi pauses and coughs to clear his throat. When he speaks again, his voice is thick, rough with raw emotion. He’s not looking at Taehyung, he’s still staring into the distance, “and they shot her.”

Taehyung’s heart breaks a little at that. Yoongi’s taking deep breaths like he’s trying not to cry and Taehyung feels useless. There’s nothing he can say, no comfort he can offer so he does all he can do. He waits.

“They grabbed whatever they could from the register and ran. They left her to die, all alone in that fucking diner,” there’s anger in Yoongi’s voice and the fingers that pick at the scar on his hand are moving faster, scratching deeper, “she choked to death on her own blood and by the time anyone found her she had already died. She bled out on that filthy floor. Turns out the guys who robbed the place only took a hundred bucks. That’s how much my mom’s life was worth. One hundred fucking dollars.”

Taehyung doesn’t know what to do. Tears have gathered in his eyes and with a shaking hand he reaches out and gently places his hand over Yoongi and the scratching stills.

Yoongi looks at him and he sees momentary surprise between all the hate and hurt.

“I tracked down the guys who did it,” Yoongi says, not looking away, “I was only ten but I was smart and I was pissed. When I got through with them the police couldn’t even identify the bodies without dental records. As it turns out the two guys were low level members of this local gang so when the boss heard what I’d done he offered me a job. I had nothing anymore, I didn’t even want to live but I couldn’t bring myself to kill myself so I joined the gang and I learned the tricks of the trade. And I was a fast leaner”

“I was with them for about a year then I met Jungkook,” he says and for the first time there’s something other than pain in his eyes, “he had accompanied his father to a meeting with my boss. It was just a simple meeting about an arms deal but my boss was as ambitious as he was stupid so he tried to kill Jungkook and his father and well, I saved them which meant they let me join the family.”

Taehyung nods, giving Yoongi’s hand a gentle squeeze. Yoongi looks down at their joined hands then up to Taehyung’s face. They’re so close now Taehyung can smell the cigarette smoke on his breath.

“I don’t hate you, you know,” Yoongi says.

“I know,” Taehyung says as he realises it’s true.

“it’s just that Jungkook is my family, the gang, they’re my family. The only family I have. And I will do anything to protect them. I lost my mother, I won’t lose them,” he says, “I can’t.”

“I owe Jungkook my life and I love him like a brother. I would happily die for him,” Yoongi continues, “so when  you came along and he fell head over heels it scared me. Jungkook has never done this before, ever. He’d never shown so much interest in one person and so none of us knew what to do and in my experience even potential threats can be deadly.”

“It’s okay,” Taehyung says, “I get it.”

There’s a pause.

“Why did you tell me all that?” he asks and Yoongi looks at him in a way that’s all the answer Taehyung needs.

“We’re alike Taehyung, aren’t we. You said you were sorry it happened to me because you know exactly what it’s like to go through that. You have scars too and I’ve learned that the best way to understand someone is to see their scars. I’ve shown you mine so hopefully you can understand why I did what I did.”

“I do understand,” Taehyung says, and he thinks of Sojung’s smile, “You fight for the one’s you love.”

Yoongi nods, then points at his broken arm.

“What were you thinking when you got that?” he asks.

“Just that I didn’t want to lose Jungkook,” Taehyung admits, “I- I care about him Yoongi.”

“I think I’ve misjudged you, Taehyung,” Yoongi says with a small smile, “and that doesn’t happen very often. I guess I was so caught up thinking how you could hurt him I didn’t even see how happy you made him.”

“I told him I didn’t want to see him again the last time we spoke,” Taehyung admits with a wince, “I thought it was all for the best, I-”

“I know what you thought and that’s my fault, and I’m afraid Jungkook is taking it out on you right now,” Yoongi says and Taehyung deflates.

“So I guess he hates me huh?” he whispers.

“No, he doesn’t. Jungkook may be dumb but he’s not that dumb, it’s just that, well he has a lot of trust issues, “Yoongi says and Taehyung looks over.

“It’s about that night isn’t it?”

“Yes. It wasn’t always just the five of us in Jungkook’s gang, you know. There used to be six until that night when Jungkook was betrayed by the person he trusted the most and he lost so much,” Yoongi says his eyes distant again.

“Jimin told me it was you who helped Jungkook recover,” Taehyung says and Yoongi nods.

“I told you, show someone your scars, see theirs and you’ll understand each other,” Yoongi says, “and trust me, Jungkook and I understood each other.”

“He thinks I betrayed him doesn’t he?”

“Yeah.”

“And he’s angry?

“Furious.”

Taehyung shivers at the memory of a furious Jungkook and the fact that all that rage would be aimed at him terrified him but Yoongi was right. You fight for the ones you love.

“Look, Jungkook has a lot of issues, anger issues, trust issues but if anyone can help him, if he’ll listen to anyone it’ll be you, Taehyung,” Yoongi says and Taehyung knows what he has to do. What he should have done all along.

No more running away.

He stands and Yoongi doesn’t try and stop him.

“Where are you going?” he asks and Taehyung turns to give him one more smile.

“I’m going to see Jungkook, of course.”

Chapter Text

Taehyung doesn’t run. He walks slowly down the prison halls, strolling as if he had all the time in the world, his steps ringing out with every purposeful stride. He remembers running desperately through these very halls in search of Jungkook not too long ago. It feels like lifetimes have passed since then.

He still remembers the fog of panic that had clouded his mind. The frightening thrum of adrenaline in his veins, the incessant voice in his head telling him it was already too late, he was too late. Back then his heart had beat so quickly in his chest he had been sure it would burst right through his ribcage. His mind had been so filled with fear and Jungkook and he had been running for his life.

He doesn’t run now. There’s no more fear or panic. His heart is calm; it’s beat a steady rhythm in his chest. He walks with his head clear and held high. He is going to meet Jungkook and he is not afraid. Nerves flutter in his stomach of course, but he cannot deny that this feels right. This is how things were always meant to be and it is with this knowledge that he walks calmly to meet Jungkook and face his destiny.

You can’t heal a broken bone until you set it into place and Taehyung is sick of walking around with this fracture sticking out of his skin, an ugly wound that he keeps reopening with every move. He is ready to heal.

No more running away.

Yoongi’s voice echoes in his head, telling him to look for Jungkook in the rec room and wishing him luck. Yoongi had smiled as he’d spoken and Taehyung decided the older boy has a nice smile. He hopes he can see Yoongi smile more in the future.

Taehyung knows the rec room pretty well even if he rarely goes there, choosing to avoid it if at all possible. He much preferred the dusty solitary of the library to the rowdy noise of the rec room, the company of books was far more appealing than raucous prisoners.

He’s only really been in there a couple of times and only because Wonho wanted to catch the end of a soccer match that Taehyung couldn’t have cared less about. Something about watching fully grown men yell at the TV screen always seemed ridiculous to him. His father used to do that too, screaming at the screen like the players could actually hear him. He hit him when his stupid team lost and his team lost a lot. 

Taehyung dislikes the rec room mostly because it’s boring as shit. At least in the library he can get lost in a book and forget he’s locked up for life with a bunch of merciless psychopaths and murders who will (and have) tried to kill him for looking at them wrong. The TV has a grand total of four channels, half the pool balls are missing, the couch sags and covered in disturbing mysterious stains. All the old wooden furniture creaks and looks to Taehyung to be on the verge of collapse and the inmates all cheated at whatever games they played, checkers, cards, chess, all of it. Taehyung could cheat much better than any of them of course but winning a couple of pretzels wasn’t worth the fights that inevitably ensued. 

The room stank of sweat and the musk of too many men in too small a space. Four men were watching TV when Taehyung walks in. One of them whistles at him but he ignores it. a quick scan of the room shows three men loitering around the pool table, two more sitting in old armchairs and, in the farthest corner sits four familiar figures playing cards.

Jungkook is sitting with his back to the wall and Taehyung knows it’s so he can see the whole room. No one can sneak up on Jungkook and yet he doesn’t even look up as Taehyung approaches. Everyone else in the room notices him. Jimin, Hoseok and Namjoon have turned, their cards forgotten as they stare. Everyone’s staring at him now, eyes burning into his skin as silence falls across the room. The TV blares but no one is watching it anymore.  All eyes on him, all except for Jungkook’s.

He knows he’s here by now, probably knew it the second Taehyung walked in the door. There’s no way Jungkook isn’t aware of his presence but he still won’t look at him. He digs his nails into his palms until it hurts.

Namjoon, Hoseok and Jimin all acknowledge him as he comes to a stop at their table. Namjoon and Jimin both give him small nods, Jimin even offering a tight smile that doesn’t distract from the worry in his eyes. They’re both tense, sitting up straight, glancing at Jungkook. Hoseok is the only one who looks totally at ease. He grins up at Taehyung, his eyes sparkling like he knows more than he’s letting on. No one speaks.

Taehyung hesitates. Part of him still hopes Jungkook will look up, will look at him and see him. but he doesn’t. He just stares at the cards in his hands.

“We need to talk,” he says addressing the top of Jungkook’s head. Even though he tries to speak quietly his voice is still loud in the silent room and it makes him cringe. All the other prisoners are watching them with wrapped interest like this is some sit com drama playing out before them. Or maybe they sense that something is about to go down. Inmates sense impending violence like sharks sense blood in water.

Jungkook continues to study the cards casually as if Taehyung had not even spoken. He isn’t even acknowledging his presence and Taehyung tries to pretend that it doesn’t hurt as much as it does. His nails dig deeper into his palms.

“Jacks over twos. Pairs,” Jungkook announces throwing the four cards down on the table, acting like Taehyung didn’t exist and it’s starting to piss him off.

‘I deserve this,’ Taehyung thinks, taking deep calming breaths, ‘I hurt him but I can fix this.’

“Jungkook,” he tries again, “I-”

“I have nothing to say to you,” Jungkook snaps, cutting him off abruptly. He still won’t look at him as he reaches for more cards, despite the fact no one else was playing anymore, “now leave whore.”

Whore.

Taehyung feels as though he’s just been slapped. Actually it would have probably hurt less if Jungkook had stood up and hit him. That word. That ugly fucking word had been spat at him with such venom, such hatred that it made him flinch.

Heat floods his face, shame coursing through him. The silence in the room is starting to weigh on him and it’s as if no one is even breathing anymore. They’re all just waiting to see how he’ll react. If it was anyone besides Jungkook the rest of the inmates would be screaming for a fight, jeering and cat calling, desperate for some entertainment to break the monotony but it is Jungkook and every single man in this room both fears and respects him too much to make a sound.

Part of him wants to cry, that word a striking a painful cord in his chest but a larger part of him is pissed. Outrage burns in his veins, fierce and indignant. How fucking dare he? Taehyung had been called a whore before, many times in fact. It had been one of Mr Cho’s favourite nicknames for him and he had promised himself never again.

“Listen here Jungkook, I will not be disrespected like this,” he snaps and when that elects no response from the younger boy he leans across the table, grabs the cards straight out of his hands and throws them in his face.

Now Jungkook is looking at him. He’s glaring, sure, his eyes filled with animosity but at least he’s looking at him. There’s no going back now.

No more running away.

“I did not go to hell and back to be called a whore by the likes of you, Jeon Jungkook,” he says quietly but firmly. He holds Jungkook’s glare and refuses to look away.

“Get out,” Jungkook says equally quietly after a moment of silence, his dark eyes locked on his face. His whole body is tense.

“No,” Taehyung says standing his ground. He crosses his arms over his chest, sticking his chin out defiantly and Jungkook’s eye twitches.

“You bitch,” Jungkook hisses, “I said get out!” he screams slamming his hands on the table making the cards jump. Part of Taehyung instinctively shies away at the sudden loud noise.

“I’m not leaving until we talk,” Taehyung insists and Jungkook’s nostrils flair. He’s aware of the others at the table exchanging knowing looks. The rest of the room is moving too, mutters of anticipation. They all know where this is going. The sharks are circling closer and closer.

“You have no idea who you’re talking to! I run this place and you are nothing to me. Show me the fucking respect I deserve and do as I fucking say, got it?” Jungkook seethes and Taehyung grits his teeth. He knows Jungkook is hurt but that does not give him the right to treat him like this. Not when he’s trying so hard to make it right.

“I am not leaving this room unless you make me,” Taehyung says and means it.

“Don’t fucking test me Taehyung!” Jungkook screams standing so quickly his chair slams to the floor with a startling bang. With terrifying ease he flips the table over sending cards and chips flying like a bizarre snow storm and Taehyung is forced to step back to avoid it. Hoseok is not as quick and squeaks as the table falls on him, Namjoon and Jimin having already moved out of its way. It would have been comical to see Hoseok flailing underneath the round wooden table but there’s nothing funny about the way Jungkook is breathing heavily, nostrils flaring, chest heaving, and murder in his eyes.

“You think I fucking won’t?” he growls, his muscles bulging like he’s barely in control anymore, “I’m warning you, if you don’t leave now they’ll have to scrap your body off the fucking walls. I swear to god Taehyung I am not fucking around.”   

“I’m not afraid of you Jungkook,” Taehyung fires back and it almost feels like the truth, “and I’m not leaving.”

“Jungkook-” it’s Jimin who speaks up as Namjoon helps Hoseok up off the floor.

“What!?” Jungkook demands and even Jimin looks a little taken aback. He reaches out as if to pacify Jungkook who is practically trembling with rage.

“I think you should calm down,” he says in a soothing voice but it only serves to enrage Jungkook even more.

“Don’t tell me what to fucking do!” he practically screeches, “get out! All of you! Everyone leave now!”

Nobody moves, too stunned to react. They all just gape at him as if trying to process what he just said.

It’s Hoseok who recovers quickest, bright grin in place as he addresses the other inmates.

“You heard him, you pieces of shit!” he announces with a pleasant smile, “Now get moving or I’ll kill you all!”

With that the spell is broken. All around him inmates start to move, heading for the door, grumbling. They might not have been happy but to disobey Jungkook was a death sentence and if there was one thing prisoners liked more than watching a good fight it was not being murdered by a creepily smiling Hoseok.

“Jungkook,” Namjoon says as soon as the room is empty but once again it’s Hoseok who interrupts him.

“Actually Joon we should get going too,” he says and Taehyung blinks. He hadn’t been expecting that but Hoseok shoots him a knowing look and he gets it. He inclines his head slightly in thanks.

“Hoseok I-” Jimin says but before he can continue and risk anatomising Jungkook even more, Hoseok grabs him by the hand and physically drags the smaller boy out of the room. As he passes he gives Taehyung a concerned look and Taehyung does his best to smile in a way he hopes is somewhat convincing.

“What are you waiting for?” Jungkook’s voice is harsh in the quiet and for a second Taehyung thinks he’s talking to him. then he remembers Namjoon is still standing there looking torn.

“It’s okay,” Taehyung says and is thankful his voice doesn’t shake, “I’ll be okay, we’re just going to talk.”

The way Jungkook’s eye twitches again doesn’t go unnoticed by Namjoon but he looks between them and after a moments more hesitation he sighs.

“Fine,” he says and with one last look between them he leaves and for the first time in what feels like forever they are alone.  He is equal parts afraid and relieved.

No more running away.

The only sound is Jungkook’s heavy breathing and his own thundering heartbeat.

“You’ve got some fucking never, you know that?” Jungkook says through gritted teeth and Taehyung swallows, “coming in here, demanding to talk to me like some entitled bitch.”

“Watch it,”

“No, you watch it bitch,” Jungkook seethes emphasising the word ‘bitch’, “I gave you the chance to be more but you chose to remain a no one. Get it into that pretty fucking head of yours: you are nothing to me.”

“I made a mistake and I get that you’re mad but let me explain,” Taehyung is close to pleading. He’s trying his hardest to get through to Jungkook but it’s not working he didn’t expect him to be this stubborn.

“You really don’t get it you dumb bitch,” Jungkook says with a small laugh that lacks any trace of humour, “I don’t give a shit about your explanations so save it.”

“I know I hurt you-”

“You don’t know anything so shut the fuck up, whore,” Jungkook snarls and this time Taehyung can’t hold his tongue as red hot anger crashes through him.

“Don’t call me that,” he says and Jungkook takes a step closer but Taehyung refuses to back down, “throw all the bitch fits you want but don’t fucking call me that.”

“What?” Jungkook sneers, his voice laced with a mocking tone as he leans in so Taehyung can feel the warmth of his breath on his cheek, “you think just because you played hard to get I don’t know a slut when I see one?”

Taehyung balks his whole body trembling, with anger and something an awful lot like hurt. Jungkook has found his old scars and he’s digging his fingers in and tearing them wide open.

“I’m not going to tell you again Jungkook, I will not be disrespected like this,” he says and this time his voice trembles but it’s not fear, it’s rage.

“Maybe you should have thought of that before you betrayed me!” Jungkook screams and for the first time Taehyung catches a glimpse of the hurt behind all the anger. It’s just a quick flash but the sadness in Jungkook’s eyes when he says ‘betrayal’ is unmistakable before it’s swallowed up again by all that toxic anger.

“I know what I did was stupid but if you’ll just listen to me,” Taehyung tries to remain calm even as he raises his voice. He’s trying to be reasonable but it’s starting to occur to him that Jungkook is beyond reason.

“I don’t want to listen to you! I fucking told you I have nothing to say to you,” Jungkook pushes him, hard enough to send him stumbling but he doesn’t fall, “you had your chance and you fucking blew it.”

“You think I’m the only one who made mistakes?” Taehyung screams incredulously, pushing Jungkook back, “have you looked in a mirror lately? Do I have to remind you of all the times you fucked up Jungkook? At least I’m trying to make things right!”

“Who says I want to make things right?” Jungkook yells shoving Taehyung even harder, “at least I never walked away from you!”

“No you just fucking choked me didn’t you!” Taehyung knows a screaming match will get them nowhere and that he’s letting his own temper get the best of him but in that moment he doesn’t fucking care, “nearly strangling someone sounds like a betrayal to me!”

“Only because I saved your ungrateful ass and you turned around and looked at me like I was the monster!”

“You think you’re so perfect don’t you, Jeon?” Taehyung sneers, “but just because everyone’s too afraid to point out your flaws doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

“Go on,” Jungkook hisses grabbing a handful of the front of his Jumpsuit, “go on Kim, why don’t you enlighten me?”

Taehyung pauses but only for a second, words bubbling up and he couldn’t stop them spilling forth even if he wanted to.

“You think your temper and all the shit you pull are okay because something sad happened to you when you were young?” he spits and Jungkook’s eyes flash dangerously and the grip on his jumpsuit tightens.

“Well tough shit because fucked up stuff happens to everyone and it doesn’t mean they can get away with murder,” Taehyung knows he should shut his mouth. The look of pure fury on Jungkook’s face tells him he’s going too far, crossing lines he shouldn’t even go near but he’s held this anger in his heart for too long and if he doesn’t get it out he never will.

“You know who else had a shit life? My fucking dad. His father was a piece of shit to him and his mother was a bitch and he worked his ass off for us when we were young. I know he went through hardships but that doesn’t mean I forgive him for anything he did to me! I don’t care how hurt he was that didn’t give him the right to hurt me or push me down the stairs or break my fucking ribs! The world doesn’t work that way because the world doesn’t give a shit about your tragedy!” Taehyung is screaming now, his own hands gripped around Jungkook’s, nails digging into his skin but Jungkook doesn’t even seem to feel it, “so if you’re mad then get fucking mad! Hit me if that’s what you have to do but own your fucking shit Jungkook. Stop using that night as an excuse to be an ass!”

The punch lands across his cheek, fist catching the side of his face with surprising force and sends him reeling, pain exploding down his jaw.  

“How fucking dare you?” Jungkook rages punching him again, sending him tumbling, “don’t you dare talk about what you can’t possibly understand!”

“You think I don’t understand loss and pain?” Taehyung recovers enough to land a right hook of his own right to Jungkook’s nose. His right wrist is still encased in the splint so he has to use his left hand. It’s not as powerful but over the years he’s learned to fight with both arms because you never knew when you’d have to.

“You have no idea,” Jungkook growls stalking towards him blood gushing down his chin. He wipes it carelessly away, smudging his cheek and knuckles a pretty red, “I have no idea what I went through, what I lost!”

“Then tell me! Talk to me!” he implores.

Jungkook darts forward punching him and Taehyung isn’t quick enough to dodge and the bloody fist meets his lips. His mouth fills with the bitter taste of blood and Taehyung coughs.

“You gave up that right when you said you never wanted to talk to me again,” Jungkook yells and punches him again and Taehyung knows he’s going to have one hell of a black eye.

“I said I was sorry,” Taehyung does dodge the next blow aimed at his head, ducking under Jungkook’s arm, darting in close, close enough to punch Jungkook in the stomach, “I didn’t want to leave but I was scared! I thought it was for the best, I- I didn’t want to hurt you!”

Probably not the right thing to say as he slams his fist into Jungkook’s face again.

“You thought leaving me like that wouldn’t hurt me!?” Jungkook’s voice sounds raw as it tears from his throat, “I gave you a piece of me and you tore it up right in front of me! how could you possibly think that wouldn’t hurt me?”

Images of his mother flash through his mind. That day she took their money and ran. That day she abandoned them to rot in that hellhole. Why was he thinking of that now as Jungkook caught his chin with a vicious uppercut.  What we did was totally different, he tells himself, I’m not like her. I’m not. That’s what he tells himself but he can’t help but recognise that awful pain in Jungkook’s eyes, the pain that only came with abandonment. Fuck.

He opens his mouth to speak but he’s cut off when Jungkook sinks his fist into his gut. He doubles gasping for air as his lungs are emptied. He doesn’t even have a moment to recover before Jungkook grabs a painful fistful of his hair holding his head in place as he slams his knee into his face. There’s a sickening crunch accompanied by so much pain Taehyung isn’t even sure what’s broken. Could be everything for all he knows.

He can’t even think as the floor rushes up to catch him as he falls. Concrete slams into his bruised cheek and his own red blood pools next to his face. He’s glad it’s just blood and not teeth he sees. Probably means it’s his nose that’s broken though. From the amount of blood that fills his mouth it probably is his nose. Fuck.

But Taehyung’s not thinking of his nose. He focuses all his efforts on getting to his feet when all his body wants to do if fold in on itself. Memories of back then tear through his mind. Those thugs that beat him to a pulp as that fucking bastard sat back and watched. They couldn’t break him and Jungkook wouldn’t. 

He’s almost made it to his feet when a foot presses harshly down on his back forcing him back to the floor.

“Stay down, Taehyung,” it’s a command, Jungkook’s voice leaving no room to disobey, not that he could with the foot pressing into his back but the anger has lessened and Taehyung wonders if Jungkook just doesn’t want to fight him anymore. 

Taehyung takes a deep breath before twisting his whole body so he’s out from under Jungkook’s foot. He staggers up, making it to his feet this time, standing before Jungkook breathing heavily.

“I said stay down!” Jungkook says punching him hard enough to send him stumbling but he rights himself again.

No matter how many times you knock me down, I will always get back up.

It was a painful lesson back then and it’s painful now but Taehyung clings to that one fierce thought and refuses to let it go.

“No,” he whispers and is it his imagination or does he see panic flash in Jungkook’s eyes. The anger is definitely fading. It’s not gone but Jungkook looks the calmest he’s seen him in a while.

“Stay down, Taehyung!” this time when Jungkook punches him it’s with enough force to send him flying backwards. He lands on the nearby coffee table. The wood splinters and breaks under his weight collapsing beneath him. He lays there groaning in the debris.

“Stop fighting me Taehyung,” Jungkook circles, clenching and unclenching his fists like part of him still wants to beat the living shit out of him. But there’s something in his voice, something so close to begging, something that conveys the unspoken I don’t want to hurt you moron.

Jungkook passes and Taehyung reacts, reaching out to grab Jungkook’s leg and using all his strength drags Jungkook down next to him. Jungkook’s reflexes kick in and he’s on top of Taehyung in no time. He punches him again snapping his head to the side but Taehyung isn’t done yet. He bucks, catching Jungkook by surprise and throwing him off they roll so Taehyung is on top.

“Listen to me,” he says trying to pin Jungkook’s arm. His injured wrist aches but he grits his teeth. He’s not giving up now, “stop please! Jungkook please just listen to me!”

Jungkook stops struggling but Taehyung isn’t dumb enough to let go of his hands. They stay like that, Taehyung straddling Jungkook, pinning his hands breathing heavily, both worn out both waiting, trapped, suspended in that single moment. An eternity passes between them in a second and an unspoken truce is reached. The sudden semblance of calm is jarring and Taehyung takes the opportunity to lean in, so his face his close to Jungkook’s. This close he can see Jungkook’s eyes aren’t black like they first appear but really a dark brown that looks so warm when the light hits it just right. Jungkook, he realises, has really beautiful eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung whispers and blood from his split lip drips down to land on Jungkook’s cheek. The blood rolls down his face like a crimson teardrop and Jungkook blinks up at him and he looks so… young.

“I’m so sorry Jungkook, I never meant to hurt you, I promise. I want to make this right so do whatever you have to do. If you want to leave me then walk away,” his voice catches in his throat and it hurt to speak but he didn’t stop, “and if you want to hit me then hit me. Hell, if you want to kill me then go ahead but know that I’m sorry and I never want to leave you again.”

Taehyung isn’t sure what he expected Jungkook to do. Maybe punch him, maybe push him off and leave. Perhaps yell at him. There were a lot of things he expected but Jungkook leaning up to capture his lips in a bruising kiss was not one of them.

In his surprise his grip on Jungkook’s wrists slacken and the next thing he knows there’s a hand threading in his hair, pulling him closer as Jungkook deepened the kiss. Taehyung has almost forgotten the taste of Jungkook’s mouth, the feel of his lips against his, the ferocity that Jungkook puts onto everything amplified until it’s intoxicating, overwhelming and he’s drowning in the best way possible. He had almost forgotten this but now he’s hooked again and the only thing he can think of is Jungkook Jungkook Jungkook.

For the first time in so long all other thoughts are banished. Fears and worries melt away and the only thing that is real is him and Jungkook.

“I’m sorry too Tae, fuck,” Jungkook mumbles into his mouth, their noses bumping, teeth clashing as Taehyung angles his head deepening the kiss further, his body moving on its own. “I’m so fucking sorry, I shouldn’t have-”

Taehyung cuts off Jungkook’s whispered apology, “I know, I know just kiss me.”

There would be a time for talking, later. All that needed to be said now could be conveyed in this kiss. Jungkook’s lips on his was a thousand apologies unspoken. The hand tugging gently at his hair a plea for forgiveness and Taehyung accepted as he kissed back like his life depended on it.

Taehyung’s so lost in the sensations he barely even realises they’ve rolled over until he feels cold ground beneath his back and realised Jungkook was on top of him.

A hand is venturing under his jumpsuit, the zipper coming undone and he can feel Jungkook’s callous fingers brushing his soft skin. He shudders at the feather light touch, distracted by the light headed feeling that came with Kissing Jungkook. He wanted more, his body reacting positively, seeking to be even closer to Jungkook. He wanted to get lost until the only thing he knew was Jungkook. But the hand brushes his stomach moving ever closer to dipping below the waist line of his boxers and he jolts, old memories jostling to the forefront of his mind.

Jungkook notices something is off and the hand freezes.

“Are you okay, Tae?” he asks, pressing his damp forehead against Taehyung’s, their breaths mingling and Taehyung allows himself to bask in the sweetness of this intimacy. He tries not to think of hands that did not belong to Jungkook doing much more to his body.

“I’m-” he begins but he can’t explain the fear that lingers in his chest. He wants to be good for Jungkook. He wants to make him feels good and do whatever he wants but he can’t deny that the thought of letting Jungkook touch him like that makes him feel nauseous. “I’m okay,” he finds himself saying automatically. This is Jungkook of course he should want him to touch him. He was normal, this was normal, this was-

“We can stop if you wanted,” Jungkook says gently despite the obvious need in his eyes.

Yes he wanted to stop. No it was fine he was fine.

“Please,” he says closing his eyes. He doesn’t even know what he’s asking for. He does want it but he’s afraid to. He’s a freak, broken, dirty, soiled. If Jungkook touched him he would know and Jungkook could never know.

“Hey,” Jungkook whispers and it’s so gentle. He brushes the damp bangs out of his forehead, “can I kiss you?”

Taehyung blinks, relief flooding his chest.

“Yes,” he breathes and Jungkook does and it’s perfect. 

“We can go slow Tae, there’s no rush,” Taehyung’s dumb heart flutters at this. No rush, they had all the time in the world. Jungkook’s way of asking if he was going to leave. Taehyung had the answer, the anwer he had always wanted to give.

“Of course,” he sighs as Jungkook kisses him, running his tongue along his lower lip, “no rush.”

I’m not leaving you.

“I just wanted to protect you, Tae,” Jungkook says as he presses wet open mouth kisses down his neck. He shivers at the sensation of Jungkook’s deep voice vibrating against his skin. The air was hot around them and heavy and he felt his skin flush.  

“That’s all I’ve ever wanted,” Jungkook says making his way back to Taehyung’s mouth, leaving a trail of soft kisses along his neck an jaw line. “I just wanted you to be mine so I could keep you safe.”

Taehyung gasps as Jungkook bites down on his neck, sucking the sensitive skin, running his tongue over the vivid mark he is no doubt leaving behind. Taehyung doesn’t mind.

“Be mine, darling,” Jungkook asks, looking up at him through his thick eyelashes as he presses his mouth to Taehyung’s throat, just above his racing pulse.

Taehyung reaches down, running his fingers through Jungkook’s soft hair pulling gently bringing his face back up to him so he can kiss him properly.

“Of course sweetheart,” he says as they break apart for air, faces flushed and damp with sweat and blood, “but don’t forget,” he says pressing kisses to the corner of Jungkook’s mouth, kissing a blooming bruise he left there, “you’re mine too.”

Jungkook lips meet his and he can feel rather than hear the chuckle, “of course, love, wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Chapter Text

Broken glass litters the floor. For the briefest of moments Taehyung’s muddled mind cannot remember how it got there nor can he think of why the shards are covered in blood. Weak sunlight streams through the window hitting the glass, making it look almost beautiful. Like little fallen stars. 

Except fallen stars aren’t stained red.

Something hot and sticky runs down Taehyung’s face and he can’t remember how that happened either. Red drips onto the ground at his feet joining the shattered glass. His mind works sluggishly to piece it all together but it’s like trying to piece the fractured glass back to make something whole again. Small shards are still embedded in his skin from when the bottle made contact with his face and things are clicking into place like the rusty cogs of a machine.

The initial impact had stunned him, shock delaying the inevitable pain. Then the bottle had smashed and sharp, knife like fragments had lacerated his face.  The shock never lasts and the pain is never far behind it.

This sensation is sharp and so overwhelming it takes his breath away and he crumbles to the ground. Glass crunches under his knees, more pain blossoming as the shards dig into his flesh but it’s nothing to compare to the agony he feels in his face. His whole body is shaking with it and he can’t even begin to count the number of cuts that now litter one side of his head. Ten, twenty, more? Blood fills one eye like unshed tears and he wonders of he’s been partially blinded. That thought should definitely scare him more than it does.

He cries ugly tears of broken glass and blood. His body is wracked with sobs but he presses his lips together refusing to make a sound, tasting blood, bitter and sharp as glass.

A sound distracts him, a delicate tinkle so out of place and he looks up to see a monster standing over him. A huge dark shadow, a hulking mass of writhing blackness with broken, jagged glass for hands. Taehyung can see hints of red, his own blood clinging to the shards of the monsters claws.

The monster lurches toward him and Taehyung tries to stagger away but every move only caused more glass to pierce him, blood flowing freely from his knees now staining the worn carpet. He wants to open his mouth, to cry out, to tell the monster to leave him alone but there’s no air left in his lungs. 

“Taehyung,” the monster grunts, a harsh broken sound and Taehyung wants to know how the hell it knows his name, “Taehyung, wait-”

The voice is deep and raspy but it sounds oddly human and awfully, awfully familiar.

~

Taehyung’s nose hurts like a motherfucker. Dried blood cakes his chin and his ribs ache but it’s a familiar ache by now and he hardly even feels it anymore. Instead he focuses on Jungkook.

They’re both sitting on the old, beat up armchair, sore limbs tangled and all Taehyung cares about is the fact he can feel Jungkook’s heartbeat in time with his own. The seat is too small for the two of them but neither of them cared, too wrapped up in each other. Taehyung is half perched on the armrest, half on Jungkook’s lap.

Jungkook’s hands cup his face so gently, rough finger tips brushing against fresh bruises as he kisses Taehyung, slowly, leisurely like they had all the time in the world for lazy exploration. They’re kissing in the rec room of the prison and Taehyung should be terrified of getting caught but Jungkook assured him that Namjoon, Hoseok and Jimin would stand guard as long as he needed them to, forever if Taehyung wanted. Part of Taehyung did want that, forever. He wanted to stay here entangled with Jungkook, lost in their own little world away from the harsh reality of these grey prison walls.

It’s nice, kissing like this, taking it slow. Taehyung likes it. There’s no pressure to go further, Jungkook doesn’t push it and for that Taehyung is glad, confused but relieved none the less.

They pull apart, panting, dragging air into their lungs past swollen, slick lips. Taehyung feels dizzy. Jungkook is looking at him with blown pupils, faint blush under the darkening bruises and the look in his glassy eyes is so unfamiliar but Taehyung has a sneaking suspicion it might have been love. He can’t be sure though, no one has ever looked at him like this before.

“You’re so beautiful,” Jungkook whispers and Taehyung blinks wondering if he misheard. His face feels warm as he looks away. “You don’t have to lie,” he murmurs pressing his face into Jungkook chest. The fabric of Jungkook’s jumpsuit is rough and scratchy. It smells of sweat and musk and Taehyung doesn’t hate it as much as he should. Something about it smells so distinctly like Jungkook. It’s comfortable and for the first time in such a long time Taehyung no longer feels so on edge.

“I’m not lying,” Jungkook mumbles, running his hand through Taehyung’s hair and he allows his eyes slide shut. Part of his mind wonders if this should all be happening this way. Not even 10 minutes ago they’d been punching each other in the face and now here they were, curled up like they were old lovers. Yet somehow it felt right.

Taehyung reaches up to take Jungkook’s hand. Carefully he removes it from where it is carded in his hair and brings it down to examin it. Jungkook’s knuckles are bruised, blotchy red and purple and slightly swollen. The bruises on his face no doubt matched these marks on Jungkook’s hands, like some sort of fucked up puzzle. His own hands bear similar wounds, injuries suffered in the same fight. Jungkook’s hands are calloused and pale with blue veins running down like the winding streets on a map. Taehyung traces them, feeling a faint pulse under the raised skin. His fingers were longer and slimmer than Jungkook’s but the other boys were strong and sturdy and Taehyung knows these hands have done terrible things. These hands are soaked in blood and he knows these hands have killed people, seen it with his own eyes but that doesn’t stop him pressing kisses to each and every bruised knuckles one by one.

Jungkook is still, not moving as Taehyung kisses his hands, just watching him on baited breath.

“What was that for?” he asks when Taehyung finishes and looks back up at him.

“Just kissing your boo boos better, boo,” Taehyung grins, giggling at his own joke and Jungkook snorts, entwining their fingers, holding Taehyung’s hands, the small gesture already feeling familiar. Their hands fit well together, Taehyung notes distantly.

“You’re such a loser, babe,” Jungkook grins fondly as he leans in to kiss the bruises on Taehyung face, the press of surprisingly soft lips against sore skin. Taehyung closes one eye as Jungkook presses a kiss to a bump on his forehead and he cranes his neck to catch Jungkook’s lips in a fleeting kiss.

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook mumbles against Taehyung’s split lips, and it’s funny to think that this apologetic boy is the same suborn one who claimed he never said sorry all those days ago in the library, “I’m sorry, Tae.”

“It’s okay,” Taehyung says with a light laugh and Jungkook pulls away to look into his eyes, “you punch like a nine year old girl anyway.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes, “I was holding back, obviously,” he says with a ridiculous pout that looks so childish Taehyung can’t help but laugh.

“Sure you were, babe,” he chuckles and Jungkook frowns.

“I was,” he insists, “I-I really didn’t want to hurt you, Tae.”

Taehyung pauses. Jungkook is serious all of a sudden, sincerity burning in his eyes and Taehyung wishes he hadn’t spoken. This isn’t what he wants to talk about.

“I said it’s fine,” he says looking away, Jungkook’s fingers still laced with his own, “I’ve had worse.”

Jungkook purses his lips and brings his free hand up to once again brush the wounds he'd left on his face. Taehyung holds his breath as Jungkook’s hand trails down, ghosting over the pulse in his throat to come to a stop, hovering over his ribs.

“Do you remember what you told me,” he asks in a low voice as runs his fingers over the dips in Taehyung’s rib cage, the spaces between ridged bone, "that time in the bathroom, do you remember what you said?”

Taehyung pulls his hand away from Jungkook’s, not able to look him in the eye. That day in the bathroom, the first time Jungkook had kissed him. He knows what he said but it had been a passing comment, a casual remark and he had no idea Jungkook would even pick up on it.  

“I don’t know,” he mumbles staring at the clock on the other side of the room, the steady ticking filling the room and suddenly forever is such a weight bearing down on him, “it was a long time ago. I can’t remember.”

Jungkook’s hand is warm by his side, so warm it’s almost burning and Taehyung’s ribs suddenly ache. It’s an old familiar ache.

“I told you that I remembered the first times I broke my ribs and you know what you said?” Jungkook says and Taehyung bites his lips. Why did Jungkook have to remember? Why was he pushing this issue?

“I told you I don’t remember,” Taehyung says stubbornly, “why does it matter anyway?” 

“You told me that you remembered the first time your dad broke your ribs, Tae,” Jungkook continues insistently and Taehyung flinches. He isn’t sure why he said that back then. Maybe because he had buried the pain so far down inside himself that he couldn’t feel how much it hurt to talk about it, forced himself to become numb in order to survive. He had told Wonho he was afraid to show Jungkook these fragile parts of himself but he already had without even fully realising it.

“What about it?” Taehyung doesn’t mean to sound so defensive but he just wants Jungkook to drop it because it’s in the past and it doesn’t matter anymore so why did he insist in bringing it up now? In his mind the monster with broken glass for hands lumbers up, staggering towards him repeating his name over and over like it’s the only word it knows.

“You told me that and I remember thinking that I wanted to protect you,” Jungkook admits softly, his hand pressed gently against Taehyung’s side. He doesn't press hard enough to cause any pain but Taehyung grits his teeth anyway.Those words make something pang painfully in his chest. Back then, before Taehyung did what he did, he had needed someone to protect him, to save him.

But no one had.

So he’d had to save himself. He’d sworn that day that he would never again rely on anyone else because if there was one thing Taehyung learned the hard way it was that no one cared enough to save him.

“I don’t need you to protect me,” he mutters looking down at Jungkook’s hands.  

“But I want to Tae, I want to keep you safe. Always,” Jungkook gently presses his fingers under Taehyung’s chin, tilting his head so that he could look into his eyes. Taehyung has never realised that someone’s eyes could look so soft, especially when they looked at him.  

“The world hasn’t been kind you, Tae, has it?” Jungkook whispers and Taehyung swallows down the lump in his throat, Jungkook’s warm breath brushing Taehyung’s cheek. “You grew up in a tough world so you became tough too, I can see that and I respect that but you don’t have to be tough all the time Tae, you don’t have to fight alone. You deserve so much better than that.”

“You don’t know anything about me,” Taehyung says and Jungkook gives him a small, sad smile that isn’t even enough like pity for Taehyung to hate him for it. There’s only understanding.

“The world hasn’t been kind, so let me be kind to you instead,” Jungkook’s voice is so soft and steady and something in Taehyung aches to believe him. But Taehyung won’t allow himself that weakness.

“Kind? Like how you were kind when you wouldn’t even listen to me?” Taehyung snaps and he’s not even sure why he’s so upset but something about Jungkook caring about him frightens him. He doesn’t want to rely on Jungkook because as much as he wishes they had, they don’t have forever and no one is permanent. The only person he can rely on his himself, “Kind like when you hit me? Or maybe it was kindness when you called me a whore?”

Jungkook at least has the good grace to look ashamed. His cheeks flush and he looks away, his fingers curling by his side.

“Taehyung,” he says in a strained voice, looking back at him, his eyes wide and honest. He is reminded that Jungkook is younger than him. It’s so easy to forget that, “I am sorry, I was angry I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“Did you even hear me when I said my dad had a shitty life too?” Taehyung asks and something flickers in Jungkook’s dark eyes. Uncertainty, fear and Taehyung speaks, voicing the thoughts that had been weighing on his mind since the night he watched Jungkook murder a man for him, “you remind me of him.”

“I am nothing like him,” he spits but Taehyung can sense the pleading undertone. 'I'm not like him, I'm not a monster, please believe me.' The dark beast in Taehyung’s mind roars to life.

“No, Jungkook,” he says, his voice sound's hollow as it drifts to his ears, “you are a lot like him.”

The monster surges forward on clumsy feet, raising one hand, broken glass still stained with Taehyung’s blood as if reaching out for him.

“Taehyung,” it garbles and Taehyung is trembling now.

“Go away,” he says trying to sound firm but he only sounds afraid, his voice trembling, “Please go away.”

“Taehyung, I’m sorry,” there is was again, that familiar voice, he knew this dark lumbering shape, “I didn’t mean to, I’m so sorry.”

The darkness is melting away, oozing off the being in thick black waves as if it was shedding a second skin. There was something hidden underneath all that darkness once the layers were peeled away and it takes Taehyung it recognise the figure as human and when he does the air rushes from his lungs.

“Taehyung,” he knew that voice had been familiar, “I never meant to hurt you.”

His father stumbles forward and Taehyung flinches away. The monster was gone but old fear still remained, ingrained in his very bones. These moments were rare, flashes between the drunken rages and the stone cold anger of sobriety when his father actually seemed to regret his actions. They passed as quickly as they came but Taehyung always found himself forgiving his father when he saw his tears even though he knew he was a fool for doing so.

“Taehyung I’m so sorry”

Not a monster.

“Please I’m sorry.”

Only a man.

“I didn’t mean it,”

Tears roll down his father’s cheeks, remorse and shame.

“Please forgive me.”

“Taehyung I promise you I am nothing like him,” Jungkook is gripping his shoulder and Taehyung wonders if the other boy even realises he’s holding him tight enough to hurt.

“Listen to me, Jungkook,” Taehyung says pressing a finger to Jungkook’s lips because he needs to make him understand even though he doesn’t fully understand it himself.

“Listen,” he takes away his finger and Jungkook remains quiet watching him, waiting for him to continue. He takes a deep breath calming the typhoon of thoughts inside his skull.

“I used to think my father was a monster,” he says not sure where the words are coming from but trusting them to convey the message to Jungkook who is now sitting still and tense beneath him, “back when I was a kid I learned monsters weren’t creatures that hid under your bed or in your closet but rather monsters crashed through the front door and screamed at your mother. Monsters pushed you down the stair and broke bottles across your face. I thought for so long my dad was a monster for what he did to me, to my sister. But now, looking back, I see things differently. My father was an angry, sad, pathetic man. He was angry at everything. His shitty job, his awful boss, the fact his wife left him. But the thing about being angry at a job or a boss or an absent wife is that you can’t hurt those things. You can, however, hurt the son who is the representation of everything wrong with your shitty life. I see that same anger in you Jungkook, hell, I even feel that it inside myself sometimes.”

“Tae-” Jungkook starts again, desperate to plead his case but Taehyung shakes his head. Jungkook looks so young now, like a lost little boy and Taehyung realises that that is exactly what he is. Just a young boy who doesn’t know his own strength and is confused when he breaks his toys beacuse he played too rough.

“I hated my father and I feared him and I honestly don’t think I can ever forgive him for what he did but I can see now that he was not a monster. He was just a man. You might be king Jungkook but you’re human too. I see that now, there is no such thing as monsters. There are only humans. Humans who are hurting and in pain and do monstrous things but that doesn't make them monsters.”  

Jungkook is silent for a long time. He looks lost in thought and Taehyung lets him think, let's him turn the words over and over in his mind and he just hopes they sink in. Silence falls around them and the only thing Taehyung can hear is the damned clock counting down. Jungkook is warm and solid beneath him and real. Despite his hands being calloused and rough they are still careful when they reach out to take his once again.

“Humans make mistakes,” Taehyung whispers and his stomach twists because he has no idea what he’s doing. He only knows he wants to be with Jungkook so he squeezes his hand tighter and looks into his wide eyes, “I can never forgive my father, Jungkook, but I think I might still be able to forgive you.”

Watching the relief sweep through Jungkook’s eyes is like watching a tsunami wash over a coast line. Jungkook squeeze back, bringing Taehyung’s hand to his lips and, as he had done before, pressed light kisses against the skin.

“I promise Taehyung, I will never hurt you again,” he says mumbling the promise against Taehyung swollen knuckles, “never again.”

Taehyung has heard that one before. Every time his father had those brief moments of clarity. When, for just a moment, he would stop drowning himself in booze and sorrow and his head would break the surface and he would see the damage he had done. He would look at the blood dribbling down Taehyung’s face and the broken bottle in his hands and he would cry and apologise and swear it would happen again. But it did. It happened over and over and over again.

But Jungkook was not his father. He was like him, in certain ways but he was also drastically different and Taehyung was just going to have to trust him, believe him when he apologised. His father was a man of broken bottles, broken bones and broken promises and Taehyung would never forgive him.

But Jungkook was a human and flawed but maybe, just maybe he could change.

Or maybe Taehyung was a fool.

But whatever the case, there was, he supposed as he presses a chaste kiss to Jungkook’s lips, only one way to find out.  

Chapter Text

“They’re awfully quiet…”

“It’s been what? Five minutes since they stopped yelling?”

“That’s a long time, Hobi. Do you think Tae is okay?”

“Oh I’ll bet Taetae is more than okay, in fact-”

“Guys, you really shouldn’t do that,”

“Shut up, Namjoon, we’re trying to listen.”

Namjoon mutters darkly under his breath, too quietly for either Hoseok or Jimin to hear him. Not that either of those idiots were even listening to him anyway. No, they both had their ears pressed up against the closed rec room door, occasionally shoving each other to hear better.

“Jungkook is going to kill you two if he catches you,” he warns only to be shushed by an excited Hoseok.

“He’s not going to catch us if you just shut up,” he hisses, eyes twinkling with a glint that gave Namjoon a bad feeling. If something amused Jung Hoseok it usually meant trouble. 

“Oh my God I think I just heard someone groan,” Jimin whispers frantically waving for the two of them to quieten down. Namjoon reluctantly presses his lips together in a thin line of disapproval as he watches them fall over each other to listen in. Jimin presses his ear closer to the door, almost as giddy as Hoseok, which in and of itself was an impressive feat. They were acting like a couple of giggling school girls and frankly it’s embarrassing. They were in prison for fuck sake - part of their job description was killing people. They should not be snickering and whispering to each other like a pair of teenage girls who just spotted their crush.

Hoseok would have probably squealed out loud had Jimin not had had the good sense to at least slap his hands over his mouth to muffle the sound. They’re both pressing themselves flat against the door, desperate to make out the faint, muffled sounds from the other side and Namjoon kinda wants to fucking die right now. 

“That was definitely a moan,” Hoseok states and Jimin nods in agreement.

“That was Jungkookie right?”

“Why don’t you ask Namjoon? He’s the one who walked in on Kook that one time,”

They both turn toward him in creepy unison, twin smiles plastered across their faces.

“Don’t you fucking dare,” Namjoon threatens, deep voice growling but he is promptly ignored. “I swear to god I have been trying to bury that memory for years, don’t you fucking dare bring it back up now. I want no part in this shit.”

“You’re no fun,” Hoseok pouts, “aren’t you curious?”

“No! I’m really fucking not,” Namjoon exclaims, aghast. His eyes widen comically and his mouth hangs open as he stares at his so called friends in shock. He can’t believe they’re acting as if he’s the weird ones in his situation, “Jungkook is basically my little brother! I’ve known him since before he could walk I don’t want to think of him- of him and Tae- oh god-”

He trails off with a miserable moan, burying his face in his hands, praying that some merciful God strikes him dead there and then. He squeezes his eyes shut, grimacing as he resists the urge to tear his hair out.

“Stop making so much noise, Joon!” Jimin scolds, schooling his features into a look of mock anger, ruined by the cheeky smile twitching at the corner of his lips. He rolls his eyes as Jimin winks at him.

Namjoon lets out a strangled cry of indignation but shuts up. Mostly because he remembers how irritated Jungkook had been the last time he’d had to interrupt him and Taehyung while they were, uh, talking…

He shudders at the memory.

“I think Kook’s voice is deeper than that?” Jimin asks and Hoseok frowns.

“No way, have you heard Tae?”

“Actually no, I haven’t heard Tae moan,” Jimin rolls his eyes like that’s the most normal thing in the whole entire world and Namjoon wants to tell them to stop before this fucking conversation veers off into an even more inappropriate direction.

“Yeah but his voice is deeper so naturally his moans would be deeper,” Hoseok explains and Namjoon wonders what he could possibly have done to deserve this special form of hell. No man should ever have to hear his friends discuss how his other friends sound when they moan. That’s just wrong.

He is seriously regretting every single decision that led him to this point in his life. He thinks back to every close call, every near death experience and wishes he could have done it all differently. This was all Jin’s fault too, he thinks grumpily, if Jin hadn’t been so damn good at pulling bullets out of Namjoon every time he was shot he might not be here right now, suffering. As Jimin and Hoseok continue to bicker over what Taehyung and Jungkook sound like when they moan and Namjoon seriously considers banging his head against the wall until he passed out.

He sinks down onto his haunches, leaning against the cold stone. This couldn’t last much longer, surely it couldn’t. Namjoon hates himself for the way his mind, without his permission, wonders on average how long it takes two young men to have sex. Fuck his life. An apocalypse would be real nice around now. Anything to end this torture.

His saviour does not come in the form of a world ending catastrophe but rather in the form of a bored looking Min Yoongi, his bleached hair flops in his eyes, his fringe having grown in the time they’ve been locked up, darker roots peeking through and Namjoon finds himself briefly wondering if he was bothered to get them touched up. Probably not. It would be interesting to see Yoongi with dark hair again, it’s been a while. He slouches toward them gently smoking cigarette hanging from his scowling lips, eyes narrowing as he took in the scene. Jin, who also looks mildly alarmed, trails after him, along with another young guy Namjoon doesn’t recognise.

The kid is young, maybe around Jimin’s age. He’s got a thin face with sharp, rat like features. His hair hangs limp and greasy and his nervous eyes are the same shade of brown as wet mud. He’s scrawny but tall, awkward and lanky and he looks so out of place as he eyes them anxiously. There was also a thin scar on his forehead . Over all he was a bland, unremarkable kid and Namjoon wonders what the fuck he’s doing here.

“What the actual fuck are you guys doing?” Yoongi asks but sounds as though he really doesn’t give a shit. Jin mutters something that sounds a lot like ‘please don’t let this be as weird as I think it is’, and the new guy just peers around. He’s nervous, Namjoon notes, his eyes darting to take every detail in as his fingers fidget endlessly at his cuffs. Namjoon doesn’t trust him, his gut tells him something’s off. The way he twitches like some sort of strung out drug addict and looks around like he’s mentally planning out an escape route. Namjoon’s seen guys like him before, usually when they’re interrogating people they suspect of having wronged them. But he’s with Yoongi and Jin so Namjoon supposes he must be good.  

“Tae and Kookie are in there!” Jimin explains and Jin frowns, his brow furrowing, his nose wrinkling. There’s no change in Yoongi expression, almost as if he already knew…

“If they’re in there why are you guys listening at the door?”

“We’re guarding the door!” Jimin protests, the innocent expression looking almost convincing on his angelic features. Neither Jin nor Yoongi looks even remotely convinced even as Hoseok nods patting Jimin on the back. Namjoon tries to protest, to tell them that he had wanted no part in this shit but Jin just holds up a hand and Namjoon gives up.

“Jesus Christ, Hobi,” Yoongi scoffs but there’s a small smile playing at the corners of his lips and Namjoon suspects he actually knows a lot more about this than he was letting on. At least Yoongi made good on his promise to fix this shit, “get away from the door you freak.”

Namjoon wants to gag as Hoseok does step away wiggling his eyebrows in an obnoxious, overly suggestive manner.

“Only a freak for you, baby,” Hoseok teases. If it had been anyone else saying that shit to him Namjoon knows Yoongi would have broken their nose. But this was Hoseok and Yoongi was soft for Hoseok and his antics so instead of punching him in the teeth he snorts and rolls his eyes.

“How long have they been in there?” Yoongi asks, changing the subject.

“Yeah, and what happened?” Jin adds. He looks tired, the dark circles under his eyes even more pronounced these days. He bites his lower lip absentmindedly, a sure sign he’s worried.

“Well, we were playing poker with Kook,” Jimin begins, “then Tae comes barging in and calls Jungkook the fuck out for his recent assholeishness-”

“And he says they need to talk,” Hoseok butts in, “but Kook tells him to fuck off so Tae throws his cards in his face and-”

“And then Kook gets pissed,” Namjoon says from where he’s still crouched by the wall, “like I mean really, really mad. I haven’t seen him so angry in a while. He tells everyone to get out but I didn’t even want to leave them alone but-”

“But I think we can all agree it was about time those two got together and fucked it ou-”

“Hoseok!” Namjoon shrieks indignantly, slapping his hands over his ears. Yoongi looks mildly repulsed, Jin eyes have risen to his hairline looking a little scandalised and the poor kid they dragged along with them looks downright distressed.

“Oops, I meant it’s about time they fought it out,” Hoseok grins, looking totally unapologetic.

“So how long have they been in there?” Yoongi asks again through his teeth and Hoseok only beams brighter.

“Well let’s see - there was about 5 minutes of screaming like shouting and yelling at each other. Then we heard a crash like a table breaking or something and then more screaming,” Jimin muses, looking thoughtful, pouting as he taps his chin as he recalls what they heard on the other side of that door. His eyes are twinkling though, with amusement rather than worry. “Then there was silence up until now.”

“Well I wouldn’t say silent,” Hoseok says with a wicked grin but both Jin and Yoongi both shush him before he can go on and mentally scar Namjoon even more than he already has.

“Hey, at least they’re alive,” Hoseok protests and when he speaks it’s directed at Yoongi. The blond boy is silent for a moment, meeting Hoseok’s eyes before sighing and looking away, something silent passing between them.

“Yeah,” he agrees, still smiling gently, “Yeah, I guess you were right.”

Namjoon almost wants to ask what the hell they’re talking about but he’s learned over the years that sometimes it’s better not to know. Especially if Yoongi and Hoseok are involved.

“Okay, so they’ve been in there for what, fifteen to twenty minutes?” Jin asks and Jimin nods.

“Well - time’s up,” Yoongi says with a sigh. He takes a final drag before pressing the used cigarette against the wall, snubbing out the light and Namjoon jolts.

“Wait what?” he asks really not liking where this was going. Not one bit.

The only thing worse than sitting out here while, well, whatever was happening in there was happening, was actually going in and interrupting it. Not only would he be subjected to images that would make him want to bleach his brain but they would also have to deal with a pissed off Jungkook. Interrupting Jungkook when he had specifically told them he did not want to be interrupted was not just dumb, it was walking into a starving lions cage dressed as a fucking pork chop dumb.  

Jin shoves the nervous kid forward. He stumbles and looks a lot like a lamb wandering into a lion’s den except they hadn’t even opened the door yet. This kid has no idea what he’s in for, Namjoon thinks and that amuses him more than it probably should. At least he wasn’t the one here who was the most afraid of Jungkook.

“This here is Lee something or other and he’s got something to tell Jungkook,” Yoongi explains and the kid jerks his head up and down in a shaky nod.

“And yes,” Jin adds before Namjoon can open his mouth to protest, “it is urgent.”

“So what do we do now?” Hoseok asks with a shit eating grin as if it wasn’t already incredibly obvious what they had to do.

They all turn to look at the door and Namjoon isn’t sure about the others but he feels as if he’s staring at the gates of hell. No fucking way was he going to be the one to open them and unleash the evil within on them.

“Well,” Yoongi breaks the quiet, “who wants to go first?”

As he spoke a particularly loud moan drift through the door and Namjoon feels himself pale.

“No way,” he hisses, “no fucking way.”

They’re all hesitating and it’s clear no one actually wants to be the one to open the door.

“Why don’t we just send that kid in first?” Jimin suggests gesturing at Lee something or other but Yoongi shakes his head.

“No we need him alive and Jungkook might actually kill him,” he explains and they all nod.

“So how do we settle this?” They’re right back to where they started, no one wants to volunteer, no one wants to be the first through that door. There’s a long pause in which no one speaks. They look around, meeting each other eyes and it’s clear each and every one of them is thinking the exact same thing.

“Rock, paper, scissors?”

~

Taehyung used to like kissing, a lot, but it’s been such a long time since anyone kissed him in a way that meant something. If it ever meant anything in the first place.

And now with Jungkook he’s rediscovering just how… pleasant kissing can be. He’d kissed a few guys, back in high school, when his innocence wasn’t a distant memory. If Taehyung had ever been a romantic (because he sure as hell wasn’t now but he might have been, at a point in time long lost) he would have called them innocent high school sweethearts. Shy kisses became clumsy make out sessions leading to awkward handjobs and sloppy blowjobs. It had been messy and new and awkward but it had been fun and Taehyung had actually enjoyed it.

He can’t remember the faces of any of those classmates let alone their names but it wasn’t about them, not really. It had been about how, in those fifteen minutes of fumbling, nothing had mattered but getting off. He hadn’t had to worry about rent or his father or if he was going to not fail chemistry when some guy had his hand around his dick. Okay maybe high school sweethearts wasn’t the right term but it had all been innocent in its own way. He hadn’t been naive to think those boys loved him or anything like that. But that was okay because he wasn’t naive enough to love them either. They had just been a couple of dumb, horny kids messing around. There was a beauty in its simplicity, no strings attached, no real feelings to complicate things other than physical and best of all, no broken hearts.  

Then Mr Park had happened and Taehyung had learned what it meant to feel dirty. He showed Taehyung what it meant it be helpless and desperate. Taehyung learned to swallow his pride and more. The bruises on his knees were no longer fun, they were just painful. The ugly purple that had once been so pretty had become a constant reminder of how low he had been forced to sink.

Taehyung had thought Mr Park was the worst thing that could ever happen to him. He had thought for sure nothing could be more degrading than getting on his knees for a middle aged, balding, fat man who stank of smoke and cheese but then Mr Cho had torn through his life like a storm and showed him just how much worse it could get. Taehyung finally understood that before Mr Cho he didn’t even know the meaning of the words pain and humiliation.

Mr Park had just been a dumb dog in heat looking for somewhere to stick his dick but Mr Cho? Mr Cho was another type of animal completely. He wasn’t looking for pleasure or at least not in the normal way. He took pleasure from Taehyung pain and suffering. He still remembers the man tearing at his flesh, trying to rip him limb from limb, breaking him down piece by piece until he was just as dirty and fucked up as he was.  Mr Cho never kissed him. Not once. He only bit, his lips, his chest, his thighs, digging his teeth in until he drew blood.

He’d kissed the men hooked up with at the clubs but it never worked. He only got second hand drunk, the taste of alcohol like poison heavy on his tongue but it never got rid of the taste of the men who fucked him against his will.

But here he was perched on Jungkook’s lap, sitting farther back than was probably normal for such activities. But Jungkook’s thighs are firm and very comfortable to sit on and Taehyung felt comfortable with the distance between them. After what those beasts did to him he never thought he could ever let anyone in again but maybe someday that distance would shrink and he would let Jungkook close but for now he’s happy with the way they’re going. He is kissing someone and he’s actually happy. Who said miracles weren’t real?

It’s been so long since anyone kissed him the way Jungkook does, like he actually cares about him. It leaves Taehyung breathless and slightly awed, he felt drunk in the best way. When he pulled away to catch his breath, just long enough to look down at Jungkook, he saw his own flushed face in the other boys glassy star filled eyes. For the first time in such a long time he doesn’t feel burning unwanted hands on his skin, in fact Jungkook’s tongue is the only thing he can taste and it’s heavenly. Taehyung could definitely get used to this.

Jungkook’s hands were placed comfortably on his waist and Taehyung knows he probably wants to squeeze lower but he doesn’t. His jumpsuit had been unzipped and with only a moment’s hesitation he had let Jungkook slip it over his shoulders to pool around his hips so he now sat on Jungkook in nothing but the vest he wore beneath. Feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty were there, lurking beneath the skin but they aren’t overwhelming and he knows they cannot drown him, not anymore.

Jungkook’s hands don’t sear, at least not in the bad way. They’re rough and warm but they feel so good tracing lightly over his skin. Everywhere Jungkook touches tingles and Taehyung savours the unusual sensation.  The hands dip lower, pulling him closer his hips moving to meet Jungkook. A jolt of panic courses through him and he freezes.

Jungkook notices, to Taehyung’s mortification and he pulls away, breaking their kiss. What was wrong with him? This was nothing. Hell, this was more innocent than his high school trysts. This was some PG shit and yet here he was panicking over nothing . He was so goddamn weak, his face burned and he couldn’t look Jungkook in the eye. Fuck.

“You okay?” Jungkook asks and Taehyung’s heart clenches at the concerned tone.

“Just peachy, baby,” Taehyung breathes pressing his lips back against Jungkook’s because he really does not want to deal with his bullshit right now. Or ever really.

Jungkook hums and Taehyung knows he doesn’t believe him.

“What are you thinking about?” Jungkook asks and Taehyung is slightly taken aback. He had expected him to press the issue, call him out and try to figure out why Taehyung was so broken. This was an out, a way out of this situation. Taehyung could lie and this would all go away. For now.

What was it they always said in those cheesy rom com movies?

“You,” he says it with a smile and a laugh and Jungkook smiles in answer but his eyes are still troubled.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

It wasn’t really a lie, he tells himself, he had been thinking of Jungkook. In fact he had only been thinking about him until he had pulled him too close and his mind had fucked up and spewed forth the bile of bitter memories of bad men.

He sighs because Jungkook has the obstinate look on his face that means he won’t let this go.

Unless…

“Can we not talk about this?” he asks and he sounds tired even to himself.

“I don’t even know what ‘this’ is,” Jungkook says quietly his fingers fiddling with the hem of Taehyung’s vest.

“This…” Taehyung pauses because what could he say besides ‘this is what broke me’, “this is nothing I promise.”

Normal people aren’t like this, Taehyung knows that and he wants so badly to be nice and normal for Jungkook. Normal people enjoyed sex, didn’t they? They didn’t flinch when things got too heavy, they smiled but he couldn’t do it. Something in him shied away like a frail, frightened animal. He wanted to this, he really did but the panic inside wouldn’t let him get any closer. It was supposed to feel good and Taehyung need to prove that he wasn’t so damaged he couldn’t make it feel good for Jungkook.  

“I’m fine, trust me,” he murmurs leaning in to kiss Jungkook’s neck. Jungkook shudders beneath him and Taehyung smiles, it was working. His teeth graze Jungkook’s jugular and there was something so thrilling about the knowledge that he had this power over Jungkook. He never would, not in a million years but he could bite down, clamp his jaw and watch Jungkook bleed out. There was a power in this closeness and it wasn’t all with Jungkook. They both had control over each other and Taehyung was just happy not to be helpless.

“W-we are going to-ah- talk about this later,” Jungkook gasps out as Taehyung begins to suck, leaving behind reddening marks. Mine, he thinks, his heart racing happily, he’s mine.

He works his way down, biting and nipping leaving more marks in his wake. He wanted to mark Jungkook, to leave evidence of what they had. The blooming red looked so good on Jungkook, broken blood vessels beneath the skin wonderfully vivid. Jungkook’s hand is threading in his hair, tugging gently and Taehyung hums against his chest.

Taehyung feels himself relaxing, dark thoughts melting away. He was in control, this was good this was…

The sound of a door being thrown open behind him startles Taehyung so badly his head snaps up. His reflexes are evidently, at least in this incident, were quicker than Jungkook’s as the top of his skull hit Jungkook’s nose.

“OH GOD MY EYES!”

“HOLY SHIT!”

“I FUCKING TOLD YOU!”

The panic subsides as soon as he hears the familiar voices from the doorway, the noise bounces off the walls, filling the room. They might be Jungkook’s men but he’s so mortified he lowkey wishes they were Jungkook’s dead men.

“Fuck, motherfucker, shit,” Jungkook hisses hands going to stop the blood that was now gushing from his nose and Taehyung feels a pang of guilt.

“Oh shit, babe, I’m so sorry, oh fuck, oh my god,” he babbles waving his hands feeling pretty useless as Jungkook continues to groan, blood leaking through his fingers, “That looks painful,” he comments as he pries Jungkook’s bloody fingers away to see the swollen nose beneath.

“No fucking shit,” Jungkook grimaces sounding so nasally and Taehyung has to stop himself from giggling.

“At least we match, sugarplum,” he says smiling feeling the blood caked on his chin from his own sore nose begin to flake.

Jungkook blinks up at him and after a moment he smiles, “yeah, I suppose we do, don’t we honey?”

“While I hate to interrupt this touching scene,” Yoongi’s sarcastic voice rings clear and it sinks in just how this looks. He’s sitting in Jungkook’s lap with his Jumpsuit half off. There is no way this is anything other than what it looks like, “but something’s going down.”

“Darling, you know I love them but you also know I have to kill them now right?” he asks in a light voice that only shakes a little. Jungkook grumbles still prodding his nose, “don’t worry, I’ll deal with them.” he chuckles and Taehyung coos.

Taehyung turns and makes to slide of Jungkook’s lap but the younger boy’s arm slips around his waist and the next thing he knows he’s flush sitting flush against Jungkook’s side. The chair is still too small for the both of them but Taehyung like it, likes being by his side. It’s been a long fucking time since he felt like he belonged somewhere.

 

He settles himself by Jungkook then fixes his gaze on the people lingering in the doorway. He’d heard Hoseok screaming the second he’d walked in, and he had been pretty sure the anguished crises had been Namjoon but they weren’t alone. The whole gang was here. Yoongi looked bored, his features carefully schooled into a blank mask but when he met Taehyung’s eyes he flashed him a quick smile. Hoseok was grinning like a madman, his smile so wide his cheeks must hurt and next to him Jimin looked smug, watching him with a knowing smile, crinkled eyes glittering with mirth. Namjoon was looking anywhere but at them, his eyes wandering from wall to floor to ceiling before finally settling on his own feet. Seokjin looked neutral but leaning towards the side of being happy for them, Taehyung could see it in his eyes, there was softness in the way he looks at them. There was a figure there that Taehyung didn’t recognise and that instantly caused worry to fill his gut. Not to mention the embarrassment of having a complete fucking stranger witness such an intimate moment.

“What the fuck there had better be a fan-fucking-tastic expiation for this,” Jungkook growls the effect only slightly lessened by how nasally his voice was, “because if there isn’t someone is going to die.”

This news doesn’t alarm anyone except for the kid who actually looks like he’s about to have a heart attack right now. They all knew Jungkook would sooner kill himself than any of them but that didn’t mean he would let them off the hook either.

”Like I said,” Yoongi spoke up, his deep voice was gravelly, “shit’s going down.”

Jungkook sighs and Taehyung can feel him sagging slightly beside him but he doubts anyone but him notices.

“Is that why he’s here?” he asks gesturing in the general direction of the new kid.

“This is Lee something,” Seokjin says, giving the most half assed introduction ever as he shoves the kid forward, “and he has something to tell you.”

“Something to tell me?” Jungkook raises an eyebrow, the hand that rested on the small of Taehyung’s back rubbing distracted circles out of sight, “must be pretty important if you had to tell me face to face.”

“I-it is, uh, Mr Jeon,” the kid stutters. He looks terrified, only a couple of seconds away from pissing himself. He’s pale, his eyes are wide and something about the way they dart back and forth sets off alarm bells in Taehyung’s head.

“It had better be,” Jungkook says, “what’s your full name?”

“Uh, L-Lee Minseok,” Jungkook hums sounding bored.

“Okay Lee Minseok,” he drawls the arm around Taehyung tightening and he drapes himself over him even more, resting his head on Jungkook’s broad shoulder, “you have five minutes to explain what was so important you felt the need to interrupt us.”

“Um well I, uh heard something I thought you should know,” he begins speaking quickly, stumbling over his words. He didn’t meet Jungkook’s eyes, he barely even looked at him. He wrings his fingers unable to keep still. His non stop fidgeting is getting on Taehyung’s nerves. “I- I heard a member of Taeyang’s gang s-saying that they were going to jump some of Sung-yeol’s guys in the cafeteria today.” the kid finishes. He’s sweating buckets and looks like he’s on the verge of passing out. He’s breathing heavily, licking his lips as he waits anxiously.  

There was a heavy pause as the kid stopped speaking and the news sunk in. Jungkook’s hand on his back stills, his whole body tensing as he stares at the kid, his eyes burning into his sweating face. Taehyung glances at the rest of the gang. Neither Seokjin nor Yoongi look surprised by the news but it was clearly news to Namjoon, Hoseok and Jimin. Jimin’s eyebrows shoot up to his bright orange hairline and Namjoon scowls. It’s actually the normally over the top  Hoseok who shows the least reaction. His eyes narrow almost imperceptibly as he stares at the kid with open suspicion, his lips pressed into a thin line.

Something’s wrong, he thinks. There’s a feeling in his gut that he can’t shake, like an itch in a spot he can’t reach. It crawls under his skin, irritating him, driving him crazy. He wants to dismiss it and let Jungkook deal with this shit but then it hits him.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he whispers, leaning in so close his lips brush the shell of Jungkook’s ear. Jungkook makes a sound of acknowledgement, his eyes never leaving the Lee kid, “you know this fucker is lying right?”

At this Jungkook turns, catching Taehyung’s lips in a brief kiss, “through his teeth, baby,” he mumbles but quietly so no one else can hear.

“Uh, Kook, I know you like Tae,” Namjoon speaks up sounding miserable to have to do so, “but we also like Sung-yeol and it would be great if we didn’t let his guys be murdered by our enemies.”

Jungkook chuckles into Taehyung’s mouth before pulling away.

“You are so right, Namjoon,” he announces to the room at large and the kid flinches, “you may leave Lee Minseok.”

The kid doesn’t move. Jungkook clears his throat and the kid turns and scurries out of the room as quick as his feet could carry him, brushing past the rest of the guys.

“You’re letting him go?” Jimin asks as soon as the door swings shut behind Minseok’s retreating back.

“Yeah Kook, that kid is obviously full of bullshit,” Seokjin adds.

“Tell me we aren’t falling for this trick right?” Namjoon says, “This is a trap.”

“Of course not,” Jungkook scoffs, looking affronted, “but like it or not this war has started.”

The silence grows tense and Taehyung suddenly feels ill. Cold sweat trickles down his neck and he can hear his own heartbeat in his ears. This war, this fucking war that was his fault. It had been his mistake, his foolishness, his inability to protect himself that had caused all this. This was happening because he was fucking weak. Yoongi hadn’t been wrong when he’d hurled all those accusations at him. He might not have meant it but none of this would be happening if it hadn’t been for him. Guilt stabbed him, sharp like a knife and Taehyung almost wishes he would just bleed out already and save everyone all this trouble. He had been naive enough to think this business had been nothing to do with him but then he’d heard Taeyang’s name and knew he couldn’t ignore this. It all came crashing down on him like a goddamn landslide, burying him alive. Like it or not he was a part of it and there could be no running away now.

The rest of the gang look grim, even Hoseok is no longer smiling, his hands curling into tight fists by his sides.

“This was going to happen sooner or later,” Jungkook speaks, “but now we have the advantage. They think we don’t know. They’re expecting us to wander into this trap so now we can turn the tables and ambush them.”

There was nods and sounds of agreement.

“So we go and we fight and we win,” Jungkook says. Taehyung stands, allowing Jungkook to stand up too. There’s a look in his eyes, something dark and dangerous and Taehyung suspects he’s going to make this Taeyang sorry he ever tried to challenge him. He’s looking around now, meeting each and every eye, “and we are going to make those fuckers wish they had never been born.”

“Hell yeah,” Jimin breathes and the rest nod some more. They looked excited now, Taehyung notes, and there was a new sort of tension in the air, an excitement so palpable he could almost taste it on his tongue. A shiver runs down his spine.

“The kid mentioned this attack is supposed to happen around two,” Seokjin says and Jungkook nods.

“Okay we’ve got time,” he says, “meet up by my cell at half one. Be ready.”

Everyone leaves and he’s alone with Jungkook again. Once everyone is gone Jungkook sighs, deflating. He still has dried blood on his chin, not as pretty as fresh blood but Taehyung still wants to lick it away. This was happening and if Taehyung would be honest with himself he would admit he was afraid, bloody fucking terrified because whatever happens next is on him and that is a heavy responsibility but Taehyung has a bad habit of not being honest even with himself so he pretends he isn’t being crushed.  

“What are you going to do, Jungkook?” he asks. He’s not sure why he’s asking. Maybe he just wants to be reassured, to hear that the almighty Jeon Jungkook has this mess under control. Or maybe he just wants to hear Jungkook’s voice.

Jungkook’s old cocky smirk flits across his face, “maybe you’re right, Tae, and maybe I am just a man. But in here, behind these bars I am a god. These men, they  respect me - and more importantly they fear me. But I’ve been complacent lately and they seem to have forgotten just how powerful I am.”

Standing there in the dull light of the rec room, covered in blood and bruises, looking ready to kill Taehyung almost believed him when he said he was divine.

Jungkook takes a step towards him and Taehyung doesn’t step away. Jungkook kisses him and he tastes bitter and metallic but Taehyung kisses him back. When Jungkook pulls away his eyes are dark and blaze with a shocking intensity. When he speaks his voice is low and ragged, rumbling from deep within his chest.

“And I am going to strike the fear of god into these bastards.”

Chapter Text

“Fuck,” Taehyung hisses, biting his bottom lip, screwing his eyes shut against the ache. “Shit, Jungkook.”


“It’s okay, dollface,” Jungkook soothes, his warm breath fanning Taehyung’s cheek but he’s too distracted to notice. “You’re too tense, just relax.”


“Fuck you, Jeon,” Taehyung snaps, wincing. “It fucking hurts.”


“I know it does baby, but it’ll feel better soon. I promise,” Jungkook sounds so sincere Taehyung almost believes him, but then he presses too hard and Taehyung gasps as pain shoots through him like burning hot needles under his skin.


“Fucking shit- fuck ! Careful you bastard.”


“Hey! I know what I’m doing,” Jungkook protests and Taehyung would have rolled his eyes if he wasn’t gritting his teeth in pain The ache is steadily growing sharper as if shards of glass are being forced into his side. “You’re in good hands, darling.”


“Oh my god can you shut up and finish bandaging me, please?” he groans.


Jungkook pouts like a sulking child but Taehyung is in no mood to humour him right now. For someone who has probably spent a good portion of their life in need of medical treatment Jungkook is shit at tending to wounds. He’s actually surprisingly clumsy and if Taehyung wasn’t hurting he would have probably found it endearing.  

 

“Do you even know what doing, love?” Taehyung winces as Jungkook drops the wrapping for the third time in the last ten minutes. Every failed attempt to tend his wounds only causes the younger more visible frustration and at this point Taehyung is ready to go hunt down Seokjin himself.


“Okay fine,” Jungkook finally huffs throwing his hands up in childish surrender, “I have no idea how to do this shit,” he grumbles, “that’s Jin’s job, he’s good at this stuff.”


“Fine, here, give the stuff to me. I’ll try,” he offers, holding out his hand and Jungkook passes him the bandages with a smirk. God Taehyung had missed that smirk. He’s missed a lot about Jungkook in fact. He hadn’t even realised how much he missed the boy until he was sat here in front of him. Back in Jungkook’s cell, when the hazy adrenaline and mind fogging lust has died down, evaporating like mist Taehyung is finally able to think straight and the ache of being away from him for so long is undeniable, throbbing in his chest demanding to be felt. A lingering ache that he hadn’t even known was there until the sight of Jungkook pushed down on it like a bruise.


“Aww, you’re going to nurse me back to health, babe? That’s so hot,” he drawls, wiggling his eyebrows and Taehyung just snorts as he takes the dressings.  


“I’m only doing this because you’re incompetent, sugarplum,” he replies in a sickly sweet voice. Jungkook grumbles but sits back to let Taehyung work.


Despite all his talk about Jungkook being the incompetent one here, Taehyung’s no wizard at bandaging himself. He knows the basics of how to clean and wrap wounds but for the most part he had relied on Sojung to treat him when he was hurt. When he’d started meeting with Mr. Cho he’d quickly learned to take care of certain injuries himself. After all, there were something’s a young girl didn’t need to see. Thankfully neither he nor Jungkook were suffering from any of those kinds of injuries.  


“What are you thinking about?” Jungkook asks him and Taehyung blinks, realising he’s been staring. He can feel his face flush but it’s not just embarrassment. It was shame, harsh and bitter as bile. He knows Jungkook can’t see inside his head and that it’s totally absurd to even think that but a little pestering voice won’t shut up. It tells him that Jungkook knows, he knows what happened to him, can see how fucking filthy he is. He doesn’t need to read his mind to see the destruction inside him, the damage etched in his bones. He doesn’t need to be a psychic to know how soiled and ruined Taehyung is, a broken creature so dirty he can’t even remember what it felt like to be clean.


“I was just wondering if your nose has always been this big or if it’s just swollen?” he blurts. He knows he’s being a bit of a dick especially since he’s the reason it’s bruised in the first place but he needs to distract Jungkook.


To his relief, it works.


“W-what?” Jungkook splutters his hand flying up to cover his nose. He’s pouting again and Taehyung actually finds himself thinking that notorious and feared gangster Jeon Jungkook is cute, “what’s wrong with it?” he grumbles sounding like a petulant child, his voice muffled by his palm..


“Nothing!” Taehyung soothes quickly, feeling kind of bad and he hopes no one picked on Jungkook for having a big nose when he was a kid because that would really make him feel like a dick. “I was just kidding. it’s fine the way it is.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Really.”


He leans in and plants a kiss on the tip of Jungkook’s nose. Jungkook smiles, his sore nose crinkling and if that isn’t fucking adorable he doesn’t know what is. Taehyung has no idea what the fuck is wrong with him. He stares at Jungkook, feeling dumbfounded until Jungkook grumbles about how his nose hurts and he looks away, a faint blush on his cheeks.


Taehyung doesn’t know what to say so he doesn’t say anything. The silence isn’t awkward and Taehyung has always felt that such silences don’t need to be broken.  Unnecessary words would only clutter and he doesn’t want that.


Jungkook’s injuries aren’t severe just an array of  superficial cuts and bruises and Taehyung knows he’s had worse. He remembers all those times Jungkook stood naked before him in the showers, all the scars he saw. He’d never brought it up but the bullet wounds on Jungkook’s torso have been seared into his brain like a brand and sometimes late at night he wonders about them. He wonders who pointed a gun at Jungkook and fired three times, wonders who wanted him dead, who tried and who failed. He wants to ask if they still ache or if it’s just numb scar tissue. He wants to know if Jungkook still thinks of the day he got those wounds, if that day still haunts his dreams. He wants to know if sometimes Jungkook is afraid to sleep, just like him. There’s no way Jungkook could possibly be as fucked up as he is but sometimes Taehyung wonders.


The realisation that he could actually just ask Jungkook about them is a warmth in his chest. This was new ground for them, and their relationship was still fragile but Taehyung could feel something had changed dramatically. They had history now. They had been through shit together, stood side by side together with broken bones and split knuckles like soldiers on a battlefield. They had that bond that only comes from going to war. Taehyung can feel it in his chest like there’s a string tying them together. He’d risked his life for Jungkook- he’d breathed in everything that made the boy hurt and held it in his lungs like glass shards until every breath was tinged with blood. And now he knew the other boy would do the same for him and that meant something; maybe it meant everything. As he sat the gently wiping the blood off Jungkook’s face, looking into his eyes, he knew without a hint of doubt that this was someone he could truly trust.


Taehyung can’t remember the last time he was able to tell anyone everything. All his life he’d lied, over and over again, an endless tangled spider webs of half-truths, omissions and falsehoods. He’d lied to teachers who noticed the bruises, to friends who got too close and social workers who cared too much. He’d even lied to Sojung because his baby sister was too young to understand what Mr Cho had done to him, too innocent to see how fucked up the world was, how fucked up he had become too. In her eyes he had been someone good, her big brother, her protector. He wished he could have stayed that was forever, wholesome and unpolluted in her mind but then that day, what he’d done… he could still hear her screams echo in his head.


Maybe he wasn’t fully ready to tell Jungkook all the gory details from the past. In fact, even thinking about it made sour bile rise in his throat. But there was a knowledge there too, a certainty that one day he would. One day he would give Jungkook all the ugly, broken, fucked up pieces of himself and maybe, just maybe Jungkook would see them and love him anyway.


Taehyung wants that so badly it’s an ache in his ribcage and he’s afraid to even dwell on the thought. Afraid to admit just how much he wants another person’s love because he doesn’t want to fall that far. He can barely comprehend the idea of needing another human being so badly. Love is weakness and he doesn’t want to hand over his heart only to find that Jungkook doesn’t feel the same way. True, Taehyung was fairly sure by now that Jungkook didn’t just want him for his body but uncertainty still gnawed on the edges of his mind like a disease. It seeps through his skin, invading his body like a deadly poison, a corruption in his very blood, running through his veins leaving ruin in its wake. It brands itself on his flesh like an ugly scar and sinks deep inside to stain his bones black. No other man had ever wanted more than his body. Those boys from his high school hook-ups, Mr. Park, Mr. Cho, all those men from the clubs, none of them had cared about him beyond the fact that they could fuck him. Taehyung wants- no, Taehyung needs to know that Jungkook is different.


Jungkook stays quiet and Taehyung works. He watches wordlessly as he dabs away at the wounds on his face. Even at the best of times he’s never been the most efficient but the splint makes things even more awkward, limiting his movements and making him clumsier than usual. He’s in the process of applying a bandage to Jungkook’s cheek where the skin split after he punched him, when he drops the plaster. He curses, his injured wrist starting to ache. He goes to pick it up only to find Jungkook’s rough hand wrap around his injured wrist, carefully stopping him.


There’s a pause and this time the silence is heavy. The air is thick and it weighs down on them and Taehyung feels as if he’s being smothered. This silence is no longer comfortable, it’s filled with everything unsaid, riddled with unnatural pauses and a thousand thoughts hanging like quiet ghosts between them. Jungkook’s gaze is fixed on the bandage around his wrist like it has all the answers to the questions they can’t bring themselves to ask and his eyes filled with emotions Taehyung can only guess at.


“Jungkook-” he begins.


“Do you want to know what I was thinking right before this happened?” Jungkook’s voice is quiet but Taehyung can hear the strain in it. He swallows. Then it hits him. They have never talked about what happened, like really talked about it. They’ve argued about what Jungkook did afterwards and even why he had done it but neither of them have actually been able to put into words the fact that Taehyung threw himself in front of a murderous inmate for Jungkook. Like a couple of cowards they skirt around the issue, pretending not to feel the heat as they turn their backs on the house as it burns to the ground.


Taehyung had barely even admitted to himself but a part of him knew he would do it again, a thousand times over with a smile on his face. That should terrify him but it doesn’t.  


Taehyung doesn’t answer but he doesn’t need to. As Jungkook continues he doesn’t look up at Taehyung, he just keeps his gaze fixed on his wrist.


“I didn’t even realise at first,” he begins. “I was so focused on the other guy that I didn’t even know what you had done until I looked over and I saw-”


Jungkook’s voice trails off and he has to take a deep breath, dragging air through his swelling nose before continuing.


“Then I saw you, right in front of me and I saw him and all the alarms were going off in my head but I- I couldn’t understand. I just wasn’t able to comprehend what you were doing there. It just didn’t make sense to me. And then it clicked and all the pieces fell into place and-” Jungkook pauses to take another deep breath, the words rushing out like once he started talking he couldn’t stop and Taehyung just sits there stunned, taking it all in, his heart thudding in his chest. Here was Jungkook breaking right in front of him. Cracks were appearing across his marble skin, flaws chipping away at the carefully crafted image of a stone cold killer until it revealed something hidden; something Jungkook had buried deep within the spaces between his ribs, wilting flowers that never saw the light of day because he was too afraid to let them bloom. It was the kind of beauty that made Taehyung’s heart ache because Jungkook had grown up in a world where people trampled delicate flowers so he had learned to hide their petals within him, away from cold prying eyes.

 

“The only thing I could think was: no. No, no, please . Not him, don’t let this be real,” Jungkook looks up at through his lashes and Taehyung doesn’t need to guess at the emotion in his eyes anymore. He knows fear and pain when he seems them. “But I froze. I fucking froze. Every fibre of me wanted to push you out of the way, to do something, anything but I couldn’t move. I- I hesitated and you almost died and it was all my fault.” Jungkook’s makes a little sound like he’s choking and Taehyung wants to hug him but he can’t bring himself to move. He’s never heard Jungkook so afraid and vulnerable, pouring all his fear out, laying the weakest parts of himself bare before him and Taehyung falls a little more in love.   


“That’s why I killed him the way I did,” Jungkook continues, clearing his throat. His eyes glistening in a way that looks like he’s on the verge of tears but Taehyung knows that can’t possible be the case. Jeon Jungkook isn’t supposed to cry. “Because I wasn’t just angry- I mean I was but that wasn’t the real reason. I was scared to death, Taehyung. I was terrified to lose you and- and I still am. I’m so fucking afraid that something might happen to you and I’ve never been this scared before, it feels like I can’t breathe and-”


Taehyung has never been the best with words so when he sees Jungkook panicking he does the only thing he can think of to calm him down.  He closes the distance between them and kisses him, smothering the words before they can escape from Jungkook’s lips; laden with in self-loathing and guilt. He just wants to make him feel better.

 

There’s no hesitation in this action, just like there was no hesitation that night all those years ago when he climbed to the highest diving board at the local pool in the dead of night. All alone at the top of the world a sky full of silent stars above him and glowing water so inviting below him, waiting. There was no indecisiveness as he neared the edge. Looking down, he had never been more sure of anything in his life, and when he dived head first into the freezing pool he knew he had made the right choice. Jungkook kisses him and it’s like he’s sinking to the bottom of the deep end and he hopes he drowns. It’s peaceful here. The world is muffled and so far away. Even the constant noise in his head is silenced. Nothing else can hurt him as water floods his lungs. Everything is so far away and Taehyung has never been happier. The voice that tells him how ugly he is screams and howls in anguish but Taehyung isn’t listening anymore.

 

Kissing Jungkook shouldn’t remind him of the time he tried to drown himself but it does. It’s not his fault sitting at the bottom of that swimming pool was one of the happiest memories he has. He hadn’t set out to die that night but he can’t pretend he wasn’t disappointed when the security guard hauled him out of the pool, soaking clothes like cold dead hands trying to drag him back down. He had crushed his chest, giving him CPR until he coughed up all the foul pool water and as he dragged down those first painful gasps of oxygen, he realized how bitter being alive tasted.

 

Jungkook kisses him and there’s a desperation there, a kiss that’s saying don’t leave me, like he’s trying to steal the oxygen from his lungs but Taehyung doesn’t mind because he’s sure that without the younger he wouldn’t be breathing at all.

 

So Taehyung kisses back hoping he understands the unspoken, I won’t. I promise.

 

He’d always found safety at the bottom of swimming pools anyways.

 


Taehyung breaks the kiss but doesn’t pull away, lingering in Jungkook’s orbit. He rests his forehead against Jungkook’s. They were so close; close enough for their noses to brush and their breaths to mingle as they just sit there and stare at each other.


“I swear, Tae,” Jungkook whispers in a hoarse voice. “I swear to God I will protect you. I will do anything to keep you safe.”


“I can take care of myself,” Taehyung murmurs with a small smile. His pride is tattered and torn but it’s still there and a stubborn part of himself won’t let anyone, not even Jungkook, take care of him.


“I know that Tae,” Jungkook says and their eyes meet and Taehyung can’t look away from the sincerity burning in the younger boys gaze like he was trying to pick him apart to see what lurked under the surface, “I know you’re strong but it’s just who I am. I look after the ones I love; the ones who mean something to me. And you, Taehyung- you mean everything to me.”


Taehyung refuses to cry in front of anyone, especially Jungkook but he feels treacherous tears prickle at the corners of his eyes and he has to blink them away. A lump is forming in his throat and it hurts to swallow. He can’t speak, not that he had anything to say anyway.  


He’s always been alone, always had to watch his own back, never able to rely on anyone. Only  now, when he has a chance at having another family does he fully realise what a wretched, lonely existence that had been. He doesn’t know what the future holds but he knows with suddenly clarity that he will never go back to how he had been before. He would rather tear himself apart limb from limb then go back to the way things were; would prefer to rip the skin from his bones, claw it away with his own hands than face who he had been. He would rather die than let that same hollow loneliness swallow him whole again.


“I-” he begins, his voice thick with emotions and his nose is starting to run and he wants to die of mortification but Jungkook does him the courtesy of pretending not to notice. “I don’t- I mean, I mean I can’t- I’ve never, um-” he pauses to take a deep breath and pulls himself together even though it still feels as if he’s falling apart at the seams. “Thank you,” he says looking into Jungkook’s eyes that now look softer than he’s ever seen them like stars on a moonless night. “For everything. Thank you.”

 

“You don’t have to thank me, sweetheart,” Jungkook says with a smile and everything feels warm and nice but Taehyung knows better.  This is the calm before the storm hits and devastates everything he has managed to patch together from the ruins of his old life. He built himself up again from the shell he had become to resemble something almost human again. He was so sick and tired of being nothing but shards of shattered glass across the floor. They’re sitting here together like they don’t have a care in the world but that just isn’t true. War is brewing, an ugly cauldron of misery and violence ready to simmer over. They might not be walking into an ambush but it would be a bloody fight and Taehyung knows that anything can go wrong and that knowledge sits uneasily in his gut. But he pushes the uneasy thoughts from his mind. All he wants to do is focus on Jungkook while he still can.


Jungkook pulls him into another kiss, hand firm on the back of his neck anchoring him in this reality rather than the one in the dark spaces of his mind and he allows himself to be tugged forward until their mouths meet. As soon as he feels Jungkook’s surprisingly soft lips against his he forgets what it means to be afraid. Forebodings melt away and the boy in front of his is the only thing that matters. He wonders if he’s addicted to Jungkook’s kisses, the taste of his mouth and the way it molds perfectly with his as if they were made for each other in a way he can’t quite explain. He knows it’s probably a load of clichéd garbage but whenever he kisses Jungkook he feels intoxicated. There’s a light headed dizziness and all the cheap alcohol in sleazy clubs couldn’t match this. But Jungkook doesn’t taste like alcohol he tastes like spring storms and morning dew in the air after it rains.


He wants to kiss Jungkook forever. It’s one of the only things in his messed up life that’s ever felt right.


Jungkook’s tongue swipes across his lower lip and Taehyung just wants to sink into the kiss, drown in the intimacy until nothing else exists but Jungkook, Jungkook, Jungkook-


“Oh for fuck sake,” for the second time that day (hell, the second time in half an hour) they’re rudely interrupted.


“Are we honestly going to have to just get used to walking in on this?” Taehyung once again contemplates murder.


“Or you could not barge in like a bunch of fucking savages?” Jungkook bites out through gritted teeth. He pulls away from Taehyung to glare over his shoulder at the rest of his gang who now stood crowding the doorway to his cell. Like a bunch of mindless tourists gaping at some animals in a zoo.


“It’s time, Jungkook,” Yoongi says stepping forward. His expression is drawn and grim. His brows are furrowed. His lips set in a straight line. Yoongi was not a light hearted, smiley person at the best of times but there was a certain tension in the way he was holding his body that instantly set Taehyung on edge, reigniting all the fears in his head. They’re all tense he realises, every single one of them. Namjoon stands still and sullen. Seokjin looks weary, his broad shoulders slumped like there’s weights on them. Jimin fidgets, not in the noticeable, annoying way the lying kid from earlier had but in a subtle way. His fingers twitching as he curls and uncurls his fists. Even Hoseok stands ridged, his smile strained, his eyes harder than Taehyung has ever seen them.


Jungkook stands and Taehyung follows, scrambling to his feet. His makeshift bandages look as though they might unravel but they hold. He notices Seokjin eyeing them critically and feels judged.  So he couldn’t wrap the neatest dressings in the world? Sue him.


“Okay,” Jungkook begins, his tone all business. Any trace of the scared, vulnerable boy gone to be replaced by the fearless leader they all expect. “What did you find out?”

 

“I looked into it,” Yoongi says, voice flat, casual even, like impending war was no big deal. “Our sources say we’ll be outnumbered. Taeyang has ten men in the cafeteria, a dozen at most. No one too high up. Just a bunch of thugs.”

 

“Will he be there?” Jungkook asks.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Good.” Jungkook says with a savage grin as he stretches, pulling one arm across his chest and holding it there with the other, his biceps bulging and Taehyung has to look away.

 

“What about weapons?” he inquires, looking anywhere but at Jungkook’s arms and his straining muscles. “Will they have weapons?”

 

“Weapons?” Jimin snorts and even that sounds more tense than usual.

 

Taehyung blinks.

 

“There won’t be weapons?” he asks, feeling as if he’s been left out of some kind of joke. Seokjin and Namjoon exchange glances..

 

“Sure there’ll be weapons Tae,” Hoseok snickers, “let me just pull a rocket launcher out of my ass.”

 

“A simple no would have done fine,” Taehyung grumbles, the tips of his ears warming as the rest of the gang laughs. The sound is so light and strange and clashes with the heavy atmosphere that hangs tense over the cell.

 

“I forget you’re new to this,” Yoongi sighs and to Taehyung’s relief it’s not as mocking or cruel as it could have been. Yoongi walks over until he’s standing right in front of him. The older man is shorter but the way he’s looking at him Taehyung feels five inches tall. The up and down he gives him is hard and scrutinising, and Taehyung knows he’s being judged, analysed, broken down in Yoongi’s mind to see what use he’ll be to them.

 

“You ever fight before?” Yoongi asks and Taehyung wants to scoff. A better question would be have you ever not fought? He’s been fighting all his life, maybe not gang fights but how different can it be?

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Not like this,” Yoongi says and it almost sounds like a challenge. His lips are quirked into a small smile and Taehyung finds himself smiling back. He’s never been one to back down. “This ain’t no playground brawl, kid. This is big boy shit.”

 

“I can handle myself,” Taehyung assures him, squaring his shoulders and Yoongi nods seemingly satisfied.

 

“Taehyung,” Jungkook, who has up to now been watching them silently. Taehyung looks over and Jungkook is frowning, his brows wrinkled and he can see a hint of the vulnerable fear from earlier but it’s hidden well, so well in fact he wonders if he imagined it. “You are not fighting.”

 

Taehyung bristles like an alley cat at the command. It hurts when he clenches his bruised knuckles into fists but he does it anyway.

 

“You don’t tell me what to do, Jungkook,” he hisses. “This is my fight just as much as it is yours. Don’t think you can-”

 

“This isn’t a game, Taehyung!” Jungkook snaps, his temper flaring momentarily. “This is dangerous and you’re injured.”

 

Taehyung reaches without thinking to touch the splint on his bad wrist. It’s a weakness, a flaw. He’s damaged and messed up and Jungkook is using that against him. He grits his teeth so hard his jaw aches.

 

“I can still fight!” he protests. “You know I’m responsible for this shit and if you think I’m going to let other people fight my battles for me-”

 

“Why are you being so damn stubborn?” Jungkook retorts. “Why are you so eager to throw yourself into danger? We can take care of this.”

 

“I-”

 

“Taehyung,” Jungkook interrupts and something in his voice causes the words to die on Taehyung’s lips and he falls silent. Jungkook is standing there, shoulders squared and tense. He’s breathing heavily and Taehyung is reminded of a young boy who’s trying too hard not to let the world see how scared he is. His heart clenches. He wants to comfort Jungkook but he fumbles helplessly, unsure of what to do now, not able to find the right words. The rest of the guys are watching them without a word, eyes following their every move and he feels so exposed.

 

“Taehyung,” Jungkook repeats, inhaling a shaky breath. “If you come with us I can’t guarantee your safety, you know that right? If you fight I don’t know if I can protect you and I can’t- I just can’t-”

 

Jungkook is speaking quietly, as if he doesn’t want the others to hear and Taehyung gets it. Don’t let them know your weaknesses, don’t let them see, any emotion is dangerous. Never ever let anyone know what you are scared to death of losing.

 

“I can look after myself, Jungkook,” he promises and pours every ounce of sincerity he can muster into his voice, praying Jungkook understands. “Please, you have to let me do this. I can’t live with myself if I let someone else fight my battles for me.” Taehyung steps closer, close enough to reach out and gently touch Jungkook’s cheek.

 

“I can’t risk it, Tae,” Jungkook whispers shaking his head, reaching up to take Taehyung’s hand. He squeezes, holding tight like he never wants to let go.

 

“I’m not asking you to,”his fingers intertwining with Jungkook’s. Jungkook leans down to rest his forehead against his. He licks his lips before speaking again. “I’m not asking you at all, Jungkook.”



The only sound in the silence is the air escaping Jungkook’s lungs as he sighs, shoulders sagging in defeat.

 

“I’m asking you to trust me,” Taehyung says, cupping Jungkook’s face. “Please just trust me.”

 

“I do trust you Tae,” Jungkook replies and there’s hardly any hesitation, his voice so quiet now it’s barely above a whisper and Taehyung has to lean in close to catch his next words. “I do trust you but- but I’m afraid.”

 

Jungkook’s stance screams discomfort, his rigid posture unnatural and stiff. Taehyung can only imagine what it took for Jungkook to admit something like that.

 

“If you trust me, then trust me,” he breathes out and Jungkook lets out a flat chuckle.

 

“Fine,” he says straightening up, taking a deep breath, resolute. “Fine. I trust you, Tae. But if you get yourself killed I’m going to beat your dumb ass.”

 

It’s supposed to be funny but there’s nothing to laugh about and they both know it. But sometimes the only thing to do is try to laugh it off. The only other option is to cry.

 

“Understood!” he chirps, throwing in a fake salute and Jungkook snorts at his antics and it almost feels like everything is going to be alright.

 

“And make sure I’m always on your right okay? Like it or not you’re injured so I’ll cover your weak spot.”

 

Taehyung opens his mouth but he’s cut off by Jungkook, pressing a finger to his lips.

“And before you say anything, I would do it for any of them so I don’t want to hear it,” he says and Taehyung smiles, ducking away from his hand.

 

“I was actually going to say thank you,” he says. Jungkook hesitates, just a second, then he flashes him a grin that makes him look like the young man he is and the carefree guy he should be.

 

“No need to thank me either,” he replies softly and there’s something so warm about knowing you can rely on someone unconditionally.

 

“Okay if you two are finished having a moment we have a gang war we need to fight,” Yoongi drawls and the fact that five other guys just witness their whole exchange makes Taehyung blush.


“Then what are we waiting for?” Jungkook asks and the arrogance hides the insecurity and fear he showed Taehyung before, hides to so well Taehyung could hardly believe it existed in the first place. “Let’s go kick some ass.”

Chapter Text

Taehyung got into his first fight when he was five years old.

 

It had been in some shitty day-care where the old woman in the building next to theirs took twenty bucks a day to make sure the kids didn’t die. The woman in charge, Mrs. Ryu, hadn’t really given a shit about the half dozen kids she was responsible for and as long as she returned them alive and relatively unharmed to their parents at the end of the day no one really cared about what the kids got up to under her watch.

 

Taehyung had been a relatively quiet child and as such he’d preferred to sit in the corner alone and play with the couple of worn toys the woman gave them. His favourite was a pink bunny he called Mr. Bun. It was old, falling apart and missing an eye but it was soft and Taehyung loved it, that bunny had made him feel a little less alone in a big, scary world.

 

One day a boy, Do Minho, had decided (probably out of boredom or childish spite) to disturb Taehyung’s peace and try to take Mr. Bun from him. He’d reacted without really thinking and used all the strength his tiny body could muster to push Minho to the ground. It hadn’t been a real fight by any means. They were both young and hadn’t yet learned how to form proper fists with their pudgy little hands so their brawl mostly consisted of shoving and screaming until Mrs. Ryu got off her ass to pry them apart.

 

This had been his first fight and his first loss.

 

He hadn’t been beaten, not in the conventional way at least. Minho had been too small to do any real damage and they hadn’t fought long enough to really hurt each other. Most people would have called that a draw. But the woman had taken Mr. Bun away from him even though Minho had been the one who started it because, according to Mrs. Ryu, if he couldn’t share he didn’t deserve to play with him and five year old Taehyung considered that a devastating defeat. After losing Mr. Bun Taehyung had been inconsolable and had cried until he vomited on the stained carpet.

 

His mother had yelled at him when the woman bitched about it to her that evening when she came to pick him up. His father had just laughed. This was before he had succumbed to alcohol and let his anger control him like a puppet. This had been a time when he had been a somewhat loving father, before he’d grown distant, angry and cruel. This was a time when he had smiled at Taehyung, loved him, or at least appeared to for the most part. He’d told Taehyung that next time he picked a fight, he needed to make sure he won.

 

Taehyung doesn’t know why, even to this day he’s still not sure but that piece of advice, some of the only wisdom his father ever imparted to him, stuck with him. Something about how his father had crouched down so he could look a sobbing five year old Taehyung in the eye and spoke to him in a gentle voice as he told him to win whenever he fought, that if he won people would respect him, had really struck a chord within the boy.

 

In his young mind it had suddenly all become clear. If only he’d won that fight with Minho he might have been able to keep Mr. Bun. Of course that wasn’t true. That woman would have taken the toy from him for fighting no matter how the fight had ended but he told himself that if he had won things would have been different. If only he had been strong enough, intimidating enough the other boy would have just left him alone.

 

He’d retained this mind-set all throughout the few years he’d been stuck in high school, his father’s words a constant voice in the back of his mind where his conscience should have probably been. At first it had been self-defence, a way to keep the bullies off his back. They would approach him looking for a way to pass the time, to feed their egos and satisfy their mindless boredom and aggression and Taehyung would do what he had to to make sure they didn’t try it again. But over time it stopped being about proving himself or defending himself from bullies and started being about the rush of a fight, the thrill of a win, the pain, the adrenaline, the fear and excitement all mingling together making him feel alive for a change.

 

Taehyung began starting fights with little to no provocation, seeking out opponents and taking every little opportunity he could to brawl. He was never a bully, he always picked fights with guys bigger than him, meaner than him, guys would could take it as well as they could give it.  Any excuse would do and if there wasn’t one he’d make one up. By the time they finally expelled him at seventeen he had earned quite the reputation for himself. Delinquent they called him; basket case, menace, worthless, just a hopeless kid with no future. But Taehyung didn’t care what they thought of him as long as they respected him enough to leave him alone. It didn’t matter if they hated him as long as they feared him. Although it did strike him as funny now looking back on it that they’d been right when they’d predicted he’d most likely end up in jail before his twenty fifth birthday. Though in fairness, he’s somehow managed to survive past twenty which was something not a lot of people, himself included, thought was a possibility.

 

Taehyung spent his teenage years fighting and winning or at least not dying which he supposed was a kind of victory. He wasn’t the best fighter but he’d been good enough. Good enough to fool himself into thinking he might have even been invincible at times. Every time he was knocked down there was always a power in being able to drag himself back up, bloody nose, swollen knuckles, chipped teeth and all. Teenagers are reckless creatures, intoxicated by youth, at the prime of their lives, naive, stupid and fearless, acting as though they’ll live forever.Taehyung had been no different. As a teenager Taehyung did have plenty of fate in his fists and his ability to keep himself alive with them. Of course the argument could be made that surviving, battered and bruised is not the same as living but Taehyung had never been one for philosophy and he hated to dwell on what he couldn’t change. ‘what ifs’ and ‘what could have beens’, Taehyung had no time for them.

 

He’d been young and naive enough to think he would never lose again. Young, cocky and confident that had been him. Hell, he’d been arrogant enough to rival Jungkook. Then everything had gone to shit and he’d been shown just how helplessly, awfully mortal he really was.

His father was the first person to show him you couldn’t always fight back. The same man that had told him to stand up for himself turned out to be the same man he could never raise his hand to. All the abuse, the suffering, the constant fear and Taehyung never fought back. He didn’t love his father, the opposite in fact, he loathed that bastard but he could never hit him.

 

He might not have been able to physically fight his father but he’d been fighting in a different way, struggling to balance three different jobs just so he and Sojung could escape, fighting every day with everything he had so they could get away, fighting tooth and nail for a better life.

 

Then Mr. Park and Mr. Cho came along and they tore his world apart like a pair of vicious, blood thirsty wolves, rabid and insatiable, clawing and ripping everything he had to pieces. His father had hit him, using him like his own personal punching bag but these men showed him a whole other world of pain and misery beyond anything he could have ever imagined, violence like he could never have dreamed of, cruelty he hadn’t thought possible. His worst nightmares paled in comparison to living hell his world became. He’d been free falling, plummeting through an endless world of darkness and there had been no one and nothing that could stop his fall. The darkness had swallowed him whole, creeping into the cracks they’d left in his bones, infecting the open wounds that festered and the scars on his flesh that refused to heal. They broke him down in ways he didn’t even know he could be broken, parts of him shattered so badly they were beyond recognition. They destroyed him until he was worse than nothing, until he wished he was nothing.

 

Those men ruined him.

 

That day that changed everything, that fucking day in Mr. Park’s filthy office he’d learned the hard way that there were things he couldn’t fight. Then Mr. Cho had come along with his thugs and his father’s death and all that power over him and had shown him just how bitter defeat tasted, like blood pooling in his mouth from split lips and chipped teeth.

 

Taehyung had been eighteen years old when he realised what it was to lose, to really lose and the loss of the parts of himself those men stole from him had been devastating, the same way Mrs. Ryu staking Mr. Bun, his younger self's only comfort in a harsh world, had been devastating. Whatever sherds of innocence he had left had been annihilated, snuffed out, crushed underfoot like some insignificant bug. Dreams of childhood, of better times where everything was still bright and pure and nothing hurt were distant blurry memories and all Taehyung knew now was agony. Mr. Cho tore out his insides with his bare hands, gutting him, spilling his vital organs across the stained carpets, smiling the entire time, his teeth bloodstained as he ripped every bit of goodness he could find right out of his body. Rending him limb from limb, joints forcefully popped from sockets, bones cracked, splintered and crushed to dust, reducing him to hollowed out wreckage with nothing where his heart should have beat. He had been transformed from a living, breathing human being to a dull corpse, a decaying, rotting body, derelict, abandoned by all light and goodness, yanked around on strings by monstrous men who knew no sweeter pleasure than the pain of others. To this day Taehyung could still feel the cavernous hole in his chest, an abyss between his ribs, a black hole where his heart should have beat that sucked in all the light and good things leaving him hollow and cold. He doubts he can ever recover what those men took from him.

 

He’d been a bird and they hadn’t just clipped his wings, they’d torn the feathers right out of his back.

 

Things all changed when he went to prison. Suddenly, after being so helpless for so long, he was able to stand up for himself again, able to fight back, to kick anyone who tried to come at him back to the curb. It reminded him a lot of being sixteen again behind the school with blood on his knuckles and a victorious grin on his face. He could fight anyone, there was nothing to hold him back. No familial ties or sickening filial obligation. No debt, no rent, he didn’t owe anyone shit and it was amazing.

 

In a twisted way going to prison set him free.

 

He hadn’t been lying when he told Wonho prison was a new start for him. He forced himself to forget the feeling of being totally helpless and taught himself to fight again, to earn a reputation, to regain a little of what he’d lost. Reclaim the parts of him that’d been stolen from him. It wouldn’t be the same, after you can’t stick a priceless vase back together with sellotape, can’t fix a broken bone with a bandaid but for now these little victories were good enough.

 

Now that he thought about it, that was how they’d met, him and Jungkook, in the midst of violence. He shouldn’t be surprised, in a way it’s the only thing that made sense. They were both violent, volatile creatures, the need to fight ingrained so deep inside them it was all but carved into their bones.

 

And now here they were about to go to battle side by side again. It sent a thrill down his spine. An old feeling surfaces, one that almost tasted of bittersweet nostalgia. A long buried feeling that he had almost forgotten and he felt young again like he had before the shitty world and the even shittier men that inhabited it had beaten him down, grinding him to dust. He felt lighter now, more powerful than he had in so long. There was even a fucking spring in his step. He was ready, adrenaline pumping through his veins making his body tingle as the anticipation built with every step.

 

Jungkook is striding ahead, leading the way with Namjoon and Hoseok flanking him at either side. Yoongi and Jimin are bringing up the rear and Taehyung can hear them talking quietly behind him, mostly Jimin’s soft voice with the occasional gruff comment from Yoongi. He was walking in the centre of their little group with Seokjin keeping pace to his right. He’s well aware of what Jungkook is doing, being the stubborn little shit he is and while the younger boy didn’t give any explicit orders he knows it’s no coincidence that he’s the one in the middle, protected on all sides by the rest of them.

 

Conflict bubbles up inside him and Taehyung can’t decide just how he feels about this. Part of him hates the special treatment, hates the way they’re all acting like he’s fragile and easily broken like someone who can’t take care of himself. Fuck what Jungkook said about doing this for any of them if they were the ones injured, Taehyung knows that’s a lie, or at least not the whole truth. He isn’t treated like them because he isn’t like them. He knows Jungkook would only do this for one of them if they lost an arm or had sustained some equally compromising injury. If it had been Yoongi with the splint, or Namjoon then Jungkook wouldn’t make them walk in the middle like some rich politicians son swamped with bodyguards.

 

But at the same time Taehyung almost likes it. Special treatment, as mortifying as it may be still means Jungkook thinks he’s special, that he’s worth protecting which is something so startling to him he’s having a hard time processing, the warm glow in his stomach as foreign as it was wonderful. Yes, some teachers and social workers had told him they could protect him but that wasn’t the same. They only said those things and acted concerned because it was their job to care about him, they didn’t really give a shit. Having someone look out for and have his wellbeing as their top priority is a concept so outlandish and ludicrous Taehyung almost bursts out laughing then and there. No Jungkook would not put Jimin, Hoseok or Seokjin in this position but as far as he knows, Jungkook isn’t kissing any of them either.

 

Compromise, he supposes.

 

It still irks him that Jungkook doesn’t treat him with the same level of respect that he treats the rest of the gang but he let Taehyung come along, let him fight his own fights so that’s something. It’s not a lot but Taehyung knows that life is all about the small steps.

 

He’ll just have to prove himself, show Jungkook that he can look after himself.

 

His eyes drift to Jungkook’s back and he watches the way his muscles move under the younger boys tank top, the fluidity of his movements every single step assured and confident. Jungkook had always exuded the undeniable aura of a leader, proud and confident, so unbelievably self assured, despite his age. If he felt any fear or apprehension about what they were about to face none of it showed in his confident strides. He was a lion prowling down the hallway and all the other inmates had no choice but to scurry out of his way.

 

Taehyung wouldn’t say he was nervous, not exactly, although at times it was different to differentiate between excitement and anxiety and the fluttery feeling of anticipation in his gut could have realistically been either or both, he doesn’t know.  

 

“Nervous?” Taehyung Jumps at the sound of a voice by his ear and hopes, for Seokjin’s sake that the eldest can’t read minds. He’s been staring at Jungkook’s toned back almost the entire time they’ve been walking and not all his thoughts have been so pure. Seokjin’s voice is light as if he’s amused and when Taehyung turns to him, schooling his features so that none of the jitters coursing through him show, he catches the older b man looking at him with a small smile playing on his lips.

 

“Do I look nervous?” He asks trying to sound cheeky but his voice comes out more serious than he’d intended, a hint of insecurity seeping through. He didn’t want to look nervous. Any sign of weakness and he would be eaten alive for sure.

 

“I’ve seen worse,” Seokjin smirks, reaching out to ruffle his hair and Taehyung pouts. He usually doesn’t like people touching him but he finds with Seokjin he doesn’t mind so much. The man has a friendly, warm presence.  A wise calming air and part of Taehyung trusts him automatically. The

way Seokjin treats him reminds Taehyung of an older brother he never had, one to look out for him, to patch up his wounds when he fell and to impart wisdom to him because he’d been through it all before and knew how shitty the world could be. Taehyung had always wanted an older brother but he knows first hand how hard it is to be one. He knew exactly how heavy a burden it was and a stupid part of him would never wish that on Seokjin.

 

“How’s the arm?” he asks and Taehyung bites his lip, fingers of his wounded hand twitching automatically.

 

“I’m not sure,” he admits sheepishly. “I haven’t taken the splint off yet so I don’t know if it’s healed yet or not.”

 

Seokjin nods, humming to himself. Carefully he tugs Taehyung’s injured arm towards him, lifting it up to his face to inspect the bandages more closely.

 

“I’ll have to examine it properly to tell you for sure but I’d say you’ll have to keep this on for a little while longer,” he says. “It appears to be healing well but it’s only been a couple of weeks.” He lets go of Taehyung’s arm, ruffling his hair again.

 

“After we finish with this I’ll take a proper look and probably rebandage it for you, yeah?”

 

“Sounds good,” Taehyung says, answering Seokjin’s smile with one of his own. He’ll be glad to finally be rid of the bandage. It would be nice to forget about how it happened, to leave that night behind and move on.

 

“Oh and Seokjin-” he begins, licking his lips.

 

“Call me Jin, everyone else does.” Seokjin- Jin- interrupts gently and Taehyung blinks, surprised.

 

“Oh, okay, Jin,” he smiles shyly. It’s nice, in a way he can’t really explain, to use nicknames like this, something about the familiarity and intimacy of it. He likes it. He’s never had friends like this before, never had a group he could call his own. All he’s ever had was his broken fucked up little family and even that was gone now. Sojung hated him, his mother had disappeared off the face of the earth and his father… Any thing connecting him to his old life was gone. He’d destroyed it with his own two hands but here was a new family to replace the gaping holes left behind.

 

“I just wanted to say thanks, you know, for patching me up back then. I was pretty out of it so I can’t remember if I ever thanked you at all so yeah,” Taehyung mumbles, trailing off, his cheeks warm. Thanking people has never been his strong point, probably because he had so little to be thankful for in his life. Jin beams, his bright smile making his whole face look younger, his eyes crinkling distracting from the dark circles underneath.

 

“You’re welcome, Tae,” Jin says softly. He opens his mouth again as if there’s more he wants to say but before he has a chance to speak Jungkook stops outside the cafeteria, halting so abruptly Taehyung walks straight into his firm back.

 

“Oops, sorry,” Jungkook says sounding more amused than apologetic as he turns, catching Taehyung before he can stumble. Taehyung grumbles as Jungkook slides an arm around his waist and keeping it there even when Taehyung stops wobbling.

 

“Okay everyone knows what’s going on?” Jungkook speaks up, addressing them as a group. “They’re in there expecting us to walk into an ambush so we have one up on them. This is just the opener so shit shouldn’t get too serious but keep your wits about you and don’t do anything stupid. Okay?”

 

There are scattered nods and noises of agreement as Jungkook looks each and everyone of his gang in the eye, a silent exchange passing between them, an unsaid agreement, a bond Taehyung doesn’t yet understand. Taehyung glances at their faces, watching their expressions carefully. Namjoon and Yoongi both look calm, Jin almost looks bored but his brows are knit with worry and he purses his lips into a thin line. Jimin’s expression is unusually serious, his eyes dark and grave and Hoseok looks far too happy for someone about to enter such a dangerous situation, smiling and grinning like a child about to go to into a candy store.

 

“What’s ‘the opener’?” Taehyung whispers to Jungkook. Jungkook glances at him raising an eyebrow. Despite his best efforts to keep his voice low Yoongi’s head snaps towards him and the older boy boy sighs.

 

“I keep forgetting you don’t know anything,” he says and it actually doesn’t sound as mean as it definitely should have. If Taehyung didn’t know better he would almost say Yoongi sounded worried.

 

“Okay so this fight is the first official fight of this gang war,” Jungkook explains with a reassuring smile, arm still slung around Taehyung's waist like it belonged there. “All that sneaky shit like trying to go after me when I were alone was all done  before the war was officially declared. In a way this fight is just for show, it let’s everyone else know we’ve got beef and they can choose sides or stay the fuck out of the way. Usually no one gets seriously injured, just some run of the mill brawling.”

 

“The real fighting starts after this,” Yoongi says sombrely and Taehyung meets his eyes steadily, refusing to look away. “The kind of warfare where they wait until you’re alone sleeping in your cell or showering to jump you. It’s sneaky and brutal but we’ll worry about that when we get there. Got it?”

 

Taehyung nods. He isn’t sure if Yoongi is trying to scare him on purpose or not but he can’t deny the beginnings of fear that start to fester in his gut. The thought of being alone, helpless, cornered by men with makeshift knives and shanks terrifies him. But he’ll be damned if he lets his fear show on his face.

 

“It might be just for show but don’t let that fool you,” Jimin warns, running a hand through his faded hair. “If those bastards see an opportunity to split your head open Tae, they’ll take it, opener or not.”

 

“Yeah,” Hoseok agrees, holding up one tattooed finger. “Rule number one my little grasshopper, never underestimate your opponent.”

 

“Alright, let’s see you make a fist,” Yoongi orders coming to stand before him, gesturing for Taehyung to hurry up. He obeys, clenching his good hand in front of him for the shorter man to see. Yoongi inspects it with a critical eye.

 

“Always keep your thumb on the outside of your fist unless you want to break it, dumbass,” he grumbles taking Taehyung’s hand and adjusting his fist with his own calloused fingers until he was satisfied.

 

“When you’re punching aim for nose or throat that’ll stun the bastard,” Yoongi explains and Taehyung nods along. “And make sure you’re making contact with this part of your fist ‘kay?” he asks patting Taehyung’s already bruised knuckles.

 

“And stand like this, with your legs apart when you’re about to throw a punch,” Yoongi says, slipping into a fighting stance, his legs planted firmly apart and Taehyung mirrors it.  He wants to point out that he already knows all this and that he’s gotten through life so far just fine punching the way he does but Yoongi’s concern, as well masked as it was, is touching so he smiles.

 

“Got it, hyung. Thank you.”

 

 Yoongi grumbles something under his breath that Taehyung doesn’t quite catch. It almost sounds like don’t mention it kid, but he can’t be sure.

 

“So the notorious Min Yoongi does have a heart after all!” Hoseok crows, giggling despite the sharp glare Yoongi directs at him. The promise of murder and bodily harm in Yoongi’s eyes would have been enough to shut most sane men up but Hoseok just keeps cackling.

 

“Yeah, Yoongi, you better be careful or people will start to think you actually care,” Namjoon adds with  wide smile as Yoongi turns his glare on him.

 

“Shut the fuck up all of you,” he snaps, the corners of his mouth turned down in a hard frown. “I’m just trying to make sure the brat doesn’t get himself killed.”

 

“Thank you, Yoongi,” Jungkook speaks up silencing the laughter as he took shoots glares at the rest of the grinning gang members. “It’s good to see someone has their priorities straight.”

 

Taehyung rolls his eyes at this.

 

“Taehyung’s right arm is injured so that’s his weak side. I’ll be protecting it but I want everyone to keep an eye on him understood?  Nothing is to happen to him,” Jungkook can be very intimidating when he wants to be and as he stands there, towering over them, glaring at them and they nod.

 

“The cast needs to go,” Yoongi says abruptly and they all turn to look at him like he’s mad. Taehyung can’t blame them. He has no medical knowledge like Jin but even he can tell, just by the way his arm feels, that it isn’t fully recovered yet.

 

“It can’t go, his arms not healed enough,” Jin objects before Taehyung or anyone else can. “If we take it off now he risks aggravating his injury.”

 

“But if we leave it on it’s a big red target to them,” Yoongi counters, his mouth set in a hard line. “It’s advertising his weakness to the entire world. It needs to to until after the fight because if they see it they are going to go straight for it and I guarantee you whatever they do to his arm will be a whole lot more aggravating than if he just takes it off in the first place.”

 

They turn to look at Jungkook, who in turn is looking at Taehyung. 

 

“I don’t know,” Jungkook bites his lip, unsure. “What do you think, Tae?”

 

Taehyung pauses. He flexes the wounded arm. There’s a twinge of pain as the dull ache sparks to life but it’s by no means unbearable. By taking off the cast he risks injuring his wrist further but Yoongi is right and he leaves it on every single man in the cafeteria will know just where to hit him to make it really hurt. It’s just common sense that you don’t advertise your weaknesses to the enemy.

 

“I say take it off,” he says and Jungkook nods looking to Jin. the eldest sighs but takes Taehyung hand and begins to undo the splint. The air feels cold against the skin that Taehyung can see now has become discoloured from being covered for so long.

 

“I was going to redo it anyway I suppose,” he sighs. “I’m serious though Taehyung you have to be careful. It’s vital the bone sets right and any more trauma to it could jeopardise that.”

 

“I’ll keep everyone away from your right side,” Jungkook promises taking his left hand in his and squeezing it reassuringly.

 

Taehyung gulps but nods, squeezing back. He tries to ignore the nerves that are steadily building in his stomach as reality sets in.

 

“Don’t let them get you on the ground,” Jimin says,offering up some last minute advice. “it’s like with lions, if they get you down it’s all over.”

 

“As well as nose and throat, also go for eyes, stomach and dick,” Yoongi instructs, listing the body parts off on his fingers.

 

“Don’t be afraid to bite!” Hoseok adds cheerfully, his white teeth flashing as he grins.

 

“Just be careful okay?” Jungkook finishes. “I’ve got your back, babe.”

 

Taehyung swallows, a lump forming in his throat. They care, they all actually care about him and he doesn’t know how to deal with that. Every fight he’s ever fought before this has been fought alone. No one has ever had his back before.

 

“Yeah,” He says, his voice thick with emotion and he coughs like he’s trying to clear throat, “and I’ve got yours.”

 

Jungkook smiles and it’s a gentle private smile, just for Taehyung. Comfortable words that were quickly becoming familiar. “Wouldn’t have it any other way darling.”

 

~

 

Taehyung isn’t sure what he expected when they entered the cafeteria, Jungkook kicking the door open with a loud bang, the sudden sound silencing the babble. Maybe he expected to be jumped instantly or have someone try to stop them, or challenge them or maybe he expected… well, something.

 

He didn’t expect the deathly silence, the kind that permeated funeral homes and graveyards, the kind of quiet that accompanied death. Little premature for that, isn’t it? He thinks grimly.

The cafeteria is never quiet, it’s always is always the noisiest area in the entire prison, all the gathered prisoners chatting and yelling and arguing and talking amongst themselves but as they stalk in, it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop, all the noise dying down. It was like everyone was holding their breath, not even daring to make the smallest sound. All eyes are on them, every inmate watching them, apprehensive and on edge. The tension fills the air like a thick fog.

 

He can’t blame the other inmates for their nervousness and unease, Jungkook’s gang looks intimidating as fuck and Taehyung feels awkward and out of place amongst them. He studies their expressions and frowns; the hard lines on their faces, the fire burning in their eyes and the confident ease with which they walk and does his best to copy them. Fake it ‘til you make it and all that shit.

 

Taehyung forces himself not to look around, wondering if darting eyes would make him appear anxious. Instead, he kept his gaze trained on Jungkook’s back like he’s trying to burn a hole in it. He keeps his face as blank as possible. He knows people are looking at him in particular. He knows what they’re thinking too, that he doesn’t belong, that’s he’s new and weak, not one of the gang. They’re singling him out as the weakest, the runt, the easiest to kill. He’s more than ready to show them just how wrong they are.

 

There’s only one man who didn’t look up when Jungkook burst in. The man is sitting right in the middle of the cafeteria surrounded by big, dangerous looking men who wouldn’t have seemed out of place at a bodybuilding competition or, well, prison. While every other man shrinks away, he doesn’t react even as Jungkook siddles towards his table, he just continues to eat the lumpy prison food, casual and unbothered as can be.

 

This could only be Taeyang.

 

The man was muscular, not in the bulky way most of the inmates in here were but no weakling either. His dark hair was styled in a mohawk and tattoos littered his bulging biceps. He wasn’t the most intimidating looking man but there was something about him that made Taehyung not want to cross him. Even though it was a little too late for that.

 

His suspicion was proved correct when Jungkook came to a stop in front of his table. Even with Jungkook looming over him Taeyang doesn’t so much as glance at him. Taehyung feels his own blood begin to simmer at the insult but from what he can see of Jungkook’s posture the younger boy looks relaxed. Of course he does, despite his temper Jungkook could compose himself well, to the point of being terrifyingly calm when he wanted to be.

 

When Jungkook is close enough he slams his fist down on the table causing the trays on there to rattle and nearby inmates to jump, startled by the sudden sound. Taeyang doesn’t flinch, not even a little. Taehyung is begrudgingly impressed. His goons all leap to their feet looking ready to pounce and tear Jungkook to pieces but Taeyang, still seated, waves his hand and the men stand back. They don’t take their seats again instead opting to hover around the table, their dark eyes trained on Jungkook and Taehyung feels himself tense. The tension in the air begins to crackle with the energy of oncoming violence.

 

“You wanted my attention,” Jungkook says, his voice ringing loud and clear in the silence and for the first time Taeyang looks up at him, still chewing, bored expression plastered on his face, “now you’ve got it.”

 

“Who said I wanted your attention, Jeon?” he drawls, flecks of food flying from his stuffed mouth as he speaks and Taehyung wrinkles his nose in disgust. A subtle elbow to the ribs from Yoongi prompts him to smooth his features back into an emotionless mask. 

 

“I don’t know, a surprise attack when i’m alone seems kinda desperate to me,” Jungkook says and even though he can’t see it, Taehyung can just hear the smirk in his voice. “You didn’t have to try so hard. If you wanted to talk so badly you could have just asked.”

 

Taeyang smirks but it’s a cold hard smile and his eyes flash dangerously.

“I think the time for talking has passed, don’t you, Jeon?” he asks, his eyes sliding from Jungkook and falling on Taehyung. There’s a knowing there deep within the unsettling upturn of his lips, a realisation that clicks into place and Taehyung doesn’t like it. He feels too exposed.

 

“You started it when you killed my man.”

 

Taehyung startles, surprise jolting through him. He hadn’t known the man who’d attacked him had died. He’d been so caught up in Jungkook’s drama and his own destruction lately, too busy trying to keep them, to keep himself, from falling apart he hadn’t been paying enough attention to the rumors going around. Two men. Jungkook had killed two men for him. He doesn’t know how to feel about that. Most lovers tried to woo their beloved with flowers and chocolates, Taehyung supposes he’ll have to make do with corpses.

 

Jungkook scoffs. “You don’t even know his name, let’s not pretend this is something noble.”

 

Taeyang shrugs, leaning back, his eyes drifting back to Jungkook’s face, smirk still in place.

 

“Very well,” he says evenly hands held up in mock surrender. His eyes shift back to Taehyung momentarily and he feels his blood run cold.

 

“But let’s not pretend murdering men for your bitch makes killing any more noble either. I’m glad you brought him along though. I can’t wait to get my hands on him, after I’ve killed you that is.” Taeyang speaks calmly and so fucking casually but with such disgusting intent Taehyung has to take deep breaths to stop himself vomiting all over his worn sneakers. All around him the rest of the gang tenses and beside him Yoongi curses under his breath.

 

“Now he’s gone and fucking done it.”

 

Without warning Jungkook grabs Taeyang’s tray and sends it crashing to the floor, food and water everywhere. Plates and cutlery go clattering and Taeyang still doesn’t bat an eyelid, if anything his smirk grows. He’s found Jungkook’s weak point and now he’s going to keep pressing on it like a bruise until something breaks.

 

“Watch your fucking mouth you piece of shit before I break your fucking jaw and rip your tongue out of your skull,” Jungkook growls his shoulders quivering with rage.

 

“I’d like to see you try,” Taeyang tauts standing and as soon as he does it’s like a switch has been flipped and everything around him is thrown into a sudden flurry of chaotic motion. The tension in the air reaches breaking point and snaps like a rubber band pulled too far. It shatters like glass and the room descends into all out war. One of Taeyang’s henchmen dives for Jungkook and Taehyung’s heart leaps, only to have the younger boy to dodge the hulking body, side stepping out of the way. He stomps down on the fallen man's head, driving it into the hard floor with vicious force and Taehyung is surprised he doesn’t crack the skull wide open with the heel of his boot. Taehyung finds himself wishing he would, the blood and broken bone would make a pretty fight.

 

Men rush at them from all sides like a bloodthirsty swarm trying to consume them and Jungkook’s gang leap into action, reacting so quickly Taehyung can hardly believe his eyes. One thing Taehyung learned about prison and the way inmates behave is that they’re always ready for a fight, dying for the chance to beat someone, anyone up. Most of them don’t even care, they’ll look for any excuse to beat the shit out of anyone they can get their hands on. One small brawl between two guys can easily spiral out of control into a full scale riot if they’re not careful. With the influence Jungkook, and supposedly Taeyang, had over the staff here it’s not surprising there are no guards here to keep an eye on everyone and Taehyung watches with wonder as the violence escalates. It really is thrilling. He no longer feels so out of place, here, in the midst of chaos and pain, is right where he belongs.

 

Namjoon and Yoongi move as one, back to back, Namjoon towering over Yoongi as they attacked in perfect unison, warding off the men that come at them. Taehyung is surprised by how in sync they are, as if they were somehow communicating wordlessly, coordinating flawlessly.

 

“Yoongi,” Namjoon calls out as he ducks out of the way as the man in front of him throws a savage punch. “Don’t tell me you’ve fallen asleep, you move slower and slower every day old man.”

 

“Shut your trap brat,” Yoongi grumbles, barely audible over all the yelling but Namjoon hears and throws his head back to laugh. Taehyung has the sudden giddy urge to laugh too. They were in the middle of a warzone but there was no trace of fear or anxiety in his heart. All those useless emotions had washed away only to be replaced by an overwhelming excitement. His fingers positively tingled, his hands naturally curling into fists, Yoongi’s instructions replying in his mind.

 

Hoseok moves fast, impossibly fast, certainly faster than anyone Taehyung has ever seen, including Jungkook. His movements flow so seamlessly as he ducks and weaves sending men crashing to their knees left, right and centre. He’s so graceful he fights like a dancer, somehow making violence look graceful. The constant shift of his muscles as he darts and flexes make his tattoos move as if they’ve come to life. His bright smile never slips as he breaks another man's nose. Jimin moves in tandem with him, slower but almost keeping pace and just as fluently. His movements are stronger and more precise, with astonishing control over his body and Taehyung would never have guessed Jimin knew martial arts. He can’t begin to guess with discipline but it’s scary and cool as fuck. He may have been short but Jimin was still flexible enough to kick a man almost twice his height square in the face.

 

Jin doesn’t move as much nor as quickly as the others, rather he hangs back, watching the fighting with careful eyes, taking in the scene before him, his face remaining completely emotionless. He largely seems to go unnoticed despite his height and broad shoulders but as soon as a man tries to catch one of the others off guard sneaking unseen behind them Jin strikes, darting forward to drag the would be attacker away. Taehyung watches with a mixture of fear and admiration as the man who had been about to grab Namjoon’s hair collapses in Jin’s hold, falling to the ground unconscious.

 

Another man manages to get his arm around Jin’s neck but before he can drag him back Jin elbows him in the stomach and turns are the man doubles over, grabbing him by the neck and, just like the man before him, he too crumples to the ground, out cold.

 

“I am too fucking old for this shit,” Jin sighs, rolling his neck until it cracks. This time Taehyung does giggle. The fighting rages all around him and all he feels is giddy, the energy sinking right into his bones making them thrum. The adrenaline is rushing in his head causing it to spin at alarming speed and he’s so focused watching Hoseok break a man’s arm with startling ease he doesn’t notice the inmate behind him until a pair of muscular arms are wrapped around him in a bone crushing embrace. The air whooshes out of his lungs leaving him gasping as he’s hauled off the ground, his feet twitching in empty air. His arms are trapped by his sides leaving him to wriggle desperately to escape. The man behind him grunts in pain as Taehyung’s heel makes solid contact with his shins but doesn’t loosen his grip.

 

Jin’s coming towards them now, looking ready to murder but before he can reach them another man tackles him and the two going flying to the floor in a tangle of limbs leaving Taehyung alone. The others are just as preoccupied. Yoongi is pulling a man who is trying to choke Namjoon away from him and Jimin is wrestling another inmate three times his size to the ground. He catches glimpse of Hoseok in the middle of a scrum of at least three inmates. He can’t see Jungkook but assumes he’s fighting Taeyang. His vision is starting to blur, his lungs aching for oxygen and his kicks are having no effect. Desperate, he headbutts backwards as hard as he can, the back of his skull slamming into the asshole’s nose with a satisfying crunch. He can feel warm blood splatter on the back of his neck and the man lets out a strangled cry and the arms are gone and he can breath again.

 

His abused ribs hurt like a bitch as he drags air into his lungs, his head spinning even faster than before thanks to the lack of oxygen. He barely has time to turn around before the man, blood running down his chin, charges at him, pissed the fuck off. Taehyung wants to move but the light headedness makes it hard to coordinate his limbs and he ends up stumbling. The man is quick to take advantage of his momentary mistake and slams his fist into the side of his head sending him sprawling. He hits the ground hard, jarring his wounded arm. He bites his lip to stop crying out loud, focusing all his efforts on crawling away from his attacker as quickly as possible scrabbling across the floor. Jimin’s warning rings in his head and he curses himself for not paying enough attention, for letting himself get caught up in the moment.

 

Don’t let them get you on the ground. It’s like with lions, if they get you down it’s all over.

 

Fuck.

 

He feels hands on him again and without thinking he throws his elbow from his good arm back into the man’s already injured nose, hearing him roar in pain again, music to his fucking ears. The man grabs him by his hair, crashing his head into the floor, sending pain cracking through his skull. His vision blurs, his brain bouncing around his skull like a fucking rubber ball. The hand in his hair drags his head up ready to slam it back down again but before he can, the hand is gone along with the weight on his back.

 

He begins once again to scramble to his feet, wincing when he accidently puts too much weight on his bad arm. His elbow buckles and he almost falls again but more hands are there to catch him. Calloused hands, slim and pale but instead of trying to push him down they’re grabbing at his clothes, hauling him to his feet. Even though his mind is still reeling he recognises the small burn scar.

 

As soon as he’s standing again he comes face to face with a breathless and pissed off Yoongi, still gripping the front of his jumpsuit.

 

“Fuck sake, Taehyung,” he snaps, shaking him a little. “Get your head straight and pay attention to your fucking surroundings. If I have to peel you off the floor again I’m not going to be happy got it?”

 

Taehyung grins down at him. The room has stopped twirling around him and he feels more stable, more calm than he has in a long time. Maybe hitting his head finally knocked some sense into him.

 

Or maybe he’s just concussed, who knows?

 

Either way he feels fucking fantastic.

 

“I think he get’s it, Yoongi,” Namjoon says to his left. The older boy smiles at them, his face looking a little worse for wear, blood drying on his cheek but Taehyung can’t tell if it’s his or someone else's. 

 

“I knew the brat wasn’t ready,” Yoongi mutters as if Taehyung isn’t standing right in front of him. Taehyung only smiles more, removing Yoongi’s hands from the front of his clothes.

 

“I’m sorry, Yoongi,” he says, “I’m good, I’m good I promise, I’m okay.”

 

Yoongi narrows his eyes at him, pursing his lips. He doesn’t believe him, or at least not fully.

 

“Just remember, Jungkook is going to get hurt if he has to protect you.” Taehyung opens his mouth to speak but a cry from Namjoon has Yoongi turning and running off to help. He shakes his head, as if to clear it of the clutter and fog.

 

Yoongi was right. He needed to look out for himself, for Jungkook’s sake if nothing else. Also if he showed he needed to be protected Jungkook would never let him stand on his own.

 

Speaking of Jungkook, the younger boy was currently making the face of the man who’d attacked him look a lot less like a face. It didn’t surprise him that Jungkook had been the one to pull the man off of him. Punch after merciless punch reduces the man’s features to a bunch of swellings and bruises. Jungkook’s face is set in a furious mask, brows furrowed, lips pressed into a hard line, his jaw so sharp and the intensity in his eyes makes warmth bloom in Taehyung’s chest. He looks hot as fuck as flecks of blood splatter across his face beautiful red. One particularly hard punch catches the man’s chin sending him spinning and stumbling back towards Taehyung. Without thinking he grabs the man’s shoulder, twisting him around to face him before punching him as hard as he can, right in his bloody nose. The blow sends him falling backwards to the floor, hopefully with his nose inverted.

 

“Babe,” Jungkook breathes, chest heaving, the anger draining from his face as he rushes forward as soon as he sees him. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” he cups Taehyung’s face with his bloodied hands, running his thumb across his cheekbone. “I swear to god i’m going to kill him.” he growls and Taehyung chuckles.

 

“I’m okay, Jungkook. It was my fault but i’m good,” he says and means it but Jungkook frowns. He looks like he wants to protest but there isn’t time. Taehyung manages to plant a quick kiss on the corner of Jungkook’s mouth before another enraged inmate charges at them. Jungkook moves but for once Taehyung moves faster, avoiding the inmate’s initial punch and landing one of his own, sinking his fist into the man’s stomach making him bend over, coughing and gagging. He brings his elbow down on the back of the inmate's neck and he collapses. He’s down but Taehyung can’t stop kicking him, all the energy that’s built up inside him needs to be released or he’s going to explode.

 

There’s movement to his right and he turns just in time to see Jungkook take down an inmate that had been gunning for him. Jungkook turns, still breathing heavily. Their eyes meet and Taehyung knows the look in Jungkook’s eyes, he’s sure it’s mirrored in his own. Their breathing’s in sync and Taehyung would have sworn in that moment they were on the exact same wave link. Jungkook watches him like he been hypnotised and Taehyung feels just as entranced. 

 

“Fuck,” Jungkook breaths and Taehyung is filled with that now familiar urge to kiss him until his lips were bruised and the only taste he could remember was jungkook. Later he tells himself.

 

“Just going to stand there sweetheart?” he asks and Jungkook blinks as if awakening from his stupor. His lips twitch into a smile and for a glorious split second he looks younger and more carefree than Taehyung’s seen him in a while despite all the madness around him.

 

Then a hulking inmate with a shitty phoenix tattoo all up his arm body slams Jungkook into the floor with astonishing force, knocking him down with the force of a fucking freight train. No sooner are they down than the man is reigning down punches on Jungkook who seems stunned, unable to fight back and push the man off. The man’s huge fist catches his jaw, snapping his head to the side, another hits his nose causing blood to gush everywhere. The man’s knee pins Jungkook’s arms to the floor, crushing his wrists rendering him immobile.

 

“Fuck,” Taehyung hisses. He ducks under the arm of an inmate reaching for him and races to Jungkook’s side. The man is so busy trying to pummel Jungkook’s head into the ground he doesn’t notice until Taehyung is right beside him and by the time he looks up it’s too late. Taehyung swings his foot, kicking the man as hard as he can the force of the blow sending the man tumbling off Jungkook with a winded umph. Taehyung doesn’t hesitate, raising his foot and bringing down hard on the man’s head over and over again. His vision blurs and all he can see is the blood staining his shoes.

 

The man stops moving and the rush subsides, until it’s gone and he can see clearly again. The man is lying limp and bloody by his feet, nasally wheezing groans the only sounds he makes and Taehyung is sorely tempted to stamp on his neck and make those sounds stop for good.

 

He tears his eyes away from the man at his feet and sees Jungkook pulling himself up into sitting position. His face is bloody again, his nose, that had already been injured when Taehyung himself punched it, is now twice as swollen and to match it one of his eyes has swollen shut and Taehyung knows he’s going to be sporting an impressive black eye over the next few weeks. He looks so odd just sitting there, out of place with all the pandemonium around him and a sort of calm falls between them. Taehyung’s mind skips back to that day that seems so long ago now, that day he let Jungkook save him and changed everything forever.

 

Look how far we’ve come, he thinks and briefly wonders what would have happened if Jungkook had left him to die in that prison yard. I’m glad he saved me.

 

“Need a little help, darling?” he asks as he approaches Jungkook playful smirk on his lips. The younger boy, who had been watching him with an expression of rapt wonder smiles, recognition alighting in his eyes.

 

Taehyung has never been one for nostalgia, the past for him never being a nice enough place to warrant such sentimental feelings but something pulls at his heart. The feeling this important and intimate being remembered and shared between them, something that was theirs. This was them, this was their moment and there was this vast feeling in his chest so large he marveled that his ribs could even contain it. This overwhelming feeling that another human could mean this much to him. Another soul calling out in the darkness, reaching out to his soul.

 

“Nah,” he smirks swiping a hand across his bloody mouth, smearing red along his jaw. “I had it all under control, my love.”

 

Taehyung laughs as he reaches out a hand for Jungkook to take. Despite his words Jungkook accepts the hand and allows Taehyung to haul him to his feet, grinning like a fool, his smile stained a beautiful red and Taehyung is so enamoured but he doesn’t hate the feeling of being gone as much as he should.

 

“I totally just saved your ass,” he points out as Jungkook stands before him. They’re the same height more or less, Jungkook would probably claim he’s taller but they stand now nose to nose.

 

“I guess I owe you,” he murmurs and before he can suggest ways of paying him back their moment is interrupted as reality crashed back down. 

 

More inmates surge towards them, shouting and screaming like rabid dogs baying for blood ready to tear them limb from limb.

 

“I’ll make it up to you, sweetheart,” he smiles as they both step apart to avoid the first inmate. “Right after we deal with these bastards.”

 

True to his word Jungkook remains by his right side, always hovering right out of sight making sure no one gets too close to his wounded arm. It’s nice fighting side by side and although he probably won’t admit it later he appreciates Jungkook’s help. Just a little.

 

They didn’t have to speak, it was as if Taehyung knew instinctively how Jungkook moves and finds his body reacting on its own, moving natural in time. He’s doesn't even have to think it all comes so naturally. They waltz around each other, fighting, throw kicks and punches and it’s as easy as breathing. A kind of dance that has them circling effortless around the clumsy violent men who fell over themselves to try and take a swipe at them. His mind begins to slip away as he gets lost in the brawl, throwing punches like it's the only thing he was born to do. Every time his fist lands the sensation is so satisfying, the feel of skin splitting under his knuckles, the crunch of bones. The inmates manage to get a few blows in but the pain only adds to the adrenaline pumping through his veins.

 

It’s thrilling, exhilarating, electric and he feels so damn alive fighting by Jungkook’s side.

 

Taehyung kinda wants to spend the rest of his life here.

 

 He lets himself get lost in the fighting and it's so easy, probably too easy to block out all thoughts and move solely on instinct and the urge to tear everyone around him to pieces. It shouldn’t be this easy but as he punches an inmate in the mouth and watches the blood run down his chin, he can’t find it in himself to care.

 

He gets so carried away he doesn’t realise he’s getting farther and farther away from Jungkook, doesn’t notice how far he’s stayed until he can no longer see Jungkook in the corner of his eye.

 

“Tae! Watch out!” he whips around at the sound of Jungkook’s voice and it hits him for the first time how far away Jungkook is. Jungkook is there but his attention is quickly snatched away by a closer, more imposing figure.

 

Taeyang is a foot away from him before he fully registers him and he’s so shocked he doesn’t have time to even think before the shorter leaders fist is landing on his cheek. The blow sends him reeling, stumbling over his own feet. The next punch hits just as hard and the next and the next until Taehyung is struggling just to stay upright. Taeyang is relentless not giving Taehyung a second to recover, to think, to breathe.

 

In the fleeting blurry moments between punches he can just about make out Jungkook but he’s surrounded by so many men he’s only barely visible, fighting his way to be free.

 

Taehyung wants to tell him to stay away, that this is a trap and Taeyang is only doing this so he’ll lose his temper and do something stupid but then Taeyang punches him so hard he swears his jaw is broken. All he can taste is blood and when he opens his mouth to gasp in agony red splatters out across the floor.

 

There are hands on the front of his jumpsuit again and he blearily registers that Taeyang has grabbed him and his pushing him backwards, causing him to stumble and nearly fall over and over again until his back hits the wall and all the breath is knocked out of his lungs. Taeyang is looming over him, pressing him back hard enough to cause pain all through his ribs, enough pressure to feel like they’re going to break. There’s cruel glint in his eyes and his smile is repugnant and so full of nasty smugness that taehyung wants nothing more than to punch him until he couldn’t smile like that anymore.

 

“How does it feel?” Taeyang growls grabbing his chin, blunt nails digging into his skin and it hurts. Taehyung doesn’t answer, wouldn't have even if he could have. He just glares back at him, meeting his hard stare, feeling foolishly defiant. “Choosing the losing side?”

 

Taehyung’s heart drops as the panic sets in. He doesn’t doubt Jungkook but uncertainty seeps in like a terrible poison. They’re outnumbered, Jungkook himself is barely visible through all the men attacking him, the others are in a similar situation, bloody thirsty inmates whipped into a frenzy closing in on all sides. And to top it all off here he is, cornered and helpless. But even if Taeyang is right and this really is the end he can’t bring himself to regret choosing Jungkook. He’d do it again in a heartbeat, over and over and every time he would choose Jungkook. Always.

 

He should be afraid, Taeyang is probably seconds away from bashing his face in but it’s not fear swirling in his gut, it’s anger. He spits, right in Taeyang’s face. A glob of saliva lands on the man’s cheek and there’s a split second of silence as if Taeyang can’t believe what’s just happened. Then he blinks and rage flashes in his eyes his expression twisting into something ugly and furious.

 

“You little bitch!” he seethes drawing his fist back ready to smash his tattooed knuckles into Taehyung’s face. He closes his eyes but nothing happens, the blow never lands. His eyes snap open at the sound of Jungkook’s voice and he almost cries with relief at the sight of Jungkook sprinting towards them, Taeyang looking around, distracted.

 

“Get your fucking hands off him,” Jungkook grabs Taeyang’s fist, twisting his arm back behind his back causing him to cry out in pain and let go of Taehyung’s face. His legs are shaking and he almost sinks to the ground but he keeps himself upright as Jungkook continues to force Taeyang’s arm backwards and an unnatural angle and he dearly hopes it breaks.

 

Taeyang’s body convulses as he thrashes and twists out of Jungkook’s hold, turning to punch him in the face. Jungkook stumbles backwards and Taeyang stalks after him, a vicious smile on his face and Taehyung knows with a sinking feeling in his gut that Jungkook played right into his hands. Taehyung goes to follow, to get him away from Jungkook but he’s stopped by more of Taeyang’s lackeys forming a muscled wall, blocking Taeyang and Jungkook from view.  

 

“Move,” he shouts swinging at the nearest man. The man, who is huge in the same way skyscrapers are huge, just guffaws and shoves him backwards with astounding force. He recovers and tries to duck under a gap between the inmates but the nearest man grabs him by the collar and sends him flying into a table, the corner digging painfully into his back. He sends a tray and its contents flying across the floor as he falls, his head bouncing off the ground making the world blur. Through the haze he can make out heavy feet thudding towards him.

 

He turns and tries to scramble away but the feet stop next to him and there’s a hand gripping the back of his jumpsuit stopping his movements. The man chuckles darkly as the collar tightens around his neck, his hands scrabble blindly for something that will get the man off him. His frantically grasping fingers find the hard plastic of the tray and without a second thought he swings it back into the man’s face, the hard surface hitting his face with enough impact to send him staggering away from Taehyung.

 

Free of his first attacker Taehyung springs to his feet, tray still clutched in hand, breathing heavily as the next man lunges for him. He swings the tray like a bat, the hard edge knocking out the nearest inmate's teeth, white tooth fragments scattering. He slams it into the head of another and gets ready to hit a third inmate gunning for him before one of the meatheads finally has the bright idea to snatch it out of his hands, ripping his only weapon away from him.

 

With the tray he’s gotten closer to Jungkook, close enough to see his fight with Taeyang. They’re both good, not equal but close. He’s biased as fuck obviously but objectively Jungkook’s definitely better, not by much but he has the clear advantage. He’s younger but stronger and faster. Despite being more injured (thanks, in part, to him he realises guiltily) Jungkook is still faster, his punches are more precise and are clearly more devastating when they land. His eyes are so focused like Taeyang is the only thing he can see. It’s akin to the look he sometimes gives Taehyung expect he looks like Taehyung like he’s the only that matters in the world. He’s looking at Taeyang with such venom and hatred as if he wants to annihilate him, rip him to pieces with his bare hands and Taehyung wouldn’t be surprised if he actually did it. Part of him tingles at the thought.

 

The rest of the gang are still caught up with their own problems, they’re barely even paying any attention to their leader. From what little he can see through all the mayhem they’re looking bloodied and bruised but they’re all still alive and kicking and that’s good enough for him.

 

He wants to help, to jump in and fight side by side with Jungkook again. He doesn’t need help of course but Taehyung wants to experience this with him. He wants to kill Taeyang with Jungkook until they’re both breathless and covered with red. The desire is so strong he can practically taste it on his tongue. He shivers. 

 

He’s so mesmerised by Jungkook and the sheer unstoppable power he eliminates that he doesn’t realise one of the goons has staggered his feet until he’s already by his side reaching for him and grabbing his injured arm hard, hard enough it feels like he shifting the healing bone causing unbelievable pain to rocket up his arm. He can’t bite back the pained shout that tears from his throat as the ache intensifies to sharp agony.      

 

Jungkook’s reaction is instantaneous. As soon as Taehyung cries out his head whips round to look at him. Even through the pain Taehyung still knows he shouldn’t have done that. During a fight you never ever take your eyes off the enemy especially when that enemy is a ruthless gang leader like Taeyang. He pounces taking full advantage of his momentary lapse in concentration, knocking him to the floor with a punch so strong Taehyung swears he can hear something break.

 

Jungkook is on the ground and Taehyung makes to rush forward but the inmate is still holding his injured arm in a vice like grip refusing to let go and every time he moves more pain shoots up his arm. Even though he’s just been hit hard enough to render most people unconscious Jungkook is still trying to stand, struggling to look for Taehyung even as Taeyang kicks his across the face sending blood flecks splattering all across the ground. He’s not even trying to protect himself, he just takes the kicks putting all his effort into crawling towards Taehyung and his heart aches as he can do nothing but watch.

 

Taeyang kicks Jungkook again and again and Taehyung feels every ounce of pain Jungkook does as vividly as if he’s the one of the ground and not the other way round. It hurts him in a way that nothing else ever has before to see Jungkook hurting like this and knowing it’s his fault makes the whole ordeal even more excruciating. He would give anything in the world to trade places with Jungkook. Would take every time of those kicks ten times over if it meant Jungkook was okay.

 

Taeyang is laughing now, already celebrating as he circles Jungkook’s fallen form, delivering random kicks to every part of Jungkook he can. Panic has become a red mist descending over his mind and he can see anything but the blood on Jungkook’s face and Taeyang’s ugly smile and he’s never hated someone so much in his entire life. The rest of the warring inmates fade out of sight. He no longer knows where Namjoon and Yoongi are, doesn’t know if Jimin and Hoseok are still alive or if Jin is somewhere nearby. And he doesn’t care. The only thing that matters is the sudden rage pounding through his veins, his heartbeat suddenly so loud it echoes in his ears and drowns out Taeyang’s cruel taunts. 

 

Something savage, primal, beyond rational thought and reason has been unleashed inside him. A wild beast far removed from any humanity or pity awakening in his stomach and a newfound bloodlust roars to life. His heart beat’s steady rhythm pounds in time to a single word repeated over and over again in his head, one urge, a purpose narrowed to a point as sharp as an arrow head and just as deadly.

 

Kill kill kill kill kill kill

 

Ignoring the pain he can barely feel anymore in his wrist he turns to face the leering inmate kicking him between the legs hard enough to send him crumpling to the floor, his grip slipping away and suddenly Taehyung is free and ready to reign hell down upon Taeyang. 

 

Taeyang isn’t facing him instead he’s standing over Jungkook who is clutching ribs, pain etched into his features and it only fuels the rage inside Taehyung. He’s not even aware he’s moving. His body reacting on its own as he lets his anger take over, possess him, control his every move. Despite all the volatile emotions crashing through his system his mind is strangely calm. Like the real him is sitting back and just watching everything unfold around him, removed, even as he reached for a fallen spork. In prison anything and everything could be a weapon and while a fucking spork is far from ideal he supposes it will have to do. 

 

He leaps for Taeyang and he feels like he’s flying, weightless. He latches onto Taeyang’s back like an overgrown leech, locking his arms around his neck and using his own body weight to drag him away from Jungkook. Taeyang lets out a startled choking sound and something in Taehyung’s mind snaps at the sound and the next thing he knows he’s raising the spork and stabbing it back down into Taeyang’s face. The small plastic prongs are sturdier, probably even more so than a fork would have been sink easily into the flesh of Taeyang’s insufferably smug face and the leader howls like a wounded beast and Taehyung is ready to put him down. 

 

Taehyung stabs him again, the prongs raking deep red grooves in Taeyang’s face, puncturing the skin and making him scream profanities bucking and thrashing desperately trying to dislodge Taehyung but Taehyung just laughs at his pathetic attempts wrapping his arm tighter around the other leaders neck. He stabs him a third time and this time a couple of the prongs break off in the soft flesh of his cheek and when he opens his mouth to bellow Taehyung shoves the broken spork down his throat causing him to choke and gag his body spasming as he coughed violently in an attempt to dislodge the spork which eventually goes skittering across the floor covered in blood and saliva.

 

Without his makeshift weapon, Taehyung uses his hands ripping at the wounds he’s already made on Taeyang’s face, nails digging into the skin, clawing at his eyes biting his ear until he tastes blood. Taeyang hits him, his beats beating his face but Taehyung barely even feels it, he just continues to attack Taeyang with everything he has. Desperate, Taeyang throws himself backwards to the floor landing his full weight on Taehyung.

 

The air is pressed forcefully out of his lungs and his ribs feel like they’re going to break and in that brief second Taeyang slips from his grasp. He’s on top of him now, his bloody, torn up face twisted into a hideous expression of rage and loathing. He punches Taehyung but it doesn’t hurt anymore, each hit fanning the flame burning him up inside and as blood fills his mouth he laughs feeling the warmth dribble down his chin, his ribs ache but he doesn’t stop laughing.

 

Taeyang’s hands are around his neck, squeezing and Taehyung bucks against nothing as the finger crushing his windpipe tighten, no doubt leaving hideous purple bruises behind. His vision blurs but he refuses to give into the darkness that lingers around the edges. He opens his mouth but he can’t draw air, his oxygen starved lungs already beginning to burn. He gives everything he has, every ounce of energy left in his battered body to try and get Taeyang off him before it was too late. He’s survived so much, too much to die now. Not when he finally has something to live for.

 

He claws at Taeyang’s face as the darkness starts to close in, a dark tide, an endless ocean over his head and he’s sinking fast.

 

“Fuck!” Taeyang chokes, one hand still wrapped around his throat the other moving to press against his face, grinding it into the ground. Taeyang’s hand squeezes his face like he’s trying to crush his skull with his bare hands. In the struggle a finger slips into his mouth and he gags, the taste of dirty flesh being forced into his mouth sends his mind into overdrive, pushing it over the edge, what little sense he had retained flying out the window as old memories of Mr. Park and Mr. Cho force their way to the surface and he can no longer separate the past from what is happening right now. Everything blurs into one, the light headedness that accompanies a lack of air making everything seem distorted and distant. The finger in his mouth sits heavy on his tongue tasting of blood and dirt and as it pushes farther he gags.

 

No no no no no please stop no please-

 

He doesn’t think. He can’t. There’s no room for thought now. Instinct is in control now and he’s scared and desperate and eighteen again being forced to his knees by men with more power over him than he could ever imagine.

 

He bites down as hard as he can, his jaw snapping shut, clamping down around the finger with bone crunching force, knuckle popping as muscle tears and separates in his mouth. The taste of copper bursts onto his tongue and he coughs as Taeyang lets out the most blood curdling scream he’s ever heard. It’s a bellow of pure shock followed by pain and the weight is gone, Taeyang falling over himself, holding his bloody hand in front of his face like he can’t believe what he’s looking at. He screams again, the sound tearing raw and ragged from his throat. He’s looking at Taehyung like he’s just seen his worst nightmare come to life and he’s having difficulty processing the horror before his very eyes.

 

“Oh god, he’s a freak!” Taeyang screams. “Fucking freaky bitch! He bit my fucking finger off! Psychotic mutt needs to be shot!”

 

Taehyung sits up sleepily, Taeyang’s now severed finger still sits in his mouth and he feels sick, bile rising in the back of his throat. He opens his mouth and the digit falls out for all to see, lying on the ground, covered in blood looking like a prop from a horror movie. All eyes are on him, every single person stunned into silence. Everyone that is, except for Jungkook. He’s standing by a fallen inmate, hand placed over his no doubt wounded ribs protectively as he laughs. He throws back his head, his shoulders shaking as his laughter echoes off the walls and he looks almost manic and Taehyung falls a little more in love.

 

“I’m going to fucking kill you, you hear?” Taeyang still screams, spittle flying from his lips as he clutches his hand, blood flowing freely from his new stump. “You are fucking dead, bitch. Your days are numbered. You’re going to wish I'd killed you today when I’m done with you.”

 

“That’s not going to happen,” Jungkook says, breathless and wiping a stray tear of mirth from his eye. “I’ll put you in the ground before you lay another finger on him.”

 

Taeyang roars and tries to stumble for Jungkook but one of his lackeys stop him before he can get anywhere near.

 

“Guards!” someone screams and the cry goes up that the guards are on their way and the funs over. There’s a flurry of activity as everyone moves to leave. Taeyang’s men swarm around him, lifting him up and spiriting him away still screaming half carrying him half dragging him out of the cafeteria his voice eventually fading out. Despite the panicked air that’s descended as everyone rushes to escape but Taehyung feels calm and a little drained. He flops back on the ground, lying still as the haze that had consumed his mind fades, lucid thoughts returning like water trickling from a tap. Sensation creeps back into his sore limbs and all he can taste in his mouth is stale blood. He closes his eyes as feet rush by him, no one coming too near. He wonders if they’re all scared of him now. He hopes so. He takes deep breaths to ground himself again. It hurts a bit to breathe, his throat still sensitive from Taeyang’s stranglehold but at least he can draw air into his lungs and he wonders if it’s ever tasted so sweet.

 

He doesn’t need to open his eyes to know Jungkook is there, standing over him. He can just sense his presence. He doesn’t open his eyes until he feels strong arms wrap around him scooping him up off the ground. He blinks and meets Jungkook’s dark eyes, their faces an inch apart. Jungkook is smiling despite how beat up his face is.

 

“Did I do well?” he mumbles, his mind numb with exhaustion, totally spent from the fight and all he wants to do is go and lie down with Jungkook.

 

“You did wonderfully darling,” Jungkook chuckles as inmates continue to hurry, rushing around like a bunch of headless chickens. Jungkook leans in to peck his nose as if they had all the time in the world. “I can’t believe you bit his finger off. That was awesome”

 

Taehyung smiles.

 

“You ready to go?” Jungkook asks and he nods.

 

“But put me down, I can walk by myself,” he says and Jungkook hesitates a second before placing Taehyung back on his feet. His legs are still wobbling but he can stand on his own.

 

“Jeon!” Mr. Lee’s grating voice sounds above all the noise. Looking over they see the irate prison warden standing in the doorway trembling with rage.

 

“Can you run?” Jungkook asks and once again Taehyung nods even though he’s not entirely sure he can. There’s no way in hell he’s going to let Jungkook carry him out of here like some damsel in distress but he does smile as Jungkook takes his hand.

 

“Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

 

They run and run and don’t look back even as Mr. Lee screams for them to halt. They run out of the cafeteria and don’t stop as they pass random cells and inmates in a blur. Taehyung is still buzzing, Jungkook’s hand is so warm as it clutches his and he feels unstoppable. They were running side by side, victorious and Taehyung has never felt so alive. 

Chapter Text

If someone had told Jungkook a year ago that he’d ever fall in love, he would have laughed right in their face. Or maybe he’d have shot them, depending on what mood he’d been in when this person decided to inflict their stupidity on him. Jungkook did not suffer fools gladly.

 

It wasn’t any sense of undue pessimism that prevented him from ever believing he could fall in love. No, Jungkook wasn’t a pessimist by any means. He was, however, a realist. He’d come to terms with the notion that he was, as Namjoon had put it once, “difficult to love”, mostly because he refused to open up to anyone. Namjoon had also tossed around terms like ‘emotionally constipated’, ‘closed off’ and ‘unable to trust’ when he’d tried to psychoanalyse him, which Jungkook had not appreciated. He didn’t need Namjoon and his brain science to tell him no one could ever love him.

 

Besides, it wasn’t like he was some emotionless sociopath like Namjoon sometimes made him out to be. Personally, Jungkook thought emotions were fine, if not largely unnecessary but apparently they were a big part of falling in love so there lay the problem. Jungkook didn’t have the time nor the energy required for all these emotions and he certainly didn’t have the time or energy to fall in love. Love was a concept for movies and fairy tales. Love was something that only existed for Jungkook in dumb songs and wistful books. Love was for other people, people who lived normal, safe lives in nice neighbourhoods, people who had steady nine to five jobs to support their kids, people who don’t kill for power and whose hands aren’t stained red from a lifetime of violence. Love was for good people, it just wasn’t for him.

 

He loved his gang of course but that was different, they were his boys, they were family, his brothers. It was all totally platonic, familial nothing more (except for that one time that he and Jimin made out but they’d been fifteen and curious and had promised to never ever speak of it again).

 

He’d had sex before, with numerous men and women whose names he can’t recall and he’d kept words like ‘love’ and ‘feelings’ far away from those one night trysts. He’d even been on a couple of dates set up by his father to meet some potential brides to be but he’d quickly found out dating wasn’t really his thing and his father had let the issue drop for the time being. Jungkook was still young after all.

 

Jin had suggested that he just hadn’t met the right person yet, not for lack of sexual encounters or trying on his dad’s part, but his heart had never really been in it and Jungkook suspected he was just saying it to make him feel better. Not that Jungkook had ever felt upset at the idea he would never fall love he merely felt…resigned.

 

He had come to terms with the fact he would probably marry a nice girl from a nice family, approved of and mostly likely chosen by his dad but he’d never love her. She’d give him children and everything would be fine but every time he said those three words it would be a lie. It hadn’t been a prospect he had necessarily been looking forward to nor had he been dreading it either. He was fine with the idea- totally fine.

 

Well fine that is until he somehow, impossibly managed to fall in love with a boy he met in prison. A boy who wasn’t perfect, who wouldn’t give him a perfect life but Jungkook had never cared less. A rough boy from a family no one who was anyone had ever heard of. A boy who came from a broken home and fought like he was desperately just trying to survive, all split knuckles and bruised ribs. A boy who bit and scratched and tore with his fingernails but also smiled like the goddamn sun itself and Jungkook is pretty sure he didn’t know what warm was until he met Kim Taehyung. Suddenly that nice life with that nice wife was no longer good enough. That day in the prison bathroom with the smell of bleach and blood hanging in the air, taehyung had looked at him with nothing but pure defiance in his eyes and he knew in that moment that it would never be good enough. Since then the only thing he wanted was Taehyung. His father was going to be delighted but that was something he would deal with later.

 

No one had ever fascinated him like Taehyung did. No one had ever so completely dominated his thoughts like Taehyung. Since their first encounter the other boy had been on his mind almost constantly. Yoongi liked to call it an obsession but Yoongi also thought Jimin was a sweetheart so Jungkook didn’t care much about what he thought. After living a life where no one dared to disrespect him, barely even looked at him, having someone who spoke back to him so fearlessly was new and thrilling and Jungkook loved it. The defiance, the bravery that bordered on stupidity- he respected that. Taehyung’s eyes had sparkled with an unknown galaxy that Jungkook wanted to explore forever. For the first time in his life he actually wanted to get to know someone. He wanted to really put effort into his relationship with Taehyung. He wanted to experience all the emotions he’d spent so long convincing himself didn’t even exist inside his ribcage. He actually wanted to let down the walls Namjoon loved to warn him about.

 

He wanted to fuck Taehyung too, that hadn’t changed. To be totally honest that was the first thought in his mind when they’d met, his first reaction. It had been a prevalent thought in his mind since then too but it had also changed, taken a back seat to other things like just talking to Taehyung and watching him laugh. The attraction that had captivated him at first was still there simmering under his skin but he also wanted more, more than a quick fuck to be forgotten, more than just a warm body next to him, more than a rushed caress or a physical release. He wanted to hold Taehyung and speak sweet nothings to him as they fell asleep, words spoken carelessly that didn’t mean much but maybe really meant everything. He even wanted to fucking cuddle. What the actual fuck had happened to him?

 

Taehyung; Taehyung happened to him.

 

He’s never felt this way before. Never felt this infinity of emotions inside him, bursting in his chest hardly able to be contained by his ribcage. It was overwhelming like he now possessed a universe of stars exploding into existence  in his chest and it all began and ended with Taehyung. He felt alive in a way he hadn’t before. Hoseok loved to tease Yoongi about being heartless but Jungkook had been convinced he’s been the only one without a functioning heart until Taehyung came along and proved him dead wrong. He saw the world differently too; colour was more vivid like the world was more beautiful now that he knew Taehyung was in it. Forget the sun, in Jungkook’s eyes the world now revolved around him.

 

As they ran hand in hand from the cafeteria, Jungkook only had eyes for Taehyung. He didn’t even know where they were going, just followed Taehyung, trusting him to lead them where they needed to be. It didn’t really matter much anyway, as long as he was with Taehyung he was happy. He just watched him run, watched his beautiful, elated smile feeling his own lips stretch into a grin. Taehyung’s giddy breathless laugh reaches his ears, the bright cheerful sound so out of place with his bloodied, battered appearance. Taehyung’s hand is so warm in his, his long slim fingers entwining perfectly with his and he grips a little tighter as if he never wanted to let go.

 

“Jungkook, do you think we’re okay?” he almost doesn’t hear when Taehyung turns back to speak to him, he’s too busy staring at his lips, his blood rushing in his ears.

 

“What?” he hums and Taehyung laughs again and Jungkook’s dumb heart clenches.

 

They were good as soon as they left the cafeteria. As long as Mr. Lee didn’t catch them red handed it was unlikely he would bother chasing them knowing half his men are under Jungkook’s control anyway. Jungkook and his gang are untouchable but he loves feeling reckless as he runs with Taehyung, the adrenaline still rushing through his system, energy still crackling through his veins setting them alight. His whole body thrums, the energy is so intense he was sure it would tear him apart but he didn’t even care. He wants to be torn to pieces, as long as it’s Taehyung he doesn’t care if they ruin each other.

 

“Hmmm I think so,” he says eyes scanning the hallways until he spots a small corridor leading off to the left. A slow smirk spreads across his face as an idea unfurls in his racing mind. “But just to be sure we should lay low.”

 

Taehyung only has time to let out a confused sound as Jungkook darts down the cramped corridor dragging Taehyung with him. The corridor leads to a locked door but that doesn’t matter to Jungkook as long as they’re hidden enough from view he wasn’t about to complain. He can hear footsteps from people who might have been chasing them echoing along the main hall.

 

“Wha-” Taehyung opens his mouth but Jungkook silences him by pressing his own lips against his. Taehyung lets out a happy sigh pressing back into the quick, fierce kiss. Jungkook’s vaguely aware of the footsteps passing but he doesn’t even look up to see if they were inmate or guard, he’s too focused on the way Taehyung’s split lip moves against his or how he tastes blood on his tongue. He pulls away reluctantly, both of them breathing heavily. Taehyung stares up at him, his mouth hanging open, pupils blown wide.

 

“You have to be quiet,” he murmurs but he’s not even sure Taehyung heard him. He’s looking at Jeongguk with such intensity, his eyes glassy and unfocused, his harsh breath tickling his face. The look on Taehyung’s face is doing things to him. The fight left him spinning, pumped full of exhilarating energy, adrenaline clouding his mind as lust creeps in to dominate his thoughts.

 

Watching Taehyung fight had been a terrifying but amazing experience that had left him in awe. He’d feared for Taehyung, part of him desperately wanted to wrap him up in bubble wrap and hide him away but Taehyung had been so determined to fight and Jungkook was quickly learning he wasn’t very good at saying no to him.

 

He’d thought Taehyung couldn’t get more beautiful but then he’d watched him knock another inmate’s teeth out with wild eyes and beautifully savage smile on his face. Just thinking about how Taehyung had jumped on Taeyang, so fearless and unafraid and Jungkook couldn’t have looked away if he’d wanted to. Remembering how Taehyung had bitten that bastard’s finger off almost made him moan as blood started to rush to his dick. Goddamn, the image of Taehyung covered in blood and breathing heavily as he spat the severed finger across the cafeteria floor was so fucking hot.

 

Jungkook is barely even forming coherent thoughts anymore beyond Taehyung and touch touch touch. He presses his body closer all he knows is that he wants and he’s going to get. His mind has been reduced down to its most basic desires, ruled now solely by craving, reason and logic flying out the window. He needs Taehyung.

 

And if the way Taehyung is looking back at him is anything to go by he felt the same way. His eyes are clouded with lust, dark and hooded. His hands tangling in Jungkook’s hair, dragging his head down closer till their breaths mingle.

 

“Taehyung-” he breathes not even sure what he’s trying to say instead attempting to convey his feelings by pressing himself closer to Taehyung, and to Jungkook’s immense delight presses back causing them both to groan. He huddles closer, pushing Taehyung back against the wall until there’s no space left between them and still he wants to be closer.

 

“Tae-” he tries again but Taehyung seems to have gotten the message because the hand in his hair tightens to the point of being painful and he lets out a low groan as Taehyung pulls his head down to crash their lips together.

 

They collide like comets; powerful, devastating, an event of epic, world ending proportions. Fireworks, sparks and all that other clichéd shit explode through Jungkook’s mind and he’s on fire .

Taehyung gasps into his mouth driving him crazy. Jungkook’s mind is nothing but a rush of want. His thoughts are tangled up in need. They pull away for a split second and he feels dizzy.

 

“More,” Taehyung demands in a breathy voice, his eyes burning with that same wild fire and who is Jungkook to deny him?

 

His mind briefly recalls Yoongi muttering something about how weak he is for Taehyung, how he’ll do anything for him and that’s a problem but his mind can’t seem to focus on the thought for too long. Not that he’d ever listen to Yoongi’s romantic advice in a million years.

 

He presses their lips together with bruising force, the pain mixing with and intensifying the pleasure and he wants more, the need growing but never being satisfied like an insatiable beast. Taehyung whines and Jungkook’s positively losing his damn mind. If he’d been thinking clearly he’d have questioned why Taehyung was so eager all of a sudden, why all the uncertainty and nervousness, all the fear holding him back last time they were in this position had disappeared, magically melting away. If he had been thinking straight he would have realised something was… off with the way Taehyung was attacking his mouth like he was starving, desperate and frantic.

 

But Jungkook isn’t thinking clearly and he’s  just as eager as Taehyung and there’s no more time for thinking rationally. He acts completely on impulse, hands roaming down Taehyung’s body, each touch earning him more needy sounds until he’s got his own hands hooked under Taehyung’s legs, hiking him up so his thighs are squeezed around his middle and he’s the only thing holding him up.

 

The muscles of Taehyung’s legs clench around him, his crotch brushing against his and Jungkook can’t stifle the strained groan that catches in his throat.

 

“Fuck, Taehyung,” he pants and normally he’d have been embarrassed to have gotten so worked up so quickly but what can he say? It’s been almost a damn year since he got any action whatsoever, locked up in here like an animal with a bunch of unattractive, violent men he wouldn’t dream of going anywhere near. So yeah, maybe he’s a little more aroused than he’d normally be but Taehyung is moving against him so nicely and that feeling he’s creating is the only thing in the world that matters right now.

 

“Jungkook,” Taehyung chokes out his arms thrown around his shoulders pulling him even closer so his face is pressed against his neck. His tongue darts out and he tastes sweat and blood and hears Taehyung gasp, his hips bucking up against his.

 

The gasp turns into a strangled sob as he sinks his teeth into Taehyung neck just deep enough to leave pretty violet bruises to match the ones he earned in the fight. He nips and sucks his way down the column of Taehyung’s throat feeling his thundering pulse graze his teeth leaving vivid red marks in his wake. Taehyung’s whole body reacts, shuddering against him, his arms tightening, hand tangled in the other man’s his hair to hold him in place.

 

Maybe he bites too hard or maybe he presses against a sore spot but Taehyung’s breath hitches in pain and the sound snags on something in his mind, a memory that he’d forced down for now. The image of Taehyung in his lap, so determined that it almost hides the fear but Jungkook saw it shining in his eyes even as he kissed him.

 

Something’s wrong . The thought won’t leave his mind like it’s lodged there. This isn’t right .

 

“Tae,” he pulls away and something in his tone makes Taehyung pause and look at him, confusion evident in the lines on his brow, his swollen lips pulled into a pretty pout, eyes hazy with lust.

 

“What is it, Jungkookie?” he rasps and fuck Jungkook really really wants to go back to what they were doing, it almost physically pains him to pull away but the uncomfortable sensation that everything is not as it should be won’t leave him alone even as Taehyung attaches his lips to his neck nearly causing his resolve to crumble there and then.

 

“Wait,” he grits out, breath stuttering in his chest and Taehyung bites down hard on the junction where his neck meets shoulder.

 

“What?” Taehyung snaps sounding irritated and breathless not even looking up at Jungkook, stubbornly continuing to suck an impressive hickey on his neck. He’s never heard Taehyung like this. This demanding, this rash and desperate as his bloody fingers dig into his shoulders.

 

Taehyung’s got him in his grasp, strong hands holding Jungkook firmly in place and it’s like they’re locked together in an unbreakable embrace.

 

“Are you-” his train of thought is disrupted by Taehyung running his tongue over his fresh hickey, hand trailing down his stomach and he grabs it because if it goes any lower he most definitely won’t be able to say what he needs to. “Are you sure?”

 

“What?” there’s something off in his voice now. When he finally looks up at Jungkook his eyes are wide and terrified. They frantically dart from his face to just behind him as if he’s struggling to bring himself to actually look at Jungkook and he feels something clench painfully inside him. What was wrong with Taehyung?

 

“Don’t you want me?” Taehyung’s voice sounds weak and shakes as he speaks. It’s said so quietly he almost misses it and it feels like Taehyung just punched him in the chest. The air rushes out of his lung and he can barely breathe because how the fuck could Taehyung even think that let alone articulate it? how could Jungkook make it any more obvious that he wanted Taehyung in every single way he could have him but not if Taehyung was uncomfortable. He opens and closes his mouth a couple times but he can’t find the right words. He wants to tell Taehyung he’s the most fucking beautiful person he’s ever seen but that somehow doesn’t seem right, it’s not enough, it’s not what Taehyung needs right now.

 

“You don’t want me.” Taehyung states his voice rising in pitch and flooding with panic as he grips the fabric of his jumpsuit so hard how his bruised knuckles turn white as if he’s scared that Jungkook will run away.

 

“No, of course I do!” Jungkook finally manages to spit the words out but to his dismay Taehyung doesn’t look relieved if anything it makes the madness in his eyes worse, pushing it to fever pitch and as he stares into those glassy, frantic eyes he’s not even sure he can recognise Taehyung right now.

 

“Then take me,” Taehyung gasps pulling him down for another hungry kiss but Jungkook can’t focus on anything other than how their teeth clack awkwardly together and how their noses bump uncomfortably and how much it hurts when Taehyung bites his abuses lip like he’s trying to tear it right off his face. The kiss is disjointed and desperate passed the point of being hot and he’s positive he’s just going to hurt Taehyung. But another part of Jungkook worries that he’ll hurt him if he rejects the other. The look of terror on Taehyung’s face when he thought Jungkook didn’t want him is unsettling and conflict tears at his heart, so he tries to think of what he can do without hurting Taehyung.

 

He pulls away and takes Taehyung’s face in his hands cradling it gently in an attempt to get Taehyung to calm down and just breathe for a second. He’s never seen the older boy freak out like this and it’s unsettling, all the raw emotion that radiates off Taehyung, the amount of stress and tensions that seeps from every inch of his rigid body.  

 

“Tae,” he whispers and in the darkness of the cramped hall looking into Taehyung’s teary eyes he feels almost too honest, “I want you, so fucking badly but I don’t want to hurt you. I need to know you’re okay I-”

 

He lets out a frustrated huff not even sure what he’s trying to say but desperately wanting Taehyung to understand what he means. He’s never been good at the whole words thing. Jungkook’s always been shitty at talking about his feelings, especially when it came to sex because it’s never been necessary like this before. He’s never actually cared about anyone like this. Maybe Jungkook’s the one overthinking it- he doesn’t even know anymore.

 

Taehyung’s face seems to crumple and he opens his mouth but before he can speak someone calls his name. He turns to look down the corridor and sees Yoongi, standing silhouetted at the mouth of the hallway staring at them eyes narrowed, an unreadable expression on his face.

 

“Jungkook,” Yoongi says again and there’s a question in his voice like he’s asking Jungkook some sort of permission to be here and usually Jungkook would be pissed that he’d been cockblocked for the third fucking time that day (three times in one day? How is that even possible?) by his own gang. But now, he’s mostly just relieved.

 

He glances at Taehyung, who is no longer looking at him or Yoongi, instead he’s pressing his face into Jungkook’s chest like he’s trying to hide from Yoongi, like he doesn’t even want to be seen. Jungkook finds himself wrapping his arms protectively around Taehyung. He doesn’t quite know why he does it. He trusts Yoongi with his life and he knows the older boy would never hurt Taehyung but in that moment he just wants to protect Taehyung from everything, to keep the other boy safe.

 

“Yoongi,” he says his voice hoarse and Yoongi cocks his head to the side, listening, his eyes trained on Taehyung’s hunched form.

 

“Jungkook, we’ve been looking all over for you two,” he says his voice level, forced calm like he’s trying not to upset Taehyung further.

 

Jungkook licks his lips unsure of what to do next and Taehyung isn’t helping, he’s giving no clue as to what he wants him to do, he just pushes his face under Jungkook’s chin, curling his body around his and Jungkook responds by holding him tighter.

 

“We need a minute Yoongi,” he says and hopes Yoongi understands despite the fact he himself has no clue what’s going on.

 

There’s a long pause that’s filled only with the sound of Taehyung’s uneven, panicky breaths as he does his best to press his face even further into Jungkook’s shoulder. Yoongi narrows his eyes, the look on his face is careful and calculated as he watches Taehyung. His eyes move to Jungkook and he sees questions there and knows he and Yoongi are going to have words about this later but to his relief the older boy just nods curtly.

 

“You have five minutes, we’ll be waiting in Jin’s cell,” he says quietly casting one last look Taehyung’s way and Jungkook notices the flash of worry in his eyes. “Do not make me come looking for you two.”

 

That last part was mostly aimed at Jungkook, the warning glare Yoongi shoots him makes him feel like an eight year old being scolded by his father and he has the urge to bow his head in shame even though he has no idea what he’s done wrong this time.

 

Yoongi turns and walks away leaving them alone again and Jungkook focuses his full attention back on Taehyung who is still trembling slightly in his arms. Jungkook wants to make it stop, to say something that will comfort Taehyung and ease his distress but he flounders like a fish drowning in air. He can’t think of a single thing to say and the silence, the lack of calming words is oppressive and all he can hear is his own heartbeat roaring in his ears.

 

“Tae?” he ventures when the shaking lessens. Taehyung doesn’t answer, he barely even moves keeping his face hidden in the crook of his neck. His breathing has slowed but it’s shallow, the faintest hint against his skin and something about Taehyung’s stillness unnerves him immensely.

Taehyung’s leaning heavily on him now, the majority of his weight resting on his shoulder and he bears it. He forces himself to focus on the faint rattle of his breath, the shuddering rise and fall of his chest and he worries that Taehyung might have passed out on him.

 

He licks his lips nervously wishing he knew how to fix… whatever the fuck this was.

 

“Taehyung?” he tries again. “Are you alright?”

 

It’s a fucking stupid question and he knows it, Taehyung is so obviously not alright but he can’t for the life of him think of anything better to say.

 

There’s a beat of silence and Jungkook thinks Taehyung is just going to ignore him but before he can properly freak out he stirs, lifting his head for the first time to look at Jungkook.

 

Jungkook’s breath catches painfully as he takes in the expression on Taehyung’s face.

 

He’s expecting fear, sadness, panic, he’s expecting tears and snot and a trembling lower lip. He is not expected the totally blank look Taehyung levels at him.

 

He’s never in all the time he’d known him seen Taehyung look so… blank.

 

His face is completely expressionless, devoid of all emotion, dead. His dull eyes stare unseeing right through him as if he’s in some sort of trace. A massive wall has been put up between them. Jungkook can feel it, the distance between them growing as Taehyung throws up defenses to keep him out and it fucking hurts. He has no idea what he’s done to deserve this treatment and if Taehyung would just tell him then he could make it all better.

 

He doesn’t speak, just waits for Taehyung but he’s not even sure he sees him, giving no indication that he’s even fully aware of his presence. He wants to reach out but something tells him touching Taehyung isn’t the smartest decisions right now and the last thing he wants to do right now is make everything worse.

 

“Tae, darling, please talk to me,” Jeon Jungkook does not beg but right now he’s pretty damn close. Anything to get Taehyung to talk to him. If he has to get down on his knees and plead he would do it.

 

“Just let me know you’re okay,” he whispers softly.

 

Taehyung blinks sluggishly, his red rimmed eyes slowly focusing on his face. He closes his slack mouth, his tongue darting out to wet his chapped lower lip, a nervous habit and Jungkook hates the thought that he might be making Taehyung uncomfortable. He blinks again and this time his features shift, expression changing so drastically in such a short span of time it gives Jungkook whiplash.

 

A smile breaks out across Taehyung’s face so big and bright and beautiful and utterly fake.

 

It so almost looks real, so nearly his usual smile when he’s happy but Jungkook knows and he can see right through it. Rather than the same warmth he usually feels when he sees that smile, his heart sinks to the floor.

 

Jungkook would have preferred tears. He would rather sadness and sobbing, even anger because at least those were real. He would rather see ugly emotions that were real than this forced happiness any day.

 

“I’m fine Jungkookie!” Taehyung says with so much false enthusiasm Jungkook winces. He giggles and it sounds so fucking forced and Jungkook feels like he’s going to be sick. “I have no idea what came over me. Must have been the adrenaline.”

 

Jungkook wants to scream at Taehyung to cut it out, to drop the smile and the act and to tell him what the fucking is wrong, to just be honest with him. He wants to shake him until he gets the truth, the real truth no more false smiles and blatant lies but he can’t, not now. Taehyung has shut that part of himself away, closing him off from Jungkook and he senses that if he tried to pry those secrets from him he would only end up hurting him even more.

 

So he does the only thing he can think to do.

 

He smiles, a smile that’s just as fake as Taehyung’s and he nods.

 

“Yeah,” he says, taking Taehyung’s hand in his own and ignoring the way that the other flinches almost imperceptibly and tugs him towards the main corridor, “must have been. Let’s head back, yeah? The others are waiting for us.”

 

He can’t stand to stay here another second while Taehyung lies to his face. He feels like he’s running away but he doesn’t have a choice. He’s backed against a wall and he fucking hates it.

 

He doesn’t look back as he leads Taehyung towards Jin’s cell. They don’t speak even though there’s so much that needs to be said, everything unspoken weighing on his shoulders and he feels as though he’s being crushed. Jungkook walks and Taehyung allows himself to be led and they both suffer in silence.

 

~

 

They reach Jin’s cell without saying a single word to each other. There’s nothing overtly awkward about the silence between them but Jungkook can’t shake the feeling it’s unnatural. It’s killing him not to say anything but he can tell from the look in Taehyung’s eyes that he’s still got his guard up even if the rest of his face and body language appear to be at ease. The smile on his lips no longer looks so forced, instead it looks more automatic like he’s running on autopilot, letting his body go through the motions while his mind is somewhere else. Jungkook doesn’t want to imagine where his mind is.   

 

They stand outside the cell, waiting. For what, Jungkook isn’t sure. Taehyung gives no indication just shuffling behind him, gazing off somewhere beyond Jungkook.

 

His shoulders are slumped as if he’s exhausted, fatigue literally weighing on his shoulders and the hand in his is slack, Taehyung just barely holding on. Jungkook squeezes which prompts a faint smile from Taehyung, his glassy eyes turning to stare listlessly at him.

 

“You ready to go in?” he asks. Taehyung blinks, tilting his head to the side.

 

“Of course,” he murmurs, sounding sleepy like he’s just woken up.

 

He doesn’t look ready but Jungkook shrugs and knocks. Once , twice and by the third knock the lock slides from the inside the way it really shouldn’t in prison and the door is thrown open by the ever energetic Hoseok. He levels a blinding smile at them before turning back into the cell.

 

“They’re here!” he yells, jumping up and down on the spot and Jungkook grits his teeth wondering if Hoseok had always been so damn loud.

 

He resists the urge to tell the older boy to shut the fuck up as he  drags Taehyung inside the cell before he can react. He jolts, panicking inside, expecting Hoseok’s touch to upset Taehyung but if it does, none of the distress shows on Taehyung face and Jungkook is looking very carefully for it. He can’t tell if Taehyung is still faking it, his face largely impassive that same small smile plastered on his lips, or if the mood has passed and he hates it. He’s never liked not knowing the entire situation but this is the worst. He thought he understood Taehyung.

 

“Kim Taehyung, you asshole!” Jimin hollers as soon as they enter the cell, a wide grin on his face, his eyes little more than happy crescent moons as the door slams shut behind them and Taehyung smiles back greeting Jimin with a warm hug like they’ve been friends forever. Jungkook forces himself to ignore the flare of jealousy that sparks in his chest. “You’ve been holding out on us, holy fuck!”

 

Taehyung smiles and laughs sheepishly, ducking his head as he untangles himself from Jimin only to be pulled further into the cell by Hoseok. The rest of the gang swarm around him, crowding Taehyung likes he’s some fascinating exhibition. Hoseok and Jimin either side screeching excitedly, congratulating him, Namjoon chuckling and literally patting him on the back like he’s just won his little league championship. Jin and Yoongi hang back a little but Jungkook doesn’t miss the small smile on Yoongi’s face and the proud way they both look at Taehyung. They look the way he feels. Fond. It should be sickening but it’s not.

 

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when you bit his finger off!” Hoseok exclaims talking quickly a wide grin stretched across his face and Jimin laughs, a high pitched giddy sound. Namjoon nods along as Taehyung smiling at them all, looking almost shy. “That’s one powerful bite you’ve got my little grasshopper, Jungkookie you better watch out when he suck-”

 

“Finish that sentence and I will slit your throat,” Jungkook growls, glaring at Hoseok who all but ignores him, guffawing at his own stupid joke as Jimin smirks and Yoongi rolls his eyes looking mildly repulsed. Jungkook monitors Taehyung’s face for any sign Hoseok’s crude joke affected him but he just laughs along with the others even winking cheekily causing another round of laughter and Jungkook allows himself to relax just a fraction.

 

He wants to forget about the incident in the corridor, to write it off and blame it on the hormones coursing through their veins but he fucking can’t. He wants more than anything to believe that Taehyung is truly alright but his mind won’t stop skipping back to the moment something behind Taehyung’s eyes broke.

 

Taehyung is so strong both physically and mentally, Jungkook has seen it first hand but there’s always been something fragile in him and he’s petrified he’s going to shatter him without even realizing it. One mistake and he breaks Taehyung beyond repair and how could he ever live with himself if that happened. He felt unusually clumsy and so damn out of his element.

 

“But for real ,Tae. I had no idea you were capable of that!” Jimin beams at Taehyung and Jungkook feels pride welling in his own chest the same as if the praise had been directed at him. “When you jumped on Taeyang’s back I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It was fucking insane, you’re fucking insane.”

 

“It was?” Taehyung asks and Jimin pinches his cheeks, cooing despite or maybe because of the dried blood still clinging to Taehyung’s face.

 

“The coolest thing,” he assures and any jealousy Jungkook had felt died down. How could he stay mad at Jimin when he made Taehyung smile like that. The smile is small and tired but it looks a hundred times more genuine than the hundred watt fake grin Taehyung had flashed earlier.

 

“I’ve never seen anyone do that,” Namjoon comments, reminiscing like some old man. “except for a rottweiler I once set loose on a spy although he bit the man’s whole arm off. It was incredible.”

 

“That was amazing too,” Hoseok nods, grinning pleasantly. “and I’ve cut off many a finger in my day. But I’m afraid I do it the old fashioned way with knives and shit.” He cracks his tattooed knuckles, grin turning menacing, his eyes glinting.

 

“I tried to tear a finger off once and I managed to break it but the actual dismemberment was an issue. Ligaments are hard to rip but I’m sure you know that right?”

 

Jungkook holds his breath, worry instantly rushing through his mind as he stares at Taehyung. But Taehyung doesn’t flinch. He shrugs casually and reaches up to wipe dried blood off his chin.

“I wasn’t really thinking,” he admits, “I just reacted. I don’t like having things in my mouth.”

 

“Did you hear that Jungkook-” Hoseok starts but his voice dies down as he catches the look on Jungkook’s face. Hoseok might have an rumoured body count in the thousands but not even he’s stupid enough to cross Jungkook when he’s dead serious.

 

“It’s not easy to bite off a human finger- physically I mean,” Jin speaks up, slipping into what Jungkook likes to think if as ‘doctor mode’. “In order to sever it completely you would have to bite perfectly on the joint and even then you still have to bite hard enough to tear through layers of ligament and muscle. Overall a very impressive feat, Taehyung. Most people who bite fingers only succeed in partial amputation. I’m glad I’m not your dentist.”

 

This causes Taehyung to grin, showing off his pearly white teeth.

 

“Speaking of dentists, did you guys hear that the orthodontist that was found dead with a hatchet embedded in his head?” Jin asks, his voice dead serious, his face grim.

 

Jungkook blinks, “What the fuck?”

 

“Don’t encourage him, moron,” Yoongi groans burying his face in his hands. Namjoon and Jimin exchange looks and Taehyung watches curiously, glancing at Jungkook. He just shakes his head. He really shouldn't have asked. Why was his damn gang so embarrassing? Why couldn’t he have cool henchmen?

 

“Yeah Police are treating it as an axe-i-dental death,” Jin is barely able to finish his sentence before he dissolves into a fit of obnoxious laughter, his whole body shaking as his squeaky windshield wiper laugh fills the small cell.

 

Yoongi looks slightly murderous and Hoseok chuckles, Jungkook himself feels more like groaning at the stupid pun but then more laughter fills the room and to his surprise he sees Taehyung burst into unrestrained giggles.

 

Jungkook can do nothing but stare, mute, as Taehyung doubles over, laughing his head off at Jin’s stupid dad joke. His face flushes bright red, his deep laugh melodic and Jungkook decides he wants to hear Taehyung laugh forever. He wants to the reason for Taehyung’s laughter.

 

“What does the dentist of the year get?” he speaks uncertainly, he’s not really used to telling jokes. Jin tells him all the time that he was a very serious child.

 

Taehyung’s still recovering, chuckling quietly as he looks at Jungkook expectantly.

“A little plaque,” he’s not sure he delivered the joke well but it must have been good enough because Taehyung’s eyes light up as the laughter bubbles back up.

“Did Jungkook just make a pun?” Yoongi asks, eyebrows furrowed, his nose wrinkled like he smelled something foul.

 

“This is even weirder than Taehyung biting off Taeyang’s finger,” Namjoon agrees as Jin all but collapses, howling with laughter. Jimin and Hoseok also falling over themselves, squawking about how Jungkook actually had a sense of humour, which, fuck them, Jungkook is well able to be funny. He just chooses a serious image instead.

 

“My turn, my turn!” Taehyung collects himself enough to gasp. “What did the dentist see at the North Pole?”

 

Jungkook shrugs and Jin appears to be trying to answer but he’s laughing too hard. Yoongi looks like he’d rather be anywhere else but here but Jungkook knows him too well to believe it for a second.

 

“A molar bear!”

 

Jungkook isn’t sure if Jin is laughing or choking anymore but Taehyung looks so beautiful giggling without a care that Jungkook can’t take his eyes off him, he really doesn’t care about anything else.

 

He finds himself chuckling along, warmth spreading through his chest. Just being here, surrounded by the people he cared most about in the world and Jungkook isn’t thinking about the gang war, he’s not thinking about how much his fresh wounds hurt, he’s not even dwelling on the pain behind Taehyung’s eyes. All he’s focusing on is the sound of laughter and the fact they’re all still alive, still kicking and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Taehyung glows as he laughs, and Jungkook almost forgets to breathe, he looks so alive, so happy and Jungkook swears to himself that he would do anything for Taehyung’s smile.

 

The laughter is calming down, a lull in the high energy. Jin is still leaning against the wall, wheezing and Jungkook wonders if he’s really getting old. Taehyung is gasping, regaining his breath and he’s looking at Jungkook, his eyes still shining with mirth.

 

“Well if you kids are done, maybe we should treat our wounds?” Yoongi grumbles but what little gruffness he puts into his voice is counteracted by the warmth in his eyes. Since when was Yoongi so damn sentimental?

 

“Not so fast!” Jimin holds up his hand for them to wait, watching as he goes rummaging under the hard bunk bed.

 

“Before we deal with that, we need to celebrate!” he announces flourishing a bottle of expensive soju. Jungkook’s not surprised by what Jimin manages to smuggle in anymore.

 

“Do I even want to know?” Namjoon asks and Jimin just smiles sweetly.

 

“Probably not!”

 

Jungkook briefly considers stepping up and being the leader he’s supposed to be. Take responsibility and tell them they need to bandage themselves up and clean their wounds. But Yoongi is reaching for the bottle and Hoseok is cackling, telling him not to drink it all himself while Jin produces seven cups from under the bunk and Jungkook can’t find it in himself to spoil their fun.

 

Jimin is pouring, everyone holding their cup out greedily and Jungkook finds himself gravitating towards Taehyung. He’s by his side, nudging Hoseok out of the way and closer towards Yoongi so he can take his place next to Taehyung. He reaches out and Taehyung hesitates for only a second before taking his hand. It feels right to intertwine their fingers and Jungkook feels himself smiling. There’s still a heaviness between them, the weight of the knowledge that there’s secrets being kept but for now, surrounded by friends, with the toast of to Taehyung! echoing off the cell walls, everything feels alright.

Chapter Text

Jimin, it turns out, did not only manage to sneak in one bottle of soju. No, his best friend somehow was able to smuggle into the prison not one, not two but three bottles of alcohol. Jungkook’s gone way past being surprised by anything Jimin does at this point. By the second bottle he wonders briefly if he should stop them but by the third he doesn’t care anymore. He’s not drunk of course but he’s starting to feel pleasantly tipsy, the alcohol’s setting a warm buzzing through his veins and he allows himself to relax and enjoy the moment. It’s not something he does very often but every now and again he needs to let go and unwind.

They’re all sitting together, scattered around the small cell in a rough circle. They pass the bottle around, taking turns to entertain each other with some funny or dramatic story from the past.

As the drink flows his gang gets more and more rowdy, much to Jungkook’s amusement. Noting too out of hand that will draw the guards and that bastard Mr. Lee down upon them. The laughter grows more boisterous and voice raise in shouts and cheers as they share stories, old tales being retold, mostly for Taehyung’s sake, and occasionally a new story that the teller hadn’t shared yet. Jungkook listens closely for the most part, especially with the new stories, loving to learn new things about his family. Even as he listens, he finds his eyes being constantly being drawn back to Taehyung.

Taehyung isn’t drinking much, often shaking his head and passing the bottle on when it’s offered to him but no one comments. He just sits there nursing his one cup of soju, focused wide eyed as he takes in the gang’s stories with rapt attention, clear awe in his dark eyes. He comments every now and again and he laughs often much to Jungkook’s quiet delight but he never offers his own story, never reveals anything about him or his past, which Jungkook had been secretly hoping he would open up.

 

But the atmosphere is relaxed and the tension that seems ever present in his life has dissipated, even if it’s only for a little while. He’s learned to take every moment of respite he can get, no matter how small, and treasure it because these quiet moments free from blood and pain are so precious to him.

He’s not going to ruin their temporary peace by upsetting Taehyung needlessly. There’s so much he wants to know still, so many questions burning in his chest and he’s dying to know Taehyung, to know everything about him. He wants to understand him more than he’s ever wanted to understand anyone before. He wants to know about his past, no matter how ugly it might be, he wants to know what made Taehyung the person he is today. What hurt him, what gave him scars, what pain gave birth to the strength Jungkook sees behind his eyes. He wants so badly to know what broke Taehyung’s bones and recast them in steel.

But Jungkook has also learned to be patient. It seems grim and inappropriate to apply battle tactics to his feelings for Taehyung but that was who Jungkook was, who he’d been made into. That was how his mind worked, always the strategist, always looking for the weakness in his opponent's armour. When his father taught him about war and leadership he taught him that patience was key.

If you sit by a river long enough you will see the bodies of your enemies floating by.

This did not mean Jungkook wasn’t a man of action but the sentiment was there. Sitting around letting fate or karma or whatever deal with his enemies wasn’t his style, in fact it went against his nature completely as someone who revelled in getting their hands dirty but his father words helped him when trying to reign in his temper and to learn not to be so impulsive. Although if you asked Yoongi he’s still needlessly reckless and headstrong, but he’s working on it, damn it.

But this whole philosophy of waiting patiently is not without merit. Good things come to those who wait and all that. He’s willing to wait for Taehyung. He’s willing to wait forever if that’s what it takes. When it comes to Taehyung and his comfort Jungkook decides he will have the patience of a fucking saint even if the curiosity is eating him alive.

He would die for everyone in this room, that went without question. And it was the same with Taehyung but it was also different, it went beyond that.

He would die for him but he would suffer for Taehyung too.

He must have been staring again because he finds himself meeting Taehyung’s eyes from where he sits on the floor next to him. Taehyung smiles and it feels like a secret smile, something to be kept between them only, their own private moment and maybe it’s the alcohol buzzing in his mind or maybe it’s the tail end of the adrenaline lingering in his system but he wants to lean over and kiss Taehyung right here.  

 

The way Taehyung is looking at him tells him he feels the same. They’re on the same wave link like that, Jungkook muses. Their feelings somehow in sync and he knows, just knows how Taehyung feels on some deep level that he can’t quite explain— their emotions linked and he doesn’t dare think soulmates but secretly he hopes.

He doesn’t kiss Taehyung though. He’s had enough of his gang yelling at him today and after the incident in the hallway he’s in no hurry to pressure Taehyung into anything. A tiny, nasty voice at the back of his mind wondering if maybe he’s the reason Taehyung freaked out like that. He pushes the thought away, banishing it from his mind. It might be cowardly but he wants to enjoy this moment. He’ll deal with all the insecurity and the worry and the endless emotional baggage later. For now, he wants to drink and laugh and be happy.

He jumps at the feeling of a hand over his. Looking down he sees Taehyung’s slim, tanned hand covering his. Long bony fingers flecked with blood, calloused, and bruised fitting so well with his. Jungkook smiles moving to take Taehyung’s hand in his and that’s how they stay, smiling, and holding hands and Jungkook wonders if he’s ever felt so content.

“-and that’s how I killed six men with nothing but a bit of floss and a butter knife,” Hoseok says, concluding his story to the cheers of the rest of the gang, even Yoongi sluggishly rolls his eyes but claps along anyway a small smile on his face. Taehyung laughs, showing that he had been partially listening and Jungkook nods. He’s heard this story before, a few times in fact, but it’s always amusing to hear Hoseok retell it, especially when he adds all his wild hand gestures and sound effects.

“What about you Tae?” Hoseok asks suddenly turning to Taehyung. It’s the first time anyone directly addressed Taehyung, asking for his input. Taehyung blinks, evidently surprised, as all eyes turn towards him.

“What do you mean?” he asks, clearing his throat before letting out a nervous giggle. A faint flush creeping up his neck at all the sudden attention. “I haven’t killed anyone with a butter knife.”

Jungkook knows Hoseok has the best alcohol tolerance, after Jin and Namjoon that is, even if most people think he doesn’t due to the fact he’s so loud when he drinks but Hoseok is always loud. He always acts more drunk than he really is so Jungkook can tell he’s quite sober when he questions Taehyung and that makes him shift uncomfortably as Hoseok’s eyes narrow.

“Yeah but you didn’t get life for nothing, Taetae,” he says in a sing song voice and Jungkook feels Taehyung tense beside him, the hand in his gripping him too tight, blunt nails digging into his skin hard enough to no doubt leave marks. No one speaks and as everyone stares at Taehyung, Jungkook watches them, feeling fiercely defensive of Taehyung. He can see the curiosity burning clearly in their eyes, the same curiosity no doubt reflected in his and he understands they want to know but he doesn’t want to hurt Taehyung or even make him uncomfortable around them. Hoseok, Jimin and Jin are waiting eagerly, their eyes wide as they smile encouragingly at Taehyung while Namjoon and Yoongi sit back calmly but no less inquisitive. Yoongi is the only one watching Taehyung with something besides interest. There’s silent concern there too as he watches Taehyung’s face carefully.

“Um,” Taehyung begins, licking his lips, glancing at Jungkook and he doesn’t miss the unspoken plea for help, the message in his eyes that screamed get me out of this!

“What does it matter?” Jungkook says ignoring how Hoseok’s face falls, Jimin pouting but it’s worth it when Taehyung relaxes next to him, the tension in his frame being released now that he is no longer in the spotlight. He places Taehyung’s feelings over his gang’s curiosity any day. “Not everyone’s a psychopath like you Hobi. Not everyone likes to brag about the shit they’ve done.”

“Fine,” Hoseok huffs, sitting back down, swaying slightly causing him to almost fall into Yoongi’s lap. Yoongi pushes him away, grumbling at him, warning him not to spill his fucking drink. “I still wanna know what someone like our sweet little Taetae did to get locked away for life.” He complains loudly wrapping his arms around Yoongi in an enveloping embrace much to Yoongi’s visible irritation.

Sweet little Taetae ,” Yoongi mimics with a scoff, pushing Hoseok off once again, chuckling into his cup as he takes another long sip of soju. “Sweet little Taetae bit someone’s finger off, moron.”

Hoseok, completely unoffended by Yoongi’s remark, reaches over to pinch the elder’s cheeks until he slaps his hands away causing him to laugh like a hyena. Taehyung seems more or less unaffected by their banter and just smiles gently at Yoongi.

Jungkook looks over at Taehyung, checking up on him has become an automatic habit it seems, not unlike a tick or twitch. Taehyung looks a lot more relaxed now that all the attention that had been focused on his has passed and he even laughs at Yoongi and Hoseok’s antics.

“It wasn’t always a life sentence,” Jungkook is surprised to hear Taehyung speak up, even more surprised that he seems to be continuing the conversation. Then the meaning of the statement hits him and increases the confusion tenfold.

Hoseok bolts upright, head whipping around like a dog that’s caught the scent it’s been searching for, his mission to annoy Yoongi suddenly forgotten in favour of crowding around Taehyung, eager to hear more.

“It wasn’t?” Hoseok asks eagerly. Next to him Jimin’s eyebrows rise to his hairline and Jin leans in and Taehyung once again has everyone’s attention and to Jungkook’s immense relief he looks a lot more at ease now. He’s actually secretly glad Hoseok is asking because if Taehyung is willing to talk about it he damn well wants to know. This time, instead of looking at his gang, he’s watching Taehyung, his attention zeroed in on his face, squeezing his hand reassuringly.

“Nope,” Taehyung hums, taking a moment to drink. He swallows another mouthful of soju, looking thoughtful. His gaze far away. It takes a moment for Taehyung to speak again and when he does, his voice is quiet, heavy with something Jungkook can’t identify. Perhaps it’s sorrow but the weary the kind of sorrow that stems from old scars that ache constantly in his chest.  

“At first the death penalty was on the table.”

Everyone freezes and the silence is absolutely deafening. Jungkook has been punched in the gut, literally, many times in his life. The memory of a fist slamming into his gut is the only thing that comes to mind as he hears those words ‘death penalty’. The air whooshes out of his lungs in a strangled huff leaving him light headed and breathless and at a complete loss. His hand automatically clenches around the cup he’s holding, the plastic crunching in his fist.

“Well… fuck,” Namjoon says eloquently and Jungkook silently agrees. What else is there to say? Even Hoseok is stunned into silence, a truly rare occurrence indeed and Jungkook would have been impressed by this remarkable feat had he not been so busy picking his own jaw off the floor.

“Yeah,” Taehyung nods quietly, still staring into his cup like it’s the most interesting thing in the room. Jungkook is still reeling from the sudden bombshell but he tries to collect himself. He instinctively holds Taehyung’s hand tighter as if he’s afraid some guards are going to burst into the cell and drag Taehyung away from him.

The mere thought that Taehyung, his Taehyung could have been killed makes him feel physically ill, nausea roiling in his stomach as if he’s going to be sick all over the floor. He can hear his heart pounding in his ears, his whole body flashing hot and cold as he stares at Taehyung opened mouthed. He almost lost Taehyung before he even knew him. The questions began to flood his mind, circling his brain like ugly vultures. What if Taehyung had been sentenced to death? What if they’d never met? What if he had lived his life never knowing Taehyung? All these questions are too grim, too awful to even bear thinking about.

He wants more than anything to pull Taehyung onto his lap and hold him close. To make sure he knows he’s safe now, here with Jungkook and that he would never let anything bad happen to him.

He knows the world has been cruel to Taehyung and he wishes he could somehow go back and fix every wrong that’s ever befallen Taehyung but he can’t. All he can do is make sure Taehyung knows that he is loved now. Besides all that pain led them to this moment and Jungkook won’t deny he’s happy to have Taehyung by his side.

“But then they took my uh—” Taehyung stumbles over his words, coughing to clear his throat before continuing in a rushed mumble, “My circumstances, I guess, into consideration and reduced it down to life instead.”

Jungkook can tell by the way Taehyung is biting his lip and refusing to look anyone in the eye that this is as much as he’s going to share with them today. He’s got his arms wrapped around him now, legs curled up to his chest like he’s trying to make himself as small as possible, to fold himself away, to disappear. Everyone else seems to sense his closed off mood too because no one tries to question him, not even Hoseok although it’s clear he wants too and Jungkook is eternally grateful to his gang. They might not be the most tactful people but they had their moments.

Jungkook really can’t blame him; he wants to question Taehyung too. This revelation only serves to remind him just how much he doesn’t know about Taehyung yet but for his sake he holds his tongue.

“And to think,” to Jungkook’s surprise it’s Yoongi who speaks up. Next to him Taehyung looks up a the sound of Yoongi’s deep voice, his native drawl creeping into his slightly slurred words, but he’s still coherent and his sombre gaze is fixed on Taehyung’s face. “The bunch of us no good, hardened criminals only got 25 years each.” He muses and Taehyung raises an eyebrow, clearly curious.

“only 25?” he asks, glancing at Jungkook who nods. “but haven’t you guys, you know, uh-”

“Killed people?” Jimin supplies. “Murdered, maimed and mutilated people?”

“Extorted and bribed and stolen millions?” Namjoon adds.

“Helped insure the success and continuation of one of the most wanted criminal organisations in the world, to which darling baby Jungkookie is also the sole heir?” Jin finishes and Taehyung nods eyes wide.

“Yup,” Jungkook says, “but they could only prove money laundering and tax evasion and fraud. Which carries a maximum sentence of twenty five years, less on good behaviour and as you know we are model prisoners. Also don’t call me baby, Jin.”

“Sorry, boss,” Jin shrugs.

“They caught you on fraud?” Taehyung asks with a giggle and yeah, Jungkook knows it sounds kinda lame when Taehyung says it like that.

“Well you see the thing about money and fraud and shit like that,” Yoongi says, seemingly happy enough to spell it out for Taehyung so Jungkook doesn’t have to. “all that shit leaves a paper trail and you can try and hide it but there’s always some evidence that leads right back to you, or this in case Jungkook’s family. Murder is different. Bodies can be hidden, people can disappear without a trace, crime scenes can be cleaned, blame can be deflected, and people can be framed and so on and so forth but money? It always comes back to you.”

Yoongi pauses looking at Jungkook for permission to continue, knowing this is a… sensitive subject for him. Jungkook admits he’s not known for his rational level headedness, his temper a thing to be feared and talking about this, how he was finally caught and the near downfall of his entire family is not something he likes to mention. At all.

Jungkook can feel his irritation rising like an incoming tide, his blood beginning to boil as he thinks of everything that led to them being locked away in this shithole. He doesn’t even realise how tense he’s gotten until his jaw begins to ache from how tight he’s clenching his teeth. He sighs forcing himself to relax. He figures that if Taehyung is going to join his family he needs to know what’s going on.

“Usually it’s a non-issue,” Jungkook begins taking up where Yoongi left off. “Usually the paper trails are well enough hidden that it’s almost impossible to find. But everyone knows it’s every major criminal organisations weakness, if you catch their paper trail you can lock them away even if you can’t prove any of the other shit they’ve done. Al Capone was locked away with the charge of income tax evasion. Like I said, it’s usually pretty hard to find the paper trail…without any help that is.” Jungkook adds darkly.

“You had a snitch,” Taehyung says quietly and Jungkook’s impressed. He nods.

“Two actually—two fucking rats that almost destroyed my family.” Jungkook really wants to punch a wall but he’s aware of Taehyung’s eyes on him and forces his anger down and continues in a level voice. “Our sources say there was one informant infiltrated our family and passed information onto another informant in prison who then passed the information about the paper trail to Mr. Lee which was what got us in the end.”

Taehyung nods his head slowly looking thoughtful. “Okay but the Jeon dynasty is the most powerful organisations in the country, surely your father could pay off judges and guards and stuff and get you guys out of here.” He says looking confused and Jungkook knows this is the same opinion many people hold, many laughing at the fact that he’s still here rotting in prison. He grins, the anger sharpening into bloodthirsty determination.

“Oh make no mistake sweetheart, we are here voluntarily.” Taehyung blinks and Jungkook continues, feeling his grin stretch wider as he thinks about his vengeance. “Mr. Lee is a smart fuck, getting me tried before judges who weren’t in my father’s pocket, having us escorted by guards not on our payroll but what Mr. Lee doesn’t quiet seem to get is that everyone has a price, anyone can be bought. And if they can’t there’s always fear. Carrot and stick that kind of thing. Always start with the carrot though, it’s better to make friends than enemies but worst comes to worst you can make anyone do anything if they are afraid. So in short we could have gotten out. But there is a traitor in our midst and we’re here to find him and make him pay for what he did to my family. After he’s told us who’s the rat in the family, that is.”

“So you’re in here to help your family?” Taehyung says slowly, looking at Jungkook with awe in his eyes and Jungkook suddenly feels strangely bashful, the bloodlust and fury melting as he looks at Taehyung. “Couldn’t you get some of your men to do that for you?” he asks before his eyes widen as he looks at the rest of the gang sheepishly. “No offense.”

Namjoon chuckles and Yoongi rolls his eyes, none of them are really offended. Hoseok even laughs while Jimin smiles fondly.

“I like to do my own dirty work, make sure it’s done right,” Jungkook explains. His father taught him to be hands on and ever since he was young Jungkook’s never been afraid to get his own hands dirty. If he wasn’t born as the heir to a criminal empire he’s sure he would have somehow ended up in the underworld regardless. Some people were gifted musicians, some were talented artists but Jungkook? For him violence came naturally. He wasn’t a brainless thug of course, his father had spent years and years honing his mind, sharpening it like a knife, filling his head with the knowledge of strategy and cunning and the ability to control and manipulate those around him. This too came easily, probably too easily but he never stopped to think about it too much. Jungkook liked being in control—liked being a part of everything going on around him and nothing felt better than spilling the blood of his enemies.

“So that’s why you fought in the cafeteria,” Taehyung muses, smiling again. “Part of me thought you would just send the gang you know? The heir too important to risk harm, the all-powerful boss sitting back and commanding others to do his business.”

This causes another round of laughter, Jimin slinging his arm around Jungkook pulling his head down to ruffle his hair.

“Letting others fight for him?” Hoseok giggles, “That’s not Jungkookie’s style at all.”

“Our Kook is not one to miss a fight,” Jin comments smiling fondly as Jungkook shoves Jimin away causing him to stumble until Namjoon reaches out to steady him. Jimin smiles and plops himself down into Namjoon’s lap. “I’ve been patching him up after fights since he was this high.” Jin smiles holding his hand an inch or two off the ground causing Taehyung to giggle.

Jungkook pouts childishly, rolling his eyes. “Oh please, I’m not Jimin. I was never that short.”

“Hey!” Jimin squawks from Namjoon’s lap. Yoong,i who seemed to have been nodding off, suddenly jerks awake at the noise. He sleepily glares daggers at Jimin who ignores him in favour of slapping the back of Jungkook’s head, screeching about how he’s a brat. Jungkook just ducks out of the way, rubbing the back of his head, scooting closer to Taehyung—only to get away from Jimin of course.

“Fuckin brats,” Yoongi mutters grouchily before closing his eyes again as Hoseok pats his head and it’s all so messy and dumb and Jungkook’s head hurts from where Jimin hit him but Taehyung is laughing and Jungkook wouldn’t have it any other way. His weird, loud, stupid family. Fuck he must be drunker than he thought, he’s never this sentimental unless he’s wasted.

His gang, his friends, his family and Taehyung was now part of it, part of all of it. He wants to initiate Taehyung right now if he could but for now he has to be content in the knowledge that someday Taehyung really would be one of them.

“Hey,” he says suddenly drawing the attention back to him, the laughter dying down as all eyes turn to him. He almost forgets what he was about to say his foggy brain struggling for a second as he reaches for Taehyung to hold his hand again. “We should introduce ourselves to Tae.”

“He already knows us though,” Hoseok points out giggling, and even Taehyung looks confused. Jungkook rolls his eyes.

“I was talking about us, as a gang, our roles and stuff. He needs to know that for when he joins,” he explains and Hoseok’s eyes light up as he jumps to his feet, rousing Yoongi once again from his light slumber. If Yoongi didn’t have a soft spot for Hoseok a mile wide he probably would have killed him—if the look on his face is anything to go by.

“I’ll go first!” he offers, bouncing up and down in front of Taehyung. “My name is Jung Hoseok, twenty three years old and I’m an assassin and Jungkook’s body guard, hired gun, hit man extraordinaire if you will. I specialise in killing people! I love my job and I’m very good at what I do.”

“Are your tattoos of people you’ve killed?” Taehyung asks, pointing at the ink that almost covered Hoseok’s entire body. Hoseok smiles, an odd smile, not quite his usual boisterous grin, toned down, subdued.

“Some of them, but some of them are my friends, the people I loved, the places I’ve been,” Hoseok explains, undoing the top button to reveal more tattoos, including the eyes that freak Jungkook the fuck out because they always seem to follow him around the room.

“I’ll tell you more then I’m training you to be the next great assassin my little grasshopper,” Hoseok promises with a wink as he does back up his buttons. Jungkook most certainly did not agree to assassin training but he just lets the matter slide for now. He had been planning to try Taehyung out in various roles within the gang until they found something that suited him.

“I’m Kim Namjoon,” Namjoon says, sleepily peering around Jimin’s shoulders, arms wrapped comfortably around his torso. “Also twenty four years old and I’m second in command and Jungkook’s advisor as well as lead strategist.”

“Basically he’s an all round brainiac,” Jungkook whispers and Taehyung nods.

“Park Jimin!” Jimin continues, pointing at himself. “Twenty two years old and I’m the best hacker in the country! There’s no system I can’t break into, right Jungkookie? ”

“Right,” Jungkook agrees, “But wait, what’s your hacker name again?” Jungkook asks feeling like a bit of a dick watching Jimin scowl at him but he doesn’t really care. There’s nothing he likes more than embarrassing Jimin. It’s one of his favorite pastimes. Taehyung blinks looking back at Jimin clearly curious.

“Okay so every hacker has a handle, a signature url and you don’t want to change it because all your work is linked to this one url so basically I’m stuck with this name I came with when I was fifteen okay? So don’t laugh.” Jimin explains with a pout, casting unhappy glances at Jungkook every now and again. He just smiles smugly.

“I promise,” Taehyung says gravely drawing his finger over his heart.

“Fine,” Jimin sighs before mumbling something too quietly for anyone to hear.

“I’m sorry, Jiminie,” Jungkook says with a smirk cupping a hand to his ear leaning in closer. “I don’t think we caught that, could you please repeat it?”

“You’re such a fucking prick, you know that?” Jimin asks still pouting which only makes Jungkook’s smile grow wider.

“It’s Baby G, okay?” Jimin grumbles. Jungkook can’t help it, he’s heard Jimin’s stupid hacker handle so many times before but it still makes him laugh every damn time.

“I said you hacker name not your stripper name!” he crows, laughing so hard his eyes water.

“Fuck you,” Jimin snaps, flipping him off. Next to him Taehyung giggles. Jimin turns to him, his face the picture of betrayal.

“Tae!” he cries accusingly. “You promised you wouldn’t laugh!”

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung chuckles, “but I really like it!”

“You do?” Jimin asks, his frown fading.

“Yeah! It’s cute!”

“It’s not supposed to be cute,” Jimin groans hiding his face in his hands. Jimin is always ten times more dramatic when he’s drunk.

“How is Baby G not supposed to be cute?” Taehyung argues, “wait I know, my hacker name can be Baby T! We match! Baby G and Baby T!”

“I love it!” Jimin cries throwing himself at Taehyung knocking them both backwards until they’re a confused pile of limbs and laughter and obnoxious fake sobbing from Jimin. At the back of his mind Jungkook notes bitterly that Taehyung seems happy to be held by Jimin and he can’t help wonder if maybe he’s the problem.

“I thought Taehyung was going to be my assassin protege,” Hoseok whines but he’s promptly ignored by everyone except for Jin, who pats him on the shoulder and gently tells him to shut the fuck up.

“I just knew we were going to be best friends!” Jimin wails wrapping his arms and legs around Taehyung like so emotional octopus, “I just knew it! We’re the same age and everything. You’re my soulmate.”

“He is the fuck not,” Jungkook can’t help himself. Taehyung can only have one soulmate and it’s sure as fuck not Jimin, not if he has anything to say about it.

“As much as I’d love to see this shit show continue,” Yoongi drawls and Jungkook’s just surprised he’s still conscious. Usually after they drink Yoongi crawls off somewhere to sleep for the next twenty four hours and god help anyone who dares try and wake him from his slumber. “I wanna sleep and you fuckers are noise little shits so let’s get this fucking meet and greet done so you can all fuck off.”

“Yoongi, this is my cell,” Jin points out reasonably.

“And mine!” Jimin adds from where he’s still coiled around Taehyung like a fucking boa constrictor. Jungkook has to resist the urge to pry him off. He probably would have had Taehyung not looked so happy cuddling Jimin.

“Min Yoongi. Twenty five years old,” Yoongi says with a yawn, ignoring Jin and Jimin. Jungkook has a feeling one of them is going to end up sleeping on the floor. Although he’s caught Yoongi and Jimin cuddling before so maybe they’ll just do that. Jungkook doesn’t want to think about it too hard. “My speciality is cleaning up afterwards, getting rid of the bodies and scrubbing the crime scene so that it’s as if it never happened that kind of shit. Remember when I said people disappear without a trace? Well I’m the one who gets rid of the traces.”

“Well,” Taehyung says letting out a nervous chuckle, “that is both cool and scary as fuck.”

“That’s a really good description of Yoongi actually,” Jimin compliments, giggling softly and Taehyung beams at him and they’re both smiling like idiots and it’s truly sickening. Jungkook’s not bitter, really he’s not. And he most definitely is not jealous on the way Taehyung is nuzzling his face into Jimin’s chest like a fucking puppy. It’s adorable but he wishes Taehyung would hug him like that.

“I’m Kim Seokjin,” Jin says, pouring what little of the soju reminded into his cup. “Which makes you the third Kim, welcome to the family. I’m twenty six and the eldest here. My speciality is medicine so when these idiots tear themselves apart I’m the one who puts the back together. Such rude children, they don’t even say thank you.”

“Don’t let Jin fool you, he’s just as bad as the rest of us,” Namjoon says with wide smile and Jin mutters something about ‘ungrateful brats’. “He really is an excellent fighter. His aim is incredible and he’s able to knock people out with his bare hands.”

“So when we were fighting,” Taehyung starts struggling into a sitting position to look at Jin. Which can’t be easy with Jimin still attached to him like a leech. Honestly wasn’t he holding Taehyung too long? This is just plain selfish in Jungkook’s opinion. He’s really just thinking of Taehyung, it can’t be comfortable having Jimin half smothering. “So when you like, grabbed the men and they fell over what was that?”

“Well thanks to my studies, I have extensive knowledge of human anatomy and rendering someone unconscious is really just a matter of knowing exactly where to press. I could have killed them if I wanted to, but the wardens are less happy when out fights have body counts,” Jin explains with a shrug, finishing off his drink and with it the last of the soju.

“Wow so you can knock people out with one touch?” Taehyung asks his eyes sparkling like a little kid.

Jin hums, nodding. “I can show you now if you want,” he says reaching for Hoseok who swats his hands away with a shrill scream. Jin laughs as Hoseok tries to jump away from him, ending up on top of a very pissed off Yoongi.

“You spilled my drink you fucker,” Yoongi is one scary son of a bitch when he’s mad, made even worse if he’s tired on top of that and Jungkook has a feeling not even Hoseok will be safe from his wrath when he really goes off. As it is Yoongi’s already got his hands around Hoseok’s throat, throttling him in a way that looks less playful and more like attempted murder.

“Jin, this is your fault so go make sure Yoongi doesn’t actually kill him please,” Jungkook sighs not believing he has to say this shit to his grown ass gang mates.  

“What a pain in the neck,” Jin says before bursting out into another fit of his weird squeaky laugh at his own dumb joke. He’s laughing so hard in fact he can’t even pry Yoongi off Hoseok so Jungkook motions for Namjoon to do it. With a groan Namjoon stands and goes to intervene before they have to figure out how to hide Hoseok’s body in the laundry chute.

Jungkook glances over at Taehyung, who’s annoyingly still intertwined with Jimin, both of whom seem to be asleep, their foreheads pressed together as their chests rise is slow steady breaths and fuck if that isn’t the cutest thing Jungkook’s seen in a while. Not Jimin of course, Jimin isn’t cute but Taehyung on the other hand looks like an angel.

Jungkook blinks. Did he really just call Taehyung an angel? Wow he really was becoming soft. But he’s not far off. Taehyung looks so peaceful now, all the worry and anxiety  and tension has drained out of him leaving him looking younger and softer than he ever did awake, the lines on his face smooth out, his body at ease. Jungkook almost doesn’t want to wake him. But lockdown is in an hour and he does not want to spend the night in a two person cell with his entire gang. Namjoon snores like a fucking jackhammer, Jin kicks in his sleep and Hoseok sleep screams—it’s really fucking weird.  

So he finds himself leaning over to gently shake Taehyung’s shoulder. It turns out Taehyung is either a pretty light sleeper or he had only just dozed off because after a gentle shake and a quiet call of his name he’s opening his bleary eyes, looking around momentarily confused as if he can’t remember where he is.

“Jungkook,” he mumbles, rubbing his sleepy eyes.

“I’m here,” Jungkook whispers back, not quite sure why he feels the need to keep his voice so quiet. He reaches out to run his hands through Taehyung’s hair. His usually soft locks are stiff with stale sweat and grease, matted with dried blood and Jungkook almost grimaces but the way Taehyung smiles contentedly and slides his eyes shut happily makes it all worth it.

Taehyung suppresses a yawn. “Good,” he murmurs.

“We should get going soon,” Jungkook says and Taehyung nods. His eyes travel as he stretches lethargically until he spots the loud screeching mess that is whatever the fuck Yoongi, Hoseok, Namjoon and Jin are doing.

“Are they—” he starts but Jungkook just shakes his head wearily.

“Don’t ask,” he sighs and Taehyung let’s out a quiet huff of a laugh as he watches Namjoon finally drag Yoongi away from Hoseok by physically lifting him off the ground. All the while Jin rolls around laughing as Hoseok gasps for air, the reddishness of Yoongi’s hands showing despite all the tattoos that covered his neck.

“They have so much energy,” Taehyung remarks, running his finger idly through Jimin’s faded orange hair, “They’re so lively, it’s...nice.”

Jungkook studies the wistful look on Taehyung’s face, the longing in his eyes, that aching sadness of something he wanted so badly but couldn’t quiet reach.

“They’re a bunch of idiots,” he says, not looking at Taehyung, instead watching Namjoon put a grumbling Yoongi down while Jin, who has finally stopped laughing enough to help Hoseok off the ground, all the while Jimin murmurs in his sleep. “But they’re my idiots. They’re family, Taehyung, my family… and yours too.”

Jungkook looks back over at Taehyung when he hears a soft gasp. The look of utter shock on Taehyung’s face might have been funny had it not been so sad that Taehyung was genuinely surprised that he was a part of their family. He gapes at him wide eyed, his mouth hanging slack. Jungkook doesn’t need words to understand, he remembers the moment he realised these people were his family, that he could rely on them, trust them, love them like no one else, they pulled him out of his darkest times and never left him alone even when he was hard to love. It’s overwhelming and all the emotions he felt show clear on Taehyung’s face. Jungkook feels warmth tingle through his body and finds himself drawn closer to Taehyung taking his hand in a way that has come to feel so natural by now.

“I want you here, Taehyung,” he says earnestly, praying Taehyung believes him.

Taehyung looks at him and for a moment Jungkook thinks he doesn’t but then he smiles, a small smile but a sincere one and it’s good enough for Jungkook.

“I want to be here,” he admits softly, looking down at their clasped hands. “With you.”

The moment is ruined before Jungkook can reply when Jimin starts awake in Taehyung arms, blinking sleepily between them, squinting under the lights.

“What time is it?” he mumbles and Taehyung laughs, Jungkook on the other hand fails to see the humour. This was his moment with Taehyung but Park Jimin can never let him have nice things. He’s honestly going to murder him someday and bury his body in the prison yard. Maybe.

“Jimin, we’re leaving now, lockdown's in 45 minutes, tell everyone to go to their cells, or don’t. I don’t care,” Jungkook instructs standing, too tired to really give out to Jimin. He helps Taehyung up leaving Jimin sprawled on the cell floor.

“Awww, Baby T is leaving?” he whines, shielding his eyes with his tiny hands as he stares up at them forlornly.

“Sorry Baby G,” Taehyung giggles. “You should get some rest and drink some hot water it’s good for headaches.”

“What are you? One hundred years old? Who drinks hot water and isn’t ancient?” Jimin asks, covering his eyes with the crook of his elbow like the light offended him and Jungkook suspets Jimin plans on sleeping on the floor. Looks like Yoongi’s getting a bed after all.

“Hot water is great you fuck,” he whispers kicking Jimin in the ribs. If Taehyung liked hot water then they all liked hot water. Jungkook would drink gallons of hot water for Taehyung so Jimin needs to shut up.

“Ow! That hurts you brat! I’m still older than you, show some respect,” he demands childishly lifting his arm to glare at him. Jungkook is about to kick him again when the sound of Jin’s voice stops him.

“You two leaving?” Jin asks sleepily. Behind him he can see Yoongi has fallen asleep again leaning on Namjoon’s shoulder. Jungkook could have sworn Yoongi had been awake and attempting murder a few minutes ago but he should have learned by now to never underestimated Yoongi’s ability to sleep anywhere. Hoseok isn’t sleeping but he’s subdued, quiet just watching Yoongi sleep.

“Yeah, is Yoongi going to stay here?” he asks, Taehyung and Jimin talking quietly next to them.

“I don’t think he’s going to move so I suppose he’s going to spend the night with us here. Namjoon and Hoseok will go back to their cell as well,” Jin shrugs, “I need to look at Namjoon’s injuries though, his shoulder’s kinda fucked. I think the rest can wait until morning. But tell Taehyung I need to re-bandage his arm.”

“Will do, thanks Jin,” he says, nibbling his lip, worried. His gangs well being is always a top priority in his mind. The drinking and all the stupidity and light hearted banter had succeed in distracting him for a bit but the fight took it’s toll and they’re all a bit worn down, battered and bruised and hie can’t help but be concerned. “Namjoon’s shoulder will be alright though?”

“Yeah it’s just a nasty cut, I don’t think anything’s broken and I’m a genius so it’ll be right as rain in no time,” Jin promised and Jungkook nods, relieved, his fears dispelled, for now at least. They all survived the first fight in more or less one piece and if anyone could fix them up it was Kim Seokjin.

He turns to leave but Jin clears his throat making him turn back.

“You know, I don’t want to know too much, so don’t think I’m asking but you’re both injured so you know…” he trails off his sentence dying on his lips and Jungkook raises an eyebrow.

“What?” He sighs.  Jin looks uncomfortable, shifting where he stands and Jungkook just wants to go back to his cell and lie down with Taehyung. He doesn’t have time for this beating around the bush. His patience is running low.  

“Don’t hurt yourselves fucking okay? Don’t aggravate your injuries or anything got it?” Jin says in a rush, not even looking at him and Jungkook feels his face heat up as he glances at Taehyung hoping he didn’t hear that. He seems engrossed in a whispered conversation with Jimin and Jungkook breathes a sigh of relief, the tip of his ears still burning, no doubt bright red.

“Also we don’t have any, um, supplies- so maybe stick to non-penetrative sex okay?” Jin continues, seemingly determined to get everything off his mind and Jungkook wishes that he would just shut up before he has to gag him. He’s not sure how Taehyung would react if he heard this but for Jungkook it’s just embarrassing. He feels like a kid again getting the birds and the bees talk and it’s just awkward for everyone involved.

“Can you not say that so loudly?” he hisses, “or not say it at all? We’ll be fine, okay?”

Jin shrugs, looking almost relieved that he doesn’t have to go on.

“Just be safe kids,” he concludes, a light flush visible on his cheeks. “You just go I’ll take care of everyone else.”

“Thanks,” Jungkook murmurs, wanting to just get out of there before Jin remembers any other sex related advice.

Taehyung takes his hand and they both exit the cell, Taehyung waving goodbye to Jimin and the rest, giggling, still a little tipsy. He’s leaning a little on Jungkook but for the most part he walks on his own, swinging their intertwined hands between them, humming softly in Jungkook’s ear.

Jungkook’s cell isn’t far and the silence that falls in the five minutes or so that it takes them to get there isn’t so strained or forced anymore. It’s a tired but comfortable quiet and Jungkook is happy to just walk and listen to Taehyung hum. Now isn’t a time for talking, words are a necessity but a luxury.

“I miss music,” Taehyung sighs after a few minutes, “the radio in the rec room is always playing the news or sports. No one plays the music stations.”

“You don’t have your own radio?” Jungkook asks and Taehyung scoffs, shaking his head.

“We’re not all able to smuggle in anything we want Jungkookie,” he says with a teasing smile.

“Yeah but you could make one in shop class or something,” Jungkook points out and Taehyung just shakes his head again.

“Nah, I hate shop class, I’d rather go to art class,” Jungkook himself doesn’t bother to attend the majority of the classes the prison offers unless he needs something or wants to talk to someone who frequents that class and usually he just sends Jimin or Hoseok in his place instead. He’d known that Taehyung took art classes but he’d always left him alone to paint in peace but maybe now he’d give it a go himself. He had a decent talent for drawing and maybe he’d even impress Taehyung.

“Do you paint?” Jungkook asks, as if he doesn’t already know. He did not have the gang (minus Namjoon who could not be inconspicuous to save his damn life) follow Taehyung around the prison when he first took interest him. Nope, that definitely did not happen.

“Not really,” Taehyung admits with a careless shrug, “I mean I didn’t before I went to prison, never had the time or anything but I kind of took it up in here. It’s nice, you know?”

“Yeah, you’ll have to show me what you paint sometime,” Jungkook suggests and Taehyung smiles.

“Okay,” he promises.

“I have an ipod by the way, you can listen to something in my cell,” Jungkook adds and Taehyung eyes light up. They’re almost at his cell and Taehyung is visibly excited at the thought of listening to some music and Jungkook tries to remember what he has already on his ipod. He hopes he doesn’t have anything too embarrassing on there. He can just blame it on Jimin if there is.

They reach his cell without incident, most of the inmates already having returned to their own cells. Jungkook’s single person cell is the best his father’s money could buy. It’s got a big enough bed and sheets that aren’t infested with lice or unbearably scratchy, a desk and some book shelves. It’s so much smaller than his bedroom at home, and much more sparsely decorated and he misses his computer but he has to remind himself that he’s in prison not the hamptons. He’s not some spoiled prince either, he will deal with it. The look on Taehyung’s face reminds him how nice it must seem to someone who’s stuck in the regular two person cells and he’s glad he can share this with him.

Taehyung goes straight for the shiny ipod sitting on the desk where Jungkook left it, letting out a whoop of delight while Jungkook makes a beeline for the bed, his whole body hurting and begging for sleep. He let’s out a tired groan as he collapses onto the bed while Taehyung fiddles with the ipod.

“What’s your password?” Taehyung asks and it takes Jungkook a moment to dredge the answer up from his sleepy brain.

“I can’t believe you have Justin Bieber's latest album,” Taehyung cackles as he unlocks the device and Jungkook props himself up on his elbow to glare at him. “What are you a thirteen year old girl?”

“Justin Bieber is a respectable artist now, I’ll have you know,” he grumbles. “Love yourself is a jam.”

“If you say so, babe,” Taehyung hums.

“I do say,” Jungkook huffs, the tips of his ears warming up.

“You have so many songs on here,” Taehyung whistles, evidently impressed. Despite his ignorant opinion on Justin, he seems to approve of most of Jungkook’s music, occasionally stopping to play snippets of a song, singing along before changing the track halfway through. Usually Jungkook would be annoyed by this but it’s so damn endearing to see Taehyung practically bouncing up and down at each new song he discovers.

“I hope it was worth smuggling in,” Jungkook says letting himself fall back onto the bed, “especially considering I had to have it snuck in in some guys ass.”

There’s the sound of his ipod clattering to the desk as Taehyung drops it. Jungkook chuckles, hoping it’s not broken.

“Tell me you’re joking,” Taehyung whines and Jungkook’s chuckle turns into full blown laughter.

“Jungkook,” Taehyung complains, stretching the syllables of his name in an unhappy whine.

“Kidding, kidding,” he gasps, trying to catch his breath, the affronted look on Taehyung’s face is just so fucking funny and part of Jungkook wants to kiss the cute pout off his face. “We don’t smuggle most things in that way. Usually they arrive with the supplies and a friendly guard passes it on to us.”

“And by friendly guards you mean…”

“Guards in my father's pocket,” Jungkook clarifies and Taehyung nods.

“How many guards are you bribing?” Taehyung asks and Jungkook really doesn’t want to discuss business right now, not when he’s so tired, not when he’s buzzing and not when he’s actually happy for once.

“Enough,” he says, running through the list of allies in his mind, faces he could trust, people he could use. “Can’t get to that Lee bastard though or any of his flunkies but I have enough under my thumb to make this stay pleasant as it can be.”  

To his relief Taehyung seems satisfied enough with that answer. It’s not that he doesn’t want to tell Taehyung more it’s just that he doesn’t want to get into all this now. He’ll tell everything soon enough, let Taehyung properly into his world, show him just how his life works. Someday, but not today.

Taehyung’s gone back to skipping through songs and Jungkook let’s himself close his eyes and listen to the snatches of music. A couple seconds of familiar songs flash by and Jungkook just listens. He can feel himself relaxing, starting to drift off when a tune he hadn’t heard in what feels like years catches his ear.

“Hey, go back.”

Taehyung raises his head, confused.

“What?” he asks, tilting his head to the side.

“That song,” Jungkook says, sitting up, wincing at how tense and tight his muscles are. “Go back to it please.”

“Okay,” Taehyung shrugs, tapping the glossy screen a couple times to find the song Jungkook wants. “Which one?” he asks and Jungkook listens carefully.

“That one,” he says when he hears the slow melody again, his heart stuttering as the old memories he’d buried come drifting back to the surface, memories from days long since past, from another lifetime.

“Elvis?” Taehyung asks reading the name off the screen.

“The king,” Jungkook nods, the nostalgia bittersweet on his tongue. Elvis Presley’s deep voice croons from the ipod in Taehyung’s hands, singing the same sweet song he hasn’t listened to in years.

“Wise men say

Only fools rush in

But I can’t help falling in love with you”

“I haven’t heard this song before,” Taehyung whispers as Jungkook hums along.

“It was my mom’s favourite,” Jungkook sighs. There’s a weight on his chest, it’s not painful exactly more like a dull ache that comes after the pain, when there’s nothing left where his broken heart should have been. “she and my dad used to dance to it all the time.”

There’s a lump forming in his throat and it feels like all his emotions have complied into one big solid ball in his chest and it’s hard to breath. He can see them clearly in his mind, his mother dressed so stunningly  in a velvet navy evening gown, her jewelry sparkling under the glinting chandeliers as she twirled in his father's arms. She had smiled so beautifully it put all her gold and diamonds to shame.

“It’s nice,” Taehyung murmurs, his eyes closed as he listens and Jungkook is glad because it means he can’t see the tears welling up in his eyes as he thinks back to when he was just a young boy. He wipes them away, surprised at his own emotional reaction, like the song triggered something deep inside him and he can’t control himself anymore. Usually he’d push these unwanted emotions right back down in the pit he’d buried them in but his head is still light from the alcohol and remembering doesn’t hurt as much as it usually does.

“Shall I stay?

Would it be a sin

If I can’t help falling in love with you?”

“My mom always said this song is meant to be danced to,” Jungkook says standing, hauling his weary body up from the bed. Taehyung blinks, surprised looking up at him wide eyed and flustered.

“Oh- no, I can’t- I don’t know how to dance,” Taehyung laughs waving his hands but Jungkook feels melancholy in the sweetest way and the ache in his chest won’t go away, his very bones thrum with it.

“Don’t worry, sweetheart,” Jungkook smiles holding out his hand, “I’ll teach you, it’s not that hard.”

Jungkook is not a bad dancer, being somewhat classically trained as a child. He isn’t amazing or anything, both Jimin and Hoseok are better than him but he did admittedly have more important things to do like learning to run a criminal empire. Dancing had not been high on his list of priorities but his father felt it was important for a young gentleman to know the basic steps.

Taehyung hesitates, looking unsure, insecurity flashes in his eyes but then he licks his lips, smiling as he takes his hand allowing Jungkook to pull him to his feet.

“Like a river flows

Surely to the sea

Darling, so it goes

Some things are meant to be”

“Okay put one hand on my shoulder,” Jungkook instructs, guiding one of Taehyung’s hands into place before moving his own hand to rest on Taehyung’s waist. “Then put your other one here,” he continues taking Taehyung’s hand in his and holding it loosely.

“Is this okay?” he murmurs running his thumb in soothing circles on Taehyung’s hip bone, worried his touch was making him uncomfortable but Taehyung just hums.

“This is fine.”

They don’t really dance as much they do sway from side to side in time with the slow music, the air between them relaxed, the tension just a distant memory for now. Despite his promise to teach him to dance they both seem content to just twirl in slow circles instead of following any real steps, Taehyung resting his head on his shoulder, letting him lead as Jungkook sings the lyrics softly in his ear.

“Take my hand, take my whole life, too,” he sings along to Elvis, the lyrics he’d thought he’d forgotten rolling easily off his tongue. “For I can't help falling in love with you.”

His mind drifts back to his parents dancing to this same song over a decade ago, the memory still so vivid despite years and years of doing his best to forget. Usually the mere thought of his mother is unbearable and it’s impossible for Jungkook to think of her without his mind skipping to that fateful day ensuring that even the pleasant memories he still has of his mother are tainted red, tinged with the smell of gunpowder and blood. But here and now, with Elvis playing on his ipod and Taehyung gently swaying in his arms, humming along to the song, the memories of his parents are warm and it doesn’t hurt as much to think about her. Even his sore body is at ease, his muscles relaxed. Around Taehyung, nothing hurt as much as it usually did.

“Like a river flows, surely to the sea, Darling, so it goes some things are meant to be,” They’re the same height more or less but with Taehyung resting his head on his shoulder, he can press his face into the other boy’s hair. He smells blood and sweat but Jungkook doesn’t mind, he probably smells just as bad. Taehyung isn’t soft, he’s all long limbs and pointy joints. Skinny and lean, battered and bruised, nothing but skin and bone, that’s his Taehyung and he’s perfect—hard, rough edges and all.

“Take my hand, take my whole life, too for I can't help falling in love with you,” the song is winding down and they still sway around the room in gentle time with the music. It feels like they’re the only two in the world, or the only two that matter at least. Here, with Taehyung he is more content than he can remember being in a long, long time and he finds himself not wanting the song to ever end. He just wants to go on holding Taehyung close, spinning with him forever and ever.

Taehyung moves his head, looking up into his eyes and Jungkook sings the last line to Taehyung, meaning every word.

“For I can't help falling in love with you.”

“I really like that song,” Taehyung says, looking up at him spellbound. There’s such a fragile wonder there, something precious and delicate in his eyes and Jungkook feels horribly clumsy. He wants to kiss Taehyung, every nerve is screaming at him to lean in and capture Taehyung’s lips but he hesitates, forcing down the urge to do so. Instead he presses a gentle kiss to Taehyung’s forehead before pulling him into a tight hug, mindful of his no doubt sore ribs but hopefully Taehyung understands that he’s wanted her— needed . He continues to pepper light kisses all over his face, his forehead, eyelids, cheekbones, sharp jaw line, showering Taehyung in all the love he deserves. Taehyung giggles and Jungkook’s heart swells in his ribcage.  

Taehyung’s arms tighten around him, locking him into a tight embrace, pressing his face into his chest like he never wants to be apart and Jungkook never wants to let him go.

The song has finished and moved on to the next one, some slow song, easy listening that he doesn’t know the name of but sounds calm regardless.

“Tae, I-” he’s not sure what he’s trying to say. He has all these powerful, complicated emotions tangled in his chest and he can’t fathom how to begin to articulate them. Put words to these new feelings that are consuming him. He wants to speak but the words I love you can’t get past the lump in his throat so they sit, heavy and unspoken in his chest. But that’s okay, they have time, there’s no rush. Besides he’s not even sure how Taehyung would react to hearing those words.

“I missed you,” he says instead and it will do for now.

“You did?” Taehyung looks up at him like he can’t quite comprehend what he’s telling him and Jungkook feels guilt stab his stomach. It’s his fault Taehyung doubts him, he’s the one who pushed him away. He acted on his pain and anger and hurt and Taehyung suffered for it and that’s on him. He can’t believe how quickly things changed between them, how easily they slid back into place. Just this morning he’d been furious enough to physically hit Taehyung, to fight with him and now the very thought of what he did makes him sick. He’s disgusted by his own lack of control and his inability to contain his rage. His father has been driving it into his thick skull since he could walk that his volatile temper is his downfall, his greatest weakness, his one oversight. He knows it’s a problem but he never realised how much of a problem until Taehyung got caught up in this mess.

“I did. I really fucking did. I missed you to death every damn day,” He says, taking deep breaths, his jaw aching from how tight he was clenching it. “I know—I know I pushed you away when you tried to talk and I’m the one who didn’t listen to you when you tried to make things right and I was wrong and I know I hurt you and I did some things that I never should have done, things I can’t undo and I hope someday you can forgive me because I am sorry, Taehyung. This morning—what I did to you, I don’t recognise myself. I was so hurt and so fucking angry and—and I know that’s not an excuse and I’m not trying to make excuses so you’ll forgive me I—I’m trying to explain.”

He pauses, catching his breath. Taehyung is just watching him with his big eyes, not speaking, waiting for him to finish and this feels like his chance, his only chance to try and explain himself properly. “I’m not perfect. I know I’ve got flaws and I do fucked up shit and everyone I’ve ever known has told me if I don’t watch it my temper’s going to land me six feet under but before—before it didn’t matter how reckless I was. Before I met you I never cared about trying to control my temper, not even the thought of dying young scared me but now, now that I know you, now that you’re in my life and now that there’s a possibility you might be hurt by my temper, well, you make me want to be better, or at least try to be.”

Jungkook pauses for the first time, drawing breath, his heart hammering as he waits for Taehyung to say something, anything . He feels vulnerable, like he cracked open his ribs, splintering bone to expose his insides, his beating heart on show. If he could he would tear it out and hand it to Taehyung because he trusts him enough not to break it. Or at least he hopes so.

“I—” Taehyung begins but cuts himself off as he steps back and away from Jungkook. Panic seizes Jungkook’s heart and he’s terrified he just fucked up. Again . Taehyung isn’t saying anything, he’s just stepping away from him until the back of his legs hit the bed and he sits heavily with a whooshing sound like a deflating tire. His face is blank again, his eyes wide and staring, looking at something beyond Jungkook, sightless and it scares the shit out of Jungkook.

“Tae,” Jungkook whispers hands held up in a way that he hopes is calming. He’s not even sure he hears him.  He doesn’t try and step closer even though all he wants to do is comfort Taehyung.

But did Taehyung want his comfort? That quiet, doubting voice is back and he can’t ignore it as it pollutes his thoughts. Does Taehyung want anything to do with him? He had no problem with Jimin or the others. It’s just him. Jungkook’s the one he fears, he is the one he hates.

“Taehyung,” his voice sounds strained even to him and he can hardly breathe and it feels like his throat is closing over. His head is nothing but white noise and all he can think is that he doesn’t do something he’s going to lose Taehyung all over again.

“Look, I know this is hard, I get it and you might hate me but please talk to me, I—”

Taehyung’s head snaps up his hazy eyes coming to focus on him and Jungkook is almost sick with relief. He hasn’t lost him yet.

“You think I hate you?” Taehyung asks slowly, so quietly Jungkook can barely make out what he’s saying.

“I—I don’t know,” he answers honestly and Taehyung lets out a sad, bitter little laugh. “Do you?”

“For someone so smart you’re pretty dumb sometimes, Jungkook.” He sighs, bowing his head so Jungkook can’t even see his face. His voice is flat when he speaks again. “I don’t hate you. I don’t know if I can hate you. Maybe I should but I don’t, I just don’t. I fought you too, I started it and I hate that you look at me like I’m a victim, I’m the weak one. I punched you too, I fought too and I’m sorry for that as well. The bruises will heal.”

“But still, what about what I said, all those names—” Jungkook doesn’t know why he doesn’t just let the issue drop like he’d usually try to but he can’t. Even though Taehyung says he doesn’t hate him there is something still off, wrong between them.

“I’ve been called worse,” Taehyung says raising his head, his eyes still dull, a humorless smile on his face. “By people who meant it. I know you didn’t mean it.”

“That doesn’t make it right, Tae, even if I didn’t mean it. I still said it to hurt you—”

“It’s over Jungkook, can we not,” Taehyung says abruptly and it’s the closest to snapping at him Jungkook’s ever heard.

“Not what?” Jungkook asks softly, taking a step closer. “Not talk ? I think that’s the problem.”

Taehyung bites his lip, gnawing on it nervously, refusing to meet Jungkook’s eyes.

“Look I’m not good at this , at what we have, at relationships,” Jungkook confesses, “but if we’re going to make this work we need to talk, to communicate and god I want to make it work.”

“I do too,” Taehyung mumbles a protest as he stares at his hands and picks at a cut by his fingernail.

“But you won’t talk to me,” Jungkook points out and he’s trying so hard not to let it sound like an accusation, trying to keep all the hurt and frustration out of his voice because that’s not what Taehyung needs right now.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Taehyung argues rather coldly and Jungkook wants to tear his hair out but he forces himself to remain calm, for Taehyung’s sake even as he lies to him.

“Yes, there is because you say you don’t hate me but then whenever we get close you pull away, whenever I kiss you I see fear in your eyes, Taehyung— fear like you’re scared of me or something. Do you know how that makes me feel?” Jungkook’s voice catches in his throat and he knows he sounds pathetic and on the verge of tears but he doesn’t care anymore. It feels horrific talking about emotions like this, this whole conversation is a car wreck in slow motion and Jungkook is suffering . Each word is another thorn lodging itself in his throat making it painful to speak.

Jungkook notices how Taehyung clenches his jaw, gritting his teeth, tears that don’t fall spring to his eyes like he’s hurting too. His face is set and there’s a flash of stubbornness in his eyes. He doesn’t speak as if his jaw has been welded shut and Jungkook sighs.

He walks over and takes a seat on the bed next to Taehyung. He resists the urge to reach out and take Taehyung’s hands in his. Instead he sits apart, leaving half a foot of dead air and awkwardness between them. They’re so close but Taehyung feels distant, out of reach.

“I know talking is hard, it’s difficult for me too, trust me I get not wanting to talk about all this shit but Taehyung, whatever it is you’re keeping bottled up is hurting you. I can see it’s tearing you apart and I just want to help you. I know you don’t want to but please don’t make me watch you suffer. Just talk to me” He hates begging, loathes it in fact. It goes against everything he’s ever been thought but they’re both dying here, bleeding out from treatable wounds because they’re too stubborn and too scared to fully trust each other.

“I’m not trying to hurt you, Kook, I would never it’s just—” Taehyung cuts himself off, biting down hard on his lower lip as he looks anywhere but at Jungkook.

“But what?”

“I want to tell you. I want to share these things with you but I can’t ,” Taehyung’s growing steadily more distressed, panic filling his voice and Jungkook isn’t sure he can deal with another meltdown. “I’m trying to be so good, so good for you. I want to be useful, to do what you want but—”

“Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay,” he soothes and Taehyung, to his relief, takes a deep, shuddering breath. “Just take it easy. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Ever. Okay? I won’t force you to talk but I think it’s for the best. It’s not good to keep these things locked up inside you. I just don’t understand why you won’t talk to me, Tae.”

“That! Because of that,” Taehyung’s voice sounds wretched, his words almost sobs but he’s not crying. “Because you look at me like I’m something good and you’re so kind to me and I’m scared if I tell you it’ll all change and you’ll hate me.”

“Taehyung, how could I hate you?” Jungkook asks, genuinely confused. There is nothing Taehyung could ever tell him that would change the way he feels, he’s positive of it. He’s seen the worst of humanity, he’s done some awful shit and he’s sure there’s nothing Taehyung could have done that’s worse than what he’s seen. “You’re the most precious person to me, nothing you say could ever make me hate you.”

“You swear?” Taehyung glances at him for the first time. His eyes are shiny with tears and red rimmed but he still hasn’t cried.

“I swear.”

Taehyung takes a deep breath as if he’s trying to calm himself, collect himself so he won’t fall apart at any given moment.

“I—I do want to tell you Kook but it’s just that—there’s this thing, something that happened and it’s so fucked up and it fucked me up and it’s so damn ugly. I feel it inside me like this black rot and it pollutes my guts and rots my insides and it’s killing me and every time we—every time we get close it gets worse and I don’t want to but it’s all I can think about. It replays in my head and I can’t breathe and even though it’s you and I trust you my stupid brain tells me it’s happening all over again and I can’t—I can’t handle it. It’s not your fault I—I can’t be good. It’s me. I’m the broken one. I’m the one who’s fucked up,” Taehyung’s voice is muffled as he buries his face in his hands, breaths coming in short huffs like he hyperventilating. Jungkook’s brain races to process everything Taehyung has told him, the fact that there was some trauma in Taehyung’s past that he hasn’t dealt with and he wishes he was better, that he knew how to deal with this situation. Wishes he knew as much as Namjoon or Jin about people and how to handle these kinds of situations. But he doesn’t and he can’t ask them. All he can do is his best to help Taehyung.

“Hey Taehyung it’s alright you’re here now, you’re safe with me,” Jungkook says, keeping his voice as even as possible. He’s out of his depth and on the verge of panicking himself but all that matters right now is making sure Taehyung is okay.

“There’s so much ugliness inside me and I’m just scared you’re going to see it and then you won’t want me anymore,” Taehyung hiccups pulling away to look Jungkook in the eye and something inside Jungkook cracks and he doesn’t think as he leans over to wrap his arms around Taehyung pulling him into a hug.

“Don’t say that, please don’t say that. I don’t care what happened, what you did, you’ll always be the same Taehyung to me and you’ll always be perfect,” his voice is muffled as he buries his face in the crook of Taehyung’s neck, feeling his pulse just beneath his lips. Taehyung sniffles.

“I just—I just feel sometimes that I’m made up of nothing but flaws, y’know? That I’m just a collection of broken parts and fuck ups and imperfections and there’s nothing else there,” Taehyung says softly and he looks so very tired, worn out, a small weary smile on his lips but his eyes look so dull and lifeless. He’s drowning right before Jungkook’s eyes and he can’t save him, he can only watch helpless as Taehyung sinks to the bottom of his own despair. He needs to do something, anything within his power to reach him.

“I know how that feels,” he says quietly and he can feel Taehyung gaze on him, wide eyes scrutinising and vulnerable. He feels exposed, like someone’s peeled off all his skin leaving him completely unprotected. Even the thought of talking about that day makes him want to crawl under the bed and curl into a little ball but he can’t, he won’t. This is his last chance to save Taehyung, get through to him and he refuses to run away. “I know what it’s like to let your mistakes and regrets consume you. I—something bad happened to me once too and it was all my fault. Someone I loved died because of me and—”

Poisonous tears prickle his eyes and the lump in his throat cuts off his voice and his mind is filled with bullets and blood, his temples are pounding and a headache is forming, one that threatens to split his skull in two. He can still hear the sudden shrill scream followed by a silence that was infinitely worse. He forces it all back down. He might be a hypocrite but Taehyung’s not the only one who isn’t ready to talk, not fully yet anyways. There are somethings Jungkook still can’t even think about let alone talk to Taehyung about. He’s only willing to spill his guts to a certain extent.

“Is that the day ten years ago that everyone keeps mentioning?” Taehyung asks and Jungkook winces at the idea that the others talked about this. He knows they would never reveal what happened but the fact that it was even mentioned makes his left eye twitch. He wants so badly to bury that day forever, to erase it from his mind but he can’t. It’s like a scar, no matter how much it fades it’s always going to be with him no matter how much time passes.

“Yeah,” Jungkook admits in a strangled voice. He swallows painfully his throat making an audible click. “My mom—my mom died and it was my fault.”

It should be a relief to finally have this off his chest, he thinks, but it’s not. It’s the first time he’s admitted such a thing out loud in ten years and it hurts just as much as it did when he was eleven years old and sobbing in Yoongi’s arms. It hasn’t healed any, it’s not a scar. The wounds are just as fresh, scabs at best but now he’s tearing them wide open and blood running like water from a tap. But it’s for Taehyung, he reminds himself, so it’s okay. He’d gladly bleed out for Taehyung.

“Oh,” Taehyung breathes, his shoulders sagging but for the first time there’s something other than anguish in his eyes. There’s surprise, sympathy too and Jungkook relaisese Taehyung feels sorry for him. Usually he would hate that but right now it’s kind of nice to know someone empathise with him. It makes him feel a little less alone.

“Yeah,” he says because what else is there to say? “So I know what it’s like to have regrets but you’re more than your mistakes, Tae. You’re not just flaws and weaknesses, you’re good things too. Remember what you said this morning? About there being no such thing as monsters, only humans? It applies to you too: you’re human, made up of good and bad just like the rest of us.”

Taehyung doesn’t speak and Jungkook isn’t sure that’s a bad thing anymore. He’s not sure what needs to be said if anything at all.

The silence stretches on as his words sink in and he feels like a liar. He hasn’t faced his past like he’s letting Taehyung believe he has. Those regrets still keep him up at night. He went through hell just telling him about it and he barely even scratched the surface of what happened that day.

“I will tell you, Jungkook, I will. Someday,” Taehyung says, his voice calm and Jungkook knows it’s a promise. He can’t expect Taehyung to tell all when he can’t bring himself to do the same. Fair's fair. Someday Taehyung will tell him what hurt him and in return Jungkook will tell him what broke him.

He reaches out and takes Taehyung’s hand and holds it, feeling the warmth of another human being so close to him.

“Yeah okay.” Promises are all they have right now but that’s okay because it’s good enough for Jungkook. They can’t rush these things, can’t dive headfirst into something like this. Old wounds have to be treated with care and Jungkook is willing to be patient.

“I can’t stay here tonight,” Taehyung says out of nowhere, breaking the silence and Jungkook blinks.

“Yes you can,” Jungkook argues, “trust me, you don’t have to worry about the guards they won’t—”

“It’s not about the guards Jungkook,” Taehyung says and now Jungkook notices how tense he is, how abrupt his words are and how he’s no longer looking at him and his heart sinks.

“You don’t want to stay here tonight,” Jungkook says it so Taehyung doesn’t have to.

Taehyung sighs, his posture relaxing slightly and he looks over at Jungkook, his eyes apologetic.

“It isn’t you, I promise,” he says and that stops Jungkook’s heart completely shattering into little pieces, just about. “It’s… us. I—I think we’re moving too fast and I need some time to deal with everything that’s happened and I think to do that I need some space.”

Jungkook nods, making sure none of the hurt or disappointment that’s blossoming in his ribcage bleeds into his face, keeping his expression neutral. He’d be lying if he said he didn’t sort of understand where Taehyung is coming from but that doesn’t mean he likes it. But it can’t be avoided that this morning they were beating the shit out of each other. They can’t just pretend that never happened as much as Jungkook would like to. They both need time to cope with everything. He justs hopes it’s not too much time.

“If that’s what you want,” he says, squeezing Taehyung’s hand for reassurance, not entirely sure who he’s trying to reassure. “I won’t stop you.”

“I’m not running away, Jungkook,” Taehyung says taking Jungkook’s face in his hands, gently caressing his cheek with his calloused thumb. “I will come back to you.”

“I know, darling, I know,” Jungkook sighs. “Let me walk you back to your cell?”

Taehyung shakes his head. Stubborn as ever.

“Please,” Jungkook asks, placing his own hand over Taehyung’s, “Tae, let me do this. It’s bad enough Taeyang knows you’re close to me but you made it one hundred times worse when you bit his finger off. He’s going to come for you Tae and not just to hurt me. He’ll want revenge and it won’t be pretty. You’re number two on his hit list, right after me so please, let me try and protect you.”

Taehyung opens his mouth but Jungkook cuts him off before he can protest.

“I won’t be able to sleep unless I see you safe in your cell,” Taehyung smiles and rolls his eyes but relents to Jungkook’s relief.

“Okay, sweetheart,” he says standing up, “we’ll do this your way.”

The walk to Taehyung’s cell goes by far too quickly for Jungkook’s liking. It feels like they’ve only been walking a minute and suddenly they’re at Taehyung’s door, Wonho no doubt inside. Usually Jungkook resents the fact Wonho shares a room with Taehyung but now he’s happy to know there’s someone there who cares about Taehyung, a friend. God knows he’s going to need someone there in the upcoming days.

Taehyung turns to him and he knows this is it. He tells himself it’s a temporary goodbye, that Taehyung will keep his promises and come back to him but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

“Goodnight, love,” Taehyung whispers gently like it’s not just another word for goodbye.

Jungkook leans in and hesitates, a silent question and it’s Taehyung who closes the distance between them, pressing a swift sweet kiss to Jungkook’s split lips.

“Goodnight, darling,” he says, letting go of Taehyung’s hand.

Taehyung turns to reenter his own cell, he reaches for the handle and a thought strikes Jungkook.

“Tae,” he calls and Taehyung looks back and he can see the apprehension in his face like he’s expecting Jungkook to try and convince him to stay one more time and is already mentally preparing to reject his request. As much as everything in Jungkook tells him to demand Taehyung stays with him, make him stay, he resists.

Instead he fishes the item he remembered out of his pocket handing it to Taehyung, closing his fingers around it.

“I want you to have this,” he says as Taehyung looks at the switchblade in his hands, his eyes widening with shock. “Just in case.”

“Thank you,” Taehyung whispers his voice hoarse as he shoves the knife in his pocket.

“Keep it close,” Jungkook instructs and the other nods.

“I will,” he promises. “Just in case.”

Jungkook watches until the cell door closes securely behind Taehyung. It feels so wrong to leave him there. Unease bubbling up in his gut and he can’t shake the feeling this is all going to end in disaster but there’s nothing he can do, not now anyway.

All he can do is wait and hope Taehyung comes back to him.

Chapter Text

Taehyung’s grip on the knife is so tight it turns his bony knuckles white. The handle digs into his palm but he can’t force himself to relax his hold even a fraction. His whole body is stiff, muscles painfully tense and he feels as if he’s just going to break at any second. All his ligaments, sinew and tendons on the verge of snapping like a broken bowstring, his joints popping until he’s nothing but a scattering of broken pieces on the kitchen floor. That’s his default mode these days, defensive, tense, never at rest not even for a second. He’s jumpy and anxious, shaking constantly. The definition of a nervous wreck. He’s gotten used to looking over his shoulder at every turn, startling at the slightest of sounds and he can’t shake the feeling he’s going to be attacked at any second. It’s choking fear that has been so deeply ingrained so deeply into his bones. The words ‘you are not safe. He’s coming for you’ echo constantly inside of his head, a haunting reminder repeated over and over again in a voice that almost sounds like his own. He’s been ridged and terrified for so long he can’t even recall what it meant to be at ease.

Rigamortis. That’s what this was, this immobile state, this frozen stasis. It’s his body seizing up after the soul’s been violently ripped out. They had murdered him. He’s nothing but a corpse now. His heart a dead thing heavy in his chest, his brain a lump of dull mush leaking out his skull, his vital organ useless meat so rotten and polluted not even a starving dog would devour them. He’s poisonous, a toxic creature, nothing but nasty venoms secreting from his very pores. He ruins everything he touches. He only just barely looks alive on the outside. There’s just enough light in his eyes to keep his sister’s useless concerns at bay. There’s just enough warmth still in his bones to keep himself moving, zombie like, through his daily routine. But not enough life to make him anything more than a little puppet tangled in too many strings.                      

Those strings are wrapped around his neck, not tight enough to strangle what little life is left out of him but enough so he knows it’s there It’s presence a constant reminder that his life is no longer his and can be snuffed out at any moment.

His body isn’t the only thing that’s been emptied out, his mind feels so terrifyingly blank these days, like there’s nothing left there besides the memory of what it meant to be alive. His thoughts are distant and numb and at times it feels as though he’s not even in control of his body, he’s just hovering above it like an unhappy phantom. He’s been living in fear for so long that he even becomes numb to that at times. Everything is muted now, his emotions a shadow of what they once were. He finds himself zoning out, losing hours of the day to this blankness.

In many ways, he’s thankful for the blankness and he often thinks it’s the only thing getting him through these days. If his mind erases everything it gets rid of all the nightmares and unspeakable horror that lurks there too. He’d rather be empty than face the hell his own mind has become. Every time Taehyung closes his eyes he sees that man. His dreams are filled with the man, who is like a menacing ghost that won’t let him be. Every waking moment is spent in fear, every breath tinged with terror because Taehyung knows he can’t escape him and he’ll wind up right back in his office, on his knees, wishing he were dead. But when his mind goes blank, all those memories fall away and he’s given the chance to forget, even if it’s only for a short period of time and then the memories come crashing back down, crushing the life out of him once more.

He’s dead and dying at the same time. A walking paradox, a mass of broken bones, confusion, and contradictions. The only thing he wants is to be whole again but all he is is a whore.

He’s never at peace anymore. All these responsibilities weigh heavy on his mind, leaving him no time to think about anything else. The stress and pressure is consuming him whole. The fact the rent always seems to be due and they still barely have enough money to eat, the fact his father drinks enough to drown a fish and is hardly there anymore, Sojung’s upcoming graduation and entry to college and more importantly the college tuition he still needs to find the money for, and that evil man. All were weights on his mind and it’s slowly giving way under the pressure, bending and buckling and soon it’s simply

going

to

break.

The knife clatters to the tiled floor, jolting him out of his thoughts. He blinks, the cramped kitchen coming back into focus. The old chopping board is before him and on it is the onion he had been slicing up for dinner, half of it diced the other half waiting. He can’t remember how long it took him to cut half the vegetable. It feels like he’s only been standing there for a matter of minutes, but he looks at the clock and sees an hour has passed. He eyes the knife on the ground and for a moment he can’t for the life of him imagine how it got there. His brain ticks slowly, placing the pieces back together again.

He was chopping an onion. With the knife. The knife is now on the floor. He must have dropped it.

He stoops to retrieve it and hisses at the ache in his lower back, almost crying out loud. There’s no one here to hear his pain besides the neighbours, and they never cared about it before, but still he bites down on his bottom lip to muffle the noise.

 Knife in hand, Taehyung returns to chopping the other half of the onion. The rhythmic sound of steel slicing through the vegetable is comforting, steady enough to put his mind at ease somewhat, but loud enough to keep him grounded in the kitchen. The onion stings his eyes and he rubs them to try and lessen the burning sensation, but it only makes it worse. His vision is blurry as tears leak from his eyes down his cheeks. It’s the closest he’s come to crying in months.

Suddenly, the knife slips and instead of slicing the onion, Taehyung cuts through his finger instead. The pain is acute, sharp, yet it’s nothing compared to the suffering Taehyung has endured and his brain barely registers it. The laceration is clean and shallow, but it bleeds a lot, carmine blood spilling out onto the cutting board. He watches the vivid colour with fascination as it soaks into the translucent skin of the onion, turning it a morbid pale pink. There are a lot of things he should do now. He should bandage his finger, he should clean the knife, he should throw away the stained, bloody onion and get a new one. Start fresh.

He should do all that.

But he doesn’t.

He just picks the knife back up and finishes chopping up the vegetable until it’s fully diced. He then picks up the chopping board and sweeps onion and blood alike into the pot of boiling water. His blood swirling for a bit in the bubbles before disappearing, totally integrated into the soup. It doesn’t matter that his family are going to eat the soup, he’s so used to spilling his blood for them what difference does this make?

He goes to put a timer on but a loud bang at the door causes him to jump. Heart hammering painfully hard in his chest he turns to the door, cold dread flooding through his limbs. His mind goes into overdrive; terrifying images flashing through his brain, conjuring up the worst possible scenarios about what could be on the other side of that door.

He reaches for the knife and once again grips it, holding it out before him like a sword. His hands are trembling, but he knows deep down that he will use it if he must. He will do anything to protect himself. Blood will be spilled and he’s so fucking tired of it being his.

There’s a sound of fumbling outside the door then he hears a key being turned into the lock. His hold on the knife handle tightens to the point of being painful as the door swings open.

It takes him a moment to register that the flurry of limbs and hair that stumbles into the small apartment isn’t some intruder sent by that man to murder him. It’s not even his drunken father crashing in. it’s Sojung.

Her hair is loose from its usual ponytail and she looks dishevelled and distraught. Her jacket hangs off her shoulders and she’s just barely holding onto her school bag, one of the straps of which Taehyung notes, has been ripped. She’s sweating, and her eyes are wide with this wild, terrified gleam in them that Taehyung knows all too well. She’s breathing heavily as she leans on the door, her chest heaving and her whole body shaking like a leaf.

A bitter relief blossoms in his lungs and he drops the knife on the countertop, his fingers so stiff he struggles to let it go. Sojung is alright, that fact allows him to breathe a little but she’s terrified and he recognises that fear all too well. She doesn’t appear to be physically harmed but Taehyung has come to learn that there are far worse things than cuts and bruises. But she’s here and she’s alive and Taehyung is drawing shallow breath after shallow breath and trying not to pass out.

“Tae!” Sojung cries as she spots him rooted in the kitchen. Her eyes flash with unshed tears and he knows she’s going to cry soon. Automatically he opens his arms to her, the way he always used to when they were young. He’s so used to comforting Sojung, he’s always the one she turned to growing up. When kids picked on her, when their mother was too harsh with her, when their father raged and screamed, he was always the one she turned to. His arms had always offered her comfort. But now, as Sojung runs into his arms, bursting into tears, sobbing into the crook of his neck he feels repulsed.

Lately, he’s been unable to touch anyone, even the lightest interaction, or accidentally brushing a stranger on the street sends waves of panic crashing down upon him until he’s drowning in anxiety all over again. As his little sister throws her arms around him his skin crawls. Taehyung feels like he’s going to be sick. It’s like maggots are writhing under his skin and he has to swallow down the rising panic that threatens to choke him. He can’t fall apart now, he needs to be strong. For Sojung’s sake. 

“What happened?” he asks, gently petting Sojung’s hair as she continues to sob, her whole-body heaving.

“I—it was,” she starts, sobbing too hard to speak, tears and snot running down her chin, staining Taehyung’s shirt when she pushed her face against it.

“It’s okay,” Taehyung mumbles against her hair and no words have ever sounded so false or tasted so bitter on his tongue. “It’s going to be okay. I promise. It’s all going to be okay.”

He just hopes she won’t be able to see how hollow that promise is.

“It was him,” she whispers against his shirt, so quietly he almost misses it. Almost.

Him. That man. She can only be talking about one man and his heavy heart sinks further in his chest like a stone sinking to the bottom of a dark lake, so far down the light can’t reach it anymore. Cold jolts through his entire body and his hands start to shake more violently. He can’t breathe. He’s drowning. He’s drowning. He’s drowning—

“It was those men, the ones who grabbed you,” she sobs, fresh tears streaming down her face. Her eyes are swollen from crying but up close he can confirm there are no visible signs of injury. Nothing physical at least. “They—they tried to grab me but I—I just ran and I kept running and I made it here. They didn’t catch me.”

Taehyung doesn’t understand. None of this makes any sense. They had a deal. A deal that specifically meant this wouldn’t happen. The reason he went to that man’s office every week like a good obedient dog and subjected himself to whatever new hell that man fancied to inflict on him, the reason he endured torture worse than death was so Sojung would be spared. Why the hell was that bastard trying to break their agreement?

This isn’t how the game worked. This isn’t how it fucking worked. That lying son of a bitch isn’t playing fair and Taehyung’s blood boils inside his veins. This was Taehyung’s debt. He has taken the burden alone so Sojung wouldn’t have to. That man has no reason to go after her.

The initial panic is fading now like ice slowly thawing and he can feel anger sparking in his gut ready to ignite an inferno in his chest. He’s angrier than he’s been in a long time. Taehyung learned to beat back his rage years ago. He learned that anger was a useless emotion that got him nothing but fresh bruises and frustrated tears. He learned how to swallow his helpless rage and ruinous pride down in order to survive but now—now wrath is all he can feel; every breath is tinged with it. His vision turning red and now when he shakes it is not from fear.

How dare he? How fucking dare he try and hurt Sojung? Taehyung is alive with fury and he is going to make that man pay.

He’s sick of the blood being spilled being his, and he’s sick of all the good things in his life being torn away from him. Now it’s someone else’s turn, and Taehyung wants so badly to make someone bleed.

“I have to go,” he says, his voice flat, resolute. Sojung looks up at him through tear-soaked lashes, fear shining in her wet eyes.

“What are you going to do, Taetae?” she asks in a quivering voice. Somewhere behind them on the hob the soup boils over, the metal lid ratting but Taehyung doesn’t care anymore.

He disentangles himself from Sojung’s hold, oblivious to her bewildered questions as he heads for the door, cold resolve like steel filling his chest, his heart now beating with a single, deadly purpose.

“What I have to.”

~  

 He knows the way to Mr. Cho’s office by heart. His body knows. Something deep inside him, instinct. He can tell how close he is by the rising dread clawing its way up his ribcage. His feet move on their own, bringing him closer and closer, fear holding him down like lead weights fastened around his ankles.

A cowardly part of him wants to turn and run as fast as his weary legs will carry him. He wants to run and run and run until his lungs give out, until his heart finally stops, until he collapses. But he doesn’t. He keeps walking steadily towards Mr. Cho’s office with all the joy of a condemned man walking towards the gallows.

But his heart has hardened. Cardiac muscle morphing to stone becoming something cold. It no longer beats a steady rhythm but instead is solid and resolute in his chest, a heart of stone and he doesn’t know if there’s anything human left anymore. Icy rage keeps him moving forward. He wishes belatedly that he had taken the knife, taken something, anything he could hurt that man with. But he supposes if it comes down to it he will have to rip Mr. Cho’s black heart out with his bare hands, tear his throat out with his teeth.

The men at the door recognise him and usually humiliation burns his face knowing these men were in the room whenever Mr Cho had his way with him, that they watched, but now his mind is focused solely on why he is here, and he has no time for other lesser emotions. They make no move to stop him as he strides into the lobby. They must think he’s here for his weekly visit even though he’s not due until Friday, not caring enough to double check. Or maybe they just don’t think he’s any danger.

He remembers the first time he saw this old lofty building, remembers how it felt to be dragged across these faded carpets, the men gripping his arms hard enough to nearly rend his joints from their sockets. How they had hauled Taehyung up the stairs, each step leaving fresh bruises along his body. he now takes those same steps in his stride. He remembers the prickle of sweat on his brow and how it had dripped down into his eyes, obscuring his vision, leaving him partially blind and disorientated. He remembers how his hands had shook uncontrollably as he had been dumped on the floor of Mr. Cho’s office like a petrified lamb thrown into a lion's den. He remembers willing himself not to be sick all over the stained carpet as his frantic heartbeat in his throat.

He doesn’t knock when he reaches Mr. Cho’s door and he doesn’t hesitate to kick it open, causing it to swing so violently it bangs against the wall, the loud sound catching the attention of everyone in the room.

“You!” Taehyung yells as he storms in, letting his anger carry him. Mr. Cho looks up from where he’s sitting behind his desk. He doesn’t look startled, almost as if he was expecting him. The beginnings of doubt start to bloom in his gut but before Taehyung can give into his panic he pushes it back down, he can’t give in to fear now. If he loses his nerve now he is as good as dead. Mr. Cho feeds on fear like a poisonous spider feeds on fat flies.

“You liar!” Taehyung accuses jabbing his finger in Mr. Cho’s direction. The henchmen either side of the desk begin to move, reaching into their jackets but Mr. Cho calls them off with a casual wave of his hand. He raises a sculpted eyebrow, smirking, completely unbothered by Taehyung’s sudden appearance and outburst.

“Now Taetae,” he says calmly, mocking him, dismissing his anger as if it were a mere inconvenience. “Don’t you know it’s rude to drop in unannounced? I’m in the middle of something.”

Taehyung blinks, his jaw snapping shut as he glares at Mr. Cho, his hands curled into tight fists, his knuckles a strained white and he longed to punch that smug asshole in the face. He itches to break his jaw and ruin that slimy smile forever. He’s indicating something before him, something Taehyung missed when he first arrived. He tears his eyes away from Mr. Cho to take a proper look at the large dark shape before him.

The shape turns out to not be an ‘it’ but rather a ‘who’, a man, kneeling before Mr. Cho. His arms are bound behind his back, cords around his wrist tied so tight his hands have turned a dark ugly purple. His shoulders hunched and trembling, his head bowed and Taehyung doesn’t know what’s happening but now that he’s paused for breath he can pick up on the tension in the air, the heavy atmosphere weighing bearing down on the entire room.

He wants to ask what's going on but he can’t find the words, his voice dying in his throat and too late he realises what a mistake it was to come here. There’s a certain feeling in the air, something he can’t quite explain, the taste of a nervous electricity on his tongue and the same feeling in his bones he gets before a storm.

“Sit tight, Taetae,” Mr. Cho smirks and a flash of light catches the shiny surface of the revolver in his hand. “I’ll deal with you after this.”

Taehyung doesn’t move, the sight of a weapon has his whole body paralysed and two of the muscle-bound men move to grab him by the arms forcing him to sit by the desk, so close he can smell the bound man’s pungent odour. ‘Danger’ his mind screams, wailing like a siren. His nerves alive with fright, sweat pouring off his brow. His throat suddenly unbearably dry. ‘Danger danger danger.’

Up close he can see the pores of the man’s skin. He can see every mole and blemish on his sweat soaked face. There’s a faint scar on his forehead and somewhere in the back of his mind Taehyung wonders how he got it, perhaps some accident from his youth, maybe he crashed his bike or perhaps he fell from a high branch. Or maybe his father hit him and he wears the evidence of that violence every day, just like Taehyung. The man has a gold earring in one ear and he notices the black marks of a tattoo peeking out from under his collar. His hairline is receding even though he can’t be more than thirty something. His mouth is covered by duct tape but he still tries to speak, his words, no doubt desperate pleas are muffled and unheard.

Up close Taehyung can see the tears in the man’s eyes.

 He watches in mute horror as Mr. Cho raise the gun and puts it against the kneeling man’s forehead, right next to the scar. Part of him wants to surge forward and wrestle the gun from his hands, to save the human life that’s about to be lost but he can’t, his body won’t move. All he can do is sit and watch. Taehyung’s eyes widen in his because– no, no this can’t be real, this can’t actually be happening, surely Mr. Cho for all his cruelty and depravity wasn’t about to–

The gunshot is deafeningly loud in the office.

Bang and suddenly the kneeling man doesn’t have half his head, the bullet exploding through his skull before bursting out the back of his head in a cloud of red mist. It gets everywhere, drenching the walls and the floor, spraying farther than Taehyung would have though it could. Chunks of brain and gore fly past him and splitters of skull with clumps of hair still clinging to it land by his feet.

Blood landed gently on Taehyung’s face like soft rain, hot and bitter on his tongue. He feels it run down his cheek like a ghastly tear and all he can do is stare numbly as the lifeless body of the kneeling man crumples and falls to the ground. Blood pools, dark and glistening sickly in the light. Just another stain amongst hundreds. Nausea rises and he wretches, dry heaving as his whole body trembles.

He’s never seen anyone die before. Sure, he’s seen death played out on the movie screen or in some day time drama on television but no actor faking their death can ever live up to the real thing. It doesn’t quite capture the flashes of expressions that cross a person’s face, the way shock and fear morph into something flatter. How the light in the eyes disappears, fading out for good. It doesn’t fully show how much blood pours from a head wound or how heavy a lifeless body sounds when it hits the ground.

The only time Taehyung came face to face with death was when he was younger, maybe eleven or twelve years old. His mother sent him to the apartment above them because an old lady called Mrs. Kwon, who was close with their mother, hadn’t called in days. She had sent Taehyung to check on her. He let himself into the apartment with the spare key she had lent them and as soon as he opened the door he had known. Even back then as a relatively innocent young child, even then he had known something was wrong.

 The air smelled off, rotten and stale like how it had smelled when his mother left raw meat out in the sun for too long. Covering his mouth with his sleeve to block the smell he had ventured further into the apartment until he found Mrs. Kwon sitting in her usual armchair. As he approached the smell had gotten worse and worse, yet it wasn’t until he came face to face with her partially decomposed corpse did young Taehyung fully realise she was dead. His alarmed screams had alerted his mother and later he had been told it had taken hours to calm him down.

Mrs. Kwon’s bloated, pale face, lifeless eyes open and staring flashes through his mind in that moment but despite being the subject of many childhood nightmares it is nothing compared to the horror he just witnessed.

Taehyung’s heart is thundering in his head, his temples pounding and he can feel bile rising in his throat. Before he can stop himself, he’s leaning over, his whole body bent double as he retches, heaving his guts out onto the musty carpet. His ribs ache from convulsing so hard and he gags at the foul stench of blood and vomit that fills his nostrils.

Mr.Cho watches on calmly, showing no sign of disgust or revulsion as Taehyung is sick all over himself and the carpet. The gun held casually in his hand, the way most men hold a pen and Taehyung can’t tear his eyes away. His eyes are watery, blurred with tears and each shaky breath stings his raw throat and tastes of sour vomit. All he can think is how the next bullet in that fucking gun is meant for him.

This is how he dies, shaking and afraid, smelling of sick and on the verge of pissing himself. This is how he dies; alone, so far from Sojung and surrounded by heartless men with nothing but cruelty in every part of their dark souls. This is how he dies; in a small office room with stained carpets, peeling wallpaper and smelling of stale smoke, terrified out of his mind.

In his mind he sees the bullet tearing through his own skull, splintering it into sharp, tiny pieces. He glances at the man’s limp body, lying in a pool of his own blood and sees his own corpse slumped over in its place.

Old lonely Mrs. Kwon, who used to come to their apartment to borrow milk or ask Taehyung to show her how to use her old television when really all she wanted was to not be alone. The dead man with his old scar and earring and a world of fear in his eyes. And him. They were all dead.

He is going to die. The realisation is too big and too awful to fully comprehend. His mind can’t even start to try and wrap itself around the idea that this is the end. He’s barely capable of fully understanding the fact he just witnessed a murder—his first violent death, and a brutal eradication of what little goodness he hadn’t known he even still possessed until Mr. Cho destroyed it too.

“Well, Taetae,” Mr. Cho smiles, showing off his crooked yellowing teeth and his smile makes Taehyung want to puke all over again. “What are we going to do with you?”

Taehyung snaps, his paralysis breaking as he lurches off the chair ready to sprint for the exit on wobbly, unsteady legs. He’s so unsteady he almost falls straight on his face. It’s a small miracle he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to die here at Mr. Cho’s feet. There’s so much still to do. He can’t miss Sojung’s graduation. She would never forgive him if he wasn’t there for her.

He doesn’t get far before one of the men grabs his arm, hauling him back and shoving him down towards Mr. Cho. He stumbles forward, tripping over his own feet to fall before Mr Cho. To steady himself he reaches out and grabs Mr. Cho’s knee. He draws his hand back quickly as though Mr. Cho’s knee had burned him, repulsed.

He’s kneeling right where the dead man knelt and he feels a violent shudder run down his spine. Deja Vu.

“I suppose I’ll have to teach you some manners myself then,” Mr. Cho muses, still smiling and Taehyung wants to cry.

“Now, what made you think you can come storming in here screaming and shouting and I wouldn’t blow your brains out for the disrespect?” Mr. Cho asks casually. He lifts the gun, placing it against Taehyung’s forehead, the same way he had pressed it to the dead man’s forehead only moments before. The barrel is still hot from being fired and he winces as it burns his skin. He gulps, almost choking on his own saliva.

“Y—you,” his voice trembles and is rough, cracking with fear. “You tried to take Sojung. You promised you wouldn’t. You said if I did what you wanted you’d leave her alone.” He feels pathetic, like a petulant child whining over something trivial while the adults just laugh. “I’ve done what you told me to. I’ve done everything you told me to, everything, I’ve been good because you promised—”

The sound of the hammer clicking into place causes Taehyung to flinch, the breath whooshing out of his lungs and catching in his throat as fear grips his heart. A taloned, blacked claw squeezing the life out of him.

“You stupid little fool,” Mr. Cho chuckles. “Yes, we had a deal. Yes, you took the debt and yes you have been paying off the debt as we agreed. But something has changed. The debt has risen, there is more to pay. You alone are not enough anymore.”

He spoke calmly and clearly, all the while the gun remained pressed firmly against Taehyung’s temple, each word sinking in like a bullet through flesh.

“What?” is all he can say. The debt had risen? Why? He was barely surviving now. He can’t handle anymore. He’s already breaking, breaking, breaking. Anything more will ruin him beyond repair.

There’s no pity to be found in Mr. Cho’s smile. He, he enjoys Taehyung’s distress, revelling in his misery like the sick fuck he is. His eyes lack any human light or warmth and Taehyung knows he could pull that trigger and paint the room with his blood and brains and his expression wouldn’t flicker.

“You didn’t know?” he asks and Taehyung is too afraid to shake in head, the gun holding him in place.

“You really are a fool, Tae,” Mr. Cho says, shaking his head in disbelief. “The thing about gambling is it’s an addiction, a compulsion. Even if someone wants to stop, often they can’t. Of course, often they don’t want to. I’ve seen more men recover only to fall right back into their old ways so many times I’ve long since lost count. I’m sure your daddy dearest promised you he would never again but well, some men are all talk and no action.”

Taehyung can’t believe what he’s hearing. “He didn’t, that’s not possible.”

“Oh, but he did,” Mr. Cho’s smile grows wider, “and we both know what kind of gambler your daddy is.”

“You didn’t have to give him money,” Taehyung grits his teeth, the smoulder embers of his anger flaring to life briefly before dying under the hopelessness of it all. “You could have turned him away.”

“But where’s the fun in that?” Mr. Cho grins, with a flash as the light hits his golden incisor. “Besides, who am I to tell your father what to do?”

Impotent, frustrated tears burn at Taehyung eyes. His jaw hurts from how hard he’s grinding his teeth to stop the spew of hateful words from spilling forth and earning him a bullet between the eyes.

“If it makes you feel better,” Mr. Cho says, trailing the gun down Taehyung’s face, following the path of a falling tear drop. “If it makes you feel better, I did tell him what I did to you to pay off his debt.”

A single mortified tear falls and it feels as though his throat was closing over and he almost wishes it would. He lets out a choked sob before he can stop himself. He thought there was nothing more Mr. Cho could possibly do to humiliate him further but he was so so wrong. He’s positive he’s never been more embarrassed than he is in this moment. The only thing worse than enduring what Mr. Cho did to him was people knowing what Mr. Cho did to him.

He’s breaking. Breaking.

“He didn’t seem awfully concerned, if I’m honest,” Mr. Cho carries on relentlessly as another defeated tear falls. “In fact, he was quite pleased it was all being dealt with.”

Taehyung lets out another bitter sob, unable to stop the sound escaping. The second he opens his mouth Mr. Cho moves the gun shoving it roughly passed his lips. The barrel of the gun hits the back of his throat and he gags, the bitter tang of metal filling his mouth. His lips stretch around the barrel, his teeth clanging painfully off the metal as he chokes.

Mr. Cho’s thin chapped lips twitch into an ugly grin as drool dribbles down Taehyung’s chin and more tears spring to his eyes. Every time his jaw flexes his teeth clash painfully on the metal and he’s sure he’s going to chip them. The taste of hot iron is unbearable as it fills his mouth. It reminds him so vividly of blood and all he can think is that if Mr. Cho pulls that trigger it’s all over.

There’s no point in begging, Taehyung knows it. He could plead and cry until he turned blue in the face and throw himself at Mr. Cho’s feet and beg him to be merciful, to spare his life but it would do no good. No amount of tears or human emotion would sway this man’s heart, if he had one at all. Taehyung’s own poor heart is beating painfully fast in his chest and he wishes he could reach inside his ribcage and just rip it out. Throw it away and all these stupid, agonising, worthless emotions that come with it.

How easy it must be to be heartless.

He can’t talk, the gun effectively gagging him, stopping any sound save indistinct mumbles and more drool from passing through his lips. His nose is running and he hates himself for how helpless he must look, how pathetic and disgusting he is. He closes his eyes, feeling one final tear that had held onto his lashes falls. He breathes deeply through his nose, one last desperate attempt to pull himself together. He refuses to die crying on his knees.

Mr. Cho slides the gun from his mouth but he doesn’t put it down. Taehyung’s saliva coats the barrel and glistens sickly in the dim light. Even without the gun in his mouth the air still tastes bitter on his tongue.

“Please,” his voice sounds broken even to his own ears, little more than a faint whisper. He’s no longer crying but something in his chest is on the verge of breaking like his ribs are suddenly old floorboards almost rotten through and just about to snap, all that’s needed it a little more pressure. He’s not even sure what he’s asking for anymore. He’s not going to beg for his life, he doesn’t care enough to even try. But there is one thing he does still care about. “Kill me if you want but don’t hurt her.”

If he’s going to die he’s going to make damn sure Sojung is safe.

Mr. Cho laughs darkly, wiping his spit off on a handkerchief so casually.

“You think I’m going to kill you?” he asks and Taehyung’s heart stutters in his chest, his breath catches in his throat.

“Y—you’re not?” it’s not relief in his voice, just a sense of weary surprise. Every instinct inside him screams not to trust him. This could just be another one of his sick games. But then again...

“Of course, not Taetae,” Mr. Cho chuckles, standing with the gun still in hand. With his free hand he undoes his zipper painfully slowly and Taehyung’s heart drops. “You’re no good to me dead.”

Then again, Taehyung thinks, there are things worse than death.

He’s breaking

Breaking

Breaking.

~

Broken. Taehyung feels broken as Mr. Cho’s men collect what remains of his abused and battered body from the stained office floor and toss him out, leaving him to stumble down the street. His clothes are dishevelled and bloodstained, his shirt hanging off one shoulder. He’s not even sure whose blood it is anymore. It could be his or the dead man’s, or perhaps it’s a mixture of both. He really can’t find it in himself to care. Blood is blood, he supposes. It doesn’t matter whose it is as long as someone bleeds. It might as well be his.

His entire body aches like a motherfucker. Every muscle sings with acute pain as he staggers away from Mr. Cho’s building, moving as quickly as his exhausted state will allow—which isn’t very fast at all. He teeters down the street like a dazed zombie, his mind barely even registering his shuffling steps. His surroundings blur into nothing but muted colours and trailing lights. His mind is blank again, a ringing, static silence filling his brain, blotting out everything else, making Taehyung feel as though he was floating, drifting farther and farther away.

Part of him wonders who had put his clothes back on after Mr. Cho was done tearing him into pieces. He doubts the man himself would have bothered and he has no memory of putting them back on himself, the past few hours little more than a painful blur. He wonders if one of the henchmen had done it—one of the men who stood there and watched what Mr. Cho did to him. Perhaps one of the men who had even, on occasion, beaten him when Mr. Cho ordered.  Had one of them taken the time to dress him when they could have easily thrown him out in his partially naked state? Had one of these heartless, brutal men cared enough to dress him again. His mind doesn’t know how to process this information.

During the time he spent trapped in Mr. Cho’s office the dull twilight sun had dipped below the horizon plunging the dirty city streets into darkness, illuminated only by the harsh orange street lights.

He knows the way home, he’s walked this way many times before but his mind doesn’t seem to want to recall it and he stumbles lost down streets he should have known. Everything is familiar but he recognises nothing, this world is now strange and alien and he’s never felt so out of place. Everything has become so strange. He’s a ghost, a bodiless spirit drifting aimlessly down the street and nothing even seems real to him anymore.

His foot catches on an uneven flagstone in the broken pavement sending him crashing to the ground with a thud that should have been painful but isn’t. As he grazes his hands and his cheek all he registers is mild surprise, the memory of what it was to feel pain stirs in his chest but nothing more. 

Winter nights in the city were unforgiving and with the darkness came a frigid cold as the temperature plummeted. The pavement pressed against his face is freezing to the point of being painful. The cold of the stone sinking through his thin clothes, chilling him to the bone and he knows he should stand up but he just can’t. His mind is still buzzing with silence and his body refuses to move an inch on its own. He can feel his hands trembling and his breath fogs before his numb face but still he lies there as if already dead. Maybe they’ll find his frozen body tomorrow, lying here in this alleyway. Maybe someone on their way to work will spot him and care enough to call the police. He thinks of the officers telling Sojung what happened to her big brother, how he died alone and cold in an unfamiliar alley far from home and what little of his heart that is still capable of feeling breaks.

His mind flashes back to all those crime dramas he used to watch as a kid. This was how an episode always started, with the end of a victim. A pretty, young woman died so the main characters could find her, beaten, raped and dead the next day and they could go through the episode to find her killer. Her death advancing some standard romance or life drama plotline. They would be the hero's, referring to her only as the victim, as if her name had died with her. Is that him? Is that all he is? Some nameless victim in a prime-time television show?

How tragic, he thinks distantly. How very very tragic.

He can hear the city bustling on but it’s distant and far away. The noise of traffic is indistinct and it all fades away in the end, leaving nothing but more silence echoing inside of his skull. None of it matters anyway. No one is going to come and save him.

He’s so beyond salvation. Not even God could cleanse his dark, dirty, tattered soul. What is left of him is damned. He spent his life in hell so Taehyung wonders where he will go after he dies. It could hardly be worse than what he already went through. This death, this cold lonely death, was almost a relief.

His feels his breathing slowing, rough intake of air rattling out of him in slow gasps and he feels his eyes drooping shut. He remembers all the times all the times Mr. Cho had his men beat him until he coughed up blood, until his head was ringing from their blows. He remembers all the times he forced him to the ground and he remembers all the time he got back up. He had been so sure they could never break him but now, now he can’t find the strength to stand.

This time he can’t get back up.

He’s finally broken him. The old, moulding floor boards that creaked inside him have finally buckled and gave way under the weight of it all and he’s fallen through the rotten floor into an endless dark abyss in his chest. There’s a blackness he hadn’t even known existed but now it suffocates him, a tide of grey nothingness has been unleashed and now it threatens to drown him. He struggles to breathe, struggles to find the will to. His insides begin to rot and he fancies he can feel them shut down one by one until there’s nothing left and he’s hollow once again.

His stares across the street blearily and for a second he thinks he sees a figure standing there, watching him calmly. He knows he should call out for help but his tongue is too heavy and sit in his mouth uselessly. He blinks in an attempt to clear his vision but the figure remains blurred, just a fuzzy shape standing static. His muddled mind almost resolves it and he thinks he sees Sojung. It’s his sister standing there. She came looking for him and the pain thrumming like electricity alighting along his nerves is momentarily silent. The world is silent and for a few brief seconds Taehyung can breathe again.

He groans, using what little strength he had left to shift himself onto his side so he could see her better. Of course, she came looking for him, he needed to go to her graduation, he had to be there for her. She would be devastated if he missed her big day. He doesn’t want the police to tell her they found him dead, he doesn’t want her to ever find out what killed him.

He can picture some stony-faced officer knocking on their door the following morning, hat in hand, mouth tugged into a grim frown as he prepares to tell his sister what he’s no doubt told countless other families. He can hear the empty words of comfort now ‘we found your brother. We’re so sorry for your loss. We’ll catch whoever did this. Our condolences.’ Polite, meaningless words. He doesn’t want to make his sister cry. He needs to get up for her sake if nothing else. He tries to get up, to force himself to his feet and the ghostly figure of Sojung doesn’t move, she just stands there watching him struggle and he can’t help but wonder why she won’t help him.

He reaches out to her, trembling hand groping in the dark, a desperate plea dying on his tongue as she disappears. He blinks but the figure is gone, vanishing into the cold night air as quickly as it appeared and he’s once again alone. His arm gives out from underneath him and he falls, rolling onto his back so he’s facing the dark night sky, the cold ground pressed underneath his head and he can feel the blood pound sluggishly through his skull.

It’s a starless night, thick clouds obscuring any light from the stars. The darkness seems so complete as though it’s swallowing the city lights, engulfing any warm glow leaving the world cold. He draws an unsteady breath feeling the freezing air fill his lungs and he’s sure breathing has never felt more like drowning. There’s a heavy weight on his chest and his ribs won’t expand enough to drag in as much air as he needs. He feels lightheaded, his heavy eyelids drooping shut as exhaustion takes hold and refuses to let him go.

He is aware that he’s drifting off but he can’t scrape together the will to do anything about it.

This is it.

This time he can’t get up.

All those times he was able to force himself back to his feet, all those times he stood defiant on shaking legs, all the times they beat him to the ground and he stood spitting blood, all those times he overcame everything has led to this. To nothing. In the end that’s what it all amounted to, what he has amounted to. It’s fitting that his nothing life ends in nothingness. He can’t even save himself.

He breathes out, his eyes sliding open probably for the last time.

Through the thick clouds he can make out the silvery outline of the moon. It’s a full moon tonight, a huge, shining beacon in the sky, a perfect round coin hanging just above him standing out starkly against the darkness. The weight on his chest lessens a little.

The night clouds drift languidly, revealing even more of the moon, it’s bright image becoming clearer until it is right there in front of him in all its glowing glory so close he thinks if he just reached out his hand he could touch it. He feels the urge to pluck the moon from the sky and take it as his. He never had anything nice in this life, he deserves something beautiful in death.

When he was younger he used to look out his bedroom window late at night after everyone was asleep and the house was blissfully quiet save for Sojung’s gentle snores in the bed next to his and watch the moon. He found peace staring at the moon. Its radiant light seemed so pure as if anything it touched would be cleansed of all its filth and sin. A reminder that beautiful things sometimes only existed in the darkest times.

Taehyung closes his eyes and turns his face to the moon hoping it’s light would shine on him and maybe just maybe his naive childhood imaginings held some glimmer of truth in them. He breathes in moonlight and lets it replace the chill air in his lungs. Something stirs in his chest, a warmth that he had been so sure was dead and extinguished forever. The night had never been darker and yet here was the moon, illuminating the world around him and Taehyung felt a little less lonely, a little less lost, a little less like dying.

His mind feels clearer too and it casts back to that man's mocking words, and the unavoidable fact this was all his father’s fault sits heavy and immovable in his mind like a boulder. He could no longer avoid this pattern, a deafening crescendo of voices raising in his mind, yelling over each other to be heard; Mr. Cho’s sneer as he told him what his father had done, his father’s drunk slur, his crude laugh, his calloused lack of regard for his own children’s safety. Sojung’s sobs, and his own voice, quivering with rage.  ‘If you gamble away another cent, I swear to god I will kill you.’

His mind swirls playing the jumbled scenes repeatedly, repeating those words mixing them with Mr. Cho’s mocking laugh, feeling the anger burn in his chest all muddle together with the pain until, under the cold light of the moon, he finally saw everything clearly.

It is a cycle and a never ending one at that. It’s all linked and it all turns like a great wheel. It endlessly repeats itself like he’s caught in some horrific time loop, stuck and forced to repeat the same trauma over and over again with no glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

His father gambles and loses because he’s never been a lucky man. As a result, their debt, the debt Taehyung carries alone on his back, increases and Mr. Cho punishes him for the sins of his father. The debt can never be paid off, as soon as he reduces it his father incurs more almost immediately. It’s a cycle and there’s no end in sight. Mr. Cho has his claws dug so deep in his flesh he can never escape; the evil man’s hold on him only worsened by his own father. He’s trapped. Trapped in poverty, trapped in abuse, trapped in hell and nothing is changing.

He looks up at the moon and fancies he can feel it’s pale light on his face, like sunlight but icy cold.

The moon waxes and wanes, he muses his breath clouding before his eyes, wanes to little more than a tiny sliver of light before returning to its full round radiance. It too followed an endless cycle, resilient and enduring and Taehyung wants to be like that, wants that strength. He wants more than anything to be clean and beautiful.

He doesn’t want to die here. He wants to live to see the moon again.

His body still aches and now the cold has caused him to shiver uncontrollably but he draws on the last of his strength to haul himself over off the cold ground. His body trembles so badly and his legs almost give out under him but he managed to remain standing.

He stood there swaying for a few moments trying not to pass out. His head is spinning and his throat constricts like he’s about to be sick. He wants nothing more than to collapse again and sink under the darkness but he doesn’t. Instead he looks at the moon and is reminded he has too much to live for to die in the darkness like this. He’s endured too much to let go now. He didn’t subsist in hell just to die nameless and alone in an alleyway.

He refuses.

‘Nothing will change,’ he thinks as his mind and body are filled with the light of the moon and he’s breathing in stars finding a new strength in their bright glow until his whole being is radiant. ‘Nothing will change.

Unless I change it.’

~

Taehyung finds himself spending more and more time in the prison’s shabby little library in the weeks following the cafeteria fight. It’s probably no safer than anywhere else in the prison, and Taehyung is highly aware that nowhere is safe anymore, but amongst the quiet bookshelves and the muted murmur of voices he at least feels some illusion of safety. It’s not much but he’ll take what he can get. There’s a certain comfort in hiding away from the rest of the prison population in a library where the majority of prisoners hardly ever come.

It’s been almost three weeks since the events of that day and Taehyung hasn’t once felt truly safe. Not that prison was ever an overly safe and comfortable environment by any stretch of the imagination but now everything was ten times worse. Everywhere he goes eyes watch him, men glare daggers at him everywhere he looks. The threat of danger follows him wherever he goes like a dark rain cloud. He’s a marked man and he knows it, everyone knows it. The whole prison population thinks he’s a dead man and part of Taehyung doesn’t think they’re wrong. He’s earned second place behind Jungkook on Taeyang’s hit list and it’s only a matter of time before the gangster comes for him.

He likes to think that when their enemies try to come for him, he’ll be ready to take them.

Despite what some would consider common sense, Taehyung enjoys the sense of danger simmering just below the surface, moments away from boiling over. It’s something he understands at least, something he has dealt with before. It allows him to focus his mind, pour all his effort and attention into surviving which leaves little time to dwell on more murky matters. When it’s a matter of life and death the mind tends to focus more on the threat of death, he’s found.

He never goes anywhere alone anymore, Wonho becoming an almost permanent fixture by his side after hearing about what he had done. If not Wonho then someone from Jungkook’s gang and occasionally Jungkook himself accompanied him. Safety in numbers and all that. 

Since that night when Jungkook walked him back to his cell, the younger has been respectful of Taehyung’s request for space. He hasn’t retreated from his completely like Taehyung feared he might and he’s glad he didn’t push Jungkook away while being equally glad of having the time and space to clear his head and reflect. There is still so much to think about, he still must decide where he belongs in Jungkook’s gang, if he’s really ready to join them. There’s also more… personal matters to think about but he’s been putting that bit off. He isn’t quite sure what he and Jungkook are to each other right now, he can’t seem to find the right label that fits what they have and maybe one doesn’t exist. But for now he’s happy knowing that whatever they are, they’re comfortable. They still run into each other regularly and as often as they can they spend an hour or two alone, mostly talking.

Despite being raised by the most notorious gangster in the whole country, Jungkook has a cache of light hearted stories from his childhood that he happily recalls for Taehyung. It’s nice hearing about the past in a way that isn’t tainted with regret or misery and it’s even nicer to see another side to Jungkook, an innocent, slightly bratty but overall surprisingly wholesome side that he had never known existed.

Taehyung doesn’t have very many stories from his childhood that he’s willing to share with anyone, even Jungkook, but he has a few fond memories of Sojung and other friends whose names he’s long since forgotten. He tells Jungkook those and watches him smile. There are stories he’s sure he’ll share with Jungkook, ones that won’t make him smile, ones that might even hurt him and, or at least Taehyung fears, disgust him. He’ll share them someday, just as he’s sure Jungkook will share his but that time isn’t right yet. He just hopes there will be time later.

However, for as much time as they manage to spend together they are more often than not apart. He knows how much Jungkook hates being away from him and while he doesn’t voice his concern for Taehyung’s sake he can see in his eyes how much he hates not being by his side.  It’s not that Jungkook doesn’t trust his men, obviously and despite his initial grumbled protests Jungkook even seems to begrudgingly acknowledge Wonho as a worthy companion, Taehyung knows Jungkook is the type of person whose mind can’t rest unless he is personally taking care of a task himself. He understands it and if he’s being honest, whenever Jungkook isn’t in his sight he worries for him, for his safety. He wishes he could be by his side to protect him from whatever horrors he might have to face.

Taehyung remembers how right it felt when they faced Taeyang’s first assassin's together. Stupid, reckless and at the time, probably suicidal but right nonetheless. He had been happy enough to die by Jungkook’s side that day and he supposes nothing has really changed. 

But Jungkook has more pressing matters to attend to and since the cafeteria brawl there’s been a crackdown on security in the prison, even for the likes of Jungkook. This means even if Taehyung was ready to spend the night in Jungkook’s cell, it might prove a difficult task to accomplish. These days Jungkook spends most of his time dealing with family business and preparing for the gang war with his men. Taehyung’s heard them talking, plotting out ways to take out Taeyang as well as how they’re ever going to find the snitch. He knows how heavily these tasks weigh down on Jungkook and wishes he could do more to help him. If he can’t help him with family matters, he decided he was at least not going to create more headaches and worries for Jungkook, which meant doing his best to stay out of trouble and not cause any problems. He long ago learned how to fade into the background and become invisible and while it was impossible to do that now that he was known as the freak who bit off Taeyang’s finger, he did his best to stay out of the way.

Of course, Taehyung keeps the knife Jungkook gave him by his side wherever he goes, tucked into a pocket ready to be grabbed and used at a moment’s notice. At night he sleeps with it under his hard pillow. It’s reassuring to know it’s there, to know if anyone tried to touch him he could slit their throat from ear to ear. It’s a kind of power and assurance he’s almost forgotten, his heart flutters at the thought, giddy.

Not that he’s had any reason to use the knife. Yet.

Since the fight and subsequence tightened security, the violence and the gang war has actually been kept to a minimum. It’s not a truce exactly, no safe reprieve but more like both sides are preparing and regrouping for another attack. He knows the fight in the cafeteria was only the beginning, can feel the underlying tension that now permeates the entire prison. He can feel the electricity on oncoming violence in the air and knows it’s only a matter of time before this brief moment of peace is broken and violence comes crashing down on all their heads.

He thinks back to Jungkook’s words after the fight, how he’d mentioned that what comes next won’t be so open, nor will it play out on such a level playing field. What was coming next would be sneaky and hidden. Dark deeds playing out in shadows and out of sight. Bodies found bleeding in bathroom stalls or shoved in cleaning supply closets to be found when passing guards finally noticed the smell. Being cornered in the kitchen or alone in your cell, being surrounded with nowhere to run. A shudder runs up Taehyung’s spine and he reaches to brush his fingers over where the knife is still securely in his pocket. It’s not just him who doesn’t go anywhere alone these days, it’s everyone who doesn’t have a death wish. You just never knew who could be singled out and targeted next so it was best to travel in packs at all times. Even Jungkook, despite seeming almost untouchable, has started walking with at least one gang member by his side these days.

There’s no doubt these are troubled and uncertain times and guilt still swirls in Taehyung’s stomach at the thought that he himself had had a hand in it. It makes him uneasy knowing he had played a role in the events that led to this point. Now he feels the weight of every attack, of all the blood spilled, more heavily than before. If only he-

“Taehyung,”

Taehyung blinks at the sound of his name. He looks up from the page he had been staring at for the past ten minutes without having read a single word. He turns to where Wonho is sitting beside him, giving him a small smile. The library isn’t Wonho’s favourite place and Taehyung knows he’s just here because of him. He doesn’t feel too bad though because he follows Wonho to the exercise yard. Taehyung had never been the biggest fan of working out or trying to bulk up but with a target burning itself into his back a little extra strength couldn’t hurt.

“I’m sorry,” he says sheepishly, “What were you saying again?”

“Obviously nothing as important as your daydreams,” Wonho says teasing him and there’s no real bite to his words. Taehyung apologises again but Wonho waves it off.

“I was just reminding you I have my parole hearing today,” he says and Taehyung perks up.

“Of course,” he says, grinning, “how could I forget?”

Wonho had told him about his scheduled parole hearing last week and it had been a rare ray of light. Some good news in such a dark time. Even if it left Taehyung feeling slightly hollow. He’s learned how to ignore that feeling so it didn’t hurt much anyway.

“I know you hadn’t,” Wonho reassured him with a fond smile, “I just wanted to make sure.”

“Are you nervous?” Taehyung asks, closing the book he hadn’t really been reading anyway. Despite the tense atmosphere that hung over the entire prison, Wonho, outwardly at least, seemed largely unaffected. He sat slouched at the creaky library table, as calm and composed and overall unruffled by what went on around him as always. Since the very first day he met him, Wonho has always been completely relaxed, with an air of confidence. He was likable enough but kept to himself which meant he lived a relatively undisturbed life in prison. People respected him and he wasn’t on anyone’s bad side. That is until Taehyung came along. By sticking by Taehyung’s side Wonho had made it very clear which side of the conflict he’s on. Wonho is now an enemy of Taeyang by his association with Taehyung. That doesn’t sit well with Taehyung but he can’t very well push his friend away.

“Not really nervous,” Wonho admits leaning back and stretching. “I mean it will happen or it won’t. I excited more than anything but I’m trying not to get my hopes up you know?”

“You don’t think you’ll get it?” Taehyung asks.

“It’s hard to tell with these things,” Wonho shrugs, his face pensive, “It can go either way and there are a lot of factors. It’s not something you can really predict. But I’ve been talking to my lawyer and while he’s mostly shit and dirt cheap but he seems pretty confident I’ll get out.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Wonho nods, “It seems I’ve been what they like to call a ‘model’ prisoner.”

Taehyung snorts at that. “So, they really think you’ll get out on good behaviour?” he asks.

“Well I’ve been better behaved then you now, haven’t I?” Wonho retorts, “At least I haven’t maimed anyone.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes but can’t help the small smile that twitches at the corners of his mouth, “It was only a little maiming, just a finger...”

“You really are something else,” Wonho scoffs the pauses looking at him, resting his head in his hand.

“I am going to miss you,” he says after a beat of silence in a more serious voice, “If I get released, that is. You’re the only thing I’ll miss about this god forsaken place.”

Taehyung shifts, the sudden honesty and emotion making him uncomfortable. His throat tightens at the thought of Wonho actually leaving him, the deep-seated fear that slept within him that he never dared name but that had been present since his mother left, stirred to life in his chest but he pushes those feelings down. He doesn’t have the right to be selfish. He’s lucky to have known Wonho for as long as he had. It’s probably already more than he deserves.

Besides, when Wonho leaves he’ll be safe from whatever is to come. When he’s free he can’t be hurt because of Taehyung and that’s what’s important. Taehyung doesn’t know how he could ever forgive himself if Wonho was hurt because he dragged him into his disasters.

“Nah, you won’t miss me for long once you’re out,” he says with a laugh, hoping his voice sounds causal as he waves Wonho off. Wonho hums, looking thoughtful.

“I suppose that’s true,” he muses and Taehyung’s heart drops, then Wonho smiles at him, “‘Cus Jeon’s gonna break out soon and he’ll take you with him. You better look me up when you get out okay, kid? Don’t forget me when you’re a proper part of Jeon’s life of luxury, yeah?” 

Taehyung feels his face warm and curses himself for blushing. “What makes you so sure Jungkook’s going to break out? Or take me with him for that matter?”

Wonho levels an unimpressed look at him. “Well first of all Jeon breaking out of this shithole is a given, everyone knows it’s bound to happen, fuck even the guards are just waiting for the day they find his cell empty. In fact, the only thing people don’t know is what’s taking him so long. From the very first day he and his gang arrived everyone knew it was a temporary arrangement. It always is with those types you know? And two, you gotta be blind if you haven’t noticed the way Jeon looks at you. There’s no fucking way that kid is going anywhere without you. When he blows this joint you’ll be leaving too.”

Taehyung wants to believe what Wonho says but a small nagging part of him just can’t, not yet anyway.

How can he begin to fathom the fact he means so much to someone? He’s terrified to even think someone finally loves him as much as he loves them. Doesn’t dare think it in case it isn’t true.

He’s selfish, and terribly cowardly but when your heart’s been torn to pieces you learn to protect it and not let people in just because they smile and kiss you.

“Besides,” Wonho continues, picking at a bit of food caught between his teeth, “you know how gangs work, never leave a man behind and all that shit.”

Taehyung blinks. “I’m not a part of his gang,” he says, then adds, “yet.”

This seems to surprise Wonho. “You’re not?”

“I would have told you,” Taehyung points out.

“I just assumed it was one of those things that was so obvious you didn’t need to tell me, you know?” Wonho shrugs, “the whole prison thinks you’re part of his gang, you know. Well actually they think you’re his bitch, which kinda counts.”

Wonho cringes at his own words as soon as he says them but he can't take them back. They’ve been said and now they hang in the air like a sword above his head and Taehyung bites his lip, trying not to visibly flinch.

“I’m not,” he’s not sure why he needs to say it out loud but he does, his voice tight and slightly strained.

“I know,” is all Wonho says but Taehyung can tell he means it and it puts him somewhat at ease. He doesn’t care what the rest of the rabble think of him. The stupid rumours never really bothered him, he’s used to rumours, used to being called horrible names behind his back. There’s only a few people he really cares what they think of him and Wonho is one of them.

“He offered me a place,” he continues, looking down at his own hands, examining his purple, swollen knuckles. “A real place, as a proper member.”

“But you haven’t accepted?” Wonho asks, eyes watching him closely, studying his face. Taehyung shakes his head.

“Not yet I—I’m just,” Taehyung frowns, he’s not even sure what he’s trying to say. His knuckles aches when he clenches his hands into fists. “I’m just not fully ready yet. I want to but–”

He takes a deep breath. He's not sure how to explain his reluctance because honestly, he doesn't understand it himself. Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that he's lost every single thing in his life that was supposed to be permanent. How can he commit to something, to someone, for a lifetime when nothing has ever lasted that long. He's lost his family, his home, even his freedom and a part of him is terrified to commit himself fully to Jungkook because he can't bear to lose another thing that was supposed to be forever. All he knows for sure is when he thinks of joining Jungkook and his family that unnamed ache in his chest grows stronger and a voice in his head hisses he’s going to leave you too.

“You know,” Wonho says looking at him carefully, a frown of concentration creasing his brow. Taehyung forces himself to meet his eyes. “I've been where you are now, that knife edge before you join a gang before you commit. You're not out but you're not in yet either, you're caught in between, one foot in one foot out, caught on the track as the train hurtles towards you and you don't know which way to step. But actually, you do. A gang isn't just a gang, it's not a job or occupation or whatever. It's family. You don't choose family. You feel like it's a choice but when it comes down to it and the train is hurtling down the track you're stuck standing on, you'll know which way to jump. Sometimes you gotta take a leap of faith.”

Taehyung lets out a shaky breath and closes his eyes. He can hear the whistle of a train, the frantic squeal of brakes applied too late to help. The light is blinding and his body is frozen.

“So, you’ve never have any regrets?” Taehyung asks opening his eyes to look at him and Wonho shakes his head.

“Not one,” he says, a smile stealing across his lips. “I love my gang like my family. They’re my whole goddamn life. I can’t fucking wait to see my friends again. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed those fuckers.”

Taehyung finds himself smiling too, genuinely happy for Wonho. The idea of him leaving hurt but the idea of him happy with his friends and family again made him feel warm inside. “How long has it been again?”

“Three years, five months and thirteen motherfucking days,” Wonho sighs wearily rubbing his eyes. “You don’t know how much I’ve missed the outside. I can’t help but think of all the shit I missed out on, all the birthdays, Christmases that I couldn’t be there for. All those days I can’t get back, all the lost time. I thought I was going to go mad before you came. Visits can only do so much in a place like this, without a friend this really is hell.”

“You know, you can’t get those years back,” Taehyung says slowly. “But when you do get out you can make up for it. You’re going to step out and go home and the past three years will be nothing but an ugly memory. It’ll be like this never happened. You can do all the shit you never found the time for before you got locked up. I think, I think prison gives you a different perspective, you know? What you miss the most is what mattered to you.”

Wonho regards him for a minute before he smiles, “Kim Taehyung when did you get so wise?”

“I’ve always been wise,” Taehyung sniffs jokingly, crossing his arms over his chest. “You must not have been paying enough attention.”

“That must be it,” Wonho nods soberly making Taehyung giggle.

“I bet you missed Minhyuk,” Taehyung grins. It’s strange, he’s never met Minhyuk but Wonho’s spent so many late nights talking about his lover Taehyung feels as if, in a way, he knows him too. He’s heard about his laugh and the way his eyes crinkle when he’s happy. He knows all about his love of dogs and all his nicknames for Wonho. Taehyung can tell just from the way Wonho talks about him, the way his voice softens and he gets a soft, far off look in his eyes. Wonho was as gruff and tough as they came but when he spoke of Minhyuk he melts a little.

“You don’t even know,” Wonho says shaking his head, “Only getting to see him once a month through a pane of glass with a shit phone that barely works, it’s only keeping me sane. Although because he’s a dork he insisted on writing me letters whenever he can, keeping me up to date with everything that’s happening with them on the outside. It’s made things a little easier, makes me feel a little less like I’m missing everything. Although at times it felt like I was just watching my life slip by.”

Taehyung reaches out and takes Wonho’s hand. They were more comfortable around each other, having spent nights more often than not cuddled under the thin, scratchy blankets so it feels natural to take Wonho’s hand. They’re tucked away far back enough in the library that no one can see them.

“You are going to get out Wonho,” he says, gripping Wonho’s hand as if simple will power could make it real, as if wanting it enough would turn it into reality. “You’re going to walk out a free man and you’re going to see your friends and you’re going to celebrate every birthday and this Christmas you’ll open presents with everyone and it will be like you never left them.”

Wonho blinks, looking down at their intertwined hand. He pauses for a minute before he squeezes back. “Yeah, yeah you’re right. Thanks, Tae. I can’t fucking wait to get out of this hellhole.”

“Besides, even if those bastards do deny your parole this afternoon, I promise you I’ll make Jungkook take you with us when he breaks out.”

Wonho snorts, giving his hand one last quick squeeze before letting go. “Sounds like a plan to me.”

They sit in comfortable silence, Wonho reading a tattered, dog eared magazine while Taehyung read the old book of poetry he’d found. It was nice and for a few moments Taehyung actually felt as though he was at peace. They sit there for ten minutes before the silence is broken by a familiar voice.

“Hey, Tae.”

Taehyung looks up and the first thing he notices about Jungkook is his impressive black eye. His eye is swollen, the skin around it red and angry, and there's another spattering of blotchy bruises down his cheek.

“Are you okay?” he asks a surge of panic spiking in his gut but Jungkook just waves him off.

“It was nothing,” he says and Taehyung wants to argue but he knows it probably won’t do any good. “Besides you should see the other guy.” he jokes but Taehyung wonders for a second if the man Jungkook fought is even still alive.

“That looks nasty Jeon,” Wonho comments casually looking up from his folded magazine, “it sure does suck to get punched in the face, doesn’t it?”

Jungkook purses his lips and Taehyung actually has to smother his laughter.

“As I have said before,” Jungkook begins stiffly, glancing at Taehyung who coughs to disguise his laughter. “I apologise for punching you. That was wrong of me.”

It always amazing Taehyung how Jungkook always looks like he’s in pain when he apologises. He sounds uncomfortable and his voice is robotic but at least he’s saying it.

“Yeah, I know,” Wonho shrugs with a smirk, tossing his magazine aside, “I just like hearing you say sorry is all. It’s not something that happens every day.”

“Don’t get used to it,” Jungkook grumbles, his brows furrowed, “although if you don’t fuck off I’ll have a lot more to apologise for.”

Jungkook winces when Taehyung’s sharp elbow digs into his side. He mouths ‘what’ and Taehyung just glares at him.

“Fine,” Jungkook sighs exasperated, sounding awfully put upon. “Wonho, will you please kindly fuck off.”

Jungkook smiles but it looks more like a grimace and Taehyung wonders if his swollen eye is hurting him or if it’s just his massive pride that’s sore.

“Well since you asked so nicely Jeon,” Wonho coos and Taehyung swears he sees Jungkook’s uninjured eye twitch.

“I’ll see you this evening, Tae,” Wonho says, addressing him as he stands and Taehyung nods.

“Yeah and good luck Wonho,” he says, “not that you need it.”

With one last nods in Taehyung’s direction Wonho leaves, making sure to wave at Jungkook over his shoulder.

“What’s up with him?” Jungkook asks turning to Taehyung. Up close he can see all the blood pooling from broken blood vessels under the skin of his eye.

“He has a parole hearing this afternoon,” Taehyung explains and Jungkook raises his eyebrows looking surprised.

“Oh? He’s leaving? That’s good,” he says and Taehyung elbows him in the ribs again.

“What was that for?” Jungkook whines, holding his sides.

“You are such an ass sometimes, you know that?” Taehyung asks, his question probably ruined by the fact he’s smiling like a fool at Jungkook.

“I thought that was all part of my charm,” Jungkook pouts.

“Is that what we’re calling it now?”

“I still say the sooner he’s gone the better,” Jungkook says stubbornly.

“Would it kill you to be nice?” he asks.

“I am nice. I’m very nice,” Jungkook protests. “I’m nice to people I care about, why should I bother being nice to anyone else?”

“Because I care about Wonho,” Taehyung states and Jungkook pauses.

“Fine,” he says eventually, throwing his hands up in mock surrender, “fine. I still don’t like the guy but if he means so much to you I’ll be nice. Not for him, for you, Tae.”

Taehyung smiles, affection for Jungkook bubbling up in his chest, “Thank you,” he says quietly, reaching out to brush his hand over Jungkook’s bruised face.

“Now,” he says as he traces the discolouration and Jungkook flinches almost imperceptibly. “How did this happen?”  

Jungkook leans into Taehyung touch, reaching up to take his hand in his and hold it tight against his face. He closes his eyes and he looks so weary it pains his heart to see. There’s panic too, a familiar fear creeping its way into his heart. He’s used to it but that never makes it easier to handle.

“It really is nothing Tae,” he murmurs, his breath tickling Taehyung’s skin. “I’m here isn’t that enough?”

Of course, Jungkook being alive is good enough but Taehyung’s mind doesn’t work that way, he can’t focus on good enough or alright he can only think about what if Jungkook wasn’t here.

“Were you alone?” his voice sounds hoarse.

Jungkook opens his eyes to meet Taehyung's with a steady gaze.

“No.” he says quietly.

Taehyung lets out a sigh of relief but it’s short lived when he thinks that if Jungkook had been alone he might not be sitting here right now. It was really that simple. Jungkook is warm and breathing and alive before him now but in an instant that could all be taken from him.

“How many of them was there? Did they have weapons?” he asks because he can’t think of what else to say. All he knows is he needs to know everything otherwise his imagination is going to drive him mad.

“Taehyung–” Jungkook starts but Taehyung can’t stop the words tumbling out of his mouth.

“Where did they ambush you?” he presses and watches Jungkook’s face set in a hard, flat expression and feels himself ruining everything, pushing too far but he can’t stop.

“Was it the showers? Were you in your cell? What about–”

“Taehyung, stop!” Jungkook’s voice loud, too loud for a library and Taehyung, startled, flinches jerking his hand away from Jungkook.

Wordlessly Jungkook reaches out once again to take Taehyung’s hand in his, his warm fingers intertwining with his and Taehyung feels his breathing evening out, the panic working its way out of his system.

“Please, darling,” Jungkook whispers, his voice calm, soothing even. He brings Taehyung’s hand to his lips and presses gentle kisses to his wrist and Taehyung watches. “There was only two of them. They came up to Yoongi, Namjoon and I in the exercise yard. We dealt with them and we’re all fine, I’m fine.”

“I know,” Taehyung says and the thing is he really does know. He trusts Jungkook and his men, he really does but he can’t help but worry. It’s like his mind doesn’t know how to be at peace.

“I know, I’m sorry, I just worry,” he says, shoulders sagging.

Jungkook sighs and squeezes Taehyung’s hand. “Don’t apologise, Tae. We all worry, it’s okay.”

It doesn’t feel okay, but Taehyung is getting used to that.

“Come on Tae,” Jungkook coaxes letting go of Taehyung’s hand to cup his face. Jungkook’s hands are rough and calloused and give Taehyung no choice but to look right at Jungkook. “I worry about you every second of every day, you know that? Whenever I can’t see you, I’m worried out of my mind. At night I wonder if you’re okay too. It feels like there isn’t a second I’m not thinking about you.”

“But,” Jungkook pauses, “But I trust you’ll be okay. I know you are capable of taking care of yourself and I know you’re strong. If I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t be able to function. So, do the same for me, trust me to look after myself.”

Taehyung sighs, “Yeah, okay. Okay Jungkook, I trust you.”

“Thank you, Tae.” Jungkook leans forward and presses a soft kiss to his lips and Taehyung’s eyes slide shut, his heart rate almost back to normal. Just being in Jungkook’s presence puts him at ease.

The sunlight streams in from the library window hits Jungkook’s face just right to make his glow a warm gold, like the sun.

Or maybe Jungkook was the moon.

Looking at him now, Taehyung’s mind wanders back, sifting through murky memories and layers of pain scabbed over, until he sees the glow of the moon, a light in the darkest night but all he can think is how closely it resembles Jungkook’s smile.

“There’s this story my father used to tell me,” Jungkook says abruptly, bringing Taehyung out of his reverence.

“Yeah?” he asks.

“Yeah, well it’s more a philosophical theory I guess,” Jungkook says scratching his head. “It’s called the prisoner's dilemma.”

“Sounds appropriate,” Taehyung smiles and Jungkook nods wryly.

“Well being locked up has certainly given me a better understanding of what the dilemma means,” he admits. “But he used to tell me about it before I was locked up, to help me when the time came for me to step up and take over.”

“So, what is this dilemma all about?” Taehyung asks leaning forward chin resting in his hands.

“Alright, so these two guys, they’re partners in crime, right?” Taehyung nods. “they’re caught and they’re both brought in for questioning at the same time. The police put them in two separate rooms to interrogate them on their own and there’s no way they can communicate with each other. They grill the two guys for hours but neither of them will confess or turn on the other. So, the police interrogating them decide to give each man the same three options in the hopes of getting them to crack. Option one,” Jungkook holds up one finger to emphasise his point. “if one turns on the other, the one who turned will go free and the other will serve three years. Option two: if they both turn on each other they will both serve two years and option three: if they both stay quiet, the two of them only serve one year in jail.”

“Huh,” Taehyung pauses a moment to think, letting the propositions sink in. “So, the worst sentence is given to the one who doesn’t snitch, so in order to avoid it, you would want to be the one who snitched, not the one who got snitched on, right?”

“Yeah but if they both have that mentality then they both serve more time than if they had both stayed quiet,” Jungkook points out.

“So, it’s about going against your instincts?” Taehyung asks, “Surely every man wants to serve as little time as possible and all one of them has to do to go free and not serve any time at all is turn the other one over, that seems like the wisest decision, the most logical one but when you think about it because it’s human nature the other dude is probably both thinking the exact same thing and if they both tell they get longer sentences than if they both resisted their instincts and remained silent. So actually, logically, the solution with the least amount of risk is to stay silent… but—”

Taehyung pauses and Jungkook raises an eyebrow, his eyes glittering with interest. “But?” he repeats, a clear indication for Taehyung to continue.

“But in order for that to work, they would both have to trust each other enough to know the other won’t rat him out and land him with the longest sentence.”

“Now you’re getting somewhere,” Jungkook smiles and claps his hands together, pleased. “It’s really all about trust. If you stay silent you’re risking three years if your buddy talks, but if he stays quiet like you then you both get a lesser sentence. They both have to trust the other will stay quiet. That’s how it is with a gang, with the family. Trust goes both ways, that’s the only way it works.”

“I–” Taehyung begins then pauses, Jungkook waits patiently for him to continue. “I don’t think I’ve ever trusted anyone like that before,” he admits.

Sure, when he was younger he’d had that blind trust and loyalty in his parents that all kids had. But then he’d grown older and seen what shitty people they really were and watched them abuse his trust over and over again until there was no faith left. He didn’t trust teachers or authority figures who swore blind they would help him and his sister out but never did anything for them when it mattered. And Sojung… he loved Sojung dearly but trust, trust was a difficult thing between them because he couldn’t bear to burden her with all his chaos and disaster so he kept things from her, and how could there be complete trust when secrets lurked between them. He loved Sojung but he didn’t know if he trusted her.

But Jungkook? Taehyung might really trust Jungkook with everything.

That thought is as exhilarating as it is terrifying.

His mind once again swirls back to that night, the sensation of a chill tingling in his chest like he’s breathing in stardust on a clear night. That feeling of pain being washed away by the light of the silver moon, of terror and defeat giving way to something stronger, something no one else could reach. Rebirth and growth under moonlight, that extraordinary feeling of new life he felt that night, Jungkook reminds him of that. He encompasses that same bright power, he radiates it and Taehyung can’t help but fall even further.

“You remind me of the moon,” he says before he even realizes he’s speaking. Jungkook blinks, amused but clearly confused by the change of subject.

“I do?” he asks, “how do I do that?”

Taehyung wants to explain it to him but he can’t put it into words. No one could understand this feeling in his chest unless they had lain dying in the street that night. No one could know unless they had looked at the moon shining through the thicket of clouds and been saved by its divine light. How could he ever hope to articulate all that?

“I don’t know,” he says honestly, shrugging his shoulders. “I just know that when I look at you I get the same feeling I get when I look at the moon.” 

“Huh,” Jungkook looks thoughtful, staring at Taehyung like he’s trying to figure out what he’s thinking.

“Well you,” he pauses again, his gazes straying out the window. “You remind me of the sun, Kim Taehyung.”

Taehyung opens his mouth then shuts it, staring at Jungkook in disbelief before dissolving into laughter.

“That is the cheesiest thing you have ever said to me,” Taehyung says, struggling to contain his laughter.

“Says the one who told me I was the moon,” Jungkook points out petulantly. “Besides it’s true. I look at you and you’re radiant, you glow and you make me feel so warm. The sun is the centre of the entire universe and because of it everything can live, that’s how important you are to me.”

“T-that, that’s so freaking lame,” Taehyung says but his voice betrays him, wavering as he speaks. It’s corny but Taehyung likes it in spite of himself. The words, their meaning, he’s never had someone talk about him like that, like he mattered so much to them. He wants clichés, craves the stupid, sappy movie romance with an impossible happy ending, he wants so badly to believe in love.

“The sun and the moon,” Jungkook says, “It has a nice ring to it. I think it suits us.”

“Don’t you know all the tales where the sun and the moon are tragic lovers torn apart and only able to pass each other?” Taehyung asks and Jungkook scoffs, waving the idea away.

“We’ll be different lovers,” he says and Taehyung realises that’s the closest they’ve come to putting a label on themselves. He likes it. Lovers. Defined only by their feelings for each other.

“We won’t be tragic?” he says and tries to smile. He doesn’t want to hear Jungkook’s answer. He’s so tired of empty promises.

“I don’t know,” Jungkook admits and something about the honesty in his voice resonates in Taehyung’s chest. “I can’t promise our end won’t be tragic but you know what?”

“What?” his voice is barely above a whisper.

“Endings are the saddest part anyway. Fuck endings. I can’t promise a happy ending for us but I swear I will do everything in my power to make all those moments in between as happy as I can. I want your life to be made up of beautiful moments, Taehyung.” 

“You,” Taehyung begins and trails off. He lets out a small laugh, feelings bubbling up in his chest so light and airy and he wonders if this is real happiness. “Who knew Jeon Jungkook is so damn sappy?”

Jungkook laughs and it’s such a light sound it shouldn’t belong here. Their happiness doesn’t belong here and yet somehow, they’re still able to laugh together. Taehyung wants to hold onto these feelings forever. Jungkook is right. Who knew what kind of end awaited them. This could all end in tragedy for all they knew. The only thing they could do was enjoy what they had while they still had it.

“Don’t pretend you don’t love it sweetheart.”

~

The hours in the library passed quickly. The time flashing by in what seemed like mere minutes when he was with Jungkook. They’d had dinner, or what passed for dinner here, together in the cafeteria with the rest of the gang except Jimin who, hilariously, had been put on dinner duty for breaking a guy’s arm in a fight although Hoseok said with a smile that Jimin was only being punished because he got caught.

The atmosphere in the cafeteria had been tense and while he had been able to ignore it to a certain extent by focusing on the squabbling and conversation around him it was impossible to pretend he couldn’t sense the heavy air that bore down on them all. Taehyung wondered if Jungkook and the other felt it, he was sure they did because they were anything but oblivious but they all hid it well, nothing but easy smiles and rowdy laughter. They were probably used to it and Taehyung supposed he would grow accustomed to it as well.

Taehyung had missed Jimin a lot at dinner as the two of them especially since that night they’d all gotten drunk, had grown close. He felt at ease with Jimin, as if he’d known him forever, like they had been old friends in a past life. Jimin was surprisingly easy to talk with which had surprised him as opening up to another person was something Taehyung had always found difficult. But eating with the rest of the gang had been lively as ever. As he sat there by Jungkook’s side watching everyone laugh and interact around him he remembered his earlier doubts, his hesitation to commit and he had dared to think for the first time that maybe, just maybe he really did belong there.

Jungkook had, of course, insisted on walking him back to his cell. As they walked Taehyung kept his hand in his pocket, fingers brushing against the knife he kept there, the knife Jungkook had given him. They walked side by side in comfortable silence.

Taehyung’s mind drifts back to earlier, to his conversation with Wonho about Jungkook and joining his family. It plays over and over again, the subject just as murky and muddled as before. He’s still torn, feelings pulling him different ways. He wants to join Jungkook more than anything, it scares him how badly he wants it. That fear is exactly what holds him back. Everything he’s ever cared about, anything he ever wanted has fallen away and he doesn’t want this to disappear before his eyes too. He couldn’t bear that.

“Tae,” Jungkook’s voice is soft and Taehyung looks over. Jungkook looks pensive, his lip jutted out in a soft pout, his brows drawn together. Something in Jungkook’s voice causes his ears to perk up, something about the sincerity in it resonates in his chest. Jungkook is being serious, Taehyung can sense it.

“Yeah?” he whispers.

“I’m willing to wait for you,” Jungkook says his steps slowing to a stop. Taehyung stops as well, looking at Jungkook, searching his face for any hints of his thoughts written in his serious features. His hearts thuds in his chest and his hands still buried in his pockets begin to sweat.

“I know you need time and I don’t think I ever said it so I want to say it now,” he says. “As long as you need, I’ll wait until you’re ready.”

Taehyung feels light headed. Since that night they hadn’t talked business. Jungkook hadn’t even brought up the subject of joining his gang whatsoever but to hear him say this takes a weight off his shoulders.

He thinks of Wonho’s words ‘you have to take a leap of faith.’

He’s in that in between place, he’s on the verge of belonging but still an outsider. It feels like he’s on the edge of a cliff and he’s just not ready to jump yet.   

“The offer still stands, does it?” Taehyung asks with a small smile. Jungkook’s lips curl into a happy smile, his nose scrunching.

“Of course, darling,” he says, squeezing his hand. “It will always stand.”

Taehyung closes his eyes and sighs. He nods.

“Okay,” he says. “Okay, I’ll remember that.”

Wonho is lounging on his bed, almost exactly as he had been the day Taehyung was thrust in their cell for the first time. That already felt like a lifetime ago.

He looks up as Taehyung steps inside, Jungkook loitering in the doorway.

“Well, well, well if it isn’t my favourite little gangster,” Wonho says grinning past him and Jungkook’s jaw tightens.

“Drop dead,” Jungkook mumbles.

“Twenty minutes to lights out,” Taehyung says turning to Jungkook who reaches out his hand. Taehyung lets Jungkook’s hand engulf his wrist and gently tug him closer.

“I’m right here you know,” Wonho comments dryly from somewhere behind them. “Let’s keep it PG kiddies.”

“Are you still breathing?” Jungkook snaps and Taehyung hits his chest, chiding him softly.

“Be nice,” he reminds him and Jungkook purses his lips, expression souring.

“That is me being nice,” he grumbles leaning forward to press his forehead against his. Up close Taehyung can see his busted eye and bruised face under the harsh lights of the prison cell, it’s dark patchiness an ugly contrast to Jungkook’s skin.

“You should probably get going,” Taehyung says quietly, keeping the longing out of his voice.

“I know,” Jungkook sighs, looking worn out.

“Hey, Jungkook?” he says and Jungkook’s mouth quirks into a smile.

“Yeah?”

“Thank you,” he says, and means it. It’s a thanks for everything and he hopes Jungkook gets it.

“You’re welcome, Tae,” Jungkook says, pressing a kiss to his forehead and Taehyung thinks he gets it. “Goodnight, love. Be safe okay?”

“Always. You too, okay?” Taehyung nods and watches Jungkook turn and leave.

“You two are so disgusting,” Wonho comments from his place on his bed. “It really is sickening.”

“Says the one who spent twenty minutes telling me about that time you and your boyfriend went on holidays by a lake,” Taehyung says sticking his tongue out.

Wonho looks up, eyes narrowed. “That’s a low blow, Kim.” he says and Taehyung grins.

“You know I’m kidding,” he says and it’s Wonho’s turn to roll his eyes. He rolls over onto his side, lifting the itchy blanket up and Taehyung doesn’t hesitate before slipping under the covers with him. The knife in his pocket digs uncomfortably into his thigh as he lies on it so he reaches into his pocket and slips the knife under the pillow instead. Still in reach but no longer pressed against him.

“You’re lucky you’re cute,” Wonho grumbles.

“So?” Taehyung prompts, propping himself up on his elbow so he can see Wonho properly.

“What?” Wonho says because god forbid he make even this easy, he knows exactly what Taehyung wants to know but he still plays dumb. Taehyung briefly wonders if he really upset him. But then he reminds himself that if Wonho was unhappy or upset he wasn’t one to hide it or be petty.

“You know what,” he huffs, impatient, “how was your fucking parole hearing, you dick? Are you getting out of here?”

Wonho scowls and Taehyung’s heart drops.

“You’re kidding,” he exclaims, “They denied you? What the fuck? Why?”

Wonho shakes his head, his expression dark and Taehyung isn’t sure if he should rant or try to comfort him. He’s never talked to anyone who has just been denied their freedom. He’s never even thought about how it would feel to be denied parole because for him, even the chance of parole was a distant fantasy. Life really did mean fucking life and when Taehyung came here he accepted that his freedom was really gone forever.

He notices Wonho is shaking, his head bowed and for a terrible second Taehyung thinks he’s crying. Wonho doesn’t cry, he’s never seen him cry, and Taehyung almost panics until he realizes Wonho isn’t crying at all.

He’s fucking laughing.

“You are a terrible person,” he grouches which only causes Wonho to laugh harder, his shoulders shaking.

“You should have seen your face,” he gasps, chuckling.

“Sorry for being a concerned friend,” Taehyung frowns then it hits him.

“Wait so you got it?” he asks, his displeasure at being made fun of immediately forgotten.

“Yeah, I fucking did, kiddo,” Wonho grins, “Come tomorrow I’m a free man. Fucking finally.”

“That’s so great,” Taehyung says and finds himself grinning from ear to ear, feelings of genuine happiness flooding his chest and he almost feels giddy. “I can’t believe it.”

“You can’t believe it?” Wonho laughs, throwing his arm around Taehyung’s shoulder. “I’m still fucking floating man, it hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m going to see them, I’m going to finally see him.”

Wonho’s voice sounds choked with emotion and Taehyung’s heart feels like it’s going to burst. He’s so damn happy for his friend.

“They’re granting me parole,” Wonho says, “there’s a shit ton of conditions of course, bi-monthly meet ups with my parole officer, no speeding tickets, don’t leave the country but you know what? I don’t give a fuck because I don’t have to follow a routine. I don’t have to see these same fucking grey walls, or that grey exercise yard or all these grey faces and I can’t wait to breathe fresh air and eat proper food and sleep in a comfortable bed and wear all my own clothes and drive a car again or go grocery shopping, all those small little things I never thought I would miss. Did you know I miss doing my own laundry? Not fifty other guys stinking laundry, just my own laundry, I can’t wait.” 

Wonho sighs flopping back onto the hard mattress so he’s looking up at the ceiling with the look in his eyes Taehyung wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d been looking at stars instead of cold cement. His eyes almost seem to sparkle and he looks more alive than Taehyung has seen him probably ever. It’s as though news of his impending freedom has breathed new life into him, new energy, new drive.

That’s what prison does, Taehyung thinks, it makes you lose your will to live, your desire, your passion. It wears you down and eroding away at your soul until you’re just a shell of who you once were. What’s the point of caring about anything, even your own life when you’re locked away and caged like a damn animal.

“I never thought this would happen,” Wonho confesses, “I thought I was stuck here for forty fucking years. Forget the minimum time served, forget parole, when I said goodbye to Minhyuk that day I thought it was for the last time for a long, long time.”

“You’re going to see him tomorrow,” Taehyung says softly.

“Yeah, I am,” Wonho smiles, “I’m going to walk out of here and see him for the first time not behind a pane of glass in three years and I’m going to hug him and I’ll be able to talk to him without a couple of guards watching or without the prisoners monitoring everything we say.”

“That’ll be nice,” Taehyung hums, “what else?”

“They’ll probably throw me a party I guess, any chance to celebrate and get drunk and those guys’ll take it. There’s this bar we usually go to, we know the owner, it’s a nice little spot and we always go there. I can’t wait to sit in one of those old booths and to finally get a proper drink.”

“Be sure to get shitfaced for me,” Taehyung smiles.

“We should drink together when you get out, Kim,” Wonho says. “When you get out look me up okay? I’ll take you to the bar and I’ll introduce you to everyone. You can even bring Jeon and his minions if you want.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Taehyung smiles holding out his pinkie. Wonho blinks.

“Oh come on, don’t tell me you don’t know what a pinkie promise is,” Taehyung scoffs.

“I know what it is, I just didn’t realise we were five again.”

“Just pinkie promise,” Taehyung says holding his pinkie closer to Wonho’s face.

“Okay, okay,” Wonho relents, wrapping his pinkie around Taehyung’s and shaking. “I promise. Happy?”

“Very,” Taehyung says, satisfied.

There’s a pause where Wonho laughs quietly.

“I’m also going to see my mom,” he adds, the look in his eyes soft and Taehyung’s clenches. This isn’t his favourite subject, not by a long shot but he can still find it in himself to be happy for his friend.

“Mama Wonho,” he muses, picturing a woman who looked a lot like Wonho but older, female and muscly, with white hair and wrinkles. “She sounds terrifying.”

“She is not a woman to be trifled with,” Wonho agrees. “She’s amazing though, she raised me alone after my dad died. I owe her everything.”

“Maybe I’ll meet her too,” Taehyung says and it’s weird, he’s not sure if they’re talking about reality or if this is all just fantasy he’s indulging in. He doesn’t know if he will ever even get out, it’s all uncertain and vague but it’s nice to pretend the future is a sure thing every once and while. Wonho seems certain he will but Taehyung shies away from wanting anything too badly or believing in anyone with his whole heart. Old habits and all that. It’s like talking about winning the lotto, technically it could happen, it’s not outside the realms of possibility but it’s still… unrealistic. No one seriously plans to win the lottery, they just dream about it.

“She would like you,” Wonho says confidently, an edge of sleepiness creeping into his voice.

“That’s good.” Taehyung feels tired too, all the anxiety and stress he felt during the day giving way to exhaustion.

“Hey, have you given it more thought?” Wonho says suddenly and it takes Taehyung a moment to realise what he’s talking about.

“Oh,” he says, “yeah.”

“And?”

Taehyung takes a deep breath. He thinks of Wonho and his gang, hearing him talk about them, about his family made Taehyung’s chest ache. Not a painful ache, not exactly. It was more like longing, so strong he could taste it, sharp and bittersweet on his tongue. It is clear to him now, like a veil has been lifted and he can see properly for the first time in a long time. He’s no longer stumbling blind in the mist, groping desperately for something he can’t see. He knows now what he wants and more importantly he knows just what it will take to get it. No more running away, no more being afraid. It was time to jump, now or never. He had to commit to taking what he wanted and when he has it, he can never let it go.

He’s willing to fight for what he wants, he’s willing to become stronger so he can protect what he wants and so that nothing and no one can ever take it away from him.

“And I’m going to join him,” Taehyung says with confidence, finding himself smiling despite how tired he is. “Tomorrow after you leave, I’ll tell him.”

Wonho’s smile is wide and echoes his own as he reaches out to ruffle Taehyung’s hair affectionately.

“Took you long enough to figure it out, kid,” he says, “but I’m glad, it’s a load off my mind knowing you’ll be protected when I’m gone.”

“You think I can’t take care of myself?” Taehyung pouts. He’s mostly joking but a tiny part of him prickled with irritation with the implication that he isn’t strong enough to fight his own battles. 

“No one lasts long by themselves, especially in here,” Wonho says and Taehyung raises an eyebrow. “If Jungkook didn’t have the rest of his men around him do you think he’d still be here today? Everyone needs other people every now and again. No one gets through this life alone, it’s not a sign of weakness it’s just a fact.”

“Oh,” that’s all Taehyung can say, Wonho’s words were strangely comforting. Never had he thought about relying on other people as not only a good thing, but a necessary thing too. Before relying on anyone but himself was dangerous and stupid, people weren’t to be trusted because they all let you down in the end, their flaws and weakness consuming them until they were just flaking shells of who they had been. Everyone let him down eventually, everyone fell through like they were made of rotten wood and paper, straw men and women that crumpled when he really needed someone to lean on.

“I guess,” he begins, “I guess everything worked out in the end then, huh?”

Wonho smiles sleepily, “Yeah it did, I’m getting out of here and you end up with Jeon. couldn’t have planned it better.”

“I’m glad it all worked out,” Taehyung says, smiling contentedly. His eyelids drooped, heavy with sleep and he found himself drifting off to oblivious sleep, Wonho’s warmth surrounding him, his muscled arm wrapped securely around him, feeling better than he has in years.

~

Taehyung awakes with a start in darkness. It isn’t unusual for him to wake suddenly in the night, surrounded by nothing but the complete darkness of their cell, often some ugly nightmare jolting him from his slumber. But this time something is different, no nightmare had disturbed him, something else had woken him. He listens carefully, his eyes slowly adjusting to the dark.

Beside him, Wonho is snoring softly but there’s another noise disturbing the silence. With a start of sudden understanding he realises there’s someone at their cell door. The sound of the lock being slid open. His heart hammers in his chest, fear tumbling through him as the door begins to open.

This wasn’t right.

The darkness and the silence of the cell block told him it was still late; their door shouldn’t be opened until morning. No one can unlock the doors save for the prison guards but that does little to calm him. In here the guards couldn’t be trusted any more than the other prisoners. For every guard that was in Jungkook’s pocket there was just as many in Taeyang’s. He has no idea what is about to come through that door. Every warning Jungkook’s ever given him flashes through his mind and the panic sears through his veins.

 There’s no time to act before the door opens, yellow light pouring into the dark cell, cut by the dark shadow of a figure looming in the doorway. Taehyung’s heart is in his mouth as he stumbles out of the bed, legs almost getting tangled in the blankets. His movements finally wake Wonho who sits up, rubbing his eyes groggily, glaring blearily at the doorway.

By now his eyes have adjusted well enough so he can tell it’s a guard standing in the doorway, it’s still too dark to make out which guard, his face shrouded in shadows.

“Prisoner 742310,” The guard barks, his voice too loud in the silence. That was Wonho’s number, not his and Taehyung wonders what the guard wants with Wonho.

“What the fuck do you want?” Wonho growls, his body tense from where he sits up in the small bunk as if he too senses something is off.

“There’s an emergency phone call for you, come with me,” the guard orders, the tone of his voice leaving very little room for argument. Taehyung can see the look of fear that darts across Wonho’s face, his own heart hammering harder in his chest. His stomach twists in knots and he feels sick. What if something happened to Wonho’s family?

“What happened?” Wonho asks staggering to his feet. “Who is it?”

“Come with me,” the guard repeats leaving Wonho no choice but to stumble after him, half awake and confused. He pauses in the doorway, looking back at Taehyung, indecision in his eyes.

Taehyung could tell he was torn about leaving him alone in the cell.

“Taehyung,” he says but the guard is having none of it.

“Prisoner 74310 is the only inmate permitted to leave his cell,” he snaps, “Prisoner 271097 must remain in his cell.”

Taehyung’s heart is still racing and everything about this feels wrong he doesn’t know what he can do besides give Wonho his most reassuring smile. He wasn’t going to be selfish this time.

“It’s okay,” he says, sounding more confident than he felt, “just go see what’s happening then get back here.”

Wonho hesitates for a moment but nods, worrying his lower lip between his teeth. He gives Taehyung one last apologetic look before he follows the guard leaving Taehyung alone in the cell.

He stands there in the darkness unsure of what to do now.

It takes him a minute to realize the guard hadn’t been shut the cell door properly behind himself and it now stood ajar, a sliver of bright light bleeding into the darkened cell, unnatural and strange. The door shouldn’t be open, this is all wrong, it had been wrong from the start but now dread was creeping down Taehyung spine.

In prison you learned one thing quickly, doors were locked to keep inmates in the cells, but more importantly they were locked to keep everyone else out.

Taehyung didn’t know what to do. He couldn’t lock the door himself from the inside and leaving the cell didn’t seem like too bright an idea either. He stood frozen, trying to make sense of what was happening, weighing his bleak options.

Perhaps the guard had simply forgotten to close the door properly? It was late after all, Taehyung reasoned, or maybe the phone call would only take a few moments and he hadn’t seen the point in fully locking the door only to have to unlock it again a few minutes later?

Even as he thinks these things in an attempt to rationalise the situation, he knows they’re false. The door would not have been left open unless the guard had done it on purpose and this thought sends frantic bursts of fear exploding through his body.

He takes deep breaths to calm his breathing, his head already light. All he knows is whatever is happening he needs to remain calm. Freaking out wouldn’t help anything.

Taehyung knows the most logical choice would be to go to Jungkook, that waiting here alone made him a sitting duck. It would mean trouble if he was caught wandering outside his cell after lights out of course especially if Mr. Lee had anything to do with it but he’d rather be disciplined than dead any day.

Every instinct is screaming at him to just get out of there, his nerves are on fire and Taehyung’s discovered through painful experience he should probably listen to his gut.

It’s a good plan, a sound, rational, reasonable idea but he never so much as makes it out the door.

He’s about a foot away when the door opens wider, momentarily blinding him as more light floods the cell. He steps back instinctively, his heart doing its best to beat its way out of his chest as a large figure forces their way into the small cell, followed, to Taehyung’s utter dismay, by another. The two of them crowd into the room, taking up the majority of the space forcing Taehyung back into a corner, the stink and ugly laugher clouding his senses. One of them shuts the door, plunging the room into darkness and Taehyung’s heart drops.

“Hello Taehyungie,” the voice is cruel and mocking and he knows he’s screwed.

This is bad, this is so fucking bad.

There’s no point calling for help, no one will hear him and even if they did it was highly unlikely they’d risk helping him and the guards couldn’t be trusted. He is utterly on his own in a way he hasn’t been in a long time. The intruders surround him, still laughing menacingly, enjoying the look of panic on his face. He schools his features into a scowl, glowering at them, refusing to give his soon to be attackers the satisfaction of seeing him scared.

Taehyung reaches for his pocket to grab Jungkook’s knife, ready to fight for his life, only to feel nothing but empty space which sends a nasty jolt of surprise and fear shooting through him. For a second his mind can’t comprehend where the weapon went then it clicks and he curses himself for letting his guard down. He should have never left the knife out of his reach, it had been a moment of thoughtlessness and now it might just cost him his life.

He makes a sudden dive for the bed, flailing for the pillow where his precious knife was hidden but the first man, who until now had stood still leaped into action.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he laughs as he grabs the back of Taehyung’s collar, the fabric digging painfully into his neck as, with terrifying strength, the man hurls him to the floor. He lands roughly, jarring his elbow and rolls to get as far away from them as the confined space would allow before a foot stomps the air where he had been moments before.

His mind is racing and all his brain can do is scream panic over and over again, alarms bells ringing uselessly, too late to warn him of danger but still loud enough to drown out any rational thought. At this point he’s listening to his instinct more than any semblance of rational thought.

He’s alone, he’s unarmed and the men in his cell are laughing at him. They’re both sickeningly at ease, barely even trying to follow his movements. They know they have him trapped and now it’s time for their cruel games. He can’t see any weapons but he’s sure they have them, and even if they don’t they look like the type of men who can inflict plenty of damage without them.

“Aww what’s the matter?” one of the men taunts, his dark greasy hair pulled back into a ponytail. “Are you afraid because Jeon isn’t here to protect you?”

Taehyung says nothing just grits his teeth, clenching and unclenching his fists, eyes darting around the cell for any hope of escape only to find none. He has no choice but to fight.

“There’s no need to be scared, this will only hurt for a little bit,” another man sneers and it finally sinks in that they’re here to kill him. “Taeyang gave us very specific instructions for what we’re supposed to do to you.” 

Fuck.

“I don’t need him,” Taehyung snarls letting his fear fester and turn to rage making his words sound harsh instead of frightened. “I can tear you apart all by myself.”

Now that his initial fear has given way to anger, his whole body tingles with it, all that energy that lay dormant in him for the past weeks is fizzing beneath his skin and he feels so alive with it. He feels like he’s capable of anything.

His words catch the men off guard and for the first time their smirks slip, their brows knitting together. They’re no longer laughing.

They won’t be laughing when they’re choking up blood either, his mind whispers and the thought of all that blood making him shiver but this time it’s anticipation that tingles up his spine.

“So, which one of wants to try first?” he asks, making his voice as harsh and cruel as he can. Show no fear, bear your teeth so they don’t notice the tremble of you lip.

 If he’s going to die in this fucking cell he’s going to make sure he takes as many down with him as possible but his goal is to survive. He just needs to stay alive long enough for help to come. Wonho would be back, he tells himself not willing to consider the possibility the guard hurt Wonho or otherwise insured he would not be back. He couldn't afford to let himself think such things, he needed to focus on the danger right in front of him.

“Fuck you,” one of the men who, now that his eyes have adjusted to the darkness, he can see has a jagged scar down the right side of his face, cutting straight through one of his eyes. He lunges for Taehyung with surprising speed but Taehyung is faster, dodging out of the way and delivering a blow to the back of the man’s head that sends him stumbling. But of course, the other man doesn’t wait in an orderly line like they do in movies, instead moving in to grab him the second he avoids the first’s attack.

He avoids the man’s grasp only to receive savage punch to his face from the other man when he turns. He lets out a groan as he feels his nose crunch under the impact, the taste of blood filling his mouth as he stumbles back, gagging. The punch is followed with a kick to his gut, then when he doubles over another kick to the side of his head which causes a ringing in his ears. He slightly disoriented but he still has enough of his wits about him to lash out at whichever of the men was closest to him. His fist catches the man in his jaw with a satisfying impact sending the man staggering back. Taehyung straightens, wincing at the ache in his stomach, just in time to see the man with the ponytail charging him.

 The man doesn’t give him a second to recover, delivering another equally hard punch to his chin making his head spin, before tackling him onto the bed. The sensation of falling backward is followed by a painful whoosh as the breath rushes out of his lungs as the man’s full and substantial weight lands right on top of him, crushing him.

He man’s ugly face, fury twisting his features, is inches from his. The stink of his hot breath washes over his cheek and he’s suddenly grateful for the blood clogging his nostrils. However, that also has the down side of hindering his ability to breathe through his nose forcing Taehyung to drag in as much air as his constricted ribs will allow. Gathering saliva in his mouth he spits in the man’s face, a mixture of blood and spit dripping down his cheek. This only makes the man madder as he reigns down punch after punch, Taehyung’s head snapping side to side, pain bursting in his face with every blow that landed. He can’t think of anything besides how much it hurts and how much he needs to get this brute off him before he suffocates beneath him.

“We’re going to kill you,” the man with the ponytail growls right next to Taehyung’s ear, “But first he told us to do this.”

Before Taehyung has time to process the ominous words the other man, the one with the scar is by his side, grabbing his arm and holding it in place, his strong fingers digging into the flesh of his arm hard enough to break the skin. He tries to yank his arm away but it’s no use, the man’s grip is unrelenting.

“What are you—” he begins, raising his voice but before he can continue the man above him covers his mouth with his large sweaty hand cutting off all sound, half smothering him in the process.

His mind races into overdrive, panic washing through his brain, crackling down his body like lightning.

He can only watch helplessly with wide eyes, his fear mounting and turning to cold dread as the scarred man takes his hand in his and with a grunt, breaks his forefinger with a sickening snap.

The pain takes a second to hit but when it does his mind goes white, the agony shooting up his arm making him scream and thrash under the dark-haired man. His minds flashes back to when his arm was broken but at least back then he’d had the good sense to pass out before the pain really hit, now he’s so awake and the pain in unavoidable. It’s so bad involuntary tears spring to his eyes and gather unshed in the corners. The man’s hand is pressing down on his face with brute force, holding him down on the hard mattress. The pain is so great it causes him to buck and flail uncontrollably, his body moving and jerking of its own accord, almost throwing him off but the man holds tight.

The other man, the one still gripping his wrist in an ironclad grasp so he can’t pull away, takes his middle finger next and bent it back until the bone snaps and more blinding pain tears up his arm and he chokes on his own spit, tasting blood and the dirt of the man’s hand. This time when he thrashes he manages to wrench his other arm free which, until now had been pinned under the man’s weight. Without thinking he reaches back, slipping his hand under the pillow, groping blindly for the knife, fighting through the hazy of pain that has settled over his mind. The pain in his broken fingers dominates his mind. He can’t see the damage and it feels like they’re bent at ninety-degree angles, broken shards of bone sticking out like ghastly teeth or so he imagines based on the horrific pain he’s in. His mind doing its best to conjuring up all manner of grotesque wounds all probably more awful than what he’s actually endured but the amount of pain makes it feel as though it must be the worst. His handshakes and twitches, every movement, no matter how small, sends new waves of pain coursing through him.

Doing his best to force the pain to one side he tries to focus on reaching blindly under the pillow. The man on top of him now has his big hands around his throat, large enough to wrap around Taehyung’s neck easily. He isn’t squeezing too tight yet, just enough to stifle the flow of oxygen and make Taehyung light headed. He knows this won’t last long, as soon as the other man is finished fucking up his hand, the man on top of him is going to strangle him. He can’t hear anything over his own gasping, choking breath and the blood pounding in his ears. Panic, the kind of cold panic that goes straight through the heart to sit in his gut, the kind of desperate panic that comes with knowing he’s in mortal danger, well and truly sets in and he begins to thrash even more wildly than before, all his remaining strength being poured into doing whatever he can to get the man off him before he kills him.

His franticly scrabbling fingers brush hard plastic and his heart leaps in his chest. The hands around his throat are squeezing tighter and his tongue feels like it’s being forced out of his mouth and he can feel his windpipe slowly being crushed. The other man has moved onto his third finger, he can feel him wrap his own fingers around it ready to pull back and snap it like a twig but Taehyung never gives him the chance.

He grips the knife handle, pressing the small button on the side to release the folded blade. Taehyung swings blindly for the man on top of him with all the force he can muster. The blade slices his face, cutting a long red line down his cheek and he roars in pain, jerking his head back, the pressure around his neck letting up and the man goes to cradle his bleeding face and finally Taehyung can breathe again. His aching lungs draw in breath greedily, every breath tingled with the bitter hint of blood. He doesn’t have time to stop and breathe. He swings again, cutting at the backs of the man’s hands and then going to stab his face again when he moves his hands away in pain, droplets of blood staining the sheets below them. This time the blade sinks into his cheeks, leaving a gaping wound casing the man to bawl, falling over himself in his hurry to get away.

The other man is still holding his arm, his expression one of shock. Taehyung turns as quick as he can, not giving him a chance to let go or move out of range. He slashes wildly, the knife catching the man’s exposed forearm and digging in. Taehyung draws it down towards him, blood gushing and he doesn’t stop. He continues to slice and hack at everything in reach even though he can hardly see a thing. The men yell in pain, scrambling to get clear of his knife and for the first time since they stepped into his cell, Taehyung feels powerful.

“He’s got a fucking knife,” one of the men yells as if they needed anymore reminding aside from the bleeding knife wounds. He swears as he tries to steam the blood streaming from his arm. The other man is still holding his face, more blood leaking between his fingers. In the brief snatches of light Taehyung can see just how red it is, how beautifully red.

“Then get it off him!” the other man yells, gesturing wildly as Taehyung pulls himself up so he’s crouching on the bottom bunk, knife held out in front of him. “Take it from him and cut out his fucking tongue then slit his fucking throat.”

“I’d like to see you try,” Taehyung spits. His throat hurts and his voice is rougher than usual.

He’s not afraid anymore, something about the pain has chased away any fear and replacing it with the primal instinct to survive, the animalistic urge to tear any and all threats around him to pieces. Adrenaline races through his veins and he feels wired, electric and so damn alive. 

He looks at the man with the scar running through his eye, who is now holding his bloody arm and glaring at him with his remaining good eye.

“Come any closer and your face will be symmetrical again, you fuck,” Taehyung taunts, giddy excitement bubbling up in his gut like a flurry of ugly butterflies. Laughter forces his way up his throat. He doesn’t know what’s so funny, but his fingers hurt so badly he can barely feel them anymore, he feels like he’s seconds away from passing out in a room that smells of blood, surrounded by men who want him dead and all he can do it laugh.

It’s a manic, ugly laughter and he can’t control it as it spills past his lips. It starts as a giggle but once he’s laughing it grows louder and more raucous until he’s almost bent double his whole frame shaking, the eerie sound bouncing off the walls. He can’t stop, he no longer has any control. The sound becoming more breathless and choked but he continues, the feelings inside him a hideous mix of mirth, excitement, sickness and dread.

He’s probably going to die a painful death and that’s fucking hilarious.

“You fucking freak,” the man with the ponytail spits, looking appalled as he watches Taehyung laugh, one hand still covering the slashes on his face. “You’re a fucking mental case, you know that? Jeon’ll probably be grateful we’re putting you down like the manic dog you are, fucking mutt.”

This only makes Taehyung laugh even harder. It feels like his blood vessels are going to pop and he hopes they do. Wouldn’t that be something to see?

“What’s so fucking funny?” the man with the scar growls and Taehyung can hear the uncertain tone in his voice. The man is scared, scared of him.

He raises his head, laughter subsiding enough for him to speak, still breathless, almost delirious with pain and adulation.

“I’m going to make you bleed,” he says, a smile stretching across his face. His mind is awash with images of blood, old memories stained red and the euphoric feeling that came with it. That rush of pleasure when red mist landed on his face or blood splattered the walls, the beauty of it all.

A fucking masterpiece, a work of art, and Taehyung, the painter.

“He’s insane,” one man says, this time in a hushed voice, slightly horrified. He wonders if they regret ever stepping foot in his cell. He hopes they do. Even if they don’t he’s soon going to make them.

The other man swears, spitting angry frightened curses. “I heard the rumours but I didn’t think they were fucking true.”

“Just get the knife off him and kill him already,” his friend orders all bravado and angry words but no amount of glaring would hide the fear in his eyes.

If there’s one thing Taehyung knows enough to be the authority on, it’s fear.

While there was a new-found hesitation in their actions, there was also a fresh wave of viciousness, no doubt born from fear. They attacked as one, charging at him together with the wild savagery of wounded, dying animals. He tries to cut them again, aiming for vital spots; their twisted faces, their necks, hoping to sever something important. But the men now know he's armed and focus their efforts on trying to rest the knife from his grasp. He manages to get a few good stabs in, drawing more blood and pained cries as the knife swipes at arms and chests. He even manages to catch the pony tailed man across the face again before one of the men takes a firm hold of his wrist and twisting it so the bones of his joint grind together and with a gasp of pain his grip loosens and the knife clatters to the ground. The man with the pony tail not holding his wrist tight dives for it, forcing Taehyung to kick it away from them, sending it skittering across the room, out of sight. He kicks again this time his foot makes contact with the man with the ponytail before wriggling in the other man’s grasp, desperate to free himself and retrieve the knife before either of the thugs got their filthy hands on it.

There is something unspeakably tragic about the thought of being stabbed to death with Jungkook’s knife. Maybe it’s that Taehyung knows Jungkook would blame himself.

The man’s hold doesn’t slip so Taehyung does the only thing he can think to do. At this point his frantic mind is running on instincts, reacting without much logical thought. He bites down hard, as hard as he can, sinking his teeth into the flesh, the taste of blood once again overpowering in his mouth and he smiles against the man’s skin. He locks his jaw as best he can, listening to the man scream in pain. Now he’s the one trying to escape but Taehyung won’t let him. Something dark in his mind tells him to just hold on, to never let him go until he tears the man’s flesh off in bloody strips. The man hits at his head, trying to dislodge him but Taehyung barely feels it. His skin tastes awful, all dirty and sweat that not even the taste of blood can cover. The other man is back up and he’s grabbing Taehyung’s head with both his large hands, squeezing his head like a fucking vice dragging him back by the hair. The pull is painful and unrelenting so he opens his mouth suddenly, letting himself fall backwards to land heavily on the man, who grunts in pain beneath him.

As soon as the world stops spinning Taehyung is moving, rolling off the man, putting distance between them as quickly as possible. The only thing on his mind is finding that damned knife. It’s now no longer just about having a weapon to himself, it’s about keeping said weapon out of the hands of his attackers.

Standing up again requires too much time and energy so he scrambles on his hands and knees, crawling as fast as he can in the direction he kicked the knife. He reaches out blindly, hands feeling the hard floor in front of him but finding nothing.

He doesn’t have much time, seconds if that, before the men are on him again but the rush of energy does nothing but intensify his panicking making the search for his knife all but impossible.

His eyes catch sight of something glinting in the dark corner, just about catching the faint sliver of light that shone through the doorway. He reaches for it but just as his scrabbling fingers almost make contact a weight lands on his back and he swears he feels his spine crack.

The breath is once again squeezed out of his lungs leaving him gasping soundlessly as his ribs creak. A hand is in his hair, wrenching his head back. He doesn’t know which of the men it is but it doesn’t matter as his head is forced, face first, into the unforgiving concrete, hard enough to rattle his brain.

Pain reverberates around his skull and leaving him stunned. The hand pulls his head back up only to bash it right back down again. This happens over and over again until the ground under his face is splatter with blood. He knows this won’t end until his skull is smashed open like an egg someone carelessly dropped, his brains staining the cell floor. His nose feels broken and misshapen as it gushes blood, he can feel nasty bumps forming on his temple and his teeth have cut straight through his lips which coats his chin in blood.

If the man keeps going like this there won’t be much of his face left by the time he’s done. Just dental records and fingerprints tying his corpse to who he used to be, that is, if the men don’t take those too.

Each time his head is hit against the floor, he feels it less and less. It’s the strangest drifting sensation, as if everything around him is slowly being dissolved into darkness and the only thing that is real is the bitter taste on his tongue and the endless ringing in his ears, cutting through the growing haze.

He thinks of Jungkook, his brain dredging up an image of him from somewhere under the pain and static. He thinks of Jungkook’s face when they find him and the fact he never got to say goodbye or truly be honest with him and the feeling in his chest hurts more than his fractured skull.

Like too many things in his life, the shining revelation comes too late to be of any use to him.

He tries to struggle, but the man’s weight on top of him is too great and he just grinds his face into the cement. Taehyung’s so out of it, on the verge of slipping into unconsciousness when a shout sounds across the room, a startling new sound over the humming in his ears. He can’t think of who yelled, for all his muddled mind could decipher it could have very well be him.

Even when the man is pulled off him it takes him a few moments to register that his weight is even gone. He’s left lying on the floor, his aching face pressed against the concrete blood pouring from his nose and mouth, pooling by his cheek. It feels as though his teeth has torn the inside of his cheeks, cutting up the inside of his mouth. One of his teeth is definitely chipped and when he spits he sees a small splinter of white skittering to the floor. He knows he can’t stay lying here for long. He has no idea why the man suddenly got off him but he knows the longer he lays there the more his chances of being killed grew. He need to get up, get moving and find his knife.

Taehyung turns to see something that makes his heart leapt in his chest. Another man is in the cell and at first part of him feared it was another attacker but this newcomer appears to be brawling with the two intruders and when he stumbles back into the streak of light Taehyung sees a flash of blue hair and he knows it’s Wonho.

The moment of euphoric delight to see his friend is quickly eclipsed when a well-aimed strike sends Wonho stumbling backwards holding his jaw, grimacing in agony. Taehyung’s mind snaps back to reality, everything sharpening into clearer focus. He isn’t safe yet; the danger is still very much alive and still rearing to tear him apart. 

As much as he wants to he doesn’t have time to question Wonho’s sudden miraculous return. There will be time for that later but for now the small cell is filled with chaos as the two men set on Wonho, who is managing to hold his own. The fight stands between Taehyung and the cell door and he knows somehow they need to distract the men or incapacitate them long enough for them to slip out and get away.

His mind is still fixated on the knife, it’s the only thing he can think of. Reluctantly he turns his back on the fight, leaving Wonho to hold the men’s attention for a few minutes longer. He darts to the place he last saw the blade glinting, moving as quickly as he can in his battered, groggy state allows and sure enough there it is, the blade still open, blood staining the edges.

His broken finger throb with pain, both bent oddly and angrily swollen to about twice their regular size and even the tiniest movements cause him immense pain but Taehyung forces himself to ignore it as he reaches for the weapon. Once he has his knife in hand he wastes no time, turning back to the action, the sounds of the fighting echoing off the walls. It’s difficult to tell who’s who in the darkness and he hesitates, knife frozen in hand. He can’t move until he’s sure, indecision holding him in place. He only has one shot, once the men realise he’s armed again they’ll turn all their attention to him.

He concentrates on the fight, eyes darting as quickly as he can manage to try and catch a glimpse of a face, or of a telling tale wound. Sweat trickles down his face, mixing with blood. He can’t make a mistake, but time is running out. There’s no way he can stand here forever, if he waits much longer they’re sure to notice him. One of the figures moves to avoid a punch thrown his way and in doing so steps, for the briefest moment, into the light. It’s one of the men, the one with the scar across his eye. With no more hesitation he rushes forward stabbing the blade into the man’s shoulder as hard as he can. The knife sinks into flesh, close to where the junction where shoulder meets neck, avoiding the hard shoulder blade.

Taehyung has never actually stabbed someone before and it’s a lot tougher than Jungkook made it look, muscle and sinew do not give way easily and he feels hard bone clash with the blade. The man howls and jerks away so quickly that the knife remains firmly lodged in his back, slipping from Taehyung’s fingers. It stands in the man’s shoulder like a hideous growth. Wonho laughs, blood oozing down his chin, his strong arms wrapped around the other man’s neck, holding him in a headlock. Up close Taehyung can make out bruises and blood on his face but he doesn’t stop to ask whether it’s from just now or from earlier, it’s not like it really made much difference anyway. Bruises are bruises.

“We have to go,” he says, his words hurried and slurring and Wonho nods, releasing the man, letting him fall to the ground.

“Come on then,” he grabs Taehyung’s shoulder hauling him towards the door, his heart pounding at the thought of freedom.

They almost make it but Taehyung feels someone grabbing his arm, pulling him back into the cell away from Wonho. The other man is still screaming, trying to yank the blade from his back while the man holding Taehyung looks murderous, his anger slipping into madness, his face still purple from being choked by Wonho.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” he spits and attempts to yank Taehyung off his feet, unbalancing him and dragging him further back into the oppressive darkness of the cell. He stumbles, thrown off by the unexpectedness of the attack but thankfully regains his wits quick enough to draw his head back before throwing to forward to headbutt the man right in the face. The man’s nose crunches against his skull. The grip on his arm is gone and the man is stumbling back, his nose a bloody mess.

 He’s free but unfortunately, the delay has given the other man time to finally remove the knife from his shoulder and now he holds the knife in front of him, the blade covered in his own blood, the knuckles of his fist turning white. An optimistic and perhaps slightly deranged part of Taehyung hopes that having pulled the knife out the man bleeds out but he knows that will take too much time, the man is only injured. Injured, raging and now, armed. Taehyung curses every deity to ever exist and curses himself for letting go of that knife before the man was really dead.

The man approaches him, nostrils flared, one good, wild eye bugging out of his head and Taehyung knows he’s in trouble. The man is between him and the door and he can’t see any way around him as he blocks out the light with his huge frame. His body is trembling and his mind is still moving sluggishly from the pounding his head took and he doesn’t know if he can fight anymore. The man lunges for him raising the knife above his head ready to stab him and Taehyung closes his eyes.

But the fatal blow never lands.

He opens his eyes just in time to see Wonho throw himself onto the man, putting himself between him and Taehyung, and sending them both sprawling to the floor in a tangle of kicking limbs. They struggle, wrestling back and forth by a moment as Taehyung looks on in horror. The way to the door is now free but there is no way in hell he’s leaving here without Wonho. All Taehyung hears is shouts and curses and a quick cry before the man falls and Wonho is up and grabbing his uninjured hand, smearing blood on his wrist as he pulls him out the door into the blinding light.

As they run, the sound of their footsteps bouncing off the walls, Taehyung’s brain kickstarts into action again and his feet that had been running on autopilot, trailing mindlessly behind Wonho, start sprinting and he catches up to run by Wonho’s side.

Taehyung’s vision narrows to the corridor in front of them, the world becoming a tunnel and all he cares about is getting to the other end, following the light and putting as much distance between them and the cell. He’s all too aware that the men could give chase at any minute, or worse, some new, uninjured attackers could come looking to finish the job.

He’s so focused on running he doesn’t notice at first when Wonho falls behind. One minute he’s there by his side, his panting matching Taehyung’s own as they run side by side the next thing he knows, he’s alone, Wonho now somewhere behind him. He screeches to a halt, turning on his heels, almost tripping in his haste.

The first thing he sees is Wonho on the ground and he wonders if he managed to trip like they were in some shitty B rated horror movie trying to escape the lumbering monster.

“Shit, Wonho come on, get up!” all his frazzled mind can think of his how those men could turn the corner any second and it would be over for them. He doesn’t even have the knife anymore and his hands feel empty without it. They’re wounded and unarmed and they need to get moving. Wonho lets out soft groan and Taehyung notices for the first time how heavy and ragged his breathing is, as if he’d just run an entire marathon. Sure, they’d been running and panicked but he shouldn’t be this tired and it dawns on Taehyung that something is wrong.

“Are you okay?” he asks, reigning in his scattered thoughts as he crouches down next to Wonho, hand on his back, peering close. Wonho doesn’t reply, he just lets out another moan, cut off by a gurgling cough, his shoulders convulsing. He forces himself up onto his hands and knees, but he’s moving slowly and it obviously requires a lot of effort, way more effort than such a simple action should have. One arm is wrapped around his middle like he’s in pain. Taehyung figures it’s his ribs, he knows well how bruised or fractured ribs hurt like a motherfucker.

“Wonho? What’s wrong?” he asks as Wonho continues to cough, the sound rattling out of his mouth wetly, not even seeming to have heard him. He sits back on his heels and Taehyung’s eyes widen, his breath stops dead in his chest.

He’d thought it was Wonho’s ribs hurting him but then he sees the blood.