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"Got a potential job opportunity for you."

Taehyung looks up from his computer and over at Hoseok as he walks into his apartment, helping himself to an apple. "The door was locked."

Hoseok wags his eyebrows, dropping down to sprawl across the couch, though he gives no explanation. "Job opportunity, Taehyung. Are you listening?"

He sighs, setting his tablet down and turning in his chair. "What is it?"

"Babysitting."

Taehyung's eyebrow twitches up, looking at Hoseok over the top of his glasses. "Elaborate."

"Babysitting my boss' kid."

"Pass," is his immediate response, picking his pen and tablet back up. 

Hoseok sighs, and Taehyung can see him sitting up from the corner of his eye. "I knew you'd say that."

"Then you shouldn't have asked, should you?" He shoots back with a syrupy sweet voice, going back to shading. 

"You need the money."

"I also need my brother to find a new best friend."

Hoseok tosses the half eaten apple at him. "Taehyung-ah."

The younger sighs, scratching his forehead with the end of his pen. "Thank you for thinking of me, hyung. But I don't want to get caught up in your little world of crime and rebellion."

"How many times have you heard that babysitting ends badly, huh? Nothing bad ever happens when a kid is involved," Hoseok protests as Taehyung picks the apple out of his lap, dropping it in the trash. 

"I'm sure there's a whole category dedicated to babysitting horror movies. Hyung, there's a horror movie just called The Babysitter. Try harder," Taehyung rejects, eyeing his screen as he takes a sip of his coffee.

Hoseok sighs, coming to lean against the side of his desk. "Like me or Yoongi would let anything bad happen to you."

Taehyung scoffs, "Oh, that makes me feel so much better, thank you."

"Yah. I'm serious," Hoseok mutters with a scowl, swatting at Taehyung's chest. "You think I'd ask you if I thought there was any chance it was dangerous? You think I'd ask you if Yoongi hadn't approved of the idea?"

Taehyung can tell he's not going to get anymore work down while Hoseok is hanging around. With a frustrated sigh, he twists back in his desk chair to face his brother's best friend. "Why isn't he proposing the idea to me, then?"

"Busy."

He hums, "Vague. Busy doing what?"

Hoseok meets his eyes, both of them staring each other out before the elder's shoulders sag. "Alright, so Yoongi doesn't know yet, but when I... briefly mentioned the idea, he didn't completely dismiss it."

Taehyung gives him a vacant look.

"Taehyung."

And no, Taehyung won't tolerate whining. "Get out," he dismisses, attempting to swivel back around in his chair, but Hoseok doesn't let him, planting his hands on either shoulder.

"Please, kid. This isn't just a potential job opportunity, but a favour to me, too."

"I knew it. Why?"

Hoseok purses his lips. Taehyung raises an eyebrow, waiting. "I told my boss you'd already agreed. You're actually meeting him tonight."

Taehyung laughs before his face drops and he shoves Hoseok back so he can go back to work. "No, I'm not."

"Look, it's just over the weekend. You can take your work with you, the kid is as good as gold. I'll make sure you get paid handsomely. Ah, just like you, huh? Handsome?"

His brother has made a terrible choice with this friendship.

"Come on, Taehyung. Two days and you walk away without having to feel guilty about Yoongi paying your rent," Hoseok tries, knowing exactly what he's doing.

Taehyung shoots him a sharp look. "That was a low blow, asshole."

Hoseok doesn't even pretend to look apologetic, just stands there and picks at his nails. 

Fucker.

"Alright, fine. But if Yoongi gets mad, that's all on you. I come out the hero. Little brother taking up a job to pay his own rent and to help out big brother's best friend. Deal?"

Hoseok beams. "Deal."

"Now leave me alone."

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Later that night, Hoseok comes and picks him up for a meeting, which sounds so ominous that it makes Taehyung's skin crawl. There's still a chance that the big boss man might decide he doesn't like him, and Taehyung knows he wouldn't feel too bad. He's stayed clear of his brother's line of work for the last three years. Though it's not like Yoongi's ever been too keen on him being a part of it, either. He's never best pleased when Hoseok brings up anything involving work. Taehyung doesn't want to know. He saw his brother come over with blood on his clothes one night and no scratches and he vowed never to ask about it. 

See no evil, hear no evil.

"My brother is gonna kick your ass," Taehyung sighs as they drive through Seoul, scrolling through his texts. 

"He'll get over it," Hoseok waves off with a shake of his head, and the younger turns to look at him with a raise of eyebrows.

"Do you even know Yoongi? Like, at all? I accidentally rolled onto a pair of his sunglasses one time and he's never let me live it down. That was fifteen years ago."

Hoseok inhales deeply and drums his thumb against the steering wheel. "It'll be fine. Maybe we don't even have to tell him."

"Yeah. Because that always works. Let's definitely do that." Taehyung shakes his head, going back to his phone and replying back to Momo with the Google Drive presentation from class today. He eventually heaves a deep breath and tucks his phone away, looking out of the window. "Are we in Gangnam?"

Hoseok hums. "Predictable?"

"Pretty much." He pauses. "You know there's a chance I could get turned away, right? I have no experience in caring for a kid that isn't one of my siblings. Wouldn't it be better to hire someone who, I don't know, actually knows what they're doing?"

Hoseok pulls a face. "Tried that in the pass. Never went well. It's too risky."

Taehyung doesn't even want to know what the means. "Aren't I risky? He doesn't know me."

"No, but he knows you're Yoongi's brother. I know you. I trust you. That's the important thing."

It makes sense. But still, this guy only knows of him, doesn't actually know him as a person. 

The drive is a little ways out, away from the district area, going up through a couple of back roads and up an incline and it makes Taehyung feel a little uneasy at the fact that the cities lights get further and further away the longer they drive.

Hoseok must pick up on his unease. "Getting spooked?" And the smirk on his face has Taehyung swatting at his ribs. "Driving here. A gentle reminder."

"Don't pick fun. Why is the place so far out?"

The elder sighs, settling a look on his face that says that the answer should be obvious. "Don't be dense, Taehyung. I know you know just how high ranked Jeongguk is."

"Jeongguk?"

"The boss."

Taehyung nods. "Well, I don't, actually. Me and Yoongi don't talk about it, you know that. The less I know, the better I sleep at night."

Hoseok chuckles, taking one last turn and Taehyung sees the faint shine of a house in the distance. "Never been curious?"

"It's bad enough knowing that you guys aren't being good citizens and abiding the law. That's enough for me."

It seems to trigger something in Hoseok, his face settling into something more serious. "I know I probably don't have to say it, but - but you know whatever you hear or see, you can't mention it to anyone. Right?"

Taehyung rolls his eyes, scratching under his chin. "I'm not that ignorant, hyung, please. The less I know, the better," he repeats to get his point across.

"Good. Keep it that way."

He shoots a look over at Hoseok at the portentous tone, reaching over and nudging him until his face splits into a grin. 

They slow at the approaching gates, and Taehyung watches with attentive anticipation as Hoseok leans out of the window and thumbs at a button.

"It's me," he says before anyone even says anything on the other side. There's a muted buzz and the gates creak with the sound of a locking mechanism being unlatched before they're parting and exposing a long driveway, leading up to a house that's all glass and dim neon lighting around the borders. 

It's a pretty sight, soft glows of blue lighting up the immaculately trimmed bushes lining the driveway, and greens and purples hitting the sides of the house, bouncing off the white plaster and grey stone. It's definitely an ultra modern house, parts elevated up higher, formed in blocks, all sharp edges. Cars litter around the garage, all sleek and expensive looking. It makes something unpleasant settle in Taehyung's stomach, realising that he really is stepping into the lions den. He feels a nervous itch at his skin, having been preventing moments like this for the last few years, but now he's being pulled right into the middle of it. Even if nothing comes from tonight, he's getting another insight of his brother's line of work. And he'd rather not. He'd really rather not. 

"Hey," Hoseok speaks up, pulling him out of his daze. There's a line between his eyebrows, hesitance behind his eyes. "Listen, Tae. I know I said you'd be doing me a favour, but I don't want you to be uncomfortable. I can take you home if you want, no harm."

Taehyung seriously considers it, thinks about how he could agree and after this make even more of an effort to block out this side of Yoongi. But he really could use the money and he hates - hates with a capital H - relying on his brother for income. Not that he's not grateful, but he's a grown man. He should be able to fend for himself, be able to pay his own rent like every other kid his age attending uni. Taehyung knows Yoongi has more money than he knows what to do with, and he already feels guilty enough that he let him get him an apartment in the nicer part of town, closer to campus. Yoongi knows better than anyone that he doesn't like being indebted to anyone, doesn't like feeling like he owes anyone anything - his brother is the same. But it always seems to be a double standard when it comes to him.

"No, no. It's fine," Taehyung decides with a nod, shooting a smile over to Hoseok, giving his knee a pat before he climbs out of the car. He takes a deep breath, the air seemingly cleaner and thicker up here, away from the city and closer to the hills. Less pollution, he supposes. His eyes scan the cars parked up around Hoseok's and he clicks his tongue at the familiar license plate. "Ruh roh," he mocks, twisting to look at the older. When Hoseok gives him a look of confusion, Taehyung points over his shoulder with a thumb and a phony look of sympathy.

Hoseok groans upon spotting Yoongi's car, head dropping back as he rests his arm up on the roof of his car, seemingly debating with himself. All the while Taehyung rocks on his heels, eyes filled with mirth. Buckets of mirth. "Shit."

"Maybe you wanna go home now."

The elder fixes him with a narrowed look, mocking a silent laugh before shaking his head. "No, c'mon. It's fine. It'll be fine. He loves me enough that he won't kill me."

Taehyung hums, patting Hoseok's arm as he passes him around the hood of the car, climbing the steps to stand in front of large, grey double doors. "After you," he insists and doesn't miss the eye roll he gets as Hoseok lets himself in.

Needless to say, the house on the outside has nothing on the inside. High ceilings and tall walls, covered in modern art and photographs of skylines. The floors are marble, the odd block coloured rug spread out here and there. And that's just the foyer alone. Two sets of black marble stairs start in the middle of the room, glass banisters, curving up to meet at the top in the shape of sideways eye. Couches and arm chairs hug the curves of the wall in the middle, styled like a waiting room, showing a fireplace right down the middle at the end. His knees give a phantom throb at all the marble and hard surfaces, already picturing himself with colourful bruises on his shins.

He gives a low whistle, gaze dropping from the obnoxiously shaped chandelier hanging above them and onto Hoseok. "Feels like I've just stepped into a catalogue," he whispers, almost cautious of raising his voice too loud in fear of it bouncing off the walls.

Hoseok snorts and nods for him to follow, leading him right down the middle of the "eye" and towards what looks to be the living room, white leather couches parallel to each other and a single glass coffee table in the middle. 

Taehyung spots Yoongi sat on one of the couches, in the middle of some story when his attention turns to Hoseok approaching. The smile that pulls at his lips is sweet - for about three seconds - before his eyes land on Taehyung standing a bit further back, arms still tucked behind his back. "Hi, hyungie," he greets with a big, innocent smile. 

"What the fuck is this, Hoseok? Why is Taehyung here?" Yoongi spits, standing up and giving his friend a look that has Taehyung wondering if there's a nearby fire extinguisher. Or maybe a fire station. 

"Yoongi, wait, wait, before you start--"

"Shut the fuck up," the elder snaps, pushing Hoseok aside and directing his attention to Taehyung, who's been standing there like the good little brother he is. His smile drops with a pained ah ah ah as his brother grabs his ear and drags him out of the room, his sandals slapping noisily on the floor as he's forced back outside. "What the fuck are you doing here, Taehyung? I thought this was the exact shit you wanted nothing to do with."

Taehyung slaps Yoongi's hand away from his ear, reaching up to rub at it with an exaggerated wince. "Why do you have to be so rough."

"Taehyung!" Yoongi all but growls, and Taehyung sighs.

"Hoseok said it was good money. I need the money," he shrugs.

His brother blinks at him, shaking his head with a dangerous lick of his lips - Taehyung knows that look. Yoongi's about to use the big brother voice. "Why won't you just let me take care of you? The money means nothing to me, you know that--"

"Yeah, but it means something to me, hyung. I don't like relying on you anymore than I already do. I can't do it forever. I need to be able to do some things for myself." When it doesn't get the reaction Taehyung wants, he sighs impatiently. "Put yourself in my shoes, okay? You hate having things handed to you. So imagine the guilt you'd feel knowing that someone else takes care of all your bills, makes sure your fridge is stocked up and puts money in your bank. It's comforting, sure. But it's frustrating." Taehyung's arms drop to his sides, eyebrows pulled together gently, voice softening. "Let me be an adult."

Yoongi exhales slowly through his nose, arms crossed over his chest as he looks off to the side, and Taehyung can see the inner turmoil he's clearly facing. He knows not to push, so he stays silent, but he's anxious. It's been something he's been wanting to say for the last year and a half, when the initial satisfaction of having everything taken care of for him wore off. 

"Alright, fine. Fine." Yoongi pauses again, this time searching his brother's face. "Are you sure this is how you wanna do it, though, Taehyung? This job exactly?"

Taehyung's once again hit with the opportunity to bail out, but he'd feel a little stupid after all this to just back out now. He's still doing Hoseok a favour. "It's just for the weekend, right? Once it's done, I won't do it again."

His brother nods, but he still looks wary. "Tell me at any point if you wanna go, okay? I'll come get you. I'll look after the kid myself if I have to. I just - I don't want you to feel uncomfortable. Promise me you'll tell me, Tae."

Taehyung doesn't have the heart to tell Yoongi that he's already uncomfortable, not when he's speaking so sincerely to him. He reaches up to cover one of his eyes with two of his fingers and gives a soft smile, their own version of a promise. When they were younger, they'd once had a late night conversation about how the concept of pinkie promises worked - how if you broke the promise, you lost the pinkie. Yoongi mentioned how people could still function without a pinkie. Taehyung said how it should be something more vital, like an eye. It's been their own silent promise ever since.

Yoongi gives a twitch of his lips before nodding and pushing the door open for him, following close behind. 

"Any pointers?" Taehyung mutters in question as the walk back to the living room. 

"Don't kill the kid," is his brother's blunt reply, which earns him a gawp and elbow to the ribs from Taehyung. "Kidding. But, really. Don't."

Taehyung lets out a slow breath. "Helpful."

Once they return, the initial hustle and bustle over from brother having his five minutes - Hoseok is still cowering in the corner - Taehyung registers the other people there. There's only a few of them, but he can just tell by the air around them who's in charge. It's the guy with the white button down and a sharp look to his eyes as he scrutinises Taehyung. He bows his head to the rest of the room, but his gaze goes back to Jeongguk, not entirely sure what he's meant to do or say, if he's meant to treat this as a job interview, or what. He looks over to Yoongi who inclines his head towards Jeongguk with a raise of his eyebrows, clearly encouraging him.

"Hi," he greets. "I'm Kim Taehyung. Yoongi's brother. If that whole scene didn't make it abundantly clear."

Jeongguk studies him passively, uncrossing his legs and setting down the drink in his hand. "Follow me."

Taehyung's eyes widen, sparing another glance at his brother who gestures for him to follow. So he does, staying a few steps behind Jeongguk as he's led through another part of the house. He realises they're stepping into what must be Jeongguk's office, going by the big, glass desk at the back of the room, facing the double doors. Taehyung clears his throat as he watches Jeongguk sit down and study him, turning away so he can close the doors behind him. He hesitates for a minute before going to take the seat on the other side of the desk.

It's a nice room, once again modern, but this room feels more worn in. Like it's been used more often. It's stark white, more paintings on the wall and couches in the corner, a small bar in the very corner. This room, though, has a view of the pool outside, overlooking the city and the long expanse of yard in the back. Taehyung feels lost in a place as nice as this, feels very out of his element, like anything could break if he just looks at it hard enough.

"So. Taehyung. Tell me a bit about yourself," Jeongguk starts, leaning back in his chair.

"Uh, well. I'm twenty-two. I'm in university, studying game design..." He trails off, not really sure what else to offer. This whole scenario is throwing him off.

Jeongguk gives a slow nod. "Do you have any experience with kids?"

"Just my younger brothers and sisters."

Another nod. "Can you cook?"

"I get by."

"Are you careless?"

That throws Taehyung a little. "Um. Sorry?"

"I said. Are you careless, Taehyung." Taehyung's mouth falls open a little, blinking as he tries to think of a sensible response. "Because I obviously wouldn't subject my son to being taken care of someone careless. I'm sure you understand," Jeongguk explains, a soft smile on his lips that does little to comfort him.

"N-No, of course. I understand. I'm not careless, no. I'm very careful, I don't take things lightly."

Jeongguk seems pleased with that, folding his hands under his chin. "Do you know what I do, Taehyung?"

"No," is his immediate answer. Then he scrunches his nose. "Vaguely."

Jeongguk's eyebrows raise. "Surely with Yoongi and Hoseok--"

Taehyung shakes his head. "We don't talk about it. To be honest, I have no interest in any of that stuff."

"Then why do you want this job?"

He frowns in response. "It's babysitting. I didn't realise that put me in the world of thugs and hooligans."

Jeongguk's lips twitch up at the side. "It kind of does, unfortunately."

Taehyung takes his own turn to smile, a little bitter, rubbing his hands along his knees, not realising how much his skin had clammed up until his damp palms brush his knees through the slits in his jeans. "May as well get paid for it then, right?"

The man takes his time to study him, and for the next twenty minutes he asks him all sorts of questions about possible criminal records, minor offences, any weird habits - it's all a little ironic coming from someone like Jeongguk. Not that he knows exactly what he and his band of brothers do, but he's got an idea of it. 

"Do you want to meet him?"

Taehyung blinks. "Who?"

Jeongguk seems to swallow back a small laugh. "My son, obviously. Junseo."

He's a moron. "Oh, right. Yeah! Yeah, of course. I'd love to meet him. How old is he?" Taehyung hears his own voice softening and he wonders if this is why Hoseok thought of him to look after his boss' kid. It's been a while since he's been able to dote on his younger siblings, but when he does, nothing makes him happier than playing with them. He's always had the biggest soft spot for children.

"Seventeen," Jeongguk tells him with a blank face and Taehyung's a little rattled, stunned from where he was midway to standing up. "I'm kidding," the man laughs, amusement curling at his lips. "He's six." And Taehyung can hear the softness to his voice.

"Great age." Jeongguk's eyebrows raise in silent question as he leads him out of his office. "You know, it's when they're at their softest. They think you're the funniest and most entertaining person ever, like you know the answers to the universe."

Jeongguk seems to get it, going off the way his face goes a little soft when he thinks Taehyung isn't looking. "How old are your brothers and sisters?"

"Nine, thirteen and fifteen. They've gotten past the stage where they think I'm a superhero," Taehyung huffs softly, though it's a little sad. He misses when they'd let him cuddle them without batting an eyelash. Now they've got friends and their own little lives. He misses it.

They make their way through the house once again, passing the living room and Taehyung catches sight of Yoongi no doubt still scolding Hoseok, if his brother's best friend's pleading face is anything to go by. When Yoongi looks his way, Taehyung shoots him a hopeful thumbs up before they disappear around the bend of stairs.

"You've got a nice house," Taehyung comments as he's shown more and more of the seemingly endless hallways. For a place that is slabbed with marble and angles, it feels warm and he has no doubt it has everything to do with the little boy he's about to meet.

Jeongguk nods his thanks, his own eyes taking in the place as if he's seeing it for the first time. Taehyung doesn't miss the way his eyebrows pull together just the slightest bit, but he makes no comment. 

He's led down one of the corridors to a door with wooden letters stuck on, spelling out Junseo's name, hand painted and messy, definitely the work of a young mind. Jeongguk lets himself in, and Taehyung peaks around one of his shoulders as he steps into the room and spots a little boy on the floor, laid out on his belly with pencils, crayons and paper scattered all around him haphazardly. Taehyung half expects an introduction, for Jeongguk to announce their presence, but he just gives him a nod that he reads as go ahead.

Taehyung's eyes return back to the young boy as he slowly approaches, carefully sitting down beside him and watching as he colours a picture of a lizard in with reds and oranges. "That's a cool lizard," he comments, resting his chin on his hand.

"Thank you. They're my favourite." Junseo looks up then, crayon pausing on the paper to meet Taehyung's eyes. "Daddy got me a lizard last year for my birthday."

Taehyung raises his eyebrows, mouth parting in childlike wonder. "No way. That's so cool. What's its name?"

"Drago."

He gasps and gives a serious nod. "That's a cool name."

Junseo studies him for a second before his eyebrows twitch. "Wanna see him?"

"If that's okay with you."

The kid nods, giving a little gummy smile that has Taehyung's heart squeezing in on itself. While Junseo goes and gets Drago, Taehyung takes the opportunity to look over his shoulder at Jeongguk who's still standing at the doorway. He doesn't say anything, just meets his eyes before they flicker above Taehyung's head to where Junseo is returning.

"This is him."

Taehyung is definitely amazed at the sight of the lizard in Junseo's hands, skin a bright, mint green with orange stripes over his belly. The artist in him feels inspired. "He is the coolest lizard I've ever seen," he tells Junseo honestly.

Junseo grins at his answer, gently running a little finger over Drago's back. "He's a panther iguana. He's my best friend."

His heart feels like it's about to burst. "I can tell. He looks like he loves you a lot a lot."

The kid sits down beside him, smile still fixed into place. "Wanna hold him?"

Taehyung gives Junseo a soft look. "Are you sure? What if he doesn't like me? He looks like he's very attached to you." 

Junseo giggles and it has a toothy smile stretching onto Taehyung's face. He's shown how to hold Drago, shown how to pet him and he's even allowed to feed him a grasshopper, which is insanely cool, watching Drago's tongue dart out and curl around the insect. Taehyung doesn't even have to fake his noises of amazement.

"He's so cool!" Taehyung confesses in a whispered shout, watching the way Drago's protruding eyes roll around. 

For a while they just sit and play with the brightly coloured lizard, before the kid looks up at him. "What's your name?"

"Taehyung," he introduces, giving an over the top bow of his head, though he's careful not to disturb the reptile in his hands, holding him delicately. 

It gets another laugh out of Junseo and that has Taehyung feeling that pride that only a giggling child can bring. "I'm Junseo!"

"The pleasure is all mine."

A couple of minutes later, when Junseo is putting Drago back, Taehyung looks over his shoulder to check in with Jeongguk, and spots him disappearing down the hall, leaving the pair of them alone. He takes that as a good sign.

For the next hour, him and Junseo draw and colour, and Taehyung feels like some world-renowned artist at the sheer wonderment that crosses the boy's face as he sketches out little drawings for him. He tells him all about what he's studying at school, and the look that Junseo levels on him as he listens with keen ears, reflects his father's. He can see the resemblance, the pout of his lips and the gentle slope of his nose. Junseo doesn't hold the hardness of Jeongguk's eyes, though. They're open and trusting and it makes a paternal instinct flare up in Taehyung's chest.

Junseo seems so genuinely interested in what Taehyung's studying at school and insists that he be shown some of his sketches. He complies, of course, pulling out his phone and giving free reign to Junseo to look through his art folder. He seems particularly fascinated with his mock design of superheros as female characters, drawn to his sketch of female Spider-Man, softer with feminine features. Taehyung talks about how the project he's on right now is all about making your own villain for a specific game concept that's been set.

"Okay, so let me set the scene," Taehyung starts, both of them now sat on Junseo's bed - it's bigger than his own back in his apartment - and the kid leans back down onto his belly, chin resting on both palms, staring at Taehyung like he's about to hear the story of a lifetime. "It's set way in the future, the world is corrupt-- bad," he corrects, to make it easier for Junseo to understand. "Evil has taken over and the world's new superhero is slowly starting to piece it back together." He goes on and gives a long description, making sure to be extra animated, gesticulating wildly with his hands, putting on voices that have Junseo snorting and gasping and gaping at him. It's a little over the top, he knows, but Junseo likes it, and that's what matters. 

"A cyborg villain," Junseo decides once Taehyung's finished crashing two cars together on the bed. 

Taehyung pulls his phone out and starts taking notes as Junseo brims over with suggestions, taking it all into honest consideration because the kid has a bright, vivid imagination and it's incredible. He's envious of it, the young, youthful mind that's not tarnished with overused concepts and creates his own world in the one Taehyung's started for him. 

"You're so cool, you have such an imagination up here," Taehyung praises with a little poke to Junseo's head, which gets him another all-gum smile. 

They continue to talk and play for a while longer before eventually Jeongguk is reappearing at the door, and he doesn't know how long he stands there for, watching Taehyung and his son talk enthusiastically about cartoons before he makes his presence known. "What's all the excitement about?"

Taehyung and Junseo both turn to look at the older man, and Taehyung grins, setting the figurine in his hand down with the collection that they'd gathered. "We were just talking about Pororo," he explains. "And how cool it is."

Junseo nods quickly, starting to put his toys away and Taehyung helps him, stacking them back on his shelf. "Taehyung's seen all the episodes too, daddy!"

"Has he now?" Jeongguk asks, sending an amused glance over at Taehyung who smiles in turn, organising the toys back in the way Junseo had them before. "Sounds like you've both been having a lot of fun. But now it's time for bed."

Taehyung and Junseo whine in unison, both sending pouts over to Jeongguk before Taehyung remembers that he is not, in fact, a child. He's actually an adult and he doesn't have a bed time. "It was nice meeting you, Junseo. You too, Drago," he bows to the lizard and Junseo once again rewards him with a laugh.

"Will you be back?" Junseo asks, staring up at him with eyes big enough to envy the entire world.

Taehyung rests a gentle elbow on Junseo's head. "That's up to your dad over there."

They both turn to stare at Jeongguk once again, Taehyung propped up against his son. Jeongguk huffs a laugh through his nose, eyes on Taehyung as he clearly considers it, tongue laving his bottom lip and wow, kind of hot, but he'll overlook it. "Taehyung will be back this weekend. But only if you get ready for bed, ah?"

The pair grin and Taehyung lets his arm drop as Junseo looks up at him. "Bring some of your drawings!"

Taehyung nods with obligation. "I will. But only if you show me some of your stories! Promise?" He asks and Junseo lifts two fingers and covers one of his eyes with a knowing grin, one which Taehyung returns. "Sleep tight, bug." He turns away then and gives Jeongguk a smile as he passes, leaving the pair to get Junseo ready for bed while he heads downstairs. He meets Yoongi and Hoseok in the foyer, both clearly waiting. 

"Well? How'd it go?" Hoseok asks, and Taehyung can make out the red mark on the side of his cheek.

"Went really great. He's amazing," Taehyung sighs, feeling all merry after spending time with Junseo. "Boss man invited me back, so."

Hoseok sighs with relief, giving Yoongi's side a little jab. "See? I--"

"If you say you told me so, I swear to god, the least of your worries will be a bruised fucking shin," Yoongi cuts in with a dismissive hand, effectively shutting Hoseok up, who sends Taehyung a wag of his eyebrows over his shoulder. 

Jeongguk returns a few minutes later, eyes steady on Taehyung as he comes down the stairs. "Looks like you've got a fan," is what he says first, having Taehyung's cheeks warming happily. "He likes you. I think you'll be just fine over the weekend."

Taehyung bows his head in thanks, draping his arm around his brother's shoulders. "Here, let me give you my number in case you need to let me know anything," he initiates, holding his hand out for Jeongguk to give him his phone. 

"Taehyung-ah. Manners," Hoseok chastises, reaching around Yoongi to poke him harshly in the ribs.

"No, no, it's fine," Jeongguk dismisses, hilarity swimming in his eyes as he pulls his phone out and hands it to Taehyung, who quickly inputs his number, and sends himself a text so he can have his number too.

He hands it back with a broad grin. "Junseo's a great kid. We'll have fun over this weekend, don't worry," Taehyung assures, though he's soon distracted by the sight of two Doberman peering around the corner. He gasps and rushes over, arms outstretched and drops to a crouch to pet the two dogs.

"Aish, Taehyung," Yoongi sighs from behind him, and he hears him quietly apologise to Jeongguk while Taehyung cuddles up to the pups.

Yoongi eventually pulls him away - alas - and Taehyung gives Jeongguk a wave as they head out, telling him to text him if he needs him to know anything. Once he's in Yoongi's car and they're heading back to his, his brother reaches over and smacks him on the back of the head.

"Yah! What was that for?" 

"For talking to Mr. Jeon like that."

"Mr. Jeon? You're joking, right?"

Yoongi sends him a look. "That's what you're to call him, Taehyung. He's a good man. He was kind to you tonight, but don't--"

"Yeah, yeah. I know what you're gonna say, hyung. Don't piss him off. Don't annoy him. I got it. I won't be hanging around him anyway."

Yoongi sighs irritably beside him. "You're taking this very lightly, kid, and I don't appreciate it. Do you know, he once--"

Taehyung waves his hands around. "Don't wanna know, don't wanna know. I'll be good, alright?" He huffs, looking over at his brother. "Are we good?"

Yoongi looks his way, face still pinched before it softens a fraction, reaching over and ruffling his little brother's hair. "Yeah, we're good. Just don't get us killed and we'll definitely  be good.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Taehyung's in the middle of doing his laundry when his phone buzzes in his back pocket. He sets down the shirt he'd been in the midst of folding and takes a look at the text.

from: boss man

Is this Taehyung? It's Jeon Jeongguk. 

Taehyung's eyebrows raise in amusement at the formality of it. It sounds like such a dad text. He leans his hip against the dryer and hits reply.

to: boss man

yh i know who u are ahah 

what do u need lord jeon

from: boss man

Lord Jeon? 

Taehyung remembers his brother's warning, and he's about to apologise, maybe say he was joking when he gets another chime of his phone.

from: boss man

Don't you know how to talk to your elders, Taehyung?

Ooh. Taehyung scrunches his nose up at that. Just when he'd been so close to actually giving a genuine apology. He brushes it off.

to: boss man

im aware :)

is smthing the matter ?

He really shouldn't be playing with fire. But Jeongguk didn't seem so bad, so he'll take what he can. If it ever came to the dude actually being mad, then he'd apologise. He doesn't like to break out honorifics unless he really has to, unless he feels like someone really deserves it.

from: lord jeon

Interesting.

And no, nothing is the matter. Just thought we'd talk about Junseo.

to: lord jeon

aww how is the cutie ? 

from: lord jeon

He's well, thank you. 

He's looking forward to this weekend. 

to: lord jeon

me too ! 

he wants me to teach him how to use a tablet

and he's gnna teach me about reptiles 

how cool !!

from: lord jeon

Sounds like you've got quite the weekend planned.

I just wanted you to know that all the food will be prepped for you, you don't have to worry about that.

And I'll leave you a list of rules, like bed time, bath time, school work, etc. 

Are you keeping up?

to: lord jeon

food and list 

double check !

anythin else ????

from: lord jeon

Junseo sleeps with a night light, or he'll get scared. 

Don't let him tell you that I allow him to watch scary movies, because I don't.

Clear?

to: party pooper

crystal :)

give me a sec, im writin this down too

And like he said, he pulls up his notes on his phone and copy and pastes Jeongguk's texts into a new document. 

to: party pooper

ok what else 

from: party pooper

He's got asthma, but he has plenty of pumps scattered through the house and he knows how to use them.

So don't worry about that.

He doesn't often need them, just when he gets a little panicked or winded.

to: a real good dad

oh no :(

but ok i got it 

from: a real good dad 

Yoongi will give you the code to the gate and alarm.

I have security patrolling at all times, so don't worry if you spot them patrolling.

Don't forget to put the alarm on at night.

Do not. And I mean do not answer the door or the buzzer if it rings.

If it's me or my guys, then we'll let ourselves in.

That's very important, Taehyung. Do you understand?

Taehyung feels something heavy settle in the pit of his stomach at just the warning of something like that possibly happening. It might send him into a panic if it happens. Just the thought has his heart beating a little faster, mouth going a little dry. It'll be fine, though. It's just precaution. Jeongguk has security, there are locks and gates and men between him and Junseo.

to: a real good dad

i understand

i wont do anythin stupid like that

i swer

swear*

from: a real good dad

It'll be fine, don't worry.

I just want you to have all the facts.

Do you have any questions for me?

to: wat have i gotten myself in2

are we allowed t go out in the garden ? 

from: wat have i gotten myself in2

Of course. Just be inside by seven.

Anything else?

to: wat have i gotten myself in2

where do i sleep ??

from: wat have i gotten myself in2

Any of the guest rooms.

No parties, either.

to: wat have i gotten myself in2

wat

why u sayin that 

why would i have a party 

from: wat have i gotten myself in2

It's a good opportunity for a party.

Don't kids always throw a party any opportunity they can?

But don't have one.

to: grandpa (not real 1)

ok ?? 

ill try

from: grandpa (not real 1)

Taehyung.

to: grandpa (not real 1)

im kidding !!!

pick up on the sarcasm 

no parties , i woujdnt do that

swear 

from: grandpa (not real 1)

Sarcasm is hard to pick up through texting.

to: grandpa (not real 1)

no 

i think ur just bad at it

from: grandpa (not real 1)

Is that so?

You really are quite outspoken, aren't you.

Your brother was right.

to: rudey mcrude rude

dont listen to him

im a good egg

who understands sarcasm :)

from: rudey mcrude rude

Anyway.

Any other questions?

to: rudey mcrude rude

no i think we are gdddd

see u frieday boss man

from: rudey mcrude rude

See you Frieday.

to: SO RUDE !!!!

(¬▂¬)

Taehyung scoffs, setting his phone down. "Rude."

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Yoongi picks him up that Friday, and he can see by the look on his face that he's pensive, clearly second guessing this

"Hyung," Taehyung says as his brother drives them over to Jeongguk's. "It's gonna be fine. I've already had a long talk with Jeong--" he stops at the look Yoongi sends him. "I've already had a long talk with Mr. Jeon, alright? I know the rules. No answering the door, put the alarm on at night, in by seven. I even made my own list. You know how serious I am about things if I bother to make a list."

Yoongi sighs, giving a nod, running his hand through his hair as they stop at a red light. "Just don't fuck up, Taehyung. I'm your brother, but I can't be held accountable for your actions this time. Okay?"

Taehyung frowns, lips pushing into a sulk. "I can handle my own, thank you. It'll be fine," he repeats, this time a little more assertively. 

His brother just nods, not saying anything else on the matter. Probably for the best. Taehyung doesn't want to hear the whole spiel about just being a kid, not knowing the extremes of the job, because once again, he's just babysitting for the weekend. He's been trusted hundreds of times to look after their siblings alone. It's no different. 

When they arrive, guys are already pilling into cars, clearly about to head off. Taehyung doesn't even have the smallest bit of interest to know what is actually happening over the weekend. He's fine with being kept entirely in the dark. 

"Taehyung!" Junseo greets as he and Yoongi step into the house, smile bright on his face, one Taehyung mirrors.

"Junseo! You excited for the weekend?" He asks, setting his bag down to the side, being careful because his tablet and laptop are inside. "You got those stories ready for me?"

Junseo nods eagerly before he stops and crosses his little arms over his chest, and he looks like a tiny Jeongguk, oh god, how adorable. "Have you got the drawings?"

Taehyung copies him, tongue pressing against the inside of his cheek and chin lifting. "I might do."

They both break into giggles then, poking at each other until Jeongguk steps over, and wowcha. Taehyung looks over the older man, dressed in a dark suit, the first few buttons open to mid chest and he can see ink peaking out on one side, can make out some Hangul, but it's cut off by by a thick silver chain hanging between his collarbones. Now Taehyung is really getting a good look at Jeongguk for the first time, he can't deny that the guy is attractive. 

But now is not the time to check out the hot dad-slash-gangster.

"Taehyung," Jeongguk greets, fixing his blazer, which he returns with a smile of recognition. "The list is on the kitchen counter. Did your brother give you the gate number?"

"I did," Yoongi inputs.

"And you remember the rules we discussed?"

Taehyung nods. "I remember. It's gonna be fine, I promise. We're gonna have a good time, aren't we?" He asks Junseo who's been tugging at a loose piece of string on Taehyung's sleeve, looking up to beam and nod. "Now leave so our sleepover can begin."

A short, stocky guy with grey bangs falling into his eyes laughs as he passes. "Keep this one around, sir, he's funny," he says as he steps outside, following behind a couple of other guys.

Taehyung just smiles a little too sweetly over at Yoongi who snorts in turn. "I'm funny, Yoongi-hyung. Did you hear?"

"Shut up," Yoongi scoffs, but pulls him in by the back of the head to bump their foreheads together. "Be good, alright?" And then a little quieter, "Call me straight away if anything happens. Me first, alright?"

Taehyung nods.

With that, Yoongi heads out, but not before Taehyung manages to trip him at the ankle, his brother stumbling out with a curse on his lips, before he catches himself at the reminder of the child present.

Taehyung turns to the other two then, everyone else seemingly have left aside from Hoseok who's standing at the door, waiting.

"Be good for Taehyung, okay? You do what he says while I'm gone. He knows the rules, and you do too, yes?" Jeongguk asks his son, crouched down in front of him, making himself small.

Junseo nods, wrapping little arms around Jeongguk's neck. "I love you, daddy."

Taehyung tries to avert his eyes, but it's too sweet of a moment to pass up on, watching Jeongguk squeeze Junseo to his chest and press kisses to the side of his head. He stands and gently knocks his son's chin with a knuckle and gives his chin a squeeze. "Daddy loves you too, kiddo." He steps away then, and walks past Taehyung who stands straighter and pins his arms to his side like a loyal soldier. "Have fun," Jeongguk tells him with a little narrow of his eyes.

He watches him go, giving a little mock salute with his index finger. "Lord Jeon," he bids farewell, lips twitching with silent laughter when Jeongguk looks back at him as he leaves, and he definitely doesn't miss the curl of his lips.

"You're trouble," Hoseok whispers to him as he closes the door, and Taehyung waves with both hands.

Once the door is closed and the sound of engines fade away, Taehyung spins to face Junseo the same time the kid faces him too, and they both start yelling and running, heading into the living room to go and bounce up on the couches.

It's gonna be a fun weekend. 

Chapter Text

By seven, they're both full from their dinner - and what a dinner it was. Taehyung's not sure he's eaten that good in a long time. All the food was already prepped or plated, and all he had to do was heat it up or follow the last few instructions, which actually proved to be a little difficult in such a high tech kitchen. So many knobs, so many buttons. But he managed to figure it out with the help of Junseo and a couple of texts to Jeongguk, who was actually almost as clueless as him, considering they had a chef. A chef. Taehyung eventually ousted Jeongguk away and got it sorted. 

He's got his arm stretched over the back of the couch behind Junseo, the TV playing an animated movie that neither are all that interested in, and Taehyng's got one popsicle in his mouth, and the other in the hand behind Junseo as the kid draws lines onto the tablet. They've been at it for the last forty-five minutes, Junseo creating a very cute version of a bear which Taehyung makes sure to save once he's done and wants to draw something else. He gives gentle direction here and there, balancing the laptop settled on his thighs so Junseo has more room to draw on the tablet with, holding the popsicle out for him every now and then so he can have a lick. 

Taehyung watches in fascination, a deep-seated fascination that he hasn't felt for a long time as Junseo draws out the lizard-man character, Scaler - how witty is this kid - from one of the stories he told him earlier. It's amazing to see him come to life, see him the way that Junseo sees him. He makes sure to praise him and help him anytime he needs it, showing him how to switch brush sized and create new layers and shift pieces around and enlarge them. 

He takes a picture of Scaler when he's done and sends it to Jeongguk, because it's something a dad should see, his son's own fictional character alive.

to: j-man's daddio

look at this fine piece of art ur son did !!!

look at it !!

look !!!!!!!!!

his own character come to life 

from: j-man's daddio

Is that Scaler?

Taehyung grins, because wow. There was something so great about that reply, the fact that Jeongguk knew who his son drew. It's a testament of how much he clearly adores Junseo. He basks in it for a minute.

to: j-man's COOL daddio

dam straight it is !!!

uve got an artist on ur hands

or a writer

w/e he is , he talented 

from: j-man's COOL daddio

Don't I know it. 

How's everything going? Have you had dinner?

I was just about to call, actually.

to: j-man's COOL daddio

call away 

No later than thirty seconds after he sends the text, his phone is lighting up with a call from Jeongguk and he answers it and puts it on speaker. 

"Hi, daddy!" Junseo greets as he pads back into the living room after disposing over their popsicle sticks and washing his tacky fingers, climbing up onto the couch beside Taehyung. 

"Hi, kiddo. How are things? You both having a good time? What have you been doing?"

Taehyung once again feels his heart give such a fond squeeze, and he mouths down to Junseo that your dad is awesome, to which Junseo nods his agreement. "We're having lots of fun. We've had our dinner, haven't we? Junseo was reading me some of his incredible stories," he praises with a ruffle to Junseo's soft hair, carding his fingers through it to settle it back in place. "And he just finished up with his amazing drawing of Scaler."

Jeongguk chuckles quietly, the sound of rustling on the other side of the line, like a shift in posture. Taehyung thinks he can hear quiet chatter and the sound of passing cars. They must be driving still. "I saw. He looks super cool, Junseo. My talented little guy, aren't you? Make sure to ask Taehyung to print it off so daddy can have a copy."

"Already on it!" Taehyung calls from the other side of the couch to where he's suddenly hunched over his laptop, sending Scaler to the printer, going to fetch it with two thumbs up to Junseo, leaving the pair to talk privately.

Taehyung isn't entirely sure where the printer is, so he's straining his ears to find any type of shuffling noise, and eventually pin-points it to Jeongguk's office. He lets himself in, because upon all the rules he was given, he wasn't told to stay out of any rooms, and he likes to take full use of the availability he has. The room seems even bigger without Jeongguk in it, the desk looking a little more daunting without the man sat behind it. He doesn't want to linger in there for any longer than he has to, just goes over to the printer and collects the masterpiece that is Scaler, smiling down at it. It looks even better on paper. 

He steps back with a grin, about to go and show Junseo just how good it looks when he knocks into the corner of Jeongguk's desk, cursing quietly to himself at the sting to his hip, as well as to knocking a stack of papers onto the floor. Taehyung's quick to start gathering them all up again, hoping Jeongguk won't notice the accidental mess he made as long as he cleans it up. Something catches his eye, though, as he's shuffling pieces of paper together. It's a picture peaking out of a manilla envelope. As he tugs it out slightly by the edges, he catches sight of his own face.

Taehyung blinks in confusion, pulling the photo out all the way. It can't be an old photo, his hair is still brown like it is now and he's wearing a shirt that he only bought a couple of weeks ago in it. He's on campus back at school, crossing the street with a coffee in his hand. No, he remembers the day, it was only this week. He remembers because he spilt that exact coffee on that exact shirt and had been in the process of washing it when Jeongguk had first texted him.

He suddenly feels a little troubled, seeing himself, wondering why Jeongguk has a photo of him that he definitely didn't know was being taken. It's zoomed in, going off how slightly pixelated the image is, like it was taken from a distance.

With cautious fingers, he pulls open the folder that the picture was tucked in and he feels his lungs grow heavy, like a weight's been placed onto his chest. It's a file on him, filled with information ranging from his name, the place he was born, his blood type, his high school records and more pictures. It makes something ugly slither around in his chest, because this is his private information. It has his parents phone numbers and family history in it. 

"That fucker did a background check on me," he mutters to himself as he cards through more and more pictures, ones from the week gone and some straight off his Facebook

It makes him uncomfortable, the fact that he's been documented without any knowledge of it. It also makes him nervous because Jeongguk had managed to obtain all this in a matter of days, and it's not just information he could find out from Yoongi. Yoongi specifically didn't know that he failed calculus in his sophomore year of high school. But there's that big, fat F. Staring up at him. 

Taehyung feels emotions rush through him. Anger, fear, anguish, confusion. All brewing together to make up an precarious feeling wrap around his very core. As he settles more onto his knees on the floor and continues flipping through his folder, something else catches his eye. He doesn't know how it does, maybe he's been unconsciously looking for something like it since the moment he stepped into the house. And there it is. 

A gun.

It's tapped under the side of Jeongguk's desk, hiding in the opaque glass, easy access to it if needed. 

Taehyung's anxiety erupts triples, singeing his blood was paranoia. He tries to reason with himself that he knew, to a certain extent, what he was getting himself into. He knew Jeongguk was linked in with criminal activity, just like his brother was. Knowing it is one thing, but having actual proof is another. 

A gun, though. That's scary. That's really scary. Taehyung's never seen one away from an action movie or a American cop show. Seeing it up close and personal is intimidating. 

He startles suddenly at the sound of Junseo calling his name, quickly getting up onto his feet and setting all the scattered paper down on the desk like it'd been before he'd disrupted it, only claiming the drawing of Scaler. 

"Coming!" He calls, sending one last glance to Jeongguk's desk before he heads back out, closing the doors behind him and taking a deep, grounding breath as he returns back to the living room where Junseo is still talking to his father. Taehyung settles back onto the couch and offers out the picture, hoping his shaking fingers aren't obvious. "What do you think? Looks cool, right?"

Junseo nods, face so innocent to the fear running through Taehyung's veins. He's tempted to call Yoongi. 

"Did you get the drawing from my printer, Taehyung?" Jeongguk's smooth voice comes from the speaker and Taehyung feels his heart rate spike.

"Yeah. I'll put it up on the fridge for you to see when you get back," is his curt reply, giving Junseo a smile when he grins up at him, praying it doesn't look too forced.

"Taehyung." 

He swallows. "Yeah."

Silence for two beats too long. "Nothing. Just make sure Junseo's in bed by nine."

"You got it."

Jeongguk says his goodbyes then, and Taehyung can't bring himself to say more than just a sharp farewell before he locks his phone and pockets it before he can stare at the man's contact name any longer. 

Taehyung forces himself to relax. "Alright. Bath time?"

                                                                                                          -- -- --

He struggles to fall asleep.

Junseo has been in bed for almost six hours now, and Taehyung for two. He stayed up a while to clean up and try and watch a movie, bring some type of normality back to him. But to no avail. He still feels the tumult inside him, thinking about that file in Jeongguk's office. The file on him. The more he thinks about it, the more the apprehension sizzles into animosity. That fuckerTaehyung would have had no problem giving Jeongguk all the information he needed, would have given it to him willingly. So the fact that he dug - and boy, he dug deep - into Taehyung's life without consent, it bothers him like none other. 

He's close to foaming at the mouth as he lies there in sheets too soft to ignore, still thinking of a way he can accidentally step on Jeongguk's toes and have a knife recede from the heel of his shoe. Taehyung's plans are disturbed, though, when he hears a noise from downstairs. He strains his ears, because he's heard the dogs move around plenty of times. But he can't hear the clack of their claws on the marble. He hears a muted padding and then a door closing.

He's back to feeling panic, and honestly, terror. Taehyung grabs blindly at his phone and calls his brother, because no way is he fucking dying in this house. No way is he letting anything happen to that kid in the next room. 

Cursing at the sound of Yoongi's voicemail, he pockets his phone for easy access and climbs out of bed with silent steps, creaking his door open and looking down one set of steps and he hears it again. Muted footsteps. Taehyung acts before he even knows what he's doing, stepping out into the hallway and looking down to where Junseo's door is slightly ajar, the fluorescent green of his nightlight lighting up the ground and wall in a rectangular slit. Quietly and quickly, he hurries down the hall and silently closes the door and turns and faces the stairs again.

Taehyung spots a set of golf clubs across the corridor, probably Jeongguk's - that fucker - and pulls the biggest one out of the bag as quietly as he can, resting it over his shoulder with purpose to swing it at whoever is downstairs. He's cautious and silent as he approaches the stairs, peering down into the dark to see if he can make anyone out, but he can barely make out the end of the steps, let alone another person submerged deeper into the shadows. With a deep, shaky breath, he descends down, hugging the railing. He pauses mid step when he sees another shadow, just briefly, disappearing down the hall before it's gone.

His grip on the golf club tightens as he keeps his eyes on that doorway, heart hammering so hard in his chest it hurts, blood rushing in his ears and adrenaline mixing with fear. Taehyung may die, but there's no fucking way he's going down without a fight. Not when he's not fighting for himself, but for the person sound asleep upstairs.

Taehyung continues to hug the wall once he's down on the landing, following the sound of rustling and where the shadow disappeared. He peaks around the corner and sees someone there, the shape of their back, head bowed and dressed entirely in black. They're riffling through something in one of the kitchen drawers. He can't make out much other that, but what he can make out is an opportunity. And with a deep, deep breath, Taehyung drags himself out from his corner and pulls the club back as far as possible before coming down on the intruder's back with a harsh thwap. 

The person yells out, crumpling down to his knees, and Taehyung doesn't think twice before he's bringing the club back and going for the side of the face. He's about to go in for another hit when the intruder shouts out.

"Taehyung! Taehyung! I'm with Mr. Jeon, what the fuck! Please don't hit me again!"

Taehyung stops with the club raised above his head, blinking in shock before he quickly fumbles around, hand skating across the wall to look for the switch, the room suddenly bursting with light. After blinking to adjust to the sudden brightness, he stares down at the man on one of his knees, back arched in and clutching his side while the other holds the his face. "Who the fuck are you?" He demands.

"I just told you--"

He pulls the club back.

"Namjoon! Kim Namjoon! God, please don't hit me again."

Taehyung eyes the guy - Namjoon - warily, but he lowers his club, only to poke it against the guy's side. "How do I know you're not lying?"

"How do you think I got in here? I know the code, security let me in! You saw me earlier today!" Namjoon all but sobs, dropping to curl up on his side with a thud.

Taehyung thinks back to first coming here in the afternoon, thinks about all the guys he saw piling into cars out of the house. He vaguely remembers the tall brunette with dimples and gangly legs. "Oh, yeah, I remember you now." He lowers the club completely, leaning his weight into it, his chest slowly rising and falling. "Maybe give a guy a little heads up first, huh? Maybe, Namjoon?"

"Yoongi said he'd tell you!" 

He checks his phone, and no. No missed calls or texts. "Why are you here, Namjoon?"

"I think you broke my spine," Namjoon groans.

"Why are you here?"

"The boss sent me back to pick some stuff up for the--"

Taehyung holds his hand up. "I don't want to know. Been here one night and I'm already tired of you all," he sighs. "Get your stuff and go."

"I-I don't think I can walk..."

Taehyung steps forward, pulling the club back and watching as Namjoon somehow miraculously stands, going back to the drawer and pulling out a stack of envelopes and a lighter. He doesn't even wanna know. He keeps his eye on Namjoon and his hand on the club as the guy makes his way out, and for a supposed gangster, he's not all that tough, flinching away from Taehyung as he all but drags himself to the door. 

He does feel a little guilty, watching Namjoon hobble to his car. "Sorry for beating you with a golf club, but you kind of deserved it!" He keeps on watching as the car drives off before sighing and turning his head to see one of the security guys staring at him, giving him a nod. "Evening," he greets, before heading back inside, locking the door and putting the alarm back on. 

Once he's back upstairs, he checks on Junseo, who's still fast asleep, tucked up snug. It's a relief, and he feels the adrenaline seep out of him like tar as he heads back to the guest room a few doors down. He keeps the club with him.

"Stupid bone headed thugs," he mutters to himself as he climbs back into bed, falling asleep almost instantly.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Taehyung wakes up in the morning to Junseo climbing up onto his bed and poking at his forehead until his eyes flutter open. He sends a smile up at the kid, licking his dry lips. "Morning, bug," he greets. "You been up long?"

Junseo shakes his head, "Just woke up."

He nods, carefully sitting up onto his elbows. "You hungry?"

Junseo nods. 

"Alright, let's make some breakfast. Why don't you head downstairs and go watch something while I get the food going, okay?"

Another nod, and Taehyung watches the kid climb off the bed and head downstairs. He still feels exhausted, like he could sleep for a few more hours. But he can't do that to Junseo, he's his priority. He'll just sleep earlier tonight, and he's got all the time he wants to sleep once the weekend is over. He grabs his phone and sees a bunch of texts waiting for him, grunting at the names popping up.

from: hyungie (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)

one of the guys is stopping by later, just a heads up. 

you'll probably sleep thru it, you rock.

love you.

Taehyung scoffs at the text. "A little fucking late." He hits the next text, frowning at the name.

from: j-man's COOL daddio

Care to explain to me why you beat one of my guys with my golf club?

You really did a number on him. 

to: jeon

bc i thought he was an intruder obv

why else

from: jeon

Your brother told you someone would be by.

to: jeon

yh NOT SOON ENOUGH

i tried calling him

from: jeon 

You should have called me.

to: jeon

i handled it didnt i ?

besides 

i dont wanna tlk to u

from: jeon

And why's that?

Ah. Let me guess. The file.

You shouldn't have been snooping, Taehyung.

Taehyung balks at that, recoiling from his phone. The fucking nerve of this guy.

to: jeoncuck boy

u do realise how ironic that is

wat u just said

rite

from: jeoncuck boy

It was a precaution.

Junseo's safety is my main concern, I wasn't going to let a stranger take care of him.

Surely you understand.

to: jeoncuck boy

i could hve todl u all that stuff ???!!

u didnt have to dig 

thats an invasion of privacy

and u SPIED on me

i dont like that one bit

ur an asshole

from: jeoncuck boy

Been a long time since anyone's spoken to me that way.

You really don't know what I do, do you?

to: jeoncuck boy

oh get over urself

i dont care wat u do

u can be the queen of england for all i care

say hi to pablo escobar for me 

t(- n -)t

from: jeoncuck boy

What's that?

to: jeoncuck boy

ITS ME FLIPPIN U OFF

NOW LEAVE ME ALONE

I GOTTA MAKE PANCAKES

byE

                                                                                                          -- -- --

from: hyungie (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)

you are dead meat.

just you wait until i get my hands on you.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

It's a nice day out, so Taehyung and Junseo spend the afternoon outside in the garden, playing with the dogs, Mocha and Podo and having competitions on the swings. Taehyung forces his annoyance with Jeongguk not to affect his time with his son, because it's not his fault that his dad is a grade a asshole. He's not going to let it put a damper on their weekend of fun and no adults. 

They eat and watch movies and even reenact one of Junseo's stories out. Taehyung plays the loyal servant, Jinju, to the main character, Sunja - played by Junseo - and they build a castle out of pillows and boxes and anything they can get their hands on. They slay evil warlocks and rescue the damsel-in-distress. Their story comes to an end with them huddled over a carton of ice cream at the kitchen counter and talking about why people are so scared of spiders.

("But they're so tiny," Junseo sighs, wiping the stickiness off his chin with the back of his hand. "How can people be scared of something so tiny?"

Taehyung shakes his head. The question still baffles him to this day. "Maybe it's the eight legs thing?")

They do some school work together, being each others motivation to power through it, and even help each other out as best they can. Taehyung takes pictures of all of Junseo's work and posts them on his instagram with little tags of praise and plaudit, because everyone should see that he's found this talented little artist. That sparks them into taking pictures together, playing with apps and adding filters to each other and giggling over them once they get a proper look. 

It's the most fun Taehyung's had in a long time, and he's already a little sad that it'll end tomorrow. 

Jeongguk calls around about seven again, wanting to hear how their days have been, what they've been doing. Taehyung doesn't say much, only when Junseo clearly looks to him for an answer or to elaborate on anything. It's petty, but Taehyung closes down any question that Jeongguk asks of him specifically, keeps his replies pithy, hoping his bluntness conveys his displeasure for the man.

Still, he can't resist. When they say goodbye, because Junseo needs the bathroom, he pushes his mouth close to the phone and whispers a rough asshole into the mic before hanging up with a violent thumb smashing. 

They fall asleep on the couch that night watching Ratatouille, Taehyung only waking when his arm starts to get a little numb from where Junseo has fallen asleep on it. It's a cute thing to wake up to, though, seeing this little boy curled up against him, once again hit with the warmth burying deeper in his chest. He carries Junseo up to bed, and gets him awake long enough to get him into his pj's and brush his teeth. Taehyung doesn't manage to brush his own teeth before he collapses into bed, though he manages to get his pants off at the least. 

He'd be a dead weight for the rest of the night, if it wasn't for the little body crawling into bed with him a few hours later, pawing at his face with a whispered, "Hyungie."

It's such a soft, sweet sentiment, and it has Taehyung waking up with a smile. Junseo called him hyung. He sees him as a big brother. But his smile soon slips at the sight of the worried frown between Junseo's eyebrows, immediately curling a protective arm around him. "What's wrong, bug?" He whispers, voice grainy with sleep.

"Bad dream," the kid replies just as quietly as he curls up into the space of his chest and Taehyung can't help but internally croon at how soft of a gesture it is.

"Did I forget to turn your nightlight on? Oh, gosh, I'm sorry, Junseo, I--"

Junseo shakes his head against his collarbone. "No, you didn't forget. I just had a bad dream anyway. Can I stay with you?"

Taehyung feels his shoulders go a little more slack, pulling the covers up around them both, giving Junseo all of his body heat. "Of course you can. I feel safer with you in here too," he confesses, hoping to ease Junseo as much as possible.

It seems to work, going by the little fist curling around the back of his shirt. Still, he stays awake until he can feel little laboured breaths against chest, and only then when he's sure Junseo is asleep does he let himself drift off too, keeping a vigilant arm around him at all times.

He's the first to wake up in the morning, though his bones are still heavy with sleep, even after ten minutes when Junseo wakes up and buries his face into his chest. With silent agreement, they manage to work together, both sleepy and heavy eyed as Taehyung sits on the edge of the bed and Junseo climbs up onto his back, resting his cheek on his shoulder. He carries him downstairs with one eye open and sleep ruffled hair, hands tucked under little legs as they make their way into the kitchen.

Taehyung pauses mid step when he sees movement out of the corner of his watery eye, turning and seeing gazes staring back at them. Jeongguk's sat at the counter with the newspaper in his hands, looking directly at him. Taehyung's eyes leave his and search through the other faces, and Yoongi's got a surprisingly soft look on his face, despite the threatening text message he sent him yesterday. He continuesto search and he sees Namjoon, supporting a swollen and bruised face, a nice looking welt on one of his cheekbones. It makes Taehyung huff a breath under his nose. 

He gives a little bounce to alert Junseo, who lifts his heavy head with a hum when he clearly spots Jeongguk. "Hi, daddy," he greets, voice slow like falling honey and Taehyung just wants to swaddle him in blankets. And as much as Taehyung doesn't want to give him up, he's not that selfish. He carries Junseo over to Jeongguk and helps him off his back and into his dad's arms, watching fondly as he curls in to him like a pillow. 

Taehyung wants affection.

He drags his feet over to Yoongi and bends at the waist so he can wrap his arms around him, pillowing his head on his shoulder. "Be mad at me later," he cuts off when he senses his brother about to complain or scold him. Luckily he complies with a sigh and wraps an arm around his shoulders and presses a kiss into his hair. 

"Fun weekend?" Hoseok asks, handing Taehyung a cup of coffee, which he appreciates. But he's still not gonna uncurl himself from Yoongi, so he'll settle for drinking it awkwardly. 

"So much fun," he agrees with a smile, looking over to Junseo who's slowly waking up too, meeting his eyes and sending him that adorable grin of his.

Taehyung stands there, curled stiffly around his smaller, older brother and dozes in and out as the room talk, not really paying attention to anything, but with Junseo here, he doubts they'd talk about business. Which he appreciates, because it's the last thing he wants to hear about right now. Eventually, though, Yoongi squeezes his shoulders and presses his lips to his forehead.

"Go get ready so we can go, kid," he mumbles and Taehyung sighs reluctantly but nods, pulling himself to his full height and finishing off his coffee. He sets the mug down and forces himself to head upstairs so he can go and put some pants on. He doesn't bother with a shower, because he can do that when he gets home. He did most of his packing last night, so all he really needs to do is clean up a bit, making the bed and fixing his hair. 

Once he's got his backpack on and he's downstairs, Yoongi's already waiting for him, ready to leave. "Let me just go say bye to Junseo," he tells him, waits for the nod before he heads into the kitchen, where Junseo is still curled up on his dad's lap, smiling when he catches sight of him.

"Hyungie."

"Hyungie's gotta go home now, bug," he tells him a little sadly, reaching out and bopping his nose with his finger when he pouts. "But I had the best weekend ever with you. You're the coolest."

Junseo reaches for him then and he'd be evil to say no, pulling him up onto his hip. "We can play together again soon, right?"

Taehyung's eyes slide to Jeongguk momentarily, because he really doesn't know. Doesn't really want anything to do with the kid's dad, but he's formed such a bond with him. Either way, it's not his choice. "I'm sure we will," he assures him, even if he doesn't know if it's the truth or not. He doesn't want to lie to the kid, but he also doesn't like the sulk he's sporting. "Keep going with your stories, okay? I want to hear more next time. And give Drago a kiss from me."

Junseo beams at that, wrapping his arms around his neck and Taehyung can only squeeze back, giving him a playful bounce until he's giggling. He hands Junseo back then, and just gives a curt nod when his eyes meet Jeongguk's. 

"Sorry again about the face," Taehyung mumbles to Namjoon as he passes, gesturing to his own cheek. He grins at the flinch he gets when he claps his hand on the guy's shoulder, and heads on out, meeting Yoongi at the door.

"Taehyung." He stops with a little sigh, turning to see Jeongguk walking over, pulling out a cheque from the breast pocket of his shirt. "Here. Your pay. Thank you for doing this, I can tell Junseo had a lot of fun."

Taehyung eyes the cheque, and the amount of zeros after the five is way too many for a weekend job, but he's definitely not complaining. He deserves it after the shit he's been put through the last few days. It's also at least two months rent and all of his utility bills covered, and then some. "He's great. You don't need to thank me." He doesn't know if it's the sleep haze he's still got going on, but when his guard is this down, his eyes can't help but rake over Jeongguk. White button down on, once again open to his chest, once again showing the corner of the tattoo on his chest. This time, though, the chain isn't obstructing it. He can't see the whole thing, but he can make it out well enough from this angle.

Junseo.

Fuck this guy and his ability to pull at his heart strings. And fuck this guy for being attractive enough to have Taehyung staring despite the enmity he feels towards him. He can't go out like this.

"You're still an asshole," he says as with a flash of a fraudulent smile before he turns on his heels and heads to Yoongi's car with one last, "Bye, Junseo!"

Yoongi hisses at him as he skips to the passenger side.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

After getting the earful of a lifetime from his brother regarding respect and just not being an asshole to someone like Jeongguk, life goes back to normal for him. Taehyung still insists on not knowing anything, though it seems Hoseok is very careful not to slip up anymore, whether it be from Taehyung's attitude towards Jeongguk, or Yoongi's wrath, he doesn't know or care.

He keeps on chugging through school life, keeps getting his work done and even combines Junseo's drawings into one of his projects. The project is entirely customised to him personally, and Taehyung bases it on creativity through the years and how it can become morphed by society and reused ideas. 

The only time Taehyung thinks about Jeongguk is the one night he dreams of him. Dreams of him coming into his room late at night and wrapping a hand around his neck and squeezing and squeezing until Taehyung's choking for breath and clawing at his wrists. He wakes up in a cold sweat and an uneasy feeling for the entire day. 

He tries not to think of him anymore after that, but apparently the universe likes to watch him suffer. One night, he's curled up on his couch, watching some intense horror film that looks like it could be close to a snuff film, when there's a knock at the door. It has Taehyung startling and almost falling off the couch, clutching the remote to his chest like a lifeline, until he hears a voice.

"Taehyung."

It should have him feeling more scared, going off his dream from last week, but instead it brings a sense of annoyance, has him glaring at the door and hoping the wood isn't strong enough to prevent it from setting fire to the man standing on the other side of it. 

With a sigh, Taehyung stands and flicks the lights on, going to the door and pulling it open with a scowl. "How did you get in?" Is his first question, because you need to be buzzed up, and Taehyung definitely wouldn't have buzzed him up.

Jeongguk stands there in all his annoying - attractive - glory, looking like he's just stepped off a runway and came straight to Taehyung. "Someone was leaving when I got here, so I thought it'd be okay to let myself up. May I come in?" He looks too amused for Taehyung's liking. 

"You may not," he says with a jut of his chin, closing the door to block the view of his apartment, wedging himself between it and the door frame. "What do you want?"

The man stands there and studies him, an inquisitive look in his eyes. "I came to apologise. I feel like we got off on the wrong foot."

Taehyung scoffs. "Well if that isn't the understatement of the century."

Jeongguk shuffles slightly, hands sliding into the pockets of his jacket and Taehyung has to force himself to keep his gaze level. His eyes aren't much better. They're pretty and big, definitely where Junseo gets his from, but there's the more mature look to him, less wonder and more certainty. "I know what I did was wrong. I should have asked, I know. But in my line of work, I can't afford to make any mistakes. I would never put my son in danger, and I needed to know exactly who you are. Needless to say--" he continues before Taehyung can cut in, "--I didn't go about it the right way. I should have asked. You were right. And I'm sorry." Jeongguk reaches into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulls out a folder, one Taehyung recognises and offers it to him. "Here. Here's everything I have on you."

Taehyung eyes the folder warily before snatching it out of Jeongguk's hand with a squint, keeping his gaze trained on him as he opens it up. He looks down and sees that it is indeed the folder he found in Jeongguk's office, the ones with pictures of him and all of his and his families information in it. "How do I know you don't have copies?"

"You don't," is Jeongguk's honest answer. "But I haven't. You're not interesting enough to have copies." And there's that little smirk that has Taehyung's teeth grinding together.

"Rude," he berates, but he has no reason not to believe him. His shoulders are still tight, but they lose some of the tension they've been holding. "Thanks."

Jeongguk bows his head slightly, and Taehyung doesn't miss the way his eyes look him over briefly. "What were you doing before I interrupted?"

"Watching a movie."

"Well, then. I'll let you get back to it. I just wanted you to have that. And to know I'm sorry," Jeongguk tells him, lips pulling into a little smile. "Have a good evening, Taehyung."

Taehyung watches as Jeongguk steps away and heads down the hallway to the elevator around the corner, watching him get further and further away, before it dawns on him. "How did you know where I lived?" He calls out before Jeongguk gets too far.

"I asked your brother," the man replies without looking back.

He scoffs, "Are you sure you didn't look at my file?"

Jeongguk looks over his shoulder as he turns the corner, lips pulled up into another smile as he shoots him wink before disappearing, not answering his question.

"What a jerk," Taehyung mutters to himself as he steps back into his apartment, tossing the folder onto the side, and doesn't let himself think about the twitch of his lips as he gets situated back on the couch.

Chapter Text

Taehyung is emotionally exhausted.

He's just finished all of the exams he has for the week, and he didn't think he'd seen the end of them. Friday couldn't come soon enough, it was a blessing. With how much time he's spent holed in his apartment, or the graphics department at school, he's raring to go when Momo and Jeongyeon ask him to come clubbing with him. It feels like it's been too long since he's been able to go out and just have fun now that his exams are behind him. For now at least.

He breaks out the leather pants, poor things. They've been catching dust in his drawer for a while now, so it only seems fitting that he wears them. He pairs them with a DIY black sleeveless tee and a thin choker, all with his pink and white silk bomber jacket. He knows he looks good, because he feels good.

Taehyung goes and meets the girls at theirs, considering they live closer to the district, and they pile into a cab and head to the nearest club. The Red Viper. It's packed, as to be expected on a Friday night, with a club so close to a university and with tons of other students being hit with the exam free lifestyle. The line is long, and Taehyung is impatient, resting his chin on top of Jeongyeon's head with his arms wrapped around her shoulders. 

It takes all three of them by surprise then when the line splits and the bouncer at the door is holding the rope open for them, nodding for them to come on in. The girls are cute, Taehyung isn't entirely surprised, but as they head in, he spots a familiar head of grey hair on the other side of the door. He stops and stares, met with a toothy grin and crescent eyes. 

"I know you," Taehyung says with a frown, pointing at him, Momo still tugging at his other wrist to try and pull him inside. 

"Good to see you again, Taehyung-ah," the guy greets, able to see his Adam's apple bobbing with silent laughter.

It dawns on him then.

"Oh no," he whines with wide eyes, body going limp enough that Momo manages to drag him all the way into the club. "No, no, no!"

He hears the sound of laughter fade out behind him.

"Who was that?" Momo asks right against his ear once they reach the bar, and Taehyung is looking, searching around for another familiar face. "He was cute."

Taehyung shoots her a look, one that has her pinching his side. "He's a Satanist. Stay away from him."

The whole thing stumps him a little, still eyeing the club as he drinks something blue and sweet. One of Jeongguk's thugs wouldn't be manning the door without reason. There's no way he'd need a side job. Taehyung briefly remembers all the times Yoongi told him he was going to the club, but he never said where, and at the time, Taehyung was grateful. But now, he wishes he'd have known, so he could have vetoed this place as soon as the girls mentioned it.

Taehyung downs a rapid fire of shots as his eyes skirt around, not even just looking for Jeongguk, but looking for any other faces. Yoongi. Hoseok. Namjoon. But the place is crowded, packed like sardines. With all the frantic searching he's doing, he can't help but take in the interior design. It screams of Jeongguk, and he doesn't even know how. Maybe it's the neon lighting and the modern look to it. But there's something about it that makes him picture Jeongguk pacing around the place, pointing things out that he wants, making changes, ordering demands. There's pedestals raised high off the crowd, scantily dressed girls dancing on them, their skin looking like its covered in glitter and diamonds, reflecting the light that hits them, like walking, talking disco balls. Along the back, there's a DJ, propped up on a small stage, keeping the crowd wrapped up in the music, and somehow even the music reminds him of Jeongguk. It's deep in base and easy on the ears. 

His eyes skim the walls, dark brick with darker flooring, neon paintings and contemporary statues strung and hung high. There's a group of white seats along the sides, all square, angular, occupied with every person that needs a break from dancing. He eyes of stairs leading up through the back of the club, guarded by two bulky looking guys Taehyung doesn't recognise. They must be blocking off the second floor, which he can't see from where he's standing, but the walls above are all glass, giving a perfect view of the club below.

It's Jeongguk. The whole place is so Jeongguk. He can practically see his name carved into every brick, every overly expensive fixture. 

When he catches no other sign from anyone, he downs one more of Jeongguk's drink and lets Momo and Jeongyeon pull him into Jeongguk's dancefloor, away from Jeongguk's bar. Taehyung once again tells himself that he's not going to let this man affect his fun. It's his club, so what. It's just a club. He's here to dance and get pleasantly buzzed and have a good-fucking-time. It's not too hard to have fun when he's with his girls, and the music is pretty popping - even if it is Jeongguk's music - has him moving with it, pressed up against Momo's back. The alcohol is doing the trick, his muscles loosening up and the strain that's been in his shoulders for the last few weeks subsiding. 

He doesn't know how long they dance for, all three of them enjoying each beat of the song, when someone steps up to them, but Taehyung pays them no mind, no doubt talking to the girls. 

"Tae, c'mon, we've been invited into the VIP! Move your ass," Momo tells him, and only then do Taehyung's eyes open, head snapping down to look at the person, and - ah. 

"You," he mutters, eyes narrowing as the girls follow another guy, that's Namjoon - he'd know that back anywhere after that night. "He's here, isn't he?"

Grey haired guy grins, and Taehyung wonders how someone with a face like that could ever work for Jeongguk. "Ah, Taehyung. Don't be difficult now. Just follow me."

Taehyung narrows his eyes, watching as the girls disappear up the stairs, only relenting because he's not about to let them go up there on their own. "What's your name?" He demands.

"Park Jimin," the guy introduces, leading him through the dance floor with a his hands curled around Taehyung's biceps on either side. He groans, head falling back in frustration, squinting when his eyes catch sight of someone standing up on the second floor, right against the glass.

Jeongguk smiles down at him.

Taehyung raises both hands and gives two middle fingers.

"Park Jimin, do you know that your boss is an asshole?" He makes sure to mouth out asshole as best he can, so Jeongguk can see just what he's calling him.

Jeongguk just smiles and covers his heart with his hand, like he's utterly touched.

Asshole.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

The VIP area is impossibly nicer than the downstairs floor; more spacious, less people, more finely tuned in terms of decoration. There's a flat screen TV on the far side of the wall, glowing with neon green, videos of people dancing playing. Just like the main floor, the whole place is bathed in a black light, bringing out the whites of the rooms without it looking like an episode of CSI. There's metal walkways leading out to overlook the floor below, and Taehyung can easily imagine Jeongguk standing on one of them, overlooking all of the people, basking in all of his dickhead glory. 

The people up here suit the VIP more, all dressed in clearly expensive clothing, looking less university life and more uptown life. He spots the girls huddled on one couch, and there's Hoseok sat between them, looking like the cat who just got the cream. 

"Where's Yoongi?" He asks as he stops in front of him, Jimin looking so amused as he takes residence up beside Momo, that he wants to step on his head. 

Hoseok doesn't answer, sipping at the fresh glass of champagne he's poured as he points over to the side, Taehyung's eyes following his line of sight, just in time to see his brother stepping out of a room, doing the fly of his jeans up, followed by a girl smoothing down the sides of her hair.

When his brother catches sight of him, his eyebrows raise in confusion, before he's looking at the girl like he's just remembered she's there, then back to him. 

"Ew. Just ew," Taehyung cuts in before Yoongi says anything, holding his hand up and giving a little retch. "I could have gone a whole fucking lifetime without seeing that." He shudders with a deep exhale, dropping his arm and turning his head away to continue looking around the place, before they settle on Jeongguk.

Jeon Jeongguk who's sat there with two girls on either side of him, pawing at his chest like he's some king. But Jeongguk's not staring at the girls, he's staring right back at Taehyung with a look he can't interpret in lighting this dim.

"Taehyung, what's the deal. How come you never told us about your friends here? We could have been doing this so much sooner." Jeongyeon giggles and Taehyung turns back just in time to see Hoseok leaning in to whisper something against his ear. Though he pulls away when Taehyung kicks his shin.

"I was hoping if I didn't talk about them for long enough, they'd disappear," is his answer, looking over to Yoongi, who holds his arms out like he doesn't know what to do when Taehyung scoffs at him. His eyes go back over to Jeongguk, and he mutters a little oh, that's real nice when he sees him look down the front of one of the girl's shirts. 

"Tae," Yoongi tries, but Taehyung rejects his call with a tsk and heads over to Jeongguk. 

"What do you want," he demands rather than asks, stopping in front of him, staring down at the top of his head. This is a different Jeongguk, one that he hasn't seen. He's only seen soft-dad-Jeongguk. This is like-- this is club-life-Jeongguk. They're so substantially different. Everything about him looks darker, even his eyes. He's wearing this sheer, aztec button down, one button unfastened lower than usual, can see Junseo's name across his pec. His hair is messy, still split to show his forehead, but it looks tugged on, dishevelled. To make matters worse, he's traded out the slacks for jeans tight enough to show the muscles in his thighs. Fucking beautiful bastard.

"Aw, Taehyung. Don't be like that. Can't I say hi?" Jeongguk asks, and shoots the blonde next to him a smile when she giggles into his shoulder. Revolting. "Besides. I didn't know you were coming tonight. You're in my house right now. You should be a little more polite."

Boy. Was this guy pushing it. "Hi," he returns tersely. "Can I go now?"

Jeongguk smiles like he knows something Taehyung doesn't, gesturing to the door. "You can do whatever you want."

Taehyung gives a curtsy before heading back over to Jeongyeon and Momo, still sat with Hoseok, but when he sees Yoongi in the mix, he gives him a sharp look until his brother holds his hands up in defence and quickly slips away to another booth. "Come on, let's go back downstairs," he says to the girls, feigning a grin, though he feels like he already knows the answer before they speak.

"No," Momo drawls, pouting over at him. "What's crawled up your ass, huh? We're here to have fun, Taehyung. So have fun."

He tongues his cheek, eyes flicking over to Hoseok who's holding back a laugh. With a snuff, he pulls his foot back to kick him again, watching the elder flinch back. It gives him satisfaction. Jimin laughs, arm slung around Namjoon's shoulder, who's still bruised, but the welt on his face no longer swelling up the entirety of his eye. 

"This guy," Jimin laughs, crossing his legs. "He should work for Mr. Jeon. Look at how he's got you two. Scared shitless. It's amazing."

Taehyung sighs through his nose, directing his attention back to his two friends who are now back on their feet and on the makeshift dance floor off to the side. He's tempted to leave them, go home and sleep this off. But he'd be thinking about them all night. He trusts Yoongi, trusts Hoseok, but he doesn't know the rest of these guys.

Fuck.

He drops down to sit on one of the square couches, resigning himself to the fact that he's not going anyway anytime soon. Taehyung casts a look over his shoulder to meet eyes with Jeongguk, who's wearing that stupid expression again, and he really just wants to punch him. Right in the dick.

The whiplash this night was giving him.

He closes his eyes when the beat of the music starts to annoy him rather than appease him, slinking down in his seat and crossing his arms over his chest. He doesn't know how long he sits there like that for, when he feels the spot next to him dip with weight and an arm press against the back of his head. "Go away, Yoongi. I'm gonna need, like, a good two weeks to be able to look at you the same."

The chuckle beside him definitely doesn't belong to his brother, and he peaks an eye open to see Jeongguk sat beside him, peering down at him with an inquiring look. "Is my club that boring?"

Taehyung closes his eye again, tightening his arms over his chest. "More so the company."

That laugh again. "You really don't like me, do you?"

"You've given me no reason to."

"Aren't you being a little unfair? I apologised for the file, we should move forward," Jeongguk says, sounding as if he's talking to a petulant child, and Taehyung really doesn't appreciate that.

"There is no forward with us. You're a bad man. And unlike my brother, I have the sense to stay away from you," he replies, tucking his fists under his armpits.

"What if I want a forward with us?"

Taehyung looks back up to Jeongguk, eyes narrowing as the man props his head up on his knuckles, looking like the picture of innocence. "Did you not hear the part where I said you're a bad man, Lord Jeon? And that I have sense?"

"No, I heard," Jeongguk assures but doesn't elaborate. God, he's infuriating. 

"There is no forward with us. The most forward 'us' is gonna get, is if you ask me to babysit Junseo again. Which I'll only be doing because I like him a lot. And I might not even say yes to. Because you'd be involved."

He hopes it's rude enough to send Jeongguk away, a silent dismissal of the conversation. But apparently not, because the next thing he knows, there's a finger running over he edge of his jaw. 

"Do you have any filter, whatsoever?" Jeongguk asks, retracting his finger and dropping it back to his lap. "That's quite a dangerous attribute to have, Taehyung."

Taehyung rolls his eyes, "Oh, shut up. Seriously, who do you think you are? I get that you're apparently this big time mobster-slash-gangster, or whatever. But frankly, I couldn't care less. So stop with the-- whatever you're doing," he mutters with a gesture to Jeongguk. "You don't intimidate me. You annoy me, Jeongguk."

"Taehyung!" Yoongi snaps from the next booth over. 

Taehyung pays him no mind. "Nah, I'm bored of this now. You guys can continue going around and one upping the police, but I want nothing to do with it. Deuces," he finishes as he stands, flashing two fingers as he makes to leave. His wrist is grabbed before he can get too far away, turning back to stare down at Jeongguk who's got his fingers curled around him, other hand coming up to rub the back of his knuckles.  

"I'll be seeing you around, Kim Taehyung," Jeongguk states matter of factly, staring up at him with his amused little look, and Taehyung withdraws his hand with a rough tug.

"Not if I can help it."

He heads out then, not sparing a glance behind him as he grabs onto Momo and Jeongyeon's elbows and pulls them downstairs, ignoring their protests. They faster and further they can get away, the better.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

The next day, he's hanging out with Yoongi in his apartment, the last night behind them because his brother finally admitted that Jeongguk had kind of deserved it after he told him the entire story of finding the file. Yoongi doesn't agree with the way he went about it, but he admits that Jeongguk getting a file on him was pretty fucked, especially considering their circumstances, with Yoongi having pretty much all of his information too. Easily obtainable. And legally.

His brother is making his famous spicy soft tofu stew when his buzzer goes. "Expecting someone?" Yoongi calls, buzzing the person in as Taehyung steps out of the shower, wrapping a towel around his waist. 

"No?" Taehyung replies, peeking out around the corner as he towel dries his hair, padding out and leaving wet footprints behind him. He gets the door when someone knocks, half expecting it to be one of his friends, so when he sees a guy holding a bunch of flowers and a teddy bear, asking him if he's Kim Taehyung, he's a little floored.

"Um, yeah?" He takes the gifts handed to him then, and just stares after the delivery guy as he retreats with a bored look on his face. Clearly not his secret admirer, then. "Yoongi," he calls cautiously as he turns and kicks the door shut behind him. 

"What is it?" Yoongi asks curiously, looking over his shoulder as he strains some sweet potato noodles he made on the side. When he catches sight of the huge bear and almost obnoxiously big bouquet, his lips curl into a smirk. "Aw, Taehyungie got someone pining after him?"

Taehyung sets the flowers down on the dining table, plucking the card off the little holder. "Dearest Taehyung, just wanted you to know that I'm thinking about you. I hope you're thinking about me too. Love--" he pauses and squints before cocking an eyebrow and pursing his lips. "Hyung, why is the boss of your little boy band gang professing his love for me?"

Yoongi drops the noodles on the floor with a loud curse as he burns his hand.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

from: DO NOT ANSWER (jeon)

Did you get my gifts?

Taehyung looks up from his book when his phone vibrates on the table, quiet enough in the library that it hopefully doesn't disturb anyone else. When he sees the text, he snorts under his breath and drops his phone back to the table with a muted clatter, going back to highlighting pages for his art history class. Not two minutes later does it vibrate again and Taehyung eyes the screen with a frown.

from: DO NOT ANSWER (jeon)

I can always send more.

Maybe roses aren't your thing. 

Perhaps chrysanthemums? Or lilies. You look like you'd like lilies.

I'll send those next.

He grabs his phone with an irritated sigh.

to: DO NOT ANSWER (jeon)

pls dont

i dont want ur gifts thnx

save them 4 some1 who wants to be a gangsters bitch

:)

from: DO NOT ANSWER (jeon)

That mouth you have on you.

Never fails to entertain me.

Have dinner with me.

to: DO NOT ANSWER (jeon)

pass

ill be busy choking on my own vom

im turnin my phone off now

byeeeeeee

With a shake of his head, he does just that, holding down the off button until the screen goes dark and even then, he puts it face down on the table. "This guy," he mutters a few minutes later once he's finished highlighting practically all of his page in a haste to get back to work.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Taehyung is growing steadily more incensed as more and more gifts start showing up at his door. It's gotten to the point where he's no longer buzzing the delivery guy in, pretending not to be home, only to have one of his neighbours bring the plethora of flowers and presents to him with more and more disdain each time they show up. His apartment is filling with different colours and smells, orange spray roses in one corner, and oriental lilies in the other. It makes his place smell good, at least. He can't bring himself to throw them away, though. He worked a summer at the florist one year before uni and he'd spent countless hours in the back room stripping flowers of leaves and cutting them. For such a pretty job, Taehyung's certain it's the hardest job he's ever worked, countless hours on his feet, carrying huge buckets of flowers up and down to the store. He also can't bear the thought of wasting flowers just for the sake of proving a point. 

But it's getting ridiculous. 

What's even more ridiculous is his phone ringing at three in the morning, and seeing SHIT HEAD flash up on the screen. He groans, rolling over he grabs for it and answers.

"Do you know what time--"

"Taehyung."

The tone of Jeongguk's voice has him sitting up and flicking his light on, frowning at all the rushed noises in the background, feeling something bitter settle in his stomach. "What's going on?"

"I don't have time to explain. I need for you to look after Junseo for the night. Or for the next few nights. I have to go out of town right now."

Taehyung feels the sense of dread grow, climbing out of bed and flipping all his lights on. "Do you need me to come over?"

"There's no time for that. Can I drop him off with you? I'm sorry this is so sudden, I wouldn't ask if it wasn't--"

"No, no, it's okay. Yeah, bring him over, that's fine," he quickly interjects, getting a look at the time at the clock as he steps into the kitchen.

With that, they say a quick, rushed goodbye and the line goes dead. Taehyung has a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach, knowing something bad has got to be happening for Jeongguk to ask him to look after Junseo at this time, knows it has to be serious. He paces around his apartment for the next ten minutes, not really sure what to do with himself, and when the buzzer goes, he quickly scrambles to answer, pulling his door open and listening out for the elevator. Not a minute later is Jeongguk appearing around the corner with a sleepy looking Junseo hanging off his dad, still in his pajamas. 

"Jeongguk, what is going on?" He demands as the man steps into his apartment and goes and settles his son on Taehyung's couch, along with his frog shaped backpack. 

"A couple of my guys were doing business over in Busan when there was an attack. Usually I wouldn't go myself, but the people who attacked them have been looking to take my turf for years now," Jeongguk explains, voice eerily calm, and Taehyung kind of wishes he hadn't asked, but if it concerns Junseo, he kind of needs to know. "I'm sorry for springing this on you so suddenly, but I don't have anyone else I trust to--"

Taehyung cuts him off with a shake of his head, letting out a deep, uneven breath. "It's fine. Go do what you need to do, I'll take care of him."

Jeongguk stands after pressing a kiss to Junseo's head, turning to face him, and for a second, he can see something heavy in his eyes, something that just screams threatening. "I shouldn't be gone long. I'll make sure to pay you for this, I promise."

Taehyung once again dismisses the answer. "Don't worry about that. Just go. I've got this."

The man stares at him for a long second before nodding and heading back to the door, and just as Taehyung's about to close the door after him, Jeongguk stops him with a hand pressed against the wood. "Taehyung. Thank you. For this."

"It's fine. Just go," he insists in a tone much softer than he'd care to admit, giving a nod when Jeongguk squeezes his arm before watching him disappear down the hall. With another sigh, he closes and locks the door, leaning his back against it as he turns and faces Junseo, fast asleep on his couch. He's got classes tomorrow, ones he can't afford to skip out on, so he'll just have to take Junseo with him. He feels a little lost. He hasn't got many kid suited snacks in his refrigerator. He makes a note to himself to get some stuff tomorrow while they're out.

Taehyung heads over to the couch, being gentle as he carefully picks Junseo up and carries him to his bed, helping him out of the jacket he's got on, pulling off his shoes and carefully tucking him under the covers. He makes sure to dim his bedside lamp to the lowest setting, just enough to substitute as a nightlight, and he's just about to turn and leave when there's a soft voice.

"Hyungie," Junseo croaks, voice thick and small with sleep.

Taehyung's careful as he lowers himself down to sit on he edge of his bed, reaching to smooth down the kid's hair. "Hey, bug. Go back to sleep, okay? You're coming to school with me tomorrow. Doesn't that sound like fun?"

Junseo gives a sleepy smile, arm curling tight around the teddy that's been steadily tucked into his arm, holding him close and giving a hum of agreement. "Night, Taehyungie."

"Night, bug," he whispers, and just sits and watches as Junseo drifts back off, waiting until he's sure he's asleep before he goes out and lays down on his couch. He drops his head back and stares up at the ceiling, trying to catch up with the rush of the night, and how he's still managed to get tangled up in his brother's mess of a job, pulled in despite how hard he's fought to keep his distance, keep off the radar. 

He manages to get a few hours of unsettled sleep before his alarm jolts him awake, sitting up and looking around frantically. He relaxes immediately when he sees Junseo sat on the floor in front of the TV, having managed to turn it on to some early morning cartoons. The sight soothes him, relaxing back and giving himself a moment to collect himself before he turns his alarm off and gets up to sit down beside Junseo. 

"What we watching?" He asks with a yawn muffled into the back of his hand. 

"Scooby Doo. Do you like this show, hyung?"

Taehyung nods, staring up at the screen and watching as the group split up and look for clues. They sit and watch for a little while before Taehyung remembers that he has to get ready for class, and not only has he got to get ready, he's also got to get a little person ready too. 

"You ready to come to my classes with me today?" Taehyung asks as Junseo sits up on his knees by the kitchen counter, him standing across from the kid, both of them eating their cereal. He smiles when Junseo nods eagerly, spooning too much into his mouth.

Once they've finished breakfast, they brush their teeth together and Taehyung first gets Junseo ready in one of the sets of clothes that Jeongguk clearly packed in his haste to bring him over. He finds it adorable to watch Junseo stare with wide eyes at all the accessories and clothes Taehyung's acquired over the years, and he grabs his red bandanna and ties it around Junseo's forehead, pushing his hair out of his face, and hanging his lucky pendant necklace around his neck.

"How's that? We like?" He asks as they both stand in front of the mirror together, admiring Junseo's new additions. He beams when he gets an eager nod and that familiar, gum prominent smile. They look better on Junseo, there's no denying it.

Taehyung leaves Junseo to watch TV while he goes and showers and gets ready for a day of classes, luckily just some lectures, no seminars, because he gets stir crazy sitting in those, he can't imagine how boring it'd be for a kid.

Once they're both dressed and ready to go, they head out to start the school day. He feels proud as punch when people coo at the sight of Junseo as they walk through campus together, and when they get to Taehyung's first class, he guides Junseo into his seat while he goes and quickly explains to the professor a false situation, because he can't really say Oh, this is the son of the notorious Jeon Jeongguk, who had to rush out of town because his gang - that my brother is a part of, by the way - is under siege. No, he settles for Junseo being his little brother and he had to look after him on such short notice. 

Needless to say, Junseo is as good as gold, and he draws the attention of his classmates, who find him precious, which is no surprise because he is precious. He shows so much genuine interest in what Taehyung's learning, and when he's not, he doesn't kick up a fuss, just sits and plays with Taehyung's phone, or on the DS that was packed away in his bag. Taehyung makes sure Junseo doesn't feel like he's being ignored, checking in on him every now and then, and gives him the lollipop he finds in his bag. 

Taehyung takes Junseo to a quiet little restaurant for lunch, and they both sit and eat japchae, talking and goofing around, feeding each other bites of kimchi and beansprouts. Though he finds himself worrying a little, worrying about Yoongi, who hasn't got back to any of his texts, worrying about Hoseok, worrying about Jeongguk. He's worried about how bad the whole thing had to have been for them to literally take off in the middle of the night with such short notice. It makes him uneasy, because Yoongi always texts him and tells him when he's going out of town. And he always texts him back. It's the agreement they had when Yoongi first - briefly - explained what his job was when he and Hoseok found their new calling in life. 

He tries not to let it bother him too much, because he doesn't want to worry Junseo if he picks up on his shifty mood. He doesn't want to stress him out. Taehyung can't imagine how hard it must be for the kid, being in an environment that he doesn't understand, his dad constantly up and leaving at the drop of a hat. He's surprised he manages to stay so calm. It's got to be another testimony of just how much Jeongguk looks out for his kid, how much Junseo must adore him.

The day goes smoothly, the rest of his classes seem to fly by a little quicker when he's got this cutie sitting by him, lapping up the attention he gets from the girls who coo and pinch at his soft cheeks. Little ladies man in the making, it seems. There's one point where Taehyung has a very serious, very there panic attack. He looks away for one second to hand his assignment in and when he turns back around, he can't find Junseo where he left him. The frenzy that Taehyung feels is otherworldly, searching the whole class and coming up empty, only to step outside of the classroom, Junseo's name on his lips, when the little guy reaches up and tugs at his sleeve, having been waiting for him outside.

Taehyung deflates, dropping down onto his knees to pull an oblivious Junseo into his arms. "You can't do that, Junseo. I thought I'd lost you for a second there. You scared me," he scolds softly, holding Junseo back by the arms so he can see the look on his face. "Don't leave my side, okay?" And then, to soften it, "Hyungie will get scared on his own."

That seems to ease away the look of guilt on Junseo's face, the soft pout on his lips turning into one of determination. "Sorry, TaeTae. I won't let you get scared, don't worry."

Taehyung nods and pulls Junseo back into him with a tight squeeze. God, he can't imagine Jeongguk's reaction if he went and lost his son. He's certain he'd end up dead in a dumpster without his arms and legs. Taehyung wouldn't even blame him.

After that little scare, Taehyung makes an effort to hold Junseo's hand at all times, or the back of his backpack, just keeping one hand on him, one eye on him, one ear out for him, even in class. The only time he finally relaxes is when they're back in his apartment, and Junseo is free to run around all he likes. He spends a lot of the night obsessively checking his phone, waiting for some text or call, needing to know how someone is. He finally gets a text at around one in the morning, Junseo tucked away in bed and Taehyung sat at his desk, trying to distract himself with work. He's frantic as he reaches for his phone.

from: hyungie (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)

just checking in with you.

i'm okay, don't worry. i'm sorry i didn't get back to you sooner, i feel shitty.

this is the first chance i've gotten. 

you're okay, yeah? 

Taehyung almost cries he's so relieved, forcing his fingers not to shake as he types out his reply.

to: hyungie (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)

thank god , ive been worried

im fine dw

better now that i kno ur okay

just check in with me every now and then ok ?

stay safe yoongi

i need u around

love u x

from: hyungie (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)

i will, i promise.

you too, bug.

love you.

He drops his phone back to a desk, feeling ten pounds lighter, raking jittery fingers through his hair. Still. He can't shake the uneasy feeling he's holding. Yoongi hadn't said anything about Jeongguk, hadn't said if he's okay, if he's injured or what. Taehyung thought he'd be fine after hearing that his brother was okay, thought he'd be able to focus a little easier, wouldn't need to keep checking his messages. But he still feels that knot behind his ribs, the ball of anxiety that's keeping him from getting settled and comfortable. It bothers him, feeling worried for the man who does nothing but bother him, clutter his apartment with gifts and sends him ludicrous texts. He tells himself that he's worried for Junseo's sake, doesn't want him to lose his dad. Yoongi lost his father, before their mother met Taehyung's father. His brother was only young at the time too, and it tore him apart. Their mom use to tell him that when she was pregnant with him, Yoongi would tell her that he wanted nothing to do with him, didn't want a brother. But apparently, he went all soft when Taehyung was born and he was actually the first one to hold him. He can't imagine the pain Yoongi must have felt, though. Losing his father, and he doesn't want to imagine that kind of pain for Junseo.

Still, he knows that's not the only reason he's concerned, but he doesn't let himself think about it. Refuses to let himself believe that he actually gives a damn about Jeongguk. 

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Over the next few days, Taehyung continues to take Junseo to his classes and out to lunch and buys him snacks and ice cream and pens and pencils. He always sighs a breath of relief when he gets a text from Yoongi telling him he's okay, and he can never fucking bring himself to ask how Jeongguk is, never wants to admit to the fact that he's curious about how the older man is. Surely he's okay if Yoongi hasn't said anything about it, he reasons with himself. Yeah, that's gotta be it. Jeongguk is fine. 

Despite himself, he's still checking at his phone, finds himself picking at his nails in an anxious habit. Time seems to slow down once Junseo's gone to bed, no longer having his laughter and curious questions about what he's drawing there to distract him. Being on his own, with his own thoughts and time on his hands-- it's grating on his nerves. 

A couple of nights later, there's a knock at the door, a slow thump of knuckles that has Taehyung's heart suddenly rising into his throat. He checks the time, and it's once again way too late for just anyone to be coming to see him. He's quiet and cautious as he heads over to the door, taking to looking through the peep hole, and when he sees a familiar face blurred in front of him, Taehyung's shoulders almost hit the floor as he practically pulls the door off the hinges.

"Hi," he breathes, holding the door open before Jeongguk can ask if he can come in. As the man passes, he suddenly takes in the bruises over his face, the split lip and the smeared blood across his cheekbone. "Jesus, what happened to you?" He rushes to ask in one breath, closing the door and quickly grabbing at Jeongguk's face, turning his head in his hands, taking in the grazes to his face. 

Jeongguk waves it off, but he doesn't pull away. "It's fine. Just a few scratches." He stares straight at him as Taehyung brushes a light thumb over a cut on the side of his eyebrow, spending a moment like that before speaking up again. "Where's Junseo?" 

"He's asleep in my bed. He'll be happy to see you, been talking about you non-stop. Everything's been fine, don't worry," he assures, dropping his hands from Jeongguk's face, ready to leave it at that, but he can't. Something bothers him about seeing Jeongguk with bags under his eyes, a sag to his shoulders and a busted face. "Go sit down," he orders and helps the man out of his coat.

"Taehyung, I'm fine."

"Don't start. You can't let Junseo see you like that," Taehyung reprimands, hanging Jeongguk's coat up before he heads into the bathroom and grabs the little makeshift first aid kit he's made over the years. Yoongi's come over to his with cuts and scratches, and he can never just sit and leave them unattended. And he's not about to do the same for someone else. He heads back out into the living room to find Jeongguk sat on his couch, and as he settles beside him and gets everything out, he notices the bruises on his knuckles, the smear of blood on the cuff of his shirt. 

Jeongguk must sense where his eyes are lingering, pulling out his cufflinks and rolling his sleeves up. "It's not mine, don't worry."

Taehyung's eyes dart up to Jeongguk's face. "That doesn't really make me feel any better, idiot."

The man huffs a laugh as he sets the cufflinks down on the coffee table, leaning back with a sigh, and in this moment, Jeongguk looks his age. Taehyung can see the lines around his eyes, the turned down mouth, the weight of the world on his shoulders. 

"Everyone else okay?" Taehyung asks before he can help himself, peeling apart a antiseptic wipe before leaning in and starting to clean up anywhere that needs it. 

"They're fine. Got our guys back, handled the, uh. Situation, you could say." 

Taehyung's nose scrunches, hoping handled doesn't mean killed like it sounds like. He's not going to pry, he's glad for the discretion. He works on getting Jeongguk as patched up as he possibly can with his mediocre selection of aid, only muttering a flat, "Good."

"Were you worried?" The elder asks suddenly as Taehyung tries to clean the split in his lip, eyes lifting to meet a steady gaze, feeling his insides spasm, clenching and unclenching like they've got a heartbeat of their own.

After a few seconds of just staring, Taehyung inhales deeply and returns his attention back to the split lip. "I was worried for Junseo's sake." He doesn't let himself look up again, so the look in Jeongguk's eyes goes unnoticed. He's not about to let this bad dude waltz in and try and sweep him off his feet. Taehyung isn't an idiot, he's not gonna fall for that shit. He's got a plan for his life, and it definitely does not involve crime. "All finished," he sighs once he's done all he can. He stands to take everything back when he's hit with a wave of déjà vu as his wrist is grabbed. Taehyung looks down at Jeongguk, who's staring at his hand as his fingers slide down to rest in the crease of his palm.

"I really appreciate you doing this for me. I know it was mainly for Junseo, but I'm still grateful that you've given up your time to do this," Jeongguk says in such a gentle voice it has Taehyung reeling, because he's never heard him speak so gently. He swallows, eyes flicking from his hand in Jeongguk's bruised one and back up to his face. "Thank you."

Taehyung doesn't snatch his hand away this time, doesn't recoil harshly, just waits until Jeongguk's loosening his grip enough for his arm to fall back to his side. He gives a nod in response before escaping to the bathroom on shaky legs. He needs a minute to pull himself back together, because that took him off guard. The relief he felt when he saw it was Jeongguk at his door took him off guard. It makes something churn in his stomach, the start of something warm blooming in his chest. He shakes the feeling off before he can concede to it, not wanting to acknowledge it. He busies himself with tidying up, being extra thorough as he washes his hands, making sure to get into every crack of his skin. 

When he steps out, Jeongguk's no longer on the couch, and he briefly thinks he may have left without a word, but his coat is still there, and so is Junseo's backpack. He dips his head into the bedroom, and finds Jeongguk there, sat on the edge of his bed, staring at his son and combing his fingers through his hair. The look on his face is so... adoring. An emotion Taehyung's certain only Junseo can elicit. It has his heart once again squeezing in on itself, staring at the picture in front of him and he ducks out before he gets caught up in it. It's an intimate moment, Jeongguk seeing his son for the first time in a few days and Taehyung's not about to intrude in something so personal and heartfelt. He goes and makes himself some tea to give himself something to do, needing to keep his mind occupied. He makes two cups, and seemingly on queue, Jeongguk steps into the kitchen just as Taehyung's putting the milk away.

"He's sound asleep," Jeongguk sighs, taking one of the mugs he's offered, leaning back against the opposite counter as Taehyung cradles his own tea between both hands. "What did you both do?"

Taehyung pauses blowing on his tea. "I took him to class with me most days. Everyone loved him. Got plenty of attention from girls."

Jeongguk chuckles, taking a sip. "Was that not a burden to you? Taking him to your classes?"

"No, it was fine. My professors understood. Just told them he was my brother and my parents had a family emergency." He tells Jeongguk all about their time together, the little adventures he and Junseo had, the places they went to eat, the movies they watched, all sorts. Just saying whatever comes to mind because it seems like the elder really wants to know everything, even the minor things. He can tell just by how closely he listens that he must hate being apart from his son, missing out on small moments, so Taehyung doesn't spare any details, giving everything until the moment Junseo went to bed earlier in the evening. 

When they both finish their drinks, he can see Jeongguk eyeing the clock and he shakes his head. 

"Just stay here tonight. There's no point in you driving all the way home when I've got a couch. You look exhausted. And Junseo is sound asleep."

"I don't want to intrude anymore than I have."

God, why does he have to go and say sweet shit like that. He's a bad man, Taehyung. Bad. Emphasis on bad.

"You're not. Go get some sleep, you look like you're about to keel over."

"Where will you sleep?"

"I've got a futon in the back room. I'm gonna stay up for a bit anyway, need to do some work."

Jeongguk nods, setting his empty mug in the sink. "If you're sure."

"I'm sure," he assures. "Get some rest. Help yourself to anything you want."

The elder gives another nod, casting a smile his way, reaching out and squeezing his arm before he heads into the living room. Taehyung stands there for a minute, letting out a breath he didn't realise he was holding, before collecting his laptop off his desk and heading into the back. He doesn't think he could do any work if he tried, but it was as good of an excuse as any to have Jeongguk relenting. 

He barely sleeps that night, which is becoming a recurring theme in his life, very aware of any sounds in the other room, any rustle of the couch or a cough or a sniff. At one point, he holds his breath at the sound of footsteps, and doesn't really relax again until he hears the toilet flushing and the sound of the faucet running, followed by the creak of the couch. It doesn't help that the futon isn't all that comfortable, only has it because Hoseok asked him to store it for him when he moved and never got around to collecting it again.

In the morning, after a restless night, he finds himself looking himself over in the mirror, smoothing out his hair a little before he heads on out. The couch is empty, and Taehyung once again goes and checks his bedroom, and the sight before him is enough to warm the coldest of hearts. Jeongguk's laying on his bed, arm tucked behind his head, taking the bare minimum amount of space as Junseo lays across his chest, curled into his dad with his fingers holding onto the front of his shirt. Taehyung almost wants to take a picture.

He collects a fresh change of clothes and tries to be as quiet as possible as he goes and showers and gets ready for his day. He's got class in an hour, and he sees no point in waking the sleeping pair, clearly cherishing being reunited. Taehyung definitely doesn't want to encroach on their time together. Once he's dressed and ready, a waffle stuck between his teeth, he grabs a pen and legal pad and scrawls down a note.

had to go to class but stay as long as you want!

there's spare toothbrushes and clothes if you need any and help yourself to anything in the fridge

give junseo a big kiss goodbye for me!!!!

taehyung

xxx

He viciously scrawls out the kisses and instead turns them into a black rectangle, pressing down hard enough to tear a hole in the paper. No kisses allowed. The note in itself seems far too nice, nicer than Jeongguk should receive. But it's hard to keep on being rude when Jeongguk continues to be nothing but kind to him. There was the whole file incident, but he got his apology, got given the file with the knowledge he's not interesting enough to have copies on. Doesn't mean he's going to be particularly nice to him, but he can't just keep on being a little asshole for the sake of it. Jeongguk was one of the bad guys, but so was his brother. It'd be a bit of a double standard. But that also doesn't mean he's going to let himself respond to the courting Jeongguk's taken to doing, there's a line in the sand - which Taehyung has to keep drawing again and again - and he's not going to step over it.

Later, when he returns home from class and his apartment is vacant, Taehyung feels something bitter coil in his stomach at the sight of an envelope filled with money. He doesn't know why, he should be grateful, should think yeah, I deserve to be paid after babysitting. But instead, he just feels - sour.

Yeah. Definitely not stepping over that concrete line.

Chapter Text

 from: concrete line

Hey, are you free this weekend?

I need you to look after Junseo on Saturday.

to: concrete line

yeh im free

u gonna pay me ?

 

from: concrete line

Of course.

to: concrete line

then im in

from: concrete line

Thank you.

Concrete motherfucking line.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Junseo falls asleep on him pretty early, having gone out earlier in the day for a friend's birthday party. Taehyung spent all of dinner listening to the kid talk about what happened, what he and his friends did, what the birthday girl got, what he got her. Taehyung pokes fun at him at the possibility of him liking her, and Junseo just sticks his tongue out at him. It's cute. Things are so much simpler when you're young, when everyone else looks out for you, when you have no responsibilities, when liking other boys and girls was no big deal. There was no worry about them being a felon. Not that Taehyung has that problem. No, sir. All just hypothetical's. 

It's a little after eleven when Jeongguk returns home. It's earlier than he expected, having not thought he'd return until the following morning. He's in the kitchen making himself a drink when the door swings open, and Taehyung hears two sets of voices: one being Jeongguk's, the other belonging to someone else.

A woman. 

Taehyung feels himself tense up a little as he looks on from the kitchen as a girl in a red dress with a slit all the way up the thigh stumbles on in, perched on Jeongguk's arm, giving such fake little laughs that they make Taehyung's eyes roll and his head shake. Pathetic. He feels anger bubble up inside him as he watches the pair of them kiss right there in the foyer, Jeongguk grabbing at her back while she runs a hand through the back of his hair and rubs his chest with the other. The heat that burns in Taehyung's stomach is hot and ugly, overcome with such a pulse of jealously that his vision almost swims.

"You're fucking kidding me, right?" Taehyung bites out as he steps out of the kitchen, announcing his presence, getting great pleasure when the pair break off. The girl looks shocked. Jeongguk not so much. 

Jeongguk stares over at him for a long moment, face unreadable before he smooths it out and directs a smile down at the girl still hanging off his arm. "Why don't you go upstairs, hm? I'll be up in a sec," he mutters, voice hushed and gross, Taehyung should not fucking like that. He doesn't, no. He won't let himself. The girls nods, muttering something that sounds suspiciously like don't make me wait too long, Mr. Jeon. Taehyung could fucking die on the amount of cringe in his lungs right now. 

When the girl sends him a biting look, he returns it with the most bogus smile he's ever conjured in his all his twenty-two years, watching her disappear with a wave of his fingers before his gaze returns to Jeongguk, watching him undo his tie as he steps around him and into the kitchen.

"Good night with Junseo?"

No fucking way was he being this arrogant. "Are you actually serious right now, Jeongguk? What the fuck is this? What do you think I am, someone you can call over to look after your kid when you wanna go out and find a cheap - might I add - lay?"

Jeongguk hums, stepping over to the bar in the corner, grabbing a glass and pouring himself some scotch. "You really should start using honorifics with me, Taehyung. It's only polite."

Taehyung just stares over at him, not sure if he's imagining things, or if Jeongguk is really being completely ignorant. "You don't fucking deserve them, asshole."

"Could you keep your voice down? My son is asleep upstairs," the elder tosses so casually over his shoulder that Taehyung could pull his hair out. Instead he barks a disbelieving laugh.

"Says the one who brought home some ditz to fuck three rooms down. Like, seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you?" Taehyung demands, refusing to acknowledge the hurt he feels. Why should he feel hurt? There was no reason for him to feel fucking hurt

Jeongguk turns and leans casually back against the bar, not a care in the world. "I pay you, don't I? What does it matter what I'm doing as long as you get your money."

He huffs a laugh through parted lips, tongue pressing into his cheek hard enough to hurt, shaking his head. "Yeah, well. I'm not interested anymore, so you can keep your cheap money." But before he gets too far, he jabs a finger back in Jeongguk's direction and spits out a harsh, "Dick." Taehyung grabs his bag and heads for the door, only to once again be stopped by Jeongguk grabbing him, though this time he grabs at his arm, and it's not softly.

"Are you jealous, Taehyung?"

Taehyung scoffs loudly, "You're out of your fucking mind."

Jeongguk smirks cruelly, his hand only tightening when Taehyung tries to tug it free. "You seem jealous."

"Why would I be jealous?"

"That's what I'm wondering," Jeongguk shrugs, hand finally dropping when Taehyung manages to yank his arm free. "I made my intentions very clear to you."

Taehyung just grits his teeth. Was he just a failed fuck attempt? "Yeah, and I made mine clear." He yanks the door open, and he can't even bring himself to feel bad at how hard it hits the wall. "Lose my number."

"At least let me pay you for your time here tonight. Money's important, no?"

Taehyung spins once more to see Jeongguk holding out a wad of cash, and he stares at it with wild eyes before directing his glare up to the elder. "I don't want your dirty money!" He snaps, smacking it out of Jeongguk's hand, the notes fluttering to the floor. "Find a better use for it. Oh, here's an idea! Go stick it in that skank's dirty g-string, how about that? And then you can both go fuck yourselves."

He's so angry that he's shaking, stalking down the driveway hard enough to have his feet aching with every step, barking out a laugh when Jeongguk calls out a, "Your loss!" Tossing back a middle finger over his shoulder and not once looking back.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Taehyung is not jealous.

Why the fuck would he be jealous? What good reason would he have to be jealous? None. None whatsoever. And he's a rational man, if there's no reason for him to be jealous, then he knows he's not. What Jeongguk had said really irked him, made him take his aggression out on his poor pillow when he got home, thumping it and screaming into it until he tired himself out and his limbs were heavy.

He's not going to let someone like Jeongguk get under his skin, so he's gotten rid of him. It came down to money in the end anyway, right? Taehyung can find other sources of income, he got by just fine before - really only because of Yoongi - so he'll do just fine without it. He'll miss the living hell out of Junseo, the kid has managed to wiggle his way in between his ribs and made a home in his heart, but he can't subject himself to being around his father. He's not mentally fit enough to be around someone like Jeongguk. Every fucking time he thinks he could learn to really like the guy, he goes and does something that just sends all of that plummeting, and it reminds him what kind of guy Jeongguk is. A dangerous man, and Taehyung can't get wrapped up in mind games.

Just to show how unjealous is he, when he overhears some of his friends mentioning hitting up The Red Viper, he pipes in that he's definitely down.

Jeongyeon looks over to him with a raised eyebrow, pausing mid-bite of her sandwich. "Really? Last time we went, you dragged me and Momo out of there."

Taehyung just forces a grin. "Ah, that was just a misunderstanding. It'll be fine, don't worry," he assures.

Jeongyeom still eyes his warily, but she's got no proof that he's lying and eventually shrugs it off. 

The night they decide to go out, he puts on a soft, silk cream button down, and tucks one side into the front of his ripped jeans. He messes up his hair as if someone had been grabbing it, tugging it and mussing it. For no reason, it's just style. Obviously.

When they get to the club, this time a much larger group, Taehyung is too impatient to wait in line, making his way to the front and grinning when he sees none other than his brother. Yoongi doesn't question him, just looks him over and pulls a face like he doesn't want to know why Taehyung's got that devious look in his eye.

"Behave, Tae," his brother calls after him as Taehyung wraps his arm around Mark's shoulders and leads him into the club, looking back at Yoongi and sending him a wink.

The drinks come easy, and they go down easier. He's not here to get rip roaring drunk, there's no fun in that. But he's here for a good time, and to make a point. So four shots and half a beer in, he drags the closest person out onto the dance floor, which happens to be Jihan, ignoring his protests, because he is gonna dance his ass off tonight. 

It takes a minute for him to get Jihan to loosen up, but when he does, it's so easy to remember why they're such good friends. Jihan can be this very reserved, in his own bubble kind of guy, but when he opens up and relaxes, he's a giant goofball. They end up sandwiching Minah between their bodies, and she's so small between them, it's borderline adorable. 

Taehyung dances with everyone, people slipping in and out, bringing him drinks every now and then, and he always makes sure to return the favour. His eyes flicker up to the second floor every now and then, looking for someone in particular, and when he catches sight of Jeongguk leaning up against the glass, forearm above his head and very obviously staring down at him, Taehyung remembers why he'd been so eager to come back to this god forsaken club. 

He doesn't let his eyes linger for long, just enough to know that Jeongguk's clearly got his sights set on him, and he kind of wants the fucker to eat his heart out as he ends up dancing up against some guy who introduces himself as Seojoon against the back of his ear. He's got a cute face and nice hands. When the light catches his profile when Taehyung turns to face him and slide his hands along his ribs, he sees that Seojoon is a little older, and for a fucking moment, Taehyung wonders if this is a thing now. Older men. 

They talk a little as they dance, but when a particularly slow beat song comes on, the talking seems to stop and it ends up being more about their hands on each other and Seojoon's eyes looking down the length of his body. He's never been shy in this department, so he has no problem sliding his hand around and down to Seojoon's ass and uses it to pull him closer. It does the trick, the guy suddenly leaning in and kissing him like he's a breath of fresh air. Which Taehyung needs after a few minutes, his fingers having wound into the back of Seojoon's hair, keeping him in place as he kisses across his jaw. Taehyung licks his kiss swollen lips as risks a glance above, and-- fuck him. Seriously, fuck this guy so much.

Fuck him because there's Jeongguk - standing up on one of the metal walkways, amongst other people - pressing some guy back against the railing as he kisses him. To say it annoys him even more to see Jeongguk kissing another guy would be... absolutely truthful. He's some young thing with dark blue hair and long legs, and Taehyung has a sour taste in his mouth, which he chases away on Seojoon's tongue the moment Jeongguk's eyes open and settle on him. Taehyung holds his gaze for an agonisingly long time before he forces himself to focus back on the pretty mouth against his own.

He hums appreciatively into Seojoon's mouth when his hand climbs up the back of his shirt, and Taehyung decides to up the ante, slipping his thigh between the other man's and wrapping a loose arm around his shoulders, pulling back for a breather. He stares down between them, Seojoon's hand gripping at his hip under his shirt, ducking his head even lower to stare at where their hips meet, sliding against each others to the beat of Banks' Gemini Feed. Taehyung rests his forehead against the top of Seojoon's head, letting him look all he wants as he twists his head to stare up at Jeongguk, meeting his eyes almost instantly, the boy he's with mouthing at the side of his neck. 

It pisses Taehyung off to the point where he's close to breaking this little game and straight out calling Jeongguk out, to yell at him from across the club. But no. He's calm, he's collected, he doesn't care who Jeongguk fucks. Why would he? He said so himself, he made his feelings for Jeongguk abundantly clear. He wasn't interested. You know what he was interested in? Seojoon. 

After a little while, Seojoon steps back and pulls out his phone, telling him he's got to take a call. Taehyung nods but doesn't stop dancing, more than happy to dance by himself, because one, he's never had a problem with having fun on his own, and two, Dean is playing, and he can't not dance to Dean. Not more than thirty seconds later does he feel hands on his waist, a body pressing up against his back and without even looking, he knows who it is. He just knows, somewhere in his subconscious that it's Jeongguk. He still doesn't stop dancing.

"Playing a little dirty, aren't we?" Jeongguk mumbles against the back of his ear, thumbs slipping into the belt loops of Taehyung's jeans.

"And you're not, Guk?" Is Taehyung's reply, eyebrows raising, putting emphasis on the Guk, because honorifics be damned, the boy's getting a nickname. 

Jeongguk hums, pulling him in a little closer, lining their bodies up together and Taehyung doesn't hold back on the way his body moves, hips moving back to meet Jeongguk's. "You started it."

"And I'm finishing it."

The elder laughs, one hand sliding up the front of Taehyung's shirt, splaying out over his belly. "Are you challenging me, sweetheart?"

It's his turn to hum. "If it were a competition, maybe. But it's not. Because I've already won," he says as he turns his head and presses his lips against Jeongguk's temple. He pulls back with a smile too gentle, swimming with arrogance. 

Seojoon comes back at just the right moment, eyebrows raising as he looks between Taehyung and Jeongguk staring each other out. "Who's this?"

Taehyung just continues to smile sweetly as he pulls back and lets Seojoon tug him into his side. "My friend's dad. Good seeing you again, Mr. Jeon," he says with a little bow of his head, being his most respectful yet, and he continues to watch a peeved looking Jeongguk as Seojoon pulls him towards the door, only turning away once they're outside.  

But not before Taehyung licks his finger and adds a point to the imaginary scoreboard. 

When they get back to Seojoon's apartment, they fuck. They fuck hard and fast and it's sweaty and hot. Seojoon's got a dirty mouth and Taehyung's got the imagination to match. It's a little filthy and Taehyung's got the ache in his throat and the finger print shaped bruises around his neck to prove it. Later when Seojoon's passed out on his chest, Taehyung's phone rings, and he just stares at the do not answer. bitch. flashing at him. Even with the contact name, he answers it with a lazy smirk, prepared for some kind of line. For Jeongguk to tell him he's sorry, let's not fight, Taehyung, hm? But instead he's met with the very loud, very obvious sounds of people having sex. 

Taehyung's mouth drops open a little, eyes narrowing as he listens to the lewd moans and whimpers on the other end of the phone, and he bets his left kidney it's the kid that had been all over Jeongguk back in the club. The lower, rougher grunts can only belong to Jeongguk, the muttered, low yeah, you like that? having Taehyung's stomach jumping with arousal and indignation. After another ten seconds, he laughs and hangs up, dropping the phone to the pillow beside his head, just staring up at the ceiling with a disbelieving smile.

"That bitch," he mutters to himself.

He wakes Seojoon up for another round.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

from: do not answer. bitch.

Sorry, just saw I must have accidentally pocket dialled you last night.

Hope I didn't interrupt anything.

Taehyung's on the bus on the way back to his apartment when he gets the text, hand holding the railing above his head while the other curls around his phone. He huffs a laugh through his nose, because wow. An infamous gangster just did the whole "accidental call" skit on him. This is something to tell the grandkids. But when Taehyung tells the story, he's gonna come out the champ.

to: do not answer. bitch.

oh no dw !!

i was too busy getting fucked so hard i cried

why ? did you need somethin ???

He pockets his phone with a satisfied whistle after watching the three grey dots pop up and disappear countless times for a whole five minutes before they stop entirely, and he gets a message.

from: do not answer. bitch.

No.

Taehyung adds another mark to the tally. 

                                                                                                          -- -- --

When he gets a call a few weeks later from Hoseok telling him don't panic, but Yoongi's hurt, his vision goes red and his stomach curls hot enough to envy an iron. The panic he feels is unreal as he races to the club, almost kicking the door down when he arrives. The place looks entirely different in the middle of the day, no mass of people filling the space and no ear thumping music. He hasn't got time for taking it in, though. When he spots a familiar grey head of hair sat at the bar, nursing a drink, he stalks over to him and shoves his shoulder. He's gonna fucking kill Jeongguk for putting his brother in danger.

"Where's Yoongi?" He growls, and Jimin just blinks at him, and when his mouth just opens and closes, Taehyung grabs at the collar of his shirt. "Where. Is Yoongi."

"He - He's upstairs! He's upstairs!" Jimin almost squeaks, and Taehyung once again wonders how Jeongguk has a bunch of wimps working for him.

As he marches upstairs, he vaguely hears Namjoon mumbling out a, "Told you he was terrifying."

It's a little chaotic upstairs, people moving around, and there's the faint smell of blood in the air, which sets Taehyung's pulse sprinting. His eyes are frantic as they search for his brother, and he feels himself let out a loud breath when he sees him, sat in one of the booths, bottle of whiskey clamped to his lips as a man stitches up what looks like a--

"Is that a bullet wound?" Taehyung demands, shoving some random guy out of the way so he can move to the other side of his brother, cupping his face and petting and patting him all over, making sure he's there, he's all in one piece.

"I told you not to call him," Yoongi spits at Hoseok, who's sat across the room, scrolling through his phone.

Hoseok scoffs, "What. And risk losing an eye? Pass."

Yoongi sighs, eyes dropping back to Taehyung as his little brother continues to check him out. "I'm fine, kid. Just a, fuck! Just a scratch," he hisses through his teeth as he's given another stitch.

"You idiot," Taehyung scolds, but he can't manage to get his voice higher than a whisper. "Is he gonna be okay?" He asks the guy working at the injury, wiping away a dribble of blood.

The man looks up, kind smile fixed on his face. "He's going to be just fine, don't worry," and Taehyung feels the need to believe him, his voice soft to match his eyes. "The bullet went right through. He's very lucky Mr. Jeon was there."

Taehyung's eyebrows twitch, gaze shifting to Yoongi. "Jeongguk?" When he'd first gotten the call, he'd been so angry, ready to rip Jeongguk apart, ready to destroy him for letting his brother get hurt, and all that anger rushes out of him to the point that he feels a little lightheaded with it, like his blood has been drawn.

Yoongi nods, taking another long pull of whiskey, and when he speaks, his voice his hoarse. "Yeah. Yeah, he pushed me out of the way. If he hadn't, the bullet would have probably gone straight through my chest," he laughs, but cuts himself off when he feels Taehyung tense up beside him. "Hey, hey, don't get all emotional. I'm okay, aren't I?"

Taehyung sniffs, wiping his nose on the back of his sleeve, but the tears don't stop because he could have lost Yoongi today. He could have gotten a very different call from Hoseok, one that wouldn't end up with his nose buried in his brother's hair. He sits there and holds his hand until the other guy - who introduces himself as Seokjin - gives a thumbs up. "Where's Jeongguk?" He asks after he's helped Yoongi get his shirt back on.

"He's in his office. But maybe don't, Tae, he's not--" Yoongi tries, but Taehyung's not listening, just pressing a kiss to his big brother's forehead before he heads into the next room over. 

He doesn't bother knocking, but he does open the door quietly and gently, slowly stepping in and seeing Jeongguk sitting on the couch, forearms on his knees and head bowed between his legs, tumbler hanging limp between the pads of his fingers. Jeongguk doesn't look up when he closes the door behind him, still being quiet as he moves to sit down next to him.  For the first time in a while, maybe since he met Jeongguk, he doesn't feel the overwhelming urge to back himself in a corner, doesn't feel the overwhelming urge to prove that he doesn't give a shit what his status is, or what he does. He feels the overwhelming urge to comfort, to be grateful. 

Jeongguk twists his head slightly and gets a look at him, and the look of anguish on his face makes Taehyung's heart squeeze in on itself. "Listen, Taehyung, I know you're mad about Yoongi, and you can yell at me all you want later, but can you maybe just--"

"I wanted to thank you," Taehyung interjects quietly. "You saved his life. I'll never be able to thank you enough."

The elder seems a little taken off guard, clearly having expected Taehyung to lash out, call him every bad name under the sun, and up until ten minutes ago, that's what he was about ready to do. "I--"

"I'm glad you're okay too," Taehyung continues before he can lose his nerve. But then, "You are okay, yeah?"

Jeongguk continues to stare at him, blinking before he gives a little nod. "Just. I have a bad feeling about it all. The deal that went down, it was a tight lip thing, only a few people knew about it. It could have all been a coincidence, the attack, but. I don't know. My gut tells me something isn't right."

Taehyung licks his lips, not sure what he's really meant to do. He's getting more of an insight than he usually lets himself hear. But he doesn't try and stop him. He's become so used to snapping at Jeongguk, doing this back and forth with him that seeing him looking a little vulnerable throws him off. "I'm sorry," is all he can think to say, but he really finds that he means it.

The man nods, inhaling deeply and finishes off the last of his drink. "It happens. Can't ever trust anyone completely in this field," and the laugh he gives is a little bitter.

He doesn't know what compels him to do it, maybe it's seeing Jeongguk looking so human, but Taehyung lifts his arm and rubs at his back, shuffling a little closer. "Do you wanna talk about it?"

Jeongguk smiles, and it's pained, but genuine nonetheless. "No, it's okay. But I appreciate the offer. Thank you, Taehyung."

Taehyung nods, hand pausing on Jeongguk's back as they just stare at each other, and he feels a need again, the same need he felt when they were sat on his couch back in his apartment the night Jeongguk came back with cuts and bruises all over his face. "I'll leave you alone, then," he finally says after what feels like hours, removing his hand and pushing himself up by the knees. "Thank you again. For Yoongi."

Jeongguk just nods, rubbing his lips together. 

He pauses at the door once he's got it halfway open, swallowing thickly and looking back at Jeongguk who's staring down into his empty glass. "Jeongguk?"

Jeongguk turns back with a hum, eyebrows lazily raised.

"If you... ever need anyone to look after Junseo, I'd be more than happy to. Just let me know. No charge."

He seems to take Jeongguk off guard once again, but this time he recovers quicker, sending him a soft smile. "Thank you."

With that, Taehyung gives a bow of his head before he slips out and returns to his brother, feeling a heaviness lift that he didn't know was there.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Over the next month, Taehyung finds himself at Jeongguk's house more so than not, looking after Junseo. And when he's not there, he's got Junseo with him at his apartment. Whatever happened from the attack that nearly got his brother killed, it seem to have started a type of war. He still tries not to let himself get too caught up in it all, but it's obvious that tensions are running high. The security to the house gets doubled, the codes all changed and Taehyung has to go through the process of relearning them all again. He makes sure not to leave any trace of them, though. Locks them into his phone, doesn't keep any physical evidence due to Yoongi's instructions. 

He finds himself warming up more and more to Jeongguk's men. Jimin's quite funny, it turns out, and he finds Taehyung hilarious. Namjoon still side eyes him, and he doesn't blame him. But at least he doesn't flinch anymore when he walks by. Taehyung also gets a little bit more protective of Yoongi, always checking him over whenever he comes over to his or back to Jeongguk's, and his brother just lets him dote on him, knowing it'll make it easier on the both of them. Hoseok's apparently been talking to Momo since the night at the club, and it grosses Taehyung out, because Hoseok is like his second brother and Momo's a sister to him. He also doesn't really like the idea of Momo possibly getting caught up in all this, and Taehyung corners Hoseok one night and makes him swear not to tell Momo anything about his lifestyle. 

A lot of meetings start happening at Jeongguk's house, men and women in pristine suits and expensive dresses start appearing more and more. Taehyung doesn't intentionally listen, but being around the house, playing with Junseo, he hears some things. Jeongguk even pulls him into a meeting one day, which sets him on edge and he sends the elder a warning look, eyes wide and slightly nervous, because he's in a room of criminals. He didn't sign up for this part when he offered to look after Junseo. 

"It's fine," Jeongguk assures quietly, hand going to his back. "I trust these people. Since you're here a lot of the time, I want you to know them so you don't get the wrong idea if they show up. I need them to see you too, know you're not a threat."

It makes Taehyung uneasy, the thought of these people knowing him. But if it's a small price to pay to help, he'll do it. He gives a curt nod and Jeongguk pats his back.

"This is Kim Taehyung. He's the younger brother of Min Yoongi. He's also the caretaker of my son. He really doesn't care much for what goes on here," Jeongguk pauses to laugh and Taehyung elbows him in the ribs. "But I trust him." The words make Taehyung's heart do something stupid, but he doesn't react visibly, just lowers his head in greeting. Standing in a room full of people who are on the wrong side of the the law is unnerving. Who knows what they've done to get to this point in their lives, but Taehyung knows it's nothing good.

He listens as Jeongguk introduces him to everyone, tries to make note of all the faces and names, and it's a lot of information to take in. But he reminds himself that this is important. These are the few people that Jeongguk trusts.

"He's just a kid, Jeon. You shouldn't be putting him through this," a man standing off to the side says, gazing down at his phone. Sung Joon, Taehyung pinpoints, before coming back to the partial insult directed at him.

"I can handle myself just fine, thank you," is his reply before Jeongguk can cut in. He doesn't need anyone else fighting his battles, he can defend himself. 

Sung lifts his gaze from his phone, eyebrow raising, clearly a little taken back. "Oh, he's not a quiet little bird then?" Someone else pipes in, a woman with red, claw like nails. She's a little older than the rest, and Taehyung can practically feel the authority radiate off her. Kim Haesook. It's hard to forget the name of someone with nails like that, sharp enough to cut.

"Not a little bird," Taehyung replies. Even if he does feel weary and restless with unease standing in this room, he won't be made out to be some timid thing who can be walked on. He misses the small, proud smile Yoongi directs at him from across the room.

"This is your brother, Yoongi?" A young woman with eyes that look like they should belong on a cat speaks up - Lim Jueun - glancing over her shoulder at his brother standing along the back of the wall. And is he fucking blushing? No fucking way. Yoongi

Yoongi just gives a short jerk of his head, shoulders squared. "Yes, ma'am."

And oh god. Taehyung's going to laugh forever. He actually has to turn his head a little, pretending to look behind him just so he can compose himself. He feels Jeongguk's shoulders give a little shake beside him, and they both share a little look before they direct their attention ahead, faces blank. Yoongi must have caught it, though, because he's definitely glaring their way.

No one seems to antagonise Taehyung again, so he doesn't bother speaking up, not until Jeongguk dismisses him and he gives a short goodbye. He's almost out of the room when he looks back at Yoongi and mouths out a, "Ma'am, huh?"

Yoongi grits his teeth, and mouths his own, "Fuck you."

Taehyung laughs once he's far enough away. 

So it becomes a regular thing for Taehyung to see Jeongguk's business partners drift in and out. They usually acknowledge him with a nod or a smile, the occasional greeting or polite conversation every now and then, but Taehyung would much rather they ignored him all together. He doesn't feel comfortable around them. It took him a long time to warm up to Jeongguk and the rest of his guys, so he's not going to just fall easily into a relationship with the new people. And he's not going to issue out honorifics, he doesn't care who they are.

One day, he's in the middle of making Junseo a sandwich in the kitchen when Lim Jueun approaches him, sitting up on the counter and just stares at him. Taehyung has to bite back the urge to ask what she wants, and instead just continues to cut his tomatoes. But he almost looses a finger when Jueun speaks up.

"Is your brother seeing anyone, Taehyung?"

Taehyung blinks, looking up from the cutting board and over at the older woman, watching her examine her nails before settling that feline-like gaze on him. "No, he's not," he answers honestly, and since when did he sign up to become match maker for his brother?

Jueun hums, settling her arm on the counter. "I've grown quite fond of him over the years. He's got the most precious smile." She stops when Taehyung makes an involuntary face, scrunching his nose up as he lays lettuce along the rye. "Ah, I'm sorry. You probably don't want to hear someone gushing over your brother," she laughs, and it's soft and sweet and completely contradicts her entirely.

"Honestly? You're right. But, between you and me... You wouldn't have to try hard," he reveals, giving a little wag of his eyebrows as he cuts his sandwich. 

"Oh?"

Taehyung nods. "That's all I'm gonna say." Fucking hell, is he really helping some femme fatale get it on with his brother? Apparently so. How has all his hard work over the years achieved to this.

Jueun gives a thoughtful hum, before nodding and standing. "Thank you, Taehyung. You've been very helpful." And with that, she leaves him alone to finish up his sandwich. But not before he grabs his phone.

to: hyungie (ღ˘⌣˘ღ)

you owe me BIG

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Along with Jeongguk's house, the club becomes a more frequent haunt for him. When he gets too caught up in his own head in his apartment or at the library, he comes and brings his work with him to The Red Viper. It's a nice place to work at through the day, sat at the bar. And Jeongguk told him he could help himself to whatever he wanted, so he's constantly got a stream of soda or coffee on hand, all expenses paid for. 

Taehyung's got a big project coming up next week, he has to create a mock design of a secondary character for his very own video game, and it's proving to be more difficult than he anticipated. He's got his model down, he's been working on her for the last few months since he figured out the concept, but drawing her in the way he wants right now is hard. With a grunt, he hits undo almost manically, removing the shape of her hand, clutching at her own face. It's meant to show distress, but instead is just looks like she's trying to hold back the urge to throw up.

"Something wrong?" Jeongguk suddenly appears, taking the seat beside him as he reaches over and pours himself a glass of scotch. "I could practically feel your frustration from upstairs."

"Have you got a form I can fill in to join your squad? Because I give up with graphics," Taehyung mutters, setting his pen and tablet down. 

Jeongguk snorts, both of them knowing that Taehyung would never be willing to join, but surely it shows the level of stress he's under. "What are you working on?"

With a sigh, Taehyung twists his laptop so the elder can see his half drawn picture. "She's one of my characters in the game I have to design by the end of the year. But I can't seem to get her right. I can't figure out how to make her seem so distraught without it looking comedic."

Jeongguk studies the screen, humming as he cocks his head to the side. "Maybe it's not so much the drawing, but the way you're presenting her that's bothering you. Why don't you tell me some of her characteristics." Taehyung grabs his mouse and opens up the document he has on her, a list of her traits and a brief backstory. Jeongguk reads through it silently before he sits back. "Okay, well initially after reading that, I don't get the impression she's the type of sit and cry about something. She seems like the type to try and fix the situation."

Taehyung raises his eyebrows, own eyes flickering to the screen, then back to Jeongguk. "She does?"

"Yeah, look." Jeongguk takes the mouse from him and opens up his drawing of her again. "I like the sadness in her, it makes sense for her character, but it shouldn't be the first impression of her. She shouldn't be on her knees, she should be standing tall." Taehyung can only sit and stare and listen as Jeongguk gives his opinion, gives advice and he's once again hit with a whole different side of the man that he hadn't seen before. He's constantly blowing his mind, having the whole impression he'd built up of him rocking. Taehyung was so quick to judge, so quick to label Jeongguk as just some criminal lord that he dismissed any possible chances that there may have been more to him. "Are you still with me?"

Taehyung blinks, pulling himself out of the daze he was in to nod. "I think you might be right, you know," he admits, sparring another glance to his screen, it seeming much more clear now, and he deletes the drawing he's been stuck on for the last week. "You keep on surprising me."

Jeongguk's lip twitch. "How so?"

"You just. I thought I had you all figured out, but apparently not," he shrugs, eyes flicking between both of Jeongguk's. Taehyung purses his lips. "Maybe, and just maybe... I was wrong about you."

Jeongguk laughs, grabbing his drink as he stands and walks away. "Books, Taehyung. You know what they say about books," he calls over his shoulder.

Yeah. Taehyung thinks he might be starting to understand that phrase a little more now.

Chapter Text

Taehyung gets his first real taste of what it's like to be wrapped up in Yoongi's world one day while he's waiting to pick Junseo up from school.

He's standing with the parents, waiting outside for the last bell of the day when he gets that tingly feeling of being watched. The warm sensation of eyes on the back of his head. He turns his head to try and meet eyes with someone, and he finds it in the group of three men. They're parked across the street in a black Jeep, one with his window rolled down, one leaning against the same door and one on his phone standing at the back of the car. They look away when Taehyung meets eyes with them, the two at the front seemingly dropping into a casual looking conversation. It could be nothing, something entirely innocent, but Taehyung's gut tells him it's not, and he's always followed his gut. When he turns away, it's not long until he feels eyes on him again, and he tries not to make it obvious as he opens his phone and turns on the front facing camera, angling up just enough to look over his shoulder. And sure enough, the three guys are staring at him again. He takes a picture.

Jimin's parked down the street, so he pulls his number up. He doesn't want to make it obvious that he knows they're staring, because he feels like that could initiate something. Sparing a quick glance up at the school, he types out his message.

to: jimmo

come pick us up at the front of the school

a car watching across the street , i got a bad feeling

dont make it obvious

The text he gets back is almost instantaneous.

from: jimmo

I'll be right there, don't move

Taehyung does just that, feeling a wave of hysteria wash over him, but he doesn't let it affect him - noticeably, at least. His main priority is making sure Junseo's okay. A minute or so later, the bell rings and a stream of kids come rushing out, looking for their respective parents. His eyes zero in on Junseo the minute he comes running out, and he's quick to pull him up into his arms when he squeals out a delighed, "Hyungie!"

"Hey, bug. How was your day?" He asks, starting to slowly pivot around on the spot, keeping an eye out for Jimin's car. He knows that they're relatively safe right where they are, no one is going to start anything at a school. He's not stepping one foot out of this spot until he sees Jimin. His eyes dart over the Jeep, and the other one is out of the car now, all three of them hanging around. As much as Taehyung's starting to panic, as much as his heart is pounding, he keeps his smile up and listens to Junseo tell him all about the four times table, nodding as he recites each one. 

As soon as Taehyung sees Jimin's car pull up, he carries Junseo over in a slow, but brisk walk, not wanting to make it obvious that he's caught on to being watched. Jimin is the face of ease as Taehyung buckles Junseo in, greeting the kid with a big grin and a fist bump. "How many?" Jimin asks, his smile not faltering as Taehyung climbs in. 

"Three," is his calm reply, looking back at Junseo and sending him a grin, while quickly casting a glance at the Jeep. "They're getting in their car, Jimin. Go."

Jimin does just that, pulling away and merging into the school traffic. "Did you get a good look at their faces?" He asks, eyes flitting up to the rear-view mirror every few seconds.

"No," he mutters, pressing the back of his skull against the headrest hard enough to ache. "I didn't want to make it obvious I knew they were watching."

"You did the right thing," Jimin assures, reaching over and giving his knee a pat. Taehyung feels the need to swear, to shout, to break something, because if this situation is really as bad as he thinks, then they came after Junseo. A fucking child. An innocent party to this world, and that unsettles Taehyung. If they're heartless enough to go after just a kid, who knows what they're capable of. Jimin calls Jeongguk as they head back to the house, and he can't make out what he's saying, but he sounds angry. He doesn't blame him. Taehyung is fuming, he can't imagine how Jeongguk must feel. 

When they get to the house, Taehyung is quick to pull Junseo out and into his arms, shielding him with his body while Jimin guides him inside with a hand on his back. As soon as they're inside, the guys are everywhere, Jeongguk stepping forward with a shaky sigh as he looks between him and Junseo. He hands the kid over and not a second later is Yoongi by his side, hand curled around his bicep.

"You okay?" His brother asks, something fierce in his eyes, but voice gentle.

"Yeah, I'm fine. As long as Junseo's okay, I'm fine," Taehyung exhales shakily, watching as Jeongguk peppers his son with kisses, who's still oblivious to the whole thing, squeezing his dad's cheeks together in tiny hands. It warms his heart. He doesn't want anything to ever separate them. Taehyung won't let it.

Once Junseo's run off to the living room, they crowd in together at the foyer, and Jeongguk's lost his sweet fatherly look. He looks serious, that look of authority back that Taehyung's only seen briefly here and there. When it's directed completely to him, it's a little unnerving. "Okay, tell me exactly what happened."

Taehyung tells every single detail he can, from the minute he felt eyes on him, the type of car, the way the guys were standing, how he checked them in his phone. He remembers then, quickly pulling out his phone and pulling up the last picture in his camera roll. It's a little blurry, not all that clear from the distance, but it's something. "Here, I got this when I was checking to see if they were still looking." He hands his phone to Jeongguk, licking at his dry lips.

"Good thinking, Tae," Hoseok praises gently, giving his stomach a little swat, face still serious.

"Do you recognise them, boss?" Namjoon asks, frown on his face as he stands straight. "They don't look familiar at all to me."

Jeongguk doesn't say anything for a long minute, just staring down at the picture. "Nothing rings a bell. They could be hired by someone, no links or traces." He lets out a heavy breath, handing Taehyung's phone off to Hoseok. "Run their faces. I wanna know everything about them. I wanna fucking know what they ate for breakfast this morning, Hoseok. Got it?"

"Yes, sir," Hoseok nods, before he's out of the door, Yoongi stepping after him, giving a wary look back to Taehyung.

"Go. I'll be fine," he assures, giving his brother's arm a squeeze. Yoongi hesitates for a second before grabbing the back of his neck and planting a firm kiss against his forehead, then turning around and following Hoseok out. Taehyung turns back around to see Jimin and Jeongguk with their heads bowed together, and Jeongguk's got his eyes on him. A second later, he's nodding and Jimin and Namjoon are heading into the living room, clearly to keep an eye on Junseo. "Is there anything I can do?" Taehyung asks, voice earnest.

Jeongguk just stares at him, face unreadable before he nods for him to follow. Taehyung complies, shooting a look to where Junseo is climbing all over Namjoon before he's heading after Jeongguk, stepping into his office. It reminds him of the first time they met, when Jeongguk interviewed him for the position of looking after Junseo. Feels like a lifetime ago now. 

"I'm sorry this is happening, Jeongguk," Taehyung says as Jeongguk sits down on the edge of his desk, taking a wary step closer to him. He shakes his head, eyebrows pulling together and voice softening. "It's horrible." Jeongguk stares down at his hands folded over his lap, chewing insistently at his lip and before Taehyung can even react, Jeongguk's hurling a vase of flowers on his desk at the wall. Taehyung recoils quickly, the glass shattering against the wall with an deafening smash. The look on Jeongguk's face is anything but the usual calm and collected look he has on his face. He looks wild, looks ready to tear apart empires and cities to keep his son safe. Taehyung has no doubt that he would. "Jeongguk..." he tries, swallowing thickly and stepping back again when the elder hits the room like a whirlwind, upturning his desk and smashing it to pieces. "Jeongguk." It's firmer this time, forcing the wobble out of his voice. He's not scared. He's heartbroken for this man.

"Who the fuck do they think they are?!" Jeongguk's voice bellows all around the room, hitting every corner. "Who the fuck do they think they are, coming after my son! My fucking son! They're dead, they're fucking dead!" He punctuates the word by kicking at his bookshelf, the wood splintering under his shoe.

"Jeongguk!" Taehyung barks, rushing forwards before he can think better of it and grabbing the man by the arms, pressing himself up against his back. "Stop this. Stop this, okay? Junseo is in the other room. This is probably scaring him. You need to stop this right now," he snaps, fingers curling tighter around Jeongguk's biceps, feeling the tense muscles, pulled rigid with anger. Slowly but surely, he feels Jeongguk's body start to loosen up, the only sounds being his harsh breathing.

Eventually Jeongguk slowly turns to face him, though Taehyung keeps his hands on him, eyes assertive as they meet the elder's. His usually perfectly styled hair falling in front of his eyes in strings. "He's my son, Taehyung," Jeongguk croaks, voice gravelly. "I can't-- I can't let anything happen to him." His voice shakes suddenly, his chin quivering and Taehyung doesn't miss a beat to pull him into his body.

He pulls Jeongguk's head on his shoulder, hand coming up to hold the back of his head. "Hey. Hey. I know. It's gonna be okay, shh," he soothes as he suddenly feels hot, violent tears on his neck, Taehyung's arm tightening without thought when Jeongguk's own arms wrap around his waist and clutch at the back of his shirt like a lifeline. He says nothing for however long Jeongguk needs, letting him cry while he cards through his hair gently, holds him all the fucking way through it. He blinks away any threatening tears that build in his own eyes. He won't let them fall, he needs to be strong for the man in his arms right now.

Eventually, when Jeongguk's tears start to ease away and he's no longer audibly crying into his neck, Taehyung pulls back enough to reach up and hold Jeongguk's face between his hands, wiping falling tears away with his thumbs. "Nothing's going to happen to Junseo," he promises, and when Jeongguk's face twists again, he gives the man's head a little shake. "Hey. Listen to me, okay? Nothing is going to happen to that boy. No one is going to let anything happen to him. I'm not going to let anything happen to him. Whatever you need from me, I'm here for you. Look at me, Jeongguk." Jeongguk sniffs, chin still shaking, lips and eyes swollen, but he looks up and meets his gaze. He needs Jeongguk to see just how serious he is. "Nothing will happen to him."

Jeongguk lets himself have another moment, wiping his nose on the back of his hand before he stands back to his full height, matching Taehyung's own. "You're right." He pauses to clear his throat when he voice breaks, sniffing once more and meeting Taehyung's eyes. "You're right. I'll die before I let anyone lay a hand on my son." 

Taehyung's fucking heart sores. It's the most truthful thing he's ever head, and he can hear the conviction in Jeongguk's voice. "Me too," he adds quietly, and it should scare him how much he means it, but it doesn't. Junseo has become his own best friend. He's more than a job, he's his own brother.

"Taehyung. You don't need to be involved in this. You can still leave, I don't want anything to happen--"

"I'm not going anywhere," he interrupts. "You should know me better than that by now if you think I would."

The smile he gets gives Taehyung heart palpitations. "You really care about him, don't you?"

He takes a breath and concedes to what he's been trying to fight since the first time he stepped into this house. It's too late to turn back now. "I care about all of you." 

Taehyung can see that his answer takes Jeongguk off guard, the surprise there for a half a second before it's masked back into something cool. But Taehyung saw it, and he wonders if he's really been that much of an asshole that it wasn't obvious until this point. He swallows the thick, not unpleasant lump that's appeared in his throat as Jeongguk steps forward, Taehyung's eyes falling to his lips for a second before darting back up. His blood is rushing behind his ears, his heartbeat almost deafening. But Jeongguk's voice breaks through it as their chests brush together.

"Even me?" Jeongguk asks as he reaches up with a gentle hand and skims the pad of his thumb along Taehyung's cheek. Taehyung's hands have somehow managed to make their own way to the other man's waist, fingers twisting into the cotton of his shirt. He tries to check into the sensible part of his mind, the part that's driven him through the last few months, reminding him that this isn't a world he wants to stay in. But even that part of his brain seems hushed, tranquil. Still, he won't give Jeongguk the satisfaction.

"Unfortunately." He goes for strong, but it's quiet, even to his own ears. It doesn't sound as brusque as he was aiming for. 

Jeongguk seems to realise this, the edge of his teeth scraping over the amusement on his lips. "You don't want to?"

Taehyung manages to regain some of his initial integrity back at that, snorting as his eyes lift to meet Jeongguk's. "Well it's not like I have a choice now, is--" He's silenced with a kiss, plush lips pressing up against his own and seemingly absorbing the last of the resolve hanging around on Taehyung's mouth. He inhales deeply, rising to his full height, shoulders curling in as he pulls Jeongguk closer, their stomach's lining up and he feels electrified. The kiss is placid, serene. Not rushed and frantic like Taehyung always pictured it would be. When Jeongguk pulls back, Taehyung almost chases after his mouth, that sweet, arduous mouth that he's tried to convince himself he didn't want. 

Jeongguk's thumb stretches across his cheek to press at the fullest part of Taehyung's mouth, soft and damp with spit. "Thank you for what you did earlier. You kept Junseo safe. I'm forever indebted to you, Taehyung," he says low under his breath, like it's a secret just for Taehyung's ears. It makes him feel warm. Jeongguk's hands slide from his face, down his neck and over the curve of his shoulders. "I need for you to be safe too. I don't want anything to happen to you. I'm not sure what I'd do if something did."

God, Taehyung feels winded at how sincere Jeongguk sounds, feels like he's stepped into tepid bath. "I'll be okay, don't worry. I can handle myself." He rubs his thumbs along the notches of Jeongguk's ribs through his shirt, exhaling deeply.

Well, fuck. He's gone and got himself completely wrapped in this now, hasn't he? Still, he can't even bluff that he's all that miffed. Miffed doesn't come close to what he's feeling right now.

After another moment of them just breathing the same air, holding onto each other, Taehyung reluctantly pulls back, arms sliding to his sides. "Go be with Junseo. I'm sure he's wondering what all that noise was." Jeongguk has the nerve to look sheepish, and it's adorable, seeing something so soft, so tender on the face of the man who usually has such an air of confidence around him. It's humbling. Endearing. Taehyung likes sheepish on Jeongguk.

He pulls Taehyung in for one last kiss, this one a firmer press of lips, still innocent, but it makes Taehyung's chest tight. He returns the small smile Jeongguk gives him before nodding to the door behind him and watches him walk away, ears searching until he hears Junseo giggle in delight at the appearance of his father. 

Taehyung may not know much about what's going on, about how he's feeling, but what he does know is this: He's going be a part of it if it means that he can keep the people around him safe.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Taehyung's standing outside, watching Junseo running around with Mocha and Podo when Park Haejin - one of the allies, as Taehyung's taken to calling them - steps out, lighting up a cigarette. He pays him no mind, returning his attention back to Jeongguk's son.

"What do you do, kid?" Haejin suddenly asks, free hand sliding into his pockets. 

He blinks. "What do I do? What do you mean?"

"You know, like, for a living."

Taehyung frowns, not sure where this is coming from. "I go to university? Game design."

Haejin snorts, tapering the end of his ash off onto the grass. "You plan on making a game about this once it's all over?"

His frown deepens, glancing over at the man. "Why would I? Not my thing."

"No?" 

Taehyung doesn't elaborate, doesn't feel the need to, just turns and faces Junseo again, who's having a go on the monkey bars. "Be careful!" He warns and smiles when Junseo just giggles, Mocha and Podo circling around him protectively.

"So, what's the deal with you and Jeon, then? You fucking him or something?"

His head snaps around to glower at Haejin. "What?"

"Oh, come on. I've seen the way he looks at you. Not that I blame him," Haejin murmurs, blatantly looking Taehyung over, and it makes him feel sick with outrage, pulling his jacket tighter around him. "But you're going to be nothing but a distraction to him. A weakness. And you know what happens when there's a weak link." Haejin makes the gesture of someone getting killed, hand flicking under his neck with a snap of his tongue. 

Taehyung swallows harshly, directing his glare over at the climbing frame Junseo's hanging on. "I think you need to mind your own business. How about that?"

Haejin laughs, "Hey, no offence meant, kid. Just tellin' it like it is. You're only getting in the way. Think of it as me looking out for you and the whole group. Can't fault me for that, right?" With that, Haejin tosses his cigarette to the ground, grinds it out with the toe of his perfectly polished shoe and heads on inside. It's then that Taehyung see's Sung Joon, standing at the door.

"You being mean again, Haejin-ah?" He teases the other man, who just scoffs and casts a look over at Taehyung.

"Just having a little chat, weren't we, Taehyung?" When Taehyung doesn't respond, just stares, he flashes him a wink and a finger gun before heading inside.

Joon shakes his head, coming over and picking up the crushed cigarette butt on the floor and putting it in the trash. "Don't mind him. He's a bit of an asshole."

Taehyung snorts. "That's one word for him."

Joon lets out a loud laugh, one right from the belly. It's loud and obnoxious and Taehyung relaxes a little at the sound of it. "I wouldn't worry about it. He's been after Jeon's job since he's been in the game. Reliable guy, but a bitter one. He didn't spook you, did he?"

He shakes his head, sending a smile to Joon that may be slightly threatening. "I'm not easily spooked."

"I'll bet. I'll leave you to it. If he bothers you again, just remember what I said. He's all bark and no bite." Joon gives him a nudge until he cracks a smile and heads on back inside after yelling out a, "Nice job, Junseo!" When the kid manages to make it across the bars on his own.

Taehyung shudders once he's on his own, zipping his jacket up to the neck. It's a cold day, but he wanted to get Junseo out of the house for just a little bit while Jeongguk's business partners were over. He wishes their meetings wouldn't take place at the house, but he understands that it's a safe place. There's no chance of an unwanted ear listening in on the conversation. Before the incident at the school, Taehyung would take Junseo to the park, but that's out of the question now. He just wants to keep Junseo away from it all, doesn't want him to hear anything bad, doesn't want his innocence tainted.

They head back inside when it starts to spit with rain, and when Junseo tells him he's going to nap, Taehyung tries not to pout because now he's going to be left with the adults, and they're no fun. Jimin can be fun, but when he's in thug mode, he won't indulge him. So Taehyung is left to his own devices. He decides to go and hang out in the games room, making full use of it as he plays a round of pool by himself. He's four balls down when the door opens and Jeongguk slips in.

"Hey, stranger. Was wondering where you'd gotten off to," Jeongguk says as he closes the door behind him. "Mind if I join?"

Taehyung grabs the other cue and offers it out. "By all means. But I must tell you now. I am an expect at pool."

Jeongguk tongues his cheek in amusement. "Is that so? Well, I--" he pauses to take the cue from Taehyung's hand, "--also happen to be an expert. Rack 'em up."

"Gladly." They share a grin as Taehyung starts the game again, Jeongguk calling stripes. "How's everything going?" He asks once he's taken his first go, sinking the ball and going for his next. 

Jeongguk sighs, "It's... going. As much as it can right now. But let's not talk about that. Been a while since I last checked in with you. How's school going?"

"It's going," Taehyung repeats with a chuckle, though it mixes with a curse when he fails to pocket his next ball, Jeongguk brushing by him to take his turn.

"Watch and learn, kid," he mumbles as he passes and Taehyung shouldn't feel so affected by it, but there he is, internally sweating. Jeongguk leaning over the table also gives him a wonderful view of his ass in his slacks. He makes no effort to hide his staring, head tilting to the side to get a better look, even. Jeongguk exhales a laugh when he notices him looking, shooting him an amused look as he moves around the table. "Something caught your eye?"

Taehyung sucks a breath through his teeth, sending a beam over to the elder. "Without a doubt," and then a quiet, appreciative nice when Jeongguk manages to sink two balls at once. They've been flirting back and forth now ever since the kiss in Jeongguk's office, making comments here and there, little lingering touches and the occasional conversational eye contact that's definitely one step off eye fucking. "How are you doing, though?" He asks after a minute of observing Jeongguk, taking in the seemingly constant dark circles under his eyes. "You not sleeping well?"

The elder smiles, missing his next shot. "Is it that obvious?"

"A little."

"I'm okay, just. You know. On edge about this whole thing."

"Remember you can always talk to me about it if you need to. I know I said I didn't want anything to do with this whole thing, but. I'm here," Taehyung reminds, voice softening seriously.

Jeongguk smiles as Taehyung takes his turn, eyes becoming more gentle. "I know. Thank you."

They continue to play for a while until Jeongguk wins, and Taehyung's not even that bitter about it, just sighs and sets his cue on the table. "Looks like you could always give up gang life. Take up snooker maybe. Make a career out of that," he teases as he leans back against the table, reaching out and tugging Jeongguk in by the buckle of his belt. It's a bold move, he knows, but Taehyung's a bold character.

"Ooh, good idea. Can stop beating people with the cues and actually use them for what they're intended for." Jeongguk laughs when Taehyung makes a face, reaching up to smooth out a piece of his fringe, and he leans into the touch ever so slightly. "I'm kidding, calm down." A pause. "I could do both. Change the game completely. Snooker World Championship. To The Death." He grins at the sharp poke to his side, hand sliding from his hair to curl around the back of Taehyung's neck, leaning in close, their noses brushing. It has Taehyung's heart racing, feeling Jeongguk's breath against his lips. He once again feels the air shift between them, Taehyung's fingers curling a little tighter around Jeongguk's belt buckle, knuckles brushing over the the top button of his slacks. His teeth run over his bottom lips as Jeongguk's dips in lower, and he's so close, Taehyung can feel the warmth he radiates. He's so close and his lips are right there and then-- "How about instead of billiards, we play with grenades and--"

"Shut up and kiss me already," Taehyung all but growls with a tug of Jeongguk's belt, patience suddenly non-existent, and just like that, they're kissing. It's not like their first kiss, all gentle and testing each other out. This one is a little more sensual, he can feel it building into something more dense, every little slide of their lips having Taehyung's nerves waking up. Especially when he swallows the low hum he's given, locks it away in the cage of his ribs, just for him. It's good. It's so fucking good that Taehyung's head is swimming, that familiar heat in his chest before it sinks lower into his stomach and lights up like a flare. It smoulders.

He goes easy as Jeongguk presses into him, laying back against the table and pulling the man to crawl on top of him, welcoming the weight with a deep breath through his nose. Taehyung bites at Jeongguk's lip and the resounding groan he gets goes south immediately, pooling low. His hands tug at the sides of Jeongguk's shirt, untucking it from his slacks so he can delve his hands beneath, get his hands on bare, warm, soft and solid skin. The taste of Jeongguk's tongue is bitter with scotch, but Taehyung laps it up, savours every bit, licking and sucking until all he can taste is Jeongguk in his rawest form. He wants to consume him; this man who's been plaguing his mind for months now, wants to swallow him whole, devour him.

With how hot and heavy it's getting, it's no surprise that when there's a knock at the door, Taehyung groans with frustration. Jeongguk drops his forehead against his shoulder, and Taehyung can feel how shaky his breathing is through the material of his shirt. It makes his chest balloon with pride. 

"Boss?" Jimin.

"What?" Jeongguk calls back, forehead still pressed against Taehyung's shoulder. 

"You're needed downstairs."

Jeongguk sighs an irritated breath, lifting his head and looking down at him. "Need to put a pause on this for now. As much as I don't want to."

Taehyung nods, licking over his bottom lip when he notices Jeongguk staring. "Go do your thing, boss man. I'll be around."

Jeongguk groans and steals one more kiss before climbing off of him, and Taehyung takes the opportunity to stretch his leg out and kick at his ass, wagging his eyebrows when the man shoots him a playful glare. 

Taehyung sits up on his elbows, admiring Jeongguk as he walks away, tonguing the corner of his mouth as he pulls open the door, Jimin standing there, leaning against the wall. When he catches sight of Taehyung laying across the table and Jeongguk tucking in his shirt, his lips split into a smirk.

"Something funny, Jimin?" Jeongguk asks, hand shoving the back of his shirt into his slacks, making sure everything's tucked in.

Jimin deadpans immediately, standing up straight. "No, sir. Nothing's funny." When Jeongguk turns and heads down the hall, Jimin looks back at him and the smirk is back on his face. "Naughty," he mouths before following after his boss, leaving Taehyung to drop down onto his back and stare at the green lamp hanging above his head, blinking spots out of his eyes.

"Fuck."

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Taehyung thinks of something one day as he's sitting behind Yoongi, rubbing at his shoulders. 

"I wanna learn to fight."

Yoongi, in mid groan, doesn't move for a long second before looking back at him. "Come again?"

Taehyung's hands slide off his brother's shoulders, falling limp to his thighs that are bracketing either side of the elder. "Don't you think it sounds smart? What if I'm ever in a compromisable position and need to defend myself? Or Junseo? I should at least know how to throw a punch, hyung."

His brother sighs, a silent back and forth in his head before he nods. "Alright. I'll teach you how to fight," he agrees before turning back around and leaning into Taehyung's body. But Taehyung's up and on his feet in a second.

"Great! When do we start?"

Yoongi stumbles back on his elbows, blinking up at him. "What, now?"

Taehyung shrugs, "Yeah, why not? The sooner the better."

It's what leads them into where they are now. The pair of them standing in Jeongguk's garden, Taehyung bouncing up and down on his toes as Yoongi just watches him with a raised eyebrow and a look of patience that's been perfectly constructed for his little brother. 

The guys laugh quietly from where they've gathered to watch, perched on the lawn chairs. Taehyung blinks and stops hopping. "What?"

Hoseok laughs, lifting his hands up. "Oh, nothing. Just can't believe I'm seeing the reincarnation of Muhammad Ali in the flesh." That sets them all off again, and Taehyung can only pout.

"Yah, leave him alone," Yoongi defends and Taehyung nods smugly. "I was thinking more Mike Tyson, myself." As they all burst out laughing again, Taehyung reaches over and shoves at his brother's shoulder. "Oh, we going already? Careful, bug, I might have too--" his sentence is cut off by Taehyung shoving him hard, falling back onto the floor. It's Taehyung's turn to laugh, watching his brother push himself up to his feet and brush grass off his thighs. "Oh, you're in for it now."

They start fighting then, or more so a game of cat and mouse, Taehyung jumping back anytime his brother lunges for him, and not in a cool, stylish way. More like a I'm scared, please don't hit me way.

"Taehyung-ah, you can't run every time he goes for you," Jimin snorts.

"No, no, it's good," Hoseok comes to his aid. "He's got quick reflexes. They're not the most elegant dodges, but he'll tire anyone out. Just look at Yoongi."

Yoongi sends a glare to his best friend, chest rising and falling quickly. "I'm fine."

"See, hyung? Told you you shouldn't smoke, now look at--" His insult is cut short when he gets a sharp punch to the chest, one that has him coughing and recoiling into himself. "What the fuck?!"

His brother smirks. "What? You thought I'd go easy on you just because you're my kid brother? Come on, like I showed you. Keep your fists up. Guard your face, Taehyung."

They continue on like that for a little while, swapping blows hard enough to bruise. Taehyung can already see his knuckles starting to discolour.

"Let me have a go. I've been itching to try Taehyung out for size since he beat the shit out of me with that golf club," Namjoon speaks up, tagging out with Yoongi, who collapses into the newly vacated chair, Seokjin patting his shoulder. Jimin thought it best he be privy to this, just in case.

Taehyung grins, keeping his guard up as he circles around Namjoon. "That was fun, wasn't it, Joonie-hyung? You should have seen your face when I--" He's once again cut off by a punch, but this one a direct hit to the face. His head snaps back with the force of it, hands coming up to cover his nose, the white hot pain shooting through the bridge of his nose blinding enough to have his eyes watering. 

"Taehyung, I am so--!"

"Namjoon, what the fuck?!" Jimin yells as Yoongi rushes over to him, fingers curling around his wrist to pull his hands away to expose the streams of blood running down Taehyung's philtrum and lips. 

"He's fucking bleeding, you idiot!" Yoongi snaps, suddenly swarmed with concerned faces, Seokjin tilting his chin up so he can examine his face.

"Oh my god, Taehyung, I am seriously so sorry," the elder apologises, but stops when Taehyung waves him off.

"Guys, it's okay," he assures, everyone's flailing pausing. "My first punch to the face. It's almost as important as knowing how to take a punch as it is throwing one, right?" 

Everyone just stares at him as he smiles through it, blood staining his teeth.

"Alright, I think that's enough for one day. Let's get you cleaned up," Seokjin insists, holding onto Taehyung's biceps as he guides him back into the house, shooting a glare over his shoulder at Namjoon.

"I'm really okay, guys!" He calls behind him as he hears someone punch Namjoon, going off the loud ow. Though he flinches when he accidentally bumps his nose on his knuckles.

So, the first time didn't go all that great, but Seokjin tells him his nose isn't broken, which he takes as a good result. 

Later on, when Jeongguk finds him in the kitchen icing his nose, it kicks up a whole new argument, the elder insisting he take a look at it, and Seokjin told him he'll get some bruising under his eyes, but it should be fine after a few days. 

"What the fuck is wrong with you, Namjoon? Why would you be so careless?!" Jeongguk yells, and Taehyung's had enough.

"Hey," he snaps, just as Hoseok starts explaining how Taehyung hadn't even been going for more than an hour before Namjoon punched him. They all stop and turn to look at him, and he doesn't know if it's from the punch, or the yelling, but he's getting a headache. "I'm not a baby, okay? I can't expect to have one of you around at all times to look out for me. I'm a part of this now. I need to learn these things. Don't belittle me."

"We weren't trying to belittle you, Tae--" Hoseok starts but Taehyung quickly cuts him off.

"I know you're not trying to. But you are. Don't be mad at Namjoon. He's the one that did the right thing. You should be mad at me for not blocking it properly," he reasons before shaking his head and climbing off the stool so he can go and watch some TV. "You'd think I was made of glass or something, sheesh," he mutters to himself as he walks out, leaving the rest of them to keep acting like the babies they're being.

He smiles as he drops down onto the couch. They care. Fucking saps.

A few days later, Taehyung insists they try again. Not just the fighting, but his ability to take a hit. 

"Hit me."

Jimin looks at him warily, playing with his fingers as they both stand in the gym that Jimin frequents. They're standing on the mats, and Taehyung's sweaty after his one-on-one with the punching bag. "TaeTae, I don't know about this... You're still learning."

Taehyung shakes his head, securing his hands behind his back. "Anything could happen, Jimin. I need to be prepared for it. Now, c'mon, hit me."

"Yoongi will be mad if I--"

"Hit me, you tiny fuck!" Taehyung snaps.

Jimin blinks at him, eyebrows pulling together as he steps back ever so slightly. "Hey now, that's not very nice."

"Oh, I'm sorry, did I hurt your little feelings? I should have asked Namjoon to train me. His hands doesn't resemble an infants--" Jimin punches him in the stomach. 

"Jesus, fuck, Tae! I'm so sorry!" Jimin squawks as Taehyung drops onto one of his knees, spluttering as he clutches at his stomach. 

He lifts his arm to flap in Jimin's direction, lifting his head when he's got the wind back in his lungs and sends him a grin. "That was really good. Well done, Jiminie." Taehyung pushes himself to stand after a moment, palm gripping at his shaky knee as he rights himself, lifting his shirt to see the red blooding on his belly. "Alright. Again."

Jimin's eyes widen. "Are you fucking kidding?"

Taehyung shakes his head.

The elder looks at him like he's crazy before sighing, never once losing that nervous glint to his eyes. "Where."

"Same place."

"Yah, Taehyung-ah..."

Taehyung fixes his eyes on him. "Jimin," he says flatly.

Jimin punches him again, though makes it abundantly clear that he's not happy about it. Taehyung's not too happy with it either. But he's got to learn, and this time when he gets a fist to the stomach, he's got an idea of the pain and is a little more prepared for it. He doesn't fall onto his knees this time, just stumbles back and doubles over himself.

"Holy fuck," he wheezes, steadying himself with fingers on the mat in front of him.

Jimin of course comes to his side in an instant, telling him he's sorry but he actually did really well and he should be proud of himself, and Taehyung is proud, because Jimin is stacked and he managed not to fall down. He knows he'll be paying for it later when his stomach no doubt kills him with every shift of his waist. But if it'll help him in the long run, he doesn't mind. He'll suffer for the greater cause.

"I'm not tiny," Jimin says to him later as he helps him hobble out of the gym, and Taehyung grins and ruffles his friend's hair.

"I know, Jim."

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Taehyung finds as he practices more and more, he's not only given bruises, but muscle too. Nothing insane, but he's definitely getting some definition in his biceps and thighs. His soft belly refuses to budge, though, but he doesn't mind. He's grown fond of it over the years. 

His stamina also improves, finding it harder to get tired out, doesn't nearly lose his breath as much as he once did. It's amazing to see the changes in his body, see the pay off from all the hard work. He's not about to join the UFC anytime soon, but it's a big improvement for him and he's proud. Taehyung's also glad to see that the other guys don't tiptoe around him anymore. They don't coddle him over every bump and bruise, they don't hold back, they actually make it fair. No one's going to hold back on him if he ever gets into a fight, so they shouldn't either. He wouldn't learn that way. 

Taehyung's slowly starting to feel more sure of himself. More sure that if it came to it - and he really hopes it never will - he'll be able defend himself and others. Most importantly, Junseo.

As the weeks tick by, not only his ability to fight grows, but so does his relationship with Jeongguk. Looking after Junseo means that they spend a lot of time together, and at first, it's the exact opposite of what Taehyung wanted. But now he looks forward to them even sharing the same room. They grow closer, their little touches merging into something more, something deeper.

One night, they're sitting on the couch, side by side, thigh's pressed together when Jeongguk just suddenly reaches over and holds his hand. Taehyung's a little startled, and sends a curious look over at the man, but Jeongguk doesn't show any signs of anything weird on his face, just continues to watch TV. Later, Jeongguk will tell him that he was actually holding his breath and his heart was racing. But in that time, he's the picture of ease, and Taehyung eventually goes back to the movie that's playing and gives the elder's fingers a squeeze between his own.

Not everyone is crazy about his blossoming relationship with Jeongguk, though.

"What's going on with you two?" Yoongi asks as they're sitting together at a spot near Taehyung's campus, sharing a grill of bulgogi. "Like are you fucking around, or what?"

Taehyung shrugs, spending an unnecessarily long time flipping over one piece of beef. "I don't know. We're just taking it day by day, I guess."

Yoongi's chewing slows as he studies him from across the table before directing his attention back down to his rice. "I don't like it."

He looks up, seeing the frown between his brother's eyebrows. "I don't know why, it's got nothing to do with you."

"Yeah, but I have to see it."

"Oh and it's different from me watching you send gross heart eyes to Lim Jueun?" Taehyung nods when Yoongi freezes, chopsticks pausing halfway to his mouth. "Yeah, I've noticed. So don't be coming at me and saying you don't like seeing me and Jeongguk together."

His brother scowls. "It's different."

"And how is it different? Enlighten me."

"Jeongguk's dangerous."

Taehyung stiffens. "And Jueun isn't? Don't be using fucking double standards on me again, hyung. It's not fair."

"Yeah, but I know all about Jueun. And Jeongguk for that matter. You don't know anything about him."

"I know stuff about him," he argues. It's loud in volume but weak in power.

Yoongi looks up from his plate, a look that says they both knows he's lying. "Yeah? Do you know where Junseo's mom is? Huh? Do you know how Jeongguk came to be where he is? Do you know how old he is, Taehyung? Well? Do you?"

Taehyung feels anger bubble up hot inside him, fingers tightening on his chopsticks before he slaps them flat against the table, drawing the attention of others sitting close by. "I said we're taking it slow. Don't fucking patronise me." Yoongi doesn't say anything, just gives a small shrug and suddenly Taehyung's not hungry anymore. He stands and pulls his wallet out of the back of his pocket, pulling out a wad of cash and tossing it down on the table. "Here. My treat," he spits before grabbing his bag and slinging it over his shoulder.

"Taehyung," Yoongi call after him in a sigh as he leaves, but he doesn't bother to stop, just walks out and heads back for campus.

How fucking dare he? Say shit like that. Whatever he and Jeongguk are doing, it's their business. It doesn't involve anyone else. So what if they're taking it slow, so what if Taehyung doesn't know what it is. He's happy. He likes it. He likes Jeongguk. And that's all that matters. Fuck Yoongi and his ability to pick at sensitive nerves that Taehyung doesn't even know are exposed.

As much as he hates it, the conversation infects his mind for the rest of the day. It slips into his conscious as he's trying to focus in class, his brother's words echoing around his skull and leaving no room for anything else. Taehyung shouldn't be as bothered as he is. He and Jeongguk haven't talked about what they are. They haven't felt the need to. Because it's a private thing. It's between them.

Still. The seed has been planted, and he can't uproot it. It's there, niggling at him, demanding attention. And the more he thinks about it, the more he realises that he really doesn't know anything about Jeongguk. He doesn't know where he's from, what his job entails - but that's more so down to Taehyung's desire not to know - he doesn't know his birthday. He doesn't even know how he's feeling half the time. Jeongguk always supplies him with the same answer. I'm fine. But what about you? How are you doing, Taehyung?

It stays with him for the next few days, like an itch that can't be scratched. He hates that he's become one of those people. The type that wants to know everything. But, god, even as he says it, there's nothing wrong with those people. They just want to know about the person they're with. But then that has him actually wondering. Is he even with Jeongguk? 

After another night of tossing and turning, he finally relents and grabs his phone, pulling up Jeongguk's messages, eyeing his name. It's something he and Junseo came up with last week when they were talking about Drago and Junseo's love of reptiles.

to: guko lizard

hey are u awake ?

He doesn't have to wait long before his phone blinks with a reply.

from: guko lizard

I'm up. Everything okay?

Taehyung stares down at his phone for a long time, thinking about how he should reply. He could brush it off, turn it into what they've usually been doing, send a flirty message or an innocent jab. He taps the phone to keep it from going dark, debating about what to say when it vibrates again.

from: guko lizard

Did you fall asleep on me?

to: guko lizard

how old r u ?

from: guko lizard

34.

Why?

to: guko lizard

whens ur birthday ?

from: guko lizard

September 1st.

Taehyung, what's with the questions?

He chews at his lip hard enough to hurt, peeling dry skin back with his teeth. When he sees Jeongguk typing, he quickly replies before he can lose his nerve.

to: guko lizard

i just wanted to kno

yoongi made a comment bout how i dont really know u

and its been bothering me

cause i dont

Nothing comes in for five minutes and Taehyung's already thinking about how he can apologise. He doesn't want to force Jeongguk to tell him anything if he's not ready, but he also feels like he should know. He wants to, he really wants to. But he can't force Jeongguk to want to tell him. He's loosing hope of a reply when it hits the ten minute mark, but then another text comes through.

from: guko lizard

I'm outside. Let me up.

Taehyung's heart skyrockets into his chest, scrambling out of bed and looking out of his window to see Jeongguk's car parked and the man himself standing down on the sidewalk, staring down at his phone. Taehyung watches him also tap the screen to stop it going dim, and it has that familiar warmth pooling in his chest. 

He shakes out his hair and flicks some lights on as he goes to the front door and buzzes Jeongguk up, and for the next minute as he waits, he paces and chews on his nails until there's a knock and he'll pulling the door open before Jeongguk can even lower his hand. 

"What are you doing here?" He asks, breathless as if he ran cross-country.

Jeongguk steps inside, shrugging off his coat and looking over the apartment. "You wanted to talk. So I'm here. Let's talk."

He feels guilt settle into his bones, because it's close to one in the morning and Taehyung knows Jeongguk hasn't been sleeping well. "You didn't have to come all this way. Here, take my bed, get some sleep, Jeongguk."

"I want to talk too."

The straightforward confession makes Taehyung a little dizzy, biting down on his bottom lip, eyebrows sagging. "You do?" Jeongguk nods, kicking off his shoes and stepping further into the apartment. When he goes for the couch, without thinking, Taehyung grabs his hand and stops him. "Let's go to my room." It's not an invitation, but god, does it make Taehyung's muscles flex and his heart speed up unevenly. 

He keeps hold of Jeongguk's hand as he tugs him into his room and climbs into bed, laying on his side and patting the space next to him. It's only a small bed, Jeongguk knows that, not like the ones he has by the dozen back at his house, but Taehyung has no intention of sleeping anytime soon. He watches as Jeongguk lowers himself down and slips beneath the sheets, both of them face to face, the single bed forcing them close together. But Taehyung likes to think they'd lay this close together even in a queen size.

"Tell me what happened," Jeongguk encourages gently, his knuckles brushing over the bare skin of Taehyung's knee beneath the covers.

He takes a deep breath, sees Jeongguk's fringe flutter as he lets it out. "Well, after Yoongi said I didn't know you, I realised that I really want to. I know it's my fault, I'm the one that said I didn't want to hear anything, know anything about what you do, but that was different then. I don't ever want to make you feel pressured, and I've told you a few times now that you could talk to me if you wanted to, but you always seem to brush it off, so I took it as you didn't want to talk." Taehyung pauses for another breath, sliding one of arms under the pillow, feeling the dull ache in his muscles from training with Yoongi earlier. "I feel like you know everything there is to know about me, but literally just found out how old you were twenty minutes ago," he chuckles, a nervous bubble in his throat.

Jeongguk just lays there and listens, giving a little nod as he sighs softly. Not one of annoyance, but one that sounds like he's settling in for the night. "Ask me anything you want."

Taehyung's eyebrows raise. "Anything?"

A nod.

"Okay," Taehyung starts slowly, licking his worried on lip, shifting slightly as he tries to prioritise what he wants to know most. "Tell me about Junseo's mother."

"What do you want to know about her?"

"Well. Like. How did you meet her? Why aren't you together?" Jeongguk inhales deeply, and Taehyung immediately backtracks. "I'm sorry, you don't have to."

The elder shakes his head. "No, no. I want to. It's just been a long time since I've even let myself think about Rachel."

Rachel. That's something new.

"Before I came into power, I was just a goon, of sorts. I did small jobs, trying to work my way up as everyone does. I was only twenty-six when I met Rachel. We met at some party, nothing romantic. We started seeing each other, I suppose. It was more just for sex, but whatever it was, it went on for a few months before Rachel got pregnant." Jeongguk pauses and Taehyung takes the opportunity to take a deep breath, searching beneath the covers for Jeongguk's hand, which he finds a moment later, slipping their fingers together. "When Junseo was born... I knew I'd do anything for him. I changed. I wanted the best life possible for him. I wanted to work on things with Rachel, be a family. But she didn't want a family. She wanted status. And she found that in my boss at the time, Shin Sungrok." Jeongguk licks his lips, eyebrows knitting. "He was a cruel man, didn't care for anyone or anything. All he cared about was money and power. So naturally, Rachel was attracted to that."

"Bitch," Taehyung mutters under his breath and Jeongguk laughs softly. "Sorry, keep going."

"Sungrok never cared much for me. I was just a drug runner, easily replaceable. Rachel didn't want it to get out that she was associated with me, that she had a son. So she convinced Sungrok that I attacked her, even came to him sobbing with bruises."

Taehyung feels rage burn through him, unable to believe it. "Actual bruises? Like she went out of her way to hurt herself just to get rid of you?"

Jeongguk nods, thumb sweeping along the back of his hand. "Sungrok wanted me gone. He had my own friends attempt to kill me. Take me out in the back of an alley like some dog. It's the lowest form of respect in this line of work, being taken out in degrading way." Taehyung's hand tightens around Jeongguk's, seeing the flutter in his jaw. "But they didn't kill me. They sparred me and told Sungrok that I escaped. It was all Joon and Haejin who actually saved me. They're the ones who let me go. I still can't repay them enough to this day. Sungrok almost killed them for it." 

Taehyung thinks back to his conversations with Joon and Haejin in the backyard a few weeks back, how uneasy Haejin had made him feel, while Joon had told him he was just bitter. "Is that how you met? You all worked for Sungrok?"

Another nod. "They helped me look after Junseo when Rachel left. And after I escaped, they put themselves at risk to keep me hidden. Sungrok had a hit out on me, I couldn't get any work. He owned everyone, Taehyung. And I mean everyone. I had a new born son. Without them, I probably wouldn't have lasted this long," Jeongguk says, his voice soft and full of admiration. It makes Taehyung feel guilty for his arbitrary first opinion on the pair. They helped Jeongguk when no one else would. No wonder he trusts them as much as he does. "They helped get me connections. Other people who hated Sungrok, people who wanted to see him dead as much as I did."

Taehyung swallows, feeling like he knows how this is going to go. "Did you kill him, Guk?"

Jeongguk just stares at him, eyes imploring, clearly looking to see if the idea of that frightens him off. "Yes," he confesses. Taehyung doesn't pull away, hand curling tighter around the other man's. "I couldn't live peacefully until he was gone. I couldn't raise my son in a world like that, going into hiding. If he ever found out I had Junseo... He would have killed him, just to prove a point. And I wasn't going to sit by and leave it up to fate. I did what had to be done."

"Is that how you became what you are now?" 

Jeongguk doesn't physically respond, but he can see the answer in his eyes. "To be on top, you have to take out whoever's at the top. Though it was never my intention to go for his spot, it wasn't about that."

"What about Rachel? What happened to her?" Taehyung asks, realising that there are some blanks in the story.

"I let her go. I wanted to kill her. I wanted to kill her more than I wanted to kill Sungrok. But I just. I couldn't. So I told her to leave and to never show her face in Seoul again."

Taehyung lets out a deep breath, taking a minute to process all the new information he's been given. "Do you think she could ever come back? For Junseo?"

As soon as he says it, he regrets it, feeling Jeongguk tense up beside him. "She can try."

He immediately moves closer, their knees knocking beneath the covers. "She'd be stupid to try," he reassures, arm sliding out from under his pillow to stroke through Jeongguk's hair. "So many people would put their lives on the line for that kid. She wouldn't be able to get near him."

Jeongguk nods, eyes dropping to look beneath the covers at where their hands are locked. "I had a fleeting thought about her after those people showed up outside Junseo's school. I thought it may have had something to do with her."

"Did you ever find out who those guys were?"

"No, nothing came up for them. Which means they were hired, a private organisation, probably. A very big one, at that."

Taehyung's thumb presses down on the faint pulse he can feel in the back of Jeongguk's hand. "Do you think it could be Rachel?"

Jeongguk shakes his head, inhaling deep. "I had it checked out. She married some American drug lord and they live in Maui. I don't think she wants anything to do with her old life anymore." It both relieves and unsettles Taehyung, because while it's a good thing it's not Rachel, if it was, then they'd know where to strike, where to hit the nail. "Have I put you off me yet?" Jeongguk asks, and it's meant to sound light, but Taehyung can hear the underlining worry in it, honestly afraid that he may have scared him off.

"No," Taehyung says quicker than he expects, voice benign. It's almost alarming how much he means it, too. Considering he'd been so against Jeongguk and everything he stood for at the start of all this, after hearing all that, he finds himself only more drawn to the man. "Thank you for telling me that. I know it must have been hard for you."

"It wasn't, surprisingly," Jeongguk chuckles, voice hushed. "I don't think I've ever told the whole story before. Everyone just knew, people found out. It's not a hard story to find on the streets, how I came into power. Though I've heard many alternatives of it over the years. It felt... good. To tell you. To tell you the truth before you heard some mangled lie about how I beheaded innocent children to get where I am."

"I think that's how Kim Haesook got to where she is," Taehyung jokes through a yawn, eyes opening slowly when Jeongguk laughs. 

They stare at each other for a long moment, Jeongguk's hand lifting to rest on his cheek. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I wasn't hiding anything from you, I just thought you didn't want to know. And that hurt a little, honestly. Thinking you might not want to know anything about me. But I liked you too much to let that stop me from seeing you."

Taehyung feels his sleepy heart race manically in his chest, turning his head to press a kiss to the centre of Jeongguk's palm. "Don't be sorry. It's my fault. I've lost count of how many times I told you I didn't want to know anything. I was being ignorant." He presses another kiss to his palm before his lips twitch. "But I do have a more important question."

Jeongguk's eyebrows rise, exposing the real size of his eyes. And fuck. They're identical to Junseo's, that soft wonder, that innocent gaze, beseeching to be let in on whatever's going on in Taehyung's mind. "Anything."

"What's your favourite colour?"

Jeongguk laughs and they fall into easy conversation, despite the heavy one they just finished. Taehyung asks Jeongguk all types of questions, like where he grew up - Busan - what his favourite food is - samgyeopsal - his favourite music genre - alternative r&b - his choice of drink - scotch - non-alcoholic - any type of soda - he asks as much as he can. He inhales all of the information, and yet it's not enough. Even as they're both dozing off, Jeongguk's hand under the back of his shirt, rubbing circles into his back, his own fingers shuffling through the hair on the back of the man's head, he doesn't feel sated enough.

They're both half asleep, cramped together in Taehyung's single bed, eyes heavy and both feeling more comfortable. He still doesn't know what they are, but he finds that he doesn't care about that. He knows more about Jeongguk, the rest will come later, the rest will come easy.

He slurs out another question.

"I already answered that. Red," Jeongguk garbles into the side of Taehyung's pillow.

Taehyung frowns tiredly, unable to even open his eyes anymore. "I thought you said green."

He feels Jeongguk shake his head in his hand. "That was the colour of my first bike. Red's my favourite colour. And blue was the colour of my childhood bedroom."

"I thought that's what colour you look best in."

"No, that's black. But I do look good in blue too."

Taehyung can't deny his hum of agreement, no matter how tired. "Amen to that. Look great in red, too. Which is your favourite colour."

"Ding ding ding."

They both drift off like that, questions and answers on their tongues, legs tangled together and hands on each other, and Taehyung can't speak for Jeongguk, but the dude is on his mind, even as he sleeps. As well as his brother, who he sends a middle finger to from dreamland. Fucker.

Chapter Text

Things are a little tense between him and Yoongi after their argument. It's not unusual, they're both stubborn men, both tenacious in their ways. It'll blow over, it always does. But for now, they need to cool off, or they'll clash heads again. It's happened enough times over the years that they know how to handle it by now. Whenever they see each other at the house, they swerve each other, and Hoseok's the one to explain to the others why the brothers aren't falling all over each other like usual. Every aspect of their relationship is strong, sharp, so it makes sense that when they argue, it's no different. 

Taehyung's always looked at Yoongi as his best friend. Lame as it is, he does, and he always will. Growing up, he used to follow his brother everywhere. Hang out with him and his friends, who never particularly liked Taehyung hanging around. Aside from Hoseok, who he's been close with ever since. He always put his brother on a pedestal, wanted everyone to idolise him the way Taehyung idolised him. Wanted nothing more than to be just like him. When Yoongi got his first underground rap gig, Taehyung snuck out of the house to go and watch him perform. When Yoongi found him in the crowd after his performance, he almost yanked his ear off dragging him home, Taehyung in tears, his hyung telling him that what he did was stupid, that he got have gotten seriously hurt. But in Taehyung's mind, nothing and no one could hurt him while he had his big brother around. 

He still believes the same to this day, really. Not just on the minimal no bullies are gonna pick on me while Yoongi-hyung's around level like he did when he was a kid. But he feels safe with his brother around, like every part of him is protected, and he's always been grateful for that. They've been practically attached at the hip since Taehyung was born, and not just because he never left Yoongi alone. Yoongi kept him around, brought him out with him, took him places, let him sleep in his bed. 

When Yoongi went off to college, Taehyung was lost. He'd spent his every waking minute with Yoongi, and when he was suddenly gone, it severely affected his mood. Looking back now, though, it was probably a good thing. No kid should constantly be in the literal shadow of their older sibling, they need to be able to make their own mistakes, discover their own passions. Half the stuff Taehyung loved growing up was stuff that Yoongi liked. It also made all the times Yoongi came down from school that much more special.

In times like this, when they're not talking, it makes Taehyung reflect on that stuff, on their life, on their bond. He thinks Yoongi sometimes forgets that he's not a kid anymore and he's not going to follow his word by law. He's got his own principles, his own mind, and sometimes that leads to petty arguments. 

So when he wakes up one morning to a call from his brother, he knows that their little spat is to be done with. He answers with a yawn and smile, rolling over to bury his nose into his pillow. It still smells a little like Jeongguk from the time he stayed over. It's a nice thing to wake up to. That, and his brother's voice.

"Morning, hyungie," he greets, no malice in his voice.

"Morning, bug. I was thinking we could go and catch a movie together. They're showing Spirited Away at the cinema. It's been a while since we watched it together." Yoongi's voice is as gruff as his own, the voice he has on when he's just woken up. Yoongi doesn't usually attempt to rise until after eleven - it's nine now - so he knows he's had trouble sleeping. He always sleeps poorly when they fight. Taehyung always poke good natured fun at that.

("Aw, you missed me! Just admit it. You slept terribly because you missed me," Taehyung coos.

"No. Shut up. I slept badly because I thought you'd wind up dead in some gutter without me.")

Taehyung hums at he idea, rolling onto his back once again, rubbing at his bleary eyes with a fist. "Can we sit in the middle? And get every flavour of slushie?"

"Always."

He climbs out of bed with a lazy smile, stretching his back out and ruffling a hand through the back of his sleep mussed hair. Taehyung just so happens to look out of the window, and what he sees has the last of the tiredness oozing out of him like tar, replaced with trepidation. "Yoongi?" He says slowly.

"I said we could get the slushies, Tae."

"No, I--" He swallows down the sudden nauseating feeling inching up his throat. He quickly moves to the side of the window, pressing his back against the wall beside it. "There's people outside. They look the same as the ones that were outside Junseo's school." Silence. "Hyung." He hears the start of an engine. "What are you doing?"

"How many of them are there?"

Taehyung takes a breath and risks a quick glace, eyes darting over the group standing by the hood of the car. "Five or six."

"Okay, I need you to do exactly as I say alright? Hyung's coming, but I need you to do some things for me first. Tell me you understand, Taehyung."

He lets out a deep breath, leaning back against the wall. "Yeah. Yeah, I understand."

"Stay away from the windows and go lock the door right now. Do that and then go and hide under the bed."

Taehyung slides down on the floor, holding the phone to his ear as he crawls over to the door, stretching up to lock it before following the next instruction and going to lay beneath his bed. "Yoongi, don't come alone. Please tell me you're not coming alone."

"I've messaged the guys, they're on their way. I'm almost there. Just hang on, Tae."

He nods even though his brother can't see him, pressing his forehead against the cool floor. It smells murky with dust, makes his nose itch, but it's somehow comforting. He breathes it in as he listens to Yoongi's voice on the other end. 

"Okay, I see them. I'll be right there, kiddo, just hang tight."  And then he hears a distant, "Hey!" Which he can hear from outside too. It's his brother yelling and it instantly makes him that much more anxious. If anything happens to Yoongi, Taehyung's not sure what he'll do. 

He's panicked. He's so panicked. The people that were watching Junseo's school know where he lives. Were they waiting for him to come out? Were they staking out the place? God, it reminds him of the fact that Jeongguk managed to find out everything about him. Why would it be any different with someone else. If the resources are out there, then they can be found. 

A few minutes later, the sound of his door opens and Taehyung holds his breath as he hears quick footsteps, a pair of shiny brogues coming into view. Then a voice, "Taehyung?"

"Jeongguk," he breathes, suddenly feeling the air rush out of him like a deflating balloon. 

Jeongguk's suddenly crouching down by the bed, sighing a breath of relief at the sight of him. When he offers his hand, Taehyung doesn't waste a second before grabbing it, letting himself be helped out and back up onto his feet. He's got his arms around the man in a flash, wrapped tight around him, just as Jeongguk does the same, pressing his nose into his hair. "God, fucking-- I'm so glad you're okay."

Taehyung nods, gripping at the back of Jeongguk's blazer until his fingernails hurt from the pressure. "Are they gone?" He asks once they've pulled back from the tight, borderline desperate hug. 

Jeongguk doesn't answer him, his face hard. It's the same face he saw the day of the school incident. "Grab whatever you need. We need to leave. Now."

He blinks, but doesn't let himself question it, just pulls back and starts collecting up his things, packing his laptop, his tablet, pictures, some of his most precious things. In the other room, Taehyung can hear Jeongguk doing the same, packing briskly. A few minutes later, the door's opening and closing and Jeongguk's out of the bathoom in a flash, grabbing Taehyung by the hip and forcing him behind him. 

"Tae!" It's Yoongi, and once again Taehyung feels the oxygen just gush out of his lungs. When his brother steps into view, he's got a bruise blooming on one cheek and blood dribbling down his chin.

Taehyung steps around Jeongguk and goes for his brother, packing momentarily forgotten. Yoongi reaches for him just as Taehyung does the same. "Shit, you're hurt."

Yoongi shakes his head, hands patting him over. "I'm fine. Are you okay?" When Taehyung quickly nods, Yoongi's attention turns to Jeongguk. "It's done."

Taehyung looks over his shoulder at Jeongguk, just catching him give a sharp nod. "What's done? What are you talking about, hyung?" 

Namjoon bursts in then, Jimin and Hoseok following close behind. "We've gotta go."

"What is happening?" Taehyung asks his brother in a whisper, eyes wide and frantic.

Yoongi meets his gaze and squeezes at his waist before stepping around him to pick up where he left off with packing. Taehyung's left in the dark as Jimin grabs him and guides him out of his apartment, taking him downstairs and into one of the waiting cars. It's not until Jeongguk and Namjoon have pilled in and are driving him away from his apartment complex that he hears it.

"Is there someone in the trunk?" Taehyung asks, glancing behind him when he feels a thud against his back. No one answers him. He looks over at Jimin, facing the window, split knuckles in his lap. He faces forward, eyebrows suddenly knitted. "Someone needs to tell me what the fuck is going on. Right now." Nothing. "Jeongguk."

Jeongguk meets his eyes in the rearview mirror before facing forward again. "Yes."

He blinks. "Yes what?"

"Yes there's someone in the trunk."

Taehyung can only gape, leaning forward and turning to look at his seat, picturing someone in the cramped space behind him. "Is it one of them?" He demands. Once again, he's met with silence. "What the fuck is this, twenty-one questions? I need a proper answer right now!"

"It's one of them, yes," Jeongguk speaks up again.

Taehyung lets out a uneven breath, shaky fingers reaching up to push through his hair. "This is so fucked."

No one says anything else for the rest of the drive, and once they get to Jeongguk's house, Taehyung stands and watches as some of the security open up the trunk and pull out the guy who's been kicking and trying to scream out. It makes him feel sick, watching them pull the guy to his feet. The man is sweaty, his face covered in cuts and bruises, hair sticking to his forehead in damp strings. He watches as he's dragged inside, Jimin, Hoseok and Namjoon following behind.

"You should head inside. Go play with Junseo," Yoongi tells him, eyebrows pulling together when Taehyung shakes his head. 

"I wanna come with you."

"Taehyung..."

He shakes his head again, holding himself as he follows after the others, leaving his brother behind. Taehyung's a part of this. This guy was outside his apartment, watching, waiting for him, he doesn't know. But he was there, and Taehyung wants to know why. Wants to know why he's involved with this now. 

Everyone is in Jeongguk's office, the guy from the trunk now tied to a chair, hair hanging limp over his eyes as Hoseok finishes the knots behind his hands. Taehyung watches as Jeongguk shrugs out of his blazer, tossing it down on one of the couches. "You can make this easy for everyone. Tell me who sent you," he orders, though his voice is calm, level. It sets Taehyung on edge, because it's eerily calm. It's not his usual soothing lilt. It's dangerous

"Go fuck yourself," the guy in the chair spits.

Jeongguk hits him. And it's not a hit that Taehyung is used to, nothing like the ones he's learning to throw, learning to take. It's a whole body punch, and it sends the guy toppling over onto the floor and makes Taehyung flinch, Yoongi resting his hand on his back. "We'll try this again, shall we?" He asks as Jimin and Hoseok pick the guy back up and right him into the same position. "Who. Sent you, friend?"

As bruised as the guy was before, he looks ten times worse after one hit, spitting out a mouthful of blood onto the floor. "Your whore mother."

Jeongguk chuckles, and it's not the soft laugh Taehyung's come to know. He drops his head back, looking like he's recalling a fond memory. "You're right. She was a whore. But she's also dead. So wrong--" he punches him again, "--answer."

It's scary seeing Jeongguk like this. Seeing him as The Notorious Jeon Jeongguk. Mob boss. Top dog of South Korea. It's terrifying, seeing it with his own two eyes. And it's all he can do to watch for the next ten minutes as Jeonnguk asks questions, doesn't get the answers he wants and beats the man tied to the chair. It's eventually too much and Taehyung turns away, Yoongi who was seemingly enthralled with watching switching his attention to him.

"Tae?" He asks softly and Taehyung shakes his head.

"I can't - I can't be in here. I'm just gonna--" he leaves before he can say anything else, taking a deep breath once he's back in the foyer, closing the doors behind him, leaning against the cool wood. Though it only lasts a second when he hears another muted thud, quickly pushing himself away and heading upstairs, slipping into Junseo's room and practically diving head first into a hug with him.

Junseo doesn't question it, just hugs him back. And he wonders briefly if this kid knows more than he lets on. God, he hopes not.

They play together for a while, and Taehyung feels guilty that he can't give it his full attention, still thinking about the scene happening downstairs. Junseo doesn't seem to mind, though, just talks and plays enough for the both of them. It's a little while later that there's a knock at the door and Taehyung's eyes refocus from where he was staring a hole into the wall. 

Jeongguk opens the door slowly, face smoothed over as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. It makes Taehyung wonder how many times he's seen Jeongguk after a similar incident, and he's just managed to hide it in a mask. "Hey, boys. What you doing?"

"Playing with my dinosaurs," Junseo beams, lifting his purple tyrannosaurus up in the air.

Jeongguk smiles. "That's great, kiddo. Looks like a lot of fun." His gaze shifts over to him then, and his smile drops a fraction. "Taehyung. Can I speak to you for a minute?"

Taehyung nods, clearing his throat as he pushes himself up to his feet, brushing his fingers through Junseo's hair as he passes, stepping outside and leaning back against the wall. "Is it done?" He asks once the door is securely closed, and he can't hide the way his voice breaks.

Jeongguk sighs softly. "Taehyung..."

He holds his hand up. "I shouldn't have gone in there, I didn't want to see that. I'm an idiot. But I don't think what you did is right, Jeongguk. Good or fucking bad, you shouldn't kidnap someone!" He whisper-yells, making sure not to be too loud and possibly alert Junseo.

"It had to be done. He could have had valuable information. How do you think this thing is ever going to end if I don't take action?"

Taehyung grits his teeth, knowing he's got a point, but the whole concept of it makes him feel sick. "But did you have to do that? Wasn't there any other way to go about it?"

Jeongguk's face says what he's thinking, that no, there is no other way. "They were watching you, Tae. Do you expect me to just let that slide?"

"No, but--"

"No. No, I." Jeongguk stops and takes a deep breath before reaching up and holding onto Taehyung's shoulders. "I'm sorry that you had to see that, okay? I didn't want you to. But I'm not sorry for doing it. If it means I can keep you and Junseo safe, then I'll do it. I'm sorry for a lot of things, Taehyung, but I'll never be sorry for wanting to protect you."

Taehyung feels his chin quiver, his teeth threatening to rattle in his mouth as he meets Jeongguk's sombre gaze. He just gives a weak nod, arms wrapping around himself, thumbs pressing firmly into his own biceps. It still doesn't put him at ease, but he understands it. He knew what he was getting himself into. "Did you find out anything?"

The elder shakes his head. "Not yet. Whoever it is really doesn't want to be found out. They've got to be pretty powerful, or be offering something big to have this guy not breathing a word."

"Boss," Namjoon's voice calls suddenly from the end of the hallway. "Sung Joon and Park Haejin are here." With a nod, Namjoon heads back downstairs, Jeongguk's gaze turning back to Taehyung.

"Joon and Haejin are here? Why?" Taehyung asks, brow furrowed.

"They think it might be linked with Sungrok."

His eyes widen. "But I thought--"

"No, he's dead," Jeongguk fills in with a nod. "But when he died, a lot of his men didn't want to be allied with me. They've made minor attacks over the years, nothing this threatening. But Haejin's had his ear out and he heard that a new gang may be forming, and they're after my head."

It makes Taehyung blood run cold, nails digging into his skin. "Then wouldn't you know the guy downstairs?"

Jeongguk shakes his head. "Like I said. We think he's hired. It could be a distraction, could be a play. We don't know. But I'll figure it out, Taehyung, I promise." He can't believe it. Jeongguk knows that there's people after him, out to kill him, and he's worried about Taehyung. It just makes everything he's feeling double tenfold. "You're not safe back at the apartment. You're gonna stay here until this all blows over, alright? Until I've managed to sort it all."

Taehyung nods, chewing at his thumbnail. This has become his second home by now, it wouldn't be that much of a change. But he will miss his apartment. It was his first independent space. But he understands how minor that detail is when something like this is happening. "Okay."

"I've gotta get back down there... We okay?" The other asks, and Taehyung looks up from his bitten skin. 

"Yeah. Yeah, we're okay," he whispers out, and he still feels wrong about all this, doesn't feel right knowing what he does, but he also doesn't feel differently about Jeongguk. It's just a lot to take in. He's constantly being shown parts of this life that he never wanted to know.

Jeongguk pulls him in and presses a firm kiss to his forehead, hand on the back of his head. "I just wanna keep you safe," he breathes against his skin before pressing their foreheads together. They stare at each other for another long moment before Jeongguk's pressing one more kiss to his forehead and pulls away to head downstairs.

Once he's gone, Taehyung lets out a deep, shaky breath and leans back against the wall, his head pounding. He really hopes this all ends soon.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

"Again."

Yoongi sighs, wiping his forehead on the bottom of his shirt. They've both been at it for hours now, fighting in Jeongguk's home gym, dripping with sweat and exhaustion pulling heavy at their bones. Since he's moved in, his fighting regime has picked up, everyone more willing now that they realise that Taehyung really could use the training, could really benefit from the self defence. He goes to the gym with Jimin, runs with Hoseok and works on throwing his weight with Namjoon. He spars with Yoongi, though. He's the one who isn't afraid to push Taehyung past his limits, push him to his full potential. He makes him train even when Taehyung's whining that he's already sore.

They both face each other, arms raised and bodies poised. They grapple and punch, and eventually Taehyung ends up back on the floor. He pulls his weight around in his legs and--

"No. Taehyung," Yoongi heaves a breath, hair pushed back with a bandanna. "How many times? Don't use your thighs, kid. Use your shins. You'll have way more momentum there, more power. Come on. Up."

Taehyung nods, pushing himself back to his feet, his hamstrings screaming at him. "So..." He starts, blocking a punch to the face.

"So what?" Yoongi asks.

"So how did last night go?"

Yoongi freezes, his arms lowering for a second and Taehyung takes the opportunity to smack the side of his head. "Ow, fuck!"

"Always keep your guard up, hyung," he sings. "Tell me."

"It went... fine. It was good."

"What did you do?"

"I took her to dinner."

Taehyung's bites back a groan when he's given a jab to the ribs. "Who paid?"

"We split the bill." 

He hums. "Non traditional, I like it." 

"Do you really think she likes me?" Yoongi asks as he pins Taehyung to the floor beneath him, punching at the arms blocking his face. 

Taehyung can't help but laugh. "Oh, hyung. I feel like we're back home and I'm asking you if-- ow, fuck --if Ahn Dante will like me if I give him my shrimp crackers. Do you wanna give your shrimp crackers to Jueun, Yoongi?"

"Shut up." A punch to the gut that has Taehyung kneeing his brother's back in retaliation. "Do you?"

"Do I think you should give her your shrimp crackers?" He asks and Yoongi goes to punch him again, but Taehyung gets his arm beneath his brothers thigh and flips him over, wrapping his arm around his neck. 

"Tae. Be serious."

"You be serious. You've gone on what, five dates now? God knows what else you've done. Jueun doesn't seem like the type of woman to keep calling you back if she doesn't want anything to do with you," he assures, keeping his brother in a headlock, other arm resting on top of his head. 

"You know I'm not good with this stuff," Yoongi wheezes, still trying to punch at Taehyung's thigh where it's got his legs locked to the ground, and eventually he taps out and Taehyung lets him go with a wide grin.

He rolls onto his back beside his big brother, both of them staring up at the mirrored ceiling. "You've got nothing to worry about. I've seen the way she looks at you. And I wish I hadn't. It's sickening. She definitely likes you."

Yoongi looks over to him, face red with exertion. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," he replies with a smile. They lean forward and knock heads gently, Yoongi scrunching his nose up.

"You stink," he whispers.

"That's just you." Taehyung groans through a laugh when Yoongi elbows him in the ribs before he climbs to his feet, offering a hand down to him and pulling him up.

"Nice work, by the way. You've definitely improved, big time. Just keep working on your leg sweep. Shin. Not thigh." When Taehyung nods to show he's heard, Yoongi stretches his back and rubs his neck. "I need a shower. And a neck brace."

Taehyung laughs as brother head out, though he's not left alone for long before the door opens again and in steps Jeongguk, dressed in shorts that show off the gift that is his thighs - which Taehyung thinks are the secret eighth wonder of the world - and a muscle tank. 

Jeongguk's eyes look him over as he tosses his towel to the side. "You look good."

He snorts as he takes a sip of his water. "What, battered?"

"Sweaty," the elder teases with a grin as he passes him, laughing when Taehyung shoves at his shoulder. "You been training?"

Taehyung nods. "Just finished up a round with Yoongi. I pinned him," he sniffs smugly. 

"Min Yoongi pinned? Unheard of," Jeongguk compliments, giving him a nod of approval. "You wanna help me out?"

"What do you need?" He asks, setting his water down and stepping over to the other and watches as he wraps his hands, gesturing to the punching bag.

"Hold it for me. Wanna work on my speed."

Taehyung slips up behind the heavy bag, pressing his chest up against it and bracing it in place with his hands, resting his cheek against the cool plastic cover as he eyes Jeongguk appreciatively. The guy's got some arms on him, alright, thick with muscle. It's such an opening for Taehyung's imagination, but all he's thinking about is how funny it would look if Jeongguk drew a little person on his bicep and made them dance with each flex. Priorities. "Like this?"

Jeongguk nods, raising his fists and starts punching. "How's training going, anyway?"

Taehyung has to pull back a little, feeling the air get knocked out of him as Jeongguk punches the bag, swallowing back a winded cough. "I'm getting better. More importantly, though, me and Yoongi were talking about him and Lim Jueun," he confesses with a wag of eyebrows.

The elder huffs a laugh. "Yeah, I heard about that. They finally together?"

"I think they're technically "dating". They go on dates. That's all I care to know," he shrugs, voice shaking with each hit of the bag against his chest.

Jeongguk looks up to him briefly between hits, then back at his target. "We should do that."

"Do what?"

Jeongguk doesn't miss a beat. "Date." Taehyung blinks, watching the man continue to lay into the bag before stopping at the clear silence. "Taehyung? You okay over there?"

"You don't date," is all he can think to say.

He gets a snort. "Says who?"

"Says me. You're a gangster. Gangsters don't date. They woo and pillage."

Jeongguk punches the bag roughly, winding Taehyung briefly. "I can date, thank you. Let me prove it to you."

Taehyung narrows his eyes, head cocked suspiciously. "By going out on a date with me?"

"Yes."

"No guards or guns?" A pause. "Jeongguk. No guards or guns."

Jeongguk sighs, but then nods, leaning his own weight into the bag so their faces are close together. "No guards or guns."

Taehyung purses his lips before stepping back. "Deal," he agrees, pulling the bag into him and shoving it into Jeongguk's body, grinning when he splutters out a curse. "Prepare to have your heart woo'd and pillaged, Jeony boy."

"I think you just pillaged my spleen." 

                                                                                                          -- -- --

"Here."

Taehyung looks up from his laptop - his impending final deadline drawing closer - and to the small, gold box presented to him. His eyebrow raises, gaze shifting up to Jeongguk. "What's this?"

"Wear it for our date tomorrow night," Jeongguk tells him, looking a little too pompous for Taehyung's liking.

His eyes narrow, pushing his glasses up into his hair. "Is that an order?" He asks, perching his elbow up on the back of the couch in "his" bedroom. "I don't take kindly to being told what to do."

Jeongguk's tilted smirk slips as he blinks, eyeing the box in his own hand before clearing his throat. "I mean, I - I got it for you. You don't have to wear it for our date, but I thought it'd be nice?"

And god, Taehyung is lapping this up. A nervous Jeongguk. This is something he could get used to seeing. He stares before tilting his head. "Are you trying to claim me?"

"What?! No, I--"

"Because I'm not someone who can be claimed, Jeon. I--"

"Taehyung," Jeongguk all but whines, and it has Taehyung softening, reaching out and taking the box. It's too much fun to screw with Jeongguk.

He pulls off the lid and peals the delicate tissue paper back, revealing the thin choker-necklace cushioned on what looks like a crushed velvet pillow. It's somehow not what he expected, honestly didn't know what he expected. But it wasn't something so fragile looking, something clearly so hand picked for Taehyung and his love of accessories. "Jeongguk..." He starts, slouching where he's siting, brushing a careful finger over the silver chain. "It's beautiful."

"I know how you like your chokers - you've got Junseo asking me for them," he chuckles before his voice hushes again. "And I thought this one would look nice on you."

Taehyung lifts his head at the sound of Jeongguk's almost shy toned voice, sounding so hesitant, the facade of nonchalance gone. "I love it," he says genially, reaching up to take one of Jeongguk's hands in his own, thumb brushing over the back of his ring clad fingers, the ring on his own thumb clicking against the silver signet ring of the elder's index finger. "Thank you." He leans down and presses a kiss to the back of Jeongguk's hand, just a press of lips before smiling up at the man. It falls as quickly as it came, though, glancing down to the man's hand before dropping it as if he'd just been burnt. "Ew. That was such a Godfather thing. Kissing the ring of the man who's marrying my daughter, the great--"

He's cut off by lips against his own, face secured between warm palms, having the last of his words dying on his tongue. Taehyung leans into the kiss for as long as he's given it, hand coming up to swallow up the back of the one on his face, fingers curling around Jeongguk's palms when he pulls away. 

"Wow," he breathes, voice a little rough. He clears his throat, nodding and looking up at Jeongguk. "Nice."

Jeongguk laughs quietly, and Taehyung doesn't miss the breathless hint to it. "I thought that'd shut you up."

Taehyung hums, eyes still closed. "Effective. Dirty. But effective." He runs his teeth over his bottom lip as their foreheads press together, breathing in the smell of scotch and day worn cologne. It strikes him to the very core, and instead of outright saying what he wants, he makes it more difficult. "Don't think you can just shut me up by kissing me, I'm--" He's once again stopped short, Jeongguk's lips pressing more firmly against his this time, lips slotting together. It has Taehyung shifting in his seat, turning more to face his-- Jeongguk. He doesn't let himself think about what the fuck was about to surface in his mind, and instead does what he does best. "I'll have you know--" Another kiss. Harder. Deeper.

"I'm onto you," Jeongguk mumbles against his mouth as Taehyung pushes his laptop and gift to the side so he can turn and twist his body up to meet Jeongguk's.

He hums into his mouth, laying back as Jeongguk climbs over the armrest, knee planted between Taehyung's thighs. "What's that, then?"

"You're talking so I'll keep shutting you up."

Taehyung pulls back, licking his lips as he tugs down the zip of his hoodie, exposing bare skin beneath. "You complaining, Guk?"

Jeongguk's eyes take in the newly exposed skin, and Taehyung feels both smug and raw, like an exposed vein, ready to be tapped. "Definitely not, no," he rumbles out, voice sounding smaller but deeper, like it's coming from the pit of his chest. 

Taehyung's slow building arousal slips into amusement as Jeongguk just continues to stay perched on the arm rest, eyes still getting a good look at his bare torso. It's not what he expected. He thought he'd be ready to pounce without a second to spare. Taehyung thinks he likes this better, though. Likes seeing the fact he can affect the guy who holds himself up so high, like he's got the whole world wrapped around his pinkie. He's known for the longest time now that Jeongguk isn't all that he makes out to be. He's soft for his son, cares for the people who work for him, he's gentle with Taehyung. He's also heard him giving the baby voice to Mocha and Podo, along with pretending to do work while he really just watches whatever anime Taehyung and Junseo have playing.

So he'll make the first move, because it's what he does best. He can walk the big boss man through this.

He slides forward on his ass, thighs spreading to bracket Jeongguk's body, hand pressing against his stomach to push him back into a standing position before he's following suit and wrapping a fist around the loose opening of the other's shirt. He uses it to push him back towards Taehyung's bed, fingers loosening to start pulling open buttons as their foreheads bump together.

"What - What you doing?" Jeongguk asks, eyes pointedly fixed on where Taehyung's got his teeth sunken into his bottom lip.

Taehyung gets the last button undone, thumb sliding over the patch of skin from Jeongguk's navel to the top of his slacks. "You were taking too long."

"I was admiring you."

"You've had months to do that," he mumbles as he brushes his lips over Jeongguk's jaw, gentle and tender before he shoves the man back with a rough hand to the stomach, watching as he falls back onto the bed. As hypocritical as it is, he takes his own turn to admire Jeongguk, laid out on his bed, shirt unbuttoned and fanned out on either side of him. His eyes run over his chest and stomach, the dark ink over his rising and falling chest having Taehyung's heart lurching. Big, infamous mob boss with his son's name printed over his heart.

Jeongguk's got a good body. Not that he's surprised. He's seen glimpses of it in his tight work out clothes and the one time he saw him stepping out of the bathroom with just a towel slung low around his hips - Taehyung may or may not have almost bitten a hole into his pillow that night to muffle the sounds of his curses and groans as he got a fist around himself - but seeing him up close and personal, the thoughts and glimpses never did him justice.

Taehyung shrugs out of his hoodie, tossing it to the floor as he lays himself down between Jeongguk's legs, pressing kisses up the centre of his belly - can it be called a belly when it has abs? - and up along his sternum, lavishing the skin with hot drags of his tongue, licking up any muscle twitches and trembles. His ears don't need to strain hard to pick up the shuddering breaths and throat hitches; they're loud in his skull, and make his cock twitch in his sweats. He can feel his cooling saliva against his own stomach as he slides up Jeongguk's body, pressing one last open mouthed kiss against his jugular, biting down just enough until he feels the resistance of the man's skin beneath his teeth.

"Taehyung," Jeongguk breathes, voice cracking on the last syllable, and if it were any other time, Taehyung might tear him apart over it. But for right now, he thinks it's sexy, hearing him so wrecked and they haven't even started. 

"Don't worry. I got you," he assures, meeting his eyes as he lifts his head, gazes locking as he brushes his palm up along Jeongguk's ribs, holding onto his waist as he presses his hips down, makes it very clear that he's hard, that he wants this. He's not left disappointed when he feels the line of Jeongguk's dick against his thigh, just as hard as his own. He grinds down into it, stomach jumping at the shock of friction, feeling pleasure shoot down the length of his spine like an electric current. He keeps at it for a minute before the buckle of Jeongguk's belt is becoming increasingly more annoying, digging into his stomach with each roll of his hips. 

He sits up and works deft fingers on Jeongguk's belt, tugging it out of the loops with ease. Taehyung folds it up and smacks it against the skin just asking for it, the leather snapping against Jeongguk's stomach with a satisfying slap. He smirks at the hiss he gets as he discards the belt on the floor, fingers next going for Jeongguk's slacks. The abs are one thing, but the thighs are in their own ball game, and it's all Taehyung can do to sit at the edge of the bed with his chin on his fist and sigh. 

"Fuck you and your thighs," is all he can say as Jeongguk nudges him with his foot, bringing him back to attention. He pushes out of his own sweats a lot less gracefully and retakes his position between Jeongguk's wonder thighs, getting his mouth on his again. This time, when he rolls his hips, the intensity is tripled, the thin fabric of their boxers the only thing separating them. 

"You feel so good," Jeongguk rumbles against the corner of his mouth when they pull back to breathe, and the edge to his voice has Taehyung grinding down harder, the elder's hips pushing up to meet his in a slow, push and pull of restraint. The room is quiet other than the sound of mattress shifting - because it's too nice to creak - the sound of their shaking breaths and the occasional groan. The air feels hot and thick, suffocating in the best way, suffocating on the smell of sex. 

Taehyung's pretty complacent with getting off like this, working up to a slow, ground-rocking orgasm. But when Jeongguk gets his hand down the back of his boxers, pulls and says, "You don't know how long I've wanted this," it sends the last of Taehyung's blood rushing down. It makes him a little frantic, the thought of Jeongguk picturing him when he gets off. Maybe late at night after a long day, just his thoughts to get him there. Maybe in the shower after a heavy dream that woke him up in a cold sweat. It has Taehyung sliding his arm above Jeongguk's head and curling fingers in his hair as he ruts down with a new found desperation, head turning to nip at the skin of the other's jaw.

"How long?" He all but growls into damp skin, fingers giving a tug as their hips clash, Jeongguk's fingers tightening on his ass. "Tell me how long you've wanted this, Jeongguk."

Jeongguk curses, chest shaking with it, the vibrations of a moan building in his chest beneath Taehyung. "From the moment you called me an asshole." They both huff out quiet laughs, shoulders shaking with it, muffling them into each others skin before Jeongguk's dick twitches, and suddenly it's not so funny anymore. 

It's all too much and not enough, and Taehyung decides he wants more, sliding his free hand down between them to push down the sides of Jeongguk's boxers, feeling his dick curl up between their bodies. He pulls his hand away long enough to lick over his palm and wrap it around the other's cock, fisting him slowly, and swallowing the groan he spills without closing his eyes, lids heavy. He wants to see it all, wants to see the way Jeongguk looks when he feels good, what he must look like when he touches himself at night to the thought of Taehyung. 

He eventually gets his own boxers down too, another lick to his palm and he's wrapping his fist around as much of them both as he can. The sensation has Taehyung's toes curling and his thighs briefly trembling, feeling the muscle in his stomach jump. It's so hot, the feeling of them pressed together, nothing between them and wet with spit and precome. 

"Tae," Jeongguk breathes, and he knows. He just knows he's already got Jeongguk there, got him hanging in the balance, teetering over the edge. His fingers tighten on the skin of Taehyung's ass hard enough to bruise, can already feel the throbbing spots under the pads of his fingers. He's left his own little smattering of bruises too, so he's satisfied with the equality of it, of being marked. 

"I've got you," he repeats against the shell of Jeongguk's ear as he tightens his hand on them, pushing his hips down harder and quickening his pace, all the while mumbling encouragement. Taehyung is close. He's so fucking close. But he's gonna make Jeon Jeongguk come first, come all over his hand and his dick and his own stomach. He's gonna make a mess of him, tear him down to the studs and only then will he let himself come. 

It doesn't take long, Jeongguk grunting out a string of curses mixed in with Taehyung's name, and it's dangerously close to having him coming too, the wrecked, rough groans of his name on the other's tongue. But he starves himself of relief for one, two, three more seconds before Jeongguk's spilling between them, his back arching off the bed and cock pulsing in his hand. It has Taehyung cursing shakily, staring down between them as his hand tightens in Jeongguk's hair, gripping it tight, teeth bruising his bottom lip at the sight of the elder twitching in his hand, stomach spasming and thighs clenching.  Taehyung can't hold back his own orgasm any longer, the sight of Jeongguk beneath him so frayed and vulnerable after coming pushing him over the edge. He turns his face up and presses it into the man's shoulder, hips stuttering and fist quick as he comes over Jeongguk's already messy stomach, biting out a curse as he does.  

Once they've both ridden out the last few tendrils of pleasure, Taehyung falls to his side and tries to catch his breath, staring over at the side of Jeongguk's face as the elder stares right back at him. It's quiet aside for their breathing, Taehyung fingers now loosely curled in dark strands, stroking through them instead of yanking and tugging. "About time that happened," Taehyung sighs once he's gotten most of his breath back, licking over his bitten lip as Jeongguk laughs.

"So how long have you wanted to do that?"

"From the moment I called you a dick."

Jeongguk snorts. And not in an obnoxious way, but the dorky kind of way, and it makes Taehyung's eyes widen and chest swell with a slew of jabs. But he can't bring himself to unleash them, because it was cute. And if Jeongguk feels comfortable enough to openly snort around him, then there's no way he's gonna scare that off. He's too selfish to give in to his sharp tongue. "You have a colourful vocabulary."

Taehyung thinks back to that moment he first called Jeongguk a dick - to his face, at least - and it has his curiosity peaked. "That night, did you really ask me to babysit just so you could go get laid?"

Jeongguk eyes him for a long minute before shaking his head. "No. I actually had a business meeting. But then you made a comment about getting paid, and I thought that's all I was to you. So I brought that girl back. I wanted to make you jealous. It was petty, I know. She was one of my friend's--"

Taehyung tugs Jeongguk's hair to tell him to shut up, because he doesn't want to know. "Wait. You thought I thought it was just money? I thought you thought it was just money. When I looked after Junseo that time and I came back and you left the money, I was pretty hurt."

The elder's gaze seems to soften then after an initial look of surprise, rolling onto his side so they're face to face. "I left you money because I felt bad that you went out of your way to look after Junseo. I didn't want you to think I was taking advantage of your kindness. Taehyung. I sent you flowers every day. Did you really not realise that I liked you?"

He thinks that through. How irritationally upset he'd gotten, after them having a Moment the night before, with him cleaning Jeongguk up. He hadn't really considered that when Jeongguk sent him all those flowers that it was an actual sign of interest, and thought it was more of a cheap way to woo him and get him into bed. "I thought you were just looking to get laid?" Is all he can offer, feeling very sheepish all of a sudden.

Jeongguk laughs quietly, feels his breath ghosting over his face. "I don't send flowers."

"Yeah, well. I didn't know that."

"Now you do."

Taehyung runs his teeth over his bottom lip, shifting a little closer, thumb lifting to ghost over Jeongguk's lips. "Yeah. Now I do."

                                                                                                          -- -- --

"Look at you. Looking sharp, kid."

Taehyung looks up from where he's tucking his laces into his shoes, smiling at the sight of Sung Joon stepping over to him, apple and knife in hand. "Not too much?"

Joon shakes his head, giving Taehyung a once over as he cuts another slice of apple and eats it straight off the blade. "Nah, you look good. Hot date?"

Taehyung gives a diffident look, not really sure if he can mention it. Not that he thinks Jeongguk is hiding him away, they've made their affections after the past month for each other very clear. But he doesn't know if it's appropriate to say anything to one of Jeongguk's business partners, and one of his closest friends. The godfather of his son.

Joon must pick up on it because he chuckles, setting his apple down and stepping closer. "Don't worry. I've known Jeongguk a long time. He hasn't been making any good attempt at hiding the stupid grin of his face all day. Where are you going?" He asks as he fixes Taehyung's collar for him, tucking it inside his jacket.

"I don't know. Some Chinese restaurant down town."

"Tai Won Mein?"

Taehyung nods.

"That's his favourite spot. He's definitely looking to impress," Joon beams with a wag of his eyebrows, stepping back and looking at his work. "There. Good to go. Knock him dead."

Taehyung chuckles, giving a bow of thanks before Joon retreats back into the kitchen, hearing him calling out for Junseo to come play with him. A man child, really. Since Taehyung's been more involved in what goes on around the house - and since what Jeongguk told him about Joon and Haejin - he's made more of an effort to get on with them both. Haejin still makes him a little uneasy, clearly still thinks Taehyung is just getting in the way, but Joon's been nothing but nice to him. And seeing them and Jeongguk interact together, it makes it worth while. They manage to make him smile away from the rest of the allies, manage to make him see reason into things, help him out, give gentle guidance. Jeongguk must look at them as older brothers. Some of Jeongguk's men are older than him, but he's only ever heard him call Haejin and Joon hyung.

Anyone that looked out for Jeongguk and Junseo were good in his books. 

He steps into the kitchen after Joon after another minute of looking himself over in one of the mirrors, and heads over to Junseo where's he's in the midst of playing some game on Joon's phone, sat in his lap. 

"Hyungie's going on his big date now, Junseo. He needs a kiss goodbye," he pouts, giving a little stomp of his foot as he stops beside the kid. They haven't hidden anything from Junseo either, because if anyone deserves to know what's happening in Jeongguk's life, it's his son. He wasn't surprised when Taehyung told him one night that he liked his father, and asked him if that was okay. If it wasn't, then it would end there. Taehyung wouldn't want to ever make Junseo feel uncomfortable. But he just said a yeah, I know, TaeTae and that was that.

Junseo sets Joon's phone down and holds his arms up to be lifted, which Taehyung obliges, puckering his lips until he gets a peck with matching mwah's. "Bye, Taehyungie. Give daddy a kiss from me too."

Taehyung nods. "Be good, bug. You know how to use my tablet if you want it, yeah?" When he gets a quick, excited nod, he grins and presses one more kiss to Junseo's forehead before setting him down. "Love you!" He calls over his shoulder as he heads out, and once again internally keens at the cute little love you! he gets back, and then snorts when Joon calls his own mock one back.

He's meeting Jeongguk at the restaurant because he had a meeting, and to say he's nervous would be a wild understatement. It's been a long time since he's been on a date. A guy attending uni can only go on so many dates while balancing overwhelming coursework and casual hook ups. Not that they were all that common either, Taehyung's never been one in need to get laid every weekend. His own hand and imagination sufficed him just fine. From what he's been told, it's been a long time since Jeongguk's gone on a date too. He tried it a few years ago, but he could never differ between people who just wanted his power and money and actual companionship. So it's almost new for the both of them, dating.

Jimin is doing him the favour of driving him there, and the grin on his face he's had for the last few minutes is starting to irk Taehyung.

"You got something you wanna say to me, Jimin?" He demands after Taehyung checks his new necklace out in the visor mirror once again. "I'm all ears."

Jimin just shakes his head, thumb drumming along the steering wheel. "It's just about time."

Taehyung sniffs and closes the visor once again, not willing to let the guy see the twitching corners of his lips. Luckily, Jimin doesn't poke fun again, and they both talk about the elaborate workout he has set out for him tomorrow. He honestly doesn't know what's worse. Yeah, it's great to be in better shape, but he's learned that the gym in Jimin's name really stands true. He's a fanatic. 

Ten minutes later, they'll pulling up across the street from the Chinese restaurant and Taehyung feels butterflies erupt in his stomach at the sight of Jeongguk standing there, waiting for him and holding flowers. Fuck, he hopes Jimin doesn't see or--

"Aww. Look at that, he bought you flowers, you--! Ow." He's cut off with a punch to the thigh, and he only sulks for about three seconds as Taehyung climbs out of the car. "Have fun!"

Taehyung shuts the door in his face when he leans over the console to say something else.

He turns and faces Jeongguk across the street from him, and his eyes settle on Taehyung after one last skim of the street, and christ. When they land on him, Taehyung feels like all the air gets sucked right out of his lungs, suddenly feels like he's burning up in this mild weather. He stands and watches as Jeongguk crosses the street to him, fingers curled around the bouquet of lilies, because yes, he'd been right when he guessed that lilies were his favourite. 

Everything seems to go in slow motion then, the sound of tires against the tarmac and the sudden blinding headlights flashing over the side of Jeongguk's body as he keeps on walking towards him. Jimin must see it happening too, because he's suddenly out of the car in a flash and yelling out for his boss to move. But Jimin's too far away.

Taehyung's not. 

He looks between the car and Jeongguk before he's pushing himself into a sprint, and running for him as fast as he can. "Jeongguk, move!" He yells, watching the smile slip from the man's face as his head turns towards the car only a few feet away now, his face bleached in white light. But Taehyung's there and he's shoving as hard as he can, and then the sound of impact is so deafening in Taehyung's ears.

And then there's pain.

Taehyung's gets hit with the full force of the car, body folding over the hood like a piece of wet paper, head hitting the windshield, the glass spider-webbing and his vision goes black. 

"Taehyung!"

And then everything falls silent.

Chapter Text

Taehyung comes in and out of consciousness multiple times.

The first time, he awakes to the most excruciating pain he's ever felt in his entire life. It has him gasping for breath as he tries to move, back arching, only to be held down by a hand on his broken feeling rib cage.

"He's waking up. We need to sedate him now."

He tries to blink his eyes open, but even that hurts, the feeling of his body jostling from side to side slightly. Taehyung feels like he's choking on his own breath, painful enough to have him crying, eyes spilling over as he tries to touch himself, feel what's wrong, feel what's there. But his arms are pinned.

"It's okay, Tae. It's okay. I'm here, you're gonna be okay."

Jeongguk.

Despite the pain, Taehyung forces his eyes to open and he can't see much, but he sees Jeongguk sat to the side of him, eyes wet and his nice white shirt stained red. He's no longer holding Taehyung's lilies. Where are his lilies? 

He doesn't have the opportunity to ask before he's suddenly feels like he's floating on a gentle tide, a cool sensation running through his body and his eyes won't stay open anymore.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Next time he's aware of his surroundings, there's beeping and rushed footsteps all around him. His eyes won't open much, feel swollen shut. But he gets a glimpse of the world around him. 

"Move! Fucking move! That's my brother!" Yoongi is suddenly there, pushing someone out of the way, and staring down at Taehyung with wide, terrified eyes, lights above them passing with each step. Are they moving? "Oh, god, Taehyung." His brother's voice is thick, his cheeks steaked with tears. He wants to ask Yoongi why he's crying, why he's so upset. He goes to lift his hand to reach out for him, but then he feels another all consuming stab of pain.

He blacks out again.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

The last time Taehyung wakes up suddenly, everything is quiet aside from a continuous beeping. A heart monitor. His eyes flutter open slowly, and for a heart stopping minute, he can't feel anything. He can't feel his own heart beat, can't feel the bed beneath him, can't feel the softness of his eyelashes hitting the skin above his eyelids. It has him starting to panic, hearing the sound of the monitor pick up, his vision blurring with tears. But then he feels it. Warm fingers on his hand and he's relaxing, the monitor slowing down, his breathing levelling out, his toes giving a little curl.

He drifts off.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

"Yoongi. You need to eat something. It's been three days."

"Don't fucking tell me its been three days. I know how long it's been," his brother spits and Taehyung's eyebrows tug together in automatic reaction.

"And why aren't you eating?" Taehyung tries to ask, but his voice is barely there. It's a croak, and it hurts to use, has him wincing as he comes to, licking at his dry and cracked lips. They taste like medicine and plastic. 

No one says anything.

"Hoseok, I gave you one job. Make sure my brother looks after himself," he tsks, everything slowly coming back to him. The date, the flowers, the car that sped up, the pain, the look on Jeongguk's face in the ambulance, the look of Yoongi's face as he was rushed through the hospital. "If I open my eyes and he looks like he's lost weight, I'm gonna come over there and shove my entire foot up your ass."

He hears a wet laugh, though he can't tell who it's from. But when he feels hair tickle his fingers and hot skin pressed against them a moment later, he knows who that is. He knows by stretching his thumb and feeling the slope of Yoongi's nose. The hot tears he feels a moment later are what have him finally opening his eyes, and he still can't open them all the way, but enough to be able to see his brother's head bowed over his casted hand - did he break his wrist? - clutching it with both of his and shoulders silently shaking.

Taehyung stretches his thumb even further and brushes away one of the tears, turning his stiff neck and smiles as best he can at the sight of four different faces around him, all staring at him with the same shared looks of relief. "Hi," he greets. Before he can say anything else, his jaw is being gently cradled and he's being given kisses all over his face, all over cheeks and forehead and nose. "Hyung," he laughs brokenly, voice cracking with lack of use.

"Thank god," his brother whispers when their foreheads press together. "Thank fucking god."

"Thank you god," Taehyung mutters and smiles when he gets a little laugh out of Yoongi. When he pulls away, Taehyung tries to push himself to sit up, but it hurts, has him wincing. Still, he can't lie like this any longer, his back and neck are tight, he needs to be somewhat horizontal. 

"Easy," says another voice, and Jeongguk's suddenly standing, holding his other hand. The hand that had him falling back to sleep however long ago it was. Taehyung's eyes are suddenly frenzied as he looks the man over, and aside from the scrape to his cheek, he looks okay. It makes relief burn at the back of his eyes, and then he's crying and he's got another set of lips on his forehead.

"You're okay," he croaks and Jeongguk nods. 

"I'm okay. I'm okay, you don't need to cry," Jeongguk soothes, wiping the tears away, which he's grateful for because they sting his cheeks. "You made sure of that, didn't you?" He asks and Taehyung hears the crack to his voice, sees his tired looking eyes glaze over.

Taehyung doesn't want to make anyone hurt more than they obviously had been, so he clears his throat, sniffs and shuffles slightly. "Yeah, well. I didn't wanna pay the cheque for dinner," he jokes, hand going to his ribs as he sits up more, wheezing out a breath which has Jeongguk and Yoongi immediately doting on him. Taehyung doesn't miss the sharp look his brother sends his boss, and it has him reaching over and pinching his thigh, giving him a silent don't you dare. It wasn't Jeongguk's fault and Taehyung isn't going to let Yoongi blame him.

When there's a sudden sob, everyone looks over to where Jimin's standing at the end of the bed, fists curled tight in the handles. "How does he still crack jokes when he's like this?"

Taehyung can only laugh softly before the door is opening and in steps Seokjin, wearing this pristine white doctors coat. "No way do you actually work here. A criminal doctor on the side?" He whisper yells, making the elder wave his hand around. But his eyes are still soft.

"How are you feeling, Tae?" He asks as he checks Taehyung's vitals.

"Feel like I've been hit by a car."

"Didn't lose that humour, I see."

"See?" Jimin sniffs loudly, Namjoon rubbing at his back.

Seokjin shoots Jimin a look before turning his attention back to Taehyung. "You took a lot of damage, Taehyung-ah," he says a little more seriously. "On a scale of one to ten, how bad is the pain?"

Taehyung sighs but evaluates himself, and he really doesn't have much to compare it too, so he takes a shot in the dark. "Maybe like a nine?"

Seokjin nods and starts explaining to him about the special button he can press for pain killers, and another in case he needs assistance. "You obtained a very large head injury, most likely from the direct impact with the windshield. You also broke your wrist in three places and fractured six of your ribs. I need you to take it easy, okay? You're still recovering. I don't want to see you out of this bed unless it's to use the bathroom. And you'll need assistance."

"Oh come on, I--"

"Got it," Yoongi cuts him off, and Taehyung heaves a breath through his nose. Never does he want to have to be helped to the bathroom. He'll kick up a fuss. His legs are fine, just sore, he can do it on his own. He doesn't say as much, though. He doesn't want the lecture. 

After that, Seokjin sends everyone out so he can give Taehyung an examination, and ends up having to call Yoongi in when he ultimately needs help to the bathroom. He's not best pleased about it, huffing through the whole thing. But at least he can stand on his own two feet. That's a blessing. Once he's back in bed, everyone's returned and he sees that it's getting late as his head hits the pillow gently, with Yoongi's help.

"You should all go and get some rest. I'm not going anywhere," he says, and when he gets protests, he speaks up again. "Yah. None of you are any good to me if you're all tired." It manages to get Namjoon, Jimin and Hoseok out, but not before they give him gentle hugs, and Hoseok holds the side of his neck.

"You better get well soon, kid. Yoongi won't listen to me for long. I need you to keep him in line," Hoseok mutters quietly to him, and when Taehyung winks, he kisses his forehead and retreats with the other two.

When the other two go to sit down, he tuts and shakes his head. "No, no, no. That includes you two. Go home. Sleep. Eat. Be merry."

"Tae, I'm not gonna leave you."

Jeongguk nods. "I'm not going anywhere."

Taehyung summons all his energy into putting on his best scathing glare, but it's not at its best when his eyes are half swollen shut from kissing the hood of the car that hit him. He needs to find out more about that, but for right now, there's been enough excitement for one day. Everyone needs sleep. Him included. "Go now. Or I'll have you removed. I actually have the ability to do that right now," he tells them matter of factly. They both hesitate. Taehyung opens his mouth to call out.

"Alright, alright. Idiot," Yoongi cuts him off, and his voice isn't as nearly as biting as it should be. It makes Taehyung's heart hurt. He doesn't want his brother to be in pain. He leans down and presses their foreheads together and thumbs at his chin. "I love you, bug."

Taehyung smiles, scrunching his nose and bumping it against Yoongi's. "Love you too. Eat something, please?" He pleads softly and knows his brother is telling the truth after he nods when he covers his eye with two fingers. With a kiss to the cheek, Yoongi trails out after giving a curt nod to Jeongguk. Then it just leaves the two of them.

His eyes narrow when Jeongguk sits back down. "You're not an exception, boss man. Go home."

"I'm not gonna--"

"When's the last time you were home, huh? For more than ten minutes?" Taehyung asks and when Jeongguk goes to dismiss it with his hand, he grabs at it and squeezes. "Go be with Junseo," he orders softly. "That car wasn't for me. It was for you, Jeongguk. Go home and be with your son. I'm fine here. I know I'm gonna wake up and find Yoongi here in about an hour," he chuckles. "Give our boy a cuddle from me."

Jeongguk inhales deeply, sees his chin give a quiver, staring at Taehyung before he forces on a smile. "Get some rest, okay? I'll bring Junseo by tomorrow if you're up for it."

Taehyung smiles, feeling another sharp spike of pain. But he won't react. Won't push the button until Jeongguk's gone. "I'm always up for anything when it involves Junseo. Now go," he insists. 

Jeongguk gives a small nod, before leaning down and pressing their lips together, so soft and barely there, but it still makes Taehyung's heart monitor spike. He opens his eyes when Jeongguk doesn't pull away, and he sees it then, sees the tears clumping at the end of his eyelashes. "Tae," his voice breaks when Taehyung lifts his hand to brush his thumb over his eyelid. 

"Don't cry," he whispers as he feels a hot tear hit his own cheek. "I'm okay."

Jeongguk sniffs, whines like he wants to get closer but can't. Taehyung understands the feeling. "Don't ever do anything like that ever again. Don't ever put yourself in danger for me. I don't care what the fuck happens to me, but I care what happens to you."

"I can't promise that," he answers honestly, because if he could do it again to protect Jeongguk, then he would. It's terrifying to feel that way for someone else who's not direct family, willing to lay your whole life out for them to be safe. But there it is. The raw truth. 

"I knew you wouldn't," Jeongguk mutters with a pinched expression, turning his head away without breaking contact completely and Taehyung presses a kiss to the damp corner of his eye. 

"Don't ask obvious requests then, idiot." Taehyung smiles when it gets a little laugh, taking hold of Jeongguk's chin between his fingers so he can press another kiss to his lips. "Go home," he whispers, gently pushing him up, sending him a reassuring smile that silently says I'll be fine

The elder stands there for another minute before nodding and heading out, but not without looking back at him from the door, getting an obnoxious pucker of his lips from Taehyung until he smiles and leaves completely. And as soon as he's left alone, he presses down on that fucking button as hard as he can with a groan, one he's been holding back since Hoseok said goodbye. But luckily he doesn't have to wait long until he's being hit with awash of pain relief, running through his arm like cool water, his eyes already growing heavy.

"Emotional thugs," he laughs to himself, shaking his head as his eyes finally close all the way and his body grows heavy. "Gotta love 'em."

                                                                                                          -- -- --

When Taehyung wakes up a few hours later, Yoongi's fast asleep in the chair next to him, their fingers tangled together as best as his cast will allow. 

He smiles at the sight of his sleeping brother and lets his eyes close once again.

Called it.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

True to his word, Jeongguk brings Junseo around the next day. His heart breaks when the kid bursts into tears when he sees Taehyung laying in bed with bruises all over his face and his arm wrapped up. With some assistance from his dad, Junseo manages to climb up onto the bed and fits himself into Taehyung's side.

"Hyungie," Junseo sobs into his chest, little arms wrapped around him. "You're hurt."

Taehyung's heart mends just to shatter all over again, lifting his gaze to look at Jeongguk who's rubbing at his son's back. "I'm okay, bug. Hyungie just had an accident. He'll be good as new in no time." He presses kisses into Junseo's hair as he continues to sniffle and cry into his hospital gown, both Taehyung and Jeongguk soothing him as best as they can. Eventually, though, the cries subside long enough that Taehyung suggests something he's been thinking about since he discovered it. "I've got a project for you."

Junseo lifts his puffy face and meets his eyes before they slide over to where Taehyung's holding his arm out, the white cast just begging to be graffiti'd. Junseo sits up a little more, wiping a fist over his face before he reaches out and brushes small fingers over the hard surface. "I can draw on it?"

"You can do whatever you want on it. But it needs to be a Junseo Masterpiece. Namjoon tried to draw on it earlier and I told him no," he tells him, and it gets what he wants. A smile.

Junseo sniffs, wiping at his cheeks once again before he looks up to his father pointedly. "Daddy, I need my pens right this instant."

Jeongguk nods obediently, going and grabbing the frog backpack off one of the couches and handing it to his son. "Do you need anything else?"

Junseo shakes his head as he climbs over Taehyung's legs so he's on the side with the broken wrist. "I've got everything, thank you." Fuck. Taehyung sends Jeongguk a look, a silent this kid between them, matching proud smiles before their attention shifts back to Junseo pulling out his pens and stickers, even pulls out his-- 

Taehyung gasps. "Not your dinosaur stickers. Those are your special ones," he pouts.

The kid nods his head, even whipping out the old birthday card glitter pens. "You're special," he says so easily that Taehyung's heart doesn't have a chance to prepare itself, and it picks up on the monitor.

Junseo's head snaps up, eyeing the green EKG's on the screen. "What was that?"

Taehyung laughs, reaching over and thumbing at Junseo's ear. "That was my heart, bug. You made it happy."

"Wow," Junseo breathes, staring at the monitor for a long time and just watching as Taehyung's heart rate reads on the screen. Eventually, though, Taehyung wants the attention back and bumps his cast against Junseo's arm with a sulk, which gets him a beam. "Sorry, TaeTae."

Over the next couple of hours, Junseo lays across the end of his bed and draws, even when Taehyung nods in and out of sleep from the medication. A lot of Jeongguk's allies stop by and bring him flowers and ask him how he's doing. His friends from school stop by, bring him balloons and teddies. His room is filled with some insanely overpriced gifts and the strong smell of pollen. But it's nice. It's nice.

He wasn't surprised to get up and go to the bathroom the night before, Yoongi dragging him across the hall and finding guys standing outside of his room, then more down at the end of the hall -

("Guys," he sighs, pausing mid step, leaning his weight into the IV he's dragging. "Come on. You're joking, right?"

They have the nerve to look sheepish, exchanging looks. "Sorry, Taehyung. Mr. Jeon's orders.")

- and when Jeongguk called him first thing, he made sure to castigate him severely for it. He's had a stream of people with him since he woke up, and as much as he appreciates it - appreciates Sung Joon planting a slobbery kiss to his lips - he's also grateful when it winds down. It was getting to be a bit too overwhelming.

Junseo's long since finished his monumental piece of art on Taehyung's cast, covered it in bright colours and stickers, and now he's fast asleep on his chest, tiny thumb secured between his lips. It's a habit him and Jeongguk have been trying to break him out of for the sake of his teeth, but they let it go for the night. The kid is emotionally exhausted, he's had a long day.

During the next few days, Hoseok and Namjoon sneak him real food because hospital food isn't enough to satisfy Taehyung, and it's hard with Seokjin always seeming to catch wind of it. But he lets it slide, as long as they don't let the nurses see. Yoongi brings him his tablet, but with Taehyung's hand out of commission, it's mostly Junseo who uses it and draws him pictures of panda's eating doughnuts and Drago wearing a bow tie. Jimin seems to tear up every time Taehyung says something remotely funny, and has to constantly step out of the room to collect himself. Jeongguk's always there by his side. Sits with him when he gets his blood taken and kisses his fingers when his ribs are examined and rubs his back when the stitches in his head are cleaned. Taehyung doesn't say it - knows he doesn't need to - but he really appreciates it. It makes everything easier.   

He finds out one evening, when it's just the two of them that the car that hit him drove off before Jeongguk or Jimin could do anything, having been so caught up in calling an ambulance and making sure Taehyung didn't bleed out there in the middle of the road. Someone on the street had managed to get pictures, but the licence plates were blacked out. It terrifies Taehyung, knowing that they'd intended to kill Jeongguk right there in broad daylight. It scares him to think of what could have happened if Taehyung hadn't gotten there, if Jeongguk was left there on his own. 

Taehyung makes Jeongguk promise him that he'll keep at least two men with him at all times. But he doesn't really need to promise, because it seems they're all more than happy to stick by their boss' side. It just shows how loyal they are to Jeongguk, how they want to keep him safe. Jeongguk's got good men on his side.

Once he's alone again for the night - Yoongi no longer needed for his frequent bathroom trips - Taehyung sits and admires his room, the heart shaped balloons that Momo and Jeongyeon brought him, the giant teddy bear that Jimin bought him sat on the couch, the huge arrangement of flowers everyone brought. He's got the orange lilies right by his bedside table, though. His favourite.

He drifts off to sleep feeling loved, feeling cared. And as much as Taehyung knows he can look after himself, doesn't need people doting on him, it's a nice feeling. He's only human, and humans want to be loved. And he feels a lot of love, even alone in his room.

When he wakes up later, it's not to the feeling of a full bladder or a painful twitch, it's to someone shaking his shoulders. His eyes blink open to the frantic sound of his name, looking up and seeing Sung Joon standing there, and is that blood on his face?

"Joon?" He croaks, turning his head to look at the time, feeling panic start to bubble up in his chest. "What--"

"Taehyung. We need to go. Now," the man says urgently, casting a look over his shoulder. "You're not safe here. They've found you."

Taehyung's panic burns into fear, pushing himself to sit up and ignoring the sharp pain in his ribs, yanking his IV out of his wrist with careless fingers. "Where's Jeongguk? Is he okay?"

Joon runs a shaky hand through his hair, searching the room and going to grab the wheelchair from the corner, while Taehyung reaches over and pulls on some sweats with great difficulty and wobbly hands, wide eyes still on the elder. "He's in lockdown. We're getting him to a safe house. He asked me to take you there, but we need to go now, Taehyung. I--"

Taehyung nods quickly, pushing himself off his bed as quickly as he can and lowering himself into the waiting wheelchair. "What about Yoongi? Jimin? Junseo?"

"They're with him, he needs all the protection we can supply right now. There was an attack at the house and--" Joon pauses for another breath, quickly wheeling Taehyung out of the hospital room. "But Junseo is safe, don't worry. He's with Jeongguk."

He feels sick, feels like he's going to lose the contents of his stomach, all over his lap. The hospital is pretty dead at this time, just a few nurses and doctors checking on their patients. His eyes search for one face in particular, knowing he's working tonight. "Where's Seokjin?" 

Joon wheels him down the corridor and out of the back exit, checking over his shoulder every few seconds. "He's with Jeongguk too, just in case."

That sick feeling spikes up, the thought of Seokjin being on standby in case anything happens. God, the thought of Junseo being in middle of this, not knowing what's happening makes Taehyung's stomach curl violently. "Why didn't Yoongi come and get me?"

"They've got eyes on the place, Taehyung. Got eyes on the house. I wasn't at the house, so Jeongguk had me come sneak in the back. They think-- We think it could be Haejin."

Taehyung's eyes widen, looking over his shoulder at Joon as he wheels him outside, picking up speed now. "Haejin?! He wouldn't do that to--"

"Yeah, well apparently he could," Joon spits before shaking his head as they stop beside a car. "I'm sorry, I just--"

He shakes his head. "No, don't. It's my fault." Fuck, if it's Haejin, he can't imagine how Jeongguk and Joon must be feeling. Their own fucking friend. Joon always did say that Haejin was bitter about Jeongguk being in power. How he's been wanting his job. Taehyung remembers the conversation they had in the garden, Haejin telling him he was only getting in the way, and he was a weak link. Shit.

Once Taehyung's in the the back of the car, he pulls his phone out of his pocket to call Jeongguk, call Yoongi as Joon climbs in on the other side, only to grab his phone and toss it out of the window. Taehyung's mouth opens in shock to say something, but Joon beats him to it.

"Tracking, Taehyung. It's not safe, I'm sorry," Joon apologises, and he once again shakes his head. He understands.

"Why do you think it's Haejin?" Taehyung asks, shifting to try and get a little more comfortable, but he can't do that when he feels like a ball of anxiety, stomach hitting the floor.

"He's been removing himself more and more recently. The night you were hit, we couldn't get in contact with him. He had this fight with Jeongguk about moving things in the right direction. Haejin wanted to start raising prices of some of the businesses he owns in Seoul, but Jeongguk shut it down. If Jeongguk doesn't sign off on it, then changes can't be made."

Even in this dire situation, Taehyung feels his heart jump for Jeongguk. He's heard more bits and pieces about what kind of operations he runs, like owning small businesses across all of South Korea, offers protection while receiving a small fee for a business being able to set up shop in a specific district. He's confided in him about how he never wants to rob those people of the money they've earned and he can't stand when another gang tries to terrorise shop owners into coughing up more cash. It makes sense that he and Haejin would have clashed heads over that. 

Taehyung lets out a shaky breath, trying to process everything. He needs to be with everyone. He needs to make sure they're all safe. He needs to make sure Junseo is safe. With a sweep of the streets, his attention turns to the driver sat up front, doing a double take as he gets a look at him. He's vaguely familiar, but Taehyung can't put a name to the face, which is unusual. He's made the effort to learn all of Jeongguk's men's names. Maybe he's one of Joon's men. But he's rarely seen Joon with his own guys inside of the house. It irks him, not being able to pick him out of the plethora of names and faces he has in his head. He keeps staring, keeps thinking. Where has he seen that face

It dawns on him then as he feels all the blood rush out of his face and settle heavy in his stomach.

He's one of the guys that was standing outside of Junseo's school. 

Taehyung's gut suddenly shrieks at him, pounding into his aching ribs, the ball of anxiety swelling like a sponge in water. His entire body goes rigid as he struggles to keep his breathing calm, keeping his head still as he looks over to Joon, who's raking fingers through his hair and staring out of the window. His eyes fixate on the smear of blood on his cheek, the one that's had no explanation. Joon didn't say anything about any fights, or anyone coming at him. The blood doesn't match up. 

Fuck. It's not Haejin after Jeongguk's spot.

It's Joon.

Taehyung bites back the sudden urge to scream, fingers curling into the material of his sweats, his healing wrist twinging in protest. His eyes go to the door handle beside him, trying to assess everything he can. The car's going too fast for him to jump out, and even if he did, Taehyung's in bad shape. He wouldn't make it far before he's caught again. Joon would know he knows then, and he can't imagine that would end well. 

He doesn't have his phone. He'd bet on his life that no one knows Joon came to get him. Was Jeongguk even under attack?

"Where's this safehouse?" Taehyung asks as best he can, trying to keep his tone to scared like he was moments ago and not downright terrified like he is now.

"Hongdae," Joon answers, sending him a small, nervous smile. It's fake. It's so fucking fake, Taehyung can see it now. But he doesn't let on, just gives a nod and runs shaky hands over his thighs. "Hey," he starts again, reaching over and resting one of his hands over Taehyung's. He fights the urge to yank it free. "It's gonna be okay, alright? We'll keep them safe."

Taehyung stares at him for a long moment, searching his eyes. He's a good liar, there's no twitch, no tick, no flaw that says otherwise, but Taehyung knows. It's that gut feeling again. He manages a tiny nod, and holds Joon's gaze until he pulls away.

It's not going be okay. 

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Hongdae is busy and crowded as always as they drive through the swarms of people on the street, passing all the shopping districts and markets until they hit a more secluded place. It reminds Taehyung of the time Hoseok drove him to Jeongguk's house that first night, the nerves he felt as they got further and further away from city life. Now he wants nothing more than to see the familiar neon glows of Jeongguk's house. Instead, they drive through a dirt road and towards a very sketchy looking building, bathed in dim lighting and circled by a few men that Taehyung doesn't recognise at all. 

"Come on, let's get you inside. Doesn't look like Jeongguk's here yet, so I'll try find out," Joon tells him as he helps him out of the car. Just having Joon's hands on him makes him feel physically sick, wants to retch himself free and throw his weight into his fist. But with how many people are scattered around, Taehyung knows he couldn't take all of them. Fuck, he doesn't know if he could even take one of them. In the state he's in, he can barely walk, as well as having not nearly trained as much as probably all of these men have. Taehyung's an amateur in comparison. These men have probably killed with their bare hands.

As fucking terrified as he is, he lets Joon lead him up through the den, his teeth chattering with the urge to yell and kick and scream. He knows what this is. He's a fucking ruse. A ruse to get Jeongguk there. 

Taehyung nods his short thanks when he's helped into an expensive looking couch which doesn't fit the interior of the rest of the place. It's dingy and dark and smells like mould and country air. The place is huge, and Taehyung feels like he's under lock and key as Joon excuses himself to go and get an update on the situation. 

He can't let on. If he lets on, then he's as good as dead. Jeongguk is as good as dead. 

After a few minutes, Taehyung pushes himself up on wobbly legs and pads over to one of the guys standing in the corner. "Where's the bathroom?" He asks, and he hopes the tremor to his voice just passes off with the fact that he's scared, and not because he's fearing for his life. The guy eyes him warily before pointing down the corridor, telling him to take a left at the end and then the bathroom should be right there. "Thanks."

Taehyung tries his hardest not to make it look suspicious as he follows the directions he was given, taking a left and spotting the bathroom. When he's safely out of sight, hidden by the corner, he starts poking through the rest of the rooms, doors all aged and splintered, damaged with damp. He's beginning to lose hope, until he finds a nicer looking room than the rest, though it's not hard in this place. There's a desk and a lamp and strewn papers. There's also want Taehyung needs.

A phone.

He's quiet as he closes the door behind him after checking the hallway once more, ducking in when someone steps out of the bathroom. With a new found energy, Taehyung hobbles over to the phone and quickly debates who he should call. He could call Yoongi, warn him to keep Jeongguk safe. But what if they were actually separated? Taehyung doesn't know if anyone is actually where Joon said they were. He might not be able to get the message to Jeongguk in time. He quickly tries to remember Jeongguk's number, having seen it enough after changing his contact name so many times to whatever suited his mood. He tries to stop his fingers shaking long enough to type in the number, casting a quick look over his shoulder as the automated voice on the other end tells him that the number he's called doesn't exist.

"Shit," he breathes as he tries again, counting through the numbers in his head and replacing the six with a nine, lifting the phone to his ear and sighing with relief as it rings. God, if this is wrong, then he's--

"Jeon."

Taehyung almost cries. "Jeongguk, it's Taehyung. I don't have much time, but--"

"Taehyung? Why are you calling me from an unknown--"

"--Jeongguk. It's Joon. The attacks, they were Joon, he--"

He doesn't get a chance to finish his sentence before he's being cut off with hands wrapping around his neck. Taehyung chokes as he drops the phone and reaches up to claw at the hands on his neck, squeezing and squeezing at his windpipe, making him gag on the air leaving his lungs. He kicks his weight into his legs, kicking at whoever's behind him, smacking and clawing and kicking and throwing his body into it. But then everything starts to dim and Taehyung feels his eyes start to roll back into his head and everything becomes light, his feet feeling like they're not purchased on the ground.

He faints.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Taehyung doesn't know how long he was out for before he starts coming too, gasping for breath and hacking up the invisible sludge in his lungs. His head hurts, his throat burns, and his ribs are killing him. He opens his heavy eyes to stare down at his own lap, his hospital gown and sweatpants are dirty. As he stares at the patterns on his gown, he feels his eyes threatening to close on him again, head filling with stones. Until he's being shocked back awake, head snapping up with a gasp as water hits his face, spluttering on it as he blinks his eyes open furiously. 

He looks around, momentarily confused as he tries to find his bearings, place himself in the situation. Taehyung's gaze settles on Joon, watching him toss an empty bucket to the side, dusting off his hands. He tugs his wrists and feels that they're tied behind his back, chaff the uncasted one with each pull.

"Rise and shine, Taehyung!" Joon greets with that big smile. That smile that Taehyung's come to enjoy. But now it just makes him sick, makes his skin crawl and teeth grit. "Oh, don't look at me like that now. We're friends, aren't we?"

He doesn't say anything.

Joon tuts, pulling an apple out of the inside of his jacket and polishes it against it his jacket, other hand grabbing for a knife in the back of his slacks. "It's a shame it had to come to this. I always liked you. You have... pizzazz. Spunk. But Haejin was right. You only got in the way. Which is unfortunate. I was hoping you'd run for the hills after you saw my men outside your place. But no. You wormed your little way into it more."

"You're supposed to be Jeongguk's friend," he spits. He feels rage scorch at his insides. "You're Junseo's godfather!"

Joon hums, cutting himself a slice of apple. "Yes, that wasn't the plan. Jeongguk was never supposed to kill Sungrok. I told him to let me do it. Told him not to burden himself with that responsibility. But-- Ah, well, you know the rest. You know better than most what our Jeongguk is like, don't you?" Joon crouches down in front of him, pointing to him with his knife. "It's the same thing that's gonna get him killed. His lack of self restraint and thinking things through."  

Taehyung tries to yank at his hands again, the chair he's on wobbling with the force of the tug. "You touch him and I'll--"

"You'll what, hm? Even if you could do something, what would you do? Kill me? You're not cut out for this life, Taehyung. Don't deny that a part of you hates yourself for getting into it this far," Joon tsks, tilting Taehyung's chin up with the blade. "You should have just stuck to making your little video games. "

Taehyung spits in Joon's face. "Fuck you," he growls.

Joon stands up straight, laughing as he wipes the spit from his cheek and eyes his hand. "Ah, Taehyung. That wasn't very nice," he sing-songs. He pulls his hand back and smacks Taehyung so hard across the face that his vision blurs, black spots appearing in front of his eyes. The sting of his cheek feels white hot, hot while his skin goes numb. "Now. Sit there and play nice while I give your boyfriend a call, hm?"

"Don't," he husks out, hair falling into his eyes.

"Or what? You keep making these threats to me, but what can you really do. Don't worry, Taehyung," Joon starts, reaching over and patting at the side of his face that he just smacked, Taehyung flinching away from his touch. "He's still my friend, after all. I won't make it all that painful." Joon steps back, pulling his phone out of his pocket, and a second later he has it pressed to his ear, sending a wink his way.

"Joon--"

Joon puts a finger to his own lips, then grins. "Ah, Jeongguk! Yes, seems like your little bird here beat me to the punch. Listen," he sighs. "Let's just get this over and done with, shall we? I want you dead, you want Taehyung alive, we can make the bargain--"

"Jeongguk, don't!" Taehyung yells, and is this time met with a fist against his cheek, hard enough that it has him falling backwards in the chair. He splutters on the blood oozing into his mouth, grunting at the impact his ribs just took. His whole world tilts on its axis, his head swimming with the force of the blow, ears ringing. It's nothing like the other hits he's taken over the last few months, but at least he's had some practice. He's not nearly as startled as he would have been without his training.

"Sorry? Yes! Yes, that was Taehyung. No, no, stop that language. He's fine. But if you want him to stay that way, then you need to come here and I'll let him go."

Taehyung coughs, turning his head to spit out a mouthful of blood. His tooth feels loose. "Jeon--"

"My god, shut up, Taehyung!" Joon laughs, pressing his foot right against his ribs, pressing down hard enough to have Taehyung yelling through gritted teeth. "Ah, that's a boy. It's better this way, Jeon. It's for the best." Joon pulls his foot away and trails off, slipping through the back door as he gives instructions, leaving Taehyung to lay on the floor, his whole body screaming with pain. 

He's fucked. Joon's right, it's going to be the lack of looking at the bigger picture that has Jeongguk killed. Joon's going to kill him and Jeongguk will happily allow it because he thinks it'll save Taehyung. But Taehyung knows too much, he knows about Joon and what he's done. Once he's killed Jeongguk, he'll kill him next. That fucking idiot, putting him before his own life. Who would look after Junseo? What would happen to Junseo when his father is no longer around? If Jeongguk wasn't such a moron, he could have a chance at escaping with his son. 

Taehyung isn't worth Jeongguk's life. Taehyung isn't worth Junseo's grief.

He doesn't know how long he's left there, lying on the cold cement floor until Joon walks back in, whistling and flipping his knife around in his fingers. "Aw, I'm sorry, Taehyung. Let me help you up." He reaches down and hauls Taehyung up by the gown, which has him groaning at the pressure of his entire weight held by just thin fabric. "My men are off to fetch lover boy, you'll see him soon. Isn't that exciting?" Joon beams.

Taehyung just glares at him, his eyes ripping him apart piece by piece.

"My. If looks could kill, wow," Joon laughs, patting at his head. After a while, Joon seems to get bored with Taehyung's lack of response and pulls up another chair, sitting backwards on it, resting his arm over the top. "Y'know, it'll be a shame if Junseo grows up without a strong authority figure in his life. Maybe I'll take him under my wing."

That has Taehyung's chest rising and falling quicker, nostrils flaring and his chaffing wrist starting to bleed with each twist and tug. "You think he'll want to stay with the man that killed his father?"

Joon grins, tucking his chin over his arm. "Accidents happen all the time. His father just happened to be in one of those accidents. Like you were in that accident, hm? See, if you hadn't played hero, then Jeongguk would be dead and we wouldn't be in this mess. Besides. Junseo's young, maybe he'll come to see me as a father."

The thought makes Taehyung sick, Junseo looking at Joon with anything other than hatred, forgetting about Jeongguk and coming to love his godfather like his actual father. "You're dead," Taehyung breathes, seemingly unable to regain his breath anymore. "Someone will get you. One day, you'll fucking die, and I wish I could see it happen." It's the coldest thing Taehyung's ever said, ever thought, but his mind is so clouded with fear, with anger, with rancour, he can't bring himself to be ashamed. 

"Ooh, Taehyung. That gave me goosebumps, look," Joon breathes, pulling up the sleeve of his shirt, but Taehyung doesn't tear his eyes away from his face. 

However long later, there's a pounding at the door and Joon stands up with a bright grin. "Must be the food I ordered," Joon gasps as he walks over to the door and pulls it open, and he looks directly at Taehyung as his men drag Jeongguk in, a bruise already blooming on his cheek.

Taehyung starts thrashing in his seat again as their eyes meet, because no. No, fucking no. It can't be like this, it can't end like this. 

"Taehyung, fuck-- You said he wouldn't get hurt!" Jeongguk snarls as he's shoved down into the same chair Joon had just been occupying, twisted around to face Taehyung. It takes four men to hold him down long enough to get his wrists and legs tied to the chair.

Joon hums, still standing by the door, cocking his head. "They're just scratches, Guk, calm down."

Taehyung feels the corners of his eyes water, staring with wide eyes over at the other man. "You fucking idiot," he whispers, shaking his head.

Jeongguk meets his eyes, staring at him like he's scared he'll disappear into thin air. "Tae..." But Taehyung shakes his head, dropping his gaze to his lap. If he looks at Jeongguk, he's going to cry. And he's not going to give Joon the satisfaction of seeing him cry. 

"Lovers spat?" The man himself pipes in, his men stepping out once Jeongguk's secured to the chair. "Now then. Should we do this Reservoir Dogs style? Put on some music, I cut off an ear?" Joon asks, giving a little sway and snap of his fingers. "Nah, bit tacky. I don't want to drag this out any longer than I have to."

Jeongguk huffs a disbelieving laugh. "Fucking liar."

"No, no, it's true, Guk! This pains me more than you can understand--"

"Yeah, I'm sure this is giving you great displeasure, you spineless rat," Jeongguk spits. "Doesn't seem like your taste at all. Killing me in a room alone. No crowd seeing you bring me to my knees? You fucking traitor."

Joon smiles, lifting his knife to press to the side of Jeongguk's face, using it to turn him towards Taehyung. "But we're not alone, are we, Jeon? A crowd would be fun, of course. But I think it's more fun to have that precious boy of yours watch as you die. More dramatic, no?"

Taehyung grits his teeth so hard that he feels the loose one in his mouth crack, frowning so hard it makes the cuts on his face split open further. "Stop!" He yells when Joon slides his knife along the side of Jeongguk's face, a hot line of blood sliced into his cheek. 

It doesn't end there. It only gets worse. Taehyung's forced to watch as Sung Joon cuts, punches and kicks at Jeongguk for what feels like a lifetime, and he can do nothing but scream himself hoarse, watching Jeongguk's face and shirt blur red and his hair mat with blood. Jeongguk refuses to give more than a groans, clearly not willing to give Joon what he wants and Taehyung can see the life leaving him. Can see it spill out with the blood which stains the air, everything metallic and salty. 

"Stop! Fucking stop!" Taehyung screams, his voice long gone. "You fucking coward! Stop--" He's cut off by another punch to the face, once again sent toppling in his chair, wheezing at the audible crack to his ribs. 

"For the love of god, when will you shut the fuck up!" Joon snaps, kicking at the underside of his chair and knocking another wheeze out of Taehyung's lungs. 

Taehyung can feel the warmth of his own blood start to seep out around his head, his stitches tearing open. The cast on his wrist has broken, no longer supporting the healing bones, and it makes Taehyung's entire arm burn in agony. He shifts and feels it loosen around his hand.

It's loose.

The cast gave a few inches between plaster and skin, and now that it's broken, Taehyung can suddenly move his hand around the ropes. He shifts his eyes over to Joon without moving his head, watching him turn his attention back to Jeongguk, who's head is permanently hung low at this point, a dribble of blood and saliva dripping from his lips. Taehyung acts quickly and quietly, a rush of adrenaline coursing through him as he pulls his hands free from the ropes. With Joon's back to him, he can double over himself, choking back a sob at the protest of his ribs as he leans towards his ankles and starts untying them, shaky, uneven fingers working quickly to untangle the knots.

He rises to his feet slowly, being sure not to move too quickly and attract Joon's attention. Taehyung picks up his chair by the back and raises it above his head, body twinging at the strain on his injuries. He pays them no fucking mind as he pulls the chair back and smashes it right over Joon's back, the wood shattering in his hands and making the man crumple to the floor with yell of pain.

Taehyung licks at the blood on his lip, swaying back on his feet as he raises his fists, eyes wild and chest heaving. When Joon looks up at him in both shock and angered amusement, he gestures for him to come closer with a wave of his fingers.

Joon laughs, pushing himself up on shaky feet. "Won't let me work in peace, huh? Might be a change of plans and I'll have to kill you first."

Taehyung doesn't say anything as Jeongguk groans in protest, just stares at him over the top of his fists and when Joon lunges for him in a punch, he blocks it and returns it with his own punch to the chest, having Joon stumbling back a few steps.

"Well this is surprising," Joon breathes, half ripping off his jacket and tossing it to the side. "Maybe you did learn something."

"Shut the fuck up," Taehyung rasps out, because he's heard too much from this asshole as is. He doesn't need to hear anymore.

Joon goes for him again and Taehyung dodges, side stepping away from the kick.

("No, no, it's good," Hoseok comes to his aid. "He's got quick reflexes. They're not the most elegant dodges, but he'll tire anyone out. Just look at Yoongi.")

He lands a blow to Joon's face, knuckles coming into contact with his nose and the crunch of bone beneath his fist is enough to tell Taehyung that he just broke his cartilage. His hand is bent at an odd angle, having him struggling to curl his fingers properly, the bone in his wrist sticking out grotesquely. It distracts him long enough to give Joon an in, punching him in the jaw and having Taehyung's vision blurring.

(His brother smirks. "What? You thought I'd go easy on you just because you're my kid brother? Come on, like I showed you. Keep your fists up, guard your face, Taehyung.")

Taehyung spits out the broken fragments of that tooth that had been barely hanging on, fists levelled with his nose.

"Look at you. You aren't so useless after all," Joon laughs bitterly from where they're circling. 

He wants to look over his shoulder, check on Jeongguk, see if he's still with him. But he can't tear his eyes away from Joon again. He's already struggling, another couple of hits and Taehyung will be out cold. His ears are ringing and he's close to limping. But he's got too much to loose to care about that. He goes in for another hit, but Joon blocks it and punches him right in the gut. 

(Jimin punches him again, though makes it abundantly clear that he's not happy about it. Taehyung's not too happy with it either. But he's got to learn, and this time when he gets a fist to the stomach, he's got an idea of the pain and is a little more prepared for it. He doesn't fall onto his knees this time, just stumbles back and doubles over himself.)

Taehyung sucks in a sharp breath as he hunches over himself for a second, and uses it to his advantage to charge forward and shove his entire body mass into Joon's, launching him into the closest wall. It doesn't deter Joon, who grunts but keeps aiming punches at Taehyung's ribs while he gets his arms under Joon's legs and uses everything he can to lift him up and body slam him into the ground. 

The grapple with each other, trading blows and kicks and punches, trying to pin each other to the floor long enough to gain the upper hand. With a punch to the head, Taehyung sees stars, his mobility non-existent as he twitches on the floor. 

Taehyung's going to die. Jeongguk is going to die.

Joon clumsily clambers to his feet, falling down once before righting himself, wiping the blood away from his eye and clutching at his stomach. He pats around his pocket and pulls out his knife, brandishing it with an unsteady hold. "Enough of this. It's time to cut out the weak link." This is it, he's going to die, Joon is twisting his knife and stepping towards him, and this is how he dies. In a dirty basement while the man he's falling for sits there and bleeds out beside him. Jeongguk's going to die. Junseo is going to be left alone. Yoongi will be alone.

Taehyung pictures his brother, pictures him crouching beside him. Come on, Tae. Don't you dare fucking die like this! I swear to god, I'll kill you if you fucking die. He can hear it so loud and clear, see the fierceness in Yoongi's eyes, see the spit flying from his mouth. 

("No. Taehyung," Yoongi heaves a breath, hair pushed back with a bandanna. "How many times? Don't use your thighs, kid. Use your shins. You'll have way more momentum there, more power. Come on. Up.")

He doesn't think, just twists his upper body, braces himself and sweeps his leg all the way around, hitting the sides of Joon's ankle with his skin and lifting them off the ground, sending him falling backwards to the concrete with a smack. Taehyung heaves a breath, pushing himself up on his hands and staring over at the motionless man on the floor. He crawls over to him quickly, grabbing the knife that had slid a few feet away and quickly drags himself over to Jeongguk.

"Jeongguk. Jeongguk," he demands, gently smacking the side of the man's face, which is completely covered in blood, no pale glow of his skin visible. "Jeongguk, wake up, baby, wake up." His voice is desperate as he makes quick work of cutting the ropes with the knife, sawing through them until Jeongguk's ankles are free. His head snaps up with Jeongguk gives a low gasp, and Taehyung's eyes fill up. "Yeah, come on. Wake up, wake up." He quickly shifts around to cut the ropes at the back, eyes still flicking over to Joon knocked out on the floor. Knocked out. Not dead.

"Tae..." Jeongguk chokes in a wheeze, and Taehyung's back in front of him in a second. 

"It's me. I'm here, Guk. I'm right here," he breathes, pushing blood tangled hair off Jeongguk's forehead.

"You... Called me baby."

Taehyung lets out a wet laugh, pressing his face into the man's thighs. "You're a fucking idiot," he mutters, though there's no heat, no fucking anything but relief, which only grows when he gets a light hand in his hair. But there's no time for sentiment right now, they have to get out of there. "Did you come here alone?"

Jeongguk nods, groaning as Taehyung helps him to his feet. "Told me if I told anyone, he'd kill you. They came and got me in Gangnam, took my phone." Taehyung eases his arm around his shoulders, and hisses a quiet breath at the feeling of Jeongguk's weight pressing into his side. 

"Fuck," he breathes, eyeing the door. Joon's men are still out there, and neither he or Jeongguk are in any position to fight them in the state they're in. Taehyung looks around frantically, acutely aware of the man bleeding out by his side and the one out cold - for the time being - on the floor. It reminds him then that Joon had a phone. He carefully leans Jeongguk up against the wall, having to tug him back to his feet when he starts to slide down, dragging the chair over for him to hold onto.

"Taehyung," Jeongguk husks out as Taehyung tries to remember his brother's number.

"What?"

"Give me the knife."

Taehyung looks up at Jeongguk, the whites of his eyes standing out amongst all the darkening blood. He swallows thickly, looking down to Joon sprawled out by their feet. "Jeongguk..."

"It has to be done." And he can hear the pain in Jeongguk's voice. He had to kill one of his closest friends, the man who saved him, the godfather to his child, the man who betrayed him. There was no other way, Taehyung knew. If the police were involved, they'd undoubtedly charge Jeongguk too. Look for any excuse to throw him behind bars. It was the way it was in this world, and with grim acknowledgement, Taehyung hands over the knife.

He can't watch. Despite everything, he can't bear the thought of seeing it. He helps Jeongguk onto the floor by his unconscious friend and turns away, going back to typing through numbers. Until he realise that Joon must have Yoongi's number on his phone. He almost cries with relief when he sees it there, hitting the call button and not having to wait for long until his brother answers.

"I swear to christ, if you've done something to Taehyung, I'll personally--"

"Yoongi," he breathes, sagging against the wall. He really didn't think he'd hear his brother's voice again, and now he is, Taehyung can't hold back the tears that have been threatening to spill. 

"Taehyung, oh my god," and he's sobbing. In the background he hears other voices. Tae?! Did you say Taehyung?! He's okay?! 

"Me and Jeongguk are okay. But we can't get out, Joon's men--"

"Are dead. We're coming to get you. We saw him take you on the CCTV at the hospital. We tracked his phone, we're almost there. Just hang in there, okay? I'm fucking coming to get you."

Taehyung lets out a shaky breath, eyeing the door and hearing the sounds of yells in the distance. He quickly stumbles forward and locks the door, putting the chair under the handle for good measure. The line goes dead as someone rattles the handle.

"Sir! We need to go, they've found us. Have you done it?"

Taehyung doesn't say anything as he steps away from the door and flinches when a hand touches his side, whipping around to see it's just Jeongguk, who half collapses into him, bloody knife dropping to the floor. "I've got you," he whispers, wrapping Jeongguk's arm back around his shoulders just as there's gunfire on the other side of the door.

"Sir! Sir! We need to go now!"

Jeongguk heaves shaky breaths into Taehyung's shoulder as he struggles to support his weight, but he won't let him go. They both stand and wait, Jeongguk hunched over and Taehyung staring at the door, the sound of gunfire not stopping for a good five minutes. Eventually, there's another rattle at the door.

"Taehyung!"

He kicks the chair aside quickly and unlocks the door, meeting eyes with Yoongi who's whole body sags from the sight of him. "Where is he? I'll fucking kill--"

"He's dead," Jeongguk interrupts, standing up a little straighter, but he's still leaning into Taehyung like a stack of boxes, just ready to tip. "We need to go."

Yoongi lets out a shaky breath through his nose, looking between he and Jeongguk before he yells over his shoulder. "Jimin! Namjoon!" 

They appear at his side in an instant, and there's no time for greetings, Taehyung hands Jeongguk over to them and watches as they half carry/half drag him to one of the waiting cars. He tears his eyes away from them to look back at his brother, who's glaring pointedly over his shoulder. Taehyung refuses to look, doesn't need to, just lifts a trembling hand to rest on Yoongi's shoulder.

"Hyung," he mutters and immediately has his brother's attention back on him. "Take me home."

Yoongi's eyes lose their edge promptly and he nods, reaching for Taehyung and takes his weight greedily, as if he can't stand the thought of him spending another minute supporting himself. Taehyung's grateful because he really doesn't think he could.

He's led over to the same car Jeongguk was taken to, currently being tended to by Seokjin, thank fuck.

"Check him," Jeongguk orders and Seokjin goes to do just that but Taehyung holds up a hand. "Taehyung--"

"Shut up," he silences, groaning as he leans back in the seat, holding his ribs. "Just... shut up and get fixed up. Please."

Jeongguk stares at him with determined eyes before he eventually concedes, whether it's from the pain or Taehyung's stubbornness, he really doesn't care. He relents and that's all that matters. Once Seokjin's patched and dosed them as much as he can, he goes to tend to Hoseok who's got a bullet wound to the leg, leaving the pair of them in the back as Jimin drives them to the hospital.

"Some first date," Taehyung slurs out from where his head is resting over the top of Jeongguk's.

They laugh until the pain in their body turns it into groans.

Chapter Text

Four months later.

"Kim Taehyung."

The Dean hardly gets his name out before there's an uproar of cheers and yells, and Taehyung's doesn't need to look to know who it is. As he steps on the stage and collects his diploma, he shakes hands with the Dean and turns and faces the photographer for his picture. He snorts when he sees his family standing on their feet in the crowd.

Junseo's up on Jeongguk's shoulders, holding up his sign that says Congradulations TaeTae!! Taehyung adores the spelling error. Jeongguk's got his fingers in his mouth, whistling obnoxiously loud, and shooting him a wink when he meets his gaze. Hoseok's standing on the chair, hands cupped around his mouth and yelling above the rest of the crowd. Jimin's bouncing up and down on the spot, plucking at his shirt that they're all wearing, the most unflattering picture of Taehyung printed wide across the chest, mid bite of his pizza. Seokjin stands there like a proud father, looking the most normal, but then he gives a loud shriek of Taehyung's name and Namjoon swats at his arm, before doing the exact same. Then there's Yoongi.

"That's my brother! Kim Taehyung! Remember the name! Remember the face!" And then they all turn and show off the awful picture on their shirts. 

Taehyung's parents look mildly concerned, their mother smacking Yoongi's back, while his dad just settles such a fond look on Yoongi that it makes Taehyung's heart hurt. His brother and sisters are clapping loudly, yelling out that they love him and that's exactly how Taehyung feels. Loved. It stretches when he sees Jeongguk's security at the back clapping with their hands raised above their heads.

He gives a bow and brings the tassel on his graduation cap to the other side.

A group of roughneck gangsters cheering for him like embarrassing parents.

"Idiots," he breathes to himself as he takes his seat again, but the smile on his face is blinding.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

"Here is he! Man of the hour!"

Taehyung grins as he opens the door to his apartment to find it crowded with the people he's come to tolerate over the months. He breaks out in a dance as he steps over the threshold, brandishing his newly acquired diploma in hand. He dances in through the crowd until Yoongi laughs and shoves at his shoulder, only to pull him back in with an arm around his neck.

"My little brother. Finally graduated," his brother coos, rubbing his knuckles over the top of his head until Taehyung pulls away with a grin. "Proud of you, bug," Yoongi adds, voice softer, pulling their heads in together to bump and he can only return the smile.

"Thanks, hyung. Couldn't have done it without you."

"Alright, alright, you're gonna make me cry," Hoseok interrupts, pulling them apart so he can squeeze Taehyung in a hug. "My little brother. Finally gradu-- Ow!" He laughs as Yoongi punches him in the shoulder, yanking him back by the collar.

"Hyungie!" Taehyung turns just in time to see Junseo running for him flowers clutched in his hand, and he pulls him up into his arms with a faint twinge in his ribs, but they're okay. They're healing. "Did you see my banner?"

Taehyung grins, eyes thin slits. "I did! Everyone was coming up to me and saying that you should be the one getting the diploma, not me," he says with a soft poke to Junseo's belly, which earns him a giggle. "Are these for me?" He asks, thumbing at one of the orange lilies.

"Yes! They're from me and daddy."

"Are they now?" Taehyung lifts his head to look over at Jeongguk who's waiting patiently for his own turn to congratulate him, that softness to his eyes. He gently takes them from Junseo when he presses them into his hand. "Thank you, bug. Hey, why don't you go and put some music on. Go show Jimin what a decent song sounds like."

"Hey!" Jimin calls from where he's bent over the docking station in the kitchen.

Junseo grins and Taehyung sets him down to watch him run at Jimin, who picks him right back up and sets him on the kitchen counter, before proceeding to educate him on quality music. 

"Now that you've graduated, does that mean I can't distract you from work anymore?" Jeongguk asks, stepping closer to him and settling a hand on Taehyung's waist.

He chuckles, his arm lifting to drape over the back of his boyfriend's shoulders, flowers dangling in his hand. "I'm sure you'll still find a way. Can't leave you without attention for too long, can we?"

Jeongguk gently pinches his hip, but he's grinning as he pulls Taehyung in closer, chest to chest. He presses a kiss to his lips, soft but firm and it's what settled Taehyung's nerves earlier before the ceremony. 

Taehyung eventually has to pull back when Ariana Grande starts playing, pulling an unapologetic smile as he starts swaying from side to side, setting the flowers down gently. "Junseo!" He calls, stepping back into the living room, his best friend soon joining him. He lifts him up onto the couch as they both dance together, singing to the only English parts they know. It coaxes more people onto the makeshift dance floor, and when Taehyung notices Jeongguk just standing off to the side, he points to him and nods when the elder shakes his head.

"Come on, boss man!" He yells over the music, getting a chorus of come on, boss' and dance, daddy, dance! It works, Jeongguk eventually relenting with a wave of his fingers as he takes Taehyung's outstretched hand and lets himself be tugged into the mix. "Club owner who doesn't want to dance? Unheard of."

Jeongguk snorts. "Who says I don't dance?" 

Taehyung's eyebrow raises, as do the corner of his lips as Jeongguk starts dancing. He steps back and watches with an appreciative stare as his boyfriend moves with the music, and of course he can dance. He clearly had a moment where he forgot that Jeongguk can do all. He crouches down on one knee, resting his arm on his bent knee and chin on his hand as he stares at Jeongguk's hips, nodding along to the beat of Side To Side. He flicks invisible money from his palm, reaching out and flapping Jeongguk's shirt - thankfully no longer wearing that hideous tee they'd all been brandishing at the ceremony.

"Go, daddy!" Junseo cheers from where he's still bouncing on the couch. 

Taehyung rises back to his feet arms first, raised above his head as slides up in front of the elder, sharing a grin as they dance together. It's nice. It's so nice. It's even nicer when Junseo joins in and it's the three of them dancing together, the kid either in his or his dad's arms.

His parents duck out pretty early in the night, having to drive home to get back to work the next day, and he hugs them tight before they go. He's so grateful to have had them there to see him get his diploma, see that he's doing okay, that he's found his people. Maybe not the best people, a little unconventional, but they'll do.

Junseo falls asleep on them pretty soon after, and Taehyung gives up his bed for the cutie and he's got enough of his clothes at his now that it's not a problem. The party continues, but now it's laced with the supply of alcohol that was brought. It's been well established by now that Junseo sleeps like a rock, but they don't dare get too loud, keeping the music low and their voices to the same volume. By the time it hits eleven, Taehyung and Jeongguk are probably the only ones even remotely sober. Yoongi's in the corner, with his "heart to heart" face on, and Jimin's sat beside him, frowning down at the inside of his cup. Namjoon long since passed out on the futon in the back room, and Hoseok and Seokjin have been rummaging through his cupboards in the kitchen for the last twenty minutes, quietly arguing.

"What a gang," Taehyung sighs, pulling Jeongguk in closer by the hands around his waist while the elder tightens his arms around his shoulders.

"They all have excellent resumes."

He hums, lazy smile tugging on his lips as he presses a kiss against Jeongguk's lips. Since that eventful night, him and Jeongguk have grown closer in a way Taehyung didn't think would ever happen, with the very obvious divide between them. But apparently, all they needed was to almost die to actually realise just how much they liked each other. Who would have thought. 

Taehyung moved out after a week of bed rest back at the Jeon residence. Now everything was clear, he wanted to be back in his own space. Don't get him wrong, he adored being with Junseo and Jeongguk all the time, but it's not what Taehyung wanted. He didn't want it to just transition into living together permanently, he wants to be able to live alone, pay his own bills, get his own job and be able to unwind in his own space. He's still around the house more often than not, but it's nice to have an escape when it still gets to be too much for him. A place to bring Junseo when Shit happens. But luckily, since Joon, nothing has happened. There's still talks of a gang wanting it out with Jeongguk, but there's always gonna be a gang that wants it out with Jeongguk. The world has to keep spinning. 

He's making more of an effort to know about Jeongguk's life, not to shut down the parts that he doesn't want to know. They're a part of Jeongguk, they're a part of Yoongi, so he should know. Even if they're not always pleasant. It's a part of their life and Taehyung can't nit pick what he wants. 

"Got something for you," Jeongguk mumbles against his lips where they've been trading languid kisses. When Taehyung hums, the elder drops his arms. "Turn around."

He raises an eyebrow but complies, and a moment later, he feels cool metal against his neck, looking down to see the very same choker that Jeongguk gifted to him the night before their date. After the accident, Taehyung thought it was lost, removed in the madness of making sure he didn't die. So seeing it again makes something curl in his throat. Taehyung reaches up to touch it, the line of diamonds trailing down towards his collarbones, heart pounding behind his ears.

"You kept it," he breathes, turning back to Jeongguk once he's latched it on, lifting his gaze from his fingers to stare at his boyfriend.

Jeongguk smiles gently. "It's the first thing I got you. I wanted you to have it back."

Taehyung inhales deeply, playing with the chain for another minute before lifting his hand to Jeongguk's face and pulling him in for another kiss. "You know, I've been thinking about something a lot."

"Yeah? What's that, then?" Jeongguk asks, pulling him close again, their bodies automatically swaying with the music, a slow Frank Ocean song playing.

"I might love you," he shrugs. 

Jeongguk pauses for a minute, before going back to swaying. "Might, huh?"

Taehyung purses his lips. "Yeah. Might."

"Well. I might love you too." And Taehyung can see the amusement behind Jeongguk's eyes, even as he copies his shrug. "You're alright."

He nods. "Cool."

"Cool."

"Cool." The pair look away from each other and over to Jimin who's suddenly standing there. "Hi."

"Hi," Taehyung returns through a laugh. "You good, Jim?"

Jimin nods. "I think I might throw up."

"Okay," Taehyung nods, snorting under his breath as he looks back at Jeongguk, pulling away to lead Jimin to the bathroom and he rubs at his back as he does indeed throw up. Even then, he doesn't think anything could knock off his smile right then.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

"Taehyung."

He looks up from his book, lounging by the pool and soaking up the rays that'll no doubt have his skin tanning up like it does anytime the smallest bit of sun hits his skin. But the glare of the sun is being shadowed by Haejin, who's dressed in a full suit. How, he doesn't know.

"Hey," he greets, closing his book and sitting up. He's not really spoken to Haejin since then incident, the guy has clearly been avoiding him, and Taehyung doesn't know if it's from anger or shame, or what, but he let him do whatever he needed. He knows he was just as close to Joon as Jeongguk was. Good or bad, it can't be easy to lose a friend.

Haejin clears his throat, hand smoothing over his tie. "I wanted to say sorry. For being an asshole to you."

Taehyung rises his eyebrows, because that's definitely not what he expected. "It's all good. I know what you said came from a good place."

The elder gives a sharp nod, glancing over his shoulder. "I'm glad Guk has you. You do him good. It's been a long time since I've seen him smile the way he smiles around you."

He feels his heart jump, eyes going across the pool to see where Jeongguk is running through the sprinklers with his dogs and son, looking just like any other father. He doesn't look threatening, doesn't look like he runs the streets you walk on. He looks like a dad playing with his kid on a nice day. Taehyung understands why Haejin wanted to protect his group, protect Jeongguk. All he wants is the best for his son, that's all he ever wanted, right from the start.

"I'm lucky to have him," is Taehyung's most honest reply, no heat, no teasing jab. It's the whole hearted truth. He looks back to Haejin with a smile. "He's lucky to have you too, Haejin-ssi."

Haejin blinks. "I thought you didn't use--"

"Don't tell anyone."

Haejin actually smiles, and it's genuine. He bows his head before turning away, and Taehyung's attention is back on the little family across from him. When Jeongguk killed Sungrok, he wasn't looking to get the top spot, wasn't looking for status. He was looking for a safe world for his son to grow up in. Some people might say that Jeongguk only put Junseo more at risk by taking Sungrok's spot, and Taehyung probably would have agreed at the start of the year. But not anymore. Taehyung thinks Junseo is probably one of the safest kids in the entire world.

And that was all Jeongguk.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Everyone erupts into cheers as Junseo blows out his candles, clapping loudly as the birthday boy grins. 

"Happy birthday, baby boy," Jeongguk tells his son as he kisses the top of his head, Junseo wrapping his arms around him. They cut the cake and share it out, and it's probably the best cake Taehyung's ever had, but that's no surprise. Only the best for Jeongguk's son. Once they've finished eating, they head into the living room to start opening presents, and Junseo adores every single he gets, dishing out hugs and thank you's like the sweet boy he is. 

"Hyungie! Which one is yours?" Junseo asks as he looks through the pile of colourful wrapping paper.

"Oh, I already gave you mine. It was a hug," Taehyung says casually from where he's sat on Jimin's lap from lack of seating, snorting when he gets a pinch to the ribs. Junseo grins, knowing he's bluffing and starts bouncing up and down when Taehyung pulls out his presents from beneath his shirt, handing over the biggest one. "For my favourite boy."

Taehyung drops down to sit on the floor beside Junseo, and he feels his stomach flip with nerves and anticipation. He's been working on it since before he graduated, spending as much time as possible on it because it had to be perfect for the most perfect human being. As Junseo unwraps it, he holds his breath, gaze flicking up to Jeongguk who leans over to get a better look. He's kept it a secret from him too, because he supposes it could be seen as a present to them both. 

Junseo's fingers pause on the paper as he rips it open, staring down at the book beneath his hands. 

Bug's Tales.

Written by Jeon Junseo.

Illustrated by Jeon Junseo and Kim Taehyung. 

Junseo looks up at him with wide eyes, just staring for a long minute before his attention goes back to his book, starting to carefully leaf through the pages. Inside is Junseo's stories about Scaler and Drago and countless ones he's read to Taehyung. Ones they've acted out and written together, all paired with illustrations from the both of them. Taehyung worries on his lip as Junseo brushes his fingers over pictures and words, appearances of all of them as minor characters in the back.

The last story is the one that has him the most nervous, the short story he wrote and illustrated himself. It's the story of Jeongguk and Junseo. Jeongguk is the king, working hard to keep his son, the prince, safe. It shows them playing together and Jeongguk fighting off evil creatures and villains in order to protect Junseo. It's not the whole truth of the story, Junseo's too young to know, but it's a depiction of it. He should know just how hard his dad works for him. How much he's loved. 

He can see Jeongguk looking at him, but he doesn't have the gall to meet his gaze, just keeps staring down at Junseo's fingers running over a grinning drawing of his father. "Taehyungie," he mumbles, lifting his head and he's got the most adorable pout on and his eyes are wet. "You made me a book."

Taehyung nods. "Your stories need to be read, Junseo. They're amazing." Before Junseo gets too emotional like he knows he will - he doesn't want the kid crying on his birthday - he holds out the second present. "This isn't much of a present, but you're the first person seeing it. You remember the first time we met, and we planned that video game together? Well," he nods, smiling at the CD case suddenly exposed. It was his final project at school.

Junseo gasps, wiping his eyes quickly. "With the cyborg villain?"

"The very one," he nods.

"Can I play it?!"

Taehyung grins. "It's all yours. The one and only copy."

He should have know better than to think that Junseo would just leave it at that, go and run off and play the game. Because he stands and throws himself at him, arms wrapping tight around his neck as he presses a kiss to his nose. "I love you, hyungie."

Taehyung's heart grows ten times bigger than his chest can contain. "Hyungie loves you. Happy birthday, bug." He steals one more kiss before Junseo finally heads off to try out his new game. He sighs, watching him go with such a fond look that it takes him a minute to register the gazes on him. "Shut up," he tells them before anyone even says anything, standing up and grabbing all the wrapping paper. 

"He's so soft!" Hoseok coos, and Taehyung won't even deny it, because it's true. He's so soft for that boy. But he's not gonna let these idiots make him get all embarrassed. So he busies himself with cleaning up, carrying everything into the kitchen, dirty plates and paper and--

"You don't live here anymore, stop tidying," he mutters to himself. He inhales deeply when there's sudden arms around his waist, and he knows it's Jeongguk. He relaxes back into him, eyes briefly closing at the kiss to the back of his neck. "Did you like it?"

Jeongguk doesn't say anything, just squeezes him tight and presses his face against the back of his shoulder, nosing at his shirt. 

It's all the answer he needs.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

"Call me when you get there."

Yoongi sighs, closing the trunk of his car. "It's just for the weekend, Tae."

Taehyung blinks. 

"Alright, I'll call you when I get there."

He grins, grabbing his brother by the arm and pulling him into his chest, tucking his chin over his big brother's head. "Have fun, hyungie. You deserve it."

Yoongi squeezes him around the waist, pulling back and of course pulls Taehyung down enough to press a kiss to the top of his head. "Love you, bug."

"Love you," Taehyung returns, watching his brother walk around to the drivers side of the car. He ducks down when the passengers window opens, folding his arms over the door.

"I'll take good care of him, Taehyung-ah. Don't worry," Jueun assures him, reaching out of the car to bop him on the nose with a long finger. "I'll make sure he calls."

"You better," he grins, leaning in and pressing a kiss to her cheek. "Get him drunk on tequila. It's something everyone should see," he whispers against her ear and wags his eyebrows when she ooh's.

"Yah, don't be getting ideas in her head," Yoongi scolds as he starts the engine. 

Taehyung grins, stepping back from the car. "Have fun!" He stands there and waves as his brother and his girlfriend pull away in his car, moving to stand in the middle of the street and waving his arms above his head until he can't see them anymore.

He sighs. He's happy. He's happy because Yoongi is happy. It's been a while since Yoongi's let himself get attached to anymore, scared to bring them into his world, just like he was with Taehyung. So being with someone like Jueun is perfect. She's the perfect counterpart. Nothing makes Taehyung happier than seeing his big brother happy. He spends so much time looking after Taehyung that he often forgets about himself. It's about time he did something for him.

That reminds him. He needs to convince Momo to break up with Hoseok. 

                                                                                                          -- -- --

to: boyfriend 

i just thought of smthin

from: boyfriend

My dick?

to: EX boyfriend

bye

from: EX boyfriend

No, baby, wait. I'm sorry!

Tae. 

Taehyung.

Baby.

to: EX boyfriend

wat

from: EX boyfriend

Tell me, I wanna know.

What did you just think of.

to: EX boyfriend

i was thinking bout the first time i realised i liked u

from: EX boyfriend

Aw, tell me about it.

to: EX boyfriend

i was thinkin

this guy seems like such a fukin asshole

and i was rite

and im still rite

gdnight

from: asshole

Goodnight, asshole lover.

to: ??? im dating an idiot

did u just fkin

im done

nighT