When Kim Taehyung first meets Park Jimin, he’s twenty-four and a rapidly rising star in the underworld. Of all places it’s at one of the guild’s more prolific nightclubs, a favorite haunt of Taehyung’s when he needs the buzz of liquor to wash away the red on his hands. They hit it off immediately, and in between the drinking and the dancing they make it from the floor to the alley to the backseat of a taxi to his hotel suite. Jimin’s bite is somehow even worse than his bark, and Taehyung wakes the next morning to a pounding head, marks dotted across his skin and a phone number ft. smiley face scrawled on the inside of his arm.
Call me, it beckons. Taehyung can’t. He saves the number anyway, something about the gesture touching in a way he hasn’t felt in a long time.
Their paths remain uncrossed for almost exactly a year. When they meet again, the dye’s been washed out of Jimin’s hair and he’s got a new piercing glinting in his ear. Taehyung misses the fiery orange, and when Jimin catches his eyes on his ear he leans in and whispers that’s not the only new one i’ve got. wanna see?
“You never called me,” Jimin pouts at him later, lip curled attractively. He’s leaned up on his elbow over Taehyung, surprisingly talkative in a way he hadn’t been the first and last time, though Taehyung supposes now that had more to do with the alcohol than Jimin’s personality. Because he stays, eyes lingering on the imprints of his mouth over Taehyung’s skin with a look that can only be described as proud on his face. Every so often he kisses Taehyung’s hair.
It’s a relentless question, one that should raise an alarm. Far from warning bells, Taehyung’s amused. Jimin’s one of the best, if not the best, he’s ever had, and it’s flattering to hear he’d liked Taehyung—or at least, fucking him—enough to want to see him again.
“Didn’t peg you for the clingy type,” he teases anyway.
Jimin scowls at him, the hand that’s been stroking his hair twisting to dig nails into Taehyung’s scalp lightly. He shivers just so, enough to be forgiven.
“I’m not clingy,” he says.
“That’s what they all say,” Taehyung says back, and wonders why he pushes him. Maybe he’s avoiding the original question, but it’s probably more likely that he likes the way Jimin’s eyes darken. In response Jimin drops his hand from Taehyung’s hair to poke at an especially darkened spot, one that’s still got the imprint of his teeth and will undoubtedly bruise.
“I’m not,” Jimin says again. “I just like good sex. Where’d you run off to, doll?”
Taehyung snorts. “You’re the one who ran.”
“Nuh-uh,” he clicks his tongue. “I stuck around. Left you my number and everything. You’re on my turf, you know. Fancy-ass hotel, same as before, where’d you crawl out of?”
and where did you go?
It’s unspoken. The answer: to sea. Taehyung had always wanted to visit Jeju, just not necessarily with the intention of murder. It’d been an abnormally lengthy job, but playing the long game had at least been eased by the scenery.
“Nowhere,” he answers. Jimin rolls his eyes.
“You know, you were a lot less mouthy last time,” he says.
“Really?” Taehyung hums. “I’ve been told I’m a charming drunk.”
“Oh, you are,” Jimin grins. “You use your mouth a little differently, though.”
Jimin slings a leg over Taehyung’s hips when he laughs. He looks good above him, the kind of view he’d have appreciated if Jimin hadn’t rolled him onto his stomach last time.
“Wanna go again?” Jimin asks, thumbing at his hipbones. It’s casual in the best kind of way, and Taehyung nods.
When Jimin smiles in response, he practically glows, and Taehyung thinks he’s forgiven.
Jimin slips so seamlessly into Taehyung’s life it’s like he’s been there forever, or never left. It’s more than just sex, because Taehyung realizes a little too late he likes Jimin in a lot of ways, and only most of them physical. Jimin must like him, too, else he wouldn’t come over so often. It’s enough that Taehyung asks if he even has a place of his own, and it earns him a flick to his forehead.
“Why, you wanna come over?” he laughs, “Hotel suite not good enough for you?”
“It’s a little cliche,” Taehyung replies, sly.
“Well, I have roommates,” Jimin says, “who won’t appreciate how loud you are as much as I do.”
“Shut me up, then,” Taehyung will taunt, and Jimin will do his best. He’s like that, the type to play along and never back down from a challenge. Jimin always seems down to try just about anything, and it’s just one of the things Taehyung likes about him.
Some of the others: the way Jimin makes coffee in the mornings, enough for the two of them without being asked. The way he seems to have a sixth sense for when Taehyung wants it rough, or when he needs something so sensual and slow and sweet it’s almost embarrassing. Jimin makes his way into Taehyung’s life like he belongs there, and doesn’t even ask when Taehyung vanishes for days and returns shaking and smelling like gunsmoke.
Overall—life is good. Life with Jimin is good. And if Taehyung’s learned anything in his profession, it’s that nothing good can ever last.
“It’s not a difficult assignment,” Seokjin frowns delicately. “You’ll be gone maybe a month, tops.”
He’s always been a little too good at reading people. So when Taehyung pauses, even for a moment, Seokjin zeroes in.
“Okay,” Taehyung replies softly. He doesn’t mind it, per se. If he did, he would’ve been gone long ago, out of the country or dead in a ditch with a coworker’s bullet in his head. His hesitation stems purely from the fact that he’s usually only gone for a week at most, and he’s wondering when he started worrying about what to tell Jimin.
He’s a secret, or something like that. Truthfully Taehyung doesn’t think anyone would have a problem. He’s worked long and hard and well, and it’s not like he’s the only agent who’s got a body warming his bed. He hasn’t even touched the hotel footage, and he knows Yoongi checks it.
No, it’s that talking about him makes it somehow even more real. Taehyung knows, has seen other agents fall prey to the danger of creating two worlds: here and home. They should be one and the same. Theirs is not a profession that allows the liberty of keeping their heart in someone else’s chest, but Taehyung’s had only stopped for a minute when he’d realized Jimin’s left a toothbrush in his suite permanently.
Taehyung wonders if Seokjin knows. He seems to know everything. It’s his job, after all. But his eyes are just as flat as ever as he briefs him, and Taehyung’s hands only shake a little as he crafts his lie.
Jimin is fond of cuddling in a way Taehyung had forgotten the feeling of. Jimin is fond of a lot of things, like late night talks and pet names and Taehyung’s thighs on his shoulders, to name a few. He likes to hold Taehyung after, and it’s the best because Taehyung likes to be held by him. Sometimes Jimin even sings to him, a soft tone that has Taehyung dreaming in minutes. Tonight he talks.
“I want a picture of you,” he says. Taehyung shifts a little uncomfortably.
“Dunno,” Jimin replies, and his voice is a little taken aback, like he hadn’t expected Taehyung to resist. Taehyung’s pliant in almost everything else Jimin wants and does to him, so maybe that’s his own fault. “It’s like, a thing, you know? Could look at it while we’re apart. Make it my lock screen, show you off.”
“It sounds like we’re dating,” Taehyung says softly.
Taehyung doesn’t answer.
If Jimin’s offended, he masks it, just continues in that soft tone now slightly strained. “Okay, no lock screen. But I want one. I could’ve just taken it while you were asleep, you know. I’m giving you time to pose.”
“That’s kind,” Taehyung says. Then— “I’m shy.”
Oh, it’s a lie. Taehyung’s more worried about things like identification and association, and every cliche espionage movie that features the love interest tied to a chair as leverage. Even that’s not fully the truth, because if it was he would have cut their relationship off long ago, for Jimin’s safety or something equally as heroic.
Taehyung’s selfish. Jimin has a copy of his room key and texts him selfies while he’s away, but somehow allowing him a picture of Taehyung is a symbol of the domesticity he fears. Jimin senses it, and scoffs.
“Shy? You had my dick down your throat the first night we met.” he’s only ever this crude when they’re naked or he’s annoyed, and right now it’s both. “You’re one of the least shy people I’ve ever met.”
and the most selfish, Taehyung adds silently. Instead he turns his face, and asks again.
“Why do you want a picture of me?”
It’s silent a moment, and then Jimin growls, a little frustrated noise in the back of his throat. Because Taehyung knows why, and he’s making him say it regardless.
“Because—” Jimin purses his lips, and won’t meet his eyes. His voice is weak. “‘Cause you leave so much, and sometimes it feels like you won’t come back.”
that’s not true, Taehyung wants to say. He likes to think that if he ever had to break them off, he’d tell Jimin, would kiss him goodbye. But he doesn’t have the best track record, and can’t blame Jimin for doubting him.
“Okay,” is all Taehyung says. He closes his eyes to avoid the hurt in Jimin’s. “I have to leave again.”
Jimin’s quiet so long Taehyung cracks open an eye to check on him. He’s looking over him and at the wall. “How long?”
“I think a month this time,” he replies.
Jimin nods like he understands. Taehyung reaches out for his hand. Jimin doesn’t pull away, but he doesn’t respond, either, letting Taehyung slot their fingers without reciprocation.
Jimin will be waiting for him when he gets back. He knows that. But suddenly it’s not enough, and it aches to think that Jimin might not know what he means to him, even if it’s Taehyung’s own fault for being quiet and a little scared of what it all means.
“You still want a picture of me?” he asks. It’s not enough to chase away thoughts of his impending departure, but Jimin brightens. “Should I do anything special?”
“Just look at me,” Jimin says, smile swallowing his eyes. He fishes for his phone on the nightstand, fumbling a little too quickly like he’s afraid Taehyung will change his mind. Taehyung’s not sure what to do; he’s not posed for a photo since he was sixteen and still had a life ahead of him. He looks past the camera and at Jimin, at the fondness on his face, and gives him a small smile. The shutter clicks.
“Thank you,” Jimin says when he’s settled back down beside him, kissing Taehyung’s temple. “No lock screen, I promise.”
“Okay,” Taehyung says, tilting his chin up to ask for a kiss. Jimin obliges him.
“For a month, you think?” he asks. Taehyung hums in response. “Can I call you?”
“I can’t always answer,” Taehyung warns. Jimin shrugs. It hasn’t stopped him before. “You can text me, though. I shouldn’t be too busy.” except when i'm pulling the trigger.
“Tae?” Jimin asks after a few minutes, the two of them lulled into a comfortable silence. He’s still a little giddy over his victory, but there’s something wary in his voice. “You’re not, like, some drug lord or something, right?”
Taehyung actually laughs. Jimin swats at him.
“No, no,” Taehyung shakes his head. “This is just business, okay?”
“Nothing dangerous?” Jimin asks. “You promise?”
“Of course,” Taehyung reassures, and kisses him again.
It wasn’t strictly a lie. Sure, what he does is dangerous, but Taehyung edges that line of bravery and stupidity, too confident after years of successful operations. He’s seen it in other agents and knows it to be a danger, but it’s not enough to save him when the heist goes south.
Still, he lasts an impressive amount of time, nearly clearing the area before something punches his side and smells like smoke. He’s never been shot before, and far from panic, all he can think of while he lies and bleeds is whether he should call Jimin for that promised goodbye.
The room goes dark before he can make up his mind.
But life finds a way. It places him in a shit excuse for a hospital, more of a modified den, really. When he wakes Taehyung’s got a drip in his arm from a clouded bag of god-knows-what and a bandage around his chest. It’s hot and the sheets itch and he wants to go home.
Home. Like he’s ever had one, but what he’s found is the closest he’s ever come to one. Jimin’s probably worried, or hates his guts. Thinking the worst, his fears about Taehyung leaving confirmed. Taehyung groans when he’s told his phone wasn’t recovered along with his bleeding body.
“I need a phone,” he says, repeating himself when no one answers. “I need to make a call.”
“S’not allowed,” grunts his doctor, a burly man whose history in medicine Taehyung isn’t sure he wants to know. “Orders from up above. You can ship out in a week or two.”
The operation must really have been fucked if Seokjin’s pulling covers down. Taehyung can’t even enjoy the extended vacation, let alone being alive, thinking only of one person in particular. And he hates it, hates himself for stringing Jimin along when he’s got no business being involved, and because he knows he still won’t just end this despite everything. Selfish, but he won’t quit.
It’s a week and a half before he’s allowed to leave, boarding a small contracted plane and only wheezing a little making it up the gate. Almost two months in total. Seokjin demands a check in the instant he’s back, withholding his new hotel’s location from him until he complies. He keeps the worst quiet, but Taehyung’s known him long enough to tell that he’s worried, not just about the hole in Taehyung’s side, but the reason it found purchase there during an operation that should’ve been a walk in the park.
“I’m putting you on leave,” Seokjin says warily, as though Taehyung will object, an animal to be reckoned with. “You need time to heal.”
Taehyung just stares at the desk, hands folded in his lap.
“You’re not being punished,” he says, but Taehyung’s already fading out, itching with the desire to pick at his bandages and call a certain number. He doesn’t deserve to.
And maybe he shouldn’t. Jimin probably thinks he’s gone by now, and at least he’d left him a picture to remember him by. It’d be as though he really had died, and fitting because one day he surely will. To call Jimin now is to just delay the inevitable.
He dials the number from memory. It rings almost to the voicemail, like a last gift from a god telling him to back out now, but Jimin picks up a second before the click of the line, voice hurried and a little breathless.
“Hello?” he hears, and Taehyung grips the phone so tightly in his hand it's a wonder that it doesn’t crack. Jimin sounds tired, the kind of note in his voice from a long day at work or a fight with a friend that Taehyung loves to kiss away. He wonders if Jimin still dares to hope when his phone rings that Taehyung will be calling.
“Hey,” Taehyung manages, because he’s no Bond and never quite managed to find eloquence outside of missions that called for it. His voice even cracks a little.
Dead silence. Then the rush of breath, a heady exhale and inhale to blurt out.
“Taehyung," he hears, “Taehyung, is that you?"
Taehyung licks his lips. “I’m back,” he says, and he can only imagine the wrath he’ll face. It’s worth it, though, for the relief he knows is mixed in with Jimin’s rage.
“Almost two months,” Jimin says coldly, but there’s a bit of a sob in his voice. “I got kicked out of the suite, you fuck.”
“I got a nice new one,” Taehyung whispers. He doesn’t trust his voice enough not to tremble at normal volume. Jimin doesn’t respond, so he finds himself rambling. “It’s got one of those ledges you like, and a view, I think.”
“Will it have you?" Jimin asks. Taehyung swallows.
“Yeah,” he says, and feels dizzy. “Yeah, it will. Jimin, I’m so—I’m sorry. I want to—I need to see you. I can explain everything.”
He can’t. But he can kiss Jimin, and let Jimin have him, and it’ll be just enough. Maybe not for forgiveness of his radio silence, and certainly less than Jimin deserves. But just enough.
“Text me the address," Jimin says finally. “I’ll be over in an hour.”
Taehyung ends the call, hands shaking. He sends Jimin the information, checks into the hotel himself with the reservation Seokjin had given him, and instructs the reception to give Jimin a keycard when he arrives. It’s always just barely enough.
He’s lying in bed when Jimin makes it up, an hour to the dot. He’s putty on the bed and nearly asleep, exhaustion aching in his bones when he’d just barely managed to shower and drag himself to the bed. Taehyung doesn’t open his eyes when he hears the click of the lock, only listens—to Jimin’s soft exhale seeing him, then his steps padding over to the bed. Air ghosts across his cheek like Jimin had reached out before thinking better of it, and Taehyung finally opens his eyes.
“Taehyung,” Jimin breathes, and he does touch him then, a soft cup of his palm to his cheek that Taehyung leans into. It’s Jimin, his Jimin, though his hair’s gone jet black and he’s got an expression on his face Taehyung’s never seen before. He’s mildly horrified, and rightly so; Taehyung had caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror earlier, and he looked like shit. He sits beside Taehyung on the bed, hands fluttering in his lap like he’s afraid to place them in any one spot. “You’re alive.”
“Of course I am,” Taehyung huffs, tugging at Jimin’s hand. Jimin laces their fingers gently, eyes wide. “Why would you think I wasn’t?”
“The alternative was,” Jimin says, “that you left me.” He takes a breath, and looks away. His voice turns a bitter with remembered hurt. “Which is ridiculous, if we were never dating to begin with.”
“I’m sorry,” Taehyung says softly. For everything, but he pretends it’s about not calling. He tries to shift, and winces a little at the dull pang in his side.
“You’re hurt,” Jimin says, bedside manner returning. He ghosts his hands under Taehyung’s shirt. “Can I—?”
Taehyung nods, and Jimin lifts his shirt as gently as he can manage. He goes pale when he sees the bandage. Taehyung’s glad he changed it before Jimin arrived; it’d stained red through before.
He’s not sure what to expect, and Jimin surprises him with a small, shaky laugh. He fists his hands in Taehyung’s shirt.
“You’re no chaebol,” Jimin says, voice oddly calm. “Are you?”
“I got mugged,” Taehyung says lamely.
“You’re lying to me,” Jimin says.
“Yeah,” Taehyung’s voice is hoarse. “Yeah, I am.”
i’ve been lying for a while, passes unspoken. Jimin just runs a hand over his stomach and past the bandage, almost afraid to touch him.
“They kicked me out of the suite,” he says absently, “They didn’t even have your name registered. Like you were never there.”
“Kiss me?” Taehyung asks, like it’ll fix things. “It’s all I’ve wanted.”
Jimin obliges him as he always does, and shifts to lie down beside Taehyung as gently as he can. He sighs soft into Taehyung’s mouth, and thumbs at his cheek, holding him so delicately.
“I’m sorry,” Taehyung mumbles again, against Jimin’s lips.
Jimin’s scolding, but it’s gentle. “You’re going to make it up to me.”
Taehyung tries to deepen the kiss in response. Jimin pulls back, scandalized.
“You’re injured,” he admonishes. “I meant when you’re better.”
“Will you stay with me that long?” Taehyung asks, eyelashes fluttering. Jimin kisses him again sweetly in reply.
“You know we are dating, right?”
Jimin laughs, a little tearful, and Taehyung swears he sees a halo.
“How would you feel,” Jimin asks over dinner, "About meeting some of my friends?"
It’s been a month, and while Taehyung knows his leave of absence must almost be up he’s never felt like this before, an actual dread in his stomach at the idea of going back to work. Seokjin has been kind enough, he knows; there’s little doubt in Taehyung’s mind that he must know about Jimin at this point.
One month, likely one of the best of his life. Going off the nature of how they’d met alone, Taehyung hadn’t pegged Jimin for a romantic, but he’d made him prove their relationship by going about things ‘the right way.’ This had consisted of everything from dinner dates to movies and even an aquarium. (Jimin had taken his phone for that one, had snapped pictures of himself up against the glass—and handed it back to Taehyung with a slight blush but no less confidence when he declared now we both have pictures of each other. Taehyung’s heart had nearly stopped.)
They hadn’t talked about his 'trip' once, Jimin taking it surprisingly well, only referencing it when he helped care for Taehyung while recovering. Jimin’s almost living with him at this point, comes home to Taehyung’s suite more often than he does go to his own home. Taehyung doesn’t mind, and thinks he might be a little in love.
He hesitates regardless. “Your friends?”
“It’s one step up from the parents, right?” Jimin hums, framing his face with his hands. There's a private smile on his face, something in his eyes Taehyung doesn't quite understand. In response Taehyung must have made an expression akin to panic, because Jimin laughs. “I’m kidding. You think I would let my parents meet you?”
“You haven’t mentioned any friends before,” Taehyung says, picking at his food. It’s gone dry in his mouth.
He tells himself it’s because he’s only just gotten used to Jimin, and their comforting brand of domesticity. His world’s expanded to include two, and he’s unsure of the stretch. It was silly of him to forget Jimin must exist to other people as well.
“Oh, they’re curious about you,” Jimin says cheerily, cleaning his own plate efficiently. “My mysterious, absent boyfriend.”
Taehyung should keep his head low. Jimin knows him well enough, would likely read his discomfort and drop the subject for a time.
He says instead, “I think I have to go back to work soon.”
There’s only a slight clatter as Jimin sets down his utensils, but it’s enough to startle Taehyung, making him look up to see Jimin looking at his plate. The smile's gone.
“Will you leave again?” Jimin asks, unusually placid.
“I don’t know,” Taehyung says. Suddenly he’s reaching across the table to Jimin’s hand, unsure what’s taken over him, knowing only he wants to change his expression. “Hey. Will you move in with me?"
Jimin looks up at him, stunned. His hand twitches as though made to jerk back.
“Only if you want to,” Taehyung amends quickly. “Just, you’re already here so much. Not that it’s not nice! Because it is. But it could, you know, be more official. Like... like the dating.”
He’s rambling again, and trails off, flustered. But then Jimin surprises him with a giggle, shaking his head.
“You’re moving so fast,” he teases, and Taehyung feels a giddy smile break over his face to see the affection on Jimin’s face. “You haven’t even met my friends yet.”
“Is that a yes?” Taehyung asks, and wonders what the hell he’s doing even as his heart soars.
“You’re trying to distract me,” Jimin scolds, but he can see the answer in his eyes.
Jimin confirms it later, between the sheets. Taehyung ruins it for himself by wondering when he'll have to face the catalyst again.
He doesn’t have to wait long. A week later Jimin comes home to him packing, and sits down on the bed to watch him in silence a while before accepting it and helping fold his clothes. Taehyung’s summons had been through text, and he’d worry about the security if it hadn’t been Yoongi’s work. As it is it’s just flight information and a number to call when he landed.
“How long will you be gone?” Jimin’s voice is quiet, avoiding his eyes.
Taehyung exhales, and admits, “I don’t know.”
Jimin tosses the newly folded shirt in his suitcase, and reaches for Taehyung’s hand.
“I can’t come with you?”
It’s barely a question. Jimin knows the answer. Taehyung shakes his head for him anyway. Jimin nods.
“Try to come back in one piece, okay?”
Taehyung promises him then, and promises again later that night, whispering to the ceiling while Jimin kisses down his chest. He lingers a moment longer by the scar tissue, almost reverent, like Taehyung’s already gone and he’s preserving his memory.
“You know I love you, right?” Jimin whispers afterward, into his hair with the lightest of kisses when he thinks Taehyung’s asleep. It hurts more than he expected it to, and Jimin sighs when he settles in beside him. “Idiot.”
In the morning light, Jimin sees him off at the airport, and offers him a dainty kiss goodbye. He waves as long as he can until he’s swallowed by the crowd, and Taehyung feels for the hollow in his chest like he’s left his heart behind.
When Taehyung’s flight lands, he calls Jimin before the number he’s supposed to contact, reassures him he’s safe and feels something like love pass unspoken over the line.
The briefing is simple enough. Taehyung's specialty is insidious at best, settling himself inconspicuously into agencies and establishments and more, building trust and a relationship until he's ducking out with information enough to ruin. This is different, though. Get in, get out, an arranged pickup for the simplest of items: a flash drive with information on a target. A job that should be, by all definitions, easy.
No one prepared him, however, for the possibility of a guard dog.
Taehyung thinks maybe he needs to stop promising Jimin he’ll come back safe, because every time he has he’s gotten fucked over. This time he’s got a little more of a chance, at least, because if the agent in his way had a gun it’d be in his hand by now. Taehyung feels the phantom pain quiver in his side at the memory.
“You kept me waiting," is what sings out of the man’s mouth, almost a song, and Taehyung’s barely ducking in time to avoid a solid right hook. He plays it off and plays it cool. "It's you."
“Me,” Taehyung mutters, dropping half to his knees to go for the knife strapped to his leg. Already off balance with the motion, he can’t move fully out of the way of the other agent’s kick, and it brushes his jaw. Sharp pain blossoms along it as Taehyung falls back cursing, enough to know that if he’d taken it full force he’d be missing teeth. “Shit.”
“Boss was right,” The agent croons, and then Taehyung’s staggering back and righting himself, knife in hand. “You are pretty.”
“Thanks,” Taehyung spits, poking the split in his lip with his tongue and tasting blood. There’s something sour in his stomach and a chill down his spine. “What are you, twelve? You gonna let me past, kid?”
Age must be a touchy subject, because the agent snarls and comes at him again, only backing off when Taehyung swipes with his knife.
“You really can’t recognize a setup when you see one?” He’s circling in a way that reminds Taehyung of a predator. “I’m taking you in either way. Might as well drop the knife and save us both the trouble.” He smiles. "Kim Taehyung."
“Do I get a name, too?” Taehyung taunts, distracted. He’ll have to kill him. He doesn’t like it, has always been more suited for reconnaissance and retrieval. He knows he should’ve brought a gun.
But it was supposed to be easy. So was the last operation, and look where that landed him. Taehyung swears that if he gets out of this, he’s doing two things: the first, to be armed from now on, no matter what the briefing says. The second, to tell Seokjin they’ve got a mole.
“How about…” the agent thinks it over, then grins. “Widowmaker.”
“That’s,” Taehyung grunts, and shifts his weight to make his move, “fucking stupid, man.”
His eyes darken for a second before widening when Taehyung lunges, feinting with a fist to slash out with the knife. The agent swears when blood sprays, his hand cut open to a violent red and Taehyung ducks past, sprinting until the expletives are an echo behind him.
“Fuck,” Taehyung mumbles. “Fuck,” because there’s nothing before him but a mass of cubicles, and smooth, exit-less walls above their maze. He turns to see the agent grimacing at him in a pained excuse for a smile, bloody handprint where he must’ve touched his face.
“You should’ve just turned yourself over,” he sighs dramatically. “Now I gotta kick your ass twice as hard.”
“Gotta catch me first,” Taehyung says, but then there’s a rush of air and a sting in his neck, and he’s fumbling for what feels like a dart as his legs give out below him.
The last thing he sees are the other agent’s boots, and his grin when he crouches beside him.
“You fucks really are over,” he says, and pats Taehyung’s cheek with his bloody hand. “If you still expect people to play fair.”
The world goes dark.
Taehyung wakes to a scene like something out of a bad movie, head pounding and body propped in a chair with hands and ankles bound. He’s not alone. The agent from before is sitting on a table before him like a child, thumbing through Taehyung’s phone.
He smiles when he sees Taehyung stir, only looking up for a moment.
“Rise and shine,” he says, and whistles low. “You’re not very smart, are you? What kind of spy uses a thumbprint passcode?”
Of all the things to forget, he’d left the goddamn print passcode on. Jimin had convinced him a week into his leave after getting sick of seeing Taehyung type his twenty-digit pass.
Normally it wouldn’t matter. He doesn’t keep much on it, the type to prefer physical evidence, like paperwork and the hard drive he’d been asked to retrieve. But his blood runs cold when the agent holds Taehyung’s phone out to him, one of Jimin’s pictures onscreen.
“Cute,” he says, and Taehyung grips the arms of the chair til his knuckles turn white. He laughs when he notices. “Relax. Trust me. Boss wants you."
“I don’t know anything,” Taehyung says. It’s not a lie. It’s a policy of safety, for the agency that is, in the case of capture. His voice is hoarse, and he wonders how long he’s been out for.
“I figured,” the agent says, attention returning to Taehyung’s phone. “It’s not info we want, anyway. When I said the boss wanted you, I meant literally.”
“What, my head?”
The agent snorts. “You wish. Nothing so exciting this time, I’m afraid.”
“Then why am I here?” alive?
He locks Taehyung’s phone, and crosses his legs, leaning back on his hands.
“You’re all going down, you know,” he tells Taehyung calmly. “The old loyalist days are over. Seokjin’s your handler, right? He’s good at damage control, but not that good.”
“So, what?” Taehyung says, realization sinking in. “You want me to turn?”
“Personally? I don’t care.” He pokes his tongue out his cheek, clearly enjoying himself. “But you’ve got eyes on you, Kim Taehyung. You’ve got a stunning track record, at least up til the last year or so. But those operations weren’t your fault, were they?”
“We’ve got a mole,” Taehyung guesses.
“Of a sort. And moles dig.” He uncrosses his legs, hopping down from the table to stand before him. “There’s not much left til your agency collapses. You’ll all be buried, but you can get out before that happens.”
“You want me so bad,” Taehyung narrows his eyes, “why’d I get shot?”
“An accident.” He shrugs. “Who do you think brought you back near your base to get patched up?”
Taehyung goes silent, realization settling cold in his stomach.
“You got ordered on leave, right?” He smirks. “Getting aid from the enemy, it looked pretty bad.”
“You’re setting me up to take the fall,” Taehyung murmurs.
“It doesn’t have to be a setup, though.” 'Widowmaker' taps his chin. “The head of our agency, he wants you. So here's the offer. You can be sitting pretty when everything goes down.”
“Why would you want an agent who turned?”
“Still on about the loyalty crap?” He rolls his eyes. “Self-preservation isn’t a dirty trait, you know.”
“I haven’t gotten this far by jumping ship,” Taehyung rasps. “Thanks for the offer. I’ll have to politely decline.”
The agent hums. “I’d say you’ll regret that, but I’m sure you’ll change your mind.”
“Why?” Taehyung asks, tired. “Is this the part where you convince me?”
“You think I’m gonna torture you?” His features twist with faux scandalization. “Taehyung, the goal is for you to join us, not hate us. Though—” he holds up the hand Taehyung had knifed, bandage stiff. “I am going to match this before you go. Nothing business, it’s just personal.”
“You’re gonna let me walk?” Taehyung asks, suspicious. “What’s the catch?”
“No catch.” He spreads his arms wide. “Just sit tight a little while, til I finish decoding the drive you opened the safe to. Then you’re free to go back and report what you like.” He smiles, and it’s the first one to reach his eyes. “I doubt you’ll be including our little talk, though.”
“I tell Seokjin everything,” Taehyung says.
“Really? Even about pretty boy on your phone here?” Taehyung bites his lip so hard he nearly tastes blood again. “Hey, what do you think he’d want? For you to be safe, right?“
"Shut up,” Taehyung hears himself hiss. “You don’t—you don’t know him.”
The agent snorts.
“I think you should keep the brave talk canned ‘til you’re making your report, Taehyung,” he says, and leans forward to slip Taehyung’s phone back into his coat pocket with a pat to his knee. “They’re going to be suspicious enough of you as is.”
Taehyung wants to argue, but he knows he’s right.
"But hey, think about it, alright?"
He ends up back in his hotel room, both phone and flash drive in his pocket and dozens of missed messages. He ignores them all to call one person first.
"Tae?" Jimin answers. “Is everything alright?”
“It’s fine,” Taehyung manages to say. He should tell Jimin the truth, that he’s far from fine and only just beginning to grasp how much Jimin means to him and how dangerous it all is. He says instead, “I miss you.”
“You’ve only been gone a few days," Jimin teases, then sobers again. “Seriously, are you okay? You sound…”
“I’m fine,” Taehyung interrupts, rubbing at his face. “I’m coming home.”
“That’s good news," Jimin says cautiously. “Isn’t it?”
“How can you stand it?” Taehyung asks suddenly, abruptly. Jimin falls silent, and when he speaks again, it’s a little hesitant.
“Stand what, baby?”
“You know,” Taehyung whispers. “You must have some idea. What I do. Who I am.”
He can almost hear Jimin thinking on the other end of the line. He’s not well. He should’ve waited to call Jimin, but he’s half sure the instant he gets back he’s going to be dragged into questioning, and he needs to hear his voice.
“It doesn’t matter to me, Taehyung." Jimin says finally, voice soft. “Just—take care of yourself, okay? I don’t care what you do. ...But I’m selfish," he admits in a whisper, almost ashamed. "I won't let it take you away from me."
Taehyung pretends he’s talking about extended trips, but he knows what Jimin means. He closes his eyes.
“Talk when I get back?” he asks quietly. Jimin hums.
Taehyung had barely stepped off the plane before he was being escorted away, but he expected no less from Seokjin. He’s wrong about the dragging, though; he is brought in for questioning, but it’s all very polite. Taehyung is nothing if not cooperative, even sitting before his handler feeling like an errant child.
Seokjin listens to his story patiently, nodding at the appropriate parts. He takes the drive from Taehyung, and only frowns when Taehyung hesitates. The reluctance stems from what the agent had said, how it’ll all look, but in the end he tells Seokjin most everything, what he’d said about a mole and the agency’s fall and the job offer.
Seokjin’s silent a long minute, pursing his lips. Then—
“I’m ordering a full mental and physical evaluation,” he says, tapping a pen against his desk. “Then you’re going on extended leave.”
Taehyung gapes at him, at the cold business-like efficiency. He’s seen it directed at others, but never at himself, not for something not his fault.
“I’m not the mole,” he hears himself say, a little weakly. “I’m being set up.”
“Then submit to the evaluation, and everything will be fine,” Seokjin says coolly. “You don’t know how long you were under for. I want to know what they did to you.”
“You think I’m lying?” Taehyung snaps. “I’m not a fucking rat.”
“Even you must see how it looks,” is all he says, eyeing Taehyung warily. “Are you going to cooperate?”
There’s an unspoken threat. It’s humiliating, but it’ll look ten times worse if Taehyung refuses. He slumps in his seat.
“I’m not the mole,” he says again, softly, but he lets Seokjin’s men come to retrieve him without complaint. He even sees a flash of something like pity in his eyes.
At least they’re kind enough not to strap him down, as he’s poked and prodded with lights shone in his eyes and his blood drawn and fingers hooked to a lie detector. Because he’s cooperative, but inside Taehyung thinks he feels the beginning stirrings of something that could be resentment.
Eight years of loyal service, and he hasn’t even been compromised but it’s enough to land him under suspicion. The toxicology reports come back a puzzle when they can’t figure out what Taehyung was knocked out with, and he knows what it looks like, that he’d gone along willingly. The only evidence that it hadn’t been a vacation is the laceration in his hand. The evaluation takes almost nine hours, and by the end of it Taehyung just wants to go home, too exhausted to wrestle with his usual moral dilemma of what the word means.
“I am sorry for this,” Seokjin tells him, on his way out. “If it’s worth anything, I want to believe you.”
“Okay,” Taehyung says. He doesn’t turn in his gun.
When he makes it home, Taehyung doesn’t even bother to let Jimin know he’s coming up, just sags against the wall of the elevator and makes it to the penthouse feeling numb. He fumbles with the keycard enough to be criminal, but Jimin must have heard him in the hall, because he’s opening the door and pulling Taehyung into a hug before he can swipe at the handle any longer.
“Hey,” he greets Taehyung softly, and lets the door latch behind them. If he notices how much Taehyung is leaning on him for support, he doesn’t say anything, just walks him to the bed to sit down beside him. “How did everything go?”
“Bad. Everything's—bad.” Taehyung mumbles before he can stop himself, and lets out a short, despairing laugh. “I’m sorry. Forget I said that. You don't need to know it.”
“Taehyung,” Jimin says, shaking his head. “You can talk to me. Maybe not—” he adds, seeing Taehyung’s fallen expression. “Maybe not about everything, but I’m here to listen, okay?”
Taehyung lets himself fall back to their bed, tugging at Jimin pathetically. After a second Jimin shifts himself on the bed, pulling Taehyung’s head into his lap and stroking his hair soothingly.
“It doesn’t matter,” he says, and Jimin thumbs against his brow. “I got—kicked out. For a while. ‘Extended leave.’” he huffs something like a sardonic laugh. “I fucked up, but it wasn’t my fault. They’re gonna think it is, though.”
Jimin’s fingers in his hair still for a second. “Do you think you’re in danger?”
“No? Maybe.” Taehyung closes his eyes. “Whatever. It happens, you know? Maybe this is a good thing, if it keeps happening while I’m away, shows ‘em I’m not the leak. Even if it stops, though—” Taehyung laughs then, realizing something.
“What is it?” Jimin asks mildly.
Taehyung tugs at him again, suddenly wanting Jimin so close despite months of keeping him at a distance. Jimin lets himself be pulled down though there’s a look like confusion and something else Taehyung can’t quite read on his face. He pulls again til they’re face to face, in Jimin’s arms just the way he likes.
“I never cared what could happen to me before,” Taehyung admits, so quiet. “But now I—I worry about you.”
“I mean it,” he continues, because all of a sudden the past months are catching up to him. A bullet in his side and a night spent captive where anything could’ve happened, and Jimin never the wiser. He’s always known he could die any minute, and accepted it, but now he’s not sure he can let it happen if Jimin still doesn’t know just what he means to him.
“You make...you make me wanna come back from missions,” Taehyung says, and he wants to close his eyes but manages to keep them open, because Jimin doesn’t deserve any further avoidance, should see the truth in his gaze. “I never really cared before, s’all the same anyway, but now I’m—I’m dodging bullets for you, Jiminie. Every day I wonder what’ll happen to you if I die, if you’ll even know. If you’ll even care.”
“Tae, stop,” Jimin whispers, a little pale. “You know I care.”
“You’re so good to me. Don’t let me treat you like this any more.” Taehyung makes a grab for Jimin’s hands. “I heard you, before I left. You said you loved me. Right?” he presses in, because Jimin’s looking away, lip set like he’s displeased he was listening. “Tell me you still do, and I’ll tell you everything. I’ll tell you where I go, and what I do for a living. I’ll tell you that I didn’t get mugged, and why I’m so afraid to have pictures of you. I’ll tell you that I love you, too.”
At that last one, Jimin’s expression shifts from fear to something unreadable. “You what?”
“I love you, Park Jimin,” Taehyung says, and brings a hand to his lips to kiss each knuckle. “I didn’t want to. I put you in danger, and when I die you’ll be lucky if there’s a body to bury. But I’m selfish, and I love you.”
“Taehyung,” Jimin says again, like it’s the only word he knows, and Taehyung’s just started to feel the ache of rejection when Jimin’s pulling him in for the softest, sweetest kiss.
“Of course I love you,” he whispers to Taehyung, hands in his hair and a smile on his lips. “You idiot.”
And Jimin is good to him, as always.
“Would you run?” Jimin whispers to him later, when they’re a tangle of limbs and holding each other just right. “Away from all this.”
“I couldn’t make it,” Taehyung mumbles, the response coming automatically after so many years. It’s ingrained into every spy, though there’s whispers of ones who got out. Sometimes officially, let go for loyal service; more often, slipping out under the cover of a mission that should’ve killed them and leaving a charred body in their stead.
“If you could,” Jimin says, and tilts his chin up. “Would you run with me?”
“I can’t,” Taehyung says. His place is shaky enough as is. He adds under his breath— “But with you, I would.”
So many things Taehyung does for Jimin are just enough. This half-assed promise is another one, and Jimin pulls him to his chest with a soft song.
And life goes on. Finds a way, as it always does. The suite stays paid for, and no one ever shows up asking for his gun. Taehyung figures it’s the most thanks for your service and sorry about calling you a traitor he’s going to get, but he has Jimin, and it’s fine.
“Do you think you’re out?” Jimin asks once, fingers in Taehyung’s hair and sleep still in his voice.
“I don’t think anyone ever gets out,” Taehyung says quietly. “But I haven’t heard anything.”
Jimin nods like he understands. “What if... they fall, though?” It had taken a few weeks to open up, but Taehyung had told him everything. About his undignified exit, about his trip, about his income source. He’d been—well, Taehyung hadn’t expected him to freak out. Jimin is smart, and had been with him too long to not piece together the signs. But he’d been even calmer than Taehyung might have expected, just asking to see his gun and fussing over him a little more than usual.
“Wouldn’t that be playing right into their hands?” Taehyung asks bitterly, stretching an idle hand out above him and pretending he can splay it across the ceiling like some foreign sky. “They go down, and I’m here sitting pretty.”
“It’d be a way out,” Jimin says quietly.
“Yeah, it would be,” is all Taehyung says.
Jimin replaces his hands in Taehyung’s hair with his lips for a kiss and a murmur to his temple. “How would you feel about it?”
“I don’t know,” Taehyung says honestly. “You spend years somewhere, with the same people, you’re supposed to feel something, right?”
Taehyung drops his arm back to his side, and looks back at Jimin. Maybe he should care, and maybe he would’ve, once, but it would seem that pesky word love changed him in more ways than one.
“I don’t feel a damn thing.”
“I’d like to know who that mole is, though.”
Taehyung gets the call from Seokjin some three months later around two a.m. Jimin stirs beside him in bed, and Taehyung can almost hear him lying awake and thinking, but he still steps out into the hall to answer.
“I need you back,” Seokjin says. No greeting, no apology. Taehyung didn’t expect anything, but it still stings.
“What if I don’t want to come back?” Taehyung says. And it’s dangerous, but he’s got a home and love and he’s finally happy.
There’s silence a moment on the line, but it’s not an indicator of victory. Taehyung doubts he’s won, because when Seokjin takes a moment to think it just means the coming response will ring twice as terrible and true.
“I don’t even have the resources to drag you back, Taehyung,” he says finally, a note of exhaustion in his voice. “if that’s any indication of how things are going.”
“Why should I care?” Taehyung asks, worrying his lip with his teeth. “You wouldn’t believe me. You sent me away. Why should I care?”
“I’d like to believe you do,” Seokjin says, and Taehyung can picture him at that same hallowed desk, glaring at the space where Taehyung used to sit. “After so many years. But even if you don’t, that happiness can’t last past the guild.”
“Is that a threat?” Taehyung asks coldly. He’s still got his gun, in a drawer beside the bed neither of them talk about.
“It’s the truth,” comes the response just as frozen. “We go, so does that suite of yours. The payment’s easy enough to track."
“I can move.”
“If the suite goes, it’s because our database was breached.” He lets it sink in for a moment. “All the information on you, and how to find you."
“I can move,” Taehyung says again, but a little more weakly.
“That’s not really fair to your boyfriend, is it?" There’s no way to misread Taehyung’s silence as anything but dangerous, but Seokjin pushes him anyway once he knows he’s got him pinned. “Or is it fiancé now? We can catch up if you come back."
“If,” Taehyung repeats, but his stomach’s sick enough he thinks he knows his answer. “You’re giving me a choice?”
“I am,” Seokjin says, a little softly. “Because I know you’ll make the right one.”
“And what is the right one?” Taehyung asks. Seokjin doesn’t answer.
Taehyung doesn’t need him to, because he’s already made the decision. And he’s pretty sure it’s the wrong one, even as he gives Seokjin a time and location to pick him up.
Lately when Jimin’s smiled at him, giddy with love and freedom, Taehyung’s heard something as sap sweet as wedding bells. By harsh contrast, what he hears when he returns to the agency is more akin to a funeral dirge.
“Where is everyone?” he asks finally, a half step behind Seokjin. The building’s empty enough he can hear the click of their heels echoing back, terribly loud against the silence that comes with the absence of the main hall’s usual activity.
“Ran,” Seokjin says briskly, “or dead.”
Taehyung swallows. “That bad, huh?”
“You have no idea,” Seokjin says, and tugs open the door they reach.
It’s the old briefing room, though Taehyung barely recognizes it. It’s been stripped, empty of both agents and tech. Only tables remain, and at one sits a man Taehyung’s never seen before, clad in a dark suit with a small computer before him. He stands and bows.
“Taehyung,” Seokjin says as he offers a stiff bow back. “This is Kim Namjoon.”
“Kim Taehyung,” he mutters back. The other man smiles small, humorless.
“I know,” Namjoon says, and retakes his seat.
Seokjin takes a seat beside Namjoon, and guessing at the dynamics of this meeting Taehyung drops himself into one across from the pair like he’s gearing for an interview, or interrogation.
“Namjoon is somewhat of an... independent consultant,” Seokjin says, ignoring the glance Taehyung levels at him but conceding regardless. “As well as an old friend. I’ve asked him to take a look at our system and make an analysis on the situation.”
“And so far?” Taehyung asks.
Namjoon taps a slender finger against his chin. “You’ve got breaches in every system,” he says, the computer’s light cast blue on his skin. “They’re from outside, but... they’re not attacks. They’re accessing pathways, slipping through cracks.”
“Okay,” Taehyung says, and waits a moment. “Could you explain that in a way I understand?”
Seokjin’s lips pull taut like he’s irritated, but Namjoon’s twist into a brief smile. “Basically,” he explains, “The attacks may be from outside, but they know the way in from the inside. They’ve got a map. To every agent, every mission.”
“The mole,” Taehyung says, and Seokjin nods. He leans forward, a little interested despite himself—despite how he’d sworn to Jimin he was only coming back as a goodbye, and had no interest in the fate of the agency or in aiding it. “How could someone share the info?”
"I believe,” Namjoon says, “It could’ve been done with any active piece of our tech, if the hacker knew what they were doing. At least to pin down a signal.”
“I lost my phone,” Taehyung recalls, a chill settling through him. “When I was shot.”
“It was locked, though,” Seokjin says, shaking his head. “I sent a signal to deactivate it once we heard you were—down. Just in case.”
“In case I was dead,” Taehyung mutters, “or in case I was spreading information?”
“That’s not what’s important now,” Namjoon says, cutting across Seokjin’s beginning argument. “We can’t afford to fight amongst each other.” He waits a second, and when neither of them reply, he nods and continues, satisfied.
He might have said something next, but Taehyung isn’t sure. Because suddenly he’s remembering, flashing back to a sharp-edged grin and an agent holding his own phone out to him.
It had been unlocked.
Taehyung blinks, refocusing on the two in front of them. Seokjin looks wary.
“What?” he asks, a bit hoarse.
“I asked about your last mission,” Namjoon repeats patiently. His eyes flick to the side for just a moment, as though aware this one is a sensitive topic between the two of them. “About the conversation you’d had.”
“What about it?”
“In the briefing you gave, you’d said the agent offered for you to turn. To ‘make it out,’” Namjoon says, eyes going back down to the computer screen. “Why do you think that is?”
“Fuck if I know,” Taehyung says, and winces a little when he sees the other two tense at his defensive tone. He feels his expression sour. “You still think I’m a traitor, don’t you?” he accuses, with a glare at Seokjin. “Why did you call me back? You want a confession?”
“What we want,” Namjoon says, setting down his pen and dropping his voice, trying to keep the peace. “Is for you to think of why they might want you in particular.”
Taehyung runs his hands over his hair frustratedly. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t have any idea?” Seokjin asks, then raises his hands out and up before him non threateningly when Taehyung makes ready to snarl. “I believe you, Taehyung. I also believe you might be the answer to this.”
“We figure out why they want you,” Namjoon supplements, “we’re that much closer to figuring out who this is, and what their goal is.”
“I think their goal is pretty clear,” Taehyung says coldly. “They wanted our network gone, and it seems like they’ve won.”
“Fine,” Seokjin snaps. “But I refuse to go down without at least knowing how.”
Taehyung worries at his lip with his teeth, looking away. Then—
“When I was captured before,” he mumbles, closing his eyes. “The agent got into my phone.”
It’s quiet for a moment, and then Namjoon’s fingers are dancing across the keys. Taehyung dares to peek, and Seokjin—isn’t angry, but he’s looking at Taehyung with an unreadable expression.
“You didn’t tell me that,” he says.
“How was I supposed to know my phone could be used like that?” Taehyung says, rubbing a hand at his temple. “I don’t keep anything on it. I didn’t know it could be used as a backdoor. You didn’t tell me that.”
“He’s got a point,” Namjoon says quietly. Seokjin looks irritated, but doesn’t comment. “You’re not to blame, Taehyung. The leaks about the missions were happening before that. It just…”
“Finished the job,” Taehyung supplements bitterly. “Are we done?”
Namjoon’s fingers still on the keys, but he doesn’t look up. Seokjin looks taken aback.
“I never promised to stay,” Taehyung says, unable to meet his eyes. “I told you everything I know. You got what you wanted.”
“Eight years,” Seokjin says. “Eight years here, and you can walk away just like that?”
“I didn’t walk away,” Taehyung says. “You sent me away.”
“You already got a new gig?”
Taehyung shakes his head, tugging at the cuff of one of his sleeves. “I don’t need one.” It sounds hollow, but it’s the truth.
For a moment Seokjin looks confused, even a little angry, but then something in his eyes softens.
“It’s that boy of yours,” he says. “Isn’t it?”
“I’m gonna get us out. Move us somewhere nice,” Taehyung says distantly. “If you’ll let me go.” adds: “I appreciate everything.”
He does, too. But freedom’s left a bittersweet taste on his lips. Jimin deserves better. Hell, Taehyung deserves better. He never used to hate his job so much, but lately all Taehyung can think about is love, and how he’s almost forgotten what adrenaline feels like. He just doesn’t have it in him anymore, a fire that’s gone out to be replaced with something so much greater.
“When you leave,” Namjoon asks, pulling Taehyung from his thoughts. “Would you do us one last favor?”
Take care of yourself, had been Seokjin’s goodbye. Be careful, had been Namjoon’s, caution seemingly ever present. Before he can do either Taehyung’s taking his phone to the farthest reaches of the agency, a small, somewhat decrepit building on the wrong side of town with all the right kinds of tech inside.
Yoongi greets him with a no-questions-asked nod. There’s no way he hasn’t heard of everything that’s transpired, so the lack of prying means he simply doesn’t care enough to intrude, and Taehyung’s grateful for it as he holds out his phone.
“I wanted to do this soon as you came back,” he says, holding the device up to the light like it’ll do something with a click of his tongue. “Seokjin reined me in. Said you’d get spooked and run.” he snorts. “Didn’t do much good in the end, anyway.”
Taehyung doesn’t answer. If it bothers the other man, he doesn’t show it, and instead Yoongi sets fast to work, popping the back of the phone off deftly and hooking it to a spare computer.
Taehyung’s got an interest in the result, but not much in the process. He doesn’t stray far, just distant enough to be occupied elsewhere but still be in the thick of things. There’s an old pleated couch to the side of the setup, illuminated nicely by the fading sunlight from the room’s one window, a sharp contrast to the harsh glow of the monitors.
It’s a testament to the years they’ve been working with each other that Taehyung’s comfortable enough to doze off. When he wakes it’s to Yoongi standing over and shaking him, the light from outside long gone and a grim expression on his face.
“I found something,” he says, and Taehyung sits up.
The screen is a mess of numbers, lines of code Taehyung can’t even pretend to begin to understand. But it’s like a second language to Yoongi, and he points out a sequence with a slender finger before hitting a key. Taehyung watches it unravel and hums low.
“It’s hidden, but it’s there,” Yoongi says. “A source feed. Someone's got an active track your phone, and this is a line to whoever it is. I can follow it to its location.”
Line by line, the sequence unravels, running through numbers from one to ten before settling on a digit. Yoongi punches the coordinates in, setting the map to load. It takes only a moment, but when the screen's revealed Taehyung feels it’s been an eternity, and straightens, his head feeling funny.
“Is this some kind of joke?” he asks, voice distant to his own ears.
The phone rings. Yoongi chances another stunned glance at him before fumbling with his phone, answering with a muffled greeting. Taehyung only stands stock-still, blood roaring in his ears. The numbers are swimming before him, and Yoongi’s face goes pale when he lowers the phone.
“They need you at the base,” he says. Taehyung’s shaking his head absently, like there’s a song stuck up there he just can’t quite shake. “Taehyung, it’s—it’s bad.”
The screens are too bright. It’s beginning to hurt Taehyung’s eyes, the revealed code burning into his retinas like some sort of sick i told you so.
On the monitor his own address glows dimly.
The graves we dig ourselves are often the deepest. When Taehyung arrives at the agency, he readies his identification code for nothing, because the main entrance has been smashed apart and its pinpad spray painted with something dark and red and smelling of death.
Ran or dead, Seokjin had said of the members, but it must have been a lie, because there’s bodies to be accounted for. Not many, and even fewer he recognizes, but it seems there had remained a loyal few. Some corpses all clad in black lay in between, the perpetrators and members of some shadow army. The last type of underground war had been years before Taehyung had fallen into the crowd, had been bloody enough to cement the rise of their own agency, but the sun sets on all empires. He’s heard the stories, and thinks what’s happened here is a thousand times worse.
His grip's tight on the gun Yoongi had given him, but it's useless. Every room is empty of life. Taehyung makes his way through the halls in a kind of numb shock and only slumps against the wall every so often. The foretold fall and its bloody aftermath. Were it not for the years of blood on his own hands, he would certainly be sick. Still, it’s impossible to spend years someplace and not feel something when it crumbles, even if it’s just dazed.
And of course the last place he checks holds the prize. The training arena is oddly devoid of any struggle, lights shining bright and focused like the events of today were nothing more than a combatant match. Chosen by someone with a flair for the theatrics, because Seokjin and Namjoon are sat in the center, hostage-style with mouths covered. Seokjin jolts when he sees Taehyung step through the doorframe, shaking his head (and a pang goes through Taehyung because after all this time, he’d cared.) The motion alerts the agent above them, who straightens after finishing off the bonds with a sick, all-too-recognizable grin.
“It’s you,” Taehyung murmurs, feeling faint. There’s no indication of any kind of impending conflict, though, because even as Taehyung raises the other agent just laughs, throwing back his head and up his hands.
It’s the last herald before the ending of a world, because the figure that steps out of the control room behind them is all too familiar.
Taehyung’s heart begins to break.
“Ah, Taehyung, you're here,” Park Jimin says cheerily, handing off what looks like the ripped-out control hub to other agent. “You two have met, right? And after all that fuss about meeting my friends.”
“Jimin,” Taehyung says, his voice as calm as it is hoarse even as his head spins. “You tracked my phone?”
“I did,” comes Jimin’s easy reply. He spreads his hands, serene. “Did a whole lot more than that, too.”
“I see that.” Taehyung says mildly. Privately he thinks he’s only so calm because it hasn’t fully hit. Still in shock, and the pieces of his heart haven’t yet had time to splinter. “So you were the mastermind, huh?”
“You want a job done right,” Jimin says, “You do it yourself.”
“A job,” Taehyung echoes. And to think he’d been looking at rings.
“You were my way in, Taehyungie,” Jimin says, so sweet. “The connections this place had—you have no idea. It was unbelievable. No one said it could be done, at least not from the outside.” He slips his phone out of his coat pocket, dangling it. "But once Jeongguk got your phone, I just needed you to access this building with your code one last time."
Taehyung closes his eyes.
“My missions?” he manages. He can't quite feel his hands.
Jimin’s voice is almost a croon, a mockery of the songs he’d leave ringing in Taehyung’s ears on nights he had trouble falling asleep.
“Oh, Tae,” he says, and Taehyung manages to open his eyes, looking everywhere but at Jimin. “You were never supposed to be hurt. I never wanted that.”
“I told you, you weren’t supposed to be shot,” the other agent says. Taehyung nearly starts, almost forgetting he or the others are there, he’s so lost in his own head and heart and how they’ve betrayed him. “I’m Jeongguk, by the way. Nice to properly meet you.”
“Can’t say,” Taehyung’s nails are digging into his palms enough to leave marks and maybe even bleed. “The pleasure is mutual.”
“That’s fair,” Jeongguk says, and flexes the hand that had met his knife. Taehyung does the same to his own where the scar shines pale.
“What happens now?” Taehyung asks Jimin. He’s tired, so tired. “You won.”
“Not everything I wanted,” Jimin says. He gestures to Seokjin and Namjoon, huddled together surprisingly calm. “I didn’t kill them yet.”
Taehyung’s world tilts.
Please don’t, is what he wants to say. Instead: “You gonna?”
In answer, Jimin holds up his gun for Taehyung to see. Taehyung stiffens just a little, but Jimin only makes a show of clicking the safety back on and sliding it into his holster. Then he’s walking to Taehyung, approaching slowly like he’s an animal ready to spook.
And maybe he is. Half the distance crossed, Taehyung raises his own gun and points, shaking. Jimin doesn't even pause, walking calm and closer.
Taehyung’s never ran, only ever been sent away, but he thinks now he can understand the sentiment of flight, as his angel and reaper strides toward him. Jimin doesn’t touch him, just hooks his thumbs in his pockets and looks at Taehyung like he wants to hold him. He stops when Taehyung's gun presses to his chest, still frozen.
"You gonna shoot me, baby?" he asks. Taehyung wavers just a second before dropping it in defeat. He already knows he couldn't, and Jimin does, too.
"Will you kill them?" Taehyung asks back in a whisper.
“I don’t have to,” he says. His hair falls back with an attractive head toss, and Taehyung hates that even now, as an incubus revealed, he can’t stop admiring him. “I can let them live.”
“What do you want?” Taehyung asks, because if the first rule of their profession is that nothing good can ever last, the second is that nothing offered is ever free.
“The same thing I’ve wanted, Tae,” Jimin says, and he does touch him then, a gentle brush against his cheek with the fondest of looks on his face. It’s all Taehyung can do to keep himself from leaning into the touch. “I want you.”
“You want me?” Taehyung says, in place of you already had me. “You used me.”
“I did,” Jimin agrees easily. “But I fell in love with you, along the way. Can you believe that?”
yes, Taehyung thinks. Not because he wants to, but because he’s felt it in Jimin’s embrace for far too long to be a lie. He clamps his jaw shut, trembling a little.
“Do you remember what I asked you, back then?” Jimin continues, so kind. “If you’d run with me. Away from all this. And you said—”
“I said I couldn’t,” Taehyung says, and when he sinks to his knees a little faint Jimin follows him down. His knuckles scrape against the floor uselessly, gun dropping.
“You said that you couldn’t make it, but you would.” Jimin’s hand in his hair is as soft as it’s ever been, and suddenly the world around them is monochrome, greyed out and blurred away and unimportant. Jimin is its new focus, a patient and willing messiah. “You can now.”
Only because— “You took it all away.” An accusation, even if he’d admitted to Jimin himself he’d stopped caring long ago. These white walls haven’t felt like home in a while.
Jimin nods patiently. “I did my job well, didn’t I? But that one, he’s your handler. Isn’t he?” Taehyung’s eyes flicker to Seokjin, and back. Once he’s looked at Jimin, he can’t keep his eyes away too long. “I’ll let them both live, Tae. I'll even give them jobs, hm? Because I won, and now we can be happy together.”
It's hideous, and even more so for how tempting it feels. “They'll live?” Taehyung repeats, because it’s the only part of the offer he can understand presently. Jimin nods patiently, and this time Taehyung does let himself lean into the touch as Jimin strokes his hair.
"I love you, Kim Taehyung," Jimin says, and extends his hand palm up for Taehyung to take. "Will you run with me?"
Taehyung looks at his own hands, so scarred and stained red, and he looks at Jimin, so adoring even with the fall of an organization to his name. Thinks of day and night, and of an empire’s rise and fall, and the way Jimin looks when he’s fast asleep against his chest. How he’d become home, how he’d stolen so much more than Taehyung’s past.
He’d spent so long fighting it, and for Jimin’s own safety. Had felt selfish, as he wrestled with himself and fell in love anyway. Really, was it ever so far off from what he’d wanted? To be with Jimin, away from the guild, even if he’d never quite imagined it this way: that he’d been Jimin’s puppet, no matter how cherished, all along. In the most perfect heist, Jimin had both stolen away his world and made himself its new center.
The gap inside his chest is rubbed particularly raw today. Jimin holds Taehyung’s heart as delicately as he ever has since the day Taehyung had placed it into his chest.
Taehyung takes his hand.