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So Collapse, Fall.

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"For a star to be born, there is one thing that must happen: a gaseous nebula must collapse.

So collapse.
Crumble.
This is not your destruction.

This is your birth."

- n.t.

 

~*~

 

He's not too sure how he'd ended up here. He just knows he'd been taking the long way home, trying to sober himself up after a long night of partying so that his dumb and too strict roommate wouldn't nag his ass again from stinking of alcohol and too many dances up against equally stinky and sweaty bodies. He'd taken a few wrong turns from his usual route but knows he's been going in the right direction.

 

He's not lost. Except in the next turn right, having ducked behind the lamp because he's too lazy to let go of the wall he'd been clinging to, instead of what he’s pretty sure should have been an empty parking lot, is a gigantic gate echoing with the raucous sounds of nightlife in what should have been a dead neighbourhood.

 

He's standing there, staring up at the looming gate that seems to be dripping in red lanterns, eyesight blurred from the constant moving of more lights beyond. His breath shortens as he feels the breeze from people rushing past in front of him, as if all the air is being pushed past him before his mouth can catch the oxygen rushing by, and he's about to take a step back and hopefully wake up and blame the combination of alcohol with his admittedly overactive imagine for this surprising fever dream.

 

Only, someone surges from behind, startling the hell out of him, because he hadn't sensed anyone at all, and the warmth and sturdiness of the body pushed into him gives him a startling amount of clarity because as much as his imagination is good, it isn't this good to dream up so much detail - from the scratch of the person's rough outfit, to the smell of sweat and the low gravel of a voice as he is growled at to get a move on and not block the way.



At least that had been what he presumed was said: all he'd heard were some indistinguishable sounds.



He doesn't have any time to puzzle things out, because there's a sudden surge of bodies behind him and he's being propelled forward, right into the living sea of bodies.



Because it’s like being tossed in the currents of an unruly sea, and it’s all he can do to just keep walking, so that he wouldn't be pushed to his knees and probably trampled all over. Lights flash past his eyes, and he catches only glimpses: a hand beckoning for purveyors of its wares; the flash of peonies as someone one waves, sleeve dancing with movement; the clink of glasses as a pair of drunkards sing, guzzling drink at a roadside eatery; leaves rustling in the wind as children shimmy down, laughing in mirth; the smell of something roasted in soy, tantalizing the nose of anyone passing by.



When it finally stops, he isn't sure exactly where he is. All he knows is that he's been pushed through some kind of entrance, stumbled to one side so as to not block the flow of people coming in and out, and the area he's standing in looks like a courtyard from one of those houses in the historical dramas he sometimes binge watches when he's too lazy to be bothered about his readings.



It's crawling with people as well - people in the most eclectic mix of clothes he's ever seen in his life. It feels like some weird halloween theme party where everyone had gotten different invitations. There's ancient robes that fit the era of the buildings he's surrounded by, but there's also people in ballgowns and suits like they'd stepped out of the set of 'my fair lady', flapper dresses that scream the fifties, bell-bottom jeans of the nineties and everything else in between. Heck, there's even some people dressed like him, printed t-shirt and skinny pants from uniqlo, the uniform of the slightly broke university student who still wanted to look decent at a party.



He's so busy gawking he almost misses someone speaking to him.

 

"Hello, sir. I see you came here from the other side. Got homesick and am in need of a little comfort?"

 

Before he can ask what the person means, his voice is caught in his throat because despite the distinctively male, human voice that had addressed him, the face that goes with it has pointed ears, sharp eyes, orange fur and a twitching nose that are definitely not.



His face must be frozen in some kind of horrified expression because the... thing... (fox- gumiho maybe, a detached part of him says, recognizing the features from all the anime he watches) has started to tilt its head, a puzzled expression on its face as its nose starts to twitch even more. And he doesn't know why, but a bead of sweat trickles down his temple, suddenly feeling a terrible sense of danger.

 

"Wait. You-"

 

"There you are. I was wondering where you'd gone."

 

He nearly lets out a yelp when someone pulls him back, arms wrapping around his waist, holding him in place with impossibly gentle arms. He turns his head in shock, and stares into what feels like the darkest pair of eyes he's ever crossed gazes with in his life. The expression in them is reminiscent of playful amusement, but there is something serious in there as well, an order to keep quiet, and for once in his life, all the questions that border on the tip of his tongue just disappear, leaving him mute, even as the gaze shifts to address the fox... creature... thing... which is still staring at the both of them, suspicion thick in its beady, little eyes.

 

"You can go now, little foxy, I can take care of my own customers."

 

If anything, the fox's eyes only narrow further, nose flaring. "Since when do you take human customers, Jungkook?"

 

He feels the slight tensing in the other man's posture, but his words and expression show nothing of it. "That's Jungkook-nim to you. We might both be employees, but one should still maintain some semblance of etiquette. In any case, since when have I not taken customers that make your nose curl in distaste, little foxy?"

 

The fox's mouth curls in displeasure,before spitting out, "of course, Jungkook- nim . But in that case, you shouldn't mind me reporting this to the owner?"

 

The other man, Jungkook, waves a nonchalant hand, and he winces as Jungkook's silk sleeve smacks his face a little, "sure. Sure."

 

The fox's frown deepens, "and you better keep an eye on your customer. Elsewise, he might end up as a midnight snack by one of the other guests."

 

He's confused, unable to follow the conversation at all, but that last part has his spine stiffening, a shot of fear rushing through him from just how matter-of-fact that statement had been said. 

 

But the grip around him tightens, and strangely, that reassures him a little. "Hey, what are you doing, getting my customer all scared like that? If he leaves a complaint from not being satisfied, I'm not going to take the blame for you. You know nothing annoys the owner more than complaints."

 

"Hmm.” The fox squints his eyes again but finally seems to relent, "fine. But you can only use your usual room, I don't want to deal with complaints from the cleaning staff about washing out the stench of human from the bedsheets. At least yours always smell terrible that they've completely given up."

 

"Rude." Jungkook wrinkles his nose, "they smell fine. You're just angry I stole a snack from you."

 

The fox has opened its mouth for a reply. But before it can, Jungkook has turned, and he nearly falls over in a bid to keep up.

 

But the grip around him is strong, and the voice that whispers into his ear comforting. "What's your name, human?"

 

"Tae-" He nearly chokes on the air, throat dry from the bewildering fear that is still swirling inside him. He swallows, "Taehyung."

 

"Taehyung, huh? Well, can you do me a little favour? I'm going to cover your face with my sleeves. You just need to trust me to lead you, and try not to take any deep breaths. Otherwise the others might notice you as we pass and then even I won't be sure about my ability to stop you ending up in someone's stew. Can you do that for me? Nod if you think you can."

 

His friends have always said he's a little too trusting. And so he gives an immediate nod at the instructions, before all the doubts flood his mind when black silk practically smothers, and he barely refrains from gasping.

 

"Very good," Jungkook murmurs, and even through the silk, Taehyung can feel the brush of lips at the lobe of his ear, the other man just at his height, making the holding a tiny bit awkward.

 

"Just bear with it for a while," more reassurances as they start walking. "It's not too far off."

 

Taehyung has done those team bonding exercises thingies - trust falls and whatnot. But it's nothing like this.

 

It's simple in principle: he just has to keep moving his feet, trusting this stranger to make sure he doesn't crash face-first into anything. But in practice, Taehyung doesn't even know if this stranger is leading him to a horrible death - his overactive mind has already supplied him with images of him eviscerated and chopped up into pieces to make human stew. He wants to hyperventilate, not sure if Jungkook's instructions to breathe as little as possible had been bullshit. But he can't quite bear to test that theory, reminded everytime he hears to footsteps of passing by, or feeling Jungkook bobbing his head in greeting to someone he can't see.

 

It feels like forever before they stop, one of Jungkook's arms releasing him, the sound of a door closing behind him. And then finally, he's let go completely.

 

The first thing he has to do obviously, is to nearly collapse to the floor, knees giving way with the lack of support. And he would have if not for those strong arms wrapping themselves around him again.

 

"Well that was fun. You picked a busy night to stumble into the Otherworld, Taehyung-ah."

 

The questions that had all previously fled, probably at the prospect of becoming human stew, all rush back at him and try to tumble out of his mouth at the same time as he pulls out of the hold.

 

"Where am I? What is this place? Who are you? Was I really going to become stew? Was that a fox? Why did you help me? What-"

 

"Hush..." a hand pressed to Taehyung's mouth silences his questions, although it's more out of shock from the fact someone put a hand over his mouth that silences him rather than the actual hand.

 

"We're safer in here but that doesn't mean we should be shouting questions as if to the hills. Take a deep breath and then ask me the questions one by one. Unfortunately, we have plenty of time. Okay?"

 

Taehyung lets out a muffled ‘yes' before realising how dumb that is and quickly nods. Except Jungkook lifts his hand immediately, and so Taehyung looks even more like an idiot.

 

There's an awkward silence, Jungkook raising an eyebrow after a moment - a black wing rising across an alabaster plane - Taehyung’s mind is far too overly descriptive in its random thoughts, and the pause is already too long and so Taehyung blurts out the first thing in his mind as he’s prone to do in the wake of too much silence.

 

“Why the fuck is your skin so perfect?”

 

There is another beat of silence, long enough that Taehyung has seen the plummeting death of his dignity and mourned, but it’s just that beat before Jungkook let’s out a laugh, a smile that is but a lick of a curl of his lips and yet it's a brilliant sparkle, making him, in Taehyung’s opinion, even more unbearably dazzling than before. He has to clench his fist to hold back the urge to cover his eyes with his hand. “I thought you looked interesting, but it seems like I’ve underestimated just how interesting.”

 

Taehyung has the presence of mind to flush at that ambiguous praise. “I-”

 

“No need to get an aneurysm from embarrassment.” The brilliant smile turns just that bit teasing. “I’ll answer your question even if it was one of anxiety.” A sweep of silk as Jungkook moves, not so much to sit, as to descend upon a nearby seat like a butterfly descending onto a flower. “And to answer your question, my skin is ‘so perfect’ because I project it to be perfect. Therefore it is.”

 

Taehyung’s mouth works for a moment, trying to dissect the sentence just said into something he can understand. A minute passes, and he still has no luck. Looking up at Jungkook only gets him another raised eyebrow, and finally he throws up his arms, doing what he usually does in his compulsory advanced research methods module.

 

He gives up.

 

“Okay. Fine. We should start from somewhere simpler then.”

 

“Simpler?” Taehyung ignores the amusement dripping from that question.

 

“Yeah. Like where the hell are we?”

 

“I already said: the Otherworld.” the smirk on Jungkook’s face makes Taehyung want to slap him. Not that Taehyung can really preach. He's prone to bouts of childish amusement that everyone takes every chance to tell him no one appreciates as well.

 

Fine. What is the ‘Otherworld' then? And don't say ‘here' or I swear-”

 

“No need to- ah what is it you humans say? Get your undergarments in a twist? I'll answer properly.” The smirk doesn't disappear though, even as Jungkook leans back slightly arms falling to his sides. “The Otherworld is where some of us were born, but most flocked to in refuge when the normal plane became so flooded by humans we changed the name to the ‘human world’. It's another plane that exists alongside the world you live in like a shadow. Most of it is unchartered, but pockets of life like this exist near the entrances, places where the boundaries between worlds are thin, letting you slip through from one side to the other at certain times of day.”

 

“...So… It's like… Another dimension?” Taehyung asks after a beat. He's usually able to digest information pretty quickly as long as he has enough information to go on.

 

“I guess you could call it that,” Jungkook agrees.

 

Another beat. “And by ‘us' you mean…”

 

“You humans have plenty of names for us, ghosts, ghouls, demons, monsters, fairies, immortals, shifters, werewolves, vampires-”

 

“Vampires? Really?”

 

“Well, not many in this area in particular. Demographics and features are a little different depending on the area you're in. Our kind tend to be more sensitive in adapting to our natural environment. There's some logic to your human stories after all. But anyway, you humans give us many names, but collectively, we just call ourselves ‘Others'.”

 

Taehyung rolls that idea in his head, “I… I suppose that makes sense. ‘Others', ‘otherworld'. Snazzy.”

 

“Snazzy.” Jungkook repeats, and Taehyung is satisfied to see the unrelenting amusement from earlier finally giving way to a touch of disbelief. “You're taking this rather easily. I was looking forward to a major meltdown.”

 

Taehyung shrugs. It's not that far of a leap to be honest. Anime have had greater logic defying sins. And it's not as if he's not a firm believer in the possibility of something supernatural hiding alongside the neat logic humans have categorised the world they live in. Aliens, the supernatural… although the specifics are probably wrong, the things he's read about the unexplained fall easily into Jungkook’s explanation.

 

In a normal situation, Taehyung would probably be gloating to his friends about how he was totally not crazy as they always insinuated whenever he was in the mood to ramble about such things or when the topic came up. So he was the crazy person who believed in extraterrestrials and things that when bump in the dark, huh? Not so crazy now.

 

But this isn't a normal situation, and his friends aren’t here, and as much as Taehyung is mildly curious as to how Jungkook would react to him doing a fist-pump of victory, there are more important things at hand.

 

“So… what about you then?”

 

“Me?”

 

“Yes. What are you? Ghost? Demon? Vampire?”

 

“Oh. Oh…” Jungkook chuckles, “vampire? Really? Do I look like one? No… no. I'm a god.”

 

Taehyung’s face probably is more skeptical that was polite. “What?”

 

“You heard me the first time.”

 

“I-” Taehyung rubbed a hand down his face as he stared at Jungkook again, searching it. Sure, Jungkook looks ethereal but- “no.”

 

A new emotion appears on Jungkook’s face. “No?”

 

“You don't look like God. I thought he was an old man. Voice like Morgan Freeman.”

 

The way Jungkook rolls his eyes definitely falls in the category of ‘not-god-like', especially with the childish exasperation. “Not the Christian God. More like a god of the land. We appear in Shintoism… Taoism… Irish Paganism? Anything ring a bell?”

 

“You choose to end with Irish Paganism when I'm obviously Korean?”

 

“Just answer the question.”

 

Taehyung hides his smirk of satisfaction at drawing out Jungkook’s annoyance, but he pauses, wracking his brains. “You mean like in folktales? Like that river god from the story? The one with the axes?”

 

“Actually, that’s a moral tale from Aesop called the Honest Woodcutter, and the actual moral tied to it was ‘a river doesn't always bring axes’ and was talking about the neighbour finding that out since he missed the ultimate cause of the Woodcutter’s honesty that got him the riches rather than the proximate cause of dropping an axe in the river rather than ‘honesty is the best policy’-” Taehyung’s boredom must have been showing because Jungkook quickly finishes up, “but you have the right idea.”

 

“Right.” Taehyung sighs, “so what kind of god are you?”

 

Jungkook shrugs, “just a god born to grant wishes.”

 

“Wishes?”

 

“Yes. Like Eobshin, or Samsin Halmoni. They might be portrayed as the ones who control wealth and the gift of childbirth, but in truth all gods of the land are born off the wishes of people, powers only as strong as the belief given to them.”

 

“Oh… then you-”

 

“You wouldn't have heard of me.” Jungkook quickly interjects. “I'm a nameless god.”

 

Taehyung’s eyebrow raises in an obvious question.

 

“Jungkook was just a name some rambling old man gave me centuries ago. Needed a name so people would stop calling me ‘nameless god’ so I just kept it.” The god shrugs, “humans are weird. Only good for a tiny bit of amusement.”

 

“So that's why you saved me? For your amusement?”

 

This time, both eyebrows are up. “You’re a sharp one aren’t you?”

 

Taehyung shrugs, “if I wasn’t I’d be dead in a ditch somewhere - either from someone doping my drinks or from my school workload.”

 

“Well, not sharp enough, otherwise you wouldn't be in this dangerous place.”

 

“I presume dangerous for humans because the…’others’ want to eat me?” Taehyung frowns, “what the hell is up with that?”

 

“Well, not all us Others do, but remember, within the Others, there’s monsters and demons and vampires and werewolves and stuff in general that even your humans stories warn about, hmm?” Jungkook chuckles, “humans are natural food for some of them, and for others, human meat actually increases their powers. And some don't really have an appetite for humans, but they hate humans so they’d probably kill you and sell you off for stew. So unless you’re under the protection of someone who can actually protect you, someone is probably going to catch you and have you for their little snack.”

 

“I'm as tall as you, you know. I'd say I'd make a pretty big snack.” Taehyung says annoyed, eliciting a small bark of laughter from the god.

 

“Well, we might seem this size now, but that's only because it's convenient for the buildings around us. It's been in rage recently to play at being human-like. But in actuality, some of the Others would be as big as this building. Bigger even.” Jungkook leans back again, folding his arms across his chest.

 

Taehyung rubs his face. “Fine. And what about you?”

 

“What about me?”

 

“Am I a tasty little morsel to you?” Taehyung asks straight. “Or maybe you want to wrap me up as a bow and give me to someone as a gift snack?”

 

“Why would I save you and then do that?”

 

“You saved me so that you could get some amusement. For all I know, giving someone false hope could be a week’s worth of giggles to you,” Taehyung’s voice is unnaturally flat.

 

“...” Jungkook seems to reevaluate Taehyung in his eyes before he smiles, smile more genuine this time. “No- no. I didn't save you only to let you die. I'm not that sort of god.”

 

“Well then, what did you exactly find ‘amusing' about saving me then? Lecturing a clueless human about a world he never knew existed before tonight?”

 

“Well… No. It's because you are, in actuality, a tasty little morsel.”

 

It takes Taehyung a puzzled moment to remember eating can be both literal and innuendo. “You want to have sex with me?”

 

“I like pleasure.” Jungkook shrugs, “and humans are creative.”

 

Funnily enough, Taehyung doesn't doubt Jungkook's intentions. Maybe it's the boundless confidence he has about his looks, or maybe the suddenly dark tint to Jungkook eyes, but he pauses himself in time before he can do what he usually does and impulse say ‘yes'.

 

“...That would depend on how you answer my next few questions,” if his voice is a little curt, Jungkook doesn't seem to notice.

 

“Oh? Actually considering it?”

 

“If I don't have sex with you, are you going to kill me? Or throw me out where I'll probably end up as monster feed?”

 

Jungkook is already shaking his head, “if you decide to walk away right now- well, you can't exactly. Not right at this moment, at least. But you'll leave perfectly fine even if we just sit here and stare at each other for the remainder of time.”

 

“That wouldn't be suspicious?”

 

“Why would it be suspicious?”

 

“This place is a brothel isn't it?” Taehyung had pieced it together in his mind - the conversation with the fox thing, the people on the higher floors waving scarfs and beckoning to the people coming through the entrance. Plus, Jungkook’s robe, while an elegant black, wasn't really that subtle. It was worn like a loose night gown, his bare chest peeking out with each subtle movement, the tie in front neat but Taehyung knew it would unravel with one simple tug in the right place. “And you told that fox thing I'm your customer.”

 

“Ah… Yes.” Jungkook pauses, “well. Customers do come over just for company.”

 

“And how often does that happen?”

 

Taehyung’s suspicion proves right, “not very often,” Jungkook admits.

 

“But it's fine. I can make something up.” Jungkook answers to Taehyung's dry expression. “At this point, the other employees have come to expect the unexpected of me.”

 

“O...kay…” Taehyung says slowly, “I thought you said you saved me for the sake of amusement.”

 

“I did. It relieved my boredom at that point of time, nothing more exciting than death-defying danger after all.”

 

Taehyung is still skeptical, but sure. He’d swallow that. “And so… That's done, why aren't you throwing me out now?”

 

“Because I can't. The doorway to the human world opens only at certain times, and it's too dangerous of a trek there anyway. I can protect you within the confines of these four walls, but outside you're fair game. But-” Jungkook holds up an irritatingly perfect finger to motion Taehyung to hold his objections. “There's someone here who will be able to send you back without the need of a doorway. But that someone won't be back till tomorrow.”

 

“...So we’re… just killing time right now?”

 

“Mhmm.”

 

“...And you don’t want to have sex with me?”

 

“No, I want to.” Jungkook repeats, surprisingly patient. “But I’m not the kind to take things unwillingly given. I find no enjoyment in that. Just call it my nature as a god or what you will.”

 

Now it’s Taehyung’s turn for his eyebrows to raise. “You’re assuming I don’t want to.”

 

“You’re in a strange place - a brothel no less. You’re in probable danger - either from someone coming in and deciding that you being my customer isn’t enough to deter them from eating you, or the fact that I’m pretty much a stranger claiming to be some kind of god and you only have my word that I won’t eat you. Most humans wouldn’t be able to ignore the need for self-preservation. Having sex right now would put into a rather vulnerable position right now.”

 

Taehyung can’t help himself. He snorts. “Oh please, I have no sense of self-preservation. I got my dick sucked three times tonight in a club run by the triads. Actually pretty sure one of the guys who sucked me was a mobster. He had a cute pikachu tattoo on his asscheek where he thought no one would ever see.”

 

Jungkook blinks. “Wha-”

 

“So, no. Trust me, all that isn’t any problem.” Taehyung goes into what seems like deep thought before he snaps his fingers. “Biting. Fangs. You have those?”

 

“What? No-”

 

“Then multiple dicks?”

 

“What the fuck?”

 

“Will take that as a no. Then… Maybe you're a-what's the word for someone with both a vagina and a penis?”

 

“Hermaphrodite?”

 

“Yeah! Wait- no. I think that term's derogatory nowadays. Er- but yeah, vagina and penis, you have both?”

 

“No! I'm-”

 

“Mmm… Tentacles?”

 

No. Danggun Waggeoum save us- are you checking if having sex with me involves some kind of strange body part or ritual? If that's your question then no. Sex with me will be like with another human.”

 

Jungkook certainly doesn’t expect Taehyung to look mildly disappointed. “Oh well… then I think I’ll pass.”

 

“...Let me get this straight.” Jungkook says, no small about of disbelief strewn in his voice - almost distressed with it actually. “You want me to have some weird body part before you’ll have sex with me?”

 

“Yeah. I mean. Which part of ‘I got my dick blown three times tonight’ did you not understand? And that was just getting my dick blown, didn’t include everything else that happened. I’ve pretty much hit my quota for sex tonight. And as much as I boast about my stamina, I’m still only human after all.” Taehyung grins widely, as if he’s said the funniest thing on earth. Jungkook just rubs his temple as he feels the beginning of a headache building. “So yeah, unless sex with you is going to be something special, I’m not going to waste my energy on it. To be honest, now that the adrenaline from discovering I’m in some magical place with creepy creatures that want to eat me and that I’m talking with some nameless god has run out, I’m smashed.”

 

“So I'm going to have to convince it's worth having sex with me.” Jungkook says flatly, and even though it isn't really a question, Taehyung nods before going over to sit down on the bed. He hasn't been lying when he’d said he’s tired. And he’d been standing for what he felt was an unreasonably long time, especially since Jungkook had been sitting.

 

Besides, this way, he can admire Jungkook’s twitching eyebrow at eye level.

 

He half expects Jungkook to just drop it and leave it alone. A small part of him worries that Jungkook might get annoyed enough to throw him out, but he usually has pretty good judgement of character. And as much as Jungkook expression and posturing is that of a typical enigma bad boy sort, Taehyung senses that the guy probably is the good sort - delicate and eager to please even.

 

Although, he does doubt his judgement for a moment when he takes his eyes off Jungkook for a second, and there's a rustle a silk that's all the warning he has before a fist clenches around his collar, choking him a little as he tries and fails to pull away in shock.

 

“It's easier for me to just show you.” Jungkook murmurs, breath ghosting against Taehyung’s jaw, “but essentially, although it's the same. I'll show you the peak of perfection when it comes to human sex. Everything that you like: I bet I'll be able to do it without you even telling me.”

 

Taehyung tries not to let the proximity get to him, affecting a cool and unaffected atmosphere. He's pretty good at acting nowadays. “I have a lot of things I like. Wouldn't be too hard to get some of them.”

 

“No.” Jungkook breathed out, even as Taehyung’s eyes widened, feeling fingers slide over the junction between his hip and waist - a particularly sensitive part of his body. “Not ‘a lot’ of things. I said everything.

 

Taehyung’s breath hitches as Jungkook’s fingers begin a rhythmic tap - the pressure and timing and slight scrape of his nails perfect. Even more perfect than if Taehyung did it himself.

 

“So?” Jungkook asks, making Taehyung realise he hasn't given his answer yet. “Think it might be worth your energy to try?”

 

Taehyung stares at Jungkook for a moment longer, eyes tracing the lines of that pretty face of his. He smiles.

 

The press of lips as Taehyung leans forward to close the distance is the only answer Jungkook will ever get before they tumble into a bewildering spiral of silk sheets and sin, of fingers and limbs, clothes flying and then naked glides. Of sweat, teeth and the nudges - push, pull till one end is indistinguishable from the other. Rise and fall, rinse and repeat. They don't stop until they do.

 

~*~

 

And then, it is morning.

 

Taehyung notes this in a jerk, one moment asleep, the next moment a muddled reality of overwhelming stimuli - morning light streaming through windows, a crumpled sheet tossed over his body in a bad attempt at some dignity, and a pleasant ache to his body, throbbing through his bones in a way it never really has before.

 

He almost goes back to sleep, comfortable as he is, but the sound of hushed voices makes him open his eyes even if he doesn’t move.

 

“-believe you actually had sex with him.”

 

“I was bored and-”

 

“You finally caved and returned here because you didn't want to have anything to do with humans anymore. You-”

 

“It’s just one night, Seokjin. It's not like he's going to remember this anyway.”

 

“Well… Yes. But you know how these things are. If he's stumbled here tonight, who’s to say he won't again?”

 

“Now you're going off on improbable tangents again. Even if he does defy odds and come back, it's not like he'll remember us.”

 

“We’ll still feel oddly familiar, as if something out of a dream. Memories are not that easily erased…”

 

The voices are getting closer, and Taehyung’s mind whirls with what he's overheard, even as he closes his eyes, pretending to still be asleep. He's… going to forget this…?

 

“Stop nagging. It'll be fine. Now go do what you need to. I'll bring him to you, unless you wish to see him bare as the day he was born?”

 

Obviously the person who was with Jungkook - this Seokjin guy, whatever, had no such wish. Because when Jungkook approaches the bed to shake Taehyung awake, he's alone.

 

Taehyung blinks at him, purposely slow and eyes affectedly glazed, before he makes a show of groaning and trying to bury back under the covers.

 

Jungkook laughs, the sound amused and yet a little wistful. Taehyung thinks he might have heard that same laugh several times through the night. Now that he has the mental capacity and the chance to hear it on its own without any access stimuli, Taehyung thinks that he quite likes that laugh.

 

But Jungkook is tugging at him again, “come on. The person that can send you back has finally returned. I've had a bath prepared, so get your backside up and about, please? I'm not sure how much longer I can monopolize this room before the cleaning crew comes in.”

 

Taehyung rolls over, looking up at Jungkook. The god has changed his robes, still black like his hair, his eyes, but significantly less silky, less heavy looking, and far more proper. He sighs, not exactly sure if it’s the prospect of getting up, or from disappointment at the inability to stare at Jungkook’s naked body more, but he sighs anyway. “A nice ass though?”

 

“What?”

 

“My ass. Backside. You want it up. And about. But it’s a nice ass right?”

 

Jungkook has an expression on his face like he doesn’t quite know how to deal with Taehyung mixed with pleasant surprise. “I had thought that whimsical lip was only while you were drunk.”

 

“First time I’ve heard it described that way. ‘Whimsical lip’. I’m stealing it.” Taehyung finally sits up with a wince, stretching out. “Fine, where is this bath you want me to get to?”

 

“Right there.” Jungkook points to the door directly opposite the bed. “Try not to take a century, as much as you'll probably be tempted to. Oh and your clothes should be inside. I got them cleaned for you earlier.”

 

“You sound more like a butler than a prostitute.” was Taehyung's only comment as he slides off the bed and stands, testing stiff, wobbly legs. But after a second of feeling like a fawn, he manages to straighten, taking normalish steps towards the bathroom, and most importantly, not collapsing on the floor and preserving his dignity. Never mind he’s butt-naked as he walks stiffly to the bathroom and can practically feel Jungkook’s bemused roll of his eyes like it was a physical pressure on his skin.

 

Taehyung has never been shy, but it feels a little like relief when he closes the bathroom door behind him and Jungkook’s gaze is shut away. But maybe it’s because Taehyung is beginning to remember last night in greater clarity, and the way Jungkook had managed to hit all the right buttons to getting Taehyung opening like a fucking flower in spring under his touch just like he promised is actually kind of fucking terrifying. He tries to make himself better after he realizes he used the same curse twice in the same sentence (because if he’s doing that then he must be really out of it) by saying a few far more creative curse words as he sinks into the bath, ignoring the fact that it’s a good-to-honest jacuzzi sized bathtub made out of what Taehyung thinks is ivory and seriously, the last time Taehyung had this much luxury in his life was like… never. The most luxurious thing he has of recent is when his pay from his shitty part-time job comes in and he splurges a bit by getting a grande instead of a tall at Starbucks when he really needs a pick-me-up.

 

As it is, he decides to ignore Jungkook's instructions not to take a million years because, well, he’d be an idiot not to milk this chance because he doesn't know when he can come back here. If he can even come back here.

 

Actually, he might be just wasting his time right now, if what he overheard was true.

 

Taehyung contemplates this as he stares at the carved wooden walls, the mother-of-pearl inlays of flowers Taehyung can't put names to adorning black lacquer furniture. He swirls his finger atop the surface water, watching the steam curl into the air, the ornate gold mirror hung onto the wall opposite the bath steaming up with the passing of time.

 

Finally, after what seems both like a short time and forever, Taehyung’s finger pauses. Then, he stands, stepping out of the bath onto the cool marble floor, pulling the fluffy red towel off the low dressing chair, idling wondering if the colour of the towel was because maybe Jungkook isn’t normally as gentle as he was with Taehyung last night.

 

Or maybe it’s Jungkook’s usual guests who aren’t as gentle with him.

 

He gets dressed, checking his reflection in the stripes of clear mirror he made for himself. And after a moment of staring, he looks down and spot a small lacquer box sitting on the dressing table in front of the mirror. It’s small, flat, decorated with mother-of-pearl like the rest of the assortment of boxes and bottles displayed there. He quite likes the design, the small flowers carved there, even if he doesn’t know what they are.

 

He picks up the cover, curling his hand around it as he stares at the unbroken red-surface of the rogue kept inside. And after a beat, puts only the cover into the left pocket of his pants. He’s glad that he decided not to wear his leather pants to the club last night after all.

 

He walks out, back into the room with an unassuming look on his face. And he smiles brightly at Jungkook, who looks up from whatever he was doing to give him a sour look. “I thought I said not to take your time?”

 

Taehyung shrugs, “you had me thoroughly fucked out last night, so it took a little time before I got all the sore parts out of me. Anyway,” he claps his hand together, sounding more enthused than he actually is, “we’re supposed to meet this person who can throw me back to the human world where I belong right? Let’s get going.”

 

~*~