“i still think that this is a very bad idea.” jeongguk grumbles, watching hoseok’s nimble fingers fiddle with apartment 304’s door lock. the elder gives a quiet ah when the door clicks open seconds later and he straightens up to push it open slowly. the flat, as expected, is dark and messy, the parquet groaning under their feet, clothes randomly strewn over the floor, half eaten food laying forgotten on the kitchen’s countertop. jeongguk scrunches up his nose, throwing a dirty look hoseok’s way, the other too occupied ruffling through a drawer to notice anything.
“you never mentioned that it smells like something died in here, asshole. my nose is delicate.” jeongguk spits, leaning forwards to inspect the bookshelf in front of him, the title of one specific book catching his attention.
“woah, dude.” hoseok turns around, slamming the drawer he’d been occupied with shut with a bit too much force. jeongguk holds up the book for hoseok to see, the elder gasping when he manages to make out the title as well.
“‘the art of kidnapping.’ they make books on that shit? and call it art?”
a shiver travels down jeongguk’s spine, taehyung’s smiling face appearing before his inner eye.
“put that thing away before you bail out of here. you promised to help two days ago.” hoseok commands, snatching it from jeongguk’s hand before he can dispose of the book himself. he glances at it one last time before grabbing his flashlight and making his way into the hallway, looking out for the snake motive that he saw on the pictures jimin took.
it doesn’t take him long to find it and he beckons hoseok over with a wave of his hand. hoseok looks at the print carefully, watching as jeongguk runs his hand over it. suddenly, the younger halts. closes his hand into a fist and knocks against the wall. the sound it makes is hollow. jeongguk turns around and knocks against the wall on the other side of the hallway, this time receiving a dull sound.
“you thinking what i’m thinking?” jeongguk asks, hoseok nodding hesitantly in response, baffled.
it takes them a few minutes, but eventually they manage to crack open the wall where the wallpaper has already been torn though. what they see when the path is clear takes away their breath.
a little room is revealed, the walls littered with pictures, maps and multicolored strings. it looks like hours and hours of hard work.
“woah, this dude has skills.” hoseok states as he inspects the words scribbled on yellow post it notes attached to almost every picture.
“he was a fed ten years ago, don’t forget that.” jeongguk muses. “you think all this is related to his gang activities? and to walker? he has the tattoo too.”
“possible. hey, we should take pictures and get out of here.”
“sure let me-“ jeongguk is interrupted by the loud scrunching of paper under his feet and he bends down to pick it up. his blood runs cold when under a few newspaper articles and files, he pulls out a candid picture of taehyung walking out of his school’s front gate, a little kid on his arms and a bright smile on his lips. the leaves by his feet and his haircut both indicate that the picture couldn’t have been taken too long ago. bile rises up in jeongguk’s throat when the next picture of taehyung is crossed out with a huge red x.
“what the fuck?” hoseok breathes, pocketing his phone when he’s done taking pictures.
jeongguk’s answer doesn’t make it past his lips, a panicked whimper taking its place.
“okay, let’s go. let’s get out of here.” jeongguk let’s himself be pulled away, nodding numbly and helping hoseok put everything back into place without saying a word. he notices hoseok throwing him worried glances all the way back to the car, but he couldn’t care less, pressing the pictures closer to his body with trembling hands. he accepts hoseok’s offer to drive and gets into the passenger seat, frowning when the elder grabs jeongguk’s phone from the console and pushes it into his hands.
jeongguk furrows his brows together even further. if taehyung were here he’d reprimand him for always frowning and smooth out the harsh lines with his fingers. “and tell him what exactly?”
“you don’t have to tell him anything yet. just call him, talk to him, listen to his voice. i’m sure you’ll feel better afterwards.”
“i- okay. yeah, okay.” he dials taehyung’s number by heart and listens to the beeping noise patiently until taehyung picks up with a shout.
“hey- stop that! jisung, i swear to god!” taehyung yells into the receiver, jeongguk holding the phone away from his ear in fear that it might permanently damage his hearing. he can faintly make out the slam of a door and suddenly everything is quiet.
“hello?” taehyung’s voice asks tentatively.
“hey, it’s me.” jeongguk smiles although he knows taehyung can’t see it.
“guk-ah! god, i’m so sorry, the kids were acting up and i had to fight them for my phone. anyway, what’s up?”
jeongguk sighs nonchalantly, pretending to not have a specific reason to call the younger at this late hour. “oh not much, just the usual stuff. haven’t seen you all day so i figured i might as well check up on you like this.”
“aw, missing me already?”
jeongguk splutters and hoseok starts the car with a snort, the sound of the engine hopefully distracting him from what taehyung is saying. “i never said that!”
“don’t worry, i miss you too.”
jeongguk’s cheeks burn at the sudden confession, his heart skipping a few beats in his chest.
“that’s good. i don’t feel as stupid then.” he admits.
taehyung coos. “no need to feel stupid. if i were you, i’d love to spend time with me every day too.”
“very funny. hey, shouldn’t the kids be in bed already?” jeongguk tries to change the subject hastily and is relieved when taehyung just goes with it, happily rambling about the kids, donghyuck and his ear infection, mark’s perfect grades, daisha’s new glasses and sofie’s first time sewing a dress for her doll. by the time he’s done jeongguk and hoseok have long since arrived at the precinct.
“anyway, it’s late and i’ve got school tomorrow, so i’ll see you after school? i can drop by?” taehyung’s voice tips up at the end, almost like he’s unsure if jeongguk will agree.
“of course. don’t let me hold you back. good night.”
“good night, guk-ah. be safe.”
jeongguk hangs up with a sigh, stepping out of the elevator and making his way towards his desk to complete some leftover paperwork.
“better?” hoseok suddenly reappears next to him, startling a quick yes out of jeongguk. the elder winks at him once before turning around and bothering jimin, who looks engrossed in his paperwork as well, dark circles under his eyes sticking out like a sore thumb from his otherwise unblemished face. the smile of jimin’s features when he sees him kind of makes up for it, he thinks as he sits down next to him with a cup of coffee on his hand.
“jeongguk still putting you through hell?”
jimin sighs. “it’s fine hyung, really. he’s an emotional wrack, i should do as he says.”
“maybe so,” hoseok ponders, stealing a little sip of jimin’s drink, “but i still think he’s being mean about something that happened so long ago.”
“i think he’s got enough on his plate as it is. we’ve gotta take it step after step.”
“and what do you think is the first step?”
jimin grins mischievously. “him realizing how whipped he is for taetae.”