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a robot learns to love

-

J97 exists to follow orders.

That much is certain.

-

[SYSTEM STARTING UP]

J97 opens its eyes. It turns its head, taking in its surroundings. This is Protocol One. It knows this. It must be in its code.
It is in a glaringly white room, flanked on both sides by human-like figures, creating a line from one wall of the room to another. The room isn't big, but the figures, standing ramrod straight, dressed in black - all of them including J97 - make it imposing.

The room looks familiar. The figures do too. But J97 does not hold memories of anything like this, so they must not be familiar at all.

The door - left wall, made of steel - creaks open and someone (5' 8", white coat, black dress shoes, human, must be because robots don't have wrinkles under their eyes, male) steps in.

"I am your handler," he says, voice deep, crisp, and cutting. J97 straightens even more at the sound, and notes that the other figures do too. "Call me White Lion."

[Handler: White Lion]

[YOU MUST OBEY]

-

J97 is a weapon. It is not just a weapon, however. It is [THE WEAPON]. It is the first of its kind, unnaturally human like, designed for interaction and infiltration. The others are are not quite there, circuitry flashing underneath their skin, alternating between periods of blinking and a low steady glow. J97's own circuitry is different. It is carefully, skillfully hidden.

It's skin looks human. The skin feels human. It’s circuitry does not show at all. J97 can pass off as human and it, ("he" white lion corrects, and J97 embeds it in its coding because it certainly looks like the male sex of the human race) does, flawlessly.

-

In the conference room of a high end hotel in Berlin, he wears a pristine black suit and shiny dress shoes. There's a pocket knife folded inside of his white socks and a gun holstered to his chest under his blazer. The cocky grin on his face is weapon enough. People approach him, ask about his affiliations, about his thoughts about the job market, about brand products, about their young good looking niece and how good they would look together, and he smiles, chats, evades, until he sees the glimpse of a young feminine face in the crowd.

[TARGET FOUND]

He makes his way over, grabbing some champagne and deliberately bumping into her just right - angle force gravity: calculated - so that a bit of it spills onto his white dress shirt, staining it in yellow. She notices him, of course she does, and her eyebrows are quirked up, her eyes are sparkling, she is amused.

Twenty minutes later she is leading him to the bathroom because he doesn't know where it is [Floor Plan Data Intact] and the hotel's structure is hopelessly complex [Make A Right].

Five minutes later he is two blocks away, meticulously destroying camera footage while a woman takes her last breaths, bleeding from a stab wound aimed right at her lungs. Blood drips into the toilet under her, drop by drop.

[MISSION COMPLETE]

-

J97 is in the middle of Maintenance Repair when he hears a distant boom in the distance. The table he's restrained on shakes and the tools on a nearby cart nearly fall off as the ground trembles underneath him [Likely Cause: Bomb]. The technician curses under his breath, and then curses louder after realizing the only thing around him is J97. He grabs a device from his belt, presses a button, and yells into it, "What the hell's going on? I'm with the Asset, is someone coming for extraction?"

There's a faint crackle in response, before a high pitched voice pushes through, static laced with her message. "Situation Two-One-Nine, number of hostiles unclear-" the static gets louder, overpowering her voice for a few seconds before it settles back down. "-another location. You must secure the Asset at all cost."

The technician lets out another string of expletives, "Son of a bitch, this is not part of my job description." He shoots a dirty glare at J97, says "shit" several times again, and then jabs the button. "Command code needed for movement, Asset currently undergoing maintenance." He waits for a moment but no one answers. He scrubs his hand down his face, clearly taking a moment to get his shit together. After he lets out a sigh, he moves towards J97 and starts unfastening the various restraints around his chest, before moving on to the ones on his arms and then his legs. He's unlocking a cuff around the wrist when the communication device crackles again, and the same woman's voice says, volume significantly lower, something that might've been "Gold, Busan, Seven. Fire," through the static. The technician frowns, and gives J97 a wary once over, and takes a step back, leaving the only remaining shackle on the left wrist locked.

"Gold," he starts, slowly. "Busan, Seven." He takes a handgun from where it was taped underneath the cart, takes the safety off, and points it at J97, "Fire."

[COMMAND CODE EIGHT:
TEMPORARY HANDLER: NAME NEEDED]

"Handler name needed," J97 says.

The technician looks relieved. He licks his lips, and opens his mouth, "Kim-"

The door slams open and a bullet is implanted into his head before he speaks another word. He slumps forward, and then ungracefully falls, gun slipping out of his slack grip and sliding a few feet away. Someone steps over the body and he and J97 look at each other for a second. The new person is soaked in blood and dirt, splashes of it coating pale arms and smudged on their face. They're wearing all black- black hair, black mask, black shirt, black bulletproof vest, black baggy pants tucked into black military boots. Triangular (black) eyes look away from J97 and dart around the room, assessing it. Their gaze eventually lands on the remaining shackle, and their head tilts, considering it for a second. They crouch over, grabbing the abandoned gun and shoots at J97 one, two, three times. Bang.

They both look over at the destroyed shackle, at how the gunshots have shifted the metal away from the hand of J97. Satisfied, the new person lowers the gun. "Come on," they say, voice deep and gritty, and their [his? not confirmed] body shifts towards the door, as if to leave.

"Handler name needed," J97 repeats.

The person's body tenses and they give a sharp look at J97. "Min Yoongi," they say cooly, eyes suspicious.

[Facial Recognition Needed]

"Facial recognition needed," J97 says.

Min Yoongi rolls their eyes and takes their mask off. J97 examines it, memorizes it.

[Temporary Handler: Min Yoongi]

[YOU MUST OBEY]

"Male?" J97 asks. It isn't needed but it would be good to know how to address his new handler.

Min Yoongi rolls their eyes again and says, "Yes. Now come on, we're getting out of here."

J97 follows.

He carefully picks his way after Min Yoongi, shadowing him closely through turn after turn of endless white hallways shaded red by frantically blinking alarms. Sometimes they encounter people, rushing out of doors, rushing into hallways, rushing away from them, and his new handler shoots them down one by one, one for one, one bullet for one life. It is efficient and J97 appreciates efficiency. It makes his job easier that his handler is capable.

It all goes well until it doesn't. Both of them have been silent, speech wise and walking wise, their steps hardly making any noise, and the silence occasionally being broken by gun shots and screams, and the rustling of clothes as Min Yoongi frisks them and takes their valuables [3 handguns of the same make, 1 taser, 2 keycards, 1 backpack that he hands to J97]. They are walking up a flight of stairs when they hear the sound of shouting from above [3 flights above them]. Min Yoongi glances back at him.

"You can shoot?"

J97 nods, and he tosses him two of the stolen handguns. J97 catches them and inspects them, getting used to the grip. He twirls them both in his hand. Min Yoongi is looking at him the entire time but when he sees the twirl he scoffs and calls J97 a "showoff". J97 doesn't understand but he doesn't deny it [Not Relevant To Mission]. They crouch and wait, listening to the footsteps get closer and closer.

J97 shoots first, seeing a leg coming into view on a railing right above them. The target yelps and stumbles back, leg buckling underneath them, but J97's second handgun has already landed another hit. Min Yoongi darts into the open for a second, lightning fast, and is back almost before J97 can register that he's gone [2.7 seconds]. A body falls off the railing and he gets a glimpse of a headshot before the body is gone, falling falling down down down.

Shit - J97 thinks the idiom goes, is not sure how he knows it - hits the fan.

A crowd swarms them and J97 loses sight of his handler as he aims and fires, aims and fires, ducks, rolls, kicks, fires. Bodies fall, but J97 is keeping track and none of them have been Min Yoongi and thus are not relevant. The firefight ends with two gunshots in a man's head, one on the left from J97 and one on the right from Min Yoongi. They watch as the body topples over the railing, falling off.

"Nice work, kid." J97 looks over and sees a smirk on Min Yoongi's face. Then he walks over and lightly knocks the handle of his gun on J97's head and scolds him, "You're too trigger happy though." J97 takes the gun because he has run out of bullets on his, tossing them to the floor and inspecting the new gun [same model]. This time, he helps Min Yoongi search through the bodies for valuable objects, stuffing them in their backpacks.

After grabbing as much as they can comfortable carry, his handler turns and starts climbing the stairs again and J97 trails after him. They pass Flr. 1, Flr. 2, and reach Flr. 3 with a star next to it. Min Yoongi carefully pushes the door open, arms steady as he scans the area, and they slowly make their way through the floor. They don't encounter anything for five minutes and both of them are tense, senses straining to notice anything out of the ordinary.

It's only because of this that J97 notices a change in the air, the subtle tension between two pieces of clothing sliding together, and he whips towards the right, trigger pulled and its blast ripping away the uneasy quiet. It hits their assaulter in the right thigh and they make a pained noise, their own gun shooting in response, aimed right at J97. Min Yoongi is already on the move, shifting in front the J97 and blocking his view. He can't see if the bullet hits his handler but Min Yoongi doesn't flinch as he makes his way to their attacker and kicks him in the face, head snapping back from the pressure. He topples over and slumps against the wall, nosy bloody but still conscious. His handler slowly crouches over and leans in. He says something, too quiet for J97 to hear and almost tenderly digs the mouth of his gun into the attacker's temple. The attacker bares their teeth and in half of a second Min Yoongi has pulled the trigger and is stepping away. When he faces J97 again, his eyes are cold and dispassionate, his hands absently shaking the blood off his gun. He tilts his head towards the door - the man must've been guarding the entrance to the building, because he can see dirt and a wire fence in the distance through the open door.

J97 trails his handler out, into the open air, and thinks about how different this handler is from all his others.

[Stay Alert, Suspicious Behavior]

Once they reach the wire fence, his handler takes out a phone from a pocket, taps at it for a bit. Then, after making one decisive tap, slides the phone back into his pocket. Min Yoongi starts walking again and J97 follows.

Behind them, the compound blows up.

-

The road they walk on is well worn, dirt packed from the pressure of human weight and machinery. There's a dip on the edges, indicating where the tires have rolled. The only things around them are grass and some animals, now and then. There are some buildings in the distance, but they are a long way off. The road feels endless, but J97 can do endless, he can handle the strain. It is his handler that he is worried about.

"Min Yoongi, do you require rest?" he asks cautiously, flashes of his handler battling still playing through his head. [Dangerous].

"Huh?" he responds, still halfway deep in thought, "oh yeah, sure." He picks a spot a few meters away from the road and sits. J97 stays standing and looks at the distant buildings to give him some semblance of peace [gauging distance].

"What are you doing? Sit down. Rest."

"I don't need rest," 

"What do you mean you don't need rest?"

"I don't need rest," he repeats, unsure how to respond. He feels a tug on his hand and tenses, but allows it drag him down to the ground. Min Yoongi's face comes into view. He's scowling - J97 has upset him, has not satisfied his handler. He takes a knife out of a backpack they stole from the compound, and slides it into his handler's hand.

Min Yoongi looks warily at the knife, and slowly raises his gaze to J97's face. "What the fuck," he says, voice flat.

"I have not satisfied you," he explains. He curls his hand around Min Yoongi's, forcing him to hold the knife. "Awaiting punishment," he says.

"I'm not going to hurt you."

J97 doesn't understand. "I made you unhappy."

"I'm not unhappy, I'm just...confused," his face twists before it blanks. When he speaks, his voice is sharp, "what is your name, soldier."

J97 relaxes. This is familiar. "I am J97, combatant v2."

"J97," he repeats, and then. "do you go by any other names?"

"I use any names given to me for missions."

"What were your mission objectives?"

"I am programmed for assassination and infiltration," he dutifully answers. "Although I am equipped for other kinds of missions, I don't have much experience."

"I see," Min Yoongi says, and J97 can't read his tone. "Well, I can't call you J97, so are there any names you'd prefer?"

"They often call me the Asset," he suggests.

"Yeah, no," he scoffs, "wow, that is a hard no."

"What would you suggest?" he shrugs, "I'm fine with any name you choose."

Min Yoongi is silent long enough that he can feel the heat from the sun warming him up. It is pleasant.

"How about Jungkook?" he says, so quiet he almost doesn't hear it.

"Jungkook," he tries the name out. "That is acceptable."

"Okay, Jungkook, rest times over," he gets up and pats the dust off his clothes. Jungkook stands too, and just, stands. "Don't be gross, dust yourself off."

"You are covered in blood."

Min Yoongi snorts, "Not like I can help it. Now chop chop, the sooner we get there the sooner I'll be squeaky clean."

Jungkook awkwardly pats his body, and they set off.

-

They reach the buildings by dark [13 hours since they have left the premises of the compound]. They carefully make their way through the streets, his handler hiding whenever he sees someone coming, though thankfully the streets are mostly empty. Eventually they make their way to a motel. The motel is one of those that have rickety stairs connecting to a second floor of rooms overlooking the parking space, so even though Min Yoongi is coated in blood from head to toe, no one notices him, or worse, calls the police on him.

His handler slips him a handful of crumpled bills from another one of his endless cargo pants pockets, and tells him to get them a room. The woman at desk reception is very efficient. She bats her eyes excessively and flirts with him but Jungkook doesn’t have orders to flirt back, as she has already placed a key card on the counter [Flirting Unnecessary], so he just swipes the card and thanks her. Then he goes back out to the parking lot to inform his handler that the mission was successful.

He finds Min Yoongi crouched behind a Toyota. “We are in Room 241,” he reports, and tries to hand over the keycard as well as the extra money that he still had. His handler only takes the card and tells him to hold onto the cash, then leads the way to the room. The card doesn’t register and by the second try, Min Yoongi’s already eyeing the hinges like he’s considering how to break through them. Thankfully the door opens on the third swipe, and they patter in, eyes darting around the room, taking it in. The room’s as much as could be expected from a place that didn’t ask for a proof of identity from Jungkook, and he has a feeling Min Yoongi knew that.

His handler ungracefully dumps his backpack on the ground and stretches his arms up, letting out a deep sigh as he does. Then he crouches down, and unzips the backpack, pulling out a change of clothes after digging out 3 guns and 2 red lollipops. “Dibs on the shower,” he calls, already making his way to the open bathroom door. Jungkook doesn’t answer because he’s not sure how to answer. He stays near the door long after he hears the shower start, and then, deciding that there are no obvious threats outside the door, makes his way to the bathroom door, leaning on it so he can hear if Min Yoongi needs help, while keeping watch on the exit

35 minutes later, the water shuts off. He can hear his handler shuffling around, putting on clothes presumably. The bathroom door tries to open, but it bumps into the solid weight of Jungkook. Min Yoongi cusses softly under his breath and shoves the door harder, pushing Jungkook out of the way before he can move away.

[Min Yoongi: Cusses a lot for small things, relatively violent.
Suggests rude temperament.]

Min Yoongi is now dressed in a black hoodie over a white tshirt loosely tucked into black sweatpants. He is barefoot. He shuffles over to his backpack, grabbing one of the lollipops and sweeping the leftover guns and the other lollipop into a pile. He unwraps the candy and pops it into his mouth, tonguing around with it as he digs further into his backpack. 2 small sheathed knives, a ripped wrapping for a Dumdum Jumbo Pack, a bottle of water, and some headphones spill out and enter the pile before Min Yoongi holds up a big white tshirt and examines it. He leaves it hanging on crook of his elbow, and successfully gets out grey trousers and red boxers.

“Here, these clothes should fit,” he finally says and looks straight at Jungkook.

“Uh,” he says. “I do not require a change of clothes.” Then, because Min Yoongi has initiated conversation [Only Ask Questions When Allowed], he also asks, “Handler Min Yoongi, what is the the mission, in detail? Are these clothes necessary?”

“The mission for now is to rest,” he says and then grimaces. “And please, call me Yoongi.”

Jungkook blinks. “I do not understand the mission, Yoongi.”

“We both used a lot of energy today. We should recharge.”

[Searching for similar missions:

Searching….
Found: Protocol 17: Must Recharge After 39 Hours of Continuous Use]

“Acceptable,” Jungkook says, and heads to the bed.

Yoongi makes a coughing sound. “Shower first. You’re gonna get the bed dirty.”

“A danger to the handler’s health,” Jungkook nods, and takes the clothes.

“Something like that.”

When Jungkook finishes the shower and enters the room again [Clothes: Comfortable]. Yoongi is sitting criss crossed on the bed, reading something on his phone. He turns it off and puts it on the nightstand near him, switching it with a lollipop already on the nightstand.

“Want one? I don’t have anything filling with me right now, sorry. Candies the next best thing, right? We’ll go out for something better tomorrow.”

“I take sustenance through injections.” [Brown, blue label, 4 shots every 8 hours].

“Sorry pal, was kind of in a rush. Y’know, bombing things and all, not getting captured.”

Jungkook frowns. “Human food is acceptable as an alternative,” he says reluctantly. [NOT ADVISABLE] “It is not advisable. Perhaps as a temporary solution until a better energy source can be found,” he hedges.

“‘S not gonna happen, Jungkook,” Yoongi sighs. “Your food’s probably a black lump that’s still smoking.”

“Perhaps you should be more cautious next time,” Jungkook neutrally suggests.

“We’ll see,” Yoongi says dispassionately and waves the lollipop in circles, “anyway, lollipop, yes or no.”

“Yes.” He takes it and carefully unwraps it, and just as carefully puts it into his mouth.

It tastes sweet. Like strawberries.

When he finishes it, he quietly unwraps another one.

-

He’s in a room with other people and they surround him, closing in on him, holding him down. His vision’s hazy and they blur into each other, bleed out, and then back in again. The one closest to him, the one clearest, is a female with blond hair, and then he blinks and suddenly it’s a thin bald weasel of a man, and then a large anxious eyed man, and then a female again with brunette hair and a soothing voice telling him to, “Calm down, it’s okay. We’re fixing you.” A noise comes out of him without his permission, a thin whine programmed deep into him to signify confusion and distress. “Shhh,” the man in front of him now hushes, voice deep and gritty. “Close your eyes, shut down. It will all be done when you awaken.” And as he feels himself shut down, he distantly notes that the only similarity they shared was a plain white coat.

-

J97 boots up at approximately 10:34 AM. He is sitting with his back against the wall and his legs splayed in front of him. He can see the edges of Min Yoongi’s body from the corner of his eyes and he relaxes. He searches through his memory banks to determine what has caused him to relax his guard, hindering him from his duty to protect the other. While Yoongi has ordered him to rest, this is his first mission with Min Yoongi so he has to exercise more caution. In truth, he was planning to keep watch the entire night and then rest the next day, so the fact that he shut down at some point in the night...unsettles him. The last thing that registers is him staying completely still as Yoongi rests. Completely Still…

[Stationary For Too Long: Standby Engaged]

Oh. That was careless of him. He will be better.

He takes the moment to scan over Yoongi, to check if somehow he has been injured somehow while he was inactive. For a second, J97 thinks something might have happened [MISSION FAIL MISSION FAIL] because his handler is deathly still, but then Min Yoongi’s eyes snap open, as if sensing his gaze.

“G’morning,” he rasps, and turns over to snuggle into the threadbare motel blanket.

Humans are weird.

-

Approximately an hour later, Yoongi is all packed up and ready to go. He has pulled jeans from his backpack, and paired it with his pajama shirt. He also forced Jungkook into the oversized black hoodie he was wearing, which happens to fit Jungkook perfectly. He has a plastic baggie in one hand that he must’ve dumped his bloody clothes in when he showered, and the other hand is on the doorknob, checking that the room is locked.

Their first destination is a laundromat. In hindsight it was obvious, it would be extremely inconvenient to carry what is essentially a bag of blood all day. And smelly.

Unlike the laundromat, which has a pleasant scent - a mix of lemon and clean soap. It’s pretty empty and Yoongi leads the way to an out of the way washing machine. He efficiently loads the bloody clothes in, and takes out another plastic bag of dirty laundry from his backpack and loading that in too. Jungkook watches with no little degree of fascination as Yoongi pours in detergent and fabric softener. Then Yoongi takes out a container that has its label cheerfully declaring it hydrogen peroxide, and pours a lot of that in. Jungkook is almost certain that Yoongi is eyeballing it or just doesn’t care. That done, he slams the door shut, puts some coins in a slot, and presses some buttons and the machine starts rumbling away.

They sit on the floor and wait. They both are quiet, the sounds of the pounding of various machines and quiet chatter from strangers filling the silence. Jungkook feels...well he can’t feel, but he prefers this type of environment. There is a significant lack of danger.

Yoongi only gets up to put his clothes in the dryer, and he comes straight back, breathing out a deep sigh as he settles in again. Closer, Jungkook notes, than he was before. This time he takes out his phone and fiddles with it. Digging into his backpack, he finds a battered pair of earbuds and plugs it in. He silently offers one of the earbuds to Jungkook and he obediently takes it. He puts the earbud in case and the sweet sounds of a violin over a steady beat blasts through.

Jungkook doesn’t remember when he last listened to music, doesn’t know if he ever has, except that somehow he knows what it’s called. It feels like he’s being dumped headfirst into the ocean and knowing, innately, how to breathe, how to move, how to swim.

Distantly in his mind, an alarm blares. This is wrong, this is wrong, wafts through his mind.

[WRONGWRONGWRONGDANGER]

But Jungkook’s not moving to take the bud out, can’t move. His body is locked down so he just listens and listens and listens.

His limbs unfreeze when Yoongi gets up to get his laundry, the earbud falling out of Jungkook’s ear as he moves away. He watches as Yoongi just shoves the dry clothes into his backpack without folding it. Jungkook’s hand twitch, but he dismisses it as the aftermath of his body’s lockdown.

Then Yoongi motions for Jungkook to come so he does and they exit.

-

The city is more beautiful at night. During the daylight, ugly bright signs come into view and there’s too much stuff for Jungkook to process and filter. There are too many people wandering off and they’re unpredictable and Jungkook is. Not programmed for this type of work.

Thankfully, they exit the city soon. Yoongi only makes a quick stop at a grocery store along the way before they’re back to walking down endless roads. Yoongi buys a lot of things while Jungkook is overwhelmed by the displays. There’s a particular poster that has a bumblebee with eyes that surveil the customers. [DANGER] Yoongi obtains the second backpack from Jungkook, which he then fills with the..things..he bought and hands it to Jungkook to carry again.

The road is familiar in the way that all roads look the same and Jungkook is glad. There are only a few distractions and he can focus easily.

When the city is out of sight, Yoongi finally speaks to Jungkook. He tells him that others will come looking for them, which Jungkook already knows but he doesn’t know why. Yoongi speaks of dodging cameras, of avoiding transportation, of evading detection.

“We’ll travel by road, maybe hitchhike every now and then, and hide out in the woods,” he explains. “And we’ll stop by some towns or cities if we’re low on supplies.” Jungkook nods and diligently stores to memory the sounds of Yoongi’s low timber and the instructions within them.

-

Min Yoongi is exceptionally bad at making fires. It’s not like Jungkook has experience, to his knowledge, but even he knows that Yoongi will not succeed in fire making in the near future. That he will perhaps die if he was trapped on a desert island. Yoongi must not be left alone. He feels the mission settle pleasantly in place where his ribs would be if he were human. This is the reason Jungkook is here. [THIS IS YOUR MISSION.]

Coincidentally, it takes Jungkook three tries to get the fire going.

-

Coincidentally, it is the fire that leads the Others to them. More specifically, the smoke, and even more specifically, that this is their third campsite not the first, but that is not important when there is a masked man attempting to stab Yoongi in the back.

The current situation is that Jungkook was out collecting more firewood and he returned just in time to see Yoongi rifling through his backpack, completely unaware of the figure sneaking up on him.

The knife the figure is carrying is large, black, sharp, and wicked. And too close to Min Yoongi.

[MUST PROTECT]

He leaps to action and grabs a knife tucked into his boots, flinging it right at them. It manages to embed itself in the attacker's shoulder, and it's only enough to startle, but Jungkook's thrown himself after the knife too, and so he's already throwing a punch when the masked man manages to recover. Yoongi had straightened into awareness at the knife's throw, but unexpectedly runs past Jungkook instead of helping.

He takes his knife out of the guy's shoulder as he reels from the punch and stabs it right in the tendon in his neck. Blood squirts out and the attacker rasps out a gasp, but Jungkook's already lifting the knife to stab him again. He makes sure to see the light fade from his eyes before grabbing his knife and turning around to make sure Yoongi's safe.

Yoongi's fighting his own masked attacker and more are crawling out of the shadows. Jungkook doesn't know how he didn't notice them while he was out [CARELESS]. Yoongi is as swift and efficient as ever, and by the time Jungkook takes the few steps to join him, the man is splayed out on the dirt, head cracked open. His handler has a gun in hand, which he used to bash his attacker, but he's now shooting at the Others surrounding them. He moves in front of Jungkook, stepping over the corpse.

"Take his gun," he grunts out between the loud bangs of his gun firing. So Jungkook does, crouching down and untangling the stiff fingers holding it. He manages to get it just before Yoongi runs out of shots, and delivers cover fire.

Yoongi tilts his head towards the fire and they both, as a unit, head towards their backpacks of supplies and spare weapons and ammo. It's dark and it's hard for his shots to hit because the attackers are hard to see and they're using the terrain, carefully hiding behind trees. It's difficult to tell how many there are, when one is brought down, another takes their place.

The sound of gunfire is constant around them now, the shots shooting, ricocheting, and echoing.

They grab the bags and run.

They duck into shadows, returning fire when they can, slowly and steadily making their way through the woods. Leaves and branches crackle underneath their heavy boots, but it's buried in the sounds of other movement, guns cracking loud and piercing, and so they run faster, more freely, and breathe more deeply.

They move in the cover of dark and as the sun sets it gets darker and darker, until they vanish entirely into the black.

-

It's only a matter of course that they got shot in their escape. They were outnumbered by all means. But still, they pushed on to lose their pursuers. And it's when they are sure they are alone, bark stiff against their heaving chests, listening closely to the silence, that Jungkook notices that something is wrong.

[DANGER. MALFUNCTION.]

-

J97 has malfunctioned, once, twice, too many times to count. He knows that he is flawed, requires constant maintenance, requires surveillance.

[YOU ARE BROKEN]
[THEY WILL FIX YOU]

-

The irony is that J97 was already malfunctioning when Min Yoongi had first found him. He was in the technician’s lab because he had gone on for too long without the right maintenance. The missions that he had been on had slowly, quietly corroded him, each wound growing and festering until they tossed him in the lab to be fixed.

And he wasn’t.

J97 is deeply aware that he should make sure his handler knows of his current state. That he is broken. May no longer be of use. J97 is growing old now with each new mission. But he doesn't. Because without missions he is nothing, and he doesn't know what to do when he's nothing.

This mission, of course, is already different from those that he remembers. He has never been given this much freedom of choice and he had never been so aware that he has nothing, knows nothing, outside of what he was made to do.

He i̶s̶ ̶s̶c̶a̶r̶e̶d̶ wants to keep being useful. And to do that he resolves to keep quiet.

But Yoongi is sharp and perceptive, observant to the degree in which not two hours had passed after making his resolution, Yoongi is ripping off Jungkook's jacket, Jungkook's shirt. And there, a gunshot wound in Jungkook's side, exposed to air and bleeding out the fluid in J97's body specifically configured to look like blood.

Yoongi tuts, and moves to shoulder off his backpack. He unzips it and reaches deep within to get a white box. When he opens it there is a large variety of human medical supplies. Yoongi takes out a disinfectant spray and gauze tape. Jungkook opens his mouth to protest the disinfectant spray [USELESS] but Yoongi levels him with an unimpressed glare and so he chooses to let his handler do his job and handle J97. He can feel the chemicals in the spray encountering the ones in his body and they mix and create a heat together and fries the wires in his body a little, creating a stinging sensation.

It's as Yoongi is carefully wrapping the gauze around him, body leaning in close and brushing against Jungkook's every so often as he gauze loops round and round under his armpits, that he scolds Jungkook. His voice is quiet but disciplinary, soft but cutting. He tells Jungkook to never hide his injuries again. That keeping it hidden from him hinders the mission. That he's endangered them both by trying to keep this secret, as a team they must be aware of each other's weaknesses and make up for it. He makes Jungkook hold the gauze so he can get some pins from the box to keep the gauze stationary, and then takes the final strand and pulls it until it’s extremely taut and pins it.

He finishes off, staring straight into Jungkook’s eyes, with, “We’re a team now Jungkook. If you’re unsure about something, please just ask. I’d rather answer annoying questions than have to piece it together myself like this again. It might be serious next time.”

Later, Jungkook realizes that the gauze is wrapped significantly tighter than it really needed to be, because they stop to make camp and have time to change the wrapping and it's much looser and comfortable the second time.

"You're kind of an asshole aren't you," Jungkook notes aloud.

Yoongi gives him a long look, eyebrows furrowing together in his concentration. The silence between them is stifling somehow, Jungkook thinks there is tension in the air.

He isn't sure how to proceed, so he keeps his face blank and stares back. Eventually, Yoongi turns away and, Jungkook notes, his face tenses in a way that reminds him of things closing, doors slamming, windows shuttering.

He files this away to ask Yoongi about later, when he is in a more agreeable mood. It’s an expression he’s only ever seen on Yoongi and besides, Yoongi had given him permission to ask, even if it might not be important. He’s never had a handler that allowed that.

-

This mission he has two handlers, to make sure it goes smoothly.

It does.

A politician’s body is floating in the river and no one’s the wiser.

-

There’s a small, out of the way shop on the edge of town. It says “Martin’s Mart,” with the r in the second mart almost completely faded. They need supplies so they head over. When they step foot in the shop, a bell chimes, but there is no one at the counter. There’s a new stand nearby it, with its newspapers stacked in layers - headlines peeking over headlines. There’s one headline that stands out to Jungkook, Times New Roman bold proclaiming, “KILLER ROBOT ON THE LOOSE.” There’s a picture underneath it, but only the top of it peeks out of the newspaper covering it, “Award Winning Bioengineering Genius Kim Namjoon Missing.

Yoongi continues on, so Jungkook follows, only making a note to be more careful about revealing his face in public.

They prowl through the aisles, Jungkook’s eyes wide, absorbing all the different items and brands. They get bottles and bottles of water, cheap jerky, 3 bags of chips, 2 lighters, and 2 boxes of protein bars, Yoongi nonchalantly adds a bag of lollipops when they pass through the candy aisle. Jungkook gets one too.

When they’ve made sure that they’ve got everything they could get from this tiny tiny store, they make their way to the cash register. A middle aged man had arrived there some time while they were browsing, but he hadn’t tried to welcome or talk to them. He scans their items, looking faintly bored, only nodding when he’s counting their cash. They stuff the items in their bags and head out.

Yoongi spends at least 15 minutes afterwards complaining about being robbed. Jungkook doesn’t know what he’s talking about but he nods anyway, doesn’t care enough to ask.

Instead, he spends his time looking at Yoongi’s face, watching how it moves as he rants. It’s interesting.

Yoongi isn't conventionally attractive. He doesn't have: symmetrical features, big eyes, a smile with no quirks. He has a mismatch of different features: a hooked nose, thin lips, triangular eyes, strong eyebrows, a smile that shows his gums. It should be a mess, it is a mess. But Jungkook likes it [EASY IDENTIFIER] it's completely, undeniably Yoongi.

-

In an alleyway off the main street of a city in New York, a group of five laugh as they languidly lean against the dirty walls. Two of them are sitting on the ground, passing a bottle around and taking long sips out of it. J97 is laying completely still on the rooftop right above them. His rifle is pointed at a hotel window a mile away [TARGET OUT OF SIGHT]. He can’t help but hear bits of conversation float up to him, laughter and yelling dispersed intermittently. One of them, a female voice, is telling a story about a party she was at.

“-no joke! So Sammy here was drunk out his mind and ALSO copped a feel y’’know? Then some wacko tripped and spilled some juice on him and that’s when shit hit the fan. Mabel was crying, it was so fucked-”

He couldn’t hear what happened next, but another bout of raucous laughter floats up.

[TARGET IN SIGHT]

He pulls the trigger, and the bullet flies straight, battling against the wind, fighting it’s way to embed itself through the window, through skin, through brain, through skin, and finally sticks to a wall,

The target falls.
J97 quietly packs up his gear and leaves.
The teenagers don’t notice anything.
[MISSION COMPLETE]

-

There aren’t a lot of things to do when you’re on the run. Jungkook’s always known that but now it itches within him. Yoongi unlocked something when he gave him permission to sate his curiosity. There are so many things Jungkook has never let himself think about.

[DONT THINK]

He shouldn’t even be able to want to know things that aren’t directly relevant to his missions.

Jungkook thinks...that this might be a malfunction he doesn’t want to fix.

The clink of something metallic being set down brings Jungkook back to the present. They’re camped out in yet another forest and a fire is blazing strong between them. Yoongi made this one and he’s proud of it, having vastly improved over their time spent together.

The crackle of it seems extra loud in the silence enveloping them.

“Okay,” Yoongi says, “ask away, Kook.”

And so Jungkook asks about everything he noticed in the day that he’s locked away for this part of the night. Sometimes it’s more telling than asking, just Jungkook talking about the bluebird he noticed and Yoongi telling him bird facts. Yoongi knows a little about everything, he’s noticed.

This time, Yoongi bends over to draw a diagram in the dirt to illustrate his point, and for the first time (but not the last) he notices a mark on Yoongi’s collarbone, revealed by the collar of his shirt falling down. Jungkook stares at it’s inkiness, highlighted by the moving light of the flame, and manages to make part of it out.

400N.

That’s all he gets before Yoongi sits back up, his shirt properly covering it up again. And those 4 letters and numbers are all he gets because Yoongi never takes off his shirt and everytime his shirt loosens enough, it’s to reveal the top of the 4, or maybe the whole 40 if he’s lucky.

He wonders what it means, feels the question burning in him right where his gut would be. But one thing he’s noticed is that Yoongi never talks about himself. And he thinks that, for just this one thing, he’ll wait for Yoongi to share on his own.

So he doesn’t ask.

-

Yoongi gives him a lot of names. There is "Jungkook" but there is also "dumbass" and "brat" and "kid" and "punk". Jungkook suspects that some other nicknames are simply because Yoongi is too lazy to say his whole name, which is absurd because he gave him the name, and shortens it to things like "Kook-ah" and "Kookie" and sometimes just "Kook". The first time Jungkook hears any of the nicknames of his actual name, he doesn't realize Yoongi is talking to him, even responding "there are no cookies, hyung" which makes Yoongi laugh for an absurdly long amount of time.

Jungkook isn't pouting because machines don't pout, but he does tell Yoongi, "Stop, you are depleting your air supply," which sets Yoongi off again. Ever since, Jungkook has been extra careful to watch out for Yoongi's nicknames.

He doesn't tell Yoongi to stop giving him nicknames.

(It is nice to have them.)

-

They need to pass through a city to get to their final destination (that Yoongi always brushes off whenever Jungkook asks), so they stop for the night at a motel. It’s actually remarkably similar to the one in that first motel they stayed in. They’ve stayed at other motels or hotels over the weeks they’ve spent together and the rooms have varied, but this one stands out as a blatant knockoff, as if the motel chains across cities sent spies to the others.

Yoongi takes the first turn for the shower, again. And Jungkook has learned, he doesn’t keep watch right against the door. No no, he’s sitting on the bed keeping watch. And he also doesn’t just do that, he’s used to this routine now and he even rummages through Yoongi’s backpack for one of those lollipops that Yoongi always has on hand. He has to stick his hand deep in to find the fallen ones scattered at the bottom of the bag. He grasps blindly until he feels the shape of the candy and then grabs it, accidentally bringing up what feels like paper up with his lollipop.

It turns out that the paper is actually a photograph. It’s capturing two boys, one short and the other tall, grinning at each other. The short one has a prominent eye smile and the tall one has equally prominent dimples surrounding his mouth.

They tickle something in Jungkook’s memory [TARGET?? TARGET?].

"Their names are Namjoon and Jimin," he hears from behind him. Jungkook startles and looks over his shoulder and sees Yoongi leaning on the wall, arms crossed. He must’ve came out of the bathroom while Jungkook was transfixed by the photo.

"I-I didn't mean to-"

"It's fine," Yoongi says with finality. "They're...we're close. They're scientists. It's this whole big crazy group, and Jin always said that we're trouble but he's the most troublesome of us all." Yoongi's voice is fond and Jungkook feels something in his chest [hurt, jealousy, longing?]. "They loved me." He gives Jungkook a long look, "They'll love you too."

Jungkook feels warm and shy, until he realizes what the other had said, "Loved? In past tense?"

Yoongi shrugs. "I'm not the same anymore. I was never meant to," he waves a hand loosely in the air, "kill."

"Then what makes you think they'll like me?" Jungkook feels his heart drop a little, and folds into himself. "I'm a killer too."

Yoongi hums, and when he speaks his words are careful. "The difference is that after a while I wasn't ordered to kill, but I still did. You weren't in control, Kook."

Jungkook's ready to argue about it, his mouth already partly open, but Yoongi shifts positions and it distracts him enough for Yoongi to say, "Just trust me, they'll like you," before exiting. It's like he was never there but now thoughts are swimming in his head, wobbling on the tip of his tongue with no one to listen:

But how can you be so sure.

-

He is screaming. He is being dragged and he is screaming and there is fabric over his head and he is drowning. The fabric is ripped away, and he can breathe, he can feel the cool air on his wet face, wet with water wet with tears wet with snot wetwetwetwet. Someone is beside, someone that he recognizes but he doesn’t know him.

“What do you know about Project Wings?” the familiar stranger asks, voice dangerously calm and when Jungkook shivers this time it isn’t from the cold.

“I don’t know,” he grits out, but he does know, he does, but he won’t ever tell no never, he must protectprotectthem.

“You do know,” the stranger says with certainty. “And you will tell me.”

“I don’t know,” he repeats again and desperately wishes that he didn’t actually know. Wishes that he could lock up the secrets in his head and bury them deep where no one can reach them, not even him, because he mustprotectthemnomatterwhat.

He watches through bleary eyes as the stranger takes a cupful of water and splashes it onto Jungkook’s face. He coughs and coughs, trying to expel it. And then the fabric is pulled over his head again and his heartbeat is speeding up knowing what comes next.

“You will tell me. You’re just prolonging the inevitable,” Jungkook hears and then he gets hit with water again and his chest heaves because he’s dying he needs air he wants to live. And it repeats. And repeats. And repeats.

“What is Project Wings?” the stranger asks for what seems to be the millionth time.

“I don’t know,” he rasps out, and this time it feels like the truth.

The scene shifts.

He is strapped to a table and there are tools around him, lying in plain sight. There’s a scalpel, a drill, a knife, a screwgun, a blow torch, several pliers and so much more. They are meant for him, lying around like gifts.

He is aching but he is numb. He hurts but he is nothing.

They want information, he thinks. All I need to do is give it to them.

But there is a gag in his mouth and he knows whatever they’re searching for now is not something he can give.

A figure appears and something hot and sharp is drilling into his leg. The pain is like nothing he’s ever felt and he sobs, eyes wet and noises muffled. He feels like they’re going to drill until they reach bone and then keep drilling.

He is suddenly filled with a deep fear, deeper than they’ve been able to reach. Not because of the pain but because he is deeply shockingly aware that he will break. He is only human.

The scene shifts.

He’s in a room with 15 others. But he isn’t in the room at all, he’s just watching someone else in his body, in that room with 15 others. He hears a crackle, a voice through the speakers in the room. He can’t hear what they’re saying but he knows that he needs to kill.

Why? He asks, knowing no one will answer.

Focus, he hears, and so he looks into the room.

His body is moving, has been moving, has been killing. It is ruthless in it’s massacre. He can see the mouths of the others open wide, in screams that he can’t hear. He only hears a blank white noise. His head hurts. His body is crying as it rips an organ out of someone’s trembling body.

Suddenly he and his body are one and the same.

He tastes blood in his mouth.

-

Jungkook wakes up and he isn't sure what to feel. He's human. He knows that now, surety deep in his bones. Just as sure as he knows his hands will forever be stained red.

His body feels cold, he feels so damn cold.

His body is moving on autopilot and he only realizes it when he's already climbing into Yoongi's bed, careful to stay on one side of the bed. The sheets are cold but it might just be because Jungkook is so so cold. He senses Yoongi jolt awake and he turns to face Jungkook, shortening the distance between them.

"Mmm, Jungkook?" he mumbles, his face pursed, sleepy and confused.

Jungkook almost feels guilty for breaking him from that daze but he can't keep it all to himself. It already feels like he's overflowing, leaking emotions and memories from cracks in his body. "I'm human," he says, voice trembling, and it tastes like a dirty secret.

"Oh. Oh Jungkook," Yoongi murmurs, and wraps his arms loosely around him. Jungkook curls into him in answer. The other must take it as a good sign, because he runs his fingers through Jungkook's hair and Jungkook can't help but lean into it. He also can't help the tears that flow from his eyes, dripping on to Yoongi's shirt, or the sobs that rack through his body. He mumbles unintelligible words into the jut of Yoongi's neck and he doesn't seem to mind, holding Jungkook close in one hand, and continuing to softly run his fingers through his hair.

Eventually the tension finally leaks out of Jungkook's body and he feels warm, snuggled up and safe with Yoongi.

-

From then on, and he isn’t sure if it’s because Yoongi pities him or not, but he let’s Jungkook take comfort in him, let’s him bump shoulders, hold hands, hug. Yoongi’s temperature always eres to the cold, but Jungkook doesn’t mind. He can warm it up.

That’s one of the things he can’t quite get used to, knowing that he runs warm because he’s human and not because of any technology within him. Sometimes he’ll catch himself thinking that he’s still a robot and ignore the strain in his muscles and how tired he is. It takes him awhile to remember hunger even though Yoongi’s had him on a semi-healthy diet since they’ve met.

There’s a certain nausea he gets when he eats food that he doesn’t really want to think about. Doesn’t want to think about all the other ways he’s been conditioned to dehumanize himself either.

He has nightmares almost every night now, to replace the dreams that he thought were memories when he w̶a̶s̶ ̶s̶t̶i̶l̶l̶ still thought he was a robot. When he wakes up, he makes his way over to Yoongi and Yoongi opens his arms wide every time, curling them comfortably across Jungkook’s back and holding tight. Never complains about how hard Jungkook must hug him back in those moments when he’s still uncertain of the truth of the world around him. Just holds him.

And Jungkook, he is so grateful but he feels so so guilty. The feelings that he couldn’t register in his robot mindset couldn’t be more clear now.

He’s falling for Yoongi.

And he can’t make himself stop taking advantage of every touch Yoongi will give him,

Can’t bring himself to stop thinking about Yoongi’s gummy smile. Of his starry eyes black as night. Of his plush pink lips.

Wants to kiss him so much he thinks he might explode.

-

“Jungkook!” someone calls and Jungkook smiles, turning the corner and seeing who he recognizes as JImin waiting for him. He’s next to someone that’s turned away but at Jungkook’s answering greeting, he faces him and Jungkook brightens even more.

“Yoongi!” he says, ridiculously pleased.

“Hi,” he replies shyly, “Jimin’s telling me about some TV show.” He frowns and adds, “and trying to convince me to watch some ‘educational’ movies.”

“It’s a great way to explore modern culture!” Jimin argues, his small body revving up to make passionate gestures with his body.

“It’s not a bad idea,” Jungkook says, because it isn’t.

“Yeah. It’s a horrible idea,” Yoongi says and Jimin bristles, completely misses the sly wink aimed at Jungkook.

He can’t help the gasp that escapes him. “Who taught you how to wink?”

“He did what?” he hears Jimin squawk but his attention is on Yoongi who is somehow also pouting.

“It was a joint effort between Jin and Taehyung,” he admits eventually.

Jungkook shakes his head but he isn’t surprised. Speaking of Taehyung though…
“Joonie and Tae want you in the lab. They wanna try something new.”

“Don’t they always,” Yoongi mutters, but he gets up to follow Jungkook. He escorts Yoongi all the way to the lab, catching up with what the other’s been up to since they’ve last scene each other. It was a lot more than Jungkook expected.

When they arrive in the lab, Namjoon and Taehyung are both peering at something on a table. The younger of the two lets out a thoughtful hum. They must’ve registered movement though, because they both turn to look at the doorway.

“Yoongi, just the guy thing I wanted to see! Take off your shirt please,” Namjoon says.

Yoongi obliges and for the first time, Jungkook notices that two of the fingers on his left hand are missing, wires jutting straight out into the space the thumb and index finger are supposed to be. And that there’s a mark on his collarbone that says 400N91 in dark ink.

“We built your new arm! It was just gonna be a hand but, like, dude, why settle for that arm when you can get this grand spanking kind of new upgraded arm!” Taehyung looks like Christmas came early.

“We’ll need to shut you down to install it,” Namjoon smooths over, sounding apologetic.

“Sure,” Yoongi shrugs, and opens a panel in his chest so that they can plug their wires in.

-

He gasps awake, chest heaving, and tries to breathe slow, slow it down.

Deep breath in, deep breath out. Repeat. Repeat.

Yoongi's a robot.

[REPEAT]

It's working, his chest is getting steadier, but then more memories rush in and he sobs because Yoongi's a robot and Jungkook knew him, helped make him. Remembers talking to the AI and helping it learn, he thinks hysterically, to be human.

It worked too well. Jungkook was never supposed to fall in love. Project Wings was just a wild idea from Namjoon's incredible mind.

It was just an idea.

He chokes back another sob.

Then Yoongi bursts through the door, hair messy and eye wide and Jungkook's heart hurts even more because he looks so so human.

"What's wrong?" he asks, "Jungkook, you were screaming, what's wrong?"

And Jungkook says it, because he has to confirm it, has to know. He chokes out, "400N91. Shut down."

Yoongi crumples in and falls like a puppet.

-

Jungkook sits in the darkness, horrified. He sits there for what seems like hours, combing through his mind, finding the clues woven into their interactions. Compares the Yoongi from before to the Yoongi now and he still doesn't know what happened to make him like that. The Yoongi he knew was soft, child-like. He was naive and curious and kind. He is kind, Yoongi has always been kind.

Carefully bandaging Jungkook's wounds. Kind. Killing with as few wounds as possible. Instant deaths. Kind.

He sits and sits and thinks until the thoughts swirl around his brain and he can't pick out thoughts anymore. Yoongi is still lying on the ground across the room, limbs at unnatural angles.

He takes a deep breath and lets it out. It's a sigh more than anything else, really.

"400N91. Begin."

Yoongi's eyes snap open. He picks himself up and stands tall. "Awaiting orders," he says, robotic.

"For god's sake Yoongi, just drop it," he says tiredly, dragging a hand down his face.

A pause.

"So you remembered." Yoongi sounds defeated.

"Yeah, you could say that. Don't know how this happened but I remember you."

He feels a dip in the bed on his right and knows that Yoongi sat down on his left, like he always used to do. It's an empty comfort, a ghost of something that used to make him smile. Yoongi tells him everything, voice gentle but words full of weight.

This is how it happened:

A group of people work at the same technological research company and become friends.

Kim Seokjin. Kim Namjoon. Jung Hoseok. Park Jimin. Kim Taehyung. Jeon Jungkook.

Namjoon, Jimin, and Taehyung handle coding. Hoseok and Jin are engineers. Jungkook is security detail, but gets along with them enough to be involved.

Namjoon gets an idea. An algorithm. They become invested in its possibilities. They all pitch in and make it tangible. The company funds them and over a few years they manage to make it work: Extremely Intelligent Functional Artificial Intelligence. Purpose: Nursework, helping.

The problem is that they can't properly control their vessels. By that time, someone’s tried to hack into their system twice, and they have realized how dangerous functional AI could be, but continue their intellectual pursuit secretly. Because they are helplessly curious, they are invested.
They are human.

They use metal scraps for the body, a tweaked algorithm for the code. No one expects for it to work but 400N91, name taken from a piece of metal that no one actually knows where it came from, does work. They all agree to hide it, but can't resist their curiosity and they teach, examine, hang out, become friends with 400N91. Jungkook. especially, likes hanging out with it and teaching it small things like how to tie knots and paint nails, small things that no one ever thinks to teach it.

The secret can't stay hidden forever.

People come knocking and they all resist. Jungkook fights and gets taken. Before they can take 400N91, others arrive and protect them. Later, they learn that it's the government. They take 400N91. They reprogram it and 400N91 does things that it was never meant to do, until an order directly conflicts with a fundamental program Namjoon set just in case: Never kill his creators. 400N91 saves Taehyung instead and they manage to find a safe place. 400N91 is tasked with finding the others, in case they need a safe place, because they all know too much.

Jeon Jungkook is the last one to be found.

-

Jungkook can’t deal with this right now. He knows Yoongi is telling the truth but he can’t wrap his head around the magnitude of it all. He has no time to, they have to keep moving, and maybe when they’re finally somewhere truly safe, he’ll think hard about it and come to his conclusion then. Right now, he can’t put aside his mistrust of Yoongi, of how he’s lied by omission if nothing else.

They make excellent time, now that their travelling also extends into the night because Yoongi no longer has to pretend to sleep and can’t convince Jungkook to. He just has so much energy and feelings and one of them has to be released and it sure as hell isn’t going to be his feelings. Just thinking about it brings a pang to his chest because he loved the Yoongi that he thought was human. He thought that they might’ve had a chance and it hurts to have that ripped away from him because he is so intimately aware that Yoongi isn’t capable of- no he’s not going to think about this, he’s going to keep walking step by step and if his pace is maybe a bit too fast, it doesn’t fucking matter Yoongi.
Until.

Until Yoongi collapses. It’s a violent echo of when Jungkook had shut him down and his hands are shaking as he rushes over and touches Yoongi to check for something, anything, everything.

His body is cold to the touch. One of his eyes are open and they stare endlessly at nothing, devoid of life, of energy. Of Energy. He practically tears apart Yoongi’s shirt as he hurries to get it off, and then his hands are pressing all the right places, with the ease of endless practice, and the panel on his chest pops out and he can see the battery that keeps something as miraculous as Yoongi running.

It’s cracked and leaking. Black fluid stains Jungkook’s hands as he traces over the gaps.

Yoongi’s pale skin is stained, as Jungkook puts the cover back in his chest and maneuvers the body onto his back, the most prominent of all are the blank handprints he brands on Yoongi’s wrists when he loops them around his neck.

-

When Jungkook reaches them, he is exhausted. His vision’s blurred, his mouth desert dry, and his breaths heave out of him like they’re on their last breaths. He doesn’t think of what to do once he gets there, how to get them to let him in, just knows he has to get there.

Luckily, they must’ve been looking out for them, because when Jungkook collapses under Yoongi’s weight, they come to him.

He sees blurry faces surrounding him and he panics, because they’re trying to take away Yoongi, they’re going to do to Yoongi what they did to him, but his body won’t move anymore and everything fades away.

-

He wakes up in a bed, and what he recognizes to be Namjoon’s face hovering over his. They stare at each other for what seems like an eternity, not knowing what to say. There is uncertainty written in every line of Namjoon’s face and Jungkook yearns to see that smile with the dimples instead.

“So, how are you?” Namjoon hedges, and his voice is like hearing a distant memory. Jungkook’s heart pangs at hearing it again.

His whole body aches, but he replies, “I’m doing okay,” anyway. Somehow has the presence of mind to joke, “I’m not brainwashed so that’s a plus.”

Namjoon smiles, and it’s fragile, broken.

-

The short story is that Yoongi’s core can’t be fixed. The long story is that Jungkook still believes it can be.

-

Sometimes Yoongi doesn't remember anything. Sometimes he opens his eyes, makes a confused face, and asks about Jungkook, asks about lollipops, says Min Yoongi with that surety of their first meeting, does things that makes Jungkook’s heart clench and makes him cling that much tighter to hope, and then he blandly says, "information overload" and curls into himself and initiates another reboot.

One time he wakes up with his eyes clear and heavy with knowledge, and gently tells Jungkook, "I'm gone, Kook. You can stop trying now," and brings his right hand up and traces his knuckles down Jungkook’s jaw, feather light, and Jungkook desperately tries to stop his heart from breaking. And then the moments over, a blankness sweeps over Yoongi’s features, he tilts his head and says "Awaiting orders." He knows deep down that Yoongi is gone, because Yoongi doesn't lie, not really, not when it’s important like this is, but he can't bring himself to stop hoping because stopping means that it's really over, that Yoongi’s really gone and Jungkook doesn't want, won't, can't think that, ever.

So he hoarsely says, "again," and everything begins again.

-

[Model 400N91 is old, it can feel it in the way its joints creak, how it's inner machinery is slower than what is optimal]

[it knows that it doesn't have long before there will be nothing]

[there is a lot 400N91 doesn't know but one thing it does know is that the handler that calls it "Yoongi" with a voice warm as sunflowers is special]

[it will do its best to keep that human happy, satisfied, and hopes, or the closest thing to hope that machinery can achieve, that it's body parts will function well enough, long enough, to complete this mission, and that "Jungkook" will still smile that sunshine smile even if it won't be there to see it]