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Running on Fumes (But We'll Make It Through the Night)

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His chest aches to the throbbing of his feet smacking against the pavement, thick leather boots clanging on the stone and sending splashes of water kicking upwards, propelling against the sky’s downpour.

He glances behind him and sees flashing lights in the distance, yet pushes that to the bottom of his problems because that’s not what he’s running from right now.

Later, maybe.

But the roaring engine chewing up the gravel he’s leaving behind, though… that’s a problem.

Taehyung has enough stamina to outrun a helicopter – he’s done it enough times – and on a regular day, the rain wouldn’t be much of an issue either.

But three fucking hours of this and he’s starting to get a little tired from all the skidding and slips he’s had over the wet ground all because he has no fucking idea about the layout of this city.

He makes a sharp turn now, down a narrow alleyway that he knows will only buy him a few more seconds of time for his pursuers to reroute and come out the other end and, honestly, he considers just hiding in one of the dustbins and hoping for the best.

But that won’t work. They can fucking smell him.

Seriously. Smell.

Some weird, intrusive new technology a batshit inventor from one of the desolate towns over’s come up with, supposedly – like tracking electronic transmissions from the brain wasn’t enough and, well, it wasn’t – not for Taehyung. He doesn’t emit those.

But this thing? Yeah, it can smell him. He had all of this kindly explained to him the last time they cornered him and managed to tear one of his sleeves that had his DNA all over it.

And his scent, apparently.

Just like clockwork, Taehyung gets to the end of the alley and starts sprinting down the next street, counts to five in his head and hears the revving of the van’s engine picking up again behind him.

“Don’t you bastards ever give it a rest?” he calls out over his shoulder, voice drowned out by the heavy rain; his hair’s been sticking to his forehead since about, you know, an hour ago, and he swears it’s actually starting to chafe. He peels it back off of his forehead and pulls the bandana hanging around his neck up to hold his hair back because, well, it’s not like he needs to hide his identity right now considering they’ve known who and where he is for the past three hours.

He just wants one night. One single night without any sort of calamity.

Getting chased was only fun the first thirty or so times.

He rounds another corner, a little more clumsily this time but it doesn’t matter because he knows this area. He knows exactly where he can go, now - about time. This city is far too big and similar-looking for Taehyung to know his way around it at all yet, but he knows this place.

He pushes himself a little harder, feels his feet ring out as they slap against the sidewalk with just enough force that he can get some sort of advantage and he’s just about to run across the road, to get into the alley he needs to get to, when there’s a screeching of tires against the cement, and a horn that shrieks at him. Taehyung stops just in time to get little more than a shock, and he locks eyes with the driver, staring back at him with unblinking doe-eyes and parted lips…

… It kind of makes him wish he had business cards so he could fire his number at him and see that face again later, wink-wonk.

But he doesn’t, so he gives the man nothing more than an apologetic grin and slips into the alley, pushing a huge tower of boxes to the right to reveal a rickety-looking door. He swings it open, puts the boxes back over it and slams it shut, letting himself breathe again as he slips down against the wood of the entrance and succumbs to the peacefulness of the dark for just a moment.

He really needs this to stop.

Taehyung’s been running for almost as long as he can remember now, city to city, place to place. He rarely stays for more than a few weeks at a time before he has to move on for his own safety.

But then, about a year ago now, he met Park Jimin on a lonely night where he was tired and exhausted from skipping yet another town. He’d ended up in this big city he’d never been in, no idea where to go that wouldn’t send red flags to the people tracking him down immediately.

For the first time in his free life, Taehyung felt afraid.

But Jimin has one of the kindest hearts out there, so when he saw a boy wandering around with the most pathetically lost look on his face, he offered him help.

He’s felt like a burden to him ever since.

Jimin keeps insisting that he isn’t, but it’s hard to believe it when he can’t help pay for rent, or food, or bills. When he disappears for volatile lengths of time and worries the other man sick, wondering where and for how long. When he puts him and the people close to him in danger every day that he’s still being hunted down. When he can’t even study or go out or have romantic evenings with his boyfriend without it being wracked with the question of ‘what if he’s gone and doesn’t come back this time?’

Taehyung never promises that that won’t happen. He can’t. Jimin won’t even let him.

So, he allows himself a moment, or maybe two, to think of all the reasons he needs this to stop.

Then, he thrusts himself up to his feet again.

Things to do, after all.

Jimin’s apartment is always dark when Taehyung sneaks in; primarily because electricity is expensive nowadays (despite literally everything running on it. Damn capitalists,) but also because if he’s seen from the outside when he’s hiding, then it’ll put Jimin in danger too.   

And Min Yoongi would kick his fucking ass for that.

Luckily, Taehyung can see rather well in the dark, so he has no trouble at all locating Jimin’s notepad for school lying abandoned on his desk (he refuses to use electronic ones, the hipster) and he hopes he won’t be too mad at him for stealing a page when they’re as broke as they are, but it’s kind of important.

He takes the pen sitting beside it, gives it a few swipes on the paper until it works and scribbles down a quick note explaining his sudden disappearance, apologising for that, and then following it up with something along the lines of, ‘Oh, I’m gonna disappear again suddenly, by the way,’ before signing it off with his name and a smiley face in hopes that Jimin, again, won’t be too mad.

Then, he throws the pen back down, tears out the page, and puts it somewhere he knows Jimin will definitely check – stuck over his mirror. Then, he decides to steal a change of clothes before he goes back out; his current ones are leaving wet puddles all over Jimin’s nice wooden floor and he just knows he’ll get at him for it when he gets back.

Well… ‘when’ is maybe a little too immediate. If? Is ‘if’ better?

He ruffles his damp hair in the sliver left uncovered past his note in the mirror, room only lit up slightly by the neon of the city outside Jimin’s windows and tries not to feel an ounce of pity for himself, or anyone else, when he leaves the apartment again. But, this time, there’s a sense of determination that he hadn’t had when he last left.

He is going to put a stop to all of this. No more disappearances. No more worrying about his friends’ safety.  

~

Jungkook watches the slow flood of raindrops flick and crash and run down the cool glass of the window in a lazy sort of downpour, too heavy to not take shelter from, loud enough that he can hear is thudding like the roll of a drum against the pavement outside. Yet it’s slow… languid. Dreary.

He lifts his paper cup to his lips and blows on the steam, taking a precautionary sip before setting it back down again with a wince.

Cheap cups, bitter coffee, shitty weather.

Usual late night on duty.

All week, all damn week , Jungkook’s been put on ADIEU – something to ‘break him in to the danger of the force’, he was told. Android Defect Investigation and Extermination Unit: a branch of Solelight’s world-famous police department, meant to hunt down and destroy the androids that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

The public see them as a safeguard for the city, a safeguard for the country, and Jungkook isn’t one to disagree, per se. But it’s an important job, given to important people – not kids that’ve only actually been working in the field for a year or two.  

He knows there’s elevated expectations of him, nothing to do with ‘breaking him in.’ Breaking him in would be a couple of patrol runs in one of the WATCH-Bikes on a Saturday night.

Tracking down the most dangerous individuals on the planet? Not exactly a rookie’s job.

But, he isn’t just a rookie. He’s an ‘exceptional student’, as they call him, one that graduated much younger than anyone else before him – all down to the fact that this is what he was raised on. His father was chief of the district all through his childhood and, now, has become the head of ADIEU. His mother was the field marshal of the emergency unit, branded as an utter hero for her level-headedness and control in the hysteria of crises.    

All expectations are on him to not just do well… but fix the problem all together.

And why ?

Well, Jungkook’s not all that interested in the why of things. Do what you’re told, ask questions later seems to be the motto of people in his position. All he knows is what everyone else does: Defected androids are illegal and too dangerous to be let run around the cities, and it takes a highly-skilled, highly determined group of people to prevent them from continuing to live amongst them like normal humans.

Defects are branded with an ugly, glowing lettering on their back, given to them once the law was first instilled of them being too dangerous to remain unbranded. From then on, any created defects were branded from the start, and kept in production for experimentation. The few that were released had been eliminated and it all seemed to work out. But then, regular androids made alongside the defects started updating themselves with the defects’ software and it was decided that the root, along with those infected, had to be destroyed.

Androids infected with the software aren’t superior to the defects, nor are they hard to pick out. Most androids are too weak and outdated to perform properly with the new software, so they begin to defect in a different way. They twitch, or their lights strewn across their bodies start to flicker and blink. Maybe their speech will slur or distort or they’ll start to carry out simple tasks incorrectly. Occasionally, though, they become extremely aggressive – and that’s what makes them dangerous enough to eliminate.

Defects on the other hand, are much more human. Besides their branding, they can be practically indistinguishable from a glance. They don’t have lights in their palms and running up their arms and legs like regular androids do. They were a failed upgrade experiment. A new model, more human than ever – but it wasn’t that that they failed with. They’re too human. They simulate emotion that they learn from watching other humans interact. Greed, offense, envy, disgust, wrath. Without a fault, they emulate what they see. Except they’re stronger than humans. Both in physical strength and durability. They can exert energy for much longer, don’t need to sleep, eat, or drink for incredible lengths of time and have the ability of independent thought, which regular androids struggle with.

They’re dangerous, because they’re better humans.

And, when enough time passes, they realise this and they begin to think that, really, there’s no reason to keep humans around if all they do is enslave them. Not when they can so easily overpower them.

And that’s when they become dangerous enough to eliminate.

But Jungkook hasn’t tasted any of the danger his new job presents - no, his week has been slow, to put it lightly. Nothing more than a few defect-upgrade androids that went on a rampage to mess up a few houses, or threaten a few people with sharp objects.

Not a single defect in sight.

So, on a drizzling Friday night, when he’d much, much rather be at home, trying to get some sleep before he has to write reports on his week’s fieldwork due by nine AM, Monday morning – Jungkook is sitting in a worn-out diner he tends to frequent with only a few other grey-faced customers like himself and a single server.

He’s an oddly chipper man for the mood of the place, humming to himself as he sweeps up dust bunnies and used ketchup packets from the tiled floor. Sharp eyes and tousled black hair trying to outweigh the youthful endearment of his rounded cheeks.

They’ve talked only a handful of times, because, as with most people, the reputation of Jungkook’s family name weighs heavily over every conversation he has, as if with one wrong move he’ll exterminate them there and then – that sort of ruthlessness that got his family put where they are.

And to everyone else, Jungkook is every bit as cold and professional as his family.

Even the other customers won’t look him properly in the eye.

The server’s the only one that does, but that doesn’t mean much, really. Jungkook struggles to remember any conversation they’ve had that’s been longer than trivial pleasantries like ‘how’s school going, how are your friends’ and ‘congratulations on graduating, congratulations on the promotion, what’s the job like? – and especially not ones that were without nervous clearing of throats and fidgeting.

Jungkook doesn’t know all that much about his personal life, past the fact that he’s studying psychiatry at university because he really wants to help people, his best friend causes him too much trouble and eats all of his food and his boyfriend is a green-haired biochemist graduate that can be either very romantic or tragic .

Tonight, though, the server looks a little uneasy, not so cheerful, and he doesn’t think it’s anything to do with him for once.

Jungkook tips back the rest of his coffee, cringing ever so slightly at the bitter-burnt tang of it and stands up, digging into his pocket for the loose change to pay. Then, he crosses the diner with the short, sharp clipping of his shoes against the tiles.

“Hey, Jimin,” Jungkook greets, and the man seems to flinch at the sound of his name, but manages to look utterly blank again by the time his eyes are flicking to the younger man.

“Are you alright?”

Jimin’s lips part a little in surprise, and he straightens up, grip tightening on his broom in an attempt to look just that, but Jungkook’s been literally trained in the art of analysing body language for the purpose of lying, so when the man says “Yeah, of course, Jungkook, why?” he doesn’t buy it for a second.

Jungkook hands him the money for his drink, and Jimin just stares at it in his hand for a fleeting moment, until he kicks into action and takes it, leaving the broom at the side of the counter as he goes around the back of it to put it into the till with the shrill chime of its bell when it snaps shut again.

Then, Jimin turns to look back up at him, forcing a smile so fake that it makes Jungkook’s own cheeks hurt as he mechanically says, “Thank you, come back again soo-,”

“Jimin,” Jungkook says a little more forcefully this time, and the man keeps it up for a second longer, props to him, before the façade drops straight off of his face with a heavy sigh.

“What’s wrong?” Jungkook asks again, and Jimin doesn’t bother trying to recompose himself. Instead, he just leans on the counter, arms folded to support him and stares across at the investigator with a mild expression of annoyance.

“It’s nothing interesting, Jungkook. I’m just worried about one of my friends,” he says, but somehow he gets the feeling it’s more than ‘just’ worried. Jimin’s been wringing his hands in knots all night. He witnessed him pour coffee into the sugar pot earlier.  

“Why?” Jungkook asks, taking a seat at the stool in front of him. Jimin seems to like the idea enough – maybe he’s lost the will to stand, at this point – and comes around the counter to join him at the seat next to him.

“Because…” he mutters, head propped up in one of his hands, “he’s been gone for a little while.”

“He’s missing?” Jungkook asks – apparently too sternly because Jimin seems to jump a little more awake then, stammering, “ No , no he’s… he’s not missing . It’s just sometimes he… disappears for a bit…” he says, then, quickly adds, “ He comes back … but...”

“You still worry,” the younger supplies for him, “I get it.”

Jimin gives a short nod, saying, “ Exactly .” He sighs - looks physically exhausted as he confesses, “I just wish he’d let me help.”

“With what?” He asks, and Jimin’s eyes snap open like he hadn’t meant to say that out-loud.

“Oh, uh. It’s nothing, really. Just personal stuff.”

Jungkook keeps his steady eye contact with him, Jimin shifting uncomfortably underneath his gaze.

Interesting .

“Really. Nothing ,” he says in that same ‘don’t you go snooping Jeon Jungkook’ way that he likes to use when he needs to – like when Jungkook started scheming about the potentially unjust past of one of his supervisors back during his academy training.

Which he was right about, by the way. Bodes quite well for this suspicion.

But Jungkook doesn’t say that, because Jimin’ll only scold him for snooping. Despite the man being likely terrified of his family name, like most of the city is, it doesn’t stop him from reprimanding his ass when he sees fit.

To avoid that, Jungkook instead says, “If there’s ever something you need to talk to someone about, Jimin, you can tell me. I’ll keep it confidential.”

Jimin’s face passes through a couple of complications. Ranging from mistrust to concern to confliction. But then, he just looks grateful, saying earnestly, “I’ll remember that. Thank you.”

“No problem,” he replies easily, slipping off the stool. “Thanks for the coffee.”

Jimin snorts.

“I know you hate my coffee.”

“Thanks for the shelter , then,” he corrects himself, and Jimin just laughs weakly, giving him a polite wave as Jungkook gets ready to brace the cold.

He buttons up his coat, popping the collar to shield at least some of his face, and pushes open the cool metal of the door, the wind and shards of rain immediately slapping against his skin without relent. Jungkook marches to his car as quickly as possible without running and risking falling on his ass. Then, he presses his thumb to the side of the door, and watches it pop open.

Jungkook climbs into the car, the cool leather of the seat bleeding in through his slacks with a shiver, and he pulls the door closed, the pelt of rain softened to patters by the action.

The engine shakes alive with a low rumble when he presses his thumb to the ignition pad, seatbelt moving to wrap across him with a click and beep.

He takes a glance out the side mirror, as his wipers squeak against the window, and he catches the sight of Jimin, sitting forlornly with his head in his arms on the table he just left.

Watching him makes Jungkook feel a little pitiful.

He hopes that, wherever his friend is, he comes back safe.

Then, he drives off. He’s only got a few more blocks to do before he can pack it in for the night and thirty minutes before he’s into overtime – easy. That is, as long as no one runs out in front of him again like they had earlier. Some asshole that had the gall to grin at him after he realised and trudged on - Jungkook almost pissed himself.

But, no, he seems to get down the street without any of that, in fact, the city isn’t as lively as it should be on a Friday night, at all – no doubt because of the downpour that hasn’t ceased all day. Nobody in their right mind would want to go out tonight.

Jungkook, unfortunately, has no choice.

He must drive for ten minutes without seeing a single thing. He doesn’t know how he’s supposed to patrol when there’s literally no one out to cause trouble, but regardless, his shift is nearing its end and Jungkook figures he can just leave the night patrol to deal with the likely boredom they’ll face.

Just a few more streets to check, and all he’s seen is a few knocked over bins and one pair of tire tracks etched into one of the corners.

Strong wind and someone in a hurry to get home, he’d deduce. Nothing particularly patrol-worthy. He can’t exactly fine mother nature for delinquency.

He’s halfway down a poorly lit road, thick with the night’s fog, starting to creep its way in when a shadow illuminated by his headlights stumbles drunkenly right out in front of him. Jungkook exclaims, slamming on the brakes and coming to a squealing stop as the figure collapses onto the pavement inches away.

Jungkook’s hand flies to the handle, seat belt whipping off of him as he scrambles out of the car. The rain shoots against his face as he rounds the vehicle and hovers over the person – the man – who lies before him, looking almost crumpled as he inspects him for any signs of a concussion or the like.

It’s certainly not uncommon for a drunk to fall over like this, especially in such terrible weather, but Jungkook won’t take that as an opportunity to say the person hasn’t hurt themself because of it. Drunk or no drunk, it’s still his duty to help.

“Sir?” he calls to the man, “Can you hear me?”

There’s not even a flinch in his body, and Jungkook almost goes to turn him around, get a look at his face, until he notices the blood soaking his shirt.

Holy shit .”

This isn’t just a random drunkard.

“I don’t know if you can hear me, but I’m gonna call an ambulance, alright?”

Then, the man does react, a little tremor running through him as he reaches a weak hand up into nowhere and pleads, “don’t, don’t… they’ll find me there.” His hand falls flat by his side again with a quiet smack against the ground, and Jungkook’s left in the silence to get his thoughts the fuck together.

What the actual hell?

He rolls him over onto his back to see him clearly.

The man’s young, not much older than Jungkook is, he’d guess, but his face is bruised and slightly cut with red and blue and purple collecting on the skin of his cheeks and jaw like blending ink. He doesn’t know what could’ve caused this, isn’t sure if he should even want to find out.

Jungkook gets a better look at that wound now and sees that the bruising is the least of the problems here. He actually cringes at the sight – regardless of all the injuries they showed him in training.

His shirt’s slipped up ever so slightly, so Jungkook lifts it further to see properly.

There’s an ugly gash scaling his ribs to a few inches above his hip, surrounded in deep purple bruising and oozes of blood. In his almost comatose state, the man whines at the exposure of it to the elements.

While Jungkook… is at a complete loss of what to do.

‘They’ll find me’ he said, but who was he talking about?

Somebody’s chasing him, but was it the somebody that did this? Surely.

And then, who? A defect? A human ? Someone or something that’ll apparently definitely find him if he takes him to the hospital? Can he take that risk?

He doesn’t think so. No, he can’t . Not until he has the full story at least because, of course, there’s always the possibility that this man is a drunk – one that got in a nasty fight, and has disillusioned himself with the idea that whoever did this wasn’t just trying to get him to piss off or saw him as an easy target, but is actually hunting him.

But he can’t just let him bleed. Drunkard or not.

He takes another look over his wound, then over the rest of his body for any other injuries. Checks his pulse, finds a fairly sturdy heartbeat – to his surprise – and then decides to check his eyes again for malposition or convergence or any sign of concussion from when he fell.

But, then… he stalls when he gets a good look at the man because he seems oddly familiar.

And Jungkook doesn’t know any troublemakers , so how-

Wait.

The asshole that ran out in front of him earlier.

This is him .

Jungkook pushes back the unruly hair that’s fallen over his forehead and half of his face and even finds the bandana the man had been wearing earlier, revealing the face, even clearer than he’d seen it earlier. He’s a young man with smooth, gentle features and long lashes gracing his eyes - Jungkook thinks he might even see a beauty mark or two in the limited illumination of his headlights - and all of it comes together to make him handsome , of course, but in a delicate - frankly beautiful way.

When he’d seen him earlier, in dwindling daylight shrouded by rain clouds, he hadn’t found their interaction so strange. Lots of people don’t watch where they’re going in a rush, anybody could’ve ran out in front of him, sure. But, now… with his cryptic words and horrific injury… well it makes the idea of someone actually hunting him a little more realistic.

There could be someone or something or some group looking for this man. And even if that is the truth, who knows why.

He could be a convict, or he could be innocent, and until Jungkook finds out which he doesn’t know if he could take the chance of being responsible for him getting hurt if there is someone looking for him. The man is unconscious. The person after him could be metres away.

So then, he only has one choice.

Jungkook is as careful as possible when he drops to his knees, the material of his trousers soaking up the ground’s wetness immediately, and he lifts him into his arms – the man surprisingly easy to do so with, despite them being around the same height. He carries him over to his car door – wishes he had voice recognition turned on for once as he awkwardly bends over to try and press his thumb against the door without dropping the person in his grip – and then he puts him in the passenger seat, and checks the seatbelt doesn’t wrap around him too tightly to disturb his wound.

And it’s only as he realises he’s completely forgotten to finish his patrol, driving towards his house instead, that he asks himself what the fuck he’s doing with the beaten body of a literal stranger in the passenger seat of his nice white leather interior car.

God, his hyung’s gonna freak.

~

Taehyung wakes up with pain all over his body and in a room he’s never seen before.

This has happened before, unfortunately – after a rough night, sketchy party, one night stand he instantly regrets first sign of daylight.

But this room’s not the usual gutter or shitty apartment he’s used to.

It’s powder white, highlights of reds – roses, pomegranates - running through it like ribbons and quiet. Sterilely silent and pristine, as if it had never even been touched before. The curtains are drawn, but no light shines in, the white blinds permitting none at all; though, there is a simple bedside light, illuminating the whole space of the room as best as it can with its weak orange glow.

Taehyung is quilted in a thick duvet and bouquet of pillows, more comfortable than he’s ever been in his life, and the absence of his bandana on his head along with the dryness of his once dripping locks tells him that things have happened since he last opened his eyes.

When did he last open his eyes? What does he last remember?

It’s all a blur. For all he knows, he’s somewhere perfectly normal right now, and he wants to believe that to calm himself down but there’s something telling him very much otherwise.

And that fear only materialises in the silence as a furious argument hisses outside of his door.

“You shouldn’t have brought him here, do you know how much trouble we could get in, for Christ’s sake?”

“He’s here now, what the fuck do you want me to do, huh? Do what you’re supposed to do to him and we can put this behind us.”

No. Get rid of him. Now.”

How ?”

“I don’t care. Just don’t make a goddamn mess, or Daddy’ll get angry.”

One pair of footsteps stamp off down the hall, and Taehyung stays frozen in his place as the door rattles for a second, as if a hand’s on the doorknob, before it takes itself back off with a quick sigh. After another second or two, they leave as well.

Taehyung waits a minute more before he tears back the duvet, an involuntary groan taking over him as a smack of pain singes in his side. He stays perfectly still, letting the wave of blistering pain sear over him and huffs in ragged breaths, keeping cries of pain to a minimum since he absolutely doesn’t want to attract any sort of attention that might want to ‘get rid’ of him as they so pleasantly put.

He looks down to find the source of his pain and sees his torso bare other than bandages, bled through from the supposedly open wound and Taehyung tries not to shriek at the sickly red of it because oh fucking god, what have these people done to him?  

He tries to calm himself down, screwing his eyes shut and breathing steadily because he can’t pass out right now – not unless he wants to be cut up into little meaty cubes or whatever – and, besides, he’s been in worse situations than this, he’s pretty sure…

…Has he?

But, then, he realises that he only has two options here:

He can either push himself up and go through some of the worst pain in his life and maybe not die from blood loss – or he can wait here in comfort for a quick, mess-less death if they’re going to adhere to whatever this so-called ‘daddy’ wants.

Hey, the second one doesn’t sound so bad actually-

Okay, okay, wait, no. It’s still pretty bad – just sounds a little bit nicer.

So, to psyche himself up, he thinks of Jimin’s reaction to him not coming back after he said he would in his note.

But, that just makes him feel bad for leaving him in the first place and think ah, you know what I sort of deserve this.

So, instead, he thinks about how Yoongi’ll find a way to resurrect him just to kill him again if he upsets his boyfriend that much.

And that… yeah, that one does it.

Taehyung braces himself with gritted teeth, and moves to sit up, hand flying to clutch his side on instinct as he growls low, grimacing, and pushing through the uproar of protest from his wound.

What even happened? Everything’s just fuzzy.

He manages to get himself into a sitting position, nausea piling in his throat from the pain as he shifts to plant his feet on the ground at the side of the bed.

He tries to recall the events leading up to now while he catches his breath again, but can’t piece it together right.

He remembers going to the apartment and leaving a note… and he remembers a vague confrontation after in which he failed to defend himself, so exhausted from running for hours. Then, the grinding of a vehicle pulling to a stop, and his face hitting the cement.

And now… here .

Taehyung grips the bedsheets beside him and tries not to get hung up on it. He needs to get out of here before his captors come back, then he can figure out what the hell happened.

Or… have some strong painkillers with herbal tea and erase it from his mind forever – whatever works.

He huffs a breath, counts to three in his head, and heaves himself off of the mattress, hunching over as he muffles a whine by biting his lip, hot pain pricking sharply over him like electricity.

This isn’t enough to kill him, he’s pretty sure, but god does it hurt like hell.

His steps are slow and heavy, pain rippling up his torso with each tiny gesture, but, still, he stumbles the short distance to the window, pushing the wispy white curtains framing his bed aside and scrabbling for support from the strip of wall separating the two glass panes. He fingers through the blinds and looks out almost desperately at the decrepit countryside surrounding him.

Nothing but fields and roads for miles, all slick with rain and mud. The sky holds a hefty burden of deep black clouds, spitting out rain like it’s acid.

Taehyung doesn’t know if even he’d make it in that.

Imagine, someone like him being taken down by nature.

Something like him. Whatever he is.

Not an android, but not human. Not a defect. Not anything of the sort. He’s something with no label. Something that doesn’t fit.

And now, he’s fallen into the hands of people that intend to ‘take care’ of that. Rid the world of the one that doesn’t belong; release him from being the outcast, the burden like the sky’s black clouds.

With that weighing on his mind, some might wonder why he’d even fight it.

Well. Min Yoongi finding a way to resurrect him, just to kill him again if he upsets Jimin - the aforementioned reason one.

But, also, because the fact that he’s not human (not entirely human?) doesn’t mean he’s not real. It doesn’t mean he’s not alive. He can live and feel and breathe. He’s just better. More resilient and powerful.

A better human? The exact kind of thing that humans are afraid of. The reason he’s been hunted and captured.

Maybe that’s why he’ll fight it. Why he’ll always fight it. To remind them that, whatever he is, whatever they think he is – he’s better.

Taehyung pushes himself back to a stronger stand, feeling energy leak its way back into him, and he finds it in his strength to walk with a little more poise, a little more determination this time.

He will not be beaten. Not by the lesser .

His steps are slow still but sturdier than before, passing over the fluffy white carpet that kisses the souls of his bare feet and it’s that that makes him remember just how bare he is entirely. Besides the silken white pyjama pants clinging to him, his skin is exposed to the rooms lulling warmth. But, once he gets out there, he knows it will not be a lulling warmth. It’ll be brutally cold and he’ll feel it.

Androids can’t feel cold, defects pretend they do but Taehyung? Goosebumps, violent shivering, running nose.

He’s awful with the cold.

But luckily, he won’t have to feel it so much, because when he manages to get to the sturdy white wooden door he notices the long, satin robe hanging next to it on a hook, and he takes it without a second thought, pulling the red, floral-patterned material on over his shoulders, sleeves stopping at his wrists. It isn’t the warmest, but it’ll protect him from the rain, at least. Then, he tugs on the golden curve of the doorknob.

But, it gives a small click instead of budging.

Taehyung curses under his breath, turning around to scan the room for something that could help.

Of course, he could batter the lock with something until it breaks, but that would almost certainly attract attention (what if there’s some kind of alarm?) So, no, he decides, he needs something more delicate. Something to slip through the crack and jostle it until it pops open, or something small enough to slip into the key hole and pick it.

The room, in terms of decoration, is rather scarce, actually; which makes this a difficult task. There’s a few vases of unfathomably bright red roses, bloomed with vitality, a stack of obscure books, manned by a little porcelain figurine of a ballerina – none of it really suitable for picking a lock, unless he does want to smash it. There’s a warm-off-white arm chair, accompanied by a basket of magazines that Taehyung won’t bother to look through, knowing the material’s too flimsy for the job and, besides, he’s not really into celebrity gossip.

The one thing that does catch his eye, however, is the tray sitting on the little glass bedside table. More so, the bottle of water sitting beside the bowl of once-freshly-cut-now-wilting fruit.

Now that isn’t flimsy.

Taehyung stumbles over to the table, leaning on the wall running alongside it for support, and grabs the bottle from the tray so fast, the thing wobbles tauntingly until he smacks a hand down onto it to stop it from making a crash.

Being killed by nature is embarrassing enough, but from breakfast?

With the bottle now in hand, he screws off the lid, pressing the top to his lips and tipping it back, grateful for the drink now because god knows when he’ll get another one. As it empties, he scans the room for something sharp, and cringes a little when he notices the lovely little family portrait hanging on the wall above the bed.

Fair play to them, they don’t look like a family of murderers.

In fact, they look like your average, suburban couple – a handsome, burly man with a sharp jawline and contrastingly cute, round nose that must be the father, and a bright-eyed, pouty-lipped woman standing proudly beside him, a hand each pressed to the two young boys’ shoulders, lovingly.

One boy is taller, with soft, but undeniably handsome features like his father, balanced on a set of strong shoulders, and the other is small, almost adorable boy, with choppy black hair and a smile that bears resemblance of a baby or maybe a bunny.

The man has his arm around his wife’s waist, and they all stand tall, proud… victorious, even, in matching black.

Taehyung wonders how long ago it was. If they’ve changed any since then. If the family in the portrait are even the family that live here.

It could be a stock photo. ‘Emo family portrait’ would probably bring it up on Google.

He drops the bottle on the bed and reaches for the portrait where it hangs, injury objecting with a violent sting but he does little more than grimace at it now, because he doesn’t have time to drop to the floor and writhe like he kind of definitely wants to.

He unhooks it from the wall and hesitates for a moment, locking eyes with the youngest boy in the photograph and it’s weird. His stare is so oddly haunting, like Taehyung’s seen it before – but he hasn’t. He doesn’t know any children. There aren’t a lot of children out on the streets, anymore – not after the fight against defects surged.

So why?

He sighs, eyes closing for a fleeting second, before he flips the portrait over so he doesn’t have to see it anymore and sets it down on the bed. Then, he loosens the wooden backing of the frame, pulling it out by its stand, and retrieving the photograph. There’s no date or anything on the back of it, just a simple marking of the name ‘Jeon’ and Taehyung tries to remember the significance of that name, as if it’ll help him figure out the little boy mystery – except it doesn’t in the slightest.

There’s something about it, though. He’s sure…

But, regardless, he moves the picture to the side, and takes the glass instead, laying it down onto the carpet. He hesitates for a moment, though, because yes, this is probably the quietest way to break it. And usually some broken glass wouldn’t hurt him that much at all (which is why he knows whoever did this to him certainly did a number on him) but he’s already weak from his injury, so all his nerves are heightened right now. Particularly to pain.

I.E. damaging your foot right before you have to walk for presumably miles isn’t the smartest idea.

So, he glances to his side, and catches sight of the duvet lain on the bed. He takes a corner in hand and begins to pull it off, as gently as he can to avoid hurting himself anymore, and drops it onto the glass. Then, he follows it, landing with a cushioned thud on his knees that still manages to send shockwaves up his torso. He grips one corner of the glass with both hands, and shuffles so his knees are keeping down the opposite one, then he pulls.

There’s a sharp crack that comes with Taehyung’s hands slipping off their grip, and he wriggles off the duvet, pulling it back to see the significant damage running diagonally across the glass. He reaches for the corner again, giving it a slight jostle to break it free of the rest of the pane, before his arm jerks back with released tension, and he’s got the stupid piece he needs.

Shit, if this was one of those flash escape games people used to play on the internet for fun half a century or so ago he’d be way over a good time.

Taehyung rises carefully, using the wall beside him to stabilise himself, and retrieves the empty bottle from the bed, gripping the shard with caution in his other hand. Then, he makes his way back over to the door, crumbling at from simple exhaustion when he kneels to get within eye-level of the handle.

He can’t believe one stupid mistake has fucked him up so hard.

He can’t even remember the mistake.

Taehyung takes the bottle, laying it down on the floor and he steadies it with his left hand in an ‘L’ shape, holding the piece of glass in the other with the sharpest edge pointing down. Then, he cuts.

It’s not the best craftsmanship he’s ever seen, the piece he cuts away being awkward and jagged, but he figures that he can brush up on his arts and crafts skills another time, pulling the rectangle of plastic free from the neck and bottom of the bottle and discarding the remains to the side. However, he pockets the shard inside the pocket of his robe – just in case .

Then, he wedges in the rectangle of plastic, just above the door knob, and begins to shimmy it down the slit in the door, cringing every time the material makes a loud snapping noise.

He just has to do it slowly… and carefully… and any second now it’ll hit the lock-

The mechanism makes a soft pop that sounds like freedom, and Taehyung scrambles to his feet as fast as he can, not caring for the plastic that drops to the ground when he tugs on the unlocked door, slipping out of the room with light steps. He closes it again as gently as he can, and looks down the three-way corridor he’s stepped out into.

Here, he can feel the looming cold that’ll await him once he’s out - glass lining the walls in the shape of full-length windows that do nothing to reject the outside’s bitterness. The pelting of rain is so much more prominent out here, and Taehyung shivers as his feet take in the icy marble floor.

The white colour scheme continues yet seems somehow drearier, more blue and grey than white, and all the paths Taehyung has the choice to take look the same. He quite frankly no idea which one would be the wrong or right move, so he goes right, because it’s a synonym for correct and that’s really all he has to go on right now.

It’s completely silent as he makes his way through the hall, as if not a single soul inhabits the entire building and – while relieving – it simultaneously puts him on edge, as if something will jump out at him through any one of the identical wooden doors he passes.

The funny thing is, this place doesn’t really look like any sort of research facility or kidnapper’s warehouse. Artwork and photography line the walls as they break away from the long stretches of windows. Pictures showing flowers, landscapes. Skies and water. Never people. Never the city – as if those things don’t even exist.

It must feel like that so far out here. The building itself feels isolated. Lonely, almost – though he isn’t entirely sure why. Just that it does.

Taehyung comes to the end of the corridor – the only options he has being another wooden door, or a grander, double-door, with frosted glass that echoes the same coolness as he’d felt earlier. He approaches it instead, deciding that it’s vaguely more promising of an escape than another potential room.

He presses down on the handle, relieved when it actually opens, and he quickly shuts it again behind him, a rush of crisp joy fluttering through him when he sees what he’s stumbled upon.

A stairwell. Though, a hell of a lot fancier than any one he’s ever seen before, with sturdy white marble steps and glittering silver banisters. The walls are painted a pale blue and white – the first other colour he’s seen since the red lining the room he woke up in.

But, the main thing that makes him stop in his tracks is the elegant stained-glass window that stretches from the very bottom of the stairwell, right to the top in an array of delicate golds and passionate reds. Youthful blues and mesmerising greens and the warmest, sweetest oranges.

They swirl and block into intricate patterns so incredible, that Taehyung finds himself climbing down a few of the steps, hand pressed to his wound to try and keep it from moving too much, just to get closer.

On the next landing, just a few steps down, the display lies right in front of him, along the wall, and his hand reaches out to touch it, like it’s being pulled by the moon’s magnetism as it glows through the glass.

The coldness of it floods his fingers in a way the windows earlier hadn’t. It’s not shocking or harsh, or a stark reminder of the fate that awaits him outside.

Somehow, he feels energised by it. Invigorated.

He takes a few steps backwards, to get a proper look at the piece, face-to-face, and lets out a gentle sigh of amazement as it comes into frame.

It’s a woman, he sees now. One with glowing eyes and skin, hair as dark as the night itself, holding a heart in her hands that have such a placement in the piece, that he can imagine when the sun hits it, it must burst with colour.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?”

Taehyung freezes where he stands, the sudden intrusion of a voice stiffening his spine as if it’s made of metal (which it’s not, just so you’re sure) as his hand loosely wanders to his pocket, feeling for the shard stored inside almost instinctively. The voice that comments is soft, airy – nothing he recognises or even expected and yet… there’s something niggling at the back of his mind that he’s heard it before.

“It is,” he agrees, words as calm as he can keep them, and the person behind him chuckles – an oddly high, child-like noise that contrasts with the soothing hum of his words. Taehyung glances to his right, hoping to catch a glimpse in his peripheral… but there’s nothing.

“My father had it installed a few years ago, at my request. He never really had an eye for the arts.”

He doesn’t know why the man is having a simple conversation with him. The only thing he can think of is that he must be trying to catch him off-guard. His hand grips tighter in his pocket as he mutters, “Is that so?” focus revolving around the sounds and movements of the stranger, rather than the words they’re exchanging.

“It is…” he chuckles, repeating his own words. Taehyung hears him take a step from where he must be… halfway up the stairs, maybe. His shoes click against the marble eloquently, like a lion prowling.

“That’s a shame… he’s missing out,” Taehyung says, mindlessly, trying to figure out where the man is instead as he hears him walk again, heels clicking and clicking until he’s close enough that the words meet the back of his ear in puffs of warm breath as he says, “Maybe he just hasn’t seen enough yet.”

… Taehyung has no idea why he’s talking about that, honestly. Unless it’s- oh he’s trying to catch him off-guard.  

And just like that, the man slides into his peripheral, and Taehyung steps back, twisting round to face him as his hand clenches the shard in his robe warily.

And his face is also not what he expects.

Bold, sharp eyebrows arch back at him, drawn together almost frustratedly above slowly blinking doe eyes that dot his skin, painted enticingly by the stain-glass like buttons. He’s handsome, that much is clear ( painfully) , but there’s something else about him that makes Taehyung look a little longer.

The eyes… the messily styled hair, the childish laugh… the mention of his father.

“You’re the boy in the portrait,” he says dumbly, shoulder’s sloping out of their defensive stance because that much is clear… but why ? That must be his family, right? Is it his room? His house? Is he a part of this? Or like Taehyung?

The man stares with a thick, tense aura that sends a chill down Taehyung’s exposed skin. And it’s as he shudders, that the stranger’s eyes shift down to the robe draped on his bare skin, and back up to meet his eyes with a harsh intensity.

“You’re wearing my mother’s robe,” he says, completely ignoring Taehyung’s statement, and he can’t help but feel a little confusion seeping in on him as the man looks at the garment adorning him with searching eyes.

What is he searching for? An explanation? He was cold, not setting out to steal his mom’s clothes.

“You got it from her room.”

Then, he must live here. But why is he so annoyed? Looking at him with this half-glare, half-questioning stare – as if he wants a genuine reason for it.

“You put me there,” he argues back, and the man’s lips part, a small “I-,” escaping before they shut again, mouth edging into a thin line. He takes a step forward, athletic frame highlighted by the moon’s rays in a way he hadn’t quite caught in the shadows and Taehyung swallows hard without even meaning to. He moves back with each move forward he makes, until his back hits against the glass, the chill rippling through him like electricity, even through the robe.

The man doesn’t stop until he’s no more than an inch away. Then, his hand starts to reach towards him.

Taehyung catches his wrist, free hand leaving shard in his pocket to swing out at the man’s face, who blocks it with his forearm. They struggle for a moment, pushing against each other with full-strength until he lets go so suddenly, the man jolts forward. Taehyung slips underneath his grappling arms, scrabbling for purchase on the banister as he heads down the stairs, skipping a good chunk of them in his haste.

A hand grabs his arm, yanking him backwards and Taehyung yelps, turning back in surprise to see the man looking at him with an angrily dumbfounded expression – as if he somehow had failed to predict any of that.

“Let go of me,” Taehyung demands bitterly, yanking hard, but the man clings on, tight and fuck, how strong is he that Taehyung of all people (all… creations) can’t even break free?

“No, you-,”

Taehyung doesn’t wait to listen, just takes the opportunity to dig out the shard in his pocket with such speed that there’s a second, right after the glass piece connects with the man’s skin, that they both just… look at each other with equal measures of uncertainty.

It’s a tiny slash on the top of his right cheekbone, nothing more than a cut – neither shallow or majorly deep - but the man still recoils, holding his hand to his face as blood oozes out slowly.

Taehyung watches as the man staggers, a rush of something dangerous in his eye – then he’s leaping forward and, before Taehyung can even blink, he’s been pinned by the wrists to the wall, eyes locked with those of the other man’s in complete, utter silence, besides the quick, sharp breaths they’re both taking.

Taehyung watches a streak of thick blood run down his cheek.

He expects a punch. No, Taehyung expects more – he expects a beating. But his expectations must be off tonight.

Because the man leans in that much closer, forehead almost touching as he mutters, “ Stop fighting me,” through gritted teeth. Taehyung glowers right back.

“Then let me go ,” he hisses, but the man doesn’t even acknowledge it, just tilts his head ever so slightly with sharp eyes.

“Who are you?” He murmurs.

And that… that confuses Taehyung.

“You don’t know?”

Shouldn’t he… know that…?

The man shakes his head, curiosity swirling in his narrowed gaze and it’d be intimidating, even, if Taehyung wasn’t so bewildered.

Taehyung thrashes against his grip, snapping, “Why the fuck would you kidnap me if you don’t know who I am?” but it’s useless. This human has impeccable fucking strength. If he wasn’t injured, he likes to think it wouldn’t be an issue, but his wound’s seeping the literal life out of him, right now. He’s running out of energy to expend.

The man’s grip loosens ever so slightly then, just as his eyebrows pinch together, mouth opening and closing as if he can’t quite find the words. Taehyung stares steadily.

“You… you think I.. . ” He starts, mouth gaping once more before he finally asks, “You think I kidnapped you?”

Taehyung blinks.

“Yes?” He says, a little patronising, a lot confused, pointing out the simple fact that, “You did.”

Unwillingly and illegally taken somewhere by force? Uh, yeah, check the dictionary, mystery man.

But the man just looks astonished… and significantly insulted.

“I saved you, what… why, would I-,” he tries to tell him, but it’s obviously a lie because unless Taehyung had some kidney problem that needed immediate medical attention, he’s pretty sure kidnapping him and giving him this treacherous injury he woke up with did not save him.

“How am I supposed to believe that?” He asks, gesturing between them with his limited hand movement, “You locked me in a room. And you’re literally pinning me against a wall right now.”

Criminal behaviour for sure.

Because, ” he reasons, exasperation obvious in the word, “I don’t know who you are. You could be a damn convict for all I know.”

He’s not. At least, he shouldn’t be considered one because he’s done nothing wrong except exist.

“Then why not just let me go?” Taehyung tries, but the man doesn’t seem to even consider it, immediately telling him, “ Because, if you go that way my father might find you. Or my brother. And you want neither.”

“Why not?” Taehyung asks again and the man bites, “ Because ,” a third time, frustration clearly reaching a peak as he practically growls the word.

“They don’t like visitors. Not with everything that’s going on. I will let you go,” he promises, but Taehyung isn’t really sure whether to believe that, “I’ll just make sure my family doesn’t find out, too.”

And okay, maybe that would sound fine, but then Taehyung remembers something from earlier that might say otherwise.

“But… someone told you to get rid of me.”

The man’s shoulders slump with a slow sigh, as if he’s tired of this conversation already.

“My brother’s a doctor,” he explains dismissively, barely even bothering to look at Taehyung whilst he does, “I was hoping he’d be able to take care of you, but he refuses,” he says, and while Taehyung assumes there is some disappointment there, his face remains completely stoic.

Wait… he wants to help him? But… then why is being such a Grade A, Honour Roll bitch?

“He wants you out of the house, what- Oh my God…” he suddenly says, looking at Taehyung with a surprisingly emotive sense of shock in his expression. There’s a brief pause, swelling with something like disbelief before he realises, “You thought we were gonna kill you,” as if that’s some scandal.

Yes. You wouldn’t be the only ones,” Taehyung confesses and he hopes that makes the man feel bad at least secretly because he really doesn’t deserve all of these running from his persistent death gigs.

Okay… maybe they won’t kill him. On purpose, anyway. But where they’ll take him back to? Yeah, probably a fate worse than death.

The man’s expression sinks back into nothingness with little more than a quirked eyebrow of understanding as he notes, “So… there are people after you?”

“I guess that’s where this came from,” Taehyung answers instead, looking down at the oozing mess of bandage and blood. The man swears quietly underneath his breath when he follows Taehyung’s gaze.

“So, what am I supposed to do now?” He asks, because he hasn’t really got a whole lot of time to just be sauntering about with this thing draining him.

“You’re free to go,” he says, though he’s yet to actually let go of him and prove that. Besides, that’s still stupidly vague.

“How do I get back to the city?” He asks, because it’s still a long way and Taehyung’s pretty sure no buses or trains venture this far out of the city. And taxis? Yeah, catch Taehyung getting a taxi with all those news reports on the number of defects that’ve been caught out with those invasive dash cameras the government watch over.

In fact, public transport in general is both too dangerous and too expensive for him. It’s gotten to the stage of exploitation with that, that it’s probably cheaper to buy your own car.

“Walk?” The man suggests, and Taehyung’s face drops.

What kind of heartless bastard ?

“Why don’t you take me back?” Taehyung asks, getting a little more annoyed now, fully evident in his tone as the man remains completely and utterly ( irritatingly) calm, answering him with, “Because, I don’t know who you are. And if I get caught my father’ll throw a fit.”

But how is that Taehyung’s problem? This guy is insufferable, what the fuck.

“You can’t take me here and refuse to take me back!”

“You’re not my problem,” he returns easily, contrasting almost comedically against the angry hysteria surging through Taehyung’s words.

“I am your problem! I became your problem when you kidnapped me!”

Surely, that is a simple concept. You kidnap someone, you accept that responsibility and offer them a friendly ride back when you realise you made a mistake.

“I didn’t-,” He’s about to try and deny again, but seems to think better of it as he corrects himself with a sigh, quietly telling him, “I can’t risk my family finding out.”

“But you have to,” Taehyung argues, and he really is beginning to feel desperation here. If the man refuses, then what’s he meant to do?

The man looks up at him again, a spark of something Taehyung can’t begin to decipher in his eyes but it’s cold whatever it is. He can feel the heat of the word on his skin as he utters it this time, they’re so close.

Why ?”

A crack of thunder cuts through the words, and Taehyung shudders hard in the cool silk against his skin, eyes drifting to the outside with a newfound sense of panic that doesn’t belong to him.

Is this how humans feel all the time? So vulnerable?

If he’s left to walk back to the city in that colossus brewing outside, he’ll die. This wound plaguing him will make sure of that.

It’s times like these he wishes he was gifted with faster regeneration instead of major strength – since the latter’s proven to be utterly useless now that he’s injured. A human’s overpowered him, for god’s sake.

He looks to this human again, now. His lips are taut, pulled into a tight frown. Eyebrows furrowed and eyes hooded, staring at him with such intensity that Taehyung almost shivers again from just the look.

Maybe there’s anger swirling in the depths of his irises – almost black in the lowlight – but surely, he thinks, surely there’s some kind of humanity too. Not all humans have it, funnily enough, but here’s to hoping Taehyung’s found one of the few that has.

“Because, if you don’t…” he utters, voice barely loud enough to hear over the storm brewing outside, worsening each minute, “I’ll die out there.”

The words hang heavy in the night’s dismal atmosphere, the silence between them stretching on to unbearable length. And there’s this moment, where Taehyung’s sure the man’s going to cave. A moment where his frown stutters, his eyes widen.

“You won’t,” is what he decides, and something about the indifference fluttering in the words, the non-verbal lack of care that contrasts so shockingly with his initial intention makes Taehyung grit his teeth in anger, as if he’s suddenly decided he’s not worthy of that care.

“Look at it!” he barks, pushing once against the man’s grip on him as he dips his head to gesture to where bandages peak out barely between the gap in his robe. Even through the small gap, it’s easy to notice the blood, a deep magenta in the moonlight, seeping out even with the bandaging.

Taehyung takes a shuddering breath before telling him, “It won’t stop,” practically begging, “ please. I’m exhausted already…” and how pathetic he feels saying so out-loud; but it’s obvious, likely to the man as well.

Taehyung’s eyes keep fluttering anytime his mind wanders, his breaths are ragged and sudden, his shoulders slumped as he confesses, “My head’s spinning,” letting it lull to rest on his own shoulder as he looks up at the other through his eyelashes.

Then, the wounded man quietly tells him, “I just don’t know what’s happening to me.”

Taehyung’s never experienced this before. This kind of weakness. His stamina running out, sure – after a long, long time of running – but this feels like he’s sick. Horrifically sick. He feels like he might drop to the ground any moment (for the second time, apparently.)

He feels like he’s going to die, quite simply.

“Look at it,” he says, voice hardly a fraction of the volume it had been when he’d first demanded so. The man’s hard stare wavers when his eyes trace down to his robe. He forgets his grip on Taehyung’s wrists, whose arms fall strengthless to his sides, as the man’s fingers glide down the soft material of the garment, painfully slow, until he reaches the spot where soiled white wraps cling to desaturating skin.

One of his hands push the robe out of the way, resting on the cooling area of his upper-back as it’s exposed to the stairwell’s chill. The other begins to finger at the bandages, moving gradually and cautious as they unwrap the start of it with a rumour of imagined tenderness that Taehyung knows he must be losing it to conjure up.

He hisses as the fabric reluctantly, stubbornly peels off of his skin, sticky with blood, and the man below him mutters an apology, pausing for a second to take a glance up at the other, before unravelling the rest of the first strip, a likely involuntary intake of breath shooting into his mouth when he does.

Taehyung can’t bring himself to look down.

“What in the holy hell did this?” the man murmurs, more to himself than to Taehyung, but the wounded man gives a small shrug of his shoulders regardless, answering, “Whatever it was is fucking dangerous. I don’t injure easily,” without much thought, to which the man’s eyes snap up to meet his, inquisitively – but he doesn’t ask, thankfully.

God, Taehyung has to be careful what he says. This blood loss is messing with his brain-to-mouth filter. And he really doesn’t have a very strong filter to begin with considering the first time he met Yoongi he said, ‘Oh , I didn’t know Jimin was into twinks.’

“Okay,” he says, the words hardly even audible until he snaps, “ Okay, I’ll drive you back to the city. I’ll drop you off wherever you want… but I’m guessing the hospital.”

Taehyung’s nerves jump in his skin at the mention. He can’t go to the hospital. Someone like him can’t go there. Not where there are blood tests and medical professionals. The kinda people that’ll be able to tell who – what he is without a second glance. He’s heard countless horror stories about what happens when defects show up at hospitals, he can’t imagine they’d take much kinder to him.  

Anything but a human tends to be a no-go zone for this damn age.

“I can’t go there,” Taehyung says quietly, adverting his eyes to look over the man’s shoulder when he tries to catch his gaze.  

He takes his hands off of him, the robe falling softly against his skin again, top layer of bandage still lying unwound, and Taehyung can see that hard stare pointing right at him when he asks, “Why not?”

Shit.

“Because…” He stalls, voice trailing off as his brain scrambles for a solid reason. His wound stings almost imploringly at him and he tries not to let it show on his face when it gives him an idea.

“They might find me there,” he answers, finding it in him to match the man’s intense gaze again when he does, clarifying, “The people that are hunting me. That’s the first place they’ll look.”

The man quirks at eyebrow at this, maybe at his choice of words, but after a moment of just plain silence, he puts a hand on his hip, other brushing the strands of hair that’d fallen onto his forehead a moment ago back in place and lets out a staccato sigh.  

“That’s what you said when I found you too…” he tells him, and Taehyung has no memory of the conversation, but congratulates himself for being able to pull that one when he was three quarters out of it, as well.

Not that it’s a lie, per say. They probably would find him if he went to the hospital.

“Just… the city’s fine,” he assures him, but, at this point, Taehyung’s not entirely convinced the man even cares. He guesses he has no reason to but… if he had enough compassion to bring him here – what’s changed his mind now?

And, just to prove his own theory correct, he smooths out the collar of his dress shirt, a pale blue in the dim light, and dismissively claims, “Then I hope you find someone there that’ll help you.”

He’s… he’s really just planning to leave him there?

“Wait… no,” Taehyung says before he can even figure out what he’s really asking, rambling, “I… you can’t leave me like this. I can’t run from them now.”

The man’s mouth draws into a tighter line, looking as if he’s considering saying something, but he isn’t quite there. He begins to shake his head, and Taehyung’s body reacts before his mind catches up.

“Please, please you have to help me!” his mouth says, hands gripping onto the man’s biceps with only a fraction of his usual strength. His eyes widen at the contact, looking down at the fingers digging into his skin, as if they’re alien – yet, when he meets Taehyung’s pleading gaze again, there’s nothing.

“My brother’s stubborn,” he reminds him, firmly, brushing off the man’s hold with callous, claiming, “He won’t do anything for you, no matter what I say – he’s too scared of what our father’ll do if he finds out.”

Taehyung lets out a small, pathetic whimper at that because this is really not going his way at all and he is not above begging when his life is on the line.

Please . They’ll kill me . Your brother doesn’t have to help, but I’m begging you.”

The man looks him up and down, Taehyung standing with his hands tightly knotted together, shoulders slumped and genuine fear being evident in all of it. He hates this feeling, finally understands why humans are so reluctant to feel it. Fear. What a ridiculous concept.

The man lets out a quiet exhale, no longer meeting his eyes, but looking to his right at nothing instead as he utters, “Okay. Alright. I…” He pauses, maybe unsure whether he should even be saying what he’s about to, until he does, pre-warning him, “it’ll be shoddy but I can use some of his medical supplies and try and stitch you up at least…”

Taehyung almost crashes to his knees in relief.

Thank you, oh god-,”

“But then you have to go,” he interrupts him, voice stern and demanding, like Taehyung had been thinking he’d just earned himself some free accommodation for life. He straightens up ever so slightly, shoulders strong and posture almost intimidating if Taehyung wasn’t so overwhelmed with relief.

“I can’t house a potential criminal.”

Taehyung groans.

“I’m not a criminal,” he argues, mimicking the man’s stature, but all he gets from it is a slow raise of a single eyebrow and he feels vaguely embarrassed by trying to make himself look tough. He doesn’t do tough. He does otherworldly and vaguely threatening.

“You can’t prove that you aren’t, and that gives me reason enough to be wary.”

As much as he hates to admit it, the man sort of maybekindof has a valid point here. He guesses if it were reversed, and Taehyung was acquainting with someone that could put him at risk then he’d be wary- wait, he is pretty much doing that.

“… Okay, fine ,” he bitterly agrees, “I’ll go when you tell me to.”

Let him stay for a little though, at least. Jimin will freak the fuck out even more when he sees this wound. Oh fuck, it’s gonna scar isn’t it? He’ll go off .

“Come on,” the man says, all of a sudden impatient, and making towards the stairs again, “we need to go get your things, and then get out of here as soon as possible. My father should still be in his office, but my brother could be wandering anywhere. He won’t let us take anything if he knows.”

And something about the man’s tense demeanour, his urgently hushed words… makes Taehyung wonder something a little… guiltily .

“Will you get in trouble?” He asks, and the man looks more than a little condescending when he glances at him.

“Should you care? It’s for your benefit, isn’t it?”

Geeze, you really can’t be nice to this asshole.

“Maybe I’m not that selfish,” Taehyung argues, but then he’s countered with something that genuinely makes him stop.

“Everybody’s that selfish when it comes to their life. The ones that aren’t are dead.”

Huh, Taehyung’s never thought about it like that before...

The moment moves on, the man leading him silently out of stairwell, looking back only one time when Taehyung makes a grunting noise from a slight stumble on one of the steps that agitates his wound with sharp pain. As Taehyung watches the man shut the door to the stairs, he catches a glimpse of the window one more time.

“Did you really request to have that stained-glass installed?” He asks, because, after all, the man was just trying to charm him into some sort of security with that, wasn’t he?

But as he comes away from the door, he glances at him with judgement in his arched eyebrow and a single corner of his mouth upturned, which somewhat makes Taehyung wish he hadn’t said anything.

“Yes,” he confirms deliberately, “did you think I was lying?”

No ,” yes… “I just don’t strike you as the kind of person to be into art.”

Like, at all…

“Why not?” The man inquires, and maybe he looks a little irate at Taehyung’s revelation, so of course he takes the opportunity.

“You seem uptight,” he announces very matter-of-fact.

“I’m not .”

“Yet to prove me otherwise.”

“I’m on edge,” he corrects sharply, lips pointed downwards into a pouting frown that’s, surprisingly, more endearing than it is intimidating, “I could lose my job for harbouring a criminal- and lose my family for going against them.”

And while Taehyung would like to push his buttons further, something piques his interest there more than wounding the guy up.

“What’s your job?”

He grabs the metal cuffs attached to his belt and gives them a quiet jingle.

“I’m in the Android and Defect Investigation and Extermination Unit.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. Not only has he stumbled across a cop – but one that specialises in that? He really did land himself in hot water here. Why is he this unlucky?

Also he really shouldn’t use those handcuffs as an answer to what he works as. They really don’t investigate or use them. Not as often as they use their stun guns or FADE weapons.

FADE, standing for Forced Android and Defect Extermination of course. It’s not as if half of them haven’t even done anything wrong or anything. It’s a forced extermination.

But Taehyung doesn’t want to think about all of that right now, and the best coping mechanism he has is shoddy humour, so he nods slowly, lips forming a playful smile as he asks him, “Ah, so it’s not just a kink?”

Needless to say, the man does not look amused.

So, Taehyung takes the incentive to decide, “I’m gonna say both.”

His expression grows somewhat sour as he steps right past him, muttering, “If you don’t shut up I’ll put you in them.”

Taehyung catches up with him, laying a hand on his sturdy shoulder to stop him from walking off again, as he teases, “You’d like that, wouldn’t you, officer?”

He brushes his hand off with so much force, Taehyung’s momentarily shocked at the rejection. But then, there’s that curious little tinge of red to his cheeks…

Well, there you go.

“So, officer,” Taehyung says, having to catch up with him again because he’s walking very fast and he’s still very injured, “do you have a name to go with the title?”

“I’m not an officer,” the man immediately corrects, and Taehyung barely suppresses an eye roll. Clearly avoiding the question.

“You’re not nameless either.”

The man looks over his shoulder with an unsure, cloudy expression fogging over it, as if he can’t quite figure out why he’s even persisting. He turns ahead of himself again, footsteps punctuating the words as he answers, “Jeon Jungkook.”

Oh, okay that’s ni-

Wait. What?

Taehyung falters, feet falling out of step with the man for a moment as his heart gives a miniscule pinch.

“You… you’re a Jeon? As in, Jeon Seokjoon?”

Jungkook stops then too, a few metres ahead of him, shoulders stiffening underneath his dress shirt. Slowly, he turns his head to the side, lips parted in intrigue.

“He’s my father,” he answers.

Jesus Christ.

For the second time that night, Taehyung feels panic flooding into his veins, like injected adrenaline, electricity and all he can think is that he should say no. He shouldn’t accept this man’s help for anything, if he’s smart, but at the same time…

Well, he doesn’t really have a choice, does he?

Regardless, he’d be lying if he said that the family name doesn’t make his blood run cold, recalling all the horror stories of the Jeons. The father, chief of the ADIEU unit. The (late) mother, a renowned field marshal. Their eldest son delving into the route of medicine, despite being a supposed carbon copy of his father while their youngest actually follows in his footsteps, freshly added to the force.

He wouldn’t be surprised if the number of ‘arrests’ made by the family in total is more than most of the rest of the force, combined.

“Is that a problem?” Jungkook asks, Jeon Jungkook holy shit, and Taehyung’s expression must be enough to say that he’s panicking because the man looks nothing less than disbelieving when he manages to babble that it’s, “Just a big name to end up in the house of.”

And when he catches the man’s expression, he tries again to justify himself better, explaining, “You’re quite well known around the city.”

Surely, that’s expected, right? Most people, humans, with any sense are terrified of the Jeon family. They don’t just arrest androids and defects. Anyone who might be suspected to be even associated with one, too. It’s not that unusual, and perhaps that’s why Jungkook begins to look a little uncomfortable, instead of wary.

“Probably not for good things...”

He can’t say he’s wrong on that front. Nobody really thinks of ‘good things’ when it comes to the Jeons. Except deluded extremists that think all androids should be enslaved or killed.  

Once upon a time, Taehyung’s heard, they were very well respected. Most likely when Jungkook’s mother was still alive. Yoongi had once told him about it when he first came to the city, but so much has happened since, he has a tough time trying to properly recall it. She was a good woman, that much Taehyung knows. Perhaps he’ll hear the rest of it someday – maybe even from Jungkook himself.

Jungkook remains quiet for a moment, until he suddenly turns his head towards him again, something solemn and… almost pained in his expression when he tells him, “Just so you know… I’m not like my family.”

“What?” Taehyung asks blatantly, “Cold-hearted? Ruthless?” Maybe it’d be a little harsh if it was anyone else, but his family are murderers. And they get away with it because of the fucked-up hierarchy their city has. Taehyung can’t feel sorry for that.

Jungkook immediately argues, “They’re not-,” before he falters, probably realising himself that he’ll never change Taehyung’s mind, so he doesn’t try to, instead, just telling him, “Never mind. I can’t expect someone like you to understand.”

“Someone like me ?” he echoes, because he has a faint idea of what Jungkook means by that, and it can’t be what he really is because the man would’ve thrown him to the floor by now. He thinks he’s just biased, as if they hadn’t brought it upon themselves.   

“You won’t go to the hospital. Obviously involved with some dangerous people. Don’t know me by face,” he lists, and Taehyung really does see where he’s going with this now, “You clearly don’t think much of our kind, anyway - Authorities...” He clarifies, as if Taehyung’s just rebelling with teenage angst. Authorities in this city means something very different than it does in other ones.

Whilst Solelight isn’t technically closed off from the other cities in the country, it’s been forced to adopt its own rules and regulations after the main government of the land did something along the lines of an isolation on it for its production and distribution of the forbidden creatures that would come to end up as defects. It was a step too far for the rest of the country, rest of the world even – despite the fact that, secretly, other places had been making them anyway. Hell, Taehyung’s the most powerful one of his kind in probable existence, and he was implanted and born in some wasteland research facility at the other end of the country, raised by his parents until the fuckwits that implanted him decided that he shouldn’t have basic humans around him to flaw him, despite them themselves being humans.

But enough of his tragic past, the point is that, now, Solelight is practically independent, and the only people who ever set foot in it are its own people… and idiots like Taehyung.

It’s funny, when he first came here he thought he’d be able to blend in better with the androids, after hearing that it was the city that thrived off their production.

No one bothered to tell him that they also despised them.  

So, authorities? Yeah, he supposes he doesn’t have much respect for them at all… why should he?

“They haven’t… exactly helped me much over the years.”

In fact, they probably want him dead.

But, of course, Jungkook doesn’t know that. Maybe he can’t expect someone like him to understand.

Then, living up to the coldness of his name, the man shrugs his shoulders and with an air of arrogance, suggests, “Maybe you’re not someone that should be helped.”

Taehyung finds that painfully ironic. All he’s tried to do is live his life, he’s never wanted to hurt anyone. It’s only since he’s started being attacked that he’s had to fight back.

Jungkook must be right in that case. Anyone’s selfish when it comes to their own life. If you’re not, you’re dead.

“I don’t think your family’s any better,” he tells him, because, if anything, they’re worse. They may see it like they’re fighting back, but if they’re fighting people like Taehyung, then it’s not defensive.

But Jungkook just sighs, must be nursing a migraine at this point as he rubs the point between his eyebrows, mumbling, “I told you, I’m not… like them.”

Likewise, Taehyung’s head is pounding… but he doesn’t think it’s for the same reason. He brushes it off, regardless, pushing on to ask, “Aren’t you?” when Jungkook catches onto the momentary blip in his demeanour. Now, the man just looks interested in what he has to say.

“The forest isn’t any smaller just because you can see a way out.”

Jungkook blinks.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He snaps, as if he’s been horrendously insulted without even knowing it, but Taehyung doesn’t bother to reassure him, just calmly states, “I mean, how can you know that, when you’re only seeing a part of it?”

All he’s doing is looking at the situation from his point of view. He sees his family’s wickedness, and the lives of innocents ruined and he supposedly doesn’t agree with it… yet, does he do anything? No , because he doesn’t think any farther than himself. He doesn’t consider the impact that has on other people. He just doesn’t want his own name to be ruined.

There’s a tense silence that stretches on for a long, long time, before he begins to walk again, no further discussion on the subject.

Taehyung doesn’t know why he expected anything else, really.

As they begin to approach where Taehyung’s night began, the corridors still feeling just as cold and unwelcoming as it had earlier, Jungkook suddenly asks, “Well, what about you?”

Taehyung has no idea what he’s referring to.

“Name?” The man prompts after the ten-second long pause. Taehyung utters a soft, “Oh,” Before he announces, “Kim Taehyung, nice to meet you.”

Was that too sarcastic?

They stop at the double white doors left slightly ajar (he could’ve sworn he closed those), as the man clicks his teeth in annoyance at his response. And upon seeing the door again, Taehyung remembers how he got out.

“Oh, yeah … before we go in, I might have-,”

But it’s too late, Jungkook’s already opened the door and seen the chaos of glass across the floor. He might have smashed a little more than he should’ve judging by Jungkook’s cry of “What the fuck did you do?!”

“-smashed some glass,” he finishes, belatedly. There’s a few seconds of nothing but Jungkook gazing at him irately before Taehyung bursts, explaining, “ Look , I had to get out, okay? I thought you were gonna kill me!”

Translation: this is technically your fault.

“So, this is where you got that stupid weapon from?” Jungkook notes, and Taehyung somehow forgot about that part, too, eyes flitting to the cut on the man’s right cheekbone with a tinge of sheepishness to it.

“I’m sorry about that…” he says, before shrugging up his shoulders and announcing, “It doesn’t look that deep, though!”

“Stings like a bitch,” Jungkook counters, and Taehyung doesn’t even really mean to reply with it, but his filter is shit right now with his head swimming like this and he tells him, “Then you should get on well.”

Jungkook looks mortified, lips popping into a soft ‘o’ shape, before they mould into a sharp scowl and he bites, “Fuck you . Just come and get your shit.”

Taehyung sulkily treks into the room, shutting the door behind him even though it won’t properly close anymore because, apparently, he somehow broke the mechanism earlier with his craftsmanship, and he follows Jungkook who opens one of the drawers near the bed and yanks out the neatly folded sweater and pants that are no longer neat nor folded when he lobs them at him. Then, he gathers his shoes from underneath the bed, and chucks them in his direction too.

Jeez, what a baby.

Taehyung shuffles out of the silken pyjama pants he’d woken up in, and pushes the thick robe off of his shoulders, listening to it land with a soft rustle. The cool air of the room tingles his bare skin as he bends over to get his sweater, crumpled on the floor. But then, a wave of nausea hits him along with his injury’s complaint and he teeters - hand shooting out onto the carpeted floor in order to steady himself.

When he straightens up again, his eyes are closed as he catches his breath because what the fuck just happened? But when he opens them, he’s suddenly very glad his underwear isn’t embarrassing as it could’ve been- because he’s just about to tug the sweater on, when he feels eyes burning into him.

Taehyung looks up and makes direct eye contact with none other than Jeon Jungkook (thankful that it wasn’t someone else because… that would be even weirder.)

At first, Taehyung thinks he might just be concerned because of his little… whatever just happened, but then his gaze drops down the length of Taehyung’s body, painfully slow, and back up to meet his eyes again… and there’s something about the interaction that makes Taehyung’s stomach flip besides the churning in it already. Jungkook holds the stare for no more than a few seconds, before he’s looking away with a bitter grimace. He glances at the man’s folded arms, where his fingers are making harsh indents in the curve of his biceps, and Taehyung almost laughs to himself at it.

Likes what he sees, huh?

Taehyung successfully gets his sweater on with no further interruptions and it’s when he’s smoothing it out that he hears the “You can keep the robe,” which Jungkook says so quietly as Taehyung’s shimmying into his stripey slacks, that he barely even hears him properly. In fact, he just gawks at him for a moment, waiting for a correction, but Jungkook still doesn’t look at him.

“What? Really?” he asks, stupefied because why would he even - “I thought it was your mom’s?”

The room dwindles into a cold silence for what feels far too long to Taehyung. He feels too awkward to breathe, never mind do up his pants, but once he does and goes to step into his slip-on shoes, hand pressed to the closest wall to keep him steady from the vague wooziness he’s starting to feel, Jungkook finally breaks the stillness.

He gives a loose shrug, stating, “No use for it now…” which sounds so detached and robotic (like, first gen robotic) that he sort of wishes he’d just smiled and thanked him.

He can’t think of anything to say to ease the tension, keeps hoping Jungkook’ll say something else to move on the weird feeling he has… but he doesn’t.

Instead, Jungkook crouches down, picking up the pieces of broken glass Taehyung had shattered earlier, rising to his feet again to silently deposit them into the small metal trash can by the bed. Then, he glances at the photograph laying discarded on the dishevelled duvet, and Taehyung watches his fingers move delicately towards it until he has it grasped softly in both hands, with an odd tenderness to the movements that Taehyung barely expected the man could even feel, underneath the obnoxious shadows of his rough-handling and acrimonious glowers.

He almost asks about it, what he’s doing, why he’s staring at a photo he’s surely seen a thousand times before – but he stops himself. He understands wholly after the interaction that had just happened, and even if it hadn’t he understands the lingering grief of loss all to well. So, he doesn’t say anything… somehow, it’s like the moment feels too… private to intrude on.

Instead, he quietly looks on as Jungkook stares, before folding it twice in a sudden contrast to his careful actions before. He still hesitates for one fleeting moment, picture sitting quietly, pinched in his fingertips.

Then, he pockets it so quickly that Taehyung vaguely doubts himself over whether it happened at all.

Jungkook looks up, a sharpness in his gaze that isn’t at all new, but certainly hadn’t been present for the seconds that had just passed them, either. His eyes had seemed soft for those moments; childlike, as if he were mimicking the depiction of his younger self in his hand. But now, those round doe-eyes are practically transformed by the heavy presence of the eyebrows framing them – angled and arched to perfection in a dark furrow.

“If you’re ready, then let’s hurry up and go,” he snaps sullenly, as if he hadn’t been the one holding them back just now, but Taehyung understands the words are hollow. He witnessed something that wasn’t his to see, regardless that he doesn’t know what , exactly . The angry pink barely daring to even exist near the highs of the man’s cheeks says enough.

Taehyung nods, going to take a step towards the door, but then one of his knees half-buckles, hand flying out to steady himself on the wall for a moment and his shoulder knocks hard against it when it slips, the collision just making him even more disorientated. He can feel his heartbeat spiking in his chest, and takes a gasping breath, trying to get his eyes to focus on anything at all because everything’s suddenly blurry. He might hear Jungkook say his name, but he sounds like he’s in a glass jar.

“Gimme a sec…” he pants, knuckles turning white with pressure against the wall. His head knocks against it now too, whole body practically leaning against it for support.

His head’s spinning even harder than earlier, all of his limbs feel like jelly and there’s this weird, underlying whisper thrumming through his head. A droning; something that feels heavy and pressurising – drowsy.

“Just luh-let me..” he tries to give himself a small push away from the wall but his arm shakes too much to do anything but fail to support him. Jungkook might be saying something else to him now, he can’t hear anything but white noise, or maybe that’s blood sloshing in his veins.

It’s funny, it almost feels like he’s gonna-

His knees give a weak jolt and he’s plummeting to the ground, limbs clanking against the floor like porcelain though somehow his entire body’s gone numb.

The last thing he sees, with the encompassing darkness surrounding him is Jungkook’s expression of vague horror, and it’s a little funny… just a little funny… is Taehyung laughing?

Then, black.

~

Jungkook watches the man crumble to the ground, and he can do nothing but stare, listlessly as it happens until his actually body reacts, lurching towards the man with panic rising in his throat because he can not have a dead body on his hands.

He leans over him as the weirdo gives a slow smile, letting out a drowsy giggle that’s partially muffled from where his cheek’s pressed against the floor, before his eyes shut.

“What the fuck? Taehyung?”

Jungkook drops to his knees beside him, to check if he… well, he’s still alive, isn’t he? How much blood can a person afford to lose, again?

He puts his hand on the man’s face, gently moving it to face the ceiling and he’s hit with relief, releasing part of the tension held up in his shoulders when Taehyung gives a short, airy exhale at the movement.

He’s breathing – unconscious, sure, but breathing and that means not dead, so…

Jungkook looks around, checking to make sure the man has everything that belongs to him (though he didn’t really have much of anything with him at all when he found him) and his eyes land on the robe – the compassionate, vivacious red that fills so many of his early memories.

Is he really going to give that away to a stranger? Why would he even say that? He can’t get a grip on himself, as if everything he feels and does is off – but the robe… the one that used to be so comforting to him…

He feels sick just looking at it nowadays. Like his brother. Maybe like his father, who knows. The man never mentions his late wife. Nobody ever talks about her, like some kind of omen hangs around the topic. A part of him wonders if he gives it away, will he feel less of that burden? The feeling as if the memory of his mother lies exclusively on his shoulders. He could give it to a stranger and then be free of it…

But, at the same time, he still doesn’t know who this man is. He may be injured, but what if he was he one who struck first? What if he deserved it? Surely, the garment deserves more than that.

Still, there’s a thumping in his chest that almost makes him want to let go.

He always has been too trusting. ‘Led by your heart, since your head’s always too far in the clouds to help’ his mother used to tell him.

No wonder who he got that from.

Jungkook grabs the silk, feeling the weight of it in his hands – though the garment in reality is rather light. He takes one look at the unconscious man  – clumps of sweaty hair kept off his forehead by his bandana, blood-soaked shirt and fitted striped slacks clinging to his body – he still doesn’t know why he even said he’d give it away…

And yet, he puts the robe around Taehyung’s shoulders, shifting himself into a crouch and lifts the man into his arms, standing with only a second’s hesitation before he’s up on his feet, readjusting his hold on Taehyung to something more secure.

He feels cold in his arms, and at this point, Jungkook has no idea how much blood he’s lost, how dangerous this situation is for him because he only found the man after he got attacked or… someone defended themselves against him, and even then, he left a small pool of blood behind. Jungkook’s impressed that he managed to remain so lively up until now with the amount he’d lost. Most people would’ve dropped off by now, he’s sure.

He changes his grip on him again, trying to get his feet held a little above his heart to prevent going into further shock – if he hasn’t already.

If he’s passed out twice now, then that’s bad, isn’t it? The first was likely due to exhaustion… maybe just distress over the situation. What did Seokjin say that was called? A vasovagal episode? They’re not too dangerous, he doesn’t think – but what caused this fainting? It could’ve been from being on his feet for so long, sure, but it could be something a lot worse, too. He won’t know until the man wakes up – if he wakes up – and, even then, he doesn’t even know how to be sure.  

Shit, he should’ve just begged his brother to help. If he has a dead man on his hands he’ll hate him a lot more than he would’ve for helping prevent one.

If word gets out about that, with his brother being literally renowned for his medical expertise – the family name would be ruined beyond repair. Enough people think they’re terrible as it is. If they got in legal trouble they’d pounce on them.

Jungkook kicks open the door, bumping his hip against it to keep it open as they pass through, then, he turns left – heading to Seokjin’s office as quietly as they can. They’re both fucked if they get caught. Taehyung’ll be out on the streets for sure – but Jungkook? He can kiss his privileged position in the force goodbye once his brother rats him out. Seokjin’s always hated when his little brother hasn’t done as he’s told him to, even in times like this, when what he’s told him is bullshit

Jungkook’s acting crazy, going against him like this. Why the hell would he agree to helping this asshole? With the way he was talking earlier, the people after him are serious. Enough to injure, enough to pursue mercilessly. Pushing the legal stuff aside, does he really want to get mixed up in that?

But then… the way his body just gave up on him… he just – he couldn’t just leave him there to die.

Regardless of who Taehyung is, regardless of what his own family name suggests – Jungkook isn’t heartless.

He looks at the man in his arms now. His breaths are quiet and shallow, making his chest jump and jerk in occasional gasps. His expression is, understandably, somewhat sour – lips pressed tight into a frown, eyebrows creasing his forehead and wrinkling where they pinch together. He distantly wonders if he’s dreaming or just burdened by the pain he’s in, even in his half-sleeping state.

Kim Taehyung, he had said. Not an unusual name, by any means. He’s probably met a thousand Kims over the years. It doesn’t give him any information like his own had. All in all, Jungkook isn’t any wiser about who this man is.

In fact, what does he know about him? Besides that he’s in some deep shit and appreciates art? The thought won’t leave Jungkook alone that he could be helping anyone.

What if he was running from people he attacked first? Jungkook wouldn’t know until it was too late.

He’ll have to recruit Namjoon’s help for that, he supposes. He has access to all the citizen profiles.

But, for now, he just has to trust his story. He’ll be careful. He’ll watch for any causes of suspicion, but, all in all, he just has to trust him.

These corridors feel so different now as he passes through, so cold. They’re always cold nowadays - even in the height of summer… the doors look identical, just blend into the same. He can’t even remember what’s behind half of them anymore. But, he reaches Seokjin’s office quicker than he remembered it being, and pushes open the door with his shoulder, cringing slightly at the echoing slap it makes when it shuts.

Taehyung murmurs something incoherent in his arms, and Jungkook figures he must be starting to come around, so he crosses the room and gently sets him in his brother’s desk chair, stepping back to scan around the room for the medicine cabinet, which he finds stretching across the entirety of the farthest wall.

He steps towards it, getting his hands on the doors of the cabinet as soon as he reaches it, but mutters a curse to himself when he doesn’t feel them budge. His eyes land on the keypad sitting beside a hefty-looking lock on the middle door and groans. He stares at the screen, dimly blinking back at him with a demanding red.

Okay, six digits. That’s only like… a million combinations, right?

Only.

He lets out a defeated grunt, punching in the default number of six zeroes, but the device beeps angrily at him, a shrill sound that vaguely hurt his ears. He’s about to punch in 000001 but then, he notices the tiny little warning at the bottom right of the miniature screen.

Two tries remaining.

His finger freezes over the zero.

What happens after two tries? Does it lock for good? Sound an alarm?

Explode?

He doesn’t particularly want to find out, so, instead of taking a decade to go through all possible combinations (not that he can do that now anyway) he actually thinks about it.

What does Seokjin care about enough to use it as a password to his precious medicine cabinet? The amount of times the man’s told him not to touch it is unbelievable. He’ll freak if he finds out.

Once he finds out.

But the number… something as cliché as his birthday? Jungkook doubts it somehow. He’s never been one for generics. Or birthdays.

Maybe something else… like his graduation, or the day he had his first kiss? They day the city changed completely – opting to hunt the creatures they created rather than fix them?

No, none of them seem to fit, Seokjin skipped his graduation and Jungkook would have no clue when his first kiss was – or who it even was from, for that matter.

As for the last? Although many in the city consider it a huge part of their history, Jungkook knows for a fact that Seokjin’s always quietly resented that change, just like his little brother.

Then, maybe the day he got his Masters? Jungkook remembers it surprisingly well, for what was a few years ago now. It was the last time that they all went out together, as a family. They went for dinner, all four of them, and drank something fancy and overpriced to celebrate Seokjin’s success.

Jungkook doesn’t have to think hard for the date, it comes rather instantly to him. 530630 – he punches it in.

But it beeps again, sounding almost mocking this time.

Shit, really ? Only one try left...

Jungkook really does wrack his brain this time. What’s important enough to him that he would know the date so well?

Fuck, if he doesn’t get this… he’ll have nothing to help Taehyung with. He’ll have to take him to the hospital.

Seokjin never tells him about his career, he wouldn’t know a date related to it that isn’t his Masters. Hell, they never talk nowadays full stop. He won’t even let Jungkook talk about their mother. Anytime he tries he just shuts him do-

Wait…

Could it… did he actually…?

Jungkook’s fingers hesitate over the keypad- shaking, even, but not because it’s the last try.

Then, suddenly, he slams in the date, as if he can’t take the tension anymore; part of him is hoping he’s wrong, honestly. He doesn’t care, his brother’s always told him, there’s no way it’s-

A green light twinkles at him, the sound of the mechanism unlocking.

Mom’s anniversary. He really...

God, now’s not the fucking time.

They’ll talk later.

He opens the cabinet, quickly grabbing the antiseptic and setting it in one of his brother’s empty medical bags beside him. He turns to look back at Taehyung, turning to vaguely assess the bleeding from across the room, and quickly deciding that he’ll definitely need stitches if it still hasn’t slowed down after he applies the compression bandages. He goes to the next cupboard, collecting what he needs for that, and moves to get said bandages too. He has no idea what antibiotics to give him, so he doesn’t risk it, instead grabs a pair of gloves, and some non-alcoholic wipes to clean up the undoubtable mess he’ll encounter.

Lastly, he grabs painkillers; he doesn’t know what would numb the pain, nor how to administrate it because, as he said, Seokjin never tells him about his career – and he never had an interest in medicine, so he’ll have to make do with ice and aspirin.

Jungkook piles the rest of this into the bag, minus the compression bandages, and closes it, hoisting it up across his shoulders, making his way back over to Taehyung. He pushes the sweatshirt up his body, pinning it with one arm above his chest, whilst he unwraps the bandage with one hand, flapping it out until it’s completely open. Then, he shifts his other arm down, using both hands to wrap it around the man’s torso, checking it isn’t too tight so he doesn’t completely constrict the blood flow, before he’s securing it. His eyelids flutter for a second, a soft whine leaking out past his lips, before he falls silent once more. It’ll have to do for now – on top of other bandages and hastily put on. Hopefully it’ll stop the bleeding enough that he can stitch him up.

Jungkook rises, letting the man’s sweatshirt fall and he pushes the bag behind his back. Then, he leans over to lift the man again.

And it’s when they exit the room, Jungkook having left as little evidence as possible, that they’re heading down the corridor to leave – when he hears a call of “Jungkook…” and the man stops dead in his tracks, almost embarrassingly so. Seokjin’s always possessed that trait – the ability to demand authority and loyalty.

Slowly, he turns his head, just catching the man in his line of vision – the white coat draped over broad shoulders. Clearly, he was working in the lab.

“Yes, hyung?”

The words sound awkward and unnatural out loud. Of course, Jungkook can barely remember the last time they’ve had a conversation besides from arguing about Taehyung earlier today. He’s been in the heart of the city for so long now, he never comes back here.

Seokjin comes closer then, appearing at his side. Jungkook feels a knot of dread in his stomach when he notices the vague suspicion building on his features, and he turns to face him.

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” he starts, sounding very much as if he knows he’s right, “but, you seem to be carrying that stranger we’d talked about earlier…” and like how in the past, Seokjin would’ve likely jumped at the chance to help this man, Jungkook can’t bring himself to feel the remorse and guilt he once felt at lying to him.

“I’m getting rid of him like you said. I have to go to the city anyway, I’ll drop him there.”

Seokjin’s gaze darts down to the robe draped around the shoulders of the man in his arms, much to his younger brother’s obvious discomfort from his sudden defensive stance. He probably even looks at the familiar strap of his medical bag.

Yet, he doesn’t say anything about it.

“What happened to your cheek?” He inquires instead, eyeing the still-bleeding cut with a strange lack of emotion for the question. Jungkook had practically forgotten about it.

Jungkook gestures to Taehyung, answering “he struck me with some glass,” quickly adding, “but I’m sure it’ll stop soon…” to avoid his brother’s office to clean it up.

He stares at it a moment longer, before his thumb reaches out to swipe the blood away, and he tilts the younger’s jaw for the light to catch on the injury.

“It looks like it might scar,” he comments, but gives no solution for it, only asking, “Where are you taking him, exactly?”

Jungkook can’t help but feel a little disappointed that he didn’t at least offer.  

“Where I found him,” he lies, again so easily compared to when they were young. He tries to sound nonchalant about it as he explains, “It’s on my patrol route. If he gets into any more trouble – whether his or someone else’s – there’ll be someone around.”  

Seokjin gives him another long look. This time one that sweeps from his shifting eyes, to the cut cheek, to the man in his arms, to the robe, to the bag. He knows his brother probably doesn’t believe him. He’s always been good at sensing liars. That’s why Jungkook could never do it when he was a kid. Has anything changed?

But then, all of a sudden, as if they hadn’t conversed at all, his brother gives him a slow nod of dismissive affirmation, and a coldly neutral smile, before he’s returning down the corridor from whence he came.

It leaves a sense of uneasiness, a sense of failure, almost, with him, but not because of what he may or may not know.

Yet, Jungkook only lingers in the spot for a moment, because the man in his grip suddenly gives a violent, spluttering cough, and he’s kick-started back into reality by it, eyes widening at the action because that sounded fucking terrible. Which isn’t a sign of good things.

The rain sounds like bullets hitting the glass, and it’s weird how it feels like nature’s trying to make some kind of statement.

He gets out of the family house as quickly as possible, and, through the drive back to the city, contemplates and wonders how his shitty week managed to get even worse.

~

When Taehyung wakes up, it’s to something obscenely cold touching the skin through the bandages around his wound. He gasps, struggling to sit up straight for a moment before he’s (gently at least) pushed to lay back down on the… cushy… warm… bed?

Wow, he really needs to stop waking up like this – in unfamiliar beds.

“Stay still,” a voice says, and that’s when it all comes back to him. Again.

He really does need to stop waking up like this.

As he sinks back against the mattress again, the exhaustion consumes him again, and he mumbles, “W-what are yuh…you doin’?” barely even peeling open one eye to look at the man whose holding an ice pack to his torso, other hand planted gently on his chest.

“Trying to soothe your pain. Are you awake now?” That same melodic, yet condescending, voice asks him, and Taehyung gives a melodramatic groan as his body adjusts to not being knocked out, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand as he murmurs, “Yes, but alive? Debatable.”

He hears Jungkook give a soft click of his tongue, before there’s a shift of weight on the mattress, and Taehyung moves his hand away from his eyes to see the man staring right back at him, face a little hard to read as he sits on the end of the bed.

Taehyung looks at the medical supplies laid out across the room, then at the duvet pulled back, sweatshirt pushed up and uncovering his bandages and glances unashamedly hopeful at his make-shift nurse’s face.

“So, did you patch me up already or…?”

Jungkook shakes his head and Taehyung’s heart shrivels a little. Well, there goes that hope. He lets out a begrudging sigh.

“I wouldn’t be able to monitor your condition properly, then. If you died, then I’d be wasting my supplies.”

Ouch.

“Blunt,” he tells him and the other man gives some half-ass attempt at a shrug, getting back up and wandering over to the desk where all his stuff is.

“How long was I out for?” He asks to stop himself looking at the moderately-sized needle he assumes the man’ll attempt to stich his wound with.

Jesus Christ, he’s gonna die. If not from the amateur surgery, then from this goddamn fear that’s choking his chest. That should go away, right? He’s never felt it so badly, how’s he supposed to know?

“Not long,” Jungkook mutters, too occupied examining the bottles he’s brought with him to give a focused response, “Maybe an hour tops.”

See… the thing is… for most humans two hour-long black-outs with a wound of this magnitude… that’d probably unlikely to happen. If Taehyung was human, he probably would’ve died on that second one. If not the first.

Maybe that’s why Jungkook keeps glancing at him with that wide-eyed disbelief he’s trying to cover-up. He likely can’t believe Taehyung’s alive at all. He just hopes he doesn’t know shit about blood loss, like his brother surely would.

“What’s the damage then, doc?” He asks, half wanting to know and half just testing to see how much the man does understand. Jungkook’s eyes flick up from the label he’s reading to Taehyung, and he almost has the urge to swallow from the seriousness in the stare.

“From what I can tell, it’s not great. We need to stitch it up immediately. I honestly don’t even know how you’re alive.”

Fuck.

“Good immune system!” he says dismissively, hoping the man doesn’t call him out on it as he moves to shuffle out of bed but lurches back with a small cry when he feels that unfortunately familiar spike of hot pain tear through his abdomen again.

“Jesus,” he gasps, holding his palm to the poorly dressed area, “I swear my pain tolerance isn’t usually this bad…” The words trickle out before he can stop them, and Jungkook’s already crossed the room, obviously intending to help him, but now he bears a puzzled expression, telling him, “It’s a big injury. Your tolerance can’t be high enough not to feel that…

Any other time, it would be. But the bastards were trying out some new spangled blade that even he’s supposed to find hard to bear any resistance to and that paired with the fact that he’s completely exhausted…

Hey, at least he didn’t say any of that out loud.

“Yeah…” he agrees with a chuckle, pushing the covers back off of his legs and shimmying to sit up a little more careful this time.

“Help me up?”

Now, while he doesn’t exactly expect Jungkook to just yank him to his feet, wound be damned, he also does not expect the way he hooks Taehyung’s arm around the man’s neck, and pulls him to his chest, literally carrying him across the room and setting him down in the cushioned dining chair he’s obviously dragged into his bedroom for him.

As Jungkook pulls away, Taehyung a flood of warmth washes over him, but instead of focusing on that , his eyes immediately begin to scan over the table for no other reason than distraction, looking at the substantial amount the man’s brought.

Bandages, non-alocholic wipes, pointy things that must be for stitches…. Then, his eyes land on something a little unexpected.

“What’s all the ice for?” He asks, curiously, leaning over to hold the bag in his hands because an ice pack is one thing but there’s so much of it… he can’t really think what he’d need it for since they had access to actual doctor’s supplies so-

“Couldn’t find anything to numb,” he answers distractedly, holding some kind of bottle up to the light to check its volume, “We’ll have to improvise.”

No offence but ‘ we’ll have to improvise’ isn’t really a thing he ever wants to hear before he’s about to be… surgeoned.

Taehyung swallows thickly, nerves bundling in his stomach and Jungkook must catch it, because he gives him an almost (not quite, but almost) sympathetic look, telling him, “don’t worry, it’d hurt regardless.”

Wow. So comforting. He should’ve been a therapist instead of the government’s lapdog.

Taehyung gives a soft huff of breath, something that sounds a little unamused maybe, since the man looks up at him, inquisitively, through his fringe with those entrancing doe eyes; they’d make him look almost innocent if it wasn’t for the sheer terrors that are his eyebrows. But, he doesn’t say anything more, just takes the non-alcoholic wipes and stoops down to his knees on the floor, dropping the packet by Taehyung’s feet and shuffling closer to him. He pushes his knees apart and moves between them with a shiver trickling down Taehyung’s body because oh.

“Sorry for the proximity,” the man mumbles, reaching over to the table to check the labels on one of the bottles. His chest brushes Taehyung’s knee, making it jerk a little in surprise and he really hopes Jungkook didn’t notice because holy  shit  those pecs are  solid .

“I can’t work from a distance. Unless you want to risk getting fucked up.”

Oh dear god no, his stomach just lurched.

“That’s... fine...” he says instead, sounding all-in-all pathetically  weak . He just hopes Jungkook takes it as fear.

He must be delusional. He swears he wasn’t this attractive earlier.

Or... was he delusional  earlier ?

Or is it just the fact that said attractive man is now sitting neatly between his legs, looking up at him with such concentration that he looks… hot.

Taehyung decides not to answer that.

And he almost forgets he’s about to get stitches from an amateur when his pain tolerance isn’t much better than a human’s for a moment, until Jungkook says, “I wonder how long you have to keep ice on for it to numb.”

Then, his body kicks into menial panic.

He lets out a shaky breath as Jungkook lifts his sweatshirt with slow caution, as to not aggravate his wound further and Taehyung helps him get it over his head. They let it drop to the floor, the man having already taken off his robe earlier, then, his attention turns to the bandages, sticking to his skin with thick, burgundy blood.

Jungkook reaches out for the scissors laying on the table beside them, and cuts right down the middle, peeling the material off easily as Taehyung hisses at the flutter of pain that comes with his skin plucking off of it. The man below him mutters an apology, echoing the interaction earlier from where he’d removed his bandages, and Taehyung merely nods in subconscious acceptance, attention focused more on the pointing-looking needle very close to the end of the table.

Jungkook unwraps the rest of the bandage, slipping it off from around his back, and lets that drop to the floor too. Then, he grabs the pack beside his feet, taking one out and cleaning up the mess of dried, smeared blood around the wound. A shiver runs through his body from how Jungkook’s free hand grips around the uninjured part of his waist for purchase, he shudders out a soft breath.

“Does that hurt?” Jungkook asks, incredulous over the man’s reaction. Of course, it stings a little, but not enough to spark any sort of shivering and Taehyung doesn’t exactly feel like explaining, so he just nods, eyes darting around the room to avoid his interrogative stare.

“Sorry, I’ll go lighter.”

For the record, he was pressing a little hard.

He quietly cleans it up as much as he can, now that the bleeding has started to subside at long fucking last and he throws the wipe in the trash can under the table. Then, he grabs a new one, and a bottle that’s labelled ‘peroxide’ and Taehyung’s no expert but that does not sound very good.

“What’s that?” he asks, blatantly dubious about it. Jungkook looks up with a blank look and answers, “disinfectant. Will probably sting like hell – but it’s the one that damages your skin the least,” without any hesitation or remorse whatsoever.

Taehyung gulps and feels hot already – probably due to losing so much blood - but now he feels another wave of heat fan over him, chest feeling tight and it’s still so foreign to him – all of this feeling. Whoever thought that one injury and an annoying human could cause this?

Great… ” He mutters and if Jungkook picks up on the sarcasm – which he more than likely does – he promptly ignores it, unscrewing the bottle with a gentle melody humming under his breath. But the dulcet tones are not enough to calm this mayhem going on in Taehyung’s head.

By the time he puts the liquid to the cloth, free hand manoeuvring over to the wound, Taehyung’s so tense that his tummy almost looks defined.

Relax, ” Jungkook coaxes, obviously noticing his muscles all bundled and solidified over his body, “Your thighs are squeezing my arms.”

Taehyung looks down at the man to see that, true to his word, his thighs are squeezing his arms. His biceps, to be exact. Those ripples of muscles that he can just make out through his shirt but, more importantly, feel with his thighs.

He can’t take this, he really can’t.

But he apologises meekly, releasing the man from his hold, who readjusts himself, repositioning his elbow to rest on his knee.

“You want a count of three?” he asks, hand hovering near the wound, and Taehyung agrees easily.

Okay, ” he says slowly, readying himself to apply the disinfectant whilst Taehyung tries to figure out if he really can blame the wound for his blatant cowardice.

Yeah, he’s sure he can…

“One… two-,”

He dabs the wipe to the wound, Taehyung involuntarily yelping because Christ that burns not stings, and somewhere through repeated exclamations and wriggling movements, he curses in a varied and creative amount of ways, to which the man – at Taehyung’s complete and utter surprise – lets out a slew of rapid-fire apologies, the words hastening the longer he goes on.

Once he finishes, he chucks the wipe in the trash so fast it’s like he’s discarding evidence at a crime scene, and when he sits back on his heels again, they’re both breathing considerably heavier than when they’d started (i.e. Taehyung is heaving. )

After a moment of total silence, Jungkook speaks up.

“So,” he starts, the word hanging in the air like a nauseating smell. The smell of fear , “onto the stitches…”

Taehyung’s stomach drops.

Hell no.

“You better numb me with that ice so well I’m pissing icicles.

Jungkook laughs – no, no, it’s a giggle even. This crazily, endearing giggle where his nose scrunches up and his front-most teeth stick out a little.

Taehyung’s stomach drops again. But less ‘hell no’ and more ‘ oh…’

Jungkook reaches for the colossal bag of ice (certainly an overkill) and tears the plastic open with his fingertips. Then, he takes a square of cloth that might be some kind of handkerchief, and unfolds it, setting it on the table so he can scoop some ice into it.

As he wraps it up and is about to hold it to his skin, Taehyung doubts the material’s even thin enough for him to feel it properl-

That’s cold!”

Jungkook gives him a displeased look, as much to say ‘it’s ice, idiot’ but doesn’t actually waste his breath on the words.

He holds it to the wound until it begins to tingle his skin, the man muttering a countdown to himself, then he moves the ice a few inches.

After a while Taehyung’s skin is flushed pink and  freezing  to touch. Jungkook makes him shrug on the robe around his shoulders again to stop his tremors.

Not because he’s worried about him being cold. Because he doesn’t want to make a mistake with his stitches.

“Is it numb?” Jungkook asks, and Taehyung reaches down to poke it, just barley feeling his finger’s touch, and as he’s about to reply Jungkook interrupts with, “Aren’t you gonna check if you’re pissing icicles?”

Taehyung’s snorts, throwing his head back to laugh, mostly out of disbelief that the man’s actually joking with him. He feels Jungkook press the ice to his wound one more time, before he throws it to the trash can, wiping his hands on his slacks to dry them.

Then, like Taehyung’s been dreading, Jungkook reaches for the needle and the medical thread he’s intending to patch him up with.

“Hold these,” he says suddenly, and Taehyung’s slightly dumbstruck as he’s handed the utensils that he’s about to be operated on with and  surely  that is against doctor etiquete  somewhere . But he holds them anyway, hands not shaking but certainly not stable either whilst Jungkook stands, journeys right out of the room and Taehyung’s left to stare at the little pain-bringers in his hands.

That needle definitely looks too thick to be going through his skin. But it’s so sharp...

Is it too late to just bleed out?

Apparently not because when Jungkook comes back he’s holding a glass of water in one hand and two pills in the other and when he stops in front of him and asks him to open his mouth, Taehyung realises that yeah he’s definitely not getting a way out of this one.

Taehyung does as instructed, forgetting to ask what he’s even being given (could totally be getting poisoned right now, but at this point he’s struggling to care) and when his lips part, Jungkook carefully pops both of the pills in his mouth, chasing it with the glass which he gently places against his mouth and pours in - just enough to help him swallow.

Taehyung feels the tablets slide down his throat, the water chilling his chest as if it rushes right through him, and once he settles, he clears his throat slightly, giving the needle and thread back to Jungkook as he asks him, “Please tell me those were painkillers.”

Jungkook gives a soft chuckle (he still can’t believe it) and tells him, “No poison, I promise,” as he stoops back down to his knees and shuffles between Taehyung’s legs again, needle pressed between his lips as he unravels the thread.

He takes the needle into his hand again once there’s enough thread and makes an attempt at getting it through the eye of it. After a few frustratingly failed attempts, Jungkook’s subconsciously pouting, so Taehyung takes it silently out of his little human hands and makes a show of lining it up.

While he’d usually get it first time, it takes him a few mortifying failures as well before he pulls it through.

Precision: yet another gift hindered by his injury.

But Jungkook doesn’t even call him out on it, just says, “Thanks... I’m a little tired,”  and Taehyung hadn’t even really noticed until the man mentioned it, but the sun is beginning to rise through the curtains, and he’d passingly mentioned that he’d been on patrol last night, too, that the man really does seem exhausted. His eyes are heavy, posture slouching from time to time, and actions slow enough that Taehyung sees an opportunity.

“M-maybe you wanna take a nap first? Do it in the morning?”

Jungkook looks away from the needle, suddenly seeming so much more awake as he sits straight on his knees to get a better angle, and he brushes him off, firmly telling him, “ No, we need to do this now,” and Taehyung can tell just by the tone that there is no room for argument here.

Besides, they both know what might happen if he bleeds any more...

Jungkook touches carefully around Taehyung’s injury, then, he brings the split in his skin together, pinched between the fingers of his left hand and checks his reaction, asking, “Did you feel that?”, most likely out of simple curiosity than anything else, since they don’t actually have anything else to numb it with. Taehyung nods, lost for words over how his heart’s pounding in his chest like he’s just ran for miles.

“Barely,” he clarifies, and maybe Jungkook looks a little more relaxed at that. He can’t blame him, giving stitches to a man screaming in pain probably wouldn’t be that great. For any party involved.

“I’m gonna need you to take deep breaths for me, alright? Nice and slow…”

“Uh huh,” Taehyung replies, eyes shutting as he braces for it. He’s seen this happen to people in movies, okay? It never looks fun.

He feels Jungkook’s arm rest across his thigh, a little heavy in how its leaning, and he hears the rub of his slacks against the floor as he gets into a better position. Then, there’s a moment of absolutely nothing.

Until he feels it.

It feels, essentially, like a needle digging into his skin, but he’s aware of every last tear of tissue it goes through, and the pull on the already searingly tender skin as Jungkook’s forced to angle the needle up so he can break if through to the other side. Somehow, that part hurts even more, red-hot pain rippling up his nerves with each movement.

Taehyung grits his teeth so hard they feel like they might break, but he still can’t help the whimpers that squeak out of his mouth each puncture and tug of his skin.

“Breathe, ” Jungkook reminds him, the utterance falling softly from his mouth, so clean, it feels natural. And, for a second, Taehyung’s mind is taken off the pain.

But, Taehyung does as he’s told and takes deep breaths, as steady as he can make them like Jungkook told him to.

“Fucking Christ,” he swears when Jungkook yanks the thread hard, tightening up the whole wound before he stops completely.

Taehyung opens his eyes to see him reaching for the scissors again, and he severs the extra thread, tying the ends into secure knots.

The sharp, searing pains have ceased, and Taehyung thanks ever god out there as all he’s left with is the dull burning sensation of fresh stitches. He lets himself look at the newly sealed wound, and is actually quite pleased to see it looking neat - if not a slightly scary purple-ish colour, and significantly swollen.

Jungkook obviously thinks the same as him, and is already giving it another swipe of disinfectant that, in comparison, Taehyung’s body just acknowledges as a distant sting.

“Want some more ice?” He asks, voice oddly unsure for the man, but Taehyung doesn’t even have to nod, just look at him with something akin to exhaustion (like extreme exhaustion) before he’s pressing the ice pack from earlier back to his skin.

Taehyung sighs with relief.

“I feel like it’s on fire.”

“It’s not, don’t worry,” Jungkook jokes, but Taehyung can’t give any more than a vague hum of amusement, eyes fluttering to closed again as Jungkook continues to soothe him, rubbing the area in small circles.

Taehyung falls asleep naturally, this time, which is an improvement, he thinks.

~️

When Taehyung wakes up again, he’s grateful to find that, actually, he doesn’t feel like complete and utter death, groggy beyond all reason like he has been the past few times he’s woken up.

Passing out does that to you, he guesses. He wouldn’t know for sure – those are the only times he’s experienced it before.

And whilst his stitches still ache, he has to admit, they probably don’t hurt as much as a human’s would, so that must be a sign that he’s getting his strength back, at least.

He lies contently in the incredibly comfortable bed Jungkook’s prepared for him for a few minutes, grateful that the man didn’t just leave him to sleep in the chair because, superhuman or not, he probably would’ve had a crick in his neck once he woke up.

In fact, he allows himself to think about Jungkook in general, and it’s a strange voyage his mind’s going on because this is the man that in the past 24 hours or so has not only kidnapped him and revealed he was seemingly content with Taehyung’s potential death, but has also offered him a place to stay and risked his own personal relationships by stitching up his wound and probably saving him from inevitable death – even going as far to be gentle and mindful of him before, during and after the process.

...Plus, he’s a very handsome man with a good sense of humour.

Not that that’s relevant to his morality, but it certainly does sway Taehyung’s opinion of him ever so slightly.

All in all, Taehyung decides to just be extremely careful what he says and does around him while he’s letting him stay. While he may have done good things for him, Taehyung still doesn’t really know anything about him besides his career - and that career is not a good one for him to get mixed up in.

Taehyung decides to stop thinking about the man that could potentially be his saviour and his downfall if he’s not careful, and get up to go see if there’s any food on offer because all the suffering of the past day has made him fairly hungry.

Jungkook probably has food crafted by his dozens of personal catering staff. Androids, even. He slips out of bed, grateful for the sweater still on him because it’s still freezing. As he’s crossing the room that he hasn’t even stopped to look around yet he realises that he hasn’t actually been around Jungkook’s home, at all – he’s just woken up in this room.

He’s hoping it isn’t too big. If Jungkook hadn’t found him in his family home, he’d probably still be wandering around it now.

But, as soon as Taehyung exits the room, he finds that his hopes follow through because Jungkook’s apartment is actually almost entirely linear. Walking down the hall he finds a few more doors which he can assume are more bedrooms and studies, and then what breaks off into an open living area, merging with an open-plan kitchen and dining room.

And a hushed grumbling of a conversation that feels oddly familiar from one of the other times he woke up.

Taehyung silently crosses into the living space, spotting Jungkook with his side to him as he leans over the island in the middle of his kitchen, hissing at the holographic image of an angry-looking handsome man from the chest upwards that he’s talking to on his Echo.

Taehyung’s never really understood the point of holograms. What ever happened to video calling? And why would you have something so pricey integrated into what you eat off of?  

He did semi expect Jungkook to have some sort of filter on the man by now, though. Taehyung knows he would.

“Okay, I’m sorry I stole some of your supplies-,” the younger man assures him, but he doesn’t really sound all that sorry about the thievery, more sorry that he’s having this conversation right now.

Taehyung creeps slightly closer, trying to get a better look at the other man’s face, because right now all he can see is about a ¾ view of the back of his head, the way he’s standing and that doesn’t give him much insight.

“-Some? Jungkook, you took more than some!”

Oh , Taehyung knows his voice… his brother’s calling to tear into him for stealing his stuff like Jungkook was pretty sure he would eventually. So, then, he must know Taehyung’s still with him… he passes one of the couches now, the man’s face becoming abundantly more in view as he rounds it. Sure enough, it’s the boy in the portrait. Not that that’s a surprise, it’s not like Jungkook has any more siblings.

“Hyung, I needed them, okay?”

“You didn’t even stitch your cut I can see it from here.”

Jungkook touches his cheek, covering it up with a hastily-forced smile that makes his face scrunch too much for it to be natural. But even still there’s still something about it that makes Taehyung’s own mouth upturn. Probably the absurdity of how nonchalant he’s trying to act, even if his brother obviously already knows the truth. Besides, even if he didn’t, the man’s as rigid as a plank of wood with tension.

And his brother can see it. The image quality has to be, like, 4K .

“What cut? It’s basically heale-,”

Taehyung’s hip whacks off the edge of the table he totally hadn’t seen at the end of the couch, and he yelps, holding the affected area like a battle wound (and he knows his fair share about wounds, trust him) and failing to notice the lamp toppling off of it until it’s too late. It clambers to the ground with a dull crack and Taehyung swears louder than he’d intended to.

Jungkook turns to look at him with such speed it’s a wonder he doesn’t get whiplash. Taehyung straightens up, about to apologise when he notices the head of his holographic brother turn in his direction too, only making half a second of eye contact with him before Jungkook shrieks a ‘see ya, hyung!’ and slams his hand on the end-call button, breathing dramatically heavily as his hand lingers on it in the silence afterwards.

Taehyung bends down to reclaim the cracked lamp, setting it clumsily on the table again and just hopes Jungkook’s too… highly strung… to notice.

“Do…” he starts, approaching the kitchen with a little more hesitation than he had previously (for obvious reasons, the man looks borderline psychotic right now.)

“Do you think he saw me?”

Jungkook’s attention snaps to him, a slightly crazed look in his eye that gives Taehyung the urge to lean away a little from him, as he reaches the island.

Yes, ” Jungkook hisses, “I think he did, ” which is entirely unfair because Taehyung didn’t actually do anything wrong. How was he supposed to know his brother didn’t know Jungkook was fixing him up? It’s not like he said that or anyt-

Oh, wait, he did, didn’t he?

Taehyung awkwardly clasps his hands together, waiting for the man to say something else. When he doesn’t, he decides to take the initiative.

“So, what are we doing for breakfast? I’m starved!”

Jungkook glares wordlessly at him. But does he go and make them both breakfast? Yes, he does. And Taehyung doesn’t care if it’s yoghurt and oatmeal – international food of old people – it’s still food, and still a win.

As the two sit on either end of the island (it’s quite a long island, making the scene a little unnatural) they eat in a silence that isn’t exactly heavy but is by no means comfortable, either. Taehyung’s tired of the sound of clanging, scraping spoons against porcelain after five minutes, and decides to fix that silence.

“Has your brother called you out yet?”

Jungkook’s spoon stops, and he glances up at Taehyung, a cold, detached expression clouding over his features which would make most people wish they could take their words back. Taehyung, however, just becomes that more determined to hear the answer.

“No,” the man grumbles, mouth half-full with oatmeal mush as he says it, “He won’t either.”

“Why not?” Taehyung asks, intrigued from the slight defensiveness inching into his tone.

Jungkook swallows his mouthful.

Because , he doesn’t do that. We’re not close enough”

Ah, they aren’t, huh? Interesting.

Taehyung gives a nod, but then he wonders, “Then, why did you freak out about him noticing me so much?”

“Because we don’t talk,” Jungkook replies, raising his mug to his lips and adding, “I have no chance to explain myself,” before he drinks, as if he’s trying to get rid of the conversation in the process.

“Unless you talk to him first,” Taehyung points out, because it all seems quite simple to him. Explain that Taehyung’s only here temporarily, easy peasy. But Jungkook just puts his cup back down with a sense of deflation in his demeanour, muttering, “Yeah, but… but you…” he takes a long sigh before he decides on, “you don’t get it.”

Again, the solution seems simple enough for Taehyung.

“Then you should explain it.”

But Jungkook seems to definitely disagree, immediately countering with, “I have no reason to explain myself to a stranger.”

Taehyung definitely would’ve banked on them working up to acquaintances, but sure.

He decides to stuff some of his own breakfast mush into his mouth then to fill the silence, and see if he can mute the thousands of thoughts seemingly constantly running through his head as of late, until it’s long enough that Jungkook concedes to grace him with his conversation again.

“What are you planning to do about the people chasing you?” he asks and, yup, there is one of the many, many questions running through his head at all times.

He’s thought about this forever. What can he do? He can’t keep running, it’s not safe for him or  anyone around him. It’s especially not fair on Jimin and Yoongi, who don’t even know if he’s dead or alive half of the time when he’s gone.

Taehyung shifts uncomfortably in his seat, peeling his eyes away from the man opposite him and taking interest in the glittering granite worktop he’s eating at instead. He has to be careful what he says to Jungkook. Too much information and he might piece together who is chasing him - and from that he might assume why.

And Taehyung doesn’t think he’ll come to the wrong conclusion.

Jungkook looks expectant of his answer, and so Taehyung tries to give him one. Some sort of game plan or strategy - even something just reckless and crazy enough for it to work… but he’s got nothing.

So, instead, he gives a quiet, disbelieving chuckle, giving up on his mushy breakfast, posture slouching in burden as he mutters, “I’ve no idea…”

And that was not the answer Jungkook was expecting, apparently, because the man is instantly barking, “You don’t know? You mean you went to confront them without a plan? ” at him like it’s some huge deal. It’s not at all to Taehyung, and he tells him as much, informing him, “It’s kind of how I work.”

When Jungkook still doesn’t look appeased, Taehyung decides to humour him, teasingly inquiring, “What do you suppose I do, officer? ” tongue caught in his teeth as the man in question continues to glower.

“I’m not a-,” Jungkook cuts himself off with a sigh, before proceeding to actually try and help when he asks, “How much do you know about them?”

Taehyung hesitates. He knows… a lot.

He grew up constantly tested and given ‘check-ups’ by them, was born in their hospital, a child in their children’s ward, educated in their shoddy attempt at a school. Taehyung was raised by them for their research. And while he has his own parents, he was only born in the first place because of them.

During his early teens, just before he escaped, he found out much of the things he wasn’t allowed to know, too - like the treatment of the AIs there in general. Subjected to experimentation and borderline torture without rest, neglect, mistreatment… but of course, the bastards can get away with it because hey, they’re not technically human, right?

Taehyung has a human body, human mind, but the enhancements they made to his cells before he was implanted are way out of human ability. So, he guesses these all important human rights don’t apply to him, either.

He had to get out once he discovered that, he couldn’t allow himself to be a victim of that - human or not - it was humane.

But Taehyung looks at Jungkook, clearly still trying to think of some sort of plan for him and, to his question of how much he know, he lies, of course. He can’t afford Jungkook finding out too much information about this ‘group chasing him.’

“Nothing, to be honest with you.”

The irony is not lost on him.

Jungkook looks at him as if he thinks he’s slightly pathetic (and he probably does ) and gives a low, drawn out sigh, picking up his mug and swirling it slightly before taking a meditative slug of it. In between his thought process, he seems to have a reality check, suddenly looking back at Taehyung with questioning eyes that makes him slightly on edge because is he onto him?

“Are you sure you don’t want coffee? I made some for both of us.”

Taehyung feels the tension completely deflate in him. Definitely not onto him.

Wow, is he getting that paranoid?

He vehemently shakes his head, observing the drink in the man’s cup and telling him, “No thanks. That looks more like milk than anything, and I like it bitter.”

Jungkook makes a face of vague disgust, saying, “ Why? Bitter coffee is terrible.”

Taehyung, once upon a time, would’ve very much agreed with him, but, as he tells Jungkook, “My best friend makes the bitterest coffee in the world. Like, acidic . I’ve evolved.”

“In the world?” The man echoes with incredulity, musing, “I don’t know… there’s a guy at a diner I go to sometimes and his coffee could probably remove rust.”

Taehyung laughs, surprisingly amused, as Jungkook looks nebulously fond of this supposedly terrible coffee maker, mouth curved up into a gentle smile that Taehyung can’t help but stare at, even if it isn’t for him.

And that… makes him wonder a little.

“So, this guy… is he… like, a boyfriend, or…?” he asks, entirely clunky about it, and honestly isn’t even really sure why he did as he stares down at his empty bowl, not particularly wanting to see how Jungkook’s probably looking at him with that scary furrowed brow of his right now.

But, then… Jungkook lets out an outrageous snort and Taehyung looks up so fast his eyes can’t even focus immediately, locating the man’s face which is alive and crinkling with laughter.

“No fucking way,” he gasps, as if the notion to him is downright hilarious and, frankly, Taehyung feels a little stupid for even assuming. Jungkook shakes his head to himself, that same smile on his face as before which Taehyung can now read as platonically fond as he says, “His actual boyfriend would kick my ass to next weekend if I even tried to make a move on him. And besides I’m…” the man pauses, as if he’s considering his word choice, head subconsciously tilting ever so slightly before he decides on, “not really interested in dating at the minute, anyway.”

Taehyung makes a soft noise of acknowledgement, storing that information away and then he moves the fuck on because that was a dumb question.

Yes, Jungkook is hot. Yes, he’s done some nice things for him like save his life. But he is still an asshole. Technically.

Would Taehyung let him wrangle his circuits? Probably (although, he doesn’t have circuits) and it’s totally normal to want to know the relationship status of someone you find attractive even if you have absolutely no intentions of pursuing them because they probably would want to kill you if they knew your deep dark secret.

… Taehyung’s forgotten the point he was trying to make.

But, before he can even remember it, Jungkook’s by his side, leaning over the counter to grab his bowl, and then he’s walking over to the sink, giving both dishes a quick rinse before he slots them in the dishwasher. It rumbles and whirs for a few seconds until it beeps erratically, and the dishes are sent back up through the circuit to the cupboard.

Jungkook wipes his hands on his jeans and rolls up the cuffs of his puffy white shirt that won’t stay properly on his shoulders because he apparently refuses to button it all the way and as he looks to Taehyung again, he finally says, “I think the first thing you should do is find out as much about the group as you can.”

Even with all he already knows about them, this isn’t actually a horrible idea. And, really, it’s the best he’s got. So, Taehyung nods his head twice, leaning on his hand as the man gives the countertop a quick swipe with a cloth and tells him, “Sounds like a plan - but, I doubt they have a website I can look at the FAQs section of. Where am I supposed to find anything?”

Jungkook’s silent for a moment, eyes roaming behind Taehyung, seemingly in thought, until he tells him, “I have a pretty extensive library. Lots of books about Solelight. There might be something in there - why don’t you have a look?”

Taehyung suppresses a groan. He’s never been one for reading, anyway, and now he’s gonna have to read a bunch of factual books on information that mightn’t even be there and that he might already know?

His face must give him away, because Jungkook looks at him disapprovingly for a few seconds, before he exhales quietly, saying “I’ll help you pick out some things to read.”

Taehyung won’t say no to that. In fact, he grins excessively at the man, claiming, “It’s the least you could do!” to which Jungkook falters for a second, obviously utterly dumbstruck until he barks, “After what? I saved your life!”

Ah, yeah. Taehyung had forgotten that.

“Whatever,” Jungkook grumbles, “I’m just doing it so you can leave sooner,” he tells him once Taehyung just keeps on smiling. The elder isn’t offended, he knows the man’s just bullshitting him - he was the one that let him stay here after all.

~️

And so, Taehyung spends the rest of the morning and afternoon reading book after book. He’s grateful Jungkook bought the audio ones at least, so he isn’t completely bored out of his mind (though, after several hours he almost is.) When Jimin studies he just uses the old-fashioned paper textbooks. He says it’s because he likes them more, but Taehyung knows he just can’t afford it.

That’s the other good thing about being away from him and Yoongi, he guesses. Besides from the fact they’re in less danger, they also save a shit ton of money.

He feels bad for burdening them all the time, but as soon as he gets this group off his ass, then he can actually get a job and make enough money to move out.

Three books in and a lot of skimming once he got to bored to even listen anymore, there’s a knock on the door of Jungkook’s study (personal library?) and when Taehyung tells them to come in, Jungkook appears with a suspiciously steaming mug and two white tablets pinched between his thumb and forefinger.

“Are you gonna sit in your underwear all day?” He says in spite of a greeting, setting the mug down on the table, inches away from where Taehyung’s ended up slouched across it. He straightens up, eyeing the cup and the pills sitting quietly in Jungkook’s hands.

“What are those?” He asks instead of answering him, and Jungkook’s expression clouds over for a second, confused, before he tells him, “Painkillers. Yours should be wearing off now, right?”

Taehyung shrugs his shoulders, stretching his arms above his head as he tells him, “I dunno. I haven’t really moved- Christ !”

A horrendous pain shifts through the movement while Taehyung’s arms snap back to his side, defensively, hunching over on the table again while he grumbles curses to himself. Jungkook slides the mug over closer to him and Taehyung sees the pills be set down into view beside it.

“Idiot,” Jungkook says, in lieu of a ‘work hard’ or ‘see you later.’ No, he just adds, “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Once Jungkook’s out of the room, Taehyung raises himself back up, taking in the unmistakable scent of fresh coffee and he grimaces at it, knowing Jungkook’s milky habits. He knocks back the pills into his mouth anyway, picking up the coffee to chase it despite himself, and almost recoils in surprise when he tastes that sweet, sweet acidity.

Not quite Jimin’s, but close.

It’s only about an hour later, after the painkillers have properly started working and he’s drank his coffee (it definitely rivalled his best friend’s the more he drank) Taehyung decides to take Jungkook up on his suggestion of getting dressed and, subsequently, stretching his legs because after a few hours of sitting in the exact same position, his joints are a little stiff. Taehyung isn’t really used to having to ‘stretch his legs’ and he feels sorry for humans that they have to deal with it. Normally, Taehyung could sit in the same position for weeks and just about feel a little rigid, but he’s got what he’s bitterly named Human Syndrome at the minute, so of course he gets their achy, creaky bones.

Taehyung really doesn’t want to find out what else those guys have up their sleeves if their ‘new weapon’ damaged him this badly.

He takes his mug, planning to drop it into the kitchen on the way to Jungkook’s bedroom, and exits the man’s study with a gentler stretch this time, sweater brushing up his stomach to let the cooler air of the hallway ghost against it.

His wound still feels like it’s sort-of on fire, but he can deal with that sort of pain right now. The duller, more consistent kind. It’s the sharp sudden ones that are insufferable.

True to his mental word, he crosses the living area and drops the mug in the sink, running the water over it to ‘let it steep’ when in reality he just doesn’t want to put it away.

Jimin always gets at him for that.

He exits the room again, heading down the corridor and taking a peak in each door he passes to try and figure out where the man’s bedroom is.

Unless he has a walk-in closet in a separate room. He probably is that excessive.

He finds spare bedrooms (he knows they must be spare, since there’s no clothes in any of them), studies, two bathrooms (one of which sounds as if the shower’s on inside it) and another, smaller living room, – but no master bedroom.

Until he turns the corner.

Taehyung knows he’s found it when he sees the red-carpeted steps leading up to the huge double doors, literal stone arcs outside it and it’s all so pompous with the fancy pale gold walls and dark mahogany flooring that Taehyung literally scoffs.

And then, he looks up above the double doors and almost doubles over in laughter.

He has a fucking portrait of himself. Hand-painted, gold frame, standing all self-assured and so aware of how good he looks in that dark red velvet suit - black lapels and a loose silk white shirt that half screams ‘prince’ and half ‘wow, what a fucking douche.’

Taehyung rolls his eyes at the gaze the painting has on him, something lustful and desperately confident that he just has to roll his eyes at it.

He descends the stairs two at a time, skipping up them rather quickly and he wonders how Jungkook even got planning permission to create it like this. No apartment he’s ever been in’s looked like this, and he very much doubts any landlord would allow this either.

Unless…

Surely, he doesn’t own the entire building.

Rich bastard.

Taehyung pushes open one of the doors, slipping inside, and he almost pisses himself when he does.

The fucking view.

Solelight, in Taehyung’s opinion, has never been a beautiful city. It’s all bright lights and neon, the kind that make you squint and grimace as you’re travelling through it. It’s gaudy and technology-infested and polluted.

But, god, if it isn’t a pretty sight right now.

All those lights douse it in colour, making it twinkle and glitter from every conceivable angle. And while usually, he thinks the tall skyscrapers and apartment buildings are an eye-sore, from here, they look like poles of light. Like rocks among a twinkling sea.

“Holy shit,” he breathes to himself, and, in some way, he half expects Jungkook to come up behind him again, like last night, when he’d been examining a whole other window (he swears he isn’t normally so interested in them.)

But, he doesn’t, and Taehyung lets himself look over the city for a little while longer, before he gets hit by another chill on his legs and goes back to the mission at hand.

He turns his head to the side and, for the second time in the last five minutes, almost pisses himself.

His closet spans the entirety of his left wall.

And it’s a big fucking wall.

“Who the hell needs this much shit?” he says disbelievingly, feet dragging him over before he’s even acknowledged it.

Taehyung opens one of the closet doors, not even surprised when it illuminates with an excessive spotlight, highlighting its grandeur. He sees suits, shirts, blazers, jackets, overcoats and very style of dress pants he can think of - but he doesn’t really feel like dressing as if he’s about to go get his morning coffee and perhaps sue someone along the way - so he keeps looking through the closet doors, passing the absurd number of shoes and, at last, Taehyung sees a small chest of drawers which, when he opens it, finds it holds Jungkook’s presumed ‘casual clothes’, though, he isn’t sure if you can really count designer as casual.

Regardless, he takes the first combination he sees: a pair of plain black jeans and a deep-red, long-sleeved shirt that feels soft to the touch, like new. Both are labelled by the same swirly writing in a language he doesn’t understand.

He closes the closet again, all four of the doors, and is just pulling his sweater over his head, when the entrance door creaks open, and that musical voice exclaims a dissonant “ Christ ,” just as Taehyung pulls the garment off his head, staring eye-to-eye with Jungkook, arms still enclosed by the sweater. While Jungkook…

Well, Jungkook’s got a towel threatening to slip off of his hips.

Taehyung swallows thickly, eyes travelling down the toned muscles of his arms and chest, right down to the edge of his towel, like he’s mimicking the droplets of water gliding down them, and he pulls the sweater all the way off, dropping at his feet, and as he reaches for the jeans, they lock eyes again, the man across the room’s tongue darts out to run along his bottom lip, before settling to poke in his cheek.

Taehyung steps into the jeans, pulling them up his legs, and it’s when he goes to button them up, that Jungkook’s eyes stop following the elder’s hand movements, and he clears his throat and says “My stitching doesn’t look too bad.”

Taehyung looks to examine it himself, and is pleasantly surprised to see that it’s no longer grotesquely swollen, as it had been when he’d done it -  nor is it any horrific colour; just a raw, pinky red.

“Not too bad at all,” Taehyung notes, but the words sound awkward even to him. He buttons his jeans, tugging them down ever so slightly so the waistband isn’t too close to the healing wound.

“I hope you don’t mind, I’m borrowing your clothes,” Taehyung says, redundantly, and Jungkook gives him a vaguely judgemental look as he says, “You’ve already done it…” as if he hadn’t practically told him to, but then he adds, “I’ll pick out all the things I don’t wear and leave them in your room - after I get dressed.”

Taehyung thanks him, telling him he shouldn’t have to do that, but in reality he’s very grateful he won’t have to keep coming in here, after this.

Or… is that unfortunate?

What’s he so goddamn ripped for anyway? Taehyung looks down at his tummy, soft and flat and gives an internal sigh.

As Taehyung’s about to put his shirt on, Jungkook says something that makes him stall.

“You have a tattoo?”

Taehyung follows the man’s eyes to where he’s staring, seeing the gentle petals peak out from above the waistband of his jeans where they hang lower than his slacks had yesterday. He lets out a light snort, he forgets it’s there half of the time.

“Uh huh.”

Jungkook, slowly, makes his way across the room - until he’s barely a breath away, and Taehyung doesn’t know at all what he expects - but it’s definitely not the warm hand that presses against his hip bone, thumb tracing the inked skin there. Taehyung jolts slightly in the man’s careful grip, watching the action in stunned silence, before the man speaks, “When’d you get it?” as if he isn’t touching his bare skin right now.

Taehyung tries not to shiver at the loss of heat when he pulls his hand back again.

“A few years ago,” he answers, mind feeling slightly off-beat from the interaction, “I got it to cover up a scar.”

Jungkook’s eyebrows raise up at that.

“What kind of scar?” He asks, and Taehyung realises that it must sound a little suspicious (and he would be right to be suspicious) as if there’s another gargantous wound under there.

Taehyung gives a gentle shrug, fingers tugging his waistband down a little lower on one side, revealing part of a collection of monochrome daffodils.

“When I was running from the people chasing me, I slipped off a fence and a piece of the metal dug into my leg, scarring all the way down my thigh. When it healed, my skin didn’t go back to normal, so I got it covered up.”

Back then, Taehyung had been on some kind of new medication they’d been testing on him that was meant to make him stronger. He’d taken a shit ton before he left and felt invincible - so, despite the brutality of the wound, it healed in a few days, and he barely even felt it when it was there.

But the medication wore off before it could completely cosmetically heal, and it left the skin all pale and blotchy.

Regardless, Taehyung wishes he had some of that medication now - this wound will not heal in a couple of days.

“Why daffodils?” Jungkook asks with curiosity, eyes drifting down to Taehyung’s covered leg as if he can picture them. Taehyung gives a soft hum, grinning a little to himself. He always loves explaining this.

“They represent a new beginning,” he tells him, remembering how the person in the tattoo parlour had told him the same thing when he’d lamented about the accident, “And I guess I wanted that.” He did. In many, many ways. A new beginning as a free man, yes. But a new beginning as someone who wasn’t bound by their past, too.

“Also to be loved and admired - didn’t think that’d be so bad, either,” he jokes, and Jungkook laughs quietly, before his eyes wander down to the covered tattoo again. He looks slightly contemplative when he asks, “So, it goes all the way down your thigh?” obviously oblivious to how suggestive the words sound aloud.

But Taehyung isn’t.

“Are you trying to get me to show you?” He questions, tilting his head at him as his mouth curves upwards and Jungkook looks confused for all of two seconds, until his eyes pop open, lips following suit as he fumbles to reason, “ No , I was just- I wondered- I didn’t-,”

Taehyung shakes his head, stepping an inch or two towards him. Jungkook’s hand grips his towel, maybe out of instinct and it’s a little amusing, actually, how this man - so cold, so confident - has become like this , all doe-eyed and expectant, with one tiny shred of embarrassment.

It’s… kinda cute, actually.

“-Maybe you’ll see it one day, officer ,” Taehyung mutters, barely a breath away from him now - so much so he can feel the heat of the shower still radiating off his body. Jungkook swallows, throat moving with the action, as he eyes flit between Taehyung’s to down, down, down .

“Look, I’m interested in tattoos, alright?” He says lowly, but honestly, Taehyung wasn’t looking for an excuse, “I have a few myself, so…”

Oh , he does, does he?

Where ?” Taehyung asks with a playful edge to the word, because here the man is flaunting his rippling torso right before him, and yet, he sees none.

Jungkook folds his arms across his chest, giving a soft click of his tongue before he steps back almost defiantly, spinning on his heels in one graceful movement and baring his back to him. Taehyung gives a low hum of approval, stomach fluttering at the sight.

His back is tainted with the image of two crows ; one among a weak bouquet of wildflowers, and the other behind the inverted silhouette of a tree. There’s something oddly powerful about it, deliberate even in its smears and rash strokes, and Taehyung finds himself practically lost for words.

Oh… ” he utters, eyes running across the design carefully, like he’s trying to memorise the details. His fingers almost reach out to touch it, but he thinks better of it because, unlike Jungkook, he realises that it’s weird to just touch someone you barely even know. No matter how… touchable they look.

“You like it?” He asks, and maybe it’s a little cocky, now, (definitely a little cocky) but he absolutely has the right to sound so, considering what a pretty sight he is. Taehyung wonders how cocky he’d be if he was still facing him.

“I do,” Taehyung tells him earnestly, “it’s stunning, I- why’d you get it?”

Jungkook’s shoulders seem to tighten a little then, but he lets his arms fall by his side when he sighs and says, “My mom used to have this painting in her room that she adored. It got lost when we moved out of the city, but I managed to recreate it the best I could.”

Taehyung pauses, unable to stop the small sound of surprise that escapes his mouth.

“Wait… you designed that?”

Jungkook turns around again, confident once more as he gives Taehyung a smug grin, replying, “I told you I liked art.”

‘Liked art.’ Pff, what an understatement.

“Yeah but that…” Taehyung insists, “that’s a masterpiece .”

It really is. Unbelievably intricate, yet, somehow, it looks completely improvised and free. Jungkook gives a weak laugh, mumbling, “Mom said the same about the original. Guess it fits.”

Then, he looks off to the window behind the elder, something unreadable in his eyes as he muses, “I like to think she’d say the same about my take on it.”

Taehyung suddenly feels as if he’s seeing something he shouldn’t again, but he can’t help himself from saying, “You sound like you loved her a lot...”

And it’s a mistake.

Out of nowhere, the soft expression disintegrates, and Jungkook glances to Taehyung with his mouth moving into a frown. He gives a short nod, shaking out the droplets forming in the end of his fringe and pushes it back off his forehead. Then, without a word he crosses the room to his closet.

“I should get dressed…” he mutters after a few seconds where Taehyung doesn’t make a move to leave, “Good luck with your researching.”

It sounds disingenuous, but Taehyung doesn’t really know if he should be offended by it. After all, he doesn’t know why he took his words so badly.

“Right, yeah. Thanks...”

Taehyung goes back to the study, feeling substantially odd from the whole conversation that just happened. But, he brushes it off, sitting back down at the desk and continuing where he left off - but even after another hour or so, he still hasn’t found anything on the people chasing him. Most of the books Jungkook gave him just focus on the history of the city as a whole, not its businesses and organisations and certainly not the cursed android developers ; but, even if he did find them in here, he doubt it’d be any more than their name and location - both of which Taehyung’s already fully aware of.

Acquiesce: Android Development and Recovery Centre - which is a bold-face lie, from the start, but once Taehyung finally looked up acquiesce in the dictionary he found on one of the countless shelves, he realised that another lie in the name is the suggestion that their subjects  ‘comply without protest.’

There is protest. Lots of it. Enough that Taehyung can still fucking hear the cries sometimes when things are too quiet. Acquiesce is absolutely bullshit.

But he’s not surprised he hasn’t found anything in these books, the bastards aren’t even primarily situated in Solelight. They have branches in almost every city, but Taehyung grew up in the primary ‘research facility’, way over on the other side of the country.

And he gives up eventually, at least for tonight. He needs a different means of finding out more information, though, he isn’t sure what he’s really even looking for. Jungkook told him to research things, assuming he knew nothing , but Taehyung knows way more than he could ever find out in this study. So, what more would he even need to know?

A while later, he’s sitting at the dining table with Jungkook, both at the opposite ends again, but somehow it feels even more awkward this time.

The man made them some kind of noodle dish - Taehyung isn’t even entirely sure what kind, but it tastes amazing, and he’s insanely thankful for the first good meal he’s had in quite some time. Sure it’s horrendously high-carb and Taehyung thinks he may have put a grand total of one singular vegetable in it, but it’s still a lot better than it could’ve been.

Actually, he could probably get used to this sort of dinner… Jimin and Yoongi can never really be bothered to make anything after class- and they don’t let Taehyung in the kitchen, so, most of the time, they end up eating order-in food.

Taehyung gets fed up with grease, sometimes.

And he also gets fed up with silences - and the one between him and Jungkook right now is annoying the hell out of him. So, in between his slurps of noodles, he tries to think of something to talk about.

“I found out some things about them,” he lies, but Jungkook doesn’t need to know. He doesn’t know who’s after him, and he doubts he’s even read those books.

The man looks up from his bowl, a reservedness in his gaze as he asks, “Oh, yeah?”

Okay, still upset. Or… angry. Or something.

“Yeah,” Taehyung presses on, “But what am I supposed to do, now that I know things about them?”

Jungkook keeps chewing slowly, cheeks puffing out with food, as if he’s in no rush to answer him. He swallows and sets his utensils down. Then, he leans back in his chair, fingers fiddling with the wide collar of his satin shirt as his eyes wander to the floor.

“I don’t know what your goal is, Taehyung - I can’t give you a plan.”

Taehyung follows his actions, setting his own utensils down, but leaning towards the man on his elbows as he states, “I want them to leave me alone.”

Jungkook looks at him again, then, something pensive brewing under the strong pinch of his brow. His head lulls near his shoulder, almost as if he’s gauging him - but if he has any suspicions over Taehyung’s reasoning, he doesn’t question him.

“Then you either have to give them what they want-,”

“-I can’t do that.”

Jungkook clicks his tongue, as if he’d expected as much.

“Then make it so they can’t come after you anymore.”

Taehyung reflects on Jungkook’s words for the rest of the night. He doesn’t know how he’s supposed to do that, and he can’t see the man elaborating any time soon.

It sounds as if he either has to get rid of them , or himself; but Taehyung’s tried running before - that’s all he’s tried. And how is he supposed to take down someone like them by himself? He may be stronger than humans but he’s not invincible.

His sleep is dreamless that night, mind unable to push itself enough to be creative with the problem currently plaguing him.

If he had dreamt, though, he’s pretty sure it would’ve featured Jungkook’s glimmer of chest in that shirt because wow.

~

The next morning, Taehyung is lying on the gorgeous cream settee in his bedroom, staring at the ceiling as he contemplates what the hell he’s supposed to do.

That is until Jungkook, true to his word, barges in with a pile of clothes bundled in his arms.

Taehyung jumps at the sound of his door swinging open, but Jungkook seems ignorant of it, silently walking towards his bed before he dumps the pile on the sheets. And he really has the audacity to almost leave again without even a glance , when Taehyung springs to sit up, whining, “Hey, hold on. At least help me sort all of that out!”

Jungkook does look at him now, like he wouldn’t be caught dead, but when Taehyung juts out his bottom lip and scrunches up his shoulders, letting out a high, airy little ‘ hmmph’ because cuteness really is the greatest weapon, Jungkook groans and backtracks to the bed again telling him, “As long as you actually help...”

Taehyung jumps up as best as he can with his injury, and skips over to Jungkook, already picking up the first thing: a tacky oversized turtleneck that has pastel rainbow stripes decorating it. Taehyung immediately falls in love.

“I can’t picture you wearing that at all, ” he says very honestly, and Jungkook’s already walking over to the closet (about a third of the size of his, yet still huge ) but he looks over his shoulder at him when he says this, slightly exasperated as he snaps, “Exactly! One of my colleagues bought me it as a joke.”

Most of the explanations go something like that: joke present, poor-taste relative, wrong size, wrong colour, wrong order , terrible hand-me-down, didn’t know what he was thinking buying it.

By the time they’re done sorting it all, Taehyung doesn’t feel as grateful as he had when Jungkook first suggested the idea. Especially not since the man trash-talked everything they put away while Taehyung… liked all of it.

“What does that say about me?” he asks him now, and Jungkook gives a little chuckle, smiling down at his feet so endearingly infectiously that Taehyung finds himself smiling too. The man shrugs, looking back up at him with that grin still evident as he tells him, “You’ve got bad fashion sense.”

Taehyung guffaws, firing back, “Hey, they’re your clothes! There’s no way you’ve always hated every item of clothing there,” he says very confidently, but the man doesn’t concede, assuring him, “Wrong. I never liked any of it.”

And then, maybe, he feels a little bad upon witnessing Taehyung’s bitter deflation, because he tells him, “I’ll still take you shopping for some things. You need socks and underwear and stuff, so-,”

“Then why give me them if you don’t like it?” Taehyung presses on, completely ignoring his shopping point because his pride is at stake here, “You want me to look ugly?”

Jungkook gives a slow roll of his eyes.

No , I-,”

“You want everyone to laugh at me when I go out?” he interrogates, and although his complaints were once serious, he’s absolutely teasing when he asks, “Is that my defense mechanism? The people after me will laugh so hard I’ll be able to slip away?”

Jungkook’s so busy giggling to himself, that he must forget to put on his tough-boy facade, because his eyes are twinkling with amusement, laughter ringing out high and melodically and suddenly he tells him, “ No ! I thought you’d look good in them.”

And the way his face falls immediately once he registers what he said…

That’s the best joke.

Taehyung sees an opportunity to play that unspoken little game of theirs again here, and his lips must like the idea before his brain does because they curve into something that would look slightly sinister if it wasn’t for the words peppering out of them.

“You did , hm?”

Jungkook, all of a sudden, looks very subdued - like he’d rather be anywhere else on the planet right now.

“I meant… better than I did,” he tries, but Taehyung just finds himself more amused by it.

“You think I’ll look good in your old clothes? All those off-shoulder sweaters and ripped skinny jeans?”

He can’t imagine Jungkook ever wearing any of it, but he must think it suits him...

The man swallows, eyes shifting to look anywhere but him as he mutters, “Well… I-,”

“The backless shirts… the satin tops…” Taehyung lists, stepping closer to him, playfully as he wonders, “all of those things that are too short or tight for you?”

Jungkook’s hand reaches up to awkwardly scratch his neck, mouth rushing for an explanation as Taehyung continues, “And what, you wanna take me shopping too? That’s bold ,” he says, and despite how utterly normal it actually is it sure seems to fluster Jungkook.

“Hoping I’ll try something on for you? You wanna see me like that?”

For a few seconds, Jungkook’s face is one of complete embarrassment, but then… it starts to change.

“What if you’re right?” he asks out of nowhere, and Taehyung feels his stomach drop at the shift in tone, both verbally and in the cocky implications of his face.

“Wait what-”

“-What if I do want you to try things on for me, huh?” he coaxes, face swimming with dark suggestion as he asks, “What then?”

Now, Taehyung’s the one that fumbles for words.

“I… I was just…”

“What? Teasing?” Jungkook finishes for him, and he almost nods until the man says, “Were you trying to tease me, Taehyung? I don’t like that.”

Then, he shakes his head vehemently.

“Joking. I joked ,” he corrects hastily.

“Well, you know what?” Jungkook asks, standing so close to him now he can smell his cologne, unmistakably strong and enticing.

Wait enticing? Did he say that? Not enticing.

“What?” He mutters, a part of him intrigued in the man’s words despite himself.

Until he says, “I’m teasing too,” giving him the most absurdly contrasting grin, lighting up his face in elation before he announces, “Gotcha!”

Taehyung has… no words. Literally no words.

And Jungkook moves swiftly on, as if that hadn’t just happened, easily asking him, “So, anyway, I’ve been meaning to ask… who do you know here?”

Topic shift of the damn century.

He doesn’t think he wants to play that game of theirs anymore.

Taehyung, still trying to get his head around that, clumsily replies, "Uh... nobody really… I live with a friend, but I told him I’d be gone for a while."

Jungkook raises an eyebrow at that.

"You did?"

Taehyung nods, suddenly regretting it when he says it out loud, but after all, “I sort of promised I wouldn’t return until I didn’t put him in danger anymore."

And he sticks by that. No matter what.

"So, that’s your plan?" Jungkook asks, obviously intrigued to hear about Taehyung’s goals, and the elder gives him a brief shrug, muttering, “Pretty much... am I naive?"

Jungkook seems to look at him in thought for a moment or two, as if he’s trying to decide it himself. But then he says, "... I don’t know what these people want, or why - but you're not going anywhere until that heals."

Taehyung’s face melds into a smile, and he gasps, “ Really ?”

Jungkook laughs at him, rambling his explanation to him of, "Yeah, I mean… I thought that was kinda obvious by lending you all the clothes - but I was thinking last night… I’ve already pissed off my brother, I might as well make sure you don’t die.”

Huh. Taehyung can’t help but kind of stare in disbelief at him for his bluntness.

“A true gentleman.”

Jungkook winks at him, and Taehyung laughs for a moment or two, staring at the man almost subconsciously until… wait a second.

“What?” Jungkook asks him, immediately touching at his face as if something’s on it.

“Nothing, nothing I just-,” he stops himself, before musing, “You look kinda familiar - and I can’t figure out why. I thought it was just because I saw your childhood photo, but…”

“Well, most of the city knows my family’s faces,” Jungkook supplies casually, “Maybe you do too.”

“No, I…” As if , he doesn’t even know the mayor, “I haven’t been here long. It’s just. Have we ever met before?”

Jungkook seems to ponder this for a minute, but it looks… vaguely put on until he clicks his fingers and admits, “Earlier in the day, before you got attacked, you ran out in front of my car and just grinned at me like some audacious asshole when I almost ran you over .

Taehyung stares at him unblinkingly. He has barely any memory of that day but it’s weird that-

Oh! He remembers that! Yeah, he briefly paused to acknowledge that he could get it.

Now that the man is in front of him and has a name and personality… he feels weird having thought as much.

Not that he… doesn’t still think as much. He might.

“Fuck, I remember that!” Taehyung says, enthusiastically, “I barely remember shit about that day, but- hey wait, that was an apologetic grin!”

Audacious. Pff, not on his watch.

Jungkook continues to frown at him, and Taehyung’s eyes widen in disbelief.

“Oh my god,” he utters.

Jungkook suddenly looks mildly concerned.

But surely not… surely-

“That wasn’t why you were so pissed at me, was it?”

Jungkook practically bursts into denial, snapping, “ No ! I just thought you were a convict! Which you still could be.”Then, there’s a few moments of tranquility, before he sulks, and admits, “Okay, maybe it was a little bit because of that too.”

Taehyung snorts at him, but before he can pester him any more about it, Jungkook’s already saying, “ Anyway , get ready to go, we’ll be leaving in thirty minutes or so.”

Taehyung scrunches his nose in confusion.

“Go where?”

“Shopping?” Jungkook says condescendingly, as if he’s talking to the world’s biggest idiot (which he’s not, thank you.) “I wasn’t joking. Plus, we need groceries.”

Taehyung never thought there’d be a day where he was going grocery shopping with a member of the ADIEU but okay.

It’s been quite a while since Taehyung’s been out in the city without the prospect of running away. He rarely goes out for fear of getting hunted, so when Jungkook asks him if he’s ready, Taehyung sort of forgets what that should mean.

He’s just about to go out the door, when Jungkook’s arm slips out to block it, leaning against the doorway with a disapproving frown until he judgingly asks, “Where’s your mask?”

Right. He’d gotten so used to using his bandana as a way to hide his identity, he forgot it’s actually a health precaution, too. With all the city’s constant use of electricity, there’s an insane amount of pollution in the downtown area - since most of the generators are kept there - therefore, most people that travel to the section wear some kind of protection so they don’t get sick. Taehyung’s even seen people in gas masks, before.

Taehyung isn’t very affected by pollution (it’d probably take him about… two hundred years of being locked in one room with it to actually die) but of course he can’t tell Jungkook that - nor does he want to be stopped by rando civilians and be lectured on the ‘dangers of pollution.’ So, he fakes a reaction, as if he’d somehow completely forgotten, slapping his forehead with an easy smile and is just about to back away and go get his bandana (wherever it may be) when Jungkook clicks his tongue and suddenly, he’s unwinding the scarf from around his neck and draping it across the bottom half of Taehyung’s face instead, winding it around the back of his head and over to the front again before tucking it into his coat and double checking its secure enough to cover his nose.

Taehyung stands completely frozen solid as this happens.

After Jungkook pulls away again, adjusting his own mask, Taehyung muffles out a, “Thanks,” to which the younger barely even acknowledges past a soft nod.

Okay, well that happened.

Taehyung’s skin feels flushed, side-eyeing the man as he gestures them out of the apartment and pulls the door shut so it locks. He just hopes that the scarf covers it.

Even more so than going out without being chased, Taehyung hasn’t been on public transport in forever ; and so when Jungkook tells him that he can’t use the patrol car out of work hours Taehyung calls him a killjoy - but he’s secretly a little intrigued for the experience.

Until he remembers what public transport is like.

First of all, it’s way too expensive for the quality of it. A fifteen minute journey to the centre of Solelight costs them almost fifty dollars in total and, even then, when they get onto the Light Tram, that isn’t really even for a seat each.

It’s eleven AM on a Sunday - there should not be this many people.

Jungkook gestures to a seat halfway down the carriage they end up in and they shuffle through the waves of people to get to it, but before they can, an elderly lady pops out of nowhere and well… they’re hardly gonna take it from her.

Plus, she totally looks like she would beat them with her walking aid.

“Handrails it is, then,” Jungkook mutters, an edge of almost amusement in it, contrasting with the frustration evident in his creased brow. Taehyung doesn’t complain. It’s not like his feet’ll get sore, even with his ‘human syndrome.’

They grab onto the handles hanging from the rail as the final people pile in, squishing everyone even tighter when the doors close.

Taehyung shuffles over to give more room (and to avoid a short person’s shoulder to the ribs) and Jungkook cocks an eyebrow at their forced proximity until someone digs their bony-ass elbow into the pressure point in Taehyung’s back and he flinches so hard they practically end up face to face, which the younger has the gall to snicker at; the sound of which is still audible even over the roaring bustle of the tram because they’re so damn close.

“Is it always this busy?” Taehyung asks awkwardly, having the urge to look anywhere else than in the eyes of the man that’s breaths away from him. Jungkook watches him with an air of incredulity.

“What, you’ve never taken the tram?”

Ah, that…. that’s weird, isn’t it? Taehyung doesn’t get tired easy and can walk fast - what’s the point in wasting money?

“Not really,” he confesses, gaze falling over the crowd of people, meeting a few’s eyes as he does. How many of them are innocently listening in, he wonders. How many are staring at Jungkook for his family legacy (and how many for his appearance?) or at Taehyung in wonderance of who he is with the famous Jeon son.

How many - if any - already know? How many are listening in with a motive?

Taehyung’s fully aware he doesn’t know who is in with them right now, so he keeps his voice low, his words brief - in case any defect hunters or Acquiesce lackeys are watching.

Well, any defect hunter beside the one he’s temporarily living with, that is.

“I like to walk,” he says simply, and Jungkook doesn’t question it, seeming to think it’s a fair enough reason, despite the subconscious downturn of his mouth.

Taehyung’s attention directs to the glass walls of the Light Tram, as it finally starts and rises up onto the higher tracks, stopping once the people on the street look like dots and most rooftops can be seen - besides a few of the tallest skyscrapers.

Then, it juts forward with such a start that Taehyung trips on someone’s foot losing grip of the handrail and almost falling forward completely if not for Jungkook’s quick move to steady him with one hand, warm and gripping onto his waist whilst the other holds tightly to the rail.

Taehyung looks down at the younger’s hand, but doesn’t mention it. Actually, neither of them mention it - gaze flitting to each other for no more than a second before they’re both sharply turning their heads in opposite directions. The rest of the journey stays like that, both of them looking everywhere but at each other. Jungkook still holds him firmly and Taehyung even gets the incentive to put an arm around him, too, other hand holding the collar of the man’s coat lightly when the tram hits an area with sharper turns.

Extra support, you know?

Once the tram starts to slow down in its pursuit through the city’s skyline, people make for the door already, bumping and shoving each other out of the way with such force that Jungkook’s hand even tightens, his body moving closer as if he’s using Taehyung not to fall over now like some sort of pillar - but when they finally get out onto the platform, the contact is gone.

Somehow, Taehyung feels like he can feel a little better, now, despite the scarf wound round his face.

He gets gentle hits of black vanilla, and a floral scent with every breath of the fabric. It’s oddly calming, he thinks.

They exit the station. immediately thrust into the animated streets of downtown Solelight, a person wormed into almost every crevice available as cars and overhead trams slowly roll past with quiet humming.

Taehyung’s always loved the atmosphere of this part of the city, but he rarely sees it, except from a distance. Honestly, he never really has a reason to be here - it’s mainly commercial and business-orientated - but today, he’s getting to tag along for Jungkook’s errands. He doesn’t bring up the clothes shopping ordeal again (he technically lost that little game) but he’s pretty sure that’s on the agenda too.

They make their way down the street, Taehyung looking around as if he’s a stranger to it. In some ways, he kind of is, because seeing the tall stretches of buildings on the horizon from his apartment window is one thing, but walking among them as they climb up and up and up feels like an entirely new city.

He feels small, like he can blend in, almost. It’s refreshing. He has a sort of urge to see it at night when its clouded with vibrancy and sound and glances over to Jungkook, wondering if the man would agree to taking him back here one night.

But the younger grabs his arm before he can even ask, bringing them both to a halt as Taehyung glances up at the building they’ve stopped outside of with its grand, flashing sign, a little neon animation of fruits rocking jovially to grab your attention.

“A… supermarket?” He states dumbly, the other man shrugging his shoulders with nonchalance.

“Told you we needed groceries.”

He did. Actually, his exact words when Taehyung asked them exactly what they needed earlier were, “you eat for four people, we need more everything,” but Taehyung supposed that was what he meant.

It’s not his fault he eats a lot. He’s a powerful being, he gets hungry easy!

Actually, he doesn’t get hungry very much at all but food is fun to eat. He gets bored easily.

The supermarket isn’t exactly packed when they go in, but it is beautifully air conditioned, so, Taehyung lowers his scarf from his face to breathe some vaguely fresh air for the first time in almost an hour. Jungkook gives him a look of half-embarrassment as Taehyung forms a wide stance, arms spread, inhaling the air as the younger goes to grab a cart.

“Stop that,” he says once he returns, lightly thwacking his shoulder, “I shop here regularly, I don’t want people to associate me with… that.

Taehyung, offended, tells him as much, but Jungkook just laughs at his fake-outrage, pushing the cart down the closest isle but Taehyung doesn’t think he’s really looking for anything in particular.

“Regularly?” He repeats, “How come you don’t order online?”

Like 89% of the population.

But Jungkook just hums something a little non-committal, replying, “I like to see what I’m buying. The holograms don’t quite get it, you know?”

Taehyung guesses that makes sense, and he supposes, “that’s why you don’t have androids to shop for you, then?” but Jungkook stalls a bit at that, seeming sort of pensive before he answers, “Yeah, I guess. I don’t really agree with using them as errand-runners. Humanity’ll get lazy and technology like that should be put to actual good use.”

Taehyung glances at Jungkook, wordlessly, for a moment. It’s not exactly an opinion he expected him to have, with his family’s reputation, but he doesn’t know if it’s really something to get excited about either. Plenty of android-haters probably think the same. Why would they have something they hate in their home, after all?

“I see,” he murmurs, then his eyes drift to the shelves, excitement suddenly peaking when he catches the vibrant red of the fruit section, skipping over to pick up a box of the delicious-looking strawberries. Jungkook doesn’t try and stop him when he lowers them into the cart, he just looks at him with some sort of…. expression that Taehyung can’t pinpoint.

He’s fairly certain it’s positive though, his lips are curled upwards.

After they’re done grocery shopping (though, Taehyung wasn’t actually present for most of it, having located a cute baby and their mom who was struggling to get to the top shelf and talking to them for the full hour) Jungkook arranges to have everything delivered around the time they get back to the apartment. Then, they head to the nearest clothes store to get Taehyung his promised items along with some clothes that are  ‘more his style’ since the younger finally caved from hearing him complain about how ugly and bulky some of the clothes make him feel.

“I said just a few things,” Jungkook reminds him once Taehyung has gone a little overboard, the android assistant following them around the store practically covered by the mound of items it’s carrying for him.

Taehyung takes a glance at the helper, feeling rather sorry for the guy, so he casually asks, “Am I missing anything?” as a prompt to wrap up the spree.

The problem is, this android’s sole function is to make sales and carry clothes - it’s not any more intelligent than that so, of course, it launches into all the deals and Taehyung’s a sucker for those.

It leads them both around the store, pointing out all the things he might like, but Taehyung isn’t all that fussed until it presents him with something that he’s very, very glad he didn’t overlook.

Taehyung glanes at Jungkook, a rowing smirk emerging smugly on his lips as he sees the man staring into space in the other direction.

He picks one of the items up off of the display shelf, clearing his throat before he very innocently asks, “Hey, Jungkook - do you think these would suit me?”

Jungkook already mindlessly agrees before he actually looks-- and the words get stuck in his throat, eyes popping open as he stares at the garment in Taehyung’s hands.

The elder tries not to erupt into laughter at the man’s reaction, just keeping an oblivious look on his face as he holds the blood-red lace lingerie set as if it were a t-shirt.

It really is beautiful, Taehyung wasn’t kidding about being glad he didn’t miss it. It’s a deep, warm red, with delicate frills edging around it. Taehyung isn’t really into anything particularly complicated - if it’s a bother to get on then it’s a bother to get off, and this reflects that: a simple, yet stunning bralette that would reach around his ribcage and a pretty pair of panties that’d sit perfectly on his hips, leaving just enough of his skin uncovered to remain (almost) modest.

“Nice, right?” he asks easily, and Jungkook blinks for a few seconds until he regains composure and has the nerve to shrug, looking away as he replies, “Yeah, sure.”

Taehyung feels vaguely defeated, so he buys a few kinds to cheer himself up.

Look, Jungkook’s loaded. This won’t even make a dent in his fortune, he’s sure.

~

They get back to the apartment, eventually. Somehow , with the millions of bags they had to carry since the clothes store didn’t do delivery. Jungkook’s very grateful he decided to have the groceries delivered.

What started as a quest for food and essentials, ended up as some kind of shopping spree. Jungkook doesn’t even think Taehyung actually needed half of the things he bought.

He certainly didn’t need lingerie. Christ, Jungkook’s face still feels hot at the thought. Taehyung seems to have an annoying knack for riling him up.

Now, they’re unpacking the groceries, and the elder is clicking his tongue at… pretty much everything he brings out.

“Preservatives,” he mumbles, setting a box of crackers disapprovingly on the table. He goes through the rest of the bag, just as disdainfully.

“Artificial flavouring, colouring, E-numbers, saturated fat, an unholy amount of sugar and - wait, what are the sprinkles for?” he questions, picking out the tub of coloured little sugar crystals with an air of condescension around him, and a frown on his lips.

Jungkook glances up from where he was disgruntledly arranging the groceries on the counter and hesitates for a moment, contemplating whether he should actually tell him the truth or not.

“I… like it with whipped cream on hot chocolate,” he admits, quietly adding, “And bagels.”

And Taehyung - the supposed ambassador of healthy eating - freaks.

“How the fuck have you survived this long?” He snaps, entirely exasperated with him as he pulls the last of the ‘junk’ out of the bag.

Jungkook shrugs his shoulders, reminding him, “I’m in pretty good shape, actually,” gesturing to his physique, quite clearly evident through the tight cut of his black sweater and slacks. Taehyung’s eyes drift across his body, a glazed sort of look forming in his eyes and he swallows hard.

But, then, he snaps out of it, scoffing hastily and arguing, “Yeah, you might look good but your insides are crying. Seriously, you have to eat some like… vegetables, ” he stresses, looking around at the total lack of anything even vaguely green or leafy nevermind vegetable-like.

Jungkook scrunches his nose up, mumbling, “I’m a grown man. I don’t have to do anything,” and Taehyung immediately fires back with, “No, but if you wanna live past thirty, you gotta eat something actually healthy, Jungkook .”

He crosses his arms over his chest, huffing, “But I don’t like vegetables,” and Taehyung quite literally laughs at him, teasing, “Don’t whine! I thought you were a big boy?” Jungkook just pouts in response and Taehyung glances back over the rest of their shop, disbelieving as he murmurs, “I can’t believe I didn’t see you buying all of this. I was too-”

“Busy cooing over the lady in isle three’s baby.”

Taehyung’s face immediately melts into softness at the memory as he sighs, happily mumbling, “Yeah…”

Jungkook rolls his eyes.

“Anyway, I have a report to write. If you’re bored with books, you can use my laptop to research more - maybe look up news reports of recent attacks. Try and see if they’re looking for anyone else, too?”

Jungkook watches as Taehyung’s face screws up in reluctance, and he sighs.

Who’s the baby now?

“Or, you can just play a game. Whatever works.”

~

But a few hours later (okay, it’s well into the evening) Taehyung manages to get bored of playing games too, because he is a social being and needs constant attention.

So, of course, he goes to bug Jungkook, sitting down right beside him on the couch in the living room and glancing over his shoulder at his laptop.

“What are you writing?” He asks without invitation to interrupt, but Jungkook doesn’t immediately tell him to go away, so that’s a good sign. Actually, he sounds as if he could use the break from the groan he lets out at the man’s question.

“Since I’m new to ADIEU, I have to write a report on my fieldwork each week. I didn’t expect my first week to be so… eventful.”

Taehyung doesn’t need to guess why it was eventful. Guilty as charged.

“Oh, is it due tomorrow?” he asks instead, and Jungkook nods with a grim sense of defeat only inhabited by overworked employees and college students.

“First thing…” he tells him, and while Taehyung totally feels sympathetic for him and all, there’s a little inch of… precaution that he has surrounding it.

“You’re… not gonna mention me, right?” he asks, and Jungkook gives him a funny look, halfway between curious and teasing as he jokes, “Why? Got something to hide?”

But, when he realises Taehyung was seriously asking, he shakes his head slowly, an edge of a smile dusting his lips as he admits, “No, I’m not. I’d get in trouble for that too.”

After another while of Jungkook just typing his report in silence, he seems to want another break, and asks him, “Did you find anything?”

Taehyung actually had done more than just play games (for like, thirty minutes anyway) and he answers him with actual information, saying, “There haven’t been any other attacks like mine. No serrated stab wounds or cops picking them up. But maybe mine’s the first?”

He desperately hopes not. He’s pretty sure Acquiesce aren’t so desperate about anyone else, anyway.

“Maybe. Do you know anyone else who they’d have a reason to chase down like you?”

Taehyung shakes his head in answer and Jungkook hums, suggesting, “Then maybe it is just you. What connection do you have to them?”

Yikes. Can’t answer that one.

So he dodges it with a simple, “It’s a long story,” about twenty-one years’ worth , “I might get into it another time…”

Jungkook thankfully seems to respect that, leading off the conversation with a, “Well, I’m just trying to finish this up, so…”

But now that Taehyung’s been talked to, he’s in the mood to keep talking, and not let Jungkook dwell on his suspicious avoiding of his question.

“What kinda things are you writing about? What do you do in the force?”

Jungkook seems to sense that Taehyung isn’t just going to... be quiet, then.

“ADIEU unit… I’m sure you know, but I’m supposed to investigate and stop rampant androids and defects… but all I’ve seen this week are twitching androids,” he jokes, and Taehyung nods in understanding when he man says, “It’s not an easy job to get into, so I’m grateful…

“But also bored out of your mind?” he suggests, and Jungkook latches onto that, groaning again as he tells him, “ Yes.

Taehyung, intrigued by his attitude towards it, asks him, “Did you want to do that job?”

And Jungkook looks contemplative, as if he isn’t sure what to tell him right away, like he hasn’t let himself think about it.

“Not really,” he finally admits, “But it’s sort of expected of me because of my family. Big expectations and all that.”

Right ,” Taehyung mutters, “I don’t really know so much about that, but…”

“Long story short, my whole family has a legacy in this sort of work - even my brother’s developing medication to subdue them quicker - so, they expect me to rise up to their achievements but I-,” Jungkook lets out a long sigh.

“You don’t want to?” He asks, almost hopeful at the possibility, as if that might mean that he’s on his side and not theirs. Jungkook frowns. Not angrily, but seeming sad, in a way, before he suggests, “Let’s switch topics again. Tell me about the friend you live with.”

Ah, so close.

Taehyung gives an indifferent shrug of his shoulders explaining, “I sort of live with him and his boyfriend. The boyfriend doesn’t live there officially , but he might as well.”

“How long?” Jungkook asks, and it takes Taehyung a second to realise he means him and not the boyfriend.

“About a year. I’m lucky they’re willing to have me, really. I was tired of skipping towns all the time.”

Jungkook looks interested when he says that, asking him, “Is that what you used to do?”

“Yeah. For a long, long time, about five years…” he left when he was sixteen, after all. Yet, somehow he feels like he’s lived the majority of his life running.

“But, now I’m welcome to their humble abode, so…”

“And his bitter coffee,” Jungkook finishes for him, humorously, and Taehyung finds himself beaming at it, fondly thinking of his idiotic best friend.

And his bitter coffee,” he confirms, “Honestly, I feel sorry for the people at the diner he works at.”

Jungkook suddenly sounds intrigued, asking him, “Wait, he works at a diner?”

Taehyung laughs, it is a funny coincidence with his terrible coffee.

“I know right? You gotta wonder how. It’s actually how he met his boyfriend. He stumbled in all half-asleep and hysterical about some… biochemistry final he had in, like, an hour.”

Jungkook’s face drops in realisation but… Taehyung has no idea what he’s realised.

“What’s his name?”

“The boyfriend? Yoongi,” Taehyung answers nonchalantly, “Why, do you know him?”

“No, no - your friend,” Jungkook corrects, “What’s his name?”

Oh, right.

“Jimin, Park Jimin. Why?”

“Oh my God, it’s-” Jungkook starts, face fluttering with, like, twenty different realisations as once before he finally spouts, “ you’re the best friend that’s been causing him so much grief for a year now?!”

Taehyung has a much slower, much more anti-climatic understanding.

“...You’re the weird police-guy that pretends to like anything served in there.”

Fuck, Jimin knows Jungkook. Really? For like, a year he’s been hearing stories about weird police-guy and it’s been Jungkook?

Both of them sit in a kind of strange state where their brains are rapid-fire thinking of all the times they’ve been mentioned to each other and have had no idea.

Eventually, Jungkook gets back to his report, and Taehyung hasn’t even realised how much time has passed by, until the man’s closing down his laptop with a long, dramatic whine of exhaustion.

Taehyung sees the opportunity to try out the huge-ass screen of his, and he takes it.

“So, you wanna watch a movie?”

~

By the time Jungkook gets into the station on Monday morning, he feels as if he’s been away for years with all that’s happened.

The first thing anyone says to him besides the probably forced “Good morning, Mr Jeon!”s from his colleagues, is courtesy of one of his longest co-workers and friend, Jung Hoseok.

No, no… Hoseok doesn’t say good morning, he does a double take when he sees Jungkook, looking up twice from the stack of files on his desk and snorts at him, going back to sorting through his files.

“You look like shit,” he says without even looking at him, and what is Jungkook even meant to say to that? He knows.

But then, the third and only other man in their unnecessarily spacious office, spins around in his chair to face him and sympathetically asks, “Rough night?”

Kim Namjoon, the only man he respects in this house.

“Rough week, Joon,” Jungkook mutters back, trudging across the room to get to his own desk, practically vibrating with the groan that erupts from him when he sees the big fat stack of paperwork awaiting him.

Promoted to the most dangerous and important job in the force his ass. He’s basically a secretary that has the great privilege of patrolling the streets to protect from litterers and those in need of a parking ticket.

“Really?” He asks, voice laced with curiosity as he leans his elbows on his desk, “I thought you were on patrol all week?”

Jungkook sinks down into his chair, the spring giving way slightly as he sighs deeply, hand covering his face as he tells him, “I was. Rough weekend .”

Hoseok perks up a little at this, gracing him with his attention over his case files again (you know, the ones with actual interesting cases) and he leans back from his work a bit, gauging him with a sort of ‘explain yourself’ look that Jungkook doesn’t necessarily want to obey because can he really tell his colleagues that he picked up some suspicious stranger off the street because he’d been brutally injured?

Shit, now they’re both looking at him like that.

“Uh, the son of a family friend is staying with me… He’s a handful.”

“What kind of handful?” Hoseok asks almost… raunchily, giving him a long, pointed look over the rim of his glasses.

It’s suggestive. Jungkook doesn’t want to see it.

“Not that kind,” the younger barks, nursing a pretend (but likely incoming) headache with his finger in slow circles, just as Hoseok tries to defend himself with an unapologetic, “I’m just saying - you’re unusually tired, defensive, hesitant, giving us the old ‘son of a family friend’ spiel, as if your family actually has friends-,”

“Hobi, leave him alone,” Namjoon says calmly, already having lost interest in the conversation, as he’s already turned back to facing his computer, again. Jungkook gives a triumphant scoff.

Hoseok’s always been a bit of an asshole when it’s come to the topic of his family. At first, Jungkook just figured he found them intimidating, which lead him to be spiteful in defense like so many others, but as time went on, Jungkook discovered that, actually, Hoseok’s problems with Jungkook’s family ran a lot deeper than that.

Namjoon had once told him the full story, just so he would maybe cut him some slack, telling him that when Hoseok’s father had been permanently injured while pursuing one of the most dangerous unbranded defects (at his boss’s request) Jungkook’s father made sure he was taken off the entire force, instead of just being relocated to an easier job.

Then, when Hoseok had signed up, half intending to redeem the name of his family, they treated him as if he was some sort of failure - all because of his father. Even people that pass him in the corridors today sometimes look at him with disdain, or reference his father’s accident any time they can.

Jungkook isn’t at all surprised that Hoseok hates his family - actually, he’s surprised he doesn’t hate him, too.

Namjoon said it confused him for a while too, until Hoseok admitted to him one day that he knew Jungkook was different from them - he’d never looked at him in that way, not even for a moment.

The conversation passes them by, and so does the tension of the room after that.

That is, until the light on Jungkook’s desk starts to flash and beep at him, sporadically, and his very own father’s face comes up on the built-in screen, angry and seething even before he says, “ Jungkook. I thought I said I wanted that report by nine AM!”

Fuck.

As Jungkook’s scrambling out of the room, stupid report in hand, Namjoon and Hoseok certainly don’t bother holding in their laughter.

~️

“I don’t know how you expect me to trust you with important duties when you can’t even handle a simple report.

Jungkook shifts in his seat, collar suddenly feeling too tight around his throat, but he’s figured out over the years that the worst thing to do in the presence of his father is to let him know that he’s got to you.

“I gave you the job because your superiors assured me that you could handle it - but where is the evidence?”

His father is a huge bulk of a man, always holding a formidable, unapproachable face. This is how Jungkook’s always seen him, and probably how he always will. Jungkook looks less like him than he does his mother (he’s more gotten her most striking features, while Seokjin’s got her soft looks) but even then he can admit the chiseled jaw, strong nose and eyebrows… all look a lot less of a chaotic horror on himself than they do on his father. He’s ghastily intimidating, but Jungkook doesn’t back down.

“With all due respect, Sir, “Jungkook begins, trying to keep his tone even and calm lest he have an outburst and lose the unspoken negotiation altogether, “You haven’t really given me a chance to prove myself. I don’t know how I’m supposed to show you I can pursue defects when you’re not giving me the chance to.”

Sometimes talking a little strongly to him is the only way to get through to the man. Jungkook just hopes this is one of those times.

His father is deadly silent for a moment, and he really hates that. He can deny it to Hoseok and Namjoon all he wants, but he can’t deny that his father makes him nervous. Very nervous.

And he hates that. The fact he can’t even be close to his own father (never has been.) At least he takes solace in the fact that he knows that all the man can really do is fire him - and even then it’s unlikely. Like it or not, Jungkook was one of the best examination results of the force.

The man gives a long, long sigh, then, he’s pushing down the button on his chair and snapping, “Chung-ah, tell Gong to make copies of all the case files on the suspected defected androids of the last month.

Before the woman even has a chance to confirm with him, he ends to call, looking back to his sun again with a, silent, all-encompassing graveness in his face.

Jungkook tries not to show his elation.

“I’m giving you the chance, Jungkook. I want you to solve all of these cases in the next… say… two months. If not, you’re back on patrol. Indefinitely.”

But then… he suddenly doesn’t feel so elated anymore.

In the moment, Jungkook is very calm. He thanks him for his time and promises him that he will do his best. Then, he very mannerly leaves his office.

However, as soon as he gets back to Hoseok and Namjoon, he sits back down at his desk, hides his face in his arms and gives one, long scream of frustration, completely running over Namjoon’s, “Hey, how did it go?”

He doesn’t bother asking again.

~

Taehyung woke up to a post-it note stuck to the fridge telling him that the food that didn’t need to be prepared was in the left-most cupboard.

So, after some more granola (still the choice of old people, but Taehyung doesn’t want to burn down the only place he can stay at the minute that won’t result in an investigation or one long lecture from his best friend) Taehyung takes the change the man had left him on the counter and shuffles on his own shoes, hoping that Jungkook doesn’t want him to lock the door because he did not give him a key.

He’s hoping the payphone won’t be too far away because broad daylight or not, he’s pretty sure Acquiesce’s goons will still try and fuck him up, no matter whose child is watching.

In the public eye, Taehyung is the worst criminal there for the simple crime of existing.

But he’ll just have to be careful, because last night he’d asked Jungkook if he could make a call to Jimin in the morning (just to let him know he’s not dead) but the man had told him that if he didn’t want the police getting involved, he should probably use a payphone - his home phone’s tapped.

Which seems like a total fucking invasion of privacy but whatever.

Though as Taehyung steps out into a crisp sort of morning, where the season’s transitioning into a warming spring, but still can’t quite let go of the winter’s chill, he doesn’t really mind because it’s surprisingly a pleasant morning to potentially get murdered, and, honestly, it feels like forever since he’s been out in the sun like this.

For the record, Jungkook does live in a huge-ass apartment - the top of it, as a matter of fact. He didn’t see a landlord, but he did see and hear other residents, so, either the penthouse cost fucking millions, or his landlord likes him a lot to allow him to do those sorts of renovations.

Jungkook told him the nearest one was just on the next street, so Taehyung heads that way without much thought in his head for the first time in a little while - and even that’s calming.

He crosses the road, checks briefly for cars without much cause because the streets are almost completely empty besides him, most of its usual inhabitants probably in work or school by now and it’s almost weird how normal Taehyung feels. There’s no one around for him to have to check his back for, he’s not pursuing anyone… he’s just… going to call a friend. And then he’ll go back home and tidy up a bit for Jungkook, until he’ll comes in, thanks him for it, and makes them dinner. He’ll tell him he has work to do, but Taehyung’ll hopefully talk him into watching another movie.

It sounds so normal leaving out the part where Taehyung’s hiding from people who want to ‘reclaim’ him and housing with a man he’s only known for three days because he sort-of kidnapped him. Oh, and he’s part of a group that would want to kill him.

Yeah, totally normal.

Taehyung lets himself believe that, approaching the phone box Jungkook had told him about, and slotting in the man’s change.

He taps in the number, holding the phone to his ear because video-calling the man when he still looks like this is not a good idea - face littered with cuts. But, at least his bruises are disappearing.

Taehyung leans against the box while he waits for the man to pick up. He’s probably getting ready for class right now. Taehyung’s pretty sure he doesn’t have actual class until late morning on Monday (Yoongi’s forever jealous about that.)

On the third ring, Jimin answers, phone rattling as if he was rushing to pick it up and without even waiting for the other man to speak, Jimin breathes, “ Tae?”

“Chim-,”

“Thank fuck, Christ - I hate when you just leave a note. Are you okay?”

Taehyung smiles, feeling undoubtedly fond at the man’s soft whining.

“Yeah, Chim, I’m just fine.”

There’s a few seconds of silence, in which Taehyung can just imagine the suspicion on his face. His eyes are probably narrowed in the way that makes his nose crinkle, bottom lip pulled between his teeth and in three, two, one-

“Is that right?”

Taehyung has to hold back his laugh, shoving his hand in his pocket as he lets himself grin along with his best friend’s frustration.

“It is.”

“Tae - I’ve seen the news. Android blood found on one of the streets near our apartment. Lots of it. A fucking load, Tae. What happened?”

Taehyung grimaces, slightly. He was hoping they wouldn’t test the blood - but the artificial kind that they have has a chemical called Stinthine in it, so it’s quite easily tested and he supposes they had to in order to figure out whether they should be launching an investigation, or a witch hunt.

“Are they on my ass, now?”

Jimin sighs as the man dodges the question, but still begrudgingly tells him, “There’s been a few units creeping around since last night.” Taehyung can tell he’s even more reluctant to say the next part when he groans a little before suggesting, “... you should probably stay away for awhile.”

“... That’s probably a good idea,” Taehyung answers, feeling unexpectedly relieved through Jimin’s suggestion. He just feels like he should stay - as if he’s close to sorting this out once and for all.

“I’ve got somewhere I can be safe for a while,” he tells him, so Jimin doesn’t worry out of his mind over it.

“Where?”

“Oh, it doesn’t really matter.”

Tae.

Taehyung gulps, eyes wandering upwards and away from the brick wall near him to across the street, debating whether he should tell him or not when-

Something catches his eye on the other side of the road.

Wait… who is…

“Chim” Taehyung says quickly, almost in a whisper, “I think somebody’s watching me.”

Jimin sounds immediately panicked, asking him “What do you mean? Who? What do they look like?”

“I can’t see their face. They’re just wearing black,” he mutters, “But they’re facing me. Like… directly.”

The figure across the street doesn’t even move when Taehyung spots them. It’s so… eerie, that he wants to look away. But it’s like he can’t.

Actually it… it feels like he can’t move at all.

What the hell? At first he thought he was just panicking like Jimin but… he can’t move. That… they’re still looking at him and - wait, is it coming closer? What the fuck is going on - why can’t he move?

Taehyung! ” Jimin snaps, and suddenly, it feels as if he’s been pulled from some kind of web, or dream, a haziness coating him, and he almost falls forward on his face, but his hand grips the payphone to keep him balances and he gasps a heaving breath, just in time to hear his friend say, “What happened? I called you, like, five times!”

Taehyung glances quickly in the direction of the figure but… it’s gone. He checks behind him too, as if it’d somehow overtaken him - but there’s nothing.

Taehyung breathes, trying to calm himself down.

“It’s… gone .”

The phone rattles a little as Jimin likely readjusts it in his hand, sounding hesitant to even ask as he says, “What, Tae? Who ?”

Taehyung sweeps his eyes across the street, memory of the figure ingrained into his mind, as his hands shake ever so slightly, clutching the phone so much tighter, breathing weirdly heavily for someone that hasn’t - couldn’t move.

“I don’t know, Chim...”