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Two women settle at a nearby cocktail table just on the outskirts of the dance floor. Both are adorned with precious stones and outfitted in figure hugging designer dresses. Taehyung leans on the wall behind them only just out of view. He watches as the women call for more champagne. Each move they make is painfully calculated as to best catch the most light from the crystal chandeliers above.

 

Watching the whole charade is exhausting to Taehyung.

 

The man had purposely chosen the back wall of the ballroom in an effort to avoid exactly what was standing just feet before him. People so obsessed with their own wealth they only noticed people more wealthy. Irritated Taehyung pushes off the wall. There was nothing else for him to do but find another spot to sulk in.

 

“Kim Seokjin looks absolutely edible in that suit.”

 

Taehyung takes his time smoothing out his stoned lapel, stalling in order to hear more of their conversation. It wasn’t often he was able to directly listen to gossip about his family, let alone about his older brother.

 

“Weren’t you just telling me that you didn’t have any interest in him? I seem to remember you saying something about him being made of stone?”

 

Nothing they said was new information to Taehyung. His brother’s public reputation was in stark contrast to the one he knew. He was Jin to all those close to him and to outsiders the untouchable heir of HwaYangYeonHwa group.

 

“Oh, please, you’re telling me you would pass up being married to a man about to be worth billions just because he’s a little cold?” The woman cocked an eyebrow at her companion and tilted back her champagne flute.

 

“I heard that HYYH group’s precious heir is-,” The woman lowers her voice and Taehyung has to lean forward to hear her whisper. “Gay. I guess the family won’t be getting any of the grandchildren they so desire.”

 

Their laughter dies the moment Taehyung saunters into view. He’s a man who knows how to use his natural charisma to suck the life out of a room. The women are frozen in front of him and Taehyung holds back a snicker at their terrified expressions.

 

“Enjoying the night, I see.” Taehyung crowds their table with his upper body and leans all his weight forward. Auburn bangs fall over his eyes hiding his anger. He uses one arm to secure the table while the other is positioned like a crane over the rim of a forgotten champagne glass. The flute is half full and Taehyung tips it dangerously close to the edge of the table. The women both flinch until finally he sets the glass down.

 

“Getting drunk at a charity gala? Classy. But be careful,”  Taehyung turns his face upwards flashing them a menacing smile. “You never know what you might slip up and say.” The garbled mess of an apology he gets only irks him further. He waves them off and they scurry away quickly.

 

The lights of the glittering ballroom bear down on Taehyung much like the attention now turned his way. He knows this looks bad. The second son of HYYH group bullying two women just because he can. Because he had the power to get away with it. They’ll start new rumors about his temper. Wonder what new mess he’s brought to his brother’s feet this time. Pity his poor widowed mother for having such a fuck up for a son.

 

Not one to let alcohol go to waste, Taehyung drinks the remaining champagne left on the table. His eyes close as the bubbly substance slips through him offering nothing to relieve his lingering resentment. This was exactly why he hated attending these events.  Sighing, he flags down a cocktail waiter and snags a fresh wine glass.

 

Taehyung idly swirls the glass, thoughts shifting to the easiest way to escape the party. Tonight his favorite rap group Triptych was having a launch party to celebrate the drop of their first album. The location was set to be revealed in the next couple of hours.

 

Taehyung’s eyes flit from the main entrance to the various emergency exits until he lands on something that makes him roll his eyes.

 

There's a woman hanging off his brother’s arm who he’s only heard the worst rumors about. Krystal Jung is dainty in all the right ways as she stands beside Jin. Her long, wavy brown hair looks exquisite against her pale skin and her red floor length gown pairs beautifully with his brother’s créme suit. Unlike Taehyung, Krystal thrives off the attention her social antics create.

 

Taehyung groans as he watches his brother miss the delivery of a joke yielding an awkward laugh from the woman beside him. He downs the rest of his wine and signals for another to the wait staff.

 

Taehyung could tell that Seokjin was trying his best to hide his growing discomfort from the throng of party goers surrounding him. His serene venere was slowly devolving into irritation and Taehyung knew it was only a matter of time before he snapped.

 

Thankfully no one else was really paying attention. Everyone was too wrapped up in sharing air with a billionaire to notice the tightness of Seokjin’s posture or how stiffly he spoke. They all were far too concerned with being seen with Jin than actually seeing him.

 

Refilled wine glass in hand, Taehyung cards his hands through his hair in exasperation and elbows his way through the crowd toward his brother. He was definitely going to miss out on going to the album launch party.

 

As he nears him, Taehyung sees Seokjin conversing with an older couple. His smile is tight as he gestures to a long table of ordouvers and when the couple turns to walk away his face drops. Krystal is attempting to whisper in Seokjin’s ear when Taehyung finally reaches them.

“Am I interrupting?” The woman’s grip flexes possessively on Seokjin's arm as Taehyung approaches. Jin’s shoulders visibly relax at the sight of his younger brother.

 

“Of course not,” Seokjin starts, easing into a small, but genuine smile. “I thought you would've left by now, honestly.” Remembering the woman still clutching at his arm, Jin gestures toward Krystal.

 

“I doubt you two have meet before. Tae, this is Krystal Jung. Krystal, this is my younger brother, Taehyung.” Neither of the two move for a beat longer than politely acceptable. Taehyung concedes first, tilting his head toward Krystal in silent acknowledgement.

 

“It’s not everyday I get to meet someone as powerful as the Krystal Jung.” Taehyung says slyly. “Aren’t you the woman who brought down HK group with one picture?”

 

Taehyung could feel the disapproving glare coming from his brother’s direction. Jin would probably lecture him later about when and where to pick his battles. He had always been the diplomatic one. Knowing exactly what to say and when to say it.

 

“Likewise, although I must say I’m surprised to see you at a charity event. Who would have thought the Kim Taehyung would be seen anywhere without paparazzi.” Krystal’s lips curve into a scornful smile.

 

Taehyung can’t help the bubble of laughter that escapes him. The woman was a failed actress, only appearing in films backed by money she secured by blackmail or seduction. Now she had the nerve to try and insult him. There was only so much more of this he would take. The soft din of conversation surrounding the trio drops. Krystal flips her hair over her shoulder, preening at the attention. Completely unaware of the sudden change in the man beside her. Taehyung was trained on his brother’s face watching anxiously as the tell tale signs of irritation morphed into unfiltered anger.   

 

The brother’s eyes lock, an unspoken exchange passing between them. In the same instance Seokjin’s anger is cleaned from his face and neatly tucked behind a picture perfect smile.

 

“I have an adoring public I need to keep happy. What can I say?” Taehyung responds winking at Krystal over the top of his wine glass. Jin coughs into his hand not quite covering his laugh at his brother’s snarky comment.

 

“You mind giving us brothers a moment alone?” Without waiting for a response, Taehyung grabs his brother's unoccupied arm and tugs. Krystal’s hands stay in the air dumbly where she was previously clutching onto Jin and Taehyung gently places his wine glass in her empty hands.

 

“For safekeeping.”

 

Taehyung cackles while watching the woman’s tiny fingers angrily clench around the stem of his wine glass. Her sour expression follows the two men to the outskirts of the grand ballroom.

 

“I really don't like her,” Seokjin tuts. The man’s overall mood is markedly different now that less eyes are watching his every move. “Krystal doesn't take hints well.”

 

His pout has Taehyung chuckling despite himself. Seokjin was always so graceful and tactful that Taehyung forgot how childish his brother could sometimes be.

 

“I can handle her for you if you want,” Taehyung suggests casually his face carefully blank. He knew Seokjin would never ask him out right for help. Though it wasn’t unusual for Taehyung to offer help, he had a feeling it would hurt Jin’s pride if he knew how often his brother intervened without his permission.

 

“You sound like you're going to take her out mafia style.”

 

“I can make that happen too,” Taehyung drawls without missing a beat. “If that’s what you want.”

 

Seokjin’s scandalized expression has him cracking up and he claps a hand on his brother’s shoulder.

 

“I mean really, what's casual murder between bros?" Taehyung can’t help but to break into a huge, boxy smile while watching his older brother completely devolve into laughter. The handsome man was doubled over, using only the wall beside him for support. Seokjin’s windshield wiper laugh was loud enough that some guests near them turned to find the source.

 

“Kidding,” Taehyung murmurs, smiling sheepishly while rubbing the back of his neck. “But really, I can keep her busy tonight if you want.”

 

“Don't feel like you have to for my sake, Tae.” Seokjin’s laughter fades slightly as he regains his composure. Taehyung watches wistfully as his brother’s wide smile slowly disappears. It was in moments like this that he longed for a different destiny. One where Kim Seokjin was just his brother and not the face of a multibillion dollar company. One where they never had to worry about what other people thought of them.

 

Taehyung waves off the thought dismissively, “Don't worry about it, hyung. Just keep mingling with big wigs and I'll keep her distracted.”

 

Seokjin squeezes his shoulder in thanks and heads back into the crowd. Once his brother was a good distance away, Taehyung exhales heavily.

 

Now, to find Krystal.

 

He walks into the crowd after his brother and a passing waiter offers him a champagne glass. Taehyung takes it without thinking, all the while his eyes scanning the crowd for any sign of his target. From what Taehyung knew about the woman the rest of his night was going to be exhausting. Krystal had a reputation for being ruthless with her pursuits. Taehyung emptied the glass of champagne having finally spotted her and made his way across the ballroom.

 

Krystal was standing alone at the bar nursing a brown liquor. She scoffed into her glass as she saw him approaching. Taehyung couldn’t help but notice the four empty glasses the bartender cleared away from behind the woman as he neared. He ordered another drink and settled in for the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a child, Taehyung knew just by the way his family looked at Seokjin that his brother was special. They treated him like he was made of glass, so fragile even the wind could break him. The family even refused to let Seokjin go to most of primary school, deciding that homeschooling him would be safer. When he was finally allowed to go to the private high school Taehyung attended, he became an instant novelty.

 

Friends Taehyung had known for years became strangers at the very sight of his brother. Even teachers would bend over backwards to just make Seokjin happy. It was an early lesson for Taehyung in what real power was and what it meant to wield it. Taehyung knew Jin never once asked for any of the attention he received, but sometimes he couldn’t help but feel resentful.

 

What made things worse was that Seokjin could never seem to tell the difference between friend and foe. And so, Taehyung took it upon himself to quietly take care of the people who only wanted to use his brother.

The first time it happened he was thirteen. His brother had recently received a watch as a birthday present. It was a family heirloom passed down from generation to generation. One day Jin came home without the watch, asking Taehyung to cover for him in front of the elders. He swore that his friend had only borrowed it from him.

 

The student in question ended up transferring schools after a vicious rumor Tae started about him. It had been one of the handful of times that he received acknowledgement from his family. He hadn’t been able to speak to Seokjin for a month after, unable to tell his brother he was the reason his ‘friend’ had transferred schools. These incidences seemed to happen more often that and each time Taehyung could feel himself slowly become more numb.

 

As an adult, the only way to keep himself on the family payroll was to continue to protect Seokjin. His public image was marred by scandal and typical rich party boy antics because of it. The twenty-two year old’s name was a constant hot trending topic on social media and all of his rumored flings became instant celebrities overnight. Infamy became a tool he used to keep people at an arm's length. And for the most part it worked.

 

Up until last night, Taehyung had succeeded in keeping hookups out of his personal apartment. The night’s only variables were Krystal and copious amounts of alcohol. Groaning from a pounding headache, Taehyung cursed the tiny woman’s alcohol tolerance.

 

He couldn’t even remember leaving the event venue with the brunette and now she was wrapped around him completely naked. Krystal was nuzzling into Taehyung’s chest as she slowly began to wake up. His body ran cold at the feeling of her fingers tracing tight circles into his hip.

“Taehyung, you were so good to me,” she said, tone sultry as she ghosts kisses along his neck.

 

Every kiss Krystal places on him makes Taehyung’s stomach turn with disgust. Her hands drift lower and lower down his thigh, his body involuntarily shivering at the touch.  

 

“Can’t say I feel the same.” Taehyung replies tightly. His big hands easily engulf hers as he tugs them away from his crotch. Shocked still by the sudden movement, Krystal’s eyes narrow as she watches him swing his lanky body fluidly out of bed.

 

Taehyung could still feel her eyes on him as he makes his way to the bathroom, picking up and sliding into a pair of briefs. A warm shower would help him wash away the rest of his hangover. Hopefully by then he would remember how he ended up in this situation.

 

“Taehyung,” she chides, clearly irritated. The brunette was propped up now and wrapped in white bed sheets. Her hair framed her flushed cheeks prettily as she spoke. “Don't be like this. Let’s grab brunch and see where the day takes us.”  

 

Brunch sounded innocent enough, nice even. Truthfully, it had been ages since Taehyung was with a woman and now he couldn’t even enjoy the memory.

 

If things were different they could have enjoyed the rest of the day together, but Tae knows better. People like Krystal always have a motive. Taehyung could already predict the next tabloid headline speculating their relationship.

 

“Krystal, when I get out of the shower, you need to be gone.”

He slams the bathroom door shut and locks it for good measure. If things had gone according to plan last night, this interaction would never have needed to happen.

 

Taehyung scans his body in the wide mirror of the bathroom. Littered all over his chest and down his torso are angry red hickeys. Repulsed, Taehyung hurriedly steps into the shower.

 

The hot water helps ease his tense shoulders. The more he begins to relax the easier it is for him to remember pieces of the previous night.

 

The original plan had just been to divert Krystal’s attention. As the night progressed, she became more and more determined to leave with Seokjin, not him.

 

Taehyung sinks down to the shower floor in frustration.

 

The water eventually goes lukewarm around him as he curls into himself willing away the cold feelings of disappointment and disgust. More than six hours of his memory was lost and for what? An angry gold digger in his bed.

 

He stays curled up on the shower floor like that for what seems like hours until the icy water becomes unbearable. Slowly he stands wrapping a towel around himself and willing away the numbness in his legs. When he enters his bedroom again Krystal is nowhere to be found.

 

But she hasn’t left quietly.

 

Taehyung’s bedroom was in shambles. Trash was strewn everywhere, some of his clothes were destroyed, and his pillows were slashed. Krystal even had time to leave him a note.

 

I promise you’ll regret this.

 

The message was scrawled in red lipstick on a full length mirror hanging in the room. Taehyung can’t find enough energy to be angry. The tall man flops face down on his  messy bed and waits for sleep to take him.

 

After some time, Taehyung finds the energy to change from his towel into the few unruined clothes he had left. Under the mess he finds his dead cellphone. Thankfully, Krystal hadn’t thought of destroying it too. He plugs it into the wall and is instantly bombarded with missed notifications.

 

Jungkook

01:28 pm

hyung are you home?  

 

Jungkook

01:28 pm

this is important we need to talk

 

Jungkook

01:32 pm

hyung?

 

Jungkook

01:34 pm

hyung seriously

 

Jungkook

01:36 pm

answer me!!

 

Jungkook

01:39 pm

bro wtf

 

Jungkook

01:42 pm

whatever i’m on my way you better be home

 

The texts were all the warning Taehyung got before hearing his front door open. Jungkook was one of the few people who had a key to his apartment. Taehyung regretted giving it to him as his younger friend barged into his bedroom.

 

“Hyung, why is your-,” Jungkook tore off the mask that was covering most of his face leaving his glasses slightly skew as he surveyed the mess before him. “What the fuck happened in here?”  

 

Taehyung noticed that Jungkook’s light brown hair was still damp and some of the buttons on his shirt were still open. A thin black choker slid over his adam's apple as he swallowed down his surprise. The Jungkook he knew was meticulous about his appearance.

 

Something was off.

 

Jeon Jungkook was an extremely popular idol who worked with the entertainment side of HYYH group. They met a few years ago at a company event and bonded over their hatred of the pretentious people who had almost complete control of their lives. With the amount of popularity Jungkook had, being in public with just anything on risked harsh criticism.

 

“Jungkook. Hi. It’s nice to see you, too, after, what, like three whole months? You could’ve at least knocked, you bastard.” Taehyung turned away from his friend avoiding the question he didn’t quite know how to answer. What exactly was he supposed to say? ‘ Oh, don’t worry about it Jungkook. I just slept with a notorious gold digger for shits and giggles. Then she decided to trash my place.’ Instead, he began picking up the pieces of clothing strewn around his room.

 

“It’s called a world tour. Your brother was the one to suggest it, remember?” Jungkook said warily. “I just landed a few hours ago. I tried calling you multiple times.”

 

Taehyung checked his phone again at the mention of his brother and sure enough he had 18 missed calls. Seven of which were from Jungkook. The other eleven were from Jin. Tae’s heart dropped to his stomach.

 

“Hyung, I came over like this because no one could get in touch with you.” Jungkook took Taehyung’s shoulders in his hands turning him as he spoke.

 

“Your dick is the number one trending topic on Twitter right now.”