Taehyung was immortal.
No one knew that, of course, with the exception of his two equally immortal best friends. The last person he had voluntarily told besides them had been a lover back in…1821 maybe? He recollected that it was in Paris, at least, and that the man’s name had been Sebastien, and that Sebastien had been so extraordinarily talented with his tongue that Tae purposefully missed his scheduled train to Amsterdam to hang around a few more weeks. In a drunken haze, he had admitted his secret. Sebastien, to his recollection, demanded proof. Taehyung unmasked his eyes, let the violet pupils shine through his usual brown, the only sign he carried of his faerie heritage in his human form.
It hadn’t gone well.
Sebastien had come at him with a knife, terrified. Taehyung was forced to disarm him but carried a vicious scar on his right forearm as a souvenir. That, and the memory of the curses shouted after him as he ran away into the night.
It was a failed experiment, Taehyung knew that. It was better for him to continue his gypsy lifestyle, moving on to a new place every few years just as people started to take note of the fact that he never aged. He knew, on a molecular level, that the concept of immortality wasn’t something the typical mortal could grasp outside of fiction novels. So he never again attempted to explain.
“What are you?”
Taehyung blinked at the sudden question.
The handcuffs on his wrist rattled hollowly in the tiny interrogation room as he leaned forward to peer at the pile of photographs scattered on the table. He saw himself in every single one, the same narrow-boned face, defined cheekbones, lean figure, closed-off expression.
The only difference between all the Taehyungs in the photos were the hair colors. In one, he wore thin-rimmed eyeglasses and his hair was a vivid red, his expression pensive as he peered up at a painting in the Louvre. In a black and white photo, his hair seemed grey but he was pretty sure it had been brown at that time, for he stood shirtless with a pair of boxing gloves on, staring down an opponent haughtily, and remembered the boxing phase of his long life pretty vividly. In yet another photo his hair was a bright blonde bordering on white, reflecting the sunlight shining out of the sky, glinting off his teeth as he threw his head back in a joyous laugh, surrounded by what looked like fellow college students sitting around a picnic table with textbooks in their laps.
There must have been dozens of photos, ranging from recent high-priced glossy quality to older sepia and black and white tones on frayed paper.
Taehyung’s gaze snagged on one in particular. The Taehyung in that photo had brown hair falling over his forehead and into his eyes, but the fringe wasn’t thick enough to hide the black eye or the laceration on his cheekbone. He stood leaning against a barbed-wire fence, thin fingers clenched over the metal, other people of Japanese heritage crowded in around him. They all wore the same tan shirts and pants. On the other side of the fence stood a row of American soldiers with rifles trained on them.
“Funny how the government thought all Asians looked alike,” commented Taehyung idly, plucking the photo from the others to study it more closely. “I couldn’t tell you how many fellow Koreans or Chinese or Taiwanese people were in those camps. Sure, World War II was a scary situation all around. But mistakes were made.”
“Sad,” remarked his interrogator. “It’s not the first time a government overreached itself. But there’s no doubting that the man in the photograph is you, though.”
“I mean, I could definitely raise some doubts.” Taehyung reclined in the chair, got as comfortable as he could. He raised an insolent eyebrow. “Koreans all look quite similar to an untrained eye, don’t you think?”
“Logical argument,” came the thoughtful reply. “A couple of faults, though.”
“By all means, enlighten me.”
“I do not have an untrained eye. And there’s no way anyone could mistake those cheekbones. Especially me.”
Suspicious, Tae narrowed his eyes. “Was that supposed to be a compliment?”
“A compliment would be unprofessional.”
“That wasn’t an answer.”
“You never answered my question, either, so we’re square.”
“And what question would that be, Detective?”
“What are you?”
Taehyung dropped his eyes, studying his hands in his laps. There was a string coming loose from the hem of his silk collared shirt. He picked and fiddled with it, lost in thought. Abruptly, he looked up. “Am I under arrest, Detective? I’ve been here in this fine establishment for forty-eight hours now, and that’s the maximum amount of time you can hold me without a formal charge.”
“You aren't under arrest,” came the response, what felt like an eternity later. “No, it looks like you were at the wrong place at the wrong time, Kim Taehyung. My partner caught the man responsible. In the future I’d advise you from wandering by convenience stores alone at four in the morning while a robbery is going down.”
“Noted,” Tae drawled, bored. Nightmares had kept him awake that night, and there were only so many things he could do in his apartment at all hours of the night before he went stir crazy. “Can I go now?”
“Sure. Your lawyer is waiting for you in the lobby.”
Tae winced a little. That would be a fun conversation. He hadn’t requested his lawyer be present, too intrigued by the photos.
He got up, held up his wrists as the detective came around the table with a key. The cop unlatched the cuffs, removed them systematically, all while looking Taehyung straight in the eye. Tae held his gaze, curious, rubbing his wrists once freed.
Tae allowed himself to belatedly realize that the detective was an attractive man, even with some stubble on his cheeks and shadows under his eyes. His hair was black as night and unkempt, his jawline sharp enough to cut glass. He had three black rings in the cartilage of his right ear, which intrigued Taehyung, and he wore black slacks and a black t-shirt as opposed to a cop uniform. His shiny silver badge hung from a chain around his neck.
The detective seemed to realize he was staring, and insolently raised a brow. “Something interesting you?”
Tae cocked his head. “That’s it? No good cop, bad cop? No roughing me up, demanding answers? A nice shove against the wall, maybe?”
A smirk. That was the first expression Taehyung saw on the detective’s face in two days’ worth of questioning. Too bad it was so damn attractive.
“Pushing you up against the wall sounds appealing, I’ll admit,” the detective murmured as he escorted Taehyung out into the bull pen. “But it wouldn’t be for an interrogation.”
Tae hummed under his breath. He caught sight of Jin pacing the waiting area, dressed impeccably as always in a pressed navy suit with a pink collared shirt. He held his designer briefcase in one hand and furiously typed into his cell phone with the other. Tae was relieved to see the leaves and twigs that normally decorated his friend’s brunette hair and the bark of his skin was nowhere to be seen. Jin could be forgetful of his mortal visage when upset.
Dryads. So emotional, what could you do?
The lawyer looked up at their approach, relief crossing his face. “Tae,” he called, striding forward to hug him hard before gripping his shoulders and looking over every inch of him. “Are you all right?”
“Fine, hyung, don’t worry.” Tae cast a glance at the detective. “I was in good hands. Apparently.”
“Jeon Jungkook,” said the detective, and offered a hand. “You must be Kim Seokjin.”
“Detective Jeon.” Jin cast him a gimlet stare but accepted the handshake. “Are you formally charging my client?”
“No, he’s free to go. He was a very,” and the smirk showed up again, “compliant suspect. My partner caught the actual perpetrator.” He gestured lazily across the bull pen where a surprisingly short man with incomprehensibly ocean blue hair shoved a handcuffed man down on a bench. “I appreciate your cooperation, Taehyung.”
The detective offered a hand, and Tae glanced at it warily. Was it a trap? But Jin hyung cleared his throat in that way where he wanted to tell Tae what to do but didn’t want to embarrass either of them by speaking it aloud, and Tae harrumphed and quickly grabbed the detective’s hand. Warmth rippled up his skin, brought goosebumps to his skin. He felt his eyes flicker and hastily tugged his hand free, wiping his palm on his shirt while averting his eyes in case they betrayed him.
After a moment he glanced back at the detective, who looked as impassive as ever. He gave the pair of them an ironic salute and turned on a heel to stride towards his partner.
A warm hand came up to Tae’s shoulder and squeezed, making Tae sigh as Jin steered him towards the door. “Are you all right?”
Tae didn’t answer. He paused on the front stoop of the police station, stared up at the night sky, stars obscured by the smog and light pollution of Seoul. The streets were thick with pedestrians and car traffic despite the late hour, neon lights blinking at every corner. Tae felt a pang of homesickness.
But where was home?
“Come on,” said Jin gently, watching him close. “Jimin left for that work trip yesterday, you’re coming home with me.”
Tae simply nodded and allowed the dryad to tug him into a cab.
Jungkook returned from the waiting area in time to see the suspect kick out a foot and his partner casually dodge and smack him on the back of his head for the effort. The handcuffed man winced and subsided, muttering dire threats under his breath. Jungkook’s partner looked supremely unconcerned.
“Everything under control?” drawled Jungkook.
“He’s a little peeved that I found an eyewitness who picked him out of a lineup,” commented Yoongi, sliding behind his desk to begin typing at his computer. “Idiot took off his ski mask too soon after the heist. Rookie mistake.”
“Giving the criminals tips these days, hyung?” Jungkook likewise sat behind his own desk, catty corner to Yoongi’s. He stared down at the file on top of the scatter of paperwork, at the neat pile of photographs.
“Not my fault they’re getting dumber by the minute.”
“I really don’t think you should criticize them for making our job easier. If it was hard it would cut into your nap time.”
“Fuck you,” responded Yoongi without heat. “Is your curiosity satisfied with that other person of interest? We’d cleared him pretty early on, you didn’t need to hold him so long.”
Jungkook hummed noncommittally, eyes fixed on a picture of a dark-haired Taehyung sprawled on what looks like the bank of a river, suspenders hanging loose around his waist, his loose white shirt slipping aside to bare a sun-kissed shoulder. His eyes had a lively twinkle and his lips were drawn up in a friendly smile. Jungkook burned to know who held the camera, who was gifted with such an expression.
Kim Taehyung. The name resonated in his mind. Who was he, and how had he been alive so long? Running his prints after the initial arrest had garnered dozens of hits. Notes from other law enforcement personnel over the decades had been thick with interest at the beginning, preliminary investigations started, but almost immediately halted in their tracks.
The question was why?
Jungkook considered himself an open-minded man. He had to be, with his job. He hadn’t made detective within five years of graduating the police academy without hard work, patience and a firm opinion on right versus wrong. He had seen many things he would never have believed humans to be capable of.
But a man who hasn’t aged in what appears like hundreds of years? His mind turned the puzzle over and over in his head, stayed with him like an itch he couldn’t scratch as he and Yoongi completed their paperwork.
“Jeon!” bellowed a voice across the bull pen, pausing the chaos for a moment as every cop swiveled their head to peer at Jungkook, who grimaced and put his pen down.
“Damn it, kid,” Yoongi muttered, and sighed. He reclined in his chair, hands behind his head as if preparing for entertainment.
Their captain strode through the maze of desks, slapped a piece of paper on his desk. “Care to explain?”
The paper detailed a complaint, Jungkook idly realized, lodged against him for harassment. For detaining a man named Kim Taehyung for a full two days without a charge. It was written by a lawyer named Kim Seokjin.
That was quick.
“I was well within my rights to hold a person of interest,” commented Jungkook.
Captain Kim Namjoon slapped his hands on his desk with an unimpressed scowl. “It was harassment and we both know it.”
The dimples that usually decorated the captain’s cheeks were nowhere to be seen as he scowled. His silver hair was swept up from his forehead, the white collared uniform shirt spotless and perfectly creased, though there were drops of coffee on his trousers. The captain was a clumsy man and the whole precinct knew it. But his face was smooth and unlined. In the five years Jungkook had been assigned to this precinct he had never seen lines of stress or worry on the man’s face, and the detective could never fathom how.
“Harassment is a harsh way to put it—”
“You can’t talk your way out of this one, maknae,” interrupted Namjoon, making Jungkook grumble at the nickname. He’d earned it during his time at the academy and hadn’t shaken it since. “Kim Seokjin is one of the most respected attorneys in this city and your record can’t take another hit.”
“So I’ve gone in hot on a few interrogations, I also have the most closed cases in this precinct.”
“Which is why I’m not benching your ass for insubordination and harassing a suspect,” retorted Namjoon, unimpressed. “But you will formally apologize to Mr. Kim and his client or it’ll be a knock on your service record, am I clear?”
Jungkook hated apologizing. It’s not like he knocked the guy around, he just asked some questions, questions that Taehyung never reacted to, only watched him with that twinkle in his eye as if he was supremely entertained by being detained in an interrogation room for two days with a patient detective.
Jungkook couldn’t help but wonder about him.
But apologize? Hell no.
Namjoon saw his distaste, straightening to his full impressive height. “Apologize. Or I’ll suspend your ass.” He retraced his steps back to his office, pointed a finger at Yoongi. “Make sure he does or you’ll earn yourself a suspension as well, Min.”
Yoongi saluted lazily. “Sir, yes, sir.”
Namjoon snorted but continued on his way.
A ball of paper hit Jungkook on the forehead and he scowled at his partner. “Hyung.”
“I wouldn’t press the captain on this one,” drawled Yoongi.
“Yeah, yeah.” He got up, swept his jacket on and idly tucked the file of photos in the inner pocket. “Let’s go, you’re buying me a drink.”
Yoongi likewise shut down his computer. “Why is it always my turn?”
“Because you’re the hyung.”
“There’s only so many times that comeback will work.”
“Let me know when it doesn’t.”