The waiter wanders by for the umpteenth time and Jimin finally concedes by taking one of the sparkling champagne glasses. Beside him, Yoongi frowns, his twitching fingers at the ready.
The drink barely touches Jimin’s lips before Yoongi pries the glass from his hand, grunting and snorting about how Jimin’s barely legal enough to stay up passed midnight. Jimin – to prove him wrong – sticks his tongue out, eyes rolling to the ceiling in aggravation.
“Stay alert,” his adoptive mother says, her matte red lips curled with brilliance despite her harsh scolding. She stands to Yoongi’s right (Jimin on his left), her hand clutching tight at her husband’s bicep on her other side. “Lose your composure in front of these people and you’ll sooner find your back being used for target practise. I taught you this. Did you pay attention at all? Did I waste my time–”
“Mother,” Yoongi interrupts quietly, his tone void of any passion to soothe his mother’s temper.
Jimin pouts, feeling wronged for being reprimanded. “It was just a sip. I haven’t touched anything else.”
“A sip can turn to many. You don’t want to create more opportunities for these people to get to you,” Yoongi explains, squeezing Jimin’s shoulder for emphasis. “You’re smart enough for me not to remind you again.”
Jimin sighs, patting the back of his brother’s hand. “I know, I know. Less words, less mistakes.”
“Right.” Yoongi fondly ruffles his hair before he separates from their small family, being swiftly welcomed into the crowd.
Jimin watches the top of Yoongi’s head get lost in the sea of fine jewellery and conspiring laughter; like a tiger entering a viper pit. It’s only Jimin who knows why Yoongi would willingly risk venturing in, it’s because his reward is on the other side – swaying to the violinist’s sullen tune – a complete eyesore among the prime and the proper.
Yoongi stops before his goal. He has his back to Jimin, so he can only see Jung Hoseok’s responding laughter to whatever it is his brother said – something cheesy, no doubt. Yoongi attends these banquets for one thing and one thing only: a chance to win some affection from the Jung family’s son. He drags Jimin along because it is only right that their new addition familiarises himself with the main family.
It’s been a year since Jimin was taken in, the first thing he learns is that the Mins are only a branch extending off the Jeon’s extensive family tree. His adoptive mother is the second daughter from the main family, while her brother, the current patriarch, is the youngest of six siblings. Outshined by her brothers and sisters for most of her life, Sumi declared that she wanted nothing to do with the family business, opting to run off with a childhood friend to elope. In spite of her intentions to cut ties, the Jeons took care of their own, and although she’s complained quite openly about them encroaching on her family’s privacy, she’s nonetheless grateful for the protection. She returns when offered, if only to bask in the stares of envy.
Jimin’s indifferent. He’s an outsider enjoying the show, laying dormant in the shadows to catch something amusing.
He turned eighteen a week ago, this is his second time his new parents have allowed him to accompany Yoongi here, under severe scrutiny, of course. Although he’s expressed his reluctance, his mother tells him that the Jeon patriarch would be here tonight – his first appearance in some time. Jimin’s obligated to pay his respects.
“Jimin-ah, go mingle,” his adoptive father nudges him a step forward until he’s brushing arms with the rest of the party.
He doesn’t look back as he edges around the masses, shuffling along the wall to get to the balcony doors on the opposite side. His hand an inch away from brushing the white wood frame, he feels a ripple and a hush fall over the room. Glancing around in confusion for a moment, he follows the gaze of the other guests to the head table not too far from where Yoongi and Hoseok are standing.
He sees a few men approach the table, immaculate and darkly dressed, they stride through the easily parting crowd, their broad stature half concealing the hobbling figure within their protection. Another pair of similarly dressed men follow behind, their shoulders tenser than the ones in front – prepared for any mishaps.
As they walk, the onlookers incline their heads, greeting the newcomer in the middle with subservient smiles. They don’t dare go too close, clutching their jackets and dresses to suppress their need to crane their necks to get a better look.
The patriarch waves his free hand almost dismissively, his other gripping a crutch, limping at his own leisure, while his guards match his pace without a word. He comes to a stop at the head seat, sinking into the chair as his legs are finally relieved.
Jimin, being too far to see detail, turns away and heads out to the balcony. Even though he has no plans to ingratiate himself to the man, he is pretty curious.
Jeon Jeongguk is the youngest son, only seven years older than Yoongi and ten years older than Jimin. Based on seniority, he barely qualifies for a quarter of the company’s shares, never mind the ruling position. Despite their elegant, docile demeanours, the Jeon siblings are as vicious as they are cunning. None of them would yield to their youngest brother, so Jimin wonders how on earth Jeongguk had secured himself to the head seat for so long. His oldest brother would surely have a bounty on his head. His sisters, with just the thought of them, send unpleasant shivers bouncing down Jimin’s spine.
The Jeons – their veins run with poison.
Sumi is the one exception to all this, her loyalties now lying with the Mins.
“Jimin.” During his distraction, Yoongi has somehow made his way back to him. “It’s time.”
Taking one more lungful of the crisp, autumn night air, he pushes himself away from the stone railings and lets his brother guide him back into the party.
Their parents are already stood before the head table, spines straight, their fronts bare, smiles unslipping. When Jimin and Yoongi arrive, they take a subtle breath of relief, colour returning to their cheeks. They push Jimin to the front, a hand on each of his shoulders. He loses his balance and nearly topples over the table, stopped by the electricity he feels ricocheting down to his tummy from the quiet eyes he accidentally meets.
Jeongguk is not young anymore – a couple of years away from turning thirty, but his age has done his image well. He’s handsome in the most heart-breaking way possible; the kind of good-looking that has a person holding their breath in disbelief. His features are sharp under certain lighting, while his eyes look to be forever large and round with youth.
He remains silent, unmoved, but he stares intensely back at Jimin’s reddening face, pupils blown wide in immediate infatuation.
“Yoongi, Jimin, greet your uncle,” his mothers says, tugging Yoongi closer.
“Good evening, uncle.” Yoongi smiles politely, neither too eager nor too shy.
Jeongguk hesitates to turn his gaze away from Jimin’s pursed lips, however, he visibly softens when he hears Yoongi.
Once it was Jimin’s turn to pay his respects, he squares his shoulders. He attempts to keep his tone neutral, only for it to come out breathless. “Hello, uncle.”
Jeongguk’s quirks an eyebrow, intrigued. “I wasn’t informed big sister had brought home a stray.” He smiles, blatantly mocking. As patriarch, there aren’t many people Jeongguk would be afraid to offend, regardless of age. “Such a pretty little stray at that.”
Jimin isn’t offended. On the contrary, he’s amused. He really is a stray; an illegitimate child of the Parks, and the only known survivor of their recent extermination. He’d been picked up after wandering the streets for a few days. Sumi was indebted to his birth mother before her death, she took him in without a second thought.
How lucky he is.
“Thank you, uncle,” he says cheerfully before Sumi can get a word in.
“We’ve had him for just under a year,” Sumi says thoughtlessly, eyes darting around the room in her nervousness. She was never a match for her siblings; she was too unambitious, too consumed in her own vanity, her parents were endlessly disappointed. If she had even a sliver of the same talent as Jeongguk, she would’ve been a worthy rival – with her meticulous nature.
“And you’ve never showed him off until now?” Jeongguk tilts his head. “When has my family gotten so talented at keeping secrets?” His playful words do nothing to mask the danger in his expression. Anger would’ve been preferable to the sinister excitement that glints passed Jeongguk’s eyes.
“We’ve been teaching him the ways of the family,” Yoongi provides calmly, keeping his distance.
“Oh?” Jeongguk sweeps his gaze over Yoongi, his interest piqued, before it returns to Jimin. “Have they taught you some tricks?”
Jimin plays along, nodding earnestly. “I can shake hands and jump through hoops very well!”
Jeongguk chuckles – deep and alluring. “Do you bite as well?”
“Only when I want to,” Jimin answers with some mischief.
“Do you speak?”
“If the reward is worth it.”
Jeongguk picks up his glass of wine lazily, smirking behind the rim. “Mouthy little stray…”
The Min couple shuffle on their feet awkwardly, not quite sure what Jeongguk’s stance is on their new son. Jimin is too untroubled and senseless, while Jeongguk is everything terrible for such a naïve child. Jimin may have survived his family’s massacre, but they’re afraid he won’t outlive Jeongguk.
“Are you enjoying yourself tonight, Jimin-ah?” Jeongguk asks after a moment, outstretching his perfectly imperfect fingers to him. Jimin takes his hand unhesitatingly, adding more light to the already burning flame in Jeongguk’s dark irises. “I hope you haven’t been too lonely. I should’ve come earlier to see you if I’d known.”
“The evening has been nice, just a little too noisy,” Jimin complains without reservation, and if he wasn’t standing before Jeongguk, Sumi would’ve delivered a swift smack to the back of his head.
“Is it?” Jeongguk smirks, turning to gesture for the band to play louder. The noise is startling and Jimin’s eyebrows frown in displeasure. “Too noisy, huh? Then shall we go somewhere quieter?”
Truly a man of cruel intentions.
Jimin’s lips curve without his permission. He’s about to agree when his adoptive father cuts in, his hold on Jimin a touch tighter.
“Actually, Jeongguk-ssi, we were hoping to introduce Jimin to the rest of the family,” he says, prepared to haul Jimin over his shoulder if the situation requires it.
To oppose Jeongguk so fearlessly, it takes some nerve. Jeongguk’s notorious for getting what he wants, when he wants it. The world would sooner burn than allow Jeongguk to go wanting; if he doesn’t set it ablaze himself first.
Jimin was quick to rectify his father’s mistake. “If uncle will allow it, I’ll come back in an hour. I’ll pay respects to the other members of the family, that way I’ll be all yours for the rest of the night!” he says, blinking slowly, his knees going soft from the way Jeongguk watches him.
Their fingers are still tangled, Jeongguk’s thumb caressing the back of his hand in reverent circles. Jimin smiles happily, moving to hold Jeongguk’s callous and scarred palm with both of his own. The significant size difference gives his heart a jump start, and he wonders how they’d look spreading his thighs open. They could come back rough and dirty from a hard day’s work, with the knuckles dotted in blood and Jimin would still be ready to lick it off.
“Mm.” Jeongguk nods, his previous annoyance quickly brushed aside for joy at the boy’s offer. He waves to send them off but holds onto Jimin’s hand until he’s forced out of his grasp.
After Jimin turns and disappears, Jeongguk is left sitting, his fist pressed to his lips to hide his growing pleasure. It’s not everyday he gets to meet such an interesting character. Jimin’s little lamb act is adorable. Jeongguk would’ve been fooled if Jimin had bothered to conceal his honeyed and hateful mouth. Lovely little thing he is. Jeongguk almost can’t bear to let him leave his sight.
He gets tired of his toys quickly. Nothing and no one has held him in place for long. Jeongguk loves a challenge, he loves a puzzle. And having gotten one look into those pretty brown eyes of Jimin’s, he knows he has the capacity to keep Jeongguk on his toes.
Jeongguk spends his hour dissatisfied and anxious. He sees no sign of Jimin returning, so he grabs his crutch and resolves to finding Jimin himself. His men shift to the side, giving him space to adjust on his feet. His right leg protests fiercely, sending shots of hot stinging aches through his joints. Accustomed to it now, Jeongguk clenches his jaw and starts walking.
He finds Yoongi by the bar, wine held in one hand, sitting with the Jung family’s boy. They’re absorbed in conversation. It’s after Jeongguk clears his throat that Yoongi looks up.
Hoseok gives a slight start, eyes wide and mouth flapping at the unexpected arrival.
“Uncle, what’s the matter?” Yoongi asks. His hand goes to settle on one of Hoseok’s knees, his own way of subtle reassurance.
“Jimin.” Jeongguk only has to say one word for Yoongi to point his brother out.
A lone figure stands on the other side of the banquet room, on the balcony he had been to previously. Jimin is leaning heavily against the railing, putting all his weight over it as his feet kick out behind him. His shoulders are shaking, most likely due to drunken laughter, which Jeongguk can almost hear ringing in his ears. Some young men linger by the doorway, exchanging licentious glances between one another at Jimin’s lowered defences.
Jeongguk hardly resists the burn rising in his chest. His grip on his crutch tightens until he feels it leaving patterns on his palm. He takes a hasty step forward and almost collapses on the spot, his leg screeching in agony.
Rather than voice his concern, Yoongi averts his eyes. He’s learned that expressing sympathy with his uncle only gets him punished. Jeongguk doesn’t allow pity. He’s carried the Jeon empire on his back since he was twenty-years-old, there’s nothing Jeongguk can’t handle. A crippled limb or two won’t stop him. Calling it a hindrance would be an insult, it’s an opportunity – another reason for him to thrive.
It takes Jeongguk some time to reach the balcony. With as much discretion as possible, he has his men drive away the bystanders and shut the doors behind him after he steps out.
Jimin doesn’t respond to his approach, his ruddy face tipped towards the sky, blinking admiringly at the moon. His profile is beautifully outlined, his skin dewy and soft-looking, his lips pouty and just waiting to be claimed.
In his whole lifetime, the things Jeongguk’s seen that can be deemed breath-taking can be counted on a single hand, and Jimin’s surely one of them.
Once he gets close enough, Jeongguk sets his crutch to one side and snakes his way behind him, his larger build easily enveloping Jimin’s smaller frame. Jeongguk’s hands come to rest at the edge of the railing, trapping Jimin between his arms and against his chest. Without a word, Jimin leans into him.
They stand in peaceful silence for a few minutes, Jimin basking in the warmth of Jeongguk right at his back. Then, he finally asks, “How did you hurt your leg?”
Jeongguk hums, lifting a hand to play with a strand of Jimin’s hair. “My siblings organised an ‘accident’ a few years back. Made a mess of my favourite car.”
“Does it hurt?” Jimin asks, turning to look up at him with misty eyes and rosy cheeks.
Jeongguk smiles amusedly at Jimin’s sincere concern, and answers honestly, “Yes, it hurts. It aches worse than hell during winter.”
Jimin’s mouth twists, his brows scrunching. Jeongguk can’t tell if he’s sad or debating murder. He decides that neither is good, but it’s really fucking cute. Especially when Jimin intoxicatedly reaches his hand out to carefully pat Jeongguk on his left hip. He ends up just rubbing his palm against the side of his thigh. Jeongguk doesn’t have the heart to tell him that it’s the wrong leg. He keeps his lips tightly shut instead, scared Jimin would stop. He can feel Jimin’s warmth seep right through the fabric of his slacks and he wants to be selfish for a while longer.
“What are you thinking?” He peeks down at Jimin, hearing him sniffle.
“Mm… It’s just… they…” Jimin shakes his head, wiping his nose with the back of a hand.
“I don’t need you to be sad on my behalf,” Jeongguk laughs gently, moving Jimin’s hand from his hip to pull his arm around his waist. “I’m healthy, no need to go looking for trouble.”
Jimin falls into Jeongguk’s chest, his cheek rubbing against his collar. “Did you punish them?”
“Then why are they still alive?” Jimin mutters, his voice still sweet. “They walk around this place like you owe them something.”
“I’m not done with them yet,” Jeongguk purrs, pleased by how undisturbed Jimin is. He even looks somewhat satiated by Jeongguk’s response. “Death would be too easy. They have a lifetime of wrongs to pay for.”
Jimin nods, satisfied. He snuggles into Jeongguk’s chest, gladly receiving every bit of affection Jeongguk shows him.
No one can tell him he has bad taste in men. Jeongguk is absolutely perfect for him. He’s territorial, arrogant, and possessive to boot; everything Jimin wants and needs. He has no interest in manipulating the weak. Jeongguk’s more than enough to keep him fed for the rest of his life.
“Now, I have a question of my own,” Jeongguk says by his ear, his hot breath warming Jimin’s chilled skin.
Feeling a little breathless, Jimin loops his arms around Jeongguk’s neck to get their bodies as close as possible. He makes sure he doesn’t put too much weight on him, though, afraid he’ll cause Jeongguk more pain. “What?”
Before he speaks again, Jeongguk takes his time running his free hand up under the back of Jimin’s suit jacket, climbing up his spine. He stops at his shoulder blades, then slides back down passed his waist to his ass, where his fingers sink right into the flesh. He kneads as much as he wants, watching Jimin’s expression turn wanton. The instant Jeongguk has him squirming in his hands, he opens his mouth again. “Why did you pick the Mins?” he asks, ignoring how Jimin’s body trembles for a fleeting moment.
“Hm?” Jimin mewls softly. “I didn’t choose them. Your sister took me in herself.” He grins impishly.
Jeongguk chuckles. “Let me rephrase that. Why did you pick the Mins, when you were aiming for me?”
Jimin rolls his eyes and leans up on his toes to kiss the corner of Jeongguk’s mouth, causing Jeongguk to jump in surprise. Jimin laughs delightedly. “Don’t flatter yourself. I wasn’t aiming for you. I’ve never met you until tonight.”
“Then what’s your purpose for being here?” Jeongguk cocks his head in curiosity. “Is there something you want?” Jeongguk tone is still intimate. Jimin hasn’t quite lost him yet.
He’s a peculiar man. If it were not Jeongguk, Jimin would never treat a stranger so familiarly. In their line of business, it’s uncommon to be friendly.
“Something I want?” He appears contemplative for a while, a finger on his chin for the dramatics. “Retribution.”
“For?” Jeongguk urges.
“That’s my business.” Jimin smiles, tapping Jeongguk on the lips.
Jeongguk presses in closer, forcing Jimin’s back to the edge of the railing. “I don’t take kindly to threats against my family. And from what I know of your past, you’re the biggest threat there is.”
“Aw, you investigated me?” Jimin giggles, combing his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair.
“The Parks were truly cursed to have produced someone like you, Park Jimin,” Jeongguk grins, and his teeth glint so dangerous Jimin nearly presents his neck.
“I don’t wanna talk about them,” he whispers, hopping up to sit on the railing, spreading his legs to accommodate Jeongguk. He relishes the fact that Jeongguk is attuned to his every move, eyes looking almost as intoxicated as Jimin feels. “Uncle has me for the rest of the night, shouldn’t we do something more fun?”
Jeongguk says nothing, his tongue quickly wetting his bottom lip in anticipation. He wants to know more, Jimin can see it on his face, but he doesn’t seem to care. Jeongguk feels almost frustrated. His reports never mentioned how interesting the boy was. But Jimin’s no mystery. A complex individual, yes, but Jimin is surprisingly open for a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Jeongguk knows what it takes to make such a character, but he doesn’t know how deep things run just from a glimpse of the surface. Thankfully, Jimin’s willing to let him dive in headfirst.
“I don’t know what you did with the Parks, but I’m not so easily fooled.” Jeongguk brushes the back of his fingers along Jimin’s cheek, seemingly enamoured. “You might know some tricks but I’m not afraid to put you on a leash.”
Jimin pouts his lips unhappily. “Is it a nice leash?”
“You want diamonds on it?” Jeongguk snorts.
“Yes, please. I wanna be pretty.” Jimin draws him closer, lips puckered and pink.
“You already are, sweetheart.”
“Yeah, but I want to be pretty just for you,” Jimin breathes, flushing deep from the pet name.
“You’re so sure I’ll take you?” Jeongguk raises an eyebrow, his arms encircling Jimin’s waist despite his teasing.
“I don’t remember giving you a choice.” Jimin mirrors his expression, half-serious and half-playful. He’s so sure of what he wants, almost conceitedly so, and with Jimin’s beauty, he could get away with anything and have anyone. Jimin’s determined. He’s also ambitious enough to want Jeongguk. And Jeongguk always did like those who aim high.
It helps that Jimin’s got a mouth on him.