Taeyong’s criminal streak starts with pickpocketing.
He’s fifteen when he steals his first wallet at Lotte World. He’d seen it in movies before and the act appears simple enough; he follows it nearly move by move. Get close, obscure the vision of passerbys by his jacket, tug the wallet free of the woman’s open purse.
His hands are shaking, and his heart is beating a vicious rhythm against his chest the entire time, and he’s worried he’s gonna mess up, he’s gonna drop the wallet or tug too hard and alert her or someone’s gonna see and he’s gonna get caught and they’ll call the cops and his parents—
And then she’s walking away, oblivious, talking with her friend still, and Taeyong is gripping the wallet in a grip so strong his fingers are turning white, and he’s breathing quick and hard and then, then the adrenaline of it all kicks in.
And it feels good.
He walks the other direction than the two women, checking the contents of the wallet. He’s not interested in her driver’s license or ID card and not even in her credit cards; he takes out all the bills inside, pockets them, and takes the wallet to the info booth to report as lost.
He learns, in the next couple of weeks, how to take watches, phones, all sorts of things completely undetected. He frequents tourist places and steals from people and marvels in his ability and in the ignorance of everyone around him. He usually takes money, though, because that’s easier and much less likely to be traced back to him, and he makes a good amount of money from that alone.
If his parents notice he no longer asks for allowance, they never comment on it.
He starts to steal in stores, little items easily slipped into the inside pocket of his jacket or up his sleeve or under his shirt. He gets so good at this kind of sleight of hand he barely needs to pay for anything anymore.
It suffices for a while, but after some time, he still wants more.
And he only keeps wanting more.
When Taeyong is nineteen, he meets Moon Taeil.
Taeil is a mere year older than him, yet Taeyong feels like there is a chasm separating them. Taeil is everything Taeyong wished to be at age sixteen and further; talented, smart, and accomplished. Taeil carries himself with an air of confidence that doesn’t appear arrogant. He talks to people like they’re his good friends and in the first few minutes Taeyong already feels like that is true. Taeil is a funny guy, too, and he makes Taeyong feel comfortable. Taeyong cannot stop eyeing his crisply pressed Gucci shirt.
Taeil is a former magician, Taeyong learns. He can do all the sleight of hand tricks Taeyong is proficient in and much, much more; though, when Taeyong asks if that’s how he’d gotten to money, Taeil shakes his head no with a smile. It was never about the small stuff, he lets Taeyong know, he’s always had eyes on the bigger picture. It would sound condescending coming from any other person, but Taeil has a way with words that makes them sound genuine, so Taeyong presses for more, and in the end, he finds out Taeil’s first job was a bank robbery.
“I shouldn’t be telling you this,” he leans closer, the pretty smile still lacing his lips, light catching off one of his earrings. Taeyong’s body leans closer without him knowing. “But I have a feeling we see eye to eye.”
Taeyong hungrily swallows everything Taeil has to say. He learns that Taeil drafted his plan when he was merely thirteen and had been perfecting it for four years, until the day he carried it out. He did it only because he wanted to see if he could, and he kept at it only because it turned out that he was very, very good at it.
“Once you get the feel of it, of a job that big,” Taeil is saying, “You’re never gonna be able to return to pocketing Rolex.” Taeyong believes every syllable, his veins thrum and his core longs for it, for the thrill he knows this kind of job must be. In a sense, meeting Taeil alone is enough to make him never want to return to his previous endeavors.
By the end of the night, when Taeil ropes him into a casino heist, the thought of refusing doesn’t even cross his mind.
Taeil asks Taeyong to stay in America with him, a few months later. Taeyong has been ready to return to Seoul with his fair share of money, already calculating and making plans on spending and investing, but the offer makes him pause.
They’ve spent the last few months together, cooped up in Taeil’s mansion in Busan and then in a Las Vegas hotel room, working on smoothing out any wrinkles in Taeil’s masterplan. He thought that’d be it, after, that they’d return to Korea and part ways on a good note. Taeil is a good person, Taeyong’s mentor of sorts, and he guesses they’re some sort of friends – or partners in crime, rather – but Taeyong isn’t ready for a commitment, or for something to tie him down.
He almost says just so. Almost tells him he’s going back, anyway, no reason to stay now. But maybe the look on Taeil’s face stops him, the open expression, the hopeful glint in his eyes.
Courtesy of spending so much time together, Taeyong picked up on some things regarding him, and he suspects, no matter how many people Taeil appears to be friendly with, he doesn’t actually have that many friends. Perhaps he’s lonely, and that’s why he asks Taeyong to accompany him to New York. Maybe he thinks Taeyong considers him a good friend. It doesn’t matter that Taeyong has never had a friend in his life, or that he doesn’t think that that’s what the two of them are now.
In the end, he agrees. Taeil’s expression brightens, and Taeyong ignores the way his gut squeezes.
In New York, they meet Seo Youngho.
At first glance, Youngho looks like trouble. At a second one, he’s drop-dead gorgeous.
Taeyong has never spared much thought on dating or girls before; there was no need, there were other things to focus his attention on, or he never understood when his high-school classmates would fixate on girls the way that they did.
Few months later, he realized it had more to do with him than it did with the girls, but still not much changed. Sometimes he noticed, when a good-looking boy would pass by him on the street or in the hall, but that was about it.
Once, though, when he was seventeen, a boy asked him out, a cute guy a few inches taller than him with dimples that would appear every time he smiled, and Taeyong agreed to go on a date with him. They walked along the streets of Myeongdong, they talked (the boy did most of the talking, but Taeyong never felt the urge to talk about himself much) and in the end, when the boy walked him to his bus stop and leaned in to kiss him goodbye, Taeyong let him, wrapping his hands around his neck. It was a good kiss, he remembers, clumsy but easy and warm. Taeyong’s stomach rolled with familiar nervosity, but it wasn’t because of the kiss; they parted, waved goodbyes and Taeyong boarded the bus, one hand gripping the boy’s necklace that he’d taken off him.
The boy himself wasn’t enough to warrant a reminder, but the necklace was, so Taeyong kept it as memorabilia in a box hidden in the back of his closet, along with three other pieces he’d stolen, three other boys.
None of them were enough to catch his attention for more than a few minutes.
Seo Youngho is no different, even if he’s more handsome than a good portion of all the people Taeyong has ever met in his life. Interestingly enough, he seems to catch Taeil’s fancy.
Taeil knocks back a shot and braves himself enough to go over and talk to this guy; Taeyong leans back in his chair and watches them, curious. Few moments later, they come back to Taeyong’s table, and Taeil introduces them, Tae, this is Seo Youngho, and Youngho gives him a charming smile and says, call me Johnny.
The club they are in, they learn, is Youngho’s building. Taeyong’s gaze keeps slipping to Youngho’s earrings, big and round and commanding attention, and he thinks to himself, he really should get himself some of those.
Taeil makes fun of his rings, but Taeyong couldn’t care less. He also gets his ears pierced and buys earrings, and Taeil teases him for that as well as if he himself doesn’t spend thirty minutes each evening picking out bling to stick to both his own ears.
Youngho nearly gets them all sent to jail. They get arrested, hand-cuffs and all, but it’s only thanks to Taeil’s charm and quick wit that they make off unscathed.
Apparently, the club Youngho owns has been used as a nest of sorts, a headquarters and meeting place of various people swimming in all sorts of trouble. There’s a secluded area to the side of the bar, reserved for a special sort of clientele. Taeyong and Taeil always go to the back whenever they come there to meet Youngho.
It’s a big, atmospheric room smelling intensely of incense and cigar smoke. Youngho invites them back there, because he has his own booth at the very back. There’s a couple of booths similar to his, and there’s tables, each accompanied by soft leather chairs and set a comfortable distance from one another. Taeyong has never heard what was being said, but he did see a lot; people in suits that looked like they cost more than the share of his first heist, bodyguards, and more often than not, drugs.
As the police escort Youngho out first, Taeyong makes eye contact with Taeil and Taeil shakes his head, slowly, and Taeyong knows; he has a plan, he’s gonna figure it out, this is his signal to Taeyong that they don’t know anything.
So, when they question him, he denies it all; denies everything he’s seen, denies it when they suggest Youngho could know about any of it. It takes hours, but in the end, they’re let out.
Only when they exit the building and Taeil hails a taxi does Taeyong realize his hands are shaking.
They’re sitting in the back, all three of them squeezed into the seats. Taeyong rests his head against the window and he’s wondering what the fuck he’s doing, why is he still in America, why can’t he seem to split ways with Taeil.
The taxi lets them off at the club. Taeyong stops on the sidewalk and breathes, in and out and in and out and in and out. Taeil comes to stop a few feet from him, and Taeyong has to ask, “What’d you say to them?”
Taeil looks at him, and Taeyong has a feeling he’s assessing his expression, “I was prepared.” He says, and that’s not really an answer, but Taeyong doesn’t want to push, “I thought something like this would happen sooner or later.”
“God,” Taeyong breathes out. “It could have happened later.” When I wasn’t here, he doesn’t say out loud.
Taeil puts a bejeweled hand on his shoulder. It shouldn’t be comforting, but it is. “It’s fine, Tae. I know what I’m doing.”
That’s alright, he thinks. It’s him who doesn’t know what he’s doing.
There’s a voice, unfamiliar and melodic, coming from somewhere to the side of where they’re standing, Taeyong and Taeil close together and Youngho a respectful distance away, but clearly waiting for them. “You’re closed?”
They all turn to face the intruder at the same time. Youngho speaks first. “For the night, yeah.” Then the guy comes closer, and Youngho says, “Didn’t know you were back yet.”
The guy answers, “I arrived yesterday.”
Taeyong has seen a lot of people in his life, but he’s never seen someone just quite like this.
The man looks young, Taeyong guesses his age or younger. He’s tall and richly dressed and his posture betrays an air of indifference, and Taeyong knows people like this; born into money, never had to think twice about it. His clothes don’t stand out, but they betray wealth in their simple designs and good material. His eyes appear black and distant and cold. His hair is a bright orange hue.
Youngho opens the front door and tells them all to get in, so they do; Taeil goes in first, and Taeyong is about to follow when he bumps shoulders with the other guy. They both stop and look at each other – Taeyong has to look up to meet his eyes and the guy eyes Taeyong down and up and Taeyong does not like the way he seems to judge what he’s seeing.
“I’m sorry,” the guy says, low but firm, “After me.” And he goes in.
That’s how Taeyong first meets Kim Doyoung.
Youngho introduces them officially once they’re all inside. Doyoung barely spares him any glances, and Taeyong has the distinct feeling he is being looked down upon. It used to bother him, when he was younger. Now he just thinks it’s rude.
In the two hours Doyoung keeps them company in Youngho’s usual booth, Taeyong learns that he just flew in from a trip and that he’s flying away again in about a week.
Taeyong keeps watching him when he talks, purely out of curiosity; his hair is styled back, slicked, and there’s only one simple silver earring hanging from his right ear.
He can’t stop looking, for some reason, up until the point Doyoung notices, and doesn’t think twice about bringing attention to it. “Am I that pretty?”
Taeyong’s stomach squirms, but he’s learned how to appear confident, so it doesn’t make him pause. “Yeah.”
Doyoung smirks, but his eyes remain closed off.
Doyoung sucks him off in the bathroom, no time wasted, and Taeyong feels like it’s over way too soon.
Doyoung’s mouth feels amazing on him, he looks good on his knees looking up at Taeyong through his lashes in the subdued lighting of the room, and Taeyong thinks he wouldn’t mind to just stay in the moment for a little while longer.
He’s had blowjobs done to him before, but the boys he’s been with weren’t always as skilled as Doyoung is, weren’t even half as hot palming themselves through their pants while sucking him dry as Doyoung currently is.
Taeyong’s hands wound up in Doyoung’s hair, tugging on the strands. Doyoung makes a sound half-way between a moan and a growl that sounds vaguely like a warning, but he doesn’t stop, and so Taeyong takes it as permission to keep his hands where they are.
It doesn’t take him too long to finish. Doyoung pulls away and stands up, and not really thinking too much about it, Taeyong reaches for him, “Let me?”
Doyoung eyes him for a second, and then nods. He leans into Taeyong’s space a little, when Taeyong puts his hand on him, eyes fluttering shut. Taeyong keeps looking at his face, shiny with sweat, hair disheveled. He feels like he can’t breathe, for a moment.
After, after they clean up and make sure their clothes are on right and they don’t look too ruffled, Taeyong does what he does best; he pretends to bump into him, clumsy as they both walk toward the door, swiping Doyoung’s wallet in the process and when Doyoung’s hands fly out to steady him on reflex, swiping his watch as well.
As Taeyong is about to turn and go out, Doyoung stops him, hand on Taeyong’s biceps. “I believe you have something of mine.”
He’s good, but Taeyong banked on the fact. He turns to face him again, but he backs up against the nearest wall. “Come and get it, then.”
He doesn’t expect Doyoung to actually cross over and stop inches away from his face. “You’re good, but not good enough.”
Taeyong thinks, they will just see about that. “It’s okay.” He says, reaching out to lay his hand on the right side of Doyoung’s neck, thumbing along his jaw. With his other one he puts the wallet and watch into the front pocket of Doyoung’s jacket, and he has to go up on his toes to whisper in his left ear, “Just wanted to see if you’d notice.”
The way Doyoung looks at him tells him he’s not impressed. “Well, I did.”
Taeyong takes one last moment to trace the shell of Doyoung’s right ear with his fingers, before retracting it and leaning back. “Guess so.”
Doyoung tells him he’ll be seeing him around, someday, and exits the bathroom.
A smile sneaks its way onto his face as he looks at Doyoung’s earring, sitting in his palm. He pockets it and leaves the bathroom as well.
When he returns to their table, he finds out Doyoung has already left.
Thanks to Taeil and his need to rob an institution at least every half a year, Taeyong comes to have more money than he really cares for.
He buys a mansion in Hollywood and one in California. He buys things without really caring how much they cost or what’s he going to do with them. He can buy and so he does.
Through Taeil and his extended network of contacts, Taeyong gets to meet Mark Lee, a young, talented hacker, and surprisingly, they create a bond.
Hanging out with Mark is easy. They crash at his or Taeyong’s house and mostly play videogames. Mark doesn’t expect him to care for him and that’s why it’s comfortable. Taeyong likes Taeil and Johnny, he does, but sometimes he doesn’t want to spend every evening outside drinking. Lounging on Mark’s leather sofa while Mark does his best to complete a level is more than enough.
Sometimes, though, they go out on the town, and it’s pure coincidence that Taeyong meets Doyoung in the club Mark picks out for the night.
Taeyong started to wear the earring he’d taken off him, instead of his usual accessories. He has it on now as well, when Mark leaves their table to go dance on the dancefloor with random girls, and Doyoung is sliding into the chair he’d previously occupied. “You know, if you wanted the earring that badly, you could have just asked for it.”
Taeyong’s heartbeat picks up as soon as he sees him, dressed in a pretty satin shirt, hair a soft shade of blonde, still styled back. He takes a swig of his drink before he replies, “That wouldn’t really be fun.”
Taeyong thinks Doyoung is about to smile, but in the end he doesn’t. “What if I said I want it back?”
Taeyong pretends to think about it. “I would return it. In exchange.”
One of Doyoung’s exquisitely pointed eyebrows rises up. “For what?”
“Let me buy you a drink.”
This time Doyoung huffs out something that could be considered a laugh, if Taeyong believes hard enough, “What are you trying to do?”
Taeyong shrugs. “I just didn’t get a chance to do so last time.”
“You got more than you deserved, last time,” Doyoung sharply bits out, “I never planned on talking to you again.”
Taeyong thinks he’s doing a piss-poor job of that, nevermind stolen earrings. He could have just bought a new one. He could have ignored Taeyong tonight, pretended not to recognize him. He didn’t. “Yet here you are, sitting in front of me, talking to me.”
Doyoung seems to be torn between storming away and laughing. In the end, he leans against the chair, head cocked to the side. “Fine,” he says, “Fine. Buy me one drink. See if you can keep my attention by the time I finish it.”
Taeyong is willing to take the challenge.
A drink turns into two, turns into three, and then turns into them stumbling into Doyoung’s hotel room, limbs and mouths all over each other.
As far as keeping Doyoung’s attention goes, Taeyong thinks he’s more than succeeded. He laughs into their kiss, despite himself, and it doesn’t slip past Doyoung who leans back just enough to look at him, “What is it?”
But Taeyong doesn’t want to talk now, not when there’s so much more they could be doing, not when he could be kissing Doyoung instead. “Nothing,” he replies, and brings their mouths together again.
Doyoung talks a whole lot, but still Taeyong doesn’t really know much about who he is or what he does for a living.
He learns in bits and pieces that Doyoung continues the family business. What that exactly entails, Taeyong cannot be sure, and Doyoung never answers straight when questioned about it. He flies all over the world for his work, and Taeyong prods until Doyoung lets him know that he does an assortment of various services for all sorts of clients.
When they meet, it’s either at one of Taeyong’s houses, but that’s only if Doyoung has got more than only a few days to stay, which is not usually the case. More often than not, they end up at whichever hotel Doyoung is presently staying at.
That’s how Taeyong gets to know, whatever it is Doyoung really does for a living, it entails he handles a variety of equipment, ranging from daggers to sniper rifles.
It’s not too hard to guess, after that, but Taeyong doesn’t want to make assumptions or ask. He has an idea now, at the very least. It doesn’t get in the way of whatever it is they have in between them. It’s not his problem.
They’re not exactly dating. Taeyong doesn’t need to date to have a good time with someone and Doyoung never gives indication that to him it would be more than just attraction. It works for them, whatever their relationship is. Taeyong doesn’t want more.
Still, when Doyoung introduces him to Jungwoo, sort of my apprentice, and Taeyong sees the way Jungwoo unabashedly looks at Doyoung with a look of reverence, something nasty takes root in the pit of his stomach, and he cannot get rid of it no matter how many shots he throws back in an attempt.
Maybe he kisses Doyoung a bit rougher that night, maybe he scratches over his back more than he would any other day, this new-found desire to mark what is his, what should be his at least for the time being while he’s here.
Doyoung grins when Taeyong asks what Jungwoo’s deal is, clearly enjoying the way it’s making Taeyong riled up, “Why, are you jealous you’re not the only pretty boy around?”
Taeyong himself doesn’t know what the problem is, really, but it’s not jealousy, it’s – something else, something he doesn’t know how to articulate or make sense of. He doesn’t answer, instead tugs Doyoung closer, bites onto his neck, leaves his mark all over, and Doyoung lets him.
Mark is the one to confirm Taeyong’s assumption that Doyoung is a killer for hire.
He apparently knows his family. They’re sorta a big deal, he tells Taeyong. Everyone who’s someone knows who they are and what they do. Most importantly, Mark thinks, Taeyong should steer clear of him. Taeyong is planning on doing no such thing.
He brings it up, when he’s lying with Doyoung in bed, bare legs tangled together, Taeyong’s head tucked into the crook between Doyoung’s shoulder and neck. “You kill people for money, don’t you?”
Doyoung freezes, but only for a second before his composure is back in place. He hums, “I do all sorts of things. If the client demands I get my hands dirty, I get my hands dirty. Simple.”
“I’m not judging,” Taeyong says quickly, so Doyoung doesn’t get any weird ideas about Taeyong being scared, or anything like that. He’s only curious to know more about him. “I was just wondering.”
“Are you scared?” Doyoung asks, sounding impassive.
“Not necessarily,” Taeyong answers, feeling like he probably should be, but he’s always only been scared of one thing in his life and this isn’t it. “Would you kill me, if you had to?”
“If someone ordered your death, sure,” Doyoung says, “As long as I get paid.”
Taeyong kicks him in the shin, lightly, but he’s not sure Doyoung is joking. He doesn’t dare ask.
The years pass by like that, his twenty-third birthday celebrated in Las Vegas, when Taeil pulls a casino heist the very next day.
This one is a bit different. This time, Taeil is hired to do so, by someone who’s name only he knows. It is a revenge plot, that much Taeyong gleans from what he says.
That’s where things start to take a turn for the worse, though he doesn’t realize it at the time.
The thing about this line of work is that once you get into a revenge plot, you never really get out. Taeyong learns the hard way.
When he’s twenty-four, a young criminal boss seeks him out. His name is Wen Junhui and he introduces himself as a bit of an art connoisseur. He asks Taeyong to steal some paintings for him, from one of the most heavily guarded galleries in the world. The payout – only estimated – is more than all his accumulated wealth so far, and enough to make his head spin.
He takes the job. He gets Taeil and Mark on board to help him, they pull more assets in, and in four months he delivers the paintings to Junhui and they get their money. After that, people keep seeking him out. A flattering word from my good friend Junhui, he tells me he was satisfied with your services. Apparently, you’re the best of the best. How would you like to work for me?
And then, all these people start to want to steal from one another, jealous of all that they have, of what they don’t have and want for themselves. Taeyong gets caught in the middle.
Taeyong has only ever been afraid of one thing, and that was being caught and spending the rest of his life in jail. Now, as a group of thugs is beating him up, knuckles connecting with his gut, his split brow and lip bleeding, and his whole body hurting, he thinks it’s time to reconsider.
He doesn’t know who these guys are, but they do know him – because their boss was crossed by Taeil and for some reason they cannot get their hands on him, and as they tell him, Taeyong was their second-best guess, and he’s gonna be fine as long as he tells them where Taeil is. Taeyong doesn’t, because he doesn’t fucking know; he’s been living by himself for over two years now, only meeting Taeil and Youngho sporadically. He only knows Taeil is still in America, but he has no idea where he lives; Youngho closed down that club of his and opened a new one somewhere else and he only knows that they moved.
They let him go, after a few hours. He throws up as soon as he’s outside, mixed relief with dread with injuries. He walks along unfamiliar streets for a while, just glad he’s alive, ignoring all the strange looks he gets from people that pass him by, waving away those that ask him if he’s okay or if he needs help.
He hails himself a cab, and not really knowing where else to go, he ends up at Mark’s house.
He doesn’t get in, though. No matter how many times he rings the doorbell or calls his phone, both the house and the line stay silent.
He tries to get ahold of Taeil, as well, but those calls all go straight to voicemail. Taeyong drops his phone four times between calling and trying to type out a message to him, and to Youngho as well.
His entire body feels like it’s on fire, and the only way he’s still standing is through sheer willpower alone.
He nearly jumps out of his skin when his phone rings, and that’s surely Taeil, he’s gonna tell him what to do, he’s gonna tell him he has a plan and that everything will be fine—
It takes him a few seconds to recognize the ID on screen as Doyoung.
He takes the call. “Hello?” His voice comes out raspy and broken.
Hearing Doyoung on the other side is strangely calming, he finds, “Are you home?”
It’s so familiar, the way Doyoung never greets him properly, how he always cuts right to the core of everything. Taeyong realizes with a pang in his chest that he’s missed him, the last few months. That, or it’s his bruised ribs. He says, “Are you in town?”
“Why else would I be calling?” Doyoung snaps, “So, home?”
Taeyong sighs. “I’m not home, but I can be there soon,” he starts walking away from Mark’s house. “Wait for me?”
“Fine,” Doyoung says, and hangs up.
Doyoung is smart, Taeyong thinks. Maybe he’ll know what to do.
Doyoung is standing in Taeyong’s driveway, leaning against his car, when Taeyong gets off his cab ride. It takes him a few seconds too long, body still in agony, and when the taxi drives away and Taeyong walks slowly towards the house, Doyoung reaches for him and holds him by the shoulders. “What the fuck happened to your face?”
If Taeyong didn’t know him better, he would say he sounded close to concerned. “Inside.”
Doyoung doesn’t wait for Taeyong when he says he’s going to clean up in the bathroom. Instead, he goes with him, demanding to know what is going on. While Taeyong wets a towel to clean his face with, he tells Doyoung as much as he can, and when he’s finished, all Doyoung has got to say is, “You’re both stupid.”
Taeyong pauses, “I’m really not in the mood for your insults.”
Doyoung sighs and tries for a softer tone of voice. He makes some sort of effort, Taeyong is sure. “I didn’t say that to insult you. I’m just saying. If you do what you do, you can’t just let people know who you are. That’s the first goddamn rule.”
Deeming his face clean enough, he throws the now bloodied towel into the sink. “I need to talk to Taeil.”
He’s about to walk out of the bathroom, but Doyoung stops him again, hand on his wrist, “I think it would be best if you didn’t contact him. Not yet, at least.”
Taeyong tries to wriggle free of his hold, “I have to talk to him. We need to figure out what to do.”
Doyoung doesn’t let go. He’s stronger than Taeyong anticipated. “Taeyong. If there’s people after him, it’s better for you to not get in their way.”
“Get in their way?” Taeyong is aware his voice is getting louder. He could have died today, “They got in my way, today.” He pushes at Doyoung with his free hand, but Doyoung snatches that one as well, tugs him close, and despite Taeyong’s effort to shake him, he hugs Taeyong across his shoulders, “Calm down.”
Taeyong struggles, but Doyoung doesn’t let up, speaking slowly, tone low, “I know what these people are like. I can help you. Just let me fucking help you.”
Taeyong doesn’t think he has another choice. He doesn’t know what else to do.
He asks Doyoung to stay the night. Doyoung looks at him with a frown, “I thought your body was all injured.”
Taeyong nearly laughs. “It is. I didn’t mean to sleep together.” He just doesn’t want to be alone. He cannot bring himself to say that out loud, though.
“Oh.” Doyoung blinks, “Okay.” He keeps looking at Taeyong, eyes impossibly large and deep. He seems like he’s about to say something more but, in the end, thinks better of it. Taeyong would ask, any other time, but he’s too tired and everything hurts, and he just wants to take a bath and sleep.
So he does.
Doyoung doesn’t protest when he takes him by the hand to the bedroom. It’s familiar to lay with him side by side, but it’s strange that it’s just that, without sex preceding it. He looks at Doyoung’s face, how at peace he looks when his eyes are closed and he’s resting, how gorgeous he is. That’s the last thing he sees before sleep puts him under.
He lets Doyoung examine his injuries the next day. He concludes that he doesn’t think there’s any broken bones, only bruises. Taeyong decides not to get a medical check-up at the hospital. Doyoung tells him he thinks he’s dumb, but stays in his house, orders food delivery so they don’t starve, and generally keeps Taeyong company as he heals, day by day.
Few days later, he gets a call from an unknown number. After careful consideration, he picks up. The feeling in his gut was right; it turns out to be Taeil.
The first thing he says is that he’s sorry.
Then he says he needs to go, and that he doesn’t think they’ll meet again.
The last thing he says to him is to take care.
Then the line goes dead.
Doyoung needs to leave for work. Taeyong doesn’t let it show on the outside that the prospect of being alone scares him out of his mind.
Before departing, Doyoung tells him he thinks it would be best if Taeyong moved houses, for the time being. So he focuses on that, and in the time he’s waiting for Doyoung to come back, he purchases three houses, one in America, the other two in Europe, and he promptly moves into the first one.
Doyoung promised to call him first, once he’s back. Waiting for him is excruciating.
He gets a call from Mark, his second week in the new house. When Taeyong asks where he’d been, Mark says, “I’m in Canada for work, man. What’s up?”
He doesn’t know what to do with the relief he’s feeling. Mark didn’t leave him, like Taeil did. He’s worried he’s not gonna be able to speak around the ball of emotion clogging his throat, but he manages to sound normal, “Not much. I moved. You can visit, sometime.”
Mark says he’ll try, but that he doesn’t know when he’s coming back, or if he ever is. Canada, apparently, is great. Taeyong, he knows, is not.
Doyoung does call him, but it’s not what Taeyong expects to hear.
“I think you should lay low. I hear there’s a lot of people who have it out for Taeil and you’re basically considered his right-hand man.” He says from the other side. “Did you know Taeil double-crossed practically every single person he could have? It’s not good. It’s really not good.”
Taeyong had no idea. Taeil never shared with him any of the details of his deals. “What am I supposed to do?”
“I think you’re safe where you are, as long as you don’t stand out.” Doyoung muses, “Don’t bring attention to yourself. Live like a normal person. The heat will eventually die down.”
Taeyong doesn’t like that, doesn’t like the thought of always keeping his guard up, being on edge in case the people looking for him manage to somehow find him. He feels scared, still. He’s scared all the time, these days.
He holds the phone too tightly, presses it too close to his ear, enough to hurt. “What will you do?” he asks, hoping it doesn’t sound too much like will you come here, will you stay?
“I have work,” Doyoung replies, simple as always, and Taeyong closes his eyes. “I’ll keep an ear out. Call you if anything changes.”
“Okay,” Taeyong says around the lump in his throat, “Fine.”
Doyoung hangs up, and Taeyong sits unmoving on his new leather sofa in his new living room, pressing the phone to his ear still, as if somehow the pain of metal digging into his skin will drown out the loneliness that overcomes him.
As months pass and Doyoung doesn’t call, Taeyong tries to come to terms with the fact that he’s lost him as well.
It’s stupid to think about it that way; Doyoung was never really his in the first place. Their relationship was vague at best and they were never really friends, not that he could tell. He shouldn’t miss him as much as he does, shouldn’t want to hear his voice and the snarky remarks he makes at Taeyong’s expense all the time. He shouldn’t want to, but each day Taeyong wakes up alone in his king-sized bed and each time he has to ignore the way his heart seems to long for someone to hold onto when the morning is especially cold.
He’s truly, inexplicably alone. He has nothing; his family haven’t been picking up his calls since he quit college his first year and fled the country, Taeil is as good as dead to him now, Mark is still in Canada and Doyoung – whenever he is, he doesn’t seem to miss Taeyong, either.
Maybe that’s why he makes an effort to go out, after a while. He dresses in hoodies and ripped jeans to not attract attention, he only goes to local clubs, he never picks people’s pockets anymore.
And then, in a downtown pub one night, he meets Jung Jaehyun.
Taeyong notices him when he enters, full clad in a biker suit, helmet in hand, hair messed up and sticking every which way. Taeyong keeps his eyes on him as he crosses the room to sit at an empty table, traces his hand with his eyes as he runs it through messy hair in an effort to tame it, keeps looking when a waitress comes to take his order, keeps looking at the dimples that appear in his cheeks as he smiles the entire time he talks to her, keeps looking when she leaves.
Maybe it’s the dimples. Maybe it’s the disheveled hair. Maybe it’s the fact that Taeyong hasn’t been with anyone for so long he’s starting to forget what it feels like to kiss another person, to have them too close, to not feel so lonely all the time. Maybe that’s what makes him go over, ten minutes later.
Maybe that’s why he takes Jaehyun’s hand, when they’re outside walking in the direction of Taeyong’s house. They’ve been talking for hours and even now Jaehyun is still talking, never once halting to smile at him, and Taeyong barely resists the urge to poke his cheeks in the middle of the sidewalk, to just take his face into his hands and kiss him right then and there.
He waits until they’re at his place, as soon as the front door is closed. Jaehyun melts into him with a smile still lacing his pretty lips, takes Taeyong by his waist, brings him close.
For a while, Taeyong feels at peace.
Jaehyun is amazing. He’s a hobbyist biker, as he calls it. He’s a year younger than Taeyong but seems older; the air about him mature and kind and calm. He lives not too far away, owns about five different bikes, and he works for his father’s firm in an office as a CEO.
He’s very honest. He tells Taeyong how much he likes him basically the first night, and he keeps saying it over and over whenever he wants to. Taeyong feels guilty for not being able to say it back, but not because he doesn’t want to. He likes Jaehyun, he does, but it’s – something isn’t the way it should be, he feels like. Jaehyun is perfect, it’s not his fault. This is on Taeyong. Maybe he can’t feel more.
Jaehyun doesn’t mind. He takes only what Taeyong is able to offer and gives all of himself in return. He doesn’t ask for more.
And maybe that’s why it can’t work out, Taeyong comes to realize. Jaehyun is good, but he’s too good; Taeyong wishes he’d raised his voice, sometimes. He wishes he’d get angry, even, when he has the right to. He wishes he’d touch him less gently, too. He’s not glass about to break, he tells him once, Jaehyun can go harder, it’s fine, but still Jaehyun doesn’t.
Taeyong doesn’t want to, but he starts to hear a different voice when Jaehyun speaks, one that tells him off when he’s being an asshole, one that doesn’t let him get away with shit, one that’s just as honest but harsher, snarkier, one that challenges him. He starts to think of other hands, when Jaehyun is exploring every inch of his body time and time again. He starts to think of different hair as he’s pulling on Jaehyun’s soft brown locks. He starts to think of different dark eyes when Jaehyun looks at him, oh so tender, and Taeyong wishes he didn’t do that, because he sees in them something he cannot give back, not to Jaehyun.
He wishes Jaehyun would get mad, when Taeyong tells him he wants to break up. He wishes Jaehyun would argue with him, ask why, demand an explanation. He doesn’t. He keeps looking at Taeyong, sad, so fucking sad, and Taeyong nearly can’t breathe.
When he says he’s sorry, there’s a spark in Jaehyun’s eyes, a flicker of a flame and Taeyong thinks maybe that’s it, that’s that emotion he wishes Jaehyun would just let out and even scream at him, whatever, just let it out – but he blinks and it’s gone and there’s only that one thing, that other emotion Taeyong cannot begin to reciprocate. He doesn’t love him. He can’t. He never will.
In the end, Jaehyun only says he’s sorry too. Then he leaves.
Taeyong finds himself alone again, lonelier than ever before.
(There’s a different face he sees, when he closes his eyes, a different day altogether, when his ribs hurt too much to think, when Taeyong for the first time asked someone to stay, when Doyoung looked at him with big eyes for a beat too long and Taeyong couldn’t understand what that meant, why that mattered so much, but he thinks he’s starting to figure it out.)
He doesn’t know how many more months pass. He remains alone, he lives alone, he doesn’t meet people, he doesn’t go out, he barely does anything; he just goes through the motions of each day, every day the same, so much so that they all start to blend in together.
When one day his phone rings and his screen lights up with an unfamiliar number, his heartbeat stutters without his permission. It’s been months, maybe a year since he last got a phonecall from an unfamiliar number, like so, and his hands shake because what if – what if it’s him, finally, he’d been hoping, waiting, for so long – so he picks the phone up slowly, steadying himself – and answers with a neutral, measured, “Hello?”
When he hears Doyoung’s voice from the other side, his heart practically gives out. “Hey.”
Taeyong takes a second to compose himself – it really is him, he really called, finally, finally – but he can’t speak. Doyoung speaks for him, anyway. “It’s been a while.”
Taeyong swallows and keeps at bay all his questions of where have you been, why haven’t you called and everything else that fights its way out of his mouth, like i’ve been thinking about you and i missed you. “Had it?”
Maybe it sounds accusing, he doesn’t know. Doyoung ignores it just the same. “How have you been?”
“I managed,” Taeyong makes himself answer, keeping his voice carefully inflectionless, “Am I allowed to go out of hiding now?”
There’s a pause, as if Doyoung is thinking about what to say next. A weight drops into Taeyong’s stomach and it stays. Doyoung never really took the time before he spoke, not to him. “Yeah. You are.”
“What have you been up to?” Taeyong asks. “All this time.”
“You know,” Doyoung answers, still so painfully careful. “I’ve been here and there. Lots of work.”
“Right,” Taeyong hums. “So much so that you couldn’t—” he stops himself before he says something stupid. It isn’t his place.
There’s that pause again, the silence bordering on painful. “Taeil is alive.”
It isn’t a question, exactly, but Taeyong answers anyway. “I wouldn’t know. I haven’t heard from him in a while.” He’d wondered, from time to time, curious about what happened to him, hoping Taeil was okay despite everything, but he never looked more into it. He feels relief, he admits. Maybe he liked Taeil more than he’d let himself realize.
“Taeyong—” Doyoung starts, and something within Taeyong aches only at hearing his own name from him again. There’s a second, and then he continues, “Do you still live in America?”
Taeyong has a feeling that wasn’t what he’d wanted to say. “Yeah. You’re planning on visiting?” Acid seeps into his voice, and he’s unable to stop it.
Doyoung replies, “I don’t know. I have work.”
Taeyong sighs. Of course he would. “Well, if you’re ever in the area—” He lets the end of that sentence hang in between them.
“Right,” Doyoung says, and there’s that suffocating silence again, like he wants to say something more but doesn’t. Taeyong listens to him breathe, for a few beats of his heart, and finds it to be too much somehow, so he says, “I’ll see you around, then.” and hangs up.
He can’t sleep too well that night. He wonders about all the words that were left unsaid, between them. About those empty spaces where he was sure Doyoung wanted to speak up but didn’t.
Three days pass. Three whole days, while Taeyong keeps thinking about Doyoung, their phonecall always at the back of his mind playing over and over like a broken record. Three days before there is a knock on his door, before he opens it to come face to face with Doyoung.
He freezes, surprised; surprised to see him there, at Taeyong’s own doorstep, out of the blue, and then surprised because his hair is violet, falling into his eyes, and because Taeyong forgot just how handsome he can be, how effortlessly good-looking.
When he says hi, it comes out a bit breathless. Doyoung doesn’t smile, only inclines his head in greeting, and Taeyong gets a good look on his face and realizes something is terribly wrong. He seems on edge, tension written all over his face. It’s the first time Taeyong is seeing him like this.
He invites him inside, stepping aside to let him in. He leads him into the living-room to sit in an armchair. As soon as he sits down, Doyoung puts his face into his hands. Taeyong doesn’t know what to make of that. He’s so confused.
“Doyoung?” he tries after a moment. Doyoung grunts and sits up straighter, taking his hands off his face to fold in his lap. “What are you doing here?” Unannounced. Looking like something is tearing him from the inside out.
Doyoung rakes his gaze over Taeyong’s face, or so he thinks; it flickers from his hair to his lips to his eyes. He says, “I have something to talk to you about.”
“Okay,” Taeyong answers, “You could have told me over the phone.”
“I couldn’t,” Doyoung says, and Taeyong’s heart stutters. “I thought I could, but—when I heard you—I had to see you.”
He’s distressed, Taeyong realizes with a jolt. Doyoung hides it well but it comes out, subtle in the way he speaks, in the way he plays with the cuff of his shirt, how he seems to not be able to get out of his head.
“Why? What happened?” Then something occurs to him. “I thought you were supposed to work.”
Doyoung lets out an ugly sound, something of a laugh. It is not joyous. “Technically, I am.”
Taeyong doesn’t understand at first, but when it clicks, he thinks he’s going to be sick.
He thinks his hands shake, but he’s not sure. He can’t really feel them. “Are you here to kill me?”
Doyoung shakes his head with a harsh exhale. “No. I’m not.” And then, with a tone so soft Taeyong nearly doesn’t hear him, “I refused to do it.”
Taeyong blinks. “What?”
“I refused,” he repeats, louder this time.
Taeyong remembers that one time they talked about this, “How much did they offer?”
Doyoung shakes his head, “It doesn’t fucking matter. I said no.”
Doyoung refused to kill him. Whoever ordered it, despite the money they offered, Doyoung refused to do it.
“Why?” he asks, and Doyoung looks at him and Taeyong feels like a he’s having a déjà vu, because he’d seen eyes like this before, he’d seen emotion like this before, but that was Jaehyun—and this is Doyoung and he surely doesn’t—he can’t—Taeyong was so sure it was only him who felt this way—
Doyoung looks away, and Taeyong sees the moment he closes himself off, puts on as much of a neutral expression as he can muster. “I just couldn’t.”
“Doyoung,” Taeyong whispers.
“You need to leave,” Doyoung says, “Leave the country. They’ll give up eventually if they can’t find you.”
Taeyong doesn’t know what to say. He needs to go into hiding, is what Doyoung is telling him. He’d thought that was what he was doing up until now. But this – this is more serious. People want him dead, actually want him dead, and Doyoung – Doyoung is telling him to live.
“Come with me,” he says, and Doyoung’s head snaps up to look at him. There’s a question in his eyes, confusion, hurt, even, so Taeyong steps closer, close enough that if he’d wanted to, he could easily reach out and touch him. “Leave with me.”
Doyoung shakes his head from side to side, slowly, “No.” He speaks slowly, too, like he doesn’t want to say the words but forces himself, like he’s persuading himself that they’re true, they’re what he should be saying, “I need to—deal with my family, and everyone else—”
He stands up, suddenly, comes face to face with Taeyong, chest to chest; Taeyong needs to lean his head back to look at him. “I need to go.”
Taeyong doesn’t want him to go. He’s unable to say so, still. He wonders why that is, why the words stay stuck inside his throat, when he so desperately wants to let them out. But Doyoung is the same, and maybe that’s why they fit so well together, despite every reason they shouldn’t. They just keep looking at each other, and Taeyong has never felt like this, at such a loss, for words or what to do, because for the first time he’s found something he wants to keep that he cannot possibly steal, and it tears him apart to give it up.
Doyoung is doing that thing again, where he’s looking at every inch of Taeyong’s face as if committing it to memory, and when his gaze lands on Taeyong’s ears Taeyong is struck by an idea. It’s cheesy, maybe, but still he reaches up and takes off one of his earrings, slowly so Doyoung has enough time to see and understand what he’s trying to do.
When he takes Doyoung’s hand and drops the earring to his open palm, Doyoung smiles – genuinely, for the first time since he arrived. He looks at the earring, turns it around in his hand, and says, “You’re unbelievable.”
Taeyong laughs too, because maybe that’s true. “I don’t want you to forget me.”
Doyoung scoffs, but when he looks at Taeyong again his eyes radiate warmth, and Taeyong’s skin prickles, “As if I ever could.”
“Doyoung,” Taeyong repeats, but still doesn’t know how to articulate what exactly it is he’s trying to convey.
“I’ll get going,” Doyoung replies, stepping back from Taeyong, slipping his hand out of Taeyong’s hold, putting the earring inside his jacket’s pocket. Taeyong wants to reach out, stop him. He doesn’t.
Doyoung leaves with a final stay safe, a last lingering look before he walks away.
Taeyong closes the door only when his car disappears down the driveway.
Over the course of the following months, Taeyong moves several times. He stays in Europe, leaving for another country every few months, keeping to himself. He never makes friends, wherever he stays. He doesn’t see the point, if he’s eventually going to leave them anyway.
There’s a plan he’s working on, the last thing he’s ever going to pull. He puts every single piece of knowledge Taeil taught him to use and he labors over it, over every excruciating detail, until he’s sure it’s perfect. He wanted to wait to carry it out, a few more months, but when he’s staying in Budapest, he notices figures clad in black, faces not visible, and they follow him around, he thinks, and he gets paranoid enough that he packs his bags that very night and leaves for the first flight available, and that takes him to Moscow.
In Moscow, Taeyong decides it’s time, and so he kills himself.
Not literally. It’s an elaborate event, hard to pull off when there’s only one of him and no one to help, but he manages; a few days after there’s an article online about him, korean man living in moscow dies at the age of 29, and he hopes that’s enough, that finally he’ll be able to live without constant fear.
Soon after, he changes what he looks like, though he keeps his name; it’s common enough he doesn’t feel the need to change that as well, and he boards a flight to Korea.
He doesn’t go home. He buys an apartment suite in Gangnam, he moves in, he invests some of his remaining fortune into commodities. No one recognizes him. No one has a reason to; he doesn’t look like himself, anymore. He never wears expensive clothing, anymore. The only jewelry he allows himself is Doyoung’s earring in his left ear. He keeps his hair longer than he used to, a few shades darker than he used to.
It feels like a brand new start. Taeyong starts living again.
He founds a company, builds it from the ground up. He meets Nakamoto Yuta and Dong Sicheng and he thinks it feels good to have friends again, to have someone to talk to at the end of the day. He lives, as much as he can. He’s still filthy rich, but everyone thinks it’s only because of the success of his company, how well it is doing, he’s perceived as just another third-generation chaebol, a son of a successful father that continues a business. It works for him.
Sometimes, when he’s having morning coffee with Sicheng or walking around the city with Yuta by his side, he gets a glance of a familiar back, of hair a certain shade of yellow or orange or violet and momentarily his heartbeat stutters; but it’s only the memory, because always it turns out to be someone else, and Taeyong never hopes, not anymore.
Yuta notices, one day, and asks about it; and asks more and more until Taeyong confesses that he’s single and that he doesn’t want to date anyone because he doesn’t feel like he can, yet.
He doesn’t tell Yuta everything, but he tells him enough about Doyoung that by the end Yuta gives him a small smile and says, “You must have loved him a lot, huh?”
Taeyong blinks, fork stopping mid-motion in the air as he was about to eat. He’d never had it spelled out for him, never thought about it, never dared to think about it that way. “I guess so,” he answers after a moment, “Yeah.”
He’s having coffee by himself when it happens again – from the corner of his eye the guy a few tables over looks familiar. Taeyong is used to that, by now, so he doesn’t pay as much attention. He orders his coffee, sits down, opens his laptop to get to work, but a voice makes him stop. It carries over to him, and it sounds like—but it’s a bit lower, rougher, though still as clear, and Taeyong dismisses it and tries to focus on the document in front of him until he casts a glance in the direction of the voice and freezes.
His first thought is that he’s seeing Doyoung, but that has happened to him before. The guy has black hair, falling into his eyes. Taeyong only sees a small part of his profile but he’s almost sure it’s the same eyes that he still sees in his dreams, the same mouth he kisses before he wakes up, the same shoulders he holds onto and refuses to let go.
He keeps staring, ignoring everything else, still unsure if he’s seeing right, if it’s not just his mind playing tricks once more, but when this Doyoung-maybe-not-Doyoung turns to take something out of the backpack by his feet, Taeyong gets a good look at his face, and it’s undisputable.
It’s Doyoung. It’s actually him.
Taeyong can’t move. It’s been so long, and he’s given up on ever seeing him again, resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn’t. He doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t know if Doyoung remembers him, despite him saying that he would. He doesn’t know whether to go over, if that’s a good idea.
Doyoung decides for him. He looks up, and their eyes meet across the room. Taeyong’s doesn’t breathe. It feels like time stops, except for the two of them.
Then Doyoung is frowning, shaking his head, turning away. He starts to pack his things back into his backpack, and he’s leaving the coffeeshop before Taeyong can get himself to move. He hastily collects his things, leaves his unfinished coffee on the table, and follows after Doyoung.
Outside, he sees him down the street, and he runs so he doesn’t lose him in the crowd milling about. When he’s close enough, he shouts after him, “Doyoung! Kim Doyoung!”
Doyoung stops in his tracks. People are looking funny at Taeyong, but he doesn’t care. He runs the few remaining meters until he’s next to Doyoung, and Doyoung is looking at him again, eyes so impossibly wide Taeyong has to laugh, breathless. “It is you.”
“Taeyong?” Doyoung asks, like he’s not quite believing he’s seeing right. Taeyong nods. “Yeah.”
Doyoung reaches out, as if to touch, but stop mid-air. “I thought you were dead. I saw the news. I thought—how—”
He sounds so broken Taeyong’s chest seizes. He takes Doyoung’s hand into both his and squeezes, “I did what I had to do.”
“You don’t look like yourself,” Doyoung says, but he seems to be over his initial shock.
“Do I look bad?” Taeyong throws back, still smiling.
“No,” Doyoung says, tightening his hold on Taeyong’s fingers, “You always looked good.”
Taeyong’s heart feels like it’s gonna jump right out of his chest. “When did you come to Korea?”
Doyoung tugs at his hand so they start walking, side by side, hands linked together. Taeyong has no intention to let go. It seems Doyoung doesn’t either. “It’s been a few months. After dealing with my family, there was no reason for me to stay in America. And after— I just had to get away.”
Taeyong bites his lip, thinking. “I wanted to call you, to let you know,” he admits. “But I didn’t have your number, and I didn’t know if you’d even want me to, anyway.”
Doyoung sighs, but when Taeyong chances a look, there’s a small smile lacing his pretty lips. “I didn’t know either,” he says softly, “That night I came to see you, I realized only after.”
“Realized what?” Taeyong prods.
“That I should have gone with you.” Doyoung answers, “That I shouldn’t have left.”
Taeyong thinks he can read between the lines, though, all that Doyoung can’t bring himself to say out loud but is thinking– because Taeyong feels the same way. “I shouldn’t have let you.”
It’s as close to a confession as they’re going to get, he thinks, but it’s okay. Doyoung is here. This time, Taeyong isn’t going to let him go anywhere.
Doyoung kisses him as soon as the door to his apartment are closed behind them.
He takes Taeyong’s face between his hands and backs him up against the nearest wall and just kisses him, slow and warm and like he’d been dying to do so. Taeyong exhales shakily into it, tugs at his jacket and shoulder and hair and everywhere he can reach to tug him closer.
He’d thought about this and dreamt about this countless times over the past year and a half and still nothing compares to the real thing; to Doyoung tracing his cheeks with his thumbs, biting on his lower lip between kisses, resting his head against the side of Taeyong’s when he hugs him and just holds on.
Taeyong doesn’t know how long they stand in the hallway hanging onto each other, but he doesn’t care. They both need this.
At some point, Doyoung whispers, “I’m glad you’re alive.”
That, Taeyong is as well. He kisses the corner of Doyoung’s mouth, once and twice and then once more before he rests their foreheads together, “I’m sorry.”
Doyoung shakes his head. He cups the side of Taeyong’s face again, “You’re here,” he says, “You’re really here.”
“I am,” Taeyong says, “I’m here.”
He’s not going anywhere. By the way Doyoung kisses him, how he looks at him, how he hugs him closer and keeps him by his side, he knows that this time, Doyoung isn’t either.