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sweetheart (what have you done to us?)

Chapter Text

~

Jeongguk’s life was pretty simple in his own opinion. He would wake up, drag himself to his conveniently placed morning psychology lectures, and no matter how tired he felt, he would always smile politely at the coursemates that passed him. On the occasional afternoon, he would find himself working for barely the minimum wage in the corner shop that only kept him on because they liked him, not that they needed him, and after that, he’d either head to the gym for a bit or just go home, the rest of the evening he’d watch random animes while stuffing his face with food.

He shared a flat with Jung Hoseok, who seemed like the complete opposite of Jeongguk. It felt like Hoseok always had someone around, or was out socialising with someone over food and drinks, always drinks. But despite their differences, the two flatmates got along swimmingly. Jeongguk regarded Hoseok as an older brother.

“Are you working today?” Hoseok asked Jeongguk as he exited his bedroom, coming straight over to steal a slice of Jeongguk’s toast.

“No, it’s my day off.” He replied, swatting Hoseok’s hand away when he tried for another slice of his toast.

“Does that mean you’re going to hang out with your hyung after your lectures?” Hoseok sat opposite him, placing his chin in the palm of his hands and batting his eyelashes.

Jeongguk rolled his eyes. “No, I’ll have coursework to do.”

Hoseok huffed and let his hands fall down onto the table loudly. “Ugh, you’re boring.”

“You can help with my coursework if you really want to hang out with me?” He suggested back, laughing at Hoseok’s mildly disgusted face.

“No, thank you, I finished uni and I have no plans of going near studying again.” He told him, making a final successful attempt to steal Jeongguk’s toast before running off to the bathroom, giggling to himself.

Jeongguk rolled his eyes again as he watched the older go. Considering all his toast was now gone and he was too lazy to make more, he gave up on breakfast and decided that maybe for once he would turn up to his lectures early. Except, it didn’t really happen like that because he walked past the cute cafe by the uni and just had to get one of their fancy hot chocolates with about twenty marshmallows, and he wasn’t the only one with that idea, leaving him stuck in a queue.

He crept into the lecture theatre by the back door and slid into the seat next to Jaehyun.

“Morning.” Jaehyun said, sounding like he was already bored to death of the lecture and took Jeongguk’s cup, downing what was left of his hot chocolate. What was it with people taking his food and drinks today? “Oh, it’s not coffee.”

“What were you expecting from me?” Jeongguk replied, chuckling a little. He doesn’t touch coffee unless it’s an absolute, stayed up all night and a 9am exam the next day, emergency.

“I was hoping for a bad day.” Jaehyun sighed, slumping in his seat as he turned his attention back to the lecture.

Jeongguk did his best to pay attention, taking notes with his coloured pens and ignoring the urge to go on his phone like Jaehyun now was. He bought pretty pens, he had to use them, so therefore, he had to take notes. On the other hand, he could always use them for doodling.

“You working tonight?” Jaehyun perked up after a while, looking up at Jeongguk from where he was with his head on the desk.

“No, day off.” Jeongguk replied, finishing his little sketch of a pine tree in the corner of the page.

Jaehyun peered over at the drawing. “That looks like one of those aesthetic tattoos girls always have.”

“Is that a good thing?” Jeongguk turned his head slightly to see that Jaehyun had a point. He could post that on pinterest, or become a tattoo artist, or maybe just an artist in general. No, psychology has always been in his heart. He wanted to help people, and he wasn’t smart enough to go the traditional medicine way.

“Oi, Jeongguk?”

Jeongguk blinked and turned to Jaehyun, giving him a sheepish smile. “Sorry, was thinking about tattooing.”

Jaehyun frowned a little but seemed to brush past Jeongguk’s weird admission. “Anyway, the boys are meeting up tonight for drinks, fancy it?”

He pondered on it for a moment before shaking his head. He said no to Hoseok, he’d feel bad if he said yes to Jaehyun after that. “I’ve got work to do, I haven’t started that essay professor wants for next week.”

“Fuck.” Jaehyun said a little too loudly, gaining the attention of a few people around him. “I’ll do it over the weekend.”

Jeongguk knew over the weekend meant monday morning, an hour before the lecture and shook his head. He didn’t like leaving things to the last minute, although, sometimes that would happen.

“Come on, Gguk, one night won’t hurt.” Jaehyun said, going back to trying to convince Jeongguk to change his mind, the usual.

“You know it’s not my thing.”

Jaehyun nodded and sat back, a cunning look on his face. “One day, Jeon Jeongguk, I will get you to come out with us. One day, it’ll happen.”

Jeongguk chuckled a little, picking up his pink pen. “Let me know when it does.” He spoke before returning back to his notes, or rather now his doodles of little puppies.

The lecture finished soon after that and Jeongguk and Jaehyun went their separate ways, Jaehyun on a mission to track down their other friend, Mingyu, whilst Jeongguk wanted to pick up some books from the library and head home to make a start on the essay. Another indication of the contrast between the two of them, just like him and Hoseok.

Jeongguk shoved his headphones into his ear, putting his music onto shuffle and made his way walking back to his flat. He was humming quietly to the lively beat of the song blasting in his ears when he saw a group of men further up the street, talking and laughing together.

He got a bad vibe from them straight away, from the way they all interacted, the clothes they wore and the way some of them hung back, cigarette in hand, watching others like they were prey as walked past. They were menacing.

Jeongguk didn’t like judging people, he wasn’t one to go off of first impressions, but this group of men - they scared him. As he drew closer to them, he tried to look for a way to avoid them, but the road was way too busy for him to cross and there was no roads off of the one he was on.

Biting his lip, he kept his music loud and head down, wanting no trouble. He started to weave between the group, muttering excuse me’s and sorry’s as he did, but only got so far until he accidentally bumped into one of them. He’d say accidentally, but he wasn’t sure if he was pushed or not.

He raised his head to look at the person he bumped into, finding one of the most handsome men he’d ever set his eyes upon. His black hair was swept off his face, eyes dark and staring right back at Jeongguk, and, oh God, his skin, it was like he was an angel, the way his golden skin glowed under the sun. Except, he was anything like an angel. It was more like a devil in disguise.

Jeongguk didn’t want to look away. He knew the crowd of people around this area and if he went by guesses, this handsome stranger could probably beat him to a pulp with ease at the flick of a switch.

His legs were still following the rational part of his brain which knew the wisest and safest thing to do was to get out of there, but his eyes, oh, they were stuck. The only thing that made them look away was when the stranger’s face turned from mildly annoyed to the smuggest smirk, and winked .

Jeongguk couldn’t believe it. His face was heating up, he knew he was bright red at this point. His legs moved faster and his heart raced. He felt so embarrassed, but despite that, he couldn’t help but glance back when he had gotten far enough away. The handsome stranger was back to joking around with the group he was with, like nothing happened. Jeongguk felt relief flood through him and he continued on his way home.

When he got in, he had forgotten all about his encounter with the group of men, if it even was an encounter, and his attention was on where the hell Hoseok was. He wasn’t on the sofa with his laptop balanced weirdly on his knees like he always was.

It only took Jeongguk one minute to solve the mystery and find the note pinned to the fridge telling him that Hoseok was out with Namjoon. Anyone would think he was incapable of texting.

Jeongguk:
have fun with namjoon slut

Hoseok:
Are you calling Namjoon a slut?

Jeongguk:
no im calling u a slut bye

Jeongguk hit send and turned his phone off, wanting no distractions whilst he worked on his essay. He sat down on his bed, laptop at his side and textbooks all wide open and scattered around him. He avoided the temptation to scroll through twitter, or put on an anime, or even make food. If he got the essay done now, he could be free the rest of the week and weekend.

The essay was sending Jeongguk round the bend, he couldn’t find the right words to explain what was in his mind and every sentence sounded stupid. Frowning, he picked up the textbook he was using for the research study and read over the information like his life depended on it, and something in his head clicked. Suddenly, he was typing out what felt like one hundred words a second, his sentences flowing with ease.

He was almost finished when there was a loud bang outside, making him jump out of his skin. Out of curiosity, he went to his bedroom window, looking down onto the street to see a group of people running down the street, away from where Jeongguk presumed the bang had come from. There was a second bang and people on the street screamed and ran faster.

“Fuck.” Jeongguk muttered to himself, stepping away from the window. He was glad he was inside the flat, safe away from whatever was going on outside. “Hyung! Have you looked outside?” He yelled into the flat. Silence back. The cogs turned in Jeongguk’s head as he realised Hoseok wasn’t home, he wasn’t in the flat safe like he was.

Quickly, he ran across the room and scrambled for his phone. He turned it on, watching it slowly come back to life. He was getting impatient and went back to the window, trying to see if he could see what was actually happening. He opened the window completely and almost got half his body out the window to look down the long street.

Further up he could make out a large crowd of people fighting, it looked chaotic and messy, and it was right outside the bar Hoseok loved. The men fighting, there were even some women too, were going in and out of the buildings around, including the bar, people getting pushed to the floor and beaten that might not have even been involved.

Jeongguk’s panic only increased as he called Hoseok, getting no answer. He tried again and was met with the answer machine again. “Hyung, please answer.” He said, biting his lip worriedly as the third attempt failed too.

He knew Hoseok and Namjoon were capable of looking after themselves, they were older than him after all, but he had to know if they were okay. And maybe protect them too.

One more peer out of the window had Jeongguk making up his mind. He had to go looking for them. The fighting wasn’t dying down anytime soon and Hoseok wasn’t answering his phone either, if anything had happened to him-

That was it. Jeongguk was quickly running towards the front door, swinging it open to see Hoseok, key in hand, about to open the door himself. Jeongguk was so overcome with relief that he jumped forward, engulfing Hoseok in a tight hug and never wanting to let go.

“Answer your fucking phone.” He mumbled against Hoseok’s shoulder, the older hugging back and softly rubbing his back.

“My phone died, but we’re okay, look.” Hoseok pushed Jeongguk back a little so he could look at him in the face and then Namjoon behind him, whom Jeongguk hadn’t even realised was there.

Jeongguk nodded and looked down, now feeling embarrassed that he had reacted in such a way. He stepped aside, scratching the back of his neck as Hoseok and Namjoon entered the flat.

“We were heading down towards the bar when it all kicked off, we quickly got away and came here.” Namjoon explained, sitting down and turning on the tv like it was his own home. In fact, it probably was like a second home to him the amount of times he was round here.

“Gguk, fancy watching a movie with us?” Hoseok asked as he walked over to the fridge, picking up two beers from his shelf. At this point, his shelf was only beer. “Joon, catch!” He threw a can of beer across the room and luckily, Namjoon caught it.

“Arsehole, that’s going to go everywhere now.” Namjoon replied, yet still opened it, although now he had to hold it over his mouth so any beer that overflowed dripped down into his mouth.

Jeongguk stood watching the whole thing, noticing how the two were fine and were acting like nothing had happened. He, however, still felt overwhelmed.

“Gguk?”

“I-I’ve got an essay to write.” Jeongguk replied, giving a sheepish smile before quickly cowering back in his room and sighing. Blue flashing lights lit up the room, indicating the police were finally sorting out the fights, one final look outside confirmed this as Jeongguk saw some men being arrested and some others running away. He swore he recognised the man from earlier among the latter group, but he wasn’t completely sure. It could have been anyone.

He flopped back onto the bed, staring up at the ceiling. He didn’t feel like continuing his essay, or doing anything. He could hear Hoseok’s signature laugh from the other room and sighed again. He felt emotionally, and now physically, drained and despite Hoseok being the loudest he could possibly be, Jeongguk fell into a deep sleep still fully dressed and sprawled out among his textbooks.

~

The second Jaehyun walked in and almost ran over to Jeongguk, eagerness and curiosity written all over his face, Jeongguk knew exactly what he was going to ask him, it was like he could read his mind.

“Did you see what happened last night?” Jaehyun asked before he even sat down, getting his books out while still staring at Jeongguk. “It was all over the news, but they won’t say any of the juicy details.”

Jeongguk sighed and slouched in his seat a little. “I saw some of it, I guess.”

Jaehyun huffed. “You’re useless. And here I was thinking you’d have all the gossip.” He said, coping Jeongguk and slouching in his seat also. However, this only lasted for a second before his eyes widened and he was ripping a piece of paper out of his pad.

Before Jeongguk could ask what the hell he was doing, Jaehyun had scrunched the piece of paper into a ball and threw it straight at the girl in front of them’s head. She turned round slowly, glaring at Jaehyun and Jeongguk.

“Hey Jiyeon, you live on the same street as Jeongguk, right?” Jaehyun asked, the girl looking Jeongguk up and down before nodding. “Did you see what happened last night?”

Jiyeon perked up a bit. “It was that gang, someone had pissed them off and it all kicked off in that bar, the other person having his group of friends there too. I saw people helping someone stabbed, and there’s still smashed glass like all outside the bar.”

“Thanks Jiyeon, you’re an angel.” Jaehyun replied, even giving a wink. Jiyeon rolled her eyes and turned back around. “See, people know stuff.”

“But why would I need to know about some gang’s fights?” Jeongguk questioned back. In his mind, the safest thing to do would be to stay far away from them and their business, last night was an example of what could happen if you got on the wrong side of them.

“It’s just interesting, knowing what’s going on in that world. That gang is everywhere, it’s like they run the city.”

Maybe they do , Jeongguk thought to himself, getting himself wrapped up in the idea that they have people everywhere and that they truly did run the city. And then he wondered what would make someone want to join a gang, maybe they were forced, maybe they agreed with what they did, either way, Jeongguk could never do it. It wasn’t right to hurt people. If Hoseok had turned up hurt the night before, he didn’t know what he would have done.

“Gguk, you’re doing it again.”

Jeongguk sighed and tried to focus his attention back to Jaehyun or the lecture, trying to keep his mind off of the whole gang situation. Jaehyun had other plans, though.

“Why doesn’t the gang have a name? I swear all gangs have a name.”

Jeongguk shook his head. “This isn’t a movie. Besides, doesn’t them not having a name make them more secretive and threatening? They’re just there, the gang.” It was quite poetic really, he could appreciate the mystery around it all. He could still see Jaehyun thinking about it all and sighed, “Stop being so obsessed.”

“I’m not obsessed!” Jaehyun said with a gasp, then lowering himself in his chair as his voice was a little too loud and a few people looked over. A lot of people in that lecture hall must hate them for their constant talking. “Aren’t you worried about the impact they could have on our city?”

“No, give it a couple of years and they’ll all be locked up.” He said with a shrug. “Focus on your life, not there’s, because soon they won’t have one.”

“Oof, wig snatched, you went in.”

Jeongguk had to prevent himself from laughing to not gain anyone's attention but also because that was the dumbest thing he had ever heard and he didn’t want to give Jaehyun the satisfaction of a snigger. “Stay off twitter too.”

“Boring.” Jaehyun said, and to make his point, got his phone out and started scrolling through twitter. “I would ask if you’re busy today but I already know the answer.”

“I’m working until six and then I’m going to the gym.” Jeongguk guessed that was the answer Jaehyun was ready for. His life was predictable and plain, just how he liked it, however, he did miss his friends. “If I don’t have any studying to do, I can meet you guys after my shift on Saturday.”

“For drinks?” Jaehyun asked, his eyes lighting up. It didn’t last long though, Jeongguk’s pointed stare giving the message he wanted. “Fine, fine, no drinks. We’ll get coffee.”

Jeongguk smiled. “I’ll look forward to it.” Now he had more motivation to finish his essay before the weekend.

The lecture finished soon after that and Jeongguk was off, walking for five minutes before he reached the little convenience store. It was a small, almost cramped store selling the basics and probably too many snacks, but that’s what brought in the customers.

“Afternoon.” The guy at the register greeted, Jeongguk not remembering his name. He has worked in the shop for a long time, but everyone else seems to come and go pretty fast, so Jeongguk struggles to keep up.

“Hey.” Jeongguk greeted back just to be polite, smiling kindly as he swapped places with the guy. He could tell that this one would be working only for a short time here, it was the way his whole body relaxed as soon as he could leave, and the speed in his walk once he was outside.

Jeongguk, however, liked it very much. It was the perfect way to people watch, hearing all the random conversations that would go on with the customers, all the different people that would come in and out. It was like a glimpse into everyone’s lives.

And on top of that, he could get away with doing work when it was really quiet, aka days like today, when only a handful of customers came in the whole shift. Sometimes the shop was a better place to study than the library, although, on other days it would be the complete opposite, there was no way to tell.

Jeongguk’s shift passed by quickly, it feeling like a blink of an eye before his boss, Mrs Chi, was telling him he could leave. She was a nice woman in her 60’s, treated Jeongguk almost like a mother would treat their child; lovingly.

“Thank you, Mrs Chi!” Jeongguk said as he left the store with the free energy drink he was given from her. According to her, all students his age needed some extra energy.

Looking at the time, it was just before six. Deciding he had enough time, he started the five minute walk to the gym, his music getting rudely interrupted halfway there by Hoseok ringing him.

Before Jeongguk could even say hello, Hoseok was speaking loud and fast. “When you coming home?”

“Since when did you turn into my mother?” Jeongguk asked back, hearing Hoseok tutt loudly. “I don’t know, I’m heading to the gym.”

“And how long will you be?” Hoseok really was starting to sound like a worried parent.

“A couple of hours, maybe.” He replied, entering the modern building and heading straight for the locker room, the path drilled into his mind like breathing from the amount of times he’d been here.

“No, no, it’ll be dark in a couple of hours.” Jeongguk could hear Hoseok muttering to himself, it was mainly swear words and the sound of him moving things around. “Ugh, I’ll have to pick you up.”

Jeongguk’s eyes widened a little. “Seok, you really don’t have to.” It was only a fifteen minute walk to their flat from the gym, it wasn’t like he needed to be picked up.

“No, I will. Can’t have you walking home in the dark with… everything. Text me when you’re ready to be picked up!” And with that, Hoseok had hung up.

Jeongguk frowned, guessing that Hoseok was trying to conceal his fear from the gang’s antics to keep Jeongguk from worrying too. The gang was scary, yes, but there was no use being scared of them, at least that’s what he told himself. On the other hand, he knew full well he would be petrified if he was up close with some of their members.

Shaking the thought out of his mind, he continued with his usual workout routine, losing his mind into random thoughts like he always did. This time it was about if dogs could actually tell what you were saying to it and if they can truly know if you love them; deep thoughts.

Hoseok was right when he said it’d be dark by the time Jeongguk finishes at the gym. As soon as he walked outside he was met by a cold chill and the dark sky.

Jeongguk:
i’m out and it’s fucking freezing

Hoseok:
Okay stay by the entrance, I’ll be as quick as I can

Jeongguk was about to reply but was met with his phone’s blank screen, the battery had died. Glaring, he put the phone away into his back pocket, making a mental note to invest in a portable charger.

Now with no phone to distract him as he waited for Hoseok, he leaned back against the wall of the gym, hands tucking into his coat pocket for warmth and breath misting up as it left his body, only making him feel colder.

Looking around, he saw how bad the traffic was on the road in front of him, the cars barely moving. One positive was the darkness was lit up by the constant use of break lights, but that meant it would take longer for Hoseok to get there.

There weren't very many people out at this time of night, the pavements baren. But there was one other person stood similarly to Jeongguk on the other side of the street, and when Jeongguk focused more on the person, his eyes went wide. Of course it was his luck that he was now staring at the man from yesterday, the scary yet attractive one, the one that winked at him. And the worst part of it, this man was staring back.

Jeongguk wanted the ground to swallow him whole. His eyes were glued to this man, watching as he kicked off the wall he was leaning against and started to weave through the traffic on the road, getting closer and closer. Jeongguk didn’t know what to do, panicking internally as this man was now on his side of the road, smirking and standing next to him.

He was stood still, breath held as he watched the man pull something out of his pocket, and as soon as he saw what it was, a small feeling of relief rushed through him.

“Cigarette?” The man offered, holding the open packet in front of Jeongguk. His voice was deep and rough, something Jeongguk should have expected from a scary smoker.

“No thank you, it’s not good for you.” Jeongguk replied in a small voice, tearing his eyes away from the man to look up the street in the hopes he’d see Hoseok’s car. He didn’t.

The man made a tutting sound, followed by a “Pity.” and when Jeongguk looked back, he was placing a cigarette between his lips with his slender fingers and lifting his lighter up with the other hand to set it alight.

If it was any other situation, Jeongguk would admit to the man being very attractive, deep voice and beautiful hands included, but he just couldn’t see the appeal of cigarettes. He could barely avoid coughing when the smoke reached him. He wanted to move away from the man, however, he didn’t want to come across as rude, especially when he didn’t know what else lied in the man’s pockets. So he suffered, every breath making his lungs want to kill him.

Jeongguk remained staring at the man’s face, silently admiring the attractive side profile, the delicate slope of his nose with the little mole on the tip, his long eyelashes, his soft looking lips wrapped around the cigarette. This man could be a model.

The second wave of relief from the encounter happened when the man dropped his cigarette, grinding it into the ground with his boot. What was left was the smell of cigarettes mixed with expensive cologne, everything Jeongguk found most and least appealing in a man.

It was then that he properly looked the man up and down, seeing he was only in tight ripped black jeans, a thin top and a leather jacket on top, and Jeongguk’s mind spoke before he had a second to think. “Aren’t you cold?” He looked good, yes, but Jeongguk was in a thick coat and he felt cold, he couldn’t imagine how he felt.

The man looked taken aback a little from Jeongguk speaking. “A little.” He replied with a shrug, before adding, “I’m used to it.”

“Why?” Jeongguk wondered aloud before thinking, he really shouldn’t be asking so many questions. Talking to strangers was a bad thing, talking to dangerous strangers was on a whole other level.

“I’ve got an image to keep up, haven’t I?” He said cockily, smirking and straightening out his jacket as if to prove his point.

“But what’s the point if you’re cold?” The man chuckled a little at that, contrasting with his scary image. “You can still be scary in warm clothes, you won’t be shivering for a start.” Jeongguk’s eyes went wide as he realised what he had just said out loud.

“You think I’m scary?” No answer. “If I’m scary then why are you talking to me?” There wasn’t any offence in his voice, it was more like he was shocked and maybe a little curious. It made Jeongguk wonder how many people would actually stand and talk to him like he was.

“Because-” The reply was on the tip of his tongue, but he paused, for once, to get the words right. “Because you’re not being rude to me, so why should I be rude to you and ignore you?”

The man chuckled a little again. “That’s cute.” He said, taking out another cigarette from the packet. “Cute, but potentially dangerous. Who knows how scary I can be.”

Jeongguk gulped, watching the man place the cigarette in his mouth and raised his eyebrow cockily at him. He could feel his cheeks heat up a little as he watched, preparing himself for another round of torture courtesy of cigarette smoke.

Jeongguk had completely forgotten why he was stood there in the first place and almost jumped out of his skin when Hoseok sounded his car horn in front of them.

“Um, well, it’s been nice talking.” Jeongguk said, taking hesitant steps towards Hoseok’s car.

“See you around, kid.” The man replied before Jeongguk quickly got into the car, glancing out of the window to watch the man stare back at the car for a bit and then walk the other direction, small clouds of smoke following him.

“What the hell?” Hoseok said, pulling Jeongguk’s attention away from the man and to his flatmate sat next to him.

“What?”

“You!” Hoseok exclaimed, eyes wide and hands gripping the wheel a little too tightly. “What the fuck are you doing talking to Kim Taehyung ?”

Jeongguk frowned. “Who?” That was the first time he had ever heard that name. He assumed that it was the name of the man he was just talking to, but he didn’t understand the relevance or importance behind the name.

He heard Hoseok sigh, his grip loosening on the steering wheel, in fact, his whole demeanour seemed to relax. “Just-” Another sigh. “He’s bad news. That’s all you need to know.” He moved in his seat, taking a quick glance at Jeongguk. “Promise me you’ll stay away from him.”

Jeongguk bit his lip, not sure what he was agreeing to exactly, but he nodded all the same. “I promise.”

~

Chapter Text

~

Now that Jeongguk knew the name of the man, Kim Taehyung, it was like the world didn’t want him to unhear it. It was now the weekend and in the couple of days leading up to it, Jeongguk was hearing the name everywhere. For example, Jeongguk had heard more than one conversation involving that name in the corridors of the university. In all honesty, it was driving him insane. He had never been interested in the goings on of that gang, never even cared to pay attention, but now everything had shifted .

It was about ten minutes before his shift ended in the shop when someone walked in, the door slamming loudly behind them. Jeongguk couldn’t see them, they had already disappeared between the isles, but something inside him told him to be alert.

A minute later, the customer was at the checkout, placing a bottle of vodka and a packet of crisps on the counter. He had a face mask on but Jeongguk could still recognise him from his eyes, even if one of them was slightly bruised. It was Kim Taehyung himself.

“Packet of cigarettes too.” Taehyung almost demanded, hand fiddling in his pocket to grab his money and not even bothering to look up. He seemed completely different from when Jeongguk first spoke to him, this Taehyung was almost deflated, it made him wonder why that was.

Jeongguk turned round to get a cigarette packet from behind him. “Which ones?” He asked, staring at the wide range. He tried to ignore the daunting feeling rushing through his body, not knowing if it was due to the cigarettes or the man behind him.

“That red pack will do.”

When Jeongguk had turned back to face Taehyung, he was looking up and when his eyes met Jeongguk’s, he swore he could see a little smile forming. Maybe it was just a squint, Jeongguk didn’t know.

“Thanks.” Taehyung mumbled, leaving the money on the counter and rushing off with his stuff, not even waiting to get his change.

Jeongguk stood frozen in thought for a moment, comprehending what just happened as he held the extra money Taehyung gave in his hand. He was completely different to the confident Taehyung he met, together with the bruising around his eye, Jeongguk knew something was up, but what?

It was only when the next worker came in for his shift that Jeongguk moved, quickly putting the money in the till and rushing out of the store. His next stop was the cafe down the road, Jaehyun and Mingyu already sat there waiting for him.

“Oh my god, he’s alive.” Mingyu commented when he saw Jeongguk, making the latter roll his eyes. They’d already bought him a hot chocolate, Jeongguk smiled at that, they remembered he wasn’t a big fan of tea or coffee.

They spoke for a while, catching up on what they’d been up to (in Jeongguk’s case, not a lot) and gossiping about other students they knew, but somehow, even with all that, Jeongguk couldn’t ignore his questions around Taehyung. He was curious before, but now, it was unavoidable.

“What happened with Kim Taehyung?” He asked out of the blue, gaining a small silence as Jaehyun and Mingyu were caught off guard.

Jaehyun glanced at Mingyu before he answered. “The usual. The gang got into a big fight again, the same group as that bar fight but worse this time. It was downtown from here, and I swear no one’s been arrested.”

“No, they haven’t.” Mingyu agreed, leaning forwards a little. “The reason everyone’s been talking about Kim is that his partner in crime got badly fucked up and now he’s on the warpath.”

Jeongguk pondered on that. Taehyung didn’t seem angry, it was more sadness than anything. “You sure?”

Mingyu nodded. “Positive. He apparently hunted down the one that hurt his best friend and now he’s the one worse off, knocked out all his front teeth.” Jeongguk made a mental note to not get on his bad side if that was true.

“I thought you thought all this was dumb?” Jaehyun asked, eyebrow raised testingly.

“It is, was just curious.” Jeongguk said, shrugging and taking a sip of his drink. After that, he made sure to change the conversation. He’d gotten the facts he wanted, he just didn’t know how much of it believed was accurate or was fiction.

With the promise of meeting up with Jaehyun and Mingyu again soon, Jeongguk parted ways with them and started his walk home. It was still light outside so he had avoided Hoseok’s insistent need to pick him up like a child.

Jeongguk’s mind was still lingering on Taehyung, and he decided that a detour couldn’t hurt. He didn’t know what he was expecting as he walked passed the hospital, it was a complete long short, but it was worth it. Sat on a bench outside the hospital was Taehyung, his head was rested in the palm of his hand while the other hand bounced his phone against his knee.

Mustering up all his confidence, Jeongguk strode over and sat down next to him.

Taehyung leaned back as he turned to look at Jeongguk, pulling his face mask down to rest on his chin. Jeongguk could now properly see his bruised cheek and now that he was sitting close, he could also see the reddened knuckles. Maybe what Jaehyun and Mingyu said was true, and now Jeongguk wanted to know if it was, yet he found it difficult to approach the topic.

“You can just ask, you know.” Taehyung said suddenly, almost like he could read Jeongguk’s mind.

“Ask what?” Jeongguk responded quietly, hand playing with the hem of his sleeve as he watched Taehyung.

“Ask how I’m so hot.” He said, giant smirk on his face, pleased with himself.

Jeongguk, however, had not expected such a response and ended up choking on his saliva. Taehyung just laughed as Jeongguk coughed and sputtered, the sound only making it worse for Jeongguk. Why did his laughter have to be so attractive?

“I’m only joking.” Taehyung said, hand moving to pat Jeongguk’s knee, staying there. “Or am I?” He cocked his eyebrow. He was finding Jeongguk suffering fun, wasn’t he?

Jeongguk had stopped coughing but he wished he still was, at least then he’d have an excuse for not replying, now he was just staring at Taehyung with wide eyes, no idea how to respond.

“This is the part where you compliment me.” Taehyung whispered in his ear, breath tickling Jeongguk’s neck.

“I- yeah, you’re alright, I suppose.” Jeongguk said through his flusteredness, mentally cursing to himself at how small he sounded.

Taehyung scoffed, moving his hand off of his knee. “ Alright, you suppose ?” He echoed, eyes going wide.

“Yes, it’s all your getting with an ego as inflated as yours.” Jeongguk bit back, no idea where his sudden overwhelming confidence even came from, but he was shocked at how forward he was being. He was scared that Taehyung would find him rude now, but instead, Taehyung laughed again and his hand returned to his knee.

“Funny. I would have complimented you back, saying something about how you’re the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, but now I don’t think you deserve it.”

Jeongguk was blushing, he knew it. He also knew that he probably looked like a petrified fish from how his mouth was opening and closing, not being able to comprehend the comment. No one ever found him cute, and definitely not gang members at that.

“So, am I going to know the name of the cute boy that I keep seeing around?” Taehyung continued, moving even closer to Jeongguk, their shoulders bumping. Jeongguk gulped, impressed how Taehyung could remain so confident without becoming a nervous wreck like himself.

Jeongguk realised too late that he should have spoken, because now Taehyung was rolling his eyes and tutting. “That’s the part where you say your name. God, you’re slow.” He didn’t sound annoyed though, only just leaning on the impatient side.

“Sorry. It’s Jeongguk.” A win, Jeongguk hadn’t stuttered. He gave Taehyung a small smile, it growing bigger when it was returned.

“Jeongguk.” His voice was slow, like he was savouring Jeongguk’s name, and Jeongguk himself was getting more flustered by the minute. He’d never heard someone say his name so… sexily? “And you know who I am, right?”

Jeongguk nodded. “Kim Taehyung.”

Taehyung smiled back at him and leaned closer to almost whisper in his ear. “I bet someone’s already warned a sweet boy like you to stay away from me, right?”

Jeongguk’s mind went to Hoseok’s warning and then what Jaehyun and Mingyu had said about Taehyung and his gang too. “Yeah.” He agreed, feeling like a little boy that had just been caught doing something he shouldn’t.

“You really should listen to them, but…” Taehyung said, dragging out the but as he looked at Jeongguk with that mischievous smirk. He then held out his palm and ordered, “Phone.” Jeongguk obeyed quickly, his phone in the older’s hand within a few seconds. He knew that Taehyung could just run off with it now, maybe that’s what people who hadn’t spoken to him would think, but Jeongguk trusted him.

He watched as Taehyung typed into his phone and returned it once he was done. “There, you have my number now.”

“What trouble are you getting into now?” A voice said across from them and they both looked over to see a man approaching them from the hospital. He had stitches near his hairline, a cut in his full lips and his hands bandaged up. He’d definitely been in a fight recently.

Taehyung was up in a second and ran over to the man, engulfing him in a tight hug. Jeongguk felt like he was intruding as he watched the two hug and talk in quiet voices, the shorter man mainly saying he was okay.

“I got a present for you!” Taehyung exclaimed happily, the happiest Jeongguk had seen him, as he reached into his bag and shoved the bottle of vodka into the man’s hands.

“Cheeky bastard, that’s what got us into this mess in the first place.” The man said back, but when Taehyung went to take the vodka back, he didn’t let go. He then turned his attention to Jeongguk. “Is Taehyung trying to corrupt you? Whatever he’s promised, it’s bullshit.”

“Piss off, Jeongguk’s been warned off of me.” Taehyung came closer to Jeongguk again.

“You should listen to them, the guy’s an arsehole.” The man then walked up to Jeongguk and took hold of his hand, kissing the back of it gently. “I’m Jimin.”

“Leave him alone, you’re more of a bad influence than me.” Taehyung said quickly, sounding like he might have been jealous. Jeongguk was so overwhelmed by the whole situation, it was hard to keep up.

“I’m being polite!” Jimin gasped, an offended expression on his face. “I’m going home. Jeongguk, I hope for your sake I don’t see you again.” He said and then he was walking off, missing Taehyung’s middle finger in his direction.

Taehyung turned to Jeongguk and smiled. “If you feel like ignoring all better judgement, text me.” He gave Jeongguk a subtle wink and then he was off, walking quickly to catch up with Jimin, slinging his arm around his friend.

Jeongguk pondered in thought before he made his way home. Taehyung seemed very close to his friend Jimin, he could see them being protective over each other, but he was yet to see the violent side of him in person, if there even was one. Taehyung had been nothing but kind to him. So maybe, when he got home, he would text him. Screw what others think.

~

Jeongguk was sat on the sofa with his phone in his lap, staring at the black screen. He knew he wanted to text Taehyung but he just didn’t have the guts to do it. For starters, he had no idea what he was going to say.

Biting his lip, he picked up his phone and went on his contacts, scrolling down until he spotted the new one. He couldn’t avoid giggling at how ridiculous the name was, and it relaxed Jeongguk a little, enough for him to get the confidence to quickly send something.

Jeongguk:
hey

Jeongguk quickly threw his phone to the side in fear, covering his face. It then dawned on him that, oh god, he hadn’t even introduced himself. It was too late now, he didn’t want to double text.

He needn't worry though, as after what felt like no time at all, Jeongguk’s phone buzzed. Cautiously, he lifted it up.

My #1 Handsome:
hey jeongguk, i’m surprised!!

Jeongguk:
why??

Jeongguk was the one that was surprised. He didn’t even introduce himself and Taehyung knew it was him. Knowing that he was the only one Taehyung was expecting a new text from was making him feel a certain way.

There was a sound at the front door and Jeongguk turned to see Hoseok entering the flat, smiling widely over in Jeongguk’s direction. He didn’t stay around to talk, though, walking into his bedroom a minute later, ruffling Jeongguk’s hair on his way.

His attention went back to his phone and the message he received a few moments ago, and as soon as he read it he could feel his cheeks heat up. Thank God Hoseok wasn’t in the room to see him blush.

My #1 Handsome:
that such a cutie actually messaged me

Jeongguk:
haha

My #1 Handsome:
am i making you uncomfortable??

Jeongguk:
it’s just i dont get complimented much, not used to it

My #1 Handsome:
we’ll have to change that then

Jeongguk:
you don’t have to, i don’t want to be a bother

My #1 Handsome:
i want to
anyway i have to go beautiful

Jeongguk:
okay, talk later taehyung

My #1 Handsome:
call me tae
speak soon ggukkie!!

Jeongguk put his phone down, smiling to himself over the use of the nickname Ggukkie , and as if on time, Hoseok came out of his room, skipping over to him.

“Want to get dinner? And by dinner I don’t mean takeaway pizza or instant noodles.” Hoseok said as leaned his arms and chin on the back of the sofa.

“There is nothing wrong with my definition of dinner.” Jeongguk argued back. His choice of dinner tasted good and required minimal effort, he couldn’t see Hoseok’s problem with it.

“If you don’t mind being unhealthy, there’s not.” That was a valid point. “Look, I’ll teach you how to make a good steak, okay? Then you’ll have at least one meal you can make your future partner, and trick them into thinking you can cook.”

Jeongguk rolled his eyes. “Very funny.”

Half an hour later and after far too many near misses, Hoseok and Jeongguk had finished cooking, and it was a relief to finally sit down at the table and eat. The anticipation that grew from actually cooking made Jeongguk even more hungry, and he was shamelessly stuffing his face.

Hoseok giggled at him as he put his small neatly cut piece of steak into his mouth, Jeongguk, in comparison, stuffed a too big cut into his mouth.

“Good?” Hoseok asked teasingly, eyebrow raised as he did so. Jeongguk, mouth still full, could only nod back. He should get his flatmate to cook for him more often, the steak was amazing. “So, how’s uni?”

Jeongguk waited for a moment, speedily swallowing his food before replying. “Yeah, it’s good. A lot of essays and reading, but I don’t mind. I like it.” Call him a nerd, but he really did find psychology fascinating.

“You sound like Namjoon. As long as you don’t go on hourly rants about one topic, I’m glad you’re enjoying it.” Jeongguk noticed how Hoseok’s face got brighter at the mention of Namjoon.

“And how’s Namjoon?” Jeongguk said with feigned innocence. He was always curious about the nature of Hoseok’s relationship with Namjoon. They were close friends, but how close exactly Jeongguk was unsure of.

Hoseok conveniently shoved his mouth full of food, plunging them into silence as Jeongguk waited for an answer. And he was going to get one.

“He’s, uh, fine.” Hoseok said eventually and a second later, he was filling his mouth again.

“Fine, huh?” Jeongguk was pushing Hoseok as much as he could to feed his curiosity.

Hoseok nodded. “He’ll be over tomorrow probably, you can ask him then?”

Jeongguk forced back a pout and finished the rest of his food having a mini tantrum. He respected Hoseok wanting to keep things to himself, but they live together and Jeongguk wanted all the gossip. It wasn’t fair.

“What about you? How are your friends? You hardly have anyone around here, is everything okay?”

“Yeah, they’re fine. I’m just busy a lot.” He explains with a shrug, not really much else to it.

Hoseok sighed, a worried look on his face. That was never good. “I don’t want you to shut yourself off from people, Gguk.”

“I’m not!” Jeongguk replied quickly, maybe too quickly as Hoseok still had that worried look. “I swear, I’m not.”

“Okay. But I’m always here for you, Namjoon too.”

Jeongguk smiled, genuinely, Hoseok was a good friend. He was glad to have him in his life. But he could see that maybe he’d cut himself off a little. “Want to watch a movie?”

“Yes! I’m choosing!”

One movie, a lot of laughs and one too many beers for Hoseok later, Jeongguk found himself in bed, exhausted but happy. Today was a good day. He had spent a lot of time with his friends, and yet, that wasn’t the thing on Jeongguk’s mind. Kim Taehyung was.

He didn’t know what it was about that man, it was just impossible to not think about their encounter, he was fascinating to Jeongguk. He fell asleep with all sorts of thoughts of Kim Taehyung and a smile on his face.

~

My #1 Handsome:
hey
shit it’s 2:30 you’re probably not awake
i hope you sleep well <3

~

Chapter Text

~

The next day was pretty dull for Jeongguk, like any Sunday is. He studied, he made shit food, he hid in his room as Hoseok and Namjoon hung out obnoxiously loud, completely normal and average, with the added small text exchange with Taehyung. However, when the next week came around, it was a lot more eventful than the life Jeongguk was used to.

When he woke up, despite knowing Taehyung would be most likely fast asleep, he sent him a good morning text and wished him a nice day. Politeness was Jeongguk’s reasoning. Nothing else, absolutely nothing else.

Monday morning lectures were always the worst, and even with his far too sweet hot chocolate, he still felt terrible, too tired to ever feel bright and ready to learn. In spite, Jeongguk glared at the students in the front row that were already making him feel inadequate with their eagerness.

But, at least Jaehyun felt the same, sitting down next to Jeongguk with a huff and his head instantly hitting the table. “How am I still hanging from Saturday?” He groaned. Maybe Jaehyun felt even worse than him. Silver linings.

“I don’t even want to know how much you had to drink.” Jeongguk wasn’t against drinking, he just preferred to sit in bed on his laptop as opposed to getting drunk and losing all control of oneself. He put it down to bad experiences.

“It wasn’t my fault, someone kept filling my glass and it had to be drank!” Jaehyun replied, making Jeongguk giggle at how defence he sounded. “I bet you’d knock out after one drink.”

Jeongguk shook his head. “Not true.”

“Then prove it.” Jaehyun had a big smirk on his face, Jeongguk had fallen straight into his trap. Luckily, the lecture started right that second, saving Jeongguk the effort of wriggling out of that one. Although, on the other hand, he now had to put up with his lecturer’s boring droning voice for a couple hours.

Jeongguk was in the middle of sketching a cherry blossom tree when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Quietly, and trying to prevent gaining Jaehyun’s attention, he slid his phone out and looked down at the lockscreen.

My #1 Handsome:
good morning ggukkie!! i hope you slept very well and have an amazing day today bc u deserve it cutie
what u up to today?? >.<

Jeongguk wasn’t blushing. Nope, definitely not blushing from receiving such a cute text. A quick glance at Jaehyun let him know his friend was way too out of it to notice, let alone tease him, so, he replied.

Jeongguk:
in lectures now and then im working :((( mondays shouldn’t be this unfair

My #1 Handsome:
right!!! well, i shall speak to you soon cutie, pay attention to ur lecture!! <3

Jeongguk smiled to himself, his phone going away once more. Instead of resuming his sketch, he focused himself as much as he could to the lecture, totally not because Taehyung had told him to. No, he was being a good student. A good student with a constant small smile lingering on his lips.

“You’re too happy for a Monday.” Jaehyun huffed, but that was all that Jeongguk heard of it. Jaehyun was right, he felt happier than he did when the lecture started, but couldn’t put his finger on what it was, he’d figure it out later.

Once the lecture had finished, he had a small seminar to go to, and after that, it was his shift at work, which was one of the most irritating shifts he had ever done. It was like whenever he thought he could have a quick break and grab something to eat, someone else came to the counter and required his service. It wasn’t like he wasn’t used to it, it was the fact he had skipped lunch like a rookie. He’d made his mistake, and now he had to deal with it.

He was good at his job, though, never let his hunger get in the way. He happily served the middle aged man, despite his horrid attitude towards Jeongguk. He’d heard all the complaints before, about how the youth these days were useless, it didn’t faze him. However-

“You should learn to be more polite. Bet you couldn’t do that job no matter how hard you tried.” The person behind the man in the queue said with a harsh tone, and Jeongguk looked over the man’s shoulder to see Taehyung’s wide grin in his direction. His smile was replaced with a scowl as soon as the man turned around, shoving past Taehyung to leave. 

“Fucking kids-”

Taehyung grabbed the man’s elbow, pulling him closer to whisper in his ear. Jeongguk didn’t know what Taehyung had said, but whatever it was, it made the man leave the store even faster than he first intended.

“Sorry about that, Ggukkie.” Taehyung grinned, placing his items down on the counter. “Has your day been good?”

“Just a normal day, nothing special.” Jeongguk shrugged, picking up the fizzy drink and chocolate bar to scan. “Thank you for standing up for me.”

“Don’t thank me, some people don’t have any respect.” Taehyung smiled, one arm leaning on the counter as he spoke to Jeongguk. There was no one behind him in the queue, so Jeongguk felt in no hurry to serve him fast.

“Still, it was very kind of you. And to come see me in here. I feel like you’re checking up on me.” Jeongguk smiled shyly, pulling his sleeves down over his hands. Why did Taehyung have such an intense stare? It wasn’t fair.

“I needed my dose of cutie.” Taehyung answered with a shrug, like it was simple and obvious, not caring what it would do to Jeongguk’s insides, which were now doing all sorts of somersalts. “Oh, and a packet of cigarettes, please?”

Jeongguk only nodded, scared if he used words he wouldn’t make a sentence. He turned back to the shelves behind him, and as he picked out a packet of cigarettes for Taehyung, he felt the other’s stare bore into his back. It was unsettling in a sort of flattering way.

“Here.” Jeongguk placed them down next to the drink and chocolate bar. Before he could tell Taehyung the price, the other had put down a note far too much for what he was buying, grabbed only the cigarettes and turned to leave. “Wait! You forgot your stuff!” Jeongguk called out, holding the two items out so Taehyung could take them. But he didn’t.

“All yours.” Taehyung said, opening the shop door and giving Jeongguk one final smirk before he was sauntering out the door, cigarette being placed in his mouth as he did.

Jeongguk was speechless, staring down at the chocolate, drink and money, then back at the door where a woman and her kid were now entering. Taehyung really was an interesting man.

With a sigh, he sat back in the chair behind him at the desk, opened the drink and took a huge gulp of the sugary liquid, preparing himself for the rest of his shift. But at least now he had something to keep him a little more alert and a chocolate bar to look forward to eating when he finished. If he was allowed his phone on him while working, he would have texted Taehyung his gratitude a million times over.

Jeongguk didn’t know if the promise of chocolate made his shift go faster or slower, but regardless, when the next worker showed up to swap, he couldn’t have been out of the shop faster. And as soon as he was outside and further down the block, the only thing he could do was rush to open the chocolate bar and take a huge bite out of it.

“Is it good?”

Jeongguk nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard the voice behind him, turning around to see Taehyung leaning against the wall, usual smirk on his face.

“Were you waiting for me?” Jeongguk asked, narrowing his eyes. No, it had been hours since Taehyung had come into the shop, that would have been impossible. No one would wait that long for him, would they? Besides, he wasn’t even right outside the shop, it could be coincidence, couldn’t it?

“Nah, was just around the area.” Taehyung said with a shrug, stepping closer to Jeongguk. “You didn’t answer me, is it good?”

Jeongguk had to glance down at the chocolate in his hand to remind himself what exactly he was talking about before nodding. “Yeah, ‘s good.”

“Good!” Taehyung exclaimed happily. He checked his phone for a second before his attention was fully back on Jeongguk. But, now they had an awkward silence around them as Taehyung shifted his weight from foot to foot and Jeongguk quietly ate the chocolate.

“Hey, um-” Jeongguk started once he had finished eating, having to pause for a second to get over Taehyung’s dark eyes looking right back at him. “I really wanted to just go home after my shift, it’s late, I’m tired and I’m up early tomorrow.” It was subtle, but Jeongguk swore he could see Taehyung’s smile drop the tiniest bit. Fuck. “But you can walk with me if you like? Wait, you’re probably busy yourself, what am I thinking, oh my god, shut up Jeongguk-”

“I’d love to walk with you.” Taehyung’s reply cut off Jeongguk’s sentence, and the big boxy smile eased him too. “Come on, you know where you’re going.”

It took Jeongguk a second to start walking, but when he did, Taehyung assumed the position right next to him, the two shoulder to shoulder, the two bumping into each other every now and then. If Jeongguk’s face was red, it was the cold weather, nothing else, he swore.

“So, Jeongguk, apart from that shop job, what else do you do?” Small talk. Taehyung had started small talk. That was good, Jeongguk was good at small talk.

“I study psychology at uni, which is the early morning lectures.”

Taehyung’s eyes got wider. “Really? Does that mean you could analyse me, or something?”

Jeongguk chuckled quietly. It was an annoying question he got a lot, but when it was coming from Taehyung, it was far more cute than annoying. “I guess so, but I try not to. It’s kinda invasive, especially when people don’t ask.” There are occasions when, especially after extensive studying, his mind does it automatically, but it’s very rare.

“That’s thoughtful. Okay, so you’re cute and kind, what else?” Taehyung chose that precise moment to close the space between them again, Jeongguk’s winter coat rubbing against Taehyung’s leather jacket.

Jeongguk shrugged. “I go to the gym a lot, I guess. But you already kinda know that, we first spoke outside the gym.”

“Aww.” Taehyung started cooing, his arm now being slung over Jeongguk’s shoulders to pull the younger closer. “You remember when we first spoke!”

“I- yeah- uh-” Jeongguk stammered, his brain not supplying anything else in this situation. But as Taehyung’s arm remained around Jeongguk’s shoulders, he felt himself lean more into his hold. It was nice. Comforting.

“You’re so easy to tease, cutie.” The hand resting on his shoulder squeezed him comfortingly. “If it makes you uncomfortable, I can stop?”

Jeongguk was quick to shake his head. “No, don’t worry. I don’t mind it.” He gave Taehyung a reassuring smile to confirm it, but felt he should shift the conversation just in case. “What about you?” When he only got a quiet hum back, he continued. “What do you do?” Albeit, it wasn’t the best topic to change to.

Taehyung slowed down walking, and consequently, so did Jeongguk, the two turning to face each other. Taehyung’s arm remained around Jeongguk’s shoulders, so it couldn’t have been that bad, he hoped.

They both locked eyes. Taehyung knew Jeongguk knew exactly what he does, and Jeongguk knew that Taehyung knew he knew too. It was now a guess of what Taehyung’s reply would be. And Jeongguk was scared. He had heard what everyone says about the other, but he had yet to see it himself, maybe he hoped it wasn’t true, but he’d seen the bruises, seen him with the group of men, knew in the back of his head that yes, Taehyung is a gang member, but to Jeongguk, he’d been nothing but nice, if that was a way to put it.

He didn’t even know why he had asked it. Perhaps self consciously he wanted to see what Taehyung would say, if he would lie or tell the truth. And if he was honest with himself, Jeongguk was scared of either option.

Taehyung swallowed, breaking the eye contact to look down. “I- uh-” Jeongguk never struck him as someone who could be rendered speechless, yet here he was. “Ggukkie, do you want me to answer that?”

Jeongguk nodded slowly. “Tell me your hobbies, what you like to do, that sort of thing.” He defused the situation, feeling good to see Taehyung relax again. And after that, it was like that tense moment between them had never happened.

“I used to paint a lot when I was little, but I haven’t done much in a while. And I like watching old movies, I guess.” Taehyung spoke casually, but less confident than usual. Afraid of being judged.

Jeongguk was surprised. Out of all the things he could have guessed, those two things would never have crossed his mind. “You should paint again if you want to, being creative is good for emotions.”

Taehyung hummed quietly. “I’ll think about it, it’s just difficult to find the time.” 

“I find that too.” Jeongguk agreed. “But if you ever do, I’d be honoured to see one of your paintings.” He was being genuine too, he had a feeling he would be a brilliant artist, and seeing the happy smile on his face made him warm even in this cold weather. It was a shame they were now approaching his apartment. 

“Thank you for the walk, Tae.” 

“It was my pleasure.” For a second, Jeongguk thought he was about to walk away, but he was more than wrong. “Oh!” He spun back around, like he had forgotten something. “Are you working tomorrow?”

“No, why?”

“Good, I’d like to take you out, if that’s okay with you?” 

Jeongguk was speechless, mouth moving without any sounds coming out as his mind processed what he had just said. It was like Taehyung had knocked the wind out of him with that one question. “L-like a date?”

Taehyung nodded. “Yes, Ggukkie, a date. If that’s what you’d like?” Jeongguk was speechless again, just staring at the other, his brain short circuiting. “Don’t leave me hanging.”

“Okay.” Jeongguk managed out eventually, hand fiddling with the sleeve of his coat. He couldn’t remember the last time someone asked him out on a date.

“Great, text me what time you finish uni and we can arrange when and where to meet.” Taehyung was in front of him one second and then the next he had leaned forward to give Jeongguk a tight, but unfortunately short, hug. “And wear something warm!” He gave him a pat on the shoulder and then he was off, walking with those big strides and confidence that would make anyone weak at the knees. And Jeongguk had a date with that man.

Still in shock, he entered his apartment building, and eventually his apartment, Hoseok watching some tv show on the sofa. Jeongguk didn’t pay him much attention, just a wave as he entered his bedroom.

His mind was filled with many questions, with one main prominent one standing out. Warm ? What the hell was Taehyung planning and why did he have to dress up warm?

~

It took Jeongguk triple the time to get ready than usual, and even then, he didn’t feel confident in himself. Taehyung was attractive, very attractive, Jeongguk wanted to look good next to him. If he had more time, he would still be getting ready, but he had his lectures to attend.

He had tried to sneak out quietly to avoid any questions with Hoseok, and was almost successful, even let himself relax a little as he reached the door, but Hoseok appearing behind him ruined it all.

“Are you working tonight?” Hoseok asked, no ill intentions at all. Why did he have to be so thoughtful? It made Jeongguk feel even worse about going behind his back.

“No, but I might go to the gym or hang out with Jaehyun, so don’t expect me back until late.” Jeongguk was trying to be quick, and it worked, as Hoseok didn’t bother asking any more questions despite the worried expression on his face. 

God, Jeongguk felt bad as he walked to uni. He knew Hoseok was still concerned about the whole gang situation and Jeongguk’s safety, but he could look after himself, he wasn’t a child. And he could see who he wanted, he didn’t need someone controlling and parenting his every move.

From his indecisiveness and insecurities earlier in the morning, Jeongguk arrived at the lecture when it had already started, prompting him to move as silent as possible to a seat next to Jaehyun. Unavoidably, people glared at him as he did so.

“Hey.” Jaehyun whispered out of politeness, but didn’t speak again until near the end of the lecture, saying, “Fancy getting lunch with me and some others?”

“Can’t.” Jeongguk answered, closing his notebook in his eagerness for the lecture to end sooner and for him to be out of there faster.

“Why not?”

“Oh, um, I have a date.” Jeongguk didn’t want to make a big thing of it, but from the wide-eyed expression Jaehyun now had, he wasn’t going to get what he wanted.

“What? With who?” He paused for a second to sniff. “Is that why you smell so… strong?”

Jeongguk now was the one with wide eyes as he brought his top up to his nose to smell it. “Is it too much, oh god-”

“Gguk, it’s fine, I’m taking the piss.” Jaehyun eased him, patting his shoulder gently. “Who are you trying to impress so much?”

Jeongguk shifted in his seat uncomfortably. He definitely couldn’t tell Jaehyun considering his obsession with that stupid gang. In an ideal world, the lecture would have ended right then and given Jeongguk an escape, but it didn’t, of course it didn’t.

“I- it’s no one.” However, the warmth and presumable redness in his face would make anyone assume otherwise. And Jaehyun’s narrowed eyes proved this. Jeongguk could practically read his mind, it teeming with curiosity. But Jeongguk wouldn’t cave, couldn’t cave.

Finally, the lecture was over, and as Jeongguk joined the students so very eager to leave, Jaehyun yelled after him. “Don’t forget to use protection!”

Jeongguk, although flashed his middle finger in his friend’s direction, couldn’t help but laugh a little. His date with Taehyung wouldn’t get that far to need a condom, would it? Well, he had one just in case.

Jeongguk:
hey tae, lecture just finished

Jeongguk cursed their planning skills. Their date was practically upon them now and he still didn’t know when or where he was meeting Taehyung, let alone what the date actually was. He didn’t mind surprises but he had no idea what to do at that moment so found himself standing around awkwardly, like a lost puppy.

My #1 Handsome:
ah good timing, come to the bus stop outside the nearest bookstore to the uni

Jeongguk frowned. Bookstore? He opened the maps app on his phone and searched for bookstores nearby, many of them showing up, but went for the nearest one like he was told, hoping he was right, the fear of going to the wrong place only adding to his nerves. Fuck, by the time he would get there he would probably be shaking from it all.

Luckily, it was the right bus stop, as Jeongguk could see the Taehyung in his trademark leather jacket and his black hair styled messily but attractively. He was sat similar to how he was outside the hospital a few days ago, slouched over and phone bouncing against his knee. He was nervous. That was slightly reassuring to an equally, maybe even more, nervous Jeongguk.

With a deep breath, Jeongguk summoned as much confidence as he could and continued walking closer to Taehyung. As he approached, the other seemed completely in their own mind and it took Jeongguk clearing his throat to pull him back to reality.

Taehyung was instantly on his feet, face full of happiness as he closed the gap between him and Jeongguk. “Hey, Ggukkie.” He leaned over and gave Jeongguk a short hug, yet again not giving him the chance to hug back. “Did you dress warm like I asked?”

“I did.” It wasn't entirely true. In his panic to dress to impress, Jeongguk hadn't picked one of his warmest jumpers, however, he had his hat and gloves on him, so it couldn't be that bad, could it? Taehyung wasn't dressed warm at all, in his usual attire, if he one day got hypothermia Jeongguk would not be surprised.

“Oh, right on time!” Taehyung exclaimed as he saw the bus coming, stepping out to signal it over. Jeongguk sheepishly followed, after all, he had no idea where he was going. This bus could take him god knows where.

They got on the bus together, Taehyung paying for both their tickets and then leading the other down to the back of the bus, sitting right next to Jeongguk, their arms and thighs squished against one another.

Taehyung was fiddling with the rips in his jeans, tugging at the loose threads, and Jeongguk couldn't help but reach across and grab his hand to stop him. In shock at the fact he was now holding Taehyung’s hand, his face went bright red.

“Y-you'll ruin your jeans and get even colder.” Jeongguk weakly explained, taking his hand back and looking out of the window next to him, cursing himself for being so impulsive.

“Hey, stop being so nervous, I don't bite.” Now it was Taehyung reaching across to grab his hand, and he did not let go, giving it a squeeze. 

“I can't help it.” 

“Well, that's something we’ll work on if you like.” Taehyung gave him a reassuring smile, leaning even closer to him. One wrong move and their noses could bump, but Jeongguk didn't mind it, it was comforting to have someone that close.

“Are you going to tell me where we are going yet?” Jeongguk asked, hoping he would get an answer so he could mentally prepare for what he assumed would be something very over the top, but Taehyung shook his head. 

“Nope.” He replied, popping the p as he raised one leg and rested it on the back of the chair in front. Typical. Some of his mannerisms were so… predictable. It was things that used to annoy Jeongguk about people, however, now, he found it attractive in a way.

“Please?” He tried begging now, resting his chin on Taehyung’s shoulder and giving his best puppy dog eyes. 

“The answer’s gonna be no, no matter how cute you look.” Taehyung said, rolling his eyes affectionately before booping Jeongguk’s nose. “And I have to say, you're looking extra cute today.”

Jeongguk opened his mouth to reply, something along the lines of denying what Taehyung had said, but a sound from the other side of the bus gained all his attention. A woman with a small child sat next to her was glaring at them, and from the way Taehyung suddenly tensed next to him, Jeongguk wished he hadn’t noticed and let their attention sway.

“Got a problem?” Taehyung asked, voice harsh as he glared back at the woman.

“Yes.” She moved her child behind her body more, implying that Taehyung and Jeongguk were a threat to her. “Stop acting so impure in front of my child, no one wants to see a pair of fags behaving so disgusting.”

Jeongguk blinked. It took him a second to process what she had just said to them. He didn't know what to do, unlike Taehyung who had lowered his foot from the chair in front, letting it hit the floor loudly, the sound echoing.

“What the fuck did you just say?!” 

Jeongguk could feel Taehyung’s anger radiating off of him. He had somewhat taken in what was happening, and when Taehyung balled his fist and made a move to get out of his seat, he quickly grabbed his arm, pulling him back down. “She's not worth it.”

Taehyung didn't seem convinced, however, and tried to move up again, only for Jeongguk to tighten his grip. “Gguk-”

“No. Ignore the hag and feel sorry for her kid for having a mother like that.” Jeongguk said, being firm for the first time in a while. And it worked. Taehyung sat back into his seat, his anger hadn't faded at all but at least he wasn't charging across the bus.

The two didn't fully relax until the woman had gotten off the bus at the next stop, and even then, there was still tension in the air. Jeongguk just hoped this wasn't foreshadowing what was to come for their date.

After a while, Taehyung turned to look at Jeongguk. “I didn't realise you had a stern side, Ggukkie. It's hot.”

Jeongguk shook his head, a small smile on his face. “It's not, I don't like raising my voice but, yeah. Sorry.”

“Don't apologise!” Taehyung’s hand was suddenly cupping his cheek, thumb gently stroking his soft skin. “We’re going to have a good date. That woman was just jealous she couldn't have you to herself.”

Jeongguk very much doubted that that was true, but didn't argue over the compliment, just tried to forget the whole situation every happened. He was so happy before the woman interrupted, he wasn't going to let someone like that win.

“I think it's our stop soon.”

“Don't ask me, I don't know where we’re going.”

Taehyung laughed at that. He had a really nice laugh. Jeongguk found himself staring at him as he laughed. “Very clever.” With that, he was standing up and offering his hand to Jeongguk. “Come on, our date awaits.”

There was a small walk once they had exited the bus, and, annoyingly for Jeongguk, it took him until they were outside the building to discover what their date would entail.

“Ice skating?” Jeongguk exclaimed, looking at Taehyung with wide eyes.

“Are you happy or sad? I can’t tell.”

“I-” Jeongguk wasn’t sure either. He had mixed emotions. It was such a romantic idea for a first date, but- “I’ve never skated before.”

Taehyung let out a gasp like it was a crime. “What? We definitely have to change that now.” He dragged the nervous Jeongguk into the building, knowing exactly what he was doing. It made Jeongguk wonder how often he came here.

Jeongguk only spoke when he was asked what his shoe size is, the rest of the time it was him standing behind Taehyung, letting the other do everything. He was very efficient, and clearly excited. Jeongguk felt bad for not being able to match his excitement.

Jeongguk was still quiet as he put on his skates, Taehyung helping him a bit. Taehyung was gentle as he helped tighten them, and even rubbed his leg soothingly. 

When he first stood up on the skates, he almost fell over there and then, and if not for Taehyung catching him, he would have done. Maybe this was the reason for ice skating as a date, an abundance of excuses to hold each other.

Taehyung was reassuring as he held Jeongguk until he had gained his balance back, keeping a tight grip on his hand to let him know he was there. And Jeongguk was doing well until they got to the edge of the rink.

“Don’t worry, Ggukkie, I’ve got you.” Taehyung squeezed his hand harder and Jeongguk wished he wasn’t wearing his gloves so he could feel Taehyung’s skin against his.

“Don’t let me fall.” Jeongguk practically begged as Taehyung stepped onto the ice, leading Jeongguk with him. It only took one second for him to almost fall, but strong arms wound around his waist and held him in place.

“Let’s go around the edge first, get used to it.”

Jeongguk nodded, he liked that idea. One hand on the barrier, one hand in Taehyung’s. Safe.

The cold air of the rink was making his face red, Jeongguk was sure of it. Taehyung’s face was red too, the other must be freezing not wearing warm clothes like him. But he didn’t show it, the only thing he showed was warmth for Jeongguk.

They got around the rink once without falling over, and Jeongguk felt a lot more at ease, especially with Taehyung praising him with every stride. What he didn’t expect, however, was Taehyung to let go of his hand and start skating off away from him at a speed Jeongguk couldn’t match.

“Tae, come back!” Jeongguk yelled at him, hand on the barrier tightening.

Taehyung giggled and shook his head. “You come over here!”

Jeongguk hated him, he really did. He couldn’t stay glued where he was, someone else was catching him up. He had no choice but to move off on his own. He was slower than Taehyung, but he was doing it, he was skating on his own. He couldn’t help the large smile growing on his face when he finally reached the other.

“Well done!” Taehyung grinned, resuming holding his hand. “Now you can skate with me without the barrier.”

Jeongguk opened his mouth to protest but didn’t get the chance, Taehyung was suddenly dragging him out further into the rink. Jeongguk panicked, not knowing what to do with his legs and before he knew it, they were sliding out from under him. Taehyung moved to try to catch him, but just ended up being dragged under him.

They landed on the ice together hard, Jeongguk’s face in Taehyung’s chest. He would’ve loved this moment if not for the fact Taehyung had hit the ice, breaking Jeongguk’s fall. He could be hurt .

“Shit, Tae.” He put his hands either side of Taehyung’s head as he pushed himself off the ice, staring down at the other in worry. “Are you okay? Are you hurt? Are you-” Jeongguk was cut off by loud laughter. Taehyung’s laughter.

“You look so worried.” Taehyung said through his laughter, his hands resting on Jeongguk’s hips. “You have to fall at least once before you can skate confidently.”

Jeongguk glared at him for that. “You promised to not let me fall.”

“Ggukkie, don’t pout, I might just have to kiss those lips. Come on, let’s get off the floor.” Taehyung spoke about kissing him so casually, it shouldn’t have been allowed. It did things to Jeongguk’s heart that shouldn’t happen.

Jeongguk slowly stood up with Taehyung and now when they skated around, Taehyung wasn’t dragging him at a ridiculous speed, instead it was a manageable one as Jeongguk got more and more comfortable on the ice. It turned out after a while he was quite good at skating. His increased ability at the sport gave Taehyung the excuse to let go off his hand and start showing off, doing a bunch of spins and twirls, looking extremely hot while he did it.

“You’re so good.” Jeongguk told him when he returned to his smile, panting slightly. The fast movement must have warmed him up, and that eased Jeongguk.

“You can be good too.”

Jeongguk didn’t have time to question it, another one of those situations where Taehyung did something spontaneously. This time, he grabbed both Jeongguk hands and started spinning round with him. Now that he was more confident on the ice, he didn’t feel scared. In fact, he felt carefree. There was something about the world spinning around him and the only thing he could focus on being Taehyung, it was mesmerising.

Taehyung pulled him closer, a hand now moving to his waist as they span, eventually slowing down but not moving away. “Was that fun?”

Jeongguk nodded, looking at Taehyung, their faces so close just like on the bus. “Yeah, it was.”

“Good.” Taehyung was speaking quieter, and Jeongguk couldn’t help his eyes going to his lips, staring at the slightly cracked lips and holding back the urge to just-

“Time’s up, off the ice!”

Was that it? They’d had their time on the ice, did that mean their date was over? It had gone so quick, Jeongguk felt a crushing feeling inside him. He didn’t want it to end.

Glumly, he left the ice with Taehyung and changed back into his normal shoes. He expected that to be it, so say their goodbyes then. Oh, how wrong he was.

“Right, there’s a pub next door, let’s go.” Taehyung spoke, straightening out his jacket a bit as he started walking away, pausing when Jeongguk didn’t follow. “Ggukkie, you okay?”

“Yeah, sorry.” Jeongguk said, giving him the best smile he could as he caught up with him. He hoped it would be dropped but he could still see the slight worry in Taehyung’s eyes, even as they entered the pub. “It’s a bit early for drinking, isn’t it?”

Taehyung shook his head. “Nonsense, it’s late afternoon, perfect drinking time.” And that was that. Taehyung was ordering them two pints and Jeongguk didn’t see much use in arguing back. Something he had learnt was that Taehyung did what he wanted. “Let’s sit down.”

Jeongguk nodded, picking up his drink and following Taehyung to a quiet corner where they sat next to each other. As Jeongguk was taking off his big coat, Taehyung had already started drinking his beer, and at an impressive speed.

“Woah.” Jeongguk accidentally let come out of his mouth as he watched Taehyung, particularly when his adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed.

“Was thirsty.” He explained back, grinning at Jeongguk. “Do you drink often?”

“Not really, I rarely drink if I’m honest.” Jeongguk replied, now looking down at his full beer glass.

“Shit, shall I buy you a different drink, then?”

Jeongguk eyes widened. “No, you don’t have to!” Why was Taehyung so kind? It was like he was so scared of going wrong and would do anything to make sure Jeongguk was happy. It was so charming.

“The offer is there if you change your mind.”

Jeongguk smiled. Taehyung was so thoughtful, it was refreshing. He sat back in his seat a bit and enjoyed the silence for a little while. It was nice to just sit quietly and sip his drink, knowing that he was with someone he felt comfortable with. 

Throughout the rest of the date, Taehyung did most of the talking, casual things as he subtly moved closer to Jeongguk while also initiating moments of contact, whether it be bumping of shoulders, a hand on a knee or even a stroke of his cheek under the guise of removing a fallen eyelash. And after every incident, Jeongguk became less and less nervous and flustered by them, to a point where he started them himself, moving to lean against Taehyung’s side.

Like all good things, the date was coming to an end, the time easily flowing past them until the sun had set and the pub’s atmosphere started to change from casual afternoon drinking to night time rowdiness. 

They were back on the bus in no time at all, sat at the back yet again. Luckily, this time, there were no rude homophobes around. Jeongguk felt comfortable enough to rest his head on Taehyung’s shoulder, the long day finally hitting him as he began to feel tired.

“So, what’s my feedback?” Taehyung asked after they got off the bus, the cold evening air hitting them harshly. Jeongguk pulled his coat closed quickly to keep his warmth in, Taehyung of course not seeming too phased.

“Feedback for what?” Jeongguk questioned back, hands shoved into his pocket as they started their walk back to his flat.

“The date! Have I done enough to win your heart?” Taehyung teased, big smirk as usual. Jeongguk rolled his eyes whilst also letting out a quiet giggle. He was terrible at hiding his emotions from Taehyung, it seemed.

“Was that your goal? To win my heart?”

Taehyung shrugged, trying to seem casual but Jeongguk could see the light blush starting to form on his cheeks. Jeongguk called this a win.

“You didn’t answer my question.” 

“You didn’t answer mine.” Jeongguk replied, being able to give Taehyung’s smirk back to him. Except, when Taehyung started to pout, he crumbled. “Yes, Tae, it was a really good date.” 

Taehyung’s pout didn’t go away. “Only really good?”

“The best one I’ve had.” And that was the truth, and it would remain the truth even if he had been on hundreds of dates before this one. He really liked today. And maybe, Taehyung really had won his heart.

“That puts pressure on me next time, don’t you think?” 

Next time. Next time . Jeongguk’s stomach did a flip. “I guess so.”

Taehyung opened his mouth to say something, but cut himself off, mind instantly distracted by his phone going off. It seemed urgent, as he fully stopped walking as he answered it. “Jimin?” He said into the phone as Jeongguk awkwardly stood next to him, not hearing the other end but trying to guess what was being said from Taehyung’s facial expressions. From what he could tell, it wasn’t good.

“Shit, okay, I’ll be there in five.” Taehyung replied, quickly ending the phone call, looking worried as he turned his attention back to Jeongguk. “I’m sorry, Ggukkie, I wanted to walk you home but something’s come up. Text me when you get home?”

Jeongguk didn’t have time to reply, Taehyung was quickly giving him a hug then practically running off in the other direction. He watched the other go, pondering to himself. He was only going somewhere five minutes away, a little detour on the way home wouldn’t hurt, would it? He wasn’t in any rush, and his curiosity was growing by the second.

So, he had made his decision. He followed Taehyung. He made sure to stay back far enough to not be noticed, but close enough to see where he was going. The walk felt longer than five minutes, but Jeongguk put that down to nerves and his conscience. He probably shouldn’t be doing this, but fuck it, he was here now.

He could hear a lot of shouting, but didn’t realise the true extent of it until he rounded the corner. It was chaos, similar to the incident outside the bar before but perhaps even more people this time. Jeongguk didn’t know where to look, so much was happening in what seemed like a mosh pit of fighting, the yells of pain and anger enough to scare anyone away yet Jeongguk remained standing there.

His eyes scanned the crowd until they landed on Jimin. He recognised the small man instantly, and eyes widened as he watched him get someone in a chokehold, kneeing them in the back without any hesitation. But then, Jeongguk got distracted by his own date.

Taehyung had no mercy. As a man went to punch him, he grabbed him by the hair, lowering his face so his other hand could punch him instead, hard. The man toppled back from the blow, but Taehyung didn’t stop there, landing another hit on his stomach.

Jeongguk was glued to the spot as he watched Taehyung’s lethal side come out. It was just like everyone had said. He didn’t hold back as he fought with people, and if someone hit him, he’d hit right back ten times as hard. Jeongguk was overwhelmed, this felt like an entirely different person than the Taehyung he had gotten to know.

It was when Taehyung was digging through a man’s jacket as someone else held him against the wall, pulling out his wallet and pocketing it for himself, that Jeongguk came to his senses. Seeing it for himself made everything real. Taehyung was just like everyone had said, and from the way his heart ached, he’d been idiotic enough to fall for someone like that.

~