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El Mariachi

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El Mariachi.

 

A tacky name for an equally tacky establishment, he thought. If it were a regular day in his regular life, he wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like that, but it was no regular day, and he had lost his regular life the moment he had been dragged to that horrible town against his will by his two older brothers.

 

Kim Taehyung was the youngest heir of the biggest textile company in the continent. It was a well-known brand, but it was the kind of industry that had no glamour or flare, so, while his family was virtually swimming in money, they weren’t the type to appear on magazine covers, so he had never felt particularly flattered by his social position. It was his family’s business, that was all. A business that he had no interest in, and he didn’t need to have it, for he had two older brothers who could take care of it after his parents passed.

 

Unfortunately for him, he had not expected his sick, but still alive father to put them to test like that, when he was only 20 years old. Opening a new factory in a rural town in the middle of nowhere, where it was hot summer all year round, and asking the three of them to take charge of it completely, no questions asked, lest they wanted to be excluded from the will. He had initially refused, arguing that his father was just bluffing, that he wouldn’t actually leave out his sons, but then his brothers took it so seriously that he had no choice but to comply.

 

If only Seokjin had sided with him, the two could have persuaded Namjoon, and then the three of them could have made a strong opposition to their father, but it had been impossible, because even though Namjoon was the middle child, he was always the reliable and responsible one, so he had a stronger influence over Seokjin than Taehyung could ever aspire to. And so, Taehyung had, very much against his will, ended up being dragged to that awful town where there wasn’t even one single mall, one single art gallery, one single theater, nothing, absolutely nothing to do.

 

Staying home had also proven to be merciless torture, since no amount of air conditioners could help him, and the pool wasn’t even roofed, so he would boil to death. The only obvious activity that they ended up doing was actually going to the factory, but he wouldn’t stay there for 12 hours a day every day, no, that was Namjoon’s job. His job was to take a stroll and supervise the workers and the machines, making sure no one was dead or missing and nothing needed to be repaired. That took 3 hours at most, and then he had nothing else to do. Sometimes he and Seokjin would drive to the nearest city to go shopping or take some photos at a park, but it was such a long road that it wasn’t worth it most of the time.

 

The last time he went to the city, though, he bought a bunch of boxes of hair dye of many different colors, with the intent of dying it a different color every week to make his life a tiny bit more fun. He had also bought enough jewelry to alternate for a whole year if necessary, but even that became pathetic after a while.

 

He had no friends in that place, and no means to make them: He couldn’t befriend the employees even if he wanted to, since they were always busy and it would be counterproductive to interrupt them (not that that ever stopped Seokjin, but that was a different story); their neighbors were mostly elderly people who had chosen that kind of place to retire (those were Seokjin’s friends, and he occasionally invited them over to their house), but even though they were nice, after exchanging some words about their favorite writers and painters they didn’t really have much to talk about; and his friends back in Seoul had pretty much slowly cut him out since they had stopped meeting in person and his life stopped being interesting.

 

Meeting new people was hard when there was nowhere to go and the only hobbies he could devote himself to were individual activities such as cooking, painting, or coming up with new patterns for their fabrics. He was starting to feel isolated and depressed, which was why he had found himself alone on a Friday night, standing outside a shabby-looking tavern that claimed to be a gay bar called “El Mariachi”. He almost wanted to laugh at himself. Almost. His friends would laugh for sure if they could see him now, but they couldn’t, and they sucked anyway. This was his life now, so he had to adapt and for the love of God, he needed human contact with anyone who weren’t his brothers or his elderly neighbors.

 

He sighed almost resigned to his fate and opened the doors, which reminded him of Western movies he had watched when he was little. As soon as he entered, the first thing he noticed was that the place was much bigger on the inside, and that too many eyes were on him. That too, reminded him of Western movies, where the newcomer is too obvious and there are at least three men who want to pick a fight. He gulped, hoping that part wouldn’t happen, and slowly started walking around the place. Some eyes kept following him, though their stares were not really aggressive, but curious instead.

 

There was pleasant music in the air, and Taehyung’s ears followed it to the source: a pianist, playing live in a corner. He was a good one, too, he noticed. There were several people sitting at the bar, with a smiling bartender serving drinks quickly and efficiently. Other than that, there were a few tables scattered around the establishment, with plenty of space between them. No one was dancing; the piano melody was more like the kind of ambience music found in high class restaurants. Taehyung was confused. That place was nothing at all like the gay bars he had visited back home; it could easily pass as a family restaurant if it weren’t for the alcoholic drinks.

 

Still, he had come in looking for company, so he would do his best to get it. He was sure it wouldn’t be difficult. He didn’t consider himself to be the most attractive man in the world, but he knew he was good looking and rich, and he liked to accentuate that when he went out. He had died his hair crimson red that same afternoon, put on his favorite pair of Gucci eyewear and a careful selection of rubies for his earrings and rings. Red was the color of love and passion, right? So he wanted to become a giant love signal. He chose plain white clothes to make sure that all the attention would go to the red. Yes, he had spent too long planning on that outfit, creating an entire concept around it. Maybe he should major in Fashion Design, as Namjoon suggested, but he still thought that was a trap to keep him in the textile industry…

 

Ah, even his own inner monologue had become boring, he thought, as he absentmindedly sat on a bar stool, waiting for the bartender to take his order. Suddenly, the piano music came to a halt and he could hear excited clapping. Oh, so that was it? He had assumed the pianist would be there all night. But when everyone else at the bar turned their stools around to face the tables, Taehyung understood what the clapping was really about.

 

Confused, he turned around as well, witnessing for the first time the spectacle that would change his life forever. Loud, vaguely Latin music started playing instead and the lights were dimmed. Every single one of the waiters started doing some sort of choreography around the tables, and out of nowhere, the most beautiful creature Taehyung had ever seen just seemed to materialize on top of an empty one.

 

It was a young man around his age, with silver hair and plump lips and graceful movements. He was dancing atop a table with as much ease as if it were a dancefloor, his feet keeping up the pace even as he twirled and jumped in the air, his hand occasionally pushing back his hair as he smirked at his overly enthusiastic audience. Oh, that was a show. That was the show. It was clear now that this boy was a star while the waiters were just his backup dancers.

 

As the whole bar continued clapping and cheering loudly, two of the waiters stood in front of the table with their arms creating a circle, through which the dancer jumped, landing on the floor with the same grace he had displayed on the table, and he didn’t stop then. The boy proceeded to join the choreography, dancing around the tables and receiving some bills from the excited customers. Although Taehyung’s attention was mostly focused on that majestic dancer, he didn’t fail to notice that even the bartender and the piano player had joined the dance. The entire staff was made up of dancers! What kind of place was that?!

 

Taehyung stood up and started clapping, absolutely mesmerized, and patiently waited for the dancer to approach his seat too. He quickly took out his wallet and retrieved a bunch of bills, he didn’t count how many, and waited with bated breath and a racing heart. Finally, something exciting was finally happening to him. As the boy finally danced by him, and received the bills with a bright smile that made his eyes disappear into crescent moons, Taehyung could swear he fell in love. Now that he was seeing him closely, he was much shorter than he looked, but much more beautiful too, with his perfect skin and hair and his eye smile and the unidentifiable scent of his cologne.

 

Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no, he was leaving, taking other customers’ bills and giving them his smiles. It was so fleeting, that instant, but he would remember it forever. Taehyung sat down on the stool again and kept watching, feeling a mix of different emotions. He was so happy he had decided to go into that place, but he felt devastated that the moment had been so short. He should have sat on one of the tables, then he could have gotten a closer look, if only he had known…

 

As the mysterious star danced away from Taehyung, he couldn’t help but notice that he was really good-looking from behind too, and he felt even worse. Great. That guy had now set impossibly high standards for the men in that horrible town and now Taehyung’s night was absolutely ruined.

 

He sat back down at the bar, as the bartender returned to his job with the same energy as before, like he hadn’t been dancing his ass off two minutes ago.

 

“What can I get you, Mr. Newcomer?” He asked, enthusiastically cleaning the counter.

 

“Me? Oh…” Right, he was the newcomer. “Negroni, please.”

 

“Mm, it’s been a hot day, so let’s make it an Agavoni.” The bartender winked at him, and started preparing his drink as he kept talking. “Enjoyed the dance show?”

 

“Oh, yeah! It took me completely by surprise.”

 

“Right? That’s the magic of this place! We don’t like advertising the shows, so that we can surprise you… we hadn’t been able to surprise anyone in a while, though, most customers are regular.”

 

“I can imagine.” Taehyung gave him a knowing smile. “So… all the dancers are actually part of the staff, right? Like yourself?”

 

“Oh, you noticed me.” The bartender wiggled his eyebrows. “Yup, we work here and we participate in the shows. Dance shows are every 3 hours, and the singer comes out half an hour later.”

 

“Does that include the dancer from just now? The short one with a big ass? What does he do?”

 

“…Jimin?” The bartender’s smile started fading a bit. “He’s a waiter too. He’s over there.”

 

The bartender pointed in the direction of one of the tables, where the handsome dancer was already taking orders. Taehyung smiled happily. As an entertainer, he would be a bit harder to get in contact with, but as a waiter, he could totally pick him up. He’d just order things constantly and flirt with him every time he went to his table. Then he’d leave a big tip with his number and by the end of Jimin’s shift he’d go home with him. This was going to be easy.

 

“I want to sit at one of the tables he’s waiting.”

 

“Ooooooor you could stay here with good old Hoseok instead!”

 

“Who’s Hoseok?”

 

“The guy who just finished preparing your Agavoni! Ta-da!” The bartender presented him his drink. “It’s me, I’m Hoseok.”

 

“Oh… no, thanks, I wanna sit at one of Jimin’s tables.”

 

Growing up being the youngest son of a rich family had really made Taehyung into a spoiled brat who was used to getting what he wanted, so in situations like that, he disregarded other people’s intentions and focused exclusively on his own goals. Hoseok was cute, so he could have reciprocated his flirting, if only he hadn’t seen Jimin. Jimin had become his target for that night, so everyone else was a distraction.

 

Hoseok made a sour, cold expression then. “I already mixed your drink, so you have to pay for it.”

 

“No problem at all!” He pulled a wad of cash and handed it to the bartender. “Keep the change! Please tell me which tables he waits.”

 

“Table 4 is free, he waits that one.”

 

“Thank you, Hoseokie!” He winked and clicked his tongue, taking his drink with him to the aforementioned table.

 

He sat with a happy expression, feeling as if the world around him had regained color. He had found an interesting place full of possibilities. He tapped his fingers on the table to the rhythm of the piano that had also started playing again, and after a few minutes, Jimin appeared in front of him.

 

“Hello, my name is Jimin, and I’ll be your waiter tonight.” He said with a really soft, melodious voice and a bright smile. “I see you’re still with your first drink, so I’ll be back later.”

 

“No!” Taehyung covered his mouth after realizing how desperate he must have sounded. “I mean, hey. You didn’t even let me introduce myself. I’m Kim Taehyung.”

 

“Oh, nice to meet you, Mr. Kim.” Taehyung didn’t miss the way Jimin’s eyes started sparkling as soon as he noticed the rubies on his fingers. “Thanks for the tip, you were the most generous gentleman of the hour.”

 

“Only of the hour? I was hoping to be the most generous of the night.” He smiled at him, making sure to keep his fingers in a V angle to display his jewelry while pretending to just casually lean his face on his hand.

 

“Well, the night is far from over, so who knows? Maybe you’ll win, maybe not.” Jimin shrugged.

 

“I guess I’ll have to stick till the end to see, huh?” He licked his lips. “What time does your shift end?”

 

Jimin giggled. “Shift? As you may have noticed, I’m not a regular waiter, and this is no regular bar. I don’t leave until we close.”

 

“Great, I don’t have anywhere else to go anyway.” He took a sip from his drink. “There’s nothing to do in this horrendous town.”

 

“Ouch.” Jimin made a gesture as if he had been shot. “Sorry our home sucks for you, Mr. Kim. Are you here for business or pleasure?”

 

“…here?” Taehyung carefully set down his glass while eyeing Jimin suspiciously. “For pleasure, of course.”

 

Jimin laughed out loud, very sincerely in Taehyung’s opinion. “I mean here, as in, in this town. You’re not a local, obviously.”

 

The waiter gestured vaguely at his whole form, and Taehyung felt so embarrassed he had to take a larger gulp of his drink.

 

“Business.” He said after coughing up a bit. That Hoseok guy had been a little too generous with the tequila. “Family business. Not my idea.”

 

“Ohhhh, a family business, I see.” Jimin winked, giving him a know-it-all smirk which Taehyung didn’t quite understand. “That explains it all.”

 

The heir was so, so very confused, but he felt that if he asked Jimin what he meant, he would most definitely establish his entire character as an absolute dumbass. He had already made one stupid mistake and the conversation had only been going for a few minutes, so he just nodded along, as if he, too, understood it all.

 

“Well, the singer is about to come out, so I’ll be back later.” Jimin said, pointing towards the back of the establishment.

 

When Taehyung followed his gaze, he noticed some kind of improvised platform with closed curtains, and he couldn’t help but let out a soft ‘Oh’. Right, the bartender had mentioned something about a singer, too, though he hadn’t been paying much attention.

 

The waiter left his side and Taehyung continued gulping down his Agavoni while waiting for the show to start. He would need to finish his drink by the time the singer finished his set, so he would be able to order and thus keep making small chat with Jimin.

 

Jimin went ‘backstage’, which served as a multi-purpose room: it was the place where they stored the bottles and supplies, and also where they changed their clothes so they could transform from bar workers to entertainers and viceversa. He had to go into that place so many times per night, it was exhausting, but he had to keep going. He just had to save enough money to get himself and Jungkook out of there for good.

 

“Are you ready yet, Kook? We have a good crowd at this hour.” He said to the younger boy who was making a sour face while checking himself in the mirror. He seemed to be struggling with his hair as usual. “I already told you, you look better when you push it back.”

 

“I already pushed it back in the previous show.” Jungkook answered, still struggling. “I wanna do something different.”

 

“Then do a different set of songs and leave your hair alone.” Jimin patted his hands away, before grabbing his hair and pushing it back with his own hands, smiling at his reflection. “See? It’s better. Makes you look older.”

 

Jungkook scrunched up his nose in disapproval, but didn’t keep arguing, so Jimin took it as a victory.

 

“Now go make some money. We have a guy from a ‘family’ tonight, so make sure to smile at him a lot.” Jimin added, rubbing the younger boy’s shoulders as if he was preparing him for a fight.

 

“Oh? Really? How do you know?”

 

“Well, I suspected it since I saw him all dressed in white and covered in rubies, but he also admitted it to me.”

 

“Just admitted it? How do you know he wasn’t bluffing?”

 

“Hello, didn’t you hear the part about the rubies? He also gave me like, a crazy tip when I danced. Like, enough to cover his 4 drink minimum and some more. The guy has money.”

 

“Mm. Aren’t the guys from… uh, families, Yoongi-hyung and Hoseokie-hyung’s specialty, though? I’d say we already lost, hyung.”

 

“Hey, I wouldn’t be here talking to you if I thought we had lost. Hoseokie-hyung told me himself, the guy specifically asked him about me. We got this one in the bag, Kookie. All you have to do is sing up there, be pretty, smile a little, and I’ll do the rest as usual.” He emphasized his point by patting his shoulders a bit too hard. “Now, go. They’re waiting for you.”

 

Jungkook stood up with a groan, and Jimin slapped the back of his head. After he went out, Jimin sighed, allowing himself to collapse on a chair. The only times of the night when he could rest were during Jungkook’s shows, because the lights were dimmed and no one could order anything so they could focus on the performance.

 

His feet were aching, and they still had 3 more shows to do and endless drinks to deliver. It was one of those nights when a voice in the back of his head told him to just quit all of that, go back home, apologize to his family and live a normal life; a life full of lies, but a peaceful one at least. However, the image of the cherry haired Mr. Kim popped into his mind and he told that voice to shush; this night would be different, this night he would get an appropriate reward for all his hard work.

 

He was already halfway there, he thought, nodding to himself, he just had to secure him, give him what he wanted but at the same time leave him wanting more, so he would not go anywhere else. At least this one was good-looking, thankfully. He wondered if there was some kind of deity answering his prayers, after all. He wouldn’t have to fake enjoying his company like he had to do most of the time with the other older and dirtier guys with money. He shivered at the memory of a particularly disgusting drug dealer who had gone home with Yoongi and Hoseok when the bar was still new. Those two just had zero standards.

 

But luck was smiling at him tonight, because Mr. Kim was handsome, rich, and interested specifically in him, so there was no way anything could go wrong. He allowed himself to relax for the time being, the soft notes of Yoongi’s piano and Jungkook’s melodious voice filling his ears.

 

 


 

Taehyung finished his drink during the singer’s show, which admittedly was really enjoyable, but not enough to make him stand up and throw money at him like some of the other clients were doing. The guy had a beautiful voice and he wasn’t bad on the eyes either, but… he had already set his mind on Jimin, so it would be almost impossible for anyone else to steal his attention.

 

Still, he clapped when the show ended to show his appreciation and support, and in a few minutes Jimin was walking back towards his table with his bright smile and flirtatious attitude. Taehyung didn’t fail to notice the fact that he had loosened up his scarf and unbuttoned the first button of his shirt, and that he was messing with his hair a lot. Excellent, he thought happily, the evening was going really well.

 

Just as Jimin approached, and as Taehyung had barely opened his mouth to speak, he heard a loud sound nearby. He saw Jimin’s smile fade immediately as his eyes looked in the direction of the stage, so Taehyung turned to see what it was about. And there, he saw a couple of guys fighting, or more accurately, one short guy punching the shit out of another much larger man, and the guy who had been singing until just now was trying to separate them. As it often happened in those situations, a crowd of clients started gathering around to see the fight and encourage them, but Taehyung paid them no mind and returned his attention to Jimin.

 

He had no interest in getting in trouble, nor did he know what had caused the confrontation in the first place. Jimin, on the other hand, had his eyes glued on the scene, his chest rising with quick and shallow breaths. Was he… nervous? Was he scared? Impossible. He was a waiter at a bar, so he must have seen countless fights! Unless…

 

As Jimin continued looking at the fight, apparently with certain fear, Taehyung studied him. He was absolutely stunning from up close: Perfect hair, perfect skin, luscious lips, a figure that looked well-proportioned even in a uniform… he had watched him dance so gracefully, speak so eloquently, walk like a model. What if he wasn’t a real waiter? What if this was part of the performance too? He thought about it, that place might as well be an interactive musical. The sole idea made his blood pump faster, everything was unexpected and exciting.

 

So, without even thinking about it, he reached out to hold one of Jimin’s hands as softly as he could, which caused the other to flinch and to return his gaze to Taehyung again.

 

“Oh, sorry! I just… thought you were scared, I was trying to comfort you.” He apologized, letting go quickly.

 

“Oh?” Jimin blinked, then broke into a forced smile. “Haha, no, I’m not scared, don’t worry… but thanks for looking after me.”

 

Jimin was pretending to be back to his flirty self, but his eyes returned to the fight for a few more seconds before they finally settled on Taehyung. “So, what will you order?”

 

“Um, do you have Maksa?” He asked, though he was still suspicious of what was going on.

 

“We certainly do! Would you like me to bring you some snacks as well?”

 

“Please.”

 

“Coming right up!” Jimin pretty much sprinted from his table towards the bar. Taehyung watched mesmerized the way his beautiful ass disappeared from his sight, the feeling of excitement still tingling in his chest.

 

Even if this did end up being part of an act, it would still be the most interesting thing that had happened to him in the last 3 months, so he would welcome it.

 

 


 

“What the hell was that back there? Control your man, Hoseok-hyung.” Jimin was speaking in a low voice, careful that none of the clients would catch just how stressed and enraged he was. He had gone behind the bar to have a direct conversation with the bartender, who was one of his closest friends, almost like a brother, but right then he felt like he owed him an explanation or two.

 

“Excuse me? My man was saving your little lamb from being kidnapped by some creep.” Hoseok answered in the same low but enraged tone, though his anger was not directed to Jimin.

 

“What?” Jimin felt his stomach drop to the floor at the mental image.

 

“Yeah. This really buff dude and his friends circled Jungkook as soon as the show ended, they wouldn’t let him go backstage and started pulling at him and trying to grab him and all that shit, you know how it is.” Hoseok explained, pointing at the place where the fight had ended as quickly as it had started. “And then Yoongi clocked out the first guy. A total K.O. Then he punched one of the friends, but that one didn’t fall down as easily, so he just kept hitting him. And I guess the third one got scared and ran away or something.”

 

As Hoseok’s explanation progressed, he started moving around mimicking the movements and emulating the punching noises, so Jimin just assumed that discretion with their clients was completely off the table then. But that didn’t really matter, what really worried him was the choice of words: ‘being kidnapped by some creep’. It only brought up all sorts of painful memories for Jimin.

 

“And then what happened? I saw Jungkook trying to break up the fight, but then the crowd blocked my vision.”

 

“Yeah, he managed to break it off and then I stepped in to help along with some of the waiters. First guy is unconscious but alive, second guy was pretty beaten up, but I gave him some ice and the guys helped him take his knocked out friend to their car, and like I said, the third guy must have taken off. It was over really, really fast.”

 

“I see…” Jimin breathed out in relief. “I’m gonna go check on the guys then, please prepare a Maksa for table 4, and some snacks, too.”

 

“Oooh, Mr. Lots of Cash is trying to get hammered?”

 

“His name is Mr. Kim, and yes, apparently.” Jimin smiled proudly. “I’m counting on him to either voluntarily give me one of his rings or for me to accidentally ‘swallow’ it.”

 

Hoseok started laughing uncontrollably as he often did, which brought some awkward smiles in their direction. Jimin excused himself and went backstage again, where Yoongi was taking a nap on the couch while Jungkook had gone back to his other job.

 

Jungkook was in charge of the entire backstage area. He had to store, classify, and keep track of all the drinks and supplies, supervise the schedules of the entertainers and make sure that everyone’s clothes were in good conditions (clean, ironed, not missing buttons), and of course, keep the area clean since it had waiters coming in and out all night. It was a lot of work and he very seldom got to rest, but he rarely ever complained. Of course, he always fell asleep immediately upon getting home.

 

After making sure that both of his friends were alright and not visibly injured, and earning a half-asleep kick from Yoongi as well as an unnecessarily sassy ‘ugh I’m fiiiiiine’ from Jungkook, Jimin went back to the bar to pick Taehyung’s order and deliver it to his table.

 

“Oh hey, you’re back.” Taehyung greeted with a smile.

 

“Yeah, sorry that took so long. Hoseokie-hyung put a lot of effort into your order to make sure it’s perfect, you know, since you’re such a generous tipper and all.”

 

“Mm, I’m sure it was worth it.” The young heir grabbed a bite from his snacks. “Tell him to keep up the good job.”

 

“Will do!” Jimin smiled. “How about your waiter? Is he doing a good job as well?”

 

“Oh, yeah, definitely. He’s already earned a nice tip, but the night is not over yet.” He nodded, playing around with his drink.

 

“Right… And you’re planning to be here until the end.”

 

“Until closing time, yes, I have nowhere else to go.” Taehyung took a sip from his Maksa, making a sour face afterwards. That bartender really, really earned his tips.

 

“Mm… I’m a little worried, though.” The waiter tilted his head to a side. “If you keep drinking at this pace, you might pass out before we close.”

 

“Jimin-ssi, I feel offended.” Taehyung straightened his posture, feigning indignation. “You think I can’t hold my drink?”

 

“Haha, no, I’m sure you can handle it, but…” he pushed his hair back again. Taehyung noticed that it must have been some kind of nervous tic. “Maybe try spacing them a little bit? Just chill for a couple of hours before resuming your drinking? Closing time is at 6, you know, and it’s barely a bit past 10 now.”

 

Taehyung brought a hand up to his chin as he pretended to be in deep thought, and he observed Jimin’s face for a few seconds. “A waiter at a bar who doesn’t want me to keep ordering drinks… interesting.”

 

“Hey, you’re getting it all wrong. I do want you to get wasted, but… slowly.”

 

“Hmmm… are you saying you want to keep seeing me sitting at this table until closing time? Is that it?” The heir smiled playfully. He didn’t mean it, obviously, he was just trying to tease.

 

“Hehe… maybe.” Jimin smiled back, playing along. “How will you know if you were the most generous client of the night if you leave before it’s over?”

 

“Ah, you’re making an excellent point. Mmm. I’ll consider it.” He grabbed another handful of snacks, feeling a little deflated. If he wasn’t going to keep ordering for hours, then he wouldn’t have an excuse to keep making small talk with Jimin, but then again, Jimin would be working until 6, so even if he kept trying to pick him up, he wouldn’t know if it worked or not until closing time.

 

Ah, who was he kidding? Jimin was only being nice to him because he had money, he made that clear; it wasn’t like he actually enjoyed talking to him. Even though the rational part of his brain knew that, the other, larger part, was too stimulated by the shows and the drinks and the music and Jimin himself, to care. So what if he was being used? He was also using that place for his own personal satisfaction in the end. Jimin smiled and flirted with him for money, yeah, but it was hardly the first time that happened.

 

Even though Taehyung had grown up in a home full of genuine love, all of the relationships outside his family were always similar to business relationships. His friends always competed with him and each other about who had gone on the best vacation or who drove the best car, and he always felt pressured into exchanging things with them: contacts, dinners, clothes… no one ever did anything for him without expecting something in return. The people he had dated had been the same, too; it was always like a competition about who was giving more.

 

So, Taehyung and his brothers had grown up into hedonists who learned enough about business to know when it would be worth it to invest their time or money on a person. If someone wasn’t going to give them anything they were interested in, they’d just look past them. The three of them had different ways to disguise this, though, Taehyung being the most straightforward one. He had gone into that bar looking for someone to spend the night with, and he had wanted Jimin to be that person, but his basic plan of ‘just sitting there and ordering drinks to have an excuse to talk to him’ seemed to be falling apart.

 

“Okay… I’ll slow down on the drinking, but, in order to stay alert all night, I’ll keep ordering snacks. Is that okay?” He proposed as a backup plan.

 

“You don’t have to ask for my permission, Mr. Kim.” Jimin laughed. “You can do whatever you want, I was only giving you a humble suggestion.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, but you’re right. I’m embarrassing when I’m hammered, and I want to be awake when I get out of this place.” He nodded, feeling a bit more hopeful now. “Can I request something else, though?”

 

“Sure, what is it?”

 

“Um… the only people who call me Mr. Kim are the factory workers, so hearing it makes me feel like I’m at work. Can you please call me Taehyung?”

 

“Oh…” Jimin looked legitimately worried for a second. “Sorry, yes, no problem, Taehyung-ssi.”

 

“Thank you.” He offered the waiter a sincere smile.

 

“Well, call me if you need anything else.” Jimin waved casually and went on his merry way to wait on other customers. Once again, Taehyung watched his beautiful back view and sighed.

 

Jimin continued working diligently, occasionally looking back at Taehyung’s table and catching him staring at him and then pretending that he wasn’t. It was cute how obvious he was, so he only hoped that no one else would steal his attention for the time being.

 

The night was going as it usually did, until suddenly, Jimin heard the loud and unmistakable sound of a gunshot coming from the direction where the piano was. His eyes instantly looked that way, but instead of Yoongi all he saw was a man standing next to the empty piano, holding a gun. Jimin’s heart started racing as his eyes scanned the whole room, frantically looking for any sign that his friend was alright, but people were quickly leaving their tables and running in all directions, which made it difficult for him to see.

 

His survival instinct kicked in, telling him to run to safety, but there was one thing, one very important thing preventing him from doing so: The man walked in the direction of their ‘backstage’, aka the place where Jungkook spent most of his time and where he was most likely to be now.

 

No, please, God, no.

 

This couldn’t be happening.

 

It was a nightmare, right?

 

Yeah, it had to be a nightmare. There was no way his greatest fear, the reason why he had escaped his hometown with Jungkook 3 years ago, had caught up to them.

 

As his mind showed him flashbacks of the past and horrible images of what could happen, his body moved by itself as fast as it could, and he hid behind the bar to watch more closely.

 

“You’re not so brave now, huh? Come out and fight me, you little bitch.” The man shouted as he kept banging on the door. Since the waiters were always coming and going, the backstage door usually remained open, but this time Jimin was grateful that Jungkook had closed it in time. Still, the man kept insisting. “Do you know who we are? Do you even know who you’re messing with? You messed with the Red Bullets, runt. You’re not leaving this place alive.”

 

Jimin mentally put the pieces of information together. This man was not after Jungkook, but after Yoongi. That meant the men that Yoongi had beaten up were from that gang, and it also meant that Yoongi was hiding backstage, probably with Jungkook, and, based on the fact that Jimin was alone behind the bar, possibly with Hoseok as well.

 

So all his friends were together and safe for now, that was good. But the shooter was from a gang, which meant that he wasn’t alone, that was bad. Other gang members would soon join him and break down the door and… No, no, no, Park Jimin, don’t think about the worst, just think of a solution.

 

He could get a perfect view of the shotgun that Hoseok had hidden under the bar, but he knew for a fact that he only used it to scare customers who refused to pay, it wasn’t loaded and he had no idea how to shoot. But even if it were loaded, and even if he did know how to shoot, the guy was in a gang, so he would be outnumbered soon.

 

Oh!

 

He suddenly remembered. Mr. Kim. Mr. Lots of Cash. Mr. Human Cherry. Taehyung. Taehyung was from a ‘family’, he even mentioned having ‘factory workers’. Taehyung had power, and people working under him. He most likely had bodyguards hiding somewhere in the restaurant.

 

Jimin sneaked out and went back to the tables, frantically searching for him. Good thing his hair and outfit would make him easy to notice. Even though his common sense told him that someone with bodyguards would surely be the first person to exit the establishment, he was his only hope now. He had to try.

 

Customers and workers alike were still rushing outside, and he cursed his short height for rendering him unable to see over anyone’s heads; however, as he looked everywhere with growing anxiety, he heard a voice calling his name, and then a cold hand grabbed his wrist and started pulling him towards the exit. He was going to wriggle himself out of the grasp, but then he looked down and saw the ruby rings on a now pale hand, and he felt so grateful that he could cry. A deity was definitely on his side that night.

 

He allowed Taehyung to lead them both outside and to a corner of the street to catch their breath, and then they chaotically started speaking at the same time.

 

“Are you okay? Did you get hu---?”

 

“Taehyung-ssi! Please help me! Help me! You’re the only one who can help me now!”

 

“Woah, woah, it’s okay, it’s alright, we’re safe now. Here.” Taehyung placed his hands on Jimin’s shoulders, half to give him support, and half to keep himself from falling to the ground. His legs were shaking so much. He had witnessed bar fights before, but guns were new for him.

 

“No we’re not! I mean we are, but. I need your help!” Jimin grabbed the collar of his shirt firmly. “My… my family’s still in there.”

 

“Your family?” Taehyung’s eyes widened, studying Jimin’s expression. He was completely serious. He decided not to question why Jimin had brought his family to the gay bar where he danced and instead he wondered why they were still in there. “How could I help you?”

 

“The shooter is still in there, please tell your men to take him down!” Jimin answered quickly, in a high-pitched and desperate voice. “I’ll pay you back, I promise! I swear! They don’t even have to kill him if they don’t want to, just leave him unconscious long enough for me to save my family.”

 

“M-My men…?” Taehyung tried to process each word. Jimin was speaking so fast and with so very little sense.

 

“Yeah! Your henchmen, your bodyguards, you know, the men who escort you!” He tightened his grip on Taehyung’s shirt. “Please, I’ll be indebted to you forever. I’ll do anything, I have to… I promised Jungkook I’d never let anything happen to him.”

 

“Jimin-ssi, I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” Taehyung gulped, carefully placing his hands over Jimin’s. “I don’t have any henchmen or bodyguards, I came alone.”

 

Jimin’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened. “What? You came here alone? Alone? To this neighborhood? With those expensive clothes and jewelry and glasses? Sure, sure you did.” His expression turned into an angry one, and he let go of him, starting to get away.

 

“Wait, where are you going? I’m telling you the truth, I came alone. I want to help you, but I don’t have any bodyguards.” Taehyung started to follow Jimin, who seemed to be heading back to the bar, for some reason. “Hey, please tell me what’s going on, and maybe I can help you in another way.”

 

“Nevermind. There’s no point in wasting my time here with you while my family gets murdered.” He still spoke angrily, but his voice cracked at the end, and he pushed his hair back a couple of times. Yeah, definitely a nervous tic.

 

“I’m worried about you and your family, I want to help.” Taehyung grabbed his wrist again. “You shouldn’t go back in there, it’s dangerous.”

 

“Then what am I supposed to do?!” Jimin was yelling. “You’re not going to help me, so I’ll do it myself.”

 

“What exactly are you going to do? If you came to me for help it’s because you’re unarmed, so how are you going to face that guy by yourself? You’ll get killed too!”

 

“I have one last option! I won’t be able to live with my conscience if I don’t at least try!” Even though Jimin argued, he had stopped moving. He was scared, and he was only stalling on the only desperate option he had left, which was to get in there, grab the shotgun, and try to look as menacing as possible. It was an awful plan, but he had nothing else.

 

Taehyung watched him with disbelief. That guy, who was such a graceful dancer and a friendly and flirty waiter, was also the type of person who would go unarmed against a shooter to protect his loved ones. Jimin was a complex guy, and the more Taehyung learned about him, the more intrigued he was. He couldn’t lose him. This couldn’t be the last he saw of him.

 

“I’ll help you.” He mumbled with uncertainty. “But not like that, that’s too risky. Please don’t go back in there.”

 

“Then how?”

 

“Contacts.” He answered, retrieving his phone from his pocket and pressing his thumb against a specific spot in it. “Done. Help will be here in a few minutes.”

 

“You… just pushed a button. You didn’t talk to anyone, you didn’t message anyone. Are you kidding me right now? ‘cause this is a terrible time to be--”.

 

“It’s an emergency speed dial.” Taehyung explained calmly. “I don’t have bodyguards, exactly, but this informs my brothers that I’m in danger and sends them my location. And we do have security at home, so…”

 

“So you do have henchmen.”

 

“Please don’t call them henchmen, you make me sound like a mob boss or something like that.” Taehyung sighed. “They’re private security. They used to be cops or in the military and now they work for my family.”

 

“Oh… but they have guns, right?”

 

“Well, yeah, though they haven’t needed them until now, thankfully. But, since I sent the emergency signal, and no one knows what kind of trouble I’m in, they’ll probably bring them.” Taehyung explained, then sighed heavily. “I was just going to call a cab and go home, so that my brothers wouldn’t know what happened, but I can’t leave knowing that I didn’t help you save your family. That would be… wow, I could never face you again.”

 

“Um… thank you, Taehyung-ssi. And sorry for how I reacted earlier, I’m very nervous.” Jimin shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

 

“It’s alright, I would be freaking out too if I were in your position. Have you had a situation like this before?”

 

“No, well, nothing personal like this.” Jimin shook his head. “That guy, the shooter, is a member of a gang called the Red Bullets. They’re one of the largest local gangs, and they come to the bar occasionally. We’ve never had trouble with them, until today.”

 

“Well, if the trouble isn’t with you personally, then your family should be alright for now, right? Maybe he’s after a member from another gang?” The words came out of Taehyung’s mouth casually, but his brain was still trying to process everything. He had gone to a bar where gang members went to drink and apparently shoot each other. Great. His brothers would love that, and his parents would love it even more. Cool. Cool. Everything was cool. Real cool.

 

“The trouble is… with Yoongi-hyung. The piano player, the shooter is after him.”

 

“Oh…” Taehyung remembered the piano player, and then he remembered the fight after the singer finished his set, and things started clicking in. Poor Jimin, getting his family caught in a gang conflict because of some irresponsible piano player. “Is he still there too?”

 

Jimin gave him a sour smile. “Yoongi-hyung, Hoseokie-hyung and Jungkookie are my family.”

 

Before Taehyung had a chance to even process the words, they heard another gunshot from inside the bar, and everything followed in slow motion: Jimin rushing towards it, Taehyung trying to stop him, Jimin skillfully freeing himself from his grasp and running inside, Taehyung yelling his name in vain, and standing by the door hesitantly.

 

His common sense told him to wait for help to arrive, but he couldn’t get Jimin’s words and pained expression out of his mind. Those guys were his family. What if it were Taehyung in his situation? What if his brothers were the ones in a locked room with a shooter? Yeah, he would probably run straight into the danger zone too.

 

So he did the most irrational thing he had ever done in his life, and stepped into the bar, slowly, silently. What am I doing? His common sense asked, muffled in the background.

 

It was seemingly empty, but he heard loud voices coming from the back, and he recognized two. One was Jimin, and the other one was Hoseok, the bartender. So they were alive and well! Taehyung started walking faster in the direction of the voices and he made a full stop when he finally caught sight of them.

 

“I was so worried, oh my God, I’ll never leave you alone again.” Jimin seemed to be wiping tears from his face.

 

“I was more worried about you since you were out there… Hyung, please don’t cry.” A taller guy, who Taehyung now recognized as the singer from before, was comforting Jimin.

 

“I was so scared!” Hoseok was almost weeping in the pianist’s arms. “I didn’t know what else to do.”

 

“You did what you had to do, sunshine, it’s alright.” The shorter guy patted his back, staring down at the floor with a solemn expression.

 

Taehyung followed Yoongi’s gaze, and there he saw a man lying on the floor. Unconscious. Perhaps dead? With a gun and a shotgun both lying nearby. That place just continued out-weirding itself.

 

“Um… hello.” He greeted the strange bunch. Hoseok yelled, Yoongi and Jungkook assumed a fighting stance, and Jimin was the only one to react normally.

 

“Taehyung-ssi, you’re here… you followed me?” He asked shyly. “Guys, Taehyung-ssi has been very helpful, he was worried about you too.”

 

“Oh! It’s Mr. Newcomer!” Hoseok seemed to remember him, but the other two still eyed him suspiciously.

 

“Are you a cop?” Yoongi asked. “’cause if you are, you should know that Hoseok only hit him in self-defense.”

 

“He’s not a cop! I told you, he’s with a ‘family’.” Jimin answered before Taehyung got a chance. At that point, the young heir had no idea what the word family was supposed to mean for those people.

 

“So… did you shoot him?” He inquired, looking at the person on the floor, who didn’t appear to be bleeding.

 

“No! He’s the one who shot! Look!” Hoseok yelled exasperatedly, pointing at a hole in the backstage door. “Yoongi-hyung and Jungkook were behind that door, and he shot at the lock so he could get in! I was hiding in the bathroom up until that point, trying to build some courage, but when I heard that shot I knew I had to do something! And when I came out I saw Jiminie and he just… handed me the shotgun that I always hide behind the bar, but I couldn’t shoot!”

 

“His hands were shaking so much and he kept gesturing at me to do it, and I thought it wasn’t loaded but it turns out that it was, but I don’t know how to shoot, so we kept tossing it to each other while the guy started kicking the door.” Jimin added to the story.

 

“So in the end I grabbed it and hit his head with the handle. Bam!” Hoseok gestured the motion.

 

“Bam!” Jungkook echoed, that being his only contribution to the conversation.

 

“And then we knocked on the door and we reunited!” Jimin added happily. “And then you came in.”

 

“Why are you telling him all this? I’m telling you he might be a cop, look at him, he’s so suspicious.” Yoongi insisted.

 

Taehyung nodded as he absorbed all the information, and he crouched down next to the fallen shooter, taking his pulse with one hand.

 

“Hey don’t touch the corpse!” Hoseok yelled again.

 

“It’s not a corpse, he’s alive.” Taehyung stated. “It’s alright, guys, no one got murdered today."

 

He offered them an awkward smile, and Jimin beamed right back at him. It made his heart speed up a little bit with excitement. That place was full of weird people and weird events, and yet Jimin radiated a strange warm energy that somehow didn’t feel out of place. It only made his curiosity grow.

 

Then, police sirens.

 

“Shit, I told you he was a cop!” Yoongi growled, watching Taehyung with disdain.

 

“I’m not! I swear!” He raised his hands defensively. “This has nothing to do with me!”

 

A few moments passed when everyone eyed each other with confused expressions.

 

“Just… answer only to what they ask you, okay? Don’t give them any unnecessary extra information.” Jimin instructed Jungkook.

 

“But I didn’t see anything?”

 

“That’s the spirit.”

 

Two police agents appeared in front of them, and everyone put their hands up as a reflex.

 

“Alright, we’ve got an unconscious man and 4 suspects in the scene. Mr. Kim is here also, he doesn’t seem to be injured.” One of the agents radioed. “Mr. Kim, I came by your brother’s request. He’s friends with my uncle, Mr. Jung.”

 

Taehyung only opened his mouth in surprise. So Seokjin had strategically befriended someone who had a relative in the police, he wasn’t just randomly befriending random elderly men. Once again, it was as if they simply couldn’t establish a relationship with anyone outside their family without having to play that game of exchanging contacts and favors.

 

“All of you, keep your hands up and turn around please.” The other agent instructed them. “Mr. Kim, please follow officer Jung outside.”

 

“…why?” He asked, noticing how Jimin and his friends were reluctantly following the police’s orders. “Why am I the only one going outside?”

 

“Because there’s an unconscious, possibly dead, man on the floor and they’re the only people in the scene.” Officer Jung answered seriously. “We need to search them and question them, so please follow me outside. Your brothers came to take you home.”

 

Taehyung wasn’t stupid. Ever since he was a child, his grandmother had drilled into him the knowledge that he was privileged and should be grateful, that he had many opportunities that other children didn’t have, and that someday he would have a certain degree of influence over other people to make their lives a little better or a little worse. Of course, that didn’t make sense to him until he started growing up and getting away with things that others didn’t easily get away with. So many times his parents got him out of trouble just by paying for his mistakes, and in other occasions he got a preferential treatment but acted as if he had no idea.

 

Over time, Namjoon seemed to reach the same wisdom as their grandmother, and he shared it with him, albeit with different wording. Acts of injustice around him started to become glaringly obvious, and even though he could just keep looking away, he was fully aware of them, which made him feel guilty.

 

That night in particular, he simply couldn’t look away. There was no way he could just go home and act as if nothing happened, while leaving the bar workers to deal with the police on their own, with the possibility that at the very least two of them would spend the night in jail. He couldn’t. Jimin had gone to him for help, and he had indirectly brought the police on them. It wasn’t a matter of looking away from injustice anymore, it was outright cruel. He didn’t think his conscience would let him sleep ever again, so he did what he had to do.

 

He used his privilege.

 

“I’m also in the scene.” He said clearly. “Just because my brother called you doesn’t mean I’m not a suspect. On the contrary, it makes me more suspicious, so search me and question me too.”

 

Both agents looked at him with furrowed eyebrows.

 

“Ha ha, yeah that’s true.” The unidentified officer shook her head, but seemed to ignore him, crouching next to the unconscious man instead and asking for medical assistance on her radio after confirming that he was alive.

 

“I’m being serious. You’ll even find my fingerprints on the guy’s wrist.” He continued. It wasn’t that the felt particularly brave, but rather, he had the certainty that he would be okay. He didn’t feel that certain about the others. “And I know which gang he’s from, so you should question me.”

 

Jimin had half turned his head and was looking at Taehyung with disbelief. He was either incredibly powerful or incredibly stupid. If he really belonged to a cartel, giving himself to the police wouldn’t be good for him; but then again, that cop had said that she was related to a friend of Taehyung’s brother, so maybe he had some contacts in high places. Either way, why was he turning himself in? What could he possibly gain from that?

 

The two agents exchanged a look of confusion, and then Officer Jung spoke again. “Are you telling us the truth?”

 

He nodded. “Either arrest us all or release us all.”

 

Officer Jung looked at the other agent again, and the latter spoke. “Alright, keep your hands up and turn around.”

Chapter Text

El Mariachi.

 

When Taehyung had told him earlier that night that he was going out, the last place Seokjin would have expected him to go to was a place with such a tacky name. He knew that his youngest brother loved the nightlife, and that he had been bored out of his mind ever since they were forced to move to that town, so when he saw him getting dressed up that night before leaving their house, he naturally assumed that he would be going to some club in the city, not… there.

 

Kim Seokjin was the eldest heir of the biggest textile company in the continent. He was expected to take over it after his parents passed, but it turned out that, while he was very proud and enthusiastic about their brand, he didn’t have the necessary set of skills to run a business, so although he was the eldest, his parents rarely trusted him with big responsibilities. Most of those went to the middle son, Namjoon, which was a shame, because although he was undoubtedly responsible and diligent, he had to neglect his own dreams in order to do what Seokjin couldn’t do.

 

That made him feel extremely guilty, but instead of voicing it out loud and thus forcing Namjoon to carry with even more baggage, he tried to make it up by being the coolest big brother that he could be, and that included protecting the youngest one, Taehyung, from suffering the same fate. It was an unspoken agreement between Seokjin and Namjoon to just let Taehyung be happy and do whatever he felt like doing while the two of them took care of the rest. Unfortunately, their father didn’t seem to share their vision, and he requested all three of them to take charge of that factory in the middle of nowhere together, thus making Taehyung miserable.

 

It only made Seokjin feel even guiltier, like somehow his ineptitude was the cause of his brothers’ utter misery, and so he tried harder and harder to make them happy. He cooked for them and did their laundry and came up with awful puns to make them laugh; he encouraged Namjoon to keep writing in his spare time, and bought him a telescope because he knew how much he loved the night sky; he drove Taehyung to the city to go shopping, and, passing it as a fun overbearing big brother kind of joke, convinced him to install an app on his phone that was directly connected to his and Namjoon’s, and would alert them immediately if he was in trouble and inform them of his exact location in a very discreet way.

 

He was hoping that he would never need it, but after all, they were rich and new in town, and Taehyung was young and reckless. He might never need it, but… That night, when the unfamiliar alarm rang on his phone, Seokjin’s guilt was magnified to levels he never thought were possible.

 

He was yelling at Namjoon and their private security and running out the door while simultaneously beating himself up internally for letting Taehyung go out alone at night. He should have gone with him, he thought as he called his neighbor who had a niece working in the local police; he should have warned him about the dangers of exploring unknown places by himself, he thought as he rubbed his face in frustration while sitting in the car; he should have been more serious, more strict, shouldn’t have let Taehyung get everything he wanted, he thought as he continuously refreshed the app, hoping Taehyung would call any moment now and tell him he had activated it by accident.

 

He had failed as a brother, he thought now, as he stood outside that shabby-looking tavern waiting for Jung Wheein and her partner to come back with Taehyung alive and well.

 

The minutes during which he and Namjoon waited in silence seemed to last forever, even longer when the other two cops that had escorted them to the place went inside as well, and then emerged with a weird-looking group of guys… and Taehyung, who stood out as a bright red dot. They were all handcuffed, including Taehyung.

 

“Hey, what the fuck.” He eloquently articulated. “Hey, Wheein! That’s my brother! That’s Taehyung!”

 

“Please step back, Sir.” He was stopped by one of the members of their security.

 

“What do you mean ‘step back’? You do something! They’re arresting my brother!” He yelled, all of the guilt and anxiety he felt mixing with the reality that Taehyung had gotten into a serious problem.

 

“It’s okay, hyung, everything’s okay.” Taehyung said, obediently letting the cops lead him to their patrol car. “I’m going to testify and everything will be clarified.”

 

“Testify what?!”

 

But he was shoved into the back of Wheein’s patrol car along with another guy, while the other three went with the other two officers.

 

“Excuse me, Officer Jung, could you tell us what’s happening?” Namjoon tried in a more reasonable manner.

 

“We’re not entirely sure yet, so we’re going downtown to take everyone’s statements. We searched the whole bar and didn’t find anyone dead or injured, but a man is unconscious, and your brother was one of the few people on the scene.” Wheein explained briefly. “For the record, we weren’t going to arrest Taehyung, but he volunteered. I think he’s friends with the rest, so we’re bringing them all. Don’t worry too much about him though, I’m the good cop. Hyejin is the bad one.”

 

“Well… I’m sure everything will be clarified soon, right? Hyung, let’s go to the station. We’ll talk to him when he’s released.” Namjoon put a hand on Seokjin’s shoulder as he always did when he tried to reassure him. The eldest sighed, a little more relaxed knowing that at least no one had died, but still feeling very on edge about the strangeness of the whole situation.

 

“I’ll see you there, then.” Wheein clacked her tongue and did finger guns at them, before turning back to her patrol car. Seokjin and Namjoon went to their own car with their security.

 

 


 

 

Jimin sat uncomfortably in the back of the patrol car, full of anxiety and completely unable to do anything. To be honest, he was only truly worried about Jungkook. Even though Yoongi and Hoseok were the ones directly involved in the confrontation, they knew how to take care of themselves and how to use their natural charisma to get out of sticky situations; Jimin himself could prove that he had tried to get help, especially with Taehyung to back him up, but Jungkook… that kid was too transparent.

 

He would stare at the cops with his terrified deer caught in the headlights expression and they would start asking about other things, irrelevant things from the past, and he would reveal too much and he would get in trouble and Jimin would never see him again.

 

Relax, he kept telling himself, Jungkook is 18 years old, he’s legally an adult, things have changed. He’s not as vulnerable as he was 3 years ago.

 

His inner monologue was interrupted by Taehyung’s voice.

 

“Are you alright?” He whispered, and when Jimin turned to face him, he could see actual concern in his eyes.

 

“Y-yeah, well, no, I mean, I’m not hurt, but I’m definitely not doing well at all, obviously.” He tried to focus on the present and just how complicated his night had gotten. “You… you have a plan, right? Is this the person you called for help?”

 

“I had no idea the cops were going to show up, I swear!” Taehyung shook his head vehemently. “I thought only my brothers were coming with security, but it looks like one of them figured it was necessary to call the police as well.”

 

Jimin looked at him in silence, furrowing his eyebrows. Realization was starting to dawn on him. “So… you don’t have bodyguards, and even though your brother has contacts in the police, you still get arrested and want to testify, you are not afraid to face the police… Taehyung-ssi, you are not really… with a family, right?”

 

“You keep saying that word, I don’t think it means what I think it means.” Taehyung kept shaking his head, slower this time. “You call the other guys your family, you keep talking about mine as if it’s a secret, I don’t understand.”

 

“…You really don’t know.” Jimin took a moment to organize his thoughts, feeling a growing urge to beat himself up for jumping to conclusions and assuming that Taehyung was the kind of person who could help him in a situation like that. “Kim Taehyung, when you said you were here for family business, what did you mean?”

 

“I meant exactly that. My family has a business and I have to participate, it’s not mine, so it wasn’t my choice to come here.” Taehyung answered quickly. He was getting tired of being confused. “How about you? I don’t even know your full name. Are you really related to those guys? Is El Mariachi a family business as well?”

 

Jimin gulped. He could practically hear himself screaming in the back of his head. So that guy had meant a literal family business, like, a company, not a drug cartel. “But what kind of normal businessman goes into a trashy bar full of gangs without a single bodyguard?!”

 

He had, however, screamed that last part out loud. Wheein whistled from the driver’s seat, shaking her head in disapproval. “I’m pretending not to hear anything so that you guys can agree on your alibis, but that’s gonna be hard if you don’t even know each other.”

 

Taehyung’s eyes widened, surprised by Jimin’s accusation as well as the cop’s corruption. “I… Excuse me, I looked it up online and it was literally the only gay bar that showed up, I had no way to know it was full of gangs! And why are you yelling at me when your friend was the one who got in trouble with the shooter? And your other friend was the one who hit him!”

 

“Oh no, this is the opposite of what you’re supposed to be doing, guys, come on. I’m giving you so much leverage.” Wheein sighed, more to herself than to the two suspects.

 

“Hey, that was legitimate self defense. Yoongi-hyung was trying to protect Jungkookie, and Hoseokie-hyung was protecting them both. The investigation will show that.” Jimin spoke loudly, just in case the cop was just pretending to help them so they would let their guard down. He couldn’t trust anyone. “And I only yelled because I can’t believe how naïve you are! I went to you thinking your henchmen would help me, and it turns out you needed more help than anyone, pffft, I’m sorry.”

 

Jimin started laughing then. He couldn’t help it, the entire situation was so absurd. “Ah ha ha ha, not only do you not have henchmen but you’re just a regular rich kid who ended up in such a place, oh my God and now you’re going to a police station for the first time ever, I bet, ha ha ha ha ha. Taehyung-ssi, you’re so unfortunate.”

 

Taehyung stared at him in disbelief. He had turned himself in to the police to support Jimin and now he was mocking him. Well… served him right for trying to get in the pants of a waiter he had only seen once, he supposed. “And you… you could have protected your friends yourself but you went to me for help, and all I did was accidentally bring the cops on you. Now you’re going to jail for thinking that I was powerful. Pffft, Jimin-ssi, you’re even more naïve than me.”

 

“I know, it’s as if you walked into the bar tonight just to ruin my life!” Jimin was in hysterics at this point, letting out all of his anxiety through uncontrollable laughter. The sound he made was extremely contagious so Taehyung couldn’t help but laugh along. There was nothing else they could do anyways.

 

“I’m really, really sorry.” The young heir apologized, though he was still wearing an unfitting boxy smile. “I swear I wasn’t sent out to ruin your life, I only intended to get wasted and laid tonight.”

 

“And I swear I didn’t mean to drag you into a crime scene, I just wanted to get laid and a bit richer.”

 

“Ha ha ha… what?” Taehyung’s laugh became a bit more shallow then.

 

“Oh, you know…” Jimin shrugged, though his smile also faltered. “Wait, don’t misunderstand, it’s not like I charge for—it’s not like I make money from that!”

 

“Oh, but you… did you…?” Taehyung wanted to ask if he had meant getting laid with him, but that would be horribly upfront, even in that situation. “Wait, you’re doing it again. You keep making me talk more while you just put on more and more layers of mystery. Officer Jung is right, we should at least know each other before getting to the station.”

 

Jimin stopped smiling altogether then, feeling a little bit exposed. It was unusual for someone to insist on knowing more about him, since he had carefully constructed a mask that allowed him to present himself as a pretty boy with a fun but basic enough personality to make the clients feel like they were the most interesting people in the world. It allowed him to keep his job and occasionally receive some presents, but at the same time it guaranteed that he wouldn’t get attached to anyone to prevent him from leaving that town as soon as he could.

 

Even though it had already been 3 years, he had never intended to stay there for so long, and it was bad enough that he had already gotten attached to his hyungs, but they were aware from the start that he and Jungkook would go away one of those days. On the other hand, after everything that had happened, he was almost sure that Kim Taehyung would never want to see him again, so he might as well just tell him what he wanted to know.

 

“It’s Park, Park Jimin.” He started, more seriously. “And no, we’re not actually related. Jungkook and I grew up in Busan together, and when we moved here, Yoongi-hyung and Hoseokie-hyung helped us settle in, and we even lived in their house for a few months until we could finally rent our own space, so we’re all very close… The bar is not ours. Hoseokie-hyung worked there as a bartender when we first met and he helped us all get jobs there, one by one. It wasn’t like a lot of people wanted to work there at first, but now we have more staff.”

 

“Oh… So that’s why you were so worried about them. You guys are like a real family, right?” Taehyung smiled sincerely, thinking of his own brothers. “They must be happy to be able to count on you.”

 

Jimin could swear his heart skipped a beat but he blamed it on the thrill of the recent events, it had absolutely nothing to do with Taehyung or how sweet his tone had become all of a sudden.

 

“Mm, I guess, yeah, we have to support each other.” He answered looking out the window.

 

“We’re here, children.” Wheein announced, stopping in front of the police station. “As long as the unconscious guy from the bar doesn’t die, you shouldn’t be in too much trouble, but still, try to be careful with your statements.”

 

 


 

 

Contrary to Jimin’s expectations, Jungkook was actually the first one to get off the hook. His story was perfectly solid, he had been in the storage room the whole time, and since he was an adult there had been no need to ask him about his parents or anything that wasn’t relevant to the case. Jimin and Taehyung had also been released after confirming that they had not been in contact with the shooter or any of the weapons. They also learned that the shooter was not actually affiliated with the Red Bullets, so they didn’t have to fear repercussions from any other gang members in the future.

 

On the other hand, Yoongi and Hoseok were still in trouble. Yoongi had beaten up three guys including the victim, and Hoseok’s fingerprints were all over the shotgun, which he claimed belonged to him, even though he didn’t have a license for it. He had also admitted he had used it to incapacitate the attacker, but until that person was released from the hospital, the police couldn’t get his side of the story and thus wouldn’t be able to release Yoongi or Hoseok yet.

 

When Jimin and Taehyung left their respective interrogation rooms, they met again in the hall, and smiled at each other awkwardly before going to the waiting room to meet their respective families. Taehyung’s brothers stood up to hug him for a very long time, before Seokjin pushed him and started speaking quickly, calling him an irresponsible idiot as well as a bunch of other assorted insults as he kept slapping at his arms. Namjoon told him to keep calm and to talk things through at home, but he didn’t do anything to stop the hitting, which meant that he was upset, too.

 

Jungkook had stood up as well, but he only stared at Jimin with his big eyes full of worry, hands shoved inside the pockets of the hoodie that Jimin hated, because it made him look like a lost kid. He patted his head and sat down in silence, and Jungkook immediately followed. They couldn’t leave yet. It was late and their hyungs were still under interrogation, so it would be better to wait till the morning. He wasn’t sure if the police would let them stay, though, but it would be dangerous to try to go home at that hour.

 

He could still hear the funny sound of Taehyung’s brother’s exasperated voice and Taehyung’s ‘Ouch, hyung, stop, you’re embarrassing me’, which made him smile sadly as he remembered his own home. He wondered if his family still thought of him, if they were still searching, if they had forgiven him… and then he saw Jungkook on his side and thought of his family and how much he hoped they had stopped searching for him.

 

There were so many types of families and homes, and Taehyung seemed to have a good one. Those two freakishly tall guys had answered to Taehyung’s signal immediately and even called for police backup, and then they had waited for him and hugged him as if they had thought they had lost him. They seemed to have a good bond, so Jimin couldn’t help but feel happy for him. In spite of everything, his night was going to end well after all. Jimin’s night, and even his future, on the other hand… that was still uncertain.

 

“Jimin-ssi.” He heard an unfamiliar voice call him, and he turned his head to realize that it was one of Taehyung’s brothers. “Do you guys need a ride home?”

 

He opened his mouth to answer, but no words came out. He didn’t know those guys, and Taehyung clearly had no time to tell them about him, so how…? “Thank you, you’re very kind, but we actually have to wait for our other friends to be released, so, that might take a while.”

 

“Yeah, that’s precisely why you should go home and come back in the morning when you’re well rested.” The other brother answered. “Jungkook told us there’s still a lot of investigation to be done.”

 

Of course, Jungkook. Jungkook told them. After all, they were all sitting together in the waiting room. That little shit, didn’t he learn anything about not talking to strangers? Jimin shot him a significant glare before turning his attention back to the two giants and smiling sweetly. “Yeah, we probably should, but… we kind of live in a bad neighborhood, and it’s kind of late, so, it’ll be better if we just wait till morning.”

 

“Oh, in that case, you could stay with us. We’ll drive you here in the morning.” This time, it was Taehyung’s voice. “Our guest house is very comfortable.”

 

What kind of cheap horror movie plot?

 

“I really… don’t think it’s necessary?” Jimin insisted. “You’ve already gone through so much trouble tonight, so please go home and rest.”

 

“Well, actually, you’ve gone through much more trouble, and it’s partially our fault.” The one who had been hitting Taehyung, who Jimin had filed in his mind as ‘shoulder hyung’, spoke in a more serious tone. “It was because of us that you got arrested, and we had assumed that you were all bad people, but after questioning Jungkook here-”

 

“Chatting, hyung, we were having a casual chat with Jungkook.” The other brother, who would still be called ‘the other hyung’ for now, corrected.

 

“After having a casual but very informative conversation with Jungkook, we understood that you guys were victims as much as our little brother.” Shoulder hyung continued. “And we really have no problem with you guys staying at our guest house for tonight. My friends stay over all the time.”

 

“And we’d really like Taehyung to make new friends in this town.” Other hyung offered, staring at him with an almost pleading expression. The fact that they were asking him specifically, and not Jungkook, meant that the latter had given them a very accurate description of the kind of relationship that they had.

 

It wasn’t like he was Jungkook’s parent, except he kind of was.

 

“Um, could you give Jungkook and me a minute? We need to discuss a little something first.” He smiled sheepishly, standing up and tugging at Jungkook’s hoodie a little too forcefully.

 

He followed him to a corner of the same room, not too far from the others, who had now resumed talking to each other, apparently questioning Taehyung about specific details.

 

“What did you do?” Jimin asked, crossing his arms.

 

“Hey, you’re the one who told me to smile and be pretty when we had rich customers.” The younger retorted. “Besides, they’re the ones who started talking to me, I just answered their questions.”

 

“First of all, you’re supposed to smile and be pretty while you’re on stage, not off. You shouldn’t be talking to anyone, did you forget?” Jimin was whispering, but he punctuated his words as much as he could. “And secondly, as if being questioned by the police wasn’t enough, you let some strangers question you as well?”

 

“They’re not strangers anymore, they introduced themselves. Kim Seokjin and Kim Namjoon, they’re Taehyung-ssi’s older brothers.” Jungkook shook his head. “Their family has a really big textile company called BTS. They’re rich, hyung. Besides, you were planning to go home with Taehyung-ssi anyway, so why are you so fidgety now?”

 

“I’m not fidgety.” Jimin quickly defended himself. “And… that’s different. It’s one thing going to a hotel with a hookup, and it’s a different thing to go to his house, with his family, after being arrested. It’s so… personal. Oh. Okay, you may have a point, I am fidgety. I’m very careful of our privacy. How much did you tell them about us?”

 

“Hmm… Well, I told them we work at the bar, of course, that was the first thing they asked after my name and ‘hey, do you know BTS?’ I told them what each one of us does at the bar, that we’re friends and roommates, that Yoongi and Hoseokie-hyung are boyfriends, hmm, what else?” Jungkook tapped his chin. “Oh, how old we are. They were very interested in you being two months older than Taehyung-ssi, and I told them you’re single and available.”

 

Jungkook scrunched up his nose and laughed, which earned him a punch to the arm. Jimin’s fist was really small and Jungkook’s arms were getting stronger recently, so it didn’t do much, though, but the intention was still there. “This is why you can’t talk to people. What else?”

 

“Not much else.” Jungkook shrugged. “They mostly wanted to know what happened tonight, so most of the conversation focused on that. You gotta stop being paranoid about what happened in Busan, hyung, I have no need to tell anyone. That’s in the past.”

 

Jimin let out a heavy sigh. He wished he could really believe those words, but he couldn’t. He wouldn’t feel safe until they reached a point where their past wouldn’t catch up to them. What had happened earlier, what had triggered the whole confrontation, was those guys surrounding Jungkook and pulling at him. It hadn’t been a gang. And now Jimin couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility that Jungkook’s father had somehow found out where he was working, and had sent those men to bring him back home, or worse.

 

The younger didn’t seem to have considered that, though, and Jimin didn’t want to worry him. Maybe they would be safer at Taehyung’s house after all. If Jungkook’s family knew where they worked they probably knew where they lived too, and the Kims were indeed rich and had plenty of security at their home, so it would be the best place to spend the night and plan what they would do with their lives from the next day on.

 

“Alright, guess we’ll be having a sleepover.”

 

 


 

 

When Taehyung had planned to find someone to sleep with that night, this was not at all what he had meant. They wouldn’t even technically sleep together, since Jimin would be staying at the guest house. He had also not managed to seduce Jimin properly, so he couldn’t even call him a date, nor a hookup, nor a friend. He was ‘the waiter I got arrested with’, which he wasn’t even sure was a proper relationship category.

 

It was the most bizarre situation of his life and yet the initial excitement of the night hadn’t completely died yet. Jimin had caught his eye from the moment he appeared dancing on that table and the more he got to know about him the more layers of mystery he seemed to uncover. His night had not gone as intended, but he would try to fix it, try to have a semi-normal human connection with him that would allow him to start over some other time.

 

The three brothers led their guests around the guesthouse, encouraging them to make themselves at home and to call them through the intercom if they needed anything. They also reminded them that they had security around the property, and the only way to access the guesthouse was through the main house, so they should feel safe. Then, they returned to their home to have a family meeting.

 

Usually, Taehyung always had one of his brothers on his side during those meetings. When he argued with Seokjin, Namjoon would mediate between the two and make sure that they worked out their problem; he also comforted Taehyung if Seokjin made him cry. If he argued with Namjoon, Seokjin would side with Taehyung, mostly because Namjoon made very compelling arguments so, in Seokjin’s words, they had to be together if they wanted to be stronger. They never had any serious conflicts though, just regular sibling quarrels.

 

However, this time was different. They were in the library, which was the most neutral part of their house, Namjoon sitting at the desk with Seokjin standing by his side with his arms crossed, like he was ready to tackle Taehyung if he made a move to escape. The youngest felt incredibly small as he sat across from them. They weren’t mad at him, they weren’t even disappointed in him, they were just scared.

 

They told him he should have researched more about the places he intended to go, especially at night, and that he should have talked to them about it. They reminded him that they were unfortunately vulnerable because of their social position, and that he should be careful. Namjoon was the one who did most of the talking, but Seokjin agreed with him, nodding the whole time and adding a comment here and there. They weren’t attacking him, and yet he started crying at some point. It was the first time they were a team against him, which meant that he had really, for the first time, gone too far.

 

He apologized and promised that he would be more careful, and they made a vow not to tell their parents anything about what happened. They also agreed that Seokjin and Taehyung would wake up early and drive the guests to the police station in the morning, so Seokjin would be going to bed already while Taehyung was instructed to check if they needed anything before going to sleep. Namjoon still had to finish some spreadsheets he was working on when he had been interrupted to pick up Taehyung, which made the latter feel a little guiltier, so he left him to work and made his way back to the guesthouse.

 

 


 

 

It was a little past 2 am now and Jimin was staring at a wall, thoughts about the past, present and future all jumbled together. If his night had continued as usual, he’d still have a couple more shows to do before going home with his tips; instead he was staying at the guesthouse of some very rich and handsome strangers whose business was most definitely legal, he could easily confirm now with all the pictures and awards and framed newspaper articles that decorated the place.

 

He couldn’t complain. He hadn’t been in a real house in 3 years, he had taken a nice bath and changed into clothes that were too big for him (because this was a family of giants, it seemed) and was now staring at a wall full of kids photos while Jungkook was losing his mind over some book he found.

 

His future, and by extension, Jungkook’s future, were blurry. Whether or not the police released Yoongi and Hoseok the next day, the bar would still be closed until the investigation was complete, so they wouldn’t have a workplace to return to for a while. The shooter still had to provide his statement, so depending on what he declared, they could be arrested or called to testify again, and there was still the very strong possibility that he had been sent by Jungkook’s father and if that was the case then it wouldn’t be the last time they’d hear of him.

 

Maybe it was a good thing that the bar would be closed. They would be more difficult to find that way.

 

His inner monologue was interrupted by the sound of the entrance door being softly opened, which suddenly brought him back to the present. Right. They were in a house. A guesthouse to be exact, which could only be accessed via the main house, so…

 

“Excuse me… I came to check if you guys needed anything.” He heard Taehyung’s voice before he stepped into the living room. “Oh, I see you already changed your clothes.”

 

“Yeah… thanks, you’ve been too kind.” Jimin said with a tired smile. “We’re alright, it’s just that at this hour we’re usually working, so we’re not sleepy yet.”

 

“Of course.” Taehyung nodded, and his eyes remained for a bit too long on the shirt Jimin was wearing. Jimin figured it must have had something to do with the fact that it kept falling off of his shoulders, so he pulled it up for the millionth time.

 

“What about you? Do you tend to stay up late too?” He asked to break the uncomfortable staring contest.

 

“Well, not always, but… I was really planning to stay up all night, and I’m a little drunk, so…” Taehyung answered, scratching the back of his head in apparent embarrassment.

 

“Hey, don’t worry about it, it’s Friday night.” Jimin shrugged. “You even wanted to be the most generous client of the night and all.”

 

“Oh, God, yeah, I said that.” Taehyung sat down on the couch, looking even more embarrassed. Jimin found it sincerely cute. “It’s just… there’s something about that place, you know? I was very affected by it, in a good way. I hadn’t felt this excited in so long.”

 

“Yeah, it’s a place where dreams come true.” Jimin laughed. “And you won! Since the night ended abruptly much earlier than usual, you were indeed the most generous tipper!”

 

“Was I? Ooh, what an honor, I had never won at anything.” Taehyung joked, which made Jimin laugh together with him. The guy was as attractive as he was awkward. “But… on a more serious note, I really, really enjoyed my time tonight, until, you know.”

 

“Yeah, I know, me too.” Jimin nodded, still smiling. “I thought it was gonna be a good night, but well, at least I’ll spend what’s left of it in a beautiful house.”

 

“Mm.” Taehyung agreed, and there were a few seconds of silence before he spoke softly again. “I would like to start over, though. I mean, obviously I can’t redo this night, but, I’d like to go to the bar again, and watch your show, and sit at table 4 and flirt with you properly.”

 

Jimin let out a dry laugh. “Ha, sounds fun, but who knows if that will happen… the bar will be closed for a while until the investigation is over.”

 

“Oh.” Taehyung just stared at him for a few seconds with his mouth half open. “That-That’s not good, right?”

 

“Nope, no good at all.” Jimin shook his head, then sighed deeply. “And depending on how that ends -the investigation, I mean- we may have to find other jobs.”

 

“Oh, no…” Taehyung looked concerned now, as if he was starting to remember that El Mariachi was not actually a magical place, but a bar where people like Jimin and Jungkook tried to make a living. “Well, we’re new in this town, but my family’s still well connected, so I’m sure we could help you find new jobs if you need.”

 

Jimin stared at the man before him in disbelief. He was so dense and innocent, it was a wonder he hadn’t been killed yet. Even Jimin was tempted to kick his ass, steal his rubies and run, simply because he could.

 

“Listen, Taehyung-ssi.” He leaned forward, and watched Taehyung mirror his move. He figured Jungkook must have been really caught up by his book or he would be mocking them at this point. “People like you don’t usually associate with people like me for more than one fleeting moment. What happened tonight was a series of unfortunate events, but they end here. We’re not likely to meet again, we shouldn’t meet again. It’s already weird enough that we’re having this conversation.”

 

Taehyung furrowed his eyebrows, and for a second Jimin actually thought ‘Maybe I underestimated him’, but the words that came out of his mouth were clearly measured. “I know why you’re saying this, and I get it. I’m a rich heir and you’re a waiter, so clearly we can’t connect beyond one crazy night. I get that, I’m not trying to romanticize anything. But, we were drawn to each other tonight, for one reason or another, and we were drawn multiple times, so why not try to make the most of it?”

 

Jimin was intrigued, so he simply nodded to let him carry on.

 

“What I’m saying is, I feel so lonely and desperate that I spent way too much time creating a ‘concept’ for my outfit to attract someone, and the moment I saw you, I did everything in my power to catch your eye, which isn’t hard because I’m rich and handsome. I know how to do business; I’ve been living my whole life like this: you provide me something that I need, and I’ll do the same for you. I need company, maybe a one night stand, maybe a friend, maybe someone who can show me around until I feel confident enough to go by myself; and you must need something too: money, exposure, friends in high places… just name it. Like I said, I’m not going to romanticize anything, this is a simple exchange.”

 

Jimin absorbed all the information while putting on his standard ‘customer service smile’. Alright, so maybe Taehyung wasn’t as naïve as he thought, maybe he was actually wiser than him, maybe he had figured him out first, and maybe Jimin was a tiny bit more attracted to him now that he was being straightforward. And he did need a new job, probably, almost certainly. He could use all of that (money, exposure, contacts) and he did need to protect Jungkook, though he wouldn’t have to tell him that. He had nothing to lose, but so much to potentially win…

 

“Why me, though? Why are you offering me this, um, exchange, and not someone else like Jungkookie or Hoseokie-hyung?”

 

“Well, Jungkook isn’t very communicative.” Even that comment didn’t make the younger look up from his book. It must have been a really engaging read. “And the other guys are still under police custody, but you’re free, so that means you’re not a criminal. If you were, they would have used this opportunity to detain you. I don’t want to get involved with criminals.”

 

“Fair enough.” Although Jimin’s voice didn’t falter, he couldn’t help but gulp. He wasn’t a criminal, he wasn’t, he’d been telling himself that throughout these years, but he still shivered at the implication. He always felt on edge about his ‘crime’ being found out. “So… hypothetically speaking, if I accepted this deal, how—how would we?”

 

“You know.” Taehyung shrugged, crossing his legs casually. “I’d go to the bar sometimes, sometimes we’d meet somewhere else, we’d talk on the phone, just… I’m so bored, Jimin-ssi.”

 

Taehyung sighed miserably, and Jimin understood that feeling really well. It wasn’t boredom, it was the longing to go back home but being unable to, trying your best to adjust to a new place but simultaneously wanting with all your heart to get out of there as soon as possible, and the loneliness, ah, the excruciating loneliness…

 

Jimin sighed. “Ah, what gives? At least we both know we’re not criminals. And I know how to take care of myself if things start getting weird.”

 

Taehyung laughed a little at that. “Good. And I learned my lesson tonight, so I’ll take care of myself too.”

 

Jimin smiled, genuinely this time.

 

And that was the start of a beautiful ambiguous relationship.

 

 


 

 

As expected, Taehyung didn’t sleep that night, though not for the reasons he had planned. He stayed in the guesthouse talking to Jimin and getting to know each other more. He learned his birthdate, and Jimin even tried to get him to call him hyung, which just didn’t work; they talked about where they were from, what they missed the most from their hometowns (the landscape, though they concluded that the one in Busan must be completely different from the one in Seoul, but they both had their charms, surely); which led them to talk about their favorite meals and how they liked them, and who made them.

 

Jimin mostly talked about his current household, which was understandable, because they had literally just met, so Taehyung wouldn’t ask him about his childhood home. Taehyung also tried to talk about his brothers only, not going into detail about his parents or his childhood either.

 

Jungkook had briefly joined the conversation at some point to complain about how he was the one who did most of the chores, and Taehyung took the opportunity to inform him that the book he had been so interested in was just a collection of poems that Namjoon had written while he was still in college, and that everyone (including himself) had forgotten about it, so it had been in the guesthouse this whole time. Jungkook seemed really shocked, because, as Jimin supplied, he had read all those poems back during his ‘angsty teen years’ in some blog that no longer existed, and had even used them to write some songs. Taehyung said he should keep the book, since Namjoon probably wouldn’t mind (or even notice).

 

Jungkook went back into silent mode after that, taking an interest in the photo albums instead while Jimin and Taehyung went to the kitchen for some fruit as they continued talking. As Jimin started to feel more comfortable, the conversation flowed more like a first date talk would, minus the pressure of expectations. Taehyung told him about his responsibilities in the factory and about the company in general, which Jimin apparently found interesting. Jimin then talked about how he enjoyed his job at the bar even though it was exhausting, for he wouldn’t mind dancing for the rest of his life. That was actually the only thing Taehyung learned about Jimin’s childhood: that he started dancing when he was 7 years old, and judging by the expression on his face as he talked about it, it was what he loved the most.

 

Taehyung went on to say that he enjoyed dancing casually and considered himself to be okay at it, but he wouldn’t have the discipline to do it professionally. He actually hadn’t found anything he was truly passionate about, which was why he was more or less wandering through life aimlessly. Jimin told him to stop being gloomy, since he was handsome and rich and could get whatever he wanted, so he could waste as much time as he needed. Taehyung laughed at the honesty which no other ‘friend’ had given him before, and replied that being handsome and rich also came with restrictions and roles to fulfill, some of them very unpleasant.

 

Jimin just told him that, once he found something he wanted to do even if he got nothing in return, that would be his passion. Taehyung found it very difficult to wrap his head around that idea, being raised on the concept that everything in life was an exchange, but he said he’d try that out. Overall, Jimin seemed to be a very confident and strong person, who could easily be doing bigger things, but something was obviously holding him back. Taehyung wondered if it was something practical like money, or some type of insecurity instead. He figured he’d find out eventually.

 

 


 

 

Jimin and Jungkook only got 2 hours of sleep before they had to get ready so Taehyung and his shoulder hyung would drive them to the police station. Unfortunately, after catching up with Wheein again, they found out that Yoongi and Hoseok wouldn’t be released yet, but on a brighter note, Yoongi’s mother and Hoseok’s sister were on their way, so at least they’d have their family waiting for them.

 

It was a bittersweet feeling for Jimin.

 

Shoulder hyung insisted on driving them home, but Jimin refused over and over, mostly out of shame. The tiny one bedroom apartment where he and Jungkook lived was smaller than the living room in the Kims’ guesthouse, and the area where the small building was located was famous for all the wrong reasons. They technically could afford to rent something slightly better, but they needed to save as much money as possible if they ever wanted to get out of that town, and right now Jimin felt like they needed to get out as soon as possible.

 

Shoulder hyung kept insisting, pulling at their sleeves like a child throwing a tantrum, until Taehyung stopped him, obvious embarrassed desperation written all over his face. Jimin found the entire situation funny and kind of endearing, but he had to decline for the millionth time, making up a bad excuse about having to wait for Yoongi and Hoseok’s families to give them something before leaving. In the end, shoulder hyung gave up and left with Taehyung, and a few minutes later, Jimin and Jungkook started making their way back home.

 

As soon as they arrived, Jungkook flopped on his bed and fell asleep immediately, as usual, but this time Jimin did the same. He was exhausted, more mentally than physically. He had so much to figure out, he was so scared of the uncertain future and the past that never stopped following him, and he didn’t know where to start.

 

“But, we were drawn to each other tonight, for one reason or another, and we were drawn multiple times, so why not try to make the most of it?”

 

Somehow, the only little ray of hope that he could think of before falling asleep, was Kim Taehyung’s ‘deal’. Maybe, just maybe, the previous night had been more than just a series of weird events; maybe someone did answer his prayers.

 

 


 

 

“Why so quiet, Taehyung-ah? Do you miss your boyfriend?” Seokjin teased, driving back from the police station.

 

“Tch, what boyfriend?” His little brother answered while messing with the music player on the car as he always did. He had something against Seokjin’s music taste.

 

“Your boyfriend the flying waiter Park Jimin.”

 

“He doesn’t fly, just dances.”

 

“Oh, so you admit that he’s your boyfriend.”

 

“I literally met him less than 12 hours ago.” Taehyung’s answer was very calm, he wasn’t blushing or denying it or asking him to cut it off, which was unusual. Seokjin had no idea how to interpret it. “But we’ll see what happens.”

 

“Huh…” was all he could say in response to that last statement. After everything that happened, Seokjin had to be more alert than ever. Taehyung wasn’t technically a teenager anymore, but he was still far too innocent for the real world, so he had to keep treating him as one.

 

‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ were words that Seokjin liked to live by. He knew that if he chastised Taehyung for putting himself in danger and forbade him from associating with that guy, the younger would just act rebelliously and end up in even more dangerous situations; so instead, he opened the doors of their home to those people and treated them as dear guests. He wanted to learn everything he could about them, so he could get the upper hand whether they ended up being their friends or their enemies. That was how he had learned to live his life and that was the way he had always looked out for Taehyung.

 

“Where do you wanna go for breakfast?” He asked after a few seconds of silence.

 

“I’d like to go home, actually.” Taehyung answered, yawning. “Namjoonie-hyung was still asleep when we left, so that means he probably stayed up late working again. I wanna cook something nice for him.”

 

That was Taehyung speak for ‘I still feel guilty for causing so much trouble’.

 

“Yah, you’re gonna cook for Namjoon who’s peacefully sleeping, but what about me, who kindly and selflessly drove your boyfriend and his rabbit friend to the police station, huh? What do I get?” Seokjin asked quickly, slamming his hand on the wheel for emphasis.

 

“Oh! I have something for you, where did I put it?” Taehyung patted his pockets, then shoved his hand into one of them. “Ooh, here it is!”

 

What he pulled out of his pocket was… absolutely nothing. He made a heart with his fingers and showed it to him, smiling ecstatically.

 

“You’re so lame, Taehyung-ah.” Seokjin shook his head disapprovingly, though his heart felt warm. His little brother was still adorable in his own way.

 

“I learned from an expert.” The younger laughed.

 

“You’re the absolute worst child I have ever raised.” Seokjin gestured exaggeratedly just to make sure that Taehyung would keep on laughing.

 

“I can’t take offense to that, because the only other child you have raised is Namjoonie-hyung, and you did a great job with him.”

 

“AAAAH, enough about Namjoon. Are you going to start a fanclub for him or something?” Though Seokjin pretended to be jealous, he didn’t blame Taehyung. He adored Namjoon as much as the younger did, and he knew that it was mutual. They all loved each other, but Taehyung was the only one to openly say it without feeling embarrassed about it.

 

“Oh, oh, a fanclub would be a good idea. I already have someone to join.” The younger smiled. “Did you know that Jungkook actually read the poems that Namjoonie-hyung used to post on that blog while he was still a student?”

 

“Really? What a weird coincidence.”

 

“Yeah! He was really surprised to see a printed version, so he was reading it for several hours while Jimin and I talked.” Taehyung spoke excitedly despite the bags under his eyes and all the stress from the previous night. “So I told him he could take the book. Isn’t it exciting? I think Namjoonie-hyung will be happy to know that he has a fan in this town.”

 

“Yeah, we should totally tell him. I was in dire need of teasing him about something, thank you.” Seokjin laughed and Taehyung smiled brightly in complicity.

 

But under his carefree exterior, Seokjin was deeply worried. So many weird coincidences were starting to get suspicious. Would he have to end up protecting both of his brothers?

Chapter Text

El Mariachi.

 

After that night when they had gone to pick up Taehyung, Namjoon thought that he would never have another reason to go back to that place, so when Seokjin had asked for him to go there as soon as he could, he had assumed that something Taehyung-related had happened again.

 

Kim Namjoon was the second heir of the biggest textile company in the continent. Being the middle child of such a prestigious family, he was overlooked by most people, and not much was expected of him. His older brother Seokjin was supposed to be the one to take over the company one day, so he was admired for how promising he was even when he hadn’t done anything yet; while his younger brother Taehyung was the cute one, who was adored just for being adorable, innocent and playful. There wasn’t much to say about Namjoon, as he realized since early on in his life, so he had lived in the shadow of his brothers throughout his entire childhood and adolescence.

 

Namjoon never received attention easily, and even though he wasn’t hungry for it, he needed to be heard if he wanted to make any kind of impact on the world around him, so he always worked hard, responsibly and diligently. Always at the top of his class and always interested in learning as much as he could, both in academics and in the real world, Namjoon was often a good influence for everyone who knew him… but he also struggled to connect with people emotionally.

 

It wasn’t like he thought he was on another level or anything pretentious like that, he simply had unusual approaches to things, so while he was admired for his ideas and his classmates followed his directions easily, he didn’t have many people he could consider his friends. While most boys his age joined sport teams or clubs, or got together with classmates to go to the movies, Namjoon mostly kept to himself and tried to keep learning more about everything he could, hoping that someday he could do something meaningful that he would be remembered by.

 

That was why, when he announced that he would be majoring in Literature instead of Business like Seokjin, his parents were surprised, but they still supported him. Namjoon could do whatever he wanted because no one was counting on him to lead the company; that was what Seokjin was there for… However, it became glaringly obvious over time that Seokjin simply wasn’t equipped with the necessary skills to do it. He wanted to, and he tried, but he just wasn’t cut for it.

 

Being the second in line, Namjoon had to step up and assume the eldest son’s responsibilities, which meant that his own dreams were put on hold for an indefinite amount of time until Seokjin would get on track, which for all he knew, might never actually happen.

 

During his college days, he would be called to help out Seokjin, who often felt overwhelmed by his responsibilities at the company even after receiving his degree. Over time, their father realized that Namjoon was more fit to take over the company despite choosing an incompatible career path, and so, little by little, almost without realizing it, Namjoon started doing more while Seokjin did less, to the point where he slowly started giving up his own career and dreams in favor of his family’s stability.

 

Though it was supposed to be a temporary arrangement while Seokjin polished his skills, by the time the three brothers moved to that town, it was a given that Namjoon would have the biggest share of responsibilities. While Taehyung and Seokjin worked 3 hours a day at most, Namjoon worked 12 hours at least, and he occasionally had to bring work home. He was always hardworking and already used to not getting much time for recreation, so the long hours didn’t bother him; what really bothered him was that he had abandoned his dreams of changing the world in order to become a corporate slave.

 

The sole irony of his current existence led him to stop writing altogether, and to delete the blog where he used to post his poems when he was younger. Giving up writing was the greatest sacrifice that he had ever made, but as long as it bought Seokjin extra time to become a better businessman, and it allowed Taehyung to keep living a carefree youth, it would be worth it. That was why, he couldn’t understand why Seokjin-hyung was doing this to him.

 

“What do you mean you bought it?”

 

“I mean exactly that! El Mariachi is mine now!” Seokjin exclaimed happily. The thing was, it was hard to tell if he was joking or not, so Namjoon squinted, trying to read him.

 

“Did you buy it or did we buy it?”

 

“I did, of course, I used my own money.” The eldest answered with a tone of indignation. “It’s mine, so don’t think even for just one second that you’ll be making any decisions here.”

 

“Okay…” Namjoon nodded slowly, looking around. There was no one else at the bar except the two of them, which meant that Seokjin was probably telling the truth. “Then why am I here?”

 

“You’re the owner’s dear brother, so of course, you get a free tour of the place. Come on.” Seokjin tugged at his sleeve, and Namjoon let him pull him around the place, still in disbelief.

 

“Hyung, this is a terrible idea. Isn’t this place a crime scene?”

 

“Technically, yeah, but a lot of places are. You’d be surprised.” Seokjin raised his eyebrows. “Wheein gave me all the details of the case and it turns out that the shooter wasn’t actually in a gang, he was just trying to intimidate Jimin and his friends, and he’s gonna be in jail for attempted murder, so everything’s okay. Trust me, I wouldn’t have bought this place if I felt like we were in impending danger.”

 

Namjoon didn’t doubt that part, his older brother wasn’t known for his bravery. “But, still, you don’t know anything about bars.”

 

“I don’t have to. I’m only going to be the manager, the staff will take care of all the other activities.” Seokjin continued dragging Namjoon everywhere, making him more worried with each passing second.

 

He noticed that the place was not as shady as it looked from the outside, which was probably a good thing, but still, what could have possibly led Seokjin to make such a horrible financial decision? He was selfish and impulsive, but not stupid, so.

 

“Why?” Namjoon asked, unable to hide his frustration.

 

“I knew you’d ask.” The eldest spoke proudly, like a teacher who had awakened his student’s curiosity. “There are several reasons: One, this is the only gay bar in the whole town, so I’ll have no competition; it’s my blue ocean. Two, Jimin works here, so Taehyung will come over all the time and I’ll be able to watch over him. And three, it’s about time I start investing my own money. If I learn how to run this place, I’ll learn how to run the factory.”

 

Namjoon saw no correlation between a gay bar and a textile company, but Seokjin appeared to be serious about it, so it was too late. It had been decided, he was a bar owner now and soon he’d ask Namjoon to help him because he was drowning in debts or because half of the staff had quit or something of the sort and Namjoon would have to step up and balance managing his parents’ company and his brother’s bar and he’d die of stress at the sweet age of 21.

 

“I have it under control.” Seokjin continued, as if he had read his mind, placing a hand on his shoulder. “I really wanna do this, Namjoon, I want to learn. And if I screw up, then I’ll take responsibility for it. Let me be the big brother for once, come on.”

 

Namjoon finally understood that the real reason why Seokjin had asked him to go to the bar before anyone else, was because he didn’t want him to freak out. It didn’t work. Namjoon would remain worried for the rest of his life, or for as long as the bar existed, whichever was longer.

 

“Let me get you a drink.”

 

“You don’t know how to make drinks, hyung.”

 

“A beer it is.”

 

 


 

Seokjin stood proudly in front of all his employees, the night before the grand reopening. Since he truly had no idea how to run a bar, he wouldn’t be able to train new people, so he needed to know what every single staff member was in charge of, and do a little simulation to know if any changes needed to be made to their work dynamic.

 

Everything he had told Namjoon had been true. He really wanted to learn how to operate a business while also keeping an eye out for his brothers (of course, he didn’t tell Namjoon he was worried about him too, he only mentioned Taehyung), but he had another motive for buying the bar, a really simple one: the concept was cool.

 

Ever since they had questioned Jungkook in the police station, and then later when he had talked in detail with Taehyung, he had loved the idea of a bar that turned into a live show, and he had a feeling that a lot of people would like it, too, so if he could make it successful, he could turn it into a franchise, opening several Mariachis across the country. He knew that Namjoon wouldn’t believe in him, but that gave him even more motivation to prove him wrong.

 

He had a degree in Business, a charming attitude, and a capable workforce; all he needed was to make a solid team with them. And so, he had gathered everyone in the large room where the tables had been repositioned in a circle, facing the counter where Seokjin started sitting casually, trying to look as cool and calm as possible, which was difficult since everyone was staring at him and he could feel his face grow warmer.

 

“So, now that everyone’s here, allow me to start. My name is Kim Seokjin, it’s very nice to meet you all.” He bowed his head, getting a response from some staff members while others kept staring at him in silence, waiting for him to continue. “As you’ve been informed, I’m the new owner of the bar. I wanted to make sure that everyone kept their jobs because I’ve been told you’re an excellent team and I’m looking forward to working with you.”

 

He spoke enthusiastically, as he had learned in his Management classes, but no one moved. Some even kept their arms crossed, while others kept their piercing gazes on him. Jimin looked absolutely livid, as if he held a personal grudge on Seokjin, but he still kept talking.

 

“Well, I would like to get familiarized with you, so please introduce yourselves and describe your job to me.”

 

Silence filled the room for a few seconds as the workers looked at each other, until eventually one of them stood up with confidence.

 

“My name is Jung Hoseok, 21 years old.” He bowed quickly. “I’m a dancer and a bartender. I perform in every show and I’m also in charge of preparing the drinks. That’s pretty much it.”

 

Seokjin recognized the name as one of Jimin’s friends who had been arrested with him that night, the one who had hit the shooter with the shotgun. He also didn’t fail to notice that the boy mentioned the dancing part first and the bartending part second, which told him something about his priorities and how he viewed his job.

 

“Okay, so… that sounds very demanding.” Seokjin nodded with a hand on his chin. “Do you get tired?”

 

“Well, that depends. I don’t get tired of dancing, but I do get tired of dealing with the customers sometimes.”

 

“What part of it makes you tired?”

 

“Just… Dealing with them.” Hoseok shrugged vaguely, and kept quiet after that. There was definitely a lot that he wasn’t saying, so Seokjin made a mental note to question him about it in private later.

 

“Alright, thank you! Since you’re younger than me, I’m gonna go ahead and call you Hoseok, okay? Who’s next?”

 

The guy who had been sitting next to Hoseok stood up then. “Min Yoongi, 22. I’m the bar’s pianist.”

 

The guy bowed and sat down again. He was Jimin’s other friend, the one who was involved in the fight.

 

“He also dances!” Hoseok added, and Yoongi just nodded along.

 

“Oh? You play the piano and dance? That must take some skill.” Seokjin commented, truly impressed.

 

“I don’t do it simultaneously, of course. I only dance during the shows, and play during certain intervals, and for the singer’s performance.” Yoongi explained. “I don’t have much experience with dancing, though.”

 

“You must be a decent dancer if you got hired anyway, so don’t be modest.”

 

“I’m not being modest, just telling you the truth.” Yoongi spoke in a monotone voice, which didn’t give away any emotion. He seemed so calm, collected and harmless, and yet he had beaten up those guys a few weeks ago. Seokjin would have to watch out for him.

 

“Thank you, Yoongi. Next introduction, please.”

 

The rest of the staff introduced themselves one by one. Most of them were waiters, and then there were others in charge of more specific activities, like setting up the stage, the music, and other less cool, regular bar related tasks such as making snacks and cleaning. The norm was that everyone had a double role, one related to the bar itself and one related to the entertainment aspect of it. Jimin and Jungkook were the last two to introduce themselves, probably because they had already met Seokjin, and were still in denial about him being their new boss, but they eventually had to comply.

 

“Um, hello, I’m Park Jimin.” The aforementioned waved and bowed, seemingly undecided on what the proper greeting should be. “I’m a dancer and waiter. I have a solo spotlight in one of the shows, too, so there’s that. Thanks?”

 

“Park Jimin-ssi, what would you say is your biggest charm?” Seokjin returned his gaze with a challenging expression. Jimin had been ‘sort of dating’ Taehyung since they had met, so he was especially interested in keeping an eye on him.

 

“Charm?” Jimin furrowed his eyebrows in confusion.

 

“Yes, what is it that you do differently or better from the rest, to attract or entertain the customers?” Seokjin pressed.

 

“Oh, that… I don’t think I’m better than any of the others, I think everyone does a good job.” Jimin scratched his cheek with a tiny awkward smile.

 

“And I think you’re blatantly lying.” Seokjin retorted with a serious expression. “The goal of a bar is to make people drink. This bar in particular combines a variety of drinks with a variety of entertainment forms. As a waiter and dancer, you should know what your charms are, what has made you successful, why customers keep coming here to see you. We’ll continue this conversation later, next and last introduction please.”

 

Jimin kept his mouth open, as if he was going to say something, but decided to sit down instead, and Jungkook stood up right after him.

 

“Hello, I’m Jeon Jungkook. I’m 18 years old. I’m the bar’s singer and backstage assistant. Thanks for letting me keep my job.” He bowed with a smile, and Seokjin wasn’t sure if he was mocking him or not.

 

He had to watch out for this one too. “Jeon Jungkook-ssi, what’s your motivation for working here?”

 

“Well… I took the assistant job because I needed money, and then I was given the opportunity to sing, which makes me happy, because I’ve always loved singing.” He explained calmly.

 

Seokjin didn’t trust him one bit. “Mm. What would you be doing if I had decided to let you go?”

 

“Crying in my room, probably.” Jungkook deadpanned, making a few of his coworkers laugh. “This is my only working experience, so, it would be very hard to find another job.”

 

“I see.” In reality, Seokjin had no idea what to do with that answer. “Please sit down. Well, now that everyone has introduced themselves, I would like to do a little simulation to see how you guys work on a regular night. So, let’s pretend we’re opening tonight, go to your usual positions.”

 

The staff did as they were told. Seokjin tried to observe everyone, but he especially focused on Jimin and his three friends. Jungkook went to the storage room, Hoseok went to the bar, Yoongi to his piano and Jimin to one of the tables.

 

“Okay, let’s suppose I’m a new customer.” He spoke as loudly as he could, so everyone could hear him. “And let’s suppose I’m arriving sometime near the first show. Let’s say… 5 minutes before the show. What is everyone doing?”

 

Hoseok and Yoongi exchanged a quick glance and a nod, and Yoongi started playing a nice, relaxing melody. Sungjae, the head waiter, approached Seokjin and invited him to sit wherever he pleased. Seokjin took a table somewhere around the middle so he could observe as many employees as possible. He could tell the waiters were feeling a little awkward because there weren’t any actual customers around, so all they could to was pretend to serve some imaginary people. Jimin looked particularly miserable doing that, but he forced himself to smile anyway.

 

Hoseok on the other hand looked like a pro serving his imaginary drinks, and even doing the blender noise. Seokjin watched as the head waiter walked between the tables and held up his hand every time he passed one of the waiters, and they nodded in response. Soon enough, the waiters started disappearing one by one, all going into the storage room. A few moments later, Yoongi’s song finished, another employee dimmed the lights, and another one, from a place he couldn’t quite see, hit play on a loud, vaguely Latin song.

 

Seokjin watched the waiters reappear with different clothes and start an elaborate choreography, around and even on top of the tables. Everyone was great, everyone was truly amazing, but the one who shined the brightest for him was Hoseok. The guy had completely transcended from friendly bartender to dancing star in 0.5 seconds, and he made it seem so effortless. His movements were so graceful and elegant that he could have easily been travelling the world with a dance company instead of making drinks at that cheap bar, but what impressed Seokjin the most was the connection he had with Yoongi.

 

The pianist clearly didn’t have the same agility as his partner, but they danced their own mirrored choreography together, and they were completely synchronized. Their eyes locked on each other, their smiles identical, their bodies swinging to the music as if nothing else existed. Seokjin knew that they were a couple, Jungkook had already told him when he questioned him at the police station, but even if he didn’t know it already, he would know it now just by looking at them.

 

It was obvious. The attraction between them was visible, as if there was a thread connecting them and pulling them towards each other. The couple continued smiling and dancing, oblivious to the world around them, and Seokjin watched them mesmerized: It was love, he could recognize it. He had been in love before, but it was never truly reciprocated. All the relationships he had before had only existed for convenience, and he knew that, so he should have never allowed himself to fall in love, but he still did once.

 

It was a foolish mistake that only resulted in heartbreak and a failed business, so distant from his expectations and dreams, so different from the love between Yoongi and Hoseok. Watching them made Seokjin’s heart ache, but he couldn’t look away. He wondered if that was the point of including a couple’s dance: to show clients the illusion that they could find love too, at that place. It certainly was being very effective on Seokjin, in fact, he had been so distracted by them that he hadn’t noticed the other two guys dancing suggestively right in front of him, until they were literally on each side of his table.

 

Those two were tall and muscular, and wearing shirts that were a bit too small, but there was no love between them, their eyes focused on Seokjin instead, winking and blowing kisses his way every time he looked back at them. He reflexively returned the gestures each time, trapping him in a seemingly endless flirting cycle until finally, they left his sides to join the group and finish the choreography. As the song finished, all the dancers made a pause –possibly where the applauses would happen- and then Hoseok jumped behind the bar and Yoongi returned to his piano, while the rest went into the storage room.

 

Seokjin was stunned into silence for a couple of minutes until the waiters returned to the room. He could feel the exact moment when the magic happened, and the moment it disappeared, considering he was sober and alone, and trying to be objective. He understood why Taehyung had stayed, lonely, desperate, and hypnotized by Jimin. He shook his head, sighing, and when everyone came back into the room, he stood up and started clapping loudly, making a few of them smile and others grimace uncomfortably.

 

“Good job, everyone! Great job! Terrific job!” He cheered, approaching them one by one to shake their hands. “I have a few questions, though, so please sit down.”

 

“Oh, but wait, we have to get back to the tables while Jungkook gets ready to come out.” Jimin intervened. He still seemed a little stiff, but not as much as he was before.

 

“Ah, this is only a simulation, so time doesn’t matter.” Seokjin waved him off. “In fact, he should come out too. I want to talk to everyone.”

 

Jimin went to the storage room to get Jungkook and the two of them joined the others in the room again.

 

“Question one. Sungjae, what was that gesture you made with your hand before the show started?” He addressed the head waiter.

 

“Well, I was announcing to everyone that we had 5 minutes left before the show started, so they could get prepared.” He answered. “Everything has to be perfectly timed in order to make it work.”

 

“Very impressive, keep doing that.” Seokjin nodded, then turned to Hoseok. “You also made a glance to Yoongi there at the time, does that mean the same thing?”

 

“Yeah. Sungjae and I are the only ones with a watch, so we have to subtly tell the others when it’s show time.” Hoseok replied. “The clients aren’t supposed to notice what time it is, or the magic dies a little.”

 

“Oh. That’s a very good point.” Seokjin nodded. “As for the whole dance routine, who decides that? Did you all have to audition for particular positions or what?”

 

“Hahaha, almost, but not quite.” Hoseok was the one to respond again, and Seokjin had to admit he had a very contagious smile. “I know the owner—I mean, the former owner, sorry. Anyway, he told me he wanted his bar to be one of a kind, so I suggested the whole intermission show thing, and since I had the most experience with dancing, he asked me for help with that, so I made up the choreographies for every show. Of course, that was a few years ago, nowadays we just repeat the same stuff every night.”

 

“So you… singlehandedly prepared all of that?”

 

“Well, most of it. Back then we didn’t have as many people as we do now. When Jimin joined, he added other ideas, so that every dancer gets a specific, memorable role.”

 

“A memorable role, huh?” Seokjin scratched his chin. Unfortunately for him, he could only remember Yoongi and Hoseok’s dance, and then the two other dancers on each side of his table. “So every person does a different thing?”

 

“Yeah, there’s one collective choreography but there are also small differences for everyone.” Jimin added, finally deciding to participate in the conversation. “The idea is that different clients will be drawn to different entertainers.”

 

“Ha! So I was right before when I asked you what your charms were. I knew you did something different!” Seokjin pointed at him, feeling both victorious and offended. That Park Jimin was full of lies.

 

“We all do something different, that’s kind of the point.” Jimin raised his voice but was clearly trying to contain himself from outright yelling. “If this is about Taehyung, I-”

 

“Yes, this is about Taehyung!”

 

“I want to clarify that I was only doing my job as usual, it’s not like I purposefully seduced him or anything like that.” Jimin continued, but Seokjin didn’t fail to notice Jungkook fake coughing on his side.

 

“Wait, you mean Lots of Cash Taehyung? What about him?” Hoseok asked with interest.

 

“Who’s Taehyung?” Another employee asked.

 

“The night of the shooting, we had a new customer with cherry red hair and lots of rings. He saw the dance show and was completely mesmerized by our Jiminie.” Hoseok explained, smiling in Jimin’s direction, but the latter kept shaking his head. Hoseok was really not helping Seokjin’s impression of Jimin.

 

“Oh, I remember him! He was really good looking. Man, I hated Jimin that night, he always gets the handsome ones.” The waiter who had asked said with a heavy sigh.

 

“By ‘get’, he means he sat at one of the tables I wait, that’s all.” Jimin explained, face growing redder. “It was a coincidence.”

 

“No, it was no coincidence. He specifically asked me about the dancer with a big ass, and I told him which table he waited.” Hoseok continued, really not getting a hint on Jimin’s desperation. “I tried to hit on him but he avoided me like the plague, then paid me for the drink with a gigantic wad of cash. He could have ordered like 5 more drinks with that amount of money.”

 

Yes, that sounded an awful lot like Taehyung. He was a reckless fool, so Seokjin couldn’t blame the whole thing on Jimin alone, but still… Wait.

 

“Wait. You hit on him?” He pointed at Hoseok, then at Yoongi. “And you were there?”

 

“Of course! If you see a good looking and clearly rich guy sit at your bar, you take a chance, but he wasn’t interested.” Hoseok shook his head. “He wasn’t interested in anyone else, he just stared at Jimin the whole time.”

 

“I wasn’t there at the moment when that happened, but I met him later, after the shooting.” Yoongi explained in the same monotone voice he had used to introduce himself. “Jimin went to get him for help, but he didn’t do anything except get arrested with the rest of us. I haven’t seen him again since then but I heard that he and Jimin have kept seeing each other.”

 

Seokjin obviously already knew that part. He had gone to the bar that night, and to the police station, he had driven Jimin and Jungkook to his own home, then back to the police station in the morning. He knew every possible detail about the shooting from Wheein, Jungkook and Taehyung, but he wasn’t aware of those other facts about that night.

 

“Wait, so, to be clear, how many of you were interested in Taehyung that night?” The grand majority of the staff including Hoseok raised their hands. Jimin did the same after a few reluctant seconds, and Seokjin opened his mouth in surprise.

 

“Unbelievable. How—How unprofessional of you.” He crossed his arms.

 

“You said it yourself, Mr. Kim. Our goal is to keep our customers drunk and entertained.” One of the other waiters intervened. “Flirting sometimes keeps them interested.”

 

“And rich customers tend to order more expensive drinks and leave bigger tips.” Hoseok added. “He was pretty cool, too, he wasn’t even gonna get arrested, but he turned himself in just to impress Jiminie.”

 

Jimin covered his face with both hands, and Jungkook patted his back reassuringly. Seokjin was confused to say the least. The idea of his naïve younger brother going alone into a place like that where everyone was trying to seduce him for his money, then getting involved in a shooting that didn’t even have anything to do with him, was surreal. Seokjin suddenly felt that protecting Taehyung from Jimin wouldn’t be enough, he had to protect him from everyone.

 

In fact, Jimin might even be the least of his concerns. He seemed genuinely embarrassed, being teased in front of his boss who was also the big brother of the guy he had been seeing, and even though it had only been a few weeks since they met, and even though Taehyung insisted it was nothing serious, it seemed that Jimin’s friends knew about it, about them. Seokjin felt some sympathy for the guy.

 

“Okay, so… enough about Taehyung for now. Let’s just move on to another subject.” Seokjin said, trying to calm down the fuss that he started.

 

“Do you know him too, Mr. Kim?” Hoseok asked curiously.

 

“Yeah, I do.” He considered leaving it as a mystery, but he figured that either Jimin or Jungkook would end up telling everyone anyway, and he didn’t want it to turn into gossip. “He’s my little brother.”

 

A heavy silence filled the room, and Seokjin took the opportunity to change the subject. “Anyway, when everyone was dancing, I had two waiters on my table. I found that interesting.”

 

“Oh, yeah, well, the table you sat at has that peculiarity.” One of the aforementioned waiters answered a bit shyly. “It’s the only one that has two waiters, for people who are, you know, into that.”

 

“Into that?” Seokjin asked with a confused expression.

 

“You know, being served by two people at once.” The other waiter answered a bit more playfully. “Are you into that, Mr. Kim?”

 

Seokjin could feel his entire face grow hot, as his mind replayed that scene of Yoongi and Hoseok dancing. Was he? Was he into that? Something inside of him seemed to be trying to tell him so.

 

“T-That… I-I only took that table so I could get a clear look at everyone, haha, no special reason.” He answered quickly, feeling accused, watched, exposed. “I was watching everyone, not only the two of you.”

 

He directed that comment at the two waiters, but he wasn’t really talking about them. He didn’t want to be betrayed by his subconscious and end up staring at Yoongi and Hoseok, so he let his eyes wander over everyone in the room, noticing how some of the employees were looking at him curiously, while others exchanged glances with each other, particularly the aforementioned couple, who even smiled brightly at each other after listening to his reply. They knew. They knew something that Seokjin had just found out. How? What kind of place was that, anyway?

 

Still, Seokjin had to be strong and remember his purpose. He was in charge, so he wouldn’t allow anyone to intimidate him. Straightening his posture, he spoke as firmly as he could. “So. I have no observations about your dance show, please keep doing it as you have until now. Let’s review the singer’s part then.”

 

Everyone stood up and quickly assumed their positions. Seokjin took a seat at the bar so he wouldn’t be judged for his poorly made decisions, Jungkook rushed to the storage room while the waiters pretended to serve their imaginary clients. Hoseok nodded to Yoongi again, but this time the latter blew him a kiss before going to his piano. Seokjin knew that they were only trying to annoy him, so he did his best to ignore them. The head waiter did a different sign for the others, and one by one, they went into the storage room, and the lights were dimmed again.

 

However, this time no one came out dancing, Hoseok remained sitting behind the bar, and only the soft melody of Yoongi’s piano could be heard until Jungkook appeared on stage with a microphone. Seokjin watched the younger boy make a distinctive ‘cut it’ signal at the pianist, at which Yoongi tilted his head and then stopped playing.

 

“Not that song, hyung. We can’t use it.” Jungkook said, shaking his head.

 

“Huh? Why not?” Yoongi asked.

 

“C-Copyright issues.”

 

“What do you mean copyright issues? You’ve been singing this song every night since you joined!”

 

“Yeah, but, I didn’t write it.” Jungkook was styled differently, but he still looked as lost and nervous as he did when Seokjin first met him at the police station.

 

“We know you didn’t write it, you grabbed the lyrics from a poetry blog, you told us that story.” Hoseok intervened. “But Yoongi-hyung helped you compose the melody, so, it’s your song. Why are you worried about copyright issues after all this time?”

 

Wait, poetry blog? Taehyung had told Seokjin that he had given Jungkook the book that compiled Namjoon’s old poems because apparently he had been his fan back when he wrote them. Something finally clicked in Seokjin’s mind, and he pointed an accusatory finger at Jungkook. “Did you plagiarize my brother’s writing?!”

 

“Brother? Human Cherry Taehyung wrote those poems?” Hoseok exclaimed, amazed.

 

“No, my other brother did.”

 

“How many damn brothers do you have?!” Yoongi turned to face him, throwing his hands up like an exasperated old man.

 

“Only two, and one of them has been a victim of plagiarism.”

 

“No! I don’t make any profit from it.” Jungkook quickly defended himself. “I just… I used to read his blog all the time, and I made the poems into songs so I could memorize them.”

 

“You say you don’t make profit, but you perform those songs here at your workplace, so you must surely get tips for that, right?” Seokjin stood up to emphasize his point, and Jungkook looked downright mortified.

 

“Look… Mr. Kim.” Yoongi stood up as well, though it didn’t make much of a difference since he was several heads shorter than Seokjin. “Ever since I met Jungkook, he was already obsessed with those poems, and he was devastated when the author took them down. So, if the author is really your brother, you should be grateful that someone is still letting his words live on through music.”

 

Yoongi’s words shook Seokjin to the core, especially because the main reason why Namjoon had quit writing and deleted all of his works in the first place, was because of him. Because of his ineptitude as an older brother and heir, Namjoon had given up his dreams, and he had never blamed him, not even once.

 

“Yeah, yeah, that’s true, I don’t think Namjoon will care anymore.” He shrugged, trying to hide how much the subject still hurt him. “But your song better be good, okay? If it sucks, I will sue you.”

 

“It’s good, it’s good, I promise.” Jungkook nodded, and Yoongi gave Seokjin a little smile before sitting at the piano again. It was not a mocking smile like the one he had exchanged with Hoseok when the others were teasing him, but a sincerely sympathetic one. It almost made him want to smile back. Almost.

 

Yoongi started playing again and this time Jungkook did sing. He had a very melodious voice and it was easy to see that he loved performing, so Seokjin understood why he had his own show.

 

At some point during the song, he could feel Hoseok whispering something in his ear. “How old is your other brother?”

 

He turned around to stare at him in disbelief. “Why do you want to know?”

 

“Because the two Kim brothers we have met so far are young and handsome, I’m just wondering if the third one is too.” He shrugged casually, making Seokjin blush. That guy just didn’t know when to quit.

 

“He’s younger than me but older than Taehyung.” He whispered back, not wanting to be rude since the only sounds in the room were Jungkook’s voice and Yoongi’s music. “But I’ll never let you meet him.”

 

“Aw, why not?”

 

“He’s too good for you.” Seokjin crossed his arms, holding on to the remnants of his dignity. “Taehyung is also too good for you, that’s why he turned you down.”

 

“Mm… so that only leaves me with you.”

 

Seokjin tried to focus on the performance, but he could still feel Hoseok’s eyes on him. The bartender was so upfront and inappropriate; Seokjin was his boss, he could put him in his place, he could turn him down as Taehyung did, he could pretend he wasn’t interested, but… that freaking dance show had really messed with his brain. He was physically unable to reject him.

 

“You know, I could really use a drink now.” He whispered, facing him this time.

 

 


 

Namjoon knew that he would eventually have to go back to that bar (his brother’s bar) but he didn’t expect it to be so soon. He thought that someday Seokjin would request his help with budgeting or conflict resolution and he would have no choice but to go in his aid; however, he never expected he would be showing up the night of the grand reopening for a very different reason: he couldn’t locate Taehyung.

 

It was a Saturday night, so he had left work earlier than usual, and had found himself alone at home. There was no trace of either Seokjin or Taehyung, but he didn’t think much of it since, well, it was a Saturday night, so they probably had plans. He was about to bring a book with him to the rooftop to relax in the company of the moon, when he finally remembered a very important fact: Seokjin’s bar was supposed to open that night.

 

Was he supposed to go and support him? He wasn’t sure. Well, he didn’t feel very comfortable in crowded places, and Seokjin hadn’t invited him, most likely for the same reason. But, maybe he had invited Taehyung, so they were probably together after all. He checked his phone and didn’t see any notification from either of them, so he assumed that that was where they were. He messaged Seokjin anyway to show him his support and wish him luck, then proceeded with his evening plans.

 

An hour passed and Namjoon didn’t get a reply, so, assuming that Seokjin was too busy to check his phone, he messaged Taehyung instead, asking him to deliver his good wishes to their big brother. Another 40 minutes passed, and still no reply from either of them, so Namjoon tried calling them, but Seokjin didn’t pick up and Taehyung’s phone sent him straight to voicemail. He started to get worried, thinking of different possibilities of what could have happened. He wasn’t even sure they were together, they could be at different places, but instead of filling his head with conjectures, he decided to go downstairs and ask their security if they had left together.

 

He was informed that Seokjin had left at around 6pm, but Taehyung had left much earlier, at around 10am. Namjoon could feel his heart stop and his stomach turn. Taehyung had left in the morning while Namjoon was at work, but Seokjin should have still been home, right? Taehyung rarely went out by himself, unless he was going out with Jimin, who he had either befriended or started dating after the night they got arrested. But even if he were with Jimin, Namjoon had no way to contact him, since he didn’t have Jimin’s number… only Seokjin did, because Seokjin had the list of numbers of all his employees.

 

Namjoon never thought he’d find himself in such a circumstance where both of his brothers were unreachable, and he started to panic a little. Even so, the timing at which Seokjin left gave him the almost certainty that he was at the bar, so at least he could meet him, and then he could help him find Taehyung. He certainly could. When they were children, Seokjin always, always found them when playing hide and seek, always, no matter how well they thought they were hiding.

 

Namjoon hadn’t realized how badly he had started shaking until he went to grab his keys, but he continued telling himself that there was probably a logical explanation to all of this and that he would be able to laugh his worries away soon. Very contrary to his plans for that night, he found himself asking their home security to take him to that bar for the third time in his life.

 

 


 

El Mariachi looked completely different from how it did when Seokjin had told him he had bought it. Of course, it was crowded and illuminated, there was music and waiters walking around, and some of the customers were giving him curious looks. But he didn’t really have time to notice any details, he had to locate Seokjin, so as he walked inside the establishment, he let his eyes scan the place as quickly as he could. The security staff had offered to search with him, but they would have stood out too much and might have caused trouble for Seokjin, so he had asked them to wait outside.

 

He looked around, but found no traces of Seokjin; however, as he spotted a blue haired customer sitting at one of the tables, he had to do a double take. It was Taehyung. He had changed his hair color once more, but it was unquestionably him. The emeralds in his ears and the boxy smile he was wearing while waving at a carrot headed waiter gave him away. Namjoon felt a mix of relief and confusion, as the sight raised more questions than it answered, but he made his way towards him, to at the very least clarify why he hadn’t picked up his phone and why he had gone to that place by himself again.

 

However, as Namjoon approached the table, he noticed the aforementioned waiter also walking towards it from the opposite direction at a faster pace, and from that distance he realized that it was none other than Jimin, who had also changed his hair color. Okay, so maybe that was where Taehyung had been all day, getting a makeover and most likely shopping together with Jimin to prepare for the reopening. He watched Jimin smile at Taehyung as he got closer to his table, causing Namjoon to freeze in his spot. He felt as if he was intruding on an intimate conversation, so he took a step back and looked around awkwardly for a spot where he could go unnoticed.

 

He thought about hanging around for a bit and then approaching Taehyung as casually as possible, pretending he had only attended to support Seokjin (where the hell was he, anyway?) and then, very subtly, so he wouldn’t feel overprotected, remind him once again that he was a very easy target. Yeah, that was a nice plan. Namjoon messaged security letting them know that everything was alright, and by the time he looked up from his phone, there was no waiter in sight.

 

Seeing how Jimin had also disappeared, he started making his way towards Taehyung again, but then the lights of the establishment were dimmed and the sweet melody of a piano started filling the air. Unsure of what to do, Namjoon sat at an empty table and looked in the direction of the pianist, where all the customers’ eyes were on. A few seconds later, a person walked into the stage -a stage he hadn’t even noticed at first glance-, gaining a lot of cheers from the spectators.

 

Oh, so there was a music show, that was why no one was being served and everyone’s eyes were glued to the stage. The guy smiled at his audience before holding the microphone and starting to sing. To say that it touched Namjoon’s heart would be an understatement: his voice was the musical equivalent of honey, and it was evident that he was putting a lot of passion into his song, but once Namjoon started paying attention to the lyrics, he noticed something very interesting.

 

No, that wasn’t possible, his mind must have been playing tricks on him because he was tired and just recovered from a panic attack. Or maybe he was dreaming. Yeah, that would explain why Taehyung suddenly had blue hair and why some handsome guy at a gay bar was singing a song which had lyrics that sounded awfully similar to a poem he had written when he was younger. Maybe they just sounded similar because they were common phrases? Namjoon waited for the next line, predicting what it would say, and he was right. Okay, so those were definitely his words, but weirder things had happened.

 

As the song progressed, and he got more immersed into it (because those were his words, but being sung beautifully and with so much soul put into them, that it made him feel as if they weren’t his, but the singer’s) he suddenly remembered a conversation from a few weeks ago, the morning after Jimin and Jungkook had spent the night at their guesthouse. He hadn’t been paying much attention because of all the things that had happened, and because he tended to avoid the subject of his writing, but now, he realized its importance:

 

Taehyung had given Jungkook his poem compilation, because he claimed to have read them all back when they were posted online. Jungkook worked at the bar. Jungkook had his poems. Jungkook was that singer. He hadn’t seen him again since that night, so he hadn’t recognized him, especially since now he was wearing a stylish outfit and his hair was pushed back, instead of hiding his face under an oversized hoodie as he was back then, but now as everything clicked into place, he realized it was him.

 

That guy, who he had barely interacted with at the police station, had read all of his poems and blog entries, so he knew his heart and his struggles while remaining a stranger to him. The fact that he had such a beautiful voice and face, and that he sang his words with so much love and passion made Namjoon feel weird. It was an unknown feeling. Flattery mixed with embarrassment, curiosity, and confusion. Why his poems? Why did he seem so invested into them? Namjoon really wanted to ask him.

 

Chapter Text

El Mariachi.

 

For some, it was a magical place; for others, a place to get drunk and get laid; but for him, it was his new beginning.

 

Park Jimin was a regular guy from a normal family. He had grown up in Busan with two working parents, having a good home life with no particular troubles or difficulties. The only thing from his childhood that was relevant to his history was his love for dance. He had started dancing before he had learned how to walk, loved dancing in front of the TV to the various choreographies of idol groups, and dreamed of becoming a star since he could remember, so once a dance academy opened near his home, his mother didn’t hesitate to sign him up. He was 7 years old at the time, but he was in a group with other kids aged 5 to 8.

 

That was where he met Jungkook, the youngest one in the class. He was really small, with eyes that took up most of his face, and was very quiet, but he seemed to enjoy dancing just as much as Jimin did. Despite his young age, he was agile and well-coordinated, so internally, Jimin saw him as a rival. However, it didn’t take him long to notice that Jungkook had trouble making friends while Jimin did it easily, so he decided to approach him and befriend him on a whim. Jimin didn’t remember what exactly they had in common, besides that wish to dance for the rest of their lives, but he was 7 and Jungkook was 5, so they probably talked about cartoons or something like that.

 

Over time, they became good friends, and since they were both very competitive, they sort of motivated each other to be better, but they always had fun. However, unlike Jimin’s other friends, Jungkook never visited his house or invited him to his, claiming his parents didn’t let him, so they could only hang out during their dance class. Years passed, and when Jimin was 11, he graduated from the dance academy, moving to a different one for pre-teens and teens. Jungkook said he would go to the same one, and tearfully admitted what Jimin had always known: he was his only friend.

 

That year, Jungkook had also somehow convinced his parents to let him go to Jimin’s birthday party, but he had only been allowed to wish him a happy birthday and drop his gift before leaving. Jimin figured that Jungkook was extremely sheltered, but didn’t think much of it at the time. As promised, when Jimin was 13, Jungkook joined his dance academy. Over the course of those 2 years, Jungkook had become taller than him and a little less shy, teasing him about his height and other things, but he hadn’t really changed that much in Jimin’s eyes. He told him that he had started singing as well, and that he wanted to become an idol, so he was working hard on being more outgoing.

 

They quickly became friends again, even though Jimin felt like he was on another level. He was in middle school, dealing with geometry and hormones and other things, while Jungkook was still a child. Jimin was starting to realize that he was very different from his classmates who were always talking about getting girlfriends, for he had to force himself to pretend to be interested, had to force himself to look at girls’ bodies and try to find them attractive; while he didn’t have to make any effort at all to be attracted to Kyungho, a 15 year old male dancer from his group.

 

Kyungho had a beautiful smile and a perfectly fit body, and Jimin couldn’t help looking at him all the time. He didn’t seem to mind the stares, though, for he always smiled and waved at Jimin awkwardly, as if he didn’t quite know what to do with the attention. Jimin didn’t know what to do either, wasn’t sure if he should fight against his feelings or embrace them, so he was sort of stuck in the middle, until Jungkook, of all people, approached him one day and asked him if he was attracted to Kyungho. Jimin had never said it out loud, not even to himself, so he freaked out and stuttered, but eventually admitted it. Jungkook’s response was ‘Oh, dope. Don’t tell him I told you this, but he likes you back’.

 

Somehow, being able to finally let it out and knowing that he wasn’t alone in his feelings, gave Jimin the push he needed to finally approach Kyungho with the clear intention of dating him. They had to be very careful and pretend that they were hanging out as friends, though, because neither of their families would accept it, and Jimin made Jungkook swear that he wouldn’t tell anyone. Jungkook said that he would keep his secret if he could tell Jimin a secret of his own, and Jimin agreed, thinking it would be something dumb like ‘I stole candy once’ or ‘I said I would brush my teeth but I didn’t’ because Jungkook was a child, and children didn’t have dark secrets, right?

 

Jungkook told him that over the course of the past 2 years, he had discovered that his father’s business was only a front, and that he was actually into illegal stuff and getting involved with dangerous people. He wasn’t supposed to tell anyone, but he trusted Jimin, because he was his best friend. Jimin had gulped and thanked him for his trust, and swore that he would keep his secret as well. Jimin started to understand why Jungkook’s parents seemed so overbearing and controlling, making sure to keep appearances even in front of their own son, and keeping him in a bubble of ignorance for as long as they could.

 

But Jungkook was still the same to him: he still had that deer caught in headlights expression he had when he was 5, still loved music and still made Jimin laugh with his antics, so he never treated him differently. Kyungho became the very first boy Jimin dated, his first kiss and his first breakup. It was nothing dramatic though, he had quit dancing because he had to focus on school and baseball, so he didn’t have much time for Jimin. Meanwhile, Jungkook would sometimes show up with random bruises and various excuses about how he had gotten them, and even though it made Jimin’s heart stop, he felt unable to do anything. They could only keep each other’s secrets, nothing more and nothing less.

 

The two of them were growing up differently, and the 2 year gap between them felt too big at the time. However, years passed and they remained friends, even though they still couldn’t even visit each other. Jimin dated other boys, and he told Jungkook about it every time, told him how scared he was of being found out by his parents, how much he hated having to lie to everyone. Jungkook told him about how his father was getting into muddier waters and becoming more paranoid and controlling, how he beat up his mother and sometimes him, when he stood up for her. They cried together and cried for each other, but always ended up making each other laugh or singing something. They were hopeless.

 

Jimin was 16 when it happened. Jungkook stopped attending dance class, which had never, ever happened, since he had met him. He had no way of knowing if he was alright since he didn’t know where he lived or where his school was, so he reached out to the academy’s director, who informed him that Jungkook was simply on a family vacation. Jimin didn’t believe that, since that had never happened either, but there was nothing he could do except worry constantly during day and night.

 

Three weeks later Jungkook came back, wearing clothes too big for him and refusing to participate, just watching everyone dance. The instructor had talked to them individually and informed them that Jungkook and his mother had been in an accident where she had passed away and he had been severely injured, so he wasn’t able to dance yet but he wanted to still be part of the group, even if all he could do was watch. Jimin didn’t believe either version, not the family vacation nor the accident one, but he couldn’t ask Jungkook directly because he was quieter and more withdrawn than ever.

 

Jimin knew that something horrible had happened to his best friend, but he had no way to know, much less to help, and it made him extremely frustrated, so one day, he simply broke down in tears in front of him. “Whether you don’t have a family anymore, or the one you have sucks… I’ll always be here for you. I’ll be the family you need me to be.” His words sort of made Jungkook come out of his stupor, but he still didn’t talk, so he simply hugged him in silence. A few days later, Jungkook finally told him the truth: his mother had just vanished one day, disappeared without a trace, and when he asked his father, he evaded his questions; when Jungkook stood up and confronted him, he received a beating.

 

Jungkook’s father wanted to keep up appearances and a sense of normalcy, so he fabricated those lies and made Jungkook go back to school and to his extracurricular activities as soon as he could. At that point, Jungkook still had no idea if his mother had been killed, kidnapped, or if she had run away, but just like Jimin, he couldn’t do anything. It seemed as if he had given up, and honestly, it was the best he could do to guarantee his survival. As long as he remained docile and obedient, his father wouldn’t hurt him.

 

Jimin decided to stick to his words and become a family for Jungkook, even though he was just a 16 year old boy and he knew that nothing could replace the absence of Jungkook’s mother. He started bringing Jungkook food and reviewing his homework, started hugging him more and telling him he loved him. Jungkook refused all of that at first, except the food, but he slowly started giving in and going back to dancing. Even so, Jimin knew that what he was doing wasn’t enough; after all, he could only see him for a few hours in the afternoons, the rest of the time Jungkook was by himself.

 

Jimin decided to trust his own parents and tell them briefly about Jungkook’s situation, hoping they could offer him a solution; instead, they warned him to stay away from him since his family was dangerous. Jimin understood that alerting another adult, like a teacher or social services, could potentially cause Jungkook to disappear as well, so he kept quiet. He and Jungkook, by themselves, couldn’t do anything, but adults weren’t of help either, so that was when they came up with the “Seoul jar”. The Seoul jar was a naïve plan which consisted on saving money in a jar, with the intent that by the time the two of them were adults, they’d have saved enough money to move to Seoul.

 

Neither one of them worked, so the money would come from their respective allowances. Jimin had vowed to find a job as soon as he turned 18, so by then he’d start chipping in much more, and so by the time Jungkook was 18, they’d be ready to flee. The capital was full of people and possibilities, so their master plan was that once they settled in there, they would sign up with entertainment agencies. It didn’t matter if they couldn’t make it big, even being backup dancers would suffice, because the real intention behind moving to Seoul was not to become famous, but to become free. Jimin would be free from the eyes of his parents and everyone he knew, to love whoever he chose; and Jungkook would be free from his violent home, to choose his own path.

 

It was a silly plan that had a very slim chance of actually working, but it was the only one they had, and it gave them both the right amount of hope to carry on living and enduring the hardships of their daily lives. The Seoul jar was just an empty jar of mayo that they shared, some days Jimin would take it home and other days Jungkook would, and they would get excited watching the bills inside of it pile up.

 

Months passed and they continued growing and changing; Jungkook told him about a blog he had found that had helped him deal with all the complicated feelings he had about his family and love and being a teenager. The author posted poems as well as personal entries, and Jungkook was obsessed with him even if all he knew was that he lived in Seoul and called himself ‘RM’. Jimin teased him about it, “What if he’s a 75 year old man?” “Then he’s the coolest 75 year old man in the world”. Jimin told him that maybe they would meet him when they moved to Seoul, and Jungkook’s eyes regained some of their old sparkle.

 

When Jungkook was 15, he told Jimin about his first crush, a boy from his school. After getting over the initial shock of realizing that Jungkook was old enough to have crushes now, Jimin felt nothing but pure happiness. Firstly, because Jungkook was like him, so they had another thing in common, a special kind of connection; and secondly, because he knew that being in love would give Jungkook more motivation to live despite his situation.

 

Because Jimin took his role as Jungkook’s family so seriously, he shared as much information and advice as he could with him. Taught him how to flirt and how to avoid getting exposed, emphasized that there was nothing wrong with how he felt, but that unfortunately a lot of people didn’t see it that way, and encouraged him to have fun but to always take care of himself. Jungkook seemed confused and embarrassed by the amount of information, but he always went to Jimin with questions and updates. He had not confessed, and he had no idea if the other boy would be interested in him, and he was terrified, but Jimin really, really wanted Jungkook to be happy, so he got more involved than necessary in his blossoming love life.

 

In retrospect, he should have just let him be.

 

Jungkook managed to confess to his crush, and the boy turned him down. That would have been fine, but it didn’t end there. The boy said he was disgusted by the fact that another man was interested in him, and told him he’d break his face if he ever talked to him again. That day, Jungkook told Jimin everything while crying his eyes out, and Jimin tried to soothe him telling him those things happened sometimes, that it was alright, that the guy wasn’t worth his tears. However, the next day, the entire school found out about the incident, and Jungkook found awful things about him written on his desk. His classmates made fun of him, but he was the one who got sent to talk to the principal’s office to declare if the rumors were true or not.

 

Jungkook had lied through his teeth, claiming it was only a joke that got out of hand, but he got a 3 day suspension for the trouble it had caused for the school. As Jungkook told Jimin this, he showed him the piece of paper detailing the reason for his suspension. He would have to give it to his father when he got home, and he didn’t know how he would take it. Jungkook was truly desperate, but once again, Jimin couldn’t do absolutely anything to ease the pain, except hug him and remind him that he could count on him and that in only 3 years they’d be out of there for good.

 

That night, Jimin received an unexpected visit from an injured Jungkook. His mother had let him in because he had introduced himself and asked for Jimin, but she told Jimin to talk to him outside, because she had warned him not to get involved with that family. Just by looking at his physical state, Jimin figured out what had happened, what he didn’t understand was how he had reached Jimin’s house. “I visited you once, remember? For your 11th birthday. You wrote your address on my notebook and I never threw it away. I had to spend some of the Seoul jar money to get a taxi here, though, sorry.”

 

Jimin’s heart broke for the millionth time, as Jungkook quickly explained that his father started beating him up the moment he learned what had happened at school, and he had literally run away from his house and into the street so he wouldn’t kill him. Luckily, since he had just arrived home, he still had his backpack and therefore the Seoul jar, which he put in Jimin’s hands. He didn’t want to go back home, this time, he was convinced he would disappear just like his mother. He was more frightened than ever, and he begged, begged Jimin to let him stay with him.

 

Jimin depended on his parents’ consent, though, but when he went back inside his home and quickly told his mother what had happened, her eyes widened, and she slapped him, yelling at him that she had warned him to stay away from Jungkook, that Jungkook had gotten himself into that problem and he would have to get himself out, and that Jimin had no right to bring that danger into her house. Jimin was stunned into silence, and he went outside, apologizing to Jungkook with teary eyes. Jungkook opened his mouth in disappointed surprise and then looked at the ground, sighing deeply.

 

“Well, I… guess I’ll get going, then. Sorry for the trouble.” He bowed before Jimin, which he had never done before. “Thank you for trying, hyung.”

 

Jimin watched him walk into the street, unable to stop crying, unable to do anything at all. He felt guiltier just watching him idly, so he went back inside his house. It was only then that he realized he was still holding the Seoul jar, so Jungkook was out there with no money. He almost went out again to give it back, but he realized something far worse: Jungkook had handed it to him, almost as if he knew he wouldn’t need it. He had also apologized, bowed before him and thanked him.

 

He was saying goodbye.

 

They were never going to see each other again.

 

Jimin covered his mouth to stop himself from screaming, but he couldn’t hold back the tears. It wasn’t fair. Jungkook was going to disappear forever and there was nothing Jimin could do. He was going to disappear because there was nothing Jimin could do, because he always listened but never acted, because he was weak and powerless. But not anymore. He was going to do something. Something stupid and impulsive, but something at least.

 

He opened the door again and yelled as loudly as possible at the figure walking in the distance: “Hey Jungkook!!! Stop right there! Just one minute!”

 

Luckily, Jungkook had heard him, and he did stop. Jimin rushed back inside and into his room, grabbing 3 or 4 clothing articles and a few personal items, shoving them inside his backpack along with the Seoul jar. He didn’t have time to think. He could hear his mother trying to argue with him, but there was no time for that either. “I’m sorry, mom. I’m gonna get myself in trouble too, and I’ll have to get myself out.”

 

He ran outside towards Jungkook without looking back, not even when his mother called out his name, not even when he approached Jungkook and found him staring at him with a confused expression, not even when he grabbed his hand as tightly as possible and continued running, pulling him along. Jimin never looked back ever since.

 

They ran all the way to the bus station, catching a bus that would in turn lead them to the train station. When they were sitting on the bus, Jimin told Jungkook his plan: they’d go as far as their money would take them, and there, they’d make more money to get them all the way to Seoul. It was the worst plan Jungkook had heard, but anything was better than going back to his home. Jimin tried to appear calm, but he was terrified. They were both minors, they wouldn’t make it far before their parents found them, but they had to at least try. At the train station, they checked all the routes and chose one that was within their budget and on the way to Seoul, but the next train left in the morning, so they had to spend the night at the station. Jimin had never done such a thing, but he told Jungkook it would be alright; they could buy something to eat and sleep on their backpacks.

 

Jungkook fell asleep almost as soon as he lay down, but Jimin couldn’t sleep, staring into the night sky and questioning his own sanity. What had he done? Was he really going to leave the city and go to an unknown place? Would they even be able to make it? Wouldn’t their parents alert the authorities in a case like that? What if he was charged with kidnapping? Or worse, what if Jungkook’s father or his people got to them before the authorities did? Jimin shut his eyes closed and tried to sleep, but he could feel his heart beating so fast it was almost buzzing. They were running away as they always planned, but they were not adults yet, they were still young and immature and didn’t even finish high school, what were they going to do?

 

Jimin opened his eyes again after only a few minutes, and saw a man standing before them, looking down at them with a smile. Jimin pulled Jungkook’s jacket up to his face to hide it from view, and the man chuckled before walking away. Jimin was suddenly aware of all the many different types of danger they could be facing, especially Jungkook who had always been so controlled by his parents that he didn’t know almost anything about the outside world. A thousand different ideas ran through his mind, and even though that creepy man had walked away, he still had the feeling of being watched. Who was watching them? Why? Jimin felt like choking, and he sat up, looking around the station.

 

There were only a few people scattered around the place, but the feeling of being watched was too overwhelming. He thought about the possibility of falling asleep and waking up to find Jungkook gone; or finding himself restrained; or waking up to police sirens… He could never go back to sleep, he was too afraid. He wouldn’t make it through the night, and spending all those hours there would make them an easy target for their parents or the police or criminals, so in another act of impulsiveness, he went up to the train routes again and changed their tickets to a different destination, to a town he had never heard of, but the next train to that place would leave very soon.

 

He figured that if they went to a place that wasn’t familiar, it would be harder for their families to track them down, so he woke Jungkook up and informed him about the new plan, and that was how they ended up in that rural town in the middle of nowhere. Jimin figured they would need a place to stay that allowed them to pay in cash and wouldn’t request their IDs, so they located a cheap motel near a truck stop that charged per hour. From the looks of it, it was the kind of place where drug dealers and sex workers did their business, so the receptionist didn’t even care about the two young boys asking for a room. The room itself was awful, but it was ideal for them since they only needed a place where they could sleep, shower, and feel safe for a while.

 

Jimin wasn’t able to get much sleep anyway, feeling like he was living an alternate life, as if his real self was still in Busan with his family, being a good boy with a secret, while this guy was a Jimin from another dimension who kidnapped Jungkook and dropped out of school. That was definitely how he would be seen back home. After half-sleeping and showering, they checked out and went into the real world, where they would need to make money without having any skills or qualifications. Jimin briefly considered taking the remaining contents of their Seoul jar and going back home, but that would mean leading Jungkook straight to his death, so that option was cancelled. They needed to keep moving forward, even if it meant Jimin would have to end up working illegally.

 

Jimin constantly reminded Jungkook that he was his hyung, so he would take care of him, he didn’t have to worry about anything. Even if Jimin was more scared than anyone, he didn’t want Jungkook to go through more suffering than he already had, so if things got tough and one of them had to resort to doing something shady, it should be Jimin. However, it wasn’t necessary to do that, because as they walked around looking for potential work opportunities, Jimin spotted a street dancer on a corner getting a few coins for his efforts. Right, dancing, the one thing they knew how to do. They could totally dance for coins as well, the only problem was they didn’t have a boombox like that dancer did, and no one would give them coins for dancing to silence.

 

Jimin decided to make use of the situation, and he and Jungkook started dancing on a different corner not too far from the street dancer, so they could listen to his music and improvise a little choreography to go with the beat. It seemed to earn them some attention, and it wasn’t long before they started receiving money as well. Unfortunately, the dancer seemed to notice that and moved to a different street with his boombox included. Jimin and Jungkook followed him and repeated the same trick, until the dancer turned off the music and started yelling at them from his corner to stop stealing his act. Jimin retorted that he wasn’t stealing anything, for music was in the air and last time he checked the air was free, and the dancer cursed at him before turning the music back on and starting a breakdance performance.

 

Jimin was honestly impressed. He and Jungkook were trained in dance academies, so their style was smooth and graceful, so different from this guy whose style was completely different: tough, agile, his limbs moving so fast he might as well have been floating. Jimin found himself clapping like an idiot, forgetting why he was there in the first place, until the guy flashed him a smile and pointed both index fingers at him. It took Jimin a second to realize that he was being challenged, but once he understood, he started doing his best. He didn’t know how to breakdance, but he did know how to float and create optical illusions with his limbs through interpretative dance, so he did just that.

 

Once he finished his part and smiled at his rival, he realized that they had managed to get the attention of a small crowd, including Jungkook who was also clapping excitedly as if he had never seen him perform. The unknown dancer seemed to be thinking the same thing as Jimin: this little dance-off was mutually beneficial, so he started breakdancing again, gaining a few cheers and a few more people to their crowd. They repeated that back and forth while coins and bills piled up on both ends until the crowd started to dissipate and their bodies starting giving out.

 

Jimin allowed himself to fall to the ground while Jungkook counted the money, and the dancer approached Jimin, enthusiastically shaking his hand and introducing himself. His name was Jung Hoseok and he was 18 years old, he was a local to that town and he was very sorry for cursing at them earlier and very interested in working together with him. Jimin figured he would have been equally impressed by Jungkook’s skills if the younger boy had been able to dance to his full abilities and not hindered by his injuries as he was, but either way, Jimin was grateful.

 

He quickly introduced himself and Jungkook, and informed Hoseok that they would only stay at that town temporarily, for they were on the way to another place. Hoseok asked if they were travelling alone, and Jimin confirmed it without giving away any details. Hoseok then insisted on treating them to breakfast, and Jimin would have refused if Jungkook’s eyes hadn’t been so big and imploring. Hoseok took them to a little diner and did most of the talking, which was great for Jimin since he really didn’t want to reveal anything to a stranger about his and Jungkook’s life circumstances.

 

They learned that Hoseok and his partner lived by themselves; Hoseok was in his last year of high school while his partner was starting at an online university. They had no financial support from their families, so they had to cover all their expenses. They both had night jobs which paid better, but still found things to do during the day for extra cash: Hoseok’s thing was dancing in the street. Jimin found it very inspiring that someone who was only one year older than him was so independent and hardworking, and it gave him hope that he could make it through as well.

 

Then, after that brief introduction, Hoseok leaned over, looked around their table and asked Jimin in a whisper if he had any problem with gay bars. Jimin gave him a puzzled look and Hoseok then elaborated that the place where he and his partner worked was that kind of establishment, and that if Jimin didn’t have a problem with it, he would get hired in a second. Jimin answered that he didn’t have any working experience, gay bars or otherwise, so he didn’t see how he’d get a job there, but Hoseok grinned and told him that it wasn’t like any other bar, like anything he had ever seen.

 

Hoseok explained to Jimin and Jungkook what El Mariachi was, and even showed them pictures on his phone so they could get a glimpse of it. It seemed like a really great opportunity except for the fact that Jimin was a minor, however Hoseok waved off his concerns, telling him he was also a minor when he got his first job, but his partner knew a guy who made the best fake IDs. Hoseok was interested in someone like Jimin joining the staff since he was a talented dancer with a charismatic presence, and Jimin was interested in making money as quickly as possible, so he said he would consider it. If the circumstances were different, Jimin would never even dream of something like getting a fake ID to work at a bar, for him it felt like committing a major crime, but after everything that happened, he had to give priority to guaranteeing his and Jungkook’s survival.

 

Hoseok wanted to exchange phone numbers, but Jimin had left his phone in Busan (after all, he didn’t want to be tracked down) so he told Hoseok that he didn’t have one. Hoseok then asked where they were staying and Jimin told him about how they had only paid a few hours in the cheap motel by the truck stop. Hoseok shook his head and recommended him other options that were also cheap but not quite as shady, but again, Jimin was a minor. Hoseok then decided that he would help him get a fake ID whether he ended up working with him or not, because he would need it anyways, and they agreed to meet at that same diner in the afternoon after Hoseok came back from school to discuss that.

 

Hoseok showed up at the accorded hour with his partner, a short and mean looking guy who briefly introduced himself as Min Yoongi, 19 years old, who led them to his friend, who made Jimin’s very first and only fake ID. Yoongi paid for it, claiming he knew how hard it was to save money when you were on your own, and told Jimin to pay him back whenever he could. Feeling indebted to the couple, Jimin decided he would try out at the bar, for better or for worse, much to Hoseok’s excitement. Hoseok recommended to Jimin trying to style himself to look a bit older, or else his ID wouldn’t fool anyone. Jimin sighed, showing him the very few clothing articles he had managed to put in his backpack before he left home, none of which would make him look any different.

 

Hoseok and Yoongi exchanged concerned looks and then nodded, before Hoseok slung an arm around Jungkook’s shoulder and started walking with him casually, while Yoongi did the same thing with Jimin in an opposite direction. It was the first time Jimin and Jungkook were apart since leaving Busan, so Jimin was terrified and kept looking back, but Yoongi pinched his arm hard and told him to stop being such a mom. Jimin accused him of not understanding anything, and Yoongi answered with a nonchalant “Yeah, that’s the point of this little talk. Understanding.”

 

Yoongi also said that they wouldn’t stop walking until he understood, that the longer Jimin took in explaining who he was and who Jungkook was and why they were so suspicious and yet looked so clearly innocent, the farther they would get from Jungkook. He also made it clear that despite being the same height as Jimin, his grip was strong as hell, so he wouldn’t let him go until he was satisfied with the explanation. Jimin was beyond frustrated, and he cursed at himself for ending up in that situation; after all, it could have easily been avoided if they hadn’t followed Hoseok to ‘steal’ his music. But minutes passed, precious minutes during which they were indeed getting farther from the others, venturing into streets that Jimin was not familiar with, so he gave up and confessed.

 

‘Confessed’ was a bit of a strong term, but that was how it felt for Jimin. He had committed several sins, including: dating men, lying to his family, watching idly as his best friend’s life fell apart, running away from home, kidnapping said best friend and currently hiding from their parents, the authorities and a crime network. He was crying by the end of his story, but Yoongi’s grip only tightened and his pace slowed down, until they stopped in the middle of a shabby-looking street. “You think your life’s rough, but there’s always someone who’s had it worse,” Yoongi said, more to himself than to Jimin. “But those things make your skin tough. You gotta be hard as steel now, okay? No matter how soft and gooey you may be on the inside, don’t show the world any weakness.”

 

Jimin wiped his tears and nodded, relieved that he was getting an advice instead of a punch or a stab, and Yoongi continued, gesturing to an old building in front of them. “This is where we live. You and your little lamb are free to sleep in our living room until you get your shit together. If you look so scared all the time, people will eat you alive, that ID means nothing if you don’t act like the man it says you are.” Yoongi then turned around and started walking back in the direction they came from, and Jimin followed him in silence, swallowing the tears that threatened to spill out. He would be strong, strong enough to ensure that he and Jungkook would stay alive and make it out of that place in one piece; he would lock away his fears and guilt deep in his heart where no one would reach.

 

He didn’t know where Hoseok took Jungkook or what they talked about, but by the time Jimin and Yoongi returned to the diner, they found both already there with red noses and glassy eyes. “Weak.” Yoongi muttered, shaking his head and pointing at them with his thumb. “This is what I’m talking about, do you want to look like them?” Jimin shook his head with a little smile before Hoseok pulled him into a bone-crushing hug and told him he’d let him borrow Yoongi’s clothes for his tryout. Yoongi frowned but made no further attempts to dissuade him, so a couple of hours later Jimin found himself in Yoongi and Hoseok’s tiny apartment preparing for some kind of audition/job interview.

 

The bar’s owner was Hoseok’s friend, so he had arranged to see Jimin an hour before the place opened. Jimin’s new friends gave him a general idea of what was expected from him and assured him that he would definitely get the job. Jungkook encouraged him as well, though he was also a little bit sad because he couldn’t work with him. No fake ID was good enough to fool anyone into believing that Jungkook was a day older than 15, so it was pointless to even suggest it. Jimin’s first impression of El Mariachi was nothing magical, since the place was empty except for the owner and the few workers who had arrived early, including Yoongi and Hoseok. (Jungkook had to stay at their house by himself, something that Jimin wasn’t entirely happy with, but he would be safer there than out in the streets or in another crappy motel. Yoongi had locked him in anyway for everyone’s safety).

 

The owner was a kind middle aged man who was very proud of his bar. He told Jimin that he had met Hoseok at another bar where they used to work together, before he decided to become independent. Hoseok had been the first person to believe in his investment and had given him ideas to make it unique, so he trusted him, not only as a bartender, but also as someone who could identify when something would work or not. That was why he trusted his judgment and he was sure that if Hoseok recommended Jimin, it was because he was really worth it. Jimin was so grateful, and he promised himself and the owner that he wouldn’t let Hoseok look bad, so he would show him the best of him. Yoongi improvised some melody on the piano for Jimin to dance to, and he let his heart guide his movements.

 

He remembered Yoongi’s advice about not showing weakness, so as he danced, he remembered the strongest people he had met: how Jungkook had carried on dancing and going to school even after his mother disappeared, how Hoseok was finishing school while having to support himself financially, how Yoongi loved Hoseok without shame and also had to make a living without any support. Jimin hadn’t been able to see his own strength yet, so in the meantime, he borrowed his friends’ and delivered a clear, precise, and memorable performance for the small audience. When he finished, he received applause from the owner, an overly excited Hoseok, and the few employees who were around. Needless to say, he had the necessary entertainment skills, but since he had zero service experience, the owner told him he’d have a 3-week training period. Jimin was ecstatic, and so were his friends.

 

Being a waiter and a dancer ended up being way more exhausting than Jimin could have ever imagined, and he wanted to give up more often than not, but every time the thought crossed his mind, he remembered his promise to Jungkook and the enormous debt he had with Hoseok and Yoongi, who were letting them live in their house, eat their food and wear their clothes. Of course, it was a temporary arrangement, and Jimin would pay them back, so in order to do that, he had to keep working. Since Jungkook was not making any profit, he stayed home and took care of everything, and since it was embarrassing to ask Hoseok and Yoongi for money on top of everything else, the remnants of their Seoul jar were slowly spent on things like transportation, laundry service or hygiene items.

 

Besides the exhausting job, life at home wasn’t easy either. Of course Jimin couldn’t complain, but sleeping on the couch wasn’t ideal for his tired limbs, and the place was so small that privacy was nonexistent. He had seen way too much of Yoongi’s naked body, and heard way too much about his and Hoseok’s sex life. Jimin tried to make it educational for Jungkook, teaching him that sex was natural and it was a beautiful thing between two people who loved each other very much; however his argument died the first time Hoseok didn’t go home straight after work because he went to sleep with someone he met at the bar. Yoongi was very okay with it, and told Jimin that it wasn’t cheating as long as they talked about it openly and honestly. Jimin soon learned that they did that regularly, sometimes even together, and while he didn’t judge them, he made sure that the lesson Jungkook took from that was the open communication part.

 

Jimin was eventually able to pay back his debt and rent a space for himself and Jungkook, which was somehow even smaller, but it didn’t matter, because he finally had his own bed. However, being the only source of income came with its own difficulties (Jungkook could have technically gotten a part-time job, but Jimin didn’t think he was ready yet). Jimin had to pay for rent, services and food by himself, as opposed to sharing like he used to do at Yoongi and Hoseok’s place. Jungkook was also still growing, so he constantly needed things, and they were supposed to start saving for Seoul again, so Jimin had no choice but to keep working, so their plan of only staying at that town for a few weeks had turned into 3 years and counting.

 

However, Jimin was feeling optimistic that year, because Jungkook was finally 18 years old and working at the bar, where Jimin and his friends could always watch out for him, and his job as a backstage assistant and singer guaranteed that he wouldn’t come in close contact with the clients, so no one would harm him or take advantage of him. The story of Jungkook’s first crush had resulted in such a traumatic experience, that the last thing Jimin wanted was for him to fall into the trap of some horny drunk who didn’t even care for his feelings. Jimin had had his own meaningless hookups, but at least he knew what he was doing: playing dumb to get extra cash and some gifts that he needed; meanwhile Jungkook was way too transparent, he didn’t have the necessary amount of malice to play with anyone, but he was the perfect victim to be toyed with.

 

The other reason why Jimin was feeling optimistic was because of Taehyung, who had changed his life since the night he met him. Taehyung didn’t sugar coat anything, he didn’t participate in the ridiculous games that the other customers played, didn’t lie to supposedly make him feel special and Jimin didn’t have to pretend to be someone he was not. Their interest in each other was genuine, even during the day, away from the illusions created by the bar’s atmosphere. Ever since that night when they made a mutually beneficial arrangement, over the period of time during which the bar was closed due to the police investigation, they had seen each other every single day. Jimin had shown Taehyung his favorite places from the town and told him which places to avoid, they had picnics and walks, they went out to get ice cream or pet some puppies at the pet store. Sometimes Taehyung was the one to take him to the nearest city to watch a movie, go to the salon or shop.

 

They talked all the time, getting to know each other little by little, but even though Taehyung was an open book, he seemed to catch when he was being too invasive for Jimin and changed the subject. Their personalities were very different yet they seemed to match, somehow, they laughed at the same things and were moved by the same things too. Taehyung talked about his brothers with the same overwhelming affection that Jimin felt for Jungkook, which included showing each other ugly candid pictures of them. They were both caring and attentive to details. Taehyung actually listened to him and remembered things he had said in passing, and he was touchy in a way that wasn’t aggressive or possessive, but truly affectionate instead, which Jimin found very comfortable.

 

Another thing that Jimin liked about Taehyung was that he didn’t mind the fact that Jungkook would sometimes tag along with them, in fact, they became good friends. Since Jungkook wasn’t working either he got terribly bored, especially while Yoongi and Hoseok were still detained, so sometimes when Taehyung invited Jimin to his house, he told him to bring Jungkook too, and the three of them would play video games, watch movies and laugh at dumb things together.

 

Jimin liked Taehyung’s brothers too, though he hadn’t interacted with them as much. Of course at the time he didn’t know that Seokjin would end up being his boss, for him he was still the crazy shoulder hyung who drove them to the city and laughed at his own dad jokes. He hadn’t gotten to see much of Namjoon because he seemed to always be either working or sleeping, but the few times they had talked, he seemed nice. He knew a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff, and he was as gentle with his words as he was clumsy with his body: the few times Jimin had seen him, he had either broken something, dropped something or bumped into something each time without fail.

 

They were a loving family and Jimin could see why Taehyung was so spoiled: on top of being rich, he was also the baby of his house, but he wasn’t really the snobby type of rich, nor the type of rich who treated everyone as inferior, in fact it seemed to be the opposite. Taehyung envied even the factory workers that he supervised, because they were vital for the factory, meanwhile he knew that his job was just an activity that he was assigned to do to justify his presence in the town, so his father could get results, but it was something that literally anyone could do. Taehyung always complimented Jimin, who was also vital for the bar, and whose job couldn’t be performed by just anybody. However, the police investigation continued and Jimin was still unemployed, and he felt as if he and Jungkook were back to square one. Taehyung gave him hope though, he was thoroughly convinced that Yoongi and Hoseok would be released and the bar would open again and Jimin would go back to being the dancing star that he was born to be.

 

…And he was right. The shooter was jailed for attempted murder, Yoongi was released since no one pressed charges, and Hoseok had to be imprisoned for a while on top of paying for having an unregistered weapon, but since it hadn’t actually been shot, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The bar’s owner decided to sell the place anyway, take his money and invest on something different, and Seokjin bought it on a whim. Taehyung swore he had no idea his brother was planning to do such a thing until it was already done, but either way he fulfilled his promise to Jimin: he went to the bar on the reopening night, sat on table 4, flirted with him properly, and by the end of Jimin’s shift, he went home with him.

 

Well, they went to a hotel. And well, it wasn’t like they hadn’t been flirting the entire time before that. But… that experience was different, it wasn’t like the times he had been with other random customers. Jimin had felt the excitement and initial shyness of his first date with Kyungho, but without the fear of being caught or the feeling that he was doing something sinful; he was playful and Taehyung was tipsy, but he didn’t want or expect anything in return besides just being with him. At the bar, Jimin’s role was defined: he played the part of the pretty but dumb waiter who was so easy to take advantage of, when in reality he was the one who carefully selected who he wanted to use. But with Taehyung, there was no role to play, and no power game, just two human beings who enjoyed each other’s company. If there was a word to define what Taehyung made him feel, it would be comfort.

 

So it really was no surprise that Taehyung kept going to the bar every night, and that Jimin wouldn’t even look at anyone else; no surprise that they ended up going out together on Jimin’s off nights too, and that they saw each other in other places during the afternoons at least 3 times a week. It became a steady thing, and it never got boring, or suffocating. It just felt right, as if Taehyung was always supposed to be present in his life. And so, it really shouldn’t have surprised him that Taehyung wanted to put a name to this bond between them; that Taehyung wanted to be his boyfriend. It shouldn’t have surprised him, but it did.

 

They were spending the evening in Taehyung’s house, getting ready together before Seokjin picked them both up to go to the bar, and Taehyung had gone serious all of a sudden and told him how much he had enjoyed the time they spent together and how happy he was that he got to know him, and Jimin thought that conversation was going in an opposite direction, but then he said how he was a big romantic at heart and he wanted to be able to show Jimin that side of him as well, if he would let him. And all Jimin could think about was how beautiful and kind and pure hearted Taehyung was, how he wanted to give him even more of himself even though Jimin had been hiding so much from him. And so, he asked Taehyung to listen to him, to decide only after learning his story, who he really was, if he still wanted him.

 

Jimin told him everything, from when he was an oblivious 7 year old to now, when he was a paranoid 20 year old. Taehyung listened without interrupting, only nodding in encouragement or reaching out to grab his hands comfortingly, and by the end of his tale, he was smiling.

 

“I always knew that you were strong, but I never knew how much.” He said softly. “You saved a life. You saved Jungkookie’s life even though you knew that you’d have to leave your own life behind and create a new one, for both of you. You’re so brave.”

 

Jimin shook his head. Yeah, maybe he had, but he didn’t think that made him strong, it was just his moral obligation. “I did a lot of bad things, too. And… I don’t think I’m done saving him yet, you know? Like, right now I know he’s with Yoongi and Hoseokie-hyung, and he’s safe, but there’s always a part of my brain that goes ‘is he? Is he really safe? How much longer will he be?’ and the truth is that I don’t know, I don’t know if I truly saved him.”

 

“You saved him when he was still a kid even though you were one too.” Taehyung continued in a calm but firm tone. “And you brought him up to be an adult, now it’s up to him.”

 

Jimin’s eyes widened and he shook his head again. “He’s still too vulnerable, he can still get hurt--”

 

“He will always be vulnerable and prone to get hurt. And so will you. And me. And everyone. Jimin, you can’t just… lock him in a bulletproof glass room.” Taehyung tried to explain, clearly struggling to find the right words. “Look, you’ve been a wonderful hyung to him and I’m sure he loves you and he will never be able to pay you back for the life that you’ve given him, but, if you protect him from everything you’ll make him a useless man.”

 

Jimin frowned, but he immediately realized that Taehyung was speaking from experience. “You’re not—I mean, he’s not useless. He’s just not ready yet.”

 

“He’ll never be ready if you don’t let him try.” Taehyung sighed. “I don’t know him as well as you do, but I know what it’s like to be the youngest child… I’ve seen my hyungs sacrifice themselves for my happiness and what am I giving them in return? Nothing. I can’t give anything because they take care of everything already, I have no choice… It’s not like Seokjin-hyung likes driving me around and cooking and cleaning, he does it to make me happy. And Namjoonie-hyung had to give up his career to take care of us, so that I can have a carefree life, but in the end, it’s just a burden for all of us. Do you even want to go to Seoul? Because if you don’t, even if you think you’re making Jungkook happy, you’re only giving him a debt that he’ll never be able to pay. He’ll feel like he has to be happy, otherwise your sacrifice was in vain, but he’ll never be truly satisfied with a life that was already chosen and built for him. It’s just… what I’m trying to say is…”

 

“It’s okay, I think I get it.” Jimin nodded, sighing heavily. “I had never looked at it that way… this whole time, these three years, all I’ve thought about is how I have to protect him and get him out of here, but I never stopped to think about me, about my own life… To be honest, everything had revolved around work, about saving money. I’m… I’m not only saying this because we’re having this conversation, but, you’re the only person who makes me feel like… you remind me of who I am, you make me look inside and see something besides the mask that I wear for customers or even the mask that I wear for Jungkook. The truth is that I don’t have a dream either, Tae, I don’t know what I’ll do once this is over.”

 

“You mean when our little Jungkookie spreads his wings and leaves the nest?” Taehyung asked playfully, and Jimin couldn’t help but laugh despite his attempt to be serious.

 

“I’ve always thought that he’s like a little squirrel, Yoongi-hyung thinks he looks like a lamb and Hoseokie-hyung calls him that too, Seokjin-nim calls him singing rabbit… now he’s a bird?”

 

“He’s some unspecified children’s book creature.” Taehyung shrugged. “But, back to the point, you still haven’t answered my question.”

 

Jimin’s smile froze in place and he ran a hand through his hair. Right, the question. “I think that I should be the one asking you: do you really want to be the boyfriend of a 20 year old single parent with an 18 year old son?”

 

Taehyung smiled goofily at first and then much more softly, grabbing Jimin’s hand and pressing a kiss to his knuckles. “I’d be much honored to have someone as strong, brave, graceful and kind by my side… The question is: do you want to be the boyfriend of a guy who dyes his hair a different color every week and goes into a dangerous neighborhood without security?”

 

Jimin laughed, loudly and honestly, with his entire body; Taehyung always made him feel just great. “Yeah, absolutely. Without a doubt, I want to be that guy’s boyfriend really badly.”

 

“Yay!” Taehyung exclaimed and pulled Jimin into a big hug. Jimin loved hugs so much, but the only one willing to give them to him before was Hoseok, who tended to crush his body; meanwhile Taehyung’s hugs were just warm and comforting, like everything about him. “Thank you.”

 

“What are you thanking me for?” Jimin pulled himself free from Taehyung’s arms to look into his eyes.

 

“For being you, I guess.” He answered, almost shyly. “For showing me something that night that made my heart beat again. For letting me remove layer after layer of mystery to reveal a person who’s just as beautiful on the inside as he is on the outs—You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?”

 

Jimin started laughing again, his face feeling warmer and his entire being much lighter. “Of course I am; it’s not every day I get complimented like this. Keep going.”

 

“Woah, Jimin, I’ve run out of things to say.”

 

“Already?!”

 

“You cut off my momentum.” Taehyung said dramatically.

 

“Sorry, sorry.” Jimin kept giggling, shaking his head. If he weren’t already sure that he was falling in love with Taehyung, he was certainly sure now. “I’ll make it up to you.”

 

He cupped his boyfriend’s face in his hands, watching him close his eyes and lick his lips, before drawing closer to plant a kiss on his mouth. It wasn’t their first kiss, but it was the first one they shared as a real couple, and it made Jimin feel bubbly and tingly inside. Taehyung wrapped his arms around his waist, comforting as always, and Jimin couldn’t help but smile against his lips.

 


 

 

Hoseok took a quick glance at his watch as he finished cleaning the counter. It was 6:30 am, so they should have already been out, but there were still some customers around who were waiting to be picked up, and it wasn’t even because they were too drunk to walk, but because they were too rich. He looked at the space where his shotgun used to be and shook his head in silent mourning, before hopping out of the bar and announcing to no one in particular that he was going to change his clothes.

 

As he made his way backstage, loosening up his bowtie, he eyed the remaining workers picking up chairs and mopping the floor even around the clients who remained unbothered: one caught up in his phone, and the other caught up in Jimin’s tongue. Hoseok shook his head again, remembering Seokjin’s words: “They’re too good for you”. If the circumstances were different, he would have tried to prove him wrong, but as things were, Taehyung was a lost cause since Jimin had called dibs on him, while Namjoon was… well, he was a lost cause too. Besides, they weren’t really his type after all.

 

Hoseok entered the backstage area and found Jungkook already changed into his oversized hoodie, staring into the void while Seokjin and Yoongi were arguing about something. Hoseok sighed dreamily at the combined sound of their voices, those two were his type: young and hot on the outside, old and bitter on the inside.

 

“Hey, hey, what are we fighting about?” He asked as he started to unbutton his shirt, succeeding in getting their attention.

 

“Jin-hyung wants to eliminate some drinks entirely, which is plain stupid.” Yoongi explained.

 

“I’m only planning to eliminate the ones that are made of expensive liquors; the profit we get from them is too small for the production costs.” Seokjin answered, holding a printed sheet of paper which Hoseok assumed was the bill from their liquor provider, but then returned his attention to Yoongi. “And who gave you permission to call me hyung?”

 

“Uh, you did, remember? It was at the end of the re-opening week.” Yoongi replied, rubbing his temples. “But whatever, you can’t cut off those drinks, they’re the most popular ones. We’re gonna lose customers if you do that, and customers are much more valuable than the few cents you’re trying to save.”

 

“Few cents? Excuse me? Do you know how much money goes into these liquors?” Seokjin kept waving the paper like a flag. “And I have no recollection of letting you call me Jin-hyung; if anything, it must have been Seokjin-hyungnim.”

 

“Are you for real? Is this a hidden camera show? I’ll remind you of the exact moment when it happened: you were this close,” Yoongi made a ‘small’ gesture with his hand, “to kissing Hoseok, and he said ‘Seokjin-ssi, we shouldn’t do this, you’re my boss’, and then--”

 

“Aaaaaaaaah, Jungkookie, you’re still there!” Hoseok cut Yoongi off to alert him of the younger boy’s presence, which he seemed to have forgotten, considering he was revealing something that was supposed to be a secret between the three of them. “Why don’t you go home? It’s late.”

 

Jungkook stared at him wide-eyed, but it was hard to tell if he was shocked about Yoongi’s revelation or about something else going on inside his head. “Well, Tae-hyung said he’d give us a ride home as soon as his security comes to pick him up. He and Jimin are exchanging spit in the meantime, so I don’t wanna be out there.”

 

“I see.” Hoseok nodded with a giant fake smile. Yoongi and Seokjin fell silent, but he could see that the tip of Seokjin’s ears were red. “Well, Namjoon is there as well, and I’m sure he must be bored watching the spit exchange. Why don’t you talk to him while you wait?”

 

Jungkook’s expression went from shocked to mortified. “I’m fine here, really. I spend my nights in this space, so it’s like another home…”

 

“Jungkook.” Yoongi said in a stern tone. “Get out.”

 

“But--”

 

“Out.” He hissed.

 

Jungkook scrunched up his face in disgust, but walked towards the door in resignation. “You’re all gonna start making out as well, aren’t you?”

 

“Out!” This time it was Seokjin’s voice.