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Chapter Text

Namjoon doesn’t normally get mail, but that’s one of the caveats of living in a shuttle drifting through the darkness of space.

The shipment is in the holding bay when he awakes, hidden among the paperwork and charging batteries he receives from the Federate every three months. He goes through his ‘morning’ rituals first - showering, stretching, and sucking down a tube of breakfast while he takes his notes on the Explosion remnants any camera feed managed to capture during his slumber. His hands don’t stay busy doing that for long, though. They haven’t since he took station five years ago.

The package is crudely taped in a dingy cardboard box, though Namjoon hasn’t a clue if the dents on its sides and front happened on its way to the shuttle, or if someone from the Federate roughed it up before it even left the ground. There is no sender. The return address is unfamiliar. When Namjoon cradles the box delicately in his hands, he finds it is very light and his mind is very blank as to who sent him this and what this even is.

Incoming transmission from: Dr. Yeun, Project Mikropolis Lead. Begin?” 

There’s a furrow to Namjoon’s brow, carefully wedging his thumb under the bit of tape that’s loose on the box’s edge.

“Play it,” he mumbles under his breath. 

In the holding bay, the lights embedded in the chrome ceiling dim. The shutters block out the dark emptiness of space. Namjoon leans back in his chair with the box on his lap as a small cylinder protrudes from the surface of the table. It clicks itself into place, removes the top portion to reveal a small camera lens and then, light. 

Namjoon-ssi?” Dr. Yeun’s voice is static, as is the small projection of his figure that appears in front of Namjoon. He always looks different every transmission from the last time Namjoon remembers. Before, the doctor had longer and shaggier hair with a beard. Now, the hair has been trimmed short and his face is cleanly shaven. The only consistency is the white lab coat slung over the doctor’s narrow shoulders. It always looks like it is two sizes too big.

“I’m here,” Namjoon responds.

Ah, ah. Good. What is the status of the Remnants?

Namjoon lifts off the flap of the box and starts on the others. “The same as before. Nothing of importance to report.”

Though the size of the projection is small, Namjoon can still see how Dr. Yeun’s expression pinches in annoyance. “Nothing? Five years and there is still nothing?

“Sometimes, there’s mild radiation in the dust particles forming around the Explosion’s epicenter. But it isn’t anything that I can collect further data on in exploring mutations or how to predict if another Explosion will occur.” Namjoon undoes another flap and gets his hand inside. He runs his fingers against balled-up newsprint for a few moments, before he finds something smooth and metal and fits in the palm of his hand.

We have invested so much money into this project, Namjoon-ssi. You have invested quite a majority of your life to this project. Yet, your reports always turn up no results. No answers. Not even any new questions to join the ones we already have. 

“I’m sure this transmission costs money as well, yet you’re using it to berate me?” Namjoon hotly asks. Dr. Yeun’s jaw locks; his shoulders rise with a deep inhale, before they slump with a sigh that hisses through clenched teeth.

No, I’m using it to deliver an announcement to you,” he says, tilting his chin up. “You’re returning back to Earth.

Namjoon nearly chokes on his breath.

We found some cosmic irregularities further out into the solar system, to a place that your current shuttle won’t be able to reach. Therefore, you will be returning to Earth so that we may send you back out to your new station.

“How long will I be on Earth?”

Three months, give or take. The new vessel is still in the process of being built, but production and testing has been quite busy. While you are here, you will receive data on these new irregularities and analyze them. Help our doctors make sense of them with that ‘intelligence’ of yours.” Namjoon does not miss the dry tone, the bitterness in the doctor’s voice. Somehow, the static of the transition makes it sound worse.

But, he holds his tongue for now.

We’ll be creating a course for your return and pilot the shuttle back. We’re estimating your return next month at the earliest.

“Right.”

Did you receive the paperwork?

“Yes.”

Go through them and sign the necessary documents before sending it back as an E-Holo.

Namjoon turns the piece of metal between his fingers. “Right, of course.”

He expects the transmission to end there — Dr. Yeun was never courteous with goodbyes or hellos for that matter — but the projection remained. “Namjoon-ssi, I don’t feel like I need to remind you that your participation in this project was your alternative for redemption of your crimes.

Namjoon tenses. He doesn’t speak back.

We are expecting your full cooperation going into this next phase. If we feel you are not providing us with substantial progress, then I have no qualms rejecting your status as a member of the project and allowing the Federate to return to their primary punishment for you.” Dr. Yeun smiles, teeth not visible. “It would be cheaper after all to have you in a prison on Earth than a prison among the stars.

The transmission abruptly ends before the curse on the tip of Namjoon’s tongue has the chance to leap off. He sits there, momentarily drowned in darkness, until the lights flicker back on and the shutters open themselves again. 

The nerves in his free hand are burning hot, and it happens before he is even cognizant of it. His hand closes tight in a fist and snaps up before driving itself down into the side of the metal cabinet. There is a loud CLANG! and Namjoon quickly sucks in a sharp breath of air and scrunches his eyes tight. Count to ten. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm. He pulls his hand back from where he has now left a smoldering crater in the gray steel, and only when he lets his eyes flutter open does he see the glow of fire and energy beneath his knuckles fade away. 

Well, there’s another thing for Dr. Yeun to be pissed at him for. 

He distracts himself with the box again, sifting through the balled up newsprint for anything else aside from the piece of metal in his hands — which actually, now that he takes a good look at it, is in fact a flash drive. Namjoon does manage to find a small index card among the paper, but the writing is as unfamiliar as the rest of the contents and nature of the package.

 

Catch up on what your teammate’s been doing :)

 

Namjoon swallows hard.

It’s a joke. It has to be a joke. He hasn’t spoken to anyone from the team since he left, doesn’t even know who would put in the effort to send him a package. Hoseok maybe? He was the only one that didn’t seem angry after the hearing, was the only one that said goodbye at the launch. Definitely not Yoongi or Seokjin. Jeongguk?

A memory flashes at the front of Namjoon’s mind. A young round face, eyes wet with tears and soaked clothes that smelled of rainfall. You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to go. It wasn’t your fault. 

He pushes the thought back. Buries it deeper down into his subconscious and counts to ten. Stay calm, stay calm. 

“Scan for viruses or impurities,” Namjoon says as he inserts the flash drive into a port on the side of his chair. A hologram appears in front of his eyes, hues of green and blue in digital pixels that form to make an image of a data screen.

No viruses or impurities found. 1 file located: IMG_231.dv. Type: Video. Play?

A video?

Maybe a newsreel? Maybe a ‘Where Are They Now?’ segment. Maybe something to rub in Namjoon’s face how big of a fuck up he is in comparison to the others.

Maybe it was Seokjin that sent it.

“…Play it.”

The lights dim but the shutters remain open. The holoscreen shifts to a darker shade, a white circle appearing in the center to focus Namjoon’s attention. Then there is the sound of something rustling in Namjoon’s ears. It takes him a moment, but he realizes its the sound of bedsheets sliding against skin. The camera jiggles with inexperienced hands and the focus is blurry, but the setting is too dark anyways for Namjoon to make any clear details.

Okay, there we go,” a voice — gruff and deep and once again, unfamiliar — says, before the camera focuses at last to reveal the interior of what appears to be a hotel room. The curtains are pulled closed and the lamp on the bedside table is barely emitting any light. There’s a group of men that line the walls, some masked and others not. Some are half naked, while others are fully nude and stroking themselves to hardness.

There’s a sickness at the back of Namjoon’s throat that urges him to turn the video off. There’s a burn in his chest, in his legs, in his tightly clenched fists that wants him to turn his head. But something else persists, like a nagging itch at the back of his head, that wants to understand why. How does this involve him? Who even sent him this and what were they expecting to happen when he sees it? Is it a joke? Is it a mistake?

The camera pans back to the bed, bedsheets wrinkled and already a mess. There’s a young man sprawled out on the top, fully naked and posed in a way that draws attention to the curve of his body and tone of his musculature. He’s wearing a domino mask, smiling. 

Namjoon recognizes that smile, the scrunch of the nose, those bunny teeth.

How many cocks do you think you can take, baby?” the gruff voice asks.

The masked man gives a laugh. Namjoon remembers that laugh. The masked man shyly bites the bottom of his pink lip. God, Namjoon remembers that too.

Depends,” the man says, glancing around at the men looming against the walls, some taking steps towards the bed as predators would descend on their prey. “How many do you have for me?

Namjoon yanks the flash drive out of its port before the footage can continue any longer.

Calm down, calm down, his mind tries to soothe amid the static and chaos erupting in his head. No. No, no, no. It can’t be him. It can’t be him. There’s heat burning in Namjoon’s throat that makes it hard to swallow, and the *pop, sizzle, crack!* that is occurring in his right hand as the flash drive is destroyed in his grip makes his head feel dizzy. Calm down, calm down.

His hand falls limp at his side, the crushed and singed remnants of the flash drive dropping to the metal ground. Though fire courses through his veins to where it burns the hottest in his chest, Namjoon feels cold. It can’t be. It isn’t who he thinks it is. It’s a trick. It’s a lie.

He sits there in the dark. He sits there completely alone, amid a sea of planetary dust and stars farther than he could ever reach, but home is even farther. He sits there and he thinks the same three thoughts over and over again.

It’s not him.

It’s not him.

It’s all my fault.

Chapter Text

“Amazing! Bringing it to a close of over 10,000,000 won earned for a ten-day streak on our show, please give it up for Kim Namjoon!”

There is confetti raining down from the rafters, colorful strips contrasting the harsh white of the stage lights. There is cheering, there is clapping and shouting and ugh, Namjoon sees how fake the smiles are from his competitors out of his peripherals; the skin pulls too tightly at the corners of the mouth and the eyes. They’re older gentlemen, distinguished gentlemen with schooling behind their knowledge. Which just makes Namjoon feel all the worse for running off with such a high score in comparison.

They take a few pictures before clearing the set for the local press — both men giving Namjoon a quick up down pump of the hand for a lackluster sportsmanship handshake for the cameras — before Namjoon wanders backstage. He’s got a finger hooked into the collar of his button-up shirt, his other hand fumbling to undo the knot in his tie the makeup noona fixed for him. 

“Smartest boy I’ve seen, yet can’t tie a decent Windsor knot,” she had tutted.

Some people congratulate Namjoon on his consecutive wins as he passes through the crowds of stagehands and executives, friendly little claps on his shoulders and nods and smiling. Lots of smiling. Too much smiling for Namjoon to really be comfortable with all the attention. His cheeks feel like they are stinging; maybe it’s cause of the heat from the ceiling lamps, or the way the noonas he passes by fawn over him and the look of confused wandering on his face. Just hurry to makeup. Just need to get his backpack and go. Everything’s fine. Stay calm.

The makeup door makes its presence known at last; Namjoon hurries inside intending to scoop his bag off the chair he left it on, but gives pause when he steps in the doorway. The room is empty, save for an older man sitting in a makeup chair, dressed in a gaudy suede suit with an even gaudier handkerchief poked out the front left breast pocket. He’s got jewelry all over his hands, different rings of color and sizes over his thick fingers. Situated in his lap is Namjoon’s bag, his thumb and pointer finger playing with the zipper.

“Excuse me!” Namjoon calls out, shutting the door behind him. The man turns his head, and immediately, the heat Namjoon felt beneath his skin turns to ice. The man’s eyes are like nothing Namjoon’s ever seen, a mix of red and gold with flecks of brown, like a roaring flame is alight in his body and trying to escape. 

“I’m sorry,” the man apologizes, smiling. His voice is faint, like a whisper. “Is this yours?”

Namjoon nods, too unsettled for words.

The man rises to his feet, holding Namjoon’s bag close as he approaches. “Kim Namjoon, correct?”

Another silent nod.

“I wanted to congratulate you on your wins. Never seen anything like it for someone at your age. Fifteen, correct?”

Namjoon’s hand passively reaches behind him for where he remembers the doorknob to be, just to hold onto something to anchor him from where it feels like his heart is racing faster than he’d like. He only grabs air.

“Y-Yes, sir.”

The man’s smile stretches from ear to ear. “I would like to ask you a few questions and make a lucrative proposition to you—”

“Thank you, sir, but I really should be going—” Namjoon looks over his shoulder, startling himself to find the door he came through is now gone and replaced with a blank wall.  His confusion isn’t allowed to linger; he feels a heavy hand on his shoulder, rings digging into the joint as the man squeezes. 

“Oh, but we have time. Sit down. I promise you it won’t be long.”

He pulls Namjoon away from the wall towards the makeup chairs — has there always been only two chairs? Has it always been so quiet in this room that even the bustle of outside can’t permeate the walls? The man forces Namjoon down into the chair before taking a seat in the available one. He still holds tightly onto Namjoon’s bag.

“You gave such an impressive performance. Set a really nice score too, though I felt you could have done better,” the man scolds. He sounds almost disgusted, disappointed. Namjoon bristles.

“I did the best I could,” he responds. “I’m only human. I can’t know everything.”

The man chuckles. Something about the tone of it, the curve of the man’s mouth and the twinkling of his eyes puts Namjoon back on edge. “Namjoon-ah, you don’t have to lie. I know everything about you.”

“…I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Namjoon eyes his bag. “Look, I really want to leave—”

“You know, you show it on your face when you handicap yourself,” the man continues, prodding at the middle of his forehead. “You develop this little crease in between your brows, like you’re realizing you’re answering too much and maybe you should allow your competitors to win a few points. Or when you already know the answer three words into the host reading it, but you can’t possibly answer without drawing suspicion. So you just hold your buzzer tight and that little crease appears as you wait till it is proper to answer.”

Namjoon bites the inside of his cheek. Subconsciously, he covers his forehead. “I don’t know—”

“You get it when you play dumb too. Like you’re doing now.”

“What do you want?” Namjoon sharply asks. He’s trying to hide the crease in his forehead, trying to hide the way his other hand jitters nervously on his thigh. “So I’m just really smart and I was trying to be a good sport about it. What’s wrong with that?”

“Those men you faced off with are ‘really smart’. I’m sure everyone that you will face off against if you continue playing in this pointless little trivia show will be considered ‘really smart’. But no one will ever be able to compare to you. You’re not ‘really smart’. You’ve been Blessed.”

“…Who are you?”

The man gives a hum, hugging Namjoon’s bag against his stomach. “I’m in the mood for some tea and a change of setting. Would you care to accompany me?”

“No.” Namjoon gets to his feet. “No, I need to go home.”

“Home?” the man asks in a confused tone, before he pulls the zipper of Namjoon’s bag open to reveal the contents. Toothbrush, soap, a few pairs of clothes in desperate need of washing and ratty shoes. “Doesn’t seem like you intend to return ‘home’ soon.”

“Hey!” Namjoon lurches forward, hand outstretched and teeth grinding against each other. He manages to get a handful of the front of his bag, before the man grabs suddenly at his wrist and squeezes .

The colors before Namjoon’s eyes muddle together. He tastes blood on his tongue before he loses the sense of taste entirely. He feels as though he is inside of his body, yet at the same time he doesn’t know where his legs are, where his feet are, nor can he even place his own fucking heartbeat .  There are pictures rapidly flashing in his vision, sounds echoing distantly in his ears, memories from so long ago that he can never forget no matter how hard he tried.

The sound of his mother flatlining.

The smell of his father’s blood.

The night sky erupting into a chaotic mess of color and light and noise that stained the darkness for weeks after.

The nosebleeds and headaches that came from just reading a line of text on a page.

 

 

He’s on a leather couch. There’s a glass chandelier above his head, sparkling gold amid dimly lit bulbs. The ceiling is just as immaculate with a high alcove painted a dark brown and a stained glass window reflecting lights of pink and violet.

“Ah good, you’re finally awake.”

Namjoon’s head sluggishly turns to the source of the voice, spotting the man through his blurry vision sitting no longer in a makeup chair, but behind a large mahogany table with a cup of tea. There’s a fireplace burning behind him, the light flickering off the walls covered in dusty bookshelves, framed maps and oil paintings. “Sit up so you can drink some tea.”

It’s hard to force himself to sit, but Namjoon weakly manages to get his arms bowed and under himself to press upwards. He slumps against the back of the couch, one hand clutching at his forehead to massage the ache away while the other fists the front of his shirt. It’s a cotton shirt, and he’s wearing grey sweatpants instead of the suit. The groan that comes from his chapped lips must sound like enough of a question, since the man clicks his tongue at the sound and vaguely gestures with his hand. “You threw up on yourself during the travel, so I changed you out of your clothes,” he explains, then pushes the cup forward.

A few more blinks to clear his vision, a few more tender presses to his eyebrows, and Namjoon begins to feel cognizant of his body once more as he takes in the unfamiliar surroundings. There are windows — tall ones that stretch upwards like they go on till infinity — that show the pink and purple hues of oncoming night. The show was filmed at 1 in the afternoon.

“…Who are you?” Namjoon asks, voice rough and tired and most of all, scared.

“My name is So Yeongsu. I too am Blessed. And I will tell you everything.”

 


 

Namjoon didn’t know how badly he missed the sound of gravel crunching beneath his feet. He lingers with each footstep he takes, rocking himself from heel to toe, listening to how the sound differs from how his weight is applied. He’d touch it too, if his hands weren’t bound in restraints behind his back. Can’t be too careful, was what Dr. Yeun apparently told the Federate members that came to collect Namjoon when his shuttle had safely docked. 

The air is fresh and warm and the sun is so bright. He knows no good can come of his meeting with Dr. Yeun if he walks into the office smiling and teary-eyed but god, it’s been so long. It’s been so fucking long since he was able to move around, since he could hear someone else speaking to him (even if that person was a burly guard yelling at him to ‘move the fuck along’). He didn’t think he could feel like this; five years didn’t seem that bad in the shuttle, but maybe he was just ignoring the feeling of loneliness, shutting out the memories of what sunlight felt on his cheek and how grass and rocks and people sound like.

You don’t have to go. It wasn’t your fault.

The smile drops from Namjoon’s lips. Ah. Right. That’s the thought that would have appeared if he let those memories arise. As quickly as it appears, he smothers it back down. 

The facility Namjoon gets guided through is sleek and white, with tiles that show Namjoon’s tired reflection and make the heel of his boots echo with a loud CLACK CLACK. The guards flank his left and right, while up ahead one of  Dr. Yeun’s colleagues lead them through the winding hallways and around every sharp turn. Namjoon has a vague idea of how many people are involved in Project Mikropolis, hundreds or thousands. There was discussion of involving foreign aid before he was set to leave Earth all those years ago. He wonders if that ever came to fruition.

When they reach a metal door, the colleague turns to look over her shoulder at the guards. “Only the prisoner may come through. Please return to your posts,” she addresses with a cool tone. Both guards give a look at each other, then one at Namjoon, before they turn with a grumble and head back the way they came. She waits until they disappear around the corner, before she steps closer to Namjoon and places a hand on his shoulder. 

One blink of the eye, Namjoon and the colleague are in the hallway.

Another blink of the eye, they’re in a small office, Namjoon on the ground dry heaving spit and snot. 

“I see you haven’t lost that little stomach tick when you spontaneously transport,” Dr. Yeun’s voice hums. There is a light scribbling of a pen on paper. “Interesting. Very interesting.”

Namjoon staggers to his feet with the help of the colleague at his side. She wipes his mouth with the sleeve of her lab coat and gives him a pitying smile, before she releases him and disappears in another heavy blink of his eye. Namjoon turns his attention to the only other person in the space; Dr. Yeun is seated at his desk and writing furiously, not acknowledging Namjoon with even a glance. 

He waits until the silence between them gets too heavy, before Namjoon then asks, “So, you have other Blessed working within the project?”

Enhanced, not Blessed,” Dr. Yeun corrects. “And unlike you, she works as a volunteer. We had a surprising outcome of Enhanced coming to give their cooperation towards our endeavors. Some get paid, some receive benefits, and others, well,” Dr. Yeun finally looks up at Namjoon. His eyes are black without the least bit of shine. “Others get the chance to avoid rotting in a jail cell for the rest of their life.”

The words that Namjoon wishes to say in the moment twist just beneath his tongue. It was five years ago. It was an accident. I was only trying to help. 

Dr. Yeun sighs. “But that isn’t the topic of conversation at hand. Come, we’ll discuss matters of your arrangement as we walk.”

“Don’t suppose I’ll be let out of these restraints?” Namjoon questions as the doctor rises to his feet. 

“Hmm…” Dr. Yeun scratches his chin. He’s already beginning to grow a bit of coarse stubble. “How about I have your handler do that when you leave. Can’t be too careful now, can we?” he drawls with an empty smile, before brushing past Namjoon to open the office door into a hallway cluttered with people scuttling about in lab coats. 

Dr. Yeun isn’t that tall of a man, but he takes long strides. It also helps that the colleagues and assistants part to make a clear path for him to walk as he leads Namjoon down the hallway. They smile at him, nod towards him, say their hellos in greeting. To Namjoon, he is lucky to even get a glance in his direction in acknowledgement. 

“We’ll have you stay in a refurbished base outside of Gangbuk-gu. You’ll do daily reports on the materials we send you and we will keep you updated on the status of the shuttle. At the end of the month, you’ll come back here for a mission briefing,” Dr. Yeun explains as he rounds the corner, talking loud over the chatter of the people in the hallway. He glances over his shoulder at Namjoon shuffling close behind, “If you have nothing of use to us by the second mission briefing, then I will turn you over to the Federate.”

“Understood.” Best not to argue.

“Your handler will be with you at all times and will be our eyes and ears. You are not allowed to be accompanied without your handler and you are not allowed to cause your handler any physical harm. Your handler will also be your assistant to ensure your work gets done at a expedient rate as well as handle food, transportation and leisurely affairs should you earn them.”

“Are they Blessed?”

Enhanced,” Dr. Yeun stresses. “Yes, they are.”

Though Namjoon isn’t sure he likes the idea of other Blessed policing each other, some ease coaxes his shoulders down to a slump. 

“All communications about the project are to be kept strictly between us and your handler. No speaking about this to anyone without our approval. That includes any other Enhanced you may come in contact with that is not affiliated with the program.”

“…You mean like my teammates?”

Dr. Yeun hums and tuts his teeth. “If you somehow manage to cross their paths, yes. That includes your teammates.”

“…Are they — are they still around? The Professor — what about—”

Ahhhhhh, I really don’t like talking about such trivial things!” Dr. Yeun groans, gesturing with his hand to unlock a sliding glass door. The warm air that hits Namjoon in the face is accompanied with the brightness of the sun, allowing him to barely see through his eyelashes a black car waiting outside beneath the shade of a plum tree. “You are here to work on the project, not to catch up with old friends, Namjoon-ssi. No unnecessary distractions.”

Dr. Yeun then gestures to the car. “That’s your ride. Remember, treat your handler with the utmost care. We will see you in a month with results,” he says as he turns on his heel. As he walks past, Namjoon, he mutters under his breath, “Hopefully, for your sake.”

Namjoon doesn’t look back over his shoulder at the doctor heading back inside, only forward, chin jutting out. Stay calm, stay calm, stay calm-

CRACK!

Namjoon blinks, wrists feeling a lot looser and a small hill of melted titanium alloy at the back of his heels. He pulls his hands forward, watches how the restraints that were bounding his hands together now drop off his wrists in large broken chunks, while the red and orange energy flickers like starlight beneath his tan skin. It fades away when Namjoon hisses in a few short breaths to still his heart, before he awkwardly shoves his hands into the pockets of his jumpsuit and shuffles over to the vehicle. 

There’s no one inside, or at least, no one that Namjoon can see through the tinted windows. Not even a driver. He circles around the front, tries the doors to see if he can get inside, and takes a good look at himself in the side view mirror. His hair’s a blond now, though he can’t even remember when that occurred, and his eyes look tired from sleep. Or stress. Or maybe both.

A sudden tap on his shoulder makes Namjoon jump in alarm, spinning wildly to face whoever is behind him. The tapper — a much smaller man with big eyes, full lips and blond hair — easily dodges Namjoon’s flailing limbs, holding a book to his chest as he offers Namjoon a kind smile.

Ah!” Namjoon looks around, cheeks flushed. “I didn’t even hear you! I—” He sighs and relaxes his shoulders. “Sorry, sorry. I’m — um, are you…my handler, by any chance?”

The man nods his head, the silver earring dangling by his lobe jittering with the movement. Okay. Maybe instant teleportation? That would explain why Namjoon didn’t hear him approaching.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you. Um, I look forward working with you.” Namjoon offers his hand forward. The handler stares at it for a brief pause. Then it clicks in Namjoon’s head that ‘oh, yeah, I’m still supposed to be bound in restraints’. “U-Uh! So, the reason I’m not all chained up was because I broke them just now. Not that I meant to! I just — sometimes, if I’m feeling really tense or stressed about something, I break things. I’m…I’m still learning how to control it, but I promise that I won’t hurt you. I won’t hurt anyone. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

I don’t want to hurt anyone again.

The handler nods his head, eyes soft. He shifts his hold on the book against his chest, before offering it towards Namjoon to take. ‘The Comprehensive Dictionary of Korean Sign Language, 6th Edition’ is embossed in gold on the maroon cover. 

“…Is this for me?”

The handler nods.

“…You can’t speak?”

Another nod, though the handler avoids Namjoon’s curious gaze.

Without another word, Namjoon takes the book and flips it open. 

His eyes scan through the pages, taking in the information, the pictures, each word and what does it mean and how to say it. The texture of a page between his finger was something he missed, the sound of it rustling as he turned it over and relived the feeling. When Namjoon was younger, he used to take his time with a book, get to know it and make it a dear friend. He used to read all the time, tucked away in his corner of the library surrounded by the pillars of autobiographies and novels and journals he read through. How he loved the way a book felt in his hands, the weight of it, the smell of it. 

But alas, as usual, the feeling of reading a book is but a short-lived high.

The pages begin to rapidly flutter under his touch as he goes through the dictionary in a mere few seconds, with only a pinching sensation appearing in the middle of his creased brow. He looks up at his handler, who only stares at him in mild awe, before raising his hands to sign.

So, do you understand me?

Namjoon nods. The handler smiles, crinkles appearing at the corner of his eyes.

Wow, that’s amazing!”

Though it comes in a gesture, the praise is enough for Namjoon to flush red.

“U-Uh, yeah.” He hands the dictionary back, suddenly not knowing what to do with his hands other than shove them into the pockets of his jumpsuit. “So, you can’t speak, but you can hear?”

Yeah. It’s a long story. I’d rather not talk about it.”

Namjoon nods. That’s fine. They’re not expected to be friends anyways. “So, your name?”

Park Jimin. I look forward to working with you as well, Namjoon-ssi.

Jimin offers his hand forward. With slight hesitance and slight happiness, Namjoon takes it.

 


 

Park Jimin is twenty-four and has been involved in the project for a year. That is all he is willing to tell Namjoon on the drive to the compound. It’s almost unfair, because Jimin has so many questions for Namjoon in comparison. 

What was space like? Beautiful; not in a poetic way like one compares a rose, but in the way that comes from looking at it every single day and finding one more thing to marvel at the splendor of it all.

What did Namjoon eat? Freeze dried meats and tubes of vegetables, fruits and liquids. Not very appetizing. Namjoon doesn't even really remember what an apple tastes like.

Did Namjoon ever get to go outside the shuttle? Only once to collect some bits of asteroid rock to study its compounds. It wasn't as fun as the movies made it look.

Did Namjoon get lonely being up there? Of course.

(He answered that one with a laugh to play it off, but the pity in Jimin’s eyes lingered.)

There were no questions about the Incident, thankfully. Nothing about Namjoon’s sentencing or the threats from Dr. Yeun if he should not provide any results. When Jimin exhausted all of his questions for Namjoon about the topic of space, he began to explain what were the current matters of affair for South Korea and ‘Enhanced civilians’. 

All Enhanced teams were disbanded and outlawed unless approved by the government, to which there are only two units that are currently active and both are within the military. Enhanced must be registered with the Federate and all abilities are restricted in public areas, no matter the severity. Enhanced civilians are also encouraged to utilize services offered by the Federate as well as Dr. Yeun and the Project; compensation, work opportunities, medical services as well are offered in exchange for furthering the research on Enhanced abilities and understanding the Explosion that caused it all.

Jimin didn’t say what was his reasoning for joining the project. But Jimin is expressive in more ways than just his hands, and the way the brightness in his eyes dim as he turns his attention down to where his knees knock together give Namjoon a feeling it wasn’t for anything good.

The car drives itself through winding roads empty of people and buildings, arriving at the compound just as the skies begin to tint orange and violet. It’s empty of personnel, vines growing up along the stone walls and around the steel fence that the car passes through to enter the property.

It will be just us. Dr. Yeun didn’t want to risk anyone causing distraction,” Jimin explains as they both get out the car once it parks itself in front of a large steel door with a keypad outside.

“I got another question. Do you think he’s a good boss?”

He’s not my boss.” The gestures are sharp. Namjoon almost hears the curtly tone.

“Okay. Do you think he’s a good person?” Another peel of ease comes off Namjoon’s shoulders. He quirks a smile. “You have to answer this one. Otherwise, I’ll assume you hate him as much as I do.”

The look on Jimin’s face is unreadable. Then, “He saved my life. I owe him for that.

Namjoon feels like he just got swiftly kicked in the gut.

“O-Oh, I see,” he sputters, head immediately tilting to the ground. There’s dried grass coming out between the cracks in the pavement. Some clovers too.

Jimin walks ahead of him, up the stone steps and to the keypad to punch in a code. Namjoon follows after him, maintaining a professional distance. The metal doors unhinge themselves with a loud buzzer noise cutting though the silence, and Jimin allows Namjoon to cross the threshold first.

The walls are barren, stripped of even nails and hooks. The floors are made of cement, covered in a light coating of dirt. There’s a smell of dust lingering in the air and cobwebs making themselves home in the nooks and corners where the walls meet the stucco ceiling. Namjoon hears the sound of something dripping, but he can’t tell where it’s coming from.

“Not very hospitable,” Namjoon criticizes. A rat scuttles out of hiding from the sudden boom of his voice echoing through the compound. Out the corner of his eye, Namjoon sees Jimin wincing.

It was…” Jimin’s hands pause in the air, like he forgot the gesture to explain the unease on his face. “Last minute.”

Namjoon scoffs. All that worry about Namjoon harming Jimin, when he is sure that one night spent in a place like this would leave them both with three types of pneumonia, rabies and hepatitis A through Z.

They manage to find the dining area after they wander through the large and dusty halls, though the food stocked in the pantry is all canned and dried foods. There is nothing in the steel refrigerator — no fruit, no beverages — and there are only a few bottles of water in the cabinets, not enough to sustain for a night let alone three months.

“You said this was last minute,” Namjoon says as he checks through every drawer that he can open. Some open with ease while the others need to be forced, but all of them are barren. “Was there an alternative location?”

We were going to have you at the lab working under Dr. Yeun, but I suggested a separate location to allow you some room to breathe,” Jimin explains with his hands. The line of his lips goes thin in a small pout. “I know you’re supposed to be the most intelligent being on the planet, but I figured that it might be stressful with the doctors running around.”

“Yeah, low stress is a good thing,” Namjoon mumbles. He rubs the sleep from his eyes, sighs deeply into his palm. “Well, let’s forget about food for now. We should do what they want and start on the analysis.”

Turning on his heel, Namjoon begins to stride out of the dining hall, before Jimin quickly zips in front of him and braces two small hands against the front of Namjoon’s chest. He’s shaking his head ‘no’, awkward smile on his lips as he pulls his hands away.

I told them we’ll start tomorrow. So we don’t have any of the data right now,” Jimin explains. He gives another glance around at their surroundings, sighing in deep only to give the cutest of sneezes from the dust wrinkling his nose. “I’ll place an order for takeout. Please take a moment to rest if you would like.”

“You’ll place an order?”

Jimin rolls his eyes, then makes a texting motion with his thumbs. Namjoon ‘ah’s. He watches as Jimin turns around to leave, but then, an idea rapidly clicks in Namjoon’s mind. He quickly grabs hold of Jimin’s hand while the other man is still within reach, growing awkward from the startled glimmer in Jimin’s eyes but still not letting go. Not yet. 

“W-Wait, actually. There’s something I — I know that I’m supposed to be working on the project, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve been back on Earth and I…I just wanted to visit somewhere. Just for a short moment. It’s actually really close by and I —” Namjoon releases Jimin’s hand, wiping the sweat from his palm on his thigh as he gives a dry swallow. He’s taking advantage of Jimin’s kindness when he barely knows the man, barely knows how loyal Jimin is to Dr. Yeun. Eyes and ears, the stern voice echoes in the back of Namjoon’s mind as a hissing reminder. Field trips down memory lane are trivial. Reconciliation is pointless. Namjoon is still a prisoner, just with the benefits of not being strapped down to a medical table in a dark cell.

Jimin brings a hand to his chin, thinking. “I just want to see it,” Namjoon furthers, “I just want to see my old home.”

I will get the car.” Jimin gives him a thumbs up and nods. Namjoon nods back, unable to keep his smile down. Before he turns away, Jimin cocks his head to the side and reaches out, lightly poking at Namjoon’s cheek, the tip of his finger in the crater of Namjoon’s dimple. He pulls his hand back to sign, “Cute” with a dreamy smile, then continues off to go fetch the car with Namjoon following right after.

 


 

 

It’s a twenty minute drive from the compound down to the manor. The skies are growing darker, though the stars are not yet visible. It’s rather strange how the stars used to be the only thing Namjoon looked at when he was in space, thought that nothing could compare to the beauty of them amid the space dust and darkness. But here on the ground, as the skies color blue and indigo with the faintest bits of starlight flecked across the sky, Namjoon’s breath is robbed from his lungs.

He feels Jimin lightly tap him on the shoulder and turns to look at the man. “Do you miss it?” Jimin signs. Namjoon looks back up at the sky. 

“I don’t know,” he answers with the honest truth. “I thought I would hate it more, but I don’t know if I want to go back.” Namjoon lowers his gaze to what was in front of them: a winding cobblestone path that lead to the partially open steel gate of Yeongsu’s manor. There’s an overgrowth of poison ivy and weeds, dead grass in the front yard that Namjoon once used to sit out on for an afternoon read and to bask in the sunlight. He knows he only asked Jimin to look, but his feet have already began to move on their own, taking him slowly up the path, carefully through the iron gate and up the rickety wooden porch steps. Jimin is right behind him, not grabbing Namjoon’s attention until they are standing at the front door and he gives a light tug to Namjoon’s sleeve.

Is someone still living here? It looks abandoned.”

“Yeah…yeah, I don’t know.” Namjoon didn’t know Yeongsu well. The man was always secretive around them, but Namjoon knew the elderly man wouldn’t have let this manor fall into such a pitiful state of disrepair. Not from how he flaunted his own person, decorated his body with the gaudiest of jewelry and tackiest of print suits. 

Namjoon crouches down and feels underneath the floorboards of the porch, tapping each one individually until one makes a sound distinct from the others, hollow-like. He gets his fingers under the edge of the board and pries it up, immediately spotting a silver key with the number ‘1’ engraved in its hilt.

In case I’m gone and the others aren’t around, it is best to have your own key, Number One. Hide it well.

He looks to Jimin, waits for some sort of sign of permission to continue. Jimin steps closer to Namjoon, his gaze directed to the tarnished knob. With his hand in the sleeve of Namjoon’s jumpsuit, Jimin gives a light squeeze, and that is all the reassurance Namjoon needs.

The lock comes off with an audible CLICK! once Namjoon gets the key in. The door creaks open, a shrill sound that is more grating than nails on a chalkboard. He steps into the foyer first with Jimin at his heels, and the first thing that Namjoon does is let out a sigh he didn’t realize he was holding in. 

Everything looks the same as it was five years ago. The floors are polished to perfection, still smelling like lemon wax. The grand staircase with the stained glass window is still as immaculate as it was the first time Namjoon seen it. The echoing of their footsteps as they walk through the foyer to the left towards the library coaxes chills up Namjoon’s spine. He’s not sure what he’s feeling right now; it’s a confusing mixture of nostalgia and anxiety. He’s happy the interior doesn’t match the exterior, but at the same time, the difference is too jarring to let it go unnoticed.

Someone has been maintaining the manor to some extent. The question is who?

The library is empty and the fireplace is unlit. The curtains are drawn closed, so the only light is the creamy glow that comes from the ceiling’s chandeliers, tinting the walls in a golden hue. It’s dreamlike, the way how everything has a shine to it; the bookshelves, the mantle, the crystal bottles half full of cognac resting on silver trays. Subtly, Namjoon pinches the skin of his wrist. Just in case.

“Yeongsu-ssi!” Namjoon calls out, the only answer being his own echo. He runs his fingertips along the mahogany desk the man used to sit at, pulling his hand away to see there is a thin layer of dust. He pulls open the desk drawers and sifts through the contents for something; Yeongsu always read the newspaper, collected the clippings of stories that talked about their unit. Namjoon finds some of those old clippings too, beneath the stacks of envelopes and unopened junk mail, all covered in a thin layer of dust as well. Shifting his attention to the top of the desk, Namjoon looks through the small stack of books for something, anything, until he pauses when his eye catches something else.

It is a small black and white framed photograph of them, all of them. Namjoon remembers the day they took it. Jeongguk had only been with them for a few days; the nervousness showed in his eyes as he sat crosslegged in front of Yeongsu seated in his usual chair. To Yeongsu’s right, Hoseok smiled big and bright as always, domino mask askew for laughs. To Yeongsu’s left, Yoongi mustered up the smallest of grins. Not the usual ones that Namjoon rarely seen — the ones that Hoseok once told him exposed Yoongi’s gums and were the cutest thing — but the closed lip, reserved expression that he always used for photos, no distinction between for the press or for their personal portraits. Behind Yeongsu, Seokjin stands with his hands on the back of the chair, chin held high with the broadness of his shoulders making him appear bigger, prouder, every bit of a hero Namjoon knew he was. And Namjoon himself—

Well, Namjoon was ripped out of the photo, the wooden backing of the photo frame visible in the gap where Namjoon and his awkward smile was supposed to be.

There’s a scratch of a record that jolts Namjoon out of his thoughts and startles a yell from his chest. He turns, spotting Jimin over by the old gramophone, watching a record spin on the turntable as a woman croons in English. Namjoon sighs, setting the photo down on the desk for now. He’ll unpack those thoughts later, when he’s alone and stewing over what once was.

“You need to stop scaring me like that, Jimin-ah,” Namjoon chides, strolling over to stand by the handler’s side. Jimin smiles at Namjoon, then turns his attention back to the record.

Pretty,” Jimin signs.

“You know English?”

Nope. But it still sounds nice.”

Namjoon nods. “The person that owned this place — The Professor? The one that used to do those press conferences for our unit? — Well, he liked to collect these things. I never seen him listen to any of them, though. Didn’t even know he had English records.”

What’s she saying? Sounds sad.”

Namjoon bites the inside of his cheek, taking a few moments to listen. “Ah, it’s not really sad. I mean, she’s talking about meeting with her loved one once more, so there’s both a melancholy and a kind of optimism about it.”

The lips of Jimin’s mouth form an intrigued ‘oh’ shape. Namjoon chuckles, then clears his throat. “Keep smiling through, just as you always do~ But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day~” he sings, off key and leaping between matching the woman’s pitch and slipping into his natural voice. Jimin brings his hands to cover his smile, shaking his head in amusement. 

Stick to the science,” Jimin playfully scolds with his hands, lightly hitting Namjoon in his arm. 

“Ahhh, you know, one time they thought about us breaking into the music career, to be kinda like Fantastic 7 in that they were idols and heroes,” Namjoon confesses, sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck. “Seo— I mean, Glam, he was interested in it. He was the only one that was a decent singer. Him and Rabbit.”

Did you do it? Make a song? Is it embarrassing?” The gleeful sparkle in Jimin’s eyes makes it seem Jimin hopes it is mortifying. 

“Sorry to disappoint but the Professor hated that kind of thing. He wasn’t a…he wasn’t really a person that cared for things that he felt weren’t necessary to the main goal.” Namjoon’s eyes grow somber, smile lopsided. “Holidays, birthdays, just…just doing things for fun and leisure, that sort of stuff.” He laughs. “I remember one time really wanting to go bowling. All of us together, hanging out like friends would. That’s silly, huh? I don’t even know how to do it, but I just wanted to so bad for some reason. I just wanted...I don't know, I just wanted to feel like...like everything was normal.”

Jimin’s hand is sliding into Namjoon’s open one hanging limp at his side. He doesn’t sign anything, but the sentiment in his eyes is soft and caring. Namjoon closes his eyes, letting the music and the woman’s voice relax his shoulders down where they start to get tense and tight. Calm down, calm down.

“It’s fine. Things are different now, so I should let those silly sentiments go.” 

I should let this place go.

I should let them go.

I should let him go.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

He sighs.

Namjoon smiles an empty smile, swinging his and Jimin’s hands together. “Have you thought about what you want to eat yet? We should place an order before the shops start to close—”

It happens in the blink of an eye.  

Jimin suddenly has his hold of Namjoon’s hand in a deathly tight grip. With Jimin’s other hand, he has a stack records in their covers up to the side of Namjoon’s head, yanked from the crate that has records spilled over their feet. Jimin’s eyes are wide, quickly flitting around in alarm. He’s breathing harder than Namjoon has heard him before, in and out, in and out. 

“Uh.” Namjoon blinks. “What is it?”

Not turning away from looking around, Jimin tilts the stack of records in his hand ever so slightly towards Namjoon. There, Namjoon sees there is a knife with a black hilt buried through the covers. 

Namjoon tenses on the spot. 

Someone else is here.

Instinctively, Namjoon grabs Jimin’s shoulder. “Listen, get down. I’ll handle this—” Jimin pulls out from Namjoon’s touch, dropping the stack of records to turn with his back against Namjoon’s front. He’s still searching the library for something, and it’s killing Namjoon that he hasn’t the faintest clue what that something is. A robber? No, they would have left the moment they heard Namjoon and Jimin come through the door. An intruder? A squatter? 

Jimin wildly turns with his left and swings his leg in a roundhouse kick. His leg flies back, one second cutting through the air, the next second connecting with the gloved palm of a man in black with a faceplate and black goggles that materialized right behind them.

The man in black shoves Jimin’s leg away, phasing out before Jimin can counter. Jimin then pulls Namjoon down to the ground while striking forward with his free hand balled into a tight fist. He punches the air just as the man in black phases back in, barely managing to block Jimin’s hit with his forearms up in a guarding stance. 

“I could probably help if you let go of my hand!” Namjoon snaps when Jimin tugs him forward and he awkwardly stumbles to his knees. Jimin releases his grip immediately, two hands free to now punch and jab in every direction. Though the man in black continues to phase and teleport in and out, Jimin is already punching and kicking in the direction where he reappears. Each punch connects to a block, each kick connects with a palm pushing away. 

Namjoon studies the fighting stance of the man in black, the quickness of his lunges to try and catch Jimin off guard and the slow knockback stagger when the man has to come up with an alternative plan of attack. It is on one of these staggers that Namjoon sees a flash of keys on the man’s hip, one of them larger than the others and engraved with a ‘2’.

“Wait,” Namjoon says in a murmur, then louder when he manages to get to his feet. “Wait, wait! Hyung?!”

The man in black turns to look at Namjoon, expression hidden by the faceplate and goggles. It also leaves him open for Jimin to kick him square across the face and send him to the ground.

“Stop! Stop!” Namjoon gets back down to his knees, pulling the man up to a sitting position, hands holding the man’s shoulders tightly. “Hyung? Yoongi-hyung? It’s me. It’s Namjoon.” There’s almost a bit of desperation in Namjoon’s voice, his voice cracking in his throat as it leaves his lips. The man in black rubs at his jaw, turning his head to look at Jimin standing over him, hands drawn like he’s still ready to beat the shit out of him if he makes any sudden movements. Then, he pulls his faceplate and goggles off.

It’s been five years, so of course the face is older. But it’s still those round cheeks, those tired eyes and frowning (and now apparently because of Jimin’s kick, bleeding) lips.

Yoongi squints at Namjoon’s face as Namjoon is doing to him now. “…Namjoon?” he asks, voice raspier than Namjoon remembers, but still holds that mellow tone.

Namjoon nods. He pulls his hands away from Yoongi’s shoulders, though something in Namjoon wishes to hold onto him longer, let Namjoon know that this is still happening. The hands twitch at his side now, waiting nervously for a response.

Yoongi brings a hand to his busted lip, glancing between Jimin and Namjoon with a furrow to his brow. 

He sighs. “I need a fucking drink.” 

Chapter Text

Yeongsu never lets Namjoon know when he is coming or going. Sometimes, Namjoon wakes up in his bed, in a room that he still is trying to make his own, heads downstairs to eat breakfast alone and spend the rest of his day reading and rereading all the books that he can get his on till Yeongsu returns and secludes himself in his office. Sometimes, Yeongsu is in the manor, hiding away in some locked room Namjoon isn’t allowed to enter, never making his presence known unless he wants to.

Today is different. Namjoon jumps at the sound of the front door opening and Yeongsu’s voice booming out, “Number One! Come here!” Discarding the collection of Plato’s dialogues for a later time, Namjoon quickly hurries out of his spot from the library into the foyer. Usually, whenever Yeongsu calls for his presence, it’s to assist him in something. Hold his tools as he drafts out blueprints, pour his tea while he reads, things of that nature. He stutters in his approach when he notices that Yeongsu isn’t alone; there’s a boy at his side, shorter than Namjoon but surely not younger.

“There you are,” Yeongsu sighs, helping himself out of his coat. “This is Number Two. He’ll be staying with us from now on. Give him a tour and fix me a cup of tea to bring to my study.”

“My name is Yoongi ,” the boy snaps. Yeongsu waves the protest away.

“Yes, yes, very nice, Number Two. I’m feeling earl grey with lemon, Number One.”

“Yes, Yeongsu-ssi,” Namjoon responds with a bow of his head, taking the man’s coat as he passes by and enters his study. The moment the door shuts behind Yeongsu, Namjoon turns his attention to Yoongi. He’s scowling, eyebrows knitted together as he bites the inside of his cheek. “Um, he doesn’t call us by our names. Said that we should forget our old lives that came with our old names when we’re here.”

“That’s stupid, I’m not doing that,” Yoongi protests. “He paid my parents off to take me in, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to forget that I’m Min Yoongi or call myself ‘Number Two’.” Yoongi narrows his eyes at Namjoon. “Why are you ‘Number One’ anyways? Cause you’re the first one? How much he paid for you?”

Namjoon bites his bottom lip. “He didn’t…pay for me.”

“What, your parents wanted to get rid of you or something?”

“…They’re both dead so…”

Namjoon hears the sharp hiss of air Yoongi takes between his teeth, sees how the boy’s shoulders jump up in alarm. “Oh. Oh shit. I’m — I’m sorry—”

“It’s alright—”

“No it’s not. Okay, look, I’m sorry if I’m acting like a jerk right now. Just, this is all pretty overwhelming and I’m still trying to process everything that’s going on. What’s your name? It’s not really Number One, is it?”

“Namjoon. Kim Namjoon.” Namjoon tucks Yeongsu’s coat under his arm to free a hand to shake Yoongi’s.

“How old are you?”

“I just turned sixteen a few days ago.”

Yoongi nods, rubbing his chin. “So I’m older than you…what’s your power?”

“Huh?”

“Your power. From that explosion that happened in the sky a while back, right? I can teleport.” Yoongi demonstrates this by phasing out and reappearing behind Namjoon. Namjoon stumbles back with lips gaped in awe.

“That’s amazing!” he exclaims. “I’m just…I’m just really smart. It’s not flashy like that or anything.”

“Really smart…were you on a game show?”

Namjoon’s smile is sheepish. “For a while. That’s how Yeongsu-ssi found me.”

“Yeongsu-ssi?” Yoongi looks over his shoulder at where Yeongsu disappeared into his study. “Is that what he said his name was?”

Namjoon nods, not following the line of questioning. Yoongi frowns. “He told my parents his name was Park Sungwoo,” he further explains. “So, which is it?”

If Namjoon were completely honest, he would say he isn’t sure. Yeongsu rarely speaks about himself, rarely speaks to Namjoon at all unless it’s asking Namjoon to do something. He doesn’t know how old the man is, he doesn’t know what the man does for a career or how he obtained his wealth. Yeongsu says that he himself is Blessed, but Namjoon doesn’t know what is the extent of his power. He surmises instant teleportation is one facet, but what occurred during their first meeting in the makeup room implies there must be more to it.

Yoongi clicks his tongue against his teeth. “Something’s fishy about that guy. Not sure if I like him,” he murmurs under his breath.

“He’s not all that bad, so long as you mind what he says,” Namjoon reassures. He moves to hang Yeongsu’s coat on a hook. “I should get his tea, actually. Are you hungry? I could show you the kitchen and maybe make something for you, Yoongi-ssi.”

“Hyung.” Yoongi says, sticking his hands in his pockets and moving to stand by Namjoon’s side. “You can call me ‘hyung’.”

 


 

A plate of dubu buchim gets slid in front of Namjoon and Jimin, Yoongi wiping his hands on the side of his thighs.

“You caught me on a day my fridge is pretty empty. Need to go grocery shopping,” he explains when there is no need. They’ve moved to the kitchen; Jimin and Namjoon sit at the island counter in the center where they had a view of Yoongi’s back as he cooked the meal. Not many words were exchanged, or at least, Yoongi didn’t want to talk or answer any of Namjoon’s questions while he cooked. It takes Namjoon back to when they were younger, Yoongi cooking meals in silence while everyone else made noise and chattered in the background.

 Yoongi looks at Jimin, who hasn’t even looked at the plate in front of him and is instead staring intensely back. “You can have some,” Yoongi offers, “even though you assaulted me in my own home. Which you still haven’t apologized for.”

Jimin pinches the thumb and pointer finger of his right hand together, brings them to his forehead, before moving his hand in a chopping motion against the opposite hand resting in front of him. Yoongi blinks. Then, to Namjoon, “Is he fucking around with me right now?”

“He can’t speak. He said sorry,” Namjoon explains.

“Can’t or won’t? There’s a difference.”

“He can’t, hyung.” Jimin continues to sign, Namjoon watching the movement of his hands as he takes a piece of tofu to chew on. It’s warm, the skin crisp and nicely fried and the sauce tangy with just the right amount of spice to give it a pleasant kick to the taste buds. “He said ‘It can’t be considered trespassing if it’s my home too’.”

“It hasn’t been his home in five years,” Yoongi says sharply to Jimin’s stare, before turning his gaze on Namjoon. “Speaking of which, I didn’t know a lifetime sentence meant five years. What are you doing here?”

Namjoon chokes on a piece of tofu that goes too quick down his throat, grabbing a cup of water to gulp down and help him along. “I — I’m here to do some work, regarding the project—” Jimin gives a subtle nudge of his foot against the side of Namjoon’s calf. “—Ah, but I’m not allowed to talk about the details.”

“Wasn’t going to ask for them,” Yoongi drawls, looking back at Jimin. “What’s he then? Your babysitter?”

Namjoon pokes at another piece of tofu. “Something like that.”

Jimin makes a huffing noise. 

“Hyung, what are you doing here? Where’s Yeongsu-ssi and the others?” Namjoon asks. Yoongi sighs, turning in the direction of the wine cabinet. He teleports over, grabs himself a bottle, teleports to another cabinet to grab himself a glass, before teleporting back to his original spot. Namjoon waits for an answer. He waits as Yoongi uncorks the bottle, pours the wine till the glass is half-full, and takes a long long sip.

“The old man’s dead. Passed away in his sleep a few days after you went to space,” Yoongi answers bluntly with a smack of his lips.

“…Oh.” Namjoon slumps on the stool he’s seated in. “Oh.” That’s all he could manage to say.

“…He didn’t look like he suffered, if it makes you feel better.”

Namjoon doesn’t know how to feel. Sadness? Anger at himself for not being there? Confusion as to how because Yeongsu never gave off the impression he was sick while Namjoon was still here. And though Namjoon didn’t know how old Yeongsu was, he didn’t look to be so old that a death of old age would be plausible. 

“What, you don’t believe me?” Yoongi’s voice cuts into Namjoon’s thinking.

“H-Huh?”

“You always get this look on your face whenever we tell you something that you think is bullshit,” Yoongi points out. “So, you don’t believe what I said?”

“No. No, that’s not it, hyung. Just…it’s hard for me to hear that happened while I was gone…”

Yoongi shrugs. He takes another sip of wine, curling a lock of ash grey hair behind a pierced ear with his empty hand. “Yeah, pretty sure it is. You were the only one he gave a shit about.”

“That’s not true—”

“Don’t.” Yoongi’s eyes are stern. “Don’t.

Namjoon’s lips clamp firmly tight. Yoongi finishes the rest of his wine in one swallow.

For the rest of the time, Jimin and Namjoon pick at the food while Yoongi watches them. If he wasn’t watching them, he was washing dishes. If he wasn’t watching them or washing dishes, he was helping himself to another glass of wine. 

“Where are the others?” Namjoon asks, scraping the edge of his chopsticks against the empty plate. 

“…Depends. Who do you want to know about?”

Namjoon suppresses the first name that comes to the forefront of his mind. “Hoseok,” he responds. Yoongi clicks his tongue against his teeth, like he already knows that wasn’t the first name Namjoon thought of either.

“He’s got a shop somewhere in Jeung-gu. Sometimes, I talk to him.”

“Ah.” Namjoon drums the tips of his fingers against the surface of the counter. “And…how about Seokjin-hyung?”

Yoongi snorts. “Really? You really want to know about Seokjin?”

Namjoon feels Jimin’s eyes on him. He flushes red. “I mean, I want to know how all of you are doing since I’ve been…gone.”

“Seokjin is fine. Better than fine. I can’t go three seconds without seeing his face plastered on a magazine or flashing on the screens in every single shopping district in the entirety of Seoul,” Yoongi groans. He begins to pour himself another glass, only to stop when Jimin reaches over the counter to push the glass in the right spot so Yoongi didn’t start pouring it all over the counter.

Yoongi squints his eyes at Jimin, lowering the bottle back to the counter. Jimin smiles innocently back. 

“Are you and your babysitter staying someplace?” Yoongi asks Namjoon without looking away from Jimin’s smile.

“In a compound twenty minutes away from here.”

“Mmm.” Yoongi scratches at his chin. “I guess since you have your key, you can come visit.”

“Are you still fighting, hyung?” Namjoon gestures to the black outfit Yoongi still hasn’t changed out of, thought the faceplate and goggles are discarded to the side. It’s different from the old uniform their unit wore when they were active: heavy and intimidating black boots, baggy black camouflage pants, and a tight long sleeve shirt with straps for gun holsters. 

“I’m working with the Metropolitan Police,” Yoongi explains. He crosses his arms over his chest, leaning back against the unlit stove. “It’s just office work most of the time, pretty boring but an easy paycheck.”

Jimin signs with a quirked eyebrow, Yoongi watching the motion of his hands before turning to Namjoon. “What he say?”

“He said, ‘You do office work in that getup?’”

“Who do you think you are questioning me in my house, babysitter?”

“His name’s Jimin,” Namjoon corrects. 

Babysitter Jimin,” Yoongi drawls. 

“But he’s right,” Namjoon says, eyeing Yoongi from head to toe. “Seems like…a lot for just office work.”

Yoongi pinches the bridge of his nose. “God, I did not miss you questioning every fucking thing I say or do,” he mumbles into the palm of his hand. “Look, it’s getting late and I’m getting drunk and you two are getting annoying. So…” He gestures wildly with his hand. “We’ll deal with this later. Not tonight.”

Yoongi phases out of the kitchen before Namjoon can ask him to wait, to hold on, to just let Namjoon take everything all in because his head is still spinning and his mind is sprinting. He sighs, taking the plate to put in the sink. “I guess that’s our cue to leave,” he murmurs to Jimin, who nods and gets up from his seat as well.

They meander out of the kitchen, find their way back to the foyer and to the front door. Namjoon reaches out to grab hold of the knob, until suddenly Yoongi is right there.

“Christ!” Namjoon jumps back, nearly staggering and falling over to the ground weren’t Jimin right behind him and pressing his hands into the small of Namjoon’s back to keep him upright.

Yoongi’s holding a large cardboard box, the flaps on top open and cords spilling out the sides. “Since your here, you can take your shit back. I only need the robot butler around here keeping this place tidy,” Yoongi grumbles, pushing the box into Namjoon’s half-awaiting arms. Namjoon looks down into the box’s contents, finding his miniature robots and prototype gadgets, his old blueprints and AI motherboards. There’s even some figurines that Namjoon used to have on display in his workshop allowed to him, each one carefully wrapped in saran wrap. Some of them are still unpainted; Namjoon sees his old paint box tucked beneath some charging cables and batteries. 

“…Thank you, hyung,” Namjoon murmurs.

Yoongi clicks his tongue. “Just doing some cleaning. It’s nothing.” He stands there for a moment, contemplating something by the way his eyes stare blankly off at the space above Namjoon’s head. Then, “I haven’t spoken to Jeongguk. He disappeared after the old man died.”

Namjoon’s breath escapes him once more.

“…Have you ever gotten…a video?”

Yoongi frowns. “What kind of video?”

Namjoon shakes his head. “No. No. Nevermind, it’s…it’s probably nothing.”

The frown on Yoongi’s face grows. “…Alright then…I guess I’ll see you around.”

“Yeah, definitely.”

Yoongi nods, looking at Jimin out of the corner of his eye. He phases out, then phases behind Jimin, foot kicked outwards in a roundhouse strike. Jimin already has his arm raised to block it, while with his other hand, he grabs Yoongi’s leg nice and tight.

Yoongi huffs. “I’m going to figure out how you’re doing that, Babysitter Jimin.”

Jimin’s smile grows sly. He winks.

Yoongi phases out of Jimin’s hold, gone from the foyer completely. The manor is huge; Namjoon isn’t sure if Yoongi teleported to another part of it, or left the building entirely. He listens to the sounds of his old home for just the briefest of moments — the scratch of bare branches against the tile roof, the creak of the floorboards with his and Jimin’s combined weight — before sighing and taking his leave.

So you two were teammates once upon a time?” Jimin asks when they get into the car and head back towards the compound. Namjoon nods.

“They called him Spirit, on account of how he phases in and out like a ghost.”

Jimin nods his head in understanding. Then, “He’s kind of sexy.

“Wow. I’m not sure if I want to unpack that right now. Or even put 'Yoongi-hyung' and 'sexy' in the same sentence in my head.”

Jimin sticks his tongue out in response, a big smile stretched over his face.

 


 

For a more filling dinner, they pick up some fried chicken and extra bottles of water and tea. Namjoon helps Jimin clean up a spot for them to eat at, before setting himself to work on sifting through the contents of the box. “Ah-hah!” Namjoon shouts in happiness, pulling out a small metal robot that fits into the palm of his hand along with a white cord. “I missed this little one so much! I used to talk to them all the time when I was back home!”

He shows the robot to Jimin, who wipes his hands clean of food before taking it carefully in his grasp. “They’re kind of like an A.I. I created their software by uploading a partial collection of my own thoughts and personality as well as little snippets of my teammates’ personality traits. You could say that they are a collection of all the best of us.”

Jimin nods, handing the robot back to Namjoon. “So you built things in your spare time?

Namjoon nods. “It helped me relax. When things started feeling really overwhelming for me and I was feeling exhausted or if I felt like I wasn’t being productive enough, I would just go to my workshop and build or design something.” He gives a little chuckle. “Sometimes, I would fall asleep at my desk for the night. My teammates would throw my old balled up blueprints at my head to get me to wake up in the morning.”

Were you close with them? Your teammates?

Namjoon fiddles with the robot in his hands. “I mean…Yeongsu-ssi brought us together because he felt our powers would compliment each other and we would all work as a unit perfectly. But sometimes I…I don’t know. We were young…some of us weren’t happy to be there…I just tried to do my role as a leader and make sure everything was running smoothly and there wasn’t any trouble.”

You never wanted more than that?

Soaked clothes. Wet eyes. Tight fists in the front of Namjoon’s shirt. Desperate lips growing warm against his own.

“No,” Namjoon murmurs. “No. Everything was fine the way it was. At least, I thought it was fine.” He smiles, taking the box into his hands. “But, I’m not going to bother you with my old problems. We’re just supposed to focus on the project.”

We’ll have moments of downtime,” Jimin offers, hands unsure, “if you ever want to talk?

“It’s okay,” Namjoon reassures. He doesn’t sound convincing to even himself. “I’m going to find somewhere to set this stuff up,” he announces, quickly taking his leave before the thoughts and emotions have the chance to resurface. 

Namjoon wanders through the dusty halls of the compound, checking room after room. Most of them are completely vacant, devoid of any furniture or liveliness to give off the impression that this place could be a home. Some rooms do have cots arranged in a neat row along the back of the walls,, though a majority of them are missing their blankets and their pillows. Few rooms have windows, and even fewer rooms have enough space for Namjoon to comfortably walk around in. The image of the manor flashes behind his eyes, the wandering he did at age fifteen down those halls with furnished bedrooms and eccentric oddities on every wall making him now yearn for what once was.

This hasn’t been his home in five years.

Namjoon sighs.

He settles on a room that is just wide enough for Namjoon to take a cot from another room to place in here, as well as set up all of his cables and gadgets in a corner where he won’t clumsily trip over them. He settles on setting up the A.I. first, carefully placing it on the ground before finding its cable and hooking it up to a power outlet. The robot’s head is round, with a small halo of yellow light appearing on the face area. 78 percent, it read, now charging.

“Someone must have turned you off,” Namjoon murmurs. Maybe Yoongi when he packed it. “Hey, VAN?”

The charging screen disappears and is replaced by bright and round white eyes with a half circle moon for a mouth.

Namjoon? Wow! I’m so happy to see you again! It’s been so long! I like the new hair!

Namjoon breathes out a laugh, awkwardly scratching at the back of his head, threading his fingers through his newly blond locks. “Yeah…VAN, do you know what’s going on?”

VAN’s eyes form half circles, collecting information as they ‘think’. When they form whole circles again, VAN’s mouth turns upside down. 

It has been five years since I have been online. I am afraid I have much to catch up on.

“That makes two of us.”

Is there anything you would like to know?

“…I want you to run a scan on the members from the Fantastic Five. Newspaper headlines, magazines, TV interviews, every bit of info about them that has occurred from the date you were turned off till now. Don’t search by alias, search by the actual name.”

Okay. I will run a search on the following people: Kim Seokjin, Min Yoongi, Jung Hoseok, Jeon Jeongguk. Is that all?

“Run a search on the Professor as well.”

VAN’s eyes turn to sad crescents. “Oh…Namjoon, I don’t think I’ll be able to find much information about the Professor…he passed away.

Namjoon hums. “Yeah. Yeah, Yoongi told me…so you were still active during that time?”

My shut off date was October 15th, 2020. The Professor passed away on October 11th. 

A hologram is projected from one of VAN’s eyes, displaying newspaper clippings circulating through each other even though they all have primarily the same message. ‘Fallen Famous Figurehead of Fantastic Five’, ‘Professor Found Dead in Manor: No Funeral Service Will Be Held’, ‘Former Member of Fantastic Five Glam Speaks Out About Mistreatment in Group After Figurehead’s Untimely Death’, ‘Manor’s Inheritance Slows Down Demolition Plans: Museum Talk and Other Ideas For Building’.

“Was there any suggestions of foul play?” Namjoon asks, hating himself for even fathoming the idea. He wasn’t blind to his teammate’s displeasure of Yeongsu, but he didn’t feel he was treated more favorably in comparison. Yeongsu just wasn’t a caring man, as long as there was food in the kitchen and still a roof over their heads, Yeongsu felt he did enough to ‘care’ for them.

Still, Namjoon didn’t want to think that mistreatment would have been enough motivation for one of his teammates to kill the man the second Namjoon was gone.

No, nothing of that sort. It seems the autopsy’s findings were he had a seizure in his sleep.

“But he didn’t have epilepsy,” Namjoon protests, pinching the bridge of his nose. There’s still something wrong. There’s still something that’s not adding up.

I will do more searches if you would like, but I am not sure my results will be substantial.

“Try though. Please.”

VAN’s little arm raises up ninety degrees. It’s their equivalent of a thumbs up.

 

 

 

Sleep doesn’t come easily for Namjoon, even though his body feels exhausted after unpacking all of his cords and gadgets and in general just being. Jimin found him eventually, bringing with him a blanket, a pillow and a doodled map of the compound detailing where the important landmarks — Jimin’s Room, Kitchen, Bathroom, Front Entry and Lab — are located. He also comes with gentle eyes imploring open discussion without any gestures signed, giving Namjoon another chance to speak what is on his mind. 

“Thanks,” Namjoon murmurs, taking the map to fold up and slip beside VAN. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, then?”

Jimin bites the inside of his cheek. He nods ‘yes’.

VAN is quiet as they compute their search, so Namjoon is stuck in silence as he pulls the scratchy blanket over his form and stares at the ceiling. It’s different from staring up at metal and flickering circuitboards, but he can’t say this is better. But, he can’t complain. This isn’t supposed to be a luxury for him, not after everything he’s done. 

But it wasn’t your fault.

Namjoon closes his eyes tight, jaw stiff. 

He doesn’t sleep one bit.

Chapter Text

 

“Does anyone have any last words?

“Yeah. I thought we weren’t doing this.”

Yoongi clicks his tongue against his teeth, glancing down into the open casket where Sungwoo’s body rested among the crushed velvet interior, dressed in a mustard yellow suede suit, the first outfit Yoongi found in the old man's closet to give to the mortician. It’s strange; even in death, the man still looks smug.  

“I said we weren’t going to do a funeral open to the public,” Yoongi corrects, shoulders in a noncommittal shrug. “Just feel like it’s my responsibility to do something though since…”

Hoseok gets the idea, scoffing with a smile. “Since the only person that would give enough of a shit about the old man is now orbiting the Earth’s atmosphere?”

“Do you think he knows?” Seokjin asks. He stands quietly at Hoseok's side, has been quiet the entire morning aside from speaking up to guide the men his parents hired to help with the body. They’re waiting outside in the foyer now, letting them have their last moments to share any lingering sentiments.

“I’m sure they’ll keep him up to date on things. Don’t they do that in prison? Like, give them a newspaper to read or something?” Hoseok asks aloud.

“He’s not in prison,” Jeongguk speaks up from Yoongi’s left, voice barely heard above a breath. “Don’t say he’s in prison.”

Jeongguk has been quiet too; he’s been holed up in his room since Namjoon left Earth a week ago. He didn’t go to the rocket launch — hell, the only one that was able to stomach watching their leader go in person was Hoseok. Yoongi watched the rocket enter the Earth’s atmosphere from a vacant lot, lingered there until the white smoke trail was smeared across the sky by the wind. Yoongi still doesn’t know how to feel about the Incident, or at least, he doesn’t know how to put into words how he feels. Sungwoo’s death on top of it just makes all those feelings even harder to sort through and define.

Min Yoongi is Number Two. He never understood the numbering system Sungwoo had, but he always assumed it to mean that he was second in charge. So as second in charge, he should be the one to offer some sort of comfort to Jeongguk. Be a steady voice to help him through whatever is troubling him as the now de facto leader. But, he’s never been good at that sort of thing. He’s never been the one to take the lead on something, delegate to others what they should do and how to calm the storm of emotions in others. He's has never envied Namjoon for being Number One.

Jeongguk approaches the casket, arms crossed over his chest and shoulders holding the faintest of quivers. He stares at the body for a long pause, till in a quiet voice, he murmurs, “I joined this team because I admired Namjoon-hyung. He did everything for you without even questioning it and in return, you kept laying on burden after burden for him to carry because he was ‘Number One’. And the single moment when he needed you the most to help him, you did nothing. 

Yoongi can’t see Jeongguk’s face, but he knows there’s tears burning hot down the younger one’s cheeks from the cracking in his voice.

Jeongguk hisses a breath through his teeth, furiously rubbing at his eyes, collecting himself for just a few more seconds. “So. Yeah. Fuck you,” he spits, and briskly walks out of the parlor room without looking back.

Hoseok claps his hands together. “Well, that went pleasantly.”

Yoongi closes his eyes. “Hobi—”

“Hyung, you know this is pointless,” Hoseok fights back. “I already told the press that we weren’t having a funeral. Doing this isn’t going to somehow let Joonie know the old man’s dead and we took care of things for him. We all have our reasons for hating him, and I’m not going to say something nice to a guy that did the bare minimum of treating us with respect just because he’s dead.”

He turns his eyes towards Seokjin, “Just tell them to get the body and take it out of here, hyung. We’re done.” With that, Hoseok takes his leave.

“…He’s right,” Seokjin murmurs, running a hand through his hair. “Why are we even doing this?”

“…Namjoon would have wanted it.”

“And you?”

Yoongi bites at his bottom lip. “…I…I don’t care.” The admission isn’t strange on his tongue; he didn’t care about Sungwoo at all. The only thing Yoongi is grateful for is that his parent’s aren’t struggling with their finances anymore, happily retired in the country without fretting about what to do with their irresponsibly hopeless son. Aside from that, he hated the man as much as Hoseok, Seokjin, and Jeongguk did combined. 

Yet…yet still, Namjoon felt the man was the best thing they could have. ‘He’ll be better if you just mind what he says’, or ‘He just has a bad way of showing it, but I’m sure he cares about us’, or Yoongi’s favorite ‘Just because he calls you Number Two doesn’t mean he thinks lesser of you’.

Yoongi thinks he might be imagining a smile on Sungwoo’s lifeless face. He almost hears the man’s voice: ‘An interesting attempt at a funeral, Number Two. Though it could have been better. You should have just left it to Number One.’

“We’re done,” Yoongi murmurs at last, rubbing at his face. “Call the guys in here and have them load him up.” He sticks his hands into his pockets and phases out of the parlor, into his bedroom where he flops onto the bed face down and breathes in the fresh linen.

Min Yoongi is Number Two. He’s never envied Namjoon for being Number One, but deep down, he might have hated him for it.

 


 

Yoongi gets an address texted to him at seven in the morning, phone annoyingly buzzing on his bedside table until he finally has enough energy to answer it and check the notification. It’s an address he doesn’t know, but he does know of the area, with an added message from Beomgyu that he'll be waiting with coffee. He doesn’t leave his bed for another thirty minutes, doesn’t leave his shower until another. Suiting up in his usual work gear, Yoongi brushes his hair into something feasibly put-together, closes his eyes and breathes.

When Yoongi was still called ‘Spirit’, when Yoongi was still a member of the Fantastic Five that got wrangled into doing interviews because according to Sungwoo ‘You should accompany Number One, Number Two’, people always asked what it felt like to teleport. Did it happen quickly? Does it hurt? Does it feel like a pinch? Or more painful like a bullet to the spine? 

Yoongi always had the same response: “I don’t know.”

He’s never known how to explain his powers, doesn’t know how to put the feeling of his hairs standing on ends when he feels it, how it makes gooseflesh of his skin when he does it, into pretty words the way that Namjoon always did. Sometimes it’s like fire, sometimes it’s like ice. Sometimes it feels like Yoongi has electricity buzzing through his veins and twitching through the tips of his fingers and toes. Other times, it’s very anticlimactic.

It’s an anticlimactic feeling that washes over him the moment the soles of his boots hit the pavement of an alleyway and not the hardwood floors of the manor. In front of him, there’s a bustling city street, though no one has noticed his sudden appearance. It’s a good thing; just because Yoongi works with the police doesn’t make him exempt from the power ban.

He trudges out of the alleyway, hands in the pockets of his pants and black face mask pulled up. He weaves through the crowd carefully, keeping his head down to not draw any attention to himself. It’s a rather irrational paranoia, considering Spirit never had an unmasking conference, but he still doesn’t want someone to notice who he is and stop him to ask questions. It’s a drag, at least that was what Seokjin said the last time he spoke to Yoongi almost two years ago. Always the same topic: Namjoon, Namjoon, Namjoon.

Fuck. He’s going to have to be the one to tell Hoseok and Seokjin Namjoon is back.

Yoongi gives a quick flash at his watch on his wrist. He still has some time.

 

 

 

The address in the text message is a three story apartment overlooking a park. Beomgyu is sitting on the porch step with a coffee carrier seated on a stack of notepads and manilla folders, per the usual.

“You didn’t have to wait for me,” Yoongi chides as he approaches, though he takes the coffee that’s offered to him by his younger partner and gives it a long sip. He spots the Metro Unit unloading the cleanup and forensic equipment, dressed in blue fatigues that contrast his and Beomgyu’s black. Ahead of the Metro Unit vehicle, Yoongi spots two parked Federate cars and curses under his breath. 

“They gonna let us in to look around?” he asks Beomgyu with a gesture towards the Federate vehicles.

“They have to. It’s our jurisdiction,” Beomgyu responds in turn. He clutches his notepad and folders to his chest, offering Yoongi one as well. As always, Yoongi turns it away.

“Let’s just get this over with. I have a date soon,” he drawls. Beomgyu makes a face, wide eyed and far too intrigued. “It’s just a figure of speech. Don’t look so excited, jeez.”

“But is it a date, hyung?”

No.” He waits till Beomgyu puts in the access code for the building and unlocks the door, both heading inside and going straight for the elevator. It’s a cramped fit inside, even though it’s only two of them. Beomgyu pushes a button for the second floor and the elevator rattles to life.

“Hopefully this won’t be as bad as the last few,” Beomgyu says with a smile, even though his face is already beginning to pale at just thinking about it. Yoongi’s outgrown the squeamishness of seeing a dead body. That, or he’s just become numb to it. But he’d be lying if he’d say that every time they get a call about another Enhanced civ found dead, his body doesn’t get chills.

He hasn’t seen Jeongguk in five years. He knows the boy wasn’t in a good place when he disappeared. Yoongi sometimes makes hypotheticals up whenever he thinks about it. Hypothetically, he could have done more. He could have tried to be a better leader, he could have tried to comfort Jeongguk better, he could be trying to look harder for Jeongguk now. Hypothetically, Jeongguk’s dead body could be on the other side of this apartment door, surrounded by police tape.

Yoongi holds his breath.

The apartment they enter is small and modest, salmon pink walls and fuzzy tan carpet. There’s a cozy little living room with a pristine kitchen to Yoongi’s left. On his right are pictures framed and hung, depicting a couple on vacation, in bed together, living their lives happily. The smile on the man’s face in particular looks familiar, though Yoongi can’t place just where he saw it before. Regardless, relief starts to wash over him, shaking the last bit of worrying from his fingertips. 

Police tape line the main hallway of the apartment, guiding the two men to the bedroom door that is open and marked. Two suited officers in black are inside the room and currently stand by a large white bed. Sprawled over the white bedsheets is the couple from the photos, the woman half hanging on the bed while the man rests against the headboard, dried blood all over his mouth. He’s in a half opened pajama shirt and pants, while the woman is in a silk white gown, flecks of blood at the hemline. 

“Gentlemen, we’ll take it from here,” Yoongi announces, voice loud but words in a tired slur as he rolls up his sleeves per the usual. One officer turns his head, knitting his thick eyebrows together.

“Actually, we’re waiting for you,” he grumbles, flashing his badge and Yoongi catching a glimpse of the Federate’s logo emblazoned in the silver. “We’re with the Illegal  Enhancement Drug Division. We would like your statement since it appears this has been a common factor in your recent cases.”

There’s tension in Yoongi’s shoulders. “Really?” he asks, cocking his head to the side. “Okay. Here’s my statement.” He clears his throat, swings his hands resting at his side and gives a low hum in his throat before, “‘It’s all the Federate’s fault for handing out drugs en masse without any valid reason other than ‘wanting to see what would happen’ to its Enhanced civilians so they can get hooked on them and synthesize even more dangerous ones from them. Once again, you’ve ruined countless lives. Fuck you.’”

The bushy-browed officer is momentarily stunned in silence. His partner isn’t.

“What did you say, you disrespectful punk?” he growls. Yoongi sighs.

“Aren’t you taking my statement? Shouldn’t you have written it down?”

“No, but I think we’ll have to get a statement from your superior about your behavior,” the officer threatens. Yoongi shrugs, digging into one of his pants pockets for a pair of gloves. 

“Be my guest, Officer-ssi. We have work to do.”

The partner growls at Yoongi’s tone, grabbing the bushy-browed officer by his arm so both can leave. He bumps into Yoongi as he passes, shoots a dirty glare at Beomgyu like it’s the younger man’s fault for not having better control over his own partner. And though it’s in a half-mumble, Yoongi still hears the man say, “Must be one of those fucking freaks himself.”

Yoongi turns, but Beomgyu’s hands are on his shoulders, stopping him. “Hyung, don’t. They’re not worth it,” he tries to calm, though he can’t hide the upset in his own expression. But, Yoongi rolls his shoulders and pulls away from Beomgyu’s touch, checking his watch again. He still has some time.

“So, what’s the details?” he mutters, back to business.

Beomgyu nods, getting a manilla folder out to sift through the information. “Well, it looks like the same as the other cases. Overdose on RED; coroner is ruling it an accidental death rather than suicide. The female victim wasn’t involved in a unit previously, but the male victim was.” At this, Beomgyu’s eyes grow wary. “The name ‘Firestar’ isn’t someone you know, right?”

Yoongi squares his jaw. Ah. So that’s why that smile looked familiar.

“We’ve met a few times. Not enough to become friends though,” Yoongi murmurs. “He didn’t seem like the type to do drugs, though I can’t really judge how other people coped after losing their livelihood. Doesn’t make it any less shitty that he died either but…” Yoongi sucks in some air between his teeth. “I’m rambling. Is there anything else? Or can you just do your vision thing?”

“Hyung, what if those Federate officers are still out there?” Beomgyu murmurs. Yoongi turns to his partner, seeing how the young man has his shoulders hunched up in nerves, how he’s biting at the end of his pencil.

“Look, your power is the best suited for this kind of situation. I’ll take the blame if they decide to bust in here and harass us, but I like to get a good visual of the situation,” Yoongi drawls, cautiously approaching the body of Firestar. His skin is paler than Yoongi remembers, arms scrawnier, eyes sunken and cheeks hollower. Firestar died with a smile on his bloody red lips; most OD RED cases often do. 

Yoongi reaches over and takes hold of a button on Firestar’s shirt, ripping it off carefully to secure in the palm of his hand. He approaches Beomgyu and holds the button towards him. “Will this be enough?” he asks.

“I don’t know how clear the vision will be,” Beomgyu says warily, taking the button regardless. “Probably would have been better if I had the leftover cuts of RED they used.”

“It might have been confiscated already,” Yoongi says, tutting his teeth. “We gotta make do with what they give us.”

Beomgyu nods, hastily setting down his materials at his feet. He holds the button tightly in one hand, while he grabs Yoongi’s hand with the other. Beomgyu closes his eyes, eyebrows furrowed tight before the muscles in his face relaxes. Yoongi waits.

There’s no precursor for when Beomgyu’s Recreations begin, they just do. Yoongi hears laughter and giggling coming from his right, turning his head to see Firestar and his lover on the bed holding each other and tussling between the sheets. On the nightstand, Yoongi sees the drug folded up in wax paper, a small mound of red sparkling tablets. 

Firestar sits up on his knees and reaches for them, taking about four tablets into his palm. His skin is already flushed and his eyes are already dilated to the size of dinner plates. His veins are pulsing at the side of his neck and temple, and he won’t stop laughing as sweat breaks over his brow. Yoongi doesn’t know how much RED Firestar already took, but the symptoms are already so prevalent that there shouldn’t have been a need for more.

“Almost baby,” Firestar tells his lover in a slurred and raspy voice. “We’re almost there. We’ll show them, huh baby. We don’t — we don’t need them.” Some blood starts to drip from Firestar’s mouth onto his lover’s dress. He furiously wipes at his lips with the sleeve of his shirt, then pops all four in one go and swallows dry. His lover grabs four tablets and ingests them as well, both holding onto each other, mumbling something too low for Yoongi to hear.

Light begins to burn from beneath Firestar’s skin. His laughing gets louder, tilting his head back to expose his inflamed throat. It looks like lava is burning through his skin, cracking it along the sides of his face and around his eyes. His eyes. They’re smoldering, twisting and turning colors from the brown Yoongi remembers to a simmering gold and red and…and…

Maybe it’s because Yoongi now had to think about him after all these years, but in this moment, Firestar’s eyes look so much like Sungwoo’s: red, gold, and the most inhumane, frightening glimmer Yoongi’s ever seen in his life.

“I feel it! You feel it, baby?! It’s — It’s amazing! It’s just like they said! See?! We didn’t need them. We don’t need them. We don’t—” Firestar’s lover slumps backwards, laughing and eyes burning scarlet red. He slumps back against the headboard in turn, clutching tightly at his chest and breathing hard. It’s a quick click, how the euphoria in Firestar’s eyes changes to panic. He begins to claw pitifully at his chest, at his throat, at his bloodied mouth, grunting and groaning as he tries to get more air into his lungs. 

Yoongi feels Beomgyu’s hand that is tightly holding his own trembling. The shrieks in Firestar’s throat sound miserably pained. He tries to turn himself over, but his body doesn’t react. His eyelids begin to flutter rapidly, his hands begin to nervously twitch and thrash, his lover mirroring his movements.

“That’s enough,” Yoongi says, and with his other hand, knocks the button out of Beomgyu’s hold. 

Instantly, the image fades away, like paint being washed off a canvas. Beomgyu is sweating, gasping for air and still clutching Yoongi’s hand. The bodies of Firestar and his lover are back to being lifeless corpses.

Yoongi’s never seen the moment where the victims die. For Beomgyu’s sake, he always ends it just at the moment before.

They stand there in the bedroom, Beomgyu coughing and trying to collect his senses, before standing upright and breathing hard. “S-Sorry, hyung. Just — it was more intense than I thought it would be.”

“How were you feeling?”

“…Anger, bliss, confusion, righteousness, power—” Beomgyu coughs, “Hyung, I…I never felt that before from these visions. That…that power.”

“It’s RED. It makes people feel invincible. That’s not something new—”

“No. No, this was more than that. It didn’t even feel like a high, it felt like…” Beomgyu brings his free hand to his head, wincing. “I don’t know how to explain it. Like…like you’re a bomb and you can feel yourself about to explode at any second. But the moment it happens, you don’t feel pain. You just feel peace.”

Yoongi bites the inside of his cheek. 

“…How’re you feeling now?”

Beomgyu shakes his head. “I think I need to just catch my breath.”

“I’ll call the Metro Unit up here to handle the cleanup,” Yoongi mumbles, releasing Beomgyu’s hand at last to slip off one of his gloves. “You should go eat something. There’s a barbecue place nearby that has appetizers for cheap at this hour. Good beer too. Maybe I’ll go for a glass before my date.”

“Won’t you be late if you take me out for some lunch?” Beomgyu asks. Yoongi clicks his tongue.

“I’m taking myself out for lunch and you’re accompanying me,” Yoongi corrects. “Besides, you need the nutrients. Can’t send you back to the precinct all sweaty and pale like this, or else the Commissioner is gonna be more pissed with me after those Federate tools come to complain to her.”

Beomgyu gives a wry smile. “Right, right.” He turns his gaze back to the bodies one last time, frowning. “What did he mean? ‘We’ll show them. We don’t need them’.”

Yoongi frowns as well. He was wondering the same thing.

“We’ll talk it over later,” he mumbles. “I’ll meet you outside, I’m just going to make note of the button for forensics.”

With a nod, Beomgyu leaves, staggering a bit in his gait. Yoongi watches him leave, waits till he hears the younger man opening and closing the front door shut behind him, before he turns to Firestar’s body and turns the man’s head for a better look at his neck. Bare. 

Yoongi moves to the man’s arms, checks both wrists. Some injection scars from syringes, but not what Yoongi was looking for. He clicks his tongue, crouching down to pull up Firestar’s pajama bottoms to check his ankles, turning them as much as he can without disturbing the body. Still nothing. 

Already tired, Yoongi stands up with a huff. So much for adding to his current lead.

He closes his eyes. A dullness settles in his bones. He opens them, and he is outside of the complex on the sidewalk, startling a few members of the Metro Unit waiting on the building’s steps with his sudden appearance. He looks over his shoulder at them, spotting Beomgyu just now exiting the elevator. 

“Room’s all yours. Send the photos and detective information directly to mine and the Commissioner’s desk,” he tells the men, who nod and quickly gather up their equipment to enter the complex as Beomgyu exits.

“Hyung, you really shouldn’t be doing that in public,” Beomgyu warns with a sigh, color slowly filling his cheeks.

“What? Standing?” Yoongi bends his knees, rolls his shoulders and squints at the sun above. Beomgyu has a pout on his lips, and Yoongi sighs, slinging an arm around Beomgyu’s shoulders. “Okay, we’ll pretend we’re normal and walk. But that means you treat your hyung to an extra meat skewer for making me use up extra energy.”

That brings a smile to Beomgyu’s face, makes a laugh jump from his throat. Yoongi feels a smile of his own creep onto his face from seeing it.

He’s only worked with Beomgyu for two years, less than half the time of being with his older unit. Yet, standing here with the sun beating down, taking one foot in front of the other and groaning about ‘not needing to use these muscles in years’, he doesn’t feel like Number Two, nor does he feel like he’s Number One.

He’s just Yoongi.

That’s all he ever wanted.

 


 

“You were late.”

Yoongi sighs, scratching at his chin. “Yeah. Yeah, sorry. Got tied up with work details. I didn’t miss your solo though. That’s the part that really mattered for me to see,” he mumbles. He wanders over to the couch in the small dressing room, plopping himself down and kicking up his feet. Across from him, Hoseok rolls his eyes and continues to pack up his violin. 

“What’s the point of instant teleportation if you’re late all the time?” Hoseok chides, though Yoongi hears in his tone he’s not mad. Still, he wants to be supporting of Hoseok’s endeavors just as Hoseok’s helped him slowly stitch together something resembling a normal life, especially at the times where Yoongi feels himself being pulled apart at the seams. 

“When’s your next concert? I’ll come early. I’ll even legally buy a ticket instead of just taking my seat in my usual spot,” Yoongi offers, the ‘usual spot’ being the nest area of the theater reserved for lighting crew and stage hands. It’s good acoustics in that spot; Yoongi likes the way the strings sound as music trills up towards him, like a melody sprouting from the ground and growing up.

“In two months. Two of our cellists are having a baby, so we’re taking a minor hiatus,” Hoseok explains. He smiles. “It’ll give me time to get started on the shop’s renovations. My dad’s thinking about painting it and already sent me like five thousand swatches. Did you even know you can mix white more than forty ways? I didn’t.”

Yoongi smiles as Hoseok chatters away, voice loud and vibrating off the walls. It’s different from the Hoseok he knew before, the Hoseok that seemed angry and stressed and kept to himself until Sungwoo forced his cooperation. He has a happier glow to his cheeks now, a softness to his smile, a brightness to his laughter that is infectious enough to make Yoongi smile and laugh back.

In the back of his mind, he thinks about Namjoon. He thinks about what would happen to Hoseok’s smile if he tells him the news.

 “You wanna go out to eat?” Hoseok asks, tucking the violin under his arm before heading over to the table to grab an orange pill subscription bottle. Yoongi watches him carefully as he pours five into his palm, counts out three, and plucks two from his hand to put in his mouth, swallowing them down with a quick gulp of water from his bottle. 

Yoongi’s always hated those things, but Hoseok swears by their usage. They’ve had this argument too many times for Yoongi to want to complain about them now. He’s happier this way, his mind thinks. If he wants to suppress his power, if he wants to feel normal, just let him.

“What’re you in the mood for?” Yoongi asks. “Someplace I know so we can be there in a second?”

“But wandering around figuring out what you want is half the fun!” Hoseok laughs, shucking off his bowtie and cufflinks to slip into the pocket of his slacks. Yoongi smiles, though it’s a bit more somber. It might spoil their dinner if he brings it up. It might be able to wait, not like Namjoon is going anywhere or even knows where Hoseok is. 

But he’s still Number Two. He should still take responsibility.

“…Hey, listen. Something’s came up—” There’s a sudden knock on the door that cuts Yoongi off. Hoseok holds his hand out to pause Yoongi’s thought, heading over to open the door to his room. Yoongi doesn’t see the person that knocked. He only sees a large bouquet of wildflowers. 

“Hyung!” A voice shouts from behind the arrangement of peonies, daffodils, larkspurs and lilies. Yoongi nearly leaps out of his skin because he knew only one person that called Hoseok that, but no. The voice is too deep to be Jeongguk. Too loud as well.

The person comes through the door and Yoongi sees that it is a man. A young and very handsome man. He’s dressed in long, white flowing garments with intricate stitching of colorful patterns at the cuffs of his sleeves and along his back. Leather sandals adorn his feet, not at all up to the dress code standard one usually must be to attend these concerts, but Yoongi can’t criticize in his own military boots and clothes that still hold the scent of smoked barbecue and booze. 

“Oh! You came!” Hoseok laughs. He’s louder too, and he’s smiling bigger, and his cheeks are staining red and oh. Yoongi gets it now.

Hoseok mentioned to him that there has been someone dropping by his shop almost ritualistically: a young man with flowers in his hair and white clothing, drifting through his antique store like a wandering spirit every Tuesday at one in the afternoon. The way how Hoseok described the man over the phone — “He’s like an angel, hyung. I don’t even know if he’s Enhanced or if he’s just that beautiful because wow” — made Yoongi almost believe the man was a spirit. That, or a hallucination brought on by the medication. 

“Mm, you were really good! I’m glad you invited me,” the man says in greeting, offering the flowers forward. “I grew these myself. For you,” he informs, box-shaped grin. 

“Wow, didn’t know you liked flowers,” Yoongi drawls. Hoseok sputters, wildly turning to look at Yoongi like he almost forgot the man was still here with him. The mysterious man also looks at Yoongi, to which Yoongi immediately breaks eye contact because wow. The gaze is intense and the eyes are dark. He doesn’t feel scared or intimidated by the man, but Yoongi does feel a little bit…nervous.

“Oh, is this a friend, hyung?” the man asks Hoseok.

“Uh, yeah. We go back,” Hoseok awkwardly answers. The man approaches Yoongi, bowing his head. 

“My name is Kim Taehyung,” he introduces.

“Min Yoongi,” Yoongi responds in turn. Taehyung raises his head slightly. 

“Are you Blessed?”

“…Am I what?

“Ah, you know, hyung,” Hoseok says, eyes shifting between the two of them rapidly. “Like ‘Enhanced’.”

Yoongi raises his chin up. Sungwoo used to use that word all the time. Even got Namjoon into the habit of saying it, and he would have gotten Seokjin and Jeongguk saying that word hadn’t Yoongi set them straight the moment they set foot into the manor. 

He hates that word.

But he keeps his sentiments down.

“Ah. Yeah. I guess.”

Taehyung smiles big. “That’s wonderful.”

“Ah.” Okay. What kind of hand is the universe dealing Yoongi here? Having him come across two beautiful men that have some relation with his old teammates and are also weird as fuck.

“It’s nice to meet more Blessed people. Ah, I also invited my friend over to watch you, hyung. He couldn’t stay for long, but if you’re available sometime soon, he’d like to meet you personally. He thinks you got some great potential.”

Yoongi imagines Hoseok wouldn’t be reacting so embarrassed about the compliments if he weren’t here to listen. Hoseok just awkwardly laughs and shuffles from foot to foot.

“I wasn’t — well, I mean, I’m only second chair, I’m not that great. Uh, but, you don’t have to leave soon, right? Can you — I mean,” Hoseok’s nostrils flare, “Do you want to grab something to eat with me?”

“With us.”

“Right. With us. As a trio. Not a date.”

Taehyung grins. “Sure! I enjoy being surrounded by my hyungs!” he exclaims as he clasps his hands together. Yoongi looks at Hoseok in small alarm. Hyung? Already?

“Ahh, yeah. We still need to think about a location though and I need to get these in water. Can you wait outside a bit, Taehyungie?”

Taehyung nods his head, long hair bouncing with the jovial movement. He politely excuses himself with another bow of his head, exiting the room and Hoseok gently closing the door shut behind him, before turning to Yoongi. “Don’t say it—”

“He’s weird.”

“He’s unique,” Hoseok says, playing with a few petals on a lily. “And he brought me a gift so you are obligated to be nice to him.”

“I mean,” Yoongi stuffs his hands into his pockets, “As your hyung, I feel like I should warn you about sticking your dick in things you shouldn’t be. Like cute weirdos.”

“Well it’s great that I’m not thinking about doing that,” Hoseok says with a closed-lip smile and wink. “But what did you want to talk about before we go?”

“Huh?”

“You said something came up. Like…like is it a ‘work’ something or a Seokjin something or…” Hoseok makes a gesture with his hand. He’s never put matters involving Jeongguk’s disappearance or Namjoon’s arrest into actual words, just awkward hand gestures and slumped postures. But it’s fine, Yoongi’s become a master at the language.

“…It’s…it’s a work thing. Yeah, I just — this case is going to be a lot of work so we might not be able to hang out that often. Just letting you know,” Yoongi mumbles, rubbing the back of his neck.

Hoseok breathes a sigh. “Ah, you scared me with that face you were making. That’s it? Hyung, it’s fine if you have to work. I’m going to be just as busy with the shop. We’ll just call each other when we can and besides,” Hoseok goes to his violin case and pulls at a latch on its side, unveiling a bronze key with the number ‘3’ engraved in its handle. “I can always visit, right?”

Yoongi swallows, nodding his head. “Yeah…yeah, of course.”

Chapter Text

“You’re pink now.”

Jimin looks up from his spot at a long metal table covered with manilla folders, unfurled graphs, notepads and lots of pencils. In the room Jimin has dubbed the ‘Lab’, there are two large windows that are open to let in the morning sunlight, creating a glowing halo around Jimin’s now pink-colored locks. Namjoon has been standing in the archway just looking at him work without making a single sound. He has to admit it, Jimin is rather beautiful to look at.

Raising his hands, Jimin hesitates, before signing, “You don’t like it?

Namjoon coughs, shuffling inside the space. “No. No, it’s not that. Just, I don’t know. I like it. Looks cute on you.”

Jimin smiles, but he still looks a bit uneasy as Namjoon takes a seat beside him. “Just so you know, you might see me with a lot of different hair colors over the course of us working together. And sometimes, I might seem…a bit spaced out. Just…give me some time to come around, okay?

“…Okay?” Namjoon laughs, rather unsure by the sudden seriousness on Jimin’s face. Granted, though he’s only known Jimin for less than twenty four hours, he doesn’t come off as a serious type.

As if that was the only weight Jimin needed to get off his chest, the young man brightens immediately, all smiles and sparkling eyes. He pushes towards Namjoon a small box of sweet bread in a pink and white box. “I picked it up along with some groceries. Dr. Yeun promises to have this place cleaned up into a suitable work environment,” he signs, gesturing around the lab that is frankly still as dusty and barren as the rest of the compound. “Though that does mean in two days we’ll have to go to the lab to complete temporary work while they are cleaning and furnishing the compound.”

“What about the manor?” Namjoon suggests.

“…Manor?

Namjoon nods, taking a bite of the first sweet bread he got his hands on. His eyelids flutter at the taste; far better than the food tubes. 

“I have a lot of equipment in my workshop if Yoongi or someone else didn’t clean it out. No offense, but the Project is working with machinery that is overly complicated and, in my opinion, slowing down progress. VAN could be analyzing the space footage instead of us, and could detect irregularities in radiation faster than us.” Namjoon swallows down the chewed up bit in his mouth, wiping at the corners of his lips with his arm. “What you and I should focus on is looking at the old Explosion and hypothesizing what precursors could have lead to it, and then compare our guesses to whatever thing is beginning to form now.”

Jimin stares at him, blinking slowly. Then, his head tilts to the side, raising his hands slowly. “I’ll let Dr. Yeun know and get authorization.” There’s the serious look again, that furrow of Jimin’s eyebrows and unsureness in his pout. 

Namjoon watches the lines of Jimin’s face carefully. He doesn’t look any different from yesterday aside from the hair; his face is still all soft curves with pretty eyelashes and plush lips that he lightly bites at every few seconds. His hands are still small with manicured nails and there’s still a piece of jewelry hanging in his ear. In all logical sense, this is the same Park Jimin that Namjoon met yesterday.

But, there’s something chipping away at the rationality in the coves of Namjoon’s mind. It feels like an itch, uncomfortably working its way down the curve of his spine, in between his shoulder blades. He squirms a little in his seat to rid himself of the sensation, but it persists. No, no. Something’s wrong.

“…I don’t mean to be rude by assuming,” Namjoon starts, and he knows this doesn’t make sense and his mind always finds the stupidest things to get hung up on, “but, you seem different.”

Jimin blinks at him again. Then, he pinches at one of his pink locks. 

“No. No, not that,” Namjoon stumbles. “There’s just — I don’t know how to explain it and I can’t even put my thumb on just what about you is different but…” Namjoon sighs and rubs at his face, tries to dig the last few remnants of dreamless sleep and morose confusion from the corners of his eyes. “Sorry, I’m not making sense. Never mind, I just had a lot to think about last night and I’m probably just tired right now.”

Jimin rises up from his seat, pointing over at an old unplugged coffee machine, inquiring eyes looking between it and Namjoon. Namjoon stops him with a raise of his hand. 

“Ah, no. No, I’m fine. Let’s just get started on the work. What do you have for me to look at?” he asks. Jimin studies him for a beat. Namjoon avoids eye contact, lest his mind tries to search for some other character tic that is infallible of a person he barely knows. 

A manilla folder gets slid in front of him, with a label marked ’STRATOS 47-1-A’. 

Wordlessly, Namjoon opens it and begins reading.

 


 

They take few breaks in between reading lab reports and analyzing transcribed code from the Project. Jimin gets up and leaves the Lab to bring in snacks and drinks for Namjoon without Namjoon ever asking for it, always offering Namjoon another file or pencil or slip of paper to take notes on before Namjoon has the chance to even search for it in the clutter sprawled out over the table. That strange intuition is still Park Jimin, so the thoughts in Namjoon’s head are quelled if only for a moment. 

At the same time, Namjoon has noticed Jimin’s reflexes are not at the inhuman speed they were when facing off against Yoongi in the manor last night. So far, Jimin has knocked over a cup of tea and dropped a stack of papers with graphs printed on them in the span of thirty minutes. Namjoon is torn between questioning what does this detail mean and fawning over how cute Jimin’s clumsiness is.

Come to think of it, Namjoon can’t recall if he found Jimin as cute yesterday as he does today.

Maybe it’s the hair.

The sky is barely taking on its golden hues as dusk approaches when Jimin stretches his arms above his head, his back curving as he stretches. “Okay, that’s all the reports for today.”

“…That’s it?”

Jimin quirks an eyebrow. “Did you want more?

Namjoon closes up a folder and labels it, shrugging. “I was expecting more, yes.”

This discovery is still fairly new. Plus, the work you have would have taken the doctors three days to analyze. You only did it in a few hours.

Namjoon bites the inside of his cheek. It’s crazy how he forgets that sometimes. How things just flow easier to him. How much faster and more efficient he does things. How he isn’t the same as everyone else and - maybe he should have moved a bit slower now that he does think about it. He could have made a mistake. He could have gotten something wrong in the calculations and written something off in his analysis and maybe -

You sell yourself short, Number One. I’d wish you’d stop holding yourself back.

Namjoon! I’m done!

Namjoon’s head whirs around at the sudden announcement from a tinny voice. Then, he peers over the table, spotting VAN slowly wheeling themselves in, arms spinning as if that will somehow propel them to move faster. 

“Wait, lemme—” Namjoon gets up from his seat, rounds the table to collect the robot carefully in his hands. 

I found lots of things! Everyone was so busy during five years! I’m so happy everyone was so productive!” VAN chirps as Namjoon clears a small space for them to be set on the table. VAN’s round eyes set themselves on Jimin’s confused face. “Oh! We did not meet yet! Hi, I’m VAN!

Jimin looks at Namjoon, then at VAN. “I’m Jimin. Nice to meet you too?” Jimin signs.

VAN’s eyes become half-moons, flickering from yellow to green and to white again as they become full circles. “Oh! I see you are using sign language to communicate! I am well equipped for speech to text functions along with the capability of understanding sign language from 27 countries, so if you ever need to utilize me for anything, please do not hesitate to ask! 

Jimin smiles, looking to Namjoon. “It’s cute.”

Namjoon smiles as well, though there’s a nervous thrum arising in the tips of his fingers, curling through his toes. “Yeah, they are. Uh, VAN? What information did you find?”

Oh yeah! I can go through each member one by one based off of the search results hits I’ve compiled. Or, I can give you a specific report on a person you would like to know. Which would you like?

Deep in his heart, Namjoon knows he only wants answers about one person. He needs to know the truth.

But Jimin is right beside him, watching VAN with slight intrigue. Did Jimin report their impromptu visit to the manor to Dr. Yeun already? Will Jimin report this time Namjoon spent trying to reconnect to his old teammates? Eyes and ears, always by your side, Dr. Yeun’s voice threatens. 

Jimin’s eyes glance over at Namjoon. “Do you want me to leave?” he signs. Namjoon immediately looks away.

“I…It’s kind of personal to me.” Namjoon’s tone tries to make it an apology. His shoulders slouch like it’s a burden to even have those words come from his lips, anticipating a ‘no’, or ‘it’s my job to watch you’ or even, ‘you don’t deserve to have something personal’. Jimin rests his chin on the ridges of his knuckles, those serious eyes looking Namjoon once, twice, three times with passivity held in his expression. Then, he pushes himself from the table and gets to his feet.

It’s okay. I should go and put an order in for dinner,” Jimin signs, shrugging. “I’m thinking noodles. You?”

Namjoon awkwardly nods ‘yes’. The smile on Jimin’s lips is gentle.

With a wave goodbye, Jimin leaves the lab, his footsteps echoing through the hall until they grow fainter with distance. Namjoon lets out a breath he didn’t even realize he was holding, running a shaky hand through his hair. 

He seems very nice!” VAN compliments.

“Yeah. Very nice.” Namjoon swallows. “Can you…can you tell me anything about Jeongguk?”

VAN’s eyes immediately shift to half-circles. “Um, actually, when I said that everyone was very productive earlier, that didn’t necessarily apply to Jeongguk,” VAN shamefully admitted. “Truthfully, the only results I’ve found over the five years were photographs of him in a residential area in Ssangmun-dong from street camera posts. No news articles, no interviews—” VAN’s eyes somehow manage to droop further down the screen of their face-- “the photos I found aren’t even good quality.

“But are they him?” Namjoon asks. He’s gripping the edges of his stool, can feel his thumbs pressing further into the metal than they should. Calm down, calm down.

VAN’s answer is to turn their face upwards and project a collection of images of a blurry street, cluttered with apartments and no identifiers as to what street it even is. The current image that VAN has pulled up must have been taken just as the crack of dawn, timestamped one week ago. There’s no one out on the street save for one person dressed in an oversized sweat jacket, worn out jeans and scuffed up sneakers. 

When VAN zooms in on the face, it hits Namjoon like a wave.

The hair is a different color than the video, a raspberry pink instead of the dark black in the video, or even the soft brown locks Namjoon remembers being too afraid to touch once upon a time. His face is still boyish, but Namjoon sees how much he’s matured; Jeongguk’s jeans cling to muscle Namjoon doesn’t remember him possessing. Hell, Namjoon doesn’t even recall Jeongguk’s legs being so long, unless the angle from the camera is just messing with his perception and his heart is fucking around with his common sense.

Aside from leaving this apartment complex for food or to run errands, he also leaves at around nine in the evening and comes back at six the next morning,” VAN further explains, displaying a night photo to further supplement the information. The quality of the picture is even worse with the added grain, but Namjoon is still able to make out the figure of someone walking opposite down the street, dressed in a slimming leather jacket, skinny jeans and boots.

“Where is he going?”

“…I don’t think I should tell you.

“VAN—”

I feel like it might cause you distress. Your heart rate is already exceeding 130 beats per minute.”

“VAN, please.” Namjoon knows. He knows his heart is beating fast. He knows he’s crushing the stool he’s sitting on without even straining his muscles. He knows that he never prepared himself for if the video was the real Jeongguk, never prepared himself to face or even try to comprehend how this situation occurred.

He’s not ready to face anything that involves Jeongguk. He’s suppressed these feelings for so long, tried to swallow them down as best as he could before he could let them choke him. And now, it’s all coming back.

VAN is quiet. Then, the pictures shift and it’s no longer the same residential street that VAN has been previously showing. There’s lights, although it is still hard to discern just where the street is located. But, there is a convenience store across the street corner where Jeongguk is photographed standing with one hand in his pocket and the other holding to his phone.

He comes to this street corner almost every night and is approached by various men, some coming to him on foot while others arrive in vehicles.” As VAN speaks, the images are displayed. Jeongguk talking with someone Namjoon has never seen before, various someones. The street cam is a distance away and the image is too blurry for Namjoon to make clear details of Jeongguk’s face. So, he looks at the way Jeongguk stands, the position of his hands and the stance he takes as he converses with whoever these men are. 

In the approach, Jeongguk’s body is lax, casual, like there’s absolutely nothing wrong with him standing on a vacant street corner at almost midnight. The man of the night talks to Jeongguk for a few minutes and then Jeongguk reacts in two different ways. The first is that Jeongguk becomes aware of the way his body is posed and shifts his demeanor. He turns his hips in a way that invites someone to touch him, hold him, tilts his head up to expose the curve of his jawline, the lines of his neck and collarbone exposed by his open shirt and bare for the men to press their lips and face against. 

The second is that Jeongguk stands with his shoulders back, his chin out, feet apart in a defensive stance. He doesn’t relax, he doesn’t act coy. It doesn’t stop the men from wrapping an arm around Jeongguk’s waist or his shoulders. Doesn’t prevent Jeongguk from leaving with them either, head down and hands clenched in fists. 

The former pose makes Namjoon’s skin twitch, but the latter rips at Namjoon’s lungs. He recognizes that stance. He taught Jeongguk that stance.

It helps for a confidence boost! Really! Just facing off against someone intimidating and standing that way, it makes you feel like you can handle it. Makes everything feel less scary.

“…Where does he go after this?”

…Usually, to a nearby motel or another residence. If they leave in a vehicle, it would be to a secluded spot where street cams have low visibility.

The jittering feeling in Namjoon’s bones becomes too much for him to ignore, so he rises to his feet and ignores the melted hand indentations left on the seat of his stool, beginning to pace around back and forth since he doesn’t know what else to do with this buzzing energy burning himself up from the inside 

“Who’re the men?”

I don’t know. I have not ran data on them for specific details, but there is a mixture of non-Enhanced and Enhanced-registered people. Plus, since the meetings occur usually at the same time and the conversations last a similar duration, I believe that there were arrangements prior to meeting...there’s also something else…

Namjoon puts his face his hands, not sure if he wants to hear anything else. 

Around the same time Jeongguk leaves, there’s a man that leaves the apartment complex and heads to an E-Bank station. Though I cannot confirm that there is a connection between him and Jeongguk, the man does have a criminal record involved in drug trafficking.”

It feels like the ground is being pulled out from Namjoon’s feet, yet at the same time, it feels like Namjoon is sinking downdowndown. He’s breathing hard through clenched teeth, through his nose. His eyes are rapidly blinking; there aren’t any tears stinging at his eyes but they still burn. Calm down, calm down.

VAN turns off the hologram, turning the hue of the room back to its golden color light as the sun dips lower and lower in the sky. “But the others are doing well! Quite well! In fact, Seokjin—

“Why didn’t any of them tried to look for him?” Namjoon cuts off, and his tongue feels hot in his mouth, his throat stings from the sharp tone. “W-Why didn’t — it was five years. Why didn’t any of them try to look for him? It’s fine if they don’t give a shit about me. It’s fine if they hate me for what I’ve done, but they didn’t give enough of a shit about Jeongguk to go looking for him to make sure he was okay? To make sure he wasn’t put in a situation where he would have to be doing this?!

VAN is shaking on the table. Actually, the entire table is shaking along with them. The walls, the lights, the papers rustling and the stools rattling, everything is beginning to shake.

W-We don’t know that! I-I’m sure they care about Jeongguk! And they care about you too, Namjoon! Everyone cares about everyone!” VAN stammers over the low rumble of the compound beginning to vibrate, the dust coming unsettled from the rafters above.

Then why is Jeongguk doing that?! Why did I get a video sent of Jeongguk surrounded by perverts feeling him up? Why is he out on the streets meeting random men — men that are making him feel threatened! That stance is to make him feel less scared! I taught him that and he should have only used it when facing off against criminals, not creeps trying to fuck him!

Jimin is running into the lab, eyes wide that only grow wider upon seeing Namjoon. He brings a hand to the silver metal cuff on his wrist, cautiously stepping towards the table and taking hold of VAN as they wildly flail their arms.

Jimin! Please vacate! This is not a safe area!” VAN cries as a lamp falls and shatters on the ground.  Jimin tucks VAN into the crook of his arm, making sure the little robot is secure before he loudly claps his hands together. Namjoon doesn’t remember his vision becoming so hazy, doesn’t remember his hearing sounding so muddled and distant as his world rattles his core. 

Jimin’s hands are gesturing, signing, pleading. “I don’t know what happened, but you’re scaring me! We can talk if you want, but in order to do that, you need to calm down!

Calm down? Namjoon doesn’t want to calm down. He wants to be angry with someone. He wants to be angry with Yoongi and Hoseok and Seokjin, wants to scream and yell at faces that are still memories from his past. He wants to be angry with those men leeching onto Jeongguk, with whoever sent him that disgusting video knowing exactly what kind of feeling they wanted to rile out of him. There’s even a part of him that’s angry at Jeongguk for going down this path and- and Namjoon doesn’t want to be angry at Jeongguk. He wants to blame someone else for Jeongguk’s actions. He wants someone else to feel this hurt and pain that he’s feeling eating himself alive, whatever pain and hurt Jeongguk must feel right now, must have felt that morning after all those years ago. God, it hurts. Everything fucking hurts.

He should have been here. Maybe Jeongguk would have still been alright if he was here. Maybe Yeongsu wouldn’t have died if Namjoon were here. He ruined it. He ruined everything. It’s his fault he wasn’t there. It’s all his fault for not being there for Jeongguk, for not steering him down the right path, for hurting him that one stormy night and ruining them forever. His fault, his fault. 

Namjoon wants to be angry with someone, but the anger with himself consumes him whole.

You’re scaring me. You need to calm down.

His teeth grind together. Calm down, calm down. Though his body feels like it’s being pinched and ripped apart, he needs to calm down. Though his skin burns and his lungs feel scorched, he needs to calm down. Though there’s a wild storm in his mind that keeps bringing up that image of Jeongguk sprawled out naked on a stranger’s bed, with that bunny smile that he always gave Namjoon when he felt he accomplished something good, he needs to calm down.

“…I don’t want to hurt no one,” Namjoon murmurs, voice a pathetic warble that hurts to hear coming out his own mouth. “I don’t want to hurt anyone again.”

You won’t,” Jimin reassures, staggering to keep his position still as the room shakes, VAN still nervously chittering in his hold. “Just take a few deep breaths. In and out.

“In and out,” Namjoon repeats, giving a dry swallow. He looks down at his hands. It’s like there’s a fire burning just beneath his skin, his veins like spilled lava going down his arm. His legs feel tired, his body feels tired, his mind and his thoughts are so loud and he’s tired. Calm down, calm down. He takes a deep breath in and exhales it out. Does that again, and again, and again. Calm down, calm down.

Namjoon closes his eyes. Pushes that anger down, pushes that shame away, pushes harder when he still feels his body trembling. He’s so tired. He just — he just needs to sit. One knee folds down, then the other as his mind continue to swirl. 

His hands brace themselves against the concrete floor as he exhales.

The world thunders.

 


 

“Ahh, Taehyungie, I’m thinking of painting the shop soon. It’s gonna be the first step in our remodeling. Got any suggestions?”

The face Taehyung makes when he’s deep in thought is, frustratingly, charming. He knits his eyebrows together and his lower lip sticks out in a pout. Yoongi almost sees how Hoseok could have gotten hung up on the guy. Almost.

“You should paint it whatever color that makes you happy, hyung,” Taehyung finally says after the longest pause, “But I like purple.”

Hoseok rolls his eyes but hides his chuckle against the rim of his beer. His cheeks are pink, but Yoongi is sure it’s more than just the booze. Though sometimes he lets his mild complaints of being the third wheel in what obviously feels like a date come drawling from his smirking lips, he’s happy for Hoseok. Taehyung’s still kind of a weirdo, but if he makes Hoseok smile, Yoongi supposes he can  let it slide.

He reaches for his own glass on the table, surrounded with half-eaten side dishes and plates of grilled meat as Hoseok orders another round, when Yoongi suddenly hesitates. There’s something…buzzing…just beneath his fingertips where they’re resting on the table. Hoseok and Taehyung are still chatting aimlessly with each other, so either it isn’t noticeable or Yoongi is just imagining it. Curious, he rests his palm flat against the table. The vibrations only grow stronger.

“What the fuck?” he whispers.

“Is there something wrong, hyung?” Taehyung’s voice sounds through the loud noise of the restaurant goers around them. Yoongi looks across the table at him, then to Hoseok who is looking at him with an expression of confusion himself. 

“…You don’t feel that?” Yoongi asks. Hoseok reaches over to rest his hand over the back of Yoongi’s. 

“What am I supposed to be feeling?”

“I don’t know. Like, vibrations or something?”

“Maybe an earthquake?” Hoseok looks around the interior of the restaurant, at the faces of the people surrounding them, all still laughing and talking and carrying on with their evening. “I’m sure everything’s fine, hyung.”

“No.” Yoongi grips his hands on the table. The vibrations are happening too rhythmically for an earthquake, and they only seem to be growing in intensity. Some of the empty plates begin to rattle against each other on the table. The lamps above their heads begin to sway ever so slightly. This feeling…it’s like déjà vu. The vibrations and how Yoongi feels them coursing through his body, he somehow remembers this feeling.

“Hyung?” Hoseok laughs, but it’s all for show, eyes worried. “Dude, you’re scaring me. What is it?”

You’re scaring me! Stop it!

A beat. Then, Yoongi’s eyes widen. No. No, it can’t be.

“Shit. Shit.” Yoongi stands to his feet, then sits down, grabs at the edge of the table before releasing his grip, standing up and sitting down once more. People are beginning to take notice of his behavior, eyes shifting in the direction of their booth as Yoongi curses under his breath and panics.

“Hyung.” Hoseok’s smile is gone. “Hyung, what the fuck? What is it? What’s wrong?

“We need to get out of here. Out of range—” But Yoongi doesn’t even know how big the range is. Namjoon must be staying close enough to the manor that he was able to visit, but who’s to say Namjoon is even at that spot right now? Were the vibrations stronger five years ago? Did the explosion happen quicker five years ago? How much time does he have? How many people can he—

CRASH!

Yoongi lurches across the table and grabs Hoseok and Taehyung by their wrists when the glass windows shatter and a scream rips through the air. There’s fire in Yoongi’s veins, searing his lungs as he closes his eyes.

He feels the Earth shake all around him, hears how the buildings quake and the people scream before it is muffled entirely and then gone. He hears his heart thumping against the breadth of his ribcage. If he listens closely, he’s sure he can hear Hoseok’s heartbeat too over his labored breathing.

Yoongi doesn’t remember how long the first explosion lasted five years ago, but he does remember the sight of it. He remembers the way how mountains fell, how the tallest of buildings made of steel and concrete crumbled as though they were made of only paper and string, how hot it was, like the Earth cracked itself open to expose its molten core. 

He doesn’t open his eyes to see where in his panicked mind did he teleport to, only holds onto Hoseok and Taehyung tighter until he feels the rattling stop. But truthfully, he still doesn’t open his eyes until he feels a gentle hand coaxing through his hair.

“Mmm, it’s over, hyung,” Taehyung mumbles where Yoongi had somehow wrangled the younger man’s head against his chest and locked him in securely with his arm. Yoongi’s eyes force themselves open.

It’s stripped of all of its wiring, all of the personality and clutter that once filled the small room, but they’re in Namjoon’s old workspace, huddled together on the ground directly in the center. Hoseok is hyperventilating, hands shaking and skin covered with a sheen layer of sweat. He begins to nervously pat down his pockets until he comes up with his pills, the bottle shaking in his grip as he spills a messy amount into his palm.

“Who was that?” Taehyung asks, standing to his feet. He looks around the room, eyes and expression more intrigued than frightened. Hoseok dry swallows two pills and tries to gather his breath, pushing away Yoongi’s hand when Yoongi slides it onto his back. 

“W-What’s going on? Why’re we here? What was that?” Hoseok stammers.

“It was a person,” Taehyung murmurs. He sounds so sure of it, his tone of voice low and eyes lidded. He begin to the walk to the door, humming a quiet tune. Though it’s with a stagger, Yoongi shoots up from his spot on the floor and blocks Taehyung from moving any further.

“No wandering around here,” he snaps. Taehyung blinks, then he smiles.

“Don’t worry, hyung! I know what I’m doing. I’m just gonna find that person that made that earthquake—”

Sit. Down.”

That’s enough to make the smile from Taehyung’s lips fall. He looks down at the floor at Hoseok, barely sitting himself in an upright position, before looking back at Yoongi. “We don’t leave until I say we leave, you got that? So sit,” Yoongi orders, holding his ground. 

Taehyung pouts at him, sticking his chin out like he wants to say something back to him. But, he holds his tongue as Hoseok begins to cough and wheeze, quickly falling to his knees beside him. “Hyung? Hyung! Are you okay?” Taehyung asked worriedly, pushing Hoseok’s hair out of his sweating face. 

Hoseok nods, pushing Taehyung’s hand away as well, curling into himself as he tucks his sweating face into the crook of his arm. “I’m fine, I’m fine. I just…I haven’t felt this way in a long time,” he breathes, turning to look at Yoongi. It’s in his eyes; he knows what that really was. He knows who it really was. He just needs confirmation.

Yoongi drops down into a squat and rubs at his face, reaching into his back pocket for his phone. “Yeah,” he mumbles, “he’s back.”

 


 

🐰🍀

Today 8:00 PM
Hey
I saw u called me
Is there something wrong?
Today 8:10 PM
I’m on break right now so u can call me
Today 8:20 PM
Aaaaaaand now u won’t answer when I call u
I know u called me from a burner what is going on??
Today 8:25 PM
ggukie if u do not answer me in the next minute I’m telling my producer I need to leave the show because my sweet little ‘brother’ is giving me anxiety for not answering when I call😤😤
Today 8:30 PM
Guk
Today 8:33 PM
Guk r u in danger?
Ur not hanging around that asshole still are u?
Today 8:37 PM
U better not be ignoring me just to scare me!!!
God u can’t do this to me, will u just ANSWER?!

CRASH!

Seokjin is already to the ground, curled up beneath the makeup table, holding onto one leg for support as the mirror shatters and the walls quake. The ceiling lights rattle and flicker on and off; some tiles from the ceiling come loose and fall to the carpeted ground with heavy thuds. Seokjin doesn’t open his eyes to see any of the destruction, doesn’t think he’d be able to see much anyway though the tears burning hot down his face. Oh god, he’s burning. It burns, it burns.

It ends as abruptly as it occurred, the tremors in the walls subsiding though Seokjin is still trembling and wheezing hard. Over the sound of his madly beating heart, he hears footsteps running towards his dressing room. Soon enough, the door is swung open, colliding against a fallen portrait with a bang.

“Seokjin-ah!” his manager shouts, quickly getting down to the floor beside him, pulling his hands away from where he’s clawing at the side of his temple.

“I’m burning, I’m burning! Let go!” he garbles out as she wipes at his tears with the side of her thumb.

“No. No, Seokjin. Seokjin, listen.”

It’s so hot. It’s burning, he’s burning.

“Are you done looking?! Get some water in here now! Tell the producer to put the interview on hold!” Seokjin’s manager screams at the gathering of people behind her. Some immediately jump and scurry away, while others awkwardly shuffle out the dressing room with concerned glances at the idol still cowering and sniffling in the woman’s arms. 

“Seokjin, it’s okay. It was just a normal earthquake. You’re not in the blast. You’re okay. You’re okay,” she repeats, wiping his tears away and continuing to push his hands back down into his lap when he tries to scratch at his skin. Seokjin hisses in deep breaths through his teeth, coughs into the sleeve of his pink button down shirt. His manager reaches for the tissue box resting among the spilled makeup and broken shards of glass, wiping his nose and eyes and mouth. “Remember what Dr. Choi said. It’s in the past now and he can’t hurt you. He’s a million miles away from you. You’re fine now. You’re better. You’re better than anyone that tries to tell you otherwise. Who’s Number One?”

Just keep to the side, Number Four.

“…Me.”

“Yeah, yeah. You’re going to be okay, alright? Do you need me to get you your medication?”

Seokjin shakes his head ‘no’. The burning pain is dulling to a simmer; the medication would help take away that pain entirely, but he’s never liked the way he’s felt afterwards. Made him too sluggish, too relaxed. Made the façade begin to slip…

“I’m just going to go grab them for you in case you change your mind, okay?” she says, nodding to herself, wiping his face one more time as she tuts her teeth. “Ugh, and we just got you this makeup room. We’ll have them get you a bigger one, okay? A nicer one. Only the best deserves the best, right?”

Seokjin shudders out a breath from his chest, still finding it hard to breathe but not finding the world to come tumbling down with him either. 

“Just wait here okay? I’m going to see about another dressing room and some snacks and we’ll get your makeup and hair all glammed up, okay?” His manager gets to her feet, briskly walking out the ruined dressing room and past the huddle of people still at the door. “Where is that goddamn water Seokjin asked for?!

Seokjin buries his face in his hands and breathes deeply in. I’m fine, I’m fine, his mind thinks, tries to get into a mantra that can overpower the fear, the memories, the burning.

Underneath his ruined makeup table, Seokjin’s discarded phone lights up with a notification. Clumsily, he reaches out to grab it, wishing his hands would stop shaking as he unlocks it and opens the new text message

2️⃣

Today 8:56 PM
we need to talk

 


 

“Who’s Seokjin?”

Moonsoo glances over the screen of the camcorder he’s holding, keeping it trained on Jeongguk’s face as he reaches for the cell phone resting on the nightstand amid the condom wrappers and lube packets. “It’s his older brother,” he mumbles with a gesture towards Jeongguk, silencing the call and putting it back on the nightstand before resuming his filming duties. 

The client laughs as he looks down at Jeongguk beneath him. “Shoulda answered,” he says, bringing a thick hand to wrap around Jeongguk’s throat, squeezing at his windpipe. “Let him hear how sweet his baby brother sounds when taking cock.”

Immediately, the thrusting starts back up, and Jeongguk closes his eyes tight. It’s the same as usual: film, fuck, go home and sleep it off. He’s already managed to come once, the remnants of it drying on his stomach and some on the bedsheets, but the guy is insistent on making Jeongguk come again. The client’s got a hand wrapped around Jeongguk’s half-hard length, jerking him off-rhythm to his hard thrusts from behind. With the other hand, it travels the spanse of Jeongguk’s body, sometimes pulling at Jeongguk’s hair or pinching at Jeongguk’s nipples or pulling Jeongguk’s hips up higher so he can thrust his cock in deeper. 

And it’s - it’s a big cock, Jeongguk’s not going to lie. He’s had smaller, some skinnier, some that don’t leave him as feeling so full and stretched out that it feels like the air is getting literally fucked out of his lungs. Vaguely before the meetup, he remembers Moonsoo saying the client was Enhanced, some kind of muscle enlargement ability. He didn’t really get a good look at the client’s face before he sunk to his knees in this dusty motel room Moonsoo picked out for them. Hopefully it’s not a member of a unit that he’s met before; he’s only gotten this far by people only assuming he’s Lucky Rabbit. 

The hand around Jeongguk’s throat tightens when the client pushes himself in balls deep, holding his hips flush against the swell of Jeongguk’s ass. “Fuck,” he breathes, pulling himself out and then thrusting back in to resume his brutal pace, chuckling when Jeongguk’s breaths and moans come out strangled. “Yeah, yeah that’s it. You sound so pretty like that, baby. Wanna hear more.”

He squeezes again. Jeongguk starts coughing, one of his hands previously clutching at the soiled bedsheets flying up in a panic to grab at the client’s thick forearm. Moonsoo immediately startles from his chair, holding the camera at an awkward angle.

“Hey man, lighten up on your grip—”

“He’s fine,” the client growls, folding Jeongguk nearly in half, fucking into him hard enough to make the headboard begin a rhythmic thumpthumpthump against the beige wall. “He’s a lucky boy. Nothing bad’s gonna happen, right?”

Jeongguk’s cell phone buzzes again with a notification. “That your brother again?” the client asks, grinding his hips, the tip of his cock rubbing violently against Jeongguk’s prostate. “Wanna answer it? Let him know what you’re doing?”

Everything is become muted. His vision, his hearing, everything seems to dull as Jeongguk takes another strangled gasp of air that breaks off into a choked moan, his blunt nails digging into the client’s skin.

“Hey! I said lighten your grip!”

“Look, I wired you the money and allowed you to be here to creepily film me fuck your friend. You let me have this,” the client spits. 

Moonsoo closes up the camera recorder. “No dude, that’s not how this works—” Jeongguk’s phone buzzes again. The client snatches it up before Moonsoo can silence it to take a look for himself. Jeongguk’s other hand comes up immediately to make a feeble grab at it, while his foot kicks up to force the man off of him. 

Okay, we’re done! Get off of him!” Moonsoo shouts, lunging forward to yank the guy off Jeongguk himself. Moonsoo isn’t a big guy at all; he’s more skin and bones than muscle and strength, with only his height to make him seem like an intimidating presence. He never has to be the one to intervene between Jeongguk and a client; usually Moonsoo isn’t even at the locations and it’s up to Jeongguk to handle whatever may happen. He’s had creeps, he’s had jerks, but luckily it was never anything he felt he couldn’t handle. 

This time, he’s not sure.

This time, he’s scared.

Moonsoo raises a fist to blindly punch the client straight across his jaw, only for the hit to never connect as a large hand shoots out and wrap around Moonsoo’s throat, hoisting him off the ground. The hand is connected to a large thick arm that sticks out of the elbow joint of the client’s own arm, his original two hands still clutching onto the phone and Jeongguk’s throat. 

The client chuckles, rolling his hips and stroking his thumb along Jeongguk’s Adams apple. “You like my ability? My past fucks thought it was creepy, but I think I could make a lot of fun with it,” he coos. Another limb grows out from the joint spontaneously, sounding like bones crunching and breaking as a hand forms and goes down to wrap around Jeongguk’s now softened length. “Kinda kinky how I can hold you down, choke you, and fuck you without any restraints at all. Isn’t this your lucky day, huh, baby?”

Jeongguk’s phone buzzes in the client’s hold. He takes a glance at the screen as the texts keep coming in.

“…Your brother thinks you’re in danger?” he asks, chuckling. “Some intuition! We should call him and let him know how you’re doing, right?” He punctuates his question with a hard thrust. Jeongguk’s pleasure is gone, only replaced with anger and pain. He just needs to get his phone, he just needs—

CRASH!

The window of the motel room shatters, along with the room next door and the room next to that. At the same time, the walls of the motel room shake erratically, while the bed gives way to the violent quakes and breaks into two. The sudden jolt startles the client into dropping Jeongguk’s phone on his chest. Quickly, Jeongguk pries off his cell phone case, blindly wrapping his fingers around a slim piece of sharpened metal hidden inside.

“What the fu—” Jeongguk jabs upwards, driving the metal shard into the client’s jugular, at the same spot where his grip around Jeongguk’s throat is beginning to loosen. Blood comes from the client’s mouth, his large hand feebly making a grab at Jeongguk’s hand still forcefully digging the shard further and further in as blood drips down his arm and onto his chest. At his side, Moonsoo gets dropped onto the ground, the hand that was previously holding him going instead to grab Jeongguk by the hair.

Jeongguk yanks his hand back, closes his eyes as the blood spurts over his neck and chest. He gets one foot against the client’s chest to kick him off, the wild shaking of the room helping to further get the body away from him. He gasps, hips sore and throat pained, awkwardly falling off the side of the bed and onto Moonsoo, who quickly wraps his arms around Jeongguk’s body as the ceiling fan comes crashing down onto the floor.

You’re okay. I got you. I got you.

Jeongguk closes his eyes. Why does he think about him now?

The earthquake subsides after a few more minutes pass. The cheap paintings that were hanging on the wall lay in a crumpled heap on the floor. Shattered glass from the broken window is splayed across the ground, letting in the sound of blaring car alarms and panicked screaming from the other residents, and inside, all Jeongguk can do is breathe in deep. In and out, in and out.

“Fuck,” Moonsoo swears, getting off of Jeongguk and bringing a hand to his shirt that is now stained with blood. Jeongguk barely has the strength to sit up on his knees; the nauseating smell on him, of blood and sweat and cum mixing together is enough to make his stomach tie itself into a knot. He watches as Moonsoo circles around the bed, avoiding the glass as he approaches where Jeongguk had kicked the client off. He can’t see the client from his spot on the ground, just Moonsoo’s expression.

It is not a pleasant one.

“Oh fuck.” Moonsoo runs hands through his long black hair. “Fuck, fuck we gotta — Bunny, we gotta go.”

Jeongguk feels himself growing cold.

Moonsoo stumbles back around the bed, grabbing the video camera as Jeongguk gets to his hands and knees. A curse slips through Jeongguk’s clenched teeth, forcing himself to get to his feet. “Here.” Moonsoo tosses Jeongguk a sweat jacket, hastily throwing the rest of Jeongguk’s clothes into his old duffel bag he brought with him along with the dirtied bedsheets. There’s a bitter taste in Jeongguk’s mouth, a dull ache in his spine as he peers over the bed at the body on the ground.

“… Did I kill him?”

“Wha—” Moonsoo gets a hand around Jeongguk’s shoulder, pulling him away and helping Jeongguk get into the sweat jacket. “No. No, Bunny. Don’t worry about it. We’re — we’re gonna be okay. I’m not gonna let that shit happen again, okay? Come on, we gotta get you dressed.” Moonsoo’s hand goes up through Jeongguk’s locks in a reassuring way, raspberry pink hair still matted with sweat. At least, Jeongguk hopes it’s sweat. 

The sweat jacket is oversized, hangs off Jeongguk’s frame in a way that it obscures the blood stained over his chest and stomach, but just barely covers the flecks that got on his thighs as he pulls back on his underwear. Moonsoo helps stuff Jeongguk’s feet into the yellow Timberlands the client strolled into the motel room with — “Fuck, grab his clothes too. Grab anything that can get traced to us, Bunny” — before he wanders back over to the body again, wincing. “Fuck, Bunny. Where’d you even get that thing?” he says, closing his eyes.

Jeongguk begins to move to look again, but Moonsoo stops him. “No, don’t look. I don’t want you to see it. Just…hand me a pillow case.” Wordlessly, Jeongguk grabs a pillow and strips it of the covering, handing it to Moonsoo who crouches down and grabs a shard of glass with it. Jeongguk listens to the groans of disgusts and the panicked ‘fuckfuckfuck’ sounds Moonsoo is making, turning to look over his shoulder at the front door every so often when he hears the sound of footsteps hurriedly passing by. When Moonsoo stands back up, the shard of glass he had in his hand is gone, and the silver piece of metal covered in blood is carefully wrapped up in the sheet.

“Here.” He hands it to Jeongguk. “Like I said, don’t know where you got that.”

“My brother,” Jeongguk murmurs, cleaning the blood off the piece of metal as best as he could. “Said for me to use it in case something bad happens and well…”

“Yeah. Yeah, no. It was…” Moonsoo rubs his face. “Fuck, I can’t think right now. Come on, let’s go.” He wraps an arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders, holds him close to his side and without another glance at the scene behind them, they hastily exit the room.

No one stops them as they make their way to Moonsoo’s beat up Subaru. The client’s vehicle is parked a further distance away; Moonsoo couldn’t find the keys in the bag, not with the nervous buzz in his fingers making it difficult for him to search carefully. Both slide into the worn leather seats and Moonsoo starts the car, sucking in a breath of relief. 

“We’re going to be fine, okay, Bunny?” Moonsoo says again, though Jeongguk thinks Moonsoo is the one that needs to hear that more than himself. “We’ve always managed to get out of some shit before. This is just gonna be like those other times.” He laughs. “Hell, sometimes I really think you are Lucky Rabbit from all the things we’ve gotten away with. We’re a team. We gotta stick together. We’re gonna get through this, okay?”

“Just drive, Moonsoo,” Jeongguk mumbles, resting the side of his head against the window. Moonsoo nods again, flipping on the radio to muffle the sounds of the car alarms, puts the car in drive, and pulls out of the parking lot to head down an empty dark street. The ride is bumpy from the road damage, but Jeongguk still tries to close his eyes. Tries to not think about the blood sticking to his body, seeping into the front of the sweatshirt. Tries to not to think about how his ass is still sore, how his hips still fucking ache, how hard it feels to just swallow his spit back down his throat.

And Namjoon — Jeongguk tries so so so hard to stop thinking about Namjoon’s voice right now. His face, his hands, the phantom touch of his lips against Jeongguk’s. But the thought of trying not to think about Namjoon is ridiculous. He hasn’t been able to stop thinking about him all this time, after so many years slipped on by, why would tonight be any different?

Do you think Namjoon would like what you’re doing?

“…Hey…hey, no, Bunny—” Moonsoo is pulling over before Jeongguk becomes cognizant that his face is growing wet and his eyes are stinging hot, and his mouth is twisting, hiccups cutting off the sniffles. “Bunny, no. It’s okay. It’s okay—”

“I fucking killed him—

“No. No, you didn’t do anything wrong. Nothing bad is going to happen, okay? Your — your brother can help, right? He can help fix this. You just gotta give him a call—”

“I don’t want to call him for this.” Even if Seokjin comes to him with his ‘brother’ persona, he’s not going to try and mask his disappointment. He doesn’t want to disappoint Seokjin anymore. He doesn’t want to disappoint Namjoon, even though he’s miles and miles and miles out of Jeongguk’s touch. Moonsoo’s hand cards through his hair again, and Jeongguk brings the cuffs of the sweat jacket’s sleeves to hide his face, hide his tears. “Please just take me back home.”

“Bunny...” Moonsoo pulls Jeongguk’s hands down, tilts Jeongguk’s face towards him as he leans in to slot his lips over Jeongguk’s trembling ones. The kiss is slow but Moonsoo’s lips are firm, his tongue easily slipping against Jeongguk’s when he sighs. Moonsoo’s other hand gently drifts down, the tips of his fingers running against the inner muscle of Jeongguk’s bare thigh. Immediately, Jeongguk pulls away.

He brings the sleeve of the sweat jacket to his mouth, focusing his attention out the window and not the reflection of Moonsoo’s discouraged face. 

“I want to go home,” Jeongguk repeats one more time, voice as strong as it will ever be tonight. 

Moonsoo doesn’t say anything back. He just puts the car in drive.

 

 


 

 

joo

Na

“Namjoon!

A violent gasp of air escapes Namjoon’s lungs, eyes opening wide to see Jimin’s face hovering his own, VAN shining a light in both of his pupils to check for consciousness. Namjoon winces and turns away, head and neck throbbing immediately with the movement. 

“W-Wha? What’s going on? Where am I?” he asks, throat dry and voice raspy, his entire body filling warm with sudden heat. Jimin gets an arm around Namjoon and pulls him up to a sitting position, kneeling down beside him in the cool grass Namjoon is now becoming aware of as his fingers thread through the green blades. 

Are you okay, Namjoon?” VAN asks. “I am sorry. I should have not said anything. To better prevent you from becoming stressed, I shall now withhold saying anything bad to you. Only good things!

“VAN, please don’t do that.” Namjoon rubs his forehead, hissing at the shooting pain between his brows. “Why are we outside? Where’s the compound?”

Jimin makes a wincing expression. Then, he points a finger off in the distance, at where there are police and fire trucks as well as white trucks from the Lab and the Project centered around a smoldering crater that used to be where the compound once stood. 

“…No…” Namjoon’s chest began to rise and fall quicker, his heart beating against his chest faster. “No, no, I-I didn’t mean to—” He turns wildly to Jimin, grabbing suddenly at Jimin’s arms, at Jimin’s face. “You’re not hurt, are you? I didn’t hurt you, did I? I don’t - I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to hurt anyone again. I’m sorry, I’m sorry—”

Jimin pulls Namjoon’s hands away, exposing Namjoon’s palms that are already beginning to burn bright and hot. Namjoon closes his eyes and grits his teeth. Calm down, calm down but he just can’t. 

A tender hand gently caresses Namjoon’s neck, a small thumb traces circles against where his pulse beats maddeningly. The sleeve of Jimin’s shirt rubs against the side of Namjoon’s throat as he moves his hand back over Namjoon’s shoulder, pulling Namjoon closer in a half embrace. The sputtering of apologies fall silent on Namjoon’s tongue, and for now, he only breathes. In and out, in and out. He raises his arms, hands still burning but now beginning to dull in their glow, and as though he is still afraid of shattering everything he touches, he slowly envelops Jimin in a hug of his own.

Namjoon closes his eyes, tilts his head down against Jimin’s shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he murmurs. “I don’t know how to make it stop. I don’t…I don’t know.”

Jimin rubs his hand up and down Namjoon’s back. He gives a small kiss to the side of Namjoon’s temple.

Then, Namjoon feels something prick beside his shoulder blade. No. Not even a prick. A stab.

He pulls out of Jimin’s touch, but the sudden movement has him seeing double of everything. Two Jimin’s with saddened expressions, two Jimin’s closing up the metal casing on their wrists, hiding needles and serums behind a fashionable exterior, four sets of hands signing ‘I’m sorry’ before eventually, all Namjoon sees is black.

Chapter Text

 

“Look, I already told you I’m not interested. If you keep harassing me like this, I’m not afraid to bring the cops around here, old man.”

The man at his door — Hoseok can’t remember what name he gave, Min Jungnam or something of that sort — clicks his tongue at him. It’s a bright sunny day out; children playing on the street and housewives standing on the corner to chatter and gossip, but Hoseok only hopes that none of their eyes stray over to look at his front door and this man dressed in a lime green suit with a peacock feather in his yellow hat. He’s already heard enough of their thoughts about the kind of company he brings around, he doesn’t want to hear any more. No more .

“Nonsense. Everyone has a price. I just haven’t found yours.”

Hoseok can’t even feign a smile. “That’s cause I don’t have one. So, I’m going to give you five minutes to just leave my front door.”

“Of course when I say the word ‘price’, you assume I’m going to pay you to join my collective of Blessed individuals—”

“What’s going on with me isn’t a Blessing, I promise you that.”

“Only because you haven’t awakened to your true potential. My protege is the same way. Such a brilliant mind, yet he hinders himself to feel normal . And I’ve taken two other individuals that are older than you and lack the finesse to take their abilities further than beyond the box of imagination they seem so content on staying in. I am here to say that I can help you, Jung Hoseok.”

“And I’m telling you I don’t want it.”

Jungnam hums. “Stubbornness. That might be an interesting dynamic to have. Number One could learn how to quell stubbornness,” he mutters. Hoseok blinks. Then, he slams the door in the older man’s face and locks it shut.

“Weirdo,” he mumbles under his breath, rubbing at his head. He shuffles through his apartment to find his cell phone, kicking over a pair of pants that Hoseok doesn’t remember owning and a pair of underwear that definitely isn’t his. It’s always awkward cleaning up after the one-night stands. Hoseok can’t stand the discomfort of meeting up with them after the first fuck to give their stuff back, so he’s amassed a collection of discarded garments, forgotten underwear and phone numbers scribbled out on receipts. 

Hoseok checks underneath a stack of junk mail, sifts through some of his old medical bills and receipts for headache medication that is never strong enough, is never enough .

Do you live alone?

Hoseok jumps, head turned wildly at the sound of the older man’s voice, so loud and clear as if the man had his thin lips pressed against the shell of Hoseok’s ear. Yet, it is only Hoseok in the apartment when he turns to look around the corners of the walls and the furniture; the old man is also gone from his doorstep when he looks through the peephole. 

You keep a somewhat tidy home. Though these flings of yours will have to cease when you come to the manor .”

Hoseok closes his eyes tightly, bringing his hands to his head. No. No, this isn’t happening. It’s just one of those thoughts again. It’s just that thing again. He can ignore it. He can drown it out — he’ll drown it out, that’s what he’ll do. Immediately, Hoseok hurries to his bedroom, snatching off the foot of his bed his set of headphones and his iPhone left in the same spot they were when he had to go get the door.

Is that how you try to ignore the voices? Music? Well, I’m not sure that is a good strategy.

This isn’t real. This is all in Hoseok’s head. This is just Hoseok imagining the man’s voice. He closes his eyes and blindly hits the button to put his playlist on shuffle.

I’m sure you’re wondering why you keep hearing my voice inside your head. I’m sure you wonder why is it that you hear other people’s thoughts in your head and you spend your hours damaging your eardrums trying to block them out, but it is never enough. If you will take my offer, Jung Hoseok, I can help you control your hearing, master it.

“This isn’t something I want to take a course in, okay?!” Hoseok yells at the empty space of his room. “I don’t want to master it, I don’t want it . I don’t want to hear them anymore!”

Name your price, Jung Hoseok. Come with me to the manor and study under my tutelage .”

Hoseok sits down on the bed and turns the music up louder. Go away, go away, go away, go away.

…Ah, I see now. You’re a family person. I can work with that.

The sudden statement makes Hoseok’s eyes pop open, looking around in confusion. “W-What?”

The lock screen on your phone. Is that your sister? And your parents? The resemblance runs quite strongly. But of course, they are not Blessed like you are.

Hoseok shoves his phone into the back pocket of his pants, abruptly getting to his feet and looking around with wide eyes. “Where are you? How are you watching me?!”

I’ve heard that your sister wishes to go to America and study abroad. You wanted the same for yourself, but that never came to fruition, did it? Starting off college with frivolous relationships and a lackluster music program that you feel you could have done better.

“You don’t know me. Don’t talk like you know me.” Hoseok’s voice is quivering, but he tries to not let it be heard. His lip is trembling, but he bites at his mouth to keep it from being seen.

You want better for your sister. You want better for your parents who just want to see you both thrive. I can give that to you, Jung Hoseok. I can make your parents and your sister the happiest they can be if you decide to join me. And you will find what you’re searching for in these people you bring to your bed, in this program that sparks no joy or energy the way that music once did for you. Purpose, Jung Hoseok. I promise all my disciples they will find the purpose they have been needing since you’ve become Blessed.

Hoseok doesn’t know if he’s seeking purpose. He didn’t know he was even looking for something in the one night stands outside of a quick fuck and someone to hold him afterwards now that his family is so far away from him and he just feels…empty. Alone. The voices only seemed to worsen the feelings, smothering him and drowning him till it feels like he is lost in a sea of thoughts that did not belong to his own, floating aimlessly with no end in sight. He doesn’t want to feel this way anymore. He just wants it all to stop. Just stop .

“How do you know about what I’m feeling? How do you know about me? About anything about me?” 

I know about you the same way you find out how others feel about yourself, Jung Hoseok. ” And Hoseok feels it, a mouth against his ear and a wrinkled hand clamping tightly around his shoulder. “ I just got inside your head and took a little peek.

 


 

Hoseok does not wake with the sun, but it is the sun that greets him when he shoots upright into a seated position, face covered in sweat and head throbbing. 

Clenched tightly in his fists is his old comforter, though beneath him his old mattress has been stripped of its bedsheets. His room — now that he blinks away the last bit of terrified sleep from his eyes as the sun rays slip through the open window — is half cleared of his old things; his old photographs and posters and framed comic books about the fictionalized Echoes are still up on the yellow painted walls. However, the newspaper prints of the Fantastic Five, the select individual interviews with the members from magazines, even the rare photographs of them all together like some fucked up superhero family are all gone, with only a small outline of dust left on the wall for Hoseok to know they were there in the first place.

The first thing he does is blindly grab for his medication, patting down his pockets of the jeans he must have slept in only to come up short. Hoseok’s legs feel weak when he gets himself out of the bed, but he has a little bit of strength and slowly revitalizing energy to stagger out of his bedroom and down the empty hallway of the manor. Once upon a time, Seokjin’s voice would fill air above him as he shouted for them to come to breakfast. Or Jungnam barking orders as they did their trials while he watched from his perch at the top of the foyer’s steps. The silence now is eery. He never realized how noisy the floorboards are as he walked down the stairs, how they creaked with each careful step he took.

Hoseok’s feet take him to the kitchen, but it felt more like an old habit than actually him knowing where to go. Yoongi is already up, dressed down in sweats and knocking the side of his spoon against the ceramic as he stirs up a bowl of oatmeal. Behind him, Jungnam’s old television is broadcasting the news on the kitchen counter. The picture quality isn’t high definition, but it’s enough clarity for Hoseok to see the destruction of the earthquake last evening: cracked streets, uprooted trees, broken windows and slanted streetlights. Though the buildings are damaged, none were leveled. No casualties either, at least so far.

“Mornin’,” Yoongi mumbles around his spoon as Hoseok takes a seat. “…How you feeling?”

Hoseok brings a hand to the side of his temple, closing his eyes tightly. “…Did you take my medication, hyung?”

Yoongi swallows down his spoonful, getting to his feet. “You shouldn’t take those with an empty stomach,” he chides, walking over to the cabinet to get a box of cereal and another bowl from the cupboards.

“I’ll be fine. I just need to take some—”

“And I’m saying eat first,” Yoongi cuts in, already pouring the cereal into the bowl and fishing out a spoon from the drawer. He phases out, reappears in front of the fridge against the opposite side where he was standing to get the milk, and then phases back in on the other side. Hoseok’s smile pulls thinly across his face; he remembers Seokjin being driven crazy whenever Yoongi did that.

The cereal is pushed in front of Hoseok, Yoongi huffing like it was such a burden to make as he takes his seat back at the table and continues to eat. Hoseok forces himself to have a few spoonfuls too, but the throbbing at the back of his head makes him feel too uneasy to have more. 

“Hyung, please. I just need to take my medication.”

“I know how to keep a quiet mind,” Yoongi protests, looking at Hoseok warily. “How are you spacing them out? Every four hours? Eight? Twelve?”

“It’s none of your business,” Hoseok says curtly, rubbing his face as he rises to his feet. “Are we really having this argument again after I told you I’m being responsible with them?”

“Yeah. And every time I see you, it seems like you’re depending on them more and more and taking more and more—”

“Look, I just need to go back to the Federate and get a stronger dosage. I’m handling myself fine, hyung—”

“Hobi, you don’t know what this shit is probably doing to your brain, doing to your DNA—”

“This isn’t RED I’m taking. I’m not going to be one of your OD cases, okay? Just, just tell me where they are and don’t make me have to go looking for them!”

Yoongi doesn’t say anything, but Hoseok already hears the noise of a mental barrier. Like radio static, fluctuating in and out. Just the way that Jungnam taught them.

“You can’t keep that up forever,” Hoseok says, the threat low in his throat.

Yoongi takes another spoonful of oatmeal in his mouth. “I’ve got practice,” he says, tilting his head down. “Eat it before it gets soggy. Not gonna have you waste my last bit of milk.”

Clicking his tongue against his teeth, Hoseok complies and takes another bite. His eyes wander to the television screen as the news report goes on, chewing silently until with a swallow of his food, he asks, “Why didn’t you tell me about him being back?”

“I didn’t want you to worry. You were the most shook up about the incident…I didn’t know how you’d react to him being back.”

“Has he…has he came back to the manor?”

Yoongi nods, biting the inside of his cheek. “He didn’t know about the old man. Doesn’t know about anything that happened in the last five years.”

“What’s he doing here then? His sentence got reduced?” Hoseok is already scoffing before he hears the answer. No, that couldn’t have been it. Surely that would have broken the headlines if news of Prime’s release from prison after all the deaths, all the protests, all the changes that occurred in everyone’s lives after that Incident. He’s surprised people aren’t connecting two and two now and speculating Namjoon’s return.

Unless that Project is covering it up.

“He said that they got him working on something that I guess required him to be back on Earth. Got a babysitter with him to monitor him, so I don’t know what the hell happened to make him create a small earthquake like that,” Yoongi mumbles, furrowing his eyebrows. The mental static is wavering; Hoseok hears the way it fluctuates as Yoongi struggles to maintain the barrier while thinking about Namjoon. He takes another bite of his cereal, face passive.

“Babysitter?” Hoseok questions. “Like some sort of bodyguard or something?”

“No. I think he’s with the Project. He didn’t want to talk about what Namjoon’s doing here and he can’t talk at all, but I don’t think he’s there to protect Namjoon.”

“What’s he like? Nice?” Hoseok’s met people from the Federate that were nice. His doctors were nice. The receptionist at the pharmacy he goes to pick up his prescriptions is nice. There’s nice people in the Federate, underneath all the garbage politics and corrupted individuals that manage to get out in front. 

Yoongi shrugs. The static gets a bit louder. “Don’t know what to make of him. They didn’t stick around long enough for me to get an impression and I don’t know if they’ll come back either…don’t know if he’s Enhanced, but he’s not bad at fighting, if that matters to anyone.”

“What else about him?” Hoseok asks, tucking his cheek into his hand.

Yoongi shrugs again.

Cute smile, nice ass.

There.

Hoseok immediately jumps onto the thought before Yoongi realizes the barrier slipped. His head throbs in pain as he closes his eyes tight to the burning sensation appearing over his skin, gritting his teeth as the images flash behind his eyelids while the humdrum of static echoes all around him. He sees Taehyung writing an address down on a slip of paper before placing it directly into Yoongi’s pale palm, sees Taehyung wrap arms around Yoongi’s shoulders before they are suddenly surrounded by an open field with wildflowers and weeds growing at their feet, a wooden cottage off in the distance. 

Hoseok sees himself, his own body weak and limp as Yoongi gets his arms around his midsection to dump Hoseok in bed after teleporting them both. And though the image starts to become blurry — Yoongi most likely trying to interfere — Hoseok sees Yoongi’s fingers dip into the pocket of his jeans and take the medicine to slip into the bedside drawer under a stack of papers.

That’s all he needs.

Hoseok forces his eyes open and immediately gets to his feet. Yoongi is still seated at the table, one hand holding his forehead while the other is at his nose, a small current of blood dripping between his fingers. The sight makes Hoseok wince, so he immediately turns away.

“…I told you to not make me go look for them,” Hoseok mumbles.

A beat of silence. Then, a long and suffering sigh.

When Hoseok looks over his shoulder, Yoongi is gone from the table, bowl of oatmeal abandoned. Then, when he turns to face forward, Yoongi is standing in front of him with a wad of bloodied tissue paper to his nose while in his other hand, he holds out the missing medication. Wordlessly, Hoseok takes the bottle, pops open the cap, and dry swallows three pills. 

Immediately, the headache goes away and the static disappears, the tightness in his shoulders and his neck washing off him in slow waves. All Hoseok hears now is the quiet exchange of breaths between them, the television, and the twittering of birds outside to welcome morning and the sunlight again.

 


 

The morning is quiet afterwards. Yoongi gets cleaned up and dressed in his work gear, muttering something about being called in for a case and that he’ll probably not be coming back to the manor until after nightfall. Though Yoongi doesn’t say it, Hoseok knows there’s an offer for him to stay. He could see it in the way Yoongi double checked the fridge as if he needs to make sure there’s enough food for two instead of just himself, or that he bothered to wash Hoseok’s bedsheets while Hoseok took a cool shower to help further ease the nerves from prickling at his skin. 

The manor was always a home for Hoseok to come to, or at least that was the façade Jungnam threw out and Namjoon feebly held up. To Hoseok, it was just a multitude of colorful walls, locked doors and an ornate roof. This place wasn’t a home. The members weren’t really a family. He’s grown closer to Yoongi over the years, gotten a bouquet of flowers from Seokjin once on the night of his first performance and hasn’t spoken to his hyung since. And Jeongguk…

Hoseok closes his eyes. He hasn’t seen Jeongguk in years. He’s not sure where even to begin to think about Jeongguk.

“You need me to take you to your place? Or to your shop?” Yoongi asks as he laces up his boots. They’ve retreated to the parlor room and brought the television with them. Currently, the news is reporting on a murder that occurred during the earthquake in some shabby motel, camera footage capturing two suspects fleeing even though the image is so blurry that their identities cannot be discerned. 

“No. No, I’ll stay here and just…it’s probably better for me to be away from crowds,” Hoseok manages to get out, nodding his head. “Less noise out here. At least until this manages to die down.”

Yoongi chuckles. “Yeah, you have a point…I can’t guarantee that Namjoon might not stop by. Or if Seokjin-hyung will if he bothers to respond to my fucking text. So, just give me a call if anything happens, okay?”

“I’m a big boy, I can take care of myself,” Hoseok says with a roll of his eyes. He leans back into the cushion of the chaise, drumming his fingers over the pillow resting in his lap. “It’s not like you to be so forward about your worrying.”

“I’m not worrying,” Yoongi stresses, the scowl on his lips making Hoseok smile. “Just saying…lots of shit is happening all at once right now and, you know, don’t want you to get stressed or whatever.”

“I’ll be fine.” Subconsciously, his fingers go down and trace the outline of the pill bottle in his pocket. Yoongi notices the movement, but he turns his head away before Hoseok can gauge the expression.

“Well…I’ll be seeing you.” With a blink of Hoseok’s eye, Yoongi is already gone. The news from the television echoes throughout the space of the parlor room that now feels too big for Hoseok alone to be lounging in. Hell, the manor has always been too big for Hoseok. Too many rooms behind locked doors Jungnam would never let them enter. Too many hallways, stairwells, and glass windows that painted translucent shapes of yellow and blue and red against maroon walls when the light hit them just right. There’s too many oil paintings by artists with names Hoseok has never heard of, too many antique rugs that cover the creaking floorboards, too many books with dusty covers and too many old bobbles and knickknacks placed in between them as makeshift bookends.

In it’s old splendor, the manor is still magnificent.

But alone, Hoseok feels the nerves prickling once more.

He sits there and listens to the way the grandfather clock tick-tick-ticks. Tick-tick-tick!

It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. There is no voices out here. No voices entering Hoseok’s thoughts other than the newscasters’. It’s fine. He’s fine.

Tick-tick-tick!

Hoseok leans up to turn the broadcast volume up with a flick of the switch, leaning back and closing his eyes a bit too tight to go to sleep comfortably. Just don’t think about it. Just close out your mind. Close out the noise. Close out everything.

Tick-tick-tick!

Hoseok doesn’t know why his chest feels so tight, why his throat feels so dry. He barely moved this morning — he isn’t even moving now — but there’s already sweat beginning to form over his face, at the back of his neck, down his chest, fucking everywhere. He tries to sit himself up at least, but his arms are heavy stones at his sides, legs sprawled out on the couch and not bowing to Hoseok’s pleading thoughts to move, to do something other than feel the way he is feeling right now. 

TICK-TICK-TICK!

A hand pats down his pocket, awkwardly getting the pill bottle out into his palm and swiftly pops open the lid with his thumb. How many should he take now? Four? Five? Five usually does the job, but he’s already taken three and it’s barely been more than two hours. He’s not sure if Yoongi counted the pills before giving them back to Hoseok, but he doesn’t want to risk Yoongi checking the count the moment Hoseok has his back turned to find out Hoseok took more than required. But god, why is that clock so loud? Why is everything so loud? His heartbeat is loud. His breathing is loud. Even the noise of the manor settling — the slight clinking of glass against glass in the chandelier above him and the tree branches scraping against the window frame in the garden behind him — is loud. 

TICK-TICK-TICK!

His hand messily lifts the pills he has in his palm and swallows down three of them, dropping two on the ground. The pills go down dry, bitter on his tongue as the headache begins to rear it’s ugly head and it feels like the noise is getting louder, louder, louder.

And suddenly, it’s quiet.

Quiet enough for Hoseok to hear the sound of the front door’s lock coming off with an audible click!

Hoseok turns wildly, falling off the couch with the sudden jerky movement as if his body wasn’t prepared to react. It isn’t Yoongi, he would have phased into the manor as he always does; Hoseok isn’t even sure if he still has his key. Namjoon? No. Not after what occurred last night. No way would the Project allow Namjoon to move around freely. Seokjin? Jeongguk? Would either of those two even return to the manor after everything that transpired five years ago?

A robber?

Hoseok hisses in air sharply between clenched teeth.

On his hands and knees, Hoseok crawls around the chaise and hides, listening to a set of footsteps — two? It definitely isn’t one person, but Hoseok isn’t sure. His breathing is overcoming his listening, a low humming noise filtering in and out between a slur of thoughts that do not belong to Hoseok, but also do not belong to anyone he is familiar with.

“You sure this place is empty, Bunny?” a voice asks. It sounds like it was meant to be a whisper, but still loud enough for Hoseok to hear that it isn’t anyone he knows. There’s a pause, then, Hoseok hears a thought.

God, he tastes so good.

There’s a gentle shush, then footsteps that quickly hurry up the foyer’s steps, sounding exactly like they knew where to go. Hoseok gets to his knees to listen, but immediately gets back down when he sees a figure awkwardly meander through the parlor’s open doorway. The thoughts come in a flurry, but they aren’t as loud as they would have been. They sound like whispers against Hoseok’s ear, fading in and out though he tries to focus on them as quickly as they enter his head.

Okay okay, just grab shit and go. 

Fuck, everything looks pretty expensive.

How’d Bunny know about this place?

Why’s there a television on here? Is someone here? I don’t want someone else killed—

Hoseok nearly chokes on his breath. Okay, robbers. Possibly armed. 

He is careful to peer out around the edge of the chaise, watching as a gangly man with long, disheveled black hair snatches up some antique candlestick holders and the ugly statuettes Jungnam had organized on the bookshelf, shoving them carelessly in the duffle bag hanging off his narrow shoulders. He’s tall, maybe even a little bit taller than Namjoon if Hoseok remembers correctly, but barely any muscle. Hoseok might be able to take him on a fight; he’s not as aggressive as Yoongi is, not as witty as Namjoon, but he’s still their third best fighter. If that mattered.

The man turns and shuffles over to the television, switching it off and hurriedly shoving that into the duffle bag as well, along with a tarnished ash tray and some old books Hoseok had left on the coffee table. There doesn’t seem to be any reasoning in what the man is grabbing. His eyes are moving left and right in a frenzy, his hands shaking and teeth grinding together. His thoughts are an even bigger mess.

Is this enough? Is this enough?

Fuck, I’m grabbing garbage. I don’t know what’s good in this place?

Should I go somewhere else?

There’s someone here. I know someone’s here. Fuck, when are they gonna show up?

Well, Hoseok supposes that’s good enough of a moment to make an entrance.

With a hard jolt, Hoseok pushes the chaise he was hiding behind over and charges forward with a yell. It does the job of startling the man; he drops his duffle bag of pilfered items as his shoulders hunch up with his scream. Hoseok turns and swings his legs out, tripping the man and knocking him to the ground with a loud thud. He’s a bit out of practice — not like he has to think about punching or roundhouse kicking someone in the philharmonic — so Hoseok wobbles off balance when he brings his leg back, though catches himself before the man can connect a wild kick of his own against his midsection.

“Bunny!” the man screams, stumbling to his feet and digging into his back pocket to reveal a switchblade. He holds it out threateningly at Hoseok, though Hoseok sees the tremble in his wrist, the loose hold he’s got around the switchblade’s red handle. “Look man, I don’t want to hurt no one.  We’ll leave the stuff if you let us go—”

Go for the stomach when he gets his guard down.

Hoseok lunges forward and the man hesitates in his attack, before he lunges forward as well with aim at Hoseok’s stomach. Hoseok’s hands are already moved down to grab the man by the wrist, shaking the knife out of his hold before tugging him forward as he turns behind. Pulling the man up against his back, Hoseok hisses out a grunt before flipping the man up over his back and onto the floor. 

The man chokes out a groan of pain, curling himself into a ball and bringing his hands to his head. Hoseok winces, rubbing at the back of his neck where he feels a muscle stinging something vicious. Yep, very much out of practice. Maybe he should hit the gym during his time off.

 Fuck! That hurt, you dick!” the man yells. Hoseok scoffs, swinging a leg over his body and grabbing the guy’s wrist to twist roughly.

“Yeah? I’m sure me breaking your arm will really hurt—” he begins to pull the man’s arm taut, getting the sole of his foot against the side of the man’s head — “unless you tell me how’d you get in here and what do you want?”

“Look, we just need some money, okay?! We’ll go! We’ll go!” the man garbles, twisting and turning in Hoseok’s hold. 

How did you get in here?! I’m giving you til the count of five! Four—

“Hyung!”

It feels like a bullet rips through his spine. Hoseok’s only had one person call him ‘hyung’, and though he hasn’t been referred to that name in so long, he knows, he knows just who that voice belongs to.

Slowly, he turns, and there Jeongguk is. Standing in the doorway dressed in oversized grey sweats, a white face mask pulled down to reveal pink lips twisting with something akin to regret. Slung on his shoulder is an old backpack, lumpy and overstuffed with things Hoseok can only imagine to be stolen from bedrooms and study lounges upstairs. 

It’s been five years, yet the way that Jeongguk looks at him with those wide eyes and bowed knees, it’s like Jeongguk is eighteen again, watching Namjoon be lead away in cuffs while the ruins of the old district smoldered all around them.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk says again, and it’s like the word is foreign on his tongue; it chokes out of his throat, like it’s as much of a struggle for him to say as it for Hoseok to hear. “Hyung, let him go.”

Jeongguk’s mental barrier sounds a bit like a song. It’s a quiet humming, soothing and gentle as though Jeongguk is humming a lullaby or strolling through a quiet park in the afternoon. Yet, it is just loud enough to smother down his thoughts from Hoseok’s hearing. In fact, it only seems like it grows louder.

Hoseok tosses the arm away and lifts his foot, watching as the guy scrambles from the ground and rolls over to Jeongguk. He hurriedly gets to his feet and Jeongguk pulls him into his arms as the man pulls Jeongguk against his chest. A friend? A lover? Hoseok doesn’t drop his guard, watching them closely as he moves to hide the switchblade beneath his heel.

“…What’s going on?” he asks Jeongguk directly, eyes flickering to the man’s face for a brief second.

“…I just…I just needed something,” the younger man murmurs. He doesn’t look Hoseok in the eye when he speaks. “Didn’t mean to disturb you though so, we’ll be going now—”

“Five years you’ve been gone without speaking to anyone and you show up just to rob the place?” Hoseok questions. 

Jeongguk flinches at the tone, but the humming persists. “…What do you want me to say? ‘Nice to see you, hyung?’”

“How about what the fuck you think you’re doing and who is this?

“You know this guy, Bunny?” the man whispers. Jeongguk gives the man’s bicep a small squeeze. 

“It’s nothing. Come on, let’s go—”

“Drop the backpack.” Hoseok steps forward. At the same time, Jeongguk steps back with the man in tow. “Ggukie, I don’t know what the hell is going on with you, but whatever this is, you know this isn’t right. What — what have you been doing all this time—”

SNAP!

Hoseok looks up, barely having the time to jump back as the chandelier above him comes crashing down onto the wooden floor, shattering the coffee table underneath as glass and crystal shards scatter across the floor. Immediately, Jeongguk takes the man and flees from the doorway, the duffle bag of items abandoned.

“Jeongguk! Jeongguk!” Hoseok awkwardly clamors over the couch to avoid the broken glass, cursing under his breath as he spares a glance up at the golden chain the chandelier had been previously hanging from. At the end, the chain is rusty and tarnished, warped like it was dipped in acid moments prior to snapping. 

Hoseok gets to the door of the manor in time to see Jeongguk climbing into a beat up car with the man getting into the driver’s seat. He gets to the stone pathway when he sees the car peel away from the curb, wheels shrieking in the getaway as the car speeds down the street and disappears off in the distance. 

“Jeongguk!” he yells for no one around to hear. “Jeongguk! 

Hoseok closes his eyes, trying to focus on that gentle humming. But it’s so faint, it’s so quiet. He tries harder, and harder, can even feel a vein pulsing at the side of his head and feel himself growing hot under the collar of his shirt as he tries to focus until eventually, he can hear nothing but the sound of his heart thudding angrily against the sternum of his ribcage. He lets a frustrated curse slip from his lips as he rubs his palms over his face, turning back towards the manor to walk back up the front steps and close the front door behind him.

He doesn’t return to the parlor room, and instead sits down at the foot of the steps, dropping his face into his hands. Hoseok’s feeling anxious, but his body is feeling sluggish. He’s feeling confused and upset and worried, but all his body wants to do is lie down and tune everything out. The thoughts, the noise, the feelings, everything. He even feels himself reclining back against the steps, can feel his back hitting the wooden edges and yet, it still feels like he’s falling backwards. Fuck, he’s exhausted.

A sigh slips from Hoseok’s lips, and his chest pushes it out slowly. Yoongi’s right; there’s too much shit going on. First Namjoon and now this. He’ll…he’ll give Yoongi a call after a nap. There’s just too much happening and he can’t think, can’t even hear his own thoughts or anything else aside from the tick-tick-tick of the grandfather clock in the parlor room that now sounds so much muted. Hoseok’s eyes begin to flutter. He lets out another slow sigh.

Just a quick nap…just a few minutes of silence and sleep…

 


 

“We’re narcotics, why are we here?”

Beomgyu’s smile is sheepish. “Um, well actually, they really wanted me just here. But you’re my partner and we work as a team so…” Beomgyu makes an awkward gesture with his right hand, clipboard and manilla folder clutched in the other. “Well, there might be some drugs involved so it won’t be a total waste—”

“Yeah, but this wasn’t an OD case,” Yoongi drawls, hands stuffed in his pockets as he crosses the police tape barricading the motel room. It’s vacant of people, save for a member of the homicide unit up against the wall, examining a bloody shard in his gloved hand. Yoongi bows his head when the man catches them entering, though he quirks an eyebrow in slight confusion. “Jinsoo-ssi? Where’s Taehyun-ah?”

Jinsoo sighs. He’s one of the older members of the department specializing in Enhanced cases, but lately, the wrinkles on his face have deepened, and the tired look in his eyes has grown especially weathered. “I don’t know,” he murmurs, lips pulled in a thin line. “He’s been distant with me ever since that flower kid showed up. Haven’t seen him since last Thursday.” Jinsoo then places the shard of glass back inside a plastic baggie and sets it down beside a tape outline of a body on the carpeted floor, bowing towards them both. “I hope you don’t mind me asking for your partner’s help, Yoongi-yah. I’m sure I could use your help on this as well. Three heads are better than one, as they say?”

Yoongi’s smile is small as he rolls his shoulders back. “Sure. What do you have for us?”

“Well, if I’m being honest, not much,” Jinsoo says with a wince. “The civ was murdered with a stab to the jugular, presumably with that shard of glass I was looking at earlier. The murder happened during that earthquake last night but I’ll wait to get an approximate time from the coroner.”

“Any witnesses?” Yoongi questions, stepping around the bed and minding the glass, frowning. The damage around this neighborhood isn’t bad compared to what occurred further out of the city on the borders of the districts. Beomgyu mentioned something about craters in the ground on his drive over, trees bent backwards and boulders ripped up out of the ground. Namjoon must have been somewhere distant when the explosion occurred. Yoongi doesn’t know whether to be relieved or further concerned as to where Namjoon is now.

“The girl at the front desk. She checked on everyone who had a room logged in through the check-in system and was the one that discovered the body,” Jinsoo’s thick eyebrows furrow down in small frustration. “But this is one of those ‘private motels’, so unfortunately, she didn’t see who it was that checked into the room with the civ. Nor did she see anyone else come out of it.”

“Maybe check the payment account? You can’t pay for a room at these motels with hard cash so there should be some info?” Beomgyu suggests. Yoongi looks over his shoulder at the younger man, wry smile on his lips.

“And how do you know about that?”

Beomgyu blinks. Then, he flushes red. “Ah! No! Not from experience! I mean, I heard about it from a friend!”

“A friend?

Yes. A friend.”

Yoongi shrugs nonchalantly, though the smirk on his lips barely hides itself away. “Well, did you check that?”

“Believe me, I’ve had a couple of guys from the Metro Unit suggest that when they were putting the markers down and collected the body. But that earthquake destroyed the motel’s system. Customer information is gone, cameras are jammed so there’s no clear image of who goes in and out of the motel rooms and the backups are encrypted so it’s going to take a while to even see if we can even recover the data. But, all arrows are pointing towards no,” Jinsoo responds.

“So that image on the news broadcast?”

Jinsoo nods, face glum. “That blurry snapshot is all we got on our suspects. At least for now.” With a glance in Beomgyu’s direction, he gestures to the bloody shard on the ground. “If you could?”

Yoongi sees Beomgyu steeling his nerves, nodding his head yes as he quickly slips on a pair of gloves for himself before taking the shard offered by Jinsoo. Yoongi takes the folder and clipboard from Beomgyu’s other hand to set on the stripped bed, holding the now free hand as Beomgyu closes his eyes tight. 

They wait.

They wait.

They wait.

Beomgyu’s eyebrows are pinching together tightly, carefully turning the glass piece around in his hand. “Um,” he starts, but doesn’t follow up on it. Instead, he just scrunches his eyes tighter.

“What is it?” Yoongi questions, frowning himself.

“I…” Beomgyu opens his eyes, unsurely looking at Jinsoo. “Are you…are you sure this is the murder weapon?”

“Well, we presumed it was on account of finding it stuck in the civ’s throat,” Jinsoo says. His smile is humorless. Yoongi swears he can see another wrinkle added in the furrow of his brows. “You’re telling me it’s not?”

“Just…I’m not seeing anything. So either this glass was too insignificant in the last moments before death for me to pick up a vision, or…”

“…Or it’s just something to fuck you over,” Yoongi mumbles, releasing Beomgyu’s hand. 

“So, so it’s not?” Jinsoo asks.

“I’m pretty sure I’d find getting stabbed in the throat significant, so this piece of glass must have been stuck there after the victim died. Which means the real murder weapon is still missing.”

Jinsoo groans. “What a day for Taehyun to not want to show up,” the older man sighs, bringing the back of his hand to his forehead. Beomgyu’s face fills with disappointment, at himself for the circumstances or at Jinsoo’s own frustration, Yoongi isn’t sure.

“I can…I can try to call him? Maybe he’ll answer?” Beomgyu offers. He hands back the shard of glass, not sure what else to do with it. Jinsoo takes it to slip back in the plastic bag, before he leans up against the wall and sighs.

“Yeah. You can try that, I suppose,” he murmurs.

Beomgyu nods, giving a glance Yoongi’s way. Yoongi nods in approval, and with that, Beomgyu quietly shuffles out the crime scene to get his cell phone. Turning back to Jinsoo, Yoongi asks, “What can you tell me about the victim?”

“Well, coroner’s report isn’t finished, but there wasn’t any sign of drugs in his system. CID identified him as Chae Jangwoo. He’s had a couple charges of aggravated assault and sexual harassment in the past logged on our records. He was Enhanced, but not a part of any unit. Don’t think any unit would have wanted him anyways.” Jinsoo pulls on a smile, humorless. “Wanna hear my theory as to what happened since Beomgyu-yah can’t pull anything up?”

Yoongi shrugs. “Depends. Do you think you got a clear idea?”

“Ah, I’m old, kid. But I’ve seen this type of thing before.” Jinsoo rubs at the scruff on his square chin, eyes on the broken glass on the floor. “Some guy that thinks he could treat people the way he wants just cause he’s stronger than the rest finds someone he wants to beat down on. Sexually, physically, whatever it takes to fill his ego. The front desk girl found him butt naked and bleeding out from the throat, so I’m going to guess it was maybe a blind date or some one night stand or maybe even a paid whore. No one too personal, but someone he felt he could do whatever he wanted to do to them.”

Jinsoo wanders over towards the glass, studying it quietly. “I bet in the heat of the moment, whoever he was with realized what kind of trouble they got into and wanted to back out. He wouldn’t let them, and they decided to fight back. And unfortunately for Chae Jangwoo, they won.”

“…So it was self-defense?”

Jinsoo hisses a breath of air between their teeth. “See, I’m not sure. We have two suspects that were caught fleeing the property after the earthquake. Maybe one of them lured Chae Jangwoo here and the other murdered him, or maybe one was incapacitated and the other feared for their life, or maybe one saved the other and thought a stab to the throat was the only way instead of stabbing in a non-lethal area.” A beat of silence passes, before the man hums. “I also have a hunch that whoever did the stabbing was young. Young and scared.”

“Pretty specific hunch,” Yoongi says dryly. Jinsoo laughs.

“Ahh, it wasn’t a pretty stab wound, which is why I think it must have happened in the heat of the moment. Could have even slit his throat, but I’m sure all the person was thinking of was how to escape and get the bastard off of them at the same time.”

Yoongi clicks his teeth. “Well, at least we’re not dealing with some experienced killer.” Which could mean for all Yoongi knows, the murder weapon might still be somewhere on the premises. His eyes lower to the floor, scanning the ground as he circles around the opposite side of the bed.

“Well, we may not be dealing with a calculating killer, but we’re not dealing with some idiot either,” Jinsoo mumbles. “You said it yourself, that piece of glass was just a red herring. The bedsheets and pillows were stripped, the civ’s clothes were gone, any condoms or anything that could have some DNA on it was gone before the front desk girl even got to the room. Only thing left was the civ’s truck out front.” Suddenly, Jinsoo’s eyes light up with sudden clarity, but Yoongi shakes his head, already knowing what is going through the older man’s head.

“Won’t work. Beomgyu’s gotta get his hand around the item to get a vision off of it…unless you’ve found the victim’s car keys?”

Jinsoo sighs. “Again, would have been nice if Taehyun was here for that…I’m getting worried.”

“…I’m sure Taehyun’s fine, Jinsoo-ssi—”

“No, not just him. The youth in general.” Jinsoo moves and carefully sits down on the edge of the bed, folding his hands over his lap. “We’ve been getting an increase in drug activity, both in arrests and deaths. Enhanced young people getting wrangled into unlicensed sex operations, getting killed out on the streets from gang activity, joining conspiracy groups and underground cults. All of this is just…well, it’s making me wish the Hero Initiative was still around.”

Yoongi’s lips pull into a thin line, shoulders growing heavy. “Yeah…yeah I wish so too.”

 

 

 

Beomgyu comes in shortly after Jinsoo and Yoongi had a moment to think about days gone by. Taehyun still didn’t answer the call, so all Beomgyu could do was leave a message explaining the case and asking for the other young man to be at the station as soon as possible. Without much else to do, Yoongi quietly excuses the both of them from the premises, calling in the Metro Unit to continue collecting information for forensics and data filing.

“You’ve seen Taehyun lately?” Yoongi asks as they stroll to the car.

“I’ve talked to him a few days ago. Haven’t seen him though.”

“What about this ‘flower kid’ Jinsoo mentioned?”

Beomgyu furrows his brows. “Well, I mean, I know who the person he’s talking about, but at the same time, I don’t know. He was pretty good looking, kind of weird, and he was all dressed in white.”

Yoongi pauses in his steps, eyes wide. “Wait, did this guy introduce himself as Kim Taehyung? Kind of box-shaped grin? Brown hair? Deep voice?”

“No. Think his name was Hyunjun or something. Blond hair.” Beomgyu gives a little chuckle. “I mean, he was nice and all, but the stuff he was saying kinda weirded me out. Like, I don’t know. Just had kind of an intimidating presence, even though he wasn’t doing anything other than talking to us when we were at the cafe.”

“…Stuff like what?”

“Like…like how we were ‘Blessed’, and that we should grow closer with other ‘Blessed’ individuals. He also mentioned something about coming to hear some guy’s sermon. I think he was just some religious fanatic or something. Taehyun’s probably just hanging around him cause he thought he was hot.”

It’s still too many coincidences for Yoongi to brush it off so easily as Beomgyu is now. He doesn’t know Taehyung and he doesn’t know the person that Beomgyu met and apparently has Taehyun wrapped around his little finger, but Yoongi has never felt comfortable with that way of talking. Reminds him too much of Sungwoo: higher-than-thou and destructive without even trying.

“Try calling him again when you have the chance,” Yoongi mumbles, opening the car for Beomgyu. “Jinsoo’s worried and I hate seeing old people worried.”

“You hate seeing anyone worried, hyung.”

“Tch.” Yoongi climbs into the passenger seat, checking his phone. Still no text back from Seokjin and no calls or messages from Hoseok. Yoongi may hate seeing people worried, but he hates people seeing him worried more. So, when he feels the urge to twist his lips in a frown, the twitch in his fingers to text Seokjin again or dial Hoseok’s phone, the instinct his body screams at him to check on his two old teammates, he suppresses it. Hard.

Yoongi leans back in the passenger chair and closes his eyes. “I am in the mood for some tteokbokki to eat while I mull over this case. Wake me up when you find a good spot.”

Beomgyu’s laugh is quiet. The radio flickers on and the car engine starts up with a sputter. “Whatever you say, hyung.” 

Chapter Text

“Hyung?” Jeongguk calls with a gentle rap of his knuckles against Namjoon’s bedroom door. “May I come in?”

Namjoon is stretched out on his bed, a beaten down copy of ‘Blind Woman, Sleeping Willow’ open and resting on his chest. He smiles at Jeongguk, sitting upright and patting the spot next to him as a response. Before the warmth Jeongguk feels bubble up in his chest can prevent him from moving another step, Jeongguk quickly crosses over and sits at Namjoon’s side, the loud squeak of Namjoon’s mattress barely hiding the erratic thud of Jeongguk’s heart he hears drumming in his ears.

“Got something on your mind?” Namjoon asks. “Need help with training or something?”

Jeongguk shakes his head, knocking his knees together. “No. No, not that.”

“…Is it something about Seokjin or the others?” Namjoon’s tone gets a little bit harder when he says this. His brows furrow down more and his lips pout without him meaning to. Jeongguk shakes his head ‘no’ again, subtly moving closer.

“No. I just…I just wanted to sit with you and talk,” Jeongguk admits. The tips of his ears are burning, the roundness of his cheeks stinging when he smiles. But it’s a pleasant burn. It’s always pleasant around Namjoon.

“Oh.” Namjoon for a second looks nonplussed, a rarity to see if Jeongguk is being honest. How frequently Minho badgers Namjoon to keep a face of calmness, of passivity when speaking to them as a leader should, Jeongguk has grown accustomed to only seeing stony lips in a thin line and barely a twinkle in those warm brown eyes. As quickly as the breakaway from his normal expression occurs, however, Namjoon is quick to collect himself, hands awkwardly smoothing through the wrinkles of his bedsheets. “Well…what do you want to talk about?”

“Anything,” Jeongguk confesses. Everything, his mind whispers as an echo.

“Well…um…do you like it here so far?” Namjoon asks. “Usually, the first few months are a little bit rough. The others weren’t used to Yeongsu-ssi’s regimen or his…personality. To be honest, I’m still not sure if they’ve warmed up to him yet.”

In the fast few months, the only thing Jeongguk has gotten used to about the old man that has taken place as his new caregiver is that they each apparently have a name for him; Kim Minho was the name the old man told Jeongguk the night he asked Jeongguk to join his team, so Jeongguk just stuck with it. Yoongi muttered something about the old man hiding who he really was, always found an opportunity to murmur to Jeongguk in between sparing practice how he should never let his guard down around him for a single second. Jeongguk doesn’t know how to feel about the man; he’s never treated Jeongguk horribly in comparison to the life he left, but at the same time, he can’t say Minho treats him with kindness. Or at least, treats him with at least a sliver of respect and competence that he shows Namjoon on certain days.

“What was it like for you? Was it easy to just…leave your family for this long? I’ve never seen you do a letter or a phone call home like Seokjin-hyung and Hobi do.”

Namjoon’s lips pull tight. Jeongguk winces. He said something wrong.

“I mean…I didn’t have anywhere to go. I was scared about coming, but I figured my chances of surviving were better with Yeongsu-ssi than on the streets,” Namjoon answers after a quiet pause. He’s not looking at Jeongguk, his stare focused on the closeness of their feet dangling off the side of the bed. Jeongguk wonders if he should just excuse himself before he says something else to make Namjoon upset; even feels the excuse coming off his tongue as he starts to slide off, but Namjoon then asks, “Do you miss home?”

The younger boy pauses. “I…I guess you could say I was in the same boat as you were.” Jeongguk laughs, but it comes out shallowly from his chest. “Felt my chances of surviving were higher here than with my father using me as his punching bag.”

“Oh.” Namjoon bites the inside of his cheek. “Oh. Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories—”

“It’s okay. It happened in the past—”

“But a parent shouldn’t do something like that.” Jeongguk hears the anger in Namjoon’s voice, feels the warmth radiating off of him from how closely they’re sitting together. Jeongguk turns his gaze to their feet too; he’s now regretting he came in wearing socks with such a goofy print compared to Namjoon’s plain and mature black socks. Don’t be such a child, Number Five, Minho would scold with a click of his tongue every time Jeongguk couldn’t handle a training exercise the same way his hyungs could. Be better , Number Five.

“When my luck swung in his favor, he was very nice to me,” Jeongguk offered, clutching the bedsheets between his fingers. “Bought me things with the money he won off a bet, said we were gonna move to a nice big house and we were gonna be happy cause we were together, just…just made me feel like I was doing something good staying with him. But eventually, everything has to swing back the other way. He never understood that. I still don’t understand it.”

Namjoon hums. “Well, Yeongsu-ssi told me that though we are Blessed, we all have something that acts as a necessary handicap to our abilities. He’s all for improving ourselves and getting better mastery of our power, but even he thinks that we cannot be limitless. So for you, if you were to be lucky all times, to never suffer hardship or misfortune for your actions no matter what you did, untouched by the laws of causality to make the reality you see fit, I’d imagine you’d be something like a God.” He chuckles. “Yeongsu-ssi thinks we’re better than the average person, but I don’t think he believes we can become gods.”

“So the pendulum effect is necessary, you’re saying?” 

“Nothing will justify someone abusing another,” Namjoon is quick to say, “But you can only bend your luck so far before everything has to swing back to equilibrium…don’t think of it as some fault with you, is what I’m saying. I would have probably never met you if it didn’t, and that would have been a shame.”

Jeongguk’s heart likes to do a Thing whenever Namjoon says something in that low voice of his, the voice that rumbles from his chest and comes as a soft murmur past those even softer looking lips. Then again, Jeongguk’s heart does a lot of Things. It jumps when Namjoon holds his gaze. It sings when Namjoon says his name, when Namjoon makes Jeongguk feel like he’s more than Number Five, more than Lucky Rabbit, more than just…him. The things Namjoon does to him without even knowing it, without even trying to, it almost scares Jeongguk how crazy it makes his body feel, how badly it makes his body want .

Namjoon smiles, and Jeongguk hopes not to swallow his tongue. “You’re not any less likable because of your handicap, compared to me on the other hand.”

“What’s yours, hyung?”

Namjoon’s fingers dance so dangerously close to Jeongguk’s knee. Jeongguk tries to keep his eyes from flickering down but he wants it. He wants to feel his touch. How nice it would be for Namjoon to touch him without restraint…

“Yeongsu-ssi always says I get in my own way. I’m starting to feel he’s probably right.” Another dry chuckle. “All the knowledge of the world, and I still don’t know how to be the leader he wants me to be. How to talk to any of you…how to get you to even like me—”

Jeongguk doesn’t hold onto his tongue tight enough. “I like you,” he quickly admits, and Namjoon’s eyes widen in surprise. Immediately, Jeongguk’s cheeks sting too too hot, and he sputters, “I-I mean, you’re a good leader, hyung. You’re — you’re smart and you’re kind and resourceful and you help anyway that you can and just…I mean, you saved me before the thought of joining this team was even in my head. What’s not to like about you?”

Namjoon’s smile is wry, and his hand casually slides over Jeongguk’s knee to give a friendly pat. “You don’t have to butter me up to make me feel better, Jeonggukkie,” he chides good-naturedly, before he begins to pull his hand away. 

And Jeongguk knows his body wants more than his mind will allow it, than circumstances will allow them. Maybe in another lifetime, things might have been different. Maybe Jeongguk would have met Namjoon in a normal place in a normal way, some cafe or bookstore where they could stow away for hours talking about things the normal person does. They’d see each other more and more, know each other little by little, but move together in bounds. A home together, a life together, friendship and romance and then eternity after that. That would be nice. That would be very nice.

Jeongguk’s hand stops Namjoon from pulling away, quietly threading his fingers through Namjoon’s stiff ones. He looks warily up through his eyelashes at Namjoon’s face; he’s startled, yes, confused as well. But, he’s not wrenching his grip out of Jeongguk’s. Nor is he questioning why Jeongguk is holding so tightly to his hand. Jeongguk opens his mouth to explain, but the words never leave his throat. He just looks at Namjoon, at Namjoon’s lips and thinks, ‘It would be nice if I could kiss you. It would be nice if you could kiss me. It would be so nice.’

Namjoon’s eyes drift to Jeongguk’s parted lips, like he’s waiting for them to do something. To say something?…To kiss?…Maybe…just maybe…it would be so nice if he could—

There is a sudden loud clearing of the throat.

It’s only when Namjoon is reeling his head back that Jeongguk realizes how close their faces had gotten, and it is only when Namjoon is pulling his hand free to stand up at attention that Jeongguk realizes how warm Namjoon was, his own palm red and sweaty as though he had his hand against a furnace.

Minho stands in the doorway, dressed down in a red velvet robe and monocle, though still wearing green pressed pants and brown duck shoes. Namjoon bows his head. “Yeongsu-ssi,” he greets. Minho looks at Jeongguk still sitting on the bed. Awkwardly, he gets to his feet and bows his head as well. Jeongguk listens to Minho’s footsteps entering the room, stopping in front of him.

“Earl grey with lemon served hot, delivered to the study, Number Five,” he tells Jeongguk, his usual greeting. Jeongguk swallows, biting his lip. 

“Yes, sir,” he murmurs, standing upright before quietly moving to leave the room.

“Close the door behind you so I may speak to Number One in private,” Minho calls out before Jeongguk fully leaves. Jeongguk hesitates, sparing a glance over his shoulder at Namjoon behind him. Namjoon has his eyes averted, hands behind his back and shoulders slumped down. It’s a familiar pose; it’s usually the one Namjoon takes when he is expecting a berating. 

“…Yes, sir,” Jeongguk says quietly, and closes the door shut when he exits into the hallway. He doesn’t linger to hear what Minho says behind the door; he’s not sure if he would want to hear what the old man has to say about him anyways.

Jeongguk knows he’s probably the only person that came onto this team with feelings stronger than one would feel for a person that is practically a stranger and only sees himself towards Jeongguk as a mentor or a leader. He keeps his mental barrier strong in Hoseok’s presence, he brushes aside Seokjin’s teasing whenever the older man catches Jeongguk staring too long in Namjoon’s direction, and any questions Yoongi poses towards Jeongguk about how serious is he about being here, what his real goal is for joining this team, Jeongguk always has the same response ready: ‘I want to help people the same way Namjoon helped me. That’s all.’

It’s the truth at least; he’s young, but he isn’t so stupid as to put himself in danger just to date a superhero. If Namjoon can come to see him as more than a teammate, but as someone he could depend on as a friend, Jeongguk would be fine. If Minho decides to go back on his offer and throw Jeongguk out, well, that would be the way it is.

And if maybe, just maybe, Namjoon felt the same way about Jeongguk, if by some miracle the way Namjoon makes Jeongguk feel is wholly mutual, well, that would be nice.

 


 

“One million won.”

Moonsoo sputters out a cough.

“That’s it?” he claims, pushing his hand through the antiques splayed over the glass counter, as if maybe somehow giving an equal amount of space between the clutter will make their value rise. Jeongguk is at his side, holding onto Moonsoo’s other arm and checking over his shoulder every couple of seconds. The pawn shop is in a secluded part of the downtown area, tucked away between a closed down barber shop and a convenience store. There’s no customers in the shop either, but Jeongguk can’t sit still.

The pendulum will have to swing back to equilibrium.

“Look at this,” Moonsoo picks up a bronze statute of a woman draped in a heavy garment. “Look at how old it is. The detailing, the color, the artistic vision — would you even be able to find another piece of artwork like this in any shop in Seoul? This statue alone should be worth two million!”

The man on the other side of the corner — stout and large with a cigarette between his plump lips and sweat stains on his green polo — does not look any more impressed than when Moonsoo dumped all the contents on the counter in the first place. “One million won,” he repeats. 

“Look, we need at least five million.”

Five million for some dusty knickknacks?” He scoffs, flicking some of the ash from his cigarette in the glass tray by his wrist. “Take the million won before I change my mind, kid.”

Moonsoo huffs, running a hand through his hair. “Look, we — we need money, sir. And I’m telling you that that this stuff is some genuine pieces that you cannot find anywhere else. This — this stuff is from the Fantastic Five’s old manor. This stuff has been certified to have been owned by the members of one of the greatest units in South Korean history!”

The man leans back on his stool, raising an eyebrow. “Which members? I could fetch a good price if it’s proven to be owned by Kim Seokjin or that murderer—”

“He wasn’t a murderer,” Jeongguk spits far too harshly, causing even Moonsoo to turn to look at him with surprise. Jeongguk turns his gaze back down, pulling back up his face mask. No, they can’t afford to cause a scene. Not with everything still fresh.

The man gives a grunt, shifting his gaze between the two of them. “What are you?” he asks. “Fanatics?”

“No, sir. We’re just — we’re just two people trying to live a happier life. Things are getting rough out there, you know? We’re a little bit on edge—” Jeongguk is surprised he’s able to keep his annoyed huff down as Moonsoo continues his rambling “— and we’re hungry and we just need money, sir. As much as we can get.”

“Runaways then,” the man scoffs, before crossing his arms over his thick chest. “You two are young, you can get a job instead of throwing old shit at my face and expecting me to give you a fortune. You should be thankful I’m even offering one million.”

Jeongguk closes his eyes. “Just take the money, Moonie,” he says with a sigh.

“Bunny—”

“We’ll take it,” Jeongguk speaks for Moonsoo, adjusting the collar of his sweatshirt, fingers pulling out his necklace to get more comfortable. All this time, he’s been feeling itchy. Like something has been crawling all over him, boring into his skin and into the crevices of his joints. He’s had about three hot showers in their old and cramped bathroom, but the feeling still lingers on his skin. 

Jeongguk’s not sure if it will ever stop.

The man looks at him with an approving nod, before he pauses and then squints his eyes. Then, without warning, he reaches over the table and grabs at Jeongguk’s necklace, specifically at the golden key dangling on the end.

“What are you doing?!” Jeongguk yells, trying to pull roughly away, but the man shushes him.

“Is this what I think it is?” he asks Moonsoo and then Jeongguk. “Where did you get this key? Do you know who made it?”

“I-I don’t — my brother?” It’s the excuse Jeongguk uses all the time to explain things that he has that he probably shouldn’t. He’ll be damned if he says he got it from his ‘father’.

The man discards his cigarette in the ashtray and takes out a small black eyepiece, pulling the key closer as he inspects the engravings along its shank and the heart-shaped bow, rubbing his fingers especially over the cursive engraving of ‘5’ along it’s bit. “Your brother knows Etna?”

Jeongguk vaguely remembers that hero name, a woman with hands as hot as molten lava that could burn through the toughest of steel, how Minho commissioned her for a few of his figurines in addition to the five keys each of them have. Though Jeongguk can’t tell the difference between an Etna Original and what is garbage Minho found in his eclectic collecting. If he had, they probably would have been walking away with ten million. Maybe more. “He knows a lot of people,” he mumbles.

The man hums, turning the key over between his fingers. “No, yeah. This is definitely an original from her. This little E shape in the bit and the smoothness of this key — she’s only started working after she unmasked as a jeweler a year ago, but this key is obviously older. And yet, there’s still that shine to it. That soft touch to it, like she literally just gave it to you and—” the man laughs, “Goddamn, kid. No need to have your boyfriend pawn off some useless shit when you got the crown jewel around your pretty little neck.”

Jeongguk and Moonsoo are something. Not boyfriends, but something.

“W-Well, how much for it?” Moonsoo asks, eyes hopeful, arm going around Jeongguk’s waist.

“Three million,” the man says, not taking his eye off the key to even spare a glance. 

Moonsoo gapes.

“I-In addition to the one million you already offered for the other stuff?”

“Yeah, yeah,” the man hand waves Moonsoo’s words, rubbing his thumb along the heart-shaped bow. “…Wait, can this open up—”

“No!” Jeongguk grabs hold of the chain and yanks hard. The key gets ripped from the man’s grip and Jeongguk closes his trembling hands around it, holding it tightly to his chest. He looks at Moonsoo, then back at the man, both regarding Jeongguk with wide and confused eyes. “I…the key isn’t for sale. So, we’ll just take the million won and leave—”

“Bunny, didn’t you hear him offer three million for that key?”

“I said I’m not selling it,” Jeongguk repeats, sure his voice can’t get any harsher, hating the way it hurts when it warbles out his throat.

“You said your brother knows Etna, right? Sure she could make another one,” the man grumbles, frowning hard. He’s jittering on his stool, like it’s all that’s keeping him from just reaching over the counter and snatching the key off Jeongguk’s neck himself.

“No, no that’s not the point. I will not give up this key for anything,” Jeongguk stresses. Moonsoo drags a hand over his face.

“I — I’m sorry, sir. Can you just excuse us for one moment?” he says with a strained smile, wrapping an arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders and pulling him to the side away from the counter. When they get between some old rugs hanging from the ceiling that smell dusty and old, Moonsoo gets a tight grip on Jeongguk’s shoulders. “Bunny, what the hell? First that old manor and now this? I mean, I know your brother’s rich and all but unless you’re holding out on me, we need this money.”

“I can’t give this key up. I can’t—”

“Bunny, that guy that was at the manor obviously didn’t give a warm welcome to us being there…you still haven’t explained just who he was—”

“I told you it was no one—”

“You called him ‘hyung’. He called you 'Ggukie'.” Moonsoo laughs, but Jeongguk knows there’s no humor in it at all, no spark in his black eyes. “Fuck, you don’t even want me calling you that but ‘no one’ knows it?”

“He’s a no one now,” Jeongguk says curtly, stepping close to Moonsoo and smoothing the flat of his palms up Moonsoo’s chest. “And you’re the only one that calls me ‘Bunny’. Doesn’t that amount to anything to you?”

Sometimes, Jeongguk feels a little bit bad. He knows the way Moonsoo looks at him. Knows the way how Moonsoo touches him, how he kisses him, how he fucks him. He knows the language of Moonsoo’s body and how it wants for more, more, more. Jeongguk was the same once upon a time, still is if he lets himself be honest.

Moonsoo’s arms wind easily around Jeongguk’s waist, and his body goes slack against Jeongguk with a sigh, bringing his lips down to kiss at Jeongguk’s hair. “Bunny…I can’t access the money from the meet-up. Not with everything still happening right now. This is four million won we’re talking about. If whoever that guy in that manor is ‘no one’, you have no reason to go back there, right? You’re just…you’re just wearing three million won on your neck that I bet your brother can get  at the snap of his fingers. And we’re not fortunate enough for that sort of thing.”

It isn’t about the key. Jeongguk could care less about going back to the manor; it’s not a home anymore, not without Namjoon or at least Seokjin there. It’s not even about Seokjin being able to commission another key made because of course Jeongguk knows Seokjin could. Knows that Seokjin would probably do anything for Jeongguk so long as he knows there’s still a pulse beating beneath Jeongguk’s skin. 

“Please,” Jeongguk whispers, “please, I’ll ask my brother for more money. I’ll take hard transactions, take another client, make another video, but I can’t give this key up, Moonsoo. Please.”

Moonsoo looks Jeongguk in the eyes, searching for something Jeongguk will never let him see. Jeongguk moves one hand up to tangle lightly in Moonsoo’s long hair, at the nape of his neck where he likes it. Jeongguk is tall but Moonsoo is even taller; he leans up on the tips of his toes to slot his lips so gently against Moonsoo’s frown, takes the bottom lip carefully between his teeth to graze against until Moonsoo is squeezing him tighter, wanting more.

“Please,” he murmurs one more time, punctuating it with one more empty kiss. He sees the soft gleam in Moonsoo’s eyes. Jeongguk has him right where he wants him.

The other man gently pulls away, stepping over to the counter and sheepishly rubbing the back of his neck. 

“Ah…we’ll just…we’ll just take the one million won,” he mumbles, not meeting the man behind the counter’s discouraged gaze. The man shoots a look at Jeongguk, and Jeongguk tucks the key back beneath his sweat jacket. Then, the man looks to Moonsoo, leans in close, and whispers something that Jeongguk can’t hear from the distance. 

Whatever it is the man says, Moonsoo’s face remains completely neutral. And apparently, whatever the man said was all he wanted to say, since he collects all the items off the counter and directs Moonsoo over to the register to finish the transaction. Jeongguk watches Moonsoo’s back as he leaves, tries to ignore the guilt chipping at the back of his mind.

Would Namjoon be happy with what you’re doing now?

Jeongguk closes his eyes tight to shut that thought out.

He’s lucky Moonsoo is kind. Lucky that Moonsoo has been a friend to him, a something to him.

But it’s only a matter of time till the pendulum swings back, and Jeongguk only hopes he hasn’t pulled it back too tight.

 


 

“I’m starved. You in the mood for some rice cake, Bunny? I know a good spot.”

“I kinda want to just go home.” Jeongguk slumps further down in his seat, pulling up his face mask and adjusting the shades on his nose.

“Bunny, I saw the news broadcast while we were in the pawn shop. The cops have a cold trail. That earthquake must have fucked up the cameras and the booking info, and we didn’t leave anything that could get traced back to us, so we’re fine,” Moonsoo reassures. He pulls his hand from the wheel to reach over and rub Jeongguk’s knee. “It’ll be okay. You’re our lucky charm, remember?”

But not for long. It’s gonna swing back. When will it happen? What will happen?

Moonsoo’s hand begins to slowly stroke up and down Jeongguk’s thigh, Jeongguk passively watching as Moonsoo’s skinny fingers gets around the meat of Jeongguk’s denim clad leg. “I ever tell you how sexy it is when you wear tight jeans? Like how firm your leg feels.”

“I’m really not in the mood for this, Moonsoo,” Jeongguk mutters, pushing the hand away. Moonsoo looks at him with a frown, though returning his hand back to wheel.

“Not like I’m asking to fuck you right now or anything. I was just saying,” he mumbles accusingly under his breath, pulling in front of a small restaurant against the curb. “We’re just gonna get a beer to shake the nerves off,” he says before Jeongguk can voice his protest, switching off the ignition. “You gonna just sit in here? Or you coming with me?”

Jeongguk’s lips turn into a frown, but he finds himself unbuckling his seatbelt and getting out of the car. Both quietly enter the restaurant space, somewhat vacant despite it being lunch time, but Jeongguk would prefer to not be near a large crowd anyways. The smell of rice cake and hot food warms his chest, takes a bit of unease from his shoulders as Moonsoo and him are lead to a small little booth in the corner by a potted plant and given their menus. 

He can’t remember the last time he’s eaten out before, maybe when his father wanted to celebrate another lucky win and felt like splurging and pretending they were somebodies. Or maybe even at those invited galas Minho often scoffed at them for attending, but Seokjin always adored as waiter after waiter served them meals that Jeongguk had never tasted before. Usually, it would be him and Seokjin that went; the crowds bothered Hoseok too much, Yoongi cared nothing for public socials and Namjoon wouldn’t dare do something that Minho found insignificant. He always appreciated Jeongguk bringing him something sweet back though; the kind smile on Namjoon’s lips completely worth it.

It isn’t only until the waitress comes back with their beers that Moonsoo reaches over the table and threads his fingers with Jeongguk’s. “Bunny,” he starts, giving Jeongguk’s hand a tight squeeze, “I’m sorry for how I acted back at the shop. If that’s what’s bothering you…”

Jeongguk takes a small sip of his beer. In the background, he hears the television broadcasting the news, talking about the murder. The itchy sensation begins to sting at the back of his neck.

“No. No, it’s fine…I just don’t want to talk about it anymore, okay?”

“…We’re gonna be fine, Bunny. We got each other and I’m not gonna let anything happen to you, okay? You know that, right?”

Jeongguk nods, pulling his hand away from Moonsoo’s touch to place back in his lap. “Yeah, yeah I know.” 

Moonsoo bites the inside of his cheek, then takes a long swig of his beer. They sit in silence, Jeongguk sipping on his drink till there’s a buzz beneath his skin, but it only makes the itching sensation worse. Moonsoo finishes his drink easily, even orders a second beer when Jeongguk really wants to go back to the apartment. The news broadcast has ended and a variety show is playing, quirky sounds mixing with the noises from the kitchen to create a strange cacophony. The restaurant is completely empty aside from the waitress that floats back and forth from the front door to the kitchen, smiling sweetly and getting Jeongguk a glass of water when the itch across his skin gets hot and painful and, fuck. He can't relax. He can't sit here. He doesn't even feel like he can breathe

“Can we go now?” Jeongguk asks again, squirming in his seat, pulling his face mask back up. “I — I really want to go, Moonsoo.”

“Bunny, you’re fine. Everything’s fine.” Moonsoo takes another drink of his beer, humming. “Ahh, I really want some tteokbokki. Maybe I should order some—”

“I want to go home—”

“And I want you to just fucking relax!” Moonsoo bites his lip, like he didn’t mean to snap back so harshly. “I mean, Bunny, look. We haven’t drawn any attention to ourselves. The police don’t know anything, and by the time they might even figure out a sliver of detail, we’re already gonna be miles and miles away from here. We had a hiccup with the money, but that’s it. We’ll find a way to get more. We always do.”

Jeongguk drops his head into his hands, bobbing his knee up and down erratically. Something’s going to happen. He knows something is going to happen. It was good luck that he and Moonsoo managed to escape Hoseok without any pursuit, so what’s the bad luck that needs to happen to set everything back to equilibrium? When’s it going to happen? What is it? What is it? He hears Moonsoo sigh. Then, he hears the man get up from his seat across from him and feels arms wrapping around to pull him into a warm embrace.

“Bunny,” Moonsoo murmurs, and his voice is soft, his lips in Jeongguk’s hair at the crown of his head. “I know this shit’s scary, okay? But you didn’t do anything wrong. It wasn’t your fault. He was an asshole and we probably did the world a favor by getting rid of him—”

“Moonsoo, please stop,” Jeongguk chokes out. His hands are shaking as they rest on his thigh, mind remembering what they've done while at the same time trying so hard to forget. He’s never killed anyone. Not even on accident when he was still a part of the Fantastic Five, like some lumbering goon or a bystander accidentally getting caught up in the crime fighting. Minho believed in stunning and subduing; he never taught Jeongguk anything lethal, though Jeongguk knows that Yoongi and Hoseok had a few moves under their belt that could kill under desperate circumstances. Seokjin had said it was probably because Minho thought he couldn’t handle it. Now, with this painful itch over his skin and the tightening of his lungs, Jeongguk begrudgingly admits the older man was right. 

“What I’m saying is that, people that got those abilities and stuff from that Explosion in the sky all those years ago to just…just waste them on hurting people? If I had became Enhanced, I would have used them for better. I would have used them to protect people, protect you.”

Jeongguk’s heard this conversation before. How things would have been different if Moonsoo was Enhanced, how things would have been better, though Moonsoo never went into the details on what would change. Moonsoo kisses at his hair again, resting his hand over Jeongguk’s trembling ones. “We’re gonna be okay. I got you, I’m right here,” he murmurs. He tilts his face down, pulling Jeongguk’s face mask down give a warm kiss that for a split moment, Jeongguk tries to let himself get lost in.

Seokjin told him once that there are other people for Jeongguk to get lost in. People that aren’t floating around in space, or with drug charges and knowledge in sex operations under their belt. Good people, nice people, people that would take care of Jeongguk better and make the hurt he feels in his chest soften.  Moonsoo can’t be that person, no matter how badly he wants to. Namjoon could have been that person; Jeongguk wishes and wishes he was, but maybe it’s just a fantasy he’s been stupidly chasing all these years. 

Maybe he needs to let go of all of this. Moonsoo, Namjoon, Seokjin…just let go…

Moonsoo pulls away, kissing at the corner of Jeongguk’s eye. He smiles. “Lemme just take a leak real quick and we can go, okay?”

“…Okay…” Jeongguk mumbles, letting Moonsoo kiss him one more time on the lips, just a chaste peck. The other man slides off the bench and shuffles in the direction of the bathrooms, leaving Jeongguk alone to his thoughts and the background noise. He closes his eyes and rubs his hands over his face. 

So what happens next? They manage to escape and run away…where will they go? Jeongguk…he can’t do anything, what with everything he learned under Minho now useless in a hero-less world. All he’s good for is making things a little more convenient, and even then, he’s only pushing his luck until it all backfires in his face and he inevitably makes the situation worse. He’s gotten by with Moonsoo only because it’s been little nudges of the pendulum, at least the ones that Jeongguk is consciously aware of. Minho never tried to help Jeongguk understand and control his ability, but he was always quick to claim that Jeongguk wasn’t trying hard enough to be better, do better.

Can he really keep this up any longer?

He’s…he’s just tired of this. Tired of being a disappointment, tired of being up under a different man almost every other night, tired of stringing around a person that doesn’t deserve to be treated the way Jeongguk is treating him, tired of missing and longing for a person that never was his in the first place.

In his contemplation, the door to the restaurant opens with a quiet jingle of the bell above the doorway, someone sighing in exhaustion. “This is the best place you could find, Beomgyu-ssi?”

…That voice…no…it can’t be.

“Come on, hyung. Taehyun and I come here all the time. It’s super cheap and — a-ah, for two please?” 

Jeongguk brings a hand to his face, pulling up the face mask before grabbing at the collar of his sweat jacket to further obscure any sliver of skin that may still be showing. Out of his peripherals, he watches as the waitress leads two officers — one in blue fatigues while the other in dark black — over to the table right next to Jeongguk. And the one in black…though the hair is different from when Jeongguk remembers it and though it’s been a long time, he knows Yoongi’s face. 

Fuck, is this it?

“Two beers to start off with, please,” Yoongi tells the waitress, stretching in his chair with his arms extended over his head, giving a lazy yawn. “Ah, you have your phone right? In case Jinsoo gives us a call?”

The other person Yoongi came in with nods his head. He looks young, younger than Jeongguk maybe with those soft doe eyes and gentle smile. “Yeah…but I don’t know if we’ll have anything unless Taehyun decides to show up.”

“That, or they find the keys themselves,” Yoongi mumbles, checking his watch on his wrist. “If the murder occurred around the time of the earthquake last night, we still have a couple of hours left before your ‘vision trail’ grows cold, right?”

“Yeah…but if the Metro Unit doesn’t find it in time…ahh, I wish Taehyun would’ve just picked up when I called him—” The man stops talking when Jeongguk nervously knocks over his beer glass in an attempt to stand up, spilling the liquid all over the front of his jeans. He curses under his breath, digging his cell phone out of his pocket to get onto the table before the beer seeps into his pockets and ruins it, blindly grabbing some napkins to make a futile attempt at getting himself dry.

“Oh! Sir, did something happen? Do you need a towel?” the waitress asks, hurrying to his side and obscuring Jeongguk’s view of Yoongi suddenly watching him with suspicion. 

“I-I--” Jeongguk swallows, tugging his hoodie over his head. “Just, c-could you tell my - my friend that I’ll be waiting in the car for him?” he stammers, hoping his voice doesn’t come through too clearly with the mask on. He clumsily digs into his pocket for enough wadded up bills to cover their drinks, feeling a set of eyes watching every nervous movement. 

“A-Ah, okay,” the waitress says, confused as Jeongguk drops the money into her hand, before turning back to Yoongi and his partner. “Were you gentlemen ready to order?”

Yes. Order something and stop looking at him. Jeongguk shoves his hands into the pocket of his jacket and briskly starts for the front door, trying to ignore how uncomfortably wet his jeans still are.  He manages to get to the ‘Welcome!’ mat, gets his hand braced against the glass door before he starts to feel every nerve in his body scream at him to forget about the car and just fucking run, when someone behind him shouts, “Wait!”

Jeongguk freezes, breath stilled in his throat. The shout wasn’t from Yoongi, too bright sounding compared to the lazy drawl Jeongguk is familiar with. When he turns to glance over his shoulder, he sees the other officer standing up, reaching out to grab Jeongguk’s cell phone off the table where he left it. “Ah, you forgot this!” the officer says with a sheepish smile, walking towards Jeongguk with the phone held out to take. 

Then, he suddenly stops. 

Jeongguk didn’t get a good look at the other officer’s face when he came in, too focused on Yoongi and making sure Yoongi didn’t get a good look at his own face. Though this officer’s face is softer, filled with youth and optimism, his eyes are…empty. Blank. There’s not even pupils, just white sclera framed by long eyelashes. After an uncomfortable pause, Jeongguk comes to the conclusion that the officer must be Enhanced as well, but he doesn’t know what is happening to the man right now and he’s frankly terrified.

“T-Thank you?” he barely manages to choke out, reaching for the phone. “You can give it to me—”

The man isn’t responding to Jeongguk, just staring blankly ahead with a slack jaw. Behind him, Yoongi is getting to his feet, concern etching over his round face.

“Beomgyu? What is it?” he calls out, but still, Beomgyu doesn’t say a single word. Further in the back, Jeongguk sees Moonsoo emerging from the bathroom, though he freezes in his steps when he realizes the situation that’s unfolding. “Beomgyu?” Yoongi calls again, starting to walk over and no, no, no!

Jeongguk makes a grab for his phone, but when he yanks, Beomgyu’s grip doesn’t loosen and he doesn’t even budge a millimeter. “P-Please, let go—” he stammers, tugging harder on the phone in the other man’s grip, pushing at his thumbs to loosen up Beomgyu’s fingers when it becomes obvious that he isn’t hearing a single thing being said to him. Now, Yoongi knows something’s wrong, approaching the two of them faster with a hand on his hip.

“Beomgyu-yah? Beomgyu, what’s going on—” Yoongi shifts his gaze at Jeongguk, who immediately turns his face away. If he runs, Yoongi will catch him immediately. But if he stays, who knows how long it’ll take before he starts questioning Jeongguk and then everything just spirals even further out of Jeongguk’s control? Yoongi looks back towards his partner’s empty expression, immediately grabbing at the hand hanging limp at Beomgyu’s side. The color drains from Yoongi’s pupils, turning them milky white as Beomgyu’s eyes are. Jeongguk lets go of Beomgyu’s hand holding the phone immediately, backing up against the glass door.

“S-Sir? Is there something going on? Should I call emergency?” the waitress calls out, looking scared between the two officers that are now standing eerily still and Jeongguk standing terrified at the door. Moonsoo rushes up behind her, grabbing his bottle of beer of the table. 

“A-Ah, miss? Just head to the back, I’ll take care of this, okay?” Moonsoo tries to tell her, getting a hand on her shoulder and yanking her roughly towards the back himself.

“W-What? What are you — let go of me! Stop!”

Yoongi’s head whirs like he hears the woman’s screaming, but his gaze is focused down at something to Jeongguk’s right. Though, when Jeongguk turns to look himself, all he sees is a rickety wooden shelf with yesterday’s newspaper sitting on the top in a messy pile. The look on Yoongi’s face is one of deep concentration: he squints his eyes harder and harder, seeing something that Jeongguk obviously can’t.

Then, Yoongi’s face softens in surprise. Followed soon by realization, lips parting in shock.

“…Jeongguk?” he whispers. 

The waitress makes a shrill shriek.

Yoongi pulls his hand out of Beomgyu’s grasp, eyes returning to normal and staring directly at Jeongguk’s trembling figure.

“Bunny! Get down!”

Yoongi turns behind him, phasing out just in time to avoid Moonsoo wildly swinging the beer bottle intending to collide against the side of his head. However, the bottle swings further, crashing and breaking against the side of Beomgyu’s head with a loud crack! The young man goes tumbling down against the tables, Jeongguk’s phone knocked out of his stiff grasp and sliding to rest at Jeongguk’s feet. 

He sees blood, so much blood and broken glass. Just like the night before. It’s happening again. It’s happening again

“Come on! Come on!” Moonsoo grabs Jeongguk and yanks him out the front door, quickly throwing open the passenger seat to shove Jeongguk inside before haphazardly climbing into the driver’s seat himself. “Fuck, fuck, what were you doing?! Why were you just standing there?!

“I—I don’t—I-”

“We were fine. They didn’t have a lead on us! All you had to do was just walk out and leave!”

“I needed to get my phone!”

“I took your shank out! You could have just left the phone!” Moonsoo wildly twists his keys into the ignition, hearing the engine sputtering to life as he puts the car in drive and peels away from the curb. “Did they see your face?”

“N-No, I don’t—” Jeongguk puts his face in his hands. “Did you — did you kill that guy back there?”

“Wha—no! No! It was — I probably just knocked him out. Bunny, did they see your face?

“But there was so much blood. What if you killed him?

“Bunny, will you just answer my question?!”

I don’t know!!!

THUD!

Both look up at the roof of the car at the sudden noise. Then, there’s the sound of glass breaking from the back left passenger window, a black boot trying to worm its way inside the newly made opening. “What the—?!” Moonsoo begins to break, but Jeongguk quickly grabs onto the wheel.

“No! Don’t!” He starts steering wildly, watching as the boot looses its footing before phasing out entirely. “Don’t slow down! The only reason he hasn’t already just phased into the car is because you’re moving too fast! The moment you stop, we’re done for.”

Moonsoo’s grip on the wheel tightens, accelerating through an intersection. “W-What, is this another ‘no one’?” he questions. Jeongguk brushes the tone aside and sticks his head out the window, watching all the cars that screech and honk and swerve to get out of their way, all the people screaming and quickly jumping out of the crosswalk to avoid getting ran over. He focuses his attention upwards, and spots Yoongi right away at the top of the buildings, phasing to each rooftop to keep up with them. 

Yoongi was always the best at pursuit. Once a bad guy started running, he never let them get away.

“Is he still following us?!” Moonsoo asks, turning a sharp left and barely avoiding being hit by a garbage truck. “Bunny!”

“Just don’t slow down,” Jeongguk repeats, focusing on Yoongi phasing in and out, trying to guess his next location. Yoongi alternates from left to right, sometimes landing on the back of a truck before phasing to his next point at the top of a lamp post. There’s no pattern to it, just seems like Yoongi is preoccupied with keeping Jeongguk and Moonsoo in sight rather than trying to get them to stop.

Shit!” Moonsoo suddenly swerves a hard left and Jeongguk quickly pulls his head back in to avoid colliding against the sudden appearance of a police cruiser, sirens blaring and yellow and white lights flashing wildly.

Metropolitan Unit for Enhanced Crimes! We order you to stop the vehicle!” a voice screeches from a foghorn. Yoongi suddenly appears on top of the car’s roof, face covered by a metal guard and goggles that obscure the eyes. He looks in Jeongguk’s direction, raising his thumb to his throat and swiping it across. 

It’s a gesture they once used as a joke when Minho wasn’t looking during their sparing practices: ‘You’re fucking dead’. Seeing the gesture now after everything’s that transpired just makes the salt in the wound sting even more.

Yoongi phases out and then phases back onto the roof of Moonsoo’s car, bringing his boot down and kicking out the other backseat window. Moonsoo does what Jeongguk did before, wildly turning the wheel left and right to throw Yoongi off. The side of the car bumps the police cruiser pursuing them and Yoongi’s foot phases out again, reappearing on top of the police cruiser and readjusting his hold on the car.

“Hold on. If I can just get to the city outskirt, it’ll be open road and I can drive as fast as I can,” Moonsoo grunts, hooking a right and weaving through the cars as he heads west. Jeongguk sticks his head out at the police cruiser, noting that Yoongi is still riding on top of it, but the cruiser itself is slowing down to get directly behind them. 

…Come to think of it, Jeongguk always thought that there would be more police cruisers in the event of an arrest aversion. Yoongi’s good at pursuit, but he’s not that good. Jeongguk’s eyes turn to look towards the front and above, looking left and right. Why aren’t there more people trying to stop them? Why isn’t Yoongi trying to stop them? Moonsoo checks the rear view mirror, watching the cruiser and Yoongi still following them from a distance.

He laughs. “Looks like he got tired! We’re almost in the clear, Bunny!”

Jeongguk bites at his lower lip. No. Yoongi may complain about doing things, about exerting more energy than necessary, but he never gave up.

He’s not tired.

He’s waiting.

“Okay, okay. Almost there, Bunny. Almost—” Moonsoo pulls a sharp right and gets onto a one way road, still a few cars out but not as cluttered and congested than before. He quickly darts around the cars in their lane and accelerates even faster, heading off in a direction taking them far from the apartment towards some unsettling unknown. “Are they still following us?” Moonsoo asks, checking the rearview mirror as the car revs louder and Jeongguk can hear the gravel crunching underneath fast spinning wheels. Jeongguk looks behind them, only to be startled by the fact that the police cruiser is now completely gone from sight, with only a few visible cars pulled off to the side of the road to avoid colliding with Moonsoo.

“…I…” Jeongguk looks around, heart panicked. There’s no buildings for Yoongi to leap on, and the only cars going this way is Moonsoo’s, and he’s definitely not on Moonsoo’s car. 

“Bunny? We good?”

“I don’t see them,” Jeongguk says back. Moonsoo sighs relief.

“Maybe we got lucky and he fell off,” he says with a chuckle, easing his grip on the wheel. 

“Don’t slow down—”

“We’re good, Bunny. He’s not going to know where we’re going—”

CRASH!

The police cruiser phases directly in front of them, dropping onto the pavement with the sirens blaring and Yoongi kneeled on its roof, hands gripping at its sides.

Fuck!” Moonsoo slams down hard on the break and swerves left to avoid the collision. The loud screech of the wheels sounds in Jeongguk’s ears, eventually becoming drowned out by the sound of his own screaming as he feels the car spin out of control and off the road. He doesn’t know what they hit — maybe a rock or maybe a chunk of broken off pavement from the earthquake the night before — but whatever it is, it’s big, getting up underneath the car to pop it up into the air and slant Jeongguk’s view of the world through the cracked front window.

And as Jeongguk feels himself lifting out of his seat, barely held in my the seatbelt as the car tumbles, as he hears Moonsoo scream and sees him try to brace for impact out the corner of his eye, Jeongguk wonders if maybe the pendulum finally snapped. Jeongguk wonders, maybe this is how I die.

He hears the crunch of metal and the breaking of glass.

He closes his eyes tight, head banging against the side of the door as the car tumbles right and then…

...

 


 

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, it appears that the high speed chase has just ended with a terrible off-road crash. If you are just tuning in, reports of suspects involved with the murder of Chae Jangwoo came into our news studio approximately twenty minutes ago, with the suspects fleeing from a pursuit vehicle and causing chaos in the already hectic and damaged streets of Ui-dong. The suspects are two men, early to mid twenties, believed to be Enhanced, possibly armed. Civilians are advised to avoid the northern outskirts of Ui-dong in concern of dealing with Enhanced criminals with unidentifiable abilities. The Metropolitan Police Unit for Dobong-gu has confirmed they will be handling the arrest and charging of the crime, with Nowon-gu’s divisional Unit collaborating with their Enhanced Crime personelle. We will continue to keep you updated with — wait! There’s someone climbing out from the car—!”

“Turn that noise off, Jimin.”

Quietly, Jimin reaches over to turn down the radio on Dr. Yeun’s desk, before moving to stand back at the doctor’s side as the elder man leans back in his leather chair. “Well,” Dr. Yeun begins, lips in a thin line, “it seems as though Seoul has gone to shit the moment you’ve came back.”

Namjoon doesn’t flinch at the curse coming sharp off Dr. Yeun’s tongue. “I am sure petty crime still existed here with or without my presence,” he says as a retort. He wishes he could look as intimidatingly smug as Dr. Yeun is now, but with the braces on his hands weighing so much and this tiny plastic chair an armed guard shoved Namjoon down in, it’s hard to look anything more than pitiful.

Dr. Yeun hums. “Yes, that is true. What’s also true is that in under seventy-two hours, you destroyed a compound, caused city and property damage from here to Banghak-dong, and left a crater bigger than the one on the moon that now we have to try and cover up to police enforcement and government officials so not as to start a public outrage-slash-panic.” Dr. Yeun side-eyes Jimin’s wrist. “You also forced him to use his gamma shield for protection. Cracked it too. Do you know how much money it takes to even make one that fits so small into that bracelet? And of that durability? And to hear you’ve managed to crack it?

Namjoon doesn’t know what to say. Doesn’t know what Dr. Yeun wants him to say. An apology would be scoffed at, defiance will only further goad the man into gleefully handing Namjoon off to the Federate to rot in their prison. Silence doesn’t even seem to be the right thing, since Dr. Yeun makes an audible click of his tongue when all Namjoon does is passively stare back. “Convince me why I should not have you waltz out of here to get placed on one of the Federate’s dissection tables to see what makes a human bomb tick.”

“…I can…I can figure out the anomalies occurring—”

“But you’re also a threat to have around. I’m not sure speedy work is worth putting another million lives in danger.”

“I can control it. I-I’ll learn to control it—”

“Really? Will you? I don’t think you can.”

“I can.”

“Tell me how it occurs. Tell me what triggers it if you think you can control it.”

“I…it’s stress.”

Dr. Yeun scoffs. “Stress? You feeling stressed out now talking to me? Feeling a little hot under the collar? Think you’re going to explode?”

“It doesn’t work like that—”

“Then how does it work?

I don’t know!

In a flash, Jimin has pulled Dr. Yeun’s chair back, a foot braced against the edge of the mahogany desk to expose the gun holster strapped around his thigh, and the gun itself aimed directly at the space between Namjoon’s eyes. Namjoon immediately stiffens, watching the curl of Jimin’s small finger around the trigger and the steeliness of Jimin’s eyes, new black hair accentuating a face that holds zero emotion different from the soft pink or the bubbly blond Namjoon barely got to know. 

Dr. Yeun hums, still guarded by Jimin’s small frame. “It seems as though it is more than just ‘stress’,” he says, peering around Jimin with his eyes cast towards Namjoon’s lap. Namjoon’s eyes follow suit; the braces that he wears now are different than the ones they slapped on him when his feet touched the Earth’s gravel after so so long. They’re heavier, bulkier, and render his hands unusable due to the dome metal casings covering them. However, Namjoon sees that at the tip of the casings, the metal is beginning to warp from the inside out, from heat and vibrations and god, Namjoon isn’t even trying. Calm down, calm down.

“Maybe it’s a little bit of anger,” Dr. Yeun theorizes. “Some frustration, some emotional build up, something that gets under your skin in a way that is more than just ‘stress’…what is it?”

“…I…I don’t know.”

Dr. Yeun hums. “I think you do—”

“I don’t. God, do you think if I did know, I’d let this happen?” Namjoon feels his body tightening, muscles pulling taught the way one pulls a bow ready to snap. “I just…feel something. And it builds and builds and I try to stop it but sometimes it just happens. I try to control it, I know I can control it. But I can’t go to the Federate. I know how to figure out the anomalies faster than any of your best scientists. I work faster, I have better equipment, I know I can do this job. You need me.”

Dr. Yeun appraises Namjoon with cold eyes. Jimin does the same, though apparently no longer sensing Namjoon as an immediate threat since he lowers his gun and slips it back into the holster on his thigh.

“…This is the first time I’ve heard you speak so passionately about working with us that I’m almost inclined to believe you.” Dr. Yeun scratches at his chin. “But, I’m still not wholly convinced.”

Namjoon stares blankly at the man. He feels the tips of his fingers burn. “What do you want from me?”

“I want to know what caused the earthquake. You went through those sets of files we sent you as though it was just a leaflet. So I’m not inclined to believe the stress came from us. Plus, I refuse to believe that stress could have been elicited from Jimin. He’s a sweetheart.”

Park Jimin is a sweetheart. But with the gaze on the Park Jimin that stands in front of Namjoon now, he’s not entirely sure of that statement.

“So tell me, what were you doing that got under your skin? If you tell me the truth, then I’ll allow you to stay on the Project.”

Namjoon tries to search the man’s face for a lie, but Dr. Yeun has never been expressive. Same empty eyes, same neutral frown and unassuming stance. Nothing for Namjoon to get a read on, aside from the fact that there’s a little crease beginning to form between the doctor’s eyebrows the longer Namjoon just sits there. “I’m giving you to the count of five. One. Two—”

“There’s someone that needs my help,” Namjoon confesses. He hangs his head down, feels his hands clenched into fists even though he can’t see them. “I need…I need to help them.”

He doesn’t see what kind of expression Dr. Yeun makes, but he does hear the man click his tongue, almost disappointed. “In case you’ve forgotten, Namjoon-ssi, there are no more heroes in South Korea. If you have a concern about a civilian, then bring it up to the Metropolitan Police Unit and they will handle matters from there.”

Namjoon bites the inside of his cheek. He honestly didn’t know what else he was expecting for Dr. Yeun to say. 

“Well, now then. We will have to up the security and restraints for Jimin’s as well as any possible innocent bystander’s safety,” Dr. Yeun says, seemingly done with hearing about Namjoon’s plight. He scratches his chin, rubbing at the scruff. “And we’ll have to find a new residence since your previous one we arranged for you is now a smoldering crater.”

Jimin turns to Dr. Yeun, signing, “He mentioned something about a manor.”

“…The uninhabited one?”

Yes, sir.

“Hmm. I suppose that would be fine. Since it was your old residence, there still should be some wiring that I can have someone reactivate and link to our facilities so we may keep in contact,” Dr. Yeun tells Namjoon. “Maybe you’ll keep your cool more if you’ll risk destroying your old home otherwise.”

And possibly hurting Yoongi in the process. 

“There isn’t another compound we can go to?” Namjoon asks. 

“Not one that is close by. Don’t want to extend your leash too far.” Dr. Yeun raises a questioning eyebrow. “I would have figured you’d jump at the chance to return home. Is it not in a suitable working condition?”

“N-No, sir. It will be fine, sir.”

“…Hm.” If Dr. Yeun has a question, he decides against it. He already looks tired just having Namjoon in his presence. And Namjoon is just tired in general. “Do you remember how to get there?”

“Yes.”

“Then you’ll go tonight. When personnel return from the cleanup, we’ll resume work. As long as we do not have any more of these ‘hiccups’, I am sure things will be fine. Are we going to have another ‘hiccup’, Namjoon-ssi?”

“No.”

Dr. Yeun squares his shoulders. “That’s what I want to hear.”

 


 

 

They do not leave the facilities until later, much later after Dr. Yeun speaks with Namjoon. He only assumes that it has to do with Jimin, since once Dr. Yeun was done speaking with Namjoon, he had the officers take Namjoon back to the holding chamber until it was presumably time to leave. The holding chamber is only four glass walls, not even a cot for Namjoon to comfortably sit on or try to get some sleep after a restless night. He spends the time pacing, wandering back and forth from wall to wall, meticulously counting his steps in fear that if he lets his mind wander further, it’ll all go back to Jeongguk.

There are no more heroes, Namjoon-ssi. Or rather, ‘you aren’t a hero, Namjoon-ssi’.

But Namjoon can’t let this go. He can’t let Jeongguk go. Not like this.

When he has taken a total count of 452 steps forward and back, left to right, two armed guards escort Namjoon out to one of the facilties’ black vehicles. Dr. Yeun is waiting outside of the open car door — Namjoon already spotting Jimin seated inside — but stops Namjoon before he can properly enter. 

“A reminder, Namjoon-ssi,” the doctor says. “Jimin is your handler. I believe in this little time that you’ve spent with him, you might have thought he was your friend or could be a friend.” To this, Dr. Yeun’s mouth turns displeased. “Maybe even he wanted you to feel that way. But I’m telling you right now that he is not. If at any moment he feels you become ‘too stressed’, if at any moment he feels you will threaten his life or others, he is tasked to subdue you. Lethal or non-lethal, whatever the circumstance may be. Do you understand that?”

Namjoon swallows. He’s already got a taste of that in the office earlier, never seen a readiness to kill so evident in Jimin’s eyes. But then again, it isn’t like Namjoon has seen enough of Jimin to know all his facets. “…Yes, sir.”

Dr. Yeun nods, gesturing for Namjoon to get inside. However, Namjoon hesitates.

“The…the braces?”

“Jimin will take them off when he feels necessary.”

Right.

Namjoon wordlessly climbs into the car and Dr. Yeun shuts it behind him, remaining still as the car immediately starts itself up and begins to drive down the dirt road and in the direction of the manor. Sparing a small glance, Namjoon sees that Jimin has VAN resting on his lap, though the little robot’s face isn’t illuminated.

“…VAN?”

VAN’s head whirs in Namjoon’s direction, one eye illuminated while the other forms a red ‘X’. “Hello Namjoon! How are you today?”

What happened to—”

If you are inquiring about my display, I seem to have garnered mild accidental damage. The disruption of Jimin’s gamma shield caused slight interference and internal glitching, but it’s okay! All my internal processes are working fine, I just will not be able to display holographic feeds anymore! If you hook me up to a monitor, then everything will be fine!”

There’s a sharp pang of guilt that pricks Namjoon’s lungs from nowhere. “VAN…I’m sorry.”

It’s okay! I do not foresee my damage hindering any of my other processes!

“No, that’s — but it was my fault that you got damaged,” Namjoon stresses. “It’s my fault that I couldn’t control this thing and I caused destruction and ruined things again.”

Jimin doesn’t look in Namjoon’s direction, but Namjoon does see Jimin’s jaw locking tightly.

Namjoon…please don’t berate yourself,” VAN says in a disheartened tone, “it is okay. It is not your fault.

You don’t have to go. It wasn’t your fault.

Namjoon closes his eyes. “It has to be somebodies’ fault—”

Then let it be mine! For making you feel such stress!” VAN starts to spin the flaps of their arms, wriggling clumsily off Jimin’s lap and clumsily rolling across the leather seat in an attempt to get to Namjoon. Namjoon instinctively reaches for the robot, only to recede back when he remembers that his hands are at the moment unusable. Jimin hasn’t ‘spoken’ to him since the ride has started, hasn’t even looked at Namjoon. 

He is not your friend, Dr. Yeun’s voice echoes in the back of Namjoon’s head, and Namjoon always knew that was the case. But Jimin’s kindness in the past was just a breath of fresh air compared to all the people that questioned him or looked at him like he was just some murderous monster, all the people that spoke to him with contempt dripping on their tongue like they couldn’t wait for the second he’d be put down for good. Park Jimin is not his friend, and Namjoon shouldn’t have stupidly clung onto the small bit of kindness Jimin showed him, but he has gone without kindness being shown to him for some time. He’ll relearn how to suppress his feelings, relearn how to take what is given and not ask for more, not want for more. 

He’ll relearn how to disconnect.

VAN pats their stubby arms on Namjoon’s thigh. “It is okay,” they repeat. Pat, pat, pat.

The smile that comes on Namjoon’s lips is in earnest. He does not rebute VAN’s words this time, but he does not so easily let them comfort him. He leans his head against the side of the window, watching the bent trees and broken boulders pass by, feeling the bumps and dips of the uneven pavement as the car moves speedily along. Though it’s brief in time, though he’s sure it won’t last, Namjoon closes his eyes. He disconnects.

 

 

 

 

The sun is still in the sky when they arrive at the manor, but it has began its descent by the way how the blue of the day starts to slowly shift towards the purple and pink of dusk. Jimin takes VAN into his hands as he exits, and Namjoon waits until Jimin opens the door for him before he awkwardly clambers out of it. Staring up the cobblestone pathway that leads to the front door, Namjoon has never felt such a burning desire to not go inside. Yoongi will ask questions. Yoongi will be suspicious. Yoongi will be angry with him.

Maybe Yoongi won’t even allow them to be there in the first place. 

When they stand on the porch, VAN cradled in Jimin’s hold like a miniature baby, Namjoon looks at Jimin expectantly. “Could you maybe, uh…” Namjoon’s words instantly get chased back down his throat from the cold side-eye Jimin gives. Awkwardly, he gestures with his still connected and covered hands. Jimin looks at them, at Namjoon, then back at the hands. Then, he carefully sits VAN down on the porch and takes Namjoon’s wrists into his grasp.

Namjoon watches the lines of Jimin’s face, feeling that unease again he felt the day before. He isn’t Jimin’s friend, doesn’t know the first thing about Jimin or all the ways that he ticks, but Namjoon knows that Jimin is acting in a stark contrast to the way he has before.

Then again, Namjoon did almost accidentally killed him.

Maybe the kindness was just an act all along.

“…I’m sorry,” Namjoon apologizes when he hears the tumblers of a lock, the quiet beeping of a pin pad. Jimin doesn’t look up at him, focused on undoing the cuffs, but Namjoon continues regardless, words already coming up faster than he can think to hold them down, “I don’t want to hurt anyone. I won’t hurt you…I know Dr. Yeun says that we’re not going to become friends, but we’re going to be seeing each other a lot and…I know you might not feel safe around me any more but I—”

Jimin brings one of his hands up to Namjoon’s mouth. With the other, he spells, “Can’t focus.”

Ah.

Namjoon keeps his lips pursed when Jimin brings his hand back down and resumes unlocking the cuffs. He feels them becoming looser, less constricting and more free to twist and turn his hands around in the metal cuff until at last with an audible click, Namjoon feels the braces come off and slides his hands free. 

Jimin tucks the cuffs up under his arm, gesturing towards the door. Wordlessly, Namjoon stoops down and lifts up the wooden floorboard to retrieve the key he left behind. He scoops up VAN as he rises back to his feet, unlocking the door and pushing it wide open.

And there…there’s someone on the stairs…sprawled out and body limp.

Immediately, Namjoon goes cold.

“H-Hoseok? Hoseok!

Chapter Text

Jeongguk is waiting against a street lamp, shifting from left foot to right foot, turning his phone over and over between jittering hands. It doesn't take much to see the younger male is nervous; everything about his posture and his stance painfully screams inexperience. For that, when he approaches Jeongguk, he is sure to do it slowly. Not walking too quickly to startle, nor too slow to give off the impression he is just an innocent passerby and not the exact person Jeongguk is waiting for.

At first, Jeongguk regards him with a quiet nonchalance, though out of the corner of his eye, he does see the younger man sizing him up. His doe eyes drift up and down the fitting blue suit, lingering especially on the gold watch wrapped around his wrist. Appraising his wealth maybe? Wondering if he could steal it off of him before the night is up? When he turns his head to look, Jeongguk immediately ducks his face away and goes back to messing with his phone.

“Beautiful evening, isn’t it?” he says. Jeongguk swallows at the phrase, and it’s like a flip of the switch.

“Yeah, the stars are nice,” Jeongguk says in turn, before quietly, carefully slipping over to wrap his arms around the stranger's bicep, resting his cheek on his broad shoulder.

“How much for the night?” the stranger whispers.

“Five hundred thousand up front through E-bill. No real names, no drugs, condom only.” 

The stranger clicks his teeth. “Five hundred thousand? Without even sampling the merchandise?” It almost makes himself cringe to have something so derogatory come off his tongue, but if he means to keep up pretenses, this is the role he must play.

Jeongguk’s lips soften into a moue. “It’s just business. My…my friend is expecting a payment due to our arrangement at a certain time.”

“Didn’t know prostitution was a ‘friend’ thing," the stranger says, tone nearly slipping with the remark that he couldn't hold back

Jeongguk’s eyes flash something wild, embarrassed. He pulls away, shoving his hands into his pocket. “Look, do you want to do this or not?” 

“I’m just making conversation,” the stranger says in a lazy drawl, pulling out his phone and keeping the screen visible to Jeongguk’s eyes. He was sent a routing number and account during the initial set up of this meeting, though the investigations carried out by the hired detectives shown that the account must be a dummy since the name on it belongs to someone deceased since the fifties. E-accounts have always been a shady way to transfer money; pretty much the only people that use it are involved in organized sex operations and cult fundraising. 

Five hundred thousand won is petty change, if he is being honest, but the moment the screen on the stranger's phone confirms the transaction has been made, he sees Jeongguk grow a little less tense. Only a little since he doesn’t return to his side, doesn’t wrap his arms around his bicep again to bat those big doe eyes. Instead, Jeongguk wordlessly grabs his hand, careful of the jewelry on his fingers, and gently tugs in the direction of the alleyway behind them, obscured from the street cam the stranger saw nestled on the street lamp when he approached..

“A-Ah, actually. I’ve made arrangements for us to stay at a hotel. I’m sure it will be far more comfortable,” the stranger suggests. Jeongguk turns to him, eyes wide.

“O-Oh. I’ve…I’ve never gone with a client somewhere else.” Jeongguk releases his hand, nervously beginning to fiddle with his phone. “I-I should call my friend first—”

“He’s informed about the matter.” And really, not like the stranger  wanted to tell just where they will be to the skittish man on the phone the investigators managed to get in contact with. He didn’t like the tone in the man’s voice, so protective of Jeongguk like the younger man was worth something more than just a dirty act to get fast money. 

He holds his hand towards Jeongguk again. “I promise it will be better than some dirty alleyway. They offer complimentary champagne and the suites have a beautiful view of the city skyline.”

Jeongguk scoffs, but the smile on his lips is sweet with those memorable bunny teeth. “That…that just seems like a lot for what we’re going to be doing, don’t you think?”

And to that, he has no words to say back.

They both walk quietly down the street, a bit out of sync with each other and Jeongguk’s eyes flickering to look every so often at the stranger's rugged features before flittering back to his hands nervously turning his phone around in his hands, until they reach a shiny parked car. He opens the door for Jeongguk first, makes sure he gets inside and buckles his seatbelt before he climbs in himself and locks the door.

“Novotel, Seungjae-ssi,” he says, voice slipping from the deep registrar to his normal tone with ease.

Instantly, Jeongguk freezes in his seat. 

The car pulls away from the curb slowly, but the shift happens in the blink of an eye. The long wavy black locks turn shorter and take on a purple hue. The shoulders get broader, filling out the tailored suit; the outline of his jaw goes from roughly chiseled with a cleft to a smooth and handsome curve, lips growing full as he sighs and adjusts the tie around his now slim throat. Jeongguk watches him with eyes wide, and a flicker of emotions cross over his face: surprise, then recognition, then absolute horror .

Immediately, Jeongguk makes a grab for the door.

“Hey! We’re in a moving vehicle!”

“You tricked me! Let me out! Get away from me!”

“You think after all these years searching for you, I’d let you go?!” Seokjin yells, yanking Jeongguk’s desperate hands away from the silver handle himself. “No. What we’re going to do is we’re going to check ourselves into a nice hotel for the evening. You are going to explain to me just what the hell happened for you to be selling your body to some creep , you’re going to give me your ‘friend’s information so I can hand him over to the police, I buy you room service because it doesn’t even look like you’ve had a decent meal in months —”

“H-How did you find me?” Jeongguk questions. “D-Do the others know?”

Seokjin bites his lower lip. “No. They don’t. And I technically didn’t find you, my private investigators did.” He leans back against the cushion of his chair, closing his eyes. “I get sent a lot of fan mail, get tagged in a lot of online posts and have millions of people trying to DM me either their life story or some Glam fanfic or a less than tasteful dick pic.” Seokjin then opens his eyes, narrows them at Jeongguk. “Tell me why when I decide to humor them and open the first DM at the top of the list, it’s a link with the title ‘Lucky Rabbit Gangbang’ with your face as the screencap?”

Jeongguk looks as though he just swallowed a rock. “I…I didn’t use my real name. I wore a mask—”

“I’m not saying the person that sent it to me knew it was you,” Seokjin clarifies. If he’s being truthful, the gangbang wasn’t even the first Lucky Rabbit-centered video Seokjin was sent. There’s been an influx of porn and sex-themed superheroes being introduced into the mainstream ever since the Hero Initiative has been abolished, in both ex-superheroes finding business in the porn industry and porn with superhero-look alikes being produced. 

He’s gotten sent at least four Lucky Rabbit videos, two Echoes videos, and eight Spirit videos (which, really? Seokjin is offended that he has the second fewest amount of porn based off of his persona. He was the one branded the cute one, after all) by people just looking to get a rise out of him that they would never see, some weird satisfaction of showing Seokjin something perverted that Seokjin could care less about. It was fine, not like Seokjin had anything to worry about or be concerned with.

At least, not until now.

“Jeongguk, can you imagine what would happen if someone from an old unit saw that video and recognized you? If someone looking for some extra money in their pockets saw that video and decided to unmask you to whatever magazine offers the biggest check?”

“There are ex-superheroes working in the porn industry—”

“Ex-superheroes that are there by choice ! Ex-superheroes that earn a paycheck for what they’re doing! Ex-superheroes that go to a set and are surrounded by cameramen and directors and regulations . What you’re doing with your ‘friend’ is not the same.”

Jeongguk turns to look out the window, lips twisting like he’s trying to hold back either a shout or a sob. “Look, I needed the money,” he says, voice a bit shaky. “Nothing’s happened yet and we haven’t been caught because—”

“Because of your luck?” Seokjin asks. “Your luck that can backfire on you at any moment?”

“Stop the car, Seokjin.” Jeongguk grabs at the door handle and begins to forcefully jiggle the knob. The lack of honorific takes Seokjin a bit back, but he swallows down his disappointment. He sighs deeply through his nose, squeezing his knees. It’s not like him to be the one to berate; he was always on the end of one, and he always hated that kind of higher-than-thou tone when the old man used it with him, hated how Namjoon had that cold way of speaking to make Seokjin feel stupid for not being better, no matter how often Jeongguk tried to tell Seokjin Namjoon didn’t mean it. 

He doesn’t want to be that person. He never wants to be that person.

“…Why did you run away?” Seokjin asks. “Because of Namjoon?”

Jeongguk stops fiddling with the door, but he doesn’t look at Seokjin. “…Why does it matter about the reason that I left? Did you have a reason to stay?” He turns his chin up and looks Seokjin in the eyes, expression hoping to hurt any little way it can. “Or do you want some more material for your next memoir?”

Seokjin bites his tongue. It’s not the first angry response he’s gotten from his old teammates about what he’s said, but it still stings. “I’m asking because I care about you, Ggukie. Maybe if you weren’t so hung up on Namjoon, you’d see that.”

“I’m not hung up on him,” Jeongguk responds curtly, and there’s that hurt warble again. Seokjin knows he’s hitting a chord, hitting a piece of Jeongguk’s heart that hasn’t fully mended. He’s not sure what made it crack so bad enough to run away, not sure how badly the hurt of Namjoon’s arrest lead to Jeongguk abandoning the life he had for this kind of lifestyle…but he needs to know the truth, if only so he can help Jeongguk get out of this mess.

“Do you think Namjoon would like what you’re doing?” Seokjin asks. “Selling your body? Leading strangers down dark alleyways so they could do whatever they wanted to you?”

“Don’t act like you’re concerned about Namjoon-hyung’s feelings. After all the horrible things you said about him—” Jeongguk’s voice croaks, and he has to stop himself from continuing any further. He sharply hisses in a breath of air, shoulders trembling as he paws at the door. “ Please unlock the door. Just…I can’t look at you right now…”

‘Keep to the side, Number Four.’

‘Remember your place, Number Four.’

‘You are not Number One, Number Four.’

Seokjin swallows. “Stop the car, Seungjae-ssi,” Seokjin calls out to his chauffeur, glancing at the man in the rear view mirror as he feels the car slow to a halt. Immediately, Jeongguk begins to wriggle the door to open it. “Hold on. I’m not done with you yet—”

“Well I am—”

“How much?”

“…What?” Jeongguk looks over at Seokjin as the older man reaches into the pocket inside of his suit, pulling out a small checkbook and pen. 

“Do you still have your hero license?”

“…Yeah, but—”

“How much money do you need?”

“I-I don’t want your money—”

“I’m not asking if you want it, I’m asking how much money do you need? ” Seokjin looks at him, moves his eyes from head to toe. “For starters, get yourself a haircut. That’s about 8,000 won.”

Jeongguk pinches at a black lock of his shaggy hair. “It’s not that bad—”

“New clothes, I’ll pencil you down for 500,000 won.”

“I-I really don’t—”

“Food. You need food,” Seokjin continues. “One million won for food.”

Jeongguk grabs at Seokjin’s wrist before he can calculate the sum and sign the total in the white little box. His hand is trembling against Seokjin; the tips of his ears are pink and his eyes are watering, tears begging to fall but Jeongguk stubbornly refusing to let it happen. “Please. Please, I can’t - I can’t ask you to do this. Just…just let me go.”

Seokjin can’t. He doesn’t want to. He can do more. He knows he can do more.

‘You are not Number One, Number Four.’

Seokjin swallows the lump in his throat down. 

“…One thing,” he says, and his voice is as gentle as it could be. “If you just do this one thing, then…then I’ll let you go.”

Jeongguk dips his head. His hand doesn’t let go of Seokjin’s wrist.

“…I want you to come to the hotel with me. I want you to eat a warm meal and sleep in a nice bed. And in the morning, if you want to go back to this...I won’t stop you. But if you don’t, then I’ll be right there. And I’m going to help you any way that I can. I just…I just want to know that you’re making a choice .” Seokjin tries to tilt his head down to look Jeongguk in the eye as he speaks, but Jeongguk only tucks his face down lower. “…Is that okay, Ggukie?”

“…Okay…”

Seokjin nods, glancing at Seungjae once more in the mirror. “Novotel, please.”

 

 

 

 

Jeongguk eats plentiful. Or rather, Seokjin just keeps ordering plate after plate of food to set in front of Jeongguk for him to poke and prod and nibble down if only to appease Seokjin’s wish. Seokjin eats with him, though there is little chatter held between them. It’s different compared to the times when they used to go to galas for dinners and Seokjin would titter at the heroes around them in between mouthfuls of food while Jeongguk would try to be quiet, respectful, unseen, but cave slowly to Seokjin’s aura. Get swept up in Seokjin’s joy when he finally had a moment to just breathe.

Seokjin wonders if they could ever be like that again.

The suite Seokjin has for them is one bedroom, one living room, and one small kitchenette barely large enough for one to cook a dinner and retire for some wine. The bed is large with soft cotton sheets and a view of the city skyline with its lights off in the distance. Jeongguk has it all for himself.

“I’ll be out here. It’ll be fine,” Seokjin reassures with a lazy hand wave when Jeongguk looks reluctant to even stand near the large bed, let alone sleep in it.

“Could…could you…” Jeongguk wraps arms around himself. “…Could you send me more pillows?”

Not sure if that was what Jeongguk initially was going to say, Seokjin complies regardless.

“Have a good night’s sleep,” he tells when Jeongguk has arranged four additional pillows in a tall lump against him. Jeongguk hums in a response, switching off the light. Seokjin then retires to the living room area, lies down on the sofa bed Seungjae prepared for him. 

“Should I fetch the medication, sir?” Seungjae asks when Seokjin has already settled beneath the thin sheets, such a step down from what he usually sleeps in.

“No.” Seokjin offers a smile. “I’ll sleep in my normal skin for tonight.”

Seungjae is a stoic man, but Seokjin sees the corner of his eye twitch with concern, glancing at the darkened bedroom. “…You are fine with the possibility of him seeing you if he tries to leave?” he whispers, low enough so that Jeongguk can’t hear the unease, but Seokjin does. Seokjin nods, tucking his face against the pillow.

“I want him to know that…despite everything that’s happened, I still care about him. I’m still comfortable around him,” he explains. He feels the left side of his face become a little less smooth, feels how uncomfortably scratchy his pajamas feel against his back and along his arms. His hands gripping the sheets are no longer long, pale and beautiful. They’re red, ugly, the scarring barely hidden beneath the cuff of Seokjin’s pajama sleeves. Seokjin smiles. It hurts to smile as himself, hurts to even think about how he looks like now, but he smiles anyways. “I think this is the best way to show that, don’t you?”

After a brief pause, Seungjae bows his head. “As you wish, sir.”

 

 

 

 

In the darkness before dawn, Seokjin hears footsteps quietly shuffle from the bedroom and past him, before pausing to linger. Then, the footsteps — a little bit more hurried — move out the hotel room door and close it gently shut behind them. Seokjin doesn’t open his eyes, but he doesn’t go back to sleep either.

 

 

 

 

“Seokjin-ah~ will you be on set early today? We still need to get you through promotions for the drama before noon~” his manager coos over the phone as Seokjin picks through his breakfast.

“Mm. We’ll be there shortly after I’m done, Jiyeon-ssi.”

“Also, guess what? I managed to get you a spot as a guest judge on the Dream Star Project! We have to sign a few more papers making sure you are compensated more than well for your time, but such a spot will lead to good exposure! Maybe we can even get you your own television show even!”

Seokjin chuckles behind the rim of his glass. “Is there any place you have yet to plaster my handsome image yet, Jiyeon-ssi?”

“I’m sure I can think of more. No less for my Number One Star!” Jiyeon’s enthusiasm is infectious. He already is beginning to feel a buzz beneath his skin, renewed vigor. He’s the best. He is handsome. He is Number One.

Jiyeon says her goodbyes before the call disconnects. Not even a second passes after before Seokjin’s phone screen lights up again from another call, this one with an unidentified number. Seokjin gives an exaggerated groan, biting into another piece of a fluffy and buttery pancake. “Seungjae-ssi~” he calls out, holding up his phone without answering. “Another joke call!”

Seungjae leaves from turning down the sofa bed to take the phone being offered and answers it. “Hello?” he responds, voice deep and face calm. A beat, then, “Mm. Yes. He’s here.” With that, he hands the phone back to Seokjin.

Seokjin raises an eyebrow, taking the phone warily. Seungjae knows the protocol, no strange numbers from fans, reporters or members from old units Seokjin has worked with before. He doesn’t have any rules set for if Yoongi or Hoseok ever called him, on account of the fact that they don’t call him anyways and he doesn’t in turn. So, Seokjin answers with a questioning “Hello?”

“…Hyung?”

Seokjin nearly chokes.

“J-Jeongguk?”

“I…I wasn’t sure if this was still your number, so I asked your - um - your bodyguard?”

Seokjin’s eyes flicker to Seungjae. With an inclining nod, Seungjae wanders to the bedroom, presumably to give Seokjin some privacy.

“Yeah. Yeah, this is still my number,” Seokjin chokes out a laugh. “But I don’t have your new number. I’ll have to save it—”

“No. Don’t bother with this number. It’s just a burner meant so clients or law enforcement can’t trace me after…after the night is done.” There’s something so paining to hear Jeongguk speak so meticulously with such a quiet voice. Seokjin bites at his lower lip, swallowing his sentiment down.

“Oh. I see.”

“You still have my personal number. I didn’t change it.” 

‘But you did ignore our texts and phone calls’, Seokjin thinks, before he asks, “Did you have a good night’s sleep?”

“…Yes…”

“That’s good. That’s good to hear. I wish you could have stayed for breakfast. It’s one of the better complimentary breakfasts that I’ve had from a hotel in recent months. Though, I ordered a side of bacon and it’s a bit on the burnt side. But you always liked your stuff a little bit charred, for whatever reason.”

“Mm.” The noise sounds like it comes strangled from Jeongguk’s throat. “That’s…that sounds good.”

Seokjin nods, holding the phone and not knowing what more he can say, what more he can do.

Until, he hears a hitch of breath and then, sniffling.

“Hyung,” Jeongguk starts, and Seokjin hears the valiant effort Jeongguk is putting into not letting the warble of tears be heard in his voice, but loses in the end. “H-Hyung, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for disappointing you like this—”

“No. No, you’re not a disappointment—”

“How can you say that after you know what I’ve been doing? After everything you said to me and I still—” Jeongguk hisses in some air, sniffles some more. 

“Ggukie, do you really want to do this? If…if you’re scared that your ‘friend’ is going to do something to you if you leave—”

“No,” Jeongguk is quick to say, “No, no I know you think that he’s this horrible person for what he’s having me do, but he’s not, hyung. He’s…he’s kind to me. He cares about me. He’s done so much for me and I just…I can’t abandon him.”

“…Do you love him?”

Jeongguk doesn’t answer.

“…Ggukie, I just want you safe. If you…if you want to be with him…I can’t force you. But, it’s dangerous out there. Not everyone you’re going to meet is kind. I know you’re relying on your luck to dig you out but it can only keep you safe for so long. And I…I just don’t want something to happen to you. I can’t let something happen to you.” Seokjin swallows as he hears Jeongguk hiss in another breath of air, trying to keep his composure as long as possible. “So, so if you need money or you want something delicious to eat or if you - if you just want to talk about whatever little thing that pops into your mind, call me, text me. No matter if it’s at two in the morning and the sun isn’t even out, I’ll be there with whatever you need, okay?”

“Okay,” Jeongguk chokes out, sniffling without a fully broken sob. “Okay.” In the background, Seokjin hears a car honking its horn. “I — that’s…I need to go, hyung. B-But, I’ll message you when I’m back home.”

Seokjin thought ‘home’ would be at the manor, with Yoongi and Hoseok. But Seokjin never found it to be a home. Maybe deep down, Jeongguk didn’t either. 

“Okay. I’ll be here,” Seokjin reassures. It must be because Jeongguk doesn’t want Seokjin to hear him further breaking down more, or maybe because Seokjin felt an ‘I love you’ on his tongue — so foreign between them but at the same time feeling so natural bubbling up to his lips — and he didn’t want to hear it, but the call disconnects with an audible click. Jeongguk is gone.

Seokjin sets his phone down and wipes the few tears out of the corner of his eye. “You can come back in now,” he calls out as he takes a napkin to wipe his nose. Shortly after, Seungjae comes from the bedroom, hands folded behind his back. “Did you hear anything?”

“Not a word if you didn’t want me to,” Seungjae responds in turn. Seokjin scoffs, sighing against his napkin and bringing a hand to his forehead. It’s far too early for this. Seungjae moves to Seokjin’s side, resting a soothing hand on Seokjin’s shoulder. “Are you going to be alright, sir?”

Truthfully, Seokjin hasn’t felt fine ever since the incident. 

But, he smiles.

“I’ll manage, Seungjae-ssi,” he says, turning back to his breakfast. “That’s all I can do for now.”

 


 

“Seokjin-ssi! The camera loves you! Turn to the left a little bit — yes! So stunning! So handsome!

Seokjin feels his cheeks flush with color, but he still smiles and laughs and turns to his good angle for the photographer and their chipper squeals. He’s had experience with foreign photo shoots, but usually for a fashion brand deal where it was only a few shots and the day was called, or him modeling with ten or so others sharing the camera lens. It’s never been just him in such a small and intimate setting, Jiyeon standing in the background watching while Seokjin goes through what feels like the fortieth picture of him taken.

He catches Jiyeon’s attention with the raise of his eyebrows and the pout of his lips. Jiyeon notices, raising her hand as she approaches. 

“Ah, can we take a quick break for Seokjin-ah to get freshened up? I want every picture of his to come out perfect and they won’t if he is feeling tired,” she says, sighing with her body as she already begins to escort Seokjin away from the set without hearing the photographer’s response. Her hand rubs warmly up and down Seokjin’s arm, smiling up at him. “You’re so handsome, Seokjin-ah. And soon, everyone in Paris, Luxembourg, and Montréal is going to see your handsome face when the campaign starts running! Imagine you become an international hero idol! They might ask you to do tours!”

Seokjin smiles, but it’s a thin one. Heroes are still a thing overseas. Heroes still are significant and their civilians still want them overseas. People want Kim Seokjin, but they don’t want Glam. He’s only risen up so far because of his looks and markability, in comparison to others like him that stumbled after the Hero Initiative was absolved. But compared to the heroes overseas, Seokjin is just some pretty boy. No one significant, no one doing something good with his abilities gifted to him.

You’re a waste of my time, Number Four.

Seokjin rolls his broad shoulders. “A-Ah, Manager-nim? Could I get a chocolate milk? I think I’m going to just sit in my dressing room for a few minutes.”

“Of course! Anything for my Number One Star!” Jiyeon chirps, reaching up to pat at Seokjin’s cheeks. “I’ll have a chocolate milk sent over and a makeup artist to take off some of that shine. We have to maintain your handsomeness for the rest of the shoot!” she says as they both reach Seokjin’s dressing room, before she continues on down the hallway with a little sway in her hips and the hair bun atop her head bouncing with each step. 

Seokjin slips into his dressing room with a sigh, closing it behind him and leaning up against the door. Seungjae is sprawled on the small couch in the corner, a crossword in his grip and a concentrated expression on his face despite the blackout sunglasses hiding his eyes. Seokjin’s dressing room has a small window that offers a view of a riverbank with grassy knolls. Though since the earthquake occurred, there’s a small cluster of rocks and dirt mounds making it a less than enticing view. Perhaps that’s why the long, eggshell curtains are currently drawn over it.

“Isn’t it difficult to see what you’re writing like this?” Seokjin questions, pulling the curtains back to let in some natural light, before he wanders to his makeup chair and plops down. His face in the mirror is still his handsome visage, though Jiyeon was right about the shine on the bridge of his nose and cheekbones. 

“I’m used to it,” Seungjae grunts.

“Any calls while I was gone?”

“None, sir.”

Seokjin bites his lower lip. He’d been expecting Yoongi to try and get in contact with him ever since that earthquake occurred. From the way the text sounded, it seemed Yoongi knew what was happening. And though Seokjin has a minor hunch, he can’t bring himself to believe it fully. Nor can he bring himself to call Yoongi and have him confirm it.

It can’t be him. He can’t be back. He’s in space, miles and miles and miles away. 

He can’t hurt him again.

“Do you want me to get you something, sir?” Seungjae says, closing his crossword book for the time being to stand up, but Seokjin handwaves him back down.

“I already asked Jiyeon-ssi to get me some milk,” he says with a sigh, leaning back in his chair. “Hopefully the shoot will end soon and we can get back home in time for the drama. Jiyeon-ssi said my skin commercial is gonna air during the break.”

“Thought you didn’t like watching yourself.”

Seokjin doesn’t, but Jiyeon fought really hard for the slot and he hates to feel like his manager’s work went for naught if he doesn’t enjoy it at least once. He shrugs, tapping the tips of his fingers against his knee.

“It won’t be that bad. Just a minute or two. I’ll be fine,” he mumbles. Seungjae doesn’t make any noise of agreement or disbelief, but Seokjin’s gotten better at reading the smallest twitches in the man’s facial expression. The right corner of his mouth flicked down to shape his mouth into a thin line. He’s worried. Seokjin sighs and stretches his arms over his head. “Actually, could you get me a quick snack, Seungjae-ssi? I think I saw some finger sandwiches towards the back of the photo set left by the catering.”

Seungjae stands and bows his head. “Of course, sir,” he says, taking long strides towards the closed door as Seokjin decides to close his eyes and take a small nap. He hears the melody of his cell phone ringing just as Seungjae is about to leave, hears the man answer with a gruff ‘Hello?’ as he opens the door and is halfway out. But, Seokjin doesn’t hear the door close back. Instead, he hears Seungjae ask in a darkened tone, “Where is Jeongguk?”

Seokjin’s eyes fly open and he all but throws his chair to the ground as he stands to his feet.

“What happened?” he asks, heart beginning to race too too fast in his chest as Seungjae immediately closes the door. “Seungjae-ssi, give me the phone.”

Seungjae looks to Seokjin warily, before he complies and offers the phone to Seokjin. He doesn’t mean to snatch it out of the man’s hands, but Seokjin hasn’t spoken to Jeongguk since the earthquake, since that missed phone call earlier that had Seokjin worried sick. He needs to hear Jeongguk’s voice. He needs to know Jeongguk is okay.

“Hello?!”

A-Ah, Seokjin-ssi?” a voice that is not Jeongguk and is honestly the very last voice Seokjin wants to hear calling his phone responds. Seokjin feels his throat tightening with the grip on his phone.

“How did you get my number?” he questions, voice now a deeper registrar, ‘brother’ persona only in voice while his eyebrows tightly knit together.

I-I’m sorry to bother you,” Han Moonsoo stammers quietly, like he’s trying to keep hidden from something Seokjin can’t see, “but I’m calling about Jeongguk—

“Put him on the phone—”

I can’t—

Where is he?” Seokjin spits.

Listen, I-I need you to be calm, sir—

“Don’t tell me to be calm! He called me yesterday and wouldn’t answer and now you’re calling me telling me the same thing?! Where is he?!

He’s…fuck, look. We had — we had some trouble with a client and, and things just got really bad and—”

Seokjin brings his hand to his mouth, shoulders rising up and down with his heavy breathing. “If you do not tell me where Jeongguk is in the next two seconds, I’m going to—”

He’s in jail! He’s — we — fuck, he killed a client and we got caught and he’s in jail.

The words hit like a punch, scorch Seokjin’s skin to a red like a bomb. “H-He did what?”

It was an accident. The client was an asshole and he — he wasn’t letting Jeongguk go and — fuck, why did you give him that shank?!

“To protect himself! Don’t talk to me like this is my fault you put him in a situation where he felt the need to use it!” Seokjin begins to pace forward and back, Seungjae standing back against the door watching with hands folded in front of him. “W-Where are you? Where’s Jeongguk? What happened?

We got pursued and got into a car crash. Jeongguk got knocked out from it, but he was still alive when I checked—

“So you abandoned him to save your own fucking skin?!”

No! That’s — do you think I could handle fighting off an Enhanced Police Unit?! Look, I tried to get him out of there but the car was flipped over and I was panicking and I was lucky enough to get away myself! They’re still looking for me!

“And I hope they find you and throw you in a jail cell to rot,” Seokjin says with the venom dripping off his tongue, the hand at his side balling into a tight fist. “This would have never happened if he didn’t meet you. You ruined his life—”

I’m not the one that put him out on the street in the first place,” Moonsoo says with a clipped tone, and it does the job of leaving Seokjin momentarily stunned. “…Look, I know you hate me and I don’t know shit about Jeongguk’s situation with his family and his past. Hell, just today we’ve clashed with two guys that obviously know him, but he didn’t want to tell me anything. But, I love him. I fucking love him so much and I’m trying to help him and I need you to help me. I-I don’t have anyone else to rely on and I don’t want him waking up in a jail cell alone and scared. He…he was so scared last night and I couldn’t do anything but be useless like I always am.”

Seokjin squares his jaw. He’s kind to me. He cares about me. Seokjin has never cared for Moonsoo, never felt anything more about the man other than slight contempt and displaced anger. But now, he feels pity. Not for Moonsoo’s words of self-deprecation, but the fact that he knows Jeongguk’s heart is stubbornly tied to someone else.

“…Where was he taken?”

The Metro Unit for Dobong-gu, though Nowon-gu is collaborating since they were the ones that were pursuing us and handling the murder case.”

 “I want you to listen to me and listen good. You find somewhere and stay hidden. Don’t go out until my guard tells you to.”

R-Right, sir.

“I’m going to fix this, on account of one thing.” Seokjin swallows. “You stay away from Jeongguk. Don’t call him, don’t go looking for him. If he comes looking for you, turn him away. Because I’m not going to let Jeongguk be hurt under your watch again.”

For a beat, Moonsoo is quiet. Then, “You can’t keep us apart.

Deep down, Seokjin thinks he might be right.

“I’ll try my damndest to. That’s a promise,” Seokjin spits, hanging up the phone before Moonsoo says anything else. He didn’t realize he was shaking until Seungjae rests a hand on his shoulder, lips pulled in a hard line. Seokjin hands him back the cell phone, running a hand through his hair. “Get Jiyeon-ssi. Tell her we’ll have to stop the shoot here. I need you to look up personnel involved with the Metro Unit for Dobong-gu. Names, heights, photos, and positions in the unit. Any bit of information you can scrounge up,” Seokjin says quickly, walking to quickly pull the curtain closed.

“Is Jeongguk okay?”

“I don’t know,” Seokjin answers, and his voice cracks a bit. Is he hurt? Is he scared? God, he still has to make so many phone calls and he needs to hear Jeongguk is okay. “I-I don’t know.”

Seokjin grabs at his bag and slings it over his shoulder, looking to Seungjae still hesitating at the door. “…Are you going to be okay?”

“…I don’t know,” Seokjin breathes, rubbing at his eyes, smearing the makeup. “But…but I’ve got to do something. I can’t leave him there.”

Kim Seokjin is Number Four, never been treated right because he was Number Four, never expected to do more because of it either. But he’s never let his number stop him from seeking out Jeongguk, never let his number hold him back from wanting better, from feeling like he deserves better. 

Kim Seokjin is Number Four, but in his heart, he is Number One.

 


 

“I want to be there for the interrogation.”

One of the homicide officers for Dobong-gu’s Metro Unit — An Manseok, with broad shoulders and a square jaw — scoffs around his toothpick. He looks Yoongi up and down, judging with his eyes before he grumbles out, “You’re one of them freaks too, aren’t you?”

Yoongi steps forward threateningly, but Jinsoo holds his arm out to stop him.

“He’s one of our best Enhanced members,” Jinsoo speaks for Yoongi before Yoongi decides to let his mouth do the talking instead of his fists or the sole of his boots. “Plus, he was witness to the assault on his partner in the restaurant before the suspects fled and corroborate the recorded testimony his partner gave.”

“He let one of them get away too,” Manseok drawls. “Seems to me with his ‘gift’, he should have snapped him up easily.”

“Fuck you. You think I let him go on purpose?” Yoongi snaps.

“What he meant to say was that the detained suspect was injured. He needed immediate medical attention,” Jinsoo says through gritted teeth.

Yeah, I think you let him go on purpose,” Manseok talks over Jinsoo’s outstretched arm, not bothering to hide the sneer. “Here, we only have Non-Enhanced personnel only dealing with Enhanced Crimes. Your superior is allowed to sit in the interrogation, but you stay away until we’re done running the charges and prison transfer.”

Jinsoo nods, face stiff. Though it’s a challenge, Yoongi holds his tongue. He knows anti-Enhanced sentiment when he sees it; a majority of the Metro Units across South Korea haven’t exactly been friendly to Enhanced civilians since the Hero Initiative dissolved. His commissioner mentioned something about it just being resentment about being displaced when Hero Units were the ones stopping petty crimes and handling all law affairs. Doesn’t explain the fact that Enhanced civilians are now twice as likely to be persecuted and arrested by a Metro Unit, but it was the only explanation given to Yoongi.

“Has the detained suspect woken up?” Jinsoo asks, scratching uncomfortably at his jawline.

“Not yet. But we’ll be there when he does. Nurse is giving him till tomorrow to collect himself before the interrogation, for ‘protocol’ means,” Manseok says with air-quotes. 

“Let us see him,” Yoongi says urgently, and Jinsoo places a hand on his shoulder, squeezing it tight. Be quiet, son, the gesture says. Not now. Not here.

“Did you hear what I said, punk? You stay away from the suspect,” Manseok growls. He leans back against the edge of the mahogany desk behind him in the cramped office space, turning the toothpick around with his tongue. “If you ask me, that dash cam made it seem like you went easy on him. Would have used far more than what you sent out.”

“It was just two scared kids running. No need to send an army after them,” Jinsoo calmly speaks. Manseok guffaws.

“Kids that committed murder, if you forgot, Jinsoo-ssi. Not to mention that we don’t have any information about the one your junior let escape—”

Yoongi phases through Jinsoo’s arm, fist gripping the black necktie around Manseok’s thick throat to yank the larger man down towards his eye level. “I didn’t let him escape,” Yoongi hisses through his teeth. Manseok’s eyes only widen in fear for a split second, before the glimmer in his eye becomes that of disgust, rage. 

“You dare use your power against a Non-Enhanced civilian? It’s like none of you assholes learned your lesson five years ago after that monster destroyed Nahae-gu—”

Don’t talk like I’m the same—

“Alright, enough!” Jinsoo pulls roughly at Yoongi’s shoulder and moves Yoongi to his side, looking between the two of them with an already exhausted expression. “We’re leaving now. I’ll be here tomorrow to assist with the interrogation and paperwork, Manseok-ssi.”

Manseok adjusts his tie, glare not leaving Yoongi’s darkened expression. “We’ll be waiting,” he says with a nod.

Jinsoo moves his grip on Yoongi’s shoulder to hold Yoongi’s hand. “Alright, let’s go,” he says. Yoongi clicks his tongue against his teeth, squeezes Jinsoo’s hand, feels the anger of fire and lightning sting and burn hot through his veins, and then they both are standing back in Jinsoo’s office back at their own station, startling their medic who was dropping off a folder onto Jinsoo’s desk.

“Ah, is that Beomgyu-yah’s? He’s fine?” Jinsoo asks, concerned. 

“He’s stable. The healing process will be done in another two hours, and I’ll take his testimony then,” the medic explains with a quiet nod of her head. Jinsoo grins.

“Okay then, thank you for your efficient service,” he says with a bow of his head, Yoongi bowing his as well in gratitude. She smiles and departs with a quiet ‘goodbye’, before Jinsoo lets out a sigh and circles around to drop into his chair that creaks with his weight.

“Efficient because she uses her abilities," Yoongi points out with a shake of his head. "You know how many healer or anatomy-improvement Enhanced civilians are registered within Dobong-gu alone? People that could use jobs and—”

“It isn’t our place to talk politics, Yoongi-yah. I don’t know how many more times you need to be told this,” Jinsoo mumbles, sifting through his drawer and withdrawing some antacid tablets as well as aspirin. “How’re you feeling? Thought transporting larger mass items made you a bit sick.”

Yoongi sits down in the leather chair opposite Jinsoo’s desk. “Got more nauseous talking to that asshole if I’m gonna be honest,” he drawls, but takes the antacid tablets offered and pops them in his mouth to chew as Jinsoo dry pops two aspirin.

“…Yoongi-yah, be honest with me,” Jinsoo murmurs. “Do you know that boy with the pink hair?”

Yoongi squares his jaw. “…He was a member from my old unit…”

Jinsoo sighs deeply, rubbing his face. “…Then it will be a conflict of interest to further have you involved in this case.”

“Jinsoo-ssi, I-I haven’t seen him in five years,” Yoongi confesses. “I haven’t seen him in five years and now for this…for this to be the way to find him? Caught underneath some creep he felt he needed to kill in order to get away? Having to drag his unconscious body out of a car crash while his boyfriend or his pimp or his whatever abandoned him—”

“Which explains why you didn’t immediately chased after him if you were too caught up with tending to your friend,” Jinsoo hums. “Yoongi-yah, I can’t pretend that I know how you’re feeling. I can’t even wish to feel the way you’re feeling right now…but these Dobong-gu guys aren’t going to be as sympathetic. I’ll do what I can to help the kid, but it’s only if he is willing to cooperate...maybe I can set up a video transfer for you to watch the interrogation if you’re that concerned.”

“I don’t want them treating him like he’s some monster. He’s…he’s a good kid, Jinsoo-ssi.”

“…How did he wind up in this situation, if you don’t mind me asking. Any previous history with drugs?”

Yoongi swallows, averting his eyes. “I…I don’t know…”

Jinsoo sighs once more, glancing at his clock on his desk. “Well, there isn’t much else we can do until tomorrow…I’d suggest to get some rest but knowing you…”

Yoongi nods, standing to his feet. “Yeah, I’ll pop back in to check on Beomgyu when he’s up. Should probably head home to check on a friend for dinner,” he mumbles, glancing at his watch. Hoseok hasn’t called him for anything. Not that he expects Hoseok to become too rattled on his own, especially while he’s self-medicating to drown the noise and smother his abilities and anxiety. Should he even tell Hosoek what happened with Jeongguk? Should he bother messaging Seokjin to see if that would garner a text back? Should he tell Namjoon?

Fuck, he really doesn’t want to be the messenger of shitty news like this.

“I’ll be seeing you, Yoongi-yah,” Jinsoo says, rising to his feet to walk around his desk and rest a warm hand on Yoongi’s shoulder.

“…Thank you, Jinsoo-ssi.” Yoongi bows, and there’s not much of a furious sting burning beneath his skin when he feels himself teleport. It’s now a jittering buzz, nervous and anxious and wholly not enjoyable, but Yoongi is still managing and still holding himself up as the linoleum of the police office is now the hardwood floor of the old manor. 

It’s quiet. Though the manor is quite huge, the emptiness of it made Yoongi more tuned in to hear movements on its upper levels. He doesn’t even hear the television Hoseok had on earlier. Maybe he fell asleep.

“Hoseok-ah! Hoseok-ah!” Yoongi shouts, wandering towards the parlor room where he left Hoseok last.

Kitchen.”

Yoongi blinks. Hm. They haven’t done this in a while.

With a blink of his eye, he’s in the kitchen, undoing the straps of his holster to get somewhat comfortable for the time being. “Hoseok-ah, listen, there’s something—”

“A-Ah, hello, hyung.”

Yoongi looks to his left. Seated at the kitchen table is Hoseok, though he’s got a cold compress on his neck and a patch on his forehead, rubbing his thumb along the rim of a steaming hot cup of tea. On the far end of the table, Namjoon sits there awkwardly. He’s got a mug of tea in front of him too, though his cup looks like it’s far hotter since there’s a torrent of steam rising from its mouth. 

Seated in the middle is Jimin, and he’s…looking different. There’s still a roundness to him that screams ‘soft’ and ‘delicate’, but there’s a hardness to his face that Yoongi doesn’t remember being there previously, held in the way he’s sizing Yoongi up now before looking between Hoseok and Namjoon with arms crossed over his narrow chest. Yoongi doesn’t recall Jimin having black hair either, nor does he remember Jimin dressing more like an assassin than Namjoon’s assistant.

“…What are you doing here?” Yoongi asks Namjoon, already feeling tense. Namjoon looks down at his steaming cup of tea. It begins bubbling.

“I…well, uh, I’m…going to live here…again.”

“I thought you had a place to stay for your project thing.”

“Yeah, that…didn’t work out.”

Did you plan this?” Hoseok’s voice questions Yoongi inside his own head. He’s staring blankly at Namjoon, eyes flickering back and forth between his hands and his face and every little bodily twitch his intense eye can catch. 

Does it look like I planned this?” Yoongi snaps back in his mind, bringing hands to rub at the side of his temples. So in seventy two hours, his ex-teammate returned from his space jail and caused an earthquake, his youngest ex-teammate is wrapped up in a sex operation and possible voluntary manslaughter, and now he’s going to have two people living with him under his roof. 

He needs a drink.

“I won’t be bothering you,” Namjoon offers as Yoongi phases to the wine cabinet to grab a glass and a bottle. “Me and Jimin will stay in my workshop. It’ll be like we’re not even here. And any amenities we use, the Project will compensate for it.”

“Does the Project know I am here?”

“…Not…not exactly.”

“I don’t want Federate pigs going in and out of the manor—”

“All the visits will be at the facility. No one from the Federate will come here, hyung. I promise,” Namjoon reassures, though he looks rather unconvinced of even himself. It’s such a stark contrast to the type of person that Sungwoo tried to shape him as, the type of person Namjoon played himself off to be when the cameras were rolling and the civilians were watching. Someone that was so confident of himself, so sure of himself that even if he said a lie, he could convince himself and others it was the truth from his eyes alone.

Yoongi never bothered to see how so many years of isolation affected Namjoon mentally and emotionally. Maybe those sentiments buried deep down could have played into the cause of the earthquake. For now though, he avoids that line of thinking. There are more important things that need to be discussed.

“Can we move to the parlor? I need to talk with you two about something,” he mutters, uncorking his bottle of wine.

“I don’t think we should, hyung,” Namjoon speaks, glancing towards Hoseok. “I…guess there might have been some accident.”

“Accident?” Yoongi turns to Hosoek wildly. “What happened? Why didn’t you call me?” he interrogates in his mind. The scrape of the kitchen chair’s wooden feet draws back Yoongi’s attention before Hoseok can conjure up an excuse for a thought. Namjoon stands with his hands braced against the table, the tips of his fingers holding a faint glow of orange. 

“Hyung, I need to speak with you in private—”

“I need to speak with him first,” Hoseok suddenly jumps up with, though wobbles when he apparently moved a little too quickly. Yoongi’s head turns from left to right, settling eyes on Jimin in the middle who only looks impassive towards the whole ordeal, before he takes a quick swig of his drink straight from the bottle and ignores the glass all together.

Yoongi smacks his lips clean. “Look, I really need to talk with both of you—”

“Then talk to me first. I’m not staying around here for long,” Hoseok says curtly. 

“Where are you going?”

 Hoseok throws a wild gesture of his hand in Jimin and Namjoon’s direction. “Are you going to actually let them stay here? After what he’s done? After what he did literally twenty-four hours ago?” 

Out the corner of his eye, Yoongi sees Namjoon’s posture stiffen. His shoulders slump down with regret, but then, they shift. They straighten back in a firm line, pulling taut like a soldier stands at attention as he raises his chin up. Defensive, defiant. Stand like a leader, Number One.

“Hoseok, I know you have lasting feelings about…about the incident. But this is important—”

“Actually, I’ve gotten over the nightmares and the mental noise,” Hoseok says, tone of his voice not nonchalant and threatening to crack from anger. “I’ve gotten over feeling useless and driving myself insane hearing everyone’s miserable thoughts and anger nonstop for three years because of what you’ve done. But that doesn’t mean that I want to be near you or have anything to do with you.”

Namjoon’s hands tighten into fists. Yoongi feels a small rumble beneath his feet. 

“As your Number One, I—”

My Number One? Fuck you, what kind of ‘Number One’ nearly gets his teammates killed at the snap of his finger? You think you can just throw your number around now that you’re back? I left the team. We all left the team. That number is useless now.”

“Just because you never respected the privilege of being Number Three—”

“So the old man treating me less like a piece of shit is supposed to be a privilege?

“Hey, that’s enough—”

“Yeongsu-ssi may not have been the warmest person, but don’t act like he treated you like garbage when I bet Seokjin-hyung would have given anything to take his number back—”

“For the last time, I didn’t want his number in the first place!” The words come through clenched teeth, Hoseok’s skin turning a blotchy red as a small drop of blood comes from his nose. “God, you just love to rub that in my face, don’t you? ‘You should be thankful he made you Number Three’. ‘You should feel honored you became Number Three’. ‘He must see more potential in you than Seokjin-hyung, so you should be more respectful, Number Three’.

“Guys, we seriously shouldn’t be doing this right now—”

“Well, he gave us our numbers for a reason. And regardless of whether you left or our unit is dissolved or even if Yeongsu-ssi is gone, right here under this roof, you are Number Three, I am Number One, and you listen to me.”

“Call me ‘Number Three’ one more time, and I’ll scramble your brain until it’s liquid coming out of your nose.”

Jimin suddenly rises to his feet, deadly eyes set on Hoseok.

Yoongi slams the wine bottle on the table. “Shut up!” he yells before Namjoon can answer Hoseok’s threat, before Hoseok has the chance to respond to Jimin swiftly rising to challenge him himself. “Shut up!!” He brings his hands to his face, inhales sharp and exhales shakily. “This stupid number shit is the least important thing that is happening right now, so will you both just sit down and be quiet?!

Three sets of eyes turn to Yoongi, two of them mildly shocked at his outburst before growing uncomfortable as an awkward silence envelops the kitchen area. Namjoon is the one that slumps back down into his seat first. His hands are still glowing red and orange and yellow, but the brightness of it is slowly beginning to dim beneath his tanned skin. Soon after that, Jimin lowers himself back in his seat, expression devoid of emotion for Yoongi to get some read of the man and know what is flickering through his head.

Yoongi pushes the bottle in Namjoon’s direction. “Pour a glass for your babysitter. I’m taking Hoseok home,” he grumbles, holding his hand towards Hoseok without even looking at him. But, he feels Hoseok’s hand gently slide into his palm, and he squeezes.

A blink.

Then, Hoseok lets go of his hand and falls back onto the old lumpy couch in his apartment flat just over the music shop. 

Hoseok’s place is small and humble, so much different than the manor in more ways than just its size. The walls are a pale green and carpet is a muted brown, with blackout curtains that are now drawn back to let in the view of a city street coming to life under nightfall, neon lights turning on in the shop windows and street lamps bathing the sidewalks in a dizzy yellow hue. The furniture is old, outdated, and barely matching, but Hoseok makes it work for him somehow. Yoongi finds it just adds a little more character, if he’s being honest.

“You need me to get you a tissue?” he asks as Hoseok pinches his forehead. 

“No. It’s just noise overload. I’ll be fine when I’ve calmed down.” Hoseok forces a swallow down, scrunching his eyes tight. “Asshole was screaming in his head.”

Yoongi makes himself comfortable on the ottoman pressed against Hoseok’s coffee table. He tries to keep his eyes on Hoseok’s weary face and not on the old medical bills and empty prescription bottles sprawled out over the coffee table’s surface against colorful magazines. 

“What was he saying about there being an accident?”

Hoseok rubs his eyes, looking at Yoongi like he’s trying to choose his words carefully for whatever he has to say that is making his shoulders look so tense and making him knock his knees together. 

“Jeongguk,” Hoseok starts off with, “he came back to the manor.” 

Yoongi stiffens.

“…When did this happen?”

“Earlier. After you left, but I can’t remember the exact time. He and some other guy came to the manor to rob it. I caught them in the act and he made the chandelier conveniently break to get away from me.” Hoseok props his leg up against the coffee table, slumping even further against the couch as exhaustion further overcomes him. 

“Why didn’t you call me?”

“I…passed out?” Hoseok says it like it’s a question. For some reason, that makes Yoongi feel like he’s teetering a smidge bit closer to losing his fucking mind.

“You ‘passed out’? What do you mean you ‘passed out’? Did - did it happen during the confrontation? Was it those pills? Did you take more?

“No!” Hoseok snaps. Yoongi stares blankly at him. “…Okay, yeah. I did. But listen, that’s not what made me pass out. Not entirely.”

Yoongi groans. “I knew that stuff was bad—”

“No, you don’t understand—”

“No, you don’t understand how these things are messing with your head!”

“It’s not messing with my head! I got exhausted from fighting with Jeongguk and overwhelmed and it just…made me tired. I’m fine. I’m taking them responsibly. This medication is helping me, hyung.” Hoseok’s lips twist in a pained bow. “You don’t know what it feels like. You don’t know how awful being alive is feeling and hearing the things that I do without them.”

“…Please don’t talk like that,” Yoongi murmurs. His voice is a rasp that comes from his lips. He’s too tired to argue, too tired to fight. Hoseok keeps quiet to Yoongi’s plea, and both let the quiet nestle in their bones for the longest pause. “…Jeongguk is in prison.”

Hoseok’s eyes widen. “What?”

“We caught him trying to flee. His partner — that other guy you saw — is still out and about, but for the time being, Jeongguk is at the Dobong-gu Metro Unit on possible charges of murder.”

Murder?

Yoongi nods, rubbing at his face. “It’s — I know it’s a lot, which is why I wanted to tell you both at the same time—”

“Don’t tell him.” Hoseok’s face is stone grim. “Don’t tell him.”

“Hobi, I have to. He cares as much about Jeongguk as we do—”

“No, you don’t know. He…when I came to, he was asking me all these questions about Seokjin-hyung and where Jeongguk was. I didn’t tell him anything about Jeongguk being there, and I don’t know anything about what’s going on with Seokjin-hyung anyways, but when I listened in his head…hyung, it sounded like he was exploding over and over again from the inside.”

“It could have been just noise—”

“No, those were his thoughts. They were…loud. Angry. Frustrated with me for not knowing anything, at you for not doing anything, at Seokjin-hyung for not being here so he could interrogate him for answers. He make look calm on the outside, but his mind is on a fucking warpath.”

Yoongi felt the tremors moments prior. He knows Hoseok is right.

“All I’m saying is that none of that anger was directed towards a thought about Jeongguk. Thoughts about Jeongguk were just surrounded with anger at us and anger at himself. If…if he finds out Jeongguk is in prison on murder charges, we’re done. We just had an earthquake, but that will be an explosion guaranteed.”

“…Maybe that’s what caused the earthquake,” Yoongi murmurs. Maybe somehow, Namjoon already knows more about Jeongguk’s situation than both of them do.

He rises to his feet, cracking his knuckles. “I still need to talk to Namjoon about this. He’d be pissed about the circumstances but he’d be angrier if we keep it hidden. Plus, I don’t think his babysitter would allow Namjoon to cause another catastrophe after getting a taste of what he could do last night.”

“…That guy with him all in black is the ‘babysitter’?”

Yoongi nods.

“The one with the cute face and the nice ass.”

Yoongi clears his throat. “Shut up,” he eloquently responds back.

Hoseok smiles, but it’s small, concerned. “…Is he Enhanced?”

“I’m guessing so. Why?”

Hoseok shrugs, shaking his head. “Nothing. Just wondering.” He rubs his forehead and sighs, staggering to his feet. “I think I’m going to lie down. Too much happened tonight.”

“I’ll be here in the morning to take you back to the manor,” Yoongi announces. Hoseok gets an indignant look, but Yoongi’s hard glare wins out. “Look, I know you walked away. I know when the old man died, we all kind of agreed to stop giving a shit about each other and left our separate ways. But…Hobi, Jeongguk needs our help. We should have been there for him then, and we need to be here for him now.”

Another pause of silence occurs between them, Hoseok thinking deeply and turning his gaze to the carpet instead of Yoongi’s waiting expression. “…If you don’t want to come back, then fine. Turn me away and I’ll leave immediately. I’m not going to force you to care.” Yoongi swallows, squaring his jaw. “I’m not even doing this because I’m Number Two and he’s Number Five. This is Min Yoongi saying he fucked up with someone he cared about and doesn’t want to see them back on the streets either dead from an OD or dead from some asshole taking advantage of him when he’s vulnerable.”

He turns his back on Hoseok, feeling electricity buzzing beneath his skin, though ice feels like it is coursing through his veins. “Tomorrow,” he says as his departing words, not hearing Hoseok say anything back before he is no longer standing in Hoseok’s flat, but now admit broken shards of wine bottle glass and the smell of spilt alcohol permeating the kitchen of the manor. 

Namjoon is on his knees sopping up the mess that is dripping down the legs of the table, a puddle of the wine Yoongi set out before leaving where the bottle once stood. Jimin has collected up a dustpan and a broom, though he pauses in his cleaning when he notices Yoongi’s returned presence. With the yellow bristles, Jimin nudges Namjoon on the ground. Namjoon looks up, awkward and pitiful.

“…I broke the bottle when I was trying to pour it,” he explains to Yoongi’s blank stare. “It just…shattered the moment I touched it…I’m sorry, I’ll buy you another one—”

“I have plenty,” Yoongi cuts him off, already phasing to the wine cabinet to grab another. “Stop cleaning and just sit down,” he mumbles, plopping himself down into a seat and uncorking the bottle to take the first swig of it down his throat. “It’s going to be a long night.”

Chapter Text

 

The detainment room is four blank white walls, with an old ceiling lamp that constantly flickers on and off. Jeongguk counts the times he sees the light fade from the round bulb before it returns with a harsh and noisy white glow. In and out, in and out. It’s more than a dozen times, though probably less than a hundred. Still not enough to keep him distracted from the conversation he hears through the thick metal door held slightly ajar.

“Since the suspect is stable, we will resume the processing and conduct the interrogation in about an hour or so. Will that be enough time for the representative in Nowon-gu to arrive and oversee the interrogation, Manseok-ssi?” a feminine voice asks, the sound followed by a light scratching of a pen against paper.

The voice that responds is gruff, disinterested. “Should be, Nurse. The representative wants a camera set up for streaming as well. Got a freak working underneath him that wants to see the interrogation so badly.”

Jeongguk bites the inside of his cheek, curling himself into a tighter ball on the small medical bed. He knows the ‘freak’ the voice must be talking about; he floated in and out of consciousness prior to fully waking up now, but in those lucid moments he heard Yoongi’s voice riling up a shouting match with someone. No doubt Hoseok will tell Yoongi about his failed attempt at robbery if he still keeps in contact with him. Then, Yoongi will tell Hoseok about the murder, and then they’ll both find a way to tell Seokjin so Seokjin can confirm Jeongguk's been prostituting himself. 

And then after that…Jeongguk doesn’t know what will happen.

Maybe they’ll send him to the Federate where he'll be dissected and experimented on, lock him away in the darkest cells where he can't even dream to have a sliver of light grace his skin. But at least there, he won’t have to see the look of disappointment on their faces ever again, never hear that despondent sigh Seokjin gave when he always told him he had to go back to Moonsoo after their spontaneous outings. Wouldn’t that be for the better? Wouldn’t that be best if he could sever this tie with them for good like he meant to do all those years ago, let them live their lives the way they wanted to live them before he and his good-bad luck just had to interfere? Yoongi and Hoseok were just fine whether or not Jeongguk was present in their lives. And Seokjin…Seokjin must have felt guilty about the memoir and that was why he went searching, why he forced himself to put up with Jeongguk’s mess and tolerated the bullshit for so long. Wouldn’t it be better for Seokjin if Jeongguk was gone? He could go back to his comfortable life, his lavish and luxurious life and forget about worrying himself sick over Jeongguk. He could forget about the Fantastic Five and all the hardships that came with it. 

Jeongguk is just selfishly holding him back to that old life. It would be better if he’d let Seokjin go…if he just disappeared…

“Very well. Now, we will conduct our final inspection and escort the suspect to the waiting room, Manseok-ssi. Please wait for us there,” the feminine voice explains, answered with an affirming grunt. Jeongguk slips back underneath the covers and pulls them over his head. He knows he can’t feign sleep now, but at the same time, he’s not ready to face confessing everything he’s done to people that just want to have him sealed away from hurting someone ever again. It would be better if he was gone, he thinks, he knows. But he’s not ready. He’s not ready at all.

The door opens with a heavy creak of its hinges. Jeongguk hears the click of heels against tile, the squeak of metal wheels and the clatter of a metal cart being pushed. He scrunches his eyes tighter, as if that will make them turn and go away. He’s not ready. He’s not ready.

A hand easily rests upon his head, the gentlest touch he’s had in months. “Ggukie?” a voice whispers, and it isn’t the feminine one, not the gruff one, and not one that Jeongguk isn’t familiar with. Slowly, he peels the sheet back. In the flickering light, he sees a woman with blue cat-eye glasses and a button nose, thin red lips and jet black hair pulled into a neat and tight bun. Her eyes widen at the sight of him. She looks as though she’s about to cry. “Ggukie, oh thank goodness,” she says with Seokjin’s voice, pulling him upright into a seating position for a clumsy hug.

“H-Hyung?” It’s awkward to wrap arms around the woman’s body, so much smaller and skinnier compared to Seokjin’s taller and bulkier frame. By the door and the metal cart that has a white cloth covering it, Jeongguk sees Seokjin’s bodyguard standing with hands folded behind his back, dressed in the same white coat and medical mask worn around the neck as the woman is. Though, he is still wearing his blackout shades.

Jeongguk’s attention immediately goes to a small surveillance camera in the corner. “H-Hyung, there’s a camera—”

“We already taken care of cameras, don’t worry,” Seokjin responds, holding Jeongguk’s face in his now small and manicured hands. “Ggukie, listen to me. We only have one hour for you to tell me everything you can about what happened that night and yesterday. Every single detail, even the stuff leading up to the night of the murder, okay? Even if you don’t think it’s important, tell me.”

“W-What are we —”

“I’m going to fix this, okay? I’m going to fix this and everything is going to be alright—”

“I’m sorry, hyung,” Jeongguk has to get out, wishing he could turn his face away if not for Seokjin holding him so tightly, so warm. “I-I’m sorry for being like this—”

Seokjin shushes him, brings their foreheads against each other as he curls his pinky in a lock of Jeongguk’s hair. “I told you I’ll help you no matter what, understand? Don’t say sorry. Everything is going to be fine.” 

For a split second, Jeongguk closes his eyes and believes that to be true.

Seokjin pulls back after a pause, lightly squishing Jeongguk’s cheeks. “Aigoo, this hair—” he pinches at a raspberry pink lock, smiling — “you look like a punk.”

Jeongguk winces. “…Do you think that’s going to hurt my chances?”

“Nope! Because you’re going to be the most sweetest, innocent boy that walked into the interrogation room. I promise you that.” Seokjin braces his hands on Jeongguk’s shoulders as his bodyguard reaches beneath the cart to withdraw a large and clunky duffle bag. “Now,” he says, undoing the first few buttons on the purple blouse he wears, “talk to me.”

 


 

Good morning, Namjoon! It is currently a pleasant 20 degrees Celcius with a low probability of rainfall and traffic is light! Also, you look like you didn’t sleep well last night, so I have prepared a schedule that equally balances your work as well as allotting you a ten minute nap every two hours so you may achieve your maximum hours of sleep! I have also created a playlist of calming ambient noises for you to listen to while you and Jimin are working! Would you like to hear a sample?”

The sun is but a dim glow through Namjoon’s drawn-closed curtains, but his eyes are still stinging. “Did I fall asleep?” he mumbles. His voice sounds like he fell asleep, a bit groggy with his words coming off a lazy tongue. He’s dressed in pajamas and not his grey regulation jumpsuit he’s been wearing up to this point; the pajamas run a little small, fitting tight around his arms and legs and not long enough to fully cover his midsection. 

At his bedside, VAN nods their head. “Yes! You did indeed fell asleep,” they say, before turning their head upwards. “Though…perhaps you had a nightmare? 

Namjoon turns his head up as well and oh. There’s cracks in the ceiling, cracks that run from the ceiling along the walls and splinter off into different directions. Namjoon’s old bedroom has long been gutted out and stripped of all his belongings aside from the bed, so there isn’t a clutter of objects that fell to the ground due to two large indents made into the walls. They look like someone drove a fist into the drywall. Multiple times. Namjoon’s assortment of figurines and knick-knacks wouldn’t have stood a chance.

He brings a tired hand to his face, groaning. “Sorry, I…I must have been thinking about Jeongguk…”

Please do not feel sorry for what is happening. It is out of your control.”

“But I should have been here,” Namjoon stresses. “I-I’m…I’m his Number One. I should have been here to help guide him, guide all of them the way that Yeongsu-ssi wanted. But I ruined everything.”

VAN’s working eye turns into a sad half-circle. “If things turn out okay with the interrogation as Yoongi says, then I am sure you can still be there for him while you still have time, Namjoon.” Immediately, VAN’s eye rounds. “It is good to start the day with positivity! To help you have a positive outlook, I shall recite poetry and inspirational quotes while you get ready for breakfast!”

Namjoon shakes his head, forcing his legs out of the bed to stand on his two feet. “No. No, I’m up. I’m up. Come on, let’s go.” He collects the small bot into his hands, minding the floorboards that have become crooked and uprooted as he leaves his room and trudges down the hallway. He passes by the room that Yoongi set up for Jimin — a room once locked by Yeongsu-ssi but Yoongi managed to get open from finding a key in the study. It’s larger than their bedrooms, still decorated with paintings and mirrors, and with an opulent bed covered with gold satin sheets and large, fluffy pillows. 

The bed is currently empty, and the sheets are made in such a way that it looks like no one slept in it at all. Though, Namjoon swore he saw Jimin enter in here just before they retired for the evening, his form of goodnight being a hard glare and a slam of the door shut behind him.

He still doesn’t know what to make of Jimin’s strange behavior.

His confusion furthers even more when Namjoon wanders into the kitchen to find only Jimin there at the stove, blue hair catching the rays of light gleaming through the small window and struggling with flipping a pancake in the skillet.

“…What are you doing?” Namjoon asks. Jimin jumps in his spot, skillet clanging against the grates on the stove. He turns to Namjoon with wide eyes, shaking the rubber spatula at him scoldingly. “…Did I scare you?”

Jimin furiously nods, blush on his cheeks.

“…Are you…making pancakes for breakfast?”

Another nod, but with an added gesture of the spatula from himself to Namjoon and back. “…You’re making breakfast for both of us?”

Jimin nods, smiling. Namjoon only grows more confused.

He watches as Jimin manages to get the pancake to unstick from the skillet and plops it down on a small mound of already cooked (and slightly deformed) pancakes resting by a bottle of syrup next to him.

I thought you might want a good breakfast. It’s easier to work when you got a full stomach,” Jimin signs when he places the spatula down. 

VAN nods their head in approval. “Indeed! A healthy breakfast is a good way to start one’s morning! Hello, my name is VAN!

Jimin smiles and gives a friendly wave.

“You’ve already introduced yourself to him,” Namjoon reminds. VAN’s eye forms a half-circle, glowing yellow.

Hmm…no. I do not have memory of meeting this person. But that’s fine! I like making new friends!

“You might have taken more internal damage than you thought,” Namjoon mumbles with a small grimace, setting VAN down on the table for now. “Where’s Yoongi-hyung?”

Jimin gives goes back to the pancake mix, giving it an awkward stir with the whisk. Now that Namjoon looks, the kitchen counter is a mess of turned-over egg cartons, half-empty milk jugs and spilled boxes of three different kinds of pancake batter mix. Yoongi normally liked to keep a clean workspace, organized where everything was in its place for when he needed it. Wherever he is, he’s not going to be happy when he comes back.

Yoongi-hyung was the one in black? With the grey hair?” Jimin signs after he pours a large lump of batter into the skillet, listens to it sizzle as it cooks. 

“Yeah.”

Oh. I haven’t seen him.

Namjoon nods, glancing at the old clock on the wall. Yoongi told Namjoon last night he would go see if Hoseok will come back to sit in during the interrogation, but Namjoon doesn’t honestly have any expectations Hoseok will comply knowing Namjoon is still in the same area as him.

He bites the inside of his cheek when he thinks about Hoseok now, the disgust and anger he held in those eyes, the searing pain of noise Hoseok forced into Namjoon’s mind to make it hurt. Has he always felt like this? Even before the incident? When he came to the manor all those years ago with a duffle bag slung over his shoulder and a laid-back posture, Yeongsu-ssi mentioned that he could become a friend to Namjoon. They were the same age, after all, and Namjoon’s relationships with Yoongi and Jin were…a bit stilted.

He thought they were fine. 

He thought his words were helping.

There’s another noisy clang at the stove, Jimin turning the skillet from left to right like he’s trying to get gravity to flip the pancake for him. “Need help?” Namjoon asks, moving to stand at Jimin’s side. He looks down at the lopsided lump of…batter? It doesn’t look like a pancake. It doesn’t even look like it can be chewed, swallowed or digested.

Jimin nods, trying to get the spatula up underneath it again. 

Namjoon gets behind Jimin, moves his arms around Jimin’s small frame to take the spatula with one hand and the skillet’s handle with the other. “You gotta just—” Namjoon wriggles the edge of the spatula around the pancake, lifting it up centimeter by centimeter, piece by piece. Jimin goes lax against him, strangely comfortable compared to the way he was acting around Namjoon before. Namjoon is close enough to smell a pleasant scent wafting from Jimin’s now blue locks. Smells like peaches, sweet and sugary and warm. 

“What are you two doing in my kitchen?”

Namjoon immediately turns to face the sudden voice behind him with Jimin still in his arms holding the skillet and spatula. Yoongi stands from behind the table, dressed not in his usual police gear but rather a set of baggy blue fatigues his figure seems to be drowning in. Hoseok is standing behind him, still in his pajamas and looking just as unamused.

“Making breakfast,” Namjoon mumbles, heat flushing to his cheeks.

“Looks like you’re getting a little ‘friendly’ with your babysitter.”

“W-Wha?” Namjoon lets go of Jimin and quickly sidesteps away. Jimin places the skillet back onto the stove and turns off the fire, though Namjoon isn’t sure if he is imagining the pout on Jimin’s full lips. “We’re just — we’re strictly partners on the Project as well as him being my handler, that’s it.”

Yoongi grunts, tilting his head to the side. “…And what about you and Jeongguk?”

Namjoon stiffens. “What about me and him?”

“I’m just saying that I remember the way he used to cling to you. How he looked at you and how he talked about you, especially after you left. Just had a suspicion—”

“Well it’s wrong.” Namjoon’s tongue is curt, but he feels himself getting warm all over from the mild accusation. “We have the same relationship that you and I have.”

“Dysfunctional?” Hoseok asks, lazily turning a lock of orange hair between his fingers. Yoongi delivers a sharp elbow back into Hoseok’s stomach.

“…I meant that we were partners but…I don’t know. A lot obviously happened with him in five years. Maybe he hates me as much as everyone else does.”

“So why are you investing your time and stress over someone that probably doesn’t want to have anything to do with you?” Yoongi asks.

“Because I’m Number One.”

“Is that really your only reason?”

Namjoon purses his lips tight. 

Yoongi clicks his tongue against his teeth, slipping his hands into his pockets. “Whatever. I’m gonna call my superior and see what the status is. I’ll have everything set up in the library. So, since you and your babysitter are ‘friends’ now, you can clean all this up.” He gestures with a finger at the mess on the counter and the clutter of dishes in the sink. Jimin winces, almost like he wasn’t even aware of how bad the mess around him was. For still having a lack of words, all Namjoon does is nod in response.

With that, Yoongi phases out of the kitchen, leaving Hoseok behind. Namjoon locks eyes with him from across the table. Quickly, Hoseok shifts his gaze to something else, folding his arms over his chest and giving a displeased huff.

“…So you came back,” Namjoon starts, awkward.

“I came back to give support to Yoongi-hyung,” Hoseok explains to the wooden chair at his left. “Once the interrogation is over, I’m heading back home.”

Namjoon twists his hands together behind his back, gnawing on his lower lip. He feels Jimin’s eyes on him, watching curiously. VAN on the table is looking between them as well, taking in the information by the way their eye spins in a yellow halo. “…Hoseok, I’m sorry for what I said last night,” is what Namjoon eventually breaks the awkward pause of silence with, “We really need to stick together and fighting isn’t going to get us anywhere.”

“Are you saying that as Number One or as Kim Namjoon?”

“Is there a difference?”

“The old man thought so,” Hoseok says, lips in a thin line. “Our old selves were considered dead in this place, remember? Hell, you rarely called us by our real names yourself. I bet Number One would want to get everyone on the same page and get everything back in its perfect, rigid order. So what do you, Kim Namjoon, what do you want?”

“The same thing, but without that tone you’re taking with me.”

Hoseok gives an exaggerated eyeroll. “I’m not taking a tone with you. Oh my god, why are you like this? A brick wall would understand what I’m trying to say faster than you could.”

“Then stop speaking in riddles and just tell me what you feel! You always did this! Always hiding behind rhetorical questions and snappy remarks instead of just coming out and—”

“Don’t talk about ‘saying how you feel’ when out of the five of us, you were the most emotionally constipated!”

“Yeongsu-ssi said that as a leader, I can’t let unnecessary feelings get in the way of what is my end goal.”

“He thought all feelings were unnecessary.”

“That isn’t true.”

VAN raises both of their arms. “I do not believe we are properly resolving this conflict. May I suggest both parties step away momentarily so we may approach this constructively?” they ask. Instead, Hoseok only leans forward, gaze honing in on Namjoon’s eyes.

“Okay, let me ask you this. The night before you left for space, I know you came back to the manor. You were trying to be sneaky about it, but you were caught by Jeongguk before you could make a clean getaway.”

Soaked clothes, tear-filled eyes. You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to go. It wasn’t your fault.

“I know something happened between you two that night. So, did you enjoy it? Did you want it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Namjoon mumbles.

Hoseok snorts. “I know it was five years ago, but I can remember thoughts that had a very strong emotion behind it. And for Jeongguk’s mind to shift from hopelessly begging for you to stay to badly wanting you to fuck him, I can assume something happened.”

Namjoon is suddenly hot. Very hot. “I-I—that’s—w-why were you listening in on his thoughts?”

“Why are you trying to change the subject and why is it so hard for you to admit that for a split moment, you wanted something the old man said you couldn’t have?”

“I don’t — I didn’twe didn’t do anything.”

“You’re a really bad liar.”

Namjoon tries to take a step forward, but Jimin’s hand is on his bicep, pulling him back. “And you’re making me really upset so I would suggest you shut your mouth—”

Maybe we should all settle down and listen to my curated list of calming ambient noises before we try and resolve this conflict?” VAN suggests again, waving their arms urgently for attention. 

Hoseok makes a face at Namjoon. “Upset? I thought you weren’t supposed to let ‘unnecessary feelings’ get in the way.”

“Be quiet, Number Three.”

Hoseok’s eyes widen. “I told you not to call me that—”

Suddenly, Yoongi is standing in the kitchen, looking aggravated.

“You know,” Yoongi says in a drawl that is somehow stern and tired at the same time, “this place is empty and sound travels. You two aren’t supposed to be here and I can’t mess these arrangements up with my superior  by him realizing I have two civilians eavesdropping on what is supposed to be a private investigation.” He shoots both of them a look, then one at Jimin who quickly turns and begins collecting up the dirty dishes. “How about instead of you two moving your big mouths, you clean up?

Hoseok bites the inside of his cheek, and for a split second, looks almost embarrassed. He turns his gaze to the ground. “Sorry, hyung,” he apologizes in a mumble. Namjoon is still feeling hot all over, but he mumbles a ‘Sorry, hyung’ as well. He doesn’t know if Yoongi took the apologies as sincere, since all he responded with was a click of his tongue against his teeth before he phased out and left them in uncomfortable silence once more.

“…There is some emotional tension between you two that is a result of years of unresolved conflict,” VAN bluntly states out of nowhere. “I shall research conflict resolution strategies and we shall try to resolve this problem together at a later date!

Hoseok gives the little bot a scoff. “Don’t blow a battery trying,” he mumbles, wandering to the opposite side of the kitchen to grab a dustpan and broom.

I do not run on batteries, so I will be okay!” VAN chirps.

Jimin gives Namjoon’s arm a squeeze. Namjoon turns, watching as Jimin signs, “Are you okay?

Truthfully, he doesn’t know.

But he can’t break. Not here, not now. Not without making sure Jeongguk is okay.

He nods, smile small on his lips. “I’m fine.”

Jimin smiles back.

 


 

Yoongi sits at the mahogany desk Yeongsu-ssi once sat at to do his morning reading or sip his tea before and after their training drills. Namjoon (after getting dressed back into his old grey jumpsuit) and Hoseok are situated opposite, watching the mirror image of the laptop Yoongi is using projected onto a larger monitor, VAN providing the connection with two wires stuck into their back and the top of their head. Jimin stands behind Namjoon, hands massaging the tension Namjoon can’t seem to let slip from his shoulders.

The interrogation room is three walls and a one-way mirror, a metal table and two metal chairs, and a hanging lamp flickering in and out with an audible hum.  There are three men already inside, two against one corner of the room talking with each other and exchanging folders, while the other man stands in his own corner with a hand up to his ear. 

Yoongi-yah, can you hear me?” the man’s presumable voice comes from VAN, their mouth a thin white line that fluctuates with the loudness of the audio.

“Yes, Jinsoo-ssi,” Yoongi responds, hand to his own ear.

How is the view coming? Can you see?”

“Yeah, everything looks fine…was there a problem with the set-up?”

The man, Jinsoo apparently, looks over his shoulder at the pair in the corner. “Ah, well. Manseok-ah is a little bit on edge about it, but I’m sure that this will be fine. We are all trying to make sure that there is proper justice being achieved here.

From the way Yoongi makes a small grimace, Namjoon doesn’t think that is necessarily the truth.

In the back corner, one of the men in the pair — shorter in stature with a rather willowy frame in comparison to the larger and bulkier man beside him — brings a hand to his ear. “Ah, Jinsoo-ssi. The suspect is approaching,” he announces, and Jinsoo nods his head, moving to stand in the corner with them. There is a few seconds of waiting, a few seconds where it feels like Namjoon has held his breath for a few lifetimes, before the metal door opens and in walks a guard dressed in black fatigues leading Jeongguk to one of the metal chairs at the table.

His head is bowed, giving an air of timidness that makes something awful ache in the furrows of Namjoon’s chest. His hands are wringing themselves together, wrists cuffed together by a silver metal brace. Yoongi and Hoseok watch passively as Jeongguk sits down and begin to knock his knees together. When the guard unlocks the metal cuffs and discards them on the table, Namjoon does not miss the look of mild surprise on Jinsoo’s face. 

You’re not going to have him in nullifiers?” he asks the men beside him.

Nurse said he was docile. Plus, apparently his ability isn’t anything that could be a threat to us,” the smaller man answers in turn, bowing his head to the guard as they leave and close the metal door shut behind them. The man then gestures to Jinsoo. “Jinsoo-ssi, if you would please begin.

Jinsoo nods, adjusting his collar of his uniform as he walks over to sit in the chair opposite of Jeongguk. He reaches underneath the table first, pulling out a tape recorder and a few folders of his own, one of which houses a small cassette tape. Then, he gives Jeongguk an earnest smile.

My name is Jung Jinsoo. I am with the Nowon-gu Metro Unit and I will be speaking to you first,” he introduces. “How are you feeling? You were in quite a nasty car crash. Quite lucky you and your partner were able to walk away from it.”

Jeongguk smiles. “Well, that’s what I’m good at,” he says, turning his gaze to his hands. “Though, I can’t say I’ve been having good luck lately.”

Well, if you cooperate and we get the full details of what happened, I’m sure things will be alright.”

“I completely intend to cooperate, Jinsoo-ssi,” Jeongguk says. Then, as a gesture of good will, he holds his hand out for Jinsoo to shake. This gesture, for some reason, makes a little crease appear in between Yoongi’s brows.

Jinsoo smiles warmly, shaking Jeongguk’s hand. “Well, that’s good to hear. Now — er — first, we’ll listen to my junior’s testimonial on the night in question and I will ask you a few questions before turning you over to these other gentlemen, if you’ll please.” He slips the cassette into the player and presses a button. It is quiet in the room, everyone focused on the player and holding their breath, before sound emits from it, a gentle voice.

H-Hello? Um, this is Choi Beomgyu, Narcotics Division, Nowon-gu Metro Unit. I swear that the following testimonial is accurate to the best of my ability and report as follows.” There is a clearing of the throat on the tape. “…In the last moments of the victim’s life, the victim was engaged in a sexual act with the detained suspect at the Butterfly Private Motel in downtown Nowon-gu. The detained suspect was being physically restrained by the victim, though it seemed as though the restraint and…um…erotic asphyxiation…seemed to be non-consensual.”

From the tone alone, Namjoon knows whoever this Beomgyu person is feeling rather awkward talking about the case.

 “Another figure — male, early to mid-twenties — was also present at the crime scene, filming the act. The meeting seemed to be linked to sex organizing, though both the victim as well as the detained suspect have no prior history or record involvement with sex organizing and prostitution, according to our vice division. We will further update the file as more information is released. Um…at approximately 8:20, the detained suspect received a phone call from their brother, though the call was not answered. Their brother continued to message them, and this seemed to cause the victim to react in a hostile manner towards the detained suspect.”

“I didn’t know he had a brother,” Namjoon murmurs under his breath.

“He doesn’t,” both Hoseok and Yoongi say back, eyes intensely focused on Jeongguk rather than the tape recorder. Jeongguk isn’t making any sort of facial expression, no lines of remorse, of guilt, or even of worry. He’s watching the recorder with an intensity Namjoon never recalled being on the younger man’s face, almost as though he’s studying every word Beomgyu says.

The other suspect tried to stop the sexual act from continuing, presumably because he realized the distress the detained suspect was in. However, the victim had an Enhanced ability and was able to restrain the other suspect while still holding the detained suspect down. The victim began to taunt the detained suspect with the cell phone as the detained suspect was trying to make an attempt to get away. At 8:37, the earthquake hit the motel and startled the victim…um…” There’s shuffling, sounding a bit like bedsheets rustling. “It was here during my recall of the act that I was assaulted externally by the suspect when me and my partner came across them at a restaurant. So…I didn’t actually see the moment of death, sir.

It’s fine, son,” Jinsoo’s voice responds on the tape. “Can you give the emotionality?

Lust, for one. Lots of ego inflation. I felt…the victim never felt like he was the one that was in danger.”

“Did you feel powerful?”

“Yes.”

“Did you feel the victim wanted to hurt the detained suspect?”

“…It’s all speculation now but, how those emotions felt to me…it felt like I could kill someone easily and enjoy it.”

Jeongguk closes his eyes. Then, he brings his hands to his face, though his sniffling is still audible.

Jinsoo stops the recording, looking to the two men in the corner. “A-Ah, can either of you bring some tissue?

The larger man doesn’t budge an inch from where he’s leaning up against the wall, watching Jeongguk with a hard glare. But, the smaller man complies and quickly excuses himself from the interrogation room.

I’m sorry,” Jeongguk apologizes, wiping his eyes with his sleeve. “It’s just…it’s really hard to hear that. To remember everything that happened.

So what my junior said was the truth?”

Jeongguk laughs wetly. “No point in trying to deny it, is there, Jinsoo-ssi?

Well you can tell us your perspective, fill in some of the blanks that my junior left.

Jeongguk sighs in deeply getting himself situated as comfortably as he could in the metal chair. “Well, it’s just like what he said. The meet-up was for sex, paid for by the client. He assumed that he could do whatever he wanted to do to me and I tried to fight him off but…” More tears, more sniffling. “I got scared and — and I couldn’t breathe. I was just trying to get away. I wasn’t planning on something like this happening.”

What did you use as the murder weapon?

It was — um — it was a piece of metal. Sharpened metal.”

A shank,” the larger man in the corner said with a scoff. “Carrying concealed weapons is a serious charge.

It was meant to protect myself, Officer-ssi.” Jeongguk blinks away the tears in a way that almost looks like he’s batting his eyes at the officer. “You come across a lot of dangerous people in my line of work, and my ability can’t really be used as a way of self-defense.

The smaller officer returns with a box of tissues that he sets in front of Jeongguk, who accepts them with a quiet ‘thanks’.

How long have you been involved in sex operations?” Jinsoo asks.

About three years. Before that, I was getting by on participating in gambling rings and money calls.”

Well, well, well. Looks like we have a delinquent on our hands,” the larger man clips in.

“Tell him to shut his mouth,” Yoongi growls.

Manseok-ah, it’s still my turn to speak,” Jinsoo more kindly reminds, turning his attention back on Jeongguk. “Gambling, money calls, and sex operations aren’t really the kind of things a young man like you should get yourself involved with.

I know. But since the Hero Initiative got dissolved…I don’t know…I felt like I didn’t have any other options. The money never lasted in gambling and money calls anyways. I cheated with my ability to get money quick, and my ability would make me lose it just as fast.

And your brother?

Jeongguk shakes his head, eyes soft. “I didn’t want to bother him with my problems.”

“Family is family though. Similarly with the members of your old Unit, if one should be in trouble, then the others should try and help—

My ex-teammates were never my family,” Jeongguk says, first time Namjoon has heard his words cut so sharp. 

Jinsoo looks just as surprised by the sudden switch of tone. “Well I…I’m sure that they care deeply about you still.”

“No, I think it’s just guilt you’re confusing with sincerity, Jinsoo-ssi.

Watch your tone, brat,” Manseok barks. Jeongguk bites his bottom lip, and it seems almost like he’s remembering to collect himself, remembering how to blink and how to breathe and how to reclaim that saddened demeanor he walked in with.

…I’m sorry, Jinsoo-ssi,” Jeongguk apologizes, voice small. “Thank you for trying to give a more optimistic view, but I promise that they don’t care about me and I don’t want this to interfere on their lives. We all went our separate ways so, this is just the path that I went.

Jinsoo purses his lips tight. “I see…just seems like a waste of a good person with talent and heart to go down this path, don’t you think?

Jeongguk averts his eyes. “Yeah…you’re not wrong.

“Ask him who is brother is,” Yoongi is quick to say when he sees Jinsoo begin to slowly rise from his seat.

“He’s gonna give a fake name,” Hoseok whispers, but Yoongi hand waves the response back down.

Ah, by the way. Could I ask what your brother’s name is? Have you spoken to him recently?” Jinsoo asks, holding the folder to his chest. Before Jeongguk has the chance to open his mouth, Manseok loudly interrupts with a scoff.

No point to ask, Jinsoo-ssi. It’s a lie.

If Jeongguk is surprised, he doesn’t even give the slightest twitch that gives it away.

Manseok’s gaze turns directly to the camera. “Our Nurse had a CID ran. And apparently, Jeon Jeongguk doesn’t have a brother. He was however, part of a Hero Unit. A rather infamous one, if I do say, right Min Yoongi?

Yoongi’s jaw tightens. “You piece of shit—

Hold on, Yoongi-yah—” Jinsoo tries to quell, but Manseok raises his hand.

Jinsoo-ssi, I trust your judgement and your concern for the juniors of your unit are admirable. However, since Yoongi-yah was previously involved with Jeon Jeongguk, it would be a conflict of interests regarding his further involvement in the case. I’m sure you understand protocol is protocol.

“Jinsoo-ssi, wait. I still have more questions to ask—”

I believe we should stop the stream, Jinsoo-ssi. Before my colleague and I continue with our part of the interrogation.”

Jinsoo’s lips purse into a thin line, glancing into the lens of the camera for a brief pause. Then, he brings a hand to his ear. “…I’ll speak with you later, Yoongi-yah.”

Wait!

Manseok reaches his hand over the camera lens. Immediately, the footage goes to static. Yoongi slams his fist against the surface of the desk.

I seemed to have lost the signal,” VAN speaks when the monitor turns to a blocky static image, ‘VIDEO OUT, AUDIO OUT’ flashing in the center. Namjoon immediately looks to Yoongi, who is grinding his teeth.

“W-What happened?” Namjoon stammers to ask.

“What happened was that asshole knows who Jeongguk is and knows what connection I have to him,” Yoongi grumbles, leaning back against his chair. “Meaning now I’m considered ‘too close’ for this case.”

“So that’s it? W-We don’t see what happens to him?”

“Not until they run the charges and release him for prison transfer. No doubt once that information is released, the news is going to have a field day.”

Namjoon feels his chest grow tight. Jimin’s hand begins to massage little circles into his shoulder blades. “You have to do something. You can do something, can’t you? We have to help him. W-We have to do something.”

“He did what he could do,” Hoseok mumbles, rising to his feet and offering his hand towards Yoongi. “Take me home.”

Namjoon looks up at Hoseok, mouth agape. “Seriously? You’re just going to leave just like that?”

Hoseok doesn’t look in Namjoon’s direction, offers his hand forward even more for Yoongi to take. Yoongi looks at the hand, then to Namjoon and his stricken expression. He sighs, getting to his feet and rubs a hand over his own face.

“…We’ll talk later,” he mumbles against his palm, grabbing hold of Hoseok’s hand. Namjoon jumps to his feet, tries to grab hold of Hoseok’s wrist as the cry of ‘Wait!’ gets ready to leap off his tongue, but he doesn’t move fast enough. In the blink of an eye, Namjoon and Jimin and VAN are all who remain in the library. 

“V-VAN,” Namjoon stammers, looking to the robot. “VAN, can’t you get back in contact? Establish some other connection?”

I am afraid that I will not be able to re-connect to the camera without making my presence known. I do not wish to create problems for Yoongi.

“But can’t you try? Why am I the only one that is trying to do anything?!

VAN’s eye spins. “That was mean.

Frustrated, Namjoon falls back into his seat and drops his face into his hands. There’s a gentle touch of fingertips at the nape of his neck, and when he pulls his hands away, Jimin is kneeled at his side, his other hand resting over Namjoon’s knees.

Things will be okay,” Jimin reassures with his hands. “He’s lucky, right? Maybe just…wait and see how things happen?

“I’m supposed to be Number One. I’m supposed to be the leader. I can’t just…I can’t just sit here and wait. I’m supposed to be doing something—”

But you can’t.” Jimin’s eyes are sorry. “It’s out of your hands and…I’m sorry to say this, but you weren’t called back to Earth to save your teammate.”

Namjoon gets to his feet, warmth blooming in his chest. “I know that…I…I need some time by myself, Jimin-ssi.” Jimin’s hand tries to grab onto his bicep, but Namjoon pulls away from his touch. “Just…just come and get me when Yoongi-hyung comes back, okay?”

He turns, not sure where his feet is going to lead him to wander, not sure what to even think about first as he trudges out of the library. Namjoon’s skin feels like it’s on fire, tremors itching from the tips of his fingers and quaking through his thighs. He can’t wait. He has to do something. Leaders don’t sit there, Number One. Leaders take action, Number One. Leaders get what they need done and what the leader wants—

Did you want it?

Did you want him?

When the heel of Namjoon’s foot comes down, the chandelier above him rattles as though it is ready to fall and shatter right on top of Namjoon’s head. Immediately, Namjoon stops himself in one spot, breathing hard. Calm down, calm down. It’s just words. It’s just stupid mind tricks. He doesn’t feel that way about Jeongguk. He doesn’t—

He wanted you to fuck him.

Did you want it?

His breathing is coming out harder, faster. It’s like he can feel it. It’s like he can feel Jeongguk’s hands sliding up his chest, his fingers curling around Namjoon’s shoulders, his lips and tongue sighing against Namjoon’s mouth.

You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to go.

Those hands. Those eyes. Those lips. That gentle phantom touch sliding down, down, down

He needs to get out of here.

Namjoon quickly turns on the heels of his feet and runs for the door, like he needs to escape the thoughts of Jeongguk’s hands clinging to him, the memory of Jeongguk’s eyes and that want. That want that Namjoon should have never let slip into his heart. He can’t want. He shouldn’t want. 

The morning air stings with heat, but Namjoon doesn’t stop running, doesn’t look back over his shoulder, and tries to push those feelings down. Push them down further, deeper, until there’s no more selfish want.

Be a leader, Number One.

Don’t want for anything more.

 


 

“Well, now that that’s out of the way,” Manseok says, setting his gaze on ‘Jeongguk’, “Let’s get started with the interrogation.”

Seokjin has dealt with unruly people before, but the surly attitude coming off this man is frankly starting to aggravate him. But, the other officer has been polite. And of course, Jinsoo-ssi has been quite a kind man. He’s sure to win sympathy points there. It’s only Manseok that Seokjin still needs to get to bend.

Manseok sits down now in the previously vacant seat, Jinsoo moving to stand off to the side. “Jeon Jeongguk…I’ll assume from those innocent eyes of yours that you used to be Lucky Rabbit.”

Seokjin smiles with Jeongguk’s lips. “I’m sorry to meet a fan in such unpleasant circumstances.”

“Believe me, I’m not a fan.” Manseok leans back in his chair, letting his gaze roam over Jeongguk’s body in a way that makes Seokjin feel sick to his stomach. Is this how Jeongguk feels? Is this what Jeongguk gets faced with every time he meets with a client? Uncomfortable, he turns his face away.

“I told Jinsoo-ssi the truth,” Seokjin responds, looking to the older man in the corner. “I don’t know what else you want to know from me, I’m afraid.”

“Just seems a bit excessive for you to go for a kill when I’m sure you’ve came across worse in both your hero life as well as…well, your ‘current’ profession,” Manseok says in a lazy drawl.

“I was scared, Manseok-ssi,” Seokjin stresses. Manseok clicks his tongue.

“Heroes don’t get scared,” he says, tone curt, uncaring. 

Seokjin averts his eyes, feeling a burning itch against the side of his palm. “Well, I’m sure you’d like to think that.”

“Manseok-hyung,” the smaller cop interrupts. “We should stick on the topic of questioning.”

Manseok hums, drumming his fingers over the surface. “…If this was an act of self-defense like you claim, then why didn’t you try and alert the police immediately that an accident happened? Why did you purposefully hide the evidence?”

“It wasn’t my idea to hide the evidence.”

“Was it the other suspect’s then?”

“Yes.”

A pause. Both officers glance at each other, then at ‘Jeongguk’. “If you’re still looking for him, he’s most likely hiding back at our apartment flat. 254-3, Sanggye il-dong—”

“Wait, wait, wait.” Manseok rises to his feet. “What are you doing? You playing another trick again?”

Seokjin shakes his head, biting at his lower lip, noting how Manseok’s eyes flicker down for a quick glance. “No. No, I promise I’m telling you the truth. I…I need help, Manseok-ssi. The truth is, I’ve been trying to escape from him for so long. He…he forces me to do horrible things so he can reap the money to fuel his drug addiction. Makes me have sex with strangers, foreigners, takes video of it so he can sell it to whoever is willing to buy—” Seokjin works up some more tears, lets his breathing come out more shakier. “I-I didn’t want to kill that man. And you’re right, I’ve been put through worse. Been assaulted by worse. But that night was the first night that I felt that I was going to die and I…I panicked. I got scared.”

Manseok watches him with his hands in his pockets, while the smaller officer hands over the tissue box again. Seokjin takes one, dabbing gently at the corners of Jeongguk’s eyes. 

“And…and when it happened, I felt sick to my stomach. I—I didn’t want that to happen, I didn’t mean for it to happen. But, but my ‘partner’ tried to cover it up. H-He just brushed it off like it was nothing. That’s when I realized that…what if he put me through something like this again? What if we did get away, if we ran away to some other district, and he found another client that would pay money to choke me or beat me senseless while they fucked me. I—I can’t go through that again. I can’t let him find me again, Manseok-ssi, please don’t let him find me—”

Okay, enough—” Manseok says, rubbing his face. But no, this is according to Seokjin’s plan.

Seokjin begins to wildly shake his head, clutching his hands to his chest. “N-No, I can’t. Please, please, I’ll tell you anything you want. Please don’t let him find me. Please believe me!” he whimpers, letting Jeongguk’s vocal chords reach a pitch that is pitiful, whining, so unlike Jeongguk that Yoongi would have immediately noticed something was wrong. That is, if he was still connected.

Jinsoo quickly pulls away from the wall, going to place a hand on Jeongguk’s back. “H-Hey, it’s okay. Nothing bad is going to happen. He’s not going to find you.”

Seokjin ups his breathing, in and out, in and out. Fast paced, almost like he’s choking. “I didn’t want to kill him, Jinsoo-ssi. I don’t want to do this anymore. I—I just want to go home. I—I want to go home.”

“He’s hysterical. Get Nurse,” Manseok tells his junior, who quickly gets to his feet and rushes out the door. Manseok circles around the table, grabbing a pen and slip of paper from his pocket. “I swear, Kid, if this is some act and you’re lying to me—”

Jinsoo gives an exhausted sigh. “Manseok-ah, look at him. He was scared and he still is.”

“Murder is murder!”

“For all we know, the partner could have been the one that gave him that shank in the first place!It’s not out of place for operators to have their victims kill clients and rob them—”

“What, do you want him to just walk out of here without any charges? The Federate won’t allow that.”

Seokjin hiccups into his tissue, luckily coming off as more crying rather than surprise.

“Why is the Federate getting involved in what they would consider a petty crime?” Jinsoo questions. Manseok bites his lower lip.

“When we ran the CID, we got an alert from a Federate representative involved in Vice to allow them to handle the charges and conviction. No explanation or reasoning, just an order,” he explains.

“That doesn’t make sense. He’s just a kid, not some mass murderer,” Jinsoo says, frustration clear in his throat. Manseok glances down at ‘Jeongguk’, then looks back at Jinsoo. 

“…There’s a Federate seal on every name involved in that Hero Unit according to CID, not just him. Someone named Jung Hoseok, that idol Kim Seokjin, that convict they got floating up in space, and your junior,” Manseok says. Seokjin stiffens, tears stopping momentarily. 

What does the Federate want with Jeongguk? With him? They didn’t do anything wrong. 

“W-What’s going to happen to me?” Seokjin asks. “What are you going to do to me?”

The door opens before Manseok has the chance to respond, in walking the smaller officer with Seungjae trailing close behind. 

“I’m sorry, Manseok-hyung. Nurse stepped out for a moment and I can’t find her. Is there still a problem?” the officer asks as Seungjae quietly closes the door and locks it behind him, bringing his hand up to take his sunglasses off. 

Immediately, Seokjin closes his eyes.

“Can I have everyone’s attention?” Seungjae’s voice asks, sounding deeper, fuller than his usual lackluster mumbling and muttering. There’s a pause of quiet, where Seokjin can barely hear Manseok breathing beside him. “…Tell me your names.”

“An Manseok,” Manseok’s voice murmurs, lethargically slow.

“Jung Jinsoo,” Jinsoo responds in the exact same manner.

“Kim Minjae,” the third voice, the last officer, responds. 

“Jinsoo-ssi, your work here is done. Return back to your Unit and delete all records of this arrest and case from your computer files. Minjae-yah, go to your camera recording room and speak with your technician. Tell him to ‘resume recording for interrogation cell B, holding cell A, and all outside cameras’.”

Seokjin doesn’t see them, but he does hear two sets of footsteps quietly shuffling out of the room. A hand that is warm and familiar settles on Seokjin’s shoulder, carefully leading him to his feet. “Manseok-ssi, escort us to your office,” Seungjae commands, lightly wrapping his arm around Seokjin’s now narrow frame. With that, they begin to walk.

He hears the quiet chatter of the police precinct, telephones ringing and papers being shuffled, footsteps echoing up and down the hallway as Seokjin blindly navigates the area. “The Federate is after us,” Seokjin whispers, trying to keep the panic from slipping into Jeongguk’s voice as Seungjae guides him left. “I wasn’t planning on the Federate being involved. They’ve already received a report about an arrest, they’ll know something happened if the files were to randomly disappear.”

“We’ll work on that problem when we get there, Sir.” Seungjae is taller than Jeongguk; at this height, Seungjae’s lips are right at Jeongguk’s ear, and the low mellowness of his voice makes Seokjin’s heart jump a little in surprise. 

He clears his throat, careful with his steps as Seungjae leads him down another path to the right. “Is Jeongguk okay?”

“He’s fine. We collected his things and he’s sitting in the car with Heechul-ssi like you requested.”

“Was he eating those snacks I left? I couldn’t remember his favorite, so I just grabbed whatever sounded good.”

“I’m sure he’s had a few, Sir…but he did ask about going ‘home’ before I came back inside the precinct.”

Seokjin’s furrows his eyebrows. “He’s not going back to him.”

“He seemed deeply concerned about his well-being, Sir.”

“I don’t care. You think he cares about Jeongguk’s well-being enough to have him keep doing this? Because I do and I’m convinced that if Jeongguk just stays away from him, he’ll come to his senses.”

Seungjae’s hand squeezes Seokjin’s shoulder. “And if he refuses? We’d basically be kidnapping and holding him hostage, Sir.” They turn another right, beginning to slow to a stop as Seokjin hears a quiet jingling of a set of keys. Seokjin worries his bottom lip in between his teeth, thankful he can’t look Seungjae in the eye as he quietly murmurs, “…I may have to ask you to use your gift on him.”

Seungjae’s hand slips from Seokjin’s shoulder.

“I don’t even like using it for this—”

“I know, I know—”

“It’s like I’m dunking their brain in corrosive acid having them in this state, Seokjin-ah. Do you realize how harmful it would be to Jeongguk if I were to use my voice on him for longer than an hour? Let alone how long you intend to keep him hostage—”

“I’m not keeping him hostage,” Seokjin hisses through his teeth in his own voice, spinning roughly to face Seungjae though scrunching his eyes tighter. “I know what I said last time. I heard Jeongguk talk about trusting him and him asking me not to worry or think about how many people he’s crawled under just to make that asshole happy just because he was ‘nice’. But…I can’t let this go on any longer. I can’t — I can’t just stand to the side anymore.”

Not having any words to further express how desperate he feels, Seokjin slides his hands up Seungjae’s chest, gripping tight to Seungjae’s shoulders. “I know I’ve asked you to do so much. I know you hate using this ability and I know what that feels like, to be used for your power like you’re just some tool. But I need…I need your help for this. If Jeongguk is safe, really safe, then we don’t have to deal with this anymore. We can go back to you doing your crossword puzzles on my couch and me getting dolled up for another photoshoot.” He cracks a smile, but his laugh is weak. “You know, as normal people do.”

Seungjae doesn’t laugh, doesn’t even say a word. But, Seokjin feels a warm hand cup his cheek, the curve of a thumb tracing spiderwebs against his face where, if this was his normal body, his normal skin, there would be a faint red patch of scarred tissue. 

“…Manseok-ssi, strip yourself of your uniform and delete your personal records centered around this case and arrest. If there is any footage on the camera in the interrogation room, delete that as well,” Seungjae commands, though his voice is quieter. The warmth of his hand falls from Seokjin’s cheek, stepping away. “…Hurry and change, Sir. We don’t have much time.”

Seokjin opens one eye to peek, finding themselves in a cluttered and messy office that smelled of fast food and had papers scattered all over the yellow linoleum floor. Seungjae has turned his head to face the door, glasses still off. Beside Seokjin, Manseok is already unbuttoning his shirt and peeling it off to drop to the ground, eyes a clouded blue in contrast to the brown eyes gazing over Seokjin only a few moments earlier. 

With his right hand, Seokjin places it against Manseok’s bare shoulder as the man continues to work off his black slacks. 94 kilograms, 187 centimeters, shaggy black hair, no prosthetics, crooked nose, thin lips, light amount of blemishes and scruff along a square jaw.

Seokjin pulls his hand away, beginning to pull off Jeongguk’s clothing as he feels himself grow in stature and muscle, shoulders growing wider and legs growing thicker. His hands get bigger, callouses forming along now thick fingers as his jaw grows square and he feels each individual hair prickle his now somewhat oily skin.

“Ugh, I feel so gross,” Seokjin complains as his gut fills out, shuffling over behind Manseok’s desk to sift through some of the clutter for anything that might be useful before they leave. It’s a mess of candy wrappers and discarded bottles, raunchy magazines stuffed into the drawers hidden underneath unused notebooks. One of the magazines is opened to a spread of a male sprawled out against fluffy white pillows, dressed in baby pink lingerie with a bunny tail and bunny ears atop his blond dyed hair and shyly batting his blue eyes for the camera. A cutesy emblem for a pornography company is at the bottom of the right page, proudly announcing a new ‘Lucky Rabbit’ video is currently in production. 

Seokjin grimaces. “Ugh. Okay. Now I really feel gross. ‘Not a fan’ my ass.”

“We really don’t have the time, Sir—”

“Okay, okay. I’m moving.” Seokjin closes the drawer and grabs the clothes Manseok left on the floor to quickly get in as Manseok moves on to his second task, plopping himself down on his leather chair, wearing only a pair of boxers and a white undershirt. “We’ll go and things will be better for everyone,” Seokjin mumbles, pulling on the pants. “Things will be better. I’ll handle this.”

Seungjae doesn’t respond, but Seokjin didn’t think he would.

Even if it’s only for Seokjin to hear, for Seokjin to somehow convince himself that things will be okay when he feels like the world is closing in on him too fast for his liking, he murmurs it over and over and over again.

Things will be better.

Things will be better.

He’ll handle this.

After all, he is Number One.

Chapter Text

It is no surprise that nightfall is the one time Hoseok despises the most. The conscious thoughts of a person was already an exhausting field for Hoseok to navigate, how endless the noise of people’s wandering minds as they thought about what they were going to eat, or thought about what they were going to do, or thought about who was looking at them and what they were doing, and on and on and on . But if Hoseok were to choose, he’d rather take the noise of the conscious mind rather than the storm of the unconscious.

There seemed to be no sort of sense when Hoseok heard the thoughts of someone asleep. It is a noise that is like radio static, a loud buzz that surrounds words that form a message Hoseok only half understands. And that’s even if there is a message at all. Sometimes it is just noise. Sometimes, it’s music, a cacophony of actual notes and random everyday noises as what Hoseok assumes a dream may hold. Sometimes, there’s emotion to the thought. Glee from someone experiencing a pleasant thought, or horror and anxiety so terrible that Hoseok often wakes up in the middle of the night feeling as though he needs to vomit.

Tonight is unfortunately one of those nights.

No one has been able to sleep since the Incident occurred with Namjoon, and the restlessness of his departure to space tomorrow seems to have the manor on edge. Per Hoseok’s request, his room is the furthest away from the others. Distance sometimes makes the noise quieter, but Jungnam always forces Hoseok to broaden his range so he can still hear thoughts of someone miles and miles away from his position. So when he begins to hear a dull humming, feels pain clawing around his constricting throat and sweat breaks over his brow, he knows already Seokjin is having another nightmare.

Hoseok forces himself into a seated position and closes his eyes, trying to create a mental barrier of his own to smother out Seokjin’s thoughts, his fears. There’s a heavy pattering of rainfall against his window and the tile roof, rattling and jarring the thoughts that he hears float into his mind. He can almost make out the sound of whimpering through the white noise of Seokjin’s mind and the rainfall; in the midst of what sounds like ocean waves crashing onto the shoreline, Hoseok hears the painful begging of ‘please, make it stop’ as a whisper. It repeats itself over and over, unintelligible and devolving into wet sobs that almost bring tears to Hoseok’s eyes. Oh god, it hurts. He doesn’t want to hear this anymore. He doesn’t want to hear anything anymore.

His legs throw themselves out of bed. His feet find his slippers in the dark and shuffle him out of his room and down the winding hallway, bringing him closer to Seokjin’s tortured thoughts as he moves closer and closer to Seokjin’s room. He passes by Yoongi’s room on the way, only being hit with the briefest amount of static from a mental barrier. If Yoongi is having nightmares, he clearly doesn’t want Hoseok to hear them.

Seokjin’s door has a glass knob; there’s no way to tell whose door is whose when it’s closed since Jungnam didn’t believe much in decorations or allowing them to make their rooms have some semblance of personality or a feeling they could make a home there, so Hoseok has just gotten used to memorizing which doorknob belonged to which door. Namjoon’s was a bronze handle, Jeongguk’s a golden knob attached to a Victorian-style plate, Yoongi’s a silver lever with a bit of a tarnish to it, and Hoseok’s a black knob molded into a lion’s head. There is one extra addition to Seokjin’s door, recently placed after his discharge from the hospital.

A white paper sign with the handwritten message: ‘ If closed, please knock before opening ’.

Hoseok hears the begging get louder, the whining more sorrowful. ‘Please, make it stop. Make the pain stop. It burns. It burns ’.

He delivers three quiet knocks against the door. The flow of thoughts cease immediately.

Hoseok waits in the hall for only a few seconds before the door opens only a bit, Seokjin peering out at Hoseok with sleep-filled and puffy red eyes. “Hobi? What is it? It’s 2 in the morning,” Seokjin mumbles, wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his pajamas.

“I…I just wanted to check on you, hyung,” Hoseok mumbles, feeling awkward. He looks down at his feet, swinging his hands forward and back. Seokjin watches him through the crack in the door, then gives a hum.

“…Was I being loud again?”

“No…I mean…a little?…Hyung, are you okay?”

“Sorry to wake you. I’ll try to be more quiet,” Seokjin answers in turn, closing the door in Hoseok’s face before Hoseok can get another word in. The quite rattle of a mental barrier stirs to fill Hoseok’s ears; Seokjin’s sounds a little bit like the sea, a gentle ebb and flow that can become chaotic at any second. Hoseok bites his lower lip, sighing under his breath. He’s already too awake to try and force himself to lie back down, so he continues further on down the hallway in the direction of the main staircase.

Namjoon’s door is open when Hoseok passes quickly by it, bed stripped of its sheets. Jeongguk’s door is ajar, but strangely, Hoseok doesn’t hear anything from the room. He knows Jeongguk is on civ patrol, but he should have been back by now, especially in this downpour. And when Hoseok thinks about their youngest member, he thinks about how Jeongguk has been acting…off since the incident. His thoughts have been more angrier, more frustrated during the day. At night, his unconscious thoughts are pained and lonesome and as unbearable as Seokjin’s. He continues on, deciding he’ll check on Jeongguk later. If Jeongguk even wants to talk to someone other than Namjoon.

Hoseok finds himself a glass of milk in the kitchen, sneaks a handful of chocolate biscuits from the pantry, and turns a light on its dimmest setting so he can see the raindrops glistening against the window as they fall. He’s technically not supposed to be out of his room at night unless it’s for training, one of Jungnam’s many pointless rules that makes Hoseok feel like he’s a child and not a grown man. Sometimes, he hears who he assumes to be Jungnam wandering the halls going god knows where, maybe looking to catch someone in a spot they shouldn’t be. Hoseok only hopes he doesn’t stumble upon him here. He really isn’t in the mood for another shouting match.

It’s when Hoseok polishes off the last bit of his milk that a thought comes into his head that isn’t his own, almost hitting him like a bullet through the skull.

‘Please don’t leave me.’

It’s Jeongguk.

Hoseok rises to his feet immediately as the thought hits him again, and again . It’s intense, as strong and nonsensical as an unconscious thought, yet more honed in as though Jeongguk is conscious. Maybe he is? Hoseok quickly discards his cup in the sink and shuffles out the kitchen to the foyer. It’s difficult to see in the dark, but he does notice that the library’s door is ajar. For a split second, he fears it’s Jungnam. But then, it happens again, a desperate thought.

‘Please don’t leave me. Please stay with me.’

It’s loud. It’s close. Hoseok can’t stand the way it makes his knees feel so weak, how it makes the corners of his eyes sting hot with unshed tears. He briskly walks to the door, intent on putting a stop to these thoughts, this noise . But the moment his hands wrap around the library’s knob, he hears another thought that shudders out like a whisper against the nape of his neck.

‘Please…please fuck me.’

Hoseok nearly gets the wind knocked out of him, almost a challenge to keep his surprised shout back in his chest.

The thought is still Jeongguk’s, still desperate and lonely. But now there’s something else underlying it. Something warmer, softer, feeling like kisses up Hoseok’s throat as he hears Jeongguk’s thoughts melt together in a slew of noise and want.

‘Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.’

‘Fuck me.’

‘I want you. I’ve wanted this for so long.’

‘Don’t go. Stay with me. Want me. Fuck me.’

Hoseok is almost scared to open the door and see what hell is going on. Jeongguk is the youngest member, sure. It’s not like Hoseok has never felt these kind of feelings or had these types of thoughts (granted less desperate and sad and more horny and lustful). But he’d expect these thoughts to occur in the privacy Jeongguk’s bedroom, not where Jungnam could literally stumble upon whatever is occurring in the library like Hoseok is now apparently doing himself. The library door is ajar, so he only pushes it further open for him to see inside. Just a quick peek, just a curious glance.

In the darkness of the library, there is a lit candle atop Jungnam’s desk. It’s a small flame, but it gives Hoseok just enough light to see Jeongguk slowly pulling Namjoon down on top of him as they lie down on the red velvet chaise, kissing languid. 

And…that’s already a lot in the image for Hoseok to try and process.

Namjoon shouldn’t be here, but at a Federate holding center, close to where they intend to shoot him off in a rocket tomorrow morning (or rather, later on in the morning). Yet, that’s Namjoon lying on top of Jeongguk and Namjoon’s unintelligible thoughts currently sounding like firecrackers going off right next to Hoseok’s ear. Jeongguk’s thoughts are blending together like long sighs, sounding more sensual as Hoseok sees Jeongguk peel off a soaked shirt to drop into a pile of wet clothes beside them on the floor, and pulls Namjoon tighter against him, looking like a flicker of a dream in the dark of the night. 

A creak from upstairs makes Hoseok jolt in his spot, spinning around on the balls of his heels. He tries to shut out the noise of Namjoon and Jeongguk’s thoughts to focus on the ambient sounds of the night around him. The scratch of the tree branches against the windows, the tick-tick-tick of the grandfather clock in the parlor room and…footsteps. Wandering footsteps. Jungnam.

Hoseok looks back at the library door, now hearing Jeongguk verbally whimper his pleas against Namjoon’s mouth than voice them aloud in his head. If Jungnam catches them here, catches Hoseok watching them doing… that …oh god, Hoseok does not want to be around for that. He quickly hurries away from the door and up the stairs, moves briskly past Namjoon’s and Jeongguk’s door and moves even faster past Seokjin’s door when he hears the whimpering of pain itch at the back of his brain mixing in with Jeongguk’s soft begging.

He hears the wandering footsteps behind him when he slips into his bedroom door and flings himself into bed, throwing the bedsheets over his head and burying his face into the pillow. The footsteps stop just outside of his door. If Hoseok squints his eyes, he could make out the form of a shadow through the bottom crack at the door. 

Seokjin’s thoughts turn to sobbing, the waves crashing and forming and crashing again. Jeongguk’s sounds like a song, melancholy discordant with the lusting sighs. Namjoon’s is chaotic, no words or order to the madness, just loudloud loud noise that makes Hoseok feel like hives are breaking out over his skin and like his lungs aren’t taking in enough air to breathe. He grits his teeth, breathing hard through his nose. Be quiet, be quiet . Make it stop. Just make it stop already .

‘It burns. It burns.’

‘I want you. I want you with me. Don’t leave.’

‘Make the pain stop. It hurts so badly.’

‘Fuck me. Please take me.’

‘Please make it stop. Oh god, it hurts. I’m burning .’

‘Wasn’t your fault. Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.’

The footsteps wander away.

Hoseok doesn’t close his eyes.

 

 

 

 

There are three sharp knocks at his door when Hoseok comes to consciousness. He must have fell asleep from exhaustion, and frankly, he still feels mentally and physically drained. Since there wasn’t wait for Hoseok to invite the knocker in, he correctly assumes it to be Jungnam. The elder man is dressed in a black suit with a yellow daisy brooch on his right breast pocket. It’s the least colorful outfit Hoseok’s seen him in.

“Are you coming to the rocket launch, Number Three?” Jungnam asks in the same dense tone, not even somber about why they are going to the rocket launch, nor questioning about if Hoseok was wandering last night when he obviously came to Hoseok’s bedroom door. Hoseok sits upright in his bed, hating how his body feels sore all over, how his head still thunders from the slew of thoughts from the night before. 

“U-Uh, yeah. I’ll go.”

“Excellent. Come with me to wake the others.”

Hoseok groans, but gets up out of bed to follow the elder man down the hall to Yoongi’s room first. Jungnam knocks on Yoongi’s door, pushing it roughly open without any delay. “Number Two!” he shouts at the empty bed, sheets left wrinkled and askew. Jungnam hums, unfazed. “He must have already left.”

He continues down the hall briskly, Hoseok nearly stumbling over his own feet to keep up with him as Jungnam approaches Seokjin’s door next. Completely ignoring the taped sign, Jungnam opens the door wide.

“Number Four!” Jungnam yells and Hoseok hears screaming back. He doesn’t get a good look inside of Seokjin’s room, but he does see that Seokjin is still in bed, a large lump tightly wrapped up in blankets.

“I said to knock before coming in!” Seokjin’s voice scratchily croaks out, almost like he is about to burst into frustrated tears. Gripping the sheets, Hoseok sees the raw and red burn scars along Seokjin’s knuckles for the briefest moment, before the hand quickly hides beneath the sheets as well.

“Are you coming to the rocket launch, Number Four?” Jungnam continues like he didn’t hear Seokjin’s yelling. That, or he doesn’t care. Most likely the latter.

Get out! ” Seokjin screeches, pulling the bedsheets tighter around his shaking frame. Jungnam clicks his tongue against his teeth distastefully.

“Fine. Don’t sleep in too long. We will resume training when we return.”

Seokjin’s hand comes out, no longer scarred red but now smooth and beautiful, and grabs hold of the small desk side clock on his nightstand. Hoseok hears the murderous rage of Seokjin’s storm and quickly slams the door shut before the clock could nail Jungnam in his head.

“Why couldn’t you have just knocked? He doesn’t want us to see him like that,” Hoseok spits. Jungnam continues down the hallway, adjusting the cuffs on his sleeve. 

“He can’t let a little scarring hinder himself. Time waits for no man.”

“A little scarring?” Hoseok may not have seen the extent of Seokjin’s scars, but he was at the hospital. He heard the doctor’s report shared with him and Yoongi as the ‘acting leaders’ of the Unit. Fifty-two percent of the body is now scar tissue, and that’s only counting the damage Hoseok can see with his eyes and not the torrent he hears raging in Seokjin every single moment. “You’re such an asshole, it’s almost comical.”

“If my high expectations of you five somehow makes me an ‘asshole’ to you, then that’s the way it has to be,” Jungnam says without a single ounce of remorse or reflection, walking past Namjoon’s room and stopping in front of Jeongguk’s door. “Number Five?” he calls out, opening the door without knocking once more. Jeongguk’s room is empty. Hoseok feels his mouth go dry. Is he still down there? Is Namjoon still there with him?

He shifts his gaze warily at Jungnam, who studies the empty room with an appraising eye. “…Maybe he left early too?” Hoseok suggests. Jungnam hums, closing the door shut.

“Perhaps.” He continues to the staircase. Hoseok follows after him.

When they reach the foyer, Hoseok notices that the library door is still held ajar. He goes stiff in his spot, swallowing hard and nearly choking when Jungnam starts for the library door with purpose in his step, like he knows exactly who is in there. Hoseok quickly chases after the man as the library doors are thrown open and sunlight from the open windows hits Hoseok’s eyes.

“Number Five!” Jungnam shouts, and Hoseok sees Jeongguk jolt upright from the chaise he was sleeping on. Completely alone.

The pile of clothing is still on the floor by Jeongguk’s side, and Hoseok realizes with red stinging in his face that Jeongguk is only in his underwear, with a large bomber jacket barely covering his modesty. It’s Namjoon’s jacket. Whether Namjoon was wearing it the night before, Hoseok doesn’t quite remember. 

Jungnam approaches Jeongguk while Hoseok lingers awkwardly by the door. “Number Five,” Jungnam says in a stern voice, “this is very inappropriate behavior. Explain yourself.”

Jeongguk’s head slowly turns left to right, eyes searching as he pulls the jacket closed. Hoseok knows that look slowly creeping onto Jeongguk’s face, that slow realization that someone that was yours in the evening is no longer yours when the sun rises, gone when the high is just a dull memory. The younger man swallows, lips parted to speak, but no words come up. Jungnam sighs.

“I don’t have time for your silliness. If you are accompanying Number Three and I to the rocket launch, hurry and get dressed. I shall think of your punishment when we get back.”

Jeongguk only now seems to notice that Hoseok is there, and the moment their eyes lock, Hoseok hears the mental barrier’s hum. Color flushes beneath the roundness of Jeongguk’s cheeks, tinting the tips of his ears as he awkwardly puts Namjoon’s jacket on properly and stoops down to grab his clothes off the floor. He shoves past Jungnam, head down and his clothes in a tight hold against his chest. 

As he passes by Hoseok, Hoseok hears the sniffling, the tears. Sees Jeongguk’s lips twisting, his doe eyes welling up.

“Gguk,” he tries, reaching a hand out only for Jeongguk to pull away the second Hoseok’s fingertips graze him. Jeongguk breaks out into a run, barefoot and stumbling up the main staircase and disappearing out of Hoseok’s sight. He turns back to look at Jungnam, who is only shaking his head in disappointment.

“Wow. Every time I think you can’t get any worse, you surprise me,” Hoseok says in a scoff.

“Watch your tone, Number Three—”

“You knew what he and Namjoon did in here, don’t you? How else did you know to come here? Why were you trying to make him say it when—”

“I didn’t know he was here.” Jungnam turns to Hoseok and walks towards him, stopping directly in front to prod his finger against Hoseok’s forehead. “But, you left that mental door of yours open and I took a look. You honestly should be careful—”

Hoseok slaps the hand away. “Fuck you, I didn’t see anything.”

“No need to. Your mind filled in the details.”

Hoseok bites his bottom lip. Jungnam cocks his head to the side, a switch of expression from reprimanding to interrogating. “Number Three, tell me. How did you feel when you seen them? Confused? Ashamed? Furious? Aroused?”

“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about—” Hoseok turns away, but Jungnam is already right in front of him again, blocking the library’s exit.

“What are your feelings for Number Five?” the older man asks sharply. Hoseok swallows, biting the inside of his cheek, tips of his fingers jittering. 

“He’s like…he’s like a little brother or something. He’s the youngest so…what do you want? Why are you asking me?”

“So how did that make you feel seeing him last night? Begging for Number One to get on top of him—”

“Don’t finish that sentence, old man,” Hoseok says in a low threatening voice. Jungnam raises his eyebrow, and the glimmer of intrigue in his red-gold eyes just serves to make the blood boil hotter beneath Hoseok’s skin. 

“Did you want to stop it? Did you want to hurt Number One? Or did you want to take his place?”

“Shut up .”

Jungnam’s lips curve into a smile, almost mockingly. “Hmm, I knew bringing Number Five into our collective would shaken the dynamics a bit, and I admit that I anticipated Number One’s feelings for the boy and wished to see how he would handle it. But I didn’t expect you. This is interesting. Very interesting.”

“What does that mean? Are you treating this like it’s some game? Like he’s a toy?

The older man chuckles warmly. “You always let your emotions get the better of you, Number Three. Always makes such an interesting contrast to Number One, but unfortunately never rising to surpass him. Not in combat, not in ability, and well, now I suppose not in love either.”

Hoseok feels energy buzz violently in his mind, grinding his teeth to redirect every single prick, stab, and shock right into that goddam, smug bastard’s smiling

Silence.

Then, Hoseok reels his head back and stumbles to the ground, blood pouring from his nose.

Jungnam sighs, reaching into his pocket to dab at the little bit of blood coming from his own nose. 

“That was called a ‘mental reflection’, Number Three. You feel the enemy penetrate your mental barrier and then use your mind to reflect all that energy back into their own mind for a successful knock back and stun effect,” Jungnam explains to Hoseok on the ground, coughing and retching up spit and snot and blood. “I do admit, I am impressed by your power when you get so emotionally charged. It packs quite a wallop. However, since you continue to mouth off during training, you’re still sloppy with your control. Were you more precise in your little attack, you probably would have succeeded in either killing me or putting me in a vegetative state.”

Hoseok’s head lolls to the side, blood all over his mouth. “You…fucking…prick,” he groans. Jungnam hums, reaching into the pocket of his suit to withdraw his watch.

“Well, I’ve humored yours and Number Five’s antics for too long. Pick yourself off the ground and get dressed. I want to find a good parking spot.” Jungnam doesn’t wait for Hoseok to even move. He strides out of the library without looking back, leaving Hoseok crumped on the floor, slowly trying to pull himself together again as the world buzzed violently around him.

Eventually, Hoseok gets to his feet. Eventually, he climbs back up the stairs, goes to his bedroom and gets his clothes, takes a shower and washes off the blood, the sweat, the bitterness and anger. Eventually, he finds himself wandering back to Jeongguk’s closed door, back to that humming song meant to keep him out.

He knocks. “Gguk?…Hey, you there?”

“I’m not going,” Jeongguk’s voice answers, wet and shaky.

“I-I wasn’t asking about…Gguk, you know you can talk to me—”

“Hyung, please. Just…just please go away.”

The humming song swells in a crescendo of noise that stings Hoseok’s mind. It’s a message of rejection loud and clear.

 

 

 

 

The spot that Hoseok and Jungnam watch the rocket launch is from within the control terminal of a Federate office. When they were coming in, there were civilians and protesters on the outskirts, clustered together with their picket signs and banners, their chants and screaming that more needs to be done. Not just with Namjoon, but with other Hero Units that were ‘unregulated’. Hero Units with members that were too destructive for their own good. 

Hoseok wonders if there would be such unrest if it was promised for Namjoon to be executed for the Incident as the Federate intended, before Jungnam stepped in and proposed the alternative. After all, there is no harm Namjoon can do to anyone alone in space and eventually, everyone will forget about him to focus on rebuilding, reconciling.

 Though, if Hoseok is being honest, he would rather have an immediate death than an eternity alone waiting for it.

He thinks about Jeongguk lying in his bed, crying his eyes out while his heart sings its pained hums. He thinks about Seokjin and those scars he’d never let them see, but can’t hide the pain from Hoseok that crashes through his mind for hours on end. He thinks about Yoongi, the quietness. The avoidance. The question of what will happen now that their ‘Number One’ is gone and their ‘Number Two’ isn’t rising to the occasion.

And out the corner of his eye, he looks at Jungnam’s face as the thrusters ignite and the building rumbles from the blast of fire and billowing smoke.

Jungnam isn’t an expressive man, not an emotional or caring one. Yet, the only word Hoseok can use to explain what expression is on the man’s face now — knitted brows, mouth pulled in a thin line, not even a glimmer in his eyes — is regret.

Jeongguk got his heart broken, Seokjin is scarred for life, and Yoongi is forced to take a position he didn’t want…and yet, the least amount of sympathy Hoseok has ever seen Jungnam express in his entire time as a member of the Fantastic Five, is reserved for the one person that caused it all.

That’s when Hoseok feels it burning in his chest. Feels it buzzing angrily in his mind. He lets his emotions get the better of him, maybe that’s true. 

So, he doesn’t fight it. 

As the rocket disappears into the atmosphere with the smoke trail billowing behind, Hoseok lets the hatred of Kim Namjoon and what he’s done to his teammates swallow him whole.

 


 

“I should head back there.”

Hoseok scoffs behind the rim of his coffee, kicking his feet up on the coffee table and knocking over a few magazines in the process. “What’s the point? We’re just civilians, what is he expecting us to be able to do?” he questions. Yoongi pinches at the bridge of his forehead, leaning back into the couch beside Hoseok, his own cup of coffee Hoseok brewed for him steaming in his hands.

“Look, I don’t know. Maybe being alone up in space for all that time really fucked with his common sense and he’s just saying stuff to make himself feel better. But I don’t want another explosion happening, so I need to check on him—”

“He’s got his babysitter. Let him do the babying.”

Yoongi raises his eyebrow. “Hey, what’s with you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re not this surly. That’s usually my endearing character trait.”

Hoseok rolls his eyes. Then, he raises his cup of coffee and brightens with a cheesy grin. Yoongi wrinkles his nose. “Now you’re just faking it,” he chastises. Hoseok groans and lets his body slump against the lumpy cushions.

“Look, I hated the guy before he destroyed Nahae-gu and I hate him now. He’s an emotionally stilted, arrogant, obnoxious man on an annoying level of holier-than-thou bullshit. It’s not rocket science, hyung.”

“It’s not his fault. Not like he had friends or anything. Hell, I don’t even know if he had family before the old man took him in. Not like he ever talked about them or called them,” Yoongi mumbles, rolling his shoulders. “…Not like any of us tried to really get to know him aside from Jeongguk.”

“That was on the old man, not on us. He didn’t want us to be friends. He just wanted us to play support to his ‘Number One’. And Namjoon has his head so far up his ass, he wouldn’t see us as a friend anyways.”

“Well, the old man is dead now,” Yoongi says, sipping his coffee. “And Namjoon…look, I know he was annoying when we were still in our Unit. But we can try to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn’t know how much of an asshole he can be. How much his babysitter was cozying up to him, I assume he isn’t that bad.”

“That doesn’t make you angry?” Hoseok asks, subtly looking over at Yoongi. “I thought you were interested in the babysitter.”

Yoongi shrugs. “I don’t know him. Haven’t had the chance to talk to him…don’t even know how I’ll talk to him…but how Namjoon reacted, I know he’s not interested in Jimin like that. Which means that all of this goes right back to Jeongguk.”

Hoseok stiffens. He takes another sip of his coffee. “He doesn’t care about Jeongguk like that.”

“Bullshit. Literally the only person he wanted to hear about when he showed up on my doorstep was Jeongguk. If Jeongguk gets to walk free after serving whatever limited holding time he gets, then we’ll arrange for them to meet so he can talk out whatever thing I know he’s thinking about, maybe take Jeongguk back in at the manor until he’s able to stand on his own feet. Then, we all go on our separate paths. You and I will never have to see or hear about Kim Namjoon any more.”

“How long is he going to be here?” Hoseok questions. He was able to let his hate simmer down to almost nothing as the time mellowed him out, but he isn’t sure if he can face dealing with Namjoon for another hour, let alone a month or longer.

“Don’t know,” Yoongi says, clicking his tongue. “As long as that Project needs him here, I guess.”

Hoseok sighs.

The two of them sit on the couch, drinking their coffee without saying anything for a moment. Yoongi has a look on his face, one that wants to discuss something itching at the back of his mind. Hoseok almost feels himself inquire about it, ready to ask if it’s a Namjoon thing or a Jeongguk thing or maybe even if it’s a Hoseok thing, but before he can feel the question beginning to form on his tongue, there is a gentle knock at his front door.

Hoseok usually does a brief mental check before he bothers to get up and open the door. He listens for the thought of someone repeating a sales pitch, or the annoying chatter of his neighbor’s thoughts, or maybe even if its someone giggling over some prank. Hoseok hears nothing but dead silence on the other end of the door.

He knows exactly who it is.

“A-Ah, hold on!” Hoseok shouts, setting his coffee down and getting to his feet, crossing over to unlock his door and reveal Taehyung standing on the other side. Hoseok’s eyes immediately go to Taehyung’s hair, no longer a gentle brown shade but now a bright and vibrant blue. That, coupled with his usual flowing white garments with the rainbow floral stitching around the cuffs and his brown leather sandals, make Taehyung look as though he walked out of a dream.

“Hyung!” Taehyung greets in a hug, throwing his arms around Hoseok’s shoulders to pull him tight against Taehyung’s firm body. Hoseok gasps, arms awkwardly wrapping around Taehyung’s waist to hold him, blue locks tickling his nose as Taehyung nuzzles Hoseok’s cheek.

“You changed your hair?” Hoseok asks, daring to pinch at a lock.

“Mm, yeah. My friend is having his sermon next weekend, so he asked me to look my best. I figured I’d try a new hair color,” Taehyung says, box grin on his lips. “How do I look? Attractive, right? Super cool, right?”

“Uh.” Hoseok coughs. “Yeah, yeah it’s nice.”

“I can dye your hair too, hyung.” Taehyung pinches at Hoseok’s already orange dyed locks. “Maybe blond? You’d look handsome. More handsome.”

It’s too early in the morning and Hoseok has dealt with too much shit in the last hour to be feeling this warm in the face. He looks over his shoulder to see if Yoongi was sitting on the couch with a shit-eating grin, only to find that Yoongi is gone from the couch entirely, his cup of coffee sitting empty on Hoseok’s table.

“Can I come in?” Taehyung asks, and when Hoseok turns, he realizes that he still has his arms around Taehyung’s waist and Taehyung still has his arms around Hoseok. Hoseok clumsily untangles his limbs from around the younger man, gesturing with a welcoming hand for Taehyung to enter.

“U-Uh, I know I told you I live above the shop, but how did you know which room I was?”

“One of my new friends told me. He’s good at finding things and people when he’s asked,” Taehyung answers simply, plopping himself down on the ottoman.

Hoseok’s smile gives a nervous twitch. “Oh. That’s…not creepy.”

Taehyung pouts. “Is it creepy? I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen you since that earthquake happened. I wanted to come over and ask you something, but the shop was closed.”

“Ah, no. It’s fine. I…life just got a little bit hectic for me, that’s all.” Hoseok sits down in the spot Yoongi was seated in, rubbing the back of his neck. “What did you want to ask me?”

“Well,” Taehyung moves from the ottoman to sit next to Hoseok, pressing his arm against Hoseok and kicking his shoes off his feet. “I wanted to know if you’ll come to the sermon next week. I’ve been asked to invite a guest and after careful deliberation, I decided that I want to take you.”

Hoseok smiles, though it’s a bit tense at the corners. “Oh. Um, well I’m not exactly a religious kind of person—”

“It’s not a religious thing,” Taehyung is quick to explain. “It’s more like…a social. A bunch of us that are Blessed get together and talk about our experiences. We have some drinks, some dancing, get to know each other. Things like that. Lots of people come to the sermons and like the energy so much that they stay a few days at the compound. Or even longer!”

“A compound?”

Taehyung nods. “It’s beautiful. I get to grow corn, and cabbage and as many flowers and fruits that I want. The air is fresh there, the skies are prettier, and everyone lives and works together.”

“…Everyone there is Enhanced? How…how are you able to do that without the Federate knocking down your walls and forcing you all to separate?” Hoseok questions. Taehyung shrugs.

“Lee-hyung said that we’re not the Federate’s problem. So, we don’t bother them, and they don’t bother us.”

Hoseok raises his eyebrow. Since the Hero Initiative dissolved and the Federate rose to a prominent political power, they made every Enhanced civilian’s business their business, whether they’re disturbing the peace or not. Hell, there used to be a small neighborhood gathering of Enhanced neighbors at the local park every second Tuesday of the month, just to play some basketball or go for a jog or some other activity that instilled community. The moment Hosoek thought of stopping by just to see what it was like, five Federate officials were there at the park waiting for them, demanding everyone to go back to their homes or risk jailing for ‘unauthorized gathering’.

To think there’s a compound of Enhanced people living together without the Federate seeming to care about them seems…well, just too good to be true.

“I’d think you like it, hyung,” Taehyung offers with a gentle smile, letting his fingers wander back to play gently with Hoseok’s hair. “It’s quiet there. Peaceful. Might be the thing you need to relax from life being ‘hectic’, you know? If only for the weekend.”

Hoseok doesn’t want to leave Yoongi alone on this, doesn’t know how long it will take for this Jeongguk thing to be wrapped up. At the same time, Hoseok can’t look at Namjoon. He can’t hear Namjoon trying to deny that he and Jeongguk slept together and he didn’t discard Jeongguk’s feelings like they were garbage, like they were unnecessary. 

Give him the benefit of the doubt? Give him pity? Jungnam did all of that and let Namjoon get away with whatever he wanted because ‘he was Number One’, and all that did for Namjoon was turn him into just as equal of a prick as the old man. 

It’s been so noisy since Namjoon came back, and Hoseok is tired of the noise.

Taehyung’s fingers brush a lock of hair out from Hoseok’s forehead. “You look stressed right now, hyung. Is there still something happening?” he asks, small worry in his voice. Hoseok gently pushes Taehyung’s hand away, smiling gently.

“No, I’m fine…hey, um, can I get back to you on that invite? I just…there’s somethings with Yoongi-hyung that I need to handle. But I promise that I’ll tell you what’s happening as soon as I can, okay?  Like, come down to the shop sometime next week and—”

“Or I can give you my phone number?” Taehyung suggests, blinking his eyes at Hoseok innocently. Hoseok swallows, cheeks stinging red but welcoming the feel.

“U-Uh, yeah! Sure! That…that works,” he laughs, feeling jittery. “Um, I got…you want coffee? I mean, it’s not the best coffee but, you know, it—” he waves a hand in the air, slapping his palm against his chest. “Puts hair on the chest, you know. That sort of…thing…”

Taehyung’s smile is amused. He pulls the collar of Hoseok’s shirt back and takes a peek down Hoseok’s shirt. 

“Hmm, don’t see any yet,” he muses, smoothing his hand over Hoseok’s chest and letting his touch linger. “But coffee sounds nice, hyung.”

Hoseok nods, memorizing the way how Taehyung’s palm feels against his beating heart — and it feels good, strong, secure — before he gets to his feet and shuffles away to the kitchen, the smile on his lips shaping naturally.

 


 

“Hello? Oi! Namjoon-ah! Babysitter-nim!”

Yoongi phases into the library, then the kitchen, then the foyer and the parlor room and back to the library once more. Nothing. No one around. Not even a note that says where they went. He purses his lips tight, sitting himself back down at Sungwoo’s desk and crossing his arms over his chest to think. 

The interrogation is still going on, and Jinsoo is probably going to take about thirty minutes to get back to the precinct after the interrogation is done, so there’s no point in going down to the precinct to wait until Jinsoo checks in to grill him on the details. Beomgyu is at home, relaxing from the assault. Yoongi supposes he could check in on him, but at the same time, he doesn’t want to hinder the healing process with his presence and Beomgyu focusing his attention on him.

Food?

Maybe food.

Yeah, he’ll get some food.

Yoongi gets to his feet, stretches his arms over his head, and is just about ready to teleport downtown when he hears a quiet squeak of ‘Wait!’ coming from in front of the computer monitor. Yoongi pauses and looks around the device, spotting Namjoon’s little bot waiving their arms at Yoongi for attention.

“What? You know where they went…VAN, right?”

Yes! My name is VAN! Namjoon and Jimin stepped out for the day. Jimin told me to tell you that they’ll be back soon!”

Yoongi sighs. “Well, so much for discussing what we’re going to do about Jeongguk.”

VAN’s eye forms a sad crescent. “Yes, Namjoon was very upset about this situation. I felt bad for not being able to do much.

Yoongi scoffs. “Unless you can go in to the systems, delete the files and charges, and erase all connections to him so he can walk free, you did the best you could,” he says dryly. VAN shakes their head, eye shaping back into a circle.

But I felt that I wasn’t being of assistance to Namjoon. I promised that I will do what I can to minimize his amount of stress levels so he will not get sad again. I do not like it when Namjoon is sad.

“Yeah, I’m sure a lot of people do not like it when he is sad.” Or mad. Or ready to destroy the entirety of Seoul at the snap of his finger.

VAN nods their head. “So I have decided that I will try harder in making Namjoon happy! I believe that by coming to a pleasant resolution regarding the situation with Jeongguk would be an excellent start on helping him achieve a more optimistic outlook! And then, we can work on reconnecting, revitalizing, and restrengthening bonds between members through my ten week therapy schedule! And then, we can have a party! I like parties!

Yoongi crouches down, raising an eyebrow. “How do you turn off?”

The red ‘X’ on the other half of VAN’s face where Yoongi presumes an eye was supposed to display begins flashing in a panic. “No, no! I cannot turn off now! I am in the middle of step one of making Namjoon happy!

“Elaborate.”

Because Namjoon was very sad that I could not reconnect to the video in risk of being spotted, I have decided to do the next best thing and reconnected your superior’s earpiece and microphone and am recording all conversation and noise that it picks up!

Yoongi blinks. “…You what?”

I said, because Namjoon was very sad—

“I-I heard what you said. I just…so, you’re recording the interrogation? Right now?”

Yep!

“You’re hearing everything they’re saying?”

Yep!

Yoongi leans in closer. “Play it. Play it now.”

VAN’s eye turns yellow. “But Namjoon isn’t here and I think we should wait till he and Jimin get back. It’s very good news that I’m sure will make him happy!

Turning his head towards the ceiling, Yoongi gives the longest groan that starts in his belly and crawls its way up his throat. He brings a hand to his eyes, massages at the corners before dragging his palm back down over his face.

“…I am going to get a drink and something to eat. If I get back before they come home and I’m not drunk, you play me that interrogation recording, got it?” he tells VAN, wagging his finger at the bot. 

VAN’s eye turns back to white, and they waggle one stubby arm almost as though they were waving goodbye. Awkwardly, Yoongi waves goodbye back, before VAN and the old dusty surroundings of the library are gone and in its place is the smell of alcohol and smoke, the twang of music crackling through old speakers, and a stout old man nearly tumbling backwards into the wooden shelves behind him lined with different flavors of soju, vodka, and whiskey.

“Dammit! I thought I told you to not do that!” the man yells as Yoongi plops himself down on his usual stool, all the cushioning in it squished flat. 

“Some dubu kimchi with my usual, Bartender-ssi,” Yoongi says, reaching into his pocket for his wallet. “I’m going to be here for a while.”

 


 

 

Seokjin’s hands are some of the softest hands Jeongguk’s ever felt against his skin, to the point that it almost feels unnatural, slightly fake. He never found the time to hold Seokjin’s hand or feel his skin before the Incident occurred, so it’s not like he could compare whether or not Seokjin is putting in the extra effort in the near flawless qualities of his skin to compensate for the fact his real skin no longer is the same. 

And that’s always a thought Jeongguk had at the back of his mind, what it feels like for Seokjin to technically always have his power in effect. If it feels natural, if it feels like he’s wearing his perfect façade like how he models his designer clothing, with care and with elegance Jeongguk could only wish would exude off his shoulders the way Seokjin does.

“Aaaand, stop,” Seokjin’s voice sings its way into Jeongguk’s ears, distracting him momentarily from his line of thought as Seokjin’s hands fall away from Jeongguk’s already tightly closed eyes. “Okay! Open your eyes!”

Jeongguk does, though he winces a little from the bright sunlight coming through the large open windows in front of him that display a beautiful view of the cluttered rooftops. 

The bedroom is huge, bigger than any bedroom Jeongguk’s been in. A large king-size bed with creamy white and fluffy bedsheets is to his left, while to his right is an open wardrobe half-filled with clothes that have their price tags still attached to them and shoes still wrapped up in their boxes. Against the wall, there’s a mounted television wired to several game consoles mounted underneath it. There’s even a mini fridge tucked underneath a glass writing desk, a small stack of science fiction and translated comic books resting dead center.

Seokjin’s hands find Jeongguk’s shoulders, leading him further inside. “What do you think?” he asks, Jeongguk not even having to turn around to see the glee on Seokjin’s lips when he already hears it twittering from his voice. “I was thinking about painting it a week ago to your favorite color. Not saying that we can’t still do that, but it would have been nice to already have it ready.”

“It’s fine, hyung,” Jeongguk murmurs, slowly moving out of Seokjin’s touch to sit at the foot of the bed. It’s soft, so plush and the mattress so high that his feet don’t touch the ground. It’s so different from the old mattress he and Moonsoo used to sleep on, lopsided and uncomfortable, but all Moonsoo could manage to get his hands on.

Jeongguk sighs. He hasn’t spoken to Moonsoo yet…and he’s starting to get antsy thinking about where the man might be, what he’s doing now that Jeongguk isn’t with him.

“I just wanted to have a place for you ready in case you wanted to stay the night, or stay for the weekend or, you know…”

“Stay forever?” Jeongguk supplies, shaking his head. “Hyung, it’s wonderful but…but I really need to get back to Moonsoo.”

Seokjin squares his jaw, glancing behind him at his bodyguard. Sensing something, his bodyguard quietly nods his head and closes the door behind Seokjin. Immediately, Jeongguk regrets opening his mouth.

“Gguk, I know you’re worried about him. And you know I care about you, right? You’re like…like my little brother, you know?”

“Yeah…yeah, I know.”

“So, can you understand why I don’t think you should go back to him? Why he’s just bad news and—”

“Hyung, I thought we weren’t going to have this discussion again,” Jeongguk groans, flopping backwards onto the bed, limbs sprawled. This bed is so soft and the sheets smell so nice. Not like sweat, not like sex, not like booze. Just fresh linen with the smallest hint of lavender.

“We should have this discussion again. Jeongguk, he could have gotten you killed with that client. What if you get put in that kind of situation again?”

“He wouldn’t. He promised me.”

“And that promise won’t mean anything if they throw a couple more thousand won at him.”

“He’s not like that!” Jeongguk is quick to say, sitting upright. “He cares about me!”

“Then if he really cared about you, he would let you go so you could do something better with your life!” Seokjin snaps. Jeongguk stills for a moment, watching as Seokjin lets out a frustrated huff. “Ggukie, you have so much potential. You don’t need to do this, degrading yourself for the likes of some druggie.”

“He’s sobered up. He’s gotten better. He isn’t the same.”

“Where is all this money that you get sleeping around going then, huh?” Seokjin questions. “You make like, what, five hundred thousand won for a night. Sometimes for multiple nights in a week? Why are you both still living in some run down apartment? Why is it whenever I take you out to dinner, you eat like you’re starved? You say that he cares about you, but he isn’t showing that he cares by putting you in these situations and living conditions and—”

“He was there for me,” Jeongguk says, his tongue his only way of fighting Seokjin back. “He was there for me when I needed someone—”

“And I’m here now. I’m here. You don’t need him.”

“It’s my choice!” Jeongguk yells. “It’s my choice. Not yours.”

Seokjin gives an audible swallow. Then, “Do you love him?”

Jeongguk lies back down and turns on his side, facing the open window. “I don’t see why that’s relevant—”

“I would understand if you had feelings for him. Young love making you blind to imperfections and all that. But you don’t, so I don’t understand why you can’t let him go.”

Jeongguk sighs, pulling a pillow into his arms to bury his face in. “You wouldn’t understand,” he mumbles against the cotton, curling his body into a tight ball. The sun feels warm on his cheeks, a pleasant tingle on his skin as he lets the comforting smell wash over him. He feels the bed dip in extra weight behind him, and soon there is a warmth pressed against his back, an arm slung over his waist.

“Ggukie,” Seokjin mumbles, tucking his chin in the crook of Jeongguk’s neck. “Sometimes, your heart is just too big for your own good…remember Namjoon?”

The sigh that slips through Jeongguk’s lips is one of exhaustion. “Hyung, why are you bringing that up again?”

“Well,” Seokjin tangles their legs together. “For one, you were ready to give up your virginity to him literally twelve hours before he would get shot off in a metal rocket.”

Uuuggghhhh, stop talking. Don’t say anything. We didn’t do anything.”

Seokjin pinches the skin on Jeongguk’s wrist. “Don’t lie,” he scolds.

“We didn’t! I mean…we just kinda…rubbed against each other?” Jeongguk’s face is getting warm. Burying his face into the pillow doesn’t necessarily cool him down, but he doesn’t pull himself away from smothering his embarrassment down so soon. “It doesn’t matter, Namjoon is gone.”

“What matters is that Namjoon didn’t once give away any sense that he could have reciprocated those feelings until you were practically getting naked underneath him. And now with Moonsoo…you’re putting yourself through so much pain and putting yourself into so much danger because you just feel sorry for him.”

“That’s not true.”

Another sharp pinch to the skin of Jeongguk’s wrist has Jeongguk keep further protests down. “…I just don’t want you to get hurt again, Ggukie,” Seokjin says more as a sigh rather than a reprimand, cuddling his cheek against Jeongguk’s pink locks.

“…Namjoon didn’t hurt me, hyung.” Jeongguk adjusts the pillow in his hold, tucking it firmly against his chest. It’s soft and plush, but Jeongguk’s imagination runs headfirst into his memories, and the pillow becomes firm, warm muscle. “He was kind and gentle and…and maybe if things were different. If the Incident didn’t happen, if the Fantastic Five didn’t happen, if we were just…normal people…maybe we could have been together…”

Seokjin sighs, giving Jeongguk a squeeze. “There will be others. Others that would be so lucky to have the chance to be loved by you if you’d let it happen. If you’d let yourself love the way you deserve to be loved…you know what?” Seokjin sits himself up, a finger raised at an idea and eyes wide with excitement. “My manager is trying to get me into this romantic comedy drama, and there’s this young Hero idol that’s your type in the talks for one of the lead roles.”

Jeongguk roles his eyes. “I don’t have a type.”

“Yes you do. Weird and gangly.”

A pillow gets chucked at Seokjin’s smirking face. 

The older man laughs and rises to his feet, patting Jeongguk’s thigh. “I’ll let you get some rest. We’ve had a long day. I’m thinking some fried chicken for dinner? We’ll probably have to eat in a few days until things kind of…quiet down. That okay?”

Jeongguk shrugs. Not like he wasn’t hiding from the law in the first place.

Seokjin smiles and circles around the bed, letting his hand stray into Jeongguk’s hair and lightly push the locks out of Jeongguk’s face. “…You deserve to be loved properly, Jeongguk. We all do.”

To that, Jeongguk only gives a quiet hum.

Seokjin leaves the bedroom shortly after, but Jeongguk waits until the footsteps fade further away as Seokjin retreats into his luxury suite. He waits even longer still, until his heart slows to a calmed beat, until he feels his body uncurl itself from being pulled too tight. He breathes that fresh scent in as he pulls the bedsheets up over his head, lets himself swim in it and wrap around him like a cocoon as he reaches into his back pocket for his cell phone. 

He has to be quick. Seokjin’s bodyguard will surely notice it’s gone from his collected things if Seokjin asks to go through them.

Jeongguk dials the number, and it only rings twice before he is met with a panicked and breathless “Bunny?”. Jeongguk missed hearing that name, missed that high he sometimes got hearing Moonsoo murmur it against his ear or against the taut muscle of his inner thigh. He liked the way the name used to make him felt like he belonged somewhere, used to make it feel like he had purpose, like he was more than just Jeongguk. It was almost akin to a high; it had Jeongguk floating with a pleasant buzz under his skin for hours every time Moonsoo would say it as the climax hits them both at once and brings them tumbling gently down.

Now, Jeongguk only feels his stomach churn. Anxious, worried, a scratchy itch blistering over his skin that he tries to ignore and further tangle himself up in the sheets.

“Hey,” Jeongguk responds. On the other side, Moonsoo lets out the biggest sigh of relief.

Thank god, you’re okay. Is everything good? Where are you? I’ll come and get you—

“Wait…wait…” Jeongguk tucks the phone against his cheek. “My…um, my brother wants me to stay with him. Just for a short while.”

There’s a long pause. Jeongguk nearly swallows his tongue in anticipation. 

…How long is ‘a short while’?

“I…I don’t know, like a few days maybe?”

What if a few days turn into a few weeks? Then weeks into months and then months into…well, just outright abandoning me—

“No. No, you know I’m not going to abandon you—”

Bunny, you know your brother hates me. Do you think I don’t know that’s the one thing he tells you every time you two go hang out? He keeps planting that seed in your head, keeps trying to convince you to do it and…and I don’t know. How you’ve been acting lately makes me wonder if you’re considering it.

“I just said I won’t, Moonie,” Jeongguk reassures, letting the nickname fall off his tongue rather than coo from his throat. “My brother’s just…concerned about what’s going to happen going forward. Like…like what we’re going to do for money and where are we going to live—”

Well, if that’s the case, he doesn’t have to worry about that anymore.” Moonsoo takes on a softer tone, wistful and sounding just right in Jeongguk’s ear. “I found a place for us we can afford. Nice apartment, great view of the city compared to our crappy view of a trash-covered alley. We’ll have to move out of Nowon-gu but, I think that would be a necessary sacrifice.

“…And the clients?”

…I mean, yeah. You still will have to take some here or there. It’s good money, Bunny. Easy money.

“Can’t I earn it some other way? Like…I don’t know, maybe I’ll get a job as a secretary or a shop clerk or…something normal—”

But you’re not normal, Bunny. You’re special. You’re unique. You’re so…god, you’re so perfect.

Jeongguk breathes in deep. “…If I’m all those things, then why am I still doing this? Getting fucked by random strangers for money?”

It’s cause you’re good at it.”

“…W-What?

That came out wrong,” Moonsoo is quick to backpedal. “I-I meant to say that you have this…allure about you. I mean, you got a nice body and gorgeous face. You’re sexy and cute, your voice…god, when you moan, it sounds like music. Just…everything about your body was like it was made for this, Bunny. How you arch your back, how you bite your lip, how you look at me or a client with those big brown eyes and…you just don’t know the effect you have on people. The effect you have on me.” 

Moonsoo’s voice is low, husky. It settles warmly in Jeongguk’s stomach, makes itself home. “You don’t know how badly I’ve wanted to just hold you. I…I miss you, Bunny. The way you feel underneath me, the way you smell, the way you taste. I-I don’t know what I’d do without you. I don’t want to be without you.

“That’s not fair,” Jeongguk says, but the words croak out of him, and he isn’t fast enough to hide them into the pillow. “That’s not fair saying those things.”

Bunny, I-I need you. I feel like, like I’m going insane just thinking about you not being here. About your brother keeping us apart when we’re a team and we belong together. We take care of each other, don’t we? I helped you the best way that I could. I’ll always be here for you, Bunny. I always have been here…your brother can’t say the same thing.”

“No. Don’t say that. That’s not fair.”

I’m telling you the truth, Bunny. You know I’ll do whatever it takes for you. I was the one that called your brother for help. I was the one that held you that night, that washed all that blood off of you—

“Stop it, stop it.” It’s like Jeongguk can smell the blood permeating through the fresh linen scent, nauseating, clawing up his throat and strangling his lungs. His skin feels sticky with a sudden outbreak of sweat, but Jeongguk feels stickier, warmer, like he’s drowning in it. 

Can you say your brother will ever look at you the same way? After what happened? He can make all our cases and arrests disappear with his money, but he can’t take back what happened that night.

“But it was an accident,” Jeongguk, voice thick with remorse, body trembling as he feels the stickiness move down his chest, clinging his shirt to his skin. “I-I didn’t mean to. I got scared, I—

I’m a murderer. 

I killed him.

I’m a murderer, I’m a monster , I—

I know, Bunny. I know. It wasn’t your fault.”

Moonsoo’s words are gentle, kind. They’ve always been gentle. He’s always been gentle.

I still care about you. I still want to be there for you. I’ll always be there for you no matter what. Nothing you do will ever change the way how I feel about you, Bunny. How I’ve felt about you for so long…I love you.”

Moonsoo is a kind man. Jeongguk is so lucky to have someone so kind as him, someone that’s been there for him. But those words. Those three words murmured softly through the crackles of phone static, sounding so warm and so sincere, the softest Jeongguk’s ever been spoken to.

It’s the cruelest thing he’s ever heard.

“I…” Jeongguk doesn’t know what words to come next. ‘I love you too’? No. If love was a cliff above a chasm, Jeongguk only sits at the edge of it. He’s peered into its depths, he’s thought about jumping head first countless times over the years, how would it feel when he lets himself fall. But he’s never moved. He’s never let himself budge even an inch. Not now. Not yet.

“…I…I’ll be home before midnight,” is what Jeongguk finally brings himself to say, and even those words don’t feel like they fit right in his mouth. 

…Okay…I’ll be waiting, Bunny.

The call disconnects with an audible click.

But, the ‘I love you’ echoes in Jeongguk’s ears long after that. 

 


 

Namjoon has only been to a park once in his lifetime.

He had barely turned five, when the outside world still held little wonders that he discovered by dipping around the bends of trees, or overturning smooth stones hidden by fallen leaves. How big the world seemed to him, so vast and profound, as though even if he were to try and explore as far as his mother would allow him, he would still not be able to see every inch and find every little wonder he could. 

Now, as a grown man, Namjoon finds himself still wondering if there is still more to this world than what he’s seen. Rarely did he spend his time gazing at the curve of the Earth from aboard space, for the longer he looked, the more he longed. And when he longed for the feeling of sun on his skin, the crunch of gravel beneath his heel, the sound of someone else’s voice, he choked on that feeling. It squeezed his lungs painfully, burned his throat so he couldn’t cry, but stung the corners of his eyes so badly he wished he could. 

This is your punishment, Number One. You’ll have to accept it.

You don’t have to go. It wasn’t your fault.

“You seem lost.”

Namjoon jumps, breath escaping his lungs from the shock only for Namjoon to desperately suck it back in.

He’s seated on a bench along a cement pathway that winds and ebbs through a small park. There are people and children out and about, either on an afternoon stroll or playing their games or finding a place to hide from the bright sun above for a quick picnic. Namjoon was alone on the bench, but now there’s someone else seated beside him. A slightly older man all dressed in white, with rainbow colored thread stitched at the cuffs of his sleeves and the hem of his shirt and leather sandals. 

His hair is long and black and shaggy, but strangely it adds to the look rather than deters it. He smiles at Namjoon warmly, the twinkle of his eyes behind yellow tinted aviator glasses. Namjoon offers a smile back, though his doesn’t stretch as far across his face as the man beside him.

“U-Uh, no. Sorry. Just daydreaming.”

The man hums, his voice a mellow tone. “It’s a nice day to let your mind go wandering, that’s for sure,” he admits, gesturing to their surroundings around them and the bright and clear sky above. “But, you still seem like you’re searching for something.”

Namjoon shakes his head. “I…I’m fine, really. I was just sitting here—”

“Mind if I guess what’s on your mind?” the man asks, not dropping his smile and certainly not letting go of the subject despite Namjoon’s discomfort. But, there’s too many people to cause a scene. Jimin may not be with him now, but he doesn’t want to cause his handler anymore trouble than he already did. 

Biting his lip, Namjoon half-shrugs. “I mean, if you want.”

The man grins and begins to rub at his cheek.

“Hmmm, you look like…you’re worried about someone. This is a someone who…well, you definitely care about them, but you’ve been feeling funny about them at the same time…you regret feeling the way you feel about them.”

Namjoon doesn’t say anything. Yeongsu warned them before of people that might try to make themselves appear to be Blessed in order to get close to them and hurt them, manipulate them, trick them into divulging something on the trust that who they were dealing with was just like them. He forms a mental barrier in his mind just in case, but he doesn’t let any facial expression give the slightest twitch. 

The man leans back against the wood of the bench, throwing his arm over the top. “You’ve been letting this guilt eat at you for a while now. Thought you could ignore it, and maybe you tricked yourself into thinking you forgot what happened. But the truth is, you never did. It was always there, just waiting for you to remember that person so it could all come flooding back and you begging to whatever forces above that it don’t make you drown.” His smile pulls to show his teeth, perfectly white and aligned. “But you’re struggling now, huh? You’re drowning. You’re lost.”

Namjoon knows he shouldn’t take the bait. Knows he should get up and walk away. But…

“…Who are you?”

The man chuckles and extends his hand. “Lee Seyun. But you may call me ‘Brother Lee’.”

“Brother Lee…” Namjoon shakes the man’s hand. “Uh…sorry, are you with some religion thing or—”

“Not at all. I’m more of a ‘believe in what you want to believe in’ kind of person. Pretty sure there’s a being out there higher than us, but who am I to tell people what to put their faith in? No, I would liken myself to more of a…well, like a self-help kinda person.”

“Like…a therapist?”

“If a therapist talks to about one-hundred or so people every week, then sure. I’m a therapist.” Seyun gives another chuckle and reaches into the pocket of his pants to withdraw a small white card. “Here. You should drop by and listen to one of my lessons or two. I’m having one next weekend. Maybe we can help you become a little less lost on your way, Kim Namjoon.”

Namjoon was about to take the card, but his hand quickly recoils to his side. “I didn’t — I didn’t tell you my name.”

Seyun cocks his head, grin mischievous. “No need to,” he says, and he leans in close. Though it’s hard for Namjoon to tell, there’s something…different about Seyun’s eyes this close up. There’s a hypnotic tinge to the color brown in his pupils, looking more than just brown, but rather like red. Red and gold and—

So much like Yeongsu’s.

“We that are Blessed just have a way of knowing,” Seyun whispers with that charming smile and those firestorm eyes, and offers the card forward one more time. “Go on, take it.”

There’s something in Seyun’s eyes that is more than familiar aside from the color. There’s answers to questions Namjoon isn’t sure he’s even thought of. There’s promise to things that Namjoon hasn’t wished for, but now feels that maybe, maybe he wants it. He looks down at the card, pure white with gold lettering spelling out an address. He wants it. He wants it. He wants it—

A hand appears on his shoulder, squeezing tight.

Namjoon blinks.

The card is gone.

So is Seyun.

Namjoon turns to find Jimin standing behind him, looking quite relieved but also quite annoyed. 

I was looking for you,” Jimin signs, pouting.

Namjoon looks back to his side, at the spot Seyun was sitting in. Wasn’t he sitting there? Was anyone sitting there? Even when he glances around and surveys the area, looking left and right, up and down the winding path beside him, he doesn’t see any man in white. 

Jimin circles around to sit down on the bench beside him, an eyebrow raised in small intrigue. “You okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.

“I hope not. That would be one of the last things that I’d want going wrong with me,” Namjoon says, slumping back against the bench with his eyes on the sky. “…How’d you find me anyways?”

Jimin’s hand slides back onto Namjoon’s shoulder, massaging it the same way he did when they were in the library. Namjoon almost feels inclined to lean into the touch, chase after that tender warmth as his eyes flutter. But he stops when Jimin pulls his hand back, a small green beeping device pinched between his fingers. 

“…Oh. Clever.”

Jimin smiles, then goes to slip the bug back on Namjoon, just beneath the collar.

Just protocol. Not that I don’t trust you or anything, but…

Namjoon nods, smile thin. “Yeah…yeah, I know.”

Jimin nods himself, awkwardly looking around for something else to ‘chat’ about. “This park is nice. Did you used to come here?

“No. Just wanted to get away some place where there’s fresh air and not too crowded. Kinda wanted to just…think.”

About your teammate?

Namjoon turns his attention to his hands, to the way he sees light spark beneath his skin and dance along his knuckles. “Yeah…it’s funny. Five years I thought I could forget about him, and now this happens and he’s all I could think about. I—I can’t even focus on the Project. I feel like I’m going insane.”

Jimin’s smile is understanding. “Love kinda has a habit of making you feel like that.

“But that’s the thing. I don’t…I…” Namjoon swallows the lump down in his throat, hunching his shoulders up to his ears. “Before I left…I was allowed three hours of free time to collect my things. The Federate inserted a detonation piece right at the nape of my neck—” Namjoon reaches back behind him, the tips of his fingers grazing against a long-faded scar—“monitored all my movements. If I went outside the established perimeter, it would automatically detonate. The blast wouldn’t be big enough to harm any bystanders, but it would be strong enough to snap my neck.”

The look on Jimin’s face is horrified. “…It’s not still in there, is it?

“I read a few books on conducting neck and trauma surgeries as well as bomb disarming. Removed it three hours after I left the atmosphere,” Namjoon reassures, folding his hands on his lap. “Anyways, I went to the manor just to get in and get out…and Jeongguk caught me in the library. We…we talked a little and, I don’t know, he just came back from a civilian patrol and it was raining, so the way he looked…helpless and scared and…”

Wet clothes, tear-filled eyes. Desperate hands, desperate lips.

…Did you do something you didn’t want?

“…I did something that I shouldn’t have done.” Namjoon grips at his knees, using them as an anchor when he feels himself beginning to drown in the memory of Jeongguk’s lips, his hands, how his body arched against Namjoon’s so responsively, so wanting. “It was…it wasn’t something that our figurehead would have approved of. Something that a Number One shouldn’t have allowed to continue but…when I had him against me…I couldn’t bring myself to let go.”

Sounds like you loved him.”

“No. No, I…it was in the heat of the moment. We both did things we shouldn’t have done…said things we shouldn’t have said…a-and it was five years ago. I’m…I’m sure even if there were feelings he had for me, they would have long faded by now. For all I know, he hates me as much as everyone else in this Unit does.”

But what if they didn’t? What if he doesn’t?

Namjoon opens his mouth expecting an answer to come out. But it doesn’t.

He might still love you. He might still want to be with you. What are you going to do if that happens? If you two ever get the chance to see each other one last time?

There are sparks beneath Namjoon’s palm, a dull heat slipping from his fingertips. 

“…Then, I need to set things straight…you’re right. I didn’t come back here to save my teammate. So, the sooner I just get this thing resolved and these feelings are settled, I can focus on what the Project wants,” Namjoon explains, nodding his head to himself. Jimin studies him for a brief moment, letting his gaze wander Namjoon’s face as he searches for something Namjoon hasn’t a clue of. It’s rather intense, rather uncomfortable and awkward the longer Jimin stares at him. Feeling too jittery to sit still, Namjoon instead rises to his feet. 

“U-Uh, we can go back to the manor now. If you want,” Namjoon offers with a gesture towards somewhere, but not necessarily towards the manor. Jimin purses his lips, getting to his feet to let his head fall to the side in a playful tilt.

You wanna get a drink?” Jimin suggests.

“…Like…where?”

Don’t know. We can wander around, look at our options.” Jimin steps in closer, reaching up to brush a strand of hair gently out of Namjoon’s face. “You don’t seem like you’re done clearing your head, so we can put going back on hold until you’re finished.”

“…Okay,” Namjoon murmurs, voice soft. “Okay…there’s, um, there’s a shopping center by here that has a bar. I mean, I don’t know if it’s any good. All the times I had to go to it, it was just to stop angry drunks from smashing each other up with a bottle of soju.”

Jimin winces, but there’s a playfulness that fills out his bottom lip. “Maybe not there.”

“Yeah, you’re right…uh, well, we can always just…walk to some side streets.”

Jimin nods, stepping close to wrap an arm around Namjoon’s bicep.

Lead the way.

Chapter Text

It is only when the skies are barely taking on their darkened hues as the street lamps below flicker to life that Jeongguk emerges from his bedroom, a backpack stuffed as much of the clothes Seokjin stockpiled in his closet that he could fit slung over his shoulder. The apartment is dark; Seokjin mentioned through Jeongguk’s door that he had a quick meeting with his manager about the drama so he’d be coming back late, but would be back as soon as he could. 

That was at five. It’s eight now. The last autobus stops running at ten.

Jeongguk finds his key and his shoes, grabs himself some water as well from Seokjin’s overstocked fridge in the kitchen to haphazardly shove into his backpack. He fumbles with his cellphone, not seeing any returning home texts from Seokjin, but he can’t make the assumption that Seokjin would allow himself to go too far from Jeongguk in these current circumstances. 

He’s going to be so disappointed in you.

He’s going to hate you.

You’re so worthless, you always manage to ruin everything.

The breath Jeongguk exhales is shaky, but it flares hot at the back of his throat so much that his eyes sting with a sudden wetness. No, no. Not here. Not now.

He quietly moves through the darkness of the living room, towards the door, gets his hand around the handle and tries to push those worthless, disappointing sentiments backbackback into the furthest part of his mind when—

Click!

Light fills the room from a switch that Jeongguk did not flick.

“Where are you going?” the deep voice of Seokjin’s bodyguard sounds. Immediately, Jeongguk closes his eyes tight.

“…Just…just to the vending machine outside.”

“Turn around.”

Jeongguk’s grip briefly tightens on the doorknob, before it reluctantly loosens. He turns, chin tucked down and eyes scrunching tighter. There’s a silent pause between them, though not wholly quiet since Jeongguk hears the quickened pace of his blood pounding in his ears.

“…So you gonna talk to me with your eyes closed?”

“…Uh-huh.”

“Hm.” Footsteps approach, stopping directly in front of Jeongguk, close enough for Jeongguk to smell the cologne lingering in the older man’s suit. “Give me your backpack.”

“I didn’t take any of hyung’s things,” Jeongguk tries to protest.

Give it.” Jeongguk knows the man isn’t using his power, can’t use his power until Jeongguk locks his scared eyes with those haunting blue ones first, but the authority and stern tone is compelling enough for Jeongguk to quickly squirm out of the backpack straps and hand it over. He hears the zipper come undone, hears the man shuffle through the clothing in search of Seokjin’s things — his jewelry, his pens, his watches, anything of shiny value that Jeongguk couldn’t bring himself to shove into his bag for some extra money.

The sound of the zipper closing is what Jeongguk hears next. Then, “So, you’re going back to him?”

There isn’t a tone of disappointment, not even a tone of judgment. The man’s voice is flat and blunt, but Jeongguk still feels shame creeping into his cheeks.

“I…I’ll come back in the morning. I just need to check on him.”

“Forgive me for not believing you.” The backpack is gently pushed back into Jeongguk’s hands. “…He knew you would do this. Told me to stay here just in case you would.”

“…So you could make me stay with your voice?” Jeongguk asks, his sentence coming out shaky on the end.

“…No.” There’s a tone that somehow slipped into the man’s voice: concern. “No…I won’t use it on you, Jeongguk-ah. You don’t have to be afraid.”

Jeongguk swallows, steeling his nerves. Slowly, hesitantly, he opens his eyes.

He sees the man let the smallest of smiles grace his lips, Jeongguk seeing how pitying he himself looks reflected in the man’s blackout sunglasses. “I know it’s none of my business regarding the situation with you and your…’friend’…and I can’t force you to stay if you don’t want to, but can I convince you to stay the night so Seokjin-ah can say goodbye to you when he comes home?”

Jeongguk’s eyes widen. “I-I can’t face him—”

“You’ll hurt him more if you take away his chance of saying ‘goodbye’—”

“I’ll come back in the morning. I’ll come back—”

“You and I both know that’s not true—”

Please.” Jeongguk bites his bottom lip to keep it from quivering. “Please, just let me go. Just let me disappear.”

The man gives a heavy sigh, letting his shoulders slump before he postures them back in a straight and professional stance. Jeongguk sighs too, but his shoulders remain tight and tense. The silence between them lingers and the desperation to escape begins to itch uncomfortably all over Jeongguk’s body. Subtly, he begins to shift from left to right, a staggered sort of swaying movement. 

“…Are you hungry? You haven’t eaten dinner,” the bodyguard suddenly speaks. Jeongguk looks up at him, momentarily startled.

“U-Um…”

“Come have dinner first,” he says, moving to grab his keys off the coffee table and tuck in his pocket. 

“I-I’m not really that hungry—”

“Dinner.” The man unlocks the door and opens it for Jeongguk. Jeongguk doesn’t think he could even make a run for it if he tried. 

Wordlessly, he leaves the apartment, hearing the bodyguard’s footsteps following not too close, but not too far behind.

 


 

“Well, I think we made an interesting discovery about ourselves,” Namjoon muses aloud, cheeks warm with color in the chill of oncoming nightfall. “Neither of us can get drunk.”

At his side, Jimin’s smile is playful. His skin is flushed a pretty pink that goes from his round cheeks down his lithe neck and exposed collarbone, making Namjoon ponder if Jimin is the type that blushes with his body. Jeongguk was the type; he blushed with the tips of his ears and his cheeks when he smiled big, and red bloomed from his chest like a rose when he had Namjoon’s bottom lip in between his teeth, how his thigh gently moved between Namjoon’s legs—

Ugh. 

It’s ridiculous, Namjoon’s not even trying to let his mind go wander to Jeongguk, but it does so like it’s an automatic response. He rubs his palm over his face, pushing the memory back down and away as Jimin lazily bumps against his side as they walk towards nowhere in particular. It’s getting late and nightlife is crawling to a slow buzz around them, neon lights coming aglow in the window and music thudding like a steady drum in the back of Namjoon’s head as they pass by hidden clubs. 

VAN had relayed a message to Jimin that Yoongi is expecting them back at the manor soon. Something about wanting to share a ‘big surprise’. Namjoon sincerely hopes its not a therapy session; the loving and caring side of VAN’s AI was initially designed off of Hoseok’s persona as Echoes, but now with how stale and volatile he and Hoseok have become, the idea is leaving nothing but a bad taste in Namjoon’s mouth.

“Where do you want to go next?” Namjoon murmurs after they’ve wandered past an arcade and then a barbecue place with a line coming out the door. They had snacks with their drinks that left nothing in them but their clothes stinking of booze, so it’s not like Namjoon feels like he’s hungry, but a part of him is reluctant to return to the place he once considered home. 

It…doesn’t feel the same without Yeongsu’s presence; no matter how much the others detested the older man, Yeongsu took him in and cared for him. He wasn’t like Namjoon’s mother, vague and just a flicker of a memory in his childhood. Couldn’t compare to his own father’s smiles, his laughter, but he was still someone. Someone that taught him, provided for him, helped him when he struggled in his own unique way. And now that he’s gone…Namjoon doesn’t know what to do with everyone. Doesn’t know what to do about the blatant lack of disrespect Hoseok doesn’t mind throwing at him, nor Yoongi’s small reluctance to interact and assist Namjoon on matters as a Number Two should.

And there’s still the matters involved with Seokjin’s absence and the situation with Jeongguk…

Jimin’s hand finds Namjoon’s, giving a light squeeze to stop Namjoon in his tracks. When Namjoon looks, he finds that Jimin has stopped in front of a three story building made of white brick and illuminated with blue lights, people filtering in and out of its glass doors. Jimin points at the golden plaque, smiling at Namjoon brightly. 

I’ve heard about this place from a friend. He wanted to go here,” Jimin signs. 

The plaque reads ‘Delphine’s House: Aquatic Preservation Memorial. Tickets: 15000, Free after 8. All proceeds go towards the protection and conservation of our world’s sea life’.

In smaller, italicized words beneath, the plaque reads: ‘Your voice is still the ocean’s breeze, your beauty its finest pearl. Forever mine in memory, Park Nayeon (September 7th, 1990 - October 1st, 2020)’

It’s like a rock somehow managed to slip into Namjoon’s gut and sink itself lowdown, pull his knees down with it so they bowed inwards and barely held himself up with a tremble. He remembers there being a hero named Delphine long ago. She had the ability to whisper and sing to the sea life, controlled water with the way she elongated her limbs and twirled and danced amid the chaos happening around her. They’ve met once, at a gala Yeongsu didn’t want them to attend for publicity, but rather for scouting out new talent when it was only Namjoon and Yoongi. She was kind, she was beautiful, and Namjoon wouldn’t have minded working alongside her should ever a situation arise for it.

Jimin notices the post-script memorial as well, and his demeanor immediately shifts to one of worry, turning to Namjoon with soft eyes. “That doesn’t mean she died in the blast,” Jimin signed, but he struggles to come up with an alternative to follow.

“It’s very unlikely she wasn’t a victim,” Namjoon murmurs. “Nahae-gu was the Hero Capital.”

But…but it wasn’t like you did it on purpose. It wasn’t your fault you couldn’t control it.

It wasn’t your fault.

You don’t have to go.

Namjoon closes his eyes, stepping back. “You - you can go in, if you want. I just…I just don’t think I should…” He can’t bring himself to finish the sentence, can’t bring himself to even look at the building and the beautiful blue glow it surrounds itself in. It’s been five years, so the uproar and the anger and the heartbreak of the Incident has slowly quelled, but the memory still exists. He doesn’t know if there ever was an effort to rebuild, not sure if there would be any point now that heroes are no longer needed, no longer wanted because of what Namjoon did. 

A part of him, deep deep down in the furrows of his heart, wants to go back. He doesn’t know why, if to give all of this remorse he’s been holding back in his chest that threatens to crack when he isn’t looking, or to see just how devastated Nahae-gu really is. If he could help bring it back to its splendor, its beauty. If he could somehow just take everything back, if he could somehow just make it better again…

Jimin’s hand gently tugs Namjoon’s arm into his hold, resting his cheek against him. Though Namjoon feels as though there’s a fire that burns from his lungs and courses through his limbs, making every pore of his skin itch with the need to run before he continues to disgrace this building, this memory, with his presence any further, the touch calms him. He takes a few deep breaths, not quite quelling the fire inside but at the same time no longer feeling so rattled. 

Let’s keep walking then,” Jimin signs, tugging Namjoon forward. “There’s other sights. Think there’s an outdoor art exhibit thing we can peruse and get confused by or something.

Namjoon gives a semi-hollow laugh. “Yeah. Yeah, sure.”

 


 

“VAN, do you know if they’re coming back any time soon?” Yoongi asks. He’s already picked through his dinner and washed the dishes, paced around the library and completed an evening workout session. Yoongi doesn’t workout in the evenings. He doesn’t even like to workout at all outside of the mandatory three day weekly training he and Beomgyu do together to keep in shape for any unruly Enhanced civilians they come across. 

So the fact that he did extra training to get rid of all this buzzing anxiety he feels itching out his fingers and toes because Namjoon’s stupid little robot won’t play him the interrogation audio until Namjoon gets back frankly pisses Yoongi off. 

VAN is still sitting on Sungwoo’s desk, round eye glowing white. “I do not know. Shall I send them another message?

“Yeah. How about, ‘Get your asses back over here before I go looking for you myself. And I will find you.’”

The ‘X’ on VAN’s face flashes red. “That message sounded very threatening.”

“Fine. Add ‘love, hyung’ to it.”

VAN raises their arms. “I will just ask for them to hurry back.” A pause. “Message sent!

Yoongi flops down on the couch with a groan.

“VAN, what if you just tell me what the recording is and you get to tell Namjoon when he gets back so it can still be a surprise?”

But I think that sharing good news in company will be a good step towards the recovery of Namjoon’s positive wellbeing!

“Yeah, and I’m not trying to keep you from doing that,” Yoongi adds. It’s rather admirable (and almost pitying) how much emotion VAN is able to express compared to Namjoon and how much he bottles his own in, even if tone VAN emotes is artificial. “But the sooner that I hear how the message goes, maybe the sooner we can get Jeongguk help and maybe even get them to see each other again. Maybe…maybe you can play him the audio and then I can surprise him with a plan. So there’s two surprises.”

VAN’s eye glows yellow, processing Yoongi’s words. Then, it flashes white and they wobble their stumpy arms. 

That sounds like a great idea! Two surprises are better than one! And Namjoon will be so happy that we are being productive! Plus, since the plan will come from you, that will show that you are expressing concern and interest in helping with Namjoon’s struggles, which will bring us one step closer into creating a friendly and supportive network for Namjoon!”

Honestly, Yoongi wasn’t sure that was going to work. Maybe VAN has a few screws loose. But, it’s not like Yoongi is going to let the opportunity just slip by.

“Yeah, yeah. So play the audio,” Yoongi says, not meaning to sound so eager, but the buzz riding up his spine is getting to him, and his thigh is jittering and his teeth are grinding together. VAN nods their head, the circular eye forming into a spinning white halo of light as the line of their mouth thins. Then, there’s sound. Staticky and not quite as clear, but the voice is the gravely and uncaring sound distinctive of one An Manseok. 

The audio seems to pick up where Yoongi was cut off, leading with the kind of questioning Yoongi figured Manseok would start with. The tone is clear in Manseok’s voice that he doesn’t believe Jeongguk’s story, but Jeongguk is being cooperative, charming. Almost…almost in a way that makes the suspicion arouse in Yoongi’s chest when he thought it had subsided. 

He’s spent two to three years of his life with Jeongguk. He knows how the boy used to bottle up his emotions just like Namjoon did if he felt they would be too inconvenient. But unlike Namjoon, he’d struggle before the breakdown of tears, be almost reluctant to let the weakness show and the tears fall down his round cheeks. That was how Jeongguk was in front of teammates. Yoongi can’t bring himself to imagine how Jeongguk would let himself fall apart in front of strangers.

Yet, Jeongguk here is speaking too quickly, too eagerly. When he cries, he bawls. When he speaks, he whines. Maybe five years changed Jeongguk more than Yoongi would have figured. Briefly, he wonders if VAN may have a point in that joint therapy session. 

Jinsoo’s voice comes in to quell Jeongguk from spiraling further into hysterics, a gentle and caring tone in contrast to the ornery tone Manseok has been giving. 

Manseok-ah, look at him. He was scared and he still is.”

“Murder is murder!”

“For all we know, the partner could have been the one that gave him that shank in the first place! It’s not out of place for operators to have their victims kill clients and rob them—”

“What, do you want him to just walk out of here without any charges? The Federate won’t allow that.”

It’s like a sudden injection of ice goes through the base of Yoongi’s spine and through his limbs, making his entire body numb with shock. The Federate? What does the Federate want with Jeongguk? How did the Federate even know about this case when if anything, the Federate only concerned themselves with crimes that were at a threat level greater than a Metro Unit, maybe even greater than a Hero Unit, could handle

When we ran the CID, we got an alert from a Federate representative involved in Vice to allow them to handle the charges and conviction. No explanation or reasoning, just an order.”

“That doesn’t make sense. He’s just a kid, not some mass murderer.”

“…There’s a Federate seal on every name involved in that Hero Unit according to CID, not just him. Someone named Jung Hoseok, that idol Kim Seokjin, that convict they got floating up in space, and your junior.”

Hoseok. Why Hoseok? Why Seokjin? Yoongi can justify the Federate seal on his name. Justify, but not agree with the reasoning; there’s a lack of Enhanced civilians working in Metro Units and political endeavors that the Federate has their hands in. Maybe to keep them out of power, maybe to keep them from enacting change and earning a better life for themselves, Yoongi isn’t sure. But Hoseok and Seokjin…they’re as ordinary now as the average respectable civilian. They didn’t do anything.

Yoongi doesn’t get an answer, since Manseok is cut off by someone entering the interrogation room. He’s not sure where in this recording is the ‘surprise’ supposed to be…maybe after they’ve calmed Jeongguk down from his uncharacteristic hysterics—

Jinsoo-ssi,” a voice that Yoongi hasn’t heard before suddenly speaks, “your work here is done. Return back to your Unit and delete all records of this arrest and case from your computer files.”

What?

Yoongi sits upright. “What’s going on? Who is that?” he questions as VAN continues to play the audio, as the unknown voice gives their orders to Manseok’s partner to resume camera recording. There’s not a shout of protest, of confusion, not even a quiet mumbling of agreement as if maybe somehow, this was some type of plan that they all for some reason collaborated on. Just the quiet shuffling of Jinsoo’s feet taking him out of the interrogation room, outside of the precinct into the noisy bustle of everyday traffic.

The audio gives a click. VAN raises their arms. “Ta-da! See! They are throwing out the case! Namjoon is going to be so happy!” the robot chirps. Yoongi must be showing something on his face since VAN immediately stops mid-celebration, round eye blinking yellow. “…Isn’t this a good thing?…Will Namjoon not like my surprise?

Yoongi doesn’t give VAN an answer, doesn’t even give the time to open his mouth and utter a response. He just lets the nerves take over his skin, make gooseflesh of it as the setting of the library disappears with a blink of his eye. 

Walls decorated with framed posters of old heroes replaced the dusty bookshelves and even dustier books that lined them, the smell of popcorn cooking wafting into Yoongi’s nose. There’s a loud blaring of a television behind him, some slasher movie by how the string violins shriek into a blistering crescendo. There’s screaming, but it’s not just coming from the television behind him.

“Hyung!” Beomgyu yells, nearly falling off his couch and banging his already bandaged head on his coffee table. “H-Hyung! I told you not to do that! What if - what if I had a guest over or something?!”

“Do you have a guest over?” 

Beomgyu is in an oversized jersey and boxers. His ears tint pink. “Well, no. But it’s the principle—”

“It’s late, and I know the precinct might be closed tonight, but I think we might have a situation. Your computer still has access to the precinct files, right?”

“…You couldn’t have just called?”

Yoongi sucks in air between his teeth, strolling over to where he sees Beomgyu’s laptop sitting on the coffee table and drops down on the sofa cushion beside his younger partner. “Just give me a few minutes. Ten minutes tops.”

Beomgyu sighs, getting to his feet. “Well, I guess I’ll make more popcorn.”

 


 

“You’re just trying to stall for time, aren’t you?”

The bodyguard glances down to Jeongguk at his side, heat wafting from the open barbecue grills at the set up food stall they decided to stop by and eat at. It’s a welcoming warmth, especially with the chill of nightfall nipping at the back of Jeongguk’s neck. But after having four meat skewers and two sides of japchae all to himself while the older man had nothing, even he is starting to feel they’ve overstayed their welcome. 

“What gave you that impression?” 

“Just…just a guess.”

The older man sighs deeply, not bothering to hide the exhaustion. “…Seokjin-ah won’t be coming home till midnight. Something about a dinner with one of his co-stars from the drama…still want to run before he comes back?”

“It’s my choice to leave,” Jeongguk says. It’s funny; the more he says it, the more aggravated he feels about leaving in the first place. 

Maybe it’s because Jeongguk doesn’t see an immediate bus stop anywhere in their vicinity, nowhere to quickly get away before he starts to wallow in his feelings and thoughts which he hates. Maybe it’s because Jeongguk has honestly lost track of time the second a grilled chicken skewer was placed in front of him with an ice cold Coke accompanying it. Seokjin once told him it’s easy to forget when surrounded by good food and good company, that comfort and vulnerability that’s so nice to fall back into, if only for a moment.

The bodyguard chuckles under his breath, rising up from his stool.

“Let’s walk around a bit. Air out the smell,” he suggests. Jeongguk clambers off his own stool, bringing the sleeve of his jacket to take a few sniffs. The smoke is subtle, but not as bad. Nevertheless, he follows the older man away from the smell of grilled meats to where the space becomes open and the twinkle of golden fairy lights are strung from lamppost to lamppost above Jeongguk’s head. Some kind of open art exhibition, Jeongguk thinks as they wander aimlessly through abstract sculptures and step around painted murals on the ground. 

“…Will you tell Seokjin?” Jeongguk asks when the older man stops in front of a white sculpture. It’s shaped and molded with curves that give off a womanly feel, but evoking a sense of motherhood rather than one of sexuality. Jeongguk lets his eyes slowly drift along its round lines, lets the chill of the night cool his trembling lungs when he lets out a sigh.

“Don’t think it’s my place to tell him, but if you won’t—”

“Please don’t guilt trip me into doing it.”

“Not trying to.” The man reaches into his pocket to slip a cigarette in between his lips. He only barely gets his lighter out before a woman hurries over to them a bit too quickly from behind, spooking Jeongguk.

“No smoking, sir!” she reprimands in a high-pitched voice. The bodyguard ‘ah’s, slips the cigarette back into his pocket along with his lighter. She smiles warmly at him and Jeongguk, before she goes to tend to other guests that are reaching out to touch a sculpture with sharp angles and rough ridges. 

“…How come you haven’t used it?” Jeongguk asks. “How come you haven’t just…forced me to stay if you know that’s what Seokjin wants?”

“…Seokjin-ah loves and cares for you, but even I don’t think he could live with himself knowing he was complacent in allowing your free will to be violated by my ability. You know he only wants what’s best for you.”

“Maybe he should just focus on himself before he starts to care about me,” Jeongguk mumbles, half looking at the man out the corner of his eye. “How was he after the earthquake?”

The man is silent, but his face betrays him. It’s a twitch of his eyebrow, a downturn of his lips that gives it away, fleeting but still there. Jeongguk nods his head. “…I’m not ungrateful for what Seokjin-hyung has done for me…but I never asked for him to save me…I didn’t need him or Yoongi or Hoseok before and I don’t need them now.”

“…And the other one?”

“What other one?”

“There were five of you. If he was the one that asked you to leave, would you?”

Jeongguk’s throat is a desert, tongue devoid of words. “I…I don’t know…”

“Hm.” The older man scratches at his face, clicking his tongue against his teeth. “I’m going to step away for a quick smoke. Not gonna ask you to hang around with me so…” the request goes unvoiced, but the tone of it, the silent plead for Jeongguk to stay still sounds from the low timbre of his voice. The sudden thought of Namjoon gets pushed back for the time being as Jeongguk nods, before he wanders off in one direction while the older man strides away in the other.

He’s entertained the thought of Namjoon returning so many times in the moments where he least wanted to remember his own reality. When a client would lie themselves on top of him and Jeongguk’s legs obediently spread beneath their touch, he wished it were Namjoon’s trembling ones in the library, still so scared to touch him as Jeongguk begged and wished for it against the seam of Namjoon’s lips. In the mornings, Jeongguk wished it was Namjoon curled against his back, Namjoon’s voice wishing him good morning against the shell of his ear. 

He’s thought about Namjoon so much, wished for Namjoon so much until it began to hurt. He’d look for a distraction, whether that be in Seokjin’s company or Moonsoo’s, let the want fade away, then have the audacity to be surprised when it returned even stronger, hurting harder. 

Would he leave?

Would things be different?

Jeongguk stops in front of a sculpture that is made of different glass prisms of color, each stacked on the other to form a tunnel of glistening hues under the fairy lights above. It must be the centerpiece of the open air museum; people wander through it and around it with their phones out to snap a picture. It’s beautiful in an almost chaotic way; Jeongguk sees his reflection all around him in each glass pane, his confusion reflected in all the spectrum of the rainbow. 

Would he leave? Can he leave?

Jeongguk closes his eyes tight. He’s not good at thinking; Minho even told Jeongguk he’s at his best when he doesn’t think. But now all he feels is doubt creeping into his lungs, confusion twisting his throat so he can’t help but choke and wheeze and wish for the world to just stop.

So when Jeongguk opens his eyes, it does.

Through the reds and blues and greens and purples, reflection slightly warped from the glass, Jeongguk sees a figure he’s seen in his dreams and his memories one too many times. Same build, same height, but different hair. Same lips, same eyes, same indentations at the ends of a warmed smile Jeongguk always felt so happy to see.

Namjoon.

Namjoon.

The man is right there, quietly taking in the splendor of color before him, his hands in the pockets of a grey jumpsuit. It’s him, it’s him. A familiar pressure builds at the back of Jeongguk’s eyes, but he can’t bring himself to blink it away, too afraid that if this is some dream, some figment of a confused and desperate imagination that ran away without Jeongguk’s permission that will make Namjoon disappear the second his eyes are closed…he takes one step forward. Another. Another till his trembling hands reach out and press themselves against the glass. 

“Namjoon,” his voice husks out like a whisper, choked off when he wants to sob it, scream it. 

Yet, through the glass, it’s enough.

Namjoon’s eyes slowly wander down, like Jeongguk’s heart pulls them to look at him, until they rest on Jeongguk’s face. And…there’s a pause, unsureness, the same wondering if Jeongguk is seeing what the other man is seeing from his side of the glass. The same tentative steps forward, closer, closer. Jeongguk’s body presses flushed against the glass, ridges of the sculpture digging into his hipbone pushing him back when he only wants more.

Namjoon,” he says again, desperate as Namjoon is there, right there. And his hands push against the glass where Jeongguk’s are, lips so close that the heat of his breath creates a fog.

Jeongguk sees those lips mouth his name.

The glass on Namjoon’s side cracks at his fingertips.

Jeongguk quickly staggers back the same time Namjoon does, Namjoon hurriedly shoving his hands into his pockets as his head whirls for anyone that might have seen it. Jeongguk is still standing, still breathing even though his breath is short, panicked. It’s not a dream. It’s not a fantasy. It’s real.

He runs. He staggers. He holds back the sob until he’s out of the crystal tunnel and falling into Namjoon’s arms that met him halfway. Namjoon’s warmth surrounds him, his scent. His hair, albeit a different color, still feels the same when Jeongguk runs his hand through it, clings to it and Namjoon’s shoulder in desperation too far gone to control now. 

“Namjoon—” A sob breaks before he can get out another word, another breath. Namjoon holds him tighter, barely keeping them both from falling to their knees. 

“How?” Namjoon asks, and god, Jeongguk shatters even more. That voice. The feel of Namjoon’s skin against him, his hands, his everything. It feels too much and not enough at the same time, like Jeongguk is spiraling into delirium and the weight of the world is dragging him further down. 

Jeongguk pulls his head back and answers with a kiss to Namjoon’s lips. It’s amazing how time didn’t keep his body from easily melting in Namjoon’s hold, a wonder that their lips still fit together perfectly as if Jeongguk’s lips were meant to be against Namjoon’s. It’s still as needy, as wanting as the kiss five years ago was, Jeongguk’s lips as wet and trembling. 

“You’re here,” Jeongguk breathes against Namjoon’s mouth, kissing the corners. “You’re here.”

“How are you here?” Namjoon asks, forehead pressed against Jeongguk’s. “How did you—” Jeongguk kisses Namjoon firmly, digs his fingers tighter into Namjoon’s hair as he feels the ground begin to rattle under the soles of his shoes to keep himself steady.

Namjoon’s hands grab hold of Jeongguk’s waist, feeling hot through the thick material of Jeongguk’s jacket. “Wait,” Namjoon breathes, pulling back with red and swollen lips that steal Jeongguk’s air from his lungs and urge something in Jeongguk’s chest to go back in for one more taste. He does. Twice. Three, four — “Wait.”

“Why? W-Why —” Namjoon’s eyes focus on something behind Jeongguk, and it’s almost pains him to turn away to look. Not too far away, by a marble statue with gold accents of two dancing figures, stands a young man with blue hair staring at them with wide eyes. There’s a thing in Jeongguk’s heart, feral and hungry, that makes a breath hitch in his throat on seeing the look in the blue haired man’s eyes. His hand curled around Namjoon’s shoulder tightens without him realizing.

“Who is that?” Jeongguk asks.

“He’s…he’s a friend,” Namjoon explains, pulling Jeongguk firm against him as they properly stand. “Jeonggukie, how did…how did you get out of jail?”

As quickly as Jeongguk felt his body go aflame with renewed desire, it quickly is extinguished with that one, gentle question.

“…H-How do you know about that?”

Namjoon looks away, like he’s ashamed to answer. Jeongguk feels ice going through his veins, his body prickling an unpleasant numb. “H-Hyung, please, please let me explain—” The words drop in his throat as his eyes lock with Seokjin’s bodyguard approaching quickly from behind Namjoon and no, no, no. 

Jeongguk begins to shake his head, body beginning to tremble in Namjoon’s hold. “No, no,” he gasps, he begs. “No, I just got you back. I just got you—”

“Jeonggukie, what’s going on? What is it?” Namjoon turns to look himself, but Jeongguk grabs at Namjoon’s wrist and pulls. 

You deserve to be loved properly, Jeongguk.

He can’t let Namjoon go again. Not again.

“J-Jeongguk!” Namjoon’s startled yell is like a spark of energy, a strike of lightning to Jeongguk’s spine. Jeongguk runs with Namjoon struggling to keep his frantic pace as they disappear though the glass tunnel, where the sound of his thudding heart takes over Jeongguk’s hearing and smothers the yells of Seokjin’s bodyguard behind them, but not the sound of glass cracking shard by shard, piece by piece. Screams rip out as the glass above shatters to let the moonless sky be shown, some bits of glass falling on Namjoon and Jeongguk as they exit the other side and meet an empty street and an empty autobus without its proper stop. Don’t think, don’t question, just go.

Namjoon tries to stutter something out, a question or maybe a name, but Jeongguk jolts forward and continues to drag him along up the steps into the bus. He only pauses at the small metal device where a human driver would sit, haphazardly shoving his hand into the pocket of his jeans for the right amount of coin as he hears the panic occurring behind him through the still open doors. 

Jeongguk spares a fast glance over his shoulder at the cluster of people forming around the damaged glass tunnel in the midst of the panic, while Seokjin’s bodyguard continues to run towards the bus with the blue-haired man trailing a bit further behind. Jeongguk drops a handful of coins without counting, watches how the machine scoops them back into the tray and registers the distance it will travel on a route Jeongguk isn’t even familiar with. Just hurry, just hurry up!

“Jeongguk! Jeongguk, wait!” Seokjin’s bodyguard shouts, and Namjoon turns his head to look. Jeongguk quickly stops his head from fully turning with a gentle but firm hand, rushes out a ‘close your eyes’ against Namjoon’s lips before he kisses him and lets his heart overflow. There’s one final shout of Jeongguk’s name from the outside before the welcomed sound of the door whisking itself firmly shut, the gentle rumble of the autobus’ motor stirring beneath their feet. There’s a sudden jolt that throws Jeongguk off balance and he falls against Namjoon, but that makes Namjoon’s arms wind around his waist in a way that Jeongguk’s body craved without him realizing it wanted it.

“You’re here,” Jeongguk whispers, throat parched, trembling. “You’re here.”

It’s only now that Jeongguk starts to feel cognizant of how hard he’s breathing, how hot he feels and how exhausted his body becomes. His eyelashes are wet and clumped together, blinking furiously to keep his eyes on Namjoon’s growing concerned expression. His fingers fight to cling onto Namjoon, but his hands are smoothing down Namjoon’s arms, falling limply at the sides. 

“Ggukie? H-Hey, Jeongguk, stay with me—” The autobus hits a pothole and they both stumble into a chair, Jeongguk’s legs giving out at last to free fall into Namjoon’s warmth. His ear against Namjoon’s chest, Jeongguk hears Namjoon’s heartbeat, not a comforting lull but a riled up thumpthumpthump! that draws pleased shivers from Jeongguk’s already trembling body.

“You’re here,” Jeongguk says again, and he’s able to muster the strength to hold Namjoon just like this, able to close his eyes to the feel of Namjoon’s warm arm wrapped around his shoulders and the echo of his name on Namjoon’s lips. “You’re here,” he whispers, and for the first time in five years, he’s never felt so at peace.

 


 

WE ARE LEGION

Today 8:50 PM
Blueberry Muffin
We've got a situation 😰
Blondie
What?
Blondie
What is it????
Blondie
did something happen with namjoon?? where's ur location? do u need me there??
Blueberry Muffin
that open air museum thing orange mentioned downtown?
Blondie
whats going on??
Today 8:52 PM
Blueberry Muffin
Namjoon left me
Blueberry Muffin
Left w/ some other guy
Blondie
other guy??
Blueberry Muffin
oh wait u don't know
Blondie
well u have the tracker pink gave, dont u??
Blueberry Muffin
i tried to check, but it must have fallen off 😞 I'm still getting a signal that he's here even though i saw him get on the bus
uggggghh r u guys using the chat to talk work??😩😩😩
it's supposed to be for fun😩😩😩
Blue!!! u went without me?? 🥺 was it fun? was it pretty like Google said?
take a picture!
Blondie
not now
Blondie
how much time do u have, Blue
Blueberry Muffin
maybe an hour?
Blondie
why are u out so late? u could have disappeared on him and blown the cover 😤
Blueberry Muffin
he's really stressed😞 i wanted him to clear his head before we went back
Blueberry Muffin
it's something to do with his ex-teammate. he ran off with him. i think he's having troubles with his feelings for him 😞
Blondie
r u talking about yoongi?
Blondie
small, grey hair, kinda sexy?
Blueberry Muffin
no
Blondie
🙄 how come none of u record the minor details in ur notes???
Blondie
we need to give the illusion we're the same person so just saying
Blondie
it would help if we're all on the same page 😑
well we're not the same 😒
he's smart isn't he? he's gonna find out sooner or later. so who cares?
Pink Bitch
hey! 😡 we are the same! don't say that!!
waow group chat really popping off rn
Today 8:58 PM
Blondie
i should let White know
Pink Bitch
no
Blueberry Muffin
no
no
Blueberry Muffin
please don't bring white into this
Blondie
Blue, he can meet up with u and take over
Blueberry Muffin
we CANT tell white
Pink Bitch
i have time i can meet up and go looking
i wanna go too!!
Blondie
no. pink is enough
but i wanna meet him🥺 he sounds cute
maybe i can help him destress 😘
Blueberry Muffin
please stop
Blondie
i still think we should let White know. if another earthquake happens and we can't answer for our lack of presence or intervening, he'll be furious
Short, Dark and Handsome
i'll go with pink
omg ur actually using my group chat 🥰
Pink Bitch
its ok blue, we got this covered
Blueberry Muffin
please be gentle with him 😰 he's going through a lot
tomorrow's my day with him right???
i'll be gentle with him too blue dont u worry 😘

 


 

“What were you and Number Five discussing, Number One?”

Namjoon swallows. It’s not the first time Yeongsu used this sharp tone with him in regards to Jeongguk, but it still blisters the tips of his ears when he hears it, still makes his shoulders droop with sudden guilt.

His hand fists the sheets where Jeongguk’s lingering heat remains still in the folds. “We were…it was just about how he was handling things, Sir.”

“I see. And how did you feel?”

“Um…happy? I suppose…”

“Would you feel the same if it were Number Three or Number Four that came to speak with you?”

Hoseok and Seokjin barely speak to Namjoon at all unless it’s imperative they do so. And when they do, it’s usually never pleasant. Namjoon shakes his head. “I think I might feel a little bit more tense were it them.”

“You feel relaxed around Number Five?”

“Um…I feel relaxed around all my teammates, Yeongsu-ssi.”

“As a leader should.” Yeongsu angles his chin upwards, Namjoon hating the disapproving gleam in the older man’s eyes. “Remember your place as a leader, Number One. Curb any feelings that may get in the way of what is your purpose.”

Yeongsu mentions that word a lot between them: ‘purpose’. He’s promised Hoseok he’ll find purpose here in the collective, promised Yoongi that as well in even fewer words. He doesn’t know if he promised Seokjin or Jeongguk the same, but Namjoon can only assume. He can’t guess what purpose his teammates’ are searching for, if they all fit together as pieces of a puzzle or are too distinct as seashells on a shared beach. 

Namjoon is meant to be a leader, or at least Yeongsu is investing in Namjoon to become one. He trains separately from the others, he spends more time in Yeongsu’s library soaking up ever bit of information he finds on the mahogany shelves and in between faded ink text. He studies and reviews other Units for their faults, monitors his own closely to find similarities and correct them in the most efficient way possible. If Yeongsu expects of them to become this unified front and excel in their abilities, then Namjoon wants to make sure his teammates become the best they can be and will not settle for less.

So, he nods his head in understanding. “Of course, Sir,” he responds sincerely, and it’s a flicker of a smile that graces Yeongsu’s lips that reaffirms it all.

 

 

 

 

Namjoon cares deeply for his teammates. He sees the potential in all of them, if only they’d be willing to just work harder .

Yoongi is skilled with his ability, doesn’t struggle with it like Hoseok and Jeongguk struggle with theirs. But he shies away from the limelight and is surly when pushed into it, unapproachable not just to Namjoon, but to the others as well. Yeongsu doesn’t bother with Yoongi, told Namjoon he finds Yoongi to be rather self-sufficient and therefore the least amount of monitoring. Yeongsu didn’t spend his time on Yoongi, didn’t expect much from Yoongi aside from what Yoongi was willing to put in himself. Therefore, Namjoon just let Yoongi be, if that was what his hyung wanted.

Hoseok is the opposite, the torrent of the hurricane where Yoongi is the eye. He is charismatic, energy spilling with restraint in front of civilians and reporters, so much so that Namjoon almost envies how comfortable Hoseok is while Namjoon has to prepare himself into the proper headspace before the camera can pan his way. In the manor, Hoseok speaks his mind, uncontrolled and not afraid. He doesn’t listen to Namjoon, and he definitely doesn’t listen to Yeongsu, despite how much time Yeongsu tries to devote himself to getting Hoseok to make a breakthrough. 

They’re the same age, albeit Hoseok being a few months older, but Namjoon feels a special kind of want with Hoseok to become his friend. Hoseok is cooler, freer, comfortable in his own skin where Namjoon feels he’s wearing a costume. He admires Hoseok deeply and he knows that there must be something about him that he can’t see, so Namjoon doesn’t hesitate to tell him every time they pass. ‘You just need to work harder, Number Three’. ‘You just need to try harder, Number Three’. Just the right amount of affirmation without going overboard with affection, he has to remind himself. Curb the want, Number One. Remember your place, Number One.

Seokjin is the most efficient member of the team. He’s charismatic and well versed in his power. But there was something about him that Yeongsu didn’t like, something that Namjoon was determined to find out and rectify. He was harder on his hyung, had him do more exercises if it was his stamina that was lackluster, and assigned him more time in the sparring room to practice his combat. Seokjin was the weaker fighter, so Namjoon didn’t want to risk him getting hurt, made him stay behind with Jeongguk and kept him out of the way. Yeongsu never bothered with Seokjin unless he felt it was necessary, but Namjoon just felt it was because Yeongsu himself hadn’t found what role Seokjin could fill. But he’ll find it. Eventually.

And Jeongguk…

Jeongguk was such a breath of fresh air, bright smiles and twinkling eyes. His quiet presence when Namjoon sat in the library or in his workshop made something tickle in Namjoon’s chest. His voice when he spoke, so quiet and shy in tone, but eyes direct and piercing to leave Namjoon with jitters at the back of his neck. He was the youngest, sixteen going on seventeen, seventeen going on eighteen. He learned all he could from Namjoon whenever he could, he spoke to Namjoon almost every second he could spare, about things Yeongsu would have found trivial but Namjoon secretly cherished. 

His favorite color is yellow. He likes any music that he could dance to, likes to peruse Yeongsu’s music collection when the older man isn’t looking. His eyes squint to crescents when he smiled and he smiled often. He always smelled like sunflowers and fresh linen.

“How do you feel about Number Five?” Yeongsu would always ask whenever Namjoon sometimes feels himself slipping into that gentle want, that pleasant comfort of shared company when Jeongguk’s arm brushes against his and Jeongguk smiles his way. It was like the older man somehow knew, maybe Namjoon showed it on his face whenever Jeongguk would be ushered away, or when Jeongguk gushed about all the fun things he and Hoseok or Seokjin do together that Namjoon never could. And with every time Yeongsu asked that question, the same reprimand would come off Yeongsu’s tongue with a scowl.

Curb your want.

Remember your role.

He is Jeongguk’s leader, nothing less, nothing more.

 


 

Namjoon doesn’t know how long the bus ride goes, only when that when the wheels finally stop rolling, the outside surroundings are unfamiliar. Barely any streetlamps around and seedy looking facades, murky alleyways and not a single civilian walking the streets. The doors up front slide open, an automated voice announcing that all passengers must vacate the bus. Otherwise, a Federate patrol would be contacted to escort you out themselves.

Considering Namjoon and Jeongguk’s status, that is not the most ideal situation to put themselves in.

“Ggukie,” Namjoon whispers to the younger male passed out on his shoulder, his arm still tightly wound around Namjoon’s midsection. “Ggukie, come on, we gotta go.”

Jeongguk stirs, fingers tangling in Namjoon’s jumpsuit as Namjoon gets them both to their feet and quietly shuffles them both off the bus. He sticks firmly to Namjoon’s side, so it visibly jars Jeongguk when Namjoon pushes an appropriate amount of space between them as the doors behind close shut. 

The air around them has a pungent odor, and Namjoon hasn’t the faintest clue which direction they need to go for the manor—

The manor.

Yoongi.

Jimin.

Namjoon quickly brings a hand to the back of his collar for the device, only to find that it isn’t there where Jimin had planted it. So now, he can’t even suggest for them both to stay put and wait for Jimin to reunite before they call on Yoongi. Ugh.

The bus pulls away and disappears into the night, leaving Namjoon and Jeongguk underneath a lone streetlamp. Jeongguk wraps his arms around himself, stepping close into Namjoon’s space only for Namjoon to step back. “W-We should, um, we should find out where we are. See if maybe we can get another bus or—”

“Can we talk first?” Jeongguk asks, voice small, still holding that painful want that Namjoon remembers all those years ago, that he’s still so weak for. “I want to talk, hyung. I-I need to explain—”

“It’s alright—”

“No it’s not.”

“Jeongguk, we - we don’t have the time to deal with this. We need to get back to the manor and we’ll talk there.”

Jeongguk flinches at the rise of volume, but he doesn’t speak back. Now that Namjoon lets his eyes drift over him, he sees how different Jeongguk looks. The cameras don’t compare to the real thing; Jeongguk is taller than he remembers, built with hard and smooth lines of muscle. His face only has a flicker of that happiness that Namjoon thought he could drown himself in if he looked too closely, eyes holding only a glimmer of a sparkle. He’s changed, but Namjoon can’t say he’s grown.

Wordlessly, Namjoon turns and starts down the road where he remembers the bus came. As he walks, Jeongguk follows in step, fingers lightly tangling between Namjoon’s hanging limp at his side. The touch is fleeting, hot, like a spark that pierces his lungs. Instantly, Namjoon wrenches his hand away. 

Curb the want, curb the want. 

Jeongguk doesn’t say anything about the touch. Neither does Namjoon.

It’s only when they’ve walked a good distance together in uncomfortable silence and pass by a small children’s park that Jeongguk stops in his track and asks in a voice threatening to break, “Can we please talk?”

Namjoon stops to look at him. “We really should be getting back to the manor—”

“You were gone for five years,” Jeongguk croaks. “You were gone for five years and I’ve missed you and—” he averts his gaze, swallows down whatever he starts getting choked up by. “I just want to talk to you. If not that, then at least let me touch you.”

Namjoon feels his skin flush from the admission, chest tightening. He looks around, finding them  as alone as they were ten minutes ago. The park beside them is empty of children and noise, a few lawn lamps stuck around the jungle gym to give off barely enough light for one to navigate the winding trail. He tilts his head towards the path, and Jeongguk follows him as they walk to take a seat beneath a crooked tree with drooping branches. 

When Namjoon sits down in the cool grass, Jeongguk sits beside them with his arm pressed against Namjoon’s. The heat flushes through Namjoon’s body again, and he scoots to put space between them. Though there is barely light where they are seated, the downturn of Jeongguk’s mouth can’t be missed.

“…I don’t know how you found out,” Jeongguk starts, quiet. “I don’t know how much you know…but I just wanted to say that I’m sorry. For…for everything. I-I know I’m a disappointment and you were the last person I wanted to find out about what I’ve done and if you’re - if you’re disgusted by me or you’re angry with me—”

“I’m not disgusted with you. And I…I can’t ever be angry with you—”

“Then why won’t you touch me?” Jeongguk’s voice cracks and the hiccup that comes from his lips sounds like a sniffle. “Why are you treating me like this if you aren’t disgusted with me?”

“I…it’s not appropriate…what we did wasn’t appropriate. I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you that night before I left. You weren’t in the right kind of mind—”

“You didn’t take advantage of me,” Jeongguk stresses, urgent. “I wanted you. I still want you.” His hand finds Namjoon’s in the dark, and Namjoon can’t pull away this time. “I’ve…I’ve always wanted you to come back. I always wished you would come back and - and things would be different. We’d be together, we’d be happy. We’d — we’d get a place of our own and we would do things like — like grocery shopping or, or going to the park or just — just lying around on the couch and—” it’s like Jeongguk can’t get the words out fast enough, can’t seem to find every little thing he wants to do with Namjoon in the small space between them, so he leans in closer, closer, closer until he’s saying his wants against Namjoon’s mouth, his hands tightening in the front of Namjoon’s jumpsuit.

Curb your want, Number One.

Namjoon’s hands wander up to Jeongguk’s hips to push him back. “Jeongguk, stop—”

Jeongguk’s hands latch only tighter. “But I don’t understand.” His voice is wet, wanting, hurting. “I don’t understand, I want you. I’m telling you I want you, hyung—”

“And I’m telling you that I can’t.”

Why? Tell me why.”

Namjoon clicks his tongue. “I shouldn’t have to explain—”

“Five years ago, you could have told me ‘no’. You could have pushed me away then. I’ve — I’ve wanted you for five years—” Namjoon hears above them a quiet rumble that comes from the sky, clouds beginning to form. He curses under his breath.

“Look, we need to go back to the manor—”

“Let me talk!” Jeongguk’s hands dig into the front of Namjoon’s jumpsuit hard enough to hurt. “Are you even listening to me?! I’ve missed you! You just show up out of nowhere with no explanation and—”

“I’m here on business with the Project, and I’m supposed to be monitored. Which is why we need to go back to the manor—” Jeongguk suddenly lurches back, hands still fisting Namjoon’s jumpsuit to bring him tumbling onto the younger man in the grass. “J-Jeongguk! What are you—”

“Look me in my eyes and tell me you didn’t want this,” Jeongguk says with a voice low in his throat. “Look at me and say that five years ago, you didn’t want me.”

Namjoon feels the first drop of rainfall on the back of his neck. “Jeongguk—”

“Tell me that I was stupid to want you to come back. Tell me you never felt that way and you don’t feel anything now and I’ll let you go.”

Namjoon feels hot. Namjoon feels breathless. Namjoon feels the Earth rattling beneath them, where Jeongguk rests in the grass with watering eyes and twisting lips. He’s flushed red, down his neck and into his jacket where Namjoon can’t see the color bloom in the dark. Jeongguk’s hands move to slide one hand behind Namjoon’s neck, the other bracing against Namjoon’s bicep where he’s beginning to quake. “Tell me you don’t want me. Tell me—”

“I’m not going to hurt you by saying a lie—”

“Then why can’t you tell me you want me back?” The first tear slips from Jeongguk’s eye, rolls down the side of his face into his pink hair. “I don’t understand.”

“…I’m your Number One. I…I can’t be anything more than that to you.”

Why?”

“Yeongsu-ssi wouldn’t have wanted—”

Yeongsu?” A loud rumble of thunder cracks through the sky. “Yeongsu didn’t fight for you. Yeongsu let you become vilified and hated for something he should have helped you control. Yeongsu is dead.”

“And ever since his death and my disappearance, we’ve fallen apart as a Unit,” Namjoon protests as he feels one drop of rain, two, five, plenty as the downpour comes without any warning. Namjoon shifts himself over Jeongguk, shielding the younger male as best as he can from the rain even though both of them begin to grow soaked. “I’m back now, so now we can get ourselves back on track—”

“We’re not Heroes. We don’t need to do this anymore. We’ve moved on.” Jeongguk’s thumb curls a wet lock of hair behind Namjoon’s ear. “We can move on from all of this.”

“Jeongguk-ah, I can’t do that.”

“…Does Kim Namjoon wants us to be a Unit or does Number One want that?”

A rumble comes from beneath the ground instead of the sky. “God, now you’re saying it. What does that even mean? It’s the same thing—” A crack of lightning appears above them, illuminating Jeongguk’s face, eyes rimmed red and face wet with tears indistinguishable from the rain. Namjoon feels his lungs constrict at it, still able to see Jeongguk’s face when their surroundings darken around them and the rain becomes heavier. “Jeongguk, we’ve got to go back to the manor—”

Jeongguk responds by wrapping his legs around Namjoon’s torso. “J-Jeongguk—”

“There’s a difference,” he says, tone harsh. “Am I Jeongguk or am I Number Five?”

“Jeongguk-ah, we don’t have the time for this—”

“Was I ever something other than Number Five to you? Just — just some stupid kid that couldn’t even fight on missions and had a pathetic crush on you? Did you want me that night?

“Get off, Jeongguk—”

Answer me!

No!

Lightning cracks across the sky again with a deafening roar of thunder. Jeongguk’s face in the light is one of complete shock, horrified remorse that Namjoon instantly wishes he never saw. 

The hands on his neck and his arm slides to his chest, roughly pushing Namjoon away. Namjoon stumbles back and falls onto the wet grass with a squelch, blinking through the water streaming down his face as Jeongguk gets to his knees. “J-Jeonggukie, wait. I didn’t mean it like that—”

Don’t call me that,” Jeongguk’s voice is louder than the rainstorm, sounding just as wild, as dangerous. “Don’t call me that.”

Jeongguk-ah, please—” Namjoon grabs Jeongguk before the younger male can get away, struggling with Jeongguk in his hold as he began to thrash wildly around.

“Let go of me! Let me go!

“All I’m trying to do is help you!

“I don’t want your help! I don’t want any of your help! Let me go!” Namjoon spins Jeongguk around in his hold, chest to chest, heartbeat to heartbeat. Jeongguk gasps, bringing a fist to punch at Namjoon’s shoulder, though the hits barely sting. “Let go of me! Let go!!

Namjoon holds tighter, cheek half buried against Jeongguk’s hair. Even when wet with rainwater permeating the smell, there’s still that gentle scent of sunflowers. “I’m not going to let you get away. I’m here now. I’m here.”

Let. Go!

It happens in an instant.

Lightning strikes the tree with a noise that is akin to a banshee’s shrieking wail, at the same time the ground beneath them jolts upward like the Earth cracked itself open and intends to swallow them up. Namjoon loses his balance from the shock of lightning nearly striking them, but it’s the well aimed punch across his jaw from Jeongguk that gets him to lose his grip. He falls onto the grass with a thud, then has to scramble to his feet to avoid the flying pieces of singed wood as the smoke clogs his lungs. 

“Jeongguk!” Namjoon yells when the ground continues to shake, when he sees Jeongguk running as the downpour gets heavier, harder, winds bellowing from all directions that Jeongguk’s figure immediately disappears in. “Jeongguk! Jeongguk!

He stumbles into the street, looking around in all directions without a single clue where he could turn, where he can go. He screams Jeongguk’s name over and over, but the rain smothers the sound till all he could hear is how desperate he’s sounding, regretful.

Curb your emotion, Number One.

Don’t forget your end goal, Number One.

Is it so hard to admit that you wanted something he said you couldn’t have?

Did you want me in the first place?

Namjoon’s hands ball into fists, and if he glances down, he sees that they are scorching hot, glowing bright and angry as the storm ranges around him. He grits his teeth, throat stinging hot as he screams Jeongguk’s name. 

Curb your emotion, Number One.

Don’t let your emotions run away, Number One.

Be calm. Calm down. Calm down.

 

Did you want me in the first place?

 

Namjoon falls to his knees. The ground gives one last jolt, hard enough for the road to crack and split right down the middle. 

 


 

“The hell’s been up with this weather lately?” 

Seokjin looks up from his cell phone, mid text to Jeongguk letting him know he’ll be back in the morning. Not that he intended to stay out so late, but the dinner with his co-star went from just one more drink, to one more touch, to one more kiss and well. He’s still feeling a little sore, legs still a little loose. But there’s a sweet tingle at the back of his spine where his co-star still has his warmth pressed up against, cock half-heard against the curve of Seokjin’s ass.

The rain is heavy, the lightning and thunder frightening. Seokjin disregards the text for now, stroking his hand over the man’s thigh. 

“Scared of a little thunder?” he singsongs.

“Don’t be a brat. ‘M just saying…shit’s been getting weird lately. That earthquake, now this rainfall…I’ve got a friend that’s involved in some Enhanced group that meets weekly at some farm or some shit like that. Lately, she’s been mentioning stuff like, signs. Like, how things have been happening lately around here are pointing towards like…the end of the world.”

Seokjin snorts. “Sounds like some instigated paranoia.”

“Nah, ‘M just not saying it right. It makes sense when she explains it. Well, no. Not make sense. But, you know, it sounds plausible.” 

Seokjin chuckles. “Do you always not make sense after sex? Or did I just fuck you stupid?”

A pinch at his hipbone, a pair of lips at the base of his neck. “Don’t know. But we can test your theory,” he mumbles, slowly gyrating his hips. Seokjin laughs, melting easily against the other man’s body as he pulls the satin sheets over both their figures, only pausing when he hears his cell phone begin to ring.

Seokjin sits upright. “O-Oh, hold on. I have to get this—”

“Little brother?” the man asks, eyebrow raised, smiling when Seokjin’s face gets a little guilty. “It’s okay. You were looking at your phone almost the entire night, I know you’re dying to talk to him.” He stretches his arms over his head and slides out of the bed, striding naked out the bedroom. “Lemme get some wine for us. Wine tastes good when you’ve made love with someone beautiful. That’s a fact.”

Seokjin chuckles, rubbing his thumb over the smooth skin of his wrist. Sure, he’s the most beautiful person in the world. Before the Incident, that is.

He answers the phone with a quick, “Hello?”

Hello.” It isn’t Jeongguk. It isn’t Seungjae either. The voice is quiet, barely above a whisper, but the tone of it…just one word and Seokjin feels like ice was poured down his spine.

“…Who is this?”

Am I speaking to Kim Seokjin?

Seokjin hangs the phone up. After a few seconds, the phone begins to ring again, an unknown number repeatedly flashing on the screen. He ignores it.

“Taeyongie~ are you having trouble with that wine?” Seokjin calls out, bringing the bedsheets with him to wrap around his frame as he gets out of the bed. It’s not a large apartment, but with all the photographs and eclectic odd furniture decorating the walls, Seokjin finds it charming regardless. He wanders into the kitchen, lights on, but no sight of Taeyong. “Taeyongie~” Seokjin calls again, pulling the sheets tighter. He didn’t hear the shower running, didn’t hear the front door open and close. Not that Taeyong would leave butt naked, so where else could he have gone—

Seokjin yelps, stepping back from where he stepped in a puddle of something wet and sticky and…red

“T-Taeyongie?” The smell of blood begins to fill his mouth, flood his lungs when he gasps as the pool of blood begins to spread on the white tile floor. “Taeyong!” Seokjin screams.

His eyes are closed when he rushes around the corner, too scared to look, but the sting of tears burns too hot to keep them shut tight. They fly open as his body braces for the worst, stomach drawing tight, throat constricting the scream from ripping out.

But there is no body on the ground where the pool of blood lies.

There is, however, a message in blood — Taeyong’s blood — smeared over the white walls by the front door.

yOuRE nEXt

Chapter Text

Prism was once voted the second most handsome Hero in all of Seoul. He had plenty of endorsements with brand-name hair products and his own line of skin care products, not to mention having his face on almost every box of cereal, every bottle of water, and every crate of beer. So, it is a bit of a surprise for Jeongguk to find the man now seated at the counter of a seedy bar in Jungnang-gu, smoke and electric lights around them making his pale face look all the more disconnected from the image Jeongguk was familiar with.

“...You got something else to look at, Kid?” Prism grunts when Jeongguk isn’t fast enough to turn his head, voice rough at the back of his throat. “Take a picture, why don’t you?”

“S-Sorry.” Jeongguk thumbs along the surface of his water, not able to afford much else. “Just…um…you look familiar.”

“Yeah? What, you a reporter?” He clenches his bottle of soju hard enough for a vein in his wrist to bulge. “You wanna laugh at me like everyone else?”

“N-No!” Jeongguk quickly says, hurriedly bowing his head. “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you…to be honest, I’m in the same boat.”

Prism looks him up and down, and Jeongguk immediately becomes self-conscious of his figure. He’s been in and out of shelters, getting quick money through the illicit the gambling rings for just enough food or water or to purchase a soak down at the local bathhouse, but not so much that it doesn’t sting when he loses any extra bit of change to a mugging. He’s been in the same clothes for two weeks and his hair is gross. He’s surprised the bartender even let him in to sit for a glass of water and snacks, maybe felt pity on him.

The bar isn’t very crowded, so there’s not like there’s much noise for Jeongguk to struggle through to hear. But Prism’s scoff is cutting, the roll of his eyes prickling at the back of Jeongguk’s neck.

“You were a Hero? Don’t look a day over seventeen. What, were you a mascot?”

“I’m nineteen,” Jeongguk professes, slightly annoyed.

“So you were a mascot.”

Jeongguk bites the inside of his cheek. Yes, technically he was. Not because he wanted to be; Federate rules dictated underage Heroes be delegated to either mascot or recon roles if they entered a Unit, until they reach the age of eighteen. Minho had him play as a mascot alongside Seokjin until he turned eighteen. That’s when the elder man stuck Jeongguk with the ‘street patrol’ role and kept him busy and away enough so he wouldn’t ‘pester’ Namjoon, but also just made Jeongguk more eager to see Namjoon and tell him every little thing he did that day, cherish every second he got to see that proud dimpled smile. 

Heaven knows Jeongguk spends every night wondering if things would have been different if he were allowed on the front lines with Namjoon and Yoongi, if maybe somehow he could have helped Namjoon before it happened. He hasn’t thought of exactly what he would have done, but he still thinks, ‘what if?’ over and over till it lulls him to a dreamless sleep.

Prism takes another swig of his drink. “Who’re you the mascot for?”

“…The…um…Fantastic Five.”

Prism chokes, soju dribbling down his angled jaw.

You were a part of—” Prism doesn’t say the name; Jeongguk sees the bartender looking curiously at them, a thick eyebrow raised. Wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his jacket, Prism gets to his feet and abandons his drink. “Come on, Kid. Let’s talk somewhere more friendly.”

Jeongguk blinks owlishly, quickly finishing his water and shoving the snack packs into the pockets of his jeans. He follows Prism out the bar, lets the older man hook a warm arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders. It’s a warm touch, but unfamiliar, slightly discomforting.

“Um, where are we going?” Jeongguk asks, keeping his voice level.

Prism smiles. “Where we can be ourselves.”

 

 

 

 

Jeongguk hasn’t the faintest clue where they are when they come across a shabby looking building three stories high, the crowd of the city and its electric lights gone and replaced with dreary store fronts and condemned apartment lots. It doesn’t even look like they’re still in Seoul; hell, it doesn’t even look like they’re still in South Korea. Prism hasn’t removed his arm from around Jeongguk’s shoulders, forcing Jeongguk to get acquainted with the way how a body feels warm against him. His appearance may not have maintained the rigorous upkeep a well known Hero must have, but Prism still feels like he has his musculature, his arm tight enough around Jeongguk’s shoulders that he can feel the curve of each muscle. 

They reach the heavy metal door of the building and Prism knocks twice. Shortly after, a metal flap slides open, Jeongguk meeting yellow eyes with snake-like slits for pupils.

“You’re looking pretty tonight, Chaeyon-ah,” Prism complements when the snake eyes shift over to Jeongguk and he stiffens. “Hope you don’t mind that I brought a friend.”

“You’re always bringing friends,” the eyes — a woman with a lisp — scolds, before the flap closes shut and the door opens wide enough for Prism and Jeongguk to slip inside.

The building definitely isn’t abandoned; there’s a heavy thump of bass music that reverberates against the stone walls and echoes above where disco lights flash bright enough to blind, sending chills up Jeongguk’s spine as Prism moves him further into the heart of the crowd.  People are dancing together, drinking together, lounging on old leather sofas and talking louder than the music, but still not loud enough for Jeongguk to make sense of the conversations he overhears as they all pass by. The faces are both familiar and unknowable; he’s seen some people and recognizes them from his time in the Fantastic Five, Heroes once upon a time with their own Units living it up in Nahae-gu and Gangnam-gu. Others are people Jeongguk’s never seen, but he knows are Enhanced by the way things happen around them. There’s a man that is levitating through the air and spilling his drink over two women with skin of chrome and silver. There’s a person with feathers like a bird all over their arms and legs, and Jeongguk is now realizing he’s never even seen an Enhanced Mutation in the flesh; Units for some reason never had one as a member. 

He stares a little bit too long at them, tips of his ears burning with small embarrassment when he hears Prism chuckle.

“You’ve never seen a Mutant? There’s more like them here if you’re curious.”

“N-No. I just…what is this place?”

Prism doesn’t answer and continues to escort Jeongguk further towards the back and up a flight of stairs that creak with each step they take, until they reach the second floor and enter a hall that is filled with various doors that are either open, shut, or ajar. The music is fainter upstairs, but Jeongguk still hears whispers of conversations behind the doors. If he strains his ears and with a blush rising to his cheeks, behind certain doors, he can hear the pleased sound of moans.

Prism stops in front of the last door on the right and opens it. It’s a small room with one large bed against the forest green wall with a dirty glass window behind it, a table to the left and a television to the right. Further off on the right wall, there is a door open to a bathroom with a small tub and toilet-sink combo. It's a modest room, but it's lacking in personality. More like a hotel room rather than a place someone would live in.

Seated in front of the television is a skinnier man with long black hair, and when he turns his head to look at Jeongguk and Prism entering, Jeongguk sees how wide and bloodshot his eyes are.

Prism laughs. “You already dipping in your stash, Moonie?”

The man on the ground groans, rolling over onto his side to expose a small napkin with small yellow tablets and a drained bottle of whiskey. 

“You know this shit doesn’t work on me,” he grumbles. “Just feeling…feeling under the weather.”

Prism hums, turning to Jeongguk. “You wanna take a seat over there?” he asks, gesturing to the bed. 

Jeongguk bristles, pulling away from Prism’s touch. “N-No, I’ll stand.”

A pause, then, Prism shrugs. “Alright. Mind if I sit down?”

Jeongguk doesn’t know what to do or say, so he awkwardly shoves his hands into his pockets, feeling around for the snack packs. 

Prism wanders over to the bed and sits at the foot of it, nudging his foot beneath the man still lying on the ground. “This is Moonsoo. You’ll probably see him hanging around a lot. And well, to answer your question, this place is like our Wonderland that I've created for Enhanced people like you and me. We come here, socialize, have us some drinks, et cetera. No regulations, no Feds, and you can stay as long as you like to do whatever you want.”

“…Everyone here is Enhanced?”

“Not me,” Moonsoo says from the ground. 

Mostly everyone,” Prism clarifies. “We like to keep it Enhanced-Only, but Moonsoo here provides a majority of us with a service so he gets a pass.”

“…What kind of service?” Jeongguk questions.

“I deal—” Moonsoo gets cut off with a hard kick at his side from Prism’s boot, his vocal cry of annoyance silenced with Prism’s glare. The Ex-Hero turns to Jeongguk, slips back on the smile naturally.

“He just gives company.”

“…Oh…”

“But, that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about,” Prism says, leaning forward, rubbing his hands together. “So, you’re telling me you came from the Fantastic Five? Obviously you can’t be Glam or Prime, and since you said you were a mascot…Lucky Rabbit?”

Jeongguk’s cheeks sting when Prism’s smile gets bigger. “Shit…you really grew up, didn’t you?” he murmurs, eyes drifting up and down from head to toe. “What’re you doing out here?”

“I…um…I’m just…wandering around. Backpacking.”

“‘Backpacking’? Is that what they’re calling it now?” Another elevator glance. “Looks like the world chewed you up and spat you back out.”

Jeongguk averts his eyes, hands balling into fists. Prism chuckles. “It’s okay, Kid. After the Hero Initiative got dissolved, a lot of us...well, a lot of us got fucked over. That’s why this place is here. So we can come together. Rebuild, recuperate...survive.”

Jeongguk has barely been surviving. He's never been able to recuperate. He wraps arms around himself. "Oh...I see..."

The man nods, getting to his feet and checking the beaten up watch on his wrist. “So, I know you don’t have a place to go, so you can just relax here if you want. They got food here, more filling than those snack packs you swiped from the bar,” Prism offers, stooping down low to grab Moonsoo off the ground. As he bends, another figure peels themselves off of Prism’s back in one fluid motion, an exact replica but made of glimmering crystal that sparkles even in the dim lighting. They take hold of Moonsoo’s other arm and yanks him a little bit harder than necessary. Moonsoo stumbles from the sudden pull, staggering against Prism’s replica as the original Prism gets him to his feet. “Let me just remove this guy so you can get some rest—”

“I-I’m alright, sunbaenim—” Jeongguk tries to stammers out.

“Hyung’s fine.”

Jeongguk’s cheeks pinken. He hasn’t referred to someone like that in a while, can’t even bring himself to have it come off his tongue as a correction. Prism grins, he and his replica further jostling Moonsoo’s gangly body to get him to the door. “Don’t worry about it. Go and lie down, okay Rabbit?”

There’s not much room for protest, not like Jeongguk had somewhere else he needed to be. He steps aside and watches both Prisms drag Moonsoo out, averting his eyes when the original Prism gives him one last smile before closing the door shut and leaving Jeongguk alone. For a few seconds, Jeongguk wonders if he should just leave. He’s thankful for the offering, but there’s something not sitting right in his chest, something he can’t quite give a name as to why it’s bothering him, but far too agitating to ignore. 

He looks at the bed, leans over and presses the flat of his palms against it. The mattress is pillowy soft, and when Jeongguk brings his face down into the comforter, he smells that the sheets are clean and fresh. He spends a few minutes there rolling around in the bed, body remembering how good it is to sleep in a bed, how pleasant it is to have his head on a pillow while his mind berates and questions and doubts. He eats through a snack pack too, getting crumbs all over himself that he carefully sweeps into the palm of his hand and disposes in the wastebasket underneath the table. There’s a few crushed beer cans inside of it. Must have been Moonsoo.

“I’ll just take a quick nap,” Jeongguk murmurs, crawling back into the bed, limbs feeling heavy when he tucks the sheets over him without getting undressed. “Just five minutes,” he reminds himself when his eyelashes flutter. “Just five minutes…”

 

 

 

 

Jeongguk wakes to the sound of someone vomiting.

It’s bright in the room when his eyes fly open to see a figure lurching over the wastebasket beneath the table, room filled with natural light cutting through the grime covering the window. Moonsoo is on his knees, stripped of his clothes aside from a sweat-soaked undershirt and striped boxers, with the wastebasket up to his face to spit and hock in. Jeongguk realizes that the bedsheets are pulled aside on the other part of the bed, a small barrier of pillows separating him from where he reaches out to touch and find the mattress still warm.

Slow realization creeps onto his face along with the horror. “…Did, did you get in bed with me?”

Moonsoo finishes his retching with a guttural groan, one that echoes out the back of his throat that even Jeongguk can feel. He sniffles. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” he mumbles, pitifully. He gets to his feet, legs a little wobbly as he heads to the bathroom to set the wastebasket in the bathtub. Jeongguk watches him, sheets pulled up to cover modesty he never exposed as Moonsoo shuffles back in with a wet towel, wiping at his face and mouth.

“What are you doing in here? When did you get in the bed?” Jeongguk questions.

“Sorry, sorry. I just — I forgot you were in here and there wasn’t another room open so I just—” Moonsoo gestures at the pillow wall. “I mean, I wasn’t going to do anything to you. Wasn’t touching you in your sleep or anything.”

Moonsoo’s eyes look a little bloodshot, but his face is looking less pale, less drunk. Jeongguk averts his gaze, huffing.

“What time is it?”

“Like…eight?”

“In the morning?” Jeongguk eyes widen. They must have gotten to this place at around nine. It’s been almost twelve hours he’s been asleep? And was he that out of it to not hear Moonsoo come back in or feel Moonsoo climb in bed with him?

Jeongguk pinches the bridge of his forehead, swinging his legs out of the bed. “I-I should go—”

“U-Uh, wait, wait.” Moonsoo raises a hand out to stop Jeongguk from leaving, eyes bashful. “I, um, lemme, lemme make it up to you. For — for being a mess. I’m sorry, really. I’m just…I’m usually not the way I was last night.” Moonsoo scratches the back of his neck. “There’s some hotteok in the kitchen downstairs. Don’t know who brought it, but it smelled good when I passed by. Maybe…you and me…can grab some?”

Maybe it’s the fact that Jeongguk has been living off snack packs and cheap dried foods that the mere thought of something hot makes him hesitant to leave. Or maybe it’s Moonsoo’s sheepish grin, crooked and not all that handsome, but still holding some warmth and sincereness that Jeongguk hasn’t seen directed his way in a long time.

“…Just one,” he murmurs. “Then I should be going.”

Moonsoo nods, awkwardly grabbing his pants to shimmy on.

As Jeongguk follows the man in the direction of what he assumes to be the kitchen — stray gleams of sunlight through the windows revealing the one dark and dim hallway as not so frightening, but rather lonesome — Moonsoo looks over his shoulder and asks, “What’s your name again?”

Jeongguk swallows. “Um…Jeongguk.”

“Can I call you Ggukie?”

“No.” Jeongguk says it harsher than he means to, but the memories that suddenly flood his mind when he hears that name makes everything feel too clogging, too painful.

“Oh.” Moonsoo goes back to being awkward, both of them walking in silence down the steps. The downstairs is empty of the crowd, with only a few people passed out on the couches and up against the bars. Jeongguk tries not to stare as he passes them. “How about Bunny?” he hears Moonsoo offer. “Hyung, called you Rabbit, right?”

Jeongguk looks over at the man, and Moonsoo quickly turns his head. With his long hair to the side, he isn’t able to hide how the back of his neck is flushed red. “I mean! Or not! Just — I don’t know, we all kinda don’t use real names around here and — not saying you’re gonna stay cause you don’t have to, but, um, it’s cute, right? Bunny? Like…cute name for a cute…um…” Moonsoo rubs his face, gesturing with his other hand. “A-Anyways, the kitchen.”

The kitchen is as small as the bedrooms, with just a stovetop and a refrigerator. There’s a package of hotteok on the granite counter, open with some pieces missing, a discarded note reading ‘help yourself :)resting beside it.

“Is it safe?” Jeongguk asks as Moonsoo reaches in to grab one.

“Wha? Sure? I mean, everyone’s here in the same predicament. They’re all just nice folk trying to get by.” Moonsoo hands Jeongguk a piece and he takes it, bites into it after a pause, lets the food and the honey taste sit on his tongue for a minute longer than he needs to.

The quiet between them is still a little awkward, but not as heavy. Moonsoo keeps giving flickering glances at Jeongguk in between his chews, and Jeongguk does the same as he helps himself to another piece.

“…Bunny is fine,” Jeongguk murmurs after he’s had four pieces of hotteok and is halfway through a lukewarm bottle of water Moonsoo found for him in the cabinets. Moonsoo blinks. He blushes red in the face too.

“U-Uh, sure. Bunny it is.”

 

 

 

 

 

Jeongguk stays a little after the hotteok, a little bit longer after having quiet conversation with Moonsoo about almost nothing and almost anything, and even a bit longer after that when the crowds start to filter back in and the music starts to thrum through the walls. They go back to their room that isn't just Jeongguk's; all of the doors on their floor are closed and taken for the evening. Jeongguk inquires about the third floor, but apparently, there's nothing up there aside from old storage.  Jeongguk is mildly surprised that the wastebasket of vomit is now gone along with the bottles and cans, the bed newly made as they walk in, before they awkwardly dance around the one bed factor until Moonsoo offers to sleep on the floor. Jeongguk feels too guilty to let him go through with it.

“Just…just keep the pillows between us and we should be fine, right?”

“I mean, yeah…” Moonsoo scratches the back of his neck. “I mean, only if you’re comfortable, Bunny.”

Moonsoo says the nickname very sweetly, and it…it does something to Jeongguk. Makes him feel warm and tingly.

“U-Um, yeah. It’s fine. I’ll be fine.”

They don’t go to sleep until Jeongguk showers and gets under the sheets in his underwear, while Moonsoo shucks off his pants and crawls over on his side, facing the opposite direction.

“Uh, goodnight, Bunny.”

Another shiver from Jeongguk’s chest, warmth in his cheeks. “Goodnight,” he murmurs back, and switches off the lights.

 

 

 

 

Jeongguk doesn’t leave Wonderland for a month, though he only refers to the building as that since it’s the only moniker he knows. Even when he wandered out of the building to look at his surroundings and get some idea as to where he is, there is no signs and no street cams, no street posts or known buildings to give him any sort of clue. But, it’s a roof over his head and there’s food always in the kitchen donated by some anonymous resident for the few people that stay behind. Which really is only Jeongguk and three other people that have yet to acknowledge him with conversation and not sparing glances before disappearing upstairs on the third floor.

Wonderland really only comes alive at night. People start showing up at around six in the evening, filtering in slowly, letting the ambiance settle into their bones before they start to liven up with music and drinks and laughter. Jeongguk usually doesn’t stay for long downstairs when people start coming. If he sees Prism, he may share a few words with the older man before he has to leave to take care of some ‘business’. 

Jeongguk more often than not spent his time with Moonsoo, not that Jeongguk seeks the man out, but rather because once Moonsoo finds Jeongguk, he kind of just…stays with Jeongguk. It’s not a bad thing; Moonsoo is very nice to Jeongguk, talks to him about things and about the people they see wander up the stairs and around the lobby. They talk about what they’re interested in, the things they want to do, the things they want to see. Moonsoo wants to watch a sunrise from the peak of a mountain one day. Jeongguk wants a home with someone that he loves. 

Sometimes they go on walks around Wonderland’s perimeter, let the night air bite at their cheeks and ears till the skin is rosy and red, but Moonsoo always remains flushed even when returning back to Wonderland’s warmth. They talk in the kitchen over some leftover take-out for dinner, and they talk in the bedroom with the television on in the background before Jeongguk feels sleep trying to tug him under and back against the pillows. Sometimes, Moonsoo stays for the night, builds a barrier of pillows to crawl into bed beside Jeongguk like clockwork. Other times, he wishes Jeongguk goodnight before he leaves, so Jeongguk stacks some pillows in Moonsoo’s place in bed, his body now becoming too stupidly attached to the feeling of something laying beside him and imagining it is someone else.

Wonderland never becomes a home to Jeongguk, not even in daylight, but it does become an escape. He almost forgets about Seokjin’s laughter in the mornings during breakfast, Hoseok’s smiles and playful ruffles of the hair, Yoongi’s quiet presence and clicks of his tongue against his teeth while he served food, and the way his heart skips whenever he thinks about Namjoon. 

Almost.

 

 

 

 

 

“Where does everyone go?” Jeongguk asks Moonsoo on a Thursday evening, both sitting on the steps and letting the music nestle against their spines.

Moonsoo offers Jeongguk a stick of gum, waiting until the younger man gets a few chews in before he answers. “I mean, people come here when they need to relax, you know? Lot of people have homes elsewhere to get to, lives and jobs and stuff, so after all that, they come here to destress. With drinks, with dancing…with sex or drugs…” He almost sounds embarrassed to admit to it, but Jeongguk pieced a few things together in the time he’s spent in Wonderland. Some nights he hears them, the moans of men and women in pleasure. Some nights if Jeongguk wanders past a door on his way to bed, he can even catch a glimpse of people in bed, their naked limbs and the gasps and squeals, if the door isn’t fully closed.

“Yeah, I kinda figured this wasn’t a shelter after a while…but it could become one. I mean, if we clean up the drugs and the…the sex, then maybe other Enhanced that don’t have anywhere to go could come in and—”

“No, no.” Moonsoo shakes his head. “Hyung wouldn’t allow it. It’ll draw too much attention and soon enough, you’ll have Feds busting down the doors looking to arrest whoever they see.”

Jeongguk hasn’t seen Prism in a while. Sometimes he’d catch glimpses of the man in the crowds of people swaying to the music, looking deep in thought as though he were planning something. He wonders how the man is doing, where he goes when the sun rises. 

“And you? What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Where do you go?”

Moonsoo scratches his chin. “I got a place of my own, but I like to hang around here…I like being around Enhanced people. I think it’s…well, I don’t know—” He chuckles, cheeks turning pink. “Kinda like to forget I’m just boring, normal Moonsoo, you know?”

He says it so earnestly that Jeongguk is almost inclined to believe it to be the truth. He hums, knocking his knees together.

“I want to be normal,” Jeongguk mumbles. “I want to do normal things.”

Moonsoo snorts. “Like what?”

“Like…I don’t know… normal things.” Jeongguk doesn’t have a word to describe the feeling he wants, but he does have an image. 

Normal looks like one of those old American shows, the black and white ones where there’s a happy couple that does happy things. They chat, they make dinner and eat it together, they slow dance in their living room after they’ve watched television and then, they kiss each other goodnight before retiring to bed. Normal is simple, Normal is pleasant, Normal is everything that Jeongguk doesn’t have and all he wants with the only person he’s loved. Normal doesn’t have Minho or Yoongi or even Seokjin and Hoseok. Normal doesn’t even have words like ‘Enhanced’ or ‘Blessed’.

He doesn’t know how to encompass that want, how to bottle it up and save it for later or find it else where it is tangible, where it is reality . But he still wants it. He still craves it.

“Come on, you’ve got to have done things that everyone else has,” Moonsoo chuckles, nudging Jeongguk’s shoulder with his. “Have you ever…gone dancing?”

Jeongguk shakes his head ‘no’.

“Ever had a drink?”

Another ‘no’.

“Ever…gone to the movies?”

Jeongguk shakes his head ‘no’ again. Moonsoo blinks in slight disbelief. “You’ve never gone to a movie?”

“My dad…didn’t let me leave the house a lot.”

“Oh. Shit. Uh…I mean…” Moonsoo’s eyes flicker down to Jeongguk’s lips, then nervously back up. “Um, I guess that means…have you ever…uh—” Moonsoo coughs, swallows down whatever was stuck in his throat. “Have you ever kissed anyone?”

“Yes.”

Moonsoo deflates a little, but he’s quick on the recovery. “Oh. Uh, okay…what about someone kissing you?”

“Isn’t that the same thing?” Jeongguk asks with a wry smile.

“You’d think , but you know, there’s like a feeling that happens when you get kissed, you know? It’s like…I don’t know, it’s like firecrackers. It’s like explosions or something going off in your head when you’re getting kissed nice and good and you just…you just fall apart…that ever happened to you?”

Jeongguk’s only kissed three people in his life. A classmate behind the school at fifteen, another rookie Hero in the shadows at his first gala at the age of sixteen, and Namjoon. He put a considerable amount of effort into kissing Namjoon that night, poured every bit of his heart into working his lips against Namjoon’s stiff ones caught by surprise. All Jeongguk could focus on during that moment was getting Namjoon to stay with him, to fuck him, to forget about reality as he desperately tried to pull Namjoon into his own fantasy if only for a short time. He can’t remember if there were firecrackers, but he knows he fell apart beneath Namjoon’s hands anyways.

“I…I don’t really know,” Jeongguk admits. Moonsoo nods.

“Oh. Okay.” A pause. Jeongguk shifts over against Moonsoo to allow a trio of girls to pass them by on their way upstairs, and he registers how warm Moonsoo is against him and how adamant Moonsoo seems to be in trying to keep his eyes focused off of Jeongguk’s flickering gaze.

“…Did you want to kiss me?” Jeongguk asks in a murmur, and Moonsoo starts to cough.

“I-I mean. I would have, you know, I would have offered if you wanted to and you hadn’t. But, you have. And — and I don’t know, that was weird. I shouldn’t have asked you that. It should have been obvious, what with you looking the way that you look—”

“How do I look?”

“Don’t play dumb, Bunny. You know you’re cute.”

Jeongguk has never been told he was cute other than in a teasing way by Seokjin and Hoseok, so he doesn’t quite know what to do with this information and only blankly stares back at Moonsoo. Moonsoo scoffs at the look. “Oh come on . You’re…you got a really cute smile, and when you laugh at me being dumb and awkward, you sound cute. You’re tall and you got a fit body, you always smell nice and…I don’t know…sometimes when we sleep together, I turn over to look at you and you - you do this thing with your nose when you sleep. It’s like—” Moonsoo wrinkles his nose in a reenactment, Jeongguk’s cheeks stinging with an embarrassed smile —“but yeah. I’ve - I’ve been talking for too long about this so—”

“You can kiss me,” Jeongguk says, hands on his knees. “If you want to kiss me, you can.”

Moonsoo stares at Jeongguk like he offered him the world. 

“Oh,” Moonsoo says. “Oh, that’s, um—” He scratches the back of his neck, then leans in a little too quickly that gets Jeongguk startled and leans back. Moonsoo pulls back, apologizes, and Jeongguk is starting too feel too hot in the face to be comfortable, so he takes the piece of gum from his mouth and closes the distance mid-apology, slots his lips over Moonsoo’s before he can think much longer about it.

Moonsoo kisses like he wants it, kisses like he means it. He easily takes back control and lets his hand hold Jeongguk by the back of his neck, his other hand curling around Jeongguk’s hip to tug him somehow closer into what little space they have on the staircase. Jeongguk’s hands squeeze his knees, trying to get in the groove of it, the moment of it, waiting for the firecrackers.

He starts thinking about Namjoon again, how stiff his lips were, how they trembled when he kissed Jeongguk back, how there wasn’t this push and pull of lips and tongue Moonsoo creates, no gentle scrapes of teeth and only clumsy desperation. In all honesty, this would have been one of Jeongguk’s better kisses.

When Moonsoo pulls away, breath warm against Jeongguk’s mouth, he hums. “How was it?” he asks and Jeongguk hums back. No firecrackers, but his lips are still soft and warm and tingly all over. Jeongguk leans back in for a second kiss, and then a third that involved Moonsoo slipping his tongue in Jeongguk’s mouth, Jeongguk finding out what it feels to swallow someone’s moan down his throat. Like a shot of a drug, energy buzzing down his spine and curling in his toes.

Somehow, their kissing on the stairs progresses to kissing in the hallway, Jeongguk’s back against the wall as Moonsoo’s rubs little circles into the crests of Jeongguk’s hipbones with the edge of his thumb, the sounds of sex just faintly overcoming the nervous thudding of Jeongguk’s heart in his ears. Kissing in the hallway escalates to making out on the bed, and Jeongguk’s feeling hot all over his body and his thoughts are getting dizzy, the world is getting dizzy.

Moonsoo’s weight on top of him makes something in him clench and draw tight, arch up against him as his thigh slips between Moonsoo’s legs where he feels an erection. The brush elicits a wanton moan from Moonsoo Jeongguk easily swallows down. With a quiet smack of their lips, Moonsoo pulls away enough so his forehead is against Jeongguk’s, hips subtly rutting against Jeongguk’s thigh he’s yet to pull back.

Then, against Jeongguk’s lips, he asks, “Have you ever had sex?”

Quietly, Jeongguk responds, “No.”

 

 

 

 

 

Jeongguk starts crying halfway through Moonsoo easing himself inside, just when the weight of his cock and the stretch around his girth becomes too much that Jeongguk’s gasping out his hiccups. Moonsoo kisses them away, tucks his chin into the crook of Jeongguk’s sweating neck.

“It always hurts the first time, Bunny,” he says, running his hand up and down Jeongguk’s side, pushing himself in further.

Jeongguk doesn’t know if it’s the pain that’s making him cry, or maybe it’s just the memory of what could have been that has him still shaking as Moonsoo fucks him. He doesn’t quite manage to catch his breath through the act, still gasping like the air gets punched out of his lungs every time Moonsoo thrusts his hips, eyes wet as the burn dulls but never fully goes away.

It doesn’t last long. Moonsoo comes into the condom with a grunt against Jeongguk’s pulse point, and Jeongguk gets worked up into an orgasm that finally chokes a sob out of his throat, skin blistering hot and chest drawing tight.

They don’t put up the pillow wall.

 

 

 

 

Prism starts to come around to Wonderland more and more, though Jeongguk speaks to him less and less. The man’s face is getting paler, more sunken and ghoulish. When Jeongguk sees him and Moonsoo talking together, he always looks angry, eyebrows pulled down and thin lips drawn in a tight line. Moonsoo never answers Jeongguk’s questions about Prism, about where the man goes and what is his involvement with this place. He only distracts Jeongguk with a smile and a laugh about some other topic, before he lets his lips go against Jeongguk’s and lets his hands wander Jeongguk’s body. 

And really, all Jeongguk wants now from Moonsoo is a distraction. Hearing the man call him ‘Bunny’ makes him feel…something. A something that’s different than remembering how he used to feel when he was ‘Jeongguk’ or ‘Ggukie’ or even ‘Number Five’. He feels wanted, he feels desired. Moonsoo coos the name, laughs it, whines it, whispers it just as the orgasm hits. Number Five held too many reprimands, too much anger. Ggukie was too soft, too childish, not expected to become anything else and never taken seriously even though the name was always said with a gentle smile. 

And sometimes, Jeongguk just wanted to forget that he was Jeongguk. Forget the past, forget the pain. He never fully could, but he tried anyways, and Moonsoo’s lips and his hands and his cock helped him forget if only for a moment, helped the lull before the call of the storm.

“You could move in with me, you know?” Moonsoo says one evening, just as he was helping Jeongguk off his softening length, Jeongguk’s cum still wet and warm on his flat stomach. “You don’t…you don’t have to stay here.”

Jeongguk pushes his sweating bangs out of his face. “Oh. That’s…um…no, it’s fine.” He lies down beside Moonsoo and reaches for the bathroom towels they leave on the nightstand for whenever they fuck for a quick cleanup, wiping himself off before he tenders to Moonsoo. “I was thinking about finding someplace to work at, maybe get some money and a apartment and…I don’t know, start over. Be normal.”

“Oh. That’s cool.” Moonsoo licks his lips, drumming his fingers over his bare thigh. “What about…” His words fall off his tongue, and he starts to clear his throat. 

Jeongguk could get a guess as to what he was going to say. 

‘What about us?’

Truthfully, Jeongguk never thought of him and Moonsoo possibly being an ‘us’. Jeongguk enjoyed the company, enjoyed the distraction, but he never once thought of maybe it becoming more than that. Could he wake up every morning next to Moonsoo? Could he want Moonsoo more than this? He’s kissed Moonsoo plenty of times, been kissed and licked by those pair of lips all over his body. Not one time has Moonsoo’s kiss made firecrackers go off in Jeongguk’s head. Not one kiss made Jeongguk feel the same way he felt when he kissed Namjoon.

‘You hyper focus on things, Number Five. You’re better off not thinking and just doing.’

Moonsoo looks over at him with those deep black eyes of his, and Jeongguk sees himself reflected in them, swallowed up in them. He can’t bring himself to say what he feels, but he also can’t bring himself to say a kind lie. So, he takes a third option and says nothing at all, and kisses Moonsoo’s bare shoulder, nuzzling his cheek against the same spot. Moonsoo turns to pull Jeongguk against him, kisses him slow and languid so Jeongguk melts against him with a breathy sigh Moonsoo wholeheartedly welcomes. Moonsoo’s hand drifts down along the curve of Jeongguk’s thigh, down over the muscle of his left asscheek, fingertips ghosting down to where his cock was deeply pressed into moments before—

The bedroom door swings open with a sudden SLAM!

“Fuck!” Moonsoo yells, pulling the bedsheets over Jeongguk who nearly threw himself off of the bed from the sudden noise. “Hey! The door was closed for a reason! What’re you—” Moonsoo’s words disappear from his throat again, but Jeongguk can’t see what was the cause through the thick comforter over his head.

“…What the fuck are you doing?” It’s Prism’s voice, but there’s an edge and growl to it that doesn’t sound like Prism at all.

“H-Hyung, what’re you—”

“Get out.” The low timbre is threatening. Jeongguk almost is afraid to even look to see what kind of expression Prism is making.

Moonsoo doesn’t hesitate in pulling away from Jeongguk and getting out of the bed. He hears Moonsoo pulling on his clothes without protest, and he feels a gaze through the bedsheets that is piercing, hateful . 

“Hyung, are you…are you okay?” Moonsoo asks, voice a little distant, maybe at the door.

Jeongguk doesn’t hear Prism’s response, just the sound of the bedroom door slamming shut again.

He doesn’t get out from under the bedsheets for the rest of the night.

 

 

 

 

 

Moonsoo doesn’t come back to Wonderland for nearly two weeks. Neither does Prism. Jeongguk starts looking for apartments from magazine ads he finds discarded in the lobby. He also takes notes on businesses in the area and the current policies on Enhanced and Non-Enhanced employment within certain institutions if funded by the Federate. 

Metro Units vary by district, but the polls reveal an overwhelming anti-Enhanced involvement in police force; Jeongguk isn’t sure he’d even be able to get a job delivering their coffee, let alone working with them side by side on cases. 

School is a ‘no’ as well; Hanyang was the first to utilize nullified lecture halls and other universities are following suit, creating a welcoming environment for all at the cost of Enhanced students feeling drained, miserable and barely able to focus. 

Mom and pop shops depend on the person; anti-Enhanced sentiment is still high and people are still scared. It was different when the Explosion occurred; people were scared then as well, but then came the promise that Heroes would be there to protect them and help them when they are powerless to do so. Now that it is Heroes that caused the scare and now that Heroes are gone, now that anti-Enhanced militias are rising up to regulate Enhanced civilians when the Federate picks and chooses what matters they want to involve themselves in, everyone is just afraid of everyone else, Enhanced and Non-Enhanced alike. 

Jeongguk sighs. Maybe he’ll stay just a little bit longer. Until things calm down. If they calm down.

 

 

 

 

 

Three more days pass before Jeongguk wakes to someone hurriedly knocking on the bedroom door. He stirs, legs tangling in the bedsheets as he rubs the sleep from his eyes.

“Hello?” he answers. The door opens, Moonsoo shuffling quietly inside.

“Bunny? You up?” Moonsoo is whispering, eyes nervously checking around the room. He’s got a camera bag slung over his shoulder, and his hands are jittering at his side. Jeongguk blinks slowly at him, confused. The day has barely started, yet Moonsoo is far too wound up for it to be normal.

“…What’s wrong?” Jeongguk asks.

“H-Huh? Oh. Uh. Nothing. Hey, get dressed. I’m taking you to my place.”

Jeongguk sits up in bed. “Why?”

“Do I need a reason to want to bring you home with me?” Moonsoo asks. He smiles, but it’s awkward and stiff on his lips. Something’s definitely wrong.

Jeongguk stretches his arms over his head, swinging his legs out of the bed to walk over to the nervous man. “I mean, we always fuck here. If that’s what we’re gonna do at your place, I don’t see why you’re acting so weird.”

“N-No, I’m not—I don’t want to bring you there for that. Bunny, come on, let’s go—”

“Can you look me in my eye and tell me what’s wrong with you? Why are you so jumpy?”

Moonsoo grabs at Jeongguk’s wrist and pulls, but Jeongguk pulls his wrist back just as hard. “Moonsoo,” he starts, “just tell me what’s wrong.”

Moonsoo is older by three years, same age as Hoseok and Namjoon. He’s pushed for Jeongguk to be comfortable to use ‘hyung’ with him, but apparently, Jeongguk gets ‘weird’ about saying that word and hasn’t pushed for it since. Now, Moonsoo shifts left to right, eyes glancing continuously back over his shoulder.

“We…it’s not safe here.”

Jeongguk pauses. “Why? What’s going on?”

“Bunny, please stop asking questions and just trust me .” Moonsoo’s nervousness is starting to make Jeongguk nervous and scared, but he keeps his jittering to himself. He swallows, nods, and goes to put on his clothes. Moonsoo, meanwhile, goes to the bedroom door and checks in the hallway. Jeongguk doesn’t know what he’s looking for, doesn’t know if it’s something Jeongguk should be concerned about.

They both hurry down the stairs into the lobby that’s as usual empty of people and littered with glasses and bottles from last night. Instead of heading through the front steel door, Moonsoo takes Jeongguk down a winding pathway that leads to the back, through a smaller side door that has rust on its hinges. The sunlight is blinding when Moonsoo pulls Jeongguk outside, the morning heat not hot enough to scorch, but the burn still stings his cheeks. 

“Moonsoo, where are we going—”

“I told you, my place.”

“But why? What’s going on? Is something going to happen? Shouldn’t we let the people that are still inside know that something—”

Moonsoo skids to a sudden stop, Jeongguk just barely stopping short of a black crystalized hand swiping through the air to make a grab at him. 

The scream of shock jumps off Jeongguk’s tongue, feeling Moonsoo pull him into his arms up against his chest as another black crystal figure appears from the ground. And another. And another. And another , until they were surrounded and the figures encroached on them, indistinguishable and threatening. 

“Moonsoo,” a lazy drawl that somehow manages to sound like a growl comes from Jeongguk’s left, and Moonsoo maneuvers him behind his gangly form as the figures part to let Prism into the circle. Only, when Jeongguk peers from behind Moonsoo, Prism looks different. Gone is the pale sickness from his cheeks and is instead replaced by fire burning beneath his skin, outlining veins around his eyes that are smoldering with something dark and unrestrained. Jeongguk remembers Prism’s eyes to be a pretty hazel like shade, all natural. But now, his eyes are red and gold and black, swirling like the very deepest pit of Hell and looking as empty and void of emotion as the memory of Minho’s eyes once upon a time.

Prism sniffs, cracking his neck. “What’re you doing, Moonie?” he asks, low and quiet like he’s talking to a child.

Moonsoo tries to keep Jeongguk behind him, but Jeongguk somehow feels even less safe with Moonsoo guarding him than he did standing at his side. “Just…we were just going to the car, hyung—”

“Looks like you’re trying to run away with our meal ticket.”

“What’s he talking about—”

“Hyung,” Moonsoo cuts off Jeongguk’s question, and the tremble in his voice is obvious, the fear evident in the bowing of his knees. “Hyung, please. We don’t have to do this.”

“No, I think we’ve talked long and hard how we do need to do this.” Prism steps forward. The crystal replicas do the same.

“No, this isn’t you. You’re still doped up on that RED shit and you’re not thinking straight—”

“I’m thinking perfectly fine, Moonie. In fact, I’ve never felt better.” Prism laughs, and the sound rides up Jeongguk’s spine the wrong way. “Of course, if you were Enhanced, you’d know. Must be terrible, huh? Drug Dealer to the Heroes and you can’t even get high off your own stash, so you gotta pump yourself up with whatever cut you can get your hands on to just fill up two percent of that little emptiness in your heart.”

“Hyung—”

“That’s why hyung’s gonna take care of you, Moonie. Hyung’s gonna get you the good stuff, the stuff that’ll make you feel special, okay?” Prism smiles, and Jeongguk turns his eyes away from how Prism’s once white and straight-rowed teeth are now stained with blood. “In fact, no need to go somewhere else to shoot. We can just get down to business right here.”

One of the replicas suddenly lunges at Jeongguk and grabs at the sleeve of his hoodie. Jeongguk screams and tries to throw a fist at it, but the second he gets the arm free and raised to strike, another replica grabs hold and yanks him to the ground. He hears Moonsoo shout, but all he sees is black crystal glass as the replicas swarm him, two pinning down his arms and three holding down his kicking legs. With mild horror, he realizes the three holding him down spread his legs uncomfortably wide, one of them feeling around his hip for the buckle of his belt to strip off of him.

Prism looks down at Jeongguk like he’s a roach that needs to be crushed under the heel of his boot. “Get the camera rolling on him, Moonie,” he orders.

“Hyung,” Moonsoo is begging, his eyes watering as one replica has him by the arm to prevent him from jumping back into the fray, “Hyung, you know this is fucked up. This is wrong .”

“No, no . What’s fucked up is how this stupid bunny whore thinks he can come into my haven, my world, and act like he didn’t have a hand in the reason for all of us being there in the first place,” Prism spits. “It’s his Unit that put us in this predicament, his teammate that ruined all of our lives—”

“He didn’t do anything to you!” 

Jeongguk doesn’t know why he shouted, why he dared to have an angry tone in the predicament he’s in when all he wants to do is cry, can still feel the pressure burning at the back of his eyes. It’s amazing how the fire to protect Namjoon hasn’t at all fizzled, even after two years without his touch and smile. 

Prism’s eyes grow wild with anger, the veins around his eyes glowing an intense red. “Didn’t do anything to me? Did you really fucking say that to my face knowing what he did?”

“It wasn’t his fault,” Jeongguk protests. “He didn’t know. He didn’t mean to—”

“Didn’t know? He didn’t know he was a bomb ?” Prism’s laugh is dry and hostile. “You’re the same. You’re just like them . You don’t really care that Nahae-gu is just a pile of cinders and ash, that people died in that blast your teammate ‘didn’t know’ about. So long as no one you cared about died, you just turned your head and walked away from it.”

A replica grabs at the front of Jeongguk’s jeans and pulls hard enough for the button to fly open and the zipper to break. Immediately, Jeongguk begins to squirm.

“S-Stop! What are you doing?! No!” he screams as the jeans get worked down his thighs, glass hands holding him spread as Prism looks over him with a sneer, red-gold eyes going bloodshot.

“I used to live in Nahae-gu, you know,” he murmurs, swallowing. “I used to have this nice high-rise apartment that overlooked the park, had this big wide window in the living room that gave beautiful view of the sun whenever it rose over the skyscrapers. My daughter - she - she used to always wake up early and stick her little hands and face all over the glass trying to look at it. Drove me fucking insane having to clean the window all the time but - but that was just the added charm of it all.” Prism’s lips twist as he kneels down. “She would have been six by now, you know? Didn’t — I didn’t even get to take her to her first fucking day of school —”

“Hyung—”

Shut up, Moonsoo! ” Prism croaks, spit and blood dribbling down his chin. Jeongguk can feel the replicas’ holds on him trembling. Their faces are blank slates, but they still react to how Prism has to swallow back down the memories, the emotion, the humanity. He reaches to grab Jeongguk’s chin and force him to look into those red-gold eyes. “You fuckers took that away from me, took that away from all of us and none of you are sorry about it.”

“We’ve made our apology—”

“No you didn’t . That ‘press conference’ you gave after you already shot Prime off into space wasn’t an apology. You said your ‘condolences’ but none of you could look any of us in the eye and say ‘you’re sorry ’. W-What was even the point of it if you weren’t really sorry? So Glam could become an idol just by making people feel sorry for him? So Spirit and Echoes can disappear peacefully from sight? So that murderer can just float around in space while the rest of us have to put up every day struggling to survive because of what he did?”

“We’re sorry,” Jeongguk struggles to get out, choking on a whimper. “We’re sorry . Please don’t - please don’t do this—”

“It’s two years too late, Rabbit. Or should I call you ‘Bunny’?” Prism’s grip on Jeongguk’s chin tightens. “That’s what Moonie calls you, right? He call you that when he fucks you?” He smiles, pressing the pad of his thumb against Jeongguk’s bottom lip as a replica holds him down so he can’t flinch away. “I don’t think your teammates felt the repercussions of that Incident. So I think we should make them feel really sorry.”

Jeongguk feels glass fingertips run down his heated skin, teasing the brim of his underwear. Though they are in the shadow of Wonderland, the gravel is hot beneath Jeongguk, uncomfortable against the backs of his exposed thighs as the replica spreads his legs while Prism sits on his knees and starts undoing his belt. 

The older man turns to look over his shoulder at Moonsoo still struggling against the replica’s hold, frowning. “I thought I told you to get your camera out—”

“Hyung, this is wrong —”

“Don’t you fucking preach at me like you’re the pinnacle of morals when—”

“W-What if he’s not Lucky Rabbit?” Moonsoo quickly sputters out, eyes wide. “I-I mean, think about it? This - this isn’t a lucky situation to be in. What if it’s just some kid that may look like him? What then? We - we would have sent a video to Glam demanding money for some person that isn’t even his teammate, and he sends the Feds after us—”

“Fine,” Prism releases his hand on Jeongguk to drum his fingers against his thigh. “Lets indulge in your little diversion, hm? Lets say he’s not Lucky Rabbit and we let him go. He goes off and finds a friendly neighborhood Federate officer on patrol and tells them about this building where Enhanced people meet every evening. He describes both of our faces to them and labels us as the two guys who attempted to rape him.”

“H-He won’t tell. He’ll promise not to tell—”

“Is he that good of a fuck that you can’t seem to use your brain, Moonie?” Prism smiles. “Then it should only be fair since you had your time breaking him in that I have a taste, right?”

It seems the replicas grip on Jeongguk tightens with resolve. The dread seeps low into his stomach and he begins to thrash and kick and fight against the hands holding him down. Prism clicks his tongue against his bloodied teeth, crouching low so he can get his chapped lips against Jeongguk’s ear. 

“So, we have two options. Either I fuck you now and send the tape to Glam for ransom money and kill you after we’ve been paid, or I kill you now and send the snuff film as ‘my condolences’.” Suddenly, Prism’s eyes light up. “How ‘bout we flip a coin? That’s your speciality, right Rabbit? Let’s see if you’re lucky enough to take a cock one last time.”

“This won’t bring her back.” Jeongguk is breathing hard, one tear slipping out to roll back into his hair. “I’m telling you now t-that this isn’t going to change anything and this won’t bring your daughter back. I-I’m sorry, I am so sorry for what happened but we didn’t know. None of us knew and we couldn’t stop it . Please… please just let me go.”

Prism digs into the pocket of his jeans and gets a coin out, staring long and hard at Jeongguk’s face without giving anything away that he’s taking Jeongguk’s words in. He sniffs and bites the inside of his cheek, cocking his head to the side in a questioning tilt. 

“You know, I’ll never forget the look on your figurehead’s face at that press conference. He was the one that stood out the most. That…that look on his face when he told us all to just move on?” Prism coughs a laugh from his chest. “Maybe you convinced yourself all this time you didn’t know, Rabbit. Maybe all of you were honestly ignorant about it. But that look…that look was of a man that knew exactly what would happen and the costs and the pain , and he didn’t care …it’s not about bringing my girl back. It’s about making you hurt like everyone else.”

The replicas pull Jeongguk’s legs apart, Prism swinging one leg over to get in between them.

“No, no, no, please —”

“Your camera on, Moonie?” Prism asks, reaching into the seam of his jeans to fish out his cock, already half-hard.

Quiet, then, “…Yeah. Yeah, I’ll get it on, hyung.”

Jeongguk starts thrashing, tilting his face up to scream before a glass hand clamps firmly shut over it. It’s cold, stiff, not even feeling like a human’s hand as it forces his jaw closed and the other hands start to pull his underwear down. Prism takes the coin in between his fingers, eyes a swirling torrent of fire. “Heads, I fuck you. Tails, I kill you. What’s your call, Rabbit?”

Jeongguk kicks a leg out roughly, arching his back to try and throw the replicas off of him only to fail. Prism clicks his tongue. “I’ll take that as ‘Tails’. Moonie, you recording?”

“Yeah.” Jeongguk can’t see Moonsoo with all the Prism replicas surrounding him, holding him down as he continues to struggle and fight.

Prism flips the coin, but doesn’t watch it when it lands.

“What is it?” he asks Moonsoo, stroking himself, already leaning over Jeongguk ready to force himself inside and—

WHACK!

Prism falls to the ground with a grunt, the replicas losing their grip on Jeongguk as they tumble to the ground as well, like each of them were stricken at the same time the original Prism was. Moonsoo has a bulky camera in his trembling hands, the lens cracked and bloody. He takes the camera and bludgeons Prism again with it when he sees the man stirring to sit up, before throwing the device aside and pushing the replicas away to grab Jeongguk’s hand. 

“Come on, come on, Bunny—” Moonsoo drags Jeongguk to his feet, stumbling to pull his underwear up. Prism is getting to his knees slowly, coughing and spitting up blood onto the ground. Whatever side the coin landed on, the upside face of is now stained red. 

“Change of plans. I’m just gonna kill you both ,” he growls.

Moonsoo breaks out into a run before Jeongguk can get his ripped jeans on, the sudden jolt almost making Jeongguk fall to his knees. He gets one hand around the brim of them, holding them up as Moonsoo drags him down a narrow alleyway that turns left and right and cluttered with spoiled garbage and broken bottles. Moonsoo isn’t talking to Jeongguk, just repeating a panicked mantra of ‘oh shit, oh shit, oh shit ’ while from behind, Jeongguk hears someone chasing after them, wild and manic like an animal.

“What’re we gonna do?!” Jeongguk yells, as Moonsoo takes a sharp right down a path that leads to an cluttered street of closed storefronts and vacant buildings. Moonsoo doesn’t answer, jittering left to right and head whirring in all directions as he hisses a slew of curses between his teeth. Jeongguk hears the stumbling of hurried feet approaching behind them, and it feels like his heart is going to leap up and strangle him in his throat if they continue to just stand there .

Could they fight back? No. No, Moonsoo couldn’t even fend off one replica. Jeongguk’s only sparred with Hoseok and sometimes Seokjin, and even though Hoseok is one of the better fighters of their group, he knows his hyung pulled his punches. He’s never faced off against an adversary stronger than Hoseok, definitely not someone with intentions to cause Jeongguk physical harm. But they don’t have time and he’s coming and where can they run?

‘You always hyper focus on things, Number Five. You’re better off not thinking and just doing.’

Jeongguk swallows. Don’t think. Don’t think. Just run. Just move .

He squeezes Moonsoo’s hand and pulls right, startling the man as Jeongguk is the one that takes the lead and runs down the empty street. Not too far behind, he hears Prism screaming for them, voice hoarse and out of breath, but still relentless in the pursuit. Beside him, Moonsoo is struggling to keep up with Jeongguk’s pace, face flushed and sweating. At this rate, a replica could catch them.

“We need to split up!” Jeongguk yells, working his jacket off of him.

“What?! We can’t — we need to stick together!”

“You’re too slow, he’s gonna catch us!” Jeongguk snaps. 

“Well fuck me for not being Enhanced!” 

“Look!” Jeongguk gets his jacket balled up into his hands. “I’m going to distract him, you run into a store and hide!”

“All these stores are closed, Bunny! And how are you gonna—”

“Just trust me , please!” Jeongguk turns his attention over his shoulder, to where Prism is still chasing, after them, eyes blood red and glowing while his veins bulge from his reddened skin, looking like streaks of molten lava creeping up and over his face and neck. The replicas are chasing after them with the same vigor, sparkling in the sunlight as they uniformly run at the same pace Prism is moving. 

If a hit to the head made the replicas react in the same manner, then maybe, possibly, probably .

Jeongguk closes his eyes. The one time he needs his luck to just work for him, he hopes this time it won’t go wrong.

He turns and throws his jacket back the same time he shoves Moonsoo towards a closed convenience store’s glass door. As he feels the jacket leave his fingertips, he feels a sudden rush of wind come from behind him, moving through the locks of his hair and over his sweating skin. It carries the garment further than he threw it, opens the jacket nice and wide, and sends it flying right into Prism’s reddened face. Moonsoo stumbles against the door and it forces itself open on impact, his uncoordinated weight making him fall haphazardly inside. 

Prism immediately skids to a halt, struggling to get the jacket off of him. The replicas stop at the same time, swinging their arms madly and clawing at their blank faces.

“You little bitch!” Prism screams, ripping the jacket off his face to throw on the ground and stomp on it. Immediately, the heads of the replicas focus their attention towards Jeongguk and charge right at him. Jeongguk sucks in a deep breath. Don’t think, just move. 

He turns on the heels of his feet and runs left back into an alleyway, clambering up onto a closed dumpster that puts him conveniently in reach of a rusty fire escape ladder that he hastily climbs. The shrieks and squeaks the ladder makes as he grabs and steps on each rung don’t sound at all reassuring, and the fact that he feels the weight of Prism behind him shaking the ladder in a mad scramble to grab at Jeongguk’s feet make Jeongguk’s heart panic even more.

When he reaches the roof of the building, Jeongguk hurls himself over and to his knees, crawling before he breaks off into a run and leaps to a second roof next to it. He leaps to a third roof and then a fourth, each time barely keeping his momentum and feet staggering to keep from falling. Damn Minho! If Jeongguk came along on the mission trips or at least had a chance to do patrol with Namjoon or Yoongi, he’d be better prepared for this type of thing! He doesn’t even know where he’s running to or even fathomed the idea that Prism isn’t going to stop chasing after them.

What if he doesn’t stop chasing after them? What if there are more like Prism that are looking to hurt the ex-members of the Fantastic Five any way they can? Seokjin has bodyguards while Yoongi and Hoseok have yet to be unmasked and located, but Jeongguk is on his own on the streets. What if his bad luck leads him down the wrong alleyway or to the wrong person? What if he—

Jeongguk skids to a stop at the edge of a building with no rooftop for him to jump to. Below, he hears a street bustling, the whir of cars driving by and the quiet chatter of people floating up into the air as everyone begins their morning routine. Jeongguk turns, spotting Prism leap to the rooftop he’s standing on, fewer replicas following suit. Maybe he’s getting tired. Maybe he’ll wear out before Jeongguk does. But then what? What can he do? What will he do?

“Where you going now, Rabbit?!” Prism barks, stalking over towards Jeongguk with fists raised and bloodied teeth barred. His broad chest heaves up and down as he inhales and exhales, sometimes coughing up blood when he pushes the air from his lungs too quickly and too hard. Jeongguk raises his fists as well, spreads his feet apart in a fighting stance and bends his knees. Prism guffaws. “Oh! You’re gonna fight me now?! Didn’t they tell you all the mascot is good for is to look cute for the kids?!”

Jeongguk feels a burning in his thighs, an ache in his shoulders and a shallowness in his chest. He’s tired, and so is Prism, but the burning of his eyes hasn’t dimmed in the slightest. Is it still the effects of the drug?

Could he even win?

He takes another step back, heel halfway off the edge as Prism draws closer and closer, rolling his shoulders back. Could he win? Could he fight back? He - he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know .

Jeongguk closes his eyes, feels his body draw tense as he grits his teeth.

Please, he thinks, please let his luck not fail.

And with that, he takes one step backwards, and lets gravity do the rest.

The first thing Jeongguk realizes in the free fall is that it isn’t even that far of a drop. He comes in contact with a material that is pulled taught and angled not long after he stepped off,  his body tearing right through it and plummeting him straight into something that makes a loud squelch and squishing noise along with wood snapping on impact. A scent of berries floats into Jeongguk’s nose, stickiness seeping into his back and over his cheeks. There’s also screaming. Very loud screaming.

He opens his eyes and finds himself lying in the remains of what was a fruit display in front of a small grocery store on the corner of the road, an elderly woman clutching a broom to her chest with curlers still in her hair. If Jeongguk’s body were able to speak, it most certainly would be howling. His arms, his back, god , even his legs and his head and everywhere hurts. Special attention has to go to Jeongguk’s right ankle that is bent at a degree he thinks ankles shouldn’t be; even when he tries to clumsily fall out of the fruit display, he can’t bring himself to move it less he feels the sharp stab of pain.

“Honey! Honey!” the elderly woman calls from the inside of the shop as Jeongguk falls to his knees and begins to crawl. He must have bit his lip on impact as well, tasting copper on his tongue along with bits of crushed strawberries and oranges. Jeongguk sincerely hopes the stickiness he feels at the back of his head is more crushed fruit and not blood from a cracked open skull. He hopes even more that his blurred vision clears enough to see where the hell he’s even going , and he doesn’t just drop onto the hot concrete from exhaustion.

A loud thud sounds from behind him, and Jeongguk feels like he’s swallowed his tongue.

He looks over his shoulder, finding that the elderly woman has fled back into her store, broom abandoned on the sidewalk with the ruined produce. But slowly clambering out of the wreckage where Jeongguk fell in is Prism, replicas forming around him moving at his sluggish rate as he spits up more blood. 

“Fucking hell .” Jeongguk forces himself to his feet, but falls to a knee when he puts his weight on his right foot. The whine he hisses stings his throat, scampering back up to begin hobbling down the sidewalk and past on-lookers that quickly run for cover, cellphones up to their ears to call for the police. Prism doesn’t even call back in the replicas as he continues to chase Jeongguk, which means that if Jeongguk doesn’t find someway to end this, the Federate will be here and take them both .

He approaches an intersection that has cars and delivery trucks moving up and down the stretch of pavement, too many of them for Jeongguk to safely cross with his bum ankle. There was a man standing on the corner with his own little fruit cart, but once he saw Prism approaching, he quickly took off and left the fruit cart behind. Jeongguk’s head whirs back and forth between the light and Prism. He just needs a green light and maybe he can run. Maybe he can get away. But that’s too much to be unsure about and Jeongguk hates feeling so unsure and lost. He’s a fucking Hero! Namjoon and Yoongi would have been handled this by now and Hoseok is always good at thinking on his feet. Hell, even Seokjin would have thought of something, so why is he drawing a blank?!

“Not gonna run anymore, Rabbit?” Prism taunts, cracking his knuckles. Jeongguk turns to him, swallowing hard. It’s not a plan, not even sure if it counts as a diversion or even as an attack, but Jeongguk takes the abandoned fruit cart by its red handle and shoves it at Prism. The older man easily swings his arm and knocks the cart into the flow of traffic, eyes burning hot as his sneer turns into a grin.

Minho once told Jeongguk in one of his rare lessons that the world is in itself neither chaotic nor orderly. It is an elegant dance where there is no leader, no rhythm to how both partners bend and pull and push the other. He said Jeongguk’s ability is a gift so closely tied to that dance, almost like he is the one that sets the tempo, Minho likened. Jeongguk could impose himself on that dance in a way that order may pull harder or chaos may push itself further that it would benefit him, please him, makes him ‘lucky’ (and Minho for some reason always hated to refer to Jeongguk’s ability as such). He could also disrupt the dance and send it into a dissonant and destructive course until it rights itself and resumes anew. Jeongguk does this more often than he would like.

‘When can I control it?’ Jeongguk would always ask him. ‘When can I control it so I can help Namjoon and the others?’

Minho’s response always was the same: ‘It is not something that can be consciously controlled, Number Five. You must let your ability - your ‘luck’ - happen as everything returns to balance.’

And what happens in that moment as Prism approaches Jeongguk with eyes ready to kill, is chaos returning to balance before Jeongguk’s eyes.

As the fruit cart rolls into the street, an orange falls off and rolls in between Prism’s feet. The fruit cart stops dead center of the street, causing a man on a delivery scooter to swerve into the opposite lane just as a delivery truck comes speeding. The delivery truck, intending to swerve out of the way of the sudden appearance of the delivery scooter, turns sharply left to avoid hitting the man. However, they do not turn out of the way of the fruit cart, which they crash head on into causing a splatter of fruit to dirty the windshield and obscure their view as they scramble for the breaks. Jeongguk manages to jump out of the way in time as Prism attempts to do the same, but his foot comes down on the orange and makes him lose his footing, arms flailing as he falls to the ground.

He falls directly onto the sidewalk on his back just as the truck pops up onto the sidewalk and the front right wheel comes screeching in an attempt to stop.

Jeongguk hears him scream before he closes his eyes tight as the truck smashes up against the storefront. 

There is only the briefest moment where Jeongguk only hears his heartbeat. Then, he hears the screams.

“Oh my god! Oh my god!

“Someone call a Metro Unit! Quick!”

“He’s up under the wheel! He’s not responding!”

“Hey! Hey, Kid! What’s going on?!”

Jeongguk looks around as a crowd of people swarm the truck and filter slowly out into the streets, shouting and screaming and gesturing with their hands towards Jeongguk and towards the bottom of the truck where — Jeongguk swallows, not even able to finish that thought, not wanting to visualize what it must look like underneath the truck. He gets to his knees and begins hobbling, closing his eyes to the shouts from people demanding him to come back. Come on, come on. Just keep moving, just keep moving. Don’t stop. Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t think .

A hand grabs at his wrist and Jeongguk screams, swinging a fist blindly.

“Woah! Bunny, stop! It’s me!” Moonsoo catches Jeongguk’s wrist before his fist can connect against Moonsoo’s jaw. Jeongguk still struggles, sinking to his knees as Moonsoo tries to hold him back up. “Hey, hey, no, Bunny, I’m here. I’m here, okay? Just stay with me—”

Moonsoo is a blur of color and lines, and Jeongguk’s face is too hot, too sweaty. He didn’t realize he was breathing this hard, but now it seems like he can’t get his breaths in fast enough, almost like he’s suffocating. His ankle still hurts and his body still aches and burns. The pressure at the back of his eyes is gone at least, though with the way his body is shaking, he doubts it’ll stay like that.

He’s so tired. He’s so fucking tired.

“Bunny? H-Hey, Bunny?” Moonsoo’s voice says, sounding like an echo, a dream. Jeongguk says nothing in response. He just lets his head fall backwards, and his world go to black.

 

 

 

 

Jeongguk wakes up on a lumpy couch, his right foot bandaged and propped up by several squished flat pillows. He realizes he’s in a living room, a dirty, dark and small living room with small mounds of discarded clothes scattered about resting alongside crumpled bags of takeout and empty soda cans. There’s a coffee table beside Jeongguk that has an open medical kit as well as another leather bag opened up with various syringes, pills, and vials of red, blue, and yellow liquid. 

“You up?” Jeongguk turns to the voice, spotting Moonsoo sitting on the ground beside the couch, getting to his knees when Jeongguk stirs and moves his injured ankle with a wince. “Hey, no. It’s sprained. Just relax, okay?”

“Where am I? Where did you take me?”

“My place.” Moonsoo glances around, wincing himself at the dirty surroundings. “It’s…not exactly the state I was hoping you’d see it in but…it’s something.”

“Where’s…what happened to Prism?”

“…Bunny, I think you saw what happened.”

Jeongguk feels his lower jaw trembling. “B-But, but he…I didn’t see—”

“There was a news report a few hours ago. A Metro Unit confirmed the death. Ruled it a freak accident.”

A hiccup of a sob comes from Jeongguk’s lips. “Oh god,” he breathes. Was it…was it his fault? Did he kill him? He - he just pushed the cart. He didn’t know that would happen, didn’t meant for that to happen. He was just trying to get away. He didn’t - he didn’t kill him. He wasn’t trying to

Moonsoo slides a hand over Jeongguk’s knee. “Hey, hey,” he murmurs, “don’t…don’t beat yourself up about this. It wasn’t your fault. Hyung…Hyung wasn’t in the right state of mind and he lost control. He was juiced up on that drug, made him too disoriented and his reflexes too slow,” Moonsoo excuses. He continues to rub Jeongguk’s knee. “Wasn’t your fault, okay? So don’t look like that.”

Jeongguk isn’t sure what kind of face he has on right now. Maybe one of remorse, of pity, of confusion and regret. He’s still honestly tired and now he’s feeling sick to his stomach upon hearing the news. He’s also in pain, feeling stinging cuts along his knees and arms as well as a deep ache in his bones. He looks like he’s been put through Hell. Feels like it too.

“…Did you know?” Jeongguk asks, voice quiet. “Did you know he wanted to…to hurt me?”

“No.” Moonsoo’s eyes are glimmering. “No, god, Bunny I swear I didn’t. I…he never told me he felt like this. He truly brought you there because he felt sorry for you, but I didn’t…it must have been that drug. It - it makes you think things that you wouldn’t normally think of…maybe made him think you were actually Lucky Rabbit so he could…i-it’s just a bad—”

“The drug that you gave him?” Jeongguk questions, tone a bit harsh. “Drug Dealer to the Heroes?”

Moonsoo bites his lower lip. “He didn’t get that from me. I only deal what I can handle and that RED stuff is…it’s on a whole other level of fucked up.” He leans against the couch cushion, head just against the bend of Jeongguk’s knee. 

“Enhanced Drugs they don’t…they don’t really have a kick for Non-Enhanced people. It’s harder to get my hands on the normal shit, while drugs like BLISS and ICE are so easy to come along by and distribute so I…I just dip into it a few times, enough to get some buzz. But RED…one pill had me feeling like I was gonna die. Felt…angry and scared, like I wanted to hurt someone one second and then cry my eyes out the next. It was a roller coaster, just - just up and down and in and out of being miserable and being angry…I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I can’t imagine what it did to Hyung.”

“…Turned him into a psychopath.”

Moonsoo grimaces, but he doesn’t try to deny the claim.

Jeongguk drifts in and out of sleep, waking when he hears Moonsoo shuffle around the apartment before dozing off once more. Moonsoo fixes him up a sandwich for dinner that is just two slices of lunchmeat and cheese between wheat bread. Jeongguk appreciates it, eats it slowly while Moonsoo gently tends to his sprained ankle.

“You can stay here, if you want,” Moonsoo offers, playing with Jeongguk’s small toe. “I know it’s not…not the greatest but, at least there’s not a party every night and there’s food in the fridge and…I’ll clean up around here and—”

“What about the drugs?” 

“I told you I don’t mess around with RED. You don’t have to worry—”

“That’s not the point. You shouldn’t be doing it period .”

Moonsoo sighs. “It’s easy money, Bunny. Good money.”

“It’s taking advantage of people. It’s not right—”

“It’s not taking advantage of anyone.” Moonsoo sighs, running a hand through his hair. “Look, you wouldn’t understand what it’s like to be out here. You have to do what you have to do to survive. People are hurting and sometimes they need to shoot up with something or - or fuck someone until the hurting stops. It’s just the way it is now, whether it’s right or wrong, it just is , Bunny.”

“…Is that how you feel whenever we’re together?” Jeongguk asks, chest tight. “Do I make the hurting stop for you?”

Moonsoo’s touch ghosts against the sole of Jeongguk’s foot, face the calmest Jeongguk has ever seen.

“…Yeah. You do.”

 

 

 

 

 

They go to bed at around midnight, Jeongguk stripped down into his underwear while Moonsoo spoons him. Up to this point, Jeongguk’s body has been trembling and the pressure behind his eyes has been building. He doesn’t know what causes it, if it was the warmth pressed against his back or the comfort of a bed beneath his skin, or even if it was hearing the television they forgot to turn off recapping the horrific incident on a market street in Sangbong-dong that Jeongguk breaks at last. It starts off as light sniffling and it ends in gasping sobs aching from his chest, Moonsoo holding him tightly, kissing his hair.

“It’s okay,” he shushes, kissing along the shell of Jeongguk’s ear. “It’s okay. I’m here. We’re gonna be okay, Bunny. It’s going to be okay.”

In the midst of his crying and his tears as his body shakes with every desperate gasp he takes, Jeongguk almost believes him.

Almost.

Chapter Text

Jeongguk has been sitting underneath the shower’s warm spray for about twenty minutes. The pipes in the apartment aren’t very good, and sometimes the water gets too hot, hot enough to sting his skin to a reddened shade, until it dips in temperature and the pain of his skin dulls to a numbing sensation. He’s got his knees curled up to his chest, chin tucked against them to watch the water swirl down the drain. He’s been thinking, but really his mind has only been playing two lines of thought over and over like a broken record.

Did you want me that night?

No.

The bathroom door opens with a quiet shriek of its hinges, a figure quietly shuffling inside and closing the door shut behind them. “Bunny?” he hears Moonsoo call out, voice a gentle lull. “Can I come in?”

Jeongguk sighs. “I’m still not in the mood, Moonie-”

“That’s…that’s not what I want to come in for.” Through the frosted glass, Jeongguk sees Moonsoo shift his weight left to right. “Just wanna hold you a bit…that okay?”

Jeongguk answers by cracking open the shower door, just a sliver for the water to not begin spilling on the bathroom floor tile, but wide enough for Jeongguk to see Moonsoo strip naked before he comes inside and adjusting the shower head so the spray isn’t directly on them. 

He sits down beside Jeongguk, legs crossed and back against the wet tile. It’s a tight fit; Moonsoo is way too tall and Jeongguk isn’t exactly a dainty little thing either. It’s a few awkward moments of adjusting their limbs and squirming around before at last, Jeongguk gets maneuvered in between Moonsoo’s legs, his back against Moonsoo’s chest. 

“Haven’t seen you cry like that since the accident with Hyung,” Moonsoo says with his lips by Jeongguk’s ear as his arms wind around Jeongguk’s midsection. Jeongguk sniffs, making a clucking noise with his tongue.

“Yeah well...just had a fucked up night,” he says, and he hates how his voice is still shaking with it, with that want even after Namjoon already rejected his feelings. 

Maybe it was just Jeongguk being stupidly naïve to think that years of longing and pining could easily be dropped and swept under the rug like he never felt them in the first place. He wonders if it would have been easy to say ‘fuck Kim Namjoon’ long ago when the sting wouldn’t have hurt so much like it does now, and try to live the rest of his days without having Namjoon ever plague his thoughts, his wishes, his dreams. He wishes he could have fell into Moonsoo’s arms last night, clothes soaked with rain and eyes rimmed red, let the man fuck him like he wanted till it hurt in a good way and Jeongguk was on the cusp of orgasmic bliss, so he would think to himself, ’this is where I belong. I’m happy here. I want to be here’. 

He wished he could do a lot of things.

Moonsoo gives a kiss to Jeongguk’s hair. “Bunny…if being with your brother hurts you like this…maybe we should just, you know, cut ties with him?”

Jeongguk stiffens, turning to look over his shoulder at the other man. “What are you talking about?”

“I mean,” Moonsoo kisses Jeongguk’s shoulder, “He had you bawling your eyes out last night, right? Every time you guys hang out with each other, you always look ready to bust into tears whenever you come home. I’m just saying that…I don’t know, maybe it’s not good for you to see him if he hurts you like this.”

Moonsoo doesn’t know about Namjoon. Jeongguk intends to keep it that way.

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore, Moonie. I just…I just wanna forget.” Jeongguk resumes his position of having his chin rested upon his knees, closing his eyes as Moonsoo’s lips trace down the back of his neck. He doesn’t quite give into the ministrations, the way how Moonsoo’s mouth feels against his wet skin. His mind immediately returns back to that echo of Namjoon’s rejection, the frustration in his eyes that Jeongguk wishes he could bring himself to hate. He’s angry, he’s hurt, he’s sad, but hate still isn’t burning him from the inside out. Just more want. Just more loneliness.

After a while, the water starts to turn to prickling ice and Moonsoo quietly suggests they move elsewhere that’s more comfortable. He helps towel Jeongguk off before himself, and they both move to the bedroom to just lie down on the comforter, Moonsoo resuming his peppering of kisses along the breadth of Jeongguk’s shoulders and spine. He rubs little circles into the crest of Jeongguk’s hipbone with the edge of his thumb, Jeongguk’s ass flush against his cock that Jeongguk begins to feel plumping up the longer Moonsoo lets his lips graze at his flesh.

“You’re getting hard,” Jeongguk points out. Moonsoo pauses in his kissing, curses softly against the flush of Jeongguk’s neck.

“S-Sorry,” he starts, pulling his hips back. Jeongguk shifts away and sits up on his knees, gently pushing Moonsoo to lie down on his back.

“It’s okay,” he murmurs, tracing his fingers down Moonsoo’s sternum. “Not your fault…you want me…”

Moonsoo swallows as Jeongguk’s hand trails down his stomach slowly, down through the light thatch of pubic hair to wrap fingers around Moonsoo’s length. Moonsoo props himself up on his elbows, eyes already going starry.

“Y-You don’t have to if you don’t want to, though,” he’s quick to say, swallowing a lump down when Jeongguk pulls his hand back to lick a wet stripe up his palm and wrap his hand back around to stroke Moonsoo, make the glide easier. “I-I—” Jeongguk rubs his thumb against Moonsoo’s slit that’s getting sticky with precum, and Moonsoo’s eyes are already rolling back— “oh fuck, I-I want it good for you too. Want you - want to want it.”

I want Namjoon.

“I want it," Jeongguk whispers. Moonsoo’s cock gives an eager twitch in Jeongguk’s grip.

“Y-You sure?”

Jeongguk dips his head down, just wrapping his lips around the head of Moonsoo’s cock to give a light suck. After that, Moonsoo doesn’t say much of anything else.

 


 

There’s a scent of cinnamon sugar and honey that wafts into Yoongi’s nose that gets his body stirring, but it’s the noise of a television loudly clicking on that gets him fully awake. 

With tired eyes and sluggish limbs caught up in a knit blanket, Yoongi becomes cognizant that he is not at the manor, but instead at Beomgyu’s apartment, a delicious looking bowl of hot cereal placed in front of him on the coffee table beside Beomgyu’s laptop that is currently charging.

“Ah, sorry, hyung!” he hears Beomgyu’s voice behind him apologize. When he turns to look, he sees his partner buttoning up his fatigues, a piece of jellied toast in between his teeth. “Like to have the news on while I get ready,” he explains for the reason for the blaring volume, though Yoongi has to strain his ears to even comprehend that with his exhausted mind. He grunts, wiping the dried drool from the corners of his mouth as he sits up on the couch.

The morning sun illuminates Beomgyu’s living room. It’s cozy, perfectly fine for a bachelor while still allotting enough room for at least one more person to share the space with. Beomgyu keeps his apartment a bit cleaner than Hoseok’s, but Hoseok’s apartment is a bit more colorful in decoration and personality. There’s a few polaroids here and there decorating the walls, the majority of them clustered in the space above where Beomgyu has his desk set up. Some of them have Yoongi in them, others have Taehyun and the other junior officers of the Unit, but all of them have Beomgyu posing at their side and smiling big.

His attention gets called to the television, the current story of the day being that actor Ban Taeyong is reportedly missing. The news station hasn’t much detail on the story, just that it occurred last night and a witness that wishes to remain anonymous is cooperating fully with the Metro Unit of Seongbuk-gu, with the promise of more details to come as the story unfolds. They’ll probably get an alert about it when they return to the precinct, Yoongi thinks. Hopefully nothing serious that will require Jinsoo—

Jinsoo.

The case.

Yoongi’s hands fly out and almost knock over the bowl of hot cereal still going untouched, grabbing the laptop to turn on and unlock with Beomgyu’s password information he badgered the younger for last night. He’s still got each of their CID info pulled up, but there isn’t a Federate seal on any of them, not even an alert on Jeongguk’s requesting to handle the charging and conviction of the case that, when Yoongi went to go check, has indeed been deleted from the records. 

Manseok might have been saying shit to scare Jeongguk and Jinsoo, but at the same time, there would be no need to resort to using the Federate to scare a confession out when Jeongguk was already being so compliant. He closes the files and reopens them again to double check, even looking at the dates a CID was pulled up and verifying any changes that occurred in between them. Still nothing. Still blank.

Yoongi leans back against the couch with a groan. Then, he leans forward, grabs the bowl of hot cereal to take a few bites, and groans again.

“Is it not good or something?” Beomgyu’s voice floats back in, toast eaten and now working on his hair, a white bandage on his forehead. He circles around to sit down beside Yoongi, who shakes his head ‘no’ in response.

“Not that. Just…you remember that case with the murdered civ in the private motel right?”

Beomgyu nods. Yoongi sighs. “Well, it’s gone.”

“…What do you mean ‘gone’?”

“Like the files are erased and it’s like there was never an arrest made for it.”

“No, no they can’t be erased. M-Maybe Jinsoo-ssi inputed the file code wrong or something—”

“Jinsoo-ssi is old, but he doesn’t make mistakes like that…plus, he was told to delete all records and files of the case, so I can say with some certainty that it wasn’t an accident.”

Beomgyu’s eyes widen. “Told by who?

“Don’t know. I…I got a recording of the interrogation made. An Enhanced male somehow was able to get into the interrogation room and must have used some kind of…hypnotism or Voice ability on them. Point is, there are no files in either our records or Dobong-gu’s on the case and we most likely have a suspect that escaped without anyone knowing he was there in the first place.”

Yoongi takes another bite, finding it going bitterly down his throat. Five years. It may not have been a place he wanted Jeongguk to be, but at least he had him. Now…now he’s gone. Now they’re back at square one.

“Well, we remember what he looks like. We can just…maybe find an Enhanced working in another district that does identification. A Shifter ability or maybe pulling from memory to create an image?” Beomgyu suggests. Yoongi squares his jaw. He does know someone with a shifting ability. Only thing is a) Seokjin still hasn’t responded to his text about meeting to speak and b) from how close they were, he doubts Seokjin will want a hand in helping Yoongi just put Jeongguk back into jail.

To be honest, Yoongi doesn’t really want to put Jeongguk behind bars either. Not until he gets a full explanation and a plan for rehabilitating set.

“Yeah,” he mumbles around the silver spoon. “We could do that…we should find also find out who this person with the Voice ability is.”

Beomgyu winces. “We’ll need a Federate code for that.”

Yoongi’s lips draw into a thin line at the thought.

The Federate has long since been keeping and recording data on every registered citizen in South Korea afflicted with Enhanced abilities, creating a compendium of sorts used to classify abilities on threat level and develop further understanding of abilities as well as devise tactics and defenses against them. Since the Hero Initiative was dissolved, the Federate suddenly became very reluctant as to letting people know what power and abilities are out there, only letting themselves be the ones to have access and check for civilian power status. 

He can partially understand not letting civilians concern themselves with the matter; it might start a witch hunt of anti-Enhanced teams seeking to drive out known Enhanced civilians just trying to get by like everyone else. But not allowing the Metro Units have access to the compendium so they know what they could be facing up against is almost like they’re trying to get them to fail.

Voice abilities, to Yoongi’s knowledge from his time as Spirit, work the same but there is variations. Some require the wielder to maintain eye contact, some require just a close proximity and have a greater affect field, some don’t even work by the wielder being physically there, but instead must hear the voice transmitted through a device like a cell phone or a tape recorder. But regardless of the variation, Yoongi is quite aware that all Voice ability Enhanced users that are registered are given a Level 5 seal: heavy restriction of power, must check in with Federate members regularly, and will be sought for an extremely harsh sentence should a CID ever be ran on them.

“The guy at the restaurant,” Beomgyu points out. “Maybe him? He’s still out there, right?”

“He could have used his Voice on us if he had it. The effects are almost instantaneous and we wouldn’t have time to prevent it.” Yoongi shakes his head. “No, it’s someone else.”

“…Well, I can put the request in—”

“No.” Yoongi takes another bite of the cereal. “I don’t want the Feds involved in this…”

“We can’t run a CID on someone with a Voice ability. That’s just asking for the Federate to get involved and putting an innocent person’s life at risk if we pick the wrong person.”

Yoongi groans again, despondent. 

Beomgyu checks his wristwatch. “Listen, I got to head in early. We’ll talk about it later, hyung.”

“Head in early? For what?” Yoongi questions as Beomgyu gets to his feet to head to the front door and get his boots on.

“Um, it’s…Taehyun called me…he’s quitting the Unit.”

Yoongi’s back goes stiff. “Quitting? Why?”

“It’s…I don’t know. That’s why I’m leaving early so I can catch him before he disappears on me again.” Yoongi can’t get a good view of Beomgyu’s face, but he hears the worry drip off every vowel and consonant, sees the tension in Beomgyu’s back. The younger man turns to Yoongi, and his smile is lopsided. “Can you rinse that bowl out for me when you’re done?”

Yoongi clicks his tongue, glancing over at the sink where there’s already a small mountain of bowls, cups and unwashed plates. “Sure, hyung will clean up after his messy dongsaeng,” he says, watching the lopsided smile on Beomgyu’s lips turns to a full one. 

Both say their quick goodbyes and Beomgyu departs, while Yoongi finishes up breakfast and tends to the kitchen sink while the television plays on in the background. An advert for a drama that  Seokjin is starring in flashes onto the screen just as Yoongi dries off the last few cups and stuffs them in Beomgyu’s (frankly cluttered) cupboard. Seokjin has the role of a mild-mannered salaryman who’s fallen in love with a clumsy and non-threatening ‘super villain’. It’s a goofy plot; Yoongi knows Seokjin loves goofy plots. 

…Maybe he should call him.

He sighs. One thing at a time, Min Yoongi. He still hasn’t even checked on Namjoon and Jimin.

The interior of Beomgyu’s apartment disappears and replaces itself with the interior of Sungwoo’s library, though the noise level shifts from a loud television to an even louder gramophone  blasting out music and lyrics in English. When Yoongi turns to his left, he sees Jimin - orange hair and bare footed - dancing on Sungwoo’s desk with records from Sungwoo’s music collection spilled out on the floor in front of him. VAN is also on the ground in the midst of the records, frantically waving their arms like they’re trying to coax Jimin down.

It’s eight in the morning. 

What the fuck?

Yoongi phases over to the gramophone and lifts the needle, music abruptly stopping. Jimin turns to look over his shoulder, oversized sweater giving just a slip to show off his bare shoulder as he appraises Yoongi for a moment. 

“What are you doing?” Yoongi questions. 

Jimin looks down at VAN, signing to the robot. VAN then turns to Yoongi.

He said he is dancing.

“Okay, thank you for stating the obvious, VAN. You, get down.” Jimin pouts, but he does what he’s told and steps off the desk. Yoongi realizes now that he’s never been alone with Jimin since meeting him with Namjoon, though he has been subtle in his observations of him. 

So far, Yoongi has no idea what to make of Jimin. He first thought the man was kind, cute and well skilled in combat, which tick all three boxes for Yoongi’s turn-on’s list. As quick as that impression formed, Jimin became cold, aloof, yet still pretty hot, like he was putting on some kind of bad boy persona with that soft and gentle face turned into a scowl. Then came yesterday with the touching and physical affection he was laving all over Namjoon which, okay, maybe Yoongi got a little bit annoyed by it. Not because it was Namjoon and Jimin, but rather it was that Yoongi’s gone without a date for three months and sex for even longer. Hoseok and Taehyung annoyed Yoongi just as equally with their hugging at Hoseok’s apartment, to be honest.

So, Yoongi knows he’s not jealous of Namjoon getting Jimin’s affection. But he is tired of all the bullshit happening around him and a little horny, which isn’t exactly a pleasant combination. 

Now, Jimin strides over to Yoongi with hands on his hips and a raised eyebrow. He looks over his shoulder down at VAN, signs something that makes VAN’s eye flash green. Jimin turns back to Yoongi, and the way Jimin’s eyes drift down in an elevator glance has Yoongi feeling subconscious. He slept in the same clothes he wore yesterday; pretty sure he needs to shower.

Jimin gestures with his hands. Yoongi stares at them, noting that Jimin is wearing jewelry on his slender and small fingers, nails painted wild and bright colors, compared to the other times where his hands were bare and his nails clean. He looks back at Jimin’s face, at that smile that is far too kittenish. “Uh…I don’t speak - er - sign.”

Another pout. Yoongi shrugs, waiting for Namjoon to stumble in here and help translate. Where the hell is he anyways?

Turning to VAN, Jimin signs again.

He said you’re sexy.

Yoongi chokes on his own spit.

 


 

There’s a little finger prodding at Namjoon’s cheek, incessant and curious. One finger becomes two fingers, and the prodding at Namjoon’s cheek turns to a quick jab of the fingers up Namjoon’s wrinkling nose. His eyes fly open immediately, arms flailing as a gurgle of a noise jumps from his chest. The fingers get removed, and as Namjoon’s vision clears to see the morning sun gleaming down on him, as an ache appears in his lower back and discomfort settles over his skin from his still rain-soaked clothes, he realizes that he isn’t back at the manor. 

He’s lying down against a stack of garbage bags that are also soaked with rainwater, his surroundings brick walls and wet gravel beneath the palm of his hands. It’s an alley, but it’s wide enough that the light can cast its glow on Namjoon and his nose assailant’s form. 

“…It’s rude stick your fingers in people’s noses,” Namjoon chides.

His nose assailant, a small boy that can’t be no older than four or five with a sketchbook in his hands, hums.

“I thought you were dead,” he says matter-of-factly.

“So you’d stick your fingers in the nose of someone dead?

The boy looks at his little fingers, tucking his sketchbook under his arm. “They’re clean,” he says, even offering his hands for Namjoon to inspect them and verify. Namjoon shakes his head, rubbing at a crick in his neck as he gets to his knees. The little boy watches him, eyes wide and innocent, the sunlight making it seem as though they are glimmering. 

Namjoon’s never really dealt with kids, not that he doesn’t like them or anything, but because Yeongsu felt ‘Number One has better things to do than sit with children’. More often than not, Seokjin and Jeongguk were the ones that the kids talked to and played with at publicity events, the ones that kids easily made attachments to. So now, five years later, Namjoon feels awkward with this kid looking at him like this. Nervously, he glances around for if the parents are nearby.

“Uh. So. What’re you doing out here? What’s your name?”

“Kai,” the boy - Kai - introduces with a rosy cheeked smile.

“Kai? Okay, I’m Namjoon…Where’s your Mommy?” Namjoon gets to one knee, smiling crooked. “She’d be awfully worried if you got lost.”

“Don’t got one.”

“…Oh.” Namjoon wasn’t expecting that. The awkwardness settles further in his gut. “Uh. Well, what about your Papa?”

Kai wrinkles his nose. “Don’t got one,” he says, not necessarily sounding as bothered by it as Namjoon feels.

“You’ve — everyone has a Mommy and Papa, Kai-yah.”

Kai blinks. “Well where’s yours?”

A pause.

Namjoon sniffs, squaring his jaw. “…That’s…not the point. Who takes care of you then?”

“Lee-hyung and Tae Tae,” Kai explains, wiping his nose with the sleeve of his white shirt.

“Okay. You wouldn’t want to worry your hyung about where you are, right?”

“He’s not worried. He knows where I am.”

Either Namjoon is really bad with children or Kai is just one really weird child. 

Namjoon gets back to his feet, gesturing to himself. “Well, as you can see, I’m alive. So, I should probably help you find your hyung. Not safe for you to be wandering around with Heroes gone now,” he warns. He would put a hand on the boy’s back to guide him out, but he wouldn’t want to ruin the boy’s clothing. Kai is dressed in a long sleeved white shirt and pants with rainbow embroidery along the cuffs of his sleeves and the buttons of his shirt. It’s very cute on him. Looks like a tiny angel.

“I’m fine,” Kai reassures. “I got my friend with me.”

“Oh?” Namjoon peers down into the alley as well as at the opening where he sees a street and storefronts opening up to start the day. “Where? I don’t see anyone.”

“He’s right here.” Kai gestures to his left at the emptiness beside him. Namjoon ‘ah’s.

He’s experienced with the idea of imaginary friends. He’s created quite a few when he was younger, poured his heart and skill into making them real with the creation of VAN and his other AI schematics. There’s something special about the wonders of imagination, how vast it can be and how one can find comfort in it. But there’s also something…lonesome. For all the time Namjoon found solace in his own thoughts, his own imagination and his head, it could never compare to the lingering want of actually having a companion by his side.

Namjoon bites the inside of his cheek. He forces a smile on his lips.

“Really? Wow. Well, uh, it’s nice to meet you and your friend. Maybe I should help both of you find hyung, okay?”

Kai wrinkles his nose. “If you want. But my friend needs to eat first. He gets cranky when he’s hungry.”

Namjoon chuckles. “Well, what does your ‘friend’ want to eat?”

Kai points at the trash bags Namjoon was sleeping on. Namjoon blinks.

“Uh.” He laughs, stepping aside of the trash bags to kneel beside Kai. “Don’t you think your ‘friend’ would want some hotteok or maybe gyrenppang—” Namjoon jolts at the sudden noise behind him, spinning on his heels as he sees the trash bags suddenly rip themselves open, the waste inside of it being crushed in mid air. Then, Namjoon hears it. The sound of gnashing teeth, slobbery chews, a gurgling throat as the garbage gets swallowed down and disappears from sight. 

The sounds grow louder as another garbage bag gets ripped open, and there’s something…materializing into the space of the alley, hunching itself over the bags as it feasts on slimy banana peels and rotten vegetables. It’s pink and fleshly, with six spindly arms and claws on each of its elbows. It’s grotesquely skinny, but with a bulging stomach that’s as big as the head its bony shoulders sits on. Special attention goes to the bat wings sticking out of the thing’s back, big and covered with white spots, the tips of the wings dripping with some foul smelling goo.

Namjoon hadn’t realized he’d been standing there in horror, jaw dropped and eyes bulging. It’s only when he sees Kai reaching down to pull at the creature’s thin and long tail that Namjoon snaps out of his stupor.

“Stay away from it!” Namjoon yells, not caring whether he dirties Kai’s clothes or not as he pulls the child back. Kai makes a noise of surprise, and immediately, the monster stops eating. It turns towards Namjoon with four sets of huge black eyes, a large gaping maw with two oversized fangs snarling and drooling. Namjoon quickly throws himself in between Kai and the monster, fists raised and burning hot. 

In one second, Namjoon deduces that although the monster has gangly limbs, the wings are so huge that no doubt the movements are clumsy. In another second, Namjoon figures that the brain capacity of the monster must not be large for it to think. It’s acting on instinct most likely, which means that the sooner Namjoon takes it down, the better it would be. And in a third second, he wonders, if the monster was there the entire time and didn’t move until Namjoon got out of the way of the trash bags — which apparently is something more appetizing to the monster than a human child and an even larger adult — why is it angry now that it’s been fed?

Four seconds in, Namjoon wonders if the monster even is angry.

He lowers his fists, turning to Kai. “Is…is uh, is this your friend?”

Kai nods.

“…Is he a ‘bad’ friend or—”

“He’s good. You’re just making him nervous.” Kai looks at Namjoon with a frown. “Are you a bad person?”

Namjoon opens his mouth, but he holds his tongue. He thinks about Hoseok’s contempt for him. He thinks about the hurt he left in Jeongguk’s eyes last night. The words don’t come out, but the self-loathing creeps up on him, weighs his shoulders down till he’s half slumped. 

“I hope I’m not,” he murmurs. “…Don’t want to be.”

The monster grunts, then turns back and resumes eating its garbage meal.

Namjoon studies it for a few moments, before he looks down at Kai. “…You’re Blessed?” he asks. Kai looks up at him and beams.

“Yep!” he chirps, holding up his sketchbook. “I draw things and they turn real, see?” He opens to a page to show Namjoon a signed picture of a pink bat-spider-lizard-thing, far cuter in crayon than it is in real life. On the opposite page, there’s an unsigned drawing of a black and white girl with gigantic hands and disproportionate legs, a big lipsticked smile that takes up eight percent of her face and two beady black eyes. 

There aren’t any other drawings that Kai made, but then again, the sketchbook does feel and look fairly new. Are there more monsters running around that the little boy created? More ‘friends’ hidden in plain sight?

Namjoon never even knew such an amazing ability existed. Yeongsu would have loved Kai.

On the back of the page, there’s some bullet points in green crudely written. ‘Turns invisible’, ‘flies’, ‘holds my stuff’ and ‘eats yucky things’ with a little doodle of what Namjoon thinks is broccoli, and ‘smells like cotton candy’.

The curiosity nips at resolve, but his legs remain stiff and still in his position instead of wandering over to see if the creature does smell like cotton candy.

“Wow, that’s…that’s incredible.”

Kai grins. “I know! Lee-hyung said I’m super cool and ‘M gonna help make him a buncha friends!”

Well, if they’re all innocent like this monster, no matter how grotesque they look, it’s not like it’s a threat to warn Yoongi about. He hands the sketchbook back to Kai and watches as the monster swallows down the last bit of garbage spilled on the ground, lumbering towards Kai and breathing heavily through its mouth.

Ah. Indeed, it does smell like cotton candy.

Kai turns to Namjoon and smiles. “Okay. Bye, Namjoonie-hyung,” he happily chirps as the monster wraps two of its arms around Kai to pull the child up to its chest. 

“W-Woah, woah, woah. Where are you going?” 

“M’ gonna go see Tae Tae,” Kai explains simply.

“What about your hyung?”

“I told you, he knows where I am!” Kai squeals with a laugh.

“Well he probably doesn’t know you’re in a scary alley right now and would be worried about you if he found out you were.”

“S’not scary,” Kai says, cheeks puffed up defiantly. “He’s not worried. He knows I’m with you.”

And that…that makes Namjoon feel even more unsettled than the fact that a ten foot monster is standing two feet in front of him.

“W-What?”

Kai begins to feel around the monster’s bony arm, somehow wriggling his fingers inside of a pouch of skin to withdraw five slimy coins. He holds his hand out expectantly. With a wince, Namjoon accepts the coins as they plop into the center of his palm. 

“He said that’s for the bus,” Kai explains without explaining anything at all. He smiles one more time, cheeks pink. “Okay. Bye, Namjoonie-hyung!”

Namjoon tries to call out for the child to wait, but the monster flaps its wings and creates a huge gust of wind that sends Namjoon flying backwards into the brick wall behind him. Dust and garbage gets kicked up into the air as the monster rockets up into the air, Kai’s squeals of laughter disappearing into the blue morning sky.

In the loneliness of the alleyway, Namjoon is left feeling a myriad of things that he is not used to feeling. Confusion hits him first, then worry, then fear. He looks all around him and checks the sleeves of his jumpsuit and the collar for more bugs that Jimin might have left on him and never revealed, but comes up short. 

Jimin. Oh fuck, he needs to get back to the manor before the Project finds out he’s gone.

Namjoon stumbles out of the alleyway, grimacing at the brightness of sunlight. He’s sure he looks awful if the bewildered eyes and wrinkled noses of the people passing him by on the street are anything to go by. Would a bus even let him on giving the way he looks and possibly smells? 

With an awkward hold around the slimy coins, Namjoon checks his surroundings. Most of the shops are closed, but there is a tea shop that is open with an elderly man sweeping the placemat. Namjoon swallows, checking both ways before he hurries over to the other side, approaching the elder man slowly.

“U-Uh, excuse me?” he asks. The man looks up at Namjoon, squints his eyes at him.

“…Where’d you crawl out of? The sewer?” the man drawls. Namjoon winces. Okay. The smell must be so bad his nose just isn’t even picking it up anymore.

“Could I please use your phone?”

“Phone’s only for customers.”

Namjoon offers forward the coins covered in slime. The man stares down at the open palm.

“…On second thought, let me just…” He reaches into his pocket, first handing Namjoon a washcloth he says Namjoon can keep, before offering Namjoon his own cell phone. Namjoon accepts both with a bow of his head, though his face stings in small embarrassment. In the reflection of the tea shop’s front windows, Namjoon sees he’s covered in dirt and grime from his face down, hair a matted mess that’s half-soaked and half-dry. 

One must always be cognizant of their appearance, Number One. 

Be a leader, Number One. Or at least look like one.

Namjoon swallows, dialing the number for VAN. It rings twice.

Hello!”

V-VAN?”

Oh Namjoon! I am so happy you called, I have good news for you!”

“Can it wait til I get there? Can you find Yoongi for me and give the coordinates of where I’m calling from so he can get me? A-And also, if Jimin is there, can you…can you tell him I’m sorry for running off like that last night?”

Yoongi and Jimin are taking a shower together. I shall let them know when they leave!”

Namjoon nods. Then, he blinks.

“…Wait…together?

 


 

Contrary to public opinion, Yoongi likes to let loose every once in a while. He isn’t prudish, doesn’t clutch at pearls if he hears a raucous joke and well, he’s had his share of quick hookups both before and after he became Spirit, the ‘stoic and cool’ member of the wholesome Fantastic Five. It helped him unwind sometimes, visiting the local clubs and bars while not decked out in his Spirit attire, but still aware of the crowd around him, Enhanced and participating in Units just like him. He’d find someone, chat with them, maybe share a couple of drinks and a dance. 

And if it felt right, Yoongi had zero qualms finding the closest available bathroom, dropping to his knees and getting a cock stuffed in his mouth. Or vice versa. Whichever happened first.

Sex was something of a leisurely activity for Yoongi. Nothing ever came out of his one-night stands and honestly, maybe that was one of the perks of being in a Unit. Everyone was insanely good looking and no one was looking for relationships or complicated matters. Sungwoo would have disproved of the debauchery, but he would have hated it more if Yoongi was ‘distracted’ by a person he developed feelings for. He’s seen how mental the elder man got about Namjoon showing even the smallest desire of wanting a companion, and Yoongi for one didn’t want to welcome that attention on him. A few quick fucks here or there were no big deal. He wasn’t a romantic anyways.

If he were a romantic, he probably would have immediately rejected Park Jimin’s sly bitten lip and flirtatious offer for a quick ‘relaxation session’ before he had to work (as translated dissonantly by VAN). He would have told Park Jimin not to follow him up to the bathroom and not let his eyes follow every single curve and stretch of skin Jimin exposed as he stripped down naked while Yoongi got the water running. He would have told Park Jimin that because they barely know each other and they both know Namjoon, it would be awkward together and they probably shouldn’t be doing this. 

A romantic would have done pretty much the opposite of what Min Yoongi did. 

And currently, Min Yoongi has a hand in Jimin’s wet hair and Jimin has a ringed hand wrapped around Yoongi’s length, stroking it leisurely and catching the drips of pre-cum on his awaiting pink tongue. 

The steam is hot coming from the warm shower spray, but Yoongi is sure he’s feeling hotter. He’s not sure how long Jimin’s been down on his knees sucking him off, his mind going a little disoriented the second Jimin pressed a soft kiss to the tip of Yoongi’s dick, but Yoongi already feels like he’s going to cum. The only way he’s been staving it off is just focusing blankly on the tile in front of him, and not on Jimin and how he drags the flat of his tongue against Yoongi’s leaking slit, like he’s savoring the taste of it, sighing against Yoongi before he wraps his lips around him and gives three hard sucks. 

Jimin’s hand continues to stroke at the part where his lips don’t meet, and Yoongi partially believes that is what’s bringing Yoongi closer to crumbling apart. The sensation is weird; Jimin isn’t fisting Yoongi’s cock, but the added pressure of the rings is making Yoongi feel everything too quick and too fast, making him twitch as Jimin slips the same hand down to roll his balls before he drops his lips down to kiss at each of them, lick them, suck them, do whatever he fucking wants.

“J-Jimin-ssi,” Yoongi grunts, kind of hating the stutter in his throat, but hating the whine that comes moments after Jimin drags his tongue up a vein along the underside of his shaft and swallowing Yoongi down whole even more. “Oh fuck.” He closes his eyes tight, willing himself to not look down at how Jimin takes him down his throat, but the wet slurping sounds intermingling with the patter of the water from the shower, hearing how starved Jimin sounds for it, is making it very hard not to take a peek.

With Jimin’s other hand, it rubs up and down the side of Yoongi’s thigh, digging those painted nails into Yoongi’s peach red skin to leave moon indents. The hand snakes back to Yoongi’s ass, teasing between his cheeks and pressing lightly against the rim. Yoongi’s hand in Jimin’s hair tightens, thanking the stars above that wherever the hell Namjoon is, he isn’t in the manor to hear Yoongi let a moan that rumbles from his belly, feeling it tighten as his toes curl.

The finger never inserts itself inside, but god, Yoongi wants it. Instead, Jimin’s hand removes itself from Yoongi entirely for a moment, only reappearing afterwards to give a quick tap against Yoongi’s ass. Yoongi opens his eyes as Jimin pulls off, seeing Jimin point to the frosted glass door. The steam is quickly rising, so Yoongi barely sees the message before it fogs back up.

Watch me.’

Yoongi swallows.

Jimin’s lips are shiny and red, and if he squints through the steam, he swears he can see a strand of spit connecting Jimin’s bottom lip to the tip of Yoongi’s dick. Jimin smiles at him, devilish twinkle in his eye before he gives another kiss to Yoongi’s dick and sucks him back down, hollowing his cheeks.

Now Yoongi finds he can’t turn his head away, doesn’t even feel himself blink. Some of the wet mist gets caught on Jimin’s eyelashes, cascades down his cheeks and drip down the soft curve of his chin. His eyes are dark, an unknown that Yoongi tries to not fall too deep in. He doesn’t know the first thing about Jimin. Doesn’t know his favorite color, doesn’t know his birthday — fuck, Yoongi is about to cum with his cock down Jimin’s throat and he doesn’t even know Jimin’s last name.

“W-Wait, wait—” Yoongi’s hand tightens hard enough to pull Jimin off. Jimin looks at him adamantly, smacking his hand away with a raised eyebrow. His eyes flicker down to Yoongi’s dick that still achingly hard, then back up to Yoongi’s face as he flusters to remember how to word. “Uh, what’s your - your name? I mean, I know it’s Jimin but, your whole name.”

Jimin blinks at him, then snorts. He turns back to the glass door and with his finger, writes ‘Park Jimin’. He turns, eyebrows raised expectantly, gesturing back to Yoongi’s dick as permission to continue. Not finding any further objections, Yoongi dumbly nods.

He doesn’t take Yoongi back into his mouth, just takes his hand with all those stupid rings to grip Yoongi’s cock and slap it against his tongue, just the a subtle tilt upwards of the corners of his mouth in a smile. 

Yoongi cums with a scream.

 

 

 

 

 

Namjoon needs you to come pick him up from these coordinates. I told him you both were in the shower, so please let him know you’re on your way as soon as possible!

“You told him what?” Yoongi stops in lacing up his boots, staring at the little robot Jimin has perched on the small of his back. Jimin himself is lounging on Yoongi’s bed, naked, like he’s trying to tempt Yoongi into taking this thing further. 

He’s never had anyone naked in his bed before; Sungwoo has inconvenient timing and liked to barge into their rooms whenever he felt like it, and Hoseok was too sensitive with his hearing. It was already a pain to have to keep a mental barrier up while at the same time trying to jerk off to porn or his imagination, he didn’t want to have to explain that to whoever he dragged underneath the bedsheets with him.

Jimin reaches to take a notepad and pencil (courtesy of Yoongi) off of Yoongi’s nightstand, writing down a message before showing Yoongi the page. ‘I can go get him if you need me to.

Yoongi swallows. It’s not like he can’t. In fact, it would probably be faster if Yoongi was the one to bring Namjoon home. But right now, Jimin is lying naked in his bed and Yoongi can’t stop staring at his ass and those thighs and his mind is also replaying the image of Jimin’s face covered in his cum before the shower spray rinsed it clean.

He doesn’t think he’ll be able to look Namjoon in the eye for at least a few days, give or take a week.

Yoongi coughs into the sleeve of his uniform, fastening the gun holsters around his chest. “Uh, yeah. You could do that…and maybe not…tell him about—” Yoongi gestures from himself to Jimin. Jimin smiles, scribbling down another message.

I know how to keep a secret ;)

“Right…right…VAN, you don’t have a camera on you, do you?”

VAN’s eye goes to a sad crescent. “No, my camera has unfortunately been damaged.

“No. That’s good. Don’t you say a word about what is happening right now to Namjoon.”

Keeping secrets is not the basis for a healthy relationship between friends!”

“VAN, I’m not even ‘co-worker’ level with Namjoon. Don’t say a word.

If VAN could pout, Yoongi presumes they would be doing it right now.

Yoongi spares Jimin a side glance. That’s another complication Yoongi didn’t think of when all he could focus on was trying to get his dick wet. With his previous fucks, there wasn’t the awkwardness of having to see them again. Units rarely joined forces and dealt with each other outside of galas or promotional events that Sungwoo already hated for them to attend anyways. Maybe the most Yoongi would be up against was a random encounter on the street or in the middle of an armed robber chase or the like, but all that would be was a quick glance, a small smile, and an even quicker departure.

Jimin is going to be in this manor every fucking day until the Project decides to do something else with Namjoon, and who knows how long that’s going to be.

He gives an awkward cough. “I’ll…see you at dinner.”

Jimin writes a message just as Yoongi feels the burn and the room melts away.

Leave your uniform on when you get back. Wanna ride you in it ;)

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been two hours since he’s arrived at the precinct and all Yoongi has done is sit in his office with his head in his hands. He hasn’t seen Beomgyu pop up yet, and he’s been meaning to ask about Jinsoo and what he remembers about the case, maybe even get a name or a face to go with whoever had that Voice ability. But…he’s just sitting there, in his chair, listening to the clock hanging on the wall behind him tick-tick-tick while the memory of Park Jimin assaults his mind over and over and over

The door creaks open. “Hyung?” Beomgyu calls, and Yoongi raises his face up from his sweating palms. “Hyung, someone wants to see us in Jinsoo’s office.”

Yoongi gets to his feet, holding his hand out for Beomgyu to take. But, the younger man shakes his head, something…worried in his eyes. “I think we should walk there,” he murmurs. Yoongi lets his hand fall, not going to question it.

Jinsoo’s office is a small distance away from Yoongi’s, the homicide division tucked away at the back near criminal records. Taehyun’s office is next to Beomgyu’s, and as they pass it, he sees the walls are stripped of all of Taehyun’s pictures, commemorative awards and his desk barren of plants and books. 

“So he really left,” Yoongi murmurs. Beomgyu’s shoulders tense at his side. He bites his lower lip.

“Yeah…said he found something else…doesn’t think he can come back here.”

“Not like him to sound all dramatic. That’s seriously all he said to you?”

“He didn’t seem in the mood to really talk, to be honest. Think he just wanted me to stop calling him by showing he’s still alive,” Beomgyu says with a hurt laugh that doesn’t hide the saddened glimmer in Beomgyu’s eyes. Yoongi gets a hand around Beomgyu’s shoulder, squeezing it. 

“I’ll take you and Jinsoo-ssi out for something to eat after we’re done talking,” he mumbles in a drawl, but Beomgyu shakes his head. 

“Jinsoo-ssi isn’t back. Apparently, he fainted on the train coming back to the precinct. I was gonna actually stop by your office and ask if you wanted to visit him.”

They are both only centimeters away from the office door of Jinsoo when Yoongi pauses, eyebrow raised.

“…If Jinsoo-ssi isn’t here, then who the hell are we meeting in his office?” Yoongi questions. Beomgyu takes on that face of dread again, and he quietly opens the door for Yoongi to enter the office first.

The moment Yoongi crosses the threshold, he is struck by three things.

The first is the smell, an overpowering stench of fried chicken from the chicken take out down the street. Jinsoo liked to keep a clean office, no overpowering scents and no visible signs that he even takes his lunches in his office. But the stink is overwhelming, punching Yoongi square in the nose with the smell of garlic, spices and onion.

The second is the fact that the smell of fried chicken is coming from the bags of fried chicken takeout sprawled over Jinsoo’s desk, currently being eaten by a woman with red dyed hair that is lounging in Jinsoo’s chair. She’s got her feet up on the desk too, shiny red heels without a speck of dirt on the soles. They compliment her red lipstick, not even smeared by her continuous eating.

But it’s the third thing that gets Yoongi very unsettled. 

Standing beside the woman is a man dressed in a black suit that matches her black dress. His gloved hands are folded in front of him, two different color eyes - light grey and brown - staring directly at Yoongi as he and Beomgyu enter. A piece of dangling silver hangs from his ear, which is familiar. The soft curve of his face, the gentle features of his nose, his lips, is also familiar. And though the hair is a shocking color of white, Yoongi recognizes the hair he’s had fisted tight in his grasp hours before.

It’s Jimin.

It’s fucking Park Jimin.

The woman sucks a piece of meat from her teeth, dropping a bone into one of the takeout boxes open to her right before wiping her hands. “Gentlemen!” she greets with a clean smile, gesturing to the two metal chairs in front of the desk. “Please, have a seat.”

Beomgyu moves to do so, but Yoongi holds his arm out to keep him from going any further. 

“How about you tell me who you are and what you’re doing in this office?” he asks. The woman clucks her tongue, not letting her smile falter.

“Okay~ I’m not here to ruffle anyone’s feathers,” she giggles, exposing her clean palms. “My name is Cherry. I’m with the Vice division of the Federate Institute.”

“‘Cherry’? That’s seriously your name?”

The woman smiles. “That’s the name that you only need to concern yourself with.”

Yoongi squares his jaw, glancing at Jimin. Or at least, he thinks it’s Jimin. It looks like him, has the same height as the Jimin maybe still lying naked in Yoongi’s bed, same nose, same plump lips that were sucking Yoongi’s cock, same soft cheeks Yoongi painted white. But there’s something…different about him as well. Something…off.

“And him?”

Cherry doesn’t even look over at Jimin. “If you answer my questions, you won’t have to worry about his name,” she says with a grin, gesturing to the chairs. “Please, sit.”

After a beat, Yoongi drops his arm and both shuffle over to sit down.

Cherry smiles and takes a sip from an open Coke can.

“Some food, boys? I know we’re both dropping in at lunchtime,” she giggles, offering a box of chicken to Beomgyu first, giving it a playful shake when it seems the young man is too scared to even acknowledge there’s chicken being offered in the first place. She pouts, “Don’t be so scared. You’re not in trouble or anything. We just wanna talk, okay?”

“Feds don’t ‘just wanna talk’. How about you cut to the chase and tell us what you’re doing here,” Yoongi dryly cuts in.

Cherry puts the box back on the desk, nodding her head. “Assertiveness. I love that in a man,” she purrs. 

“Yeah. That’s me. Number one ladykiller in the precinct.”

The woman hums. “And that’s exactly what we wanted to talk about. A killer.” 

Yoongi tries to not grow tense in his chair. 

“Now, we have received word about there being an arrest tied to that murder case of that Enhanced man in the private motel? Yet, when we checked back on the matter, all the files have just mysteriously vanished from both yours and Dobong-gu’s networks. Do either of you gentlemen know anything about it?”

“We’re - um - we’re involved with narcotics, M’am.” Beomgyu explains, swallowing hard. “We wouldn’t know much about the filing of paperwork on a homicide case.”

“Hmm, that is true. But it also seems that the lead detectives for homicide in this Metro Unit — a Kang Taehyun and Jung Jinsoo — are nowhere to be found. Well, I mean, we shook the old man down for answers but it seems he doesn’t even recall what he had for breakfast that day,” Cherry says with a forlorn sigh.

“…Excuse me? You did what?” Yoongi questions, edge to his voice.

“No need to get all riled up, Yoongi-ssi,” she drawls, taking another sip of her Coke. “Just a figure of speech. After all—” she raises her forearm up, and without warning, a metal claw protrudes from her skin, gleaming deadly underneath the fluorescent white light. “It would be dangerous for us Enhanced to use our abilities on normal folk.”

“…You’re Enhanced?” Yoongi asks, mildly astonished. He’s never heard of an Enhanced civilian working under the Federate. Majority of Enhanced civilians are afraid of the Federate. 

Cherry grins, retracting the metal claw back. “Well, I may have not gotten my ability through the Explosion like all of you, but I like to think that we are all in solidarity as fellow Enhanced members of society, don’t you think?”

Yoongi tuts his teeth. “Oh. That makes sense. You’re just one of their freak experiments.”

He’s heard of the rumors floating around, that behind the walls of what was once Nahae-gu at the Federate East facility, Enhanced civilians get rounded up by anti-Enhanced teams and taken there to be experimented on, mutilated, torn apart and then sewn back together again with different hands, different eyes, etc., all for the sake of wondering just what makes an Enhanced person Enhanced. There is no understanding of how the Explosion in the sky caused abilities to be, if it runs through one’s DNA, if it will carry through the lineage and result in humans becoming the indominant species, or if it will die out with this generation, and it’s only a matter of picking and choosing which ones to snuff out and which to attempt to preserve.

Is that what Jimin is too? One of their experiments gone wrong?

Cherry laughs with her lips tightly closed. “You’re so funny. I had no idea from how they portrayed you when you were still Spirit. Though, I had to say I used to be a fan of Lucky Rabbit. Such a cute boy.” She reaches for another piece of chicken, bites into it, then asks with a partially full mouth, “Have you seen him around lately?”

“Don’t think it’s any of your concern if I’ve seen him around or not,” Yoongi spits.

“But I think it is. Especially since Dobong-gu had a CID ran fingering him as the murderer.” She shakes her head in sympathy, swallowing the piece of meat down her throat. “Such a pity that a once beloved Hero Unit produced two murderers. Makes me wonder if you all are ready to snap and create mass genocide.”

Yoongi feels his nostrils flare, hands balling into fists resting on his thighs. “Well since there’s no Federate seal on our CIDs, I think we’re not as much of a threat for you to worry about losing sleep at night.”

Jimin shifts his weight to the other foot, and the subtle movement instantly draws Yoongi’s attention. He’s honestly feeling more on edge by having Jimin in the room with them; had it been Beomgyu, Cherry, and Yoongi, Yoongi most certainly believes he would have already had the woman thrown out, Federate be damned. 

It can’t be the same Jimin. The hair and the eyes are totally different and there’s no possible explanation for why Jimin would be here at Cherry’s side when he is supposed to be finding Namjoon. Maybe a twin? It’s plausible, not like Yoongi knows much about Jimin’s family life and he doubts Namjoon knows much either. But there’s also the fact that Yoongi knows and feels like Jimin sometimes…isn’t Jimin. Or at least, isn’t the same Jimin he saw the day before. The day Jimin had black hair, he looked like he wanted to carve out Hoseok’s jugular with a spoon for threatening Namjoon. And now today with his orange hair, he’s ready to jump on Yoongi’s dick the first chance he can get.

Clones? No. No, clones are practically puppets. Hollow shells of the original with only one directive set forth by the original that created them. There’s no complexities to them, no mysteries. A clone couldn’t cook an (awful) breakfast, deliver massages, rifle through a stack of records before dancing on a desk and well, against what the fantasies in the porn industries claim, a clone wouldn’t even have the cognizance or ability to have sex independently. Not without the original mentally guiding each one while also getting into act themselves. 

At least, that was the case with clones that Yoongi personally has witnessed.

Cherry tilts her head to the side. “You seem very interested in my companion instead of the case at hand, Yoongi-ssi,” she hums. “Why is that?”

“…Just got a unique face,” he mumbles. Could the Jimin that nearly brought him to his knees also be involved with the Federate? Was the Jimin that was listening in on the interrogation, that knows that Yoongi and Hoseok and Namjoon are all aware of Jeongguk’s involvement as he massaged at Namjoon’s shoulders, a member of the Federate?

Is Namjoon in danger right now?

Cherry smiles. “He does, doesn’t he? But I’ll have to ask you to keep your eyes focused on me while we get to the bottom of this matter.”

“M’am, we really don’t know much about the case,” Beomgyu asserts. “I was assaulted by another suspect in the case and have been out for three days. And though Kang Taehyun was involved in the homicide unit, he…wasn’t around to know much about what is currently happening. He resigned this morning as well.”

“In other words, it’s pointless to talk to us. We don’t know anything,” Yoongi bluntly states. “So, we’d appreciate it if you collect your garbage and get the fuck out.”

Cherry sighs, dotting the corners of her red mouth with a wadded napkin. “Yoongi-ssi~” she lilts, “I’m gonna give you one last chance to be a good boy and tell us what we need to know~ We’re all just trying to work together for a better life, right? Shouldn’t we be cooperating?

“The Federate has never tried to achieve a better life for Enhanced people,” Yoongi bites. “No matter how many drugs or alternations they might pump your body up with, you’ll never be the same as me. So don’t act like you’re fighting for my beliefs and my rights.”

For a split second, Yoongi thinks he saw a flash of rage behind Cherry’s light brown eyes. But, her smile doesn’t fall from her lips.

She sighs, rising to her feet. “Okay. I suppose we’ll have to go with Plan B.”

BANG!

It’s strange. Yoongi feels a bullet enter his shoulder, even hears the sound of the bullet being fired by the small silver gun in Jimin’s hand, so discreet Yoongi didn’t even notice him withdraw it. He hears Beomgyu’s scream as he topples over from the chair and onto the floor, Beomgyu shooting to his feet as Cherry and Jimin both approach in strides. 

“W-What are you doing?!" Beomgyu stammers. "You can’t do this! This - this is —”

“Choi Beomgyu, was it? Wait right here,” Cherry asks, grabbing a fistful of the front of his uniform to throw him up against the desk. Yoongi grunts through his teeth, spit coming at the corner of his mouth as he tries to phase. He feels it, and at the same time he doesn’t. It’s like…something is burning him, hot and cold, numbing but painful. Jimin grabs a hold of Beomgyu’s arm as Cherry steps away, kneeling down beside Yoongi twitching on the floor.

“Do you like it?” she asks in a babying tone. “One of our researchers just created it, but I’ve honestly been dying to try it out. Now instead of us having to force those big, clunky, nullifiers on, all we have to do is just—” she flicks the spot in between Yoongi’s eyebrow, makes a popping noise with her tongue before giggling —“they say that it’s even stronger than the average nullifier too. First, it breaks through the skin and enters the bloodstream, while at the same time repairing the bullet wound so you don’t bleed out. It goes through your veins and centers around your area of power and blocks the signals that would catalyze a release of the enzymes and chemicals that would manifest as your ‘ability’, leading to a prolonged neuromuscular blockade and leaving you…well, as fucking useless as wittle ole baby~”

“H-Help! Help! Someone!” Beomgyu screams, before the shout gets cut off by Cherry slamming a metal claw into the ground just centimeters from Yoongi’s head.

“Choi Beomgyu-ssi~ no one is going to interrupt us,” she drawls. “As of today, we’re taking over the Homicide and Vice division of this and Dobong-gu’s Metro Unit. We’re the ones you call for ‘help’ now.” She swings a leg over Yoongi to sit on his chest, taking the metal claw to his neck. “I do love a man that is assertive, but I also like delivering a good spanking to ones that don’t give me what I want. The question is, who’s it going to be? You? Or—” Jimin suddenly yanks Beomgyu down, a flash of metal wire catching a glint in the light before it ties itself around Beomgyu’s throat and Jimin pulls.

Stop! Stop!Yoongi thrashes when Beomgyu makes a pained strangled noise when taken to the ground, not even having the strength to lift an arm or kick a leg, eyelids heavy and lungs not getting enough air with Cherry’s weight and the nullifier agent going through his system. “I told you, we don’t know! I don’t know! He’s - he’s gone, okay?! Some Voice user broke him out and he’s gone. Beomgyu doesn’t know anything about this. He is the least involved and invested in this so just let him go.”

“Voice user…” Cherry hums a little tune. “Hmm…okay. I suppose that will have to suffice.” Her claws retract and she’s back to smiling. “Now was that so hard, Yoongi-ssi? There’s no need to be such a hard-ass! I just wanna be your friend!” she whines with a pout, leaning down to get her red lips against the shell of his ear. “And since now I know you recognize my companion’s face when you shouldn’t, we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other from now on.”

She kisses his cheek as she rises back up and off of him, adjusting her dress and fixing her hair. Jimin releases his garrote around Beomgyu, letting the younger male get a few desperate gasps in before rejoining Cherry’s side. “We’ll keep in touch!” she chirps, opening the office door nice and wide so the crowd of precinct officers and other members of the Metro Unit division could look on at Yoongi and Beomgyu sprawled on the ground in horror. Cherry pushes through them with Jimin trailing obediently after her, the sharp sound of her heels against the tile the last thing Yoongi hears before everything goes black.

Chapter Text

“You’ve ever had an Angel’s Tears?”

Seokjin raises his eyebrow, mildly perplexed but the quirk of his lips not turning down the question either. 

“Is that some metaphor for sex or something?” he asks Taeyong, who only chuckles and leans more into Seokjin’s side.

The meeting with Jiyeon wrapped up swimmingly, as meetings always do with the woman’s infectious optimism and smooth way of getting all of Seokjin’s requests fulfilled. Staying later for dinner with his co-star was more of a friendly formality than a business one; the large booth the two remained in now almost seems too big for them alone, tucked away at the back of the restaurant away from nosy eyes and curious ears. 

Taeyong scratches the back of his neck. “Okay, don’t laugh, but I used to come to this place so much that they decided to, you know, name a drink after me.”

“Wow, fancy~” Seokjin waggles his eyebrows. “So what’s in it?”

“Vodka, Blue Curacao, and soda water with a lemon wedge.” Taeyong gives a shrug. “It’s not bad, if I do say so myself.”

“I’d hope so. Would kinda suck if you didn’t like the drink you were named after,” Seokjin points out. He rests his chin in the palm of his hand, rather enjoying the way Taeyong has his knee pressed lightly against his, the warm flush of color he sees disappearing behind the collar of Taeyong’s dress shirt. “Why the ‘Tears’ though?”

“Um…well, it’s kind of an inside joke thing…the first time I came in here, I got my first rejection from my primary Unit choice. Just was bawling my eyes out, like really ugly crying and, well, I guess it just made an impression on the bartender enough for her to name the drink after that moment.” Taeyong laughs, blushing. “Kinda embarrassing repeating that story to you—”

“Why?”

“Well, I mean…just make me sound kind of like a loser. Always the B-lister and never…” he gestures to Seokjin like it’s supposed to mean something, but Seokjin doesn’t put manage to connect whatever thought Taeyong is thinking of. He smiles at him anyways, daring to rest a hand on Taeyong’s knee.

“Well, things are different now. Neither of us is better than the other. In fact, I’ve been a fan of your work for some time.”

“Oh, now you’re just buttering me up—”

“Believe me when I say I’m not the ‘buttering up’ type unless I really like you,” Seokjin reassures with a laugh. Taeyong laughs too, getting more flushed in his cheeks. Seokjin rather likes the color on the man, likes it even more when Taeyong gets an arm around his broad shoulders.

“Well, if we’re not buttering each other up…I used to kind of have a crush on you,” Taeyong admits freely, hissing a giggle between his teeth when Seokjin gives a faux stunned gasp. “Don’t make fun of me! You were like, on almost every single magazine cover for Nahae-gu’s ‘Most Sexiest Superheroes’.”

“Did you take the posters of me from those magazines?” Seokjin questions, laying on the dramatics when Taeyong gives a pained groan and only flushes red more through his laughter. “You did? Oh my god, which one?”

“The - the one with you and you were in a flower field? You were holding a daisy.” Taeyong rubs his face. “Oh my god, I’m embarrassing myself. Tell me to shut up.”

“No, I like hearing people confess how much they love me. Keep going.” Seokjin laughs as Taeyong gives a playful hit to his arm, leaning his weight on Seokjin and Seokjin wholeheartedly accepting it, rolling with it, letting the buzz and warmth overcome him.

Taeyong wipes a tear from his eye, and when he lifts his face, he’s close to Seokjin. Taeyong has grey eyes, big round ones that almost remind him of Jeongguk’s doe ones. But where Seokjin sees gentle innocence in Jeongguk’s, he sees wonder and eagerness in Taeyong’s. Taeyong’s hand on Seokjin’s shoulder gives a squeeze, and Seokjin finds himself wanting to see where the wonder and eagerness would lead, if it will draw more laughter from Taeyong’s lips and warmth from his body that Seokjin thinks he could let himself melt in. From the way Taeyong doesn’t immediately pull himself from the tiny space they both are in, Seokjin believes the man may be feeling the same way.

“…Maybe I’ll try that drink,” Seokjin murmurs, brushing a curly lock of hair so he can feel how warm Taeyong’s skin is beneath his touch. Taeyong hums as he smiles, the note a gentle sound to Seokjin’s ears.

“Sure you’ll love it.”

 


 

“We greatly appreciate your cooperation with this case, Seokjin-ssi.”

Seokjin nods his head, shoulders drawn in a stiff line as Seungjae hands him his tea.

He’s been talking with officers and detectives for what feels like eons, only having somewhat of a break when Seungjae came to bring him back to his apartment, Jeongguk not in bed where Seokjin last remembered the young man being at. He almost expected Jeongguk to be gone, felt like he would be prepared for Seungjae to tell him that Jeongguk disappeared the second he could, but the fact that Jeongguk’s disappearance is also coupled with Taeyong’s just puts Seokjin in…not so good of a mental space.

Just keep to the side, Number Four.

Let someone else handle this, Number Four.

You’re wasting my time, Number Four.

“Seokjin-ssi?”

“A-Ah?” Seokjin looks up at the officer seated across from him at his dining table, throwing up a smile before he takes a sip from his tea. The officer — a woman named Park Oksun — taps her notepad with the tip of her pen. 

“Just to clarify, you did not hear anyone enter or exit the apartment?”

“No. There was — he doesn’t live in a large apartment or anything. I would have definitely heard the front door.”

“Did you hear any sounds of a struggle?”

“No.” The tea stings going down his throat as Seokjin thinks back to the previous night. There was so much blood on the floor, the smell something that lingered long after Seokjin returned home and showered. He should have heard a struggle, would have came running if Taeyong shouted for help. But there was nothing. No shout, no scream, nothing that Seokjin would have expected to explain all of that blood on the floor and that horrific message written on the wall.

What does it mean? ‘You’re next? What did he do? What did Taeyong do to deserve something like this happening to him?

“Hmm, I suppose we can rule out that this may be an anti-Enhanced attack. No doubt there should have been audible signs of a struggle or of a breaking and entering. We will also have to alert the Federate about this case since this is looking to be an Enhanced Crime—”

“The Federate? Why? It’s — I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of it, but…” Seokjin swallows, thumbing the rim of his mug. “I thought the Federate didn’t involve themselves in small homicide cases like these.”

“Believe me, I thought the same thing. But it seems that the Federate wishes to have greater involvement in Enhanced activities occurring at the Metro Unit level. Not saying that you’ll have a Federate officer knocking on your door wishing to talk to you, Seokjin-ssi, but protocol is protocol, I’m afraid,” the woman says with a slight forlorn sigh. Seokjin nods, though he doesn’t find himself relaxing in the slightest. Especially knowing there’s a Federate seal on his CID; if the Federate hears he’s involved in a locked room case, Seokjin doesn’t see it forgoing well.

The officer gets to her feet. “We’ll be keeping in touch with you if there are any updates with the case, Seokjin-ssi,” she says with a bow of her head. 

“Officer-nim,” Seokjin calls before she fully excuses herself from the table to leave for the front door. There’s a tremble to his throat, cold terror at the back of his neck. “Be honest with me…do you think he’s still alive?”

The woman sighs with her shoulders. “…They could have left the body if they really wanted to scare you. His manager and publicist has not received any sort of ransom either…I would like to be optimistic about this, Seokjin-ssi, but I cannot make any confirmations until we look further into this.”

It’s an understandable response, but Seokjin still feels useless hearing it.

Seungjae escorts the officer out, returning to stand by Seokjin’s side as Seokjin drops his face into his hands. “I’m such a screw-up—”

“Don’t. Just be thankful that you didn’t get hurt—”

“But I was right there! I was — I could have done something. Seen their face or intervened or helped but I—” Seokjin sucks in a breath, closing his eyes when it begins to sting something awful keeping them open and looking at his reflection in his tea. “And now Jeongguk is gone and I could have done more to make him stay and now this—”

“Sir, what happened with Jeongguk isn’t something that you can blame on yourself.”

“I’m his hyung. I’m supposed to look after him and take care of him and—” Another hiss of air between his teeth. “I’m just…I’m just useless in everything I do.”

Seungjae doesn’t say anything, but he kneels beside Seokjin and brings a hand to Seokjin’s knee. 

“You’re not useless…they’ll find Taeyong-ssi and Jeongguk-ah isn’t gone forever.”

“…But what if they are gone? What if - what if Taeyong’s body shows up dumped somewhere? Or Jeongguk winds up on the news as a sex worker murdered by some bastard client like he almost was killed by before? I…I could have prevented that. I could have done something.” Seokjin’s voice is quivering too much to his liking, and his body is trembling too much in his seat to be comfortable. He stands, walking from one end of the living room to the other, hands to his face as he tries to remember how to breathe.

“Do you need me to get your medication?”

“No.” Seokjin shakes his head without looking at Seungjae. “No, no I don’t want it.”

“Dr. Choi said whenever you get like this—”

“I don’t want the pills, Seungjae,” Seokjin says, the tone a croak of his voice. He shakes the tremors from his hands, breathing hard. “Just, just tell me what Jiyeon has planned for me this week?”

“…You have that signing and meet and greet with the radio winners in a few weeks, with promotions leading up to that,” Seungjae mentions. Seokjin nods his head, running a hand through his purple hair. 

“Okay. I - I need a new outfit for that. I should go shopping. I’ll get some new shoes and maybe a necklace or—”

“Seokjin-ah,” Seungjae murmurs,  “you shouldn’t…you shouldn’t try to hide how you’re feeling from yourself…you don’t have to feel like you need to be Number One.”

Seokjin pauses in his movements, the tremble turning to an itch, the itch crawling and stinging along the left side of his face. “I don’t feel like I need to be Number One,” Seokjin says, voice not wavering this time as he speaks. Seungjae holds his tongue from responding, folding his hands behind his back as Seokjin stares him down. “…Fetch my car please?”

“…Right away, Sir.” Seungjae bows his head, before quietly excusing himself from Seokjin’s line of sight. 

Alone in the living room, Seokjin takes a deep inhale through his nostrils. It’s not like he needs to be Number One. It’s not like he needs to be the leader on matters. But…Seokjin can’t lie when he says that sometimes like this, in this quiet where it is only the noise of Seokjin’s thoughts and the thud of his heart that are all he hears, he finds himself desperate for control, stability, whatever thing that will allow Seokjin to wake up in the morning and think, ‘everything is going to be okay’.

It shouldn’t be a crime if Seokjin just wants things to go his way for once. Seokjin shouldn’t feel bad for wanting the things in his life to be perfect, for the people in his life to be safe and cared for and for him to feel like he’s done enough.

It never feels like he’s done enough. 

 


 

“And we’re back! That was Trinity V with ‘Love Me Again’, sure to be a summer hit! You know, I never would have expected them to become a Hero K-pop idol group. Their image before the Hero Initiative dissolving—“

“Mm, yeah. They didn’t have that cuteness to them, that innocence.”

“Precisely! I mean, but that’s to be expected of them to present themselves as more powerful in the face of danger. What danger are they facing being K-pop idols, you know?”

“True, true. And hey! Speaking of idols in a brilliant segway, we still have tickets for Glam aka Kim Seokjin’s meet and greet! We’re also looking for five more lucky winners of the meeting Q&A where you’ll get to chat with the Hero Idol about his successes as a popular K-drama actor as well as all the juicy gossip regarding his past as Glam in the Fantastic Five! Just make sure to be caller number five at the top of the hour for—”

Moonsoo turns the radio down in the kitchen, bringing the phone back to his ear. “Sorry, where do you want to meet up at again?” he asks, scribbling down an address on a napkin while Jeongguk watches him from across the table, cheek in his palm and eyes apathetic. “Uh huh…yeah…yeah, the transaction will be discreet…sure…two weeks, got it.”

When the call disconnects, Jeongguk leans back into his chair. “Couldn’t we wait a little before I have to get on some stranger’s dick again?” he mutters under his breath. Moonsoo looks at him, turning the pen in between his skinny fingers.

“Well, it’s not like you’re doing it now. It’s gonna be in two weeks.”

“Why the delay?”

Moonsoo shrugs. “Said it was something about a bachelor’s party. It’s just gonna be you and the soon-to-be husband though so—”

“I don’t feel comfortable sleeping with someone that’s going to get married,” Jeongguk blurts. Moonsoo laughs, but the smile falters when Jeongguk doesn’t laugh back. 

“Bunny, really? Come on, it’s just in good fun—”

“They have a spouse they can sleep with, don’t they?” Jeongguk shrugs, averting his eyes. “Just don’t want any part in getting in the way of something like that.”

“Wha? You won’t be — the guy’s offering 800,000 just to have you for a night. That’s really good money, Bunny,”

“Then call him back and tell him ‘sorry’,” Jeongguk states flatly. Moonsoo stares at him, jaw a bit slack, the quieted buzz of the radio the only thing keeping the space between them not completely silent.

“…Bunny, what’s going on with you?” 

“What do you mean?”

“Just, you’ve been upset since you came back. Even when we were fucking, you didn’t seem to be into it. I asked you if you wanted to do it—”

“I did.” Jeongguk sighs, bouncing his knee, suddenly more aggravated than before. “I’m just…I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Moonsoo leans back into his chair, frowning. “We agreed that if I stop dealing drugs, you’d do this so we can have income. Do you want me to go back to doing that?”

“No, but—”

“Well, neither of us can do anything else, Bunny. What do you expect?”

“We can do something. Get a job elsewhere as a clerk or a fast-food worker or something other than this. We can try, can’t we?” There’s a pleading to his voice that Jeongguk doesn’t feel sounds right coming off his tongue. He doesn’t want to beg, doesn’t want to whine, but the desperation is gripping him hard enough that it’s like he can’t breathe.

The chuckle Moonsoo gives is soft, but disbelieving. “That’s not the kind of life we live, Bunny. We’re…we’ve got a good thing going doing what we’re doing, right? Why mess with that?” He bites his lower lip, drumming a rhythm against the table with his free hand, tap-tap-tap. “If it’s about the…that night…you don’t have to worry, okay? I’m picking and choosing carefully so we don’t get an asshole like that ever again.”

The man rises to his feet, moving to kneel beside Jeongguk and stroke his hand over Jeongguk’s thigh. “Bunny, come on. Just…just tell me the truth. What is it?”

“…It’s nothing, Moonie. I just…I just want to feel like I’m going somewhere. I used to - I used to be something. I used to have a purpose. This may be the life we live, but that doesn’t mean this is the life we should want. The life that I want.”

Moonsoo stops his hand on Jeongguk’s knee. “…You saying you don’t want to be with me?”

Jeongguk groans. “Fuck, I didn’t say that—”

“Well what the fuck is it then?!” Moonsoo’s voice rises, pulling his hand from Jeongguk entirely. “You don’t want to talk to me, you don’t want to fuck me, you don’t want to tell me about - about who those guys were and how they know you—”

“I’m just confused, okay!” Jeongguk yells, pushing away from the table to get to his feet. Moonsoo rises up and grabs Jeongguk by the wrist before he can get too far, pulling Jeongguk back up against his narrow chest. “No, no, just leave me alone—”

“Will you just talk to me, please?” Moonsoo grunts out, holding Jeongguk tighter. “We’re a team, aren’t we? We stick together, right? So why won’t you just talk to me? Why won’t you tell me so we can work it out together?” 

Jeongguk has his hands braced against Moonsoo’s shoulders, averting his eyes to their bare feet. There’s something gentle in how Moonsoo holds him, one hand clutched to the small of Jeongguk’s back while the other traces fingertips up and down Jeongguk’s spine. It’s a touch that Jeongguk thinks that maybe, in a different time, a different reality, he could melt in.

“…I just can’t talk about it…” he murmurs, allowing Moonsoo to hold him, his own hands tangling in the material of Moonsoo’s long-sleeved shirt.

There’s a quiet that arises between them again, before Moonsoo says with an audible swallow, as softly as Jeongguk ever heard him, “Is it because I told you I loved you?”

Jeongguk tenses, looking up into Moonsoo’s eyes. “No. No, that’s not it—”

“Then what?” Moonsoo’s eyes are desperate. “…If that’s not it then, say it back. If you’re feeling the same way I feel, then tell me you love me back.”

“Moonie—”

Say you love me back,” Moonsoo says again, hands tightening their hold. “Just say you love me, Bunny. That’s…that’s all I wanna hear, and I’ll do whatever you want.”

Jeongguk wants to look away from Moonsoo’s eyes, wants to pull away from Moonsoo’s touch but finding himself unable to move, blink or breathe. There is a painful irony that not even twenty-four hours ago, this pleading look and desperate hands were tools Jeongguk used against Namjoon, and both situations are failing to earn what the user wants. 

But Jeongguk wishes he could say it. He wishes he could say those three little words because if he were to be honest, he’s been dying to have those words come sighing from his lips for a while. He’s been longing to have the one person he truly loves in his arms and say it against their lips, their skin, the thrum of their heart beneath their chest. He wants someone to love. He wants to be loved. He wants so badly it hurts, so badly he feels he thinks might die. He wants, he wants, he wants.

A breath shudders from his lips, throat dry. Not a sound comes out, not a word can get forced from where he feels this want bubbling over.

He wants to be loved, honestly. He just doesn’t want to be loved in that way by Moonsoo.

Three sharp rapts at the door still his tongue from saying anything if he were going to speak at all. Jeongguk turns and begins to pull away, but Moonsoo’s grip on him becomes suddenly fierce and too too tight.

Bunny—” Jeongguk shoves Moonsoo’s hands away, and Jeongguk turns quick before he can see Moonsoo’s facial expression change. He hurries to the front door that becomes more incessant in their knocking, opening it just a crack to be met with the wrinkled face of their landlord glaring through his round glasses.

“Where’s the month’s rent?” he asks in a grumble, lips sneering as he tries to get a peek inside of the apartment. Jeongguk blocks the man’s view with his body, rubbing at his eyes.

“I-I’m sorry, can you wait a bit—”

“You were late for June, didn’t even pay for July, and now you’re telling me to wait? You’re lucky I’m not standing out here with a Metro Unit to evict your asses—”

“Just wait—” Jeongguk turns to look over his shoulder at Moonsoo leaning up against the fridge, his arms crossed and long hair obscuring his face as he hangs his head. “Moonsoo? Do you have the rent?”

“No.”

No? What do you mean ‘no’?

“I mean ‘I don’t fucking have it’.” Moonsoo turns and stomps out of the kitchen into the bedroom, leaving Jeongguk at the door with the landlord. Jeongguk turns to the older man, trying to force on a smile.

“I-I’m sorry, things are really hectic and we lost track. Could we, could we get it to you by next week?”

Next week? You’re already a month behind!”

“I-I know, and I’m really sorry. Just, now’s not a good time—”

“I fight with my wife on almost every little thing, and I remember to pay our bills!”

Please.” Jeongguk’s voice is quiet. “Please, I promise you I’ll get you your money. Just one more week. For both months.”

The landlord stares Jeongguk down. Maybe it’s the lowering of his voice or the fluttering of his eyelashes that makes the older man bend. Or maybe it’s just Jeongguk’s luck that gives the man just a bit more sympathy to his plight. Either way, he hears the man give a pitying groan.

“By next Friday at the latest for both months. I’m not going to let you keep slipping by cause you bat those eyes at me,” the man grumbles, wagging an accusing finger at Jeongguk. Jeongguk nods his head, bowing it as the man departs down the hall to pester another tennet. 

Moonsoo didn’t lock the bedroom door, but Jeongguk finds him seated on the foot of the bed with his head in his hands. He looks up as Jeongguk slowly approaches him, eyes not bothering to hold back the frustrated glimmer. 

Jeongguk gets to his knees, gets himself in between Moonsoo’s legs with his hands braced on Moonsoo’s thighs. “Moonie?” Jeongguk asks, voice weak in his chest, “Moonie, we got to come up with the rent money by next week.”

“So now it’s ‘we’?”

“Moonie, come on—”

“Bunny, I love you.” Moonsoo says it like it almost hurts him more to say it than it is for Jeongguk to hear it. “What do I got to do to get you to say it back?

“Can we just focus on that after we get this handled? Please?” Jeongguk rubs his hands up and down Moonsoo’s thighs. “We’ll talk. I promise you we’ll talk.” He ducks his head, swallowing the sudden lump that formed in his throat. “Could you…could you maybe see about finding a client tonight?”

“…I’ll check around.” Moonsoo isn’t looking at Jeongguk, eyes focused at something off to the side. Jeongguk licks his lips, then carefully, leans up to kiss Moonsoo slow and lazy, slipping his hands up to tangle them in Moonsoo’s hair and pull tight. Moonsoo moans against him, the vibrations ticklish against Jeongguk’s mouth and leaving them still buzzing as he pulls away to give three quick chaste pecks.

His smile is soft, hopefully convincing. “Lemme make us some lunch, okay?” Jeongguk says, kissing Moonsoo one more time for good measure. 

Moonsoo nods, kissing back and pulling away to lie down on the bed, not saying a word back.

 


 

Home sweet home,” Jimin signs with a smile, walking Namjoon up the steps to the manor’s front door. Namjoon stoops down to get the key from his hiding place, but is mildly surprised when Jimin just pushes it open and continues on inside. Surprise turns into slight confusion and moderate horror when he finds the door wasn’t even locked, but is instead broken.

“W-What happened? Was there another break-in?” he asks Jimin, who twirls around in the foyer.

No. That was me.

“…You broke the lock?

Jimin pouts. “How else was I supposed to get inside?” He approaches Namjoon, hands behind his back and a curious gleam in his eyes that trail up and down Namjoon’s figure, as though Jimin is inspecting him thoroughly for the very first time. “…You know, you’re pretty sexy too.

The shorter man steps too close too suddenly and Namjoon backs into the front door, eyes wide as a bit of sweat breaks over his brow. “U-Uh, thank you?” He’s still covered in dirt and grime, still smells like the alleyway and the garbage he slept on. People were reluctant to even stand in his general vicinity on the bus ride with Jimin back home, yet now, Jimin just seems to draw in closer with mischievous eyes.

And you’re so big too. I’ve heard rumors, but I thought they were just exaggerating.” Jimin splays his hands against Namjoon’s chest and Namjoon flinches, scrambling further back against the door like somehow it will open up and give him an escape. 

“A-Ah, Jimin-ssi. I’m still - uh - I’m still - I need to shower.”

It’s fine. I like you a little dirty.” Jimin bites his bottom lip and bats his eyes. They’re dark, darker than Namjoon remembers Jimin’s eyes looking, darker than Namjoon remembers anyone ever look at him. It’s carnal, sexual, a look that gets Namjoon feeling hot at the back of his neck and stomach knotting in all the wrong ways. “But if you’re that worried, we can always just…” Jimin slides his hands back up Namjoon’s chest to the first button of his jumpsuit. He pops it off, then another, then another

Namjoon grabs at Jimin’s wrists with sweaty and hot palms, forcing the other man back.

“Jimin, stop!” he shouts, breathing hard for some inexplicable reason. Jimin tenses in his grasp, wincing when Namjoon’s grip doesn’t seem to loosen despite the immediate separation. “Wha - what are you doing?

Yanking his hands free, Jimin signs with a pout, “I was just fooling around.” He rubs at his wrists - a blistering red contrasting sharply against his creamy skin - and continues, “Just relax, okay?

“…I had a really long night. Joke or not, that really wasn’t what I needed right now, especially from you.” Namjoon’s body goes rigid with the memory, remembering Jeongguk’s touch where Jimin’s fades away. “I…I’m going to take a shower and then we’ll get back to work on any files the Project may have sent for us.”

He doesn’t wait for Jimin to acknowledge him or sign anything, just briskly walks past him and up the stairs to the closest available bathroom he could find. 

The heat stings him as he washes his skin, but he gets used to it relatively quickly. He stays in the shower even longer than need be — his mind wandered to Jeongguk when he thought to turn off the spray and time was lost as he wondered where did Jeongguk go? Is Jeongguk safe? Will he ever see Jeongguk again?

Would Jeongguk even want to see him again?

He towels off, shuffles quietly to his bedroom in only a towel, and rummage through the closet in the off chance that Yeongsu left his clothing. There are a few pieces, but nothing that will last him for the three months (give or take) he is supposed to be here. Eventually, he settles on some cargo pants and a t-shirt, both of them a dull sienna shade. Fashion was a frivolous luxury, not a privilege. Namjoon could recount all the times Yeongsu scoffed or rolled his eyes every time Seokjin or Hoseok complained about their Hero outfits in want of something more sleek and cool, instead of the bright and gaudy colors Yeongsu forced them in.

 He finds Jimin in the library, seated at Yeongsu’s desk with his feet up and tapping away on the cell phone in his hands. VAN is on the desk as well, and they brighten and raise their stubby arms as Namjoon approaches. 

Namjoon! I have good news about Jeongguk!” the robot chirps as Namjoon pulls a seat over. There are no manilla folders with Project seals in front of Jimin, so Namjoon presumes there must not be work that needs to be done. Yet, it’s been a while since he’s had correspondence with Dr. Yeun. They would have notified them if something happened, wouldn’t they? Or at least notify Jimin if something were to change.

Namjoon’s lack of response causes for VAN to assume it’s quite fine to continue with the ‘good news’, “Jeongguk’s case has been thrown out! They have decided to delete everything regarding the case! Now you two can meet and resolve past conflicts and work towards establishing—

“We…we actually already met, VAN.”

VAN’s eye flashes yellow. “Oh…you do not seem happy.

Biting the inside of his cheek, Namjoon slumps more. “I messed things up with him…said something that I shouldn’t have…I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong. I’m supposed to be their leader, I’m supposed to know what to do. I-I’m not asking for us to become a Unit again if Heroes have been abolished and none of them want to, but I at least want us to be able to come together and talk about…about the Incident.”

He turns his hands over in his lap, watching the fire spark beneath his skin. “I just wanted to apologize to them for…for letting them down. For betraying their trust and faith in me. I didn’t want to hurt them, didn’t want to hurt anyone…it’s been five years and I never - I never got to tell them ‘I’m sorry’ for what I’ve done.” The fire burns brighter and Namjoon brings his fists up, biting at his knuckles as he breathes hard through his nose. Calm down, calm down. Don’t lose control of yourself, Number One. Don’t lose sight of the end goal, Number One.

Does Kim Namjoon want this, or does Number One?

Namjoon doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand at all. 

He’s both, isn’t he? He never stopped being Kim Namjoon, but it’s just a fact that Kim Namjoon stopped being important to what Yeongsu placed as Namjoon’s ‘purpose’, whatever that end goal may have been. Namjoon was fine with it; he wasn’t leaving anything behind like a loving family like Hoseok and Seokjin, was too young to really experience life as Kim Namjoon unlike Yoongi. 

And now that he thinks about life before Yeongsu, he finds that the memories are flickers of light in the darkness of his mind, wisps of a dying flame. His mother’s voice and his father’s laugh are echoes instead of distinct words. He vaguely remembers what apartment he used to live in with his father when he were young. He remembers the meals they ate like clockwork: Monday, Wednesday and Friday was always takeout, Tuesdays and Thursdays was always bibimbap, and the weekend was always a hot meal in their favorite family restaurant. But outside of that, if he had friends or if he had crushes, if he had aspirations or dreams or wants before he lost his parents and Yeongsu found him, it’s an unknown.

Yeongsu gave him wants. Yeongsu gave him needs and purpose. He was still Kim Namjoon, but he was Number One first and as such, must tend to his duties as Number One should.

But he failed as their Number One when that Incident occurred. He failed with Jeongguk when he let his lips slot against Jeongguk’s sweet and wet ones.

He just wants to make things right.

A small thumb rubs itself lightly along the bottom rim of his eye, and Namjoon has only now realized that Jimin is kneeled down beside him, thumbing away a tear before it can fall. Namjoon pulls away from the touch, though it was warm and kind rather than sensual as before, something Namjoon can and does appreciate. “I’m fine,” he says, sniffling, breathing in hard, stuffing down the hurt. “I’m fine.”

You can cry,” Jimin signs. “A…friend told me that crying makes you feel better? Or something? I’m not - I’m not an expert at this kind of thing—

“It’s alright, Jimin-ssi.”

…I’m sorry for what I did in the foyer,” Jimin apologizes, sitting on his knees. “I heard you were going through somethings but I didn’t…I didn’t think it through.” He tilts his head back and scoffs at the chandelier. “I’m an asshole. You can call me that. It wouldn’t be the first time.

“I…I got surprised by it. Didn’t think you seen me in that way…”

Well you are sexy,” Jimin confesses again, and it’s comical that Namjoon still feels a flush of heat at the back of his neck upon hearing the admission a second time. “Kind of helpless…makes me wanna cuddle you like a big teddy bear.” Jimin leans forward, eyes quizzical. “Sometimes, my friend gives me cuddles when they say I’m feeling bratty or whatever. It’s kinda weird, but at the same time, it’s kinda nice. Therapeutic. Not that I’m trying to fuck you by offering a cuddle or anything. Just, you know. If you want. Or. Something.”

Whenever Namjoon started to feel something, whether that be hurt or want or anything Yeongsu deemed to be not appropriate, there would always be an escape for Namjoon to not have to deal with it, to make it easier to stuff those feelings down and curb his emotions. Sometimes, that would be Yeongsu’s eyes staring him down, forcing Namjoon to swallow his want lest he choke on them with his explanation. Other times, it would be the swift dismissal of his teammates, voluntarily by Yoongi, Seokjin and Hoseok, and with mild coercion by Jeongguk. Namjoon didn’t have the time to wallow in the sadness, not with Yeongsu talking to him and explaining to him to not lose focus, to not lose control. Stay calm, he always repeated. Stay calm.

Yeongsu is gone. His questioning eyes and questioning mouth are gone. Namjoon wants to run away from the ache as he was taught. Avoid it, smother it, kill it by stuffing his mind with knowledge, by practicing, by tinkering, by avoiding whatever or whoever caused him to feel those ‘unnecessary thoughts’ in the first place. But it’s just Jimin. Confusing and unfamiliar and still as much of a stranger to Namjoon as he was the very first day he met him with that blonde hair and bright smile.

As Number One, Namjoon should have fought the feelings down and turned Jimin away with a smile, before taking VAN and maybe hiding away where Jimin couldn’t find him, couldn’t hear him.

But there’s a part of him that…wants. That wants and now there’s no one to tell him not to want it other than himself, that’s making another tear come from his eye that Jimin hastily wipes away.

“…Yeah.”

…Yeah what?”

“Yeah, I…the cuddle.” Namjoon swallows, not sure how to go about this and feeling humiliated to even ask for it. Thankfully, Jimin catches onto Namjoon’s wish. Albeit with a slightly nervous expression.

Oh! Okay! Wow.” Jimin raises a finger. “…Let me just talk to my friend? And maybe you can, I don’t know, like, your bed? Or my bed? Or…something?

“Your bed is bigger.” Namjoon’s getting hot behind the collar, hands blistering and palms sweating.

Okay. I’ll see you up there?

Namjoon nods, standing to his feet.

Oh! Take me! I wish to help with the therapeutic cuddles!” VAN shouts, raising their arms. “I shall curate a playlist of soothing instrumentals!

“That’s nice, VAN,” Namjoon says, taking the robot into his hands and holding VAN against his chest. He spares a glance at Jimin, who is definitely looking nervous now by the way he’s worrying his bottom lip in between his teeth. Did Namjoon misconstrue the offer? Was it just another joke? Jimin glances up when he realizes Namjoon is looming over him, throwing up a quick grin.

Okay! I’ll see you up there!” he repeats with a faster gesture of his hands. After a reluctant beat, Namjoon quietly nods and leaves, heading up the staircase, fighting every screaming nerve in his body telling him to call it off with every timid step forward.

 


 

soft boi solidarity club 🥺

Today 7:15 PM
bluuuuuuuue🥺
i fucked up :((
Blueberry Muffin
what did u do???
ok so like
remember when i was joking that i was gonna take care of namjoon but in a sexy way?
Blueberry Muffin
please tell me u didn't
no
i tried tho
Blueberry Muffin
im telling yellow
NOOOOOOO
soft boi solidarity rules: u cannot tell black or blondie about my slutty ramblings :(((
Pink Bitch
this is why dr. yeun didn't want ur kind included on this task
Pink Bitch
now he's gonna think all we want to do is sleep with him 😡
😒 don't act like ur not horny for him too
i heard two pinks gossiping about his chest size in the lab
Pink Bitch
😤 well IM being professional
i squeezed them u know
my hand can barely encompass one (1) namtitty
Pink Bitch
ohmygod
Blueberry Muffin
please get back on topic
Blueberry Muffin
is he okay?
ok ok
so he freaked out about it and i backed off
then he took a shower and came back and he was like really depressed
like he was really close to crying but he was trying to hold it back??
so i wasn't trying to be horny about it but i suggested cuddling cause u do that with like, all of us?? and he was down for it and now i feel bad cause therapy isn't my speciality and i dont wanna fuck it up more cause he's super fragile and i feel like an asshole for wanting to get on his dick :(((
Pink Bitch
as u should 😡
Blueberry Muffin
as long as u establish and reassure him that it is purely platonic and nothing sexual will come from it
Blueberry Muffin
and u establish boundaries and ask for his permission on where he would like to be touched, u should be fine
but can't u come? or another blue that's available? 🥺
Blueberry Muffin
they have us putting together therapy plans for their health clinics in gangnam-gu and yangcheon-gu right now. i dont think one of us would be able to slip away
Pink Bitch
just wait until ur time expires so a blue can come in the evening and we can do a clean swap
but i already told him to wait for me in bed
even his little pet robot is hyped for my non-existent cuddle game :(((
Blueberry Muffin
🙄 just wrap ur arms around him and hold him
Blueberry Muffin
im sure VAN will guide you if needed
Blueberry Muffin
they seem just as concerned about his mental wellbeing as i am
Pink Bitch
as WE are
Pink Bitch
make sure to take notes in case he asks us to do this again and it isn't blue's day
omg lolololol can u imagine if black gets asked to cuddle???🤪
Blueberry Muffin
for appearances sake he'll have to
yeah
Today 7:22 PM
oh
btw
evoking soft boi solidarity rules here
but i may have also sucked his teammate's dick out of curiosity jsyk
Pink Bitch
YOU DID WAHT
i was just curious and he was dtf :((( dont yell at me :((
Blueberry Muffin
im telling yellow
bluuuuuuuuuue 🥺
it was just a one time thing
i'll tell him to never bring it up again, but im just saying IF he brings it up, that's what happened
Blueberry Muffin
what if white found out about what you did??
he won't if u dont snitch 😤
Blueberry Muffin
that's not the point. why can't any of u just follow the rules??
its just how i am :(((
Pink Bitch
well maybe when we're all reunited, ur disappointing slut phase will disappear :)
IF we reunite
Blueberry Muffin
we will
Pink Bitch
we're not having this convo again orange
😒 just dont see the point
is it really such a bad thing that we're separated from our original body?
Pink Bitch
yes
Pink Bitch
we're meant to be one person, not a thousand different copies of him
Pink Bitch
we're meant to be whole
but we're our OWN being
we're not his copies anymore pink
do u really want to become erased just so we can be a person none of us even remember?
Blueberry Muffin
can u please check on namjoon and we can leave this topic for a later date?
😒 whatever

 


 

The skies are a pink and orange hue tonight. Jeongguk finds himself watching the clouds drift along above him, thinning out as the flicker of city lights come on all around him. He’s picked a spot in front of a wedding dress shop at the local shopping center to meet up with the client for tonight, the air warmer compared to the few cool evenings they’ve had recently. That, coupled with the glow of the wedding shop behind him gleaming through its large display window has Jeongguk feeling as though he were in a dream. He allows himself to become engrossed in the feel, in the clouds as they pass him by as he waits in his own little world.

When the time comes, Moonsoo texts him that he’s got the money and leaves it at that. No usual ‘be safe’ or ‘let me know if you need me’ or even a text smiley face that caps the end of the sentence. Moonsoo didn’t even offer to be with Jeongguk for the evening, though Jeongguk knows Moonsoo picks and chooses which clients he wants to film having sex with Jeongguk. He knows the type: big, strong, muscular Enhanced types that eek manliness and bravado, deep voices, handsome smiles and thick cocks. Everything that Moonsoo wants for himself. 

So either Moonsoo is still angry with him for earlier, or Moonsoo feels this client doesn’t fit his type and therefore, should not be a problem for Jeongguk to handle should things turn bad.

Soon enough, he gets his answer when he sees a man approaching him, moving toward him like he has a purpose — confident strides, head held high with his chin angled outwards — rather than the usual approach where the clients were skittish of any street cams or Federate officials lurking about in the shadows. 

Jeongguk notices the man’s state of dress before he pays much attention to the man’s face, or even the greeting the man says when he is in earshot. It’s all white clothing, loose and baggy enough to flow with his movements, with rainbow stitching along the cuffs and down his shirt with three buttons open to expose some of his chest. Jeongguk’s seen a few people around town with a similar outfit, not sure if it’s the current trend going on. Seokjin usually keeps up with clothing as one of South Korea’s Hero ‘trendsetters’, even if his tastes are more eclectic and to his fancy rather than the general interests of the public and promoters. What would he even call this look? A flower child? An angel?

The client chuckles, eyes slightly hidden by the tint of his aviator shades. “You alright, darling?” he asks, and Jeongguk blinks, shaking his head free of that rambling train of thought.

“U-Um, sorry. I wasn’t paying — I, um…hello.”

The man nods his head. He’s older in the face, maybe a bit older than Yoongi or Seokjin, but not by much since he still exudes a rather youthful aura by how mirthful his smile is. “Hello to you too…you’re rather beautiful.”

Jeongguk snorts. “Kinda laying it on thick, but okay,” he chides, small embarrassment tickling his ears. He steps closer to the man, wrapping an arm around his bicep. “So…do you have a place in mind?”

The client nods. “I do. But I would like to let you know that I’m not expecting to have sex with you tonight,” he informs in a low whisper. Jeongguk doesn’t bristle at that; he’s had a few rare clients that were willing to pay the fee just for Jeongguk to listen to them talk or be held by as they try to get sleep that was avoiding them. Most of them were older men, one or two women every once in a while, but all were lonely and longing for someone that Jeongguk wholeheartedly sympathized with. Part of him wished to somehow to have gotten their contact information so as to see them again if they ever needed someone to talk to or to hold. Those nights were just as fulfilling for Jeongguk as it was for them.

“It’s fine. We can just talk if you want,” Jeongguk responds, smiling softly.

The client nods approvingly. “Yes. We can talk.”

 


 

“How could the commissioner not tell us about this? How could she even allow this?”

Beomgyu’s hands tighten on the steering wheel, the pain patch on his throat the Nurse gave barely causing the ache to go down to a dull throb. “They outrank us, hyung. They can do whatever they want.”

Yoongi scoffs, his injured shoulder bandaged and preventing him from easily crossing his arms over his chest. “And that’s exactly why I hate those fucks. They have the gall to say that Heroes needed to be regulated and controlled and abolished, just so they can do whatever they want to whoever they want. How are the people supposed to feel safe?”

“Non-Enhanced people do feel safe. It’s just us that’s scared.”

“But we shouldn’t be. Two wrongs don’t make a right. That shit that went down in Jinsoo’s office was an egregious wrong.”

Beomgyu doesn’t respond, but the frown on his face is enough of an agreement for Yoongi.

The drive to the manor is filled with angry outbursts from Yoongi with Beomgyu quietly listening and adding his own two cents here and there. The Nurse mentioned that the nullifier agent might make him a little bit ornery due to the initial shock, but it’s also supposed to have a calming effect once it finally flushes its way through his system. Currently, Yoongi can become intangible, but not phase completely from one location in space to the other. He’s never realized how much he took advantage of instant teleportation until the moment Beomgyu hit the evening traffic.

The longer the drive, the more agitated Yoongi becomes, annoyance evenly distributed between two points in his mind.

First was the fact that they never managed to visit Jinsoo and get more answers regarding the situation about Jeongguk. The commissioner informed them about Jinsoo’s ‘indeterminate’ leave of absence, which either means Jinsoo was forced into retirement by the Federate for what occurred with the files, or Jinsoo is being kept away from any more questioning by Yoongi and Beomgyu and maybe he’ll return, but it is most unlikely. Especially since apparently Cherry and Jimin are going to be handling the Homicide and Vice Divisions, Yoongi doesn’t know if he’ll ever have the chance to see the older man again, and he’s dreading even more of the idea of being forced to cooperate with any Federate members that are as deranged as those two were.

Which leads Yoongi to the second frustration: Jimin himself.

He firmly deduces that the Jimin that shot him wasn’t the same as the Jimin that was with him in the shower, not even the same as the Jimin from yesterday or two days ago or three. But the question is, if Jimin really isn’t the same person, then what is he? A clone? A robot? How come Namjoon didn’t tell him about this? Does Namjoon even know?

What was the purpose of Jimin going down on Yoongi anyways? Just to earn his trust? Just to let his guard down? Was it a plot concocted by the Federate for Jimin to seduce him? It probably fucking was. What if they were expecting Jimin to extract some information out of Yoongi about Jeongguk when he was too fucked out to question it? Was Jimin trying to use him? Manipulate him with sex cause Yoongi was that horny and stressed to just take it when it was offered? That pisses Yoongi off—

“Is this it?”

Yoongi stops in his mental tirade to look out the window, the old vacant façade of the manor coming into view. He nods, sitting upright in his seat and grinding his teeth together. “Yeah, home sweet home.”

“Wow…I always thought you guys used to live in like, a tower or something,” Beomgyu murmurs in quiet wonder at all the overgrown weeds and the rusty iron gate that he drives up to.

“The Professor didn’t believe in excessive stuff. Wanted to keep us ‘humble’.” Sungwoo didn’t believe in them having pretty much anything that could derive pleasures; a high-rise tower in Nahae-gu where they could look out over the district like all the other Units did was never the kind of lifestyle Sungwoo thought they should strive for. 

Yoongi unlocks the car door and gets out, slapping the roof of car with his good arm before he waddles his way up the pathway to the front door, wincing all the way. When he reaches it, he realizes the door’s lock is actually broken; the door pushes itself open with relative and unsettling ease. A break in? Or is it the Federate coming to collect their little spy that Yoongi allowed into his home?

“Namjoon! VAN?!” Yoongi shouts, straining his ears for sound as he enters the dark foyer. He hears a quiet melody from upstairs, but no footsteps or talking. Quietly, he shuffles up the steps and follows the gentle lull of music down the hallway to where it emanates from behind Jimin’s closed bedroom door. Yoongi squares his jaw, briefly testing to see if he can phase through for the element of surprise, but still only flickers in and out like a candle about to be snuffed. Gritting his teeth, he raises his foot.

He’ll show his Plan B.

The door goes flying open with a loud THUD as he kicks down and charges into the bedroom with fists raised and accusations ready to fly along with them. 

Then, Yoongi pauses.

Jimin is indeed in the bed, but he’s currently spooning a still fully clothed Namjoon who is also cuddling a pillow against his chest. There are burning sticks of incense resting on both nightstands that flank their left and right, while VAN is propped up beside their tangled feet lightly swaying their little arms from left to right while the serene music plays from their speaker. The lights are dimmed too, though they quickly turn to full brightness when Jimin leans over and adjusts them.

Namjoon and Jimin and VAN stare at Yoongi.

Yoongi stares right back, momentarily stunned.

“…Hyung, what are you doing?” Namjoon asks, adjusting his hold on the pillow without actually letting go of it.

“What am - what am I doing? What the hell are you doing?!” 

“Cuddle therapy.”

What.

We are making progress in the recovery of Namjoon’s mental well-being!” VAN happily announces. “Would you like to join us?

Yoongi opens his mouth, but no words immediately come to the forefront of his mind to spit out, so he closes it. Then he looks over at Jimin, who is watching Yoongi with a look of wary apprehension. The indignation is renewed the moment they lock eyes.

“Get the fuck off of him,” he hisses at Jimin, storming over to yank the smaller man out of the bed himself. That gets Namjoon to finally release the pillow, leaping into a sitting position to grab Yoongi by the shoulder and push him back. 

“Hyung, stop! What are you doing?! What’s wrong?”

“He’s a Fed. He or his clone or whoever came to the precinct looking for Jeongguk and he shot me!” Yoongi yells, trying to get his hands on Jimin again only for Namjoon to hold him back. Jimin gets off the bed and up against the window as Namjoon moves to get in between them, moving two hands to hold Yoongi by his shoulders. 

“Hyung, Jimin has been with me the entire day—”

“Fine! A clone then! Whatever!”

“Clones can’t operate independently like that—”

“Well his does!” Yoongi struggles to phase behind Namjoon, but he only manages to bring himself to his knees and his stomach feeling like he’s about to vomit, a cold sweat breaking over his brow. Namjoon kneels down in front of him, his touch not pulling away.

“Are you okay? Should we get you to the hospital—” Yoongi shoves Namjoon’s hands away, a fist swinging frustratedly through the air.

“Shut up and listen to me!” Yoongi snaps, pointing a finger. “He’s lying to you. I don’t know what reason he’s really here for, but I know it’s not just to be your babysitter.”

Namjoon looks over his shoulder at Jimin, who signs something that, despite not knowing what it is, still gets Yoongi pissed. “What he say? What did he say—”

Namjoon sighs. “He said he doesn’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh you would say that you —” Yoongi winces from the arm pain, but through hissed teeth he continues, “You heard of a woman named Cherry? Vice Division? 

From the way Jimin’s eyes flicker in brief surprise before masking it once Namjoon looks his way, Yoongi’s suspicions are all but confirmed. He staggers to his feet, pushing away the hand Namjoon was trying to offer him. “Yeah, thought so.” Yoongi spits, turning to Namjoon. “I’m not allowing him here any longer. He’s out.”

“Hold on, let’s calm down. Hyung, there must be some kind of misunderstanding—”

“There isn’t a misunderstanding. He lied, he’s with the Federate, I don’t want him here.”

“Even - even if he was with the Federate — which he isn’t — he’s a good person.”

Yoongi scoffs. “Oh really. Did you figure that cause you got to cuddle with him? I thought he was a pretty nice guy when—” the admission almost comes leaping off Yoongi’s tongue before he has the chance to catch it and swallow it back down. Cuddling with the enemy is far less heinous than having the enemy suck your dick, so for want of having a hand over the argument, Yoongi recollects his anger and clears his throat to rid it for now.

“Namjoon, there are Federate seals on all of our names. Or there were, I don’t — I don’t know what the fuck is going on with that but the point is that the Federate is looking for Jeongguk. Some asshole with his face—” he points an accusing finger at Jimin “—is looking for Jeongguk. All this ‘nice guy’ act he’s putting up is just that, an act. He’s just a puppet in the Federate trying to get information out of us—”

“That’s not true,” Namjoon’s voice sounds like a warning, eyes upset. “We don’t know Jimin very well, I’ll admit, but this isn’t a trick.”

“Quit being so gullible,” Yoongi snaps with a sharpened tone. “You’ve seen him these past couple of days, you know something’s wrong with him. He’s lying, he’s up to something. If he wasn’t, then he would have came clean about the fact that there’s more of him and that he’s really from the Federate!”

Namjoon turns to Jimin again, and Jimin sincerely looks like he’s going to be sick, eyes nervously shifting left to right. “…Is what he’s saying true?” he asks. Jimin swallows hard, staring Namjoon directly in the eye.

He shakes his head ‘no’.

Yoongi charges towards him, teeth clenched. Namjoon turns, shoving Yoongi back hard enough for Yoongi to stumble. “Hyung, stop it—” Yoongi charges forward again, right fist raised for a blind swing that Namjoon easily catches. Yoongi follows through with a left swing, then a right knee. Each  hit never lands, Namjoon blocking every one like it was swatting away a pesky fly. Apparently, the subtle twitches and tells of Yoongi’s body Namjoon learned during their sparring days never fully went away.

“Hyung, that’s enough.” Namjoon gets two hands on Yoongi’s shoulders and throws him back, a little bit harder than he meant to since Yoongi goes flying up against the ornate vanity and nearly shatters the crystal mirror resting on top. The stunned gasp gets knocked out of him, followed closely by the grunt of pain that dies halfway out of his throat. Namjoon’s eyes widen, hands jittering at his side. He has the audacity to look confused, worried, gnawing at his bottom lip as he looks to VAN and then Jimin. “Hyung, as Number One—”

“Fuck off,” Yoongi spits, pulling away from the vanity with an ache in his back. “You want to evoke your number now? Well, two can play at that game. This entire fucking time I’ve been trying to help you. I wanted to help you get in contact with Jeongguk, I wanted to help you talk to Hobi and convince him to turn the other cheek, I wanted to help you because I got the idea that maybe you’ve gotten so fucked in the head you don’t even realize half the shit that comes out of your mouth is just Sungwoo 2.0. And if you haven’t gotten it yet, all of us hated him.”

Namjoon is too stunned to interrupt, and Yoongi is too heated to stop, so he continues, “I’ve done everything a Number Two would have done and I’ve tried to support you in the best way that I could for years, but whenever I try to bring up a point to you, you just brush it off. You always brushed me off if you or the old man felt I wasn’t doing enough. I know I’m not the leader. I don’t want to be the leader, but I have every fucking right as you do to be heard. I—” Yoongi clamps his lips shut to collect himself, now embarrassed from letting out his complaints he thought he long gotten over. He’s feeling flushed in his skin, knees trembling like a scared lamb as the fire dies down in his gut. Namjoon honestly doesn’t look any better, guilt and shame adorning his features that Yoongi once remembered being as repressed and blank as Sungwoo’s. 

Worst of all, he can’t phase away from Namjoon, but he can’t feel it in his legs to turn and swiftly walk out of the bedroom, maybe even run out of the manor in the direction of Hoseok’s apartment. So, they both just stand there. Staring at each other.

VAN raises their arm. “I believe that Yoongi is feeling upset that his efforts have not gone appreciated. Is that correct, Yoongi?

Yoongi swallows, now suddenly reluctant to talk. “Uh, I mean…yeah.”

Okay. Namjoon, how do you respond to that?

Namjoon looks at VAN, then to Yoongi. “…I do appreciate what you do. I just wanted you to do more—

“More what? Please define your wants for Yoongi in clear statements.

Namjoon almost looks taken aback by the simple command. Flustered, he starts to shift from left to right. “Um. You know. More…more.

VAN’s eye flashes yellow, then white. “If you cannot clearly state what are your wants and expectations of a person, you should not impose them on your friends. A healthy relationship starts by setting the foundation on what each person expects from the other in an equal give and take.” They raise their arms. “We shall do a small exercise! We will all say one thing we would want from the other!

Yoongi’s eyes flicker behind Namjoon, to where Jimin awkwardly stands in the corner. 

“I’m not trying to do a therapy session, VAN—”

I have deduced that tensions have gotten too high. Namjoon’s emotional well-being is critically low. This is now an intervention.” VAN raises their arms once again. “I shall start! I want everyone in this room to be friends with each other! Okay, now Yoongi!

“Namjoon, turn them off—”

“I want to do this.”

Yoongi didn’t speak to Namjoon regularly when they used to be a Unit, but never once has he ever heard him sound so broken the way he does now.

His shoulders are slumped, his eyes heavy, and Yoongi finds he does not like Namjoon looking at him with those pitiful eyes. “Hyung, I-I want to…I know that I ruined things. I know that you all hate me and Yeongsu-ssi. But…but this is all I have. I don’t have friends, I don’t have hobbies, I don’t have loved ones. I…I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore, whether that be through my words or…or this power…it’s going to be a slow process, but I want to try and be better. Yeongsu-ssi always said I could improve myself…so I’ll try to make myself a better Number One.”

Yoongi feels the tips of his ears burning at the sincerity he’s never ever heard in Namjoon’s voice the entire time he’s known him. He doesn’t know where to look. He doesn’t know what to think.

VAN nods their head. “That’s very good, Namjoon! It is important to acknowledge that one’s faults cannot be instantaneously corrected. Self-improvement is a progress that we all should strive to work on! Do you have something you would want from Yoongi in your process?

“…I’d want you to support me…I’ve never taken your status as Number Two for granted, hyung. I-I’m sorry if all these years, I’ve made you feel lesser than that.”

“AaaAAAGH.” Yoongi turns around to face the vanity, shoulders hunched up. “Stop looking like a kicked puppy!”

Do you accept Namjoon’s apology?”

“Yes! Okay! Just tell him to stop!” The color red is covering the tips of Yoongi’s ears. He came into this room ready to kill, and now look where he’s at. Cowering up against the vanity table while Namjoon smacks him upside the head with uncharacteristic feelings.

Okay! Now, Yoongi, tell something you would want from Namjoon.

“I want us to get back to being angry with Jimin—”

No negative wants!

Fine.” Yoongi spins back around, spotting Jimin shuffling left to right, biting at his bottom lip. He then shifts his gaze to Namjoon, and the puppy dog look hasn’t disappeared. In fact, Yoongi thinks he can feel the optimistic eagerness radiating off Namjoon, can see him jittering with it by how the tips of his fingers twitch at his sides. “…I want you to drop the numbers schtick. I’m Min Yoongi, you’re Kim Namjoon, Jung Hoseok, etc.; we’re equals now. We don’t have a Unit anymore, so we don’t need to answer to anyone. If you really want to be a better Number One, then just work on being a better person first. A better Kim Namjoon.”

Very good! Equality is important in friendships! Okay, now Jimin!

“I don’t want to hear what he has to say—”

Positivity, Yoongi! This is meant to be a welcoming space!

VAN isn’t much larger than a tin can. Yoongi could have long grabbed the little robot, set them outside, and proceed to kick Jimin’s ass. Yet, Yoongi’s standing there not kicking anyone’s ass, watching VAN wave their arms to Jimin who looks reluctant to be included in this spontaneous intervention. “As a member of this household now, trust is optimal in a healthy friendship. If that trust is broken, then the very foundation of friendship that it is built upon will too crumble. As such, I would like for you to please be forthright with your response.

Jimin looks between Yoongi and Namjoon, then down at VAN, then out the window like he’s considering just throwing himself through it. He turns in a circle, stomps his feet in a huff, rolls his eyes and clicks his tongue against his teeth until at last, he raises his hands and signs a message for VAN to translate that has VAN’s light go green: “I want to tell the truth. And also, I want some wine.”

 


 

The client’s name is Lee, though Jeongguk didn’t ask for it. It’s what the child that was plopped in front of a television happily squeals upon their entering of a modest room at a nearby inn. 

Jeongguk immediately stiffens as the child rushes up to hug Lee’s legs, drawings and crayons abandoned in front of the television. Seokjin’s new drama is being advertised with bright bold colors and poppy music; Jeongguk turns his eyes away from the screen before he starts to feel guilty for looking at Seokjin’s smile, before he can picture that smile twisting with heartache and disappointment at his disappearance, and instead takes in the surroundings of the room. 

The walls are beige and void of decoration aside from a lotus painting hanging above the large bed. There’s also a person lying down on top of the grey sheets, dressed in similar garb as the child and Lee are, though with shocking blue hair to set himself apart. He stares at Jeongguk as Jeongguk is slowly ushered inside, an intense gaze that makes Jeongguk feel self-conscious and confused as to exactly why is he here right now.

“Kai-yah,” Lee says to the child, hands on his knees. “I need to talk to our new friend for a moment. Do you want to take your friend out for a walk?”

The child, Kai apparently, wrinkles his nose. “Wanna sleep,” he says in protest. Lee chuckles.

“Isn’t your friend hungry though?”

Kai focuses on something behind Jeongguk that, when Jeongguk turns to look for himself, is just a blank wall.

“…Mm-hmm.”

“And you’re a good boy, right Kai-yah?”

Kai beams, cheeks rosy. “Mm-hmm!”

“So good boys take care of their friends, don’t they?”

The logic seems infallible to Kai, who nods wholeheartedly. Lee grins, ruffling the top of Kai’s head. “Okay, so take your friend out for a snack so Tae Tae can put you down for bed when you come back.”

“And we’ll go home tomorrow?” Kai’s voice is soft, hopeful.

Lee smiles. “We’ll go home tomorrow.”

Kai cannot be no more than five years of age, yet he takes the large sketchbook into his arms and hugs it firmly against his little chest, taking a few crayons to sloppily force into the pockets of his white pants. He puts on his sandals and looks towards the blank wall. “Okay, come on,” he announces to nothing.

Though, faintly, as Kai opens the door out to the hallway, Jeongguk swears he hears the sound of large heavy feet dragging across the wooden floor. 

Turning to the two remaining people in the room, Jeongguk tries to not let his nerves show. He takes a seat at a small round table surrounded by two large ottomans, while Lee takes a seat on the bed beside the blue-haired man gazing disapprovingly at Jeongguk. Lee smiles at the man, brushing tender fingers through his hair.

“Did you have a nice nap, Angel?”

The blue-haired man doesn’t respond to the question, but instead asks, “What is he doing here?”

There’s no mistake to the tone, judgmental and cold as ice, like the man knows the exact reason Jeongguk is there for. 

Lee begins to kiss at the man’s throat. “Angel, don’t be mean. We’re just gonna talk,” he murmurs against the man’s collarbone, voice rugged and groggy like he’s already gotten drunk off the man’s skin being pressed against the seam of his mouth. Jeongguk does admit the man is beautiful, earning that nickname with the angle of his jaw, the shape of his cheekbones and the deep smooth registrar of his voice. But under his scrutinizing gaze, Jeongguk only wishes he didn’t have to look at him anymore and it were only him and Lee.

Eventually, the man hums, pulling himself away from Lee’s touch and his lips to get to his feet.

“I’m going to take a bath,” he announces, shooting Jeongguk one more look of judgement before he disappears behind a sliding wooden door off to the right of the room. Jeongguk swallows as now Lee focuses his attention on him, the older man affectionately patting the spot where the blue-haired man was previously sitting. Awkwardly, Jeongguk gets up and takes that place, finding the sheets warm beneath his touch.

“I-I’m sorry, but I’ve never…this kind of situation has never happened for me,” he admits, knees knocking together. Lee chuckles, reaching up to run his fingers through Jeongguk’s pink locks in the same tender manner, ghosting his fingertips down the back of Jeongguk’s neck. 

“You can say we’re a bit of an odd group. We were in the area and figured instead of having our friend come take us back home, we would just stay in the city for the night.”

“…How did you find my, um, services?”

“Have a friend that knows how to find people.”

Jeongguk isn’t sure how to interpret that. Lee’s starts tracing spiderwebs down between Jeongguk’s shoulder blades. 

“So this isn’t something you wanted to - um - to talk about with your…boyfriend?”

Lee chuckles. “Taehyung-ah isn’t my boyfriend, darling. Also, don’t take his behavior the wrong way. He’s like that whenever he thinks people he meets aren’t living up to their potential.”

Jeongguk frowns. Taehyung hasn’t even spoken directly to Jeongguk, yet somehow he knows Jeongguk isn’t living up to his potential? Sounds like something Minho would do.

“And if I’m going to be honest, what I want to talk about isn’t me,” Lee clarifies. “It’s you.”

“…Me?”

“Yes. You see, I consider myself somewhat of a guide to lead people down a path towards happiness, freedom, salvation if you will.”

Jeongguk pulls away from Lee in small disbelief, scoffing under his breath. “Don’t tell me this is some kind of religious conversion plot for ‘misguided’ sex workers—”

“Not at all,” Lee reassures. His hand rests heavy on Jeongguk’s knee. “I find sex to be as enjoyable as anyone. My only qualms is that I would think sex would be enjoyable for you if you were doing it with someone that cares and loves you rather than someone that paid just to get their dick wet.”

Jeongguk is quiet, though he watches the hand on his knee that moves up and down his thigh in tender strokes. “Tell me, what kind of sex are you into?”

“…I don’t…I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Everyone has their fantasies, their wants.” Lee gets in closer, lips softly brushing against the shell of Jeongguk’s ear. “Taehyung for example loves having multiple people in bed with him when he’s getting fucked. Watching him, touching him, getting fucked alongside him or waiting their turn to fuck him themselves, et cetera. Just having that body heat surround him, all that love surround him just puts him at bliss. So, what brings you to bliss? What’s your fantasy?”

Jeongguk swallows at the sensual tone of Lee’s murmur and his warm breath against Jeongguk’s ear, feeling hot from Lee’s hand just rubbing his thigh. 

“Y-You said you didn’t intend to have sex with me.”

“I did.” He kisses at the curve of Jeongguk’s jaw. “I still don’t expect to. But I want to talk about it. I want to know what you want.”

“I…” Jeongguk licks his lips. “Um…I like…I’m pretty okay with most kinks—”

“No, no darling.” Lee kisses his cheek. “I mean your fantasies. Like whenever you lie down at night, and your mind starts wandering with that urge you don’t wanna indulge, what is it that you think about? Who is it that you dream about?”

Lee’s other hand coaxes gently back into Jeongguk’s hair, massaging at the back of his scalp. “Tell me your dreams, darling. Let me hear every little desire.”

The touch is so soothing that Jeongguk can’t help but close his eyes and melt into it. When Lee kisses at his adam’s apple, he gasps, cock stirring in his jeans with sudden interest. 

“I…I picture myself in a home…somewhere where it’s not cluttered and cramped like it is here. Quiet and peaceful. No…no Enhanced people, no Federate members. Just…a normal house on a normal street in a normal neighborhood. It’s big and - and beautiful and—”

“Something like this?”

Jeongguk opens his eyes when he feels Lee’s touch disappear from the back of his head and his thigh.

He’s not in the inn room anymore.

The walls are completely different, the furniture and the flooring and everything is in black and white. Everything including Jeongguk himself. 

He jumps, but the startled yell doesn’t escape from his chest as he looks around and gauges the room. It’s a bedroom, but it’s not a bedroom Jeongguk’s been in before, devoid of Lee and the bathroom Taehyung disappeared into, as well as the television Kai was seated in front of with all his crayons and drawings splayed out before it. At the same time, there’s something…familiar about this bedroom Jeongguk finds himself in now. The setup and the size of the bed is familiar, the abstract paintings on the wall is familiar, and even the wide open window that is letting through cascading gleams of sunlight instead of nighttime and its city’s glow just feels like Jeongguk has been here before even though he knows he hasn’t. 

H-Hello?” he calls out to no one, tiptoeing down a long hallway that leads to a staircase down into a small living room. There’s a couch and two large chairs, a coffee table with a morning paper laid out on it and an empty mug of coffee. To Jeongguk’s right is the kitchen, and he hears someone quietly humming a tune off-key to a melody that suddenly plays in Jeongguk’s ears.

He’s heard this song before, once being played on Minho’s gramophone while the elder man read through his ledgers and Jeongguk dusted down the shelves, and countless times in his dreams. It’s a song in English, a woman’s gentle croon to a brass band accompanying her, melancholic but hopeful and longing. Jeongguk walks to the kitchen slowly, lets the song wrap around him and pull him towards where he hears that humming noise and to where he sees someone standing with their back turned to him, fixing up something on the stove that smells like bacon cooking in its grease.

The person turns, and Jeongguk feels he swallowed his tongue, feels himself crumble all over again.

N-Namjoon?

That dimpled smile appears on Namjoon’s face — but is it really him? It’s the same height, same build, same smile Jeongguk fell so deeply in love with for all these years that every part of Jeongguk’s body screams for him to run and take Namjoon in a fierce embrace. Confusion and small worry is the only thing keeping Jeongguk rooted in the doorway, staring with wide eyes.

Ahh, I was going to surprise you with breakfast in bed,” Namjoon chides good-naturedly and carefree, slightly unnatural with the way Jeongguk remembers him, but sounds so sweet to Jeongguk’s ears that he doesn’t want to question it. Namjoon tilts the pan he’s holding at angle so Jeongguk can see the sizzling pieces of bacon himself, can hear and smell it. But Jeongguk still doesn’t budge.

I-I don’t understand…how are…why are you here?

Namjoon raises an eyebrow, and the expression is something familiar, something Jeongguk has seen Namjoon give whenever he questioned Yoongi or Hoseok on their training regimen or talking points for the cameras, a scorn of their days in the Unit. “Well, I have the day off from work so, I just thought I’d surprise you before we do whatever you want for today.

Work? Like…like from the Project?”

Namjoon’s head tilts quizzically. He turns off the stove, walking over to Jeongguk in cautious strides. “Project? What are you talking about?” he asks, wrapping his arms around Jeongguk, setting his hands on Jeongguk’s hips to pull him close. Jeongguk’s hands brace up against Namjoon’s shoulders, fingers curling like they’re meant to hold Namjoon just like this. He’s warm all over, and he smells like all of Jeongguk’s favorite things: honey and fresh linen and maybe a hint of lavender and baby’s breath. It’s intoxicating; Jeongguk has to fight the urge to tuck his face into the crook of Namjoon’s neck and inhale the smell like it’s all he could breathe. 

I-I’m just…confused. W-Where are we and where’s - where’s everyone and-” Namjoon brings a hand to Jeongguk’s cheek, something cool and smooth wrapped around his finger that Jeongguk’s eyes widen in shock at. He wretches his head back, but doesn’t pull out of Namjoon’s hold as he takes Namjoon’s hand in his own.

There, wrapped around Namjoon’s index finger, is a golden wedding band. 

And now that Jeongguk looks down at his own hand holding Namjoon’s, he sees he’s wearing the same ring, sparkling in the morning light coming from the kitchen window.

Well, we’re home and it’s just you and me, Gguk.” Namjoon lets Jeongguk turn his hands over, as if somehow the ring will disappear the more Jeongguk rotates and twists their hands all around to admire their rings at every angle. He chuckles, gently pulling his hands to cup Jeongguk’s cheeks. “Baby, are you okay? You seem a little frazzled.”

Namjoon’s hands are warm, his fingers a bit rough and slim, but feeling so right. Jeongguk just now realizes he’s shaking, knees bowed together and tears threatening to come burning down the curve of his flushed cheeks. “Is this real?” Jeongguk asks, and his voice is so scared, so wanting, so desperate. 

Namjoon pushes his forehead against Jeongguk’s, another disbelieving but soft chuckle arising from his chest. If Jeongguk looks closely, lets himself fall into the warmth of Namjoon’s touch and melt against him like his body craves, he can count each one of Namjoon’s eyelashes. 

It’s real if you want it to be.” He noses against Jeongguk’s cheek, humming. “Do you want this to be real?

Jeongguk shudders out a noise that is a cross of a sob and a laugh. “…Yes…god yes I want— 

Namjoon’s lips press against his, swallowing down every plea as he kisses Jeongguk slowly, lovingly, taking Jeongguk apart second by second with the roll of his tongue. Jeongguk doesn’t fight it, doesn’t question it even though the little bit of rationality that tries to desperately cling to the back of his mind says he should. The kiss deepens, their bodies flush against each other, their hands drift and explore and cling as everything feels hotter, hotter, too too too hot.

Jeongguk gets backed against the counter and it stings from how it digs into his skin, but the pain is good and Jeongguk moans openly against Namjoon’s mouth, lets Namjoon kiss him silent until the whimpers start bubbling up and over, out of control as Jeongguk feels himself dizzying. Even if this is a dream, some figment or trick of Jeongguk’s desperate imagination, he can’t bring himself to want it to end. It feels too real to be fantasy, but it’s everything Jeongguk wanted and now happening beneath his touch, against his lips.

Fuck me,” Jeongguk whispers in between kisses, the hand with the wedding ring fisting the back of Namjoon’s hair — god, they’re married. Namjoon is his and vice versa and that revelation almost makes Jeongguk seize up in crying fit. “Fuck me, I want it. I want it, I want you, I want you

Baby—” Jeongguk gives another kiss that has his teeth scraping against Namjoon’s bottom lip. He’s so hard and so so willing that he thinks he’s would fall apart weren’t Namjoon holding him together. “Baby, let’s take this to the bed—

No. No. Here.” His hands flitter to Namjoon’s nice button up shirt, clumsily pulling at it so the buttons rip and pop open his shirt one by one. “Don’t make me wait. Don’t want to wait anymore.

Namjoon sighs against his mouth, a sound of surrender that Jeongguk responds to by unfastening Namjoon’s belt and unzipping his jeans. He’s hard beneath Jeongguk’s fingertips, the swell of him and how Namjoon pulses as Jeongguk gets his fingers wrapped around his length through his underwear causing the younger male to sink to his knees onto the kitchen tile. “Wanna be good for you, hyung. Make it so good for you,” Jeongguk babbles, freeing Namjoon’s cock from the slit in his boxers.

For a second, Jeongguk admires the way it feels, the weight of Namjoon in his grasp. He traces a vein along the underside of his cock with his finger before he retraces it with his tongue, liking how Namjoon responds with a groan and his cock twitching in Jeongguk’s hand, against Jeongguk’s tongue. Jeongguk has never disliked giving blowjobs, but he’s never considered himself enthusiastic to get a dick in his mouth, not in the same way how he now wraps his lips around the leaking head and tries to get Namjoon down his throat on the very first go.

Namjoon cards a hand through Jeongguk’s hair, working Jeongguk’s head up and down his length, a tender push and pull that gets Jeongguk’s eyes fluttering and moaning around the girth of Namjoon’s cock stretching his mouth open. “You’re so beautiful,” Namjoon breathes. His half-lidded eyes are sparkling when Jeongguk looks up at him through his eyelashes, not dark like how Moonsoo’s eyes get, not lustful like the various clients Jeongguk has gotten on his knees for. It’s loving and gentle wonder, makes gooseflesh of Jeongguk’s skin more than any sexual gaze that got thrown his way from before.

Jeongguk pulls back to catch his breath, kisses against the head of Namjoon’s cock where it weeps and mouths down the shaft, every moan and whispered praise Namjoon gives making Jeongguk itch all over with want to draw out more of those sounds. He manages to get his pants undone, gets a hand around his cock that’s aching and an angry red, sucking Namjoon back into his mouth and moving his head up and down in tandem with the strokes of his own length. 

Though his eyes flutter from Jeongguk’s tongue running along the shaft and swirling around his tip on the upstroke, Namjoon doesn’t look away. Jeongguk feels like he should be embarrassed, feel ashamed at the image he must be presenting for his hyung: on his knees in a clean and wholesome kitchen, drooling around a cock like he’s been dying to have its weight on his tongue for too too long, fucking into his own fists because Jeongguk needs more, wants more.

How long has he indulged in this fantasy? How long has he wished for Namjoon, not even to suck his cock or be fucked by him, but just to hold him and kiss him and have him be his without feeling the guilt and shame Minho always tried to instill every time he lingered around Namjoon too long for his liking. You’re in the way, Number Five. Do not engage in inappropriate behavior, Number Five. Leave Number One to his tasks and keep to yourself, Number Five.

Jeongguk wraps around Namjoon’s length, the ring on his finger growing slicked with his spit and Namjoon’s pre-cum as he gives a few hasty pumps, lips pressed against the head in a kiss. 

They’re married here, wherever here is. This may be inappropriate behavior to conduct in a kitchen, but it’s not like there is anyone to tell Jeongguk what he can or can’t do, who he can and can’t want. This is his husband and Jeongguk is his.

Somehow, that’s the thought that has Jeongguk gasping against Namjoon’s cock and gets ropes of white spilling over his working fist and onto the black and white floor.

Baby,” Namjoon gets a grip around the base of his cock, pressing it past Jeongguk’s red and spit-slicked lips as he cups Jeongguk’s cheek. Jeongguk is still shuddering through the orgasm, still stroking his oversensitive cock, eyelashes wet and fluttering. “Can’t believe I’m married to you. Can’t believe your mine.

Yes, Jeongguk thinks, mind a haze of pleasant delirium as the heat of the moment engrosses him, the sensation of Namjoon’s palm over his cheek where his cock pushes and bulges beneath his skin. Yes, I’m yours. I’m yours. I’ve always been yours.

Namjoon’s lips fall in an ‘o’ shape, pulling Jeongguk’s head back just so that only the tip of his cock smears against the fullness of Jeongguk’s bottom lip, stroking himself as his breath jumps from his lungs. “I love you,” he says in between breaths, like he couldn’t get the words out fast enough, like he’ll say it again if he has to, and he does as his eyes flutter shut at last, spilling himself over Jeongguk’s lips and chin and his fingers. It’s warm, sticky and surreal. It’s bitter when Jeongguk’s tongue swipes out to lick it off his bottom lip, but as everything else feels now feels right.

I love you too,” Jeongguk whispers, and it’s the truth. 

It’s all he ever wanted.

Chapter Text

“You’re hard.”

Seyun chuckles from Taehyung’s blunt observation, his hand going down to lightly palm himself through the front of his pants.

“Be difficult not to be,” Seyun breathes, voice husky, dripping with lust and eyes ablaze with a bright orange glow. He turns his gaze back to the bed, to where the pink-haired male he brought with him is grinding sloppy against one of the inn’s pillows tucked between his naked thighs. 

He’s panting, moaning like he’s getting fucked good and hard, a bit of drool coming from his lips that are fallen in blissed ‘oh oh oh’ shape. If he wasn’t panting and moaning ‘oh oh oh’, he was moaning ‘hyung’, stuttering through it, gasping it, choking on it. If neither of those came from his reddened lips, then it would be a name — Namjoon — over and over again till it doesn’t even sound like a name, not even a prayer, but just noise. Broken, desperate, and loud noise.

“Kai will be coming back soon,” Taehyung warns, watching the fluid roll of the man’s hips before turning his gaze to the man seated in his chair. “Take him out of it.”

“Oh I’d hate to interrupt now,” Seyun bemoans. He strokes himself beneath the flimsy material of his pants, Taehyung watching the bulge stiffen beneath the man’s palm. Seyun’s eyes aren’t truly focused on the young man vigorously humping the inn pillow on the bed; they always become distant when he’s in this state, glazed as he stares off into the other person’s dreams and fantasies he so carefully creates. Taehyung is partially curious as to what kind of fantasy Seyun created for the man for him to become so loose and aroused enough for his body to start moving rather than remaining in the catatonic state Seyun usually puts people in. He seemed rather skittish at the doorframe, could almost smell the fear on him when he made eye contact with Taehyung. 

He wouldn’t do in Eden. Not at all.

Taehyung sinks to his knees beside Seyun, resting a hand on Seyun’s. “What do you see?” he asks. Seyun moves his hand from stroking himself to lightly curl in Taehyung’s hair, still a bit damp from the bath.

“He’s riding his lover right now, right on the kitchen floor. He’s already came twice, he’s trying to get a third one out.” Seyun chuckles. “I can see why his handler charges such a high fee for him. He looks beautiful taking a cock.”

“Is that so?”

Seyun’s grin is wry. “But of course, you’re even more beautiful.” He rubs his thumb along the shell of Taehyung’s right ear. “My beautiful Angel…” he murmurs, bending down to kiss the corners of Taehyung’s eyes, cupping Taehyung’s cheek as he kisses him softly on the mouth. “He’s vulnerable, you know,” Seyun whispers, barely audible over the moaning and the mattress squeaking beside them. “You can easily take it from him.”

Taehyung smiles, kisses the inner part of Seyun’s wrist. “Of course, hyung.”

The pink-haired man is glistening with sweat, completely enraptured in the fantasy, so much so that he doesn’t notice the dip in weight of the mattress as Taehyung kneels beside him. Carefully, very carefully, Taehyung brings his hand against the man’s chest, fingertips barely touching against the sternum. The man grabs at Taehyung’s wrist at the sudden touch, and were his eyes not clouded with a hazy orange shade of light, Taehyung would have feared he broken the illusion.

“Namjoon,” the man breathes, tongue loose in his mouth, squeezing Taehyung’s wrist. “Namjoon, Namjoon,” he babbles, and brings Taehyung’s hand to suck his ring finger into his mouth.

Seyun hums. “Maybe I made the fantasy too good for him.”

Taehyung bears it, lets the man lick and suck between his fingers as he pushes him down onto his back. The man’s cock is curved up against his abdomen, leaking pre-cum over his stomach with flecks of white already drying and crusting on his sweating skin,  a bit of it glistening over his thighs that are still shaking and squeezing. If Taehyung bothered to look, he would assume the man’s ass would be clenching and unclenching around nothing, like there were a cock being fucked into him, but his mind being the one to fill in the details that reality is currently lacking. 

With his other hand not slicked with saliva, Taehyung braces a careful hand against the man’s chest as he tried to before.

He has been under Seyun’s tutelage for quite some time, and under the man’s guidance, Taehyung has learned many a great deal of things. The first is that all that are Blessed are special, but there are some Blessed individuals that are more special than others. It isn’t something that is inherently obvious and Taehyung admits that for the first few months of his time as a disciple, he foolishly thought that he was equal to Jihoon’s puppet ability, or Yeonjun’s control over plant life, or even Kai and the friends he can create by just thinking of them in his cute little head. In actuality, he discovered he was better than them.

The second thing he learned was that all Blessed individuals have their locusts of power centralized in different spots of the body, and that itself would clue one in as to their degree of control. There are those who hold their power in their mind, the most skilled of Blessed individuals and also, the most rigid of users. Seyun doesn’t usually attract or welcome these types into Eden, but Taehyung enjoys to work with them, help them see outside of the box they fixed them in and awaken them to their true potential. He believes anyone can reach their potential if they’re willing to try. Usually, these types of people aren’t, but Taehyung finds a little persuading never hurt anyone.

Then there are those that have their power located deep deep in their gut, sweethearts the lot of them. Neither out of control nor perfectly aligned. Ordinary and extraordinary at the same time, a walking paradox. They are usually the ones with the most unique of powers, using them to their own advantages for the most mundane of things. With just a little bit of a push, Taehyung thinks they could do great things. He tells Kai he can do great things every evening he tucks the boy to bed, and settles a gentle hand on his stomach where his power brims with potential.

But the ones that hold their power in their heart are by far the strongest Taehyung has seen. They are also the ones that are the most destructive. Seyun loves to take them under his wing, calls them ‘troubled souls’. Misguided, confused, scared of themselves and what they could do, or of the people that fear them and would hurt them if they knew they’d win. 

In other words, the ones that are — and Taehyung means this nicely — completely gullible. 

As Taehyung focuses his eyes over the pink-haired man’s sternum where he is gasping and flushing pink, he sees a wisp of a white halo of light just above where Taehyung feels his heart thumping like mad.

He sees that this man is Seyun’s type.

“…He’s lucky,” Taehyung informs, tracing the halo beneath the man’s skin. “…But I don’t understand how it works.”

“You’ll understand with practice,” Seyun murmurs. “Take it.”

Taehyung nods, bracing his palm against the man’s heart as he begins to arch his back, whimpering that he’s going to cum again, begging ‘Namjoon’ to fuck him through it. Out the corner of his eye, Taehyung sees Seyun continue to masturbate, the chair he’s seated in wobbling a bit as he leans back. “Beautiful,” Seyun murmurs again, a hungry sound that makes Taehyung a little bit irritated. Seyun says he adores all of his disciples equally, but Taehyung knows Seyun adores him more. Or did, until he breathed out that word with that tone. Taehyung doesn’t understand what’s so special about this ability that Seyun thinks they could use it for Eden. Luck? What benefits would ‘luck’ work outside of gambling or frivolous activities—

CRACK!

The hind legs on Seyun’s chair snap just as the pink-haired man orgasms hard with an upwards scream and cums pathetic little spurts over his belly, cock untouched. This causes Seyun to fall backwards without warning onto the ground, startling him from his concentration, which then causes the eyes of the pink-haired man to alarmingly switch from a blissed and fucked out orange glow back to a plain normal brown. 

He stares up into Taehyung’s eyes, breathing hard. 

Then, Taehyung sees it. Awareness, realization, fear and anger.

The man roughly shoves Taehyung off of him, though he himself falls to the floor off the bed with the sudden movement. On his knees, he wobbles and staggers to a stand, fists raised and body flushed pink all over.

“W-What’s going on? Where am I?” he questions. He’s breathless, eyes wide and legs trembling. 

Seyun gets to his feet, tucking himself in. “Darling, it’s fine. Just relax—”

“What did you do to me?” the man questions, voice breaking. “What did you do?

“I didn’t do anything you didn’t want,” Seyun reassures, hands raised. “Didn’t touch you like I said I wouldn’t.”

The man becomes aware of his lack of clothing. His gaze shifts to Taehyung, then awkwardly grabs the pillow stained with his sweat and pre-cum to cover himself. He averts his eyes to the ground, suddenly embarrassed and ashamed.

“Where are my clothes?” he asks. Seyun stoops down and picks up a carefully folded pile. He walks around the perimeter of the bed slowly, handing it over to the man who snatches it from Seyun’s grasp. Wordlessly, the man briskly walks to the bathroom and slams the door shut behind him. A forlorn sigh slips from Seyun’s lips.

“So, it works even when he’s not conscious of it.” Seyun nods his head, like he’s making a mental note for later. “Angel, get the money.”

“That money is supposed to go back to the community,” Taehyung warns. A small portion of that money was to go to purchasing Kai more drawing tools, Taehyun some small amenities to make him feel more comfortable in Eden, make it his home. Seyun smiles, walking over to kiss Taehyung’s brow.

“Angel, he’s good for us. But he’s not going to come home with us tonight, so we need to give him a little bit incentive to return when he’s comfortable to,” Seyun says. 

“Do we really want him in Eden?”

“He’s just a piece of the big picture, Angel. Everyone has their place.”

Taehyung understands that. Special or less than special, there’s always somewhere that someone belongs. Kai belongs with Taehyung and Seyun, under their care and guidance. Hosoek belongs with Taehyung too; he’ll help his hyung understand his power, control it, master it, no longer fear it. He anticipates every single second that ticks by when Hoseok will finally come to Eden and see just how wondrous of a place it could be, how much he can thrive and grow if he was surrounded by the support and love his teacher and his teammates never showed him.

But this man…this man would not fit, not even for all the money Seyun would throw at him to fit. Taehyung knows it, and he’ll be damned if this man ruins something for one of his community members or — god forbid, someone Taehyung cares for and loves.

He swallows his sentiment, quietly shuffles over to the other side and opens up the nightstand. Standing beside the closed bathroom door, Taehyung can distinctly hear the sounds of someone struggling to have their sniffling and crying go unheard. Taehyung’s lips draw into a thin line; the man is emotionally weaker than he seems. Truly Seyun’s type.

Taehyung takes the small package of money and tosses it onto the bed. “I’m going to look for Kai,” he mutters under his breath, briskly walking to the bedroom door.

“He’s in the lobby,” Seyun calls out, eyes alight with a soft glow of red and gold, adjusting himself in his pants. “Buy him a snack while you’re out.”

 

 

 

 

Kai is indeed in the lobby, staring up at the lit-up snacks inside the casings of a large vending machine tucked beside a fake potted plant. Taehyung doesn’t approach the child immediately, just watching from afar as Kai squats down and gets out his crayons, opening his sketchbook to draw something that Taehyung cannot see from this distance. 

As quickly as Kai draws and closes the books shut, Taehyung sees a purple snake slithering from out of the book’s binding, long and thin as a noodle. It crawls its way into the machine through the flap, wrapping itself around the metal coils of the biggest and sweetest snack cakes the machine had to offer. And though it’s so skinny, when it suddenly tightens its body around the coils, the metal snaps cleanly in two and the lights break as the snack cakes fall down in a heaping pile.

Kai gleefully crawls over to help himself to the sweets.

“H-Hey! Excuse me! Young man, what are you doing?!” a woman from the front desk shouts when she notices Kai creating a small mountain of snack cakes beside him, immediately hurrying from around the counter to approach. Taehyung beats her to the child, eyes stinging with a fiery glow.

“You’ll let him have the sweets,” Taehyung says, voice slow, calming. She blinks at him.

“I’ll let him have the sweets,” she repeats.

“I want a milk too, hyung,” Kai chirps.

“…You’ll give us money for a milk—”

Banana milk.”

“—For a banana milk.”

The woman nods, determined, smiling bright. “I’ll get you some money for a banana milk!” she says with a happy tone, and goes back to the front desk to fetch her purse. Taehyung turns to Kai on the ground, watching as the child starts to stuff some of the snack cakes into his pants in lieu of running out of space for his arms. The purple snake slithers out and from its back, sprouts a large human male hand with six fingers. The sudden limb makes the snake wobble on the ground rather than smoothly slither, but it does manage to grab a lot of snack cakes. 

“Kai-yah, you can’t just do that.”

“Lee-hyung said I should use my gift to get the things I want,” Kai says, matter of factly. “And I’m hungry.”

“Did you say goodbye to your other friend?” Taehyung can’t remember when Kai created the lumbering bat beast, but he’s sure the time limit is already up on its life in the real world.

“Mmm-hmm.”

“You’ll have to say goodbye to this one too.”

Kai frowns. “But why?

“Unless you make him more subtle, we can’t have a snake with a hand around where all these non-Blessed could see.”

Kai pouts, dropping the mound of snack cakes he had in his arm to grab up his sketchbook and a crayon. He flips to the page where he drew his latest friend and turns it on the backside. 

He pauses. “…How do you spell in…in…”

Invisible.” Taehyung takes the sketchbook and crayon to write himself. As soon as he’s done making the note, the snake disappears from his line of sight. It’s still there, still slithering around grabbing cakes that are now to someone else’s eye just floating in mid air. This is never what Taehyung means by making Kai’s friends more ‘subtle’, but it’s always the loophole Kai abuses. But, he doesn’t want to stifle the boy’s creativity, no matter how strange, garish and sometimes hideous his friends may be.

The woman comes back with enough money for two banana milks and even helps pick up the snack cakes to take over to a small table guests may sit around to enjoy the quiet ambiance around them (though only when Taehyung says she would). Taehyung buys both milks for Kai and sits down beside the child opening up the first snack cake, while the woman politely dismisses herself from their presence and goes back to working behind the desk. In the morning, she’ll forget Taehyung’s face and Kai’s antics. She’ll also have to deal with a broken vending machine with unexplainable damage. Taehyung feels only a little bit of guilt.

“Are we gonna leave soon? ‘M bored.” Kai asks after eating his second snack cake, opening his third.

“We’ll leave in a bit. Hyung has a lot of things he wants to prepare for next weekend’s sermon.”

Kai hums. “Will there be kids there this time?”

Taehyung smiles, but it’s sad. “I don’t know, Kai-yah. There…there aren’t really kids like you that are Blessed.” In fact, Taehyung’s never met a child so young as Kai that manifested abilities. The general consensus was that the Explosion in the sky all those years ago seemed to effect people only over the age of twelve and no younger. By now, they would be young adults, just barely starting life. No reports of babies born with abilities have arose. Anti-Blessed groups are hoping the abilities die out with this generation and things will return to normal in time.

Kai doesn’t bother to hide his disappointment. “Oh,” he murmurs, biting into his snack cake and chewing sadly. 

“But you still have all your noonas and hyungs to take care of you and play with, right? You might even get more after the sermon.”

“I can’t play with you guys after dark, though,” Kai notes, wrinkling his nose. “I can’t go to Lee-hyung’s house when it’s dark, or Somin-noona’s house.”

“You don’t like our house?”

“You’re never there.”

Taehyung winces at the blunt admission. “I have to take care of things for hyung. You know that.”

Kai nods, but he’s still pouting. Taehyung gently cradles a hand through Kai’s hair. “Things will be better when Sanctuary happens, okay? Then, we’ll have all the time in the world to do whatever you want. You, me, hyung…I’ll even introduce you to someone at the sermon that I’m sure you’ll like and we can all have fun together.” There’s a little bit of custard on Kai’s mouth that Taehyung affectionately thumbs away, smiling. 

“Promise?”

Taehyung sticks his pinky out. Kai hooks his little one around it and both shake twice before Taehyung kisses it.

“There. Now it’ll come true,” Taehyung says with a bright smile that Kai matches.

 


 

“Darling, can we talk?”

Jeongguk has been sitting in the bathtub in his underwear and jeans, curled up with his knees against his chest and fighting with himself to keep from crying. He’s already in a vulnerable spot, locked in a bathroom with no window he can escape from. He’s already been violated, covered in cum and body shaking from lingering orgasms that he can’t even recall having, a burn from being stretched open and fucked, but not remembering anything. 

He wants to go home, but Moonsoo had this set up for the night so if he left early, then the client could easily try and put in a false claim that his E-account was hacked and bring the Federate chasing after them. So he has to stay but he wants to leave and — and he wants to leave but he doesn’t want to go back to Moonsoo. He wants to go home, but not that home. 

He’s hiccuping again, sniffling into his arms that feel warm from someone else’s body heat. His lips are kiss-swollen, tingling from a mouth he’s wanted against him for so long. 

Jeongguk had him. He had him. And he always gets taken away—

“Darling,” Lee’s voice, now suddenly closer and echoing in the space of the bathroom, says. Jeongguk turns, and the man is kneeling beside the tub, offering some tissue. “Darling, it’s okay.”

Jeongguk scrambles to his feet, heart thumping madly as he raises a foot to kick the man in the face, but Lee dodges the kick before it can connect. “Darling, darling. This is all inside of your head. I’m still waiting outside the bathroom. I just want to talk to you.”

“All inside my…” Jeongguk still has his fists raised, blinking hard and breathing harder as he tries to recall the mental barrier technique, tries to bring back the humming noise to fill his mind. 

Lee chuckles. “That’s not going to work, darling. I’m already in your head. I’m not gonna harm you. You don’t have anything to be afraid of, I just want to talk.”

“You assaulted me—”

“It was all in your head, darling. Like a nice wet dream,” Lee reassures. “My dick didn’t go anywhere near you. Believe me, I wouldn’t stoop so low as to put you in that state just to defile you in such a horrific way. I told you I wanted you to enjoy sex with someone you love, so why would I force myself onto you?”

“W-What was the other guy doing then? Taehyung? He was on top of me, he was trying to do something—”

“Taehyung is a caring soul. He just thought the fantasy might have been a little…much,” Lee says, voice gentle. “You were so riled up, darling. Your body is more sensitive to my illusions than I would have expected…but then again, you have a willing and weak mind for Namjoon, so I suppose it’s not entirely improbable.”

Jeongguk’s chest tightens, shoulders seizing up. Lee laughs. “Don’t be shy about it. It’s okay, love makes a man weak. And you’re madly in love with him, aren’t you?”

“Don’t talk like you know what I want because you tricked me—”

“But you did want it, didn’t you?” Lee cuts in, eyes shining. “That’s what you really want more than anything in the world. More than money, more than notoriety, you just want to be loved by someone you love more than anyone you’ve ever known. You’re desperate for it. You’re scared by it.”

“You don’t - I don’t - I —”

“Darling—”

“Stop calling me that.”

“Fine then. Jeon Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk freezes, shock holding his tongue as Lee smiles. 

“I’m not trying to scare you, Jeongguk-ah. I just want to show you what I can do, what I can give you. I know you’re in pain, I know you wish you can tell the entire world to fuck off and leave you alone to be miserable and wanting a love you feel you’ll never have. But you don’t want that. You want someone to help you. You want someone to hold you, to love you back. You want freedom, but you want a shelter to run back to, a home where someone is waiting for you. You want a lot of things and it’s confusing you and pulling you in all directions…and I can help guide you down that path that will lead you to him. I can help you get what you want and keep him.”

The tone of voice Lee takes is very trusting, as trusting as the man seemed when Jeongguk met him only a few hours ago. Jeongguk was stupid to let his guard down so easily the first time, and he does not intend to do that again.

“You don’t know me,” Jeongguk murmurs. “I can’t trust you.”

Lee hums, pensive for a moment, before he smiles. “That’s fine. That’s understandable given the mess of things that occurred tonight. But I hope you know I didn’t intend to scare you, Jeongguk-ah. I only want to help my fellow Blessed thrive and succeed, be happy even after the cruel hand fate has dealt us.” He rises to his feet, bowing his head. “But please, think about it. You will always be welcome in Eden.”

Jeongguk blinks. Lee is gone.

He doesn’t leave the bathroom so quickly after, stewing in his own thoughts and what the man said to him while he put on his shirt and his boots. He’s afraid to linger too long on the memory, because he knows if he does, he’ll find that everything Lee said was completely right. In this moment, Jeongguk doesn’t want to think about his wants, because they remind him of the things he doesn’t have, of his reality where he’s let everything gone to shit that he’s tried to close his eyes tightly to. The only question is whether or not Jeongguk has the nerve to do something. He wants to, he desperately wants to. But there’s still doubt, still uncertainty, still fear and confusion that pulls at him and makes him dizzy.

When he exits the bathroom, Lee is gone and the bed is newly made. Sitting on the pillow is a small package wrapped in brown wax paper with a white card resting beside it. The card doesn’t have an address, but rather a number. It has a name as well, ‘Lee Seyun’, all written in embossed gold lettering and signed with a small message in the corner: ‘Spend it however you like. Call me if you change your mind.

The package has a wad of cash, all clean pressed bills that when Jeongguk counts with widened eyes, totals around five million won. It will be more than enough to pay the rent. It will be more than enough to pay a few rents. Yet, Jeongguk is feeling reluctant. 

With the money secure in the pocket of his jacket, he leaves the inn and thinks. Seokjin always told him a pros and cons list is helpful when making a big decision, to see the good and the bad of an unforeseeable outcome. Jeongguk never really found much use for it; his own emotions always were the deciding factor, no matter how logically he tried to plan out which would be the better choice.

He could run away. He could tell the bus that he is currently riding to change routes and take him out of Seoul and away from everything that’s hurt him and everyone he hurt unintentionally or otherwise. It seemed like a good plan. There was a promise to restart, to grow and become his own person. He may be able to learn how to love someone else. He may be able to find a family of friends to surround himself with. He may be able to do a lot of things if he just left, but fear holds him in his seat, stiffens his joints from rising until the bus makes its last stop two blocks away from the apartment.

He thinks about staying with Moonsoo when he’s already in the building, already treading up the rickety stairs and already opening the door to their apartment. Moonsoo is kind. Moonsoo is familiar and despite their rocky moments, Jeongguk never felt he had a reason to feel unsafe around the man. It’s comfort and familiarity that keeps Jeongguk rooted here, lets him slip off his boots and place them in their usual spot, undo his jeans and step out of them to toss in the mound of laundry they still need to get through. It isn’t love, though, and Jeongguk finds himself admitting he would much rather stay with someone he loved rather than someone he was just comfortable around.

He loves Seokjin, he thinks as he goes to the bathroom and strips himself of the rest of his clothing, before he gets under the lukewarm spray of water. He loves Seokjin and his laugh and his hugs. But guilt doesn’t want him to love Seokjin. Guilt wants Jeongguk to never look Seokjin in the eye, to never call on him, to not feel like anything more than a horrible, ungrateful, waste of Seokjin’s time and breath. 

He loves Namjoon. Madly in love with Namjoon, and Lee is right that it scares him how madly in love Jeongguk truly is. He isn’t sure if he’s ever felt this manic for a person, isn’t even sure he felt this way for Namjoon before the Incident. He thought it was a puppy love; he followed Namjoon around and loved to be in his company, adored him and thought he was brilliant. Somehow, five years warped that into something more carnal, more desperate and aching. He wants everything from Namjoon: his time, his touch, his thoughts, his love. He wants it, craves it like a drug. Only, Namjoon isn’t interested in giving him any sort of fix.

He loves Namjoon, but Namjoon doesn’t love him.

He still wants Namjoon, would still go running into his arms should the man ever reach out to him. But there’s only so many times Jeongguk can face that rejection, can hear that hard ‘NO!’ echo like thunderstorms in his mind before he finally and truly breaks into pieces. He never intended to give that power over him to Namjoon, like he didn’t intend to have that kind of power over Moonsoo.

Jeongguk turns off the shower and steps out, breathing in the steam. He towels off, walks out naked to the bedroom where Moonsoo is still asleep and discards his clothes in the laundry. Carefully, he takes out the money and lets the weight of it sit in his hands. It’s weighed with possibilities, too many possibilities that Jeongguk starts feeling a bit nauseous touching it. 

He tosses the money into a shoe box in their closet, then stuffs that shoe box at the top of the closet on a shelf, obscuring it with some of Moonsoo’s old jerseys he never wears. He’ll think about it later. He’ll think about it eventually. Maybe by then, Jeongguk won’t feel like a thunderstorm is threatening to rip him up from the inside out. Maybe.

“Bunny?” Moonsoo’s groggy voice calls out in the dark, and Jeongguk stiffly turns towards him. “…What’re you doing here?”

“Client…the client left. Said I could go home,” Jeongguk says, enough truth in the statement for his voice to not waver, but still feeling tense.

Moonsoo hums. “Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine, Moonie.” Jeongguk crawls into bed beside the man, lets Moonsoo wraps his spindly arms around Jeongguk’s naked frame.

There’s a moment of quiet, but it isn’t peaceful to Jeongguk. “‘M sorry,” Moonsoo half mumbles. “Don’t want to be angry with you.”

“It’s okay,” Jeongguk says automatically. He says that a lot, but he’s never thought how much weight those words mean. Is it really okay? Is he really okay?

Moonsoo kisses Jeongguk before he can think to backtrack and espouse the torrent of thoughts just itching to leap off his tongue. “Love you,” he murmurs against Jeongguk’s lips.

Jeongguk doesn’t say it back.

 


 

WE ARE LEGION

a query
will it be so bad if namjoon knew the truth about us?
Blondie
yes
Blueberry Muffin
I've been thinking about that. i feel as though knowing about US should be fine
Blueberry Muffin
but he shouldn't know about the original jimin
Pink Bitch
there would be no getting around that tho
Pink Bitch
by federate definitions, we're clones
Pink Bitch
clones don't work the way we do
Blueberry Muffin
my problem is that if he found out what happened to the original jimin, he'd be devastated
Short, Dark and Handsome
he might cause another explosion
hmmm
interestingggg
Blondie
😒 u already told him didn't u
since im still texting and not a heap of cinders, obviously not 😤
Blondie
but ur considering it
he already found out
apparently white showed up at his teammate's job and well
it isn't that hard to put together
btw pink ur bullets work wonders
Pink Bitch
he was shot???😰
Pink Bitch
is he okay?
a little bit ornery
haven't been able to use his powers
but the good thing is namjoon and him had a heart to heart and are now gonna interrogate me together 🧡🧡🧡
Pink Bitch
don't sound so happy about it
maybe they can do the good cop, bad cop and punish me for being so bad 😩😘
Pink Bitch
😡 u never stop don't u
😒 im only kidding jfc
Blondie
i should be there. i don't want u saying anything stupid
wow rude
Blueberry Muffin
what yellow means is that he doesn't want you saying anything insensitive that might cause namjoon to become stressed
Blueberry Muffin
i should go to check on his wellbeing
Pink Bitch
well it's my day tomorrow because we have to get back to work on the project
Pink Bitch
all 3 of us can't go
Blondie
if yoongi recognized the face, im sure white and cherry know that he's met at least one of us
Pink Bitch
which means that now white is going to be watching them
Blondie
well, watching yoongi and whoever else is associated with namjoon
yoongi mentioned something about white and cherry looking for jeongguk?
does that name ring a bell???
Blueberry Muffin
jeongguk was his teammate as well
Blueberry Muffin
the one he's in love with
owwwww 😞
hopefully white doesn't find him first. He'll probably send his heart to Namjoon in a basket, along with his head
Blondie
and that's why we're coming over so you DON'T say that🙄🙄


 

“Is he stalling?”

Namjoon looks across the table at Jimin, who is currently swirling around wine for his fourth glass tonight. He doesn’t get drunk like the blue-haired Jimin, but he does a pretty good impression of a drunk by the way he keeps swaying around in his chair to the melody of the music he asked VAN to put on for him. He mouths along to the words like he’s singing, shakes his hair and waggles his finger to the beat. It’s actually kind of adorable.

“He said that the others want to confess.”

Others? How many of them are there?”

“Well, there’s one that’s blond. The first one you met.”

Yoongi nods, counting that Jimin on one finger. 

“Then there’s a pink-haired one. We worked strictly on the files Dr. Yeun sent, and he was there when I…um…had that earthquake.”

“Okay…” Yoongi raises another finger.

“Then there’s the black-haired one.”

“The angry one.”

“Right, the angry one—”

“They’re not based off of emotions, are they?” Yoongi suddenly pipes up. “Like…anger with him and kindness with the blue-haired one, and…” Yoongi wordlessly gestures over to Jimin, who has worked up his dancing to stand in his chair. VAN politely tells him to get down, as it is a minor hazard. Namjoon shakes his head ‘no’.

“They’re capable of emotions, as many as you and I can convey…it’s like they’re an individual entity rather than a replica of one.”

“…What do you think the original is like?”

That’s the main question Namjoon wants to figure out.

In all honesty, using one’s ability can be an exhausting venture, whether that be mentally or physically. Yoongi used to get worn out if he phased in and out of places too rapidly, especially if it involved him phasing into a speeding location or phasing multiple objects or people with him. Hoseok’s powers technically can’t ever be turned off, but he can at least suppress it, or rather try to. That’s where his exhaustion would hit, making the voices stop and keeping them quiet versus letting them run twenty-four-seven. 

Something like having clones that can operate to this level of independency for such a long time must have the original host body on the brink of self-destruction. He simply has to know how a being like Jimin can exist while contradicting everything he understands about abilities and the limits an Enhanced being can possess.

We cannot become gods, Number One. We can only become better.

“Don’t know,” Namjoon murmurs after a minute. “But that’s what we’re going to find out.”

The wait isn’t a brief one. Jimin gets himself another glass of wine and fluidly transitioned to dancing on the table in the midst of his drinking, only stopping when Yoongi prevents him from turning it into a strip tease, face scarlet and hands panicky. 

It’s around one in the morning, and Namjoon is feeling exhausted from just sitting and waiting. Yoongi looks like he’s faring no better; he dozes off and fights to keep his eyes open, but it’s a battle that he’s losing. The kitchen chairs are wooden and Namjoon feels like he’s molded himself into its rigid shape; a stinging pain appears at the base of his spine should he shift just even the smallest inch left or right. 

“How much longer?” Namjoon asks Jimin before he can fully drain the bottle of wine and get himself another one. Currently, VAN has not exhausted their playlist of showtunes for Jimin to dance to. That’s another thing that seems to make Namjoon more exhausted, just the random noise of trumpets and drums and harmonies of Korean or English singing echoing all around them. 

Jimin hums, reaching into his pocket to check his phone. After a moment, he sets the device on the table surface and folds his hands behind his back with a smile.

Then, in a blink of an eye, he’s gone without a trace.

Yoongi suddenly becomes more awake, almost flies out of his chair. “What the hell?!

Namjoon still remains seated. “Huh,” he says. “The original must have called him back.”

“So he was stalling for time!” Yoongi slams a fist on the table. “He has us waiting knowing he had no intention to tell us just what the hell is going on!”

Namjoon was about to counter that claim with the reminder that even if the orange-haired Jimin was gone, they still had the other Jimins to question when the sun rises, but the sound of three tentative knocks at the front door in the midst of Yoongi’s ranting makes them both grow still. Hurriedly, Namjoon and Yoongi leave the kitchen and head into the foyer, throwing open the front door to meet Jimin’s face.

Three copies of Jimin’s face, to be exact. Blond, pink, and blue-haired.

Yoongi stares, mouth agape. “What the fuck,” he whispers, eyes drifting to each one. “What the fuck.”

The blue-haired Jimin looks to Namjoon, eyes soft. “Are you…are you okay?” he asks, a bag of what smells like fried chicken dangling from his wrist noisily tosses about as he signs. 

Namjoon swallows. “A bit…having theories confirmed is one thing, but it’s still a little…nerve-racking.”

The blue-haired Jimin nods, gesturing to the food. “From the 24-hr kitchen at the Federate facility. We thought you might want to eat,” the pink-haired Jimin explains for him. He’s got some files and a notepad carefully tucked under his arm, though Namjoon doubts they are files about Jimin and his ability. 

The blond-haired Jimin looks over his shoulder, peering into the darkness of the night.

We shouldn’t stand outside like this,” he tells Namjoon, ushering the pink and blue-haired Jimin inside the foyer first before himself, closing the door firmly shut behind them. He turns to Yoongi, eying the bandaged arm and wincing at it. He reaches out to trace two fingertips against Yoongi’s bicep up to it. Yoongi, for some reason, flushes red.

“Uh—” he pulls away. “Can you…not do that?” He’s red in the face, at the tips of his ears too. The blue and pink-haired Jimin take on a conspirator gleam in their eyes, but they do not bring their hands up to let Namjoon in on what is happening between Yoongi and Jimin - or rather, the blond Jimin. 

“…It’s going to be confusing calling each of you Jimin,” Namjoon says as they return back to the kitchen and take their seats at the table. “Do you all call each other ‘Jimin’?”

No. We either go by color or by Federate number. It’s easier to go by color,” the blond-haired Jimin explains with his hands that Yoongi fixates on with an eyebrow quirked.

“What did he say?” he asks Namjoon.

“They go by color instead of calling each other ‘Jimin’.”

Yoongi now looks at blond-haired Jimin. “So what, they call you ‘Blondie’?”

The blond-haired Jimin stares blankly at Yoongi, gives an irritated huff as he turns to look to Namjoon. “Tell him if he calls me that nickname, I’ll put him in a headlock.”

“What did he say now?”

“Uh, don’t call him that.”

Yoongi clicks his tongue against his teeth. 

The pink-haired Jimin snaps his fingers, reaching into the back pocket of his black skinny jeans to withdraw a small velvet box. Inside, there are four small circles no bigger than the button on a shirt. The pink-haired Jimin carefully takes each one between his thumb and forefinger to hand to each of the Jimins at his side, before he holds out one towards Namjoon. “It will help the communication gap. Just attach it to the back of VAN’s head,” Jimin instructs, placing his disk at the side of his temple. 

Namjoon does as he’s told, carefully attaching the metal piece to the little robot’s head. After a second, VAN’s eye outlines white, then yellow, then blue, then at last, turns into a soft pink shade.

Does it work?” a generic computerized voice asks instead of VAN’s cheerful and encouraging tone. Yoongi looks almost taken aback by the sound.

“…Is that you?” he questions the Jimins.

It is a mental broadcast of our individual thoughts. Almost like there are antenna on our heads. I figured this would make a more faster and efficient way of communicating what we need to explain. We don’t necessarily have a large window of time.”

“…Well how do we know—”

“VAN’s eye,” Namjoon infers, pointing at the pink glow. He looks to the pink-haired Jimin. “Did you make this? Or is this from the Federate?”

Technically, it was made in a Federate lab, but I promise that there’s no secret downloading of whatever VAN has stored in their memory. It’s just a transmitting device that takes neural brainwaves and translates it into spoken language using a computer as the output — or in this case, VAN.

Yoongi wrinkles his brows together. “I think I understand you less now.”

The pink-haired Jimin sighs.

How it works isn’t what we’re here to discuss,” the computerized voice speaks as VAN’s eye immediately shifts to a yellow glow. The blond-haired Jimin looks to Namjoon with a nod. “We came here to properly explain ourselves—

And to say we’re sorry if we caused any stress with this lie,” the voice says as VAN’s eye turns blue. The blue-haired Jimin folds his hands in front of him, eyes gently gazing over Namjoon’s face, searching for a reaction of anger or maybe disappointment. “We didn’t want to hurt you. Our intention was never to hurt you.”

“I’m not hurt…just confused…” Namjoon says, earnest voice strong. “You could have told me. There wasn’t a need to have lied about there being multiples of you—”

We were asked to keep it a secret from you because it would invite questions like this,” the blond-haired Jimin reports, steeping his fingers and rest his chin atop them. “As you can see, we don’t operate like a standard clone.”

“So let’s start there,” Yoongi says, taking the fried chicken that has been set in front of him and Namjoon. “How exactly do you work?”

The pink-haired Jimin pulls the notepad to rest near the center of the table, providing Namjoon and Yoongi a clear view of what he begins to draw with a felt tip pen.

Okay. So, as you know, there’s the original from which all clones come from. We’ll call him Jimin Prime—” the pink-haired Jimin writes down the name and circles it, then draws six lines branching off from it attached to six separate circles. “Then, you have us. We’re clones, but we all have our own ‘identity’. We’re pieces of Jimin Prime; our minds are basically his but fragmented. So in theory, when we all come together, we would essentially become Jimin Prime again.”

“…Come together? You mean return back to the host body?” Namjoon asks.

Yes.

“Well, why don’t you guys do that? Why does your host need so many of you doing different tasks like this?”

All three of the Jimins look to each other, the blond-haired Jimin looking the most exhausted of the fact.

It isn’t our host body that requires there to be multiples of us, there just are. And the thing is, we don’t know where our host body is when we return to them.

A pause. Yoongi bites into a piece of chicken.

“We just saw Orange get called up. How do you not know where the host body is?” he asks incredulously. 

We all have internal timers before we are ‘called back’, usually a twenty-four hour duration,” the blue-haired Jimin explains. “However, we’re recreated as soon as we are called back. Like we’re going through a revolving door, in and out in a second without any time to contemplate on where our host body is or where we are when it occurs.”

“And just how many of there are you?”

The blue-haired Jimin hums thoughtfully. “Hundreds? Maybe thousands? We don’t really keep track of our numbers.”

Namjoon’s eyes nearly bug out the same time Yoongi almost chokes on a chewed up piece of meat. 

“You’re telling us that the Federate has a small population of Jimins just running around?

Aside from the few that report daily to work with Namjoon-hyung, none of us leave the Federate facility. We’re not just ‘running around’.

“Oh,” Namjoon says, like it’s a surprise, suddenly awkward. “You’ve…um, you’ve never called me ‘hyung’ before.”

That’s what you’re focusing on in that sentence?” Yoongi asks, though he holds his tongue when he sees the thoughtful smile come across the pink-haired Jimin’s lips. 

You are our hyung, if you don’t mind us calling you that—”

“N-No, I don’t mind.” Namjoon feels a bit warm at the back of his throat. He’s only been called ‘hyung’ by one other person, had it said adoringly to him. The computer voice is cold and monotone, and Namjoon doesn’t get quite the same chill up the back of his spine from how Jeongguk called on him, but there’s still a feeling of respect shared by the twinkling in the pink-haired Jimin’s eyes that he lets himself become momentarily distracted by.

“Let’s get back on track,” Yoongi says, tapping the notepad with the edge of his pinky. The Jimins simultaneously nod their heads.

Okay. So, we don’t know the total number of Jimins, but there are essentially six different personality types which have a set number of replicas. Me—” Jimin writes down in the first circle ‘Pink’ — “then there’s Blue, Black, Yellow, Orange, and lastly, White.” With each circle, a name is written down. Namjoon notes with minor concern that at the last circle labeled ‘White’, a small ‘X’ gets drawn beside it.

“What’s the ‘X’ for?”

Pink winces, looking to Yellow and Blue. VAN’s eye flashes yellow immediately. “Don’t say--” Yellow stops the thought before it is fully broadcasted, eyes alert. 

Yoongi leans in. “White’s the one that shot me. White’s looking for our friend. If there’s anything you can tell us about him, we need to know it.” 

Well, we each have our own tasks and responsibilities within the Federate, in addition to caring for Namjoon-hyung,” Blue explains. “I handle wellbeing tasks and create medical and therapy plans for the pharmacies and counseling centers.”

Pink raises a hand. “I help with the creation of tools and weaponry for the Federate, as well as assist Dr. Yeun on the Project,” his thoughts speak aloud, before shifting his gaze to Yellow as he crosses his arms over his chest.

Black and I do the paperwork for Federate seizures of property and run the compendium. He specializes in marksmanship and I do hand-to-hand combat, so we’re also responsible for training Federate officers.”

“And what does Orange do? Bring everyone their coffee?” Yoongi dryly asks.

He’s the Federate’s honeypot.”

A beat. Yoongi has stopped chewing his piece of chicken. “He’s what?

He’s a honeypot. The Federate sends a few Oranges overseas to America and England in high anti-Enhanced populated areas. He seduces the local leaders there and picks their brains, and soon after, Dr. Yeun’s project gets a friendly donation for a ‘noteworthy cause’.

Another beat of silence passes, hanging uncomfortably thick in the air between them. Namjoon leans back in his chair, opening his mouth like some sort of comment or observation will come to him if he has his mouth ready for it, but he’s silent. Yoongi drops the chicken bone into the basket, pushing himself away from the table.

“…Okay. Yeah. That’s — I need a breather. Or to not look at your faces for a few minutes until I’m not heated.” Yoongi disappears before Namjoon can tell him to wait, though the table and chair rattle with his departure. Yellow bites the bottom of his lip and rubs at his forehead.

Well, I knew this was a bad idea.”

It’s better though to confess it than for them to discover it on their own,” Blue announces, looking to Namjoon.

“You need to tell us about White. What does he do? What does he want with Jeongguk?”

We…we really can’t say.”

“Because you don’t want to or you don’t know? Just…please be honest with me—”

 We do want to be honest with you, hyung. It’s just…some things are difficult to explain and we’re trying to be sensitive about it—”

“Why?” Namjoon looks to each one of them. “We’re not going to get anywhere understanding you all if you’re just trying to dance around the subject. You lied to me when it really wasn’t necessary for you to. Even now after you’re explanation of how your ability works somewhat, I don’t understand why knowing there are multiples of you would have caused me stress.”

He stares each of them down. Blue and Pink look guilty, while Yellow’s face is calm, passive, controlled. Namjoon wonders which expression is the true expression of Jimin’s feelings. Which clone is the true representation?

“…It isn’t about you, is it?” Namjoon asks, voice quiet. “It’s the original Jimin that you didn’t want me to know about.”

There. A flash of worry in Yellow’s eyes that disappears as soon as it enters. Namjoon jumps on it. “Who is he? Who is Park Jimin?”

We can’t tell you—”

“Don’t tell me that like you’re doing a favor.” The tone is harsh, and Blue’s eyes are too soft and worried to warrant that kind of tone. But Namjoon feels himself burning, not with stress, just with frustration, skin peeling with it as he squares his jaw. “I’ve…I’m trying to get better, you know? I’m trying to understand things, how to…how to be a better person. I need to find Jeongguk again, and apologize to him and—” his throat grows hot at the back, cheeks flushed with heat and trembling mouth growing warm under a phantom’s touch. “I-I don’t really know yet, but the point is if Jeongguk is in danger, I have to protect him. As…as Number One and as Kim Namjoon, I want to protect him.”

Blue and Pink subtly look to Yellow, who has been passively staring down Namjoon with his hands folded over his lap. He bites the inside of his cheek, taking in Namjoon’s words, though his eyes are focused on where Namjoon’s hands rest on the table, glowing a warm light that isn’t destructive, isn’t burning out of control, but is still there.

He reaches up and takes the neural implant off, discarding it on the table.

White works as an assassin for the Federate,” Yellow answers with slow movements of his hands. He kills who they want him to kill, makes people disappear and no one questions it. He and his partner look into personal cases the Federate heads want to snuff out. We really don’t know the reasoning for the targets they pick and we can’t tell you why they’re going after Jeongguk. We can only hope that whatever it is, the Federate will eventually find it a waste of time and move on to something else.

Namjoon swallows, pulling his hands back to his lap, leaving a burning handprint behind. “A-Assassins? Can’t you — Jeongguk hasn’t done anything to warrant that level of persecution. Can’t you do something? Take my statement pleading for his case or—”

Compared to us, White is completely unreachable and unsympathetic. You can write a million pleas for Jeongguk’s case, tell them you love him and care for him and bring up all the good he did. As long as there is a Federate order out on Jeongguk, White will do whatever they say.

Not to mention that it might not be a good thing for the Federate to know you have an emotional attachment to him,” Blue adds, neural implant still on. “If the Federate knows that Jeongguk has some leverage on you, he won’t be safe.”

We’ll do what we can, but we can’t make any promises. The only thing we can do now is go on our business as normal—” Pink is stopped with a hand from Yellow, his eyes stern.

Speaking of that, I think we should limit the amount of time Namjoon-hyung spends outside of the manor.” His eyes shift to Namjoon, looking worried. “White will be watching closely from now on, him and Cherry. We’ve been too lenient with you, and Blue losing you that night could have ended bad for all of us.”

“So you’re just going to keep me trapped here knowing that Jeongguk is in danger out there?”

You are a prisoner, Namjoon-ssi,” Yellow’s eyes are firm, mouth pulled in a hard, displeased line, though Namjoon can’t figure out if that emotion is aimed towards him or Yellow himself. “If White finds you out in the streets doing what you weren’t brought to Earth for, he won’t hesitate to kill you. This is for your own good, whether you like it or not.

He’ll be watching Yoongi too. So, it’s important for him to play as dumb as he can if he’s questioned—”

Yoongi suddenly phases back into the kitchen, not necessarily cooled down by how he suddenly slams his palms against the table and startling everyone around him.

“Alright, I’ve decided,” Yoongi says, tone blunt and dry. “Get the fuck out of our home.”

“Hyung, hold on—”

“You guys are a threat to Namjoon, Hoseok and Jeongguk. I can’t have the enemy getting cozy under our roof knowing what you all do to Enhanced people. Find a motel or another Federate crony to stay with, but you’re out.”

Pink rises to his feet, eyes annoyed. “We can’t just leave. We’re supposed to be working on the Project with him—”

“Really? Because I don’t think that’s entirely the truth.” Yoongi shifts his gaze to Blue and Yellow. “You two don’t specialize in that science-y shit. If you were really just meant to work on the Project, I’d think that they’d be sending Strawberry here and his copies only. So, what is your real purpose?” He tilts his head down, eyes cold. "What does the Federate really want with Namjoon?”

There is no sound of a computer’s monotone. There is no gesturing of slender hands, no curl of small fingers to form words, an explanation, an apology, something. There is however, an uncomfortable silence, one that sits heavy on Namjoon’s shoulders, makes his stomach twist itself into tight knots he can’t seem to make come undone with words off his own. Yoongi stands, an imposing figure, his shoulders straight and back upright. He looks like a leader with the way he has his jaw tilted, Namjoon thinks. He looks like someone Namjoon’s never seen before, or maybe perhaps, someone he’s overlooked for quite too long.

Yellow rises to his feet abruptly. Without any warning, he takes the neural transmitter off of the back of VAN’s head. VAN makes a whirring noise as though they were zapped by a small shock of electricity, before their eye returns to its normal white glow as it forms a crescent moon.

Did I miss something?” VAN asks Namjoon’s stiff expression as Yellow then grabs Pink and Blue to haul to their feet as well.

We’re done here,” he signs to Namjoon, shooting Yoongi a glare before he guides the other Jimins out of the kitchen and towards the front door foyer. Namjoon gets to his feet to chase after them, but Yoongi holds out an arm to stop him from taking another step further. 

“Let them go,” Yoongi mumbles.

“Hyung, we can’t fight like this—”

“I don’t trust them.” There’s the sound of the front door opening, slamming itself shut right after. “Namjoon-ah, think. There were too many contradictions in that explanation. How can a copy not know where the original body is when that’s what they get called back to when they regenerate? There’s more to this Project, more to this reasoning for why they were assigned to be your handler.”

Namjoon swallows. It’s been a while since he thought about it, and honestly, it would be the last thing he wants to think about, but…

“…Before I came back to Earth, I was sent something,” Namjoon murmurs, biting at his bottom lip, hands balling into tight fists. “I…I at first thought it might have been some cruel prank just to rile me up…but maybe now that I think about it, the timing of it does seem strange.”

“What was it?”

“A flash drive with a video file of…of Jeongguk. Having sex with a group of men.”

Yoongi pales, looking sickened. “Fuck…shit, was it — did it look like he was being—” He can’t bring himself to say it. Namjoon can’t bring himself to fill in the word for him.

“No. It looked…it seemed consensual. But I couldn’t watch it more than a few seconds.”

“How do you know it was him?”

“He…he smiled at the camera and I—” Namjoon hisses in a sharp take of air, swallowing down the feeling before it overwhelms and burns him. “It was him. Plus, the package had a message for me to ‘catch up on what my teammate is doing’.”

“Shit.” Yoongi sits down, frowning. “How did something like that get sent to you?”

“That’s the thing. The Federate wouldn’t allow any mail to be sent to me unless it was verified through them. Granted, I never got mail aside from official Project reports, but either way, a Federate official must have checked what was on the flash drive and—”

“And still fucking sent it? What for? What was the goal?

“You’ve never gotten a video, right?”

“Hell no.”

“What about Hoseok? Or Seokjin?”

Yoongi shakes his head. “Hobi would have told me something right away. And Seokjin…I haven’t spoken to him in the longest time. He’s not answering any of my texts. Even still, I’m sure he would have told me or Hobi something if he felt Jeongguk was in danger.” He leans back in his chair, squinting at the ceiling lights. “This is fucked up…something is fishy about this whole thing.”

“…I still think we can trust Jimin,” Namjoon says, because deep down inside, he doesn’t want to believe Jimin’s kindness was all a lie, doesn’t want to think that the openness and friendly smiles were all just a manipulative facade.

A scoff comes from Yoongi’s lips. “We don’t even know who the original Park Jimin is. Maybe we’re better off questioning him instead of rainbow assortment of clones.” He frowns, biting the inside of his cheek. “But I bet it would be hard to get a CID done on him now that those two Federate assholes are at the precinct.”

“…We can ask VAN to run a search?”

Yoongi blinks. “…They can do that?”

VAN raises their arms. “Anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it!” they happily chirp. 

“It’s not exactly a CID, but VAN can still compose a good portfolio on a person based on published news information, records and camera surveillance. It’s - uh - it’s how I was able to get information on you guys when I came back. To sort of…fill myself in on what I missed.”

“You could have just asked me like a normal person instead of Googling,” Yoongi chides, though there’s no malice behind it. Namjoon still flinches from the words, eyes downcast.

“Well…it was a little awkward when I came back…didn’t know how to come out and say it.”

Yoongi hums, eyes softer. “Yeah…didn’t give you the welcome wagon either on my end…I’m sorry—”

“No, it’s alright, hyung—”

“Don’t be afraid to just talk to me, alright?” Yoongi says before Namjoon can get another word out. “Even if you think it’s stupid or you just want to tell me like a fact of the day or something, just…you can talk to me, okay? About anything.”

Namjoon’s smile is small, but his chest is warm. “Thanks…I appreciate that.”

 

 

 

 

 

They head to bed shortly after the request to VAN to complete a search on Jimin as well as another request from Yoongi to look into Enhanced persons with a Voice ability if possible. It’s quiet and dark in Namjoon’s bedroom, and his body feels exhausted, but he can’t bring himself to close his eyes just yet.

If he does get reunited with Jeongguk, how can he prove to him that he’s trying to change? How can he approach him and tell him he wants to protect him, not because he is or was their leader, but because it’s just the right thing to do? He cares for Jeongguk. He cares deeply for Jeongguk and just wants him safe. He wants to apologize for hurting him, he wants to properly explain his feelings for Jeongguk.

And now that he thinks about them, in the solitude and privacy of his bed, Namjoon contemplates just what those feelings are. What name to put to them that encompasses everything he feels? Friendship? Brotherhood? No, no, it’s more. So much more that Namjoon feels like he’s on fire, can’t think straight until he knows Jeongguk is safe at his side. Is it love? Is it lust? He’s never thought much about Jeongguk outside of being Number Five, never thought of any of his teammates outside of their number and how to improve on their abilities.

It was inappropriate to feel anything towards Number Five. He was their junior, he was their mascot, innocent smiles and cheerful catchphrases. Namjoon met him when he was only sixteen, a bit gangly and not having grown into his nose, still very quiet but still holding all the sparkle and glimmer of hope and eagerness all aspiring Heroes should have. He watched him grow, helped him any way he could when Yeongsu would allow it. He let Jeongguk sit with him, read with him, listened to his stories on patrol when he turned eighteen at last and bemoaned at how boring they were compared to the sting operations and missions his hyungs conducted.

I want to be beside you and help you too, hyung,’ Jeongguk had said one time they were in the library, abandoned books between them, bodies pressed together at the sides. Namjoon remembers Jeongguk smelling like fresh soap and linen. The scent lingered in the pages of his books long after Jeongguk had departed, made something stir within Namjoon’s belly that got him hot and confused. 

Yeongsu had ordered him to do twenty laps around the manor as a form of distraction. 

Maybe that was the first time Namjoon's body wanted Jeongguk before his mind knew what that want was.

He closes his eyes and imagines that scent, pictures that smile, dreams about that touch.

Outside, in the dark, a figure watches through the window without his knowing.

 


 

For the next few days, Namjoon adopts a new routine.

He wakes each morning to VAN’s selection of music to improve his mood. VAN greatly favors the string quartets of Stravinsky and Strauss for Namjoon’s time in the shower, and finishes with Tchaikovsky in time for Yoongi to fix them both up a breakfast. They would exchange some quiet banter, and Namjoon would bring up his fact of the day as a segway into a conversation that would be a bit dry and short, but such an improvement from when Yoongi would show up to breakfast, grab his food and leave without acknowledging Namjoon with anything other than a grunt at the back of his throat. 

Afterwards, Pink may come to the manor, though more often than not, he and Namjoon would meet in a nearby field to work beneath the shade of a willow tree’s branches. The work is quiet, no exchange of words through gestures or written messages, even fewer glances. Sometimes, Pink would reach for a folder the same time Namjoon does, and when their skin brushes, Pink would recoil like he clutched a hot cinder in his fist. Namjoon would apologize and Pink would go back to work without a response, would leave Namjoon when their work was finished without a goodbye.

It hurts a little. 

It hurts a lot.

Namjoon doesn’t want to gain a companion and lose one at the same time. At the same time, he doesn’t know how to fix a relationship when he is just learning how to have one. 

VAN is slow in their search of Jimin's original identity, checking and rechecking over something that they found that was quite peculiar, but not wishing to announce just what that may be until they were absolutely sure. The search for the Voice user goes by even slower because of it; Namjoon estimates once VAN finishes one task, the other will be completed shortly after. Maybe the one VAN thinks will make Namjoon the happiest will be the one they finish first. Namjoon isn’t sure if either one will do just that on its own. 

Yoongi and Namjoon eat dinner together, drink a little wine as Yoongi fills in what he's gotten into over the last five years. He jumped from job to job, nothing offering the same thrill of Hero work that coursed through his veins like being a Hero. The Metro Unit was difficult to get into; his hometown of Daegu was an option, they were the first to integrate Enhanced workers into their systems of education and few hold small positions in government. But it would be too far away from Hoseok, who he spent time growing closer to and becoming more friends than teammates, something a small deep part of Namjoon almost envies. He relented on staying in Seoul and joining one of the various district Metro Units to remain close by. Seoul still heavily discriminates in the workforce with their Enhanced citizens regarding the Metro Units, but Nowon-gu was decent enough to have a small division dedicated to Enhanced Crimes only instead of having a mixture of Enhanced handling Non-Enhanced crimes and vice versa. He has an office and a partner that's young and has potential. They go out to eat barbecue sometimes; Yoongi promised Namjoon maybe one day, he'll bring him over to meet Hoseok and Namjoon, and all of them could go out for dinner, his treat.

Namjoon thinks about Jeongguk before he goes to sleep each night, just one simple thought, a gentle want that keeps him from spiraling too deep into his own head as he gets beneath the covers. He wants to speak to Jeongguk. He wants to hold Jeongguk in his arms. He allows himself to think those things, lets himself get more creative with his wants with each passing evening. He wants to take Jeongguk bowling. He wants to take a walk on the beach with Jeongguk, feel the sand squish between his toes. He wants to take Jeongguk dancing. He’s never danced with anyone, barely knows how to dance with himself, but he still wants.

When he closes his eyes, he rehearses it over and over in his head: Jeon Jeongguk, I want to go bowling with you. Jeon Jeongguk, I want to take you out dancing. Jeon Jeongguk, I want to buy you something nice.

Jeon Jeongguk, I want to be your friend.

 


 

“Okay, I’ll bite. What the fuck are you wearing?

Hoseok clicks his tongue, the sound defensive yet embarrassed. “I told you I was going to that retreat thing with Taehyung, so he said I should dress the part for it,” he replies. Truth be told, he rather likes the white garments and the rainbow stitching. Taehyung said they’re handmade, stitched with love by some of the women that live in the compound. They’re self-sustaining, Taehyung had told him, they do whatever they can themselves so they will have no need to take from others. 

Taehyung has told him a lot of things as the weekend approaches, nearly visiting the shop every other day to chat and get some coffee and maybe even stay the evening at Hoseok’s for a movie (with couch cuddles!). It’s nice being around Taehyung. It’s quiet around Taehyung; not literally, but the noise of Taehyung’s laughter and voice and sing-song tones he breathes into every vowel and syllable of his words is much preferable for Hoseok to listen to than the noise of a thousand different minds chattering about every single little thing a mind could conjure up.

Yoongi stands against the counter with his arms crossed over his chest as Hoseok continues to move around the shop, arranging and rearranging sets to get a feel of how he’d want the new layout to go. “You’re still going to that thing? I thought I told you last week we should be keeping our movements limited cause of the problem we have with the Federate.”

“But you said that the seals are gone off our CIDs, so the Federate obviously isn’t interested in us anymore.” Hoseok turns to Yoongi, expression a bit cold. “Plus, the Federate has a problem with Namjoon, not with us.”

“We don’t know the full story on that. We can’t be too sure that they aren’t watching us right now,” Yoongi conspires. Hoseok sets down a roll of markdown tape on an empty shelf, looking over his shoulder at Yoongi in small disbelief. 

"Like one of those babysitter clones?" he asks aloud. It makes sense now that Yoongi filled him in on the few details he was able to get about Jimin. Hoseok thought it odd that there wasn't any noise coming off of him when he first saw him, even in the hostile moment, Jimin's mind was eerily quiet. But if he's a clone, then that explains it. It would be like Hoseok placing his ear to the lips of a plastic doll and expecting it to say 'hi' back to him, carry a nuanced conversation of thought and philosophy as though it were human and not just, well, a doll

There's still Taehyung, however, with his quiet mind and loud cheerful voice. Taehyung is still a mystery, surely not a clone, but definitely...not normal.

Hoseok shakes his head. "Taehyung said it’ll be safe at the compound, completely exclusive to those that got an invite. The Federate doesn’t bother them there.”

Yoongi looks skeptical, raises a skeptical eyebrow and does that thing with his jaw where he rolls it like he’s got a few ‘wise words’ to give, but he doesn’t make a sound. He continues to lean against the counter, in his civilian clothes this time around rather than his uniform fatigues. Days off were a rarity for Yoongi to take, though now it seems like he’s out and about more frequently.

“Will you come to the manor tonight for dinner?” Yoongi asks out of the blue. 

“Is Namjoon going to be there?”

“Yes.”

“Then no.”

“Hobi,” Yoongi sighs, “come on. He’s trying. He really is trying to be friends here.”

“I don’t want to deal with him, hyung. You can’t force me to like him,” Hoseok protests. 

“Yeah, I know I can’t. But he wants to apologize and have a proper conversation with you someday, with all of us…have you been able to get in contact with Seokjin lately?”

Hoseok shakes his head. “Last I talked to him was opening night of the orchestra a few years ago. I get flowers in the mail from him at some events, but I haven’t spoken to him in a long time.” He leans in close, eyes worried. “Plus, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to have Seokjin be in the same room as Namjoon after what he did.”

Yoongi bites his lip, the memory of Seokjin’s scars — their minds filling in the imagery of what they must look like, how they must feel like — flickering through his mind as audible noise, worried and troubled. “Yeah…but Namjoon wants to apologize…and maybe I’m a sap, but I don’t know. Wouldn’t mind us all becoming friends maybe. Do friend shit like go out for a drink or watch a movie or something.” 

“You do ‘friend shit’ with me all the time, hyung. Why do you want Namjoon to come along with us just to make everything awkward and uncomfortable?”

“It’ll only be awkward if you make it awkward. Plus, now that you got your little flower boy around and you're not hanging out with me anymore—”

“Oh my god, you’re not jealous of Taehyung, are you?”

Yoongi turns his nose up. “He’s still suspicious…there was another kid in our precinct that got swept away by a flower boy like him. Disappeared without a trace and no way to contact him.”

“You’re making it sound like Taehyung is plotting to kidnap me. It’s just a retreat. Two days. A weekend. I’ll be back here on Monday in my usual clothes and everything will go back to normal, alright?”

Yoongi grunts in a non-answer. “Just…there’s a lot of shit happening. The last thing I need to hear is something happening to you.” He pinches the bridge of his nose, sighing deeply. The teasing smile Hoseok previously wore gets wiped off his lips.

It isn’t usual that Yoongi would allow Hoseok to see himself being stressed. Yoongi would always disappear in the blink of an eye before Hoseok can get the question of ‘what’s wrong?’ off his tongue, to a bar or to the manor or to elsewhere where Hoseok can’t chase him, can’t talk to him, can’t offer him a shoulder to lean on.

“Hyung…hyung, everything’s going to be okay.” He rests a hand on Yoongi’s shoulder, can feel the tension buzzing in the stiffness of the joint. Yoongi’s mind is static, as it always is when he wants to hide from Hoseok’s hearing. He knows Yoongi doesn’t want to burden him with something, but Hoseok always thought of himself as being Yoongi’s closest friend, if not his only friend. He could listen to Yoongi’s thoughts. He could listen to Yoongi’s troubles. He can be support to Yoongi, help him lead or quietly follow. He’s always been a friend to Yoongi. 

So why go looking for that in Namjoon when he’s been here all the time? When he’s better than Namjoon? He’s better than Namjoon.

Yoongi smiles, gently pushing his hand away. “Sorry,” he apologizes. “Just…fuck, I just need to take a breather.”

“We can go out for something to eat right now,” Hoseok offers, but Yoongi shakes his head.

“I promised Namjoon I’d sit with him for lunch. He’s not allowed to move around so freely to keep the Federate’s suspicions off him, and he has one of the clones there working with him which I personally don’t like, so we’ve just been having takeout. You can come with though?”

“And sit at a table with two people we both equally dislike? Pass.”

“Namjoon might have fucked up in the past, but at least he’s trying to fix himself,” Yoongi mutters, eyes fixated on the carpet. “Can’t say much about Jimin, though.”

The noise seems to get louder on that line of thought. It’s a somber noise, regretful. Hoseok pulls Yoongi into a hug without warning, and the noise level spikes before dropping. Yoongi lets the hug happen, patting a spot between Hoseok’s shoulder blades before gently pushing away. “It’s fine, really…let me know when you get back, okay? Let me know when you arrive and when you’ve eaten and who you’re talking to—”

“Okay, Mom. Will do.”

“Fuck off.” Yoongi smiles a gummy grin, and Hoseok chuckles, nudging him in the shoulder.

“You’ll keep me posted on Jeonggukkie, right?”

“Yeah. As soon as VAN gets through the list of Voice users and we have our suspects lined up, I’ll give you a call.” Yoongi stuffs his hands into his pockets, huffing a sigh but keeping his face as neutral as he can. “Be safe…just be safe, alright?”

Hoseok smiles. “It’s going to be fine. We’re probably just gonna hold hands around a campfire and talk about feelings. What’s the worse that can go wrong?” 

Chapter Text

“How are you finding things, 32P646?

Pink glances up from his work desk and at the smiling face of Cherry looming over him. It’s not like it’s unnormal to have his number called to distinguish himself from the other Pinks surrounding him working on similar tasks, but the fact that it is Cherry that is singling him out immediately sets him on edge. And even though the woman isn’t talking to the others directly, out of the peripherals of his eye, he sees the other Pinks are either working with trembling hands or have stopped all together, heads down but ears open.

“Fine,” he answers with his hands, not bothering to go too elaborate with his response. Cherry only knows a few gestures of sign language, compared to Dr. Yeun that speaks it fluently. Pink always wondered how did the woman speak with White if that was the case, or if they even spoke to each other at all.

He never asks about it though. No one talks about White.

Cherry nods, smiling. “Good, good. It’s always nice having new recruits on our Project to understand the Explosion. As the Federate head believes, we are always one more step towards perfection, and through yours and the prisoner’s efforts, we will be able to achieve that goal, won’t we?”

Pink nods, expecting that to be the end of it, but Cherry still lingers with her hands behind her back, smile still on her lips. 

“The prisoner is slated to be back when again?” she asks with a singsong lilt of her voice.

“The second of August.”

She steps closer, head tilting inquiringly. “Did he seem…different in his transmissions to Dr. Yeun lately? Maybe a little bit angry or upset about returning back to Earth? Or nervous?”

Pink looks to the others, who only glance around with expressions that are just as confused. One Pink goes to write a note down on a scrap of paper, tearing it off his pad to pass around until it reaches the Pink Cherry is speaking to. ‘ We don’t monitor wellbeing. Just Project-related tasks. Blue would know ’ is the note that Cherry quietly reads.

Then, she crushes the paper in her fist.

A handful of the Pinks flinch as she throws the paper to the ground, her smile twitching at the corners but not falling from her face. "Hmm, that's interesting. Then I'll go find a Blue and see if they can give me a status update on the prisoner." She giggles. "We want him healthy and ready to work work work! Want you all healthy and able to work for the greater of the Federate and mankind, right?"

Pink nods again. They all nod, though there are more sets of confused and nervous eyes than sure ones. 

She grins a manic grin before she turns swiftly on her heels, red flaming hair trailing after her. When she is gone, there’s a hand that gently pulls Pink to the side, up against another who presses their foreheads lightly together.

“What’s going on?” a faint whisper echoes in Pink’s mind. “What did she want?”

“I don’t know,” Pink answers back with his thoughts. “Blue has said she’s been poking around in Kim Namjoon’s medical notes as well, but wouldn’t explain what it was she was looking for.”

“Something for the Federate?”

“Wouldn’t White inform us about a Federate order? Or Dr. Yeun?”

White doesn’t tell them anything directly. The orders from White are passed down to either Yellow or Black, who then relay it to Pink and Blue. Yellow and Black haven’t spoken to them about anything important, and Dr. Yeun has more focus on making progress in the Project than Namjoon’s ‘wellbeing’; pretty much all they’ve been doing is preparing for Namjoon’s return and the protocols for how to handle him.

“I don’t know…for now, let’s just focus on what we’re doing. I’m sure someone will give us an explanation when things aren’t so hectic.” As he pulls away, he sees the look on his copy’s face, small discomfort and unsureness that doesn’t sit quite right with Pink.

“It always seems like we never get an explanation cause it’s hectic all the time,” the other Pink signs, the others watching the movement of his hands passively, work momentarily abandoned. “Like, we didn’t even get a proper explanation for why Kim Namjoon is returning. We could have easily continued our work as the shuttle was built, and transfer him from his old pod to the new one without having him come back.”

“The Federate wanted him to return.”

“But why?”

“We don’t question orders from White.”

“But why not?

Pink frowns. “Have you been speaking to Orange or something? This isn’t normal behavior from you.”

The other Pink averts his eyes, suddenly embarrassed. “…He was in the infirmary with Blue and I was just watching the conversation.”

Orange always intrudes in on Blue’s workspace, that facet of Jimin too kind to push the annoyance away. Each of them have their allotted area of the Federate compound to work, with sharable spaces in the lunchroom and dorms as well as open labs. They aren’t even allowed to go into Orange’s work area — a room hidden by a dark steel black door that speaks of government secrets from foreign lands that only prioritizes certain people to know — yet Orange happily goes into theirs just to start shit with his conspiracies. 

“Ignore him. He’s always trying to get in the way of our goal here. We just do what the Federate wants and in return, we’ll get one step closer to becoming reunited again.”

The Pinks shift their gazes around to each other. Then, one Pink pulls the other close again, foreheads touching.

“Doesn’t it scare you?” he asks in his mind when the others can’t hear but only watch. “Doesn’t it scare you that we might be erased?”

“We won’t be erased. We’ll come together and…and together, we’ll be Jimin. All the good parts of him, his intelligence and wisdom will come from us, just like his kindness from Blue, his leadership from Yellow, and his pride and perfection from Black.”

“And Orange and White?”

“We outnumber Orange. They’re just…anomalies. If they don’t want to become whole again, fine. They’ll be the ones to disappear, not us…maybe it’s a good thing too. I mean, do you want to be a person like that? Constantly starting trouble and goofing off when he has important things to accomplish?” 

(He knows he’s overlooking White, not out of malice, but just unsureness as to how White fits into the picture when it comes to becoming whole. But it’s fine. They don’t need to talk about White anyways.)

The Pink nods his head, pulling away and turning towards the others watching them. “We’re all Jimin’s better part, so we should all strive in accomplishing something Jimin would be proud of,” he signs. “This Project is going to help people, I’m sure of it. We all are helping people in our own special way.”

The Pinks nod their heads, small smiles coming onto their lips one by one. They know their role in this, they know what they need to do. It’s all for Jimin. It’s all to become whole again.

And Pink knows that he might disappear, might melt together with Blue and Yellow and Black as they all form to unify into one distinct identity, but it’s fine. Whatever Jimin turns out to be, what they turn out to be in the end, he knows that he’ll be a good person. A perfect person.

 


 

This motel room sucks ass.

Yellow doesn’t bother to suppress his eye roll, watching as Orange drops his hands from signing to pull back the comforter and bedsheets, pointing a finger at something and blindly swatting at whoever is behind him — Blue in this case. “Look!” he signs when he has all of Blue’s undivided attention. “There’s a stain! That’s disgusting!

Turning away from Orange’s gestures, Yellow focuses his attention on Pink and Black setting up a small area for Pink to work on his tasks Dr. Yeun sends for him and Namjoon. It’s not the most ideal room, Yellow knows it. It’s small and cramped and has a weird smell to it, funny stains in the carpet and Yellow doesn’t want to even think about the nightmare of all five of them having to use the same bathroom for who knows how long. But if they’re going to respect Yoongi’s wishes, then they’ll have to adapt the best that they can. 

Arms wrap around Yellow from behind, a head nuzzling against his. “Blondiieee~” Orange’s whining interrupts his train of thought. “Why can’t we stay at the hotel in Gangnam-gu? This place sucks, I wanna stay at a five-star hotel. You have access to Dr. Yeun’s money, don’t you? Can’t you buy me one night? Please?”

This is the only motel close to Namjoon and affordable enough for our unit to stay.” Yellow pulls his head away from Orange’s, frowning. Dr. Yeun must already have noticed the money that’s disappeared in order for Yellow to pay for them all to stay out these past few nights, jumping from motel to motel to find one that is a suitable fit. The man’s a tightwad, no matter how many praises Pink sings of him. But that’s not something Yellow is worried about.

It’s just the wait of when Cherry and White inevitably catch them that has him on edge.

Orange forces his head against Yellow’s. “We’re gonna catch fucking gonorrhea sleeping in these beds—

You can’t catch gonorrhea through skin contact.”

Orange pulls away, walks over to wrap his arms around Blue’s shoulders and press their foreheads together. Yellow stares blankly at them, watches Blue’s eyes shift to the stained bed, then wrinkling his nose. Orange pulls away, saunters back over to Yellow and wraps his arms around him just the same.

Blue says you can.

No he didn’t.”

“Blondiieeeee~

Yellow shoves Orange off of him, adjusting the collar of his shirt. “Whether you like it or not, we’re in this predicament because you messed up,” his hands gesture angrily. Orange’s eyes immediately sharpen.

No, we’re in this predicament because White fucked us over. Maybe if he would have told us he was going to do something like shoot Yoongi, we’d have been a little bit more prepared for the fallout.

We don’t question White—

We should! We should question everything!” Orange claps his hands to garner Pink and Black’s attention, Blue standing nervously behind him. “Look, this is good timing. We can work with Yoongi and Namjoon. We can tell them what we know and we can get their help in figuring out who Jimin is.

Black steps into the circle, eyes hard. “That’s not allowed. We don’t discuss Jimin.”

But why? If we’re really just fragments of him, then why can’t we ask questions about what we were like? Wouldn’t that make sense to try and help us learn if we had a family or if we were a Hero or something if they really intend for us to be reunited again?

Dr. Yeun does intend for us to be reunited,” Pink comes in, hands not holding any sense of a tremble, but his jaw is squared, angry. Orange makes a snorting noise.

Bullshit. It’s been five years since Jimin died and we haven’t heard any progress in the completion of the new host body.”

“Jimin isn’t dead.”

“Fine, missing. Fuck, he might as well be dead, seeing as though none of us are him and we’re not getting any answers—” Pink suddenly thrusts himself forward to shove Orange back, his calves colliding against the side of the stained bed. Orange’s eyes nearly pop out of their sockets, and he charges forward to shove Pink roughly against the motel room’s door. Blue and Yellow immediately bring themselves in between, holding the other away as both scrabble to get a fist in the other’s face. Eventually, Orange yanks himself out of Yellow’s hold, huffing angrily. 

You all need to quit lying to yourselves,” Orange signs. “Jimin isn’t coming back. We will never be whole again. The Federate doesn’t want us to be whole again, they just want to keep using us for free labor and whatever fucked up thing they don’t want to do themselves.

That’s enough, Orange—” Yellow tries to push Orange’s hands down and away, but Orange shoves back. Now it is Black that approaches to grab Orange by the collar of his shirt, eyes cold as he forces their heads together. 

He said ‘that’s enough’.”

Orange yanks his head back and shoves Black away from him, glaring hard at each set of eyes watching him, each face identical in the frowning of their lips. “You know, if we’re really all the same, you guys are complete assholes when it comes to giving a shit about what I have to say or feel, like I’m not one of you at all.” He squares his jaw, rolling back his shoulders. “Since the only thing the Federate and you guys think I’m good for is getting fucked by gross, hateful men, I’ll just let you all get on with your work and go somewhere else.”

Blue tries to make a grab at his wrist to stop him, but Orange roughly steps away and brushes past Pink and Black. He doesn’t hear any of them coming after him. He even slows down a bit in the hallway outside of the motel room, counts to ten just in case maybe Blue or Yellow come out to berate and drag him back in, maybe even tell him he’s wrong to feel that way, reassure him that they are equal and important and needed. He gets to twenty when he reaches the descending stairwell to the lobby and the city streets.

No one is behind him. No one comes after him.

So, he keeps walking.

 


 

“Mmm, hyung? Are you almost ready?”

Hoseok looks up from his phone, mid text to Yoongi letting him know he’s leaving a day early for the retreat. Just to get settled easier, at least that’s what Taehyung said. Taehyung is currently lounging on Hoseok’s bed, looking like a dream clothed in white with the open window of Hoseok’s bedroom casting a glow behind him. 

“Yeah, yeah. I’m pretty much done. I didn’t overpack though, right?” He looks to the two duffle bags of clothes he has, surely too much for the weekend but then again, it isn’t like Hoseok really has a clue as to what they’ll be doing over this weekend. He assumes attending a sermon would require a more formal outfit than the white with rainbow stitching clothes both of them currently wear. Taehyung also mentioned activities, so he brought shorts and hiking boots and even sandals in case there would be a body of water for them to swim in.

The slight mystery of not knowing what to expect has Hoseok excited and kind of nervous. But Taehyung smiles at him, boxy grin and twinkling eyes, and he feels at ease if only for a few seconds longer.

“This is fine, hyung,” Taehyung reassures, sitting up on his knees so Hoseok can sit in bed beside him.

“I haven’t been on vacation in a while actually,” Hoseok admits with a sheepish grin. “I mean, we got a promise to go touring if we do well at the next philharmonic, but that’s just going to be work, you know? And I sure as hell didn’t get a vacation when I was still doing Hero work, so…this is going to be nice.”

Taehyung rests his chin on Hoseok’s shoulder, tangling his arms around Hoseok’s body. “And you’re gonna come out a different person at the end of it. Better and stronger.”

Hoseok hums, letting the warmth of Taehyung sit on his back for a moment as the words lingered between them. “…I don’t think I want to be ‘stronger’,” he mumbles as an afterthought. “Never really put much thought into being ‘better’ either. Just…just wanna be happy. Be happy being me.”

Taehyung lifts his chin from his shoulder, eyes perplexed. “But don’t you want to have better control over your power?” he asks, burrowing his forehead against Hoseok’s shoulder. “You could be so gifted with it, hyung—”

“The medication is doing its job in suppressing it—”

“But I mean for you to control it, not some pills you grow dependent on—”

Hoseok pulls away, frown on his lips when he turns to Taehyung. “I’m not growing dependent on them. Why does everyone suddenly think they’re the experts of what I put in my body? I know what I’m doing.”

Taehyung frowns back, not backing down. “I’m just trying to help you—”

“Well I don’t need your help with that or want it.” Hoseok bites his tongue, husking out a sigh when he sees the saddened look on Taehyung’s face. “Fuck, just…sorry, I don’t want to snap at you about this. I get this enough from hyung as it is, I…I just don’t want to hear it from you too.”

“Hyung,” Taehyung crawls over to sit on Hoseok’s lap, wrapping arms around Hoseok’s shoulders in a small hug before he pulls away, fingers playing with the tufts of hair on the back of Hoseok’s neck. “Hyung, I just see you with so much potential and…I just think that sometimes, you get in your own way.”

A raise of Hoseok’s eyebrow accompanies the perplexed quirk of his lips. “How so?”

“You can do amazing things with your hearing, things you haven’t even thought of.” Taehyung lets his fingertips gently move down Hoseok’s neck, tracing down to Hoseok’s chest where he begins to draw a circle around Hoseok’s heart with his ring finger. “I can feel it in you,” Taehyung whispers, voice going straight to Hoseok’s dick. “You have such power inside of you that can be incredible if you were given the proper time and nurturing from someone that wants to see you become the best you can be, hyung. I can do that for you.” His hand slides up Hoseok’s chest, up his neck and into his hair. “Wanna give it to you, hyung,” he murmurs.

Taehyung is beautiful in the sunlight, the way how the glow makes his eyes look, accentuating his eyelashes and the curves of his face. He’s also never sat on Hoseok’s lap before, and they’ve never been in Hoseok’s bedroom before, on a bed. Maybe it’s an amalgamation of all of those things coupled with the fact that they’re both in thin flimsy clothing that doesn’t leave much to the imagination and also the fact that he hasn’t had sex in a few months, but Hoseok is feeling very turned on, ducking his face in small embarrassment.

“Uh. Wow. That’s…cool.”

“Mmm.” Taehyung shifts in Hoseok’s lap, Hoseok feeling his erection slip between the cleft of Taehyung’s ass. He pauses, humming again, thoughtful. “You’re hard,” he appraises bluntly. Hoseok immediately turns red.

“S-Sorry—” he tries to get Taehyung off of him, but Taehyung remains still, shaking his head.

“It’s okay,” he says, and rocks his hips more, making Hoseok’s eyes roll. “I like it.”

“Wow. Okay. Cool.” Hoseok stupidly sits there, letting Taehyung slowly grind himself on his lap and work his cock up to a point where it’s starting to get painful straining against these thin white pants. Taehyung lets slow whispers of his breath ghost against Hoseok’s neck where he has his face tucked against Hoseok’s pulse point, sounding just as aroused as Hoseok feels. He’s getting wet against his underwear, sweaty between his still clothed thighs as the mattress quietly squeaks beneath them with Taehyung’s movements. It feels good, it feels so good.

“T-Taehyungie—”

“Hmm?” Taehyung kisses at Hoseok’s earlobe, taking it between his teeth to bite it lightly. Hoseok fists the bedsheets, trying not to come undone so soon, remembering his intentions for trying to speak up instead of letting his body flop back and give into the pleasure.. 

“J-Just, um, I don’t — I — this thing,” he waves his hands in the vicinity of Taehyung’s gyrating hips, hands twitching to grip them, work Taehyung over him in a rhythm that feels good for them both the way he wants to, but shoves his hands back down when the urge gets a little bit too strong for him to attempt to resist it. “I wanna do this right. Like, like dates and — I like you, okay. I don’t o - oh fuck a-ah — fuck, hold on —” He grabs Taehyung by the shoulders to stop him, hands trembling. Fuck, he’s already thinks he’s about to cum and he didn’t even get his pants off yet. Get a grip, Jung Hoseok.

He looks Taehyung in the eyes, the small hint of a flush on Taehyung’s cheeks and the hazy look in his eyes. “I don’t want this to be just a quick fuck and then that’s it. Not even a friends with benefits thing. I - I had that kind of life and I don’t want that now. I just want…I don’t know, stability? A - A network of like…people to surround myself with, you know? Friends to do ‘friend shit’ and a boyfriend to do…boyfriend shit.”

“…Boyfriend shit,” Taehyung bluntly repeats. Hoseok nods. 

“I mean that, but nicer, obviously.” Hoseok swallows. “So, I’m just laying this out there that I want a good thing going between us. If you’re, interested or whatever, then that’s…”

“Cool?”

Hoseok laughs. “Yeah, yeah, it would be cool.”

Taehyung smiles. “You’re a good person, hyung.”

“I mean, I try,” Hoseok says, shrugging with a laugh. Taehyung lets his fingers gently tangle in Hoseok’s hair.

“Does that mean you want me to stop?” he asks, head tilting to the side, eyes too innocent for what he was just doing. Hoseok looks down at their laps, Taehyung equally hard and wanting, though not as messy as Hoseok looks with his dick too eager to get out of his pants and into a mouth or a fist or something.

“I-I mean, we can…finish each other off. Just - just let me get out of my pants—”

“I kinda want to see what face you make when you come,” Taehyung muses, starting his hips again. Hoseok’s hands fly up to hold him, Taehyung leaning his weight into Hoseok to send him toppling over onto his back with Taehyung on top, still grinding slow and heavy. Hoseok’s eyes are rolling back, a moan slipping from his throat as Taehyung’s fingertips play along the brim of his pants. He raises his hips up to pull Hoseok’s pants down and free Hoseok’s cock just enough for him to get a hand wrapped around it, doing the same with his own pants and his own pulsing member. 

Taehyung’s hand gets slick quick as he gives Hoseok’s dick a few tugs. “You’re so wet, hyung,” he murmurs, teasing tone and a teasing smile viewed through Hoseok’s fluttering eyelashes.

“Don’t make fun of your hyung,” Hoseok is able to chide, before he hisses a gasp when Taehyung squeezes his dick at the base of it, cheeks red from the hiss of giggles coming between Taehyung’s teeth.

“Not making fun of you,” he muses, getting a good grip around them both to stroke them off in sync. He pulls his bottom lip in between his teeth, eyes flickering from the wet slide of their cocks in his grasp to Hoseok’s reddened face. “Just observing.”

Taehyung’s grip loosens up on the upstroke, tightens on the way down. Hoseok does some observation of his own. He sees how controlled Taehyung is, like he’s meticulously thinking each movement and jerk of his hips, conscious of where their limbs and their bodies exist in the reality of Hoseok’s bed. It’s a bit strange; Taehyung always came across to Hoseok as a bit of a wild spirit, partially what attracted Hoseok to Taehyung in the first place. He seemed like he would be the opposite of restrained, be more loose and free especially when it came to sex. 

Hoseok lightly pushes Taehyung’s hand away, getting a hand wrapped around them both, grip not too loose. 

“Fuck it,” he says, eyes watching Taehyung, who almost seems surprised. Biting his bottom lip, Taehyung braces his hands on both sides of Hoseok’s head, resuming the pace of rutting his hips, the slide against Hoseok’s cock in his grip a whole new type of pleasurable. 

Taehyung doesn’t work up a consistent groove. He starts and stops, sputters and goes too fast like he’s about to cum before Hoseok, before reeling back in and starting all over again with slow rolls of the hip and awkward thrusts. ‘Hyung’ hangs off of Taehyung’s lips, just a whimper of a sound as he rolls his body, sighing it when Hoseok rubs his thumb against Taehyung’s slit when he fucks upward into his hold, the noise wet and loud. 

“Wanna see you come,” Hoseok urges, breathless, sure he’s about to cum before Taehyung is. But he’s close, he’s so fucking close. Usually at this point, there would be a slew of noises, mental and physical, that would assault Hoseok’s mind as his own high begins to climb. The mental noise of arousal, like crackling fire in the hearth of a fireplace mixing in with noise of how good it feels, or how lackluster the sex was, or even a mantra of trying to stave the orgasm, ‘not yet, not yet’. Hoseok got used to it, used to the mental noise and trying not to be disappointed if he heard a thought that was less than favorable being dissonant with what he sees, reddened lips falling into ‘ohs’ of ecstasy while the mind begs for it to be over.

Taehyung’s mind is as silent as it always is, and his whimpers are loud, a bit held back like he’s trying not to indulge too much in his own pleasure, but losing the battle with each passing second, drawing closer and closer to the edge. It’s sexy, just hearing these sounds without the mental noise overwhelming the senses. Hoseok’s free hand rests itself on Taehyung’s hip, feeling the way he trembles as he helps rock the younger man forward, edging him closer, closer.

“That’s it. You’re almost there, baby,” Hoseok whispers, eyes darting back and forth between watching Taehyung’s cock — red, wet and leaking —  and the redness of Taehyung’s face, not wanting to miss a second. Taehyung’s hips keep rolling in a sloppy rhythm, keeps breathing hard as his fingers curl into fists, keeps moaning and sighing ‘hyung’ until his body seizes up over Hoseok. 

With a stuttered cry that sounds like it comes from Taehyung’s stomach, he suddenly spills over Hoseok’s fist, some managing to get on the stomach and stain the white material. He trembles with the orgasm, kicks his feet up and curls his toes as he whines. Hoseok is only able to manage two quick pumps of both their cocks before he’s coming just as hard, messing up his clothes even more.

“H-Hyung,” Taehyung gasps, clumsily rolling off of Hoseok to lie on his side, burying his cheek into the pillow momentarily as he catches his breath. Hoseok is doing the same, wiping his hand on the bedsheets, making a mental note to wash when he comes back from the retreat.

“Oh shit,” Hoseok says with alarm. “Wait, we needed to get going, didn’t we?” He tries to sit up, but Taehyung rests a hand on his chest, coaxing him back down to cuddle.

“No. We can go later,” he murmurs, tracing his fingertips up and down Hoseok’s sternum. “Wanna have you like this for a while.”

“Oh.” Hoseok blinks, settling back against the bed, dick still out and cum drying on his shirt. He gets an arm beneath Taehyung’s head, pulling the younger male closer to him so Taehyung can kiss along his neck. “…Was it good for you?”

“Mmm-hmm.” Taehyung kisses at Hoseok’s adam’s apple. “Like being the one that comes first…liked the attention…was it good for you, hyung?”

“Yeah. Hell yeah.”

Taehyung laughs against Hoseok’s jaw, eliciting some chuckles from Hoseok as well. They lie there, Taehyung softly kissing along his chin and his neck, never straying upwards to kiss Hoseok where he wants it, but Hoseok doesn’t dare to ask for it either.

“…I think you can do great things, hyung. I mean it,” Taehyung murmurs.

Hoseok only smiles, before he closes his eyes and lets himself melt against Taehyung and the warm sheets beneath.

 


 

“I’m sorry, Beomgyu-yah, but that’s all I can remember from the case,” Jinsoo answers with a tired sigh, arms folded over the surface of the diner table the two men are sitting at. It’s an off day fo Beomgyu, though he and Yoongi have been having more off days than he would prefer. Cases aren’t coming in like they used to, and with the sudden imposing presence of Cherry and her assistant/bodyguard/dumb muscle lingering around the precinct, everyone is scrambling around trying to put together a working system without feeling like the Federate is going to jump on their cases for not doing their work properly.

Jinsoo takes a sip of his coffee. “Things certainly took a turn for the worst over there, huh?”

“Do you think maybe if we sent your case to the district office, they’ll reconsider your retirement?”

The older man gives a disapproving shake of his head. “Something like this is too big of a mistake to overlook, Beomgyu-yah.”

“But it wasn’t your fault. A command from a Voice ability is nearly impossible to disobey. You shouldn’t be punished for it!”

“But the order came from the Federate. And unfortunately, whatever the Federate orders, we as the Metro Units need to comply.” Jinsoo smiles, wrinkles pulling at the corners of his eyes. “It’s alright, Beomgyu-yah. I’m getting old and now that my partner is gone, we probably should leave these cases to someone that is more younger and more eager to work on making this city a safer place. Been wanting to spend time with my grandkids anyways.”

“Have you…have you spoken to Taehyun recently?”

“No, I’m afraid not…I’m getting worried about him.” Jinsoo steeps his hands, deep in thought. “He always seemed so passionate about the work he did. Quiet and reserved, yes. Professional and detail-oriented, but I never would have thought he’d abandon this position and all the promise he still had to continue moving up in the ranks over a boy. He…he’s just not the type to do that sort of thing.”

“You don’t know anything else about the guy? Do you think we…we can maybe run a CID on him?”

Jinsoo wrinkles his nose at the thought. “I’m worried about Taehyun, but I don’t want to pry my nose in his personal affairs to that extent.” He nods his head, tapping his fingers against the surface of the table. “But, I did do some…research.”

Beomgyu leans in, intrigued. 

“There’s this lot of them, dressed the same way and espousing the same ideology, going around to a lot of these areas where there are homeless youth, recovering addicts, neighborhoods where sex operations occur, et cetera. Basically, wherever there is someone that is weak, lost, and looking for an escape, someone in white is always there.”

“Are you…are you saying they’re some kind of cult?” Beomgyu asks, teetering on the edge of a nervous panic. There has been a slow down of cults rising to power, most notably after the Nahae-gu Incident is when a few notorious cults engaged in exploring and worshiping the powers blessed to individuals from the Explosion were dissolved. Some small groups remained, harmless and ultimately unable to do much with the strict regulations of Enhanced individuals gathering in public places. 

Anti-Enhanced groups became the new norm; the Church of Humanity is now the most prominent group in the political atmosphere that is well in support of the de-Enhancing initiative, retaining humanity’s bloodline and power for future generations, and ‘saving’ those inflicted with the evils of having powers, of being different. Beomgyu hasn’t even heard much about a possible Enhanced cult that apparently is gaining traction like this one. If so many people are involved with it, recruiting more, then wouldn’t the Federate have stepped in to do something about it by now?

Jinsoo shakes his head. “I’m not sure. For one, they don’t advertise people joining. From what I gathered through the forums and searches, you have to be approached by a current member, and even that one encounter might not get you a ticket inside.”

“So…a picky cult?”

“Well, they don’t want someone too broken, because that’s more time invested in fixing them up and not the recruit giving them whatever they want be it money or labor or what have you. But despite that, they’re still more selective in who they want to join than the average cult recruiter, almost like they’re targeting specific people, though I don’t know what the common trait is. If they find someone they like, they keep conveniently meeting up, never pulling the person completely out of their normal lifestyle, but certainly having a hold on them.”

“…But that wasn’t like that with Taehyun at all.” Beomgyu furrows his eyebrows. “It was only a week before he just disappeared.”

Jinsoo’s lips pull into a thin line. “That’s what makes me worried about him…there’s not much information about this group, however. Nothing about any leaders, nothing about meeting places, not a set list written about doctrine or beliefs or what even happens to the people that get swept up in it. Hell, I can’t even say for sure that this is purely an Enhanced cult. Would make sense if it was some type of mixture of Enhanced and non-Enhanced people so the Federate wouldn’t be able to intrude on it.”

“There’s nothing at all?

“Just a name, but it’s unconfirmed. Apparently there’s a couple floating around,” Jinsoo mutters. “They call it — the group or maybe the meeting place or something — ‘Eden’.”

“Eden,” Beomgyu repeats, letting the name sit on his tongue, not quite liking the feeling of it in his mouth or what the current situation entails for Taehyun. They both sit there in quiet, letting the quite sounds of the diner cocoon them in the tension — the clinking of silverware against plates and idle innocent chatter.

“Beomgyu-yah,” Jinsoo speaks, rising up to his feet as he fishes some money from his wallet. “I’m going to keep looking into this, but I want you to be safe. They’re going after young people, and if you’re sticking your nose into this, you might put yourself in danger.”

“He’s my friend too, Jinsoo-ssi. I have to do something—”

“I’m saying to just be smart with it. They’re still too unknown, we don’t know what kind of people we’re dealing with. Maybe they’re innocent. Maybe they’re dangerous. But we can’t go rushing in until we have all the answers, okay?”

Beomgyu bites his lower lip, not liking the rationality, but not able to deny what Jinsoo is saying is right. He nods solemnly, Jinsoo nodding his head as well. “…By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask you.” He lowers his posture, sliding the money to the center of the table. “Do you know that young man over in the back booth? He’s been watching us ever since he came in.”

Tension settles over Beomgyu’s shoulders again. He knows that Cherry’s whatever has been following him around recently. Not too closely, but sometimes Beomgyu would catch him out of the corner of his eye at the supermarket, or a few blocks behind him on the street. He’s taken to driving around his neighborhood a few times before returning to his apartment, but that doesn’t even stave off the fear that somehow, the man with the white hair still knows where he lives, could do something when Beomgyu is asleep.

Slowly, Beomgyu turns, heart tight in his chest. 

It isn’t the man with the white hair. It’s another man, young with chestnut hair, soft eyes and a picked clean plate in front of him. For some reason, he’s clutching a Magic 8 Ball in his left hand. And as Jinsoo said, he’s staring right at them.

“N-No, I don’t know him.”

Jinsoo frowns. “I’ll walk you out.”

Both men quietly exit the booth, Beomgyu walking close to Jinsoo’s side. He wants to look to see if the man is following, but the nerves keep his neck from craning back to sneak a peek. Both exit out the diner and onto the street to where Jinsoo’s car is parked and waiting. “Do you need a ride?” Jinsoo asks, to which Beomgyu shakes his head ‘no’.

“I’m parked further down. I need to run some errands before heading back home and seeing if Yoongi-hyung’s made any progress,” he says with a smile, gesturing behind him. 

“Well, take care of yourself. Be safe.” Jinsoo claps a warm hand on Beomgyu’s shoulder in his departure, before he climbs into his car and starts the engine, slowly pulling away from the curb to mix in with the morning traffic on the street. Beomgyu watches him depart, before turning to head in the direction of his own car. He only makes it a few steps down the sidewalk before suddenly, there’s a hand that grabs at his wrist, halting him in his steps. 

A noise jumps from Beomgyu’s stomach in fright, spinning wildly and almost losing his balance as he pulls away. Behind him, looking equally startled, is the man from the diner, clutching the Magic 8 Ball to his chest.

“W-What do you want?!” Beomgyu yells, drawing attention from people passing them by. The man shuffles towards Beomgyu, glancing around like he’s looking for someone.

“Can we talk in private?” he asks.

Beomgyu puts space between them. “Tell me who you are and what you want first.”

“My name is Choi Soobin,” the man — Soobin — answers, turning the Magic 8 Ball around in his hands as his eyes still nervously dart around. “And I think…I think my brother might have kidnapped your friend.”

 


 

“Mmm, my beautiful boy,” the client murmurs against Jeongguk’s ear, kissing the silver piercing as he pushes his cock deeper into Jeongguk’s heat. “Wish I could wake up to this everyday.”

The weight of the client on his back is heavy, warm, but not entirely suffocating as it sometimes may become. He’s a regular, an older man that used to create sound bites and do promotional runs for heroes not involved with Units, but now is retired, wealthy and looking to spend his time on something pleasurable. He’s heard of the Fantastic Five, he’s heard of Lucky Rabbit, but he’s never brought up the pasts where they might have crossed, didn’t question why Jeongguk is doing what he’s doing now and most importantly, never talked about Seokjin or Namjoon. It was just sex between them, slow and lazy with too many kisses and strokes of the older man’s calloused hands over Jeongguk’s body, almost tricking Jeongguk into thinking that this must be how it feels like to make love with someone that cherished him.

The morning light is streaming through the windows of the hotel room, casting a honeyed glow over their naked bodies against the tousled and soiled white bedsheets. Usually, Jeongguk would only stay for the night, disappearing before the sun rose. But this client in particular always paid Jeongguk well over his asking price, sometimes giving Jeongguk even more in hard cash just before he is about to leave so, Jeongguk feels obligated to give something in return, and this was all he was good at. 

“Spend the money on yourself,” the client always would say before pecking Jeongguk’s lips in a goodbye. “Buy something you really want.”

Jeongguk never did.

The client kisses at his ear and rolls his hips, tip of his cock grinding against Jeongguk’s prostate. He’s not the longest Jeongguk’s had, certainly not the thickest or the biggest, but he’s far more skilled in understanding Jeongguk’s body and all the little ways to make his toes curl, gets him keening into the mound of pillows he’s squeezing in his arms while the tip of his cock leaks an embarrassing amount as his hips rut against the bed. 

“No, no, baby. Let me hear you,” the client whispers, tilting Jeongguk’s head at an angle so the weakened shuddering of his gasps are heard nice and clear. “Yeah, that’s it. Sound so beautiful when your stuffed with my cock like this, baby.” He rolls his hips, bodies flushed and sticky with sweat, a bit gross yet strangely intimate. “Want to have you like this every morning, right up underneath me.” With a few more rolls of his hips, Jeongguk’s face finds the pillow again, sound muffled as he whines. The client gives a breathy chuckle at the sound, dipping his face back to kiss the hairs at the back of Jeongguk’s neck as he tilts Jeongguk’s head at an angle to hear him. “I’d have to make you my cute little husband for that kind of luxury though, huh?”

That gets a moan from Jeongguk, stomach tightening, chest wanting. 

There’s a small pause.

“…You like that?” the client asks in a whisper, sexual tone replaced with genuine curiosity as he momentarily stops his movement. “Being my husband? My darling spouse?” The back of Jeongguk’s neck is reddened in embarrassment, dropping his face back into the sheets. “Baby, it’s okay if you want to do this. Want me to keep going? Fuck you nice and slow like this till you cum, and then I make you something for breakfast?”

That gets another moan from Jeongguk, one that’s even louder, embarrassingly turned on. 

Since when was the thought of getting made breakfast after having an orgasm sexy to him? 

He’s wriggling his hips a bit, meeting the client’s slow rolls to try and chase the feeling down, but the client lies more of his weight on Jeongguk to keep him still, his breath hot against Jeongguk’s neck. “Baby, we have so much time. Why rush it? Don’t you want it as good as our wedding night?”

He punctuates the question with a sudden hard thrust that punches a scream from Jeongguk’s gut, eyes wide and cock twitching. “Oh, f-fuck — a-ah!” Jeongguk’s head lolls as the client starts up a brutal pace, grunting animalistic in Jeongguk’s ear as his balls slap up against Jeongguk’s ass. 

“Couldn’t wait to fuck you as my husband,” the client hungrily growls, but it doesn’t echo the same way in Jeongguk’s head, a bit higher in tone, younger. “Had to share you with everyone at the reception, but as soon as we got back to our room, had to make you mine.”

“Yours, I’m yours, hyung, hyung—” He tries to fuck himself back on a dick he imagines belonging to someone else, desperate for it, nearly sobbing for it as he already feels it in his gut that he’s going to cum. It’s not even the stretch of a cock in him, or the way that the client gets a hand beneath his chest where his heart is thumping wild to thumb along his nipples where they’re sensitive. It’s the words that spurn a fire in him, the praise of how lucky the client is to have Jeongguk as his husband, how happy he is that he gets to have Jeongguk til death do they part and Jeongguk can almost hear those words in Namjoon’s voice, can almost pretend the heavy weight on him is Namjoon fucking him deep and hard, claiming him as his, his, his.

The bed rocks violently and Jeongguk’s voice is pathetic and so so weak for it, a feverish mantra of ‘fuck me, fuck me’ drooling from his lips against the wet cotton of the pillow, mixing in with every whine and gasp. The client’s lips are up against his ear, whispering pet names as he lifts Jeongguk’s hips up so he can press against that raw bundle of nerves in Jeongguk that gets him twitching, keening, choking on his spit.

“So beautiful, baby. So glad you’re my husband. Make me wanna marry you all over again.”

It’s not ‘whore’, not ‘slut’, not ‘Bunny’. ‘Husband’. Darling ‘husband’. Beautiful ‘husband’. Jeongguk wants it. He wants it so badly. 

“Joonie-hyung,” Jeongguk cries, barely comprehending the small stuttering of the client’s hips, “J-Joon—” The client pulls back and thrusts in deep, a curse falling from Jeongguk’s reddened lips that breaks into a sob when the client resumes his slow grinding, rough hands moving to spread Jeongguk’s cheeks open to look and see if Jeongguk is as red and raw, wet and sloppy around his dick as Jeongguk feels.

“Gonna be thinking about you all day when I’m at work, be itching to get back home to you so I can cook you dinner—”

Jeongguk cums without being touched, the sound jumping out of him surprised as he spasms and clenches around the cock inside of him, whimpering ‘Namjoon’ and ‘fuck’ in a weakened breath as his chest heaves and his cock spurts against his stomach and the bedsheets beneath him. The client carefully rolls them over onto their sides so Jeongguk isn’t lying in his own cum, slipping out to prop Jeongguk’s leg up so he can slide right back in to home. Jeongguk twitches from it, mind hazy and overstimulated. He moans from the client playing at his nipples again while he gives a few solid hard thrusts, lets the sound get swallowed up by some lazy kisses. 

“Where do you want your husband to come, baby?” he whispers against Jeongguk’s open mouth, running his tongue against Jeongguk’s bottom lip.

Jeongguk’s eyes are closed, still wrapped up in his fantasy. “Inside me. Want it inside—” The client kisses him quiet, slipping out of him to pull off the condom and get a hand around himself. He grunts into the kiss, fisting himself quick and rough before he cums with a jerk all over Jeongguk’s ass and the back of his thighs. Jeongguk moans at the warmth of it, how it drips wet over his flushed skin. In the back of his mind where the rationality barely clings, he is thankful. 

The client sighs, catching his breath but keeping Jeongguk close, kissing at his brow. 

“You’re too sweet for this life, baby,” he mumbles, and he sounds like he means it. 

The fantasy melts away, the cozy black and white bedroom gaining the hotel room colors. Namjoon shifts back into a man older than Jeongguk, with flushed cheeks and short cropped black hair, a bit out of shape with large and rough, but gentle hands that stroke his hip tenderly. The high fades and Jeongguk slowly tumbles back down, swallowing his tongue as he tries to think of an excuse.

The client speaks first. “Namjoon, hm?”

Jeongguk’s eyes widen. “I—I’m so sorry, I didn’t—”

“It’s okay, baby. I was fine doing it—”

“But I was pretending you were—” Jeongguk bites his bottom lip, too ashamed to verbally indulge in his wants. 

The client kisses at his pink sweating hair. “It’s okay, baby. It’s okay,” he says, kissing Jeongguk’s nose with a small smile. “Let me run us a bath.” He kisses Jeongguk on the lips before getting out of bed and walking to the conjoined bathroom, while Jeongguk sits up in bed and lets the sweet ache wash off of him as he returns back to his normalcy. 

I can help you get what you want.

I can help you keep him .

Jeongguk closes his eyes to that voice, but the want doesn’t leave. 

He wants Namjoon so badly he thinks he’s going to go insane, to the point where he feels like he might die if he goes another second longer living like this. He doesn’t want to feel like this. He hates to feel like this, so desperate and needy for someone that doesn’t want him. 

He wants Namjoon, but he doesn’t want Namjoon as the center of his world. He wants to love Namjoon, but he doesn’t want to love Namjoon to this desperate breaking point he’s somehow pushed himself to, where everything is spinning too fast and too out of control that every nerve of his body burns and screams for Namjoon to just love him.

He wants to live a life with Namjoon. And if not that, he wants to at least know he won’t die in a life without him.

 

 

 

 

 

Jeongguk takes a soothing bubble bath with the client, gets toweled off by him and kissed while he dressed himself. “Is this gonna be the last time I see you, then?” he asks Jeongguk as he buttons up his dress shirt. Jeongguk is in the middle of lacing up his boots, pausing.

“I…I don’t know…”

“Sounds like you found someone you want that makes you happy.” The client smiles warmly as he buttons his cufflinks. “I’d suggest going after them. Before you become a sad old man like me that has to buy love.”

Jeongguk averts his eyes from the client’s face, cheeks warm.

He gets the extra cash slipped into his palm, the usual request for it to be spent on something Jeongguk wants accompanying the kiss goodbye. “Take care of yourself, baby,” he says against Jeongguk’s lips. Jeongguk nods, awkwardly hugging the man goodbye. 

In the afternoon sunlight, Jeongguk looks put together. He’s got missed calls from Moonsoo, but he doesn’t immediately call back. 

He wants to change. He wants to get better. He doesn’t want to feel this way anymore.

He wants to be happy again.

 

 

 

 

 

Moonsoo is sitting in front of the television when Jeongguk comes into the apartment, not turning away even as Jeongguk gets settled and undoes the laces of his boots. “Moonie?” he calls out, standing to his feet and approaching the man from behind. “Moonie, what do you want to eat for—”

When Moonsoo turns to look over his shoulder, Jeongguk gets a clear view of three things. The first is the television screen, frozen on a static news image of the destruction of the glass sculpture downtown, where Jeongguk and Namjoon are visibly running away from the slight wreckage, his pink hair a complete eyesore in the dark. The second is the sprawled out money on the dirty coffee table from Lee, along with the money tips Jeongguk had gotten from his client that was stored deeper in the closet in an old cookie tin Seokjin gifted him for Christmas while still at the manor.

And the third thing, the thing that Jeongguk finds the most alarming, is the look on Moonsoo’s face. It’s…not hatred, but it’s anger. It’s frustration and betrayal and something Jeongguk has never seen come across the man’s face before.

It’s absolutely terrifying.

“What the fuck is this?” Moonsoo asks when all Jeongguk can do is stare with his mouth slightly agape. “Where did you get this money? Who gave it to you? And who were you with that night because that doesn’t look like you were running off with your fucking brother—”

“Moonsoo, I-I can explain—”

“There’s almost seven million won here. Who gave it to you?”

“A client. Clients. It was just extra money—”

“And you didn’t think to tell me about you taking money on the side?” Moonsoo stands to his feet, and his lumbering height makes Jeongguk nervous. It never made him feel this way before, but his heart is beating fast, beating scared. “How long have you been saving this? What for?

“I-I don’t know—”

“You don’t know? You don’t just hoard fucking seven million won without having a reason. So what is it?

“Moonie—”

“Don’t call me that. You think you can call me that and it’ll make me stop feeling what I’m feeling and just be fine with the bullshit you’re throwing at me. I’m fucking sick of it—”

“It’s just money. I-I wasn’t trying to hide it from you. We can share it—”

This isn’t about the money!” Moonsoo yells, and Jeongguk flinches at the sound, eyes wide as Moonsoo runs shaky hands through his long black hair. “This is about you. This is about you keeping secrets from me and all of this shit happening because of you and you refusing to tell me anything that’s going on!” He points a finger at the television. “Who is he?”

“He’s no one—”

“Stop saying that these guys are ‘no one’. Who is he?!

“Don’t yell at me,” Jeongguk croaks, jaw trembling. Moonsoo hisses a frustrated breath between his teeth, rubbing his palms over his face.

“Do you have any consideration about how I feel?” he asks, eyes tired but not losing that angry edge. “Do you know how it feels to do so much for you, to want to take care of you and help you and you don’t even reciprocate my feelings for you—”

“Don’t you dare put this back on me.” The fear is still there in Jeongguk’s voice, but the anger and frustration is starting to rise in his throat. “I have said for so long that I didn’t want to do this, but I was trying to help you. I’ve always thought about how to help you because I didn’t want to see you die strung out from an overdose or go crazy like Prism did cause I thought you were a good person.”

“And who helped you out of that situation? Who helped you get a place to stay, decent food and a bed to sleep in? Who held you when you were crying  — who washed all that blood off of you—

Stop bringing that up—

You killed hyung and that guy—”

“No I didn’t—”

“Yes you fucking did. And I’ve always been by your side in spite of all of it. Not your brother, not any of these random fucks that keep popping up that you shouldn’t care about more than me.

I do care about you!” Jeongguk screams, suddenly a lot closer to Moonsoo than he remembers, body shaking with anger he’s never felt before. It’s like he’s burning with it, like something is stoking a flame within him that has his chest feeling too tight, his teeth grinding too hard and his fists clenched so much that it’s starting to hurt to resist the urge to pull back and let them go swinging. He’s taking advantage of you, a voice whispers at the back of his mind, and Jeongguk doesn’t want to listen to it, but at the same time, wholeheartedly begins to agree with it. 

“All the times my brother begged me to not go back to you, all the times I’ve had to deal with the thought that I’ve disappointed him time and time again because he knows I deserve better than this, crawling into some sleazy bed to get fucked by a bunch of creeps just to earn money for you to be okay,” Jeongguk’s voice snaps, wet and hot, chest heaving.

He never even asked you how you felt.

“You’ve never asked how I felt. Never took my feelings into ‘consideration’—”

“I’ve asked you what’s wrong. I’ve asked you to tell me and talk to me and you always push me away.” Moonsoo throws his hands up into the air. “Fuck, I’ve done so much more and I’ve cared about you for so much longer than any of them—”

“My brother cares about me.”

He’s always cared about you.

“He’s always cared about me.”

“So what, are you going to leave me then? Is that what this money is for? You’re gonna leave me after everything I’ve done for you?!

“I’ve been degraded by strangers and treated like a cheap whore. I’ve pushed away people that only want what’s best for me, who actually want me to be happy—”

“I do want you to be happy! I want to make you happy! I know I can make you happy if you’d just fucking talk to me!

“Talk about what?! My past with these guys doesn’t concern you! It will never concern you! I don’t need to know every detail of your life before we met and you don’t need to know mine.”

“I deserve to know.”

He doesn’t deserve anything from you after all he’s already taken.

“You don’t deserve anything from me,” Jeongguk repeats. “You’ve taken my virginity, you’ve taken advantage of me, you’ve taken three years of my life, you’ve taken me away from my friends — wha - what more do you want from me?!

I want you to say you love me back! I’ve done everything for you and I want it to be worth it. I want to hear you say you love me back!

WELL I DON’T!

There it is, the breaking point.

Moonsoo’s face falls from the anger into cold shock, but Jeongguk is still hot and angry, tears burning at his eyes and streaming down his reddened cheeks. His lips are burning, tips of his ears and the back of his neck hot as well. He’s waiting for the regret to kick in, the desperation to take it all back and just run before he can let this feeling of anger spurn him on even further. But, his feet are locked tight, his joints stiff and heart racing. 

It’s quiet.

It’s too quiet.

“…That’s not true,” Moonsoo says, voice quieter than his previous yelling.

It is true.

“It is true,” Jeongguk says, wiping at his eyes with the sleeve of his shirt. “I don’t love you. I’ve never loved you like that.”

Bullshit,” Moonsoo swears, shaking his head. “No, this is bullshit—”

“Moonie, I-I’m sorry—”

“I got clean for you. I turned my back on my best friend for you. I’d kill for you, I’d do anything for you because you’re the only person I want that makes me feel something and this is how you—”

“I don’t want that power over you,” Jeongguk chokes out, shaking his head. “I-I don’t want that for you, for neither of us…I don’t want the money, but I think I should go—”

Moonsoo suddenly makes a grab for Jeongguk’s wrist. “You’re not leaving me,” he says, holding tighter when Jeongguk tries to pull his wrist free. “Do you think those guys will love you after everything you’ve done? After you’ve killed people? After you’ve been passed around and fucked like a dirty slut by random strangers for money? Do you think they’ll want you?”

“Don’t say that. Don’t say that—”

I’m the only person that’s ever going to love you. I’m the only person that’s ever going to want you for you, Bunny. That’s - that’s why we’re perfect for each other. That’s why we’re supposed to be together. We’re a team. We’re meant for each other.” With his other hand, he cups Jeongguk’s face. “You love me and want to be with me, but you’re brother and these guys are just fucking with your head. You don’t need them, Bunny. You only need me.”

Jeongguk tries to pull away. “Moonie, stop it—

“You’re mine. You’re mine and I’m yours. That’s how it’s always been. That’s how it should be.”

“I don’t love you—”

“Stop saying that—”

“I don’t love you—”

“You keep running back to me. You can’t leave me. You do love me—”

You have to be a little harsh with the ones you love, darling.

“I only came back to you because I felt sorry for you.” The moment the words leave Jeongguk’s tongue, his eyes widened, surprised with himself. Moonsoo’s grip on him loosens in equal amounts of shock, enough for Jeongguk to be able to pull away. 

“That’s not true—”

It isn’t. But the words are spilling from Jeongguk’s mouth without any restraint and sense of how the situation is escalating. 

“You’re pathetic,” Jeongguk spits with venom he didn’t know he had. “All I see whenever I look at you is pity. I stuck around because I was comfortable here, because I thought there wasn’t anything better than here. But now I know that you’re just a manipulative asshole that just wants me around for an easy fuck and money. I’m done with you.”

Why is he saying these things? Why is he thinking these thoughts and feeling this heat inside of him? He wants this to stop. He just wants this all to stop.

Moonsoo’s jaw is twitching, lips pursing tight. “That’s not true. You don’t feel that way—”

“I’m not in love with you, Moonsoo!

I told you to stop saying that

Then I’ll scream it if it will get through your thick head! I’M NOT IN LOVE WITH—”

SLAP!

The sting of Jeongguk’s cheek dissipates all the fire he felt within him, all the anger washing off of him as he remembers how to breathe in the silence. 

Tears start falling down his face, but the sob doesn’t come from his twisting lips. He looks through his wet eyelashes at Moonsoo, and it’s like all of his anger left in the moment as well, regret and mortification written all over his stunned mouth and dark eyes.

There’s a trembling to Jeongguk’s knees where he holds his stance - feet apart, shoulders back, chin out. 

He’s scared.

“…Bunny,” Moonsoo’s voice is a pathetic croak, hands shaking to reach out and try and pull Jeongguk in a hug. “Bunny, I-I didn’t mean to do that—”

Jeongguk flinches back before the man could touch him, tears still falling as he runs to the bedroom. “Bunny, wait! Bunny, please, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I don’t want to hurt you!

Throwing open the bedside drawer, Jeongguk grabs his golden key necklace to place around his neck. The heart pops open in his hurried rush as he dodges Moonsoo’s arms attempting to hold him still and pull him back, shutting his voice out and ignoring the apologies, the begging, the pleading for him to not go.

“Bunny,” Moonsoo continues anyways as Jeongguk disregards the money on the table and heads for his shoes. “Bunny, please don’t go. I — I’ll die if you’re not here. I won’t know what to do with myself—” Jeongguk gets to his feet, boots barely on as closing his eyes and tries to get the door open. Behind him, Moonsoo immediately tries to force it back shut, one arm getting around Jeongguk’s slim waist while the other holds the door closed above him. “Bunny, please

“Let go of me!

“Bunny, I love you. I love you—”

Jeongguk looks at the door hinges that begin to rattle the more they struggle against it. He feels something burning in his forehead as he focuses on it and Moonsoo’s pleading echoes around him. Let me out, let me out, let me out, let me out!

The hinges pop off with a sudden invisible force and the door breaks down and falls into the hallway, Jeongguk nearly stumbling as he shoves Moonsoo back and breaks out into a run. Moonsoo chases after him, screaming ‘Bunny! Bunny!’ as Jeongguk takes three steps at a time. 

“What the hell is going on?!” the landlord shouts out from the bottom of the stairs as he comes out of his office and as Jeongguk runs out through the front door. “Hey! Hey!” he hears the man shout, but it grows distant the further Jeongguk’s feet take him down the street, Moonsoo’s yelling also fading with the distance put between them. 

He doesn’t stop running, though. He continues to run, turn left and right and go in all angles to keep the distance growing. He doesn’t stop when his legs are sore and burning in his thighs. He doesn’t stop when he feels like he’s about to break down into pained sobs that took too long to bubble up from his chest, well overdue. He runs and he runs and he runs until his nose is snotty and he’s coughing up spit into a bushel of plants in a small park, not entirely sure of his surroundings so not entirely feeling safe. Falling to his knees, Jeongguk brings his hands to his face and screams into them, shoulders heaving as he breathes and cries and falls messily apart. 

When he pulls his wet hands back, he notices at his knees his cell phone had fallen out of his pocket and onto the grass. Beside it, somehow, is the card Lee gave him.

I can help you get what you want.

I can help you keep him .

Jeongguk wants Namjoon. He wants someone, anyone to hold him right now and convince him that he’s not dying, that his body isn’t being physically ripped apart like how it feels in this painful moment. He needs help. He needs guidance. He wants Namjoon. He wants Namjoon.

His hand picks up the cellphone, eyes trained on the card as he dials the number, bringing the phone to his cheek. He pulls back when the glass touches his skin, still tender and sore from Moonsoo hitting him.

And he pauses.

He wants Namjoon, but he doesn’t want to become like Moonsoo. He wants Namjoon, but he doesn’t want to delude himself into thinking that whatever Lee rambled to him, no matter how good it sounded, could somehow make Namjoon his. No matter if it hurts to admit that Namjoon may never love him or feel the same way Jeongguk feels for him, no matter if he may never see Namjoon again, he…he loves Namjoon too much to force it. He loves his hyung too much to want force him to stay with Jeongguk if he doesn’t want him to.

He’ll have his fantasies of him. He’ll have his dreams and his memories. That’s the only way he’ll have Namjoon for himself. He can’t let Namjoon have that power over him. He can’t become like Moonsoo.

The phone rings and rings, but Jeongguk hangs up before he answers it. His chest is tight and his heart is still beating insanely fast. His cheek still stings and his eyes are still wet with tears, body still shaking with tremors as he almost loses his grip on his phone. 

After a long pause, he dials another number.

 


 

“Blonde is such a good look on you, Seokjinnie. You’re handsome with every hair color but blonde is so you!

Seokjin smiles at Jiyeon’s enthusiasm as the makeup artist finishes up his touch-up, taking away the extra shine. “We’ll call you out when the set is done, okay? Do you need me to get you anything to drink? Chocolate milk? Some water? It’s just a few questions and promotion of the new drama so nothing too strenuous and no nasty questions, okay?”

“Yeah, okay. I’m fine, Manager-nim." Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Seungjae looking at him. His tone must be off again, not enough pep and eagerness.

Jiyeon smiles, tenderly petting Seokjin’s hair, careful not to push a loose strand of his newly blonde hair out of place. “Who’s Number One?” she singsongs. Seokjin’s smile gets a little tight.

“Me.”

“I can’t hear you~”

“I’m Number One,” Seokjin repeats, not as strongly as he would like, but a little bit louder to convince Jiyeon of a feeling he doesn’t possess. She smiles warmly at him, rubbing his shoulder.

“...Have you been taking your medication, Seokjinnie? You don’t seem yourself lately…”

“I had some this morning.” He spit it out into a napkin when Seungjae wasn’t looking.

“That’s good. It’s just so you’re happy. We want you happy and healthy, you know that?” she says, true concern in her voice. She pats his shoulder, smiling. “Let me get you another dose to take, just in case, okay?”

Seokjin can’t argue with her on that, she wouldn't allow him to. Jiyeon would purchase the top Federate officiated medical treatments, therapies, doctors and medicines for Seokjin if any of them would make him feel happy, make him feel the way he used to before the Incident occurred. She disappears out of the dressing room with a smile and wave goodbye, leaving Seokjin and Seungjae alone.

“…Has the police found anything about Taeyong yet?” Seokjin asks quietly.

“No calls regarding it, Sir.”

“What about Jeongguk?”

Immediately, Seokjin’s phone begins to ring in Seungjae’s pocket, making both men jump. Seokjin gets to his feet, eyes wide and hands grabby as Seungjae sits up from where he was lounging on the couch to get the phone out. 

“Hello?” he answers for Seokjin, holding the phone away from Seokjin’s trembling hands to verify the call when Seokjin knows, he knows.

“Please, please let me talk to him. Please, please, please—” Seokjin pauses. It’s loud even before the phone gets passed over to him, the sound of someone crying uncontrollably, barely able to get a breath in as the sob escapes. “Jeongguk? Ggukie? Jeongguk!”

H-Hyung,” Jeongguk cries, breath stuttering in choked gasps, and Seokjin’s heart shatters. “Hyung, I’m sorry. I’m so s-sorry.”

“Where are you? Are you safe? What’s going on? What happened?”

“You were right. You were right about him. I’m sorry I didn’t listen. I’m sorry—

What did he do to you?

He just…we had a fight and he hit me—

Seokjin’s blood runs cold. “Are you still there?”

N-No. I-I’m at a park, I don’t know where—

“I’m sending Seungjae to find you, okay? I’m — we’re going — we’re coming to get you, okay?”

“Seokjin-ah, the show—” Seungjae warns, but Seokjin is already hurrying to grab his messenger bag, hands frazzled and in a panic as he struggles to get the strap around his shoulders without putting the phone down from his ear.

I’m sorry, hyung,” he hears Jeongguk apologize, the words sounding like they’re coming through clenched teeth. “I-I know I’m a burden. I know you’re tired of my bullshit and - and I know I’m a bad person—

“No, no. You’re not, Ggukie. You’re such a beautiful person and you’re smart and you’re kind—”

I’m sorry, I’m so s-sorry. I’m gonna get better. I promise I’ll get better and stop being a fuckup—

“You’re not, Ggukie.” There’s tears coming from Seokjin’s eyes. Jeongguk never was like this in the manor. He was always bright, always cheerful and eager to learn. Jeongguk was afraid of making mistakes in front of the old man or Namjoon, but he cherished learning from them, wanting to grow and become better despite the mistakes, something Seokjin always admired and adored.

Hearing Jeongguk talk this way hurts something deep down in Seokjin’s chest. And despite all the pain Kim Namjoon had caused Seokjin physically and mentally, after all the heartache he caused for Jeongguk, Seokjin has never felt so much hatred for Namjoon as he does right now in this very moment for Han Moonsoo. He’s trembling with it, up the ridges of his spine where it builds and grows tense in his shoulders. It’s kind of scary, if Seokjin is honest, but he’s more scared for Jeongguk’s wellbeing as he hears the young man struggling to breathe through his crying, too much emotion spilling out all at once.

“Just stay right there, okay Ggukie? I’m going to keep talking to you, okay? I’m not leaving you.”

O-okay.

“He’s not going to hurt you anymore. You’re going to be safe.”

Jeongguk sniffles, wheezes in another breath. “…I love you, okay?” Seokjin says pausing at the door, like it’s the last thing he needs to do before he hunts down Jiyeon and begs for the shoot to be rescheduled. “I love you so much, Ggukie and you’re a good person. You’re going to be fine. We’re going to be fine, okay?”

He hears Jeongguk take in a breath that he doesn’t choke on, still sniffling, but the crying has quieted for the time being.

“…I love—

Silence.

Seokjin pauses. “Ggukie? Jeongguk? Jeongguk?!

There’s some rustling on the other end, like somehow the phone was dropped in the grass and someone is dragging the device across the green blades and the dirt, until Seokjin is met with a quiet and calm ‘Hello?’. It’s a man, but it isn’t Jeongguk, voice too deep and smooth. It isn’t Moonsoo either. It isn’t anyone Seokjin recognizes.

“Who is this?” he immediately asks, shivering when he's answered with a chuckle that is deep and playful.

You can say that I’m an acquaintance of Jeongguk.

Who is this?”

You don’t need to worry about that, Seokjin-ssi,” the voice calmly reassures to Seokjin’s increasing panic. “He called me, so I’m here now to help him. I’m what he needs. I’m his answer.

“I swear if you don’t tell me who you are in the next second, I’ll have a Metro Unit come after you—”

Don’t make any hasty actions, Seokjin-ssi…we wouldn’t want something happening to your fallen angel, would we?

An image suddenly flashes into the forefront of Seokjin’s mind, pain hitting like a bullet between the eyes. It’s a brief picture, but it’s graphic and too detailed for it to be something Seokjin conjured up himself. There’s a dark interior with only one source of light coming from a lone swinging lightbulb above. 

In the glow of the bulb, there’s someone on the ground, naked and bloodied, bound with their hands behind their back, face swollen like they were beaten and mouth gagged. 

Seokjin sees those big grey eyes on the verge of passing out, bruised black and blue.

“T-Taeyong?

A hand grips Seokjin’s shoulder to bring him back to the interior of the dressing room, Seungjae worriedly at his side, but all Seokjin can see is Taeyong. All he can feel is fear. 

We understand each other, right?” the voice asks, soft. “We just want the best for the people we love. I want to see Jeonggukkie grow, and you want to see Taeyong-ah live another miserable day.”

“What do you want?” Seokjin asks, voice cracking. “Please, I’ll give you anything you want, just please don’t hurt them—

I just want to make the world a better place for us, Seokjin-ssi. One Blessed soul at a time.”

The call disconnects before Seokjin can utter a single word.