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What Lies Ahead: Fated

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“It’s starting. Are you going to watch?” 

“Give me a sec,” The bitter liquid burns his throat before settling in the pit of his stomach. The slight buzz in his veins cancels out the little remnants of sleepiness, and all of a sudden, the booming music, cacophony of chatters and clinks of glasses heighten. Liquor always boosts his energy. “We can never trust Sungjong, can we? Not that I'm saying I harbor trust in anyone, even in you.” 

Taeyong gets off of the stool, wiping the excess liquid on the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand as he heads to the chamber in the most hidden part of Red Phoenix. Behind him, Myungsoo quietly follows, black eyes glued on the back of the kingpin’s head. 

The room, which Taeyong calls as The Black Room, can only be accessed by the men he recruited for a painfully specific work, one that he used to dedicate his then mundane life to. Aside from Myungsoo, only Sungjong, Chanyeol and Yukhei know the passcode. They’re the only ones capable to do his old job without getting carried away. 

A muffled scream resonates when they enter. When his assistant locks the door, the sound of fun from the outside life disappears, replaced by huffs and pants and cries that would leave an unsuspecting man scarred for life.

All because Sungjong can’t stop cutting the restrained man’s bare arms. Red lines litter the nameless man’s skin, deep and moist, thick and the smell metallic. 

The torturer only stops at the sight of their boss. “Looks like we ain’t getting the money.” The blonde beauty speaks, haphazardly dropping the knife on the ground. It falls with a loud clatter, together with globs of red. “We should’ve just tracked the dad.” 

“And what fun would it bring you?” Blue eyes rake over the splotches of blood on Sungjong’s shirt. Taeyong’s nose scrunches. “I told you to wear black.” 

Yukhei grips the sides of the man’s head and forces the latter to look at Taeyong as the kingpin crouches in front, sizing up their captive. “Tell us where the coward is and we’ll let you go. See,” a finger traces a long gash, and Taeyong inwardly rejoices at the feel of tensing muscles and raising goose bumps. “It’ll be easier for you. Don’t you have a family to go back to, André?”

The man only trembles harder, eyes welling up. The pathetic sight forces a sigh out of Taeyong yet his face is still as visibly untouched by emotions and he straightens, patting down his suit. “Continue doing what you’re doing. Don’t kill him. Yukhei, make sure Sungjong remembers and wherever the fuck Chanyeol is, remind him to clean up when you’re done here.” 

He turns around, about to head out only to stop before the door when a thought pops into his mind. Taeyong’s head tilts a little to the side, eyes on the ceiling. “It’ll be harder for you to do your work when I come back. All those misplaced morals and shit.”

“What does that mean?” Myungsoo breathes behind him, the warm air hitting his shoulder and the side of his neck. Much too close. Taeyong holds the anger in. “You never cared.”

“Save the questions. You’ll see.” The kingpin throws one last look over his shoulder at the blonde before he leaves The Black Room, still being tailed by L. 

They take the back door. It’s nearing 3 A.M., and as much as he wants to stay and observe, he needs to get ready for the flight in three hours. 

Red Phoenix Casino shrinks inch by inch as the car maneuvers down the road. Taeyong grunts, loosening his collar. It’s been a hectic day. One of the people who loaned can’t be found anymore. It’s an amount they can retrieve in a blink of an eye, but these ungrateful pests shall learn their lesson, still. He almost feels bad for André, but then everyone that committed the same mistake in the past suffered in the hands of Lee Sungjong as well.

Equality. All shall shed blood until they’re on the brink of losing. Only for them to be given another chance. Because Jung Jaehyun won’t be too happy learning about Taeyong’s mishaps. 

“Drop by at the office quickly. I forgot something.” The car makes a sharp turn. Myungsoo glances at the kingpin for a second too long before his eyes return to the road ahead. “There’s a bottle on the desk. Take it with you.” 

“The perfume?” 

“THE perfume.”

“Just get a new one.”

A minute later, the HQ is right next to them. Taeyong looks at the man sitting on the passenger, and before the other could notice, his hand slips inside the pocket of his slacks, the twitching concealed. “Take the bottle and pack up. I’ll see you at the airport. If you don’t arrive on time I’ll fucking skin you alive.” 

“Damn it,” with stifled complaints, Myungsoo begrudgingly unbuckles and gets out of the car, quickly closing the door. He bends over to knock on the window once. “Drive safe?”

Annoying . Kim Myungsoo is so fucking annoying. Who does he think he is, telling Taeyong what to do? Safe? Hah. It ain’t Lee Taeyong if it’s safe. 

“Fuck off, L.” 

When the kingpin drives off and the car vanishes, Myungsoo remains where he stands. It’s always been like that since the day he officially worked for the second kingpin of Invictus. Always watching ‘til Taeyong’s gone, because every second of the other’s presence that lingers is a second longer of his own indulgence. 

He doesn’t know when it began. He just realized it’s there. Strange as it is, he’s definitely attracted. Maybe it’s that night when Taeyong found him, or when Taeyong uncharacteristically trusted him enough to give him an important position in the org. Regardless of the reason, it’s there and it’s hard to resist. He was warned; he remembers it like yesterday. 

But the more he’s around Lee Taeyong, the more he craves, the more he thinks he has a chance to take the latter for himself. What could Jung Jaehyun even do, when he’s miles and miles away, basically powerless, thanks to the distance and time gap? 

A little bit more, Myungsoo muses as he slaps a card on the scanner and jogs to the main office to fetch the bottle of perfume. It’s custom-made only for Lee Taeyong; there’s nothing else of it in the whole world. His eyes harden when he turns it around in his hand, and the name of his rival is etched, glaring back at him. You have him now, but the end can always change, can it? 

 

***

 

A little over two in the morning. 

The whole beach resort is closed upon reservation for the party. That’s utterly unnecessary and a splurge of money, Doyoung said when he first voiced out his plans but how would a group as huge and as illegal as Invictus be able to celebrate in public without the much needed privacy and security? Ironic, isn’t it? 

Money be damned. That hefty amount Jaehyun paid upfront is nothing but a bag of coins under his belt. They deserve some enjoyment without worries, don’t they? After all, they’re already swimming in different currencies, so why not allow themselves to actually feel the weight of their wealth? This is what they are aiming for - power, wealth and domination. It’s not like they struggle

Ah, Doyoung. In times a worry-wart.

It’s cold, thanks to the breeze. The flaps of his cardigan sways with the wind, following the messy twists and turns of his hair. Jaehyun takes a few more steps further to the shore, and when the icy water touches his soles, his mind automatically drifts to the image of a pair of azure eyes, prickly and freezing amidst burning concretes. 

Oh how much he misses the owner of those eyes. How much he misses looking into those once soulless circles, and staying there as they slowly come to life, miraculously reborn. 

It has been eight months. Eight months of being apart. The longest period he had with Taeyong was five days in a month. And that was already hard to set, seeing that the businesses have become more demanding. Flying is exhausting. France is not the only country he visits. Invictus deals with Asian countries, other European countries, and if the work calls for it, then as far as the States. 

He terribly misses Taeyong. Even though the other’s still insufferable at times. They don’t get along 24/7. But it’s what makes up their dynamics. Jaehyun won’t exchange it for any other. 

And in a few minutes, the older man will be in his reach once again. No oceans, no clouds in between. Just a few inches. Easy to cover, easy to burn. 

“Everyone’s sleeping. Why are you here?”

“I could ask you the same.” Jaehyun turns, smirking at Johnny. “What, wide awake from too much banging? Isn’t it supposed to make you doze off right after?”

“Shut it, Jaehyun. I had too much coffee.” The taller of the two scoffs, briefly glancing around the area which is currently illuminated by yellow bulbs and fairy lights. It’ll be flipped upside down tomorrow, turned into the wildest it’ll ever be. “I didn’t expect to see you here.” 

Another gust of wind drifts past them, and Jaehyun pulls his cardigan close. “Taeyong is arriving. In…” He pulls out his phone, glaring at the screen. “Ten minutes. He’ll be with Fort and company.”

“Company? How many are they?”

The kingpin shrugs as he keeps his phone. “Not sure. I told them to bring whoever they want.”

Silence stretches between them for a minute, and as Jaehyun begins walking along the shore, feet covered in sand, Johnny asks something that sets his skin ablaze despite the chilly air. 

“And who is Taeyong bringing with him?”

If rolling his eyes that hard was fatal, he would be face down the sand by now, lifeless. God. He despises that Venandi guy. He’s fully aware that his hatred may be groundless (keyword: may, because he’s not closing the doors for possibilities), but who could blame him? An enemy will always be an enemy. Their blood is tainted. Their mind is poisoned. Their intentions are gray. If only he could flick that Kim Myungsoo out of Invictus, but the roach is under Taeyong’s leadership. 

“I wish they were the new bartending girls in the casino but you know who it is. ”

A snort comes behind him. “Jaehyun, put a little trust in Taeyong. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there should be some fruit in those painfully long months of him in the asylum. He had been attending therapies as well despite quitting too soon. The old habits die hard. But I doubt cheating is on the list. The guy would walk past everybody except you. What makes you think he'd mess around with somebody that will never be up to par?” 

Johnny’s hand clamps over his shoulder, halting him. When he faces his advisor, first friend in Red Phoenix, Jaehyun elicits a sigh he didn’t know he was holding. 

Who knew he’d be this emotionally invested with the knife thrower? Life is nothing but a prank show. 

“You’ve been with him for quite some time now. I know I’m not an expert, but one thing I can tell you is you gotta communicate. Tell each other whatever’s bugging you both. I’m sure you can work it out just fine.”

Light flickers at them, and the sound of engines roar for seconds before they stop. Johnny glances past Jaehyun and nods, cocking his head to the direction of the motel. “Gotta head back to Ten before he wakes up and whips my ass.” 

Before Jaehyun can even register the lack of another presence as Johnny leaves, something glides down his arm and settles on the heel of his palm. 

Taeyong’s finger plays at that spot momentarily. Then their eyes meet and Jaehyun drowns in a pool of his own emotions like usual. 

“You’re still wearing a suit,” he comments on the obvious, hand smoothing down the other’s chest. “You went here straight from the airport?”

“Yeah. I believe you’re aware of that. You just have nothing to say to me.” Taeyong chooses to stand next to him then as Yunho comes into their line of sight, accompanied by none other than Garnet’s doctor and his assistant, Max. “It’s not only me who was eager to get here.”

“We don’t always get to have a nice vacation, Ethan. And it’s only gonna be for a day. Give me a break.” Yunho takes a luggage from Jaejoong, sending a smile that went unnoticed by the two younger kingpins. Max’s face doesn’t betray his thoughts as he stays a good distance away from the boss. “We’ll settle in now. We can chat tomorrow, Jaehyun?”

Jaehyun’s lip purses. “Yeah, sure. Cool seeing you here, doctor.” 

“Thanks for inviting me.” Jaejoong nods at the two before following Fort with the Garnet assistant in tow.

They disappear to the hotel, together with the few others that came with them just as the pest comes, struggling to carry luggage. Jaehyun almost laughs. 

Myungsoo glares at him, not even trying to be subtle as he drops one of the bags by Taeyong’s feet. “Don’t tell me you need me to bring this up to your room.”

“Why, are you going to deny me?”

Jaehyun’s fists clench at the casual exchange. He doesn’t remember his father or Lee Namgyu treating their assistants this way - too comfortable for a boss and a subordinate. 

The question obviously caught Myungsoo off guard. It reeks off of him, the smell of submission, that Jaehyun wants to drag him to the water and soak his head in for an hour. 

“That’s basically offering my head on a platter. I need the keys.” 

“No need. 302. Drop the bags at the door.” Taeyong’s tone leaves no room for questions, and with nothing much to do, his assistant throws one last scowl at the other kingpin before heading to the motel, mumbling Jesus knows what under his breath. 

“So I miㅡ”

“Why did you bring him and not Léonie?” Jaehyun interrupts, barely keeping the annoyance in. “You know I don’t vibe with him.”

A lollipop is swiftly popped in the blue-eyed man’s mouth, the candy pushing against the pocket of his cheek. Grape melts slowly, coating his taste buds. “Léonie is sick. Something about chest pains and shit I forgot. The doctor advised her to stay at home. Are you that heartless and vile to want me to put her through eleven hours of boredom? That is my mother you are trying to torture , Jaehyun.” The corner of his mouth curls up in mischief. 

“Still.” The younger answers. Jaehyun exhales heavily, choosing to walk away to clear his mind and to calm the rage in his heart. He’s not mad at Taeyong. He’s mad at himself for not telling the other not to bring Kim Myungsoo, of all people. “Just make sure he stays where he should be.”

“You’re so cute when you’re jealous.” Taeyong chuckles, biting down the candy. He twists the stick with his fingers, his other hand warm in the pocket of his slacks. “I say keep being jealous for nothing. It makes me want to wrap you up in my love.”

Jaehyun abruptly halts. The word pierces right through his being, shuts down his brain and makes him feel like the world stopped turning. 

He needs to make sure it’s real. 

“What did you say?” He’s looking at Taeyong again, coal black eyes shaky. His breath is shallow and it feels like his chest is about to burst in a million shards, hard to pick up, hard to put together. 

Nothing comes from Taeyong. His eyes are always lifeless, a blank slate. His face doesn’t give away anything either and it’s so damn infuriating. Jaehyun just wants to know. He desperately wants some slice of guarantee. Because that I think I love you was a spur of the moment, and realization came late to him that Taeyong thinks he loves him, not knows he does. And a psychopath is nothing but impulsive, thoughts changing as quick as the day goes. 

There’s a few feet between them, ten at most. A frown blooms on Jaehyun’s features when Taeyong begins to walk, agonizingly slow as the older’s hands pops open the buttons of his suit one by one. 

Soon, the jacket falls to the ground. But Taeyong doesn’t stop. He begins to undress, shredding off his dress shirt. The article joins the jacket on the sand, and that’s when Jaehyun’s mind goes into a haywire as he finally realizes what Taeyong is up to. 

Clearing his throat, the younger scans the area, and sees that no one else is out to witness the vulgarity they’re about to shamelessly do, except for the innocent waves of the sea. May God have mercy on them. 

Taeyong parades the glory of his tattoos, and he looks so fucking tantalizing at the moment with how the wind sifts through the strands of his hairㅡit's long enough, back to the length Jaehyun was obsessed with. He spits out the lollipop stick just as he unbuttons his pants, effectively stealing the breath out of Jaehyun’s lungs. 

“Really, Taeyong?” Jaehyun slightly panics. They’ve done it in the open before, but that’s at Taeyong’s veranda, in a private village. He’s unsure as to why he’s awfully bashful now when everyone is asleep, and even from miles away, no mermaid is about to develop some sick voyeurism for them. “Are you not tired from the flight? Are you not cold?”

“No and no,” is the answer he receives. “I guess you just need to do something about it. Tire me out, warm me up. ” 

The last piece of fabric leaves a trail behind Taeyong. He’s stark naked, bare as the day he was born. When he finally closes the offending gap between their heated bodies, Jaehyun’s heart is already at his throat, pulsing like it ran a marathon. And maybe it did. 

Like before, whenever they get intimate, he’s left without a choice but to give in, because no matter what his radical mind says, Taeyong will win over, alluring and irresistible. 

He wants to ask again. Was Taeyong serious? The caramel-haired kingpin mentioned the forbidden word he claimed to be fatally allergic to. Is he finally going to say it like he knows it’s what he feels, instead what he thinks he feels? 

Ha. Surely not tonight, not in this situation they’re in. 

Whatever, Jaehyun tells himself as he pulls the older closer, naked skin against clothed one. Without waiting for a go signal, as if there ever was, his lips find Taeyong’s, deep and eager and famished. Arms lock around his shoulders, and the other pair of lips attempt to catch up, but it’s been a while, far too long for them both since the last time they were like this. 

No, he’s not going to let the lack of privacy and potential audience keep him from making his lover feel everything he has been holding in. 

Jaehyun’s fingers dig into the skin of Taeyong’s waist as he grunts, the blood rushing south and making it obvious with the hardening of his cock. It presses against Taeyong’s, which isn’t as hard as his, not yet, and it irks him, makes him feel like he’s being inadequate with the kiss. 

Pumped with adrenaline and the need to make the other man crumble, Jaehyun cuts off the kiss only to remove his cardigan and lay it on the sand, dragging Taeyong down by the arm. 

The action pulls an amused laugh from the other but Taeyong settles down anyway, legs spread open shamelessly. Coal black eyes instantly zoom in to the prize in between those thighs he always thirsts for, and he wastes no time as he kneels where he should be, hurriedly unzipping his pants. 

“Holy,” he breathes out, cock stiff in his hands. The chilly wind bites through their flesh but it does nothing to the flames licking them from top to bottom. It’s cold but it’s hot , and the sight before him only heightens his crazed senses and further messes the thoughts in his head. “Rare times you wanna get under me.”

“Shut up.” Taeyong says, eyes blown. Brown strands of hair splay like halo on Jaehyun’s cardigan. Long, thin fingers itch to touch and grip and scratch and so they did, reaching for the younger’s arms so that the other’s body covers his own, concealing him from the eyes of the illuminating moon above. “Don’t worry about lube, I took care of it on the plane.”

Confusion halts Jaehyun for a second before his eyes dilate in realization and desire, immense and powerful, settles right back in him surging through every vein in his system. “Taey, you fucked yourself with your fingers?” Lips find their way back to the other pair, soft and thin and sweet, before a tongue delves into warm wetness. A string of saliva connects their tongues when they pull apart, the moment refilling their lungs with oxygen. “Were you planning this? Is this why you insisted coming at night? So we can fuck in the open like this? Hm?” 

While he talks dirty, something he doesn’t do a lot, he dips two fingers in breaching Taeyong’s tender pucker. And fucking hell, it’s loose and wet and hot, ready for his cock to fill it to the brim. 

Laughter rumbles in Taeyong’s chest despite the need to moan. “You’re getting better at this. Come on, dimple boy, put it in…” Elbows bracing him up, the older kingpin whispers into Jaehyun’s ear, low and teasing. “Unless you’re waiting for Myungsoo to come out and see us like this, then I’m willing to be on standby.” 

At the sound of the pest’s name, Jaehyun curses under his breath, pins Taeyong down with a palm to the tattooed chest and lines up his cock to the twitching hole before hissing as he thrusts home. 

And dammit , sweet Jesus, did he miss the sensation, the feeling of slipping into that incredible tight channel, the way those walls grip him, choking his dick, and the way those long legs wrap around him, locking him in their sinful embrace. He misses this, how he hovers on top of Taeyong, strong hips canting and snapping mercilessly as he drives Taeyong insane more than he already is, drives them both to the peak of pleasure. He misses this because he wasn’t always given the chance to have the other beneath him; it’s a luxury he has to work for. 

Jaehyun thrusts, once, twice, thrice, and a hell of a lot more, and watches Taeyong arch up to him, chest touching his, back bent in a dangerous angle. His arm scoops up the heated body, cradles it as he pushes up a leg and hikes it on his shoulder, the new position allowing him to pound deeper, touch Taeyong in places no one else can. 

“Aah, f-fuck, fuck,” Taeyong moans, loud and clear, uncaring of nothing. Not a single soul is out to watch, but the fact that they are not imprisoned in the four walls of a bedroom and there’s a fat chance that someone from Invictus, from the squad, from Garnet might see them like this, bodies thwacking deliciously, erotically, sets him ablaze, excites his whole being. He kind of wishes someone would be there, standing and taking them in, and probably getting off as well from the sounds of slapping, grunting and moaning and sighing. “Harder, Jaehyun. Fuck me like you mean it.” 

The effect of those words plant themselves in the younger, his ears buzzing, his skin on fire, his heart on a race. His hips snap harder, harsher, faster and all he hears at the moment is Taeyong’s salacious chants, hypnotizing. It’s magical, he thinks so, because the gust of wind and the waves of the sea are mute all of a sudden, adjusting so that only his favorite noises will be heard. 

When he changes his angle, Taeyong screams his name along with vulgar profanity, moans broken. His eyes are closed, hands grasping the grains of sand. Jaehyun hits that pleasure spot dead on, not allowing Taeyong a second to recover from the onslaught of thrusts. 

“Feels good?” His voice is hushed. Usually, he’s quiet and only resorts to hums and soft moans, but right now he wants to talk, God, he wants to talk so he will, and push his lover over the edge. “Y-you feel that, Taeyong? Feel my thick cock sliding in and out of you so fast, so deep? Feel how it drags along your walls, baby?” Jaehyun’s mouth latches on the side of Taeyong’s neck, just below the earlobe. Teeth bite down the skin, opting to leave marks as remembrance of their activity. “Bet you want me to fill you up with my cum, and I know you won’t be satisfied with it, because you’re a fucking cockslut, right? So fearless, so strong, but will always be ready for some fat cock like you do right now.” 

He accentuates the words with a thrust that Taeyong, ever the dominant in bed and in all aspects of their blurred relationship, is left gasping for air, scratching down Jaehyun’s arms and painfully tugging his black hair. “Fucking talk like that andㅡ shit, I'll gut you...” 

“Will you?” He doesn’t care if the sands are grazing the blue-eyed man's skin and leaving burns. Jaehyun hikes the other leg on his shoulder and rams his rigid length into the addicting heat. “Fucking take that…” 

A bullet of sweat slides down his temple. Eyes catching the bob of Taeyong’s cock, Jaehyun spits on his palm before gripping it and stroking it in sync to his thrusts. The glorious sight makes his stomach churn in all wonders. 

Sensing the incoming orgasm, he leans down again, almost folding Taeyong in half yet of course, the latter refuses to be handled to a position that steals all sense of dominance in him so he protests with a push against Jaehyun's chest, glaring amidst the lustful gaze. 

Slightly displeased yet still incredibly aroused, Jaehyun takes the older’s hand and makes it wrap around his neck, hissing out the knife thrower’s name when he feels the familiar grip on the sides of his throat, the perfect press to provoke his peak. “I’m gonna cum…”

“Give it, Jaehyun. Fucking give it to me.” Even now the older still has the say, the primary control. Taeyong’s hand tightens just a little more and his head spirals into oblivion when Jaehyun’s hips snap particularly harder and then drops of something warm are on his stomach as Jaehyun pulls out, redecorating his skin with white. 

The image of the younger gasping, lips trembling and muscles tensing topples Taeyong over the edge, his cock releasing a copious load. Some lands on his belly to mix with the younger's and a few even hit Jaehyun’s chin. 

Hm, he has a lot to lick off. 

A minute or two pass by before Jaehyun finds the energy to pull out, instantly missing the feel of Taeyong around him. He kneels between the long legs, hands caressing Taeyong’s inner thighs. “You good?” 

“Eurgh,” Taeyong takes in a sharp breath before letting out a huff as he pushes himself into a sitting position, trying to shake the sands that got into his hair. “More than okay.” He glances up, eyes still blown in lust before pulling Jaehyun in to kiss the other’s lips shortly, then swiping his fingers on the mess on the taller’s chin, licking it after. “Get my clothes.” 

Still slightly wobbly (and it’s humiliating to say the least since he’s the one who fucked, not the one who got fucked), he follows the order, quickly tucking himself in as he picks up Taeyong’s clothes. He returns soon, watching his lover fix himself and move as though he didn’t just have sex minutes ago. 

Ah, why is Taeyong still always energetic after sex? That fucking stamina.

Bothered yet also thrilled by the thought, Jaehyun takes his cardigan and dusts it off. After a wary scan around to see if someone had a free ride to their intimacy and seeing nothing but the beautiful rolls of waves on the shore, he leads the way to the motel with Taeyong walking perfectly fine, any signs of limp absent. And his hips hurt a little, what the hell. 

They find the luggage right by door of room 302. They’re the only ones occupying the floor, with the other Invictus members on the second and fourth, as well as the next building. The few Garnet members that came are staying in the motel right next to theirs. 

Taeyong wordlessly steps inside, dumping the luggage at the foot of the bed. Jaehyun sits on its edge after changing his clothes and waits while the other showers. He has half a mind to join and maybe help Taeyong scrub down his body and if he's lucky, talk his way into eating his lover out. The lewd image reddens his cheeks. 

When the door to the bathroom opens, Jaehyun is already beneath the blanket, one hand under his pillow as he clutches another on his chest. Sleepiness struck him hard. He would want another round but Taeyong already showered and he’s not an asshole to deny the other of a much needed rest. Besides, the leader of the Bordeaux HQ is going to stay in Korea for days, longer than Jaehyun ever stayed in France when he flies there. They have a lot of time to do whatever they want. 

“Go to sleep. I’m not going anywhere, dimple boy.” Taeyong rummages the luggage for a pair of loose pants and a shirt, swiftly putting it on before dropping himself in bed, back pressed against the headboard. His hair is still damp; he never really bothers with drying it properly. 

Jaehyun turns off the lamp but the light from Taeyong’s phone illuminates the older’s face, his sharp features even sharper against the dull brightness. There’s a crease between his brows, and his eyes go over whatever he’s reading. 

“What’s that?” He asks, eyes now close. He can still see the debauched face of his lover even as sleep lures him. “We’re celebrating some local success and we’re here for a vacation too. Leave that work to someone.”

“My assistant is here. Mails are...well, sometimes read by me before I pass it to him to do what he needs to do, before he passes all other shit to the rest. I gave those who didn’t come a few days off, too.” 

“Just sleep, Taeyong. It's so unlike you to worry your head over things you never gave a shit about.” Despite being hypocritical at that since he appointed his partner to take over the Bordeaux businesses, Jaehyun really wants all of them to momentarily get away from all the obligations.

The owner of said name glances at the man next to him, surprisingly letting the faint bite of the younger's words pass. “Alright. I was just trying to impress you by pretending like I work hard.” Taeyong carelessly tosses his phone to the couch and slips under the blanket, a feet away from Jaehyun. It’s always like this - they don’t cuddle. It’s too... romantic, too domestic. Too overwhelming for someone like Lee Taeyong. He makes up for it in his own ways, though. When he’s in the mood. 

Without the light from his phone, the room is too dark even after his eyes adjusted. The veranda and their room is divided by a wall, so the light outside doesn’t reach their bed. It’s perfect, Taeyong thinks so. He’s always been more comfortable concealed, hidden.

Light snores come from his left. Jaehyun is already sound asleep. Taeyong stays wide awake, yet to feel the start of exhaustion, mind counting down from five minutes to make sure no one’s going to hear him.

“I missed you,” is what floats into space, slipping smoothly from the seams of his lips. It’s almost inaudible, barely there, and unheard by the one who wanted to hear it the most, but did not give him the opportunity to confess earlier. 

Tomorrow. There’s a lot of chances tomorrow. 

 

***

 

It’s not too bright, the sun has yet to fully rise in the East but Jaehyun’s eyes flutter open, as though they know about the pair of blue circles staring right at him. Taeyong’s face is a good foot away, but nonetheless, his presence is too intense to be dismissed. He doubts Taeyong would ever be someone easy to ignore, easy to miss. 

He can feel the soft blow of the wind through the swaying window drapes. It tickles the soles of his feet before sifting inside the holes of his pant legs. Jaehyun rolls over, comfortably lying on his stomach for a minute to try to go back to sleep but just like what was said, someone is being hard to neglect. 

“It’s early in the morning and you’re being creepy as fuck,” Jaehyun groans, now looking up at his lover. Taeyong’s eyes are unblinking, piercing right through his soul. His hair falls over his forehead, curtaining the sharpness of his gaze in a futile attempt. “Did you even sleep?”

“I did,” The other says, voice soft and clear. Taeyong then reaches over the nightstand to grab a pack of cigs and quickly lights it, soon inhaling a lungful of smoke. “Ten minutes. Not a straight ten minute-sleep. Intermittent. But I slept.” 

He blows the smoke out the corner of his mouth, and his gaze doesn’t leave Jaehyun’s face. “It’s more fun watching you sleep and say shit in your dreams.”

At that, the younger jolts up, alarmed and for some reason, ashamed at the prospect that he might blabbered extremely idiotic things. “I sleep talked?! And why the hell are you smoking? Taeyong, you stopped smoking long ago…” Disappointment drips from his tone, which the older easily shrugs off. 

And if he wasn’t paying attention, Jaehyun would’ve missed the telltale signs of tics. Taeyong keeps flicking the cigarette ash, even as there isn’t much to dispose. 

He’s twitching and he’s trying to hide it. 

Something’s off.

Yet before he could say anything, Taeyong interrupts his trail of thoughts with a foot nudging his knee. “So about the sleeptalk, you were saying something about me being frustrating.”

A frown draws itself on his face. Earlier bashfulness forgotten. “What’s so frustrating about you?” 

Oh he knows damn well what is.  

Jaehyun’s head tilts as he takes in the sight before him. His partner huffs out another puff of smoke, this time it’s thicker and bigger and it touches his face, but he doesn’t cough. The smoke doesn’t even smell like cigs. 

It smells like a dead man’s flower wreath.

Something eerily cold runs down his spine. 

“I don’t know. You tell me,” Finally finishing the first cig of the day, Taeyong gets off the bed and stretches his arms, the action allowing Jaehyun to peek at a shy exposure of skin when the shirt hikes. “You are frustrated because I’m not making you feel what you want to feel.”

“I don’t get iㅡ”

“You want to feel loved and you think I’m not giving you that.” Taeyong interrupts again, now making his way back to the bed and straddling Jaehyun with a dangerous smirk. “My, my, Jaehyun. You’ve known me for years, but you’re still fucking dumb.” 

Jaehyun gets pushed down, and soon there are lips pressing against his. The kiss is slow, a far cry from the usual they do. Taeyong’s hands wander on their own, slipping beneath Jaehyun’s shirt and resting on his abs. They curl then, nails digging but not hurting. 

Actually, Jaehyun does not feel anything else aside from the kiss. His whole body is numb, pain unknown, as Taeyong bites down his lip and it doesn’t bleed. 

The other’s mouth leaves his, tracing an invisible pattern from his face down to the column of his neck and back up, stopping right on his ear. 

Jaehyun can only stare up at the ceiling. Suddenly, he can’t move. Like a weight of a log pins him down. He can’t take his hands away from Taeyong’s waist, he can’t move his legs - he can’t even blink. The worst part of it all, the most peculiar, is he doesn’t inhale, but he can breathe. 

What in the fucking damnation?

When he tries to move a limb again, Taeyong speaks and the words stab mercilessly in his chest, bringing back all his senses and pouring down all the pain he wasn’t feeling earlier - the throbbing on his lip, the sting on his stomach. 

The words ring in his ears like a broken record. They get louder and louder as the seconds go by, then static, until they’re just a thin, deafening noise that no one else will understand but him. 

Taeyong pulls back a bit, face inches before his. Jaehyun’s eyes end up on the older’s lips and they watch as they move, repeating the words.

“I love yㅡ”


 

M-mother fuckㅡ! Nn yeah…”

Jaehyun’s eyes snap open. Taeyong is straddling his chest, one hand rapidly jerking his cock as the tip shoots out strings of cum that land on his neck. 

“What the hell?”

God,” Taeyong pants raggedly, hand slowing down to a loose grip on the base of his cock before his hazy eyes meet Jaehyun’s scandalized ones. “Look at that. I didn’t need to buy you jewelry, Jaehyun. I just gave you a necklace made from my own cum!”

Boisterous laughter fills the room as the knife thrower finds deviant joy and entertainment in Jaehyun’s expense. The substance is starting to feel really sticky on his skin so Jaehyun swipes it with a hand and wipes it down the other’s shirt, face marred with stark annoyance. 

“I fucking hate you.” He sits up, mindlessly throwing Taeyong to the side. The limp dick dangles between Taeyong’s legs as Jaehyun pretends that he doesn’t like what he sees. 

He pretends he didn’t like the unconventional morning greeting. 

Because the thing he truly dislikes is the interruption of that dream. He was almost there. He was about to finally hear Taeyong say it back. For the second time and hopefully really, really true. But life is unfair. He should’ve known it was just a dream. Everything was so wrong from the beginning - the smoking, the twitching. 

Did they ever go away? Who would be too sure when it comes toㅡ

“Shit,” Jaehyun curses under his breath and pushes himself out of bed. The clock glares at him from the nightstand, time barely 6 A.M. “Did you even sleep?”

“I did. What do you think of me? A fuckin’ vampire?” The smartass retort slaps him even more awake. “Ten minutes. No a straight ten minute-sleep. Intermittent. But I slept, alright.” 

His body freezes. This sounds familiar…

Taeyong grins up at him, pulling his pants. “It was more fun watching you.” 

Right. There it is. He needs to splash some cold water on his face before he ends up like this man he’s so strangely besotted in. Right. 

 

***

 

The restaurant at the ground floor is filled with quiet murmurs when the two Invictus kingpins head down for breakfast, with Jaehyun walking ahead and the poor postured Taeyong in tow. There’s a long table in the middle, two separate ones connected so that the important members of the organizations sit together, creating an artificial familial vibe - which of course, Taeyong frowns upon as soon as he saw the set-up. 

“Whose idea?” He asks right away, taking a seat at the very end. At least, Jaehyun is the only one sitting next to him. Across him is Yunho, wearing a small smile on his face. 

Eh, acting like a family now, aren’t you? 

Next to the Garnet leader is the former Red Phoenix doctor, Kim Jaejoong. Something stirs in the knife thrower’s mind, a whirlwind of thoughts he shouldn’t even bother with, but he knows that something is definitely going on between the enigmatic mob leader and the taciturn  doctor. 

His imagination runs wild. Jaejoong glances at him consciously before clearing his throat and makes a move to subtly put a few inches of distance between him and the boss of his new org. 

Lee Taeyong always knows what’s up. 

The frown on his face disappears as he realizes such useless information that may serve, he knows it will, to be an amusing blackmail in the future. Maybe if he wants something that Yunho won’t easily let him do. He can just mention a certain someone. 

Jaehyun signals the waiters to serve the food - all kinds of seafood available and unfolds the napkin before him. A gleam reflects on his periphery and before Taeyong could touch it, he manages to steal the little knife away, petulantly hiding it beneath his plate. “You know the drill.”

"Well fuck you,” Taeyong hisses, tone aggravated yet there’s too little emotion on his face. Like how a lunatic should be. “How am I going to motherfucking cut this toast like a socially competent human being?” 

“Why do you have toast?” Jaehyun’s question further irks the other who throws out every bit of etiquette by putting his feet up on his seat, knees pressed against his chest. “This is so out of place.” He eyes the french toast on Taeyong’s plate while purposely ignoring the looks thrown their way. “Use your hands.”

Silence befalls the whole room, as though every single one of them, sans the staff is waiting for what the resident troublemaker of Red Phoenix is about to do. 

Edogawa’s misfortune replays in the back of Jaehyun’s head, telling him that there’s a possibility that he’s going to suffer the same fate. His eyes dart down to the other’s hands. They’re immobile.

“You’re a douchebag,” replied Taeyong exactly half a minute later, the seconds carefully counted internally. He grips the toast in one hand, messily crushing it and taking a big bite off its corner. He’s not looking at Jaehyun anymore but into space, right over Yunho’s shoulder. “Treating me like shit.”

Does it matter? Of course it doesn't. Trust Lee Taeyong to claim to feel indignant when his brain already struggles to get him through the basic. Jaehyun knows better than to take it to heart. 

Slightly embarrassed, the younger of the two Invictus leaders sighs, waving dismissively at the others to wordlessly tell them not to mind what’s happening. “I’m just being careful, Taeyong. You know I’m doing this for you.”

The words ring annoyingly in his ear. Faintly, before it dissipates completely. Taeyong ignores Jaehyun in lieu of finishing his toast before grabbing the whole lobster off of a plate in front of Jaejoong, unmindful of the heat and  dumping the food where his toast was placed earlier. 

Brainless little fuck. What does he fucking think of me? I'd been attending those useless therapies to get better because he fucking wanted me to. Dumbass thinks I’m always gonna regress. I can't regress when I never progressed off the bat, he screams every word in his head. It’s the only thing he can do for now since promising Jaehyun he’d try to change. He needs to keep the gratuitous anger in as much as possible to avoid giving in to the aggressive tendencies. 

That, he always does perfectly since. Did Jaehyun ever hear anything from the doctor or his mother or Fort since he moved to Bordeaux? Nothing. He’s trying, but it looks like it’s not enough. Taeyong has only half a heart to give a fuck because if he wasn't considering anyone, he'd still be uncontrollable. But he's invested in Jaehyun, so what the latter wants kind of matter to him at an extent and for his efforts to be dismissed isn't doing him good. 

His introspection fuels the fire in his chest. Taeyong directs the learned anger to the lobster, carelessly breaking its neck and ripping off the cooked flesh to messily dump it on Jaehyun’s plate. 

Yunho looks up just as it happened and one of his brows piques in curiosity, attention now focused on his business partner. “You like lobsters?”

“He does,” Taeyong chimes in, continuing to clean the lobster’s head and eating the remnants of the meat off his fingers. “He likes seafood. Lobster is his favorite.”

Jaehyun hums, nodding. He doesn’t look at Fort, not at anyone. He also doesn’t fight off the small, proud smile that curled shyly on the corner of his mouth. Taeyong knows even the littlest thing about him and he feels... special that way, important and cared for each time the other remembers something and makes sure that Jaehyun knows it. The older may not outright say it, but Jaehyun knows. 

He knows Taeyong is trying. 

He’s just about to do the same and pour Taeyong a glass of juice when a nuisance comes over and replaces the toast that Taeyong ate with a new one. Myungsoo’s eyes turn into crescents when Taeyong peers at him questioningly. 

“You eat two toasts every morning.” He declares cheerily, not to Taeyong but to the people within earshot ㅡ more specifically to Jaehyun. He's petty like that. 

“You should’ve just put them in one plate.” Taeyong huffs, mumbling an almost inaudible thanks before glancing at the other tables. “You’re done eating?”

The assistant shakes his head before taking his eyes away from Taeyong, the black circles landing on Jaehyun’s. They’re superficially innocent, but ironically radiating malice. “Not yet. I wanted to make sure the servers prepared the toasts to your liking.” 

“You piss the hell out of me, Myungsoo.” Blue eyes harden, intensifying as they glare down the poor bread. “You didn’t have to do that. Now go back before I drag you to your table by the neck.”

Jaehyun doesn’t know if the threat worked or Myungsoo is just a loyal, obedient fool but he follows, leaving his boss alone with a light aura in his walk. He stares at the man’s back long enough for Johnny who was passing by with a cup of coffee to notice, gently nudging him on the arm. 

“Tone it down,” The taller teases, looking at the squad who wears the same look on their faces except for Doyoung before continuing in a whisper. “Jealousy doesn’t look good on you.”

Panic settles in Jaehyun’s guts and he takes a glimpse of Taeyong’s face to see if  the other heard. He doesn’t look like he did. Jaehyun then turns to the squad with a forced smile. “I will grill all of you.” 

“I was just saying…” Johnny replies defensively, going back to his seat with a few snickers shared with the others. 

Totally peeved by the unnecessary comment and the unwanted appearance of that Venandi roach, the younger kingpin loses his appetite, now absently stabbing the lobster tail with a fork. Taeyong is busy finishing his toast, one hand tapping rhythmically on the table, seemingly oblivious of the green monster rapidly forming in Jaehyun’s ribcage. It knocks on his bones, pulsates and pumps his blood harsher than normal. It’s sickening

“You only have toast in the morning?” 

The question effectively calls Taeyong’s attention. He stops eating, left cheek puffed out. “When I’m not bothered enough making my own food at home. Even Fort knows that.”

The owner of said name turns to them from chatting with the doctor, eyes widening the slightest bit. “Yes?”

Taeyong shrugs. “When I went to one of the meetings. I had toast.”

Like a bulb, the oldest kingpin perks up and makes a sound of confirmation, dabbing the napkin around his mouth. “It’s not all the time I hear a rumbling stomach in the middle of my report, Taeyong.” He smiles, cocking his head at Jaehyun’s direction. “Not very much of a breakfast fan.”

“I know,” Jaehyun agrees, recalling some instances. “Eats only sweets most of the time, too.”

“Got a problem with that?”

“None. I have a problem with something else.” He sounds too serious when he says it that it takes even Fort off guard, the man throwing him an inquisitive gaze. “But it doesn’t matter. Finish that toast.”

A snort comes from his right. 

“You didn’t have to tell me.” 

Exactly. Because it looks like someone else is doing that for you,  the voice in Jaehyun's head says as the monster in his chest grows steadily.

 

***

 

“Fuck this heat, Jaehyun. I’m going to burn. I’m expecting to burn in hell, not here. Very anticlimactic.” 

Jaehyun squints up to the sun, instantly regretting it as a spot hinders his sight even after he tries to blink it away. Everyone decided to finally get a feel of the water, all Invictus members that came with them, even the squad is already lost in the temporary enjoyment granted by their kingpin. 

Everyone’s there except for Fort who is likely stressing himself with the subordinates left in Paris.  Even Max, the elusive Garnet assistant is mingling with the others.

“Then get an umbrella?”

Someone screams take it! from a distance. It’s Doyoung gawking at the volleyball in the air in his dark blue trunks and black shades. But Yuta’s distracted by a topless Winwin burying Ten in the sand together with an equally shirtless Johnny to hear Doyoung, and before he knows it, the ball already hit the side of his face, sending him staggering like a fool as he cries out in pain, clutching his cheek.

“Serves him right,” Taeyong comments with a snort before chucking his sandals, a finger curling to beckon Jaehyun close. “No one walks along the shore of a beach with an umbrella, Jaehyun. Let me complain about the scorching heat in peace. If I don’t get a little tan, then this vacation is fucking useless.” 

He’ll never win over Lee Taeyong. Never. In every topic imaginable. So with that, Jaehyun just follows, walking alongside the older as they look over the calm sea. It’s a low tide, the lifeguard notified them. If they want to ride on wilder waves with a surfboard, then they have to wait until the afternoon. Not that the sharpshooter wants to - it’s one of the few things he never really learned despite going to the beach frequently when he was a kid. 

No one talks as they step over warm sand and the shy lick of the sea over their feet. The taller man purposely lags behind just so he can stare at the back of Taeyong’s head without chewing up an excuse for the sentimental, appreciative gaze. 

His own hair dances with the wind. It’s an attractive shade of black. The squad suggested it, said he looked better with it and it would make him appear younger than his age and it worked. Possibly because it's his natural hair color. Even Taeyong pointed it out. 

Not too far from them is a long row of small stores, selling food and small, cheap souvenirs they can bring with them when they leave. Simple mementos to relive the memories. 

Jaehyun is preoccupied with the sight of Taeyong’s bare arms, his mind urging him to reach out and touch, probably do a little more like caress, that he fails to notice the other already stopped and he collided against the broad back, slightly losing balance. Beet red automatically colors his cheeks, replacing the pale shade of his skin. 

Maybe it’s due to the sun too. 

Coal black eyes follow the line of Taeyong’s arm, the older pointing at something in the sea. “Look at that,” He says, voice uncharacteristically soft. “Is that a shark?”

“There are no sharks around, Taeyong. I know you know that.”

“Buzzkill. I’m trying to start up a nice beach-y conversation. Anyway,” Shrugging off, he walks again, eyes never leaving the spot he pointed. “I really think that’s a shark. Say, given that there’s a great white shark to make it scarier, and it’s swimming close to me. Are you gonna dive and save me, be a knight in nothing but tight trunks and a protruding dick print?” 

The image his head conjures makes him splutter, spit disgustingly hitting the crown of Taeyong’s head. He doesn’t mention it, of course. Jaehyun values his life. “Why would I do that, there’s a lifeguard for that.” A finger swipes over the excess spit on the corner of his mouth. “My job is to wish for the best.”

“Jesus!” Taeyong exclaims, chortling. “That’s really smart. Oh Jaehyun, how sweet of you. At the very least, let me see your dick print before I die because I’m pretty sure the lifeguard and I aren’t surviving that fuckin’ monㅡ”

“Wrong.”

They both whip around to look at whoever. Kim Myungsoo raises a brow at Jaehyun and picks up a rock, hurling it to the waters. “The beach wouldn’t even be open for people if sharks were known to lurk around. So you wouldn’t find yourself here, because I doubt this place would even exist. Might I add the reviews it would have.” 

“Aside from the huge probability that you are correct - well, I do not know shit about marine life, you’re also unneeded at the moment, L,” The leader of the Bordeaux HQ tilts his head, acknowledging the presence of his assistant with a barely concealed irritation. “Stop channeling your inner mushroom, alright. You keep popping out in times you were never asked.”

Jaehyun turns around, disguising his smile with a cough. 

Myungsoo doesn’t even bat an eye. “But I don’t know anyone here aside from his friends,” He punctuates, pertaining to the other kingpin. “We’re not friends.”

“Are you expecting me to be your babysitter just because I brought you back to your home country after what, I don’t even know and suddenly you don’t know how to be Korean anymore?"

Blue eyes sharpen as they tear their gaze away from the ex-Venandi, now fully aware of Jaehyun’s smirk. He’s enjoying it, huh. “You’re 20 something, Myungsoo. Pardon the lack of knowledge about your age because it's insignificant to me. You can mingle with the other kids on your own.” Taeyong then approaches his assistant and dusts off the other’s shoulder - there’s not even a single dirt on Myungsoo’s skin; he just really wants to see the other’s eyes dilate and confirm what he’s been telling the other to forget since day one. “Let your boss have his much-awaited reunion with your other boss, yeah?”

The close proximity makes Myungsoo’s breath hitch. He internally curses how easy it is for Lee Taeyong, all of a sudden, to have this much effect on him. He was just a customer to Venandi. Now he’s the reason Kim Myungsoo wants to test a first-rate org’s kingpin. Curse the palpable charm.

What a twist of fate. Not his fault his boss is too attractive for his own good. 

“Alright, I’ll talk to you later.” He finally gives in, reluctantly leaving the two on their own. He had wanted to pull Taeyong to the stores just to aimlessly look around, but maybe he needs to wait a little longer, be creative in stealing the older’s attention. Besides, there will always be an opportunity. He just needs to be quicker than Jung Jaehyun in taking it. 

The parasite looks smaller and smaller as it walks away, safe from the bubbling anger that threatens to tear out of Jung Jaehyun. “One more interruption and the lifeguard is gonna get a job today.”

“So ruthless,” The sound of Taeyong’s giggle softens him up in a snap, completely forgetting what just happened. They leave the shore, now heading to the lined up stores. “Let him be. There are actual notable things calling our attention.”

“And what are those?”

They enter one of the stores selling different wooden items. Most are kitchen tools. 

“This,” The older man picks up a ladle and taps it atop Jaehyun’s head. “Looks cool. I don’t know what Léonie wants for her kitchen. She’ll like anything I give anyway. Hey?” Taeyong calls the vendor, handing the wooden ladle. “Give me one of every kitchen shit you’re selling. Please put them in recyclable bags. We care for the marine creatures, don't we?”

Jaehyun frowns. “You do?”

“99% of what comes out of my mouth is bullshit, according to a study.”

Leaving his companion to look around, a keychain catches eye, the silver ring shiny as it moves against the strong wind and meets the blinding sunlight. There’s a tiny tree carved on it as well as three curves that make up the sea waves. It’s nothing special, a common souvenir item found in every single beach store all over the world. Momentarily, Jaehyun wonders what these vendors would do if he didn’t pay them their usual sales when the beach is open for everyone. He insisted they stay open just in case their friends and acquaintances get bored. 

He takes the keychain, silently puts it in the bag with a curt nod at the vendor. The shop owner is an old woman, probably in her late 50s. There’s a radiant smile on her wrinkled face when Taeyong grabs a shirt, printed with the same design on the keychain and folds it neatly so it fits inside the third recyclable bag, the first two already stuffed with the items for Léonie. 

“What are the shirts for?” Jaehyun asks curiously because Taeyong grabs two more of the same shirt. “You don’t look like you’re wearing that.”

“They’re for some of the people I work with. You know, from The Black Room.” Taeyong fishes out his wallet and doesn’t even count the bills when he pays the woman, swiftly taking the bags from her with a poor excuse of a smile. “They couldn’t go. Who’s taking care of the dirtier work? It’s not like they could let the animals go for a few days and expect the bastards to return when they do. Doesn’t work that way, right? I could give them a break,” He drawls, heading to the next shop, only to frown when he sees the same items. “But that means I gotta take over.”

Jaehyun huffs, gesturing for him to look inside the other stores instead. They enter one with displays of cheap jewelry. “That sounds scary.” He means to tease, and thankfully Taeyong is not in the mood to take it too hard. “I trust you, Taeyong. You can take over but you know the drill, right?”

“I knoooow, sir. I’m 30, not 5.” 

“Good.” 

The shop sells a lot of anklets, bracelets and necklaces. There are rings too, made from the lowest kind of silver. Jaehyun picks up one to eye the stone embedded in the middle. “If I didn’t know better, I would’ve been fooled. It looks real, doesn’t it?” He asks, showing it to Taeyong. The vendor doesn’t even bother with them, preferring to read an old magazine. “Emerald?”

“Emerald.”

The ring is deposited to its place in between columns of its kind. There’s nothing much to check inside since all look too alike. In the end they just drop by to the rest of the shops, buying hats and putting them on each other. 

The baby blue ribbon tied beneath Taeyong’s chin makes him look cute , but if Jaehyun mentions it, he’s certain he wouldn’t be seeing the next daylight. So no; he won’t even dare say a single world. 

Everyone is still busy with their own thing when the two get back. The items they bought were quickly dropped in their shared room before they decided to finally dip their bodies in the water, shirts discarded and skin protected with sunblock ㅡ except for Taeyong. He reiterated getting a nice tan. 

“Did you go to resorts before? I mean,” Jaehyun gets underwater for a second to wet his hair, coming up quick, shaking his head rapidly before brushing back the raven strands, “Before you got into Red Phoenix.”

Taeyong stares at his partner, eyes following the beads of water running down the side of Jaehyun’s face and settling in the dip of his collarbone. It looks tempting. “What makes you think I had that privilege? Léonie wouldn’t let me out of the house most of the time.” The memory irks him instantly, his eyes rolling so hard before he swims away from Jaehyun, eyes close as he floats and attempts to forget the presence of the others. Water sprinkles over his face as Ten pries away from Johnny’s hold and swims near the two kingpins.

“Stop touching me underwater, pervert!” The Thai chortles, arms flapping to help him move faster. “Go back and play with the others. Perhaps let Doyoung join you!”

Johnny glances at the other pair for a moment before shrugging, following his boyfriend. “He’s already chatting with Yuta. He also doesn’t look like he’d appreciate being dragged away.”  

Doyoung, true to Johnny's words, sits on a cloth by the shore next to the Japanese gunman. Even from a distance, they can see that his face is marred with a deep frown and it worsens by the second, the longer Yuta rambles and gesticulates. Winwin hangs out by the barbecue stand, fanning with Sehun and occasionally glancing at the other two. 

Jaehyun shakes his head. “Hey,” he approaches Taeyong, one hand casually rests over the knife thrower’s stomach. It flexes beneath his unsuspected touch. “You’ll be here for a week, right?”

“Yeah,” The knife thrower calmly says, now looking at him. “You got fun things in mind? Or will there be work?”

“I’m thinking just spending days together. Even with work?” 

Hopeful, Jaehyun is. It’ll be hard to keep in contact once the other leaves. They can’t delay some tasks so he’s thinking that even if he has to be busy in the coming days, Taeyong can head to Invictus just because. Just having him close is enough for now. 

Taeyong’s feet meet the seabed. Fingers sift through his hair to flatten it and Jaehyun thinks, no - knows his lover’s captivating. Has always been. 

I hit the jackpot, didn’t I?

“I have nowhere to go to. I doubt my assistant’s going to leave me alone. At least when I go to the HQ he can stay out of the conference room since you have enough people to take notes for you.”

He really wants to be reasonable, he’s trying, but it’s just so hard to keep jealousy at bay. Kim Myungsoo is being too forward, silently challenging him and he can’t even utilize his power to get rid of the man. Maybe if he finds someone good enough to take the job away from him. 

“We’re having a party tonight. I’m thinking of locking him inside his room.”

A smirk graces Taeyong’s face as his arms drape over Jaehyun’s shoulders. “Unnecessary. Do you think someone saw us last night?” 

And Jaehyun’s arms find their way around the older’s waist like they belong there, trapping. “Does it matter?” A hand sneaks past the band of his trunks, shamelessly grabbing a cheek. “I think you wanna know ‘cause you want a reprise.” 

Titillating, Taeyong’s hips press against Jaehyun’s. They pretend not to hear a scandalized gasp from nearby. “Maybe. I have plans for tonight. Don’t get too drunk; It won’t be as good if you’re intoxicated.”

Jaehyun fights off the urge to protest when the heat against his crotch disappears because Taeyong decided it’s not the right time yet for a public show. Soon, the whole squad takes advantage of the calm waves with some others to join in a spontaneous race. 

Sans Taeyong and courtesy of Yuta, they get on a banana boat and all throughout the purgative recreation they hear nothing but Ten’s screeches and Doyoung’s random complaints. 

“Let go of my vest you’re dragging me down!”

“But I’m scared andㅡ oh god let’s go back!” Ten screams against Doyoung’s back, visibly shaking. “This is a mistake. Let’s go back now I don’t wanna die…” His hand gets slapped away, unapologetically as the boat makes a turn. 

Doyoung instantly regrets it. 

“Another scream that isn’t caused by Johnny and will serve as a nuisance, we’ll leave you here and the waves will swallow you up because you’re that tiny,” Yuta threatens while laughter bubbles in his chest. “Ten you shoot for a living! This shouldn’t rattle you!” 

“Shut up Nakamoto! This isn’t aboㅡ ah!”

“Crazy,” From his spot at the shore, Taeyong watches the banana boat and its immature passengers. The other members of Invictus are already setting up for the food to be served for lunch. “Even crazier. Didn’t you all just eat?”

“It takes a while to cook for over 30 people, sir. And some of us have appetites that don’t really work conventionally.” Sehun responds as he dumps the container of seafood down, his shirtless torso coated with a sheen layer of sweat. “Are you hungry?”

“No. Why, are you going to feed me?”

The reticent product inspector stares blankly. 

Taeyong scoffs with a dismissive hand. “Invictus people are all damn serious. Loosen up, Oh. You’re cooking, not inspecting the smuggled.” 

Several hours feel like eternity and it’s what he’s going to bear before the night comes and all these brightness will be replaced with wildness - bold music, liquor and forgotten reality, the things he’s actually aiming for. 

He wonders if Jaehyun’s tried a body shot before. 

Blue, intense eyes dart back to the squad with a glint no one else has the knowledge to decipher but Jung Jaehyun. 

“You really found a pot of gold with me, dimple boy.” 

 

***

 

EDM party music blasts from a speaker when the clock strikes 10. It’s a mess from thereon ㅡ on one side is a group howling at whoever is doing a Keg stand, may the Lord have mercy on his kidneys if he successfully gulps that gallon of tequila, vodka and fruit punch. On the other side, the squad, and the Garnet pair engage in a classier intoxication, but Taeyong doubts it. He believes Nakamoto Yuta and Johnny Suh are lost and will find their way to the other side of the party. 

“Ethan!”

Fort's voice, loud yet slightly unclear reaches him despite the deafening music, its volume yet to subside. The Garnet kingpin calls him by his birth name when he’s planning to be immensely annoying and from the looks of it, a bottle of alcohol in the right hand, annoying Taeyong is going to be a part of tonight’s bucket list. 

“Fuck off from calling me Ethan or I’ll take the doctor from you.” He monotonously says, snatching Jaehyun’s bottle. “You’ll be really sad, I’m telling you.”

“I don’t approve of the insinuation.” Kim Jaejoong chimes in. He definitely stands out wearing loose pants and cardigan over a thin tank top. Screams prude , Taeyong mentally scoffs. 

“Well, you see.” Malice blooms over the knife thrower’s sharp features, defeating his usual inscrutable expression. “I did not ask for your approval, Jaej. Come on,” He takes a quick swig of the drink and pushes the bottle back to Jaehyun who scrambles to keep it from falling. “We’re all not-really-straight here; we won’t condemn you.”

Doyoung’s head snaps at Taeyong’s direction, to which the latter responds with mocking laughter. 

“You too! Have you not learned from our role model here, Invictus’ first leader, Jung Jaehyun? Yeah?” 

Jaehyun conceals the embarrassment with a few gulps of his alcohol. 

“We’re all good. I’ll keep my mouth shut if you want, but secrecy isn't cute when it’s kept for too damn long.” The older Invictus kingpin makes a show of zipping his mouth, shooting Fort a questioning look as the latter's posture visibly stiffens. “Did I catch you there, Almighty Fort?” 

With a fortifying breath Yunho smirks, moistened lips pressed against the bottle's rim. “I don't think so. It depends on what we are talking about.”

Jaejoong grunts next to him, stealing the liquor and spilling the content on the sand. “He’s had too many.”

“We're talking about whether your dick prefers females or,” Taeyong's head tilts as he glances at Jaejoong. “Female looking males.” 

They all fail to see a bottle flying over the knife thrower's head. And then the doctor is already picking up one to hurl it accurately at Taeyong. 

Yunho unguardedly laughs as he holds the doctor back, standing behind a silently fuming Jaejoong with his hand enclosing the latter's wrists in a firm grip. He dismisses a wary Max who looked ready to tranquilize Jaejoong. “I'll leave the answer up to you, Ethan. But I'm highly certain you do not know what I am pertaining to.” 

Before he gets to question more, undeniably confused to what the Garnet leader is spouting about, the pair leaves to the direction of a wide variety of food and Taeyong slaps his partner’s chest with the back of his hand. “How many?”

“What do you mean?”

Puckered lips point at the bottle, pertaining to how many the other’s already drank. Taeyong spent the hours prior sleeping and staring at the ceiling when even sleep itself couldn’t keep up with the long wait anymore, only coming out when the noise tells himself that it’s late enough for everyone to actually get wasted. 

Jaehyun opens his mouth, his words halted before he could even form them when he gets pushed from behind, sending him reeling forward. 

“Oh, my bad,” Myungsoo’s head tilts as he peers at Jaehyun with a poorly hidden amusement dancing in his eyes. “I didn’t see you there.”

Knowing it would do no good if he lands a punch or two on the unarguably pleasing face of Taeyong’s assistant, he remains quiet, opts to finish the content of his bottle and grab a new one from the cooler. 

The infuriating man never leaves his spot, displaying his arrogant glory that Taeyong blatantly ignores although he’s highly entertained by the showcase of bravery from Kim Myungsoo. He admits, the other looks good, could be up to par with the internally seething Jaehyun next to him but there are reasons why he’s not looking at anyone else. Myungsoo can try harder but it’ll never be hard enough for him to get Lee Taeyong craving like he does for Jung Jaehyun. 

Never. And the three of them know that. 

Sicheng’s meaningful gaze lands on Yuta whose eyes harbor sich intensity yet nothing alike of the Chinese’s, his hand circling the Japanese’s wrist. Then soft lips move against a sensitive earlobe, murmuring. Without anyone actually hearing what was said they leave the place, disappearing back into the motel. 

The unofficial couple’s actions tickle Ten’s fancy, who’s now clinging to his boyfriend like second skin. “They really need to put a name to that.”

“You’re one to talk. It took you a gazillion years to put a name to what you and that titan next to you really have but you denied adamantly.” Doyoung offers his opinion that the Thai didn’t ask but truly needed to hear. 

The statement makes Ten’s nostrils flare, his eyes turning into slits. “I will end you.”

“Not yet. I have some business to deal with. After that you can have my head but that is if you could reach it.”

“You...!”

Johnny’s arm shoots out to block his boyfriend’s charge. He knows Ten isn’t that petulant but the other’s also drank quite an amount already for his reasoning to fly out the window. So he holds Ten’s arms down, hiding his snickers by standing behind his short lover. 

Doyoung smirks at the both of them. 

“Did anyone not notice something bizarre?” Taeyong asks more to himself but his voice allows everybody close to catch on it. His mind continues to linger on the reluctance he detected from Nakamoto’s eyes. He’s certain that those two were just fine. Though it’s so unlike him to meddle in somebody else’s affair because naturally, he doesn’t give much damn about anything that does not benefit him. “I can’t believe I’m too fucking sober that I had to sit through that disgusting exchange.”

The younger of the two Invictus leaders gives the older a pointed look. “You’re standing.” Jaehyun’s getting better at being sarcastic. 

“Stop being a buzzkill, all of you little cunts” More expletives overflow from the knife thrower’s ever offensive mouth. “So what if I’m fucking standing and I had to say that? Damn, Jaehyun,” He chuckles dryly as Jaehyun receives the sharp, piercing daggers from his eyes. “You’re testing me right now.”

Quickly noticing the sudden shift in the atmosphere, the sharpshooter pulls Taeyong to the corner, far away from intrusive gazes. His voice is spiked with concern when he talks. “Taey, did you take your meds?” 

It takes the older several seconds to reply, nails digging down his own forearms. “I took one. I just,” And just like that, Taeyong’s buzzing aggression dissipates, the heel of his palm digging on his eye, rubbing it. “I still feel a dull tingling at times. I’m working on it. My therapist said I need to develop some habit, I don’t fucking know what that is yet. But don’t worry, I’m not about to start a bloodbath just because.” 

Who is he kidding? He never listens to his therapist. He doesn't take the pills for his anger regularly. And no matter how many times he sees professionals and receives their service, his nature is hopeless, brain made not to conform but to perform however it wants. He knows that well. Jaehyun knows it well. Yet here they all are, pretending they have the power to change that. Hell, the doctor knows best that people like Lee Taeyong are too complex. 

“It’s not that. I just want to know if you’re taking them regularly as advised. You’re doing well.” Jaehyun says, patting Taeyong on the shoulder. “Now, you’re not going to let this night end without actually partying, right?”

“Do I look like I party? The last time I got into a club, this radiates the same vibe by the way, French cops were on my ass. Aaand,” He sing-songs, taking a single step back. “I met our beloved Uehara, may she rest in peace. Say, if the same thing happens tonight, who am I gonna meet on the way?” A finger taps on his chin as he pretends to be deep in his own thoughts. “It’d be fun if it’s an old, old friend from either Cygnus or Venandi, those holy assholes of the apocalypse. My dear nincompoops.” 

Whatever it is, it brings a smile on Jaehyun’s face. Taeyong easily gets distracted by memories none of the rest wishes to recall. And it’s never questionable when he chooses to recount such events, especially those that let him have a taste of blood. 

“I missed you.”

Taeyong’s eyes, ominous in nature pin themselves on Jaehyun’s warm ones. “You love dropping bombs on me out of the blue, don’t you?” 

“You missed me too, don’t you?”

“Fuck. Fuck off, literally, fuck you.” A series of profanity spills out of Taeyong, which only makes the other gaze at him even more affectionately and irks the life out of him, his soul shattering and hissing as though the fire in them touches a puddle, the puddle being Jaehyun’s unsolicited romantic antics. 

He continues to spout foul language, his back turned to the younger so he can school his features and rare emotions back to what’s normal to him. 

“Aren’t you gonna say something about that?”

Ruin My Life resonates from the speaker. Taeyong looks at their colleagues, all under the influence of the ecstasy of the night as something gnaws at the back of his mind. 

Tell him. Tell him. You said you’d tell him, right? Tell him. Now. 

“Shut the fuck up.” 

Who’s telling what? Certainly not him. Not right now. Whatever he felt the other night, it’s gone. A flitting emotion so shallow, lasting ‘til the sun’s greeting. The question’s so spontaneous, for him, and he needs to calculate every little thing before he drops the same fucking bomb Jaehyun’s been dropping on him. He’s stated it before, but it hasn’t bloomed to its full form just yet, but nowㅡdamn it, it’s there again knocking and begging to be welcomed and he doesn’t want to be the one to suffer from a miscalculated decision if he gives in to the natural push of impulse. Not like he ever regretted before. 

So no. He won’t be saying anything. Stubborn little bitch, that’s what he is. 

Because he can just show it through means he knows best. 

“Come here, you fucking idiot.” Taeyong grabs the other’s hand as they join the rest. He orders someone to give him salt as well as lime and when he has them in his hand, he wastes no time in pushing Jaehyun down the table, everything previously sitting on it rolling off and falling to the sandy ground.

To say he’s taken aback is a monumental understatement. Jaehyun gawks at his lover who rolls up his tee to sprinkle some salt on his torso before shoving a lime between his lips. 

“You ever had someone do a body shot on you?” Taeyong asks, uncapping a bottle of tequila. “Before you ask, I saw this shit happen a couple times in the casino. Looked fun so I’m gonna try it on you.”

“A-alright,” He manages to mumble even with the lime stuffed between his lips. Everyone is crowding them now, even Fort is interested at what’s unfolding, watching from the sidelines as he nurses himself with alcohol. 

It’s not long before the knife thrower takes a shot and Jaehyun feels a ticklish lick around his navel, then Taeyong’s leaning in to suck the juice out of the lime. Jaehyun’s heart races in his chest, the beats thundering mercilessly against his ribcage while the half French practically finds a way to abuse his mouth. He's more than glad that he's the one with the lime in his mouth because he can imagine what he's gonna do if someone else has it, and it's not a pretty imagery.

Taeyong soon repeats the act, slick tongue circling his left nipple ‘til it hardens from the constant teasing and cold breeze of the evening wind and he doesn’t even remember if the man actually put salt on it but who is he to question? What’s important is Ethan licking his skin in front of these many spectators, throat burning, and when Jaehyun’s gaze swerves to the left, he sees Kim Myungsoo’s murderous stare. 

Now he knows why Taeyong wants to keep that bug. Murder might be their common interest. 

“Slow down, Taey.” Jaehyun chuckles after spitting out the lime, pushing himself up in a sitting position. “I get it now.” One of his hands grabs the back of Taeyong’s head before he pulls the other in for a ferocious kiss that burns both of their lungs but they don’t pull away, wanting to test their limits. 

When he feels the start of desperation for air, Jaehyun reluctantly cuts the kiss, dilated eyes immediately connecting with Taeyong’s. “Get me some JD. If I don’t take a swig I might take you here.”

“Doesn’t sound so bad.” 

Pushing past the men, Taeyong looks for the liquor before an opened bottle is pressed against his stomach. His assistant seems awfully irritated. 

“Quick, sir.” The title doesn’t sound polite when Myungsoo says it. Instead, distaste leaks from his tone. “Looks like my second boss needs it.”

Taeyong grumbles a response under his breath. Without time to focus on his assistant’s misplaced interest and lack of right to be jealous, he jogs back to Jaehyun just as This Is What You Came For plays, dismissing their audience with a wave and a few unnecessary threats.

“Whose playlist is this?” He shouts through the thundering music, not missing how Ten snaps his head at his direction with a clueless gaze before it quickly switches to a mischievous one. “I'm going to castrate you, dwarf! Nobody's a white teenager here.”

The liquid cascades hotly down his throat before the warmth envelopes him as though he sits close to some smoldering wood. Jaehyun drinks straight from the bottle, uncaring of the foreboding headaches the next morning. It’s going to be a huge hassle considering they’re heading back to reality tomorrow. “The local clients are giving positive feedback. It looks like we need to change the prices.” 

The music suddenly changes, it’s something Taeyong doesn’t know the title of but it’s Korean. It’s probably one of those songs the locals are into. “Taking advantage of their interest? Which service?”

Jaehyun winces after another gulp. “The women. More higher ups want to take part.”

“Then that means a surer local security.” The second kingpin leans against the edge of the table with his arms crossed over his chest. “Cops and politicians?”

“Cops and politicians. To be sure, their money’s deposited in offshore accounts. We gotta settle that when we head back. Contracts and shit.” 

“Well now you're good with that. The drugs we're shipping out of France are a little on the down side. Two delays.” 

“Huh? But why?” 

Taeyong purses his lips, fangs chewing on the inside of his mouth. “Well during those times, I was the one segregating the parcels and I was highㅡ”

Jaehyun jolts, glaring at him. “I'm not castigating you for doing drugs when that's literally our business but you gotta be clear-headed when you touch the products.” 

They hold a staredown amidst the raucous party. Jaehyun rubs a hand down his face and sighs. “Just a delay. Why the delay? Did you mix the parcels?” 

“Not sure. I told you I was high. Maybe it was reported to me but I don't really listen much to my assistant. He deals with shit alone if he can't reach me. I check the system whenever I want to.”

“And how frequent is that?” 

Taeyong shoots the younger a sidelong glance as he bites down his nails. “Dunno.”

“God, Ethan.” His resented name slips from Jaehyun's incautious tongue. Taeyong lets it go. “We can always find another client if they back out but as much as possible, we won't let it happen. I spent so many sleepless nights planning the org's future and keeping it afloat when Red Phoenix died so cooperate with me.” 

Annoyance begins to whir faintly in him. “Why didn't you check it yourself?”

“That's your headquarter's job. Remember? The business with Garnet is in the records there. The clients are directed to you when the packages come from you. What we deal with here is the local work. And the legal company. And that's already too much for me.” The younger kingpin exasperatedly runs a hand through his raven hair. “It's already solved, I believe?”

Taeyong huffs grumpily, noting how Jaehyun is close to consuming half of the liquor. “Our systems are connected. Check it.”

“You check it.”

No response is given to him right away. Inscrutable are Taeyong’s thoughts when Jaehyun looks back at him. “Whaㅡ”

“You’re doing a lot for Invictus, huh.” He sounds far away, unreachable. Distant. But Jaehyun thinks nothing much from it. Partly due to his nature, partly due to the quick effect of the drink to his head. “There might be other things to deal with.”

“And what are those?”

Once again, Taeyong keeps quiet. Shortly. Because if he stays silent for longer than ten seconds, carefully counted in his head, Jaehyun might see through his intentions. “Nothing.” 

The younger nods. He’s about to fill his system with another gulp of alcohol but then his stomach seems to flip upside down, and then he’s off the table, excusing himself with a gibberish ‘ vomiting quick!’ 

Taeyong just lets him. Jaehyun’s old enough to deal with his own drunken state. 

For the next several minutes he keeps to himself, staying at a corner with his own cup of a nameless drink. The sight of Doyoung and Ten squabbling back and forth distracts him from a lot of incessant thoughts, with Jaehyun’s dedication to the businesses being the most demanding. 

He refuses to think about it again ‘cause for the past months, after keeping up with a long distance unlabeled relationship, time gaps, obligations, limited stays with each other and all, Taeyong is exhausted. He never expected, never saw himself going through something like this. For 26 years, he was unbothered, only knew to wish for his parents’ attention and deliver his hostility. But then Jaehyun happened and despite getting over his crazy obsession, he’s become deeply attached to the extent that he’s starting to want more, to be treated with more than he’s given. 

‘It’s normal. You’re still learning to adapt. The severity of psychopathy isn’t high and your case isn’t hopeless. So all these changes and inconveniences you say you’re experiencing, they’re normal, they’re perfectly fine. They’re valid. Let yourself feel them one by one. They’re flitting and not as intense as a normal person’s, but do acknowledge them when they’re there. Let yourself be surrounded with normalcy until you condition yourself to feel more like how you taught yourself to hate even when there isn’t such within you.’ The therapist once said. Apparently, this is all natural, but all new to him. Still new even though he’s been dealing with it for quite some time. And he’s stopped writing down on his journal, too. They only make him want to read the entries. And they get overwhelming occasionally.

‘And once you’ve felt that optimal emotion that seems most inconvenient to you, then that’s when you know you’ve done it.’ 

“Taeyong,” Johnny’s voice pulls him out of his reverie. “Have you seen Jaehyun? Fort wants to play cards.” 

“He went inside. Said something about throwing up.” 

“Oh, alright. Tell him about the game when he comes back.” 

Then he’s left alone again. Jaehyun’s still gone? Come to think of it, he’s been there for, Taeyong pulls out his phone, close to half an hour. That means he’s been having his own internal battles for that long, too. 

“Is he fucking dead?” He drops the empty cup on the way. Kim Myungsoo walks past him, surprisingly not giving him any attention. It looks like the guy had a change of outfit, now wearing all black. And for what? Taeyong snorts. His assistant is just as weird as him. 

Taeyong takes the elevator to be quick just in case Jaehyun, the huge idiot really died while puking his guts out. 

He quickly steps out of the lift as soon as the doors open. But before he could enter 302, something odd takes his attention. 

They’re the only ones on this floor because Jaehyun doesn’t want to be interrupted. Yet the door to 304 is ajar. Thinking that a staff must have forgotten to close it, he approaches it, only to stop in his tracks when he catches sight of what’s inside. 

The little opening allows him to witness what’s going on. Taeyong keeps himself rooted on his spot, eyes hard and cold and deadly as he watches a woman straddle no one else but a passed out Jung Jaehyun. 

She takes her time kissing all over his face, the exposed skin of his neck and shoulders as her hands wander anywhere she can reach. Her movements are both relaxed and occasionally hurried, as though she can’t indulge herself too much. The man is unmoving. Did the motherfucker pass out after picking up this whore? Where did she even come from? 

Questions swarm his head. He remains where he is, watching, calculating his next movement, too occupied with asking himself what transpired within 30 minutes to notice the familiar twitching of his fingers. 

Taeyong’s face morphs into a mask of pretense as he pushes the door open, stepping in with a look of innocence. “Excuse me, uh, you know you left the door open. So that means I can intrude, right?” 

The bitch audaciously covers up herself with a pillow though she’s still wearing a flimsy summer dress. “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought..ah, nevermind.” A blush forms on her cheeks. “Can you please just close it? I’m busy as you can see…”

“Busy?” Taeyong chuckles, glancing at a sleeping Jaehyun. “Dude’s passed out. You like doing all the work? If I were you I would’ve walked out of this room already. But sadly we’re not the same and I’m not the one about to ride a flaccid dick.” He spits, leaning against the door, his hands stuffed into his short’s pockets. 

Obviously, his words offended her and it shows through her ugly frown. “It’s not really your business…”

“Of course it isn’t, but listen,” The kingpin pretends to check the hallway although no one’s ever stepping there while Invictus is renting the motel. “Where do you work? Here?”

Although suspicious, she answers honestly. “Not exactly here, but if you know those stores selling swimsuits, then that’s where I work. It’s my shop, actually.” 

Thin lips pursed as he hums. “I think I didn’t drop by that one since I don’t need a swimsuit. Good. You don’t work here. Now onto the more pressing matter,” He pads across the room, stopping in front of her. “I’ll take his place. Give me your number.”

“What are you taㅡ”

“This guy’s passed out so give me your number and I’ll have fun with you when it’s convenient for the both of us..” Taeyong bends down to her eye level, some strands of hair falling over the pair of blue eyes. “What do you say? I’ll see you when I can. Come on,” He brings a finger under her chin as his face leans close, his mouth almost pressing over hers. “I bet I fuck better than he’ll ever do. And I’ll be sober.” 

That does it. Taeyong’s always known he’s a charmer. She stutters, taken aback, flustered. His looks are out of this world; who wouldn’t fall for his flowery words? 

The whore glances at Jaehyun before scrambling out of bed, taking out a pen from her purse. “I don’t have a paper, so.” She takes Taeyong’s hand and doesn’t say anything about a twitch as she scribbles her name and number down his palm. A shy smile adorns her pretty face when she picks up her purse, gripping it. “Uh, I’ll go now. Please call me...?”

“Ethan.” 

“Ethan…” She lets the foreign name roll off her tongue as he tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “Okay, Ethan. Make sure to call me!” And before she leaves, she tiptoes to plant a sounding kiss on his cheek. 

Taeyong waits for a minute. His eyes are on Jaehyun’s sleeping face. Once the minute is over, he quietly disappears to 302, back pressed against the closed door, reading what’s written on his palm.

“Soobin. Hm.” He fishes out his phone and saves the contact. “Can’t wait to meet you again.”

At the thought of what will transpire when they meet again, Taeyong feels his rotten body resurrect back to life - back to the life he lived for years, coated with black and red.

 

***

 

He stays inside the room ‘til morning, not bothering to continue the fun with the rest. When the sun rises into the East again, he grows tired of staring into nothing as questions, plenty of it swarms every nook and corner of his mind. They are questions with already existing answers, some of it. And then there are the select few that remain blank, scratching and gnawing, insisting to be solved as soon as possible.

Because if he doesn’t, if Taeyong keeps them in the dark, he’s certain he’d get dragged in no time without a chance of survival. A pitiful regression. 

It’s a little past 7. Looking externally calm, he leaves the bed and nurses himself with a glass of wine he called for in the middle of his lonesome evening. The ice clinks inside the glass as the last drop of wine hits the flat of his tongue. A soft thud resounds in the room when the bottom of the glass meets the surface of the desk, the sound being the only thing he can hear aside from the loud thoughts that never seemed to stop since the second he saw Jung Jaehyun with the woman. 

Taeyong stands immobile, eyes on the little crack on the wall just as the door slams open and a queasy, irritated Jaehyun steps in, features crumpled into a hideous scowl. 

“God,” Grunting, the still slightly drunk man stumbles here and there a few times before the side of his leg hits the edge of the bed. His body falls on it, bouncing gently while he rubs his face exasperatedly. “Fuck, I woke up and the room looked empty.”

Jaehyun opens a bleary eye and looks at the silent man still standing frozen by the desk. A hiss slips out of his mouth. “My head hurts so fucking bad.”

“I looked for you half an hour later when you failed to return from a supposed throwing up in the bathroom because Johnny asked where you were. Fort wanted to play cards.” Taeyong responds monotonously, sounding more lifeless than he ever did. He finally looks at the younger, hair falling over his eyes to hide the doom. “I found you in 304 passed out like a pussy who couldn’t handle his liquor well.”

Another chain of grunts leave the wasted man who’s struggling to rummage for something in his luggage. A minute later he fishes out a clear vial, contemplating whether downing a pill dry with an empty stomach is worth it. “Tone down the cursing and the passive aggression, Taeyong, for Pete’s sake. I’m having a nasty hangover.”

“As you deserve. Actually,” The knife thrower momentarily pauses, lips pursed. “You deserve more than that.”

“Dammit. Who hurt you?” Jaehyun mumbles something under his breath as he shoves the vial back inside and pulls out a change of clothes. “You were the one who told me to go to sleep. Why are you guilt tripping me now saying shit about how they were looking for me?” He walks around the bed, heading to the bathroom.

Irritation cloaks the entirety of Lee Taeyong, hands balled into tight fists. “What do you fucking mean?” His voice raises, a telltale sign of a nasty outburst. “I was out with the others and looked for you only to fucking see you in 304, passed out with a whore sitting on your dick about to go down on you.”

Cluelessness replaces the initial annoyance on Jaehyun’s face as he takes a step back. “What are youㅡ what now? A woman? Jesus, Taeyong.” He huffs in disbelief, absently throwing up a hand, already done with the problem yet to even start. “Are you out of your mind? The only woman we have here are some of the motel staff that I’m sure aren’t pimps and I did not shag. I was drunk. Like you said I was passed out.” Jaehyun rambles like the man he’s talking to is a child. “And I’m not lying, okay? You told me to go to sleep.”

Taeyong only listens, analyzing everything. Jaehyun sounds too sure about him doing whatever he’s saying the caramel-head did. But the other was drunk. It could be his mind tricking him. 

Though, Taeyong must admit, he had already thought of other possibilities. “Where did you throw up? Which room?”

Jaehyun throws him a strange glance. “Here. I got my own keycard so I’m really confuㅡ”

“What did you do after throwing up?”

Ignoring the rude interruption, the younger responds. “I was really getting dizzy I couldn’t even keep my eyes open. I don’t know I felt…” Jaehyun sighs, rubbing his temple. “I felt so sleepy, like I was sedated, whatever. I don’t drink JD a lot so I don’t know that stuff’s effect on me. I was gonna head back but when I was leaving I just fell in the hallway and that’s when you said I should just sleep. I was already halfway there and you dragged me to bed. How did you even get 304’s keycard?”

A snort instantly comes from Taeyong as he walks to the window and stood there, looking at the sea. “How sure are you it was me who brought you there when you couldn’t even keep your eyes open?” 

“It smelled like you.” 

It smelled like you. 

The statement makes him look at Jaehyun once again, eyes blank and face unreadable. “It smelled like me. I only have one perfume and that’s the ridiculously expensive exclusive shit you had a company make for you. Did the voice even sound like me?” 

“Exactly,” Jaehyun shakes his head, finally entering the bathroom. His voice slightly muffled by the running water when he continues. “I can’t remember! You sounded like you were in a hurry and you were uncharacteristically soft. I’m the drunk one right now but clearly, you’re messed up.”

Exactly, Jaehyun. Uncharacteristically. Your stupid, overgrown dumb ass can’t even realize it was not me.

Taeyong stares at the direction of the bathroom for several seconds, the gears in his head running. As a sudden thought lights up, he quickly takes out the bottle of perfume in his luggage, staring hard at it.

A smile stretches across his face. “I knew it was staged the second I saw it. You think you’re so slick, Myungsoo.” He sprays it on his wrist, inhaling the scent with his body slightly spasming with quiet laughter. “Of all the games you want to play with me, you hopelessly cliché asshole.” 

After shoving the bottle back inside, Taeyong sits on the carpeted floor, back pressed to the side of the bed. The laughter is still fizzing out of his mouth, echoing softly within the stillness of the room as he lists down the things he’s going to drop on his assistant when the time comes. For now he wants to join and continue the game, see how it turns, but the end shall be played by him.  

“Ah, what can possibly be the sweetest vengeance I can give you, L? Let’s see,” Pumped with ideas, Taeyong pulls out his phone and begins listing down his most favored art inflicted on his previous playmates. “I don’t think you’re going to survive as long as the others did. You’re the type to fucking shed a tear if shallowly cut. And where’s the fun in that?” 

Taeyong sighs and slams his phone on the bed, looking at the direction of the bathroom with a thumb in between his teeth, eyes wide and chilling “What would I do if I were furious, Jaehyun? If I were jealous and hurt? You allowed yourself to be touched by filthy hands when the only filthy caresses you deserve are mine?” 

A smile breaks his face in half yet it doesn’t reach his eyes. The sound of the running water rings in his ears and his mind veers him into pictures of his Jaehyun, naked and rubbing himself clean. He wants to punish Jaehyun for being stupid, too stupid to save himself. But the rational side of Taeyong knows the other is innocent and didn't really want the things that happened. Taeyong wants to be angry but finds that he's too lazy to get mad and start the day being a ln infuriating pain in the ass not only to Jaehyun but to everyone else too. He's in the country to spend some good time with the younger. 

Seriously, though. Would Jaehyun appreciate it if the knife thrower showed a little bit more of being human? How do normal people express hurt  upon seeing their lover betraying them? Would it be spectacular if he shed a tear or two? 

The shower stops. Taeyong gets off the floor and stands by the window again, overlooking the clear, blue water. As the bathroom door opens, he continues to wonder how it would feel like to be too romantically deep into someone that seeing them with another hurts like hell, chest being pounded so hard that it hollows to complete emptiness. 

Too bad, though. He won't be devastated, not ever, and Jaehyun won't have the satisfaction of knowing he has that effect on Taeyong. 

Maybe if the younger tried harder; a psychopath might just miraculously feel every shade of innocent adoration for him. As intense and as untaintedly wonderful. 

 

***

 

The short celebration slash vacation ended too soon. Jaehyun saw the Garnet men at the airport and managed to properly say his farewell. 

Fort expects Taeyong to follow as soon as possible, to discuss a few things and ensured that Jaehyun knows he's utterly disappointed at the other's lack of presence. Jaehyun promised to mention it to Taeyong, but inwardly wishes that the latter will defy in order to stay a little bit longer than intended. A voice in his head berates him, reminds him that it's his own fault Taeyong cannot be with him as much as he wants. A part of Jaehyun wants the caramel-head to not head back to France, and a bigger part of him worries about the state of Invictus’ business there. 

When the plane takes off and Jaehyun settles back in his car, he realizes he didn't see Kim Myungsoo with Garnet. 

Suddenly, the thought of wanting to canoodle with his lover becomes destructive. He supposed he could never be with the other in peace. 


 

“Good moㅡ”

“Save it.” With a sharp tone he dismisses a random employee, heading straight to the conference room. Taeyong doesn’t even bother to greet, not like he ever did, as he scans his palm to enter. When he gets in, the whole squad is inside sans Jaehyun. Doyoung pauses midway his report, brow raised in question.

“Yeah?” Doyoung presses down a key on the laptop and the slide changes. “If you’re looking for Jaehyun, he’s at the gym.”

Blue eyes rake over the report on the screen before they scan the whole room once again as though making sure he’s not seeing things - or more like not seeing things. “Why is there an ongoing meeting without the boss?”

“That’s what we wanna know too,” This time, it’s Yuta who answers, looking extremely bored while impassively staring at the report. Two seats from him is a brooding Sicheng. Taeyong definitely knows something's up with these two. Fuck gossip mongering. “He told us to go over the reports ourselves and to tell him what’s up later.” The Japanese sighs, glancing at the rest of the advisors. Except for Sicheng. “There must be something bothering him and you should go, right?” His eyes meet Taeyong’s. “We don’t think you’d stay here without the other kingpin.”

Like a switch, the knife thrower’s expression changes into that of being impressed. “I’m surprised that you took note of that, Nakamoto. I’ll tell Jaehyun to learn a thing or two from you.” As he clicks his tongue, Taeyong exits the conference room just like that.

Johnny leans against the round table. “What does he mean by that?”

“No idea,” Bored out of his mind and wanting to just get things over with, Yuta grunts and gestures for Doyoung to continue. “Please, go on, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind after the quick vacation.” 

“Well what exactly do you have in mind?” 

“I don't know,” Yuta scoffs as he straightened in his seat. Ten visibly squirms, sensing the unpleasant vibe. “Maybe to talk about things that matter instead of purposely avoiding it by either distracting me with rushed sex or blatantly ignoring me with a  damn phone.”

Doyoung jumps at the sound of an object being slammed on the round table. He can't see it but he's sure that the screen of Sicheng's phone is cracked. “Hey, this is not the time forㅡ”

Ignoring the warning, the arsonist practically froths in the mouth as he glares at Yuta, the most profound expression on his face outside battlegrounds and around the presence of the squad. “Please grow up and keep your personal problems to yourself until we're out of here.”

“What's going on?” Ten frowns, looking between the two. “You weren't like this at the beach?”

Before Sicheng can say anything, Yuta beats him to it with a nonchalant shrug, thumb jabbing at the Chinese's direction. “I confessed to him and he didn't return it. He has a problem with breaching the sensitive subject, his words, but has no qualms getting in my pants because he's used to it, again his words.” 

Indignance crosses Sicheng's features. His hands shake in anger, not really at being blamed but because of being exposed to the other's scrutiny. For years, he successfully put up a wall for himself, pretending to be cool with everything, not letting anything affect him too much because they can't afford to dwell on problems when new ones can come barrelling through the door unexpectedly. Right now, he's too angry to appear unaffected. 

Yuta was and is still his best friend. Yuta is still the most important person to him after losing his family to arson when he was barely 6. He knows Yuta eventually fell for him after that one careless night and he's absolutely aware of leading him on, making the Japanese think there's so much more than just casual fucks after meetings and in between work hours. 

Sicheng knows he was gambling. He can't return Yuta's affection. Not that kind, at least. Physical pleasure is all he can offer. And though unreasonable, he chose to fool his best friend into thinking they were in the same wavelength instead of hurting him. To selfishly keep Yuta by his side. It backfired, though. Because after that sex at the hotel, Yuta confessed his love and then his knowledge of Sicheng's real intentions. 

And now, they're broken. 

Ten clears his throat, feeling a little guilty about something and glances at Johnny and Doyoung before walking up to Sicheng, trying to make him sit down again. “Calm down. We didn't know. If we were aware, I wouldn't be persistently pushing you two to get together…”

“I only did that because I didn't want to hurt you. I know how sensitive you are and I know you'd distance yourself from me the second I reject you. I love you, Yuta. You're my best friend. I don't wanna seeㅡ”

Another scoff comes from the Japanese as he dismisses the other's words. He's trying hard not to look Sicheng in the eyes. “Hurt? When I was trying to get with Risa and she kept rejecting my advances, did I avoid her? I kept approaching her, didn't I? What makes you think I'd drop you that easily?” 

The reflection of the light from the screen dims, all of them vaguely aware of Doyoung fixing his things and leaving the room without a word. 

Sicheng swats Ten's hands away and misses the look of disapproval from Johnny. “That's another thing. You were into women. How would I know if I wasn't just a pastime, a phase? There's a glaring lack of female here. You'd surely use your resources wisely when left without a choice.”

Johnny's just in time pulling Yuta back when the latter makes a move to swing a fist at Sicheng. Yuta is trembling, blinded by fury as pain fills his gaze that used to be stored with adoration for the arsonist. 

“Knock if off, you two!”

“Knock it off!?” Yuta screams, still taking his chances to pry out of Johnny's hold. “You call me your best friend yet you don't know who I really am! A phase!? Goddammit, Sicheng! I know what I feel and I felt for you! And clearly,” he manages to escape Johnny's grip and laughs sardonically. “I am the one who doesn't know who you really are. You talk like you care for me but aren't your actions a stark contradiction?” He stalks forward, Ten's hand pressed against his chest to keep him where he stands, protecting Sicheng. “We're not solely best friends, Win. How many times did we fuck? I can't even count. And half of those were initiated by you. Say,” A disdainful smirk appears on his face. “You're more of a whore than a friend at this point.”

The sound of a slap echoes throughout the room. 

Yuta's head whipped to the side from the impact and a red print is already on its way on his face. 

A lone tear hits the floor as Sicheng points a finger at him. “Take it back, Yuta.” He pushes Ten out of the way and grips the Japanese's collar, jostling him in anger. “Take it back! Take it back!” 

“Can you both shut the fuck up and stop?” Johnny interjects, his voice calm but his eyes are anything but as he eyes the two. “It's either you talk it out like logical adults or I'll call Taeyong to give you knives so you can kill each other right here, right now. I won't have a problem picking your intestines off this damn floor. Come on, Ten.” He drags the smaller man close to him and glares at Sicheng, jaw clenching. “It's not your business taming the animals that bite you in the end.” 

Sicheng lets go of Yuta when the couple leaves them alone, panting while he grips a handful of hair, his back at the only man in the room with him. “I'm not a whore… You know that.”

Behind him, Yuta drills holes on his back, wanting to burn the arsonist down into hissing dust. “I know. But you showed me otherwise. Tell me, is there really nothing in your heart for me aside from that platonic friendship?” 

Sicheng hears the subtle crack of Yuta's voice at the end of his question. And at the same time, he hears his heart shatter into irreparable pieces. 

When he doesn't get an answer, Yuta chuckles and touches the side of his face that's beginning to swell. “ Please get out of, Winwin. We need some time away from each other.” 

He isn't sure if he's relieved or disappointed when Sicheng listened and actually left. Yuta replays everything from the day they met in Red Phoenix, to that first night together and until the last. Recalls every bit of memory he can. He counts back to the time Sicheng was abducted and the fear of losing the other that way. He'd rather lose himself than let his best friend slip out of his reach. 

This is ten times more painful than all those rejections by the women he once wanted. By far the ugliest turn of events. And he has no idea how to fix it. If it can still be repaired. 

 

*** 

 

True to the bunny-looking squad member’s words, Jaehyun really is at the gym, all sweaty and fueled with adrenaline in a sleeveless tee and track pants, looking like he’s been running the treadmill for God knows how long. 

The gym is empty as it is close to lunch, so Taeyong has no problem leaning against the entryway, ogling the olivious man. “It’s a tad too late for gym. You usually work out at 5 in the morning. And everyone’s at the meeting except for you. That’s not being a good kingpin, Jaehyun. How unbecoming.”

Still, the younger doesn’t stop. He doesn’t even seem like he heard Taeyong. It’s only then that the older notices the airpods. Taeyong’s eyes roll before he pushes himself off the doorway and approaches, only for Jaehyun to get off the treadmill and collide against the knife thrower. His black eyes widen at the slightest as they take in Lee Taeyong, clearly not expecting the other’s presence. 

Before he can speak, Taeyong beats him to it. “Well isn’t this familiar?” He glances down, stopping right at Jaehyun’s crotch. “I think this is the part where I pat down your body looking for the Gold card. But you don’t have it because you’re careless. But this time,” Their eyes meet ㅡ an undeniable connection surges right through the both of them, though they refuse to give in. “You’re the kingpin and you're sitting out of a meeting.”

Lips pressed firmly, Jaehyun severs the eye contact to grab the towel on a bench nearby. “Why are you here, Taeyong? You’re supposed to be in this hotel you’re staying at. Actually,” Wiping down his arms, he continues. “Since you refused to stay with me this time, for reasons I do not know when you still have a few days before heading back, I wasn’t even expecting you to drop by the HQ, too.”

A little amused by the cold treatment, Taeyong takes a step back, eyes still trained on Jaehyun. “I can’t be here? I can’t look around? Like you said, I still have a few days. I can do whatever I want in the HQ of an organization I lead, too. I really hope you didn’t forget that fact.” 

Jaehyun huffs with a shake of his head, tossing the used towel on the bench. He eyes the entrance shortly. “You can, of course. Act like a productive leader and prance around. Though,” He can’t help the frown on his face, remembering how Taeyong, out of the blue during the ride back, told him that the older wouldn’t be staying at his place. And until now, he’s still pissed off about it that he didn’t even try to ask why; Taeyong will always think differently. “It’s a surprise that you’re alone.”

“Should I be with someone?” 

“Tch,” Jaehyun chucks the airpods in his bag, harshly zipping it close. “You got a leech on your back. Don’t tell me he’s not in the mood to tail you like a pet? Or maybe,” He wears a smirk, straightening the flaps of Taeyong’s apricot suit jacket. “The master isn’t in the mood to bring him here? That’d be pretty useless considering he doesn’t even need to stay back with you.”

The nonchalance disappears from the knife thrower’s face, replaced with resignation. “So this is about Myungsoo. I should’ve known. Hey, Jaehyun.” He flicks at the younger’s hand that was still on his jacket before dusting off the fabric. “Didn’t know you’d be the type to get jealous. You denied that already didn’t you? So what’s lighting up your ass?”

“Huh. So what if I am? What of it?” Jaehyun crosses his arms and the muscles flex, the sheen layer of sweat attracting Taeyong just a little bit. But he pushes it at the back of his mind because he doesn’t need an out of place distraction. 

“Jealousy is pathetic. You shouldn’t act like a fucking teenager. Come on, Jaehyun,” As though utterly done with the younger, a loud sigh slips past the thin pair of lips. “I won’t be staying here for long. Cut it out.” 

Vexed by how it seems like his feelings are of no importance, Jaehyun begins to lose control over his words. “Then do something about it if you think it’s pathetic.” The light over them flickers for a moment and Taeyong glances at the entrance to see if someone’s within earshot. No one is. “I’ve been telling you to get rid of him, but you insiㅡ”

The other kingpin is yapping, and he’s so, so damn sick of it. Taeyong is so fucking sick of the insecurity overflowing from Jaehyun. “Hey, fucking pause.” He’s got a hand up to halt the other from talking. “Why are you like that? You know my therapist said if you got these ugly thoughts,” He makes a point of jabbing against his temple. “Ugly thoughts, alright, write them down. Or better yet, hold them in especially when it’s festering. Because they sound so raucous when you let them out and they’re so pungent so keep your mouth shut. Especially that kind you’re spouting."

Smacked with disbelief, Jaehyun scoffs. “Oh wow. You’re lecturing me now? What else did your doctor tell you? Advised you to read books about relationships and how to not fucking cheat?”

Something snaps within Taeyong. Most likely one of his heartstrings. But he doesn’t know that, just feels it and mistakes it as another conditioned surge of resentment. “...The hell are you insinuating now? You talk of how I can’t function, let alone feel properly and you’re accusing me of cheating? If you’re thinking he’s staying with me, god that’s awful by the way, no he’s not. He’s at a different hotel. Darling,” Yet instead of sweetness, the word drips with venom. “Do you hear yourself right now? Me? Thirsting for affection?” He almost laughs. “I lived without it; what makes you think I’m about to whore myself out there for it? Ah, still underestimating me, dimple boy.”

“Then why,” A nerve protrudes on the side of his neck showing how hard the younger’s holding back. “Of all people, did you bring that goddamn guy? You know I hate him! For one that’s an ex-Venandi. Two, you know how he looks at you, Taeyong I know you’re aware of it. You could’ve brought someone else? But you took him because you don’t give a shit about me. And you’re telling me you’re not craving for attention?” Jaehyun laughs derisively. “Taeyong, you’re a charmer. You could be tricking the both of us. So why,” Ignoring the obvious flash of hurt across the older’s sculpted beauty, thinking it's a ploy to manipulate him, Jaehyun asks again. “If not because you like him, then why is he here?” 

So much accusations. So much lambasting without proof. So much mistrust. Yet Taeyong swallows all of them because he didn’t come here to fight. He only wanted to see Jaehyun. Maybe he shouldn’t have let himself hope for a great day. “It’s just,” Eyes heading south and mind with a clamorous train of thoughts he pauses, gulping an invisible lump; his throat suddenly feels parched. “He’s the only one I’m remotely comfortable with. I couldn’t bring mother, I told you. I took over the Bordeaux HQ with men I didn’t know; maybe you could’ve given me half of your squad so I had people I’m comfortable with even if we don’t really get along all the time.” His blue eyes are shaky, not knowing where to look as he pockets both of his hands, concealing the beginning of barely there twitches. “Myungsoo...he came to my therapies. He knew who I was, as Ethan at least and nothing beyond that, what I was, so it was easier. But I’m not,” Taeyong takes a few steps back with a lost gaze. “I’m not blaming you. I just…”

Exhaustion cloaks him like a second piece of fabric. If only he knew that even until now, he’d be misjudged. “Everyone I know, they’re all with you. I had to make a friend of my own, right? Even Fort took someone with him. Why should I be alone? Just because I’m used to it doesn’t mean I want to be alone for the rest of my fucking life, Jaehyun. Not anymore.”

Jaehyun’s raging emotions begin to dwindle as Taeyong goes on. 

“L’s just as annoying as the squad before, stubborn and won’t listen to particular things but hey, he deserves that vacation as much as everyone because when I’m not doing my job and even when I do, he’s still taking most of it. I’m also not defending him. I just want you to know that in the process of me trying to be normal, it shouldn’t be a big deal if I get close to someone else when you’re not around. Did I ever doubt you when I don’t see you and there are seas in between us, when I’m sleeping and you’re up, when I wait for a reply and you don’t respond even after two, three, five goddamn days?” Trembling fingers swiftly brush through soft tresses. “Don’t isolate me, Jaehyun. I know what I’m doing.” 

A pink tongue slithers between the seams of the younger’s lips, moistening. His mind replays what he can remember from everything the other kingpin just dropped. Inwardly, he admits it ㅡ he’s being too harsh. But he has reasons, reasons he’s now unsure if they’re valid or not. “You could’ve just called me if you feel lonely?”

Silence. Three seconds of silence. 

Startling laughter fills the gym as Taeyong doubles over, finding entertainment from whatever’s funny. He peers over at Jaehyun, blue eyes darkening. “W-what? Call you? You know we got a 7-hour time gap, right? And what are you gonna do if I call you? Drop whatever you are doing because a grown ass adult is in need of your attention?” He straightens with a few chortles then, head tilted as his stare pierces through the younger’s soul. “You see, Jaehyun. One’s nature doesn’t easily die out. That deep-seated greed didn’t grow out of you. Call you?” Taeyong scoffs. “Good. Facetime you? Better. But you know what’s even better than that?” 

He doesn’t care anymore if Jaehyun still doesn’t get it after this, so he goes right to the core of the problem, impaling a stake of hard-to-swallow pills through the other’s heart. “You leaving the local HQ to come to France. Isn’t that your original plan ㅡ to expand your influence? Why are you staying here? Did you only make me take over in Bordeaux not because you know the success of Invictus should’ve been mine, but because it’d be easy for you to keep not one, but two headquarters? We could’ve done all those shit you dream of in a normal relationship which, by the way, we don’t have.” 

The corner of his lips curl into a sneer. “We’ll never have one because you still think I’m a freak and you’re taking me for granted.” 

Jaehyun opens his mouth to protest, but yet again, Taeyong interjects. He despises it when he has to deliver a heart-shattering speech and someone cuts him off. “I learned, Jaehyun. All those therapies, these medicines, they fucking helped me adapt. Not yet completely, but I did. I feel, alright. And I feel inadequate. I feel unwanted. I feel alone like I never did before. Eight months, Jaehyun…”

Unseen by the naked eye, but he’s shattered inside. “Eight months. Add those two years in the asylum. I learned, okay. You don’t have to take the utensils from me and make me look prehistorically dumb when I eat. You don’t need to constantly treat me like I’m about to go berserk on you for no damn reason at all. You don’t have to constantly make me feel like I’m never getting out of my own misery and you don’t need to accuse me like you did years ago because you couldn’t accept I could actually think straight, you fucking neanderthal.”

“Taeyㅡ”

“You don’t want to sacrifice for me.” Taeyong says calmly and he feels the almost tangible guilt radiating off of the younger. “That’s the thing. You don’t want to make a little sacrifice for me when I stopped smoking because you hate it, I entered the asylum in order for you to like me enough...and you’re here, not wanting to give up something for me but you’re complaining I’m spending my days with a fucking employee?” Shaking his head, he feels the oncoming headache. “God, Jaehyun.” 

Taeyong decreases the distance between them, stopping just a few inches before the other. “I haven’t even...treasured you properly and you’re already trying to put a period to it, thinking I could choose someone I don’t trust enough to bare all of me.” 

As much as it makes him weak, as much as he hates to admit it, and as much as he wishes he didn't have to resort to it, his eyes sting and Jaehyun’s face blurs. Taeyong knows Jaehyun can see the wetness brimming around his wide eyes. It’s just so, so hard. It’s so hard to be this attached and actually embrace it knowing he’s not getting the same intensity that should be reciprocated. 

Fear. Taeyong is scared. It's fear, isn't it? He’s scared that nothing of what Jaehyun has for him is real, and that he’s fallen in a trap alone. “You know even though I don’t tell you, it would only be you, right?” 

Silence. Jaehyun appears to be fishing for the right words to say, and the momentum plunges. 

Say something, you son of a bitch.” Taeyong blurts in English, obviously frustrated. “Ah, wait. Don’t do that. I don’t want any bullshit you wanna spew out. One last thing, though.” And as though he wasn’t teary seconds ago, a smile stretches across his face. “Ask me.”

“...What is it?”

“The Venandi guy you hate knows I eat toast in the morning. You know why you don’t know that? Because when we’re together, I prefer to stay in bed with you or eat whatever you crave for and that’s not a French toast. All your favorite. I wanted to eat what you like because I thought that would bring me closer to you. Guess that wasn’t the right way to do it. What can I do,” Taeyong shrugs. “I’m dysfunctional, correct?” 

“Taeyong,” Jaehyun’s fingers circle around Taeyong’s wrist, tugging. “I’m soㅡ”

He gently twists his wrist out of Jaehyun’s hold before making his way to the doors, stopping just as he reaches it but not turning around to look back. And in the calmest tone he ever used in his life, Taeyong asks something that will incessantly bug the other’s mind. “Have you ever stopped to think that maybe, you weren’t doing it right and me, a mental might actually do?”

Not waiting for a response, the knife thrower leaves the gym and meets Yuta on the way out. 

“Heyㅡ,” Yuta stops at the sight of a teary-eyed Taeyong. Why the fuck is everyone hurting today? “You okay?”

“Oh I am perfectly fine.” Taeyong raises a brow. “Someone slapped a mosquito on your face?”

The other rolls his eyes and instinctively cups the swollen cheek. “There's no use lying to you. Sicheng did it.”

The knife thrower makes an indifferent noise as he begins to walk away. “I knew it, Nakamoto.”

He foregoes the seatbelt as he drives off, momentarily glancing at the rearview mirror, then focusing on the road. 

A scoff escapes him. “What a douche. Of course I’m keeping the bastard here; that little shit fucking set us up...” He takes a look at himself in the mirror again, wiping the tears tracks down his face before giving himself a pat on the shoulder. “You're such an actor, Ethan Lee. That was melodramatic at best. He's going to beg for forgiveness and scamper to do right by you soon enough. Like what you deserve.” 

He chuckles and barely avoids the lady crossing the road, belatedly realizing he beat the red light as he was preoccupied by thoughts of finally shooting the bullets through Jaehyun's brain, hoping that the younger gets it through his thick skull that he should be next to Taeyong, not away from him. Two years and 8 months was far too long without his object of interest and only reason left to live. He gets bored eventually. 

Taeyong drums his fingers on his temple, willing the ache away when he remembers someone he's supposed to meet. He finds the contact in his phone and presses call, clearing his throat just as the other line picks up, putting up a mask. “Soobin, are you at the subway now?”

Detecting the excitement from the woman, Taeyong's eyes darken and his grip on the wheel tightens considerably. “Excellent. I'll pick you up.”

 

***

 

As she rounds the car, all dolled up for him, blue eyes follow and memorize all about her right that moment - the expertly drawn brows giving her a sophisticated look compared to the vibe she had at the beach, the sheen of her lips, the slant of her nose and the blush on her cheeks. Her tight dress hikes a few inches up her honey thighs when she settles in her seat, her mouth curved into a shy smile. 

“Hi…”

“Hey,” Taeyong greets back just for the sake of it, for keeping up the act. She clearly enjoys it when he lets himself ogle her upfrontly. “You look even better.”

Soobin tucks her hair behind her ear, and the silver earring glimmers. Her fingers coil around the hem of her dress, pulling it down. “Thank you. Uh,” She boldly meets his eyes, mistaking the hunger in them. “Ethan? Where are we going?”

“It’s a surprise.” The car reverses and swiftly speeds out to the highway. Taeyong has a lot planned for the both of them. “Is anyone waiting for you to get home? You know,” He glances at her for a second before focusing on the road. “It’ll be a hassle to keep watch of the time if you got curfew.”

Her coy laugh sounds nothing but solicitous. “What are you saying? It’s not like I’m in high school.”

“How old are you?”

“Old enough to do bad things?”

A smirk blooms on the kingpin’s face. “Just my type.”

The woman shakes her head at the flirtatious response. “As I was saying, no one’s going to worry about me coming home late so...we can even spend the night together?” Her voice softens at the end as though she’s unsure of what they both have in mind. “Because that’s what you suggeㅡ”

Again, she was cut off. Not that she minds. “That’s the plan. Anyway, it seems like I’ll have all of you tonight?” Taeyong reeks of confidence and sultriness, all the reasons why she will never say no. If she had no problems leaving Jaehyun that night for an uncertain offer, then it’s safe to say that the man she’s with presently is more of her type. “And probably for the rest of you life.”

And it’s all in his favor. 

She slaps her arm. Taeyong resists the disgust with a hand tightly gripping the steering wheel. “Stop being so romantic, it’s just the first date…”

Stupid whore. He only offers a smile before they fall into comfortable silence. It’s because you’re not opening your eyes again after I’m done with you.

 

***

 

They spent the rest of the afternoon until night with the usual things couples do, courtesy of Soobin. Taeyong, honestly, just lumped his plans up to one, let her decide because he doesn’t know shit about heterosexual stuff, and two, execute whatever he has in mind when the moon comes up. Soobin had demanded to eat in a fancier restaurant, fancier than where Taeyong had initially brought them. After that, he was dragged to a jewelry store, a popular clothing shop where she bagged at least five items, and just as he expected, to a cinema. Shamelessly she chose the farthest, darkest seats. If she was disappointed with the lack of advances coming from Taeyong, then she did a good job hiding it, masking it with a smile so perfect, so willing and with class so rock-bottom he had to act as well as if his fucking colon wasn’t about to tear itself out of him. 

Ah, the charmer, the best actor that he is. 

All her shopping bags sit in the back. Soobin, still up for the one thing she’s very much looking forward to, constantly steals glances at the alluring man next to her. They’re driving down a dark road without a sign of residence. 

Impatience settles within her. She’s itching to spread herself open. “Where are we?” For the umpth time, her eyes fall on his side profile, never satisfied with his glory. “Are you sure we’re at theㅡ”

The car’s wheels screech to a stop. Slightly startled, she clutches the front of her dress, eyes a little wider.

No signs of life can be found around them, and their only companion is a row of a few lampposts. One flickers inconsistently right above the roof of the car. It’s eerie, yet she doesn’t question - more like she forgot about it the moment Taeyong faces her, lips parted for a bit. 

“Shh,” He leans in, swallowing up the gap between them. Their hearts beat erratically for two entirely different reasons. “I can’t wait any longer, you know.” One of his hands cup the back of her neck, pulling her gently. 

Audaciously, she puts a hand on his chest, almost whimpering at the feel of the drumming beneath. “So impatient.” Soobin comments, obviously unmindful of Taeyong’s choice of place to have their tryst. “Please do anything you want to me…”

Taeyong’s breath hitches. It’s been a long time. It’s been an eternity since Zero. His heart seems to lodge in his throat, and for a second his mind goes static, too excited, exhilarated. He likes it best when preys offer themselves unsuspectingly. 

The little knife that’s been sitting under his shirt for the whole day feels so familiar in his grip when he finally takes it out. Without her noticing, he cuts through the ribbon of her dress, right on the cleavage. 

“So encouraging for a farewell…”

“What?” She feels the sharp blade press lightly against her throat and for a new reason, her heart rate picks up, breath coming out in quick puffs. Horror settles within her as she begins to struggle, though the attempt is futile when the knife thrower’s hand clamps down her windpipe to cut her oxygen. 

“You will come with me quietly, right? Soobin?” Taeyong grins, licking his lips. He can’t wait to have his well deserved meal. “Because if you make a single noise, I will slice your tongue in half and leave you looking a serpent - that’s what you are. Do we agree?” 

Eyes clouded with tears, she mutely nods her head and remains frozen in her seat until Taeyong opens her door and drags her out without an ounce of concern, fingers gripping her arm so tight, hindering the flow of her blood. 

She holds on to her words - or lack thereof of keeping quiet. Not even her breath can be heard. Soobin trips once or twice over her own foot, losing balance and colliding with Taeyong’s back but she bites down on her tongue until it bleeds, careful not to even whimper. The blood in her mouth tastes like the imminent conclusion to her rather short existence. 

Around them is a huge space of nothingness but overgrown grasses and a few trees in the dark. There’s so much uncemented ground, the soil slipping through her wedged sandals. When Soobin looks to her left, there’s no mistaking that it’s a gravestone she set her eyes on. She whimpers and snaps her eyes at the man dragging her to nowhere. For a second she thinks Taeyong would lash out on her but a beacon of hope hits her when she receives no reaction. 

The walk feels like forever until they stop. Soobin twists her arm around the man’s hold, trying to get away, but he only tightens it, nails digging painfully through her alabaster skin. 

A second later she has a deranged man staring right through her, eyes so cold and eerie that her bones shake in fright, legs wobbly. She finally collapses to the ground, sobbing as Taeyong towers over her, his shadow swallowing hers like a viper would. Even in the dimness of the graveyard, the knife glows in all its splendor.

“Please,” She begs on her knees, hands clutching the man’s legs. “Please, Ethan. I’ll do anything you want. Please spare me. Don’t kill me, please. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Surprisingly, although hair-rising, he talks with such serenity she almost got fooled. “You didn’t do anything wrong. Are you sure?”

Soobin eagerly nods, tugging at his pants incessantly. “Please let me go. Is this about the clothes? The jewelry?” She’s frantic by now, glancing at him and the car in the distance. “I won’t take them! I’m sorry f-for taking advantage of you, Ethan. I thought-”

“You thought what?”

The knife glows yet again. Soobin sobs louder, her mascara running down her face. . 

“I t-thought you liked me… But I was wrong! It’s my fault! Please, Ethan. Please don’t kill me…”

Taeyong crouches in front of her, tapping the knife against his lip as he holds her gaze, head tilted to the side. His hair follows, curtaining the intensity of his eyes. “I’ll go easy on you if you tell me why you’re at fault.” He watches her open her mouth to protest but he twists the knife in his hand and she gulps, looking side to side as he forages her brain for the right answer. 

It doesn’t take her a long time to perk up, remembering their first encounter. “I… You found me in that hotel. On top of… on top of that guy. I don’t know his name. Is that your friend?” She nervously gnaws on her manicured nails. “Does he have a wife? I really...had no idea. I was paid to do it. Someone picked me up from my shop and told me to do it. I couldn’t,” She sobs again, the noise grating Taeyong’s ears like nails scraping on a chalkboard. “I couldn’t deny the money and I was threatened.

She goes blind for a second when the light from Taeyong’s screen hits her and she blinks a few times, falling on her ass. “What…”

“It’s him.”

It’s not a question. Taeyong knows it was Myungsoo who found the time and exerted effort in setting up Jaehyun. Soobin nods, pointing at the photo. “It’s him! He paid me! Gave me the keycard to that room. Please let me go, Ethan...”

“Stop saying my goddamn name!”

Soobin immediately cowers, trembling like a leaf as she pathetically cups her hand over her mouth, willing the sounds to die down.

Taeyong fishes out a hankie and ties it around her head, blocking her sight. “There, I told you I’d go easy on you, right?” He sweet talks her, watching her grasp around as he takes a step back to admire the woman nearing her end. “Soobin, do you know what I do for a living?”

He doesn’t wait for her answer. The knife thrower digs his heel in the soil, clicking his tongue. “I’m from a gang, Soobin. I used to torture people into submission, extract necessary information that my organization would make use of. When they’re dead, sometimes I play butcher and remove the organs because they sell high in the black market. I lead a group of people who do the same.”

“Now,” Taeyong crouches once again and speaks next to her ear, sending shivers down her spine. “What makes you think I’d leave you... unmodified?” He dangles the knife in front of her, familiar amusement tickling him when the blade hits her cheek and she cries even louder. “Isn’t this exciting? I don’t really know how it feels like to be truly excited, Soobin. I’m a defect. My feelings are shallow and fleeting, so it’s hard to stay that way. But I learned, you see. I taught myself how to appear looking like all these damn emotions you privileged humans have. You must’ve been ungrateful not to treasure your life that you had to offer yourself to the lion, sweetheart. A lion that has no concern as to what happens to you.” 

“Are you scared, Soobin?” 

She squirms, scooting away from him. But Taeyong keeps her in place with a kick to her stomach, tsk-ing at the way she folds in half clutching her middle. “I know how to be scared, Soobin. I understand. I felt it, but dull and too quick. How I wish it was the same for you too. So you won’t be scared anticipating the inevitable.” 

The words haven’t even processed themselves in her brain when the knife plunges through her left eye, buried until the middle of the blade and she splutters in pain and cries while she helplessly screams trying to get away, to pull out the knife that Taeyong is twisting around the socket. 

“I said not to make a noise, Soobin. Don’t make it hard for the both of us.” Taeyong wrenches the knife out and holds the back of her head to keep it steady as he mercilessly stabs her right eye, a little impressed she hasn’t passed out yet. The woman goes into hysterics, flailing, punching his legs and even managing to hit his crotch. Taeyong curses and yanks her head back, the wet sounds of the blade slipping out of her eye momentarily numbing the pain that emanates from his balls. “Fucking bitch!”

“Help! Please! Help me!” 

“I’ll help you, alright.” He speaks through gritted teeth and forces her mouth open. Soobin bites down his fingers and Taeyong angrily swipes the knife over her breasts, slicing the skin open. She wails and desperately presses her palms over the wound to stop the bleeding. “Cooperate with me, sweetheart. It’ll be over before you know it.”

When she gasps for air, the knife thrower pinches her tongue and pulls it out, refusing to let go when she makes a move to escape. Taeyong wastes no time in sticking the knife down the middle of the muscle, dragging it down to cut her tongue in half like he promised. She most certainly looks like a snake now. 

Blood splatters out her mouth, thickly flowing down her chin and mixing with the redness on her chest. Soobin weakens, though still fighting for her life as she punches and scratches and kicks as much as she can. Taeyong makes sure he’s out of reach this time. He cares a lot for his crotch more than anything at the moment. 

With the woman miserably gasping for a few more seconds of life, Taeyong flings the knife and watches as it hits the trunk of a nearby tree. . 

“I’m hoping for a thank you because I made all this shit definitely easier but,” Cold eyes devour a bleeding-to-death Soobin, dilating when she finally pulls her blindfold off with a face stricken by horror. It’s paradoxical how she seems to know where he stands and looks at him accusingly. “It’s the thought that counts, I guess?” Laughter spills from his lips. “You’re welcome!”

 

***

 

Trudging through the darkness of Red Phoenix’s hidden cemetery faintly illuminated by the nearby lamppost, Taeyong drags her body along the soil and grime of the moist ground. By the time he stops at the perfect spot to bury her, she’s completely limp yet still breathing. The traces of blood she left remains on the soil to feed the maggots. 

“Consider this a payment for everything you put me through since that second I saw you being the whore that you were. Listen,” Taeyong releases her hair and repeatedly taps the ground with the shovel he found - the shovel he brought that fateful day to dig an enemy’s deathbed. For years, it has been there. Taeyong senses something surge in his chest at the memory. “It’ll be a bummer to ditch my car’s chip after this. Do you know how much data are in there? Because they can’t know what I did the whole day.” 

He begins digging then. Minutes turn into hours. When he finally makes a space enough to accommodate the body, Taeyong wastes no time in dumping her in, quickly refilling the hole with the same soil he dug out but leaving her head uncovered so she can gasp for air and die slowly. Like finishing an artwork, he grabs the stone nearby and puts it right on her grave. 

“Jaeseok, I hope you don’t mind sharing. We ran out of stones, you see. It’s resourceful, right? You ain’t getting names carved on it anyway.” Snorting, he tosses the shovel on the grave of his old, arduous scheme. “Be glad. You got a cute ass burial, while I never even found my father’s and my sister’s bodies, you undeserving scum.” 

“Tch,” He squats, staring hard at where Soobin is encased. “Soobin, don’t tell anybody, alright? I really just needed to do what had to be done. And really,” Wiping the blood off of his face, Taeyong continues talking to himself. “There are some things no one needs to know.” 

A pill is popped in his mouth just as a few tics started. “Consider this our pretty little secret.” The kingpin casts a second-long glance where Jaeseok lies before making his way back. Suddenly, the ringing of his phone cuts through the deafening silence of the night, though not startling him even in the slightest bit. 

He picks up the call. “Hello? Oh, yes. Thank you.” Like he didn’t just murder someone, Taeyong speaks to the other line with uncharacteristic civility. “I haven’t read the email yet. I’ll check the item later. Are you sure you sent it to the right room? Good. I’m currently out,” He gets in the car and discards the stained suit jacket. “So I’ll check it when I get back and tell you if it’s as perfect as I want it to be. Right. Thanks.” 

Right as the call ends, a message comes in, making him raise a brow as he reads Jaehyun’s text asking him to come to his place. “Hm, this dumb man wants to see me? Sweet. I know it’s the fruit of my hard work this morning.” Pocketing the phone, Taeyong drives out of the place he swore he will never visit again. 

 

***

 

Taeyong doesn’t bother to notify the other anymore when he enters the penthouse’s passcode, heading straight to Jaehyun’s bedroom upon seeing the lack of the other’s presence in the living room. He walks in, closing the door behind him and mentally thanks the heavens that the main light isn’t on for the younger to see the small splotches of blood. 

“Hey, what is this about? Be glad I’m still up. I’m not even gonna ask why you’re not trying to sleep.” He’s the first one to break the ice. Jaehyun bites the inside of his cheek and sits on the edge of his bed, eyes meeting the older’s. “Also, don’t ask why I’m still dressed the way I am since this morning.”

“I’m sorry.” 

Taeyong takes his seat next to the other. “Again.”

Jaehyun rubs his nose, cheeks reddening. “I’m sorry, Yong. For everything I said today.”

Seconds pass by before he gets a response. The silence is truly deafening. “You know what, it’s fine.” Taeyong shrugs. “Forget it. I spilled what you had to swallow. I kept them in and now they’re out. It’s up to you what to do about that.” 

“I’m aware of it, okay?” Jaehyun looks at him, guilt written all over his handsome face. “I’m aware of what I was doing. Most of the time. I got overboard, I was too worried, overprotective, irrationally jealous, insecure and unfairly accusatory. Can I please explain?”

Honestly surprised and eager to hear what the other needs to say, Taeyong nods. “Go on.”

“I love you.”

Taeyong blinks a few times. “I knowㅡ”

“I love you and it turned out that I don’t know how to love you properly, contrary to everything. You,” Jaehyun’s hands tighten on the edge of the bed. “I disliked you, right? I thought I was damn straight, and then out of nowhere I was struck with feelings I don’t even know where they rooted from. I only wanted a name for me…” He pauses, silently checking if Taeyong’s still listening. “Recognition, and power, money; I got all of that but I also got you. A man on top of that. Like a bonus. I love you but I failed. I promised to visit you in the asylum but within what?” Frowning, he gets up, restless as he paces back and forth while rubbing his temple. 

The older stays in bed, eyes following Jaehyun’s movements. 

“23 months, I dropped by twice? Thrice? I don’t even remember. And all I talked about was Invictus. I didn’t ask much about you. I thought about you during the times I was trying to pull the org from the ground up, I missed you but my greed, pride, my goal to prove myself worthy kept me from seeing you because,” Finally, Jaehyun stops pacing, eyes cast down while clenching and unclenching his fists. “Because I wanted to build a network with people who won’t give a fuck about me by the end of the day. I ditched you for them. I ditched you for money and for more money.”

As the other talks, Taeyong does nothing but to listen and to keep himself from taking Jaehyun in his arms. He stays where he is, seated in bed, face unreadable. 

“And until now I’m doing just that. Yeah, I want you.” Coal black eyes courageously meet the pair of unblinking, blue ones. “I want you and Invictus at the same time but I can’t do both at the same time. I can’t do love and overwhelming power at the same time. You’ll always do better than me, Taeyong. In all aspects. And I’m so insecure,” A chuckle comes from Jaehyun. “Because in a snap you can trample me, overthrow me, even with that damn mental state. So I stayed here, because I wanted to be stronger than you, better than you. And god, that’s beyond brainless of me, right? How can I love someone and be insecure of them at the same time? And it’s so fucking dumb, I can’t even stress it well enough, for thinking that if I chose to be with you, hand over the local HQ to the squad, give them a third of authority, then I’d be nothing compared to you.”

“But I’m wrong, yeah?” Jaehyun takes a few steps back, sighing as he hits the cold hard wall. “Because, betting my life on it, even if I had nothing, I’ll still be everything to you.”

“Not quite, don’t be so full of yourself.”

The typical response makes him laugh, slightly lifting off the heaviness in his chest. “Right,” He calms down soon, and the emptiness fills him once again. “I know those reasons are invalid. Also, I’m sorry for accusing you of...cheating. We’re not even official to begin with.” Speaking of that fact almost literally squeezes the life out of him. “I was just...scared. If I lost you, I won’t be able to find another you. I just know it. There’s no one else like you. Even if I turn the world upside down. I know this isn’t enough and you deserve better than me. But Taeyong,” 

Jaehyun crosses the room and wordlessly kneels in front of Taeyong, who’s still unmoved by the younger’s actions. “I don’t want to lose you.” Desperation drips from his tone. “Please, stay with me. I know you’re tired, but please bear withㅡ”

“No.”

Time stops running. The world halts its spin, and Jaehyun’s heart ceases its beating. 

“...What?”

Firmly, Taeyong stands his ground. “I don’t wanna bear with this anymore. This whole set up?” He makes an emphasis of pointing the both of them before shaking his head. “I don’t want this. I don’t want a relationship I can barely feel. Why do you even feel for me, Jaehyun? If I’m planning to continue improving mentally, emotionally, I need to get rid of this. Because it’s taking a toll on me.” Gathering his thoughts and doing his best not to give in, Taeyong leaves his place in bed and stands next to the still kneeling Jaehyun. “This is toxic, Jaehyun. Everything about you and I. I don’t want this arrangement anymore.”

When the younger looks up, the tears are barely holding on from falling freely down his face, gathering on the corners of his eyes. He looks entirely broken. “But I don’t wanna lose you. I just told you, Yong.” Like a child, he grips the side of Taeyong’s pants, tugging. “Didn’t you hear me? You said you think you love me. Did you lead me on?”

His tears fall. 

Taeyong pretends his own heart doesn’t break into a thousand pieces. If he wants to do this properly, then he needs to hold himself together. Even Jaehyun’s tears won’t make him take all of it back. “I heard all of it and I understand. And I reckon we stop this.”

Soft sobs fill the bedroom. Jaehyun brushes a hand through his hair as he presses the heel of his palm over his eye, mumbling something about not wanting to let go.

“Hey,” Softer now, the older lowers himself on Jaehyun’s level to cup the latter’s cheeks, and to wipe away the tears continuously rolling down. “Get over it tonight. There are better things tomorrow.” And like he never did before, Taeyong closes their distance with the gentlest kiss on Jaehyun’s lips, lasting for a few seconds. He doesn’t want it to stop, both of them doesn’t want to, but he needs to pull away, so he did. Or else he won’t be able to walk out of this room. “I’m sure there will be better things coming for you.”

“But you’re the best for me…”

Taeyong can only offer a small smile as he stands up, staring at the devastated man. “It didn’t look like it. Go to sleep.” 

And just like that he’s gone, out of the door, the penthouse, and probably out of Jaehyun’s life. 

What seems to be forever passes by before Jaehyun pushes himself off the floor to sit on the bed again, still staring at the door despondently. “I was just about to tell you I’m choosing you now.” 

A beep comes from his phone. Jaehyun takes it and opens the reminder, a short message telling him it’s July 1st

“You deserve it, Jaehyun. You were so busy chasing your dreams that you forgot about your reality.” 

 

***

 

Groggily, Jaehyun scrolls through his previous texts with Taeyong. He’s contemplating whether to message or not, knowing that the other most likely wants space and time away from him. He doesn’t want to let go just like that. He understands where the other is coming from, knows he doesn’t deserve Taeyong, but the latter had already invested way too much for him just for those to be put to waste. 

When he was finally left alone last night, Jaehyun attempted to locate the other, tracing the whereabouts of Taeyong’s car since he knows whatever name the blue-eyed man is using to book a hotel room, is not his birth name nor his Korean name - all for safety measures. He ruled that out. But the car can’t be traced until now. Doyoung said something about chip disconnection. 

“Ugh…”

Beginning to feel hopeless, Jaehyun tosses his phone to the side of the bed, only to pick it back up when it suddenly rings. 

Johnny’s calling.

Begrudgingly, without much energy to interact with anyone through any shape of form, he answers. “Yeah?”

“Rise and shine!”

Jaehyun puts the phone a few inches away from his ear, brows creasing as he checks the time. “It’s literally 4 in the afternoon, Johnny.”

“The greeting is still valid. Let me guess - you’re in bed, moping?”

It takes him a few seconds to form a response. “...Now, why would you think I’m moping?”

The man from the other line stammers, taken aback. Jaehyun could almost see the taller’s eyes widen. “W-well! You didn’t come here! There’s nothing much to work on anyway, just the same old shit from Mr. Lim. BUT, you usually reply in the group chat no matter what and today you’re not even breathing so I just assumed- you’d be well, moping! And you know, there’s still that discord between Sicheng and Yuta and I know it’s affecting everyoneㅡ”

Exasperated, the kingpin rubs a hand down his face. “Johnny, why are you calling? You could’ve just texted if it’s not urgent. It’s impossible for you too to call me just to say you guys missed me when we see each other everyday.” The image of the squad sulking makes him snort. 

“Ehh, go dress up. Like, quick.”

Jaehyun’s brow raises. “For what?” The thought of getting out of bed makes him feel so lethargic, so lifeless. “I don’t waㅡ”

“Taeyong said something about meeting him where you first had your sexcapade. Verbatim.”

Suddenly he’s up, full of life, replenished - Jaehyun can almost feel himself glow dramatically. “Taeyong?” Hope rings from his voice. “He wants to see me? Why- why at the cabin?”

“I don’t know! But hey, it’ll take us a while to drive there so get ready, okay? I’m coming with you. Don’t ask! I’m picking you up.”

Quite speechless and buzzing with excitement, Jaehyun stutters his goodbye to Johnny before rushing to the bathroom to shower, screaming in panic when he realizes he’s still holding his phone as he gets under running water. 

 

***

 

Dressed in a loose shirt and tight jeans, hair unstyled and softly falling over his forehead, Jaehyun stands in front of the cabin, unmoving. Beside him, Johnny casts a judging glance, scrunching his nose.

“Why aren’t you going in? The door isn’t gonna automatically open for you, no?”

They drove for under three hours with the kingpin urging Johnny to speed down the road and even beat a few red lights. To say the least, he received a few slaps on the head as well for being stubborn. It’s dark now, the sun has set yet again, reminding him of what transpired the previous night. He honestly doesn’t want to go through that again - not the embarrassment of breaking into tears but the pain of hearing those words for the second time. He hasn’t even glued his heart back together yet, and there might be another round of the same heartache already.

You deserve it, scumbag. 

Yeah, I do.

“I’m scared,” is what comes out of his mouth since stepping out of the car.

The response makes his friend slash advisor elicit a funny sound, pushing himself off the hood. “Dude, of what? That’s just Taeyong?” He asks matter-of-factly.

Jaehyun slowly shakes his head, eyes still trained on the closed door of the cabin. “I don’t know but I’m scared.”

Johnny’s eyes fall on his side profile, searching. “Hey, Jae. I don’t know why you’re scared of Taeyong, you of all people - but I told you to trust him, right?”

“Why do you sound like you know what’s about to go down? What’s going on?” His heart shoots up his throat, lodging itself there. “Why are we here?”

Basically done with the other’s bullshit, Johnny scratches the back of his head in slight annoyance. “Please, just talk to him. Taeyong - he cares for you than you’ll ever know. And you will never know if you keep standing here like a wuss.” His head cocks to the direction of the cabin. “Go.”

Knowing that nothing’s going to happen if he let the fear overpower, the sharpshooter takes a deep breath, calming down before finally entering, expecting to see Taeyong peeking through the gap between the window and the curtain to show he had been eavesdropping all along. 

Yet obviously, that’s not the scene he witnesses when he comes in. Kim Myungsoo sits casually on the couch, watching the news on the old school television. 

All of his plans to redeem himself flies out of the window. “Why on Earth are you here?” Jaehyun’s hard eyes scan the living room and the kitchen. “Where’s Taeyong?”

“Actually, same.” It shows through Myungsoo’s actionsㅡnot even sparing Jaehyun a glance as he turns off the TV, that he doesn’t have the same ounce of respect and recognition to the other as what he has for Taeyong. “I don’t understand why you’re here. Sir Taeyong said there’s soㅡ”

“Oh hey, Jaehyun!” The two men who are killing each other with the aura radiating from the both of them turn to Taeyong who just walked out of the bedroom wearing a pair of sweatpants and hoodie - all in black. Not a trace of last night’s affair shows on his face. Instead, he looks happy to see Jaehyun. “I honestly thought you wouldn’t come after the talk.” There’s a mischievous lilt in his tone that the two others don’t miss, but only one knows undestands. 

“Yong,” Ignoring the unwanted person with them, Jaehyun approaches his, well, now most probably, ex-lover. “I know I apologized already for being irrationally jealous, but,” Only Taeyong notices the subtle smirk on his assistant’s face. “But why are weㅡ” Even acknowledging Myungsoo’s presence is physically difficult to do. “ㅡthree, here?”

Taeyong pockets one of his hands while the other pulls on the drawstrings of his hoodie, tightening the hood around his face. He looks funny like that. “Hm, several reasons. First things first, I missed this cabin. And in what place would be perfect enough to execute the shit I planned waaaay before? Like approximately three months ago.” Then he chews before making a tiny balloon with his gum, popping it with a slight chuckle. 

Confusion settles in Jaehyun’s mind. “What plan?”

“We’ll get to that later. For now,” The crazed kingpin sidesteps the younger to approach his assistant who immediately stands up. “I believe my beloved secretary here has something to tell us.” Taeyong smiles at Myungsoo, yet it doesn’t reach his eyes. Creepy is the most accurate word to describe it. 

Myungsoo blinks a few times, brows slightly furrowing. “Me? I don’t-”

Taeyong cuts him off. “Tell him.” The creepy expression on his face is replaced with death itself, dark and paralyzing. 

“I don’t understand…”

Impressed by the other’s persistence to keep up the futile act, the leader of the Bordeaux HQ is glad to take it from there. “Then I’ll tell him and remind you , because from the second I saw Jaehyun passed out in 304, I understood right away it was a set up, Myungsoo.”

Jaehyun frowns. Myungsoo takes a step back. 

Taking the lack of response as answer itself, he continues, set to destroy all of Kim Myungsoo’s misplaced determination. “You see,” Taeyong picks the tasteless gum from his teeth and flicks it to the side unhygienically. “Jaehyun sleeps with a hand under his pillow regardless of his state. Sober or intoxicated, well rested or exhausted. If not, then he’s hugging one. He was stiff as fuck that night, obviously forced to lie in bed. Someone definitely fixed his position so the poor woman could climb and sit comfortably on him and do what she was paid for.”

“You weren’t lying about the woman?” Jaehyun questions. He was royally inebriated that night. Come to think of it. He can hold his liquor well, yet he was collapsing in the hallway even after throwing up that night. It’s like there was something else in that JD. 

His question was answered with a snarl. “Keep quiet, Jaehyun. I’m still relaying, right? Second,” Taeyong turns back to the rigid man. “Jaehyun said someone put him there and it smelled just. like. me. ” The last three words are emphasized with a gaze growing more intense by the second. “Do you know what’s crazy about it? Ask me.”

They don’t miss the nervous gulp from the ex-Venandi. “What?”

A smile so gentle it almost fools all of them finds its place on Taeyong’s face. He loosens the drawstrings of the hoodie. “What’s crazy is all of us smelled like beach water and sand and that I use only one perfume, and there’s literally nothing else like that around the globe, L. You don’t know that, do you? So why would someone smell just like me, right? Jaehyun would recognize it right away because he was the one who had it custom-made for me. It’s the scent he wants to inhale from me. Why would the content of the bottle lessen right after I asked you to take it from the office?”

At this point, the gears in Jaehyun’s head had stopped running for they already have come to an answer. 

“Why would you change your clothes that night? You came out of the hotel just when I was going in. Why?” Taeyong’s head tilts, blue eyes piercing through Myungsoo’s black ones. “Because you took a little bit of that perfume, sprayed the fucking thing on you so Jaehyun wouldn’t notice. Who would even put Jaehyun in a room near ours, when the whole floor was exclusive for only the two of us? How would an outsider get in without an insider’s help? Kim Myungsoo,” Blue eyes travel a little to the south, occupied with the thoughts running in Taeyong’s head. “You’re the only one with such intention. I told you not to look at me like that because there’d be only one man for me, remember?”

“So why,” None of the two sees it coming as Taeyong slams Kim Myungsoo against the wall, an arm insistently pressing down the latter’s windpipe, “Would you fucking test me?” His voice is low, but dripping toxin and the will to kill.

“Wow,” Unlike before, Jaehyun just stands where he is, not even planning to stop the older. “You really want him for yourself?” He watches with apparent disdain. 

Taeyong shrugs, pressing harder even as Myungsoo struggles for air. He’s got the upperhand, will always have, even more at the moment when the man suffering from his wrath was never trained a day for combat. “Seems like it. I was planning to send this motherfucker back to France after the party but well, there was a change of plans ‘cause he doesn’t know his rightful place. Why would I let you go after sabotaging your boss?”

Myungsoo gasps, gripping Taeyong’s hand. “Y-you need to understa-”

“I love Jaehyun! I only love Jaehyun! What do you not fucking understand?!” 

The outburst, the sudden long-awaited confession mutes the two, especially Jaehyun who was rocked, shaken to his core, overwhelmed by the sudden surge of different emotions.

Taeyong is truly, confidently, certainly in love with Jaehyun, undeserving Jaehyun. In his own way. Compared to the first time he said it, when it was unsure, this time he knows it. 

Rejection swirls in the eyes of his assistant. “You’re a shallow piece of junk. There are no reasons for you to be all over me. The shit you saw in me, is nothing compared to the things I showed him.” Teeth gritting, Taeyong pulls away and lets the man grasp pathetically at his stinging throat, heaving. “I want you out of my sight.”

“...Are you gonna kill me?”

Like he was not seething seconds ago, Taeyong smiles. “Don’t be like that. I don’t wanna wash my hands in blood again, you know.” Not so soon after Soobin. “So I’ll take you to Sungjong, alright?”

The mention of The Black Room member’s name sends chills down Myungsoo’s spine. “N-no, Taeyongㅡ”

“Yes, Taeyong! I already told him beforehand to wait for you.” With the deadliest glare Taeyong leans in, their breaths mixing from the close proximity. “He will tear you down, break you however he wants but he won’t kill you. You’re going to bleed close to death but he won’t let you die, you see. He’ll patch you up and start it all over again. Break, patch up, break, patch up - like puzzle pieces, until you just beg him to dismember you and grind your innards. You hear me?” The knife thrower then allows a foot of gap between them. “Johnny?”

Not even a second later the name’s owner comes in, looking too eager to serve. “Yeah?”

“Take this bastard and dump him to Bordeaux. You guys know what to do.”

Only just coming down from the high of Taeyong’s unexpected confession, Jaehyun squeaks out a question, eyes wide. “You know this, don’t you?”

“Oh, the whole squad knows about the plan but believe me I am shell-shocked about this revelation, too. I wasn’t even aware of that! Anyway, come here-” Johnny tugs Myungsoo close and chops down the side of the latter’s neck without hesitation, quickly scooping the dead weight in his arms. “So I’ll see you two later? Looks like there’s something else to do.” With a teasing wink at Jaehyun’s direction, Johnny leaves with an unconscious Myungsoo to be taken back to the HQ. 

Silence befalls the cabin. Jaehyun clears his throat, heart drumming loud in his chest. “So it was true…”

“I never lie.” Taeyong deadpans, facing him with soulless eyes. “Unless I want something.” 

Jaehyun almost cowers. “I… I tried to trace your car because I wanted to look for you when you left the penthouse.”

“I disposed it. Engine issues. The one you saw outside’s new, so no chip installed from Invictus yet.”

“...You’re not leaving Invictus?”

“No.” The knife thrower stares down with pursed lips and furrowed brows, finding his shoes more interesting to look at than anything else at the moment. “I’m still handling the Bordeaux HQ and Red Phoenix. It’s not like I can disappear off the face of the Earth just like that. Invictus is connected to Garnet. I am from Garnet. So what’s the use of leaving? But you…” He finally looks up, straight into Jaehyun’s black eyes. “You’ll leave the local HQ.”

“I actually wanted to tell youㅡ”

“You’ll come to France and live with me, Jaehyun.” A hand cups the back of the younger’s neck, soothingly caressing. “Let the squad take over here. There’s five of them. We’ll lead in Bordeaux together. No more distance, no more time gaps.” Taeyong’s lips move over’s Jaehyun’s, but not touching. “Stay with me.”

Surprised, and utterly caught off-guard, Jaehyun’s hands find their way to the older’s waist, gripping. “L-last night… This is what you were talking about? The better things?”

“Yes, dumbass. Did I tell you I was leaving your sorry ass, fucking dolt?”

Taeyong softly grunts as Jaehyun pulls him into a bone-crushing hug, letting the younger bury his face on his shoulder. 

“I was going to say I chose you, Yong. I’m going with you. I’ll stay with you. I really, really love you…”

“...I know. Stop crushing me.”

As though he was electrified, Jaehyun lets go of him, eyes wide and searching. “Earlier, you said-”

Yet before he could finish talking, his lips are sealed with another pair in a gentle kiss. Taeyong keeps his mouth gently pressed against Jaehyun’s even as he says the words the younger longs to hear. 

“Je t’adore.”

“Mon coeur bat la chamade pour toi.” 

And every single word, though a language his mind doesn’t register, his heart immediately feels. Jaehyun’s lips tremble in good nervousness, every single part of him focusing on the way warm lips move against his that he fails to notice Taeyong slip something around his finger. 

When he pulls away, eyes dilated to look at the black gold emerald ring, his heart stops. “...What?”

“You liked that rip-off Emerald ring at the beach store. I stayed at a hotel because I had the ring delivered there - couldn’t afford to let you see it before I could propose.” At the last word, Jaehyun’s eyes snap back on his. Taeyong’s heart beats the fastest it ever did, not even the joy of killing could match the race his heart is trying to win at the moment. 

“Marry me, Jaehyun. I’m not asking. I’m ordering you to bind your life with mine.” 

“Okay.”

Taeyong snorts. “Okay? That’s anticlimactic. I expected something more grand than that.”

“Okay,” Jaehyun captures the other’s lips in a deep kiss, locking Taeyong in the prison of his embrace. “God, Taeyong. Okay, I will.” 

His heart soars. He never imagined this scene when he first looked into those blue eyes. But life is a game and they’re the players of their own fate. They just didn’t know they’d be writing this outcome in their history. 

With a teasing bite to the younger’s lower lip, Taeyong pulls away, taking Jaehyun’s hand and examining the ring. “Well, that was easy. I really just wanted to see you cry last night so I got all dramatic with you, not sorry. Look.” He taps the green stone. “Emerald diamond rings are popular for shit like love and new beginnings. Top stones with Ruby and Sapphire. There are deeper, overly intimate meanings to it but I’ll just let you Google them.”

“I don’t deserve you.”

Taeyong shrugs, releasing his hand. “It’s not about what you deserve. It’s about what you know will complete you.” Pressing up to Jaehyun, he rests his head on the younger’s shoulder. “Stop telling me that.”

A hand rests on Taeyong’s spine to keep him close. 

Jaehyun exhales loudly. “You said something earlier. That you don’t lie, unless it’s going to benefit you.” The body against his remains immobile. “How do I know you’re not manipulating me right now to keep me next to you, Taeyong? How do I know that…” He pauses momentarily, pulling away to look into the older’s eyes. “How do I know you didn’t say all that to hold me under control?”

In actuality, he believes the caramel-head despite his questions. It’s just that he wants to hear an explanation whether it’s true or not, and regardless of what he hears, Jaehyun will not go anywhere. And it’s final.

“You got so much better at interrogating me to know what you want to know.”

“It’s now or never, Taeyong. It is best that we settle this once and for all now that you put a ring on it,” Jaehyun mindlessly rubs the band around his finger. “We’re talking about this because it has never been clear between the two of us considering how we started and treated each other. Are you manipulating me? Tell me honestly. It’s a yes or no.”

Blue eyes rake down the younger’s form before Taeyong takes a step back and chews on the hangnail on his thumb. “I always made sure to make myself look like it was never my fault. Because I like to see it on your face, the moment you realize I won’t ever bow down to anybody, in any form. Now I admit I need you in my life more than I let on and I told you I love you because I knew you’d bend for me, metaphorically. But it doesn’t mean it’s untrue.”

“What’s untrue?”

“That I only claim to love you because I want to control you. I’ll have you know that love in my language is being invested in something, Jaehyun. Like how I was and still am invested in my sister although I do not love her like a doting brother would. I care for her because I saw her as something worth valuing. The thought that she must be protected served as a reason for me to be invested in her, to love her the way I could. That’s how I see you, Jaehyun. I woke up one day and knew I would do anything to keep you with me because you gave meaning to my existence.”

Jung Jaehyun takes every word and takes them as truth. A small smile adorns his face. “So love for you is investment. And as long as you are invested, you will not let me go. Did I understand it correctly?”

“I will not oppose it.” 

Finally coming to an understanding of what their relationship entails, Jaehyun lets it go and stares at the emerald stone on his ring. “So how did you know my ring size?”

“Mm, quite a fact. I just based it on how thick your finger feels in my ass.” While the sharpshooter splutters, Taeyong rolls his eyes and tugs his fiancé to the bedroom, their recent exchange quickly forgotten.“Now shut the fuck up ‘cause we have more important things to do.” 

 

***

 

As all plans are done back in Korea and the rest of the work is handled by his subordinates, Taeyong slouches in his seat in front of the laptop in Red Phoenix’s office, slightly regretting dragging Jaehyun to Bordeaux so soon. He needs to monitor whatever’s happening in the casino as well as the laundering business, something he evaded for quite some time, the annoying demands of a routine job settling back on his shoulders once again. Though at least, Jaehyun’s going to take the matters with Garnet and their deals involving Europe. That’s a huge burden lifted off of him, finally. 

Because he knows for himself he can’t deal with everything at once now that he has yet another important thing to do - the legal process of their civil wedding. 

It’s not going to take a while. Being someone who has connections with the local government unit, and a generous financial donor to Bordeaux, he can ask for all the papers to be expedited and that’s that. A usually four-week process can be rushed down to three, at most. Jaehyun is a foreigner, and he has more requirements to pass than Taeyong. 

They’ve gone to an interview yesterday at the mairie to apply for marriage. All legalities were explained, and as soon as the requirements are complete, they may finalize the date of the wedding. Only a few people will be in there - his mother, the squad and Fort. Jaehyun’s father is out of the question. The old man’s not quite accepting of his son’s choices, refusing to attend what’s most likely the most important day of Jaehyun’s life. The younger kingpin didn’t think much of it, saying it was expected to happen. 

And while waiting for the legal process to reach its end, Jaehyun is with Fort to settle a few things with the clients while Taeyong is well, there in his office currently racking his brain for what he should do for the wedding night. 

You see, he actually debated with himself already. He doesn’t need to do anything special; it’s not his style. Taeyong doesn’t give a shit for any kind of occasion, even his birthday was spent just doing whatever’s possible in bed with his fiancé. So what makes this wedding different for him to be stressing at the moment, his poor laptop receiving all his frustrations as his fingers aggressively type mails? If a key flies out anytime soon, he wouldn’t even be surprised. 

“What the hell,” his forehead hits the keys and a series of keysmash appears on the body of the halfway composed mail. “What do I fucking do?”

“Probably get off of the laptop and do what a boss needs to do? Properly, at that.” 

Taeyong’s eyes roll before he turns a little to the side, head still pressed down the laptop. “I told you to knock.”

The woman clad in a red body-hugging dress, sparkly and thin, shrugs nonchalantly as she sits on the edge of the desk, playfully twirling her long braided hair. “I knocked, Ethan. And it’s obvious that you just didn’t hear the raps on the door because,” she pauses, raising a brow at his questionable position. “You’re busy trying to murder yourself to pay attention to anything else.”

The remark elicits a hum from the knife thrower who finally sits properly, one leg crossed over the other and his clasped hands placed on his stomach. There’s a faint mark of a square on his forehead. “You know you can only be here if there’s something urgent, don’t you?”

“I know, gosh,” sounding exasperated, she gets off of the desk to toss a chocolate bar at him. Taeyong quickly unwraps it and bites off a huge chunk, chewing noisily. “Some news is going around. Actually, I only heard from the black room boys.” She smirks, head tilting as she stares at her boss. “They got L?”

The tooth-rotting sweetness of chocolate and caramel coats the man’s mouth, his tongue swiping over the excess on the corner of his lips. “That’s true. What, you’re here to gossip, Jennie? I’m paying you to entertain the assholes at the bar.”

“It’s my break! Lisa’s taking over,” Jennie giggles, a hand slightly covering her smile. “So who’s gonna do all the job now? Is that why you’re hitting your head on the keys? No one’s doing all these for you anymore?” 

“You’re an infuriating chatterbox,” Taeyong crumples the empty wrapper and accurately tosses it in the bin. “Jaehyun’s with me. He’s staying for good.”

As though it’s a news too grand for her, she leans with her hands flat over the desk, excited and all sparkly-eyed. “Are you serious? He’s really going to be leading here with you? Like, for real?” 

“...Why do you sound so interested?”

The question makes her roll her eyes at him. “Because duh, I’m happy for you. You talked about wanting to drag him here before and you actually did it.” 

“Yeah,” Taeyong responds quietly, remembering his problem once again. “There might be some changes, tiny they should be, because certainly he’s gonna have some say on how I run this place.”

“That shouldn’t be a problem. In the end, everyone here follows you, and not anybody else. If we don’t like what he tells us, we can talk to you, can’t we?”

The fact that they know who to acknowledge, recognize and to remain loyal to despite having another leader increases the kingpin's superiority complex. At last, Jaehyun is going to know how it feels to be put aside. 

“Of course,” Taeyong assures with a slight smile before reaching over to pull up the zipper of her dress, hiding her squished chest from his sight. “And I know you’re not just here to gossip about it in particular.”

Caught in the act, she slaps his hand away from her and sits herself on the desk once again. “Gonna extend my congratulatory message to you since you’re not actually dying alone.”

“...Thank you.” 

Still ultimately bothered by his predicament, something in his mind urges him to spill it because maybe, Jennie can be of help. Perhaps, she knows more than he’ll ever do about such.

With a thumping heart, he lays himself bare. “I don’t know what to do for the honeymoon.”

Jennie’s face remains judgemental. “Well I’m gonna bet half of my toenail you guys are fucking anyway so what are you pulling a face on?”

Oh, great. Huge help.

“Listen, Jennie, if I knew what to do, I wouldn’t be keeping you in this room as we speak. Yeah, we fuck. But we always fuck. And we’re going to fuck for the whole duration of the honeymoon. The problem is I think I need to do something else.”

“I’m not the right person to suggest domesticity.”

“I know!” Taeyong exclaims, now biting his nail. She doesn’t even bat an eye at his outburst. “Some wives put on a performance, you know.”

Jennie snorts at the image. “You’re not exactly a wife.”

“You know what I’m talking about.”

“And what,” she looks around, looking in disbelief of the implications of Ethan telling her his first-world problem. “You think I can help you with that?”

“Frankly, yes. There’s no one else to ask.”

“Huh. Just be yourself? You’re kinky as hell so make use of it. If you’re kinky, nearly anything is possible.” 

Taeyong stares unnervingly. “As if I didn’t know that already.”

The two hold the electrifying stare for several seconds before Jennie’s face lights up almost literally when a thought strikes her, and soon she’s off the desk, arms looped around her boss’ neck from behind. “I think I know what to help you with.”

A ping comes from the laptop and Taeyong clicks on an incoming mail, blue eyes going over a few lines. “Get those arms away from me before I rip them off and hang them by your bar, Jennie.”

“Ooh, I’m scared,” she teases but backs off anyway. “I’m sure he’s gonna salivate if you do this…”

He finishes replying to the message before turning the seat around to look at her. “Spill.”

 

***

 

“Do I look great?” Yuta asks as he checks himself in the mirror attached to the wall. His fingers sift through his hair, hoping to untangle some of the stubborn strands. “White looks good on me, yeah? I look like one of the doves.

Doyoung crosses his arms and gives the Japanese a once over before giving a thumbs-up, approving the other’s style. Except for the dark circles under his eyes caused by a particular problem. “Great, actually. Everyone looks oddly divine. But stop checking yourself out; you’re not the one getting married today.” He lets out a scoff to spite the other. “And keep the anime references to yourself. No one else understands them aside from you.”

Looking slightly peeved, Yuta slaps the back of his hand against Doyoung’s chest. “I’ll let this slide because you’re looking fine. A once in a lifetime change.”

“You’re a dick.”

“Not as much as someone in here,” Mumbling his response, Yuta takes a quick glance around the room before standing close to Doyoung. “There’s always going to be someone worse.”

Ignoring the rancorous statement, the other shakes his head as he checks the time on his silver wristwatch. “Wedding’s starting in five minutes. You think Jaehyun’s doing fine internally?”

They turn to look at the man in question who’s wringing his hands next to Taeyong, the latter seemingly unbothered as usual, like he isn’t about to enter some sacred stage in his life.

“Internally and mentally?” out of the blue, Johnny joins in the conversation with Ten in tow, while Sicheng patiently listens to whatever Léonie is rambling on about on the other side of the room. “I’m pretty sure he’s spiraling downwards.”

Ten pinches his boyfriend’s arm. “Come on, Jaehyun knows better. And can we please just stand closer to the others now? Like make it appear as though we’re on a close ties relationship,” the short man gestures for Sicheng to come, taking note of how the other’s reaction screams I don’t really want to but fine. “Concerns and affairs out of this wedding will be immediately dealt with after.” He makes sure to give Yuta a knowing glance, which was paid with a huff.

The squad, together with Léonie and Fort then gather behind the two soon-to-be husbands (oh, the absurdity of it all according to Ten) as the officiant finally enters the office. Jaehyun nervously fixes his collar as Taeyong bites on a hangnail, eyes unfocused as they go around the room like he hadn’t been doing that since they arrived.

Without further ado, the ceremony begins with a gentle greeting from the mayor, who speaks in English upon Taeyong’s request, knowing Jaehyun’s incapability to understand the native language.

Oh how much he had made fun of the younger first before he gave in and asked the mayor to officiate the ceremony in English though traditionally, and by law, it has to be in French.

“We are gathered here today to witness the formal joining in the legal state of matrimony of Jung Jaehyun and Ethan Lee,”

At the mention of his birth name, the name he legally uses in his home country, Taeyong visibly winces. He really can’t bear with it outside the bedroom and when someone else other than Jaehyun utters even just one syllable of it.

The mayor continues to read his script, speaking softly and slowly so as to keep the ambiance of the ceremony. Taeyong shifts his weight on one foot in impatience, annoyingly tapping his foot against the tiled floor while trying so damn hard to keep himself from fishing out the lollipop in his pocket. Jaehyun, on the other hand, has a palm over his chest, doing some shallow breathing exercises.

The squad shakes their heads at the strangely comical sight. Who knew these two would end up tying their lives together? It felt like yesterday when they were at each other’s necks, breathing fire and swearing they hated each other to the core of their being

Life really is a foolish game itself most of the time.

“Both of you should understand that marriage is not to be entered upon thoughtlessly or irresponsibly-“

“Yaddah, yaddah.” Taeyong randomly blurts out, now squatting down and massaging his ankle. “Mayor, I’m so hungry. Please hurry up…”

Eyes wide from embarrassment, Jaehyun quickly hauls up his fiancé with an apologetic smile, deliberately patting Taeyong with a force on the back. “Oh, mayor. This man is an aspiring comedienne! Don’t mind him,” He glares at Taeyong with a smile so fake it makes every witness in the room cringe. “He’s being adorably playful.”

Obviously holding back a biting comment, the mayor resumes his introduction. “But with a due and serious understanding and appreciation of the ends for which it is contracted.”

Soon enough after the introduction, they are asked to repeat the declarations. Jaehyun goes first, repeating the script and yelping when Taeyong purposely stomps on his foot when he had to say Ethan . Jaehyun curses the other in his mind, only calming down as he thinks he’s going to be dealing with Taeyong for the rest of his life and getting irritated now by trifling matters won’t do him any good in the long run.

Taeyong follows next, literally grumbling out his name as he recites the declaration. No one comments on it, aside from his mother who couldn’t keep the giggles down next to Fort.

“I hate this shit,” Taeyong says as soon as he’s done, surprising the mayor who professionally schools his features to move on to the next part of the ceremony, the exchange of vows.

“Would you please face each other and join your hands as you exchange your vows,”

This is so fucking cheesy. If it wasn’t for marrying this piece of shit right in front of me, I wouldn’t even waste a breath reciting all this, Taeyong’s internal monologue aids him as he takes the younger’s hands in his.

For this ceremony, they (mostly Jaehyun with a little protest from Taeyong) also requested to have their vows made by themselves rather than repeating after the mayor.

“Ah, I’ll go first, I guess,” Jaehyun says with a subtle tremble in his voice as he pulls out a folded paper from his breast pocket, clearing his throat and swiping a glance over Taeyong before starting to read whatever he had written days prior.

He can’t even hear his own voice over the loud beating of his heart, his hands a little clammy and shaky as he softly reads his vow. “I won’t narrate everything today because I believe those memories are better kept between the two of us. I had been stupid most of the time because I was busy thinking of myself, realizing too late that I shouldn’t do that when you were, still are thinking of me enough despite your own tumultuous thoughts. Though you won’t say it, I know you cared for me even before.”

Jaehyun’s brows crease as he recalls specific events in his mind, the ones that he will always regret. As he continues reading, he tightens his hold on Taeyong’s hand, a little hyperaware of the others’ attention on him. “You tried to wake me up when I thought ill of you. You didn’t let me die when you could. Though you should’ve made the decision to get better for yourself, you still considered me because you wanted me to like you better. We met in the most expected time and we cared for each other in the most unexpected ways.”

“I apologize for trying to remodel you according to what I thought was the best for both of us, and forgetting that I loved you for what you are.”

Fingers squeeze his hand gently, reassuring.

“But enough of the things I never did and the things I wished I didn’t do because from this day on I will do everything to be the best for you so you won’t regret tying your life down with mine. It will be rocky and I will mess up, but I hope you remain by my side and won’t give up on me. This is really cheesy,” Jaehyun chuckles to lighten the mood yet at the same time, something wet drops on the paper and a callous palm wipes over the moisture on his cheek, “and romantic, you’d rather hear it with only the two of us, but I really want to tell you, here in front of our friends and family, that I love you and in your blue eyes I see not just my life, but our lives together, and not just my world, but our universes weaved into one. You are the unexpected turning point of my life. And from now on I will include you in all its aspects. Taeyong, you’re independent and you can take care of yourself but allow me to be your pillar as much as you will be to me.”

The second he’s done, Jaehyun lets go of Taeyong’s hand only to wipe over his eyes, pathetically sniffling as he inserts the paper back into his pocket. Ten coos audibly, embarrassing Jaehyun further. He knows the redness on his face covers his neck and spreads over his chest and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t look at Taeyong for longer than a second without burning hotter, so he opts on staring down on the shine of his shoes, pretending that everything’s cool even when he’s a hot, emotional mess on the inside.

He doesn’t have much time to dwell on his own humiliation as Taeyong takes one of his hands again, the other holding a slightly creased paper.

“I wrote this last night so it might not sound as nice as yours but I don’t care and you shouldn’t too.” Taeyong glances at the mayor. “Of course you too, mayor. Just listen.”

Jaehyun has the audacity to snort.

“Well, Jaehyun, I don’t give a shit about the negativities we both experienced in the past. Why do people choose not to bury the hatchet at times? But I should remind you I only wanted to be friends, really. Or that was what I thought friendship was, at least. Connecting with you, I’d want to say it was imposed by whatever, because you were everywhere and it was hard to get rid of you, but I’d have to confess to you today that when I felt the first pull on my heartstrings, for the very first time in my life I asked whoever’s up there that you’d be the reason I’d finally rise from the darkness I’d been drowning in all my life.”

Taeyong stops reading, releasing Jaehyun’s hand in lieu of biting around an already poorly shaped nail. His eyes shake and the younger steps closer to place a hand on the former’s waist instead, rubbing soothingly.

 “So…so I asked Him if it would be you and I don’t mind that you’re a man and people would frown upon us, not like I give a flying fuck, though. You became the light at the end of the tunnel as much as you were the deadly quicksand that once tried to drag me down. I fell...”

“Go on, Yong. You can do it.” Jaehyun whispers, urging. It doesn’t matter if half of the older’s message is insincere. As long as Taeyong tried harder for him today. 

“I know, I know. Stop telling me what to do; you were bawling earlier.” The older retorts childishly. “So um, I fell disgustingly in love - you know what I mean, because one of the few people that would be on the war’s frontlines for me. And like I said before, ignited that missing will to live. It’s fate right from the start. If you look deeper into it, we’re polar opposites but at the same time we’re a carbon copy of each other, both in need of the understanding that was denied to us.”

“You don’t have to protect me because I can do it myself. You only need to put your trust in me and believe that even though I’m different in more ways than one, I can work well enough when it comes to shit I care for – and that’s you. Jaehyun, I never needed anyone before. But for you I’m willing to change a little bit of that. Let’s be each other’s support system. It’s hard for me to love the way you expect me to, but I’m glad I’m now remotely capable of it and I swear you will be the only one privileged enough to indulge in every drop of it.”

“Jaehyun, you’re my first and last. I may not be your first in a lot of things, but I’ll make sure I’ll be the last you will care for, the last you will live for, and the last image you will see when we reach the end. I’m only excited to marry you because I finally have someone to bother with my Oui Oui jokes and you, legally tied to me, will never be able to avoid that. So suffer everything that I have to offer or perish.”

A wide smile splits Jaehyun’s face in half as he cups the side of Taeyong’s face, pulling it close to his. “I’ll let you torture me with it however you want.”

“Ehem,” A stage cough cuts through their moment, and the mayor gestures for them to take one ring each. “Jaehyun, place the ring on Ethan-“

“Fucking hurry up!”

The mayor stares at Taeyong, the corners of his mouth pulling up to a fake smile. “I know that the ceremony’s too long for everyone but it’s almost done. Continuing,” the man sighs, fixing his eyeglasses. “Jaehyun, place the ring on Ethan’s finger, hold it there, and repeat after me.”

Jaehyun slips the silver band on Taeyong’s finger, and dutifully follows the officiant.

“Receive this ring as a symbol of my vow to you. Whenever you look at it, know that I love, honor and cherish you above all others.“

Taeyong sighs and follows after, putting the band around Jaehyun’s finger.

“Ethan Lee, and Jung Jaehyun in as much as you have pledged yourself, one to the other, by the exchanging of vows and rings, I, Victor Martin, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Marriage Act, do hereby pronounce you Jung Jaehyun and Ethan Lee to be married.

You may exchange a kiss as a token of your joy.”

Finafuckinglly ,” Taeyong groans before pulling Jaehyun in by the collar, quite literally smashing their lips together in a bruising kiss. Jaehyun, though utterly shocked by the display of shameless intimacy, quickly reacts and responds to the kiss, pressing his lips harder against Taeyong’s for a few seconds before pulling away, saving everyone the pain of witnessing what could possibly go beyond a simple lip-lock if he didn’t end it soon enough.

After that, they are handed the official marriage register for them to sign. Johnny and Léonie serve as the primary witnesses of the wedding.

To conclude the ceremony, the mayor finally introduces the two of them as an officially married couple, their surnames retained as per their personal choices.

“That was the worst fucking experience of my life,” Taeyong exclaims as they all head out of the hall, planning to celebrate in a five-star restaurant they booked.

Jaehyun waves at the squad, mouthing at Johnny to follow before slipping in the passenger seat of the car. His husband’s driving today since Taeyong knows Bordeaux like the back of his hand.

“Really, worst experience?” The younger kingpin teases, mindlessly twisting the ring around his finger. It feels cool on his skin. “Didn’t seem like it when you were reading your vows.”

“Mm,” Taeyong maneuvers before adjusting the angle of the rearview mirror. “I swear to Jesus H. Christ, Jaehyun, if you don’t shut up I’m gonna sew that mouth close.”

“All threats, my love. Sew it, I dare you. Who’s sucking you off tonight?”

The knife thrower glares at the road ahead before flipping off the other. “Then I’ll sew it after you take all of my jizz. For now, shut the fuck up. You’re so loud and I’m honestly starving. My head’s fucking pounding so shut, the fuck, up.”

Not daring to push the older’s limits, Jaehyun keeps quiet and looks down at his ring instead with eyes dripping with affection closely looking at the intricate designs carved around it before he finds himself staring at Taeyong again.

Just like before, he glows best, enthralling and captivating when the rays of sun hit his skin and though his hair doesn’t sway in the wind with it being tied, it’s still one of Jaehyun’s favorites among the thousands about Lee Taeyong.  

This is it; I finally figured it out – the kind of happiness power and wealth can never give me.

 

***

 

The reception takes place at an expensive restaurant reserved for invited members of Invictus and Garnet. When the couple arrives, they’re bombarded with congratulatory greetings and hugs, with howls coming from Yukhei that Taeyong immediately shuts down with a single glare. Like the usual parties after the wedding, some important people take the small platform to deliver whatever messages they want to say to the two.

Johnny starts when they’re all done with the food and are warming up themselves with glasses of champagne. Jaehyun and Taeyong are sat at the center, with the former looking too excited for what Johnny has in store.

“Don’t embarrass me in front of my people,” Jaehyun playfully warns, swirling his drink. “I’ll butcher your salary.”

“Leave it up to me; I only have high quality shit to say about you,” Johnny responds with a wink before lightly tapping the microphone. “Well uh, Jaehyun… I approached him first when he came to Red Phoenix,” the squad reacts as they recall such memory, “He looked quite intimidating, like he didn’t want to talk to anyone. Though as soon as he sat with us, boom, voila,  we just clicked instantly. He gets too serious at times but that’s expected from a kingpin-in-waiting - we didn’t know it at that time. I’ve seen how workaholic he is. Just wanna tell you, man,” their eyes meet again just as Johnny flashes a gentle smile. “Work isn’t everything. And you’re gonna get a roller coaster of that everything else from now on.”

Cheers resonate in the venue after Johnny’s speech, and the sound dies down as soon as Ten gets in front, causing Taeyong to snort as the short man adjusts the height of the microphone. Ten squints.

“Alright, so I met Jaehyun for the first time when the squad gathered at the clinic. He was chatting with Yuta,” the Thai man sends a knowing look at their Japanese friend, “about something I don’t know if I should say? Ah, no, let’s not bother the dead.” Laughter erupts within their circle of friends and though the rest are completely clueless, Ten’s laugh turns out to be contagious. “Honestly, he looked gentle to me, contrary to what Johnny said. This friend wasn’t much of a talker in the group chat, only replying when it was about time to meet up at the clinic and that was when he became a gossip monger like me.”

Jaehyun protests, shaking his head and waving a hand at Ten. “Not true, not true!”

“But now,” Ten sing-songs, “He’s gonna be the one to spill the deets about married life. Please make sure to update us ‘cause you know I can’t survive without talking about spicy stuff. I wish the both of you well. And Taeyong,” the owner of the name stops drinking his requested milkshake halfway. “I’m still bitter about the buttplug but we’re good now. I hope so.”

Someone splutters from the next table. When Taeyong chances a look, Johnny’s suit is drenched in the champagne he’s been sipping.

“I’ll gift you a new one, Chitta. Stamped with my name on it so you won’t forget my once in a lifetime friendly generosity.”

Dismissing the mixed reactions of the crowd, Winwin steals the attention as he clears his throat and flicks the microphone head, causing a slight thumping noise. “Please listen to me now and let the messy boyfriends quietly redeem themselves. By the way, I’m gonna talk about Taeyong for a change because I’m sick of siding with Jaehyun all the time.”

Taeyong perks up, now interested. “Okay, Winwin, I’m listening.”

Grinning, the Chinese arsonist starts. “So Taeyong kinda had this reputation in our previous group and of course, everyone did their best not to be involved with someone as rotten, their words, not mine. And the time I realized he wasn’t so bad, was when he said thinking of Jaehyun’s eyes help calm him down at times.”

Before he could continue, the knife thrower inserts a comment of his own. “I didn’t say that. That sounds gross.”

“Is that true?” Jaehyun asks him, eyes glimmering.

Taeyong forces the younger to look back at Sicheng and signals the arsonist to go on.

So Sicheng does. “Eh, I don’t know how that works but that’s really nice to know. Heartwarming, even. And when I got taken away…”

At the table where the rest of the squad members are, Yuta’s breath hitches, but thankfully no one’s close enough to hear or notice the way his body stiffened for a second.

“...I wasn’t actually that scared. Because I knew Taeyong was gonna be there. The squad, my friends, I trust each of them; we’re strong in our own ways but Taeyong is something else. No one would risk their life for someone they supposedly didn’t care about.”

“Bold of you to assume that I care about you, Sicheng.”

The arsonist grins, shrugging. “Your secret is safe with me. I’ll have you know I’m forever grateful to you, though. I know our friend Jaehyun is going to be in good hands. That’s if you know what to use those knives for in the bedroom sense.” Quickly evading the hoots and lewd commentary, Winwin scurries to their table, laughing at the sight of Taeyong apathetically flipping him off.

“You think of your own sex life before worrying about mine!”

Close to the older Invictus kingpin, his mother subtly reminds him to keep it down, to which Taeyong surprisingly follows. Doyoung comes up, adjusting the glasses perched atop his nose bridge.

“I won’t make this long and I just want to say I’m really glad I met Jaehyun. He’s the kingpin we all need. He didn’t stop when everything was ruined. If it wasn’t for Jaehyun, I don’t even know where we’d be today. And please, Jae,” Doyoung sighs, scratching his cheek. “I hope you finally stop messaging me about how much you like Taeyong’s hair because I don’t really get your obsession.”

“Embarrassing!” Taeyong shouts as he finishes his milkshake. “Literally embarrassing.” Next to him, his husband is smiling at the man in front, but everyone knows what lies beneath that stiff smile.

“Taeyong, we’re not close but please know you’re also the leader we didn’t know we needed. Jaehyun wouldn’t be able to keep up with both headquarters without you. Even before, I knew you were more than what you showed. Let’s work together to keep Invictus afloat.” Doyoung concludes his turn as he beckons Yuta to get up and replace him.

The Japanese man smacks Doyoung on his backside, yelping when the latter retaliated.

“Okay, okay! Everyone, I just really wanna reiterate that I was the first one to know about Jaehyun’s feelings for Taeyong. So I’m the bestest friend here.”

Like déjà vu, Johnny throws a leafy green from his salad at Yuta, accurately hitting the sharpshooter in the eye.

“Hey! That fucking hurts!”

Jaehyun sighs, rubbing his temple. Sometimes, he’s unsure about the real mental age of his advisors. They’re probably in an alternate universe at the moment.

Rubbing his irritated eye, Yuta goes straight to his speech. “Yeah, it was unbelievable! But who am I to judge? Everything happens for a reason,” he sniffles, flicking a green mess off of his finger, “and that reason is what we’re celebrating right now. Some people, no matter how frequent they clash, they’re what completes another’s puzzle. They’re shaped to fit in someone’s life.” A slightly bitter smile curves on Yuta’s face, although it’s quickly replaced by a blinding one. “Taeyong! I’m sorry for thinking you get all the girls. If I knew you’d be settling down with Jaehyun eventually, I could’ve tried to be nicer and get you to know watch Naruto with me.”

“Sasuke is better than him.”

“...Alright, there really are valid reasons why we can’t be best friends. But I’m happy for you and Jaehyun, my friend.” Yuta snickers, playfully shooting a finger gun at the other half of the married couple. “I wish to get the same kind of ending like yours, with less headaches. Congrats!”

Right when Doyoung gets up to continue his self-proclaimed hosting job, Yunho tells everyone he’s got a fair share of things to say. Jaehyun, a little surprised, perks up in his seat and grabs Taeyong’s hand in his.

“Ah, I hope you got a lot of time to spare me and another person. This is spontaneous, actually; I was just mildly inspired by the others.” Yunho has that radiant smile, more genuine and unguarded than his usual. “I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I was already aware of Invictus even before the whole disastrous fate of Red Phoenix. I knew about the heir, Jaehyun, though not quite, but I thought this group got potential to be bigger. Because they were under Red Phoenix, yes? So when he came to talk to me, I didn’t think too much. Ethan didn’t mention him to me for personal reasons, but I am never one to reject a promising partnership.

Jaehyun, it’s safe to say we’re more than business partners now. A Garnet member is married to you. We’re not family members, but I hope that changes from this point forward. It’s hard to live in a country you’re not so familiar with. Other than Ethan, you can talk to me. I wish to see you both last long.” The Garnet kingpin turns to their table, looking straight at the org’s doctor. “Jaejoong, do you wanna talk?”

Taeyong cackles annoyingly as he stares at the man he uncannily resembles. “Jaej has nothing to say. Just update us about the two of you.”

The doctor, apparently looking a little uncomfortable for being in the spotlight, deliberately avoids Taeyong’s knowing look. “I have nothing to say and please stop starting rumors.”

Low murmurs echo from behind them. Yunho displays a look of amusement when he takes his seat again.

“Cute. I can’t wait for Jaej to eat his own words. Ah, the lack of heterosexuals in here.” Taeyong briefly smirks at Doyoung. “Oh, wait. Sorry,” The newlywed gets up to take Léonie’s hand and walks her to the front. “Mother, don’t say stupid shit about me, please.” With a small smile he sits down again, hands clasped as he leans forward in interest.

Slightly caught off guard, the woman sighs as she looks directly at her son. “He already warned me, so I’m afraid there won’t be anything fun to recall.”

“That’s because we didn’t have good memories.”

“But Taeyong,” she dismisses the bitter truth, only focused on the convivial moment, “despite all the flaws, there’s a particular thing I liked about him. He treasured Taehee like no other.”

At the mention of his sister, Taeyong’s head tilts before his eyes travel south as he gets pulled into a sudden solemn ambiance. His mind is swarmed with memories of her, vivid as though they happened yesterday. And as his mother speaks, he is hit with the lightest pricks of sorrow. Then they disappeared in a heartbeat.

“He was different, and I hope I could turn back the time to understand him better, but believe me when I say I couldn’t ask for a better son.”

I wish you had told me earlier. I didn’t want a perfect mother. I just wanted you to listen.

“You know, I used to imagine my daughter to be walking down the aisle first because no one would expect Taeyong to go down this path. In that perfect universe, he would be the one to walk her to the altar, hand her over to the man she would entrust her life with. But I didn’t see this,” Léonie’s voice cracks and she wipes at the corner of her eye. “Instead, Taeyong found the kind of relationship she never did. It doesn’t matter if I end up alone as long as my son has someone next to him.

Taeyong, you were a boy who wanted a picture perfect family. Now, you’re a man about to make his own. Be the father that your own failed to be.”

But it’s okay now. We’re okay now. 

“Jaehyun.”

The younger kingpin turns to her as she calls his name.

“You don’t know how happy I am. Do you remember what I told you before? You knew what he needed the most. And you gave it to him.”

Jaehyun releases the breath he was unaware of holding as he glances at his husband.

“Congratulations to the both of you.”

 

***

 

It was decided that they’re spending the honeymoon cruising. After packing up and doing a last minute check in the HQ, the two headed straight to where the Crystal Serenity is. Bags in hands, they both board just in time, quickly occupying the Crystal Penthouse they booked.

The suite features a spacious living room and a Swarovski chandelier. The dining area faces the ocean. Taeyong drags his shoes over the stone foyer floor, dropping his bags on the queen-sized bed before letting his feet finally breathe. While he sits in bed mindlessly scrolling through the messages on his phone, Jaehyun decides to check the perfection of their room.

There are two walk-in wardrobes. In the bathroom is a mini jacuzzi that he’s sure to try the next day. There’s also a window inside that lets them overlook the ripples of the blue water. Moreover, he won’t get bored bathing since a television is perched on the wall opposite the tub.

But the best thing about this suite is not the royalty it radiates but the custom built-in bar that’s certainly filled with his favorites. He can’t wait to make use of all those liquor with Taeyong in more ways than one.

“Taeyong, you wanna take a shower now?” Jaehyun pokes his head out of the bathroom. “We can look around tomorrow. It’s late.”

“Yeah, okay. Wait a sec.”

Frenziedly, Jaehyun shreds off his suit and dumps it carelessly in the basket. While Taeyong hasn’t entered yet, he fills the tub with soapy water and settles in as soon as it’s ready.

The door of the bathroom opens. Jaehyun runs a hand through his hair, wetting the strands as he watches his husband take off his clothes one by one.

He feels his cock twitch to life.

Silently, without sparing the younger a glance, Taeyong joins the other in the tub. The sloshing water lightly hits the marble edges as Taeyong slides down a little, legs touching Jaehyun’s.

No one makes a move for a minute. Taeyong’s eyes are close while he lets the water get rid of the kinks on his muscles, and Jaehyun stares at the other, one of his hands already wrapped around his hardened cock.

He doesn’t even know why he’s waiting. He knows he can initiate it but something tells him Taeyong’s not in the mood. Usually, the older would be the one to come to him, always horny and up for it.

Maybe he’s tired? We’ve been up since early morning. Should I let him take a rest? But it’s our wedding night…

Slightly disappointed but wanting to understand Taeyong, Jaehyun sighs, deciding that waiting for tomorrow won’t hurt. What’s only going to hurt is the fact that he has blue balls on the first night with his husband.

Twenty minutes later, Jaehyun’s out of the bathroom and in bed in his boxers. Taeyong is uncharacteristically dawdling, moving lethargically when he steps out of the tub and dries himself. The last thing he’s seen doing is peeking inside an opaque handbag before the younger left.

Jaehyun is still painfully hard. He couldn’t just jerk off in the water while Taeyong was there. And now, thinking of the other’s nakedness, he knows he’s not doing well in trying to kill the excitement still buzzing in his veins.

Almost ten minutes had gone by since he settled in bed. Jaehyun’s head turns to the side when Taeyong walks in clad in a tight, white robe and - are those black trousers? What for? . His hair’s a little damp but obviously wiped with a towel to keep it from dripping. Without uttering a single word, Taeyong stands by the foot of the bed, staring blankly at Jaehyun.

He’s spooked, of course. Taeyong’s acting weird. Jaehyun doesn’t really know what to do – he can’t spot any twitching, so the other’s not anxious nor ticked by something. But definitely, something’s going on.

Sitting up, Jaehyun waits for anything. But nothing happens. Taeyong remains standing like a statue in front of him.

“What’s wrong? Baby,” Jaehyun moves to get out of bed.

“Stay where you are.”

“But Tae-“

“Lie back down and remove your boxers.” Taeyong orders monotonously.

My boxers? But wha-. Oh, I see, Jaehyun holds back the smirk threatening to appear on his face as he follows the other, dropping on the side the only piece of fabric he’s wearing. He lies there, all bare and shamelessly hard. One hand beneath his head and the other back around his cock, Jaehyun licks his lips as he watches what Taeyong’s gonna do next.

Nothing could ever prepare him for what happens.

Taeyong practically rips off the robe, staring Jaehyun dead in the eyes as the robe falls next to his foot. He then climbs to bed, crawling right between the younger in his skintight cop uniform, hugging him in all the right places. The top clings to his biceps and the hard plains of his stomach, pants scratching roughly against Jaehyun’s skin when the older finally sits on his crotch. Jaehyun later realizes Taeyong has his shoe-covered feet on the bed.

Closely, Jaehyun sees the gold zipper by the front of Taeyong’s pants, struggling to hold the prominent bugle. If he pulls it down, Taeyong can easily slip out of it as it is obvious he’s not wearing anything underneath. The thing is, he - sort of, doesn't want to take it off. He wants to fuck his husband while the supposedly innocent unifom is on, and maybe Jaehyun feels like popping the buttons of the shirt with his teeth.

His cock twitches yet again against Taeyong’s ass. Fuck, he’s so fucking horny.

Right at that moment, a smile finally graces the older’s features. “You like it?” His head tilts a little to the side, his hair falling over his azure eyes.

“I love it. Where did you get this?” Jaehyun grips his husband’s waist, squeezing. He runs them up and down slowly a few times before slipping them under, cupping a pair of small cheeks. Taeyong looks extremely fuckable and he can’t wait, fuck he can’t wait to have a taste of it.

“I asked someone for help. They said I could wear this for you. It comes with a cuff, you know.”

Jaehyun cups the back of Taeyong’s neck and pulls him down for their lips to meet in a fervent kiss. Hands roam all over, feeling up, groping and touching and caressing. Jaehyun groans against the other’s hot mouth, tongue swirling around the warm crevice when he feels his left nipple get pinched before being tweaked and rubbed. He busies himself with caressing Taeyong’s legs, thumbs pressing on the inner thighs to draw soothing, small circles.  

“You look so fucking sexy,” Taeyong raggedly comments, already riled up. A teasing hand runs over his cock, and he feels his body shake in excitement when the younger pulls it out through the now open zipper and the pad of Jaehyun’s thumb swipes over the swollen tip, lightly dipping in the slit.

Jaehyun squirms beneath him and slaps the side of Taeyong’s leg before gripping. “You always get the upper hand, Taeyong. You wanna listen to me tonight?”

“Hell no.”

“Hey wha-.”

Nimbly, Taeyong scoops Jaehyun’s wrists and cuffs them above his head, grinning as the younger’s eyes widen in panic for a moment before visibly relaxing, still glazed with a layer of pure desire. “No one’s taking over tonight but me, dimple boy.” 

Taeyong grabs a handful of Jaehyun’s hair and tugs harshly, taking the chance to get off of the younger. A moan escapes the seams of his lips and he finds himself back in between Jaehyun’s legs, pushing them apart before he dives in wordlessly, warnings pushed aside to take the thick cock in his mouth.

“Holy fuck,” gobsmacked, Jaehyun grabs the pillow beneath his head to contain the pleasure coursing throug him. His eyes follow the way Taeyong’s thin lips stretch over the length of his cock, and he can’t help the flexing of his stomach when he barely keeps himself from thrusting in that willing mouth as the older goes in for more, deepthroating him. He swears he saw the outline of his cock press against Taeyong’s throat.

It’s deliriously good, like he’s about to go crazy from all the sensations brought to him by that wonderful mouth and tongue, and the playful hand that massages his balls.

“Can I,” he starts, almost out of breath. “Can I please fuck your mouth, Yong?”

Taeyong doesn’t even look up at him, only hollowing his cheeks to make it tighter for Jaehyun and tilting his head so that the tip of the younger’s cock hits the pocket of his cheek.

Jaehyun pulls at the pillow desperately. “Ethan, I wanna fuck your mouth.”

The sound of his French name rolling off of Jaehyun’s tongue in obscene waves makes him growl, blown pupils meeting Jaehyun’s as the younger’s hips move to shallowly fuck his face.

All the indecent noises fill the room, bouncing off of the walls only to crawl into Jaehyun’s ears and cloud his vision. He doesn’t even remember when he’s picked up his pace, only realizing it when Taeyong’s already choking, scratching over his legs to make him stop.

“Shit,” a loud curse comes from him when he pulls out. Jaehyun, still hard as a rock thrusts into the air as Taeyong crawls over him, taking his lips in a fervent kiss. “Did I overdo it? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-“

“No,” voice croaking, Taeyong takes the gun strapped to his hip. It’s empty but he cocks it, pressing the muzzle in between Jaehyun’s eyes. “Do you remember, Jaehyun? When you tried to stop me from killing our enemy? You bravely pointed a gun straight to my face hoping to scare the fuck out of me knowing that you cannot do it because the second you put a bullet through my head, your dreams are dead with me.” He leans in, mouth pressed hotly against the other’s jaw. “You frightened yourself trying to frighten me.” 

“But we’re over that chapter. We’re only pointing guns at each other from now on because the idea of you fucking me with a gun in my mouth makes me so hard I bet I can cum just from thinking of it.”

Jaehyun groans, feeling himself twitch once again. He can see the image as clear as day - him driving Taeyong crazy from behind as he shoves the gun in his throat, sucking and gagging on it like it was cock. 

Taeyong takes advantage of his husband being in a daze to pull the zipper of his customized pants all the way to the back, exposing his own rigid length and the cleft of his ass. Holding the weapon against the other’s forehead , he drags his buttocks over Jaehyun’s face making sure the younger’s mouth is pressed over his entrance. With his free hand he pulls at one of the cheeks to display his tight pucker and serve the delicacy Jaehyun been wanting to eat since this morning.

Dropping the gun to clutch the headboard for leverage, he feels the slithering tongue lick around his rim. It’s wet and dirty and lewd as Jaehyun basically slurps, sucking the skin around the hole. Taeyong lets out a series of low moans, hips slowly undulating.

It isn’t long before a hands grips his thigh to create more room so the younger could delve his tongue farther, mouth pressed over his hole to suckle and lick and fuck. Pleasure surges through his system, filling his head with salacious images before cascading down his body, wrapping him thickly, imprisoning him so that in any way, he will never escape from it – not like he’s planning to.

“Mm,” Jaehyun hums, tongueing his husband’s ass ferociously. The tightness that clings around his tongue makes him want to devour the other, drink him in until he’s left breathless and gasping for mercy for the first time in his life. His teeth grazes over the sensitive skin before pulling at it, biting gently then letting go so he could continue tongue-fucking the hot, delicious hole.

He’s most likely going to list this down as his favorite thing to do to Taeyong. Is there a rule saying not to eat your lover out for every single day of your life? Hopefully none! Because it’s what he’s going to do ‘til he can’t move a limb any longer. God, his husband is so addicting.

Jaehyun doesn’t know if it’s the wedding spirit, but he definitely feels a hundred times more attracted to Taeyong at the moment.

“Jaehyun…” Taeyong moans lusciously as he tugs his cock and pumps it using the precum pearling at his tip. It’s extremely hard, the head pink and engorged. As he begins to shallowly ride the rigid tongue slipping in and out of his ass, Taeyong rubs his tip with a thumb, spreading the wetness around it.

He almost chokes on his own breath when a finger slips inside of him. Jaehyun had moved his arm down and he failed to notice it, being lost in pleasure. It presses intently on his insides, caressing the tender walls before sliding deeper to tease his spot. The action makes Taeyong’s body quiver visibly and he leans against the headboard, lips parted to release puffs of air. “You’re gonna fucking kill me.”

Jaehyun’s deep, muffled chuckle serves as a response. Taeyong glances down, only seeing his husband’s blown pupils before he moves again, grinding over Jaehyun’s face. The tip of the younger’s nose scratches repeatedly over his balls, tickling the older and further pushing him to completion.

But before it could start, before the familiar churning and warmth pools in his guts, Taeyong pushes himself off of Jaehyun causing the latter to protest, and glances at the balcony. Jaehyun follows his line of sight, his lips moist, instantly understanding what the older wants.

Knowing they’re both in desperate need of release, Jaehyun allows Taeyong to drag him out of bed and to the balcony, stark naked. No one is going to see them here, unless someone is actively watching the CCTV. Well, he doesn’t have a problem garnering some audience.

The waves hit the side of the ship. Jaehyun glances down before taking Taeyong’s face in his awkward hands, engaging in a feverish kiss. He pushes the other against the railing, hoists one of the knife thrower’s legs up to sit on the cold metal. Taeyong curls his arm around it to keep himself from slipping and pushes his ass out, inviting the younger. He’s still clad in his uniform, gun once again in his hold.

“Put it in,” the knife thrower breathes out, voice dripping with desire. “I want your arms around me. Push the gun in my mouth.”

“Fuck, wait.” Jaehyun raises his arms above Taeyong so that the latter could slip in it. The head of his cock presses at Taeyong’s slick pucker. Teasingly, he thrusts until the tip is sucked in before pulling out, repeating it over a couple of times. Jaehyun’s eyes are glued on the sight – it’s enough for him to cum right there and then, but Taeyong smacks the side of his head harshly, pulling him out of his trance.

Blue eyes set ablaze when he looks up. “Are you fucking kidding me? Fuck me like you fucking mean it or I’ll throw you off of this fucking ship, Jaehyun.”

Laughter bubbles in his chest before he grabs the gun from Taeyong and forces it in the caramel-head’s mouth.. “You have such a potty mouth, officer. Don’t you think you’re not exactly in the position to order me around? Though I’m the one with cuffs around my wrists, you’re the one with a gun in your mouth and one pull at the trigger, a bullet’s going to fuck your throat raw.” He knows the weapon’s empty, but his words excite Taeyong nonetheless. 

Without much preamble, Jaehyun drives his cock in, burying it completely in one slide. Taeyong lets out a few garbled curses as he’s stretched all of a sudden. He fingered himself shortly in the bathroom but it’s not enough, it will not be enough. Jaehyun feels bigger tonight. 

And his ass burns, burns so good ‘til the flames lick the entirety of his body, setting all of him ablaze. 

They don’t care for adjustments. They set up a punishing rhythm straightaway; Taeyong receives every single jab of Jaehyun’s cock against his prostate; the veiny cock dragging over his walls deliciously, stretching him wide.

“Ah, f-fuck,” Taeyong’s croaks out, tongue slithering around the muzzle. Jaehyun’s particularly active tonight, his thrusts literally pounding and hammering his ass. Usually he has a lot to say but he’s rendered speechless thanks to the hindrance his currently lapping eagerly - reduced to a moaning mess and even though he hates to admit it, he feels like submitting for once. He wants Jaehyun to do whatever he wants with him, to use him, to fuck him senseless, over and over until he can’t release any more.

Soft lips press over his ear. “You feel tighter, Ethan. Did you do something, hm?” Teeth pull on the shell of his ear, before it’s sucked gently. “Bet you feel so fucking good right now. God,” Jaehyun’s fingers clench, wanting to grab onto something. He curses under his breath, hating how he’s cuffed without any means to get rid of it. “You’re wearing this for me… Thought of getting this for me… How you’re gonna please me.”

That’s true, a proven fact that he’s going to carry ‘til his last breath. He did something ridiculous for Jaehyun that he never once thought of doing when he was still in the darkest stage of his life. All of his kind of affection and sex and the things that go with it will only be for Jaehyun. Taeyong didn’t know he’d be in too deep, but he doesn’t want to get out of this. This is the only sea he’s going to willingly drown himself in.

Cold, chilly air bites through their skin and sifts in their bones. Jaehyun tilts Taeyong’s face to the side for a bit to watch the different expressions crossing Taeyong’s face. He rams his cock faster, harder, deeper, and his ears take in the sound of the waves, the gagging and the stuttering moans, mixed with the lewd slapping of their skins while they made love beneath the shining glimmer of the moon.

Feeling bolder, he tosses the gun to the sea and rips the police uniform open, the buttons flying in directions. He raises his arms again, forcing Taeyong to do the same so that he’s not trapping the latter in his embrace anymore, and helps Taeyong take off his top without slowing the sinful movement of his hips. Soon he takes in the picture of an inked spine, reading the french sentence he’s come to memorize over the years. It’s probably the adrenaline and the ecstasy but at the moment the tattoo looks far darker, stronger and compelling. When his black eyes move up to meet blues, Jaehyun’s chest heats up from within, and he knows it’s not just the building peak, but the affection that lights him up in invisible flames. They lap on his skin, gnaw through his flesh and melt the bones down to the marrow.

When his hips begin to stutter, Jaehyun pulls out of the other’s body and quickly heads back to their room, shoving Taeyong unceremoniously down the bed. The older’s body bounces on the mattress from the impact, and he pulls him close by the scruff so he can fuck back into his husband, mouth covering Taeyong’s own in a messy lip-lock.

“I’m gonna cum,” Taeyong whispers, nails digging through the skin of Jaehyun’s arms, leaving tiny crescent marks. His cock oozes more white, and when Jaehyun tightens his grip, mercilessly ramming into him, Taeyong’s back arches dangerously, beautifully off the bed while he screams out his husband’s name a few times, cum spurting violently between their bodies.

“Jaehyun, Jaehyun…

At the sound of his name being chanted breathlessly, Jaehyun buries his face in the crook of Taeyong’s neck, teeth clamping hard down the older’s pulse point at the same time he’s spilling his load, hot cum filling up the older’s ass.

Overwhelming ecstasy blinds Jaehyun for a few seconds. He stops moving, his weight draped over Taeyong. Then a metallic stench hits his senses. When he finds enough energy to move, he sees deep red on his husband’s neck, crimson and viscous.

He laps up the blood. Taeyong squirms beneath him, mumbling something about the stinging pain. Jaehyun makes sure all the blood is licked away before he carefully pulls out, wincing when he rolls next to Taeyong, panting and utterly exhausted.

The only sign of life in their room for the next few minutes is the sound of their breathing. Taeyong tiredly takes the trousers and shoes off of him together with the socks with gleaming bliss written all over his features. Jaehyun chuckles, lying on his flank.

“Who told you to wear those?”

“Jennie.”

“The bartender?”

“The bartender.” Taeyong repeats, facing him. “Let’s go bless as many parts of Crystal Serenity as we can?”

Jaehyun chuckles, gesturing to his wrists and watching Taeyong key the cuff ‘til he’s free. “Whatever you want.”

“You’re not gonna chastise me anymore, like you used to?”

The question, though intended to tick him off only makes Jaehyun grin. “We’ll see,” he then hovers atop the knife thrower, leaning down to kiss his lips softly. 

“Stop doing that.”

“Doing what?”

“Looking at me with those eyes.”

Jaehyun’s brow arches. Taeyong is serious. Not too much of the sap.

“Alright. You know I’m gonna listen to you.”

For the rest of our lives, Taeyong repeats in his mind. That doesn’t sound so bad. Actually, it sounds like it’s all I ever want.


 

EPILOGUE

They overlook the ring from the balcony of the renovated warehouse. Jaehyun’s face hardens when the announcer signals the start of the round. Taeyong is drenched in sweat, his black shirt clinging to his skin like a second layer. His hands, wrapped in blood-stained bandages are curled into fists as he widens his stance upon the sight of a new opponent. It’s the second round; Taeyong just killed the first man to challenge him in a duel - all hands and legs, no weapons.

The fight club just began a month ago. People volunteer to fight, only winning when the enemy’s dead. Whoever stays alive in the end gets all the money thrown by the gamblers without anything useful to do with their wealth.

Invictus owns the fight club. It was opened shortly after the honeymoon. It’s the latest underground source of money and entertainment in Bordeaux. Of course, Taeyong didn’t let the chance go, especially when he can put up a guise, not letting anyone know who he really is and get into brawls when he wants to, fully knowing that no one is going to be the last man standing but him.

Jaehyun voiced out his concern. Taeyong immediately shut it down, saying he won’t let himself get killed by a nobody. Jaehyun trusts him. Taeyong occasionally joins the fight. Tonight is one of those sometimes. 

He doesn’t usually come to the fights, but when he does, Jaehyun makes sure he’s to watch just in case. Like Taeyong, no one from the ordinary participants there knows his real identity, mistaking him as a common businessman. Only the people that run the warehouse are aware of the couple being the primary organizers of the fight club.

Sungjong leans against the railing, absently pulling at his leather glove. “Does boss take the money he gets here?”

“He does, but he’s putting them all in a separate account. I don’t know what that is for. He won’t tell me.” Jaehyun keeps his eyes on Taeyong, wincing when the enemy manages to land a hit on the other’s face.

“Probably not a big deal. He’s not taking up the strongest guys; they don’t amount that much.”

“That’s because I specifically told him not to. I’m sure he can kill those on the list, but I can’t risk it.”

“When he said there’d be changes in The Black Room, he wasn’t lying, huh?” The blonde tormentor glances at him sideways. “I see you both get equal control.”

Attention still on Taeyong, Jaehyun shrugs and snaps his fingers to beckon someone, whispering momentarily before dismissing the man. “Do you want to ask me something, Sungjong?”

“Hm, it’s also true when they said you reek of him now; that you turn into the person you love,” Smirking, Sungjong takes his eyes away from the ring to look at the other kingpin of Invictus. “Myungsoo can’t take it anymore. Since Ethan ordered me to torture him however I want, I expect you to tell me something else if I ask for a clarification regarding my job. Say, Jaehyun, if I ask you to let me keep L for myself, out of The Black Room, would you let me?”

Jaehyun replays the question in his head a few times, only stopping when the announcer ends the round, hurling wads of cash at Taeyong’s direction. The knife thrower picks them up, the silver band around his finger glinting when the harsh light hits it. 

“Taeyong!”

Upon hearing his name, Taeyong looks at the balcony. There’s a cut above his brow and the mixture of sweat and blood runs down his eye, prickling him.

“Kim Myungsoo. I’m letting him go.”

Hit with curiosity, Taeyong glances between Sungjong and Jaehyun before rolling his cash and putting it in his pants. Jaehyun knows the other’s not even wearing underwear. Those bills are gonna be disgustingly drenched in sweat soon enough.

Taeyong looks over the lifeless body of the man whose neck he just snapped. Korean. The only foreigner in the list tonight. Someone drags it out of the ring and gives him a few minutes to rest while they look for another fearless hopeful to face the caramel-head. “I’m out.” Without waiting for the announcer’s reaction, he exits the ring and heads straight to the balcony where Sungjong gazes at him expectantly. Jaehyun stands from his seat, handing him a towel.

“What brought this up?”

“The Black Room is too small for more than one captive. I can’t concentrate when Yukhei works on the others. I wish to take L out of the chamber and make use of him to fulfill my personal wishes, considering you don’t give a shit about him any longer.”

“So,” Taeyong removes the bandages, tossing them to the side. “You’re convincing me that it’d be logical to let him go? Jaehyun, you wanna let him go?” The thought entertains him. “Sounds fake.”

“I don’t see a reason as to why we gotta keep him if Sungjong wants to do this his own way.”

“Mm!” The older kingpin regards The Black Room member with a mischievous glimmer in his eyes. He pretends not to notice the way the blonde looks bashful for a second. “Do whatever you want. Keep him away from the HQ, alright.”

Sungjong nods, rubbing the back of his neck. “Okay. Well, you know I gotta go back. I don’t think Chanyeol’s doing a good job keeping an eye on him.”

The blond disappears right away. Taeyong scoffs and takes the can of soda from Jaehyun, gulping down half of its content. “Didn’t really peg Sungjong to be a romantic sadist. Is that what you call them? Falling for their own prey.”

“Like how you with me?”

The can is crushed beneath the force of his hand, the liquid spilling and dripping on the floor in quick trickles. “If that’s what you wanna call it.”

Smiling, Jaehyun takes his husband’s hand in his, inspecting the little cuts and bruises. A finger runs over the bloodied ring, wiping off the stain. “Get the first aid kit. I’ll patch you up.”

***

“Ouch- are you fucking trying to dip those cotton swabs in my wound, fucking dipshit?” Taeyong snatches his hand out of Jaehyun’s hold and blows over the cuts. “Just give me band-aids. You’re so useless.”

“Yes, your highness,” Jaehyun hands the kit to Taeyong just as the announcer cries out the winner’s name from the last match. The crowd begins to dissipate just as the last body is heaved out of the warehouse. 

Not a minute later a metal box is dumped right next to Taeyong on the floor, the sound of a few coins rattling inside amongst the rolls of bills. “I should be getting a third of the money, you know.” Jennie frowns, taking a seat before the metal box. “I work at the bar and assist in the warehouse when it’s supposed to be my day-off. Care to draw another zero to my paycheck?” 

Jaehyun smirks and checks the content of the box before depositing bundles of cash on her lap. “Am I your favorite kingpin now?”

She chews on her gum while counting the bills, grinning in satisfaction as she slips them in her cleavage. “Looks like I got a new fave, Taeyong.”

“Whatever,” comes the gruff response. “I’ll give you a raise but don’t let Lisa know. That one’s quite sensitive.”

“Aww, but girl friends share every little thing to each other! How can you expect me to keep a secret from her?” She whines annoyingly, daring to tug on the end of Taeyong’s braided hair. She yelps when her hand is slapped away. “Fine. Just be sure I’m finally going to be rich.”

She bids them goodbye with a flying kiss that Jaehyun catches just for the show, shaking his head as she basically skips in glee on her way out. 

“Does she have a ride home?”

“Why do you care?” The knife thrower gets up and grabs his jacket, zipping it up despite the warm season. 

Jaehyun follows, noticing that the subordinates are already preparing to close the warehouse for the night. The next match will be a week later to spread the word and gather new participants. Half of them are dying every week so they have to entice another set of people to keep the smooth flow of money. 

“When are you planning to get back to therapy?”

Taeyong stops in his tracks and faces Jaehyun, hands in his pockets. “What’s with the sudden question?” 

Jaehyun shrugs, leaning against the back of their car. “You said you’ve been seeing Olivia. You’re hallucinating. Is it the drugs or just the tricks of your head?”

At the mention of her name, the knife thrower huffs, kicking a stone. “I don’t know. Probably both. I saw her in Crystal Serenity. Saw her on the flight back, then last week. Before the cruise it’s already been happening.”

“What could be the reason?” The younger probes, eyeing his husband and observing the start of a twitch. “I don’t know when you’re planning to talk to your doctor. You ran out of pills, too.”

“I don’t need it.”

“You’re going to die faster if you don’t sleep.”

“Then so be it. And why are we having this conversation right outside the fucking warehouse? Are you bored or what?” 

“I was just curious.”

With a snarl, Taeyong turns to unlock the car. Just as they’re about to hop in, the sound of a cry echoes through the night and it calls both men’s attention, with Jaehyun closing the car door to walk and follow where it comes from. 

Taeyong’s brows furrow yet he doesn’t say anything, choosing to silently search with his eyes. When he habitually kicks a stone and it hits the car across theirs, he spots a movement inside, propelling him to trot to the vehicle and peek inside.

There he sees two children, not older than 7 by the looks of it. One girl and one boy. 

The windows are close. They must be suffocating. Or starving. He has no idea how long these kids have been locked inside, and why they’re in that area. Taeyong beckons Jaehyun to come and see. 

“What the hell?” Jaehyun exclaims, looking around. “No one’s here anymore. Whose car is this? Is this one of our men’s?”

“Don’t think so. I don’t allow bringing children to work.” Taeyong signals the children to move away before picking up a brick and smashing it through the window. The cries grow louder as the kids are startled by the action. He quickly unlocks the door and bends to scrutinize the state of the little humans inside. “Hey little fuckers, where’s your guardian?”

Jaehyun clicks his tongue, nudging him aside. “That’s not the way to talk to kids if you want to ask them.” 

“And you do know how? Expert, aren’t you?” Taeyong retorts as Jaehyun urges the children to get out of the car. 

They look between the adults, obviously cautious before the boy whispers to the girl and together, they reluctantly come out, holding each other’s hands tight. 

“Hey, don’t be afraid. Who’s with you?” Jaehyun speaks as gently as he can, hoping that the blood from Taeyong’s hands earlier didn’t touch any part of his face. “Do your...does your dad work for us?”

“You don’t even know if they understand what you’re saying.” Taeyong looks through the dashboard for any identification and sees a children’s book written in Korean. 

The boy sniffles and glances at the girl, wiping her tears with his tattered sleeve. “Papa went inside that place but he never came back for us. He said he’d come back for us...”

“Who’s your papa?” Jaehyun presses, feeling his heart break at the sight of the little girl quietly sobbing. Upon close inspection, he notices how alike they look. Twins. 

“Lee Minjun…”

Taeyong stops browsing through the book and stares at the boy with wide eyes. 

Lee Minjun. 

It’s the name of the man he killed in the fight earlier. 

His heart rate picks up for some reason. Sure, he does not give a single shit about the man. All of those fighters knew what they came here for. No one bothers to ask for reasons of their interest. Because no matter what it is, it all boils down to the money they’re earning if they win. 

Closing the book, the knife thrower glances at Jaehyun with clenched jaw. “The one I took down.”

Jaehyun stiffens, frozen in his position in front of the children. It feels like a waterfall of melted ice continuously cascades down his back. How is he going to break the news to these innocent kids? Bet they don’t have a single idea about what their father did inside the warehouse. How long have they been waiting? 

How is he going to tell the poor little girl that the long haired man standing next to her is the reason for her father’s unfortunate demise? 

He gets up, legs a little shaky. After sharing one look with the older, he comes to a decision he certainly needs to talk about with Taeyong but for now, there are no other choices left for him. Or for the kids. 

“What’s your name?” Jaehyun asks the boy. 

“Haechan,” He says meekly before pointing at his sister with a chubby finger. “She’s Haera! Where’s papa, mister? Can you please tell him to come back? We’re hungry…” 

Jaehyun feels his heart break a little more. He schools his face with a small smile and holds the boy, Haechan’s hand and gives it a little squeeze. “Your dad’s busy. He said you should come with us first and he’ll pick you up later.”

“Jung Jaehyun.” Taeyong grouches, fists clenched as he eyes the two little people. “What the fuck are you doing.”

The younger kingpin knows Taeyong isn’t actually asking him, but telling him to drop the absurdity because - what in the world is he doing? Picking up orphaned kids of the man his husband just brutally beat to death? 

He stands in front of the kids as though shielding them from Taeyong’s wrath, speaking low to keep the twins from listening. “The man probably needed money, Taeyong. Look at their clothes. And now their father’s gone. Do you have the heart to just leave them here, huh?”

“Who said we’re leaving them here? Drop them off at someone’s mansion. Or a hospital.” Taeyong glares, his gaze icy. He takes one look at the children and ignores the glassy eyes of the girl and the way the boy rubbed his stomach, clearly starving. “We’re not a fucking charity, Jaehyun. No one’s got time to babysit-”

“We’ll adopt them.” Jaehyun drops a bomb on him, face determined. “It’s the least we could do, Taeyong.”

“For what?” Taeyong is ready to be hysterical. His husband has gone mad. “I killed their father. What are these...these gremlins going to think once they discover they were taken in by a murderer, huh?”

Jaehyun’s eyes close for a few seconds as to calm himself. He can’t afford to let his boiling temper prevail. When he opens them again, he grabs the front of Taeyong’s jacket and pulls him close. “You’re not supposed to care, right? So what if I take them in? I’ve always wanted to have my own children, Taeyong. And you can’t give me that.”

A rough hand chops down Jaehyun’s, effectively severing its hold from his jacket. “You’re insane.” 

“Do you still think Lee Namgyu was a shitty father for abandoning you and your sister, Taeyong?”

The caramel-head takes a step back, looking at Jaehyun like he’s grown two more heads. “Yes and he’s burning in hell for tha-”

“Then don’t follow his footsteps. Your mother wished for you to become the father he wasn’t.”

Haechan peeks from behind Jaehyun, looking up at him with eyes of a neglected pup. “Mister, we’re hungry…”

Taeyong turns around, ready to get in the car and drive away, to leave the three behind when another voice pipes in, soft and hoarse from crying. 

“Is the princess mad?”

He almost breaks his neck when he whips around to glare at Haera in disbelief. “What did you call me?”

His harsh tone scares the little girl who whimpers but keeps her eyes at him. “A princess. Your hair is like a princess’!” 

Jesus H. Christ. Taeyong is going to go absolutely mad. And not the anger mad. He’s going to go crazier than he already is. With a frustrated pull at his hair, pretending he didn’t hear Jaehyun snorting, he faces his husband and cocks his head to the kids. “As long as they don’t bother me. They can stay at home.”

Jaehyun watches the older settle in their car before facing the kids with a smile and twinkling eyes. “Let’s go, you two. There’s a lot of food at home.”

“Papa will eat with us?”

A bitter tang spreads in his mouth before Jaehyun nods through the lies, holding the twins’ hands. “Papa will eat with you every meal time.”

And he knows he’s not talking about their deceased parent.