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all for the better (i'm breaking)

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The target is dressed in all black, just as he was informed. All shining earrings, tight leather and windswept hair. There’s purpose in his stride, though nothing quite menacing. Nothing that would immediately warrant death.

The taste on Taehyung’s tongue is a familiar bitterness, but he swallows it down. It’s become practiced, something of a routine for him to crush his own uncertainties, especially when he grabs the man by his shoulders in a sudden motion, the leather slick beneath his sweaty palms.

Beneath his tight clothes, the man’s body heat is warm like his own. Taehyung doesn’t think about the power he holds at taking his target off guard, how the flick of a wrist and press of a trigger will splutter out another light of existence.

After a scuffle in the shadowed alleyway, Taehyung pins his target against the roughened surface of a brick wall, finding large eyes glaring back at him. Their mingling exhales are a cloud in the frigid winter air.

The target is… not what he expects.

There’s a sliver of whitened teeth where his ragged breath escapes, vivid against the fresh blood pooling there. The man is as solid as stone, his jawline sharpened and eyes wide with a shining depth Taehyung finds immediately irritating.

Perhaps the absurdity of it all drives Taehyung to point out the obvious.

“They didn’t tell me this one would be so cute,” he says, emboldened only by the imminent death of the man he holds in his grip.

With a split lip, Jungkook gives him an infuriatingly cocky grin.

“They didn’t tell me this one would be so weak,” Jungkook laughs, eyes sparkling as they run down Taehyung’s figure. “And hot.”

Face flushed at the first sound of his breathy voice, Taehyung is already sure he hates him. He shouldn’t have opened his mouth, shouldn’t have given the target the opportunity to speak. Hearing their voices is too much for him.

Taehyung grabs him roughly by the collar, slamming him against the wall once more and savoring the way the air harshly leaves Jungkook’s lungs.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t take you out,” Taehyung growls.

Jungkook bites at his raw, bloody lip, his eyes flicking to the surrounding street lights. “Well, I’m a little slow to open up, probably annoying at times, but I’ve been told I’m great for a quick fuc-“

The cold metal of Taehyung’s pistol suddenly presses against Jungkook’s pulse, but Taehyung’s face only grows more confused.

“The hell are you on about?”

Though his chest is rising and falling a little more rapidly now, Jungkook’s cocky grin comes out to play once more.

“You asked why you shouldn’t take me out. I mean, I don’t see why you shouldn’t. I’m a pretty cheap date,” he answers.

Taehyung freezes, his body going rigid in every place he presses against Jungkook’s. His mouth parts, breathing ragged as his eyes widen.

This isn’t routine. It’s fucking absurd.

“What...?”

When he hears the telltale click of the pistol, Jungkook readies himself. He knew this time would come and he’s not afraid of death, moreso leaving the important things behind. He hopes Hoseok will remember to feed his cats. The thought of leaving them alone pains his heart.

“Can I ask you a favor?”

Taehyung despises when his targets talk. For some reason, this man in particular of course has to remind him of his brother - his weak, kindhearted, animal-loving brother.

“No, but I know you’re going to ask anyway,” he grits. Taehyung hates the way the smile he receives in return is cute.

“If-if I give you my address, could you check on my cats? One of them needs insulin shots and-“ Jungkook swallows thickly, feeling ashamed to be getting choked up at the very end. He always promised himself, promised his second family he wouldn’t cry when the time came.

But Taehyung’s expression has his heart stuttering, his wide eyes something closer to shock as his choked laugh echoes in the alleyway.

“I’m about to end your life, and all you have to ask is to feed your cats?!” he asks in disbelief, his tight grip on Jungkook’s shirt weakening just a hair.

Jungkook sees the slip up, can almost taste the humanity oozing from cracks forming on the assassin’s weak exterior. He surges for the opening.

“Please, I don’t give a shit what you do to me, at least bring them to a new home-“

Taehyung’s face is suddenly too close, his body shaking subtly. It’s a brief moment before his head leaves Jungkook’s vision to instead rest on his shoulder.

“Why the fuck do you have to be like him?” Taehyung groans, his breath warm on Jungkook’s neck while the leather jacket slips from his weakening grasp. “I was just finally adjusting to this and you have to be so damn- so damn annoying.”

Jungkook can’t help it when he chuckles, tilting his head back to stare aimlessly at the starry winter sky above them.

“You’re not the first to tell me that.”

When Taehyung finally steps away and pockets his pistol, smoothing his too-crisp suit and adjusting his tie, Jungkook sincerely wonders if he got lucky to have an angel as a hitman.

“We go to your apartment, feed them, leave, and then get this over with,” Taehyung says darkly, glancing up at him with distaste. “That’s it.”

Smiling softly, Jungkook knows he should find the attractive man intimidating, but he can’t bring himself to. There’s undeniable kindness in his gaze, regardless of the threats falling from his plush lips. There’s still flickers of humanity in his demeanor, his hands too devoid of blood to be tools of cruelty.

It’s settled in Jungkook’s mind without hesitation. All it’ll take is a trip home to devise a plan, though with the way the man’s gaze lingers too long on his figure, Jungkook already has some ideas.

“Got it.”

At least he doesn’t think the night will end in murder anymore.



“So... how’s your night?”

Taehyung groans. His target hadn’t informed him the walk to his apartment was at least thirty minutes... thirty long minutes of pointless small talk his pride refuses to participate in.

“Great, before I met you and you opened your fucking mouth,” he grunts.

Jungkook snickers. Past attempts on his life were tough, not usually ending in the opponent's favor, but none of them have been as hard to crack as this guy… or as hot, if he’s honest. His intuition tells him the man’s a novice as far as mafia experience goes, likely leagues below him. Jungkook’s a little ashamed he almost let himself get killed by someone so green.

The air is frigid as they walk the city streets, dodging frozen puddles and muddied piles of snow. “At least tell me your name,” Jungkook huffs, unable to hide his smile at the eye roll he receives. “If you’re here to take me out, there’s no way you don’t know my name already. It’s only fair.”

Glaring at the sidewalk below them, Taehyung responds with silence. He’s so new to the mob that they didn’t even bother to provide him any details. He doesn’t know the man’s name, why they want him dead or what organization he’s a part of.

He just has to make the hit. Needs to.

“Alright, I’ll make you a deal,” Jungkook finally relents. “We’ll eat when we get there - a last meal sort of thing. Then I’ll make it nice and easy for you and not even fight back. Deal?”

He keeps walking, but Taehyung stops abruptly behind him, shock evident on his parted lips.

“...Are you even real?”

At the sight of his silken mocha hair blowing gently in the breeze, his tanned skin stained sepia in the snowy light, Jungkook could really ask him the same question. It’s a shame the assassin that came to kill him is unrealistically hot, because he’d prefer to spend the night together under different circumstances.

Grinning, Jungkook saunters up to him, his hands pocketed in his leather jacket. “Maybe,” he hums, cocking his head to the side with mock confusion. “You could always confirm, you know, body heat and all. Pretty sure I’m living.”

At his flush, Jungkook is sure Taehyung’s living too.

Taehyung loathes the darkened curls of the man’s hair, how the light snowflakes resting there look like constellations in the wavy mess. He despises his oversized front teeth that keep peeking out, his sparkling earrings, how his laugh seems to be trying to infect his lungs.

“Fuck off,” Taehyung groans, swerving around him in an attempt to keep moving once more. He quickly strolls away with a racing mind, feeling shame worming its way onto his cheeks.

Taehyung hates being around his targets… hates hearing their voices, seeing their expressions, observing their lives. He hates the reminder that the people he kills are human, that they’re rarely much different than he is.

But if there’s anything Taehyung hates most, it’s being flirted with by his own targets. It hadn't happened until today, but thanks to this guy, he’s absolutely sure he hates it.

“We’re not eating,” he growls, stomping away in anger with his eyes glued firmly to the next street crossing. The lights shift from red to green, obscured in the lightly falling snow.  “I already told you the plan is to deal with your stupid cats and then-”

“Uh, hello…? Where are you going?”

At the sound of his target’s distant voice behind him, Taehyung turns to find Jungkook waiting with a smirk, a silver key twisting around his finger. The apartment building that stands before him towers into the sky, its glass panels shining with twinkling with lights.

“Were you really going to let me get away?” he laughs in the distance, toothy smile sparkling in the streetlight. “You didn’t even notice, I could’ve let you keep walking.”

If Taehyung thought he was ashamed earlier, it’s nothing compared to how he feels when he strolls back to Jungkook’s side, ignoring the way that stupid, cocky smile never seems to leave the man’s face.

I’m such an idiot, he repeats to himself as he follows Jungkook up the stairs, the wood creaking beneath his feet. The building is sleek but modest, nothing extravagant but certainly not lacking in modern flair. Clean, trimmed walls and carpeted floors line the hallway, the building devoid of sound. No other residents greet them on the way.

I’m a damn idiot, he thinks again as Jungkook unlocks his apartment door, imagining a trap awaiting him on the other side. Surprisingly, the room beyond the door is only empty and dark until Jungkook flicks the lights on.

“Make yourself at home,” Jungkook calls casually, keys jangling where he leaves them on the dining room table. The apartment is small but tidy, clearly lived in based on the books scattered about and plants lining the windowsill. Like the hallway, the room is modern, though not lacking in coziness. Strangely, Taehyung finds it a little homey.

He nearly jumps out of his skin as something suddenly brushes against his leg, his hand reflexively reaching for his pistol, but the soft meow that greets him has him relaxing.

“Sorry about the cat hair,” Jungkook’s muffled voice calls from the kitchen. “Chickpea is pretty fluffy.”

Taehyung stares down at the ball of white fluff weaving between his legs like a melted marshmallow.

“C-chickpea?” he mutters in disbelief. What kind of violent gang member names his cat ‘Chickpea’?

Clearly, he was assigned this guy because he’s easy, a really big softie.

Other than the sound of clinking dishes in the kitchen, the quiet filtering through the apartment is unfamiliar. He’s become too accustomed to the medley of harsh shouts and swears of the base he usually resides in, never finding a moment’s peace in the constant reel of chaos.

Like the cushy silence of freshly fallen snow, Taehyung feels deceptively at ease here, the softness coaxing him into uncoiling his internal tension, though it’s rapidly replaced by a miserable tiredness that never seems to leave him.

Exhausted by the day’s ridiculous turn of events, he collapses into a chair at the wooden kitchen table, staring tiredly out the large glass windows that line the dining area.

Taehyung absentmindedly taps his fingers on the table covered in worksheets, their stacks blanketing a mess of binders and textbooks. Taehyung reads the printouts upside down, furrowing his brows at the failed calculations scrawled on a prominent work-in-progress. The target is clearly a student of some kind - Taehyung supposes he looked young, but he’s still surprised.

Without much thought, he easily solves the equation that’s covered in scribbles, absorbing it even from his awkward angle. It reminds him of the classes he used to attend before his life was chained to a debt he’s unable to repay.

It reminds him how young his target is, of what he’s there to do.

But Taehyung thinks he shouldn’t have any issue with the job, none at all. Especially with how much he wants to kill the man approaching the table, a grin on his face and two steaming mugs in hand. Taehyung’s mug has polar bears on it, their ceramic forms resting contentedly in piles of snow.

The look he sends Jungkook is the most disgusted yet.

“What?” Jungkook asks playfully, sipping at his mug of hot coco a little too quickly. Hissing, he bites at his tongue, scrunching his nose from the heat. It’s annoyingly cute.

Hi smile is cute, his motions are cute, his laugh is cute - all annoyingly so. The more time that passes, the more Taehyung finds it a shame the man’s a gang member, despite finding him infuriating. It’s a waste with how every action he seems to make is attractive.

“You’re out of your damn mind if you think I’m drinking that,” Taehyung says, shoving the mug away from him. He loves hot chocolate - it’s quite possibly his favorite drink - but it’s not worth the chance of getting poisoned. He doesn’t even take drinks from cute guys at the bar.

“Not to your tastes?” Jungkook observes, blowing at his own mug with a shrug. “Guess I’ll have to drink it myself.”

Taehyung snorts. “Why would I risk you poisoning me right before I take you out? I’m not that incompetent.”

“Suit yourself,” Jungkook replies, sipping at Taehyung’s own steaming mug.

Okay… maybe Taehyung regrets giving it away just a little bit as he watches Jungkook drink. Truthfully, he’s been eating very little lately, so little that his gut feels like a pool of acid.

And if Jungkook is drinking it safely… and the sweet chocolate smell, the whipped cream...

“You’re drooling.”

Eyes snapping up to the dark pair before him, Taehyung feels embarrassment flood him for the hundredth time. “N-no, I’m not!” he stammers indignantly, crossing his arms against his chest and ignoring the audible growl in his stomach.

Jungkook is still laughing, the sound like a clear bell in the soft silence of the apartment.

“You know, if you want this so bad, I could always give it back,” Jungkook taunts in a low voice, sliding the mug to the center of the table with a smirk. “At a price, of course.”

He’s met with an eye roll from Taehyung. “I’m not sparing your life for hot chocolate, so don’t even bother asking.”

But Jungkook shakes his head.

“Two things:” he starts, holding up his fingers in a V shape. “One: you tell me your name, and two: you let me watch a movie before-“

“No,” Taehyung says flatly. “Absolutely not. We’ve already been here too long.”

“C’mon,” Jungkook says with that sparkle-toothed grin Taehyung wishes he would stop using. “It’s early. I’m sure they gave you all night for your mission, right?”

Biting at his lip, Taehyung’s sure it’s obvious that the answer is yes, that he could take days for the mission without question if he wanted, but he still can’t agree to the ridiculous arrangement.

“Look, it’s true, I’d prefer not to die,” Jungkook says amusedly. “And I’m sure you’d prefer not to go back to whatever hell you’re destined for. Why not just enjoy the little time we have?”

Taehyung swallows, unable to look away from the weird glimmer of hopefulness in Jungkook’s eyes. Still, while every cell in his body seems to scream at him to follow through with his mission, his mind is far too comfortable at the thought of holding off a little longer.

“Why would I hang out with the person I’m about to-“

“One name, one movie. After that, I’m all yours,” Jungkook interrupts with a wink, igniting Taehyung’s cheeks. He sighs, putting his head in his hands and wishing he could disappear.

It’s going to be a long night.

 

 

“So, which one?”

Jungkook is cross-legged on his bed, the plush white comforter like that of a cloud around him. He holds up a few shiny cases in front of his face like a paper fan, round eyes peering over them at a stiff Taehyung who lingers in the doorway with a half-full mug.

“I don’t give a shit. Pick one so I can move on with my life.”

Of course Jungkook’s movie selection is entirely Ghibli films, Taehyung’s favorites, but he says nothing. He’s had enough small talk with a guy he’s supposed to murder. It’s difficult enough to end a life as it is.

Jungkook’s mouth dips to a pout as he slowly lowers the DVDs, splaying them out on the bed. “But..it’s my last movie,” he says softly, his voice pained. His hesitant fingertips give his thoughts away as they brush over the case with a grey-haired girl on it. Howl’s Moving Castle.

Taehyung’s really not prepared for the whiplash Jungkook keeps administering. One moment, he’s cocky, confident. Other times, he’s excruciatingly irritating. In moments like these, he’s as soft and fluffy as his marshmallow cat. It’s incredibly frustrating that Taehyung can’t figure him out.

If anything, though, he’s not a fan of the frown twisted on Jungkook’s face. It doesn’t suit him.

“The castle one,” Taehyung finally blurts, wanting to strangle himself for feeling prickled just by a little pout. His job requires him to numb his emotions, but tonight has only made him feel particularly weak.

Numb is most certainly the opposite of how he feels when Jungkook’s frown becomes a small smile, his sparkling gaze trying with all its might to lock onto Taehyung’s avoidant one.

Mumbling something about good taste, Jungkook climbs from the bed to pop the DVD in. As the previews roll, he tosses himself back onto his mattress, wiggling up to lean against the headboard.

All too aware of the implication, Taehyung remains firmly in the doorway.

“So are you gonna stand there all night or what?”

Though he’d prefer to chop off his own limbs before climbing into bed with a target, Taehyung is distracted once again by the feeling of softness brushing against his leg. He looks down to find yet another stupid cat, one with tanned fur and scarred ears.

“Oh, Noodle!”

Noodle…?

At the revelation of yet another poorly-named pet, Taehyung concludes that he’s hallucinating. The stupid cats are cute, their names are cute, the apartment is cute, and the guy he’s supposed to murder is infuriatingly cute. He stands stock still, waiting to wake up from the dream, but his heart thuds on against his wishes.

The cat quickly abandons Taehyung after the lack of affection shown, hopping onto the bed to greet his owner. He purrs so loudly, it’s heard over the opening theme of the movie.

“You have shit taste in pet names, you know that?”

Cute guy scoffs. “Like your name is any better.”

Jungkook is biting his lip through is smile, his eyes trained on the screen where the movie still play1s. Breaking this guy down has been so easy, it’s seriously approaching endearing levels, he thinks. He can almost hear the crack of Taehyung’s weak facade as it crumbles.

“Excuse me,” Taehyung responds, his free hand on his hip, “Taehyung means ‘to prosper greatly without any hindrance’. What the fuck does Noodle mean, wiggly? Are you uncreative or just hungry?”

“I found Noodle outside a noodle shop, Taehyung,” he replies, the name a drawl on his tongue.

Watching Taehyung’s mouth drop open from his peripheral, Jungkook fights to hold back his laughter. Taehyung’s reddening cheeks of embarrassment don’t seem to get old, and he’s seen them enough tonight to know they’re a core part of his character. “Thanks for fulfilling one of my requests,” he says amusedly. “That wasn’t so hard, was it? One more to go!”

Taehyung’s innocence reminds Jungkook of himself before he became used to the feeling of blood on his hands, a time when his humanity felt untainted by taking lives to save his own. There’s no way Taehyung willingly joined the most powerful mob in Seoul, not a chance. He can’t even imagine the soft-hearted guy knowingly stepping on an ant hill.

“Just come sit down, Taehyung,” Jungkook pleads, patting the empty bed while he scratches at Noodle’s ears. “Believe it or not, I’m not interested in hurting you. I just... really want to enjoy my last night alive.”

It’s a low blow to use his own death as a guilt trip, one Jungkook would prefer not to utilize on someone so clearly hesitant to make a kill, but he’s decided to draw Taehyung in as long as he can. At least long enough for his plan to kick in, hopefully.

It’s obvious that Taehyung was sent as a scapegoat to distract him, whether by becoming his victim or playing around, he isn’t sure. Unless Taehyung is an excellent actor, Jungkook doubts he knows his role either. All he knows is that Taehyung doesn’t deserve to be a puppet.

Jungkook is shocked out of his thoughts when he feels the bed dip beside him. Taehyung props his back against the headboard with his arms bound tightly against his chest, his legs crossed.

“Don’t say a fucking word.”

Jungkook only chuckles in response.

 

 

Taehyung’s not sure how he ended up paying attention to the movie enough to feel it move his heart, but the fact of the matter is that he’s tearing up. He’s seen it a thousand times, and yet he’s still tearing up... with a fluffy white cat sleeping on his feet.

On a night he was supposed to commit murder. Fantastic.

There’s no way Jungkook hasn’t heard his sniffles. Still, he doesn’t move to make fun of Taehyung. In fact, the other man’s been glued to the TV since he sat down, his mouth parted in concentration. Taehyung would possibly find it a little endearing if he wasn’t busy panicking about killing him.

It’d make his life easier if cute guy would be an asshole. It’s easier to kill people you hate. And even with despising the few he’s killed before, Taehyung still can’t rid himself of the sound of their pleas, their horrified expressions, the way the light leaves their eyes.

He wonders what Jungkook’s eyes will look like as the shimmer of life leaves them, if Taehyung will suffer in hell for extinguishing such bright starlight.

When Jungkook turns to him, his sparkling eyes full of curious depth and a flicker of kindness, Taehyung is sure something worse than hell will await him.

“Do you think it’s as easy as they make it seem,” Jungkook asks, his voice the most serious Taehyung has heard it yet, “to find someone who accepts your darkness so readily?”

Taehyung flicks his dark gaze to the movie, observing the young girl embracing a dark, feathered monster.

“No,” he replies honestly. He’s exhausted, drained and dreading his task. He has nothing to lose by holding back on a topic he’s more than familiar with. “Everyone has their own darkness, but not all of them blend in the same way. It takes someone special to absorb it all.”

“It's probably hard,” Jungkook hums, “for the person with more darkness to burden the person they love with it, don’t you think?”

Taehyung shrugs. It’s actually the reason he dropped his friends and those he loved, to protect them from the darkness clinging to him so fiercely.

There’s a soft silence punctuated only by the violins of the movie’s soundtrack before Jungkook speaks again. “You know, the real loser in all of this is the Turnip head guy.”

The little hot chocolate remaining in the mug on his lap nearly splashes on Taehyung from the force of his snort. “Enlighten me.”

“Well, he spent the whole time as Turnip head,” Jungkook says, stretching his arms above his head with a grin. “He probably would’ve had a lot to say too, you know?” The shift in position is noticeable when Jungkook adjusts, his arm against the top of the headboard.

He’s too close, Taehyung thinks when Jungkook’s arm rests neatly behind his head. Too close.

In response to the obvious gap closure, Taehyung slides down to rest his head on the pillow he had been leaning on. “You don’t know that. He could’ve been a jerk the whole time. One good deed doesn’t make him a hero.”

Jungkook frowns at that. “Oi, don’t diss my man Turnip head, he tries his best, alright?”

The feeling of his cheeks arcing into a smile is a little unfamiliar to Taehyung. He doesn’t know why Jungkook’s defensiveness is funny, but he’s still giggling either way. He can’t remember the last time he genuinely laughed - it feels both welcomed and unwanted.

“Are you comparing yourself to a Turnip head?” Taehyung giggles, his chest feeling light. “If so, it’s accurate.”

Jungkook’s face is scrunched when he looks down at Taehyung, but he can’t hide the curve of the smile on his lips. “Rude,” he huffs, though his gaze lingers, seemingly absorbing Taehyung’s features.

The look is caring, concerned. Taehyung doesn’t like it. He doesn’t need pity from the man he’s about to kill.

Unwilling to meet the strange look in Jungkook’s eye, Taehyung glances around the room, feeling warmer by the minute. He’s far sleepier than he anticipated, completely unaware of the passage of time. There’s no clock on the bedside table, just photos of a young Jungkook and some friends.

Taehyung absorbs the image of his target’s young, toothy face, his cheeks round and reddened with pure happiness. Blinking at the arced eyes of an excited child, it’s only becoming more difficult with every passing moment for Taehyung to harden his resolve, though he assures himself he still has a little time.

The image on the TV changes, narrating something about fires and hearts. Taehyung is relieved the movie isn’t over yet. He isn’t ready to end this target’s life, not yet.

Glancing around the room, Taehyung admires the fluttering white curtains and messy piles of clothes Jungkook has collected. His surroundings are foreign to him, yet they possess a comfort he hasn’t known for years. Taehyung sees a rack full of hats and an overstuffed bookcase. There’s a cat bed and a scratching post, a succulent that could use some water, a backpack with too many holes. He sees a skateboard tucked into the closet beside neutral colored hoodies. He sees the flickering lights of high rise buildings through the windows, their roofs dusted in white from the ongoing snowfall.

As his eyes rake over the ceiling, its painted patterns beginning to swirl strangely, he wonders if his life could have resembled something like this before he was forced into taking lives for a living.

Jungkook is closer now, enough for Taehyung to feel his warmth, although they’re not touching. He wishes the desires to touch and be touched weren’t there, that he could bury his own humanity as much as he buries it with the murder of others. If they both weren’t killers, Taehyung wonders if he could have closed the gap between himself and Jungkook without guilt, if Jungkook would watch movies and laugh with him every night, if Jungkook would treasure him.

Taehyung shakes his head, feeling more out of it by the second. The desire to reach out to someone he’s assigned to kill is illogical. Needing to busy his hands in a way that doesn’t involve Jungkook, he runs his thumbs over the polar bears on his mug. They’re blurring fast.

He’s tired, so tired, his eyelids drooping with an intensity that alarms even his exhausted brain. Taehyung is never this tired, only experiencing anything like it in the few times he’s had to take medication. As the yellow hue of the lamp beside him swirls, the realization comes quick, his head is heavy on the pillow.

“Ahh, you did drug me, didn’t you?”

Jungkook’s smile is miserably sad when he leans over him, obscuring his view of the ceiling and replacing it with stars. “I did. I’m sorry. It’ll make you feel sleepy and maybe a little silly, but it won’t hurt you.”

There’s an attempt to shake his head once more, though Taehyung finds it’s suddenly much too heavy to move. “I should’ve expected this.”

“You should’ve,” Jungkook laughs gently, “but the fact that you didn’t speaks volumes.”

Using the little strength he has, Taehyung rolls to his side to face Jungkook, burrowing his face into the soft pillow that smells lightly of cologne and cotton. Dulled alarm bells ring in his mind at how easily he gives into the loss of control at being drugged, as if he’s too eager to give up his own autonomy if it stops him from pulling the trigger. He doesn’t think about it, only focuses on the immense comfort of Jungkook’s silky sheets instead.

“So, how will I die?” Taehyung asks sleepily, the weighty tiredness weakening his typically-cold exterior. He wonders if there will be pain, if the drug will numb what’s to come.

“I was serious when I said I wouldn’t hurt you,” Jungkook responds, wiggling down to eye-level beside him. If Taehyung wasn’t so tired, he thinks his heart might have raced at the proximity, but he’s too exhausted to care. “I can help you, but you have to tell me what you want.”

“I don’t know what I want,” Taehyung slurs, feeling his grip loosen on reality. His feelings are heightened, sadness and regret and desire contorting within him and tumbling out of his mouth like loose gravel. “I don’t want to hurt.”

“Do you want to kill others?” Jungkook asks, his voice thick with so much patience and kindness that Taehyung can feel it in his own throat. “Do you still want to kill me?”

With great difficulty, Taehyung shakes his head, his eyes pricking with tears. Stupid fucking drug.

Honestly, he hasn’t wanted to kill Jungkook from the moment he smiled. He hasn’t wanted to kill a single person. Taehyung hates himself for what he’s become, for what he’s endured for the sake of his family. He hates the cold exterior he’s had to take on, the isolation he’s had to endure. He hates the way he’s treated like he’s worthless.

Vision blurred, he stares at Jungkook’s star-flecked gaze, wondering if it’s the last face he’ll see. He doesn’t think it’s a horrible way to go, to be swallowed by such a sparkling night. Cute guy will probably go easy on him.

He hates that Jungkook is cute, too. There’s a lot he hates, but that’s at the top of his list.

“Oh, I’m cute?” Jungkook says, flashing his bright smile as he laughs in a high pitch. “I’m sorry you hate it, I’ll try harder to be ugly.”

Did.. did I say that out loud? Taehyung thinks sluggishly, his thoughts jumbled. It doesn’t matter. He’s too sleepy and his heart hurts.

“Please don’t hurt cute guy,” he mumbles, feeling more tears leak from his eyes. “So tired. Miss them. Please.” He hears Jungkook respond softly, though the strength of the drug sweeps him into a soothing night that he welcomes with open arms.

When sleep finally takes him, Taehyung dreams of darkened feathers and starry skies, of yarn balls of noodles, of touches as soft as marshmallows and gentle fingers in his hair.

For the first time in months, he doesn’t dream of blood.

 

— 

 

Jungkook feels his heart crack as he listens to the sobs from even out into steady breaths. He cards his fingers through Taehyung’s brown hair, unable to hold back from at least a tiny display of comfort.

He was right. Taehyung is a good person trapped in a hell he’s familiar with.

“We’ll help you,” he murmurs, wiping away Taehyung’s last tears with loose sheets. “It won’t be much easier, but we’ll help you. Trust us. Trust me.”

Taehyung’s hair is so soft, his puffs of breath warm. Jungkook is certain his intuition wasn’t off when he thought he had an angel as a hitman.

Taking care to tuck Taehyung in with his blankets first, Jungkook stands from the bed with his pillow in hand to sleep on the couch, though not before he brushes the hair away from Taehyung’s ear, bending down to whisper soft words.

“It’s Jungkook, by the way,” he murmurs amusedly, fluffing his hair a final time. “Sweet dreams, Taehyung.”

 

— 

 

Taehyung’s mouth is cottony, the daylight too bright as it sears his pupils. Scrunching his eyes shut, he flips the pillow onto his head, remembering that the scent of cologne lingering there isn’t a familiar one. He jolts as warmth moves against his knee, reflexively kicking out and startling the object off the bed.

A cat? he thinks, his mind confused and hazy as he recalls the previous night. There were two cats and a lot of starlight, movies and… a cute guy he was supposed to murder but slept in his bed instead. One who drugged him. One who probably left him for dead, at this point.

Heart racing at the thought of Jungkook, Taehyung hastily pulls the pillow away to check the other side of the bed, though he’s unable to sit up before he hears a loud, familiar click in his ear. His gaze slowly drags to his left, his blood as cold as the metal barrel pressed to his temple.

“Good morning, Kim Taehyung,” a pleasant voice rings from the other side of the gun. “Thanks for not killing Jungkookie.”

It’s a man with fire-red hair, dressed completely in black. His smile is warm, but it makes Taehyung’s gut swim with nausea.

“Welcome to the Ardent.”

 

 

Chapter Text

“Sorry about tying you up.”

Taehyung’s wrists ache as he’s pushed from the bedroom, tripping over his feet with his arms bound behind him. His senses are still muddied, his balance askew as the drug tries to exit his system. The red haired guy is close behind, pistol brushing against the hairs on his nape.

“It’s protocol, you know,” the man behind him says cheerily, far too optimistic to be holding a gun to someone’s head. “Can’t really let a hitman walk around freely and all.”

Taehyung doesn’t bother answering. His mouth is dry and his eyes are watering, his head still too heavy. Despite feeling sickeningly nervous to be threatened straight out of bed, he’s still relieved he didn’t wake up in his own shitty corner of the den today.

The first thing Taehyung notices is that the apartment looks cozy in the morning, almost picturesque. Sunlight filters through the windows, shedding much needed light on the collection of potted plants. A crystalline star-shaped suncatcher casts rainbows onto the tiled floor.

Though the thought is brief, Taehyung still finds himself wondering if everything related to Jungkook exudes such comfort.

The man guides him to a cushy recliner with a firm hand on his shoulder, bypassing what appears to be a loaf of blanket on the couch. Wavy, dark hair protrudes from one end, the mound rising and falling with steady exhales.

“He’s always been like this,” red-hair guy says apologetically, running a hand down his face. “Don’t worry, we’ve got him trained.”

Withdrawing another gun from a leg holster, the man expertly cocks it in a swift motion, the click ringing throughout the room.

At the sharp sound, Jungkook’s limbs are wild, his body twisting as he withdraws a pistol from beneath his pillow. He snaps into sitting position, hair in total disarray.

Though his eyes are barely cracked open and his shirt is half off, Jungkook’s pistol is instantly pointed and ready to fire in their direction.

“Mornin’ Jungkookie!” the man says brightly. “That was still too slow. You’re slipping lately.”

Too slow…? Taehyung thinks, swallowing thickly.

“Hobi,” Jungkook whines, his face pouty. “Why are you here...? Isn’t it like seven in the morning, and what’s-“

Freezing, Jungkook’s eyes widen when they spot Taehyung. They flick anxiously between him and Hoseok, resting on the gun held to his head and his bound wrists.

“Hoseok, what the fuck is going on?”

It’s a dark voice from such a soft person, the most threatening Taehyung has heard from Jungkook yet - enough to instill fear in his heart.

Hoseok sighs loudly, sheathing his other gun, though the former still presses to Taehyung’s head. “C’mon Kookie.. did you really expect me to let a guy assigned to murder you just waltz around like he owns the place?”

Jungkook’s jaw is clenched tightly, all traces of sleepiness gone as he lowers his pistol. “Is it really necessary to point a loaded gun at him?”

Taehyung thinks it probably is. He was assigned to kill him, after all. They both have been rather lax about the whole murdering thing.

The look Jungkook sends him is one of discomfort laced with sympathy, a look Taehyung hasn’t seen since his life was turned upside down. He curses his weak heart, since the skip it experiences isn’t normal or something he wants. Taehyung wishes he could shield his face.

Jungkook’s eyes are too kind to be those of a killer. His hands are too soft, his voice too soothing. Taehyung isn’t sure what makes him special enough to spark defensiveness in someone like Jungkook. The man should loathe him, should be the one to pull the trigger himself.

“It is when you-know-who is on his way,” Hoseok replies, laughing nervously when Jungkook’s mouth pops open.

“You-you brought him here?” Jungkook says in angry disbelief. “Right now? I can handle this-” 

“No, you can’t,” Hoseok scolds, “or you wouldn’t have had a sleepover with a hitman.”

Taehyung bites at his lip as the gun moves against his hair. He has no clue what’s going on or why Jungkook suddenly seems so anxious at the arrival of ‘you-know-who’. The gears of his mind stutter has he struggles to remember the end of the previous night, finding he has barely has any idea of what he said before he fell asleep.

By the way Jungkook keeps staring at him with a concerned gaze, he’s positive it was something stupid.

Cheeks flaring with heat, Taehyung vaguely recalls the feeling of featherlight fingertips threading through his hair. The touch was peaceful, comforting. Unless the drug was that potent, those hands had to belong to someone - probably the person he was supposed to kill.

“It’s not what you think, Hobi, it’s-”

The conversation ends abruptly at a knock on the apartment door.

“Come in!” Hoseok says brightly, glancing at the doorway. Taehyung feels the firearm press closer to his skull as Jungkook’s face twists to a grimace.

Two men enter, both smaller in stature but striking in appearance. The blonde dressed in all black rakes his eyes over the living room, chains jingling from his leather pants as he approaches. The look he gives Jungkook is disappointed, but the one he sends Taehyung is scathing.

“Morning,” the peach-haired man lingering in the doorway greets, a nervous smile on his face as he absorbs the scene. Hoseok glances at him, mirroring his tension. “Who’d you manage to drag in this time, Jungkookie?”

Jungkook’s narrowed eyes follow the blonde, resting on his back where he glowers at Taehyung.

“I didn’t drag anyone in, Jimin,” Jungkook says irritatedly, casting a glare at the man with peach hair before returning it to the blonde, but Jimin is already busy digging through the fridge. “It was my idea and he won’t hurt-”

“You’re an idiot, Jungkook. You know better than this.”

The blonde’s words are harsh, his tone cold. There’s no sympathy in his glare hovering over Taehyung, his arms crossed tightly to his chest. Though Taehyung finally feels relief as the gun pressed to his skull is lowered, it’s quickly erased by the violent glint in the man’s dark eyes.

“Kim Taehyung, eh?” he says with deadly quiet, reaching out to grip Taehyung’s chin. His touch is soft at first, only turning his head back and forth. Taehyung loathes the loss of control - he’s been treated like this before, by those eager to manipulate him to their will.

“And what would the Ebon Wolves be doing with a weak nobody like you?”

Huffing, Taehyung snaps his face out of the blonde’s grasp, uncaring of the consequences he knows he’ll endure. He’ll sure as hell resist being treated like he’s worthless, even if he technically is.

He’ll resist telling them about his debt, too.

The man sighs dramatically, only serving to increase the tension in the room. Taehyung’s nerves heighten when he feels Hoseok shift on his feet behind him.

“Listen, I get you’d prefer to keep your mouth shut,” the man says. “But the fact of the matter is-” He lunges for Taehyung’s chin again, his grip harsh and unrelenting. “You’ll be talking one way or another.”

Yoongi,” Jungkook says warningly, tensing where he sits on the couch, though he’s ignored.

“I’ll say it again," Yoongi demands. "Why did the Ebon Wolves send you?”

Taehyung’s heart pounds, his jaw aching where it’s held tightly. Still, his desire to resist such treatment wins out over the logic of obeying.

“Why the fuck do you think I was sent?” he growls, fighting off Yoongi’s firm grip. “I was told to kill this guy, but his stupid-”

He jolts as a warm weight hits his thighs, feeling Yoongi’s grip weaken for the smallest moment. A poorly-named marshmallow stands on Taehyung’s lap.

“I’m impressed,” Jimin says with full cheeks, leaning against the kitchen doorway with a muffin in hand. “Chickpea pretty much despises everyone.”

Taehyung tries to look down, though his posture is held firm by the grip on his face. The way he’s being handled is getting more frustrating by the second.

The distraction is not enough to deter Yoongi. “Do you know whose house you slept in last night?” he asks quietly.

Taehyung tries to shake his head. He only knows the guy’s name is Jungkook thanks to Hoseok. That and he may have heard it in his dreams last night.

Yoongi huffs a laugh, his expression dark.

“Liar.”

It’s quick, the way Yoongi’s hand leaves his chin to grip his hair tightly, angling his head upwards. “This whole city is owned by the Jeons. You tried to kill their son.”

Taehyung hears him, though the words don’t register. He's too fed up with his treatment, his will feeling weakened after being spoken to like a human by Jungkook.

The touch is nothing like the gentleness Taehyung felt last night. He knows the time spent laughing beside Jungkook was a one-off, one of those rare nights he felt free of the chains weighing him down, but he still wishes he could experience it one more time.

“Answer me. Why did they choose you?!”

Taehyung gasps in pain when Yoongi pulls with force.

There’s movement behind his eyelids when he flinches. He feels the cloud of warmth on his lap tense, its claws extended into his thighs as it hisses in Yoongi’s direction. He sees Hoseok move quickly to place hand on his friend’s shoulder, preventing an angered Jungkook from rising from the couch.

Still, Yoongi ignores the piercing stare from Jungkook and the dramatics of the cat below him.

“I don’t know why they chose me,” Taehyung says, his voice strained. “I’m useless to them. This- this shit isn’t what I wanted! I don-”

“How many times do you think we’ve heard that?”

There’s pain in Yoongi’s gaze, a reflection of all too similar situations that Taehyung knows don’t work in his favor. “How many have you killed to get to this position? How many lives have you ended, how much misery have you caused to be assigned to kill a Jeon? How much blood is on your fucking hands?!”

Mouth agape, Taehyung feels himself begin to shake.

There’s plenty of blood on his hands. The four lives he’s taken still haunt him. He can’t get their faces out of his head - they pester him like ghosts every time his eyes close for more than a breath.

Yoongi’s anger isn’t misplaced. Taehyung deserves to pay for his crimes.

“Four.”

Brow furrowed, Yoongi tilts his head to the side. “Four what?”

“I’ve killed four people,” Taehyung confesses, throat bobbing with guilt. He sees Jimin’s mouth drop open from a distance, only worsening his turmoil.

At Yoongi’s angry expression, he knows it’s four too many. It’s the wrong answer.

“You.. you expect me to believe you’ve only killed four people?” Yoongi says in disbelief. “Four people, and you’re assigned to a Jeon?”

“Yes, four-”

He’s interrupted by a harsh laugh from the blonde as draws his gun, pressing it against Taehyung’s temple.

“I don’t like liars.”

Taehyung’s had enough guns pressed to his head this morning. He’s had enough of the same hell repeating itself, of his body being battered and bruised by those with power. He’s tired, so tired of being treated less than human, like crumpled paper to be tossed in the trash.

“Go on then,” he says harshly, his patience snapping. “I want nothing to do with the Ebon Wolves and nothing to do with any of you.” Taehyung refuses to look in Jungkook’s direction, especially when he sees him frown in his peripheral. “Any hurt you cause me is nothing compared to what I deal with on a daily basis anyway.”

Yoongi snorts softly, his face falling into a deep frown. “Tell me why they sent you and maybe we can do this the easy way.”

Baring his teeth, Taehyung refuses. His death matters little compared to the lives he protects.

His death might solve a lot of their problems anyway.

Sighing, Yoongi shrugs. “Suit yourself.”

At the click of his gun’s hammer readying, Taehyung feels his heart stop beating. He supposes it’s time then, not at all surprised to be unaccompanied as he leaves his existence behind. It’s all too familiar to feel desperately alone, as if the world has forsaken him. This is his fate, to be left alone in a hell made just for him.

There’s a blur of grunts and movement as Jungkook lunges for Yoongi’s pistol, forcing the blonde to point it against his chest. The barrel gripped by his hand rests against the soft shirt concealing his heart. Taehyung hears Chickpea growl lowly on his lap, but he feels blinded.

Mouth parted, Taehyung stares at the rapid rise and fall of Jungkook’s chest, his furious glare boring into Yoongi’s own. Jungkook’s expression makes no sense to him. The pieces don’t connect. He doesn’t deserve the way Jungkook shakes with anger, the way he stares daggers at Yoongi.

“What the fuck are you thinking, Yoongi? He’s not lying, you can’t just kill him!”

In hell, his own personal hell, there’s just one angel, Taehyung thinks. It’s undeserved, possibly even a farce, but right now, Jungkook is the closest thing to an angel he’s ever seen.

“Since when do you care?” Yoongi asks bluntly. “How is this guy any different than all the others you’ve brought home, the ones you’ve fucked and tossed at us the next morning?”

Jungkook’s face falls, his cheeks red. “I- I didn’t-”

Taehyung dodges his apologetic glance.

“It’s not like that,” Jungkook hisses insistently. “Taehyung’s not- he’s not-”

“Not what?” Yoongi says harshly. “Not like the others? You’re right, this one actually needs to kill you or his own life is at stake. It doesn’t matter if you think he’s attractive, he’s a liability. We’re not repeating the past, Jungkook. You ran out last night and almost got yourself killed. Instead of following protocol, you brought a fucking killer here. The time of your opinion mattering is over.”

“You haven’t even listened to him!” Jungkook shouts. “There’s actually a person in there-”

Taehyung’s eyes are wild, darting between Yoongi, the gun, the hissing cat on his lap, the others in the room. They cling to Jungkook, to the mess of his tangled hair, to the fierce protectiveness in his eyes and the harshness of his voice with which he defends his own assassin.

He decides he hates to see this face on Jungkook, regardless of it being on his behalf. The gun pointed to Jungkook’s chest makes him strangely anxious, especially since his job was to take his life in the first place, but the harsh exchange of words due to his own crimes feels worse.

“Enough,” Taehyung murmurs, staring down at the tanned carpet below his socked feet. Yoongi and Jungkook still yell over one another, the pistol shaking between them, though Jimin glances at Taehyung.

“Enough,” he says louder, his voice shaking, though it still goes unheard. He’s used to this, to being unheard. It’s just another part of the hell he endures.

Jimin sighs with a palm over his face. He approaches Taehyung, causing him to flinch when he leans over, but he only scratches Chickpea’s soft head. The smile he sends Taehyung reminds him of the sunlight filtering through the windows.

“Oh my god, can you both shut the hell up?”

The room quiets instantly as Hoseok snickers. Taehyung gapes at Jimin, though the peach-haired man directs his glare to Yoongi. “This guy doesn’t even know you and he’s already sick of your shit,” he scolds. “Put the damn gun down and hear him out. I don’t think he’s lying.”

When all eyes swivel to him, Taehyung swallows. A captive audience with his life at stake isn’t the most comfortable of positions, though he’s grateful for Jimin’s interruption.

“I- I was blackmailed into joining the Ebon Wolves.”

There’s visible relief in Jungkook’s posture as he speaks. Taehyung’s not sure how to interpret it.

“I can’t tell you why, at least not without putting the people I care about in danger. Feel free to torture me, kill me, whatever, but I’ll die protecting them,” Taehyung says fiercly, eyes flicking to each of their faces, finding purchase on Yoongi. “I know I’ve killed before and I deserve to pay for that. If it’s at your hands, so be it.”

Yoongi’s stare is narrowed as it slides between Jimin, Taehyung and finally the cat on his lap. He exhales slowly, crossing his arms against his chest. “Give me one good reason why I should believe a member of the Ebon Wolves isn’t a murderous piece of trash?”

Taehyung’s heart skips once again when Jungkook approaches, staring down at him with star-flecked softness and determination. “I believe him.” He crosses his arms, putting his back to Taehyung to face Yoongi. “Taehyung is a good person. He needs help, not harm. I believe him.”

Emotion prickles the back of Taehyung’s throat. He can’t swallow, can’t remember to breathe. Between the sincerity of Jimin and the unwarranted defensiveness and loyalty of Jungkook, Taehyung isn’t sure he’s participating in reality anymore. He’s forgotten such kindness exists.

“I’ll be honest, I don’t think he’s a threat,” Hoseok chimes in from where he leans over the couch. The smile he sends Taehyung is bright. “He didn’t resist at all this morning with a gun to his head. Pretty sure he doesn’t even know how.”

Flushing with embarrassment, Taehyung finds it amusing that his own inability to defend himself may actually be saving his life. Still, he hates appearing weak, especially with the way Yoongi is looking down on him.

“Give him a chance, Yoongi,” Jimin says sternly from beside him, drawing the blonde’s attention away. “I know you’re worried about what happened last time, but Taehyung seems like a bad liar. He probably couldn’t kill Kookie if he tried,” he laughs, smiling slyly at Taehyung.

Though Taehyung remains expressionless, he doesn’t disagree. Hoseok laughs at his lack of reaction.

Sighing, Yoongi seems to crack under the stare of Jimin, the tension in his body relaxing. “If this,” he points to a pale-faced Taehyung, “blows up, I’ll resurrect whoever he kills to kill them again.”

Jungkook huffs, glancing at Taehyung from the corner of his eye.

“It won’t.”

Taehyung’s not sure what to do with himself. In the span of less than a day, he’s managed to gain the faith of several people, including one particular angel he was close to murdering.

He’s especially unsure what to do with himself when Jungkook squats down beside him, a gentle hand on his knee.

“I told you the Ardent would protect you,” Jungkook says with a small smile, squeezing Taehyung where he holds him. The contact sends heat straight to Taehyung’s cheeks.

“Yeah, we’ll protect him,” Hobi says amusedly, “but what can he do for us?”

“For- for you?” Taehyung gulps.

“Well, if you’re sticking around, you might as well contribute, eh?” Hoseok says. “Any secret skills? Super powers?”

Biting his lip and feeling terribly distracted by the way Jungkook’s fingertips trace what are supposed to be comforting circles inside his thigh, Taehyung only manages to glance around the room. His gaze lands on the small wooden table covered in worksheets.

“Um.. math?”

Jungkook’s head turns to him, surprise written on his face. “You’re a mathematician?”

Taehyung shrugs, his wrists irritated from where they’re still bound. “I have a degree in math, so I suppose so?”

Unconvinced of his skill, Yoongi snatches a worksheet from the table. He brings it before Taehyung with a stony expression, holding it up like a scroll. “Solve it.”

Grip tightening on Taehyung’s knee, Jungkook is quick to protest. “Yoongi, you know that’s not fair, he-“

“278.”

Gaping, Jungkook snatches the paper from Yoongi’s hand, muttering to himself as he calculates of the numbers. Like language, Taehyung has no trouble reading numbers with ease - they simply make sense. He didn’t graduate at the top of his class for nothing.

Well.. it was for nothing, since he dropped his career to be a murderer.

“He’s right,” Jungkook says, his shock morphing into something of a proud smile. Taehyung doesn’t know why Jungkook’s pride has butterflies dancing in him, but the feeling makes him nervous. He squirms, wrists wriggling behind him.

As if tuned to his discomfort, Jungkook quickly rounds the back of the chair, reaching down behind Taehyung to untie his bonds. His fingers brush Taehyung’s arms on the way, his messy hair tickling Taehyung's neck where he leans. Jungkook smells of cologne and cotton, the same scent he himself probably carries after sleeping in his tangled sheets. Taehyung scolds his cheeks as they redden.

Rolling his freed wrists with a groan, he begs his heartbeat to calm down. “Impressive,” Jimin observes, lifting Chickpea from Taehyung’s lap to rub noses with her. Her tail flicks irritatedly at being separated from Taehyung. “We could use someone smart like Jungkookie, no?”

“Yoongi won’t admit it, but it’s true, Taehyung could be useful with that little issue we’ve been having lately,” Hoseok says, elbowing Yoongi playfully. Yoongi scowls at him.

“Agreed. Looks like your an honorary member of the Ardent today, Taehyung,” Jimin says with a smile.

Taehyung bites his lip, feeling overwhelmed at the sudden change. It didn’t seem possible he wouldn’t return to the Ebon Wolves without losing his life or taking another. Instead, he’s seemed to have gained something entirely his own.

Though the spark of hopefulness still doesn’t lift the shackles from him.

“And when they come for me? What about my... what I’m protecting?”

Jungkook palms the back of his neck, sending a lick of heat down his spine. Taehyung curses his ability to touch him so easily. “You can be my hostage,” he says with a cocky grin. “They’ll be sending hits after me as long as I’m alive, so we’re used to the threats. You can stay with me, I’ll keep you safe.”

“Absolutely not-“ Yoongi sputters, but Jimin is waving a hand in his face.

“Whatever Taehyung is being blackmailed over could be in danger if we don’t make it seem like he’s here against his will,” Jimin explains. “There’s no other way. This is the safest place for Taehyung with our protection anyway.”

Yoongi covers his face with his palm. He exhales, composing himself before glaring at Taehyung a final time.

“One wrong move, one sign of bullshit, and I’ll take you out where you stand. Our priority is Jungkook. Understood?”

Taehyung nods, warmed by the palm on his neck.

He’s fearful, terrified even, at the prospect of joining another gang. Taehyung is tired of the puppetry, tired of fearing for his life.. or worse, the lives of those he loves. But the Ebon Wolves aren’t as well equipped as they believe.

They lack a certain angel named Jungkook.

The touch leaves him a moment later, but Jungkook reappears quickly, eyes sparkling as he squats down before him. “Looks like you’re in,” he says amusedly, his grin sloppy. Taehyung’s heart feels as wild and unruly as Jungkook’s dark hair.

“Welcome to the Ardent, Taehyung.”

Though Yoongi is still sulking, he pockets his gun. Hoseok’s brows raise at the careless motion. “Not going to unload?” he asks quietly, out of earshot of the others.

Snorting, Yoongi shakes his head.

“It was never loaded to begin with.”

 

 

Chapter Text

The taste of cinnamon is sweet on Taehyung’s tongue as he clinks his spoon against his cereal bowl, the soggy squares spinning in a whirlpool motion. Poking absentmindedly at his food, his leg bounces nervously under the table with enough force to vibrate his flyaway brown hair.

It’s been one week since Taehyung confronted the target of his next hit in a dirty alleyway, one week since he was subsequently suffocated by eyes of starlight and swept away by the flutter of darkened wings.

It’s also been one long, strange week since he took up residence on his target’s couch.

Taehyung sighs, chewing with deliberate slowness as he forces himself to swallow. The concept of freedom to eat whatever he wants is still foreign to him, enough to weaken his appetite, but thanks to Jungkook’s irritatingly convincing cooking, he’s managed to shove down three meals a day.

“You’re up early,” Jungkook greets as he exits the hallway, shaking his damp hair with a towel.

Taehyung doesn’t bother looking up at him. He’s sick of seeing that playful smile Jungkook always wears around him, sick of wondering why it makes his chest tighten the smallest bit.

Admittedly, their living together has been comfortable so far, far less awkward than Taehyung would’ve anticipated for moving in with someone he met a week ago. Jungkook is tidy, cooks well and cares for his cats. He’s accommodated Taehyung’s invasive presence with grace.

But Jungkook also likes to eat ice cream straight out of the quart at three AM. He reads until he falls asleep with books lying open on his face. His showers often run over an hour and he leaves his dirty, balled-up socks in the bathroom.

Taehyung could complain, but he won’t. There are more important things...

Like the way Jungkook’s fingertips always linger too long in the constant ruffling of his hair, or the way he leaves no space between their thighs on the couch. He could complain about how Jungkook’s always smirking about god knows what, or how light always dances in his starry eyes when Jungkook catches a rare laugh from him.

Taehyung doesn’t complain about those either. He has priorities.

“The couch sucks,” he groans, rubbing at the tense muscles in his neck. “I keep getting kinked up.” If he’s truthful, his bed in the Ebon Wolves den probably caused it, but he should complain about something.

“Not sure what you expected,” Jungkook says, his grin lopsided as he tosses his towel over the chair. “Every time I see you asleep, you’re curled up like a cinnamon roll.”

Taehyung flushes at the comparison. Cinnamon rolls are soft, warm - unlike him. He also may have trouble sleeping by himself, but no one needs to know. Especially not Jungkook.

He swirls his cereal around, readying himself for Jungkook to join him at the table uninvited in his typical fashion, though his brows shoot up when Jungkook dodges the chair to come around behind his own. Taehyung jolts as warm hands brush his skin, kneading the taught muscles in his shoulders.

“I’ve slept on that couch plenty of times. I think it’s just your tendency to roll up into a pastry that’s causing this,” Jungkook says jokingly, his voice strained as he rubs the heel of his palm into Taehyung’s shoulder blade. “God, you’re super tense.”

Taehyung wishes he could understand how Jungkook can touch him so easily, so casually. He wonders if Jungkook’s touches feel so good only because he’s felt unloved and unwanted for so long, or maybe he just tolerates them because Jungkook’s aura is somewhat angelic.

If Jungkook is an angel, Taehyung thinks he also may be a demon, that his hands are straight out of hell. At the current contact, they feel like an inferno. He lets his neck go limp, unable to fight the mix of pain and relief that comes from Jungkook’s practiced touch.

“You know,” Jungkook says with amusement, his massaging eventually becoming something more of a caress that has Taehyung feeling molten, “I have a perfectly good bed with some empty space available… in case you know of anyone that needs a better place to sleep.”

When Taehyung casts an unamused glance over his shoulder, he’s alarmed to find Jungkook’s face a lot closer than he’d like.

Definitely too close ...Or, close enough, I guess?

Taehyung purses his lips.

It doesn’t matter. Jungkook is so damn frustrating.

“No one comes to mind, but on the off chance I find someone who’ll tolerate you, I’ll let them know,” he huffs, gluing his eyes to his soupy cereal. Jungkook snorts, giving him a final squeeze before taking a seat, not across from him like he usually does, but beside him.

“You’re nervous, aren’t you?” he asks carefully, his cheek smushed where it rests on his palm. Taehyung doesn’t answer - his silence is enough of an admittance.

Yes, he’s nervous with it being his first day working at the Ardent’s base of operations, anxious that his performance won’t be adequate enough to sustain his residence at the apartment, but Jungkook’s closeness isn’t helping his jitters much either.

“No,” he lies, blinking as satiny fur rubs against his bouncing shin. Chickpea’s wet nose nudges his leg under the table, her tail wrapping around him soon after. The corners of his lips twitch at the affection — the cat is never far from him these days, having grown quickly attached to him over the week.

Taehyung appreciates the companionship. He’s forbidden to leave the apartment without Jungkook aside from a few trips to the grocery store, in which he made sure to conceal almost every inch of his face. The fact that he’s been a bit stir crazy makes today’s task even more significant.

Jungkook’s head dips below the table to scratch Chickpea behind the ears, though it’s not long before the feeling of fur is exchanged for a light grasp on Taehyung’s leg. He swallows his spoonful too quickly as the pressure travels northward, sending him into a coughing fit.

“You need to relax or you’re going to shake your cereal right off the table,” Jungkook laughs, effectively ending Taehyung’s nervous leg bounce and replacing it with a racing heart. “Everything’s going to be fine, Taehyung. Jimin will keep you company while I do the busy work.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes, but he’s comforted by the thought of Jimin guiding him through his first day. The peach-haired man has been visiting Jungkook’s apartment often, chatting with Taehyung with surprising enthusiasm. He’s easy to get along with.

But more comforting than the accompaniment of Jimin is the light pressure of Jungkook’s fingertips on his knee, his touch lingering even when he appears above the table once more. Taehyung counts the breaths he takes, each feeling like an eternity while he waits for the softly drawn circles to stop their cyclical motion, but they continue even when Taehyung swears his lungs stop doing their job.

Shaking off Jungkook’s touch, Taehyung stands abruptly from the table, desperate for some air. Jungkook is always dancing between teasing and friendly, calm and enthusiastic. His presence clings like static.

It’s incredibly strange to Taehyung that he doesn’t find himself running from it.

“Let’s just get today over with,” he mutters, running a palm over his face while he stands before one of the large kitchen windows. The city sprawls below, dusted with patches of white snow. The sight makes Taehyung wonder how they are, if they’re eating okay, if they’re staying hydrated.

It’s a matter of seconds before Jungkook is standing beside him, barely brushing his arm. “You can handle it,” Jungkook says softly, eyes following the winding paths of the shining cars below them. The movement is subtle when he lightly presses against Taehyung’s elbow with his own. “I know you can.”

Taehyung swallows nervously, though he doesn’t move away.

If anything, he’s glad someone has confidence in him, since his own is nowhere to be found.

 

— 

 

“This is where the intelligence team sits,” Jimin says, waving his free hand at the circular area illuminated by bright overhead lights. There are plenty of mismatched desks, their surfaces clean and shining, each paired with blackened monitors and cushy chairs.

One of the computers has peripherals that are alight with rainbow LEDs, snagging Taehyung’s attention immediately.

“That’s Jungkook’s setup,” Jimin laughs when he catches Taehyung’s sparkling stare.

Snorting, Taehyung rolls his eyes, feeling weirdly fond. Of course it’s Jungkook’s.

They’re at a five-star hotel, the nicest Taehyung has ever set foot in with its polished, marbled floors and grand banisters, though they spent no time lingering above ground when Taehyung had been dropped off earlier. A card key allowed the elevator to travel far below the floors offered, revealing a wide network of rooms that he barely had time to absorb.

“Sorry I’m kind of rushing you,” Jimin says apologetically, his pace quick as he glances over his shoulder at a breathless Taehyung. “Everyone wanted me to make sure you couldn’t see much, due to the secrecy thing and all. I trust you, though most others don’t.”

Though they move quickly, Taehyung can still make out the dimly lit storage rooms and offices behind solid doors. The whole time they’ve been there, Taehyung has yet to encounter another soul. It’s a bit eerie, but he supposes he’s grateful for the lack of eyes on him.

“Where is everyone?”

“They’re all on some mission you got me out of,” Jimin giggles, running a hand through his hair. “I owe you one for that, by the way.”

“You don’t like missions?” Taehyung asks curiously, following closely as Jimin speed walks through the cluster of desks to the back wall. He withdraws a key, unlocking a door to a tiny office. A desk accompanied by monitors sits snugly in the corner, along with a spare table and a random assortment of chairs.

“Not too much, no,” Jimin answers with a sad smile, taking a seat at the table after shutting the door. “I’m not a fan of violence. Honestly, none of us are. We just put up with it because of Jungkookie.”

Sitting down across from him, Taehyung raises his brows. “All because of Jungkook?”

Jimin shrugs. “We’re all here for one reason or another. I don’t know what Jungkook’s told you, but the Ardent isn’t exactly a criminal organization,” he explains. “We’re a gang that fights gangs, led by his father. You can’t fight them without breaking the law yourself sometimes.”

The shock that hits Taehyung is significant. He had known the Ardent appeared to function differently than the Ebon Wolves, but he wasn’t under the impression their motivations were much different.“W-wait. You guys don’t commit crimes for money? No blood ties and all that?”

Jimin’s eyes sparkle mischievously. “Oh, there’s money alright. When a gang dissolves, the problem disappears, but their earnings don’t. There are also plenty of big shots who would pay to have certain mobsters taken out. Someone needs to make the predator the prey.”

“So.. how does one decide to fight gangs?” Taehyung asks, his mind whirling. The prospect of such an opportunity seems too good to be true when applied to his situation.

Guilt pricks at him when Jimin’s smile falls. “Ahh, it’s a sort of long story. Jungkook’s mother and brother were killed due to gang-related activity many years ago, specifically the mafia. His father already had money. He wanted to fight back, and the organization started with finding like-minded people.. or other victims.”

Taehyung’s gaze falls to the shining table before him. It hadn’t occurred to him for a moment that Jungkook, or anyone in the Ardent for that matter, were victims of violence themselves. He wonders what other details he may have missed while wrapped up in his own brooding and self-pity.

Jimin seems to sense his discontent. “Enough about all that. I’m sure you’ll hear more from Jungkook later,” he says, redirecting Taehyung’s attention. “You didn’t come all the way here to keep me company, as much as I’d love to chat about non-work things.” Taehyung can’t help but meet the genuine smile he receives.

“This whole room was cleared out by Jungkookie. The computer is his old setup from home,” Jimin explains. “It took a lot of convincing from him to let you work here, and I guess the compromise was to shove you in this office so you can’t overhear intel. I know it’s kind of cramped, but…”

Leaning back in his seat, Taehyung shakes his head. “This is perfectly fine.” He doesn’t explain how the Ebon Wolves den was a miserable hellhole, how he slept on a dirty mattress in a room full of others, how he was often shouted at to hurry his calculations, usually handing over his papers with shaking hands.

Jimin raises a brow, but he doesn’t prod. “Not sure if you’ll say that after the work they’ve lined up for you. Mind numbing doesn’t even begin to describe it.” He rises from his seat, logging into the computer when the screen flickers to life. With some difficulty, he pulls up an intimidating-looking program, all white lettering on a dark background.

“There’s intel passed between other groups of interest that’s heavily encrypted. Jungkookie and others have been working for years to decode some of the more complex messages and break into locked databases. They’d like you to try your hand at it,” Jimin says, gesturing to blocks of mixed characters. “Jungkook can explain it better than I can later on.”

Nodding solemnly, Taehyung takes a seat in the cushy chair, absorbing the mix of symbols, numbers and letters in front of him. He already sees patterns, but they rotate and shift like a kaleidoscope, slipping from his grasp just before he reaches a conclusion.

As the minutes tick by, Taehyung is grateful the work is mind numbing. He could use a numbed mind more often.

 

— 

 

Hours later, Taehyung is lost in a labyrinth of patterns he can barely wrap his head around. As if the contents of his cluttered thoughts have taken shape, the desk is littered with papers of scribbled notes and failed calculations. He scratches frustratingly at his mess of brown hair, only remembering he’s not alone when Jimin chuckles behind him.

“So.. how’s it going?” he asks, his playful voice too amused.

Sighing loudly, Taehyung rises from his seat, his joints cracking and back aching from his poor posture. “Nowhere. That’s where it’s going.”

When he joins Jimin at the table, he raises a single brow, finding it covered in papers sporting a different kind of scribbles than his own.

“What’s all this?” Taehyung asks curiously. The papers are of heavier stock, the graphite shining on their surfaces where they’re crossed out. Underneath the scratch marks, Taehyung thinks he can make out the vague shape of a cat. A familiarly round, fluffy one.

“Oh, um,” Jimin trails off, his face reddening. “Since it’s my day off, I’m working on a personal project.” His arms crowd the binder in front of him, shielding it from Taehyung’s view. “Before I joined the Ardent, I was actually a preschool teacher and a freelance illustrator.”

Taehyung’s jaw drops. It’s unbelievable to think a gang member could have led such a life before, but knowing Jimin, Taehyung isn’t as surprised as he should be. In fact, considering Jimin’s patience and work ethic, he can’t think of a better suited person for childcare. “Are you working on an illustration now?”

The crimson on Jimin’s cheeks deepens. “P-possibly, I’ve never really shared it but-"

“I’d love to see, if you’re comfortable, that is.”

The enthusiasm Taehyung feels isn’t a lie. It’s been ages since he’s heard anything so wholesome, and Jimin is one of the kindest people he’s met in years. He can’t think of many others he’d support so readily.

Biting his lip, Jimin stares down at his draft, eventually releasing a long exhale. “Alright, but please don’t judge me. I- I know it’s stupid but it’s all I’ve got.”

Taehyung nods with seriousness as the book slides across the table, feeling deeply appreciative of Jimin’s trust in him to share something so important.

The opening pages are colorful, speckled with saturated watercolors and swirling text. Two cats greet him on every page, detailing their adventure to find the greatest goldfish treasure. The cats are very familiar, particularly their poorly chosen names - Chickpea and Noodle.

Taehyung’s cheeks hurt by the time he finishes flipping through, the smile on his face so strong it aches. Jimin’s illustrations are professional grade but still possess a childlike spirit Taehyung envies. The purity of it has his chest soaring.

“I need a copy of this.”

Nervously glancing at Taehyung, Jimin’s mouth pops open. “B-But, it’s not done yet or anything and honestly it’s not very good-"

“Jimin, this is incredible.”

Blushing, Jimin’s eyes turn to small crescents when he smiles. “You don’t need to kiss up, Taehyung. We’re already friends, you know.”

The statement takes Taehyung aback. Other than a few of the Ebon Wolves, he can’t remember the last time he was referred to as a friend. It warms him enough to make him want to melt.

“I have someone who would be very interested in this book. I’ll beg you for a copy, actually. It’s that good,” Taehyung insists, running his fingertip over the outline of Chickpea and picturing the smiling face they would make. Visualizing it is enough to choke him up.

“A-alright,” Jimin relents, cheeks still flushed with happiness. “Promise you’ll at least tell me what they think when you share it with them?”

When Taehyung smiles, it feels genuine. He thinks his friend’s peach hair reminds him of daybreak, of that feeling of hope deep in one’s chest when watching the sun rise. It’s warm, like rays cast through a suncatcher.

“Promise.”

 

— 

 

“Why do you keep making that face?”

Hand pressed to his cheek where he sits at the round table, Jungkook already knows why Taehyung is sporting such a sour look, especially since it’s one he himself wears often. He knows what program Taehyung’s working in, what numbers are currently burying him. He knows exactly how it feels to nearly taste success, only to have an answer fall through your fingers like crumbling sand.

Still, it doesn’t stop Jungkook.

“I’m making this face,” Taehyung says tightly, glancing between his notebook and monitor with furrowed brows, “because someone won’t shut the hell up.”

Snickering, Jungkook twirls his pencil between his knuckles, tracing the outline of Taehyung’s brown mess of hair with his gaze. Watching him work even from behind is mesmerizing, like observing an artist losing himself in his creation.

Taehyung probably thinks he’s slick with his unbreakable focus and steely gaze, but Jungkook has learned quickly over the last month that Taehyung wears his heart on his sleeve. Though it’s taken weeks, Jungkook has found his heart is easy to locate, but only if you know where to look for it… or how to hunt for it, since Taehyung is so fiercely protective of the secrets he keeps locked away.

And really, Jungkook loves the hunt.

He usually begins with Taehyung’s strengths, whittling his way down to his biggest weaknesses. He’s still learning, often finding himself lost in the maze of Taehyung’s character, but the exit is usually easily accessible through his somewhat flawed defense.

Flawed, Jungkook thinks, huffing. More like endearing.

“Are you done yet?”

As predicted, Jungkook is met with no response. He can’t help the smile that creeps onto his face as he readies himself to try again.

“I’d like to go home sometime tonight, if you wouldn’t mind.”

Once more, Jungkook receives no response, though he sees Taehyung’s pencil pause its hurried motion to erase an equation. It’s a struggle for Jungkook to bite back his giggles.

He waits patiently, letting several minutes slide by as he feels a languid excitement beginning to rise in his chest.

Here we go.

Taehyung,” Jungkook whines dramatically, splaying his arms on the table to rest his head on them, “I’m starving. Can you please hurry the hell up so we can leave?”

Jungkook bites his lip in an attempt not to smile when Taehyung whips around to him, eyes alight with contempt.

“You’re insufferable,” he says irritatedly, glaring at Jungkook with all his might. “Fuck off and let me finish this. You didn’t even have to wait for me, so stop complaining.”

Huffing a laugh under his breath, Jungkook rolls his eyes. It would be absurd not to wait for his own roommate, and he knows Taehyung would be here all night if not dragged out.

If he’s honest with himself, the apartment feels too quiet without Taehyung. In fact, since Taehyung’s arrival, Jungkook has felt more and more like the apartment resembles something like home for the first time. He thinks it could be the way Taehyung greets him sleepily in the morning, his cheeks decorated with the reddened patterns of pressed blankets, or the lingering clean scent after his showers, or maybe how he speaks to the cats with soft coos when he thinks Jungkook isn’t listening.

Regardless of his reasoning, Jungkook’s not going home without Taehyung.

“You know, if you pass out at your desk, I’ll have to carry you back,” Jungkook threatens amusedly.

“I’m not tired,” Taehyung insists, though Jungkook knows it’s a lie. He’s quickly learned how to predict Taehyung’s drowsiness, having carried him to the couch on the few occasions he’s fallen asleep in bed. Of course, it wasn’t without an offer to sleep beside him, though he’s only been met by a glare and pursed lips as an answer so far.

Taehyung may put up a front, but Jungkook hasn’t failed to notice the way his eyes linger on his lips, or how he never pulls away from any touch, regardless of how far Jungkook dares to push it. He’s not eager to cross any lines too quickly, but the fact of the matter is… Taehyung’s hot. Undeniably and unbearably hot.

Not only in looks, but in work ethic, in personality, in a heart so large Taehyung can’t conceal it regardless of his valiant efforts. It ignites a fire in Jungkook, makes him a bit too daring on occasion.

And truthfully, Jungkook’s feeling daring tonight. He’s been trapped at work for hours, sticking around purely because of Taehyung. He wants to see Taehyung laugh over dinner, sneak his arm around him on the couch, maybe tuck him in when he inevitably nods off mid-conversation.

He wants to do other things to Taehyung too, but he doesn’t dare think about those.

“Drop it for tonight, Taehyung. Let’s go back,” he begs, rising from the table without a sound, his palms flat against the wood.

Leg bouncing beneath his desk, Taehyung appears to ignore him, but it’s a matter of moments before a retort is forming on his lips. Jungkook takes the opportunity to strike.

“I already told you,” Taehyung says haughtily, “I need to finish this so it doesn’t get in the way next week. I only have a little-”

He freezes, inhaling sharply at Jungkook’s sudden presence at the top of his cushy, high-backed chair. Arms crossed against the leather, Jungkook leans forward, his chin inches from Taehyung’s mocha hair.

Weakness number one: proximity.

“Don’t mind me,” Jungkook says casually. “Go ahead, keep going.”

Taehyung does not keep going. He taps his pencil against his notebook, bounces his leg under the desk, bites at his lip, ruffles his hair. It takes all of Jungkook’s willpower not to giggle at such obvious signs of being flustered.

After several minutes in which Taehyung fails to write a single number, Jungkook thinks it’s time to employ weakness number two: touch.

“Hitting a roadblock?” Jungkook inquires, his fingertips making contact with Taehyung’s soft, shiny locks. He fluffs them, eventually venturing below the surface to massage his scalp. The way Taehyung seems to simultaneously go taught and relax at the contact only amuses him further. “Anything I can do to help?”

Taehyung sighs, sitting back in his chair with arms crossed. He lets several seconds pass before he speaks.

“You’re-” he swallows, stumbling over his own hesitation, “you’re distracting.”

“Oh,” Jungkook says innocently, abruptly stopping his motion. “I’m sorry. I’ll leave you alone then.”

With deliberate slowness, Jungkook withdraws his hand, counting down the heartbeats until Taehyung’s eyes meet his. It’s even less than he anticipates - only three.

At the loss of contact, Taehyung tilts his head backward, eyes widening a fraction when he finds Jungkook’s face inches away from his own. Jungkook’s hair hangs limply from his forehead, his dangly earrings sparkling in his peripheral vision where he hovers over Taehyung.

And god, Jungkook would really, really prefer to kiss him right now, but he won’t, not with the lingering fear of Taehyung not reciprocating whispering in the back of his mind.

Staring down at his softened profile, he feels no guilt when he taps into one of Taehyung’s greatest weaknesses: home-cooked meals.

“You know,” Jungkook says, his voice lowered and a smirk on his lips, “the longer we’re here, the less chance of me making dinner tonight.”

Seemingly struggling to respond, Taehyung’s mouth parts momentarily before twisting into a frown.

“What else are we supposed to eat then?” he complains, brows pinched and lip protruding. “Isn’t it too late to get any sort of real food for takeout?”

The sight before Jungkook seems too good to be true. Taehyung is pouting, actually pouting. It’s so stupidly cute, enough that Jungkook feels a tug in his gut, begging him to close the gap and kiss it right off Taehyung’s face.

“Guess it’s just ramen then,” Jungkook says, unfurling a grin that only seems to escape around Taehyung.

It’s too much for Jungkook. Taehyung is too much.

He presses forward, lowering his head just a hair. At such a close distance, Jungkook can see the gradient of swirled hazel in his shining irises, the moles scattered along his features, the sheen on his tanned skin.

Taehyung’s eyes dart around his face, flicking to his mouth and the earrings framing his profile, but he doesn’t move away. His lips part just a hair, but he still doesn’t move away, and even when Jungkook’s breath reaches his face, he still doesn’t move away.

Taehyung only moves when the sound of the door opening is heard, lurching forward to lean over his notes as Jungkook simultaneously straightens his posture. The lead of Taehyung’s pencil snaps when he brings it to the paper.

“Hey,” Jimin says, poking his head in the door. His eyes dart between Jungkook’s flushed face and Taehyung’s sudden frustration to adjust his writing utensil. “Uh, why are you guys still here?”

“Busy-”

“-Working”

Glancing over his shoulder, Taehyung latches to Jungkook’s surprised stare almost immediately, his head slowly turning back to his work with his eyes unfocused.

Fuck, Jungkook thinks, regret filling him at the missed opportunity as he runs a hand through his hair. Fuck.

Brow raising, Jimin appears suspicious, but he doesn’t voice his thoughts. “A-alright,” he says. “Don’t stay too late, okay?”

Jungkook nods. “We’re fine. He’s was just shutting down so we can go home and have dinner, right Tae-”

But Taehyung is already standing, his chair pushed in and his monitor black. He zips up his bag in a rush, filling it with notebooks before turning to Jungkook.

“You said you’d cook if we hurried,” Taehyung mutters, tugging his bag strap up his shoulder. His eyes are hesitant when they meet Jungkook’s, though the dusting of red lingering on his cheeks says enough. “Let’s go, then.”

He brushes past an ever-increasingly skeptical Jimin in the doorway, making a beeline for the exit.

“Jungkook-” Jimin calls, but Jungkook waves him off.

“Sorry,” he says, weaving his way through desks and chairs. “Roommate duty calls.”

He follows Taehyung close behind, putting a hand on his lower back when he finally catches up. Though Taehyung slows, head snapping in Jungkook’s direction before he glances downward, he doesn’t move away. He never does.

Sparing a last glance at Jimin, Jungkook’s heart buzzes when he spots his knowing smirk.

“So,” Taehyung says breathlessly, eyes trained on the hallway ahead of them. “What’s for dinner?”

Jungkook bites his lip through his smile.

He could get used to this.

 

— 

 

It’s boring, excruciatingly boring as Taehyung flips through yet another book on decoding in the living room. It would help if the other resident of the apartment actually showed up once in the last week, but Jungkook had decided to spontaneously disappear due to a mission. Taehyung supposes he should’ve expected it, as most secrets are kept from him anyway.

Jimin reassured him repeatedly that Jungkook has to be secretive due to the nature of his job, and Taehyung understands why more than anyone. So he really doesn’t understand why his chest insists on tightening with frustration when he thinks about Jungkook disappearing without a word, without so much of a goodbye or even a note.

In an attempt to busy himself, Taehyung has poured himself into his research for work, usually ending up at the same frustrating dead end he’s been at in the office. Frankly, it sucks doing nothing but reading books or scrolling through his phone until his eyes water. Still, after a month of living with Jungkook, an entire apartment to himself should feel like a luxury, even with the presence of surveillance.

Noodle and Chickpea cling to him harder than ever in their owner’s absence, cuddling him like bookends. Truthfully, Taehyung hates being alone, so their company is welcome. Plus, being alone is better than having Jungkook around.

Jungkook is annoying. He’s clingy, cocky and flirty. Taehyung definitely doesn’t miss him.

After a fruitless attempt to focus, Taehyung puts aside his book and pulls his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around his legs. Squeezing his eyes tightly shut, he tries to think of anything but Jungkook, but the apartment practically bleeds of him, his presence apparent in every corner.

He doesn’t miss Jungkook’s tinkling laugh or the way he wiggles his socked feet in Taehyung’s face. He doesn’t miss being asked repeatedly to sleep in Jungkook’s bed, and he doesn’t miss Jungkook’s soft, careful hands always finding a reason to touch him.

He does, however, miss his cooking.

Yeah, I miss his cooking, Taehyung thinks firmly as he rises to rummage through the fridge. He’s kept it well-stocked in Jungkook’s absence, but cooking for one has been a tad disheartening. Taehyung withdraws a bunch of broccoli, turning it over with a sigh before returning it to its drawer. Nothing he’d make could compare to Jungkook’s skill anyway.

Abandoning the attempt to eat, he flops back onto the couch for what feels like the eightieth time. The pillow against his face is soft.

I miss his cooking, Taehyung thinks, picturing the darkened curls of Jungkook’s hair and sharpness of his jawline.

His cooking, his mind insists as he rolls around, though he can’t unsee Jungkook’s sparkling piercings or his soft, pink lips.

It’s his damn cooking, Taehyung grits internally, unable to stop himself from imagining his toothy smile.

Taehyung groans into the pillow. He’s so fucked.

He admits it, he wishes Jungkook we’re home. Not because it’s Jungkook or anything. Not because he misses the touches, the laughs, the sparkly smiles.

He’s just lonely in general. Definitely not because of Jungkook.

Taehyung lays on the couch for what feels like hours, mind swirling with code and numbers, the surrounding silence thick with the exception of interwoven cat purrs from the floor. He thinks of his family, his friends that he misses, wonders what they’re doing at this very moment. He thinks of the Ebon Wolves, if they bothered looking for him. He wonders if his disappearance even mattered.

It isn’t until he hears a jingle of keys at the door that he stirs, his wide eyes locked to the entryway.

A mess of dark hair enters first, followed by the haggard face of an exhausted Jungkook. Taehyung doesn’t move from the couch - he’s frozen, petrified by the spark in his own heart. Jungkook spots him, sending him a lopsided grin.

Yep. He really, really missed Jungkook’s cooking.

“Hey,” Jungkook greets, his voice heavy with tiredness, but still warm. Taehyung enjoys the sound of it so much after its absence that he wonders if his voice has something to do with cooking. “Miss me?” he asks, waltzing over to stand against the back of the couch.

Maybe, Taehyung thinks, but he swallows down his responses with Jungkook hovering over him.

Jungkook’s eyes are tired, their sparkle still present but strangely dulled. There are shadows in the lines of his face, his hair limp and in desperate need of a wash. Though a profound sadness seems to cling to him, Jungkook still smiles genuinely when he stares down at Taehyung, as if he hadn’t been clearly suffering during his time away.

Taehyung’s not sure what to make of it, but he knows for sure that he doesn’t like it, not at all.

He doesn’t know why his hands slowly rise to Jungkook’s cheeks, his thumbs gently smoothing the creases beneath his eyes, but it feels necessary. The skin is soft and warm, still full of life despite Jungkook’s paled skin.

“Missed your- your cooking.”

The grin he receives in return has Taehyung’s heart kickstarting into overdrive.

“Just my cooking?” Jungkook asks amusedly. “According to your hands, I think you missed my face.”

Taehyung flushes. “N-no, just the cooking,” he replies, eyes wild as Jungkook’s head sinks lower.

“That’s unfortunate,” Jungkook mumbles, his smiling face inches away. Taehyung can feel his warm puffs of breath, smell the scents of sweat and cologne. He swallows thickly when Jungkook’s arm loops beneath his own to press a palm against his cheek, his touch like a brand. “Because I missed yours.”

“You- you did?” Taehyung says breathlessly, his mind a mess of static. Maybe the loneliness was getting to him, unsettling his typically careful mind, because he doesn’t move away when the galaxies in Jungkook’s eyes swarm his vision, when his eyelashes flutter like angel wings. He doesn’t want to.

The breath Taehyung takes is sharp when Jungkook’s lips meet his own, their mouths colliding with such hesitant gentleness that Taehyung wonders if they’re touching at all. Confused, he presses forward the slightest bit, feeling Jungkook’s lips smile against his.

“Must be some damn good cooking,” Jungkook giggles, hauling himself over the back of the couch like an acrobat to straddle him. Taehyung startles at the ridiculous maneuver, his book tumbling onto the carpet below him. He grabs onto Jungkook’s dark jacket in an attempt not to roll onto the floor, pulling him closer.

Taehyung’s mind is a blur as Jungkook’s lips meet his own again, this time with more purpose. As their rhythm increases, their mingled breaths quickening, Taehyung can’t help but think he missed this, but he doesn’t know how he can miss something he’s never had before.

Still, Taehyung is mystified as to why he gives into the feeling of Jungkook’s body against his.

His vision of Jungkook alternates rapidly between angel and demon. Jungkook’s touches are too gentle to be evil, but his eyes are too full of swirling dark to be that of heaven. Taehyung groans low in his throat when Jungkook’s teeth sink into his lower lip, his hips rolling upwards of their own volition.

Definitely a demon.

“I thought you said you didn’t miss me,” Jungkook breathes, running his nose along Taehyung’s neck and sending shocks down his spine. Taehyung’s hands automatically thread through Jungkook’s hair like he’s longed to do for weeks, confirming it’s indeed as angelic as it looks even in its drab state.

“The cats missed you, not me,” Taehyung retorts, voice wobbly when Jungkook’s lips meet his pulse.

“I missed them too,” he says, huffing a laugh. The tickling breath has Taehyung squirming. “Almost as much as you.”

Taehyung might as well be on fire. He didn’t expect anything like this with Jungkook. He knew he was attractive, obviously, but not in the way Taehyung wants him.

With Jungkook’s lips on his, it’s easy enough to finally admit to himself what he wants. Taehyung hasn’t truly wanted in a lifetime, but when it comes to Jungkook, he feels incomprehensibly greedy.

Taehyung wants Jungkook to thread his hands through his hair, to sit beside him every breakfast, to greet him after a long day at work. He wants Jungkook to share his ice cream at three AM, to smile at him for no reason at all.

He wants Jungkook to kiss him until his lips are raw.

But instead of doing as he wants, Jungkook places a palm over his mouth, cutting off all sound. His arms cage Taehyung, pressing him as hard as he can into the couch, his body suddenly rigid with tension.

When Taehyung meets Jungkook’s eyes again, his pupils blown, the galaxies are flecked with stars of dread.

“I was followed,” Jungkook whispers darkly into Taehyung’s ear, sending shivers of arousal and fear down his spine. His heart races in time with Jungkook’s own.

The click of the doorknob is sharp, echoing through the living room, but the sound of the cocking gun is louder.

 

 

Chapter Text

Jungkook’s not very religious, but even as a child, he always prayed for divine intervention to save him. Demons haunted him in every shadow, so he begged the sky for justice and comfort, to sweep his fears away and replace them with strength.

When his prayers were never answered, his pleas having fallen on deaf ears, Jungkook became a demon instead.

He’s of the firm belief that a life accompanied by shadows is the only fate he’s destined for. He kills because there’s little to hold onto, because the descent into hell is a rapid and merciless one.

Jungkook prays and prays, but there’s no recompense in the fall.

Salvation came too late for him, its wings darkened and dirtied where it found him in an alleyway. When Jungkook dreamt of angels, he usually saw hair like sunlight and cheeks unblemished, but wings stained red.

The angel sent to him is far better than anything he could’ve imagined.

Taehyung’s hair is not of sun but of twilight, his cheeks not statuesque but full of life, always contorting into new expressions. Jungkook longs to discover them all.

In particular, he loves the new expression on Taehyung’s face when he arrives home after his mission, one of sincere relief at his return. Like a whispered secret revealed for the first time, Jungkook feels his growing bits of affection reciprocated.

He loves the way Taehyung’s lips part in embarrassment as much as they part in pleasure when he kisses him. He loves the newly revealed looks of shyness, of contentment, of longing. He loves the gentle, unhurried brushes of skin, the subtle raise of his hips.

Taehyung must be something inhuman to make him feel with such intensity. He’s absolutely, undeniably an angel.

But the darkness that embraces Jungkook is too burdensome for an angel like Taehyung. He’s falling too fast, ready to crash and burn.

The angel sent to Jungkook is falling alongside him, hands outstretched and eyes wide, but he won’t grab on.

He’s falling, falling, falling…

Jungkook breathes slowly, the edges of his sight wavering to black. Pain radiates along spine, his head heavy where it lolls against his chest. Eyelashes frustratingly sticky, he struggles to blink, his awareness slowly returning.

No! Don’t-!

There are voices, though Jungkook feels like he’s underwater. There’s shouting, palms on his face, hands on his chest, a back pressed against his front. There’s an angel standing over him with shaking limbs and a quivering voice, shielding him. The angel is protecting him.

Though Taehyung isn’t like the angels Jungkook dreamt of, he has one distinct similarity: wings the color of blood.

Jungkook blinks again, connecting the pieces. He was caught off guard, thrown against the wall by the invader. Blood drips down his face, staining the room in red.

The injuries hidden under his clothes from his earlier mission cry out in pain as his consciousness returns. Maybe the invader thought he’d be weakest after the assignment, that his body would fail him.

Jungkook thinks it’s laughable, because his biggest weakness stands over him, a plea on its lips.

“Don’t shoot!” Taehyung shouts, his chest heaving. “I’m Kim Taehyung, part of the Ebon Wolves! Don’t- don’t shoot!”

The assassin freezes, their eyes wide behind the black Japanese wolf mask they wear, the signature appearance of the gang they belong to.

“...T-taehyung?”

Jungkook’s awareness returns enough to feel Taehyung tense against him.

“...Namjoon?”

Sliding his mask to the top of his head, the man lowers his gun, though his finger doesn’t leave the trigger. His eyes are wide with emotion.

“Tae.. I can’t believe it’s really you. We- we were told that you were killed. I didn’t believe it, but.. we couldn’t find you.”

Taehyung’s breathing turns more ragged by the second. Jungkook hates the sound of it. “I had to run, Joon. I had no options. I- I couldn’t choose either, I-”

“I know,” Namjoon says, a sad smile on his face. “I’m just happy you’re alive. I know what he was putting you through.”

Blinking lazily, Jungkook observes the form of a tall man dressed in black. Though Namjoon’s eyes are soft, his compassion evident, they harden as he glances around Taehyung.

“But, why him? Why here?” Namjoon asks, his voice darkening. “Why choose the Ardent to run to? They’re no different from us, they can’t keep you safe-”

“Jungkook is.. different,” Taehyung breathes, tone firm.

If Jungkook didn’t feel like his chest was collapsing, he’d laugh. Taehyung’s not wrong. He’s certainly different, especially in the way he makes clean, efficient kills. He’s different in the way he feels soul-crushing guilt after committing murder at the request of his father.

“...Different?” Namjoon repeats, furrowing his brow.

Ahh, Jungkook thinks. Here it comes.

“Taehyung, he just obliterated one of our bases. All of them were killed, even the damn receptionist. There was no mercy.”

Taehyung’s eyes are tumultuous when they turn to him.

Jungkook’s familiar with guilt. It burdens him, the weight heavy on his shoulders, but it’s nothing like the guilt he feels at Taehyung’s wide-eyed expression.

Tae-” Jungkook croaks, but Namjoon is faster to speak.

“He’s a killer, worse than we are,” he says harshly. “He’s a different breed. You’ve escaped one hell just to fall right into another. Whatever he’s said, he’s lying to you.”

Though his eyes are pained, Taehyung shakes his head. “You’re wrong-!”

“Listen to yourself!” Namjoon shouts. “You’re defending a fucking murderer!”

“I’m not defending-”

“Move, Taehyung.” Namjoon says with deathly quiet, raising his gun once more. “This needs to end. The world is better off without Jeon Jungkook.”

Jungkook exhales slowly. Taehyung’s defense of him is more than he deserves. It warms his heart more than anything that Taehyung has such blind faith in him, but the fault still lies with him.

He knew this time would come, that he’d have to make a kill in front of Taehyung. He wishes they could’ve prolonged their tranquil state, but he’ll do what’s necessary. He needs to live.

He can’t protect Taehyung if he’s dead.

“I won’t let you-” Taehyung starts, but he’s shoved away with what little strength Jungkook has. He hates to touch him so harshly, but he’d hate to see him injured more. Though his body is in agony, he quickly withdraws the pistol he keeps inside the bookcase beside him, thanking himself for his foresight.

Namjoon is distracted enough by Taehyung’s stumble to give Jungkook enough time to get his bearings. The pair face each other with firearms drawn, expressions stony as they stare down the opposing barrels.

“Jungkook, don’t- don’t do this,” Taehyung says quietly, his voice shaky where he stands off to the side.

Avoiding his gaze, Jungkook swallows thickly. He supposes it’s karma to make one of the few good things in his life hate him, just an ounce of the debt for his crimes to kill someone Taehyung cares about. Still, he cocks his gun.

“Jungkook, please,” Taehyung begs with renewed worry, “you don’t have to do this!”

He’s not used to this. Jungkook’s not used to the begging voice of an angel beside him. All he usually hears are demons. It makes his typically steady hand shake, his heart race far too quickly. Sweat mixes with the blood on his neck.

“Go ahead,” Namjoon taunts, nodding in Jungkook’s direction. “Do it.”

Snorting, Jungkook ignores Taehyung’s pleas with great difficulty. “You sound confident for someone asking for death.”

Namjoon shrugs, expression impassive. “If it means ridding Taehyung of you, I’ll deal with the consequences.”

A sloppy grin works its way onto Jungkook’s face, the taste of blood metallic on his tongue. He’s surprised it’s taken this long for the Ebon Wolves to track Taehyung, especially being connected to him. The day Taehyung would be taken from him has always seemed inevitable, but he’s excelled at ignoring it.

“I’m not really interested in killing you,” Jungkook states nonchalantly. “I’ve done enough of that lately, as you know. I’d prefer not to upset Taehyung.”

Grimacing, Namjoon adjusts his grip. “You don’t deserve him.”

Jungkook smiles again, his gaze darkening.

“No, I don’t.”

The look Taehyung sends him is one of hurt, his jaw set. Though he looks ready to argue, the loud sound of pained shouts are heard floors below, drawing their attention.

About fucking time, Jungkook thinks irritably, thankful that they’re not the shouts of his allies. Although they had an earlier mission, there was no reason for security to be so lax that Namjoon made it to his door. He shouldn’t have made it out of his car before being shot by Hoseok or anyone else on duty.

Grinding his teeth, the thought of Taehyung alone and defenseless had he not arrived home in time pisses him off.

He’s rarely pissed off.

“Clock’s ticking,” Jungkook says, perceptive of Namjoon’s subtle panic at the sound of the shouts. “Might as well get it over with before you run.”

Namjoon’s eyes are frantic, his throat bobbing as he pressures the trigger. Jungkook can see him steel his resolve, can predict the moment he’ll fire, exactly how to dodge it.

The thought of Taehyung’s expression when he watches his friend die sickens him.

“Good riddance,” Namjoon says with finality.

“No-!” Taehyung chokes.

Jungkook doesn’t flinch as he fires his first.

But at the sound of Taehyung’s heart-wrenching shout, he feels his position shift a breath to the right, lodging his bullet in the wall beside Namjoon’s head. He’s made thousands of shots without missing, but the thought of Taehyung loathing him is worse than his own death.

Namjoon holds no such loyalty. He fires his shot quickly, though his aim is off from the shaking of his hands. Jungkook feels his world slow, preparing for the imminent pain.

It never comes.

Or.. it does, but in the rawness of the shout that leaves his throat.

If Jungkook is falling endlessly into hell, then his angel is trying to catch him, clawing at him with desperation and bloodied wings. He sees the mess of Taehyung’s hair as it darts in front of him, his hands gripping onto his chest when he collapses a moment later.

“Taehyung!” he yells as the sound of a pained gasp greets his ears, panicking as red blooms along Taehyung’s shin. Jungkook’s mind spins, emotion rising quickly in his throat with Taehyung in his arms.

Taehyung took a bullet for him. For him - when he was supposed to kill him.

Blood roars in Jungkook’s ears at Taehyung’s pained groan.

“Tae!” Namjoon shouts, the sound of voices growing closer to the apartment door. “Why?! Why would you-!” He darts forward, though Jungkook’s pistol pointed in his direction has him freezing.

“Fuck off,” he growls, bearing his teeth. If Jungkook thought he was pissed earlier, it’s nothing compared to the fury of Taehyung bleeding in his lap. “I’d love to settle this, but it’s not up to me.”

Namjoon’s face is pale, his hands shaking. “Taehyung deserves to be free, not chained to you-”

There’s movement in Jungkook’s lap, his worried eyes immediately latching onto Taehyung’s lidded pair.

“My- my choice,” Taehyung grunts, his voice clipped with pain. Brow furrowed, he turns his head to his friend. “It’s my choice whose lives I save or end now, Joon. Let me have this choice.”

Guilt overflows from Namjoon’s eyes. “I… I-”

“Go,” Jungkook says tiredly, laying his pistol aside in an act of neutrality. “Leave before they arrive. I’ve had enough of blood and death for one day.”

Glancing between the door and Jungkook binding Taehyung’s wound with his jacket, Namjoon grimaces, his face pained.

“This won’t be the end,” he says, his voice one of hurt as he makes his way to the exit. “They’ll never let this go, Taehyung. Not with their leverage.”

Taehyung’s brows furrow at the statement, eyes closed tightly shut. “I’ll find a way,” he breathes, hissing as he reaches for his injured leg, though Jungkook intercepts with his hand instead. He takes it helplessly, squeezing with bone-breaking force. “Please continue to watch over them until- until then.”

Though Namjoon looks ready to burst, he nods tightly, casting a final glance at Jungkook, but Jungkook is occupied.

Carding his fingers through Taehyung’s hair, his heart constricts with a familiar guilt. Seeing him in such pain on his behalf is far worse than if he had taken the bullet himself. He hates that he couldn’t protect him well enough.

Jungkook feels Namjoon’s eyes following the affectionate gesture closely, though after a brief moment, he opens the door, pausing with his palm on the handle.

“Don’t you dare drag him down with you,” Namjoon says with subtle violence. He doesn’t bother to look back.

Huffing, Jungkook brushes the hair away from Taehyung’s pale face. His roommate is an angel he doesn’t deserve.

And if Taehyung’s an angel, he’s the worst of demons, dragging him to hell unwillingly.

“No promises,” he murmurs, smoothing Taehyung’s cheeks, but Namjoon is already gone.

 

 

“What the fuck happened here?” Hoseok asks urgently, rushing to Taehyung’s side. He hisses when he spots the blood stain blooming on Taehyung’s leg.

Muscles aching, Jungkook lifts him into his arms with a grunt, frowning deeply when Taehyung groans in pain. Though he’s injured himself, the adrenaline of ending Taehyung’s suffering nearly possesses him, filling him with strength. They’re out the door before Hoseok can say another word.

“The Ebon Wolves showed up,” he huffs, sending glowering looks at anyone who dares cross his path. There are a few bodies, blood pooling beneath them. Jungkook doesn’t look at them. “They somehow made it all the way here.”

“Yeah,” Hoseok says, laughing nervously, “about that-”

“It’s fucking unacceptable,” Jungkook growls, uncaring that Hoseok raises his brow at his harsh tone. “I don’t really give a shit what the excuses are. It shouldn’t have happened, point blank. If I- if I hadn’t been back in time…”

When Jungkook trails off, glancing at Taehyung in his arms, Hoseok doesn’t press the issue. It’s not his favorite activity to lash out at those he considers friends, and Hoseok is like a brother to him. But for Taehyung to get shot

He’s not mad - Jungkook’s infuriated.

He’s short of breath by the time they make it to the elevator, the shivering form of Taehyung curled tightly to his chest. When Jungkook is forced to adjust his hold, Taehyung moans quietly at being jostled. The sound lances his heart.

“I’m sorry,” Jungkook says softly as the elevator descends, mouth to Taehyung’s ear. Hoseok stares pointedly at the opposing corner, though Jungkook knows he’s listening carefully.

Quite frankly, Jungkook doesn’t give a shit. With the nature of their relationship changing, it’s not long before they’re found out anyway. He would gladly shower Taehyung in public affection if he was sure it’d be reciprocated.

“I’m so sorry, Tae,” he whispers once more, lips brushing his forehead. “You didn’t have to do what you did, you dork. What makes you think you can be such a hero all the time? You’re not cool, you know.”

It’s obvious Taehyung’s losing consciousness, the shock too great, but the corners of his lips still twitch upwards at Jungkook’s joking murmurs. Jungkook feels the conflicting urges to cry and smile at the sight.

Taehyung’s far too good for him.

 

— 

 

“Mornin’, sunshine!”

Groaning, Taehyung winces at the pain radiating along his leg as he stirs, his muscles aching where they’re working to heal. He can’t remember the last time he experienced such pain, followed by a shock so intense that he blacked out.

Though his leg hurts, reality is more painful. Taehyung bites his lip, mulling over the last day’s hazy events. He’s really done it now.

He can’t decide which was stupider: taking a bullet for a guy he was supposed to murder, or making out with him and enjoying it. Both feel terribly unlike him, a protest to his careful logic, but he still acted without a second thought. He digs deep to find the regret that should be lingering in his chest, but he finds none.

Jungkook might be the death of him.

A mess of red hair and a smiling face stares down at him. “You know I’m getting a little sick of waking you up. Can’t you stay out of trouble?”

Huffing, Taehyung tugs the covers up higher, relishing the feeling of a mattress beneath him. The white sheets smell of good things, of comfort and dreams and Jungkook.

He should take the bed more often.

Scratching Noodle behind the ears where he’s curled against his side, Taehyung opens his mouth to ask for the cat’s owner, feeling a sudden need to see Jungkook’s dark mop of hair. He stops when Hoseok holds up his hands. “I know you’re going to ask for him, but he took the couch. He insisted on keeping watch,” Hoseok placates.

“Keeping watch?” Taehyung asks, his voice gravelly. He barely remembers the apartment being rushed by members of the Ardent and his brief hospital visit, of Namjoon’s sad eyes as he protected Jungkook with his life. But he does vaguely remember the warmth of Jungkook’s chest when he carried him, the soft apologies murmured into his ear.

“Jungkookie’s… not too happy,” Hoseok says, his smile nervous. “‘No one’s supposed to be able to make it onto the block, nonetheless into the building and especially not to the apartment. Usually, we’re the protection, but…” Hoseok sighs, running a hand through his hair. “We were conveniently called off.”

Taehyung’s hand stills in the soft cat fur. “It was a set-up then?”

Hoseok shrugs. “I know about as much as you do, though Jungkook’s got his own suspicions,” he replies, casting a glance at the ceiling. “He always does.”

At Taehyung’s concerned look, Hoseok laughs under his breath with a shake of his head.

“You know, I’ve never seen Jungkook so eager to rush home after a mission,” he chuckles, brow wiggling. “I don’t think it was for the cats this time. Would you happen to know why?”

Taehyung shrugs, his cheeks warming as he recalls the feeling of Jungkook’s lips on his, of how eagerly he was pinned to the couch. “I don’t know-”

“There’s a lot you don’t know about Jungkook. You know he’s a murderer, but you’re still concerned for him,” Hoseok states plainly, eyes sparkling. “Why?”

Biting his lip, Taehyung averts his gaze. It’s true, there’s a lot he doesn’t know about him, and the lives Jungkook has taken can’t be forgiven.

But the truth is rather obvious to Taehyung, at least based on his own experiences: Jungkook is clearly suffering. Taehyung hates the way his eyes dim for days when he returns from missions, the last one the worst yet. The guilted, shadowed look is all too familiar, tastes like ashes on his tongue.

“He’s trapped,” Taehyung says softly. “He’s falling, and no one will catch him.”

Hoseok raises his brows, but Taehyung continues. “Jungkook is- he’s too soft to be someone who kills for fun. He’s suffering. He’s more than this,” he mumbles.

“And you think you can protect him, that you can catch him?” Hoseok asks with surprise, though his tone is not unkind.

Exhaling slowly, Taehyung brushes his fingers over the down comforter blanketing him. The texture reminds him of Jungkook’s soft cheeks, of the tired creases below his eyes.

Jungkook may be a killer, but Taehyung’s no less guilty himself.

“I’m not trying to catch him. I’m falling alongside him.”

 

— 

 

Jungkook doesn’t sleep.

In the few times he nods off, his dreams are swarmed with bloody wings and cracks of gunfire. Behind his eyelids, lives are lost by his hand while he watches souls drift away like mist. He sees Taehyung shield him from horror, bullets raining around him. He himself holds the gun that unleashes the rain.

In an effort to stay awake, Jungkook counts the whiskers on Chickpea, the stars outside his window, the tiles on his ceiling. He tries to count how many times he imagines returning home to Taehyung, recalling the feeling of his kiss and the low sounds he made, but he loses track after a hundred.

He’s grateful he stays awake when he recognizes the sound of muffled footsteps approaching his apartment door. They’re familiar, practiced footsteps. Without a doubt, Jungkook knows who they belong to.

Quietly, he rises from the couch, standing beside the door with his pistol at the ready, waiting patiently as the door is unlocked.

The tip of his gun brushes through a tangle of blonde hair moments later.

“Jungkook,” Yoongi greets flatly, a smirk on his lips as he stares at the wall ahead. “Is this really any way to greet a friend?”

Jungkook snorts. “Friends don’t let assassins into friends’ apartments, Yoongi.”

The laugh that sounds from Yoongi is low, guarded. It pisses Jungkook off more than he already is. “Why would you ever think this has something to do with me?”

“Mmm.. not sure,” Jungkook hums, his face mockingly contemplative. “Who else is in my father’s lap more than you?”

Plunging his hands into his pockets, Yoongi shakes his head.

“I heard nothing about this, Jungkook. I did as I was ordered. No more, no less.”

Jungkook’s tongue prods the inside of his cheek. “Is that the truth?”

Yoongi nods slowly in response, but it’s Jungkook’s turn to shake his head as he cocks his gun.

“I don’t like liars.”

Yoongi’s brows raise, but he still doesn’t remove his gaze from the opposing wall. “If I’m such a liar, why would I be coming here to warn you then?”

To- to warn him?

Heartbeat accelerating, Jungkook feels his palms shake. His eyes glance to the bedroom Taehyung sleeps in.

“Start talking.”

 

— 

 

“How’s my son, Min?”

Yoongi hates this ridiculous routine, absolutely loathes it. He hates the way he bows from the middle, how he can feel the cocky glare drenched in distaste locked on him.

“He completed the last mission with ease, Jungho.”

“Really?” Jungho says curiously, tapping out his cigarette. Yoongi hates smoking too, the bitter cloud wafting over his cheeks.

“From what I’ve heard, he was quite eager to return home,” he observes, legs crossed while he stares out the highrise window. The view is probably spectacular, but Yoongi wouldn’t know. His eyes only ever see the marbled ground in this room.

“I suppose so,” Yoongi responds, striving to keep tone boring.

It hasn’t been easy to fly Taehyung’s gang affiliation under the radar. Though many members were made aware that Taehyung was once a member of organized crime, he’s done his best to keep the connection to the Ebon Wolves a secret. If not, it means certain death for Taehyung.

“That boy, always soft-hearted. Him and his pets,” Jungho remarks, his disgusted tone laced with amusement. “I always told him they’d be nothing but a distraction. If their needs are so urgent, perhaps it’s time I pay him a visit to give him a hand.”

Yoongi’s blood runs cold.

Meetings between Jungkook and his father never go well, usually involving shouting, a piece of furniture breaking or a shattered window. Yoongi repairs them all.

But what’s worse is repairing Jungkook for weeks afterward, rebuilding his confidence and mending his spirit.

“I’ve heard Jungkook’s newest pet is quite beautiful.” Jungho says casually, lighting another cigarette. “Loyalty like a dog, I was told. Enough to take a bullet.” Yoongi’s heart stutters, though he wills it to calm. “Such loyalty is rare these days, don’t you think, Min?”

Yoongi nods. “It’s been good for Jungkook. Keeping him on task,” he says simply, praying it’s the correct choice of words.

It isn’t. Not when Jungho smiles at him.

“On task, or distracting him, I wonder?” Jungkook’s father muses, rubbing a palm along his suited pant leg. “I’ve heard it was a stray. Pulled off the street, needed a lot of care. That can’t be good for my son’s focus.”

Shit, Yoongi thinks. Shit. After all his preparation, someone still managed to spill Taehyung to Jungho.

“You did well to follow my last orders.”

Yoongi grits his teeth, feeling the implications weigh heavily upon him. He told Jungkook he was an idiot, not because Taehyung posed a threat, but for bringing him into an even deadlier mess.

“If he’s too troublesome,” Jungho huffs, his breath a cloud of smoke, “put him down.”

 

— 

 

When Taehyung finally wakes again, the bedroom surrounding him is darkened, only the soft rhythm of breathing punctuating the silence. There’s a warm hand resting on his head, paused where it had likely been combing through his hair. He slowly rolls to the side, greeted by a sleepy silhouette.

Moonlight filters through the window, reflected brightly by the snow-covered roofs. It casts a wavering glow onto Jungkook’s pale skin, revealing a mosaic of black and blue along his bare chest. Taehyung’s breath catches at the sight, his lungs constricting in pain and sympathy.

Jungkook’s nose scrunches as Taehyung shifts, his awareness gradually returning. His eyes are squinted when he stirs fully, expression immediately worried.

“Taehyung?” he asks, voice deep with exhaustion. It’s not long before he’s sitting up, reaching over to pet Taehyung’s hair worriedly. “You okay? Need medicine?”

Taehyung shakes his head wordlessly, overwhelmed by the immediate display of compassion. He’s not used to such attention and is even more unused to craving it.

Despite his reassurances, Jungkook still hovers over him, his worried eyes glossed in the dark. It’s not until Taehyung weakly pushes his arm to lie down that he relaxes.

The quiet around them is soothing, coaxing Taehyung back to sleep as he rolls over, but Jungkook’s body heat is moving closer.

Taehyung doesn’t have the strength to muster any complaints as Jungkook gingerly wraps his arms around his middle, and he holds his tongue when warm breath hits his neck. It seems his shields are always weakened, always flimsy in the white sheets of Jungkook’s bed.

The longer Taehyung allows the contact, the tighter Jungkook clings, the rigid plane of his muscles warm against his back. When Jungkook speaks, his voice is so close to Taehyung’s ear that he nearly bursts into flame.

“What’s your opinion on angels?”

Blinking at the sudden randomness, Taehyung snorts. “Why? Did any visit you when you got knocked on your ass?”

Jungkook giggles into Taehyung’s skin, his lips sparking where they meet his pulse. He squeezes him tighter, relishing the way Taehyung inhales sharply when he kisses his neck.

“Do you think they’re anything special or overhyped?” Jungkook asks between presses of his lips.

Taehyung’s breath is shaky when he answers. “Just average people. Special in their own way, maybe, but they have their flaws too.” 

 

— 

 

Jungkook’s in heaven.

Taehyung is in his bed, his skin softer than the sheets, his tired voice more enticing than he cares to admit. Grinning widely at Taehyung’s dismissal of angels, he shakes his head. He highly doubts there are flaws strong enough to obscure an angel’s radiance. The proof is in front of him.

“What’s your opinion?” Taehyung asks.

Shrugging, Jungkook brushes his nose along Taehyung’s mocha hair, satisfied when he realizes it smells of his own cologne. “They’re real. They hide in plain sight and arrive when you least expect it but when you need them most.”

Taehyung’s brows are raised when he twists to meet his gaze.

“And their personalities?” he inquires softly, eyes sparkling.

Jungkook cocks his head, at war with his own snarky amusement. “Hmm.. they're definitely stubborn, annoying and mouthy.”

When Taehyung’s lips part in surprised protest, Jungkook is quick to bring them to his own, a smile on his face. Taehyung’s eyes are wide before they flutter shut.

“They’re also kind,” Jungkook breathes, thumbing at his chin as he kisses him again.

“...Hot too,” he adds, palm on his neck and giggling when Taehyung’s brow furrows at his flirtatious tone, though the next kiss is deeper.

“And strong.”

Taehyung’s breath is hitching by their third collision.

They kiss with increasing intensity until Taehyung’s lips are bitten raw, until a moan rings low in his throat. His cheeks are flushed, pupils blown where they drown him. Jungkook loves all of Taehyung’s new expressions, but he finds this is the first face he’d like to ruin.

When Jungkook travels lower along Taehyung’s bare neck, leaving a blooming mark of red and ghosts of pleasure in his wake, he thinks he’s successful.

“There are things better than angels, you know,” Taehyung says breathlessly, his fingers pausing their tangle in Jungkook’s hair.

Jungkook’s brow raises amusedly. “Oh yeah? Like what?”

Taehyung’s strength is surprising when he tugs Jungkook to straddle over him, hands reaching to cup his cheeks from where he looks down. His eyes are bright even in the darkness, shining with perception and playfulness and an emotion Jungkook could easily drown in.

Jungkook loves this expression the most.

“Demons.”

 

Chapter Text

“Favorite food?”

Jungkook furrows his brow where he lies on the grey carpeted floor, fingers interlaced behind his head as his tongue pokes out. “Mmm.. strawberry ice cream.”

Taehyung’s not surprised, but he still huffs a laugh. Jungkook has got to be the softest, least intimidating gang member he knows.

“Favorite animal?” Jungkook asks.

Hesitating, Taehyung puts a hand to his chin where he sits in bed, his healing leg elevated on a pillow. After a long recovery, he’s been healing up positively, but Jungkook has been insistent on babying him. He’s been bored out of his mind cooped up in the apartment, so his roommate has kept him company more often than not.

Fortunately for him, his roommate also happens to be the most distracting person he’s ever met.

“I love dogs and cats equally. I volunteered at shelters a lot with- with family and friends,” he says, suddenly nervous to reveal such fond memories.

The closer they seem to get as weeks pass by, the closer Taehyung comes to revealing the shadow that insists on following him. One he’d prefer not to add to Jungkook’s already-full plate.

Though Jungkook looks interested in asking about said relatives, he refrains from doing so. Grateful, Taehyung rushes to change the subject.

“Favorite season?”

“Winter, for sure,” Jungkook answers without skipping a beat, glancing out the window where the snow currently falls. The flakes twirl through the air, coating the shining grey of the city in a matte white.

“Favorite color?”

“Earthy tones.”

“That’s not a color,” Jungkook retorts with a playful scoff.

Shrugging, Taehyung scrolls through his phone as he’s done all morning. He doesn’t think he’s read a single word of any article he’s looked up - he’s been too busy being focused on a certain persistent caretaker. “There are a lot of colors, but some look better together.”

Jungkook grins widely at him, his inky hair splayed wildly around his head. “Kinda like how we look better together?”

Glaring down at Jungkook, Taehyung feels his cheeks heat involuntarily, though he doesn’t protest. He doesn’t know what to say to the blatant flirting anymore, not when he’s just as guilty of returning his kisses, fluffing his mess of hair and curling up against him at night.

Taehyung knows he’s a bad liar, and the fact of the matter is.. he likes it. He likes the feeling of Jungkook’s smiley kisses, the softness of dark curls tangled in his fingers, the warmth of his chest pressed against his own when Jungkook holds him tightly.

The feelings Jungkook gives him instill such an addictive satisfaction, it’s allowed him to overlook the growing guilt in the back of his mind.

“Favorite holiday?” Taehyung asks, dutifully ignoring Jungkook’s knowing smile.

The silence before his answer is too long to be characteristic of Jungkook, enough that Taehyung stares at him from over the side of the bed.

“Ahh,” Jungkook says sheepishly, eyes firmly on the ceiling. “We didn’t celebrate holidays growing up, except maybe the year before my mom died.”

Guilt at asking such a question floods Taehyung immediately, and Jungkook is quick to soothe him when he glances at his fallen expression. “It really wasn’t like you think,” Jungkook says hurriedly, sitting up and waving his hands in front of his chest, “I was totally fine. We didn’t really do Christmas but-”

“You didn’t have Christmas?!” Taehyung sputters, his mouth agape. “But- but how? What about presents? Tree decorating? Cookies and milk?!”

Snorting, Jungkook stands from from the floor to sit on the edge of the bed, a hand on Taehyung’s covered knee.

“No, I didn’t need it-“

But Taehyung is already throwing off the layers of blankets and reaching for his crutches in a wobbly attempt to stand.

Shooting to his feet, Jungkook makes hurried motions in the air to stabilize him. “Woah woah, Tae, chill,” he says worriedly. “Do you need me to get something-“

“Jimin,” Taehyung says sternly, the metal of his crutches clicking as he makes his way over to the drawers Jungkook let him take over, pushing the tingly feelings about sharing space to the deep recesses of his mind. He withdraws a maroon sweater and a pair of slacks. “I need Jimin. Immediately.”

Jungkook gapes, frozen where he stands. “J-Jimin? Right now?”

Taehyung hops to the bed after pulling the sweater over his head. His pants aren’t even fully on by the time his phone held to his ear by his shoulder.

“Jiminie,” Taehyung addresses after a small voice greets him.

“...Jiminie?” Jungkook repeats in bewilderment.

“Remember you told me to call in an emergency?” He glances at Jungkook, raising a brow. “Well, I’ve got one.”

 

 

The wood of Jungkook’s older desk creaks beneath Yoongi where he sits on its edge, his arms crossed against him. Jungkook jolts from the sudden noise, minimizing his open browser window with lightspeed.

“Working as hard as ever, I see,” Yoongi mutters sarcastically, a single brow raised.

Jungkook’s face is bored, but his leg bounces anxiously beneath the desk, tongue in his cheek.

Too obvious, Yoongi thinks, refraining from rolling his eyes. “Care to tell me why you were just looking at mechanical reindeer?”

Eyes firmly on the monitor, Jungkook shrugs. “Was thinking of decorating this year.”

“Jungkook, you don’t even have a front yard,” Yoongi snorts.

Huffing, Jungkook runs a hand through his already messed hair. Splayed along the desk are papers of hastily written lists, most of their items crossed out with pencil.

“Besides,” Yoongi continues, eyeing them carefully. Gift lists. “Christmas is in like two days and you have a mission that day.” 

“Thanks for the reminder,” Jungkook says sarcastically, moving his cursor aimlessly along his desktop.

Sighing, Yoongi pinches the bridge of his nose. “Jungkook, you need to focus. One slip up and you know Jungho-”

“I don’t give a fuck what he thinks of me,” he retorts bitterly.

Yoongi’s nails dig into the skin of his folded arms. “This isn’t about you,” he growls, frustration growing by the minute. “The bigger the target is on you, the bigger it is on Taehyung.”

Jungkook’s cursor stops, his jaw tightly set.

“Am I supposed to just keep him locked up-?”

“You chose this life for him, Jungkook. You knew exactly what you were getting him into the day you brought him home,” Yoongi scolds. “Take responsibility for him.”

“I am,” Jungkook says though clenched teeth. “Is taking responsibility for his happiness not part of what I started?”

Yoongi chews on his lip, wishing he could strangle the kid. He can’t remember the last time he’s seen Jungkook so unselfishly determined. It makes it far harder to demand the impossible from him.

“You can’t make Taehyung happy if he’s dead.”

Jungkook’s anxious fidgeting stops abruptly, his gaze darkening.

“Are you implying I’ll let him die-?”

“I’m implying,” Yoongi says sternly, “that giving Taehyung what he wants could be at the cost of his own life. Jungho is aware of him. That’s already a big enough threat.”

Surprise trickles through Yoongi when Jungkook doesn’t fight him, only puts his head in his hands.

“I get it,” he says tiredly, face haggard when he runs a hand down it. “I shouldn’t focus so much on him, but..”

Sighing, Jungkook rakes his gaze over the scribbled lists, his expression softening into something wistful. Yoongi can’t remember the last time he saw such a face on Jungkook.

“Sorry,” he mumbles. “It’s just, Taehyung, he-” Jungkook swallows thickly. “He makes me feel like... like I can live more than I always have, I guess.”

The display of vulnerability has Yoongi speechless.

He can handle wild, angry and cocky Jungkook, but hopelessly smitten Jungkook?

It’s out of his realm of expertise, probably something he should defer to Jimin. He thinks about what the cute, peach-haired man would do in his shoes, but he can’t bring himself to smile so sincerely or provide the right words of comfort.

The persistent, nagging thought that Jungkook deserves a chance at real happiness for once buzzes in his mind incessantly, but clearly he’s terrible at pep talks.

Instead, he grabs a stray pen.

“Don’t lose focus, Kook,” Yoongi mutters, paper crinkling as he pulls a list close to him. He circles a bullet point, ignoring the way Jungkook’s brows shoot up to his hairline and the way his dark eyes sparkle like Christmas lights.

“Because the second you do, this game is over.” 

 

 

Jungkook really, really would prefer this goes well.

He’s pretty sure Taehyung’s upset with him, since in the last two days, all he’s done is send rapidfire texts and leave with Jimin in toe. He wasn’t aware that never celebrating Christmas would bother Taehyung to such a degree.

That would be why he has a prettily-wrapped gift tucked under his arm, the paper crunching as he brushes melting snow out of his hair. He shifts his weight from foot to foot, nervous about what he could possibly say to diffuse something he barely understands in the first place.

It doesn’t help he got assigned to a mission tomorrow, of course.

But he hopes Christmas Eve is a good enough night as any to make amends, fiddling with his keys to unlock the door. It’s quiet on the other side, though he hears the faint sound of bells.

When it swings open, he double checks the door number, because this definitely isn’t his apartment.

Though the lights are off, they’re unneeded. Not when the walls are drenched in colored bulbs, the strings of lights casting a warm hue onto the space.

A fake tree sits to the side of the couch, its illuminated branches reflecting off the sparkling packages sitting below it.

Swallowing thickly, Jungkook absorbs the smallest details, from the stockings with snowmen on them to the two steaming mugs of hot chocolate on the coffee table. His laptop sits beside a lit, pine-scented candle, playing a video of a crackling fire and holiday tunes at low volume.

It’s impossibly cozy.

“Are you just gonna stand there all night or what?”

Taehyung’s smile is warm, warm enough that Jungkook feels his heart skip. It’s several seconds before he remembers how to use his feet, his mouth still wide open as he robotically makes his way to the couch.

“W-why?”

“You said you didn’t have Christmas." As if the explanation is enough, Taehyung wiggles backwards where he sits on the cushions, patting the empty space for Jungkook to join him. “Everyone deserves Christmas once in their life,” he insists, following Jungkook’s wide-eyed stare to the decorated tree.

“It’s not just about gifts, it’s about the atmosphere. Even if life sucks, the holidays can still be joyful, like a sliver of healing in the chaos,” he explains, reaching to hold an ornament fondly with his fingertips. “It’s proof that magic still exists, even if you fabricate it.”

Jungkook watches with rapt attention as Taehyung’s grasp leaves the bauble, the pads of his fingers covered in gold glitter. Everything about Taehyung is kind, even the motions of his hands.

“You deserve better, Jungkook,” he says, meeting his gaze with both hesitancy and determination. “You deserve time to heal.”

Taehyung’s tanned skin is a mixed pallet in the rainbow glow, the outline of his hair alight like a halo. A streak of gold glitter is left behind when he gingerly brushes his thumb over Jungkook’s cheek.

Jungkook is stunned, frozen stiff. He doesn’t know how to tell him his presence is more healing than any holiday.

“How?” he asks weakly, glancing at Taehyung’s bandaged leg. “How did you-?”

“Jimin helped,” Taehyung says, huffing a laugh. “I might have driven him to insanity since I couldn’t stand much, but,” he shrugs, “you- you seemed like you needed it.”

His palm still lingers on Jungkook’s cheek.

It’s rare Jungkook encounters a situation he’s unprepared for or moved so deeply by, but with the lights shining down on Taehyung, the contentment he feels is unparalleled. He feels safe, cozy, cared for.

Taehyung's voice is soothing when he speaks again.

“I’m happy you’re home.”

As if the surroundings extend their arms to embrace him, Jungkook suddenly feels at ease by Taehyung’s words, so much that the tension and fear he usually carries within him are extinguished. They’re replaced with the acceptance in Taehyung’s touch, the warmth of his palm, the compassion in his gaze.

He doesn’t know what to do as emotion fills him to the brim, so strong in intensity that he feels choked, like the air is being ripped from his lungs. It latches onto his rapidly beating heart and tugs upward, lodging in his throat.

Taehyung’s eyes widen immediately.

“J-Jungkook,” he stutters, quickly bringing his other palm to Jungkook’s reddening cheek. “Hey, don’t-”

His chest feels heavy, scrunching his face as his vision blurs. Jungkook feels too much at once, his happiness cascading from his eyes onto his cheeks. It isn’t normal, he doesn’t do this.

Taehyung surges for him.

“It’s okay,” he murmurs, chin hooked on his shoulder. Taehyung holds Jungkook tightly against him, a hand tangled in his hair and another stroking his back. “It’s alright.”

Jungkook clings to the material of his sweater, his mind clouded with everything but Taehyung’s voice.

Speaking is an endeavor. He tries with all his might to convey his gratefulness, to tell Taehyung how much he means to him.

Thank you... Thank you... Thank you...

But words fail him.

Still, he thinks it over and over like a mantra, like a prayer offered up to an angel. 

 

 

Jungkook’s learning a lot about Taehyung tonight, especially after he pulls out a shining bottle, claiming the best magic of adulthood happens with the aid of liquor.

The first thing he learns is that Taehyung loves spiked eggnog. The second is that he’s a lightweight.

The third is that he’s very talkative while drunk.

“Of course, it’s got it’s faults in its age,” Taehyung says exaggeratedly, his chocolatey hair splayed around his head where it rests against Jungkook’s thighs, cup sloshing in his hand. “But it’s a classic, you know? It’s not Christmas without it.”

Taehyung’s been rambling about some old movie for half an hour. Jungkook’s a little buzzed and admittedly a tad distracted by the way Taehyung’s lips curve into careful shapes, the way his voice deepens in pitch and the way his head brushes against his lap when he moves.

“What do you think?” Taehyung asks, cheeks flushed and eyes wide when they flick up to meet his own. Jungkook’s not stupid - he knows he’s a goner when he smiles so much his teeth hurt. He brushes Taehyung’s fringe away from his forehead, giggling when the hair falls back down.

Taehyung rolls his eyes with a playful huff. “Are you even listening?” he asks indignantly, voice slurred as he takes another sip.

“Sorry,” Jungkook laughs, not at all apologetic. “There’s a cute guy with his head on my lap so I’m a bit distracted. What did you expect?”

Eyes narrowed, Taehyung furrows his brow.

“You’re a demon, you know,” Taehyung mutters with a pout, toying with Jungkook’s dangly earring.

Jungkook giggles lowly, his blood feeling hot from more than the alcohol. Taehyung’s never so loose, never having played with his jewelry before. He loves the newly revealed expressions and habits of a relaxed Taehyung, most of them compliments in motion without him even realizing.

“You love it, though.” Jungkook says so with confidence, but he prays Taehyung truly does.

“No,” Taehyung denies, but the parting of his lips when Jungkook brings them together speaks only of affirmation.

At Taehyung’s eagerness, Jungkook’s hand cups his neck, traveling down his arm before reaching his thigh. He grips the soft muscle, relishing the way Taehyung’s back arches just a little off the couch when he squeezes.

When Jungkook pulls away smiling, Taehyung’s pout only grows.

“Demon,” he repeats insistently. Jungkook loves the swollen pink of his lips, wishes he could roughen them a bit more as he runs his thumb over the bottom one. Still, he doesn’t plan to take it too far with Taehyung in this state.

“As I said, you love it.”

Taehyung avoids his gaze.

“I don’t like it - being alone. I’ve spent a lot of time alone before, even on Christmas.” Taehyung’s eyes are glazed with alcohol, hands curled to his chest. ”Do you really have to leave tomorrow?” he asks, his change in demeanor so sudden that Jungkook blinks down at him.

“I do,” Jungkook says sadly, smoothing out the crease in Taehyung’s brows. His tongue feels as loose as Taehyung seems to appear. “I don’t want to leave you. I hate that you’re here by yourself.”

Sighing, Taehyung shrugs, his eyes half-lidded in his drunkenness. “I’ve always been alone on Christmas and my birthday, I’m used to it.”

Jungkook’s heart skids to a halt. “Your- your birthday?” he repeats carefully.

“Yeah,” Taehyung slurs, rubbing at his eyes with a yawn. “It’s so lonely, Jungkookie. I miss Eui and Jinnie so much.”

“O-oh,” Jungkook says, feeling silly when he blushes at the nickname. “Do they celebrate it with you?”

He nods, turning to bury his face in Jungkook’s abdomen where he clings to his shirt. “Jin helped Eui make cupcakes last year,” he giggles. “They had snowmen on them since it’s right after Christmas, but I still loved them so much. It hurts inside when I think about it.”

Jungkook presses further, a dull sense of urgency tugging at his mind. “I’m sure they were yummy. Is Eui a good cook?” he asks, running his fingers through Taehyung’s hair.

He snorts, breath warm on Jungkook’s stomach. “No silly, how can an eight year old be a cook?”

“Yeah,” Jungkook laughs weakly, mind racing, “you’re right.”

“I promised Minjae,” he says after a hesitating silence, alarming Jungkook at the sudden pain in his voice. “Promised I’d- I’d love and cherish her but- but I had to keep her safe or- or she-” Taehyung’s breathing accelerates, his hands shaking.

“W-woah, Tae, easy,” he says worriedly, stroking his arm. “I’m sure Eui is safe. Is she with uh, Jinnie?”

Taehyung nods, his eyes tightly shut. “She’s safe but, I don’t know where. I- I love her, Jungkookie, I love her but I failed her. I’m supposed to be protecting her.”

“Protecting her how?” he asks kindly, striving to hide the slight panic in his demeanor.

Taehyung shakes his head where it’s buried in his shirt. “Can’t tell you,” he mumbles exhaustedly. “Don’t want to go back, you’ll make me go back. I don’t want to go back there. He hurts me, I want to stay with you at home.”

Jungkook pulls him closer, his protectiveness surging. It’s the second time Taehyung has referred to the apartment as home tonight. 

“Who’s hurting you? You can tell me, Taehyung. Trust me, I’ll protect you, I..” he hesitates, biting his cheek. “I care a lot about you.”

But Taehyung is barely coherent, only snuggling closer. “Want cake on my birthday, Jungkookie,” he breathes slowly, his voice a whisper. “Want Eui and strawberry ice cream and Chickpea and kisses.”

Jungkook’s mind is whirling, the pieces he had been missing falling into place. He’s afraid of the implications, the worry coursing through him in the form of adrenaline, but he does his best to push it out of his mind.

Taehyung deserves to enjoy his Christmas, and Jungkook thinks he might have been onto something about the whole healing thing. If this is healing, he’ll take it any day, even if the worries will be addressed tomorrow.

“You deserve those things,” Jungkook says, brushing kisses into his hair. “You’re doing your best, Tae. You’re the one who deserves time to heal.”

Taehyung only whines softly, sleepiness overtaking him. Jungkook chuckles at the display, slowly lifting Taehyung’s head off his lap to lay beside him.

He pulls a fuzzy blanket over them both, tugging Taehyung close to his chest. The warmth that erupts in him as Taehyung burrows into his neck makes the fire playing on his laptop seem all too realistic.

“You deserve the same happiness you bring me,” Jungkook says quietly, eyes flickering over the colored lights in the room. “If it’s out of your grasp,” he breathes, kissing Taehyung’s forehead with a featherlight touch, “I’ll bring it to you.”

 

 

(bonus scene, 1/2)

 

When Jungkook awakens, the warmth against his chest is gone.

Sitting up suddenly, he glances wildly around the room with tired eyes, the tree’s lights like starbursts in his blurred vision. Fists curled into balls, he rubs at his face, wondering if he’s still dreaming or if the packages wrapped in shiny foil multiplied overnight.

Considering they’re on the table, piled under the tree and overflowing from the stockings, he can definitely say they grew in number.

How mysterious, he thinks amusedly, giggling to himself.

Assuming Taehyung is likely in the bathroom, he lays back down to tug the blanket up higher, toes wiggling against the end of the couch in anticipation for him to return. He’s unsure if he’s more excited to open the gifts or cuddle Taehyung surrounded by them.

It might be the latter.

Everything feels.. right. Jungkook is warm and protected and untouchable under the blanket, so inexplicably content that he might explode right there on the couch. His remains would probably be some kind of cute confetti.

It’s Christmas, he thinks eagerly, unable to stop the smile that stretches his cheeks and curls his lips. It’s actually Christmas. In his chest is a jittery feeling he’s unused to, one that has him ready to leap off the couch despite the early hour.

Every minute that goes by without Taehyung feels too long. Fiddling with a loose thread on the blanket, Jungkook listens carefully for the sound of the bathroom door opening. It feels childish to be so impatient, but…

When he glances around the room dimly lit by the greyed morning light, greedily absorbing the atmosphere of coziness and joy, he can’t help but be a little excited.

Several more minutes tick by in quiet before he hears it: the softest clink of a pan in the kitchen. It’s clear Taehyung’s not in the bathroom by now, but he can’t imagine why he’d be cooking either. There hasn’t been a time in which Taehyung didn’t leave it up to him, citing his superior cooking skill as the reasoning.

Tiptoeing his way over presents wrapped with bows, Jungkook soundlessly makes his way to the doorway of the small kitchen, brows raising when he spots the back of a struggling Taehyung standing before the oven.

“Shit,” Taehyung mutters under his breath, his wrist flicking the pan upwards. Hair an unruly mess and borrowed pajama pants spilling over his slippers, Taehyung is the perfect picture of early morning fashion.

If Jungkook’s smile was unavoidable earlier, nothing compares to the strength of what he feels unfurling across his face now. He leans against the doorway with crossed arms, feeling impossibly fond as he observes the struggle of pancake flipping for a few more moments. It’s not until Taehyung’s hissing at the stove that he moves to assist.

Careful to remain silent, Jungkook steps lightly across the cold tiles, a smile still plastered to his face. When his arms finally wrap around Taehyung’s middle, chin hooking over his shoulder, his roommate nearly jumps through the ceiling.

“What the hell?" Taehyung says accusingly, tilting his head to bump it against Jungkook’s own. “You nearly gave me a heart attack, my god.”

Though he’s heard it quite a bit lately, Jungkook still all but swoons over the thickened tiredness lacing Taehyung’s vibrato, unable to stop the giggle that escapes when Taehyung wiggles against him.

“I was getting a little sick of waiting for you,” Jungkook says, “but I see you were occupied doing the impossible.”

“Impossible, my ass,” Taehyung scoffs. “I can do this, just give me time.”

Like a good roommate, Jungkook gives him time. But in that time, he also adjusts his hold to cup his waist, brushes his nose along his neck, steps closer so not an inch of space exists between them.

Taehyung looks like home, smells like home and feels like home pressed against him. From the tingly feelings of a true Christmas morning to Taehyung’s clear attempt to make them breakfast, Jungkook is more intoxicated on happiness than he was on the rum last night.

Huffing, Taehyung tries to flip a pancake once more, only to let it flop over the side when Jungkook’s lips brush behind his ear and hands travel under his shirt to slide along his abdomen.

“Jungkook,” he whines, both amused and irritated. “You’re not making this any easier, seriously.”

Jungkook’s laugh is still gravelly with sleep when he huffs into his ear, adoring the way Taehyung shivers slightly when he does.

“Hand over the pan and nobody gets hurt,” he giggles, relinquishing his spot on Taehyung’s soft plane of skin to rest a hand over Taehyung’s own. He grips the handle below his palm, bracing the bottom hold.

“I can do it,” Taehyung complains. He could shake Jungkook off easily, though he chooses not to.

“You can,” Jungkook agrees, “but it’d be easier with a little help, no?”

Flicking upwards, Jungkook applies the right amount of force to make the pancake flip artfully in the air, fingertips lingering on Taehyung’s knuckles even after it lands.

“See?” he says, releasing his grip to cling to Taehyung’s waist once more. “You did it!”

Taehyung only snorts, shaking his head. When he speaks, Jungkook can almost hear his eyeroll. “Right, all me. If you’re such a pancake connoisseur, why don’t you finish the rest?”

“Sure,” Jungkook responds readily, stepping beside him to bump his hip against Taehyung’s own. “Go back to the couch. I got this.”

Taehyung’s eyes widen, his grip tightening around the pan he holds out of reach. “I didn’t actually mean for you to finish-”

“Go,” Jungkook insists with a smirk, prying the pan from his hands and flipping the pancake expertly once more. “And don’t try to argue. I know you’ve been up for awhile, unless Santa himself visited and left that display out there. You’ve already outdid yourself this morning, Tae - go get a bit more sleep.”

“Santa did visit, thank you very much.” Though he sighs dramatically, Taehyung steps to the sink to rinse the batter from his hands. “Don’t let this time get to your head. I’ll make pancakes properly someday, mark my words.”

“If you say so,” Jungkook snorts, wishing he wasn’t holding a hot pan with how much he already wants to touch Taehyung again... maybe pin him to the counter, explore the skin beneath his clothing once more. “Next year, then.”

Jungkook thinks it’s impossibly cute when Taehyung’s surprised eyes meet his for a breath at the implication. It’s even cuter when Taehyung looks away quickly, smiling softly at the water that trickles through his fingers.

For the first time, Jungkook understands what everyone means when they never want Christmas Day to end. 

 

 

(bonus scene, 2/2)

 

“Did-did you really…?”

Taehyung’s dumbfounded, lips parted as he stares down at the plate handed to him.

Jungkook is the tackiest man that’s ever lived.

“There was strawberry purée left in the fridge,” Jungkook says, grin as sloppy as the heart-shaped drizzle over Taehyung’s pancakes. “Figured you’d like it.”

Like is a weak word for what Taehyung feels as his cheeks practically burst into flame. It’s tacky. So, so tacky.

He loves it.

Taehyung doesn’t answer, only takes the fork from Jungkook’s hand, slicing a triangular piece drenched in affection and strawberries to pop into his mouth. The pancakes are golden discs of heaven that don’t belong in their personal hell, just like the rest of Jungkook’s dishes.

But with the way the morning light reflects on the surrounding wrapping paper, hated by Taehyung after endless paper cuts, and with the way Jungkook’s eyes shine even brighter than the presents, the apartment is officially exempt from hell today.

“Mmph,” Taehyung groans, mouth full of warm, gooey strawberry, “so good.”

Jungkook’s eyes are tiny crescents from the strength of his grin. “Yeah?” he laughs, picking at his own plate. He sits beside Taehyung on the couch, their thighs and knees bumping clumsily while they eat. “It’s just pancakes with a little extra. You’re too easy.” 

Taehyung is silent, continuing to devour what’s in front of him. He knows he’s too easy, but it’s only because Jungkook makes it easy to be that way.

It’s not long before they’re finished, having eaten in comfortable silence. Taehyung pushes the plate as far away from him as possible on the coffee table, leaning back against the cushions to rub his full stomach. It’s cozy and warm, the quiet drone of holiday tunes comforting enough that the sleepiness of his hangover tugs at him, but he’s distracted by the anxious bouncing of the knee beside his own.

From the corner of his eye, he can see Jungkook’s bitten lip, the anxious wringing of his fingers like a child waking up to Christmas for the first time. He clearly holds back from pushing Taehyung too quickly into opening the surrounding gifts, but his actions speak far louder than words.

Taehyung huffs amusedly. Not only is Jungkook the tackiest person he’s ever met, but also by far the most endearing.

He stands with a groan, stretching his arms above his head. When he strolls lazily around the room, a hand to his chin as he decides what gift to hand over first, he can feel Jungkook’s eager gaze nearly piercing him where he stands.

“Hmm.. how about…” Taehyung mutters under his breath, picking up a relatively small package and holding back his laughter when he can see Jungkook’s eyes lighten from across the room. Making a show of contemplating, he turns the box in his hold, only to shake his head and put it back down.

The way Jungkook’s face falls in his peripheral vision does him in.

“Jungkook,” he says, palm to his eyes in an effort to curb his rising giggles, “don’t wait for me. Dig in.”

“W-what?” Jungkook sputters, glancing between the different packages as if scolded.

“You heard me,” Taehyung snickers, returning to his side to prod him in the shin with his slipper. “Get to unwrapping. I know you have to leave pretty soon, and you might want to enjoy what’s here before you go. Go nuts.”

Chewing on his lip, Jungkook rises slowly, pulling a small gift from below the tree. He holds it in his hands as if it could fly away at any moment, gazing at it with an obnoxious amount of adoration that Taehyung finds it endearingly silly.

“Open it,” Taehyung encourages softly, taking a seat on the couch once more with crossed legs, ready to enjoy the show.

When Jungkook begins to unwrap the paper with agonizing carefulness, Taehyung laughs heartily, tapping his thigh with his slipper. “It’s meant to be ripped, not peeled like a fruit, dork. We’ll be here all day if you keep this pace up.”

Cheeks dusted with red, Jungkook moves a hair faster in his efforts. He doesn’t look at Taehyung. “Maybe I want to be here all day,” he says quietly, barely heard over the sound of the crinkling paper.

Taehyung’s mouth parts in surprise. He’s still adjusting to Jungkook’s flirtatiousness, but the statement is so genuine that Taehyung is overwhelmed, filled with a readiness to agree so strong it frightens him.

In truth, he’d love to keep Jungkook away from his mission, to lounge on the couch for all of Christmas day, wrapped in an embrace of lazy kisses and laughs that only come out during holidays spent at home.

Blushing, Taehyung’s realization hits him swiftly.

He’d love to keep Jungkook at home… in their home, with him. Jungkook really is home to him.

Each package Jungkook opens is met with a reaction that not even Taehyung could’ve anticipated. Jungkook stumbles over his rapidfire words of excitement as he receives a new jacket, a silly apron, a fuzzy bathrobe, some socks. Even for the tiniest gifts like a pack of gum, he sends thank you’s flying throughout the room like starbursts. Taehyung catches each with what feels like a direct hit to his heart, chest warming with a strength that threatens to burn the very couch he sits on.

As the number of surrounding gifts dwindle, the mountain of paper piling up beside him, Taehyung’s excitement rises to meet Jungkook’s own.

“No… you didn’t!” Jungkook exclaims, laughing so merrily that Taehyung giggles himself when he opens the final package, the largest of them all. Below the layers of shimmery reindeer paper is a gaming console Jungkook has gushed about for weeks, always making weak excuses to not purchase it.

“Taehyung,” Jungkook starts, holding the box in his hands with a grip tight enough to whiten his knuckles, “you really didn’t have to do this. This- this is… you’ve done so much, it’s unbelievable.” He glances at him with large, sparkling eyes, lowering the box gently to rise to his feet.

Taehyung wouldn’t mind explaining his reasoning, about how Jungkook’s infectious happiness is an ailment he’d take on with alarming willingness, except for the fact that it’s far too embarrassing to admit. Though with the way Jungkook is looking at him like he’s the world and more as he approaches, Taehyung supposes he should’ve thought twice about going so all-out.

Maybe he does wear his heart on his sleeve… sometimes.

Surprise trickles through Taehyung when Jungkook doesn’t come to the couch, averting his path to the tree instead. Behind the lowest branches is a wrinkled package, one Taehyung definitely didn’t wrap himself.

“H-here,” Jungkook says, handing it over to Taehyung with carefulness. He’s bashful, his usual confidence seemingly tempered by the onslaught of gifts he received.

Taehyung takes the package slowly, surprise on his face. “For me?” he asks curiously, meeting Jungkook’s gaze. He’s answered by a quiet nod.

“W-wait!” As quickly as it had come, Taehyung’s gift leaves his hands, tugged away by Jungkook. “Um, stand up.”

Quirking his head to the side, Taehyung furrows his brow but does as he’s told.

“Close your eyes.”

The smallest of smiles works its way onto Taehyung’s cheeks. It’s one of those gifts. “Okay,” he replies, scrunching his eyes tightly shut, the surrounding colors flickering to black.

A tell-tale rip rings in Taehyung’s ears as Jungkook opens the package. He holds his breath in anticipation, awaiting some sort of touch. It comes in the form of a softness wrapped around his face that feels ethereal on his skin, his puffs of breath caught as moisture in the fibers.

“You can open your eyes now,” Jungkook says, the tiniest hint of pride in his voice. Taehyung’s greeted by a half-obscured Jungkook, his bottom half concealed by the plaid scarf circled around his neck. It’s long, warm and immeasurably soft, the cashmere a texture Taehyung counts among his absolute favorites. The threads are earthy browns, sandy tans and evergreens, exactly to his tastes.

“I’ve gotta say,” Taehyung says, voice muffled by the scarf around him, “you really nailed it.” Stepping forward, he grips Jungkook’s wrists tenderly, peering over the edge of the scarf with a happiness that floods every part of him. “Thanks, Jungkookie. I really love it.”

Waiting with bated breath for Jungkook’s reaction to both his thanks and his nickname is entirely worth it, Taehyung decides. Jungkook’s face scrunches with a fondness that has even Taehyung nearly melting where he stands.

But he doesn’t expect Jungkook to flop back onto the couch with Taehyung in toe, hands running down the material to the tassels at the end of his scarf. At his perplexed look, Jungkook tugs gently until Taehyung’s limbs clink against his own, until Taehyung’s legs are parted over his in a straddled position, knees digging into the couch beside his thighs.

“It’s not much compared to what you’ve given me,” Jungkook says sheepishly, unwrapping the scarf carefully from where he looks up at him, only to drape it over the back of Taehyung’s head.

Taehyung rolls his eyes, but his heart beats erratically at their closeness, hands pressed to the firm plane of Jungkook’s chest. It’s a closeness he’s secretly longed for, one that seems more acceptable than usual thanks to their contented atmosphere. “Says the guy who lets me live in his apartment rent free.”

Chuckling, Jungkook’s mouth quirks into a half smile, but the sparkles in the dimmed lighting of his eyes are different as they flick over Taehyung’s features, reflections of a deeper flame that licks at his own insides like wildfire.

Jungkook tugs again, pulling Taehyung closer by his scarf until his hands are beside his cheeks, until Taehyung’s face is nearly wrapped against his own.

“Tactical,” Taehyung comments, the intimacy of dark coaxing him to lick his lips, gaze fixed on Jungkook’s own. Even in the shadows of the material, Jungkook’s eyes still sparkle. Taehyung could drown in them, would lose himself easily if given the chance.

“Maybe,” Jungkook breathes, eyes lidded, the softness of his voice sending shivers through Taehyung. He smiles confidently then, tugging a final time until their mouths are brushing together with a mingling inhale.

It’s slow at first, the way Jungkook kisses him, careful and innocent like the way he unwrapped his gifts, unwilling to ruin Taehyung but obviously eager in his intent to dip below the surface. Jungkook is a demon, yes, but a patient, kind and careful one, sometimes so much so that Taehyung feels the need to prod him out of principle.

So Taehyung drops all pretense, comforted by the feeling of cashmere around his cheeks and against his lips. Hands rising to Jungkook’s neck, he thumbs along his jawline, tilting his head to deepen the kiss beyond Jungkook’s hesitancy.

It’s enough for the body against his to loosen, the muscles beneath Taehyung relaxing, though Jungkook’s urgency only seems to increase in the way he parts his lips, his tongue asking for entry. Taehyung obliges easily, the heat in the inside of the dark they’ve made rising quickly when Jungkook’s tongue tangles with his own, hot enough to draw a low groan from the recesses of his chest.

The sound only encourages Jungkook further, his teeth sharp where they sink into Taehyung’s lower lip, his tongue soothing when it passes over it moments later.

They kiss with persistence, messily and clumsily, punctuated with shy giggles, as if their circumstances don't exist and the world consists of only this moment. Taehyung’s breath hitches when Jungkook’s hands finally drop the scarf to rest on his waist, sliding up along his back beneath his shirt with the occasional scrape of nails along his skin.

Jungkook had thanked him earlier with excited words of praise, but they were nothing compared to the gratefulness Taehyung feels in the brushes against the corner of his mouth, in the upturned quirk of Jungkook’s lips on his skin, in his tight grasp that pulls their hips closer even when there’s no space left to be found. There's not much Taehyung wants in life, but with Jungkook's body intertwined with his own, he's sure he wants this.

And he won’t lie - every piece of him longs to take things further, to explore how exactly Jungkook would continue to thank him. Taehyung wonders how loudly he would moan for him, how Jungkook’s nails would feel digging into his thighs, how he’d arch his muscled back when Taehyung pulled his hair, in a bed they share, in their home-

Taehyung’s rolling his hips and moaning an exhale into Jungkook’s mouth without realizing, hands threading through his hair as if they belong there.

“T-Tae,” Jungkook pants, groaning when Taehyung tugs lightly on his curly strands. The sound of his name in the form Jungkook’s broken plea has Taehyung’s fingertips traveling quickly from his hair to his waistband, though the buzz of Jungkook’s alarm from his phone on the table has him pausing.

Jungkook is persistent, reaching up with eager hands to pull Taehyung’s mouth to his own once more, but Taehyung intercepts with palms to his cheeks, squishing them together.

“Time to wake up,” Taehyung says breathlessly, feeling pained to end it now, especially with the way Jungkook’s hair is askew from his tugging and his eyes undress Taehyung where he sits. But the sway of reality is strong, the clock ticking regardless of their desires.

Jungkook pouts, brow furrowed between his smushed cheeks. It’s so ridiculously cute, Taehyung can’t help but peck his protruding lips with a low giggle. He lets go only when confident Jungkook has calmed, but mostly when Taehyung’s sure he can breathe once more himself.

Still, Jungkook clings like static, and he allows it. Taehyung can’t fight all the laws of nature, his strangely magnetic attraction to Jungkook being one of them.

“Don’t wake me up from this dream, please,” Jungkook complains in a low voice, putting a palm to Taehyung’s cheek. “This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had.”

Taehyung giggles, feeling lightheaded and heavy all at once. He really, really doesn’t want Christmas to end - it might be the best he's ever had too. “Isn’t this the only Christmas you’ve ever had?”

Jungkook reaches for his buzzing phone, snoozing the alarm with finality. He cups Taehyung’s face with his other hand, pulling him closer so his lips hover over his own.

“Yeah,” Jungkook murmurs contentedly, kissing the corner of Taehyung’s soft smile with tenderness and breathy laughter. “What’s your point?”

 

 

“Damn, Tae kept him up all night, huh?” Jimin laughs, wiggling his brow.

It’s midday, and Yoongi is already more than done with Jungkook. They haven’t even left for their mission, yet the kid is still dead asleep at his computer, his browser window opened to some random news site. A lined notepad scribbled with a variety of numbers sits by his side, pages tossed about haphazardly.

“Oi, Jungkookie,” Jimin says, shaking his shoulders. “We gotta get going soon. The faster we leave, the faster you can get back to your boyfriend,” he teases.

Jungkook only groans, pulling his black hood tighter around his head by the drawstring.

Yoongi sighs, running a hand down his face. He doesn’t know why Jungkook bothered coming to work at all when they could’ve just met up at the site.

Narrowing his gaze, Yoongi’s eyes rake over the monitor as Jimin still attempts to rouse him. There’s a photo from some newspaper website, featuring a group of people beside several shelter pets. It appears to be some sort of fundraising event from years prior.

Squinting, Yoong feels his mouth go dry when he identifies a familiar face.

A blonde Taehyung.

Skimming over the caption, Yoongi finds the names of the faces listed beside the young Taehyung, a toddler in his arms clinging to his neck. He wiggles the mouse from Jungkook’s tired grasp, entering the keystroke on the keyboard for the hidden desktop.

Encrypted government system files are immediately revealed, hundreds of them, all broken into with a complex series of code running in a miscellaneous background program. It appears to be hand-coded from scratch.

Sure enough, Yoongi’s suspicions ring true: Jungkook appears to have hacked the identification database all on his own, the files he accessed matching the names on his notepad.

There are hundreds of photos of Taehyung, as well as the smiling faces beside him. The digital certificates are stamped, officially certified by the government.

The names make Yoongi’s stomach curl.

Kim Minjae: dead.

Kim Seokjin: missing.

Kim Eui: missing. Legal guardian: Kim Taehyung.

Fuck, Yoongi thinks, glaring at Jungkook’s sleeping form. What’s revealed here makes sense, but it complicates everything if they know.

“Jungkook,” he growls under his breath, ripping the page from the notepad, “what the fuck are you plotting?” 

 

 

“Jungkook, you just got back, we don’t need to go out-”

“We’re going out,” Jungkook insists, practically pulling Taehyung out the door of the apartment. His heart flutters embarrassingly when he sees Taehyung quickly wrap the plaid scarf he gave him snugly around his neck. It looks perfect on him.

“But- but why now?” Taehyung asks nervously when they exit the elevator at the bottom floor, warily eyeing the car that awaits them through the double doors, its tinted windows darker than the night sky.

“Just trust me,” Jungkook says with a small grin, opening the back door and helping him into the car. Taehyung’s face is confused when Jungkook climbs into the back beside him, brows raised at the silent driver ahead of them.

The ride drones on in silence, the sound of the engine roaring over Jungkook’s anxious, excited thoughts. Though, the longer they drive, the more nervous Taehyung seems to become.

“Okay, where the hell are we?” he finally says after an hour passes, anxiously twirling the tassels of his scarf as his eyes follow the stars through the window glass.

Jungkook only smirks. “It’s a surprise.”

The skeptical look Taehyung sends him is almost laughable. “A surprise? Why would I be getting a surprise?” he says with slow cautiousness.

Shrugging, Jungkook reaches out to take his hand, playing with the small rings on his fingers. When Taehyung allows it without a second thought, Jungkook can’t help the way his heart warms just a little.

“Felt like a special day,” Jungkook says casually, waiting for the blowup.

Taehyung’s eyes widen for several breaths before he’s bringing his free palm to his face.

“Who told you?”

Jungkook snorts, interlacing their fingers and recalling the way Taehyung clung to his shirt on Christmas Eve. “Some cute guy who ended up on my lap at some point.”

Groaning, Taehyung squeezes his hand. “When I was drunk?”

“It’s possible,” Jungkook replies simply, his grin mischievous.

With lips pursed, Taehyung says little, though his eyes still glimmer with passing streetlights in the dark interior of the back seat. His prolonged quiet worries Jungkook just a little, but their firmly locked hands bring him comfort.

“You didn’t have to do this for me,”  Taehyung mumbles quietly into his scarf, his stare fixed out the window, though his thumb runs habitually over Jungkook’s knuckles.

“You don’t even know what it is yet,” Jungkook chuckles, tugging their joined grasp into his lap.

“Still,” Taehyung replies, turning to look at him once more, “what you do for me is already more than enough.”

Shaking his head, Jungkook squeezes their clasped hands. “You deserve to receive happiness, Taehyung,” he says sternly, feels it deep within his chest. “Not just give it. You’ve given enough.”

In the quiet of the car, Taehyung doesn’t protest.

 

 

The farmhouse they arrive at is charming. Jungkook thinks it’d be more inviting in the daylight, recalling its reddened exterior with wooden shutters, but life apparently doesn’t always want to work perfectly for him.

“What is this?” Taehyung asks curiously, closing the car door behind him.

“My grandparents’ old house,” Jungkook responds, gazing at it fondly, “on my mom’s side.”

He had spent many summers here under the care of his grandparents until their passing, their nurturing environment one that Jungkook credits for allowing him to hold at least a shred of his humanity. Arriving was always like visiting paradise, and leaving was a tear-soaked descent into hell.

The curtained windows are already illuminated with a softened yellow light, giving Jungkook the tiniest bit of hope that the arrangement was successful.

“We’re- we’re going in here?” Taehyung says anxiously as Jungkook starts for the door. Jungkook can see his hesitation, the tension in his body language. Quite frankly, he doesn’t blame him.

Unsheathing his primary weapon, Jungkook hands it over along with ammunition. Taehyung’s lips part at the gun in his hands.

“I get why you’d be worried. Honestly, I’m grateful you’ve trusted me to come this far, since I know this is a surprise and all. Keep it on you, it’ll give you a little defense, at least,” Jungkook says, his grin sloppy.

Though he bites his lip, it comforts Jungkook when Taehyung doesn’t protest and tucks the gun into his waistband.

They approach the door together, Jungkook taking the lead to knock in a pattern. Taehyung waits for it to open, but at a return knock, Jungkook withdraws a set of keys from his pocket, unlocking the door himself.

The aged wood creaks as it swings open, revealing a homey living room with aged, wooden furniture and a patterned throw rug. Photographs of times past line the walls, the teacups in the hutch shimmering in the dim lighting.

Jungkook enters without hesitation, though his roommate still lingers nervously on the doorstep, shifting his weight from foot to foot.

Huffing, Jungkook turns to take Taehyung’s hand. “It’s nothing bad, Tae, I promise,” he insists, mustering up everything ounce of compassionate encouragement he can. “You have a right to kill me if it doesn’t work out.”

Rolling his eyes, Taehyung finally relents, crossing the threshold with fingers interlaced in Jungkook’s own.

Jungkook leads them around the corner to approach the family room, a space hidden behind another closed door at the end of the hall. With each step, he finds himself burying the nostalgia welling up within him. His grandparents’ home was one of the only places he ever felt safe, comfortable, loved.

Similar to how he feels with Taehyung these days.

When they reach the door, anticipation thrumming through Jungkook’s veins, it opens before he can even turn the handle.

“...Taetae?”

Jungkook glances downward at the source of the small voice, a mop of long, dark hair greeting him. Heart soaring, he turns around quickly, hopeful of what he’ll see.

Taehyung’s face is far better than anything he could’ve imagined. Eyes wide, his lips parted, Taehyung’s emotion is palpable.

E-Eui..?” Taehyung asks quietly, his voice choked. Within moments, Taehyung is rushing into the doorway, pulling the young girl into his arms. “Eui,” he repeats, his form shaking with the force of his sobs, “I can’t believe- you’re here, you’re safe, you got so tall-!”

“You look too skinny, Taehyungie!”

Jolting, Taehyung snaps his head up to where another man stands, his shoulders broad and face kind. Jungkook already trusts him, having spoken to him at length about their meeting. It’s apparent that caring about Taehyung is a commonality that’s easy to share.

“Jin,” Taehyung sputters, though he’s pulled into a hug before he can move, Eui squealing with giggles where she’s squished between them.

“You did good, Tae,” Jin says, patting his head comfortingly as he sniffles. “You did good.”

If he’s honest, Jungkook really hates watching Taehyung cry, though his heart feels full. He wonders if he looked like this on Christmas Eve, like the world aligned in their favor only for a moment.

Taehyung deserves this. He deserves more than this, even.

Despite the tears and the plans at the back of his mind, as he observes Taehyung’s brilliant smile in the presence of his family, Jungkook knows for certain that he did well to make this choice.

“Happy Birthday, Tae.”

 

 

Caught up in watching Taehyung’s reunion and chatting animatedly with Eui, Jungkook feels a hand on his shoulder before he registers the presence, his hand flying to his spare pistol as his heart lurches out of his chest.

“What the fuck is going on?” a furious voice whispers in his ear, one that already has his blood running cold. Yoongi.

Yoongi’s here, when he should have no idea about this meeting, about the location, about Taehyung’s family. His presence alone is a sign that something's wrong.

When Jungkook turns to him, finding a murderous glint already in Yoongi’s eye, it does little to soothe his nerves.

“Let’s go talk out there,” Jungkook mutters with quiet urgency, nodding towards the doorway, but Yoongi shakes his head.

“You don’t want to go out there right now,” Yoongi hisses, his grip painful on Jungkook’s shoulder. “How many times did I have to warn you this would happen?!”

His heart accelerates, the rhythm painfully quick.

Not here. Not now. Not at the house he shouldn’t have known existed, not with Taehyung, with his family here-

Jungkook panics.

 

 

Jimin really hates standing guard. He supposes he can be intimidating when he needs to, but he’d much rather be watching the sob fest occurring inside the farm house behind him. He’s only standing outside in the stupid cold because Yoongi asked nicely - Yoongi never asks nicely - and because someone as nice as Taehyung deserves the world and no one can convince him otherwise.

Still, he has to admit he regrets caving in so easily when a dark car pulls up into the gravel driveway, knowing full well the passenger is likely uninvited.

But nothing surpasses the regret he feels when a familiar silhouette steps from the car, the gravel under his feet crunching as he approaches. Tensing, Jimin puts a hand to his holster, swallowing dryly.

“Hello, Park,” Jungho greets, glinting eyes locked in the direction of the family room. “Is my son available?”