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ride or die

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The denim feels strange on Jimin’s skin.

He shuffles in place, holding onto the small bag containing his belongings tightly. All the belongings he has left in the world, to be more precise. It’s really quiet out here, almost peaceful. He’d gotten used to the constant noise and yelling in the background but now, all he can hear is birds chirping and the wind whistling lowly.

The wind feels good but the early-June sun is too hot. He squints to see a vehicle pulling up in the distance, raising dirt all around it.

Jimin eyes the cab as it comes closer and closer, until it rolls to a stop in front of him. He opens the passenger door but doesn’t get in, holding onto the door as he turns to face the building behind him one last time. A concrete, box-like structure with guards stationed at every possible corner, holding onto guns, barbed wire all around the tops of the tall fences. He’s definitely not going to miss this shithole.

“You getting in?” The cab driver mutters from the driver’s seat.

“Yeah.”

It feels weird to be sitting in a car after almost two years in prison. Jimin can’t believe he forgot how this felt. Driving, sitting in a car…The cab lurches, groaning as it falls into the dips and divots along the dirt road surrounding the prison and that, combined with the heavy smell of smoke inside makes Jimin’s stomach churn. That’s a first too. Being car sick.

Not for the first time, he questions whether or not agreeing to be released early in exchange of doing some time outside was a good idea. Jimin still can’t believe he’s agreed to work with a detective. A fucking cop. Pigs. One operation, Kim Namjoon said, they catch the bad guy, and then Jimin is free, his record wiped clean. A once in a lifetime opportunity for a fresh start. Jimin has no idea what the actual operation is going to involve exactly but he would be a fool to pass up the chance at a clean slate, even if it means working with a cop. Worst case scenario; he fails and his record stays as is but at least he is out of prison now.

He feels increasingly nauseous as the cab reaches the outskirts of Seoul. As they get closer, the driver winds through the increasingly heavy morning traffic with expert ease. The city both looks the same yet different. Jimin has wisps of memories of racing through these streets two years ago. That feels like a lifetime ago now.

“This is it.” The driver breaks the silence after what feels like hours, pointing at the building outside.

Jimin nods and pulls out the bills he was handed by a correctional officer. Those were the only things he received, along with two days worth of clothes and a pair of boots. Jimin has no one on the outside who could’ve brought clothes or money to him, which is why he has to make do with what was given. He counts them meticulously because the bills in his hand are the only money he has left in the world. His apartment is gone, his car is rotting away in an impound lot somewhere and the people he used to call friends have scattered like sheep without a shepherd as soon as he was put behind bars, never to be heard from again.

To add insult to injury, his ex-best friend Donghyun, whom Jimin had left in charge of his apartment while he was serving time, had sold off all of Jimin’s belongings inside it; TV, couch, even his toaster—his fucking toaster—everything worth a won and took off after pocketing the cash. Not only did Jimin lose every last possession he had, but he also got evicted from his apartment of three years.

Oh and to make matters ten times worse, his ex-girlfriend was cheating on him with Donghyun too, as he later found out. Donghyun also somehow found Jimin’s emergency stash of cash, leaving Jimin with absolutely nothing to his name. Jimin has had time to mostly put the whole thing aside but his temper rises at the thought to this day. If he ever sees Donghyun again…Jimin doesn’t have the confidence to say that he’ll do nothing.

He takes a deep breath. He has no idea what time it is but, he’s well within his time limit of four hours. Four hours to get to the police station or he’d be considered to have escaped custody. He takes another deep breath, trying to enjoy the semi-fresh air for a moment longer before he finally walks in.  

Jimin walks over to the front desk where a cop is stationed. He’s been in so many police stations since he was a teenager, that it weirdly feels like home. “I’m here to see Kim Namjoon. Uh, Detective Kim Namjoon, sorry.”

The cop gives him a once-over, his lip curled in disgust and judgment as he eyes Jimin. He looks at him as if the word ‘criminal’ is written across his forehead. That too, is something Jimin has gotten used to over the years.

“Park Jimin?” Kim Namjoon’s voice sounds from somewhere behind him.

“Yes.”

To Jimin’s surprise, Kim Namjoon smiles politely. “Welcome.” He says, as if Jimin is a guest and not a criminal in custody. Jimin can still feel the eyes of the cop sitting behind them, laser focused, one hand on his holster, as if he’s waiting for Jimin to fuck up the slightest. Jimin ignores him and focuses back on Namjoon. “This way.”

Jimin follows Kim Namjoon through the station. It’s quite loud in here, but not nearly as loud as it was in prison. Jimin turns his head to see a full drunk tank, two of the guys in there are up in each other’s faces, slurring their words and attempting to fight each other but their coordination is so poor that they keep missing each other and stumbling. It would be funny if Jimin was in the mood. A uniformed cop bangs his baton against the bars, grabbing their attention. “Quiet in there!”

Jimin pulls his gaze away and follows Namjoon.

Finally, they arrive at a meeting room, Namjoon looks side to side as he unlocks the door, as if to see if anyone is watching them. Jimin eyes the cameras in every corner. Of course someone is watching them. He tries to shrug off the weird vibe he’s getting from the said detective.

He sits down without a word on one of the many chairs around a large conference table, as Namjoon locks the door and goes around the room with a beeping device in hand. Jimin watches him quietly, and then looks around, trying not to fidget too much. This room has no cameras, or windows for that matter. Questions swirl around Jimin’s head but he can’t make the words come out. He’s pretty sure that even if he did, Namjoon probably wouldn’t answer.

Finally, after what feels like years, Namjoon pockets the device and clears his throat, turning to face Jimin. “Alright, Park Jimin. Let’s get started.”

 

It’s been nearly two hours since Namjoon started briefing him.

And yet, Jimin still doesn’t know who he’s supposed to be ‘taking down’ in Namjoon’s words. Namjoon is meticulous, overly so, to the point of being near-obsessive as he lays out ‘ground rules’, as he calls them.

“Don’t draw too much attention to yourself. You need to slowly get close to him. You can’t just show up and stir up trouble and expect him to welcome you with open arms. He’ll get suspicious.” Namjoon grabs the white paper cup sitting on the table in front of him and takes a large sip.

Jimin has to pry his eyes away from the coffee stain on the collar of Namjoon’s white dress shirt. “I got it.”

Another sigh. “Just be careful, be slow and cautious. Don’t be too loud, just keep your head down. You can’t go about it like that, not in this situation. You need to be really careful. We won’t get a second chance at this.”

“I’ll be careful, geez.” Jimin scoffs but then pauses. “Okay, I might show off…a little.” He admits with a smirk, referring to the race. “What? That’s just my style.” Isn’t he allowed to have a little bit of fun? It’s been a long time.

Namjoon doesn’t seem to find that amusing. His disappointment is apparent in the line of his brows. “Listen, if he catches even the slightest whiff of what’s really going on, it’s over. Not only in terms of the operation but your life will be in danger. And remember who you work for and who holds your life in his hands. I’m your get out of jail free card. You do as I say.”

Jimin gulps, sobering immediately. He is, still, technically in custody and Namjoon is not his friend, no matter how nice he appears. “Right. Of course.” He sits up straighter in his seat. “So, um, tell me more about this guy.”

Namjoon clears his throat, eyeing him for a beat longer before he continues. “Meet Jeon Jungkook.” He clicks the clicker to skip to the next slide. The picture is a candid shot, the said man is walking towards a 2002 Skyline, Black Pearl. Jimin knows there were less than a hundred of these cars made, in this particular colour, this specific trim. Importing this must’ve cost a small fortune.

He has to admit Jeon Jungkook has good taste in cars.

Jimin focuses back on his face. He is turned towards the camera but his eyes are focused elsewhere. He appears tall and well-built, with dark hair and almost innocent-looking, doe-like eyes. Handsome, if Jimin is honest with himself. He can’t be older than twenty-one. Twenty-two, maybe, that’s Jimin’s best guess. He doesn’t look like the hardened criminal Namjoon made him sound like at all.

“Uh…am I supposed to know who he is?” Jimin asks when Namjoon just stares at him expectantly.

“He controls almost all of Seoul now. As you might know, Seoul is now divided into territories, not officially of course, but different gangs control different parts of the city. No thanks to this guy.” He grabs a piece of paper out of the manila folder sitting on the table and slides it towards Jimin.

It’s a map of Seoul, divided into different colours for each gang, the biggest one being the red-coloured area, Jeon Jungkook’s territory, from what the map says. The second biggest area is blue-coloured but there’s no name associated with that part of the map.  

Jimin scowls, sliding the map back towards Namjoon, voice high and edging into annoyed before he can control it. “I’ve been in prison for the last two years as you might know.”

Namjoon sighs heavily. “Calm down. You need to control that temper of yours. Especially around him.” He points back to the picture of the man on the slide. “You can thank him for completely transforming Seoul, gangs everywhere, drugs being sold in every corner. We’ve even made busts for crystal, you know, methamphetamine. The pills would pop up here and there occasionally. But now? The crystal form is pretty commonplace. We believe there are labs, or small-time cooks taking place around Seoul. Not to mention all the heroin.” He shakes his head. “It’s total chaos out there.”

“People are cooking meth here?” He’s heard whispers of meth coming in from Thailand before he went inside but the crystal form was impossible to get a hold of. The heroin…he’s definitely heard of. He avoids eye contact with Namjoon as that thought crosses his mind.

“Yes.” Namjoon runs a weary hand through his hair. He’s standing in front of the projector and the harsh blue light that hits his face makes his dark circles even more prominent. He looks like he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in months.

Jimin looks back down at the map in front of them. “What about this blue-coloured area? Whose gang controls those parts?”

Namjoon’s jaw clenches and he looks off to the side. “That’s a whole another can of worms.”

“Doesn’t answer my question though.”

“We…don’t know.” Namjoon sighs. “Your concern is that red area and Jeon Jungkook.” He points towards the map. “Now, where were we, the drugs—”

“Don’t you have like, narks that deal with this crap?” Jimin sits up straighter. “I’m no cop, and I don’t do drugs, never have, believe it or not.”

Namjoon pinches the bridge of his nose. “Jeon Jungkook is a very careful man. He’s sniffed out all of the undercover cops we’ve sent, we had to pull them from the operation for their safety.” Namjoon trails off, looking off somewhere. He looks like he knows exactly what the problem is but won’t admit it to himself, let alone tell Jimin. Jimin hates to think like this but there’s probably a mole within the police force, someone supplying information to Jeon Jungkook from the inside. That is worrying, to say the least. No wonder Namjoon is paranoid. “And no one is talking, wants to talk nor do they even think about doing it. No one is willing to give him up. Not one person.”

“Not even one person…and man? He’s a kid! How the hell does he have so much power?” Even though Jimin says this, he can’t help but whisper it, looking around the empty conference room as if Jeon Jungkook is going to jump out of the shadows. This thing between them is very hush-hush. Namjoon informed him that besides Jimin and he, only two other people know about this; Namjoon’s supervisor, and another detective in their small task force. But, only Namjoon knows about who Jimin is. That’s what he’d said anyway. It’s a small comfort, knowing there are some precautions taken for his safety.

“He’s twenty-five, not a kid. Don’t underestimate him. We haven’t been able to put him next to the drugs, or the money. He’s very careful, even pays his taxes to the last won. Our primary concern at this point is to try and stop the flow of drugs, we need to pinpoint where the cooks are taking place, and how Jeon moves the product and the money around. The street racing is a-a secondary issue at this point. He is dangerous.”

“You want me to infiltrate his little gang? I’m not a cop!” Jimin feels like he’s said that a million times but once again, it falls on deaf ears. The more Namjoon talks about what Jimin has to do, the more reluctant Jimin finds himself becoming, regretful that he said yes immediately without even knowing what the operation would involve. He still can’t believe he’s agreed to work with a cop. Prison must’ve done something to his head for him to think like this. What was I even thinking?

Jimin already has a long list of regrets in life, he doesn’t want to add one more thing to the list.

But it’s too late to back out now.

Namjoon’s eyebrows knit together. “I already explained to you that we had undercover officers working the case, and they have all failed. Your ‘in’ is going to be through the street racing angle. Jeon Jungkook is a big fan of both racing and spectating.” He takes a loud sip from his coffee and gestures vaguely towards Jimin. “Besides, you’re as far from a cop as you can get. You’ll fit right in with his ‘little gang’ of gangsters and tweakers.”

“Dick.” Jimin mutters under his breath, even more self-conscious of the tattoos covering both his arms and the piercings adorning his ears.

“You fucking decide, Jimin. It’s either this or you’re going back to prison. And you can be damn well sure that I have more on you than just the races and the three stolen cars. I know about all of your stolen cars.” Namjoon looks at him with a hard gaze. “I’ll find enough charges on you to make sure you don’t see the outside again.”

Jimin’s eyes widen. “N-no. I’m not…it’s j-just—”

“Pay attention.”

Jimin hangs his head, looking down at the table. “Yes.”

Namjoon keeps his hard gaze on Jimin the whole time, as if he can read into Jimin’s soul and discover all his secrets. Namjoon might know about the stolen cars, but there’s no way he knows about Jimin’s other…illicit activities. No one important does and that thought is a source of comfort for the time being.

“…we think he might be the right hand man.” Namjoon clicks and the slide changes again. On the screen is a man who appears to be a couple of years older than Jeon Jungkook himself. He’s classically handsome, with broad shoulders and a slim waist, leaning against a wall outside of some building, a cigarette dangling between his lips. He looks more like he belongs in dramas or an idol group rather than a right-hand man to a drug kingpin. But who’s Jimin to judge? “Kim Seokjin.”

“Hmm…”

“He might be dangerous.” Namjoon gives him a meaningful look. “Don’t be deceived by his good looks. We, unfortunately don’t have much on him. All we know is that he’s very close to Jeon Jungkook. You listening to me?” His stare bores into Jimin’s face.

“I am listening, Detective.” Jimin rolls his eyes, resisting the urge to jump the short distance across the table and strangle the man.

Namjoon, thankfully, moves on. Showing him one more person from Jeon Jungkook’s ‘inner circle’. The next few pictures seem to be taken moments after Kim Seokjin’s, a shorter man with bleached blonde hair has joined him against the wall, lighting a cigarette, scowling at Kim Seokjin. ‘Min Yoongi’, Namjoon informs him. Are good looks a requirement to be in Jeon Jungkook’s inner circle? “None of our agents have been able to get anywhere near these people.”

“And you think that I can do this?”

Namjoon sharpens his gaze. “Do I think you can? I’m not sure. But that doesn’t matter. You’re my only shot at this right now.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Jimin mutters under his breath.

Namjoon ignores his comment. “Now, my CI just goes by V. I don’t know their name, what they look like, or anything about them, so don’t even bother asking. But V is getting you into the race. This race, you need to win, like I said. You absolutely have to win it. This race is the only time you’re allowed to ‘show off’. But your primary goal is to win.” He looks at Jimin meaningfully, his tone has the slightest tinge of desperation. “Jeon organizes these races only a couple times a year as a way to weed out talent.”

“Weed out talent?”

“Whoever wins this race gets invited to his ‘exclusive’ race. If you win that, you’ll get a chance to meet him most likely.”  

“Okay.” Jimin nods, jaw clenching with determination. With a shaky hand, he brings his own paper cup full of coffee to his lips, taking a sip, just to have something to do.  

Jimin thinks Namjoon’s gaze softens a little, but it has to be just his imagination. “You’ll be fine.” He seems to think for a moment before he trains his gaze back on Jimin, looking him up and down. If it wasn’t Kim Namjoon of all people, Jimin might’ve thought he’s checking him out. “I don’t think you’ll have any problems getting his attention.” He mumbles under his breath after a long pause.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Namjoon ignores the question. “Remember everything I’ve told you about him. Be cautious. Your first task is to meet up with V at the address I gave you. You need to be on time, not a second late.”

“Alright.” Jimin gulps, trying and failing to keep his nerves down to a minimum.

“Here’s a new phone. I know yours was taken away as evidence.” He takes a smartphone out of a box and slides it across the table towards Jimin, who pockets it. Namjoon then takes out a bunch of rolled up bills and slides it across the table. “This should be enough for a couple of weeks, until you get back on your feet. Now—”

“Hold on a second.” Jimin sits up straighter. “I’m kind of…homeless at the moment? You’re not just gonna…leave me like that, right?”

“V said they will help you with that.” Is all Namjoon offers.

“Um…o-okay.”

“Now, follow me to the lot. You need a car.” Namjoon gestures for him to follow.

Jimin can’t stop the excitement from bubbling up his chest at the mention of getting a car. Not only was his license suspended when he got arrested, but the police took his car too. Jimin worked his ass off for that car but it’s gone, along with everything he owned and his freedom. At least he’s out of prison, not completely free but it’s better than being locked up.

Jimin almost wants to try and convince Namjoon to give him back his car. But he doesn’t think he can listen to another lecture from him.

He follows Namjoon to an underground parking garage, to a silver Accent with rust caked on the fenders, groaning in protest when Namjoon sits down on the driver’s side. There are crumpled up fast food wrappers and coffee cups littered all around the interior. Jimin grimaces in disgust, keeping his head low as he follows him and sits down on the passenger side. Jimin can’t sit still with the knowledge that he’ll finally get to be behind the wheel again. It’s been too long.

Namjoon drives in silence. They arrive at another parking lot; couple blocks over from the police station. It’s dingy, poorly lit, unmarked, looking more like a place where your car would get stolen. There are no signs to suggest that this is an impound lot, or that it belongs to the police. Namjoon taps a key card to lift the barrier.

Jimin looks around, already paranoid with all he’s heard about this Jeon Jungkook character. What if the guy figures out Jimin is basically a snitch? Will Namjoon bother saving Jimin’s ass then? Will he also pull Jimin from the operation for his safety like he did for all those undercover cops? Or does Namjoon see him as expendable because he’s a criminal? I wonder what Jeon Jungkook does to snitches…

Don’t think about that. He tells himself, taking a deep breath. Think positively.

Namjoon steers the car towards the very end of the garage. Fluorescent lights flicker overhead. They come to a stop at a dark corner, in front of three cars.  

Namjoon steps out of his car and goes to throw off the cover of the car closest to them.

Jimin follows him out. “You’re joking, right?” He points to the ’99 Civic incredulously. The white paint makes the rust stand out, it’s even rustier than Namjoon’s, and looks like it’s about to fall apart at the slightest touch. It probably doesn’t even run. “Even I can’t salvage this piece of shit. They’ll laugh at me at the race.”  

Namjoon doesn’t argue with that, he can’t, with the state of it so obvious. He looks almost embarrassed as he walks over to pull the cover off of the one beside it. “Well?”

An orange Mustang GT, looking like it came straight out of the assembly line. The difference between the Civic and this one is striking. “Small dick energy.”

“You don’t have a lot of options here.” Namjoon mutters under his breath but pulls off the cover off the final car anyway. A silver 350Z, it’s older and looks tired, clearly not well looked after.

Jimin’s gaze travels from one car to the next. “There’s only one real option.” He steps closer to the 350Z, running a hand along the hood. Honestly, it doesn’t look like it’s in the best state, it looks as if it’s been sitting here for a while—worn-out tires, dust that’s collected on it and its general state, but it’s still a much better option than the other two.

“I’ll trust your judgment, they all run anyway. I don’t know much about…cars.” Namjoon admits with a grimace, as if the word ‘cars’ is a disease and he can’t bear to say it out loud. How he doesn’t know at least a little bit about cars when he’s after a racing enthusiast, Jimin doesn’t know.

“I can tell.” Jimin mutters under his breath. Namjoon doesn’t hear him. “It’s fine. If it runs like you say, this’ll work. But I will need to make modifications to it.”

“V will help you out with that too. Here are the keys.” Namjoon takes them out of the key ring and holds it out towards Jimin. “You sure this is the way to go?” He juts his chin towards the car.

“Yes.” Jimin smiles. “This Jeon guy is probably going to run a background on me at some point, I would, if I was in his shoes. He’ll find out I was in prison. For illegal street racing and stealing cars, no less. For someone like me, which one of these three cars make sense? Think about it.” Jimin pauses. “The Civic is…laughable. The Mustang is too ‘daddy bought it for me’, which leaves this one.” Jimin shrugs. “Unless you have other cars laying around.”

“I do not.” Namjoon finally nods, with no other comments. Honestly, for someone who’s trying to take down a gang leader slash drug lord, he doesn’t really have a lot of street knowledge. It’s kind of weird. Maybe that’s the real reason he’s been failing. “I’ll take care of the paperwork so that it’s on your name and make sure it looks legit.”

Jimin nods and grabs the keys from Namjoon and sits inside.

“Good. Stick shift.” He runs a hand along the gear shift. He looks up at Namjoon, who stares back blankly.

Jimin pops the hood from the inside and exits, leans over to look at the engine. He turns on the flashlight of his new phone to try and get a sense of what he’s dealing with here. He checks the hoses for cracks, they all look okay. He takes out the dipstick, wipes it on the side of his shirt and dips it back in to check the oil level. There isn’t much he can do here in a poorly lit garage without tools. He leans further in to try and get a better look and hears Namjoon cough from behind him. “Its going to need some work before I can race with this. Basic maintenance at the very least. If it runs like you said, it’ll get me to the meet with V.”

“Okay.”

Jimin looks back over his shoulder when he doesn’t hear anything else to see Namjoon straighten up and look away immediately, clearing his throat, as if he’s embarrassed. “You okay?”

“Huh?” Namjoon coughs again. “Y-yeah, but, uh, we need to get this car out of here.”

His change in demeanor has Jimin’s heart pounding with nerves. “O-okay.” Jimin gets back in behind the wheel, he leaves the car in neutral, presses down on the clutch and the brake pedal, turns the key. There’s a slight lag before the car roars to a start. The battery needs to be replaced most likely, not surprising since it looks like the car has been sitting here for a while. He rolls down the window when Namjoon taps on the glass. 

“Remember what we discussed. Don’t tell me anything about V, it will be dangerous for them. Don’t call me directly from your phone. If you absolutely must contact, you go to a phone booth, dial the number I gave you. Do not write the number down or save it anywhere but here.” He taps his own temple. “If I need to contact you, I will.”

Jimin nods, nerves filling every fibre of his body. So, this is happening. “Yes, we’ve been over this a thousand times.”

“Remember the weekly check-in—”

“Every Sunday, 2:30 p.m. I got it.”  Namjoon looks at him, as if searching Jimin’s face for something. He must be satisfied with whatever he finds because he nods, taps the hood with his palm one last time and steps away.

He watches as Namjoon gets in his car and makes a U-turn, before following him out. The brakes screech as Jimin presses down on the pedal, they don’t respond as well as they should either. New brakes. Jimin makes another mental note before he looks down at the piece of paper with the scribbled address, as well as the question he’s going to be asked by V to verify his identity—thankfully, he knows Seoul well enough to know where he’s supposed to go.

It feels so damn good to be driving again, but he almost stalls the car, which is embarrassing as a mechanic slash street racer but it’s like riding a bike, his body remembers exactly how to drive soon enough.

Jimin keeps the window down and the sunroof open, letting the wind hit his face, he almost closes his eyes to savour it but has to remember that he’s driving. It feels so good to finally be free. He decides to take a detour, because one look at the time tells him he has about two hours to go until he has to meet with this V.  

Somehow, he ends up at Han River. He parks the car and gets out. The sun is still fairly high up, shining down and making the water glitter prettily. It’s not Busan but it still feels nice. Jimin leans on the hood, closing his eyes and breathing in. It’s almost overwhelming. He never really cherished these quiet moments before, never stopped to appreciate what he had. Freedom.

Jimin knows it’s not really freedom, he’s bound by the deal he made with Namjoon but still, these moments where he can take a deep breath and close his eyes, without worrying about someone trying to kill him, moments where he can listen to the sounds of the river and children laughing in the distance, are something he will hold close to his heart from now on.

He opens his eyes again, an unexpected smile starting to pull at the corners of his mouth, he pushes it down forcibly and straightens up. He squints against the glimmering water, forcing his worries down.

“I’m going to need new clothes…” Jimin mumbles to himself, looking down at his basic outfit, his white t-shirt has a giant oil stain from earlier too. Whoever this V character is, they are hopefully at least somewhat helpful. Jimin has no roof over his head, he has no clothes other than the ones given to him by the correctional officer. He has no friends left nor does he have any family members who want anything to do with him. For the first time in his life, Jimin is truly alone. That’s what you get for being a criminal, Jimin.

Jimin makes his way down the trail by the riverfront, watching the water, an unknown ache pushing down on his chest and a lump forming in his throat. He tries his best to shake it off, eyeing the tent a little bit further down the trail. As he walks closer, delicious smells emanate towards him, filling his nose and making his stomach growl.

His mouth waters as he looks at all the delicious food steaming in front of him. Jimin gulps, taking the bills out of his pocket, he counts them slowly, carefully, again before making up his mind. “Ahjumma.”

He was originally planning on getting two things but before he can stop himself, he’s got chicken, odeng, mandu and a little bit of tteokbokki. He sits down on one of the plastic stools and starts eating. Way too fast.

Jimin can feel eyes on him. The fact that he’s a former inmate must be obvious. But it’s become habit. Eating too fast. He gulps it all down with water, even though he wants to drink soju badly. He hasn’t had alcohol in two years. He holds off. It would probably be bad form to show up to his meeting with V drunk, not to mention driving drunk, the last thing he needs is to get picked up again the day he got out of prison.

After he’s finished with his food, Jimin walks around the riverfront for a bit longer, basking in the sun. But, before he knows it, it’s nearing the time to meet up with V. He doesn’t want to be late so he reluctantly makes his way back to the car and back out onto the heavy city traffic.

The meeting place is a coffee shop.

For the first time since this morning, Jimin finds himself fitting right in with the tattooed hipsters sipping chai lattes, hands flying over the keys of their laptops. No one bats an eye at his tattoos. He orders a caramel macchiato, even though it’s way too expensive. He really has to stop splurging like this, otherwise he’s going to run out of money way too fast. Luckily for him, at least his car has a near-full tank. He counts the bills in his pocket for the millionth time since that morning. He doesn’t even take out the money Namjoon gave him, as he declares that his emergency fund.

Jimin takes the coffee and makes his way over to the lone empty table by the window. He has no idea who V is or what he (or she or they) looks like. He’s supposed to trust this person with everything when Jimin doesn’t have the slightest idea about whoever this person is.

He looks around the crowded café for anyone who could be V. Thankfully, he blends in well with the crowd, not looking out of place even in his post-prison getup.

Jimin takes a large gulp out of the sweet drink in his hands, looking around some more, only to make eye contact with a very handsome man across the café, who’s staring at him. The stranger smiles an interesting, rectangle-shaped smile, which makes him appear more attractive somehow. He looks like he could be a model or an actor.

Jimin tries to smile back, but his mouth doesn’t move. He focuses back on his drink. He’s not here to get laid anyway.

But he takes a peek again, curious, to see the man walking closer to him after grabbing a cup out of an almost star-struck looking barista’s hand.

“Hey, aren’t we in the same Art History class?” The man’s voice is deeper than Jimin was expecting, asking the exact question Namjoon said V would.

Jimin looks up at him. “Y-yes. I think so.”

“Park Jimin, right?”

Up close, he’s even more handsome, his smile friendly. Jimin shakes off those thoughts before standing up, holding out his hand for V to shake. He peeks around them to see a few people watching the exchange before returning to whatever they are doing.

“You are—”

“Kim Taehyung!” He shakes Jimin’s hand enthusiastically. V, no, Kim Taehyung, continues without missing a beat, smiling wide. “Just Taehyung is fine!”

“Okay…Taehyung-ssi. Nice to see you. Again.” Jimin manages to utter, taking a seat again, Kim Taehyung across from him now.

“You’re so polite. That’s surprising.” Taehyung says, still smiling, it drops slightly when Jimin can’t make his mouth form a smile back. “Aww, you can relax, I don’t bite. You know…we are the same age. Also, our mutual friend can be a little too much, a bit over the top, that one."

“R-right.” Jimin nods. That is true.

“So…I hear that you’re new in town.” Taehyung says vaguely but the look in his eyes suggests that he knows exactly where Jimin has been.

“Y-yes.” Jimin gulps, trying to go with the flow of the conversation.

“Don’t worry. I’m not judging.” Taehyung leans closer to Jimin with his hands on the table, voice low. “Let’s talk terms.”

“Terms? What terms?” Jimin finds himself blurting. “All Nam—our mutual friend has told me is that you are getting me into a race.”

“That’ll come later.” Taehyung waves his hand. “You don’t have a place to stay, or clothes, and you have a car you probably need to fix before you can race.”

Jimin nods, feeling strangely jittery.

“I have a spare room in my apartment, you can stay with me! I assume you know a thing or two about cars.”

“Yeah, I was a mechanic…before.” Going to prison. Jimin clears his throat.

“That’s good, yeah. You can help around in my body shop. Change oil, tires, stuff like that. I’ll help you get your car ready for the race, but you have to pull your weight and help me out too.”

Jimin nods immediately. “Of course.” This, he can handle. Giving something in exchange of receiving help. A simple transaction. Just like it was back in prison. He can do this.

“You’re in good hands, Park Jimin.” Taehyung smiles. “We will be best friends!”

Jimin tries his best to smile, he thinks he does okay. Taehyung is a strange one. Open and honest, but Jimin is a part of a world that values none of those things.

Just this morning, Jimin woke up in prison to a guard beating an inmate to near-death. The previous week, one of the inmates was cornered and stabbed forty-two times with a shiv during yard time for nothing. Another month, two of the gangs inside got into a disagreement, which ended with two people dead. Jimin knows the value of someone there to watch out for you. He learned that very quickly and took steps to ensure he was safe too. The outside is no different.

But Jimin has always been someone who listens to his own gut feeling. He looks at the way Taehyung smiles and takes a sip out of the cup in front of him, and he thinks he can trust this person.

He hopes so, desperately.

“So.” Taehyung’s voice pulls Jimin’s attention back to him. “If you’re done with your coffee, let’s go to the body shop. I’ll ride in your car.”

“O-okay.” Jimin finds himself stuttering for the nth time, feeling off-balance. He doesn’t remember how to talk to normal people anymore.

Taehyung follows him wordlessly, the car is not far, it’s parked a block over from the coffee shop, only place Jimin could find. They walk in silence. Taehyung sticks closer than Jimin is entirely comfortable with, friendly physical contact like this is something he had forgotten about. He has to work hard to push down the urge to flinch away.

“This is not bad. Not bad at all.” Taehyung comments as they reach Jimin’s car, running his hand along the top of the car. “I was thinking I would have to lend you my car as a last resort. This…much better than expected.”

“You should’ve seen the other two options.” Jimin gets in the driver side and waits until Taehyung is seated to continue. “A garbage Civic. ’99. And then he showed me a brand new Mustang. How in the world would an ex-con afford a Mustang right after getting out of prison?” He feels strangely at ease with Taehyung, despite having quite literally met him minutes ago. He finds the corners of his mouth turning up to form a smile, before he realizes what he’s doing.

When Taehyung doesn’t continue, Jimin looks over to the passenger side to find him staring. “What?”

“N-nothing. You’re good looking, that’s all.” Taehyung shrugs, looking away. “He doesn’t stand a chance.” Jimin thinks he says but it’s a mumble under his breath and it makes no sense, so he can’t be sure.

Jimin hasn’t heard a compliment like that in a long time. When his incarceration first began, disgusting, vile comments about his lips and ass were directed at him from practically everyone. It took some planning and luck but Jimin was able to convince the most-feared gang leader within the prison to take him under his wing. And maybe the guy who was the first to make a comment ended up being hospitalized because Jimin cornered him in the showers and beat him to a bloody pulp, face unrecognizable by the time the guards pried Jimin away from him. Jimin had smiled widely at the bystanders, before he started laughing hysterically, blood running down the side of his face, as the guy was stretchered out.

And when Lee Jong-su decided to extend his protection to Jimin, no one dared to utter a word, or even look at him after that.

But Taehyung seems sincere, almost embarrassed. Jimin clears his throat, feeling his cheeks start to burn. “T-thanks. You’re…you’re good looking too.” He finds himself blurting.

Taehyung laughs at that, but not unkindly. He fiddles with the radio and Jimin doesn’t have any music to play anyway so he lets Taehyung pick the music, forcing his smile down when he sees Taehyung sing along to the songs on the radio. He only pauses to give Jimin directions. While Jimin feels comfortable and at ease in his presence, he knows he needs to be cautious.

“Turn right, up ahead.” Taehyung points to the upcoming lights, pulling him back into the present moment.

Jimin nods in response, following his direction.

“Right up there.” Taehyung gestures to a huge auto body shop. The sign outside reads, Bulletproof Customs. “Go inside.”

Jimin does, he rolls to a stop, pulling the handbrake and turning off the engine.

“Welcome to Bulletproof Customs.” Taehyung announces, before taking off his seatbelt and climbing out of the car. Jimin follows.

It’s huge, not run-down like what Jimin was expecting, packed and buzzing with activity. It’s surprisingly clean and sterile, similar to the service department at a legit dealership. There are both regular everyday cars and heavily modified cars all around them, heavy bass thumping through the speakers before rapping follows. As Jimin follows Taehyung around, mechanics lift up their heads and greet Taehyung with, ‘hey, boss’, Jimin can feel the curious stares on him too, which he mostly ignores. Taehyung leads Jimin to an office off to the side, sticking close.

“My office is completely soundproof. We can talk in here.” Taehyung explains as he sits down behind the desk and gestures for Jimin to take a seat across from him on a surprisingly comfortable chair. Jimin looks around, the office is small but surprisingly modern and clean in appearance, almost every inch of wall space is covered with pictures of cars.

He focuses back on Taehyung. “You said I could stay with you…are you okay with a criminal staying at your apartment? Working at your body shop?” Jimin blurts out, before he can think it through. He might have to sleep in his car. What if Taehyung changes his mind? Not judging is not the same as accepting Jimin into his home—

To Jimin’s surprise, Taehyung laughs. “Who do you think works around here?” He juts his chin out towards where the cars and mechanics were. “Besides, I’ve done time myself.”

“Oh.”

“Like we briefly talked about, you can help me out around here, we always need extra hands. Business is booming.” Taehyung says, looking pleased. “But we also need to get your car ready for the race, which is in four weeks by the way.”

“Four weeks. Okay.” Jimin gulps. This is really happening then. “Good.”

Taehyung regards him for another moment. “Expect the competition to be tough. Only four people in total, including you. These racers are pretty damn good. Because I know Jungkook, I was able to get you the last spot.”

“I heard.” Jimin stops to think for a bit. “So how do you know…Jeon Jungkook?”

“He comes here from time to time. He likes restoring old cars and modifying the new ones he buys, so he brings them to me. He is very particular about his tastes.”

“Then why are you helping Nam—our mutual friend? Jeon Jungkook is your customer, no? Is he your friend?”

Surprisingly, Taehyung’s expression shuts down for the first time since their meeting. “He’s not my friend. And I have my reasons.”

Jimin nods after a long, uncomfortable silence, knows he can’t prod any further. He doesn’t want to step on Taehyung’s toes. He’s the only one Jimin’s got on his side right now. “So…my car. I wasn’t able to really look at it with our friend breathing down my neck.”

“Yeah, we need to get on that. You should probably get some new clothes first though. No offense, but they scream former inmate. Are you tired? You must be.” Taehyung continues to talk without waiting for Jimin to answer.

Jimin does feel tired, now that the nerves have dissipated a little, so much so that he could curl up on this chair and nap. He can’t stifle the yawn that escapes his mouth.  

“That answers that.” Taehyung continues, looking down at his watch. “Let me introduce you to my mechanics. You’ll be seeing them around a lot. After that, we can go out and get you some clothes and then I’ll take you to my place so you can get some rest.”

Jimin nods, standing up and following Taehyung out of the office.

The next several minutes are spent shaking hands and meeting the mechanics, Jimin finds that he’s so tired that he can barely keep his eyes open, let alone remember who’s who. Hopefully, they won’t mind when he asks them again when he starts working.

Taehyung steers him to a different car than his own. “Let me drive, leave your car here. You look like you’re about to fall asleep standing up.”

Jimin can only nod, taking a seat on the passenger side of Taehyung’s black BMW. The leather interior is immaculate and it smells new, windows heavily tinted. He must be making mad bank with this body shop.

Jimin doesn’t even notice that he’s nodding off. He must’ve fallen asleep because he’s startled when he hears Taehyung’s voice, low, just barely above a whisper. “Hey, we’re here.”

When Jimin opens his eyes, he sees Taehyung looking at him expectantly. Jimin tries his best to rub the sleepiness in his eyes away, taking off his seat belt and following Taehyung out into an underground car park. They walk for a little bit until they get to an elevator and Taehyung presses the button for the twenty-first floor.

“Weren’t we going to get clothes?” Jimin mumbles, trying hard not to sound too sleepy.

“You knocked out pretty hard, didn’t wanna wake you up. Prison takes a lot out of you.”

Jimin can’t argue with that. “Thanks.”

They get out of the elevator and Jimin follows Taehyung wordlessly. He should be wary, he should be cautious, he’s staying over at a stranger’s place, after all. But Taehyung is on his side, he’s helping. So, that has to mean something. It has to. Jimin has no one but Taehyung, a stranger that he has to trust.

Even if he really wanted to, it would be near impossible to get an apartment for himself, get his car ready for the race and worry about Jeon Jungkook. He’s been in prison for nearly two years, he has no job, and he was evicted from his last place. He could try going through the shady route but, he thinks back to the money Namjoon gave him, and he knows it won’t be enough.

And if he’s being completely honest with himself, Jimin doesn’t want to be alone.

Taehyung keys in the passcode and opens the door and Jimin follows him inside, thoughts interrupted.

“Nice place.” Jimin looks around. It really is nice. Spacious, open concept with a great view of the Han River. Taehyung is clearly well-off. Business must really be booming, just like he said. Suddenly, the shady route to getting an apartment for himself sounds a lot less appealing.

“Thank you.”

Jimin looks down at his clothes. He does not belong here and that’s clear as day. Taehyung must pity him, that’s the only explanation Jimin can think of as to why he would let Jimin stay with him. Jimin doesn’t dare touch anything in case he dirties it with his hands.

“Hey, relax.”

“I am relaxed.” Jimin lies. “Are you sure it’s okay for me to stay with you? I can just rent a motel room with the money Namjoon gave me.” That is true, but that money can only last for so long.

“I said it’s okay, didn’t I?”

“Did he ask you to babysit?” Jimin finds himself asking, before he can shove the words down.

Taehyung sighs, exasperation seeping into his voice. “No, he didn’t. He didn’t ask me to do anything, I volunteered. Besides, he doesn’t know anything about me. Hell, he doesn’t even know my name. Let alone where I live. And I’d like to keep it that way.” He says, shooting a meaningful look at Jimin.

“Then why are you helping?”

Taehyung scratches the back of his head, looking almost embarrassed but not quite, Jimin can’t put a finger on the exact expression. “I didn’t have anyone when I got out of prison. I slept on the streets for three months before I could find a place to stay, and even then, it was a total shithole. That’s what I thought of when I saw you. I don’t want you to go through what I went through.”

That’s actually sweet, but very naïve. Jimin shakes his head. Taehyung needs to be careful. “I stole, I sold drugs, I did shitty things. I’m a shit human being. Why would you care if I don’t have a place to stay? I deserve that.” Jimin’s voice gets higher with each word, almost yelling by the end.

Taehyung walks closer, Jimin hates that he’s bigger and broader. He clenches his jaw, wishing he was taller, not for the first time. Taehyung is too close. When he replies, his voice is quiet. “What do you think I did, Park Jimin? You think I was innocent when I went inside?”

That shuts Jimin up.

“I don’t know why you did the things you did but I think you deserve to have a shot at making it on the outside. I’m trying to help you with that. Of course, I have my own reasons for agreeing to this whole thing too.”

Jimin is thankful, really. But he doesn’t know how to vocalize that, or if he should at all. He can only nod, unable to look Kim Taehyung in the eyes, unable to ask him his reasons for helping either.

Taehyung takes him around the apartment, it’s even more spacious than it appeared at first. The spare bedroom is a pretty big, there’s a queen-sized bed that Jimin wants to jump onto. While Taehyung reassures him that he can just treat this like his own home, Jimin feels like an intruder. Taehyung even lends him some of his clothes.

“Oh, and there’s a bathroom attached.” Taehyung juts his chin towards the door in the spare bedroom. His smile is a mix of sympathetic and knowing.

Jimin is so thankful to him that he can’t even describe it. He has a lump in his throat that he tries his best to gulp down and ignore.  

Showering in prison is one of the most stressful experiences anyone can go through. Taehyung knows that too. It’s something someone who’s never been to prison wouldn’t think twice about, but the thought of having a bathroom all to himself makes him want to jump around and kiss Taehyung in gratitude.

“I d-don’t…” Jimin clears his throat. “I don’t know how…” To thank you. He wants to say but Jimin can’t bring himself to say it out loud. He coughs to clear his throat, embarrassed at how weak he must seem to Kim Taehyung. How weak he must look with these displays of emotion.

Thankfully, Taehyung doesn’t laugh or make fun of him for it. “We talked about it, remember? You’ll help me out too. You start tomorrow.”

Jimin hangs onto that for dear life. He nods furiously.

Taehyung raises his hand like he wants to touch Jimin’s shoulder but Jimin flinches on instinct, before he can push the knee-jerk reaction down. Taehyung drops his hand immediately, looking embarrassed. “I’m sorry, I forgot for a second.”

“It’s okay.” Jimin sighs. “I’ll…it’s going to take me a bit to um, get used to…”

Taehyung nods in understanding and tells him he’ll be right down the hall if Jimin needs anything and to help himself to anything in the fridge he likes. He closes the bedroom door quietly behind him.

Jimin is alone.

He goes over to the window, pulls the curtains back a little. Oh wow. Even in the dark, there’s an awesome view from this room too. He looks back over to the bed, it looks beyond inviting. But…

He wants to shower in peace. He wants to take his time and let the hot water uncoil his muscles. In prison, showers were never hot, if he was lucky, they’d be lukewarm, if it was a bad day, then his teeth would be chattering within five minutes, which is all the time he had to shower anyway. Not to mention the fact that he had to look over his shoulder the entire time.

The bathroom is clean, clearly unused, but there is shampoo and shower gel, even conditioner. Did Kim Taehyung get this bathroom ready?

The more Jimin thinks about Taehyung, the more questions he has in his head about him. What could Kim Taehyung possibly gain from providing Jimin with all this luxury? He must want something in return. A favour, maybe. Taehyung was (or still is) a criminal too. But he’s hard to read. Understatement.

Jimin feels paranoid suddenly. He walks back out of the bathroom quickly, before going over to the bedroom door, there’s a lock, but Taehyung could probably open it if he really wanted to. Jimin looks around the room for a possible weapon.

There’s nothing. The best thing he can find is a pen. He goes back to the bathroom, looking around but there’s only a toothbrush, which would take a while to carve into a shiv. So, he has no weapons to defend himself if it comes to that point. But he has his hands.

That’ll have to do for now.

He looks down at the phone Namjoon gave him. Jimin can bet all the money he has that Namjoon is tracking the GPS on this thing. He’s probably watching Jimin’s every move, in case Jimin tries to run. Maybe even for his safety. Jimin laughs to himself at that stupid thought. Sure, a cop is worried about a criminal’s safety.

He finally convinces himself to take a shower, while both the bedroom and the bathroom doors are locked. After a while, the wariness wears off, and he finds himself relaxing under the hot spray. He closes his eyes, savouring the way water hits his sore muscles. It’s been so long since he had a hot shower, he can’t bring himself to get out for a long time.

When he finally does, he feels ready to fall asleep, skin pruny. He dresses in Taehyung’s clothes quickly, which feels really weird. Not only are they too big on him—which makes him angry because of how small he feels all of a sudden—but also, the t-shirt that Taehyung gave him is Gucci, as Jimin finds out from the label. Fucking Gucci, given away just like that.

He really is well off. Jimin had noticed the Rolex around his wrist too. And he owns Bulletproof Customs, the BMW, this huge apartment with gorgeous views of the Han River. How is a twenty-seven year old ex-convict this rich? Kim Taehyung even said he slept on the streets for a while…yet here he is. How is it possible? Maybe his business is a front…

So many questions. But, Jimin is so tired and the bed is so comfortable that he finds his eyes drooping, he tries to keep himself awake for a long time, but it’s a losing battle. The bed feels like lying down on a cloud.

He falls asleep, clutching the pen under his pillow tightly. And for the first time in a long time, he sleeps without nightmares haunting him. A peaceful blank.

Next morning, Taehyung makes breakfast. Or rather…attempts to. He burns the toast, and the eggs are downright inedible when he piles them onto Jimin’s plate. He smiles widely, clearly proud of what he’s cooked. Jimin tries to gulp down as much as he can, thankful for the thought.

“How do you feel about going blonde?” Taehyung asks suddenly.

When Jimin looks up from his eggs, Taehyung is staring at him. “B-blonde? No.”

“You’d look good.”

“Of course I would.” Jimin gulps down some more eggs, working hard not to show how awful they taste. “I’d rather keep it black.” The blonde hair a bit of a jinx. The last time he went blonde, he got arrested and sent to jail the day after he dyed his hair. Perhaps it’s a weird superstition but he’d rather not take the risk. It feels stupid to say out loud, so he keeps his mouth shut.  

“That’s fine!” Taehyung chirps. He looks cute in his silk PJs and cat-shaped headband. But looks are deceiving. Not for the first time since yesterday, Jimin wonders why Taehyung went to prison. “But damn, you need a haircut at least, and a proper shave. No offense.” He tacks on immediately.

“None taken.” Jimin mumbles. He knows his hair is too long and he looks downright messy. Taehyung continues to fill the silences as they finish up their breakfast. Jimin offers to do the dishes when Taehyung excuses himself to go get dressed in his room.

Jimin has to find out what Taehyung wants, sooner rather than later, before it’s too late. Before he has no choice but to do whatever Taehyung wants him to do when the time comes.

Taehyung drives them to a nearby mall. Jimin is wide awake now, and well-rested for the first time in a long time. He looks around him, observing the affluent neighbourhood more closely as Taehyung drives, chattering the entire way. He seems to be really taking the whole makeover thing seriously.

Jimin lets Taehyung and the hair stylist discuss his hair. He doesn’t care either way, and he doesn’t have the energy or the desire to argue, so he nods his agreement when he’s asked questions and lets the stylist do as she pleases. He’s not sure how a new hairstyle and a shave will be helpful in this quest to win the race and get close to Jeon Jungkook.

When the hairstylist finally puts the scissors down, tugging his hair this way and that, Jimin looks up to see his own reflection for the first time since getting out.

He’d avoided his own reflection, afraid of what he’d see, of what prison had done to him.

Jimin looks exactly the same, and not at all. He doesn’t know what he’d expected. His hair is much shorter now, and the hairstylist also gave him an undercut and he’s clean shaven. His eyes have a hardened edge to them and with his tattoos too, he must scream criminal.  

“11/10.” Taehyung’s voice pulls him out of those thoughts. He looks appreciative.

Jimin tries to smile, he does, but it’s a challenge. He’s forgotten how to, because any display of emotion was a sign of weakness. It still is.

“Do I really need a makeover?” Jimin asks, following Taehyung from store to store in the large mall, genuinely curious. He was thinking he could just buy whatever but Taehyung seems like he’s really thinking hard about this. Jimin doesn’t think he looks that bad, considering he just got sprung yesterday.   

“Well, you don’t have any clothes, do you? This is a great opportunity. To reinvent yourself and to stand out in a good way.” Taehyung says, and it comes out sounding sincere, not snide at all.

“Isn’t it better to keep my head down? I don’t want to have the wrong kind of attention on me. Shouldn’t I try to…blend in?” Jimin asks, that’s what Namjoon said to do, wasn’t it? Although, Jimin isn’t really sure that Namjoon knows best, considering all his failures thus far.

“You? No.” Taehyung pauses.  

Jimin waits for him to continue but he doesn’t. “Why not?”

“It won’t work.” Taehyung shakes his head. “You don’t know him, but I do. You’ll never blend in—”

Jimin whips his head to stare at him. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Taehyung looks at him seriously for a long moment, as if to see whether or not Jimin is joking. “Well…you’re hot. Even post-prison.” He says immediately, expecting arguments from Jimin.

“Oh, I…” Jimin looks down, not expecting him to be so honest. He tries to push down the stupid blush on his face.

“You stand out. So, this is a better way to go about it. Trust me.”

Trust you? Jimin wants to ask, but he bites his tongue. Taehyung is too invested, and not just financially. But…why?

After couple of hours of being dragged around the mall to so many stores that Jimin loses count, Taehyung declares the makeover time over, nodding in approval at Jimin’s new getup. What Taehyung paid is way too expensive for what Jimin is currently wearing. A plaid shirt with a simple black t-shirt and black jeans that are way too tight. He can feel stares on him the whole way to the car.

Jimin even catches Taehyung staring at his ass and thighs as they are walking back to his car too but Taehyung merely looks away. Jimin thinks he sees his cheeks turn a bit pink but that must just be his imagination. 

“You look good.” Taehyung reassures, must’ve seen the look on Jimin’s face. “I’m not just saying that. I mean it.”

Jimin turns to the backseat to look at all the bags of clothes. “You spent an awful lot of money on me. Why?”

“I’m betting on you.”

“What?”

Taehyung takes his eyes off the road to stare at him, all friendliness and cheer has left his face. Gaze hard. “You’re going to win the race. I’m betting on that.”

“But what about the clothes, what does that have to do with the race? And why are you betting on me anyway?” Jimin asks, words leaving him in a rush.

“I have my reasons.”

“What are those?” He prods again.

“I will tell you when it’s a good time.” Taehyung’s voice leaves zero room for arguments. It’s beyond frustrating to not have answers and have to depend on someone else. Maybe after the race, depending on how much money is at stake, Jimin can pay Kim Taehyung back and find a place of his own.

It’s quiet the rest of the way.

“Let’s take a look at that car of yours.” Taehyung says after finally arriving at Bulletproof Customs. It’s packed even more so than yesterday and buzzing with activity. “One thing I forgot to mention…”

“Yeah, what’s that?”

“You’ll stand out in this race. Most of the racers drive exotics.” Taehyung explains. “You know, Mercedes, stuff like that. There could even be a Lamborghini, but I don’t have any info on the racers at the moment, so I can’t say for sure.”

“That’s a…good thing. Standing out in the race.” Jimin pauses to think for a second. What do you gain from this? He looks at Taehyung carefully, who’s got the hood open and taking a look at the engine. “I think.” He adds with a mumble. He’s not sure of anything anymore. Namjoon did say the only time Jimin is allowed to show off is this race, but he has to be careful and keep his head down if and when he starts dealing with Jeon Jungkook.

“It is a good thing, if you’re a good driver.”

“I am.” Jimin replies, it sounds way more confident than he actually feels. He hasn’t driven properly for close to two years now.

“When I’m done with this car, you’ll be able to keep up with the others. Let me take a good look at this.” Taehyung taps the hood. “In the meantime, you go over to Amber-noona, she’ll tell you what to do.”

Jimin must look confused because Taehyung juts his chin towards whom Jimin now remembers to be Amber, a short-haired noona from yesterday, introduced as one of the mechanics.

At her instructions, Jimin changes the oil of a car, and then its tires, does an alignment too. Amber is friendly and quite chatty as they work, so Jimin finds himself talking easily and starting to open up before he’s able to control himself.  

The next three weeks are spent in similar fashion at Bulletproof Customs. Jimin is surprised at how welcoming and nonjudgmental all the mechanics are, which probably shouldn’t be surprising, considering the fact that Taehyung said that a lot of the mechanics here are ex-cons, like Jimin and himself.

Taehyung seems to think that Jimin is his new best friend, that’s how he acts anyway. He’s even started referring to Jimin affectionately as ‘Jiminie’. Taehyung seems open but not at the same time, it’s really confusing and frustrating—not knowing anything. He doesn’t even know where to start gathering information.

Jimin is also filled with nervous energy, expecting Jeon Jungkook to pop up at the shop at any given moment, since Taehyung said he was a customer of his. What if he comes in here and sees Jimin? Will he be suspicious right away?

Namjoon’s weekly check-ins go without too much hassle, at the very least. He’s been asking the same questions, ‘is the car ready yet’ and ‘were you able to learn anything about Jeon Jungkook’ even though he’s told Namjoon that he hasn’t even met the man yet. ‘Are you going to be able to win the race?’ He asks every check-in too, sounding more and more desperate each time.

“Jiminie.”

“Yeah?”

“Come here, check this out.”

Jimin nods, before following Taehyung over to his 350z, which has only left the shop for test drives since he pulled up in here with Taehyung.

Taehyung stops. “So, let me get you up to speed.” 

“Okay.”

“New coilovers.” Taehyung kneels down beside one of the tires. “Upgraded the brakes, installed new tires.” He stands up again, opens the driver’s side door.

“Yeah, those were good when we took it out for a test drive.”

“Right, I stripped the interior and installed a roll bar.” Jimin can see it when he leans in to look. “New battery, did a maintenance. New Sparco seats, on the house. You’ll be able to wear harnesses with these bad boys.” Taehyung grins, gesturing towards the new bright red seats ready to be installed, still in their protective wrappers.

Jimin bites his lip. Those seats aren’t cheap, he knows. None of these upgrades are cheap by any means. “Taehyung-ssi…everything has been on the house. I don’t understand, I have some money—”

“I told you a million times to call me Tae. And we discussed this already, at length, Jiminie.” Taehyung’s voice is not exactly harsh but it has the slightest hard edge, not leaving room for arguments. “You’re paying me with your labour.” He wipes his hands on an already dirty rag. He has really long and almost delicate-looking fingers. Jimin doesn’t know why he notices it.

Protesting feels like he’s being ungrateful to Taehyung so he finally nods, thinking of ways to pay him back. It’s not good to owe anyone anything, especially in Jimin’s current position.

“We don’t have time to really tinker too much with the engine, so I’m banking on your driving skills on top of the modifications I’ve made already.”

“I won’t let you down.”

“Good. Now, I want to replace the factory headers and the exhaust. I drained the radiator already but as you know this takes a long time and I need your help.” 

“Of course.”

And they get to work. It takes nearly eleven hours to complete with their combined effort. Taehyung is quite chatty; he fills the awkward silences that Jimin inevitably creates. He’s still not used to life on the outside and he’s constantly telling himself to be wary—of what Taehyung wants, why he’s helping in the first place. But slowly, Taehyung is starting to chip away at the walls Jimin has put up.  

Jimin is powerless to do anything but let it happen.  

 

There are two days left until the race.

Jimin hasn’t seen Jeon Jungkook at all. Taehyung had shown him that Jeon Jungkook is actually in some of the pictures hanging on his office walls, which Jimin hadn’t noticed when he first came in. From the pictures, Jeon Jungkook doesn’t look like a criminal at all. He’s even smiling in some of them and his smile looks…innocent. Looks are deceiving. He reminds himself. He never showed up here either, despite what Jimin had been dreading and fearing.

Jimin is now preoccupied with the fact that he has to win this race, or all of this is over before it has even begun. Do I go back to prison right after? He thinks to himself, worrying at his lip. Even though that thought is illogical. Namjoon will probably have to think of another way for Jimin to get closer to Jeon Jungkook. If he keeps working here, maybe Jeon Jungkook will eventually show, and he might even get to work on one of his cars then—

“Yah. Wake up.” Taehyung’s voice sounds from somewhere off to the side.

“I am awake.” Jimin scowls, even though Taehyung can’t see it.

Taehyung slowly rolls him out from under the car with his foot. He extends a hand out for Jimin to take and pulls him up. His hand practically disappears in Taehyung’s. “You ready to see the final version of your car?”

“I saw it yesterday.”

“You didn’t see what Hye-jin did to it though.”

“Oh?” Jimin raises an eyebrow in curiosity, following him towards where his car has been parked, it’s covered with a sheet this time. “Why is it covered?”

Taehyung smirks before pulling it off with a flourish. Dramatic. “Tada!”

Jimin is ready to tease him for being so but his mouth drops open at the sight of his car. His car. Looks like that. It’s night and day from when he first laid hands on the tired, silver 350z.

“She painted it?” Jimin smiles, running his hand on the new dark blue, metallic paint, shining under the lights of the shop. And on the sides, there are simple black and white tribal designs, perfect, somehow exactly Jimin’s taste—not too loud or obnoxious but more than enough for people do a double take. “It’s blue, my favourite colour too, how did you know?”

Taehyung grins. “I take it that you like it?”

“It’s perfect.”

 

The night before the race, Jimin insists on ordering a feast for the both of them, back in Taehyung’s apartment, who brings out soju and beer to accompany the food. It’s way too much food and alcohol for just two people but Jimin feels indebted to Taehyung and this isn’t enough but it’ll have to do for now. Until he can earn some serious cash.  

“Did you miss alcohol?” Taehyung asks as he pours soju in a shot glass, before holding it out for Jimin to take.

“Yeah, I did actually. Thanks.” Jimin accepts the offered drink, their hands brush briefly. He downs it in one go, his throat burning. He puts the shot glass back on the table and heaves a satisfied sigh. He licks his lips, savouring the slightly bitter taste.  

Taehyung’s eyes drop to his lips, before looking back up. “You know what I missed the most in prison? There’s this tiny restaurant couple streets over from Bulletproof, they make a mean pork and rice soup. I missed that. I had it everyday for a month when I got some money after I got out. The novelty wore off though.” He gulps down some beer, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down, a droplet on his lips. “What about you?”

Jimin chuckles a little, pouring another shot for himself as he thinks. He plays with the glass in his hand. “I don’t know, just…safety? Kept having to look over my shoulder the entire time.”

“That’s true. How did you survive in prison anyway?”

“I did what I had to do.” Jimin pours some more soju for himself, before downing that too. He knows what Taehyung really means but he doesn’t feel comfortable verbalizing it. He was lucky enough to gain the protection of the most feared gang leader, which protected him, yes, but he still had to look out for himself.

“Did you…kill someone?” Taehyung eyes him, playing with his glass. He has really long fingers.

“I didn’t have to. I worked it all out, played my cards right.” Jimin skirts around it vaguely. It’s not something he’s proud of or wants to remember but he did what he had to do to survive in there.

“Huh.” Taehyung looks at him for a very long moment. Jimin has a hard time reading him as usual.

“What about you, Kim Taehyung?” Jimin questions him. Taehyung doesn’t talk about himself often, he’s still largely a mystery.

Jimin has tried talking to the mechanics but they have nothing but positive things to say about Kim Taehyung. He didn’t want to prod too much either—in case the word got back to him and he got suspicious of Jimin.

He’s completely alone, all his old friends abandoned him. Maybe…

No. No way. He’s not going to contact anyone from his old cell block. He doesn’t want to be tangled in all of that. It’s too risky and dangerous. If anyone finds out he’s basically a snitch, his life is over…or worse. But he knows one thing, from spending time and living with Taehyung—it won’t be in his favour either. There’s something at stake for Taehyung in this whole thing, and it’s keeping Jimin safe for the time being. Taehyung needs Jimin to succeed, for whatever reason.

“I did what I had to do, just like you.” Taehyung replies, eyes far away. “But let’s not get bogged down by all this prison talk. Especially before such an important event.” He smiles, it’s one of his genuine ones. Jimin noticed the forced ones too, when he was talking to some of his clients.

“You have a nice smile.” Jimin murmurs, briefly getting distracted by his lips, before looking up to catch Taehyung staring at his own. It’s been too long since he’s had sex, he feels bold from the tang of soju on his tongue and well, Taehyung is a very attractive man.

“I…I’m sor—” Jimin panics a little, expecting Taehyung to hit him or laugh in his face for the comment.

They are sitting too close already and Jimin sees Taehyung gulp. And to Jimin’s surprise, Taehyung starts leaning in even closer.

“You don’t…you don’t realize the effect you have on people, do you?” He catches Taehyung staring at his lips again, as if he can’t look away. The tension between them skyrockets but Jimin is not about to make the first move, not since Taehyung is his only close friend and the only person on his side right now.

They share a few heavy breaths like that, until Taehyung reaches out his hand out to hold him by his jaw, pulling him closer. This time, Jimin doesn’t flinch, in fact, he welcomes the physical contact. He didn’t realize how much he missed being touched tenderly like this, instead of being punched and hit or pushed away.

“This isn’t a good idea.” Jimin manages to utter, too focused on Taehyung’s lips. Although he wants to just say ‘fuck it’ and kiss Taehyung, it really is not a good idea.

Taehyung sighs, his thumb brushes against Jimin’s bottom lip, and he closes his eyes at the contact. “You’re r-right.” He sighs again but doesn’t move away.

Jimin makes himself pull away. He doesn’t move very far though, can’t bring himself to. Their thighs touch now under the table and Taehyung’s hand wanders a bit too far up his thigh to be entirely friendly but it feels really good to be touched so Jimin allows it. He busies himself with pouring some beer for Taehyung and soju for himself, just to distract himself and not do anything stupid.

When Jimin goes to sleep in the spare room that night, he has to forcibly push down these thoughts. He can’t get distracted from his goal. Too much is at stake.

Taehyung rides with him on the way to the race the following evening, why, Jimin isn’t exactly sure. Maybe he’s afraid Jimin will run and abandon the race.

“So info on the racers—”  

“Isn’t it a bit late for that?” Jimin asks, as they get closer and closer to where the starting line is supposed to be.

“I…have none.” He admits sheepishly. “Sorry, it was kept a secret to make it more fun or something, not really sure.”  

“Great, that’s just great.” Jimin looks far ahead to see a crowd gathered, maybe a kilometre down the road. “What the—”

“Oh yeah, this is a huge deal.” Taehyung nods when he sees the crowd. “There will be thousands of people watching.”

“How can they watch? It’s a race.” Jimin’s eyebrows pull together. The last race he was in was considered to be fairly ‘big’. It was at a car meet, a short drag race. There were maybe twenty cars there, tops. Anything bigger and the cops would be all over it and the race would never happen. That’s how Seoul was when Jimin got arrested anyway.

“Oh, Jiminie.” His tone is almost fond. “You’ve never been to a race organized by Jeon Jungkook.”

“Of course I haven’t.” He scowls. “I hadn't even heard of the man until four weeks ago.”

“He is a big deal in Seoul, I thought you knew that. What he wants, he gets.” Taehyung juts his chin out the windshield, towards where the crowd has gathered. “They close down most of the roads. Drones and a chopper will follow the racers through the course, and it’s broadcast live for the spectators. People will also be watching from the sidelines.”  

“What?!” Jimin can’t help but whisper the word. This…he’s never been in a race like this. “That’s insane. What about the cops? How can they broadcast it live and get away with it?”

“That’s what makes it fun, that’s what I’ve heard Jungkook say. It’s too big of an event to be able to shut down before it’s over. Jeon Jungkook can do whatever he wants. He has a lot of power in this city. This is play time for him and no one gets in the way of what Jeon Jungkook wants.”

The crowd parts to let them through and since both their windows are down, Jimin can hear all the wolf whistles and comments about his car (and himself). He tries to ignore it all.

“Yo, this is the last one!” Jimin hears a shout, which makes him grip the steering wheel harder. This is it.

“Holy shit, you see that 350z?”  

“Make way, make way!”

As they crawl towards the start line, four motorcycles zoom away, all of them doing wheelies. Trunks of heavily modified cars are open all around them, lit up with neon lights, blasting music from huge speakers. It’s loud—not just from the music but also the noise from the sheer number of people who have gathered.

“Nice ride, man!”

Jimin nods at the guy in reply and promptly turns to Taehyung to hiss at him. “Why didn’t you tell me how big this race was?”

“I didn’t want you to panic. You need to focus.”

“Focus, my ass! Kim Taehyung—”

“Stop the car. We’re here.” Taehyung points at the start line in front of them. As soon as Jimin stops, he gets out.

Jimin follows him out. He hasn’t been this nervous in a long time. He takes a look at the other three cars lined up beside his own. Shit. A Porsche 911Carrera, heavily modified, at least on the outside. A white AMG E 53, and a red Soul, it looks inconspicuous but it’s a total wildcard. It’s probably a sleeper.

“Where did you get that car? At the junkyard?” The guy sitting on the hood of the yellow Porsche laughs at his own ‘joke’, the girls around each of his arms giggle in response, as if on cue. Both his hands slide down to grope their asses.

Jimin rolls his eyes. “Daddy didn’t buy it for me, unlike you.” He juts his chin towards the car, the laughter dies down. “Look at you. Expensive car. Big rims, big spoiler, useless body kit…seems like you’re overcompensating for something.” Jimin looks down at the guy’s crotch. Oohs and ahs sound from all around them.  

“You’re gonna regret that, you piece of shit! Do you know how much horsepower I have under this hood? It’s more than you’ll ever see in your life!” The girls detangle themselves from around the guy now, stepping back slowly at his outburst.

“Let your driving do the talking.” Jimin pauses. “Or don’t.”

“You bastard!” The guy tries to take a step towards where Jimin is standing but he’s interrupted by someone.

“Enough! Are you two racing or what?” A short-haired woman yells, her hands on her hips, leaning on one of her legs, as she stands on the start line that has been spray painted on the asphalt.

“I am. Don’t know about this guy here.” Jimin shrugs.

“You’re gonna wish you never showed up today!” The small dick dude yells, ushering the girls away from his car. The woman rolls her eyes at him in response, before going over to the Soul to talk to the driver, presumably.

Jimin looks up when he hears a helicopter over head. Holy fucking shit. A helicopter. This race gets more and more surreal by the minute.

“Oh, that’s Minji-noona. Interesting.” Taehyung comments and pulls Jimin’s attention to himself.

Jimin is about to ask him who that is and why that’s interesting, when he catches sight of it.

Skyline. Black pearl.

It’s right off the start line, with a perfect view of all the racers.

Jimin feels his blood freeze. It’s dark out and the windows of the car are tinted.

Jimin bites his lip, looks down, trying to calm himself. He has to focus on the race, he has to win this. He looks back over to his competition, trying to gauge how good they are, but it’s pretty much useless. He can’t bring himself to look at Jeon Jungkook, to verify whether or not it’s really him.

But it’s the same Skyline. From the picture Namjoon showed him.

Jimin breathes in and out. He looks back over to the Skyline before he can convince himself otherwise.

Jeon Jungkook. That’s him. He’s looking over at Jimin—

“Hey.”

Taehyung.

“Yeah?”

“Have I told you that confident you is even hotter?” Taehyung smirks. “Telling that guy off?”

“Thanks.” Jimin mumbles, distracted. Jeon Jungkook is right there. Did he hear? Is he listening right now? Does he know Jimin is out to get him?

“Calm down.” Taehyung says, smirk dropping, voice low, only for Jimin to hear.

“I am calm.” Jimin looks down. Surprisingly, Taehyung holds his face in his hands and makes him look up.  

“No, you’re not. I can see the anxiety in your eyes.”

“Don’t look then.” Jimin bites back.

“Jimin. Come on.” Taehyung sighs when Jimin refuses to make eye contact with him. He grips a bit tighter. “You can do this.”

“This is fucking crazy, Tae.” Jimin murmurs lowly, his expression doesn’t betray anything, he knows. “I’m gonna have to pull something out of my ass. There’s no way I can win—”

“Stop it. It’s not a drag race. That car means nothing if he’s not a good driver. Plus, there’s going to be a ‘surprise’ during the race. I just don’t know what it is.”

A surprise too? That’s just fucking great. “You do know who’s watching, right?”

“Pull yourself together, Park Jimin.” Jimin tries his best to do so. Taehyung waits for a long moment.

Jimin finally nods and Taehyung takes a step back to let him into the car. Jimin grips the steering wheel, hard, gulping down the nerves. This is familiar. How things used to be before he got arrested.

Taehyung leans down to talk to him. “You can do it.” He looks like he really means it, like he fully believes in Jimin.

Jimin looks up at him, and nods again, feeling calmer somehow.

Taehyung steps back, Jimin sees him on the mirrors until he goes off to the side, where Jeon Jungkook was standing. Oh shit. He tries to see what Tae is doing—

“Hey, pretty boy! You in or out?” Minji-noona from the start line taps on the door to get Jimin’s attention.

“I’m in.” Jimin puts on the harnesses, looking back at the bottles of NOS.

She hands him something, Jimin is about to ask what but she beats him to it. “Follow the GPS.”

Follow the GPS? Really? What kind of race is this? This is beyond anything he’s ever been a part of. How are cops not breaking this up already? They are kind of in an industrial area, a little outside the city, it’s dark and empty at this time of the night but surely the noise alone would alert civilians.

Jimin takes the GPS and then breathes in and out slowly, relaxing into the seat.  

Minji walks over to the front of Jimin’s car, and gestures with her hand for Jimin to inch closer, eyeing the line. “Little further. Stop!”

Jimin watches her do the same for the Porsche next, then the E 53, and the Soul. Everyone is lined up, ready to go. “Back up, back up!” Minji goes over to the sides to push people further back, and everyone complies immediately. Jimin can’t help it, his gaze turns to look at where Jeon Jungkook was, as if to see if he really is there. And sure enough, there he is, and talking to…Taehyung—

“Alright, everyone ready?” Minji yells. The crowd cheers loudly and the racers rev their engines in response. Jimin ignores the guy in the Porsche, who’s very aggressively giving him the finger. He watches as Minji moves further back until she’s off to the side with the spectators, out of the way of all the racers.

Jimin whips his head over to the front again. Focus, dammit!

“Ready.”

His knuckles turn white around the steering wheel.

“Set.”

He grips the gearshift, foot on the gas.

“Go!”

Jimin floors it. Heart in his throat, blood pounding in his ears. His car is much more powerful now and he gets pushed back into the seat as he takes off.

The cheers of the crowd are deafening but they get drowned out by the roar of the engine. The Porsche pushes ahead of him immediately, Jimin following close on his tail.

“Turn left in five hundred metres.” The navigation drones.

Jimin sees the sharp turn ahead, he gets close, pulls the handbrake as he’s going into the turn, drifting smoothly, the smell of burnt rubber hitting his nose. He almost pushes past the Porsche as he comes off the turn but not quite.

Not fast enough.

“Continue straight for one kilometre.”

“Damn it!” Jimin yells, pushes the handbrake back down, shifting up the gear and following close on the Porsche’s rear bumper. Just a bit more…

Jimin glances at his rear-view mirror to see the red Soul behind him, too close, E 53 nowhere to be seen.

They rush past factories and quiet streets, the emptiness along the roads makes the sound of the engines and tires skidding echo loudly.

He swerves right to pass the Porsche, seeing an opening, but the Porsche blocks him, also swerving right. Jimin swerves left, and again the Porsche blocks him.

He clenches his jaw. “Move, bitch!”

“In three hundred metres, turn right.”

Jimin grits his teeth, knuckles turning white around the steering wheel. He sees the turn up ahead but the Porsche doesn’t seem to. The Porsche takes the turn. Too wide.

Jimin, prepared for the turn, smoothly drifts, the rear wheels skidding momentarily, almost as if he’s lost control of the car. But he’s fully in control. It makes his heart jump in his throat anyway, the rush of going way above the speed limit, the danger of it all, the thrill of doing something illegal and naughty.

Jimin laughs, almost light-headed. Shifting gears and flooring it again, as he comes out of the turn, finally pushing past the Porsche. Just barely. But it’s enough.

“Continue straight for four kilometres.”

He smirks when he sees the Porsche finally behind him, flickering the headlights at Jimin, clearly pissed.

Jimin’s smile drops immediately, when he sees what’s up ahead. And hears it too.

Train.

Jimin can’t see the train itself, but he can hear the horn blaring into the night, loud.

He looks down at the speedometer. It’s pushing past 140 kilometres. He puts more pressure on the gas pedal, hand on the gearshift, pushing the car to see just how far he can take it. 150. 160. 170…

His eyes briefly stray to the side and he sees the Soul now, going head to head with him. Definitely a sleeper.

He whips his head back to the train tracks, so close now. I have to make it.

He can see the train now, too close, he pushes down on the gas pedal even more, determined to cross the tracks in time before the train can pass through. I’m not backing out.

The train horns blare, loud, Jimin looks to his left side and sees its lights, too bright in the otherwise dark and industrial area. As he makes it past the tracks, breaking the barriers, in the nick of time, he’s suspended on air for a second when his heart stops.

Sparks fly when the bumper hits the asphalt, the train roaring past behind them.

A second late and it would’ve been over.

The rush of adrenaline after the close call almost makes Jimin’s vision go black with the intensity, every part of his body shaking, heart pounding loud, blood roaring in his ears.

The Porsche and the E 53 are definitely out now. No sign of them anymore.

“Come on, come on.” Jimin clutches the steering wheel tighter, he’s a little bit ahead of the Soul now, but it’s keeping up with him surprisingly well. Lights blur past him as he focuses on the stretch of road ahead of him.

“Turn left in five hundred meters.”

He hears it, and he sees the turn coming too, so he steers a bit to the left, preparing for the turn, taking it smoothly, almost brushing against the cars parked along the side of the road.

He almost hits the brakes, when he sees what’s up ahead. Almost.

Sirens. Blue lights flickering on the roadblock.

Cops.

“Fuck!” As he gets closer and closer to the roadblock, he sees two cops lay out spike strips on the asphalt. He looks all around him, heart in his throat, to try and find a way past it with seconds left until he meets the cop cars dead on. He can try running over the spike strips, which would mean either an embarrassing loss or a total loss of control of his car. Or he could crash into a weak point where two cop cars are parked bumper to bumper. A crash likely to kill him at this speed.

Five.

He can’t think straight when he’s going 170 kilometres an hour and he can’t see a way out but to turn back.

Four.

“Come on! Think!” Jimin yells at himself.

Three.

“I am not going back to jail!” I have to make it.

Two.

There. Off to the side, a ramp, closed off for construction and a break in the roadblock. If he can time it right, he can make it over and up. He pushes on the gas pedal, heart slamming against his ribcage as he swerves just in time to make it over the ramp and avoid the roadblock.

He’s suspended on air for a few seconds, but it feels like a lifetime, time goes by as if it’s in slow motion.

“Shit!” He grips the steering wheel with both hands, resisting the urge to close his eyes.

The car slams back down on the asphalt, just barely over the roadblock, sparks flying everywhere and the front bumper groaning loudly as it bends. Jimin lurches inside the car, thankful for the harnesses strapping him into the seat.

“Your destination is in two kilometres.”

Jimin looks at his rear-view mirror again, city lights blurring past him, almost making him dizzy, the rush of adrenaline continues to flood his veins, making his heart pound.

The Soul is far behind him now. It’s just Jimin and the finish line. But Jimin can’t afford to get overconfident.

Just a bit more…

I have to make it.

The crowd has spread out quite a bit but the line is right there, up ahead.

Jimin grits his teeth, foot heavy on the gas pedal, the speedometer pushing past 150 kilometres an hour again, not daring to look behind him to check to see if there’s anyone following anymore.

He hits the brakes as he finally crosses the finish line.

The crowd roars and cheers loudly, and people swarm around his car. He finally detangles his fingers from the steering wheel, hand aching, not realizing how hard he was gripping it.

He heaves a huge sigh of relief, at having made it in one piece, but the rush of adrenaline is too great to be able to sit still. He rips off the harnesses, finally steps out of the car, sees Taehyung smiling widely at him.

Jimin, against his better judgment, runs over to Taehyung and throws himself in his arms, who lifts him up and turns him around before setting him down with a laugh. Later, Jimin will blame this on the rush.

But the celebration is short lived.

There, in the distance, blue lights and sirens blaring loudly. The crowd yells and everyone starts running in different directions. Total chaos.

“Tae! Get in!” Jimin yells, throwing himself back in his car, Taehyung following his direction and getting in the passenger side immediately.

There are cars going everywhere, too many at once, in different directions. Jimin, even at the scramble, tries to locate Jeon Jungkook just to see—

“What are you waiting for? GO!” Taehyung yells from the passenger side. And that kicks Jimin into action, blending into the huge crowd of cars—maybe a hundred of them—and speeding away from the scene of the biggest race he’s ever been involved in. And won. He won the fucking race—

There are so many cars that it doesn’t take long to lose sight of the police cars following behind them. Jimin takes a couple of turns into side streets and drives into a dark parking lot when he doesn’t see or hear any more cops.

He comes to a stop in a dark corner of the parking garage. He finally turns off the engine, the familiar hum seizing and leaving the inside of the car quiet for the first time that night. He rests his head on the steering wheel, taking deep breaths for several long moments.

“I won.” Jimin whispers, as if he’s realizing it for the first time.

“You won.”

“I fucking won!” Jimin raises his head and laughs loudly. The rush of driving so dangerously turns into an adrenaline high—pure euphoria.

“You sure did.” Taehyung smiles at him, the genuine, nice smile of his. He looks almost surprised, but kind of proud too. They watch the flickering fluorescent lights in front of them for a long moment, in silence. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go. You exceeded my expectations. I don’t mean it in a bad way, it’s just that…I never really saw you race before, so. Not to mention how you avoided a fucking moving train! And that jump over the cop cars? Insane!”

Jimin smiles widely, he feels so elated that it feels like he could almost float away. The praise makes him feel even more so. He can’t even contain it. “I…”

“We got company.” Taehyung informs him suddenly, staring at the side view mirror intensely, sitting up straight.

Jimin turns to look behind them, expecting a cop car. But it’s not.

A black Range Rover.

It inches closer, Jimin sitting up straighter in his seat. What the hell?

The windows are heavily tinted so they can’t see who’s inside the vehicle but it turns around in front of them, and comes to a stop beside Jimin’s car, driver’s side to driver’s side. The window rolls down, and they come face to face with a man whom Jimin has never seen before.

The man extends out a small piece of paper for Jimin to take. A matte black business card which only has one glossy word… “Euphoria. 9pm tomorrow, to collect your reward. Give this at the door. Don’t be late.”

Jimin opens his mouth to ask what the fuck Euphoria is, but before he can gather his thoughts, the window is closed and the car drives away as silently as it came.

“What the hell is Euphoria?” Jimin turns to ask Taehyung.

Taehyung looks down at the card, voice quiet when he speaks. “It’s…Jungkook’s club.”

“What?” Jimin whispers, not because he didn’t understand what Taehyung just said, but because it’s not what he was expecting. He looks down at the card again. His heart speeds up, cold sweat beginning to form.

“You’ve been summoned.”