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waxing moons

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It was a fine, beautiful summer day when Taehyung’s life got turned upside down.

Was calling it “upside down” insulting? He didn’t mean it necessarily in a bad way. It was merely the start of the complete turnover of his life, where he had gone from a complete nobody to even more than a mere somebody.

Taehyung recalls this day very clearly. The sun was shining, he had woken up before the alarm had rung, fully rested and he could hear the sounds of breakfast being cooked downstairs. Outside his window was a sight that he misses to this day; the sight that immediately reminded him of home. If he recalls correctly, it was always the view of neighboring farms with their beige-ish fields and trees- lots of trees. People biked on the road next to the green abundance, where he could distinctly hear passing neighbors greet each other and comment on how the weather was nice today, that their crops were about to get a real treat.

He recalls taking a nice, refreshing shower before heading downstairs, and he was basking in the moment that he felt clean for the day’s work before he could hear his parents chittering about the weather, along with his aunt commenting that if the weather kept up like this the whole summer, they would be able to harvest beautifully grown strawberries.

The thought of their yearly tradition of making strawberry jam at the end of summer to eat throughout the fall and winter makes his stomach growl, and he licks his lips in anticipation. His aunt was right after all- and he made a silent prayer to whoever was listening to keep the weather as nice as it was for the rest of the summer, and for it to come the next summer, and the next, and continuously. 

The biggest impression of this day, it seemed, was the weather.

They exchange their good mornings, his mother in a particularly good mood as she hums along to plating his breakfast and sets it down in front of him.

“How did you sleep? It’s rare to see you so early for breakfast, we usually have to call your name at least ten times before we get a response.”

“Really well. The weather was so nice today that I think it told me to wake up to not miss it.” He starts chowing down his food, in which his aunt and mother can only look on with fondness. He’d been told before that he eats in a way that made parents swoon since he ate with such enthusiasm and gratefulness.

He thinks it’s not that hard to eat in such a manner, when his family does nothing but provide good food that surprises him everyday.

“I was thinking of cutting our work short a couple hours today,” his father cuts in, “and then we can all pack food and blankets to go by the meadow by the base of the mountain to bask in the sun. Something tells me the sun won’t be as impressionable for a while as it is today.”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea!” Taehyung agrees with his mouth full, a big smile accompanying afterwards. He loved summers for days like these, where his family had small outings to fulfill the smaller things in life that they took satisfaction in. They weren’t perfect, but they led humbling, hardworking, yet fulfilling lives- the mere thought of the picnic they would have later is enough to stir the excitement up in him, once again grateful to the way his family matched in these interests.

… But to be fair, there was no way that they wouldn’t match. Their Zodiac compatibility was near perfect, after all. 

His family, he likes to think, is one of the more luckier ones in having found this kind of compatibility. But it isn't hard, he thinks. Everyone plans their marriages and pregnancies now to guarantee compatibility. He wonders what his peaceful family would’ve been like if they weren’t. Would they still be going on picnics? Making strawberry jam at the end of every August? Would they still be laughing in this beautiful morning, the way they are now?

Taehyung decides he doesn’t like to think about silly what ifs , when his reality was in front of him now. He doesn’t think of it to avoid acknowledging that a small part of him thinks it’s largely to fate anyways, and an even smaller part of him wonders if he would love his family the same way if their Zodiacs hadn’t aligned.

“Ah, baby bear. A letter for you arrived.” At that, Taehyung looks up, tilting his head to the side in question. His mother merely shrugs, before getting up to reach over to the mail table, and brings back a cream envelope. “Could it be from your cousin?”

“No, Hun-ie hyung only sent letters while he was in enlistment, and he came back two months ago so… I’m not sure. What does the envelope say?”

“Nothing. It’s just addressed to you, with a nice stamp. They got the name and address correct, so it couldn’t have been a mistake…”

“Maybe it’s one of those good luck chain letters?” Taehyung chuckles, taking in the last bite of his breakfast before patting his stomach. “In that case, should I never open it? I’m not expecting important or urgent mail from anyone, much less the city. I don’t feel like writing something that long over and over again, either.”

The envelope was very clearly from the city. Taehyung knows because Hun-ie hyung had brought back a bunch of stuff from when he was allowed out from the military a couple times as a break, and he had been to the city himself a couple times to aid his father in delivery of strawberries when his uncle wasn’t available to. The couple times he had gone, he knew the city was beautiful, glamorous, and busy. The city was also rude, pushy, and inconsiderate- if he had to choose between the luxuries of the city and the peace of his neighborhood, he wasn’t sure if he could give this peace up for glamour .

His mother gives him a nonthreatening stern glare, and she hands the letter to him. “Open it anyways, it could be something important, especially if it’s from the city, right?”

“What if it’s just fancy taxes?” He persists as he takes the envelope anyways, already making use of one of his chopsticks that had accompanied his breakfast to tear into it skillfully.

“We did taxes three days ago, sweetie. Now open the letter, because we don’t have all-” His mother’s voice falters at the day because when she looks up to finally peer at her son, there’s a hollow expression that she can’t read on her usually bright, charismatic son. “Baby bear?”

It takes a few moments after she calls his well outgrown nickname, that he finally looks up. The whole family had grown silent- they had never seen their youngest like this, with such an unreadable look on his face. “What does it say?”

Slowly, he finally flips over the letter to reveal a fancy invitation, his face still unreadable as he hollowly replies: “It’s from the Jeon family. I’ve been summoned.”

They don’t press for details. Suddenly, Taehyung is well aware that his family will not be having the picnic today, and suddenly, the weather doesn’t feel as nice as it did when he had first woken up.

Summoned . They knew what that meant. It was well known that the Jeon family had been searching for an astrologically compatible partner for their son, the soon to be heir.

The weather was nice on the day Taehyung’s life turned upside down.

 

 

“Kim Taehyung, age 27. Just a couple of years older than you, and lives in Geochang, raised by a family of farmers. He’s a Capricorn born on December 30th, and here is his full astral natal chart.” The mentioned chart appears on the presentation, and Jungkook’s eyes scan over the aspects of the chart. “As you see in comparison to yours,” another click and Jungkook’s chart shows up along it as well, “you guys are quite compatible. Very compatible, actually. Out of all the candidates we had compiled together, he was the most compatible.”

“Even more compatible than the Scorpio guy from Paris we met?”

“Jungkook,” Namjoon half scolds, “you keep pressing for him just because you had one hook up. Focus. Unless, he’s the candidate you desire? In that case, we can request for a-”

Before Namjoon even finishes his sentence, the younger shakes his head, waving the suggestion away and letting it die on his lips. “I was just kidding, hyung. It was a one time thing, and outside of the bedroom, we had different interests. Did you notify Taehyung-sshi about this yet?”

“We sent the summons request a couple of days ago to give him time to get organized before coming. He should be arriving in a couple of hours actually, since we sent out a car for him this morning.”

Jungkook grumbles, laying his head on his desk momentarily. “So that’s why my schedule was cleared out for today. What’s the ETA?”

“You still have around thirty minutes before you have to start getting ready, because the stars know no one is going to be willing to marry you in this state.” Namjoon states pointedly as he lowers his glasses, tilting his head towards the younger before him. Jungkook was in his joggers and a comfortable (and slightly worn out) shirt, his hair tousled and not bothered with ever since he had trudged home at six in the morning after a night of overtime with more files.

The files seem to pile up more recently, with more rebels seemingly wanting to revolt against the particular matchmaking system, which only meant more work for Jungkook. He knew he had been trusted with this part of the work to work him up to the spot of the heir ( Anyone can keep their supporters in check , his father had said, but what’s really important is, can you keep the people opposing you in check? ), which only sounded fancier than it actually was- he was the “heir” to overlooking the whole Zodiakos system. It explained a lot of why he was getting married at a mere age of 25, because who would trust a system led by someone who wasn’t using the system as a part of their own daily life themselves? He had one task for now, before his father stepped down to enjoy the rest of his life- he had to fall in love with this person and get married, and therefore convince the public that the system worked.

He doesn’t think it’d be hard. Zodiakos has worked for almost everyone he knew around him, for his own family, generation after generation, and he has no doubt it works. Love should be about connection. If you’re meant to be compatible and get along, there’s no way some sort of connection won’t form, Jungkook thinks.

He thinks the rebels just want something to blame for their own personal mishaps. There was no reason to be so bitter about a system that helped reduce one less problem and heartbreak in everyone’s lives- in fact, Jungkook was relieved that compatibility and love was something he didn’t have to worry about. Zodiakos had a 93% success rate, after all.

But a particular boy from grade school pops into his head, and he shoos it away from his memories. “Hey, I don’t want to show up too formally either. What if we get too nervous around each other because of how professional the air feels?” He crosses his arms with a pout, and with it Namjoon already knows he’s going to have to call to arrange for changes in his wardrobe for the day. “I thought the point was to marry each other, not intimidate each other.”

“You can’t intimidate, much less marry someone in black joggers-”

“Maybe that’s what the Capricorn likes-” is all Jungkook manages to get out before three sharp raps on the door cut him off, and the door is opened without Jungkook or Namjoon needing to address it. They don’t even look up when they greet the newcomer. “Yoongi hyung! You’re late.”

“Sorry, I got caught up with some paperwork.”

Jungkook finally looks up to throw him a sympathetic look. “Work’s been working you to the bone, huh?”

“What? No.” Yoongi takes a seat on the other side of the desk, setting down his things and looking finally relieved, in contrast to his more grave expression he’d been wearing recently. “Paperwork to finalize my divorce. We signed off on it a couple of months ago, but we had to settle on the splitting of property, monetary values, etcetera etcetera, because we couldn’t come to a compromise. You know, the shit where you actually lose rather than gain.” He sounds a bit bitter towards the end, but he does catch the sudden uncomfortable shift of the air between them all, especially from the youngest. “The fucker’s even greedier than I thought he was.”

Truthfully, Jungkook doesn’t know how to address this. He and Namjoon had been friends with Yoongi for so long, that they assumed they had known everything about each other.

He thinks it started back then, a few years ago, when Yoongi had met the flaming orange haired boy that he couldn’t quite remember the name of. From then, Yoongi started to feel little by little, more like a stranger- like there was this distance between the two of them and him, when Yoongi started questioning every ideal that they had carried their whole lives. Jungkook still doesn’t know why the divorce happened- their compatibility was great, and they had been fine and very well in love the first two years of their relationship.

He prefers to not think about it, though. If he starts thinking about the implications of the divorce or why it ended despite the positive circumstances that they had met on, he would start questioning. It was not a good path, and if he went down that path, he might start thinking that his family was correct in telling Jungkook to start staying away from Yoongi, and he had fought too hard for their friendship for his family to be correct.

He can’t afford his family being correct about this. They could be correct about everything else, but not this.

So he doesn’t comment on it, nor does he press further. It seems to be a mutual understanding Namjoon shares, as they both just nod silently. However, it seemed even without words Yoongi could read the room. It was hard not to- the elephant in the room was becoming more and more prominent.

And if he could read the room, it seems he chooses to not say anything about it.

“You’re not in the office today yet, Jungkook?”

“Ah, I have to meet a possible suitor.” Jungkook runs his fingers through his hair, as an attempt to fix its tousled state, with no feasible result. “He’s a Capricorn, from Geochang, just near Daegu. Apparently on his way now.”

“How many people does that make this month alone?”

“He’s the third, but supposedly this time it’s a bit more of a bullseye.” Jungkook starts pushing himself off the chair into a stretch, knowing his time with them is running out as Namjoon picks up the conversation for him. “His parents are pretty much set on having this guy for the engagement, and the Kim family are notified of that. Of course, they have a right to object, which we were fully prepared for, but we got a positive response the day after we sent the letter to them.” Jungkook’s stretching his neck side to side now as Namjoon side eyes him. 

“Fortunately, their charts seem to match really well, with a calculated 94% compatibility, which is unbelievably high. Jungkook’s going to meet him today,” he pushes the younger towards the door, to which the younger grumbles, “and finalize the engagement.”

“Geochang… I know that place I think,” Yoongi recalls as Jungkook leaves the room. “It’s not too far from my parents’, but from what I know, it’s the countryside? Oh, also, there are these strawberries my parents always get from there that are super rich and good. Makes my mouth water just thinking about them.”

“Oh, I think that could be his family’s farm. They run a strawberry farm too.” Namjoon starts organizing the presentation he had been showing Jungkook earlier and some files, before flopping down on a chair. “We were worried at first too in case it would be a clash of two worlds, but you know how it is nowadays, hyung. Countrysides aren’t as rural as one thinks anymore. We still have to discuss things like publicity, responsibilities, and the whole gimmick you know. They’d have to keep a public image, so it may put a strain in their relationship, but that’s why we went for the highest compatibility.” At some point, Namjoon looks down towards his tablet, sliding his glasses up, and doesn’t see Yoongi’s expression grow grim. “We’re hoping to explain it all to him today, but I think with the positive attitude they responded back with, it’ll just require some practice and that’s it.”

“... Sounds tiresome.”

“Ah, it’s not that tiresome, that’s my job after a-”

“Not for you. I meant for the Geochang kid.” It’s only then Namjoon recognizes the shift in Yoongi’s voice, and he finally looks up from his tablet to see a grim Yoongi. Pushing his tablet aside, he gathers his hands at his lap. 

“Yes… Well, it’s a role he has agreed to take on. Celebrities have to keep up an image all the time, and although Jungkook isn’t necessarily a celebrity , he still has an image to maintain. That part is merely for the cameras and the public, but their relationship will be genuine, I assure you.”

The bite in Namjoon’s tone is a bit petty to Yoongi. “And what position are you in to assure me that?”

“Yoongi hyung, you can’t hide what you actually wanted to say from me. We’ve known each other for how long now? Almost twelve years?”

“Okay, Namjoon. What was it that I actually wanted to say then?”

There’s a heavy silence between them, and Yoongi knows it’s not because Namjoon’s lost for words- he almost never was. From the many, many years that Yoongi knew Namjoon, he knew that he was contemplating whether or not to say the truth with respect to their friendship.

He can sense Namjoon’s hesitation from a mile away. No one else might’ve been able to, but he could.

“Hyung, you’re questioning the system again.” There it was, it seemed Namjoon had decided to say it anyways, despite the long silence. “Your own experience with the system is making you question whether or not Jungkook will have a happy ending out of this.”

“Even if I didn’t get a divorce, I would still be worrying out of care for him and you, Namjoon-ah.”

“Hyung, you know it’s not merely because of your divorce.”

At that, Yoongi freezes up momentarily, the faded memory of a boy with flaming orange hair and the most kissable lips ever entering his mind momentarily. “What would you know, Namjoon-ah.” It wasn’t a question.

“Hyungs,” comes a voice, breaking the hardened tension, and Jungkook emerges from another room with a hand on the other wrist, fixing the end of one of his sleeves. If he could sense the air was off in the room, he didn’t show it. “How does this look?”

Two pairs of eyes look the youngest up and down; Jungkook had cleaned up fairly well, with a black turtleneck, a dark grey blazer on top matching with his pants and one side of his hair slicked back. This was closer to the heir Jeon Jungkook who worked in the office, but the intimidation immediately broke as soon as he broke into a wide, shy smile. His hand comes up to scratch at his cheek, where it’s dusted pink. “Aw, c’mon, that good? If you want, I can cancel on Taehyung and have dinner with you guys instead?”

“Won’t you be hot in that?”

“Are you implying something, Namjoon hyung?”

A playful smack from Namjoon, and the room is back to normal again, much to Yoongi’s relief. Namjoon and Yoongi’s conversation is not brought up again as he sits down, flipping through some paperwork as he complains about the recent increase in the amount of rebels. Yoongi shifts uncomfortably when they’re not watching as they debate what would be the best way to appeal to the public to lessen the amount of rebels, and therefore lessen his workload (his ultimate goal). Namjoon is in the middle of lecturing Jungkook about how it shouldn’t be to lessen workload, ultimately, but for the people…

They didn’t notice how Yoongi had been wearing long sleeves the past couple of months, or the way that the conversation about the rebels made him uncomfortable. They didn’t notice that it’d been a while since they saw his Pisces imprint, and they didn’t notice the way Yoongi won’t show them.

And that’s fine. Yoongi wants to keep it this way- for now.

 

 

“Let go! Let go, you fuckin’ assholes!”

Seokjin can feel the headache coming in already, and sighs as he takes an aspirin down with water. It’s almost the end of the day , is all he thinks to himself, as he turns around to observe the group that’s just been brought in. Once I handle this last group, I’ll go home, treat myself to a nice, relaxing bath, and order takeout of whatever food I want. I’ll binge watch that one drama I’d been putting off, and I’ll finally be able to get some peace and quiet since I’m off tomorrow. His eyes unknowingly trail to the clock on the wall behind the cursing group, a yawn pushing its way out of its lips, his hand reaching up to cover it.

Apparently not fast enough.

“What? Are we jokes to you higher people now?”

“You can fuckin’ yawn comfortably in this situation? Listen to our pleas!”

“Listen to our reforms!”

“The whole system is wrong!” followed by a string of curse words that Seokjin learns to drone out. Dealing with anger was only part of his job, after all. One more hour, and I can get out of here .

He wonders, and definitely not for the first time, if his major in Zodiakos was necessary, if he was going to be yelled at and had to deal with difficult people all the time anyways. Special class my ass , he thinks as his finger unconsciously reaches for the red Sagittarius imprint on his wrist. He finally tears his eyes away from the clock to get a good look at the last group he was dealing with for the day.

A lot of them are wearing face paint and masks, as always, and there’s the prominent red X carved over their imprints, on their wrists. Their clothes are ragged and they’re covered in as much dirt as they possibly can to avoid recognition upon sight (which Seokjin deems is useless, because they can do DNA checkups anyway), and he’s plagued by the idea of having to clean up the mess they leave on the floor afterwards.

“Status?”

“This is the group that was destroying a small Jeon monument in the park near Mapo-gu,” says a voice next to him- Kenny, he thinks the new intern’s name was- while flipping through a binder, “all while encouraging passing civilians to, and I quote, ‘fuck the system!’ with them and encouraged them to have their imprints slashed off as well.” Seokjin tilts his head to the side to look at the intern, and realizes how much smaller the younger is compared to his broader shoulders. Kenny’s fingers come up to card through his bleached blonde hair, as his cheeks tinge pink.

Ah, right , he remembers. It’s the new intern who’s only been here for a little more than a month. He only remembers because of two associations; 

  1. His striking blonde hair (where his roots were now starting to grow), and
  2. The way he had the obvious hots for Seokjin.

“Mapo-gu? That’s pretty close.”

“Not only that, most of them are regulars now.” Kenny points towards a particular couple in the group who Seokjin has to squint to recognize before his eyes light up- would it still be considered “lighting up” if it’s in disappointment?

“Ah, Hyunjoo and Hongmin-ssi. Let me guess, went straight back into the game as soon as your community service was up?”

“Go to hell .” Hongmin spits, but his aim is completely off.

“So rude to an old friend.” Seokjin takes the binder from the intern and pulls out a pen from his back pocket to check off on a couple of sheets, before explaining calmly: “Identify the new people, and keep them here for a couple of days until you can get more information out of them and how many more they affected. Track whoever was in the area as well through the cameras, and bring them here too.” He doesn’t say what for, because the reason those witnesses have to come are quite… brutal , to say the least. He suddenly pities this group and the shit they’ll go through the next couple of days, but he barely dips out of that train of thought when Hyunjoo curses out again, trying to rile up the petty group, and he’s suddenly reminded that they got themselves here. The momentary pity disappears and his lips press into a thin line, which isn’t an easy task with his lips. 

“Once you do that, give the newcomers the first warning, which is the one you gave Hyunjoo-ssi and Hongmin-ssi last month-” he points out, “with the month long community service of rebuilding the monument they destroyed. Any resistance, and you know the drill.”

“Fuck you, we can hear you!”

“As for second timers like them,” he ignores, gesturing towards the duo and the rest of them, “You know what’s in store for them.” Kenny’s eyes widened, suddenly reminded of the protocol he had to memorize when he had first started interning. It’s his second month here, and Seokjin regrets that he has to see the protocol for second offenders in action for the first time.

Well, then again, Seokjin had to see it take place on his second day on the job. Kenny’s a bit quiet, wordlessly nodding, and it seems the sudden silence from the otherwise usually bubbly intern made the rest of them nervous.

“What are you going to do to us, fucker? You can’t bring us down that easy, you can’t do shit to us-”

“I can.” Seokjin’s had to deal with this multiple times. It’s merely part of the job description, he tells himself. The first couple of years were hard on him when he first initiated the second part of the protocol, and admittedly, Kenny was handling it much better than he was, but he now had nine years under his belt. He was a senior here now, hardened from years of seeing stupid people mess up their lives for a cause that didn’t make any sense. Frankly, his job hardened him as a person, too.

He briefly wonders when was the last time he had been a bit softer, a ray of the person he was all those years ago, as he holds up the protocol paper for the rebel in question to see. She’s a little intimidated; he can see her crumbling a bit from her eyes, but she stands firm. He watches her crumble just a bit more when her eyes shift from challenging him to the contents of the papers, and there it is- the flash of regret.

“The flash of regret” , Chairman Jeon had said. Seokjin pushed up his glasses, eyes focused on the elderly man in the front of the room as he and a group of around thirty or so students are scribbling down notes. “The flash of regret you see in their eyes, that’s how you know you’re doing your job correctly. It doesn’t matter if it seems momentary, or if you think you barely caught it. One small sign of regret is all you need.”

It seems a hand flies up from one of the students behind him, because the elder Jeon is looking over his head, nodding. “Go ahead.”

“Is one flash of regret enough, sir? I’m not entirely convinced that that’s all it would take to affect them.”

To anyone outside the classroom, it sounded like a challenge, but there was merely a faint smile tugging at the elder’s lips. What Seokjin noticed over the last year of learning from him, for this particular squad, was that he loved it when they challenged his authority, for one simple reason.

He loved proving them wrong.

“Humans are always looking for the best for themselves. All they need is one single push in the right direction, and most importantly, a reminder of what they might lose.” He crosses his arms, the faint smile curling into a relaxed smirk. “Like you, Wooju. That question cost you a spot on this squad.”

Wooju’s eyes widened as immediate shock came over his face, and Seokjin would be lying if he didn’t say he was stunned himself. Suddenly, he feels he’s really lucky that he’s one of the quiet students, and the next thing the chairman says brings shivers down his spine.

“You all were thinking, ‘How unlucky. Thank God I didn’t say anything’, right? Which means Wooju losing a spot on the squad not only gave him his flash of regret, but also impacted everyone in the room who witnessed it.” Chairman Jeon reaches for his water, taking a slow sip in a relaxed manner, while the rest of the room holds their breath. Wooju looked nearly on the verge of tears, the expression on his face alternating between disbelief and shock.

The elder raises an eyebrow, setting down his water. “I thought you heard me. You lost your spot. Thank you for demonstrating a flash of regret to the rest of the remaining squad- you may leave now.”

And it works. From then on, Wooju doesn’t show up until the end of their training, and Seokjin doesn’t as much think about questioning Elder Jeon, in case the old bastard could somehow hear his thoughts too.

Seokjin allows himself a look around the room. It still looks packed, even with Wooju’s absence. He’s not sure why he’s so affected by it- he’s never even shared an ounce of conversation with the dude. But suddenly, the reality of the setting he’s in weighs in on him.

They’re all laughing together now, on their breaks, but they’re all competitors. Out of the 30 something people in this room only fifteen would make it to the squad. They’re all laughing together now, but in the end, they were all competitors.

Only the obedient made it. The flash of regret worked.

He got his flash of regret.

A smile forms on his face, and for a moment, Hyunjoo’s stricken- it was paradoxical. The way he was holding the protocol paper versus how kind his face looked when he smiled was far scarier than the intimidating, resting face he usually sported. He sees her gulp, suddenly parched from the heavy atmosphere, and he takes note that the once riled up group behind her was now silent with all eyes on the two. The room was dead silent, and Seokjin could feel himself taking control of the room.

When people heard him complaining about work or heard about how much he dreaded it everyday, always coming back with a scowl, they questioned why Seokjin stayed at this job. Team leader of the RRT- Rebellion Restrain Team . It was said that the people who worked in this squad were handpicked by the chairman himself by a quick overlook of academic success, IQ tests, and overall leadership abilities. Thousands of files, and only thirty candidates were selected every seven years. Seokjin had been selected when he was in his third year of studying the major for this job in university, simply because he knew he would be selected one day.

When people see Kim Seokjin outside of work, they wonder if the lazy goof was wrongly selected, and wonder why he stayed at this job.

It was because they didn’t know how good he was at his job. The deafening silence persists until Seokjin finally clears his throat.

“Look here. Protocol . On the second offense, the resistant will receive the burning stamp of the stars. You have no idea what the stamp of the stars is, do you?”

Of course she does. The whole group does. He knows they all do. Suddenly no one will make eye contact with him, and the first offenders who came today won’t resist again- that’s always been the result. The stamp of the stars, essentially was a burning, hot stamp over their Zodiac imprint, getting rid of it; it was as brutal as it sounded, and no one took in someone who had the stamp of the stars.

No jobs, no homes, nothing. It was a mark of disgrace.

He supposes he should be grateful to Hyunjoo and Hongmin. In fact, he should be grateful to second offenders who end up getting mixed into the group. Once first time offenders witness this horrifying, blood curling experience, the horrors of it spread like wildfire, almost as a warning to everyone else.

The flash of regret works every time. One flash was all that was needed. Everything must’ve reflected on his face, because suddenly the loudly boisterous and confident Hyunjoo has various signs of doubt flashing in her eyes.

She gulps once more, voice shaking, but trying to be brave.

“... And… what about third offenders?”

The warm smile Seokjin offers makes her mouth dry again, as he simply shrugs and says: “ There are no third offenders.

 

 

Taehyung might get kicked out for this in the end.

No, he’s not joking. It’s his first day here and he thinks somehow that he’s already fucked up.

On the outside, Taehyung thinks he looks as sophisticated as he could be- he had been styled by one of the Jeon stylists as soon as he had arrived, and he wasn’t sure if it was magic, but one hour later when he peers into the mirror, he has mixed feelings. Mostly good, he thinks. He looked beautiful- and that’s probably what scared him the most about this. He didn’t look any different, it was still very clearly Kim Taehyung , just an evolved version. He could still make himself out, at the very least.

In a way, he thinks as his striking eyes peer back at him shamelessly in the mirror, that appearance wise he already looked like a Jeon.

Of course, that thought went away as quickly as it came when he took a wrong step and nearly knocked over the mirror and the makeup table next to it.

Someone had told him that he had time to roam around the premises before he had to come to the dining room in about two hours to meet his fiance (“Stay away from the doors with the red lit beacons”, he had told him. “Those are the occupied rooms, but other than that, you are free to roam the premises as you’d like.”

“Are you sure?” There had been evident doubt in Taehyung’s voice. Whenever he and his family had managed to find time to watch a movie together that had a rich family as a setting, there was always a room or two that held some deep, dark family secret that became the start of their demise. Taehyung wanted to be extra careful and not end up like any of those main characters.

“Of course.” The man must’ve felt his hesitance, as he gives a smile. “You are to become a part of the family. The Jeons expressed that they would wish for you to feel at home, and therefore you are free to roam as you please. Except for the red lit doors!”)

He forgot to ask the man, however, if he was allowed to go outside. Taking his last words into mind, he assumed it would’ve been okay- he wanted to explore the gardens he had quickly passed by on the way inside, and being inside the huge mansion was starting to make his head ache and was just a little suffocating. Being outside felt more like his home than anything else, he thinks. Whether he’s here or in his family farm in Daegu, they live under the same sky, so he thinks if he steps outside, he’ll always be at home.

He probably forgot to take into account how vast the sky was, and that people across the world also shared the same sky as he did, as he checked the time to realize that it would almost be time for him to go in soon, and he walked into the building that he assumed was the mansion.

It’s wrong. All it takes is one look inside, where the walls are all bright white and the air smells like sulfur instead of the dimly lit hallways with beige walls adorned with vintage decorations for him to know definitely that it was wrong. It’s all wrong, yet when Taehyung goes back outside and scans the vicinity, there are too many buildings to guess which one he had just walked out of. He could try to retrace his steps, but realizes he just took around an hour and a half to explore around the gardens near different buildings.

It was impossible. He hadn’t really thought this through.

He decides to walk back into the very white building, thinking that he might be able to ask around.

The building hallways are almost completely empty, with several locked doors. Each passing room was either empty or was firmly soundproofed- if not for the lights that were on and the unlocked doors, he thinks that he would’ve assumed no one was in the building. The walls are blank, with nothing adorned on them- sometimes he’ll pass by some cork boards that have different lists and numbers pinned onto it, but at closer look he has no idea what any of it means. The building gives him vibes of an abandoned laboratory, almost- not that he had ever seen one, but he assumes this is what they must look and feel like. It feels like he’s walked forever, when his watch says he’s looked around for a mere five minutes. It feels almost endless and he’s wondering if he should try a different building at the lack of human presence, when he thinks he hears faint hiccups down the hall- almost like someone is crying. 

He hesitates, which is a first. Normally, in his tight knit community, anyone would dash to help whoever seemed like they were in need, but he was more cautious here because of the things he had seen on screen. 

Was this the deep, dark family secret that was supposed to be kept from him?

Suddenly a million scenarios of how the situation could unfold flashes through his head, but it seems that his body reacted first before he could think things through- when he’s pulled out of his thoughts, he sees that he’s already steadily making his way towards the source of the noise, and he immediately thinks Oh, great. If I were the main character of a horror movie, this would be my dying scene .

It would be a pity he would die before meeting who is supposed to be the love of his life.

He pushes past the door, where he’s surprised it’s unlocked, unlike the other doors- there’s a faint scent of body mist lingering in the air, so he thinks whoever opened this door couldn’t have left too long ago. When he sticks his head in past the door, his eyes widen at the sight of a tied up woman, sniffling with her hands tied behind her back. She was covered in filth, but he eyes the Rolex watch on her wrist that suggested she was anything other than without necessities. He’s not really sure what to grasp of the situation, but before he can back away, she spots him with wide eyes.

“You!” She can’t point at the moment, but her harsh voice was enough. “You! You’re not one of the white coats, are you?”

Taehyung takes a peek down at himself, scrunching his eyebrows as he wonders if her sight is alright. He was clearly wearing a dark blue suit- he doesn’t see how she could’ve mistook it for white, even if there was the possibility that she was colorblind. The tones were different, were they not?

He thinks he might be reacting a little harshly, but her voice was so… off putting . “A white coat?”

She grins, and he thinks it might’ve been pretty if he wasn’t so distracted by the filth hiding it. “You don’t know what that is. You’re not from here, are you?”

Before he could even answer, she scooches enough so that her back is towards him, and shows him her tied hands. “Could you please help me get out of this? I’m exhausted trying to get out of it myself. Hongmin is waiting for me, I need to go before they…”

She never finishes her sentence, and he thinks he sees her shudder. Every moment that passes by, Taehyung thinks she’s cryptic and weird. He wonders if he should be helping her, but it seemed once again, his body reacted first before he could fully think things through, including whether or not she was someone to be let out. If she was tied in here, there must’ve been a good reason, right?

His fingers reach the tied knots before freezing- would he get in trouble for this? Would this be classified as jeopardizing a family secret? He thinks hard for a short moment what a main character of a movie would do to avoid his downfall, when he takes notice of the scathing red around the woman’s wrists; most of the surrounding area was red with the amount of thrashing she probably had put in before he came, some parts had dried up blood from cuts, and some parts were bruised purple from how tight the knots were.

He takes pity, and his hands unfreeze from their momentary hesitation to work his long fingers around the knot. He doesn’t know why he even hesitated anymore, and feels a little guilty. He could feel her getting more and more antsy the more time passes by, but he’s almost done with untying the knot, he just needs to-

“Turn around.” Taehyung freezes at the presence of a voice behind him, and his eyes momentarily go to his watch. 20 minutes. He had twenty minutes to get back to the mansion, and he was about to meet his downfall.

Slowly, Taehyung turns around with large wide eyes, raising his hands away from the knot to land his sight on a broader man standing by the door, his face streaked with annoyance as he holds something that looks like a razor blade in his hand, pointed towards him. He’s not quite sure what it is, but it’s slightly unnerving.

It’s only when he fully looks at the man that he realizes the only thing more unnerving than the razor blade looking contraption in his hand was how strikingly handsome the man was, even with his eyebrows furrowed and the obvious streaks of annoyance. Wearing simply a pair of black jeans with rips at the knees and a black shirt that complimented him better than he liked to admit, his tousled caramel hair almost seemed to add a sexier touch to it overall. He had plump lips that Taehyung could only wish the Jeon family’s son he was about to meet would have, beautiful big eyes that seemed to hold the universe, and overall just a beauty so perfectly placed without a single feature miscalculated that he doesn’t mind how he’s looking at him like he just discovered a bug at the moment.

“Who are you? Are you with them?”

“I- I, actually, uh-” Seventeen minutes .

He’s not sure where to start with who he was, or would be, but once he organizes his thoughts and decides to start with I’m the fiance Jeon Jungkook is supposed to be meeting today , it seems the man had grown tired of waiting for a response and without lowering his razor blade, he marches over and grabs his wrist, bringing his Capricorn imprint up to his face.

It’s Taehyung’s turn now to furrow his eyebrows and look confused, as the man mutters something along the lines of “No red cross”, before letting go. “You’re not with them.” His eyes scan Taehyung from bottom up, and suddenly he feels just a little shy to be under such harsh gaze. “Who are you with then? Your clothes…”

He trails off, and Taehyung thinks this is the perfect time for him to finally speak. “Oh. Uh, hi! I’m Kim Taehyung, the, ah, fiance that Jeon Jungkook is supposed to be meeting toda-”

The man immediately lowers his razor blade down before Taehyung even finishes his sentence and pinches his nose bridge, exhaling in relief. “And here I was thinking I would have to do more work when I’m on my way out. Thank the stars I asked, I almost tased a Jeon member.” Before he could ask any questions, the man slips out his phone from his pocket, tapping a couple of times before holding it to his ears.

“Namjoon? Hey, it’s Seokjin.” Seokjin , Taehyung thinks. “I don’t know how he found it here, but the Capricorn suitor the Jeons are supposed to meet today wandered into the RRT center and almost freed one of the offenders. What? No, of course I had no idea. Almost tased him…. No, I’m telling you because I know you won’t tell any of them that I almost tased him. Don’t you have to come get him now?”

A pause.

“Yeah, yeah, I can keep him here until you come get him. Make sure to let him know about the RRT as soon as you get him, too. I don’t intend on losing any offenders, whether they were freed by a Jeon member or not.”

Taehyung was just slightly irritated- he had told Seokjin his name, had he not? He wasn’t just a Jeon member . He wasn’t even married yet, he wasn’t even a Jeon yet.

Seokjin bickers a couple more things, before hanging up, and finally looking towards Taehyung. “Taehyung, you said your name was?”

He nods, but he thinks Great, so you do know?

“Follow me. I’ll look after you until Namjoon comes to pick you up.”

Suddenly there’s thrashing behind him, as he had momentarily forgotten about the woman’s existence. “No! No no no no! I was so close! So close!” When he turns to look at her in surprise, she shoots a piercing glare at him, sending shivers down his spine. “ You! You didn’t untie me faster! If you were just faster, I would've- I could’ve-”

She never got to finish her sentence though, as suddenly something attaches to her side and she starts shaking, slowly at first and definitely more vigorously once a moment has passed, and she’s quiet again, on the floor. Taehyung’s not sure what level of horrified he should be, but he stills once he realizes Seokjin’s used his taser. Almost nonchalantly, Seokjin shrugs and gestures towards the door for him, and he’s never been more enthusiastic to leave a room more than he has now.

“Sorry you had to see that,” he hears Seokjin say behind him as he closes and locks the door. He pockets the small taser in his pocket, and steps forward to walk ahead of him, leading the way down the endless white walls that Taehyung’s already sick of seeing. “You must’ve been shocked.”

He was, but he decides to lie anyway. “Just a bit.”

“I’m going to have to explain this briefly, because Namjoon will be here any minute.” Seokjin pushes past a door, leading Taehyung outside of the building, but he notices it’s not the same entrance he came in from. Right across the (very vast) lawn, there was a more familiar building, and his cheeks suddenly burned up at the thought of being on the wrong side of the building. If only he had walked around the building, would he have been able to find the mansion instead of witnessing a person being tased ?

“Whether you are a Jeon member or not,” Seokjin explains calmly, “if you free any of the rebels, you will be charged with treason against the family. Being a Jeon does not give you free access to everything, and does not give you the right to be freeing any criminals without repercussions. Do you understand?”

Taehyung meets Seokjin’s hardened gaze, and all but nods, looking back down as quickly as he had looked up. “I understand.”

But he didn’t . There was so much he didn’t understand, but everyone on the Jeon premises had seemed so hardened, so intimidating that he had to pretend he understood. He had so many questions that he couldn’t wrap his head around- Rebels? Criminals? Treason?

He decides to swallow his questions though, as he catches in the corner of his eye, a tall man walking towards them. When Taehyung turns towards him with Seokjin, he sees that the man- Namjoon, was it?- was dressed in a plain black suit, much less extravagant than the clothes he had seen today alone, but it clung to him well. His physique was so beautiful that Taehyung momentarily caught himself hoping that this person wasn’t Namjoon, but Jeon Jungkook himself. 

It was a ridiculous wish, though. He knew what Jeon Jungkook looked like- the whole nation did.

This man held the beauty that made him want to have these ridiculous wishes, though. Up close, he was even more beautiful- thick, plump lips that were beautiful yet different from Seokjin’s, half his hair swept up, piercing eyes that resembled a dragon, and a stern look to him that tipped more on the hot side, rather than Seokjin’s scary side. Seokjin meets him a few steps forward, leaving Taehyung behind momentarily to talk some details with Namjoon, and his eyes can’t help but to linger on the two of them; he wonders if everyone in the city was intimidatingly beautiful.

He wonders if it was a requirement to be beautiful in order to be able to enter the Jeon premises. He’s never thought about it before, but he’s suddenly feeling just a little insecure, the flare gone from earlier when he had looked into a mirror.

… He wonders if the two of them are together.

Seokjin turns towards him and beckons him to join them, and as he catches up, he catches the imprint on Seokjin’s wrist- Sagittarius. Namjoon holds out his hand for him to shake, with a dimpled smile (that he believes should be illegal ; he doesn’t know what the “rebels” inside the white building had done, especially that filthy lady, but he thinks Namjoon’s dimpled smile rivals whatever crime she committed) and as he takes it, he takes note of the imprint on Namjoon’s wrist- Virgo .

He almost leaps in victory, knowing the two were not compatible with each other. His excitement is only momentary, though, when he realizes he forgot one simple truth.

The reason why he’s here. He’s engaged to someone else.

The excitement dies as soon as it sparks, and Namjoon, oblivious to the amount of emotions Taehyung went through within the last thirty seconds, only smiles wider when he shakes his hand firmly.

A bleached blonde male in a white coat ( You’re not one of the white coats, are you? He suddenly recalls the woman accusing him just earlier) with wide, stricken eyes suddenly pops up behind Seokjin, tugging at his sleeve urgently.

“Team Leader! Hyunjoo has escaped and we’re barely holding her down because she found the burning stamp and is threatening to use it against us!”

A string of curses come pouring out from him as he nods towards Namjoon and Taehyung. “I’m going to be going first! Good luck on your dinner, Taehyung-sshi, and remember what I warned you!”

And with that, he was gone, with Taehyung unable to stutter even a word in response, and shyly turned towards the taller man. Namjoon only gestured towards the mansion, and strikes the biggest smile, showcasing his beautiful teeth along with his dimples this time.

“Hello, Taehyung-sshi. I’m Kim Namjoon, Jeon Jungkook’s secretary and confidant. I’ll be leading you back to the Jeon mansion. A lot of this must come as a shock to you, and I’m sure you have many questions- you can ask me anything.”

Oh.

His first warming, welcoming smile here. The wariness he held for the city disappears, even if only for a moment, to bask in the warmth of Namjoon’s presence.

The city was cold so far, but he was warm.

 



 

So word didn’t get around as quickly as Jungkook thought it did in the Jeon grounds.

The latest news he had caught up to was what everyone had been bustling about around the mansion- his Capricorn fiance, Kim Taehyung, had accidentally stumbled into the RRT center instead of the mansion. Namjoon was nowhere to be found, for some reason, so Jungkook thinks it’s a good idea to go to the center himself to perhaps collect him himself.

Maybe it would serve as a good icebreaker or story for later on, as well.

If Jungkook’s being honest, he thinks, as he makes his way down the stairs and out the back door to the exit facing the white building, his curiosity of what the center was like beat any other good intention he had. Of course, he had to collect Taehyung, but he wanted to see inside too.

Although he handled all the paperwork for the RRT and foresaw the mechanics and the works behind it, for some reason, his father had not let him go near the center ever since a young age. Although it was known that he would be heir one day, his father had always told him that he hadn’t been ready yet.

There will be a time , Chairman Jeon had said, where you’ll have to frequent the center so much you won’t want to anymore. Why waste time exploring the place you’ll see forever once you inherit the spot from me? In that time, go outside and experience the world more. Watch compatible matches fall in love, watch incompatible matches try their best but still fall out of love in the end. Experience the world around you, because that’s one thing you can’t learn from books. 

That’s one thing I can’t pass onto you.

It’s always been that way, as Jungkook remembers- his father was a stern, scary man, but was also very wise.

He wonders if he would be able to fill his father’s shoes when it was his time. It suddenly dawns on him that once he met Kim Taehyung, plans for their wedding would be set in place, and it wouldn’t be long before he would be passed on the role of chairman.

He gives it a year, at most. A year before he becomes chairman and everything would… change .

Jungkook stops in his tracks, looking up at the sky he’s under. The sun was a little past setting, the sky a mix of indigos and tinges of orange and disappearing light starting to hide and tuck itself behind the night sky blanket. His footsteps stopped in an equidistant spot in between his mansion and the center, and didn't seem to want to move suddenly. It was almost like once he reached the center and found Taehyung, the countdown to the year would start then, like a timer.

He was suddenly unsure if he wanted the countdown to start.

Was it a countdown to the end of his fun years? Would he be able to spend time with Namjoon hyung and Yoongi hyung the same way as before? Or would the title of “Chairman Jungkook” weigh too heavily on all of them? His thoughts drift to the uncomfortable atmosphere earlier, when he had left the two of them alone to get dressed.

Would they start to become even more uncomfortable from here on?

Instead of delving into those thoughts, he decides to take his time- his watch read urgently that it was past the time he was supposed to meet Taehyung originally, but he thinks he can take his time just a bit, this time. He was usually very punctual, but he thinks this time, maybe he could take a breather before he has to meet his destiny.

Destiny?

He waits for the remaining orange hues and light in the sky to be completely tucked away by the dark indigo sky before he decides to continue his track towards the center again. Plus, it was getting a little chilly.

He finally makes his way towards the center, pushing past the door to an even colder building that sends a shiver down his spine, shaking himself off momentarily before making his way in. The building is quiet, and he almost wonders if he had intruded in outside of working hours. Where was Taehyung?

He hears a voice at the end of the hall, and only half sprints to the door to find the room locked, but nevertheless, a voice on the other side of the door. Maybe he could ask around.

Three sharp raps to the door, and suddenly the voices cut off, a moment of silence ensuing. Then, slowly, carefully the door cracks open to reveal a blonde boy just behind the door.

“How can I he-” The boy’s eyes go wide upon setting his eyes on Jungkook as he quickly swings the door open with a squeak before dipping his head in a slight bow. “Executive Director Jeon! I- ah- well-”

“Do you know where Kim Taehyung is?” Or if he’s even here?

“Kim Taehyung?” The boy scratches his head as he raises his head up, pointing inside. “I’m just an intern here, I don’t know who that is. Maybe our team leader would know?”

Jungkook glances in the direction the boy’s pointing, towards a man with caramel hair whose back is towards them. He’s just hung up the phone, scribbling a couple of things down on the clipboard in front of him before he turns around with wide, puzzling eyes, an eyebrow raised before recognition dawns on his face.

“... To what do we owe the pleasure of having Director Jeon down here?”

He’s beautiful . He should respond to the question lingering in the air, but it’s almost like his lips don’t want to move in the moment- his eyes are taking in the team leader of the RRT before him with plush lips, irritation not hidden well behind his face, and eyebags that made itself at home under his eyes. Even with all the signs of weariness on him, he was beautiful- and although it would never be true, he secretly wonders if his father didn’t allow him to go to the center to hide such a gem within the white walls.

It’s ridiculous, but his beauty was enough to make him come to such ridiculous conclusions.

He raises an eyebrow and tilts his head, when Jungkook snaps out of it and realizes that he owed him an answer. “Ah, well. I heard Kim Taehyung had stumbled in here, so I wanted to see if he was still here to escort him back myself.” Can I escort you back?

“Oh?” The man slips off his white coat, Jungkook barely catching sight of the metal name tag on there- “SEOKJIN”- before brushing past him momentarily to hang it up on the coat rack behind him. “Actually, Namjoon came by just earlier to take him back to the mansion, was the news not relayed to you, sir?”

His words were polite, but his actions were casual. As if he was addressing his boss, and not someone he feared. In the corner of his eye, he can see the blonde boy by the door shift uncomfortably at his superior’s behavior towards the Jeon heir, all the while Jungkook’s heart had acted up at the mere mention of sir .

Jungkook’s eyes catch sight of the imprint on Seokjin’s wrist, and he’d be a liar if he didn’t admit that disappointment pooled at his stomach at the sign of the archer. Not only were they incompatible, but they had terrible compatibility.

Taehyung . Right.

“While you’re here, actually, sir ,” Seokjin’s voice pierces through his thoughts, as Jungkook looks up in response, “we have some paperwork we had to get to you because of the second offenders who had come in today. And, well, the report of our first second and a half offender.”

Jungkook’s eyebrows furrow. “Second and a half?”

“Well, she wasn’t technically a third, considering she didn’t go back out into the field,” Seokjin explains thoroughly, as he gathers his things and his eyes continuously shifting to the clock, “but she did attempt an escape from us and attempted to use the stamp against us, which was still violence. So we had to make a new protocol for second and a half offenders.” He pulls out a file and politely hands it over. “We’re hoping you could approve our newly drafted protocol for rare cases like these. We’re aware we won’t be using it frequently, but because it’s apparent cases like this do exist, we would like something to back ourselves into.”

Jungkook’s not sure what it is, but everything Seokjin said went over his head. He stared blankly at the file before accepting it gingerly, thinking he might not have to look it over and just sign it on the spot. He thinks Seokjin and his sweet voice could ask for the brutal execution of someone and he might sign it off for him.

But he’s more afraid of Namjoon’s lectures than he is captivated by Seokjin, so he decides this might need reading later and discussing with his confidant before making any decisions on it. He nods, tucking the file under his arm. “I’ll take a look at it.”

“Then,” Seokjin looks up, and for the first time, breaks out into a smile, all irritation and stress suddenly cast away. Jungkook can feel his own breath hitch, as he goes on, “I will be going home!” The sentence lingered, as if it was missing a word: “ finally” . His smile stretched so far up, so brightly that his cheeks gather to appear rather round and as Jungkook tries to pinpoint which tiny animal he resembles in the moment, Seokjin tucks his belongings under his own arm before dipping in a slight bow to him. “I hope your dinner goes well, Director Jeon.”

Before Jungkook could stutter another word, he was out the door, almost eager and excited to leave the white building. The Jeon heir and the blonde boy, who are left behind, are just a little speechless, as they nod to each other in farewell before Jungkook follows shortly behind to exit the white building as well.

His eyes barely catch Seokjin’s silhouette in the dark eagerly pile into the passenger seat of a car that's been waiting outside, his smile pointed towards the male in the driver’s seat who returns a soft smile- Jungkook can barely make out how the driver’s eyes crinkle into a smile, his lips stretching into the shape of a heart.

Disappointment pools at his stomach once more- he doesn’t know what he was expecting. Their signs didn’t align anyways, and he has a fiance waiting for him in the mansion, but whatever hope he somehow had harbored felt crushed in the moment.

Seokjin . He makes his way slowly back towards the mansion, arms hugging around himself when he realizes how cold it is. It’s cold, but inside, he’s burning, and almost as if the heavens know, a new moon takes its place in the night sky.



Let’s move
Goodbye to this place, that we grew attached to
Let’s move
Now to a higher place
While taking the last box out of the empty room
I looked back for a moment
Times we cried and laughed
Goodbye now

Chapter Text

“You can ask me questions, you know.”

Wide eyes look up at him shyly from where he’s sitting, and Namjoon just gives a reassuring smile. Kim Taehyung had caused some trouble ever since his arrival to the Jeon premises that he’s sure the chairman wouldn’t like to hear of, but he was sure that he meant no harm.

Of course, this was him trusting his own gut feeling because he’s only known the younger for a span of an hour. But, Namjoon thinks his gut feeling is almost never wrong, for the simple fact that he was an observer; it was his one quality that made Chairman Jeon trust him so much, to go even as far as to say that he considered him like a son.

(Of course, he knows the chairman is just saying that. The chairman knows that and he does too. To the chairman, people of the world were divided into two categories; useful and useless. The elder Jeon would shamelessly call useful people family until the day they became useless.

That was the cold, rational chairman Namjoon knew.)

Taehyung had been quiet the whole trip to the mansion and only responded in quick, short words whenever Namjoon had asked questions out of courtesy. One look at the younger, and he knew he hadn’t meant to come off as rude or cold - it seemed more like there was a lot clouding his mind.

So, Namjoon stays quiet until they reach one of the empty rooms. He remains quiet even when he receives the news that Executive Director Jeon had disappeared somewhere (he wasn’t that worried - Jungkook was plenty afraid of him that he knew he would come back soon from wherever he had gone off to). He remains quiet when he gestures towards Taehyung to take a seat on the leather sofa, and he remains quiet when he brews some tea for them, since the dinner would be pressing a slight delay.

It’s only when he comes over with the tea cups, sets one down in front of each of them, takes a seat on the other sofa, and takes a relaxed sip from his cup, that he decides to utter those words. “I mean really,” Namjoon follows up quickly, “I won’t bite. You look lost in thought.”

Taehyung’s long fingers come to cup around the china gingerly, and Namjoon thinks for a moment that the tea must be scorching hot, but the younger shows no response to it. Either he was really good at handling heat or, he was just that lost in thought.

“I guess... today’s just been a lot to take in,” Taehyung finally admits after the lingering silence, and Namjoon only nods. Namjoon was born and raised near Seoul, in an area that wasn’t too rural, so he would never know the full implications of the resolve Taehyung showed by choosing to come live here on a blind invitation. But he thinks the decision he made is incredible - something he would be sure to have had difficulty agreeing to.

If he’d been honest, he was intrigued by how fast a positive response had come from the Kim family. He had brushed it off just a couple days earlier, thinking that it was just another suitor interested in the glamor of the Jeon name, but having the somewhat timid, wide eyed male in front of him, he’s starting to think otherwise. “I understand.”

“I mean… I don’t want to seem too out of place, but I think it’s obvious I’m not from here, right?” Taehyung gestures at himself. “I’ve never worn these kinds of clothes before,” he holds up his wrist, “I thought Cartier was a made up name.” And he finally sulks into his tea, “and I caused trouble at the center. I’m checking off the list of characteristics for a cliche main lead in a movie. I just wish I knew more about what was going on.”

“So, ask me. Where would you like me to start?”

“Oh.” He takes a moment to ponder before lighting up again. “The RRT ! And the basics and generals of this place. I’m not really sure what Seokjin-sshi meant by offenders and criminals and… what was the word? Ah, protocol . I saw that word hanging around here and there on their cork boards.”

Namjoon taps his fingers against his chin, trying to formulate his words so it could be easier understood. He had never been in a position to explain the RRT and what they do, as it was more of an underground team.

Oh, maybe he should start with that.

“The RRT , or the Rebellion Restrain Team, is an underground team that works together to capture rebels and give them fitting punishments. You’ve probably never heard of the RRT or seen them at work, since they are more of a secret team but have you seen rebels in your area?”

Taehyung only frowns, already shaking his head before Namjoon even finishes his question. “Geochang was a peaceful, quiet area. The only rebellions that happened there were if someone had stolen the neighbor’s chickens.”

The older chuckles at that, although Taehyung was being quite serious. “I don’t understand the rebels here either. In the city, you see it quite often actually- rebels who want to defy Zodiakos and either organize protests outside of Jeon invested companies, or destroy Jeon monuments. In rare, radical cases, they destroy the Zodiakos marriage venues or crash another match’s wedding. It’s really disheartening to see, really.”

Taehyung slowly nods, intently listening as his hands around the cup tightens slightly. 

“We call them offenders because they seem to take pride in being called rebels . The chairman,” Namjoon points towards a giant painting of a stern old man on the wall to their right, “or Jungkook’s father, has always been keeping a tight rein on how to keep the offenders under control. He calls it the flash of regret , which I honestly have an inkling about. The RTT was trained under it for two years, so maybe Seokjin hyung can explain to you what it is next time.” His fingers come up to smooth the side of his hair unconsciously. “Protocols are levels of punishment an offender could be set for- there are first offenders and second offenders so far on this protocol. I believe the woman you were trying to set free earlier was a second offender.”

Taehyung’s quiet for a moment before piping up: “What about the other offenders?”

“I’m not quite following.”

“The third offenders, or fourth offenders, and so on and so forth.”

Namjoon only offers a sympathetic smile, taking a moment to sip some of his now lukewarm tea before answering. “... There have been none. Surprisingly, Chairman Jeon’s method seems to work- there were never any offenders after the second.”

Taehyung’s eyes widen at that, and he sheepishly scratches the back of his head with a slight jutted pout. “I can’t believe I’d wandered in there and caused such a mess .”

Namjoon only chuckles in response, the pout on Taehyung’s lips only growing. “You wandered into a building, lost. I think that’s plenty reasonable.”

“Really?”

“Really.” He sets down his tea cup on the coffee table in front of him, crossing his legs and folding his hands over his lap. “I was similar, the first time I came here. Of course, I’m still from around here, so I wasn’t as awkward as you,” his voice clearly teasing in an attempt to free the pout from Taehyung’s lips, “but this home is huge. After being in small apartments for most of my life, becoming friends with Jungkook was like stepping out of a small pond and moving to the ocean.”

Taehyung’s eyes light up at that as he takes a sip of his tea. “You were friends with Jungkook-sshi before working here?”

“We’re like brothers. I was his friend since junior high, and we’ve been close ever since. It was on Jungkook’s recommendation that I came here.” He picks at a loose string on the cuff of his sleeve before flicking it to the side. Namjoon cracks a smile at the way Taehyung takes in every word with a nod, adamant streaks of curiosity on his face, careful to take quiet sips to not interfere with Namjoon’s words.

Namjoon likes feeling like he’s being listened to. He can tell he’ll get along with Jungkook’s fiance well. He hums an approving nod before continuing, “He’s a good guy, really. Has always been a friendly kid. He can seem a bit cold, but he’s really just shy.”

Taehyung looks like he’s about to interject, so Namjoon waits, but it never comes. He doesn’t question it either, as he continues, “It takes some time for him to be comfortable around someone; he heavily relies on the extrovert to create the atmosphere he can follow. Jungkook really is a good kid, he just has a stern image to the public,” he almost rolls his eyes at that, “but it’s only because the term heir scares most people. You know how people are, putting unnecessary weight and meaning behind mere words.”

“... I see.” Taehyung just quietly nods, finishing the last bit of his tea. Namjoon tilts his head to the side curiously, resting his chin on the palm of his hand.

“I thought you’d have more questions about Jungkook, really.”

Taehyung shrugs, finally setting down his cup and flashing a bright grin, which breaks the initial intimidation he has around him. Although it’s obvious to Namjoon that he wasn’t from this world, he thinks he sure looks the part- that’s the first thing he had noticed when he had gone to the center to pick him up. Nowhere did Kim Taehyung look like he was picked up from a farm far from the city; usually, it was obvious. He looked like he came born with the borrowed designer clothes he had on, like they were his. He looked like he came out of the womb with a golden spoon in his mouth, a classy type of beauty that Namjoon approved of when they had scoured over the thousands of files to find Jungkook the perfect candidate- he could already imagine how he and Jungkook would look together, and they would look good, he has to admit.

What Namjoon didn’t want to admit to himself though, was the slight twist at the pit of his stomach as soon as he had the thought. 

He thinks Taehyung’s face resembled a Greek statue he might’ve seen in a museum somewhere, but as soon as it broke into a smile, his eyes curved into charming crescents and the sides of his face gathered to become rounder and, in a way, more innocent. He thinks he resembles a bear- not a scary one, not necessarily a teddy bear either, but perhaps a baby bear…?

“I don’t see a point in it. This is the man I’m supposed to marry, right?” He leans back into the couch, visibly more relaxed than before (Namjoon’s going to take that as a compliment, that he might’ve been welcoming enough) before replicating Namjoon’s pose. “I think I have all the time in the world to get to know about him, then. It’s better to hear about a person's likes and dislikes, their aspirations, their passions, and their past along with their future from the person themself, right? If you tell me everything about him now, I won’t know what to ask later. Conversation is a give and take, after all.” 

The smile is still dancing on his lips as he leans forward just a bit. “He can’t be the only one asking questions, I’ll run out of things to say. So, tell me about you!”

Namjoon blanks. “About me ?”

“Yes!” He clicks his tongue. “You’re not just an information box of Jeon Jungkook and facts about this place, right? Although, of course, that’s useful, I think I can see myself coming to you for help a lot in the future. But if I’m going to be seeing you so often anyways, as Jungkook-sshi’s confidant, I’d like to know more about you.” He holds up his wrist, turning it so his Capricorn imprint is facing the older. “Besides, the stars tell us we’re going to get along.”

Namjoon’s fingers unconsciously find the Virgo imprint on his own wrist, the tip of his fingers lightly grazing over it and following its pattern. A Virgo and a Capricorn, of course conversation with him would be easy. There was nothing else special to it. The stars had decided they would get along, and he’d forgotten about that momentarily. He’s suddenly relaxed at the thought, though he’s not sure what had him so tensed up earlier.

“Right, of course. What do you want to know?”

“Anything, really. What do you do here, Namjoon-sshi?”

“Ah, I’m Jungkook’s secretary.” He straightens his posture. “Although Jungkook is plenty capable of doing things himself, I really just do a lot to keep things running smoothly around here. If I had to explain the Jeon premises like a machine…. If Jungkook were the main cog, and all the small cogs that fit with the main cog were everyone working here,” he taps on his chin, “I’m the grease that lets it run smoothly when it gets stuck every once in a while, and the one that makes sure the machine doesn’t overheat or explode.”

Taehyung nods approvingly, a small whistle blown through his teeth. “Important. Very important.”

“Nowadays though, Jungkook’s been away or busy preparing under the chairman for the duties he’ll have to do once he steps down, so I’ve taken over his duties as Executive Director until he comes back.”

“Oh? What do Executive Directors do?”

Namjoon shrugs, another dimpled smile making its way up. “Usually they work right below the chairman, so they have inputs on the future of the system and what would be beneficial. If anything, they’re more concerned about the number of rebels increasing with this thought of freedom that’s been going around. They merely overlook the RRT , keeping them in check and seeing if they’re doing their jobs efficiently, and the RRT are the ones who carry the action out. Protocols ,” He reminds Taehyung. “But lately, Jungkook’s been entrusted with actively giving more input with reforms they could do because of the sudden increase.” His tea cup is cold when he picks it up, and he gestures towards Taehyung’s finished cup. “More tea?”

Taehyung shakes his head no, which has him placing the empty tea cups on a tray and pushing it to the side. “What do you think of that, Namjoon-sshi?”

“Of?”

“The thought of freedom the rebels have.”

He scoffs. “I think it’s stupid. We’re getting one worry off their minds, I don’t think any value of freedom is necessarily being taken away. They’re free to meet whoever they want, as long as they’re a compatible match. And it’s not like we’re choosing partners for them-” He throws an apologetic look at Taehyung who raises an eyebrow, “Except you. Although, you did have the choice to reject the summons.”

“No way. I’ve watched enough movies to know what happens when you reject rich, powerful families.”

Namjoon raises an eyebrow in intrigue. “How much of your reality is based on movies?”

“You should know better than me!” Taehyung leans forward, gesturing towards the older. “Big powerful families can get whatever they want! But some lone peasant is the only thing in the way of the one thing they desire?” He makes a motion of dragging his thumb across his neck dramatically, only for Namjoon to chuckle.

“Now why would they do that if the lone peasant is what they need?”

Taehyung looks at him incredulously, before three short tsks follow. “Namjoon-sshi, you really haven’t watched a lot of movies, have you?”

“I read a lot of books. I think they have the same cinematic experience if the book is written well.”

“No, no, no. I mean, movies that have these kinds of plots. Like cliche dramas, or even really badly made Hollywood movies.”

Namjoon furrows his eyebrows. “What would be the point in watching cliches?”

“Every cliche is based on some sort of truth.” Taehyung folds his hands again on his lap. “Really, you should watch more of those. There’s much to learn without experiencing it yourself.”

“And you have?”

Taehyung nods and his voice suddenly drops to a dark whisper. “When they need the lone peasant, they…. break him. Start by slowly attacking the things or people he cares about so he has no choice but to forfeit.” The younger merely shrugs, voice back to normal. “Of course I had no objections, because I wanted to meet someone who was thought to be compatible for me, too. I have no objections with the system. Virgos and Capricorns get along… well , after all.”

His eyes drop to the imprint on Namjoon’s wrist, and Namjoon suddenly feels very exposed. He smiles and reverts back to the person that reminds Namjoon of a baby bear. It’s hectic and a lot of emotions to experience at once. “I think I am glad to be here, after all.”

For the first time in his life, Namjoon’s speechless. He always had something to say, or was able to deflect unplanned situations or awkward scenarios with words. Words were his greatest weapon that he honed everyday; he wasn’t particularly talented in much else, but he could easily take pride in being the brightest brain and fastest mouth around. It’s also what made him so efficient at his job.

So when Namjoon says he’s speechless, it’s really a big deal.

He gawks for a moment, wondering how to respond to the subtle (was that subtle, or was he just dense? He’d heard multiple times before that his heart was a bit dense) sign, while Taehyung looked almost irritatingly (with no bite) relaxed and unrushed. 

Luckily, he doesn’t have to answer. The door opens in that moment, and one of the staff sticks his head in. Taehyung seems to light up in recognition at the sight of the man, and dips his head in a slight bow and it’s reciprocated back. “Sir,” Mr. Shin finally acknowledges Namjoon, “Executive Director Jeon is back. It seems he had gone to look for the suitor at the RRT center himself because the message that you had retrieved him, was never relayed to him.”

Namjoon raises an eyebrow, before realizing his phone was not in his pocket. He must’ve left it somewhere and forgot to pass the message along to Jungkook. The two start to get up as Namjoon responds, “I’ll talk to him later then. Would you escort Taehyung-sshi to the dining room?”

Mr. Shin nods, his head disappearing behind the door as Taehyung stretches his arms up, blowing out a sharp exhale of relief before holding his hand out to Namjoon with a smile. “Thanks for helping me out a lot today, I’m sorry for the trouble I caused too. You’ve made it easier for me to relax here and I feel a lot more comfortable now.” He has a teasing smile on. “I’ll show you all the crappy movies next time, if that’s okay?”

There’s a hopeful end to that offer that neither of them can ignore- even if Namjoon was dense to these kinds of signs, there was an intentional edge to it that he knew was there. He draws a breath, knowing he should politely decline-

“Of course, Taehyung-sshi. Whatever to make you comfortable here.”

He thinks that was a neutral enough response. He offers a smile after, but Taehyung’s smile shines brightly that his own smile dies dumbfoundedly on his lips. “Alright, wish me luck on my dinner!”

With that, he disappears behind the door after Mr. Shin, which is when Namjoon lets out a breath of relief he hadn’t even realized he was holding in.

Taehyung was absolutely oblivious to the inner turmoil he had left in him.

 

 

Perhaps it’s a little too late for Jungkook to start getting nervous now.

He knows he took time much longer than he had intended. 

He was expecting a lecture from Namjoon later, but the fear of it didn’t compare to the nasty feeling in his stomach. What if the person who he had the best chance of spending the rest of his life with didn’t like him? 

He shifts around the floor with tense feet, having the exact same epiphany he had earlier right outside the white building- the countdown to his year was about to start. Around next summer, would he be Chairman Jeon?

An influx of thoughts suddenly start to cloud his head and he’s itching for a cigarette. 

Three sharp raps on the door startle him out of his thoughts, before Mr. Shin opens the door slowly to reveal himself, dipping his head in just a slight bow.

“Sir, Kim Taehyung is waiting for you in the dining hall.”

He collects a deep breath to steady himself and clear his head. 94 percent compatibility. That wasn’t something to ignore so easily, right? There was a 94 percent chance that they would match and get along. He gives a silent prayer to the stars that Namjoon had good taste in men.

He supposes the first order of business to make Taehyung not dislike him is to not keep him waiting. He nods towards the older male before making his way towards the dining hall.

The hallways of the Jeon mansion usually felt very long and endless, much like the white building he had been in earlier, but the trip feels very short this time. His legs carried him much faster than he had wanted and before he knows it, his steps have taken him right outside the door.

He is one door away from meeting his destiny.

Destiny?

Fixing his hair before pushing past the doors, he walks into an empty room with food set on the table. He tilts his head to the side in wonder. He can almost hear Mr. Shin panic behind him at the sight and he wonders if he had finally messed up ba-

“Boo!” Jungkook’s just a little stunned, hearing the voice behind him but Mr. Shin’s the only one that jumps. Embarrassed, the older male clears his voice and bows to the two of them before taking his leave from the room. Emerging from the corner of a room, the man he assumes to be Kim Taehyung smiles brightly but shyly, the boldness from just a moment earlier gone. “Sorry,” he starts, and it’s only now Jungkook can take note of how deep his voice is. “You were taking your time and I got bored. Plus, I thought it’d be fun if my first words to you were ‘boo!’”

At that, Jungkook shows a crack of a smile. The tension he felt earlier, the nerves he felt right until the moment he walked in- it all disappears. The air feels light, as if they weren’t people who were handpicked to meet each other, but as if it was natural. It didn’t feel… professional .

He was good at being professional, that was never really the problem at hand, he realizes. There was a small part of him, it seemed, where he didn’t want a professional and sophisticated marriage; he’d always known he was destined for an arranged marriage, but it was perhaps a little selfish of him to want his partner to not just be his compatible business partner, but rather someone who reminded him of his age. That he was still young, that he was allowed to get comfortable. That he didn’t have to be professional in front of. He admired his parents’ sophisticated and elegant marriage, as he couldn’t see it any other way for the two classiest people he knew; it seemed he just didn’t want to mirror his parents’ marriage.

A leeway out of the suffocations of being a Jeon, he thinks. From the beginning of their meeting, Kim Taehyung seems to be able to provide that.

Jungkook realizes he’s supposed to answer to that, and opens his mouth only for Taehyung to gesture towards the table. “You’re going to have to teach me how to eat half these things,” he says softly. “I don’t know what half these things even are . Are those flowers edible too?” (They were, in fact, although it took Jungkook some time convincing Taehyung to try one). They join at the table with a chuckle, and even an introverted Jungkook finds it easy to make conversation with Taehyung. 

It’s mostly the older’s doing, really. In the social aspect, he thinks Taehyung is every bit more of a professional than he is; he’s good at asking questions, shifting the atmosphere so it never gets too tense, and doesn’t let them go too long with silence. He’s good at listening, or at least making one feel listened to as he trickles more comfortably into Jungkook’s life.

“Jungkook-sshi-”

“Ah, just Jungkook is fine.” Taehyung raises an eyebrow at that, and Jungkook shrugs. “You’re older than me anyways, and we would probably be more comfortable and easily adjusted once we get formalities out of the way.”

Taehyung is silent just for a moment, and Jungkook wonders briefly if he’s said something wrong.

“... Ah, there it is again.” Jungkook looks up from his food with his own raise of an eyebrow now, and Taehyung only returns a smile. “I didn’t mean that in a bad way. I’ve sat here maybe, what, an hour with you? An hour of talking is enough to make you feel like you know a bit more about someone, I’d like to think.” He sets down his fork and props his elbow up on the table, leaning the side of his face into his palm. “As soon as I feel like we get comfortable, you put us at a distance again, reminding us this is all arranged.”

Taehyung said this in the softest voice he could with no malice; if anything, there was more concern than any ill intention. But the Jeon suddenly feels a bit ill, as if he’s just ruined the flow of conversation that the older had meticulously created.

He opens his mouth to apologize, but Taehyung’s already moved on, a shrug light on his shoulders. “It’s a Virgo trait, I know. It just means I have to try harder!” 

He feels just a bit guilty, making the person who’s been working to make this evening comfortable, work even harder just to compromise for him. “Ah… I didn’t mean it like that.” Jungkook sets down his fork and knife while Taehyung works into the filet mignon (“Play minion?” Taehyung had asked, when he first told him the name, eyebrows furrowed in the middle. “That doesn’t sound edible.”) in front of him, the tip of his tongue peeking out to the side.

“I know, Jungkook.” The formalities were dropped, and Jungkook lets out a sigh of relief he hadn’t realized he was holding in. “Namjoon-sshi told me a bit about you when we were waiting.”

“Oh?” It felt a bit abrupt, having Namjoon come into the conversation. Not because Namjoon was, in any case, irrelevant- it was the name itself. Usually, Namjoon was referred to as Secretary Kim by others.

Well, if it’s Taehyung’s social skills, he thinks it’s very possible to have moved easily into the first name basis with him.

Knowing Namjoon, he probably didn’t say anything bad about him to the person he was going to marry , but that doesn’t leave him any less curious. “What did you guys talk about?”

Taehyung’s eyes finally tear away from its fixation on the slab of meat in front of him as he brightens up. “He didn’t tell me too much about you! I asked him not to. After all, the whole point of this dinner was me getting to know you.” He transfers a cut piece of the filet mignon to Jungkook’s plate, much to his surprise. The younger’s not sure how to react to that, as no one’s specifically taken care of his food this way before, but decides to keep his mouth shut at the way Taehyung nonchalantly hums, setting aside a piece for himself. It’s only when he looks up to catch Jungkook’s eyes on him that he catches himself, a bright scarlet brushing his cheeks.

“Ah, sorry! I didn’t even ask if you wanted some or not,” He clutches onto his utensils sheepishly, “It just happened out of habit. My family always cuts pieces of food for each other and we share around a big, round table so that we’re always at arms length away from each other to easily give.” He quickly switches topics. “Namjoon-sshi! Yes! He just told me that you tend to be a little shy, but that you were a good person. He seemed very fond of you, like his younger brother he grew up with.” He takes a bite of the meat, his cheeks rounding up from being stuffed. “Which is honestly fine with me, because I don’t do well around people with too much authority. I don’t like intimidation. Of course, I understand what kind of person you are to the public, but when it’s just the two of us, I don’t mind being the one who talks.” His cheeks are already round, but when he smiles, it becomes rounder in a way that Jungkook can’t calculate- how was it even possible? “I’m much more of an extrovert, really.”

And Jungkook wants to tell him how grateful he was for that, for the first time. He wasn’t an overbearing extrovert, like some people he knew- a lot of extroverts he knew always wanted an engaged conversation, and oftentimes were hurt by his lack of flare in reactions or engagement, but Taehyung wasn’t like that. In the last hour he had been with Taehyung, it seemed he liked talking, but there was no pressure for Jungkook to give lengthy responses- sometimes, Taehyung would talk about Geochang for some time before popping a related question to Jungkook, who would respond with a word or two, and he would carry on, satisfied with the answer. It was almost like a conversation with himself that Jungkook was an audience to.

He appreciates it a lot more than he thinks. He’s more of a listener, after all.

The questions Taehyung asked weren’t ones Jungkook were used to, either. 

(“I’m not going to ask stupid stuff like your favorite color,” Taehyung had told Jungkook. Jungkook raises an eyebrow, slightly confused. “Should I ask why?” Taehyung only grins, before finally responding, “Your favorite color isn’t going to make or break this marriage. Not that I have a say anymore in what makes or breaks this marriage.” 

He takes a sip of the wine, and surprisingly Jungkook thinks it fits him well, despite Taehyung telling him that it was his first time trying anything other than the strawberry wine they made on the farm. He thinks this image fits him well; a glass of wine sitting classy between his long fingers adorned with borrowed silver bands and jewels, his hair styled for the first time in his life by a stylist he’d never met before, sitting in clothes that were clearly not his. Taehyung was born for this lifestyle, Jungkook thinks. Of course, he’s caught off guard once again when he asks with a wide, boxy smile, “What do you think about when you see sunsets?”). 

Sometimes Jungkook wondered if his answers were lacking, but Taehyung seemed to take in every one of his (very short) answers to heart, nodding slowly as he processed them all. In a way, talking to Taehyung briefly reminded him of taking those online personality tests where they asked generic questions to analyze you in the end.

He wondered what kind of person he was in Taehyung’s eyes at this very moment. 

“You know,” Taehyung says as soon as the array of plates are being taken away, “Big kudos to the chef, the food was great, but I kind of miss the food from Geochang. Our neighborhood always shared banchan , we had a great assortment of namul .” He pats his belly before gathering his hands to rest on the table.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had actual namul , actually,” Jungkook reminisces as Mr. Shin makes his first appearance in almost two hours with a tray, leaving it on the side of the table before taking a slight bow and leaving. “My mother used to make them when I was younger, then we started hiring chefs.”

“You could come with me next time!”

“Next time?”

Taehyung frowns. “C’mon, I know I have to make a living here now, but you guys will let me go visit my family every once in a while, right?”

Jungkook cups the back of his neck, almost shyly. “Actually, we were hoping for your family to move into the mansion with us, as they’re our in-laws. They should be taken care of too.” But before Jungkook even finishes his sentence, Taehyung is shaking his head. “What?”

“You know, I came here on my own decision and accord. I had the right to reject the summons.” Taehyung crosses his arms. “But please don’t expect my family here, I know they would definitely want to stay in Geochang. They prize our strawberry farm too much to leave it. Would that be a decent request to make?”

Jungkook’s a little quiet, but Taehyung is patient. If there’s anything he learned about Taehyung in the last two hours, it’s that he is very, very patient. He doesn’t seem to mind how Jungkook takes some time to formulate his answers, to search for his words. “It would be dangerous.”

“How so?”

“The rebels. The Jeon family has a lot of supporters, as well as enemies. Once you marry in, your family will always be an extension of the Jeon family- your farm could be an easy target for them.”

He looks up to see a troubled look, for the first time, break his calm. His face dark and stormy, deep in thought. Jungkook quickly promises, “But I can request high security around! We may have to change some things within your premises to set in high security, but we can request a batch of the RRT there too!”

He’s not sure if these demands would be approved, but he thinks it’s okay when Taehyung’s face brightens up, the smile making its way back onto his face. “You would do that?”

“I can put in a word.” Jungkook straightens up. “I don’t know if you heard, but your fiance’s the next heir of the Jeon family.”

A soft laughter that reminds Jungkook of the stars rings in his ears, as he gestures towards the trays with two velvet boxes on them. “It seems there’s a delivery for the next heir of the Jeon family ,” he teases. The younger reaches for the boxes but hesitates once his hands are hovering over them.

“Erm. Are we supposed to put them on each other? Like a proposal? This isn’t exactly traditional .”

Taehyung shrugs. “There are no instructions. I think we’re free to do whatever we please.” A mischievous grin makes its way onto his lips. “Wanna get on our knees for each other to put the ring on?”

Jungkook makes a face that has Taehyung roaring into laughter, his shoulders shaking from laughing as he attempts to recollect himself, dabbing at the corner of his eyes. “Okay, then you choose a box, I choose a box, and we exchange them. They’ll be the same ring, but they can be our first gifts to each other. Sound good?”

Jungkook nods, looking over at the boxes- they were identical, but one was a velvet, dark red, and the other one a velvet, dark blue. He clasps his hand over the red box, leaving Taehyung with the blue one. They reach across the table to exchange the boxes in their hands and open their respective boxes to reveal a silver band inside with their Zodiacs imprinted on either side of the diamond encrusted in the middle. When he picks it up, he sees an indented waxing moon on the inside of the band, parallel to where the diamond was. The Jeon family crest was a new moon, but they used waxing moons on two occasions;

  1. Marriages
  2. Funerals

Waxing moon . The beginning of a new moon cycle where it starts to show itself, and is believed to be a good time to take action on new journeys, or new intentions that were set at the new moon. This engagement, he supposes, is a new journey to embark on. 

He slides it on his ring finger as soon as he realizes Taehyung already had it on, having taken off all the other rings he had borrowed for this evening. And even more than the rubies and fancy jewels he had sported the whole evening, somehow this simple, diamond encrusted band outshone all the others. He holds his hand out to examine it with a fond smile.

“Well then, I guess,” Taehyung finally says, “Here’s to our first gifts to each other.”

“Beautiful rings.”

“No,” the older tears his eyes away from the bands, offering a shy smile. “Our selves.”

 

 

“Seokjinnie hyung!”

Hoseok comes running over with something behind his back, a clear attempt to hide something. Of course, it wasn’t obvious to the seven year old that having your hands behind your back while running was an obvious sign of a surprise gift, although nine year old Seokjin didn’t mention it.

Hoseok was, in every way, the opposite of Seokjin. Seokjin was hard- he was stubborn, knew where he stood, and to Hoseok, he was cool. He let negativity wash over him, something he’d had a keen eye for ever since he was younger. He was, in every way, an adult to Hoseok- he was only nine, and only two years older, but everything Seokjin said in a calm voice was like the holy word to Hoseok. Hoseok was delicate, for lack of better words- he was bright, idealistic, and a little timid at times. Hoseok was the air bubble that let Seokjin breathe when he sank too low in the deep waters, he was the only one who reached out first to him, and he was, in every way, luminous.

If Hoseok ever floated too high in the sky in his thoughts, Seokjin kept him grounded.

If Seokjin ever dug too deep into the ground in an attempt to find stability, Hoseok dug him back out and kept him grounded.

They were the perfect balance, as Hoseok would always gleefully point out to Seokjin. Seokjin, who was blunt at times, bites back his tongue. This was the one friend he did not want to hurt or lose because of some words he said, so he finds he bites back a lot of words around the ball of energy- Hoseok never seemed too affected whenever some words did manage to slip past, but he found himself wanting to be careful around him.

It was hard, but his childhood consisted of strict rules and slaps to reality that no other person at the age of nine should’ve ever had to face yet. While Hoseok played in the gardens with his mother, Seokjin was memorizing the laws of Zodiakos.

 

1. The reason for the existence of Zodiakos is not for the limitations of man, but to give limitations to the amount of heartbreak one receives.

2. We are free to choose who to love, but in accordance to Zodiakos, we are to remain within the four compatible Zodiacs we are given at birth.

3. Any attempt to deface our birth imprints, or to give a false initiation that we are anything other than our signs that the stars have assigned to us, is punishable by law.

4. Incompatible matches are refused the following: registration for marriage, shared bank accounts….

 

There are a couple more rules, but Seokjin has trouble remembering all of them. Some words are a bit hard for him to grasp, but he has notes where his mother has rewritten the laws in easier terms for him to remember. He thinks by the time he reaches the big age of ten, his first double digit number, that he’ll be able to remember everything like an adult. He’s adamant, so much to the point where the set of rules are posted on his ceiling over his bed, so it could be the first and last thing he sees at the end of each day. 

Hoseok always tries to take it down whenever he’s over. Seokjin’s not sure why and he gets angry whenever the younger tries to take it down.

Becoming friends with his neighbor was like a fresh breath of air. His mother adored Hoseok and his bright, patient energy, as most adults did, and sometimes even let Seokjin out of their after school studies together early so he could go play with Hoseok.

“He's a good influence for you, Jin-ah.” His mother would bag some homemade caramel cookies for him to take over to his friend’s house, hurrying because she wouldn’t want him to cross the street when the sun starts to set. “My baby, you’re so smart and grounded in ways that kids your age aren’t,” she says with a look of almost pity on her face, “but Hoseok is bright. He is kind, he is always waiting for you, and he helps you.”

Seokjin’s not quite sure what the word that starts with an ‘i’ means, but he thinks so too. Everything his mother said was correct, after all.

His mother had always reminded him at the beginning of all their lessons, that people were temporary. The only person who would be with him loyally from the beginning of life to the end was himself. 

She reminded him of this, not to have him exclude himself from people, but to keep a clear mind- that people often make stupid mistakes for other people. 

She reminded him that rules had to be kept, and not broken for other people.

She reminded him that it was not worth damaging himself for other people.

“But what about Hoseokie?”

She smiles. His mother was beautiful in every way that he was able to count, and she was beautiful in ways that he was not able to see but feel. His mother never had a stray hair, and out of place accessory, or mannerisms that broke her eloquence even once. She was professional, beautiful, and wise- he wanted to be like her. He thinks he’s lucky that his role model was someone who he got to see everyday.

“Keep him. Keep Hoseokie, Jin-ah. He won’t do you wrong.”

So even if Hoseok wasn’t delicate, he pretended he was, so he could be more careful around him. So that he doesn’t slip within his grasps. 

Because Hoseok was worth keeping, Hoseok would never do him any wrong.

Hoseok’s cheeks are flushed red from having run across his own front yard, then across the street, then across Seokjin’s front yard to greet him. He thinks it’s always been this way; Hoseok coming the distance to meet him. Even when Seokjin insisted on meeting him at his house, since they were going to play there together anyways, Hoseok always took the extra distance to see the older as soon as he could.

Seokjin pretends to not see that Hoseok has something behind his back, because he knew he loved surprises- he loved surprising Seokjin, he loved seeing his reactions, so he starts to wonder how he should react this time.

“Hi Hoseokie!” Seokjin smiles, holding out a hand to him so they could hold hands and cross the street safely (it made his mother feel safer). But Hoseok refuses to take his hand, which he then thinks is the perfect leeway into the surprise behind his back.

“Oh?” Seokjin’s lips jut into a pout. “You won’t hold my hand, Hoseokie?”

Hoseok’s bright eyes suddenly widened, panicking. “No, hyung! No no no,” his face is still scarlet red, but Seokjin doesn’t think it’s because he ran anymore. “I… I made something for you, hyung!”

Finally. “... You did?” His eyes twinkle with curiosity.

A quick nod with a bright smile, before his face drops momentarily. “First, promise to play with me forever!”

“But Seokie, forever is-”

“- is impossible, I know hyung. You tell me this every time!” Hoseok’s eyebrows furrow, as if it were an attempt to look serious (Seokjin’s thinks it’s endearing). “Just promise me! Let’s say forever exists. Just promise me!”

Seokjin hesitates, but he nods slowly out of curiosity. Hoseok beams. “Okay, close your eyes and give me your hand, hyung!”

The older is getting irritated, seeing the sun is setting soon and they have to cross the street soon, but he does as he’s told because he thinks bickering about it isn’t going to shorten their time. He holds out both his hands, palms up as if he were to receive something, but is pleasantly surprised when soft hands that are colder than his flips one of his hands, palm down. He thinks he could peek without Hoseok noticing, but out of respect for the sincerity of the gift, he doesn’t. Something slides onto his finger, something kind of rough and unpleasant.

“Open!” Seokjin’s eyes flew open, his eyes immediately fixated onto his now flipped hand. Around his ring finger is a small, yellow dandelion wrapped around it.

“A ring?”

“It’s my promise to you!” Seokjin looks up to see Hoseok beaming expectedly, and he thinks for a moment that the younger kind of resembles the dandelion. “Seokjinnie hyung, promise me something.”

“Hm?”

“If you’re 35 and alone, let’s get married!”

Seokjin roars in laughter at that. “You want to marry me?”

He nods, still beaming.

“Why 35?”

“Because hyung won’t marry me now.” Hoseok sulks just for a moment, looking down and tracing the ground with the tip of his toes.

“And I would say yes to marrying at 35?”

“Maybe! I promise I will,” the younger says, determination laced in his voice. “Unless… you don’t want to marry me, hyung?”

“What if I have someone then?”

“That’s why I said if we’re alone!”

“But Seokie,” Seokjin pouts. “We’re supposed to marry the person we fell in love with.”

 A flash of hurt sprays across Hoseok’s face, and he sulks even more. “But I love you!”

Seokjin chuckles at that and brings his hand over on Hoseok’s head, patting his hair down and flicks his forehead lightly. “Okay, I promise you. 35, right?”

“You’ll marry me?” 

“If we’re both alone,” Seokjin reminds him, “by the time we’re 35, I’ll marry you. Okay?”

“Okay!”

He snickers. “I’ll just have to find someone else before I’m 35.”

“Hyung!”

 

Just five more years.

No, technically four. Seokjin is turning 31 by the end of this year, so Hoseok will just have to wait four more years.

The older male is unsuspecting, after all these years - he had a brilliant mind, full of ideas and always kept clear to always be rational - but he was foolish all the same. Seokjin merely thinks that seven year old Jung Hoseok had talked out of his ass, out of respect to their close friendship, but Hoseok’s been waiting- and he’s gotten awfully good at it. The remaining four years may seem long and should’ve discouraged him by now, but he was accommodating and patient. There was nothing that could hinder him after all these years.

It wasn’t hard to fall in love with Kim Seokjin. It certainly wasn’t harder to stay in love with him. Every time Hoseok thinks it’s time for him to put away his feelings, Seokjin always surprised him- whether it be a sudden, soft smile on his callous face, or whether he looked so convincingly unconcerned that Hoseok believes him, until he comes running in the middle of the night to drop off homemade porridge for his sick self. 

(“I just had some leftovers,” Seokjin would try to play it off. Hoseok would give a soft smile that the older can’t read, taking the bag into his hands. “I thought you might’ve liked some. Heat each container up in the microwave for around two minutes.”

“Each container?”

Seokjin’s ears would go red as he cups the back of his neck. “I, uh, separated them into multiple containers so you could just take one out every meal and heat it up easily. It should last you a couple of days.”)

He thinks it’s a little unfair, how Seokjin can keep roping him in, but he has no one to blame other than himself- Seokjin himself had never once crossed the line with him. It was Hoseok caught up in his own feelings, which he despaired over multiple times. He was the only one whose heart skipped a beat, he was the only one who showed up late to their meetings sometimes because he was busy trying to choose what to wear, he was the only one who couldn’t stop thinking about him, and he was the only coward who never got to express his feelings. The only proud moment he’s had so far is the foolish pact his seven year old self made.

So he’s holding onto that promise. The promise is all he’s got left, and now he’s only got four years left.

It’s been a long time in the making.

“What are you thinking about, Hob-ah?” cuts in Seokjin’s voice, and Hoseok snaps out of his thoughts.

“Hm?”

“You spaced out for a moment, you didn’t even realize the spread in your sandwich dripped to your hand.”

Hoseok looks down at the convicted hand and frowns. “Ah, sorry. I was worried about my upcoming project. Did you know that the co-director wants to put fall colors for the upcoming summer clothes line?” He wipes his hand with a napkin, shaking his head. “He’s insane, I’m telling you. There’s one thing for bold and wanting to try new things, but there’s another thing called out of fashion . There’s a fine line between the two, but he’s most likely the latter.”

Ah, he forgot to mention. He’s quite good at lying. It’s a skill he honed over the years of dancing around Seokjin’s heart.

“I wish I could provide more input,” Seokjin says, with relief evident on his face, relaxing once he got confirmation that Hoseok was okay, “but I really don’t have an eye for fashion. I admire the work you’re in, Hob-ah.”

“I just think it’s ridiculous . It’s like he’s run out of ideas and is spouting whatever a seven year old might think randomly.”

“Go easy,” he says sternly but there’s a grin on his face. “Seven year olds can say anything. Remember, you proposed to me when you were seven.”

Hoseok achingly puts a hand over his heart, although his face is playful. “Hyung, you still remember~? Are you secretly waiting for the day you turn 35?”

“Of course I remember, it’s the only chance at marriage I have left.”

Hoseok’s heart skips a beat. It’s so unfair, it’s so damn unfair because his heart’s the only one that skips a beat, while Seokjin calmly says this as he’s mauling a sandwich into his mouth. “Only chance?”

Seokjin shrugs, quiet for a moment before setting his sandwich down on his plate slowly. “I think I’ve achieved a lot of the things I wanted to, you know?” He leans back onto his chair, crossing his arms and his legs as he takes a sip of his soda. “I’m 30 now. I became the youngest person to join the RRT . I then became the youngest person to become the team leader. My mom lives happily off my vast income in Busan now, which is the only thing I could’ve ever wanted for her. I’m acknowledged at my job, recognized at Jeon events, and really good at what I do.” He’s lost in thought for a moment, and Hoseok waits. Because he’s patient, and he has a tendency to lap up every word Seokjin says like it’s the holy word.

“But I think the one thing I can’t conquer…” he says in a soft spoken tone that Hoseok has rarely ever heard- the one that suggests he was shy, or uncertain about something. Seokjin was always certain about something. He was domineering, he was charismatic, and he was, at times, stubborn. So when he hears how soft his voice has gotten, Hoseok only leans in closer to hear. 

Seokjin’s ears are red. “I don’t think I’ll be able to find a match.”

Hoseok’s heart sinks momentarily. “How come?”

“I’m simply not interested.” He taps his chin a couple of times with his straw. “No one has managed to make my heart flutter, no one has managed to surprise me. Everyone acts, in the end, exactly the way I expect them to. You remember Kun?” Hoseok nods. Kun was one of Seokjin’s longest relationships, almost around four years, when Kun had left him for not being “warm enough”.

He thinks Kun doesn’t know Seokjin like he does. He’s never known anyone warmer than Seokjin. “I think,” Seokjin then proceeds to dramatically put a hand over his chest, where his heart should be, “the stars blessed me with a clear mind and a resolve to achieve, but it came at the price of a cold heart. How pitiful. I’ll experience romance vicariously through books and movies forever, I suppose.”

Hoseok’s sunken heart brightens right back up- it should discourage him, really. It should discourage him that the man he’s in love with self-admitted to not having had romantic feelings for anyone yet, but his heart warms up at the thought- Seokjin has been this way for thirty years. He’s seen him through every relationship that made him nervous that Seokjin would fall, but none of them have ever affected him. He decides to put his hope on the fact that things could not change so easily for them for the next four years- and that after that, he would be his.

They would have each other.

The loud, obnoxious blare of Seokjin’s phone breaks the silence between the two, as Seokjin mutters a string of curses under his breath before accepting the call. He’s wordless for a few moments, listening intently, before he says a shrout “I’ll be there soon” and hangs up.

“Sorry, Seok-ah,” Seokjin starts to gather his things, his eyebrow furrowed in obvious annoyance. “I have to go into work early, they said there was a problem with one of our working DNA recognition systems. I’m sorry.”

Hoseok’s disappointed, but he never lets it show; he knows better than anyone, that Seokjin’s number one priority would always be the RRT . “It’s alright, hyung. Do you want me to pick you up after work today?”

Seokjin shakes his head, a ghost of a smile on his lips. “No, it’s okay. I brought my car today, but thanks for offering.” And as always, he brings his hand down on Hoseok’s hair, patting it down before giving a light flick to his forehead. “I’ll see you later, yeah?”

And off he ran, his bag slung over his shoulder and pressing on his hat. He was in such a hurry that he left half his sandwich behind, and Hoseok scratched his cheek, wondering if he should drop off some dinner later for the man who often got so immersed in work that he forgot to eat.

Four more years, Hoseok , he tells himself as he finally bites into his untouched sandwich, four more years and you’ll get to take care of him without hesitation, and he’ll let you .

 

 

Seokjin hates work.

It’s very complicated. If there was a chance to work for the RRT from home, he would take it right away.

He grumbles as he slides on the white coat, holding up his badge to the identification pad before the doors automatically slide open. He made no attempt to hide the annoyance on his face, as Kenny shows up not a minute later by his side.

“Good afternoon, Team Leader Kim. We-”

“Just afternoon. Nothing good,” Seokjin cuts in grumbling, sliding on his round spectacles as the blonde intern hands him the clipboard. “So yesterday, you called me in halfway through my lunch break because of the malfunctioning DNA rec sys. What is it today that you had to have me come to the office to tell me instead of over the phone?”

Seokjin’s agitated- it was a weekend. It was his day off . Unless he had lost some rebels within their custody, there was almost no reason for him to be coming in. He rambles about the unfairness of it all, not allowing Kenny a chance to talk until they reach the room he’s being led to.

“Well, uh, actually…” he opens the door without a word, and Seokjin realizes he’s been led to his own office. He looks at Kenny, who doesn’t say anything even when given the chance. Scowling at his hesitancy to say anything, Seokjin walks in.

“... Oh.” Seokjin’s scowl softened just a little, but he still didn’t bother to hide the streak of annoyance on his face. “Executive Director Jeon. What a surprise to have you here.”

The younger Jeon was sitting at the table by Seokjin’s desk, a cold cup of tea in front of him as he offered a smile. Seokjin’s not really sure what business a Jeon could have here- and it’d been happening quite often, lately. Usually, for any business the Jeon family had with the RRT , they sent Namjoon.

He had heard from Kenny that the past couple of lunch breaks, the Jeon heir had been seen walking past the white building, even when none of his schedules and meetings involved going near here.

“Hello.”

“May I ask what business you may have with me on a weekend? Surely, you should be resting well too, sir.” Kenny seems to have left the room and closed the door behind him, as Seokjin lets himself have a sigh before sitting down on the chair across the table from Jungkook.

“Ah, a lot to do. There was actually something I did need to discuss with you. I’m sorry to have brought you in on a weekend.” He pushes the file that was in front of him towards the team leader. “It’s regarding the protocol about the second and a half offenders.”

Seokjin frowns, pushing his glasses up as he opens the file to find red markings and notes on the seven page protocol. “These cases are rare, we could’ve discussed this on Monday.”

“I am fully booked for next week, for…” Jungkook pauses for a moment, his hand cupping the back of his neck. “For… arrangements within the family.”

Ah, the engagement, Seokjin’s mind drifts. It was hard not to know. He was pretty certain that the whole nation knew about this by now; when it was rumored that the Jeons were no longer taking applicants, word had been buzzing around for the ‘Capricorn suitor’- negative words from those who were hopeful for a chance to become a Jeon, positive words from those who showed their support for the system. A lot of mixed reactions, as expected. Seokjin was disinterested in the Jeon family’s business, but it didn’t mean he lived under a rock.

“‘Busy’ was enough, Director Jeon.” Seokjin responds, a bit coldly as he starts flipping through the pages. “I am not one to meddle within the Jeon business. There is no need for you to have to explain yourself to me. But,” he tears his eyes up from the pages, raising an eyebrow. “Couldn’t you have sent Namjoon for this?”

Jungkook’s already shaking his head, crossing his arms. “As you know, I’m learning to become the next Chairman. I want to be able to learn how to handle these things myself without relying on Secretary Kim too much. Although I know my focus will not be on the RRT at all times once I do become chairman, I believe there is no way for me to be able to know how to tackle problems and affairs on a grand scale if I cannot handle even the smallest problems.”

Seokjin hums in approval, nodding slowly as his focus shifts back to the file in his hands. As expected of a Jeon , he thinks. The answer was carefully articulated, to the point where he wonders if the answer was prepared before he came.

“So,” the younger starts, making Seokjin raise an eyebrow. “When did you join the RRT , Seokjin-sshi?”

It’s his turn to articulate a careful answer. “I have been a team leader for two years now, and team leaders are to have at least seven years of experience. Although,” he starts, his eyes not tearing away from the pages as he mentally notes all the changes made, “I am certain there is a file with all of my information that you may be interested in.”

That should shut down the questions for a while. 

“What do you usually do on the weekends?”

This makes Seokjin stop and finally tear his eyes away from the file, looking incredulously at him. If Jungkook caught it, he was good at being casual about it.

“On my weekends, I do not do work related activities, so I do not know how it pertains to the protocol in front of me.”

“Oh, it’s not for business talk.” The executive director smiles, and for a moment the air around him is slightly less intimidating. Seokjin’s able to let out a relaxed breath once he smiles. “I just think you might be an interesting person.”

“I don’t see how anything about me suggests that at all.”

Jungkook shrugs. “I heard you were good at your job, but that seemed to be the only thing anyone around here ever knew.” He taps his finger on the table in a light rhythm, carrying on as if the conversation were casual. “But in the one time we met, I saw how easily you broke out of that shell at the thought of going home, so I was just curious about what you did outside of work that made you so excited to go.”

“Well, does anyone like staying at work?”

Jungkook’s just a little quiet at that, before piping up, “I’m not sure. My work is my home.”

A cold, trickling feeling of pity briefly crawls its way into Seokjin’s chest for a moment before he shoos it away. “I suppose being a Jeon comes with its perks and downsides.”

Jungkook chuckles at that, nodding. “I’ve never thought about it too much. It’s always been something I just accepted.” He’s quiet, and Seokjin thinks maybe the questions might stop. “I don’t have any complaints, but I do wish I had one thing to myself, albeit a little selfish.”

He supposes its courtesy to ask what it is. Also, a ticket out of not passing off as rude and getting laid off from his job. “And that is?”

“Marriage.”

Seokjin is surprised at this- he sets the file down from his hands to examine the younger Jeon’s face, who seems a little lost in thought before he catches Seokjin’s eyes on him. “What?”

“Nothing. It just seems surprising to not want marriage, when someone so compatible with you is handed to you on a silver platter.”

“Oh, Taehyung-sshi is great.” Right , Seokjin thinks. That was the fiance’s name. He briefly remembers the wide eyes of the suitor who got caught, and almost chuckles in memory of it. Innocence took its mark on the Capricorn’s face, and Seokjin remembers having known almost right away that it was the biggest sign pointing that Taehyung hadn’t been one of the rebels.

It’s not necessarily to say that the rebels weren’t innocent. But they were, rightfully, hardened- you could see it in their eyes. Their eyes were less hopeful, losing the light it once held, and much more hardened. As if they had gone through traumas others haven’t, as if they had seen it all.

Well, Seokjin supposes they did.

“That’s great then.”

“I never brought this up to make any personal jabs at him. I just… it sounds stupid.” And he stops there, a light red brushing at his cheeks as if he just realizes he’s overshared with one of his employees.

It’s annoying how Seokjin feels brief pity for him. “What is it that you wanted then, Director Jeon?”

Jungkook is quiet for a moment, as if hesitating between whether or not to let Seokjin know. Seokjin thinks he couldn't care less whether he knew or not- he took on the question out of momentary pity because he didn’t hate Jeon Jungkook.

He knew Jeon Jungkook was a competent boss. Perhaps he owed a bit of his success to Jungkook, although the young Jeon didn’t know of his existence till recently, because having a competent boss made it easier for him to do his job. Although he knew he came off a little cold, he held respect for his boss.

He just thinks there’s a line in business. He was his boss, and he was his employee. It’s just highly unprofessional.

Jungkook seems to have decided to tell him, because he softly responds, “It just would’ve been nice to have a choice. To fall in love when I wanted to.”

Seokjin unknowingly scoffs, in which Jungkook snaps out of it. “I don’t mean to intrude, but I think the marriage you have is practical. A very good system, I think.”

Now it’s Jungkook’s turn to scoff. “You say that because you have a choice.”

“I think even if I didn’t have a choice, I would prefer it. One less headache, after all.”

Jungkook’s eyes widened. “But what about finding someone you like? Someone that you find yourself drawing closer to, that you love ?”

Seokjin raises an eyebrow, finally meeting eyes with Jungkook. His eyes are wide and innocent, and he briefly reminds him of a tormented kid who’s just been told that Santa Claus wasn’t real. Perhaps that’s why he forgets momentarily that he’s his superior. “You’re a hopeless romantic, aren’t you?” His voice drips with pity.

“And you’re not?”

“I’ve never thought about it. I’ve had more realistic goals to focus on.”

Now Jungkook just looks torn, and pity is laced into his voice. “Hyung, you don’t mean it. You have to have thought about it at some point.”

Hyung . Suddenly he’s hyper aware of their setting- Seokjin’s office. Executive Director Jeon, the heir to Zodiakos. I am a mere team leader under him. He came here to discuss the edited protocol. He straightens up, the air suddenly tense- even Jungkook, who was good at casually passing it off, tenses up.

“I…” His eyebrows furrow. “Did I do something wro-”

“With all due respect, Executive Director Jeon,” Seokjin says firmly, “We are not close, nor are we in any situation for me to be your 'hyung'. Please don't cross any lines.”

Jungkook is silent for a moment. “But I want us to be, hyung.”

He doesn’t provide any explanation- Seokjin stares at him with incredulous eyes once again when Jungkook casually takes the file from him, providing brief explanations of the changes he had made to the protocol with Namjoon just the night before.

This is what Seokjin wanted all this time, but suddenly, as Jungkook’s walking through the seven pages thoroughly, he’s unable to focus. When Jungkook is gathering his things to leave, he decides to review the notes later on his own when he realizes that he’s retained nothing from the meeting.

Jungkook looks outside the window momentarily, seeing the sun has completely set. “It’s dark out, be careful when you leave, hyung.”

Seokjin opens his mouth to protest against being called hyung again, but Jungkook’s already halfway out the door, waving. “Bye hyung! I’ll see you later!”

The door closes, and Seokjin stays in place for just a moment. Or what feels like a moment, but when his eyes drift to the clock, half an hour has passed. He gathers his things and turns off the lights, before letting out a sigh.

He’s disappointed in himself. He wasn’t able to keep his workplace professional today.

 

 

Jungkook goes to sleep with two things on his mind;

  1. Red, embarrassed ears,
  2. “Hyung”.

He supposes Taehyung’s advice didn’t go to complete waste today.

(“If you want someone to open up to you and get closer?”

Jungkook nodded, embarrassed as he stared into his lap. “There’s an… employee that’s been bothering me lately, and I want to be able to comfortably work with him. He’s very closed off, you see.”

Taehyung hums in response, tapping his finger against his chin. “I can’t offer you much, especially since I don’t know the person, but typically if you open up about yourself first, wouldn’t it create a safer space to allow them to as well?”)

Granted, he was unable to learn anything new about Seokjin today, but he did gain two things out of it. He hugs those two things close to him, as if he could really embrace them, before drifting off into sleep.

And in his sleep, for the first time in years, he sees the boy with crescent eye smiles and plump lips from grade school.

For some reason, he doesn’t remember his name, but he thinks he was perhaps someone very important to him.

Like there’s a... a block in his memory.

 

 

I breathe a sigh and watch the sky as it

Collects this little hopeless puff of air

There are a thousand cherry blossom

Petals swirling to a silent song up there

I spin around and around and around

And around and then spin right around

I'm waiting patiently for spring but I

Don't know if I can bear it without you around

Chapter Text

Everyone makes a few mistakes in their life. 

It’s always been a rule for Yoongi to recognize that he can’t avoid making mistakes- he can only hope to not regret whatever decision he makes. It’s the number one rule he’s lived by his whole life;

Study hard, so he doesn’t regret not studying later on. 

Take care of his parents well, so he doesn’t regret not doing enough later on.

Pick his battles well, so he doesn’t regret being involved in something he didn’t have to stress over later.

It came in many different forms. And for the most part, he thinks he’s lived a big portion of his life with few regrets.

Really. 

Until four years ago.

He thinks it started four years ago, when he met the boy with flaming orange hair and plump lips. An incompatible match. The stars said that they don’t align, so why did a mere look at his lips make him want to defy the stars? Why did he look at Yoongi like that? Like he wanted him? 

It wasn't fair, Yoongi thinks. It wasn't fair that Jimin looked at him like he was the best thing he'd ever laid his eyes on, it wasn't fair that he made his heart skip a beat nonchalantly, and it wasn't fair that he had the prettiest lips and prettiest eyes he had ever seen. He'd never been a big fan of putting makeup on himself, but when he saw it on Jimin, he understood why people did. Jimin was the first person that he'd let put makeup on him for the simple fact that Jimin was really good at making Yoongi feel wanted.

And Jimin did want him. There was no denying it. The chemistry they shared was beyond what he could explain, and the way he wanted Jimin wasn't subtle either.

Neither of them made a move till many months later, of course. They were subjected under the same system and they were still afraid- especially Yoongi. Jimin was a bit more willing to shoot subtle signs and hints that he was interested, but the older was afraid of the implications that would come from accepting him into his life.

Especially regarding his relationship with the son of the Jeon family. Jungkook was a mere two years younger than Jimin at the time and barely getting his start into adulthood and learning more about the system in a serious manner. He didn't want to confuse him, especially with his destiny to take over the system one day.

He didn't want to stand on opposite ends with him. He wasn’t confident in making the Jeons his enemy, nor was he confident that he wanted to risk everything he had to be marked as an offender .

But this story was for another time. Who cared what happened in the story, when right now he was divorcing someone else?

 

 

Seokjin wasn't able to keep his workplace professional again after that.

It should concern him more, really. The way Jungkook seemed to effortlessly barge into his space and be able to make himself at home there. It should concern him more, and he thinks originally it did. He's not sure if he just gave up, or had gotten used to it. The young Jeon started coming by more often despite having never shown his face there in the last nine years Seokjin had worked there.

Sometimes it was Taehyung popping by to relay a message from Jungkook. 

("Why didn't he send Namjoon?" Seokjin had asked with his arms crossed, and Taehyung had shrugged. 

"I offered to go," he would respond with lightly dusted cheeks. "Jungkook wanted to come himself, but he was on his way to a meeting, and this time I don't have to be in that meeting, so I was able to escape that god forsaken mansion." Seokjin would raise an eyebrow at that, and Taehyung waved his hands in defense while sporting a boxy smile. "Not in a bad way. I'm from the countryside, hyung. I prefer spending time outside rather than inside because of my family. I'm not allowed into the public yet, either, because apparently I'd be swarmed with reporters. The Jeon botanical garden and this center are the only excuses I have to go out at the moment."

He feels bad for the Jeon fiance for just a split second.)

But most of the time, it was Jungkook swinging by the white building "on the way to a meeting" or "on his way back home".

He's unsure when he got used to it. It's only been a week, but it feels like it's been months since his original discomfort with the situation.

He's unsure when he started letting Taehyung comfortably call him hyung too. It sounded so natural coming off of Taehyung's tongue because he called out Jin hyung as if he'd been calling him that his whole life; he was a foreign character to him, really. Friendly and odd. He had a certain quality to him that made him easy to let in.

Well, at least, once he shook his initial fear of the older off that he harbored from their first encounter.

"Why were you so afraid of me?" Seokjin had asked earlier this morning, when Taehyung had come by with bagel bites for everyone in the RRT. Taehyung shoots him an incredulous look with one eyebrow raised, as if he were silently asking Are you serious ?

"Hyung, do you not remember when we first met?"

"You broke in and almost freed a criminal, yes. What about it?"

Taehyung's lips are parted, just gawking.

"You admitted to almost tasing me!"

Seokjin holds his hands up in defense when Taehyung points a plastic fork towards him, eyes accusing. "I was simply doing my job. What if you weren't the Jeon fiance and was actually part of the resistance? I would've had every right to tase you," and he takes a bite of his bagel bite when the younger lowers his plastic fork, "and if I hadn't arrived a moment sooner, I would've had every right to tase you once you got the bonds off of that offender."

Something flicks in Taehyung's eyes that Seokjin is unable to read as he silently takes a bite of his own bagel bite, chewing slowly as if he were lost in thought.

"You're similar to Jungkook," he finally spurts out at the end of the long silence where Seokjin is chowing down the last of his bagel bite. He chokes, because nowhere in his mind does he think that he's anywhere near similar to Jungkook.

Taehyung holds out a glass of water to him as he warmly greets a passing squad member, who returns a warm smile, and Seokjin starts to wonder when he got so close to them. "I'm sorry," Seokjin finally says as his throat clears, downing the water, "but I find that hard to believe and quite frankly, ridiculous ."

"It's true!" The younger holds out the box of bites to Seokjin, who gladly indulges on another one, "I mean, I know Sagittarius and Virgo are supposed to be really low in compatibility, but looking at you and Jungkook, I feel like maybe it's because you're similar. Opposites attract, or whatever, but you guys are similar, and maybe that's why you don't like him."

"Again, do enlighten me how ."

"Every time I feel like I got closer to the both of you," Taehyung sighs as he finishes his own bagel bite, "and we seem to be doing well, you put me at an arm's length of distance again. I pointed that out to Jungkook the first time we met too."

It's funny how Taehyung says The first time we met as if it were years ago, but Seokjin can't seem to blame him for that. A week in the Jeon premises could serve to feel like years. Seokjin can't quite wrap his head around what he said though, really. From the way Jungkook has barged into his daily routine and his space with a mere few words, he starts to wonder if they know the same Jungkook.

"Yes, we are talking about the same Jungkook."

Seokjin looks at him startled, suddenly inching away. Taehyung laughs, flicking any crumbs off the front of his shirt and straightens up. "You said it out loud, I'm not a mind reader, hyung."

Seokjin immediately relaxes, placing a hand over his chest where his heart should be. "You had me thinking you might've had supernatural powers. I was about to have you kicked out and banned from ever coming here again."

"Yes, I'm definitely one of the extinct lunar witches."

He taps his chin, raising an eyebrow. "Or... you'd be useful for the RRT if you could read minds. Maybe I'd have to convince the Jeon family to let you go and trap you here."

" Hyung , don't say something so scary," Taehyung says as he rolls his eyes, grabbing his bag. "I'll get going now, hyung. I have to be at the mansion by 10 to recite the Zodiakos rules word by word to Chairman Jeon." A pout is jutted on his lips, and Seokjin can't help but chuckle just a bit. "If I don't come back within the next two days, it's because I messed up on one of the words and got kicked out for not being a suitable fiance!"

And with that, Taehyung is out the door, and Seokjin is able to go back to his normal daily routine.

Normally, Seokjin thinks as he taps his pen against his chin and his eyes scan over some paperwork, he really doesn't prefer it when someone barges in and ruins the routine he had lived by. He thought change to be unnecessary in places that he was excelling in, and change wasn't easy to get adjusted to anyways. It was difficult for him to adjust to Taehyung and Jungkook, and it still is.

But Taehyung wasn't a bad person, he thinks. Taehyung was lonely on the massive Jeon premises that he had made a massive decision to come to, and Seokjin was merely one of the first people he had been able to befriend. He was a kind, bubbly person- just a little lonely. Plus, it wasn't like he could kick out the newest member of the Jeon family.

As for Jungkook, he's not sure why he's so guarded towards him. He's always determined to send him away when he comes back, but when he pokes his head in with a short "Hyung!" and a smile (that terrifies the rest of the RRT squad, because it wasn't the Executive Director Jeon they knew), his annoyance fades just a little. Almost like giving in, if anything. There was no proper or polite way to kick out a Jeon fiance, much less the Jeon heir.

He thinks he has to deal with this for now, if he wants to keep his job and his place here. He notices the shift in difference in the way the RRT welcomes and greets the two as well- after all, he thinks it couldn't be helped. Taehyung was not of Jeon bloodline, and Jungkook was. Because of this simple fact, Taehyung was, in fact, more comfortable to be around.

Because the Jeons are on a different level and world , they’d been trained to think. The Jeons were elite.

He supposes the relaxed treatment towards Taehyung would change as well, the moment the marriage went through.

There's a knock on his door when he's registering the seventh offender of the day into the computer system and he looks up, raising an eyebrow as his eyes shift to the clock. 12:37 pm . His meeting wasn't until two in the afternoon, after his lunch break, and he had nothing scheduled other than to work on the files until then. Who would be-?

The person behind the door must've gotten tired of waiting, because it creaks open and Jungkook pops his head in with a cheeky smile, waving. "Hi hyung!"

An intentionally audible groan bubbles up in Seokjin's throat as he slides off his glasses and rubs his face, only half in annoyance that his time was being infringed upon. "Executive Director Jeon. What brings you here at this time?"

"I finished my meeting early and had a little bit of time before Namjoon would call me back," he responds immediately, used to every accusatory question Seokjin would throw at him as he invites himself in and closes the door behind him, "So I decided to come by. From the looks of it, you look like you need a break anyways." Another cheeky smile.

But Seokjin doesn't budge. "I have more files to look at until my lunch break in around twenty minutes, Director Jeon. I'm sure you will allow me my space to continue my work."

Jungkook raises his hands in defense, comfortably taking a seat on the other side of the table. “I’ll be quiet until you’re done, promise. You won’t even realize that I’m here.”

That’s not… exactly what he meant, but he supposes that’s the best he’ll get from him. Seokjin dips his head down to start scanning the documents in front of him once again before punching in information into his desktop, when an impatient tap of three rhythmic fingers starts to take its place on the desk.

Just a little irritated, Seokjin looks up, sliding his glasses to fit better onto his face. “You said I wouldn’t realize you were here.”

“I didn’t even talk! I breathed .”

“You’re tapping on my desk.”

Jungkook grumbles, taking his hands off the table. “You know, hyung, maybe my first assumption was wrong. You’re no fun.”

“That’s,” Seokjin breathes out in exasperation, “what I’ve been trying to tell you from the beginning.”

“I’ll make you experience a little fun!”

He scoffs in response to that. “What does the elite and royal Executive Director Jeon know about having fun?”

Jungkook raises an eyebrow to that. “What do you think is the definition of fun in the Jeon book?”

Seokjin leans back into his chair, twirling his pen between his fingers as he shrugs, his eyes lingering on the clock momentarily before focusing back on the younger. “Punish rebels, drink champagne more expensive than this whole building, paperwork, suits-”

“Hyung,” the younger deadpans, holding a hand up. “Are you sure you’re not just listing your hobbies?”

“I’m not boring and rich, I'm just boring.”

“Rich people aren’t boring!”

“Don’t you guys cry over getting a car for your birthday instead of a yacht?” There’s a bitter bite in his voice, but if Jungkook notices, he doesn’t acknowledge it. Seokjin’s eyes return to the screen he’s working into with a furrow of his brows. He's realized that his tone with Jungkook has slipped too far, and he has to remind himself that this is his superior.

Jeon Jungkook is the next Jeon heir , he reminds himself. His engagement signifies the coming of his entrustment of the system. You are in no position to be bickering with him as if he is your friend.

He is not your friend.

He is your superior.

The composure he lost slowly returns, letting out a sigh with it.

“You watch too many movies, Seokjin hyung.”

“Director Jeon.” He folds his hands on the desk in front of him, boring a gaze into the Virgo through his glasses. It might’ve looked hardened, or in some ways intimidating, but it was really a questioning gaze- as if he couldn’t figure out something. “What is the real reason you are here? Surely, it would not look good as the next Jeon heir to be hanging around here to distract his employees, especially when he's supposed to be undergoing training.”

Jungkook tenses up just slightly at that, and Seokjin can observe him averting his eyes as the playful air fades out. He’s been too lax around the younger, he thinks, which is why he’s so defensive towards him. 

It must be the reason. It must be that Taehyung respects boundaries, however playful, and leaves with a keen eye when he realizes he could be breaching working hours. It must be that Jungkook walks into this building as if he owns it (which he technically does, which irks Seokjin just a bit more) and talks without a care, as if they aren’t on working properties.

It must be. There’s no other reason why he finds himself with more bite, with more hostility towards the Jeon. It must be the reason why his “hyung” bothered him more than Taehyung’s. 

It must be the reason why his “hyung” gave him an unsettling feeling, while Taehyung’s felt a bit more comfortable.

He’s convinced that has to be the reason.

Seokjin snaps out of his thoughts when Jungkook finally speaks.

“I just... I came by because I wanted to know if you wanted to have lunch together," he says as his hand reaches up to card through his hair. "I heard you had breakfast with Taehyung, and he said that you seemed to enjoy the bagel bites he had brought, so I wondered if you would eat lunch with me if you were able to have breakfast with him.”

Seokjin hesitates- the million responses he generated in his head that Jungkook could possibly say ran through his head, most of them being playful and insincere, but this was probably the one response he hadn't been expecting. There's a seeping iron-y taste and a cold feeling in his chest- was it guilt? Surprise? Doubt? A mix of all?

Why would he feel guilty?

As if on cue, someone knocks on the door, startling the two of them just momentarily before Seokjin clears his throat. "Come in."

The door heaves open as Hoseok heaves a box in with a gruff exhale, kicking the door behind him as he sets the box down on the coffee table with a "Seokjinnie hyung! I brought the files you asked me to-"

His eyes finally fall on the company Seokjin had present in the room and his eyes go wide, suddenly stiff as he straightens up, wiping the sweat off his brow as the sentence dies on his lips. Hoseok's face was always readable to him, like a book- it showed a distortion of wariness, confusion, surprise, and finally, recognition. "I- Ah, well..."

Something flickers in Jungkook's eyes as he watches Hoseok, who's at a loss for words at the situation he's walked into. He struggles to find the words (probably to address him- Mr. Jeon? Jeon Jungkook-sshi? Like Seokjin said, his face has always been readable to him). Luckily, Jungkook, standing now, extends a hand first to him. "Hello, I'm Jeon Jungkook. You must be...?"

"... Ah, excuse my rudeness, I wasn't expecting Seokjin hyung to be having company." Hoseok takes his hand in a firm shake, offering a smile. "I'm Jung Hoseok, a friend."

"I was actually about to say," Seokjin finally pipes up, both heads turning his way, "that I apologize, but I'll have to decline your lunch offer, Executive Director Jeon." When Hoseok's eyebrow raises, Seokjin quickly adds, "To discuss the wrong name on the registry you brought in to my attention."

Jungkook's eyes hold a gleam that Seokjin can't read, and he looked like he would question or rebuke the lie, but he says nothing. True to being professional, he effortlessly catches on with a keen eye. "No worries. We have next time to discuss that matter. Perhaps when you return."

"Are you ready to go?"

"Almost. Let me punch in a couple more files and then we can go?"

"Perfect." Hoseok makes his way towards the door he entered through, eyes crinkling in a smile. "I'm going to make a... ah... bathroom break, then."

He shuts the door behind him before Seokjin could even question it, only leaving questions hanging in the air. There's a shared silence between the two, before Seokjin pushes his glasses up to type into the computer once more.

Jungkook just stands there, seemingly lost in thought when Seokjin finally allows himself to implore, not looking away from the monitor.

“It seems you have a lot of free time on your hands to be visiting the center everyday.”

That seems to reel the Jeon back into reality, raising an eyebrow. "Shouldn't you be busier now," Seokjin only persists, perhaps a little too daring for his own taste, "or have you been clearing your time by pushing the work onto your subordinates?"

He's not sure why he's so forward, or why he sounds so petty- he thinks no one can fully know themselves, but he had never known himself to be a petty person. But Jungkook's relaxed behavior around him just... makes him want to act that way. As if he's challenging him. His fight instincts seem to be activated whenever the younger was around, and the only logical explanation he could think of is their low compatibility.

Virgos and Sagittarii had one of the lowest compatibilities, after all.

He doesn't seem to want to admit, even to himself, that he can't help but be a little curious- why was the youngest Jeon so fixated on becoming his friend? Surely, there were other people. Why did Jungkook keep coming back?

It would remain an unspoken question, and therefore a question he'd never have the answer to.

Jungkook only tilts his head in confusion, before nonchalantly responding, “What do you mean? I make the time to see you.”

He gawks, just momentarily, the heat rising to his face all at once as he whips his head back to the screen, punching in keys again. He knows his biggest indicator of any response is how red his ears can get, and for once he's appreciative of the fact that his hair has grown out just enough to cover the tips of his ears. "You say things like that so easily, Director Jeon."

He doesn't have to look up to know Jungkook has an amused grin on his face. "You're easy to be around, hyung."

He huffs in response, punching in the names of the last couple offenders on the files in front of him before gathering the files together, straightening them out with a few thumps on the desk before a sharp sting makes itself known on his finger as he jerks his hand away slightly from the pile, a red line starting to spot on the side of his ring finger. He curses lightly under his breath and turns to the side to grab a tissue from the box at the edge of his desk when he realizes Jungkook's looming over him with a tissue in hand already, eyebrows furrowing and fixated on the cut.

"Geez, hyung," he says as he bends over to dab the tissue lightly on the cut, red blotting the tissue as Seokjin realizes how close he is to him now, but Jungkook doesn't seem to mind. His eyes are only fixated on the cut even as he talks, eyebrows furrowed together in concentration. "Can't take my eyes off of you even for a second, huh?"

"It's just a paper cut. I'll just go run it under some water and put some medicasol on it-"

"Hyung." Jungkook's eyes are finally on him, a frown etched on. "It's bleeding too much for a paper cut. Are your file papers made out of steel?"

"I just have sensitive skin. See? It's already stopped bleeding." He straightens himself up as he bunches up the tissue and tosses it into the mini trash bin by his feet. "Thank you, Director Jeon."

Jungkook's hand won't let go of Seokjin's crooked finger, eyes examining it as if he'd broken it and Seokjin feels barren under the scrutiny. He clears his throat, suddenly feeling very heated. "Do you have a bandaid?"

The older raises an eyebrow. "Yes?"

"Where?"

He points towards a white plastic box on the top shelf just above a file cabinet right across the room, and immediately Jungkook takes large strides towards it and Seokjin watches as the Jeon digs out a bandaid from inside before peeling it in his hands as he makes his way back to the desk.

"Director Jeon, I really don't think I need a bandaid for a paper cut -"

"Nonsense." He holds the plaster out, ready to be wrapped. "Give me your finger."

"I can do it by myself, " Seokjin grumbles, before Jungkook's hand darts out to take the inflicted ring finger and carefully places the middle cotton square over the cut. Once he decides it's placed in the right position, he straightens it and proceeds to wrap the adhesive bandage around delicately.

Delicate?

Yes, that was the word- delicate . Jungkook was touching him like he was delicate . He doesn't think he's ever been anywhere near the word, and he has to suppress a bitter laugh from bubbling out of his chest.

The younger crumples up the paper wrappings of the band aid and tosses it into the bin, and with a small smile he lets go of the finger, straightening his back. "There you go!"

"... Thank you," Seokjin mutters quietly, rubbing the band aid in place and slides off his glasses, folding them neatly over the pile of files.

"If you're really thankful, then I have a question."

He raises an eyebrow. "Proceed."

"Was he," he points towards the closed door, "your boyfriend?"

He frowns. "I don't feel the need to answer that. You seem awfully interested in my personal life."

"Just wondering, because I saw him last time too." He straightens up. "Just wanted to know if that was why you lied earlier, that I asked you to lunch for something that had to do with work."

His mouth hangs open just momentarily, unable to respond- why had he lied earlier? It was such a momentary decision that he didn't bother to stop and think about it.

... No, he knew. It was rational, he thinks. Hoseok may not be his boyfriend, but he owes him the peace of mind. Especially with Hoseok's feelings for him that's lasted almost forever. He shouldn't be avoiding people because he thinks he owes Hoseok anything, but he thinks misunderstandings can be avoided. Going to lunch with someone wasn't something that could be easily misunderstood, but going to lunch with an engaged Jeon would draw some eyebrows raising and talk. It wasn't a common occurrence, after all.

But before Seokjin can respond, the door opens and Hoseok slips in from behind it, and he lets out almost a sigh of relief. "You ready to go to lunch?" is all he asks as Jungkook moves away from the desk area and he gathers his things. There's no response, and he's forced to look up towards his friend, who he now notices is sporting a dazed expression. He seemed almost lost in thought, but leaning more towards the daze after seeing an angel. "Seok-ah?"

His eyes snap out of its daze, looking up at Seokjin with parted lips. "Huh...?" It takes him a couple of blinks and moments for him to remember where he is, as he nods with a smile shortly after and holds the door open. "Ready to go." He glances over to Jungkook. "It was a pleasure making your acquaintance, Executive Director Jeon."

Jungkook dips his head in a little bow in response, and Seokjin shoves his wallet into his pocket before passing by him, flipping off his white coat to hang on the coat rack by the door and turns to the younger. "Then, Director Jeon, I will be taking my lunch break. Please have one of the interns show you the way out. Preferably Kenny, because he's more used to seeing you as he works directly under me and you'd scared the other interns." He dips his head in a slight bow, which Jungkook reciprocates silently, before dragging Hoseok behind him out the door.

He sighs in relief as soon as they reach outside, Hoseok following quietly behind him. Actually, Hoseok's quiet on the whole ride to the restaurant instead of asking him about his day in his usually chipper manner, but Seokjin doesn't comment on it. Hoseok's usually really readable to him, but today, he's a bit harder to read.

Plus, Seokjin has a couple of things running in loops through his mind as well. They're both quiet, seemingly lost in their own thoughts, but Hoseok's the first one to break the silence as soon as their food arrives at their table.

"Seokjinnie hyung," Hoseok murmurs, and he snaps out of his thoughts immediately, eyes focused on the situation around him. The risotto and huge nachos they were going to share catches his attention immediately, and his stomach lets out a small growl that he hopes only he heard. He fights back salivating at his senses being satisfied by the sight of the food, and might be a little impatient as he passes a plate to the younger.

"Hm?"

Hoseok looks a little hesitant, but he takes the plate and waits until Seokjin has put some risotto on his plate before speaking again.

"Do you know someone named Min Yoongi?"

Seokjin furrows his eyebrows, leaning over to dump some risotto on Hoseok's plate as well. "No? Is he someone I should know?"

Hoseok's lips part just momentarily, drawing back into his thoughts as Seokjin raises the first nacho to his mouth, basking in the excellence the flavors danced around in. This was it , he thinks as he raises a second chip with cheese, meat, guacamole, sour cream, and more assorted toppings to his lips, this is what I needed. He doesn't like to admit that he has deep cravings for nachos more often than he lets show.

Hoseok mutters to himself, and over the crunch of the nachos all he hears is something along the lines of someone lying to him, and Seokjin only tilts his head to the side curiously as he finally raises his own spoon to now tackle the risotto, sitting prettily in his plate.

"By the stars, you look so troubled. Did something happen while you were gone for the bathroom?" Seokjin only chuckles, trying to lighten the mood as he takes a bite of the risotto (it just melted in his mouth- he makes a resolution in this moment to work out more often to stay healthy and live long enough to taste more good foods the world has to offer).

(Of course, he had to thank the stars for not allowing some disruption in the balance of the galactic chaos above for the meal. It was custom to.)

Hoseok finally lets a ghost of a smile tug at his lips as he starts to dig into his food as well, taking in some nachos to his lips while Seokjin is hastily shoveling risotto into his mouth. "No, just someone I... know. He said he knew you, so I thought he might've been someone you worked with or was friends with."

Min Yoongi . Min Yoongi. Nothing about the name rings a bell, but he offers anyways, "Maybe we worked together at some point. I've had to deal with a lot of people in my line of work, but knowing he's someone you know makes me feel kind of bad for not remembering." 

"Don't stress, hyung." Hoseok picks up some more nachos in his hand, momentarily looking out the window of the restaurant they were seated at (Seokjin likes the design- the walls are all window, so there's plenty of natural light in the cozy woody restaurant with mahogany tables and white lacy tabletops. This restaurant's been a staple spot for the two of them since childhood, and he can't think of anywhere else that feels more like a second home than this restaurant), before looking back at the older with curious eyes. "What's on your mind?"

Seokjin has around three nachos shoveled into his mouth (he promises he's not trying to hog them, he just never realized how hungry he was even after the bagel bites he ate in the morning) and chokes on his food at the sudden question, and Hoseok's hand that's holding a cup of water is immediately in front of him, as he accepts it to take a gulp.

It's always been this way, Seokjin thinks as he side-eyes the younger who's looking at him with worried eyes, but is quietly waiting. Hoseok was patient- he was good at waiting. Patience was a good virtue to have, Seokjin thinks, and it definitely added onto his bright and cheerful demeanor even more. There wasn't a single person Hoseok couldn't charm with the many virtues he had, and he thinks his patience is what ultimately closed their friendship in closer despite other people leaving because of Seokjin's demeanor. His patience is what ultimately saved their friendship, he thinks.

But it's also what was killing it, the thought slips into his mind as he gently pounds on his chest, letting the nachos go down with the water. Hoseok was too patient. So patient, that Seokjin had to give up long ago on his hopes of Hoseok's affection towards him to subside on their own.

He was well aware of Hoseok's feelings. It was hard not to notice, really. And although he knew rationally it was better to rip the band aid off, to let him know about his platonic love for him (and not reaching anywhere beyond that), he was afraid, he supposes. That the delicate Hoseok he had always been careful around, always double checked himself around, and always appreciated would leave his side once he found out Seokjin knew and didn't respond to his affections, ultimately meaning he intended to stay friends only. 

Keep him by your side. Keep Hoseok . He didn't want to endanger that.

So he keeps pretending he doesn't know. And he will continue to do so. He hopes that Hoseok sticks to his more timid nature and not tell him of his feelings, until the day they have to initiate their childhood promise comes.

It was all selfish on his part, but he thinks this is the best thing he can do.

"Nothing, really," he finally answers, setting down the now half empty cup of water. "Just a couple things that my boss said earlier." He wasn't technically lying.

Hoseok scrunches his nose, crossing his arms after taking another spoonful of the risotto. "Man, hyung, I knew you were an important person, but I didn't know Jeon Jungkook was right above you in ranking." He pats his own chest. "I came to the RRT to grab lunch with you, and ended up meeting the next heir to Zodiakos . Tell me, do they," he gestures, they being synonymous to the rich and royal, which he supposes the Jeons were, "have that aura everyone always talks about?"

"Aura?"

"You know. Young and rich. Unrelatable, classy, alien-like. Maybe even a little arrogant?"

Young and rich. Check. 

Unrelatable? Seokjin's inability to relate to many people in general kind of makes his opinion useless.

Classy? He raises an eyebrow at the thought of Jungkook sticking his head in excitedly, eyes following him like a lost puppy, and his quiet shy voice asking him to share lunch earlier. Maybe not .

Alien-like? Maybe not in the way everyone thinks, but to Seokjin, he was foreign. It checks off his personal list, but he's not sure if it's in the way Hoseok's generalizing it to be.

Arrogant? Definitely a lot less than he had presumed.

How many checks? One and a half? He weighs his options, and shakes his head, dumping the last of the risotto onto his plate as he takes in a slow spoonful.

"He's not as intimidating as everyone thinks," he finally comes to an answer. He decides to borrow a couple of Namjoon's words from years ago. "You know how people are, putting more than necessary weight behind titles and labels. He's the heir, but he's just a normal 25 year old man." He looks a little distasteful though. "Like a loud puppy that's been kicked to the curb. He's a nice person and a respectable boss. Very friendly."

"You seemed a little uncomfortable around him earlier, though. And do royals usually ask their employees to lunch to discuss business? I thought they could just call meetings whenever they wanted, with their positions."

Seokjin only chuckles in response to hide the momentary panic behind his eyes. "Lunches, dinners, and company parties can be a form of meetings too. A lot of CEOs meet with each other over lunch to discuss business propositions."

Hoseok doesn't seem to buy it, although Seokjin's not sure what he's so worried about getting caught for- Jungkook had merely asked him to lunch, after all. He had time in his schedule and decided to come by the RRT to ask if he did too. There was nothing else that suggested it would be anything other than business.

What do you mean? Jungkook's voice rings in his ears. I make the time to see you.

He shakes the thoughts away before his eyes shift to his watch, noticing he had around twenty minutes left of his lunch break. "Ah," Hoseok notices, wiping his lips on the napkin before getting up, "your break is almost over right? We should get you back to the office."

Seokjin hides a small smile as he gets up too, making his way to the cashier as Hoseok gathers his things at the table. Hoseok was easy to be around. He was easily unapologetic to be around, and easily caught onto things well. They were compatible, after all.

The car ride back to the office is lighter than when they left the same place, and Seokjin groans as the white building pulls into view, dreading having to go back inside only to face the offenders of the day. The offenders were always rounded up and sent to the RRT while Seokjin was on his lunch break, which gave them an hour- and it was after the lunch break that he despised coming back to this job.

More importantly, he despises the color of that building. It could've been anything else, but no, the building is a boring white inside and out, and he was tired of seeing the color white. Their work coats are white, the building was white, and the files and clipboards they had in their hands were white. He despises the color white. It's underwhelming and reminded him of this place.

Drinking the last of the coffee in the disposable cup in his hand, he waves a quick farewell and a "see you later" and waits until he sees Hoseok's car disappear out of sight before he turns on his heel with a sigh and walks towards the building. Luckily, the Jeon premises were ridiculously big, so the walk to the white building was long and enjoyable. He calls it the actual highway to hell.

What he wasn't expecting, though, was for someone to join his walk.

That sounded a bit unfair to Jungkook. Let him reword it. He didn't expect to see Jungkook seemingly lost in thought and silent while staring at the flowers in the Jeon garden the path to the RRT center passed by, and he slowed to a stop in his tracks to let his eyes linger on the young Jeon.

From this view, he definitely looked the part of what the royals were that Hoseok mentioned earlier- his jaw was set, eyes colder than when they greeted him, hands in pocket as he was pondering, and there wasn't even a ghost of a smile on his face. The Jungkook that stood in the garden before him looked nowhere near to the friendly, cheerful Executive Director he knew. Of course, this wasn't the original director he knew, but he thinks a lot can happen in a week. 

It did for him, at least.

Looking from this angle, he's maybe a little relieved that he doesn't see Jungkook that way anymore- if he had kept the same view of him right now and had caught him on the way to work like this, he surely would've been uncomfortable to be seeing the Jeon heir in broad daylight.

It seems he's stood there for too long, because the younger finally takes notice of him in his peripheral vision and a crack of a smile presents itself as he gestures the older over to the garden. His watch says he has seven minutes left of his break, so he should get going to get settled in on time, but his feet start trotting off the path and onto the grass, cutting across to slowly make his way to the garden.

He'd been at a far enough distance that he was unable to see what flowers Jungkook was looking at, and now that he was close enough, he sees that he'd been hovering around the row of hibiscus flowers. 

"Executive Director," he greets, his eyes averting to his watch momentarily. Five minutes. He should get back soon. "Did you enjoy your lunch?"

Jungkook only nods wordlessly, his eyes studying the older for a moment before looking back down at the hibiscus.

He thinks it's manners to ask. "Something seems to be on your mind. Is it anything enough to disturb your work?"

He thinks he's asked in the most Seokjin way possible.

The younger stays quiet for a couple more moments, as if formulating his answer, before a slow nod as he gestures towards the building. "I'll walk you back to the center, hyung."

Seokjin's about to object against it, but looking at his watch again, he realizes he should be making his way back soon anyways, and nods. They walk silently towards the dreaded white building in silence, and right before they reach the gates leading into the center, Jungkook stops in his tracks.

Seokjin didn't notice at first, lost in his own thoughts, before he realized the ground he was staring at only sported his own shadow. He looks back at the younger who's a couple steps behind and studying him with his eyes again. He only gives a curious tilt of his head before Jungkook shakes his head.

"There seems to be something you want to say to me, Executive Director Jeon."

One minute .

Jungkook's hand reaches up to card through his hair, before nodding. "I try to understand, but I don't know anymore."

"What don't you know, sir?"

He seems hesitant to answer, drawing in his breath at first before finally muttering so softly that Seokjin almost doesn't hear it.

"Do you hate me, Seokjin hyung?"

There's a silence that ensues between them, and Seokjin only stares at him with calculating eyes. He well knows within this silence that his one minute remaining of his lunch break was over, but he thinks if he says he was with Jungkook before coming in, they could forgive him. He'd never been late to work ever within the last nine years he had worked for the center, so he thinks they could forgive him for being just a couple of minutes late. Perhaps the next Jeon heir was a bad influence on him, making him think that being a couple minutes late was okay for today.

After all, Jungkook asked a question he had been asking himself over the course of the past week. 

Did he hate Jungkook? He thinks he doesn't. Hoseok had given him a clear spot earlier to clearly state his discomfort for the younger, but he defended him and complimented him instead. He had been mildly offended himself when Hoseok asked him about Jeon stereotypes, because none of the words associated with the Jungkook in front of him. Most of the stereotypes seemed to lean towards being negative too, and it irked him slightly that that was their public image.

But why?

Why was he even mildly offended or irked?

He doesn't know the answer to those questions, but he thinks those questions answered Jungkook's question to him.

He shakes his head, crossing his arms. The sun was beating down on them both, and it was getting hot to stand around, but he had to take his time to come to this answer. An answer he was still looking for, too.

"No, Jungkook. I don't hate you."

Jungkook's eyes crinkle into a smile before his lips do, and his shoulders seem to visibly relax, which Seokjin has to stifle a laugh. Was that what was bothering Jungkook this whole time and put such a hard expression on his face? Was that what had Jungkook pondering, lost in thought as he stared at some hibiscus flowers?

It was ridiculous how much they seemed to bother each other.

"I got my answer," he grins still, "so I'll let you go back to work. See you later, hyung." He turns on his heel but stops momentarily, looking back again. "... You will tell me if you hate me, right?"

"What do you take me for?"

"Just making sure." With another grin, he's half sprinting back to the Jeon mansion, and Seokjin's eyes follow him until he's disappeared from sight. The grey Jeon mansion stood firmly against the beating sun, and when he turned around to enter the center, he noticed the white building looked that much smaller compared to the mansion he had been staring at.

He wonders why it never hit him till now. Maybe it's because he never had a reason to look at the mansion that much before.

Stomach full and shoulders more visibly relaxed, he pushes past the gate towards the center, before he notices a figure running towards him with bouncy light hair. He squints to make out who it is, and he thinks it's Kenny.

He realizes he's correct as he nears.

“Team Leader Kim,” Kenny breathes out hard as Seokjin takes notice of his windblown bleached hair, the intern leaning forward to catch his breath while propping his hands on his knees to hold him up. Seokjin raises an eyebrow. “What happened?”

“Team Leader Kim,” he repeats in between labored breaths, “why didn’t you pick up your phone?”

He immediately feels for his pocket, which he realizes only holds his wallet. The office . “I didn’t realize I left it in the office until now, is everything okay-”

“We lost one of the offenders,” he blurts out. The older’s eyes widened, his question dying on his lips as his mouth hung open at the news. “Before the DNA recognition. We know we brought in fifteen of them, but when we rounded them up, there were only fourteen.”

“The CCTV? The cameras, Kenny, have you checked them?” The rising alarm in Seokjin’s voice is new to himself as well, because it was rare for him to panic over such. They break into a half sprint into the white building, immediately turning the corner to stick his head in the office and his hands instinctively reach for the coat rack. He whips on his white coat, half sprinting down the hallways now with Kenny right on his tails as he barges into the doors to the security office before landing his eyes on the four security men blinking in a haze, rubbing the back of their heads.

“That’s the thing, sir.” He can hear Kenny’s voice behind him, just outside the door. “Our security men were put to sleep, and the video footage was deleted. Which means…”

Seokjin grimaces, his fist clenching before he finishes the sentence. “There was someone else. An escort . The fifteenth offender was freed by someone, and seeing they came here to delete the footage…”

There’s a pause, and for the first time, Seokjin dreads having the last word.

“It’s someone familiar with the Zodiakos system. Someone close to either the RRT , or worse; close to the Jeons.”

 

 

Seokjin’s heard this story many, many different times. It was told in multiple ways- through plays, through animations, through books, and through storytelling. He remembers the first time his grade school teacher had told them the story.

“Once upon a time, and this started 300 years ago, a scientist got his heart broken multiple times in a short amount of time. He wore his heart on his sleeve, and ended up with many, many heartbreaks that ate him whole.”

The scene in the picture book she is holding is of a man with round glasses and a white coat weeping on the floor as different pairs of heels walked in different directions away from him. 

He's seated on the carpet with the rest of the kids his age, legs crossed and hands folded in front of him with his posture straight. His family had drilled him about posture at a young age, claiming that he would thank them one day for it. But it makes him feel proud- all the other kids around him are slouching, giggling, and playing around with each other, and Seokjin thinks he's the only one who listens to parents.

He knew this story by heart because it was his bedtime story for as long as he could remember in his short life, so far- The Creation of the Zodiakos . It had other names too, like Love by the Stars or The Story of the Stars, just so the names of the plays would be more interesting. He's always preferred the original title, though.

"The scientist was tired of having to worry about another heartbreak and started studying. He studied and studied all night and day to find a pattern, to see if there was a pattern to stop it from happening anymore, and then realized the stars they were born under did not line up."

Seokjin proudly smiles, knowing what happens next. The story is practically embedded into his head, and it's one of the basic things Mother says he needs to know in order for him to prepare to work for it in the future too.

He had no doubt he wanted to grow up to be just like his mother.

"This scientist's birthday fell on August 9th." The teacher breaks away from the story with a grin. "Show me on your fingers what the number month August belongs to!"

The class all excitedly raise up eight fingers (a couple of playful buffoons raise up nine) as the teacher claps her hands quietly, before continuing, "He was a Leo! The sign of the lion. Who here is a Leo?"

A couple of hands go up, and the teacher nods. "He found that his past lovers who had broken his heart were wrong matches with his star sign, like the Scorpio and Taurus! Who here is a Scorpio or Taurus?"

A similar amount of hands raise this time. One of the kids asked, “But Teacher, what if I’m both a Scorpio and a Taurus?”

The teacher had laughed with kind eyes even when the other kids around him snickered, leaning forward. “When is your birthday?”

“The ninth of March.”

“Then you’re a Pisces, sweetie!”

A few more snickers amongst the kids, which Seokjin almost joined along ( Don’t play like the other kids , his mother had said. Set yourself apart from them. They can be childish, and you can be a bigger and understanding person. )

The teacher only continued, "He found that heartbreaks like his would happen less if he followed the signs, and built a whole system based on the stars! The stars guided him and told him where he could leave his heart, and in the end, when it was given a thumbs up by the people in charge, it spread everywhere like wildfire! Following the stars to get less pain sounded like a good idea, and soon enough everyone was using it!"

A hand raises quietly in the back, and the teacher calls on the student behind Seokjin.

"Did the scientist find his happy ending?"

The teacher smiles. "We're actually right about to reach the happy ending! In the end, the scientist was able to leave his heart with the stars and they guided him to a good matched Libra, the star sign of balance, and they lived happily ever after! The end!"

The class erupts in clapping and applause, as Seokjin still wears his proud smile on his lips as he claps along to his favorite childhood story.

He would meet his match one day, and face a happy ending like the scientist did. He would meet his match one day, and be saved from any scary heartbreaks.

He couldn't wait for that day to come.

 

 

Among a million stars

A single love is born

A burning light

To last the test of time

When the winter turns to spring

And today into the next

It's a symphony of each and every dream

Chapter Text

August 2nd, 20XX. 09:32 pm.

[Setting: An alleyway, too dark to identify where it's at and who is there. All that can be traced is two silhouettes, and it seems their hands are conjoined as their free hands each hold a cigarette, quietly blowing smoke out as one flicks the ash to the side, stepping back to lean against the wall. They're quietly murmuring.]

"That's your third cigarette in the past half hour alone, hyung," the one leaning on the wall says, raising an eyebrow. "Did something happen today?"

The older is quiet, tossing the used stick to the ground before putting it out with his shoe, immediately taking out another one from the box. He notices it's his last one and crumples the box up in his hand, tossing it expertly into the trash can behind him before proceeding to light up his last stick. "... Kind of."

"What is it?"

He's quiet, taking his time before he has to answer. He takes a couple drags, letting the nicotine spread to his body and his head's a little dizzy from the overload of intake the last half hour he'd been here. "... You remember I told you about Jimin, right?"

"How could I forget? He's important to you."

"Was," the older corrects, flicking the ash off to the side. " Was important."

"What about him?"

He's quiet once again, but the younger doesn't seem to be in a hurry. "I visited Jungkook earlier, and I saw him in the garden with the Capricorn suitor." He chuckles, although bitterly, as if amused by the memory of it. "I asked Jungkook about it, and apparently he's the new intern."

He grows silent, the chuckle dying on his lips before he raises the cigarette up to his lips, taking another slow and deep inhale. "What a fucking joke. They're mocking me, I'm sure of it."

"Who?"

"Chairman Jeon." The name rolls off his tongue with disdain. "He knows I wouldn't risk my friendship with Jungkook to do anything, even if Jimin were in front of me. It's a sick joke."

The younger is quiet, although there is no trace of discomfort from him. He only leans his head back on the wall he's leaning on, eyes distant as if he's lost in thought.

"Hyung," he calls out softly, as the other turns his head to look at him in response to being called. He takes one last lazy drag of his cigarette before proceeding with what he was going to say, inhaling more deeply than he had the previous ones, before tossing it to the ground and putting the light out under the outsole of his shoe. Almost no smoke follows when he exhales, and his cheeks round up as if he's grinning.

"I have a question."

"What is it, ****-ah?"

His eyes seem to study the older for a moment, dragging the moment out than what could be perceived as longer than necessary. It doesn't seem to faze the older, though, as he finishes his own stick in the silence that ensues between them.

"What do you think would've happened if I didn't meet you at the center?"

Another pause. There's an untold question about Jimin lingering behind the what-if, and the older doesn't not catch on. Instead, he slowly chuckles, pulling the younger in closer and away from the wall by their conjoined hands. "****-ah, you worry too much about the what-ifs."

A quiet giggle bubbles out of the younger, letting go of his hand to wrap his arms around the older's waist as he rests his chin on his shoulder, and they stay like that for a moment. "Yeah," he finally responds softly. "Maybe I do."

The older is quiet, as if he's locked in thought, and if the younger notices, he doesn't comment on it. He only holds him there, relaxed in his embrace as they share a silence of only their soft inhales. As if this is more than enough for them.

They both know that's not true, though.

"****-ah."

"Hm?"

"Do you-"

A loud, boisterous group of five passes by the opening to the alley, and the two hush, the question dying on the older's lips. Even the silence that held their soft inhales grows cold as they hold their breath, waiting and listening intently for the group's chatters to slowly fade, and it's only when they're out of earshot that they let out a sigh of relief.

"What were you saying?"

The older grows deep in thought again, but the younger is patient. There's no irritation in the air as he patiently waits. He's always been patient, after all.

"Do you... ever regret helping me escape that day?"

The words are careful, as if the younger is delicate and he doesn't want to break him. The words are soft, as if they'd get caught being together. The words are full of fear, as if the older is guilty.

The words are full of fear because they're full of love.

The younger, unexpectedly, breaks into soft laughter before hushing himself, as if realizing they were in hiding for a reason. Although the laughter dies, the smile is evident on his face even in the dark, and the older visibly relaxes at the sight.

"You're being ridiculous."

"I don't think I am," says the older one defensively, hugging the younger closer as if he could slip away at any moment. The younger seems to only see this as endearing, as he slips his arms away from his waist and instead around his shoulders tightly, embracing him wholly. The night is cold, but these two are the warmest in the city.

"If you hadn't met me at the center," the older continues, his words careful once again. It's barely above a whisper but he's right there in his arms. He doesn't need anyone else to hear the words, because the soft spoken words are for him only. "If you hadn't met me at the center, you could've met someone else," he unwraps his arms around the other and pulls back slightly to reach for his hand, "and you could've held their hand in public." He slips his fingers through his, and their hands together paint the prettiest image.

"If you hadn't met me at the center," he continues softly, "then you could see someone else in the light, instead of having to see me in the dark like always."

The younger tries to respond, but the older only shakes his head and continues, "If you hadn't met me at the center..." His voice cracks just a little towards the end of the repeated phrase, and the younger is quiet this time as he waits for the rest. The older seems careful, almost hesitant, about saying the next few words.

"If I hadn't met you at the center?"

His breath is shaky. "If I hadn't convinced you to let me go at the center. .. you might've met someone compatible."

He traces the zigzag of the red imprint on the younger's wrist before raising it closer to his face to press a kiss on top of it. How ironic, really- showing such affection on an imprint that didn't allow them to be together confidently.

The imprint that held most people back.

He's reminded of the day he met him- a mere two months ago, he thinks. It feels like forever, but he'd only known him for two months. It took less than a week for him to be so intrigued by the older that they kept meeting in private like this- even holding off on his days to see Seokjin.

Seokjin. The person who felt like his whole world before, and suddenly the Sun of his Earth had shifted. His eyes linger on the older before him, remembering how he had been tied up at the center, begging for his help to escape because of his connection to the Jeons.

He doesn't know why he let him go that day, but he knows now.

He shakes the wrist out of the older's hand, the older looking up to give him a questioning look, and when a couple of cars speed by on the street by the alley, there's a momentary flash from the headlights that allows him to see his face. In that quick moment, he saw his eyes- they were full of worry, guilt, and possibly even regret.

Too much had happened within the last couple of months for him to be doubting what happened back then, what happened to them. Too much had happened.

Love, he thinks, or anything that resembles love had nothing to do with time. The proof should've been in the way he was able to shift his attention away from a love he harbored for almost his whole life to a man he met merely months ago, and he realized that fascination and love worked together in mysterious ways. It fluctuated in ways even he didn't understand, but they were here together now, were they not?

It led them here.

He brings both his hands up to cup the older's face, and when cars pass by the alley again, the older thinks he can see a glowing halo around the younger for a split second. It fit him, really- he felt like he's met an angel, just without wings.

"Yoongi hyung," the younger chuckles as he finally says his name, pressing a soft kiss on his lips, "you're ridiculous. Why would I want anyone else but you? The stars led me to you."

 

 

"Seokjin-sshi," Namjoon had said. "Meet your new intern."

The man in front of him stood a little shorter than him, with kind eyes and plump lips that rivaled even his own. His dyed platinum blond hair was what caught his eye first of the boy, albeit it fit him better than the stark yellow that painted Kenny's head. His ears were adorned with pretty, long, and dangly earrings that he found himself wondering where he had gotten them from, and he was fitted in tight black jeans and a dress shirt that he thinks is too fashionable for being trapped and working in the white building. Overall, he looked pretty and well put together- there was no negative first impression. He just looked a little...

"Out of place?" Namjoon offers, and Seokjin gives an apologetic smile in response.

"We have Kenny already, I don't really understand the need for a second intern. No offense...?" He turns towards the new intern, raising an eyebrow.

"Park Jimin, sir." The shorter male holds out a hand for Seokjin to shake, which Seokjin accepts.

"Kim Seokjin. Jimin-sshi, this is nothing personally against you. I'm just wondering why I wasn't part of the decision making, and questioning the need for two interns necessarily under me." Seokjin shifts his gaze to Namjoon, as if waiting for an explanation. "Do you at least have a file on him that I can look over?"

The secretary only nods, opening his binder to slide out a manila colored file and hands it over, explaining as the older opens it to scan. "We know this isn't the usual protocol, but the Jeons have deemed it an emergency situation, especially with the escaped offender. The Jeons think you might need some help is all." 

Seokjin hesitates at the last bit of the sentence, his eyes shifting upwards to Namjoon and then over to Jimin, who only smiles politely with his hands gathered in front of him.

"I understand it's an emergency situation, but it doesn't seem on his resume that he's had any experience dealing with Zodiakos . I don't mean to sound intruding, but what can Jimin-sshi offer us?" He glances over the file- October 13th, 1995. Libra.

So he's younger , he thinks to himself before shifting his gaze up to meet the younger's eyes. "Has he worked at other branches of the RRT ?"

Namjoon's eyes are uneasy for the split second that he barely catches as he shakes his head, before he clears his throat and places a hand on Jimin's shoulder. "To be quite honest, I don't really know either. Jimin-sshi was summoned by the Jeons, as it seems the family... trusts him to be able to help out." He glances over at the younger, as if opening the ground for him to speak.

"I know it's sudden," Jimin finally speaks up, his eyes lingering on the file in Seokjin's hands. "But Chairman Jeon has merely asked me to help with the workload. I may not have any direct experience with the system, but I have a running history with the chairman, and it seems he's established his trust in me." He raises his hands to wave and gives a shys smile. "Really, he just seems concerned about your health. He's mentioned to me that you'd been overworking yourself and the other intern the past couple of months in order to catch the escapee."

The two of them share a mutual glance, as if they both know the same chairman he's speaking of. Seokjin relaxes a bit more in the presence of Jimin's own distrusting gaze at the mention of the elderly man- it seems they mutually understand, even with a glance, that there had to be more reason than caring for Seokjin's health.

The chairman was losing his trust in Seokjin for not doing his work correctly. He caught on enough to see that both Jimin and he knew that. If Jimin was able to catch onto that, Seokjin thinks that perhaps it was true that they had history together- a deep one, enough for the younger to know what kind of person the chairman was. "I've just been called to help lessen your work. Anything you think even someone who didn't go through training like me should be able to do, like the busy work, I'm here for."

Perhaps Seokjin was acknowledging he needed the help, or maybe he felt more relaxed in Jimin's presence after the silent understanding they both shared, and he lets out an audible sigh of relief before smiling, closing the file to tuck under his arm and cross his arms.

"I could use the help, the chairman is right. Welcome aboard, Jimin-sshi."

"Just Jimin is fine." A crack of a wider smile from the younger, and Seokjin could almost feel his own smile grow wider. The younger had a calming, alluring presence to him- approachable, even thrilling, he thinks. It might be him being delirious after weeks of little to no sleep that's let his guard down a bit, but he thinks it should be fine.

His gut feeling of people was almost never off, after all.

"Then just hyung is fine too." He turns to face Namjoon, his hand raising up to motion shoo-ing him away. "You must be busy trying to cover the news outlets about this mishap, right Namjoon? Go on, we'll be fine. Sorry to take so much of your time already."

Namjoon only smiles, shaking his head. "It's alright. Taehyung has been helping me remind myself to take care of myself, since we see each other often for his lessons. I'm more worried about you, hyung." His eyes shift to his watch as he sighs. "Speaking of Pluto, I have to go retrieve Taehyung from a meeting with the chairman he had to attend. Take care, hyung," is all he manages to get out before he dips his head in a slight bow before turning on his heel to leave.

Seokjin was unable to utter a word to Namjoon in his small rant before he had to leave in a hurry, but he only shakes his head with a sigh- he's been busy lately. They all have been. It'd been a while since he had been able to see Hoseok too, and he thinks they're all just caught in a bad time.

Well... he's not sure for Hoseok. His childhood friend usually came to him even on busy days to make sure the older was taking care of himself and reminding him to eat in these stressful times, but lately it was almost like he was avoiding him.

... Not avoiding him, but really more like he'd been occupied.

He thinks maybe it has to do with his job, or maybe he'd been taking care of himself more. A part of him is relieved knowing that Hoseok's center of attention wasn't him, for the first time in as long as he can remember, and a part of him is anxious.

Had Hoseok realized Seokjin knew?

He only shakes his head to shoo away the thoughts, before shooting a warm smile at the new intern. "Actually, we could really use you right now. Kenny fell asleep in my office after pulling an all nighter last night, and we might need a new brain to look at the situation from a fresher point of view."

He digs through the pile of files on one of the tables to slip out a piece of paper and tosses a ballpoint pen on top of it, sliding it towards Jimin. "But first, and we do this for all those who work here, please don't take offense, we're going to need you to sign a non disclosure agreement. Considering your relationship with the chairman, I'm sure you won't say anything, but we just need this confirmation on paper."

Before Seokjin even finishes his sentence, Jimin picks up the pen and signs without so much of a glance towards the terms and conditions he's signing off on. The older is starting to have a good feeling about the younger- he easily picks up on things. He liked fast learners.

Jimin slides the signed paper back to the older before he nods approvingly and opens the door, guiding him to another workspace. "We've actually been trying to track where the offender could've gone, or better yet who they are, but we've been having no luck. It's almost like he vanished off the face of the earth, really." 

They enter the room, where some sides of the wall are occupied by RRT members in white coats dead asleep, the fatigue evident on their face. When Seokjin catches a glimpse of himself on the reflection of one of the glass containers passing by, he realizes he doesn't look any better- he's aged, somehow, considerably over the last couple of months trying to catch the offender. He hasn't gone home in over a week, having crashed in his office and stopping by a friend's house nearby (usually Hoseok's for these kinds of situations, but he's been busy lately) to wash up. He embodied weariness, as the eyebags started to weigh under his bloodshot eyes and he's starting to thin from the excessive coffee drinking and nutrition bar intake.

Sometimes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, if he was lucky enough to grab one.

It's a wonder Jimin hadn't flinched or looked scared when he saw him for the first time. He resembled a skeleton, which he thinks probably isn't too far from the truth anyways. He takes off his glasses to rub his eyes once before gesturing towards the table by the wall with graphs, maps, and digital screens lit up and the piles of messy files on it. "And we haven't really gotten far, despite having spent so much time on it. I think our brains are running low, but we really might just need a fresh brain to look at it. All we know is that he's a male Pisces, since one of the other offenders saw the imprint on his wrist."

Jimin quietly picks up some of the files, sifting through the information as Seokjin takes a seat in one of the spinning, cushioned chairs before reaching up to push his glasses back on and adjust it better to shift higher on his nose.

"I don't get it, I really don't. He couldn't have gone far."

The other is still quiet, tilting his head just slightly to the side as he puts down the last of the documents he was holding, before crossing his arms. "What if it's exactly that?"

Seokjin raises an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

"He didn't get far. I think you might be searching too far." Jimin's eyes rest on the sleeping workers with pitying eyes, before turning to face the older. "Have you checked the cameras outside the building then? I heard he took off with the security footage of this building."

"Yes, and those were gone too."

Jimin pulls himself a chair too, heaving himself into it as he furrows his eyebrows in concentration. "How would he have known where to find the security footage?"

He blinks, his head emptying. Jimin was correct- how did he have access to the footage? He was, perhaps, a couple of steps too forward, trying too hard to think outside the box without acknowledging what was in the box first. He feels a moment of admiration for just a moment, before clearing his throat. "... If he were a normal citizen, he wouldn't have known."

"Who does know?"

"Jeon family members, the staff, and RRT workers. We assumed the offender and the escort would be ones close to either us or someone who's been here before."

"Not specific enough, hyung." Jimin leans back into the chair. "He can't just be anyone close to this squad or the Jeon staff. That's too broad to start looking."

"What do you think, then?"

"If he was able to get away and find the room so easily and quickly without being caught by a Jeon staff..." The younger purses his lips. "Or, pause. Either he's someone stealthy enough to get around without being caught, or he's someone who even the Jeon staff wouldn't question being around the premises. Do RRT squad members frequent the Jeon mansion often?"

Seokjin shakes his head. "Regular squad members aren't allowed in easily. Only team leaders, which is me. But I was away at lunch, and I have an alibi."

"Then the escapee isn't from the RRT . Which means..."

He spins his chair towards the wall which the direction of the Jeon mansion would be if they were outside, and points outside the window, where a peak of the garden next to the mansion could be seen from the room. 

"He's someone close to the Jeon family, enough to not be stopped by the staff or even questioned. The Chairman is careful about meeting acquaintances within the mansion, and instead meets them at the meeting hall outside the maze like mansion," he says as he shifts his finger to the right, where the small, yellow building the Jeons used as a meeting hall should be around. "So it can't be someone close to the Chairman, because they wouldn't even know what the inside of the mansion would be like."

Seokjin's hands had scrambled to find a notepad in the time Jimin's been talking, scribbling down the observations; 

exclusive mansion

only team leader allowed inside

not me

not RRT

close to Jeons

not close to Chairman Jeon

meeting hall

"Jungkook," Seokjin breathes out as he finishes scribbling. His eyes are focused on the notepad, so he misses how Jimin freezes up at the name, before calmly collecting himself.

"The Jeon heir? That's... a big accusation you're making, Seokjin hyung."

Seokjin shakes his head, crossing out the heir's name he had scribbled. "It's not him. He was with me, and he was frequenting the garden before he met me. There were witnesses of how long he had been there too, and if it's true according to the royal gardener's word, their times don't align with when the offender got away."

"Then why'd you mention his name?"

"It's someone close to him." Seokjin's lips are pursed in concentration as he tries to rack his brain, but he only shakes his head. "It has to be a close acquaintance of his, if not the Chairman. He's their only son."

"His rumored fiance?"

Non disclosure agreement, he reminds himself when he hesitates. "He's from Geochang, and therefore has no other relatives or friends in the area other than those on the premise already."

"Can't be too careful. Who are the people he befriended?"

"Mainly me, Jungkook, and Namjoon."

Jimin lets out a little hum, deep in thought. "So someone close to the heir. What about the escort?"

"The escort has to be someone either from the RRT , or was in the center during that time. There were no signs of someone being with the offender, otherwise they would've stopped them even if they saw him, if what you're saying is correct. Which means... I have to check the sign in log." Seokjin breaks into what feels like the first smile in forever, as he jumps up from his seat. "Jimin, you did it!"

The younger gives a bashful smile as he stands up as well, carding his hand through his hair. "I really didn't do much."

"No, you were the fresh brain we needed. The problem was that the brains who were in this trying to solve it," Seokjin says as he gestures towards the sleeping workers, "were too used to being on the premises. We forgot little details like the meeting hall, access to the mansion, and so forth, because it's almost nothing to us." He beams before yawning, stretching his arms up towards the ceiling. "You got us a couple steps closer. I can't believe we didn't think of it."

Jimin beams. "I'm glad to have been of help. I was honestly worried before coming, wondering how much help I could be."

It lingers in Seokjin's head that the only reason Jimin had been of any help, was, actually, his relationship and past with the chairman. He's slightly curious and wants to ask about it, but the stars must've thought it was unnecessary, because a knock comes on the door.

The door creaks open and Jungkook peeks his head in with a smile as soon as his eyes land on Seokjin, and it's the first time Seokjin has seen him outside of a suit. He's sporting comfortable, baggy black joggers and a black shirt a few sizes too large for him hanging off him. His hair isn't in its usual sharp half swept back style, and instead sits softly and naturally frames his forehead.

"Hyung!" He glances towards the new intern, who's only watching the exchange with wide eyes, before closing the door behind him and stepping forward to hold a hand out. His stance was professional even if he didn't look the part. "Hello, I'm Director Jeon Jungkook. You must be...?"

Jimin reaches forward to meet his hand in a firm shake and- was that... the flash of regret in his eyes? "Park Jimin, pleasure to make an acquaintance, sir. I'm a new intern here for the time being."

Jungkook tilts his head to the side, raising an eyebrow. "Have we..." He trails off, lost in thought, before blinking. "I'm sorry, I can't shake the feeling that I've met you before. Is this our first time meeting?"

Jimin doesn't miss a heartbeat. "This is my first time meeting you, sir. It's an honor."

"... Which grade school did you go to, if I may ask?"

Seokjin watches the exchange curiously with a raised eyebrow and crossed arms. Jimin merely gives a soft smile.

"I went to Busan Arts for the Young , sir."

Jungkook's eyebrows stay furrowed, as if trying to solve an impossible riddle, before Seokjin finally huffs.

"Jungkook, you have a fiance and he's a Libra, you're not compatible anyways. I can't believe you used such a cliche line on him."

The Jeon heir finally snaps out of his thoughts, flushing a bright red before waving his hands in front of him frantically as Jimin bursts into soft laughter. "I- What? Hyung! You can't say things like that! I wasn't trying to-" He glances at the intern as if asking for help. "You know- You didn't take it that way, did you? I didn't mean to-"

Jimin chuckles, visibly more relaxed now. "I was a bit confused myself, sir."

"You're just taking his side now!" Jungkook's cheeks are a deep red, and Seokjin only chuckles. "I didn't mean it like that. I just really thought we'd met before, but I must've mistaken you for someone else."

"But," Seokjin starts, pointing at his clothes, "is it okay for you to show up to work like that?"

Jungkook blinks, eyes now concerned. "Work? Hyung, it's my day off."

It's Seokjin's turn to blink blankly, as he furrowed his eyebrows. "You take Wednesdays off now?"

The younger raises an eyebrow. "Hyung... you know it's Saturday, right?"

The silence from Seokjin is enough for Jungkook to sigh, pulling out his phone to tap on the screen a couple of times before holding it up for the older to see.

13:45, August 2nd, Saturday .

"Hyung, when's the last time you got proper sleep or a proper meal ?" Jungkook reaches forward to close his hand around Seokjin's arm. "You've thinned so much."

"I've been busy, I still eat-"

"Nutrition bars and coffee do not count as eating a proper meal." He sighs as he picks up Seokjin's jacket slinging on the back of the chair Seokjin had been seated in just earlier. "Come on, you need a break. I'll treat you to lunch." His eyes shift over to Jimin, who's watched their banter quietly. "Jimin-sshi, was it? Would you like to join us if you haven't eaten yet either?"

Jimin shakes his head, smiling. "I already ate before coming, it hasn't been long since I got here." Seokjin shakes off his white coat with a sigh of relief, taking his jacket from Jungkook's hands.

"I don't feel good about leaving you alone here... would you like someone to show you around, then?"

Jungkook's eyes light up, pulling out his phone. "Actually, Taehyung hyung should be free right now. Maybe he can show you around? He's always itching to leave the mansion."

Jimin raises an eyebrow. "The Capricorn suitor?"

"Is that what they still call him? Yes, him-" He glances over at Seokjin. "You made sure he signed a non disclosure agreement, right?"

"What do you take me for? I do my job, Jeon."

"Then it's fine! I'll call Taehyung hyung to come here and keep you company, maybe he'll drag you somewhere." He glances at Jimin carefully. "Is that fine?"

"Sounds lovely."

"I just sent him a kaotalk and he's already read it. He should be on his way here soon." He waves towards the intern as Seokjin tugs him along impatiently, grumbling about a nearby buffet that had just opened and boldly declares that he could eat enough to make them go bankrupt as soon as they started business.

Amidst his food ramble, he misses the solemn look on Jimin's face when they're on their way out.

The exit to the white building looks enticing, knowing that he's stepping out for something other than work and showering in courtesy of others, before he does a double take and stops midway through the door with Jungkook behind him.

"Hyung, move- "

"Wait," he backsteps back into the building walking over to the check in booth where the receptionist quickly puts down his phone his attention was fixated on.

"Ah, Team Leader Kim, what can I do for you?"

"I need to see the guest check in log for the day the offender got away. I think it was June 14th?" He shoots an apologetic look at Jungkook, holding a finger up to signify it'd only take a moment, before he takes the clipboard into his hands and skims through the list.

 

NAME                          CHECK IN         CHECK OUT

Lim Kyunghoon             8:03 am                8:13 am

Shin Mira                      8:21 am                8:54 am

Kim Shin                       8:23 am                9:01 am

Jung Hoseok                11:34 am               

Oli                               12:01 pm

 

He squints at the name. Oli . No one he knew had the name, not to mention that there was no checkout time. He thinks this might be a good lead to get started on when he gets back.

His eyes glance back at the name right above the suspicious one. Jung Hoseok . He always forgot to check out, but the team recognized him with Seokjin so much that they let it slide. Guilt starts to seep into his heart when he thinks about his recent absence in his life, and shakes the feeling off, handing the clipboard back. 

"Thanks, Jihoon. Also," he doesn't forget to scold, giving a non threatening glare, "don't be on your phone too much when you're working. You need to be alert in case another situation like this happens again. Understood?"

Jihoon gives a sheepish apology along with a shy smile, and Seokjin returns the smile before turning on his heel towards the door, where Jungkook's already outside waiting on his phone.

The younger looks up at the sound of the door opening, offering a bright smile as he slides his phone back into his pocket. The weather is nice, which is something he hasn't been able to take notice of in a long time because he'd been too busy to take a moment to appreciate the sky. The sun's golden rays are reflecting off Jungkook's bouncy hair in a healthy shine, and Seokjin cracks a smile at how it flops around in a natural mess in contrast to his usual clean hairdo. Even the oversized clothes Jungkook sports cling off of him well, and he thinks he might prefer this comfortable fit over the suits and perfect Jeon he had been to this point.

As soon as he takes the couple steps needed to near the younger, his hand comes up, almost in amazement, to touch Jungkook's hair, and he blinks.

"Is there something in my hair, hyung?"

Seokjin only shakes his head, his hand now coming down to ruffle his hair. Soft . "No, I just like this hair better. You look younger with it."

"I am young."

"You are," Seokjin agrees, starting to retract his hand with a shrug. "I just like this better. You seem less Jeon heir and more Jungkook, I guess."

A hand snaps out faster than he could blink, Jungkook's fingers encircling Seokjin's wrist to meet where his veins were just under, and for a moment, he's afraid he might be able to sense his pulse quicken. He leads his hand back to his hair, making the motion of petting himself with his hand.

"Then I'll wear it down more often."

The ordeal ends with Seokjin's lips wavering and bringing his hand down hard to land a hit on the younger's head, marching away with red ears and profanities spilling from his pretty lips, Jungkook laughing as he rubs the spot the hit landed before running behind him to catch up, teasing the older.

From afar, Jimin's eyes linger on them before he turns to greet Taehyung, who comes shortly after.

 

 

"Where are you from, Jimin?"

With each an ice cream cone in their hand, Taehyung licks the side of his own strawberry soft serve before taking a glance at the new intern. They had long dropped formalities since learning they were the same age, and after dragging him around to his favorite spots in the premises (Jimin already knew most of these places, though. In fact, it ended with Jimin dragging Taehyung to new places of the mansion that he didn't know of either. Taehyung wondered for a moment how far his supposed history with the Jeon family went back), they'd ended up in the garden as the sun beat down on their backs. They were seated on one of the stone benches in between the hibiscus flowers and the forget-me nots as they indulged in their sweet desserts.

"Busan! How about you?"

"Geochang! Busan's pretty far though. What led you here?"

Jimin takes a bite off the edge of his cone, taking a few moments to chew before coming to an answer. "I'm a dancer, actually. I was in a competitive team until recently, and we did most of our showcases in Seoul. It didn't make sense for me to go back and forth from Busan, so I moved here around nine years ago."

Taehyung hums, nodding. "Until recently?"

The other only smiles shyly. "The team was starting to fall apart. So I started dancing for events and solo shows around four years ago, and I met the Jeons at a party they had hosted around then and did a lot of gigs for them and entertainment for company."

"Oh! Then have you met Jungkook before today?"

Jimin shifts his eyes to his ice cream sitting in his hand that was reaching its end, having taken a couple more bites in between talking. "No, the Jeon heir was busy making rounds to the guests. I was a mere dancer in the background."

Alarm rings in Taehyung's gut but he doesn't mention anything. The end of Jimin's sentence sounded like he was holding himself back from saying any more than he should.

"I would love to see you dance one day!" He instead shifts the topic, deciding it wasn't his business to butt into whatever his new friend left untold. He seemed uncomfortable when he asked about the Jeons, and pushing into boundaries out of his own mere curiosity seemed a bit pushy. He would hold the questions for another time, a time when he could see his new friend's shoulders relax at the mention of his future family. "Let me know whenever you have your next showcase, I'll bring the biggest bouquet of flowers that you've ever seen before."

Jimin laughs. "The biggest?"

Taehyung only smiles, nodding as he finishes his melted ice cream and points towards the garden. "I'll handpick them myself from this garden! Tell me, what color flowers are your favorite?"

He asked this question a lot, actually, and usually the response he would receive was never anything serious. Brushing off the question or a scoff was the usual reaction, but the Libra purses his lips, as if deep in thought. "Favorite color of a flower, huh?"

"Yes!"

"I think all flowers are pretty, they're meant to be. A bouquet of all the softest colors you could find would be nice." He points towards the yellow hibiscus on his right. "Like these. These are beautiful."

"Ah, everyone says that. Those hibiscus are the main attraction of this garden."

"What about you?" Taehyung blinks, turning his head to meet his eyes. "What's your favorite color of a flower?"

He taps his chin for a moment, scanning the garden before his eyes land on the blue flowers just sitting on his right, leaning over to delicately cup the petals. "I like the cool toned colors. Much like these forget-me nots," he picks one with his long fingers before holding it up before chuckling. "Maybe it's the Capricorn in me, I like them based on their flower meanings. It brings more to it than its beauty, you know?"

"What's the meaning behind that one?" Jimin's legs are crossed, and his hands are now propped up on his leg to cup under his chin- listening intently with his eyes on him, as if he really wanted to know what the flower stood for. As if he really wanted to know why Taehyung likes this flower.

He appreciates that.

"It's as it's called. Forget me not . It's a testament of the friendship or relationship of the person you give it to, in hopes that the receiver wouldn't forget you." He cups the flower in his hands. "It means a connection that lasts through time. It means loyalty, truthfulness, and reminder of the shared good times." He picks up the flower between his fingers again before holding it out for the other. "Here."

Jimin reaches out to take the flower by its thin stem, careful not to crush it, before his eyes linger on it silently. His lips finally curl up in a shy smile before he raises it to slide behind his ear to tuck into his hair. "I think that's wonderful. I can definitely think of someone who I would like to give these to, with the same intentions."

Taehyung brightens up, crossing his legs (albeit, he would receive disapproving looks later for dirtying the suit he'd been wearing since earlier for his meeting with the chairman) onto the stone bench. "Oh, someone in your life?"

His smile seems a bit... sad. "Someone who was  in my life. I wonder how he's doing now." Before Taehyung can give his condolences about asking, he quickly shifts. "I actually have a showcase next month. Maybe you can come?"

He brightens up. "Of course! I'd love to come," as he reaches forward to take Jimin's hands in his, excited. An excuse to leave the mansion was always welcome to him. "I'll drag the other three along too!"

"The other three?" Jimin furrows an eyebrow, as Taehyung could almost see him counting in his head. "Jungkook-sshi, Seokjin hyung... who's the third?"

"Namjoon hyung! Ah," he lets go of his hands to scratch his chin, "Have you met him yet? He's great! He's Jungkook's secretary, and he's really cool. He has this professional air around him," he makes a gesture to suggest aura, "so he could seem a little intimidating, but he's really nice!" His voice drops to a whisper. "Don't stare too long at his dimples though. I'm convinced it bewitches people."

A burst of laughter. "Oh, I didn't know you were so close to Secretary Kim."

"So you do know him?"

"He brought me to the center earlier to meet Seokjin hyung, but I've seen him at events before." Jimin smiles. "It seems like you're all very close, though.

Taehyung chuckles, stretching out his legs. "It's weird, isn't it? Although it's like, a guarantee for me, Jungkook, and Namjoon to get along, I was surprised Seokjin hyung was able to get along so well."

"How come?"

The Capricorn raises an eyebrow, as if he asked the most obvious question in the world. "Our compatibilities are totally off. Sagittarius is low in compatibility with all of us." He hums. "Oh, but he's compatible with you, isn't he?"

Jimin merely shrugs, taking a moment to stretch his arms up with a relieved groan before leaning back, his face falling back to face the sky as his blonde hair sweeps out of his face. "I don't pay attention to that."

"You don't?" Taehyung freezes, then squints. "Aren't you supposed to not say that kind of stuff here?"

"I'm not against it." His eyes follow the airplane passing by, far away in the sky and waits until it disappears behind a cloud before answering. "I just think there's more to a person than just stars, you know?"

"Stars..."

"The universe has stars, moons, planets, suns." He counts off as if he's reciting the alphabet. "Blackholes, undiscovered comets, and so much more. If every person was their own universe, I just think there's so much more to focus on than just stars ."

"But don't you think these are here for a reason?" He holds up his wrist to show his own sign, but the other doesn't seem to mind it any attention. "And the compatibilities have been true up to this point, no?"

"Seokjin hyung and Director Jeon get along," Jimin responds nonchalantly. "Hell, you and I seem to get along, despite Libras and Capricorns having low compatibility. Don't you think that's enough to prove that there must be something more?"

His jaw drops, just slightly, in surprise, and before he could respond, a sharp "Taehyung!" from behind him pulls his attention, as the two whip their head around towards the source of the noise. In the distance, with the sun behind them, is Namjoon dragging Jungkook along, who's complaining about something.

"Hyung," he hears Jungkook say when they're in earshot, "I just finished lunch with Seokjin hyung, we were going to grab him some coffee!"

"I saw you get him coffee, Jungkook. You just wanted to enjoy the coffee with him. Taehyung," Namjoon calls out, ignoring Jungkook's retorts (which only got louder), a bit more out of breath now. "The Chairman requested our presence. Says he has something to discuss."

Taehyung frowns. "Me too?" He was never part of any decision making, nor was he called to a meeting simultaneously with the other two, either. He jumps up, brushing himself off. There's suddenly a queasy feeling settling at the pit of his stomach, and he squeaks out, "Are you sure?"

Namjoon nods, before turning towards Jimin with an apologetic smile. "Hi again, Jimin-sshi. I'm sorry to cut into your time with Taehyung like this, it appears to be important. Do you need escorting back to the center?"

Jimin raises his hands, shaking them side to side as did his head. "No, it's okay. Seeing that Director Jeon is back, it seems Seokjin hyung is back too, so I'd have to head in anyways." He smiles at Taehyung, who returns a warm smile. "I'll see you later, Taehyung-ah. Good luck."

Taehyung was barely able to utter a "See you later!" before Namjoon reaches forward to hold an iron grip on his hand and drags him away too, still holding Jungkook by his arm. It must've been a funny sight, really- any Jeon staff witnessing this would panic at the idea of the secretary dragging the two Jeons (soon to be, for him at least) across the premises like children, but Taehyung can't focus on that.

His eyes are zeroed in on their joined hands, and he's glad Namjoon is in front of him dragging him along so he couldn't see how his face heated up.

The mansion is dark as always, the hallways lit up by a single dim light every four or so feet. If it was trying to give off a gloomy, haunted feeling, it was doing its job correctly. Two months of living here now, and Taehyung still couldn't get used to it- it was a wonder how no one went insane within these grey walls. Grey quickly came to become his least favorite color, and he tried to limit his time inside as much as he could and was only in the mansion during mealtimes and bedtimes.

In other words, it felt less like a home, and more like a prison. He remembers feeling bad for Jungkook merely two weeks into his stay here, for having to grow up in such a place, but he'd never expressed it out loud.

He thinks the next most surprising thing he's learned being at the Jeon mansion were how extremely conservative the Jeons were. Considering he was summoned and brought all the way from Geochang, he had assumed he'd have some freedom in these kinds of things, but apparently not- Jungkook and Taehyung were not allowed use a room together before marriage, and if they were in a room together, Namjoon had to be outside of the door. Although he didn't have any intention of sharing a bed with Jungkook yet, the implications of the rule brought a frown on his lips. It was a bit of an uncomfortable predicament to be in, considering they were engaged.

He's learned his way around the mansion now from months of exploring, and recognizes they've stopped at the huge red doors that Taehyung had just walked out of mere hours ago. Red was never a favorable color to him- he thinks blues and purples were more beautiful and alluring, while red had too many dynamic associations, too overwhelming for him.

Blue, on the other hand, was more serene. More calming. More grounded.

Namjoon gives three sharp knocks on the huge door, before pushing past the doors to open it for the other two, letting them in first before closing the doors behind him.

"Chairman Jeon, I apologize for the late response. This meeting wasn't scheduled, so it took a bit of time to collect ourselves." Namjoon's eyes shift to the chair, where the elderly man sat, and gives a little smile. "What was the emergency, sir?"

The elderly man, if he were being honest to Venus, scared the living shit out of him. He was everything Taehyung was not- while Taehyung was a bit more emotional, he was cold. Where Taehyung was a bit more idealistic, the chairman was realistic. Where Taehyung was a bit more trusting of his gut feeling, the chairman was more calculating.

The only thing the two did have in common, was the way they read the atmosphere quickly.

"No worries, Secretary Kim. I know I called you here on short notice, and I'm actually surprised you were able to come so quickly." The chairman hardly moves in his chair (he's questioned multiple times whether the elder ever so breathed like a human, he doubts he's ever seen his chest rise), but his hand extends forward to gesture for them to sit at the coffee table and sofa.

Taehyung takes the seat next to Jungkook, across from Namjoon. The room sits still for a few moments as he holds a breath, afraid even his exhale would throw off the balance of the silence that ensued.

"I asked for you all here today because I wanted to share some good news."

He lets out the breath he'd been holding, more relaxed at the fact that it had nothing to do with any trouble. His thoughts shift over to the possibility of a wedding date having been set in place maybe, or maybe he was able to make public appearances now? Leave the premise?

A million scenarios run through his head, and none of them could've possibly prepared him for the next words the chairman actually said.

"I've mentioned to Namjoon before on casual occasions that he should have a partner arranged," the chairman continues, gathering his weathered hands in front of him on the large mahogany desk, "and we've found a match for him. I wanted us to formally congratulate him."

Three sets of eyes widen at once and Taehyung's eyes shift to Namjoon as soon as the words are processed in his head. The sting in his chest is faint, but enough to make his heart sink. Six words that should've made him happy for the other stunned him into silence instead.

We've found a match for him.

The initial shock on Namjoon's face became concealed as quickly as it had appeared, before he deeply furrowed his eyebrows. "Sir, I don't know if my parents would-"

"We already spoke to your parents, of course. Last month actually, during our Saturday golf days. They were ecstatic about it." The chairman crosses his arms, seemingly satisfied with himself. "Your mother asked me to take especially good care in finding one for you. You've been so buried in work and focused on your duties that she was afraid you'd live alone for the rest of your life. It's time you were rewarded for your work."

There's a courtesy smile on Namjoon's face, but it's unconvincing, at least to Taehyung. "I appreciate the sentiment, Chairman Jeon, but I really would've wished to be part of this decision making, sir. I have no intent on marriage at such a crucial time like this. Especially," he holds his hand up to gesture towards the two, "with Jungkook's engagement ongoing and marriage coming soon. You know it only gets busier from here, sir."

There's a fierce scowl looming slowly on the elder's face as Namjoon talks. Taehyung can't help but shift his eyes from the chairman to the secretary with unease, the atmosphere growing tense.

"Which is why the matchmaking took place. Time and energy went into finding you the highest compatible match, Namjoon, as you've done an immense part in finding Jungkook one as well. Are you disregarding my effort?"

"... No, sir."

"Are you against it?"

Yes! Taehyung wanted to shout out, but he didn't. Maybe he should be glad the news stunned him into silence, because he can't seem to move his lips to go against the proposal. Yes! He has a problem! Look at him! He clearly doesn't want-

"... No, sir. Thank you very much. I will ready myself to meet the match whenever they are ready."

- Does he want it?

Panic bubbles up in Taehyung's chest at Namjoon's obedience, and he swears their eyes meet for just a second- and he could be imagining it, but there's a flash of hurt in his eyes. The chairman only nods approvingly, turning his eyes to face the two.

"Such wonderful news, isn't it?"

Namjoon's lips are curled into a smile, and although his smiles have always offered warmth and squeezed his heart, this time his heart squeezes in a different way. Although his voice is a bit tight, he hears Jungkook say "Congratulations, hyung" monotonously, and realizing he has to follow suit, he barely manages to choke out, "Congratulations, Secretary Kim."

When their eyes meet, he feels his own eyes ask a million questions.

Do you not want to?

Or do I just not want you to?

Am I being selfish, or are you being selfless?

Why aren't you fighting harder?

Namjoon's lips press into a thin line at Taehyung's congratulations, and he shares a glance that he can't quite read. Was it wishfulness? An apology? Why did he look so hurt ?

Taehyung can't help but get the feeling that things ended before they even began.

"Namjoon's wedding will be celebrated a month before Jungkook and Taehyung's. You are all dismissed."

His heart aches just a little.

 

 

"Oh, you're back already?" are the words that left Seokjin's lips as soon as Jimin pushed through the doors to the room they had last been in before leaving on their own lunch adventures. He looks up at the new intern who only smiles and nods in return as he shakes off his denim jacket he hadn't noticed before and hangs it over one of the chairs, a gesture so natural anyone would've assumed that Jimin had worked here for years instead of a mere couple of hours. He catches a glimpse of himself and recognizes that he looks much more refreshed now; a disposable coffee cup in one hand, cheeks flushed, and visibly more rejuvenated than before.

He thinks he should've met Jimin in this condition instead, but he also knows he was only able to relax and let himself refresh because of the analytical reasoning Jimin had done earlier to narrow down their scope of search. He's suddenly in awe once again for the chairman putting someone so useful, true to the recommendation, under his wing- the old man's still got it , he thinks as he takes a sip of his coffee. The old hawk can still pick apart people like back then .

Jimin only shrugged. "I assumed you would've wanted me back as soon as you were back, and Taehyung got dragged away to a meeting with Director Jeon and Secretary Kim." Seokjin lights up at that. He remembers distinctly, the annoyance on Jungkook's face when he had received a call from Namjoon about an emergency meeting, and apologizing profusely to the older and hadn't left until he made sure there was a cup of coffee in his hand. 

"Right, about that. Do you know what that's about?"

The younger chuckles. "As if, hyung. I only started here today, it'd be weirder if I knew about Jeon business before you."

"I suppose you're right." He holds out a pink paper box of donuts he had picked up on the way back to the center. "Donut?"

"No thank you, I just had ice cream with Taehyung." He made a motion to clutch his stomach and stick out his tongue with a smile. "Too many sweets at once. I'll get sick."

"There's no such thing as too many sweets," Seokjin hums as he proceeds to grab a chocolate donut for himself, "only the mass regret and shame once you finish." He places the coffee down on the table to free up a hand so he could flip through files, not noticing how the new intern came silently beside him, attention elsewhere.

"The rest of the squad members look better now," he comments, and Seokjin looks up into the same direction he's looking. He's right- the room is more lively as the ones who were previously sleeping are now woken up, discussing plans for the raids and number values of what they needed. If he listens closely, he can hear plans of tightening security and monitoring who enters the premises more closely now as according to Jimin's theory from earlier that he had left in his notes before leaving for his lunch break. It seems they read into it well, and he's glad to see they had more bounce on their feet now.

"It's thanks to you, really. First day here, and already have been so much help." Seokjin smiles and brings a hand up to form a thumbs up as he takes a bite of the donut. "Job well done, Jimin. I wouldn't have minded if you stayed out a little longer after the work you provided."

There's a faint blush on Jimin's cheeks before he laughs and shakes his head. "I honestly pulled things out of my ass. I can't slack off from the first day, after all." He brought his hands up in a fist, playfully flexing his arms. "Hit me with everything you got! I'm here to make your life easier."

Seokjin genuinely considers keeping Jimin in the squad forever, when a ruckus in the back with the other squad members snap him out of his thoughts and he lets out a sigh. With the heightened noise, his headache is starting to come back, and he waves towards the door. "Let's leave the rest of the escapee case with them today, we've done more than enough. C'mon, we can do the other busy work in my office. It's quieter there."

Kenny was no longer asleep in his office when he unlocked the door and walked in with the new intern, but the used blanket remained unfolded on the couch where he slept and he wonders where he is momentarily. "You can grab one of the chairs and work at the coffee table, there's not too much to do. Once we finish going through these piles and catching up on the delayed work from the past month, we'll be free to go home. Sound good?"

Jimin only nodded, rolling his sleeves up, but Seokjin was fixated and excited on the idea of going home. Home . He missed his bed, his blankets, his bathroom. He missed his soft pillows and the way the curtains covered all the light from the outside coming in, so when they weren't drawn, there was no way of knowing if it were day or night just outside. He's so ecstatic at the idea of going home for the first time in so long that he doesn't notice he's humming happily while passing on some of the files to the younger.

It's only when they both reach the bottom of their own respective piles and realize there's only one pile left that Seokjin realizes the ache in his backbone, how dry his eyes have gotten, and how dark it had gotten outside. His eyes shifted to the clock and he groaned- four hours had gone by just like that, and they still had a pile left. The sun was starting to set and his body was starting to wear out of the adrenaline it had earlier, but the intern in front of him works tirelessly, eyes focused on the piles as he stamps through the documents accordingly. 

"Jimin, let's take a break here. Sorry," he apologizes as he brings his fingers up to push up his glasses to sit easier on his nose, "I would've let us take a break earlier but I didn't realize the time got so late."

The younger only blinks, eyes shifting to the same clock on Seokjin's desk that he had just checked, before grinning tiredly, "I hadn't realized either how time had gone by so fast." He stretches his arms up with a relieved groan, then stands up to stretch the rest of his body out. "Hyung, you want to step outside and grab some fresh air?"

Seokjin nods, heaving himself out the chair into a stretch as well, sliding his glasses off and setting it on the desk. "Good idea. It'd be better for us to clear our minds." He points at the last remaining pile, before smiling. "We're almost done though!"

The weather outside is clear, the last remaining streaks of the sunset being eaten up and covered by the looming indigo night sky. Although they only just reached the end of summer, the night was cool and a light breeze welcomed them as they stepped out, a sigh of relief making its way out automatically from his lips. They walk into the grassier area with log benches on the side of the building, standing in front of them as they take deep inhales of the cool breeze.

Jimin reaches into his pocket to pull out a white metallic cigarette case, pulling a thin stick out for himself before holding it out in question for the older, who only shook his head and declined.

"Do you mind if I do, then?"

"No, you can go ahead."

The younger lights up his stick as he takes a couple steps away from the older in courtesy of his space, as he takes a relaxing exhale out with the smoke. "It's been a memorable first day, I think."

Seokjin only chuckles, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his white coat. "You don't say. You met the Jeon heir and befriended his fiance in a single day."

Jimin smiles even with the stick dangling in between his lips. Seokjin thinks it might fall from the movement of his lips, but his thought never comes to life. "I suppose it's not necessarily a normal day. Although, you work with them and see them almost everyday, hyung. You're leading quite an extraordinary life too."

"I guess so, huh?" He takes a seat on the log bench, stretching his legs out and taking his hands out to cross his arms as he leans against the white wall of the building. "My family have served the RRT for generations, so I guess I've never really thought about it that way."

Something flashes in Jimin's eyes as he takes another slow drag, eyes on him as if he were analyzing him. Usually, analytical eyes kept Seokjin on edge and he thought them pretentious, but he didn't seem to mind with Jimin. "For generations, huh?"

"Mhm."

"How's that like?"

"Mmm. It's fine. I've been preparing for it most of my life, and I think I'm just reaping my rewards now." His eyes land on the moon- a waxing gibbous tonight. Tomorrow would be a full moon, it seems. "I have good people who work around me. Good hearted and efficient. Although, I don't think the good hearted matters more than the efficient in this field. You need the efficient first before the heart."

"Ah, I think that depends on the higher uppers, no?" Jimin makes a gesture to point up, and then at the grey mansion far in sight. The mansion, as always, looks a bit gloomy- the color suit it well, as the place always seemed so close yet so far. It stood alone and tall in the middle of the Jeon grounds, and it stood confident and mighty.

"Definitely agreed. The Jeons might seem a little cold and distant, but they're very efficient people to work for. I'm lucky to have Jungkook right above me, he's a very efficient boss as well."

"You seem very close with Director Jeon, though."

"Ah, you have no idea," Seokjin sighs as his hand comes up to card through his hair a couple of times. "I guess it's weird to call him my friend, since he's my superior, but we've only really gotten close the past summer. He's a lot more different up close than his image outside, huh?"

Jimin tilts his head to the side with a mischievous smile. "Are you two together?"

Seokjin raised an eyebrow, before letting out a sigh. "Maybe I overworked you too hard for it being the first day. Don't you remember spending time with Taehyung? His... fiance ?"

The younger merely shrugs, throwing his finished cigarette on the cement ground next to his grassy spot and putting it out with the sole of his shoe. "Of course I do. Taehyung is great, really."

"So...?"

"They're engaged, but are they together ?"

Seokjin opens his mouth to ridicule him on how absurd the question was, before he realizes no words come out- he had never really seen the two together. There had never been any form of affection shared between them, nothing about them stood out as a couple

Still, he insists. "Their relationship is of no concern to me. I am merely an employee."

"But you like each other?" Jimin raises an eyebrow, coming back near the older to sit on the log bench beside him.

"What makes you think that?"

"Are you kidding, hyung? You're like, the only person who didn't notice." He holds a finger up. "The way Director Jeon visits you at work outside of work hours for him," he holds another finger up, "the way he noticed your living pattern, which means he'd been observing you enough, and for quite a while. He knew you didn't eat because of work, knew what you ate instead, etcetera etcetera. And you've only been close two months? And-"

"Jimin, I don't understand. Please get to your point."

"You're oblivious to the way he sees you," Jimin finally says, putting his fingers down as he looks at the older with pity. "Hell, I walked in for the first time today and noticed. How could you not?"

Seokjin's heart aches just a bit, although he's unsure why. "Even if what you say is true," he continues, holding up his wrist. "We're not compatible." The arrow-like imprint of the Sagittarius sticks out like a sore thumb on his skin.

"Do you want him?"

"Hm?"

"If it weren't for that," the younger points at his wrist where the red imprint stays mighty, "would you have considered him?"

"I don't waste time to think about the what-ifs. It's inefficient, when I could focus on the reality of now." Seokjin tugs at the sleeve of his white coat to cover the imprint. "What's efficient is knowing that within the reality of our world, we are incompatible, Jimin."

"So what?"

Seokjin frowns. Jimin is treading on dangerous waters now, when he was just starting to enjoy his company. "What do you mean, ‘so what’?"

"Who knows, hyung?" Jimin runs his fingers through his hair, scanning the older's face. "Maybe," he says carefully, "the system is wrong and you should be with whoever you want."

The older is quiet for a moment, aware that the dangerous tides have been treaded upon. He lets out a sigh, recognizing the heavy weight in his own heart before saying, "Jimin, I think you've had enough work for the day. We can finish the pile tomorrow," he says as he heaves himself up, "and you can go ahead for the day. I'm going to clean up a bit before heading home myself."

Jimin is quiet, aware of the tension in the air between them now, but only asks, "Do you need help cleaning?" before heaving himself up as well. Seokjin only shakes his head and offers a smile. 

"No, I already asked too much of you today. Go on home and rest. From now on, you can come to the center at the same time we all do- nine in the morning. Got it?"

"Nine a.m. Got it." He turns to the older and gives a slight bow of his head first before turning on his heel. "Have a good night, hyung."

"Have a good night, Jimin-ah," leaves his lips, as his feet soullessly carry him back to the entrance of the center and then the entrance of his door. The office isn't really a mess, per se, but he knows he has a new to-do list to do.

He pulls a sheet of the dreaded beige paper out of the cabinet before returning to his desk, pulling out a pen and starting to fill it out:

 

NEW OFFENDER REGISTRATION

Name: Park Jimin

Age: 27

Star Sign: Libra

Offense #: 1

Reason for Offense: Language questioning system, specifically quot

 

His pen lingers on the paper, not finishing the word as a stab of guilt seeps into his heart.

Was it guilt? Something else? He wasn't entirely sure what it was, but the feeling was cold, and was definitely something he'd been feeling a lot more recently than before in his life.

It was right to report Park Jimin. It was right, as the team leader, to look out for the sphere of influence Jimin's thinking and challenge of the system could spread onto others around him, especially as he worked for the RRT for the time being.

It was right. It was right to finish this sentence and leave the paperwork for the Jeons by the next morning, so why did his pen stop?

Maybe the system is wrong and you should be with whoever you want.

What a messy world that would be , Seokjin thinks to himself although his hands crumple up the half filled document paper into a ball and throws it to the side to land in the trash can by his feet, if we could be with whoever we wanted. What a messy world it would be.

 

 

Don't you know you have a little magic in you?

It wipes away the monochrome hue

And fills this world with color when you laugh beside me

Chapter Text

June 14th, 20XX. 11:45 am.

Hoseok had, admittedly, been a little lost while trying to find his way through the RRT.

He'd been here multiple times, but he'd only been inside fewer times than he could count his fingers- and even when he was inside, he only knew where Seokjin's office was. The rest of the center did not matter to him, because his destination was always Seokjin.

It always would be.

Thirty five, he has to remind himself as he struggles to lift the box of files Seokjin asked him to pick up for him through the halls (the nice intern, Kenny he thinks his name was, helped open the door for him, so it made his job a lot easier). Thirty five and he would be able to stay at his destination.

If life were a GPS, his map always led to him.

He sets the box down when he reaches one of the passing water coolers and stops for a drink, the summer heat having beat down on him outside. His eyes came to scan the box next to him, and a mere look at all the manila envelopes and files was enough for him to shudder. He was never an office work type of person, and he thinks he's lucky to not be in the same field Seokjin was.

It suited the older well, actually. Even if the two were compatible, in many ways they seemed opposite- and maybe that's why Seokjin seemed more unattainable.

A crash comes from the other side of the door he's leaning against with the small paper cup in his hand, startling him and a string of curses leave his lips as the ice cold water spills over the edges as he jumps forward. Switching the cup between hands, he shook off his hand in an attempt to dry it before raising an eyebrow towards the door in question. 

Curiosity killed the cat, he reminds himself as he keeps from peeking in. It was probably better to ask Seokjin about it.

At the thought of Seokjin re-entering his mind, he happily picks up the box once more to continue making his way towards the office, leaning the box into his hip as he heaved open the door once he reached the end of the hallway.

Of course, he was not expecting to meet the heir of Zodiakos on this day, nor did he expect to walk into the room filled with so much tension.

The rumored executive director, in Hoseok's eyes, had taken a clear interest in his world- never would he have thought that the Jeon Jungkook would ever have anything in common with someone like him, but it was painstakingly clear. He was not an expert on love, but he was an expert on his childhood best friend. And even if he wasn't an expert, Jeon Jungkook made no effort to hide his interest.

Suddenly their worlds collided because of Kim Seokjin. 

He wasn't surprised, really. He's seen multiple people take interest in the older- he was beautiful. Cold. Charismatic. He was, in multiple ways, alluring. And perhaps his biggest attribute to being so wanted by others was the mere fact that he was unattainable. 

People are cruel and masochistic, he thinks. They're more drawn to what they can't have and once they have it, they lose interest. He thinks it might be the case here- that the director might just be drawn to his beauty, not him. That he might be drawn to the fact that he seemed so off-hands, and it would die down quickly.

He's relieved of the tension that was in his chest, before the director first extended a hand towards him, offering a courtesy smile. "Hello, I'm Jeon Jungkook. You must be...?"

Looking at the director, he was beautiful. There was no doubt that the ethereal and gorgeous photoshoots and paparazzi photos of him did him no justice, and there were even a couple of times he had wondered if there was photoshop involved to make him look beautiful, but seeing him up close, he was even more beautiful. He was handsome, and for a moment the tension's back in his chest.

It's fear, he thinks. It's fear that Seokjin might be more attainable than he thinks.

Shaking the thought away, he offers him his own dimpled smile before taking his hand in a firm shake, "... Ah, excuse my rudeness, I wasn't expecting Seokjin hyung to be having company. I'm Jung Hoseok, a friend."

A friend. Don't overstep your boundaries, Hoseok. You're still a friend. Don't let your thoughts show.

"I was actually about to say," he hears a voice on the side, as he turns his attention to Seokjin, "that I apologize, but I'll have to decline your lunch offer, Executive Director Jeon."

Lunch? What business would the heir have to do with the RRT team leader?

"To discuss the wrong name on the registry you brought into my attention."

The two exchange a glance that only tightens the pressure in Hoseok's chest, and he can't quite shake the feeling that there's a silent conversation he's not a part of.

... He must be overthinking. It wasn't his business, he has to remind himself. Jealousy wasn't a good look on him. 

It could happen, he tells himself. They're boss and employee. Seokjin seemed unbothered by the superior's request, the way he'd always been. Yes, Jeon Jungkook having an obviously piqued interest in the other did not guarantee or mean anything.

He'd have to hope so. 

When he focuses back from his thoughts into the room, he finally asks, "Are you ready to go?"

"Almost. Let me punch in a couple more files and then we can go?"

He needed some fresh air. Maybe some nicotine to calm him down. "Perfect. I'm going to make a... ah... bathroom break, then." He didn't bother to wait for Seokjin's response before leaving the room, letting out a sigh of relief as soon as he closed the door behind him.

Get it together, Jung Hoseok, he thinks as he reaches into his pocket to slide his box of cigarettes out, pulling one out to let it dangle from his lips. Jealousy is ugly on you. You're too possessive over him, and it's not doing you well.

A groan bubbles up from his chest when he reaches into his pocket to fish out a lighter, but finds it empty instead. Had he forgotten it at home?

No, he swears he had it a couple of hours ago. His hands feel over his back pockets and his front pockets one more time with no avail. They were empty, and he lets out a sigh. There should be an extra in his car, which meant he'd have to come back the way he came instead of out the back door next to the office door.

Sliding the stick back into the box and altering his direction to make his way down the long, seemingly endless hallway, his thoughts shift- when had he become so conflicted when it came to Seokjin? Before, it had always been so easy loving him, but lately, he feels he overthinks and spirals into his own delusions more than simply loving him.

It's the director's fault, he thinks. It wasn't his first time seeing him, after all. He'd seen him before when he had come to pick Seokjin up from work the one time he had to stay for overtime, peering at them from a distance that he almost didn't catch. His gaze had seemed almost wistful, almost disappointed- he remembers feeling triumphant in that moment, seeing the heir in the edge of his peripheral vision. Like he had something even the Jeon Jungkook hadn't. 

Amidst his thoughts, he notices the water cooler he had passed in the distance, and the door he had been leaning on was gone and light was flowing in from where the door had been, and he stops in his tracks for just a couple of moments, raising an eyebrow.

Curiously, he treads a couple of careful steps forward, close enough to see that the door wasn't gone, but wide open- the light inside was bright, and he edges closer to catch sight of a dirtied man with honey blonde hair sitting, tied up and leaning on the wall next to the door.

He hesitates. He's heard about the offenders multiple times from Seokjin- he's heard that they deliberately disguised themselves filthy to make DNA identification harder, to make them recognizable, and if possible, to hide themselves easily when being chased. He'd heard stories about the offenders- the burning stamp of the stars they received, the horrid things they did to monuments, and the way they defied the stars. The menace they are to the public.

He was admittedly, a little afraid of them.

They were regarded like, for lack of better words, a disease, really. As if their ideals would spread every person they touched, he'd heard stories from Seokjin about how it was detained- they'd tracked down close friends and family to see if it "spread" to them, although Hoseok has to admit that it was a little ridiculous.

But the chairman Seokjin had explained for him was precise. He left no room for mistakes or slip ups. He thinks, in a way, the rumoured chairman is similar to Seokjin.

"Finally," the man grumbles, startling Hoseok. He couldn't see his features well due to the filth on his face, but his eyes were piercing- almost like they were peering into his soul. They were full of agitation, as if he were someone familiar, someone he'd gotten tired of waiting for.

It isn't his proudest moment when Hoseok points at his chest, undoubtedly a dumbfounded expression on his face. "Me?"

"Yes, you. I tried getting your attention earlier, did you not notice?"

His head spins and he hasn't even had a puff of nicotine yet, so he keeps pointing to himself. ".... Me?"

The male frowns. "Yes? I thought we already establ-"

"No, I mean more of a.... why?"

He looks at Hoseok with the most incredulous look, his eyes clearly saying "are you kidding me?" as he shifts to show him his roped hands.

"I'm sorry, I don't believe I'm supposed to be interacting with offende-"

He scoffs, only catching him by even more surprise. "Offender? You must be kidding me. Did they forget about me?"

The confusion on Hoseok's face must've been obvious, because he continues, "Are you a white coat?"

"No."

"I thought so. You don't seem bright enough to be one of them." Hoseok's not sure whether to feel offended or not.

"Look," the blonde continues, holding up his shackled hands as far as he could. "Look at my imprint. Does it have the burning stamp?"

Hoseok's eyes squint to peer at the wrist, not sure what he's looking for. He'd seen it a couple of times in school, but he's never seen one up close, so it's not quite clear to him what he should be looking for. He decides to look for anything that might just be covering the imprint, so he steps a few steps closer to nudge the bundled rope out of the way, bending lower as he checks.

Nothing. Just a clean imprint.

"I'm not an offender, okay?" The blonde shifts his body so his back isn't to him anymore, the irritation on his face clear as day. "I do undercover for the Jeons. I pretend to be an offender so I can let the RRT know ahead of time where they're planning to coup up and hear them discuss their plans and possible escape routes so the squad can trap them easier when I let them know. Because I am undercover though, only the team leader and his interns know about me." 

"That's great... but what does that have to do with me?"

"It seems he forgot about me and left me here. It happens a lot. You know Kim Seokjin, right?" Hoseok nods slowly, still skeptical. "What's he doing right now?"

"Filing a couple more things in. Do you need me to go get him-"

"No need," he says, shaking his head. "I know how busy he gets, no need to bring him here, although it would've been nice if he came here on his own." His eyes drift to the clock on the wall opposite of the wall he's leaning against, biting his lower lip. "Could you untie me instead? I have a status report meeting with Chairman Jeon in nine minutes, and I want to be able to make it in time. I'll let Seokjin know later that I got helped, that he didn't have to worry about forgetting. It's kind of a hurry, really."

Hoseok raises his hands to settle on his hips, raising an eyebrow. "How do I know you're not lying to me?"

It's the blonde's turn to raise an eyebrow with a frown etched onto his lips now. "After everything I just told you? Alright, fine, but make it quick, I really don't have much time." His eyes keep shifting to the clock, as if he's really in a hurry. "What do you want to know in order for you to believe me?"

"You said you work with Seokjin hyung, right?"

"Yes."

"Okay then, what's his sign?"

"Sagittarius."

"Years he's worked in the RRT?"

The other frowns, blinking as if he's trying to pull the information out. "From the time we've graduated, plus training and everything... by now, it should be around nine to ten years, right?"

Hoseok blinks. "You graduated together?"

"I'm just a year younger than him, but I skipped a grade so we were in most of our classes together." The blonde smirks. "I was originally studying to be on this squad too, but Seokjin took my spot. No one could beat him."

Hoseok hums as he nods. He was well aware of how much the older had excelled from a young age as well. "What school?"

He looks restless, checking back on the time once more before answering, and for a moment Hoseok feels bad that he might be taking up his time. His own eyes shifted to the clock as well- he had six minutes left. Maybe if he loosened him up now, he'd be able to sprint to the mansion in time.

"School of Cosmos for the Young. Are there more questions?"

Hoseok lets out a sigh of relief, shaking his head as he reaches for the knotted rope, starting to work his long, slender fingers through them. Luckily working in the fashion industry meant that he had many knots he had to work through before, so it surprises even the older blonde when he's out of the shackles in no time, the ropes hanging loosely on the ground.

"Thanks," he says gruffly as he picks up the ropes to shove into one of the many pockets on the jacket he wore, pulling out expertly what seemed like a wet wipe and grabbing one of the spray bottles on the table next to him to give it a couple of sprays before wiping away at the filth on his face and hands, as if he'd done so many times before. Once the filth starts to clear, Hoseok's eyes land unashamed on his honey skin- it was weird that the word 'honey' could be used to describe the older as many times as he had. His hair was honey blonde, his skin radiated with healthy honey, his voice a deep honey tone. The only thing that wasn't 'honey' about him was his piercing gaze.

When he looks over at Hoseok, he has no choice but to lower his eyes. His gaze was too much for him, he thinks.

"Ah shit, I should go running about now." When Hoseok looks up again, the filth is cleared, and he gets to clearly see the other for the first time in their exchange- he was pretty, he has to admit. Not pretty like Seokjin, because he's not sure anyone can come close as a match to him, but he was easy on the eyes. He had a striking resemblance to somewhat of a porcelain doll, although he's scrambling to find the comparisons in his head.

He scans the room before grabbing a pen from a table across the room and scribbling on a new wipe he pulls from his pocket, and Hoseok only assumes the note must be for Seokjin when he leaves. He starts to wonder if his pockets were endless though, with the amount of things he's pulled from one alone when the older looks up, a smile tugging on his lips as he folds the note a couple of times before brushing himself off and taking a couple of steps forward, close enough to hover close to Hoseok's ears.

"Thanks for helping me out," he murmurs, and it immediately sends a cold shiver down Hoseok's spine. "Next time, I'll buy you a meal in thanks."

He feels a slight dip in his pocket before the blonde brushes past him, and he stills for just a few minutes after he's left until he finally reaches into his pocket to check if it was a figment of his imagination or not.

His fingers close around the folded piece of paper, pulling it out curiously as he unfolds it with shaky fingers. Something unsettling is sitting at the bottom of his stomach, and he's not sure how to interpret it.

Like he's just done something horrible.

Wordlessly, he opens the last fold, eyes scanning the scribbled words on there as he finally draws in a sharp breath.

 

'Most of what I told you is a lie.

Congrats. You escorted an offender.

Min Yoongi

010-XXXX-XXXX.'

 

 

 

August 13th, 20XX. 5:47 am.

Their legs entangled, dawn is going as quickly as it left as the early morning sun started to rise, and Hoseok knows Yoongi has to go soon to avoid the public eye. The RRT members were on guard on every corner of the street at exactly 6:30 am, not a minute sooner or later. Yoongi had to start getting up about now to wash up, get dressed, and walk out of his building and be long out of earshot by the time those damned white coats came in.

It was funny, really, how white used to be his favorite color. White reminded him of Seokjin. Maybe it was because he was one of those white coats, but the color suited him better than any other white coat he had seen in his life- he had always associated Seokjin with serene and ethereal, and he thinks he embodied the pure color as his own. He was his whole world, and at some point Hoseok started to find him within the clouds and the moon.

He doesn't hate the color now, necessarily. He's loved Seokjin for too long to suddenly hate it, and maybe a part of him still did. He doesn't think he can completely learn how to un-love Seokjin, the same way Yoongi couldn't completely un-love Jimin. He just thinks that perhaps, he was a little blinded by the shining white.

Loved?

Yoongi, on the other hand, was red. He wasn't the pure color Seokjin was, but he bled a deeper color than he did. He had built up resentment, he had bitterness, and he had distrust in him that bled a dark red. He also bled a bright red that Hoseok loves and freely danced among different shades as he saw Yoongi had fire behind his eyes, a passion like no other, and a clear motive where he wanted to touch others with his beliefs and spread like wildfire.

Loves?

Hoseok got caught within his fire. He thinks that's why he's so mesmerized.

Yoongi's eyes are closed, his lower lashes casting pretty shadows below his eyes. Hoseok knows he's not sleeping, but he shakes him anyways. "Hyung, you have to get ready to leave soon."

All he gets is a groan in response, a few shifts of his leg before slowly stretching his arms up, only for it to come down and hug around Hoseok tighter, a small giggle escaping from his lips as he leans in to press a kiss against his jaw.

"C'mon, you have to go."

"Five more minutes."

"You'll be late."

"Why are you so eager to kick me out?"

Hoseok, of course, doesn't want him to leave. But while the white coats still exist, he can't stay around for too long. He should press further, but he can never win when it comes to the older. "Fine, five more minutes."

The two share a peaceful silence with the looming knowledge that their peace will come to an end within the next promised five more minutes, as Hoseok's thoughts shift to the slip of paper he had found in his pocket when they had first met.

"Hyung."

"Mm?"

"When we first met, why'd you sign your name on top of your phone number?"

Hoseok doesn't have to look at Yoongi to know what expression he has on- his eyebrow should be raised, the corner of his lip raising on the same side with it. "What's so wrong about it?"

"What if I had turned you in once I found out you were a fraud? You must've been confident in yourself that I would call, huh?"

Yoongi chuckles at that. "Giving you my number along with the lie was a gamble. Giving you my name was not."

"How so?"

"You wouldn't do that to your Seokjin hyung." His gruff morning voice is distracting him, but the mention of his former center of affection perks his ears up.

"Seokjinnie hyung?"

"See, your voice drips with honey even when you say his name now." There's no jealousy in his tone, but the arms around him wrap tighter. "You should've seen the way your face lit up when I had mentioned being close to Kim Seokjin in my lie. I knew from that alone that he was someone special to you."

"What did he have to do with giving me your name?"

"You wouldn't turn me in, because he was special to you." Yoongi's voice is already low, but somehow it drops an octave lower, and much quieter than before. With the pause he takes in between his words, Hoseok knows their five minutes should be over by now, but he wants to hear the end of this answer. "Knowing that you made his job harder, and letting him know that it was because of you... You didn't want him to know that. So I knew you wouldn't turn me in. Giving you my number, however, assuming you might be as interested as I was- now that was a gamble. You could've easily dropped the name and note and given the number in as evidence, and erase yourself from the scene completely."

Hoseok groans. "I should've done that instead."

"You're going to say that after the way you cried mercy in my hands just a couple of hours ago?"

A non threatening hit is heard with a smack! on Yoongi's back, in which he chuckles and unwraps his arms to heave himself off the bed, grabbing his shirt from off the floor and starting to pull it on. All Hoseok can see from his angle of the bed through sleepy eyes is Yoongi's back, and he wonders how much longer he'd have to see this sight.

"Hyung."

"Hmm?"

"Sometimes, I wish you could stay."

Yoongi chuckles, turning around as soon as he's pulled on his clothes and takes the blanket in his hands to tuck Hoseok in before his hand came down to pat down his hair. A familiar, childhood to adult gesture Seokjin did to him, but now it was completely replaced with the way Yoongi made him feel when he did it.

"Sometimes, I wish I can take you with me." The light grey morning sky is starting to peek through the curtains, as Yoongi's eyes hastily check the time on his watch as he grabs it from the nightstand to put on his wrist. "And one day, I will."

To anyone, under the system they were cursed under, it could seem like an empty promise. If Hoseok had heard any other incompatible pairs say that to each other, he would scoff. But when Yoongi said it, it felt genuine- as if he would actually make it happen.

Just for now, he wanted to ignore the stars and believe him.

"I'll see you later." His night lover. The person he spent all his nights with, but was unable to see in the light. Seokjin was his whole world, but Yoongi was his whole night sky. 

And he had come to appreciate the dark.

 

 

I just think there's more to a person than just stars, you know?

If every person was their own universe, I just think there's so much more to focus on than just stars.

Taehyung's not going to lie and say Jimin didn't get into his head.

His previous conversation with Jimin was shocking to say the least- it seemed to hit even harder with the shocking news he had received that day too.

We've found a match for him.

Are you against it?

... No, sir. Thank you very much. I will ready myself to meet the match whenever they are ready.

He furrows his eyebrows, eyes closed as he brings his hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose. 

Several questions run through his head.

First, why did it bother him so much that Namjoon was getting married?

He wouldn't lie and say that he wasn't attracted to him the moment he saw him. The Jeon heir and his fiance was beautiful and as attractive as the media let him out to be, and even kinder than he had let himself be wary of at first, but he thinks meeting Namjoon first didn't allow for any of that to register in his mind. He spent more time with Namjoon than Jungkook, perhaps that was the reason?

"Namjoon hyung!" He remembers running down the hallway, almost tripping a couple of times because he wasn't used to the hard shoes they made him wear, but he catches himself both times before falling before making his way towards a wide eyed Namjoon on the other end of the hallway.

"Taehyung-sshi?"

"Taehyungie," he had corrected in a scolding tone, "Look!" He held out the jar of red substance in his hands. "Have you eaten yet?"

Namjoon had blinked, mouth parted as he seemed to try to think back. A frown etches on Taehyung's lips.

"Hyung... have you eaten at all today?"

The silence from the older is all the answer he needs.

"It's almost 4 in the afternoon, hyung!"

"Sorry, sorry- I'd forgotten, I've been busy running around getting things together."

"They overwork you too much. Come on," He had grumbled as he reaches forward to grab the older by the wrist and practically drags him down the hall where he just came from. It was his first month there, so he hadn't memorized the whole layout of the mansion yet (and had gotten embarrassingly lost a couple of times still, where he had to call Mr. Shin for directions), but he at the very least knew where the dining hall was. "Let's go fix you a snack. To your luck, my family just sent me an early jar of homemade strawberry jam! It seems the harvest is good this summer, so they were able to collect enough. I'm supposed to save this jar for Jungkook," he flashes a boxy smile behind him before looking ahead of him again, "but I'll specially let you have it!"

"If it's Jungkook's-"

"No. It's still mine, I didn't give it to him yet, so I can give it to you." He holds the jar up with one hand without looking back. "Strawberry jam for the workaholic secretary who works so hard to the point of forgetting himself." There's a bitter bite to the end of his sentence.

He could hear a light chuckle behind him. "I'm only doing what I'm paid to do."

"No job is worth sacrificing your health over," Taehyung scolds once more as they reach the stairs, hurrying downstairs to make a sharp left where the beige doors of the dining hall could be seen. "You have to take care of yourself, hyung. I'll have to check in if you ate everyday or not, you better not ignore my calls. Got it?"

He doesn't hear a response, prompting him to stop right in front of the door and look back at the older with a raise of an eyebrow, only to find he has on a soft smile. It throws him off guard a little but he doesn't let his stern expression falter, and Namjoon's free hand comes up to ruffle Taehyung's made hair.

"Hyung!"

"I'm lucky. The Jeon fiance is going to personally make sure I ate or not."

"Call me the Jeon fiance one more time," he deadpans as he tugs him along once more, pushing past the doors into the dining hall, "and I will not hesitate to make you into plant fertilizer for the garden outside."

It was almost custom for them to share at least one meal together everyday after that, much to his ecstasy. Maybe it was because he spent so much time together with him? Maybe he had grown a soft spot for him in the rapid closeness of their friendship.

That led to his second question: Was he upset that Namjoon was subjected to the same type of marriage he was?

Subjected. That made it sound like it was worse than it was, and as much as Taehyung knows it was his own decision to come here, he can't help but feel a little sorry for himself- the idea that he had put himself in a position to be engaged first and love later. Never would he have thought to be in this place, in this situation at any point of his life, but he never regretted his decision. He should consider himself lucky, in fact, to be in a compatible engagement with the Jeon heir. 

The only times he slightly regrets it is when he spends time with Namjoon.

It's these times he thinks about the what-ifs; what if he had rejected the proposal? What if he had met Namjoon under different circumstances? What if they hadn't met as Jeon fiance and Jeon secretary?

These what-ifs led to his third and final question.

Did he perhaps... have feelings for Namjoon?

He pushes past the door into the white building, file tucked under his arm as he gives a quick greeting with a smile to each passing squad member (some he doesn't quite have a recollection of meeting, but they greet him with such enthusiasm and a warm smile, he has no choice but to reciprocate) before bringing up his hands to massage the temples of his head.

He was starting to bring on a headache from these complicated thoughts. Why was it so much more complicated than he wanted it to be? He thought this kind of stuff was supposed to be simple. That's what the movies showed, anyways.

"What'd you think?"

He's suddenly reminded of the first time he showed Namjoon a classically cliche and somewhat cringey korean drama, Namjoon rubbing his eyes after hours of marathoning the show.

"... Taehyung-sshi-"

"Just Taehyung."

He hesitates, before murmuring out a soft "Taehyung" as he slides his glasses back on, "that was..."

"Bad?"

"Bad," he agrees, chuckling shyly. "None of it even made sense. First, why is he like that? Did he have to reject her in front of the school like that?"

Taehyung nods approvingly, encouraging him to go on.

"Why is the show called Mischievous Kiss? Why did they have to get married as soon as they came out of high school? What did that even prove? Why did their parents approve of that?" He shakes his head, pinching the bridge of his nose as he leans back against the wall behind them, stretching his legs out in the duvet. The Jeon mansion had a personal theater, but the Capricorn had complained that the chairs weren't comfortable enough so they were in his room with the projector facing the blank wall opposite of them, sitting on multiple fluffy pillows and sharing a comfortable duvet.

Taehyung only laughs at the overwhelming influx of questions and the seriously concerned expression on Namjoon's face, pushing the bags of chips to the side before bringing his knees up to hug. "I told you, they're bad aren't they?"

"I don't understand why you feel the necessity to watch them."

"To know what not to do in any kind of situation ever."

Namjoon seems to understand that, nodding slowly as he sighs. "A world without Zodiakos sounds like a mess, really."

"Seokjin hyung~" Taehyung calls out in a sing song voice as he pushes the memory to the back of his head, poking his head inside of the office behind the mahogany door. The caramel haired team leader isn't in sight, but his eyes land on the platinum blonde he hadn't seen since a couple weeks back.

The blonde friend who was, really, the cause of the sudden turmoil in thoughts he had.

"Jiminnie!" He greets enthusiastically, and the Libra looks up from the coffee table next to Seokjin's desk. His eyes, albeit a little cold, land on him, before lighting up in recognition and his eyes crinkle into warm crescents as he gives a smile. Taehyung almost finds it endearing that his eyes seemed to smile before his lips did.

"Taehyung-ah!"

"Working hard, aren't you?" He teases as he holds up the file he had tucked under his arm, waving it. "Just here to drop some files off for Seokjin hyung."

"Doesn't Secretary Kim usually do that?"

"Yeah," Taehyung ignores the flip in his stomach, "but I offered today because I'm off the rest of the day and I needed to get out of that stuffy mansion. Thinking of taking a detour and walk around the premises before going back to the mansion."

Jimin stretches his arms up slowly, a yawn pushing its way out of his mouth. "Maybe I'll join you. I haven't been able to catch a break yet, and Seokjin hyung is in a meeting with the chairman and the other board members right now and won't be back for some time. Do you mind?"

Taehyung brightens up immediately, making his way over to set the file on the table Jimin sits at and starts tugging at his arm up. "I can't believe I'm gonna help you ditch work!"

"I'm not ditching work-"

"Let's go!" Taehyung tugs him out of the building before he could change his mind, unable to ignore the little skip in his step. Perhaps he needed a small distraction, that was all. "Have you eaten anything today yet?"

Jimin only shakes his head with a small smile on his face as he allows himself to get dragged out.

 

 

"Seokjin hyung's nice to work for, you know? He knows exactly what he's doing, he's also super nice and he seems to be a little cold sometimes, but I can just tell he's full of fire, you know? He's really a character I have yet to come across."

They're taking bites of their own sandwiches- they had originally wanted to leave the premises to eat, but with Taehyung's restriction, Jimin had offered to buy the sandwiches and return with them so they could eat together. Sitting in between the forget me nots and the yellow hibiscus flowers once more, Taehyung only slowly nods in response.

"Working here's been fun so far, and gives me enough time to still practice for my showcase in a couple of weekends. Speaking of, are you still coming? I can save some seats for you."

Taehyung nods, mouth stuffed with pastrami. Jimin hums in anticipation as he lowers his half eaten sandwich. "How many seats did you say you wanted again? Four, right? You," he points at the Capricorn, "Seokjin hyung, Secretary Kim, and Director Jeon. Although, do we really have to invite Director Jeon? I feel like his presence there would be the show instead, and no offense, but I'm supposed to be the star."

Taehyung freezes up at the mention of the secretary Virgo, lowering his own sandwich as he frowns. Wasn't Namjoon meeting his match that weekend? Should he ask him if he still wanted to go with them?

Should he be cutting him off here? It was clear that the engagement would be more important than the showcase for him. Would it be a bother to ask him such obvious question?

Was asking him such an obvious question with hope for a different answer considered selfish?

"Taehyung?"

He snaps his head up, eyes widening as he shoots an apologetic smile at the other, who has an eyebrow raised. He wraps up the rest of his sandwich, setting it between them on the stone bench before bringing his legs up in a criss cross, facing him.

"Alright, spill. You've looked bothered since earlier, and I wasn't sure if it was my place to ask you what's wrong in case it was Jeon business, but if it's enough to distract you this much I think I should know what you have your attention focused on when you dragged me out of work. What's wrong?"

That's the thing- Taehyung doesn't know what's wrong. He thinks if he knew, at least, he'd be a bit more relaxed and able to come to a better conclusion.

There's no conclusion to his problem because he's not quite sure what the problem is.

He's also not sure if he's able to spill to Jimin. Not that he gave any reason to doubt him, but he thinks if Jimin hadn't said those words to him the last time they had seen each other, he might be in less of a dilemma than he is now. He's worried that if he talks to Jimin, he might end up more confused again.

Like last time.

"It's about... Namjoon hyung."

Jimin only nods, crossing his arms and seemingly waiting for him to go on, so he does. "Truthfully, I don't know what I'm so conflicted about," Taehyung continues, and a chuckle follows suit, "I really don't. All I know is that I'm feeling hurt, and I have no idea why."

"When did it start?"

"The day we met."

Jimin raises a hand along with an eyebrow. "I'm not interested in you that way, you know, right?"

Taehyung's cheeks are dusted a bright red, as he reaches over to land a hit on Jimin's laughing shoulders. "It's not related to you, you narcissist!"

"If it were me, I wouldn't be surprised," Jimin sends a playful wink. "I'm quite unforgettable, after all, don't you think?"

Taehyung only shakes his head with a chuckle, the hard tension between the two effectively breaking. "Come on," Jimin's hand comes up on Taehyung's shoulder. "See, I'm a friend. You can tell me anything."

He can't help the fact that he feels like whatever he wants to say is dangerous, but he remembers Jimin's own words. So he continues, "... I can't shake the feeling off that I can't quite ring my feelings towards Namjoon hyung."

"Secretary Kim? What, so it really wasn't me?" A teasing smile, in which Taehyung only returns.

"You're pretty, don't get me wrong, but have you seen Namjoon hyung?"

Jimin whistles. "So you have the hots for the wrong Virgo."

Taehyung's face falls before he sighs, wrapping his own sandwich the same way Jimin did before setting it down next to him, palming his face in his hands. "What do I do?"

"At least you're compatible?"

"Jimin, I'm engaged."

He can't see Jimin behind his hands, but the other is silent next to him, and lets out the same hopeless puff of air he had just moments ago. "So? What does it have to do with the day we met?"

Taehyung props his chin on one of his hands as he crosses his legs to face the Libra in the same sitting position he's in, finally looking up at the intern. "You remember when I got dragged away and our ice cream date got cut short?"

"We finished our ice creams long before the point you got dragged away."

"That's besides the point. When our ice cream date was rudely interrupted," his eyes shift to the grey mansion beside them, "we were dragged to an emergency meeting with the chairman.

Jimin only nods quietly.

"There, he said the meeting was held to announce Namjoon hyung's engagement. Can you believe it? He's being set on an arranged marriage!"

"You're in an arranged marriage."

"I know that. That's where I'm conflicted. I didn't say anything but I was super against the idea for some reason. Almost like I didn't want him to marry, because it felt like..." He pauses, searching for the words. "It felt like he was being taken away from me."

"Is he yours to begin with?"

Taehyung shakes his head. "I'm not his to begin with, either. Who cares if we're compatible? I seemed to have... forgotten the fact that we were just friends. I'm the Jeon fiance, as much as I've come to hate that nickname over the past few months, and he's the secretary. It doesn't make sense for me to be so upset over it."

"Then started the questions in my head. I've led a simple life up to this point," Taehyung notes as he reaches behind him to reach for a forget me not, "and I've no idea how to sort these questions out."

"What are the questions in your head?" What's on your mind?

"Would anything have happened if we had met in different circumstances?" A chuckle for a reason unknown to him bubbles out of him, as he holds the flower he just picked between his index and thumb. "It's ridiculous, because I know some farm boy from Geochang would've never met a Jeon acquaintance under normal circumstances, but I found myself wishful of the could've beens. Could I have been able to sort these questions out then? If we had met under normal circumstances, which I'm aware would never happen other than our particular arrangement, would I even have these questions?"

"It then led to my next question. Did I like him? That much was obvious to me, of course. I'm not the brightest, but I'm self-aware enough, I'd like to think, to know my own feelings. Of course I like him. I've been captivated since the moment I saw him."

"So what's the conflict?"

"Do I have feelings for him that reach beyond just fancying him? Why did I feel so betrayed and hurt when Namjoon accepted the arrangement? As if... we truly did share something beyond fancying each other?" Taehyung's eyes shift from the flower to an unreadable expression on his friend, and he gives a sheepish smile. "Sorry, I'm rambling, aren't I?"

Jimin shakes his head and only gestures for him to continue. "Each other?"

"Each other."

"He likes you too?"

Taehyung hesitates. This is the memory he'd been pushing to the back of his head, the one where Namjoon had mindlessly reached for his hand only a month ago when they were sharing laughs and mindless talk while looking over the same garden they were in now.

"Hyung," he had asked lazily, tucking the forget me not behind his ear at the time as they shared a bottle of champagne Taehyung had snuck out of the dining hall. He was sure the bottle itself was more expensive than the clothes he had on, but he drank it like water at the time. He had barely managed to drag Namjoon out after he finished his work for the day to the garden to catch a break. He remembers the golden haze the older's skin glowed because of the sunset colors that danced behind his own head to land on his soft cheeks, a smile tugging on his plump lips after the magic of the alcohol had worked its way through him.

"Hm?"

"Look." He brought his hands up under his chin, smiling. "Do I look like a flower?"

Namjoon had laughed then, and Taehyung's stomach had done more than just a couple of flips- perhaps it was the delicious champagne in the paper cups they held, but it was the first time he got to see Namjoon throw his head back in laughter.

Stay still, he told his heart.

"Sure, Taehyung. The prettiest flower there is."

"Even more than these?" He gestured to the garden around them, but Namjoon's gaze didn't even flinch towards where he pointed. It stayed steady on Taehyung only, and Taehyung hopes there's enough champagne in the older to not notice the creeping blush on his cheeks.

"The garden doesn't hold a chance against you." With that, Taehyung smiles, feeling something warm on his hand.

His own large, pretty hand over his. It fit so naturally with his own hand that it looked like it belonged there. He takes the next step to lace his fingers through his and their hands looked better than his and Jungkook's had ever looked together like that.

His heart sinks just a bit when Namjoon seemingly came back to his senses and retracts his hand faster than it had gotten there, and the absence of warmth leaves his hand cold and embarrassed. Namjoon cleared his throat, heaving himself off the stone bench, and panic rises in Taehyung's throat- had he done something wrong?

Namjoon only wordlessly makes his way away from the bench towards the flowers, brushing past the yellow hibiscus, the forget me nots, the pink roses, the purple hyacinths, and finally, stops in front of deep red flowers that Taehyung can't identity from this distance. He bends over to pick the flower by the stem before making his way back to the way he came, and Taehyung can't help but softly chuckle at the sway in his step. He holds the flower out, surprisingly, to the younger, who accepts with wide eyes.

Red gardenia.

"Each other"Taehyung confirms as he focuses back on Jimin, who's been waiting for an answer. "I know it's each other. I know he has to reciprocate the same sort of feelings back."

Jimin doesn't seem to press on any further, and Taehyung only lets out a sigh. He's been doing that a lot lately, and he thinks the action undermines the depth of his inner turmoil. "What do I do?"

"Are you planning to do something about it?"

Taehyung freezes. "I... don't know. I want to know more of what I should do, I guess."

Jimin stretches his arms up with a sigh. They share a silence that only lasts five minutes, but for Taehyung, feels like hours. The questions running through his head don't seem to want to give him a break either.

"There's no right answer to this," Jimin finally speaks up. Taehyung turns his head towards the Libra, who only smiles in response. "There's no right answer. That's why the system was put in place, in an attempt to find an answer."

"It's worked well up to this point, so they must've found an answer."

"You think it works well?"

"You don't?"

Jimin raises an eyebrow. "So, as someone under Zodiakos, do you feel like you have an answer right now?"

Taehyung blanks.

"I'll share a story, since you shared too. I don't know if it provides the right answer, but it shows what I wish I would've done in your situation." Jimin rolls his head back in an attempt to get rid of the pain behind his neck. "I was in a similar case. I was in love with someone back then that I couldn't have because of circumstances."

"Was?"

"Was. I hope he's fine now." He picks the forget me not from the other's hand swiftly, holding it up to the sun. "It's the person I mentioned last time, that I said I would've wanted to gift this flower to. To this day, I wonder what would've been if I hadn't given up."

"I guess it's unfair to say I gave up," Jimin says, lowering the flower to tuck behind his own ear. The memory of the champagne filled evening flashes through Taehyung's mind momentarily. "We both did. We had no choice. We met at a Jeon event as two strangers, and by the end of the night, we were still two strangers because of the circumstances; me as the entertaining dancer, him as the Jeon lawyer." There's a bitter bite to Jimin's usually sweet and calm voice, as if remembering horrible aftertaste of a bittersweet memory.

"Perhaps under different circumstances, we would've been able to share a bed more quickly, held hands more quickly, shared more kisses quickly. Now that I look back on it, I wonder for what we spent so much time being careful and dancing around each other. We could've spent more time together if we weren't so damn careful."

"Though, in the end," Jimin chuckles as he leans back on his arms, "we were caught. A year into falling deeply in love with him, we were finally caught. In a way, getting caught feels relieving and thrilling- no more hiding around. No more dancing around."

"The relief and thrill only lasted so long, though. It was only a moment of time before we were forced apart, and told that we had to give up. That we would both be offered better things if we gave up on each other, because we were such a threat to them."

Taehyung has no idea who them refers to, but he nods anyways. He thinks it's the first time Jimin's shared anything about himself, so he wants to hold questions off to the end in case he cuts off the flow of words. 

"They offered me a sturdy place in Seoul, along with opportunities me and my dance team would never be able to even come near if not for them. He was offered a marriage that would work, a match suited for him. We were promised we would forget about each other soon enough, that it was just a rebellious phase. We were convinced that it was just a phase, that even if it weren't each other, we would've done this. Therefore, we weren't in love, according to them."

He lets out a bitter laugh. "How stupid we were, to believe that. To this day, I can't forget him and wonder about the what-ifs. I wonder if he's forgotten about me, if he was able to move on the way they promised he would."

Taehyung assumes that's the end of the story, and sighs. "I didn't know you were caught up in an affair with someone that was engaged, too."

"Hm?" Jimin raises an eyebrow. "No, we were both single."

"... Then, what-?"

"We were incompatible." He holds up his wrist to show his red imprint. "He was two years older, and a Pisces, while I was a Libra. He was close to the Jeons, and I wasn't. We were particularly more of a threat because of his relationship with the Jeons." He lowers his wrist, a solemn look on his face. "He should be married to a Scorpio by now. I hope Yoongi hyung is fine."

The name rings a bell for the Capricorn, although he's unsure where from. Had Jungkook mentioned the name before? He surely wasn't someone he had met before. "Jimin, you guys were incompatible. Me and Namjoon hyung are engaged to different people. I'm not sure if that's the same."

Jimin shoots him a questioning look. "What's so different about it? Either way, neither of us are allowed to be with the people we want because of certain circumstances, right? Both of our stories makes us wonder what if we had met in a normal situation, right? You're engaged because of the system. I was forced apart from the man I loved because of the system. Don't you see where the actual problem is?"

It was dangerous to say aloud, and Taehyung understood immediately why Jimin had been talking so cryptically- through questions, through anecdotes. In the end, the point he wanted to come to were similar to the words they had shared before.

I just think there's more to a person than just stars, you know?

If every person was their own universe, I just think there's so much more to focus on than just stars.

Taehyung draws in a sharp inhale. "That's dangerous, Jimin."

"I'm aware." Jimin tilts his head over to his friend. "Don't have the same regrets I do. There might not be a right answer, but there are results. In the end, I'm regretful. I think that means I chose the wrong answer back then."

There's a pause.

"So don't go down the same path I did."

 

 

It should concern him how much the Libra was able to get in his head.

Then again, it should concern him how much the Virgo secretary was also able to get in his heart.

Seokjin had seen Jimin outside with Taehyung as they finished their conversation, scolding him to come back to the center because they had a lot to finish, and Taehyung was left with his own thoughts once again. And, just as he feared, he was more confused at the end of their conversation than he had been at the beginning of it.

... Was he confused, or did he know the answer and refused to believe it?

So don't go down the same path I did.

Would he rather regret not pursuing what he wanted, or would he rather regret pursuing it? The answer was obvious, but he was afraid- did he know what he wanted? Had Namjoon become so dear to him over the past couple of months to be pursuing with all the risks and consequences clear as day in his mind? He wasn't just an outsider, after all. He saw up close the work Seokjin and the squad did- he saw up close what he was daring to even think to go up against. Were Jimin's words enough to move him? Was Jimin's sorrows and regrets enough?

Would he meet the same ending Jimin's story did?

Too many questions, not enough answers. That's how the past couple of weeks had been. Too many questions he preferred to not have racing through his mind, too many doubts he wasn't used to. Too much wishful thinking, too much pining he had only seen on screen. Everything was too much.

So he decides to not think about it too much.

He keeps his head clear when he grabs the boxes of bleach and dye he had bought mere months ago when he had first made his way from his family farm to the ugly grey mansion he made a living in now, but had hesitated to use in the beginning.

He keeps his head clear an hour later when his hair sticks out a stark yellow, much like the yellow hibiscus in the garden he had just come from and he retouches the bleach in his hair.

He keeps his head clear when he's watching as his hair turning from the color of the yellow hibiscus to the color of the forget-me-not he had come to love during his time here.

He keeps his head clear when he's washing his hair and the dyed blue water runs down his body and circles into the drain.

He keeps his head clear when he gets his hair styled by the same people who did his hair every morning, their eyes wide in wonder as they silently worked their magic on his hair.

He keeps his head clear when he's walking down the hallway to the office he knows belongs to the secretary, and the first place they had shared a conversation- the first time he noticed any sort of spark between them, or however movies and books had called it.

He reaches up to knock on the door, no plan in his head whatsoever for what he was going to do once the door opened and he'd have to face Namjoon, before his hand stops mid air.

There was soft laughter behind the door, which he could distinctly recognize as Namjoon's and... was that female laughter?

A lot of the Jeon mansion staff Namjoon worked with were male, so he knew it couldn't be a business meeting. Jungkook's mother was usually never in sight, as he'd only met her once or twice before. She'd usually been out and about, sharing gossip with other high ranking mothers and tending to the orphanages nearby. He didn't know too much about her, but he knew the soft laughter inside did not belong to her.

Almost as if the stars wanted him to know while he was unsure himself if he wanted to know, the laughter grows closer, prompting him to take a couple steps back as the door opens before he can turn away. Namjoon exits with a dimpled smile, and following behind him is a woman who can't be any older than him, her lips curled up in a smile as well. Taehyung freezes on the spot when Namjoon's eyes come up to land on the Capricorn, the smile dying on his lips as well.

The look they share is comedic, Taehyung thinks. Namjoon has on an expression that makes him look like he was caught in a forbidden act, and he was sure he had on an expression that couldn't be anything other than grim. Neither of them had any need to have such expressions on, which is why Taehyung thinks it's comedic. They both pause, the woman behind him studying the air between them before her smile grows a bit softer.

"Namjoon-sshi?"

He seems to snap out of his stupor at that, and clears his throat as Taehyung straightens up. "Ah, Sera-sshi. This is Kim Taehyung, Director Jeon's fiance."

With a "Ah!", she extends her hand forward. "I've been curious about you! It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Yoon Sera, the, ah..." She seems a little shy to finish the sentence, and it's only then Taehyung catches on.

"Ah," he says as composed as he can, reaching forward to shake her hand with a plastered smile, "You must be the match. It's a pleasure to meet you as well. I wasn't expecting to be seeing you so soon."

She was beautiful, Taehyung had to admit. With short black hair that fell just above her shoulders and kind eyes that crinkled into a smile easily, he couldn't bring himself to feel spiteful about her. Her voice was warm and welcoming, and everything about her screamed good natured.

Much like Namjoon.

"I had some time after work and I was curious about this man," she says pointedly with a tilt of her head towards the Virgo, "and I swung by to chat for a bit." His eyes unknowingly drift to the imprint on her wrist- a Cancer.

"May I ask," Namjoon cuts in, his eyes still not budging from the Capricorn's gaze. Their eyes remained locked, as he carefully brings out the next words. "What brought you here, Taehyung-sshi? Was there something you needed?'

Taehyung-sshi. He can't help but admit that stung a little.

"I had something to say," Taehyung feels the words rise out of him monotonously, "and something to ask, but it seems I... lost my chance."

Namjoon was smart. He can tell from the glint in his eyes that he was able to read between the lines as Taehyung hoped, but he only offers a small smile. "I would hear you out, but I was on my way to escort Sera-sshi out. I hope it wasn't anything too important."

Shut down, just like that. Taehyung bites back what he actually wants to say, and reciprocates the smile. "Don't let me stop you."

Please let me stop you.

Namjoon gestures towards the hall to Sera, who turns on her heels to make her way towards. He's about to pass Taehyung when he stops next to him momentarily and murmurs, "I like your hair. Reminds me of the forget-me-nots out in the garden."

And with that, he continues his way down the hall, and Taehyung's opportunity walks away from him.

 

 

Picnic basket in hand, Jungkook had knocked on Taehyung's door just earlier to see if he would share a night picnic in the nice summer breeze.

Of course, not on his own accord. Mr. Shin had promptly handed him the basket and two wine glasses, saying that the Chairman thought they weren't spending enough time together despite being together 24/7.

He walked in to try to find his fiance, but instead he found a blueberry haired Taehyung sitting in his room with a pout, feeling almost as blue as his hair. Taehyung had rejected with a sullen look on his face, and seeing his fiance upset was a rare sight- the usually bright, calm Capricorn was clearly disheveled and feeling down, but Jungkook was not sure if he should press on.

Well, he tried; he took the bottle of champagne out of the basket and had half joked if he wanted to drink his sorrows away, but that must've been the wrong answer, because Taehyung's eyes freeze on the bottle and only asks for time alone, possibly looking even more upset than before. Jungkook scratches his chin. Perhaps he should've brought the wine they had at their first dinner instead of the gold champagne.

That's how he got kicked out of his fiance's room and showed up at the white building with the basket and glasses in hand. When he pokes his head into the familiar office, the new intern is nowhere in sight, and there are huge piles of files on the desk. No one is anywhere to be found, and Jungkook frowns.

He must be a lousy superior if Seokjin was being buried in work like this.

He decides to turn around and leave, when a disheveled head pokes out from behind the piles, eyes full of sleep and round glasses tilted- Jungkook's lips immediately curl into a smile as his eyes land on the Sagittarius fixing his glasses.

"Jungkook?"

"Hyung! I thought you weren't here."

He stifles a yawn, carefully pushing the files to the side to make sure they don't go toppling over before resting his chin on his propped arm. "I must've fallen asleep while reviewing all the files. I'd been going over all the information on all the registered offenders from the last five years for the escapee case."

"Hyung... it's almost nine at night. Why aren't you home yet?"

"Hey, you're the one who came to find me here at nine. What if I hadn't been here?"

"Knowing your workaholic tendencies," Jungkook continues as he runs his hand through his hair, finally relieving it from the half swept up hairdo it's been confined in all day, "I came here to yell at you to take a break. Or in this case, to go home."

"Yes, I plan to go home soon-"

"-After you have a picnic with me." Jungkook holds up the basket and glasses that he's been painfully holding the past almost hour. "I have some of the best champagne in Korea in this basket too. It's time to wind down, hyung."

"I have to come to work tomorrow too, I think I'll just review a few files and go home-"

"Nonsense." He slings the basket handle over the arm carrying the glasses to free up a hand to grab Seokjin once he makes his way to the desk. "In order to work well, you have to learn how to give yourself breaks and learn how to have fun every once in a while."

"Director Jeon, there's an escapee-"

Jungkook stops in his tracks, letting go of Seokjin's arm to place his hand over his heart. "We're back to formalities? You wound me, hyung."

"Jungkook, we're in no position to be having champagne under the stars-"

"Oh, under the stars sounds good." He continues dragging the the older out despite his stringing complaints behind him, lost in thought momentarily. "Stargazing with champagne... hyung, you really are a soft romantic at heart, aren't you?"

"I just want to work."

"You're having champagne with your boss. Consider it work related." At that, Seokjin seems to have given up fighting back and shakes off Jungkook's iron grip on his arm, moving to match his pace to his. The younger only flashes a smile at the older, who rolls his eyes.

"You're ridiculous, you know that?"

"Of course." They take the detour behind the grey mansion, the part of the Jeon premises that people never really went to but was his childhood route to his quiet place. Seokjin follows him, half hesitant and the other half curious before Jungkook shoots him a reassuring look and being ahead, moves to the side and gestures his hand in a ta-da! motion.

Before them was a Japanese stone garden, beautifully adorned with clean white stones leading in intricate patterns on the plot of land as couple dimly lit lanterns were the only light source in the nearby area.

"Romantic, Jungkook, really," he hears Seokjin chuckle, "but wouldn't our asses hurt?"

Jungkook scoffs. "You offend me, really. What do you take me for? I brought a thick enough blanket, of course. There's no other area to sit here except on the stones, after all."

"Just surprised you thought it through," came another chuckle as Jungkook goes ahead to set the basket down and lifts the lid up to pull out said blanket and starts to unfold and spread it under a spot away from the dim lights, hoping the spot would allow them to see more stars.

The sky was clear as they took their seats, and Seokjin comments on how surprisingly his ass doesn't hurt from the stones under them, which Jungkook only laughs to as he pops open the bottle, glasses clinking as they take their first drinks.

"I think Mr. Shin packed some food in here too," Jungkook says as he pulls out the glass jar of red substance he'd never seen before and the assortment of saltines and sliced up bread in containers. "I think..." He holds up the red jar, trying to read the print in the dark. "I think this might be leftover homemade strawberry jam from Taehyung's farm."

Seokjin lights up as he snatches the jar from the younger's hands prying it open as another chuckle bubbles out of his chest, his face seemingly peaceful for the first time in weeks as he dips a slice of bread into the jam, bliss tugging his lips into a smile. Jungkook's eyes only on him as he ate, Seokjin holds up a jam dipped saltine for him with a raise of an eyebrow.

Jungkook wasn't hungry, but it was Seokjin offering- he brings his face forward to take the saltine directly between his lips, taking note of the way Seokjin's ears flare a bright red and the surprised expression on his face.

"Hey, your ears are the same color as the jam," he teases as he brings up a hand to hover over said ear, which Seokjin smacks away with a non threatening glare.

"You're absolutely ridiculous. I can never be ready for anything you do," He huffs as he covers his ears. "I didn't know you guys had a stone garden here," the older says in an attempt to change the subject, cheeks full as he takes another saltine in his mouth along with a sip of the champagne.

"Right. The hibiscus garden on the other side, it used to be here. It was a private garden before the chairman decided that it was too pretty to keep to ourselves, and moved it to where it is now. We changed this spot to a stone garden, but people hardly want to see stones when there are flowers."

"I like it here. It's nice." His finger comes down to trace the smooth surface of the stones beside him. "Flowers are nice, but they're so frail. I like the sturdiness of the stones. They're still pretty, too."

"I'm not sure why, but I didn't expect any other answer from you."

"What does that mean?" Seokjin jabs accusingly, lifting the bottle to pour himself some more champagne. Jungkook takes the bottle from him to pour instead.

"I just meant that you tend to steer towards stability and practicality, hyung. It's like your top two traits." He pours a little more for himself, before raising his glass to clink with a smile. "It's admirable. I think that's what makes you such a good team leader of this specific field."

"Yes, I know." Clink!

A chuckle. "Not even going to deny it?"

"What's the point? I know I'm plenty capable of it. Denying it for the mere face of humility doesn't seem to make sense, either."

"That's part of your charm."

Seokjin smiles, raising the glass to his lips. "If you insist."

"Have you always been preparing to work for this field?"

The older nods, setting down the glass to gather his hands in his lap. "Generations of workers in my family. I think I mentioned this last time to you. My mother worked in the Busan branch."

"Your father?"

"He was also in the squad, that's where my mother and he met. He died in the field though, since he was caught going undercover."

The younger's eyes widen, biting down on his lip. "Sorry."

"Don't be. It's a long time ago, and he was gone before I got to know him. My mother was enough for me."

"What does she do now?"

"She's living off my salary in a nice house in Busan," he chuckles. He mutters about how he should give her a call soon, it'd been almost a week with everything that had been going on. "She's always loved the beach, so I got her a home near the beach."

"Near Haeundae?"

"No, no. She doesn't like it too crowded. I got her a more secluded place." Seokjin lifts the bottle to fill Jungkook's empty glass, who accepts with both hands on the glass. "Now, she makes homemade fruity alcoholic beverages and shares them with her neighborhood. They love her. They call her the Lemon Ajumma."

"Lemon?"

"She's always had an affinity towards sugared lemon beverages. They're really good, the ones she makes. Maybe next time I go, I'll bring back some. It can be payment for this champagne."

Jungkook waves his head along with his hands before he even finishes his sentence. "I'd like to try some, of course, but stop calling it 'payment', hyung. Not everything's a give and take."

Seokjin tilts his head curiously. "How would you ever calculate anything without thinking about the give and takes?"

"Because sometimes, not everything's about calculating?" The younger grins. "If we were calculating everything, we shouldn't be out here having a secret picnic."

The Sagittarius takes a slow sip of his champagne, nodding. "I suppose you're right. I can't really win against anything you say."

"Me?"

He chuckles in response, bringing his knees up to hug and bends his head down to rest his cheek on his propped up knees, looking at the heir with rosy cheeks. "Yeah, you. It's weird with you, honestly."

"Why do you say that?" Jungkook has to refrain from reaching out to touch those rosy cheeks, which allure him in almost as much as his lips always do. They were inviting, and he chuckles at the paradox of the most unwelcoming person he knew having the most inviting features.

"It's weird." Seokjin grows silent for a moment, almost as if he's contemplating what to say. Searching for the words. "You're like this obstacle in my planned out roadmap. Contradicting everything I'm used to with the most nonchalant attitude in the world. My unapproachable boss, but so natural to grow close to. I've never been so shaken by someone like this."

The way the words seem so easy to flow out of his usually careful mouth surprises Jungkook, and he smiles. "You're shaken by me?"

"Like no other. You're quite a wonder, Jungkook-ah. I'm not used to this kind of change." He's quiet for a moment. "It's so easy to be with you, despite what the stars say."

The younger draws in a quiet, sharp breath, the tightness in his chest only intensifying as he barely manages to maintain his expression. The skip in his heart drums loudly in his ears, and he's not sure if it's because of the alcohol or the words Seokjin's said. He feels like he's seen this in a dream somewhere, an unreachable dream he'd kept to himself for a while now.

"You're easy to be around too, hyung. You make me forget the stars."

 

 

You're easy to be around too, hyung. You make me forget the stars.

The words should ring an alarm in Seokjin's head, but his head is quiet. Actually, after hearing the words, it's the most peace he's been able to have for the first time in a really long time.

He thinks time with Jungkook is like that. Peace amidst the chaos. An oasis in the middle of a desert. A treasure after a long hunt. He's always had in mind that time with Jungkook is enjoyable, but in this moment, with his chest saying more than his head, he wonders if it reaches beyond just enjoying his presence.

His chest had never spoken up to this point, after all. 

They're both quiet, only the sound of crickets chirping filling the air. They're quiet, but their silence is loud. It's declaring something that should be unspoken between the two, and Seokjin wants to blame the champagne for what Jungkook says next.

The younger leans in, and the alarms still don't go off in his head- the only response his body gives is the sudden inability to breathe, barely able to control how heavy they would be otherwise, and Seokjin finds his own eyes lowering to the younger's lips. He should stop him, his mind knows, but his body doesn't seem to care. Jungkook stops just before their lips hover, still careful.

Maybe Seokjin can blame the champagne later.

"Hyung," he breathes out, barely a whisper. Seokjin almost doesn't hear him. "Can I kiss you?"

Words that never should've been spoken. Words that should've remained in the silence that ensued between them, keeping a tight hold on the full cup of water that was their relationship, and Jungkook had spilled it. The water was spilled, and there was no going back.

Jungkook spilled the words Seokjin had been acknowledging for some time, but had never been out in the open.

His heart is drumming in his ears, his lips are unconsciously leaning forward. His mind is screaming no! and his body is screaming yes!

It's like a knee jerk response. "No."

It's like washing your face with cold water when you're sleepy to stay awake- Seokjin suddenly widens his eyes, leaning back as he reaches up to cover his lips. The tension in the air disappears, and Jungkook seems to come back to his senses as well. They sit there, wide eyed at one another as they seemingly assess the situation.

What has he gotten himself into?

"I have to go," Seokjin mutters as he grabs his white coat he had put aside, and Jungkook didn't stop him as he scurries down the path they came from, not realizing the breath he was holding until he's out of the alley and on his way from behind the grey mansion to the white building. He's always hated the sight of the white building, but tonight, it's a relief for him to see it. 

Inseparable thoughts race through his mind as he fumbles with the lock to his door, and he doesn't let out the breath he was holding until he closes the door behind him, coming out as a sigh (of relief? of regret? He would never know) as he rubs the temple of his head. What had he gotten himself into? What was he about to do? What was he expecting? When he had been dragged out of the safety of the white building, he hadn't realized that he had been signing up to be breaking a few rules tonight.

Especially not with the next heir of Zodiakos.

By the fucking stars, he thinks to himself as he throws the white coat over the spine of his chair, I almost kissed the next heir of the system. This could've been a bigger mess than he had wanted to let himself into, and he could've gotten himself into more than he could handle. How could he danger his own path in life for a mere man?

You're easy to be around too, hyung. You make me forget the stars.

He shakes the thought away as his eyes catch the wrinkled paper lying flat on his desk, and upon the sight, his blood runs cold. His body freezes, his breath stagnant as he reaches his hand out to feel the paper.

It was real. Lying on his desk was the crumpled up beige offender registration paper he had thrown into the trash just weeks before, his handwriting reading Park Jimin across the top line as a folded up white note lies on top of it.

With shaky fingers, he picks up the note to unfold, and he can feel his heart drop upon reading the scrawled words.

YOU'RE GROWING SOFT.

 

 

 

Only for you I'd gather the stars

Cause with you is where they belong

Chapter Text

Jungkook doesn't see him for a while after that.

If he's being honest, he hasn't had a good night's sleep since that night. Tossing and turning in his bed, kicking the covers over and burying his head into the pillows, he wonders what would've happened if Seokjin wasn't... Seokjin and he had gotten caught up in the moment as well and actually kissed him.

Since then, the stars had been punishing him.

Since then, there's been a raging battle inside of him that he's finally come to acknowledge.

It was surprising, actually, how calm he had been around Seokjin up to this point- even when he was leaning in to kiss him, nothing tugged at him or even slightly indicated that it was wrong.

Because it isn't , a part of him says, struggling against the other. Maybe Yoongi hyung is right. Maybe the system doesn't work for everyone, and I can like whoever I want.

Do you even hear yourself? The part of his that speaks now is the part of him that's been with him the longest. By the stars, look what he's doing to you. Yoongi hyung being right? Your parents were right in being worried about you hanging around him too often.

Was it ever that deep? His new side of him questions. Was it ever that deep to be controlling over who you want to kiss and who you don't?

Yes, his oldest self answers.

How come?

Because the stars have led us exactly to the places we need to be .

He groans, lifting his head from his hands and tossing his pen to the side. The stars this , the stars that . He was starting to annoy of the stars that sprinkled across their night sky, and he was starting to loathe the imprint on his wrist. It gave him too many headaches he shouldn't be having.

Similarly, although he had known Seokjin to be a calmer, colder person, it seemed that night tortured the older as much as it had been torturing him- he’d been avoiding the office whenever Jungkook was stopping by and managing to get out of meetings with the Chairman that Jungkook sat in on, especially now as time inched closer for him to assume responsibility of Zodiakos. He was like a ghost, always somehow knowing where he was going and avoiding that very place.

It hurt just a bit, really. He assumes his secret eyes is his blonde intern, who seems to give him not so subtle stink eyes whenever he came by and had to explain for the umpteenth time that the Sagittarius he was looking for was not here.

He finishes signing off on his last paperwork for the day, stretching his arms up with a relieved groan as his eyes trail to the clock on the wall across from him.

It was nearing nine at night, and when his stomach growls, he isn’t at all that confused about it- he’d forgotten to eat today as well. The back of his neck hurts from how long it’s been crouched over working the past couple of hours, and he starts to realize with his longer working hours that his workload had increased tremendously over the past couple of weeks.

Usually, he would fuss and complain about it to Namjoon, but it seemed even Namjoon had been surprised at how compliant he had been- and he can’t say he enjoys it, but he can truthfully say he’s been glad for the busyness the workload provided.

Especially with how easily distracted he had come to be with a certain caramel haired male in mind.

He needed to talk to someone about it, but he knew the consequences of that- that one wrong word, one wrong slip would jeopardize him greatly. It frustrated him greatly that he couldn't release it without consequences nor was he allowed to recognize these feelings, so he let them boil up slowly inside and kill him. His heart was heavy with conflict, although up to this point it had been light.

He thinks even when he started to notice the way he looked at the older was starting to be less subtle and less platonic, he didn't feel as heavy as he did now, surprisingly. Maybe it was the safety of knowing that no one else could read his head, that his own secret feelings were his own. Maybe it was the security that no one could accuse him of having such illicit feelings because he had a fiance. Maybe it was knowing that the older didn't seem to push him away too much, even when he started to make it less subtle, but subtle enough to not accuse him of such.

Maybe his feelings for him had never really been platonic from the start.

He remembers the day he first met the Sagittarius just a mere few months ago, although the summer was long and it felt like it'd definitely been much longer than that- he knew that he'd be something else from the beginning. He can barely contain a smile when he recalls the excited smile Seokjin was trying to not let be obvious in the thought of going home, the lack of fear yet still full of respect he had for the Jeon name, and the news he had heard about how he had almost tased Taehyung. 

The disappointment he wasn't supposed to feel when he had gotten into Hoseok's car with a bright and comfortable smile on, in contrast to the stiff smile he had given to him in their first meeting.

The way Seokjin had looked at him when he wrapped the band aid around his finger carefully, as if no one had ever done it for him before.

The warmth that spread from his chest to his fingertips on that one sunny day when Seokjin had finally said his first name.

The comfort and familiarity when Seokjin gave him a smile as warm as the one he gave Hoseok and their occasional lunches he'd drag the older out on.

The slow transition from Seokjin's uncomfortable, stiff smiles upon seeing him to the relieved, wide smiles he gave him.

He took note of each and every one, etching it into his brain as if it were something worth burning into his memory. 

Yeah, he thinks maybe he had never harbored platonic feelings for him. It was surprisingly easy for him to come to terms with, so he didn’t understand where the panic came from now.

Was it the fact that his feelings were no longer his to keep?

Was it because he had shared his secret, illicit feelings he was supposed to keep to himself?

Was it because Seokjin was the head of the RRT , and therefore the one person he shouldn’t have gotten feelings for?

Feelings for, or feelings caught by?

His head starts to hurt again, and he opens his drawer to reach for the bottle of aspirin- something his mother warns him not to make a habit out of. He doesn’t get to see his mother too often, but he regards her words highly- he thinks that’s why he only allows himself three cigarettes a week.

Don’t make a habit of temporary release.

Was Seokjin a temporary release?

There’s three knocks on the door as soon as he swallows the pill, barely managing the words “Come in” out before sliding the bottle back into its place, and sticking his head in is familiar blue hair that he’d grown used to seeing over the past couple of weeks.

“Taehyung?”

“There you are,” the older says with a sigh of relief before closing the door behind him. “Can I come in?”

“You always get the order wrong, you’re supposed to ask that before you come in.” A smile tugs at his lips.

“I’m asking not because I need to, but out of courtesy. I know you wouldn’t kick me out.” He edges closer to the desk with a bit of hesitance, despite his confident words. “Are you busy?”

“No, I actually just finished up.” His eyes glance to the clock once more. “It’s getting late, how come you’re still in your suit?”

“I should be asking you the same thing.” A sigh as he sits on the edge of the desk, picking up one of his pens to twirl in his hand. “It’s late. You’ve been working late hours. Is everything okay?”

Jungkook thinks he’s comfortable. He thinks at first he was captivated by the unexpected beauty Taehyung was, and might’ve been a little intimidated at first, but in contrast to his aloof expression at times, he was a warm person. One of the most warm hearted he’s ever met, in fact. Much more warm hearted than Namjoon and Seokjin, and even more warm hearted than Yoongi.

Yoongi . He’d been unable to see him for a while now; he thinks the last time he had been able to talk to him was when he had announced the arrival of a certain Capricorn. Since then, the two of them had always been busy and their schedules never matched up- the Pisces was always busy with work, according to him, and he’s stopped talking about his divorce. He thinks it’s because Yoongi doesn’t want to confuse him any more than he already has, but he can’t help but get the nagging feeling that there’s something more than that.

Yoongi would know what to do in his situation. Yoongi might be the safest person to talk to about it. He makes a mental note to call Yoongi later.

“I’m alright, just a little tired.”

The Capricorn’s eyes settle on Jungkook for a second longer than what was considered comfortable, before he finally sighs and crosses his arms before he could question it. “You’re lying.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re lying.”

Jungkook huffs, reciprocating the movement and crossing his own arms as he leans back on his chair. “And how would you know that?”

“Because if you were okay, you wouldn’t say you’re okay, you’d be complaining about the workload you’d been given and throw dramatic resolutions of quitting, even though everyone knows you wouldn’t.” His answer surprises him, and it must’ve been evident on his face, because Taehyung frowns. “What? I’m a lot more observant and sensitive than what I let off. You probably think I just go chasing different staff members around and see the flowers bloom.”

“That’s exactly what I thought.”

“How mean.” He gives a chuckle, lowering his arms. “Is it about Seokjin hyung?”

Jungkook freezes up momentarily, but he laughs and raises an eyebrow. “What about him?”

“You like him, don’t you?”

“That’s a very big accusation you’re making.”

“But I’m right. By the stars, anyone who has eyes can feel the tension between you two. You guys like each other, no?”

He wonders how he can say this so nonchalantly, as if he were stating what the color of his shoes were, and he only laughs. “You’re being ridiculous, hyung. We’re friends. Plus, I have you, don’t I?”

He did have him, didn’t he? He starts to groan internally about how all of this could’ve been avoided had he fallen in love with Taehyung instead.

Taehyung looks at him with a raise of an eyebrow, observing him as if trying to catch any sort of slip up. When it becomes apparent that he wouldn’t be saying anything else, he sighs, grabbing the orange post-its off of the edge of his desk and with the pen he had twirling in his hand, expertly scribbles; Let’s go outside.

Jungkook groans, but there was no winning against Taehyung, he had learned quickly, as his fingers come to wrap around his wrist and he lets himself get dragged out. Any Jeon staff they ran into within the dimly lit hallways immediately moved to the side and did not inquire anything, despite being late hours- his father was strict about them, and that included the way the staff regarded them. Wherever they were going was never to be questioned, and if they were seen together, it was an unspoken rule to keep their distance and leave them alone. Let them naturally bloom their love , he remembers the chairman chuckling. They already had an unnatural meeting, this is the least we can do for them .

He wonders briefly for a moment, as they easily maneuver themselves down the stairs and to the nearest exit, if that’s what would’ve happened, had Taehyung not stumbled into the white building and thus have him go get him and meet the Sagittarius before the Capricorn. He wonders if there would’ve been a universe where he would be as enamoured by the Capricorn as much as he was by the Sagittarius.

He wonders if there was an alternate universe out there where he and Taehyung would fall head over heels for one another with no complications.

When they break through the exit, the chill of the night welcomes him and it feels like a fresh breath of air- he hadn’t been outside in his own leisure time in some time, and it feels like lately he’s been trapped within the grey building he called his home. His home, which had no distinction between the comfort of a home and his intense workplace.

It’s in this moment, he wonders for a moment if home was really a place. If it was a place, it would certainly be this grey mansion, so why does Seokjin’s laugh ring in his head whenever he thinks of the word?

Taehyung doesn’t let go of his wrist until they reach the garden, which he had heard from Namjoon was one of his most favorite places to be within the Jeon premises. And he doesn’t blame him, really. The garden was beautiful, to the point where it had been a public garden open for tourist attractions at some point, but the overwhelming amount of distractions and commotions it caused worked up complaints from the RRT squad, and it was now closed off to the public unless they were of higher class. Each flower was plotted by hand by his mother, when she had spent more time in the mansion.

Sometime, around eight years ago, she had started to go on her vacations. His father never told him much about them, but said that they were necessary for her to go on. He never pressed on further, especially when it came to his father, and accepted the reality that his mother was happier travelling the world than to be stuck here.

The two of them are silent for a moment, Taehyung plopping himself down on the stone bench between the yellow hibiscus and the dark blue forget-me-nots. He noticed that this was the part of the garden he especially frequented, although he’d been too busy himself to spend time with him other than the dates that were arranged for them to go on twice a week.

Their arrangement wasn’t exactly normal, but he supposes the stars took their time. Their time would come, where they would be smiling with joy in their wedding pictures by next June. 

Their time would come.

It was coming. He simply wasn’t putting in enough effort.

“I’m surprised, you were able to maneuver your way through the mansion so easily. It’s like you know the way even better than I do now,” the Jeon heir chuckles as he sits down next to him on the stone bench. He never understood why the stone bench was used- nothing about it was comfortable, and he thinks white loveseat benches would’ve fit the aesthetic better too. 

“A lot of going around. You know I can’t stay in one place for too long.” There’s a drag of a sigh that lingers on Taehyung’s lips. “Now, stop evading the question. What’s wrong?”

“I told you, I’m just a little tired-“

“You’re a bad liar, Jeon.”

Jungkook raises an eyebrow. “You’re soon to be Jeon too, you can’t keep calling me that.”

“You’re evading it again.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say, hyung.”

“I want you to be honest.” He pauses. “I need you to be honest. Isn’t that one of the foundations of marriage and relationships or whatever?”

“You can’t pull the marriage excuse for this.”

“I so can.”

He says that, but he genuinely ponders for a moment if he was able to be honest- Taehyung says he can be honest, and he doesn’t seem like someone to give up easily. He also knows the older catches onto things a lot more easily than he anticipates, so he wonders if he’s being stubborn about it.

Secretly, he wants Taehyung to keep egging him on for it, so that he can finally release the chaos within him, but the thought of confiding in his fiance about his feelings for another man sets him off. “I really don’t know what you want me to say.”

“Here, then I’ll spell it out for you.” Some staff members are passing by, chattering, and Taehyung instinctively pauses what he was saying to slip his arm around Jungkook’s to make them look like they were sharing an intimate moment. The movement is caught on by the staff, who immediately change their path of traction away from the couple. 

“One,” he says as soon as they’re out of earshot, lifting one finger. “You’re completely head over heels for Seokjin hyung. Two,” he lifts another finger, “something happened between you and hyung. Something must’ve happened. You’ve been avoiding each other, and Seokjin hyung avoids my eyes whenever I mention you. It’s like he stops working for a moment, and he comes back to normal. He’s good at acting, I’ll give him that. His hesitation wouldn’t have been noticed by anyone else, but I am not just anyone.”

“Correct, you really are not.”

“I’m going to take that as a compliment.” He lowers his fingers. “So I want to know. Why are you guys dancing around each other? What happened?”

“Dancing?”

“Like walking on eggshells around each other. The tension could be cut with a knife between you two. He likes you too, you know,” which Jungkook freezes up at, “so I don’t understand. Fill me in.”

Jungkook almost wants to laugh at their situation. Here, his fiance that he was supposed to fall in love with, was trying to give him advice about another man he possibly loved, and seemed genuinely concerned despite their pending marriage status.

Nothing about this was normal.

“Is it that obvious?”

“Hm?”

“My feelings.”

“Oh, sweetheart,” Taehyung looks at him with pitiful eyes. “You wear your heart on your sleeve. Anyone who bothers to see you and Seokjin hyung should be able to tell at first glance. Of course, not that they’re allowed to dissect into it. They think about the possible trouble they could get into if they even think about the possibly heavy accusations they could arrive at. But me, I can tell. And I can tell you this, because you won’t deny it.” He tilts his head to the side. “I wish you were honest with me, Jungkook-ah.”

Jungkook sighs, and with the sigh, it feels like a hole breaks into the dam inside of him. Suddenly, his heart is weighing heavy, and his lips are moving. “I did something wrong. I did something I shouldn’t have done.”

“Oh no, now I’m scared. How badly did you mess up?”

“Majorly screwed.” He chews on his lower lip as he tries to fit the words together. “I almost kissed him.”

There’s a silence that ensues between them, and Taehyung lets out a sigh- almost in relief. “What, that’s it?”

“Hyung, what do you mean that’s it! You should be getting mad at me!”

“But I’m not mad.” His eyes study Jungkook’s eyes for a moment, and he starts to feel a blush creep up on his cheeks from being under such an intense stare. His lower lashes are so long , he notes.

“You’re too calm about this.”

“Because you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I definitely did! Do you even hear yourself?” Jungkook gestures around them. “ Zodiakos . I’m a Virgo,” he lifts up his wrist, “and Seokjin hyung’s a Sagittarius. Did you forget the compatibility?”

Instead, Taehyung only chuckles, murmuring something along the lines of “This is what I must’ve looked like to Jimin,” before shaking his head. But this time, despite his overwhelming calm demeanor about this whole situation, he finally shows a moment of hesitation.

“Maybe,” he says quietly, “maybe it’s not about the compatibilities, Jungkook.”

It feels like a slap to the face, but it felt familiar. Very familiar. Despite the shocking and dangerous words Taehyung has just uttered, a laugh bubbles its way out of his throat. “You sound like Yoongi hyung. God, I miss him.”

Who ?”

“A close hyung of mine, you haven’t met him yet. Oh,” he thinks for a moment, scrunching his nose, “you guys would get along. He’s a Pisces.”

Taehyung only sadly smiles. “I’d have to meet him first. After all, you and Seokjin hyung are incompatible but get along so well.”

They’re both quiet again, and the older must’ve sensed the defeat in the younger, as he slips his arm that was around him to pat his back. “Jungkook-ah, he’ll come around. He will.”

“Hyung, even if I didn’t read things wrong and he does come around, what about us? Our marriage? Our incompatibility? Just because we don’t want to acknowledge the system, doesn’t mean it magically goes away. My feelings would have to go away instead, and I could’ve let it go away on its own if I didn’t make a move on him. Now he knows, and we can’t even talk now.”

“Did your feelings start to fade until now?”

He hesitates. “No, they only got stronger.”

“Then that means, regardless if you made a move or not, it’s not just a crush. Your feelings wouldn’t have gone away on their own. At least he knows now.” He sighs as he leans back, propping his hands on the cold, stone bench. “I’m waiting for a miracle.”

“Why are you the one waiting for a miracle?”

“Because I love Namjoon.” The words are hushed, as if he’s afraid his own illicit feelings would be heard by anyone else. “Because I’m in love with Namjoon, but the difference is, he gets along with his fiancee.”

Jungkook looks at him with startled, wide eyes. “You love Namjoon hyung? Why didn’t you tell me?”

Taehyung raises his eyebrows. “I didn’t exactly hide it, either. You were just too wrapped up your own feelings to know what was going on. Dude, even Jimin knows, and he’s only started working here recently.”

“Did you just ‘dude’ your fiance?”

“Did you just catch feelings for another man and admit it in front of your fiance?”

“Touche.”

They chuckle for a moment, but it only grows silent again. “They look good together,” Taehyung murmurs as he brings his knees up to hug. “Namjoon hyung and the girl. They fit each other well, and at first, I took his engagement as a sign from the stars to move on. That we were compatible, but it wasn’t meant to be. So I tried, I really did, you know?”

“And?”

“It sucks even more, because she’s nice. Sera, I think her name was. She’s beautiful, she’s nice, and she always tries to make friendly conversation with me whenever we see each other. It makes it harder for me to hate her, and sometimes I selfishly wish she was secretly a bad person so I could loathe her and say I’m a better match for him.” His voice cracks for just a moment. “And that’s when I realized I liked Namjoon hyung a lot more than I had thought I did. Because I was annoyed and saddened by the fact that she was indeed a better match for him than me. Seeing it with my own two eyes crushed me.”

He lowers his knees and gathers his hands in his lap. “I say I’m waiting for a miracle, but I know there is none. Who cares if we’re compatible, and if he likes me too? He’s engaged. Hell, I’m engaged,” he chuckles in disbelief as he lifts up his hand, where their engagement ring sat pretty at the base of his long finger, “and I know there’s absolutely no way out of this. Not now, not ever. I’m waiting for a miracle that isn’t going to be happening.”

Jungkook can’t offer any words, because he knows better than anyone else how impossible their situations are. He knows better than anyone else that there’s no way out of this, and if he said otherwise, he’d be a liar. His hand only comes to clasp over Taehyung’s, their engagement rings glistening like a hard reminder of their reality.

“You know, I used you,” Taehyung says with a dark chuckle, but his own hand tightens around Jungkook’s warmly. “I took you out here to spill your problems with Seokjin so you would admit your feelings and I could feel validated in having impossible feelings too. I just needed you to be honest for my own self validation. Aren’t I a horrible person?”

And Jungkook thinks he really isn’t. He only shakes his head, pulling the older in for a hug. Their hug is warm, and Jungkook wonders for a moment if their warmth was enough to mend their broken hearts.

They stay like that for a while, and he thinks he can get used to this warmth.





(“Do you love him?” Taehyung’s voice breaks out in a whisper. They had finally pulled away from their hug, their hands joined together tightly as they cursed out the stars together. His head is leaning on Jungkook’s shoulder, and Jungkook’s thumb is lightly stroking the back of his thumb.

Jungkook has to ponder for a moment, but it wasn’t hard to come to an answer.

“I don’t know if I can say confidently that I’m in love with him, but I want to fight the stars for him. I want to rip the imprint off my wrist, I want to burn down the white building, and I want to take down all the stars in the sky just so I could be with him. I’d rather have him under a dark night sky with no stars illuminating it, rather than a bright, beautiful sky without him in my arms. Do you get what I mean?”

The Capricorn only chuckles, hitting Jungkook's back lightly. “You fool. That’s what it means to be in love.”)

 

 

“So what should I do?”

Yoongi blinks. Honestly, this was a situation he had never seen coming nor was something he had ever even dreamt would happen.

It starts with when Namjoon had silently driven over to Yoongi’s office without much of warning or even a text that he would be coming by, especially after the awkward tension that had flown between the two of them the last time they had properly seen each other. Yoongi had been doing well avoiding the Jeon premises with excuses from work, and for a moment he’s glad that he decided to work as the Jeon lawyer because there was always enough work to backup his lies.

And especially with what they had fought over about last time, he especially did not expect Namjoon to be coming to him with this kind of problem.

Namjoon only silently dragged him back to the Jeon premises to his office, only promptly saying that the “safest place to talk” was there despite Yoongi’s protests, and he had only quieted down when he had seen how hard Namjoon was gripping the steering wheel and hard his jaw was set. He hadn’t seen the Virgo this seriously troubled before, and honestly, it was starting to scare him a bit. Namjoon had a face where it was easy for him to look amiable and welcoming yet trustworthy and professional with a single smile, but on the other hand, could look intimidatingly scary if he wanted. Yoongi thinks he doesn’t appreciate his duality at this moment.

Namjoon didn’t speak until their tea had been served by one of the Jeon staff, sitting them both down on the couch in his office, his eyes still deeply troubled as they followed the female staff member that had just served them their tea. It’s only when she closes the door and he hears her footsteps gradually fading, that he lowers his balled up hands and says, “Hyung, I have a problem.”

And here he was, half an hour later, with Namjoon’s wide, pleading eyes looking at him with hopes of answers, when honestly, he didn’t have an answer himself. If he had an answer, he and Hoseok would’ve been out on public dates already.

“So let me get this sorted out. You’re in love with… Jungkook’s fiance , the Capricorn suitor, and he has feelings for you too, but you’re both engaged to different people and now you don’t know what to do.”

“Yes.”

The conflict was summed up in a single sentence, but the rest of the half hour had been Namjoon rambling about how he made him feel mixed with other incoherent stuff that Yoongi couldn’t understand without context. He scratches behind his head, still trying to process the situation, before clearing his throat.

“So? What is it that you’re trying to achieve? What did you bring me here for?”

“Hm?”

“Are you asking me advice on how you should act upon your feelings? If you should even act upon your feelings? Or are you asking me advice on how you want to move on and get rid of these feelings?”

There’s hesitation in Namjoon’s eyes, before he quietly murmurs, “I don’t know. I haven’t thought that far yet. I don’t know what it is I’m trying to achieve.”

“You don’t?”

“I don’t,” he confirms. “I know we wouldn’t work either way. Whether I had a fiance or not, it did not change the fact that he was the Jeon fiance, especially one who accepted on his own terms. For me to come between that…” He sighs. “But I also don’t want to let these feelings go. Being with him is euphoric, like a breath of fresh air after being suffocated for so long. Being with him makes me think that I have to take care of myself, so that he doesn’t give me those sad and disappointed eyes again. Being with him is like…”

He searches for the words momentarily, and Yoongi lets him take the time he needs. 

“... It’s like- it's like-" He stops, and Yoongi wonders for a moment if his brain has short circuited. Namjoon remains quiet for a couple more moments, taking the pause to bring the remnants of the now cold tea to his lips.

"It's good," he finally murmurs, and the older tilts his head, momentarily wondering if he meant this Taehyung guy or the cold tea. "Being with him feels good. I feel alive."

Yoongi hesitates, pushing his own finished cup of tea to the side before crossing his leg over the other, gathering his hands in his lap as he leans back. It was the first time he had seen Namjoon use the word alive . To him, the secretary was the quite opposite of alive- always burdened with responsibility even at a young age, he was the last person he could call selfish . He was so focused on his work and practically giving up his life for the Jeon family to the point where he was considered their "second son": that he was never really alive.

Not once has he ever seen the younger spend money on himself lavishly, despite having it. Not once has he ever seen the younger's former relationships last more than a month or two due to his workaholic tendencies and his inability to get invested in them enough to prioritize it. Not once has he ever seen the younger do anything for himself outside of the Jeon premises- he practically lived there, even more than the chairman, he thinks.

So hearing that the Capricorn in question made him feel alive, seeing him so conflicted over his investment in the male, and feeling his conflict from the seat across from him, he finally lets out a sigh of relief. He had yet to meet this suitor due to his active avoidance of the mansion, but he has a good feeling that he might be something Namjoon's been missing for a while.

"What else do you like about him?"

"Everything. It's vague, and I hate vague answers myself, but now I understand. Like those cliche romance dramas he's been forcing me to watch with him-" Yoongi raises an eyebrow at this, and Namjoon avoids his eyes in possible embarrassment, "- I understand why now that those kinds of vague answers make sense. Everything . He's quite the opposite of me, but it works so well. He's quite a character, really. We must really be compatible like the stars say." He chuckles to himself, another sight Yoongi has never seen before. "I wish you met him. You'd like him too, you guys are compatible too."

He was right. Yoongi had forgotten for some time with his recent activities, but he was a Pisces. He uncomfortably tugs his sleeve down to unconsciously cover his wrist, and clears his throat.

"Namjoon-ah."

"Hm?"

"I think you know that liking him has nothing to do with the stars."

Namjoon hesitates at that statement, and Yoongi thinks he's going to nag him again for saying what was considered nonsense to him, but surprisingly, he remains silent. He's a little stiff, but no words against him come out of his mouth. Yoongi takes this as a sign to continue what he was going to say.

"I think, regardless of compatibility and the stars, you would've liked him either way. You don't like him for his Capricorn traits, do you? Go over the traditional Capricorn traits in your head, the ones you learned in school. With how bright you are, I have no doubt that you have them all memorized by heart." He takes a pause, almost like he's allowing time for Namjoon to pull the list of traits up into his head. He visualizes it in his head, and it amuses him for a split second. "I'm sure he has all those traits, but those aren't the main reason you like him, are they? It seems to me you like him on a deeper level than what merely the stars say."

He wonders briefly if he's allowed to say the next words, but his persisting silence encourages him. Slowly, although firmly, he starts, "And what if I don't get along with him despite compatibility? Of course, he sounds like a lovely person from what you've described so far, but just what if . Can the stars really define everything?"

"And the main issue at hand." He untangles his crossed over limbs to lean forward, his voice dropping to a tone so soft that Namjoon also has to lean in to hear him- almost like the words were for him alone. "Are you in love with Sera-sshi?"

Namjoon's eyes waver, but he shakes his head. "She's a lovely person, and we match on many different levels, but I feel nothing more than platonic feelings for her."

"But you guys are compatible?"

"That's-"

"One more question." Yoongi hopes he's as good and impactful with words as much as he thinks he is when he imagines how these kinds of dangerous conversations would go in his head. "Are Taehyung-sshi and Jungkook... together ?"

Thankfully, Namjoon didn't need much more clarification. He was a fast guy, as he suspected, and he doesn't say anything for a moment. He allows him the time to think, but not for too long. He's growing impatient too, trying to get out all the words he wants the younger to hear.

"Let me rephrase that," he says despite knowing that Namjoon understood the question. Just in case he tries to avoid answering it directly. "Yes, they may be engaged, but do they have feelings for each other? Or are they in a similar arrangement as you?"

"... Taehyung likes me."

"For sure?"

"He doesn't bother to hide it. I know he likes me, but he might be confused about my feelings for him because I never did try to let him know of them."

"And Jungkook?"

Namjoon shakes his head before he even finishes saying his name. "Jungkook thinks I don't know- hell, Jungkook thinks none of the four of us knows- but he's completely whipped for Seokjin hyung."

Yoongi's ears perk up. "The RRT team leader? When did they ever meet?"

"The day Taehyung came. Taehyung had accidentally stumbled into the RRT center instead of the Jeon mansion, and I went to go retrieve him, which is when I first met him too, but I forgot to let Jungkook know that I already escorted him back when he went to go retrieve him himself. He met Seokjin hyung there instead."

Yoongi whistles. "So Taehyung-sshi stumbling into the damned white building seems to have shifted a lot of events." Butterfly effect, he thinks it was called. He wonders if Namjoon would be in front of him like this if the young Capricorn hadn't stumbled into the center, and therefore have Namjoon meet him before his fiance did. A memory pops into his head, and he lets out another whistle, although a bit sadder this time.

"Wait, you said Jungkook and... Seokjin? Like, Kim Seokjin? From School of Cosmos for the Young?"

Namjoon raises an eyebrow. "I'm not close enough to know his school, but aren't all RRT squad members required to go to that school? I heard he got his summons a little late, but I'm sure it's that one. How do you know him?"

"He was the teacher's pet that I talked a lot about back then that I said annoyed me."

"Oh, Seokjin hyung was the, and I quote, 'asshole who had his head so far up the teacher's ass that you were afraid he'd wear the teacher'?"

"You know, sometimes I hate your almost perfect memory. How the fuck do you remember my exact words from years ago?"

"I remember much more than that, but I'll stop right there, for your sake. But what about him?"

"I feel bad for our Jungkook-ie, he'll have his heart broken."

The secretary pushes his own empty tea cup to the side with a furrow of his brows. "Seokjin hyung is nice to us though, does he have something that would hurt him? I can't really imagine him doing that though... some sort of heartbreaker?"

"It's not like that at all. It's more of the fact that he's absolutely perfect." He tries to pull the words together. "He follows the rules perfectly, knows all the protocols perfectly, and knows the game all too well. Perfectly. That's the problem- he follows Zodiakos too closely to ever consider Jungkook as an option. He was honestly such a stick up the ass back then about the rules- he's almost like a robot. He was the only grade schooler who had memorized all the rules, including the hard words no one knew how to pronounce back then." Yoongi shakes his head, half in distaste and half in pity. "It's kind of sad, actually. I knew he came from a family of RRT workers, but it must've been a lot for him. Almost sounds like a concoction for a traumatic and pressuring childhood."

Namjoon scratches the side of his head. "Actually, Seokjin hyung talks really fondly about his mother, who he grew up with. He said she actually didn't want him to go into the field because of her own experiences in it, but because she saw how determined he was to follow in her footsteps, she gave him the education and rigorous training he asked for. I've never seen a white coat as satisfied as him before."

"What, so he's just a weirdo?"

"Hyung, don't say that, he's a great worker and person."

"Not convinced. Either way, he's a stickler for the rules. If I remember correctly, he's a Sagittarius, so he wouldn't be compatible with Jungkook. There's no way he would even glance his way. It would've been easier for Jungkook to fall for his fiance instead."

Namjoon reaches up to scratch the side of his head once more. "Actually, I think Seokjin hyung likes him too. They have this weird tension between them, like they're lost in their own world even if they're with us. It's quite.... unsettling, really. I don't know what heavy sexual tension is like, but I think if I had to guess, that's what they have. It's like they embody it."

He can’t imagine it. "That's a little too much information, Joon-ah."

"No, seriously, you'd have to be there. Me and Taehyung get embarrassed because they look like if they're together alone for even more than a second they might kiss without a care in the world. It's like they're physically restraining themselves back. You know the feeling of watching a romance movie with your significant other and a kiss scene comes on and there's this weird tension between you two now? That's what it feels like."

"Now, how would you know that feeling?"

"Movie times with Taehyung," he groans into his hands. "He's a romance drama enthusiast, there's always kiss scenes and I go crazy for that split second."

"I didn't even think you got romantic urges for anything other than paperwork. Honest, I thought you'd marry your office one day."

There’s a chuckle. "I did too, hyung."

"But if Jungkook and Seokjin seem to have that... whatever they have going on," he refocuses- he thinks the room got warmer or something. "And you and Taehyung-sshi have this... whatever you two have going on, too, then doesn't that prove even more that Zodiakos is inefficient?"

The secretary looks doubtful, which he doesn't blame. It's challenging his lifelong beliefs because of a stranger he met a mere couple months ago, he would be more surprised if Namjoon accepted this without some sort of conflict. "Hyung, even if it were the case, what could I do about it? It's not like the Jeon's system is easily dismantled like some lego blocks. Our respective weddings are in less than a year, and even if we continued... whatever it is we have until the wedding, do you expected me to be unfaithful even in marriage? I owe a bit better to Sera-sshi."

"But like you said, you don't want to let go of these feelings either." Hoseok's smile suddenly flashes into his mind, and an unconscious smile tugs at his lips. "So what can you do?"

"... I'd have to let go of them at some point, don't I? I can't go against the chairman and end the arrangement. Even if I could end my own arrangement, there's no way they could end their arrangement, no matter how platonic they may seem. Jungkook can't be with Seokjin hyung either. It's honestly a big mess."

Yoongi hesitates before leaning his chin on the palm of his hand. "Namjoon-ah, I still think you should hold onto it as long as you can. Even if, like you say, it doesn't work out, I think you'd rather regret holding on too tight instead of not holding on tight enough."

Namjoon's quiet, and he wonders if he's offered the right words. "Hyung, are you speaking from experience?"

He only nods sullenly. "He was beautiful, he really was. I wish you and Jungkook had met him, really." Met him as his lover, at least. They’ve technically met by now . The image of the orange haired dancer flashes in his mind, but his heart no longer tugs in pain for the ethereal Libra he had fallen in love with all those years ago. "He was one of the main reasons why my marriage with Inwoo didn't work out. I was no longer in love with him during my marriage, of course,” he interjects quickly, “but I couldn't help but regret it just a bit. What if I had fought for us a little harder? What if I hadn't let him go? What if I was more careful to not let us get caught? Too many questions entered my mind, Joon."

"Do you still think about it?"

"Hm?"

"Do you still wonder what could've been?"

A certain Aquarius enters his mind, and he shakes his head. "No, no more. Not anymore. He isn't the center of my thoughts anymore, but I do reminisce about the times we shared. It was straight out of a movie, I tell you. It was beautiful, and every moment with him was enthralling. He was enthralling. One of the most beautiful people I had ever laid my eyes upon."

"I don't think you ever told me his name."

"He was a secret, after all. And I'm not allowed to say his name on these premises now." His voice grows a little cold. "It was part of the deal with the chairman for not having the both of us arrested. We would go our separate ways, with our renewed opportunities. We wouldn't speak of each other to other people ever again. Even his name was beautiful, though."

Jimin. Park Jimin. The Libra dancer.

It’s quite weird, really- but then again, everything about this situation was weird. Namjoon coming to him for this was weird, his willingness to share about Jimin was weird, and the way Namjoon soaked in his words seriously without shifting uncomfortably, the way he used to, was weird.

"Do you really think I'll regret not holding on?"

The image of the night they finally made a move is clear as the night sky to him- the white, silky outfit he was in. The sheer white material he danced with, holding between his hands as his dyed orange hair flares and grabs the attention of many. Many lustful and entranced eyes were on him, but the dancer's sultry eyes were only meeting one of those gazes.

His.

It surprised him that he was able to hold his gaze for so long. Him, the Jeon lawyer who had nothing else to really be looked at. Him, the dancer who was merely supposed to be entertainment for these god forbidden gatherings that he detested attending, but the new dancer they had brought in was starting to make the night a little less unbearable.

The nights easily shift from something he’s dreaded the whole week leading up to it into the most anticipated part of his week. The not so subtle glances they had shared over the past couple of months made him itch, wanting to do something about the obvious tension that was there but there was obvious fear. If the dancer shared this same fear, he did a damn good job of not letting it show on his face. The flirtation and want clearly traced out on his face, it wasn’t long before something happened.

The dancer gave him a playful little wink as he finished his routine, running his fingers through his flame-like hair despite all the eyes on him. He looked at him like he was the only man in the room.

“You,” Yoongi starts as he remembers. He remembers the way he excused himself to go to the bathroom for just a moment, and no one spared him a glance because he was merely the lawyer- not a business partner any of the higher ups felt a need to appease to, not a lawyer that was up for grabs. He was merely the Jeon lawyer, a set piece of the Jeon family, so he was respected and not sought after. His eyes trace the white figure heading towards the hall as he excused himself, and when he gets to the mansion hallway he had followed him into, he only finds it empty.

“You’ll definitely,” The sudden approach as he’s pinned against the wall, a firm thigh resting between his legs as the dancer makes sure they’re out of sight. 

“- definitely , regret it if-” The sly smirk on Jimin’s face as he brings his face closer to hover over the trace of his jaw, up to his ear, then back down to leave a trail of shy butterfly kisses down his cheek, until Yoongi can’t take it anymore and his hand comes behind his head and tilts his head up so that their lips had finally met in a messy, fervent kiss.

“- You let him go.”

 

 

“Alright, hyung. Spill.”

To be quite honest, the situation should’ve been a little scary. 

Seokjin was on his fourth hour of overtime, having not even been able to see the sun go down from the piles of work he’d been busying himself with. He’d already sent the rest of the RRT to go home hours ago- to get some sleep, and that he’d see them the next morning. He wasn’t planning on going home that night, knowing and being fully aware that if he let his brain rest, it would start thinking.

He loved thinking. Thinking and rational was a lot of what ran this world, and he thinks he usually loves the idea of processing his own thoughts to become more self reflective, but lately it’s been dangerous.

Usually, he thinks to ground himself in more knowledge or to confirm his own thoughts, maybe come to revelations he hasn’t come to before, but lately, thinking has led him to questioning .

In his head, it makes no sense. It’s messing with his algorithm, really. The folded piece of beige paper with Jeon Jungkook’s name on it sat neatly in the back corner of the drawer of his desk, although the accusation would be huge. Huge enough to reach the news, perhaps even enough to topple the peace the country was in. News that the next heir of the system would be involved in such illicit affairs, and most of all, that it involved the very team leader of the people they were supposed to entrust with restraining. He didn’t care much about his image, but he knew the information he contained was perhaps even revolutionary, and he’s not sure if it was in a positive light.

The only existing heir to defy the system, despite being one of the most well informed about the system. It could topple the Jeon family off the top class completely, and the only time such dethronation had occurred in history was when the descendant of the original Bang family who had developed the system had forfeited his crown and the Jeon family was appointed from there on forth. 

It would land history books, and later generations would learn about the abdication of the Jeon family involving a certain team leader.

It sounded displeasing to him, but it was his job , for crying out loud. Even his hesitation to report the case was a crime.

But he can’t help but to hesitate. Why was he hesitating?

If he were to delve into the specific questions roaming around in his head, he had many. Why had he let the heir get so close? Why had he leaned in, also?

Did he return the feelings the heir expressed to him, and did he feel them strongly enough to battle his mind?

Everything he stood for to this point?

His mind screams no, but his hesitation says otherwise. His heart, for once, is at war with his mind, and he’s not quite sure how to deal with it.

So right now, he’s busying himself to not think about it, and is hoping for a heartless moment to come so he can squeeze his eyes shut along with his heart and turn in the new offender registration.

And with that, time has passed. Time’s passed with him being able to avoid facing the younger, hoping that time away from him would help to lessen the skip in his heart he started to get around him and make him weak, and hoping that time away from him would give enough time to strengthen his rationale to finally do his duty.

(What he won’t admit to himself are the several moments during the day when he’ll catch a break and wonder if he’s eating correctly, or wonder if he’ll reach out first. What he won’t admit to himself are the moments before he falls asleep where his wide smile and the crinkle of his eyes pop into his mind, and he starts his sleep into oblivion with warm cheeks and a skip of his heart.)

He’s certain he told the rest of the squad to go home hours ago, so why was Park Jimin back in his office, locking the door behind him with a firm expression on his face, crossing his arms after he sets down two fresh cups of coffee on the table. His eyebrows are furrowed, eyes scanning him as though he’s trying to read him- he’s gotten used to those eyes, though. He found that although Jimin was as quick and as efficient a worker as he liked, they were quite opposites in emotionality- he supposes that’s why he was such an efficient dancer.

His eyes are trying to read him usually, as if he doesn’t understand him. In the beginning, they felt a bit piercing, but now, it seems as though he’s gotten used to them.

“Jimin-ah, what are you doing here-”

“I’m worried about you, hyung.” He quite literally pulls the older away from his desk to sit at the table, where he pushes one of the cups into his hands. The fresh cup was still very warm, and his hands automatically came up to wrap around the cup. “You’ve been working more overtime, you won’t see Director Jeon anymore, and you’ve been cooped up here more than your own home.”

“I’ve just been busy.”

“Liar. Taehyung just left to go check on his fiance now, so I came straight here. Now tell me. What happened between you two?”

His fiance . He doesn’t know why the word settles so heavily in his chest, almost like an alarm that’s blaring early in the morning. He doesn’t know why he recoiled at the word so much.

There’s so much he just doesn’t know , and that scares him.

“We’re just both busy and our schedules never match up.”

“Is that why you have Kenny be on guard to warn you in case he comes around?” Seokjin parts his lips to protest. “Don’t bother, I already talked to Kenny before coming.” He closes his mouth again.

“I really don’t want to talk about this, I have work to do-”

“Hyung.” Jimin’s eyes lower, but somehow they’re more piercing. “You’re three weeks ahead in work. I literally work under you, I know your schedule and workload. Now can you stop avoiding the topic, please?”

He shifts a bit uncomfortably, playing with the paper sleeve of the cup in his hands. “I don’t want to really talk about it.”

“I thought so. That’s why I gave you some time, but you’re becoming despondent, Seokjin hyung.” He reaches into his bag for a moment to fish through a couple of items, before bringing out his phone and turns the screen towards him. “Look at yourself. When’s the last time you went to do anything for yourself? Meet some people?”

The phone shows the camera in portrait mode, and dead, glossy eyes are staring back at the older. There are noticeable traces of fatigue and overwork reflecting on his skin, and he’s lost a bit of weight since letting his work cut into his meal times. He looks like a mess, he admits, and he wonders if this was why the squad members have been unable to look him in the eye the past couple of weeks.

“I’m all for giving you your space, but keeping…. Whatever it is inside won’t help you. It feels like you’re trying to avoid whatever it is, too. From my experience, that never really works out in the end.” He slides his phone back into his bag, gathering his hands on the table as he leans his chin on top. “It’s a safe space with me, hyung. You know I have a heavy mouth. Who would I go sprouting to about your business? Plus, even if you don’t tell me here, Tae will probably fill me in later anyways. I think I’d rather hear from you directly, though, and I think you’d feel the same too.”

There’s no guarantee Jungkook would tell Taehyung, though , he thinks to himself as he groans into his hands. How would the next heir tell his fiance, godforbid the stars, that he wanted to kiss another man?

But Jimin does have a heavy mouth. “If Jungkook doesn’t tell Taehyung, are you planning to fill him in later?”

“Not if you don’t want me to.”

He’s silent for just a moment. “You promise?”

The Libra makes a motion to drag his finger across his lips in a zipper motion. Seokjin only sighs, knowing he won’t win. “There’s no one else here, right?”

“Hyung, the only person crazy enough to willingly stay behind this late at work is you.”

He can’t argue with him there.

“It’s about… Jungkook and me.”

“Yes, that’s why I’m here.”

“No, it’s about Jungkook and me. ” He doesn’t want to say any further, only hoping he would get it, and he assumes correctly. Jimin has always been fast at detecting underlying tones and atmospheres.

His eyes widen, although not exactly in realization, but he seems to get it. “ Oh . Oh dear, what did he do?”

And so he spills. He spills about the night of the champagne, the night he refers to as the forbidden night in his own brain to better classify it, although his voice is quiet throughout. His voice must’ve gotten quieter over the course of the story, as he wasn’t exactly sure how to talk about it, and he stumbled across a couple of words, but Jimin is patient. He only leans in when he can’t hear him, never asking him to repeat anything, regardless of if he got it or not. In fact, he never once cuts him off in the middle of the story to even ask questions, and the feeling was almost like a TedTalk where he was waiting till the end to ask his own questions.

And Seokjin doesn’t doubt it. There must be a lot of questions in his head, the same way they’re running through his own.

“And now I have Jungkook in the new offender registration form,” he groans as he tosses his now empty cup of joe to the trash can nearby, “and I can’t bring myself to hand it in, and I don’t know why.”

There’s a pause, and he can’t bring himself to look at the younger- he’s been effectively avoiding his eyes up to this point, afraid of what the reaction would be. Would it be disappointment, for not doing his job? Disgust, for hesitating?

Maybe the system is wrong and you should be with whoever you want.

Maybe… not? Jimin was, after all, the one who said that to him when they had met. Jimin, his first sign of weakness. The first beige paper he had tossed to the side in a vulnerable moment and had never gotten himself around to turn in, either.

Oh , he realizes. Jungkook would be the second person he failed to do his duty with.

He’s not sure how to feel about that. When there’s no response, his eyes slowly trail up to meet Jimin’s, whose eyebrow is only raised. No trace of shock, disappointment, nothing- just a raise of an eyebrow with his arms crossed.

“Hyung,” he finally breaks the silence, leaning back on his chair. “Are you sure you don’t know why?”

Seokjin blinks. He’s not sure what he expected Jimin to say after digesting all that in, but it certainly wasn’t this. He finds he tends to surprise him a lot. “What do you mean?”

“There’s no underlying meaning. Exactly what I mean. Are you sure you don’t know?”

When it seems the confused silence from the older wouldn’t get an answer out, Jimin groans and heaves himself forward to lean forward. “Hyung, why do you think you’re hesitating?”

“He’s dear to me.”

“Dear to you platonically, or romantically?”

Straight and direct. No beating around the bush, it seemed, with Park Jimin. Seokjin’s cheeks flare up as he jumps up from his seat and opens his mouth to protest, but the younger only points before he could stutter a word out. “See? Your reaction. That’s not platonic. I can’t believe I have to spell it out for you, hyung.”

“Because what you’re suggesting is so outrageous -”

“Is it really?”

“Is that even a question?!”

“Is it really,” Jimin continues calmly as Seokjin situates himself back on his seat, embarrassed, “outrageous to admit you like someone?”

“No, but it’s a matter of who .”

“I don’t think that matters. You like who you like, I think.” He shrugs, as if they weren't discussing material that were classified as federal offenses. The situation is almost laughable, really- pouring his heart out to an intern he met merely a couple of months ago and entrusting him with a secret so heavy, and he almost does audibly laugh.

“I don’t think it’s that easy, Jimin-ah.”

“But why not? Have you ever thought about that?” Jimin raises his arms midway in the air. “Why should it be so hard? Why should it be anything other than easy? What’s the point of using all of these calculations, all these useless limitations to measure those kinds of feelings?” Seokjin’s sure the situation was his to be agonizing over, but the younger almost sounds bitter, as if it were his own battle. “Who thought of using their heads so damn much in love?”

He’s quiet, but he nods unconsciously. He lets out a sigh before resting his chin on the palm of his propped up arm.

“Jimin-ah.”

“Hm?”

“I think I really like him.”

He looked surprised for the first time that night. “Wow, hyung.”

“What, that’s it?”

“I thought I would have to coerce it out of you. Maybe even threaten you a little bit, maybe force your eyes open to the truth. No offense, hyung, you looked a bit oblivious to your own feelings.”

“Oblivious, no. In denial? Yes.”

Jimin tilts his head to the side. “What made you suddenly say it?”

“What else is there that I can’t tell you by now? You know just about everything. Hell, I know what’s going on, but I wasn’t able to admit it to anyone. Besides, you’re the one who planted this seed of doubt in my head.” His fingers tap on the desk in an impatient pattern, and he lets out a frustrated sigh.

“How do I get over this?”

“Over… your feelings?”

“Yes, exactly.”

“Hyung, I don’t think it’s that easy. It’s not like there’s a manual for it somewhere. Besides, with how strongly you seem to be feeling for him, you can’t just like- get over it .”

“The world would be much easier if there was a manual for everything.”

“The more you talk, hyung,” he scrunches his nose playfully, “the more I wonder why Jungkook fell for you at all.”

“How mean,” he sarcastically snarks as he covers his heart with his hands as if he were hurt. 

“What are you planning to do, hyung?” There’s a suddenly cold shift in the air, as Jimin draws a breath. “Are you really planning on turning him in?”

“After admitting to you about my own feelings towards him? No, but I’m holding onto the form for now.”

“Then what?”

“I…” He’s not used to saying these three words. He scratches the bottom of his chin as he barely manages to sputter it out. “I don’t know.”

It seems like there’s more Jimin wants to say, as he parts his lips and shuts them multiple times with clear contemplation on his face, as if he were choosing his words carefully. Finally, he sighs. “I can’t offer you anything. All I think is that you should be with whoever you want without thinking about the end of it too much. This is something you should discuss with Jungkook.”

His ears perk up. “You think I should talk with Jungkook?”

“I think that’s the only thing you can do. It doesn’t matter what you discuss what you want to do with me, I’m not the person involved. Whether the two of you decide to forget it ever happened and put it behind you, or whether the two of you decide to do something about it, it should be discussed with each other.” He raises a finger with a stern eyebrow. “That means no more avoiding, hyung.”

“I’m running out of ways to run away. I know I have to face him sometime anyway.” His face falls, the heavy feeling in his chest not lifting despite having told Jimin everything. Whoever said letting it out would make you feel lighter was a moron.

“Then go.”

“Right now?” He didn’t bother to hide the high pitched surprise in his voice.

“Yes, right now. If you don’t right now, you’ll lose the incentive and courage to again. How long were you thinking of holding talking to each other off till?”

Seokjin scratches the back of his head. “Maybe next year?”

The silent, impassive look Jimin gives him is all he needs to raise his hands in surrender, grumbling as he gets up. “Alright, alright, fine, I’ll go now. But if he’s not in his office right now, I’m taking it as a sign from the stars to not talk to him.”

“Don’t be absurd, he’s been taking the same road as you lately. Overworking himself in his office. But you know that, don’t you?” Jimin’s voice is clearly amused. “That’s why you made such a bet just now. You know he’s going to be in his office.”

Seokjin already shrugged off his white coat with a stark laugh, and he wonders what’s so amusing. Was it the fact that he was literally going against everything his head was screaming at him for in order to go see the man he’s wanted to see for so long now? Was it the fact that Jimin could see straight through him? Was it both of these things?

He doesn’t bother responding because he’s already halfway out the door with complaints hanging off his lips, something along the lines of not believing Jimin was making him do this now instead of next year, but once he pushes past the glass door out of the white building and the fresh air of the cool night welcomes him, it’s only then he realizes how heated his cheeks were. How his cheeks muscles tired from trying to prevent a smile from slithering its way onto his face. How his heart beat just a bit faster at the thought of seeing Jungkook after so long.

His heart was beating fast. It’s the fastest he’s ever encountered it to be- faster than the day he got his invitation to join the RRT squad. Faster than the day he bought his mother the house she’d always wanted on the shores of Busan, seeing the excited smile on his face. Faster than the day he found out he had aced at the top of the exam, and had actually made it onto the squad as a super rookie. 

He thinks it's ridiculous, how one person could make him feel more excited than all the most important memories of his life combined . He thinks it’s ridiculous, how one person can somehow make him lose such rationale.

He thinks it’s ridiculous how hard his heart drops as soon as he’s broken into a run to make his way towards the entrance of the looming grey mansion, but stops in his tracks when he can squint to see two figures in the garden near the entrance. He doesn’t have his glasses on, but his eyes can trace the outlines of two figures in the dark. The night sky was illuminating tonight, and for once, he wishes that it was a bit darker so that he wouldn’t recognize the blue hair.

The two figures had each other in a tight embrace, and his cheeks flared up once more, wondering if he was intruding on a moment. The blue hair had to be Taehyung, which meant the other figure would have to be….

Liar, Jimin had said earlier. Taehyung just left to go check on his fiance now, so I came straight here.

His fiance.

Jungkook. His arms were around the other’s waist, seemingly intimate. It seemed they were talking, but from the distance, he couldn’t hear them- and he’s almost glad he couldn’t.

His heart stops, and the heavy feeling is back in his chest again. 

But if he’s not in his office right now, he had said to Jimin right before leaving, I’m taking it as a sign from the stars to not talk to him.

The garden was not his office.

The person in his arms wasn’t him.

The stars must be right.

He stands there, frozen in his step for just a few more moments, his gaze lingering on the two for a couple more seconds. He’s not sure if it’s moments. It could’ve been minutes, maybe even longer, but he just knows that time stood still with how long he stood there. And no matter how long he stood there, gazing at them, it seemed the two didn’t want to let go of each other either. Then, as if he was woken up with cold water splashed to his face, he shakes his head, turning away as he goes back the way he came from.

The stars must not be in his favor tonight, he decides as he feels a chill run down his spine.

The stars must not be in his favor, and this feeling of swallowing metal along with the painful jab in his chest must be what heartbreak is.

He doesn’t like it very much.

 

 

There’s a cigarette hanging between Yoongi’s lips as he’s taking his lighter out of the pocket when it drops to the ground and he curses, accidentally kicking it forward before bending over to pick it up with a groan, when there’s another hand over the purple lighter, picking it up and handing it to him.

He knows he’s supposed to bend up and say thank you right about now, but he freezes on the spot. Even without looking at the face, he could recognize those hands anywhere. He could recognize those rings and accessories adorned on them anywhere, because he spent so much time holding them and admiring them back then.

They were his favorite part of him, after all. Suddenly, a memory from years ago pops into his head, a memory of their hands intertwined together while soft laughters had erupted from the two of them drunk out of their minds as they had sat on the sands of a beach while watching the sun rise.

He finally lifts his head up to meet Jimin’s eyes, who’s holding the lighter out to him- his face unreadable, although it adorned a shy smile, and for a moment he feels like Min Yoongi from a mere four years ago, when he had first met the charming dancer at the event. His hands are still as pretty as ever, he sees, and he remembers his hands specifically because he remembers always adoring the way they fit into his.

In front of him was everything he could’ve had, had he not been a coward back then.

He straightens up, making the gesture to brush himself off before accepting the lighter with a murmur of a “thanks” before bringing it up to light the stick still dangling between his lips. Jimin’s eyes are on him carefully, quietly watching before piping up, “Could I have one too?”

That’s how they end up sitting by the bench on the side of the RRT , a building Yoongi has made sure to be careful of being around after almost getting completely caught last time. He was lucky Hoseok was there the first time around, but there was never any guarantee for next time. He simply had to make sure there wasn’t a next time, so he’s been careful with his movements lately. Nothing to attract unwanted attention.

It seemed no matter how carefully he could calculate his next steps and his life for the time being, there was no saying in what could happen. He didn’t calculate Namjoon dragging him out of his office today to talk about a problem that he was sure would never be understood by the strict secretary, and he didn’t calculate meeting Jimin as soon as he came out of the grey mansion. Too many unexpected things were happening all at once, especially lately, and he can’t shake the feeling that this was only the beginning- that something bigger was coming.

He quietly takes out his box of cigarettes and tosses it to the younger, who only examines the box in his hands before sliding a thin, white stick with a silver band around the filter out for himself and tossing it back. It isn’t until either of them take a couple of deep exhales, feeling the nicotine rush slowly into their bodies, that they’re relaxed enough to talk.

“How have you been, hyung?”

Yoongi shrugs, flicking the ash off. “I’ve been alright. Still a lawyer. No longer married, though.”

“Oh?” Jimin raises an eyebrow. “The Scorpio, was it? Did it not work out?”

“Yeah.” He thinks he doesn’t owe an explanation, really. “You know how it is.”

The younger is quiet for a moment, quietly taking a few puffs of the cigarette in his hand before flicking the ash off. “And you’ve been happy?”

It’s quite surreal, really. It’s a question no one has asked him in years. Because of his compatibility with Inwoo, no one had assumed he’d be anything remotely close to happy. When he got his divorce, no one had assumed he’d be anything other than devastated, when his divorce had been the one true breath of fresh air and the closest to happiness he had been ever since he and Jimin had split ways.

He thinks that’s one of the more subtle reasons why he fell for Jimin back then. He was always able to ask and cater to exactly what the person needed to hear, say, or do. He really couldn’t be more perfect.

“Yeah, I’ve been happy.”

Happy . Not happier. He doesn’t dare to say he’s been happier now than the times he was with Jimin, not until there’s a day he can hear Jimin’s name without reminiscing on the good times. “What about you? I didn’t expect to find you back so soon on these grounds.” Especially since the last time he had been here, it was only full of tear stained goodbyes.

He merely shrugs, tossing the finished stick to the ground before putting the fire out with the sole of his shoe. “More or less. I didn’t think I’d be back here ever , to be frank. But things here are always… interesting , to say the least.” Yoongi doesn’t get a chance to ask what that means. “I see you’re still using the same cigarette brand I taught you with, even after all these years.”

He doesn’t have to think about why. “It was the last thing I had of you.”

There’s an unspoken conversation between the two, and although his response would’ve been suggestive of any remaining feelings, both of them know they’ve moved on- it’s clear in the way they didn’t seek each other out once finding out they were both back at the Jeon mansion. It was clear in the way Jimin asked if he was happy, and it was clear in the way Yoongi said he had been.

Jimin would always be an epic love story, one he could truly never forget, but neither of them were ever really true believers in cliched romance, after all. Neither of them ever believed in having one epic love of your life, and neither of them thought they were the protagonist of an epic, cliche romance movie either.

Things changed.

They changed.

Their feelings changed.

Memories were all they had now, and they knew it was better to keep it that way.

“I don’t believe in getting back together with exes,” Jimin had proudly declared one day after they finished watching a movie that had displayed such. Both of them had been terribly disinterested in the movie after a while, but they stayed till the end anyways because they enjoyed the person they were watching it with.

“Any particular reason?” Yoongi wondered for a moment if there was a specific incident that might have happened.

The younger merely leaned over to press a kiss on his lips, and his lips involuntarily tugged into a smile as he shrugs. “I understand the temptation, but I think it ended for a reason. What would be different the second time around? It’s like relighting a used cigarette and expecting it to taste the same.” His pretty fingers came up to trace circles onto Yoongi’s chest as he snuggled into his side comfortably. “We expect things to be the same, or to find remnants of what we knew because otherwise it’d be unfamiliar, and we’re terrified of the unknown. How can we expect things to stay the same the second time around? Nothing is eternal, after all.”

“I met someone recently, actually.”

Jimin’s eyes flicker up in interest, as a smile tugs at the corner of his lips. “Yeah? What’s he like?”

What’s he like , instead of What’s his sign . Park Jimin would always be a wonder to him, a reminder of the world he wanted to pursue with him.

What’s he like? Only flashes of Hoseok’s laughter fills his head, the way he explodes into innocent and loud laughter whenever they’re together. The traces of a smile always on his face. The way his pretty eyes seemed to always be on him, the way he looked at him like he was everything he had hoped for. 

The way his hands fit into Hoseok’s, whose hands were bigger than his. 

The way he hugs him tight like they wouldn’t see each other again, greets him again everyday as if they hadn’t seen each other in months.

The way his lips felt against his own.

The way I love you rolls off his tongue like it’s easy, like it’s the easiest thing in the world to say.

The way he sometimes forced Yoongi into new clothes for a new fashion line coming out, and would jump in glee and shower him with praises of how good he looked in the clothes he designed ( “Wear it out” , he would say. “So that a part of me can always be with you- boldly, brashly, to the world, even if I can’t.” )

“That good?” came Jimin’s laugh as he breaks out of thought, blinking before looking up. The younger had blown out into a fully wide smile now- was that a relieved smile?- holding out his hand in a familiar gesture of asking for another cigarette. He tosses the box to him after taking another one out himself, as there was only one left anyways.

“That obvious?”

“Hyung, as soon as I asked, your eyes had this dreamy look and you started smiling so wide I thought your face muscles would rip.” Jimin hums as he lights up the new stick. “It’s a good look on you. It’s different from the way you looked at me.”

“How so?”

“You had the same dreamy look, but it was kind of sad and weary too. Like you knew we would come to an end, like we were a dream we would have to wake up from soon.” The Libra crumples the empty paper box, tossing it to the trash can next to the bench. “I’m happy, seeing that you’re happy.”

A memory of a time when they were this happy, too, flashes into his head, and pain stabs into his heart.

“I’m sorry.”

“Why are you sorry?”

Yoongi doesn’t look up to meet his eyes. “I feel like I’m betraying you, being this happy.”

This has Jimin throw his head back in laughter. “Hyung, you’re allowed to be happy.” He crosses his legs on the bench with a smile, tilting his head just slightly. “I’m glad. I really am. Don’t give up, yeah? It seems he’s really worth it.”

Don’t give up like we did .

“You were worth it, too, you know?”

“I know, hyung.” He chuckles. “I know.”

 

 

He tosses and turns in his sleep, much like the other nights that passed.

Even after his talk with Taehyung, it seemed, it simply wasn’t enough to let him sleep peacefully. It didn’t matter that he got to untangle some of the thoughts in his head and lighten the burden off his shoulders- the fact remained that he was unable to be with the person Taehyung proclaimed Jungkook loved.

He slides out of his bed, finally, when it’s around one in the morning, deciding to wear himself out with a walk so that the exhaustion might induce sleep.

Usually, when he goes out at such a late hour, it was customary that he brought Namjoon, or even Mr. Shin with him, but he thinks he wants to be alone. His destination, whenever he took these walks, were always the same, after all; the stone garden.

The walk to the stone garden is as familiar as ever, as he’s been down this road thousands of times before, but something about the walk feels unfamiliar this time. Maybe it’s knowing that he let Seokjin into his safe place, and seeing him storm out after such a vulnerable moment. Maybe it’s knowing that although he enjoyed spending time alone in this garden, that it felt even better when someone else shared the space too. 

Maybe it’s knowing that it had nothing to do with having company, but who his company was.

The night is cold, as he shivers in his jacket that’s too thin that he grabbed from his closet to throw on over his silk pajamas. He knows he won’t be able to stay out for too long, feeling the cold slap his face. He knows he came out here to wear himself out and grow tired, but he feels more awake in the cold now.

The garden is a stark reminder of the place his mother held- he says held as if she’s no longer with them, when he knows that’s not the case, but sometimes it really does feel like she’s no longer with them. The very space where the lively and beautiful Jeon garden used to make itself at home, much like his mother back then, was replaced by the white stone garden, also beautiful but cold, much like his mother now.

He still likes the garden, regardless. No one else came because of the mere fact that the flowers on the other side of the mansion were prettier to look at, but none of them knew the serene that came with being with the stones. It was, literally and figuratively, grounding- he thinks being around the embedded white stones helps to keep him grounded as well, and soon enough he became the only lone regular visitor.

He thinks the last time he saw her was the beginning of this year- for New Year’s, he believes. She had come home on New Year’s, celebrated with the family for a few hours, before leaving on the earliest plane out to New York in order to do the countdown there as well, which was apparently possible thanks to the timezone difference. It’s only when he’s wondering about his mother that he realizes it was nearing the end of August, and that it would be his birthday in a mere couple of days. He wonders briefly if she would fly in for his birthday, but there hasn’t been much contact other than the occasional videos she would send him from wherever she was.

His hands reach out to the loose stones laying on the side of the garden, unconsciously trying to find and pick the flatter, bigger ones to create a base. A stone tower wish, he registers in his brain as he reaches for the stones and starts stacking them carefully by size order. A stone tower wish, where once stacked people would often put their hands together to make a wish on the hope that it would come true. That somehow this sturdy tower would make it come true. He hasn’t stacked one since he was a child, so he feels a little sheepish as he nears the tip, but he thinks he’s slowly running out of options.

Once stacked, he brushes his hands off of the earth and filth that must’ve been on his hands and sighs, heaving himself up from the ground and clasping his hands together, closing his eyes.

Wishes said aloud would never come true, it was told once after all. So he keeps his two wishes he made to himself, keeping his mouth shut as if the stars would hear him otherwise.

When he flutters his eyes open again, he feels sheepish once more, turning away back to the route he came on with a sigh. Nothing felt different, and now he just had dirtied hands. He turns his back to the stone tower and makes his way back, shivering as he decides he’s been out for too long now.

Soon after he’s gone, a strong gust of wind blows, and the tower topples.

Chapter Text

Things have… shifted , ever since that truthful night.

Taehyung knows that he nor Jungkook would be able to let their feelings for the others die down quickly, but it was almost as if that night served as assurance for the two of them. More similar to closure. He’s sad that he has to put away the book of what he and Namjoon could’ve been so soon, even without being able to open it, but it’s for the best.

Jungkook knows this too.

They still look at the older two with wishful eyes, they still smile bashfully whenever they run into them, and their hearts still hopelessly stutter at the mere sight of them, but they knew better- this was one of the times where their head won over their hearts. No, more like it wasn’t a situation where either of their hearts could win.

It seemed even the fearful human desire had limitations in this world.

They knew better. Sometimes they wish they didn’t, that they were able to act without hesitating so much, but it seemed it wasn’t the case. So they turned to each other because they couldn’t pursue what the heart actually wanted.

Their hearts still stuttered at the sight of the other two, but the only hand they could hold was each other’s. Hand in hand, they walk around the garden with chuckles spilling from their lips before coming to a stop in the section adorned with forget-me-nots. Taehyung is completely drawn to these, in various ways he can’t describe. In the beginning, it was the drawn feelings of how looking at them was soothing, calming even. But now, he thinks he’s fallen in love with them with every passing day he stood around them because they held so much more.

He doesn’t know what it was, though.

This whole garden was becoming dear to him, really. He’s even asked Mr. Shin multiple times if they could move his bed to where the garden was, to which the elder only laughed in response (maybe he thought he was joking, when Taehyung was being 200% serious) and in a way, maybe it was because it reminded him a little bit of home. He doesn’t think about the strawberry fields he used to roam back at home as much as he did the first month he had come here, but he certainly can’t call this grey mansion his home yet. The garden reminded him of something outside of the sophisticated and hard beauty the rest of the premises held, something more familiar and natural, the same way he was used to life happening.

It’s not to say he hasn’t adjusted to life here yet, but he thinks he can manage.

His family asks over daily calls if he was going to visit home, that they missed their eldest (and only) son- and he wants to, he definitely does. He knows if he asks, he can have a week or so arranged to go pay them a visit and relax. (although more than a week was frowned upon, because the chairman thought he and Jungkook would be missing out on quality time).

Relax . He thinks that’s the one thing he hasn’t been able to do since coming here. His heart was always uneasy, always on the watch to read the atmosphere, being thrown to meet unfamiliar situations and unfamiliar people. He’s been overworked more than he was used to, trying to adjust to become a worthy Jeon fiance. 

He wonders how long it would take before he started looking the part, and no longer looked out of place.

He tugs Jungkook’s hand along beside him, pointing out the various flowers before pulling him sharply in the left direction, back towards the mansion again. They’d been spending more time everywhere they could on the premises, but it was almost like an unspoken agreement to avoid the area around the white building. It’d been some time since they’d seen Seokjin, who seems to always be busy or making up excuses whenever Taehyung reached out. Seokjin had always been kind of a distant person, but lately, he can’t help but think that he’s been more so- even to Taehyung, not just Jungkook. He can’t shake the feeling that something might’ve happened for him to be actively avoiding them, but when he asks Jimin, even he refuses to tell.

It’s not my place to say, Tae, the Libra would answer with a heavy heart. He’ll tell you when it’s time.

Time. He assumes he just might need some time. That they all might need it.

But the more time passes, the more anxious he finds himself getting. Time heals , someone had said before, but he can’t shake the feeling that time is making them all the more distant. He remembers Jungkook expressing his concern one date night that he and Namjoon don’t talk as much as they did anymore because the latter is always going off to work or see someone else. Taehyung assumes that he’s off to see his own fiancee, which he suggests, but Jungkook shakes his head, letting him know that even Sera had been wondering lately where Namjoon was disappearing to.

He wonders if things will ever be the same.

Jungkook checks his phone with one hand with Taehyung’s hand occupying the other, the complaints of another meeting with the chairman he has to go into soon making its way out of him as they stop in front of one of the side entrances to the dreaded grey building.

“What does he want to talk about this time, hyung?”

“We’re slowly getting ready to disclose information about me to the public, or so I heard from Mr. Shin. I think it’s preparations for my first public appearance, which, no doubt, you’d probably have to be with me there anyways.” A pout drags on Taehyung’s lips. “But if that’s the case, why can’t you come in the meeting with me? I don’t feel comfortable with Chairman Jeon yet- no offense to your dad.”

“No offense taken, I get it. You’ll probably have to get used to it soon though, he’s soon to be your father-in-law.” Jungkook slides the phone back into his pocket, scrunching his nose. At this moment, Taehyung can’t help but have a smile tug up on his lips- the Jeon heir was contradiction after contradiction. With the looks of an intimidating chaebol in his suits, the impression breaks with his character immediately when he does such small things as scrunching his nose, widening his eyes, laughing, etc. It almost felt like he’s a child at times with how surprisingly innocent he could seem, and somehow, pity tugs at his heart when the thought enters his mind.

Perhaps it has something to do with the mystery around the absent mother-in-law he has yet to meet in person other than a couple of video calls. Something about it bothers him plenty.

Father in law. I can’t get used to that phrase yet.” He bites the inside of his cheek, shaking his head. “I’m still deathly afraid of him. I know he’s your dad, but I swear to you he can look inside your head.”

Jungkook only laughs, opening his lips to say something before the ringing of his phone cuts him off. He looks down at his phone with a frown before answering it, a slow grimace starting to take its place.

“Mhm…. I see. Alright, tell them I’ll be there soon.” He hangs up before glancing up at the Capricorn apologetically. “I might have to go right now, the RRT has some paperwork I have to look over.”

Taehyung hesitates. “The RRT ?”

His concern is clear as day apparently, because Jungkook lets go of his hand to reach up and pinch his cheek affectionately. “I’ll be fine, it’s a weekend, remember? It’s… his day off. I’ll be okay, I promise.”

So he’s been keeping track, Taehyung thinks as he sighs, nodding slowly. “Come back soon?”

Jungkook only gives a nod before he’s turned towards the direction they just came from, watching him as he breaks into a half sprint until he's out of sight. With another sigh and tug at his heart, Taehyung reaches for the door to open. He’s stopped when his outreached hand is taken, and someone suddenly pulls him inside.

He suddenly realizes he’s being dragged down the hallway by someone- someone tall, broad, with a familiar scent of the Dior Sauvage that he’d gotten used to over the past couple months, that he could recognize anywhere. A scent that belonged to Namjoon, that used to make him feel safe and welcomed- but his stomach was twisting now.

There is a fine, blurred line between uncertainty and excitement, and both leave the stomach in knots so it's hard to say which it is. He thinks this is what they call butterflies in your stomach, because as much as he’s angry seeing the Virgo secretary in front of him after weeks of avoidance, he’s glad too. 

He’s never been as glad as he was now.

Namjoon finally pulls him into an empty room, and Taehyung blinks as he reaches up to rub the wrist Namjoon had pulled- the man never really left the impression on him, but he was stronger than he anticipated. The secretary wordlessly brushes past him to the door.

The confusion was evident on Taehyung’s face as then the secretary looked around, checking the premises for any sign of foreign presence, before closing the door and locking it. Taehyung only stands there a little dumbfounded as the feeling of Namjoon’s fingers around his wrist lingers in tingling butterfly touches. He hates that there’s this dreadful sense of longing whenever his hands aren’t on him anymore, a heavy absence that he doesn’t feel when he holds Jungkook’s hand. Maybe that should’ve been an indicator that his forced delusions of a happy marriage with him was impossible.

It was an act, he can feel it now. He was trying to illusion himself into Jungkook’s care in a futile attempt to move on from the Virgo he was actually in love with.

The Capricorn suitor in love with the wrong Virgo.

His lower lip trembles in mixed emotions- was he trying to bite back the tears? Was he upset? Mad, even? Mad that Namjoon forcibly woke him out of the delusion he was trying to get settled in with a single touch? Was he mad at himself for falling in love with the wrong Virgo? 

Still, he looks up to give a cold stare at the secretary, but not before catching a glance of his own reflection on the glass of the wooden showcase next to Namjoon. He’s almost surprised that he can’t recognize himself. 

Hair fading into a light blue, almost mint green. His hardened features. He certainly can’t find a piece of the Kim Taehyung that had come here in hopes of a compatible marriage, and he most definitely can’t find even a glimpse of the innocent and carefree farm boy he had been mere months ago. It’s almost like being around the Jeons aged him somehow, and he spots hints of maturity and seriousness in his own face that he had never seen before. The expensive suits and the accessories that adorned him no longer looked or felt awkward - almost like he’s been warped into the stereotypical Jeon image.

Like he was part of the family.

His heart only stills at the thought, before finally meeting Namjoon’s eyes. His own cold eyes widen when the older is marching towards him with a look so determined that he barely takes note of it before his hand is cupping his face and their lips meet.

It’s like fireworks, although he’s not sure if it’s his heart that holds the fireworks or the kiss itself. Perhaps it’s both, because there are tingles that linger behind everywhere that Namjoon touches. His hand cupping his face, his other hand on his waist and pulling him closer as if they already weren’t close enough. How gentle his fingers are grabbing at the material at his waist and how delicately he holds his face, in contrast to how rough the kiss is. It’s clear neither of them have enough experience to make this as picturesque as any movie or drama Taehyung’s watched, but he doesn’t think there’s anything more imperfectly perfect than this.

He stumbles back just slightly, catching a slight moment of disappointment that this is where they would pull away from each other to face reality, but Namjoon’s lips only chased after him. He’s backed up from the force into the edge of the desk behind him. He only settles himself on it comfortably and runs his fingers along Namjoon’s side up to where his face is, where he cups the secretary’s face gently into the kiss for just a moment before firmly pushing his face away with a frown jutted on his lips.

Namjoon's eyes hold so much confusion, it's almost laughable. "Taeh-?"

"Sec... Secretary Kim."

He surprises himself when such formality comes from his lips, but not any more than the way he surprises Namjoon. The older is gifted in keeping a straight poker face, no matter how dire a situation was, so the surprise Taehyung feels only expands when there’s traces of both deep surprise and hurt left on his face. 

Maybe it’s the feeling that he managed to put such a look on him that gives him the urge to kiss it right off his face.

He barely manages to resist it. 

“Secretary Kim,” he repeats, “Is there some business you have to discuss with me?”

“... We need to talk.”

Taehyung almost scoffs. “We were doing a lot of that mere seconds ago.”

His face is turning a beet red, and he almost feels bad for the salt in his attitude. Almost

To be fair, he thinks he can have a bit of this right now. Pulling him into a room to abruptly kiss him, as if moving on from Namjoon wasn’t hard enough already. Avoiding him excessively ever since the engagement announcement, seeming to almost flaunt his time with Sera as if trying to keep him away. A silent conversation they had the night he introduced him to Sera, the one where Namjoon would not budge. 

As if he can barge into his heart and leave it whenever he wants

Something about it infuriated him and left a dirty feeling in his chest, so as much as he would do anything to have his lips on his again, he needs to set this straight.

He needs to know if he was being set up for unnecessary heartbreak.

So he thinks he’s valid in his reluctance towards Namjoon right now.

“I meant we really have to talk, Taehy-”

“You didn’t seem like you wanted to talk just now. Were you ever going to talk if I didn’t push you away? Or were you going to let your tongue do all the talking?”

Namjoon only sighs, although it seems more in defeat than any hint of annoyance. He raises his hands midway in the air, the red blush still staining his cheeks profusely. “When you look that good, you can’t expect me to not want to kiss you.” 

The tail of Taheyung’s lips barely resist to curve up. 

“I was barely able to pull you into a room. If we had it my way, I probably would’ve had you up against the wall outside without a care in the world.”

Taehyung chuckles darkly. “If we had it your way, neither of us would be engaged to other people right now.”

There’s an almost awkward silence being shared between the two of them now, and the secretary only raises an eyebrow. “Hey.” He lets go of Taehyung’s wrist in his hand with a sheepish look on his face. “If you don’t want to talk, I can understand. I just don’t know if I can talk to you when you’re like this right now.”

The tension between Namjoon’seyebrows immediately soften as the younger shakes his head, letting out a sigh before pinching the bridge of his nose. “No, no- you’re right. We should talk. Sorry, I didn’t know how else to react.” He points towards the leathered couches facing each other behind Namjoon, and makes the gesture to shake off his hands freely. “I had to get the pettiness out of my system.”

“Rightfully so.” 

They take the seats across from each other, although there was no doubt in both of their minds that they would much rather be next to each other. Taehyung gazes at the Virgo across from him.

“I know I haven’t been exactly the most…” Namjoon falters. “ Fair to you, recently.”

“You’re right, you haven’t.”

“I know I don’t have a right to be wanting to talk to you about this, especially like this .”

“I’m glad you know.”

“So I tried to ignore it, you know?” Namjoon crosses one leg over the other, hands gathered together in his lap as he leans back. “Knowing I had no right to be meddling in your and Jungkook’s business after how I had been, I did try to ignore it.”

“Again, I’m glad you kn-”

“But I don’t like it.”

Taehyung raises an eyebrow as he gathers his hands in his lap, trying not to let the skip of the beat in his chest reflect on his face even in the slightest. He has pride, after all. Pride that Namjoon has hurt multiple times over and over again, in more than one unnecessary way.

“What does that change?”

“Everything, for me.”

“And for me?”

“Hopefully, the... same way.”

“The same way?”

“The same way,” He shuffles uncomfortably in his seat, “in the hope that we might still be on the same page, a question of whether or not you’ve moved on to the... next chapter.”

How frustrating. The mixed feelings of suffocation and the urge to feel his lips on his again brew up in his chest. 

“Namjoon hyung,” he whispers, barely audible enough for the other to hear, almost as if he’s afraid that someone would hear him. Namjoon’s ears visibly perk up at the mention of his name, which he decided to stop being cruel about. “Stop beating around the bush. Tell me what you’re waiting for.”

Hesitation. He’s met with solid hesitation, a moment where Namjoon seems conflicted enough that he looks like he’s convincing himself even in this very moment. 

Uncertainty. He’s also met with uncertainty. Looking at the palette of conflicted emotions Namjoon’s face holds, Taehyung’s on the edge of his seat, hoping he says what he wants to hear.

That he’s on the same page as he was, despite Namjoon expressing his own concern about it. 

He’s always stayed on the same page.

“A miracle,” Namjoon finally breathes out softly, his shoulders stiffening. “I was waiting for a fucking miracle. I was waiting to wake up one day to a world where Zodiakos may no longer rule my life. I found myself dreaming of the endless possibilities I could reach with you if I wasn’t so damn afraid . I found myself dreaming, waiting, and hoping, and I know you were, too, because we’re helpless against something so big- those were the only things we could do. That I could do.”

I say I’m waiting for a miracle, but I know there is none, Taehyung remembers an echo of what he said to Jungkook that night. Who cares if we’re compatible, and if he likes me too? He’s engaged. Hell, I’m engaged, and I know there’s absolutely no way out of this. Not now, not ever. 

I’m waiting for a miracle that isn’t going to be happening.

Namjoon had been waiting for a miracle too, the same one he was waiting for.

“Did your miracle come?”

There was no response. Taehyung knows there’s no miracle for them. There’s not a fully right way for the two of them to beat the odds and be able to live in such a dream, and they have no one to blame for it other than the burning stars. “Well?”

“... No,” The secretary replies quietly, and even though he expected it, his heart sinks.

He’d always been one for candor over insincerity, never a fan of the white lies only meant to pass the danger of the current situation and never a solution for the long run. But in this moment, he thinks he understands why people need them. Why such false, empty words were said despite knowing they weren’t true. Because even if he knew there was no miracle, he wishes for nothing else in this moment than for Namjoon to have lied that there was. 

That there was hope for the two of them, even if they knew the cold truth.

“But,” Namjoon continues quietly, and there’s a painfully hopeful squeeze in his chest once again. “I’m tired of waiting. If there are no miracles- Hell, I’ll make one. I’ll write one in. Even if this thread we’re afraid of hanging onto might break in the near future because it couldn’t handle our weight, I’d rather regret breaking that thread than to continuously wonder how it would’ve been like to hang onto it and brew in my own regret.”

Be still, my heart , Taehyung scolds himself internally, but it’s already too late. His calm and prideful demeanor breaks as soon as Namjoon says the words, words he didn’t expect to hear, but ones he didn’t know he needed till he said it. His lips can’t fight back the smile they’re trying to not tug into, his eyes already crinkling into their crescent shape, breaking into a full grin as soon as he sees Namjoon’s own bashful smile.

Be still, my heart.

“Someone that I respected as a friend from a young age- I found I’d been ignoring and blocking out what he had to say recently because it was against me. I wasn’t courageous or open enough to listen to what he had to say till recently, and when I got tired of waiting, I found in the end the only person I could go to for advice was him, no matter how much I tried to block him out.”

This must be the Yoongi hyung Jungkook talked about , Taehyung thinks as he nods, encouraging him to go on.

“He… told me that I’d much rather regret holding on than to regret not giving it a try. That the I shouldn’t haves are better than the What ifs. So I want to- I want to give it a try. Give us a try.” He hesitates before his voice grows even quieter. “Unless- of course- you’re truly happy with the way things are with Jungkook right now. If that’s the case, it’s fine, you know? Like, genuinely fine, I just wanted to say this because-”

Taehyung thought shutting someone up in the middle of a ramble with a kiss was something that was only done in movies, but it seems it works really well for real life too.

 

 

“Have you sent all the documents through?” came Seokjin’s voice, high pitched and strung as the crease above his eyebrows only became more prominent. Kenny only gives a sigh, nodding.

“Team Leader, you’ve asked this twenty times in the past hour. They’re all sent through. Director Jeon should’ve received the documents by now, although I hear he’s in some meeting right now.” He raises a careful eyebrow. “Did you... want to give it to him yourself, just to make sure?”

That snaps Seokjin out of panic quickly. He gives a quick clearing of his throat with an ahem before shaking his head, sitting up taller. “No, that’s alright. No need to do that. Good work today, Kenny.” He gives a small smile as he pushes the finished paperwork to the side. “Let’s go, I’ll treat you to a coffee for staying so late with me.”

“Ah, thank you, but I don’t really drink co-”

Seokjin’s eyes gleam. “I’ll sneak us two fresh coffees directly from the Jeon kitchen.”

There’s a gleam in the intern’s eyes, similar to the one Seokjin has in his. That’s the normal response, he thinks. Even those who weren’t coffee-lovers were curious about the rumoured heavenly Jeon coffee, that those who resided in the mansion could access at any time. He’s heard a rumour once that the coffee was, at times, high on the list of reasons why anyone applied to become staff. 

“You should’ve opened your offer with that, team leader. Let’s go!”

The sun is starting to set, a beautiful orange hue blanketing over the sky with streaks of pink and whatever remains of the light blue of the day dancing together, and Seokjin stops in his tracks for just a moment to shamelessly gaze. He’s never been one for aesthetics and to be easily moved by such, but he thinks it’s beautiful enough to take a moment to appreciate. If he had his phone on him, he would probably take it out to take a quick picture, the same way he had seen Hoseok do it several times, and he thinks he understands what his childhood friend meant when he said looking at the sky was healing.

Hyung, Hoseok had said one day, pointing at the sunset. Don’t you feel healed by looking at it?

Seokjin had raised an eyebrow. “I feel healed whenever I get to leave work early.”

A groan. “Hyung, you really don’t have a single cell of romance in your body, do you?”

“I’m being realistic. Going home early from a tiring day of work is the best kind of healing you can get. Sometimes,” Seokjin’s eyes gleamed, “if I’m lucky, I get to go home early enough to actually cook a decent meal for myself.”

“Do you realize how… sad, that sounded?”

“I find happiness in the smallest things, Seok-ah.”

“Then you can find it in there, too.” Hoseok would point at the sky, in which the color had changed from a light orange and blue mix to a deep orange and an almost red palette during the time they had been talking. “All these different colors. The warmth you feel from it, the feeling of being able to say goodnight to the sun before you bid a good morning to the moon. Almost like the sun on the horizon is being blanketed to sleep as it disappears slowly, and getting to watch the sun’s rays slowly dissipate. You don’t feel anything from any of that?”

The clueless expression on his face said it all, and Hoseok slid his face in his hands with a sigh. “Hyung, are you perhaps a robot?”

“Robots are efficient, I won’t take it as an insult.”

“When you say things like that, even jokingly, you worry me.” He raises an eyebrow. Seokjin only chuckles, bringing his hand up to pat down on the younger’s head, like he always has. He has on a shit eating grin that makes Hoseok’s eyebrows scrunch up together.

“What, hyung?”

“I hope you keep that forever.”

“Keep what?”

Getting excited over sunsets, over ten percent discounts on drinks. Getting his mood lifted up instantly when he finds a shirt in the shade he likes, over finding a healthy dandelion sprouting up from between the cracks of the road and instantly making a wish as he blows on it. 

He wishes his friend would keep his innocence forever, because it grounded him. 

Hoseok was good for Seokjin because of the many things he saw differently than him.

“Nevermind,” he’d say with a shake of his head, as he ruffles Hoseok’s hair with his hand. “C’mon, let’s go to this cocktail bar I found. They have this new drink that looks like the sunsets you love so much.”

“-Leader?”

Seokjin snaps out of his stupor, although a little dumbfounded, before glancing at Kenny who probably called out his name a couple of times, judging by the face he has on. He quickly gathers himself together and gives a sheepish smile as he takes the extra strides to catch up to him. “Sorry! I guess I’m a little worn out from the day.”

Kenny gives a disapproving shake of his head as they continue to match their pace together down the road, and Seokjin sees they’ve already passed the hibiscus garden towards the grey building. “You work too hard. I think it’s admirable, as someone who works under you, but also concerning. What would you do without people around you constantly reminding you to take care of yourself before you get too lost to notice?”

It’s humorous - the sight of the veteran team leader getting scolded by a mere intern, but Seokjin only chuckles. Again and again, Kenny has proven himself to be a reliable worker. Seokjin knows he’s been giving his best at the tremendous workload, and even so doing his work while matching his superior’s studious work pace. He thinks he might have every right to be scolding him, as long as he was doing his job.

He would make a fine RRT worker , Seokjin thinks as he pushes through the door out of the grey mansion to where Kenny was told around fifteen minutes ago to stay, and it occurs to him that the sky was no longer a deep orange and pink, but resembling nightfall. The last of the sun was hovering just above the horizon, and the stars were starting to make their appearance across the vast dark skies.

“Sorry it took so long,” he says as he holds out a cup for the younger, “I had to convince the ajumma to make me two cups instead of one. It’s our little secret, but she sneaks me these cups of coffees every once in a while as long as we don’t get caught.” He gives a wink as he raises the cup to his mouth, where the aromatic coffee and his lips give a deep kiss.

He almost immediately gives a satisfied breath of relief as they move to take a seat by the garden, cradling the cup between his hands as if it were a fragile treasure. His eyes are eagerly and expectedly on the Aries intern as he takes a careful sip himself, before his shoulders relax at the sight of Kenny’s eyes lighting up.

“Oh, this is really, really good! I don’t know too much about coffee because I don’t drink it, but,” he ponders for a moment, and Seokjin almost laughs at how hard he’s concentrating to find the words. “It tastes like what every coffee lover would describe what coffee tastes like, but in actuality. The richness, the aroma, the depth of it- everything. Whenever coffee lovers describe coffee to me, they make it sound like they found the eighth wonder of the world, when in reality it’s just bitter to me, but this tastes like what would actually match their description.”

“And the Jeons get to drink this whenever they want,” Seokjin sighs in response. “Rich people really have it best, don’t they?”

“Team Leader- the RRT is literally second in riches after the Jeons.”

Seokjin makes the motion to dramatically cover his hand over his chest where his heart would be. “Yes, once you work ten or so years more. I only recently paid off my student debts.”

Kenny laughs, bringing the cup to his own lips as Seokjin’s lips make an ah shape. “You’ve been interning here for three months now, haven’t you?”

“Yessir.”

“How’s the workload? I think your internship period should be coming to a close end.”

“It’s been difficult, but fun, really.” Kenny’s eyes widened. “Well, I don’t mean fun as in it’s fun to watch rebels be taken in everyday, I just like observing the aspect of human behavior never changing to their own benefit and always wanting to... to go against something, I guess? It seems to be a pattern that never changes." He taps on his chin. "It’s been an... interesting experience here, one that I know I won’t be able to get elsewhere.”

“You don’t have to explain it to me, I get it. The only way to really describe this line of work is interesting, for lack of better words.” Seokjin smiles. “I came from a family of RRT workers, so it’s all I really know.”

“Ah, I heard. Your mother was the famous Ms. Seonghwa Kim, the one who worked closely with Chairman Jeon back in the days and was in charge of a handful of experiments, if I’m not mistaken? And, of course,” Kenny’s eyes gleam, “the one who created the burning stamp of the stars, which was proven to effectively decline rebellion rates by 21 percent.”

“You sound like you did your research.”

“Are you kidding? It’s something everyone learns in this field nowadays,” Kenny gives a glittering smile. “Ms. Seonghwa Kim is in our textbooks now, a legendary figure for us.”

“Ah, figures. I haven’t been in school in nine years or so, so I haven’t had a chance to see them.” Seokjin sets his half empty cup of coffee down in front of him, freeing his hands to stretch his arms up. “What led you into this field again? I don’t think I quite remember what you said before, but I think you mentioned that you were the first of your family to pursue it here.”

“I wanted to… reach for better things, I suppose.” Kenny gives a lighthearted grin as he finishes emptying the remains of his coffee. “I’ve always had a bigger plate. Like a fish who wanted to venture outside of the well and into the ocean, and I wasn’t satisfied with what was given to me.”

Seokjin nods slowly, crossing his arms. “That’s good. That kind of greed is good. Everyone thinks greed is a vice, but I think there’s a thin line to it.” He gives a reassuring smile as he gives a small pat to Kenny’s arm. “I’m glad you joined the RRT though, you’ve been a lot of help to us. A little forgetful at times, but I know you try your best. I’ll write a hefty recommendation for you when the board starts considering.”

He lifts the cup to his lips once again as Kenny sheepishly scratches the back of his neck, crinkling his eyes into a bashful smile. “Thank you, I’d very much appreciate it. It’s been hard, but I’ve been able to get through it with ease thanks to you.”

“Me? Ah, no need to flatter me anymore than you already do. I’ve already said I would write you a good recommendation,” Seokjin jokes with a chuckle, “but seriously. There wasn’t much I’ve done, I’m grateful to you to have been able to match my pace without complaint. It’s a first, you know? Every other intern quits once they start working under me.” A pause. “You’ve managed to survive during your whole time here.”

There’s another pause as Seokjin finishes his cup. Kenny quietly says something under his breath, but he doesn’t quite catch it.

“Hm?”

“Ah, I said it wasn’t that bad working under you.”

“Thanks," Seokjin smiles. How respectful. "But you don’t have to lie to make me feel better! I promise.” He tosses the cup to the side towards the trash can, the feeling of brief triumph washing over him as it makes in cleanly. “I know I’m not the most accommodating of the superiors around, so I would understand if you didn’t enjoy the time. I just hope you know that we’re in a field that requires little to no slip ups, so we need to be on high alert and work well under pressure most of the time.”

Kenny scratches his cheek. “Really, it wasn’t that hard. You….” He trails off, and Seokjin tilts his head to the side curiously, leaning back on the chair. The parasol that loomed over them blocked out a bit of the night view, but he saw that what was remaining of the sunset was completely gone now, and now the dark sky was illuminated by so many more stars than he had seen in a long time.

Mmm, he’s getting a bit daydream-y. Perhaps it was time to take a vacation week and go visit his mother soon.

“You weren’t difficult to work for,” Kenny continues, voice dying on his lips just soft enough for him to barely catch. Seokjin leans in slightly to hear his quiet tone.

“... Because I like you.”

The words take a couple moments to process as he blinks, and the face of an old friend flashes before his eyes. The face of a certain Aquarius that still seeps his heart with guilt, but nowadays wishfulness too. He misses his friend, but he can’t ignore the panic in his head whenever he sees him now.

The same panic appears in his head as soon as Kenny’s confession processes in his head.

His eyes widening, guilt seeping in, Seokjin chews on the inside of his cheek as he gathers his hands together, straightening up as he tries to formulate the words.

He uses the same two words he’s always used to turn down the other person.

“Thank you.”

Two simple words were all he needed, and it could seem to fall a bit short and rude to others, but it said everything he needed to- thank you. Thank you for liking me. Thank you for telling me. Thank you, even if I can’t return those feelings.

Kenny only nods, a sullen look flashing on his face before reaching up to run a hand through his hair and out of his face bashfully. 

Seokjin, on the other hand, wishes he were as calm as he managed to look. He definitely had a clue that the younger had harbored any feelings of the sort for him, but he selfishly almost wishes the blonde hadn’t said anything. His head was already muddled with thoughts trying to wrap his head around Hoseok’s and Jungkook’s feelings. There was only so much he could try to understand at once.

There was only so much he could handle at once.

“I didn’t expect you to like me back,” comes a soft voice, and Seokjin looks up to see Kenny looking down towards his lap, his eyes glued on his gathered hands there. “I know you didn’t see me that way, and I’m okay with that. But I just have to ask, out of curiosity…”

Seokjin nods. “Go ahead.”

His eyes gleam with something he can’t recognize when he looks up to meet his gaze- maybe a mixture of hesitance with accusation, or maybe a mixture of hurt and curiosity. Maybe a mixture of them all. There’s something missing that he can’t identify.

“Is it because of Direction Jeon?”

He’s stunned into silence; it almost feels like a slap to his face. Director Jeon . The person he’d been avoiding to try to get his mind off of, but couldn’t. Everyone had read the atmosphere enough to not prod about why the executive director didn’t come by the center anymore to bother him during his work, but they probably all had the same question in mind. Is it because of Director Jeon ?

The heir to the next throne and Taehyung’s fiance. The man who lived in his mind for too long, the man who barged into his peaceful life and broke every rule and boundary he had spent a lifetime building up sturdily. 

The wrong sign.

The wrong person .

It’s dangerous, the question he’s asked. One small falter in his facial expression could put him in the messiest situations he’d been trying to avoid, so he snaps out of his stupor quickly, giving a shy chuckle and shaking his head. “I don’t understand what you’re trying to imply, Kenny.”

Except, Kenny might be more direct than he thought. “I just want to know if the reason why you can’t return my feelings is the slightest possibility that you may have feelings for Director Jeon.”

Be still, my heart.

“Do you mean… romantic feelings?”

“Of course, Team Leader.”

Seokjin crosses his arms in the same manner from earlier, raising an eyebrow to try to not let show his inner turmoil. “Do you realize the heavy implications you are making?”

“Of course, I do. Which is why I believe it’s important to ask you if my suspicions are true or not.”

Before he even finishes his sentence, Seokjin’s already shaking his head, hoping to pass on the subject before spending even more time poking into it and cracking his calm demeanor. “Nonsense, Kenny. I am a proud, serving leader of the RRT .”

Kenny’s eyes study him for a moment, before a smile tugs up on his lips. “Just making sure, I know how seriously you take your work. Especially with how if what I said was true, how... soft it would make you towards your work.” He gets up from the seat first, stretching his arms up. “But Team Leader, you’re a competent worker and superior, and also Ms. Seonghwa Kim’s son. I’m sure such nuisances couldn’t get in the way between you and your work, especially the Kim Seokjin I know I worked under.”

Soft. The word resonates within Seokjin for some reason. He’s read it recently somewhere, used in the same context Kenny’s just used it in.

Kenny knows something. His throat tightens.

“Will you be heading home now?” The intern inquires, and Seokjin struggles to flash a tender smile.

“I’m going to stop by the center to pick up my stuff- I left my phone there. I’ll clean up first, so you go ahead.” 

He needs to find where he recognizes it from.

Kenny tilts his head to the side curiously. “Do you need any help?”

“No, it’s alright, I’ll be leaving soon after anyways.”

He raises an eyebrow at the older for a moment. “Then, Team Leader Kim. I’ll be going ahead first. Thank you for listening to me today.”

“No, thank you for staying behind with me and sharing. And I’m… really sorry.”

Kenny shakes his head. “It’s okay. I already knew what the answer would be, I just needed to get it out there that I worked well to your expectations not because the workload wasn’t unbearable, because it was, but because I looked forward to seeing you everyday with such feelings.” His lips tug into a smile before dipping his head in a slight bow. “See you tomorrow, Team Leader.”

Seokjin’s waving at the younger until he disappears out of sight in the distance, waiting a couple of moments more to see if he’s really headed to the parking lot and isn't coming back. When he sees the slight light of headlights being turned on and slowly fading away, indicating that Kenny had left, he breaks into a sprint towards the white building next to the garden he was in, pushing past the door as quickly as he can and doesn’t stop until he’s reached his familiar office. Inside, he starts digging through the multiple stacks of paperwork- anything. Something .

Kenny knows something. The word resonated with him for a reason.

Wiping the sweat off his brow, he’s abandoned the paperwork scattered around his office and starts digging through the papers on his desk, pulling out drawers and cabinets to find anything- 

Something.

His eyes widen as he grabs the crumpled up white note and unfolds it with shaking fingers, pulling it apart to flatten it out to read the faded penciled words. His heart drops as soon as he can recognize the scrawled words.

YOU’RE GROWING SOFT .

It was the note that had appeared with the new offender registration form that had made a reappearance on his desk just over a month ago, the one he was supposed to file under Park Jimin.

He knows.

Kenny knows he didn’t register Jimin, despite having every reason to just do his job.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. He should’ve filed this registration when he was supposed to, instead of letting things go this far. Kenny had all the evidence he technically needed to turn Seokjin in for being incompetent at his job, and with the evidence suggesting that he was growing soft on the rebels he was supposed to catch, he knows he was up for evaluation for a first offender protocol. It would lose him what he has worked so hard for up till this point. It would lose him everything he had worked towards, everything that he had known, and be the first in his family to be registered as such. 

He can’t afford it.

He gnaws on the tip of his thumb as he lowers the uncrumpled note onto his desk along with his phone. How would he be able to convince Kenny? More importantly, how can he keep his job without any endangerment? To make Kenny trust him without a doubt, until he could figure out the chaos he was feeling?

“Hyung?”

He freezes. He could recognize the endearing voice anywhere. He hadn’t heard it for some time, the last being when he had offered him to go stargazing that one night in the stone garden, but Seokjin could recognize it anywhere. It was the voice he longed to hear, the voice that used to annoy him but now brought him much ease and comfort. The panic in his head is long gone with one word, and his shoulders relax as he lets out a sigh of relief.

Slowly, he looks up to meet Jungkook’s eyes with a furrow of his brows. “Jungkook? What are you doing here?”

He’s careful, despite being relieved. His mind was clearer upon seeing the young heir than he had been moments ago, and although his heart and mind were playing at different sides, his mind is clear. It’s easier to think when his mind is clear. He reaches forward on the desk slowly, reaching for his phone to unlock by memory.

“I had a feeling you were here.” Jungkook steps into the office, closing the door behind him. He’s just as Seokjin remembers him to be, although he doesn’t expect much of a change in just over a month- he’s just as innocently devilish yet handsome in the features. Seeing him slowly faded the ache in his chest, although a new type of ache was coming to replace it as his hand hovered over his phone, and tapped what he needed to. 

He needed to.

“I was… hoping to find you here.” Jungkook takes a few more steps forward, hesitation clear as day on his face. The distance between them was still wide, but in this moment, his eyes scanning his every feature, Seokjin thinks even that’s enough. Being in the same room with Jungkook is enough, after weeks of deprivation of his company. “We need to talk.”

Straight to the point. If it were up to Seokjin, he would ask how Jungkook was lately. If he was taking care of himself and his meals, if he was overworking himself. If he had missed him the same way he missed him too, if he was stressed. If things were up to him, he would ask all of that shamelessly.

But then again, if things were up to him, they wouldn’t be having this talk this far apart from each other, despite being in the same room. 

If things were up to him, he wouldn’t be avoiding him. 

If things were up to him, he wouldn’t be so viciously fighting with himself.

Seokjin nods slowly, his throat tightening just a bit. “Then talk.”

“It’s about why you’ve been avoiding me. You might think I’m here to apologize for it, but I’m not.”

He draws in a breath, his eyes studying Jungkook’s. It’s silent for a moment, the tension starting to slowly suffocate him as the ache in his chest dulls out. “Then what did you want to say?”

“That I intended for that kiss to happen.”

He lets out the breath, shaking his head. “You’re crazy. You’re absolutely insane. Do you realize what you’re saying?” Seokjin points to Jungkook’s hand. “You’re engaged. Look at your ring finger. You’re engaged to another man, and you’re a Virgo. No matter what, it’s not something you should’ve intended.”

“Do you really believe that?” Jungkook’s eyes are piercing. “Do you really believe the stars should dictate whether or not we’re allowed to feel the way we do?”

“Don’t-”

“Do you genuinely believe that stars should stop me from being honest with myself?” Jungkook takes another couple of steps forward, and with every step, the ache in his chest only deepens. “It took me much fighting with myself for so damn long, and I’m finally being honest here. Hyung, can we be honest?”

“I’m being honest right now, and I honestly think you’re insane, coming in here to say this to no one other than the person in charge of the RRT-”

“Forget that for a moment.” Jungkook’s reached a couple steps more forward, and the only thing between them is the mahogany desk Seokjin’s behind. His nails dig into the wood as he comes closer. “If you weren’t the team leader. If you weren’t a Sagittarius. If I wasn’t engaged. Could you honestly tell me if you would’ve kissed me that night too, the same way I intended to?”

Silence. Seokjin’s eyes bore into his, as if trying to find the answers to his questions. As if trying to find the answers to the flippant chaos that resided in him, as if hoping it would be in those big doe eyes of his. 

Those big, doe eyes full of love for him.

Love?

“What do you want me to say, Jungkook-ah?” He finally asks quietly, knowing he has to choose his words carefully. 

Knowing that he can’t say what he wants to.

“I want you to say that you want me,” Jungkook’s voice drops to a softer, more wishful tone, “the same way that I want you.”

There’s a pause, and with glistening eyes, he whispers, “I don't.”

I can't.

Jungkook closes his eyes, and he could almost feel his heart sink, even if it wasn’t his. That’s when he allows himself to stare at him shamelessly. To feel everything without hesitation. To study his features. To be able to resist the urge to reach forward and cup his face. To let his eyes trace the lines of his lips all the way up to the dent on his upper cheek.

Jungkook opens his eyes again.

“There’s no way?”

Seokjin shakes his head.

“Hyung, I wish you knew how serious I am right now. That I’m willing to run away from this, all of this,” he gestures towards where the grey mansion would be, “just to be with you. I was ready to leave my life behind, to even attempt to start a new world for us. Is that still not enough?”

It was more than enough, he wanted to say. It was more than enough that he wanted to rewrite the world for him, even the thought of it. It was more than enough, that he would probably go with him in a heartbeat. 

But it wasn’t how reality worked for them.

“Will you continue being silent like this, hyung?”

I can’t say what I want to .

“You won’t even try? To try to be honest?”

I went after you that day , Seokjin wants to say. I went after you that day to be honest, to finally give into my delusions that we could work and give us a try, however unrealistic it was. It wasn’t our timing, and it never has been. It never will be.

How can you say you’re willing to be mine?

Jungkook’s eyes pierce through him, trying to detect any facial changes, but he stands firm. His lips remained sealed, his eyes remained on him, and Jungkook’s heart remained crushed.

There was no other way.

“Then I’ll wait.” Jungkook starts to turn around towards the door, but looks back hesitantly. “I’ll wait until you can be honest. I’ll wait. We still have time to figure this out. I’ll wait for you however long I can.”

Why ? Seokjin wants to ask.

“I could wait a lifetime for you, just for a chance to be with you in my next life. That’s how sure I am.” Jungkook’s eyes stare into his for the final time, as he finally turns around. “I’ll wait.”

Seokjin doesn’t let go of the breath he’d been holding until Jungkook closes the door behind him, and he doesn’t dare to say a word until he hears his footsteps fade into the distance. Then, with a heavy sigh, he thinks, 

Jungkook-ah. 

I don’t think we have the time.

There’s a sharp ache in his chest as he reaches for his phone, tapping it unlocked as he presses the record button to a STOP, saving the voice memo with trembling fingers.

“Sorry, Jungkook-ah.” He types a quick email with the file attached, and with a heavy heart, presses SEND before he  slides his phone into his pocket. His face is calm, as if he were unfazed, and the only sign of any remorse are the tears starting to form in his eyes. 

“I had to.”

 



Jungkook’s eyes fly open when he hears a loud creak! and bang! as his door swings open harshly. He’s barely able to rub the sleep out of his eyes before pulling himself up to sit up and pull the blanket up to his chest. His vision’s still a bit blurry, trying to adjust to the chaos.

There’s shouts of protest from some of the Jeon staff whose voices he recognizes, including Mr. Shin’s. When his eyes finally refocus onto the scene before him, successfully waking him up from his sleep, he can feel his stomach lurch and his heart drop.

Before him was a group of white coats from the RRT , with no one other than Kim Seokjin himself in the front, the Jeon staff trying to intercept in front of them with protests. Jungkook raises a hand towards them which makes them stop in their tracks and slowly move to the sides. Their eyes are piercing.

He looks at Seokjin, who’s avoiding his eyes, as he clears his throat. “Grab him.”

At his word, a few of the whitecoats press forward to pull the heir off of the bed, locking his arms with theirs until he hears a click! of the metal cuffs they tighten around his wrists, confusion evident on his face. 

When Jungkook had finally drifted off to sleep the night before, tossing and turning for a couple of restless hours, he hadn’t thought that he would have a morning schedule that included being arrested by the RRT.

His eyes plead towards Seokjin, who finally meets his eyes.

“Jeon Jungkook.” The pain in his eyes is evident, and Jungkook doesn’t believe for a moment that this is his Seokjin.

“You’re under arrest for treason against the system and the Jeon family.”

Chapter Text

[URGENT] Jeon heir arrested for Rebellion?

by Han Minjun from The Era of Stars (TEOS)

October 11th, 20XX. 6:03 am

 

Rumor has it that it was seen by witnesses that the Jeon heir, bachelor Jeon Jungkook, was arrested this morning. He was seen cuffed, exiting the luxurious Jeon mansion with his hands behind his back, escorted by a group of five to six RRT squad members, or more commonly known as the ‘whitecoats’ to the public. There has been no official statement regarding the context of his arrest, but the whitecoats are deemed to be as self explanatory as it can get.

The RRT are the specially trained squad to repress the rebellion, which has been hitching up in numbers within the last two years. Has Executive Director Jeon Jungkook been swept up in their young, passionate and disoriented revolution, or does it reveal a flaw in the methods the RRT use in their repression of the rebels?

The young heir had reportedly claimed back in June to be passed the title to the throne in April of the next year.

 

↳ @softnmj: the sun barely rises at the ass crack of morning. the birds are chirping, the weather is nice. it’s been a while since i woke up without an alarm, and i think the day might actually be a new, good day. i wake up to unlock my phone with these renewed feelings and a deep appreciation for the world. i read that the very foundation our world runs on is in danger. i take a deep breath in. i take a deep breath out. then i go back to sleep. i can deal with this later.

     ↳ @fairienim: this ain’t your damn diary

          ↳ @softnmj: zzzzz




[BREAKING] The Fate of the Jeon family

by Ki Hyunbin from Daily News Today

October 11th, 20XX. 10:21 am

 

The fate of the Jeon family is the breakfast talk of the country as reports of the Jeon heir’s arrest lies heavily amongst all media platforms with no confirmation about the nature of the arrest yet.

It seems at this point that the masses are looking heavily towards an official statement before choosing to speak out about it, their feelings mixing in conflict with their beliefs as they face the arrest of the Top Most Wanted Bachelor of the Decade.

So amidst all the silence from the Jeon mansion, the question that everyone wants to ask is: Which Jeon can be blamed? Should all of them be blamed? Or is this the foolish deed of the Jeon heir himself only?

Speculations regarding the nature of the status of the throne has also been a hot topic in the early morning of the Republic of Korea; or, more specifically, if the Jeons would stay in power after this event.

The Jeons have stayed in the throne since the 1910s, and have ruled steadily over the past century. Previously, the family of founder Bang Si Hyuk, the Bangs, held the throne until the last descendant, Bang Junhui, had abdicated the title. Will we witness a second abdication that is sure to be headed for the history books?

 

↳ @nam2seok: is no one going to talk about how he’s basically cheated on his fiance can someone check up on him

     ↳ @namukim: he’s alright

          ↳ @nam2seok: wtf how would u know

 

↳ @13434O: did anyone ever find out why bang junhui even stepped down he disappeared from the world after that didn’t he

     ↳ @minsfy: omg and if the jeons have something to do with it… conspiracy theory?

          ↳ @jihyosmyg: u read too many novels

               ↳ @minsfy: you haven’t read ENOUGH this is how people of the high class ARE




[BREAKING NEWS] Zodiakos Executive Director Jeon Jungkook’s Arrest

by Lee Hyuna from Hanbam

October 11th, 20XX. 13:13 pm

 

The iron sealed lips of the Jeons have finally opened.

Their response comes in the form for a call for a press conference amidst the many speculations about the nature of the arrest from earlier this morning.

The Executive Director was spotted to be arrested at around 5:47 am this morning (KST), and although we can only wish for direct answers from the chairman himself, it’s most likely that we’ll be getting as minimum information as we can get. The Jeons, notorious for ruling over silently, never have enough to say.

Outside sources say the case involves the RRT Team Leader, Sagittarius Kim Seokjin, who will be making an appearance at the press conference later on today.



[UPDATE] RRT Team Leader, a Scandal?

by Hyun Soo-Ah from Hanbam

October 11th, 20XX. 16:38 pm

 

Chaotic. It’s the only way to describe the ongoing press conference.

The chairman, despite having made his first public appearance for the first time since March this year to announce the search for a suitable fiance for his son and next heir, is silent during this conference about the illicit affairs his same son may be involved in.

The attention shifts focus to the caramel haired team leader of the RRT who came into position just two years prior. Rumors say that he is the one who reported the heir. Theories remain in the air that he must’ve been involved in it in some shape or form.

The team leader, born a Sagittarius, is also silent- but he’s beautiful, enough for even a Jeon heir to probably take notice of. He answers the most minimal of questions, but it seems he’s looking towards the chairman’s response just as much as the rest of us.



[UPDATE] 20XX1011 PRESSCON TRANSCRIPT

by Park Jiyeon

October 11th, 20XX. 16:59 pm

 

Mr. Chairman, there’s been reports that your son, Executive Director Jeon, was arrested this morning by the RRT. Can you confirm the arrest?

S : Hello, if I may answer on behalf of the Chairman; yes. I have personally made his arrest this morning.

With what evidence was he arrested?

S : Due to my NDA, I am unable to disclose that information until further notice or change.

[Uproar of questions]

Does an NDA prove to be effective when the person involved is our own next heir? Don’t you think people deserve to know what’s happening to the system, to be informed of…. Any changes that may occur?

[Seokjin seems to hesitate a bit answering this, although his face doesn’t change in the slightest.]

S : An NDA is proven effective when-

C : Thank you, Seokjin-sshi, for answering up till now. I can take over from here.

[He taps on the unused mic in front of him to check for sound. Reporters are leaning in closer to eat up every word.]

C : First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for making it to this conference today. I would also like to formally apologize for the messy day it’s been; full of panic, anxiety, and chaos. I apologize on behalf of my son, who is not here today, for causing such an uproar from the early morning. I’d also like to apologize for my own silence, as it’s been taking me a while to come in terms with everything that has happened to this day.

Does this mean that you were unaware of Jeon Jungkook’s infidelities?

C : I don’t want to leave my son in the dark, but his actions were not in accordance with my support or my knowing. If I had known, I would’ve found a way to bring him back into the guidance of the stars. I truly do not know what to say.

Does that mean that he will be abdicating the throne and a new heir will be chosen?

C : My son’s case is still under inspection. The evidence we came into contact with is astonishingly huge, enough to keep him under captivity, but he will still have the right to the benefit of the doubt. Until he confesses with his own lips that he has acted as reported or some other evidence comes into play confirming his innocence, he is still not charged guilty, according to Protocol 51. This is the buffer time.

How long does this buffer time last for?

C : 30 days. In thirty days, if he does not confirm himself nor does he present evidence to fight for his innocence, he will be charged guilty with a heavier sentence.

And what happens to the throne then? Jeon Jungkook is infamously your only child and therefore the only heir.

[The chairman promptly dodges the questions about the throne.]

We heard that Kim Seokjin-sshi was involved in the case himself. I cannot help but ask, but Kim Seokjin-sshi, are you also in a position of guilt that the director is in?

[There’s a moment of silence as the team leader blinks, slowly reaching for the mic as if he were unsure.]

S : I believe the format of your question is incorrect. If I was in a position of guilt, there would be no reason for me to report him.

I think what we wanted to ask specifically was about your relationship to the Director. It says here in several reports from the staff that the two of you were close.

S : Nonsense.

[He takes a break here, pulling away from the mix and letting out a silent sigh before bringing it back closer.]

S : We were mere co-workers. Acquaintances. He was my boss, and I was a mere employee under him. While I cannot deny that Executive Director Jeon was friendly and often approached me, any sign of friendliness from me was mere respect for my superiors. I hope the lines weren’t too blurred, but it’s quite a shame that things have come to meet an end like this.

[He checks his watch.]

S : That is all the questions we will be taking for today. Thank you.

 

↳ @SMYLEHOYA: ok but the rrt leader? he’s hot.. if he fr is the person the jeon heir risked it all for i could see why

     ↳ @micahope_: he’s kind of a jerk tho;;; can’t believe he basically admitted he was just sucking up to his boss

          ↳ @SMYLEHOYA: grow up that just means he’s good at his job

 

↳ @pinkyfic: ??? Their own son can’t follow the damn rules how do they expect us to, maybe he has a point

     ↳ @RRT: We take these comments and concerns very seriously. We will be taking action as needed.

     ↳ @slowvessels: LMAOOOOOO OOMF RUN



“Stop reading that,” A voice breaks Jungkook out of his stupor as he straightens up, squinting through the bars he’s seated behind as he brings a hand up to shade his eyes. 

A ghost of a smile makes its way onto his face as Namjoon sends him a disapproving stare, pulling up two chairs as the couple settle themselves comfortably on the other side of the bars. “I brought you that paper so that you would know what’s going on, not so you could just read over Seokjin hyung’s last part and get hurt over and over again. What did you expect him to say there?”

Jungkook laughs darkly. “If we’re going by what I expected, me sitting in a jail cell for treason was definitely not on the list.”

A silence encompasses them, as Taehyung’s eyes holding his were still unreadable and silent as since he got there earlier this morning. Almost as if he has no words to offer him.

Jungkook reaches his fingers in the gap between the bars. “Did you bring it?”

Namjoon nods, sliding the black cigarette case between the gap to be clasped in the heir’s hands. “Jungkook,” his eyes are stern. “Are you sure? I can just bring you individual ones, I know how much you like to follow your mother’s advice.”

Don’t smoke more than three cigarettes a week , his mother had said when she caught him for the first time. Don’t be entirely dependent on anything. You enter the world alone, you leave the world alone. You can’t take any of this money, materials, or people with you.

There’s a bitter taste to the end of the memory. “Who cares,” he grumbles, flipping it open and immediately taking it between his lips, holding the lighter up, “she’s not even here to see her imprisoned son.”

There’s nothing that can be said to that, so Namjoon just watches Jungkook take a quiet first puff of his fifth cigarette this week, breaking a rule he’s kept for the past seven years. He finds that once he starts breaking some rules, it becomes easier to break others.

It became easier to question his ideals and rules he’s kept to keep himself a worthy heir when it all started with an unfortunate first meeting with the Sagittarius at the white building, several months back.

Jungkook pushes a cigarette towards Namjoon, who he knows to be a more frequent smoker than he was, but to his surprise, shakes his head as he glances at the cigarette nervously.

“That’s weird, you usually would jump at a chance to take a smoke break.” The younger raises an eyebrow. “Hyung, did you quit?”

A bright flush makes itself known on his face before his eyes avert down, his hand coming up to scratch at the side of his neck as he mumbles.

“Hm?”

He responds again, but it’s still mumbled. He thinks he heard the words “kiss” and “quit” somewhere-

“He quit,” Taehyung finally speaks up, landing a disapproving glance at the secretary, “because I told him I wouldn’t kiss him if he continued.”

Jungkook stops dead in his track, exhaling the smoke as he gives a teasing glance towards the older Virgo. “Hyung, I didn’t know you were so obedient .” Namjoon looks ready to throw a fit, but Jungkook continues, “I never got to ask you guys how you were, I don’t think I had a chance to with… everything that’s going on.”

“There’s not much to say about us, but there is much to say about you.” Taehyung crosses his arms over his chest and crosses his legs as well. “Are you going to tell us what happened with Jin hyung?”

Before Jungkook can avert his eyes and the topic, the Capricorn adds, “I’m not leaving till you tell me. I thought you said things were good. I thought you said things would be okay. That’s things were lucky for you, and that’s why you left last night.”

“Jungkook-ah!” came a screech through the door as soon as Jungkook plops down on his chair, a tired groan making its way out of his mouth as he throws the files of paper onto the desk.

“Hyung?” He spins the chair to face towards the door, which a brightly grinning Taehyung is closing the door behind him.

“Jungkook-ah, I have good news!”

“I get a break?” He squeaked out in hope, before a pout weighed down on Taehyung’s lips.

“Don’t be silly, Jungkook. I’m being serious here.”

“I’m being serious too, I need a brea-”

“Namjoon kissed me yesterday.”

Jungkook blinks, before widening his eyes and breaking into a wide grin that rivals even Taehyung’s. “You’re lying.”

“Believe what you want” He presses the back of his cold hands to his warm cheeks, giving a shy chuckle. “I feel kind of... embarrassed? I can’t seem to control my face around him, like some teenager.”

“It’s good to be young in love,” Jungkook declares as the Capricorn takes a seat on the corner of his desk, “It’s the best way to be passionate.”

“It’s unbelievable, the feelings he gives me. Almost makes me nostalgic about my crushes back then and how hurt I got back then.” His eyes gleamed with excitement. “I can tell Namjoon’s going to hurt.”

“Why do you sound so happy saying that?”

“Because,” Taehyung raises an eyebrow, as if the answer were obvious. “The more the absence of a person hurts, the more it means how important they are to me. Aren’t I lucky to have something so hard to say goodbye to?”

Jungkook gave a weak smile, his heart weighing heavily. “Is it really lucky, or just waiting for the inevitable?”

“Now are we still talking about me, or you?”

“... What?”

“You, too. You have something hard to say goodbye to, no matter how much you try.” The older tilts his head to the side, reaching forward to pat his hand. “Are you lucky, or waiting for the inevitable?”

Taehyung didn’t need a vocal answer. 

The way Jungkook jumped up out of his seat and dashed through the door without a single glance back said it all.

“Nothing about that’s changed,” Jungkook grumbles, flicking the cigarette on the side. “I’m still lucky.”

The worry in Taehyung’s eyes doesn't seem to waver. “They’re sending me in here officially tomorrow to try to pry a confession from you. That you might be able to feel... shame? Guilt? If you see me.”

“I heard the recording,” Namjoon quietly intercepts. “It’s too clearly Jungkook’s voice. Even if we could try to press that it wasn’t, there’s too many public appearances he made where the voices can be compared. It could reflect on the Jeons as if they’re trying to cover for your mistakes without wanting to hand over power, and could create a bigger mess. The odds are stacked, so I think the best course of action is to try to fabricate some evidence.”

Jungkook hesitates. “If I come out of here innocent with that, then what happens to Seokjin hyung?”

The two share a glance before Namjoon lets out a sigh. “It’s hard to save both of you right now. Best case scenario, Seokjin gets demoted. Worst case scenario, he gets charged with framing you and defamation. Possible burning stamp of the stars.”

“So me coming out of here innocent is going to ruin everything he worked for?”

“Jungkook-ah,” Taehyung almost immediately scolds. “We care about Seokjin hyung too, but he spilled the water first. Namjoon’s trying his best to clean it up before it damages even further, but spilled water can’t go back to the exact way it was.”

“What are you saying?”

“That we have to save you first. Jungkook, your whole family name is in danger. Your father. Your mother. Even Namjoon-”

“But everything Seokjin hyung’s worked for is also at stake! How can you say that?” Jungkook takes one small final inhale of the cigarette before dropping it to the ground and crushing it under the heel of his shoe, eyebrows furrowed. “I can’t risk that. No, we have to find a different way. We have thirty days, right?”

“Cut it out, Jungkook. You’re being too idealistic. Namjoon’s already working so hard to try to work with the most plausible method right now, and-”

“Enough, both of you.” The secretary’s voice is calm but clear, and whatever angry words that were making its way out dies on their lips, turning to look towards him. “Jungkook, you’re right. Trying to accommodate Seokjin hyung as well would be ideal. But let me work on the fabricated evidence, too, on the side. Just in case we can’t find a way together that can include him.”

He’s not super satisfied, but he nods slowly.

“Taehyung-ah,” he reaches for the blue haired Capricorn’s hand and intertwines them with his, melting the icy cold expression off his face. “I hear you. You’re also right, too. His family is at stake, we’re all at stake. If mediaplay allows, they can twist it to look like we were all involved in Jungkook’s actions. Jungkook, you should know this too.” 

Namjoon glances to the side at Jungkook. 

“You know Taehyung isn’t trying to sabotage Seokjin hyung intentionally or anything. He cares for him too, you know? But he’s right, there’s too much at stake here. Our first priority is you.”

“Why, because I’m the heir?” Jungkook shoots a bitter glance. “The Jeon name could be tarnished? I could end up abdicating my place on the throne? Is all of that still more important than the way I don’t want to leave Seokjin hyung in the dirt like that? Yeah, it wasn’t fair for him to do that to me, but it doesn’t mean I should do the same!” The ache in his head is starting to make itself known, but not as prominently as the ache in his heart. “Or is it because…”

“... Because?”

“Because you guys can stay here and fool around in the mansion safely as long as I’m here?”

Jungkook’s eyes automatically avert towards the ground, shame filling him along with bitterness as he’s unable to lift his head up. He doesn’t want to see the hurt and disappointment mixed on their faces, because he knows they aren’t people like that. He knows the last thing these two would do was to use him for their own advantage, but it’s the bitterness talking. It’s the green emotions in him talking. 

It’s the feelings of betrayal in him talking.

“Jungkook-ah,” came Taehyung’s voice, surprisingly soft and not as hurt as Jungkook would’ve imagined it to be. He drags his gaze back up carefully, and he looks just as soft as his voice. “Keep going.”

It’s almost like a dam bursts, because suddenly there’s hot tears prickling his eyes at the moment he hears those words and the pain that dragged in his heart starts to burn.

“My own father hasn’t come to see me today, just in case everything was true. My own mother doesn't even come by home, much less to see her imprisoned son. The first people to come see me today are you guys. Have you seen Yoongi hyung recently? I miss him. I miss him so much because I didn’t realize how foolish I was before, pushing him away for having wrong ideals when in the end, I missed his words more than anything.”

The youngest pauses, silently threatening his tears not to spill, but to no avail. “Whenever I was having trouble with my feelings for Seokjin hyung,” Jungkook continues slowly, “I’d always try to imagine that I was telling all this to Yoongi hyung and tried to imagine what he would say in response. In my little simulations, he called me a foolish kid a bunch of times, like he usually does, but how much I’d do just to hear him say that again.”

It starts to come out in a fast paced jumble, so he takes a few staggering breaths, the two silently lending their ears as he continues. “And Seokjin hyung. I’m so hurt . I don’t even know if I have the exact words to explain how much it hurts?”

He has to search for the words momentarily, but only shakes his head. “I was already feeling… embarrassed and regretful for confessing when I knew he was having trouble. I went to sleep last night wondering if I had read into things too much? Was I being selfish? Only to be arrested this morning for treason, and now everyone’s wondering about the future of the throne, which is great, but what about me, you know?”

Taehyung reaches forward to slot his long fingers through the gaps of the bars to tap on his arm, making him stop to allow himself to take some deep breaths. When he opens his lips again to speak, his voice is immensely softer, almost completely defeated.

“What about me?” The crack in his voice almost seems to plead. “What about me ? I woke up to some hidden recording that apparently changed my life. I woke up to a clean stab in my back. I woke up…. Alone. I realized the reason why I’m so hurt is that it just seems like everything’s different, but nothing’s really changed.”

Jungkook shifts out another cigarette from the case. “I’m still as alone as I was before the arrest. Jeon Jungkook the Jeon heir , and Jeon Jungkook the traitor are quite similar. My mom still isn’t around. My dad still refuses to see me for anything other than achievements I bring to the table. My heart is still broken. And I’m still… hurt .”

A deafening and heavy silence comes in waves over the three, and when he looks up to meet their worried eyes, Jungkook thinks it’s almost comical. The three of them made sense to him, but if he ever tried to explain their relationship to anyone outside- it’d be ridiculous. Taehyung was someone he’d come to rely on in such a short amount of time, and also his fiance. Namjoon was someone he’d come to rely on because of their unwavering trust in one another over a long period of time, and also his secretary and childhood best friend. They were together, and he doesn’t think there’s anyone else who would fit each other better.

His fiance and his best friend.

“Do you...” comes Taehyung’s careful voice, trailing off as if he were unsure whether he was allowed to ask or not.

“Hmm?”

“Do you hate him?”

“Hate who?”

“Seokjin hyung.”

There’s a moment of silence from the young Jeon, before he finally responds, “You know I could never hate him. This exact side of him is why I even fell in love with him. How could I hate it?” He shifts comfortably on the chair he’s seated in, pausing to take a drag of the cigarette before switching it to the other hand. 

“It’s because he’s capable of actions like that, actions that result with his head being stronger than his heart, that he’s good at his job. That provides him the confidence he needs, the flair in his personality. It’s why I fell in love with him, so how could I ever hate him for doing this to me?”

Taehyung and Namjoon don’t seem to understand, but no one’s had the privilege to love Seokjin and see him in the ways he’s had.

So it’s okay , he thinks as his eyes flicker over the traces of confusion in their eyes. It’s okay if they don’t understand. They won’t.

 

 

Hyung ,” came the voice on the other side of the door. “Will you please open the door?”

Seokjin refuses to entertain them with an answer, holding the blankets hugging him tighter around himself as he tries to ignore the noise outside, eyes focusing on the television screen in front of him.

Hyung ,” came Jimin’s voice again, “We should talk about this! We’re your friends-” A few murmurs and shuffling behind the door, before Jimin clears his voice once again, “Okay, we’re all your friends here except for Yoongi hyung, who keeps wanting to go home, but Hoseok hyung’s keeping him here. Hyung, please just open up, let’s talk this out. I need to know how you are.”

“Jin hyung,” came another familiar voice, a voice that Seokjin can’t help but to admit he’s missed dearly. “Jin hyung, let’s just talk. I just need to see with my own eyes if you’re really fine. I,” Hoseok pauses. “I… know I haven’t been the most present lately, but there’s a lot I need to tell you about that too. Here, I’ll even kick Jimin and Yoongi hyung back to their places, if you’re uncomfortable with too many pe-”

Yells of complaints can be heard on the other side of the door, with Jimin saying something along the lines of “I work with him! I saw this first hand, I should be allowed to stay!” and a deep voice, which he assumes is Yoongi’s, proclaiming that Hoseok was the one who brought him here and was going to kick him out, just like that?

The noise only grew louder, and the irritation starting to grow on Seokjin’s face had him glare at the door before finally marching out of his comfortable spot on the couch and swinging the door open. “All of you, get your asses in and shut up . I’m not getting a complaint from the neighbors because of this.”

With a bright smile, Jimin comes in first tugging Hoseok’s arm in, who tugs Yoongi in behind him like a train. Seokjin only holds his glare towards them for a split second more after closing the door, but lets out a sigh.

“I don’t want to hear it,” Seokjin declares before anyone could say anything. “I’m taking my first vacation this year, I don’t want to hear anything work related here. Since you saw me, you can go now if you want.” His eyes land on Jimin and Hoseok linked arms, before furrowing his eyebrows. “What a… small world? Jimin, I didn’t know you were so close to my friend.”

“What?” Jimin’s arm around Hoseok’s remains so naturally even as he talks. “No, we literally met today at the RRT center when Hoseokie hyung and Yoongi hyung came by to look for you. I said I was worried too, so I drove us here.”

“I gave him the directions here,” Hoseok chimes in.

“Okay, but you saw me, you can leave now.”

But it seemed Seokjin’s words were heeded, as they took their places around the living room Seokjin had been occupying for the last couple of hours since the end of the press conference. The blankets Seokjin left behind in his spot were piled on one side of the couch, Hoseok sitting on the cushion next to it. Jimin took a seat across the couch where a single seat was, and Yoongi sat on the floor by Hoseok’s legs.

“Ah, hyung,” Hoseok shoots an apologetic smile. “My bad, I forgot to introduce you. This is Min Yoongi, my-”

“I know who he is,” Seokjin says gruffly as he reclaims his spot with the blankets.

“You do?”

“We went to school together, right?” The older’s eyes flicker over to the male with feline features, who’s been nothing but quiet ever since his arrival. It’s amusing to him how easily and comfortably Yoongi’s situated himself in a house he’s never been to before. “You were in my class, weren’t you?”

Yoongi pretends to widen his eyes in shock, tilting his head to the side. “Oh, so you remember me?” He proceeds to turn to jab a finger at Hoseok. “See, I told you that that part was true.”

“Hyung, you lied to me that day, I didn’t know if you were serious about that, too.”

“I remember him,” Seokjin grumbles. “I think I heard him say to our other classmates that I was, and I quote, even the teacher’s greatest enemy, constantly in fear of losing his job to him, was it?”

“You and Namjoon have memories too good for no reason,” Yoongi grumbles in response.

“Hyung,” Jimin calls out, and Seokjin averts his eyes. “Are you okay?”

“Of course I’m okay. Why wouldn’t I be okay?”

“Because you like the Executive Director,” the Libra furrows his eyebrows. “And now you turned him in. Honestly, I can’t understand what you’re thinking, sometimes.”

The beating of his own heart starts to drum louder in his ears, as he calmly shakes his head. “You have the wrong idea, I was misled for a moment before I realized what my job was. That was it.”

“Hyung.” Jimin’s eyes are unreadable, and that settles uncomfortably in the pit of Seokjin’s stomach. “You can try to tell that to anyone else, but you know I know.”

Silence.

“What do you want me to say, Jimin-ah?”

What do you want me to say, Jungkook-ah? He had asked last night. He pushes the memory away, the way he’s done hundreds of times alone today.

“I just want to know why,” Hoseok intervenes. “I think we all want to know why.”

“I don’t,” Yoongi chimes in, but immediately remains quiet when Hoseok shoots a non threatening glare at him.

“We all want to know why,” Hoseok reiterates, “Because that was… hell, I can’t sugarcoat it. It was an awful thing to do, hyung.”

Seokjin’s surprised at this. “Doing my job is awful? You think I’m an awful person?”

“See, those are two different questions,” Hoseok quickly responds, “because, do I think doing your job is awful? No! Do I think the nature of your job is awful? Maybe!” Seokjin raises an eyebrow, in which Hoseok averts his eyes momentarily. “But do I think you’re an awful person? No! I know you’re not. But I really want to know why. Especially hearing from Jimin-sshi on the way here,” he points, “It seems you two were close, even more than I already thought so.”

“You thought we were close?”

“Hyung,” He blinks. “It was obvious from the way you talked about him. Annoyed, but endeared, should I say? And I’m sorry for being absent lately, but this isn’t exactly how I wanted to re-enter your life.”

“This?”

Hoseok waves his hands in the air. “ This. Figuring out why you locked up someone you love.”

“Careful, Seok-ah.” His old nickname rolls off his tongue easily, as if it hasn’t been a while since he’s said it. “Be careful what you’re implying.”

“Careful, hyung,” he reprimands back quickly, “Be careful not letting go of someone you’ll regret.”

The Sagittarius looks the most exasperated he’s ever been his whole life. “Yeah? And how would you know if he’s someone I’ll regret? Better yet, how do you know if he’s someone I love or not? You’ve been avoiding me an awful lot lately.”

“I wasn’t avoiding you, I promise,” Hoseok furrows his eyebrows. “I’ve been genuinely… busy ,” his eyes flicker to Yoongi, “with a lot of stuff.”

“That’s called avoiding, Seok-ah.”

“No, like, you can ask Yoong-”

“He’s been busy,” Yoongi confirms before the sentence even finishes. Hoseok’s eyes widen and Seokjin’s eyes narrow.

“Yeah? Were you with him while he was busy?” His eyes trail to his wrist, but Yoongi’s wearing a long sleeve. “Weren’t you a Pisces, if I remember correctly? Pisces and Aquarius…”

“By God,” Yoongi grumbles lowly, “He really is exactly as he was back then, such a stickler for the rules.”

“Hyung,” Hoseok urges quietly, and Yoongi finally shuts up, to Seokjin’s dismay. 

“No, I’m not done. What’s your relationship to Hoseok?”

“I’m not obligated to reveal that to someone who just turned their own beloved in.”

Own? Are you implying Hoseok’s your own then?”

“Do I have to confirm or deny anything to you?”

Enough . Yoongi hyung,” Jimin cuts in with a wary glance, “stop pushing him. And Seokjin hyung, why don’t you ask Hoseok yourself?”

Seokjin’s eyes dart to Hoseok, who looks uneasy for the first time being in the spotlight, and his lips don’t seem to want to budge either.

“Well?”

“Ah- well, you see, Yoongi hyung’s correct. I’m not sure if I want to disclose anything to someone who turned in the person they loved.”

“For God’s sake-”

“No, listen, hyung. It’s my turn to talk.” Hoseok turns sideways so that his legs are criss crossed and he’s facing Seokjin. He leans forward to take both of Seokjin’s hands, and Seokjin can’t help but take notice of Yoongi’s wary eyes on them. “Hyung, I’ve known you for what, twenty years? Maybe more?”

“Twenty two years and ten months.”

Hoseok blinks. “Yes, that long. When you first moved into the neighborhood. I was your first friend, and only friend that’s known you that long, correct?”

“Get to the point, Seok-ah.” 

“I am, hyung. That means I’ve known you longer than any other person ever has, and not only that, but we were best friends. You were all I had, like my whole world. You know that, right?”

“... Yes.”

“I thought you didn’t know for the longest time,” Hoseok says quietly, “but you also knew I was in love with you for the longest time, right?”

Seokjin hesitates, automatically looking at Yoongi beside him (who looks uninterested in the conversation, but his eyes lingered on their conjoined hands.)

“... Yes, I did know. I’m sorry I pretended like I didn’t.”

“It’s alright. I know why you did. I wouldn’t have pretended I knew either. But that just means you were always in my sight, always a part of my world. I spent so much time just looking at you in awe, mesmerized by you.” He tilts his head to the side, eyes softening. “That’s how I know, even if you don’t.”

“Know?”

“That you felt something different for the Executive Director.” Hoseok looks at him as if it’s obvious, as if it’s something he should’ve known. “The way you looked at him was different. Unlike anything I’d seen up to this point. I’ve never been able to see anyone affect you the way he does, no matter how subtle the change can look to others.”

“I see it too,” Jimin declares, “and I’ve only known Team Leader Kim for a couple of months now.”

“Jimin,” Seokjin says, deflated. “You were just rooting for us so much you started reading into things.”

The dancer raises an eyebrow. “And were any of my readings wrong?”

Seokjin doesn’t answer Jimin.

“How should I say this…” Hoseok trails off as Seokjin shifts his attention back to him. “You… you look at him the way I wanted you to look at me. Yeah, that’s it. You look at him in a way that’s so full of surprise, as if there was a pleasant error in your carefully articulated calculations. When you talk about how much he bothers you, and I try to chime in on bashing your boss with you, you always end up defending him against me.” He chuckles. “I notice these things, you know?”

Hoseok lets go of one of his hands to hold up his wrist. “Aquarius, huh? Hyung, a Sagittarius. We’re so compatible, you know?”

“I know, Seok-ah.”

“We’re compatible, but did you ever see me as anything more than a little brother?”

He holds his breath in hesitation, but Hoseok’s already moved on without waiting for an answer. “No, right? Even that pact we made when we were kids, you never intended on fulfilling it even if the conditions were met, right?”

Seokjin can’t say a word. Hoseok seems to understand.

“But why? We’re so compatible, we even measured our natal charts with each other. We’re so compatible, so why didn’t we click the same way?” His eyes gleam as he taps on the imprint of his sign. “Maybe… maybe compatibility has nothing to do with it. After all, your most compatible match has been beside you for twenty years-”

“Twenty two.”

“... Twenty two years and you still never felt anything for them? But your heart flutters in foreign ways because of someone you met mere months ago?” Hoseok shakes his head. “Hyung, I know you value your work and principles above everything, but what you did this morning, turning Jeon Jungkook in? That wasn’t you . Even if your work was at stake, you would’ve never done that to someone you cared for.”

“Maybe you just want to think I wouldn’t do that, Seok-ah, but I did. I did do that.”

“Were you scared?”

“What?”

“Were you scared of the implications of your feelings?”

“Wha-” He doesn’t even bother to hide the shock on his face, feeling as though he got caught red handed.

“Were you scared because the future was so dark whenever you were with him? After years of being so clean in the light, did it fill you with uncertainty when the future you envisioned became dark whenever you were around him?”

The ache in Seokjin’s heart only grows. “... I, I-”

“But did it scare you more when you realized you kinda... you kinda liked the dark? The uncertainty of following your heart and not knowing what would happen in the end? Did it blur the lines between excitement and nerve-wrecking for you?”

Be still, my heart .

“Did it blur the lines between your brain and heart?” Jimin quietly chimes in. “Did it not match for the first time in your life?”

It didn’t. It really didn’t.

Hoseok leans onto the back of the couch. “Scared of it ending before it even started?”

Seokjin doesn’t respond. 

“Are you going to keep denying it, hyung? Stay silent?”

Will you continue being silent like this, hyung? Jungkook had pleaded last night.

“C’mon, you know you can be honest with us.”

You won’t even try? The alarm in Jungkook’s voice returns to his head. To try to be honest?

Stop, Seokjin has to tell himself. Stop thinking of last night. It’s done. It’s over with. You got rid of the problem.

So why is everyone looking at him like he’s the problem?

“Hyung,” Jimin’s voice drops, almost like a whisper. “Why did you do it?”

And Seokjin’s answer doesn’t change. “It was my job to.”

He can feel Hoseok’s eyes on him, scanning his every movement as if waiting for a sign that he might feel some other way, but he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to leave room for regret, the way they were all trying to make him feel guilty for.

It was better safe than sorry.

Hoseok pushes himself off the couch, tugging on Yoongi’s arm for him to get up and gesturing Jimin towards the door. Silent, the trio gather their stuff before turning away from the RRT team leader.

Seokjin can’t help but wonder what hurt more- the disappointment on their faces, or the hurt in their eyes.

Yoongi is the first to exit the door, Jimin following right after with one final glance back, and he thinks Hoseok’s about to leave without so much of a glance back when he stops halfway out the door, pulling himself back in one more step.

“You know, hyung,” he calls out softly, and Seokjin has to resist looking in his direction and keeps his eyes glued to his hands. “You’ve always been so kind and warm, despite wanting to come off a bit coldly. I know that, you know? Like, this whole persona you grew attached to. You’ve always been exactly white, without a single stain to taint this white glowing aura you’ve always had.”

Seokjin still says nothing.

“Now, it feels like I don’t even know who you are.” He seems to shuffle in his steps for a couple of seconds. “I’m not going to confirm or deny anything about Yoongi hyung, because that would provide too much evidence for you to possibly do to me what you did to Jeon Jungkook. But just know, if you’re against him, you’re against me too.”

A distinct voice from down the hall seems to call for Hoseok, as he quickly shouts out a “Coming!” outside.

“Sure, you lost Jungkook now. But I hope I’ve been an important enough friend to you that you’ve come to be afraid of losing, too.”

He closes the door behind him, and his lips waver before he’s biting back a sudden rush of emotions. The ache in his heart still hurts from last night, his eyes are stinging with tears, and there’s an empty hole in his chest.

But I hope I’ve been an important enough friend to you that you’ve come to be afraid of losing, too.

But what about Hoseokie? He had asked.

His mother had smiled. Keep him. Keep Hoseokie, Jin-ah. He won’t do you wrong .

It actually takes him a while to push himself off of his couch, entering his room to bring out a large carrier and stuffing it full as quickly (and probably inefficiently) as he can before grabbing his keys and jacket. Closing all the lights and taking a fresh breath of air outside, he sighs before sticking the quickly scrawled note on the door: OUT FOR VACATION.

He needed to go home, he needed to go talk to his mother.

He needed to feel like someone was on his side.

 

 

Seokjin did not expect to make a pitstop on the way to his mother’s pension.

He thought the Jeon premises were the last place he wanted to be, but somehow, he found himself here once more. More specifically, he finds himself parking his car and his feet move like they know their destination, despite having come here in a haze- the stone garden Jungkook had showed him all those weeks ago.

When he calculates how much time has passed since then, it doesn’t seem like much, but it feels like it’s been forever. It feels like it’s been forever since Jungkook had asked him in this exact spot if he could kiss him. It feels like it’s been forever since he was able to laugh freely with Jungkook over a couple swigs of champagne, it feels like it’s been forever since he started waking up with a heavy heart.

And he kind of misses Jungkook.

A rustling from his left startles him out of his thoughts as he jerks his head towards the direction the noise came from, only to find the gardener. Mr. Han, he thinks he was.

“Ah, you startled me. Good evening, Mr. Han.”

The old gardener only smiles in return, while Seokjin offers a shy smile in return. He’s only conversed with the man maybe twice or thrice over the last nine years he’s worked here, so trying to engage in conversation and entertaining an elder isn’t something he wants to accomplish tonight. 

“Ah, Seokjin-sshi. You come here too?”

He forgot momentarily they were in the stone garden, and he sheepishly looked around. “Ah, no. The Executive Director showed me here as a spot last time…” He lets the words die on his lips upon the realization that mentions of Jungkook rolls out of his tongue too shamelessly. 

Mr. Han only nods, giving a full grin. “Ah, Jungkook-ie. It’s his favorite spot, after all. Did you know, this was a hibiscus garden before? Before the new garden opened, of course.”

“Ah, yes, I think I heard Jungkook mentioning that. Though I think the new garden is plenty beautiful as it is, it’s surprising he wants to keep coming back to rocks.”

“It’s because his mother made this one.” He sets a bucket down that Seokjin hadn’t noticed before before stretching his arms up. “He was very close to his mother, very fond of her. She planted all the yellow hibiscuses by hand here, before it got demolished.”

“Oh, I’m sorry for his loss.”

Mr. Han blinks, before bellowing into laughter. “She’s not dead. Seokjin-sshi, do you keep up with the news? If the Lady was dead, it’d be all over the news.”

“Oh.” A bright blush furiously paints his cheeks. “You- You just made it sound like they aren’t anymore…”

“It’s changed in some ways. He’s still very fond of her, but she isn’t around to take care of him anymore. Too busy having fun.” The elder gives a sorrowful smile. “Though, I can’t blame her either.”

“I see.” The ache in his heart weighs even heavier.

“He asks me to clean this stone garden whenever I have time, but with my luck, I get to come at a time the RRT leader himself is here.” He crouches down to start dousing the scrub in the bucket before starting to scrub away at the white stones. Seokjin immediately crouches down beside him, taking another scrub hanging off the bucket and scrubbing alongside him without a word, and Mr. Han grunts approvingly.

“What a proper gentleman, helping an old geezer like me out even though I should be someone low enough to just ignore.”

“Ah, don’t mention it. I’d like to be of some help.”

He wasn’t planning on scrubbing a garden clean before going on the trip, but he didn’t have it in him to just leave when the elder had crouched down. He couldn’t find the right time to leave.

“So tell me, why did such a nice guy like you turn him in?”

His hand stops in his tracks, the scrub settling uncomfortably in his palm as he gives an awkward glance before continuing to scrub again slowly. “You know how it is, Mr. Han. I’m merely doing my job.”

“Then you should’ve been doing your job, not kiss and tell.”

Seokjin stops in his tracks once again, blinking before looking up at the elder. “I- What?”

“I saw you two here last time,” the gardener responds nonchalantly, “and you kissed, didn’t you? Was that part of your job, too?”

Before he even finishes the sentence, his heart is drumming in his ears too loudly for him to focus on the latter of what the elder said.

I saw you two here last time.

“I- Well- You see-”

“Don’t worry, I’m not interested in young people’s affairs. I know a lot more than I let on, you see.” 

The panic pulsing through didn’t magically die down, but he lets out a sigh of relief before dipping his head in a bow. “I would… it sounds shameless, but I would like it if no one else knew about that.”

“Not for free.”

Seokjin looks back up with widened eyes, turning towards the wallet in his pocket, and the elder waves his hands in the air. “Not monetary! Money has not much value to me anymore. Answer me just one question.”

The Sagittarius raises an eyebrow. “Of course.”

“Why did you do it?” He tosses the scrub to the side and fully sits down by the garden. “If you want to say it was merely part of your job, I would respect it. But from what I saw, I know that wasn’t the mere reason.”

Seokjin frowns. “What do you gain from knowing?”

“I gain another story I hear,” the elder shrugs. “I’m a storyteller. I’m a hopeless romantic. There’s so many different ways people find each other in this world, you know? So many different ways in finding pain, happiness, anger… It's almost like giving advice to others is useless because everyone has such different stories and situations. I merely like to listen to stories.”

“You said you’re a storyteller. How can I know if you’re not going to tell this story, too?”

“You won’t know.” Mr. Han’s eyes gleam. “You won’t know. There’s nothing I can offer you to convince you so you can relax your stiff shoulders around me, but watching the press conference on the side while knowing that you were just as guilty as young Jungkook without saying a word should vouch for it enough.”

Seokjin hesitates, but he nods. “You’re a manipulative old man.”

He bellows out laughter, one that he thinks resembles Hoseok’s loud laughter. “You think so? I’ll have to use it to my advantage more often.”

Seokjin’s smiles in return, taking note of the faded imprint on the elder’s wrist. Leo. No wonder he was so easy to talk to, they were compatible.

Compatible?

“Mr. Han,” he says, instead of answering the question, “do you think the stars are all there is to us?”

“The stars?”

“Compatibility, and whatnot. In your stories, are the stars a limiting factor, or something that helps bring people together?”

Mr. Han chuckles. “They’re neither.”

“How come?”

“They should be neither. They should neither create nor destroy any precious encounter you have. They shouldn’t have that much power or importance.” The elder gives a crooked grin. “What are they going to do, come shooting out of the sky to kill you if you don’t do whatever the stars say? The ones who do that are you guys.”

Seokjin wants to revolt and say that they don’t kill, but he hesitates. He wonders how many souls, how many spirits, and how much hope he must’ve killed during his prime years on the squad, repressing rebels who just wanted to find love freely. “I suppose so.”

“Is that why you turned him in?”

“Hm?”

“Compatibility. Did the stars make you turn him in?”

Seokjin nods slowly, before he hears a tsk, tsk, tsk from the old man.

“Then you’re writing a boring story. Tell me, why do you think some movies get higher ratings than others?”

“The cast?”

“While true, the excitement of casting passes after a while. No, what makes certain movies linger in people’s hearts more than others? Why do some movies become known as ‘classics’ while others don’t?”

Seokjin scratches the side of his neck. “The… story?”

“Exactly. If the story isn’t good, who cares how good the characters look? It won’t last. You’re writing a boring story for yourself.”

“I don’t think the objective of my life is to write my own story-”

“But if you don’t, who will? You know what the best kind of stories are?”

Seokjin shakes his head.

“The unpredictable ones. The ones where even the audience has no idea would go. What fun would it be to start a story, knowing how it ends?”

“It wouldn’t be, certainly.”

“But that’s how you’ve lived your whole life, haven’t you? Never taking a chance unless you know where it’s going, unless you know if it’ll end in your favor. Always thinking in that head of yours to see what would benefit you more.”

Surprised, Seokjin nods dumbfounded. “Well, yes, I don’t want to leave room for any error.”

“It’s only an error if you make it one. Tell me, was turning in the Executive Director an error?”

But just know, if you’re against him, you’re against me too.

But I hope I’ve been an important enough friend to you that you’ve come to be afraid of losing, too.

Seokjin tosses his scrub to the side, giving a sigh as he shakes his head. “I thought it was the right thing. I still do, but everyone around me seems to tell me it’s an error. But that doesn’t make sense. Logically, I did the right thing.”

“Logically, yes. But no one truly runs on logic alone, do they?”

“I’ve done a pretty good job of it.”

“So are you satisfied?” Mr. Han crosses his arms. “Are you satisfied, having done the logically right thing?”

Seokjin blinks. “... I-”

“Let me ask a different question. Why are you back here, in the place you and Jungkook shared, if you think you did the right thing?”

He parts his lips to speak, but no words come out. Why had he come here?

He must’ve been silent for long enough, because the elder cuts in with a sigh, “I’m not supposed to tell this to anyone, but for Jungkook’s sake, I might have to intervene while I can. Since I’ve got you thinking, too.”

“Intervene?”

The gardener, despite the urgency of his words, takes his time to take a good look at the younger, before breaking into a smile. “You’re very handsome, Seokjin-sshi. Kind of reminds me of someone I loved back then, and maybe that’s why I want to intervene.”

Before Seokjin can manage to stutter out a thank you, the elder continues, “Jungkook is trying to break out of his cell right now to see if he can escape to go see you. My task was to hold up any RRT worker I may come across, but after seeing that everyone must’ve gone home, I came here and bumped into you. Therefore,” he narrows his eyes, “when you go to Jungkook, you can’t mention that you met me. We never met, alright?”

His head is spinning. “Wha-”

“When he breaks out successfully, you know what’ll happen to him.” Protocol 13, Seokjin recalls. If an offender attempts to jailbreak or escape, the protocol is an automatic burning stamp of the stars.

His eyes widen, and Mr. Han nods. “You need to go to him. I tried to convince him out of it, but he seemed set. You might be able to convince him.”

Seokjin’s already on his feet, rapidly brushing himself off before bending to give a swift ninety degree angle bow to the elder. “Thank you so much for today! I’m sorry, but I might not be able to help you scrub all the way through. Thank you for your work and services!”

Before the elder can respond, he’s sprinting. He can feel the relief as he remembered to wear sneakers for no reason at all, but he couldn’t be more grateful to his past self.

Jeon Jungkook. Escaped offender. He couldn’t let that happen.

The restraint center, which was an extension of the main white building, was luckily right across from the entrance to the stone garden, so just a little fumbling with the keys (Mr. Han was right, it was dark inside and it seemed like everyone had gone home) and he flicks on the lights as he runs down the halls, barely being able to turn the corner to where the jail cells should be before ramming his face into something hard, staggering back.

Ouch,” he grumbles as he rubs his nose, looking up through bleary eyes. The surprised face of the young Jeon he had been searching for is staring back at him, half in surprise and half in disbelief, as Seokjin quickly recovers from his nose and with a glare, grabs his wrist and attempts to march towards the broken out cell.

“Jungkook, I know you’re stuffy in here, but you can’t be doing thi-”

Arms come around him to secure him from behind, and Seokjin can feel himself tense up as the heir buries his head into his neck.

“Did I imagine you up because I missed you too much,” he hears a mumble from the younger, “or are you actually here?”

Seokjin snaps out of it, making weak attempts at pulling away, pushing at his arms. “Let go. Let go, if someone comes in they’ll have the wrong idea. Jungkook, Jungkook, listen to me- you have to go back into that cell-”

“I don’t want to.” The iron grip of his arms don’t seem to sway, and Seokjin stops pushing. “I don’t want to.”

“Jungkook, if you escape now, you won’t get to abdicate the throne. You won’t get to protect your family, do you hear me? If you step outside those doors as an escaped offender, you’ll get the stamp. Do you hear me? You’ll get the stamp .”

“Then let me!” Jungkook lets go of Seokjin, who turns around to meet his bloodshot eyes. The eyebags sagging under it sends a wave of pain directly to his chest. “Then let me. You put me here first. You left me behind. So why did you come back?”

Frustrated, Seokjin tries to grab and force Jungkook towards the cell, but he doesn’t budge. He’s always known the younger had a fit and well regulated body, in contrast to his that sits at the desk all day now, but he didn’t expect there to be this much of a difference in strength. 

“You-” Grunt . “Need-” Grunt . “- to go in!”

“Hyung, I told you. I’ll take the stamp. Now answer my question.” Jungkook’s hands grip Seokjin’s arms and pulls him closer, the older hitching his breath. “Why did you come back?”

He’s frustrated. It’s not like he wanted to come back. But as soon as his body is on autopilot, it searches for Jungkook- what was he supposed to do about that? His steps took him here without a second thought, and he ran here without needing a second warning. His feet weren’t listening to him, always finding their way to the wrong destination.

The wrong destination?

The two share a heavy silence before Seokjin sighs.

“Because I do! I do love you,” He finally breathes out, the words rolling off his tongue so foreignly. Jungkook’s eyes widen, but Seokjin averts his eyes away from his hopeful gaze. “I... I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you yesterday. Even now, I have no idea what I just said, and I shouldn’t be shamelessly showing my face here after what I did, but when I heard you were going to escape. It was my chance, it was my opportunity to try to make things right.”

Jungkook opens his mouth, but Seokjin shakes his head, holding a finger up to it. “Don’t. Let me. I don’t know why I came here- it’s fucking comedic, actually. I blinked, and before I knew, I found myself here.” He starts urging him towards the cell again. “I shouldn’t have put you in here in the first place, but I need you to go back into the cell. No one’s heard the recording other than the lawyer, Namjoon, and the chairman, so I’ll just have to destroy the evidence and make it look like an acci-”

“Hyung.” Jungkook staggers back, holding him in front of him. “Do you know what they’re going to do to you if they find that you destroyed that? Better yet, what if they have a copy?”

“The original is with me, so-”

“So they’ll know it’s you. Hyung, you need to let me out.” Jungkook furrows his eyebrows, heaving a sigh. “Hyung, you’ll be charged with a sentence instead. Whether you destroy the evidence or Namjoon and his team manage to fabricate the evidence against you to get me out, you’ll lose everything.”

You’ll lose everything if you get out now! If you go out now-”

“- Then I get charged with Protocol 13, right?” Seokjin blinks, nodding slowly, lips parted in surprise. “Don’t look at me like that. I memorized every single one of them the past few months trying to win you over with my extensive knowledge.”

“If you know, then why -”

“That’s the only way you won’t lose everything. If I step out those doors, attempting an escape,” he points, “then I basically confess to my own wrongdoings, and they’ll give me the sentence.”

“The stamp, Jungkook! Are you insane? Why would you go that far?”

Jungkook blinks, traces of confusion streaking his face. “Because I love you?”

Love. It didn’t make sense to him that crazy, irrational things were done in the excuse of love, but maybe he’s starting to go crazy himself, he’s starting to understand.

He can see why Jungkook has come to the horribly stupid, irrational conclusion that he has.

“Let’s think this through, yeah? Please, please just go back to that-”

“Hyung. If we go through with your ideas, you’ll get punished harshly. Would you throw away everything you worked for just to disprove something that did happen? It’s not like you’re framing me.”

“It is like I’m framing you because I excluded myself out of the picture. I can handle it if it comes down to it. What about you? Why would you throw all this away for me?”

“They’re not worth it,” Jungkook answers as if the answers were obvious. “These things were handed to me, you worked for these things. You need to keep yours.”

“That’s stupid , Jungkook. You’re making a stupid decision, throwing it away for me.”

“You too, you’re making a stupid decision, throwing it away for me too.”

A look comes over Jungkook’s face, one that makes Seokjin uneasy as he slides on a sly smile, pulling the older in closer. “Wha-”

“Hyung,” He pleads with his eyes as he lets his smile grow into a full blown grin, “Let’s run away together, then, if one of us is doomed anyways.”

His first instinct is to yell at him for suggesting something so stupid- Jungkook would become an escaped offender. Seokjin would become an accomplice and an offender. They would both lose essentially everything, clinging to each other as if having each other was enough.

But looking at Jungkook excitedly waiting for his reply, he starts to wonder if it truly is as bad as he makes it out to be. Before he can come up with a list to weigh out the pros and cons to convince Jungkook that it was a ridiculous, foolish idea, he finds himself nodding.

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

Seokjin nods more affirmatively this time, although still a little dumbfounded. “Okay.”

“Okay?” comes a foreign voice, and both Seokjin and Jungkook whip towards the voice, and a familiar blonde intern is standing by the entrance on the side opposite of where Seokjin had entered. Eyebrows furrowed, he crosses his arms as he steps forward.

“I knew there was something between you two. When I left a camera here, I was expecting the director- ah, traitor - to run away, so I came here, but I should’ve checked the cameras on the way here too. I wasn’t expecting to see you here, Team Leader Kim.” His eyes narrow. “Or, should I still call you that if you’re planning to escape with him?”

“Kenny,” Seokjin groans as he steps forward, pulling Jungkook behind him. “I could say the same, I wasn’t exactly expecting you here at this hour either.”

Kenny’s eyes are piercing and cold. “Team Leader Kim, you’ll need to step aside.”

“I don’t think so.”

“So it’s true?” The intern tilts his head to the side. “He is the reason you rejected me yesterday?”

There’s a noise of surprise from behind him but he ignores it, shaking his head. “No. Me rejecting you had nothing to do with him. Hell, I rejected him right after you left.”

“Is he why you didn’t turn in Park Jimin either?”

“What are you-” Seokjin’s eyes light up. “It was you, wasn’t it?”

“Hm?”

“The note. YOU’RE GROWING SOFT. You asshole, it was you, wasn’t it?”

Kenny only shrugs, and Seokjin narrows his eyes.

“I was merely trying to keep my superior on track. And I did- I thought I shook you up enough. So why are you back here? You turned in the recording yourself. You put him at risk, wouldn’t you be too ashamed to show yourself here?”

Seokjin smiles. “Luckily, I’m not too easily swayed by my emotions, as you know.”

“That’s foolish, Team Leader. You know right in this very moment, you’re making bad decisions swayed by your emotions.”

“My head’s never been clearer.” This much was true.

“Then you must’ve gone down the wrong end.” Kenny frowns. “I don’t want to hurt you. I’m not fully out into the field yet, but once I subdue him,” he jerks his chin towards the heir, “they’ll end my internship and let me into the field for sure . If I have to go through you too, I can’t guarantee it won’t hurt.”

“You forget, I have seven years of experience out on the field before I chose to stay behind at the main building. I was squad leader for years.”

“And you stayed two years behind a desk after that.” Kenny shrugs. “And I’m like, eight years or so younger.”

“He’s eight years younger and he hit on you?” came an incredulous cry from Jungkook, who Seokjin quickly hushes.

“Seokjin hyung.” Kenny’s voice deflates just slightly towards the end. “This is the last warning. If you don’t step aside now, I’ll have to shoot a tranquilizer towards you too.”

Seokjin’s eyes trace the room, seeing no weapons in sight. All the weapons were likely stored away in the main building, the hallways Kenny just came from, so getting access to a fogger from there to buy some time would be difficult. His eyes land on the wall right in his peripheral vision, slowly stepping back and urging Jungkook to do the same.

If Kenny noticed their movements, he didn’t care enough. He only pulls out a small tranquilizer gun from his pocket, one that he recognizes is the one his father built for the RRT before his unfortunate accident in order to easily carry around swiftly than to drag the big chunky ones around. It was useful for him on the field, but at this moment, he curses his father above for making such a thing.

Jungkook-ah, you trust me, right?

“One last chance, hyung. Will you really leave the RRT like this? If not, you can apprehend him yourself, you know.” Kenny waves the dart gun in the air. “Then I won’t have to step in or say what I saw today. It's your choice, really.”

Seokjin looks at him warily, before sighing and stepping behind Jungkook, who looks at him with wide eyes.

“... Hyung?”

He brings Jungkook’s hands back behind him, shifting his body at an angle so Kenny can’t see what he’s doing behind his back, shifting to make it look like he was cuffing him, but instead slips his hand into one of his.

Jungkook-ah, you trust me, right?

“Let’s go,” he barely manages to mutter before abruptly turning behind him to flick off the lights, right where he assumed the switch would be as he pushes Jungkook towards the entrance he came from, following behind shortly as he slams the door behind him, flicking off the lights in the halls as he runs to catch up beside Jungkook. He hears a curse or two from Kenny, who’s slowly but surely making his way to them from the other side of the dark room, but he has no time to look back- if he looks back, it could fail.

They make a quick left turn at the end of the hallways, the sound of footsteps running behind them gaining on them slowly as Seokjin continues to turn off the lights as he runs by the switches on the wall. But it seemed disorienting Kenny’s vision didn’t deter him much, before he heard a pained grunt from the Virgo next to him as he staggered, coming to a pause to reach behind his leg and pull out the dart.

Seokjin’s eyes widen as he quickly takes the younger’s arm around his shoulder before he slumps, yelling, “Stay with me! Stay awake until we get to the car!”, shouting as he’s half dragging him towards the exit just ahead. He dares not to look back, knowing their pace has slowed compared to before but hoping they ran enough beforehand to leave a bit of space between them and Kenny.

He falters in his steps as he reaches the door, pushing past as he leads the younger out first before stepping out himself, before something grabs his free hand back with great force that Seokjin almost slams his head back on the closed door. He looks back with wide eyes, to see that the door was closed on his wrist- Kenny on one side of the glass door, clutching onto his hand firmly. Seokjin on the other, struggling to keep the door closed between them while balancing Jungkook leaning against him too.

He’s losing strength, his arms and legs will give out soon.

He looks pleadingly towards Kenny, who has a stoic face. “Kenny. Let go.”

The blonde Aries shakes his head with sorrow in his eyes. “Then let go of him.”

“You know I can’t do that.”

“Then I’ll make you.” He reveals his hand he was holding behind him and holds out a sharp, thick blade. For the first time, Seokjin starts to wonder how many weapons this damn kid had. He was running with both the blade and tranquilizer in hand?

He gulps.

“This looks smaller and weaker than it is, but it’s sharp enough that you could drop a log on it and it would slice through clean. You know that, right? It was your favorite weapon on the field, after all.”

Of course he knew. Kenny carefully shifts it so he’s holding the spine of the blade, sliding it through the space between the door and the frame. “The only way I’ll let go of your hand right now, is if you free yourself.”

Letting Jungkook softly on the ground, he takes the blade, about to shout about how insane and ridiculous it was- that he couldn’t possibly be serious, when he sees Kenny’s face clearly through the glass- but he’s never looked as serious as he did in this moment.

He gulps again, eyes darting between the blade and the intern.

“You were willing to get the stamp for him, but a hand is a whole different story now, isn’t it? When you’re being faced with the punishment, it’s easy to talk about receiving it, but when you’re actually faced with it- they have a similar face to yours, Team Leader. Flash of regret, right?”

It irks Seokjin. He grits his teeth, clutching the hilt of the blade tighter.

“Do you see the foolishness of your actions now? Holding it in your hand? I promise,” Kenny’s voice goes soft, “I won’t mention what I saw today. I won’t even mention that you came here today, or that you didn’t turn in Park Jimin because you’d grown soft. Just hand me over Jeon Jungkook, and I won’t-”

With a yell before gritting his teeth once again, Seokjin brings the blade down on his hand, the door immediately shutting closed and sending Kenny staggering back a few paces before a howl of pain follows shortly. Clutching his severed hand to his chest, refusing to acknowledge it in case the shock goes away and the pain starts to settle in, he turns towards Jungkook, who’s completely knocked out now, dragging him up with his decent arm before slowly dragging him towards the parking lot right next to them, where Seokjin’s car is the only one parked.

Without even a glance back, he hurriedly shoves Jungkook’s slumped body into the back seat, slamming the door before getting in himself. The tension between his eyebrows don’t become undone until he’s stepping on the gas, drifting away from the darned place.

Most importantly, leaving a shocked Kenny behind in the dust.

It’s only when Seokjin’s furiously driving five, ten, fifteen minutes away from the center that he breaks into a silent sob, cradling his severed wrist as much as he can as he tries to focus on the road, the adrenaline rushing away and the pain starting to settle heavily.

He’ll have to make a pitstop by someone for medical attention, because hospitals should have them blacklisted as soon as the word was out.

When he finally looks at his wrist, he sees a lot of the blood is starting to dry, and the sight of it sickens him enough to make him dizzy, promptly pulling his eyes away. He can’t be dizzy for another ten minutes before he makes his pitstop.

He barely takes notice of what was once a proud Sagittarius imprint he wore on his wrist, now severed in half.

Chapter Text

“Good Morning from The Era of Stars, a TEOS morning. Today, following the events of yesterday morning, we come with breaking news.”

“So,” Taehyung says, gathering his hands awkwardly together in the middle of his lap. No one dares to even move a muscle, and it was awkward to even see the uneasiness starting to crease on the otherwise usually bright Capricorn.

“... It has been reported by the RRT that the former heir in captivity, Virgo Jeon Jungkook, has escaped from his cell this morning.”

Namjoon only silently keeps his eyes on his hands in his own lap, not daring to look up. He hasn’t said much since his arrival, but no one blames him for that. Namjoon has probably never been this much at a loss for words until now, but it was completely understandable.

“If only coincidentally so, the RRT Team Leader, Sagittarius Kim Seokjin, has been reported to have taken suspiciously well-timed vacation days off of the squad the same time he disappears.”

The silence in the air is deafening, but they’re all too focused on the news to even respond to Taehyung’s attempt to talk. Even Taehyung has piped down, leaning in to hear the news that he had already heard from Namjoon’s alarmed voice this morning one more time, focused as if it were his first time hearing it.

“And just as we thought it couldn’t be a coincidence, Aries Kenny Lee, who has worked under the Team Leader for the past year, has filed a report against his ex-superior, claiming that he had tried to stop both him and the ex-heir last night in their fairytale elope.”

Namjoon and Taehyung’s eyes meet uneasily, unsure of what their next step of action should be. The silence in the room only thickens, there’s a lump in all their throats as they focus on the audio coming from Namjoon’s phone.

Really, there’s nothing to say. You can count on news reporters for getting straight to the point.

“Almost tragically, like a Cinderella story, the encounter ended with Kim leaving a severed hand behind instead of a glass slipper.”

This time, though, Namjoon tries to give it a go. He thinks he has some sort of influence within the oddly formed group.

“So,” he starts, finally breaking his gaze away from Taehyung and scanning the rest of the room, clearing his throat for his first words. “Now that we’re all here, we need to discuss…”

“However, this is not a fairytale. This is reality, and the discovery of these traitors is thought to be historically written along with a hefty reward, offered by Chairman Jeon himself, and, of course, hefty punishment. If there are witnesses of this man with a severed hand, please report to your local RRT branch immediately. If the whitecoats show up at your door, please cooperate with them so that this search may be carried out efficiently.”

“... What the fuck do we do?”

The seven of them all share glances with one another, lips heavy to move first. Even Jimin, who has never had so much of a bat of an eye in difficult situations, looks uneasy. 

Their uneasy glances slowly stop at their unanimous destination. It takes Namjoon a moment to adjust to the atmosphere, blinking before pointing at himself with an incredulous expression. 

“Don’t look at me.” Namjoon crosses his arms with a dip in his brow. “Stop it. I don’t like this. Why are you all looking at me like that?”

“Don’t you usually have some sort of rational solution?” Seokjin tries to slide in a chuckle. “Come on, share that big brain of yours with the rest of us.”

Namjoon deadpans. “You were quite literally in the top 1% of your graduating class, Seokjin hyung.”

“You were, too!”

Secondly , you’ve put yourselves in a situation where even I am not sure if I can do anything to help. There’s no black or white protocol to avoid, there’s no event from history that even resembles this to reference. We’re completely on our own for this one. What were you thinking?”

Seokjin sulks, shrugging before waving his bandaged wrist out of habit from the hand gestures he was so used to making in the air. He quickly brings it down with a repressed wince that could be seen by the silent contortions of his face only. Jungkook finds himself biting down on his lip with a slight wince of his own when he sees the pained crinkle in Seokjin’s expression. 

Seokjin quickly recovers as if suddenly remembering there were people around, but the weight in Jungkook’s heart only becomes heavier.

Trust me ,” he breathes out, “It was the only course of action I could take. Kenny was ready to turn me in, and Jungkook wouldn’t go in. Even if I did manage to get Jungkook back in and try to cooperate, Kenny already had evidence Jungkook had broken out once. He would’ve turned him in either way, so I couldn’t just tell him to go back into his cell until we thought of something better. We were out of time, Namjoon. It might have not been the best course of action, but here we are now. Scathed, but alive.”

“And so you played lights out with Kenny?” 

“He had tranquilizers and a pocket knife on him, Namjoon! I was just trying to deter him as much as I could, I had been hoping that the dark night sky would help with his vision a bit. There wasn't much to do about it, really. We were too busy running away from the knife he had.”

Namjoon doesn’t look convinced. 

Seokjin sighs. “Especially the pocket knife. It’s a new weapon from the 39th cohort, one sharp enough to cut just about—” He stops for a moment, looking down at his bandaged limb with a slight frown.

“... Anything, sharp enough to cut just about anything with ease.”

That’s all the further convincing Namjoon needed. Seokjin looks down at his hand before Namjoon can shoot him an apologetic look, a small pause holding everyone’s breaths before Jimin squeaked, “So do you guys know any good brunch places around here?”

When Jungkook woke up this morning, he hadn’t expected to open his eyes with a massive headache, a blaring, throbbing pain in the back of his leg, and in a house he’d never been in before. He also woke up alone, confused and dazed as he scrambles outside of the foreign room he was residing in to see a back turned towards him at the door, a big bag in one hand as Seokjin struggled to close the door.

The iron grip of Seokjin’s concentration on the bag that could’ve been carried with ease is all Jungkook had needed to notice that something was definitely off.

“Jungkook-ah, you’re up,” he acknowledges as he turns around with a smile that Jungkook hasn’t had the privilege of seeing many times before, and for a moment his lips are automatically curling into a smile to give back, the words leaving his mouth to almost naturally welcome him back to a home that he didn’t recognize when his eyes trail down to his free hand— or, where his hand should’ve been. In its place was an empty space, bandaged with many layers as if to protect the eyes from what it was afraid yet curious to see and the large sleeve of a hoodie barely covering it. What shocks him more than the injury he had no recollection of is the nonchalance Seokjin greets him with— it shocks him enough to stop himself from throwing up an overload of questions to fill in the now urgent blank spaces of his memory.

Jungkook had his lips parted as his eyes lingered on the injury, barely acknowledging his eyes immediately softening as the crinkles in between his brows dig and deepen. He reaches out for him without thinking much, the words what happened? hanging off the edge of his lips before Seokjin tugs his wrist slightly away from his grasp, Jungkook grabbing at the air it leaves behind.

“Don’t worry too much about it,” he only said with a warm smile as he held up the bag he was carrying. “Just a little troll bridge situation we ran into, but I’m alright. I got us some food, eat up.”

After that, everyone started piling inside the comfort of their new home in groups- quite an odd group too. Seokjin had only reached out to Namjoon and Hoseok, but somehow their cramped living space was soon occupied by seven fully grown men. Taehyung and Namjoon being the first to arrive, it wasn’t long before Hoseok showed up with Jimin and Yoongi following behind him. 

Jungkook didn’t even have time to be surprised at the last group, people he never expected to be in one place right in front of him. He knew Seokjin would call Hoseok, but he hadn’t an inkling about how he would know the Pisces Jeon lawyer and the Libra intern, the most recent but dynamic addition.

When his eyes glaze over the six men in front of him, he can’t help but wonder, what an odd combination of people. What a random combination of people .

His eyes flutter up to Seokjin, whose eyes are set on someone with a callous raise of his brow. 

“Why are you here?” Seokjin asks with open malice laced within his voice.

It seemed it was time for long overdue introductions, as Jungkook trails his glare to Yoongi, who catches Jungkook’s gaze and shoots a quick, relaxed wink. “Why, of course, Hoseok told me to come.”

“You know I meant to ask the same question I asked last time. What are you to Hoseok that you come every time just because he tells you to?”

Yoongi’s eyes glint, but mischievously. Almost boyish, something Jungkook hasn’t seen from him, he thinks. It occurs to Jungkook at that moment that Yoongi’s always assumed the eldest role, even within his dynamic with him and Namjoon, and that with Seokjin being older, it would be the first dongsaeng position he was filling.

The mischievous glint, as if he was enjoying every one of Seokjin’s reactions. The wink he sent to Jungkook. He was enjoying it all, enjoying the situation to the max. It’s such a different energy that contrasts the rest of them, but it was just one thing Jungkook had missed about him.

“If we’re on that subject,” Jungkook pops in, “then I want to know why he’s here too.” He carefully gestures towards Jimin, who looks much more offended than Seokjin did moments ago.

Excuse me ,” Jimin retaliates as if he’s truly offended, raising an eyebrow. “While you had Taehyung to talk about your feelings to, Seokjin hyung had me. Right?”

But Seokjin’s too busy pointing fingers at Yoongi, who’s looking back at him with traces of relaxed amusement all over his face as Seokjin’s voice only grows louder in irritation. Jungkook’s face crinkles in the sudden outburst of accusations and conversations, the noise level getting a little too high for his own liking when Namjoon clears his throat and almost everyone’s eyes land on him again (all except Seokjin, whose eyes are suddenly murderous. He didn’t get to hear what Yoongi said in response to Seokjin, but it’s his first time seeing the older so overwhelmed.)

“How about,” Namjoon says quietly, Jungkook having to lean in a little to hear him, “if we introduce ourselves? Since it looks like it’s going to be the seven of us. I don’t quite know everyone here either, and I don’t think I’d feel safe especially in a situation like this, if I didn’t know everyone. For example, I’ve heard of you from Jin hyung,” Namjoon politely gestures toward Hoseok, “but I’ve never met you, nor did I know that you knew Yoongi hyung.”

Hoseok blinks, before nodding slowly. “Okay. Hi, you’re Namjoon-sshi, correct? Yoongi hyung’s told me about you before. I’m Jung Hoseok, Seokjin hyung’s friend. Well . I’ve known him for— Seokjin hyung give me the number again—”

“Twenty two years and ten months.”

“Thanks. Yeah, that.”

Namjoon raises an eyebrow. “And…?”

Hoseok blinks again. “And… I’m an Aquarius.” He holds up his wrist, but it’s obvious it’s not the answer Namjoon was looking for, as Yoongi groans next to him and reaches out to take the wrist he’s held up, sliding his fingers through his despite Hoseok’s wide eyes.

“No more questions asked. I’m Min Yoongi, uh, a Pisces.”

Namjoon seems satisfied with their intertwined hands, although Seokjin doesn’t. He crosses his arms as he butts in, “How did you two meet?”

And before Yoongi could block him, Hoseok scratches his head and replies, “He lied to me at the RRT to get me to release him when he was an offender.”

Everyone freezes except Hoseok, who looks around with a confused expression on his face, eyes uneasy at the tension. 

Then everyone starts talking at once.

You were the offender that escaped?”

You were the one that let him escape?”

“Is he allowed to be saying this?”

“Wait, but-”

Jungkook’s eyes shift to the side and rests on Jimin, who doesn’t seem interested in joining the chaos ensued before them. Quietly, he leans over, “That’s quite shocking, isn’t it?”

Jimin merely shrugs. “I knew.”

That jerks Seokjin’s attention, eyes widening as he shifts his head to look at Jimin with narrowed eyes. “You knew?

“Sounded like something Yoongi hyung could do.”

“You two know each other?” comes Namjoon’s confused voice, and Jimin blinks, as if realizing what he’d just said, before his uneasy eyes land on Yoongi.

Hoseok raises an eyebrow. “You didn’t know? Jimin and Yoongi hyung used to be together.”

A second round of stunned silence washes over the seven, and Jungkook could almost see all of the gears in their heads trying to shift to accept the new information. He doesn’t feel too shocked himself, but he thinks it’s perhaps because he’s left his shock back when he had first seen Seokjin’s wrist, and unless someone came up with a way to somehow reattach the hand back, then he doubts any amount of information would truly shock him at this point.

Maybe later. For now, he’s still processing some things from earlier. To be fair, he’s still processing this whole situation, seeing seven people he never imagined in one place, sitting together and talking like this all because of the ability to share one, single interest; piled up frustrations against Zodiakos .

He thinks it’s interesting how easy it is to get people to assemble with one another.

“You— he—” Jungkook has to force the corners of his lips from turning up at the exasperated expression he has yet to see from Namjoon, who looks like he’s choking on water.

Taehyung, who’s been relatively quietly observing, raises an eyebrow. “Pisces and Libra?”

Namjoon’s gears seemed to have clicked in place, as his lips formed an ‘o’ shape before he looked towards Yoongi. “Orange haired dancer, right?”

“He can’t say anything about it,” Jimin counters as he takes the gum he’s been chewing between his two fingers, “he’s sworn to the Chairman to never talk about it again.” He frowns. “Are there any napkins around?”

While Seokjin disappears to grab some napkins from the kitchen, Jungkook’s mental gears click in too. “But all of us are against my dad anyways, what does it matter if Yoongi hyung talks about it here?”

Jimin frowns. “No, the only known criminals right now are you and Seokjin hyung. No need to force more people on the run.”

Jungkook can’t really argue with that, but he grumbles quietly, “But we’re all with someone we shouldn’t be with anyways so we’re all technically offenders,” before shutting up completely. He wasn’t really meaning for it to be heard by anyone, but Jimin seems to have caught on when he blinks, face twisted up like he was trying to solve a hard puzzle before he lets out a small gasp and shoots an accusatory glare at the Capricorn sitting across from him.

Taehyung offers a puzzled look in return once he catches his glare, but even without words, his face lights up once Jimin gives the side-eye to Namjoon, who’s too busy asking Hoseok questions despite Yoongi’s protests (Hoseok seems to enjoy sharing the softer details of Yoongi, but only because of how red Yoongi gets in response). Amused, Jungkook watches as Taehyung makes a motion with his fingers to brush the topic aside as if he were silently letting him know that he would tell him later. 

He starts to wonder when the two had gotten so close when he side eyes the Libra, but Yoongi cuts in loudly as an attempt to cut off Namjoon’s questions.

“I don’t think you introduced me to the Capricorn you were absolutely grieving over the other day to me.”

Immediately, Namjoon goes red and Taehyung’s eyes are twinkling as he surges forward with newfound passion behind his voice as he charges with questions, Yoongi entertaining him with a smug smirk on his face. The sight has Jungkook laugh quietly to himself as he feels a tap on his shoulder.

His eyes flicker up, only noticing Seokjin’s seat had stayed empty from the napkin trip and mentally makes a connection that the hand on his shoulder must belong to him before looking up, a smile immediately tugging on his lips as he takes his hand from his shoulder. Seokjin’s lips curl into a bashful smile before gesturing towards the kitchen and Jungkook complies easily, brushing himself off as he gets up from his seat quietly, but not before side eyeing Jimin once more.

“What?” Jimin tilts his head as he asks, finally acknowledging Jungkook’s shameless stares. Jungkook squints his eyes, leaning forward just a bit.

“I’m sorry to mention this again, but I could’ve sworn we’ve met somewhere.”

Jimin only stiffens, reaching up to scratch his cheek with a frown as he looks back curiously. In the corner of his eye, he can see Seokjin reach up to cup his hand over his chest, forming a playful crinkle on his face as he manages a smile from Jimin in response.

“I sacrifice a hand for you and you have the audacity to try that on him again in front of me?” His voice oozes with hurt and disappointment, but the few chuckles circling from the others and the smile on his face says otherwise. “And I had been telling myself it was worth it.”

Jungkook promptly sticks out his tongue to the older, who only tugs at his arm in the direction of the kitchen once more with the same smile. Seokjin doesn’t look back to entertain him until they’re out of earshot from everyone else, pressing a wad of cash onto the younger’s hand as he looks at it curiously.

“Sorry,” Seokjin says with hesitance, “I couldn’t finish grabbing everything at the store earlier because some grandpa started questioning the nature around my wrist and was starting to get suspicious of me.”

Jungkook raises an eyebrow at that. “Are we sure we’re safe here then?”

“It’d probably be like that for a while,” Seokjin admits, “or at least the couple of days we’ll be here. To go to the nearest market, you go down the hill from here and make two rights once you reach the streets. Luckily, we were able to find shelter near a fresh street market.”

Jungkook blinks. “I never asked, where are we?”

“Just outside of Busan, in Ulsan’s direction. It’s a small town here, and if they start their search from Seoul, it should take them some time to get here. A close acquaintance of mine is looking for a place for us to be on the move for soon, this is a temporary family vacation home of hers that we’re staying in.”

“I’m grateful for her generosity, but how do we know she won’t rat us out to the white coats?”

Seokjin rolls his eyes, ruffling down on Jungkook’s hair. “You Virgos, always such a worry wart. Namjoon’s been pestering me about the same thing since I called him last night. Don’t worry about it. She’s a distant cousin of mine living in the Netherlands with her family. They come back here during the holidays only, so it’s empty here for now. Although, we shouldn’t get too comfortable here. They’ll catch up soon. Even this distant town will catch onto us.”

Jungkook nods silently, clutching the wad of money in his hand tightly. Seokjin doesn’t seem to have anything else to add to that, as the silence ensues between them until the older reaches out to take Jungkook’s hand.

“Stop worrying,” he scolds as he pats his hand, “we’ll figure things out. We’ll figure… us out. We just need to take things one at a time. Right now, you just have to get us some easy foods for the next couple of days. Got it?”

His lower lip trembles just a bit but he bites it back and nods. He offers a smile at Seokjin, who offers a shy smile back, before he turns around to head for the door. He thinks he imagined it just momentarily, but Seokjin’s hand indeed reaches out to take his, and when Jungkook looks back at the older holding on, his mind settles. 

It calms. The disarray of thoughts and uncertainty of the seemingly dark future calms like tides after a big storm, as he smiles at the sight of Seokjin’s red ears and hesitance clearly shining in the pool of brown in his eyes.

They stay like that, silent just for a moment with only their hands connected, before Seokjin mumbles the words, “Just be… careful out there, okay? You know I can’t…”

You know I can’t afford to lose you now

Seokjin never finishes his sentence, so Jungkook hopes the way his brain auto-completed the sentence for him wasn’t too far from the truth. He only nods, carefully but hesitantly leaning in to press a kiss onto Seokjin’s cheek before waving himself out of the door.

 

 

It almost feels as though he’s entered a new world in this town. Seokjin had explained to him briefly that it was a quiet neighborhood in the rural countryside, where mostly grandmothers and grandfathers came to rest after retirement, or where many Busan locals came back once they retired from parenting in the city to get a deep sense of home again. That they might be able to find comfort in the familiar traces of the neighborhood they grew up in and convince themselves that this was where they belonged.

With crimson cheeks, Jungkook gets his first view of his new, temporary home for the first time since getting there when he sees that he stumbled out the door of a green apartment building, only about four or so stories high, with their residence on the second floor. 

He takes a deep breath of air, his anxiety spiking up whenever a head turned his way, before shaking his body out like it would shake out the nerves and confidently making his way towards the market with Seokjin’s directions in mind.

Jungkook thinks it’s astonishing how one day in this town has felt more like what he assumes home would feel like, at least more than the grey mansion he spent all those years watching, observing the dulling of the color over the years. He feels free from the dull drench the air around the Jeon premises was enveloped in; for one, he liked being able to go to the market without a single known glance in his direction. The indifference of others became a gift that Jungkook finally got to have a taste of in this town, where a passing trio of grandmas would giggle over Jungkook’s hand-selected ingredients and where he felt the disappointing stares from the elders whose eyes landed on the many earrings he adorned. It wasn’t like Seoul, where the mass knew him more than he knew himself. 

The elders here didn’t care that he grew up groomed for a throne, that his hands were clean free of labor or that he was adorning a watch belonging to a brand they thought was made up. They snickered over the fact that he was already in his mid-20s and still couldn’t pick out the fresher ingredients at the store, or that he looked too young to be living amongst them and wondered aloud if he was a rebellious punk. With a few pats on the back from the trio of grandmas who had laughed at him and some free ice cream for the way back in the sun, Jungkook thinks this quaint, little town is warm.

He felt warmth behind every rough exchange and teasing words, and it almost makes him think he could be safe here.

The illusion breaks as he clutches the bags of quick and easy grocery foods in his hands before his feet slowly come to a stop in front of an old flower shop, white paint chipping off with the grand age it seems to have withheld as his eyes land on the bouquets of flowers decorated across the front of the shop. Against the withering white backdrop of the shop walls, the colors of the various pansies, asters, celosias, and a number of other splotches of brilliant colors that Jungkook can’t recognize by name looks even more saturated and fuller in color. 

His eyes lingering on the brilliant shape of the asters, he can’t help but yearn for the garden back home. Amidst the warmth he had experienced here that he had just started to associate with the word home , fully knowing it was merely the fleeting feeling of security, the flowers his mother had planted had been planted right into his heart. 

Cutting ties with his family was harder than he thought. 

Any notion of home reminded him of the grey mansion, the garden, and the stern stare of his father, no matter how hard he had tried to dispel them from his concerns. It didn’t make sense to him the deeply rooted attachment he had for the distant parental figures in his life, but it seemed he associated even them deeply with the idea of home .

It’s conflicting, the feelings of homesickness and the feelings of hatred he tries to keep ablaze inside of him. The fiery flames of hatred he had held initially were now cooled into deep disappointment, but it seemed just because you were disappointed in someone, didn’t make them hateable.

So he tries. He’s trying hard to keep his hatred targeted towards the RRT and his father, to hold onto any strong emotion. Any emotion strong enough to wash out the guilt tugging at his heart whenever he had caught sight of Seokjin’s brutally sacrificed wrist; it just so happens the nearest emotion he could hold onto was anger.

Looking at the flowers offers peace amidst all these angry thoughts. Amidst all these ugly, disorganized thoughts, he thinks for a moment that the familiar flowers were a touch of home in an unfamiliar scene.

He immediately bends into a bow as an elderly man slowly makes his way out of the shop at the sight of him, looking behind the shop owner as he comes back up to see a mostly empty flower shop. It was relatively quiet, and almost immediately obvious he was the only potential customer around in the vicinity.

Before he pressures him to buy something, he has to get out of here , his heart thumps as he shoots a polite smile, the one he saves for the cameras before quickly turning his back, readjusting his grip on the bags before he starts to take a few steps away from the shop as a tentative voice reaches out, “You look so much like a customer.”

Jungkook refrains from sighing before offering another smile. “Sorry, I just wanted a look, there’s no one to buy flowers for.”

He ignores the momentary scenario in his head that flashes by unrealistically with the possibility of Seokjin cooing in delight over a bouquet of flowers he could pick up on the way back, but he knows the reality of his Sagittarius too well— there would be no cooing, much less delight.

“Oh, no, I mean you literally look like a customer I have.” The relief washes over Jungkook as he lets out an aah in response, the elder fixing his glasses to sit better on his nose. “I have this super romantic guy who comes by, around my age. I don’t know how the lad does it, but he comes by here every month to buy bouquets of flowers for his wife. Carefully chooses each one, too. He said it was worth it for his beloved.”

Jungkook smiles at that, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear slowly. “I think that’s very romantic.”

“Yeah, a handsome lad. You can tell even through his wrinkles and grey hair that he must’ve been an eye piece back in his days.” The elder chuckles momentarily as his calloused hands run over the flowers next to him fondly. “Weird name, though. Goes by Seo Taeil. Always here and gone like the wind.”

Jungkook’s hand freezes. The steady drumming of his heart is suddenly pounding in his ears, feeling the ice-cold familiarity of the name in the rhythm of his blood racing. He barely cranes his head up to ask Come again? before meeting the shop owner’s eyes.

His eyes then trail up to the shop sign— Janus’ Amity — before landing on the elder once again.

“Seo Taeil, he said his name was. Doesn’t seem like a local, like he’s from here. Us country folk, you can just tell, you know? If someone’s from the same side of the country as us. But he, my VIP customer, he’s a wonder. His exterior’s all hard like those Seoul brats, but when he talks, it’s like melted chocolate. Easily could fit in as one of us. You don’t really see anyone that handsome from around here, but he easily cracks jokes like he is!”

The shop owner’s ranting, like every other elder does, but Jungkook’s ears don’t process anything other than the name. Doesn’t seem like a local.

“Why don’t you take a break?” He had asked once as a child.

“For fun?”

“Yes.”

“I think work is fun.”

Jungkook had huffed in disappointment. “You know I don’t mean that.”

“Then?”

“I think it’s great you’re good at work, you’re really cool.” The chairman seems to perk up at that. “But what do you do for when you have a break from work?”

His father’s eyes gleam. “I’d suppose I’d go on a vacation. Just a couple of days getaway. But without the press, I think away from the cameras and media might help me rest better. I’d probably go under a false name or something, like Seo Taeil.”

Jungkook had laughed at that. “Seo Taeil? What a weird name. Who would believe that?”

He’d forgotten the expression on his face that day, and it all comes back to him at once. If he wasn’t wearing sleeves, he thinks he might be able to see the hairs rising on his arms.

“You look a bit pale, are you okay?” The elder furrows his eyebrows in alarm. “Do you need water?”

He blinks, before shaking his head with a pressed smile. “Ah, no. Seo Taeil just sounds… familiar.”

“Maybe a relative, then?”

“Ah, he shares the name with my father.”

The shop owner lights up. “Yes! He mentioned he had a son, actually. A Virgo son and a Pisces wife. I wish I had a picture of him, but I remember he was a Scorpio. Nice lad, really. He said he liked my shop despite coming all the way from Seoul for it.” He scratches behind his head. “He came around two weeks ago.”

Virgo son.

Pisces wife.

Two weeks ago, when he had taken that business trip.

He has to bite back a gasp as it all starts to line up, but he only plasters on a smile. “Oh, the old geezer’s going around telling all that, isn’t he. My mother’s a Pisces and I’m a Virgo, I think it might be my father then! Did he have a watch kind of like,” he rolls up his sleeve, “a silver version of this?”

The Rolex Cellini Moonphase he wears on his wrist is the only indication of the home he grew up in that he had taken with him, albeit he had brought it with him unconsciously. A similar version of the watch that was custom made was his first gift to his father, where Jungkook wore the brown leather band while his father the greyish silver. 

When the elder’s eyes light up in recognition, Jungkook wants nothing more than to freeze time right then and there before he has to face the implications. He gives a wry smile before rolling his sleeve down, giving a bashful “It’s a birthday gift I’d gotten for him,” before his eyes drop to the flowers once again.

Suddenly, they’re not as pretty or brilliant as he thought they were at first.

“What a small world,” he hears the shop owner go on as he wipes his hands on his apron, “what a small world. Well, it’s a small country, but the chances.” The shop owner chuckles at the otherwise small revelation for him despite the turmoil overturning inside of Jungkook right now.

“Ah, you go along then. I’ve kept you here too long.” The elder turns his back, oblivious to the chaos he’s created, “but your father is quite the romantic. Quite nice to see on the side, your parents must love each other very much.”

“He- You said he bought flowers here?”

“Correct.”

“For his beloved, you said, correct?”

“Yes?” The confusion in his tone is to be expected, but the bewilderment Jungkook tries to suppress behind his words is to be even more expected if the shop owner knew a detail he did.

A single detail that alarmed the rest of the information he had been told today.

Despite this, he only smiles, pointing at a nicely wrapped small bouquet, asking how much is this? instead of poking around for more information. He’s not sure if it was because he was overwhelmed, or because he’s afraid to find out more.

He thinks it’s a little bit of both.

When he leaves with the bouquet in hand, a very elated flower shop owner who successfully made a sale and a very conflicted traitor whose world got turned upside down in a matter of minutes exit the same shop. It’s hard to believe that the two such different reactions can result from the same conversation, but when Jungkook turns around to give a single, final bow to the elder before making his way back home, he found from this encounter that the feelings of homesickness that had come in waves over him earlier had completely disappeared.

He wonders what would’ve happened if he hadn’t decided to make a fateful pit stop to gaze at the flowers, and he makes a silent prayer to the stars.

What the prayer was even for, he doesn’t even know himself. All he knows is that there was never a home for him, not even the grey mansion, much less a father figure, especially one that he thought he knew. 

To the public, Chairman Jeon was the most powerful man in the country.

To his family, Jeon Jun-ki was a respectable family man, working hard to keep their elite place near the throne.

To the flower shop owner, Seo Taeil was a romantic husband who bought flowers for his beloved every month, despite their own son not having seen his mother in months himself.

And starting today, to his son, his father was a liar.

Because his mother, who apparently received these flowers, was, in fact, very much allergic to them. 

 

 

“Hyung?” is the first word to leave Jungkook’s mouth as he closes the door behind him, toeing his shoes off before shuffling his way to the kitchen and setting down the bags in his hands.

He thinks he can hear the water running distantly.

The living room was empty, all the shoes that had been in a mess earlier gone as well. He only assumes he had taken too much time, seeing the sky starting to turn into a light pink to inch towards the beginning of twilight. He starts to sift through the bags to take out the foods for the refrigerator, sliding them in one by one in the available space before feeling a tug on his shirt from behind.

He whips his head around to come face to face with Seokjin, who only hesitates before leaning in closer to scan the fridge. “Welcome back.”

Jungkook chuckles, craning his neck to the side just a bit more to press another kiss onto his cheek. “I hope I got the right things. The halmunis at the market helped a bit, but I’m not sure if I got everything else correctly.” He pauses momentarily before adding, “You smell nice.”

Seokjin shrugs with cheeks dusted red as the younger closes the doors. “As long as we won’t die from eating it, I don’t think we’re in a position to complain much.” He gives an apologetic smile. “Though, I’m not sure how you’ll adjust from the Jeon kitchen food to Hot Pockets. I hope it’ll fit your tastes well.”

Jungkook merely shrugs, before lighting up and turning to the counter, where he left the small bouquet. “I’m sure the food will be fine. You make me sound spoiled.” He shyly picks it up before extending it towards a surprised Seokjin, whose eyes are trying to analyze the bundle of white orchids in front of him. “For you.”

Seokjin looks like he’s about to say something, before he gives a pleasant smile and takes the flowers, almost cradling it in his arms. “Now how long have you been wanting to do that for?” He teases.

Jungkook only rolls his eyes as he leans his chin on Seokjin’s shoulder, who’s taking a moment to smell the flowers as they make their way towards the living room, all the chairs that had been occupied earlier still in their spots. Seokjin settles the orchids down on the coffee table, trying to make it home despite how temporary this home would be. 

They’d probably have to leave it behind when they leave.

He points towards the chairs as he takes a careful seat on the couch. “Did everyone leave already?”

“Taehyung and Namjoon left shortly after you did. Said they couldn’t stay long or else everyone at the mansion would grow suspicious. They used the excuse of coming out to try to ‘find you’ and maybe reach out to nearby family to leave today.” The couch dips next to him, as Seokjin reaches for the throw blanket draped on the back of the couch behind him. “They only came to check in on us.”

Jungkook nods, his fingers tracing shapes on the older’s thigh. “And the others?”

“Yoongi got bored quickly and started bugging Hoseok to go, who insisted he was going to sleep over with us to make sure we were safe. Jimin barely talked him out of it, saying that Hoseok would be a primary suspect for aiding us because of our friendship, and so on. We barely got him out of here by making up a whole scenario how he could risk getting caught, which with only a little digging, his relationship with Yoongi would come to the surface. I’d never seen him this stubborn before,” he chuckles quietly.

A teasing smile works its way up to Jungkook’s lips. “You wanted to stay alone with me that badly to kick everyone out?”

Seokjin brings his hand down to hit his chest with no real bite. “I was exhausted , wanted time to myself. I haven’t exactly had a good night’s sleep.”

Jungkook’s lips form an o shape as his eyes drop to where his severed hand should be, gingerly reaching across. He asks with his eyes if it’s okay, as he takes the arm in his hands when Seokjin nods. His fingers are barely grazing against the fabric of the hoodie sleeve, hesitant to touch any further.

“You don’t have to look at it like a ticking bomb,” Seokjin cuts in.

“Did you get the medical treatment you needed for it?”

He nods. “I have a doctor friend, we stopped by him on the way here. He gave me a basic treatment, enough to stop the bleeding and numb the pain. We got here, I took you inside and I drove back to the friend to get the rest of the treatment. There was a small surgery to cover some parts of it well, but since I didn’t bring the hand with me…” Seokjin trails off.

The words Jungkook says next are the words that have been on his mind all day. “I’m sorry.”

Seokjin gives a chuckle before shaking his head. “Why would you be?”

“You lost it because of me.”

“Is that what the flowers were for? I did think they were a bit too much sprinkles on top for our situation.”

“You don’t hate me?”

Seokjin raises an eyebrow. “If I hated you, would I be here as another traitor with you? Leaving everything behind?”

“I feel like I forced you to leave everything behind for me.” Cinderella leaving her glass slipper behind .

“I left on my own accord.” He scrunches up his nose. “And Mr. Han. His accord too.”

This gives Jungkook a pleasant surprise. “You met Mr. Han?”

“Right before going to you. Well, I wasn’t planning on going to you, but he ratted you out that you were going to try to leave.” A grin. “You should be careful who you spill your secrets too, what if he had ratted you out to another team member that wasn’t me?”

“Right man at the right place at the right time?” Jungkook offers, but the smile tugging at his lips is firm, just like his belief that Mr. Han wouldn’t have told anyone else unless it was Seokjin. 

He’d always liked that old man.

Right ,” Seokjin proceeds to roll his eyes, “And so was Kenny, correct?”

Jungkook’s eyes immediately darken. “And when I get my hands on him—”

“You won’t,” the Sagittarius sighs. “You don’t have to say such empty words to comfort me. He’s being praised right now for trying to stop us, while we’re getting thrown words we don’t deserve.”

“But it’s not right -”

The smile on Seokjin’s face is painful. “Not everyone’s lucky to always get what’s fair, I suppose.”

Jungkook doesn’t like that, he doesn’t want to take that as an answer, but there’s nothing else he can say to that. It was painfully realistic, so all he can do is carefully raise the covered arm up to press a soft kiss on the wound.

It’s the least he can do.

Jungkook vows to be the hand Seokjin’s missing. He doesn’t catch the fond smile on Seokjin’s face, the rare ones no one gets to see often, but he does hear Seokjin whisper, “You don’t think it’s disgusting?”

“What?”

“You don’t think this,” Seokjin’s voice is barely above a whisper as he raises his injury, “is disgusting?”

And Jungkook wishes he could tell him. Jungkook wishes he could tell him that Seokjin was the closest to a really nice dream he had once. He wishes he could tell him that he’s beautiful still, that the Venus de Milo statue was still praised for its complexity and beauty despite the missing arms. That Seokjin was his very own Aphrodite, his very own Venus, and the closest definition to love that he’s encountered his whole life.

Instead, he gives a smile before planting soft kisses all over the arm silently, as if it could give the message instead of him. As if every peck could contain the depth of love he carried for the man who lost a hand for him.

He thinks Seokjin understands, as a bashful smile tugs on his own lips.

 

 

“It’s funny, but I want things to stay like this.”

“Like what?”

The sky outside is dark. Seokjin and Jungkook are wrapped up in each other’s arms, Seokjin’s head resting on the younger’s chest. They’ve yet to eat, not having gotten up from their seats they had taken on the couch hours ago, only sharing soft whispers and moments of comfortable silence.

“You. Me. Here, like this, even with our world burning around us.”

Seokjin chuckles. “Nothing has the luxury of staying the same, Jungkook-ah. Look at you. Look at me.” He holds their hands up together, and the thought that one of Jungkook’s hands will always remain empty suddenly hits him with a pang of guilt and pain.

Seokjin doesn’t seem to mind.

“Neither of us are the same people we were mere months ago.”

But Jungkook doesn’t feel that different. He just feels free , albeit terrified, but he doesn’t feel all that different.

“Change comes in different ways,” Seokjin goes on slowly as his thumb traces circles on his skin, “and different paces. Sometimes, you’ve been changing your whole life and never noticed, so it doesn’t feel like much when you focus on it. Sometimes, you change more in a span of weeks or months than you ever have in your whole life. Change is subtle. Change is dynamic. Change used to be… dangerous .”

Jungkook’s eyes can’t help but trail to his other arm, where his huge hoodie sleeve is covering his severed wrist. His eyes linger on it, biting back the lump in his throat.

He might not have felt like he changed much himself, but Seokjin turned his whole life upside down for him. His hand was the most painstakingly obvious sign of change for them, and Seokjin hadn’t complained about it once. 

He hasn’t blamed it on him even once .

“Used to be?”

Seokjin lifts his severed wrist up to finally acknowledge, albeit the pink sleeve covering it probably made it look much nicer than it actually was. He wonders if his newfound affinity to oversized hoodies was intentional. 

“Yeah. Used to be . I used to be terrified of change because of the unknown it brought, but I think as I clash with change more and more everyday, I’m getting used to it. I don’t hate it, and there hasn’t been anything I regretted yet despite diving head first into the unknown.”

“How do you know?”

His eyes flicker from the wrist to meet Jungkook’s eyes, before crinkling into a soft smile. “Because I would do it all over again.”

Jungkook falls silent, nodding slowly as he leans in, burying his face into the crook of Seokjin’s neck, the unspoken words of for you lingering between them. He’s never had a chance to be this freely close to him before, and he finds over the past day that he enjoys being able to relax in Seokjin’s embraces freely without thinking about consequences. 

He was going to enjoy all of them while he could. 

It feels foreign, but it feels far from wrong.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles into his neck, barely loud enough for the older to hear those words again.

This time, Seokjin doesn’t say anything for a while, only letting out a sigh as he lets go of their intertwined hands to fully wrap his arms around his waist, holding him close. Jungkook thinks they should be anxiously freaking out about their next course of action, but surprisingly, it’s the most peaceful it’s been in a long time — the nation was out to find them as traitors, whitecoats tracking their every step to try to imprison them, and even the Chairman himself offering a reward for their heads, dead or alive. Their faces were plastered on almost every corner of South Korea, seen as the enemy to foolish sheep who followed behind without a word…  

And here they were, basking in each other’s embrace like they had all the time in the world.

“I’m sorry, too,” Seokjin whispers. Jungkook only nods, lifting his head away so that they’re face to face.

“What can we do now?”

The Sagittarius merely shrugs. “All we can do is make positive changes to the things that are still under our control, and let go of the things we can’t. That’s how you get used to change.”

Make positive changes to the things still under our control.

Let go of the things we can’t.

My mother is allergic to flowers, and my father buys flowers for his ‘beloved’ every month.

Is this in my control?

Jungkook’s hand comes up to cup his face, carefully as if he’d break if he touched him too hard. “Are you used to me?”

Seokjin’s eyes always smile before his lips do. “No, not at all.”

But he leans in first this time instead of Jungkook, bringing his arms up from his waist to drape on his shoulders to around his neck, not a moment of hesitance before their lips meet. 

He’s careful at first, hesitating only once he reaches his lips and moving slowly, carefully — until his hand boldly snakes up behind Jungkook’s head, pulling him in fiercely into the kiss as Jungkook parts his lips for him with a small sigh of pleasure. His arms pull Seokjin onto his lap to reduce the amount of space that could possibly have the audacity to dare to come between them now. Seokjin’s knees were on each side of Jungkook’s waist, pressing into the couch as Jungkook's arms around him hold him securely, Seokjin’s lips chasing him as he follows to lay on top of him.

But everything is wrong. Their first kiss shouldn’t be so full of fear. It shouldn’t be this desperate, as if trying to get another taste of each other in case they couldn’t . It shouldn’t be this tear-filled, as the wet drops on Jungkook’s cheeks proved to be a mixture of his and Seokjin’s tears, as if their first might be their last— it’s the life they’ve taken on now, but it’s all wrong .

But Seokjin is so right .

Jungkook is having trouble distinguishing between beginnings and endings, because his first kiss with Seokjin feels like both. 

The beginning of an ending.

Chapter Text

Seokjin can’t say he’s surprised when he receives her letter.

He should’ve expected it, really. His mother might have gone reclusive ever since her retirement in order to enjoy the rest of her life without having to face the consequences of the city she ruled under a strict reign of fear when it had been her prime time, but she wasn’t reclusive from her son’s life. He tries to imagine the shock that must’ve stunned her face, but unsurprisingly, the image turns up blank.

His mother was simply prepared for everything.

There wasn’t anything on the letter that could’ve indicated it was hers, yet once his eyes landed on the baby’s breath taped onto the front of the envelope, he knew it was from her. Strangely, there had been no alarm on his part either.

It was like he knew she would reach out somehow, too.

When they received word from Namjoon that they led the search away from them, they decided to settle in the house they had called home for now. They’ve got a couple of weeks at most, Namjoon had said, but Jungkook had only responded with a “That’s enough time”. Seokjin didn’t know what had plagued his mind ever since the day they had arrived, but he could always see Jungkook’s gears turning restlessly in his head, especially the last couple of days, and he trusts him.

He won’t ask him what’s on his mind yet. 

Jungkook wouldn’t keep it from him for too long anyways, wanting to act as soon as he figures out all the thinking required for what it was that he wanted to do. Seokjin couldn’t stop Jungkook’s thinking, no matter how excessive he thought it was, but he could give him time.

It was a Virgo trait he’d gotten used to, and frankly, even admired as he got to know about Jungkook and Namjoon more.

His crooked fingers hold the letter up to his mouth as he tears the envelope open, albeit a little messily, as he feels arms come around from behind him, clutching on as the warmth from Jungkook’s body clings to his back. With a smile, he attempts to shake off the younger with little success.

“Hyung,” Jungkook croaks, burying his face into the crook of his neck before Seokjin chuckles and almost flinches away, sensitively ticklish in that area. Jungkook doesn’t seem to pay it any attention despite knowing.

“Hey,” Seokjin says softly before his hand reaches up to pat the side of his face.

“We get mail?” The tinge of suspicion in Jungkook’s voice is hard to miss.

“It’s from my mother.” Seokjin’s voice is distant. “She wants to meet.”

Jungkook raises an eyebrow. “Is that safe? Wasn’t she super involved with the RRT? I paid attention to my school lessons, but the RRT portion of it was always watered down.”

He understands what Jungkook means— if he recalls correctly, the familiar white textbook the history of the RRT was contained in only highlighted much of their accomplishments, never the cruelty behind it. It’s the first time he comes to admit to himself how surprised he was when he had actually come to the training— how brutal it was. How demoralizing it was for those encaged. How indoctrinated he was.

He’s not much different as a traitor now from the person he had been just recently, creating history within his position as the ruthless team leader he had been, but he thinks being able to admit those suppressed feelings was a good start to try and break away from the person he once was. Old habits die hard, after all. His insecurities came to haunt him in his dreams last night, and he knew it would be just one of many fitful nights. He would spend a good portion of his life from here then trying to unlearn being Kim Seokjin, RRT Team Leader. He knew many doubts and anxieties were headed his way, but as Jungkook lets complaints fall from his lips about the cold and tugs Seokjin inside, gripping his hand tightly as if he would fade away if he didn’t— he thinks he’ll be alright.

As Jungkook goes hunting for the heater, Seokjin quietly tugs out the neatly folded piece of paper in the envelope to unfold and reveal familiar dainty writing. The way the words started with printed writing and switched to an elongated cursive halfway through was so obviously his mother’s.

A pain shoots through his heart. He doesn’t acknowledge till this moment that he had terribly missed his mother, as he eagerly brings the paper closer to his failing eyes, and how terribly alone he had been the past year, dealing with problems he had never dealt with before.

 

I hope this finds you well.

Well, I know it’ll find you well. I’m the one who sent it, after all, and I haven’t made a single mistake starting from when I made you, my golden child. And you still have proven yourself over and over again that you aren’t one, that you’d never be one. You’ve always had a fixation on never making mistakes, but also for never feeling like one yourself.

I think that’s my fault. I’ve always been so hyper fixated on imperfections, and I feel like it rubbed off on you in the worst way it could. I hope you know that even in this instant, I don’t think you made a mistake, and I also think it’s okay to make a few mistakes.

It must’ve been hard for you the past few months. It’s been long since your last visit, but I can draw up the image of what might’ve happened in my head. Have I ever been wrong? I had a feeling that when you didn’t come to visit me this summer, that something must’ve happened you stick by schedules and plans, even visiting me once a month. You did whatever you could to stick to it, which is what made you such an efficient person. If something broke your cycle, I had to assume that something either went terribly wrong or terribly right.

Which of the two I assumed has happened, I won’t share.

The house is empty, but full of eyes of my past. My past haunts me in the wake of the night, the shine of the day, the whispers of dawn. Sometimes I feel that I’m lonely without my prized son, but now I know that I’m not alone, that there’s always someone beside me. It almost feels like this house, this neighborhood has its own soul I hope you can stop by and take a rest here with us whenever things clear up.

Lately, I’ve been having a slow infatuation with the chocolate bakery just in the next town over. They make their own chocolate from the morning, only opening from 13:00 to 18:00 everyday to let the world enter into its paradise. I hope one day you can join me for it.

You’ve set the world on fire, it’s your duty to watch it rise from the ashes too.

 

He can hear the echoes of Miss Kim Seonghwa’s voice in the back of his mind, as he does what the letter entails at the end and takes his steps back outside, snatching Jungkook’s lighter along the way. He sets the paper down on the ground before pressing down on the spark wheel, taking a couple tries and an aching thumb before a small flame makes its dim but stark appearance, lowering his hand before letting the flames flicker and lick the edges of the paper. The flames grow, the way the uncertainty flickers and grows in the pit of his stomach, watching the light lavender paper turn into black ashes.

The fire goes out quickly, feeding on the paper until there is no more left, but Seokjin lingers there just a moment longer, staring. He merely did what his mother had instructed him to do, but he can’t help but feel just a bit hollow. He could’ve easily kept her written words as a sliver of solace to feel in such uncertain times, but he knew he had to do what she told him to do— it was part of why she was always so prepared. To what extent she had planned ahead, even he did not know. Even the message she wants to actually convey in the letter was a way of writing she had formed with him in his younger years, “ just in case ” she had said at the time. “ Just in case one day there’s a day we have to use this to talk .”

His mother was, in all ways, an insane genius. Someone he wanted to model, but seeing how many surprise turns of events he has had to go through the past few months alone, even the mere thought about previously prepared for even that somehow makes his head hurt. Her inability to make mistakes probably came at a high price of anxiety and headaches.

The cold finally sends shivers through his body, dragging him down from his thoughts as he wraps the hoodie he has on closer around himself before half sprinting back inside. He comes face to face with Jungkook, who’s pulling on a black padded jacket and mask, brushing his growing hair back before pulling on his hood as a final touch. Head to toe, he was covered in black, and it contrasted almost ridiculously to Seokjin’s pink hoodie that was a few sizes too large for him and light blue jeans. Seokjin almost laughs at the contrast before reaching out to wrap his arms around Jungkook, burying his face into his padded chest before strong arms come to wrap around him too, despite the surprised noise Jungkook makes.

“Where are you going?”

“Going to meet with Namjoon hyung really quick, I have some things to discuss with him.” Some things . Seokjin doesn’t vocalize how he avoids the direct topic. “His lunch break is in around an hour, and I told him this time I’d go to him. Not too close, though,” Jungkook adds quickly upon seeing the worried crease of Seokjin’s eyebrows, “but somewhere in the middle.”

“Is Taehyung coming too?”

“No, just Namjoon. Taehyung’s being kept a close eye on right now, naturally, as a suspected accomplice. He’s honing his acting skills, Namjoon hyung says, in the art of playing dumb.”

“Something tells me Taehyung would be great at acting.”

“Oh,” Jungkook smiles, “Namjoon hyung says he’s great. It could also be his blinded filter of thinking everything Taehyung does is great, but he says Taehyung is the reason the search has gone haywire. His only job was to play dumb, but he’s been feeding them false information as well.” A raise of an eyebrow. “Maybe all his years of watching those dramas and movies are paying off well. I think it’s something he could actually get into, if these are the results.”

“When will you be back?”

“Later tonight. I have a few things to do, few people to meet.” Jungkook was avoiding talking about it directly again, but Seokjin reminds himself that he would tell him soon. Jungkook would tell him when he was ready. “Will you be back before me?”

“Probably,” Seokjin says as he unwraps himself from Jungkook’s embrace to reach for the white padded jacket clinging off the back of the chair beside him. Jungkook immediately holds the jacket up for him as Seokjin slides his arms in, pink dusting his cheeks as Jungkook helps zip up the jacket.

Jungkook smiles as he pulls Seokjin’s hood over for him, holding out his hand. “Then I’ll walk with you to the bus station. You’re going to your mother’s, right?” A frown tugs down at his lips as Seokjin takes his outstretched hand. “Wait, should I reschedule with Namjoon? Go with you?” He makes the motion to fix his hair. “I haven’t had a haircut in almost three months, it’d be a bit messy to meet her like this no? I’m not exactly looking the sharpest right now.”

And Seokjin does imagine it, a scene in the near future where Jungkook would meet his mother. How Jungkook would tense up in his elegantly graceful mother’s strict presence, averting his eyes to the ground every time her strict, analyzing gaze trailed his every movement as if putting together a mental report of Jeon Jungkook. How he’d hand her a bouquet of flowers with trembling hands, trying to accentuate his sharpest features at every conscious moment to measure up to her expectations for her seemingly perfect son. He can imagine it clearly, the endearing smile Seokjin wouldn’t be able to keep off his face, watching how hard Jungkook was trying to win her favor, without knowing that the mere fact that she even gave him a chance to be in her presence was already considered her favor won. Without knowing that he would be the first person he had ever even talked about to his mother, much less been introduced. Without knowing that she would probably like to just give him a hard time in their first meeting just because she was the same as Seokjin was— she liked watching for reactions.

He can imagine it clearly, and even the image conjuring up in his mind was enough to tug a smile at his lips, but he shakes his head, letting go of Jungkook’s hand and slipping his hand around his arm instead. He could imagine it clearly, but today was not the day. Maybe one day, but not today. “I have a lot to talk with her about today. Maybe when she’s caught up with her son’s life, one day. When I’m not throwing a bunch of information at her at once.”

His eyes trail to Jungkook’s bangs starting to flop over his eyes, and in this moment he wishes he had two hands— one to hold his hand while the other pats his head. The sad realization that one of Jungkook’s hands will always be empty aches at his heart strings. “And I, for one, think long hair suits you. You should try growing it out.”

Jungkook brightens up, making the motion to dramatically straighten his posture up. “You could tell me to jump off a cliff and I would.”

“You’re ridiculous .”

“You made me that way.”

They share a sickeningly sweet and domestic chuckle as they push their way out of the door, Seokjin letting go of Jungkook’s arm momentarily to pull up his own mask before quickly rejoining, shivering against the cold. It had started to snow within the last week, and the crunch of their footsteps against the snowy sidewalk mixed in with their occasional giggles makes him believe for just a moment that they were just a couple taking a peaceful stroll— not on the run from anyone, not having to hide their love.

Of course, their reality always haunted the back of his mind, pulling him back in whenever he got too lost within his own fantasies. Jeon Jungkook couldn’t change him fundamentally as a person, after all. Seokjin was always a slave to reason.

He used to admire that about himself, but in the moment, he can’t help but wish he could allow himself to drift within his dreams sometimes. Let his head float above the clouds, the way Hoseok always did. He knows as a Virgo, Jungkook isn’t any different from him, and that aches his heart more.

Jungkook points out a yorkshire terrier wagging his tail and barking at them furiously from behind a fence gate on the other side of the sidewalk, which Seokjin’s eyes crinkle in joy for, holding onto Jungkook more closely. He wishes at this moment that time stopped.

He wishes for the first time, in this moment, that the winter they belong to stays.


 

Miss Kim Seonghwa was prepared for everything.

She was a strict woman, one hardened from the copious amounts of tragedy she had seen in her younger years. This hardened shield and firm ground in reason was how she was able to imprison her cheating husband without so much of a blink of an eye and covered it up with the lie to the public that he had died on duty. Because she knew she had the duty to protect her son and her career. No one was to get in the way of the meticulously carved path she had created for herself, not even her first and last love. Not even her son.

They had made up their own code when Seokjin was younger. Seokjin had felt betrayed at the time, thinking his mother was preparing for a time when he would mess up, but now that Seokjin’s waiting in the seat of the chocolate bakery with a cold cup of coffee sitting before him, he understands why she had done so. Why she had conditioned him so. It wasn’t that she didn’t have any faith in him, assuming that he would mess up one day. It’s because she was more aware than anyone else in the world that things didn’t necessarily go the way they were planned.

She was planned even for outliers. That’s what made her such an efficient Vice Commander Chief. 

Miss Seonghwa Kim was prepared for everything.

Seokjin knows she was proud of this the moment his eyes spot her small figure walking through the doors of the bakery. Having gotten there just an hour earlier than she did, Seokjin had seen many people enter and leave those glass doors, but none of them had quite the presence she did.

His mother had a presence one couldn’t ignore. A Leo to the very core, heads turned when she walked by. Even at her graceful age, she was fully capable of catching anyone’s attention, whether it was unwanted or not. Even at this very moment, the bells on the door twinkle and although it’s the same sound everyone else has made, when eyes are on her, everyone holds their breath for just a moment. It’s like the world stops.

She was quite beautiful. Seokjin thinks it’s quite unfortunate he could never live up to her beauty, despite coming from the same DNA.

Her face doesn’t light up once her eyes scan the crowded bakery and land on her son she hasn’t seen in half a year, but Seokjin doesn’t feel hurt by it. That was her, after all. He wouldn’t have expected anything else.

Taking a look around, he knows at a glance why she had chosen such a place for their rendezvous. The glass walls were tinted from the outside with private booths inside, which was quite unexpected. With a small time frame for opening hours, he finds it was always bustling with customers swarming to take a whiff of the sweet chocolate aroma drifting from the back kitchen, making it ideal for conversation without any unintentional eavesdropping. 

Sliding into the booth seat across the table from her son, his mother quietly sets her bag aside before pulling down her own mask, sniffing. “The fine dust today is even worse than ever.” Her eyes barely acknowledge him. “You remembered.”

It wasn’t a question, it wasn’t a statement. It was more of an affirmation.

Seokjin only offers a half smile, despite still having his own mask on. “Of course I do. ‘The house is empty, but full of eyes of my past. My past haunts me in the wake of the night, the shine of the day, the whispers of dawn.’ You were practically screaming that your house was bugged by the whitecoats.”

A ghost of a smile tugs at her lips. “And?”

He feels like he’s stepped into his childhood again, when his mother would give him pop quizzes randomly with expectant eyes. “ ‘Lately, I’ve been having a slow infatuation with the chocolate bakery just in the next town over’ ,” he recites proudly, as if he were a child again, “You don’t even like chocolate.”

His mother gives a hum in response. “Partially incorrect. I didn’t like them. I’ve been taking a liking to them lately. When you reach my age, you start to need the sweets for more energy.” She leans forward on the table. “And?”

‘Only opening from 13:00 to 18:00 everyday’ . For any meetings,” he recites from memory something his mother had taught him at some point in his childhood, “We meet at the halfway point of the given time frame.” Seokjin smiles. “Honestly, how are you not even a minute earlier or late? It was exactly 15:30 when you came in through those doors.”

She raises an eyebrow. “How are you still surprised after all these years? Tell me, have I ever been late?”

“Everyone has to have been late at least once in their lives.”

“Not I,” she declares proudly, the twinkle in her eye only growing more prominent. “I even have my death date and time planned out. I don’t intend on missing it.”

“That’s… morbid , mother.”

She only gives a chuckle. “And the last one?”

Seokjin gives a huff, as if he were forced into reciting so, but he can’t help but admit he was enjoying their little bicker. Every adult, it seemed, turned into a child in the presence of their parents. He enjoyed this childish side he gets to let out in front of her. “ ‘You’ve set the world on fire, it’s your duty to watch it rise from the ashes too’ . You told me to burn the letter.”

“Partially. I meant it literally, too.”

Before Seokjin can question what she means, her smug smile is gone and replaced with a soft one, and the words die on his lips— she has one on that he hasn’t had many chances to see himself. One she had on when she had told him all those years ago to keep Hoseok in his life. One she had on when she had finally retired all those years ago.

It was always accompanied by a touch of sadness. “Is Seokie doing alright?”

“He’s doing great.” One day, he decides, one day, when the stars no longer dictated what they said or did, he would tell her everything and how he was really doing. Maybe one day he’d be able to grumble and complain to her that he didn’t like Yoongi, for whatever reason. Maybe it was because he was fire and Yoongi was water, maybe it was because he didn’t think Yoongi cherished Hoseok with tremendous care the way dandelions should be cherished, maybe it was because he didn’t like the idea of Hoseok keeping Yoongi a secret from even him. One day, he’d be able to grumble and complain about it.

Today was not the day. He doesn’t know what it was about today that made some things make sense and others to not, but he had a good idea of what today wasn’t . He gets the feeling that she didn’t ask out of curiosity, but out of courtesy.

And one day, she would ask out of curiosity. Today was not that day.

Her eyes flicker to the sleeve Seokjin’s arm is hidden under, although Seokjin is well aware his sleeve isn’t what her gaze is fixed on.

“Does it still hurt?”

Does it still hurt?

It was a question Jungkook asked him frequently with guilt and grief in his eyes as his eyes flickered to his wrist the same way his mother’s did— Jungkook had eyes that couldn’t lie, after all. And every time, Seokjin said no.  

But he lets himself nod slowly.

“A bit. Every once in a while, it’ll shoot a pain up my arm that reminds me it’s still a healing wound. Every once in a while, I’ll reach for his hand only to realize one will always remain empty. Every once in a while, I’ll see him trip over himself to help me carry something, or overextend himself to try to act as my missing hand instead. It hurts every now and then when I see and feel that.”

She slowly nods, her gaze shameless. “Do you regret it?”

“... No, I don’t.” He would do it all over again.

She nods approvingly. “Good. A mistake only becomes a mistake when you regret it. You didn’t make a mistake.”

A smile tugs at his lips. “I know. It was the first decision in a really long time that I didn’t regret.”

“And Kookie?” Seokjin raises an eyebrow. “So he is still with you? Safe?”

Kookie?

“Jungko—?” He questions before a dainty hand dashes out to press against his lips, muffling his name before it could reach any outside ears. His eyes light up in recognition as he nods, gesturing for her to detach her hand as she sighs.

“Yes, him . Is he safe?”

“More or less… did you know him?”

“Of course I did. I practically watched him grow up.” She makes a face, crinkled deliberately to show her blatant distaste, but even pettiness looked good on her. “I was more of a parent to him than the darned old Scorpio was. What a poor excuse of a father.”

Seokjin blinks. “He never mentioned knowing you personally, always referencing you from the textbook instead.”

Her soft smile returns once more, although this time she doesn’t bother to hide the sadness. “Of course he wouldn’t remember. My job was to make him forget, after all.”

“... I’m confused.”

“As you should be. In fact,” she reaches in her bag for a familiar, worn out manila envelope, “that’s what I came here to talk to you about.”

He makes the motion to clutch his hand over his chest, where his heart should be. “And here I thought we were going for some mother-son bonding.”

She gives a non-threatening glare before sliding the thick envelope towards him. “I left the binder at home, it’d be too obvious if it was missing. I pulled out the most important data and stuffed it into here the first month you didn’t come to see me.”

“Let me guess, you hid the envelope under your mattress just in case?”

His mother raises an eyebrow, crossing her arms. “Yes, and?”

He can’t help but stifle a laugh. “You’re incredible, mother.”

“I know.” She pushes the envelope one more time. “Don’t look at the documents and reports inside until you get back. Whether you choose to share with him too, that’s up to you.”

“What’s in here?” He reaches for the envelope.

“Case 00901. The erased experiment trial.”

Seokjin freezes. He had only heard rumors about the missing experimental file, having thought along with the rest of the public and squad members that it had just been a simple urban legend. One to keep interest in the RRT stirred by the public.

“I was part of that experiment. I was the head, actually.” Her voice grows soft, so soft that he almost has to lean in to catch her words. 

“Who was the subject?” He asks hesitantly, but something tells him he already knows the answer.

His mother looks at him wearing an expression he can’t read. “Kookie.”

The envelope crinkles in his hand from the slight force. “How old was he?” He barely manages out.

“Eleven.”

Seokjin draws in a breath. “ Eleven —”

“I say I’ve never made a mistake in my life, but this is one.” Silence. “This was definitely one. Perhaps it was my blind obsession with flaws that led me to make one.”

Explain .”

“I knew he would make trouble with this kind of problem again one day. It isn’t his first time after all.” She gathers her hands on the table, her usually glowing presence suddenly timid— vulnerable. Ashamed.

It’s the first he’s seen her like this.

“Kookie… he’s always been so full of love, you know? Despite living in that darned cold mansion. Full of love, he always had enough to give to everyone.” Her eyes flicker. “You know that’s never a good sign, not in this system.”

“Sometimes he gave more love to certain people. Certain signs, the ones we thought he shouldn’t be giving any of it too. It wasn’t hard to see the appeal of his newfound interest, though. When he started bringing his Libra friend from school over to the mansion everyday, negatively assuming words were already starting to spread around the manor. Kookie looked at him with such love, such amazement, such respect— it wasn’t hard to see how englamored he was by his new friend.”

“Of course, that was the problem.” 

Her gaze stays fixed on her gathered hands. “He has eyes that can’t lie— I don’t know if that makes sense. It’s not necessarily wearing your heart on your sleeve, but rather, one look into his eyes was enough to know his truth. The chairman felt threatened by his love for his friend.”

“So we started on a new experimentation. Nothing too complicated, he had said— just a block in his memory.” 

“His Libra friend was transferred to a new school— Busan Arts for the Young . It was quite a shame, too. He was such a lovely boy. Always respectful, always aware of his place. Never overstepping any boundaries. The very definition of a Libra, really. The day Kookie went to school only to find out his friend was gone, he threw a fit right there in the classroom. Classmates were afraid of him. He has honest eyes, and he came back to the mansion that day with smoldering rage behind his irises.”

“He demanded knowing where he went,” she continues quietly, “demanding that he went to the same school as him. I think he was too young to know love as it was at the time, but nevertheless, the chairman was ruthless. Darned old Scorpio increased his demands to speed up our experiment. I spent weeks inside the white building, working nonstop to help create it. I thought it was right at the time, after all. Even if he were at an age where he didn’t know himself that he had feelings that threatened the system, we thought it was correct to stop it before he did. Before he grew too attached and got hurt, knowing he wouldn’t be able to…” She trails off.

“Every night, when he went to sleep, our experiments began. We had no idea whether it would work or not, it was an exciting new discovery for us as well. There’s a hard drive in there,” she points at the envelope in Seokjin’s hand, “with video logs of the whole experiment. Though, I’m not sure if you’d want to watch that.”

Seokjin bites down on the inside of his cheek. “Why are you giving me this?”

She ignores his question. “Nothing happened for around the first month of trials. He still asked for his friend, asking around the school and demanding anyone who knew any intel to give it to him. Demanding us if we did anything to him. Then slowly, after around the fifth week, he grew calmer.”

“We couldn’t tell at first if he had just given up or if the experiments were working. We didn’t ask, in case that would interfere with the trials and cause a trigger to remember him again. With hopes and blind faith, we continued to monitor the trials with the head gear, until five months had passed.”

“He hadn’t asked about anything at that point.” His mother suddenly looks frail, guilty, exposed. “So gingerly, I asked him when he woke up the next morning, Do you remember? He asked what I was asking. Do you remember Jiminnie? I asked, half in fear that he would say yes . I hadn’t realized it terrified me more when his eyes glazed over in confusion before furrowing his eyebrows, Is that your son’s name?

Park Jimin.

She pauses, as if waiting for questions, but Seokjin’s lips are sealed shut. She continues, “His eyes are honest. We knew he had no idea what we were talking about, but ever since my question, we had recorded that Jiminnie showed up in his recorded brain activity every once in a while during monitoring. Wondering what I had meant. Wondering if it was someone he was supposed to know. So we altered the experiment so that he would have no memory regarding me, much less my question. So that he would have no memory about the experiments either. To erase any chance of him remembering again.”

Silence. Seokjin thinks maybe she’s finished her story, but as soon as he’s about to open his mouth, a sad smile tugs at her lips. “I thought it was the right thing to do. A Virgo and a Libra couldn’t possibly be together, after all. I thought we were protecting him. He wouldn’t have to become subject to the RRT if his memories of him disappeared, he wouldn’t have to go through the heartbreak of wanting to be with someone he couldn’t have. I thought…” As if her voice wasn’t quiet enough already, it drops even lower. 

“I thought he would be happier that way. You can’t have your heart broken if you don’t know that person, after all. He was too young , I convinced myself. He was too young to distinguish it yet. When he was older, happier with someone compatible later on, this ordeal wouldn’t seem as dramatic as it seemed now.

“I never knew it would slip up again so soon, this time with my own son.” A dark chuckle. “But perhaps it had to be you.”

“... Why?”

“Maybe it was a chance for redemption for me.” She taps the envelope. “I tried to resign the week after the trials were over, to be away from it all. It haunted me day and night, knowing that we had fundamentally messed with a child’s brain. The chairman thought it was too risky that I walked away from it all with all the information, so I suggested they used the headgear on me. To erase my memories, the information I had, so I could be freed from it all. It was a one time trial, after all.”

“... We thought it’d be a one time trial, at least. The chairman, it seemed, was elated by the results we had gotten, and wanted to implement it. Tell me, Jin-ah.” His childhood nickname slips out easily, but it feels foreign. “Do you think the burning stamp of the stars is all there is to a second offense?”

His blood runs cold, the hair on his arms rising. “It’s… not?”

She’s shaking her head even before he finishes. “That’s only partially it. The reason there aren’t any third offenders,” she scoffs, “isn’t because of the bullshit flash of regret the darned man’s been teaching. It’s because they don’t remember . None of them do. That’s why they never come back. They get the stamp and they won’t remember how they got it.”

The winter day is suddenly even colder than he had realized before, setting the envelope down as he shivers, wrapping himself up in his hoodie as if that would make the cold, mortified tinge in the pit of his stomach warm up. 

“... It’s exactly what he wanted, you know? He’s smart. The burning stamp of the stars wasn’t what led to the decrease of rebellions,” she shakes her head, “but not remembering sure does wonders. Knowing this would happen, he couldn’t have me resign, he couldn’t have me erase everything relating to it. So he made me a deal.”

“... What deal?”

She’s silent for a moment, hesitance clear in her eyes. “... To trade you.”

“Me?”

She nods. “I could resign the moment you became a part of the RRT . A replacement, in a way. I would work for him, directly under him without complaint until you were finally chosen. The day you made it to the squad,” his mother quietly wipes at her eyes, “I would be free. They would leave me alone from then on. Maybe… maybe that was why I was strict about you from a young age.”

He’s not furious the way he should be. “Deal or no deal, I wanted to be like you. To embody the person you were. I wanted to be one of them either way.”

“And I should’ve discouraged you. Knowing the things I had seen, I should’ve pushed you away from it all. Alas, I’m a little selfish. My freedom was more important at the time… but now I can reverse that mistake, even just a little bit.”

“So you’re giving me this for me?”

“I’m giving you this for you and him,” she corrects. “I made two mistakes— one, taking part in that experiment and letting it succeed. Two, letting you take my place. It’s not often the opportunity to erase two mistakes at once comes by.”

“Do you think the mistakes can be erased?”

She shrugs in a casual manner that he hasn’t seen from her elegant gestures before. “Who knows?”

And it relieves Seokjin, his mother’s admittance that she doesn’t know something. It relieves Seokjin, clutching information in his hand that could be used against the chairman. It relieves Seokjin, finally shedding his mother of the glorified filter of her that he had perceived her in all these years.

It pains Seokjin, as someone who was close to both Jungkook and Jimin. It pains Seokjin, knowing the information in his hand could potentially protect them, but at the cost of ripping Jungkook’s family apart. It pains Seokjin, knowing that he was just a pawn in her carved path— He’s in pain. He hasn’t had his heart break for others often, but it hurts. He feels torn, glaring at the manila envelope in his hand before looking up at his mother.

“Who was the Libra?”

He already knows the answer.


 

The Libra flops onto Taehyung’s bed, groaning. “I can’t believe you’re having me stay here for the weekend with you.”

The Capricorn pops his head out from his bathroom, a red hairband sitting starkly against his fading blueish green hair as he raises an eyebrow, water dripping down the sides of his face as he dabs at it with a yellow towel in hand. 

You suggested having yourself over when I texted you that Namjoon would be away for the weekend!”

“You’re so needy!” Jimin cries, heart over hand. “You couldn’t be apart one day from your best friend?”

Taehyung throws his hand up in the air, pulling the red hairband off in the process. “ Who made you my best friend?

Fine , I’ll watch those movies with you,” Jimin gives in to a request that was never made, “But I require cuddles.”

A roll of his eyes is all Jimin gets from the Capricorn as he grins, making his way over to the door next to the bathroom. “You could’ve just said you were getting bored and lonely, I told you you were welcome over anytime. Did you bring your own clothes or did you want to borrow some?”

“I brought a change of clothes, but I might need to borrow some tomorrow.” Jimin crosses his arms. “And not the bear printed pajamas you have, I refuse to be seen in those. I liked the ones with the yellow chicks on them, though.”

“You won’t be seen anywhere,” Taehyung rolls his eyes once more, “we’re not allowed even outside the mansion right now. It’s like quarantine.”

Jimin pouts. “Not even me?”

Especially you. The Chairman’s had a close eye on you, me, and Yoongi hyung especially . Hoseok hyung complained to me over the phone yesterday that he hasn’t seen Yoongi hyung in three days, and that it was my fiance’s fault.”

“It kind of is .”

Taehyung huffs, crossing his arms after he climbs into the other half of his bed. “It’s also your boss’s fault.”

“Hey,” Jimin raises his hands, “If you had gone to the right building from the beginning, maybe you would’ve fallen for Jungkook instead and none of this would’ve happened.” Although , he thinks, with how flawed Zodiakos was, it was pretty inevitable, whether it was Seokjin hyung or Jungkookie.

Taehyung sighs, shaking his head. “I firmly believe that I would’ve been in love with Namjoon hyung in any alternate universe.”

Jimin sticks out his tongue. “What, like soulmates?”

“You don’t believe in soulmates?”

“No,” he declares proudly, “there are seven billion people around the world, who’s to say only one of them is for you?”

“Spoken like a true Libra,” Taehyung shakes his head. “You haven’t a single romantic bone in you despite being one of the most romantic signs, do you?”

“I’m realistic .”

“And I’m in love . Leave me alone.” He turns towards the lamp, dimming it slightly before reaching for the remote and turning towards the enormous screen across the room. “What do you want to watch?”

“You’re asking the Libra? I’ve never made a single decision my whole life.” Decisions were always made for him, he reflects. When he split ways with Yoongi. When he coincidentally started dancing at the new school he had transferred to.

When he had split ways with Jungkook, all those years ago.

He shakes the thought away.

“Weren’t you the one telling me that the stars weren’t all there was to a person?”

“Selective comprehension,” Jimin scolds, “I meant about compatibility and bonds with other people. I am a Libra inside out . I am the most Libra person you’d ever meet.”

“Touche.” The drama playing is barely paid attention to. “Can I ask something?”

“Shoot.”

“Was Yoongi hyung your last?”

Jimin raises an eyebrow. “Last, most recent love? Or, like, last sex—”

Love! Love. You know I wasn’t asking about your last…” Taehyung’s cheeks are beet red, prompting Jimin to chuckle.

“I suppose so. I’ve had flings here and there after him, but they weren’t the same.” Jimin leans against the bed frame next to the Capricorn, hugging his knees. “Not that I’m not over him, of course. We’ve both moved on for the better, but I suppose I haven’t had the same passion and thrill yet with anyone else. Not that I’m actively looking, either.”

“You’re not?”

Jimin shrugs. “I think love has many different forms, you know? Platonic love has its own special feeling the way romantic love does. I’m satisfied getting either or. I’m still getting loved, whether it’s romantic or not.” He grins. “And I thrive off of it.”

Taehyung nods slowly. “I like that. I don’t understand it, but I like the way you think.” He taps his chin with a grin. “Guaranteed that if I hadn’t met Namjoon, I would’ve fallen for you before even thinking of falling for Jungkook.”

Jimin bursts out laughing at that. “The order would’ve been Namjoon, then me, then Jungkook? And they were planning to marry you off to him despite that?”

“He’s like you said— platonic love. I love him,” he declares, albeit it doesn’t come off seriously in his bear-printed pajamas, “but as a friend. Maybe as a brother?”

“Brother-zoning your own fiance? Wait till the Chairman finds out about that.”

“And give him one more reason to keep an eye on me?” Taehyung whines. “I’m trying to extend my stay at this mansion so I can continue watching my dramas and movies on that big screen, not trying to get kicked out .”

“I heard about that.” Jimin’s voice drops to a whisper. “Aren’t you pretending to still be reaching out to Jungkook so that you can feed them false information or something? I mean, it’s been a week already and somehow they still haven’t been caught with the whole nation on lookout for them? They aren’t exactly hard people to find, either.”

Taehyung’s eyes light up. “I’m a great actor, you see.”

“Have you ever considered pursuing it?”

He blinks, furrowing his eyebrows. “You mean, actually become one of those cliched drama main characters?”

“Why not? You have the looks for it, you have the acting skills clearly if you’re messing around like this with this search.” Jimin leans forward with a sparkle in his eyes. “Am I going to be the next rising acting star’s best friend?”

Taehyung laughs bashfully. “Get out of here with that next rising star crap.”

“But I think you could! Your acting clearly works.”

His eyes widened. “You think so?”

“Where were you planning to use your visuals then?”

“For most of my life? Farming. For the past almost year? Jeon Jungkook’s trophy husband.”

Jimin’s already shaking his head, tsk tsk tsks falling from his lips. “A waste, really. A waste of your face and potential. I think you could seriously consider going into stardom.”

Taehyung’s grin dies into a half smile. “If we aren’t arrested by then, maybe I can consider it.”

Jimin cups his hand over his heart again, forcefully more dramatic. “They can’t arrest you, you’re too sexy. Just seduce your way out of jail.”

“Jimin!” The room fills with their giggles.

“Can I ask another question shamelessly?”

“Shoot.”

“Do you ever… regret it?”

“Hm?”

“Letting the Chairman force you into… you know. Splitting ways.”

Jimin purses his lips. “Just a bit. I think in the beginning, I was a bit resentful. Blaming myself for agreeing so readily, blaming Yoongi hyung for not fighting harder for us, blaming the chairman for forcing us into such a predicament. Blaming us for getting caught. But I know Yoongi hyung wasn’t entirely happy in our relationship.”

Taehyung frowns. “How? I thought you guys were star crossed lovers.”

Jimin chuckles. “That’s more Seokjin hyung and Jungkook. Me and him, we were like… like trying to indulge in the remains of something good before the expiration date. Neither of us have a dreamy romantic side, really. We always knew there was an end to us.” He straightens up, leaning his head against the frame. “We were prepared for the end even before the beginning. There was always a sense of hesitance, a sense of sadness from him.”

“That didn’t hurt you?”

“Not really. I knew where that was all coming from, because I was the same way. Like an elongated one night stand. Best in the moment, knowing when the sun rose we couldn’t see each other again.” Jimin taps his chin. “Look how happy he is now. I only got to see him with Hoseokie hyung just a couple of times, but I see how he makes Yoongi hyung dream. Lets him hope for a future, however unrealistic it is. I think splitting ways with me was needed in order for him to arrive at such a place. Love should make you stupid, not depressed, I think.”

He’s met with silence, and he turns his head curiously towards Taehyung, who’s only staring at him intently. Analyzing. Reading.

It was the only trait Jimin didn’t like about earth signs, always ever so analytical, but he flashes a soft smile at the other. Taehyung frowns before opening his arms, which Jimin eagerly scooches his way into.

“What’s this? Growing sappy on me?” Jimin teases as Taehyung’s arms wrap around him.

“You made me promise you cuddles, and I don’t go back on a promise.” A pause. “I think you’re an amazing person.”

“Hm? I think you give me too much credit.”

Taehyung’s hand comes up to softly pat down on Jimin’s head repeatedly. “I asked you a question about your own personal regret, and your answer was about Yoongi hyung’s happiness. You’re such a Libra, you know?”

A flashback of a grade schooler with wide bunny teeth and honest, clear eyes laughing pops into his head. “What can I say, we love harmony and balance.”

“You can be selfish, you know?”

He wonders momentarily, before closing his eyes and basking into the embrace, how different his life would’ve been if he had been a little bit more selfish. If he had allowed himself to indulge in his desires. If he had allowed himself to make his own decisions. 

If he had never decided to split ways with Yoongi. If he had decided to make a move on Yoongi first. If he had never decided to move to another school when the chairman had come to his house himself personally to bend onto his knees and requested the transfer for the sake of his son.

He wonders, but nothing comes to mind. Jimin supposes he should never think too much about the what ifs . That was something he picked up from his time with Yoongi.

It never did anything too good for him in the end, after all. He used to wonder too much.

His eyes drift to the clock on the wall.

“Merry Christmas, Taehyung-ah,” is all Jimin says in response.


 

“Merry Christmas, hyung!”

Yoongi blinks, Hoseok’s gleeful and expectant smile shining through his phone screen. He must’ve taken a moment to buffer, but Hoseok’s smile doesn’t die down any less.

“It’s Christmas already?”

“Technically, yes, it’s the 25th because it’s five past midnight.”

“Oh, so it’s early Christmas.”

“Whatever you want to call it, hyung.” Yoongi shifts on the bed, eyeing the crack between his curtains to catch a glimpse of the snow. He hasn’t left his house in a week, ever since he had gotten direct orders from the chairman to stay where he was for supervision. When he tries to peek between the curtains, he grumbles upon spotting the whitecoat standing with his back to the window instead.

“Where has the year gone? I could’ve sworn it was June when I met you just yesterday.”

“What, because you still swoon when you see me like you did the first time?”

“Seok,” Yoongi deadpans, “when I first met you, I thought you were a dumbass.”

“A cute dumbass apparently, since you still slipped your number to me that day.”

Yoongi cracks a smile as Hoseok smiles into his screen as well. “Yeah, I guess I did.”

“Less than a week left of the year,” Hoseok sighs, “... So much has changed. Maybe that’s why we lost track of time.”

Yoongi nods, rolling over from laying on his stomach to his back, shifting himself against his pillows. “A lot has changed,” he echoes, “but I wouldn’t have this year any other way.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“How come?”

Damn Aquarius knew why, but Yoongi couldn't deny his sunflower his words of affirmation he wanted. Once upon a time, a more stoic Yoongi used to believe words of affirmation were embarrassing to utter, vulnerable to utter, but he believes perhaps he just hadn’t found the right person to utter them to. Telling Hoseok how much he means to him wasn’t embarrassing, it wasn’t vulnerable. It felt right, like he deserved every praise and words full of love that rolled off the tip of his tongue.

No, even more than what his finite vocabulary could offer him. He could try to string the prettiest and loveliest words from all the dictionaries and encyclopedias he could find, and it still wouldn’t be enough to express his overwhelming adoration and love he had for the younger.

He likes to have fun a little bit, though. “Because I’m finally getting paid to work from the comfort of my home right now. Look at that,” he grins as he rotates his phone around to the angles of his room, “Four years being a lawyer and this is the most peace I’ve known working.”

Hoseok’s lips melt into a pout before he even finishes his sentence, and Yoongi stifles a laugh as he nears the end. 

“And?”

“Hm? Should there be more?”

Hoseok lets out an unamused noise, before Yoongi cracks a gentle smile.

“Fine, hyung, be that way , it’s not like your boyfriend is already wallowing in despair about the fact that he’s spending Christmas alone —”

“I wouldn’t have this year any other way because it had something the other years didn’t have.”

The pout on Hoseok’s lips wavers just slightly, but he’s still determined to not loosen up easily. “Work from home, right?” There’s no actual bite behind his words.

“You.” The pout has become undone just a little more, Hoseok pressing his lips into a thin line in an attempt to keep his pride. He’s never wanted to lean in and kiss the pout right off as much as he did now.

“This year had you,” he repeats, although still a little bashful as he lowers his voice and averts his gaze, “and that’s what made it so special. I would trade a long, hundred year peaceful life for one as dangerous and risky as the one we have now, as long as you’re in it.” The pout becomes completely undone, a hint of a repressed smile tugging at Hoseok’s lips. Hoseok has very honest features, after all. The person he believed to be the love of his life wore his heart on his sleeve, and Yoongi wouldn’t want him any other way.

“You’re perfect for me,” he murmurs, “and I’m glad you haven’t given up on me yet. I’m grateful you haven’t second guessed your choice to be by my side.” Yoongi wants to take his hands and look him in the eyes as his honest cheeks would eventually blush a bashful red. He can imagine it, the way his eyes would be full of love for him. 

Hoseok has always been full of love for him.

“I hope all my coming Christmases will have you by my side, because I couldn’t imagine a happier holiday than that. You’re excited it’s Christmas, sad you’re spending it all alone, but everyday with you makes it feel like a holiday. I wake up every morning knowing I’m yours, excited like a kid waking up on Christmas morning. I go to sleep every night knowing you’re thinking of me too, secure in the feeling that no one else will love me the way you do, as I do too.” He finally averts his gaze back to the screen, and his gentle smile tugs into a full blown grin— how silly he must look right now, smiling like a kid at the small screen. Hoseok’s eyes are full of love, just as he had imagined, and he can feel it even in his room miles and miles away from him.

He feels in that moment, that he’d spend the rest of his years making sure Hoseok felt the same way as he did right now. 

But Hoseok didn’t have to know that now.

“Merry Christmas, Seok-ah. I hope you’re by my side for all the next Christmases to come. Next time we see each other, I’ll bring a mistletoe for us.”

Hoseok’s bashful giggle is like music to his ears, notes of a song that only he gets to hear. If love was a person, he thinks it would be him.

“Hyung,” he whines, “You know you don’t need a mistletoe to get a kiss from me.”

He leans in closer to the screen before placing butterfly kisses on the camera, and it takes every bit of willpower Yoongi has in order to not break out of his house to drive over to receive them in person instead.

Today, it seems, he’d have to be satisfied with kisses through the phone. Next time, he promises to the stars, he’d make up for lost time.

 

 

When Seokjin trudges through the door to the place he called home for now, he hears distinct humming from the kitchen. He quietly toes off his shoes, the dreaded manila envelope weighing heavy in his hand as he stands there for a moment, quietly closing his eyes and listening to the humming of what he recognized a beat later to be Christmas songs.

Jungkook had a nice voice, he hadn’t realized before. Maybe later before going to bed, he would ask the younger to sing him to sleep. He doesn’t know if he would be able to otherwise.

“Hyung?” He hears Jungkook call out from the kitchen. Seokjin shrugs off his padded jacket before stepping in to hang it over the back of the chair it clung on just earlier that morning, setting the envelope on the side as well before turning to meet the eyes of a smiling Jungkook.

He smiles. It’s almost automatic, the way his lips curled up at the mere sight of his beloved.

“You were out a little late, huh?” A mix of aromas hang in the air as Seokjin quietly makes his way into the kitchen, Jungkook’s attention averted back to the pot he had before him. “I thought you were supposed to come before me. Had a lot to talk about with your mother, huh?”

A bit . Seokjin had aimlessly wandered in the cold wintery night after his departure from his mother, after he got confirmation that the Libra who had played such a significant role in his younger years was the same sensual, intelligent yet mysterious Libra he knew. Only when it had grown too dark for Seokjin to see anymore, only when the cold was biting at him at an intolerable temperature was when he checked how late the time had gotten before heading back home.

All that wandering, and his head still wasn’t clear. It felt numb, almost like wandering in the snowy night had frozen his brain even further.

“Have you eaten yet? I got a little hungry, albeit it’s past midnight,” Seokjin hears him chuckle, “so I was thinking of making ramyeon, but wanted to add some grilled pork to it? I don’t know if it’ll taste good, I’ve never really cooked before. I just spent like an hour watching a bunch of videos on it, but if you’re hungry, maybe I can try to make some for both of us?”

Jungkook lets out a soft noise of surprise as arms wrap around him from behind and Seokjin can almost hear him smile. He sets down the wooden chopsticks in his hand.

“Merry Christmas, hyung,” he chuckles, his hands holding onto his arms embracing him from behind. "Did you miss me that much?"

Seokjin's tears wordlessly stain his back.

“Hyung?” The alarm in Jungkook’s voice pitches before he turns around, his arms coming around him immediately to encompass him in a tight embrace. Seokjin immediately finds himself at home in the crook of Jungkook’s neck, burying his face in an attempt to hide his tears.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Seokjin only shakes his head no, and Jungkook’s hand reaches up to pat his back reassuringly.

“Will you tell me when you’re ready?”

Seokjin nods.

“Alright, then. You’re cold though, you should take a warm shower before you catch a cold.” His words say so, but his arms are firm around him with no intention of letting go.

Seokjin thinks that’s one of his favorite parts about him. Jungkook feels like he won’t ever let go, a stubborn Virgo trait that he hadn’t understood before, but one he loved now. With all this change, with everything so new, he needed just one constant in his life to hold onto, and Jungkook’s been an extraordinary anchor.

He hopes he was the same to Jungkook.

“You’re warm,” Seokjin finally utters out, wrapping his arms around him tighter, “more than a warm shower.”

“Then I won’t let go.”

Seokjin knows. Seokjin loves that about him.

“It’s Christmas already?”

“I forgot, too, until I met with Namjoon hyung and he looked anxious to go back home. I asked him what kept him waiting,” Jungkook chuckles, “and he said he wanted to go back to at least wish Taehyung a Merry Christmas after all his work, despite not being able to spend it together. I heard something about Jimin hyung spending the weekend at the mansion with him to cheer him up.”

The mention of Jimin’s name doesn’t twist his stomach the way he expects it would, really. Jimin hadn’t done anything wrong, after all. But he’s more convinced it’s the comfort of Jungkook’s presence keeping his rising anxieties at bay, barely in control.

He snuggles onto Jungkook’s chest. “Merry Christmas, Jungkook-ah. If I knew beforehand, I would’ve bought a mistletoe on the way back home.”

Jungkook pulls back from their embrace, a mischievous smirk tugging at his lips with a childish wiggle of his eyebrows. “Bold of you to assume I didn’t decorate the place with mistletoes already.”

Sure enough, when Seokjin pulls back to glance around the rooms, he sees mistletoes hanging off the most random places— one on the microwave just behind Jungkook’s head, one above the television screen, one hanging on the wall above the sofa, one on the door leading to their bedroom, and the stars know wherever else they might be. A gentle laugh finally strikes his features, breaking the crease between his eyebrows that had been plastered there ever since leaving the bakery, as he shakes his head, bringing his arms up to drape around Jungkook’s neck.

“You’re absolutely impossible .”

“I will milk out every excuse I can to get my kisses.” He puckers his lips. “My kisses, please.”

And when Seokjin leans in, lips slotting against his softly, the warmth finally spreading from his chest to even the coldest tips of his fingers, he thinks they’ll be okay. When Jungkook nips at his bottom lip, tilting his head to the side for Seokjin to easily part his lips for him, the cold that had chased him home is immediately gone.

His head is finally clear.

Chapter Text

Namjoon’s eyes widen at the sight of his beloved, just seconds away from either pulling him into a bone crushing hug or bursting into tears, neither of which he has ever had the urge to do before.

“You got all this from… him?”

The Capricorn’s grin only tugs wider, immediately more proud at Namjoon’s clearly baffled state. “Yep! See, I told you I was doing work, not just messing around. He’s a nice guy!”

“I didn’t even know…” Namjoon’s suddenly quiet, the air growing tense, as Taehyung’s smile dies just slightly.

“... Namjoon?”

“You solved it.” When Namjoon looks back up from the ground, his eyes are glistening with tears. “You solved it. You found the last piece to help both Jungkook and Seokjin hyung.”

The pride that lingered on his smile immediately hides bashfully, lacing his hands together in front of him. “I didn’t really do much.”

“You did it all. Now we have an outside witness,” Namjoon murmurs as he reaches forward for Taehyung’s interlocked hands, “actual evidence, and you even located the person who was in the middle of it all, despite not knowing what went on. Taehyung, you’re brilliant .”

Namjoon’s hands expertly detach Taehyung’s hands from each other before weaving his fingers through his, and the Capricorn stares at their conjoined hands for just a moment before a fond smile tugs at his lips. Their hands were beautiful, he thinks in that moment. Their hands were delicate and long, pretty alone as they were, but when conjoined, they were even more beautiful than he could imagine.

He doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to the way Namjoon’s hands fit against his, nor will he get used to the butterflies that still linger in his stomach when Namjoon absentmindedly strokes his thumb. 

He doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to Namjoon.

“Says you,” is all he can say in response before pulling the older closer and letting out a sigh, letting go of his hand momentarily to wrap his arms around his waist and pillow his cheek against his chest. “We only got this far because of how hard you’ve been working for them. For us. You’re the grease that lets all the cogs run smoothly, aren’t you?” The last of his sentences lightheartedly teases.

Namjoon groans, his arms coming up to wrap around Taehyung and tug him in closer, as if he weren’t close enough already. “I can’t believe I introduced myself to you like that.”

“It’s true, though.” He snuggles himself a bit more comfortably against his chest. “The cogs were stuck, the main cog was this close to being replaced. You did well, too.”

Namjoon’s arms wrap around him tightly, grumbling, “This better work,” before sighing and letting himself rest his chin on Taehyung’s shoulder.

“It’s going to be hectic from here on.”

Taehyung smiles. “We’ll be okay.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I feel it. Something new is coming.” He pulls back from the embrace to meet Namjoon’s eyes, and he winks just after he catches the childlike twinkle in his eye. “The movies told me.”

“Oh no

“This is the part, Namjoon hyung!” Taehyung exclaims proudly as he pointedly balls a fist into the air. “This is the part in all dystopian movies where the system gets taken down, the protagonists shake off their wrongful charges, and they get to live happily ever after!”

“The end, huh?”

“The fall. The withering. The conclusion . ” A soft smile. “I hope they come back home, soon.”



“Jungkook-ah,” Seokjin croaks out, “Do we have any more co—“

The words die on his lips as soon as his heavy footsteps make themselves out of the room, stopping by the couch where his eyes fall on a peacefully asleep Jungkook, a smile threatening to curve the line of his lips. His eyes stay there for just a moment, and it’s astonishing how sleeping made him look even younger than he already was. Mid twenties, a time to barely be finding out what his boundaries are and what path to carve for himself, and he had to carry the burden of Zodiakos on his shoulders alone. The guilt that resided in his chest almost everyday rises up in this instant, as he sighs and grabs the blanket hanging off the arm of the couch, making his way around the front to cover him with it silently.

It agonized him. Being in love with Jungkook agonized him, because with their love came heavy guilt that none of them wanted to address.

He stays there, bent over his sleeping figure even when he’s already let go of the blanket, his eyes still studying his lashes as a gentle sigh makes its way out. He wasn’t in any place to talk, himself, after all. Early thirties, and he was carving a dangerous path himself with no idea of where the destination would be. His mind is foggy whenever he tries to imagine the future he has selected, and he’d be lying if looking at Jungkook didn’t fill him with even a little bit of discomfort. He didn’t like not knowing, after all.

There was too much he didn’t know, being around Jungkook.

An arm reaches out to wrap around Seokjin’s waist, ignoring the sudden yelp Seokjin makes as the arm pulls him down to the space on the couch next to him, eyes still closed as Seokjin crosses his arms, shifting himself to lay more comfortably while facing him.

“You could’ve told me you were awake, you know.”

A rumbling chuckle. “I got tired of waiting for you to stop staring at me.”

His cheeks immediately flush, denials fighting their way up his throat, before Jungkook only pulls him closer. He holds his breath, afraid he’s so close he’d breathe right into his nose, and Jungkook opens his eyes.

They are clear, like a sunny sky. Like Seokjin could find both the depth of the night and the light of the day residing in each orb. Each chocolate orb is full of love, full of light, and full of comfort— all three heading towards their target, where Jungkook’s eyes rested. Jungkook’s eyes were always full of love, light, and comfort for Seokjin. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen anything else in the way he looks at him, and he wonders for a split second if it was okay for him to accept all this when he still felt foggy and discomforted trying to think around him.

… He doesn’t know if he has the right to stay by Jungkook’s side, and the thought haunts him more than he should let it, but for now he tosses the thought aside and tries to comfort himself in the idea that they chose each other, that it was okay. That he could stay by his side because Jungkook chose him too that night, that they would be okay.

Their path and start was dysfunctional, but perhaps that wasn’t a bad thing. He wonders briefly if they would’ve ended up where they were under a functional start.

“Hey,” Jungkook whispers, and Seokjin can feel the nausea stir in his stomach again. The butterflies , everyone called it. The stir of unidentified emotions sitting in the pit of his stomach, the anxiety that comes with this person’s absence and presence. He’s never been so thrown off balance, yet secure at the same time.

Perhaps that’s what their love was like. Off balance, yet secure. “Hey.”

Jungkook seems to be satisfied with his greeting, a wide puppy-like smile tugging at his cheeks before he wraps his arms around Seokjin fully, pulling him in to bury his nose into the crook of his neck.

“What are you thinking about, hyung?”

Insecurities. Insecurity after insecurity is attacking his thoughts, but he can’t tell him that. “Nothing.”

“That’s unusual.”

“I wish to think about nothing.”

“Not even about me?” Jungkook teases lightly.

“I already do that.”

“You’ve been off.” Silence. “Is there something bothering you, other than getting heart attacks everyday not knowing if the whitecoats are behind that door?”

“What could possibly be bothering me more than that?”

Jungkook falls silent, and Seokjin waits. They had the patience. They didn’t have the time, but they were awfully good at making it seem like they had all the time in the world. “I’m just…”

“Hm?”

Jungkook only shakes his head, turning to face the other side, but Seokjin reaches forward to cup his face towards him before he could turn away from him completely.

“Hey, talk to me.”

“... I’m just worried you might be regretting your decision now that the spur of the moment is over.”

“What?” The words that reach Seokjin’s ears are all too familiar to his own thoughts.

“The adrenaline of the moment. You seem wishful these days, hyung. Almost like you don’t belong, almost like you want to go home.”

“... You know we don’t belong here.”

“Really? I think I’m getting along fine, the countryside has its nice perks. I can see why country folks are always so adamant and loyal to here over the city. Taehyung always told me about it, but I never really bought it—”

“You know what I meant, Jungkook-ah.”

“I don’t.” Jungkook’s voice holds no hint of forcing. “I know a place of belonging doesn’t last. I know homes are temporary. I felt that when you threw me in jail.”

The guilt purges through his heart, but one look at Jungkook’s eyes was all he needed to know he didn’t bring it up to blame him. It was... a mere fact. He had thrown him in jail. The thoughts that must’ve gone through the younger’s head, the crisis it must’ve come with— a second wave of guilt washed over him, but he manages, “Then, you mean it? You can see yourself making a home here?”

“I can. With you.” He doesn’t budge, only hugging Seokjin closer. “Homes aren’t tied to a place. I can adjust wherever I go, as long as you’re there. Being in a comfortable, safe space with someone who cares about you, loves you, wants the best for you,” he sighs out as he presses a kiss against Seokjin’s skin, “might not be what home actually is, but for me, right now? It is.”

A low chuckle rumbles from Seokjin as the kiss tickles his collarbone, draping his leg over Jungkook’s hip before adding, “Well, this place is missing the safe aspect.”

“You’re safe for me— I’m safe with you, and you are safe with me.”




 

When Seokjin’s bleary eyes open, he notices two things immediately— one, that he was covered in a soft, wool blanket he had covered Jungkook with earlier, and two, that Jungkook was no longer next to him.

As soon as he realizes the second one, he scrambles up from the couch in a panic, eyes frantically scanning his surroundings for any hint of the Virgo before his eyes rest on him, just outside the glass door to where the balcony was. The sun was setting behind his shadowed figure, a blanket wrapped around himself with a mug in hand as who knows what passes through his mind. With the last of the orange and pink wisps dancing with the hues of blues, it oddly feels familiar.

Hyung, Hoseok had said one day, pointing at the sunset. Don’t you feel healed by looking at it?

He did. 

He slips the burner phone Namjoon had gotten him out of his pocket, and sighs in disappointment at the quality the screen holds when he swipes to the camera, but angles it straight before snapping a quick shot. The picture did nothing to immortalize the real beauty of the scene, the way taking a picture of the moon never did it justice, but he supposes it’s not the view he wants to immortalize. Perhaps it’s these feelings of comfort, healing— of home.

Being in a comfortable, safe space with someone who cares about you, loves you, wants the best for you—might not be what home actually is, but for me, right now? It is.

He’s slowly understanding, relating, feeling what other people were feeling. Accepting that might not help calm the viscous tides in his mind, but it was a step away from the Kim Seokjin he wanted to leave behind. Maybe it was the golden light slowly fading, his handsome lover making even the home he thought he couldn’t reside in as warm as one, or maybe it was the mere moment. No one can say for sure when things start becoming alright, but perhaps it was these fleeting moments he couldn’t immortalize that made the anxiety in the pit of his stomach finally feel like mere butterflies instead of an eventual stomach ache.

With the most peace he’s had in a while enlightening his heart shining through a smile, he wraps his own arms around himself before sliding the glass door, Jungkook’s head whipping back at the sound before he greets him with a smile just as shining, and Seokjin feels they’re going to be fine.

Jungkook opens his arms with the blanket wrapped around him, inviting the older into his warmth, and he doesn’t hesitate to slip himself into his arms before letting out a happy sigh. They stand there, silent in the moment as Jungkook’s arms move from over his shoulders to his waist, hugging him close.

“Jungkook-ah?”

“Hm, hyung?”

“You’re safe for me, too.”

Seokjin doesn’t have to turn around to see Jungkook’s face— he knows he understands when Jungkook only wraps his arms around tighter around his waist silently.

Maybe it was okay for him to feel anxious about the future, but for now, he thinks he’ll stay in the present.

“Hyung,” Jungkook sighs, “I want to stay like this, but I have something I have to show you. Namjoon just sent it a couple of days ago through someone, and it just arrived while you were sleeping.” Letting go of the blanket in one hand and reaching it out towards the older, he smiles, “Also, it’s getting cold. You’ll get sick. Let’s go back inside.”

Seokjin nods, taking his hand before letting him tug him inside, the warmth he felt from earlier still not completely faded but as soon as Jungkook lets go of his hand to pick up an orange folder, he knows he has to return to the ground soon. His eyes curiously follow the folder in hand.

“Sit,” Jungkook gestures to the couch, putting the blanket over Seokjin’s lap (“You can’t get sick,” he had grumbled while doing so) before taking a seat beside him, pulling a stapled packet out of the folder and setting it to the side before pulling out some freshly printed images in the smaller envelope inside.

“I came across this flower shop the other day,” Jungkook finally confesses, “that turned out to be crucial and that coincidence gave me the first step I needed in trying to formulate this.”

“The place you get me the orchids from?”

“Yeah. The flower shop owner had said something interesting, that I looked like a customer who frequented the shop a lot.” Jungkook holds up an image of an older, toothless man in front of a paint chipped door, “and originally I thought he was recognizing me, so I was trying to hurry out, when he mentioned the customer’s name.”

“Seo Taeil,” he grimaces, “and that caught my attention first. Seo Taeil is a pseudonym my father goes by whenever he tries to take a relaxing vacation without recognition. It was stupid, he mentioned it like once when I was younger, and I only remember thinking how much the name didn’t suit him.”

“How do you know it’s him, though?”

“I asked his sign, and the owner said he had been a Scorpio. Of course, I know that’s not enough, and was trying to think of another question without having to show a picture in case that risked recognition for me too, when he mentioned he had a Pisces wife and a Virgo son, which lined up perfectly. Finally, I asked if he remembered his watch,” he rolls up his sleeve, where a beautiful obsidian watch sat, “because I got him the same one I had as a gift, once.”

Seokjin draws a breath, reaching out to wrap his fingers around his. “And?”

“It was the same one. I knew at that point it was him.”

“What does this have to do with anything? He just went to a flower shop out of the city.”

“The owner was complimenting him, for always getting flowers for his wife whenever he visited. Beautiful hibiscus flowers, even though we grow them at the mansion too. But most importantly…” Jungkook trails off momentarily. “My mother’s allergic to flowers.”

“What? Then who is he—“ His question dies on his lips, eyes wide.

The silence he’s met with is suffocating, even for him, and he can’t imagine the turmoil Jungkook must be feeling. It must be burning inside, churning slowly as it twists into reality for him.

“... Yeah.”

“He..?”

“Yeah.”

The two stare at each other in silence, and Seokjin can barely let out a steady breath at the magical find. The butterflies in his stomach rise again, however, this time a bit more hopeful. “And?”

“We got CCTV captures from the shop, and I thought that might’ve been enough to accuse him for trial at least, but we tried sending them to Yoongi hyung and he said it wasn’t enough evidence for a guaranteed win. Especially with how easily evidence could be fabricated now, we needed more concrete evidence, so we kept searching.”

“Did you find anything else?”

Jungkook gives a half hearted smile. “Taehyung did. In the most unexpected way. We were close to giving up after trying to find whatever we could, because my father was otherwise a careful man about his slip ups, but he forgot to account for the person who helped cover his…. infidelities .”

“Who?”

“Mr. Han.” He starts pulling out laminated files.

“The gardener?”

Jungkook raises an eyebrow. “Did I ever tell you Mr. Han’s job?”

“I know what a gardener looks like, Jungkook-ah.”

Jungkook blinks. “He’s not a gardener. He’s my dad’s most trusted advisor.”

Seokjin must’ve looked ridiculous from the laugh that makes its way out of Jungkook after he gawks, but it didn’t make the surprise any less sudden than it was. “ Advisor?

“Ah, but to the public, he’s the gardener, I suppose. Only the Jeons and Yoongi hyung knows Mr. Han’s real job.” 

“Why a… a gardener? What’s the need to be so secretive?”

“No one is careful about their words around a gardener,” Jungkook shrugs, “definitely less careful than you’d be around a whitecoat. It was the Chairman’s way of having the people on the premises in check— spying, I guess. Mr. Han has a low profile, anyways. He was my dad’s extended arm and hand.”

“I had a feeling,” Seokjin exhales, “that he wasn’t just a gardener, especially after talking to him that night.”

“Mr. Han never belonged to a side,” Jungkook hands the laminated files over, “which was what made him so crucial. My dad thinks after all these years, that he should be on his, but he’s never belonged to one. As long as things were interesting, as long as he could keep watching.” Seokjin nods at that; it made sense, even if he had met him only once. Mr. Han’s infatuation with stories stuck the most. “And right now, we have that… advantage , I suppose.”

“Taehyung unintentionally became closer with him while we’ve been here, because Mr. Han was the person Taehyung saw the most in the garden,” Jungkook chuckles, “and I can only imagine it from there. Mr. Han’s infatuation with interesting stories, Taehyung’s infatuation with cliched movies— I’d think they’d either become best friends, or the worst enemies. It seemed to work in our favor this time, though.” And Seokjin tries to imagine it too; Taehyung excitedly ranting about a drama he watched with twinkling eyes, Mr. Han perhaps listening patiently with a smile on his face. Seokjin had thought Taehyung was a peculiar character from the beginning; he doesn’t even have to imagine how he could’ve piqued the elder’s interest.  

“I don’t have to see it myself to know how that would’ve gone,” Seokjin agrees with a smile still tugging at his lips.

“Right? Taehyung really does have that appeal, people are always drawn to him.” Jungkook taps the laminated files in Seokjin’s hand. “And this is all the receipts and payment orders of the flowers my dad purchased and sent to the receiver.” He takes another paper out with a picture. “They all went to the same person, a Libra woman twenty one years younger than him. Incompatible .”

The picture shows an older couple, arm in arm, dressed in more darker tones. At a first glance, Seokjin can’t tell it’s the Chairman under the sunglasses and mask, but without a doubt, the same watch Jungkook had pointed out was on his wrist- the woman on his arm sported unfamiliar long, wavy auburn hair, starkly different than the shoulder length, straight black hair the Lady had. The image almost looks innocent; the couple was captured in the midst of talking, and although much of their facial features were covered, Seokjin could see how close and fond they were. Behind the masks, they were smiling at each other the way lovers would, and for a moment, his heart swells.

“Does the Lady know?”

For the first time, Seokjin sees hesitation— Jungkook’s gaze immediately averts unnaturally, his lips not moving as easily as they did before. Despite talking about his father’s demise, he’d been awfully calm since taking out the evidence, that this reaction maybe relieves Seokjin just a little bit.

Just a little bit. Relieved he isn’t afraid to put up a tough front with him, but still, the sadness weighs heavily in his heart. Maybe it wasn’t on the same level, but perhaps Jungkook felt a bit of the emptiness Seokjin had felt when he had talked with his mother.

Finding out your parents weren’t the people you thought they were was certainly depressing, after all. There’s a bit of shame towards themselves, wondering how long they would’ve been fooled for had they not found out at that moment, and a certain emptiness and numbness follows. Questioning everything, questioning what could’ve beens, what should’ve beens, and too much all at once.

“Hey,” Seokjin sets down the laminated papers to the side before reaching out for Jungkook’s hand. He opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. The truth was, he didn’t know what the proper response would be. Would he have to say it was going to be okay, when it wasn’t? That he didn’t have to share, when he would have to at some point?

Seokjin wishes he were better at finding comforting, truthful words. He wonders if there were such words— were comforting words considered comforting because they were false?

“I was the only one who didn’t know,” Jungkook finally sighs, sandwiching Seokjin’s hand between his, “and I never even suspected it, even when my mother stopped coming home often. She always told me she’d come back, that she wanted to see the world she couldn’t see when she was younger— she was practically preparing her whole life to be the Lady.”

“When my father was eight years old, there were already searches for a potential arranged marriage for him. There were some close calls, some trying their best to be the best compatible to him, but he didn’t like any of it. It was only when he was sixteen that they reached the bottom of their list of candidates, and the last one left was my mother.” Jungkook’s eyes stay glued onto their conjoined hands. “Her family knew she was on the list, and never lost hope that one day, they might summon her. They prepared her her whole life to become his trophy wife, to produce the next heir to the throne. She told me that was why she wanted to explore more, since she had completed her duty.” 

“Married the chairman, produced an heir, found out about her husband’s affair,” He holds up his fingers to count off, “It’s no wonder she wanted to leave. I wonder what she was thinking about in that time, looking back at all the lost time in her past thirty two years of life centered around the Jeon family. She knew she couldn’t win against him even if she were to try to expose his affairs, so she demanded a divorce. A quiet one, with Yoongi hyung. She made a deal, that she would keep quiet about everything if he let her go. Supported her travels, supported everything. He agreed, because there was no harm to him that way.”

“To get caught by your own son despite all that,” Jungkook grumbles, “How pathetic is that?”

The silence that follows after weighs down on the two for a few minutes, before Seokjin finally parts his lips, but the words don’t come easy. 

“I’d love to meet your mother one day,” he says, with a smile, “Not as the Lady, but as Miss Jeon Jisun.”

He wonders if the conflict she had felt at the time of the incident was similar to how he felt nowadays with this chaos. The guilt, the shame, the confusion. Spending their whole lives dedicated to something, just to see it was all a lie— he doesn’t doubt that maybe he could understand how she felt, maybe even just a little bit. And he doesn’t doubt that she would understand how he felt, the way his own mother couldn’t.

The way the stars aligned, maybe the way he was feeling was normal.

Jungkook only smiles at him before pressing a kiss onto the back of his hand. “Me too.”

Seokjin sighs, albeit a bit heavier than he had intended for it to. “I guess it’s my turn.”

Before Jungkook could even raise his eyebrows, he lets go of his hands before shuffling his way over to the manila envelope that was starting to collect dust in their shared room, and the envelope isn’t any lighter than it was the first time he had received it. The weight in his hands that even he couldn’t get used to, he hopes Jungkook could.

The younger’s eyes soften at the sight of the envelope, although he could practically see question marks in the pupils of his clear eyes. “It’s the thing you brought back on Christmas.”

“Yeah,” Seokjin exhales as he sets it down in front of him, Jungkook’s fingers already making their way to open the envelope. “This would make the evidence complete… but more than just get us out, it’d probably expose the very foundation of Zodiakos .”

Jungkook’s raised eyebrow receives no answers from Seokjin as he gingerly slides out the stapled packets of paper that even Seokjin hadn’t dared to open, in case opening it would mean having to accept its reality. His eyes scan the contents of the papers but the question marks in his eyes don’t fade. “What is this, hyung?”

“Experiment 00901,” he responds gravely. “The forgotten experiment.”

“I’m supposed to know what that is, right?” Jungkook holds up a finger, as if trying to buffer the memory. “I’m not stupid, I’m just having trouble trying to recall it from the textbooks.”

“It’s not from the textbooks.”

He cocks his head to the side. “Sorry, hyung. I don’t know what this has to do with anything, you’ll have to remind me.”

“It’s natural you won’t remember it.” How is he supposed to ease this in? “You… You were part of the experiment, after all. It’s called the forgotten experiment for a reason.”

“...What is this, hyung?”

“My mother gave me this when she met me that day. This was the reason she met me.” Seokjin points at the typed report. “These are details of the experiment behind doors, in the dead of night.”

“What was the experiment?”

“Forgetting Park Jimin.” Jungkook’s eyes immediately shift back up to meet his. “Your friend. Remember those times you met Jimin, and asked him all those questions of his childhood? That you couldn’t shake the feeling you’d met him before?”

Jungkook’s slowly nodding, as if slowly processing the information, but he was smart. Seokjin could practically see the question marks fading, the gears in his head running, and the alarm that was slowly making its way onto his face. Over the past couple of weeks, he’d become an expert on reading Jeon Jungkook. “This is why.”

“I… They erased my memory?” His hand reaches up for his head, almost patting it down delicately in case he might knock a few memories out of a place otherwise. “Of Jimin?”

“He must’ve been dear to you once.” Seokjin’s eyes stay glued to Jungkook— watching. For what, he can’t say. “And that was… dangerous. My mother was the head of the experiment. They tried to make this a one time trial, however wrong it was, and they clearly… succeeded .”

“One time trial? Tried?” Jungkook’s eyes narrow. “Did it not end?”

“They… well.” Seokjin’s a bit lost for words. “Actually, your father, ah… liked how well it had gone, and wanted to implement it… more .” Guilt , he identifies within himself, guilt, because he had condemned so many to the same fate. “They use it now for second offenders.”

A heavy pause. “They use it now ?”

“I didn’t— I didn’t know either, second offenders are out of my hands,” Seokjin quickly explains, “I only oversaw up to the stamp, I had absolutely no idea that there were no third offenders because they couldn’t remember. I had no idea,” he repeats, “but I’m sorry.”

Jungkook’s eyes are a bit more unreadable now, but Seokjin thinks there’s a bit of confusion mixed with anger smoldering behind his pupils. He can’t really tell, it’s hard for him to meet his eyes at the moment. The wave of shame that should’ve come over his mother washes over him instead, and he’s barely holding his balance. 

The silence that follows is heavy, but not heavier than the weight of the papers in his hands. It was amazing how heavy paper could feel.

It was amazing how loud silence was.

“Jungkook?” Seokjin reaches out in a timid voice even he hasn’t heard from himself before; as if Jungkook were delicate, as if he might’ve pushed even the strong, stable earth sign in him to crack.

Jungkook responds by meeting his eyes, and Seokjin draws his breath, wondering momentarily if it had been a mistake to show this, to give back what was taken from him far too late, when he starts shaking his head.

“Sorry,” he apologizes, the way he always does when it comes to Seokjin. “Sorry, I just needed a… moment.”

Seokjin shakes his head.

“I’m not mad at you. Or your mother.” A pause. “I’m not mad at anyone, not anymore. There’s no use putting blame on people for things that already happened.”

Slowly, Seokjin starts to nod, eyes still scanning the younger’s face. Just in case, he decides. Just in case Jungkook felt otherwise.

“But we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again, right? This is just… this is just all the more reason we have to do this,” This meaning the dismantling of his family, his beliefs, his world. This meaning officially acknowledging his whole life up to this point had been a lie. 

He slides the packets back into the manila envelope before letting out a deep sigh, as if he had been holding his breath for the whole duration of it in his hands. “Make positive changes to things that are in our control, right hyung?”

A crack of a smile finally shows, but the unmatched desperation of a plea revealing itself in the cracks of his voice towards the end of his sentence contrasts with it, Jungkook’s eyes searching Seokjin’s as if he were waiting for the confirmation . Pleading for confirmation. Desperate for confirmation, that what he was doing was correct.

Seokjin often forgets he still needs guidance, and although he needed a lot himself as well, Seokjin was one of the only people Jungkook was relying upon for it.

He couldn’t be shaken here. He had to be firm, for Jungkook. 

For him. 

For them.

So Seokjin smiles warmly, nodding more confidently this time before setting the envelope aside, crawling across the space between them to embrace him, and he can feel and see Jungkook visibly relax. “Yes, exactly. Now come on, get dressed. We’re going to go meet the woman who claims she raised you better than that darned old Scorpio.”

 

 

Her eyes are piercing.

It’s the first thing Jungkook notices about Miss Seonghwa Kim, as he sits there with his sweaty fists nervously balled in his lap. Seokjin also has piercing eyes that he’s drawn to. Seeing Ms. Kim, it was wondrous what genetics did.

There’s a silence that follows her arrival (“You’re late,” Seokjin had scolded as soon as she entered the cafe, before she rolled her eyes. “ You’re the one who called me just as I was about to have dinner. Now, I’ll have to stay up later than usual to properly digest.”) as her piercing eyes analyze every fibre of his being— starting from his head, down to his arms, to his legs, and back up to his head. The silence that follows is suffocating, and Jungkook doesn’t think he was ever this nervous, even when meeting esteemed presidents from other countries.

Her opinion mattered, he deduces. Her opinion of him mattered, because she was Seokjin’s mother, but something about her overflowing presence tells him that he would’ve been nervous to meet her outside of Seokjin, too.

It’s not until the silence that’s been persisting is pushing at maybe five minutes (the longest five minutes in his life, really) that he hears Seokjin huff next to him before gently scolding, “You’ll scare him off.”

She raises an eyebrow at that. “If he gets scared off before I even say a word to him, then is he really worthy of you?”

Jungkook abruptly sits straight. “No, ma’am. I apologize, I’m just… nervous.”

A laugh similar to Seokjin’s. “Nervous of an old woman like me? A grown, young man like you?”

“Mother, you aren’t exactly the very image of a kind, caring ajumma.”

“How rude, Jin-ah,” she scolds. “There is no one more kind and caring than me.” She finally smiles widely, and her features soften a bit more, and when she smiles, she has the same eye smile as Seokjin does whenever his eyes fold into endearing crescent moons. “Nice to see you. I’m glad you’ve grown up into a fine, young man.”

She reaches out a hand first, which Jungkook immediately latches onto, relief flooding into his heart before offering a wide smile back. “Nice to meet you as well, eomunni . I’ve heard much about you.”

“From him?” Her eyes narrow as they flicker to Seokjin. “I doubt you’ve heard many good things, then. Jinnie doesn’t know how to give a compliment.”

“Really? He’s very affectionate with words with me,” Jungkook says nonchalantly, suppressing a smile, as Seokjin’s face flushes red in the corner of his eyes. Ms. Kim bursts in laughter at that, pointing a shaking finger at her son.

Him? What have you done to my son?” She leans in closer to her son’s red face, and only then Jungkook notices how red his neck was as well, like a tomato. “ Are you my son?”

Seokjin only grumbles before waving her off.

Her eyes flicker back to the younger, whose immediate response was to sit straight. “Relax, I’m not going to bite you.” Her hands come together to clasp on the table. “I tease, but I meant it when I said it was nice to meet you. It is so…. So nice to finally meet you. Your mother, she sent me pictures of you even after I left, out of gratefulness. She knew how much I adored you as a child.”

Jungkook’s eyes widened. “My mother?” 

“Did you not see the USB in the envelope as well? I slipped it in there in case Seokjin wanted to share.” When the confusion is evident on Seokjin’s face as well, she gives a disapproving shake of her head.

“The USB was a collection of pictures your mother collected over the years, even amidst her travels,” she chuckles lightly. “She and I were great friends a long time ago, always bad mouthing our husbands behind our backs. They were the same kind of fool, after all. She kept tabs on you even when she was away. Every newspaper you came out on, she clipped and glued into her album.”

The hurt in his heart that he harbors doesn’t melt so easy. “That’s touching, but I would’ve liked to see her more often as well.”

“She couldn’t go back and share the same space with her ex-husband,” she shakes her head. “She’d spent too many years trying to be good enough for that family, only for it to amount to nothing. She had her own hurts she needed to heal from, too.” Her eyes flicker to her hands. “Parents make mistakes, too. Her putting herself before you might be hard to understand, but when you see her as a human and not just a parent…” She gives a sheepish smile. “Maybe then. Not that I didn’t make any mistakes myself, especially as a parent. Maybe I have no right to ask you to acknowledge our hurts.”

Within those words and her eyes is an apology, Jungkook realizes. She apologizes the same way Seokjin did, the actual words foreign to them, but their intentions clear as day. She wasn’t the person he needed an apology from, but the ice around his earlier response maybe melts just slightly.

“Ah,” Seokjin pipes up, sliding an envelope across the table, “Mother, I have a request.”

The envelope has the paper Jungkook saw Seokjin frantically scribble in before folding and sealing neatly just before they had left earlier; the curious eyes on the envelope are not just his. “Giving me allowance money?”

“Mother, I’m jobless,” he immediately chuckles back, “And you have more money than me, anyways. I was wondering if there was a way for you to have this sent to the Jeon premises.”

She raises an eyebrow, sliding the envelope towards herself before picking it up between her dainty fingers. “The Jeon premises? Do you not have a secure communication channel with them?”

“I do, but I needed this one personally delivered to Mr. Han.”

“Mr. Han?”

“He’ll give it to the person I want to give it to.” Seokjin smiles. “I need it to end up in Park Jimin’s hands.”

Recognition flashes in her eyes just momentarily, as she nods. “Fine. It must mean it’s almost over, isn’t it?”

This time, the two have the same, relieved smiles on both of their faces.

“Yes. It’s almost over, just in time for the New Year.”




“A letter to Jimin?” Jungkook asks as soon as the door shuts behind him.

Seokjin nods, shaking off his padded jacket, Jungkook’s arms already ready to catch it. “Yeah.”

“What about?”

“Just a quick thing I never had a chance to tell him.” He turns around with a small spin in his step before draping his arms around Jungkook’s neck, “and something tells me, when we go back tomorrow, that we’ll be too busy to be able to set him aside to tell him.”

Jungkook hums approvingly, his arms immediately wrapping around Seokjin before abruptly dropping down to just above his thighs to lift him up, the older’s legs immediately wrapping around his waist as he carries him into the living room. “Last night here already, huh?”

Everything was set. At exactly four hours and twelve minutes from now, when the clock strikes midnight to indicate a new year coming, all the publishers would release the compiled evidence they were able to compress and give to Taehyung, who had volunteered to ( out of boredom , Jungkook recalls Namjoon saying, but smiles anyways, because Taehyung never wanted to seem like a worry-wart despite being one) distribute them to air. The multiple articles and information slandering the Jeon family and the very foundation of Zodiakos would be up for free access on the interweb, and Jungkook can’t tell if the fidgeting of his fingers were bad or good jitters.

“It felt like we’d be here for shorter,” Seokjin says in between bursts of laughter before Jungkook sets him down on the couch, however not unwrapping himself from him. “You know. I’m surprised we were able to stay here for so long.”

“Remember to thank Tae for that.”

Seokjin nods, before pressing a kiss on his lips. “Will do. For now, I’ll thank you more with these,” he starts peppering kisses, “if you can make me a hot chocolate?”

Jungkook groans, just for show, because he knows he’ll go do it anyways. “We bought the hot chocolate powder literally two days ago and we’re already almost out.”

Please, my ass is frozen from the cold.” His lips jutting down into a pout, Jungkook knew he was a gone man when he resisted the urge to smile. “ Please?

He steals a kiss and trudges into the kitchen with the stance of a defeated man, but he knows no one’s won like him. No one’s ever had the privilege of knowing Kim Seokjin the way he did, after all. He thinks he can hear Seokjin humming from the living room, and he automatically smiles.

Today, he seems to be in a better mood than the other days. He wonders if this was just a glimpse of their future.

“Here,” Jungkook holds out a mug for him, “Be careful, it’s hot. Don’t burn yourself like you did yesterday.”

“I’m not a child,” Seokjin huffs before almost immediately flinching away from his mug, and Jungkook only laughs before grabbing a napkin to wipe at his lips. 

“Told you. You’re such a handful, hyung.” The shit eating grin never leaves his face.

“And I’ll be for a while,” Seokjin hums triumphantly, “and you’re stuck with it.”

Jungkook groans, but Seokjin would never know how happy those words alone could make him.

“Are you nervous?” Jungkook surprises himself when he suddenly asks, but not more than the surprise that Seokjin wears.

“Of?”

“Going back home tomorrow.”

Seokjin shakes his head, blowing on the hot beverage in his hand. “Nervous isn’t the word for it,” he contemplates aloud, “but more like… like, relief? I’m relieved, Jungkook.”

“Relieved?”

“Relieved,” he confirms, “that I don’t have to hide with you anymore. That no one should have to hide anymore, especially after tomorrow.” Seokjin wiggles his eyebrows. “Maybe when this is all over,” he sets the mug down on the coffee table before interlocking his fingers with Jungkook’s, “I get to take you out on an actual date, for once.”

The smile on Jungkook’s lips hurt his cheeks. “You want to take me on a date?”

“Mm,” Seokjin grins, “Why not? Show it off, while we’re at it. Dress lavishly, go to some overpriced place that sets the mood, get dessert, only to come back home to change into pajamas and cook ramyeon, because there’s no way those lavish places give enough food. To wish for something as normal as that,” he sighs, “is something sad.”

“You’ll get it all back tomorrow,” Jungkook promises.

“So that’s a yes to a date?” Seokjin’s eyes crinkle into the moons again, a smile of endearment only Jungkook’s had the pleasure to know and see. He only lifts their conjoined hands up to press a kiss to the back of Seokjin’s hand.

“Of course. But first,” he grins, “We have something else to do before a date. Are you ready to face the end of the world tomorrow?"

Seokjin only hums in response, placing a languid kiss on Jungkook's lips. "Stars burn brightest when they die. I'm ready to enjoy the show."

 

 

“Jimin-ah?”

Jimin turns his head towards the door, where Taehyung has stuck his head in and immediately curls up into a warm smile. “There you are! I was wondering where you’d been.”

“I can’t leave these premises because of the darned old man,” the Libra wallows, “so I couldn’t have been too far.”

“I didn’t see you in the crowd,” Taehyung sighs as he swings open the door, fixing his tie as he walks in and the silent secretary follows behind him, “So we thought maybe you were getting some fresh air.”

The world moved on, with or without Seokjin and Jungkook. Even without the Jeon heir, even with an enormous pending trial case like this, the world found a way to revolve the way it did. The Annual New Year’s Eve party downstairs hosted by the Jeons only became more flashy and extravagant this year, as if it were an attempt to fill in the empty space of the heir. No one addressed the elephant in the room, and he wonders for a moment if the Jeon ballroom was enchanted— everyone who walked through those doors laughed and danced as if the past half year hadn’t occurred.

It was irritating, to say the least. These sheep were irritating.

Jimin only offers a wry smile. “Something like that. My dance number is done, after all.” His eyes trail back to the stars he was looking at from behind the balcony door. “I come every year to this party, and it’s always the same old boring.”

“They had some good champagne,” Taehyung pipes up before appearing next to Jimin, hand tugging Namjoon along, “and it’s my first time attending such a party, but I think I know what you mean.”

Jimin doesn’t doubt it. Taehyung always understood what he meant, whether the experience was inclusive to him or not. 

A sigh. “I wonder if they’re okay.”

Taehyung says nothing at first, only nodding before glancing down at his phone. “It’s almost midnight, it’s almost the start of a new year. I wonder if they have fireworks over there, too.” He then bashfully smiles. “We used to run around with sparkles back in Geochang, but if we climbed to this hill behind my family’s farm, we could see glimpses of the fireworks from nearby cities.”

Jimin smiles at that. “Back in Busan, we used to go to Haeundae to watch the fireworks. There were always a lot of people there, so it was a bit overwhelming, but it felt like every single person there held their breath in silence and watched in awe when the fireworks came out. It felt like we were getting double the amount of fireworks too, since they reflected off the water.”

Taehyung nods approvingly, crossing his arms. “You’ve got to take me one day, then. Ditch this party next year, maybe.”

A laugh is earned as a response. “Next year?”

“Oh, don’t hurt me like that. You plan to see me next year too, right?”

The three chuckle, albeit the future isn’t certain, but perhaps talking like it is would manifest it somehow. Almost like they might actually be able to stand around and enjoy the fireworks next year as well.

Almost like a promise.

“Ah, Jimin-sshi,” Namjoon finally says, giving a bashful smile when Jimin immediately scolds him again to drop formalities, to which he sheepishly follows up with, “... Jimin. Actually, Mr. Han asked me to give you this, that it’s from,” his voice drops to a quiet whisper, “Seokjin hyung.”

Namjoon slips a folded envelope from his pocket then, Jimin’s curious eyes never leaving it until it was in his hands, carefully ripping alongside the edges of the paper before slipping out a folded letter.

The letter is simply folded on a pastel yellow paper, with a single yellow flower taped to the front. Jimin’s eyes scan the paper suspiciously before carefully detaching the flower from the letter, and Taehyung’s eyes light up.

“Marigolds!”

“Hm?”

“This flower,” Taehyung hums enthusiastically, “I love the flower meaning behind this one, too.”

Jimin’s ears perk up. “Is it a nice one?”

Taehyung’s eyes crinkle warmly, and his smile is even warmer. “ Inevitable happiness. Happiness that comes, no matter what.”

The corner of Jimin’s lips immediately curls up as he joins the enthusiastic humming, careful to unfold the letter as he slides the small marigold behind his ear.

 

Jimin-ah.

You’ve worked hard. The decisions you were forced to make, the things you had to let go, your effort behind the scenes. We see it all, now. I didn’t believe abnegation existed till I met you.

Watch the stars burn with us, and I hope from here on out, you’ll make decisions for your own happiness.

Burn bright.

 

Happy New Years,

J

 

Under the exploding fireworks celebrating the new year as the clock ticked midnight, Jimin’s relieved cries couldn’t be heard.

Chapter Text

Shatters of the numerous vases can be heard from even outside the Chairman’s office, but no one dares to go in. No one dares to say a single word, as a heavy silence washes in waves over the Jeon premises.

She passes by the numerous Jeon staff starting to murmur wonders of what’s going to happen now, if they were all going to lose their jobs, what the state of the future was. The mansion is silent except for the hushed uncertain whispers and the bold click of her heels.

Despite the wide eyes, she stops in front of the familiar, big red doors. Standing in front of it now, thirty years older than she was when she first entered these doors, perhaps she should have foreseen this as a red flag back then, back when she was naive and loved the color dearly. The color of the doors that used to bring her warmth, comfort, and excitement, now paints an ugly, dull color, just a reminder of the person she used to be.

She wasn’t that person anymore, she was certain. Twenty-five years was more than enough time to grow, to mature, to become herself. The sacrifices she made in exchange for those years to herself were always haunting the back of her mind.

And one day, she woke up. She woke up and saw the world, woke up and saw past her limitations, woke up and saw herself rotting by his side. Through the many regrets she’s had, leaving was one she couldn’t afford to apologize for.

She couldn’t apologize, not to herself. Not to anyone else. Not even to her beautiful, lovable son she had to leave behind. She’s amazed at the bold, confident man he has become, but she knows she can’t be credited for his growth.

He’s turned out to be a stronger, bolder person than she ever was, is, and would ever become. Perhaps she should be a little bit more like him, and perhaps that was why she was able to come here. Maybe Jungkook gave her a push of courage.

With a deep exhale, she pushes past the doors for what she assumes to be her last, final time.

The office looks like a fitting place for the befallen Chairman; papers and files scattered everywhere, even making a hill in some corners of the room. She easily walks over the shattered bits of the vases he broke in her heels, the deliberate and bolder clacks of her heels echoing to let him know that he was no longer alone in the room.

Even when she makes her presence known to the Chairman, he doesn’t acknowledge her. 

Perhaps, just a little, seeing him in such a messy state, she feels like she’s won, even if it was a minimal victory. For the elite, prestigious Chairman she had lost her life to was sitting silently at his desk, eyes lost, hair tousled, and clothes crinkled. 

“You’re a mess,” she thinks aloud, but even then, the Chairman doesn’t so much flinch or breathe in her direction. She thinks it was like this back then, too, when she was still far too blinded by his light to see the manipulative, lonely person behind his title. Despite the lows they had shared, she finds even in this moment that she can’t bring herself to despise him the way she wants to, knowing that they had both shared the same burden. Growing up side by side with the Chairman, she knew the restraints of the system suffocated him the same way it did her.

They were two of the same pod, after all. She wasn’t any better than him, and nor was he. She had managed to find a way out, and he simply hadn’t. 

Or maybe, there had been no way out for him, really. Perhaps his downfall was fated to be.

She doesn’t believe in fate anymore, she knows this. She has to remind herself every once in a while, so she allows herself a moment to think that perhaps he had been the cause of his own downfall, not some vague concept known as fate.

A moment of silence comes over the room, but the tension no longer bothers her.

“Jisun,” he finally acknowledges, words slurred. It’s only then she realizes his intoxicated state, as if maybe a drink would take him away from this reality.

He wasn’t going to get away that easy.

“How unbecoming of you,” she scolds gently, “as the Chairman of the prestigious Zodiakos, to allow yourself to succumb to this state.”

“Have you come to gloat at me?”

“Nonsense,” she muses, “Me? Come all the way here from my beautiful home in Paris, just to gloat at you? Surely, you must know me better than that.”

“You are capable of more things than I had ever imagined,” he rallies spitefully, “especially when it comes to me and what you believe I’ve taken from you.”

“Perhaps,” she’s able to smile amidst the tension, “and truly, if I were the same person I was even just five years ago, I might’ve come here just to gloat at you.”

His eyes are unforgiving and suspicious, as usual. She used to believe that behind his hardness was a lonely man that she could save and become closer to, but over the years, she realizes the hardness of his shell was mere stubbornness and perhaps even a factor in his demise. 

She thinks being able to look past all this and reflecting back with feelings of mere nostalgia was perhaps a sign of healing.

“Are you here to pity me then?”

“Nonsense. I give pity to those who deserve it.”

“Ever the spiteful woman,” he snarks, but she merely shakes her head.

“Look at you. Look at your surroundings, listen to your tone, then observe me.” As if to make a point, she shifts her purse from her arm to her shoulder, pausing as his eyes stay latched on her. “Am I the spiteful one, or are you?”

“So you are here to gloat.”

“I’m here to scold you,” she responds disapprovingly, “about the trouble you made Jungkook go through.”

His eyes are hard, harder than she’s ever seen it. “Don’t mention his name. You ran away from your obligation to him, what gives you the right to suddenly concern him as if he were your own?”

Contrary to what he must’ve expected, she laughs. “You were by his side the whole time, and still didn’t fulfill your obligation to him, either. The two of us, we’re just awful parents trying to use our son to get leverage over the other. Don’t act like you’re so much better than me, you old fool. Even Seonghwa was a better parent to him in the short time she was in his life than you were.”

He wants his words to hurt her. “I’ll always regret the day I married you.”

But she’s no longer affected. “As will I.”

A silence tugs over the two once again, and she reaches into her purse. “I’m not here to gloat or pity you,” she reiterates, “only to wish you a lifetime of happiness.”

This time, he laughs. “You? Wishing me happiness? We both know that’s a lie, Jisun.”

“Perhaps you’re still stuck in your own stubbornness and pride, but I am no longer stuck in that same place. Perhaps,” she pulls out a small card, “I despised and loved you for as long as I did because we were too similar. I saw too much of myself in you, and perhaps that is why I can still wish you happiness.”

A few more clicks of her heels to reach his desk, placing the card down. “I’ve made a person of myself. I took my love, my interests, and your resources to build myself on something. I’m learning perfuming, and recently with the help of some friends, I launched a line curated fully by me. Maybe one day, you can visit with her.”

He shows no reaction to the card, not even throwing a glance its way, but she’s unfazed. She knows the card will end up ripped or thrown in the trash bin, but perhaps it was because of everything he took from her that she was satisfied with merely wanting to show that she had become something.

Something outside of him, really. She’s no longer the Jeon Jisun who had grown up, contained and groomed to become a trophy wife who smiled with ease at the cameras.

“Goodbye, Joonki-sshi.”

She turns around, retreating back on the way she came, but exiting the room feels so much longer than entering had been. She doesn’t look back, knowing despite her words, this would be the last time she sees him again.

Jeon Jisun was finally free.




[EMERGENCY] Outrage in the Midst of Chaos

By Lee Soyeon from The Era of Stars (TEOS)

January 1st, 20XX. 05:32 am

 

As the clock strikes midnight to welcome in the new year, we receive information that would perhaps point to the end of the Era of the Stars.

As if intentionally starting the new year with a fresh start, we touch upon the bustling case of the Jeon heir, Virgo Jeon Jungkook, who was recently deemed guilty with heavy charges of treason along with Sagittarius Kim Seokjin, ex-Team Leader of the RRT.

The search for the two traitors has come to an end, but in a way no one has predicted. The outcome everyone expected with the two behind bars has flipped to citizens angrily rioting outside the iron bars of the gates to the prestigious Jeon mansion. The grey mansion looks a bit more lonely today, hidden behind the dreadful foggy morning.

The CCTV video proof evidence and documents have been summarized in the video link below:

www.neotube.com/jc-njdkh/ui2h383921j

(Leave suggestions for renaming The Era of the Stars.)

 

↳@d2saiki: ??????????????

     ↳@d2saiki: wait does that mean no more zodiakos like…. u just meet whoever? just like that????

        ↳@RRT: We take these comments and concerns very seriously. We will be taking action as needed.

          ↳@d2saiki: WE ARE FREE PEOPLE NOW U CANT DO SHIT




[BREAKING] Jeon heir’s Return

By Hyun Soo-Ah from Hanbam

January 1st, 20XX. 07:12 am

 

Virgo Jeon Jungkook, recently charged for treason as the Jeon heir, has made his first public appearance in two months.

Sagittarius Kim Seokjin by his side, the two arrive boldly arm in arm to the very gates the public are gathered outside of. A fury of questions from reporters surrounds them, but the two don’t seem to be fazed. Lips sealed, they only requested an audience with the Chairman before deciding to say anything on the matter.

There has been no news on the Chairman yet, however.

 

↳@jjkflicks: wtf the chairman cheated on his wife??? 

     ↳@jjkpegger: on such a fine ass woman too smh only sapphics treat women right istg

↳@JEONHOTCHEETOS: scorpio men truly are at the bottom of the barrel 🤢🤢




[NEW] The Chairman’s Arrest

By Ki Hyunbin from Daily News Today

January 1st, 09:42 am.

 

The long-awaited arrest of the Chairman was confirmed this morning at around 9 am.

It seems the audience that was requested with the Chairman from the couple who had quickly become the new hot issue over the past few hours was denied, as the Virgo and Sagittarius finally exhaust their patience and leave the scene of the arrest. 

After the arrest was confirmed by the officials, the charges against the Jeon-Kim couple have all been dropped. All eyes are hungrily looking at their screens as the country anxiously awaits more updates about the fate of Zodiakos.

The Chairman is to be held in the same cell he coldheartedly had his son incarcerated in. It seems the end of Zodiakos ends in irony alone.



White Turns to Ash

By Lee Miyeon from MB*

January 1st, 11:52 am

 

The day is grey.

The once prestigious Jeon mansion is grey. The sky is grey. The grave silence is grey. The anxiety in the hearts of every citizen is grey. The esteemed whitecoats associated with the prestigious crest of the Waxing Moons finally turn grey.

Lives turned upside down, the enraged whitecoats throw their once symbolic and proud coats into a massive fire just outside the RRT center. The white walls that once held captive those who also stained the white of Zodiakos seem a bit more dim today.

Jeon Jungkook, in place of his silently failed father, agrees to an interview at the overlap of noon. 

Uneasy restlessness from the country can only hope that their fates aren’t grey either.

 

↳@jamaisvu: uhh yall i just woke up bc i’m too hungover from the new years party wdym grey fates what’s going on

↳@6sejeong: what a horrible father… apparently director jeon’s request for an audience was straight up denied too, like that’s your son?? my sister works as staff in the jeon mansion can confirm

     ↳@jksfavebae: i was the jeon mansion can confirm

↳@jksfavebae: ayo if the jeon family gets removed can i live in that mansion idc how grey it is

     ↳@JEONHOTCHEETOS: there is a country at stake here

        ↳@jksfavebae: the aquarius in me could never be bothered




 

 

The doors finally open, and the heavy silence suffocating the room finally eases with a collective sigh from the individuals, four pairs of eyes sharply redirecting their attention to the opened doors.

Mr. Shin, seemingly older than Seokjin had last remembered, only bows his head respectfully the way he always has, before his eyes meet his.

“The Chairman requests a meeting with the ex-Team Leader.”

Seokjin thinks his legs might have trembled just a bit as he sighs once more, the couple brushing themselves off as they rise from their seats before Mr. Shin raises a hand. “ Alone , with the ex-Team Leader.”

Seokjin doesn’t have to look at Jungkook to know what kind of face he’s making. “Whatever he has to say, he can say to both of u—”

“Jungkook,” Seokjin quietly urges, his hand rising to touch his shoulder gently, “It’s okay.”

“Hyung—”

“You’ll get your chance to say what you want to him when he’s ready to accept the consequences.” Seokjin slides on his jacket, Jungkook’s hands moving automatically to help him zip it up. “I have something to say to him, too.”

Seokjin’s eyes plead, the way he naively has the thought that they could communicate even with just a look of their eyes. No matter how many times he convinces himself that it’s ridiculous to know enough to be able to communicate without words, the dissatisfaction in Jungkook’s eyes disappears as if he truly does understand his pleads and dryly smiles.

“Come back soon, okay?”

Seokjin warmly smiles and reaches to squeeze his hand. “Of course.”

The hallways of the mansion are as dark and lonely as he always remembered them to be. They were never comfortable to make his way around, often getting lost to the point where he had finally constructed a map himself and memorized it all in the late nights after work. Looking back on it now, he starts wondering what he had worked so ridiculously hard for. To please the chairman? To get rid of one more thing he couldn’t do?

The chairman looks as dark and lonely as the home he resided in did. The staircase leading down to the very jail den he had changed his path in was one he never imagined to ever venture into again, and as he pushes past the door, he is greeted by the lonely back of the once esteemed chairman. 

Surprisingly, no anger or rage fills in the voids of his heart. What he feels for the despicable chairman is just… empty . He wonders if this emptiness he felt was maybe a small fraction of the void Jungkook must be feeling.

Even after Mr. Shin announces his arrival and leaves, the two only stay silent, not daring to move from their places. The room is silent, but it almost feels like an unspoken conversation. The chairman’s aura is just a bit similar to Jungkook, Seokjin can see, but Jungkook was nowhere near hungry as he was.

“Seokjin-sshi,” he finally acknowledges, although his back is still turned. Proud, as Seokjin will always remember him. Even behind bars, charged with treason, and as a failure of a father and leader, his lonely back is turned proudly.

He wonders briefly what it must have been like for Jungkook to grow under such harmful pride.

“Mr. Chairman.”

“Please,” the elder cackles dryly, “I am no longer the Chairman.”

“To me, you always will be. I looked up to you my whole life, sir.”

“But you look down on me now.” His proud back finally turns to acknowledge Seokjin’s person, eyes scanning him naturally as if trying to determine his worth. Long ago, Seokjin would’ve never crumbled under his gaze, knowing he was a valuable asset to him. Now, Seokjin can only think of pity.

Pitiful of his pride that had been his downfall. Pitiful of the farce he puts up even in the face of defeat. Pitiful of his past self, who had respected and admired such an inadequate figure.

Lastly, pitiful of the family the chairman had worked so hard to protect, but ultimately, destroyed himself.

“I do no such thing, sir. I still cannot look down on you, even as I’m standing on the victory side of the iron bars between us.”

“That’s what I liked about you, Seokjin-sshi. You were always so dedicated, straight by the book, and loyal. Your betrayal to me by running away with my son perhaps shocked me more than his betrayal.”

“It shocks me how little you think of Jungkook, even as you go from sitting on the throne to the floors of a cell.”

“There was not much to think about him. He was the only flaw in my plans, one that I tried my best to correct because I only wanted the best for him. I thought you meeting him would be a good thing, and that you’d correct him in the ways I couldn’t. That’s why I started putting him in charge of overseeing RRT affairs; alas, it backfired.”

“And it turns out he didn’t need correcting all along.” 

It was us who did.

We ,” the chairman leans forward, “can still correct this. Correct all of this. What would the country do without the stars they look up to every night? What would the country do, lost in a love that isn’t supposed to work? What would the country do, roaming free believing they’ve beaten fate? It can still be corrected, but only you can do it.”

There it was, Seokjin sighs, the real reason the Chairman had called for him, but not his son.

“Say the evidence is fabricated. Pin the blame on Jungkook. I’ll even have Kenny accountable, saying that the CCTV evidence he presented of the night you had run away with him was fabricated by Jungkook as well.”

Seokjin’s glad he has a lot of control over his facial muscles, otherwise the expression he would’ve made would’ve been harsher than any spoken curse. 

“We’ll say it was to force you into hiding with him, that his love was one-sided. I’ll drop the charges on you, even get you something new for that.” His eyes look pointedly at Seokjin’s decapitated wrist. “Can you really rebuild a new world if Zodiakos crumbles? Lead a country without the very system they learn about in early education? Lead a world separate from the stars? Do you think the public will approve of you and Jungkook together even after this is over? You will always be scrutinized, watched, condemned. You don’t think that would strain you? Or strain Jungkook away from you? Don’t you…”

Seokjin’s steps coming closer to the cell effectively forces the chairman’s voice to falter. He sighs as he crouches over, leaning in just enough to see the cloudiness of the chairman’s eyes and the gears turning in his ancient head. Even in such a situation, it both impresses and astonishes Seokjin how he could keep thinking of ways to try to save himself.

Perhaps his strong survival instinct was what kept him afloat for so long, in the grand scheme of things. But Seokjin doesn’t think about that kind of stuff anymore. He thinks he’s just exhausted, playing so many mind games and thinking too much. Frankly, in this moment, he would give anything for the day to be over and he gets to crawl under the covers with Jungkook for the night.

“Mr. Chairman, the level of delusion you have reached is high. I pray that you come back down to Earth as soon as you can, so that you can face your punishment head-on with a ready heart, and finally be the man I had admired you to be from a young age.”

The elder’s eyes narrow. “It’s not like you to make consecutive bad decisions in a row, Seokjin-sshi. Do you really wish to make me an enemy? Do you know what I am capable of?”

“There is no more fight to win or lose, sir.” He straightens up, stretching his back and arms up before finally easing his stance. “Do not worry. I will give Jungkook plenty of love, to make up for the love he couldn’t receive from you. I will put his happiness first, the way you couldn’t. And I will make sure you never have the audacity to show your face to him first ever again.”

“You don’t know what I can do.”

“I am fully aware, as someone who tried their best to model you. I notice a lot more than you give me credit for.” Seokjin tilts his head to the side, eyes unwavering. “It seems you don’t know what I can do.”

The room is silent again as Seokjin closes the door behind him. Then, he hears an enraged, muted scream, but it barely falters his steps taking him farther, and farther away.

He just wants to find Jungkook. He hopes Jungkook isn’t too many steps away.



 

 

“911, what’s your emergency?”

“All these messages get recorded, right?”

“Yes, ma’am. What’s your emergency?”

“Good… good. My name is Jeon Jisun, I need to leave a message for my son, Jeon Jungkook. I’m on flight 226 to Paris and the plane is going down.”

“Your plane is going down, ma’am?”

“Please, please look, I don’t have a lot of time. I-I need to say something to my son, please just let me do that.”

“Okay.”

“Look, I’ve done a lot of wrong to him. Abandoned him when he needed me the most because I had to find what was best for myself. Tell him that I was always thinking about him, my joy. And Seonghwa, who looked after him when I couldn’t, thank you for being my eyes and messenger when I wanted to run back home to see him but couldn’t. I love you, Jungkook, so, so much ” The call muffles with cries and screams in the background, “ Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?”

“Yes ma’am, I can hear you.”

“Thank you. Jungkook, I love you so, so much, and that’s not going to die even if I do today. I promise you, I’ll always be watching you, the way I always have been from the distance. I’m so sorry that I cannot come home, that I can’t apologize or say goodbye in person. I need you to be strong, the way you always have, and

The call loses signal.



 

 

The grey days continue, and as if the sky knew, sprinkles of gentle rain stain their umbrellas and the grey tombstone.

Taehyung’s eyes keep flickering over to Jungkook, and it must’ve been obvious, because he feels a nudge.

“Taehyung,” Namjoon murmurs warningly, “You know he doesn’t like it when he makes others worry about him.”

“I know. I know , but…” He sighs as he averts his eyes to the ground. “He could shed some tears, you know? Grieve outwardly. There is no press here, and no one’s going to judge him for it. I just… I just wonder if he’s not comfortable enough to grieve in front of us.”

“Nonsense.” Namjoon’s eyes remain forward, straight towards the pastor who finishes with a prayer. “There’s no reason for him to distrust us, or be uncomfortable. He knows we aren’t like that. Everyone has their own way of grieving, and maybe this is his.”

Taehyung’s eyes flicker to the ex-heir once again as soon as the prayer finishes. Jungkook doesn’t seem too different from the other days, despite attending his mother’s funeral— His eyes light up at the sight of Miss Kim Seonghwa, addressing her with a preppy eomunni! before she clasps his hands and they exchange a few words. He doesn’t sense any form of a farce from him, and wonders briefly if he’s reading too much into him.

How do you react to the death of an absent mother? Does it feel any different?

It must be, Taehyung shakes his head. One implies that she still has a reachable presence elsewhere. The death of a mother doesn’t.

“You’re overthinking it,” Namjoon says with a pat to his head.

“That’s what I usually say to you.”

“I know you’re worried— we all are. Jungkook’s lost a lot within the last couple of months, probably a change in his life that could always haunt him.” His hand reaches to clasp Taehyung’s. “But he got his closure and his goodbye.”

“The call?”

“The call,” he affirms. “I think he got to hear everything he needed and wanted  for so long, from it alone. He told me last night that he doesn’t despise her, that perhaps he never could— how could he despise her, knowing she wanted to run away from something she was trapped in? Or so he said.”

With one, swift movement, Namjoon’s hands move to his back to push him forward. “You said you had a gift for him, right? Go on. We’re going to all go for drinks after this, and I doubt you can give it then. Everything’s about timing, and lately, I don’t think it’s been on Jungkook’s side. Take hold of this timing and give it to him.”

Taehyung nods, shooting a grateful smile at him before waving towards Jungkook, who catches sight of his ridiculous hand movements to the side and nods with a smile towards him. The younger briefly turns back around to excuse himself, fixing the hem of his black tuxedo before following.

Taehyung hadn’t meant to lead him so far away from the ceremonial service, but before they had known it, they had reached the dying Jeon garden away from everyone else. Their distinct chatters and voices can be heard fading as Taehyung’s steps come to a stop in front of what was once his favorite place. The only place in the entire mansion that had felt like his, even if it was easily accessible to others. His silent conversations with the flowers, the splash of colors that invited him in from the weariness of the grey mansion, the moments of truths that had spilled its way out here— this was his place, even if the mansion were to fade. Even if the flowers were to die.

“Hyung?” He hears behind him. “Are you okay?”

That’s what I want to ask you, he almost says with a sigh, but shakes his head before smiling and turning on the spot, holding out a nicely wrapped purple box. “I had something to give you.”

Jungkook raises his eyebrows, slowly reaching out to take the box in his hands. “What is this? You didn’t have to.”

“It’s not a gift from me , per say. It’s from your mother.” Jungkook’s eyes widen and drop to the box, where he gingerly caresses the delicately tied ribbon. “Before she’d launched her perfume line, when we were engaged, she’d sent me a bottle of the perfume as a gift. I’d never opened it, much less used it. It felt like it was something I shouldn’t open, and now I’m glad I can give it to you.”

Without a word, the younger opens the box, carefully, as if it were fragile, before holding up the crescent moon shaped bottle filled with a light lilac colored liquid. “I didn’t even know there were any of these left. Last I’d heard, I heard her factory closed down after her death, and all the perfumes were destroyed.”

“I forgot about it for a while,” Taehyung admits, “but when I was cleaning out my room, I found it in the corner of my drawer. I just knew I had to give it to you, but I couldn’t find the timing for it. You were away, and I was unsure of your feelings towards her. I didn’t want to give it to you if it was going to hurt you still.”

A bright, fond smile tugs at Jungkook’s lips, finally tearing his eyes off the bottle upon inspection and carefully removing the cap, hiking his sleeve up just a bit before spraying lightly on his wrist, where his Virgo imprint was fading. He brings the wrist up to his nose, taking a deep inhale in, and a sigh of satisfaction as he exhales.

“Thank you, hyung. I’m glad you gave this to me. I couldn’t have asked for a better keepsake.”

Finally, Taehyung lets out a sigh of relief, an easy smile making its way onto his lips. “Of course. I think it was always yours to begin with.”

Jungkook carefully puts the bottle back into its place, closing the box before opening his arms out for Taehyung, who accepts the embrace with no hesitation.

And finally, they weep.



“There you are,” Yoongi says with a sigh, tugging Hoseok along behind him as his eyes land on Jungkook. “Seokjin hyung’s been looking for you, worried you might have run off.”

He dismisses the redness under Taehyung and Jungkook’s eyes if he notices it, and Jungkook raises an eyebrow. “Seokjin hyung? Were you two ever close enough for you to call him hyung?”

“Don’t question it,” Hoseok grimaces, “They’ve been going at it challenging each other for ‘custody’ over me, and last time Yoongi lost, so now he has to call Seokjin hyung with honorifics.”

“What a stupid wish,” Yoongi grumbles, “He could’ve just told me to call him that instead of making a whole fucking challenge for it.”

Jungkook only chuckles at that. “You two seem close. Where is he?”

“He’s waiting in the car, everyone else has already left for the pub we reserved. Hoseok sent Seokjin the address, and Namjoon told us to bring Taehyung.”

“My boyfriend didn’t even wait for me,” Taehyung pouts before being dragged away. Jungkook chuckles to himself once again, amused by the image of both of Yoongi’s hands being occupied with dragging them away, the two complaining nonstop.

When he finds their car, Seokjin’s already waiting in the passenger seat, head leaned against the window and eyes closed. Jungkook lets himself a moment to fondly smile before opening the door to the driver’s seat, Seokjin’s eyes opening abruptly as he closes the door, his eyes studying him carefully.

“You okay?” is all he asks. Jungkook nods, and only then, Seokjin sighs and finally acknowledges the box in his hands. “What’s that?”

“A present my mother gave to Taehyung. He gave it to me just a while ago.” He starts the engine, passing the box to Seokjin as he immediately accepts and places on his lap.

“A present?”

“The only perfume left of her line. I’m lucky to have gotten it.”

Seokjin only nods, his eyes studying the box. “It’s a good keepsake, I’d think.”

“That’s what I said too.”

“Too bad perfume scents only last a year, it’d be nice if it were more permanent.”

“Hyung, you know about perfumes?”

“Just a bit of the basics. You should know this too, you know.” His voice is scolding, but with no real bite to it. “The scents change to be more musky after a year, I believe.”

“Oh, that is a waste.” Jungkook sighs. “It’s very fitting, though. It’s much like her.”

Seokjin only nods, as if he understands, although there could be multiple meanings. “It is.”

“I haven’t seen Jimin hyung throughout the whole service, is he meeting us at the pub?”

Seokjin raises an eyebrow. “He didn’t tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“He went back to Busan after the New Year’s party. Something about preparing some stuff and a dance studio, I think he’s planning to open his own up soon.”

“Oh, so that’s what he did with the salary he got from the RRT .” Jungkook’s hand swiftly steers the wheel, and he can feel Seokjin’s eyes on him. He almost smirks, remembering how once Seokjin had told him he was immensely attracted to people who drove well. “I wish he had told me.”

“I think he wanted to show you after he had everything ready. I might not have known him for too long, but I get the feeling that he likes curating things about himself like an art museum.” Seokjin taps his chin. “If that makes sense.”

“Strangely enough, it does.”

“Taehyung’s planning to audition for something, he’s been keeping it under wraps with Namjoon. Probably has something to do with his movies and dramas he loves so much.” Seokjin leans the seat back a little with a sigh. “Yoongi apparently quit his firm to be Hoseok’s model for his new spring collection coming out. It’s kind of funny, the pictures Hoseok sends me, but Yoongi apparently has an affinity for the cameras.”

“Really? I never would have imagined.”

“Yeah.”

“And what about you, hyung?”

“Hm?”

“Do you have an idea of what you want to do?”

“Not at all.” But Seokjin smiles. “Maybe I can do something with this devilishly handsome face of mine.”

“I’d prefer not sharing that with the world, thank you very much. I’m a bit of a jealous person, I’d feel the urge to fight everyone who laid eyes on you.”

“Toxic behavior, Jeon. You can’t blame them for finding me easy on the eyes.” The two chuckle. “I’m kidding. I got an offer at a biomedical research firm.”

“That’s great, hyung!”

“I declined.”

“Why?”

Seokjin shrugs. “I guess I don’t want a job that takes too much time away from me anymore. Thirty years of life—” He glares at Jungkook when he corrects him with thirty one . “— and I don’t think I’ve accomplished much. I worked hard, but that’s about it. You know what I mean?”

Jungkook nods. “So no plan yet?”

“No plan.”

“And that doesn’t scare you?”

A pause. “Not anymore.”

Jungkook smiles. “Good.” He’s come a long way.

“... Jungkook-ah.”

“Hm?”

The older looks troubled, as if finding the right words for his thoughts were hard. “I just… I guess there’s no easy way to ask. Aren’t you going to go see your father? You haven’t gone to see him despite… despite demanding an audience with him as soon as you arrived back to the mansion.”

“For what?”

At that, Seokjin seems to find himself a bit speechless, but he manages to proceed, “For… anything . I don’t know, closure. An explanation.”

But Jungkook was already shaking his head as he steers the wheel swiftly once more, gaze not leaving the road ahead of him.

“Getting closure is a luxury that I don’t expect from him. I don’t want to gain closure on the possibility that more harm can come from knowing. I know what kind of person he is, and I guess… I guess I think some things are better left unsaid.”

Seokjin’s quiet, and Jungkook takes it that he understands; Seokjin always did. No matter how complicated his thoughts, emotions, or words made themselves out to be, Seokjin always understood. They were more similar than they thought to be, after all.

He almost laughs at the thought of their astrological compatibility. How foolish, he thinks now, that he had once agonized over their incompatibility. How foolish, especially since he thinks now that they couldn’t possibly be more compatible.

The car sits in comfortable silence, Seokjin nodding in and out of sleep before they arrive at the pub, the lights and chatter from inside reaching out as Jungkook shivers, pulling on his jacket and holding out Seokjin’s. Bleary-eyed, Seokjin slides his arms into the outstretched jacket just as they’ve always done before and Jungkook can’t help smile at the thought. It might be selfish of him, but he hopes that he can help him put on his jacket for as long as time permi—

“Forever,” Jungkook hears a whisper, and he blinks.

“Forever?”

“Forever,” Seokjin nods and reaffirms. “There was a time I told Hoseok forever was an impossible concept, because he always talked to me about wanting to play together forever when we were kids, but this…” He turns around, his arms naturally coming to hug Jungkook’s waist and pull him in closer, “I hope you help me put on my jacket forever.”



 

 

The night ended with every one of the Jeon members barely able to stand.

Taehyung and Namjoon had left first. Taehyung already didn’t have an affinity to alcohol, but it appeared Namjoon was only barely better. By the time Jungkook and Seokjin had made their way inside, the ex-secretary had already been spewing gibberish barely understandable (Seokjin thinks he heard something in between Give Tae his oscar! and Mitochondria is not the actual powerhouse of the cell ), and it was only around thirty minutes after they had finally sat down that Taehyung got tired of Namjoon’s ramble of Aristotelian virtue ethics before finally excusing themselves and dragging his boyfriend out with complaints spilling from his fond smile.

Hoseok didn’t have an affinity to alcohol either, Seokjin knew, so while Seokjin coddled over the amount he was drinking, Jungkook and Yoongi must’ve started a challenge. Seokjin was certain it would end quickly, aware of his boyfriend’s ridiculously high tolerance ( His boyfriend , he can say now. He could say it out anywhere, and it wouldn’t make it any less true. How weird.), but it turned out Yoongi could put up quite a fight himself as well. Sooner or later, the scene quickly shifted from Seokjin coddling Hoseok and Jungkook/Yoongi’s competition to Hoseok and Seokjin arguing whose boyfriend could drink better and their respective partners clinging to them, wanting to go home. 

It’s only after around midnight that they part ways, Seokjin having to get used to driving with one hand while Jungkook showers him with compliments ( “Seokjinnieeeeee,” his words drag out, and Seokjin takes his hand, “Did you know? Did you know that you’re the absolute prettiest I’ve ever seen in my life? Prettier than any flower? Sweeter than any scent? Oh! Your ears are red again!” ) that they finally get home— well, Seokjin’s home. Their boxes were still unpacked and littered in the new apartment they were going to move into within the next week, but Seokjin’s concept of home has changed over the last few months. Wherever he was with the people he loved, especially Jungkook, he thinks might be home, no matter how empty it was.

Barely managing to get Jungkook inside and pushing him onto the bed, Seokjin lets out a heave as he stretches his back, muttering something about not being young enough to do this anymore, before he finally flops down on the bed next to Jungkook. His eyes are barely open, a hazy smile lingering on his lips as Seokjin barely resists a fond smile.

“Seokjiinnniiieeeee.”

“You really like calling me that, huh?”

“Seokjiiiiiiinnnniiiiieeee.”

“Hm, Jungkookie?”

“You’re pretty.”

“I know, you told me.”

“No, like, you’re really pretty.” Jungkook’s hands suddenly reach to clasp Seokjin’s face in between, his cheeks rounding up in his palms. “I don’t think you know that like you should.”

“I think you tell me enough, Jungkook-ah.”

“Not Jungkook-ah. Jungkookie.”

“Jungkookie.”

“Hm?”

“Do you want some water?”

“I want some kisses,” he demands, and who was Seokjin to object? He merely chuckles as Jungkook pulls his face in closer to give him a sloppy kiss, missing his lips by a few centimeters to the left as he bursts into laughter.

“Jungkookie, your breath smells like beer.”

“Get intoxicated in me, then.”

Seokjin reddens. “You’re no longer allowed to talk to anyone else when you’re drunk.”

“Huuuh? Whyyy?”

“You’re gonna find yourself another pretty one to woo.”

Jungkook adamantly shakes his head, a bit too rigorously that he has to take a moment to clear the dizziness. “Won’t be prettier than you.”

“Sure, Jungkookie. We’ll see if you keep thinking that.”

“Won’t change.” He surges forward to pepper his face in kisses, in which Seokjin yelps with laughter. “Always going to be you. Make sure you always choose me, too.”

“You know I would.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t work elsewhere.” Jungkook raises an eyebrow, as if seriously contemplating the idea. “You’re a dangerous face to let out into the world. Enough to start wars.”

“Nonsense, baby.”

“Ooh, again.”

“Baby?”

He lets out a satisfied hum, placing one final kiss on his cheek. “I like it when you call me that. Makes me feel like I’m really yours.”

“Nonsense, you really are mine.”

“Really?”

Seokjin deadpans. “I ran away from the government for you. I lost a hand for you. You better be mine.”

Jungkook reaches for his hand— well, the missing one, so maybe not his hand. His wrist. He reaches for his wrist— even drunken, he caresses and touches him like he’s delicate, like he mustn’t dare touch him recklessly. He peppers lighter kisses on his wrist, like he always does, no matter how many times Seokjin tells him it doesn’t hurt anymore. 

“I’m yours,” he mutters softly, before peering up at him with a bright smile, “For as long as you’ll have me.”

“Forever,” Seokjin corrects pointedly, “I told you earlier. Forever .”

“Yes, forever.”

“Let’s get you to bed, Jungkookie.”

It’s when Jungkook finally sits up so Seokjin can undress him to sleep comfortably that it comes out of nowhere. “I think I know what I’m going to do?”

“Hm?”

“Future, and all that. I’ve been thinking about it ever since you told me what everyone else was doing. It made me feel left out.”

“I’m not doing anything,” Seokjin offers, but Jungkook shakes his head. 

“I’m not criticizing you for choosing not to do anything, but I think I know what I want to do.”

Seokjin finishes unbuttoning the last stubborn button he’s been stuck on (all tasks were around five times more difficult with one hand), sliding his shirt off in one swift movement before deciding to toss it to the side for later. He could deal with laundry in the morning. “What is it?”

“I want to reopen my mother’s factory.”

Seokjin contemplates it, nodding slowly as it processes. “The perfumes?”

“Yeah, the perfumes. I’ll name them all after her favorite flowers.”

“I think that’s very sweet, Jungkook.”

“I probably have to do a lot of studying beforehand, and it might take me a while to be able to get everything back together again. But I think I want to do it.” Jungkook gives a lazy thumbs up and offers a wink. “You may not believe it, but I was one of the top marks in school. I think I can do it.”

“I believe you, baby. I think it’s awesome that you want to do that.”

“You don’t think it’s unrealistic?”

“What’s unrealistic about it?”

“I just thought you might’ve had something to say about it, maybe some realistic advice. Like, maybe how the hell is the ex-heir who only knew about the stars going to start a perfume line? , or something like that.”

Seokjin shrugs. “True, maybe if I were the same person even just a year ago, I would’ve tried to butt in like that. But I think the fact that you have something you want to even try puts you above me. I’ll have to think of something to do soon,” he smirks, “so that I don’t embarrass being by your side when you become a top brand perfumist.”

“Better catch up soon,” Jungkook says playfully as he sprawls out on the bed again and kicks off his pants.

Seokjin’s response quickly dies on his lips before it even has a chance to come out, as he peers to the side and lays his eyes upon Jungkook’s closed eyes. His sleepy breaths, the way he looked immediately younger and peaceful when he drifted to sleep. The way his chest rises and deflates as it quickly and steadily slips into a peaceful rhythm, and Seokjin doesn’t have it in himself to resist a fond smile this time.

Why was it him? Hoseok had asked the night they’d finally come back from their days of running, the night Jungkook was dragged away by Namjoon and Yoongi and had left Hoseok and Taehyung alone with him.

What do you mean?

What made him so special?

I fell in love, Seok-ah. You should know, too. You did stupid things for love before.

You’ve fallen in love before. They never made you throw away your ideals, your life, your future. Why was it him?

Seokjin knows underneath these questions is a persisting, silent question that Hoseok had never gotten around to asking when he had learned of the two: What made it him, and never me?

He couldn’t answer him then, Seokjin realizes as his hand makes its way up to Jungkook’s face and carefully brushes the hair out of his face. Even if he were asked the question now, he’s not sure if there were enough words, definitions, concepts, or feelings enough in the world to express it correctly.

I don’t know how to express it to you, Seokjin thinks as he finally lays down and his arms wrap around him, the way it always snugly fits. The way it felt like Jungkook’s mold was made just to fit him, as if it was always meant to be like this. When they held each other’s hands, kissed, embraced. When their fingers danced along the other’s skin like small whispers of love that words could never express. I don’t know how to express to you why, how, and the quantity of how much I love you.

It’s about everything, but also nothing at all.

My heart just tells me it’s you I love.

No matter what version of yourself you become in the future, I won’t keel over.

“Seokjin hyung,” he hears a slurred murmur, and Seokjin curiously looks up.

“Go to sleep, Jungkook-ah.”

“Thank you.”

“Hm?”

His next murmur is unintelligible, and then there’s a pause. Finally, the younger yawns, and he wraps his arms around Seokjin to bring him in closer.

“Choosing me.”

“Jungkook-ah?”

There’s no response, just the sound of his comfortable breaths, and Seokjin can’t help but allow himself a soft, embarrassed laugh as he finally closes his eyes.

There was something better than the darned stars right in his arms; he’d be a fool to not choose him, over, and over again.

 

It was a cold, beautiful winter day when Seokjin’s life had finally become right.