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doused in gasoline

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Wiped. Exhausted. Burnt out.

Dead on one's feet

All words to describe how Jeongguk is feeling right now. 

It’s 5 AM and it’s his first break of the night since he got to work a little before 12 and he has just under two hours left. Probably pointless to take his break so late, but if he didn’t, there’s a chance he might have fallen asleep behind the wheel of the forklift.

...again.

So he has a lukewarm cup of vending machine coffee and a big daddy can of RedBull to keep him functioning. The pull of his bed is strong, but he promised to take Sieun to school today since it’s forecasted to rain. He let her down the last time he made her a promise and while she forgave him, Jeongguk still thinks about it a lot. So sleep can wait when it comes to his little sister. 

Despite how fucking tired he is, Jesus Christ. 

Rubbing at the corners of his eyes with his thumb and index finger, he buries a yawn into the heel of his palm and tries to cheer himself up by thinking of the leftover Chinese food he has waiting for him in the refrigerator at home. 

Spring rolls, chicken fried rice, crispy duck…

Bang.

“Jeon,” a voice booms beside him and Jeongguk startles, eyes flying open to see Gun with his hand smacked down on the table. “Break’s over, kid.”

Jeongguk frowns in confusion, leaning back to look at the old analog clock mounted on the wall behind him. 

5:17 AM

He fell asleep.

“Fuck,” he groans, draining the rest of his now cold coffee. “Feels like I just sat down.”

“Chin up. Almost done,” Gun encourages, giving him a smack on the shoulder before he steals the last of Jeongguk’s RedBull and goes to rummage in the ancient fridge tucked into the corner, more than likely looking to steal someone else’s food.

The last two hours are easier, thankfully. They get a big delivery in, so the metal shutters go up. It keeps the warehouse cold, which in turn keeps Jeongguk awake. 

But still, 7 AM can’t come soon enough. 

It’s a little after 7 when he clocks out—unloading all the pallets took them a little longer than he expected—so he’s running behind schedule. As he’s putting on his jacket, he checks his phone and curses at the string of texts he has waiting for him from his sister. 

from: sieun ∪^ェ^∪

oppa are you picking me up?

the bus will be here soon i need to know 

jeongguk oppa?

are you not finished? TT

Jeongguk breaks into a jog as he clumsily shoots back a reply that he’s on his way. He should have brought his car, but he doesn’t have the luxury of taking it out all the time when he can’t afford to keep it gassed. He doesn’t have time to catch the bus and the subway station is too far away, so he’s just gonna have to run. Much like the weather predicted, the dark clouds soon roll over and it’s not long before they start to split open, the start of rain darkening the concrete. 

He takes a shortcut behind a row of hole-in-the-wall restaurants and startles a cat eating from one of the many torn trash bags—garbage à la mode—and has to weave through the overflowing and rotten-smelling dumpsters. He holds his breath the entire time but it feels like the rancid smell of milk and fish burns at his sinuses. It’s the kind of stench that’s gonna stick to his clothes like tar.

He’s been meaning to buy a new cologne anyway. 

L’eau de Stank No. 5

Jeongguk’s phone chimes with another text from Sieun doubting that he’ll be there in time, so he wipes the rain off the screen on his chest and taps back a messy reply.

to: sieun ∪^ェ^∪

i’Ll be, there!. jus waitt

Just as he’s rounding the corner to the other side of the alley, he bumps into someone. 

“Fuck, sorry, man,” he apologises, luckily having not dropped his phone. Pocketing it, he gives the guy a bow of his head. “That’s my bad, I wasn’t paying attention.” But as he goes to walk around the guy, a hand shoves him back by the chest. “Whoa…” 

“You should watch where you’re going next time.” The guy steps forward into Jeongguk’s space, the smell of beer on his breath strong even in this putrid alley. 

“Hey. I said I was sorry,” Jeongguk defends, taking another step back just to try and keep things civil. “It was an accident.”

“Yeah? You don’t sound all that sorry to me. In fact I think you could do better. So empty your pockets and I’ll forgive you”

Oh fuck

He doesn’t have time for this right now. 

Jeongguk pulls a face, scoffing quietly. “Is that really necessary?” Taking another step back, he bumps into something else—some one else. 

“Yeah, it’s necessary,” the voice from behind says and Jeongguk looks over his shoulder to see not one, but two guys.

A fucking ambush. Terrific. 

Just what he needs.

“Listen,” Jeongguk tries to reason, all for the sake of buying himself time. He knows there’s a boxcutter in the pocket of his coveralls. “You’re robbing the wrong guy. I probably have less money on me than any of you.” And while that’s probably painfully true, he’s more focused on the fact that grabbing the boxcutter will probably disadvantage him more than it’ll help. 

He’s always been better with his fists. 

“Empty your fucking pockets or you’re gonna get hurt.” The one in front of him suddenly pulls out his own knife. It’s a little switchblade, but still a knife nonetheless. 

That makes things a little more complicated. 

“Do it now!” one of the guys behind Jeongguk yells.

“Okay, okay,” Jeongguk snaps back, reaching for his pockets. 

He needs to think. 

“Is there no way we can talk about this?”

He could try and rush the guy in front, barrel into him and run away. The street is just there and he’s a fast runner. But the guy is holding a knife and Jeongguk doesn’t really feel like getting stabbed today. 

“There’s nothing to talk about, you’re gonna give us your shit. So hurry up!”

He could also just do the sensible thing and give his wallet and phone and hope that’ll be that, they’ll run off and he’ll still be able to make it to pick up Sieun in time. 

Nothing materialistic is worth him getting hurt. So with a sigh, Jeongguk grabs his things from his pockets.

It’s the smart thing to do.

“What’s taking you so long? Are you looking to die, faggot?” The guy waves his blade close to Jeongguk’s face, making his buddies behind Jeongguk snicker.

His fingers slip from his phone and wallet and curl into fists.

...too bad he’s not smart. 

And that hit a little too close to home.

“Alright, let me just—” Jeongguk pulls his hand free from his pocket and throws his weight forward into a jab, right into the guy’s fat fucking mouth. The impact is hard enough that Jeongguk feels the pain in his middle knuckle when it connects to teeth. 

A meaty arm suddenly wraps around his neck from behind and crushes his windpipe, making him gag and forcing the air from his throat like a deflating balloon. There’s not a lot of time for him to decide what to do next, brain going fuzzy from the cocktail of adrenaline and panic. Without much thought, Jeongguk lifts his leg and kicks at the dude holding the knife, knocking it from his hand while he’s distracted by his bleeding lip. With the more threatening of the three disarmed, Jeongguk throws his weight back into the one behind him, shoving him into the wall and effectively loosening the arm around his neck just as he’s starting to go dizzy. 

“What the fuck—!” the other guy—who’s been trying to rummage through Jeongguk’s pockets this whole time—gets silenced with a headbutt, Jeongguk’s forehead colliding with his nose.

But when one goes down, another gets back up and Jeongguk’s soon taking just as many punches as he’s giving. Luckily, he knows how to take a punch, and he’s especially grateful for that when he has fists coming at him from all directions. The difference between him and them is that they’re looking to hit him anywhere they can, whereas he’s focused on hitting them where he knows it’ll hurt the worst. 

He wouldn’t say he’s precise, but in comparison to them, he’s a fucking brain surgeon.

They tire quickly, Jeongguk can tell. Their hits turn sluggish and they’re slower to react. Jeongguk isn't fairing that much better, but he’s at least holding his own better than they are. 

He’s too stubborn to cave.

Jeongguk takes advantage and jabs one guy right in the nose, sending him to the floor, clutching his face. He ducks a punch to the head and lands his own to one of the other guys’ gut, winding him and knocking him back. Jeongguk doesn’t miss the opportunity to throw a haymaker to his head and down the guy crumples to the floor. 

Focusing on the other two means the third had valuable time and he apparently didn’t waste it, branding the knife from earlier. 

“You better give me all of your shit right now or I’ll kill you!” the guy barks, slashing the air. “I’m not fucking around anymore!”

Jeongguk keeps a safe distance between them, arms still raised protectively. He spits out a mouthful of blood, tongue checking for loose teeth. 

It may be a small knife, but it wouldn’t take a lot to nick one of Jeongguk’s arteries. 

As he’s debating his next move, multiple things happen at once.

“Hey!” a voice yells from close range.

Before any of them can really react to it, the guy with the knife is on the floor, landing on the wet concrete with a deafening smack , legs having been swept out from under him. He wheezes out a sharp breath, coughing a moment later. 

Jeongguk’s eyes snap up to the newcomer as he stomps on the guy’s wrist to make him drop the knife. He screams but lets it go and it’s soon kicked away. There’s scrambling behind him and Jeongguk looks back to see the two he took out previously making a run for it. 

“You okay?” 

Jeongguk faces the guy again—his saviour, he supposes. He nods, tight chest struggling to take in a proper breath. “Yeah,” he exhales. “Thanks.”

The guy is tall, is the first thing Jeongguk really notices about him. A lot of his face is hidden under a curtain of dark, shaggy hair, but the part of his face he can see looks… nice. He’s drowning in clothes far too big for him and his earphones dangle precariously from one ear. 

“Did they jump you?” 

Jeongguk nods, finally standing straight and eyeing the guy on the floor. “Tried to steal my shit.” He can’t resist taking a pot shot, a boot to the ribs that has the guy spitting out a curse. It reminds him to check his pockets and when he can’t find his phone, his eyes dart around. “Fuck.”

“They take your stuff?”

“I don’t know. Phone’s not in my pocket.” Jeongguk searches the ground, checks the dude’s pockets on the floor.

“This it?”

Jeongguk looks up to see his phone being offered out to him, screen cracked but lit up. “Yeah,” he sighs, taking it and dusting the flaked glass off. He looks up at the guy, and now that he’s a little closer, he can see more of his face.

He’s pretty.

“I’m Jeongguk.”

“Taehyung,” he returns. “Did you take those three all on your own?”

 “Yeah. Kinda had no choice,” Jeongguk scoffs. “Had me cornered.” 

Taehyung nods slowly and Jeongguk looks back down at his phone to check the time. 

Shit. He really is late now.

“Hey, I gotta go. Thanks again for saving my ass. You gonna be okay handling him?” Jeongguk asks, gesturing to the one abandoned on the floor.

“Oh. Yeah, don’t worry about it. Wait, before you go,” the guy is quick to rush out as Jeongguk turns to leave. He rummages through his pockets, muttering too quietly for Jeongguk to hear what he’s saying, and eventually pulls out his wallet. Flipping through the folds, he pulls out what looks to be a business card and offers it to Jeongguk. “Take this.”

Jeongguk raises an eyebrow, taking the card between two fingers. 

Kim Taehyung

Personal Trainer

The Ring

Beneath it is an address and a phone number. The card is bent at the corners, aged like it’s never even been taken out of Taehyung’s wallet. Jeongguk dirties it more with a bloody smear.

“Personal trainer?” Jeongguk looks Taehyung over, skeptical. 

“Boxing coach,” Taehyung corrects, leaning down to pick up a gym bag he must have dropped. “I think you have a lot of potential. If you’re interested, that is.”

Jeongguk processes that. “Interested in what? Boxing classes?”

“No, not exactly. You wouldn’t be taking classes. You’d train under me. Think about it.” Taehyung fishes out his phone, looking down at the screen briefly before glancing back up at Jeongguk. “Don’t you have to go?”

He definitely does. With an unsure nod Taehyung’s way, Jeongguk turns and jogs out of the alley.

It’s still on his mind as he drives Sieun to school—he managed to pick her up in time by the skin of his teeth—and she’s mostly quiet, but he can see her stealing looks at him from the corner of his eye. Jeongguk knows that she’s used to seeing him bruised and bloody from fights over the years and he hates that it’s probably a deep memory for her. 

“Are you going to tell me what happened or not?” she eventually asks, holding out longer than Jeongguk expected her to. 

“Or not.” Jeongguk glances over at her to give her a smile, but she’s not amused. He sighs, facing the road again. “Not right now, okay? Later.”

Sieun doesn’t push and he’s grateful for that. He’s still processing everything that happened this morning and he’s so tired that even talking is burning energy he doesn’t have. 

He’s on his reserve tank. 

When they arrive at Sieun’s school, Jeongguk reaches over and gives her hair a little ruffle, just to lighten the mood. 

He’d much rather her be annoyed at him than worried.

“Stop,” Sieun whines, slapping his hand away. 

“Do you have an umbrella?”

Sieun pulls it out of her bag. “Yep.”

“Got money for lunch?”

“Oppa.”

“What?”

“Stop worrying about me,” Sieun tells him, giving him a pointed look that’s far too old for her young face. “I’m not a little kid anymore.”

Ah, the irony.

“Don’t I know it.” Jeongguk sighs, running a hand through his hair and wincing when he brushes over a tender spot. He can see Sieun’s about to say something, so he doesn’t give her the chance. “Hurry up and get going. I’m tired, come ooon.”

“Alright, alright. Stop complaining,” Sieun tsks, unimpressed. Jeongguk smiles. “Don’t do anything stupid, oppa.”

Jeongguk yawns, arm stretched over the back of the passenger's seat as she climbs out. “Me? Never.”

Sieun glares at him as she opens her umbrella. “ Bye.” 

When she slams the door, Jeongguk chuckles and winds the window down, watching her hurry over to her friends. 

What kind of big brother would he be if he didn’t try and make her life a little bit more miserable?

“Sieun~!” Jeongguk calls out cheerily, voice pitched into a sickly sweet coo. His sister and her friends turn to look back at him and Jeongguk has the uttermost satisfaction of watching her face fall like she just knows what Jeongguk’s going to do. “Oppa loves you! Work hard for me, little sister!” 

Sieun’s eyes burn holes into him as her friends giggle, enjoying the show. Jeongguk grins as he rolls the window back up and turns on his music full blast, shaking the speakers as he peels away with a screech of burning rubber on asphalt. 

All in a day’s work.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

It’s when Jeongguk’s doing his laundry a week later that he’s reminded of the proposition he was given to by the stranger in the alley.

Not that kind of proposition. 

He’s emptying his pockets—full of lint, scraps of tape, order sheets from work and balled up protein bar wrappers—when he finds the business card. He’s about to throw it in the trash when he remembers the stranger's face. 

Kim Taehyung, the card reminds him.

From what he saw of him, the guy was cute. Could it have been a proposition? Or was he really offering Jeongguk training. The dude didn’t look much like a boxer himself, baby-faced kid like him. 

Maybe he was just flirting.  

Weird time to flirt, but Jeongguk once got asked out by his dentist while he was giving him a filling. 

Again, not the good kind.

His wording is just poor.  

Jeongguk shrugs and tucks the card into the back of his jeans and throws the other stuff away. Once he’s got a coin in the machine, he knocks the door shut and goes and sits in one of the warped plastic chairs. He doesn’t trust leaving his stuff here unattended, so he has time to kill. He checks his phone. 

8:39 PM

A pretty appropriate time to send a text, he’d say so.

to: 02-XXX-XXXX

uhh hey

this is jeongguk

the dude that got jumped in the alley? lol

Jeongguk watches the texts pop up as delivered before he opens up Spotify to listen to some music while he decides on what to make for dinner when he gets home. He thinks he has some rice leftover in the cooker from yesterday…

ping!

He taps on the notification banner with a quirk of his lips, quickly saving the number to his contacts.

from: kim taehyung (alley dude)

Oh hello

Jeongguk blinks and waits. 

Was that it?

“Huh.”

Dry, but alright. 

to: kim taehyung (alley dude)

whats up 

from: kim taehyung (alley dude)

Did you think about my offer?

 

to: kim taehyung (alley dude)

offer?

from: kim taehyung (alley dude)

Training. 

Oh.

So he was serious about that. 

Jeongguk isn’t entirely sure what to make of that. 

to: kim taehyung (alley dude)

fr?

you actually want to train me???

in boxing?

There’s a delay, the three dots popping up not once, not twice, but thrice before a new message appears under his.

from: kim taehyung (alley dude)

Yes

Jeongguk rolls his eyes and drops his phone to his lap with a scoff. He stretches his arms above his head and shakes his head at himself. Clearly he needs to get laid sometime soon if he’s thinking that every guy he crosses paths with is flirting with him. 

Of course the dude wasn’t flirting with him. 

What was he doing then?

Jeongguk frowns and scoops his phone back up.

to: kim taehyung (alley dude)

you implying i need to learn how to fight?

think i handled that fight pretty well actually 

from: kim taehyung (alley dude)

No

I offered to train you bc I think you’re good

Just need to hone your skills

What the fuck.

to: kim taehyung (alley dude)

wtf

for what

from: kim taehyung (alley dude)

For boxing

Potentially professional.

Taehyung was very serious about his offer, then. No second intention at all. 

So, it was sort of a compliment. Not an insult. 

to: kim taehyung (alley dude)

oh ok

wouldn’t have pinned you as a boxer

from: kim taehyung (alley dude)

I’m not.

to: kim taehyung (“boxer” dude)

ah lol

didn’t think so

not that this is a bad thing, but you don’t really look like a boxer or w/e

no offence

Read 8:48 PM

Taehyung doesn’t reply for a few minutes and Jeongguk wonders if he’s offended him. It wasn’t anything personal, all Jeongguk meant was that all the boxers he’s ever seen are big and hulking with arms like tree trunks. 

He’s just about to say as much when Taehyung replies. 

from: kim taehyung (“boxer” dude)

Oh no offence taken :)

So are you interested?

Jeongguk purses his lips, letting himself picture that for a minute. Professional boxing. He knows little to nothing about boxing. He’s used a heavy bag before, knows a couple names of different punches, but his knowledge is limited. 

He tells Taehyung that. 

from: kim taehyung (“boxer” dude)

Don’t worry about that

We can cross that bridge when we get to it

Give it some more thought and lmk

Have to go.

Have a good night, Jeongguk

His reflection stares back at him as he locks his phone, distorted from the cracked screen that he hasn’t had the time to replace. 

Which really tells him everything he needs to know. If he doesn’t have time to fix his phone, there’s no way in hell he has time to learn how to box. That says it all, really, but he still finds himself humouring the idea. 

Can he actually imagine himself doing something like that? 

Lips pursed, Jeongguk unlocks his phone again and does a quick Google search.

proffesional boxing

Showing results for professional boxing

That’s how he spends the rest of his time at the laundromat, reading articles and browsing YouTube and ends up watching top 10 most gruesome boxing injuries of all time video compilations. 

Watching Mike Tyson bite Evander Holyfield’s ear off definitely has him leaning away from the idea.

Plus, cauliflower ear? Jeongguk doesn’t want a fat ear. 

His shoulders bunch up protectively.

Jeongguk has his doubts for many reasons. Mostly for wasting his time, but there’s definitely some reserved for Taehyung. Could he actually get Jeongguk up to the standard of being professional ? Is he even a real coach or just living a pipe dream and Jeongguk is the schmuck who humours him. 

How much would it cost him anyway? 

Would he get paid if he climbed the ranks? 

He supposes he’s not going to get any real answers without asking questions, either.

So after his shift at the warehouse the following day, Jeongguk heads to The Ring . It’s not that far, a ten minute walk at most—something he keeps in mind. 

The double doors to the gym are open and he’s slow to walk in, looking around. The place looks grungy and dated, like it hasn’t been changed at all since it was first built. Concrete walls and old low-hanging halogen lamps that sway precariously from the breeze. It smells old, too. Like damp stone and sweat. The walls are lined with pictures, photographs and framed newspaper clippings.

The whole place reeks of history. 

It’s a no frills, old school type of joint, Jeongguk can see that immediately. There’s none of the high tech equipment you’d find at regular gyms, nothing electronic to be seen. There’s a big ring in the middle of the room, a couple of guys sparring in it while another guy monitors. Heavy bags hang from the ceiling, some older leather looking ones and newer brands that look a little lighter. 

There’s only one guy using them, pounding on the black leather one closest to Jeongguk, hissing out quick, sharp breaths with each hit. His back is to Jeongguk and he’s got his hood pulled up, so he can’t see what the guy looks like, but everything about him screams professional, going from his stance to his speed.

Could that be him with some training?

Jeongguk stops to watch the stranger, each punch to the bag quick and calculated, making it rock on its chain noticeably. Even from here, Jeongguk can see the power behind each hit, can hear the level of impact on the leather. The guy moves quickly, dodges and ducks and throws in a combo before he lands one last hook that makes the chains above the bag groan with stress. Dust falls from the ceiling, smattering the guy’s black hoodie like icing on a cake. 

Jeongguk’s in awe.

“Can I help you?” a voice calls to his left and he turns to see a guy approaching, eyebrows raised but smile friendly. 

“Uh, yeah,” Jeongguk answers intelligently, looking back over at the guy on the heavy bag.

His head turns towards Jeongguk, attention caught, and he pushes his hood down. 

Jeongguk’s jaw drops, eyes bugging out. 

Taehyung stares back at him, cheeks flushed and chest heaving. His long hair is tied back, revealing the rest of his face, and Jeongguk blinks. He definitely doesn’t look like the kid Jeongguk thought he was - thick brows, strong features and sharp angles. 

And he has the audacity to smirk at Jeongguk like he knows exactly what he’s thinking. 

He’s definitely a boxer. 

Fuck his life. 

“Kid?” the guy beside him calls.

“Sorry. I…” Jeongguk trails off, eyes still on Taehyung. 

“It’s fine, hyung,” Taehyung cuts in, making his way over. He limps heavily on his right foot, Jeongguk notes. “This is the guy I mentioned. The one who took on those three guys last week.”

Sounds like an old porno he watched once.

The guy’s eyebrows shoot up and a grin breaks out across his face, deep dimples popping into his cheeks. “Oh! You must be Jeongguk,” he greets, bowing his head. “I’m Kim Namjoon. I own the gym.”

He extends a hand and Jeongguk stretches to take it, giving it a short shake. “Nice to meet you. Sorry for unexpectedly dropping by.” His eyes gravitate back to Taehyung who stops in front of him, panting gently. There’s sweat on his temples and upper lip and Jeongguk watches him swipe his tongue over his bottom lip.

Jeongguk wouldn’t mind licking off his sweat either.

Yeah, dude, you really need to get laid.

“Surprised to see you here,” Taehyung says, uncapping his bottle of water and taking a long sip, throat bobbing. “You seemed like you had your doubts.”

Okay, he deserves that. 

“Yeah… well. I just came to check the place out. See if you were legit or not,” Jeongguk defends, hands sliding into the pockets of his jacket protectively. 

Taehyung’s lips quirk. “Verdict?”

Jeongguk’s eyes narrow. 

Arrogant.

“Would you like a tour of the place?” Namjoon offers, interrupting his and Taehyung’s little staring contest. 

Jeongguk nods, offering Namjoon a small smile and he grins back, leading the way. He spares another look at Taehyung who turns away with a little chuckle, clearly pleased with himself. 

Dick.

“This place was opened back in 1960 by my grandfather,” Namjoon explains as he takes him over to the wall of photographs. He points up to a black and white picture of a man standing outside this very establishment, a clone of Namjoon. “It’s one of the last standing original boxing gyms in Seoul.”

“Could have guessed that,” Jeongguk says.  “Place looks old.” 

Namjoon chuckles. “My family’s worked hard to keep it open over the years. Went from my grandfather to my dad and now me.”

“Real family business, then.”

“Yep. Passed from generation to generation.”

Jeongguk walks further down the line of photographs, able to see them gradually become more and more modern the further he goes. He stops at the last picture, eyes dropping to the gold plaque beneath it. 

Kim Minsoo

May 27, 2000 - Jangchung Arena

Seoul, South Korea

Kim Minsoo has one arm raised in the air, victorious, while the other supports a little boy. The kid is what draws in Jeongguk’s eye the most. He’s staring at the man the way only a son looks at his father. Completely idolising him. While Kim Minsoo’s eyes are presumably on the crowd, his son only has eyes for him.

Besides that picture is a blank space. Something was clearly hung there before and not long ago removed, obvious in the square outline of subtly lighter paint.

“So what do you know about boxing?” Namjoon speaks up before Jeongguk can ask what that’s about. “Do you have any experience?”

“No,” Jeongguk answers honestly. “Zilch.”

Namjoon blinks. “Ever done any type of combat sport?”

“Did some taekwondo when I was a kid. Don’t think I got further than a yellow stripe belt, though.”

“I see.” Namjoon looks across the room to where Taehyung is filling up his water bottle and frowns. “That’s… interesting.”

Jeongguk follows his gaze for a moment. “So what’s his deal, then. He a pro?”

“Ah.” Namjoon looks uncomfortable, but Jeongguk isn’t the type to go back on himself and doesn’t apologise for being curious. “No. He didn’t make his professional debut.”

“Why not?”

Namjoon opens his mouth to answer, face still twisted in discomfort. 

“Because I retired,” Taehyung suddenly interjects, walking their way. He gives Namjoon a look before his gaze slides over to Jeongguk. His eyes look hard, face closed off.

“Bit young to retire, aren’t you?”

“Are you interested in my offer or not.”

Jeongguk raises an eyebrow, not too keen on Taehyung’s tone. “Say I am,” he starts, turning to face Taehyung head on. “How much would it cost me?”

“If you wanna come to my office, we can discuss pricing and—”

“Free of charge,” Taehyung cuts in once again, Namjoon’s head snapping towards him, eyes going wide.

Taehyung.”

Jeongguk looks between the pair. 

“You know I have no interest in making money out of this, hyung,” Taehyung tells Namjoon. 

Namjoon sighs, twisting to give his back to Jeongguk like a makeshift partition, cutting him out of the conversation. “Don’t you at least think we should discuss this a little before deciding anything?”

“No,” Taehyung returns flatly. “I’ve made my mind up.” His eyes find Jeongguk again. “No fee.”

Namjoon pinches the bridge of his nose briefly, mouth opening and closing before he turns back to Jeongguk, smile forced and tight at the edges. “Well. That settles that, then, I suppose.”

There’s a palpable tension between the two, but their body language says they’re familiar. The curious part of him wants to ask, but he knows not to bite the hand that feeds him. Especially not when he’s getting an offer that he doubts comes around very often. 

Still, Jeongguk hasn’t said yes yet.

“Would I get paid?”

“Not until you compete in national fights.” 

“I don’t get paid until then?”

Namjoon’s eyes widen incredulously, but Taehyung’s lips quirk at one corner.

He huffs a small laugh. “Did you not just hear the part where I said I was waving your fee?”

Jeongguk shrugs. “Just thought I’d ask.” He licks his lips, looking around the gym. “When would my first fight be?”

“That’s not important right now,” Namjoon answers this one. “You have to be up to standard first. You’ll need rigorous training before we even think about putting you in a fight.”

“I thought I was a natural.”

Taehyung actually does laugh then, a small one, but a laugh nonetheless.

Namjoon looks pained.

“I said you have potential. There’s rules in boxing. Can’t do any of that kick to the ribs MMA shit you pulled out in the alley.” Taehyung starts to unwrap his hands and Jeongguk’s eyes follow the motion. “You do something like that and you’ll end up disqualified.”

This already sounds like more effort than Jeongguk has time for.  “When would we train?”

“Every day,” Namjoon and Taehyung both answer. 

Jeongguk wants to roll his eyes, and Taehyung must sense it. “If it’s not for you, then fine. No one’s forcing you. If you need some more time to think about it, then go ahead. Just don’t agree if you don’t plan on sticking it out.”

Chewing on the inside of his cheek, Jeongguk looks between the pair. Namjoon looks resigned to the fact that Jeongguk is probably going to be more work than he’s worth. That or Taehyung’s made a terrible mistake picking him. 

And Jeongguk can’t tell what Taehyung’s thinking at all. His face is neutral. Controlled. Like he won’t flinch regardless of Jeongguk’s answer. 

Taking another look around the gym, Jeongguk feels a pull to the idea of coming here everyday. Of getting into top shape, of having something to do besides just work and sleep. 

He lets himself imagine for a moment what it’d be like to actually become a boxer. It could be Jeongguk’s picture up on that wall that people look at when they come here. That would be cool. 

Plus, he could do it just for shits and giggles.

Not really got anything to lose from it, right? Especially if he’s getting it for free and not making any money from it.

“Fuck it. I’m in,” he shrugs. 

Namjoon’s smile certainly doesn’t reach his eyes, but Taehyung’s does. 

“That’s great. We can get started as soon as tomorrow,” Taehyung says. He offers his hand out to Jeongguk. 

Jeongguk slaps it with a grin. “Sweet.”

                                                                                                          -- -- --

“You can’t be serious about him,” Namjoon says once Jeongguk’s left. “He’s not taking this seriously at all!”

“Give him some time, hyung.” Taehyung heads over to the equipment closet to start pulling out mats for his first class of the day. “He’s got a drive in him. Maybe you don’t see it and hell, maybe even he doesn’t see it. But I do.”

Namjoon sighs, taking the stack of mats he’s handed while Taehyung collects the other half. “Don’t you think you’re putting a little too much trust into him?”

Taehyung smiles, throwing the mats down one by one and nudging them with his foot into place. “Maybe. But I’m willing to give him a shot.”

“But—”

“But nothing, Joon hyung,” Taehyung cuts him off. “It’s my choice. Nothing else to be said.”

Namjoon indeed doesn’t say anything else on the matter, but Taehyung knows he’s unhappy about it. Taehyung wishes he could explain why he feels compelled to give Jeongguk a chance, but he can’t. He just has a feeling . A lot of people don’t trust their guts, but it’s never steered him wrong and the times he’s fucked up have been because he’s ignored it. 

He knows Namjoon is worried because ever since Taehyung went into retirement and was urged into coaching, he’s never actually coached another person. He teaches classes to young kids wanting to learn about boxing, but nothing else. It’s not as if he hasn’t been approached, because he has, numerous times. He just never felt a strong pull towards the idea until a few days ago.

Let’s hope his gut doesn’t fail him now.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

“Time for you to lose your clothes,” is the first thing Taehyung says to him the following day when he walks into the gym. 

Jeongguk blinks, smirk curling at his lips. “Well aren’t you forward.”

“Funny,” Taehyung says monotonously, flipping all of the lights on. “Need a weigh-in before we start.” He gestures for him to follow with the clipboard in his hand, leading him to the back of the room where an open doorway exposes a locker room. “Dump your stuff.”

Jeongguk does. “I already know what I weigh,” he tells him, but he still shrugs out of his jacket, tossing it over his gym bag. 

“That’s great, but I want to see for myself.” Taehyung checks a piece of paper he has in his pocket, walking down the aisle of lockers and pulls open one. “This will be your locker. This is your combination. Don’t lose it or you’ll have to pay for a new lock.” He holds up the piece of paper and sets it in the locker. “Every morning you’ll come here, you’ll get changed, put all your stuff away and then meet me out on the floor. You said earlier that you work until seven?”

Jeongguk nods, stripping out of his coveralls. “Sometimes I take my sister to school, too.”

Taehyung nods, writing that down. “That’s fine. Just come here straight after. And let me know in advance so I’m not waiting around for you.”

“Got it.” Jeongguk kicks off his boots and sheds out of his work clothes. He takes off his tank top, leaving him in just his boxers and socks. 

He feels pretty good standing there, more than half naked. He doesn’t know if Taehyung is into men, but he waits for an appreciative eye, at least. 

He gets nothing but a quick once over.

Nice.

“Over here.” Taehyung leads the way over to a set of scales against the wall, the kind they have at the doctor’s office. 

“Why’s this necessary?” Jeongguk steps up onto the scales, watching as Taehyung starts adjusting the sliders. 

“Because I need to know what weight class to train you for. Looks can be deceiving. You look muscular but you could be a hundred and twenty-five pounds for all I know.” 

Jeongguk scoffs. “Like fuck am I…” he mutters, looking down at his arms and flexing one of his biceps. 

“Stay still.”

Jeongguk relaxes, tonguing the inside of his cheek as he watches Taehyung’s face. “What weight class were you?”

Taehyung chews at his lip. “Welterweight.” He doesn’t let Jeongguk ask another question and steps away from the scales, pen scrawling over his clipboard. “One-sixty. You’re bigger than I thought.”

Jeongguk’s eyes go wide, looking at the reading. “No fucking way. I’m one fifty-seven!”

“Scale says one-sixty, so I’m writing down one-sixty.”

Hearing that is like a slap in the face, honestly mad. He looks down at his abs as he steps off the scale, hand resting over his stomach protectively. “What weight class am I?”

“Middleweight. My goal is to get you to one fifty-five before your first fight.” 

“That’s easy,” Jeongguk shrugs. “I could probably shed that in a week.”

“No,” Taehyung drawls, turning to look at him. “It’s not easy. You’re going to be building muscle while burning body fat and muscle is denser than fat. You’re going to be under a strict diet, a strict workout routine, you will eat, sleep and shit boxing. Do you understand?”

Jeongguk readjusts his dick in his boxers. “Yep.”

Taehyung stares at him for a moment. “What kind of stuff do you work out in?”

“Sweatpants? T-shirt? I dunno.”

“No sweatpants when you’re training. Get yourself some compression shorts, leggings, dri-fit shirt. Need your clothes tight but breathable.”

“Dude, I can’t afford all that shit,” Jeongguk tells him, not beating around the bush.

Taehyung doesn’t give him any flack for it, thankfully. “Alright, that’s fine. I’ll handle your gear. But you gotta get the food I tell you to, okay? You can get it inexpensively. Store brand shit works just as well as the fancy stuff.”

Jeongguk nods. “I can do that.”

“Before all of that, though, we gotta get you checked out.”

“Checked out?”

“Physical examination. Need to have a signed report that says you’re fit and ready to fight. Can’t get your license without it,” Taehyung explains, nodding to the doorway. “Get dressed and meet me on the mats.” He walks out, leaving Jeongguk with a whole new barrage of information and wondering—and not for the last time—if this is really all worth it.

Dressed and not ready in the slightest, Jeongguk meets Taehyung in the centre of the room. Namjoon watches from across the gym and Jeongguk can feel the pressure. 

“Show me your fighting stance,” Taehyung instructs.

Jeongguk doesn’t think he really has a fighting stance, always just focuses on guarding his face, so he doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not and just raises his fists close to his chin and mouth, shoulders locked.

Taehyung tucks his clipboard under his arm and gets out his phone, taking a picture of him. Jeongguk can’t resist grinning for the camera. “Get my good side.”

“Find it, then,” Taehyung shoots back immediately and Jeongguk’s grin drops. “Okay, so.” He lowers his phone, tapping at the screen. “Your stance isn’t the worst I’ve seen, but it’s very basic.” He shows Jeongguk his phone, but he doesn’t look away from Taehyung.

He can’t help but get defensive. “That’s all I know, dude.”

“Coach.”

Jeongguk snorts. “You’re kidding.”

Taehyung takes a slow breath, chest rising with it. “Nope. Not kidding.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, shaking his head a little. “Alright, fine. That’s all I know. Coach.”

Taehyung looks like he’s got something to say, lips rolled together into a thin line. “Go and head on over to Namjoon now. He’ll fill in your paperwork with you.”

Jeongguk can tell he’s annoying him already. He walks away, but they continue to stare at each other until Taehyung breaks eye contact and limps away, looking back down at his phone.

“Come on in,” Namjoon urges once he reaches the door, disappearing inside.

Jeongguk’s eyes linger on Taehyung for a moment longer before he follows Namjoon inside. “What details do you need?” he asks as he looks around the cramped office, not much more than a narrow rectangle of space. There are papers scattered everywhere, stacks and folders in a disorganised mess.

“Just your basic details.” Namjoon quickly closes what looks like a spreadsheet document on his desktop and gestures for Jeongguk to take a seat. He doesn’t look particularly pleased that Jeongguk’s here, he can tell. But he already knew that from their first meeting yesterday. “Should still have some forms around here…” 

“What kind of forms?” he probes again, ignoring the offer for a seat and remaining standing in the doorway. 

“For your boxing license. Let’s just get it out of the way now,” Namjoon sighs. 

Jeongguk watches him rummage through a filing cabinet. He folds his arms over his chest, leaning against the door jamb. “Don’t sound too happy about all of this.”

Namjoon pauses, looking over at him. “Suppose I’m not,” he says honestly. He doesn’t elaborate and Jeongguk doesn’t push, both of them staying silent while Namjoon searches. “Here it is.” He takes a seat at his desk, digging for a pen in the mess of papers. “So. Full name?”

They spend the next ten minutes filling in the sheet together, going through Jeongguk’s personal information—height, weight, hair and eye colour, etc. He has to sign it once they’re done with the promise to bring in a copy of his birth certificate and two passport-sized photos. 

“Feel like I just signed my life away.”

“You have,” Namjoon answers with no hesitation, tearing out the piece of carbonless copy paper from under the form to keep for himself. He tucks it into a new folder and proceeds to scrawl JEON JEONGGUK in the corner. “Listen,” he sighs, setting the folder down and tucking the pen behind his ear. “I have nothing against you, Jeongguk,” he starts, leaning back in his chair with a loud creak. “I just have my doubts about how serious you’re taking this.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because I know your type.”

Jeongguk raises an eyebrow. “What type is that?”

“Arrogant,” Namjoon says directly, again, no hesitation.

Jeongguk hums, bothered that this guy who doesn’t know him for shit is acting like he’s got him all figured out. “Bit of a bold assumption, isn’t it?”

“Am I wrong?”

“I’m just confident,” Jeongguk shrugs. “Nothing wrong with that.”

Namjoon’s lips quirk. “But am I wrong.”

Jeongguk tongues the inside of his cheek, annoyed.

“Maybe you have good reason to be arrogant, I don’t know you—”

“Sure acting like you do,” Jeongguk cuts in and Namjoon takes a moment to chew on his words.

“But I do know Taehyung,” he says, softer this time. “And I care about him a lot. I don’t want to see his time wasted. Regardless if he sees something in you or not. So you should know, for full transparency, I have tried to talk him out of this.”

“Appreciate your honesty.” Jeongguk chews on the inside of his cheek, thinking. “And I appreciate you clearly looking out for your friend, I can’t be pissed about that. But don’t act like you know anything about who I am when you don’t have a clue.”

Namjoon doesn’t say anything, but he doesn’t look put off by what Jeongguk’s said, doesn’t look apologetic by what he himself has said either.

Jeongguk huffs a laugh through his nose, pushing himself off the door jamb. “Are we done here?”

Namjoon twists in his chair, facing his desk again. “Here.” He pulls out yet another piece of paper from the clutter. Clearly there’s a method to his madness. “This is what your physician needs to fill out.”

Jeongguk takes the form, eyeballing it before folding it in half. He gives Namjoon a nod. “Thanks.” Heading on out, his eyes find Taehyung again, watching as he wipes down a heavybag. Jeongguk stops at the door, smirking. “Bye, coach,” he croons, waving his fingers.

Taehyung looks over at him, eyebrow raised. He watches his shoulders bounce a little as he shakes his head. “Bye.”

Jeongguk whistles to himself as he jogs down the concrete steps, shoulder drawn high to protect himself from the wind. 

This was gonna be fun.

As he’s heading out, barely a few steps away from the gym, someone calls out to him. “Hey! Kid.”

Jeongguk’s head turns to the voice without stopping, eyeing a guy in a hideous blue suit leaning against the wall beside the gym. “I’m no kid, man.”

“Course you’re not, course you’re not, my mistake. Hold on for a minute, would you?” He pushes off the wall and takes a few steps over to Jeongguk. His shoes are shinier than the gold chain he has around his neck. “You a boxer?”

Huh. Is he now technically? “I guess so.”

The guy grins, obnoxiously chewing at a pink piece of gum peeking out from the corner of his smile. “Knew it, big dude like you. Bet you’re an animal, huh? I know talent when I see it.”

“I don’t got all day, man,” Jeongguk sighs impatiently, wanting to hurry this along. “Just get on with what you’re trying to preach and be done with it.”

“I get it, I get it. Not enough hours in the day, amiright? ” he chuckles. “Name’s Red.”

Jeongguk blinks.

Red snickers. “Mysterious type, huh? I like that. So uh, how long you been training here at The Ring?”

“Just started.”

“Ah, thought so. Knew I hadn’t seen you around before. You got a very… distinguishable face, yeah. You ever get that? Bet you get that a lot.”

“You some model recruit scam artist or something? Cause I fell for one of those before and—”

“No, no, no! Nothing like that.” Red blinks. “Wait, what happened?”

Jeongguk shakes his head, blocking it out. “I don’t wanna get into it.” He’s pretty sure his “headshot” is on an ad for some interactive porno game somewhere on the internet.

“Got it, read you loud and clear. But here, I got something for you. Want you to have this.” Red reaches into his pocket, pulling out a business card. He seems to be getting these a lot lately. “I’m in the business of organising fights. Winner-takes-all kinda deal, good money in it, too. Not good money in amateur boxing, a lot of guys join to make some quick cash.”

Jeongguk takes the card offered, this one pristine; off-white with a neat, black font unlike Taehyung’s worn, stained one.

This kinda feels like that one scene in American Psycho.

Raising an eyebrow, Jeongguk looks back up at the dude. “Like a fight club?”

“Yeah, yeah! Somethin’ like that,” Red agrees, running his hands down the lapels of his jacket. “I could be a young Brad Pitt, right?”

Jeongguk opens his mouth.

“Don’t answer that, actually.” Red clears his throat. “Anyway, gimme a call if you’re interested. I bet a guy like you could make some good money competing.” 

Jeongguk pockets the card and promptly forgets about it. “Thanks,” he says dismissively. He doesn’t want to stick around anymore, so he doesn’t.

By the time he gets home, exhausted from work and head full of information, Jeongguk barely makes it out of his clothes before he passes out, dreaming of Taehyung fighting some Namjoon-shaped heavy bag to slow porno music.

                                                                                                          -- -- --

It’s a couple hours later when Taehyung hears that familiar grating voice from outside.

“Surprised to see you around here, Chul,” Taehyung calls from the top of the stoop, about to shut the gym doors for lunch. 

“Hey, Tae,” Red greets, teeth big and sharklike. He’s gotten veneers since last time he saw him, bleached so white Taehyung almost squints. “Long time no see.”

Park Chul. AKA Red.

Not the friendliest of faces. He and Namjoon used to go to school with him, though they were never friends. He’s always liked to act like some top dog alpha male, but he’s just some Tony Montana wannabe who once pissed his pants during a pep rally at school.

Whole face went beet red in seconds and thus his nickname was born.

He's mostly harmless, just annoying.

“Poached anyone from the gym today?”

“I’m just trying to make a living, man,” Red grins, fake as the counterfeit Rolex on his wrist. “You understand. Gotta make ends meet.”

“Sure, sure,” Taehyung agrees, folding his arms. “Or you could try and get a proper job.”

Red chuckles, dusting off his suit as if it wasn’t a rental. “Hey. You have your thing, I have mine.”

“Not when your thing interferes with my thing,” Taehyung says, eyebrows raised in challenge. “I don’t like you skulking around here, Red. So go somewhere else.”

“Or what?” Red goads, though he quickly scrambles back when Taehyung takes a step towards him. “Okay, okay!” he cackles, high and nervous in a way he’s trying to hide. “No need for that, my man… It’s all love here.”

“Nothing personal,” Taehyung assures. “But if you keep coming back here, I’m gonna have to bounce your head off the concrete.”

“Aw, Tae, c’mon!” Red tsks, reaching into the breast pocket of his suit jacket and pulls out his sunglasses, sitting them on the end of his crooked nose, all for style and none for purpose. He backs up some more. “Don’t be like that, you know I’m just trying to help. Wasn’t all that long ago that you were one the I was helping.” 

Taehyung loses his charm at that, anger pulsing behind his teeth. “And helped me end my career,” he tacks on, hollow.

“Now, now. You can’t blame me for that,” Red tuts. “Not my fault you got your leg all busted. That’s on you.”

A familiar dark loom hangs over Taehyung’s head, the gnashing in his brain that wants him to submit to the anger. He’s close to falling into it until a hand curls around his shoulder, bringing him back.

“Get lost, Red. You’re not welcome around here.” Namjoon squeezes Taehyung’s shoulder in a familiar way and he shakes his hand off, old ugly memories rearing their head. Ones that make him not want to be touched by Namjoon.

“Aw. You two still look so cute together,” Red chuckles. “Shame it didn’t work out.”

Stings. 

Taehyung takes another step and Red takes off in a startled run, pausing after a moment to wave back at them. 

“Another time, boys!”

The pair watch him hurry off, disappearing down an alley before Taehyung turns and heads back inside.

“Taehyung,” Namjoon calls. He waits until he looks at him. “Can we talk for a minute?”

Taehyung rubs his forehead, not really in the mood to talk after that. He’s pissed off and wants to hit the speed bag. “About what?”

“About Jeongguk.” Namjoon pulls a pained face. “Are you sure he’s the person you want to train? Are you sure he’s the right choice?”

“This again?” Taehyung sighs. “You haven’t even given him a chance yet. I think you need to cut him some slack.”

Namjoon looks doubtful, his eyebrows pinched. “Maybe you’re right, I just.” He shuffles from one foot to the other. “I don’t want you to waste your time, that’s all.”

Taehyung softens, once again reminded why he and Namjoon are still friends regardless of everything that’s happened. “I know, hyung. And if it turns out that I was wrong, then it’s my own fault. But I gotta do this. You know I do. Even just once.”

“Yeah. I understand,” Namjoon agrees, probably the only person that does. “Just be careful. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Cracking a smile, Taehyung nods. “Got nothing left to lose at this point. What’s the harm?”

                                                                                                          -- -- --

Jeongguk’s bill of health passes with flying colours. He’s advised to cut back on the sodium, something Taehyung makes good note of, but aside from that, everything is looking good.

He brings everything Namjoon asked him to and with the small fee needed to apply taken care of by the gym, Jeongguk’s application for his license to fight is sent off. 

Taehyung wastes no time in putting him to work. 

“You need to be eating about three thousand calories a day, and none of those calories are from liquid,” he starts, standing beside another guy he hasn’t seen before. “This is Seokjin, he’ll be your nutritionist.”

Seokjin shoots Taehyung a pointed look before giving Jeongguk a bow. “Please don’t take that term too literally, I’m actually just a fry cook at a diner across town.”

“Seokjin—” Taehyung starts, raising his voice. 

Seokjin shoots Jeongguk a look that very much says this guy and Jeongguk snickers.

“—will be in charge of your meal plan.” Taehyung nods at Seokjin, who presents a small booklet to Jeongguk. 

“This is the plan of your week from Monday breakfast to Sunday dinner. It includes snack options, limited foods and substitute options if you don’t like what I’ve suggested. But you shouldn’t need those because I have great taste.” Seokjin folds his hands behind his back, clearly boastful. “I’ve also included a list of things to stay away from.”

Jeongguk flips idly through the booklet. “So much steamed chicken. Jesus.” One thing catches his eye in particular. “No alcohol?” He looks up at the pair. “At all? For real?”

“None,” Taehyung agrees. “I know it sucks, but it slows you down and bloats you.”

Jeongguk sucks his teeth, displeased. “Lame.”

“You’ll manage,” Taehyung tells him, clearly having no say in the manner. “One gallon of water a day. At least. More is better, but I want to see you with water on you at all times.”

“No supplements,” Namjoon adds, having been mostly quiet until now. “They don’t work, everything you need is in your meal plan.”

Jeongguk tsks under his breath, thumb crumpling a corner of paper. “Think I’m missing a page. Doesn’t say when I’m allowed to take a shit.”

Seokjin laughs and shares a look with Taehyung, who grins in turn. Namjoon on the other hand doesn’t seem to be amused at all. 

“I’ll print you out an extra copy,” Taehyung plays along.

From there they start the training. Like promised, Taehyung handles his workout clothes. Gone are the loose sweats and tees and instead replaced with form fitting nylon and lycra that Jeongguk almost feels a little self conscious in. 

“Jesus, you must have spent a fortune,” Jeongguk says when he realises everything is branded. 

“I had it lying around,” Taehyung answers.

Namjoon chimes in, “Nike used to sponsor him, so they sent him tons of free activewear.”

“Nike?” Just how good was Taehyung to have had a big company like that backing him. 

That question answers itself as Taehyung shows him how to shadow box. He already knew he was impressive from watching him on the heavy bag, but watching him throw punches at the mits Namjoon’s wearing is something else.

He’s precise, doesn’t miss a single shot, quick on his feet and moves like water. 

It’s so fucking hot. 

When Taehyung later shows him how to correctly wrap his hands to keep his wrists safe, Jeongguk’s more focused on his face than what he’s saying. He’s listening, sure, but more so just to hear him talk. He likes Taehyung’s lips a lot, too. His pretty, fat mouth, what the fuck.

Jeongguk likes watching Taehyung. He likes how his face twists in concentration, likes the little grunts and huffs he lets out when he throws a punch. And he absolutely likes the way Taehyung’s ass bounces in his shorts, that’s definitely one of Jeongguk’s favourite things to watch. 

He’s a little more subtle about watching Taehyung from the front, though. Just a tad more cautious as he eyes the bulk of Taehyung’s cock, very noticeable when he’s jumping around. 

Skipping might just be his new favourite thing.

(Though Namjoon might have caught him a time or two. It’s hard to tell with him, he always looks mildly irritated around Jeongguk.)

“Focus, Jeon,” Taehyung will bark at him and it turns Jeongguk on more than he’d care to admit.

By the first week, Jeongguk is fucking exhausted. He feels like one big bruise, aches and pains all over his body and lasting through his shift at work is like trying to rub two wet sticks together to start a fire. 

The whole change of his diet is surprisingly hard, too. He’s eating more than he ever has, but with how much he’s working out, it means he’s always hungry. He always has some type of snack on him, often a candy bar and he hasn’t completely cut alcohol like he said he would. 

He can bend a few rules.

Personally, Jeongguk thinks he has this in the bag. He’s always been good at fighting, this is just simply refining his skills; fine tuning. 

So when they reach the end of the two week mark and no one’s mentioned anything about any fights, Jeongguk gets a little frustrated. 

“When am I gonna fight?” he asks after a sparring match with one of the other boxers in training. “Has my license not come back yet?”

“Oh, no, you were approved a few days after we sent it off,” Taehyung says, handing Jeongguk his sports bottle of water. 

Jeongguk waits, but when Taehyung says nothing else, he gestures for him to continue. “And?”

“And what?”

“So when’s my first fight?”

“Match,” Taehyung corrects. “They’re not called fights in amateur.”

Rolling his eyes, Jeongguk hisses a breath through his teeth. “ Fine. When’s my first match, then?”

“You haven’t got one lined up yet,” Taehyung tells him. He turns his attention to the guy Jeongguk just beat, praising him in a way he never praises Jeongguk. 

Jeongguk frowns. “Why not? I’m ready.”

Taehyung’s eyes slide back over to him, confused. “After two weeks?” he snorts. “You haven’t even fought anyone in the ring.”

“I’m ready, Taehyung,” Jeongguk sighs, impatient. “I’m getting tired of just doing this every day.”

“First, it’s coach, and second, what did you expect to happen? To train a couple of days before I slapped a sticker on your ass and threw you to the dogs?” Taehyung scoffs, shaking his head as he takes a sip of water. “That’s not how it works.”

Jeongguk groans, head tipping back. “Then how much fucking longer?”

“Until I decide. Now hit the weights.”

                                                                                                          -- -- --

“So you’re into boxing now,” Sieun says as she takes another piece of pizza from the greasy cardboard tray. “Why?”

“Why not?” Jeongguk shrugs, eyes on the TV. Sieun’s staying with him tonight, not an unusual occurrence. “I got nothing better to do.”

“Are you any good at it?”

“Of course I am,” he scoffs. “I’m great at it. But my coach doesn’t seem to see that.”

Sieun gets up to go and grab a soda from the fridge. Their parents don’t allow her to have it at home, so Jeongguk always makes sure to stock up when she comes over. “Then you’re probably not.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “I definitely am, Sieun. Think he’s just butthurt that I don’t need that much training.”

“But why wouldn’t he put you in if he thought you were ready?” Sieun sets a can down for Jeongguk too when she returns. “Does he get anything from not letting you fight?”

Jeongguk’s chewing slows. “I don’t think so.”

Sieun gives him a pointed look. “So?”

“So what.”

“So you’re just being dumb, oppa,” Sieun tells him pointedly. “I’m a good violinist, but I’m no Jascha Heifetz, y’know?” she snorts, deeply amused.

Jeongguk stares at her. 

Sieun starse back, losing her smile. “He’s a violinist—”

“Yeah, I got that.” Jeongguk grabs for another slice of pizza, adding some hot sauce. “What does that have to do with boxing?”

The smile that lights up Sieun’s face has him regretting opening his mouth and Jeongguk rolls his eyes. Even if he’s not close to his parents, doesn’t receive parental advice from them, he certainly does from Sieun. “Shall I explain?”

Jeongguk sags back into the armchair. “Like me saying no would stop you,” he grumbles.

Sieun takes a deep breath.

“Here we go…”

“You’ve been fighting from a young age,” she starts. “I started violin at a young age. Correct?”

“Correct.”

“I believed I didn’t need a tutor and that I was perfectly capable of remaining self taught. What could someone else teach me that I couldn’t teach myself, right?”

Jeongguk doesn’t like where this is going.

“But then mom bought me lessons, remember? I was angry and didn’t want them, but of course, I was 10, I had no say in the matter. So I had my lessons and do you know what happened?” Sieun asks, looking far too smug for his liking.

He narrows his eyes. “Someone else told you how much of a smartass you are?”

Sieun sticks her tongue out at him and Jeongguk doesn’t hesitate to copy. “I got better. Because my teacher saw that I already had the basic skills and even some advanced learning, and she was just there to make me even better. So now I play even better all thanks to her because she knew things that I didn’t. And why’s that?” 

Jeongguk doesn’t humour her with an answer. 

“Because she had more experience than me.”

The pizza in Jeongguk’s mouth suddenly tastes rubbery and flavourless. He grunts, looking back at the TV. “I hate you when you’re right.”

He can hear the smugness in her voice. “You must hate me all the time, then.”

“Pretty much.”

                                                                                                          -- -- --

“He’s late again?” Namjoon scoffs, watching Taehyung make a new pot of coffee. They don’t have a kitchen, so they make do with a little corner in the office. “Why am I not surprised.”

“He might be caught up at work, hyung,” Taehyung defends with a shrug, the ancient coffee machine whirring loudly. “Or maybe he’s taking his sister to school.”

Namjoon folds his arms over his chest, eyebrows pinching. “The agreement was that he'd tell us when he was. Not like he’s ever stuck to that, though.”

Taehyung gives another unhelpful shrug. “Things happen. Can’t help but put your family first, right?” 

They both know that too well.

Namjoon sits on that for a moment, mind clearly following Taehyung’s train of thought. “Yeah,” he agrees, obviously not pleased. “Make it four sugars for me today.”

Taehyung raises an eyebrow, giving the creamer a shake. “Thought you were cutting back.”

“Not today,” Namjoon sighs. “Need all the energy I can get. Need to ask for an extension.”

“For the loan? Want me to come with you?”

“Nah, it’s okay. I’m gonna have to do some serious ass kissing and I don’t want you to witness that.” Namjoon pauses. “Y’know what, make it five sugars.”

Taehyung smiles, ripping off the paper tops of the sugar packets. Once they’ve both got their coffee, Taehyung sits down on the edge of the table and looks up at the clock. 

7:45. Almost an hour late. 

He takes a long sip of coffee and checks his phone to see if there’s any texts or calls he’s missed. But of course there aren't. 

Just after nine—still no sign of Jeongguk—before Namjoon leaves, Taehyung fixes his collar and tie, redoing it for him since he’s always been useless at getting a neat knot. 

“You’d think at 29 you’d have learnt to tie a simple four-in-hand knot, hyung,” Taehyung tsks playfully. “How do you get by without me?”

“I don’t, really,” Namjoon returns, eyes on him. 

Taehyung holds his gaze, but he has to drop it after another moment when it feels like a peach pit gets stuck in his throat. He shifts awkwardly. “You should go home after you’re done at the bank,” he says, stepping back once he’s done. His eyes turn away, not wanting to look at Namjoon for a minute. “It’s quiet here, I can handle it.”

“You sure?”

Taehyung nods, lips pursed. When Namjoon doesn’t move, he finally looks at him again. “Go on, then. Don’t wanna be late.”

Namjoon tucks his lips in and smiles, that sad kind of gratefulness that Taehyung wishes he didn’t have. “Thanks, Tae. See you tomorrow.”

Watching Namjoon go, Taehyung turns back to the gym, looking over the huge space with only a few people in it. At this point they only have two trainers on payroll and they’re struggling just to fund them. Honestly, Taehyung isn’t sure how much longer The Ring can last like this. He’s had to raise fees for the kid’s classes he teaches, which he hates with a burning passion, but at this stage, they’re grasping at straws. 

They’ll be lucky if they get to the end of the year.

Taehyung walks around, eyeing the history on the walls. He comes to a stop under the last picture on the wall, the picture of him and his father. He still remembers the night. It’s blurry and vague in a way childhood memories are, but he can still remember the smell and the heat that rolled off his dad in waves, how much blood was on his skin. Most of all, he remembers how bright the lights looked, flashing in his eyes until he saw spots. 

The look on his father’s face, the pure joy he had when he won, it’s something Taehyung wanted to have when he grew up. 

The memory is very bittersweet considering everything that’s happened.

He’s jostled from his trip down memory lane when he hears someone walk in, and from the way their feet drag sluggishly on the ground, he doesn’t even have to look up to know who it is.

“Yo,” Jeongguk greets, yawning into the back of his hand. “Sorry I’m late. Overslept.”

“Wow. You really must need a new alarm clock considering how many times you’ve used that excuse now,” Taehyung returns, stepping away from the wall. “This isn’t oversleeping, Jeon. You’re two hours late.”

Jeongguk shrugs. “I said I was sorry. Nothing I can do about it now, is there? Chill out, I’ll make up the time.”

Taehyung raises an eyebrow. “How kind of you. So I have to give up my own personal time to help you make yours. Is that it?” He frowns in thought. “How did you sleep in? Didn’t you have work today?”

“Got called off,” Jeongguk answers over his shoulder as he disappears into the locker room, Taehyung following behind. 

“You should have told me.”

“Why, so you could have dragged me here at 4am? Fuck no. I wanted to sleep.”

Rubbing the corner of his eye, Taehyung reins his annoyance in as best as he can. “Okay. That’s fine. Sleep is important, but now you’ve not just fucked up your schedule, you’ve fucked up mine, too.”

Jeongguk shoots him an incredulous look as if Taehyung’s gone insane. “What’s the big deal? I’m here now, aren’t I? Quit your bitching.”

“My bitching?” Taehyung splutters on a laugh. “You got some fucking nerve, you know.”

“Oh yeah?” Jeongguk slams his locker shut, turning to face Taehyung. “How’s that, then?”

“This isn’t a one off, Jeon. I don’t know how many times you’ve been late now, and every time you have some shitty excuse for it. It’s getting old.”

Jeongguk pulls his shirt off over his head and Taehyung pointedly keeps his eyes up on his face, resisting the annoying urge to look down. “I’m not a kid, Taehyung. Don’t talk to me like one.”

“Then stop acting like one,” Taehyung shrugs, turning and walking away. “Enough said.”

“Enough said my ass…” Jeongguk mutters from behind him, the rest of his grumbling too quiet for him to hear as he goes to make himself another coffee.

It’s gonna be a long day.

                                                                                                 -- -- --

It’s about a month in when Jeongguk starts to really feel the benefits from training. At work he can lug more boxes than anyone and with the vitamin D tablets Taehyung’s got him taking, he’s not feeling as tired as he was before. 

He’s always been keen on keeping his body looking good, but now he’s enjoying feeling good on the inside, too. He didn’t realise how much it would make a difference in his lifestyle. 

Another great perk about working out at the gym so often is the guys. While there’s not a lot of options—and the one dude he really does wanna fuck hardly pays him the attention he wants—there are a few. 

One guy in particular that Jeongguk spars with definitely likes to shoot him flirty looks in the locker room that can’t be perceived as anything other than want.

So they go for a drink one night, breaking a rule or two and after some shots and some dirty grinding at a club, they head back to the dude’s place and blow off some steam.

They fuck. 

It’s pretty disappointing, actually.

The dude is a squealer and puts on some obnoxious porn voice that kills Jeongguk’s boner. Still, they manage to have sex, even if it’s a little lackluster for Jeongguk. 

Picturing Taehyung’s face made it better for a few seconds, but the high mewling of the dude ruined the illusion, unfortunately. 

Still, Jeongguk brags about it while training the next day. “Got some ass yesterday,” he says in the middle of skipping. “Great ass.”

He’s lying, but Taehyung doesn’t have to know that. He just wants to see if he can make his coach jealous, that’s all. 

Taehyung stands there and listens as Jeongguk retells the events of the night - which he absolutely modifies for the sake of making a better story, he needs to.  Taehyung’s deadpan face isn’t the reaction Jeongguk wants, but the white knuckles around the stopwatch in Taehyung’s hand certainly is.

“You had sex,” Taehyung states once Jeongguk’s finished up explaining the crescendo that was their orgasms. 

More like decrescendo, but. 

Jeongguk nods slowly. “You know what that is, coach?” he teases. 

“You’re not supposed to fuck when you’re training. It makes you slow. Thought you were slacking today. That explains it.”

Jeongguk’s smile drops and is quickly replaced by a frown. He stops skipping. “I’m not slacking!”

Taehyung gives a low whistle, his face twisting in mock surprise. “Tell that to your time.”

Watching him walk off, annoyance ferments in Jeongguk’s belly. 

“And no more sex!” Taehyung adds over his shoulder, only throwing more coal onto the fire. “Don’t make my job harder for me, idiot.”

Ugh.

Jeongguk has never wanted to fuck someone as much as he wants to fuck Taehyung. And he’s somehow the most annoying person Jeongguk has ever met.

                                                                                                 -- -- --

“I think he might be ready,” Taehyung says at the three month mark. The pair of them are watching Jeongguk shadow box and it’s obvious just how much better he’s gotten over the past twelve weeks. He’s quicker, more focused and insanely fast. 

Sure Jeongguk is a pain in his fucking ass, still shows up late and absolutely breaks the rules Taehyung’s set him - but he’s working hard and showing improvement every day. 

“I have a theory that he was that one kid in school that didn’t study for anything, but still got straight A’s,” Namjoon had said one night and Taehyung can definitely see it. 

Jeongguk pisses him off, but he makes up for it with boyish charm and Taehyung hates that he’s definitely fallen victim to it. Not enough to excuse his bullshit, but enough to keep training him, even when he wants to kick him to the curb. 

“Are you sure?” Namjoon asks, skeptical. “Three months isn’t that long.”

“I know. But he seems ready, don’t you think? I can’t teach what a real fight could,” he says, watching Jeongguk yank off a glove so he can drink some water. “I don’t want him to burn out before he’s even started.”

Namjoon sighs through his nose. “You’re his coach. If you think it’s best, then I trust your judgement.”

While Taehyung wasn’t actively seeking Namjoon’s counsel, it’s nice to have his support on the decision. He values Namjoon’s opinion on things and it’s taken them a couple of years to build that level of communication back up since their falling out. 

So Taehyung arranges the first match. Jeongguk’s debut match. He finds while organising it, it all feels a little bittersweet. He’s pleased to set it up for Jeongguk, but he can’t help but think of his own past, of his own first match. It didn’t feel like it was more than a week ago, but time has passed as time does and his path for boxing has taken a different course than the one he initially set off on. 

For a moment, he feels selfishly compelled to call the whole thing off. To not give Jeongguk the opportunity to really make his mark in the fighting world. Questions of doubt fill his head, the most pointed one being what if he exceeds you?

But what if he does? Surely that’s a great thing, he tells himself. Maybe Taehyung can finally get to the professional level he always dreamed of reaching. Just maybe now, he gets there with someone else. No longer the precious cargo, but the one driving it there.

“I’m gonna tell him the good news,” Taehyung decides a week later as he hangs up the phone, having got the confirmation that the match is a go.

“Don’t let it go to his head,” Namjoon tells him as he polishes his apple on the chest of his shirt. “That kid doesn’t need another ego boost.”

That’s where Taehyung thinks that he and Namjoon see Jeongguk very differently.

But everything does go to Jeongguk’s head, cocky fuck. That, they can agree on.

Smiling to himself, Taehyung makes his way out of the office and finds Jeongguk laying out on the mats, chest heaving and shirt off. He shouldn’t, but Taehyung’s eyes wander a little.

He’s human, alright? He can admit that Jeongguk is attractive. Doesn’t think he’d willingly admit that out loud, as that’s definitely an ego boost he’s not willing to give. 

Taehyung stops at Jeongguk’s head, looming over him and casting a shadow over the top half of his body. Jeongguk’s gotten good enough to train on his own now, doesn’t constantly need Taehyung’s supervision. “You dead?”

Jeongguk reaches up to check the pulse in his neck, eyes closed. “Not yet.”

“Good. Cause you’ve got your first match next week.”

Jeongguk’s eyes widen at that, staring up at Taehyung. His gaze shifts and Taehyung realises he’s trying to peer up his shorts. 

“I’ll sit on your head if you really wanna see my nuts that bad,” Taehyung offers. 

“Any other time I’d say yes.” Jeongguk sits up, waist twisting to look back at Taehyung. “Are you playing with me?”

“About which part?”

Jeongguk squints.

“Oh, about your first match?” Taehyung smiles, stepping around Jeongguk. “No, not playing. It’s next Friday.”

Scoffing, Jeongguk pushes himself up to his feet, chin tipped high. “About damn time.”

Here we go.

“I’m glad you finally saw sense, coach. The sooner we get this show on the road, the better.” Jeongguk stretches, flexing his arms behind his head and Taehyung knows it’s purely for show. “I’ll score my first win right off the bat.”

Taehyung folds his arms over his chest, amused. “Is that so? You haven’t even seen your opponent.”

“Don’t need to,” Jeongguk scoffs. “I’ve got this in the bag.”

                                                                                                 -- -- --

It’s the big night and Jeongguk feels sick. There’s a knot in the pit of his stomach and it’s making him want to gag. He’s pacing back and forth in the locker room while Taehyung watches him from where he’s sat on one of the benches. 

“Fuck. Okay. Fuck, this is fine. Okay. Yeah. This is fine,” Jeongguk repeats, trying to reassure himself as he shakes his wrapped hands out. His stomach gurgles loudly.

“You need to shit again?” Taehyung asks, amusement laced in his voice and Jeongguk shoots him a hard look.

“I got a nervous stomach, okay. I can’t help it.” Jeongguk rubs at his belly, muscles tight. He’s still in amazement how toned he is now. He’s always kept in good physical shape, or so he thought. Now he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. Taehyung keeps watching him pace and it’s unnerving. “What?”

“Nothing, nothing.” Taehyung clasps his hands together. “You’re gonna be fine, Jeon. I wouldn’t have set this up if I didn’t think you were ready.”

“Yeah, and what if I lose?”

Taehyung shrugs. “If you lose, you lose. It doesn’t affect your record. It’s good to lose matches as well, y’know. Every fighter needs to learn how to dust themselves off and try again.”

Jeongguk cringes at that. “I don’t like losing.”

“Well, no one likes losing. But it’s a part of life.”

Jeongguk can feel a pit in his throat. “You’re not helping.”

“If you lose this, then fine. It doesn’t end here,” Taehyung says, eyes following him as he continues to pace. “This is all about experience. Fuck, god knows I had my fair share of losses, too.”

Now that catches Jeongguk’s interest. “Really?”

“Of course. No amateur fighter has a sparkling record of wins,” he shrugs. “It’s part of the sport. Anyone that says different is a liar with a small dick. And no one wants to back those kinds of fighters.”

That aids in soothing Jeongguk’s pride a little. He wants to win more than anything, wants it so bad he can feel it burn in his esophagus. “Think I’ve got acid reflux.” 

Taehyung hands him a bottle of water, and soon Namjoon is returning. He exhales deeply, arms folded. 

“Not long now,” Namjoon says, eyeing Jeongguk. “You ready?”

Fuck no.

“Yeah,” he nods. He pauses. “Maybe I should go to the bathroom again.”

“You’re fine.” Taehyung grabs his boxing gloves, opening the velcro. “Hands out.”

“I might end up shitting myself, coach,” Jeongguk gurgles, nauseous. “Then what?”

Taehyung cracks a smile. “Then you’ll be known as the guy who shit himself in the ring. So don’t.” Jeongguk focuses on his breathing as Taehyung puts his red gloves on for him. Red to match his shorts and vest. “Hey. Look at me.”

Jeongguk does.

“You’re gonna be fine,” Taehyung reassures, hands bracing on Jeongguk’s shoulders. “You’re ready. I promise.”

“You’re psyching yourself out,” Namjoon throws in helpfully, leaning against the wall.

Jeongguk shoots him a look.

“Thought you had this in the bag,” Taehyung reminds, dropping his hands from his shoulders and Jeongguk misses the weight keeping him tethered to the earth. “What happened to that guy?”

“Nothing happened to him!” he defends. “I’m the same guy.”

“Could have fooled me,” Taehyung mutters to Namjoon, blank but teasing.

Namjoon makes a noise of agreement and the pair of them snort.

“Shut up,” Jeongguk says loudly over them. “You’re not helping.”

Taehyung smiles, features kind all of a sudden. “You’ve got this, okay? Stop fretting. You’ll give yourself ulcers. Just try not to shit yourself and keep your guard up,” he says as the cheers from outside start to get louder. Jeongguk’s mouth opens to complain. “No time, you’re up.” Taehyung gets behind him and twists him around, steering him out of the locker room and down through the narrow concrete corridor to the open double doors.

Music starts up and the crowd cheers. It’s not really a cheer for Jeongguk, just a cheer for the sport, for the ambience. It should hype him up, but he’s more focused on the song playing.

He turns and looks back over his shoulder, giving a silent what the fuck is this?

Taehyung’s staring at Namjoon. He sighs and shakes his head. “Unbelievable.” 

Namjoon looks between the pair of them, defensive. “What?”

“Get Low by Lil Jon? Seriously? This isn’t Def Jam: Fight For Seoul.”

Jeongguk sucks his teeth as he faces forward again. “Wow, dude.”

“It’s a good song!”

“I gave you one job, Namjoon.”

“Both of you shut up,” Jeongguk snaps over his shoulder. 

Walking to the ring feels absolutely endless. While there’s people cheering, there’s also people booing, clearly rooting for the other guy. Jeongguk doesn’t take it personally, but it’s still off-putting. 

Hailing from Busan, weighing in at one hundred and fifty-five pounds, we have Jeon Jeongguk,” a tinny voice over a speaker announces as Jeongguk climbs up into the ring. It somehow looks even bigger than the one back at the gym. It’s strange hearing his name over a tanoid. It gives him flashbacks of high school when he’d get called to the principal's office. 

Jeongguk does a small lap around the ring like Taehyung told him to before returning to his corner. He gets his first good look at the other boxer. He doesn’t look nervous at all, looks confident and ready. Jeongguk can only hope that he’s managing to school his expression and not show just how nervous he feels on the inside on the outside. 

“Deep breath, okay?” Taehyung’s voice comes from behind as he hooks his fingers into his robe and pulls it off Jeongguk’s shoulders. “You got this, Jeon.”

Jeongguk nods, bouncing up and down on his feet. “Yeah. I got this.” 

Fake it til’ you make it.

Taehyung puts his mouthguard in for him. “Touch gloves,” he reminds. “Go.”

Jeongguk obeys, guard up as he steps forward, offering out a glove, which his opponent promptly taps back with his own.  

The bell rings and the match starts. 

They dance around the ring for a moment, both clearly warming up before Jeongguk initiates and throws the first jab. Everything is light for the first minute or two. Jeongguk gets his bearings, evaluating his opponent and his stance like Taehyung taught him. His guard is low, a sign of overconfidence in an amateur fighter, so when Jeongguk throws a cross punch, he aims for the exposed face. 

It dazes his opponent enough that Jeongguk hits him with a triple jab, remembering that power comes from his hips and legs and he makes sure to throw his weight into the last punch. 

Nice combo there from Jeon,” a commentator says over the speakers. “ It’s his debut match tonight and my, were people surprised to hear who his coach was.

His opponent throws out a couple of jabs, but Jeongguk blocks them with his arms. 

If you didn’t know, Jeon’s coach is local legend Kim Taehyung. It’s been five years since he was forced into an early retirement, and still to this day, some of his matches are the most notable in amateur boxing. Everyone was quite surprised to see he’d finally taken a protege.”

“That’s right. Young fighters have been trying for years to snag Kim as their coach—”

Jeongguk tunes all the voices out, focusing on his breathing so he doesn’t get winded and pays attention to every step he and his opponent make.

His opponent gets a warning when he lands a punch to Jeongguk’s head with the side of his glove, the point not counting. He’s sloppy, seems far less calculated about how he’s hitting and focusing more on his throwing punches.

The referee soon breaks them apart when Jeongguk’s opponent starts to wobble before he drops down onto the floor. The ref gets a count of five in before the dude is back on his feet and the bout continues and then his hits are even sloppier.

At the end of the second round, Jeongguk steps back to his corner where Taehyung’s got his water ready, squeezing some directly into his mouth. “Doing okay?” he checks, wiping the sweat from Jeongguk’s face. 

Jeongguk nods. “‘orm okeh?” he garbles around the mouthguard and Taehyung smiles. 

“Yeah, Jeon. Your form is great. Just keep it up, alright?”

“Don’t let your guard drop,” Namjoon adds. “He’s gonna start getting frantic to try and salvage this.”

Jeongguk nods and after the minute interval, they go right back to fighting.

Namjoon was right, the guy does start throwing punches out left, right and centre. Most of them don’t land, but a couple do get him before Jeongguk can block them properly. It’s an act of desperation, and that shit can win fights.

Jeongguk spends the first minute with his guard up entirely, too worried about getting hit. 

“Push in, claim space!” Taehyung calls behind him and Jeongguk does, reclaiming the dominance of the ring. 

(As lame as that fucking sounds, it’s acually a thing.)

Jeongguk aims quick and careful, jabbing the chest and head with the knuckles of his glove, needing to make sure every point counts. He gets one last hit in above the belt before the bell rings again, ending the match. 

The referee pushes them apart and Jeongguk’s chest heaves as he processes the fact that he just had his first real match. Win or lose, he did it. He made it this far. 

As the five judges deliberate, Jeongguk slugs himself back to Taehyung, leaning into the rope tiredly.

“Good fucking job, kid,” Taehyung praises, helping him out of his gloves. “That was incredible. “I’m real proud of you.”

Jeongguk’s chest does something funny. He pants, staring at Taehyung. “You are?” he asks as soon as he’s got the mouthguard out.

“Really, really proud,” Taehyung confirms, tucking the gloves under his arm and checks Jeongguk’s hands for any sprains or fractures. His fingers feel sore and look swollen, but nothing’s damaged. 

“Yeah. Nice job,” Namjoon says, rubbing the towel over Jeongguk’s face, cleaning him up. “Think you’ve got this one in the bag.”

“Really?” Jeongguk looks between the pair of them. “Think I might win this?”

They both nod and soon he and his opponent are being called back into the middle, the referee standing between them, a wrist clasped in each hand.

It’s a unanimous decision,” the announcer starts and Jeongguk keeps his head down, reminding himself of everything Taehyung said. If he loses, he loses, it’s not the end of the world. “ And the winner is… from the red corner—”

Cheers fill the room and Jeongguk sags in relief, head dropping back. 

“— Jeon Jeongguk!”

Jeongguk nods, fucking proud of himself, knowing full well that he earned the win. He wants to jump up and down and celebrate, but knows that’s not good sportsmanship—thanks to Namjoon. He congratulates his opponent and praises him on a good game, even if he was sloppy. He definitely put Jeongguk through his paces.

After they take a picture together while cliche Rocky music plays overhead, they’re free to leave the ring. He ducks under the ropes and throws himself at Taehyung, crushing him in his arms. “I did it!”

“And you didn’t shit yourself,” Taehyung adds, ruffling Jeongguk’s hair. “Good job.”

He looks up at Taehyung, a grin on his face that Jeongguk’s never seen before, big and beautiful. He smirks. “Wanna knows what it’s like to kiss a champion?”

Taehyung scoffs, shoving Jeongguk away but his grin still present. “Reel it in, champ.”

“Yeah, don’t go getting punch drunk just yet,” Namjoon says. “It was only your first fight.”

“Won’t be my first win, though,” Jeongguk shoots back, cocky and cheers for himself as he heads to the locker room.

Taehyung and Namjoon take him out to celebrate. 

“What do you want to drink? On me,” Taehyung offers. 

Jeongguk’s surprised. “Really? I can have a drink?”

“It’s your big night. You deserve it.”

That’s fucking right. It is his night. “I’ll take a beer, then.”

“You got it. One beer coming up,” Taehyung agrees. “Go grab us a table.”

The place isn’t packed, so it’s not hard to find one. It’s an old timey style pub, everything wooden and carpet straight from the 90s. The place is mostly filled with 40+ aged men and it’s not the type of joint Jeongguk would go to on a night out. But as he watches Taehyung at the bar, he seems to know the man serving going off the friendly interaction and laughs. 

Older dudes have never really been Jeongguk’s thing - and by older he means his dad’s age - but he thinks a good way to celebrate tonight would be by getting some ass. Naturally his eyes drift back over to Taehyung, the sweetest piece of ass the place has to offer. And outside of the pub too, but that’s not something Jeongguk’s going to unbox—no pun intended—tonight. He looks so good tonight. He’s usually in some type of athletic gear, but tonight he’s in jeans

Lord help him.

Gone is the tracksuit jacket he wore for the fight and replaced with a navy green bomber jacket that Jeongguk pictures getting his hands under. His hair is down, too. Jeongguk loves the way Taehyung looks with his hair tied back, but he prefers when it’s down and long, curling around his ears and neck and catching in his eyelashes.

The sweet weight in his cock is ruined when Namjoon steps in a couple of minutes later and heads straight for the bar too. He sidles up beside Taehyung and rests his hand on his back. It lingers there, Jeongguk can’t help but notice. The pair of them share a long look before Taehyung straightens from where he was hunched over the bar and Namjoon’s hand falls off. 

There’s definitely something there.

He doesn’t know why, but it leaves a bitter taste in Jeongguk’s mouth and he starts to tear apart a flimsy coaster with the pub’s logo on the front, worn and beer stained. What does it matter if there is something going on between Namjoon and Taehyung? He’s wondered for a while now, how their relationship often seems tense, but well versed. Regardless, it’s none of his business. 

He just wants to bone Taehyung, that’s all. Nothing more.

The pair soon return and Jeongguk eagerly pulls his beer closer. “What’s up with this place?” he asks, taking a sip of water. “Bit outdated, ain’t it?”

“Suppose it is,” Taehyung agrees, glancing around briefly. “Just the place we’ve always come to.”

“Our dads used to come here a lot. It doesn’t look it now, but it used to be the place to be.” Namjoon’s drinking water, Jeongguk notes. “Place has a lot of history.”

Jeongguk nods slowly. “Like you two, then.”

Taehyung licks the head off his top lip once he’s taken a sip. They both look a little caught off guard. “What do you mean?”

“You two must have a lot of history.” It’s brash, but Jeongguk’s never pretended to be anything but. “Known each other a while, right?”

Namjoon shifts awkwardly and Taehyung’s face seems to close off a bit. “Yes,” Taehyung answers bluntly. 

A tense silence clouds the table and Jeongguk doesn’t feel as bad as he probably should. His eyes linger on Taehyung who’s put a little bit of space between him and Namjoon. 

Jeongguk is a little bit pleased.

“So.” Namjoon is the one to break the silence, forced smile on his face. “You must be feeling good, Jeongguk.”

“I am!” he beams, flexing his hand. His fingers are red and swollen but not split, it’s very different for him. “When’s my next match?”

“Already got a raging hard on for fighting?” Taehyung snickers. “I like it.”

“You’ll like it more when you see it,” Jeongguk shoots back, taking a long sip of beer. 

Namjoon pulls a face. “So crass.”

“Fuck,” Jeongguk groans, sagging back into his seat. “A beer has never tasted so good.” He marvels at it for a long moment. He’s no beer connoisseur, but in this moment he feels like he could be. “So do I really get no money from winning fights?”

“Unfortunately not,” Taehyung sighs. “Not this early in anyway. Maybe if we rack up some sponsors.”

“And how do we do that?”

“Well, back when I was fighting, I had a page on Facebook. But I know times are different now in social media,” Taehyung snorts. “But staying in the public eye is important. Companies like seeing constant updates, improvements, they like seeing someone who could be a good ambassador for the sport. Namjoon hyung and I have some old contacts we’ll get in touch with, but we should start building your social media platform.”

Jeongguk hums, drumming his finger along his sweating pint. “I know someone who could help with that.”

                                                                                                 -- -- --

“So, what will you pay me?”

Taehyung blinks in surprise. “Pay?”

The little girl nods, violin case in her hand. “Yes. It’s tough times we’re in. Plus, you’re basically asking me to build my brother’s reputation up from nothing. That’s going to take time, and I’m a busy girl.”

Taehyung stares down at her before looking up at Jeongguk, who’s rocking on his heels. He jingles the change in his pocket with a shrug. “Don’t look at me, she has her terms.”

Looking between the pair, Taehyung can see the similarities in physical appearance, but definitely not personality. Sieun is well put together, looks neat and pressed, standing perfectly still and posture straight.

And Jeongguk…

Jeongguk pulls out a handful of garbage from his pocket, picking through it before he seems to find a loose piece of gum and throws it in his mouth. 

Well. 

Taehyung sighs, considering this. He could absolutely do this himself, but he doesn’t spend a lot of time on social media anyway - just enough to stay in the loop about things. If he did it, he’d probably do it wrong or take far too long. But a teenage girl who more than likely spends a good chunk of her time online probably knows how to reach what they need better than he does. 

“Fine,” he agrees after a moment of debate. “I’ll give you a hundred and fifty thousand if you get at least one decent brand to show interest in Jeongguk.”

“Two-thirty,” Sieun returns immediately. “And I’ll get you more than one.”

Taehyung purses his lips, thinking it over while Jeongguk picks some lint out of his mouth from the corner of his eye. “Deal,” he agrees, offering his hand, which she shakes. 

“I look forward to this partnership, Mr. Kim.”

Taehyung gives a nod, biting back a smile. “Same here, Miss Jeon.”

Sieun turns to look up at Jeongguk. “Oppa, take me to get ice cream now,” she says in a far sweeter tone.

And that settles that. 

Promoting isn’t essential as of now, but it’s a good idea to get a head start on it for future references. For now, they train even harder and prepare. 

Jeongguk’s second bout is only a week after his first one. Amateur boxing doesn’t require long rest periods like professional boxing does, so Jeongguk is chomping at the bit for another match.

He wins by a split decision and Taehyung is amazed. By the end of the month, Jeongguk is taking home a 5-0 win. It’s incredible, but Taehyung can’t help but be a little concerned. 

“I think we should slow down a little,” Taehyung says the day after the fifth fight. Each time Jeongguk wins, he seems to get a little lazier and Taehyung knows exactly what’s happening. 

He thinks he’s invincible, which is dangerous on any occasion, but in boxing it can break a career in seconds. Taehyung definitely had bouts of thinking he was unstoppable too. It happens in every young fighter. Hell, it happens to most people with a winning streak; thinking that there’s no stopping you.

It doesn’t help that Jeongguk’s a cocky motherfucker at the worst of times. 

“Slow down? Slow down with what?” Jeongguk questions from where he’s sat on the weight bench, scrolling through his phone.

“With the fights. You’ve had a good streak already, let’s take some time to tighten up on your training.” 

Jeongguk scoffs. “Are you kidding? I’m on a roll, coach. We gotta keep going. Plus, look at this.” He turns his phone around to show Taehyung a very lewd message involving ball sweat and Jeongguk’s socks. 

“That’s disgusting,” Taehyung says weakly. “I wish I could unread that.”

“Right? Totally fucking gross,” Jeongguk snickers. “Getting tons of messages like this. It’s awesome.”

“Enjoying the attention, then, I see.” 

“Famous?” Jeongguk scoffs, a shit-eating grin stretching over his face. “I’d hardly say I was famous.”

“Neither would I. I said attention, dipshit,” Taehyung corrects and Jeongguk’s smile drops. 

“Look, I don’t need to slow down. And I don’t want to, either. So just keep doing your job and line up fights for me.” Jeongguk’s attention goes back to his phone when it vibrates, that smug look quickly returning. 

Taehyung raises an eyebrow. “That’s my job now, is it?”

“You know what I mean.”

“Hm.” Taehyung tongues the inside of his cheek. “Sure do.”

Jeongguk’s going to need a reality check at some point. He needs to be knocked off the pedestal he’s built from dirty texts and a bad case of braggadocio. It happens to the best of them. Luckily when it happened to him, he had Namjoon’s father to smack him upside the head, but Taehyung thinks he’ll let Jeongguk figure this one out on his own - since he’s so insistent. 

So Taehyung keeps scheduling matches. He watches as Jeongguk gets more and more lax despite how much Taehyung pushes against it. Sure he wants the kid to get a taste of his own medicine, but he’d much rather avoid it if possible. 

With no help from Namjoon, apparently. 

“Do you have no intention of helping me kick his ass back into gear?” Taehyung asks as the pair of them eat lunch in the office. 

Namjoon cradles his container of tteokbokki close, feet up and crossed on the desk. “Nope.” He winds a string of cheese around his rice cake. “I said this would happen sooner or later, Taehyung. Gimme some of your kimbap.”

Taehyung pauses his chewing. “It’s got tuna in it. You wouldn’t like it.”

Namjoon tuts, but continues to eat his own lunch. It hasn’t, it’s actually pork cutlet, but he’s not willing to share. Especially not when Namjoon won’t help him. 

“Starve, bitch,” he mutters under his breath.

“What was that?”

“I said you look suave, hyung.”

Namjoon’s eyebrows raise, pleased smile lighting up his face as he looks down at his grandpa pants and cardigan that Taehyung thinks actually belonged to his grandpa. 

Slowly, Taehyung’s annoyance for Jeongguk is starting to grow. While he’s on a winning streak, his attitude stinks more than usual. He rocks up to the gym as late as he wants, and more than once, he’s usually got some dude on his arm. 

“Genital herpes is no joke, Jeongguk. I hope you’re being safe after your diagnosis,” Taehyung says one day as he passes him kissing the guy he’s brought in today. 

It’s satisfying to watch the guy pull back, eye Jeongguk’s crotch cautiously before he quickly gets up and leaves. 

“He’s only joking!” Jeongguk calls after him, standing from the bench. “Tell him you’re joking, coach!”

Taehyung turns back towards the guy, watching his retreating figure. “No… Come back… It was all a lie...” he says softly, cupping the side of his mouth. “Aw,” he tuts. “Must not have heard me.” Jeongguk glares at him and Taehyung smiles. “Go hit the sauna. You got a beer gut. Need to sweat it out,” he says, gesturing to Jeongguk with his pen.

Looking down at himself, Jeongguk paws at his belly and he must actually see it because he quickly gathers his stuff and speed walks out of there. 

Serves him right.

                                                                                                 -- -- --

Jeongguk’s annoyed. 

And for good reason. 

Taehyung’s been spending less and less time training him lately and focusing more on other boxers. It bugs him because he should be Taehyung’s main focus, but yet there he is helping the squealer Jeongguk boned. 

He’s also not keen on the way the guy looks at Taehyung. All flirty eyes and unnecessary touches. Jeongguk’s been on the receiving end of those touches, he knows what they mean and where they lead. 

It’s when Squealer gently pulls on Taehyung’s ponytail that Jeongguk’s had enough.

“Coach! Come spot me,” Jeongguk calls, waving him over. 

Taehyung looks surprised but makes his way over, pushing the sleeves of his hoodie up his arms as Jeongguk lays down on the bench. “Thought you didn’t need a spot, anyway.”

“You shouldn’t have listened to me. It’s dangerous to not have a spotter.” Jeongguk curls his hands around the bar and lifts it off the hook, bringing it down to his chest. He really doesn’t need a spotter with what he’s lifting right now, but if he can keep Taehyung close by, then… 

“Maybe you should add,” Taehyung suggests, looking at the weights he has on. 

Jeongguk reracks and waits as Taehyung adds five pounds to each side. “Why were you over there, anyway? You should be over here with me.”

“What, and wait around for you to decide when you want to work out? I’m good. Other people around here actually want to train, so I’m offering a hand.” He secures the weights, making sure they’re secure. “Try that.”

Jeongguk lifts it easily. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that I’m not just going to stick around and watch you sext some rando for the hundredth time. It gets old pretty fast, Jeon.”

Jeongguk grunts. “Now hang on a minute—”

“Rerack.”

“You act like I’m not working my ass off,” Jeongguk argues as he sets the bar back on the hooks, staring up at Taehyung. “I’ve done nine matches now and haven’t lost a single one. Cut me some slack.”

“No. I’m not here to cut you slack. And you —” Taehyung starts once he’s added more weight. Jeongguk lifts the bar off the rack and wheezes when Taehyung’s suddenly pressing down on the bar, getting in his face. His chain hangs in Jeongguk’s face and even from upside down, he’s still painfully gorgeous, “—are already a lazy fuck as it is. You don’t need anymore slack.”

“Coach—” he wheezes, bar pressing down firmly against his chest.

“I’m sick of your attitude, Jeon,” Taehyung mutters, breath warm on Jeongguk’s face. “So enjoy this streak while it lasts, because as soon as it ends, I’ll ream your ass to an inch of your life.”

Jeongguk blinks. “Rim?” he breathes.

Ream, you dirty fuck. Stop thinking with your cock.” Taehyung stands up straight and easily lifts the bar up with one hand to rerack it and smacks Jeongguk’s cheek with the other.

He sits up and watches as Taehyung limps away, chest heaving and eyes wide. 

With his cock half hard against his thigh, Jeongguk thinks he’s already failed.

                                                                                                 -- -- --

Jeongguk gets his first loss on his 11th match. 

Taehyung was expecting it at some point, but he’s not happy about it. 

He’s leaning against one of the lockers, watching Jeongguk pace around the locker room. It’s familiar to his first fight, but this time Jeongguk’s not nervous.

He’s angry.

“Fuck this shit,” Jeongguk snaps, pausing long enough to a kick a locker door in over and over until the metal warps, caving in. “This is fucking bullshit. I should have fucking won that.”

“Are you really that surprised?” Namjoon says from where he’s sat on the bench, elbows on his knees. He shrugs, rubbing his hands together. “Because I’m not.”

Jeongguk glares at him, bare chest heaving. “What?” he spits. “What the fuck are you saying?”

“I said I’m not surprised you lost,” Namjoon repeats. “You’re lazy, man. You only showed up twice at the gym this week. You didn’t deserve to win.”

Jeongguk scoffs, eyes flicking up to Taehyung, clearly looking for backup. He’s not gonna get it.

“He’s right,” Taehyung agrees, arms folded. “I’ve been saying it for weeks now, Jeon.”

Namjoon sighs, pushing himself up by his knees. “Don’t be surprised if he stops showing up all together now, Tae.”

“Fuck you, man,” Jeongguk snaps, storming forward. “You’ve had it out for me since the start.”

“No, but I told you from the beginning that I didn’t think you’d take this seriously. And I was right.” Namjoon doesn’t back down, uses the couple of inches he has on Jeongguk to stare him down. 

Taehyung sometimes forgets that Namjoon can look imposing when he wants to. You wouldn’t think so with his kind nature and crater-deep dimples, but Taehyung’s been on the end of that temper once or twice and it’s not a good place to be.

But Jeongguk is stubborn and soon shoves at Namjoon’s chest. “Fuck you,” he repeats, words meaningless, just angry. “Course you’d want me out of the picture. I’m not fucking blind, you know. I know why you don’t like me hanging around.”

Namjoon’s jaw goes tense, eyes hard and the pair stare each other down.

“Alright, that’s enough,” Taehyung cuts in, getting between them. “Calm down.”

“Not gonna calm down while he’s here,” Jeongguk spits over Taehyung’s shoulder.

Taehyung sighs, scratching his eyebrow. “Hyung, why don’t you head on home.”

“Yeah, head on home,” Jeongguk sneers and Taehyung’s head snaps back around to glare at him.

He looks back at Namjoon, face softening. “Go. I’ll call you later.”

Namjoon sucks in his cheeks, looking severely pissed off. He spares Jeongguk another glance before he nods. “Fine,” he agrees, voice flat. He leaves without another word, shoving open the door to the locker room harshly. 

When it’s just the two of them, Jeongguk starts pacing again, looking like a lion in a small cage. “He’s got some fucking nerve talking to me like that.”

“He’s right, though,” Taehyung confirms, not beating around the bush. 

Jeongguk scoffs. “Of course you’d take his side. Your number one butt buddy.”

“I’m not taking anyone’s side,” Taehyung snaps, anger rising. It makes his fingers tingle. He doesn’t let himself get this angry anymore, it brings out a bitter side of him he doesn’t like, but it’s hard to ignore it when Jeongguk is acting like a real jackass. “I’m telling you the truth. It’s your problem if you choose not to accept it.”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes. “Oh please.”

“Please what?” Taehyung snorts, shaking his head. “Don’t be angry at Namjoon just because he’s not afraid to tell you like it is. You owe him an apology.”

“What?!” Jeongguk laughs in clear disbelief. “And you don’t think he should apologise to me for being so blunt?”

“Why should he? Maybe it’s what you need to hear, Jeon.” Taehyung’s fingers flex into fists at his sides, but the anger is addicting, and Namjoon’s not here to reel him back in like he usually is. “You’re fucking lazy.”

“Oh, now I’m lazy because I didn’t win?”

“No! I’ve been saying you’re lazy for fucking weeks now, you idiot!” Taehyung spits, the urge to just cave to angry instincts strong. 

“Then maybe you should have done something about it!” Jeongguk returns and Taehyung wants to scream. 

“You know what. Fuck this. Fuck you, Jeon.” Taehyung shakes his head, hands up. “I’m not gonna stick around and listen to your bullshit. You can act like you don’t know why you lost, but you just have to look at your past matches to see.”

He doesn’t hang around, doesn’t even want to look at Jeongguk right now, the idea of staying in the same room as him making him want to peel his own skin off. So he leaves much like Namjoon did minutes before. 

“Taehyung!” Jeongguk calls after him, sharp. 

But Taehyung just shoots Jeongguk the finger over his shoulder. 

There’s some press there, wanting to get pictures of him and Jeongguk together, ask some questions, but he detours around them because he doesn’t think it’ll look good for him to say he’s glad Jeongguk got his ass beat. 

Taehyung shoves through the fire exit at the back of the gym, ignoring the sound of pounding feet behind him. 

“Hey!” Jeongguk’s voice is close behind, but Taehyung doesn’t stop. “You don’t get to walk away from me, Taehyung.”

“That’s funny, because I think I am.” Taehyung gives a high laugh, unamused. “It’s either that or I knock your teeth out of your skull.”

Jeongguk scoffs, their voices bouncing off the houses, the street quiet save for the lone cyclist passing them with a brief look their way. “I’d like to see you try. Like you could take me with that bum leg.”

A vein pulses on the side of Taehyung’s neck. “Definitely could tonight.”

“Even on my worst fucking night, I could take you.”

“You couldn’t take me on your best night, bitch.” Taehyung doesn’t really have a destination in mind, he realises. He just needed to get away. So he takes the next left down an alley towards his apartment. 

“You really think you could take me? Go on, then. I’ll even let you have the first swing.” Jeongguk suddenly grips his arm and yanks him to a stop.

“Get off me!” Taehyung snaps, shoving the hand off, but Jeongguk just grabs him again, gripping at his shirt, his arm. 

“Make me.” 

The pair of them grapple and shove, rough and uncaring if they hurt each other. In fact they want it. Or at least Taehyung does. He grips with the intent to break skin, and shoves with the intent to bruise. 

It’s not until Taehyung actually punches Jeongguk that the pair of them break apart. He gets him right on the jaw and Jeongguk stumbles back, head cocked to the side. When he turns to look at Taehyung again, there’s blood pooling at the corner of his mouth. 

Taehyung should probably be sorry. But he’s not.

They stare at each other, chests heaving and fists tight at their sides. Jeongguk steps forward and shoves Taehyung back into the wall with a hand on his throat and before he can even process what’s happening, they’re kissing. 

It’s dirty and angry and Taehyung can taste Jeongguk’s blood on his tongue. It doesn’t feel much different than their fighting moments prior, their touches rough and angry.

Taehyung flips the position so he’s got Jeongguk pinned up against the wall instead and licks into his mouth, gripping at his waist, his arms, his hair—anything he can hold on to. But Jeongguk only shoves Taehyung back to push him up against the adjacent wall, his wrapped hands rucking up Taehyung’s shirt to grip his bare skin. 

He licks at Jeongguk’s tongue, desperate for it suddenly. It burns under his skin and he can’t get Jeongguk close enough, even their thin shirts too fucking much. The tides are turning quickly in his head, the battle of desperation and anger waging a war. 

And just like that, Taehyung’s shoving Jeongguk off him again. “Fuck you,” he spits, wiping his mouth on the side of his hand. He turns and continues down the alley, his skin buzzing like an electric fence, just waiting for something to incinerate. 

He doesn’t make it ten paces down the alley before he’s being grabbed again and forced back around. Jeongguk’s mouth is back on him a second later, his hand cradling the back of Taehyung’s neck, not letting him pull away as he slips his tongue past his teeth. 

They continue this cycle of push and pull and kiss as they head to Taehyung’s. At one point, Jeongguk lands a slap across Taehyung’s cheek hard enough to rattle his teeth, and only moments later are they pressed up against some poor soul’s Ford Fiesta, groping at each other in a very crude display of public indecency. 

Maybe it’s the cocktail of fervor and fury, but Taehyung can’t think of much else except for how Jeongguk’s hands feel on him, how soft his stupid mouth is against his own. It’s gotten him hard so quickly that it feels like all the blood from his head has rushed to his cock. 

They kiss the whole way up to Taehyung’s apartment, constantly stopping to shove each other up against stairwells and walls and at one point, someone else’s door. Taehyung has to break the kiss to focus on opening his door, but Jeongguk’s mouth doesn’t stay far and immediately latches at his neck instead. 

“Fuck,” he breathes, head tipping back against Jeongguk’s shoulder, key missing the hole. He reaches back with his free hand to knot in the back of Jeongguk’s hair, allowing himself to enjoy it for a moment longer before he yanks him away from his neck. “Enough.”

Jeongguk grabs onto his hips, not letting himself be pushed far before he’s pressing right back up against Taehyung’s back, but the small window gives Taehyung enough time to unlock his door. As soon as it’s open, Jeongguk’s shoving him through, the pair of them almost tripping over his doormat. 

From there, they start losing clothes. Jeongguk drops his shorts and Taehyung sheds his shirt. They lose some of the ferocity they had outside, everything moving a little softer, but by no means gentle. 

Jeongguk’s foot hooks around Taehyung’s slightly and it has him hissing, his knee giving a painful twinge. 

“Shit, shit,” he grunts into Jeongguk’s mouth, balancing his weight on his left foot. “My leg.”

Jeongguk breaks the kiss to glance down, though there’s nothing to be seen. “Fuck, sorry. Are you okay?”

Taehyung nods, dragging him back into the kiss. “Yeah, yeah, s’fine. Kiss me some more.”

Jeongguk doesn’t hesitate to get his mouth back on him, along with his arm. He wraps it beneath Taehyung’s ass and hoists him up enough to lift Taehyung’s feet off the ground and begins to carry him further through his apartment.

While it’s definitely a relief, Taehyung thinks Jeongguk’s doing it more so to show off. But either way, it’s fucking hot. “Bedroom’s to the left,” he pants into the kiss. 

Jeongguk soon locates it after taking a wrong turn into the bathroom, dropping Taehyung down onto the bed. The last of their clothes come off and they’re soon laying naked. 

Jeongguk tries to roll Taehyung onto his belly, but Taehyung knocks his hands away. “Roll over,” he urges. 

“Why?”

“Cause I’m gonna fuck you, obviously.”

“Hell no, I’m gonna fuck you.”

“Says who?”

“Says me.”

Jeongguk scoffs, fingers digging into Taehyung’s hip, thumb rubbing a circle against a bruise made with his own fingertips. 

Taehyung blinks. “Were you just gonna roll me over and fuck me like that? Damn, Jeon, you fuckin' brute. Couldn’t treat me like more of a lady than that?”

“Shut up,” Jeongguk grunts, laying down half over Taehyung to bite at his bottom lip. “What would you do?” Like this, Jeongguk’s thigh presses up against Taehyung’s cock and the friction is enough to have him feeling dizzy and he rolls his hips against the warmth.

“I’d at least play with your cock a little first,” Taehyung speaks low against Jeongguk’s mouth, eyes heavy. 

“Yeah?” Jeongguk’s tongue runs over the underside of Taehyung’s top lip. “How would you play with it?” He curls his fingers around one of Taehyung’s wrist and slowly guides his hand down between their bodies, Jeongguk’s breath shaking when the side of Taehyung’s hand brushes over the base of his cock. “Show me.”

Taehyung swallows, keeping his eyes on Jeongguk as he folds his fingers slowly around his cock. It’s heavy and thick and pulses as soon as he touches it. He tries to peek, but it’s dark enough in his room and with how Jeongguk’s draped over him, it keeps most of his cock shadowed. He strokes it slowly, enjoying the weight in his hand and his gaze soon flickers back up to watch Jeongguk’s face. He moans softly, eyes fluttering shut and Taehyung leans in again to kiss him, wanting to taste his moans for himself. 

Their small bout of gentleness is quickly over as Taehyung’s hand speeds up and their kissing soon turns dirty again. He’s got a deep set determination to break Jeongguk, to reduce him to a mess, because if he can’t crack him in the gym, he wants to crack him in the bedroom. 

So he gets Jeongguk on his back after some wrestling and slides his hand under his pillow to grab the bottle of lube he tucked under there after using it to jerk off this morning. Once he’s got him where he wants him, he doesn’t hesitate to swallow down Jeongguk’s cock, maybe a little too eager for it.

“Fuck,” Jeongguk hisses, head pressed back into the pillows. His fingers slide through the top of Taehyung’s hair as he rubs his tongue over the underside of Jeongguk’s cock. 

As he sucks at Jeongguk’s cock, soaking it and running his tongue over his balls, he gets his fingers wet with lube and gently taps Jeongguk’s thigh to urge him to bend his knee. He looks down at Taehyung and seems to realise what he wants and slides his foot along the covers, giving Taehyung better access to his ass. 

Getting the first finger in is easy with how relaxed Jeongguk is, more focused on the mouth on his dick than the finger at his asshole. “Doing okay?” he slurs around his fat cockhead once he’s got a second finger in.

Jeongguk nods, panting quickly and face flushed. “Yeah,” he whispers, heavy eyes down on Taehyung, fingers coiling in his hair. “Don’t stop.” He pushes at Taehyung’s head and he lets him, sinking back down on his cock as he plays with his ass. 

Curling his fingers inside of Jeongguk, he locates his prostate and gently starts to work at it, slowly feeling it start to swell under the pads of his fingers. It takes Jeongguk a minute to start feeling the effects, but when he does, he starts squirming and getting loud. Taehyung pins him in place with a hand on his hip and Jeongguk slides his bent thigh over Taehyung’s shoulder.

“Taehyung,” Jeongguk moans and it goes straight to Taehyung’s cock, trapped hard between his belly and his sheets. “Ngh…”

Taehyung is enjoying this beyond belief, getting some type of sick satisfaction watching Jeongguk fall apart, his thigh shaking against his head. He stretches his thumb up to rub at Jeongguk’s taint, working his prostate from the outside too and with the way Jeongguk jolts, you’d think he’d been poked with a cattle prod. 

“Baby, stop, baby, stop,” Jeongguk rushes out. 

“Baby?” Taehyung repeats as he pulls off his cock, eyebrow raised.

“I wanna fuck you. Please.” Jeongguk lifts his head to look down at him, eyes blown and lips bitten. “I don’t wanna cum like this.”

“Why not?” He presses down on Jeongguk’s prostate and feels his thigh tense over his shoulder, heel digging roughly into his back. 

“No, stop,” Jeongguk whines, tugging at Taehyung’s hair harshly, squeezing around his fingers. “Let me.”

Taehyung won’t lie and pretend he doesn’t want Jeongguk to fuck him, because he definitely does. It’s just sometimes he can’t help but battle with his stubbornness. So he removes his fingers and sits up and Jeongguk reaches for him, dragging him on top of him to kiss him again.

“You taste like dick,” Jeongguk whispers into the kiss. 

“I know. You taste terrible,” Taehyung shoots back just as quietly and hisses when Jeongguk pinches his ass before rolling him over.

He’s distracted with the kissing, his hands sliding through Jeongguk’s hair and holding him close. He’s not paying attention to what Jeongguk’s doing, the shuffling above him and the muted noises, but there’s soon wet fingers prodding at his asshole, swiftly followed by a slick cock and his breath catches. Taehyung spreads his legs, bending his good knee up while Jeongguk’s arm hooks under the other. 

Jeongguk presses in slowly, forcing him open with the thickness of his cock. Taehyung’s nails bite into Jeongguk’s shoulder, breath stuck in his chest and unable to return the kiss. “Relax,” he breathes into Taehyung’s mouth, rubbing at the fat of his thigh. 

“Shut up.” Swallowing, Taehyung arches his hips up a little, making it easier for Jeongguk to slide in some more. It’s been a minute since he’s last had sex, too devoted to his job to make time for other people. “I’m helping you break one of my own rules,” he realises.

Jeongguk’s head bows to kiss at the side of Taehyung’s neck, stilling halfway inside of him. “Yeah? What rule is that?”

“You’re not supposed to be having sex.”

“That’s only before a fight,” Jeongguk points out, voice shaking a little and by the way Taehyung can feel his cock pulsing inside him, he can tell he’s not the only one struggling. “Plus, you don’t count.”

Taehyung slides a hand down Jeongguk’s damp back. “And why’s that?”

“Because you’re my coach.” Jeongguk gives a little roll of his hips, driving his cock in deeper and Taehyung groans. “I should be able to fuck you all I want.”

Taehyung’s hand slides all the way down to Jeongguk’s ass, cupping the muscle. “Logic?”

Jeongguk bites his ear. “Should count as training, don’t you think?”

Taehyung huffs, licking his dry lips. “That’s a fucking reach.”

“Maybe,” Jeongguk shrugs, lifting his head to press their foreheads together. “I’ll make any excuse to fuck you again.” He doesn’t let Taehyung say anything else and melds their mouths back together. Taehyung’s too tightly strung to fight it, finally taking the rest of Jeongguk’s cock with a swift push. 

There’s no build up, Jeongguk starts fucking into him hard and fast right away. It’s impatient and frantic and it sums up his whole relationship with Jeongguk. Taehyung curls his leg around the back of Jeongguk’s thigh, heel hooking around his calf while Jeongguk still keeps the other raised. 

“Would you let me cum in you?” Jeongguk asks, voice rough.

“No, so don’t even think about it.” Taehyung bites at Jeongguk’s mouth. “Not gonna let a loser cum in me.”

Jeongguk grunts, tightening his arm around Taehyung’s thigh and fucks into him even harder, knocking Taehyung up against the headboard. He has to reach back to brace his hand against the headboard to stop from possibly getting a concussion. 

With how rough they’re fucking, Taehyung can already feel the high starting to approach and he lets go of Jeongguk to reach down to grab his dick, only to get his hand smacked away. “Jeon.”

“No,” Jeongguk pants, licking at Taehyung’s chest, head tipped down. “I wanna.” His warm fingers furl around Taehyung’s cock, still wearing his wraps from the fight and it adds a sharp friction that’s just on the right side of rough. “Keep holding me.”

“So demanding,” Taehyung huffs but complies, his arm sliding around the back of Jeongguk’s neck, holding him down close. 

Jeongguk’s speed picks up and Taehyung’s moans start to get louder the closer he gets, toes starting to curl. The slide of Jeongguk’s cock is hot and so wet inside him, the repetitive pressure of his balls slapping against his ass really doing it for him. The fist on his cock works to match the pace and it’s not long before Taehyung’s nails are digging into the back of Jeongguk’s neck, breath shaking and back drawn up like a bow as he crashes over the edge.

He spills over Jeongguk’s hand with a broken curse, thighs tensing so hard that it really fucks with his bad knee, but the pleasure is intense enough to drown it out, his ears ringing with it. Taehyung slumps back against the bed with one last groan, shaking the mattress with his weight. Jeongguk’s still fucking into him, sloppy and desperate. “Don’t cum in me,” he reminds lazily, arms falling limp at his sides. 

Jeongguk listens and quickly pulls out. “Shit,” he whines, barely touching himself before he’s coming over Taehyung’s cock and belly, hot, pearly ropes landing on his inner thighs, too. 

Taehyung watches the last drop of cum drip out from Jeongguk’s spent cock, slowly going soft in his hand and even when Jeongguk tips to the side, exhausted, he’s still getting a good look at it. 

Dude's got a good dick.

“What?” Jeongguk slurs. “What you lookin’ at?”

“Your dick,” Taehyung answers shamelessly, folding an arm under his head. “It’s nice.” He rubs his other hand over his face with a yawn, suddenly beat and when he drops his hand, Jeongguk’s grinning up at him. It startles a flinch out of him. “What?”

“You like my cock.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes, reaching over for a handful of tissues. “I like your cock more than your face,” he says, just so the compliment doesn’t go to Jeongguk’s head. 

Jeongguk props himself up on his elbow. “Lies.”

“Believe what you want,” Taehyung shrugs, handing Jeongguk a couple of tissues. He wipes the cum off his own body before it cools. “Your cock gives me less flack than your face does. They’re both a pain in my ass, though. Quite literally.”

Jeongguk snickers, cleaning up his dick before he takes his gross wraps off, dropping them down on the floor beside Taehyung’s bed. “Your leg okay?”

“Yeah, it’s fine,” Taehyung sighs, settling back against the headboard. It’s quiet for a moment. Too quiet for a room with Jeon Jeongguk in it. He looks down at him. “What?”

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure.”

“What... happened to your leg?”

Taehyung inhales slowly. “Not that question.” He eyes his leg, the puckered scars an angry red against his skin. He slides it beneath the covers so he doesn’t have to look at it. 

Jeongguk doesn’t push, thankfully. It’s not something he feels like getting into right now. “What got you into boxing?” he asks after a moment of quiet.

That he can answer. “My dad,” Taehyung says with a smile, tipping his head back against the headboard. “He was one of the best and I wanted to be just like him. He was a great guy, but he put boxing before me and my mom at the time. So I thought maybe if I got into boxing, he’d pay more attention to me.”

“Is that picture on the wall at the gym of you two?”

Taehyung nods with a smile. “Yeah. That was his last amateur fight. Best night of his life, I think. I’d never seen him so happy.”

Light fingers rest on Taehyung’s forearm and he glances down to see Jeongguk tracing the gaps between the moles on his arm. “Did it work? Did he pay more attention to you?”

Staring down at Jeongguk’s fingers for a moment longer, Taehyung shakes his head. “No, he uh…” he exhales, scratching the side of his nose. “He died before he got the chance to see me fight.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

Jeongguk’s fingers curl completely around Taehyung’s arm, making him look at him. “I’m sorry, Taehyung.”

Taehyung shakes his head. “Don’t be. It was a long time ago.” He rolls his shoulders back, not wanting to get too lost in those memories. “You want something to drink?”

Jeongguk goes along with it right away. “Like a beer?”

“Yeah.”

“Even though I didn’t win?”

“That’s definitely why you should have one,” Taehyung says, climbing off the bed. His knee is definitely a little worse for wear, but it’s nothing he can’t deal with. He finds his boxers in the hallway and tugs them back on. “The first loss is always the hardest.”

“How did you cope with yours?” Jeongguk asks, voice following him. 

Taehyung glances over his shoulder to see Jeongguk trailing behind, hopping into his shorts. He smiles to himself. “Probably would have drank my body weight in beer. But I had Namjoon to stop me.”

Jeongguk jumps up to sit on the kitchen counter as Taehyung opens the fridge. “How long have you two known each other?”

“Since school,” Taehyung answers, grabbing two beers. He needs to do a food shop soon, he notes. He hands one bottle to Jeongguk and twists the lid off his own. “We met through our dads.”

“And you guys were a thing,” Jeongguk doesn’t ask, just states.

Taehyung raises his eyebrows, lips quirking. “That obvious, is it?”

“Kinda. You both act kinda weird around each other. What’s the story there?”

“Aren’t you curious tonight,” Taehyung says. Jeongguk just smiles. “It’s… that’s a long one. One I’m not gonna go into tonight, but yeah. We were a thing for a long time. Not anymore. Now we’re just friends.”

Jeongguk tosses the beer cap in the sink with a frown. “I knew it. He looks at you a certain way, you know.”

Taehyung wishes he didn’t know. “Yeah,” he agrees. “You were a real dick to him earlier. I know what he said was a little harsh, but you did have it coming.”

Jeongguk’s frown deepens as he takes a long sip of beer. “You agree it was fucked up, then.”

“It needed to be said, Jeon. If you keep going the way you are, you’ll come to a stand still like that,” Taehyung says, punctuating with a snap of his fingers. “Be cocky all you want, but don’t let it turn into superiority.” 

Annoyance is obvious on Jeongguk’s face, but he nods. “Yeah. Alright.”

It’s a little awkward. The pair of them don’t really talk , their relationship has always been strictly work related. Taehyung’s not so good with this kind of stuff and apparently Jeongguk’s not any better off. 

He can’t decide if that makes it better or worse. 

After a while of silence, Jeongguk downs the rest of his beer and tosses the empty bottle in the open trash can with a burp. “Wanna fuck me?”

Taehyung nods. “Sure.” Jeongguk takes his hand and leads him back to the bedroom. “You’re gonna have to sit on it, though. My knee hurts too much to properly fuck you.”

“Fine by me. I like to top from the bottom, anyway.”

“Of course you do,” Taehyung sighs. 

                                                                                                 -- -- --

As much as it pissed him off, Jeongguk takes on board what Taehyung and Namjoon said to him and he starts coming back to the gym every day. He gets their point when he realises just how much he’s slacked off going off his agility and stamina. But Taehyung doesn’t make an example out of him like he expected. He brings him back down to an easier level of training and they start to work their way back up again. 

Speaking of.

He wants Taehyung more than ever.

Jeongguk thought after their explosive night of fucking on pretty much every surface in Taehyung’s apartment that maybe he wouldn’t be thirsting after his coach anymore. 

Oh, how he was wrong.

It seems like it’s doubled tenfold if anything. 

“That was a one time thing,” Taehyung tells him one night when Jeongguk gets him in the locker room, backed up against the showers. “Won’t happen again.”

And boy, does that only add to the fire in Jeongguk’s loins. 

Now he’s had a taste, he wants more. The fact that Taehyung is saying it was a one off only makes him that much more eager for it. 

“Maybe if you’d kiss me I’d have more energy,” he tries when Taehyung complains about how slow he’s being on the speed bag. 

Taehyung promptly throws a Gatorade at him.

He also swallows his pride and apologises to Namjoon. 

“Sorry for being a dick to you that night,” Jeongguk sighs. He doesn’t know if it’s as genuine as it could be, because he’s still a little salty about the whole ordeal, but he can be the bigger person. “A lot was going on in my head and I lashed out at you. You were just being honest.” 

He’d rather not have to do this in front of Taehyung, but he insisted on staying in the office, and said he would mind his own business. 

Since Jeongguk walked in, he hasn’t even bothered to pretend he’s not been listening the whole time.

“Thank you, Jeongguk.” Namjoon bows his head with a smile. “I appreciate you taking the time to apologise.” With that, he turns back around to his desk and Jeongguk stares.

“Yeah, yeah…” Jeongguk scratches the back of his head. “Um. Do you have anything you want to say to me?” Jeongguk coaxes, maybe needing to nudge Namjoon in the right direction. 

Namjoon turns back to him slowly, lips pursed. He stares at Jeongguk for a moment before his face lights up. “Oh! Yeah, I do.”

Jeongguk smiles. “I forgive—

“You still owe me for lunch yesterday.”

Lips paused on the you, Jeongguk blinks. “What.”

“Lunch,” Namjoon repeats with a smile. “I spot you for it. Remember?”

“Right. Yeah.” He reaches into his pocket, frowning as he pulls out his wallet. “How much do I owe you.”

“Six thousand.”

Sorting through the notes, Jeongguk pulls out a five and a one and hands them over. 

“Thank you,” Namjoon sings, plucking the notes from Jeongguk’s fingers and even checks them up against the light like some store clerk, seeing if they’re counterfeit. “Oh! Don’t forget the extra large soda you got too. That’s another two thousand.”

Jeongguk grits his teeth, jaw clenched. His eyes flicker over to Taehyung who has his mouth in his palm, clearly enjoying Jeongguk’s suffering. He looks back at Namjoon, then down at his wallet, pulling out his last small note. “I only have a five.”

“That’ll work.” Namjoon takes it right from his fingers, not even bothering to offer any change. “Thanks.” Money in hand, Namjoon once again turns back to his computer and Jeongguk wonders if he’s going fucking insane.

“Hello?” he finally snaps.

Namjoon raises his eyebrows, looking back at him. “Hi?”

“What about my apology?” Jeongguk demands, fed up. “Don’t you think I deserve one too?”

“For what?”

“For what you said!”

“What, the truth?”

Taehyung snorts across the office.

Jeongguk barks a laugh, annoyed all over again. “You know what. I take it back! I recede my apology.” He even goes as far as pretending to eat his words, just to prove his point. “Fuck you. I’m not sorry. You’re an ass. And you’re just as bad,” adds, stabbing a finger in Taehyung’s direction. He turns sharply and leaves, going to slam the door before remembering there isn’t one.

“We don’t have a door—”

“I can see that!” he yells back, storming away. 

                                                                                                 -- -- --

“Taehyung stuck to his end of the bargain then, I see,” Jeongguk says as he picks up Sieun from school one day, noting her new backpack.

Sieun nods proudly. “He sent me the money right away. And he said he’ll keep paying me so long as I find more potential sponsors.”

“Damn. He’s paying you but not me,” Jeongguk scoffs, taking her violin case for her. “You put it in the bank?”

“Yep! Saving up for a new violin. A Yamaha V 20. Made from solid spruce.” Sieun’s sigh is dreamy and he doesn’t think he’s ever been so passionate about any inanimate object before. 

“How much is it?”

“About a million won.”

Jeongguk balks. “For a violin?! Holy shit. Sieun.

“It’s high-quality, oppa. Classical instruments are expensive, tragically,” she sighs. “That’s why it’s mostly a rich kid thing.”

Jeongguk isn’t surprised with those rates. “Have you asked for any help from mom and dad?”

“No point. They’d say no anyway,” Sieun sighs. “You know what dad’s like with money. But it’s fine, I’ve been saving since my birthday last year.”

It’s not often Sieun asks for something, so Jeongguk knows she really must want it. “You should have told me,” he scolds gently. “Oppa could have helped.”

Sieun shakes her head. “You’ve got your own stuff to deal with right now. Plus, you’re not making any money from boxing, it’s not worth you struggling over.”

“Sieun…” Jeongguk sighs.

“What?”

“That’s not the type of thing you should be worried about.”

“Let’s not talk about this anymore,” Sieun says, clinging to his arm in the way that makes her seem more innocent than she is. “I’ll let you buy me McDonald’s instead.”

Jeongguk sighs, but he can’t deny his little sister of anything when she looks at him like he’s her idol. He knows he’s not, she likes old, dead musicians, but it’s still good for his pride. And her belly.

Even after he’s dropped Sieun home, he’s still replaying their earlier conversation over in his head. It bothers him that she wants something, which sounds ridiculous, but he meant it when he said she really doesn’t want much often. Last time he remembers her asking for something was about three years ago when she wanted a laptop. 

It plays so heavy on his mind, that he’s still thinking about it during training the following day.

“Jeon,” Taehyung calls, shoving the heavy bag at his chest. “Where’s your head at?”

Jeongguk grips the bag to stop it swinging. “Sorry. It’s…” he shakes his head, eyebrows furrowing. “Where are we at with these sponsors?”

Taehyung looks surprised for a moment. “They’re reviewing you right now. We have two potential ones. One is for a sports drink and the other is some gym wear. We’re leaning more towards the gym wear since their stuff is pretty good.”

“And how long’s that gonna take?”

“Until they make a decision.” Taehyung steps around the bag. “Why?”

Jeongguk rubs his tongue over the back of his teeth. “Could just do with some extra cash right now.”

Taehyung’s face turns worried. “You having some trouble?”

“What? No, no, it’s—”

“I can help you out if you need it.”

Jeongguk’s jaw snaps shut. He knows it’s a kind offer, but for some reason it pisses him off. It’s an irrational anger, but he can’t help but feel defensive over the fact Taehyung might suddenly think he’s barely getting by. “No,” he says, a little stiff. “I was just asking.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Jeongguk shoves the heavy bag away from him. “Forget I mentioned anything.”

Thankfully Taehyung doesn’t bring it up again as the week continues, but Jeongguk can feel him staring at him in a way he’s not keen on. He wants Taehyung to look at him like he wants to jump his bones or kick his ass - he doesn’t want him to look worried. 

He just fucking hopes he doesn’t mention it to Namjoon. That’s the last thing he wants.

So it eats away at Jeongguk for days. Sieun is easily the most important thing in his life and he cares about her more than anyone. She’s his baby sister. When she was born, he was the first to hold her. He still remembers when the nurses were cleaning her up and he would follow them around, making sure they took care of his sister. 

Working a low-paying job means Jeongguk’s never been able to spoil her the way he’d like, but he’s always tried to give her little gifts here and there. She’s easy to please, and much like him is happy to just be fed. But for once, he wants to be able to give her something big

The idea comes to him one night he’s walking home, searching for his keys and he plucks out the card he’d stuffed away and never thought twice about. 

Park “Red” Chul the card reads and Jeongguk remembers the sleazy dude in the cheap suit outside The Ring

(“Anyway, gimme a call if you’re interested. I bet a guy like you could make some good money competing.”)

Jeongguk stares at the card while he eats his grilled chicken, eyes on the phone number. Then he spends a few hours flipping it between his fingers until the paper starts to separate at the edges, corners folding back. 

“Fuck it,” he mutters to himself, grabbing his phone. There’s no harm in calling. 

Twenty minutes later, he’s showing up to the address Red sent him. He thinks for a moment that maybe he’s in the wrong place, having recognised the street, but there’s no signs for a gym or anything. 

“Yo!” 

Jeongguk turns to see some guy walking out of a butchers, and he can’t remember the face of the man he met at the gym, but the powder blue suit tells him it’s the same person. “Hey,” he calls back, awkward. 

Red grins and even from here, Jeongguk can see the gold grill he’s wearing. “Well, don’t just stand there. C’mon.” He turns and walks right back into the butchers and while Jeongguk’s confused, he doesn’t question it, just jogs after him to catch up. 

There’s a big guy manning a steel door, at least seven foot tall and biceps bigger than Jeongguk’s head. He steps aside to open the door for him and Red, revealing a set of concrete steps. Jeongguk’s more focused on the noise, loud jeering and yelling which only gets louder the further down they go. 

It’s a wide basement that once had to be a giant cooler. The halogen lights cast a sickly white glow that reminds Jeongguk of an operating room. Maybe from a horror movie with the meat hooks hanging off the ceiling. The whole place smells like meat, that thick, bloody odor that he can taste as if he’s brushed his teeth a little too hard and made his gums bleed. 

There’s people clustered in the very middle of the room in a clumsy circle, surrounding a couple of guys fighting. Even from here, Jeongguk can see they’re not evenly matched. One is a skinny-looking dude, all tight muscle but very thin, while the other is large in a way that he’s more brute force than actual strength. 

Even Jeongguk cringes a little when he throws a fist at the small dude. 

Looking around, Jeongguk notices that the majority of the people around the circle are all well dressed. Sharp suits or neat clothes. Jeongguk even thinks he might spot a well-known actor he’s seen on TV, but he’s not about to ask questions. This is shady fucking shit, he realises that immediately. He doesn’t know what he was expecting, but it wasn’t this. 

Around the room, outside of the circle, there’s other men posted around. All big and looming like the guy upstairs and he’s suddenly wondering if he’s made a big fucking mistake. 

Red must sense where his head is at because he throws an arm around Jeongguk’s shoulders. “Relax,” he says. “We’re all here for a good time. No need to be nervous.”

A couple of guys towards the back of the circle closest to Jeongguk turn to look at him. His first thought is that they look like everything that Red is clearly trying to be. They scream wealthy and the way they survey Jeongguk makes him feel like a cut of steak.

He realises the irony of this happening at a butchers. 

“Come on.” Red slaps his shoulder and leads the way into the circle, weaving through people to get to the edge. It’s a front row seat of the fight and as the smaller dude gets punched across the nose, Jeongguk realises why all the rich guys are towards the back of the circle. 

The people in front are the splash guard.

There’s blood all over the floor, some wet and some aged and dried brown. If Jeongguk looks close enough, he thinks he sees some teeth and maybe even a filling. 

The fight doesn’t last much longer. As much as Jeongguk wishes he could say the little one makes a full comeback, cause everyone loves a underdog—he doesn’t. He’s knocked out cold and making this worrying gurgling sound as he’s dragged away by a couple of guys. 

The winner laps the circle, blood smeared over his low-hanging belly and matted in his chest hair. When he grins—snarls, more like—he’s got visible teeth missing. 

“He’s about to make two million won. Easily. Probably more,” Red tells him quietly. “You could do a lot with that kinda money, kid.”

Enough for a violin, then. 

                                                                                                 -- -- --

By 10 o’clock, Jeongguk still hasn’t shown up. It’s not unusual for him to show up late or even not at all, but since he lost that fight, he’s gotten better at fixing his routine. Taehyung tries to call him, but it rings out a couple of times before going to voicemail. 

“Jeongguk’s not answering my calls,” he tells Namjoon with a sigh as he stares down at his phone.

“Are you really that surprised?”

Taehyung looks up from the screen with a frown. “Yes, actually. He’s been coming in every day for over a month. Then he just doesn’t show up at all today? Don’t you think that’s weird?”

Namjoon shrugs, filling up a mop and bucket to wash the floor. “Not really. It’s Jeongguk, Taehyung.”

“Yeah, I know who it is,” Taehyung snaps back, annoyed. “You rag on him too much. It’s getting old, hyung.”

“I’m just saying—”

“No, I know what you’re saying. Give it up. He’s trying and you’re just being an ass at his point, honestly.” He leaves Namjoon to mop and goes back to trying to reach Jeongguk. 

Taehyung’s worried. He’s probably being ridiculous and maybe Jeongguk is just slacking off, but he feels like they’ve gotten to a point in their relationship where if Jeongguk was having a bad day, he could tell him about it. Maybe it really is nothing, but he wants to know that. He’d understand if Jeongguk just needed a day off, he’s been working his ass off, Taehyung knows he’s not Superman. 

So he keeps trying to call and text every so often, just trying to make a point of contact. He doesn’t wanna be overbearing, but he does want to know. 

A little after 3pm, he finally gets a text from Jeongguk and Taehyung is both relieved and concerned. 

from: JK

can’t make it today

not feeling so good, sorry

It’s short and blunt and it doesn’t completely sit right with Taehyung, but it’s something at least. It makes sense and it soothes some worry he had. 

“He’s sick,” Taehyung tells Namjoon, even if he doesn’t care to know. “He must have only just woke up. Maybe I’ll go take him some soup after work.”

Namjoon scoffs, staring at his monitor. “Be better to take him some ice.”

Taehyung tucks his phone away. “Ice?”

“He’s not sick, Taehyung.”

“What? What makes you think he’s not?”

Namjoon scoffs. “I just know.”

“Hyung.” Taehyung frowns, stepping closer. “How do you know he’s not sick?”

Sighing, Namjoon grabs his phone off the desk. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He taps at his phone a couple of times, hitting play on a video and filling the office with tinny audio. 

Taehyung snags his phone when it’s offered, dread building quickly. Staring at the screen, it doesn’t take but a few seconds for him to realise what’s happening and his stomach cramps immediately. He watches as Jeongguk fights some dude noticeably more built than him. Jeongguk’s face is messed up, blood pouring from his nose and bruises already forming on his cheek. 

The clip is only short, but it’s enough to have Taehyung feeling nauseous as Jeongguk gets punched so hard he falls to the floor. He’s up again moments later and delivers blow after blow to his opponent, the sound of cheering and muted skin on skin crackling the phone speaker. 

Taehyung can see it in Jeongguk’s eyes. That hungry, stray-dog determination, everything about him wild.

It ends on a freeze frame of Jeongguk’s fists flying, fists blurred and face looking so… livid. 

Taehyung feels like he can’t take a proper breath, slowly setting Namjoon’s phone down. He struggles to swallow as he reaches up, clutching at his chest, able to feel the budding panic attack. 

“See?” Namjoon sighs. 

Reality punches Taehyung in the face and his eyes snap to Namjoon. “See what? ” he seethes, eyes wide. “Did you know about this all along?”

Namjoon blinks, startled. “Well, yeah. I was waiting to see if he’d show his face before—”

“What the fuck is wrong with you, Namjoon?” Taehyung demands, horrified. “How can you be so casual about this? How could you keep this from me considering everything?” He feels mortified. Feels betrayed. “What the fuck is wrong with you!?”

Namjoon stands up slowly, arms raised as if he were dealing with some rabid dog. “Hey… Calm down, Tae.”

“No! Don’t you fucking tell me to calm down. What’s happened to you? I don’t know where this holier-than-thou attitude has come from, but it’s ugly.” Taehyung takes a step away from Namjoon. He shakes his head, looking him over. “You need to take a long hard look at yourself, Namjoon. I don’t like this person.” 

Namjoon’s face crumples, clearly hurt. “Taehyung…”

But Taehyung’s already turning and leaving, snagging Namjoon’s car keys as he goes. Jeongguk doesn’t live too far away and luckily Taehyung knows his address after sending him some new workout gear a couple of weeks ago since the ones he had before got to be too small.

He feels so scared for what he might find when he gets to Jeongguk. His palms slip on the steering wheel and he almost jerks the car into a lamp post on more than one occasion. 

When Taehyung pulls up outside Jeongguk’s apartment, he realises that there’s a big fucking chance that if Jeongguk knows it’s him, he’s not going to let him up. Treading nervously, he buzzes for J. Jeon and prays there’s no camera. 

Yeah?

Taehyung rejoices at the sound of Jeongguk’s voice, as shitty as it may sound on the speaker. He swallows and pitches his voice a little higher. “Hi, sorry to bother you, but I live at number 12 and I’ve locked myself out, could you—”

The latch on the door snaps open with a low buzzing and Taehyung quickly yanks it open and slips inside with one last look to Jeongguk’s door number printed on the list of names. 

Taehyung jogs up one flight of stairs and loses what little composure he had a moment ago. He thumps at number 15 with the side of his fist, debating on covering the peephole with his thumb, but before he can, the door opens and he realises that this is Jeongguk. He probably doesn’t even check.

Taehyung’s breath catches in his throat as soon as he sees him. 

They stare at each other for a moment before Jeongguk tries to shut the door. But Taehyung’s barging in before he can, fitting himself through the gap and forcing Jeongguk back. 

“What the fuck—

Taehyung shuts the door behind him and in the dim light of the hall light, he can see Jeongguk even more clearly. His whole face is swollen, one eye completely swelled shut while his other eyelid puffs out over his eye. Jeongguk’s skin is more purple than anything, bottom lip fat and a big gash over the bridge of his nose. 

His heart beats so quickly in his chest that he feels like he might go into cardiac arrest. Taehyung reaches out to touch Jeongguk’s face, but his arm is shoved down. 

He breaks. 

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” Taehyung yells, his whole chest shaking with it. “Are you a fucking idiot, Jeongguk? Why would you go and do something as stupid as fighing—”

Jeongguk snaps into life. “Why is it any of your business what I do? What are you even doing here, Taehyung?”

“It is my business!”

“How is it?” Jeongguk demands. “What I do outside of training hours has nothing to do with you.”

It bubbles inside of Taehyung, emotions all swirling together and he feels so overwhelmed that he can’t properly formulate what he wants to say. He’s so angry that even the top of his head feels hot. “You— Y-You—!”

“I what? Spit it out!”

“You—” Taehyung’s mouth opens and closes, his hands waving, fingers curling. “You can’t do this!”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes and walks away, heading into his living room. The curtains are pulled and the only light in the room is a dim lamp in the corner of the room. “You’re so eloquent.”

“How did you even get involved in this shit?” Taehyung follows close behind, noting the blood covered gauzes and packets of empty painkillers on the table. 

“Some guy told me about it outside of the gym the day I agreed to train. Gave me his card and—”

“Red?” Taehyung demands. “Was his name Red?”

Jeongguk drops down to sit in his armchair, looking up at Taehyung. “You know him.”

A humourless laugh curdles in Taehyung’s throat. “Yeah, I know him.” He runs a hand through his hair, able to see his shirt twitching from how hard his chest is beating. “Why did you suddenly call him?”

“That’s none of your business,” Jeongguk repeats, reaching for one of the many bottles of beer on the table. 

“It is my business,” Taehyung says, irritated. “That shit is illegal. And worse, it’s dangerous. I saw your fight. You’re lucky you didn’t get your skull caved in.” He shakes his head, the image of Jeongguk getting hit so brutally burned behind his eyes. 

“Why are you making such a big fucking deal about this, Taehyung?” Jeongguk squints up at him, looking at him like he just shit on his rug. “What’s done is done. I won the fight. Why are you so mad?”

“Yeah, that’s how it starts,” Taehyung grits out, ignoring the last question. “You think it’s just one fight, but then you tell yourself one more couldn’t hurt. Right?”

Jeongguk shakes his head, setting the bottle down roughly. “It’s not like that for me.”

“Oh, what, because you’re different?”

“Taehyung—”

“You’re so exempt from the idea of winning big money?”

“It’s not like that!” Jeongguk’s up on his feet again, fists clenched at his sides. 

“Then what is it like?” 

“I just needed enough money to buy something, okay?” Jeongguk barks. He rubs a busted hand over his face, his knuckles split and raw. He exhales a shaky breath. “Look. It really was a one time thing. I didn’t fuckin’ like that shit and I don’t wanna be a part of it.” He looks between Taehyung’s eyes—as best he can, at least. “Trust me. Alright?”

Taehyung feels so pent up, like someone’s shook up a bottle of pop inside of him. “What did you need to buy?” he asks. His stomach turns. “Is this why you asked about money the other day?”

Jeongguk’s jaw flexes. “Yes, I. I wanted to buy Sieun the violin she wanted and I couldn’t afford it with just my pay from the warehouse. She was saving up the money you’re paying her to buy it, but I wanted her to keep that cash and buy it for her myself.” He rubs his lips together with a shrug. “I just wanted to buy my little sister something, man.”

Taking a deep breath, Taehyung tips his head back. “Yeah. Okay. I get that,” he nods. “But… You could have gotten seriously hurt, Jeongguk. Worse than you are now. You should have come to me.”

“No.” Jeongguk shakes his head. “I couldn’t justify asking for that much cash for a gift.”

He doesn’t push on it, knows that if the roles were reversed, Taehyung would feel the same. “Have you given it to her?”

“Not yet. I don’t really want her seeing me like this. She grew up seeing me beat up a lot and I don’t want her to start worrying about me again.” Jeongguk’s voice is meek, that soft edge of embarrassment to his tone. “She’s real proud of me doing this boxing thing, y’know? I like that.”

Taehyung can empathise. He knows what it can be like to want to impress someone in the most genuine way possible. Just wanting someone to be proud of you. “I’m not sorry for yelling at you. I still think you’re stupid.”

Jeongguk nods. “I know.”

The anger is there, but it’s fizzling out, the last of the adrenaline starting to ebb away. He takes a step closer and when he reaches out to touch Jeongguk’s face this time, Jeongguk doesn’t smack his hand away. “Are you okay?” he asks softly, touch light.

Jeongguk swallows, able to feel his throat bob. “No,” he whispers, hands lifting to rest on Taehyung’s hips. “I need something.”

“What do you need?”

Jeongguk sniffs. “I think a kiss would help a lot. Would probably take the excruciating pain away.”

“Please,” Taehyung tuts, eyes rolling. He steps away, but Jeongguk catches him by the wrist and drags him into a kiss. It’s a little awkward considering Jeongguk’s fat lip and after a minute, he pulls away with a hiss.

“Damn it,” Jeongguk grumbles, probing at his mouth. 

“Serves you right.” Taehyung smiles, dropping his arms. “Don’t wanna kiss your ugly ass anyway.”

Jeongguk gives him a look. “Now that hurt worse than getting my ass kicked.”

“Good. I’m gonna get you some ice.” Taehyung heads into the kitchen and rummages through the freezer. He grabs an ice pack and wraps it in a dish towel. “Sit down.”

Jeongguk obeys, once again sitting down in his recliner. Taehyung crouches down beside him and presses the ice pack against his mouth, which Jeongguk takes over holding. 

“You got a first aid kit?”

“Under the sink,” Jeongguk says, nodding to the kitchen. “But I already took care of it.”

“Yeah and you did a shitty job.” Taehyung’s knee twinges as he stands, backtracking to the kitchen to search for the first aid kit. He finds it tucked behind a bottle of plug unclogger and a plant mister. Bringing it back to the living room, he hooks his ankle around a stool and drags it over with him, sitting down beside Jeongguk. 

“You my nurse now?” 

“Someone’s gotta clean up your mess.”

“Cause you’re my coach?”

“Cause I’m your friend,” Taehyung corrects softly, unzipping the kit. He’s not got a lot to work with, some cheap thing, but he makes due. He tears open an antiseptic wipe and nudges for Jeongguk to lower his arm so he can clean up his mouth first. 

Jeongguk stares at him as he works, staying still. After a minute or so, he shuffles a little. “How do you know Red?”

Taehyung pauses his dabbing of Jeongguk’s hairline for a moment. “I went to school with him,” he says once he resumes. “And um…”

Jeongguk waits patiently. 

“He… got me into underground fighting, too.” Taehyung exhales deeply, pulling away to set the wipe to the side and tries to find some type of ointment. 

“You used to do that?”

Taehyung nods. “Yeah.”

Jeongguk seems to chew the fat on that. “Is that how…” he trails off and Taehyung looks up at him.

“Is that how I fucked up my leg?”

Jeongguk nods.

“Yeah. It played a part in it.” He’s never told anyone this before. The only person that knows about it is Namjoon, and Red to a certain degree. It’s not something he ever wanted to have to talk about, but he thinks it’s important Jeongguk knows. “Back when I was fighting, um… Namjoon’s dad was very sick. He had lots of medical bills that needed to be paid and all of the money we were making from the gym was going into that.” He squeezes some cream onto his finger and starts to dap it over the cuts on Jeongguk’s face, pausing when he flinches. “You okay?”

“Yeah. Keep going,” Jeongguk urges. “Keep talking.”

Taehyung sighs. “At the time, Red was coming around a lot, always told me that I could make good money doing a couple fights here and there, but I always said no. I didn’t wanna get involved in that shit. But… y’know. When things got desperate, me and Namjoon decided that maybe I’d do a couple of fights, get some money and we’d keep the gym lights on. Now I know you’re probably wondering why it mattered so much about keeping the gym afloat, but… that place is everything to us. It was everything to our dads.” He licks his lips. “It was everything to Namjoon and that was enough reason for me alone to fight.”

Jeongguk doesn’t look away from him. “You loved him.”

“Yeah. Yeah, of course I loved him,” Taehyung says, chest heavy. “Loved him since we were young. He was my best friend, too. When my dad died, he and his dad took care of me and my mom. My mom couldn’t stand to stay in the city anymore, so she moved back to Daegu to be with her family, but I stayed.” Taehyung finishes applying the cream and wipes his fingers on his shirt. “Anyway. I started fighting and I started winning. But no matter how much money I earned, it seemed like it was never enough. Namjoon’s dad needed more treatment, a water leak in the gym, an old check bounced…”

“So you kept fighting? For how much longer?”

“A lot longer.” Taehyung finds a little pack of wound closures and uses a pair of tweezers to peel some of the smaller ones off. “I kept up with my regular boxing fights, but on the side I was street fighting.”

“Did you never get caught?”

“No, it was… Did you notice that most people there were—”

“Rich?” Jeongguk interrupts.

Taehyung nods.

“Yeah. So it’s a rich man’s game.”

“Exactly that. Nothing more to them than cock fighting,” Taehyung scoffs. “Those people know exactly why people fight and they get their rocks off on it. It’s sick but they don’t give a shit. It’s like pay-per-view for them.” Bitterness claws its way up his throat, coating his tongue like venom when he thinks back to those people. How they can dabble so easily in people’s lives and use them like pawns in their game.

Soft fingers touch his chin and it captures his attention. “Hey,” Jeongguk whispers. “Stay with me.”

Taehyung tilts down into Jeongguk’s fingers as they curl around his jaw. He takes the moment of comfort to collect himself before he starts to apply the closure strips to the bridge of Jeongguk’s nose. “After a handful of fights, I got approached by one of those guys and he said he recognised me. Knew I was an aspiring boxer and they’d seen some of my matches. They acted as a silent sponsor, I suppose. Started paying me under the table for fights I’d win. It was a lot more money, y’know. Big dogs game.”

Jeongguk’s fingers linger on his chin and jaw, playing with his chain around his neck. His eyes soft but Taehyung can’t look at them. He just focuses on patching him up. 

“I was comfortable in cash, Namjoon and I could afford to get his father into an assisted living home, we could buy more advertising, more trainers for the gym… Namjoon wasn’t waking up in a sweat anymore in the middle of the night.” Taehyung rolls his lips into a thin line, teeth digging into his skin. “Eventually… I was asked to throw a boxing match. My record was high, everyone would bet on me so they planned to bet on the other guy and make a fortune. They said I’d earn at least triple what they usually paid me.”

“Did you?”

Taehyung sighs. “I agreed to it, yeah. I wasn’t really thinking about anything else. But when I told Namjoon, he got mad,” he sighs. “Told me that I shouldn’t belittle myself for money, brought my dad into it, it was this whole messy thing. I still went through with it at first. Let the opponent get hits in, but.” He cringes at the memory, can still remember his last fight as clear as day. “I couldn’t do it. I won the fight.”

Jeongguk replaces the ice pack to his face once Taehyung’s finished. “Were they mad?”

“They were mad,” Taehyung chuckles, dry. “I’d lost them a fuck ton of money. I said I was sorry and told them I didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t want to jeopardise my chance at going pro, y’know? I was so fucking close. Applied for my license and everything.” He shakes his head. “Then they turned around and say okay. No hard feelings, best of luck and sent me on my way.” He zips up the first aid kit and sets it down on the coffee table. “And I thought that was that.”

Jeongguk frowns. “So you didn’t get injured during a fight?”

Folding his arms over the armrest of Jeongguk’s chair, Taehyung shakes his head with a little smile. “No.” He takes a breath, looking up at the ceiling as he pictures the night. “It was about a week later and I’d gotten my license. I was officially going professional. Had my last amateur fight, went out to celebrate with some friends, had a few drinks. Then I went to go and meet Namjoon at the bus stop and—” He tips his head back down, meeting Jeongguk’s eyes. “I got jumped. Beat the shit out of me. I put up a good fight, but I was drunk. Slow. Couldn’t stop a baseball bat to the leg.”

Jeongguk’s flinches, his eyes squeeze shut. “Jesus fucking Christ… Was it those guys?”

“No. Wasn’t them who jumped me, but I know it had something to with ‘em. Payback.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah. Shattered my kneecap completely. So bye-bye career.” Taehyung scratches his nail over the leather of the armrest, drawing a figure of eight. “I blamed Namjoon for it. It wasn’t his fault, but I fell into a pretty bad depression and I put the blame on him. If I’d just thrown the fight, I’d still be boxing, type of thing.” His eyebrows knit together, pain deep in his chest as he revisits those dark times. “I broke up with him after I had surgery on my knee and we lost contact for a good half of year. I became a really shitty person, relied on the medication I had to get me through the day. I couldn’t process that the thing I got up for in the morning was something I couldn’t do anymore.”

Jeongguk grabs his wrist, fingers slipping under the sides of his sleeves. “I’m so sorry, Taehyung. Fuck, I—”

“Don’t be sorry.” Taehyung stares down at Jeongguk’s knuckles, at the fresh scab over the middle knuckle, the thickest one that hurts the most in a fist. “When I saw that video of you, I just. I panicked. You’re a really great fighter, Jeongguk. Just a really great person in general and I didn’t want you getting mixed up in that and making dumb mistakes like I did.”

“I get it,” Jeongguk murmurs softly, thumb brushing over Taehyung’s wrist bone. “I really won’t do it again, I promise. It was a one time thing.”

Finally, Taehyung feels relieved, knowing Jeongguk means it. He sags a little, watching as Jeongguk’s hand crawls up to hold his, slipping his fingers through the gaps. “Good, cause I’ve grinded too many hours into your ass for you to ruin it for me now,” he teases, wanting to lighten the mood.

It works, Jeongguk snorts and nudges him with his arm. “Grinded into my ass, huh?”

Taehyung tuts. 

“Grind some more into me if you want, I don’t mind.” Jeongguk gives him that cocky grin and even with a fat fucking mouth and ugly face, there’s still that charm hiden behind the messy paint pallet bruises. “Seriously, though, I’m down to fuck.”

“Hell no,” Taehyung scoffs, tugging his hand away. “We’re not fucking when your body is fragile like a senior citizen’s right now.”

“Oh come on, that’s a little much.”

“You might throw your hip out, grandpa. I don’t want that on my conscience.” 

“Fuck you.”

“Yeah, you’d like that, wouldn’t you. Might hit your Life Alert.”

“Stop!”

The heavy mood is lifted as the pair of them joke and Taehyung feels surprisingly lighter. It wasn’t as if he was keeping why he had to retire from Jeongguk, but it’s nice having someone know. He doesn’t know why but he doesn’t question it.

“You eaten?” Taehyung asks after a while once he’s cleaned up the shit show of beer bottles and bloody tissues. 

“Nah, stomach was hurting too bad.” Jeongguk lifts his shirt and reveals the bruising over his abdomen, the bruises there more on the yellow side.

Taehyung remembers that feeling. “Think you could manage something now?”

Jeongguk nods. “Maybe, yeah.”

Taehyung pokes around the kitchen and decides on some ramen. It’s not like Jeongguk has to worry about bloating right now. He can only find the spicy kind, not his personal favourite, but clearly Jeongguk’s. 

Once Jeongguk’s got the cup of noodles in front of him, he seems to regain his hunger, wolfing it down quick enough that Taehyung goes to make him another pot. 

“How did you and Namjoon end up talking again?” Jeongguk asks once he’s on his third cup and his pacing slows to something more reasonable. His lips are red and orange and it’s quite cute. “Like to get to where you are now.”

“When his dad died, we reconnected,” Taehyung sighs, sat on the couch now. “It forced me out of my funk and forced me to confront myself. I put the blame on him and it wasn’t fair. It took me a while to apologise, but I got there eventually. He was patient. It was hard at first… being around each other. But we were always friends above everything else and that was worth fighting for.”

“But he still wants more,” Jeongguk points out.

“There’s—” Taehyung considers his words, his feelings. It’s always a grey area, his and Namjoon’s relationship. “We fell out of love. There’s been a couple of attempts to rekindle it, but it’s...It’s gone. I don’t think he wants to face that reality.”

“You know that’s why he doesn’t like me, right?” 

Taehyung raises an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

“Because I obviously like you. He doesn’t like that.”

“Yeah, you like to fuck me, but—” Taehyung chuckles, but it’s cut off.

“No, like I like you. Like I actually like you, Taehyung.” Jeongguk’s serious, he can see and hear he is, but Taehyung’s brain scrambles like eggs.

“No?” he giggles, high and unsure. “You don’t.”

Jeongguk stares at him as he chews, seemingly unphased. “I do,” he shrugs. “Process that as you may, but it’s true.”

Taehyung laughs again, scratching his temple. “What? Okay. What?” 

Call him Johnny 5 because he thinks he might be short circuiting. 

Jeongguk stares at him. “What?”

“Since when? When did you decide to like me?” 

“I dunno. I just realised, like, right now? But I think Namjoon knew before I did,” he shrugs. “It happens.” Jeongguk watches him for a moment. “Close your mouth.”

Taehyung’s teeth snap shut, having not even realised. He’s struggling to… process this, as Jeongguk said. This is very unusual for him. He’s only ever had one person like him before, and he and Namjoon kind of fell into their relationship.

...not that he’s saying he and Jeongguk are in a relationship. No. He just means. Like. 

Uh. Feel. Feelings. He doesn’t. He hasn’t. Felt feelings. Uh. 

“You good?” Jeongguk interrupts his articulate thoughts. “You’re making a weird noise.”

Taehyung stands suddenly, knee knocking the coffee table. “I—” his mouth opens and closes as he points vaguely over his shoulder before he turns and quickly leaves as fast as he can. 

He doesn’t stop walking until he realises he’s completely left Namjoon’s car at Jeongguk’s place and has to turn and go back for it. 

                                                                                                 -- -- --

from: coach

Take the next couple of days off

Heal.

Jeongguk smiles to himself as he reads the texts. He appreciates it, he could definitely use the time to rest, but he also thinks Taehyung is offering so he doesn’t have to see him after he confessed to liking him. 

He’s not offended by his reaction. Makes him like him more, if anything. A weird trend he seems to have: Taehyung not acting the way most people would and Jeongguk only wanting him even more. 

It’s funny how it hit Jeongguk in that moment, that he has actual feelings for Taehyung that go beyond anger and desire. Listening to him open up about his career, his attack, his relationship with Namjoon, all the while nursing Jeongguk back to health… it put things into perspective. 

He’s not saying it’s anything serious - he’s not head over heels in love, but he can admit that he’s crushing on Taehyung in a very adult way. Jeongguk’s not about to push his feelings onto Taehyung, but he’s not going to hide them, either. 

Taehyung’s going to have to accept that, regardless if he ever reciprocates his feelings or not. 

So he takes the next few days to sleep and lick his wounds. On the last night before he goes back to the gym, Sieun drops by after school, bag packed to stay the night. No warning, but that’s to be expected. 

Sieun works around her own schedule. 

“You had a big spike in followers last night,” is the first thing Sieun says as Jeongguk opens his door. She doesn’t spare a look his way as she dumps her bag in “her” room. “Almost three hundred. Isn’t that great? It’s mostly teenage girls, which you probably think won’t help, but teenage girls have a lot of pull when it comes to spreading awareness on boys they think are cute.” She gags as if the words cute and him shouldn’t be associated together. 

“That’s great,” Jeongguk praises, gently closing the door. He’s a little anxious suddenly. He hadn’t planned on seeing her so soon, not until his face had healed up a bit. Luckily the swelling is pretty much all but gone now and the cuts have scabbed over, it’s just the bruising.

Sieun goes and changes first, getting out of her uniform and Jeongguk scrambles for a way to hide himself. He tries on a hat, throws on a mask and sunglasses and it’s perfect…

But so dumb.

He doesn’t have any makeup and even if he did, he doesn’t know the first thing about using it, let alone to cover up the hideous state that is his face. Plus, he doesn’t like hiding things from Sieun. She always manages to sniff them out anyway, like some bloodhound. 

So Jeongguk waits to accept his fate and goes to grab her a soda. 

“I think you’ll reach the 5k mark by next Friday.” Stepping into the living room, Sieun dumps her phone on the couch and sits down, finally looking up at him as he hands her a Dr. Pepper. Her face drops. “Oppa. What—”

“I did something stupid,” Jeongguk cuts in quickly. “Something I shouldn’t have. But it’s fine now, it won’t happen again.” 

“Does Taehyung know?” 

Jeongguk huffs a laugh. “Yeah, he knows. Didn’t mean for him to, but.” 

“It wasn’t bad people again, was it?” Her voice is soft and sad and it breaks Jeongguk’s heart. He remembers the way she’d look at him when he’d come home from school, black and blue after boys kicked his ass because he was gay. It was a regular occurrence. 

When Jeongguk found out he liked boys when he was Sieun’s age, he didn’t hide it. He openly told a boy that he thought was interested in him that he liked him and ended up getting his first black eye. 

To this day, Jeongguk still thinks the guy might have liked him back, but he was too scared to come out. Which he gets, but he didn’t have to have his friends kick Jeongguk’s ass just to keep that secret hidden. 

Sieun was too young to understand at the time, but whenever he was hurt, she’d waddle on over to him and hold his hand in her little fingers and just stare at him as if she was trying to protect him, not wanting to let him out of her sight. 

When she got older, he told her - and while she’s still young, Sieun understood more than their parents ever did. It’s why he has a better relationship with her than them. 

“No, wasn’t anything like that,” he promises her. “It was this dumb game type of thing. I only did it once and wasn’t into it.” He won’t go into detail and he certainly won’t ever tell her that he did it for money, because he knows she wouldn’t take what he’s about to give her. “Anyway. I got you a gift.” 

Sieun still looks concerned, eyebrows knit. “A gift? We don’t do gifts.” 

“Yeah, well. Today I’m doin’ a gift.” He gets up and goes to grab the violin case that he couldn’t wrap to save his life, so he just stuck a bow on it. He drags it on over and Sieun’s eyes widen. 

“Jeon—”

“Don’t say anything, just open it.” Jeongguk sets it down on the table in front of her and takes a seat next to it. 

Sieun looks up at him, face pinched and cheeks red. But she opens it, flicking the latches up and slowly pushes the lid up. She doesn’t look surprised, doesn’t gasp or freak out, just stares at the violin as her eyes fill up. 

“Hey, don’t cry,” he chuckles, squeezing her shoulder. “It’s the one you wanted, isn’t it?” 

Sieun nods, sniffling as she closes the lid again. 

Now Jeongguk’s worried. “Shit. Did you already buy it? Did I get it in the wrong colour or something? We can take it back if you—”

She throws herself at him, her arms looping around Jeongguk’s neck. “Thank you, oppa… it’s perfect. I love it.” 

Jeongguk sighs in relief, ignoring the slight discomfort of the tight hug and just returns it. “And I love you. You know that, yeah?” 

Sieun nods, pulling back and wiping her nose on her wrist. He pinches the snot away, uncaring. “Love you too.” 

Jeongguk smiles. “Play something.”

With a smile, Sieun nods and plays the violin her big brother got her. Jeongguk may think she doesn’t know, but Sieun knows that however he got beaten up has something to do with the violin he got her. 

She pretends she doesn’t, though. For him. 

                                                                                                 -- -- --

When Jeongguk goes back to work, things are definitely a little frosty. Everyone seems to have an issue with everyone. 

Taehyung has an issue with Namjoon. Namjoon has an issue with Jeongguk. And Jeongguk… well, he likes Taehyung. 

It’s a weird broken circle. It has its chinks. 

“Are you gonna be weird?” Jeongguk asks Taehyung as he wraps his hands, his coach having been staring at him the whole time. 

Taehyung snorts, shuffling awkwardly. “Why would I be weird?” 

“Because I told you I liked you and you quite literally ran away,” Jeongguk reminds, just to be an ass. 

He enjoys the way Taehyung’s face goes red. “No,” he splutters out after a moment. “I’m an adult.” 

Jeongguk nods, slipping his boxing gloves on. “Then you can go get a drink with me. Like adults do. Right, coach?” 

“I-I… Well.” 

“Sweet. Tonight, then.” Jeongguk smiles, fixing on his last glove before he heads on over to the heavy bag, leaving behind a floundering Taehyung. 

He’s enjoying it a little too much, really. 

“This isn’t a date,” Taehyung tells him once they’ve both ordered a drink, standing in some seedy gay bar downtown.

“Okay,” Jeongguk says and pays for both of them.

“It’s just dancing,” Taehyung mutters against his ear as they dance together to loud techno trash. 

“You got it,” Jeongguk agrees, guiding Taehyung’s hands down to his ass. 

“This is, fuck… only sex,” Taehyung pants as Jeongguk strokes at his lubed up cock and spreads his legs for Taehyung to fit between. 

“Absolutely,” Jeongguk breathes before licking into Taehyung’s soft mouth.

And when Jeongguk wakes up in the morning and steps out into the kitchen to see a full spread waiting for him, he smirks.

“Just breakfast?” he asks, taking a seat at the table. 

Taehyung meets his eye for a moment before he pours Jeongguk a cup of coffee. “That’s right.”

So that happens a few times and each and every time, Taehyung is adamant about reminding Jeongguk that there is nothing going on between them, nothing romantic. Jeongguk goes along with it, but he doesn’t think Taehyung believes it either. 

But he’ll wait. He’s slowly learnt to be patient about progressing. This is just another one of those things. 

“Hey. Jeon,” Namjoon calls from his office one evening before Jeongguk’s about to leave. “Can I have a word?”

Jeongguk’s eyes flicker to Taehyung, who looks just as surprised. “Sure,” he agrees, readjusting his bag on his shoulder and heads on over. “What’s up?”

It’s the first time Namjoon’s spoken to him in a week or so now. Jeongguk no longer has any ill feelings towards Namjoon. It was tiring to be mad at him for being interested in Taehyung and ragging on him for it. He was wasting energy he should be putting to better use.

Like getting Taehyung to fall for him.

Plus, he kind of gets it. Jeongguk knows some of that anger was for good reason, too. 

“I… wanted to say I’m sorry,” Namjoon starts, voice low. He stands a few feet away, arms folded across his chest and looking like he really doesn’t want to be doing this. But Jeongguk knows he has to be doing it by his own free will, because Taehyung’s been giving him the cold shoulder. “For how I’ve treated you.”

Jeongguk nods, thumb slipping under the shoulder strap of his bag. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.” Namjoon sighs, shuffling awkwardly from one foot to the other. “It wasn’t completely fair on you. I made assumptions and my own feelings attributed to that and... I never really gave you a fair shot.”

“I appreciate that, man,” Jeongguk says, genuine. 

Smiling, Namjoon nods. “So. We good?”

“Not yet.”

Namjoon’s smile drops. “Oh?”

“Yeah…” Jeongguk sniffs. “I’m gonna need you to apologise for being an ass the night I lost.”

Namjoon stares at him for a moment before he huffs a laugh, face relaxing. “Yeah, okay. Sure. I’m sorry for being an ass. I was definitely twisting the knife in a bit.”

“And how about—”

“Okay, now you’re pushing it.” Namjoon pulls his chair out from under his desk. “I’ve still got another big apology to cash yet, so get back to me.”

Jeongguk smiles, satisfied. He can live with that. 

But he’s gonna need an apology for that whole lunch money shit. He never got his change back.

                                                                                                 -- -- --

After a very long talk and too much beer, Namjoon and Taehyung are once again a team. It feels different now, their relationship. It sounds odd to say, but something feels different for Taehyung at least. It feels good to have his friend back. He loves Namjoon. Maybe in a different way than he once did, but there’s still love there. He doesn’t know what he’d do without him. 

Together they manage to lock down the gym wear sponsor and after getting Jeongguk to sign a couple of contracts, they’re soon being shipped lots of free gear to promote. 

“This is hideous,” Jeongguk says, holding up a pair of fluorescent yellow compression shorts. “And I have to wear this?”

“Yep.”

“In public?”

“If you wanna get paid, yeah.”

Jeongguk grunts, tossing the shorts back into the box to sort through other options. “Should have gone with the sports drink…” 

So Jeongguk starts fighting with a logo on him. It doesn’t really feel like it does much, but Sieun says that it rakes more people in, has garnered him more attention and now that one brand has sponsored him, others seem more and more interested to join in. 

“Don’t quit your day job just yet,” Taehyung teases as he hands over his very first check. He pats Jeongguk on the arm. “Good job, Jeon. You deserve it.” 

And he really means it. Jeongguk has worked his ass off, has completely flipped his life for this. Taehyung wishes they could have got him paid right off the bat, but it’s a painful truth with boxing. It’s a hard grind with little pay off at the start. 

It’s amusing listening to Jeongguk talking about what he’s gonna spend his earnings on. There’s been talks of a hot tub, a down payment on a new car, a PlayStation. Very teenage boy stuff, it’s funny. 

“Gonna take you out to dinner,” Jeongguk tells him as Taehyung works on taping down a big tear in one of the heavy bags. “Maybe some fancy place that has, like, real silver cutlery.” 

“Ooh, big spender,” Taehyung teases, ripping another piece of tape with his teeth. “How many courses?” 

“At least five.”

Taehyung gasps and Jeongguk grins. “You’d spoil me rotten.”

Jeongguk hums, stepping closer. “And then maybe after… if my mouth ended up on your cock, that would be purely platonic. Right?” 

Smiling, Taehyung pats the bag and shifts his gaze to Jeongguk. “Absolutely.” 

Jeongguk opens his mouth, but he’s cut off by another voice across the gym. 

“Another one of the medicine balls has broken,” the dude calls, holding it up to show the big split down the middle. 

“Shit. Alright, just grab another one. I’ll try fix it up,” he assures. Sighing, he pats Jeongguk’s arm. “Do some skipping. I’ll be with you in a minute.” 

Unfortunately, gym equipment is expensive. Too expensive for them to be able to replace frequently. Duct tape has become Taehyung’s best friend since their budget doesn’t allow them to have any extra for new bags and balls. But they’re making due, it’s fine. 

Worst comes to worst, Taehyung has some valuables he can always pawn for quick cash. He sold an old trophy once and got enough to pay the plumber for a cracked pipe in the locker room. 

He’s been thinking about it over the last few days and he has a solution on maybe going into his savings, but when he walks into the gym on Monday morning, he’s surprised to see a couple of guys installing some new heavy bags. 

“What’s going on here?” he asks Namjoon as he signs the forms for the bags. 

Namjoon spares him a brief glance. “New equipment,” is all he says as he hands the clipboard to the delivery guy and heads back for his office. 

Taehyung watches in as the bags are hung on the hooks, no tears, no tape, just brand new vinyl. 

“Oh, nice. New bags,” Jeongguk says as he walks in, face impassive as he eyes the bags for a moment before he heads through to the locker room. 

Taehyung stares after him, then back over to Namjoon, who quickly looks away and disappears into the office. Suspicious, Taehyung follows after Jeongguk. “Hey,” he calls. 

“Hey.” Jeongguk pushes his work overalls off his shoulders, falling to his waist. “What’s up?”

“You have something to do with this?” 

“Something to do with what?” 

“The equipment.” 

Jeongguk looks up at that. “What about it?” 

Taehyung stares. “Did you buy it?” 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, coach. But hey, we still on for dinner tonight?” 

“Uh. Yeah,” Taehyung nods, still confused. “Sure.” 

Jeongguk smiles. “Great.” When Taehyung continues to stand there, he raises his eyebrows at him. “You wanting a show, or?” 

“No. No, sorry.” Taehyung shakes his head, just trying to process… everything. “I’ll see you out there.” 

Jeongguk nods, taking off his undershirt. “Cool.” 

Staring at him another moment, Taehyung finally turns and leaves the locker room, certain that… no. 

Could he have?

Would he have?

Huh. 

                                                                                                 -- -- --

“How the fuck do you two find anything in here?” Jeongguk asks as he searches the office for some printer paper. They’ve gotten a whole bunch of new people signing up to the gym lately and apparently they’re still working on a paper system. “You really haven’t changed anything since your old man ran the joint, huh?” 

“The system works, okay?” Namjoon defends, looking through drawer after drawer. They could go and buy some more paper, but Namjoon is insistent they have a perfectly good pack laying around. Somewhere. Taehyung’s stalling for time, showing the new dudes the place. 

“Hey, am I even a member of The Ring?”

“No.” 

Jeongguk blinks. “I should probably sign up.” 

“Wow. How generous. Not like Tae’s waived your fee for almost a year,” Namjoon grumbles. 

Jeongguk searches through the bottom drawer and under a packet of napkins and some dental floss? he finds a new pack of printer paper. “Got it.” Tugging it free, it drags something out of the bottom of the drawer too. Setting the paper on the table, Jeongguk grabs what looks to be a photo frame and flips it up to see— “Holy shit, this is Taehyung.” 

Namjoon leans on over to get a look. “Oh, yeah. Better put that back where you found it. He’ll kick your ass if he sees you with it.” 

“Why?” Jeongguk wipes their dust away with the heel of his hand. 

Kim Taehyung 

June 4th, 2015 - Jangchung Arena

Seoul, South Korea

“That was his last fight,” Namjoon sighs. “The night…” 

“The night he got jumped,” Jeongguk recalls from the story. “It was his last amateur fight. Shit. He looks so happy…” Taehyung’s got the biggest grin on he’s ever seen him wear. He stands up. “Was this the one on the wall?” 

Namjoon nods. “He took it down when he came back,” he sighs. “Said it didn’t belong up there.” 

Jeongguk scoffs. “Oh, fuck that.” He wipes the picture on his shirt as he steps out of the office. 

“Your funeral!”

Jeongguk takes the picture across to the wall of fame, where Taehyung is currently standing with the guy he’s showing around. 

“Ah, here’s Jeon Jeongguk. I’m sure you know who he is,” Taehyung says, gaze dropping to the frame in Jeongguk’s hand. 

“Yeah. Big fan, man,” the guy says with a bow. 

“Thanks,” Jeongguk grins. “All thanks to my coach here, though. I can’t take the credit.” 

“What are you doing?” Taehyung demands quietly. 

“Just hanging a picture,” Jeongguk says casually, stepping over to the empty spot, the nail still in the wall. “You go on with your tour.” He hangs the string on the nail and without even looking, he pushes Taehyung back when he reaches for it. 

Taehyung glares at him, trying once more only to have his hand smacked. “Jeon—”

“Go show the locker room,” Jeongguk cuts in, fixing the picture so it’s straight and then proceeds to stand guard beside it. “Bye now.” 

Huffing, Taehyung forces on a tight smile and nods for the new guy to follow him. 

“Told you he’d be pissed,” Namjoon suddenly says from behind him. He looks at the picture, sighing softly. “I’m glad you put it up. I shouldn’t have let him take it down.” 

Jeongguk smiles a little just from seeing Taehyung’s. “Did you print off some more applications?” 

“Uh… turns out we’re out of printer ink, so.” Namjoon gives a sheepish smile and offers his car keys to Jeongguk. “Since you’re not a member.” 

Tutting, Jeongguk snags the keys. “Fine. But don’t let him take it down.”

But low and behold, when Jeongguk returns back with some new toner, Taehyung’s got the picture off the wall while Namjoon tries to rangle it from his hands. 

Taehyung’s holding it away from Namjoon, his back to Jeongguk, so he easily snatches it as he passes. “Give it back.”

“No.” Jeongguk hands the photo back to Namjoon and then blocks Taehyung from chasing after him. “It’s going up, coach. Why are you so against it?” 

“Because—” Taehyung grits his teeth. “It’s hard to look at. I failed after that.” 

“Why do you think you failed?” 

Taehyung scoffs, gesturing to himself. “Do you really have to ask that?” 

“Apparently I do since I’m not following. I don’t think you failed. Think you’ve succeeded in a lot of ways,” Jeongguk defends. “I mean look at me. Aren’t I living proof?” 

“You don’t get it.” 

“Maybe I don’t. But you don’t get that you’ve changed my whole life. Fuck it, I’m not afraid to admit that you’ve changed me as a person for the better. How can you think you’ve failed when you’ve done that, hm? You’re the only one who believed in me. Even I didn’t.” 

Taehyung stares at him, rubbing his lips together. His voice softens. “I still don’t deserve to be on the wall…”

“You do, Taehyung,” he says, low. He takes a step closer, getting close. “You’re one of the best fighters out there. Better than I’ll ever be. What happened to your knee doesn’t change that.” Jeongguk smiles, gently squeezing Taehyung’s wrist. “Your dad would want your picture on the wall right next to his.” 

Taehyung swallows, lips pressing together. When he looks down, Jeongguk can see his lash line getting wet. “Thanks…” 

Jeongguk gently knocks their foreheads together. “You look like him, y’know. Your old man. Go get a proper look, bet you forgot.” 

With a sniff, Taehyung pushes his forehead against Jeongguk’s temple as he passes and goes to join Namjoon in looking at all their photos together. It’s the first time he’s seen the pair of them actually take the time to look since Namjoon gave him the brief tour. 

He leaves the pair to it while he goes and installs the new printer ink. 

                                                                                                 -- -- --

“I want my last amateur match to be at Jangchung Arena.”

Taehyung looks up at that. The three of them have gone out for a nice lunch to celebrate the ten new gym memberships they’ve gotten this month alone. Jeongguk’s treat. “Jangchung?” 

Jeongguk nods, twisting his chopsticks around his noodles. “It’s where you and your dad had your last fights, right? I thought I could do it there too.” 

“I like it,” Namjoon agrees before he gently nudges him. “Tae?”

Taehyung stares at Jeongguk, processing that. Jeongguk looks up, his chewing slowing and Taehyung smiles. “Yeah… I like it too.” 

Jeongguk returns the little smile and Taehyung swears he blushes as he continues to eat. 

They’ve officially applied for Jeongguk’s professional license and Taehyung is over the moon. He can’t help but be anxious too, scared something will go wrong at the last minute, but both Namjoon and Jeongguk have told him that everything is fine and he’s worrying too much. 

He knows they’re right, but he can’t help it. 

At this point, Sieun has managed to score Jeongguk multiple sponsors. His media attention is good and he’s gained a decent following. They’ve done everything by the rules. 

They’ve also started to look for a manager. A manager is important in professional fighting - they’re pivotal in helping boxers climb the ranks. They get them bigger fights, bigger opponents, bigger arenas. 

“I think I’ve found someone,” Sieun says one evening after Taehyung’s paid her her fee. “He’s interested in Jeongguk. I’ve done my research on him and he’s only managed one boxer before, but he helped get him to America.” 

“Let’s see,” Taehyung encourages, taking Sieun’s phone. “Park Jimin.” 

So they meet up with Park Jimin for an interview and already, Taehyung likes him. They click right away and after a brief conversation, he thinks he could definitely help get Jeongguk where he needs to go. 

“I don’t like him,” Jeongguk huffs after he leaves. 

“Why not? He’s great. I don’t think we’ll find someone of his calibre with such a good price.” 

“I just don’t like him,” Jeongguk dismisses. 

“Oppa’s just jealous,” Sieun bluntly says, typing away on her phone. 

“Jealous?”

“Jealous that Jimin made Taehyung oppa laugh.” 

“Sieun!?” Jeongguk hisses. “That’s not true!” 

Taehyung blinks at Jeongguk. “You’re jealous?” 

“No!” Jeongguk denies, but his whole face is turning red. “Why would I be jealous?” 

“Because you like Taehyung? Duh?” Sieun supplies helpfully. 

“Doesn’t mean I’m jealous!” 

Taehyung chews on the inside of his cheek, staring at Jeongguk. “Don’t know what you’re jealous of. It’s obvious Jimin was flirting with Namjoon hyung. Not me.”

Namjoon stutters to life. “W-What? He was not.” 

Taehyung rolls his eyes. “My god. You’re both stupid,” he sighs, leaving them to splutter over themselves while he and Sieun give Jimin the green light. 

“You’re just as bad as them, y’know,” Sieun tells him. “Denying your feelings for my brother.” 

Taehyung scoffs, tongue tripping over his words. “I— I’m—”

Sieun sighs, returning to her phone. “That’s what I thought. Boys.” 

Jimin taken care of, it’s soon time for Jeongguk’s last match before his professional debut. 

“What happens if I lose?” Jeongguk asks as they make their way to the venue. 

“Nothing. This will still be your last match,” he assures him. “We could have applied for your professional license after ten matches, but you definitely weren’t ready.” 

Jeongguk exhales deeply and nods. “Let’s do this.” 

The match turns out to be touch and go. Even though Taehyung meant what he said, it doesn’t affect anything, it still feels like the most tense match of Jeongguk’s boxing career so far. It reminds Taehyung of his last match, all the tension he carried on his shoulders. He can see it in Jeongguk’s too as he and his opponent trade blow after blow. 

It comes down to the wire, but Jeongguk’s been working hard. Spent every single day for the last two weeks at the gym, as soon as he finishes work to the moment he has to go back. He’s been sleeping in the office when he crashes too hard and Namjoon and Taehyung have had to force him to eat every few hours. 

He’s been working his ass off and Taehyung desperately wants him to win this. 

Usually it’s easy to see when Jeongguk wins or loses before the judges announce it, but by the end of this match, Taehyung’s unsure. He and his opponent fought evenly. It was an intense match and no matter the outcome, Taehyung is so proud of Jeongguk. 

It’s a split decision,” the announcer says over the speaker, the tension in the arena high. 

Taehyung holds his breath. 

The winner is… from the red corner, Jeon Jeongguk!” 

Namjoon and Taehyung all but scream, throwing their arms around each other in delight along with the majority of the room. 

“He did it! He fucking did it!”

“Get in there!” Namjoon shoves him towards the ropes and Taehyung doesn’t hesitate to climb in, just making it in time as Jeongguk barrels into him. 

“You won!” Taehyung laughs, voice wet. He pulls back to cup Jeongguk’s face in his hands. He takes his mouth guard out for him, much like his very first fight. 

Jeongguk beams, arms around Taehyung. “We won,” he corrects. “You proud of me, coach?” 

“So proud.” Taehyung grins, unable to believe how happy he feels. His heart pounds so hard in his chest that it rivals the cheering in the room. “Never been so proud,” he tells him honestly. 

Jeongguk looks beautiful like this. His face is a little swollen and bruised, blood on his eyebrow and lip swollen, but he’s beautiful. “Wanna know what it’s like to kiss a champion?” he asks him, just like he did at his very first fight. 

Taehyung pushes his hand through Jeongguk’s sweaty hair. “Yeah. Kinda do, actually.” He doesn’t give Jeongguk time to process before he leans in and kisses him. While he doesn’t think he’s ready to speak on his feelings for Jeongguk just yet, hopefully this can make things a little clearer. 

For now. 

                                                                                                 -- -- --

“Nice picture, man,” one of the newbies says to Jeongguk when he walks into the gym the next morning. 

Jeongguk frowns. “What picture?” The guy points on over to the wall of fame and even from the door, he can see there’s a new photo hanging up besides Taehyung’s. With a racing heart, he quickly makes his way over and breaks out into a grin. 

Jeon Jeongguk 

July 17th, 2020 - Jangchung Arena

Seoul, South Korea

There he stands with Taehyung in his arms, locked in the best kiss Jeongguk’s ever had in his life. It wasn’t anything sexual or even sweet, it was just… perfect. 

“Finally found your good side, I see,” Taehyung says as he passes. He shoots Jeongguk a wink and Jeongguk watches after him. 

He thinks Taehyung brought out his good side. 

                                                                                                 -- -- --

It’s the big night. 

Maybe the biggest night of Jeongguk’s life yet. 

It’s his professional debut. 

Jimin managed to score them a big fight —no longer matches, now he’s full on fighting—in Japan and frankly, Jeongguk is nervous. 

“You gonna shit yourself?” Taehyung asks from the bench, once again watching Jeongguk pace around the locker room. 

“There’s still time. We’ll see.” He’s sweating like a motherfucker. Sieun and his parents have flown out for the fight and it’s only making him more anxious. He and his parents have never been that close, they never approved of Jeongguk’s life choices, so to have them there tonight means a lot, but it’s also nerve wrecking. 

He’s also got his own colours now. He no longer has to wear red or blue shorts, now he’s got a custom pair of black and silver boxing shorts, a gift from Taehyung. Namjoon bought him the matching robe.

“Fuck. Don’t think I can do this, coach,” Jeongguk frets, running his hands through his hair. “I don’t wanna fuck up.” 

“You’re not gonna fuck up,” Taehyung returns, amused. “Why are you always the only one who thinks you’re not ready? Don’t you trust me by now?” 

Jeongguk exhales deeply. “I do.” He does. He trusts Taehyung with his life at this point. “I just don’t wanna let you down.” 

“Hey.” Taehyung’s up on his feet, getting in his way to stop him pacing. “You’re not gonna let me down. That’s impossible. No matter what happens, I know you’ve done your best and that’s all that matters to me.” 

Jeongguk looks between Taehyung’s eyes, big and beautiful and honest and he trusts him. He really does trust him. “Okay.” 

“We about ready?” Jimin suddenly asks from the door, Namjoon at his side. “Got two minutes.” 

Taehyung and Jeongguk stare at each other before Jeongguk nods. He can do this. 

“Yeah. I’m ready.” 

“Let’s get this show on the road.” Jimin beams and smacks Namjoon’s ass as he heads back out, making Namjoon blush. 

“What,” Namjoon huffs as Taehyung and Jeongguk look at him. 

“Nothing, nothing,” Taehyung assures, sharing a look with Jeongguk. “You two look friendly, that’s all.” 

Namjoon scoffs, but a little smile curls at his lips. “He asked me out to dinner after this.” 

Taehyung’s face softens. “That’s great, hyung. I’m glad you’re happy.”

“I am.” The pair stare at each other and Jeongguk doesn’t know what they’re thinking, but he can make a pretty good guess. 

They’re moving on. 

“Ready?” Namjoon asks Jeongguk once Taehyung’s helped him get his gloves on. 

“As I’ll ever be.” Jeongguk exhales sharply and smacks his gloves together, taking his place at the door. 

Get Low by Lil Jon starts playing and both he and Taehyung look at Namjoon. 

Namjoon grins. “I stand by my choice. It’s a great song.”

Jeongguk huffs a laugh but he thinks it’s perfect. 

As he’s mentally preparing himself, Taehyung bends in close to whisper. “You wanna get some dinner after this, Jeon?”

“As friends?” Jeongguk fills in. 

Taehyung smiles against his ear. “Absolutely not.” 

Jeongguk grins as Taehyung leans back, taking a deep breath and readying himself. 

He’s got this.