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Seokjin just wants a breath of life.

It’s funny, because everything around him died and the closest to life he had was himself, but even he was lifeless.

He doesn’t have to remember when it started. It’s always been around- it happened when his mother held him for the first time and had him wrap his strong tiny fingers around her index. She smiled, cooing, and took her last breath.

It happened when his kindergarten class went on a field trip, his only friend at the time having tripped and unconsciously grabbing for his hand, only to never come up again.

It happened when he saw an old woman slip on a hiking trail with no one else around, and he helplessly cried as he watched her ragged breaths in pain, calling for help but his cellphone refused to catch signal and he was unable to carry her himself. By the time he ran to the bottom of the mountain to seek help and back, her pulse had already stopped, and he wondered in that moment if he would’ve been able to lessen her pain in going if he had just whispered a couple of comforting words into her ear and held her hand.

He sees the way it changes how people see him.

He sees it in the way there were tiptoes around him, whispering that he was the child who killed his own mother.

He sees it in the way his father speaks false, reassuring words to him, but with stricken fear behind his eyes and refuses to touch him.

He sees it in the way the flowers die in his hands, and he realizes he can never give a bouquet of flowers to the person who holds his heart.

He sees it in the way his teachers place him in the back of the classroom to increase distance between them. 

He sees it in the way his father averts his eyes as strange men in white come to raid his house, to ruin his safe space in the comfort of his room and bends down to tell him, “You’re going home now.”

His last image of his father was a solemn look on his face, a look so mixed with different emotions that Seokjin can’t pinpoint which one was stronger- Regret? Pain? Fear? Guilt?

He knew his father wasn’t his home anymore, and that his own family had abandoned him when he arrived at the laboratory at the mere age of twelve.

By twelve, he’s already killed two of the most important people in his life, and the men in white seem excited by that. Intrigued, even. They tell him to call them doctors , and for the first time hears words he’s never heard before;

“You’re destined for something greater than you could even possibly imagine.”

He thinks those words are the reason why he stayed. He thinks hearing welcoming, encouraging words for the first time in his life is what made him squeeze his eyes shut, close the doors to his heart, and do what the men in white say. He thinks this feeling of belonging is what made him think he found a new home within the secluded building he was never allowed outside of. The only view of the outside world he had was a small window in his otherwise empty room, but he doesn’t look outside of it much. Nothing else was waiting for him out there.

At the age of fifteen, Seokjin has killed two of the most important people in his life and almost one thousand mice. 

At the age of sixteen, he’s gifted pretty pink gloves that deflect his power and can contain his curse, and since then he’s only seen his bare hands when he washes them. 

At the age of eighteen, he’s told his last task before “culminating” into the perfect weapon was to kill the doctors who cultivated him- the men in white who were his only family, because the men in black had found this laboratory and needed to get rid of everyone who had intel on his existence.

At the age of eighteen, he killed the suited men from the government in panic and ran away from an exploding building, clutching his pink gloves to himself securely as he ran as fast as his legs could take him. Not used to the extraneous activity, he didn’t get far before he touched and toppled over enough dead trees to cover his tracks and completely hide himself from the rest of the men who were chasing him.

From then on, he lived as “Jin”, not “Kim Seokjin.” The Kim Seokjin anyone knew had died in the burning laboratory, and here he was, almost ten years later, in his small apartment off the shores of Busan.

He could never stay in one place for too long- it would risk him being caught by the people who actually knew he was alive to this day, despite the news that had come out that night. Kim Seokjin, age 18, it had read. Faced tragic death in a burning laboratory buried deep in the woods. One of eighteen casualties.

It was clear the government wanted to cover their slip up- that they had let a powerfully cultivated weapon escape. Only few knew what actually happened that night, and Jin had unknowingly entered a lifelong game of hide and seek.

Over the last ten years, he had been to almost every part of South Korea- unable to stay long in one place and his pink gloves sticking out like a sore thumb; it was hard to live like a nomad, but he found he was unable to venture outside his home country. Airports were heavily guarded, and he was blacklisted- but one time, he had succeeded in securing a flight to New Zealand, albeit it was a close call. He doesn’t like to remember the two people whose blood had ended up on his hands that day for him to escape the godforsaken country, and thought he had to make their deaths worthy and with a heavy heart, had decided to stay in New Zealand.

The first three or so years were peaceful. It’s the longest he’s stayed in a place in a long time, and just when he thinks this was home for him, the universe had decided he had been too content lately.

He thought it might’ve been the escape he needed away from the people chasing him, but the search for him apparently reached beyond geographic restrictions. When he spotted his raided house and unfamiliar black figures from the mountain he had hiked up, he immediately turned the other way and had returned home… Wherever that was. At least, in his country, he could navigate his way through more easily than having to move between countries all the time.

Having just returned from New Zealand, which he admits was his favorite home to this point of his life, his eyes scanned over the seaside view he has. The water in the foreign country was clearer and bluer than the water here, and he starts to grow homesick for a country he didn’t even speak the language of. He grows homesick of a country that wasn’t constantly on his ass 24/7, and he grows homesick of a country he had no body count in.

(He wishes that he meant body count in the fun way, but unfortunately, his reality was much more brutal.)

Busan wasn’t a place he frequented often- it was his hometown, and he thought avoiding the place altogether would decrease his chances of ever running into his father, whose face is starting to blur for him. The last time he saw him was almost seventeen years ago, and he is unsure if seeing him anytime after that last goodbye would do him any good.

He won’t deny it. It hurt him, the fact that his own father had turned him over to the laboratory. But then again, it probably hurt his father when he had taken away his beloved wife.

He’s bitter, he thinks. He never asked for any of this, and a lot of his young adult years were spent thinking about how unfair the world was to him, but by now he’s accepted the reality of it. He’s accepted that he’s been born with a curse that can only be contained by these pink gloves that have miraculously not worn off yet, he’s accepted that the blood on his hands were not entirely his fault. He’s never been one to be invested in philosophy and ethicality, but he thinks his whole life is one that philosophers could bicker over for an infinite amount of time.

Was he a killer?

Was he a sick person?

Was he a despicable person?

He doesn’t know the line between what makes someone good and bad, and he’s even more confused about where he would stand, with his heart that had no ill intentions but cursed hands that brought terrible fate to many. Many times, he’s thought of brutally cutting off his hands, but he always decided against it in the end.

Soon, he stopped blaming the world for his problems, and he focused his energy and any straying thoughts on survival.

A mug of coffee in one hand, his eyes quickly scan over the pink gloves he wears. Surprisingly, the gloves look almost as good as it did when he first received it twelve years ago- without so much as a tear in the glove, he thinks it’s only natural for it to be made of such a solid and tough structure.

These were the only items crafted in the world that contained death, after all. If it could win the curse of death, what possibly could defeat it?

He wonders why the color had to be pink , though. He’s aware he had gone through a bit of a pink phase when he was a teenager, but he wasn’t sure if it fit with his adult self now. Not that he could do anything else about it from mere distaste in color, though. These pink gloves were the only bridge between his cursed self and this world that allowed him to mingle freely amongst people without too much worry. His new neighbors laughed every time, asking about his gloves, and his cover up story is that he’s a germaphobe who prefers to not touch things directly. Some call him rude behind his back, some have called him weird, but he pays no attention to the name-calling; after all, the same people who bicker about him will never know that he’s keeping them on for their sake.

His eyes drift to the calendar on his wall, his hands gripping the cup of now cold coffee in his hands, humming as he raises the mug to his lips. April 27th . He thinks he has until the end of this year to stay here before they find him and he has to move again.

Of course, unpredicted outcomes happen. He never fully unpacks in a new home every time he moves around- only carrying with him things that can easily be abandoned, so his clothes were limited to cheap ones he could get at a mall wherever he moved to, and his more valuable assets were set aside in a duffle bag, carefully hidden in a place outside of his home. When he leaves, all that’s left is the money for the rest of the lease or contract on the table and the traces left behind of a handsome mysterious stranger who laughed easily. 

The lifestyle was quite tiring, but he needed to survive. To look for a peaceful day in the future where he could lazily fish on the banks of a river, surrounded by trees and nature to give him a breath of life.

It was the only dream he had at the moment.

He just wants a breath of life. 

There’s a lot of knocking around and chatter outside that he finally comes into focus on, raising his eyebrow as he sets down the half empty mug on the table situated in his balcony, taking his strides across his living room to stick his head curiously outside of his door.

His neighbors were chattering and gathered around the open door of the room next door, the chatty and cheerful landlord bursting out in giggle laughter as men in caps were moving in boxes, and once they’re out of the way, he sees an unfamiliar figure standing beside the landlord, offering a shy smile as he listens to her talk. He’s not near enough to hear the contents of their conversation, nor is he as interested anymore, and he leans back inside to close the door, but she’s already spotted him like a hawk.

“Ah, Jin-sshi!”

He lets out a small sigh, bracing himself with a friendly smile as he steps out of his door. “Good morning, Ms. Han.”

“Always such a pleasure to see in the morning, our Jin!” There’s a twinkle in her eyes and a bit more emphasis behind the wrinkle behind her eye smile. “Just my daughter’s type, you know?”

“Ah, Ms. Han. You always know how to make someone feel good about themselves.” His eyes trail to the stranger next to her, clothed in black clothes that he thinks might be a little too big for him. “Who do we have here?”

“Ah! Right,” she turns towards the stranger, “Jin-sshi, this is your new neighbor, ah, I have trouble remembering, was it…?”

“JK,” he responds, his lips forming a smile. 

“Jay… kay?”

“Like the alphabet letters,” He says with a cheeky smile.

“Ah, JK. What an unusual name. Did your parents get inspiration from outside Korea?”

There’s a glint in his eyes. “Something like that.”

“JK-sshi, this is Jin-sshi. He moved in last week, it hasn’t been too long for him as well! I hope you two can get along.”

The two exchange a smile, JK sweeping his hair to the side to uncover his eyes, and Jin thinks he sees stars in them. He hasn’t spent too much time gazing at the stars, but he thinks he wouldn’t have to if he saw his eyes.

“Jin-sshi, right?” He steps forward to extend a hand out first. “I hope we can get along.”

Jin only nods, reaching out to take his hand with his own gloved hand. “I’m not a high maintenance tenant, I’m sure there won’t be too many problems.”

JK’s eyes linger on the pink gloves his hand is clasped around, and the landlord reads his unanswered question aloud. “Ah, Jin-sshi, you really could take off your glove to shake hands,” she chuckles.

He only offers a playful smile. “You know how I am with the germs. It’s not bad to seek cleanliness, don’t you think?”

“You go a little overboard,” Ms. Han continues to chuckle. “Although, my daughter’s clean too, maybe you can-”

“I’ve got to go back to my office work,” he cuts in with a smile, and she gives an openly disappointed furrow of her eyebrows. “It was a pleasure to meet you, JK-sshi. I won’t hold you up any longer, you must have a lot to unpack.”

“I won’t hold up your office work either, Jin-sshi. It was a pleasure meeting you.”

It’s only when he closes the doors behind him, hears the chatter slowly fade away as the new tenant bids his farewells to the nosy landlord, and hears the door shut that he lets out a sigh of relief. The landlord was, in all ways, kind and caring, but perhaps that was the worst attribute to have when having him as a tenant- too much interest in his life could lead to his early departure from the place, and he was just starting to get cozy.

The walls are thin, as he expected some flaws from the ridiculously low rent price, but there’s almost no noise from next door. With the amount of boxes he saw going in, there should’ve been a little shuffling and noise from the unpacking, but he notices how quiet it is. All he can hear is footsteps shuffling to the far inside of the room, and a little squeak as he thinks he flops onto either a bed or a sofa. Years of running away have made him susceptible and sensitive to the smallest of the noises, and notices there are no noises other than that. 

He shakes his head, reaching for his glasses and plopping down on the sofa with his old, beaten down laptop. He had much more to focus on than his new neighbor he wouldn’t see by the end of the year anyways.

Running away, he learned to not take interest in anyone. Any friendships formed would only serve as evidence of the places he’s been, and was dangerous for him in this cut throat game of hide and seek he was in.

 

───── ☠️ ─────

 

Being a cursed male on the run, he found one of the things he needed the most was money.

Moving several times a year was financially straining, and although he had an easy way to make money (staring at his hands), he refused to let his cursed hands out into the world, much less used to his own advantage.

However, it seemed almost impossible to be able to be tied down to a job with his constant moving. The first three years on the road, he was unable to scrape enough money to eat, much less find a place, and had been taken in by a blind, elderly couple who believed their delinquent son who had run away from home eleven years ago had come back.

It tugged on his conscious that he was lying, but when he weighed the odds, this was the best he would be able to get- he would have a place to be for a while, and the elderly couple found solace in the thought that their son was back home. 

During his time there, everything their son owned was his- among the many things their son liked to have in his room, the one thing that caught his eye was his laptop. He’d seen the doctors use them before, but he wasn’t quite sure how to use it himself- he opens the laptop the same way he’d seen them do so multiple times, and that’s all he was able to do.

Learning the device took only a couple of weeks, because he thinks he vaguely remembers the school library computers from when he last went to school. When it registers to him that he couldn’t finish school because registering would make it too easy for him to become caught, he feels stuck.

He learns a bit about the world through this device, and he starts to wonder- without a proper degree or education, was there an efficient way for him to get the money he needed once he had to move on from this place? He’d already been here for around a month, and he knew it was only a matter of time before he had to be on the run again. 

So he starts writing.

He starts writing, soaking up every book in his temporary room as the Kang’s son, trying to enrich his vocabulary. He writes, putting his loneliness and anger into words. He thinks he’ll go insane if he doesn’t find some way to let out the array of emotions he had to face in the mere twenty-ish years of his life, so he starts coping these worries and unfair realities into words.

That’s how Hades is born.

Five pages turn into twenty, twenty pages turn into fifty, and fifty pages turn into a hundred and fifty pages. It turned out he had a lot to say even without specifically referring to the events of his life, and soon enough his writings started to become published under the pseudonym “Hades”.

He thinks it suits him. The Greek God of the Underworld . He knew the curse he carried was nowhere near Elysium, after all. The writings of “Hades” quickly rang in people’s hearts all across the net, and it had ended up in the hands of publishers willing to pay him more for his written feelings than he had ever imagined would have costed, and he agreed with the simple request- that his presence would never be requested, and that he would remain anonymous behind this name.

And so he found a way to be able to keep money coming in without having to be tied to a physical place.

To this day, he has never missed a deadline, but that record was about to be broken soon. Frustrated, he groans into his pillow before sitting back right up, holding the phone to his ear.

“Yoongi-ah,” he complains, “I think you might have to go to the company and ask for a deadline extension for me. Nothing’s coming out, even if I squeeze my brain dry like a rag.”

“Hyung, again?”

His only acquaintance and possibly a friend. Min Yoongi, a genius hacker who he met just a couple of years earlier, when it was getting harder for him to continue avoiding going into his publisher’s company without drawing suspicion, especially when an urgent meeting about the changed terms of his contract had been requested. Panicked and unable to go physically because he was hiding in New Zealand, he had hired the hacker at the time to pretend to be Hades and go in for him- and that was their arrangement ever since. Jin has never seen Yoongi in person, but they kept each other’s secrets safe enough for him to trust him- Yoongi, being the only person to know that Jin was Kim Seokjin, and Jin, being the only person to know the hacker’s real name. They both held each other’s secrets, both heavy enough to lead to the demise of one another, but he finds he’s been a huge help.

Especially when they were both in hiding from the same suited men, Yoongi has aided in letting Jin know ahead of time if he was being trailed closely or not, or if he had to move due to sudden movement of the suited men. In return, Jin provided a persona, Hades , for the hacker to hide behind when he was being trailed by the same suited men as well.

“I can’t think of anything.”

“Should I ask for a break then? You’ve been publishing journal after journal, after all.”

“No, if I take a break, I won’t have enough for the next couple years to move. Especially since I’ve been getting trailed so closely lately.”

Yoongi clicks his tongue on the other end. “You’re right. We have to change your phone soon, too. Send me your new address over text again, and I’ll send you a new fixed phone. You’ve been using this phone for almost half a year now, right?”

“You’re a lifesaver,” Jin responds instead, pushing his glasses up as a blank page glares at him from the laptop screen. “I’d been starting to get worried about this phone. I know I’m already a paranoid person, but I wasn’t sure whether to ask you or not.”

“No worries. I’ll bug the next one as soon as I can and send it over, it should take a day or two max.” Yoongi’s voice drops low, almost low enough that he doesn’t catch it. “I found some interesting information the other day, when I was trying to break in to see how far along they are of you- which, by the way, they’re still searching New Zealand- and I’d been wondering why they were suddenly lagging behind in trailing you because they should’ve been out of that damn country by now, but apparently they have another person they’re looking for, so the attention’s been kind of split.”

Jin raises an eyebrow. “Split? So they’re distracted?”

He could almost hear Yoongi nod. “I wasn’t able to stay past their walls long enough before the defense codes started blocking me out, but something about a boy with cursed hands as well. Almost like you, but the literal opposite. Apparently, he can bring the dead back to life .”

The older scoffs. “That’s hardly a curse.”

“I got intrigued, so once they blocked me out, I started to do a little digging on my own. It is a curse, especially when apparently he was raised under a cult who tried to take advantage of his abilities to recruit more people. Something about how he was the chosen one of whoever they believed in, that the sick would come to good health once they ‘believed’. When he barely escaped that, he was taken as a lab rat by the government.” Yoongi pauses. “You know, when you escaped, at least you were able to like, take them down and make your escape easier. He can’t like, liven people out of the way. He was stuck for a couple years longer than you were, except you were honed as a weapon, and he was seen as a threat to the world.”

“A threat, huh?”

“Think about it, hyung.” His eyes trail to the clock subconsciously as he listens. “A world without death? There would be too many people who want him. They thought of containing him at first, using him to study enough on making revival medication for wars and stuff, but it quickly escalated to using him as a whole. If you were a weapon,” he analyzes, “he’d be their secret medic. You get the sense of what I’m saying?”

Jin clicks his tongue this time. “You found out so much about him in such little time. I’m kinda glad you aren’t my enemy, because if you were with them… there’s no doubt you would’ve caught me by now.”

“Consider yourself lucky,” he chuckles. “I’ve figured out up to that much, but I haven’t been able to get his name. All I know is that his last name is Jeon, and he’s hiding somewhere in Korea. He doesn’t seem to have left the country, but I don’t think he’s in Seoul or anywhere in the west side of Korea either.” There’s a couple of taps of his fingers he can hear through the phone. “It’d be funny if you were both in Busan right now.”

“It won’t be funny if we end up getting caught because we’re so near each other.” He shudders at the thought. “It’s good the chase is being slowed a bit. I was hoping to stay here till the end of the year, at the very most.”

“End of the year sounds plausible at this rate. I’ve managed to get in with enough time to erase your records of entering the airport from New Zealand too, so they won’t be thinking you’re in Korea for a while.”

Jin’s voice drops. “The airport security, huh… I feel like you do a lot of dangerous things for me. Thanks, Yoongi-ah.”

“That was not an invitation for you to grow sappy on me. I just need you to continue being Hades so that I can be Hades, so I can do whatever you need. It’s not a big deal.” There’s suddenly three raps of a knock on his door, and the older raises an eyebrow.

“Someone’s at my door. Should I be concerned?”

“Hyung, try using that peephole thing. If it’s a suited guy, I am sorry to say you’re absolutely doomed .”

“Do not joke about things like that,” he hisses, the paranoia slowly seeping into his mind and picking up his heart rate. He tiptoes over to the door, opening one eye wider to peek through the hole, and sighs in relief.

“Is this our last conversation, hyung?”

“Shut up ,” he grumbles. “It’s my new next door neighbor. I’ll talk to you later. Send me my phone soon.”

“Ah, Jin hyung, wait.” He barely catches onto his voice as he had pulled his phone away from his ear, but he cautiously raises it back up to hear. “Make sure to get all your neighbors’ full names and their ages and send me the list soon. I still haven’t done a background check of the people you live with.”

Right , he had forgotten the safety measures Yoongi had mentioned they would go through once he made a safe return to Korea. He nods, despite knowing Yoongi can’t see him like this right now. “Gotcha. Talk to you soon.”

He taps on the screen before moving to unlock and open the door, a wide smile plastered on his face. “JK-sshi? I wasn’t expecting company.”

“Ah.” There’s a pause, and JK only smiles, pushing his bucket hat up so his eyes aren’t covered. “Sorry, I know it’s unexpected. I thought it’d be good if I got to know my neighbors a bit, so I was wondering if you weren’t too busy to chat for a bit.”

He would mind, especially with his deadline creeping up so soon, but he knew he couldn’t seclude himself too much from his neighbors- the unknown and mystery brought curiosity, and he would much prefer it if no one took interest in him.

He thinks he can entertain him for just a bit.

Swinging his door open, he gestures him in with a smile. “I needed a break from my work anyway. Why don’t you come in for some coffee?”

He seems a little surprised by the invitation, but nods regardless, stepping in and slipping his shoes off with a quiet “Excuse me”, letting his eyes wander for just a moment. Jin’s back is already towards him, setting the water boiler on and reaching to the side of the kitchen table to grab the jar of coffee he had let drip earlier in the morning. “Black coffee okay?”

“Ah, with milk and sugar if you have it, please.”

“You got it.” He pauses, before giving a sheepish smile and reaches for the water boiler he just turned on. “Sorry, I didn’t ask. Iced or hot?”

“Iced would be nice.” Jin only nods as he presses the button off, putting back the mugs to their places before reaching for the glass cups.

“JK-sshi, do you usually live in Busan? I thought I was able to catch onto a slight satoori there for a moment.”

He freezes up momentarily before reaching to scratch his cheek with a grin. “Ah, yes, actually. I grew up here, but I lived elsewhere for a bit. I’m back home for now.”

Jin nods, scooping some ice out of the container in the freezer into the cups, stirring lightly before reaching for the sugar and milk for the other. “Where did you live before?”

“I lived in the States for a bit.”

“Oh, you must be good at English then?”

“Ah, just enough to have gotten me by there. I stayed in the Koreatown area, though, so not much English was needed except for the basics.”

He whistles. “I want to try going to the States.”

“It’s not as good as it’s hyped, really,” the other chuckles. He mutters a quiet “thank you” as Jin sets down his glass of coffee in front of him, sliding in the chair across.

“Have you ever been travelling, Jin-sshi?”

“Ah,” Jin smiles. “I’ve been all over Korea, but if you mean outside, I’ve only really been to New Zealand before. It really is a nice place, I recommend it sometime. Lots of nature and peace.”

“Oh? How long were you there for?”

He really should start to shift the questions off of him, but he supposes answering one more question wouldn’t hurt. “Almost three years.”

“What made you come back?”

“The same reason you came back to Busan.” He chuckles, taking a sip of his own iced black coffee. “This is my childhood home.”

JK seems to want to press further, but Jin’s just a bit faster. “How’re you adjusting back in Korea? Surely it must be different from the States, if I’m assuming correctly that you came back recently.”

“Ah, you’re correct. I’m adjusting… alright, just a little foreign is all it seems.” JK smiles, raising the glass to his lips. “Just a little… busy, my lifestyle is.”

“Tell me about it.”

“There’s not much to talk about. I just tend to not stay in one place for very long. I’m curious about too many things to stay in a bubble, you see.”

He wants to ask if there’s a particular reason, but he realizes his questions could’ve been evaded to this point for a reason. Plus, he doesn’t want to risk the possibility of the question being turned back at him.

So he smiles, nodding as he takes a sip of his own coffee. “Do you want to hear a joke?”

The rest of the evening goes by just a little like that, with fits of laughter here and there and quiet chuckling from the other. Although a bit reserved, he was able pull out enough to draw an image of the character JK was- he was a 97 liner from Manduk-dong who always wanted to be a model, despite his shy nature. He took pride in his consistent black clothing and his photography portfolio (“I thought you wanted to be in front of the camera,” the older would tease. He only blushed. “I find being behind the camera more rewarding, but sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be enough to be in front of the camera.”). He was an orphan from a young age, just like Jin, and he liked his coffee with enough milk to be classified as coffee milk more than actual coffee. He loved cats, his eyes twinkling as he pulled out his phone to show pictures of when he used to volunteer at a shelter, describing all of their traits and listing their names excitedly. His favorite color was the sunset, because he thinks the gold it radiates is beautiful, and he wasn’t planning to stay very long.

That was all he planned on knowing about him. He didn’t need to know anymore, because it was all asked out of politeness, after all.

The image he gives JK about himself is the same usual that he’s learned to hone over the years of giving enough to not raise any questions or curiosity, but not too much to give himself away. He worked by moving around a lot, gathering intel and checking on different branches for his small company (“Have you heard of Nostos ?” Lying is easy. Lying and gaining the trust of others is easy when you say it with a confident tone, and ask in a matter as if it was obvious. JK only shakes his head. “You should try it someday, the chocolates we sell are underrated but pretty good.”), he was a 95 liner from this neighborhood (much younger than what he actually was, but he thinks he can pass off for it), and a chocolate enthusiast. Going on about how he was working his “dream job” by taste testing and checking on chocolate quality for his company, the two of them don’t realize how late it is until an evident growl emerges.

It could be either one of them, really. He realizes he hasn’t eaten anything but some sliced peaches all day either, and sends an apologetic smile to the younger.

“Ah, sorry, I kept you here too long, didn’t I?” He notices now that they both had shared maybe two pots of coffee in the last couple of hours they had been chatting, and realizes that more than his hunger, he is desperately in need of going to the bathroom. “I would offer you to stay for dinner, but I really don’t have much to eat other than some ramen.”

“Ah, it’s okay.” JK’s already standing up, brushing himself off as he grabs his wallet and phone he had left stacked on top of one another on the table. His fingers come up to card through his dark hair a few times, and Jin shamelessly lets himself stare. He thinks beauty should be appreciated fully, and it’s little to no contemplation that JK was easy on the eyes. “I’ve overstayed my welcome, really. I’ll let you work.” He’s collecting the glass cups despite the older’s protests, walking over to place them in the sink and turning the water on to fill them.

“Hyung- wait, can I call you that?”

“Sure.”

“We should do this again sometime. It was nice talking to you.”

Jin chuckles, nodding, but his head already knows the actual answer to that. They wouldn’t see each other outside of friendly greetings and occasional gossip in the hall. “Of course. It was nice talking to you too.”

JK insists on cleaning his own cup, but he only gets pushed out with a stout “Guests shouldn’t be cleaning up”, and in a blink the younger is halfway out the door and Jin is ready to say goodbye.

He turns on his heel, holding out a hand. “Thanks for today, hyung. I hope we can be good neighbors.”

The older smiles, reaching out to shake his with his own gloved hand. It’s their second handshake already within a span of two days, and he thinks it’s getting dangerous. He’ll have to calculate a way to avoid seeing his neighbor for a while. “Me too. By the way, I’m a little sensitive to sounds, so try not to be too loud, yeah?”

“You said you weren’t high maintenance,” the younger teases, his eyes folding into crescents accompanied by a smile before his gaze lingers on the pink gloves. It looks like he wants to say something, but he must’ve chosen not to. Jin watches as he lets go of his hand, turns around to walk the few steps it took to his own door, and he lights up.

“Ah, JK,” he calls out, sticking his head out from the door to see if he was still there. He was, and curious eyes tilt to meet Jin’s own eyes. “What did you say your last name was? I’m not sure if I remember.”

JK laughs. “That’s because I never told you, Jin hyung.”

“Is that right?” He shrugs. “Is that a way to say you’re not going to answer my question?”

He seems to contemplate it, still holding onto the key he stuck into its hole before turning it after a pause, opening his own door. “I’ll tell you the fifth time we hang out. What do you say, hyung?”

The older scoffs. “You’re confident I’ll hang out with you for a last name .”

“Five times,” he holds up his hand to signify the number as he steps inside. “Five times is all you need to know all my charms, and then you get my last name.”

The door shuts behind him before Jin could even react, blinking as he stands there a while before finally coming to his senses and shutting his own door. With a sigh, he pulls out his phone to send a quick text over to Yoongi the list of the rest of the tenants in his building, all except one.

He has to hope JK doesn’t pose a threat to his safety, since he had no intention of waiting five times to retrieve his last name.

 

───── ☠️ ─────

 

The second time he runs into JK is almost two weeks later when they’re outside of their own doors, watching the end of the spring rain drizzle down. Jin opens his cheap umbrella he bought from the convenience store, grumbling about how his grocery day overlapped with a day he should’ve stayed in, when he notices JK’s hands are empty. He quickly calculates how far his own walk to the market would be, and how he could buy another umbrella there. He thinks he can do it within his budget this month, considering he was only heading out to buy some more rice, ramen, eggs, and soy sauce, and of course only the cheapest ones they had anyways.

He taps the younger’s leg with his umbrella, which seemed to grab his attention finally. He greets with a smile, before taking notice of the umbrella he’s holding out to him.

Surprised, he points to himself with a “Me?” as he shoves it in his hands impatiently.

“Yeah, for you. I’m not going far anyways, just the mart out front.” He gives a reassuring smile before securing his newly bugged phone deeper into his pocket to avoid water damage. The hallway was shielded, thank goodness, but he knows he’ll have to break into a sprint once he reaches the bottom of the stairs. He walks past the dumbfounded younger, and for a moment he thinks he might’ve been a little cool.

He remembers something, freezing in his steps as he backtracks his steps so that he’s in front of the younger again, despite having just passed him. Maybe he lost the momentary cool he just had, but he doesn’t seem to mind at all that much.

“Jin hyung?”

“Does this count as the second hangout?”

JK doesn’t bother to hide the confusion sprawled across his face, tilting his head to the side before finally recalling their conversation from mere weeks ago. He bursts out laughing, hard enough that Jin starts to grow embarrassed as evident by his own red ears and tears start to form in JK’s eyes from laughing too much. 

“Hyung, you’re mean! How could you call this a hangout?”

“I’ve been standing here for around five minutes. Isn’t that enough?”

JK shakes his head with a sigh, a pout tugging down on his lips as he crosses his arms. “That’s unfair. Five minutes of you standing there, of which only two of those minutes were actually used to talk to me is not a hangout.”

Jin’s about to object, but he merely huffs and holds the open umbrella over his head. “But I’ll consider it if you let me walk you to the market. It wouldn’t be fair to let you get soaked while I stay dry. Come on,” the younger says brightly, tugging on the older’s sleeve towards the stairs. “Let’s go.”

“Ah, you really don’t have to-”

“I’m going to the market too, anyways,” he chuckles. “It’d be silly if I let you go only to see you just several minutes later in the same place, no?” Jin blinks. “Come on,” JK says, almost dropping to a whine as he shifts from tugging on his sleeve to wrapping his hand around his wrist, “the rain might come down harder, let’s go. This time, I’ll treat you to a hot coffee.”

Dumbfounded, Jin lets himself get dragged down the hall, cursing himself for being too generous that day.

 

───── ☠️ ─────

 

“He’s in Busan,” Yoongi says as soon as Jin picks up the phone.

Jin panics, slamming his laptop shut as he tucks it under his arm, hands reaching for whatever he could find to take with him. “They’re in Busan already? I thought you said five weeks ago that they were still in New Zealand?”

“They?” The confusion in Yoongi’s voice is evident, as is the panic and chaos on Jin’s end of the line, and he gasps. “Hyung, hyung, calm down . I bet you have your stuff in your hands, put it down . I’m sorry. I didn’t mean them .”

He freezes in his tracks, a wave of relief coming over him as he collapses back on his couch. Then came the anger.

“You ass! I thought I had to start running again already!”

“Hyung, I said he’s in Busan, not they’re in Busan.”

“I don’t know any other he’s other than you! Of course I automatically assumed it referred to them, I wouldn’t think you were in Busan to see me.” Jin stops, raising an eyebrow. “Who’s he ?”

“The other kid. The one with the magic hands. He’s covered his tracks pretty well, apparently even better than you have been, but I was able to trace until Busan. After that, any other signs of a track leading anywhere else are gone.”

He groans, pinching the bridge of his nose as he bends his knees to gather right under his chin, propping it up. He slides his glasses off and tosses them to the side, reaching for his coffee on the table in front of him. There’s a bit of a spill on the side from when he was panicking and bumped into the table amidst the chaos, and he sets a quiet reminder to himself to clean it up later before it dries up and leaves a stain. “Okay, but Busan is big. Maybe we’re not in the same neighborhood, really, who knows? It might take a bit longer.”

“Fortunately for you, the suited men left New Zealand, but they’ve been pushing your chase to the side to find out more intel on the kid with magic hands. They’ll be quiet for another two or so months, maybe, or as long as I can drag it out. I’ve been blocking their searches and occasionally dropping false information that could potentially throw them off your trail, but they’re kinda smart.”

“Apparently not smart enough to just quit the chase. I don’t understand to this day why they’re so fervent about it still. Just leave me alone? Clearly I haven’t been wreaking havoc or using my hands in places they shouldn’t be used.”

“They don’t care about what you don’t do with your hands specifically, you know this.” Yoongi’s voice is a little apologetic, and there’s even a little pity, if Jin listens closely. “They only care about what you could do for them with those hands. Same thing with the other kid. Once they have you and the other kid in their hands, the country could move politically in ways they were never able to before. They’re trying to conquer life and death, trying to play God.” There was a stifling yawn he could hear from Yoongi’s end, as he barely manages out in between, “Korea’s a weak country. It could be revolutionary for them, and you know this.”

Of course Jin knew this. He knew all of this, but it didn’t stop the way he felt about it. The unfairness of it all, how tired he was becoming, and the nagging question of whether he’d have to be on the chase until the day he died would occasionally slip from the back of his mind and plague his thoughts when he was attempting to fight against a sleepless night.

There were several times he’s taken off his gloves and almost snapped at the thought of it, but he would be able to catch himself before he went berserk from recognizing the crushing burden of the trauma he went through and would have to continue going through. Instead of recognizing it, he chooses to push it aside instead.

People say running away from your fears is cowardice, but he’d much rather be a coward than pity himself. 

Not now. Not ever.

“I know, Yoongi.”

“I know you do. I’ll never know the hardships you had to go through, but I hear you. I hope that provides even a bit of solace to you.” He clicks his tongue, and he almost confuses it with the sound of his mouse clicking at the same time. “I think you should stay there for a couple more months, and depending on how far they get on their intel gathering, you might be able to stay there till the end of the year like you wanted. What about the crows?”

“Only a couple have showed up, but there are many birds here in general so it doesn’t look out of the ordinary.”

“Good. Let me know once it starts to look a bit more suspicious, I’ll relocate you right away.” A few more clicks of the mouse is heard. “The next safest place after this, after seeing the pattern of how you moved the past several years, is probably Seoul again. You were there just before you left for New Zealand, so it should throw them off a little that you’d return there so soon. They’ll probably assume you'll go towards either Gwangju or Incheon, considering you haven’t been there in several years now, but I think the busyness of Seoul might be able to hide you decently for some time.” He pauses. “If you don’t mind, I also planned out after that too. After Seoul, it’d be Yang-pyung…”

He drones out the rest of the plans Yoongi had set beforehand- not because he was disinterested, as it was for his survival, but because he thinks Yoongi doesn’t need to check in with him on it. He’s done so much for him that he could blindly point a finger somewhere and Jin would go- that’s how much trust he’s built up in him in the year he had gotten to know him. 

He thinks his life is unfair, but the universe was kind enough to balance it out by giving him Yoongi. For someone who he’s only heard the voice of and not met in person, he thinks he’s the warmest person he’s ever met in his life.

He thinks he’s enough for now. He is content, because he knows the universe thinks he doesn’t deserve more.

 

───── ☠️ ─────

 

The second time they hang out is when JK quite literally drags the older out of his house to his after almost three more weeks of no particular occasion, other than the casual greetings. Jin didn’t leave his house much, and JK was seemingly always busy running off somewhere anyways.

“Why am I here?” He questions for the hundredth time as the younger busies himself in the kitchen. Their houses had a different layout despite being next door neighbors, and from where he’s seated in the living room, he can’t see him other than his moving, busy shadow and the occasional sounds of kitchen utensils and pans.

“Because you need to eat a healthy meal.”

“Why would you assume I eat anything other than healthy-”

“Because I see your trash bag every week when we take our trash out,” comes a muffled reply from the kitchen, “and it’s disgusting the amount of ramen you’ve consumed in the past two months I’ve lived next to you and almost nothing else.”

“Hey, I consume other things-”

“The plethora of crushed Milkis cans and occasional energy bars in between do not count, hyung.”

He huffs, crossing his arms even if he’s aware he can’t see him. “What, did you like, dig through my trash or something? And energy bars do count! They have raisins, and just about every other thing your body needs.”

“You left your trash bag open last week. Also,” he could almost see his face crinkle in disgust as he says this, “who eats the energy bars with raisins in them? They’re at the bottom of the food chain, the lowest of lows, and an absolute disgrace to energy bars.”

He gasps. “You take that back, you literally eat mint chocolate .”

“Exactly, that’s why my taste buds should be trusted more than yours.” 

“You think toothpaste tastes good! How would anyone trust your taste buds?”

“Yours have probably been seared off from eating ramen everyday,” he hears him grumble. He gets bored of looking around his living room from his spot- it was his first time over, after all, so he looked around in amazement the first five minutes, but there wasn’t much unloaded in the space despite the amount of things he had seen JK move in when he first came a couple of months ago- and heaves himself up from his spot, trudging to make his way to the kitchen.

“What are you making?” There’s a wide assortment of vegetables sprawled across the counter, and he’s honestly surprised by the way the younger cuts into them with ease and skill. There are a couple of pots on the stove, although he can’t tell what’s inside, and the whole atmosphere screamed healthy .

“I thought you’d need more vegetables and nutrients in you, but feeding you a salad or anything like that didn’t feel right, so I bought ingredients for like a… make-it-yourself spring roll type of dinner?” He sets down the knife and reaches up to scratch his chin with a sheepish smile. “Like, I’d just lay out all the chopped up ingredients and stuff for you to be able to put in what you want. We have cucumbers, bell peppers, assorted greens, carrots, etcetera etcetera. Shrimp and brisket are being cooked in the pots right now,” he gestures to the side, “so I won’t just be feeding you vegetables either.”

The older blinks, taking in the sight before him. JK’s right- there’s a whole bunch of different vegetables he’s already chopped up in the short time he’s been here, occasionally wiping at his sweat from the summer heat waiting to seep into him, and he gets a weird urge to do… something. Anything .

“Do you need help with anything?”

“Nah, hyung. I got it. You just go sit your pretty ass over there and I’ll be there soon.”

This has Jin chuckling. “You think my ass is pretty?”

“I think every part of you is pretty.” He says it with the most nonchalant voice in the world, as if he was stating how the weather was that day, but he thinks he can see a hint of pink dusting his cheeks. “Now go, I promise I’m okay.”

He doesn’t go, lingering around the kitchen to provide at least company while he was busy preparing the ingredients, whipping out jokes here and there that earned him both glares and shy laughs from the younger. He’s in the middle of laughing at a joke he made (that made JK glare at him) when it hits him.

This must be what it’s like to have someone else take care of you. This warm feeling must be it.

He uses the words “take care” carefully. After having no one to care for him except himself, he thinks he’s just a little awkward to those two words. Take care . He took care of himself well, but he’d never been taken care of by someone else.

(The Kang family doesn’t count, he thinks. They took care of him on the belief that he was their son. JK took care of him for being Jin, albeit he didn't know Kim Seokjin.)

This must be it, he tells himself as he helps set up and takes the ingredients to the table, this warm feeling must be it. It must be gratitude, over everything else. It must be comfort and security, although those were feelings unfamiliar to him. He must’ve been able to smile so much to the point his mouth hurt because of the security he provided.

Granted, he couldn’t stay in that security for too long. It would come to an end soon, but he thinks he can bask in it for as long as he was here.

“So.” They finally settle at the table, Jin putting his hands together in anticipation before looking up at the younger with hopeful eyes. “How do you eat these?”

After small teasing about being out of touch with the world, JK teaches him that spring rolls are something you make right before you eat it- the rice paper becomes soft once dipped in the bowl warm water next to him, and after laying it out on his plate and putting in what he wanted, he’d merely have to wrap. He finds with full cheeks and wide eyes at his first bite that he might’ve just found his most favorite food in the world.

Granted, seeing the amount of ingredients and effort that went into it, he doesn’t think he’ll be able to eat it very often. 

There was a point where he couldn’t risk dipping his gloves into the water, so the edge of the rice paper he always held onto was a bit stiff. The younger seems to take notice of this, chewing slowly as if he were deep in thought before finally uttering the question Jin knew he's probably had since the beginning.

“Hyung, do you always have to have the gloves on? Even when you’re eating?”

The older gives a sheepish, apologetic smile even when he knew the question would come up at some point, laying the now softened paper out on the plate in front of him. 

“Kind of. It’s hard to explain, but the best way to sum it down is a skin condition. You’re the first one to know this,” his voice drops ominously, a smile tugging at his lips, “but I tell everyone else it’s the germaphobe in me, but it’s really because of a skin condition. I’m not that proud of it, and I know it’s rude to keep on the gloves, but would you be so understanding to let me keep them on?” He starts packing the wrap full of vegetables and some brisket. “I feel… bare without them on, is all.”

JK starts to nod, as if he understands. Jin’s afraid he might ask what kind of skin condition, which he has researched to back up his lie at some point but still has trouble remembering the full name of, but he seems to drop it at that. He lets out a small and quiet sigh of relief, shoving his last wrap into his mouth.

The rest of the evening was filled with laughter (“Let me do the dishes,” he insists, but JK shakes his head, pushing him towards the living room. “Hyung, if you do the dishes you’d have to take off your gloves. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable doing that for me.”) He settles for cleaning up around the living room, and has his TV turned on and is flipping through the selections when the younger returns to the living room, wiping his wet hands on his jeans and plopping on the couch next to the older.

“You fit in like it’s your own home.”

“We technically share a wall. It’s not too far off from being my home.” Home always changed for him. Everywhere was home, while simultaneously not.

“Yeah, yeah. I can’t believe some people in the building think you’re intimidating and unapproachable.”

He laughs loudly at that, tearing his eyes away from the screen and handing the remote to the other in between fits of laughter. “They think that?”

“I’ve overheard something about thinking you’re nice and cheerful, but distant.”

“They’re not too far from the truth.” Not that JK was either. “Maybe they’re intimidated by my beauty.” He gives a little wiggle of his eyebrow before placing his hands under his chin like a flower.

“You’re okay, hyung.”

“Weren’t you the one who said I was pretty earlier?”

Their teasing and banter continues, and even amidst the laughter and finally settling down to turn on a movie neither of them had watched, he recognizes that he’d have to act just a bit better. If what JK had said was correct, it could spark interest and unwanted words floating around.

Everything is an act, he tells himself. Everything he does right now is an act. It’s a mere form of engaging enough with the people around him to shift suspicions off of him. Even right now, it was a mere act.

Yes , he decides as he makes himself comfortable on the couch as if it really were his own home. Everything was an act. You have to leave this place soon anyways. Look comfortable, laugh as if you’re comfortable, sleep as if you’re comfortable, but don’t get comfortable .

It was quite obvious, really, he thinks as the screen is flashing with various fighting scenes that start to make his head hurt from the overwhelming amount of graphics and visuals; his eyes drift to the male beside him, whose eyes were enchanted by the screen. The way his eyes widened, tracing each movement tugs a smile on his lips unconsciously.

He wasn’t sure why he had to remind himself so much lately about his reality. It wasn’t like he didn’t know; he knew too well. Was he being distracted enough to have to remind himself so often?

It’s an act.

It’s an act.

“Hyung, is there something on my face?” came nervous laughter as something warm cups his gloved hand, and he immediately stiffens up. It must’ve been obvious, as he reminds himself that there was a safe barrier between their hands, but it still feels dangerous, so he quietly slides his hand out under the warmth. He hates that it feels so cold as soon as he retracts his hand.

A silence ensues between them, and he becomes unsure if he should say anything at all, when JK quietly says, “Did I read things wrong?”

“Hm?”

“Did I read things wrong?”

He doesn’t know how to answer that, and lets out a bashful and awkward chuckle instead. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“I don’t know.” He’s truthful about this. The act is starting to crumble just a bit.

“Do you not know because something’s holding you back?”

Holding him back?

Were things holding him back?

“It’s fine, you don’t have to answer that.” The warm hand finds his own again. “It might be better if you don’t answer that. Can I…?”

Jin doesn’t retract his hand this time, and for a moment, he wonders what it would be like if he didn’t have his gloves on. He knows what would realistically happen, but he lets himself wonder for just a moment. The younger takes this as an answer, and their eyes are on the screen in silence. It’s surprisingly not awkward, as Jin had thought it would be, and he thinks the summer heat is getting to them. The air feels warmer than usual.

It was all… still an act, right?

 

(They unknowingly fall asleep on the couch in the middle of their second movie. When Jin wakes up again, he checks the time to see that it’s a little past three in the morning. Years of running away has trained his body to not sleep for too long, and for once, he’s glad he was able to wake up. Quietly, he pulls his hand under and out from the other, tiptoe-ing his way out as he grabs his things and quietly closes the door behind him, but not before finding the throw blanket on the side and covering the younger with it.

He thinks he makes a quiet escape, but he doesn’t get to see JK’s eyes open with ease, as if he had never been sleeping all this time, and staring at his empty hand wishfully. 

The room is suddenly cold.)

 

───── ☠️ ─────

 

Hades-nim, I really enjoy your stories. I think they have a certain realistic charm to them that I haven’t been able to pull out anywhere else- your writing is heavy. It’s full of life, and simultaneously very heavy. Does that even make sense? I hope it does. Your characters are ones I haven’t seen before, and they all hold a part of them that I have yet to figure out is constituted of. They have a shroud of mystery, much like yourself, that I am definitely intrigued by, and the feelings you write are so raw and so real. I don’t have to have gone through it myself to know how genuine it is.

I just had one question though. For your main protagonists, which you have mentioned in an author’s note somewhere before are reflections of yourself, what do you think is the genre of their life? Let’s say life was a storybook. In that case, each and every single one of us would be a storybook. What genre would your characters fall under?

Or, scratch that; if they are reflections of you, then what genre does your life fall under? Horror? Thriller? Is there room for romance, despite all the dark stuff you write?

 

What genre does your life fall under?

It was one of the easiest questions to answer for him. He liked reading through feedback and comments to know what would keep the money rolling in while writing what he knew was true to him. This particular comment sticks out to him, because no one’s asked him that question before.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, really. He hasn’t done a lot of things before other than run away, so a lot of things intrigued him.

If his life were a movie or a storybook, he’s sure it would be under the horror or thriller section- maybe even adventure, if they squint hard enough, with a subgenre of science fiction and tragedy. Whichever it was, he knew it’d be a heavier genre. He has no doubt that if his life were a story being translated into a movie adaption, he would be portrayed as a monster.

Is there room for romance?

Who had time to think about that? He chuckles to himself as he pours out his cold cup of coffee, rinsing the mug to pour himself some new, hot coffee from the pot. Who had time to think about the genre of romance when he was barely able to have his own life ?

He thinks it’s a nice genre though. He allows himself to watch a movie to wind down whenever he’s feeling extra paranoid or stressed that day, and he usually avoided the darker movies. He didn’t need to pay to see them when he knew well a look at his own life was all the darkness he needed. He went for the lighter genres, his favorite usually being comedy and romance.

People sought after what they couldn’t have, after all. There was more appeal in what was unattainable.

He reaches for his phone, hesitating to open his messages. It had been a good month since he had last seen his neighbor, only greeting him briefly on his way out or in and texting him occasionally. He’s a little hesitant, but he convinces himself they already made it to what would be the third hangout- they had already gone farther than he would have liked. He might as well go all the way to find out what his last name is. Finally typing a lazy Do you want to watch a movie at your place? to the contact that held only two alphabet letters as a contact name, he slides the phone into his pocket with a sigh, keeping his mug in his other hand. 

Thinking about it, even comedy was more realistic than romance for him, as he pushes the thought aside momentarily before raising the mug to his lips, leaning against his sink counter. Romance was a genre that would never shed light in his life. He’d never had time to think about it, nor did he have time to even ever consider it.

There are three hurried knocks on the door, and he sets down his mug to make his way over and reaches for the locks and door handle. 

Romance, he thinks as he turns the knob, is for the privileged. Romance was not a given. Love was not a given. People who were able to touch upon these genres were privileged and lucky. Meanwhile, even if he were to ever come close to anything that portrayed love even remotely, it was only a matter of time. He was unable to touch them directly without taking their breath away, after all.

Romance, he thinks, is for those who can afford to have their hearts broken to begin with.

It was never an option for him, and he wasn’t really bothered by that.

So why , he looks with wide eyes as he opens the door to his neighbor panting to catch his breath, hair tousled to show that he had just ran out, and his unlocked phone in one hand that clearly showed their messages . Why am I bothered by the fact that romance isn’t my genre when I see you? Why does this image of you standing in front of me, flashing me a bright smile while trying not to make it obvious how much you’re excited to see me make me smile so much my face hurts?

Since when was I so welcoming to the sight of you?

He darts forward to enclose his hand around the older’s wrist, which he’s recognized he does often the past multiple times they had met, and without a word or even so much of a greeting, he struggles to pull him out of his house before stopping in front of his own door, fumbling with the key.

Not once, does he ever let go of Jin’s wrist, even when he’s struggling with unlocking his door. He lets out a shy laugh when he finally gets the door open, pulling him inside to the living room he had just run out of. Two empty cans of beer were on the coffee table, his third one opened next to it as he finally lets go of his wrist, and he hates how he misses it already.

A clear of his throat is what prompts Jin to turn around to JK, who hands him a beer from the fridge without a word. He thanks him quietly, awkwardly making his way to the couch as if he had never been here before.

Something tells him his behavior from his first time here and now his second time here should’ve been switched.

He allows himself a sip of the cold beer, surprisingly sweet and easy on his throat despite his general distaste to alcohol. He always felt that he had to be sober in case anything ever happened, always on standby.

He wonders when he started to let his guard down around the stranger he had hung out with for the third time now.

Five times is all you need to know all my charms, and then you get my last name.

He’s suddenly conscious of the dip on the sofa next to him, a presence that has made him hyperaware. There wasn’t this tension between the two before- it’s as foreign as it can feel to him. He’s used to the comfortable teasing and banter they exchanged in their greetings and occasional chats standing outside their doors, but not this. He doesn’t like suddenly being aware of their empty hands, unspoken wants, and his dry throat. He tries washing it down with more beer, but to no avail- the damage had been done the last time he had been over.

And yet, he let himself reach out first, he let himself come over again.

Is there room for romance?

Foreign thoughts start to intrude his head, and it only seems to cloud his thoughts more with each gulp of beer. He barely responds enough to the movie selection JK suggests, only nodding his head silently as his eyes fixate on the screen.

His eyes are fixated on the screen, but his thoughts are elsewhere. Actually, his thoughts are right next to him.

He must’ve been obvious, because when he finishes his can, JK sighs and picks up the remote to pause whatever they were watching, and turns to face the older.

“Hyung.”

“Hm?” His voice comes out tensed and high strung, and he clears his throat. “Uh, hm?”

“Why did you text me?”

He blinks, his eyes finally raising from the empty can in his hands to meet the younger’s eyes. His eyebrows are furrowed, as if he’s disappointed, but his eyes are full of concern. 

Maybe he’s both. “Why did you ask to see a movie with me, clearly knowing what happened the last time we watched a movie together?”

He makes it sound like a big deal, when they didn’t even properly get to hold hands, but Jin supposes it’s a big deal to him- he’s never held someone’s hand without their blood ending up on his hands. 

Why had he asked him to watch a movie together?

To know his last name .

No, he knows that’s an excuse. He knows damn well that that’s an excuse. He can try to tell himself it’s what he actually wants, but he knows Yoongi isn’t interested in retrieving his “weird neighbor’s” last name anymore. He was the only one holding onto that damn excuse.

He knows why he asked him to watch a movie together, but was he allowed to admit it out loud?

Missing him?

Romance?

His thoughts start to cloud again, and it seems to reflect on his face, because suddenly JK is waving his hands in panic and shaking his head. “I just wished you’d stop thinking so much. Ah,” he reaches for the remote again, “Let’s just finish this movie.”

I just wish you’d stop thinking so much .

He wished that, too. Many, many times.

They return to a screen of Gong Yoo, Ma Dong Suk, and Choi Woo Sik fighting their way through the different sections of the zombie infested train they’re on, and once he focuses on the movie for the first time since his arrival, he squints away from the screen with a disgusted look. He could hear a laugh from the other, and a warm hand cups over his.

“Hyung, you can’t watch scary movies?”

He merely squeezes his eyes shut and shakes his head fiercely, hearing another amused laugh from the younger as he squeezes his hand. “Here,” he murmurs as he pulls the older in closer, who still has his eyes shut. “Let’s watch something else then. Have you watched Be With You ?”

When he opens his eyes again, they’re close to one another- he draws in a breath and holds it, afraid that he might get caught of… something . He’s not sure what the something is, but he’s afraid his thoughts might be heard. His unspoken wants, his tingling nerves, and the heat on his cheeks might get caught. The other nonchalantly flips through the selection until he comes to the title he just mentioned, before bringing their conjoined hands to his stomach and weaving their fingers together.

As the image of a young son running towards an abandoned train stop and the father calling from behind show up on the screen, he allows himself one selfish thought.

He wonders what his hand would feel like without the glove. Bare, woven hands.

 

───── ☠️ ─────

 

“Stop picking at your face,” He says the day of their fourth hangout, completely out of the blue, surprising both him and the younger. The younger was laying on his stomach, phone in hand as Jin held a book in his hands, contrastingly lying on his back and propping his head up on JK’s back. They’re in his apartment today, air condition on blast to avoid the summer heat of early August, their second cup of iced americanos (and JK’s coffee milk-like coffee that Jin thinks is a disgrace) sitting on the ground next to them, beads of condensation making its way down the cup and towards his carpeted floor. Jin had just gotten out of a call with Yoongi who had called to update him that his deadline had been extended, and that the suited men had gathered enough intel on the other kid and would start moving soon, before JK barged in with assorted Korean and Japanese jellies in a bag, smiling brightly. 

He knows he should be writing, really- he knows he should be taking advantage of the new extension he had been given, but even as the past couple of months had passed, no new idea miraculously made its way into his head- he was stuck around forty pages in after writing about his euphoric feelings and fondness of New Zealand.

That’s how they end up on the floor, each on their respective material, when the action was caught vaguely in his peripheral vision.

“What do you mean?”

“You have this,” he struggles to formulate the words, “ habit of picking at the peach fuzz on your face. I’m afraid you’re going to end up with irritated skin after picking at it so much.”

There’s a laugh mixed with amusement and surprise from the younger. “I hadn’t realized.” His voice drops back to its usual teasing tone. “Hyung, I didn’t know you watched me that closely.”

His face is bright red, not before his ears are, and he’s suddenly grateful JK can’t see his face from his angle. “It was… It was hard not to notice! You do it so much!”

“Sure, sure, hyung. You can just admit you look at me enough to know.” He seems to drop it with a groan, stretching his arms out before rolling onto his back, Jin’s head automatically shifting onto his stomach instead.

By God, those were some hard abs.

He tries not to focus on that, as JK asks, “What are you reading, hyung?”

“It’s a collection of Greek myths and terminology.”

“Oh? I didn’t know you were into mythology.”

“I just think it’s interesting, granted I’ve already read this book multiple times.”

JK lets out a quiet whistle, before reading the title of the section he was currently on. “ Asphodel Meadows . What’s that?”

“It’s the middle ground between Elysium and Tartarus.” JK lets out a confused noise, and he chuckles. “Elysium is like, paradise to the Greeks. Only the bravest of heroes get to go there if they’ve done enough good in their lives, so I guess that concept is kind of different and more exclusive than heaven.”

“And Tartarus?”

“It’s the Greek version of hell, although that’s a poor comparison. It’s their version of punishment, where the worst of men went to- there’s not much on it, but only that it’s terrifying and worse beyond imagination.”

“So we have Greek heaven and hell, so what the hell is Asphodel Meadows?”

“It’s the actual heaven, in my opinion.” His finger comes up to trace the letters. Asphodel. “It’s where normal people go. People who weren’t heroes, but weren’t necessarily bad either. Not paradise, not punishment either. Just a resting place for normal people.”

He wanted nothing more than to be normal, to have a resting place. “This,” he points to an image, resembling a dark mystical forest with tall trees all around, “is what the meadows are said to look like. You wander around until you’re ready to venture onto your next life.”

“And you think it’s actual heaven?”

“Yes.” He pauses, pursing his lips. “Paradise sounds overwhelmingly untrue. Elysium seems like a hard place to be when you want to rest after a fulfilling life.” He taps his finger against the picture with a smile tugging on his lips. “I think this is the perfect resting place. I would like it a lot.”

“Did you know,” comes a reply along with a yawn, “that there’s a flower called asphodel?”

“I’ve heard of it. I think they mentioned it in the book.”

“Do you know the flower meaning for it?”

Jin tilts his head up to meet his eyes, a frown tugging at his lips as he shakes his head. “No. Do you?”

“Yeah,” he replies as he bends his arm back to cushion and prop his head up to get a better angle of his eyes. “My parents ran a flower shop. It means my regrets follow you to the grave . Ironic, huh?”

Jin nods slowly, soaking in the information. “Interesting, I think. I think it makes sense though.”

“You do?”

“They have to be staying in the Asphodel Meadows after death because they have some regrets, right? Otherwise they would go straight into their next life.” He shuts his book close and turns to lay on his side, fully facing JK as he hitches his breath from how close they are. “They must’ve had to stay there until they let go of any other regrets before moving on.”

They lay there in silence, not breaking their gaze until JK cracks another smile. “It sounds like a lovely place. I’d stay there and make it my home forever.”

Jin laughs softly. “I was thinking the same thing.”

“Want to be neighbors there too?”

It’s dangerous, the waters they’re treading on. It’s dangerous, the looks they exchanged. It’s dangerous, the unspoken words behind that question.

It’s dangerous, the way his heart skips a beat at the thought of that.

He takes it anyway. “You bet.”

 

───── ☠️ ─────

 

“Jeon Jungkook,” are the first words out of Yoongi’s mouth as soon as he raises the phone to his ear.

“Yoongi-ah,” Jin groans, peeling an eye open to look at the time on his phone before lowering it back to his ear. “It’s a little past five in the morning, my brain is still asleep, I need more context of what you’re saying.”

The light that peeks through his curtains is blue, suggesting that it is indeed way too early for him to be awake right now. He’d crashed late, around two hours earlier, typing furiously into his laptop because of the sudden motivation he had.

Almost like something inspired him.

“Oh.” A yawn can be heard from the other end of the call. “Is that why I’m so tired? It’s already five?”

He’s falling asleep again, turning to his side so that the phone lays flat against the side of his head and his ear as his eyes remain shut. “Quick, I’m shutting down. I slept two hours, so you have like three minutes before I drift off. Who’s Jeon Jungkook?”

“He’s the other kid, the one with the magic hands.” It becomes an unspoken agreement between the two to never call the other one cursed , because Jin feels just a little bit bitter about such a gift being called so. He appreciates that the other kid’s been reduced to “the one with the magic hands”. “I found his full name by hacking into their intel, since they got it before me. Jeon Jungkook. He should be going under a different alias by now, if he’s smart, so I’m going to try to look into it.”

“Alright, I’ll be on the lookout for a possible Jeon Jungkook using a different alias and someone I don’t know anything else about.”

Yoongi grumbles. “Just updating you. They’ve made a stop in Jeju Island to see if you’re there, since you haven’t gone there. Which, by the way, I think is a lovely place to hide in for a while, so I have you scheduled there in around three years.”

“Jesus, three years? How far ahead did you plan my life?”

“Just about all of it.” He could practically hear the arrogant smirk on his face, even if he doesn’t know what he looks like. “Better not make me an enemy, hyung.”

“Like I ever would. Goodnight, Yoongi-ah. Get some sleep too.”

He taps on the phone without waiting for a response, drifting off to sleep once confirming no signs of danger near him yet. 

Jeon Jungkook , he thinks before finally knocking out again, I wonder what kind of person he is .

 

───── ☠️ ─────

 

Fingers laced together, Jin starts to wonder when his hand started to become so occupied. It seems these days their hands are more frequented together than apart, and his hands miss his when he lies alone in bed, wide awake.

It was their fifth hangout, albeit there were a couple of others in between that they never formally declared to be one, in an excuse to drag whatever they had longer. Quick pecks on the cheek, seeing each other coincidentally in front of the entrance and hands joining in the elevator before they go their own ways, and the occasional coffees. 

Almost like they’re afraid for the fifth one to come.

It’s stupid, he thinks as he squeezes the younger’s hand. It’s stupid, how they seem to be tiptoe-ing so much around each other. It’s stupid, how he had let himself fall into such a cycle with a man he realizes he knows almost nothing about, and vice versa. Their reluctance to open with each other (or in his case, his absolute firm resolution to never get caught) is creating this dance between them, and he’s not sure if they’ll ever pass it.

Their eyes fixated on the screen, neither of them are really paying attention to the korean drama they have playing at a low volume, quietly talking to each other with occasional soft laughs and giggles. 

“You never held up your end of the promise.”

“Hm?”

“Your last name.”

JK blinks, raising an eyebrow. “You’re still holding me to that?”

“Of course.” He lets go of his hand momentarily, crossing his arms. “It’s the only reason I spend time with you.”

“Ouch, hyung,” he says in an unhurt tone, dramatically closing a hand over his chest. “That hurts. I thought for sure you were hanging out with me because you liked me.”

“I like your hands. I think that’s about it.” A chuckle.

A wide smile. “I like your hands too.”

“Nonsense. You’ve never even seen my hands.”

“Of course I have. I know you, Jin hyung.”

He scoffs, accompanied by a roll of his eyes. “Sure you do, JK.”

There’s a momentary pause between them, the look on the younger’s face a mix between contemplation and hesitance.

“Hyung,” JK finally says quietly. “There’s no company called Nostos .”

“... Wha-”

“It’s a game brand,” he mumbles, “but nowhere does it say it’s for chocolate. Your cover story has holes, you know? One internet search is all it takes to make you a liar.” His voice drops low. “You can’t afford any holes in your story. The suited men, they could catch on easily once it catches on the curiosity of others.”

This startles him. Carefully, his eyes trail from their conjoined hands to meet his own eyes, unable to read the foreign glint in his eyes. It was the same glint he had recognized from when they had first met, when Ms. Han had introduced them outside of their respective doors just around four months ago. 

He couldn’t read it then either, but now he thinks it might hold some sort of… familiarity, or maybe even recognition. 

He draws in a breath, slowly retracting his hand.

“Who are you?”

JK only wordlessly reaches for his gloved hand again, and holds it gently, almost delicately in his hands. His eyes are speaking a hundred words that he can’t catch onto, but his lips only say a few. “Do you trust me, hyung?”

“Right now? I’m not sure. You…”

“Then start trusting me.” His fingers start to reach for the edge of the glove, tugging at it off. Panic rises in Jin’s throat, his other hand scrambling to stop the younger’s curious hands. 

“Stop! No- JK, this isn’t something you can just-”

“I said trust me, right?”

He wants to, he so dearly wants to but he knows the reality of this. He knows the reality that his mere curiosity could lead to something beyond his control, and he finds he’s terrified in this moment. “JK, I-”

In one, swift movement when Jin falters, the glove gets tugged off quickly, and his hand feels exposed to the cool air for the first time in a long time. His hands are fair and pale from having hidden inside the glove for so long, although the curse it held wasn’t. His fingers are a bit crooked, a part he had come to forget sometimes due to the few times he does manage to see his own hands, but they’re slender. His hand immediately balls into a fist, as if trying to block out whatever else the younger was attempting to do, but it seemed he wasn’t forceful this time.

“Hyung, give me your hand.” His hand was open, palm up- waiting, as if his hand was something worth waiting for. Jin only shakes his head, reaching for the glove in the other’s outstretched hand.

“This isn’t funny, JK, I need my glove back-”

“Just trust me, and take my hand.” There it was again, the glint in his eyes that Jin couldn’t recognize no matter how many times he saw it. It was unsettling not knowing. “I know what your hands do. Give me your hand.”

A possible suicide mission? His eyebrows are furrowed, but JK’s voice has remained calm and confident this whole time. Was it safe? Was it okay?

It seems JK was tired of waiting, however, because when he falters again in contemplation, he reaches out to take his bare hand when his guard is down, earning a yelp of panic and terrified wide eyes from the older, who squeezes his eyes shut almost as soon as it opens because he doesn’t want to see what he’s done.

His body count went up again, he sobs internally to himself. He had another person’s life on his hands.

However, almost a minute passes, and the grip on his hand is still strong. From his previous experiences, it’s been well over the time since the hand should’ve gone slump in his hand, but the grip is strong. Slowly, he tears his eyes open, half in hope and half in fear only to see the same confident eyes staring right back at him, waiting for him silently, as he squeezes his hand once in reassurance.

The noise he makes isn’t human. “You- how- I-?”

“Jeon.” It doesn’t register in his head for a second and he only blinks at the younger, still unable to lift himself out of his deep shock.

“My last name. Jeon.”

Jeon . Jeon, Jeon, Jeon-

Now where has he heard that?

“I’ll formally introduce myself. My name is Jeon Jungkook,” his voice is quiet, almost as if someone outside could hear him, but just loud enough for Jin to hear, “and I came here to meet Kim Seokjin. I was intrigued by the idea of him and wanted to meet someone similar to me, and ended up liking him a lot more than I had anticipated.” The name itself was starting to register in his head, and his head was starting to pound from the other information he was throwing at him all at once. 

“I wanted to see what would happen if the hands of life met with the hands of death.” His thumb strokes the back of his thumb, the unfamiliar touch sending shivers down his spine but bringing heat to his cheeks. “And I see that the hands of death that everyone was so damn afraid of are warm.”

He gives a small cheeky smile then. “I finally found you.”

It was in that exact moment, mixed with relief, hope, fear, shock, and most of all, years of loneliness crashing in, that Seokjin bursted into quiet tears, and Jungkook immediately pulls him into a hug with wide eyes, rubbing his back as he murmured reassuringly about his numerous adventures of being chased with the goal of finding the man with pink gloves in mind only.

 

───── ☠️ ─────

 

One of the biggest giveaways of where Jin could possibly be hiding at the time is the gradual gathering of crows in one place.

It’s so cliche, he thinks. The association of death with those birds, but it fits him all the same- when he peeks outside of the window after rubbing his eyes open to see the crows have started to gather in obvious ways to the public eye, a groan makes his way out of his throat, shoving his head under the pillow as if rejecting the reality that he may have to move soon again.

It’s at the exact moment he realizes he shoved his head under an arm instead of a pillow that he jumps up with wide eyes, taking in his surroundings- this was not his house.

He scrambles to take in his surroundings- on the bed next to him was Jungkook, whose arm was the one he tried to bury his head under, and both of their clothes were still on. He sighs, although unsure if it’s out of disappointment or relief, as he clutches his head and tries to recall the events the previous night.

His hands were bare. Sometime after he realized their curses cancelled each other out and Jungkook wasn’t affected by it, his gloves had been long abandoned and probably sat somewhere on the side of the couch. He’d have to go retrieve it later.

The rest of the evening was spent with quiet crying, puffy eyes, and quiet pecks on their cheeks or the back of their conjoined hands, murmuring to each other because their words were for each other’s ears only. Seokjin’s lips held words of the years of loneliness he had gone through, thinking he was the only person in the world living the way he did, terrified of each coming day- Jungkook’s lips held words of the years of hopefulness he had gone through, hearing about the cursed boy with pink gloves who held Death in his hands, and would’ve been the country’s most powerful weapon had he not escaped.

He thought they were familiar, and it filled him with hope throughout the years when he was contained in the white building.

( “You’re quite strange, looking to me as hope.” They had been on his bed, legs tangled and arms wrapped lazily around their torsos when Jungkook had told Seokjin this. Their hands never let go of each other, and Seokjin didn’t mind- after years of being empty, he feels like it’s a reward. Jungkook was a reward for all the punishment he had to go through.

“What do you mean?”

“Other people saw me as a curse. How could you have any hope, knowing how many lives had been easily lost to me?”

It doesn’t take Jungkook long to respond, as if he’d been waiting to say this his whole life. “I thought you were a blessing.” )

It was years and years of catching up, their quiet laughter and occasional tears could still be heard even when it had become around three in the morning. Their eyes were wide awake even at that hour, talking as if there would be no tomorrow.

( “Hyung, what do you hold onto?”

It was a sudden question for him. Seokjin obviously knew the answer, because he thought about it a lot, but never once had it ventured outside of his thoughts, let alone his lips.

“Hold onto?” He asks anyways, as if he doesn’t understand.

“What’s pushing you to keep running away from them?”

“Home and freedom.”

“Hm?”

“Home and freedom,” he repeats with a whisper as he tightens his arm around his torso. Jungkook says nothing, encouraging him to go on. “I want to find a home and freedom. I want to find a day where I can lazily fish on the banks without a care in the world, without being on the run. I’m holding on until I can find a day and place that I can call it my resting place.”

He could almost hear Jungkook’s smile. “Your asphodel?”

“My asphodel,” he confirms with his own smile, delighted that Jungkook remembered.

“Will we still be neighbors when you find your asphodel?”

Seokjin only lets out a chuckle. “We’ll find a home together in our asphodel.” )

Then they shared their first kiss, albeit that was as far as they had ventured. It was slow, soft, and sweet- half for the romance of it all, and half because they were tired at four in the morning. Their kiss was tearstained, even messy because of their own lack of experience, but Seokjin doesn’t think anything could be more perfect than this. After having their life genre be horror and thriller, their kiss was a breath of fresh air, he thinks.

Is there room for romance?

He chuckles, vaguely remembering that comment as he pulled Jungkook in for another kiss eagerly, despite his tired and puffy eyes.

( It must’ve been around five in the morning the two of them started to grow tired enough to drift in and out of sleep, trying to keep themselves awake because they didn’t want their tearful night to end. It’s right before they both finally let themselves drift that Seokjin says one final thing.

“You know, I think I found my asphodel.”

“Hyung, are you going to say something cliche, something like I’m your asphodel?”

“You think too highly of yourself,” he chuckles tiredly, and the younger reciprocates. “I think we both make asphodel.”

“Explain.”

“If your gift is Elysium, and my curse is Tartarus, and we balance each other out,” his words are starting to slur into a murmur, but he tries his best to the end to pronounce the words accurately enough to understand. “Then we meet in the middle and make Asphodel. This,” he drags their conjoined hands up, “is Asphodel.” )

His eyes trailed over the sleeping boy fondly, hand reaching out to trace the scar on his cheek with a light, feathery touch. He thinks he told him that the scar was a result of an experiment they had done on him, and his heart ached at the mention of it because he knew too well what they were damn well capable of.

His phone starts vibrating in his pocket, and his eyes glance down towards the screen as he pulls it out. He forgot to charge it last night, so the battery is kind of low, but he takes the call anyways. “Yoongi-ah?”

“They found you both in Busan, because apparently you’re a lot closer to each other than we thought, you might have to cut your time short there and start moving your stuff to the flat I looked into in Seoul-”

“I know.”

“You know?”

His eyes flicker over to Jungkook, who was starting to stir just slightly at the noise, and he murmurs, “I know. Jeon Jungkook is right next to me.”

There’s a pause on the other end. “You’ll have to fill me in later. For now, check your bank account- I asked for your salary a bit earlier and deposited it so that you could cash it out and leave it for the landlord lady. You probably have until the end of this week to move out, but I’d suggest as soon as possible.” He pauses one more time. “Am I safe to assume you’ll be taking Jeon Jungkook along with you?”

“Correct.”

“Give Jungkook-sshi my number later on, so I can work details out with him too. I want to try to throw them off by leaving false trails that lead them to Daegu instead, so it becomes harder.” Yoongi clicks his tongue. “Hyung. You’re aware that by taking him, it becomes that much easier for the two of you to be caught in one place, right?”

Seokjin nods even if he can’t see him. “I’m aware. I’m taking him anyway.”

Yoongi only makes a noise of agreement, before he hears the distinct clicking of his mouse again. “Alright. Then you know what to do.” With that, the call ends, and Seokjin shifts over to sprawl across the other’s stomach with a groan, shaking his shoulders awake.

“Hey, we have to go. They’re onto us.”




“And this is my roommate, JK.” Jin plasters on a kind smile, dipping his head in a slight bow as he holds out his gloved hand to shake. “Thank you for having us, we won’t be troublesome tenants. I hope we can get along well.”

The new landlord grandpa, Mr. Park, is just a bit grumpier than Ms. Han- he looks suspiciously at the pink gloves, and scoffs. “What kind of man wears pink?”

He only offers another smile as he retracts his hand, the elder man turning on his heel to make his way down the hall, scoffing about how men these days were turning too feminine or whatnot, before he lets the smile drop with a sigh and closes the door behind him. Seoul was not as nice as Busan, but it would have to do for now.

It might be selfish of him to hope the suited men catch onto Seoul fast, so they could make a move towards Yangpyung. He vaguely remembers the last time he was there, but it was much kinder than Seoul.

He looks back at the younger male who’s unpacking their bags dutifully, and slipping off his glove, he reaches his hand out to him. Jungkook immediately catches on and takes his hand with a smile, and he draws in a breath.

He found his breath of life.