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Taste of Ink

Chapter Text

Credit to the trailer goes to the wonderful Tipsy-on-Jin

 

 

 

“Hey…”

Jungkook buried his head further under the blanket in the hopes of being able to block out the man’s voice but it was useless. He was already awake enough to hear that the entire den was filled with people: loud voices and laughter, the sound of chairs being pulled out and things being slammed down on tables. Even at this hour he could smell the unmistakable scent of cheap beer and he wasn’t at all surprised. The building was always filled with the tang of booze and the sour notes of other things too. Pot, much like what would be getting shoved inside his backpack a few minutes from now. But regardless of this fact he didn’t really want to get up. The broken settee wasn’t really comfortable but he was used to it and at least he had managed to get into a nice position; legs tucked up in front of him and one arm folded underneath his single pillow. He was warm and snug and he would happily lie like this for a few minutes longer if he could.

 

“Hey kid, wakey wakey.”

 

He mumbled something at this and managed to pull the blanket all of the way over his head so that he was no longer visible under the knitted woolen shroud. When he took a breath it was also warm and he could smell the detergent it had been washed with trying to cover the stink of booze. It was a nice scent, powdery and faintly floral and-

 

“Come on, get your ass up, kid!”

 

A hand grabbed hold of the blanket and rudely wrenched it off him. Jungkook tried to snag a handful of it but his fingers closed on nothing but air. Then his shoulder was being shoved hard a few times and it was enough to make him open his eyes. The first thing he saw was black and it took him a few seconds to figure out that it was someone’s trousers, the material wrinkled from wear and clearly not ironed. His eyes wanted to close again because his eyelids felt so heavy but he forced himself to blink a few times and lessen the need. He shifted and managed to sit upright after a little effort, hearing the settee groaning from the movement as he did.

 

“Urgh…what time is it?” Jungkook asked as he reached up and rubbed at his eyes roughly. He rubbed so hard that he saw little galaxies of stars under his eyelids and he didn’t even try to cover a wide yawn that escaped. He dropped his hands back onto his lap and looked up to see who had woken him up.

 

It wasn’t hard to recognise the man for Jaebum always wore shades even when there was no need to. He was almost convinced that the man would wear them at night time too, and when he went to the bathroom. The thought was enough to make him snort to himself and behind the shades he could picture the man’s eyes narrowing at him in confusion. He wasn’t wearing his jacket - which would be equally as creased as his trousers - and his white work shirt was undone to reveal his vest underneath. The sleeves were rolled up too and Jungkook could see his tattoos in stark relief against the white cotton. The head of one dragon was visible over the top of his vest, the tail curling up near his upper ribs, and he knew that the other two were hidden behind the vest. Jaebum had several more smaller ones on his arms but they were all more or less the same things: dragons, fangs, fire, anything related to their gang. But despite him having nearly ten tattoos on his upper body he wasn’t even the most heavily tattooed member that Jungkook had met. Even Yoongi had more tattoos than that on his single arm.

 

“Time for you to get the hell outta here, kid,” Jaebum said as he lifted an arm and cocked his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the storefront. “You got a job to do.”

 

“I know, I know, but seriously, what time is it?” The man sighed and lifted his wrist to eye his watch. Only then in his sleepy state did Jungkook remember that he had his own watch. He told him that it was 10:13am and Jungkook shifted on the settee to collect his blanket from the floor where Jaebum had carelessly dropped it. “Did Yoongi leave a key?”

 

“Yeah, left it and told me to wake your ass up before he left again so here I am. Hurry and get cleaned up, boss wants you circulating as soon as. You’re already running late right now.”

 

“Yeah yeah, drugs won’t sell themselves,” Jungkook muttered as he got to his feet and hugged his pillow to his chest. “I’ve heard that one before.” The man pulled a key out of his creased trousers and held it out to him, little silver piece dangling from the plastic fob. “Give me fifteen minutes and I’ll be ready, no problem.”

 

Jungkook accepted the keys and hastily crossed the room in the direction of the stairwell. He wasn’t in the storefront right now, where all of the other members were sitting around drinking and talking and working out deals on phones, he was in the back area where there was little more than broken furniture and a back door that led into the alley. The building was a small converted apartment block and quite a few members of the gang stayed in it when they were stuck in the district. It wasn’t like the police were going to storm the place and arrest anyone. Not after the amount of money they had flowing in every month in bribes for immunity. He took the stairs two at a time and headed up to the third floor before fumbling with the lock on one of the doors. After a momentary struggle he managed to slip the key in and unlock the door so he shoved it open and stepped inside.

 

The first thing that hit him was Yoongi hadn’t cleaned up…again. His friend had been out all night working and he often crashed with him in this dingy little apartment room, but the idiot had taken his keys with him last night and as a result Jungkook had been demoted to sleeping on the settee for the entire evening. Had he had the time he would have attempted to clean it but he was in a rush. So he just forced the door shut again and stepped over the discarded clothes and empty cartons of food. Maybe when he returned this evening the place would be in better condition but he doubted it. The other man was always too busy working and he hadn’t seen his face for three days now. Hopefully he would finally see him, seen as his friend owed him three bowls of Nongshim ramyun after losing a joke bet last week and he still hadn’t presented the goods. The idea of ramyun right now was enough to make his stomach rumble but he didn’t have time to think about food. He needed to get showered and dressed and be out of the den in the next fifteen minutes or he would be in big trouble with the boss and he didn’t want that.

 

The shower wasn’t in the best of conditions because the fixture on the wall was rather broken. Jungkook was used to it however and he managed to get it to work well enough for the stream to come out in more than a soft patter of droplets. The hot water at least helped his brain wake up and he brushed his teeth even as he was getting dressed: slipping into a pair of jeans and a loose black tee. He laced his sneakers up, chin balanced on his knee and red toothbrush sticking out of the corner of his mouth and then he went back into the bathroom to rinse his mouth out. In the reflection from the mirror mounted onto the medical cabinet he could see his hair was still damp but the summer heat would see it dried in no time. There were still the faintest hints of purple visible but the colour was starting to fade and he reached up to brush a damp tangle of hair back off his brow so it wouldn’t hang down in front of his eyes and irritate him. It revealed a pair of large eyes that Yoongi had often teased him about, had called him all kinds of weird nicknames that only made sense to his friend: in particular ‘Deer Boy’ had seemed to annoyingly stick to him. His friend might like to make fun of him but it was his face that worked in his favour. He looked too young and too innocent to have anything to do with gang activity.

 

The same could not be said for Yoongi.

 

Yoongi often had a scowl on his face most of the time, only seeming to disappear when he was in the room with him. If he had any of his left arm on display, even just a tiny slip of shirt that showed his lower forearm, then everyone would see the beginning of tattoos that stretched all the way up to his shoulder. The one sure-kill way to showcase gang affiliations were tattoos and Jungkook currently had not a single one to his name. Too young, only eighteen year olds were allowed to take that one big step into the gang by getting inked up and he was still three whole months away. No eye-catching piercings either, just his ears. He had once joked about getting an eyebrow piercing to Yoongi to see how he took it and his friend had told him that it was a better idea than a nose one. “You don’t need to draw any more attention to that kid,” he had said with a wide smirk, “it’s impossible to miss that nose.

 

Well, at least he could wear short sleeves without having people cross roads to avoid him.

 

Jungkook left his toothbrush on the side of the sink and went back into the rest of the room, grabbing his black bomber jacket and slipping it on as he stepped out into the hall and slammed the door shut behind him. He locked it and bounded back down the stairs, sneakers pounding on the bare wooden steps as he went down. When he got to the bottom he tossed the keys at Jaebum and the man managed to catch them.

 

“I’ll see he gets ‘em, if he even comes back today.”

 

“Better had, he owes me.”

 

“Cash?”

 

“Food.” Jaebum grinned at his reply as he shoved the keys into his trousers.

 

“Seungyoon’s waiting for you in the front, get to kid.” Jungkook went over to collect his skateboard from where he had left it, leaning against the side of the settee he had been sleeping on. He carried it by the wheels as he crossed the room, sliding the door back to step into the main area.

 

It had been an entrance at some point, had likely only contained a desk and maybe a little bench. Now it was filled with low tables and floor cushions all over the place, no check-in desk in sight. Right now there had to be at least twenty men all sitting around and there was a single woman serving drinks and answering calls on a landline phone. Sunmi caught sight of him and so she gestured with one hand, pointing a pen across the room at the table in the corner. Jungkook followed her gesture and then he thanked her with a thumbs up.

 

Seungyoon was on the phone himself, currently barking orders down it in an accent so guttural that he struggled to understand him. He wasn’t from Busan but rather Daegu and he slurred his words in a way that he didn’t seem to take a pause. The man had his hair slicked back and he could see it greying at his temples and lines startling to settle in around the corners of his eyes. Underneath his light growth of facial hair he could see laughter lines too, a sign that the man smiled more often than scowled. Not like Yoongi. Yoongi would have wrinkles only on his nose and brow that showed his constant disdain. The man was tapping chopsticks on the low table in front of him and there was a plate shoved out of the way with the remains of pancakes still on it. When he caught sight of him he waved him over so Jungkook weaved around the low tables and then hunkered down beside the table.

 

“…Yeah yeah asshole, just see that it gets done, a’right?” Seungyoon ended the call with a hard punch to the dial pad with his thumb and then he shoved the mobile into his shirt breast pocket. “Fuckin’ goons, eh kid? Can’t read, can’t do anythin’ that ain’t breakiin’ noses and smashin’ windows. How you doin’ kid?”

 

“Good, Jaebum said that you’ve got the info?”

 

“Uh-huh, sit down sit down.” Jungkook lowered himself onto one of the cream floor cushions and the man held the chopsticks out to him. Normally he wouldn’t chase after scraps like a pet dog but he was hungry so he accepted them and grabbed a chunk of the pancake. “OK kid, you’re gonna head off down to Jwadong-ro. There’s a little café there, quaint, right by a high school: Buhongko. You’re gonna wait for the drop and then you’re gonna distribute to all of the locations on the list. The bag’s gonna be dropped by a black Daewoo G2X, flashy car. Can’t miss it. List will be in the lower outer compartment of the bag, just like always. Nothin’ new to worry about.”

 

“What am I running today?”

 

“Pot, that’s it.”

 

“‘Cos last time I went to Jwadong-ro there was more than pot in that bag, the envelope was marked with coke. You know if I get caught I’m looking a stint in a correctional facility for carrying pot alone. With coke I might just end up in actual prison.”

 

“Nonsense, you’re still a minor.” Seungyoon started tapping his fingers on the table and he knew that he was overstaying his welcome. The man likely had a hundred more goons to yell at. “Did you get your ass arrested when there was blow in the bag last time, huh?” He shook his head and the man grinned at him, revealing a gap-toothed smile. “Then no problem. Get goin’, I’ll put a good word in with Lim if you keep workin’ like this.” Lim was the current boss of this local syndicate and he would very much like to be on the man’s good side. So Jungkook shoved the last piece of pancake in his mouth and nodded to let him know that he was going, getting to his feet and crossing the room. He had only pushed the door open when he heard Seungyoon yelling down the phone again and so he stepped outside and dropped the board. Seconds later he was rolling down the street at a nice speed.

 

 

 

 

 

Jungkook had been running for Sam Yong Pa since he had been twelve years of age. He had started with simple things, messages that couldn’t afford to be sent by phone or email lest the police managed to catch wind of activity and trap dealers out. He had moved around Busan on a skateboard with manilla envelopes tucked into the front of his jeans, hidden from wandering eyes by the lengths of his tee-shirt. When he had hit fourteen they had decided that he was trustworthy enough to start running more important things than messages, and he had done his first drug run just three days after his birthday. Miraculously he had managed to do it without fucking up, which had been a notable achievement seen as he had been shaking so badly that he still couldn’t believe that he hadn’t gotten arrested that day. It hadn’t taken him that long at all to adjust to the method because he didn’t actually broker any deals. No, he just transported goods and collected the agreed cash in envelopes. If he came back a couple of thousand won short it wasn’t his ass that was in trouble, it was the sorry son of a bitch that had tried to cheat themselves out of a deal that did: and with marked envelopes it wasn’t hard at all to figure out who had done so.

 

Sam Yong Pa was the largest gang in Busan and also the most notorious in the entire country. They had deals with local law enforcement in nearly every region and they had roots in other countries too: Russia, Brazil and China. Their territory covered several districts in the Busan region but his syndicate called Haeundae-gu their territory. It had the highest concentration of population in the region; drawn to the wonderful beaches and massive amounts of shopping centres and historic temples. And with this bustling throng of tourists came lots of addictions: drugs, prostitutes, gambling. There really was no better district in the region but the main syndicate was in Busanjin-gu. Jungkook had never been over to that district for he liked Haeundae-gu enough to not want to move. There was no trouble in this district, they had no rival gangs on the streets trying to cause trouble like the rest of the region. They were relatively cut off from trouble and he liked it that way. It meant travelling across the district was a lot safer for a start, not needing to worry about any hired goons trying to attack him for wandering too close to their territory.

 

Yes, he liked Haeundae-gu a lot and it was the closest thing that he had to a home.

 

Jungkook had ran away from home just a four days before he had ended up in Sam Yong Pa. With an alcoholic mother and a father that had never been home because he had been too busy working and spending time with three other girlfriends, he had just decided one day to just jump a bus and see where he had ended up. As luck would have it he ended up down in Haeundae-gu but his luck had ran out very quickly. Back then it had been winter and he recalled spending a great many hours loitering in coach stations and subway lines just because there had been heating on inside the buildings and he hadn’t had to be out on the streets. For the first two nights he had been saved from the deathly winter nights by kind security workers that had ignored him on their routine checks, but then he had ended up on the streets on the third. The third day had been Christmas Eve and he had been freezing his ass off on some stupid park bench thinking that his plan had failed pretty spectacularly when a young man had sat down on the other end of it. At first Jungkook had ignored him but after sensing his gaze on him for longer than considered polite he had turned to look at him and that was when he had met Min Yoongi.

 

The young man had been bundled up in many layers, woolen pea coat over a denim jacket, the thick wrapping of a scarf visible and wrapped around his lower face. His black hair had been peeking out from under a beanie hat and he had only really seen his eyes staring at him. Thin eyes, somewhat older than his his years as he would later discover him to be only seventeen. Jungkook had stared at him and had waited to see what he had had to say and the man had shifted and pulled his coat off. Then he had leaned over and placed it onto his shoulders instead.

 

Jungkook was to find that Yoongi was a strange man indeed.

 

Yoongi had had no need to approach him at all that day, but he had. He had had no need to give him his coat, which had clearly cost him a lot of cash, and he had had no need to ask him when he had last eaten something. But he had. Jungkook had also had no reason to talk to him or even trust him but he had done so so fast that it had been rather embarrassing. He might have been twelve years old at the time but Jungkook had been taught well enough about stranger danger, and the kind of person that would approach a kid and show such kindness must have had some strange and twisted reasons behind their smiles. But Yoongi had given him a coat, a warm coat that had smelled like cologne and cigarettes, and he had offered him an actual hot meal and he had rather rashly jumped on the offer. So the young man - that had still been a teenager - had escorted him out of the park and down the streets of the unfamiliar but somewhat enchanting district and they had ended up in a restaurant.

 

It had been in there that Jungkook had started to notice something very interesting about Yoongi. It had been the tattoos at first that had caught his eyes when he had slipped his denim jacket off, for he had never seen someone in reality with real tattoos before and not just fake ones in films and magazines. Back then it had been just a few on his inner elbow: the outline of a dragon that would later be inked in green and red, Hangul in a font so ancient that he hadn’t been able to read the words on his skin at all. Now he had a lot more than that. Yoongi had spoken in an accent that had revealed he wasn’t from Busan and he had spoken in a way that sounded a little rough to his ears. Yet he had had cash, lots of cash, and he hadn’t sounded nor looked educated enough to have been in a CEO position. Over bowls of kimchi jigae and side dishes of japchae and kalbi Jungkook had took note of other things too. He had observed how the only people inside the building had been male and they had all been dressed rather finely: all in suits with the exception of Yoongi, all had had watches on wrists and sunglasses tucked into jacket lapels. Yet he hadn’t really cared about this and had just concentrated on the young man that had been his literal saviour.

 

After the meal had come the promises of somewhere to sleep for the night, somewhere that wasn’t a coach station. He should have assumed bad things at this, at a stranger promising him a bed for the night after everything that had happened but Jungkook had been so weary and tired as a result of the previous days that he had followed after him without a single care. Yoongi could have been a pervert, a serial killer, but he had turned out to be something else instead.

 

Min Yoongi worked in Sam Yong Pa and his specialty was extortion. He knew how to get cash out of absolutely anyone and he didn’t always need to break kneecaps to do so. He wasn’t a goon because he had brains. He didn’t have the stature nor the weight to make him look threatening but there was something on his face that showed he wasn’t to be messed with, and as a result he often got the cash rather easily. Club owners, local pimps operating without gang connections, backstreet dens and abortion clinics, he had a list of clients that he liked to refer to as his ‘assets’. Yoongi just knew exactly what to say to make a person start sweating and though he had never personally experienced him working he had seen him bickering with other members of their gang that outranked him in years and height and every single one of them backed down when he opened his mouth. So Yoongi had taken him back to the den that night and the next day he had been an unofficial ‘member’ of Sam Yong Pa and not that long after he had started running messages and had since moved onto drugs.

 

It had been nearly six years since he had saved his ass off the streets and Yoongi still hadn’t asked him to pay him back for that first meal.

 

 

 

 

 

Jungkook hopped the board off the curb and jumped back down on it as it rolled along the wide road. With not a single car in sight he could afford to skate right down the centre of it for a moment, attracting a few stares from passing pedestrians as he did. Some looked amused by a teenager having a little stupid fun, others looked a little concerned that a vehicle might come flying around the corner and mow him down but Jungkook had been on this road enough times to know exactly when to anticipate traffic. At the junction at the end of the block he saw cars starting to roll along the adjacent road so he hastily swerved the board back onto the curb and carried on sailing down the pavement instead. He always stuck to the outer side so that no one could possibly complain about him being reckless, and no cops would pull him over for causing a disturbance. As it so happened he had only really had conversations with a single cop and he didn’t need to worry about getting arrested by him. No, he had somehow managed to win this young officer over without even needing to bribe him and that was a massive bonus.

 

A quick glance at a passing street sign showed him that he was getting closer to Jwadong-ro and he would likely be there in just a couple of minutes if he kept this pace up. So Jungkook kept his gaze straight ahead and he kicked off a few more times nice and hard so that he could go a little faster. The skateboard wheels clicked and rattled as they ran over little pebbles and cast-off cigarette sticks. On the slight breeze there came the distant drone of traffic from a highway that cut across the district and the occasional shop that he passed had music blaring out of it. Most of the small restaurants had folk songs playing and the clothing stores had idol music that sounded like someone had smacked a synthesiser a few times and repeated it over and over for three solid minutes. The air had the scent of grilling meat wafting from open windows and the tang of the ocean that was always present in Busan, particularly in the summer. Ah, the weather was warm but pleasant rather than oppressive, and he just knew that the majority of the population would be at Haeundae Beach or one of the countless parks enjoying small festival shows. Less trouble for him, he wouldn’t have to worry about packed streets in the smaller commercial areas.

 

When he finally saw found himself on Jwadong-ro he made sure to slow his pace down and scan the long stretch of street for the building that Seungyoon had mentioned: Buhongko high school. A small café, quaint, was supposed to be around it. It wasn’t the best description but he sighted one after a minute of skating and so he made a note to come back if he couldn’t find any others in the immediate vicinity of the high school. He couldn’t and so he completed his circuit of skating around the building and came to a stop at a bus stop just a few feet away from the café in question.

 

The sight across the road was the dirt yard that was used for gym classes and lesson breaks and it was currently empty. That was good, he didn’t want to attract the attentions of any kids that might look over and see someone that looks the right age to be skipping the last few days of school for a longer vacation. After studying the four floor brick and metal building he turned his attention back to the café. ‘Milk and Sugar’ it was called, colourful bubble font Hangul painted onto the glass windows and similar white and pink striped veranda hanging over the front of the store. Hmmm…quaint was the right word he supposed, if Seungyoon found pink things weird. Cute was the word that popped into his mind upon seeing it and maybe that what was the man had meant. He didn’t know, he could barely understand Seungyoon most of the time anyway.

 

“Quaint…cute, doesn’t really matter,” Jungkook muttered under his breath as he dragged his eyes away from the storefront. “All that matters is how nice the food tastes.” Maybe one day he would sample something, see if they had any food that could be taken away, but right now he needed to just wait for the drop. It would happen at exactly 11:30am. A glance at his watch: Michael Kors Channing in Gunmetal that was probably the most expensive item he possessed, showed him that it was 11:19am. The little gold finger ran smoothly and yet it seemed to go so slow to his eyes.

 

Eleven minutes to waste.

 

Jungkook placed his skateboard on his lap and he decided to tap his hands on it impatiently, as if it was a drum. He whistled to himself and stared at the empty street in front of him. After a minute or so a flood of traffic rolled down it and so he eyed cars without really paying attention to what models they were. The one that he was looking for was easy enough to spot: convertible top and rounded body, a sports car that wasn’t too flashy because it had been painted black instead of the standard cherry red. He had seen enough G2X cars to not mistake it for something else for he must collect bags from that model bimonthly at least, if not more often. So he just kept his eyes trained on the road in front of him to not look at all suspicious to anyone passing in their vehicles. At 11:23am a bus rolled up to the curb and stopped right in front of him and he saw a couple of people getting off. He got to his feet to help an elderly lady with a rather bulky trolley and she thanked him before staring at his face and asking why he wasn’t in school, so Jungkook gave her his best smile and lied about his high school finishing for the summer a few days early.

 

Why were old people so full of questions?

 

After the bus pulled away he eyed the spot that it had been in before wandering over to the check the schedule on the board. He didn’t want another bus pulling up at the stop just as his partners were dropping the goods for him. That would cause trouble. Luckily for him the next one wouldn’t arrive until 11:34am, giving him enough time to collect the bag and get out of the area if his partners showed up at the exact time. If not, well he guessed that the bus would be a minute or two late. It was a bus after all. So he sat back down and tried to not fidget too much.

 

When the car finally appeared at the end of the long stretch of road he dragged his eyes away from the traffic lights and instead just looked at the school. After a minute the lights changed and the next flow of traffic came down the road and he waited with bated breath. The black car drew closer and closer and then one of the men shifted to lean over the side of the open top and toss a bag onto the curb. It landed a few feet away from his sneakers and Jungkook stayed seated until the slew of vehicles stopped. Then he bent down to retrieve it and left the bus stop, shrugging it onto his back as he did. He dropped his board and skated onto the adjacent street before stopping at a bench. He sat down on it and opened the front compartment. To anyone passing on the street by vehicle or foot he would simply look like he was looking for something inside, his iPod or a bus card perhaps. He pulled the zip back and slipped the sheet of paper out to unfold it.

 

01) Sesil-ro: female client at a Starbucks. 11:35-12:00. DO NOT BE LATE!

 

Jungkook furrowed his brow and figured out the quickest way to get there from his current location. It would take roughly five minutes and as he folded the paper up and shoved it into his jeans pocket before jumping back onto his board and sailing down the street. When he got to Sesil-ro he saw a young lady already sitting at an outside table on her own and he gave her a quick sign to let her know that he was the runner: reaching up to fix his backpack straps. She didn’t show that she knew him and instead just moved slowly to collect her handbag and got to her feet with the Styrofoam container in hand. He carried skating until he reached a small alcove between two closed stores and he stopped and waited.

 

“Hey, it’s the kid again. Jung…something right?” she said as she stepped into the alley.

 

“Yeah, Jungkook,” he replied as he shrugged his backpack off. After a quick scan of her face, the large eyes and button nose and caramel brown dyed hair, and a name popped into his mind too. “Hani, right?”

 

“Yeah, that’s me.” She took a sip of the coffee and he unzipped the main compartment before sorting through the envelopes inside and finding the one with her name emblazoned on it in thick black ink, a small order number underneath.

 

“See any cops in the area today?” Jungkook asked as he pulled it out and held it out to her. He recalled that Hani wasn’t actually a user but that she worked in a gambling den and she picked orders up for extra cash. He had to learn a little about the clients he was going to meet just to ensure that he would have no trouble from them. He had yet to have a client pull a blade on him and threaten him for their goods and he counted himself very lucky in that regard.

 

“No, the only cop I saw was on the way here. I was on a bus,” she explained as she opened her own handbag with her free hand and started rooting through it, “passing Songnim Park. Plenty of cruisers driving around but only one beat cop.”

 

“Oh, I know who that’ll be.”

 

“He work for you guys?” Hani pulled her own envelope free and shook it at him so he took it from her and shoved it into the backpack. He explained that he didn’t but he knew the officer very well as she accepted the envelope of goods and stashed it back inside her handbag. “There’s about…10 million in there I think. Boss is paying back interest on something, I don’t know he didn’t tell me, just told me to mention interest.”

 

“My boss will know what that means,” Jungkook said as he pulled his list out and scanned it for the next location.

 

“Careful, beat cops or no beat cops you don’t want a cruiser pulling you over.”

 

“Don’t worry, I’ve been doing this for years,” he retorted with a grin and the woman exited the alcove and started walking down the street. Jungkook stayed back in the alley, making sure to count to a hundred before emerging to not arouse any suspicion.

 

02) Yangun-ro: male client with facial hair parked at gas station in a silver Honda NSX. 11:50-12:30pm. BE CAREFUL OF CCTV IN AREA.

 

Jungkook sighed as he shoved the list back into his pocket and he jumped his board and headed off down Sesil-ro in the direction of his next drop point. There were fifteen clients on his list today and the hours stretched from 11:40am all of the way to 6pm. That was a large window and he knew that he could make all of the locations well within the time frame. The trouble was counting on the clients to not run late on him and behave in a fashion that didn’t alert attention.

 

The gas station drop proved more simpler than expected because the man that he was passing goods to was smarter than the usual client. He had slowed down when he had started drawing close to the station, languidly rolling down the length of the street and the silver car had pulled out of the lot and overtook him. So he had discreetly followed him down to an empty street and the man had unrolled a window and left his arm on clear view out of it. So Jungkook had collected his own envelope out of his backpack and when he skated past they quickly exchanged envelopes and he carried on down to the end of the street without needing to stop. Really smart, he had to hand it to the man he made his job a hell of a lot easier. His seventh drop took him to Dongbaek-ro but he was a whole half an hour ahead of the time schedule and he couldn’t just wait around for the client to show. He knew that man from a few drops and he knew that he was always late and caused him grief so he decided that he could take a little break. It was 3:15pm and he just knew that a certain officer would still be patrolling the area around Songnim Park. So Jungkook sailed down the streets, backpack considerably lighter than it had been when he had collected it, and within ten minutes of constant skating he caught sight of the sprawling park drawing close: the unmistakable sight of the banks of trees.

 

Not too far from the entrance of the park there was a small kiosk that sold coffee and small snacks, cigarettes and newspapers, and he could see the police officer sitting at the end stool like usual. This was probably the third time he had visited the kiosk for he had bumped into him at earlier hours in the past. The last few times he had seen him the young officer had been walking the area rather than sitting still but right now he was taking a break.

 

“Officer Kim, keeping the streets safe one coffee at a time~” Jungkook called out and the man shifted on the stool to look at him.

 

“Oh look who it is,” Kim said as he folded his arms on the counter of the kiosk. “It’s the tardiest hooligan in the whole of Busan. Ditching once again I see.”

 

“Ditch? That’s a good one man, a real good one.” Jungkook kicked his board up into his palm by standing down hard on the back, the wood hitting his palm hard. He tucked it into his elbow for safekeeping and shoved his hands into his jeans pockets. “To ditch you’ve gotta be going to school in the first place, right?”

 

“Yeah kid, I guess you do.” The officer picked his Styrofoam container up and took a small sip, still twisted on the stool to look at him. Jungkook felt the strongest urge to scuff his sneaker on the curb and he managed to suppress it.

 

To say that he and Officer Kim were friends wasn’t exactly the truth. The word carried heavier connotations than what described their situation. Perhaps it was better to say that they were mutually acquainted. Jungkook had no doubts about the fact that the officer knew that he was doing something illegal because he couldn’t possibly have gotten away with his behaviour if he didn’t. Tardiness was enough to see him get dragged to a high school - not that he actually had one that he went to of course, but that wasn’t the point - and it certainly resulted in a bag search for sure. Yet for the past five months he had seen the man on a nearly daily basis and despite the fact he was obviously not in school the officer hadn’t once called him in over it. Which was good because a bag check would see him get in so much trouble: envelopes of cash and marijuana, maybe even cocaine or heroin hidden away under the pretenses of him thinking that it was just marijuana. He had yet to end up in a correctional facility but he had heard enough about them to know that he very much wanted to avoid them. He didn’t need bible study and Pilates and the occasional smack on the hand with a ruler to learn how to be a good boy. He just needed to not get arrested and that was good enough for him.

 

Jungkook often found that he didn’t think Kim looked like a cop at all. The young man didn’t have a hard face, didn’t give off an air that made him seem threatening, but he was authoritative enough. He spoke in a way that hinted at intelligence but also a little something like compassion, something that Jungkook had always been told that the police greatly lacked. He wouldn’t go as far as to claim that he was a ‘good guy’ or even a ‘nice guy’ but he would admit that Kim was ‘alright’ and that was good enough for him. He knew that a great deal of people would probably call Yoongi a piece of shit, say that he was the most meanest bastard in the entirety of Busan and yet to him he was an older brother: supportive and funny and not at all mean except in a light teasing manner. He wasn’t stupid, he understood that people had more than one side to them and he just happened to be on the officer’s good side for now. Maybe in the future he would see if he really was a good guy or if it was just a nice mask that he wore when he wasn’t feeling particularly righteous.

 

“Pull a seat up kid.”

 

“You know, I read somewhere that only baby goats are called kids,” Jungkook retorted as he fixed his backpack straps and moved to sit at one of the stools. Not the one right beside him of course, he kept one empty just to not get too close. The police officer shook his head at this but his lips lifted in a smile. Nice smile, real friendly. Seungyoon had a friendly smile too and he had seen him stab a guy in the eye with a chopstick once. A smile didn’t mean shit.

 

“You clearly didn’t read it in school.” Officer Kim’s accent wasn’t from Busan but clearly from Seoul: educated, no slurring or clipping of consonants. He had dark hair cut short on the sides of keep it regulation and it matched very well with his tanned skin. Unlike his eyes - deer eyes as Yoongi would joke - the officer had thin eyes that were likely described as crescent shaped. Slight nose too. Jungkook’s features were more prominent and somewhat immature, Kim’s were softer and more matured.

 

“I did go to school at one point,” he replied with a grin.

 

“Yeah, and I went to the moon at one point too.” The man gestured at the owner of the kiosk and the lady turned around to start messing with a instant coffee machine, a tall box machine with little buttons to press. “So what’s the baby goat’s name then?”

 

“…Jungkook,” he said, feeling no need to lie to the officer after everything. It wasn’t like him knowing his first name would change anything. After all it had been nearly a half a year and he hated getting called kid. “What’s your name, officer?”

 

“You know my name, it’s on my shirt.” Kim gestured to his light grey NPA uniform shirt: at the silver badge pinned to the left breast pocket. Jungkook turned his head to look at him dryly and the man raised an eyebrow at the expression on his face. The owner of the kiosk placed a small container of coffee down in front of him and he looked down to see that it was a milky mixture: a latte. “Fine, stop giving me that look and I’ll tell you.” Jungkook cocked an elbow on the counter and studied him as the officer took another sip. “Namjoon.”

 

“I never thought that I’d know a cop on a first name basis,” Jungkook said with a grin, and Namjoon corrected him by saying that he was an officer and not a cop. “Uh-huh and I’m not a baby goat.” He lifted the container up and took a sip of the coffee, the liquid still hot enough to burn his tongue. Yes, a latte with caramel added to it that reminded him of Hani’s hair.

 

“You go on and on like one,” the officer remarked as finished drinking his coffee and shifted to slip his wallet free of his work trousers. He flipped it open and Jungkook eyed the worn leather as he pulled a note out and placed it down on the counter. The lady accepted it and a moment later she was handing him a couple of coins in change. “You’d make a good politician.” Jungkook snorted at the joke. “Maybe a lawyer.”

 

“You know lots of crooked politicians and lawyer?”

 

“No, since when have you been crooked?” Jungkook didn’t reply to this question and instead he just took another sip of the latte: the free latte that the officer had bought him even when he had no need to do so. “Just stay outta trouble kid.”

 

“Sure thing cop,” he replied with a wink as the officer got to his feet, wallet shoved into his back pocket securely once more. Wasn’t a good idea to carry it there where it could get picked but he doubted that anyone would attempt to steal off a beat cop on duty. That was stupid even for lowest of lowlifes in Busan. He shifted to watch him start walking down the street and then he turned back to the lady behind the counter. She was in the act of wiping up a slight dribble of coffee from the machine and she looked at him. Pretty but in a mature way, maybe in her thirties with her long hair pulled back into a bun so a few wispy pieces fell forward.

 

“One day you’ll buy your own coffee,” she said with a soft smile. “Or at least say thank you to him.”

 

“I’m thankful,” Jungkook said as he fixed his backpack and got off the stool too, stretching his legs. “I’m thankful everyday that he doesn’t arrest me.”

 

 

 

 

 

As he had assumed client number seven was late by ten minutes and he spent the time standing on Dongbaek-ro before deciding to sit down on a bench by a pizzeria. When the man finally showed up he was visibly drunk and seemed to find no problem with trying to drop the goods and cash right in the middle of the street so he had needed to drag him down a side street and chastise him angrily. He had had some stupid clients in the past, usually first-timers that didn’t want to cause a scene and accidentally drew too much attention to themselves when trying to be discreet, but this was something new. He had worked with the man in the past and he couldn’t believe that he would be stupid enough to show up in a state like this.

 

“Yeah man I know, I know, I just had a tough day, y’know?” Jungkook eyed him wearily as he pulled the envelope out: Hongsuk. Ah, here was the coke that Seungyoon had lied about not being in the bag. The envelope was marked clearly enough with the dosage amounts for cocaine and not marijuana, marked clearly enough for him to know that there was going to be a lot of cash been shoved into his hands in a moment. “Girl left me…again.”

 

“I mean it, next time if you show up wasted I’ll cut the deal. It’s too dangerous. I’ll take the shit off my boss if it means I don’t get my ass arrested.”

 

“Sure thing man, sure thing I won’t do it again.” Hongsuk smiled at him and one of his eyes twitched. Jungkook studied his disheveled appearance before reaching out to accept the envelope off him. Then he shoved the other one in the man’s hands and he watched him tuck it down the back of his jeans and pull his tee over it to hide it out of sight. Then he was exiting the side street at a very quick pace so he slipped his list out and scanned the next drop location.

 

Gunnam-ro. Then Jungdong 1-ro. Then Jwadongsunhwan-ro. It was client number ten that saw him have to backtrack all of the way down to Dongbaek-ro again. It was enough to make him sigh in annoyance but he was nearly done and he had enough time to make it there. As soon as he was done he could go all the way back to the den and rest his aching body and hopefully Yoongi would be back with the ramyun that he owed him. That way he could eat all three bowls and then sleep in an actual bed rather than on a broken settee. He was so distracted by his own thoughts that when he caught sight of someone loitering around the area he was jolted back to reality and so he kicked off his board and caught it in his hand. He had never seen people hanging around on this area because it was a wide open road that eventually led onto a main highway to get into Suyeong-gu. There were no bus stops in sight and the person, a young male, was hanging around not too far from where he was to drop his goods: a small cul-de-sac parking lot. Jungkook carried his board in the crook of his elbow and he walked the last stretch of sidewalk and that was when the male shifted to look at him.

 

“What’s a Sam Yong Pa punk doing around here, huh?” the kid announced as he cut in front of him, hands shoved into his pockets and head held up to look at him. He had to hold his head up because he was a couple of inches shorter than him but Jungkook saw that this made him more spunkier, more upfront. He thought that it was pretty stupid that this kid - who looked all of nineteen maybe - was blocking his way like this and he was too surprised by the fact he knew that he was a gang member than mad about this inconvenience.

 

Dongbaek-ro was their territory. What was this kid talking about?

 

Jungkook stopped dumbly in front of him and stared at him. His hair was a rather bright red shade that demanded attention, messy and combed back off his brow in a way that looked to need to be annoyingly pushed back by his fingers every now and again. It stood out drastically against his clothing: white vest and black fitted jeans. He had been wearing a jacket at some point but he had knotted it around his waist in the heat of the day, a checked one that was the same red as his hair. There was a black backpack swinging in the grip of his right hand rather than on his shoulders. Jungkook eyed his hand to see a tattoo on the webbing between his thumb and forefinger: black and simple but loud enough to his eyes. Oh boy, he hadn’t just ran into a stupid kid, he had ran right into a runner for Geum Sung Pa. There was no doubting it because there was another star on his inner arm too just like where Yoongi’s dragon was. It was the outline of a star and he could see initials in it: KTH PJM.

 

“Look I’m just trying to drop some goods off,” Jungkook said as he shifted to fix his backpack. “I’m not a Sam Yong Pa punk, I’m just doing my job.”

 

“Maybe I’m doing a job too?” He studied his face to see that he was passably attractive in a way that he expected to see him on one of the stupid idol MVs that played on the billboards near the centre of the district. The kid had almond eyes and a delicate little nose with a point to it, pouted mouth that looked a little spoilt to his eyes. He looked the kind to throw a tantrum if he didn’t get his way, Jungkook was sure of it.

 

“Oh yeah? Then go do it and let me do mine-”

 

“Whoa whoa hang on,” the kid’s hand went up and he walked right into it, hand slamming into his upper chest. Jungkook took a step back and sighed heavily under his breath. “You’re just gonna walk away?”

 

“I’m not a goon, I’m a runner. You are too I can tell looking at the bag,” Jungkook said and the kid looked down at his own bag and then back up at him. After a few seconds of silence he shifted to look over at the road, reaching up to rake his fingers through his hair like he had imagined. There gave him another flash of a tattoo behind his right ear, a gold star with black details to create a 3D shape to it. “If you wanna fight then we can fight but to be honest, I’d rather just drop the goods and leave. Call me a fucking pussy I don’t care.”

 

“…Nah man, you’re not a pussy.” The boy moved out of his way and waved him off. “I just wanted to make sure you weren’t gonna jump my ass.”

 

“I’ll pass.”

 

“Good, my friend would kill you if you tried it.”

 

“Yeah? I don’t see your friend here right now,” Jungkook remarked as he made a show of scanning the road in front of them. He was thinking that this kid’s friend might just kick his ass but he would stand no chance against Yoongi. His friend would break both of his kneecaps just for looking at him the wrong way. He expected the kid to get pissed and start bragging but he just laughed at the theatrics and flashed him the middle finger.

 

“Fuck off punk, go drop your shit and get outta here.”

 

“Nice meeting you too dickface.”

 

Jungkook jumped back on his board and skated down the street to the parking lot, ducking under the low barricade so he could carry on up the slight ramp. His client pulled up to the curb a few minutes later on a motorbike and she drove right up onto the curb so that they could exchange envelopes without her needing to kill the engine, her face hidden under the helmet. She slipped it away inside her leather jacket and then flashed him a thumbs up and he watched her go before checking his list. Cheongsapo-ro. Great, another long skate to reach that road. He ducked back under the barricade and looked down the street to see that Geum Sung Pa kid still hanging around and he laughed to himself as he jumped on his board and headed to his next destination.

 

 

 

 

 

The den was practically empty when he entered it again at exactly 5:31pm and he wasn’t at all surprised. Today was Friday and it would be prime time for most the members to be hitting up clubs and getting new clients, looking around for any prostitutes in need of a pimp, causing mayhem pretty much all over the district if they could help it. Seungyoon was nowhere in sight but he found Jaebum chilling in the back room playing poker with a couple of goons and a few very attractive young women that were probably prostitutes but he wasn’t entirely sure. Judging from the clothing on the floor one of them had to be an officer worker but sitting there in her pink lacy underwear it was hard to tell.

 

“Yoongi here?”

 

“Yeah kid, crashed and burned about two hours ago,” the man replied, free of his own shirt and vest but not his tie for some reason. His fighting dragons tattoo was finally on clear display for once rather than hidden out of sight. “You drop all of the shit off?”

 

“Yeah, got the cash here.” Jungkook crossed the room and shoved the backpack in a safe built into the wall just beside the doorway. “When you see Seungyoon tell him that I’m pretty sure all the clients paid up but Hani said something about added interest and Hongsuk was fucking drunk and I don’t trust him to not get my ass busted.”

 

“Uh-huh, sure got it.” He stared at the man and saw that his words had probably went right over his head. The current hand of cards were placed down and ample squealing resulted from it and he crossed the room and went up the stairs before more clothing could be thrown at his feet. He didn’t bother knocking and instead just opened the door and walked right in to hear the sound of snoring coming from somewhere in the room. After a moment he located it in the bathroom and he stuck his head in to see Yoongi slumped on the floor beside the tub, dressed in his underwear but with his hair still damp and a towel around his neck.

 

Jungkook went over and bent down to shake his shoulder roughly and his friend woke up and mumbled nonsense at him. It took him a few attempts to grab his upper arm and pull him to his feet but he managed to succeed and he dragged him into the other section of the room and over to the bed.

 

“Shit…” Yoongi reached up to rub at his eyes with the heels of his hands as he sat down on the edge of the bed, the mattress creaking as he did. “One minute I’m putting underwear on and the next…fucking unconscious.”

 

“Three days of constant work will do that to you,” Jungkook retorted as he scanned the room to locate a plastic store bag on the tiny kitchen counter area across the room. He went over and opened it and pulled stuff out: bowls of instant noodles, packets of vegetables and rice balls. “Did you buy anything that has nutrition at all?”

 

“Fuck nutrition,” Yoongi muttered as he heard him shifting to retrieve his jeans off the floor. He rooted around in them whilst he filled a kettle with water and plugged it into the wall. Then his friend was lighting a cigarette as he tore the tops off the bowls of noodles. Nongshim, four bowls in total. He was owed three of those but he would happily give all four to Yoongi if it meant that he would eat them.

 

“Interesting life motto…” Jungkook got glasses out of the cupboard over the tiny sink and filled them with water. After a moment of waiting the kettle finishing heating the water with a series of loud whistles. He poured the scorching hot water into the bowls and then carried them over to the small coffee table that served as a dining table. “Food.”

 

“Fuck you too.” Yoongi got to his feet and wandered over to sit at the adjacent side to him, towel still around his neck rather than on the bathroom floor for once. Jungkook stabbed at the nest of noodles to try and make them break up and cook quicker and his friend just puffed away on his cigarette and stared at the murky contents in front of him.

 

“When’re you gonna get that purple shit outta your hair, huh?” he asked as he slipped his cigarette free with one hand and gestured at his own damp hair with the other. He squinted at him through a mouthful of smoke.

 

“Never, seen as you hate it so much,” Jungkook retorted with a grin, accepting the cigarette off him and taking a pull on it. “When are you gonna dye your hair? Or will it stay as black as your soul?”

 

“Don’t have a soul, kid.”

 

“No, of course you don’t.” Jungkook took another deep pull and then Yoongi was plucking the stick out of his fingers and sticking it back between his lips, settling back down without the comfort of seat cushions. “You know, you’d look cool as a blond?”

 

“Yeah, I’d look like one of those hookers I see every time I need to go to Lee’s Strip Joint ‘cos the pervert’s behind on tributes.” His friend smirked and a dab of ash fell down from the end of the stick and landed on his lap so he hastily brushed it off.

 

“Tributes? That’s a poetic word for blackmail.”

 

“I’m a fucking poet kid,” Yoongi finally picked up his chopsticks and tapped them together between his fingers.

 

Over the course of the small meal - that was likely one of the few things his friend had eaten in the last three days - Jungkook thought about telling him about the run-in with the kid back down on Dongbaek-ro. Was it important enough to tell him that a runner for the Geum Sung Pa had been encroaching on their territory when he should have only been in Suyeong-gu? If he did would it cause a lot of trouble? It wasn’t like the kid had done anything bad to him, hadn’t beaten him up or anything like that. He had just made a joking threat and nothing more, so should he really cause trouble over it? He eventually decided not to because his friend looked too tired to possibly make him worry over something like that: something minor and a total non-issue. So he just ate his meal and got a quick shower before deciding that sleeping at 7pm sounded like heaven to him. His friend was already ahead of him for when he stepped out of the bathroom Yoongi was already lying on their joint bed staring up at the ceiling as if it were as interesting as a TV screen.

 

“I’m thinking of getting a new tattoo,” Yoongi said as he sat down on the bed and shifted to lie down on the other side. Jungkook folded his arm under his head and managed to get a lot more comfortable than he could on the broken settee.

 

“By the time you’re finished with these things you’ll look like a walking art gallery…” Jungkook remarked as he ran a finger down Yoongi’s bare upper arm, fingertip tracing the swirling bank of clouds on his shoulder and down the distant jag of mountain until he was right down to the dragon in the crease of his elbow. He gently ran it along the spine of the green creature and followed the curve of the tail. His friend made a soft noise and twisted his head to watch him do this. “You hide them away all day too.”

 

“That’s ‘cos I don’t want people staring,” Yoongi explained as he moved his exploring finger down to his forearm, down past the waves of water to the boat caught bobbing in the current. He stopped the descent when he reached the anchor on his inner wrist. Jungkook knew that the work that had went into this tattoo was monumental: near Mona Lisa levels of effort and pain but there was a major difference. His friend looked a hell of a lot more cooler than that stupid piece of art.

 

“In any other country this would be normal, you know? You’d be able to show them off and no one would know that you were in a gang. No one would see that dragon and think “shit, he’s one of those Sam Yong Pa motherfuckers,” and you wouldn’t need to hide them away.”

 

“Maybe I like people thinking that when they see me?” Yoongi retorted. “Makes ‘em move outta the way and not ask me stupid questions.” Jungkook thought this over for a moment and then his friend was shifting to look at him more clearly, rather than just stare at the top of his head. “Hey kid, you’re gonna need one of these when you hit eighteen too. Don’t think you’ll get out ‘cos you’re like the gang mascot.”

 

“Can’t I wear a mascot uniform instead?”

 

“Nah, you need ink to show you belong to the gang: to the family.” Yoongi reached down to take his hand and he turned it over so that he could circle his inner wrist. The contact was slightly ticklish. “Something small at first, not like your nose-”

 

“Ha-ha.”

 

“But you need a dragon. Maybe you should get a baby one? Hatching outta an egg.”

 

“Yeah, that really looks like a gang tattoo. Real menacing.”

 

“What’s it that Seungyoon would say? Quaint. That stupid fucker says that about everything. I should buy him a dictionary.”

 

“What’s the next piece, huh?” Jungkook asked as he lifted his head to study his friend’s face. He thought this over for a moment before the corners of his lips lifted up. “What?”

 

“Our initials.”

 

“…What?” Jungkook repeated again, smirking at him because he thought that his friend was just pulling another joke on him like always. “What’d you mean our initials?”

 

“I mean I’m gonna think of a badass tattoo with our initials in. What, you falling asleep on me or something?”

 

“No, it’s just…it’s not a dragon or anything like that.”

 

“JJK and MYG somewhere on my body,” Yoongi continued talking, voice and expression serious in a way that made him want him to laugh but he had a strange feeling that he really wasn’t pulling a joke on him right now. “I’m thinking my chest, right over my heart. But something badass y’know? Not like a fucking pink heart or anything like that. Something badass.”

 

“I heard you the first three times you said badass…”

 

“No one’s gonna see it there. It’ll be a little secret. Not like this,” Yoongi lifted his arm and looked at it, at the colourful sleeve of ink all over his skin. “People won’t stare at it and think…look at that piece of shit hoodlum with shit for brains.” Jungkook looked at his arm and then back up to his face. Was there something like melancholy on it? It was hard to tell in the dim light of the streetlights coming in from the window across the apartment room. “Is that weird?” Jungkook asked him what he meant by the question and his friend lowered his arm back onto the bed. “Is it weird that I don’t want people seeing something like that? Just a couple of letters on my skin but it feels like…like something more important than that.”

 

“You’re wearing your heart on your sleeve,” Jungkook said after a moment of thought, eyes starting to close on him because he was so tired. Yoongi made a soft noise under his breath at this as he slowly sank down into blackness and the last thing he heard was him softly speaking.

 

“More like on my skin.”