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Take Me Home

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“I swear I’ll be fine, hyung,” Taehyung whines exasperatedly as Hoseok hovers. He just wants to walk home, get some fresh air. Today was a hard day, he should be able to take a relaxing stroll after dance practice if he wanted to.

But, no. Hoseok had to steal his backpack from him and run to the opposite end of the room, pouting about how dangerous it would be if he let him walk alone like that. Taehyung had argued that his apartment was literally maybe a ten minute walk from here but the older wasn’t having any of it.

“I have a perfectly good car, Taehyung. I can drive you home and you can stick your head out the window if you want some air,” the older swings Taehyung’s backpack onto his own shoulders and starts to make his way towards the door with it. Heading for his car, presumably.

Taehyung whines like a four year old, stomping his foot and pouting. “Hoseok hyung!”

His dance teacher stops in the door way, letting out a groan of his own and tipping his head back in defeat. Slowly he lets the bag drop from his shoulders, making his way over to Taehyung and placing it on him carefully, giving him a look.

“J- Just be careful, okay?” Hoseok bites his lip, pushing Taehyung’s slightly damp hair away from his eyes gently. “Don’t get distracted and go straight home, alright?”

Taehyung sighs and tries to hide his eye roll but the older just frowns. “Don’t be mad, Taehyungie. Hyung just worries.”

And Taehyung knows he just worries but so does every god damn friend Taehyung has. Why doesn’t anyone believe him when he says he can do stuff on his own?

Taehyung grasps Hoseok’s hand and pulls it away from his face, holding it in his when he looks up at the older with an apologetic smile. “I promise I’ll be okay, hyung. It’s just a short walk.”

Finally, the older allows him to leave after making sure his phone had a significant amount of battery left and his shoes were tied tightly. Taehyung shoos him away once he’s walked four feet from the dance studio only to find Hoseok stalking him with his car. The older frowns and makes a phone gesture with his hand, reminding him to call him once he gets home safely and then he’s off, making a u-turn and taking the high-way home.

Taehyung takes a deep breath through his nose, allowing his pace to slow and his eyes to droop closed.

Finally, alone.

Taehyung wouldn’t have given his dance teacher such a hard time if he didn’t truly need this. He likes Hoseok and even considers him one of his closest friends, but Taehyung went through two failed quizzes, his math teacher telling him he doesn’t try hard enough, and a volleyball to his face during phys ed. He just wanted to walk home alone in the dark, breathe in the night air and think about how unfair life was.

He’d been counting on dance practice to act as some sort of happy distraction from his crappy day but it had taken him longer than usual to get a hang of the choreo and he kept messing up the steps; meanwhile everyone else was catching on perfectly fine, which only proved to sour his mood even further.

Taehyung takes short, slow steps, tipping his head back and trying to make out the slight shadow of stars amongst the haze of city lights, but to no avail.

He chews his lip and tries not to think about how this is strongly coming out to be the worst day of his life. Tries not to cry.

Just when Taehyung was imagining his math teacher’s voice saying he how stupid he was and that he didn’t apply himself with a scowl pointed at the cracking side-walk, he heard light footsteps.

If it wasn’t 10 o’clock at night and the streets weren’t otherwise completely empty, this wouldn’t worry him as much. But it’s been the better part of about 7 minutes and the footsteps are only getting closer, Taehyung’s gut dropping lower. His instincts had his heart in a wild disarray and he could feel his breath coming in short, panicky spurts.

Taehyung turns a corner - practically speed walking at this point - and takes a peek behind him, startling when he finds the stranger staring back at him. A greasy smile curving his lips and not even 10 feet behind him.

Taehyung lets out a strangled sound at the leering look and starts sprinting, feeling for the phone in his pocket.

Heavy foot steps pound after him and Taehyung realizes belatedly that he’s shaking all over, hands taking forever to get a hold on his phone. When he finally gets it out of his pocket he’s panting and clutching it to his chest, scrambling and looking around for a place to hide.

“Oi!”

Taehyung lets out a squeak as the man appears before him, wide-eyed as he grabs for his arm. Taehyung stumbles back, losing his footing and tripping. He lands on his back, the air punched out of him, but he quickly rolls to his feet again, backing away from the advancing man with his arms out. Not that he knew any sort of martial arts.

The man was clearly drunk, slow in his movements and a wild look in his dilated eyes.

“You’re a pretty little thing, aren’t ya?” He grins, his teeth yellow and big, like fangs.
Taehyung pushes away the small part of him that kind of just wants to curl up and let the man take him, give up because he’s a useless piece of shit anyway, right?

But a larger part of him wanted to run away, wanted to call Hoseok and cry about how right he was, about how he really couldn’t do anything on his own.

Taehyung lunges forward and pushes hard at the taller man’s shoulders, darting across the street before the man could retaliate and making his way breathlessly to a phone booth he’d remembered spotting the other day.

He can hear the foot steps echoing behind him like thunder. He gets to the phone booth and almost cries out in relief when he realizes that it locks, slams the door shut and slides the lock in place.

The man stands before the phone booth, glaring at Taehyung and yanking at the door handle.

Taehyung wants to grip the door handle in case the lock failed him but at the same time he wants to be as far away from the threatening stranger as he could be. He burrows down into the farthest corner of the booth, shaking as the man starts to pound against the glass, bellowing out insults.

His vision was blurring and he felt wetness against his cheeks, but he knew he had to call Hoseok. The older was never going to let Taehyung do anything ever in his life again, and somehow the thought of that made the tears flow even more than the man calling him a slut on the other side of a thin glass door.

Taehyung dials the numbers shakily, hardly looking at his phone in favor of keeping a panicking eye on the splinter that is appearing under the man’s persistent fists.

Taehyung waits through three rings before the line clicks and Hoseok answers.

Hoseok,” Taehyung practically cries his name.

“Hello?” He answers groggily. He sounds weird but Taehyung doesn’t stop to think about it, just explains in a shaky rush.

“I was walking straight home like you told me but a man started following me and now I’m stuck on James street in a phone booth.”

“Um.” Taehyung lets out strangled cry when the crack splinters further under the man’s now bleeding fists, shivering when he grins wickedly at his victim and starts kicking at the walls too, putting in all his might behind every blow. “W - What’s that sound? What’s going on?”

“Hoseok, help.” Taehyung sobs, tucking his face into his wobbly knees, not wanting to look at the man’s leering gaze anymore.

“I -I’m not Hoseok, my name is Jeongguk.” But Taehyung’s done listening, curling up in a ball and trying to suppress his shivers as blow after blow rattles his body.

“Help, help, please help me, oh god.” There’s what sounds like panicked breathing through the phone, rustling as if the man was throwing a coat on and rushing around.

“You said James street, right? I’ll be right there, stay with me.” And Taehyung just nods, swallowing and clutching the phone closer to his ear, listening to the breathing of the other in favor of the chanting stream of drunken jeers being screamed at him.

Taehyung waits for what seemed like forever, listening and replying whenever the man on the other side of the phone asks him if he’s still okay. He realized somewhere between the third and second shaky reassurance that he hadn’t called Hoseok - probably dialed the wrong number in his haste - but he knows someone is coming and he takes comfort in that.

After what felt like hours a man comes sprinting down the road, screaming out a deep and angry, “Hey!” and Taehyung hears it both through the speaker of his phone and from up the street. Sees it in the way the man’s eyes widen and he hesitates in his next punch, glancing up at the sound.

Taehyung holds his breath as the man continues to back away, face contorting into an expression of complete and utter fear as the apparently threatening figure makes his way towards them.

“O -Oh my god,” Taehyung whispers to himself, hearing the other line rustle as the tall, dark figure stuffs his phone into his pocket and grabs the stunned drunk man by his rumpled shirt front before he can scramble away even further, lifting him to his face.

“Let go of me, asshole,” the man growls, trying to gain some semblance of confidence but even Taehyung could see how his knees wobbled and his face went ashen.

His rescuer cocks an eyebrow, lips set in an angry and unamused line. “I’m an asshole?” He lets out a cold laugh but grunts and yanks the man closer when he tries in vain to pull away, a terrified look in his eyes. Even Taehyung feels a shiver wrack through his limp figure, becoming apprehensive at the coldness in the boy’s tone. It was completely different from how he was talking on the phone, voice filled with worry and reassurance.

“Get the fuck out of here.” It’s quiet, threatening.

Before the drunkard can nod and stumble away - the fear of god in his eyes - his rescuer glances at Taehyung, huddled on the floor and shaking like a leaf, cheeks pale and stained with long-fallen tracks of tears, probably looking as much as a pathetic being as he felt.

He re-grips the man’s shirt and looks back at him with nothing short of disgust, his features shadowed in anger. “Actually, I changed my mind.”

And then his elbow was rearing back and his fist was flying, hitting his assaulter square in the nose. Taehyung watches as the man immediately crumples to the ground, body going limp at the force of the swing.

The black haired boy drops the unconscious man hurriedly, scrambling to open the door of the phone booth only to realize that it was locked. His mouth opens, as if to ask Taehyung to open it, but he hesitates when he sees him, his lips quivering and shrinking back.

“Y -You’re not Hoseok,” is what ends up coming out of Taehyung, and that’s so completely stupid cause he knew that but he didn’t think about it and now he’s panicking again.

The boy crouches down slowly, looking Taehyung in the eyes. “I know, I- I think you called me on mistake, but I- um,” he gestures behind him weakly, not breaking eye contact, “I live on this street, so I figured I’d come.”

And then he smiles and Taehyung’s walls come crashing down because god he’s had such a long day and this man isn’t Hoseok but he just came and saved a complete stranger and now he’s smiling sweetly and talking in a low and comforting voice and Taehyung just wants to curl up in it and sleep forever.

“My name’s Jeongguk,” he says, biting at his lip and sitting, as if he was prepared to settle down in the middle of a sidewalk and talk to Taehyung all night long if he had to, reassuring him until he felt comfortable enough to unlock the door and come out.

But Taehyung is already sick of the cold and probably germ ridden floor of the phone booth and all he wants to do is get out and go home.

“T -Taehyung,” he replies, wincing at the croak of his voice, but looking down when his phone goes off.

Hoseok.

Taehyung sends a quick message, asking him to meet him at his apartment. He doesn’t feel like sleeping alone tonight.

He stuffs his phone into his pocket and feels like crying all over again when he sees Jeongguk staring at him in pity. It makes sense, he feels pitiful.

He crawls to the front of the booth and reaches up to slide the lock free and then hesitates.

Jeongguk looks at him uncertainly and Taehyung feels his stomach twist at how easily he’d gone from cold and intimidating to looking at Taehyung like the only thing he wanted to do in life was to reassure him and bring him home and Taehyung finds himself yanking open the door, wanting with every fiber of his being to let him.

He falls forward, burrowing into the mans neck and hating the way a sob rips through his throat, hating the way his hands curl into the thin cotton of Jeongguk’s t-shirt like he’s desperate. But he is, oh god he’s so desperate. He just wants to go home dammit.

Jeongguk’s arms come up too, wrapping around Taehyung’s quivering shoulders and Taehyung can feel the pound of his heart beat against his lips.

He’s never met this man before but the way his hands stroke down his back and his voice murmurs soothingly into his hair, the way he pulls Taehyung in close until he’s practically in his lap, tangling their limbs together, just makes Taehyung sob even harder ‘cause he feels like absolute shit but this man feels like the human embodiment of a shelter and just so damn good.

Eventually, Jeongguk pulls his arms away and Taehyung doesn’t even flinch when a whimper leaks out of him at the loss of warmth - he’s already at his lowest, might as well whimper now too - but Jeongguk rushes to explain.

“Coat,” he mumbles, and Taehyung realizes he’d taken his jacket off and is now draping it across Taehyung’s own back, urging him to put his arms through the holes.

Taehyung does and then Jeongguk zips it up, looking satisfied. He glides a hand down Taehyung’s back comfortingly when he falls back into his chest, refusing to let go.

“I’ll take you home,” he murmurs softly.

Taehyung barely registers Jeongguk’s phone call to the police, but he does very much notice when the boy gently grips the tops of his shoulders and snakes an arm beneath his knees, lifting Taehyung and walking away from the broken and blood smeared phone booth, and the incapacitated drunkard.

Taehyung’s stopped crying now and he mostly just keeps his face stuffed into the man’s collarbone out of embarrassment - and because he likes the warmth of his skin, takes comfort in the smell of his clothes, but he wouldn’t admit that to himself.

“Where do you live?” He says softly. Everything he says is voiced so soothingly, soft and low and Taehyung finds himself burrowing into him impossibly closer, gripping at his t-shirt.

“The apartment complex,” Taehyung croaks but its drowned out by the squeal of tires as a familiar truck comes racing up the road, only to slam to a stop as it goes past them.

Taehyung groans and grips at Jeongguk’s neck, feeling the boy’s muscles stiffen as Hoseok comes stumbling out, running towards them.

“’s my friend,” Taehyung mumbles, but Jeongguk only relaxes slightly, curling a protective hand around his nape.

“Shit Tae, are you okay?” Hoseok approaches them, not even glancing at Jeongguk.

Taehyung reluctantly lifts his head and meets Hoseok’s eyes, feeling like crying again because he’s looking at him with such a profound distraught look, and now he feels like shit all over again.

He didn’t have to make Hoseok worry, he could’ve just taken the ride and wallowed on his couch instead. None of this would’ve happened if he’d just listened.

“I- I’m sorry, hyung,” Taehyung’s voice cracks.

Jeongguk’s thumb swipes across the skin of Taehyung’s neck soothingly as he hushes him, almost as if it had been a jerk reaction to Taehyung’s tone.

Hoseok’s eyes are wide when he looks to Jeongguk, apparently having noticed the action as well. Jeongguk’s eyes are little wide too, and he swallows when Hoseok demands, “Who the hell are you?”

“I- ”

“He’s my hero,” Taehyung interrupts, throwing a smile at Hoseok - he thought doing so would’ve been a lot harder but he found it curling his lips easily, Jeongguk’s strong arms encircling him and his gaze bashful.

Hoseok just looks even more distressed at this and Taehyung tells him he’ll let him know what happened when he gets home, that he just wants to sleep.

“Alright,” Hoseok, replies warily, “put him in my truck, I‘ll get him home.” And then he’s tipping his head, gesturing to the idling vehicle expectantly.

For some reason, the idea of Jeongguk letting go, of him leaving and never seeing Taehyung again, makes Taehyung’s stomach drop to his feet and his fingers curl involuntarily tighter into the man’s shirt. He only feels a slight reassurance when Jeongguk returns the grip, holding Taehyung closer to him.

It’s so completely stupid but, Taehyung wants Jeongguk to take him home.

“I- I’d like to take him, if you don’t mind,” Jeongguk says quietly, bowing his head at Hoseok and Taehyung realizes then how much younger Jeongguk actually is. He hadn’t even noticed with how easily he’d been able to throw around his obviously bigger-than-most assaulter.

“Just to make sure he gets home safe,” he continues, tone more confident.

But apparently that was the wrong thing to say because Hoseok scowls and steps closer, staring up into the taller boy’s face. “You don’t think I can do that?”

Taehyung expects the boy to shrink back from Hoseok but he startles at the way Jeongguk’s whole body stiffens and his eyes narrow. “That’s not what I said, is it?”

Taehyung squirms in Jeongguk’s grip and bites his lip when Jeongguk just gapes at him and tightens his arms. Jeongguk has a grave look in his eyes as if Taehyung’s already made up his mind, as if Taehyung would really jump out of his arms and walk away like nothing ever happened. Like they both didn’t feel the warm familiarity in the touches that ghosted across each others skin - whether it had been in the moment or not.

Taehyung tries his best to convey his intentions through a look and Jeongguk seems to understand, gently setting Taehyung on his feet. Taehyung wobbles - his muscles aching from the stiffness of shaking in a curled up ball for so long on the floor of that damn phone booth, probably getting fucking ass disease.

Jeongguk hurriedly places a hand on his hip and his brow furrows, looking like he might just pick Taehyung up again but Taehyung pats his chest comfortingly.

“I’m okay.”

Taehyung turns to Hoseok. “Just let him walk me home, okay hyung?” He smiles and tries to look composed, like he’s completely and totally fine. Which he is for the most part, just shaken and slightly embarrassed for balling like a baby on a stranger’s lap.

Hoseok stares at them, gives Taehyung a look that clearly states you better fricking explain this or I swear to god, and mutters a “fine” before turning on his heel and jumping in his truck. “He better be home in three minutes,” he yells out the window, and then he’s off.

Taehyung’s a bit miffed at the older’s attitude but he knows he’s probably just confused and worried. He glances up at Jeongguk, who’s staring after the truck with distaste.

“I don’t like your friend.”

Taehyung laughs, “I can tell.”

Jeongguk blinks over at him, a smile flashing across his face and leaving Taehyung all sorts of breathless.

“I like it when you do that,” he declares, arm curling protectively around Taehyung’s waist and beginning their short walk to his apartment complex.

“Do what?” Taehyung questions, wondering what’s got the younger boy smiling a smile that carves it’s way into his heart, as if his voice and smell hasn’t already done Taehyung in.

“Laugh. It’s nice,” and Taehyung imagines a blush blossoms across his cheeks, because there’s no way it’s real. “It’s better,” he says, a more sobering look on his face and Taehyung represses the urge to shrink back in mortification.

“I- I’m sorry about that.”

Jeongguk’s arm unwinds from around his waist and Taehyung almost panics, and then almost laughs because could he actually not go two seconds without touching the guy jesus christ.

But then Jeongguk’s fingers are intertwining with his and he’s gently tugging Taehyung’s hand until he stands close, Jeongguk’s free hand tracing the skin of his jaw. “As long as you’re okay, Taehyung.”

It’s the first time the boy has said his name and for some reason the sound of it, falling from the same lips that whispered words to Taehyung like they were home itself, makes butterflies raise havoc in his tummy and his mouth gape open prettily.

They walk to Taehyung’s building, a tired weight heavy on Taehyung’s shoulders, but the warm grasp of Jeongguk’s hand anchoring him, keeping him from thinking about the horrors of his day.

When they reach his flat, Hoseok opens the door hurriedly - having probably remembered the key under Taehyung’s doormat from the last time he visited - and Taehyung huffs when he wraps him in a hug.

“See? Home safe and sound.” Taehyung throws a look at Jeongguk over his shoulder and the black haired boy smothers a smile into his fist. “Give us a few seconds, hyung?”

Hoseok lets go, grumbling something about him always calling him hyung when he wanted something and that they better hurry, before backing into the apartment and only closing the door half-way.

Taehyung takes a deep breath and turns toward the boy, his gaze watching as Jeongguk’s thumb continuously strokes the skin of Taehyung’s knuckles. “I just wanted to say thank you,” Taehyung says, his voice small.

He steals a glance at Jeongguk and watches as he stares at their hands too, a wayward laugh bubbling from his throat. “I don’t usually do things like that, I just - ,” he shakes his head, blinking hard, like even he was baffled why he came running at the cries of a complete stranger in the middle of the night. “I could’ve just called the police I guess, but it didn’t even occur to me.”

“Well I’m glad you came.”

Jeongguk looks up, a shine to his eyes. “Me too, Taehyung.”

“So, I - uh,” Jeongguk becomes shy all of the sudden, reaching a hand up to scratch at his nape and Taehyung’s heart lurches, finding the boy’s blush endearing. “I actually live here too,” he reveals. “Two floors above.”

He clears his throat, “So if I could- like, maybe come over in the morning?” Jeongguk’s eyes jump from Taehyung’s to the crack of his front door, probably getting eyed by Hoseok. “Just to check on you.”

Taehyung’s shoulders relax and he takes comfort in the fact that Jeongguk wants to return too, that he feels the same thing Taehyung does when their gazes collide and their skin touch. “Of course,” he says, because although he was finally at his flat, Jeongguk would always feel more like home.