Taehyung wakes up abruptly when he feels the cold splash of water on his face.
He sputters, gasps and blinks the water out of his eyes to focus in on the face that’s hovering too close in front of him. It’s a face even a mother would struggle to love.
He doesn’t know who this man is, but when the sneering face registers, Taehyung spits at him on principle. He is rewarded by the sight of the other man rearing back, shocked, and the sight of his sick grin slipping off his face.
Then, Taehyung’s head snaps to the side when he’s backhanded right across the mouth. He lets his body hang there against his bonds and uses the time to try to take stock of where he is, tries to work out what is happening. He’d been on a street, he remembers, in Taipei. Now though, he’s tied down to a wooden chair with a rope tying his wrists behind him. A longer length of rope is wrapped around his chest and a further two tie each of his ankles down to the chair.
He pulls at his wrist and finds that the ropes are bound tight. The floor is damp and earthy beneath his feet. Taehyung thinks he might actually be in some kind abandoned warehouse or shed, deep in the wilderness, and takes a moment to roll his eyes at the cliché.
“The fuck you want?” Taehyung growls eventually.
He spits out the blood pooling from the cut inside his lip, to the floor this time (he’s learnt to pick his battles), and licks at the taste of copper from his teeth.
His head thumps in time with his heart in his ribcage. It’s beating slow and heavy with dread. He’d always known his lifestyle would catch up with him one day. Taehyung is just so glad for the fact that he’d been alone, so glad he hadn’t been with —
“Jeon Jeongguk,” the man says.
“Jeongguk?” Taehyung blurts, completely blindsided. What the actual fuck?
Then he regains some sense. “Never heard of him,” Taehyung lies.
Taehyung hasn’t gotten this far in life through being a snitch and he’d be damned if he’d start now. Whatever the younger man’s managed to get himself into can’t be anything good if he’d gotten himself involved with someone who looks like the man that's tied Taehyung to the chair.
The man shoves a photograph into Taehyung’s face and he goes cross-eyed trying to get a good look at it. The photograph is of Taehyung and Jeongguk together, roughly three months ago, getting some groceries. In the picture, Jeongguk is laughing as he is caught trying to sneak a packet of chocolate lava cakes into the basket. He’s curling into himself protectively as Taehyung pinches his side in retaliation.
Taehyung remembers the night following the trip vividly. Remembers Jeongguk on his knees, licking the chocolate off his fingers, remembers pulling him up and then chasing the rich taste of it out Jeongguk’s mouth until only the pure, lush, taste of him was left.
“Photoshop is really something, huh?” Taehyung replies in reaction to the image in his face, emotionless. The man snarls in annoyance, pulls out a gun and points it straight at Taehyung’s head. Taehyung doesn’t even have to fake how he cringes back from it in fear.
“This jog your memory? Now, tell me what you know about Jeon Jeongguk. I already know your government is paying him to keep an eye on me.”
“I don’t know a damn thing about this Jeon Jeongguk,” Taehyung protests. He makes his voice go high and panicked, it’s not hard. Then he wonders at what a photographer could’ve possibly done to warrant this, and thinks the statement might be true after all.
The man snarls, rears the hand holding the gun back. Taehyung tries to brace himself for the impact. He closes his eyes, grits his teeth and prays that he’ll survive the hit. The man can do whatever he wants, Taehyung’s not going to breathe a single word.
This part was definitely going to hurt.
Before the gun handle can connect, there’s the sound of muffled shouts, gunfire and then there is an eery quiet. The man in front of him startles at the initial burst of noise and fumbles his grip.
Seconds later, the door to the room is kicked in. Jeongguk rushes inside and is halfway to where Taehyung is tied up before the door even hits the ground. His eyes are wild and when they return to focus, he comes to an abrupt stop, probably taking in the scene in front of him. The right side of Taehyung’s face is purpling, there is blood dripping from his chin from the backhand he had received earlier, and the skin of his left side is scraped and raw as a result of what Taehyung suspects is him being dragged across the floor.
“Did you do this?” Jeongguk snarls at Taehyung kidnapper. Taehyung can barely recognise him.
“I knew you’d come,” the man in front of him crows. The sound of his voice makes Taehyung want to retch, but that might also be a side effect of the concussion he's nursing. The man grabs Taehyung by the chin, forces him to look up into his dirty grin as he says, “after all, your boy is so, very, pretty.”
There is a pause. A stillness that makes all of Taehyung’s hair stand on end, like the moment of tension before a cobra strikes. Then the room descends into chaos.
Jeongguk brings out his own gun and shoots the man in the kneecap. With a choked cry, the man’s fingers rip away from his grip on Taehyung’s face. He goes down like a sack of bricks.
“Had I not made it abundantly clear that no one was to touch Taehyung?” Jeongguk roars and he stalks after the man who’s now desperately trying to crawl away.
When he reaches him, Jeongguk presses a foot down on the bleeding man’s chest and the man lets out a wheeze as his ribs are crushed.
“If you’ve touched him,” Jeongguk snarls, he doesn't finish his sentence but the threat in his eyes is clear.
“No,” the man babbles, “fuck. I haven’t touched him like that, please, I swear.”
Jeongguk aims at a steep angle and shoots between the man’s legs. The bullet sinks harmlessly into the dirt floor but the man cries out and shakes.
“Jesus fuck,” Hoseok whispers from his place in the doorway. Taehyung somehow manages to rip his eyes away from the scene in front of him to look in his direction. The older man has his phone clutched tightly in his grip and over the tinny speakers, Taehyung can hear Yoongi’s voice.
“If there’s so much as a scratch of Taehyung, I’m going to end you, DO YOU HEAR ME, YOU FUCKING MISERABLE CUNT," he curses at Taehyung's attacker. Then, "Hoseok, how the fuck did you guys drag Tae into this, huh? Who’s your fucking clean up guy? ‘Cause he’s obviously done a piss poor job, shit, when —”
The sound of his raging voice cuts off when Hoseok hangs up. His phone immediately starts ringing again.
Barrelling around the corner, Jimin shoves past the older man and sprints into the room. He heads directly for where Taehyung is tied to the chair. At the sight of him, Taehyung lets out a hysterical giggle. Is everyone he knows some kind of goddamn super spy?
His hysteria is broken by the sound of another gunshot. Taehyung swivels his head back around and manages to catch the moment where Jeongguk takes aim again and shoots the man in the shoulder. The man crumples to the floor makes an inhuman noise.
“What is he doing?” Taehyung asks urgently when Jimin is in earshot. “He’s going to kill him.”
“He’d deserve it,” Jimin hisses and Taehyung gapes. Is he actually going to be the one who has to play moral compass here?
“Jeongguk won't stop anyways,” Jimin continues, blasé, and then his voice turns dark, reveals the hint of teeth underneath, “that bastard's hurt you.”
He clinically cuts open the rope tying Taehyung’s wrists together, takes out a cloth out to wipe at the blood dripping down Taehyung chin but Taehyung jerks his head away. There’s no way he’s going to just let someone get killed when he’s sitting right here. Not if he has anything to do with it.
“Jeongguk,” Taehyung calls out, his voice is weak, but he has to try. “The asshole’s down, don’t kill him. I won’t be able to live with myself if you killed someone for my sake.”
To everyone’s surprise, Jeongguk’s gun falters in his grip.
“Hoseok’s going to come grab your gun off you now alright,” Taehyung says and he makes significant eyes at the other man until he gets the message. “Jeongguk,” he says when the gun is handed over, “please, come here.”
Jeongguk runs over to Taehyung as if he’s just remembering that the other man is there. His fingers tenderly slide over the darkening bruises on Taehyung’s face and when he makes contact, he makes a broken noise in his throat like he’s touching one of his own hurts.
Taehyung looks into the wide, worried eyes and murmurs without looking away, “Jimin, go make sure the guy survives, would you?”
The smaller man reluctantly leaves. Taehyung doesn't know how he himself is so calm. He thinks it must be the shock.
“Can you untie me?”
Jeongguk sinks down to his knees to untie the rope around Taehyung’s ankles and when they fall away, Jeongguk uses a gentle hand to lift his feet up by the heel to inspect the skin. It’s burning a faint red; rubbed raw from how hard Taehyung had been straining against his bonds.
Hissing his sympathy, Jeongguk bends his head down and reverently presses a kiss to the swell of the bone there. His lips are a vivid pink, and his eyelashes are dark as they flutter against his skin. As Taehyung watches, the younger man moves on from his ankle to brush his lips over the cloth over Taehyung’s knee. Then, he buries his face into the crease between Taehyung’s leg and torso and he inhales deep.
“Taehyung,” Jeongguk whispers. Taehyung can feel his hot breath on his abdomen even through the material of his shirt. “You’re okay.”
More silence. In the back of his mind, Taehyung registers that Hoseok is coordinating a cleanup around them. His kidnapper’s broken body has been lifted onto a gurney and carried out the door to where, Taehyung assumes, transport of some sort would be waiting.
Blood paints the earth where the man had been a deep red.
As he continues to watch everything that is happening around him, silent and still, Jeongguk’s shoulders begin to shake. “I wanted to tell you,” he whispers again. His voice cracks, “Taehyung, please.”
“Fuck me,” Taehyung eventually croaks out. “A real-life secret agent. What the fuck.”
From his position on Taehyung’s lap, Jeongguk lets out a shaky laugh. The younger man’s fingers worry at the material of Taehyung’s trousers and Taehyung thinks he can feel them tremble.
The older man cautiously lifts a weak hand, cards his fingertips through the fine strands of Jeongguk’s hair. Jeongguk doesn’t move from where he’s seated on the dirt floor by Taehyung’s feet but he lets out a small breath and carefully pushes his head back into the older man’s touch.
That movement, at the very least, is something that’s familiar.
“Baby?” Taehyung questions, softly, tentatively. He might still know this man after all.
At the sound, Jeongguk finally turns his head the rest of the way to catch Taehyung’s gaze. His eyes are still wide, pupils blown with apprehension, residual adrenaline, and fear.
“Hyungie,” Jeongguk whispers. He turns his head and then nuzzles it into the elder’s palm. Tilts the entirety of its weight into the elder’s hand in supplication, “Tae-hyungie."
Taehyung meets Jeongguk for the first time outside of one of his regular cafés when he almost mows the other man down, too caught up with looking at his phone when walking out the door.
The man is too sweet for his tastes by far with his floppy hair, shy smiles and his ‘oh no, it was my fault too, really’s. So when Taehyung offers to buy him another drink and asks for the other man’s number, it’s genuinely because he’s feeling guilty, and because he wants to pay for the man’s dry cleaning in return for spilling coffee all down his front.
Besides, it’s not like Taehyung is hard up for cash. He finances himself through dipping his toes into the grey side of the law as an art fence every now and again. He runs a legitimate gallery too of course, but sometimes, he can't resist the opportunity to help a fellow man out if they are really worth his time.
Taehyung likes people whose smiles are like the sharp blade of a knife. People whose breath make him tense and hyperaware like the feeling of a garrotte wire pressed to his throat. He likes his fucks to be full of teeth and fight, so that when he finally holds them down at takes them, the surrender he finds in the length of their bared neck feels like the rush of victory, rushing hot under his skin.
There are plenty of people who are like him in the word he finds himself in whenever he ventures into the more flexible side of the law. A plethora of candidates wanting to fuck with his hands around their throat; a veritable buffet that will bite into him deep and vicious when he leaves welts on their skin.
The fact that he gets to line his pockets extra nicely and fund his frequent bouts of wanderlust whenever he completes a job is just an added bonus.
So, even though the man in front of him is good-looking enough, Taehyung’s not attracted, not in the least. Taehyung takes the man’s name and number and swaps out Jeongguk’s dirty shirt for a clean one he has in his bag. He also makes good of his promise to buy him another cup of his drink to replace the one Jeongguk had accidentally ended up wearing.
Once that’s done, Taehyung leaves the café with the promise to call Jeongguk when his shirt has been freshly laundered. Then, he’s back out the door and he doesn’t even spare the man a backwards glance.
When Taehyung meets up with Jeongguk again two days later to return his shirt, the other man is smiling soft and pleased at a table he had picked out under the shade. Taehyung beams back and waves because despite his more adventurous extra-curricular activities, he’s actually a well-socialised member of society.
They end up sitting at their table for a long time. One coffee turns into another, then turns into a light snack, then a walk around the park which then merges seamlessly into a delicious dinner at the ‘little Lebanese place just down this street hyung. You’ll love it, I promise.’
There, they order a criminally large number of mezze to share, and between the bites of tabouleh and pita dipped in baba ganoush and creamy, decadent hummus, Taehyung is told that Jeongguk is a wildlife photographer.
He listens attentively as the other man rambles about how he'd just come back from a trip to photograph red pandas in the wild to help with their conservation efforts. Coos on queue as the younger practically vibrates out of his seat, eyes gone huge with wonder when he talks about the way they had grasped at the trees with their little thumbs.
Jeongguk also shows him a video of a tall man, Namjoon, Taehyung would learn later, legging it out of a bush and looking very green with his hands clasped desperately over his face. Red pandas, Jeongguk explains, through his tears of mirth, will sometimes release a terrible odour to deter predators when they are frightened or surprised.
When Namjoon had tripped and fallen into the bush, he had apparently surprised them quite thoroughly.
Over the sounds of the man being sick off-screen, Taehyung had laughed until he thought he would be sick himself. At the other side of their table, Jeongguk looks pleased as punch at the fact that he'd made Taehyung basically double over himself with mirth.
As Taehyung begins to calm, he feels the tentative press of Jeongguk’s foot to his. He smiles at the younger man and then reaches over to pinch his cheek. Taehyung makes obnoxious noises at him until he gets swatted away.
In the resultant scuffle, Taehyung makes sure that his foot naturally retreats back to rest under his seat. They hook together at the ankles and stay there for the rest of the night, safely out of reach.
The thing is, Taehyung is perfectly capable of hanging with people who are as soft as cotton candy, people who have an inherent sweetness that lingers on the tongue even after they're gone. He enjoys surrounding himself with good people, kind people.
He just never wants to fuck them.
A few months later, Jeongguk has become somewhat of a permanent fixture in Taehyung’s gallery. The young man walks in, casual as you please, as Taehyung is busy catching up with Yoongi who has just returned from a photography expedition overseas.
Taehyung’s currently occupied with the elder's phone, trying to catch a better look at the portrait on the screen but he does wiggle a couple fingers in the direction of the door in welcome.
Never let it be said that Taehyung neglects his friends.
“Who’s this?” Taehyung hears as he feels a pair of strong arms wrap around his waist from behind and pull him back.
“Jeongguk,” Taehyung greets, laughingly patting the hands now clasped over his stomach. The months had taught him that Jeongguk prefers more tactile greetings and Taehyung had become accustomed to them accordingly. The younger man didn't seem to mean anything by them, and Taehyung had always loved a good cuddle as much as the next person. Probably more. So he definitely doesn’t mind this.
“Jeongguk,” he introduces, “meet Yoongi-hyung. Yoongi-hyung, Jeongguk. Say hi.”
Yoongi tilts in head in acknowledgement. Next to his ear, there is a noncommittal hum and then Taehyung feels the point of Jeongguk’s chin press into his shoulder.
“Hi,” Jeongguk mumbles obediently. His chin digs deeper into Taehyung’s shoulder. From where he is standing in front of them, Taehyung sees Yoongi raise an eyebrow.
Ignoring the silent conversation going on around him, Jeongguk pushes his forehead into the meat of Taehyung shoulder and then he tilts his head so he can look at Taehyung with one big eye, completely blocking Yoongi out. He repeats, “so, who’s this?”
Taehyung laughs and reaches up behind him to ruffle Jeongguk’s hair. “Don’t be a brat,” he admonishes gently, “Yoongi is one of my oldest friends. He’s a photographer too.”
Well. Yoongi is a photographer until the mystery organisation that hires him needs him to be something else, and even then, Taehyung is pretty sure he’s taking photographs too.
“So you’re a professional peeping tom,” Taehyung had asked when Yoongi had finally revealed to him what it was that he really did for a living.
“No, I gather intel,” Yoongi had growled out, and then he’d started throwing fries into Taehyung’s face.
“You should introduce Taehee to your new job. He’d be pretty good at it,” Taehyung had continued, dancing his legs away from Yoongi’s aggravated kick from under the table. Taehee was the name of the guy who used to spy into Taehyung’s windows until Yoongi had stormed over and knocked his teeth out.
“You’re such a little shit,” Yoongi had sighed, “I don’t know why I even put up with you.”
Taehyung had hummed and then he'd caught the next fry Yoongi throws at him in his mouth. Sometimes, he wonders that exact same thing.
Back in the gallery, Jeongguk deliberately makes his body heavier and leans all his weight onto Taehyung’s back. Taehyung staggers a little at the added burden.
“Come have dinner with me tonight,” Jeongguk asks. Orders more like.
“Oh?” Taehyung intones, turning around in the circle of Jeongguk’s arms so that they face each other. He smiles as he teases, “why are you asking me so formally? Don’t we always eat together every Friday night you’re in town?”
He spares a second to turn and roll his eyes dramatically for Yoongi’s benefit and pays for it when Jeongguk softly head-butts him in the chin for his drifting attention.
“Dinner, at mine,” Jeongguk repeats and from the tone of his voice, Taehyung can see the moue of dissatisfaction that has to be painted on the younger’s lips without even looking his way.
“Alright, alright,” Taehyung agrees before it can transform into a full-blown pout. To make extra sure he prevents it, he kisses Jeongguk’s temple and uses his secret weapon: “Is my baby satisfied now?”
Jeongguk grins almost immediately and straightens up. The pet name always works. He shamelessly filches the finger food that Taehyung always puts out for the gallery patrons and dances away when Taehyung tries to snatch them back in protest, grinning, as he pops a cheese square in his mouth.
“I’ll be waiting,” he smiles around the toothpick between his lips. “I’m going on another long trip next week, so you can’t not come see me.”
Taehyung had actually just been thinking of giving the younger a ring to delay their dinner today in light of Yoongi being back, but he definitely can’t back out now. Jeongguk’s eyes flicker between the two other men in the room and smirks, like he knows. He finally turns to Yoongi and gives the elder a little bow.
“It was good meeting you,” he says, suddenly polite, before he retreats back out the gallery. “Call me before you come,” Jeongguk shouts at Taehyung, and then he’s gone.
“You didn’t tell me you got a new boyfriend,” Yoongi comments into the silence a few minutes after the door swings shut. He’s still squinting at the door Jeongguk had left by, frowning, like he’s trying to place a face he’s seen before.
Taehyung laughs. Yoongi’s known him for long enough now that he definitely knows what turns Taehyung’s crank and Jeongguk, with his soft smiles and even softer eyes, couldn’t be further from it.
Heck, Yoongi had been the one who had inadvertently introduced him to his first boyfriend of the type. When he’d learnt that Taehyung had started to take an interest in the more morally ambiguous side of the law, Yoongi had cashed in on a favour and made one of the underground fighters he’d known teach Taehyung a thing or two about surviving a fight.
The first time Taehyung had managed to hold the guy down, they'd ended up fucking, right there on the exercise mat. After, when Yoongi had come to pick him up, he had taken one look at the blood in Taehyung’s teeth and the liquid satisfaction in Taehyung’s spine and had sighed, loud and despairing.
“What have I done,” he had lamented. “I should’ve known this would happen.”
Tonguing at his split lip, Taehyung had grinned. “Workouts have definitely just got a lot more interesting, hyung. Thanks.”
So, no, Jeongguk definitely does not fit into the mould. Taehyung shakes his head anyways to confirm the fact and replies, “you know that’s not what he is.”
Yoongi gives him a disbelieving huff, so Taehyung continues, “you saw him. He’s much too sweet for someone like me.”
“You don’t act like he is,” Yoongi comments, pointed.
Taehyung just shakes his head, “I’d eat him alive and they’d be nothing of him left.”
“You wouldn’t," Yoongi replies, "but even if you did, I think he'd want you to."
Taehyung just laughs dismissively. Yoongi gives a deep sigh, but the topic is dropped.
They seamlessly move on to catch up on the others things they had missed during their time apart.
Hours after he’d left, Taehyung still can’t stop thinking about Yoongi’s words and he ends up carrying the echoes of the conversation with him the rest of the day.
When he shows up for dinner and sees that Jeongguk had ordered, and then plated up the good pizza from the pizzeria two blocks over; the ones who bake their pizzas in a real, wood-fired oven, the question simmers up to rest close, just under his skin. The urgency of the question is temporarily stifled by the fact that Taehyung is once again left half disgusted, half hypnotised by the way Jeongguk eats his pizza.
He has a habit of rolling his slices up into tubes and then wolfing them down. The first time Taehyung had seen it, he’d almost choked on his own slice because he had been too busy staring, horrified, as Jeongguk had demolished his piece in two giant bites.
Later though, when Jeongguk pulls honest-to-god ice cream out of the freezer, the question that had been bubbling finally spills over.
“What are we doing?” Taehyung blurts.
Jeongguk pauses in unwrapping his Cornetto.
“We’re…eating dessert?” Jeongguk answers to the tone of ‘have you hit your head?’
Taehyung rolls his eyes and gestures between them. “I meant, this. What is this?”
It takes a moment, but Jeongguk eventually understands.
“It’s just dinner, Taehyungie. Just you eating, and me eating too,” Jeongguk laughs, “no need to overthink it.”
Taehyung squints at him and Jeongguk shakes his head and finishes unwrapping his cone. He removes the wrapping from the whole thing like a savage and then actually gets up to throw the papers into the bin before he starts eating. Taehyung only unwraps the top so he has paper left to hold his cone by, and then leaves the removed wrapping on the coffee table to clean up later before digging in, because he has sense.
As he does this, Jeongguk bites directly into his ice-cream and Taehyung is just about to chastise him over his appalling eating habits when he sees chocolate start to run down the side of Jeongguk’s cone. He blames the next action on growing up as the eldest of his siblings. He blames it on the brain freeze he doesn’t have. He blames it on the economy.
Taehyung swoops in and laps the dripping chocolate up.
He catches the chocolate on his tongue and licks up the cone to make sure he gets all of it, that there is none of it left to drip down to dirty Jeongguk’s hand. Once he gets back to the top of the cone, his face ends up separated from Jeongguk's by mere inches.
Taehyung can count all of Jeongguk’s individual eyelashes from here. Can watch his Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows. There is a dark smear of ice cream at the corner of his mouth.
Completely separate from his brain, Taehyung’s own mouth teases, “you’re being so messy right now, baby.”
Jeongguk visibly gulps and licks his lips. His eyes drop to Taehyung’s mouth and his gaze burns.
“Oh,” Jeongguk wobbles, he slides down on his seat and spreads his knees like an invitation. “What are you going to do about it?”
“Hmm,” Taehyung hums, low and rumbling. His skin suddenly feels too tight for his body.
Taehyung leans into the space between them, just to see Jeongguk blush. Then he says, “I could think of a few things,” and smiles a smile full of dark promises just to see how far down he can make the flush go.
It travels down Jeongguk’s cheeks, his neck and disappears into his collar.
Taehyung bites into his lip, leans in a little closer, and regains his senses when he registers the rich taste of chocolate against his tongue. He looks around at the pizza and ice-cream prepared just for him, glances at the movie Jeongguk has set up on queue because he had mentioned it in passing a few weeks ago, and makes himself pull back.
He can’t believe he’d be flirting with Jeongguk, of all people. Jeongguk who is the embodiment of everything good, everything he cannot touch without breaking.
Taehyung leans back, out of Jeongguk’s pull and ignores the disappointed sigh the man lets out.
He needs a drink.
The buzzer to his apartment intercom feels like a dart shot directly into his brain.
Taehyung groans. He really doesn’t want to get up to walk to the door. His jaw feels bruised, and his back is sore from where he had hit it on the hinges when he was shoved back into the door, and not in the fun way.
“Go away,” he grumbles, burying his face deeper into the couch cushions. He just wants to wallow over his shit evening in peace. He had gone to finalise a deal on one of his favourite pieces earlier on, but the meeting had turned out to be a set up where the people there had expected to make quick work of him and then somehow gain access to his collection after.
Luckily, Taehyung doesn’t trust easily, and he’d quickly caught on but even then, he’d only managed to escape by the skin of his teeth.
The building where it had all gone down would probably be in the news tomorrow with how it was burnt almost to the ground, but the firefighters at the scene would discover nothing other than an unfortunate gas leak.
His buzzer finally stops ringing and Taehyung breathes out in blessed relief, hoping whoever it had been had finally given up and left. A few minutes later, he distantly hears the sound of the front door to his apartment building being slammed shut, but it's probably just one of his neighbours getting back so he ignores it.
Just as he’s about to slip into what he believes is some well-deserved rest, there is a loud banging on his door.
“Go. Away,” Taehyung shouts this time, in the direction of the sound. In the back of his mind, he thinks he should probably be a little more concerned especially considering how he’d just managed to weasel his way out of what was probably an assassination attempt, but he’s too tired to care.
The banging gets louder. Whoever is behind it isn’t holding back and is using the flat of their palm to slap against the wood. Taehyung hopes whoever is there gets kicked out soon, it’s gone almost one in the morning, so he almost leaves them to it until he hears an unexpected voice pierce through the night.
“Taehyung,” what sounds like Jeongguk’s voice comes, muffled, through the wood, “is that you in there? Taehyung!”
Taken completely by surprise, Taehyung gets up and makes his way to the door. He peeks through the peephole, just to make sure because he had definitely not been expecting the younger man and he doesn’t want to open his door to a bullet through the brain.
Jeongguk must see the shadow he casts over the peephole because his knocking becomes even more frantic when Taehyung gets close.
“Taehyung, please! Answer me,” he demands, voice becoming shrill.
Finally, Taehyung turns the deadbolt and the door swings open.
“Jesus Christ Jeongguk,” Taehyung complains, clutching at his aching head, “you’re going to get me kicked out. What the f—”
The breath gets knocked out of him again as Jeongguk leaps into his arms. They stagger back until the back of Taehyung knees hit the sofa and they both tumble down onto it.
Jeongguk ends up perched on Taehyung’s abdomen with his knees on either side, digging into the sofa cushions; his hands cradle Taehyung face between his palms.
“Are you okay?” Jeongguk asks and his voice is frantic. Tight with worry.
As Taehyung tries to gather his bearings, Jeongguk huffs out an impatient noise and begins to conduct his own check-up. He runs his fingers across Taehyung’s face, hisses at the tender lump he finds at the back of the other man’s head, the sore spot on his jaw. Taehyung stays dazed until he feels the younger man undoing the buttons of his shit.
“Wait,” he interrupts, grasping at Jeongguk’s wrists to stop him. “Whoa, wait up. What are you doing?”
The younger makes a desperate, high noise in the back on his throat and Taehyung lets him go on instinct.
“I’m fine,” he says instead to fill the space, confused beyond the telling. The shaking in Jeongguk’s hands doesn’t stop and Taehyung can read the panic in the set of Jeongguk’s mouth. He drags his thumb across the man's lush lower lip to calm the trembling, feels the way it gives under his thumb and says it again.
“Calm down. I’m alright, Guk.”
Beneath his finger, Jeongguk shakes his head but doesn’t dislodge Taehyung’s thumb.
“What's wrong? Tell me what you need,” Taehyung implores and presses down harder. Jeongguk’s throat bobs, like he’s swallowing down a moan. The older man thinks he knows where this is heading, but even now, this deep into the moment, he’s not sure what he wants Jeongguk's answer to be.
One of his hands travels down Jeongguk’s neck, to his shoulder. It travels the length of his arm, down his side, up his back and presses at the secret space between his shoulder blades to bring the other man close.
“Please,” Jeongguk whispers. His thighs tense and release around Taehyung’s sides. He shifts, and then Taehyung feels the length of him, not hard, but hot and pulsing, brush up against his stomach.
Both their breaths hitch and Jeongguk immediately jerks his hips back, but it’s too late. The weight of him, the heat of him, is like a brand across Taehyung’s skin. The flush on Jeongguk’s cheeks and the downcast set of his eyes makes something hot and greedy burn in the elder’s stomach and in that moment, Taehyung knows that he’ll give Jeongguk anything he asks for.
Still, he hangs back, toes at the cliff edge of his desire, waiting.
“I need to really feel you, to know you’re okay,” Jeongguk finally admits, all at once, as if it had taken all his courage to say it. “You almost — and I never even got to —” his lips tremble some more and then he hangs his head, defeated. “Please,” he whispers again.
Taehyung makes the leap.
At the first press of their lips, Jeongguk groans. He scrabbles at Taehyung’s shoulders to press them even closer together and clenches his thighs, tight, to trap Taehyung beneath him — like he's afraid Taehyung will change his mind and move away.
Every touch, every squeeze, brings a new surge of adrenaline to his skin.
Taehyung rolls them over, slams Jeongguk back into the sofa and swallows the whimpers that bubble up past the younger man’s throat. At the first tug of Taehyung's hand in his hair, Jeongguk tilts his head back, opens up for him without a word, and Taehyung rewards him by biting, and then sucking on his lush bottom lip.
He then stretches back up and licks into the other's open, panting mouth and Jeongguk keens around his tongue.
“What do you want?” Taehyung asks again because he needs to hear it to be sure.
“You,” Jeongguk pants, “more. More, fuck me, please.”
His hands scrabble at Taehyung’s slacks, looking for the zipper. When he finds it, he runs his knuckles down Taehyung’s own hardness and gives a breathy chuckle when Taehyung’s hips snap into the touch automatically.
When he recovers, Taehyung grinds his thigh down, hard, against Jeongguk’s cock in retaliation for being a cheeky brat. The man below him whines, all desperation and hunger and ‘please, now. Now, I need you.’
He tugs at Jeongguk’s joggers (had he come running over in his pyjamas?) and Jeongguk helpfully pushes them down his thighs.
Jeongguk's underwear also gets pulled down, and then kicked off of the sofa and onto the floor. He ends up seated, almost proper in the seat with his upper back against the backrest and his feet on the floor.
“Here?” Taehyung asks, surprised. He doesn’t mind, but he’d thought Jeongguk would have liked to be more comfortable.
In answer, Jeongguk hooks his hands behind his knees and pulls them back towards his chest, holding himself open to Taehyung’s touch. He’s bent himself almost in half. He breathes, "hyung, please."
He is beautiful. Taehyung gets to his knees on the carpet in front of him and he wants to mark up all the skin on display. He settles for sucking a mark onto the back of Jeongguk’s thigh.
With one hand, Taehyung unearths some lube and a condom from his wallet and leaves them on the coffee table behind him. Then, he gets to work.
His first finger sinks in easy despite the fact that he’d only used spit to ease the way and Taehyung makes a surprised noise.
“What’s this,” he hums, rubbing the pad of his finger against the giving, velvet heat. “Did you come prepared?”
Taehyung leans over again, spits on the finger already pushed inside and begins to work his second finger in next to it. He teases around the opening first, presses his ring finger to the younger man’s entrance to see if it will open up for him as easily as it did for the first digit.
Taehyung chuckles, “were you so sure I would take you?”
He crooks his middle finger, the one already inside, and Jeongguk throws his head back into the cushions and moans. Sweat is gathered in his hairline and his chest heaves with each inhale.
“Were you?” Taehyung prompts again, grazing his finger past what must be Jeongguk’s prostate from the way he arches and gasps. "Answer me."
“Earlier,” Jeongguk admits when he gets his breath back, voice caught in a weak rasp, “before, when I woke up this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about you.” His voice hitches when Taehyung slides his second finger in, down to the knuckle.
“How naughty,” Taehyung murmurs, delighted at the image. His own cock twitches inside his underwear. “Do you think of me often?”
Jeongguk’s eyes are blown. His face is flushed and his lips are swollen. When Taehyung slides in a third finger, he lets out a long, drawn-out cry and his cock jerks.
“Yes,” he pants, “all the time. So please, I’m ready. Fuck me, hyung, please.”
He is ready. Around his fingers, Jeongguk is soft, open and his walls cling deliciously, as if greedy for the stretch. The older man pumps his fingers in and out again, indulging in the slick slide just to see the way Jeongguk’s legs tremble in his grasp. The younger slides further down on the sofa and then he’s almost hanging off the edge.
Taehyung crowds in closer, presses the man beneath him deeper into the cushions to hold him there.
“Are you sure?” Taehyung asks and he gets to see the younger man squirm.
He grabs at the foil packet of his condom with his spare hand and rips the packet open with his teeth. Once he’s done, he parts his lips to let the wrapper between his teeth fall to the ground and gives a dark chuckle when he feels Jeongguk clench around his fingers.
When he looks up, he finds that Jeongguk is starting, rapt, at his mouth.
“You liked that, huh,” Taehyung observes, reluctantly pulling his fingers out of Jeongguk’s hole so he can roll the condom down his length. They pull free with a filthy wet noise and he shivers when he hears it.
When the younger man lets out a whine at the loss, Taehyung leans over and swallows the noise up with his mouth. The moan travels into his chest and warms his core.
The older man then liberally covers his length in lube and then uses his cock to spread the excess on Jeongguk’s winking hole. It glistens at him in the dim light and Jeongguk sobs when precum pushes out of the slit of his cock and glides down his belly, over his chest.
“Tae,” he whispers, “fuck.”
“Beautiful,” Taehyung murmurs. He pushes the head of his cock inside, just a tease of a stretch, pulls it back out, and Jeongguk’s cock jerks again. This time, his precum is tinged a murky white when it slides down his stomach. Taehyung runs a hand through the mess and Jeongguk’s muscles flutter under his touch.
His hand comes back sticky. He murmurs, “so close already?”
Jeongguk’s ears go red, but before he can retort, Taehyung uses that same hand to rub on his nipple and the man beneath him chokes and jerks. The reaction is nothing short of gorgeous. Taehyung makes note of it, hopes to explore it at a later date.
Tonight though, tonight he grabs at the back of the couch to brace himself, uses the other hand press down on the back of one of Jeongguk’s thighs and finally shoves his cock inside the waiting heat.
He hisses at the tightness that swallows him and he wants to grind in even deeper.
“Oh fuck — Tae,” Jeongguk gasps. The tendons in his neck stand out in stark relief and Taehyung wants to bite. Beneath him, Jeongguk is so beautiful. Taehyung doesn’t want to lose him but —
He wants to leave evidence that they had this on skin, wants to see his marks and know that Jeongguk was once under him, panting and writhing, mouth open and red, because of him.
“Harder,” Jeongguk demands and Taehyung snaps his hips forward, “harder, please I need to feel you.”
Taehyung digs his fingers a little deeper into Jeongguk’s thigh and is rewarded by the sensation of Jeongguk letting go of his own knees to scrabble at Taehyung’s shoulders. His fingernails bite deep and Taehyung presses down into him rougher so that they will bite in even deeper.
When he cries for more, Taehyung feels it where they’re joined, they’re pressed so close. Jeongguk, with his legs hooked over Taehyung’s shoulders and Taehyung, shoving him viciously back into the sofa’s back cushions.
It can’t be comfortable. Taehyung has half a mind to wonder if Jeongguk is going to get friction burn on his shoulders. The younger man is almost folded in half, but the hand Taehyung has on the back of the couch provides Taehyung with the leverage to shove in hard, fuck into Jeongguk’s body fast, and Jeongguk is almost incoherent with it.
“More,” he gasps, whenever he can gather enough breath.
Taehyung is so close. He takes the hand that’s not braced over the back of the couch and snakes it down to grab Jeongguk’s cock to jerk him in time with his thrusts. It’s the first time Taehyung’s touched his cock all night and at the grip of his hand, Jeongguk makes a lost noise and tries to move his hips back.
“Too much,” he whines, “I, I won’t — nnggh, hyun—hyungie.”
Taehyung gives his cock a tug anyways and Jeongguk jerks beneath him like he’s trying to pull away, like he’s oversensitive even though he hasn’t even cum yet, and isn’t that an interesting bit of knowledge.
Jeongguk bares his throat and sniffles, “hyung, I — I can’t anymore. B—but I’ve been good, right? I —I’ve been good for you?”
There are tears clinging to his lashes.
Taehyung feathers a finger over the younger’s pulsing length again to test out his sensitivity and Jeongguk screams. His body locks up and clenches around him.
"Can I cum hyungie?" Jeongguk half sobs, "please let me cum."
“Cum for me,” Taehyung allows, “you've been so good, so beautiful for me.”
Heat floods between their bodies as Jeongguk wails. Taehyung fucks him through the orgasm even though he’s dizzy with how much he himself wants to cum. When Jeongguk is reduced to small, broken whimpers, Taehyung can finally make out his whispering, “mark me, please. Tae-hyungie, bite into me. Please, please.”
The thought is so, so, good, and Taehyung, seconds before his orgasm, sinks his teeth into the dip between Jeongguk’s neck and shoulder and lets himself go.
In the morning, Taehyung stumbles into the kitchen to find Jeongguk already there.
“Morning Guk,” he mumbles, approximately only a quarter alive.
“G’morning,” Jeongguk replies from where he’s perched on the kitchen counter and Taehyung thinks it might be the result of his early morning brain, but that brain seems to think the younger’s voice is cautious, wary.
Instead of voicing all that though, all he manages is a ‘nngrf,’ when he tries to inquire after the younger man’s wellbeing. He figures he’s done good enough and heads to the cabinets and gets out two glasses.
Jeongguk’s eyes follow him as he pours orange juice into the glasses on the counter and they don’t stop watching even when he pushes one into Jeongguk’s hand then pushes his head into Jeongguk’s chest in greeting as is customary of their mornings together.
When Jeongguk doesn’t pet him, he twists around to glare but then he stomach grows so he putters his way over to the fridge instead to see if there’s anything edible inside it.
“Toast?” Taehyung manages, grabbing bread out of the freezer. Words are hard.
“You’re treating me normally,” Jeongguk states in reply. Which is…an abnormal thing to say.
“Yes,” Taehyung temporises trying to work out what the other man is getting at. “Did you want me to be acting different?”
Then Taehyung’s brain comes back online and the night before slams back to him like a sledgehammer to the stomach.
“Shit,” he breathes. He freezes at the refrigerator door and hardly dares to turn around. “Fuck, Guk, I’m so sorry. Did I hurt you?”
He can’t believe he’s done it again. Can’t believe he’s touched Jeongguk, sweet, normal, Jeongguk, in the way that he had. Can’t believe he’s left bruises on previously unmarred skin and enjoyed it. Taehyung had been repeating to himself, night after night, that there was nothing to attract him to the younger. Reminding himself that good things, beautiful things, weren’t his to touch. Not if he didn’t want to lose them. What they had was already more than he had ever dreamed, and now…
“No, no,” Jeongguk hurriedly protests, cutting him out of his thoughts, hands stretched out and palms facing him like his hands can physically ward Taehyung against his self-flagellation. “That part is all good. Five stars. Ten out of ten would recommend so don’t you dare take it back.”
Taehyung lets out the breath he didn’t know he was holding. Maybe he hadn’t fucked up too bad after all. Maybe there was still something he could salvage here.
Then, Jeongguk parts his lips and says something completely out of left field.
“You don’t think I’m like…weak? Or anything,” the younger asks. The strangeness of the question, the sudden non-sequitur, shocks Taehyung’s own strange mood out of him. It’s too early for him to deal with more than one complex emotion at a time so the question pushes the anxiety out of his mind and replaces it with acute confusion instead.
Taehyung pointedly runs his eyes over all the muscle currently on display and tries to convey ‘are you fucking kidding me,’ with just his gaze. Jeongguk’s only got his boxers on, so there’s a lot of ground to cover, and if Taehyung gets a little sidetracked taking in the bulk of the younger man’s thighs, that’s no-one’s business but his own.
“So, you don’t think differently of me?” Jeongguk seems determined to carry this entirely strange conversation to the end. “Don’t think I’m…weird?”
Taehyung has never heard of something so ridiculous in his life and says so.
Then he finally makes the connection. “Has anyone ever said that to you?” Taehyung asks, barely holding himself back from snarling. How could someone see the way Jeongguk opened up for them so wonderfully, get given the gift of this strong and beautiful man laying himself down, giving himself over, and not treasure it with everything that they had? How could they not see that they would be nothing if Jeongguk himself did not allow it?
“You are one of the most wonderful people I know,” Taehyung says because even if what happened last night had scared Jeongguk away from him forever, he needs him to know this. “One of the bravest. Thank you for letting me take care of you.”
“Oh,” Jeongguk breathes sipping at his glass of juice, dimples darkening the corners of his mouth like he’s holding back a smile.
“But if you’re asking me if I’m gonna respect you, now that it’s morning, the answer is ‘no’,” Taehyung jokes, because this is getting to be too much for a pre-breakfast conversation.
“Oh,” Jeongguk repeats, softer, and this time his shoulders curl and he ducks his head.
“You will always be my little weeb baby, even when we’re ninety,” Taehyung finishes, closing the distance between them to ruffle at Jeongguk’s hair. He pinches Jeongguk’s cheeks, hard.
“Gomu gomu no hamster cheeks,” he says when he does, and he starts pulling the skin when Jeongguk still doesn’t react.
“Oh!” Jeongguk exhales, eyes sparkling, then, “ow, wait, stop. Ow,” he protests. This time though, when he bats Taehyung hands away, he’s giggling. The younger man sighs, bright and happy and the odd mood he’d been carrying with him the whole morning seems to lift.
“But that was mean. My heart dropped to my belly Tae.”
“Aww,” Taehyung coos, “did I worry you, bub? You gave me such a good set up, I couldn’t resist. Please forgive me.”
“Hm,” Jeongguk fake considers, lifting a finger to his lips to really ham it up. “I don’t know…”
“Please?” Taehyung cajoles, with a pout of his own. Jeongguk flushes with happiness and swings his legs. His heels knock against the kitchen cabinets and Taehyung reaches down to grab at his ankles, hitches them up to wrap around his own waist to get the younger man to stop.
“You’re gonna have to pay a penalty. My heart went whoosh,” the man on the countertop says, allowing it. His voice fades out at the end, sounding a little distracted as Taehyung walks himself close, eyes caught on Taehyung's face. The younger then shakes himself out of the daze, tapping on his lips and then pursing them to indicate to the payment he’s expecting.
"'Whoosh', huh, that was terrible of me," Taehyung says and his own heart clenches at how adorable the man in front of him is being. After last night, he doesn’t understand how Jeongguk, who is saccharine sweet, isn’t running for the hills but now he’s almost too afraid to move lest he wakes up from this incredible dream.
At his stillness, Jeongguk lets out a put upon sigh and straightens out his spine so he’s pressed even closer to Taehyung’s face. He taps at his lips again, impatience bleeding into his eyes.
When Taehyung finally gives in and cautiously pecks at the younger’s lips, once, Jeongguk beams.
“Weak, but I’ll still forgive you,” he declares, magnanimous, like he’s doing Taehyung a great favour. Taehyung pinches him again. “Did Jimin start you on One Piece?” Jeongguk asks once he’s successfully made Taehyung lets go of his cheeks. He’s got both hands cupped over his face now as if protecting them.
“Yeah,” Taehyung admits, smiling back. “They’ve only just found Nami though, so I’ve got a long, long way to go.”
Jeongguk hums and then turns to place the now empty glass of juice in the sink. When he does, Taehyung’s eyes catch on the marks his teeth had left behind, mere hours ago. It sits on Jeongguk’s throat and after that sight, the sweetness of the morning evaporates.
It’s like his blood has suddenly been set on fire.
In an attempt to distract himself, Taehyung asks him, “also, the fuck was that all about last night? Why on earth did you suddenly rush over?”
The question is half-hearted at best. He’s still stuck on how much he wants to press into the imprint of his teeth, how much he wants to dig his nail into the sore patch of skin and make the younger man squirm.
Taehyung tries to hide the desire before Jeongguk looks back up because he doesn’t want to scare the younger off. The fervour of last night can eventually be written off as a head rush, the result of the leftover sense of danger and adrenaline taking over. This though, this desire to bite and mark in the soft morning light, will reveal something different.
However, when Jeongguk catches his eye, his own glimmers like he likes what he sees there. The younger man lets out a short breath and then bares his neck. Spreads his knees and beckons for him, all teeth.
Taehyung feels need sing through his blood at the want in the other man’s gaze. He closes the space between them and then, helpless, leans down to plunder Jeongguk’s mouth.
Taehyung swallows the growl that bubbles up the younger's throat, licks up the purring noise he makes when Taehyung rakes his nails over the bite marks he had left on the younger's shoulders.
He presses a little harder and Jeongguk moans and shudders in his grasp.
“I had a bad dream,” Jeongguk eventually whines, breathless, into the air between their lips when Taehyung pulls back to rake his teeth over the man’s jugular. Taehyung barely listens. “So I needed to, to come see you for myself.”
Much later Taehyung will come to realise that the reasoning had been a little suspect, but now, Jeongguk grinds his hips forward and whimpers when Taehyung presses him back against the counter. Now, Jeongguk’s mouth falls open, pink and wet and inviting when Taehyung scrapes the blunt of his teeth over his nipple.
Now, Taehyung is just so unspeakably relieved that Jeongguk hasn’t walked out on him forever, even after he’d caught a glimpse of Taehyung’s claws.
When Jeongguk cums, messy onto his own belly after Taehyung bites into the meat of his thigh, Taehyung is only thinking that maybe, if he doesn’t rock the boat too hard, he’ll be able to have at least this much.
Taehyung ends up pushing his question to the back of his mind.
“I think you’d find that you two aren’t as different as you seem to think,” Yoongi comments once Taehyung finishes catching him up on the other night, which is ludicrous.
They’re having a beer together after one of Yoongi’s showings. Jeongguk’s gone again, off to China this time, to take part in filming some documentary on the sunken Lion City in Qiandao Lake. The man travels a heck of a lot, so he must be quite in demand despite the fact that Taehyung has hardly ever seen his pictures anywhere outside of the ones Jeongguk shows him on his phone whenever he gets back.
Yoongi likes to talk about how he’s never heard of the younger photographer before and treats Taehyung to pointed looks every time that he does. But Yoongi specialises in portraits, whenever he’s working his cover, and Jeongguk does wildlife and nature photography so Taehyung doesn’t get why the man seems to be so suspicious.
“You can have this, you know, have him,” the smaller man continues. “It doesn’t always have to be assholes and hooligans.”
“Stop trying to psychoanalyse me,” Taehyung grumbles. “Emotions were high, and we got caught up in the moment. It happens. Also, no one even says hooligans anymore, oh my god, I knew you were secretly sixty.”
Taehyung knows all his attempts at evasion are futile, Yoongi will get said what he wants to say.
The smaller man is usually good at letting people be themselves. He doesn’t push, and is definitely a shining beacon of the ‘tough love’ philosophy. But, sometimes, the ‘love’ part of the equation crowds everything else out.
The first time they had met, Taehyung had been ten and he’d just freshly broken his arm. Yoongi had come across him, wailing to the high heavens in his backyard. The man, then boy, had hurled abuse at him the whole time, told him how he should’ve been more careful, that it was what he deserved for trying to climb up the big tree to put a baby bird back in its nest.
However, despite his words, his hands had been gentle when he had wiped away the tears falling down Taehyung’s face, his touch had been sure as he had sat and held Taehyung’s hand through the gaps in the fence until Taehyung’s aunt had found them and had hurriedly driven Taehyung to the hospital.
“Thank you,” the young Taehyung had mumbled, face splotchy, and with his nose still running.
“Idiots don’t get to talk to me,” Yoongi had snapped, but he had doggedly followed Taehyung and his aunt to the hospital and bared his teeth at anyone who'd tried to tell him otherwise.
Years later, his aunt had told him about how Yoongi had given her a stern talking to about leaving young children home alone after Taehyung had been taken away by a nurse. By the time that little tidbit had been revealed though, Taehyung was already never alone. He had been spending every waking moment trailing after the elder, and Yoongi, griping and grumbling, had always let him stay.
“You deserve someone who will be kind to you,” Yoongi persists, this time back at the bar. His voice is as gentle as his touch the day they had met. Today too, he reaches across the table and holds Taehyung’s hand.
“The things that you like, they don’t make you a bad person Taehyung.”
Taehyung summons a smile onto his face and he nods, but he begs to differ.
When Taehyung was twenty, he'd bit into his partner a little too hard during sex for the very first time. He and his partner had shared a lecture and he’d noticed her because she had always smelt faintly of sugar and the baked goods she’d bake for events and charity drives.
When he sunk his teeth into his shoulder, it had felt good. Too good, almost. Raw and primal like he could finally get close, really get under her skin. Afterwards, when examining the bruise he had left behind, she had hit him hard in his shoulder and scowled.
“What the fuck is wrong with you,” she’d said, rubbing at the sore skin. “This is messed up, I thought my skin was going to come off, you psycho. If there’s fucking blood —”
Taehyung had never bitten her again. Afterwards, he’d always made sure to gentle his touch, only press the soft pink of his lips to her skin. But, after his brief taste, it had felt like he’d been touching her from behind a curtain. He'd felt like they’d both been wrapped in cotton wool; felt detached, unaffected, and far away. They’d broken it off three weeks later.
The second time, he’d asked his then-boyfriend if he could try around a year in. The man was a pre-school teacher and they had met when he’d helped soothe Taehyung’s crying niece in the grocery aisle.
When Taehyung had asked him if they could try something Taehyung had been wanting, he had seemed fine with it. Sometimes, he would even let Taehyung gently take care of him afterwards; let him wipe him down, cradle him close to his chest after Taehyung had brought him to tears from oversensitivity. In those moments, Taehyung had felt warm, and loved, and needed.
Then, one day, he had walked in on his then-boyfriend in bed with someone else and he’d found that the man had never felt the same.
The man had said, “how could I not look for someone else? How could I not want someone who would treat me gently? Treat me right." He'd said, "I thought I would be able to put up with it, kept telling myself you were a nice guy, but honestly? Only a psychopath or an animal would want to hurt someone they love.”
And even though the one who had cheated was not him, Taehyung had started to think that there must’ve been truth in those words. He’d looked around him, at the love found in books and movies and thought, maybe, he’d been wired wrong for him to crave seeing bruises dark, like splotches of ink, on the skin.
He’d looked into his then-lover’s eyes, the man who he’d thought would know him best and started to believe that, maybe, only those who were sick would enjoy seeing tears collect in their lover’s lashes.
On the day they had broken up, the underground fighter Yoongi had introduced him to had said, “look, this was fun and all. But it’s time for me to find an actual relationship now, you know? Don’t get me wrong, you’re a good lay, but this thing between us does not a lifelong relationship make, know what I mean?”
And Taehyung had hidden the flowers he’d bought for their anniversary behind him. Clutched hard at the bouquet to hide the shake in his hands, nodded, and had laughingly agreed.
Later that night, in the darkness of his room, he'd taken those words, and all the words before them, and examined them.
When all other factors change but the result remains the same, the common denominator, Taehyung thinks, must be the root of the problem.
He thinks, maybe, people like him really hadn’t been made for love after all. He thinks about how he doesn’t seem to fit anywhere, how the jagged edges in the way that he loves makes people bleed when he tries to fit next to them.
Maybe, he thinks, he’d been made for uglier things, crueler emotions, rougher people.
Even later in the night, he goes out and fucks one of the corrupt cops he knows, hard and brutal, without holding back. He lets them hold him down by the throat, flips them over and presses his arm right into their jugular in return. They bite and scratch at him. They rake their nails down his side and when heat flares in his belly, they call him a monster, a loveless freak of nature. He cums hard anyways.
When he leaves in the morning, they’re not shocked by the bruises he had left on their skin. They touch at the tiny crescents his nails had made on their hips and for the first time in a long time, he gets walked to the door with a smile.
Taehyung tells himself he's finally found what he’s been looking for. That this was what he’s always wanted all along.
He tells himself that this must be the only kind of closeness he deserved.
“I miss you,” Jeongguk sighs into the phone. The words come out rushed, yet halting. A little stop-start of sound, like a car stalling between gears. It sounds like he’s been sitting on the words for a while.
“Miss you too, bobba,” Taehyung replies. At the other end of the line, Jeongguk’s next sigh sounds a little happier and the sound curls around Taehyung’s heart and warms it. They’ve started speaking on the phone more often now, almost every night whenever Jeongguk is away or not sleeping over so Taehyung’s confident in his skills at reading the younger man’s expressions just from the way he speaks across the distance between them.
They usually talk about little things. Non-consequential things, like how Jimin had thrown the biggest of fits when he had been forced to throw away the peaches he had carried from Sydney when flying into Hobart. Like how Jeongguk had parkour-ed his way over a wire fence when he had been chased by a brown snake and yet it ‘still climbed up after me. I almost died Tae, they’re the scariest, oh my god’.
But then, there are also nights like this. Nights where Jeongguk has been gone for a full week and they’re not in the mood for stories. Nights where Taehyung usually leaves the phone on speaker as he goes about his routine and runs a constant commentary of what is happening around him, just so Jeongguk can picture himself next to him as he moves.
Tonight, Taehyung’s relaxing in the bath. They’re in the middle of winter, so he’s put the water at just short of scalding. He’s got a book lying face-down, neglected on the tiled floor, and he’s lying back describing the scent of his new bath salts: sandalwood, honey and a hint of smoky vanilla.
Taehyung isn’t the biggest fan of vanilla, but he’s almost certain Jeongguk will adore it; certain Jeongguk will push his face into Taehyung’s neck and breathe in how the scent settles, warm, and comforting, deep into his skin.
Jeongguk suddenly cuts him off with a gusty sigh. “No, but I miss you Taehyungie,” he repeats and there is something in the way that he says it. Something in the inflexion of his words that makes Taehyung stop just speaking and start paying attention.
Slowly, Taehyung asks, “are you thinking about me in the bath Gukkie?”
There’s a muffled noise, like Jeongguk has moved to push his face into the pillow and Taehyung can almost see the red of his ears. He must be blushing.
“Maybe,” Jeongguk admits and Taehyung wonders if the man is hard. Wonders if he's already pink and flushed against his belly.
“You in bed?” Taehyung asks him.
There’s the sound of sheets rustling, then a soft clatter, like the sound of a phone being set down on the nightstand.
“Yes,” Jeongguk confirms a moment later, his voice now has an echoing quality to it and Taehyung thinks he's been put on speaker. “Mnmm, Tae, I just…I miss you so bad. Miss your hands on me.”
There’s the sharp sound of skin on skin, a smack, like the hard hit of a hand to giving flesh and the sound slices through the humid air.
Taehyung wonders if Jeongguk had hit himself hard enough to leave a mark. Wonders if he’s now rubbing his fingers over the sensitised skin to soothe it, the way Taehyung would if he were there.
He wonders if he can make Jeongguk do it again.
“I’m going to tell you how to touch yourself, okay babe?” Taehyung says. “Close your eyes for me, and imagine I’m there with you.”
In the bathroom, Jeongguk’s stuttered breaths surround him and Taehyung sinks deeper into the warm water. He takes himself in hand, gives himself a long, luxurious pull and tells Jeongguk to spank his skin again.
At the first touch of his fingers, Jeongguk keens into the pillow and complies.
“I’m back next week,” Jeongguk whispers into the line when they’re both done. His voice is soft and satiated. “But I have to be off again three days later.”
Taehyung tries to hide his sigh of disappointment. He has a gallery opening next weekend, and he had wanted to ask Jeongguk to come.
“I hate this,” Jeongguk continues, as if reading, and then voicing Taehyung’s inner thoughts. The past half hour had been fun, but now that it’s over, his apartment feels lonelier than ever. Taehyung wishes…
Taehyung wishes for a great many things.
“I want marks next time hyung, before I leave,” Taehyung hears Jeongguk say over the phone and his heart thumps, hard, in his ribcage. “I want to be able to touch them and feel you, even when you’re not here with me.”
Something hotter than arousal burns in Taehyung’s stomach when he hears the words. He thinks about biting his way up Jeongguk’s throat. He thinks of fucking Jeongguk so hard, winding him up so tight that there are tears when he is done. Tentatively, Taehyung brings a feeling he had long buried into the light, dusts it off, and lets it bleed into his voice.
He says, “baby, I when I’m done with you, I promise you won't even know how to beg.” His voice starts off small, but by the end, it comes out of his throat as a growl.
At the other side of the line, Jeongguk lets out a long, shuddering breath, and then he moans.
“So, Jeongguk tells me that you two are ‘finally boyfriends’ now,” Jimin says as he plops himself down onto the bench next to him, “using those exact words too, the sap.”
They’ve gathered in the park; himself, Jeongguk, Jimin, Hoseok and Seokjin, to have a picnic. The initial invitation Taehyung had received promised a peaceful afternoon with the cherry blossoms but Hoseok had found a mangled, half-chewed frisbee in the bushes, probably left behind from some given-up game of fetch, and now they had been making a spectacle of themselves chasing it around.
Taehyung had left the group to come sit at the benches and eat when the guys had started getting creative with their catches. Jeongguk had vaulted himself off Hoseok’s back and launched himself into the air to catch the disc that had been thrown much too high by a laughing Jimin.
The man had finished the display by landing in a perfect iron man pose and Taehyung had raised the metaphorical white flag to retreat and sit down.
On the open field next to them, Jeongguk and Seokjin are now running around on their hands, competing to see who would be able to catch the frisbee between their feet first and Taehyung thinks he’s made the right decision in distancing himself from the disaster that's unfolding. Then he remembers Jimin’s politely inquisitive face next to him and he’s slightly less sure. The smaller man's face looks like it’s been carefully crated to hide the glee he’s feeling at catching Taehyung off guard.
“That what he said?” Taehyung stalls and if he weren’t so panicked he would be making the other man pay for the underhanded move. But right now he’s still stuck on the word ‘boyfriend’.
He and Jeongguk haven't had the conversation yet, but after Jeongguk’s midnight visit, they’d been sleeping together fairly regularly as an addition to their usual activities together. Taehyung’s been deliberately not thinking about what it means, actually. It’s been a long time since he’s been in a position to put a label on anything.
Jimin hums his confirmation.
Before Taehyung can formulate an answer, Jimin says, “he showed up the other day with marks everywhere so I asked him if he'd somehow got taken for ransom without telling us, and then he told me.”
Jimin, Taehyung had been told, is a medic on Jeongguk’s photography team. Before meeting Jeongguk’s ragtag group of friends, Taehyung would never have imagined that nature photography would be so fraught with danger, enough that they would require an in-house medic, but Jeongguk comes back to him with enough bruises and injuries of all types to change his mind.
"He told me that he got those marks from you tying him down."
So this is it then, Taehyung thinks. This is the part where he gets told to stay away.
“You two are wild,” Jimin finishes, eyes sparkling with admiration and Taehyung almost gives himself whiplash with how fast his head snaps up at Jimin’s playful tone. Is he — not scared of Taehyung?
Is he really not warning Taehyung to keep away?
“So you’re,” Taehyung begins and then he trails off. He swallows and starts up again because, impossible as the thought might be, he can't find another interpretation for Jimin's words, “you’re okay with this? With Guk and me, like this?”
Jimin gives him a weird look. “Yes?” Jimin answers, “I mean, you two getting together means we’ve finally moved on from speaking about how much he wants you to rail him, so if anything, it has been a blessing.”
Taehyung lets out an involuntary snort of surprise.
“I’ve never properly tied anyone down before though,” Jimin continues and then proceeds to ask him about techniques and tips.
As Taehyung answers on autopilot, he wonders, vaguely, if he’s been transported to an alternate universe. How could Jimin, who is made of fairy dust, glitter and smiles be holding a conversation with Taehyung about his darkest desires like he shares them too? If someone like Jimin can smile, trust Taehyung with his friend after he knows of the ugliness Taehyung keeps, then maybe, he might not be so broken after all?
From the other end of the field, he catches Jeongguk bounding over in their direction. He’s sweaty and smiling, and the afternoon light on his skin is breathtaking.
He slides in behind Taehyung on the bench and smoothly pulls him into his lap. Taehyung tilts his head obligingly so that Jeongguk can peck his temple. He then gives Jimin a smirk and the other man’s eyes widen.
“Hello boyfriend,” Taehyung greets, pointedly.
Jeongguk flushes a pretty pink, sends a venomous look in Jimin’s direction and buries his face into Taehyung’s neck.
“Oh,” he whispers into the skin there, “did you hear?”
“Sure did,” Taehyung confirms. Next to them, Jimin makes an aborted gesture like he’s seriously contemplating fleeing. He doesn’t, and Taehyung smiles harder because he’s nowhere near done yet.
“Is that,” Jeongguk begins and then he stops to worry his bottom lip between his teeth, “is that okay?”
Taehyung turns around in the circle of Jeongguk’s arms so that he’s properly straddling his thighs and presses a kiss to the corner of Jeongguk’s mouth. He coaxes Jeongguk’s bottom lip out from under his front teeth and then when Jeongguk parts his lips to gasp, he slides his tongue into the warmth opening up for him.
Taehyung runs his thumbs down Jeongguk’s cheekbones, presses down on the hinge at his jaw to make him open up even wider, and Jeongguk’s breath shatters when he pulls the other man close. The air between their bodies heats up and Taehyung doesn’t stop his exploration of Jeongguk’s body until he feels the younger man groan and then start to plump up and press, insistent, under his thigh.
When he pulls back, he kneads at one of Jeongguk’s asscheeks with bruising force. It forces the other man’s hips to buck up and he whines, a quiet hiss through his teeth. Taehyung wouldn’t be surprised if he later finds evidence that the inside of Jeongguk’s boxers is now sticky and wet.
“Boyfriends,” Taehyung hums, “I like the sound of that.”
“Good,” Jeongguk says and a deep satisfaction colours his voice.
“Boyfriends,” Taehyung repeats, liking the way the word feels on his tongue. He carefully moulds his voice into teasing, but too much truth still spills into what he says next. “How did I ever get so lucky?”
He covers the moment up by running possessive teeth over Jeongguk’s throat. When he playfully rubs a thumb over a nipple, Jeongguk quickly turns his face into Taehyung’s hair to unsuccessfully try to muffle his moan.
Eventually, Taehyung leans back and looks at the man in his arms who is smiling at him like he is something precious. Taehyung doesn’t think anyone has ever looked at him like this before, like they had reached into the darkness and their hands had come back draped in gold.
“I’m going to need to throw my whole two eyeballs and my ears away,” Taehyung hears Jimin complain from beside them, “why, god?"
At the back of his mind, the part of him that had been looking to get back at the man for deliberately cornering him purrs in satisfaction.
Taehyung leans in again and wraps himself even tighter around Jeongguk's body, wonders at how the man can be real.
“You have a choice,” Taehyung says. “You can either cum now, or you can wait and I’ll fuck your face like you’ve been wanting.”
When Taehyung had opened his door late in the afternoon, Jeongguk had tumbled inside and covered Taehyung’s amused mouth with his own laughing one.
“I’m back,” he’d giggled into the space between their lips. The man had gone on a trip to France this time, to a little alpine town, and had bombarded Taehyung with images of grilled, gooey raclette and mountain views until Taehyung had almost expired from the jealousy.
“Welcome back,” Taehyung had returned, swallowing the sound and then breathing the other man in. He thinks, if he closes his eyes and concentrates, that he can smell the fresh mountain air clinging to Jeongguk’s skin.
Now, in Taehyung’s bedroom, Taehyung is sat down at the edge of his bed, fully clothed and Jeongguk is kneeling barely a metre away from Taehyung’s feet. He's been stripped down to his underwear. Earlier, Taehyung had tucked the elastic of it under his balls so that his dick can be on full display. Its tip is a flushed a dusty pink and Taehyung can almost see how it pulses in time with Jeongguk’s heartbeat.
Jeongguk's breath is already getting ragged and Taehyung smiles.
“Your choice, Guk,” Taehyung repeats again. “By yourself, or on my cock.”
“That’s not fair,” Jeongguk says in a small voice, but his hands obediently fall to his sides. His dick jerks under Taehyung’s steady gaze, makes a wet noise when it slaps against Jeongguk’s belly. As Taehyung watches him some more, silent and still, Jeongguk whimpers again and a clear bead of pre-cum gathers at the head of the younger’s cock and drips down his shaft.
“Oh that’s nice,” Taehyung murmurs, stretching a foot out to press down on one of Jeongguk’s nipples with the flat of his shoe. When he makes contact, Jeongguk jerks and keens, nails digging into the meat of his thighs with how hard he must be holding himself back from taking himself in hand.
“Very nice,” Taehyung finishes softly, pleased. He rubs at his aching dick through the material of his pants and Jeongguk’s cock twitches again.
“Your nipples are sensitive, aren’t they?” Taehyung murmurs, rhetorically. He knows they are. Everything on Jeongguk is sensitive and it is wonderful.
“Touch them,” Taehyung orders, and Jeongguk lets out a deep, shuddering breath. Taehyung watches as the other man runs the pad of his thumb over the skin, watches his head tip back, watches him struggle to keep his eyes open and focused on Taehyung because he wants them to stay connected.
Taehyung lets him continue to play with the nub for a while and then makes him start with the other. He allows Jeongguk to thumb at his chest until the skin under his fingers is swollen and pink and his cock is twitching and oozing a steady stream of clear fluid. Finally, Taehyung toes off his shoes and runs a hand down the front of his own trousers. He pulls the zipper down, slow, and at the sound Jeongguk lets out a high noise, like just the promise of Taehyung’s cock is pushing him that much closer to the edge.
Taehyung looks down for a brief moment to pull himself out of his underwear, gives himself a long stroke to sooth the ache and tells Jeongguk, “baby, you’re doing so good,” and, “look at how hard you’ve made me, just from watching you,” and, “I can’t wait to fuck your mouth, to feel myself slide into your throat. You’d open up so nicely for me, wouldn’t you baby? All wet and warm. I’m going to fuck you until you can’t breathe”.
He looks back up again when he hears a long, broken whine and then a whimpered, ‘oh,’ from the man in front of him.
Jeongguk is still kneeling on the floor, but now his hands are by his side. His head is hung low and his chest is heaving. He’s not meeting Taehyung eyes.
When Taehyung takes a glance at Jeongguk’s cock, he understands why.
Sliding down Jeongguk’s shaft to puddle on the floor in white rivulets is Jeongguk’s cum. He still looks achingly hard, but there’s no mistaking what happened.
The thought that Jeongguk had lost control just over the image of Taehyung using him, the thought the younger had wanted it that bad, is so hot that Taehyung throbs with it.
He wants to pull Jeongguk into his lap, kiss the man until he’s breathless and then slide into his mouth, just like he had been describing. But for now, he modulates his voice into teasing and says, “oh, sweetheart, what happened?”
He knows the man hadn’t really orgasmed properly, he’d just come very, very close and had ended up leaking all over himself.
“'M sorry,” Jeongguk mumbles, still not meeting his eyes.
“I’m not mad baby,” Taehyung reassures and he is rewarded by seeing Jeongguk’s shoulders relax. He gets up and closes the distance between them. Once’s he’s close, he takes himself in hand and traces the head of his cock over the contours of Jeongguk’s lips. "You've been real pent up, huh?"
At the contact, the younger’s hips give an involuntary jerk, humping into the air and Jeongguk whines, parting his lips, wanting.
Taehyung lets the pink of the younger’s tongue swirl around his cockhead, lets it lap up the precum that has gathered on his swollen tip.
He threads a hand into Jeongguk’s hair to hold him steady and then gently pushes into the wet heat of his mouth. Around the length of him, Taehyung feels Jeongguk moan.
His rolls his hips and slides in again, slow, lush and steady so that Jeongguk can feel every inch of the velvet skin of his cock run over his lips.
When he presses in deep enough, he feels the other man go liquid and pliant under his grip. He looks blissful and Taehyung greedily takes in the sight.
Then, Taehyung quickly steps back out of reach.
Jeongguk mindlessly leans forward to follow him and barely manages to catch himself on his hands before he falls flat on his face when Taehyung eventually moves back too far for him to reach.
“What? Why?” Jeongguk demands, and for a moment he looks so angry at Taehyung for taking his cock away that Taehyung wants to laugh, indescribably fond. Taehyung pulls the kneeling man to his feet and guides him to sit at the edge of the bed. He uses one hand to untuck the elastic of the younger’s underwear from where it’s resting behind his balls.
“Are we stopping?” Jeongguk wobbles, clutching desperately at Taehyung’s forearms, “'m sorry, Tae. I’ve just been needing you so much, I —”
Despite the disappointment in his voice, he still miserably lets Taehyung reposition the band across his lower belly when he carefully tucks the younger’s hard length back into his underwear. His cock is even wetter than it had been after he had accidentally cum and Taehyung can feel the desperate heat of him, even through the protective layer of cloth.
“Shh,” Taehyung soothes, shaking his head when Jeongguk starts to sniffle, “I’m still going to take care of you Guk, don’t worry.”
He lets his fingers lightly graze at the head of his cock, Jeongguk whimpers on an exhale.
Jeongguk’s cock is so very sensitive and most days even before the relentless teasing Taehyung subjects him to, like he’d been doing today, Jeongguk can barely stand the glide of Taehyung palm on it without needing to twitch away from the sensation. Taehyung loves it.
So now, to help the man get through what he has planned, Taehyung tugs Jeongguk’s underwear back on and pours lube all over his front. It saturates the material, leaves the skin around it slippery and slick and Jeongguk makes a confused noise when Taehyung pushes him onto his back.
“Well, we did have a deal,” Taehyung comments. He attempts to make his voice sound chiding but it is a lost cause. “But then you'd cum all by yourself, so I’ll make you a new one.”
He arranges Jeongguk’s legs so that they rest on his shoulders. The leg at Taehyung’s right goes on his left shoulder, and the one at his left goes onto Taehyung’s right one. Jeongguk’s legs end up crossed tightly at the knees and Taehyung bears his weight down, runs a slick finger down the line where Jeongguk’s thighs are now tightly pressed together as a result.
He takes a moment to admire the picture Jeongguk creates and then his fingers reach the wet cloth covering the swollen, silky skin of Jeongguk’s balls. Taehyung gives them a light tickle and Jeongguk purrs and arches beneath him.
“Oh,” he gasps when Taehyung pushes a thumb into the press of his thighs. “Are you — mnngh — will you really?”
Taehyung replaces his thumb with the head of his cock. The space is hot from his skin and slick with lube. He pushes in slowly, savouring the give in Jeongguk’s hard muscle, the sensation of his unclothed cock brushing over the fabric covering Jeongguk’s own.
He leans down and covers Jeongguk’s mouth with his, swallows the cry the younger man makes when his cock jerks and twitches from the faint pressure.
Taehyung moves his hand to press over the strip of cloth covering Jeongguk’s entrance and Jeongguk shouts, babbles, “yes, oh — mnnh, please.”
The older man presses the palm of his hand harder onto Jeongguk’s entrance and Jeongguk grinds into it. He squirms as he tries and fails to decide on whether he wants to push into the glide of Taehyung’s cock over his or into the sensation of his hand.
“As a bonus,” Taehyung grinds out after a moment, pumping his hips viciously, “if you can last until I cum, I’ll let you cum with my fingers inside you." Jeongguk is letting out bitten off gasps of sound now, so Taehyung knows he must be minutes from tipping over the edge. "I know you want something to stretch you open."
Jeongguk trembles, whines, and tears gather in his lashes.
“I want it,” he slurs, throwing his head back into the mattress. His hair is a mess of sweat, the strands helplessly tangled from the way Taehyung is shoving him ruthlessly into the bed. “Want it so much, but, hnngh — hyungie, I don’t know if I,” he breaks off to hiccup in a desperate gasp for air, “if I can.”
“You can,” Taehyung encourages and then he slaps Jeongguk hard on the back of the thigh. The man under him jerks and whines, his thighs clench tight and Taehyung finally allows himself to let go and start fucking into him for real. Jeongguk’s lips part in ecstasy and Taehyung moans when the muscles around his cock tense and tremble as Jeongguk tries to keep himself together.
When Taehyung cums, it slams through him like a thunderstorm and he makes an even bigger mess of Jeongguk’s abdomen and thighs. He pumps his cock into the slick heat, languidly gathers the sticky mess on his fingers and finally reaches into the back of Jeongguk’s underwear presses up against his hole.
Beneath him, Jeongguk is an over-sensitised mess. His hands are clawing at the bedsheets and he’s letting out broken sobs with Taehyung’s every movement. The sight is one of the most beautiful things Taehyung has ever seen.
“Were you good for me?” Taehyung asks, just to force Jeongguk’s fraying voice to answer him.
“Hyungie,” Jeongguk barely manages to choke out, “was good. I didn’t, I didn’t. M’so close gonna —nggh — but I’m so empty, please I — ah!”
“Cum,” Taehyung commands. He shoves three of his fingers into Jeongguk’s twitching entrance and rips Jeongguk’s underwear down just in time to see his flushed cock swell, see it jerk as it floods Jeongguk’s abdomen with his release. Taehyung feels him flutter around his fingers, reaches another hand up to milk Jeongguk’s cock and he wails.
After that, it takes Jeongguk a long time to come down. Taehyung cleans up the best that he’s able; wipes down both their bodies and changes the sheets around Jeongguk’s limp frame. Every time he’s close enough, Taehyung runs his fingers down Jeongguk’s body, strokes his hair and kisses his pliant lips because when left alone for too long, Jeongguk starts making upset noises and there is nothing that hurts Taehyung more.
When he’s done cleaning up, he lays himself down next to the lightly dozing man and pulls him onto his chest. Jeongguk follows happily and it takes a moment, but Taehyung finally realises that the other man is manoeuvring himself so that they’re as intertwined as physically possible.
He looks down at the top of Jeongguk’s head that is trying to burrow itself into his skin and chuckles, fond.
“What are you doing?” Taehyung asks, petting down Jeongguk’s back in long, soothing strokes.
“Closer,” Jeongguk mumbles into his neck like he’s ashamed of his need. He presses his head to Taehyung’s chest and makes an unhappy noise, like the existence of skin and bone had been created just to test him. “Hyungie, want you closer.”
When Taehyung’s hand ventures low enough to reach the small of Jeongguk’s back, the younger man’s breath stutters and he arches into the touch.
“Spoiled,” Taehyung chides, but his voice says something else entirely.
He walks his fingers down Jeongguk’s tailbone, tucks two fingers into his loosened hole and the younger man finally relaxes enough to fall asleep.
Taehyung himself doesn’t manage it though. He spends the entire night thinking about how Jeongguk had smiled for him, open and trusting and beautiful; how he's sleeping like he’s tucking the whole of himself into Taehyung’s chest, next to his heart and trusting him to keep him safe.
He looks down at Jeongguk’s peaceful face, thinks of the way he had kissed him gentle and laughing at the door. He thinks about how he will never relearn how to live without it (thinks about how he is sure that he will have to).
Taehyung presses his nose to Jeongguk’s temple and tries to breathe through the tightness he suddenly finds in his chest.
“You’re just making excuses at this point,” Yoongi says.
They’re in another bar. It had been Taehyung’s turn to pick their meeting location this time so he’d chosen a popular secret bar that had been decorated to look like a speakeasy. He had thought the pseudo-illicit feeling of it gave would match well with his mood.
“Really,” Taehyung insists, staring sightlessly into his glass of wine. From where he is sat on the opposite side of the table, Yoongi sighs into his whiskey.
“Talk to him first, maybe? Before you rush to conclusions,” Yoongi sardonically suggests.
“But I’m going to ruin him, hyung,” Taehyung finally admits. His squeezes his eyes shut because it feels like even the dim lighting in the bar has become too much. He chugs the rest of the wine in his glass without tasting it and orders another.
“He thinks that the universe was created inside of your ass Tae, everyone can see it. What could you possibly be scared of?”
Taehyung takes a deep mouthful of his second glass to stall on his answer. He rolls the confession in his mouth, tastes the shame in, acrid on his tongue, and wonders if it would be worth it if he were to give it a voice.
“I break good things Yoongi. You've seen, haven't you?” he whispers, thinking of all the people he had ended up twisting up and then pushing away. They always start off so good, work so well together and then…
No-one in his past can even hold a candle to the way he and Jeongguk fit together now but that just means there is so much more to lose, so much further to fall. “When I touch people, they warp beneath my hands.”
“Get fucked,” Yoongi snaps, slamming his glass onto the table. “What happened with your exes has never been your fault. Stop blaming yourself when they were the ones who messed up." Yoongi's eyes are fierce when he says his next words, "it doesn’t matter if they were doll-eyed girls who baked, or kindergarten teachers who painted with their hands or anyone else who’s pushed you away — those aren’t the things that define what people are, Tae." Here he pauses to release an angry rush of breath, "They said horrible things to you, did terrible things to someone who trusted them with their heart, and those are the actions that define what people are.”
“Jeongguk somehow trusts me with his,” Taehyung breathes, like a terrible confession. He thinks about how, just yesterday, he had left the imprint of his teeth over Jeongguk’s nipple, how he had fucked so hard into Jeongguk’s throat that he could only rasp a goodbye in the morning. He whispers, "people shouldn’t want to hurt what they love, Yoongi. I always do.”
“You don’t,” Yoongi explodes. “Not in the ways that matter. If you weren’t terrified of hurting him, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Why can’t you understand?”
Taehyung tries to swallow around the growing lump in his throat to force his next words out. Before he can manage, the phone he had placed on the table buzzes with a new message.
Guk: Still out?
You: Yeah, sorry. Be about half an hour
Guk: Where abouts are you? I’ll swing by and pick you up. You’re w/ Yoongi-hyung right?
You: Yup. At the bar we went to a couple months ago, next to the street where you dropped your kebab into the fountain
Guk: That’s so faaaaar hyung,,, it wouldn’t have taken you 30 mins at all, liar
You: Lolol, my bad
You: Hyung is sorry, what do I have to do for you to forgive me
Guk: 10 kisses tonight
Guk: No 20
Guk: Wait, no, I meant to type 50**
Taehyung laughs helplessly at the barrage of messages flooding his screen. God, he is so very fond of this man.
Guk: Stop laughing!!!! I’m making it 100!!! Final offer
“He’s a good kid, Tae. He'll be good for you too, if you let him,” Yoongi continues. He doesn’t even try to hide the fact that he’s reading the other man’s phone screen. “God, you two are sickening sometimes.”
Yes, Taehyung wants to reply, that’s exactly the problem.
“How many times do I have to tell you to stop dog-earing my books,” Jeongguk shouts, exploding into the living room. From where he’s sat at the table, Namjoon freezes, hovering his chopsticks halfway to his mouth.
“Sorry,” Taehyung halfheartedly mumbles around the sushi roll he’d just stuffed into his own.
“Look at all these,” Jeongguk persists, slamming the six books in his hand onto the space next to Taehyung’s plate. The younger man picks one up at random and fans the pages out under Taehyung’s nose. When he happens across a page that has, indeed, been folded over at the corner he shoves the evidence into Taehyung’s face and goes, “why do you keep doing this to me?”
Taehyung replies laughingly, “you know this book is actually mine right? This one and at least two more out of the ones you've brought out here.”
“What?” Jeongguk says, sounded wrong-footed, and then he recovers, “that’s not even the point! Stop. Folding. The Corners. You’re ruining the pages.” He punctuates each word with a tap of the book against Taehyung’s forehead.
Taehyung laughs again, but he’s suddenly feeling a little uneasy.
“I only do it to the ones I love,” he says. He likes thumbing at the words and paragraphs that speak to him, likes his books to have deep creases down the spine, annotations in the margins, to show that they have been cherished and adored.
“If you really loved them, you’d treat them better,” Jeongguk snips and Taehyung’s laughter turns into ashes that settle inside his chest, suffocating him. “One day, one of your precious books is going to fall apart, and then you’ll see.”
“Just buy some bookmarks or something, Christ,” Namjoon cuts in, rolling his eyes.
“Yeah, okay,” Taehyung agrees. It feels like his heart has dropped past his shoes, through the floor and onto the concrete below, “yeah, you’re right.”
Later that night, Taehyung finishes up his plan for his trip. He’s going to be travelling the world, visiting his old artist, discovering some new ones. He also needs to make some new connections above and below the board for his side business too.
He’s not running away, Taehyung thinks, not exactly. He needs to make sure his gallery stays up to date, that it gets some fresh blood to keep it from going stale.
When he’s done with the plans, he shoots off a recruitment ad for a stand-in to mind the gallery during his time away.
Next to ‘Job Duration’, Taehyung types in, ‘3-4 months’.
“You didn’t talk about it at all, did you,” comes Yoongi’s heavily judging voice. They’re at the self check-in counter at the airport and Taehyung is waiting for the machine to finish printing the tag for his bag. He tries to will it to print faster.
Jeongguk had been the one who was supposed to send him off today, had insisted on it actually, last night when Taehyung had been massaging moisturiser into the skin of his wrists after he'd untied the silk sash from them.
As Jeongguk had run his fingers over the trail of purpling kisses Taehyung had left all over his neck and torso he’d whispered, “is it okay if…I ask you to call?”
Taehyung had pulled back, surprised, “of course I’m going to Guk. We always talk whenever you’re away, so this won’t be different.”
Taehyung hadn't really been lying. He’ll call, but now their interactions are going to be limited to nights on the phone. Jeongguk will naturally have to find other things to do to fill in all the time that they had been spending with each other and eventually, Taehyung thinks, naturally, Jeongguk will be able to escape from the web Taehyung had spun around him and Taehyung won’t fight it.
Jeongguk is one of the most active people he knows, so he knows it wouldn’t take the other man long to forget him altogether. Maybe then, Jeongguk will find someone who was just as good at him, some who could cherish him like he’d always been made for, and make him truly happy.
“Okay,” Jeongguk had mumbled, pressing his own fingers deep into the darkest mark, the one right below his ear. “I just, I don’t want to be a bother.”
Sometimes, Jeongguk says things that break Taehyung’s heart. He says things like, 'I’m not being too much, right,' or, 'let me know if this is being too needy and I’ll try to stop,' like he’s repeating words he’s hearing in his memory whenever he does something Taehyung’s thinks of as wonderful.
He’d said them when he had refused to sleep until Taehyung had finished giving him the hundred kisses he had insisted he was owed, said them after Taehyung had guided him into the bath and had gotten to dote on him, wipe a wet sponge over every inch of his skin just to watch him bloom under the attention.
Sometimes, Taehyung would think about the shake in Jeongguk’s voice and he wants to find the people who had made Jeongguk hear those terrible words and crush them into the floor.
“Nothing I do for you will ever be a bother,” Taehyung had said, too sincere by half. It’d been worth it though, when the ghost of a smile, the first of the night, finally formed on Jeongguk’s face.
“You’re going to Japan first, right? And then Singapore, then Hong Kong, Taiwan, then — ” the younger's voice had wobbled, had gotten smaller as the list gets longer, until he’d broken it off. “Okay,” he’d finished with a trembling sigh, "okay".
They fall asleep not long after that and Taehyung had pressed a hand to Jeongguk’s beating heart and mouthed confession after confession into the fluttering under his palm.
'Be well,' he had murmured.
'Please be happy,' he'd prayed.
'I — ' he'd started to say, but he couldn't finish, even in the dark.
In the morning, he had been walked to the door of his flat and Jeongguk had kissed him hard before sending him off. Taehyung had obligingly tilted his head to align their mouths, pressed his thumb to the corner of Jeongguk's lips and the younger man had tilted his head to nip at it.
“I didn’t think I would be able to send you off with a smile at the airport…so I’ve asked Yoongi-hyung to come to drive you instead,” he had admitted, glum and watery.
Visibly shaking himself, Jeongguk had summoned up a smile and continued, “come back safe Tae. Call me when you land.”
“There was nothing to talk about,” Taehyung sighs at Yoongi, ripping the long sticker out of the printer and then smoothly wrapping it around his suitcase handle.
He lifts his newly tagged suitcase onto the conveyor belt and they both stand and watch as it gets carried away.
When they get to the doors of the departure hall, Yoongi pulls him into a fierce hug.
“You’re an idiot,” Yoongi murmurs into his ear.
“I can’t hurt him,” Taehyung whispers back into his shoulder. "I won't change him."
“It’s too late for that,” Yoongi says and Taehyung flinches. “There is no such thing as a clean break from what you two have.”
Taehyung thinks about all the smiles he’s managed to twist, all the laughter he's dimmed. He can’t do that to Jeongguk, Jeongguk who had entered his life with light in his eyes and gold in his smile. He thinks about the light dimming, going out and hurts, right down into his core.
“I just want him to be smiling forever, hyung. I’d do anything to keep him happy,” Taehyung confesses, closing his eyes.
“Then fucking tell him that, and then you’ll see it.”
"I'll miss you hyung," Taehyung says instead, because he will.
"Fucking get out of my sight," Yoongi replies, but he's the one that pulls Taehyung closer.
“You’re in my apartment again,” Taehyung laughs when he recognises the sheets Jeongguk is lying on. At the observation, Jeongguk squirms. It’s been five weeks, they’ve spoken on the phone almost every day and the joy that rings in Jeongguk’s voice whenever he picks up has remained just the same.
“Well, I, like. I forgot stuff here,” he very obviously lies. His hair is messy, and his eyes are heavy with sleep.
The man is fully snuggled under Taehyung’s duvet, dressed in his pyjamas. Taehyung looks closer and recognises it as the shirt Taehyung had given him the day they had met, Jeongguk, the wicked creature, had told him that it had been lost it in the wash.
“And the other four times?” Taehyung teases, heart warm.
Whenever Taehyung calls the younger up and he’s in town, he finds that, more often than not, Jeongguk is puttering around in his flat. This, however, is the first time he’s caught him sleeping in his bed. He’s bunched up the duvet between his arms and has hidden his burning face in the gathered fabric. Taehyung watches as he pushes his nose so far into the soft material so only his eyes peek out at him over the top and Taehyung longs for him, longs to kiss the lids of his eyes, press his lips to the man’s forehead.
Jeongguk mutters something into the duvet and Taehyung makes an inquiring noise to ask him to repeat it.
“It smells of you here,” Jeongguk says. He’s blushing to his ears now and oh, isn’t that just the loveliest sight.
“And do you like that?” Taehyung asks, letting his voice drop to a low rumble. Jeongguk nods. “Won’t you show me how much?” Taehyung requests.
At the other end of the line, Jeongguk drops his newly removed pyjama bottoms onto the top of the duvet and he grins.
“I want you to numb yourself for me a little,” Taehyung orders, knowing Jeongguk would be too sensitive for what he wants without help from the cream.
Jeongguk lights up at the command.
Taehyung had a thought to ask him to use a condom to help dull sensation, but then he realises that they've run out and Taehyung hasn't restocked in months.
He watches as Jeongguk obediently smears a thin layer of the numbing cream over where he’s most sensitive. He fingers move over the head of his cock and just under it, at the spot Taehyung likes to tickle if he wants to drive the younger man wild. He whimpers when his fingers graze over the glands and his cock plumps up to rest in the crease of his thigh. Taehyung marvels at the sensitivity of him.
Then, they wait.
In the twenty minutes it takes for the cream to take effect, Taehyung makes Jeongguk get out from under the duvet and move it so that it is piled up at the foot of the bed. He tells him it’s for him to bite into, to muffle the noises Taehyung knows Jeongguk will make and watches as the man squirms, cock filling between his legs.
He then gets Jeongguk to place his phone at an angle that will let him see his body in its entirety. He tells him how beautiful he is, how he can’t wait to make him fall apart.
“Now touch yourself for me,” Taehyung says and Jeongguk lubes up his hand, leans in back against the wall and he does.
He gasps when he gets a firm hand around his cock, but he doesn’t twist away, which means he’s ready. Taehyung allows him a minute to grip himself, allows the other man a quick moment to enjoy the glide of his hand over his cock before he stops him.
“I want you on your front beautiful,” Taehyung coaxes, “belly down, face pressed into my duvet.”
Jeongguk uncurls from his position against the wall and he complies. When he puts his head down, Taehyung watches, pleased, as the younger man whines and his hips grind into the mattress. He can see every inch of him from his head to his feet, watch the way his muscles work, and the view feels like decadence itself.
He says, “I didn’t say you could move yet,” and Jeongguk immediately stills his hips.
“'M sorry,” he mumbles, “it just, it smells like you’re here with me.”
“I know,” Taehyung smiles because that was the point. He knows Jeongguk must’ve already been buzzing even before he had called. Had read it in the slight glaze in his eyes when he had picked up the phone and knows that having the scent of him so close would drive the other half mad. But tonight, he plans to edge him until he’s crying.
“Let me see your cock babe,” he says, “push it to the side for me.”
On the bed, Jeongguk moves a hand down to push his cock so that it rests at an angle. The head of it peeks out, flushed and wanting, trapped between his abdomen and the mattress. At the sight, Taehyung wraps a hand around himself and moans.
Jeongguk echoes the sound and his hips twitch.
“I want you to pretend I’m there with you babe. I want you to imagine that your face is pressed into my neck, right into that spot I know you love. I want you to imagine that your cock is pressed into my thigh. Can you do that for me, Guk?”
Jeongguk whimpers out a ‘yes’.
“Now grind down for me.” Jeongguk pushes his hips down and the head of his cock pushes tight into his belly. Any other day, the motion would have had Jeongguk sobbing from the direct friction to his cock but today, he whines into the hand fisted next to his head in the duvet and pushes down again, greedy for the new sensation.
“So good,” he praises. Jeongguk makes a high pitched noise, bites into the material next to him and swallows another moan. Taehyung wonders if the scent of him is flooding the younger man’s senses, enveloping him like how he wants to do. He wonders if Jeongguk is getting off on it, wonders if it's why his cock kicks and drools every time he bites down. Taehyung hopes that it is.
“You're doing amazing. A little faster babe, that’s it. Are you feeling good?”
“Mmmn,” Jeongguk moans in reply. The bit of material that’s clenched between his teeth is darkening with his drool and the sheet under his cock looks to be soaked through. “You feel so good Taehyungie,” he whines and drives down faster.
“Are you wet for me?”
“Yes. M’so close, oh — hnng.”
“You gonna to cum baby? Gonna get my leg all dirty and mark me up? Cum all over my thigh, rutting into it like you’re desperate for me?”
Jeongguk cries out and trembles. From where it is trapped beneath the other man’s body, Taehyung can see his cock kick and swell.
“Now stop,” he purrs, grinning. “Gukkie, stop moving.”
Jeongguk makes a confused noise. His hips slow but still helplessly stutter into the mattress.
“I said, stop,” Taehyung repeats and lets a little steel bleed into his voice.
“Get on your knees,” he orders when Jeongguk's hips are still helplessly making aborted little grinds into the bed and a warm flush of pleasure flows through him when he sees how Jeongguk shakily complies.
The younger man’s cock hangs, needy and dripping between his legs, touching nothing but air as Jeongguk pants. It twitches violently for a few seconds and Jeongguk keens, trying to regain control but eventually, it stills and Jeongguk lets out a long, unsteady breath.
“Okay now?” Taehyung asks and Jeongguk gives a weak nod, sweat dripping down his neck. “Good. Now back onto your belly. Start again.”
It doesn’t take long until Jeongguk is making mewling noises into the sheets. Taehyung studies the way the muscles in his back and ass flex as he grinds his dick into the rapidly growing wet spot on his bed and strokes himself to the same rhythm. Once Jeongguk’s movements start to get erratic, Taehyung makes him stop again.
This time, it seems like it’s both easier and harder for the man at the other end of the line. He immediately struggles to his knees, but his hips still helplessly thrust into air. Jeongguk’s got his face completely pressed into the fluffy covers, but Taehyung can still hear the desperate noises he’s making. A long string of precum connects his cock to the wet spot on the mattress. His chest heaves and Taehyung admires the sweat the that rolls down the curve of the other man’s back as he tries to calm down.
“You’re doing so well,” Taehyung praises, voice low and appreciative. Jeongguk sobs and his dick slaps into his belly. “Now, again.”
Jeongguk cautiously lowers his hips back down. Gives a tentative pump of his hips and hisses out a moan through his teeth.
“I can’t,” he sobs, his lips are a deep red. “Hyung, I —”
“You will,” Taehyung says and Jeongguk’s hips snap forward like his voice was a physical presence that had grabbed him by the hips and had forced him down. “Put your hands on your ass for me, babe. I’m there with you, grabbing you and grinding you down, can you feel it?”
Jeongguk presses down harder, Taehyung can almost see the waves of physical pleasure building inside him, feels the echoes of it in himself. He watches the crest of it get bigger and bigger until it gets too large to contain and it spills from Jeongguk’s panting mouth as a constant low whine.
“Please,” Taehyung hears. Jeongguk’s eyes are wide and sightless and he's been sobbing out broken sounds of pleasure whenever he can catch his breath, “please.”
Taehyung feels electric with it, skin hot with the knowledge that Jeongguk is putting on this show, with his open mouth and ragged breath, just for him. He feels his face flush hot as he watches the way Jeongguk trembles and Taehyung growls.
“You can cum now,” he says and Jeongguk crashes into his orgasm, brutal and savage like waves onto shore.
“What do you say,” Taehyung grinds out, finally overwhelmed and he spills into his own hand.
“Thank you hyungie,” Jeongguk slurs, tears on his cheeks, body jerking and writhing like the most irresistible of temptations. “Mhnnm — Tae-hyungie, thank you.”
“I miss you,” Taehyung finally lets himself confesses into the silence of the line.
Jeongguk had fallen asleep almost immediately after they were done. The cheeky brat had simply rolled out of the wet spot, planted his head on the nearest pillow and passed out after a mumbled ‘goodnight’ despite Taehyung’s protests that leaving the soaked and sticky sheets on his bed was definitely going to ruin his mattress.
Taehyung quietly watches the rise and fall of Jeongguk’s chest. The bitter taste of terror is still there, always present at the back of his throat, but whenever he calls and Jeongguk picks up, the taste starts to recede and fade, becomes a little sweeter. It's getting crowded out by how much he misses this man. A deep, persistent ache that he feels down in the marrows of his bones in the moments they are apart.
It's like he'd been born like this, born with Jeongguk already inside his heart and now that part yearns to be back next to him.
Taehyung watches Jeongguk reach out towards him, towards the screen to leave a hand between them on the mattress. He watches Jeongguk mumble his name in his sleep, remembers the crinkles in the corners of his eyes when the younger man smiles, only for him.
The smile hasn't changed, not even a little. Has stayed the same ever since the day Taehyung had spilt his drink on him on the day they had first met.
Looking at him now, Taehyung starts to think that, maybe, Jeongguk might’ve been born with a piece of Taehyung already inside him too. And that, if nothing else, had to be worth fighting for.
With shaking hands, Taehyung opens up the ticketing website and searches for flights back to Korea.
He thinks, after he’s done with Taiwan, it might be time to pay a visit home.
Taehyung is walking down a quiet back alley when it happens.
He’s heading towards a small boutique he’s heard of, located in a quiet residential area at the outskirts of Taipei. He'd heard that they created made-to-order Oxford loafers in fantastical designs and he’s been dying to have a peek into their studio, order a few pairs for himself and possibly Hoseok, to gently wean the man off his current preferred pair.
His phone buzzes in his pocket just as he spots another man walking in his direction from the other end of the street, face buried in a map. Taehyung takes another sip of the warm soy he has in his hand and shivers as it goes down. He doesn’t like soy normally, but the breakfast place opposite where he’s staying just makes it so well.
Taehyung one-handedly fumbles out his phone to read the text. It’s from the group chat and the fact that it has seven members in total means that it is constantly active.
Jin: Tae, you’re still in Taipei right? Post me 3 boxes of the pineapple cakes. Also the face mask, the one in the fugly purple tub, you know the one I mean
Hoseokie: You've put in an order for stuff for every country he’s in lol, let the boy live
Taehyung smiles at the screen, really missing his crackheads. He wonders if now would be a good time to drop the fact that he’s cutting his trip a little short, that he’s just finished with organising a break for him to fly home for a week. He thinks he might face-time Jeongguk about it later, drop the news to him first. He hopes the news will make him smile.
Before he can reply, the guy with the map walks up to him and starts to ask him for directions to the nearest Metro. He has a face mask on and Taehyung idly wonders if he's a celebrity of some sort. From what little Taehyung can see, the guy's face doesn't look to be anything to write home about, so he maybe the man's just sick.
“It’s just around the corner,” Taehyung says helpfully, “back the way you came from. There’s one on my way actually, so I can walk you. Just give me a moment to reply to this text.”
He turns his eyes back to his phone and begins to type out his reply. When he does, he feels something gets sprayed onto his face. He jerks back and sputters, uses his sleeve to wipe furiously at his skin, but by then it’s too late.
Taehyung vaguely registers a faintly sweet smell, chemically, like fresh nail polish. Everything goes dark around the edges of his vision.
Eventually, his phone slips from his hand and lies cracked and forgotten on the pavement.
You: Lol sure hyung no prosavkjlngjj-00b
Minnie: LMAO did you fall on your face?? Hope you did. Told you not to text and walk loser
Guk: Haha Tae it’s been 4 hours this isn’t funny anymore
Guk: Tae wtf
Guk: Guys, it's been 5+ hours.. please
Joonie: Calm down JK, his battery's probably flat. Yoongi-hyung, check your damn phone
Yoongi-hyung: Got a view from the corner-store camera. Black Honda CRV, plates AIY-0018. If you don’t manage to get a lock on where he is in the next half hour, I’m keying every single one of your profiles into interpol's blacklist
“Were you looking to have me arrested?” Taehyung finally questions in the warehouse, resigned. “Is that what this was all about?”
He knows it can’t be true, but he wants to hear it. Dispassionately, he fingers the half blood-soaked collar hanging loosely from Jeongguk’s neck.
“No, never,” Jeongguk denies. “I’ve known about you ever since you almost got blown up that day, remember? When I rushed over to your apartment. I thought I had lost you then.”
“Oh, Jeongguk,” Taehyung sighs, the frantic rush on the other man’s face the other night finally making sense.
“We’ve been keeping you safe since then. The department doesn’t really care about what you do, not really. You’re just ferrying art from one rich asshole to another. You’re much too good for them, really.”
Taehyung laughs and shakes his head. He doesn’t think anyone’s ever thought him to be too good for anything before.
Taehyung has always thought that he’d been attracted to dangerous people. People who are just as likely to fight him as they are to fuck him. He’s always told himself that he had loved the game, loved the challenge he had found in catching these predators and making them kneel at his feet. Told himself that anyone else who strayed too close to him would only wilt from the poison.
Yet, now that Taehyung knows that this man sheds his armour; rolls over and exposes his soft, vulnerable underbelly just for him, he’s not so sure. He starting to realise that Jeongguk hands over the power for him to so do much more than make him kneel and Taehyung wants to protect what he’s being given.
He thinks about the way Jeongguk looks at him and starts to realise that he wants to be able to calm Jeongguk’s violence, soothe at his ruffled feathers, do something good. He opens up his hands, watches the way Jeongguk folds into them and thinks, maybe, he has something precious to give inside the warm, safe, space between his palms.
He leans down, brushes a gentle kiss to Jeongguk’s temple and watches hope, golden, like the first rays of the morning sun, rise in Jeongguk’s eyes.
When Taehyung wakes up this time, he’s in what looks to be a hospital. He glances to his left and sees Jeongguk sleeping soundly, slouched in an uncomfortable metal chair. His hand is caught in the younger’s fingers and he squeezes them once.
He feels the gaze of someone else on him and he turns to the door to see Namjoon studying them both. He waves his free hand in welcome and gestures for the man to come in.
“How did you guys even find me,” Taehyung wonders aloud because of course Namjoon is a part of their super secret spy organisation too.
Namjoon gestures at the items next to him on the table. Taehyung sees the pen he’d borrowed off Seokjin, the one the man had insisted for him to keep, a leather notebook Jimin had given him on a whim, a handkerchief Hoseok had folded into his bag and left there the day he got sick.
“You’re probably the most heavily tracked person on the planet,” Namjoon comments, dry. “And this pile doesn’t even include all the trackers Jeongguk has left all over you.”
Taehyung wants to be offended, but the gross invasion of his privacy had most likely saved his life, so he just rolls his eyes.
Without preamble, Namjoon remarks, “no-one’s ever been able to hold him back before, you know? That man’s only alive because of you.”
He’s talking about the man who had kidnapped him. Taehyung doesn’t much care to know more. He’s not dead, the man’s not dead and Jeongguk is by his side. There’s really not much more to be discussed.
“I’m doing well, thanks for asking,” Taehyung diverts instead and beams at the tired look Namjoon shoots him.
“We reviewed the tapes your kidnapper had been recording. You didn’t tell him a single thing, even though you could’ve.”
“He doesn’t listen to anyone other than you,” Namjoon persists.
"Jeongguk is his own person, not mine to command," Taehyung interrupts, forceful. Namjoon nods in acknowledgement of the comment but continues regardless.
“He’s gone through more handlers than anyone else, refuses to work with a partner and he’s been doing great. But one day, it’s not going to be enough.”
“Is this a threat or a job offer?” Taehyung quips.
“Both,” Namjoon replies. It throws Taehyung off a little.
Taehyung squints at him.
“There’s enough danger in what we do that you’ll be able to fill your charming little adrenaline quota without giving Jeongguk a heart attack every time you run off by yourself,” the elder man comments, voice dry. “Also,” he continues, soft like he knows that he’s about to deliver the real draw, “you’ll be able to keep an eye on him. Keep him safe.”
“You know my answer then,” Taehyung says, and Namjoon nods, takes it for the agreement and dismissal that it clearly is.
“I’ll be expecting you to come in with Jeongguk on the first. That should give you plenty of time to sort your other commitments out. You probably won’t have to give up your gallery, it would make for a good cover.”
“How kind of you,” Taehyung says after the door shuts. He belatedly wonders if it was even legal for Namjoon to be asking him to make big life decisions when he’s drugged up to the gills. But then again, Namjoon was probably the real-life equivalent of Mycroft Holmes. The man could probably get away with doing whatever the hell he wanted.
“Did you catch all that?” Taehyung questions when the room belongs to the two of them once again. Jeongguk’s eyelids twitch before a grin breaks out on his face.
“Yup,” the younger man confirms, springing up from his slouch and fully opening his eyes. He then moves so that he can lie with his head pillowed on the arms he has crossed over Taehyung’s mattress.
“This is probably what you’ve been wanting all along, huh? Brat,” Taehyung muses. Jeongguk’s eyes continue to glitter at him, joyful.
Taehyung moves the hand that’s not tangled up with tubes and wires and presses the thumb of it to Jeongguk’s pink bottom lip. He presses down until he feels the pad of his finger rest up against Jeongguk’s front teeth. Then, the younger man opens his mouth and suckles at the digit until Taehyung gives in and pushes it inside, into the waiting heat.
“You’re in love with me, aren’t you baby,” Taehyung murmurs, he says it like a statement. He needs it to be a fact, because if it isn’t…Taehyung isn't sure of what he would do.
A flush darkens Jeongguk’s cheeks. Possessiveness burns hot in Taehyung’s belly and he uses the rest of his fingers to grip tight at Jeongguk’s jaw. He presses down until he feels a moan rumble its way up Jeongguk’s throat.
“Yes,” Jeongguk breathes like the acknowledgement in itself is a relief, “yes.”
Taehyung makes a soft, considering noise and his fingers let go. They soothe over the skin that had gone faintly red from the pressure he had exerted there, and then they linger in long, luxurious caresses.
“Why?” Taehyung asks. “I’m not a good person, you know?”
Beneath his fingertips, Taehyung can feel the small hairs on Jeongguk’s nape stand on end as the younger man shivers and sighs.
“You are,” Jeongguk insists. “I know bad people Tae, and they don’t look anything like you. But even if you weren’t good, I wouldn’t care because you’re good to me. Out of everyone I have ever met, you are the only one who has ever captivated me.”
He closes his eyes and breathes, “you are the only one I trust to hold me down.”
The words ring with surety. They linger in the air between them like a vow and Taehyung breathes them in. They give him the strength to say what he needs to. Fear builds in his chest.
“I bruise you, Guk. Bite into your skin and make you bleed,” the words crack out of him, seeping through the new wounds and past the layers of scars that had been keeping them protected for years. “I don't know how to keep you whole.”
“You don’t need to know how. I want this,” Jeongguk insists. He pulls his chair close and then he’s suddenly in Taehyung’s face. “I need you, not some idea of you that you think would suit me better.”
Taehyung thinks back to the Jeongguk he saw at the warehouse, to the one he’d been catching glimpses of the whole time they’ve been together. He thinks of the Jeongguk that sits in front of him now, thinks of the one who had sat across from him showing him videos of red pandas and he loves every single side of him.
Now, by some miracle, Jeongguk is telling him that he feels the same and Taehyung is finally at a place where he can listen.
No-one has ever made him feel this way before, made him feel like they have eroded down all his hard edges so that they can come closer and touch him without the bite of pain.
No-one has ever been able to grab hold of enough of him so that he would be left with only a shell of himself if they were to ever leave.
It is terrifying. He should be packing his bags and running in the other direction. But he’d already done that and yet…here he was, right back where he started.
He pulls Jeongguk to him by a soft hand to his nape.
Jeongguk comes easily.
“I adore you,” Taehyung admits and he expects bitter terror to rise and consume him for the admission, but instead, he's left humbled by the sight of the man unravelling under the touch of his fingers. He runs his fingertips down all the stitched-together edges opening up for him and fills in the gaps, sews them up with pieces of himself.
“I love you so much, you must know."
Looking at the way Jeongguk shines brighter under his touch, at how he flushes red and smiles like all the most beautiful things Taehyung has ever seen, he starts to think that his way of loving might be something good after all, if it can make someone — if it can make Jeongguk, look like this.
Taehyung starts to think that, maybe, he had been made just fine.