Top Posts Tagged with #look… i was reading through some old docs and this fic is genuinely good so you know one thing leads to another | Tumlook (2024)

black irises in the sunshine | kth

anger is everything. other gods tease you for the short fuse, but it comes with the territory. people have called you stupid, have called you dumb, oafish, useless, incompetent, insolent, rude, arrogant. all of it. insults and mockery flung at you, but even your skin isn’t thick enough to deal with constant abuse. it’s the exact reason you keep going to the underground, knuckles bloody and bruised, fighting anyone that dared enter the cage. it’s the reason you go to the clubs, surround yourself with mortals and their writhing bodies. it’s there that you see him the first time, voice husky as it rolls through the room. it’s there you find someone who treats you differently than the rest. you just never expected him to be one of the muses. | monsters and gods pt 3 (masterlist)

pairing | taehyung x reader

genre/warnings | greek god au, calliope!taehyung, ares!reader, theres a lot of violence and it does get descriptive so be aware of that, none of the main characters other than ares get hurt and its not uncalled for or anything in a narrative sense, so just be aware of that; there are mentions of other idols, but if you can guess them you get a cookie because they are Vague; suuuuper bisexual Ares, Ares Can Step On Me, like I am SO gay for her it isn’t funny; explicit smut ft: cunniling*s, taeHUNG bc hes got MASSIVE SCHLONG, some body worship kind of and then just....regular worship? like? idk how to explain that? lots of praise and lots or org*sms

word count | 14k | cross posted to ao3

a/n | HOOOOOOO this has been sitting in my google docs for literal months waiting for an ending and i decided to try to get it out for tae's birthday bUT that didn't work because i have a Job and sh*t so YEET I GUESS HAPPY f*ckIN NEW YEAR??? LIKE??? YEEEEEEEEEEEEE this fic is very near to me because Ares is my sweet sad angry babie and i love her, and i love tae and i love suho and i love the muses and i just........lOVE this fic like i think this is currently my favorite of the mag series so!! i hope yall also enjoy it!!!! yall are welcome to send me messages about this even tho I'm terrible at replying to them in a timely manner!! thanks to everyone who helped me with this, and everyone who has expressed interest in it, and everyone who has ever read anything of mine, because you're genuinely the best people ever, and this is literally a gift to y'all because you deserve it.

f*ck, that was too hard .

The guy across from you goes flying, hitting the chain link wall of the cage harder than you intended. Every nerve ending in your body is on fire, and even holding back, you've got a better buzz than even the best nectar can give. Your blood sings as the guy gets back up, and you almost wish you could remember his name, because he's put up a hell of a fight. For a mortal, anyway.

He charges at you again, and time slows as your vision tunnels. You can see the feint as he decides on it, how he hesitates in bringing his left up. You wait, watching him get closer and closer. You start to dart to your left, letting him think he's got you, before you side-step and dart to your right instead. His punch goes wide as you steady your balance and move. The top of your foot connects with his ribcage and the resulting crack of bone is lost amid the cheers and yells of the audience.

Your opponent steps back and you're proud of the way he doesn't show the pain. He doesn't wince, doesn't move to touch the spot you hit, just tightens his stance and clenches his jaw. It's only you that notices the hitch in his breath, the way he flinches with every inhale. Your eyes narrow at that, zeroing in on the rib. You'd meant to just crack it, had been holding back most of your strength to keep from hurting him too seriously, but as he steps forward, you can see the way he grits his teeth against the pain.

The fight leaves you immediately, like a bucket of cold water straight to the chest, and you drop your hands.

"Yield." He just stares at you, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "Yield to me, and then go to the doctor."

"I'm not gonna yield," He says. He spits a mouthful of blood out onto the floor. "I'm not weak."

"Seriously, dude," You insist. "You're not gonna win this, and I don't want to hurt you more."

His scoff has you seeing red. "As if a princess like you could hurt me."

Your fist connects with his face before either of you registers that you've moved. There's a voice in the back of your head reminding you that he's just mortal, he can't take the same kind of beating you can, but it's lost in the haze of fury. The next thing you know, the ref is dragging you away and slamming you into the cage wall. Your opponent is being dragged out - you still don't know his name - and he looks beaten senseless. Victory rolls through you accompanied by a sick satisfaction at the way his blood looks decorating the canvas beneath your feet.

It lasts for less than an hour. It's always like this; the thrill of the fight, the burn of success, it's gone faster than you can blink. It's what drives you to keep fighting, to keep going to match after match, just to seek out the under-the-table stuff afterwards. It's never enough, not anymore. Back in the old days, they'd let you fight anything. Bears, bulls, lions, giants, anything they could get a noose around long enough to point it at a colosseum. That was a long time ago, though, before all the rights movements happened. You won't lie: you miss fighting beasts like that. The sheer power and strength they have, the survival instinct that makes them such fierce competitors, it's so much better than the rules and regulations of the mortal world now. Fights have gotten dull, rehearsed, more like a performance or a show than an actual fight. People make more money losing than they do winning and it's made the world boring.

You flex your hand as you open the door to your favorite bar. Something caught it at some point in the last fight, a cheekbone or a tooth, and it stings a little. Doesn't hurt, not exactly, not for a goddess, but it did enough that you feel it at all, which means it couldn't have been anything but torture for the guy on the other end. The bartender waves at you and gets your usual ready as you sit, and you idly wonder if Busted Rib Guy will be okay. It looked painful, for a human, and you'd tried to hold back, but…

Well, you weren't really responsible for what happened to condescending little f*cks, were you?

You sip the bourbon, enjoying the burn as it goes down. The lights are dim, tonight. You're glad. You don't want to deal with people looking at you, men coming over to talk to you, trying to advise you on how to properly bandage your knuckles or how to avoid the bruise on your cheek next time. If you had wanted to avoid it, you would have. You'd intended it to hurt worse, honestly, but that first guy'd had a weaker right hook than you expected.

You look around, wondering if anyone here would provide a decent distraction for the night. There's a pretty brunette in the corner with carefully crafted braids, and as your eyes travel, you imagine what's hiding beneath the silk and leather. You're pulled from the thought by the sound of music, and you curse under your breath. You forgot that it's an open mic night and you'd meant to go to the bar across town instead. Irritation colors your vision; every open mic night is awful, full of lofty poets talking about their trauma and wannabe Taylor Swifts thinking they're on the same level as Sappho. Ah, now that was a girl with a set of pipes. You miss her, wonder what she would say to the butchering of whatever song you're about to hear.

The voice that comes isn't what you expect. It's smooth and deep. The world turns to velvet around you as the voice wanders from one speaker to another, creating a mesmerizing multi-dimensional effect despite the way the singer doesn't ever leave the stage. You turn, knuckles white around your bourbon glass; he's utterly magnetic, every eye in the room trained on him as he purrs into the vintage mic. Long fingers are wrapped around the scuffed metal, decorated with jewels that glitter in the dim light of the bar. You can smell the lingering cigarette smoke from the guy beside you and the Jäger from the girl two stools down and for once, you don't even care. He's captivating, voice travelling between speakers in the bar and coming from everywhere and nowhere at once.

Your eyes don't leave him, and you wonder if you can memorize the way the blond waves fall against his forehead if you stare long enough.

The red seeps away from you, slinking back into the corners of your mind, settling once more into a low thrum under your skin. It fades into the background of this man's voice, the charisma that rolls off him in waves as he pulls the mic in close just to push it to the side with a teasing smirk. It settles something in your chest that hasn't been calm since the fight in Athens so long ago.

The music fades out sooner than you'd like, and he gives a slight bow before wandering into the crowd. You do your best to follow him, but the gold of his hair disappears almost immediately, lost in the throng of people around the stage waiting to speak to him. You turn back around, downing the next bit of bourbon that Suho pours you.

"I know," He says with a grin. You co*ck a brow at him, not having said anything he could agree with. "He's good. That's what you were thinking, right? He's why we're so packed on open mics. Got the audio and lighting guy whipped, so he's got all these special effects, too. Drives people crazy.”

"He's alright," You mutter. You toss a few bills down on the bartop and step back. Suho gives you a courteous nod as you leave. The bouncer gives you a dirty look when he spots the lit cigarette between your lips, but he knows better than to try to tell you otherwise. You've taught him better.

You lean back against the brick wall of the alley and take a drag. The warm smoke fills your lungs and you close your eyes. It's a different kind of burn than you're used to, a distraction from the crawling sensation that drives you to fight. It's calmer, more controlled. Feels like the smoke from Hestia's fires. Feels like home.

"Never expected to see you here," A voice calls out. It's deep and startling in the darkness, but you don't jump. You just open your eyes, exhale, and look to where it came from.

The singer stands before you in the same undone white button up and black tee he performed in. He doesn't have a cig, doesn't seem to have much of any reason to be outside. He moves almost lazily, as if he doesn't even need to, just wants to, and when his gaze flicks up to meet yours, your vision fills just for a breath with every opponent you've ever faced lying at your feet.

"What the f*ck is that supposed to mean?" The words slip from your tongue before you can stop them. It's not his fault, the voice in your head says, he didn't mean it that way, but still, your blood is thrumming now that he's here and you want to know what he's talking about. Want to know why he thinks you wouldn't be here when there's attractive people and good bourbon and you've never seen this man before in your life. Want to know why he already seems to think you aren't civilized enough to be at a bar, why he spoke but all you heard was Zeus' voice in your memories.

"Exactly what I said. Should I be clearer?"

"Yeah, probably," you spit. Yet another person that assumes you're stupid, that you don't understand basic languages, as if you haven't been speaking them since the ancient times. As if you couldn't speak circles around him if you wanted. "Unless you want your teeth on the f*cking ground."

"Good to know the stories are true." He tsks and you're filled with a strange sense of disappointment and fury, both at him and yourself. Your vision turns red at the edges and the cigarette between your fingers is crushed in your grip. He pays no mind to it, just saunters past with a lazy, swaying gait that draws your eyes to his hips and then down the long leather-clad legs. "See you around, Ares."

"That's not my f*cking name," You yell after him. He doesn't respond when you shout your actual name, the one you chose, on your own, as a middle finger to the Olympians. "Get it right next time, dickwad."

He turns the corner of the alley and the streetlight catches his face just enough for you to see the smirk he wears. For once in your life, you're torn; you want to smash his face in, yes, because how dare this random guy speak to you like that when you could kill him with one finger to the right pressure point. You also find your skin's hotter than usual, stretched too thin over your bones, and you want him to run his hands over you until it feels right again.

Until it feels like it did when he was singing.

How did he know my title?

The thought comes unbidden, days later, with the desperate hit of a palm against your shoulder. You've got the woman in a headlock, patiently waiting for her to pass out completely so the fight can be called, and your mind is wandering.

How did the singer know who you are? You hadn't thought anything of it at the time, distracted by fury and frustration, but with time comes a special kind of clarity. You've never seen him before, not that you know anyway, yet he didn't hesitate to call you Ares. The only ones who know of your kind are your kind, but you haven't seen any of your siblings among mortals in a long time. You thought you knew the other gods and goddesses, but maybe not. It has been a while since you stepped foot in the golden city.

The woman in your grip goes slack and you release her. You're still lost in thought as the ref calls the match and leads you out of the makeshift ring. The cheers of the audience are background noise at this point, akin to static or the buzz of electricity, and you pay them no mind as you head to collect your winnings. You didn't even get any kind of buzz from success this time, too immersed in the way the singer walked and talked and looked. The image of his smirk is burned into your retinas.

"Yeah, you didn't hear? He just got out of the hospital. They had to keep him overnight because they thought he might puncture a lung. I heard that if it had been a little worse, they would've had to wire his jaw shut." You stop, fingers brushing over the stack of bills you don't even remember being handed. You look up, making eye contact with the guy whispering nearby. Your suspicions are confirmed when his friend smacks his arm and juts his chin in your direction before they both disappear into the crowd.

You shove your way outside, frustration creeping through you and coloring your vision. You manage to keep it contained long enough for you to make it to the alley behind the warehouse, but it explodes from you in a rush of thrown dumpsters and sheet metal.

f*ck , you never meant to hurt him like that. You told him, you f*cking told him to yield, it isn't your fault he didn't listen. It's not your fault that he went and insulted you, acted like he was better than you just by virtue of being a dude, as if you weren't worshipped in the old days for the power you had and the blessings you could give. You'd held back, through all of it, you'd told him to yield, and he insulted you. It wasn't your fault.

You slide to the ground, running a shaking hand through your hair. It isn't your fault , you repeat. You close your eyes and take deep breaths, the way Hestia taught you, willing the fury to dissipate. It's like a fire in your veins, burning and bubbling your skin until you can't resist anymore. You take another breath. It isn't your fault. You tried. You offered an out. It isn't your fault. f*ck, what was his name?

With a growl that quickly morphs into a scream, you kick the dumpster once more before stalking off into the darkness. You need a f*cking drink and you're gonna find a distraction in someone else if it's the last thing you do.

The club is packed when you get there; you're not usually a fan of clubs like this, too full of people who are too friendly, but they're perfect for nights like tonight. You don't even need to wait in line, just slip the bouncer a 50 as you pass, and the bartenders are quick to spot you. You're pretty notorious in the city for over-paying, which means you're knocking back bourbon before you have a chance to ask for it. There are people everywhere, pressed up against both sides of you while the bass thrums in your throat, and it takes you longer than you're proud of to realize why.

There's a band playing, apparently. They're not bad; the vocalist isn't anything like the singer from Suho's, but it doesn't make you want to tear your ears off, so you consider it a success.

You're dancing before you remember deciding to. Everything's a blur when you get the itch in your bones, the need to make someone bleed. To feel something that isn't rage or condescension. People are even closer here on the dance floor, suffocating in their proximity, but there's a woman grinding her ass into you, and it sparks the dying fire in your gut. The beat of the music drowns your own heart, and it's all flashing lights and heat and a body pressed against yours that is all too willing.

She follows when you go back to the bar for another drink, and giggles when you lick salt from her wrist before downing tequila. Her hands are wrapped in the leather of your jacket as she kisses you, your own resting lightly on her hips. She laughs against your lips and says something you don't hear before ordering another drink. Something makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

You take the brief reprieve to look around the club, searching for whatever it is that has you on alert. You find him on the upper level of the club, leaned over the balcony with a drink in hand. You can't make out his expression, exactly; it's too far away and too guarded. But you'd know him anywhere now. The singer knocks back whatever's in his glass, eyes never leaving yours. You don't know why he's here, if he comes here often or if the Fates are having a laugh at your expense, but you do know you want to make the most of it.

The girl is back, pressing a heated kiss to your lips and drawing your attention from him. You return it, nipping at her lips and getting a small gasp in return. You smirk and bite your way down her neck. She's breathy in your ear, hitched moans lost in the beat of the music, but you barely hear her as you suck bruises into the skin of her neck. He's still watching you. His drink is gone and he's gripping the bannister of the balcony, rings glinting in the light. You wonder if the cool metal could soothe the burn in your bones. You want to know if he can bring that calmness from before back, if he can soothe the frenzy in your mind with his hands the way he can with his voice. Just imagining it has you soaking through to your jeans.

The girl makes a particularly loud noise in your ear and you're brought out of your thoughts. As if he can sense it, the singer straightens. He gives you one last look before disappearing back into the crowd, and you wonder if you're imagining the disdain in it. You draw back from the girl's neck, about to tell her to find her friends when she slides her hands in your hair and tugs.

The burn in your blood is back, now, and you hope this girl is prepared for what awaits her.

"You're here early," Suho says when he spots you in the nearly empty bar the next night. He's not wrong, either; you skipped the fights tonight completely. There was no buzz last time, no relief, and you have no reason to believe there would be tonight. Not with the way the singer captivates your thoughts.

Besides, you have enough money leftover from the previous few to last a couple days.

"What, did you decide not to kick someone's ass before getting wasted?" Suho doesn't wither at the look you give him, just pours you a couple fingers of bourbon and slides the glass over. "Or did they just stop letting you in completely?"

"I might change my mind if you don't shut up," You tell him. There's no real heat behind it. You've known Suho for years now, been coming to his bar for so long it almost feels like home. You're almost friends at this point.

It helps that he knows when to bite his tongue so he doesn't get his teeth knocked out.

"Seriously though, I don't think I've ever seen you here this early. Especially not on mic nights." You're very careful in your lack of a reaction to his words. You'd seen the workers setting up for it when you came in, and even if you hadn't, you know when mic night is. You've spent enough time avoiding it.

"Does he sing every time?" You ask in lieu of an explanation. You don't look away from the amber liquid in your glass, letting the silence hang as the bartender does his best to follow your thought process.

"Taehyung? Most weeks, yeah. It's been a nice change from the usual drunken karaoke. He goes around to some of the other places in town, too. Apparently he just likes to sing."

"Taehyung," You repeat. The name rolls from your tongue a bit awkwardly. It's more than you expected, somehow, but you can't place exactly how . Just...more. "Is he always that good?"

"Oh, yeah. We have regulars now for mic night because of him. He's got a whole fan club and everything."

"Hm." You drain the rest of your bourbon and Suho refills it. He leaves you in peace then, serving some others that appear at the bar.

The place fills faster than you can blink. That's what it feels like, anyway. It's like one moment there's you and a handful of other people scattered around, and now you're being jostled between some dude a million feet tall that definitely doesn't look old enough to be here and a girl with her tit* up to her throat and surrounded by a cloud of perfume so thick that it starts a migraine behind your eyes almost instantly. She flirts with Suho a little, likely trying to score free drinks, and you roll your eyes. She pouts at him when he gives her the total, batting eyelashes that go on for miles, and for once, you wish Suho would just give in and comp the drinks.

"I'll pay for them," You say. She was definitely saying something, maybe you should have been paying attention to it, but f*ck , this migraine is only getting worse the longer she stands there. "I'll pay for your drinks."

"Oh, thanks," She says. Her smile is hesitant, and quickly turns apologetic as she takes in the boots and the ripped jeans and the leather jacket. "Um, I'm not...I don't, uh…"

"Do I look like I want to f*ck you, sweetie?" She looks a little affronted and a laugh escapes you. You lean closer, letting your breath ghost over her cheek as you speak in her ear to be heard better. "If I wanted to f*ck you senseless, you'd know it. And I can guarantee you it would be a hell of a lot better than the watered down rat piss this guy's giving you."

When you lean back, her face is flushed and she's stammering. You smirk and hand her the drinks she'd ordered.

"Too bad you’re not, you don’t, huh?" You tell her. The patronizing tone isn't lost on her, nor is your mockery of her earlier words, and she shuts her mouth with an audible click before strutting off. Suho glares at you as he pours more bourbon.

"Can you please try not to run off my patrons?" He mutters. "Some of us actually need money to live."

"Some of us would like decently timed refills and to not choke on perfume," You quip. "And better bourbon, for that matter." He hisses something about what he's giving you being top quality but you tune him out, throwing one leg over the stool Perfume Girl vacated. You'd like to keep just a little bit of personal space.

Across the bar, you catch a brief glimpse of the girl from the night before and you wince. Her neck is thoroughly bruised, and you catch a peek of bruises and scratches on her back as she shrugs her jacket on. You didn’t mean to be so rough with her, even if she had been into it; you’re usually pretty good about remembering that the mortals are just that - mortal - and as such have to be handled delicately. They’re so fragile, it feels like they could break with a strong wind. Guilt settles in your gut and turns the bourbon in your glass to cough syrup. You’ve half a mind to just leave before she sees you, are about to turn and do exactly that, but the speakers screech to life and the deafening feedback from the mic keeps you glued to your seat.

The crowd quiets even as the excitement ramps up, all talk silencing but for the occasional hushed whispers here and there. The first few notes of the song echo through the speakers, and a spotlight appears on him.

He looks different this time, his hair dyed a vibrant blue that matches the glinting jewels in his ears and on his hands. He's an absolute vision and you wonder how Aphrodite has allowed him to live so long when he's so beautiful. His voice hangs in the air and calms you, the same settling in your chest as last time, the same freedom from the burn in your veins. It's addictive.

The song doesn't last nearly as long as you want it to but the stillness inside you lingers long after he's done caressing the microphone. You place a few bills down for Suho and light up a cigarette as you head outside, ignoring the dirty looks from other patrons as you do. You're on a mission, the thrum of bloodlust returning with every second that passes, and you can't even be sure if he's still around or if he's wandered off already.

You stand in the alley for what feels like hours, turning at every sound and smoking cig after cig just so you have something to do. You've almost decided to say f*ck it when footsteps sound from the back of the bar, coming closer to you.

His blue hair is visible even from the other end of the small alley, a giveaway similar to the light at the end of your cigarette and the smoke you blow into the air. There's no way he hasn't seen you, you think, you're making no effort to hide or be sneaky, and yet he's continuing forward as if he doesn't see you at all, eyes focused on a phone in his hand. You wait until he's just a few steps away before speaking.

"How do you know my title?" You ask him. He stops as if he'd always meant to and doesn't even bother to glance up at you or respond. The edges of your vision turn scarlet at the blatant disregard and you're speaking before you can even process the words. "I asked you a f*cking question, pretty boy, you're gonna answer me. Unless you want that precious mouth bloodied up."

"And you wonder how I know who you are," He drawls, still not bothering to spare a glance at you. A scowl grows over your face at his sarcastic tone. "If you're going to hit me just get it over with. Otherwise, I have places to be."

He stands, waiting and expectant, but you don't move. He's humming, quiet and to himself like he doesn't even realize he's doing it, and the red seeps away from your mind until you're left clear-headed once more. You sigh, long and heavy, and crush your cigarette into your denim-covered thigh to put it out. It tickles.

"I'm not going to hit you," You tell him eventually. "I just wanna know how you know me. And how you do it."

He co*cks a brow at that, finally looking up from the phone in his hand to level dark eyes on yours. "Do what? Sing?"

"No." You swallow around the sudden lump in your throat. The words are harder to find than you thought they'd be, lost in the depths of his gaze, in the clarity you're so unaccustomed to, in the way you feel like you can breathe for the first time in days. "I don't care how you sing, that's not important, it's the...f*ck, you know what, never mind, it doesn't f*cking matter." You push off the wall and step past him to head towards where the streetlight gleams off the bar windows.

"Tell me." The command has you stopping in your tracks, and you're again flooded with just wanting to know how. How he clears the haze, how he stops you, how he makes you feel real. You turn, hands stuffed into the back pockets of your jeans. "How I do what?"

It takes you several long breaths before you can answer, and you aren't even sure he can hear you over the sounds of people leaving the bar, and you find yourself disappearing into the crowd without waiting for a response. Your own words are reverberating in your skull, getting louder with each step you take, and you wish you could just turn it off .

"How you make me feel like a person again."

You avoid the bar for a few weeks, going hours away from your usual area to an unfamiliar hole in the wall just to make sure you don’t see him. You’re more deadly than usual in your fights, victories coming quicker, injuries piling up along with the guilt, but you can’t bring yourself to return. It’s unnerving, the way everything goes quiet around him, the way you can think, but the worst is the way you can feel. Everything’s calm and steady and blue, and it only makes it easier for the regret and the guilt and the anxiety to curl around your throat and squeeze until you can’t breathe, to clog in your throat while the laughter of your siblings echoes in your ears, and you...can’t. You can’t do that, you can’t let it win, you can’t let them win, they can’t know that you’re everything they think you are and worse.

You can’t let yourself drown in that, and yet you find yourself back at Suho’s, lost among the crowd while Taehyung’s voice surrounds you. The ache in your bones fades away, chased by the thrum of the fight that still lingers despite the hours that have passed since you felt your opponent’s femur break under your palm and their screams echoed in your ears. Everything is calm again, and the guilt nearly drowns you.

He hasn’t even finished singing before you’re outside, chest heaving as you gasp against the weight on your chest. You broke someone’s femur , and did you even really need to? The fight itself is a blur even now, snapshots playing through your mind like a montage. The way they’d darted at you first, how their foot felt connecting with the backs of your knees, the determination in their eyes when you went down, the jolt of shock as your hands wrapped around their leg, the dull throb of a barrage of hits against your waist as you pulled them down as well and bloodied their face, the blood-curdling scream as you snapped the bone like a pretzel stick.

Your breath comes faster in your lungs, forced out by the growing guilt that lodges there in its place. Images swirl in your mind, chased by a never-ending stream of thought and regret that you should be used to by now. f*ck, you didn’t need to, and you still did it; you lost control, you f*cking hurt them, and for what? A couple hundred? Was it even worth it? Who knew when they’d be back into shape to fight, what if they needed the money? They weren’t even half-bad. They got you down, at least, shouldn’t you have gone easy on them? You don’t even remember their face, can’t remember what the announcer said their name was, words drowned out by the buzz under your skin.

Metal crumples under your grip and you spare a half-second to mourn Suho’s dumpster before you slam your knuckles against it. It tingles, not even real pain, and you don’t hesitate to repeat it. By the time the metal is disfigured completely, a distorted mess of paint and steel and garbage, you still aren’t in pain, but there’s a sheen of gold across your knuckles and you feel less like you’re drowning and more like you’re suffocating. The usual. You can handle that. You think.

You don’t even realize that you’ve slid down to the ground beside the dumpster until the back door of the bar opens and footsteps echo through the alley. You wish you knew how long you’ve been here, how long you’ve sat among empty bottles and stale beer and broken glass, but you can’t be sure. The brief reprieve brought by Taehyung’s voice is long gone, chased away by the guilt and rage that still sits heavy in your chest. You hope you’re not noticeable here, that whoever’s left will just pass by and leave you to piece yourself back together on your own.

Voices tell you that it isn’t likely, the deep baritone of one too familiar to ignore. The other is new, but you’re familiar with the tone, the inflection, the intent behind it. You've heard it before, in crowded clubs as a guy pushes too close to some girl who can barely stand, in a coffeeshop when a random customer can't take a f*cking hint, at the local campus when some professor insists that there could be maybe one thing her student could do to pass. It makes everything in you curdle, the bourbon from earlier threatening to work its way back up; it screams predator , and you absolutely refuse to let anyone f*cking talk to someone like that, like they have some right to whatever it is they want.

You refuse to let someone talk to him that way.

"Seriously, Kratos, didn't I tell you to leave me alone? Did Aphrodite not teach you your lesson last time you harassed someone?" Taehyung's voice brings a calm that's an unsettling match to the anger washing over you. You're used to the red at the corners of your vision, the tint to everything you see, but you aren ' t used to the way it all turns purple and focused and clear .

There's no haze this time, there's no abrupt shift of you moving before you know you've done it. You can feel the glass crunching under your boots with every step you take, can feel the way the air has a chill that creeps down into your lungs with every breath, can almost taste the apprehension that's rolling off of Taehyung despite his relaxed stance. The only thing that gives him away is the tense set of his jaw and the mix of relief and fear when his eyes land on you.

"I'm pretty sure he said no, Kratos." The god turns at your voice and you watch the realization wash over him as he realizes what - who - you are.

"Been a while since anyone's seen you, Ares." He scoffs a little, not moving from where he has Taehyung caged against the wall of the bar, one hand pressed firmly into the brick. He's entirely too close, and you have no doubt that the stench of him permeates the very oxygen around them.

"Been busy. Doesn't change the fact that the man said no. Take the loss, walk away." Kratos' eyes narrow at your words and he steps away, but only to move closer to you.

"Why do you care so much? You've never been one to care about any of us before." Kratos inches closer and the hyper-focus that Taehyung's voice causes starts to melt away with every twitch of your fingers. You've never liked Kratos, all brute strength with no respect for the challenge, no appreciation of the fight, too focused on sheer power and exhilaration. He is the worst of the worst of the worst of your kind, of all the war-focused gods. Every bit of yourself you hate is every piece that Kratos loves about himself.

"I care that you don't seem to be able to understand when someone doesn't want to be around you, you absolute piece of filth. Taehyung had a point though, I really thought the whole thing with Aphrodite would've taught you how to back off. Or should I pull the video out, I think I still have it saved for when I need a good laugh." Malice and fury twitch across the other god's face and you absolute revel in it. You can feel his anger prickling across you, like needles in your very pores, and you ache for it. It's been so long since you last had a good fight, a real challenge where you didn't need to hold back at all.

Too long since you fought a god like yourself.

"You're testing my patience, cousin," Kratos spits. It's a little generous to call the two of you cousins - you're several times removed, at best, and potentially closer than that with your family's warped history - but you let him have it. It might make him feel better. "I'm having a conversation, that's all. And if said conversation means that we end up back at my place, then, well, can anyone really blame me for what might happen to this pretty little m-"

Your fist connects with his jaw immediately and the red floods you for the few seconds it takes to register Taehyung calling your name. The calm struggles for a second, warring with the rage, but it wins out eventually. The singer's talking, but you can't make out any actual words. You're too focused on Kratos, the way he's righting and readying himself for a brawl. There's a fire in his eyes that matches the one in yours and everything in you feels alive for the first time in too long.

This fight is different than your usual ones. There's no blur, no warped sense of time that usually comes with the adrenaline. You're focused and controlled in a way you haven't had to be for centuries, careful and precise and deliberate with every swing and every kick. The red seeps back in slowly and every time you think you're about to lose it, you hear Taehyung, still pressed against the wall of the bar.

Kratos lunges at you for what has to be the tenth time, clearly trying his best to knock you to the ground - he succeeded, once; you let yourself get distracted, too caught up in thoughts, but it didn't last long - and you sidestep him just in time for him to ram into the ruined dumpster instead. He looks pissed when he turns back around and something in you sings at the sight. He makes for you again and you dodge again, only to be dragged back towards him by the grip he has on your jacket. f*ck, should've taken that off , whatever, he's too close.

Pain explodes in your side and you're fairly sure he's busted part of your rib, but you just slide your arms out of the sleeves and twist to plant your knee straight into his gut and then slam your heel down onto his much-less-safe toes, and then back up to knee him in the groin. It's nowhere near enough to take him out, but his nose is oozing golden ichor and he groans with every shift of his weight, and you've got him pinned against the wall with your forearm pressing hard into his windpipe.

"Now, you're gonna listen to me you steaming pile of dog sh*t," You hiss. "When someone tells you no, it's not a f*cking negotiation. It means you f*cking leave and find someone with loose enough morals or enough internalized self-hatred that they're willing to subject themselves to your absolutely pitiful f*cking excuse of an existence for the thirty-two seconds it'll take for you to get off."

Kratos doesn't respond, just sneers and spits blood at you. It's a miracle you don't actually try to rip his head from his body, because the thought crosses your mind for a second too long. Instead, you just press harder against his windpipe and enjoy the choked gasp that it draws.

"You don't stalk people either, the way you did with 'Dite. Don't you know it's better to let them come to you sometimes?" You tsk, ignoring the way he claws uselessly at your arm. Gods may not need to breathe, that's a fact, but they feel pain, and there is no way this isn't absolutely excruciating for him when even you can feel the small bones in his neck cracking and breaking. "And if I hear even a whisper of you pulling sh*t like this again, then I'm gonna find you, you pigsh*t. And when I do, I won't hold back even the slightest, and do you know what comes after that?"

His eyes are full of fear now, and only grow wide with terror as you lean in close enough that he can feel your lips against his ear as you whisper.

"You are going to wish that you could die."

When you do release him, he disappears instantly, with a cloud of acrid grey-green smoke curling around your ichor-spattered boots. He's only been gone a second when you slump, the adrenaline fading as quick as Kratos had left. Your side is throbbing now, your knuckles are bruised and broken and gold, there's a pain in your leg that you aren't sure what's causing, your head is screaming even through the high of the fight, your face stings in the crisp-cool air. Every breath makes the pain worse so you stop breathing. The brick wall of the bar is rough against your palms, but it's the only thing around that can keep you upright, so you'll take it.

"Well," a voice drawls from your left. You'd jump if you had anything left in you, but every ounce of energy is gone, spent teaching Kratos what Aretha Franklin meant when she sang about respect - and really, there was another fantastic singer, you really should visit her sometime soon - so instead your head lolls to the side. You aren't sure what it is that jolts through you when your eyes land on Taehyung, fingers curled carefully around the collar of-

Your jacket. That's your leather jacket. You barely remembers shrugging out of it, but you're glad it's not on the ground, trampled and covered in the gold spatters that decorate the rest of your body.

"Well?" You echo, wincing at the pain it causes. You've definitely got a busted lip, that's for sure from the way it feels different and swollen, and you're pretty sure there's a head wound, too, because you don't remember there being a golden halo around Taehyung before the fight.

"Well," He repeats, slinging the jacket - your jacket - over a shoulder. "You should get that looked at." He starts walking, making his way to the entrance of the alleyway. He gets halfway there before he stops and turns and co*cks a brow. "Are you coming, or do I get to keep this?" Your jacket waves a little, as if he's wiggling it, and it makes you feel like a stray dog being lured off with treats.

You're never going to tell anyone that it works.

Taehyung's place is as nondescript as the car he parks outside. It's a plain apartment building on the outside - looks like maybe it was a hotel back in the 1930s, based on the outdated carpeting in the lobby and the grate on the elevator he steps into. Even the hallway is plain and unassuming as he leads you to the end and uses an old, tarnished brass key on an older, more tarnished brass knob. You aren't sure what you expected, you can't even begin to guess what Taehyung is like outside of the dirty alley or the stage where he sings, can't fathom what kind of decor he could possibly have.

What you step into isn't anything you could have guessed. It looks like he has the entire rest of the floor to himself based on what you can see, but there's also a spiral staircase tucked into a corner, bookshelves built in under each step that are filled to the brim, and a fireman's pole in another corner, so there's at least one more level above this, but something tells you both the staircase and the pole continue past that. There's artwork everywhere, pieces you recognize and pieces you don't, several van Goghs and a couple from Matisse and you think in the corner you spot an actual f*cking da Vinci sketch that's supposed to be somewhere in Europe. There's a gramophone beside a top-of-the-line sound system, an entire wall that's just a record collection, books upon books, framed bits of poetry - including an actual hand-written rupi kaur, a signed Maya Angelou print, and a signed cover of ain't i a woman by bell hooks that you would die to know how Taehyung got his hands on. It's a museum's wet dream and yet it retains a lived in atmosphere. There are mugs left on tables, blankets strewn about as if someone just got up from a nap, an easel propped up by a far window with what looks like an impressionist painting of the cityscape, books tossed down half-read with receipts and coupons and candy wrappers and everything but a bookmark tucked between the pages.

It feels like a home and it makes your heart flutter in your chest at the same time that something in your stomach shrivels up into itself.

Taehyung walks like he’s meant to be followed, so follow you do. You spy another man - older, you think, but it’s hard to tell, really - sprawled across a couch, blanket splayed across his lap as he watches some kind of dance show on a flatscreen hung above a warm and roaring fireplace, a couple of girls in what looks to be the kitchen, one sitting on the counter while the other stands between her legs and pretends not to notice the former stealing strawberries from her bowl as she taps at her tablet, and there are footsteps creaking above you, hidden behind walls even as Taehyung leads you up the staircase. They all look up when you pass, but only the man gives you a second glance; his eyes are a weight on your back that doesn’t leave until you’re upstairs and following Taehyung into a large, rather nice bathroom.

It’s vintage as well, but it’s spacious and well-kept, like the rest of the place. Taehyung pats the marble counter by the sink and you bite your tongue against the urge to tell him you aren’t a dog. You don’t move though, instead watching him as he lays your jacket across a brass bar on the wall and then digs around in a cabinet for a minute or two. When he straightens up, he’s got a somewhat dusty off-white box in his hands, and he frowns.

“Up,” He says. “I need to look at your ankle.”

You don’t move, but you can tell he doesn’t miss the twitch of your nose at the thought of being commanded like an animal. Like someone who can’t understand. Like-

He sighs.

“Please, will you sit on the counter, so I can look at your ankle?” You huff, but you do as he says.

He doesn’t speak as he works, completely silent except for the odd command - “Roll it for me...alright, now flex that...deep breath...stop fidgeting or I’ll only make it worse…” - and the occasional hum under his breath. It seems to be second nature, like he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it, and it endears you more than you’d like. His touch is gentle but firm as he lightly squeezes your ankle and wraps it, lifts your pant leg to rub some kind of cream into a somewhat worrisome golden bruise forming on your calf, darts under your shirt to quickly and painlessly set your ribs before wrapping those as well. He doesn’t say anything at all until he’s almost finished with the cuts on your hands, golden ichor long gone and wounds already on their way to healing thanks to some sort of mist he spritzes on them.

It only stings once, as he’s spraying something over some kind of cut on your thigh where Kratos ripped through the denim there without you noticing. You can’t stop the hiss as the pain hits, though you regret it when he glances up at you.

“Sorry,” He mumbles under his breath as he dabs lightly at it with his long fingers.

“It’s fine,” You tell him. “I’m used to it.” Your voice is rough, always, but softer than usual. You don’t know why. You can’t decide if you like it.

The entire time he works, you wait. For him to tell you it wasn’t necessary, that he can fight his own battles, that he’s not surprised a brute like yourself got into a fight, that you’re no more than what the rumours say you are. You’ve got a million different curses and insults ready to spit back at him when he finally speaks.

“Thank you,” is what comes. It shocks the words out of your mouth, and you actually look up from where you’ve been watching him methodically wipe gold away from a scrape on your forearm. His gaze is concentrated on the injury and his lips are pursed and you wish you could figure him out.

He must take your silence for the confusion it is, because he continues.

“I mean it,” He says. “I’m usually not someone that lets other people fight for me, but we both know that I couldn’t have taken Kratos. He’s too strong, and he was counting on that. Until you showed up.” You don’t respond. “Is there a reason you left before my set was done? Or why you were sitting in an alley beside what is possibly the most gnarled dumpster I’ve ever seen?”

You don’t answer him, instead focusing on the way his hands feel as they tilt your chin so he can look at the cuts and bruises and scrapes that decorate your face. You focus your gaze just past his shoulder, content to memorize the pattern of his gaudy vintage bathroom wallpaper, and he doesn't press for more. The distracted humming picks up again every time he stops talking, and eases the storm of guilt shame rage pain hurt grief loneliness in your chest.

"I fight," you eventually say. Your voice is too loud in the quiet of the bathroom, shatters the silence like a sledgehammer, and you hate the way it trembles. Still, Taehyung doesn't look away from where he's carefully wiping gold from your skin, just co*cks a brow, and it's as if a dam breaks in your throat. "Like, real fights. Actual competition, with rules and sh*t, and...sometimes the bad ones, because they tend to fight differently, it's a different kind of fight, y'know, and it's never really fair, because I'm...I'm me, but I hold back, just for fun, y'know, and it's, uh. It's alright usually, I go in, do my thing, I win, I go drink, and it all gets, I dunno, easier, maybe, for a while, like I can think right, but, um.”

You hesitate for a split second and force yourself to focus on the way the alcohol-soaked cotton tickles the cut on your head.

“Sometimes it's not...sometimes I can't control it as well, the anger, and I kind of just lose it on people, and a while ago this guy, he almost needed his jaw wired shut, but he was kind of a prick anyway, I guess, so whatever, but, uh, today, I...there was this girl and she was doing really well, actually, y'know, managed to get me down to the mat, which is rare and pretty impressive, and I'm pretty proud of her for it now, but then, I just. I just kinda lost it, like, I just kept swinging, I couldn't stop, and then I just...I broke her leg, for no real reason, just because I wanted her to hurt, and I don't...I'm not sure why I even did it, because I'd already won, right, like what was the point of doing any more, it wasn't even helping at that point, y'know, it's not like the buzz kept up any longer because I broke this kid's leg, and I love the fights, they help clear my head for a second, but I never wanted to actually-"

You words stop short, like there are too many of them to say in too short a time, and it's then you realize Taehyung's hands are in his lap and he's looking at you fully. His expression isn't neutral anymore, it's not the carefully crafted mask of a performer, it's real and open and genuine and all you see there is pain . For you. Pain and understanding and compassion you never expected to find anywhere but the deepest corners of your soul. Looking at him looking at you like that makes you feel like you can breathe again.

"You never wanted to hurt anyone." His voice is rough, like maybe there's emotion clogging his throat as well, and you aren't sure what that does to you, but something in you jumps at the thought.

Tears mar your vision as you nod and you curse under your breath before wiping them away. He catches your quivering hand in his and just holds it for a second. His eyes don't leave yours and there are a thousand things you expect him to say but what he says is:

"I believe you."

And that...it's more than you can take, and you break, right there on his bathroom counter, sobbing into his chest while he just rubs your back and hums and you remember the face of every person you've ever hurt and the look in their eyes as you left some of them for dead.

You wake up the next morning curled up on the most comfortable chaise lounge in human history, sitting up and shoving the blanket off of you in a rush before you remember where you are, why you're there. A glance around tells you that you aren't alone; there's two guys bent over a table that you think might also be a tablet, conversing quietly and pointing every so often at whatever they're looking at, a girl balanced along the edge of the staircase holding a lyre - which, wow, you haven't seen a lyre in that good condition in a while - and strumming lightly along it before she frowns and shakes her head and restarts whatever melody she's playing, and the same guy sprawled over the couch with a blanket strewn haphazardly over him while he watches a different dance video on the flatscreen. He's the closest and you don't really want to talk to any of these people but you think you might have to because you aren't really sure how Taehyung got you here last night but you know it was quite a drive. You'd just mist over to the bar if you really wanted to, but your ribs hurt like a bitch still thanks to that f*cker Kratos. Anything as intense as misting is out of the question for the time being.

The man on the chaise spares you a glance that feels longer than it should, full of a judgement you have no doubt you deserve and yet somehow fires your anger anyway.

He rolls his eyes before you even say anything and waves a hand towards the kitchen. You snap your mouth closed and shoot him an irritated look, but you storm in that direction anyway. Healing is exhausting, and you want nothing more than some meat to tear into and a cold beer.

When you get into the kitchen, however, Taehyung is standing there already, as if he’s been expecting you any minute. There’s a plate in front of him, full of food you barely recognize, and he slides it towards you.

“Eat,” He says. You grit your teeth, unmoving, and he sighs again. “Please sit, and eat. You need the strength to heal properly.”

You resist for a split second, but there’s a softness to him now. Something you can’t exactly put your finger on, but that you know is different , somehow, and it changes things. It makes you want to listen, to do as he asks, because he is asking . He’s not telling, he’s treating you like an animal.

It’s a request, not a demand, and that makes all the difference.

Taehyung is quiet while you eat. He doesn’t look at you, doesn’t watch to make sure you’re doing it, but you have no doubt he’s keeping an eye on you. It’s quiet, but not unbearably so; the air is broken by the sounds of the lyre and the television, as well as the soft chattering of the men at the table. It makes it comfortable, makes it soft in a way you’re unaccustomed to being, like the way people talk about lazy Sunday mornings or that voice they get when they see a cute animal.

It feels like home should be, instead of what yours is.

“So why’s Pretty Boy giving me the death glare?” You eventually ask past a mouthful of food. Taehyung barely looks up, just glancing past you to the guy laying on the couch. You can feel his eyes boring into your spine, but it’s nothing new.

“Taemin’s just protective,” Taehyung says softly. “Especially considering the stories.”

“The ones about me, you mean.”

A myriad of emotions passes through his eyes when he nods, and you wish you could more easily decipher them. Maybe in time, you will.

Maybe.

“Those, yes,” He says softly. “But he’ll learn.” He doesn’t say it, but nonetheless, you hear the words as clear as day. Just like I did.

Someone hums behind you and you glance over to see a woman - the strawberry thief - making her way into the kitchen. She gives Taehyung a look you don’t care enough to figure out, and they have an entire conversation in the span of five minutes. Something about it irks you, and it only gets worse when they start moving around each other, Taehyung handing her things without her asking.

It’s ridiculous, and you know it, but the air gets heavy in your lungs and your head starts to swim and suddenly you’re suffocating. It’s too much, there’s too much here, and you can’t take it anymore.

The force with which you shove away the counter would have slammed it into the wall were it not already attached. There are slight cracks in the granite tops, though, and there’s just enough clarity as Taehyung calls your name for you to feel guilty about it. It’s not enough to stop you though; you have to get out, you need to get out, before you do something worse, and the cracks in the granite are proof of that.

You’re out the door in an instant, your form coalescing painfully back into solid matter as you reach the hallway. Your ribs ache, screaming with the effort of trying to mist away from this place, this home , and you lean against the wall in the hope that it will help steady you.

The door opens behind you, the creak of the old hinges deafening in the silence of the hall. There’s a commotion behind it, voices overlapping each other and reverberating in your skull until they’re a twisted mockery of your siblings.

You stumble down the hall, one hand clutching your ribs to keep them as still as possible despite your movement. It’s not lost on you that there are footsteps following you, but you can’t focus on them now. You’re not moving fast, and you need to be, you should be running , but you can’t. Your vision is already clouding slightly at the edges, the sudden spike of adrenaline waning now that you’re out of the apartment.

Someone says your name and you swing.

It’s instinct, the way your fist flies through the air; you can’t control it, not this, not when the red is all you can see even as it seeps away and turns lilac. It doesn’t matter anyway. You don’t make contact with anything but the wall, plaster crumbling around your fist and onto the carpeted floor.

“That was rude,” Taehyung says softly. He doesn’t sound mad, though he should, considering you almost decked him straight in the nose. “I’ll take you back.”

He drapes your jacket over your arm and walks away, toward emergency stairs tucked into the corner instead of the elevator, and you follow. He hums as he goes, and he lets you lead the way down the stairs, keeping pace with your quick steps until both of you step out a side door into an alleyway.

Out of habit, more than anything, you light a cigarette and put it between your lips. You don’t miss the disgusted scrunch of Taehyung’s nose, but you do ignore it. The smoke is familiar in lungs, comforting, and he doesn’t understand it, won’t ever understand it, but he doesn’t have to.

“Sorry, Tae,” You say after a few minutes of silence. Taehyung shrugs one shoulder and moves to lean beside you against the stone of the building.

“Are you okay now?” You nod, taking a deep breath, remembering how Hestia had taught you, so long ago, how her hand felt against your chest, the warmth and love it held. “Then you’re forgiven. And you can call me Calliope, if you want.”

You’re both quiet after that. He doesn’t make fun of you, he doesn’t judge you, he just silently drives you back to Suho’s bar, which is when you remember that he doesn’t know where you live. You’re fine with it; you don’t want to see him in your run down hovel. It’s not much, especially compared to his own apartment, but that makes sense, too.

What could ever live up to the home of a Muse? Not even a muse, really. The Muse. The Head of the Nine Muses, the one called on most often by those in need, the one that everyone knew, the one that Hephaestus just put statues of in the gardens of Olympus, according to the rumors that Apollo sent you.

The calm that he brings lasts until you get back to your apartment, nearly ten full minutes after you disappear into the alley beside Suho’s bar. It’s the longest the calm has ever lasted, and the view of the city tinted lavender is one you think you love.

If you can love.

Things get clearer, somehow. The weight on your shoulders lessens, makes you feel less like Atlas and more like you, how you were all those years ago in the now-ancient days when things made sense. When people fought for honor and glory and justice more than they fought for oil and death and greed.

It could be because open mic nights are frequent around the city, and you’re able to figure out his schedule pretty well. You don’t go every night that he sings, just when it gets to be too much, when the scarlet haze starts to bleed into your irises like a flag in front of a bull. It helps, for a while, lets you settle long enough to pull the pieces of you back into a shape that vaguely resembles yourself.

It could be because the fights happen every night, and Taehyung is no stranger to where to look to find them. He watches every one that he can, when he isn’t singing, and his presence anchors you. Focuses you, so that you can pull your punches just enough, so that there’s less hurting and more fighting. It doesn’t work every time, you still lose yourself in the rage and do more damage than you ever mean to, but it helps enough. And when it doesn’t, he’s there, to slide a hand across your shoulders in that exact same way that Hestia used to, that Apollo might if you let him close enough to know you’re alive, that Artemis would , were she anywhere but where she is.

It’s a strange feeling. You’re not used to companionship, you don’t know how to have friends. You still say the wrong things and do the wrong things and he still speaks to you like he expects to be listened to, but you both are learning. You apologize more often, and he corrects himself quicker. It’s a slow, fragile thing, this friendship, but it’s there.

Until the night when it’s not.

You aren’t sure how it happens. It’s been weeks since you last saw Taehyung; he mentioned some project he was working on, something or another that would have most of his attention along with that of several of the other Muses. You had brushed it off when he said it, some snide remark about how you don’t need him there to win.

You would take it back if you could.

Because you were right, of course, you don’t need him there to win; you can do that on your own. And your control has gotten better, stronger, over the last few months, but complacency is what always leads to disaster.

The guy deserved it, is what you tell yourself as you’re pulled out of the ring. He was a piece of sh*t anyway, you remind yourself as you call Apollo with shaking hands. He didn’t deserve your mercy, you tell the golden gold after you’ve begged him to help save the man’s life. Artemis would have done the same, you insist to him, long after he’s hung up the phone and left to follow the ambulance to the hospital.

You don’t go to Suho’s. You can’t bear it, not when he might be there, not when he would read it on your face in a heartbeat. You don’t want to watch the disappointment crumble into something more familiar, something worse, you can’t watch him look at you with the knowledge that your siblings are right, that they’ve always been right, that you’re nothing better than a crazed animal.

The club is packed full when you get there. The bartender starts to pour you a drink and you just take the bottle, leaving a too-thick wad of bills in return. The bourbon tickles as it goes down but it warms your stomach and distracts you from the haze in your mind, the repetitive beat of they were right they were right they were right they were-

“Whoops, sorry,” someone says, a second before they knock into your shoulder. You’ve been around long enough to know a fake fall, and you scowl as you glance towards them.

He’s cute. Taller than you, with skin that would hide the marks you so love to create, and hair that looks like it would be soft in your hands. His clothes fit well, and they look like they were chosen for comfort over style despite the way he walks like a model in them, which you always find attractive.

The smile that slips onto your face is familiar, as is the way you bring your hand up to rest on his hip in an effort to steady him.

“Don’t worry about it, sweetheart,” You tell him, not being subtle in the way you eye him. He looks soft; you love them soft. “You headed to get a drink?”

“I might be,” He says teasingly, a coy grin forming on his lips.

“I’ve got something better, if you’re interested.”

His eyes roam along your body, his breath drawing somewhat quicker when he notices the scrapes on your knuckles. “I might be.”

It takes five minutes to get him to a corner quiet enough to talk. Less than three to get your lips on his. One and a half to start sucking a mark into his neck that makes him moan so pretty you can’t help but want to hear it again.

One of your hands is up his shirt, playing with the pebbled buds and the metal pierced through them, while the other teasingly massages the skin of his hip when he’s torn away from you roughly.

“What the f*ck?” Your voice growls as you look up. The guy is standing there, looking for all the world like he’s ready to run, but he isn’t watching you.

No, his eyes are on a familiar sight; Taehyung, his hair now a pretty lavender that makes you think of a home you don’t have, even as he doesn’t look at you.

“Taken,” He growls, releasing the collar of the guy you had every intent to make cry with pleasure. The guy scurries off before you can stop him, though, and you don’t bother to hide your disdain.

“What the f*ck is your problem?” You demand, already lighting a cigarette as you head outside. Taehyung follows, pulling it from between your lips and crushing it in his hands before you have the chance to get your lighter out.

“Me? You looked like you were about to eat him .” He follows you all the way to the street outside and down the sidewalk, pulling each cigarette out of your hands before you can light it. He waits until you’re a decent distance from the crowd outside the club before he stops you, one hand lightly encircling your wrist.

Your boots scuff against the ground as you stop, not turning to look at him. You’re too afraid to, too worried he’ll see it all on your face and just know that you’ve f*cked up, maybe beyond repair.

“Apollo called me,” is what he says instead. “Said I might want to find you tonight.”

You should’ve known. That little f*ck, of course he would rat you out.

“I didn’t-”

The words choke in your throat. You want to say you don’t need him. You don’t need him to come running like you’re some scared little girl who can’t control her strength, you don’t need him to piece you back together because you aren’t broken, you don’t need him because you don’t need anyone, you never have.

“I know you didn’t,” Taehyung says quietly. “I know he deserved it, I know what he did, and I know you didn’t mean to.”

Something inside of you breaks and you find yourself shaking.

“He hurt her , Tae, I heard it, I heard her telling her friend about it on the phone, I saw her crying, I saw her clothes, okay, he-”

“I know,” Taehyung says, pulling you into a loose hug. “I know you did, it’s okay. He’s going to be okay. He’s not gonna escape his punishment from that, you didn’t send anyone to Hades today. It’s okay.”

The cloud struggles, for what feels like hours. Guilt settles like lead in your stomach, and you wish you weren’t so used to the feeling. The rage returns every time you remember what that girl looked like, what she sounded like on the phone, how you felt when you realized it was your competitor who had done that to her.

There’s no honor in that. There’s no justice, no glory, in beating an opponent who was never aware they were in the ring, and it makes your blood boil all over again. Taehyung’s voice soothes you, slightly, makes the edges of your vision turn indigo, but it isn’t enough.

It’s never enough.

“I have to go,” You say, pulling yourself away from him. “I need- I have to find-”

“A distraction,” He finishes for you, too aware that you can’t find the words you need. “Some mortal that you can bruise and break and bang until you feel less like a monster?”

That’s exactly what you want to do, what you had been about to do with that guy at the club, and it’s only Taehyung’s voice calling your name in that soft, sweet way of his that makes you wonder if that’s not a good plan.

“I’ll be a distraction, if you need one.” You whip your head around, staring at him, but he doesn’t flinch. “I’m sturdier than the mortals, I can take more. Let me be your distraction.”

“I…” You hesitate. You don’t know why. You shouldn’t even be entertaining this idea, it’s not a good one, but then...when have any of your ideas been good? “I can’t f*ck in a house with eight other people.”

“You have an apartment,” He says easily. “Let’s go there.”

It’s a bad idea. You don’t do that, you don’t f*ck people at your apartment, you don’t have people in your apartment, it’s your space. It’s a bad idea, it can only end in disaster.

“Okay.”

Taehyung’s lips are soft against yours, yielding and pliant just the way you’re used to. His hands are big and warm against your ass, even through your jeans, and the feeling gives you the courage to slide your own under the ridiculously patterned button-down he’s wearing.

He lets you lead the way through the door, kicking it closed behind you with slightly too much force. Your apartment is small, a studio with a bed tucked in the corner for the rare times that you need it.

You push Taehyung onto it and slide yourself onto his lap, already grinding down onto the hard length you can feel there. He's not quite as enthusiastic, but his fingers are like steel against you, pulling you down with every rut of your hips.

This, you can do. This, you're familiar with.

You push on his shoulders, doing your best to get him on his back so you can have better access to the clasp of his jeans, but he resists. You try again, firmer, using a harsh suck against his skin as a distraction, but he still doesn't go.

Frustrated, you pull back.

"Not like this," He says. His voice clears some of the fog, and you frown.

"Do you want to be on top, then? Because I don't mind, I just need it," You tell him. He sighs a little, but he flips the two of you over so he's kneeling between your open legs and your back is cushioned against the mattress.

"How long has it been since you spent the night with someone who knows who you are?" He asks, pressing a kiss to your cheek as he sits back on his knees.

You shift, uncomfortable. "A while. Why does that matter? Just f*ck me."

"No," Taehyung says, voice gentle but firm. You co*ck a brow at him and move to get out from under him, but he stills you with a hand on your thigh.

"You are a goddess," He tells you, trailing his hands down so he can undo the laces on your steel-toe boots and slide them off. "You have held Victory in your palms and set her free."

His palms burn through the denim on your thighs, but you welcome it as he slides your jacket over your shoulders to the bed beneath.

"You are the winner of wars. You are the one who grants battlefield wishes. You are the dead's escort to Hades." He leans down, pressing a soft kiss against your cheek and then down your throat.

He pulls back as he gets to your collarbone, eyes blown wide with unfamiliar desire, and it makes your breath catch in your throat.

"You," Taehyung tells you, with desire in his eyes and belief in his voice, "Deserve to be treated like the goddess that you are, with the respect you have earned, and the care you deserve."

As often as you f*ck people, it's been a very long time since anyone wanted to f*ck you for any reason beyond your appearance and the personality you show them. But this? This look in the muse's eyes as his hands settle on your knees as he waits?

Taehyung wants to f*ck you because you're you. Not despite it, not because he doesn't know . He has seen you at your worst and yet he keeps coming back, keeps showing up as you fall apart. Each time he stays, hands you a basket so you can pick the pieces of yourself up off the ground, holds the tape so you can mash it back together, and is ready to help steady you when you start to crumble again.

He's here for you , to treat you in a way no one has ever treated you before. He's your friend.

He cares.

You nod, however tentatively, and his lips are on yours in an instant. They're firmer now, less pliable and more controlling, but you don't mind. Not this time.

Not with Taehyung.

His hands don't hesitate as he strips you both of your clothes, but you can feel it each time he checks to make sure you're okay. The way that he watches your expression, the tense of your muscles under him, the cadence of your gasps for air between kisses, he reads all of it as clear as if it's a book in front of him. He slows down before you can stop him, his lips drawing back from the kisses he draws across your thighs, and he speeds up as your thoughts start to drift, swiping his tongue and two fingers through your folds to tease and bring your attention back to him.

His fingers bury themselves in your heat, crooking slightly to brush against that soft part of you that makes the world spin, and it's all too intense. His lips are hardly even touching your skin, just pressing gentle kisses against the skin of your thigh, a gentle complement to the way he glides his fingers in and out of you, slow and steady and delicious, but it's absolutely intoxicating.

He's talkative, too; he gives you constant praise. He tells you how well you take his fingers, how good you look with his fingers inside you, how absolutely fantastic you taste on his tongue, how he'd live between your thighs if he could.

It's too much, and you can't be sure why, not when your org*sm is approaching quicker than it ever has, not when your walls clench around him and you soak your sheets, not when he's cleaning your cum off his fingers with his tongue.

"Good," He purrs. "Now you're all warmed up."

His mouth hits your heat without hesitation or warning, before the aftershocks are even finished, and your hips buck upwards. His arms slide underneath your thighs only to grip them and bring them back down. You can't move much in his grip except to grind your puss* against his mouth, which he seems to enjoy, if the muffled grunts that escape him are any indication.

He doesn't stop until his tongue is buried inside you with one finger drawing lazy circles on your cl*t and you're cumming again, hands gripping the soft strands of his hair so tight that you would be afraid of pulling it out if you could focus on anything besides the feel of him against you.

He lets you ride the aftershock, this time. Waits until your pants die down slightly, until you're back in your mind.

"Good?" He asks you. His voice is deeper, rumbles instead of slides, but it breaks through the post-org*sm haze long enough for you to nod. “More?”

“More,” you agree, wrapping your arms around his broad shoulders and pulling him into a heated kiss. You haven’t been this clear-headed in a while. Every sensation is clear and crisp, every sound heightened, everything is simultaneously more while also being exactly what it’s always supposed to have been.

Taehyung’s co*ck is everything you could have expected from a muse; thick, long, beautiful, and it fills you in a way that’s indescribable as he slides inside. He groans at the feeling, deep and throaty and beautiful, and begins his thrusts nearly immediately.

It’s as slow as he was with his fingers; steady and forceful, but unhurried. As if he wants to take his time. As if he wants to savor it. Savor you .

“Do you have any idea how amazing you are?” He mutters, almost as an afterthought. “What you look like right now, what you look like when you’re fighting, when you’ve won and you’re triumphant? It’s f*cking addictive, seeing that confidence in you.”

“sh*t, Tae, don’t stop-”

“It’s so f*cking intoxicating,” He groans, pace quickening. Your arms wrap around him more fully, nails like claws down his back as you arch your back to get him deeper. “You get this look in your eyes, like you can do anything you f*cking want to, and it’s so f*cking brilliant, because you can , you can do anything and everything you ever f*cking want to do, and no one can stop you.”

A whine you’ll never admit to escapes your throat, and Taehyung drives his co*ck further into you.

“Let go, my sweet,” Taehyung purrs in your ear. “Let yourself relax, just this once. For me.”

His hand touches your cl*t and it’s so much, too much , you’re feeling everything so intensely that it takes a solid minute to realize you’re coming down from an org*sm. Taehyung has stilled inside you, unmoving but groaning as you flutter around him, and you push weakly at his shoulder.

He slides himself out of you, looking entirely too proud of wet spot underneath you and glistening against his lower stomach. You wobble your way up to rest your elbows underneath you, and it’s like he can sense your words before they come.

“No,” He says simply. “I don’t you to get me off with your mouth.”

“A hand then? I don’t want you to leave unsatisfied.”

A frown pulls at the corner of his mouth, and he leans down just enough that your lips are almost touching, a not-there kiss that you can only wish for.

“In what world is f*cking you to the point of Elysium unsatisfying?”

The crowd around you is deafening; some of them are cheering for you, but the majority are rooting for your downfall. Such is the life of a challenging the champion, you suppose.

You don’t know how Taehyung found this place; maybe Artemis had heard rumors, or maybe he searched for it himself. You can’t bring yourself to care, not when you’ve got someone worth fighting on the other side of the arena.

The sand crunches beneath your feet. It’s hot, hotter than it should be since you’re still wearing your signature jeans and boots - without the jacket this time. You learned from that mistake.

Your vision tints pink as you size up your opponent; he’s massive, not one to be easily defeated, and you relish the challenge. It’s been so long since you’ve fought a giant. Excitement thrums under your veins as he turns to you. He scoffs.

If you had a little less control, you might be flying across the arena already. He clearly has no idea who’s standing across from him. Probably thinks you’re some demigod, come to challenge him for the fleece he isn’t supposed to have.

He’ll learn.

Something moves in the distance. It should blend in, considering how dark it is, but instead it draws your eye, and you don’t even question why. You would recognize him anywhere, have recognized him everywhere, and his presence calms you. Makes you remember a few nights ago, falling into bed in a hotel in Rome because the burn was to much and you needed him to help you release it.

“Try not to be too quick, princess,” The giant across from you huffs. You co*ck a brow and send a look to your muse, who just rolls his eyes, despite the smile playing across his face.

Violet rings your vision as you ready your stance. The announcer yells something that’s lost over the noise of the crowd. Taehyung leans forward, elbows on his knees, excitement and pride in his eyes.

The giant swings.

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