Chapter 1: Walkies
A trio, all hooded, were hanging around at the corner of the park, cigs between their fingers and smoke in the frosted air.
The jerks jeered as Taehyung passed, letting out obscene greetings in between handfuls of sniggering. He couldn't see their faces, but really he didn't want to. He avoided their gaze, opting instead for feigned ignorance and private wariness.
Yeontan paused to turn, growled a little, then trotted himself closer to Taehyung's side.
He listened intently to the sound of the trees, a gentle breeze sliding past the branches and leaves of all the foliage around him.
Suddenly, he felt the leash tug, causing it to slip a little in his sweaty hand's grip. Instinctively, he turned himself around to check on Yeontan.
Probably just some canine butt sniffing ... or an investigation regarding stray fast food smeared along the pavement.
What he did not expect to see was a person, crouched and hooded a foot away, and holding his dog.
He paused a moment to process this, wondering what on earth could cause a total stranger to restrain his animal.
A wriggling Tannie was lifted upon the stranger's bended knee and pulled tight into their chest. He could make out a hand pulled across his doggy-face, serving to muzzle and silence him.
This must be a simple mistake. A reasonable explanation should be forthcoming.
Taehyung made to walk forwards slowly, Yeontan's leash still clutched tightly against his palm. He managed just a single step before he felt something heavy collide with him, sending him elbow-wise to the concrete.
An agony burst from his right arm as coat and bone met the cold hard floor, sending pain that sailed effortlessly through his body, pausing a moment at his palpitating heart, before shooting down his left side too.
A rage coursed through him -- rage of the surprised kind, the rage of a beast suddenly finding itself at the receiving end of a predator. He felt his animalistic urges kick in, and he began to throw his feet violently in the general direction of his assaulter.
Each kick made the pain in his arm worse, the effort requiring his body to meticulously shift-shoot each time. It was fruitless, and pointless, and probably only making things worse. He didn't want to bait this monster into killing him for ease of robbery.
The somebody was now crawling on top of him, immobilizing him. A blur of limbs organized themselves above him, and a sweating hand pressed itself carelessly against his mouth.
A pained yell failed on the palm of this stranger's hand. His tongue met the flesh, and it tasted of dirt and tobacco.
Reality had dropped the moment he'd hit the ground, the moment he felt his arm break and his logic had put the two people together.
This was no mistake.
The person above him began to laugh slightly as he let the pained forearm of the injured limb flop against the floor. The handler's end of the leash was now lying about a ruler's length away from his grasp -- not that he could possibly reach for it now that his normal leash arm was profoundly pained and totally unresponsive.
The guy leaned himself so close into Taehyung's view that he could smell the dude's breath -- the queasy grease of the fries he'd just been seen eating now riding up his nostrils.
He laughed carelessly into Taehyung's face, his tone tinged with amusement as he spoke. The laughter was breathless and strained from holding his hostage down, but he sounded as though he was having the time of his life.
"Your fucking wallet! Or I kill your bitch."
He managed a stutter through the pain and terror.
Simple words, words he could reach, words that wouldn't confuse the situation even more or make him press any harder.
He turned his head away submissively, letting it rest against the concrete.
"Pocket. My pocket --"
The weight of the man shifted as the search began. He couldn't help but let out a few broken whimpers, the arm being truly excruciating now if he tried -- or was made -- to move.
A rough hand jammed itself into various trench coat pockets, digging deeply and with no regard whatsoever to the wearer.
For Taehyung, the noise of distant traffic was beginning to vanish entirely. He could barely see the string of streetlights around him, or of the park's path snaking out in front of him. Everything was beginning to break down, sense alluding him. His vision, already blurred, was beginning to burn out entirely.
He didn't have to be here. He could just close his eyes, and let it all pass.
This wasn't happening.
This wasn't happening.
This wasn't happening.
He let himself melt, flop-response enveloping him.
I'm good as dead.
A growl from the big man.
"Can't find it, sunshine."
He was rolled forcefully onto his side, and the breast of the coat was then ripped away from his chest. A tearing sound greeted them both as he felt the armpit area tear.
"In here, maybe?"
He was laughing again, his voice somewhere at the crossroads of amusement and doubt as he began to finger the inner pockets of the coat. But there was also a little anger there. The dude was beginning to sound thwarted.
The guy half-whispered, half-yelled in frustration.
"Where is it, bitch?!"
He threw Taehyung once more onto his back as a third person descended upon the situation.
This one was shorter, but balaclava-clad like the rest of them.
The big guy nodded his head slightly in the direction of Taehyung's left hand as he snarled to his accomplice.
The heel of a boot viciously collided with the pinky-side of his hand, mostly around the knuckle area where his fingers began, and he let out a long, strangled, muffled yell. Tears were streaming unimpeded down his face.
"That's for being tricky --" the guy breathed once more into Taehyung's ear.
"-- you bastard."
Tae never thought he'd ever feel grateful to have his wallet successfully pinched, but when it was finally pulled out he let out a short, shaky sigh of relief. Squeezing his eyes shut, he remained floor-bound as the assaulter's weight lifted from his body.
Shadows sprawled across him vanished, and the harsh streetlight above him suddenly lit up his face.
He heard fleeing footsteps, and the jingle of his dog's collar.
Frozen for a moment, he couldn't decide which emotion to give in to. To pick himself up, or fall apart? To force dignity, or accept devastation?
It was 4am. He wondered how long he could possibly lie here before somebody discovered him.
Did he want to be discovered?
He felt humiliated. De-aged. Tiny.
Suddenly Tannie was barking. He peeled his eyes open to find Yeontan running rings around him, pausing here and there as he barked into the night.
He was doing the one thing that dogs could do in a crisis.
He was barking for help.
"Shhhhh -- ah, Tannie --"
He curled himself into a sitting position, only for his right arm to drag helplessly beside him.
He beckoned a few times with finger clicks, though his left clicks were always somewhat weaker and less responded to. His thumb and first two fingers were thankfully uninjured, but he let out a deep groan as starbursts of pain danced in his eyes, an unwanted sensory tribute to the other two fucked-up fingers.
His head seemed full of air as he tried to set the next agenda.
He looked around carefully, scanning the path and glancing between the trees. The area was apparently totally empty. A dog had begun to bark somewhere far away, triggered by Yeontan's own noises, but the park itself was silent.
He needed -- no, wanted -- to hide.
Trembling, he slowly stood himself up, fingers throbbing with the effort and arm just hanging. He made for the nearest tree, one that stood on the sloping embankment. Dropping himself clumsily against the trunk, his bottom soon met with the grass and dirt beneath.
More cold ground, but at least this was natural. It wasn't concrete. It wasn't where he'd just been beaten up. At this particular moment, that was the only thing that mattered to him. To be away.
He allowed himself a breather, to pull his thoughts together.
Shit happens. I'm an adult.
His mind settled on the phone in his trouser pocket.
Thank god he'd opted for butt-pocket.
The guy hadn't thought to search that. Well -- they were quite weird pants, and the pocket wasn't an obvious one.
The prospect of leading Tannie home, leash trailing carelessly and his pup free-roaming, was an unacceptable one. He was hurt, he couldn't lead his dog and he was feeling fucked up.
He needed help.
He thought of his Hobi-hyung, the happiness hyung, probably still lounging around in the front room of their dorms. A bit of guilt climbed up his throat as he considered the little problem he was about to unleash.
But needs must.
Hobi was in the kitchen when the familiar ringtone began to play. His thoughts immediately jumped to his roaming dongsaeng.
He lifted his finger from the smoothie maker, the kitchen quickly falling silent, and picked up the phone currently sitting on the kitchen's island alongside a fruit bowl.
Something felt wrong.
Tae wouldn't call mid-walk. Unless --
Hoseok paused a moment. He could hear heavy breathing. The tone of voice was off. Really off.
"Hey, Tae. You okay?"
He kept his calm and kept it friendly. Either this was a prank, or he was needed. Either way, being receptive would help.
"Hyung -- I need you to come. I'm -- I'm in the park."
His stomach dropped.
Something was wrong.
He sped himself immediately to the hall, leaving the kitchen in a state of mid-smoothie disarray.
"Okay. I'm coming, okay? Keep on the call. Are you hurt?"
Hoseok sat himself down on a bench and began to slip into some sneakers using his spare hand.
He had to pause mid-sneaker as his stomach plummeted further.
Keep calm keep calm keep calm.
If it was bad, he'd have to hang up on Taehyung to call an ambulance. He really didn't want to have to leave Taehyung in this state, alone in the dark and possibly dying.
"Are you bleeding?"
"N-no -- I -- I don't think so. Just -- my arm is hurt --"
Taehyung's words were beginning to sound muffled, and Hobi knew just what that meant.
"Okay, Taehyungie, I'm almost out of the door. I'll be with you soon, okay? It's okay ... you're gonna be okay ..."
Coat awkwardly slipped on and left unzipped, he grabbed Jin's car keys and hurried himself downstairs and into the parking lot. He didn't know how hurt he really was, but he knew he might have to drive Taehyung to hospital rather than walk him. It was better to arrive prepared with transport than have himself arrive on foot and be useless.
"Does your abdomen hurt? Do your insides hurt?"
Hoseok's mind was running through potential worst case scenarios. Internal bleeding was one of them.
"No, I - it's fine. I'm not hurt there --"
Tae really was beginning to cry now. He was freely weeping down the line.
His body was shivering uncontrollably, and it wasn't just the cold. He knew he was in shock, he knew those unique bodily shakes that came from somewhere deep and unreachable, because he'd witnessed a traffic accident before.
Nothing could possibly console whatever psychosomatic crisis his body was going through right now. His teeth chattered and he let the shakes sort themselves out unimpeded. He reasoned it might even make him a little warmer in this chilled air.
He'd stopped crying down the line now, and Hoseok's call was still open given that his phone was now lodged into Seokjin's dashboard. He'd assumed that much at least, given the distorted road noise now being transmitted across to him.
He said nothing though. He ignored the pain in his injured fingers as he kept the phone beside his face, and simply waited on any questions or comfort that came his way.
"You still with me?"
Hobi's voice broke the silence again.
"Yeah, I'm here --"
He sniffled a little and braced himself against a gust of cold air.
"I'm at the intersection now. Is your arm bad? Can you move it?"
"No-no hyung -- it's bad --"
He sounded tired and flat, despite his voice still trembling from shock.
"You must be cold --" Hobi added, his tone dropping into an almost-normal type of warmth -- not the restrained, concerned kind of warmth he'd been speaking in previously.
"Yeah, it's cold --"
Taehyung parroted his hyung's words, not bothering to say anything more complicated.
"It's about time I unearthed Seokjin-hyung's car-boot blankets, don't you think?"
He sounded almost jovial, and it made Taehyung chuckle a little bit.
"Yeah -- that would be great --"
He wiped a sniffle on the squidgy palm of his left hand. His two further-most fingers, and the side of the hand, were looking very bruised and swollen now.
"Blankets please," he repeated, half-amused and half-upset.
Hoseok parked the car on a side-street and stepped out, making his way towards the boot. He'd never used the car's first aid kit before -- and he'd never applied first aid before -- but he trusted that good judgement would get him through it somehow.
He slung the blanket over his shoulder and carried the kit with one hand while his other hand dealt with Taehyung's call.
"I'm out. Whereabouts are you?"
"Tree," Taehyung responded flatly.
Well, there are lots of those.
"Which end of the park?"
Hoseok was scanning urgently as he rushed along the pathway.
"Embankment. Behind a tree."
Tae's voice wasn't just coming from Hoseok's phone -- it was coming from nearby. He smiled in relief.
"I can hear you! Ah, Taehyungie, I see you, I'm hanging up."
Taehyung turned himself so he could peek around the tree, but immediately regretted it. The arm just wasn't having any of it.
He let his head roll against the tree trunk and began to cry again. Relief, exhaustion, humiliation -- his brain was now pulling the full works.
He was safe.
He didn't bother to open his eyes on the approach. Instead he just listened to the sound of Hoseok's footsteps across the grass, the sound of something being placed beside him, and the shifting of dirt as his hyung crouched to his own level.
When he opened his eyes again, slowly and sadly, Hobi's fingers were in his face and tidying up his mint-coloured bangs.
"Hey," Hobi smiled gently, his gaze dropping immediately to the arms and hands. He could immediately tell it was the right arm that was in bother, given that he was clutching it. But he wasn't expecting to see bruised fingers -- and bruises generally -- on the left clutching-hand.
It prompted Hoseok to get straight to work.
"I need to remove your coat -- so I can take a look at your arm. Do you think you could stand up for a minute, to help me with that?"
Taehyung sniffled again, his eyes still glazed over, but nodded. Standing himself up slowly with Hobi's supportive hand against his chest, he was soon upright.
The elder gently pulled the coat away from Taehyung's shoulders, dropping the coat slowly downwards as they worked.
Taehyung refused to straighten out his right arm -- he whimpered at the suggestion, and wouldn't release it -- so Hoseok offered one hand to firmly hold it in its current position while he used the other to remove the coat. Tae had to do some twisting and contorting with his healthy arm in order to remove that particular sleeve first, but once the left arm was free they could work on the right.
His bruised hand had stinged and tingled something dreadful as the coat had slipped across it and away.
"Almost there," Hoseok soothed as he caught sight of Taehyung's winces. As they began to slide the sleeve away from the right arm, Taehyung scrunched his eyes up and began to cry again. He let out a couple of quiet, unintentional wails as he finally caught the arm again with his free hand. He let his head drop into a shameful droop -- he felt stupid crying, but he couldn't help it. He wanted to hide his tears but there was nothing but a little shady, dappled darkness to help with that.
Taehyung was wobbly and unsteady on his feet, so once the coat was off Hoseok folded it and placed it beneath him, then urged him to sit down again. He shivered harder without the warmth of a coat.
There was still a sweater sleeve separating Hoseok from the arm in question, but he daren't roll it for sake of pain or further injury. So he decided he'd sling it at this particular juncture, and let the hospital deal with the sleeve later.
He opened up the kit currently sitting in the grass and pulled out the material in question. Taehyung had already instinctively started holding his other, left hand in a raised manner but away from Hobi's workspace, not wanting to worsen the swelling any further with the gravity of grass-rest. Hoseok was thankful that Taehyung was currently lucid enough not only for teamwork, but for independent thinking too.
His hyung-cum-paramedic attempted some light conversation.
"You ever had a sling before?"
Taehyung croaked in response.
"Ah, I have. Fell off my bike as a kid."
Hobi chuckled as he edged himself gently towards the topic in question. He smiled with his next enquiry, unblinkingly and in full-humour.
"So ... whereabouts did you fall? Did the slope get you? Or were you, dare I say ... climbing this tree?"
And like that, Taehyung's heart skipped for the first time since the assault.
Hobi hadn't put the fucking pieces together.
His heart was beginning to race, he was beginning to panic. He thought he'd already communicated this shit wordlessly, that he wouldn't have to stir his emotions up in order to put it into words.
Hoseok tried to read the awkward silence while he finished the knot of the sling. The panicked breathing was becoming quite noticeable.
His shakes were beginning to start up again, so Hobi relinquished interrogation.
"It's okay, Taetae. You don't have to talk about it."
Hobi closed his kit, tied Yeontan's leash to the medical kit,
and slowly helped Taehyung to stand.
"I'm gonna wrap you up, okay? I'll put this over you --"
He gently wrapped the trench over Taehyung's shoulders, ignoring sleeves so that it served as more of a cape than as a coat. But he pulled it together at the front just enough to button it a couple of times, so it wouldn't slide away.
"And now Seokjin-hyung's blanket, just like I promised."
The blanket was heavy and warm and somewhat soothing. Hoseok picked up the kit and then wrapped an arm around Taehyung's waist. The younger felt almost repulsed by the touch, as memories of previous invasive hands still skirted his thoughts. It made his knees buckle slightly, and he whimpered tearfully as he ascended the slope.
He wanted nothing more than to drop to the ground once more.
"It's okay, it's okay ..."
Hoseok spoke to him simply as he let the younger's weight shift more into his own territory of responsibility. "I need you to be strong just a little longer, okay? So I can get you to the car."
The hand occupied by the kit was being held awkwardly against Taehyung's chest, and it was rising and falling at extremely short, panicked intervals.
They took the path gently, but Taehyung eventually found his feet somewhat.
When they reached the car, he sat himself backwards slowly into the seat. He desperately wanted to lie down and cry, and he almost did so, but then he realised the blood rush would just make the pain a whole lot worse.
He stared helplessly at the seatbelts, and at the sling, and at his swollen hand.
"Hyung -- I can't --"
But Hoseok was already on it, gently pulling a belt across Taehyung's front but not allowing it to rest against the bad arm.
He softly wrapped his fingers around Taehyung's left wrist and cradled the hand, hoping to take a better look under the car's internal lighting.
Taehyung's beautiful, slender fingers -- fingers that everyone universally adored -- now looked bruised and abused. Strangely, it was this, and not the arm, which really set off Hoseok's anger. It was this small thing, this small detail -- a minor smoking gun that hinted at worse things.
He felt hateful.
Normally, Hoseok would be going in for comforting scalp kisses, but this situation was different. Taehyung was delicate and jumpy and probably quite embarrassed right now. So he settled for something smaller. Leaning in gently, he placed a very careful kiss on the back of the hand.
"Fuck who ever did this," he iterated quietly, his voice trembling with an undercurrent of rage.
"I'm so sorry Taehyungie. Let's get you fixed up."
Chapter 2: Infrared
Maximum turbo-charged angst? Yep, you got it.
Hoseok has to juggle "Taehyungwatch" with informing the members of the incident.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Hoseok gently worked his fingers through Taehyung's coat, which was now removed and sitting on his lap. Sneaking suspicions and a pro-active investigative spirit had sent him searching through the pockets, looking for anything that could have been snatched.
Everyone in the group knew that Taehyung always took his wallet with him on late night walks, just in case he wanted to take a cab on the way back home. But he also had a sentimental reason to carry it with him; it was a good luck wallet, a gift from his father. And for that reason most of all, he never parted with it.
With each pocket that came up empty, his conclusion only solidified. He finished up at the inner pocket, which was also empty. Folding the coat neatly once more, giving it undue respect despite it being dirty and torn, he leaned forwards.
Hoseok let Taehyung's completed, half-cast hand settle in his own as he asked the sensitive question.
"Taetae ... did they take your wallet?"
His lips were clamped tightly shut, causing them to thin across his face. A very slight nod, a watery blink and a swallow. It told Hobi everything he needed to know.
Really, there wasn't much of a Taehyungie hand to hold right now, given that he had just one free, uncovered finger and thumb to spare. To Hoseok, the weight was all wrong. Usually he'd be enthusiastically weaving their fingers together, letting their palms meet tightly no matter how sweaty or sticky either of them were that day. Despite being a bit of a clean-freak, Hoseok had never really cared for possible dirt when it came to Taehyungie. Taetae loved holding hands way too much, and Hoseok loved obliging him too much.
But now there was little available flesh to hold. It was all he could do to wrap his hands around Taehyung's own out-of-bounds left limb, and hope that the comfort somehow got through to him. The fresh plaster, now cold and rough and creeping halfway up his forearm, was nothing like the warmth he'd usually be receiving from a Taehyungie hand-hold.
Not that he was certain Taehyung was even aware of it right now.
At some point, around halfway through their car ride, Taehyung's sniffling had stopped. At first, he assumed the gradual attenuation was a sign of calmness, that Taehyung was slowly drawing some of his mental pieces back together. It became very obvious however, and very immediately so, when Hoseok finally pulled up the car and opened the door to Taehyung's backseat, that it was actually not a healthy calmness at all.
It was catatonic calm.
Taehyung was now sitting in a hospital bed, glassy eyed and mute. He hadn't said a single word since their initial reunion on the grassy slope. Hoseok had found himself navigating an unfailingly pliant Taehyung through double doors and down corridors, folding him into waiting room seats and freeing his coat when it got caught in a door hinge or on a seat corner. He found himself answering all the doctors' questions, engaging himself in all the friendly nursing small talk, and speaking on Taehyung's behalf.
He didn't want to speak over Taehyung -- there was just no Taehyung to speak over in the first place.
Slowly and hesitantly, he began to drag the tips of his own fingers along Taehyung's exposed forefinger, assuming a slight finger tickle would cheer him up.
He walked a couple of his own fingers along the first finger, watching Taehyung's face unblinkingly.
The tiniest, tiniest smile curled up in the corners of Taehyung's mouth -- a tiny millimetre of upwards curvature, just enough to signal he wasn't quite gone.
But then the smile seemed to wither. It dropped so quickly it ended up looking more like an involuntary twitch than a smile. He seemed to drift away once more, the very brief light now gone from his eyes, a deepening look of sadness now serving as a wisp of smoke, signalling extinguishment.
Hoseok exhaled slowly and patiently as he now rubbed his own thumb along Taehyung's free thumb, soothingly and firmly.
There's still a Taehyungie in there.
Dirt was still smeared across Taehyung's right cheek, and a graze sat upon the cheekbone. He hated to think of how that got there, how Taehyung must have been rolled and rocked along the floor like a ragdoll for dirt to have ridden up his face like that. He still didn't know exactly what had happened to Taehyung ... whether it had been a "simple" robbery or ... or ... something much worse ...
Was that why he was mute?
A hungry gurgle suddenly emanated from Taehyung's tummy. The trivial stomach squeal was a far cry from the present atmosphere of the room, but Taehyung continued to sit unmoved by it.
Hoseok smiled, even though he knew it wouldn't be reciprocated, and took a glance at his watch.
"You're hungry. I guess it's almost breakfast time now."
He assumed he must have said something very wrong, because it was at that point that Taehyung suddenly, without any warning whatsoever, fell to pieces.
A loud, hacking sob exploded from his chest as if it had been sitting inside, brewing malevolently but repressed for a long time, and his face promptly melted into tears.
Breakfast was such a normal thing ... but he didn't feel the slightest bit normal right now. He was fucked up and all over the place. He felt degraded, half-dead. How could normal things just ... return to him? Demanding his attention like that?
Taehyung glanced down at his slinged arm, now fully cast up to and over the elbow.
And as if he could fucking feed himself right now.
Hoseok leaned over closely, hurriedly pulling tissues from his pocket to wipe Taehyung's tears on his behalf.
"Hey ... shhhhh ... it's okay ..."
Some of the tears were beginning to bathe the cheek graze, and Hoseok's wiping motion made it sting, causing Taehyung to flinch. He retreated backwards aggressively into his pillow, making himself look much smaller with the effort. It was an instinctive, primitive flinch that caused his sobs to pause. His breathing froze up, and his tearful eyes were opened wide, now looking vigilant and frightened.
Hobi berated himself internally.
Ugh. Well done, Hoseok-ah. You halted the tears but kicked the goddamn trauma hive.
He dropped his gaze gently, feeling defeated for the first time. Failing Tae was not a particularly familiar experience. Feeling helpless was even less familiar to him. How on earth does one soothe a hurting Taehyung when skinship is off the table?
His thoughts landed suddenly on the members asleep at home. Maybe they'd noticed their absence by now? Namjoon, their resident early riser, could be wandering the front room at this very moment, greeting the sunrise not with his usual welcoming gratitude but with a confused, worried panic.
Shit. He really needed to tell someone.
Thankfully, a nurse came in just at that moment. He didn't want to leave Taehyung entirely alone, so this was his chance.
"I need to make a few calls. I'll be right back."
Jimin looked totally aghast, disbelief and shellshock battling for dominance across his face.
The five remaining members were gathered together in the front room, a mixture of sleepy and dumbstruck, all of them having been pulled from slumber at irregular points in their sleep cycles.
Namjoon had just dropped the bombshell, and Jimin had been the first one to respond.
"How bad is it?"
Jungkook plucked the first, most low hanging-fruit from the shitty morning's question tree. It was uttered quietly and flatly, as though he was trying to speak over a choking sensation in his throat.
Namjoon nodded at the group, trying to look encouraging despite not having seen Taehyung's condition for himself.
"Just some broken bones, apparently. Hoseok-hyung's with him -- I've called our manager ..."
Namjoon trailed off, sighing as he sat himself down into a spare sofa space and wincing slightly at his words.
Did that sound dismissive? It could have been a lot worse. Taehyung wasn't dying. He wasn't laid out and bleeding to death. He wasn't stone cold in a hospital mortuary. Surely that qualified the "just", right?
He didn't know where his sentence was going, even though he felt a desperate need to say something. He needed to fill the air. That was what a leader did. Sure, he was at home, so officially he was at rest, but he still felt that sense of responsibility. He needed to say things or do things, or else risk everything falling through somehow.
But all he could think of right now was the do things bit. One very specific thing. He glanced through the apartment window, looking out at the sunrise now burning across the early morning sky.
He needed to see Taehyung.
Like magic, Yoongi interjected, flexing his intuition.
"I know we all want to see him right now. But it would drag attention to the hospital. Besides, there have probably been sightings already. We need to wait for Manager Sejin-ssi to sort something out. Taehyungie will come home to us, we just ... we have to be patient."
Seokjin was staring blankly into space, his mind entirely preoccupied with parallel thoughts.
He felt utterly selfish worrying about the upcoming comeback. Well, shit -- it was mere weeks away. They'd been working towards this for months. But more than that, he was worried about how Taehyung would feel about it. Would Tae even have a schedule?
Wouldn't there be an investigation? Wouldn't Taehyung have to regurgitate the experience? Would he even be able to?
And would he come home his usual chirpy self, or come home visibly traumatized?
He tightened up, shoulders tensing and thighs ready to stand. Eldest-hyung energy was beginning to take over, overriding the initial shock. He too felt the need to do things; he too needed to help the situation somehow.
"His wallet was taken, right? So we need to cancel his cards. He'll need particular shirts ... And Yeontan. Somebody still needs to pick him up."
"I can do that," Jungkook pepped up as he got to his feet.
Their maknae, interestingly, was the most adept at sneaking around public places unnoticed, and Yeontan, who was practically a canine representative of pathological demand avoidance, barked aggressively at anybody who wasnt a band member or one of the Kim family. So they couldn't realistically send a member of staff.
But deep down, Jungkook also had a bit of an agenda. He wanted to be closer to Taehyung, even if he couldn't see him right now. He felt, instinctively, that sheer proximity and geographical context would somehow reassure him that Taehyung was truly okay. That it wasn't, god forbid, the morgue that Yeontan was tied up outside of, but the mundane hospital entrance. A place of life, however sick or broken, and not death.
Jungkook ultimately decided to raid his own closet rather than Taehyung's. He wasn't so familiar with the features of Taehyung's shirts, but he was obviously intimately familiar with his own.
Loose sleeved sweaters. T-shirts. That sort of thing.
Taehyung rarely wore t-shirts anyway, so he'd have had a field day trying to find one in his hyung's vast closet.
He half-hurried himself along as though the task was time-sensitive, even though he knew that Hoseok wasn't about to escort a traumatized Taehyung home in his birth-shirt. In actuality, he just wanted to get to the hospital as soon as possible, as if chopping away a few extra minutes of arrival time would somehow sufficiently communicate his care and concern.
Opting for some freshly laundered favourites -- of course, he'd choose only the best for Taehyung, especially now that he very much needed him -- he quickly folded and thrust the items into a satchel, then sent himself down to the hall for final preparations.
His heart was jumping intricate loops in his throat as he pulled on some shoes and outerwear. Inexplicable nerves were dancing in his tummy as he shot himself out the door, but he stubbornly ignored them.
Taehyung was okay, and Kookie was on his way.
The sunshine that met him at the hospital entrance was not the usual, ultraviolet Hoseokie. Jungkook could tell he had long since plummeted into infrared, his expression being one of stern-but-fine! and the words switched between them being short and snappy as old and fresh clothing now exchanged hands.
"How is Taehyungie-hyung?"
"Taehyung is okay. You'll see him soon."
Hoseok's response was deliberately terse and unyielding.
He knew Taehyung was not okay. Not in the slightest. But this was definitely not the right time; he'd never be able to find the words to describe the current situation anyway. Physically, he was going to be fine. So it wasn't really a lie.
But how was Tae? Really?
Only Taehyung knew that.
Before Jungkook could summon the nerve for any further questioning, Hoseok had untied Yeontan from a pole and was passing the leash into his hands.
Jungkook caught his hyung staring blankly at their canine brother for a moment. His face was unreadable, but definitely pre-occupied with thought.
Before turning to walk back inside, he laid a hand on Jungkook's shoulder.
"Have a safe trip home."
Jimin stood in the hall for a few moments, a lump growing painfully in his throat and his eyes fixating in one direction.
The door to Taehyung's room was still ajar. He'd seen Kookie bolt for his own closet room, so Tae must have been the guilty party to have left it open.
He'd left that door. Taehyung had left that door, when he was still in one piece.
"Taehyung was assaulted."
Namjoon-hyung's words looped in his ears.
He didn't want to imagine the kind of aggression necessary to cause that. Not just broken, but plural.
An ache was beginning to gnaw the pit of his stomach. He took a few steps forwards.
"Taehyung was assaulted."
He could barely see through the tears as he met the sign on the front door.
The sign was bordered with sunflowers, handpainted by Taehyung himself.
Which ones? What kind of bones? He'd left the room before Namjoon's detail-swap with Jungkook.
He pushed the door open fully to find the room just as Taehyung had left it. His navy blue duvet, one corner folded back neatly but the mattress cloth creased with recent, unfinished sleep. The bedside clock, still flashing forward minute by minute. The empty wall hook, where Yeontan's leash usually hung.
"Taehyung was assaulted."
In the face? Was he bruised? He'd seen photos like that before ... but he didn't want to imagine how swollen his friend might look and feel right now. Would he be recognisable?
The fibres of Taehyung's shag-pile rug threaded between Jimin's toes as he approached the bed. He sat himself down slowly, his thighs trembling with the effort.
The room smelled of Taehyung. This was Taehyung's nest. Usually, he liked it, but now it just gave him a stabbing sensation in the gut.
Oh god. He wasn't stabbed. Right?
Jimin began to shake as both his hands began to grasp the duvet tightly.
What if he'd been stabbed?
The room was beginning to spin. He felt sick and hurt at the thought. It hurt to smell the old Taehyung but not know just how many pieces the current Taehyung was in. It hurt that Taehyung was hurt. It all fucking hurt so much.
Weak and unable to sit any longer, he let himself flop sideways and curled onto the bed, only for the odour to triple in strength. He let the agony wash over him as he cried freely, his tears dripping dark-navy puddle patterns into the fabric.
"Taehyung was assaulted."
He needed him safe. He needed him on the mend. He needed him in his arms. He needed to never lose sight of him ever again.
Will Taehyung ever be the same again? 🤔 How will the members navigate this new Taehyung? All will be explored in the next installment 👌
Comments = fundamental life force, if you are so inclined ;)
Chapter 3: Shirts
Hoseok's sunshine is in high demand right now, but he can only serve one member at a time. :(
So basically, this accidentally became a rapline chapter, with some speciality Needy™ Yoongi. My first Sope content! Yeehaw.
Content warning for panic and nausea.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Hoseok gazed flatly as he watched his dongsaeng's eyelids tumble into slumber.
The long, wakeful night had finally claimed the younger, and Hoseok was almost glad of it. After hours of tense uncertainty and a tragic sequence of sniffles and flinches, Tae had finally let himself drift off into an awkward, slightly upright snooze. His lower lip drooping slightly and carelessly to reveal the lower set of teeth, his agitation had finally unravelled into a soporific peace.
Curled up slightly with his dead weight sinking into the hospital pillow, it gave Hoseok the almost irresistible urge to spoon him.
"Ah ..." he let himself exhale gently and longingly at the sight. He turned his head finally to meet their now-standing manager, Sejin, who was clutching the tattered coat.
He very much wished to let him sleep like this; the thought of snatching even a fragment of contentedness from Taehyung at this particular juncture seemed like an unnatural, heartless act of cruelty. Unfortunately, reality just wasn't that simple.
Sejin's gruff voice finally filled the chalk-like silence of the hospital room.
"Security caught the kid, she's being held securely. We must get him dressed and out of here before any more of his sasaengs start to gather ..."
Hoseok could only nod in understanding, his grimace half-tinged with defeat as he stood himself up. Leaning over Taehyung, he slipped both hands cautiously over his shoulders, lifting him from the pillow.
"Taehyungie? Baby ... it's time to get dressed. We're going home."
The younger blinked hopelessly, his eyesight all blurred and bleary. The lack of fear exhibited, however, was a pleasant surprise; Taehyung's snooze must have flung him down a temporary rabbit-hole of forgetfulness regarding the event that had just sent him to hospital.
His eyes widened at the sight of the t-shirt Hoseok was clutching. He stared intently at the print as he let Hobi sit him into an acceptable re-shirting position.
A rudimentary grin, a bit sloppy but definitely genuine, popped unexpectedly onto Taehyung's face. A little drunk with sleep deprivation, he actually giggled.
"He's -- he's letting me wear this?"
Pulling the mustard yellow fabric closer with his two free fingers, he lifted it suddenly and clumsily to his nostrils and sniffed the material heartily.
He looked up to meet Hoseok's eyes as he grinned. Hoseok let a smirk of his own drop onto his features as his tone of voice rose into a soft, squeaky tone of surprise.
Taehyung croaked the response as he leaned himself further forwards, a cold shiver shooting unexpectedly down his spine as more square inch-age of his naked back met the cold air. Curling over slightly and now freshly aware of the plaster he was in, his mood dropped slightly.
The shirting enterprise turned out to be a bit of an effort, but it also served as a convenient practice run that made the dark grey sweater much easier to apply afterwards.
His arm now disguised beneath clothes, for a precious pre-sling moment Taehyung finally looked and felt half-normal. He took a deep breath and at last dared himself to think about the hour immediately ahead of him -- it was a tiny, tentative step into future-forward mode.
Returning to the members.
He cringed at the thought of being any kind of spectacle, even momentarily, in the members' eyes. That singular moment, the first meeting of curious, concerned eyeballs upon entering a room -- it seemed silly, but he was almost afraid of it. He was afraid of all the questions and concerns, whether they were verbalized or not.
The "Oh my god!"s.
The "Are you okay?"s.
And the pity. Sometimes, on rare occasions, he actually regretted knowing the members so well and being able to read them so exactly.
Sometimes he just hated fuss. He hated it so much. Aegyo-needy was fine but borderline dependency grated and clashed terribly with his need to be self-directed; now he was probably looking at a good half-dozen weeks of it.
A spray of fringe fell into his eyes, forcing him to sway it out of the way with a flick of his head. Hoseok instinctively reached for it, eventually pulling the lock of hair behind his ear. For a fraction of a second, Taehyung considered stopping him with the free hand -- but then realised that at this point it would still be slow and clumsy, making him look just a little too desperate to do things alone.
Instead, all the pent up frustration rushed into his eyes, and new silent tears began to dribble from them.
Fuck this. I don't want to cry. Everything's okay. I'm strong.
Hobi stared at the cracked lips, which were moving quietly. Taehyung hadn't quite disguised his internal monologue.
"Just cry, baby," he smiled. "It's fine ..."
In an instant, all the yucky feelings poured out of him, and the second hacking sob of the morning began to fill the room -- except this time he reached forwards urgently for his Hobi-hyung.
Hoseok, desperately aching to finally embrace and smother him in comfort, fell forwards enthusiastically to wrap himself tightly around the tearful Taehyung. He lowered his lips to the younger's scalp, his most favourite place in all the world for giving Taehyungie-attention, and let them settle there. The gesture was far too prolonged to resemble any kind of kissy -- it was nameless.
Yoongi grasped Namjoon's wrist suddenly and forcefully; the momentum of his reach was unexpectedly aggressive.
"Joonie, what are you doing?"
The elder rapper looked inexplicably startled at the items Namjoon was handling; his gaze seemed borderline judgemental.
The younger blinked for a moment and glanced down at his hands, which had involuntarily paused mid-fold over Taehyung's now cut-up shirt. He began to stutter in bafflement.
"I -- I'm putting his things away ..."
Joon was confused. What on earth was Yoongi's problem?
Yoongi threw a thumb over his own shoulder as he dropped his voice to answer.
"In Taehyungie's room? He won't want to see this shit right now. Don't you think it'll remind him of the assault?"
Despite the low volume, his voice sounded bare and raw; absolutely no effort was being made to hide his feelings. That was Yoongi -- in crisis, always straight to the point. He was never straight forward from a lack of concern, but because of it. Joon knew this of course, but it didn't make the implied criticism grate any less painfully.
Yoongi tapped a pair of fingers against the material that was currently half-flattened against the sideboard.
"This was his favourite shirt ..."
He ran his fingers through an area where doctors' scissors had cut away through the sleeve, his fingertips slowly sliding along the fabric somewhere underneath. He dwelt silently for a moment as his face blanked over, leaving Namjoon to stare at the pale hand, and then pulled the item purposefully from his grasp as he continued.
"He doesn't need to see any of this. The coat, the shirt ... none of it."
Yoongi had forced a softer tone now, knowing Namjoon was often more sensitive than he let on to others. It was, however, still spoken in an air of finality.
Namjoon let himself deflate quietly as he watched Yoongi turn around, abused shirt firmly in hand, to walk away towards his own room. He noticed an anxious glob of saliva had suddenly gathered under his tongue, so he swallowed it.
He rotated himself on the spot so that his back was turned to Yoongi and he was facing the entrance to the front room. From this part of the hallway, the grand city-view window was visible to him -- the scenic spot by that front room window, just beside the drawn back curtain and the plant pot.
Spindly green sheaths of spider plant had tickled his pajama sides when he'd stood there just a few hours ago. A friendly limb of chlorophyll had brushed against his ribs when he'd picked up the call.
A large piece of him had died in that spot.
And now, by this cabinet, another little piece had joined it.
It took Yoongi ten whole seconds to notice he'd been standing stock-still in his own bedroom doorway, unmoving. His eyes were burning and wet and his heart was thumping aggressively.
He'd almost cried in front of Namjoon.
A knot, already twisting painfully somewhere in his throat, was now threatening to release a pained gasp.
Fuck fuck fuck.
He stretched out a fumbling hand behind him, not wanting to gaze back into the doorway lest anyone should see him in this state. After a few moments his hand met the door handle so that he could promptly guide it shut.
The broken gasp finally escaped his throat and filled the space in front of him.
He suddenly remembered the shirt still grasped tightly in his fist. Taehyung's smile swam into his mind's eye.
Barely aware of them, his nerve-drunken feet led him to bed, and he dropped himself thoughtlessly onto it.
It was okay to cry in front of the members, he knew that. Sure, he'd done that before. But this time was different.
He'd almost lost his shit.
He'd almost yelled.
His grasp tightened further on the shirt, clammy fingers slipping.
God. He barely recognised himself.
A little voice, many months old, began to replay in his head.
"Tannie won't sleep."
"Well, why not take him for a walk?"
It was his fucking fault.
A stupid fucking idea.
Mother of fuck.
His chest was tightening in panic and hate, making his heart skip beats.
He thumped his heart in furious encouragement.
His thoughts jumped suddenly to Hobi, the still absent bedside member.
He needed Hobi. Of course he was being stupid, but he still needed him.
Tell me I'm not a stupid fuck.
Right now, Taehyung needed Hobi way more.
Come on. Calm your shit.
He loosened his grasp on the shirt at last, his fingers too moist to achieve anything at this point anyway. Dragging his palms across his eyes a few times, he could finally achieve some semblance of vision.
His hands were so wet with sweat and tears ...
Suddenly The Shirt seemed like the most horrifying, sadistic object in all the world. Why the fuck did he pick it up?
The throat knot was beginning to feel tinged with nausea and his stomach had begun to churn. He barely had any awareness of where his feet were sending him next, but regardless he was thankful of their auto-pilot mode.
Bathroom. Oh yeah.
He watched himself scramble down the hallway, trying not to look a wholly conspicuous, ambulating mess to any unsuspecting members.
At this point he could probably take a nervous shit to top it all off.
The bathroom door, his prize.
He almost threw himself into the room, near-slamming the door shut behind him.
Before he could decide his next move he had already begun to slump down against the towel rack, his kneecaps and palms quickly and roughly meeting the tiles.
Stupid fucking panic. Stupid -- stupid panic.
The skin of his palms stung but he didn't give a fuck.
He needed two fucking people right here, right now -- but neither of them were present.
Hobi, his rock ...
... and his chirpy, love-hungry Taehyung.
Sorry I took so long to update, I've been sitting on these fragments for literal ages and just got totally lost in other stuff. But I'm still alive 😂
Chapter 4: Sucker
I have returned, alive, with a chapter I've been sitting on all year 😭 The cozy winter weather finally woke up all my babying Taehyungie feels and gifted me Yoonmin, Taegi and Vmon all in one chapter 💕❄️
A light knock on the door interrupted the silence of the bathroom, drawing Yoongi's gaze briefly across it. Having curled himself up against the bathtub for a while already, and having intently watched drips of water drop occasionally from the faucet, he almost returned to watching these drips again as he began to reply.
The tone was an attempt at sounding light hearted, unbothered, fine -- but it sounded just a little too rosy. He gathered himself up quickly as he got to his feet; it occurred to him that being slumped against the floor would not be an encouraging sign for a member to see. They really didn't need any more drama today.
A swept back mop of silver hair was the first thing to peek around the door, streaked with black, brown, perhaps other things too -- it was deceptively chaotic and careless, when in reality there was probably not a single strand of hair their stylists hadn't deliberately colored.
Jimin was crossing the room but Yoongi was still staring at his dongsaeng's locks. He'd actually kind of been hoping that Hoseok was the one to knock at the door, that maybe some kinda telepathy would draw him here.
"... yo. You okay?"
Yoongi's stare jolted downwards and away from scalp level, only to be met with a gentle Jiminie grin. It wasn't exceptionally bright today, however; it seemed softened with sadness.
Ah. That soft crooked smile though ... still so healing and pure.
Yoongi trailed off, now pulling a hand through his own locks. Jimin turned suddenly to the sink in curious investigation.
"-- what? Is there something in my hair?"
He stared fixatedly at his own reflection, scanning ambitiously for potential detritus.
"Ah ... no. Sorry, I was just daydreaming ..."
Yoongi turned and made for the door, but then stopped. He had no destination in mind, and was actually pretty reluctant to leave. His own room contained the dreaded shirt, and the rest of the apartment was unnaturally silent ... and therefore tense and uneasy.
His hand paused at the bathroom door handle indefinitely. He let himself zone out, head drooped slightly in thought as he gazed at some non-descript wood-grain. It seemed like an age before anyone spoke again.
"I'm not okay."
Yoongi was not expecting Jimin to actually drop the penny.
When he turned, he found Jimin already perched upon the edge of the bath, trembling shoulders all hunched and his chin resting in his hands.
"Yoongi-hyung ... I'm not okay -- I ... it's so stupid, but --"
At that moment, the Chimchim waterworks officially began.
"-- hey hey hey, it's okay -- ah!"
Yoongi waddled urgently to the younger's side only to judder to a halt -- Jimin was sat at such a weird crying altitude currently. What was he supposed to do? Squat?
"Uh ...m ... hey ..."
He settled for simply standing by his shaken companion, his back bent over ever so slightly and a hand upon Jimin's shoulder.
"It's okay, d-do you wanna talk about it?"
Feral sniffles and yelps tumbled helplessly through fingers, snot unimpeded.
"Aah ... tissues ..."
Yoongi hurried over to a cabinet, sifted through a few items, and then promptly returned.
Jimin had to weep himself dry for a couple of minutes before he could find the strength to speak, although it came out hoarsely.
"I keep imagining ... they could've killed him ... if they'd wanted to ..."
Yoongi's heart twisted painfully into what felt like the forty-sixth dimension. How could any string of words feel so raw?
Without a second thought, he pulled Jimin suddenly into his own chest. A sudden spark of pro-active mother-henning had burst into flame.
Yeah. They could've ... but -- we're gonna heal him --
"Hyung -- I'm scared of seeing him. I just hid when they came home, I couldn't ..."
Jimin sniffled against a sleeve, tissues forgotten.
"I-is it bad? How does he look?"
"Ah -- Honestly? I don't know."
Yoongi's tone had quickly drooped from its prior, fiery potential.
"I haven't seen him either ... but ... hey. I have an idea!"
Yoongi grinned and stood suddenly, making Jimin lift his gaze attentively.
"Hobi needs to rest now, so why don't we see him together?"
Jimin's panicked heart was rolling around somewhere beneath his navel. Here were those inappropriately convivial sunflowers again ...
His grasp tightened on Yoongi's arm as he blinked at the bedroom door, causing the elder to wince silently. When he turned his own face to Jimin's, the younger found a look of soft, flattened determination there. Something of a Yoongi speciality, he somehow managed to embody implacable, no-nonsense calm and gentle concern simultaneously.
Jimin's upper lip twitched upwards slightly in cancelled thought.
There's no backing out. Taehyungie needs me.
He had hoped to catch his breath at least for a couple of seconds, wishing to compose himself. But Yoongi, paying no attention, was already pushing the door open to reveal the room within.
Hobi was still inside, folding miscellaneous things into drawers, and the unexpected entrance caused his head to snap upwards in curiosity. The moment he could identify his visitors, he pulled a hushing finger to his lips.
Taehyung was asleep --
Jimin let his fearful gaze wander across to the bed to inspect the subject of the hush -- the same bed he'd wept all over several hours previously. The scene wasn't as dramatic as Jimin had imagined, and only Taehyung's head peeked out from beneath the duvet.
-- and recognizable.
He exhaled audibly, his breath trembling. Yeah, that was definitely Taehyung's head.
Jimin's claw-like grip -- how could paws so small contain such intensity? -- finally upgraded to vice-like. Visibly perturbed by the grasp, Yoongi pulled Jimin's arm away at last, letting it drop by the younger's side.
No more training wheels, the elder reasoned wordlessly to himself.
Jimin let himself pad forwards a few steps at first, intending to keep his distance -- but then he felt an almost supernatural tug take over. He noticed that Taehyung's green hair was scraped away from his bruised and bloodied face with an alice band ... and although apparently in dream sleep, his strong brows were furrowed.
Jimin's heart wrenched southwards.
Before he knew what he was doing, he was lowering himself into Hoseok's chair by the bedside cabinet, keen to inspect more closely.
His most immediate impression was one of perplexment -- the duvet rode all the way up to Taehyung's chin, so the injuries remained a set of hypotheticals. All he could make out -- for Taehyung was currently snoozing Namjoon-style, with his closed gaze pointed to the ceiling -- was the hurt littered across his face.
It was crusted slightly, not just with blood but dirt too.
"Hyung --" he whispered, impossibly tender and light-tongued --
"-- shouldn't we clean his face?"
Hoseok paused for a moment as he contemplated the dilemma; his expression was one of reluctant agreement. Taehyung may have been wiped out from exhaustion, but right now the cuts and blotches mattered more than the sleep.
Yoongi piped up suddenly at normal volume, reasoning that there was no point preserving this silence now.
"Yeah ... Hobi, you should sleep ... but we can take over from here."
A stinging sensation, fast as lightning, jolted Taehyung awake. His eyes opened to find something warm and wet scraping against his cheek. Gaze suddenly dropping nose-wards, Yoongi couldn't help but smile at his cross-eyed patient.
It was a matter-of-fact tone, as though it was entirely normal for one to wake up confronted with a mass of damp flannel.
Taehyung stared goofily downwards into the extremely proximate fibres, humouring his hyung, and watched curiously as Yoongi proceeded to dab here and there across his face.
He yelped suddenly --
His face was sore as fuck and the moisture aggravated it terribly.
"Ahhh ..." Yoongi echoed the sentiment gently, sympathizing with the pain.
"Sorry. I gotta do what I gotta do -- I'm almost finished."
The flannel landed with a squidge against the kitchen tray, allowing Yoongi to pick up a tube and unscrew it. A loose teardrop detached itself from Taehyung's lower eyelid and began to dribble down his cheek.
Yoongi just grinned again, a short guffaw escaping.
"Broken bones, but it's the cuts that make you cry?"
Taehyung squirmed awkwardly and turned away, centering his head once more in the pillow, only to immediately jolt in fright. The sight he'd just seen at the foot of his bed was quite unexpected, and it almost made him jump out of his battered skin.
He glared at Jimin, not in a hateful way but in a baffled, surprised, slightly denuded kind of way.
"We have an audience?"
He clenched his eyes shut, too tired to keep up the pretense of wakefulness any longer, and let Yoongi's response fill up his ears. Unexpectedly, the clenching made his bruised brow ache, and the pain dazzled inside his eyelids a little.
"Do you want Jimin to leave?"
"No! No ... definitely not ..."
A smile curled up on his face at the sound of his own firm voice. He recognized that huskiness, and he felt a little bit like himself again.
"That won't be necessary ..."
His voice, temporarily laced with joviality, now prepared to droop and soften again. A familiar pining feeling was returning to him, and he liked it. It felt warm and safe, a hideaway spot in his heart.
It sounded a little more desperate than he intended it to be, and perhaps the room was reading it. Only the creak of Yoongi's chair indicated that they hadn't entirely collectively ground to a halt at the sight of such unguarded neediness.
A finger, presumably Yoongi's, began to smear antiseptic cream across the grazes. This round of stinging was ten times worse, and he tried to cringe himself deeper beneath the duvet.
"Ah! Hold still --"
Deciding not to prolong the ordeal, Taehyung halted his wriggling and froze up tensely. Regardless, he still grunted slightly with each dab, communicating disapproval to his hyung. A couple of stomach growls creaked out from underneath the sheets.
"Taehyungie," Jimin began as he leaned himself over the foot of the bed, his arms against the wood. "Have you eaten yet? Didn't Hobi-hyung feed you anything?"
Taehyung shuffled a little deeper under the covers, his face blank and unreadable.
Jimin's question wasn't welcome. His appetite had been totally dead the whole day.
"I'm not that hungry ..."
Yoongi's brows were raised, entirely unconvinced.
"Well, your stomach definitely disagrees. Are the two of you not on speaking terms right now?"
The elder's voice was soft and firm as he addressed Taehyung. Past memories of their happiness evangelist, a caretaker Taehyungie, drifted silently between the two healthy members.
"Remember, you always nag us to eat when we're sick. You'd do well to heed your own advice, now you have bones to heal ..."
Taehyung wriggled again beneath the sheets, which was a really bad idea because it made the bruising on his forehead throb terribly. He felt like shit, like the miserable wreckage of roadkill peeled from the side of the road, and he was downright embarrassed. The vision of being spoonfed made him shudder.
"That settles it. Jimin? Why don't you make some porridge for our little baby bear here?"
Oh please. Shut up, shut up!
Yoongi was smirking at the nickname, having made Taehyung cringe to a satisfactory degree. He loved to babie the younger, especially if it made him squirm.
"My forehead hurts," Taehyung blurted out suddenly, his eyes scrunched shut and his lips turned outwards into a pout. Little wet patches were forming in the corners of his eyes again. "It hurts like fuck."
"... yeah, looks like it needs an icing ... you've got a nasty lump going on there, but that's still not going to excuse you from a good hearty meal ..."
"So I look as shit as I feel?"
Yoongi laughed as he stood himself up. Jimin had already left to make porridge, so Yoongi had no choice but to go fetch an ice pack himself.
"Yeah, something like that ..."
The moment Tae let his eyes open again, they lit up in panic at his vacating member.
"Where are you going?! Don't leave me!"
Yoongi frowned as he leaned over to tenderly pull some strands of hair away from the sore forehead.
"Taehyungie, you need an ice pack. I can't very well conjure it from thin air. It'll just take a moment and I'll be back before you know it."
The elder paused a moment as he straightened himself up again, and spent a moment appraising the younger.
Taehyung did look downright alarmed. His eyes were thrown wide and glazed over, as though something dramatic was playing behind them that he didn't have the personal clearance to see or understand. For a moment, he wished he could step inside them, touch the endangered Taehyungie within ... just hold him, hug him ... just tell the protagonist inside that vividly replaying eyeball-drama that it'll all be okay ...
He settles for a reassuring pat of obscured, blanketed leg.
"I'll be back, Taehyungie. I promise."
Yoongi shuffled into the dorm kitchen to find Jimin frowning absent-mindedly over a slowly heating pot of porridge. His gaze didn't leave the younger once as he pulled the freezer open, ready to rummage through ice.
"How you doing? Okay?"
A blink broke Jimin's stare, and he shifted his gaze to the enquiring elder.
Jimin's tone was weirdly misplaced, like he was still in his daydream, so Yoongi clicked a set of fingers in his face.
"Hey! I can't have two members like that. I need you sane, Jimin."
Jimin's daydream promptly melted, and his expression loosened up as he dragged his gaze back to the hob. He pulled his lips into a smile as the pot of oats began to bubble and thicken.
"Ah, sorry. I was just thinking ... should we add cinnamon?"
It was Yoongi's turn to be wide-eyed.
"Wow -- yes -- I mean, that's a very important question. Very important ..." Yoongi grinned as he continued. "Just how much do we spoil him today?"
Jimin matched him with his own knowing grin.
"You're thinking hot chocolate?"
Yoongi nodded vigorously. "Of course! With little marshmallows. I'll be right on it, right after I ..."
He jammed a hand at last into the freezer and retrieved the required blue ice pack.
"... fetch this for Taehyungie."
Suddenly, with barely enough time for Yoongi to replace the freezer box lid, a wounded cry shot through the house, shattering the duo's mood. Within a few seconds Namjoon was in the doorway, looking panicked and urgent.
"It's Taehyung! He's out of bed."
Yoongi and Namjoon blasted through their wounded dongsaeng's door, having left Jimin to supervise the mini meal in the kitchen.
"Christ, Taehyung ..." Namjoon spat his words breathlessly.
Taehyung was curled on the floor by Yeontan's empty bed, his unslinged arm curled around his chest, and mumbling and croaking through his tear-stained face.
"I see them! I see them! Help!"
Namjoon grabbed the younger by both shoulders and stared searchingly into Tae's eyes.
"Taehyung, look at me. It's Namjoon. You're at home. It's just us, your members ..."
He was met with another wounded croak and a pained maternal cry.
"Tannie ... they want to kill Tannie ..."
Taehyung's eyes were wild and glossy and threatening to fall out of his face. Namjoon cupped his hands gently over the wet and bruised skin. It was the first time he'd seen Taehyung's injuries up close and the secondhand hurt was beginning to crawl up his own throat. The angry welt on the forehead, and cuts across his temple, and a bruise riding up his cheek ...
"Tannie's safe, Taehyung. Tannie's alive. Yoongi-hyung can bring him to you, he's in Jimin's room ..."
Yoongi took the hint and scarpered urgently, having just yeeted the icepack along a bedroom cabinet.
Namjoon pulled him into a soggy embrace, the two of them still curled by the doggy bed. He noticed that one of Taehyung's pyjama legs had ridden up over his knee during the fit of panic, revealing yet more blotchy bruises. The sheer quantity of injury made Namjoon's heart flip.
All these ...
... first hand witnesses to assault.
He'd never been a particularly violent person, but protective feelings were beginning to blaze in the hearth of his stomach. Wiping tears gently from the younger's cheeks, cheeks he'd caressed and wiped and pinched so many times over the past seven years, cheeks that were usually so healthy and wholesome and uncut, bread he'd practically plumped and leavened and nurtured all by himself as leader and hyung, he felt the sudden need to punch a villainous jaw or two.
God, fuck. Bastards! Fucking bastards.
They laid a fucking hand on our Taehyung.
Taehyung ached so much. Everything hurt so bad. His arm, his hand, his face, his legs, but most of all his fucking heart. He wanted his Tannie so badly, needed to see him safe so badly, that when a familiar tongue began to ride up his naked knee, he almost keeled over from the anguished relief and shock of it all.
He couldn't string another syllable together. He just wept loudly, in shuddering, shivery fits and starts, as his dog clambered in panicked affection across his knees.
"See? Tannie's safe. He's right here ..."
Namjoon smiled as he pulled back Tae's alice band a little, rearranging and clipping hair back so that it wouldn't aggravate the welt.
Namjoon and Yoongi had a side embraced each. Taehyung was enveloped every-which-way in loving arms, and by his two least-touchy hyungs, no less. He couldn't see the bad men anymore, just the twisted pile of his carpet, which was now wet with all his tears.
"I'm sorry," he mumbled hoarsely. "You must think I'm crazy."
Yoongi's grasp tightened.
"Crazy is a perfectly rational response to trauma. I'd consider anything less than this to be the signs of a psychopath. I'm very glad you're not a psychopath."
Taehyung could hear the smile in Yoongi's voice, and it made him release a small, shaky giggle. His Daegu hyung was so deliciously good at talking bullshit.
"Now, do you want to cuddle up in bed with Tannie, or do you intend to settle down here?"
Taehyung snivelled. "I want bed."
The reply was impossibly small and shrivelled from weary embarrassment, but he didn't have long to dwell on it as an elder arm around each waist began to pull him carefully to his feet. He wobbled, as though the past twelve hours had rendered him amnesiac to the use of limbs, and let himself be walked to the bed. As he was sat on the edge of it, Tannie began to lick his toes.
The exertion of his little episode was making his forehead throb worse than ever, and he could only wince towards the floor as Yoongi finally pressed the ice pack to it.
"Lay back," Yoongi muttered softly as he pushed the younger backwards gently into infinite pillows. "You've worked yourself into a little fever, and it's time for us to feed you."
Even in his pain addled state, Taehyung was cognizant enough to blush at all this babying.
After the pair of legs were placed tenderly under the sheets, and an extra pillow laid beneath him to support the slinged arm, and Tannie was curled up securely on the wall side of Taehyung's bed and in no danger of toppling onto his own delicate little canine legs, Yoongi was finally pleased with his work.
Taehyung wasn't though. Something was missing.
One of Taehyung's free unplastered fingers was fiddling awkwardly with the sheets. Despite still looking tired and weary, he was all slept out, and maybe just a teeny weeny bit hungry ... just a teeny weeny bit.
"Can you read to me?"
Namjoon suppressed a smirk and began to walk out, knowing that Taehyung's endearing, needy magic worked best on Yoongi when woven in solitude. He heard a chair being dragged softly along the carpet as he closed the sunflowered door behind him.
Dude's a sucker for a Taehyungie.