PRESENT DAY: NOVEMBER 14
It’s too hot.
Taehyung lays down across Jimin’s chest and Jungkook follows suit. He clings onto Jimin’s other side and digs his bony ankle into Taehyung’s lower back and It’s definitely much too hot for them to be laying in a heap like this, in the middle of a photo shoot while waiting for the rest of the members to wrap up, but the combined warmth of their bodies manages to lull him into an easy sleep anyway.
A familiar voice echoes throughout his dreams, calling out him and beckoning him into the open sea, but before he can make out who it is, he’s being jostled awake. Taehyung doesn't know how long it’s been, but it’s cooler now that Jungkook is gone. It’s just him and Jimin huddled together for any remnants of warmth, and the hand gently pressing against his shoulder belongs to Seokjin.
Taehyung inhales a sharp breath upon seeing him, and the memories from last night rush in all at once, leaving him disoriented. “Hyung?”
“Come on, Tae. We have to go now. The other’s are already heading back to the van.”
Taehyung nods and looks away, rubs at his eyes so Seokjin won’t see how swollen they are and Jimin groans a little beside him. “Okay.” He whispers when Seokjin doesn’t leave their side right away.
He just smiles sweetly in return, squeezes his shoulder one last time, and then his attention is drawn elsewhere.
“Jimin,” Taehyung fully sits up when Seokjin is gone. He slaps him lightly over the stomach. “We have to go.”
Jimin grumbles, annoyed, but he’s up and grabbing his things in the next minute, fast and precise like they've done for the past seven years. His hair sticks up every which way and Taehyung can’t help but smile after him. It’s cute. Jimin is cute, and he has that aura about him, the one that always eases something deep in Taehyung.
But It’s not until they’re in their own van that Jimin is more alert and pulling on the hem of Taehyung’s sweater.
“So, did you tell him? How’d it go?”
Taehyung knows what he’s referring to, has been practically agonizing over it all day. He wishes he could stare out the window and watch the tall buildings pass without having to think about it any longer, but he and Jimin aren’t known for keeping things away from each other this long. He would have gotten it out of him eventually.
Which is why Taehyung sighs in defeat, closes his eyes and bumps his forehead against the cool glass. Everything catches up with him all at once and he’s suddenly tired, so unbearably tired.
“I can’t . I saw them. They—” There’s a lump lodged in his throat and an edge to his voice that’s bordering on dangerous, so Taehyung stops to collect himself.
Jiimin catches on quickly, however, already opening his mouth to say something but Taehyung continues before he can ask. “They were kissing. I think they’re together and..and they knew. They know and they’ve probably been laughing at me this entire time. I—” he feels the stinging pressure behind his eyes again.
Taehyung shakes his head and tries to rein in his emotions, or at most, steady the words coming out of his mouth so that they actually make sense, but the tears he’s been holding back all day are finally spilling over, and like a dam that’s been burst open, he crumbles in on himself and sobs. “I’m so stupid. God .”
The seat under Jimin groans from how rapidly he straightens. “No. No, you’re not. Tae, look at me.”
Taehyung covers his nose with the back of his hand and hiccups over the mucus building up there, “no, I am. I am.”
Jimin is in front of his face in an instant, wiping away at his cheeks and covering him from the view of their driver and one of the managers sitting in the passenger seat. He whispers under his breath, “Okay, okay. We’ll talk about this more at the hotel. But tae. Tae, baby, I don't understand— Who ?”
THREE MONTHS AGO: AUGUST 28
JAMSIL OLYMPIC STADIUM
Taehyung shifts in place and feels Seokjin’s arm brush against his own. His skin is clammy to the touch, burning up like a furnace, but Taehyung knows he’s not faring any better after their three hour performance.
“one more, one more. 1,2,3..Great! Good job guys!” The staff member lowers his camera and smiles at them, while their manager ushers them back to the dressing room to get their makeup taken off.
Taehyung pulls back and away. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t tired. The tour just started yesterday and against his better judgment and what Hoseok has been drilling into all of their heads for weeks, he still went heavy on the choreo to put on a great show for their fans. But that’s just a given at this point. They’re all guilty of going hard; it’s evident in the way no one has the energy to start much conversation backstage after a show, let alone argue.
Which is why Taehyung only grunts and tries to hold in a wince when Jimin appears right beside him, throwing an arm around his shoulder and distributing half of his body weight down onto him.
“—do you want to come?”
Jimin juts out his bottom lip and whines. “You weren’t listening?”
“Sorry, my heads still ringing a bit. What’d you say?”
“Oh, sorry. I asked if you wanted to go out for a drink with us, but if you’re not feeling well it’s okay. It’s understandable.”
“No, I can go.”
“Are you sure? You don’t have to. You should probably rest.”
“I want to.”
Jimin chews on his bottom lip, seeming to think it over for a second. “Are you sure?”
Taehyung fixes him with a look. “Jimin.”
“okay, okay. Jungkookie said he wanted to come too, but I think I saw him knocked out on the couch with Yoongi hyung, so I don’t know. Could just be us?”
Taehyung swivels around in his chair and sure enough they’re wrapped around each other, arms intertwined and chests rising up and down with each steady breath. Hoseok is nowhere in sight and Seokjin and Namjoon are pressed up together, scrolling through their phones on one of the two other sofas in the room.
Tehyung’s eyes linger on the side of Seokjin’s face and he quickly turns to look away when Jimin pats his arm to get his attention.
“I saw that.”
“What?” He feigns innocence and Jimin scoffs, seeing straight through his bluff, before pulling out his phone and tapping away at it furiously. He continues to hum to himself throughout the twenty minutes they wait in the chair as if he has everything figured out and Taehyung bounces his knee restlessly, wondering whether it’d be too rude to cancel.
In the end Jungkook wakes up and sleepily drags himself into the van with them to a secluded restaurant just outside of the city.
The manager gets out first to speak to the host, and then they’re quietly led towards a booth in the back that’s big enough to accommodate a small party; and most importantly, away from any prying eyes, courtesy of the thick black curtains covering the entryway. The establishment itself is really fancy, with its own separate VIP section that employs it own waiting staff and line of highly-skilled cooks. It’s a favorite amongst many well known and established personalities in the entertainment industry and BigHit is no exception.
Taehyung is only a little ashamed to say he’s gotten used to this. To them all being wealthy and successful enough to be asked to sign their autographs everywhere they go, including where they eat.
Tonight they’re served a giant course fit for possibly all the members, but it’s just them three and, really, with Jungkook’s impressive appetite that isn’t much of a problem.
Jimin is the one who moves to get the waiter’s attention first, “Can we start with some soju please? Three glasses.”
“Um,” Taehyung shakes his head and Jimin quickly corrects himself. “Err, only two glasses.”
“Of course.” The waiter bows and then leaves and Jimin scoots in closer. Jungkook shifts to rest his head on his shoulder and Taehyung silently coos.
He crosses his arms in front of him and stares at his round cheeks and soft skin wistfully. It’s Moments like these that he’s vividly reminded of how young Jungkook is. How young they all are. “He’s so clingy today.”
Jimin ruffles Jungkook’s hair, and the action doesn’t seem to faze him. “Yeah, he really is. Must be so tired.”
Taehyung hums in agreement. “Maybe we should have let him stay.”
“I’m right here.” Jungkook sounds groggy, but not unkind.
Taehyung laughs then, abrupt and shameless, and Jungkook kicks him lightly under the table. Except, anything Jungkook does still harnesses a good amount of force behind it, so the kick stings nonetheless but he’s smiling wide and way livelier than before so Taehyung lets it slide.
The waiter is quick to set down the tray of shot glasses, a bottle, and three extra cups of water. He immediately turns to Jimin for further instruction and Taehyung wants to roll his eyes at how easily Jimin has him wrapped around his finger.
“Can I get you anything else, sir?”
Jungkook finally stirs enough to fully sit up and back in his own seat while Jimin orders for them. God knows they’ve gone out to eat so many times in the last decade that they have each other’s preferences committed to memory.
But it’s not until halfway through their dinner that Jungkook becomes more talkative. They go through the show tonight and what they thought about it. Despite this being one of their rare downtime without any cameras present, they still go over notes of improvement and what they could change in the upcoming tour dates. It doesn’t last long, however, and their conversation eventually drifts to something less work-heavy. They continue to exchange light-hearted barbs and funny stories until they’ve drank all their soju—Taehyung included, after giving into peer pressure —and Jimin raises a hand to order another one.
“Oh, I think i’ll pass now. For real this time, but you two go ahead”
“Yeah. The food is starting to weigh me down and I don’t want you guys to have to carry me back to my room.”
“You never really complain.” Jimin smiles coyly into the rim of his cup and Taehyung’s cheeks flare up. Jimin relishes in the reaction he gets out of him and sometimes brings up their shared history to get Taehyung riled up, and tonight it’s working.
The thing is, living with seven other fairly attractive and young men for most of their hormonal teen years, it was inevitable that one or more off them would fall in bed together. It’s just basic algebra and probability. He’s heard enough things about their older hyungs spending a couple nights in each other’s rooms, but they mainly keep it hidden. Knows that Namjoon and Yoongi used to spend a long hours holed up in the studio before Hoseok and Seokjin came into the picture.
And the youngest—Everyone knows about Taehyung and Jimin, so no one was surprised when Hoseok caught them that one time in the shower. And then in the kitchen and in the game room that one time. What they were shocked by ,however, was to hear that they weren't in any romantic relationship. In fact, Jimin would use everyone’s suspicion of them to sneak off and meet with someone else before the secret was found out. He never told him it was a secret but Taehyung treated it as one anyway— didn’t correct anyone when they made jabs at him for any of Jimin’s fresh bites and hickeys, despite the fact they stopped fooling around with each other months ago. He just took the brunt of the scolding from their stylists and even Bang ShiHyuk himself before Jimin felt it was time they told the truth.
They protect and look out for each other like that—it just comes natural to them, being each other’s support. And if it came down to it, Taehyung would do it all over again.
From his peripheral, Taehyung notes that Jungkook is taking out his phone and not being at all subtle about it, but that’s not enough to question him about it or even rouse his suspicion. But Jungkook gasping before smiling wide and scrolling rapidly through his phone? Now that has Taehyung perking up with curiosity.
“What? Did something happen?” Jimin rests his face on his fist and peers at Jungkook with a funny look on his face.
“Hyung’s trending.” Jungkook explains.
Jimin rolls his eyes. “Who, Jungkook? We’re all older than you.”
Jungkook pouts for a second before his eyes light up again and he’s sticking the device in front of Taehyung’s face. On the screen he sees a video playing of himself dancing along with Seokjin, and he doesn’t need the sound on to know it's from their bit during ‘So What.’
Taehyung blushes immediately and moves to bury his face in his hands but Jungkook is already turning away and showing Jimin.
“What’s this? Is this from today?”
“Yeah. it...it’s from our stage.”
“Oh.” jimin clicks on the video and their voices flit through the room.
“Somebody call me right one”
“Somebody call me wrong”
“Ah, turn that off.” Taehyung cringes and reaches for his drink, very pointedly not making eye contact with either of them.
Jimin returns Jungkook’s phone and gets straight to it. “Did you guys plan this?”
“No.” he takes another big gulp. “it was a spur of the moment thing. You know..”
“Hmmm.” Jimin rubs at his chin, eyes narrowed slightly.
“It’s okay, hyung. It’s good. The fans liked it!” Jungkook pipes up beside him.
But something about that doesn’t really sit right with him and Taehyung scrunches up his nose as if he tasted something sour. “Yeah, I guess.”
Jungkook instantly deflates and gets that worried downturn of his lips he gets whenever he thinks he’s said something wrong. “I’m sorry, hyung. I didn’t know you’d feel like this. I wouldn’t have shown you if i knew it made you uncomfortable”
Taehyung moves quickly to shake his head and reassure him. “No, it's not that. We’ve done worse on stage,” their shared moment from ‘it’s definitely you’ during this past festa flashes across his mind and Taehyung wishes he had ordered that second drink after all. “It’s just a little weird, you know? I never really get used to seeing myself on camera.” ‘so open and vulnerable for the entire world to see’ is left unsaid.
Jungkook purses his lips and cooks his head to the side. “Yeah, I guess it doesn’t really get easier, does it?”
“No.” Taehyung reaches forward and steals jimin’s drink.
“Hey! Didn’t you say you weren't going to drink tonight?”
Taehyung smiles cheekily but is chastised. He gives it back. “Yeah, but yours always tastes sweeter.”
luckily, they all know when to drop it and conversation flows towards a safer topic after that.
Days pass, they board a plane and travel overseas towards the west and Taehyung can't stop thinking about it.
They looked good in that video. Despite being professionals and long-time performers, he can’t deny the fact they looked really good standing that close to each other. It seemed almost too natural and right, like puzzle pieces fitting together perfectly, and Taehyung can’t stop thinking about it. Worst of all, Seokjin notices.
He plops down beside him in the private dance studio their agency rented out for them to practice in between bookings and shoots, and Taehyung immediately tenses up in alert.
“Hey, you doing okay?”
“Yeah. Everything’s fine.”
“Really? You’ve been a little quiet lately.”
Taehyung shrugs his shoulders. It wouldn't be a stretch to say he’s tired from the start of their tour and constant practice, filming, and jet-lag. It’d be perfectly reasonable to pass it off as just that. But taehyung isn’t one to keep secrets for too long—not from Seokjin anyway—so he blurts out what he’s thinking without contemplating any further.
“Did you go on twitter?”
Seokjin opens his water bottle and furrows his eyebrows in confusion. “Twitter?”
“Yeah. Jungkook showed me something kind of weird.. Ah, but it’s nothing bad just wondering if you’ve seen it?” Taehyung quickly adds when Seokjin’s eyes widen in surprise.
He manages to school his features back, then purses his lips for a moment before shaking his head. “No, I don’t really go on there anymore.” his expression changes as a rosy blush overtakes the high points of his cheeks, “I've actually bought a new computer recently and been playing way too many games on it. I guess I've missed out on a lot of things.”
“Oh. no, it’s not really anything hyung don't worry about it.”
“Well, it’s clearly something if it’s been plaguing your mind recently. What was it?”
“Uh.” and Taehyung knows this is an out. He can take it for what it is and Seokjin would be none the wiser. He could take this out and absolutely nothing will have to change, nor will they need to have a talk about it, and the more he mulls it over, the more he’s sure in his decision to keep quiet.
Back when he used to room with Namjoon, Namjoon would tell him a lot about what he’s read on the universe and the vast cosmos encompassing it. Mostly, Namjoon would get really excited about the plethora of complex theories surrounding it, and while Taehyung himself is more of a skeptic when it comes to that sort of stuff, if what the astrophysicists theorized to be true is actually real, then another alternative storyline, much different to the one they’re currently in, will be born out of the very next words that come out of his mouth.
He could tell Seokjin the truth and live with the consequences of his confession and see what happens in this timeline, or he can lie and get on with his life. But at least nothing would change — at least he wouldn’t get hurt with the inevitable rejection, because he knows that’ll affect him even more .
Seokjin moves closer and blinks his beautiful bright eyes, cheeks puffing out just slightly as he smiles expectantly, patiently.
Taehyung becomes more assured in his decision. “Nothing, just some videos going around of Hoseok hyung during his performance in Tear. He looks really cool and army’s seem to love it a lot.”
Seokjin draws back, almost looking disappointed with his answer, but surely that’s not possible. “Oh, yeah. That’s our Hoseokie. Everybody loves him.”
It’s awkward for a few strained seconds where Taehyung doesn’t know how else to break it, but then the door swings open to reveal Namjoon, Hoseok, and Yoongi waking in together.
Taehyung turns to gaze at Seokjin to fill up the silence, but the way his eyes instantly light up and his lips stretch over a pretty smile directed at Namjoon has him feeling queasy with sudden jealousy.
He has to— needs to —get out of here.
“I think I'm going to get Jimin.”
“Okay,” Seokjin nods and pats his arm in acknowledgement, but he's not looking at Taehyung at all when he says it.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
Taehyung doesn’t know why he does it. It’s the third day of the start of their U.S. tour and Taehyung feels an itch underneath his skin to be seen .
Maybe it’s this deeper drive within him to finally be noticed and taken more seriously, but as soon as the music starts playing and the first chords of the beat thrum through his bones, Taehyung is already sweeping his gaze around the stage in search of Seokjin.
He finds him jogging down the long walk towards him, and when they finally make eye contact; the mutual understanding and challenge there is electrifying. Within a few minutes, they meet up in the middle of the dancefloor and swing their hips together to the beat, Taehyung with his hands hanging limp to his sides in order to stop himself from touching, and Seokjin cradling the right side of his face in his palm. And when he sings the lyrics, they’re close enough that Taehyung can feel Seokjin’s breath tickling his lips with every word.
It’s fun and a little risky and Taehyung can’t stop the wide grin from gracing his face, inching in closer and closer until Jungkook jumps in front of them and the camera, screaming, ‘ So what?!’
They don’t discuss what happened during the concert afterwards in the dressing room, nor in the car on the way back to the hotel. No one says anything, because it really was not anything, but Taehyung feels the shocked and contemplative judgement coming off of Yoongi and Hoseok all the same.
Namjoon is particularly quiet and tense, while seokjin, as always, hugs his RJ plushie to his chest and slumbers the rest of the drive there.
If Taehyung thinks about it, he supposes it is strange that they’ve gone from playfully swinging army bombs and singing side by side to facing one another and staring for prolonged periods of time. Enough that it’s becoming a thing. One that is increasingly becoming expected with each passing city if what Jungkook’s observation from their online comments and forums is to be believed. What started off as a desire to be recognized and sought after by seokjin is slowly starting to affect the team in varying and unexpected ways, and that’s not what Taehyung wants at all.
He recalls an afternoon spent together as a group in their first apartment complex and the CEO of their company dropping by for a much needed visit. What he said that day really struck a chord with him, and Taehyung has been repeating the lesson to himself before making any major decisions ever since.
Bang Sihyuk always made it a point to not let anything come between them, whatever that may manifest itself as in the future; be it money, relationships, envy, or outsider influence. A success for one member meant a success for everyone as a whole—teamwork makes the dream work, and all of that. He said that if they really wanted to make it, and have longevity in the industry, they had to stick together. There were just too many people involved and counting on them for them not to, and Taehyung knew that, he just forgot sometimes. But now more than ever, his resolve comes back to him and he is reminded again why he took that out when confronted by Seokjin a few days ago. Taehyung will let it go.
Their last day in California finally comes and goes without a problem, and no later than four in the morning their manager is calling them all to pack up their stuff to head to Fort Worth, Texas, for the upcoming concert dates.
It’s been a very busy two weeks overall, from filming their comeback special on vlive to pre-recording final promotions for music shows, celebrating Namjoon’s birthday, visiting and getting interviewed at the Grammy museum in front of a live audience, to performing on the grand stage of America’s Got Talent, Taehyung and the rest of the members are, understandably, more than ready to relax on the plane.
On the positive side, their schedule has been so chaotic and hectic the last couple of days that Taehyung hasn’t had much time to think about anything else other than work.
So when there comes a knock on his hotel door later that afternoon, he believes he’s justified in the way he groans out loud, thinking it’s another manager stopping by to tell him they have a surprise last minute event to get ready for.
Except when he looks through the peephole, he’s surprised to find it’s not Sejin on the other side of the door, but Namjoon.
Taehyung unlocks the door and blinks at him owlishly, “Hyung?”
Namjoon smiles back at him timidly and t=Taehyung can’t help but notice the beanie on his head, and the worn-out brown leather bag hanging across his chest. “Do you have a minute?”
Taehyung steps aside to let him in, not sure what this is all about, but too curious to send him away. “For you, I have all night.”
Seokjin runs towards him like a starving man on a mission, or a predator striking their prey out in the wild, Taehyung hasn’t decided which yet. But his moves are slow and deliberate, made up of pure feeling and with not much thought behind it.
Seokjin makes it a point to stop just short of running him over before leading their dance. Taehyung raises his eyebrows in mild surprise, but quickly recovers and is fast to appease him, copying his rhythm when they grind.
It must be the right thing to do because Seokjin gives him one last pointed once-over and then winks at the camera before they both jump and scream, “so what!”
Canada is a beautiful country. A little chilly for what he’s used to this time of year, but Taehyung is enjoying himself all the same. He really wants to return here, and tells Jimin as much, but doesn’t know whether that’ll be anytime soon because of their unpredictable schedules.
Still, when Namjoon texts him, asking if he wants to go out for a walk around the park once practice is over, Taehyung is more than willing to tag along.
Jungkook notices and glances over at him curiously, wondering, “Who is it?”
“On the phone. You’ve been texting a lot lately.”
“Huh?.” Taehyung picks at his cheek out of habit. He wouldn’t necessarily say they’ve been texting a lot , hardly a few times here and there. “It’s just Namjoon hyung.”
Jungkook slurps up his noodles and chews really loudly. There’s red sauce stuck on his chin. “Are you working on new music?”
“Then what are you guys talking about?”
Taehyung frowns. Doesn’t know why he’s so nervous all of a sudden. “What’s with all the questions. Can’t we just talk?”
Jungkook's eyes widen and he wipes at his jaw with his sleeve. “Jesus. Why so secretive? I was just asking.”
Taehyung feels rightfully chastised. “Sorry. It’s nothing, really. We just talk about regular stuff, you know, like work and new books and movies.”
Taehyung rolls his eyes. “What else do you want me to say, Jungkook? That we’re sexting? Because yeah, Namjoon hyung has a big dick. You happy?”
Jungkook chokes. He has to bump his chest with a fist and Taehyung hands him his water bottle.
“Sorry.” He winces. Thinks, there is something else he could say to reel things back into safer territory. “Well, I guess sometimes…err, sometimes we go on walks.”
“Yeah, like around the city and stuff. It’s nice.”
“Hmm, cool.” He bobs his head up and down and then scratches at the side of his nose. Thankfully, his eyes stopped watering. “Can I come?”
Taehyung picks up his phone, not looking his way anymore. He smiles, knowing Jungkook will squawk when he answers, “No.”
Namjoon shows up at his door at seven on the dot and Taehyung quickly grabs his camera and locks up behind them. It’s only their third outing, and while the first two went really well, they haven’t spent nearly as much time together by themselves like this since they were roommates. He figures that if anything goes wrong, then at least he can get some pretty scenic pictures out of it, but then berates himself for expecting things to go wrong. He should focus more on being present and in the moment.
“You’re thinking really hard there, everything okay?”
Taehyung blushes. “Just something Jungkook said earlier. It’s nothing. He’s dumb.”
Namjoon snorts. “Did you want to invite him?”
“Jungkook? No.” Then, “i mean. I wouldn’t mind much, but I like being with you. Walking, i mean. I like walking with you. Us two.” Taehyung internally combusts and wishes he could get swallowed up by the earth and never live another day to embarrass himself. “Ah..” he wants to smack his own forehead.
Namjoon laughs, soft and sincere. “Cute. I like walking with you, too.”
They round the corner of the block and wind whizzes right past them. Taehyung trembles and instinctively huddles closer to Namjoon, feeling warmth settle and spread throughout his chest when Namjoon doesn’t move away.
That night, Taehyung makes a move on Seokjin first. He grabs Seokjin by the shoulder and preens in delight when Seokjin does the same. They give each other a heavy stare, as is custom by now, and then bump heads. Not too hard though, just enough to give the illusion their mouths are mere centimeters apart.
The crowd expectedly goes wild and they both face the camera with big cheesy grins on their faces. Another successful show.
The next couple of days are hard. Everybody knows that Namjoon is good with words and putting meaning on a page, the absolute best even. They come to him so easily, like breathing, and Taehyung only wishes he knew how to control them as well as he does, if only to have the right ones to say in moments like these.
But he doesn’t and he can only watch helplessly as Namjoon grows increasingly panicked and somber with each passing day.
Taehyung is at his wits end from not knowing how to help him, and so he does what he knows best, and voices his worries and doubts to Jimin one afternoon.
Unsurprisingly, he comforts him immediately. Because like Namjoon, Jimin also harnesses the power to change the world using simply his voice.
“Sometimes, somethings can't be fully expressed through words alone and at that point you have to think outside of the box. Sometimes, you have to act and show support through different methods. And you’re very good at that, te te. I see the way you offer him tea and water when he’s been sitting in front of his computer for too long. Or the way you bring him food when he doesn’t come down in time for dinner with the group. I see it, and I bet he does too. I know he’s grateful deep down because that’s how Joonie is. He’s incredible and extremely talented, but he’s also forgetful and absent minded, and these silent acts of love are what he treasures and remembers the most. They speak volumes coming from you. So don’t beat yourself up too much. You’re doing good. You’re doing great. And everything will turn out fine—for the both of you. you’ll see.”
Taehyung frowns, but he’s stopped sniffling, and Jimin squeezes his arm in encouragement. “How do you always know what to say?”
Jimin sighs and hugs him closer to his chest. He has a habit of rocking him slightly when Taehyung gets like this, but they never bring it up because they both know it’s mutually comforting. “Half the time i don’t. But with you it’s easy. You’re my best friend and I love you and I’d do anything for you, so I just say what comes from the heart.”
Taehyung‘s lip wobbles. His voice is so small. He’s so sleepy that he can’t hold back a yawn. “Maybe I should try that.”
Jimin laughs lightly. “Yeah, but right now you have to go to sleep.”
Taehyung disentangles himself from Jimin’s embrace and then watches him from the foot of the door. “Night.”
Taehyung turns off his light, whispers a last “love you,” and then leaves.
But he doesn’t go back to his room just yet, he takes a quick detour to Namjoon’s instead. He has to tell him everything he’s thinking— he has to. Or else he won’t sleep and then it’ll be too late.
He’s halfway there when he bumps into Seokjin in the hallway. He’s carrying a convenience store bag in one hand and his gym bag in the other, looking pink and soft from a fresh shower, and Taehyung gets so spooked by his presence that he ends up losing his nerve.
All their worries are for nothing though, since the speech is well received by everybody. So much so, that they make front-page headline news across the globe, and Namjoon’s picture is blown wide right in the middle of it. Absolutely everyone saw it coming, and the only one who seemed genuinely blindsided by all the positive media coverage and international praise is Namjoon himself.
“I just. I don’t understand is all.”
“Hyung, you’re amazing. Do you know what you just did? You delivered a speech of a lifetime. You made a difference and people will be talking about it for decades to come.”
“Oh wow. But. I don’t even.. It was all a blur. My hands were shaking so bad. Did you see the paper? I couldn’t stop shaking. I thought I was going to pass out.”
Taehyung reaches forward to hold Namjoon’s hands in his. They’re seated in a corner of a little coffee shop and their drinks have probably gone cold. “You’ve made us all so proud, Namjoon-ah. You did an incredible job. You deserve the recognition for all your hard work.”
Namjoon sputters a bit at the informality, but Taehyung is too elated right now to correct himself. “You guys were with me. If it wasn’t for you guys then I wouldn’t have had the courage. Or the chance. You guys are what made this dream a possibility.”
“It was still all you. You wrote the speech and you’re the one who practiced day and night in the midst of everything else going on and you’re the one who delivered it. You did that, hyung. It was all you.”
“Namjoon.” Taehyung boxes his face in with his palms. He stares hard at him. “You are single handedly the most incredible person I’ve ever met. You’ve helped so many people with your words and your music and your presence, and you’ll continue to do so for as long as you live, I just know it. This world is a much better place because you’re in it, and on behalf of everyone who knows you: thank you. Thank you for being you. Thank you for being a part of bangtan, and thank you for letting us into your life.”
“Taehyung.” And his eyes are misty, his voice small and wobbly, and Taehyung can’t bear it anymore. He wraps him up in a tight hug so Namjoon doesn’t see how wet his eyes are either.
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY
Taehyung is so comfortable in his own skin. He hasn’t woken up this happy and light in months . Their late night interview with Jimmy Fallon went incredibly well, and then the performance on the set of Good Morning America where they got to meet some cute little kids also went over smoothly.
He also goes on more outings with Namjoon, including a picnic in a nearby location to unwind. The serene greenery around them sparks something dormant in his bones, and Taehyung feels the deep desire to paint the scenery around him. Namjoon watches on with a fond expression on his face as he scribbles away in his notebook, occasionally feeding him strawberries and orange pieces.
Taehyung’s lips tingle from where Namjoon’s finger grazes it, and he carries that feeling well into the late hours of the night.
It eventually gives him enough courage to openly flirt with Seokjin on stage. He puckers up his lips to try to draw his attention to it, maybe even get an air kiss if he’s lucky, but Seokjin is too busy entertaining the crowd to notice. And Taehyung shrugs, figures he can try again next time, and the song continues to play.
Except there is no next time. When they’re dancing in front of each other and staring, as per usual, Jimin decides to bulldoze through the small gap separating them, effectively cutting their skit short. Taehyung doesn't know whether he’s grateful for the interference or disappointed.
Nonetheless, Namjoon notices his pouting and motions for Taehyung to jump on his back for an impromptu piggyback ride in the middle of Anpanman. It instantly lightens up his mood, and then one day before they’re due to depart the state for many months, Namjoon gives him another one while Taehyung takes a selfie of them smiling wide in front of The Bean.
QUEENS, NEW YORK
Chicago seemed to be the calm before the storm, because everything suddenly gets a little more tense and high stakes with the filming of their movie, and the knowledge that this will be their first stadium concert. A first for any Korean act in the world. Ever.
As expected, Seokjin tries to lighten up the mood backstage and it works—for the most part. Taehyung is definitely a bit more jittery than usual and he has to constantly talk himself down from a creeping panic attack. So he sticks close to Seokjin and tries to distract his racing thoughts by helping him steady the army bombs on his shoulders. The stylists sow it on last minute. They’re very good-natured about it, reassuring Seokjin that it’s okay and they know army will love it, no matter how much Seokjin apologizes for the extra trouble.
The show starts as usual and halfway through the first set Taehyung forgets they’re being filmed as he lets the music consume him; and later when So What comes on, Seokjin slithers up to him like normal and they dance, and swing their hips, and try to put on a fun show for the fans and the camera. It goes smoothly and the cheers and excited yelling from the crowd make it all worth it.
Moment later Taehyung does slip, however, but luckily Namjoon is there to pull him up and make sure he’s alright before jumping back into the choreography. Seokjin sees it on the monitor and laughs at him, and not much time passes before he’s the one falling on the slippery floor, and Namjoon is carefully jogging to the rescue again.
As a thank you, Taehyung wipes the sweat from Namjoon’s neck during Trivia:Love and Namjoon sends him a heart for his troubles.
And despite the fact it was drizzling earlier and a video of him falling straight on his ass is now permanently documented on a DVD for their fans to purchase and replay forever, Taehyung is the happiest he’s been in a long time.
On the first day of the European leg of their tour, Taehyung and Seokjin sit across from each other in the middle of the O2 Arena in London and play Rock Paper Scissors. It's easy; it's fun; and for once there’s no pressure to overperform.
The second day rolls around and Taehyung decides to switch it up. He doesn’t know why, so far out into their tour, but he thinks he’s finally ready to move past this thing with Seokjin and maybe try something new.
So he holds onto Jimin’s shoulder and gets ready to sing the first chorus of the song while looking into his eyes, when, from his peripheral, he recognizes Seokjin running straight for them. Before Taehyung can turn Jimin around, Seokjin is grabbing onto Jimin’s arm and pulling him out of and away from Taehyung’s grip.
Seokjin gets really close and if Taehyung didn’t know any better, he’d think there’s a trace of irritation and possessiveness behind his gaze. He appears to not want to take his eyes off Taehyung's lips for the rest of their part, but it’s probably a trick of the light, he reasons within himself.
Later, to counter the weird and conflicting feelings he has, Taehyung sidles up to Namjoon’s side during their end merit bows and even succeeds in intertwining their fingers together.
Ever since the incident in London, something changes. Taehhyung has yet to figure out what exactly, but Seokjin is more shameless in his staring, more commanding and aggressive in how he corners him in the middle of the stage, and Taehyung, for all his big talk about not falling for this trick again, just lets him get away with it.
He looks down at his shoes and feels the blush high on his cheeks whenever Seokjin gets like this. Has to try hard not to react to the heat coming off of Seokjin’s palms on his hips and fails.
It leaves him reeling and frustrated in such a way that when Anpanman comes on, Taehyung stalks up to Namjoon and snakes a hand up his sweaty back until he’s gripping the nape of his neck. He holds onto his shoulder moments later and begins to roll his hips to the beat while Namjoon looks on in a state of confusion. Thankfully, Namjoon catches on rather quickly and joins in seconds later, going as far as to grab and lead him by the waist so they’re in sync. They practically grind against each other on stage until Yoongi is throwing water in their direction and telling them to knock it off.
But after the show is over, Seokjin is there again, and he’s the one grabbing him around the middle and pulling him over his lap for their post-concert photos. Taehyung makes a surprised little noise in the back of his throat but goes along readily, easily, and only smiles for the camera when he’s told to.
They’re both much calmer after meeting with the presidents of both France and South Korea. They’re contracted to perform for them both, and consequently represent their country in front of hundreds of important political officials and diplomats. So they take it easy for a bit. In everything.
They sit across from each other and Taehyung plays with Seokjin’s hair, who immediately closes his eyes like a cat and nuzzles up into Taehyung’s palm.
The mini RJ doll hanging off of his lanyard goes slack in his hand and Taehyung reaches for it before it can fall.
Taehyung is singing the last line of their ‘So What’ duet when he feels the impulse to kiss it, and so he does. Seokjin opens his eyes just as he does it and there’s something in them that instantly makes heat pulse low in Taehyung’s gut. But before Taehyung can do something he’ll regret, Seokjin is on his feet and pulling him up so they can both jump up and down while golden confetti rains around them.
Taehyung is most excited about visiting Paris. It’s been something he’s had in the back of his mind for the entirety of the tour. There’s pages upon pages of pages jotted down in his notebook of places he’d like to visit and art he has to see, that he doesn’t know what to do with himself when they finally land.
Thankfully, Namjoon takes him by the hand and they visit museums together. Taehyung is able to check off a lot of things from his bucket list and even discovers new artists as well. The whole experience lives up to and even surpasses his expectations; enough that if anyone asked, he’d readily say that Paris was the highlight of it all.
But It’s not until their last night here that he realizes why he’s so enamored. As people often say, home isn’t a place but where people are, right? Likewise, for all it's grandeur and unbelievable art, maybe the best part of the tour was right beside Taehyung all along.
He and Namjoon spend their last evening together, exploring a few last-minute exhibits and then renting out a bike to ride around the city’s perimeter. The one Namjoon suggest is a one person bike, with step bars in the back for an extra person to hang off of, and at first Taehyung isn’t so convinced, sure that he will fall, but Namjoon reminds him to hold on tight. That he won’t go fast. That he won’t hurt him.
So Taehyung wrap his arms around the Namjoon’s neck and doesn’t let go.
The wind is a bit nippy against his skin, but the buildings that blur past and the people they encounter only heightens the experience. And Taehyung is so happy, he’s just so so unbelievably content and elated, that in his euphoric state he kisses the side of Namjoon’s face, and it doesn't even faze them.
When they stop by a spot near a river where it’s practically vacant of anyone else, Namjoon leans down and Taehyung buries his hand in his hair, captures his lips in a deep kiss, and they stand there like that, devouring each other for what seems like hours, making out against a tree.
The light of the moon reflects off the waves in the water and Namjoon’s lips fit perfectly against his own, as if they always belonged there, and Taehyung knows he’s found home. He knows this is the closest he’ll come to perfection.
Taehyung should have seen it coming with the way Jimin gazed at him in such a pleased way. Since the very beginning he always had that look on his face as if he knew something Taehyung didn’t. Which, if he’s honest, wouldn’t really surprise him.
“What?” He finally breaks.
Jimin inspects his nails and plays coy. “What, i didn't say anything”
“But you’re thinking it.”
“hmm? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He’s grinning now, knows he has Taehyung eating out of his palm.
“Jimin, what is it? Did something happen?”
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
Taehyung huffs, not having fun anymore. “That’s not nice. You’re not nice.”
“Tae. Te te.”
He ignores him and continues to pout on the couch and Jimin laughs before crossing the room and sitting on his lap. “Alright you big baby. I just noticed how you’re having a lot of fun and smiling more openly now, and I’m happy for you.”
Taehyung nods, feeling placated. “Yeah, I guess I am.”
Jimin hums and scratches his scalp. It feels amazing. “It’s because of him, isn’t it?”
He doesn’t have to ask to elaborate on who ‘he’ is; they're both well aware of his recent late night dates. “Yeah. Namjoon make me so happy.” Taehyung sighs in bliss. Almost dreamily, and he can’t even be bothered to feel embarrassed. Not in front of Jimin at least.
“I’m glad. You deserve to be loved, tae. You deserve the whole world .”
Taehyung blushes at his words; feels warmth spread throughout his entire body and silently agrees.
The next few days are some of the proudest moments of his life. Their group is invited to speak at the Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards and are even the proud recipients of the Order of Cultural Merit Award. It's incredible and unbelievable and Taehyung is so, so grateful, wondering again and again what he did right in a past life to deserve it.
The feeling in his chest only expands and spills over when they receive two more daesangs and seven awards total in one night. Everything is happening so fast and he’s just so enamored with the members and their team, that when they head out for celebratory dinner and drinks after the ceremony, he spends the entire night telling them all how much he loves them, and then cries into his hands when they all echo it back.
Taehyung waits for him in his usual spot, and is only taken a little aback when Seokjin pretends to fight him. It's a bit different from what they usually do but he doesn't think much of it. Just laughs it off and plays along.
Before the concert ends he makes sure to hug Seokjin from the back and nuzzle into his nape. Taehyung breathes him in and Seokjin giggles under his breath, tells him to get off because it tickles. But he doesn't pull away and Seokjin doesn't push him.
Taehyung knows he’s thought about this so many times now that even he’s getting sick of himself, but he’s honestly so unbearably happy that he can’t properly process all these new emotions. He’s been laughing like an idiot nonstop. Trying to hold Namjoon's hand whenever he knew he could get away with it - pressing in close to him during group photos and squeezing his thigh under the table when they go out for lunch. He’s so in love it’s unbelievable. He’s so in love that it’s dizzying.
Taehyung clings onto Namjoon, throwing a leg over his, holding him close, and pressing their cheeks together for the group photo. The camera man counts down from three and Namjoon moves to get a better grip on his leg by holding it up from underneath his thighs.
Taehyung’s heart soars.
Correction, Taehyung does have one theory he’s adamant about. He hadn’t realized it back then, but the first signs manifested when he accompanied his nervous classmate to an unknown company’s audition for promising young talent.
He remembers a bubbling pressure low in his belly not unlike butterflies. Remembers how it felt like the world was collectively holding it's breath for something to happen, and that wouldn’t be the last time. He experienced it occasionally throughout the years and the rise of their careers. Only it getting stronger and stronger once he recognized the feeling for what it was: his almost supernatural intuition of all things life altering. He trusts himself more than anybody. After all, his gut led him to accepting an invitation to big hit’s headquarters in Seoul, to meeting the rest of the guys, and finally signing his name down on an agency contract.
He got the feeling when he first roomed in with Jimin, days just before their debut, and in the morning hours the night they won their first daesang.
When there’s a push and a crashing wave deep in his stomach, Taehyung knows to anticipate that something big is going to happen. Something unexpected.
Unfortunately, not all of them are always good.
He’s rounding the corner, trying to look for Jimin, and instead of going back to the dorms after he’s done recording, some inexplicable force tugs him towards the direction of Namjoon’s studio.
Taehyung has been here countless times since they stopped being roommates — had taken a nap on that couch just last Tuesday. Namjoon had let him in, took one look at his face and given him his spare Van pillow to hug while he slumbered for a few much needed minutes.
And then there’s the kissing. Ever since Paris they’ve been kissing a lot lately. So much that Taehyung thinks he’s going insane with how much he can’t keep his hands off Namjoon. He just wants to—needs to—touch him all the time. It’s as if he’s fallen head over heels all over again. And the thought should really scare him—terrify him even, but he can’t seem to care. Jimin always tells him he deserves the world and Taehyung thinks he finally understands what he means.
Namjoon has slowly, but surely, become his everything. His sun, moon, and stars. The entire universe and galaxy he always goes on and on about, and Taehyung feels like he’s going to burst any minute. He wants to tell him everything.
He has those butterflies again, hand poised and flush against the door, ready to push his way inside and into namjoon’s space, when he hears them.
Voices. Two very different ones, but neither unknown to Taehyung.
“He doesn’t know?” It’s Namjoon.
“No. And you can’t tell him.” Followed by seokjin.
Taehyung’s heart beats in his chest rapidly, his fingers frozen still against the glass of the door.
He shouldn’t be listening to this, but he can’t help himself. Never could when it came to those two.
“Namjoon. I’m serious, love. He can’t find out about this.”
Love. Taehyung wants to gasp. He wants to leave, breath growing more ragged by the second, but his mind wants to know what it all means. Despite having all the clues right in front of him, right under his nose—he doesn’t know what any of it means.
“It’s that serious then? We’re really doing this?”
“I’m not going to lie.. I don’t think I can keep it to myself for much longer. He’s so perfect, Seokjin.”
“I know. But you have too if we want this to work. Please, Namjoon-ah.”
“Yeah, okay. I get it. Don’t worry. I won’t say anything.” A pause and a sigh, “Do you think he’ll be mad when he finds out?”
Not if, but when. And find out what? Taehyung is going to be sick.
“I don’t know.. but that’s why we can’t tell him. I don’t want to risk it. Not yet.”
“This has to be kept between us.”
“Okay. I get it.”
“And I said I understood. Don’t give me that face. Come here, baby.”
A snort. “Don’t call me that.”
“Why? You love it.”
“I do, but we’re at work.”
“That’s never deterred you before.”
Seokjin gasps and then Taehyung hears the undeniable sounds of both of them kissing and the chair creaking from sudden force, and that does it.
His hand drops and he backs away from the door with the sunken feeling that comes whenever something leaves him in so much shock that all he can decipher from his surroundings is static. Just complete nothingness accompanied by white noise.
How could they speak so casually about it? How could they discuss what’s happened between them so openly and freely? Like it meant nothing? And how long have they been seeing each other? Was Namjoon laughing along with Seokjin behind his back all these months while Taehyung longed after him like a complete fool? Did they make fun of him for thinking they were going on dates? And—The kiss, oh god. He was going to confess today .
“Oh fuck.” Taehyung dry heaves but keeps going back the way he came.
On his way back to the dorms, he tries to focus on his labored breathing, on his legs moving, his eyes stinging, and fists shaking. Anything but the pain lodged straight in his chest.
PRESENT DAY: NOVEMBER 14
“Why couldn’t I fall in love with you instead?” He bemoans dramatically once they’re inside their hotel room, and Jimin laughs.
Taehyung knows he must look a wreck with his tear stained cheeks and red, wet nose. He can practically feel the snot heavy in his voice when he whines. “It’s not funny. I’m hurting . It hurts.”
And he can’t hold back the sob that’s punched out of his chest, and maybe he’s glad that it happened because now Jimin is taking it more seriously as he scoops him up in a tight hug. “Oh, baby.. I know. I know, love. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to, I'm sorry.”
Taehyung shakes his head, buries his nose in Jimin’s shoulder and cries harder.
“I hate this. Wish I didn’t feel anything — wish it was just you and me..like- like before. I hate them”
“I know, baby. I’m sorry. Take a deep breath for me, tae. Please, can you do that?” Jimin leans his head over Taehyung’s head and smooths down his back while he does as he’s told. He pulls away and gives him some space but he still holds onto Taehyung’s hand, rubbing small circles over his knuckles. “That’s it, yeah? Deep breath in and out. Just like that. Like we’ve practiced. Okay, you’re doing good. That’s it,a little more.”
It feels like eons go by while Taehyung’s heart rate returns to normal and his shoulders slump from exhaustion. Jimin sweeps his bangs back and behind his ears as he speaks again,
“In another life, I'm sure we’re very happy and disgustingly in love and raising many, many pets together.”
He says it so matter of fact like he’s thought about that scenario before and is sure of these alternative versions of themselves, and Tahyung is too tired to not go along with it. So he allows himself to be distracted and perks up at the prospect. “Many pets?”
Jimin squeezes his shoulder and his tone is kind and gentle, with undercurrents of mirth when he continues. “Hundreds of them. No, thousands. As many as you’d want.”
Taehyung tries to smile while he wipes at his eyes. They couldn’t possibly afford all of that even with all the money they accumulated over the lenght of their careers. But he doesn’t want to leave this imaginary safe haven just yet, so instead he says, “Yeah, I'd like that.”
And Jimin’s answering smile is absolutely radiant. Taehyung lets out a sheepish laugh as he thinks about vast green hills and fluffy animals and a little wooden house. Them tending the fields, planting seeds and collecting harvest. Having a small booth of their own at the farmers market where they’d sell out all their precious goods because they'd grow big and fat from all the love and tender care Jimin pours into them. They’d have dogs running around and maybe a stray cat or two despite Jimin being allergic. They’d bake homemade bread and churn their own butter and gather their own eggs and gaze at the stars, probably.
It’d be a perfect utopia and Taehyung tries to picture himself and jimin in the midst of it all, but this fantasy world quickly morphs into another where seokjin and namjoon appear in Jimin’s place—in the field, in their home, and in their bed.
The change is so sudden and almost violent in the way that it wrecks into everything, that Taehyung has to close his eyes to try and dispel it before it all crashes down around him, but he‘s not fast enough and the pain comes back in waves. His heart feels heavy as a stone and he’s left gasping for air because it hurts .
It really shouldn’t have been affected him this much. Taehyung has slept with Seokjin in the past. He knows what Seokjin tastes and smells like when he’s holding on to his waist and kissing him in the middle of the night. He’s heard and seen what Seokjin sounds and looks like right before he cums, and the seconds right after when his eyes are rolling back from over stimulation.
Taehyung has catalogued every detail from their nights spent together and recalls the memory often whenever he’s feeling particularly needy and he has an evening to himself to let his hands wander underneath the sheets.
But even with his first hand knowledge of what makes Seokjin go over the edge, Taehyung is convinced It hadn’t meant anything.
It seemed like it hadn’t anyway. He knows it couldn’t possibly have because Seokjin was never his and even when they kissed and clung onto each other — he knew in the back of his mind that Seokjin loved somebody else.
He'll never forget the first time it happened. One minute Seokjin was quiet and deep in thought all morning while they prepared their performance for Seo Taiji’s 25th anniversary concert, and then the next he asked him if he wanted to grab dinner after practice. Taehyung was more than eager to agree, grabbed his bag and locked the practice room behind them.
They ran from the rain—lost and holding onto each other while giggling—like something straight out of a movie. Except the rain didn’t let up at all and they were left shivering outside a closed store front in the dark, not believing their luck and wondering out loud why neither of them thought to check the weather forecast beforehand.
They huddled up closer until Taehyung could feel the heat radiating through Seokjin’s soaked shit and then, like electricity, charged and aggressive, they locked eyes and Seokjin leaned forward and Taehyung was weak to stop him. They kissed and clung on to each other with such hunger, grabbing and pulling and taking what they needed without knowing what it was.
Their bodies moved without any restraints or reservations, as if they’ve been doing this for years, until they finally had to part to take a breath, Taehyung took Seokjin’s warm hand in his, and lead him back out into the pouring rain and straight for the dorms.
He wrapped him in a towel when they managed their way inside and Seokjin thanked him so gently and softly that Taehyung couldn't help but kiss him again. He asked him to stay against his lips.
Whispered, “Let me take care of you," and pulled Seokjin more firml into his arm, and then onto the bed where they made out some more.
Taehyung had rolled them over until Seokjin was underneath him. Said “I’ve wanted this for so long," with such reverence in his voice.
And Seokjin answered in tandem. “Me too. Take off your pants, please, Tae.” He sat up to watch him and then pushed Taehyung down on his back. Seokjin prepped himself in front of him for so slowly, let Taehyung insert his long fingers inbetween Seokjin's smaller ones.
“I don’t want to forget this.” He said in awe, watching his fingers get sucked up into Seokjin's body repeatedly.
“I know. Come on, baby. Come on, you can do it. Hyung’s got you. I’m—“ he let out a breathy moan and Taehyung soaked it all in.
“You’re so beautiful.”
“Oh. Oh, fuck .” Seokjin threw his head back and Taehyung reached up to wrap his hand around his neck. His thumb rubbed at the pulse point there before going up the soft angle of his jaw right under his chin. Seokjin gazed back down at him and sighed. He kissed the pad of Taehyung’s finger before sucking the thumb into his wet mouth, and Taehyung groaned from how hot it was.
“So sexy, hyung. You’re perfect. How did I get this lucky?” He watched Seokjin sink down all the way and then thrusted up harshly when it became too much. Seokjin clenched around his cock tightly, started bouncing in earnest until the bed was hitting the wall. Neither cared, they both sighed at the feeling and Taehyung kind of felt like crying. But he pushed it down and flipped them over after a while instead, lined himself back up and buried all the way up into Seokjin’s tight heat.
Seokjin closed his eyes and moaned, let his legs get spread wide and hiked higher up Taehyung’s sides.
Taehyung kissed the side of his head, over the shell of his reddening ear, and tried to commit this all to memory. He didn't want to forget a single thing. Even if it meant remembering that Seokjin never said his name when he finally came, or that he didn't stay the night when they finished like he promised.
Taehyung didn't stop him from leaving because Seokjin isn’t his nor does he love him—now or ever—and Taehyung had to come to terms with that.
Taehyung is sure that everyone outside of their group, excluding very close friends and staff, must not believe they’re anything but closely-knit; some might go as far as to say they're attached at the hip even. A make-shift family that came together under extraordinary circumstances that could only happen once in a lifetime, that has spent the better part of a decade constantly close to one another despite all odds and others trying to tear them down since the beginning of their career.
And it’s true - they’re close. He’d never think twice about not labeling the rest of the members for what they are: his second family—his brothers. Without a doubt in his mind, he knows they would do anything for each other, move mountains and break records and stay up all night until the crack of dawn to get a ten minute performance perfect down to the finger position, but even they have favorites. Even every single member of bangtan has one person they would most likely lay their entire lifeline to, no questions asked and or hesitation. It’s just a given - it's statistically feasible. There’s always bound to be a favorite.
For Taehyung that person has always been Jimin and he’d bet good money that for Jimin it has always been him, too.
So it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when Jimin punches Seokjin straight in the jaw. But when the crack of bones resonates throughout the busy backstage room and one of the stylists screams, high-pitched and shrill, Taehyung feels like he’s going to faint from shock anyway.
“Jimin!” he doesn’t register which of of them begins yelling or exactly who grabs Jimin by the arms to take him to another room but Taehyung is rooted to the spot, gazing at the bright red blood streaming down Seokjins’ mouth and staining everything crimson.
“Come on,” Someone—hoseok—takes a hold of Taehyung’s bicep and drags him away from the scene.
“Let’s just.. Let’s cool off okay?”
Taehyung wants to nod but his bones still feel too cold to move. Of course hoseok knows. Hoseok knows everything—he’s always been perceptive and intuitive like that. Being able to see things exactly for how they are, which is what lead him to wanting to leave the band all those years ago. Hoseok knew they weren’t getting anywhere with how the system was set up to crush everyone around them, and Jungkook’s crying isn’t what eventually made him see fact and reason. Ultimately, it’s what Jungkook represented that made Hoseok let go of all his presumptive fears and doubts, and be replaced with faith and hope in their team instead.
Hoseok is always wise and level-headed in even the most difficult situations, and yet, Taehyung feels his fingers tremble against his arm.
“We’re going to have to take a break. Luckily we have a week until the next showing in Osaka, but we need to take it easy from here on out.” Namjoon’s jaw clenches and he’s looking hard at Jimin while he makes the announcement.
Taehyung wants to sink in on himself and cry. Wishes he could be back in his hotel room, but he knows they have to work it out now. They have to talk about it and snip it at the bud if they wan’t to be truly okay.
If they can even be okay.
Bangtan has had their fair share of fights, even between Taehyung and Seokjin, to the point it got really stifling and ugly backstage, but never to this degree. Never with actual fists and blood being drawn. Never with one of them getting seriously hurt because of another member.
Taehyung sniffles and shakes and Namjoon’s eyes soften when his gaze lands on him. “Are you okay?”
Taehyung pulls away from him like he’s wants nothing to do with him, which in this case, is closer to the truth than he'd ever thought he'd get. But another part of him still wants to reach out and seek comfort in Namjoon's arms. Taehyung shakes his head, halts that train of thought, and finally leaves the room.
“Taehyung.” Namjoon calls after him.
“Leave it.” he hears jimin say in a low voice.
“We need to talk.”
Taehyung knows he should be the one confronting Namjoon on this, but tonight he just can’t. He can’t. Jungkook is waiting by the back entrance, eyes wide and unseeing, hands in his pocket and clearly shaken up. But when he looks up and spots him, taehyung finally breaks down and Jungkook is there to hold him.
It’s been two days since Taehyung has last eaten. He knows he can’t keep it up and one of the managers will come barging in his room eventually, but he doesn’t want to get up.
Jimin and Jungkook stop by and bring him food, but as much as he promises he’ll eat it, he just throws it in the trash bin in the bathroom as soon as they’re gone.
Namjoon visits him after the first night but Taehyung pretends to be sleeping until he hears his footsteps recede.
He doesn't check his phone or log into his laptop. All he's heard is that Jimin and Seokjin were forced to talk it out, but whether that lead to anything good or bad, he doesn’t know.
Taehyung tries to sleep but wakes up and remembers what happened and cries until his eyes become droopy again.
One night after stweing too long in his own thoughts, Taehyung feels pure and unadultered rage bubbling from deep within. It burns so hot and bright and throbs against his temple for so long, that as soon as the first knocks of the evening come to his door, he swings it open more violently than usual.
It’s Namjoon and Seokjin.
There’s a moment where they all stare at each other and Taehyung looses his nerve upon seeing the tiny stitches on Seokjin’s lower lip, but then Namjoon shuffles in front of him, as if to protect him from more harm, and Taehyung erupts all over again.
Namjoon winces and his eyes shift down the hallway. “Tae, not out here..”
“Answer my question!”
Seokjin steps up and his voice holds undercurrents of desperation. “Taehyung. Let us in first and then i’ll tell you everything. Please, i’ll —we’ll explain everything.”
Taehyung trembles all over from fury but lets them in. “okay. You’re inside. start talking.”
They turn to look at each other again, and before he can snap at them to stop doing that, Namjoon sighs. “Years.”
Except, Taehyung doesn’t expect that. He finally collapses back and sits on the bed, mouth falling open, “What?”
“Well, it’s more like we’ve been on and off, but yeah, years.” Seokjin mumbles softly and shuffles closer and that’s when taehyung notices they’re holding hands.
Right. It’s as if his life is flashing right before his eyes seconds before a train wreck and suddenly everything becomes clear.
Them holding hands often. Never leaving each other’s sides during backstage shows and whenever they had interviews overseas. Namjoon saying Seokjin brings him the most comfort and Seokjin always talking about how Namjoon is his favorite; his 'celebrity crush'. The silent touches and longing looks. Them practicing after hours with each other in the practice room - Seokjin having an extra key to Namjoon’s studio to “check up on him.”
Seokjin leaving with Namjoon in the same van every single time, and them often having dinners out together.
“Years.” Taehyung echoes back hollowly. Then his head shoots up and he stares at Seokjin in disbelief, “but you and I —last year. We—”
“We—Namjoon and I—were on a break then. I’m sorry. I should have said something, but i thought you were also upset because of Jimin and his partner, so I—”
Taehyung shakes his head. Doesn't know what part of that revelation to deconstruct first, but he settles on the one thing he's sure of. “wait, Jimin? What does he have to do with this?”
“Weren’t you two going out?”
“That’s what I said, didn’t i? Why does everyone think that.”
Seokjin lets go of Namjoon’s hand then and wraps his arms around himself. “Oh.”
“Yeah, oh. And even if we were going out, I would have never— I.”
“Taehyung,” Namjoon speaks, putting a hand over Seokjin’s thigh, and Taehyung looks down at it in devastation. Namjoon catches him and takes his hand away.
He leans forward, but Taehyung jumps back. “Tae.. please, maybe this isn’t the best time. Maybe I should leave you guys to talk this out first.”
“No.” Taehyung finally finds his voice and forces his gaze away from their knees resting against each other. “Stay.”
“Okay.” Namjoon responds so softly, like he's talking to a restless animal.
Taehyung wants to laugh. He wants to cry. I should have known. “So why did you approach me?”
He makes his voice louder. Irritation coming back to him easily. “After fort worth. You asked if I wanted to go for a walk and then you just didn’t stop. We went out almost every night for weeks. Why? Why did you do that? Did seokjin tell you to? Or did you feel bad that I had a crush on your boyfriend so you wanted to get me out of the way first and I don't know—make me fall for you instead? Is that what you wanted?” he’s heaving by the time he’s done. Hands plastered wide across his knees and Namjoon is shocked silent, eyes horrified.
Taehyung feels the tears fall then. Wipes at his nose with the collar of his shirt and tries to concentrate on his breathing like Jimin taught him to do whenever he gets himself worked up.
“I don’t know what you wanted, but you got it. I fell in love with you. I wanted to confess to you, go on more dates with you. Continue kiss—” Taehyung gasps and throws his head back. He wipes at his eyes with the bottom of his palms. “Oh my god, the kissing.” What the fuck, that’s so messed up. Taehyung whips his gaze back down to look at them before continuing. “Did you tell him about that Namjoonie-hyung? Did you tell Seokjin we made out for hours after you told him goodnight in Paris? That you said I was the most beautiful person you’ve ever seen, or do you just say that to everybody you meet up with when you’re bored and your boyfriend is gone for the night?”
Taehyung shakes his head in disbelief. Their leader. Namjoon, who he thought he knew. He kind of feels bad for Seokjin at this point.
Neither of them say anything; no explanation or apology, and Taehyung finally snaps. “Well?”
“I did. I told him everything.”
Taehyung didn’t know what he was expecting, but it wasn’t that. “Bullshit.” He turns to look at Seokjin. “You knew?”
Seokjin nods. “I did. I told him everything, too.”
And taehyung knows it’s sick, but that wasn’t the reaction he was expecting from either of them. He wants to hurt them as much as they hurt him and before he can think against it, he’s opening his mouth again, cheeks flaming hot and eyes livid. “So what? You’re both in a happy and open relationship and you don’t care about anybody else but yourselves? You both just decide to mess around with people and their feelings as much as you’d like without any repercussions, but who cares, as long as you get laid, right? Fuck. you’re supposed to take care of us. You’re supposed to protect us and look out for the group. What kind of hyungs are you?”
Seokjin’s eyes are wet. He’s blinking them so fast. “It’s not like that. This is all new to us, too. We didn't know how to tell you. please, listen to me. There was never anybody else besides you. Taehyung, I lov—”
“I don't believe you.”
“We’re telling the truth.” Seokjin’s eyes are frantic, pleading with him to listen but Taehyung has already made up his mind.
“I don’t care. Does it look like I give a shit? You disgust me. I don’t want to see either of you for the rest of the time we’re here.”
“Taehyung,” Namjoon starts, voice desperate but firm, and Taehyung has had enough. He gets up then. Legs shaking and chest heaving. He hasn't eaten in days and he's getting dizzy.
“Get out! Out!”
Seokjin closes his mouth and namjoon clenches his jaw but doesn’t try to push their case any further. He nods and gets up to leave.
Taehyung watches them close the door behind them and then collapses back on the bed. He doesn't cry.
Jimin comes to his room the following morning, because of course he does, and Taehyung is too tired to turn him away.
“Baby,” is all jimin says, eyebrows drawn down in worry, and Taehyung open his arms and pulls him inside before he can think better of it.
He wants to crawl into bed with him, but Jimin shakes his head and says he’s going to run him a bath first. “No whining. I promise you’ll feel better afterwards. Come on, brush your teeth while the water is warming up.”
Taehyung wants to protest, but he does as he’s told. He can hear Jimin rummaging around in the room after he leaves him in the bathroom, satisfied that Taehyung won’t keel over and break his head on the rim of the toilet seat.
Then he pokes his head back inside and makes eye contact with him through the mirror. “I laid out some clothes for you.”
“Tha’k you.” Taehyung gurgles between his toothbrush, spits, and then weakly dabs at the corners of his mouth with one of the hand-towels.
Jimin watches him in silence until it’s time for taehyung to get undressed. “Do you need any help?”
Taehyung blushes, and wants to tell him no, but he nods instead and focuses on standing upright while Jimin gets his shirt up and over his head.
“Taehyung.” Jimin gasps in worry, and Taehyung doesn’t have to ask to know what he’s looking at. Jimin trails his fingers over his prominent ribs and Taehyung turns around so he doesn’t have to see the sad glint in his eyes.
“I got it from here. Thank you.”
“Are you sure?”
“Okay.... I'll—I'll be right out here for when you get out, okay? Call me if you need anything.”
Taehyung makes a noise of affirmation and then he’s fully naked and getting in. the water does feel nice against his skin, and despite how hot it is, the contact immediately causes goosebumps to rise on his arms and legs.
Halfway through, he sinks down to the bottom of the tub and lets the water push against the crown of his head and down his shoulders. Taehyung finally allows himself to really sob, the kind that leaves him hiccuping for air, for the first time in a long time.
True to his word, Jimin is waiting for him when he comes out with a towel wrapped around his hips.
Jimin sucks in an audible gasp as his eyes rake down his body and the bones stretching out against his skin. He bites his lip and opts to not make a comment on those, pushing Taehyung’s clothes out for him to grab. “Put these on.”
Taehyung nods and walks across the room to stand at the foot of his bed. He lets the towel fall around his feet without caring about being modest and is inwardly grateful when Jimin makes no move to remark on his gaunt and grim appearance.
“Do you want to sleep?”
“Do you want to be alone?”
Taehyung gets under the covers and Jimin fetches him a fresh towel from the bathroom to place underneath his head. “You’ll get sick if you sleep with wet hair.”
Taehyung closes his eyes and sighs contentedly. Jimin runs his fingers through his hair for a bit before he’s telling him to scoot over so he can get inside.
Jimin folds his entire body around Taehyung and hugs him to his chest so gently, as if he’s going to break in his arms, and Taehyung wouldn’t be surprised if he does.
“I won’t talk about it. Wish we didn’t have to address it at all, but we have a concert in two days and I know you’d never forgive yourself if you didn’t go.”
“I know. I was never planning on missing it. I wouldn’t do that to them—the fans—they had nothing to do with this.”
Jimin nods and rests his head against Taehyung’s shoulder. Mouths into his skin, “It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to talk. I think it’ll help you heal faster, and whenever you feel ready just come to me, okay? Doesn’t matter the day or time. Call and I'll come running. I’ll always listen to you.”
Taehyung feels the overwhelming sensation of a bump forming in his throat again, and so he barely manages to croak out a,“Yeah.”
But Jimin understands everything he didn’t say anyway, and pecks his shoulder so lovingly.
“Do you feel a little better after your shower at least?”
“Good. I'm glad.”
Taehyung is so close to sleeping, almost doesn’t notice Jimin talking, but then his brain processes it amidst the sound of his heart beat pounding.
“I love you” Jimin whispers it so lowly, so wetly, like he’s been crying. Taehyung feels fresh tears prick at his eyes and nose. They hug each other tight.
“I love you, too. Thank you.”
Taehyung really is grateful for jimin. Especially in moments like these, when there’s a lot of people around and Taehyung is feeling too much like a raw exposed nerve to be his usual extroverted self. Jimin clings to him as if they never learned how to spend any time apart and doesn’t leave his side for a moment.
Namjoon and Seokjin barely speak, only answer the staff when necessary, and Taehyung is somewhat alleviated to note the makeup artists did a great job in covering up the fading bruises underneath his bottom lip and jaw.
It’s as if none of it happened and it was all a fever dream, but if that were the case then none of the members would be acting like this —as if they’re walking on eggshells around all four of them.
Thankfully, it doesn't last long and the sound crew is calling them out for a brief sound check before the concert.
Everything goes fine and Taehyung sticks close to Jimin and Jungkook the entire time. He pointedly does not interact much with the others, but lets himself be led into an impromptu dance battle with Hoseok, which causes Yoongi to scream and join in the fun after a few seconds. It brings a small smile to Taehyung’s face and it’s easier to breathe after that.
The first chords of So What start blaring throughout the huge baseball stadium and the crowd is already up and shaking their army bombs in tandem. Taehyung smiles upon seeing it. He clutches his chest and throws them finger hearts and giggles like a kid when they return it so earnestly.
He’s missed them so much. Missed being on stage and not caring about anything else.
Performing has always allowed him to be detached from anything and everything that wasn’t currently in that building along with them, and he’s happy to note it’s working wonders today. Even after all that’s transpired. He doesn’t know what will happen once he steps foot off the stage, but right here, right now, he’s having the time of his life.
Taehyung continues to grin down at some fans, and laughs when they scream even louder. A small girl with a tata headband starts crying and covering half her face with a banner and Taehyung crouches down to eye level so he can wave at her.
After a few seconds he notes that his part in the song is coming up and so he gets up and half-walks, half-dances to the middle of the stage. Someone wraps their arms tightly around his waist and he can tell it’s Jimin by the way his nose digs into the crook of his neck.
Jimin bites at his skin playfully and Taehyung giggles at the sensation. They stay like that and sway to the song until the fateful chorus comes on and Taehyung sees Seokjin approaching him from the corner of his eye.
Jimin lets go of him all of a sudden, and Taehyung misses his warmth instantly.
Seokjin stops short of three feet away from him and they lock eyes while Taehyung sings, “Somebody call me right one”
“Somebody call me wrong”
“I’m not gonna care about it”
“Why don’t you not do so as well?”
They’re almost bumping into each other’s chest with how close they get. Seokjin raises his hand to touch the side of his face and Taehyung’s lip trembles. He closes his eyes and leans into it and realizes he’s missed this, too.
But when he opens them back up again, Seokjin is gone.
Taehyung turns off the faucet and wipes his face with a towel.
There’s a knock on the door and then a tentative, “Taehyungie, can I come in?”
Taehyung turns towards the direction of the door and sighs. He expected as much after their last concert, and he knows who it is even before he opens it.
“Can I come in?” He repeats again, not having changed out of his ending merit outfit or taken off his makeup, as if he came straight here.
Taehyung considers his options, and quietly entertains the thought of refusing him entry and closing the door on his face, but ultimately resolves to rip off the bandaid in one fell swoop. “Sure.”
He makes his way to the corner of the room where a round table is located. The door clicks shut behind him and Taehyung doesn’t turn around to see if Seokjin is standing in front of it or not. He pulls out two chairs and sits down in the one closest to the wall. Taehyung folds his arms atop the table and waits.
Seokjin stares at him as if he's anticipating Taehyung to change his mind and kick him out, but after a few beats of silence he finally moves and takes the other vacant seat.
“Where’s Namjoon?” Is the first thing Taehyung wonders out loud when Seokjin doesn’t make a move to speak.
“He—I thought it was best if I came here alone. If we both got to talk to you on your own terms.”
“Okay.” Taehyung shrugs, raises his eyebrows in a way that’s supposed to be encouraging, but probably has the opposite effect by the way Seokjin breaks eye contact and frowns down at his lap.
“I wanted to apologize. I know we kept things from you, and that it was wrong, and for that I am sorry. I wish it didn’t turn out this way.”
“You mean you wish you didn’t get caught?”
Seokjin raises his head at that. “Taehyung.”
“What, hyung? What ? I’m tired, okay? I’m exhausted. I’m sorry if I’m not in the best condition to help you feel better about yourself.”
Seokjin opens his mouth and then closes it. Hurt flashes across his expression and Taehyung thinks, good . “I— Can i just please tell you why.”
Taehyung takes a deep breath in and leans his hand against his fist. He’s growing bored and trying hard not to roll his eyes. “go on.”
“That night. A year ago. I thought you were a bit distracted in practice all day and I figured it was probably because of Jimin’s new boyfriend. And when you brought me back to your room after dinner I thought you just wanted a quick fuck to get over him faster. And I realized then that I wanted it too, because I was also hurting and going through a break up. So I didn’t mind nor did I question it—“
“Don’t project your thoughts onto me. That’s not why I slept with you.”
Seokjin clenches his jaw and his cheeks glow pink with bubbling anger. “Then why did you? You’ve never showed interest in me before. What changed? Why all of a sudden, when you saw I was upset over a breakup, did you decide it was the best time to make a move then? Don’t you think your reasoning was questionable as well? Don’t you think you were using me also?”
“I..” Taehyung stares at the light patterns across the wooden table and feels hot shame. Seokjin is telling the truth. Taehyung knew Seokjin had recently broken up with someone, but just never found out who. Didn’t care much at the time, really. So why is he so upset now? Is it because he now knows it was Namjoon? Is it because maybe what he thought was love back then was actually just lust, and now that he’s had a real taste of what a relationship with either Namjoon or Seokjin could be like, he doesn’t want to let it get away?
Seokjin runs a hand through his hair and softens his tone. “Look, I didn't come here to point fingers at you. I know I fucked up, I’m not saying I’m not innocent. But I want this to work. I want us to work. After that night.. I—I couldn’t forget you. I thought about you constantly and Namjoon had no idea. He didn’t ask you out because of any preconceived hidden agenda you might have thought of. He's a good person and he saw you were sad, so he wanted to spend more time with you. That's it, and then everything just kind of happened. Like it happened between me and you. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t mean anything to us—that you didn’t mean anything to us. We talked a lot about this, about what we were both feeling and what this meant for our relationship.”
Seokjin takes a deep breath in and puts his hands, palm up, on the table.
“He came to love you in the same way I did and we realized too late that we fucked up and didn’t know how to tell you. Please, Tae. Please, believe me. There was never anybody else. We’ve never looked at anybody else. It’s always been you. Just you.”
Taehyung bites on his bottom lip and blinks his eyes rapidly so he doesn’t cry.
Seokjin reaches out to him, gives a hopeful small smile, and twitches his fingers a little in invitation. “Please?”
Taehyung takes it and seokjin lets out a heavy breath of relief. “Okay? Are we okay?”
“Honestly, I don’t know how to feel yet. I think I need more time to think about it.”
“Yeah, of course. take all the time you need.”
Tsehyung squeezes his hand. “Namjoon really hurt me. Both of you did.”
“I know. I know, tae. I’m sorry. I didn’t think, but I know it’s not an excuse. I just really do lo—“
Taehyung raises a hand to stop the words from leaving his mouth. “Not yet. Please, just.. wait until all three of us are together before you say it.”
“Okay.” And seokjin smiles, eyes hopeful and shiny, and holds on to his hand like he’s afraid taehyung will run away and disappear.
But now that he has him, Teahyung doesn’t plan on letting him go.
“You came.” It almost sounds like a gasp of genuine wonder and taehyung has to bite on the inside of his cheek because it’s sort of cute. Damnit.
“Yeah. You didn’t think I would?”
Namjoon fidgets with his things, nervously pushes the second coffee cup in front of him with a little too much force and it ends up tipping over and spilling onto the floor. “Oh. Oh no. I’m sorry. I—“
“It’s okay. Here, I got it.” Taehyung instantly turns around and gets some napkins from the register to help Namjoon clean up. Their hands brush a few times and Taehyung is sad to note how badly Namjoon’s fingers are trembling.
If he’s completely honest with himself, he didn’t know what the outcome of today’s meeting would be from the moment he texted Namjoon to come meet him for a talk. But whatever he was planning on saying, whether good or bad, it all dispels into thin air and all he wants to do now is just hold him in his arms.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Taehyung.” And it doesn’t seem like he’s referring to the spilt coffee anymore. His head hangs low, enough that his bangs cover his eyes, but taehyung can still see his lips pouting downwards and he knows Namjoon is on the verge of tears.
He sighs, heart heavy and aching in his rib cage. He can’t stand the distance between them anymore. “it’s alright. It’s okay. Come here.”
Namjoon shakes his head and pulls away. “It's not. It’s not okay. I hurt you and I never wanted to, but that doesn't change the fact that I did. I don’t know why I just didn’t tell you from the start. I messed up and now you hate me. I’m so dumb— “
Taehyung clicks his tongue indignantly. “Hey. Don’t say that. You’re right, though, what you did is not okay. But I’ve made mistakes too. And look at you, you’re shaking so much. I know it wasn’t your intention. I know you’d never deliberately hurt me. I said some cruel and mean things when I was angry too. I also hurt you. It’s— I forgive you, okay? I want to move on.”
“Okay. Yeah. Thank you, we’ll—I won't bother you anymore if that’s what it takes. We can just forget it and move on. Be like before where we didn’t—”
“Yeah, no. Wait, okay.” Taehyung grabs him by the shoulders and tries to get his full attention because what he’s going to say next is really important, “first things first, I feel like we really need to work more on our communication amongst the three of us. Because that’s not what I’m saying at all. While I do want to put this whole mess behind us, what I meant is that I want to move on with you— the both of you. I never thought it was possible, that I’d get this lucky, despite everything that happened. Because I love you two so much. So so much and I want this to work too. But all of us, at the same time. No more keeping secrets or things from each other. We need to be a team.”
“Yes. Of course. I want that too. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
“Good. Now let’s order you another hot chocolate and take one back to Seokjin hyung as well.”
Namjoon laughs, and his smile is breathtaking. Taehyung squeezes his hand and he knows they’ll be okay.