it was always going to be jungkook.
taehyung knew this well. so very, very well. because there was something about the way jungkook made seokjin feel comfortable that he doesn’t think he’s ever seen anyone else do before.
the thing is, taehyung thinks, is that seokjin is made of walls and walls and walls.
for taehyung, loving seokjin is getting to see past those walls, but never up close. it’s sort of like seeing through a pair of opera glasses from way up on the fifth floor. he’s so clear sometimes. the way he tries harder than anyone else to keep up. the way he doesn’t even realize that he’s setting higher standards instead.
but in a way, it’s sort of like taehyung only gets to grab those glimpses of seokjin through jungkook. because there isn’t a single person that brings their hyung back to ground zero. out of the clouds and the crippling fear that he hides.
he used to hate jungkook just a little for that. for being just right for seokjin without even trying. though he supposes that’s why they fit like a thousand count puzzle. slow, but completely.
now, he’s mostly just grateful that the two found each other.
but taehyung remembers envying jungkook in their youth, the way seokjin always doted on him, took care of him. seokjin was never one to show bias, but it was in the way he let himself breathe around jungkook, just a little. was less afraid to show his flaws, his weaknesses, his insecurities. the way he wasn’t so vigilant to hide himself.
the transition was hard for everyone, becoming bts. none of them really knew what they were getting into, especially their singers. he knows that seokjin had just sort of gotten swept up in it, because it was an option, because it seemed interesting, a little cool. which meant seokjin spent the first couple years as an idol wracked with guilt. the guilt of not having the passion that namjoon or yoongi had for the team. the guilt of not being talented enough. the guilt of going into something half-heartedly, and feeling like maybe he’d been dragging the team down this whole time.
he’s wrong, of course. taehyung thinks about the way seokjin changed for them, became a hyung for them. sometimes he wishes people could see the stark contrast between seokjin at nineteen versus seokjin at twenty-seven.
if that wasn’t devotion, then taehyung’s not sure what is. because seokjin never needed to give up everything he knew to be their hyung. he never needed to stay and leave his dreams behind. but he did.
it used to irk taehyung, that jungkook got to be special for seokjin. it still does sometimes, but only because he’s bad at not getting what he wants. and for the longest time, he thought that jungkook hadn’t known. hadn’t realized how much seokjin gave to them. gave up for them. it’s at least a little bit true. at first, jungkook really didn’t know. there’s no way he could have, being so young and naive. it probably took a while for taehyung to realize as well. for all of them.
he’s sure now, that jungkook knows better than anyone how incredible seokjin is. he can’t pinpoint when the youngest had started realizing. but it was like one day, he was angry and bitter at jungkook for getting to have seokjin without appreciating him. and the next, he was dismantled by his own foolishness for not seeing that jungkook had been looking at seokjin up-close this whole time. crystal clear.
he remembers jungkook turning eighteen and keeping a close eye on seokjin. it hurt, but he also felt like he had to know. that he had the right to know. he also remembers cradling a small pebble of hope in his chest when nothing had changed between the two. that maybe taehyung would get his chance before jungkook did.
when jungkook turned nineteen, he stopped hoping all together because still, nothing had changed between jungkook and seokjin. and still, nothing had ever changed between himself and seokjin.
maybe, his childish mind had finally filtered through the turbulent emotions, that it wasn’t an age thing.
it sort of makes sense to him when he closes his right eye and tilts his head at an angle, metaphorically. he still doesn’t get why they had wasted so much time if it was always going to be jungkook (and it was). then maybe he wouldn’t have spent so much time loathing jungkook and pining after seokjin.
(taehyung wouldn’t know, but for seokjin, falling in love with jungkook never really started or ended in a linear sense. it didn’t travel time like a one-way street. if he had to describe it, it would be all at once, and then little by little. like his heart had known before his brain that he was going to love jungkook in more ways than one, someday.
it was also organizing the layers and layers of guilt that came with falling in love with another man, with someone younger, with someone on his team. of risking the years and years of effort it took them to get to stand where they were.
as for jungkook, he had loved seokjin from the day he met the then-university student. the one that made his flighty impulses want to stay. for him, it was falling in love over and over again in increasing capacities each time. he never thought he would ever be capable of feeling the range of emotions he feels now. and time and time again, he reminds himself that he’s lucky to have met seokjin. to have the honor of loving him.
it just took a while for them to match paces, is all.)
taehyung only vaguely remembers when seokjin and jungkook began eclipsing. what he does remember, is the way seokjin began carrying himself upright, like a weight was lifting off his shoulders. he remembers what it was like, watching seokjin learn to forgive himself.
it’s still the most beautiful thing taehyung has ever seen.
watching them now gives taehyung a lot of whiplash. it’s because while they’re working, seokjin never fails to keep it within a professional sphere of interaction. he also doesn’t do pda the way he knows jungkook used to want. so when he catches seokjin curling into jungkook’s side at the end of a long day, or absently tracing the tattoos on the younger’s arms and fingers, it feels like a sucker punch to the face. reminds him that they’re not just the playful banter they carry between practices.
they’re not that much different, but taehyung notices little traces of all the different ways they exist together that no one will ever know. it feels a bit voyeuristic, watching them during off-hours. it’s an intimacy taehyung wonders if he’ll ever come to know himself.
he remembers asking jungkook once, while the rest were recording and they were the only two eating lunch together, what it’s like loving kim seokjin. jungkook had only taken a second to consider before shrugging his shoulders and going for another bite of bulgogi.
“it’s not like anything in particular i guess? i don’t really have anything to compare it to,” he mumbles around a mouthful of food. stuffing some more rice into his mouth, he continues. “it’s cliche, but i guess it’s sort of like breathing? it’s easy, like i’ve always done it.” he cocks his head, swallowing his food. “i cant really remember what it’s like to not love him, so yeah. maybe like breathing.”
like breathing. taehyung remembers repeating those words over and over again in his mind for the rest of the day.
like breathing, he had thought later that night while slipping under the covers. he remembers scoffing audibly into the silence of his room, a fond smile forming at the corners of his lips anyway.
when he asked seokjin the same question the next day, he had let out a small bark of laughter when the older responded with only a little bit of hesitation— because old habits die hard and seokjin is still unused to letting himself have things for himself— that loving jungkook is a lot like breathing. it really was always going to be jungkook.
he supposes he can live with that.