Sometimes, Taehyung hates photography.
For a long time, it’s been his tool for understanding the world around him. It still is. His soul thinks in colours and frames. He knows how to tilt his camera to capture the light that explodes over surfaces like a gentle storm. People are beautiful with the sun on their cheeks, but they look honest before the crack of dawn. Taehyung looks for that split second when their eyes go unfocused and - bleed.
Feelings shine through the ink because he knows where to look for them.
But photos can’t capture touch. The smell. The taste.
Hoseok’s hands are around his waist, slight pressure against his ribs. They are dancing, the beat is low. It smells like the ocean and sunscreen. Hoseok feels so real in front of him, so solid and present, it makes him want to cry. If only he could stop the time, step out of his body, look at the memory before minutes, hours, years distort it. Unravel it and find what is so special about it. Be in the moment for as long as it takes to meet his hunger for a lifetime.
Hoseok doesn’t touch him often, but when he does, it rewrites his entire reality. There is no before, only after.
Taehyung knows there is no way to capture that in a photo.
Seokjin comes their way, and Taehyung offers him a hand, pulls him into the dance. Hoseok adjusts his weight and starts spinning them around. One foot follows the other. His hand is still heavy where it presses against Taehyung’s shoulder.
Sometimes, Taehyung hates photography.
His camera stays on the nightstand as he goes out with the others. The beach is vast, the sand is gold, and his fingers are sweaty enough to not miss the weight of the leather strap. Day two out of seven and Taehyung feels like he could stay in this place forever.
The sun is smoldering, but the breeze coming from the ocean is gentle against their bare arms. Their skin never gets too red because Seokjin carries sunscreen with him at all times.
“Yoongi hyung, we should make a bonfire later. Tonight.” Jeongguk doesn’t look up from his camera as he talks, but the smile on his lips is genuine.
Yoongi mutters something from where he is lying face down under the umbrella.
“He says he won’t do any work because he’s now one with the sand,” Hoseok translates for everyone.
Jimin says, “I thought he was a rock,” and they all laugh.
Hoseok folds his body in two, presses his forehead against Yoongi’s naked back. There are tears in his eyes. There is happiness on his lips.
Taehyung’s fingers spasm.
No existing camera knows how to capture Hoseok’s smile.
Jeongguk films them every day with his DSLR. It is jarring to see him pulling it out of nowhere (he keeps the camera belt looped around his hand, hides it behind his back like it’s an immoral thing to do), but he’s recorded every summer trip they took so far, be it in Helsinki, Osaka or New York. There are short films of them running out of food or clean clothes to last them a lifetime. Saipan is their last trip in the story of their university lives and the knowledge that it will be all over once they go back to Seoul puts a strange sensation in Taehyung’s chest.
No one knows what April holds for them. Namjoon is talking about going to England to study some more. Seokjin feels like moving up to France, knocking on some Micheline doors, and cooking simple food with fancy names. Yoongi dreams of turning into a rock, but one with fingers so he could still produce music.
Taheyung had Hoseok for four years. Early classes and late-night parties bound them together. The campus wasn’t big enough to allow them to hide. But four years are nothing compared to the eternity stretching out in front of them at the end of March, and the world is big enough for them to get lost without actually leaving a city.
How can Taehyung love photography when it can’t capture how Hoseok’s hands feel in his?
With no sun on the horizon, their skin turns almost blue. The sky reflects in the ocean and the ocean reflects in their eyes. Taehyung looks at them and his chest is full.
Of pain in the face of not knowing what tomorrow holds for them.
His camera is in his room, on the nightstand. Light dust, transparent dust, settled on its shutter.
“You forgot your camera,” Hoseok has told him that morning.
“It’s okay,” Taehyung said, “I won’t need it today.”
Some things stay better as memories, malleable over time.
A photograph can only burn.
The bonfire is burning, the night is ink black and they are either too drunk or tired or both to stand upright. Music sings from someone’s phone and they lay on blankets, looking up at the sky.
Namjoon names every constellation he can see. Jimin giggles and says that if they could read the stars they could predict the future.
“The stars say I’m going to be great,” Hoseok says.
Yoongi throws sand in his general direction, but it misses and it lands in the fire. It sizzles.
“The stars predict that,” and Seokjin pauses for effect, “I'm going to feed you thirty years from now because you’ll be incapable of cooking even fried rice.”
They laugh and mock Seokjin’s fancy meals. Taehyung presses his lips into a thin line and doesn’t think about the future. How could he cook for them if he is in France? He turns his head to the side, closes his eyes when he notices Hoseok looking at him.
Tonight, he’ll pretend they still have the promise of eternity.
The bonfire stops burning, the night is ink black and they are almost asleep. Music is still playing from someone’s phone and if Taehyung pays attention, he’ll notice it’s Ed Sheeran singing.
But he is not. He is on the shore, toeing the line between water and sand. His feet are wet. It’s warm enough to calm down the storm stirring up inside his heart. He inhales air and looks at the darkness stretching out in front of him. The taste of salt is heavy on his tongue.
A tap on his shoulder, a hand on his elbow, lips at his ear.
“Dance with me.”
Taehyung feels the word explode like fireworks across his skin. He looks back at the others, but Hoseok cuts his view.
“They’re asleep,” he says. He tugs at his sleeve. “Come on.”
Taehyung goes because there is no way he could say no to Hoseok. The song is low, barely audible over the waves, but they don’t need the lyrics, the melody when Hoseok is looking at him like that. He steps forward. Taehyung feels horrified, steps back, stumbles in the sand. Arms catch him around the waist. They pull and Taehyung goes with them.
“Easy,” Hoseok whispers against the side of his head.
And then, they’re dancing, swaying to the sound of water, to the sound of guitar humming through the speakers. Taehyung wants to say, I want every photo of you to belong to me, I want your future, I want to be your future.
He pushes closer. Hoseok pulls him closer.
Photographs are not enough to describe how those hands feel against his ribs, how those fingers press against the valleys of his spine. Hoseok’s lips on his cheek, on his neck, a promise made to the stars, to the ocean, to their hearts.
I want to be your future.
One day, he will.