Taehyung spends the morning flitting around. He’s got more energy than usual, making Jungkook do their stupidly long secret handshake five times in a row before Jungkook finally walks away, jumping onto Hobi’s back when Hobi is trying to brush his teeth, and stealing one of Namjoon’s shoes after he’s already put the other one on, which leads to a very awkward and destructive game of chase through the dorm. Because his presence is so loud, it takes Jimin a while to realize that he hasn’t heard Taehyung speak at all, not even to their managers when they’re en route to the Inkigayo building, not even when Jin hands him his favorite snack or when Jimin starts purposely standing on Taehyung’s feet, trying to get a reaction out of him.
“Taehyung,” Jimin says eventually, watching Taehyung shovel his lunch into his mouth so quickly his cheeks bulge and sauce gets smeared on his cheek. “Are you okay?”
Taehyung chews, blinking at him, and then swallows hard enough that Jimin almost winces. Then, very distinctly, he says, “Woof.”
It doesn’t sound like an actual dog barking. Taehyung isn’t even really going for that. It literally just sounds like the word humans use for a dog’s bark, woof, but as Jimin stares at Taehyung’s open, waiting face, he figures that they’ve roleplayed a thousand other things -- including this one, actually -- enough times that he’s not gonna let Taehyung down.
Carefully, Jimin pats Taehyung’s head and tries out, “Eat well, Taetae,” softly enough that Taehyung will understand what he’s doing. He says it like he would say it to a puppy, like the way Yoongi talks to Min Holly.
Taehyung grins at him, and continues using his chopsticks, continues sitting like a human as he eats, gets up when the coordi noonas tell him to so they can fix his tie, brushes his teeth and listens well to their managers about their schedule. Then, he lies down and puts his head in Jimin’s lap, and carefully tugs on Jimin’s hand until it’s settling into Taehyung’s hair, slowly petting.
“Taehyung is a puppy today,” Jimin tells Namjoon, because Namjoon is the leader. “But we don’t have any interviews or fansigns, so I think it’ll be okay if he can’t talk.”
Namjoon pauses, looking up at Jimin from where he’s seated, one earphone in, the other dangling. “Okay,” Namjoon says, slowly. And then, with a pained face, like he can’t help himself, “Is this a sex thing?”
Jimin probably should have predicted the question, but he’s laughing before he can help it, because he hadn’t, at all. “Um, I don’t think so?” Jimin tries, when he’s caught his breath and also caught himself against Namjoon’s shoulder. “We can’t talk about it yet, because he’s not talking.”
“Okay, well. I’ll brace myself to be supportive anyway,” Namjoon says, giving a thumbs up and going back to his phone.
Jimin figures that that’s good enough for him. If Taehyung’s not talking, people mostly leave him alone anyway, whether he’s pretending to be a dog or not, just because Taehyung can be like that sometimes. The main worry is for him not being able to answer when spoken to, but Jimin knows and Namjoon knows, so if anyone needs a response, they’ll have it covered.
They pile into the van after their recording -- Taehyung sang and danced like a human, too -- and Jimin kind of wishes that they had the rest of the day off, but there’s a photoshoot up next. When they get to the set, Taehyung waits for him by the van while Jimin shuffles around trying to find his phone. It’s under the seat when he checks, and he only dropped it because he got into a small slap war with Jungkook during the ride over. Taehyung holds a hand out for him when Jimin emerges, and they’re still holding hands when they make it into the dressing room.
“Woof,” Taehyung says, sounding just as flat and human as before, but this time it’s a bit whinier. He’s swinging their linked hands back and forth between them, pointed, even as one of the stylists holds a shirt up to Jimin’s torso appraisingly.
“I can’t hold your hand while I change,” Jimin tells Taehyung. Then, “Go woof at Yoongi-hyung, okay? He’ll pet you.”
Taehyung gives him a look like this is doubtful, but Jimin’s seen Yoongi give Min Holly face kisses, and while he’s not exactly expecting that for Taehyung, he’s pretty sure Yoongi wouldn’t kill him either.
By the time he’s changed, Yoongi’s got an arm around Taehyung’s shoulders, and Taehyung is curled into his chest, his eyes closed, feet tucked up on the couch under him. Yoongi isn’t looking at him, playing with his phone one-handed, face blank, but his other hand is slowly, gently tugging at a lock of Taehyung’s hair.
As a result, Yoongi and Taehyung end up last for every shot in the photoshoot, but Yoongi doesn’t complain. Taehyung orbits him and Jimin the entire time, fitting himself to Jimin’s side when he’s free and following Yoongi around when he’s not. Yoongi doesn’t ask questions, either, and he doesn’t get upset about it -- even if, at the end of the shoot, he says, “He needs more training than Holly,” jabbing his thumb in Taehyung’s direction.
Taehyung lets his tongue loll out. Yoongi twists his mouth a little, the way he does when he’s trying not to smile.
They pick up dinner on the way home, sending the manager hyungs into the shop with yelled, repeated, and overlapping orders. Jimin and Taehyung practice shaking hands, where Jimin will put out his palm and say, “Shake!” and Taehyung will firmly put his own hand into Jimin’s, his knuckles curled in like a paw. Hobi’s laughing at them, and he laughs harder at the way Taehyung simply shakes his hand like a human when Hobi tries it out himself.
“Bad puppy,” he says, bopping Taehyung gently on the nose. “Shake!”
Taehyung pouts exaggeratedly, like he does when he’s doing aegyo, and shimmies in his seat.
“No, no,” Hobi laughs again, and turns to Jimin. “I still kinda feel like he should get a ‘good dog’ for that, though.”
“Taetae, shake,” Jimin says. Taehyung puts his ‘paw’ into Jimin’s hand again.
“Taetae, shake,” Hobi says, and Taehyung shakes his head, grinning widely when Hobi crawls over to tackle him.
Jin sits next to Taehyung and feeds him, carefully placing bite after bite of chicken into Taehyung’s waiting mouth, even when Jimin tells him that Taehyung can eat by himself.
Taehyung puts his hands up, curled into paws again. “Woof,” he says, explanatory.
Jimin rolls his eyes.
“He’ll just make a mess if he tries to eat like that,” Jin says, giving himself a bite. He’s alternating -- two bites for him, one for Taehyung, but Taehyung seems perfectly content with this system, and Jimin figures he’s just glad that someone has given in and fed him. Namjoon said it wasn’t right to make dogs beg for food, and Jin took one look at Taehyung’s puppy eyes and caved. Now, he’s taken to saying, “Good dog!” to Taehyung in between telling himself, “Good Jin!”
“So,” Jungkook says, when Jin has paused for a drink of water, “is hyung a dog now?”
“He’s a labradoodle,” Jimin says just as Yoongi goes, “Don’t ask stupid questions,” shoving a piece of chicken onto Jungkook’s plate as he does.
Jungkook looks skeptical of both of these answers, but he’s on Taehyung’s other side, so he’s in just the right position to reach over and scratch lightly at the back of Taehyung’s neck.
Taehyung twists around and licks a wide stripe across his hand, and Jungkook yelps and laughs, saying, “Gross!” even as he goes to scratch Taehyung some more.
Taehyung follows Jimin into the bathroom that night, trailing behind him, finally a little hesitant. They’ve showered together before, but Jimin is tired, gravity is pulling him down, he feels like his face is about to melt off with the weight of his eyebags, and he thinks that Taehyung can tell. Still, he waves Taehyung over, sits him on the toilet with the lid closed, and begins filling the bath with water.
“Puppies need baths,” he says, feeling silly. Taehyung bobs his head up and down amiably. Jimin sighs, placing his hands on his hips. “I really don’t know what I’m doing, Taetae. So I guess you should woof twice if I get it wrong.”
“Woof,” Taehyung says, soft and warm, looking up at him.
“Yeah,” Jimin says. “We’ll talk later, though, okay? When you’re ready. And don’t pee on the floor. Because that’s too much, even your paws can lift the seat.”
“Woof,” Taehyung says. Jimin hears it as no promises, and he glares.
“You’re getting bathroom duty for three weeks if you pee on the floor, don’t test me,” Jimin warns.
When the bath is full, Jimin helps Taehyung pull his shirt over his head. The neck gets caught over Taehyung’s forehead and Jimin spends a full twenty seconds yanking and telling him to just let some air out of there, oh my god before Taehyung pops out, hair mussed, grinning helplessly. Taehyung holds onto Jimin’s arm when he pulls off his own pants and underwear, and he keeps holding on as he climbs into the bath, hissing a little at the hot water but sinking down anyway. Then, Jimin pulls up a plastic little stool he brought in, dumps a cup of water over Taehyung’s head, and starts massaging shampoo into his hair.
“Woof,” Taehyung says. It’s kind of garbled and wet, more like a sad cat than any kind of dog Jimin’s ever heard. Taehyung’s got his eyes shut tight against the shampoo dripping down his face -- Jimin has no idea how his parents managed this when he was a baby, but Jimin does his best. Taehyung arguably has better emotional control than a baby, though, so he’s barely splashing around in the water at all. Jimin rinses Taehyung’s hair with a couple more cups of water, and then he lathers up a loofa and slaps it into one of Taehyung’s paws.
“Woof,” Taehyung complains, but he gets to work anyway. By the time he’s done, Jimin has already washed his face, brushed his teeth, and decided to save his own shower for the morning. No matter how gross he feels, he feels even more tired, and it takes energy he doesn’t have to throw a towel over Taehyung’s head and rub his hair dry. He does it anyway. Taehyung dries his body by himself, and holds onto Jimin again so he can pull on some boxers.
It’s not as awkward as Jimin might’ve thought, had he really paused to consider the situation. Instead, it’s natural and easy. He throws the towel over Taehyung’s head again when Taehyung’s brushing his teeth, and watches Taehyung draw smiley faces -- and one surprised face, which looks suspiciously like an emoji representation of Jungkook -- onto the steamed-up mirror.
Hobi’s sitting on his bed when they come out. “Alright, kids,” he says, waving them over with a hairbrush. Taehyung’s face lights up, and he takes a running jump onto Hobi’s bed, which protests even louder than Hobi himself does.
Then Jimin takes the same running jump onto Taehyung and Hobi, who both shriek enough for someone to start banging on the walls.
“Shhh,” Hobi says, loudly, smushing a finger to Taehyung’s lips after Jimin’s crawled off of them and settled back against Hobi’s pillows.
“‘Oof,” Taehyung says, muffled, but he’s passive and pliant as Hobi tugs him closer, situating him in the vee of Hobi’s legs, Taehyung’s back to Hobi’s front.
Jimin watches cat videos on YouTube and reads out silly fan Tweets to them as Hobi slowly, gently brushes through Taehyung’s hair like that, again and again, Taehyung melting into Hobi’s chest, his eyes closed.
“This one says that she’s going to sue Yoongi-hyung for emotional damages,” Jimin tells them, “because his legs are too nice.”
“They are nice,” Hobi murmurs.
“Mmm,” is all Taehyung manages.
“This cat thinks its owner is drowning because they’re taking a bath.”
“Woof,” Taehyung says over the sound of the distressed meows. It’s a very sympathetic woof.
They spend a long time there, in Hobi’s bed, until Taehyung has dozed off, his mouth wide open, and Hobi has stopped using the brush so he can slowly run his fingers through Taehyung’s hair instead, scratching lightly at the base of his neck, pushing his bangs back again and again until Taehyung’s hair is fluffy and messy.
Jimin ends up carrying Taehyung to his bed -- not because Taehyung doesn’t wake up, but because when he does, he puts his arms out, blinking sleepily up at Jimin, and croaks out a pathetic little woof that Jimin’s not really ever going to be strong enough to ignore.
Bridal style is easiest, especially since Taehyung doesn’t seem inclined to move, and Hobi is too busy giggling at them to help.
When Jimin goes to set Taehyung down on his bed, though, Taehyung doesn’t let go of him, his arms curled tight around Jimin’s shoulders. And Jimin laughs and whines, “Taehyung,” as he falls into the bed, nearly faceplanting into Taehyung’s neck, but he’s asleep before Hobi even turns out the lights.
The next morning, Jimin wakes up to Taehyung rolling on top of him and biting his shoulder, where the wide neck of his t-shirt has slipped off. It's a sharp, twisting pinch of his teeth, hard enough to bruise, nearly hard enough to break the skin. Jimin is shouting before he even has his eyes open.
“You were better behaved as a dog,” Jimin hisses, slapping at Taehyung’s back until Taehyung rolls off with a laugh.
“Positive reinforcement,” Taehyung claims. “And I like being a dog. All I have to do is sit still while people pet me and tell me how good I am, even when I haven’t done anything.”
Rubbing at his shoulder, Jimin blinks at him, at how bright and happy Taehyung looks. They’ve been so busy lately that he thinks it’s maybe been a while since any of them looked that refreshed. “So, is that why you wanted to be a puppy?” he asks.
Taehyung hums. He tucks his head against Jimin’s shoulder -- the uninjured one -- and noses at his neck. “Maybe?” he says. “But also I woke up and I just. I didn’t feel like being a person. Not really. It felt like the most exhausting thing in the world, just thinking about it.”
“Well, you are a pretty exhausting person,” Jimin says, wrapping an arm around Taehyung in return and petting at his hair.
“Yeah,” Taehyung sighs. “And none of you know how to play fetch! Yoongi-hyung kept doing that thing where you pretend to throw something, and it took me like ten minutes to figure it out.”
Jimin laughs. “You couldn't have really thought he'd throw Kumamon for you.”
“I'm worth a Kumamon or two,” Taehyung grumbles. He throws an arm over Jimin’s chest, and his fingers dance around until they're circling the place he bit. If Jimin twists his neck a little he can see it, already purpling.
“It’s not that I’d wanna do it all the time,” Taehyung says, barely a whisper. “But it was nice.”
“Yoongi-hyung petted you, and Jin-hyung fed you,” Jimin agrees. “Hobi-hyung brushed you.”
“You gave me a bath.”
Jimin snorts. “I just washed your hair.”
“It was nice,” Taehyung repeats, petulant. He hits Jimin’s shoulder a little, right over the bite.
Jimin pauses, looking at him. The set of his mouth. His pout is exaggerated and silly, but Jimin’s seen Taehyung at his most vulnerable moments, has lived through heartache and heartbreak, and it occurs to him that Taehyung is asking him a question.
Is this okay? Is this too weird?
Jimin figures that there must be some sort of comfort in being taken care of in a way where you don’t have to actually ask for it. In a way where you aren’t really yourself for a while -- letting go of pressures, expectations, and the chaos that comes with everyday life. Especially their life. It can get overwhelming. They’re all far better equipped than most people to understand that.
Maybe that’s why they didn’t really question it, when Taehyung was a puppy. It’s Taehyung. It’s them. There’s not much more to it.
And anyway, Jimin likes roleplaying.
“It was nice,” Jimin answers.
Taehyung smiles at him, peering up at his face, and there’s a moment where they just look at each other, incredibly fond.
And then the moment gets too long, and they start giggling.
“Okay, get your dog breath out of my face,” Jimin says.
To which, of course, Taehyung responds by climbing on top of him and holding Jimin down with his wrists above his head, pressed into the pillows, so that Taehyung can blow more of his dog breath into Jimin’s face.
“No!” Jimin yells, laughing and struggling under Taehyung. “No, bad dog! Bad!”
“Bad dog,” Hobi mumbles from his bed, where he’s got his head buried under a pillow.
“I’m the greatest dog,” Taehyung tells Jimin. “Say I’m the greatest dog. The greatest dog that ever lived.”
“You’re the worst dog,” Jimin says, grinning up at Taehyung and sticking out his tongue.
“Say I’m the greatest dog or -- or I’ll lick your armpit!” Taehyung tightens his hands around Jimin’s wrists, and it’s not threatening or anything, it’s just so ridiculous. Jimin is shocked into laughter again, throwing his head back, and Taehyung manages a serious face for about three seconds before he collapses into Jimin, giggling into the side of his neck.
“I mean,” Jimin says, breathless and crying a little, “I think that’s kind of more of a punishment for you? I haven’t even showered.”
“Dogs like smelly things,” Taehyung explains. He lets Jimin’s wrists go and Jimin puts his arms around Taehyung, hugging him, squirming at the way Taehyung’s lips brush against his neck when he speaks.
“You must really like me right now, then.”
“I really like you all the time.”
“I’m not smelly all the time!”
“I just really like you,” Taehyung mumbles.
Jimin smiles, affectionate and feeling kind of like he could stay in this bed, with Taehyung, forever. Or at least until someone else gets up and starts making breakfast.
And then Jimin finally gets a whiff of himself and he grimaces, shoving Taehyung off of him and sitting up in bed.
“Come wash my hair for me,” he tells Taehyung, and Taehyung frowns, his lips pulling down dramatically, brows furrowing.
“Aren’t you gonna say you like me, too?”
“After you wash my hair,” Jimin says, getting up and tugging Taehyung along. Taehyung trips out of bed, and then Jimin is bodily dragging him to the bathroom.
“Bribery,” Taehyung announces. “You’re eliciting a bribe. You’ll only say you like me if I give you something.”
“Taehyung,” Jimin says, exasperated. “I told you that you were my soulmate, like, last week.”
“Soulmate? What’s that? Is that something you eat?”
“Taehyung,” Jimin says, pushing Taehyung to sit on the edge of the tub and taking both of Taehyung’s hands in his. He looks at Taehyung’s face, and says, very seriously, “I don’t like you.”
Taehyung immediately starts fake crying.
“Taehyung!” Jimin laughs, angling his body closer. “Taehyung, I love you.”
Taehyung’s face clears up and he grins, pulling Jimin even closer by his hands, until Jimin’s standing in between Taehyung’s legs and Taehyung practically has his face buried in Jimin’s shirt.
“Oh,” Taehyung says. “Well, I guess that’s okay.”
And it is.