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Diminuendo of the Heart

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“What if we wait for hours?”

Taehyung immediately shushed him, putting a finger up to his lips. It did little to hide his full smile and escaping giggles. Jungkook did not remain silent, but rather slipped into a similar fit of giggles.

“Someone’s bound to come in soon − at least to nap. Probably Yoongi-Hyung!”

He had dragged Jungkook into the dorm’s bedroom as soon as everyone else had turned the other way. They padded their way into their shared sleeping space, illuminated only by the rays of the already setting sun.

Taehyung couldn’t remember the last time they had headed home before the world outside their studio could slip into total darkness. Maybe there was nothing more satisfying than the thrumming state his body fell into after a long day of rehearsals. But, he longed for light-hearted and cheerful moments too. Thus, he had convinced their youngest in muted whispers to pull a simple prank. Hide in their bedroom behind the opened door, facing the three bunk beds. Push the door closed and reveal themselves once whichever unsuspecting member would fully enter their bedroom. Laugh and spread good cheer; a simple plan.

As far as Taehyung was concerned, the plan was already effective. Jungkook was beside him, squirming excitedly and unable to keep his lips from curling upwards. It was a stark contrast to the worried expression he’d worn the whole ride home. While management had given them the green light to head home and rest, Hoseok and Jimin had not hesitated to stay behind and practice. Taehyung knew Jungkook wanted to relax at home. He also knew guilt was crushing him from seeing others work for longer hours when he had chosen to rest.

They both heard the shower start, a sound they were unable to escape from, no matter where in the dorm. Taehyung made one last shushing noise, tensing up as he expected whoever had lost the rights to the first shower to soon enter the bedroom.

The sound of feet was nearly indiscernible under the rushing roar of the shower. Taehyung had rested the palms of his hands on the door, ready to scare whoever would come in as soon as he’d hear the lightest of steps. He jumped in surprise when his ears instead picked up on a voice, hands retreating to curl near his chest.

“ − I’m not saying I regret it, but what if I do one day?”

Taehyung nodded solemnly, placing an arm over Jungkook’s chest to keep him from leaping out. However, the teenager seemed to have picked up on the tone as quickly as Taehyung had. They hadn’t quite thought their victim could be victims, already absorbed in a serious conversation. Yoongi’s emotionally charged voice easily convinced them to wait a few beats before acting. While passionate, they were used to his straightforward, no-nonsense way of handling any issue that came his way.

“And what’s the worst case scenario exactly?”

He pressed his lips together, and his body more fully against the wall behind him. The warm press of Jungkook’s arm against his was reassuring, but not quite as reassuring as knowing he too was shrinking back from what was turning into clear eavesdropping. He glanced downwards, trying to catch the movements of their fellow members through the shadows at play with the vanishing sunlight. There was no denying that Yoongi was having a serious conversation with their leader and that they should absolutely not be present to witness it. He also couldn’t conceptualize a way in which to elegantly announce they were hidden behind the bedroom door.

“The worst case scenario is that we ended up in the wrong group of persons and that we’re bound to a six-year contract making music that isn’t the music we want to be creating.” A pause.“Don't give me that look. You know full well we’ve cycled through a lot of trainees, what if this is the wrong combination? No, don’t answer. I’m telling you it’s the wrong group. We’re going to end up making dissatisfying and disheartened music.”

The press of Taehyung’s lips was becoming painful. He’d never heard Yoongi express anything like that. The shock was not at all dulled by the whispered quality of Yoongi’s words. He was starting to feel strange. Surely Jungkook did too. Taehyung’s arm had fallen away from him, but now he had loosely wrapped his fingers around Taehyung’s wrist.

A long silence stretched out before Namjoon’s reply.

“I get it, you’re nervous for our debut. But that’s all it is. I know we have the right team, the perfect team. It’s fine if you don’t believe in it right at this moment, or at any moment really. I will keep believing enough for the both of us.”

Jungkook’s fingers on his skin felt better now. More of a sign of solidarity, rather than the suffocating feeling that had spread through his chest while the silence had dragged.

“It’s not fine, Namjoon. You and me, that’s fine. Hoseok is fine, he puts in the work and he improves in leaps and bounds. Jimin might be fine. Hasn’t been around for long, but works hard enough and seriously enough that it’s not like he won’t create great music one day.”

Taehyung inhaled deeply, and loud enough that it would have been heard had the shower suddenly stopped. This was unfamiliar too. Though they pushed each other to work hard nearly constantly, he’d never heard anyone in the group judging each person’s performance and worth. As he had expected, the words Yoongi continued with were not as forgiving.

“Jungkook? He’s our best vocalist. But, he thinks so too. There’s no way that kid’s working enough, or even realizes that he needs to be working harder!”

“Yeah, he’s a kid. Give him some time, he’s growing at his own pace.”

He wiggled his hand out of Jungkook’s hold. Weakly, he wrapped his hand around Jungkook’s instead. He didn’t dare glance at the boy, didn’t dare find out which emotions were dancing across his features in reaction to the words. He feared Namjoon’s defence and his simple show of affection might not be enough to counteract Yoongi’s bite.

The fear was pushed to the back of his mind by Yoongi’s next comments.

“Taehyung and Seokjin? They’re just here because of their faces. They’re never going to contribute anything musically.”

It was spoken with finality. And, Taehyung distantly registered, was the first sentence spoken at a normal volume. Like, this time, Yoongi might not have been afraid of being overheard.

The silence this time was the longest, or so Taehyung was convinced. Unintentionally, his reassuring hold of Jungkook’s hand became desperate.

“That’s enough. We’re each other’s family. Both Taehyung and Seokjin have something special, something essential to what we’re doing. Alright?” Taehyung kept his eyes on the shadows he could see from underneath the door. Some movement, but he wasn’t sure what was happening on the other side.“Let’s go grab something to eat, you’ll feel better.”

“We don’t have the money. And there’s our diet too.”

“Let me worry about that, c’mon.”

They stayed hidden longer than strictly necessary. Taehyung wasn’t sure how to move forward from this. His simple plan had had an unforeseen and unprecedented impact. Jungkook was no longer squirming or giggling by his side. Nonetheless, when he finally gathered the courage to let go of his hand, to turn to face him, he was surprised by the expression the younger wore. Darkness bathed the room now, sun out of sight until the next day to come.

Jungkook did not seem pained, confused, disappointed, or any other emotion currently fighting for dominance within Taehyung. Instead he seemed determined and focused, more so than ever before.

“Hyung, it’s fine. Don’t worry about me. Yoongi-Hyung was right. I need to work harder. I’m not going to beat myself up over it, I just need to start now.”

Taehyung twisted his mouth and tilted his head, attempting to display some expression to show he had heard.

Jungkook continued, not at all discouraged,“in fact, I think if I head back now I can catch at least another hour of practice with Hoseok and Jimin.”

“I’m sorry.”

The words felt oddly shaped in his mouth. He didn’t know if they carried the proper meaning: that he was sorry his actions had brought on the opposite benefits of what he had intended. Instead of a few ephemeral moments of joy and carefreeness, he had pushed Jungkook right back towards training. It hardly mattered that the result was directly connected to Yoongi’s words.

He did not attempt to convince Jungkook to rest, and he did not try to follow him out of the dorm. It wasn’t exactly as if Yoongi had said he needed to work harder on his voice, or his dancing. He’d simply been pushed to the side with no shadow of potential or promise.

It wasn’t long before he found himself in their living area, alone. The steady rush of water from the shower reminded him that Seokjin was the only other person at home. Seokjin was the only person Yoongi had sorted into the same category as Taehyung.

“Hyung! Jin-Hyung!"

Without thinking of it, he let his feet lead him to the bathroom. He hammered his fists on the door, continued to call out, and didn’t give a thought to why he desperately needed to see and speak to Seokjin immediately.

When the sounds of the shower continued uninterrupted, he continued “Hyung, it’s an emergency!”

Seokjin emerged, towel hurriedly wrapped around his waist, hair flattened against his head, and skin slightly flushed with the heat of the shower. Taehyung noticed the shower still running in the background.

“Taehyung? What’s going on?” His eyebrows furrowed, eyes searching as if to spot the alleged emergency. “I know I’ve been in there for a while already, but... Hyung needs this. When’s the last time any of us has taken a long shower?”

Still unsure of what it was he desperately needed to tell Seokjin, or just why he needed to see him, Taehyung panicked and blurted out a quick request “can I shower with you?”

He felt his shoulders rising up. His question would surely be suspicious. In the past, he’d cooed over Jungkook’s shyness alongside everyone else, fondly noticing his hesitation to even change in front of them. Yet, Taehyung had eventually become one to shy away from opting into shared showers when in a rush. He’d also picked up the habit of turning the other way when one of them was changing, even in the context of the dressing areas at photo-shoot locations.

He was by no means shy. But, he didn’t understand the discomfort and the strange feeling he’d experience around the others when they were in any state of undress. Somehow, Jungkook and Jimin didn’t pose much of a problem. But everyone else, no matter how slight the difference in age, felt so much more adult like than he did. And Seokjin was the most adult out of them.

He’s surprised when Seokjin lets him in wordlessly. He still made sure to avert his eyes when Seokjin stepped back into the shower. He took extra care and time in undressing and folding his clothes in a corner of the bathroom. He almost reversed his steps to put his clothes back on and to head out once nude, but ultimately stepped into the warm shower. He stayed far away from Seokjin. Seokjin seemed to understand Taehyung’s strange sense of distress, only frowning at him before turning back to the hot jet of the water.

“Hyung.” And then, Taehyung spoke without knowing what would come out. His words felt unnecessarily loud in the constrained area, louder than the water hitting the tiled wall. “Do you think we’re only here because of our looks? You and me? Like, we’ll never actually contribute anything musically?”

His mouth felt full, but he couldn’t manage to swallow down. His eyes felt tight, pained, which he knew could only be explained by the tearful blurriness of his sight. His heart felt heavy as he realized that the words earlier had mattered. They had mattered a lot and enough for him to remember each one specifically. He remembered the way Yoongi had uttered each syllable.

Seokjin glanced over his shoulder. Thankfully, Taehyung thought, he quickly looked back ahead to respond.

“Sure, I think our looks mattered a lot. There are lots of other handsome guys out there though, right? And it’s not like we don’t have artistic inclinations. I acted, you played the saxophone. We both somewhat enjoy creating. Not sure how our looks would keep us from contributing.”

Though usually Taehyung would have felt slightly ill intimately sharing a shower with an older member, he rushed to wrap his arms around Seokjin’s middle. He pressed his forehead to the centre of Seokjin’s back and pretended the wetness on his cheeks was entirely from the shower.

Neither said more. But, Seokjin carefully stroked Taehyung’s tense hands, where they rested over his ribcage. He helped dry off Taehyung’s hair afterwards, with a quiet sense of affection.

And Taehyung had pushed Yoongi’s words far, far down by the time anyone else returned to the dorms. He smiled brightly and unworriedly to every single returning member. When Yoongi smiled back, gentle and caring as he tended to be, he felt as if he’d finally been able to breathe all the way in.

 

− − −

Yoongi curled onto his right side, staring intensely at the portion of sky they could watch from their bedroom window. He still felt slightly ashamed. Namjoon had given no sign that he was judging him as he found many ways of expressing his anxiety and worries. He’d patiently waited and listened as Yoongi passed blame around. Putting his fears onto the other members’ shoulders, then on management’s, the producers’, Namjoon’s himself. Until he’d finally broken down on their way home, speaking freely of his worst fears. They wouldn’t be able to succeed. They’d make all the music that Yoongi’s heart longed to make. And the world would judge them, and decide they hadn’t been worth anything much. It was a shared fear. They all held it close to their hearts. But as summer drew closer, Yoongi felt his personal fear escalate higher and higher.

He’d put a hand over Namjoon’s shoulder in thanks before climbing up into his bed for the night. He promised himself he’d thank him in a better way in the future, when they were successful enough for Yoongi to thank him in a way he deserved.

Unable to sleep, lights not yet entirely turned off as Jimin had only just returned home, he flipped onto his other side. In the other two top bunks, Taehyung and Seokjin. Between the two bunks, Yoongi noticed they were holding hands. The hands were hanging above nothingness, but from what he could see of Seokjin’s expression, it wasn’t uncomfortable or painful. At least, it was decent enough that he’d already fallen asleep.

He made a small humming noise, silently agreeing with the way Namjoon had phrased things, hours earlier when he’d barely been able to catch his breath. They were family. Each member supported one another, no matter the difficulties ahead.

He wasn’t expecting for Taehyung to turn his head and meet his eyes. Yet, he didn’t feel any reaction of surprise within him. The other held the sort of effortless beauty that transformed his face into something overwhelmingly familiar, comforting. He smiled easily at Taehyung, who finally inched his hand away from Seokjin’s.

“Hyung? You should sleep.” He licked his lips, a habit their choreographer constantly tried to snap Taehyung out of. Whenever the boy would concentrate too hard, he would stick his tongue out. “Please don’t worry anymore. We’ll be fine.”

Yoongi didn’t ponder too much on how Taehyung had read the worry on his features. He’d proven in the past to be sensitive to others’ moods, and at times deceivingly perceptive. Mostly, he was too entranced in the way Taehyung reached across the divide between their bunks this time. Yoongi did not reach out in return, but Taehyung’s arm was long enough that when straightened out, he could interlace their fingers together over Yoongi’s mattress.

“I’m not worried anymore,” he answered, endeared by the way Taehyung’s face melted into an honest expression of joy.

He rubbed the pad of his thumb over Taehyung’s fingernails until the younger fell asleep. His fingernails were pink, soft, shaped beautifully. Nothing like the worried mess he’d made of his own fingernails. The last thought on his mind was that Taehyung was as beautiful a person as his face or his fingernails were. Endlessly giving in his affections and love.

On the following morning, their alarm blared before the sunrise. Even in the darkness he knew that, somewhere in the night, he’d reached out in return. Their hands were joined over emptiness now, somewhere between their two beds.

 

− x − x −

Taehyung stepped outside, finding Namjoon without trouble. The man was crouched down, back against the bricked wall, head thrown back and eyes shut. He was always easy to locate. Whenever he was out of sight, it simply meant that he was outside enjoying either the quietness of nature or the buzz of the city.

Taehyung frowned, wondering if he should offer him some sunscreen. He’d read somewhere that it was easier to tan and for skin to burn in Los Angeles than it was in Korea. As it was, Namjoon’s face was tilted to bask directly in the sun’s rays.

He sat down next to Namjoon. Back home, it was sometimes nice to tag along on Namjoon’s walks. He knew the other preferred solitude from time to time, so it wasn’t all that often. Here, it felt a little less nice. He had admitted it to a few staff members, but not to any of his members, that he’d been feeling both physically and home sick.

"What’s up, Taehyung?”

Taehyung smiled, settling down more comfortably next to him, sitting cross-legged rather than crouching. Namjoon hadn’t opened his eyes, but at this point they all knew one another well enough to forego relying on sight to know who was next to them.

“Ah well... I was just wondering. That thing Nate said?” Namjoon’s face gave no sign of recognition, so he continued in a slower tone.“What does it mean? To be a dumb blonde?”

Namjoon turned his head, staring Taehyung down as he answered in equally slow measures.

“Dumb blonde,” he emphasized the English pronunciation, probably correcting a distinction Taehyung couldn’t hear, before giving an explanation.“Characters who are very attractive, but aren’t the sharpest, those are usually referred to as dumb blondes. Pretty, but a bit stupid.”

“And I’m a dumb blonde?”

"Of course not. I’m sure Nate just meant it in an English-speaking context. Not super knowledgeable in how to communicate in English, but cute just the same because of your looks.”

Taehyung tried smiling, but he didn’t quite manage. He looked down at his hands, staring intensely at the skin of his wrists and wondering how long he could allow himself to stay outside without putting on at least some sunscreen.

“Didn’t Yoongi-Hyung say that people all over the world see me that way?”

He licked the front of his teeth, wondering why he suddenly felt queasy. The dumb blonde comment, maybe he was fine with it. Yet Yoongi’s quick reply sat heavy on his chest.

“Oh, c’mon. I’m sure that was for the sake of broadcast. Hyung loves you, he wouldn’t go out of his way to call you slow.”

He resisted the urge to bite back that Yoongi just might not love him. Despite the fact that Yoongi had never outright said as much, he knew he loved him. They all loved each other, they shared their lives with one another, and, at times, it felt like his whole world was the other six members. Those were the times he made sure to call home to get news from his family in Daegu. He thinks he might be fine with the other six being his entire world, but the shame of being a bad son or brother never lets him think as much for too long of a time.

“Aren’t I, though? Sometimes it takes me time to get things. And finding words is hard. Sometimes, even knowing how I feel is hard.” He ended the sentence with an off-key chuckle, the sound hollow from the strain in his throat from the cold he’d been keeping secret.

Namjoon’s hand landed heavily on his shoulder, but Taehyung kept his eyes focused on his own hands.

“Sometimes, others say things thoughtlessly. And it’s just better not to give too much thought to those words either. I know you’re brilliant, Hyung does too, and I’m sure Nate can see it, even with the language barrier.”

Taehyung nodded as enthusiastically as he could manage.

“I’ll see you inside, Hyung.”

He regretted reaching out; if only because, for the first time in seemingly months, he remembered Yoongi’s words. For the first time this year, he remembered how convinced Yoongi’s voice had sounded when he’d stated that Taehyung would never make any musical contributions of his own.

 

− − − −

“All I’m asking is why you didn’t tell me as soon as he started singing like this.”

“Hyung! Why would I know more than you do? Most of my vocal lessons are one-on-one.”

Despite his raised voice, Jungkook was smiling. He was seemingly excited by Yoongi’s own aggressive excitement. As soon as a different car had taken Taehyung away from their first lesson with Iris, he’d all but exploded at Jungkook.

The combination of Taehyung’s voice in the studio, Iris Stevenson’s awed and continuous praise, and the sudden knowledge that Taehyung had been sick for most of the time they had been in Los Angeles − sick enough that the staff had driven him to the hospital − propelled him into an embarrassingly emotional state.

Once he’d entered his designated car with Jungkook, he’d retrieved one of his notebooks from his backpack and began scribbling away madly. All the while hotly interrogating Jungkook as to just why and how Taehyung’s voice had become so mesmerizing.

“Ok, wipe that smirk off. We’ve been doing a great disservice to his voice. Did you hear the way she was talking to him? She was totally ready to, I don’t know, convince him to stay here and become a prodigy without us. We have to showcase his voice better. There’s no way he’s happy with this, we have him growl his lines half the time. He could be singing like an angel to the masses instead.”

He tapped his fingers in irritation over the pages of his notebook. He was aware that the crewmember driving their car would be privy to his outburst, but maybe it was worth it. While Taehyung was beloved by fans everywhere, surely no one fan realized the full range of his voice.

Jungkook hadn’t intervened with anything, so he added on,“she’s right, you know? His voice makes you feel something. That’s powerful, that’s not something that’s reached through technique alone. I feel so stupid, I should start attending everyone’s vocal lessons, better monitor progress. How can I write the best songs for the group if I’m not addressing our real strengths and shortcomings.”

“Hyung,” Jungkook whined to grab his attention. Unknowingly, he’d gone back to writing midway through his rant. Jungkook touched their feet together somewhat shyly. He scooted as close as he could despite the seatbelt’s restraint. The volume of his voice better suited a private conversation, perhaps in an attempt to keep it from their driver. “Taehyung’s not feeling... disabused, or anything like that. He’s so happy whenever he’s on stage performing. I don’t think he minds what kind of part he’s given.”

Yoongi opened his mouth to protest, but Jungkook cut him off with a coy smile.“But! You should compliment his voice like you just did. He looks up to you so much, he might go into shock!”

He let out a small ‘humph’, leaning back into the leather seat.

“No, I won’t tell him any of that. You won’t either. I’ll just show him. Too late for the next album, but the one after? I’m going to make sure he gets lines where he can shine.”

He crossed his arms with finality, deciding all the ideas he was jotting down could wait for a few or maybe several months more. Jungkook was still smiling, but now a tad more worriedly. Yoongi knew it had nothing to do with jealousy or envy. It was very obvious, in Jungkook’s character, that he was his happiest when his fellow members succeeded and prospered. So he moved his eyebrows in an admittedly complicated way, but knowing Jungkook would read it as a prompt to speak up.

“Well... I mean... Do you think we’ll be able to have two more comebacks?”

As far as Yoongi knew, it was Namjoon who was dragged to any and all meetings discussing finances. While the others didn’t know as much or as in so many details, they were all aware of the general state of things.

He put an arm around Jungkook’s shoulders, also scooting over to press against him.

“Yes. I have no doubts. We’re a great team. I believe we can get through any rough spot and keep going together.”

“Really?”

He tried to think nothing of the slight surprise in Jungkook’s voice as he rested his head onto Yoongi’s shoulder. He simply hummed in confirmation.

“Besides, now I know that you failed in reporting to me every slight improvement your fellow vocalists have made.”

“Hyung! I’m telling you, I couldn’t have known!”

He kept teasing Jungkook throughout the day, and watched on proudly as the other practiced and trained his voice based on Iris’ corrections. He listened to everyone else’s retelling of their days as the members progressively returned to their home base. He didn’t even push for more information when Taehyung assured them all that his health was in top shape. But, no matter the person he was interacting with, his mind was haunted by Taehyung’s voice singing Michael Bublé.

The memory was prevalent enough that he couldn’t help but to watch over him throughout the evening. He was the first one to notice Taehyung heading to bed, even though the lights were all still on and the living area was essentially one and the same with their sleeping area. From his spot on the couch, closest to the bunks, he could distinctively see Taehyung curl around a pillow in his designated spot, almost miserably.

He tried to redirect his focus to the loud conversation before him, the group bursting into laughter at something he had missed. He quirked his lips upwards, but his heart wasn’t in it. He was too preoccupied with the way Taehyung’s voice had carried throughout the studio, the way their mentor’s face had lit up at the sound, the way Taehyung still hadn’t spoken a word of feeling sick.

He caught sight of the plush tiger he’d won at the crane game at the laundromat, the first one that he’d won and given to Taehyung. It was resting atop the table right next to the screen that supposably separated their beds from the living room. He knew Jungkook must have left the second tiger at the laundromat. While he sometimes came off as aloof and uncaring for the small things he’d receive, he knew Jungkook must have left it behind, thinking a child or someone else might come upon it and need it more than he did. Taehyung was a little different in that sense, used to treasure material things he was offered, even when they didn’t bring him fortune. He thought back fondly to Taehyung’s red North Face jacket. Even when other trainees had commented snidely about it, including Yoongi who’d written Taehyung off as a spoiled teenager, he’d worn the jacket in a show of appreciation to his mother who’d thoughtfully believed he could better fit in with such apparel.

Decisively, he stood up and went to collect the tiger. When he crouched down next to Taehyung’s bed, Taehyung smiled, clearly nowhere near asleep.

“I thought this guy might be of some help,” he mumbled, gesturing towards the plush toy.

Taehyung sat up, and Yoongi pretended not to notice the wince when he did and the way his hand jerked upwards as if to clutch his head in pain. Instead, Taehyung placed the pillow he’d been hugging beneath his head and accepted to cuddle the plush tiger instead.

“Thank you, Hyung.”

While his voice wasn’t sleepy, it certainly rang tired. He frowned, leaning slightly away to glance at the rest of the group, still laughing away. He schooled his expression, brushing the bangs off Taehyung’s forehead to surreptitiously feel for any traces of a fever.

“You know, fans compare you to a lion. But I think you might be more of a tiger.”

“Really?”

The word was articulated in the same way Jungkook had when Yoongi had told him he had no doubts in their group’s success. He made a mental note to more often express his appreciation for his younger members.

“Of course. Do you want me to ask Jin-Hyung to come to bed?”

Taehyung nodded mutely.

While Yoongi had ended up on a bottom bunk and as far as possible from the window − the complete opposite of his sleeping arrangement back in Seoul − Taehyung had at least managed to surround himself in the same way he did back at home. He had Seokjin and Yoongi on either side of him, and Jimin sharing the bunk vertically, except here Jimin was on top.

Over the past year, he had noticed that Taehyung wouldn’t settle down to sleep until Seokjin was ready to do so as well.

As he moved to stand up, Taehyung patted his shoulder.

“Hey, will you come to bed, too?”

“Sure thing,” he replied automatically.

It wasn’t until he had his head on his own pillow, room quieter now that half the group had decided to go to bed, that he understood. So maybe Taehyung always waited on both Yoongi and Seokjin to go to bed. He had never noticed as, of course, he wouldn’t have known Taehyung was up when he was away.

 

− x − x − x −

Taehyung clutched the sheets of paper closer to his chest, blinking tiredly up at his ceiling. He’d lost a significant amount of sleep debating whether or not he was going through with this for a solo song.

He groaned, cursing the day weeks ago where they’d sat in the meeting about this very subject. For their second regular album, they’d each have their own solo song. It would be their opportunity to tell their story. And Taehyung absolutely hated it. Well, Taehyung mostly hated it. It was his chance to create the sort of track he wanted to sing and perform. However, he was constantly fighting down the fear and anxiety related to finally ‘contributing musically’.

And his story wasn’t coming out easily. He longed for his song to be an expression of love. From what he’d heard, Hoseok was expressing his love for his mother, Jungkook for the other members, Namjoon for himself − or at least his fight for that sort of love, and Yoongi for his first love, music. He pulled the sheets away from his body, squinting up at the words. His attempt now was a tangle of confusion, self-loathing, and pain. There wasn’t much of anything loving in the lyrics he’d come up with.

He’d tried talking about it with Jimin. But, Jimin’s theme felt far away too. Jimin’s feelings towards perfectionism were a world more admirable than what Taehyung had managed to put down into words.

He removed his headphones desolately. He’d begged the producers to get the tracks for Yoongi’s upcoming mix tape. Since he had gotten them, he’d looped ‘Give It To Me’ over and over again. It was mostly to hear the single line of rapping ‘I can’t live like a dog when I’m born to be a tiger.’

He didn’t know if Yoongi remembered comparing him to a tiger, years ago. In fact, he wasn’t all too sure the conversation had not been a fever-induced dream. But, hearing the words made something within him tremble. At one point, maybe, Yoongi had seen him as a tiger. And Yoongi saw himself as tiger, passionate and willing to live fiercely. He was unwilling to settle for less than what he deserved. And Taehyung needed to emulate that. He needed to be brave.

“Ok, you can do this. Hyung isn’t scared of rapping about anything really. And you shouldn’t be afraid of singing about who you are.”

He was whispering to himself. Now that his headphones were off, he could hear Namjoon on his side of the room. Judging by the voices and conversation, he was meeting with Seokjin to go over their corrections from their dance training of the day. While their choreographer stressed that they each note down their corrections, he’d also recommended that the two (Namjoon and Seokjin specifically) meet to go over them out loud. Taehyung was grateful they hadn’t felt singled out, and had taken it in stride to best improve their dancing.

Seokjin’s voice gave him a sliver of an idea. He was worried about what he’d written. It was a lyrical confession of some sorts. It was his first time trying to put things into lyrics to be presented to the world. And Yoongi knew how to do that. And most importantly, it was impossible to let Yoongi down, as he’d already predicted Taehyung wouldn’t be able to do these sorts of things. And he’d be in his room, right now, sans Seokjin.

“Alright,” he whispered confidently to himself. Before leaving the bedroom altogether, he waved at the other two members.“I’m just stepping out to work on my song, keep working hard!”

His stomach ached as he entered the next bedroom, passing by Seokjin’s side to find Yoongi in the middle of his bed, writing away with a pair of headphones on.

He plopped down onto the bed, as if this were any other moment and not the most terrifying thing he’d yet to experience.

Yoongi didn’t say anything. Simply removed his headphones and quirked an eyebrow.

“Ah, Hyung, I − I’ve written something for my solo song. I haven’t shown anyone else. I was wondering if you could help me decide if I should show anyone, actually. You don’t have to fix it or anything. Just... Tell me if I can share this or not.” He inhaled through his nose, glancing up at the ceiling and blinking rapidly to avoid any unwanted tears.“I have the melody on my phone if you need it, but... I’m mostly concerned with the lyrics.”

“Sure, Taetae." Yoongi reached out to put a hand over his knee warmly.“No need to be so worried. I’m happy to help in any way.”

He appreciated Yoongi’s efforts. The warmth of his hand, the warmth of his voice as he used his nickname, and his overall welcoming aura were all reassuring to a degree. But not enough for Taehyung to be anything other than tense.

Moments passed. Taehyung thought of Yoongi’s verse as Agust D, about living as a tiger. All the same, his ears were ringing, and the ache in his stomach became more pronounced. He was aware enough to realize that Yoongi was shuffling the two sheets back and forth, as if reading through them more than once. As the minutes stretched on, he became increasingly worried.

“If it’s no, you can just say no.”

Yoongi seemed to jolt at the mumbled words, as if he’d forgotten that Taehyung had stuck around.

“It’s not no.” He cleared his throat. “I’m just a little surprised.”

“It’s a mess, I know. I mean, both the song and me. I’m a mess. Please don’t tell anyone.”

The last plea was tacked on urgently as he reached to pull the sheets out of Yoongi’s hands. However, Yoongi pulled them back towards him. His face was worried in a way that confirmed he understood what ‘please don’t tell anyone’ actually referred to.

“No, no. I’m just surprised you’d be willing to be this, well, vulnerable in your song. And I want you to sing this song.” He licked his lips, looking slightly uncomfortable. “I don’t think they’ll let you sing it with the way it’s worded now.”

“Yeah, got it.”

Taehyung tugged again, trying to make a run for it. By now, shame had curled in his gut, and he was longing for the sanctuary of his bedroom.

“No, you don’t.” Yoongi tugged in return. “Let me work on this with you, right now. It’ll be simple. We’ll change a few words here and there, and we’ll make sure your message stays the same.”

“Same, but hidden?”

“We’ll figure it out together.”

He looked both serious and earnest. Caring enough that Taehyung truly believed he would help him turn the words into something they could record fearlessly.

They ended up side-by-side, backs pressed against the headboard. Yoongi marked the changes in blue ink, and always waited a few moments to hear out Taehyung’s dissent. But, Taehyung remained silent, still tense with worry and painfully aware of the knowledge Yoongi held over him.

By the time Yoongi had returned to the top of the song, Taehyung knew Seokjin had returned to his side of the room. However, he was too drained to ask Yoongi to be quieter as he discussed the title.

“Namjoon said the titles of our tracks should be important. One word that should embody the song itself, or the character we portray. Did you have any thoughts?”

“Well, nothing very positive, no.” Taehyung grimaced as he struggled to think of a word that wouldn’t encompass the negativity that outpoured from the song.

“You know, we changed it quite a bit. I think we should use the English word ‘stigma’. I’d say that word is like code. Anyone who is going through what you’re going through will... Well, they’ll understand.”

He didn’t say aloud what it was Taehyung was going through. Nonetheless, Taehyung could feel the meaning of his words: I understand who you are. I see you, and I’ll help so that some others will see it too.

Taehyung nodded, watching Yoongi put down the title atop the page. He gingerly grabbed the sheets and made to leave the room, but Yoongi put a hand over his thigh, just above his knee.

“I’m here if you need to talk, alright? You’re not alone.”

“I know, I know. Thank you, Hyung.”

However, he felt alone as he returned to his bedroom and curled up into his bed once more. He hoped Yoongi wouldn’t tell anyone. He hoped Yoongi wouldn’t see him in a new, horrible way. He hoped he would eventually stop feeling so wrong inside.

He’d realized what he’d always known over the course of the year. He’d confessed to himself that he wasn’t the way his family would want him to be. He was attracted to other men, and he’d yet to be attracted to women. It weighed heavy on his shoulders. No matter the success he could reach, this would never be something he could fix for his family.

More than any of that, he hoped Min Yoongi thought he’d made a valuable musical contribution.

 

− − − − −

The past day had gone by almost lethargically. Finally, everyone had been granted access to all of the final tracks for the album. As a result, every member had seemed to isolate themselves to take in the entirety of the album, and to focus on the last things they needed to strengthen before their comeback. For some, that meant practicing steps, for others it meant receiving vocal coaching, and then for some it was even relaxation to alleviate the stress.

Yoongi wasn’t quite sure why, but the stakes somehow felt higher than ever. The feeling was comparable to being on the edge of a precipice. So he’d focused the past day on falling in love with each song all over again. He was expecting, anticipating, and more than anything hoping for their success.

He was sitting on his bedroom floor, head leaned back against his mattress, when Hoseok found him. Yoongi was surprised to see him there. Hoseok had seemed a little wound up as of late, as he played such a central role in their new title track. He gestured for him to enter his room.

He seemed grimly serious, but still greeted Yoongi amicably, taking a seat on the bed and pushing a hand through Yoongi’s hair reverently.

“How you doing down there?”

“Just fine, shouldn’t I be asking you that?”

Hoseok laughed in response, shrugging the words off simply.

“I’m fine as well. Actually, I came by to ask about someone else.”

“Then should we call for a dorm meeting?”

Yoongi pouted in thought. On the one hand, it didn’t really seem like the best time to gather everyone. On the other hand, he wasn’t used to just discussing someone else’s wellbeing without their presence, especially if it was about a member.

“No, actually, I just need you to answer a few questions.” The hand atop Yoongi’s head stopped moving. “I was wondering if you knew what Taehyung’s solo track was about?”

Yoongi hummed distractedly. He wasn’t expecting anyone to corner him on this. Certainly, he expected the producers to give Taehyung the third degree, and afterwards maybe even management. But, his own role was a secret that had never left the space of his bedroom.

“And what made you ask me that?”

“Jin-Hyung said it sounded like you were helping out a while ago. Plus, I thought I faintly recognized your style in the writing.”

Eventually, Yoongi replied,“I think the song can stand on itself without an explanation.”

Hoseok ruffled his hair with a dispassionate sigh. Then, he patted the spot next to him on the mattress. Reluctantly, Yoongi stood up to sit down next to Hoseok. He was slightly taken aback when Hoseok turned towards him, grabbed both his hands and stared him down intensely.

“You can correct me if I’m wrong, but those lyrics kind of sound like a cry for help? They’re charged with so much pain.”

Yoongi squeezed his hands and smiled briefly.

“Thank you for looking out for everyone, Hobi. I don’t think this is something Taehyung wants to talk about. Hell, he didn’t even tell me what the song was about.” He bit the inside of his cheek guiltily. While that may be technically true, Taehyung’s first draft had been clear enough that he didn’t need any additional comments. And Taehyung’s eyes had given so much away; Yoongi hadn’t once needed to ask him how he felt about it all. “I think the best we can do for now is be supportive and stand by his side.”

“Are you sure?”

“Well, you’ll love and support Taehyung no matter what?” Yoongi waited for Hoseok’s determined nod. “Yeah, then I’m sure.”

Yoongi was grateful no one else approached him on the matter afterwards. And he kept to himself how Stigma was the easiest track to fall in love with. Perhaps Hoseok had heard pain in the track, but Yoongi heard nothing but sincere beauty.

 

− x − x − x − x −

When Taehyung stepped out of the bathroom, the dorm was plunged in a deep silence. He ran a hand over the back of his head, puffing out his still damp hair. It seemed most everyone was asleep, so he allowed himself to drag his feet across the floor. Marching around in an oversized shirt and a pair of sweatpants certainly made his performance on stage earlier seem all the more unreal. He smiled faintly to himself. Today had been their anniversary for the last four years. He’d performed with Namjoon, a song they had created entirely by themselves.

He walked to Seokjin and Yoongi’s shared room almost on autopilot. He rationalized that there must have been something he had to tell one of them about the night’s performance. He only faintly acknowledged that he hadn’t missed a day since coming home from Hawaii: he wished Yoongi a good night of sleep every single night.

Yoongi would usually use both hands to squeeze Taehyung’s as he returned the sentiment. He was grateful no one had commented on the habit he had developed. Yet, it also felt like a crucial part of his nighttime routine.

“Good night Jin-Hyung,” he called out as he entered the room.

No answer came from the bed, Seokjin supposedly already fast asleep. Taehyung continued into Yoongi’s portion of the room.

He almost wasn’t surprised to find Yoongi over his covers near the end of the bed. He was still dressed in the clothes he’d put on before leaving the venue. Cheek pressed against the covers, mouth agape, it was obvious to Taehyung that Yoongi was deeply asleep. He approached gently.

“Good night, Hyung.”

He didn’t stir. He reached out to grab Yoongi’s hands, to complete their nightly schedule. But, he hesitated when he saw that his fingers were still adorned with rings. Taehyung’s fingers glided over the white gold. Somehow, Yoongi looked more vulnerable than ever; sleeping bare footed and with his rings still on.

“Why did you even put these on after the concert?”

He shook his head, keeping his voice law as to not disturb Seokjin’s sleep. He wasn’t all too concerned for Yoongi, who’d also fallen asleep with his AirPods still in.

Curiously, he took out the one in his right ear. He’d put it back, as he didn’t know if Yoongi slept with any music on. He knew he did whenever Namjoon had a drastically different schedule and couldn’t sleep at the same time as Taehyung. He’d put on classical music, and ignored how lonely he felt sleeping in a room alone. He wondered what kind of music had accompanied Yoongi as he drifted off to sleep.

The music automatically resumed as he inserted the pod into his ear. Oh, he thought. Yoongi must not have had it on a sleep playlist or anything like that. Taehyung reasoned that Yoongi had shuffled his music and had simply fallen asleep.

Still, he felt himself smiling. What were the odds? The song that was playing just as he checked was his own. Or, at least it was his and Namjoon’s song. The very song he’d performed on stage hours before. He knew, too, that it might be his one chance to perform it up on stage.

The notes of the piano, the chords of the guitar, Namjoon’s calming voice, his own signing, these had all become so familiar to him in the last month or so. He shut his eyes as the last few verses played. The last lines were always the most emotional for him.

As familiar as it was, he was utterly confused when the song seemed to start again. As if in a dream, he picked up Yoongi’s phone and checked. There it was. Yoongi had fallen asleep to 4 O’Clock on repeat.

Transfixed, Taehyung put the AirPod back in place and observed Yoongi’s still sleeping face. He tried to convince himself that there were many reasons why Yoongi might have been playing that particular song. Maybe he had been disappointed by Taehyung’s delivery tonight and was listening to it out of spite? Maybe he thought it needed more work?

However, he couldn’t help but to fully smile. Because no matter how much he tried to convince himself otherwise, it seemed very clear now. Yoongi did think he contributed musically to the group. And maybe, that had been what had pulled him to the bedroom following his shower. That was the confirmation he’d been longing for.

He sniffed audibly, clenched his teeth, and fought down any sudden surge of emotion. He climbed up on the bed. Yoongi took up so little space that, if he curled up too, he could rest on the end of the bed with him. He curled his hands around Yoongi’s, the cold of his rings feeling like the only real sensation he could experience. He only had vague concerns about not falling asleep here. It was nothing strong enough to keep him from doing just that.

 

− − − − − −

Yoongi was confused upon waking up. He didn’t remember how he had fallen asleep. He only remembered coming home from the concert. It took a few more moments to register and recognize the melody playing in his ears.

Right, so Taehyung had performed his song with Namjoon. Yoongi had been proud even when he had first seen the written drafts Namjoon had been working on. Proud because when Taehyung had written Stigma, it was all crushing and paralysing feelings. And 4 O’Clock was gentleness and understanding.

Yet, he’d still seen Taehyung shed a few silent tears once he’d stepped off stage. The makeup crew had been upon him immediately, and Namjoon had stood close, whispering words Yoongi would never hear. Besides, he had yet to take the stage with Seokjin at that point. The sight still awaked dozens of memories within him. Time and time again where Taehyung had been visibly and outwardly moved by the feelings he poured into performing certain songs. He’d witnessed it on stage, just as well as in the recording booth, or in training rooms.

Taehyung was particularly gifted in finding emotion in every lyric he was given. Seeing him drawing out the emotions from the lyrics he had crafted himself had destabilized Yoongi. It was enough for him to collapse onto his bed with the song on repeat as soon as he’d been home.

Now, it was too much. He moved to put a stop to the music, but found his hands otherwise incapacitated. A few more sleepy beats passed before he could make sense of the shape next to him on the bed.

As soon as he took note of Taehyung’s form, he realized how overheated he felt under his street clothes, how sore his joints felt from both performing and falling asleep unexpectedly and in an unusual position. He realized how tense his hands felt when he tried to uncurl his fingers where they were tightly clasped with Taehyung’s.

It took a few attempts to free his hands. After putting away his phone and pods, and changing into his sleepwear, he returned to his spot. Thankfully, it looked as if Taehyung had been ready to head to bed too. He wondered what thought process Taehyung had followed in order to fall asleep next to him.

He decided Taehyung must have simply wanted to wish him a good night, and had collapsed in exhaustion instead.

“Thank you,” he mouthed as he sat near him. Taehyung’s skin was warm and soft as he cupped his cheek. He brushed his thumb over his eyelid, taking note of the lovely fan of his eyelashes.

Yoongi didn’t understand why Taehyung had taken a sudden liking to him. Of course, they were important in each other’s lives. But, he didn’t know what had made it so that Yoongi was the one person Taehyung wished a good night to without fail. He was grateful.

He considered whether or not he should wake Taehyung up and lead him to his own room. Or maybe, he could drag Taehyung as to sleep properly in the bed. Ultimately, he simply took his place once more and brought their hands together again.

Yes, Yoongi was grateful. There was no sense in denying it to himself. Somewhere along the line, he’d fallen for Taehyung. Wishing each other good night before the end of the day, no matter how small of a gesture, sent his heart aflame.

 

− x − x − x − x − x −

We usually look tired and grubby in Run BTS!, but Taehyung always looks so gorgeous!

Yoongi bit his thumb, lazily watching the streetlights zoom by as they were driven back home. His thoughts were fixed on Taehyung, as they sometimes did when night fell. The other hadn’t seemed bothered during the filming of the Global V Live Top 10. He’d giggled and clapped along with everyone else. But now, they were in the same van, and he hadn’t glanced at him, not even once.

He guessed the real problem was that he had known he shouldn’t have said it, but he had. It was like pouring oil on a wild fire. He knew what the result would look like, but he was fascinated enough to do it over and over again. Or maybe, just maybe, he was irritated by Taehyung’s behaviour lately.

2017 had wrapped up as their most successful year yet. Aside from their professional successes, a deep love solidified within him for his fellow member. And seemingly, he had ended the year closer to Taehyung than ever before. Then things started to fall apart.

After a couple of months, the correlation was drawn easily in Yoongi’s mind. Each time he brought up Taehyung’s win as the most handsome face − in the world, mind you − Taehyung pulled away from him. It had progressed into Taehyung reacting as badly to any mention from Yoongi of his good looks. It could have been a simple fix. He could have just dropped the subject altogether. But he found himself teasing Taehyung endlessly, bringing it up at every opportunity. He knew it was because Taehyung never reacted to anyone else bringing it up in such a moody and sulky way. So Yoongi kept testing the waters irritably. If the mention itself wasn’t the problem, then Yoongi was the problem. And what was so wrong with Yoongi?

The only plausible answer he’d found was that Taehyung had figured his feelings out and, so it seemed, was unhappy with them.

In the elevator up to their home, he stared Taehyung’s profile down. Taehyung remained unblinking, didn’t seem bothered at all by the heavy gaze. And though he knew he should have just let it go for tonight, as soon as the group had begun shrugging their shoes off in their entrance, he more or less blew up.

“Hey. Taehyung. You’re looking really handsome.”

His tone was sharp, laced with a meanness that paired poorly with the compliment. Taehyung’s mouth fell open, and his eyes widened slightly. Aside from Jimin’s sharp turn of his head, it didn’t seem they’d attracted anyone else’s attention. Yoongi thought, destructively, that soon he’d have everyone’s.

“You don’t like it when I tell you that, huh?”

Taehyung hadn’t removed his jacket or shoes yet, and he seemed to think better of it, digging his hands into his pockets.

“Well, I mean... Actually, yeah I don’t really like it − ”

“Because you’re just that scared that another man might find you attractive?” Taehyung’s mouth, impossibly, seemed to open wider. By now, any other chatter amongst the other members cut off abruptly. “You know, I accepted some of your comments when we were younger. Because you were a kid, and you were raised by your grandparents, and grew up in the countryside... But at this point, we’ve been around the world and I just don’t get where you find the energy to act so appalled by the concept of two men together.”

He breathed in angrily. Taehyung’s expression hadn’t morphed into anything else. It didn’t feel good, it felt as if Taehyung would take any words without giving any sign of fighting back, or of denying them.

Hoseok piped up in a weak tone,“Hey, I don’t think that’s...” but his words petered off. The atmosphere was heavy and awkward, the seven members standing so close together near their front door.

“Especially when, first of all, we all know you and Park Bogum were fucking last year. And second of all, we all know Stigma was about you being gay and closeted.”

Taehyung’s expression finally broke. As for Yoongi, he immediately regretted his words. His face heated up, feeling embarrassed and ashamed for his outburst. He’d probably only succeeded in acting jealous and irrational. More than anything, he wanted to take the words back. Instead, he stood there stupidly as he finally got the reaction he was chasing after.

“Are you serious?” Around him, some members tensed at the clear tone of disrespect Taehyung had used. “First of all, I’d never do anything to jeopardize our careers like that. The only person I’ve even kissed since we signed our contracts was Hoseok. And that was for broadcast. Years ago! And second of all...”

His voice cut off, bottom lip noticeably trembling. Yoongi’s stomach felt like it was trying to climb its way up his ribcage. His words about Stigma had clearly wounded Taehyung where it mattered. His hands tingled to reach out for Taehyung. His anger had been volatile and short-lived, now he only felt repentant.

Taehyung finally seemed to gather his wits and sniffed his tears back with as much pride as he could muster.

“Besides, that’s not at all why it bothers me. I just wish you’d give me a break? Why are you constantly trying to remind me that I’m just here for my looks and can’t contribute anything musically!”

Taehyung’s words were almost hard to discern. Both his speed and volume had increased considerably as he bit out the last part.

“What? Why the hell is that what I would be trying to convey?” Taehyung gave no sign of answering now. He was panting, and Yoongi wished he could just end the argument there and lead him away to take a seat and catch his breath. Taehyung was so clearly affected; there was no way he had just made up those words on the spot. “Who told you that?”

“You did,” he accused gravely.

There was enough of a reaction from the group that Yoongi remembered they weren’t doing this privately at all. Not that that was anyone’s fault but his. Jimin stepped forward, as if ready to step in between them. Namjoon crossed his arms in thought. Seokjin hummed quietly. Hoseok had gone completely still. Most noticeably, Jungkook gasped. It was a loud, pained sound. He immediately moved to Taehyung’s side, clutching his arm. It was Yoongi’s turn to stand shocked, wanting to defend himself but only gaping at Taehyung.

Jungkook pressing himself closer to Taehyung seemed to push him to amend his statement.

“Well, alright. So you didn’t tell me. You still said it.”

His voice was unusually thick. Even though Yoongi didn’t have a clue what this was about, he somehow felt overwhelmingly guilty.

“Tae... Please don’t be like this. I know that Yoongi hasn’t thought I’m not hardworking in years.”

Yoongi was surprised by Jungkook’s intervention, and now a bit more confused than before. Why would his younger members think he harboured such negative thoughts about them? If Jimin and Hoseok looked equally confused, Namjoon and Seokjin both seemed to reach the same dawning realization. Seokjin’s lips formed a perfect ‘o’, as Namjoon opened and shut his mouth, as if trying to gather his words.

“It’s not because something was a long time ago that it stops being true.”

Taehyung’s gaze was fierce and his tone defiant as he stared Yoongi down. But, Yoongi was still at a loss.

“Ok, stop. Full context for everyone. We hadn’t even debuted at that time. And it was a private conversation that neither of you should have been listening in on.” Namjoon gave the pair a significant look. “Yoongi was,” he glanced at Yoongi as if asking for permission, but Yoongi’s mind was still somehow blank. “Right after that, Yoongi had a panic attack. He didn’t believe in anything you overheard. He was stressed.”

Namjoon seemed stern as he met Taehyung’s gaze. Taehyung seemed unfazed by the explanation.

“I’m tired,” he mumbled eventually. He hastily shrugged off Jungkook’s grip and ventured into the apartment. His shoes were still on.

Yoongi stared at the floor with wide eyes. He remembered now. The hot shame he’d felt throughout the confrontation was all the more powerful now. He swallowed down his feelings with difficulty.

Every time he’d just wanted to tell Taehyung how beautiful he was to him, Taehyung had understood something entirely different.

 

− − − − − − −

The only thing worse than feeling as if he wasn’t contributing was revealing to the whole team that his feelings were due to words that were more than four years old.

He buried his face into his pillow, groaning loudly. If he pretended hard enough that he was simply annoyed at himself, maybe he’d forget about the onslaught of tears and sobs. His groaning intensified when he heard his door open.

Someone scooted close to him, and turned him over by his shoulders. The relief he felt when he saw Jimin’s face only served to amplify his tearful cries.

“Oh, Taehyung.”

After some repositioning, he ended up with his head on Jimin’s lap. He chose to stare up at Jimin’s face. He felt too embarrassed to acknowledge that Hoseok had also chosen to come check on him. He pretended that Hoseok wasn’t sitting on his beanbag, phone in hand, and expression serious. Jimin saw him at his worst frequently, but he didn’t like showing it to the older members.

Things stayed the same for a while: Taehyung crying, Jimin running his fingers through Taehyung’s hair, and Hoseok periodically checking his phone.

Eventually, Jimin asked in a gentle voice “do you want to know what I think?”

Taehyung wiped away his tears and nodded. He himself wasn’t thinking much of the situation. Yet, the tears just came and came.

“I think you can be sensitive. I’ve seen you cry more than anyone else in my life. You cried so often back when the public didn’t know you were part of the group. I didn’t always comfort you, but we could always hear you in the bathroom.”

Taehyung sniffed, thinking back to those early days. No one had given him any indication that his ‘hidden’ status was a ruse to hang a sword of Damocles over him. Just the same, he’d often felt excluded or forgotten.

“The first time you got in trouble with the media, you were inconsolable.”

It seemed silly and faraway now. Mouthing the words to a song as they were handed their second win for I Need U. It had had such a backlash that it had truly felt like a catastrophe, like the end of his world.

“You cry whenever you’re part of any sort of argument.”

Taehyung nodded his head. That was true. Even when cameras were surrounding him, like they had last year during the tour. He hadn’t cried just once, but twice in front of the cameras for a meaningless argument on timing in a choreography.

“Remember in Hawaii?” Taehyung nodded again. “Even reading that letter to me you cried. And you want to know why?”

“Because I’m too emotional?”

He was scared Jimin’s words would turn cruel soon, but the soft caress of his fingers through his hair was enough to reassure him for now.

“Not at all. But in that moment... Didn’t you think that I was unlucky to be your close friend? That you burdened me because you can’t even make musical contributions? Isn’t that what you told yourself each time? That any small trouble you caused for anyone else was amplified because you couldn’t even make meaningful contributions?”

Taehyung’s shoulders rose. He wished Jimin could have spoken softer, lower, silent enough not to be heard by Hoseok. He curled towards Jimin’s stomach, away from Hoseok, to answer.

“Well, yeah.”

“And when you thought that, you heard it in Yoongi’s voice?”

He nodded his head. Of course he had. He always did.

“You already know, don’t you?”

“What do I know?” Taehyung asked, now lost in Jimin’s line of reasoning.

“That Yoongi doesn’t actually think that. That he’s probably your biggest fan in the group.” Jimin started counting on his fingers. “He loves your voice, more than anyone else’s. He pushes your name for lines. He writes songs with your voice in mind. No matter if they end up rejected, he always vouches and defends the melodies you come up with. I don’t think he shut up about 4 O’Clock for a solid three months.” He let his hand drop, taking in a deep breath. “Point is you absolutely already knew all of that.”

“But, he still said − ”

“Yeah, he said what you feared most. And you convinced yourself that he thought that because that’s easier than admitting it was you telling yourself you weren’t good enough all along.”

Taehyung sat up, glancing over to Hoseok to see he was typing on his phone.

“Do you think he’s going to be mad...? That I blamed him this whole time?”

“No way, Taetae. He’s worried sick, not mad. He looked like he was going to throw up the whole time you were arguing earlier.”

He hesitated to voice his last concern, but ultimately he let it out in a shaky breath.

“What he said about Stigma...”

Jimin looked perplexed, as if surprised this was a concern. His body also jolted in shock when Taehyung embraced him and let out a few more sobs.

“He shouldn’t have told us that, I know. If it’s true though, none of us will love you less. Right, Hobi?”

“Of course. What’s important to us is your good health and happiness.” He heard Hoseok stand up and approach before he joined their hug briefly. When he pulled away, so did Taehyung. “Right now, I think you need to talk to Hyung. I’ll come with you. Maybe things won’t be resolved tonight, but... But, I think it’s important for you two to at least go to bed on better terms.”

“Yoongi-Hyung?” Taehyung asked uselessly.

Hoseok’s stern nod left no room for discussion.

The walk over to Yoongi’s studio was frightening enough that he felt as if he wasn’t one with his body anymore. Jimin gave him a warm hug before joining Jungkook and Seokjin, who’d looked at Taehyung with deep concern and worry from their spots in the kitchen. Taehyung was guessing that his reassuring smile lost some appeal when paired with the clear indicators that he had been crying loudly and profusely.

They didn’t ring the doorbell to Yoongi’s studio, Namjoon instead opening it from the inside as soon as they arrived. Taehyung faintly thought that Hoseok must have been communicating with Hoseok throughout the ordeal.

As terrified as he felt at the prospect of facing Yoongi, it all became much easier once he was inside. Both Namjoon and Hoseok took a seat on the couch, as if ready to intervene if anything were to go poorly. Yoongi, however, was seated in his computer chair. His hair was in disarray. His face seemed swollen. Taehyung’s heart plummeted. It seemed fair to conclude Yoongi had cried as hard as he had.

All of the negative feelings he’d fought with in the last hour were forgotten just like that. He was quick to cross the room and to hold Yoongi’s hands within his.

When Yoongi spoke it was unlike anything Taehyung had heard previously. His voice was low, yet noticeably desperate with sincerity.

“Taehyung, I think you’re beautiful. And, of course, I know you look beautiful. But to me, you just are beautiful.” Yoongi interlaced their fingers with care, squeezing Taehyung’s hands maybe a bit tighter than intended. “Your voice, your spirit, your heart, your mind, they’re all beautiful to me.”

“Hyung, you don’t have to say that.”

“Maybe I don’t. But I want you to know... I just get excited when others see you the way I do. I wasn’t trying to reduce you to just your face or your looks. I’m sorry.”

He stressed the word ‘sorry’ in a way that had Taehyung close to tears again. Taehyung admired the way Yoongi spoke so unabashedly, despite the fact that they weren’t alone. He licked his lips, reminding himself to be more of a tiger.

“I understand now. And I’m also sorry. I should have trusted you more. I’m... I’m embarrassed I believed those words for so long. And I’m also sorry I pushed you away. I’ve missed you so much.”

Honestly, until these events, he would have believed that Yoongi couldn’t have possibly noticed how Taehyung had made himself scarce. However, Yoongi’s exhausted yet relieved smile was all the confirmation he needed that Yoongi had missed him the same way.

They held each other’s gaze for a while. He wasn’t sure what Yoongi saw, but he also wasn’t certain what it was he saw in Yoongi’s eyes. He was willing to bet it was love. Though Yoongi had never directly said he loved Taehyung, it was clearer than ever that it was there.

Eventually, Yoongi pulled him forward to sit across his lap. That wasn’t really something they did either. However, he couldn’t help but to want to be as close as possible to him after their ephemeral fight. He rested his head on Yoongi’s shoulder and wrapped his arms tightly around his middle.

“I’m sorry about what I said earlier, about Stigma. And, well, about your personal life. It was really despicable of me.”

He was speaking softer now, in the tone he tended to use when he wanted to direct something to Taehyung exclusively.

Taehyung shook his head weakly.

“What you said, you said because I’ve been hurting you. And Stigma... I made you keep it secret long enough. It wasn’t fair of me.”

Yoongi laughed, and Taehyung joined in, knowing what was on his mind. They were shifting blame back and forth. Each trying to outdo the other’s apology and redemption. Importantly though, they were on the same page now.

He leaned his head against Yoongi’s and let himself be held in place for a while longer.

He didn’t even find it in himself to be embarrassed when Hoseok commented, “well, not exactly the outcome I thought we’d get. I guess we actually had nothing to worry about.”

 

− x − x − x − x − x − x −

“Taehyung, put your phone away. I’m tired.”

“Just two more seconds, Hyung.”

Seokjin groaned from beside him, shifting in his sleeping bag to turn towards Namjoon instead.

Taehyung had scrolled far enough in the chat to find it now. It made him happy to see the chat get longer and longer as the weeks passed. It made him happier to read Yoongi’s words from earlier in the year. A few days after their disagreement, Taehyung had received a long and heartfelt message. He’d been thankful Jungkook had as well, because they’d hugged as they had bawled their eyes out from the words, with Jimin watching amusedly. They hadn’t needed Yoongi’s long and eloquent explanation as to why he didn’t see them as lazy or as attractive and nothing else. Just the same, they’d been more than moved.

And he’d immediately noted that it was the first time Yoongi had told him he loved him in all seriousness.

The message evoked strong enough feelings that he pulled it up whenever he struggled. Which, he didn’t really know that he was, but after tearing up in front of the cameras yet another time, he simply had to accept.

“That’s it. I’m finding my phone, and I’m going to stay on it longer than you will. Let’s see how you like that.”

Seokjin spoke in a normal tone of voice, and moved less than discreetly as he searched his belongings. Taehyung would have been concerned the movements could wake Namjoon up, but the other had been dead to the world even when Taehyung had first entered the tent.

After a few seconds, Seokjin brandished his phone in victory. Taehyung smiled, albeit guiltily.

“Really, I’m sorry Jin-Hyung. I’m putting it away soon.”

Seokjin made a show of turning his nose upwards and ignoring him. It lasted all of half a minute.

Next thing Taehyung knew, Seokjin was pointing the flashlight of his phone to his face. He covered his eyes with his arm automatically.

“I said I’m sorry! Is that necessary?”

“Jimin said you’ve been crying. What’s that about? Is that true?”

Seokjin leaned in closer, still shining the light on Taehyung.

“Ugh, did he really have to tell you that? What the hell...”

“Yes. He instructed me to take good care of you.”

The words were followed by Seokjin’s attempt to fluff Taehyung’s pillow, but he quickly knocked the thing out of his hands.

"“Thank you, Jin-Hyung. I’m fine though.”

“Oh yeah? What’s keeping you up then?”

He wasn’t quick enough to keep Seokjin from fishing the phone from out of his hands. He felt his body react complicatedly, struggling on whether his face should drain or flood with blood.

Seokjin was sure to quickly recognize what he was staring at. Taehyung had been very vocal about the sweet and heartfelt message. And then, somehow, he’d continued to be vocal throughout the whole year. Complimenting Yoongi left and right, more or less worshipping the ground he walked on. He’d fallen into a state of constant adoration and love for his fellow member. He suspected that had always been his veritable and default emotional state. The message Yoongi had sent, however, had allowed for his love to flourish. He was unapologetically and openly fond of Yoongi now.

However, to his utter terror, these feelings were maybe akin to being 'in love'. He wasn’t quite ready to admit that, actually, he very well knew he was in love with Yoongi.

His phone stayed in Seokjin’s grip for no more than a few seconds. He was quick to retrieve it, put the phone to sleep, and tuck it back into his bag of personal items.

“Ok, I’m ready for bed. Goodnight, Jin-Hyung.” He flopped down, turned away from the other, and squeezed his eyes shut.

“Aw, Tae. Don’t be so shy!”

He groaned deeply as Seokjin spooned him from behind, curling his fingers near Taehyung’s ribcage until he let out a few giggling notes of laughter.

“D’you miss Yoongi, is that it?”

He paused thoughtfully, eventually sighing in defeat.

“Well, yeah. I miss him. Bon Voyage is... Since last time, I feel like it’s our thing. I wish he were here. I’m fine though.”

“I’m sure he misses you too.” Taehyung shrugged. “We’ll be together again soon. Next thing you know you’ll be performing on stage together.”

Taehyung nodded glumly. He knew he hadn’t cried just because Yoongi wasn’t there. But maybe things would feel easier if everyone were with him. And as much as he was happy with the idea of performing together with everyone again soon... He wished he somehow managed to spend more time with Yoongi. Maybe a different sort of time than the time he spent with everyone else. Maybe time where it was just him and Yoongi.

The feeling seemed selfish enough that Taehyung could never allow himself to voice it.

 

− − − − − − − −

Yoongi woke up, confused and a bit saddened. When the other members had complained of Taehyung’s absence a few days ago, he had acted unaffected. He’d been outspoken of the fact that they literally spent their lives together, and that a few days couldn’t make that much of a difference.

Now, however, he missed everyone. He wanted to create more memories with everyone.

He’d thought his sudden awakening was due to the eight hours of jet lag, but his phone’s screen shone brightly besides him. It seemed he had fallen asleep while still typing down ideas for melodies. He let out a sleepy sound of frustration. He knew it was a poor health decision to sleep with his phone right next to him.

Sluggishly, he checked the new message that had come in. Belatedly, his mind registered that it had been the notification sound that had roused him from sleep. He squinted his eyes, the sender’s name and words of the message coming into focus slowly. He noted that the culprit was Seokjin.

If you have time tomorrow, you should message Taehyung. Kind of having a rough time. Think he misses you.

It took him longer than usual to figure out the time difference. They were probably settling down to sleep now, and he could message Taehyung later.

Too tired to stand up yet, he went through his other messages. Notably, Jimin had also messaged him. The first message was timed a few hours ago. A picture of Taehyung in his hat, captioned with ‘your hat is doing well over here!’ He smiled softly, despite the fact that he knew he had not advertised that his hat was being handed down to Taehyung. The second message, dated a couple of hours ago, had him pause for longer.

Tae really misses you :( I know we’re always crazy busy, but you should try to book some time to spend with him before we start our tour.

He sat up in his bed. The sun was still low in the sky. His bedroom was barely illuminated. His thoughts and feelings couldn’t align to shape a clear portrait. He missed everyone. But, Taehyung missed him strongly and specifically enough that two different members had felt the need to bring it to Yoongi’s attention.

His phone fell to his lap as he clutched at his chest, over the ribs protecting his aching and dully beating heart. He didn’t understand why this knowledge was so destabilizing. As of late, it seemed as if Taehyung had made it his life mission to embarrass and overwhelm Yoongi. Underneath all of that was an undeniable and sweet veneration for Yoongi, he could tell as much. His mind had reasoned that Taehyung was compensating for the years he’d spent scared of expressing too much to Yoongi; scared that Yoongi was silently judging his musical abilities. These messages made it seem as if maybe he were special to Taehyung. Different from the others.

He shook his head. No, Taehyung was an artist, a bit more sensitive and in touch with his feelings than the norm. He would have reacted the same had it been any member missing in action.

Just the same, he decided he would call Taehyung later, rather than just message him as Seokjin had suggested. He set an alarm on his phone for around lunchtime. Hopefully he’d catch Taehyung when he wasn’t in filming.

It became apparent throughout the day that he didn’t need an alarm. His worry amplified as he became more awake. What was it exactly that Taehyung had done to worry the other members? How bad was it?

Of course, he was happy and grateful that he had been able to return to his family. There was no planning an emergency, and he knew his place, even for today, was at home in Korea. But, as soon as he had found a moment to himself he was quick to dial Taehyung’s number.

He had left the building to get some fresh air. While it wasn’t nearly as hot as in Malta, he still tugged at his t-shirt’s collar in discomfort. He had a passing thought that he was calling much earlier than planned, and that he might accidentally wake Taehyung up.

“Hyung?”

His chest lightened. Taehyung sounded fine enough.

“Tae. Thought I’d check in. How are things?”

There was a moment of hesitation before Taehyung answered, as if unsure what the question was.

“Good. Jin-Hyung and I are already up. We’re in the kitchen now, I’m thinking I’ll make breakfast for everyone.”

Yoongi let out a quiet chuckle. That was thoughtful, but he wasn’t sure what a Taehyung prepared breakfast would look like.

“Don’t make anything too complicated. I’m sure everyone will appreciate it regardless.” He licked his lips. As much as Taehyung had grown comfortable teasing him, he was always a bit more hesitant to reciprocate. Maybe because his compliments were a lot more honest than they were teasing. “Jimin sent me a picture. Looks like you’re taking good care of my hat.”

“Yes! I’m wearing it right now,” Taehyung replied enthusiastically.

Yoongi inhaled, smiled. “You looked beautiful in the picture.”

Taehyung was silent for a while. But Yoongi wasn’t worried about his response or reaction. He crouched down, cupping a hand over his eyes to shield them from the sun.

“Thank you. You know, you’re always beautiful to me.”

His smile widened at Taehyung’s quiet voice. It seemed he was embarrassed to say such a thing with Seokjin in the room with him.

“What’s wrong though?”

He didn’t have to explain to Taehyung how he knew. He knew Taehyung wouldn’t ask for explanations. He was, however, surprised by how easily Taehyung opened up.

“I guess nothing. It just feels wrong when it’s not the seven of us. And − ” His voice became considerably quieter then, quiet enough that Yoongi had to strain to catch it.“And one day, something will happen to one of us and it won’t be the seven of us anymore. I don’t know what I’ll do.”

Yoongi knew he wasn’t specifically referencing death, but it was obviously included in his words. The wobble he heard in Taehyung’s voice tugged at his heartstrings with a practiced ease.

“I see. I know it’s scary. But for now, let’s enjoy our time together and make a lot of happy memories.”

He could imagine Taehyung on the other side, nodding away with the words. More than ever, he wished he were able to be alongside the rest of the group. Maybe if he could hold Taehyung’s hand, things would feel better.

With some resolve, he decided he would follow Jimin’s advice. He’d put aside more time to spend with Taehyung specifically.

“Don’t worry for now. Make the most out of your day. Hyung really misses you.” He coughed, embarrassed that the simple words were choking him up.

“I miss you, too,” Taehyung breathed out in a rush.

“I love you,” he added as a last note.

“I love you, too,” he hurried out just as quick.

In the background, Seokjin laughed. He joined in too when he overheard Taehyung “Shut up, Hyung! Let me speak to Yoongi-Hyung!”

They parted with a bittersweet ‘see you soon’.

 

− x − x − x − x − x − x − x −

Once the V Live came to an end, Yoongi dropped the phone onto his stomach. He took a moment to rest his eyes and rub his temples. It had been a hard stream to follow given the lag caused both by Taehyung’s device and the fact that Yoongi was relying on the same dodgy hotel Wi-Fi.

After some time, he slipped sandals over his sock covered feet. He assessed his outfit slowly. Finally, he settled that his dirty shirt tucked into sweatpants look wouldn’t be completed without adding a cap.

The trek down the hotel halls felt as daunting as it usually did. With fame had come a healthy fear of walking alone, even on a floor fully booked by his company. Thankfully, maybe predictably, he did not cross another soul on his way to Taehyung’s room.

Before knocking, he listened carefully through the door. As expected, he heard loud laughter ringing through the room. He was happy that Taehyung was in high spirits, and happy Hoseok had joined him for his stream.

It was Taehyung who opened the door, whose smile was even brighter and happier in person than it had been for the public.

“So, I heard you were talking shit about my handwriting.”

Taehyung’s expression morphed into one of melodramatic shock. The effect was ruined by his poorly concealed giggles.

He stole Taehyung’s seat at the desk, nodding in greeting to Hoseok, who was still seated on the stool adjacent the chair.

Taehyung followed a step behind, apparently struggling to find a good response.

“No, no I didn’t. Hoseok did. This isn’t fair.”

Hoseok wrapped an arm around Taehyung’s waist once he was close enough.

“Right. Hyung, I was the one who said your handwriting was more like footwriting. Taehyung was just confessing he sees you in everything, including Namjoon’s messily written playlist.”

Taehyung squirmed out of the hold.“Hyung! Don’t say stuff like that.”

Yoongi smirked, shaking his head softly and looking down to his lap. The teasing from other members had become a bit much recently, but not yet too much. It wasn’t enough to discourage Yoongi from spending his free time with Taehyung, or from checking up with him as much as possible.

“Genius comes in a messy format, what can I say? I have to put Tae to bed though. So, Hoseok, you should get some sleep soon too.”

Hoseok laughed at that, but followed the instruction all the same. “Ah, Tae. It’s already your bed time?”

“No, well, I... I was going to keep working on solving all the shrines in Breath of the Wild?”

He turned pitiful eyes towards Yoongi, as if awaiting permission to spend a few more hours up on his Switch.

“Absolutely not.” Yoongi didn’t leave him any time to plead his case, quickly following on in an admonishing tone. “Taehyung, you caught your cold in L.A. That was... Well now, that’s almost two months ago. You need to get better.”

He looked a bit more petulant now, as if put off by Yoongi’s scolding tone. He tried to soften the blow somewhat.

“I want you to make the most out of our last days in Paris. We have a small break coming up too, I want you to enjoy it. So come on. Time to get ready for bed.”

Somewhere in between the grumbling and pouting, he was successful in sending Taehyung to the bathroom to change and sending Hoseok off to his own room.

He busied himself by picking Taehyung’s things up while the other was presumably applying his skincare routine and brushing his teeth. He tidied up his workspace, and folded the clothes that had been thrown carelessly atop his suitcase. It wasn’t a burden. It was calming to be amidst Taehyung’s belongings. It was comforting to know the sort of setting Taehyung preferred.

It felt just as right to coddle Taehyung once he emerged from his bathroom. He walked out in a silk set of pyjamas, round glasses perched atop his head. Yoongi was quick to tuck him into bed, bringing the covers up over his shoulders. He took off his glasses, folding them atop the bedside table.

They moved through the routine without exchanging words, obviously used to each other’s presence in this sort of context.

Yoongi ruffled Taehyung’s hair affectionately.

“Alright, good night. Let’s try to meet up at some point tomorrow. I’m sure you’ve got a full sightseeing Paris schedule booked already. But I’m also sure you can spare me a minute.”

Taehyung nodded, but he looked somewhat uncertain.

“Hey...”

Yoongi didn’t miss the movement of his Adam’s apple.

“What is it?” he replied in a softer tone.

“Just. Could you sleep here tonight? We’re going to be apart for most of next week. I kind of feel lonely.”

Yoongi did his best to not ask himself whether Taehyung felt loneliness at being away from all his members, or if maybe it was Yoongi’s absence specifically that was the cause of it. Regardless of that, he complied silently, putting his cap down next to Taehyung’s glasses, taking off his socks and sandals to rest on the floor on Taehyung’s side of the bed. He climbed over Taehyung’s shape to rest on the opposite side. Taehyung pulled the covers back, and then turned the bedside table’s lamp off.

Even in the darkness of the room, he noticed the wary look in Taehyung’s gaze. Silently and gently he brought Taehyung’s body closer to his.

They shared a smile. Yoongi resisted the urge to lean in to taste the shape of Taehyung’s smile.

 

− − − − − − − − −

Despite his best intentions, falling asleep before the late hours of the night was proving more challenging than ever. He wasn’t going to retract his previous request. He wanted Yoongi to spend the night with him. Yet, his presence had him on edge. It was too much to slip into any semblance of sleep.

They’d switched positions countless times in the last hour, even going as far as swapping sides. Finally, he’d settled on hugging his pillow with his entire body, and with Yoongi hugging him with his entire body. Which, in most universes, would have been the dream position to fall asleep in.

However, he had no choice but to think Yoongi wasn’t experiencing such difficulty falling asleep. He had no choice but to conclude that Yoongi was moving his hands subconsciously, as if on the verge of sleep.

It had felt nice at first, his hand had moved up and down his side in what felt like a reassuring motion. Eventually, his hands had found a way to his front. That had still been fine. But now, they had managed to slip beneath his clothes, and the same slow drag of his hands over his heated skin was very testing.

Taehyung pressed his face to his pillow. He was sure Yoongi must have felt the shudder that ran through his body when he had dragged him even closer to his own. Yoongi’s body felt so familiar after all these years dancing together. Even most recently on tour, Yoongi supported his body weight by holding his waist up on a nightly basis. The proximity, however, was experienced in an entirely different context. Different from sharing a bed and having Yoongi’s hands pressed to his bare skin beneath his silk pyjamas.

Finally, he gave up. He looked over his shoulder. He met Yoongi’s sleepy gaze. As he thought, he didn’t seem very aware of the tantalizing motion of his hands. Maybe, maybe he even thought the touch was appeasing or could lull Taehyung to sleep.

“Hyung?”

“Uhm? Sleep, Taehyung.”

His voice was groggy. Taehyung felt like shrinking in on himself. He returned to his prior position, face partially hidden by the pillow he was keeping close to his chest. It was embarrassing to think Yoongi’s palms and touch carried no intent, but that Taehyung’s body had heated up dangerously.

“I can’t,” he mumbled. “You’re making me feel good.”

The whole situation was mortifying. As much as he’d mumbled into the fabric of the pillow, he was convinced there was no sugar coating the breathiness of his voice. He mentally berated himself for wording the problem in such a sensual manner.

To make matters worse, Yoongi hadn’t immediately withdrawn his hands following the statement. Instead, the hands stilled, and pressed more firmly against Taehyung’s stomach.

“What did you say? I’m making you feel good?”

He was almost tempted to start crying.

“Yeah!” He turned his head again, afraid the heated blush he was wearing would be seen in the dark. He was just as afraid of the deep ache in his stomach and chest. “How could I not? You’re petting me like I’m, uh... Your hands are all over me!”

He was pretty sure he’d failed to construct a coherent sentence there, but he stayed facing Yoongi. Somewhere along his struggle to find a logical chain of words, he’d moved his hands to rest over Yoongi’s. Yoongi’s hands, which had yet to move away from him.

“I thought it would be calming!”

“Well, no! I’m super wound up!”

“But good enough to fall asleep?” Yoongi asked hesitantly. His expression was a tad confused, but his hands remained steady on his front.

“No, like good enough to touch you back.”

Yoongi licked his lips. The moment he did, Taehyung felt as if he might have lost grip on his reality. Because the next thing that touched Yoongi’s lips were his own. He turned towards Yoongi’s body easily. And Yoongi’s hands, just as easily, found their way to grip Taehyung’s hips.

The kiss was languorous, heated, charged, everything Taehyung had never even allowed himself to think of. Taehyung fit his hands over Yoongi’s cheeks and rubbed gentle circles with his thumbs. Somewhere far away in his mind, he realized Yoongi was grinding his hips against his. And somewhere even farther, he understood he was rocking back just as steadily, moaning into their kiss every other beat.

Eventually, they both pulled apart to inhale deeply. They weren’t quite far enough to not breathe in the same air. And as if snapped out of an out of body experience, they both exhaled an excited laugh together.

“Hm, so I make you feel good, huh?”

Taehyung laughed, still shy, but mostly eager and overjoyed.

“Always. It was just a little hard to ignore just then.”

Their lips crashed together before anything more could be added. They clutched at each other, and their mouths and tongues moved eagerly to experience the other in a thus far unknown way.

“What about sleeping?” Taehyung asked between kisses.

“Later,” Yoongi replied distractedly.

 

− x − x − x − x − x − x − x − x −

“So, what’s up?”

Taehyung smiled tensely.

He was grateful he and Namjoon were the first ones back in the dorm from their time off. For the evening they could still take it easy, but come tomorrow it would all be rehearsals for their performance on the MGA. After the awards, it would be straight into preparing for Japanese dome performances. Taehyung knew the time for this conversation was now, or never.

Secretly, he was leaning towards never. Sharing this sort of thing when he had still never even voiced his sexuality out loud was countless shades of terrifying. The fact that he had had zero contact with Yoongi since they had left Paris made the conversation feel all the more meaningless and horrible.

Despite it all, he trusted Namjoon and he cared about each of his members.

“I just. I think I might like Yoongi-Hyung? You know, like... I want to be with him?”

Namjoon nodded slowly, his expression giving nothing away. It almost felt as if the statement was devoid of meaning to him. After an awkward silence, it seemed as if it had only just occurred to him that this might have been the topic Taehyung had in mind.

“That’s fine, Tae. And sort of seems like a conversation you should be having with Hyung, not with me.”

It looked as if Namjoon was tempted to turn back towards his setup to get back to his work. Taehyung glanced around the studio space uneasily.

“Well, yeah. But I thought it was more important to have a conversation with you first. It’s not like I’d try anything if I knew you were against it.”

Namjoon frowned at that.

“Against it? Do you mean if I were against it for the sake of the group?”

Taehyung nodded tensely.

“Oh, Tae. There’s nothing you and me have to discuss. You both put the group over yourselves. I don’t need to supervise your relationship.” Taehyung shifted on his feet, the word ‘relationship’ filling him with longing. “And even if it didn’t work out between you... Sure, you might like each other. But, you love each other, too. I’m not worried at all.”

This time, Taehyung felt numb as he nodded.

He’d never, not in a hundred years, have thought the conversation would have been as easy as that. He didn’t leave Namjoon’s side until they had hugged for a very long moment. Namjoon had told him how proud he was. No matter how undeserving he felt; Taehyung accepted the comment with unrestrained happiness.

It was only once he was alone in his room that he thought of the possibility that Yoongi may not love him enough for Namjoon’s words to ring completely true. Wouldn’t he have picked up his phone during their break? Wouldn’t he have answered one of Taehyung’s sparse messages? Wouldn’t he have addressed the fact that they had kissed passionately for hours on end? Taehyung wondered. So instead of attempting to reach out once more, he fell into an anxious sleep.

 

Yoongi sighed in frustration, kicking his feet up onto the coffee table. The travel bag he’d brought home with him was still by the couch. What had been a promise to himself to finish a song before he returned to the dorm had now become a promise to finish it before he was allowed to enter his bedroom. It was obviously going poorly.

He brought his feet back down, letting out another sound of frustration. After a few horrible moments of aggressively tapping his pen against the pages of his notebook, he admitted defeat and collapsed his head into his hands.

The stinging in his eyes wasn’t a good sign. He certainly wasn’t going to cry over this. Sometimes, writing songs felt as natural as breathing. The only obstacle was usually the pressure of writing something that would live up to fan expectation. However, there was no promise to share this particular song with the public.

A dull crashing sound brought him out of escalating thoughts of anxiety. He spotted Taehyung easily. It seemed as if he had walked into a wall. It seemed plausible, as his eyes were almost swollen shut, hair puffed out on the left side; a clear indicator of which side he had been sleeping on. He glanced confusedly between his watch and Taehyung’s outfit. Everything pointed towards Taehyung accidentally falling into a deep and long slumber.

“Taetae,” he called out.

Taehyung followed the voice with little sign of waking up more.

“Hyung? What are you doing out here.”

“Just, working,” he gestured towards his notebook weakly.

It hardly felt as if he were working. Maybe struggling would have been the more appropriate word.

“Oh? Were you working too much to answer me? Or were you just ignoring me?”

There was nothing accusing in Taehyung’s tone, just something deeply sad. It surprised Yoongi. He realized, perhaps belatedly, that he hadn’t given much thought to how Taehyung would interpret his silence.

“I guess both. I’m sorry, Taehyung.”

Taehyung had reached the couch, he took a seat on the armrest, leaning some of his weight against Yoongi. He shrugged tiredly.

“It’s ok. I probably made things weird, I’m sorry.”

Yoongi furrowed his eyebrows.

“Not really sure what you’re talking about. But I’ve been trying to get this new song to some state where I can decide whether or not I can bring it into my next mix tape.”

Despite Taehyung’s despondent air, he perked up at the mention of Yoongi’s upcoming work. He felt himself puff out his chest in some ridiculous sense of pride at seeing Taehyung continuously adoring the music he created.

“And it’s giving you some trouble?”

“You could say that. I don’t know, maybe you could help.”

“Me?”

Yoongi winced. Taehyung had all but shouted his surprise at the words.

“Yeah, you. Actually, well... Again, I’m sorry I wasn’t answering you. I was trying to get this somewhere decent so I could pitch it to you. But, I’ve been thinking we could create and sing a song together. For the mix tape.”

He’d rushed it all out in a mess of embarrassment and anxiety. He didn’t observe Taehyung’s reaction, suddenly much more invested in inspecting the shape of the pen he’d been using.

When Taehyung eventually replied, it was nothing but a barely formed “what?”

“Well, in reality. Probably not for the mix tape. Because I haven’t been able to make it sound like anything other than a love song. That’s fine too, but then it’ll be a song just for the two of us. But, it’s been hard. Maybe if you helped?”

When he finally glanced up, Taehyung’s eyes were all he could see. They were big, glassy with tears, and now completely awake.

“You want me to... maybe contribute to your mix tape? You want us to write together? To sing together?”

Yoongi eased up at that, recognizing Taehyung’s long dragged fear of not being able to contribute to their music.

“Yeah, I’d love that.”

Taehyung swallowed. Nodding at Yoongi seriously, as if he weren’t on the brink of tears.

“And uh, you love me?”

“That you already knew.”

“You love me, like you want to be with me? Romantically and sexually, and all that?” Taehyung made some strange, clearly nervous, hand gesture to accompany the clarifications.

“That I thought you knew,” Yoongi answered hesitantly.

He’d thought they had been on the same page while in Paris. It had been hard for him to interpret it in any other way. Now that he thought back on it though, he couldn’t recall any sort of discussion they had had on the subject.

“Well, I love you like that!” Taehyung added helpfully after a beat.

“Me, too,” he whispered.

This time, when Taehyung leaned down towards him, they kissed sweetly. It felt all too natural to hold Taehyung’s hands as they did so.

Taehyung nearly fell to the floor when Jungkook, Jimin, and Seokjin entered the room. Yoongi too was surprised, and now embarrassed that he hadn’t heard the loud trio as they had made their way to the living room.

Taehyung made a few strange sounding ‘uh’ sounds, as if desperately searching for a way to explain what had been unfolding. This earned him three dubious looks.

Jungkook cleared his throat awkwardly. “You know, you can kiss in front of us. It’s not like we’re out in public.”

Yoongi almost choked on his breath. “What do you mean? You know this is literally our second time kissing?”

This time, the looks that were turned on Yoongi were much more suspicious. Once it seemed clear to the trio that he wasn’t about to break character and yell out ‘gotcha!’, Jimin let out an amazed sound.

“Are you serious? I thought for sure you were already together when you had that huge fight.”

Seokjin piped in there, “Yeah, or at the very least that you got together right after.”

Yoongi laughed with Taehyung at that, but he made sure their fingers were interlaced, and to press his palms fully against Taehyung’s.

After a few more clarifications with the members, Taehyung had found a place on the sofa next to Yoongi. Yoongi had slung an arm over his shoulders. His notebook was open on his lap as Taehyung leaned in closer to take a look.

“Alright, let me help for a bit, Hyung.”

Yoongi had never felt happier. He was convinced Taehyung felt the same