All there is is light. It’s the strangest sensation. All his senses are numbed, there’s a ringing in his ears and he wishes he could make sense of what is happening to him. What is this place? It looks like an office room. Too formal, with only a table and some chairs in it, looking at a large projection screen. The walls are too white. Everything is too sterile. There’s discomfort rising in his lungs, his heart is beating a mile a minute.
“Calm down, boy. You don’t have to be afraid.”
There’s a man standing by the corner. Has he always been there? Taehyung doesn’t know and now he feels even more uneasy.
He seems to be no older than 40. Wearing a gray jumper and cream coloured trousers with a straw hat perched on top of his head, looking so out of place Taehyung can only stare as the man makes his way across the room towards him.
This all feels like a dream, other than the fact that the pain in his head is so real his flesh threatens to split apart any second. He instinctively rubs a hand over the nape of his neck, just over the spot where the pounding is the worst.
“That’s gonna hurt a whole lot, boy.”
“What?” Taehyung asks, voice gravelly, feeling like he hasn’t used it in a while. “What happened?”
“Accident. Hit your head pretty bad, I believe.” Taehyung’s eyes widen.
Has he been in an accident? When? How does he not remember? He moves the hand off of the back of his neck only to find that there’s blood covering the tips of his fingers, bright red, a stark contrast in the room of blinding white. His breath is punched out of his lungs.
“How?” He asks, more himself than the strange man as he rubs at the blood on his hand.
“That’s not important right now.”
“What do you mean?” He lifts his eyes off of his tainted fingers.
“I mean that isn’t important. That’s not why you’re here.”
“I don’t understand. Why am I here then?”
“I don’t know. You tell me.”
Taehyung lets out a frustrated breath. “You’re not making any sense.”
“Just sit already.”
“What for? Where am I?”
He looks at the man then, really looks at him. He seems familiar, feels familiar, but he can’t place him. Like he is a distant relative he met far far back, when he was young, too young to remember.
“How do you know my name? Who are you anyway?”
The man lifts his straw hat off of his messy head of ginger hair and places it on the table before pulling a chair out to sit himself down. Taehyung, though reluctantly, but feels the compulsion to follow.
“What is this place?”
The man leans forward and places a remote control in front of him.
“Press play when you’re ready.”
“Ready for what?” He asks, heart beating out of time. Why is he so scared? What is going to happen?
“I guess we’ll both find out once you start watching.”
Taehyung reaches a shaky hand over and clutched the remote in his palm.
“What am I going to see?”
It’s the day the air conditioning of the studio stopped working. After hours of practice the mirrors are about to fog up from the humidity in the air. Jin is chugging water like it’s his last life line, Yoongi is taking a break sitting on the floor with his back against the cool wall, slender fingers tapping away on his phone at an impressive speed, using the short break they were given to collect himself a little.
Jeongguk and Hoseok are going over an especially difficult part of the choreography with Namjoon who’s focused and driven to get all the moves right, the three of them monitoring their reflections in the mirrored wall, until...
How himself and Jimin have the energy to mess about is a mystery, but they do, cackling at something playing on Jimin’s phone, laughing so hard he’s stomping his feet, laughing even harder when Jimin throws himself to the ground, clutching his sides and rolling around.
The hyungs all throw them a look, Hoseok and Namjoon endeared - so used to the pair’s antics, Yoongi slightly annoyed - who could blame him, how haven’t they noticed how goddamn loud they were being? Jin just rolls his eyes before wiping the sweat off of his forehead.
Jeongguk on the other hand stares. He’s not even trying to hide it, standing in the middle of the studio, frozen in motion, eyes fixed on Taehyung and Jimin in the mirror laughing frenetically, too carefree to ever notice Jeongguk’s undivided attention.
For a few moments there’s something fierce in his eyes, before he clenches his jaw, clears his throat, runs a hand through his sweat soaked hair and goes back to the routine.
“I’ve made pancakes, hyung.” Jeongguk announces as he stumbles into the kitchen, puffy-faced and sleep-deprived, collapsing into a chair and resting a head on the table.
“How are you so chirpy this early? I wish I was dead.”
“I’ve been up since 2 working on a cover, thought if I don’t sleep I’ll pull through easier.” He shrugs and flashes a toothy smile at him. “Here, I’ve got coffee too.”
His eyes zero in on the paper cup Jeongguk places in front of him on the table, the smell of coffee with a hint of coconut fill his nostrils, awakening his senses and he takes a swift sip, humming loudly.
“You went out. To get coffee. At 6am.” He states baffled inbetween sips. “Who are you? What have you done to the Jeongguk I know? Can you also do my laundry for me ‘cause the pile of dirty underwear on my...”
“Shut up.” Jeongguk giggles as he chucks a packet of ramyun he grabbed off of the shelf at him. “I was thinking. I can be nice to my hyung sometimes.”
“Hyung? What did I do to deserve the special treatment?” He teases, his favourite coconut latte clutched between his fingers, pressed against his left cheek as he looks at Jeongguk.
He promptly turns around, seemingly occupying himself with something on the kitchen counter, one hand scratching the back of his head.
“Uh. I meant hyungs. The others already had theirs.”
“Yeah?” He raises a questioning eyebrow.
The night he got drunk for the first time was the night he drank two bottles of soju, snuck out of the dorm, drank one more by the Han River, binged on burgers and ice cream, before his impromptu adventure ended when Sejin called him mad pissed off upon finding out he wasn’t in his room and picked him up on the way back from Jeongguk’s private schedule.
They are sitting in the very backseat of the van, Jeongguk sneaking glances at Sejin, like he’s waiting for him to explode and scold Taehyung, but the man hasn’t looked at them once. He keeps his eyes on the road and his mouth shut.
Sejin has always been too good to deserve all the trouble the seven of them inflict upon his life. He definitely deserves a pay raise. And a holiday.
On the radio SHINee’s Ring Ding Dong comes on and his drunken self, bold and foolish, cannot contain an excited screech. He looks to Jeongguk, who looks back utterly amused and with an arm around his neck pulls him in for a blurry selca.
He chuckles contentedly and nudges Jeongguk’s cheek with his nose. His dongsaeng looks startled at their proximity and makes to pull away but he’s still got one arm firmly around his neck. He observes him through half lidded eyes, his breath fanning over the younger’s face, not moving an inch, and Jeongguk trembles. Then he closes his eyes. Like he’s waiting.
He stares at the boy in front of him for long seconds before he finally lets him go and joins into singing the chorus with Onew and Key.
The digital clock on the dashboard of the car reads 2:47am. To say he’s exhausted would be an understatement. They’re heading back to their dorm after a night of shooting for the new music video. His left shoulder is still aching since he pulled a muscle during a run through. He’s at the very back seat of the car, with Hoseok sitting on the left and Jeongguk taking the seat in the middle. His lids are too heavy, having sat down turns his muscles into mush and as the tension leaves his body he rapidly starts dozing off, head bobbing uncomfortably from side to side.
At once, Jeongguk wraps a gentle hand around his neck and places his head on his shoulder, even readjusting his position to make sure he isn’t nudged awake, that he can sleep comfortably. Hoseok just sends Jeongguk a knowing smile before he stares out the window, watching the night lights of Seoul as they whizz past. Jeongguk takes in his features, soft and relaxed in his slumber and after a moment of hesitation he lifts a tentative hand to swipe a lock of unruly hair out of his eyes, fingers brushing against the apple of his cheek as he retrieves them. He half unconsciously nuzzles into the crook of Jeongguk’s neck and Jeongguk’s breath hitches, as if his heart had skipped a beat at the touch of soft lips and warm exhales on his burning skin.
He is ill and the airport is packed with fans trying to get a good look at them as they walk through departures. Jeongguk is sticking by his side like he was glued to him. When a girl pushes him from the side in the hope of getting a close up shot Jeongguk wraps a gentle arm around his midsection, pulling him closer carefully, while lifting the other in front of him in a protective manner.
When they finally reach the escalators Jeongguk places a soft hand on his chest, head bowed as he fiddles with a button on his shirt, and whispers ‘Are you okay? Hold on just a little longer.’
He is stressed out and restless, tossing and turning instead of getting that 45 minute power nap in before recording starts, until Jeongguk appears from out of nowhere, sitting down next to him, placing his head in his lap. He starts singing one of his English songs. He is slowly, slowly lulled to sleep.
It’s his birthday and Jeongguk fights Seokjin to be the one to hold the cake.
He’s half asleep on the couch when Jeongguk appears and drapes a blanket over him.
Jeongguk Jeongguk Jeongguk
No, not quite. Snippets of his life. Nothing note worthy. No important events nor life changing moments. Just everyday life.
But why does he suddenly feel like he had never quite been truly there ?
“So..” The man starts carefully. “What did you see?”
Distraught, Taehyung glares at the man. “You were watching, weren’t you?”
“I watched everything , yes. That doesn’t answer my question, though. What did you see, Taehyung?”
He’s too worked up to play these stupid games right now. How has he never realised? All this time, it has been years, and yet he has never noticed.
The name leaves his lips as barely more than a whisper, the man’s eyes widen with a flicker of realisation.
“Aah, so I see.”
And suddenly Taehyung’s chest feels too tight and it’s too painful to breath. He presses the heels of his palms against his temples hard, squeezing and squeezing his eyes shut even harder, trying to make sense of the overwhelming mixture of feelings that have washed over him. He doesn’t know how long he’s sat there before feeling the wetness on his face.
“Why am I crying?” He chokes out, fingers swiftly wiping the trails of his tears.
The man observes him for what feels like minutes, crosses his legs and leans back in his chair. “People tend to mourn the things they’ve lost.” He states simply.
A sob catches in Taehyung’s throat.
It’s only fitting that Taehyung woke up with a raging headache and without a trace of recollection of anything that had occurred. He will never remember that man in the straw hat, or a room with blinding white walls, nor will he remember observing those moments of his life, seemingly insignificant yet so crucially important, long buried in the dusty corners of his mind never to be found again.
How cruel life is, some would say.
There’s a hand wrapped around his own and it’s rubbing comforting circles over his knuckles. Taehyung wants to open his eyes but his eyelids feel like lead. He grunts in effort and the hand on his goes still.
“Tae?” Taehyung groans, squeezing the fingers as much as his exhausted body manages, holding on as if they could pull him out from under water.
“Taehyung?” The voice speaks again, uncertain and fragile, and hot breath fans over the back of Taehyung’s hand.
“My head..” he manages to say through gritted teeth. “My head is .. killing ..ahh”
He barely peels his lids open for a fraction of a second but the light is already painfully bright.
“Tae, it’s okay, take it easy.”
It’s Jeongguk. He recognises the voice now as his head slowly starts to clear. Suddenly Jeongguk lets go of him, and Taehyung misses the reassuring touch as soon as it’s gone. If only the ache in his skull would lessen.
“Tae?” He hears Jeongguk’s approaching footsteps. There’s a tentative brush of skin against his wrist before long fingers wrap around his once again.
“I have switched the lights off. You can try opening your eyes again.” So he does.
Judging by the darkness of the room and the dim light that surrounds him it must be late evening. Jeongguk is sitting on a chair pulled close to Taehyung’s bed, hair frazzled, eyes rimmed with dark circles. He seems at the verge of passing out.
“Hey, you.” Jeongguk says tiredly, as they lock eyes.
“Hey, Gukkie.” Taehyung replies with the lightest squeeze of his hand.
“How are you feeling?”
“Awful.” He pushes the words through gritted teeth, the pounding in his skull suddenly back at full force.
“I’m not surprised.”Jeongguk replies with a breathy chuckle. “It was about time you came to. The hyungs were worried sick. Not to mention Jimin.” Jeongguk tries sounding lighthearted, though Taehyung can catch onto the relief in this tone. He swipes his thumb over Jeogguk’s once. Twice.
“Your hand is really warm..”
“Oh..” Jeongguk instantly loosens his hold. “I’m sorry.”
“No, no… It’s nice.” Taehyung whispers out, words too heavy on his tongue, not letting go.
“I’ve just never noticed before.” He says with a small smile.
“Your hands are always cold. Told you, you’ve got bad circulation or something.”
“Maybe I should hold your hand more.” Taehyung mentions dismissively, mind still too hazy to notice the blush blooming on Jeongguk’s cheeks.
“Yeah.. maybe.” Jeongguk replies, barely a whisper.
But Taehyung is already off to dreamland.
“Taetae, we’re going to the studio.” Namjoon mentions in passing, as he walks by their room. “You gonna be okay?”
“Yeah. I’ll be fine, hyung. Don’t worry.”
“Want me to put Haikyuu on for you?”
“Nah, I’ve watched all seasons at least three times already.”
Namjoon stops by the threshold, eyes dripping pity.
“What are you gonna do then?”
“Dunno.” Taehyung mumbles. “I’ll figure something out, though. It’s okay.”
His hyung walks up to him, ruffles his hair then grabs his gym bag off the floor. “Should be back by 10.”
“Sure.” is all Taehyung can say.
He’s been cooped up in their dorm for two weeks. Doctor’s orders. The only way for him to make sure no damage is done is to rest and take it easy. Meaning; lay in bed for weeks and go crazy of boredom.
He watches as all the boys rush past his door, never wishing for a tough dance practice more in his life. He’s just about to make himself comfortable for an afternoon nap when there’s a faint knock on the door. Jeongguk is wearing gray sweatpants and a plain old black tee, hair smothered to his forehead under a black beanie. Taehyung notes that casual clothes make him look years younger. It’s cute.
“Gukkie!” Taehyung flashes a rectangular smile. “What’s up?”
“Uh, I’ve got something for you.” He reaches into his pockets and pulls an ipod out.
“Wow, I haven’t seen one of these in years.” He taunts.
“Yeah, I digged my old one up. Made you a playlist. In case you were, you know, bored or whatever.” Jeongguk trails off, scratching the back of his neck as he holds the ipod out for Taehyung to take.
“Oh. Thank you.” Taehyung’s caught off guard for a second.
“This is super sweet.” He takes it and fiddles with the earphones with a soft smile.
“Wanna play Overwatch with me tonight?”
“Yeah. That would be cool.” Jeongguk nods, eyes shining bright, and Taehyung can’t look away.
“Cool.” Jeongguk chuckles under his breath.
“I’m gonna listen to this now.” He says, holding the ipod up.
“Yeah, okay. I better go before they decide to leave without me.” Jeongguk motions towards the front door awkwardly. Taehyung just nods with a hint of a smile tugging at his lips, and watches Jeongguk walk away as he puts the earphones in.
Soft piano starts playing, then it’s joined by a violin.
Jeongguk seems to always know his taste in music.
The singer’s voice is smooth and soothing. He wishes he would understand English, but the song sounds nice enough nonetheless.
“I’ve waited a hundred years, and I’d wait a million more for you … “