“I still believe,
even though it’s unbelievable,
To lose your path
Is the way to find it.”
December 2, 2016
Getting groped on stage by your definitely gay maybe-boyfriend in front of millions of people would likely be the high point of anyone's day.
But for Seokjin, it was just the beginning.
Although, arguably, things began to ramp up five days ago with a surreptitious hand job in the kitchen, smashing one of their longest-standing rules about never fooling around in the dorm. And while they didn't get caught, the occurrence itself plus the subsequent sleepless nights in Japan have left them raw enough that everyone knows something is up.
In the car from their hotel that morning, Yoongi had asked, “So, wait... are you back together or not?”
Seokjin fussed with the cuffs of his sweater. Conscious of how his words mirrored Taehyung's from the night they broke up, he answered, “I don't know. Maybe?”
Yoongi tracked the hazy Hong Kong skyline with his eyes. Across from him, Hoseok watched them while skimming through his text notifications.
“Are you okay with it?” Seokjin asked.
Yoongi had rolled his shoulders. “Doesn't matter if I am or not, hyung,” he said. “But if it keeps you from crying at night then I support it.”
Hoseok met Seokjin's eyes. He gave him the flattened smile of friendly solidarity.
“Well,” Seokjin said, “we're gay men in love. In Korea. I believe we're destined for tears.”
Yoongi twisted a lock of his hair and slumped deeper into his seat. “Yep,” he muttered. “Seems that's the way.”
Seokjin typed a message in a private chat to Hoseok: Is he all right?
Hoseok chewed the inside of his cheek as he typed his answer: This is always a difficult time of year for him.
Seokjin had stared at Yoongi. He wanted to push for clarification, but felt that moment was far from the appropriate time. And anyway, Yoongi only divulged details when it was on his terms, so Seokjin let it go.
During the flashblind red carpet walk and the media blitzkrieg that follows, it's easy for Seokjin to get caught up in the frenetic frenzy of the day. So he forgets about Yoongi's mood from this morning, and he forgets to be troubled about the things that happened with Taehyung back in Seoul. The stylists dress Seokjin in slick black silk that caresses his still sun-tender skin. Already playing his part as the demon tempter, Taehyung glides along, coolly aloof at his side.
Seokjin doesn't even realize there's tension between him and Jimin until it's already played out. They're all backstage for their costume change and Taehyung's special makeup, when Seokjin notices Jimin and Jungkook walking slowly together, practically holding hands. Seokjin's just playing around when he tries to squeeze in between them, but Jimin shoves him hard enough to make him stumble into a partition. The interaction fractures the thin veneer of Taehyung's outward calm, and he winds up shouting at Seokjin, much to Jimin's amusement.
It hurts Seokjin, though, more deeply than he can admit. And the immediate look of remorse on Taehyung's face... that only makes it worse.
But Seokjin decides not to make a big deal of it. They're at the MAMAs, he reminds himself, the largest awards show in the world. They are the most nominated group of the night, and though they don't hope to score even one of the awards, it reminds him to keep his focus. They have worked too hard for too long to fall apart now. So they'll talk later, and maybe they'll even have a chance for a little making-up making out.
Before he can chide himself for being so single-minded, Taehyung strong-arms him into the nearest washroom, where he bangs the stall door shut behind them.
“I'm sorry,” Taehyung moans. He rucks his hands through his neatly styled hair. “I am so sorry.”
Calm, rational instinct takes over. Seokjin tucks his hands in his pockets and gives him a casual shrug. He says, “It's nothing. I'll simply punish you in a manner you'll never expect at a time when you least expect it.”
Taehyung knuckles him against the door. “Don't play with me, hyung,” he growls. Tears pool in his eyes as he presses his fists to his temples. “I didn't mean it. Maybe I'm more stressed than I thought, but I am really, really sorry.”
Too easily, Seokjin's armor drops away. “VV,” he whispers. “Oh, my VV. I'm okay.” Gingerly, he smudges his thumbs beneath Taehyung's eyes, catching the dew of his tears before they fall. “Though I feel I should have a stern conversation with Jimin—”
“—Yoongi will, for sure,” Taehyung mutters. “If Joon-ie doesn't do it first.”
“The staff were filming, weren't they?” Seokjin muses.
Taehyung nods as he chews his pinkie nail.
“They wouldn't post that. Would they?”
“These days they post anything featuring Jimin-ie and Jungkook-ie,” Taehyung sulks. “Even if Jimin is being rude.”
“Hm,” Seokjin says. “True.” He pinches his lips as he ponders this odd little truth.
“Hyung, you're messing up your lips,” Taehyung says.
Seokjin treats this as an invitation. He grips Taehyung's lapels and kisses him full on the mouth. He's very pleased to see that Taehyung looks a little dazed when they part.
“Now I've messed up yours, too,” Seokjin says.
Taehyung wobbles, unsteady, before he surges roughly forward.
And that's when they hear the distant announcement over the speaker.
“Did they just call us?” Taehyung asks.
“Fuck,” Seokjin chuckles. “I think they did.”
Taehyung slams open the stall door and shoves Seokjin through it. “Go,” he shouts. “I'm right behind you.”
Which is exactly what happens in their showcase performance. The parts when they're dancing filter and blur through Seokjin's conscience, as they usually do. Muscle memory takes over for the choreography so that he sees only the other six members amid streaks of spangling colored light.
He's breathless when they meet below stage to perform the part of Taehyung's seduction. Everything happens with clockwork quickness. They hear the crowd's reaction to Jungkook's suspension, and then the production managers wave them to their places. What lingers in Seokjin's heart are the words Taehyung presses into his ear before moving upstage to his mark. “Don't worry, Jinnie-hyung,” he breathes. “It's nothing we haven't done a thousand times before.”
“Yes,” Seokjin calls to Taehyung's retreating form, “but never with an audience!”
Then Seokjin's kneeling on the stage, his own breath heavy in his ears, the audience behind them. And Taehyung doesn't hold back. He drapes himself over Seokjin's shoulders. He drags kisses along his neck. He clutches at the fussy ruffles of Seokjin's silk shirt. He smells like smoke and roses, and Seokjin's every synapse burns.
Seokjin doesn't need to act as he closes his eyes. He swallows hard and wishes they were a thousand miles away.
After the finale, once the lift descends to return them to the scaffolds below, Namjoon wheels on them, and they all clasp hands. Sweat gleams on his beaming face as he babbles something uplifting and unintelligible over the deafening thunder of the crowd.
Maybe it's because of the afternoon's turbulent sea of excitement, and maybe it's because Yoongi's not paying them his fullest attention, but Seokjin decides to buck their normal protocol. He figures, What the hell? Taehyung just felt him up on stage, so what possible harm can come from them sitting together?
They then proceed to ignore Namjoon's meaningful, imploring glances while arm-in-arm, they tease and sing and play. They whisper stupid jokes about the presenters into each other's ears. Taehyung scratches Seokjin's neck with the very expensive beaded sleeve of his jacket. They play games, and they laugh, like no one else is watching.
They are pushing too far, Seokjin knows. They'll hear about it from Namjoon at least, and probably from Bang Sihyuk, too. But for once, he doesn't care.
Because the twenty minutes he spends pretending that he's out with Taehyung is the best he's felt in years.
Even when they win Artist of the Year, Seokjin sets that memory on an equal shelf in his mind, alongside the one of him and Taehyung, happy and in love for the whole world to see.
Later, much later in the night, exhausted and spent, Seokjin and Taehyung lay entwined in Seokjin's hotel bed. The room glows pale with silver lamplight, while dark shadows widen their grip on the world beyond their window.
Taehyung's voice sounds smoky when he says, “Remember our first trip to China?”
“Aaah,” Seokjin moans. “When we all had to share that one tiny room?”
Taehyung gestures widely to the suite around them. “Look at us now.”
Seokjin brushes his lips to the tiny mole on Taehyung's nose. “I am,” he says.
“Hyung...” Taehyung says. Though his eyelids slip heavier with each blink, he says, “We can go again if you want.”
“Tomorrow,” Seokjin soothes. “But tonight, I have one request.”
“Tell me,” Taehyung says.
“Let me kiss you once, anywhere I wish.”
Taehyung's eyes widen with intrigue. “Anywhere?” he asks. “Like, anywhere?”
Seokjin pushes Taehyung's bangs from his forehead. His hair smells like summer grass after a rainstorm. “Anywhere I wish,” Seokjin says.
“Okay, I agree,” Taehyung says, and then he squinches his eyes tight in anticipation.
Seokjin presses his lips to his ear and says, “The top of the Eiffel Tower.”
Taehyung recoils to level Seokjin with a scrutinizing glare. He says, “That is an unexpectedly public place.”
Seokjin's heart flutters. He thinks maybe it's too soon for such a passionate overture, seeing as they're not even officially back together. But he adds, hopefully, “Maybe the most romantic place in the world?”
Taehyung covers his mouth to hide the beginnings of a smile. He says, “What about your parents?”
“Perhaps it's best if they stay home,” Seokjin says. “I'm not even sure they're in love.”
“Jin-hyung!” Taehyung sighs through his nose. “Last week you said everything is still true.”
Seokjin smooths his palm over the broad plane of Taehyung's bare chest. “I keep thinking back to that night in Tokyo,” he says. “Not the part where I'm lost, but the part where you find me. I remember the sound of your voice calling my name. The way the lanterns lit up your face. The way you looked so relieved.”
Taehyung sinks into the pillows. He inhales, deeply, slowly, as he processes Seokjin's words. After a long, quiet moment, he says, “I want to believe I know what you're saying, but I... I really don't want to be wrong about it.”
“I'm saying that my heart already knew then what I know now,” Seokjin says. This is the part he's practiced to himself, because it's maybe the most important thing he's ever said, and he wants to be sure to get it right. “They are my family, Taehyung. But you are my home.”
Taehyung stares at him, his eyes alive with lamplight. “Hyung, does that mean...?”
“Yes, it means—”
But Taehyung doesn't let him finish. He pulls him into an embrace and kisses and kisses him until, after a long, long time, they fall asleep in each other's arms.