It feels like lightning.
It feels like a beginning. It feels soft. It feels like a dream. It feels like every cliche Taehyung’s put into his lyrics, multiplied by a thousand and then some, and he really gets, for the first time, why love songs sell so well.
Jungkook breaks it first, leaning back for a bit, eyes half-opened and glittering in the lights, expression awash with so much happiness he looks positively punchdrunk, and if Taehyung thought his heart couldn’t beat harder, he was clearly wrong as it starts jackhammering it’s way out of his chest.
Holy shit, he thinks dimly, that crush was himself.
Holy shit, he thinks, lips tingling, wait really?
Holy shit. Whoa. Holy shit. What. Holy shit. For how long? Holy shit—
“Damn,” Jungkook finally breathes out with a wispy plume of white, grin nearly splitting his face in two. the tip of his nose red from the cold, “I’ve wanted to do that for so long.”
And Taehyung, a producer who gets paid to write prose for a living, gets deep with his vocabulary and responds poetically:
In his defense, he was still reeling and trying to sort out his thoughts, which included some nifty brainwork like, holy shit pt. 245 and did Jungkook just say ‘for so long,’ hold up, so wait for how long, and this sidewalk is a public place. Luckily, before Taehyung can gather enough shame to mentally kick himself, Jungkook breaks out into an easy laugh, tips of his ears red, his eyes crinkling at the corners as he covers his mouth with a curled hand.
“Same,” Jungkook snickers. He looks so good, so attractive, so naive, it seriously feels like a dream, and Taehyung lets himself forget and live in the moment for a second before reality zips by again and yanks him back by the collar. A group of giggling teenage girls hurry by, breath swirling up in wisps of white between the falling snow, and he panics for a moment, trying to deduce if they were close enough to see, and he steps behind Jungkook, before it’s clear they don’t even notice the two of them.
Then he remembers. Jungkook is impulsive.
It’s a wakeup call at the right moment, a sanity check against the momentum, a gentle push against the swing of the pendulum, right before the girls round a corner and Jungkook begins to lean in again.
And I don’t want to see you suffer again.
So this time, Taehyung backs slightly away, now quite mindful of how open and public of a space they were in, and mutters, bracing a hand against Jungkook’s chest, “Um.”
The grin instantly drops from Jungkook’s face and his brows twitch closer with confusion, steeping with a touch of dismay.
“Oh, i-it’s not...” a rejection. It’s just, “...it’s just, this is all, kinda, um, sudden? I just need some, um, more...” Time? Space? Honestly, both, to get his priorities straight. And he’s scrambling to figure out how to phrase it when understanding spreads itself across Jungkook’s expression, and so Taehyung just leaves it at that, “...to think. A-about it.”
“Oh, okay,” Jungkook hesitates, expression still slightly crestfallen. “Yeah, uh...no pressure. It’s just...it’s just, I wanted you to know.”
Taehyung doesn’t know how else to respond except for a slow nod. His face is probably burning bright red right now, and he can’t figure out how to stop his heart from galloping in his chest.
“Because,” Jungkook’s voice picks up with a hint of determination. “Starting from now on, you better start paying attention.”
Taehyung snorts, brushing the snowfall from his bangs, “To what?”
“To me,” Jungkook jams his hands in his pockets and says with a hint of a grin back on his lips.
Taehyung makes a face, “Why?”
“‘Cause,” Jungkook cocks his head, eyes folding into twin crescents. “I’m gonna make you fall for me.”
The line’s so corny that Taehyung snickers with surprise, but the way Jungkook’s looking at him from under the light, full of resolve again, kills the retort on his lips.
“You think I’m joking?” Jungkook says, raising his eyebrows, eyes sparkling again, air of characteristic cockiness back in his body language. “I’m serious, I’m gonna make you fall—”
“Uh, okay, yeah, I heard you the first time,” Taehyung says hurriedly, internally cringing as his face starts heating up. He begins walking down the sidewalk, arms crossed, heading back to his car.
“And?” Jungkook quickly follows him, easily keeping pace.
“Uh...good luck with that.” Taehyung says, pulling his scarf higher over his face to hide the blush, and deigning to mention how he’s already halfway there.
“Thanks,” Jungkook bites his lip as they turn a corner onto the sidestreet Taehyung’s parked on, pulling his hood over his head. “But I don’t think I’ll need it.”
Taehyung rolls his eyes, and mumbles into his scarf, “...cocky as fuck, I swear, kids these days—”
“First—I’m not a kid anymore,” Jungkook looks determined as ever. “Haven’t been one for three years.”
Taehyung looks away, ears beginning to get nice and toasty warm, because um, yeah, he’s actually been really fuckin’ aware.
“And second...” Jungkook suddenly hooks a finger on Taehyung’s scarf and yanks it down, revealing Taehyung’s blazing blush to the world. The shittest grin begins spreading across his face, “...again, I don’t think I will.”
“Could you not?” Taehyung coughs unconvincingly and tugs the scarf back up, “I have a...a cold.”
“I do,” Taehyung insists. He spots his car out of the corner of his eye, and walks quickly towards it. “Well, thanks for walking me back, that’s my car, bye.”
“Oh nice,” Jungkook blinks. “Say, could I get a ride back?”
Taehyung snorts, as he unlocks his car, “Why? It’s like two blocks down.”
“That’s more than one block,” Jungkook shrugs, opening the passenger-side door.
“Considering I have to defrost my windows, it’ll actually be faster if you just start walking now.”
“It’s not about speed,” Jungkook says with a shrug.
“Then why? It’s too cold? Because it’s not that cold.”
“No,” Jungkook leans against the car, sleeze oozing from every pore. “Even if it’s just for a minute, I wanna spend every second I can with you.”
Taehyung gapes as Jungkook shoots him a goddamn wink, steps into the car and closes the door with a snap, hints clearly tossed out the window and off of a goddamn cliff.
Defrosting the car takes as long as expected, the drive is as short as anticipated, and for the minute(s) that transporting Jungkook a few meters down the road take—most of it spent at an ill-timed redlight—Jungkook spends them buried with his nose in his phone. And even though Taehyung’s a bit curious, he’s more relieved that the silence gives him a moment to collect himself.
When he pulls up to the bowling alley, Jungkook immediately upclips the seatbelt, and steps out of the car, pausing for a moment with a hand on the door.
“Thanks for the ride.”
“No problem,” Taehyung nods his head. “See you tomorrow?”
“Yeah. Drive safe,” Jungkook pats the top of the car.
“Also…” Jungkook trails off.
“Let me know when you get back, shoot me a text or something, so I know you got home safe,” Jungkook grins wide and winks for the third goddamn time that night, before he snaps the door shut, and then he’s hurrying back into the bowling alley, taking the stairs two at a time.
Holy fucking crap, with one gesture Jungkook unwinds all of the composure Taehyung’s managed to gather in the last five minutes, and Taehyung sinks down in the seat, feeling like he was on the brink of a heart attack, thinking about how Jungkook really needed to stop it with those winks.
(Because they were fucking working.)
I got back
That was pretty fast
I drive pretty fast
Less fun without you
Since there's no one to laugh at
Everyone’s actually good now
W o w
No you’re not
Yeah, you’re right
You might actually be the worst bowler I know
Surprisingly, I can live with that
I could give you lessons
Like, tomorrow, even
I have some time at night
But as much as I love bowling
We can do something else tho
Oh yeah, for sure I’m down
Got anything in mind?
Oh uh LOL
I’ll sleep on it
And let you know tomorrow
Yeah, I’m already in bed haha
That was fast
I fucking love sleep
As much as me??????????
Haha holy fucking shit wait that was Jimin
I left my phone with him for like five minutes
Sorry, you don’t have to answer that lol
LOL sorry I fell asleep
Loool don’t be sorry
Just don’t scroll up
Lol too late
I was expecting something more embarrassing
Anyway, going to sleep for real
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Oh my fucking
It was :(
If you say so
Taehyung, on the brink of sleep, drops his phone on his face at that moment. Nose smarting, he stares at the ceiling for a moment, contemplating life and the everything that just transpired with the last few hours.
Just like, holy shit, what a wild ride. He blinks as he reaches for his phone, he had so many questions.
But first, bringing the screen to his face, he glances at the text he sent on accident.
It was just an emoji.
You broke him
It was just an emoji
And you broke him
What the actual hell
What is he even doing LOL
But he hasn’t moved out of fetal position
For like the last five minutes
Not sure if he’s breathing
We’re a bit concerned
You can see in the corner how
Yugyeom's been trying to revive him
Looks more like he’s trying to stop
Jungkook from breathing period
At least by the way he’s about to
fuck him up with that bowling ball
Sounds about right
It’s about time haha
Whatever you got yourself into
Feel free to thank me whenever
How the fuck do you know
Is he like
I’m pretty sure Yugyeom figured out something happened
Don’t worry tho haha
JK may not be the sharpest tool in the shed
But he’s not that dumb
You know what
Dont quote me on tha t
Not really confidence inspiring lol
But not saying much
You never really are
Go to sleep
Aren’t you already supposed to be
That shit doesn’t work on me
Worth a shot tho
Taehyung wakes up the next morning to the afterglow of a pleasant dream he can’t quite remember, a smile lining his lips, the sun peeking through his curtains, and a—holy shit, a goddamn good morning text from Jungkook.
It’s seriously the small things that get him, Toes curling as he pulls his comforter over his head, warmth blooming on his face, he tries to curb the ear-splitting grin threatening to take over his face.
It’s a wasted effort.
Besides that, even with Jungkook’s promise, nothing changes, dramatically at least.
It’s just the same old Jungkook, but at much higher dosage. He’s still there on his usual spot on the couch when Taehyung gets into work and he still keeps all of his crap littered around the studio floor and he still bugs Taehyung about random producing stuff.
The only difference is Jungkook now spends every spare second glued to Taehyung’s side.
It’s like, before, Taehyung thought he was getting a lot of Jungkook. But now he knows he was wrong, as he’s trying to finish off the details on Jungkook’s Holiday song (now titled Winter Breeze ) with Jungkook standing next to him and using Taehyung’s head as an armrest.
“Yeah, so if you wanna get some producer creds, I can try to get you on the track,” Taehyung picks at a hangnail. “The debut date for WANNA TEEN got pushed to January and they’re considering using their holiday single as a marketing opportunity by releasing it for free—”
“Yeah sure, I’m down, also speaking of free,” Jungkook cuts in as he leans a little more on Taehyung’s head. “Are you free tonight?”
—this was a lot Jungkook.
Taehyung blinks, “Uh what?”
“As in, wanna get dinner?”
Taehyung grimaces, “That...was possibly the least smooth transition I’ve ever seen.”
“It got your attention,” Jungkook shrugs.
“I mean, I guess.”
“So? Are you?”
“...I mean...I guess...”
“Sweet.” Jungkook says. “Then it’s a date.”
And Taehyung chokes on his coffee.
That moment turns out to be the beginning of a pattern, and Jungkook becomes a human Time Vortex, committed to sucking in Taehyung’s every waking free moment. And Taehyung, for the most part, lets him.
It’s like a return to the old days, and he lets Jungkook drag him to places around Seoul, now more like exclusive hotspots and boujee activities that require a name on a list as the minimum for entry rather than the basic shit they used to do before. But they do some of that too, when he ends up letting himself spending an entire day with Jungkook on a weekend, hiking around on the outskirts of Seoul before doing random domestic stuff like shopping and cafe-hopping (he keeps his distance and a wary eye out) and ending the day at a kickback with a handful of Jungkook’s closest idol friends.
It’s almost terrifyingly normal.
Terrifying, because Taehyung’s starting to trip and forget why this, as in them, is a bad idea.
“Oh hey, Taehyung!” Yugyeom’s eyes flick towards Jungkook as he opens the door. “Jungkook mentioned he was bringing someone, but didn’t realize it was you,” he jabs Jungkook with his elbow. “Why didn’t you just say so? We all know who he is.”
Jungkook shrugs, “Didn’t feel like it.”
“Right. How was the movie?”
“It was alright,” Jungkook shrugs again. “I fell asleep.”
“He was the one who picked it too,” Taehyung makes a face. “And he started snoring during a really quiet scene, fucking embarrassing—“
“Hey, I was tired from hiking.”
“Really?” Taehyung makes a face. “You’re preparing for your tour, you’re supposed to be at peak fitness.”
“Yeah, but, it’s still hard to keep going uphill once you stop, you know, like, loss of momentum—”
“That’s your own fault. Oh yeah,” Taehyung turns to Yugyeom and points at Jungkook, shaking his head. “We kept stopping every five seconds so that this fool could take a picture of the view. But it was the same damn view.”
“Yeah, I got like 50 pics on SNOW,” Yugyeom laughs. “It was basically the same photo, I was kinda confused.”
“I told you,” Taehyung glares at Jungkook.
“The lighting was different! You’re into photography too, you should know!”
“When you move 10 feet, it’s not really that different.”
“The shade from the trees changed it! I just wanted to make sure!”
“Fine, but you did the same thing yesterday too! I couldn’t start eating because you were taking like a hundred pictures of your damn food. And in that case, the lighting wasn’t different!”
“It was the angle! I just want the best—!”
“So um…do you guys wanna come inside?” Yugyeom interrupts, standing awkwardly in doorway. He shuts the door with a click as soon as they step inside. “Also, um, like, are you guys—“
Ah shit, Taehyung knows what he’s gonna ask he split second before he does.
“—like a thing now? Sorry, it just really looks like it.”
“Uh—“ Jungkook starts, eyes flicking towards Taehyung.
“No.” Taehyung says immediately, clearly, defensively.
And Jungkook closes his mouth.
“Oh, sorry,” Yugyeom holds up his hands apologetically. “Shouldn’t have assumed.”
“Probably not,” Jungkook brushes past Yugyeom, fixing his hair with a pinky, expression impassive, “Where’s everyone else?”
“In the living room playing 2K.”
The whole whether or not they’re dating is such a stupid semantic game that only racks up losses, it’s like, he knows it’s all bothering Jungkook—especially by the way he’s a lot more quiet right now than usual—the lack of response, the lack of anything definitive, the lack of ability to move on forward either in the direction Jungkook wants or just on a different path. And it’s like, what exactly is the difference between going on dates and dating, and why do people care? Neither of them, depending on the definition, are true commitment, and yet the chronic implication of one seems to make it weigh heavier than the other. And honestly, Taehyung knows he’s the hypocrite here, griping about labels while he’s probably the one bothered the most about it all between the two of them.
Jungkook just wants an answer, while Taehyung's still struggling with the definition.
Because at the end of the day, words are just a shorthand way to describe a concept, and even though there’s a definitiveness to sitting down and going, “yeah, we all agree, this is the rigid category our relationship falls into,” it doesn’t really make a difference when actions speak louder than words.
Because they just spent the day, or rather a week together in a way he probably wouldn’t have with anyone else, even without the binding base-instinct power of the bump and grind, and when Jungkook introduces him to everyone else like he’s someone special, it sure feels a lot like they’re something meaningful together.
And because ultimately, if his worst fears are realized, if evidence gets out and his fans cry foul, no one’s going to care what he personally calls it, they’re just going to go by what it looks like.
Maybe, honestly, then, it’s an excuse for himself to keep one foot out the door, to not have to decide, to let others carry the burden for him, to be that indecisive asshole who doesn’t want to think of consequences while reaping the benefits, to have his goddamn cake and somehow eat it too.
But for now, Taehyung wants to stop thinking about it period.
He's not in the mood.
Although he never really is. Taken by how chill Jungkook’s friends are and not down for thinking holistically at the moment, he admits to himself when they’re all crowded in a circle, playing drinking game as some variety show plays in the background and Jungkook’s folded legs are pressed up against his own, that he kinda really likes this.
Maybe that’s why when Jungkook drops Taehyung off later that night, when he’s still buzzed and completely swept up in the momentum, Taehyung puts his trust in the tint of Jungkook’s windows, and quickly pulls him in by the collar for a shitty drunk goodnight kiss, giggling when he pushes a bright-red Jungkook away, before making his exit without looking back.
He completely regrets it six hours later in the cool blue of the morning, when he’s sober and there’s more than one fan account of them circulating the netizen currents. So he doesn't answer any of Jungkook's texts that morning to put a bit of distance between them, and the Waltz of the Feelings continues, one step forward, two steps back, to the tune of Indécision Op.25 No.∞, pretty much the orchestral piece of his life’s soundtrack.
Jungkook’s certainly not dancing around though.
He makes it clear from day one he’s just going to charge forward as long as Taehyung’s still in flux with his feelings. And he really cranks things up when they’re alone in his studio, something that’s become really common now that Jungkook’s in the break between promotions and awards show season preparation and final evaluations for WANNA TEEN have officially kicked off and the trainees are gone.
It all pretty much comes down to space, and the fact that Jungkook is starting to refuse to give Taehyung any, in strangely assertive ways.
Just take this for example: Jungkook eschewing the spare desk in favor of balancing his laptop gingerly on the corner of Taehyung’s cluttered one instead, bulldozing his own clearing through the piles of stuff as he scoots his chair closer to Taehyung.
“You know there’s an empty desk over there, right,” Taehyung points over his shoulder, staring as Jungkook pushes junk around to clear space. “We don’t have to be this, uh, close.”
“I know,” Jungkook moves a mug out of the way.
“Okay,” Taehyung stares down as Jungkook pushes a pad of purple post-its into the range of his mouse. He tosses them carelessly onto a bookshelf, and wishes that Jungkook was better at taking hints, “Uh...what I mean is, this desk, as with most desks, was honestly built for one person.”
“How do you know that?”
“I mean,” Taehyung spreads his arms out, the tips of his fingers almost touching each end of the desk. “It’s not that big.”
“It still fits two,” Jungkook shrugs. “I don’t see the problem.”
“Barely? And I feel like people generally, like, don’t share desks if they don’t have to?”
“You’re a creative,” Jungkook rolls his eyes. “Think outside of the box. Stop conforming, don’t be part of the system, break the wheel—”
“It’s not even about conforming? People don’t, because, it’s like, uh, what, how would I even phrase this, it’s just like, you just don’t—”
“Rules,” Jungkook puts a hand gently on Taehyung’s shoulder. “Are meant to be broken.”
“What? That doesn’t make sense. I mean, first, technically,” Taehyung lunges forward and saves his cactus from toppling over as Jungkook shoves his laptop a little further onto the desk. “Ow. There isn’t even a rule against sharing desks, but—”
“So,” Jungkook blinks. “What’s the problem?”
“Like,” Taehyung frowns at his pricked thumb. “Why would you even—?”
“Why would you not?” Jungkook shoots back instantly.
“Because,” Taehyung swings his chair towards Jungkook, and their knees painfully knock together. “There’s no space.”
“That's fine with me,” Jungkook says. “Because both figuratively and literally,” he says with zero hesitation, “I wanna be right by your side.”
Feeling the flush before it happens, Taehyung sinks his face into his hands. “Oh my fucking god, that is so…”
A bit . “Fuck no,” Taehyung turns back to his monitor, about ten times more flustered than before. “You know what, okay, yeah, just, like, it’s fine, stay or whatever, just like—stop bothering me. I’m trying to actually get work done.”
“Kay,” Jungkook grins and swivels back to his laptop, elbow hitting Taehyung’s.
They come to a compromise later (after Jungkook knocks over a precariously high stack of books by accident and cracks a framed picture in the process) by agreeing to jam the two desks together. It turns out with limited space, a bit of finagling commences, and what started as just moving a desk a couple of feet ends up setting off an avalanche of furniture rearrangements lead by Jungkook that snowballs into a quite-a-bit-more-involved impromptu interior redesign exercise than first anticipated.
“I mean, if we’re going to move these shelves anyway,” Jungkook points as he surveys. “You might as well move the desks to the windows. There’s more wallspace and you get to look outside.”
“I’m looking at my screen most of the time, I don’t care about looking outside. And at 5 o’clock the sun comes through the window between those two buildings, and it’s going to fucking blind me.”
“You have blinds, and think about the rest of the day, you get to look at the rest of the world. You have a 12th story office,” Jungkook peers down at the ground. “Why wouldn’t you use the view? I personally like looking outside.”
“Just stating my preferences.”
“Is this your studio? I feel like my preferences are like the only ones that matter.”
“Just putting them out there,” Jungkook shrugs and begins moving the bookshelf. “I think they’re good ones.”
Taehyung huffs and goes over to help him. “If I can’t see next week, you have to pay my optometrist bills.”
“Deal,” Jungkook laughs as he lifts the shelf up. “Holy shit, the carpet underneath is like a different color.”
“Yeah I haven’t moved anything since I first got this place.”
“When was that?”
“When I moved out of Namjoon’s, five or six years ago?” Taehyung grunts as they set the shelf down, a few books falling off in the process. “Your second album with BTD gave me enough clout. What was it called again?”
“Um, you really don’t have to bring it up—“
“Oh yeah,” Taehyung suddenly remembers. “Boiz R Bad.”
Jungkook’s lips thin, “Never say that album name again.”
“Which album?” Taehyung raises his voice along with his brows. “Boiz R Bad?”
“Yeah, that one,” Jungkook grimaces and jabs Taehyung in the stomach.
“What’s wrong with…” Taehyung grins as he curls himself away, he’s always been ticklish as fuck, “...Boiz R Bad?”
“Stop.” Jungkook jabs Taehyung in the stomach again.
“But,” Taehyung turns to the shelf and pulls his copy of the album from it. He begins rifling through the photobook, “It’s such a classic, Boiz R Bad, the album with the baddest boys,” he stops at a photo of Jungkook, dark and moody with his styling, with the worst cross between shaved sides and a perm slapped on his head and enough eyeliner to make a passing scene kid claim him as one of their own, and he flips it around and points straight to the page, “I mean, just look at this certified Bad Boi, from the album with the baddest boys...Boiz R Bad.”
“Hahahahaha, so funny.”
A photo card flutters to the ground, and Taehyung picks it up, glancing down at an overly-contrasted image of Jungkook angstily glaring at the camera from under a football helmet. He holds it up between his middle and index finger, and snickers, “And this one. Damn if I wasn’t already, I’d be convinced now, boys are bad. At least the boys from Boiz R Bad. Although, now that I think about it, have I been saying it wrong? It being Boiz R Bad. Technically it’s Boiz R Bad with an exclamation point, so it should really be—”
“If it wasn’t funny the first time, it’s not gonna the—“
Taehyung cups his fingers around his mouth and whisper-yells, “BOIZ R BAD!”
“Okay, that’s it,” Jungkook lunges forward and begins tickling Taehyung hardcore.
Taehyung collapses to the ground, laughing his pleas for mercy with flailing limbs, and inadvertently he takes Jungkook down with him, and of course, in the worst of drama cliches, Jungkook catches himself from falling on top of Taehyung with two arms caged around Taehyung’s head, breathless and inches away from Taehyung’s face.
The room falls silent, save for the rhythmic ticking of an analogue clock, a question heavy in the air as Taehyung watches Jungkook’s eyes dart from his own down to his lips and back to his eyes again.
Can we be more?
And Taehyung knows, it’s up to him to answer.
Because Jungkook already committed to his choice, bared his soul, presented his heart-stained sleeves. It’s Taehyung who still hasn’t responded, hasn’t truly reciprocated, has just let things hang as they were, awkwardly fluttering in the breeze.
He’s being unfair, he knows he is, for stringing Jungkook along for a demo until the indefinite amount of trial days run out.
Yet, he still feels like it’s still the best thing to do, since he can’t find it in himself to give a proper answer, even after roughly two weeks, now, to think about things after it happened, because he still hasn’t considered every option, and he doesn’t understand the dangers, and he hates closing doors, it’ll be harmless, easy, fine if they just end up as friends, and, and, and—
Jungkook swallows, his adam’s apple bobbing hard as he does.
—and Taehyung still doesn’t really know what he really wants, other than more time.
After what seems like hours, Jungkook finally breathes, eyes hooded and dark, “Can I?”
“Can you what?” Taehyung asks like there’s more than one question and yeah isn’t already on on his lips.
“Can I…” Jungkook trails off as a series of heavily falling footsteps starts getting really loud, and he looks up, alarmed, at the door.
They get an abrupt knock as their only warning, and Jungkook immediately springs off of Taehyung and crouches awkwardly near the couch, pretending like he’s about to lift it, and Taehyung just rolls the the side and pretends he’s in the middle of a nap.
It turns out to be Jin, excitedly opening the door and hitting Taehyung in the head with the swing.
“Oh fucking ow,” Taehyung rolls onto his side, not faking his very real pain.
“Hey, Taehyung, good news, oh shit, sorry, I mean actually, this is kinda your fault, why are you on the—wait—holy fuck—no—” His eye grow impossibly large as he spots Jungkook and he scrambles over to where Jungkook is, knocking Jungkook’s arms away from where they were about to be used to lift the sofa and yelling, “Hey, hey, hEY, HEY, get the fuck away from that! Are you insane? You know your arms are fucking insured, right?!”
“I’ll be fine, I’m not weak,” Jungkook grumbles as he rolls up his sleeves and determinedly crouches back down. “I lift more than this regularly.”
“It’s not about that, what if you injure yourself?! Weights are whatever, but don’t fuck up your arms over stuff like this,” Jin pushes Jungkook into a chair as he lifts a phone to his ear, “Namjoon, are you free? Yeah? Okay...Taehyung’s studio...bring them too then..moving furniture...Jungkook was doing it…yeah, I know right...ten minutes...don’t ask.”
“This is a really expensive moving crew,” Yoongi marvels, crossing his arms. “Think about how much money BigCube is paying us by the hour to push Taehyung’s furniture around.”
“Technically,” Hoseok grunts as he lifts the coffee table. “We’re not hourly or even salaried so…”
“It’s about the opportunity cost.”
“You were napping when we found you,” Namjoon shoots back.
“I know, but that’s me time, and I use it to brainstorm,” Yoongi gestures with his iced coffee at the chaos of
seven six guys rearranging the studio, the centerpiece being Jimin and Jin trying to lift the couch as Jungkook scoffs at their efforts. He turns to Taehyung with skepticism woven into his brows, “I’m not sure what the value of this is, unless you’re superstitious now and into that Feng Shui, Pungsu shit. Even then, by inviting the god of destruction in—”
As if on cue, Namjoon accidently snaps the arm off a figurine, and part of Taehyung dies inside.
“—all your fortune pretty much already went out the door.”
“Don’t look at me,” Taehyung lifts his hands into the air. “Jungkook started this.”
“Of course,” Yoongi aims his glare at his mentioned unsuspecting victim and vidictively takes a sip of coffee. “Of fucking course.”
Oh yeah sorry I left before I remembered to tell you
But the original reason I came is
B/c of the recent hype around you
The board has expressed interest in giving you a marketed single w/ promotional activities
And if all goes well, then potentially a full solo album
Obv keep it on the downlow, not sure if it’ll actually go anywhere, it’s still in the exploratory phase
Just thought I should give you a heads up
So keep up the good work
And stay out of trouble
But, I’m super happy for you
It looks like you’re on the brink of finally catching your big break
[ rewind—eight years ago, T-4 months until debut ]
Yeah, Taehyung blinks, resignation settling in on his chest, so this probably was never going to work out.
It’s just, seeing the writing on the wall spelled out in a text like that, is a little, well.
Gonna be honest with you
It might be to late to pull off your plan
Just got the word
Even tho there’s four months left
They want to finalize the team asap
So they’re starting to negotiate contracts
Did he agree to the lessons yet?
Cuz there’s zero improvement in his scores
He told me a week ago he’d think about it
But hasn’t mentioned it since
But yea I’ll see what I can do
Maybe there’s another way
Like making BTD just a four person group
Haha, they still wouldn’t cut Fuckface
Not with his uncle on the board now
I can’t believe they added that fucker
So close to the debut date
Now Fuckface has a nepotism shield
how did he get like
someone please fucking nerf, i'm so sad
Good things happen to bad people
That should be your new album title
Taehyung blinks tiredly as his phone, numb more than disappointed. He wasn’t even surprised at this point. Because this was just another setback in a chain of setbacks that were starting to slam him in the face, all which seem to be amplified by a particularly aggravating link:
He was in career purgatory.
With almost no producing work on his plate, save for the highly-optional bassline for a commercial jingle Namjoon had managed to wiggle him onto that was due in like two months, and rest of the company fully shifted into debut album gear, he was starting to have an increasingly large amount of time to himself.
And it seemed like few of his friends at BigCube were in the same position.
Least of all, Namjoon, the brightest star of them all and BigCube’s newest hope for slingshotting BTD into the forefront of the most recent boyband wave. He was so inundated with work, that he hadn’t slept for about four days by the time he speaks face-to-face to Taehyung for the first time that week.
Which is actually more of an accomplishment than it sounds, considering they share a studio.
“Hey, so, an update,” Namjoon had said with hushed tones as they huddled in a hallway outside their shared studio, hands shoved into the depths of his soccer-pants pockets, eyes shifty and bloodshot. “I’m still working really hard to get you on to at least one song on the album. But it’s not looking good, it’s mostly a budgeting issue right now.”
“Basically their argument is that there’s too many producers on this album and adding another one isn’t going to benefit as much as it costs.”
“I see. I could do it for free—“
“No. For this kind of work they should pay you. Especially since we’re finding enough money somewhere to pay some Swedish big name like three times more for a B-side that sounds like a off-brand Zedd deepcut off the market,” Namjoon rubs his face exasperatedly. “It’s so frustrating. I’m trying to basically swap you with them right now to get you in, because in-house is cheaper and future-proof. But,” Namjoon sighs.”Fuckface Senior just won’t change his mind when he digs his heels into the ground, and all the Crusty Fuckers on the board are always a little out of touch with the mainstream.”
“Yeah I heard the demo for the title, what are they thinking? It’s like a heavy metal ballad with a random rap verse thrown in just because Appearance Is A Talent can’t sing for his life,” Taehyung snorts. “BTD’s gonna get mocked into oblivion if they debut with that.”
“I agree. We had a long...debate...about it. Which I lost. It's so aggravating, the only reason Fuckface Senior even has a seat on the board is because he's a representative executive from a stakeholder company. He doesn't know shit about music, or pop music specifically. And even so, somehow he's got every board member over the age of 35 in his pocket, which happens to just be the majority of the board. So he just outvotes us with his Crusty Fucker Cohort every time, it’s so stupid,“ Namjoon pinches his nose bridge. “But, anyway, I talked to Yoongi about it recently, and he agrees, something is a little off about the whole thing. Fuckface Senior’s reasoning doesn’t really make sense and he keeps changing his answers, so we’re going to start probing around to figure out what’s up.”
“Like uncle, like nephew, they’re both shady pieces of shit,” Taehyung snorts. “Good thing for Fuckface that it’s just genetic, I’ll let him know it’s not just his fault he’s garbage. It’s just in his genes.”
Namjoon laughs, “Please do that. And also, keep your head up, if this one doesn’t work out I’ll try to get you on to 2HOM’s album. It’ll be a little easier since they’re not such a focus, and even though I know ballads aren’t really your thing—“
“—at least it’s work. Yeah, thanks for your help I really owe you.”
“Thank me after I actually get you somewhere,” Namjoon shakes his head, pity in his eyes. “I feel like I’ve just been letting you down.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Taehyung waves a hand. “Don’t worry about it, I’m super thankful you’re doing anything at all.”
“Still, feels bad.” Namjoon says before he looks down at his watch. “Anything else you want to talk about? I’ve got a meeting a few minutes, so...“
“Umm...oh yeah. A bit random, but are you free later this afternoon?” Taehyung bites his lip. “My brother got me free tickets for a movie, and I feel like we haven’t been hanging that much lately...”
Namjoon doesn’t say anything immediately and through his silence, Taehyung knows he already has his answer.
And so he quickly adds, “Or Yoongi or Hoseok—I know Jin has finals—but if you happen to know if either of them are free, haha...then….”
“Uh...not sure I can, or any of us can for the next month,” Namjoon says apologetically, teaching down and ruffling Taehyung’s hair. “Maybe next time. Sorry, we’re in a middle of a sprint, and we’ve just really busy.”
“Oh yeah,” Taehyung sighs. “That’s fine.”
“Again, keep your head up,” Namjoon says as he inches back into the recording studio, he flashes Taehyung a thumbs up. “We’re gonna get you somewhere eventually.”
It’s difficult talking to someone who’s going places when you know you’re stagnating hard.
And pretty much everyone Taehyung knew was on their way up. All of his BigCube friends, at least, were involved with something greater than themselves, even the trainees who came in with him had moved on either to other agencies or back to a regular education.
Taehyung was the only one at a standstill. Neither here, nor there, going nowhere with no exit—save for outright quitting—in sight. The only tools in his hand to get himself out the well he's stuck at the bottom of were a flimsy promise and the strength of his dreams, and so he thinks it’s rather easy to see why he’s starting to give up. It’s a long climb up when he’s got nothing but hope.
The worst part is that the one person that’s become the hardest to hang around is the nexus of his support, his best friend, and his soulmate:
Because it’s like looking at a mirror of what could have been, and as much as he’s trying to forget the past and walk his own path, it’s just a little difficult when his best friend’s running parallel on the sky-high road he was supposed to take.
What makes it even more difficult is that it was always supposed to be Jimin and Taehyung, best buddies taking on the industry by storm, or at least according to the agenda of the stupidly naive pact they made when they decided officially during orientation at the sage age of 11 that they were going to be besties, back when anything seemed possible and years before everything went to shit.
And he knows Jimin’s trying as hard as he can to tone it down, trying not to brag, trying to pretend like nothing’s changing and they haven’t taken separate paths in the fork on the road. And Taehyung doesn’t blame him, honestly, for talking about every single great thing happening to him. He knows he wouldn’t be able to stop sharing it personally, especially if he was pretty much guaranteed to debut and a lot of cool shit was starting to happen to him as a result.
But it still doesn’t mean he wants to listen to Jimin gush about the Jeju trip all of the front runners, minus Fuckface, were planning on taking a month before debut (“regardless of who makes it, we’re all still gonna go, we’re all just that tight knit, oh yeah and we’re calling ourselves The A-Team”) or about the direction of various tracks on the album (“they’re going between hardcore trap rap and dance for this one, honestly would prefer dance, I think my voice is better suited for it”), or about the super funny thing Fetishly Innocent Instagram Ulzzang (“holy fuck she’s somehow better looking in real life, also drinks soju like goddamn water, I wonder how she still has a liver”) said yesterday at a raging party with other rising idol trainees from various agencies that Jimin was invited to last night.
Feels bad, man, is what’s unfurling in his chest and making it a little harder to breathe, but “haha, that’s funny,” is what woodenly falls from Taehyung’s mouth, hollow from an infestation of categorical disinterest, as Jimin charitably takes time out of his day to get lunch with him.
“It was,” Jimin doesn’t notice and unknowingly keeps sawing away. “She’s actually hilarious, but kinda weird, like look at this shit she sent in our chat at like 4 in the morning, like, what? Who does that?”
Taehyung takes a look at chat title and balks, “There’s a liners chat for our year?”
“Yeah between a bunch of trainees and a few people who debuted, and a few other names, it’s surprising active actually, also, holy shit, kinda not related to this but I forgot to tell you Taemin was there yesterday and guess what,” Jimin takes out his phone and starts scrolling. “I got his fucking katalk and lemme show you—”
“Oh yeah, cool. Also, sorry kinda random,” Taehyung says as he picks at the hem of his shirt. “But would you wanna watch a movie?”
“Yeah, sure,” Jimin doesn’t look up. “When?”
“I was thinking this afternoon.”
“Oh sorry,” Jimin’s face falls. “I can’t. I’m going to an escape room with some other—“
“The weekend then?”
“I’m going home—“
“How about next week?” Taehyung’s a bit exasperated, because since when did he have to reserve time with Jimin?
Jimin’s face falls, “Um.”
“You already have stuff planned?” Taehyung says, with a bit of disbelief.
Taehyung feels a flash of irritation.
“Nothing concrete,” Jimin laughs like nothing’s wrong. “I don’t want to commit because I’m not sure which day yet, but some people are talking about going to...”
Taehyung tunes him out as pulls his own phone out and fires off a text.
Where are you?
Just finished practice
Lol why are you asking?
“...so yeah,” Jimin says. “I’m really sorry, but I just don’t know yet. It’s just, everything is so crazy right now, and I can’t keep track of it all—”
“It’s fine,” Taehyung stands up abruptly, head throbbing, it’s fine Jimin won’t set aside time because they’ve only been best friends for years. He pulls his phone out again, “Actually, forget it. I gotta go, I have, a thing. Something. To do.”
Are you free rn
Wanna do something
I’m just about to head out
I’ll be there in 5
I’ll wait up then
“Oh okay,” and of course Jimin doesn’t even question him, and he calls over his shoulder as Taehyung starts heading toward the door. “I’ll let you know when I’m free when I know. ”
So, like, never.
“I said forget it,” Taehyung lifts a hand without looking back. “Later.”
He heads out into the lobby and down in the elevator and finds who he’s looking for, leaning against the wall and talking to a girl trainee in the hallway just outside of the practice rooms, apology in his eyes, in his gestures, and in his words.
It’s a moment Taehyung clearly isn’t supposed to intrude on, and he stops mid-step, awkwardly trying to find a place to stealthily escape to.
“...um, so yeah, sorry can we move it to another day?” Jungkook sheepishly tugs on his collar, hair still damp from a shower. “Sorry it’s so last minute, it’s just, something came up—”
“...yeah. I guess that’s okay,” the girl’s shoulders slump, and even without context Taehyung feels a bit bad for her. “See you tomorrow then.”
“Yeah, I’ll let you know when I’m free,” Jungkook finally spots Taehyung out of the corner of his eyes and waves, the widest fucking grin spreading across his face.
The girl immediately whips around, and shoots a pointed glare at Taehyung the minute she sees him before stalking away.
“Um...sorry again!” Jungkook calls before turning back to Taehyung, eyes folding into happy crescents like he just didn’t ruin someone’s afternoon, “Hey!”
“Hi. And whoa,” Taehyung watches as the girl furiously turns the corner. “What was that about?”
“Uh,” Jungkook jams his hands into his pockets. “I canceled on her last minute. We were supposed to hang out," Jungkook checks his watch. “Now, actually. So literally last minute. But, it’s fine.”
“Oh like a date? Shit, wait, you can uncancel it,” Taehyung’s eyes widen, partly with fear. Yikes, suddenly the glare makes sense, and Taehyung prays to the gods of the scorned that she doesn’t know his name.
“We’re just friends,” Jungkook’s ears tinge with pink, “It wasn’t a date—”
Taehyung was pretty sure the girl would have vehemently disagreed.
“—and no, it’s really fine. We hung out a few times this week already, and I see her every day during vocal class, so I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Jungkook shrugs, probably woefully unaware of the heart he just crushed. “But yeah, anyway, what did you wanna do?”
Taehyung’s about to open his mouth and give Jungkook some hyung-styled advice about priorities (like, for fuck’s sake, the girl was cute and being really forward) before he thinks about it and realizes, wait, actually, you know what? Nah.
He doesn’t really care.
Because Jungkook’s lovelife was really his own deal, and Taehyung’s concerns about not spending the afternoon alone, by himself, happen to heavily outweigh the guilt he feels about accidently cockblocking some tween he saw for the first time five seconds ago.
So Taehyung forgets about the girl and tries, for a third time that day: “Wanna watch a movie? My brother gave me free tickets.”
“Yeah. I’m down,” Jungkook says, without hesitation.
And Taehyung lets out the breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding, “Sweet.”
“Free movies,” Jungkook grins at him. “Are the best movies.”
“Yeah,” Taehyung holds the door open to the practice room and follows Jungkook out, “They are.”
Maybe, he thinks, spirits slightly lifting, things will be okay.
Maybe, he thinks, as they walk to the theatre and Jungkook tells him about his day (apparently the vocal coach was giving him an unusually hard time) there’s more to happiness than cutting edge success.
Maybe, he thinks, as they sit down in their seats and laugh at all the shitty previews together, that settling for something less is alright.
And so, as the pictures move across the screen and Jungkook dozes off, head lulling onto Taehyung’s shoulder, Taehyung shifts to give Jungkook a better angle and finds it increasingly easy to convince himself that life was better being as simple as this.
And when the movie ends, and they’re walking out into the lobby, passing by the posters plastered against the wall, Jungkook points at an upcoming Avengers sequel and says, “Hey let’s watch that.”
“When does it come out?” Taehyung cranes his neck.
“Like four months from now.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Taehyung laughs. “We can celebrate your debut.”
Long story, short: they never do.
[ fast forward—T-2 weeks until debut ]
The beginning of the end, starts like this.
“So,” Jin says, an unnerving smile that was probably meant to be comforting resting his face as he pushes a tablet forward. He taps the device, and glances up, “I just wanna know how much of this is true.”