When Taeyong is finally able to open the door with the added hindrance of Mark shaking his arm, excited words filling his ears, he does so with a bit too much force. The door ricochets off the back wall, causing a loud thud to resound in the empty apartment, but it’s easily drowned out by Mark’s laugh.
They stumble in, still high off the adrenaline of the show. Mark giggles as he chucks his jacket as far as he could, giggles even more when it overshoots the couch and lands on the floor. Taeyong laughs at Mark and it’s like a domino effect. Back and forth they laugh and recount the night.
“Did you see the girl on the right? The one with the blue hair? She looked about ready to pass out by the last song. She just had so much energy! Where did she get it all?” rambles Mark as he ditches his shoes at the door, only tripping a little bit when he clips his shoulder on their decorative glass wall that created a foyer like area in their mainly open concept apartment.
“Oh yeah, I saw her, but everyone was so hyped tonight. Man, it felt so good,” said Taeyong as made his way across their large apartment to flop onto their couch, the cushions slowly sinking to accommodate him.
Mark agrees with a cheer from the kitchen. A cabinet is opened and shut. “Drinks?”
“Yeah, good idea. We haven't done that after a show in a while,” replies Taeyong. His chest still feels full, he can still hear the cheers from their concert only an hour prior. The blood still hums in his veins and his head feels as high as the clouds.
The view from their floor to ceiling windows reassures him that that’s exactly where he’s at. The cityscape stretches out before him, their lights a mere twinkle from up here. The apartment was nothing to sneeze at price wise, but Taeyong feels like a king up here. The soft, leather couch he rests on feels like a throne and the carpet beneath his feet is the plushest their designer could find.
There’s nothing that can touch him from up here.
He could hear Mark come up from his left to place the drinks onto the coffee table. Only when Taeyong hears a third glass tink onto the table does he finally rip his eyes from the view. The champagne flutes are tall and dainty, filled nearly to the brim with the bubbling alcohol because Mark was always too eager when he pours drinks. They are pretty and sparkle in the overhead light and it was exactly what Taeyong wanted until his eyes fell on the third glass.
He looks up to Mark, eyes wide. All he is met with is an awkward smile and worry crinkled eyes.
“It’s tradition,” says Mark.
A deep breath and Taeyong feels like he’s crashing back to earth.
Before he could even process it himself, his fist smashes down onto the glass. It shatters under his hand and now there’s glass shards and liquid everywhere. Taeyong vaguely registers Mark’s gasp before his hand starts to sting. Now there’s blood mixing into the champagne and it’s all dripping onto their nice expensive carpet but Taeyong can't bring himself to care. They’ll just buy another one.
He brings his hand up to inspect the cuts. There’s mainly just small flecks of blood here and there, but one piece must have gotten him good. That cut is surprisingly long, half way up the side to the center of his palm and exed almost perfectly over an old scar he already had there. Bitterly, Taeyong can’t help but think that scars made by glass must mean something more to him now, since they keep happening only when a certain someone is involved.
But for now, it’s just another scar to add to his collection.
Taeyong could hear Mark sputtering about needing a first aid kit, about needing to get that cleaned and that he might need stitches. Taeyong clenches his fist and it hurts like no other, but decides it won’t need stitches. So instead he just heads to his room, leaving a now quiet Mark behind to deal with the aftermath.
The music is deep and thumps through the venue, a moderately sized one, but most definitely not the smallest one they have ever performed at. The crowd is pressed in, packed to the brim and as Taeyong travels along the front of the stage, the crowd shifts with him, trying to press in and follow his every step, his every movement. Taeyong can’t help but feel the power of it all, the high he gets from the attention.
His verse comes to an end and he stumbles back as if the power behind his words had been punched out of him. The crowd roars and Taeyong smiles wide, a tongue flicking out to lick the corner of his lip and he hopes he’ll see a photo of it posted on the internet tomorrow. He turns away from the front of the stage and the venue is filled with a sweet voice, a perfect contradiction to Taeyong’s previous low growls and sharp words.
Taeyong looks to Jaehyun, who has stepped to the front of the stage, a smile so wide his dimple shadows out and a sparkle in his eyes that twinkles just as bright as the lights over them. The crowd sways to his voice and Jaehyun holds just as much power over the masses as Taeyong had just had.
Taeyong’s chest swells and he hypes Jaehyun up from his slightly farther back spot, feeling the music and high notes just as much as the crowd. Jaehyun tilts his head back and raises his mic to belt out a high note and Mark comes swooping in, rapping hard and fast over Jaehyun’s voice. Jaehyun finishes, breathless and glistening with sweat, but he continues with back vocals, accenting Mark’s own rap perfectly. Taeyong joins near the end and all three of them are at the front of the stage now, jumping and riling up the crowd. It’s all a perfectly executed, harmonious scene and the music cuts just as Mark and Taeyong end their shared verse with a bang.
The crowd cheers and cheers and Taeyong breathes heavily, but there’s a smile nearly cracking his face in half. He looks to his left to see Mark and Jaehyun also out of breath, also drenched in sweat under the heat of the lights and their passion. Their eyes take in the crowd, and Mark laughs and pumps his fist just to get a small roar out of the crowd. Jaehyun is more calm, but the fire in his eyes is no less as intense and Taeyong knows they both feel just as high up as he does.
This high was unique, addictive, and as Taeyong looks out to the people stretching their hands out towards him, chanting for an encore, he knows that there’s no other place that could replicate this feeling. That there was nothing in this word that mattered more to him than this feeling right here. And he knows that the other two feel the exact same way.
The beat to their next song comes on, their previously planned encore song and Taeyong dips low and grabs a water bottle off the floor. He downs about half of it, pours the rest of it out over his head and shirt and sprays the remaining out onto the crowd. The resounding roar is near deafening. He drops the bottle so he could crush it under the heel of his boot, just in time for his verse to start.
Taeyong makes a beeline for the kitchen so he could pour himself a bowl of cereal. He hears a light hearted laugh from Mark and with a spoon in his mouth, he makes his way back to the couch.
“What’s so funny?” asks Taeyong.
Mark laughs again and looks to Taeyong, eyes bright with mirth. “People seem to be taking my mixtape release pretty well.”
“Funny well?” asks Taeyong around a mouth full of cereal when Mark laughs again.
“It’s more the jokes people are making,” replies Mark as he smiles down at his phone.
“What are they saying?”
Mark looks up at that, smile faltering only at the corners.
“Well, it’s more the jokes people are making about how old haters are being converted, or something like that.” Mark looks back to his phone and scrolls down a bit. Taeyong thinks he might be looking for a good example to show him, but is proven wrong when Mark speaks up again. “I know you don’t really look at this stuff anymore, but this is the most positive attention I've got in a long time.”
Taeyong bites his bottom lip, takes another quick bite of his cereal, then reaches over to mess up Mark' s hair. Mark groans but doesn’t do anything to stop him. Taeyong just laughs before carding his fingers through Mark’s hair, fixing it just a bit.
“And why wouldn’t they being saying good things? It was just a matter of time before people realized they were spouting nonsense anyways.”
Mark grumbles a bit at that, cheeks a bit flushed from the compliment. Taeyong just smiles knowingly before turning back to his cereal, trying to finish it before it gets too soggy. They sit in a well placed silence as Mark continues to mess with his phone.
It’s only after Taeyong had finished his food and turned on the tv to fill the time before they had to leave for a schedule that he feels more than sees Mark tense up on the couch next to him. Taeyong glances at him curiously. Mark’s jaw is set tightly and he has his phone a bit closer than necessary to his face as he reads what must be a long winded post.
“What’s up?” asks Taeyong.
Mark seems to snap out of wherever his head had been. He leans back on the couch, spine no longer as taut.
“It’s just,” Mark cuts himself off to groan a bit, throwing his phone off to the side of the couch. “It bothers you, right? Don’t you just hate the fact that no matter how many good comment there are, there’s always going to be the bad ones out there?”
Taeyong raises his eyebrow at that. Must have been a pretty nasty post if even Mark’s upset about it.
“What are they saying this time?” asks Taeyong, too curious as to what finally ruffled Mark’s usually pristine feathers. Plus, Taeyong already knew whatever shit people were spewing about Mark was already unwarranted and unfounded.
“Uhm, it’s,” Mark pauses, looking off to the side, “It’s about you. You still want to hear it?”
Taeyong’s even more curious now, if morbidly. There was a good reason why he didn’t look at social media or google their names anymore.
But he was feeling particularly untouchable today.
“I’ve seen my fair share of hate comments, I doubt they have much more new things to say that I haven’t already seen,” said Taeyong with a nonchalant shrug.
Mark still looks hesitant, worry more prominent in his eyes, but his throat works over some swallowed spit and he looks a bit twitchy, as if he really couldn’t keep his thoughts to himself must longer anyway.
“It’s just, people can be so narrow minded, so cruel sometimes.” starts Mark, “Don’t they know that we are actual people with feelings? You can’t just go telling people that they are a fan of someone who’s ‘toxic’. Don’t they realize that spreading rumors can actually ruin careers?”
Mark's voice is pitching a bit from emotion and his hands are restless now, reacting to the words he’s speaking.
“I just get so mad when people say such hurtful things about you. Such hateful bullshit.” punctuated Mark with a near hiss to his voice.
“What did the post actually say?” Taeyong’s eyebrows scrunch in the middle. Mark has never been the one who got mad in the group.
Mark cracks a few knuckles on his hand. “Something about being ‘volatile’, whatever that means. Accusing you of things that they know nothing about. Like I said, bullshit.”
Taeyong screws his lips. He knows Mark’s not actually telling him the whole thing since he worries. Worries that Taeyong might actually get hurt. Worries he might actually get mad.
And Taeyong does feel it, the tightening of his fist as he thinks on just what more that post could be saying about him. Mark’s protective answer might have been more harmful than intended, since Taeyong could think of a million and two different things they could be accusing him of. But he takes a deep breath and forced his hand to relax.
He lets those thoughts go so he can reach over and place a reassuring hand on Mark’s tense shoulder. He squeezes a few times until he feels the muscles in his hand relax.
“Oh, Boo,” coos Taeyong a bit teasingly, but he only does it because he knows Mark actually kind of likes it, “They can say all that they want to. All we can do it show them our best and hope they understand someday, like how they are for you.”
One last reassuring squeeze to his shoulder and Mark finally allows a smile to twitch onto his lips.
“Now tell me the nice things people are saying about you so I can tease you about how much you love to be complimented.”
Mark squacks a protest, but only a few seconds later his phone is back in his hand, scrolling to find a post he had seen earlier that he particularly liked.
When he passed by the entrance area, he finally allowed the growl of frustration he’d been suppressing past his lips as he grabbed the lamp off the side table he passed and slammed it down to the ground.
It shattered in the most satisfying way, so loud as the ceramic base broke into a million pieces. It had been a relatively new addition to their apartment, since Jaehyun always complained that the light switch for the living room was too far away, but Taeyong wasn’t thinking about consequences anymore.
“What the fuck, dude?” came Jaehyun’s voice from behind him.
Taeyong turned to Jaehyun whose eyebrows were knitted deep in disbelief.
“Yeah?” asked back Taeyong, a single eyebrow raised in mock ignorance.
Jaehyun scoffed as walked in, ignoring Taeyong. He walked over the crushed lamp pieces, the ceramic crunching under his shoes as he walked into their kitchen to grab a broom.
Taeyong rubbed his hands over his face, flashbacks from their show earlier playing over and over in his head.
It was their second time having an opening act. They were still relatively unknown, but they were making their way up there. Having an opening act meant that they were finally achieving the heights they had been reaching for.
But of course—of fucking course—no one properly screened the group performing before them.
So they had an opening act that performed a diss track against them at their own show.
The fucking audacity, the nerve, the complete and utter bullshit. It took both Jaehyun and Mark combined to pull Taeyong back from just walking on stage and showing them exactly what he thought of their publicity stunt.
Taeyong’s blood was boiling all over again at the memory.
“Fucking bullshit!” yelled Taeyong as he lifted one of their dining chairs and slammed it down to the ground as hard as he could. It didn’t break, but the resounding thud was satisfying enough.
“Taeyong!” scolded Jaehyun. Taeyong whipped around to face him, defiant and angry.
“You can’t tell me that you aren’t just as fucking pissed as I am!” shot back Taeyong. How could Jaehyun and Mark be so calm after a shit show like that?
“Yeah, I am,” started Jaehyun, “But you need to calm down. Destroying our apartment isn’t going to help.”
Taeyong takes in Jaehyun’s stance. He’s still near the entrance since he had been dealing with Taeyong’s mess, but now he was facing him, back straight and eyes narrowed. To Jaehyun’s left is Mark, who paused to take in what was happening between the two. His eyes were wide, a deer caught in headlights.
Taeyong couldn’t help but laugh.
“Yeah, I definitely need to calm down.”
Taeyong then walked over and placed his foot up on the side of the dining table before kicking it over, causing the expensive centerpieces their designer insisted they needed to go crashing to the ground. Most of the chairs also went down with it, leaving the biggest mess Taeyong had ever made. It felt so good, so satisfying and empowering. The ability to destroy something no normal person would be able to afford.
The rush of satisfaction was cut short by Jaehyun grabbing at his shirt collar, forcing him to fully face Jaehyun.
“What the fuck, man? This isn’t like you!”
Taeyong was feeling a bit hysterical, and a tad bit like how he did when he performed on stage. This was a performance and Jaehyun was his audience. He wanted to give him a show.
“Not like me? How could that be true when I just did it?” asked Taeyong as he motioned to the complete mess their dining area had become with a tilt of his head.
“Stop it!” shouted Jaehyun, jostling Taeyong a bit with his hold on his shirt. Taeyong couldn’t help but smile at the feeling. “You know what? You’ve changed so much since our group started getting attention. You were never like this in high school.”
“Like what?” asked Taeyong with mirth in his voice. His head was in the clouds, so high up. Jaehyun’s hot breath was so close to his face and this was the most mad he’s seen him, ever. Jaehyun looked beautiful mad, but Taeyong wanted to see him angry. It felt like Taeyong’s anger had ascended, to the point that he needed everyone else to be at the same level he was at.
“Like—like this!” Jaehyun shook him again, as if it would get his point across better. “An asshole! Obsessed with fame! Money never meant anything to us before, but you insisted on getting this ridiculous apartment the second we could afford the down payment. You never cared about what people thought about us, but now you let every single thing people say get under your skin! You’ve turned into a rampaging idiot with anger issues!”
Jaehyun was breathing heavily, as if the last few sentences had stolen everything out of him. His shoulders were sagging and his grip on Taeyong’s shirt loosened to the point that he finally let go, leaving Taeyong’s shirt a crumpled mess.
“You need to get some help,” finished Jaehyun, voice small and eyes pleading, hands now pressing down on Taeyong's chest, as if he was trying to smooth out the shirt he had ruined but had settled on just staying close.
But Taeyong was just getting started.
“Issues?” Taeyong licked his lips, trying to keep the newly rising bile in his throat down. He wasn’t prepared to actually feel the sting of betrayal, thought his defenses had been ready, but he was sorely mistaken. “You think I’m a monster too, right? You’re just like everyone else, aren’t you? Think you’re too good to get angry?”
Jaehyun was shaking his head, already denying everything, but Taeyong knew the truth.
“You say I’ve changed? Yeah, so what if I have? I’m fine this way.”
Jaehyun shoots him a disbelieving look, a laugh just barely contained in his lips. He looks around to the dining table and even behind him to the ruin lamp and finally, actually laughs.
“Yeah, because all of this is just fine.”
Taeyong shoves Jaehyun as hard as he could and watches as he goes stumbling back, only able to keep his balance after finding the wall behind him. Mark comes rushing over with a cuss low under his breath and Taeyong had completely forgotten that he had been there to witness all of it.
Taeyong swallows hard around his throat. When had it gotten so dry?
“You want to see fine? I’ll show you fine.”
Taeyong turns and starts to throw anything he could get a hold of. Shoves at all the furniture and rips all the curtains from the windows. Adrenaline pumped through his veins and with each new crash and thud, it fuels the fire and sparks so much more in him. Taeyong feels like he’s transcended to a place where only he has control, where no one can touch him or hurt him, not even Jaehyun.
“Stop! Stop! Taeyong, please stop!”
Jaehyun’s voice is like a mosquito, annoying and unrelenting. Taeyong has made it to the kitchen by now and reaches for a cabinet, but feels his arm getting stopped and held back. Taeyong sees red.
He turns and punches Jaehyun square in the nose. Taeyong feels the bone give under his knuckles, hears Jaehyun cry out in pain. Taeyong watches as Jaehyun stumbles back and lands hard on the ground, both his hands up to his nose as blood drips from between his fingers.
Taeyong looks down on Jaehyun and realizes that that was the most satisfying thing he had broken all day.
Mark comes rushing to Jaehyun’s side, biting his lip hard. Taeyong just stood over them, listening to Mark’s concerned words and Jaehyun’s reassurances. When Jaehyun stands and heads to the bathroom, completely ignoring Taeyong on his way, Mark finally looks to Taeyong.
Taeyong squares his shoulders, still enough fight in him for whatever Mark might throw at him. But all Mark does is frown before glancing down, shaking his head twice.
And with that, Mark was gone too, leaving Taeyong to settle into the ruins he had built for himself.
Mark scrambled out of his room, heart nearly bursting out of his chest. He was greeted to a sight that would haunt him for many nights to come.
Taeyong was down on his knees, surrounded by a pool of glass. The once wall of glass near their front door looked like it had exploded, only the ragged edges at the bottom left standing. Taeyong was cradling one of his hands close to his chest and there was blood everywhere, running down his arms and soaking into his sleeves and pants. Mark watched as Taeyong’s chest heaved a ragged up and down, tear treks shining in the morning light as they made their way down his cheeks.
Mark stood frozen as he took in everything the apartment had become. There was just ruin in every direction, nothing whole in sight. Not even Taeyong was whole anymore, a mirror image of his creation.
Mark slowly made his way over, shock causing his feet to drag. He had never seen so much blood.
“Oh my god.” was all Mark could manage to say.
It wasn’t until after a hospital visit, after Mark had Taeyong tucked back into his bed, wasn’t until Mark had come out and tried to scavenge and salvage what was left of their apartment that he realized that all of Jaehyun’s things were gone.
To his left is Mark, skin just as sweat soaked as his own probably was and they were both breathing heavily. It was just the two of them at the front of the stage and for the first time since that night, Taeyong felt like it was too big for just the two of them.
But the feeling passes and he smiles to the crowd, waves to the mass of people and whoops into his mic.
Taeyong had never imagined a life or a career without Jaehyun in it, and everything was so different now without him. Their songs were composed differently, their lyrics became harsher, their genre even took a slight shift without Jaehyun’s sweet voice to balance it all out.
And since his departure from his life, Taeyong has learned that shattered glass can leave an innumerable amount of cuts on his body, but they never changed how the mic felt in those scarred hands. The same high always still came when he was up on stage, looking down at all those hands reaching out towards him.
Taeyong rose his mic high and let out one final whoop and a goodbye to the crowd, which had reacted in turn. Mark did a small dance in farewell, his departing words a little lengthy and personal.
Taeyong took in Mark’s profile, took in the wide smile and the shine in his eyes. At least Mark was still at his side, but Taeyong wondered if that was only because Mark was just as addicted to the high of the performance, the high of fame and money as he was.
And as Taeyong turned to take in the crowd one last time before the curtain fully drew shut, he realized that he once thought it was the same for Jaehyun, but had been proven wrong.
So, at least for himself, he knew that there were just some things in life that he could never give up, no matter the cost. This feeling was one of them.