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tell me how i can't resist this love

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The heat and humidity is almost suffocating, Jeongguk can feel the beads of sweat trail down his back and from his hairline. Usually, this would be an issue but not tonight, it makes the scene more believable. He’s in a torn up, white t-shirt with patches of grease stains littered everywhere, the shirt is tight, meant to show the audience his build and strength through his clothing. The blue denim jeans he’s wearing are too thick for the summer heat yet necessary for the scene. In his hand is a toolbox, and a cigarette pinched between his fingers, a raggedy hat on his head covering his sweaty hair. The New Orleans heat and humidity is unlike anything Jeongguk has ever experienced.

It’s hectic on set as the camera captures his movements, his character, Stanley, walks the block towards his home. It’s a loud scene, where he makes his role as the alpha male known with his interacts with all the other extras. He walks with a type of command, the director and author stressed this—Jeongguk needs to exude hyper-masculinity and an overbearingness. He thinks of his father while he plays this character. He usually refrains from thinking of that man, but his similarities with the character were indisputable. He thinks of how his father will walk with an authority, how he would never move for anyone but expected everyone to move for him.

He thinks of his father as he listens to his co-stars' act as their characters, speaking of his own in an ugly fashion, calling him common. He thinks of how his father would react, but quieter, more tactful. He holds in his imaginary anger and composes himself, holding the storm inside for later. Instead, he enters the house and purposely makes noise as he walks around, alerting the others he is home. He whistles in a way that perhaps would have seemed innocent but given the context comes off more menacing than anything else. Objects clank, the door slams shut behind him, he opens a beer bottle right outside the thin open curtain meant to conceal the two women from where he’s standing.

“Hey Stell,” he says in an almost sing-song way. He whistles for a few more seconds before repeating himself and then takes a gulp of his beer. The taste is disgusting, the kind of taste only a man’s man would enjoy. Jeongguk hates it, but Stanley loves it. When his on-screen wife emerges he makes a happy sound and takes another swing before saying, “Hmm, hiya.” Another swing. “Hey is uh Blanche back yet?” He knows the answer, but more importantly, Stanley knows the answer seeing as he heard their conversation just seconds ago. His costar does a great job of looking frightened and on edge as if Stanley will explode in any moment.

“Yeah,” she says, more breath than words, “she’s back.” And then emerges his other co-star, an established actress, well known for her works. She looks even more on edge, her face incredibly expressive.

The smile on his face feels wrong and almost creepy, he knows that’s how it looks. “Hi there, Blanche.”

He and his on-screen wife speak some more, their eyes say something completely different from their mouths. When she runs to embrace him after the short exchange he gives Blanche a smile that says he won.

He feels disgustingly like his father.

 

After a long shower where Jeongguk emerges red from the heat and the vigorous scrubbing, he sits at the small round table in his hotel room, hair wet, naked except for the towel around his waist, catching the droplets trailing down his back from his hair. He hears a knock on the door, they’re quite frantic but Jeongguk is in no rush to answer, when he opens the door it’s one of the wardrobe women, Sandra, she’s a pretty woman. Dark brown hair, pale skin, and pretty makeup, her eyes lined with a wing, her lashes thick and full. Her lips red as blood and stretched in a wide smile revealing her white teeth. She had a newspaper clutched in her manicured hands.

“Jeongguk, did you hear the news?”

He gestures for her to come in and closes the door behind her. She practically vibrates with excitement as he takes a sip of water from the cup on his desk. He decides to humor her, “No, what is it?”

“You’re nominated! For an Oscar, Jeongguk!”

He blinks. Then blinks again before placing the cup down gently. Sandra excitedly shows him the newspaper, the article right in his face. Under the category of BEST ACTOR reads his name, 2nd on the list JEON JEONGGUK, “On the Waterfront,” Columbia Pictures Corp. He stares at the words and rereads them over and over in his head. He feels—he doesn’t know how he feels. There’s a fluttering in his stomach but he’s not sure if its nerves or excitement. Maybe both. It’s not his first time getting nominated but it’s his first time thinking he actually stands a chance of winning.

“Oh,” is all he gets out.

Sandra explodes with happiness, giggling and clutching the newspaper to her chest. “Isn’t this lovely, Jeongguk?”

He’s not sure. “Yes.”

She presses a happy kiss to his lips, her soft hands on the bare skin of his shoulders, fingernails bite at his skin but he doesn’t mind. If anything he quietly revels in the slight pain, not that Sandra notices. He kisses her back, throwing the newspaper aside as his hands grip her small waist. It’s not hard to distract her, especially when he uses his mouth. He picks her up and kisses her as he walks her to the bed, she seems giddy, much happier than him even.

While Jeongguk kisses down her neck and undresses her she sighs, “Aren’t you excited?”

“Yes, darling.” He skips unbuttoning her shirt and goes straight for her pants, unbuckling and pulling down the zipper. Pulling off the pants and panties are easy, she’s incredibly pliant and giving. When he touches her she’s already wet, as his fingers stroke her lips he watches her moan airly. He leans down and his breath fans again the damp skin of her lips when he says, “I’ll show you how excited I am.”

 

Jeongguk likes Sandra because she doesn’t make anything obvious. They have been doing this for a few months now since the shooting of this movie started. She is perfectly indifferent to him on set as he is to her and only comes around after the shoots. She knows what the arrangement is, this isn’t love, it’s pleasure and pleasure alone. Afterward, she doesn’t stay long, she doesn’t linger for any romantic moments. She lays on the bed for a few moments, both of them basking in the pleasure they feel, Jeongguk’s lips are tingling from the number of times he ate her out and, his body feels loose from his own orgasms and Sandra is spread out like a goddess. Once she’s collected herself she gets up, gives Jeongguk a quick kiss before she heads to the bathroom.

It’s best like this, Sandra is a lovely woman, sweet and kind and carries a sort of innocence to her. But she knows what Jeongguk is here for and doesn’t try to turn it into something it’s not. Her excitement for him earlier is nothing less than sweet, he thinks as he lights a cigarette, the thin sheets cover his waist, the only sounds are the shower running from the open door of the bathroom and the fan near his bed. The air feels cool again his sweaty skin, the bath from earlier gone to shit, he’s back to where he started.

His mind filters back to the paper on the floor. He makes it a point to never read anything that even remotely has to do with him. Anytime he’s the topic of any article there are misinterpretations of him. His public face of indifference works to make people think he doesn’t care, but in truth, he cares far too much. He sticks to reading from magazines that have nothing to do with celebrity culture. Leaning more towards fictional books or magazines like National Geographic. It keeps him sane, when he first started he didn’t know how to control himself, he would read everything about him and the things he’d read would keep him up at night, anxious from how grossly misunderstood he was.

Seeing his name on the nomination list is enough, he has no desire to see what else could possibly be written about him in that paper. Or so he tells himself.

 

A few hours later the sun rises and Jeongguk wakes up alone to the phone in his hotel room ringing. It takes him a few moments to open his eyes, and even then he can only squint them open, the harsh sunlight hitting his face and getting into his eyes. With one eye closed, he peaks out his window to take in the cloudless sky. Groggily, he reaches for the phone and answers with a grumble.

“Oh, Jeongguk stop your mumbling.” Eve’s familiar and calming voice filters into his ear and it wakes Jeongguk up some more.

“Eve?”

“Yes, it’s me.” A pause and then in a hushed voice. “Did you see the nominations?”

“Yes.” He thinks back to the newspaper on his floor. With a grunt he stands, taking the phone with him with. He’s naked, the air feels good against his still damp skin, he will never get used to the humidity of New Orleans. Picking up the paper once more, he reads through all the nominations in all the categories. The movie has twelve full nominations. One for best actor and one for best-supporting actress amongst other categories. Then it hits him.

“Eve,” he mumbles.

“Yes,” she urges softly, shyly hesitant.

“You’re nominated.”

This time her voice sounds more choked up. “Yes.”

“Oh, Eve. I’m so happy for you.” A genuine smile breaks out in his face and something like pride swells up in his chest knowing that his good friend just received her first nomination.

She lets out a choked sound, it sounds muffled as if she’s crying into her hand. “Thank you so much. If you hadn’t made me so comfortable—“

“No this is all you, Eve. You’re magnificent on screen, my favorite person to work with. It’s about time the academy recognizes your talents.”

One more sob from her before all he hears are her happy cries. “I’m so happy. Even if I don’t win I’m still so grateful.”

“You’ll win,” Jeongguk says fiercely. “There’s no doubt in my mind you’ll win.”

They stay on the phone for an hour. Eve knows how he feels about the Oscars and nominations so she doesn’t ask how he’s feeling about his own. He was on set with her when the news broke out last year about his previous nomination. She saw how uncomfortable he was with the attention it brought and how he’d change the subject quickly. He never had to say anything for Eve to understand. She’s his favorite person in the world for that. His closest friend.

Instead, Jeongguk teased her and she teased back. Asking about his lively sex life, how the filming was going. He asked her about her pregnancy and how her wife was doing. They only hung up after Jeongguk realized the time.

“I have to go now, we start filming soon and I still have to shower.”

“Of course, Daniela is almost done making breakfast. I’ll speak to you later. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

 

Any scene where Jeongguk must act violently towards his on-screen wife is hard on him. It brings back unpleasant memories of his own family growing up, the actions a perfect mirror to the ones in his memories. Jeongguk, peeking from around the corner and watching as his mother would crouch down, her arms protecting her head as his father inflicted blow after blow onto her. As he became older he started to interfere, to fight back. Wrapping his own growing body over his mother’s small, trembling one. By the time he was in middle school, he was already big enough to completely cover her.

He tries not to think about it as he grabs Maria, his costar who plays Stella and thrashes her around. He’s careful when he throws her, making sure it looks rougher than it actually is. He doesn’t want her to experience any pain from this He yells his lines, playing up the anger Stanley feels from being so emasculated by his wife in front of friends. Jeongguk thinks it’s toxic how fragile masculinity hurts everyone around a man under the weight of it. Stanley sees hurting his wife as his birthright for making him seem weak. Jeongguk thinks it’s silly to consider love and respect for a spouse’s wishes and requests as weak. It’s anything but.

The scene ends with his other co-stars, the three men playing as Stanley’s friends, shoving him under a cold shower to attempt to get rid of his drunkenness and bring him back to his senses. The cold water bites at his skin, a little too cold and sudden to bring relief even in the New Orleans humidity. The shivers that wreck his body are real, the cold streams of water somehow feel suffocating, he spits out mouthfuls of water along with his lines and has to restrain himself from gasping in relief when they remove him from the endless stream and let him drop to the floor of the bathroom.

Jeongguk—Stanley—pushes their offending hands away and stumbles out the house, making sure to make an absolute mess of things as he stumbles into furniture. His shirt is ripped in multiple places, barely holding itself together on his body. The next line he yells with follow him for probably the rest of his career, it’ll be a line all the boys and men who don’t understand the message of the film will repeat in glee as a way to show off their own bravado, their own masculinity.

The name follows after a deep breath, his voice sounding deeper than it possibly ever has, he puts his hands on his head in almost agony as he yells, “ Stella!

 

Outside of the Oscars venue, there are flashing cameras and a huge mob of people. He hasn’t gotten used to this, the dehumanization of his person. The lack of privacy or respect he receives from the public. He doesn’t ever want to get used to it, he feels if he does it will be a denial of his humanity. He’ll be no more than an empty vessel for people to fill up with their expectations than his actual self. But it’s something he will have to shoulder through regardless. He smiles as if the tugs in his clothes or the screams in his ears don’t bother him and make him want to curl up somewhere. He smiles at the too many flashing cameras, his signature smirks tells the public he loves it all.

When he’s finally safe away from the crowd and inside the venue, there are reporters already asking him questions. Jeongguk answers them vaguely, his head is spinning due to the short journey from the car to the venue.

“Jeongguk,” a report starts, “you’re up against some pretty big names for the best male actor. Are you nervous at all?”

Of course, he is. “No, I trust the academy’s decisions. If I win I’ll be honored, even if I don’t I’ll still be honored for the nomination.”

“And what of your co-star in On the Waterfront, Eve Garcia? It’s her first nomination at the Oscars. Are you excited for her?”

This brings the first genuine smile onto Jeongguk’s face, his expression escapes his grasp too quickly for him to control. The cameras are quick to capture that smile. “Eve is a wonderful actress. If anyone deserves an Oscar tonight it’s her. Her dedication to the role and her acceptance of constructive criticism are admirable and the makings of an amazing actress.”

There’s a hush in the reporters for a moment, pausing from the sheer amount of honesty coming from him.

“Are the both of you close?”

“Eve is my closest friend.”

Then Eve comes up behind him, getting his attention with a tap on his shoulder. When his face breaks out into another large smile the flash from the cameras starts going. They capture every moment of Jeongguk reaching out to pull her into a warm embrace. She smells as she always does, of ginger and something distinctly Eve. Her wife, Daniela is far back enough so not to get caught up with the reporters and paparazzi, she’s not an actress or famous at all. She’s Eve’s childhood friend turned girlfriend turned wife. Jeongguk waves to her and Daniela waves back.

Eve’s dress is long and flowy, formless, her stomach is big just a couple of more months before the baby is due. Jeongguk wraps an arm around her waist and gives her a gentle squeeze. “How’re you?”

“My feet already hurt,” she says, gesturing down to her shoes, the heel is small, maybe two inches at most but being four months pregnant it must be agony. She's big for her pregnancy, the baby clearly a plump one. “My feet are swollen.”

“You still look beautiful, swollen feet and all,” Jeongguk kisses her temple as she blushes. Eve can’t take compliments, ironically enough since she is possibly one of the most beautiful people he’s ever seen.

She nudges him a bit before turning her attention to the crowd and giving them a small, warm smile, “Hello.”

“Eve are you nervous for your nomination?”

“Of course! My swollen feet are just about the only things keeping me from fainting of nerves.”

The crowd laughs at the joke, charmed by her character already. “How did you find out the news?”

“Ah, my manager called me, I was with Daniela, my wife. We were having breakfast when I received the call. I almost choked on my water from the shock of it!”

“Who were the first people you told?”

“Daniela, of course. She was so happy she cried long before I did. Jeongguk was the first person I called, I cried when I told him.”

“Jeongguk was your first call?”

“Of course, he’s my best friend!”

Neither of them are stupid, they already know there will be speculations of just how deep their friendship lies and if it’s perhaps more than just friendship. But neither care and Daniela trusts the two of them too much to ever think they’d do anything against her. Let the public talk.

“Jeongguk how did you find out about the news?”

“A worker on set told me, they showed me the newspaper article. Not very exciting I’m afraid. Eve was the first person I really talked about it with, though.”

“He helped with my nerves,” Eve admitted.

A few more questions and then they both made to leave but one more question stopped Jeongguk in his tracks.

“Jeongguk, you’re up against Kim Taehyung for best actor amongst other veteran actors, can I get your thoughts on that?”

Jeongguk pauses. Kim Taehyung, they’ve never been nominated for the same category before. They both seem to make movies that don’t qualify for the same Oscar year, just missing the deadline. Not to mention this is only Jeongguk’s second nomination, this is Kim Taehyung’s one of many. Kim Taehyung is what can only be considered a master of the art, he’s been acting since he was a child and somehow never had any bad publicity or fell into the curse of most child stars. No public mental breakdown, no abuse of drugs or alcohol. Jeongguk has seen all his works as have most of Hollywood, he grew up with them, alongside them. Even though Jeongguk has been in the Oscar circle for a few years now, he’s never met Taehyung. Rumors about him only interacting with the best of the best, the winners of awards. Jeongguk doesn’t necessarily believe them, after all he has rumors of his own constantly circulating despite usually being false.

The reporters shuffle uncomfortably at Jeongguk’s long pause before Eve softly says his name. He blinks before turning back to the reporter, “It’s nothing short of an honor and privilege to be nominated amongst such talented actors, Kim Taehyung included.” There’s nothing more to say so he smiles one last time, his fake smile that the public has gotten used to before gently guiding Eve back to Daniela.

 

Eve sits snug between Jeongguk and her wife. They’re not in the front row, for that he’s grateful. The Oscars is a long and mostly boring affair, most of it not being televised because no one would want to watch a four-hour show, better to watch the two-hour televised special. They’re about six rows from the front, in the left aisle of seats. Some people may see it as an insult, for a “seasoned” actor like Jeongguk to be seated far from the front center rows. But Jeongguk had insisted, he wanted to be close to Eve. Before On the Waterfront, Eve had only had smaller roles in less popular movies, this is her first time being nominated for such a high standing award so her seat isn’t quite as glamorous.

The award for best actor is one of the last awards given out, but the awards for best supporting come quite early into the night. Eve holds both Jeongguk and Daniela’s hands in a vice grip, her nails digging into their skin leaving crescent indentations. As they name the nominees her palms break out in sweat. Daniela whispers reassurances in her ear as Jeongguk simply squeezes her hand in return.

“And the winner is…”

All three hold their breaths.

“Eve Garcia.”

The crowd erupts in applause, it’s loud in his ears and Jeongguk grins so wide he feels his face will split into two. Eve’s hold goes slack as she sits in her seat, motionless for a moment before Daniela and Jeongguk stand to clap for her. After a moment she stands slowly and embraces Daniela, their bodies sway a bit before she turns to Jeongguk and gives him a tight hug. Jeongguk steps out into the aisle to allow Eve a walkway, her hand in his as he guides her out. Daniela makes a motion for Jeongguk to walk her to the steps so he does. Eve seems to still be in a happy daze as she walks. He helps her up the stairs, she hugs him once more before she walks to the podium. She whispers a soft thank you into his ear. The audience continues their clapping as Jeongguk makes his way back to his seat. And the clapping continues for a few more seconds, Daniela’s claps seem to be louder than anyone’s. She has tears in her eyes.

“Thank you so much,” Eve says breathlessly into the mic. She staring at the award in awe, holding it delicately in her hands. “It’s such an honor to receive this award. I want to thank everyone who has helped and supported me, not only in these past few months but years as well. I’m so terribly happy, thank you.”

 

The rest of the night goes by in a slow blur, with a few musical performances and comedic lines sprinkled in between to keep people awake and interested. By this point On the Waterfront has won six of its twelve nominations for the night, the whole cast and crew are buzzing from the numerous wins and genuine happiness for one another. When the time for best actor comes along Eve and Daniela are more excited beside him than he himself.

“And the winner is…”

Jeongguk is full of nerves on the inside, he’s been nominated once before but for that role he knew he wouldn’t win, he almost didn’t want to for that one. He simply didn’t feel he deserved it at the time. But this time… it feels like he has a chance, he wants to win. His role as Terry was dear to him for reasons he can’t explain and he held the character somewhere deep in his heart. He put so much of himself into the character and knowing that his performance touched people’s hearts affects him more than any of his previous roles.

He remembers his long nights studying the character and creating a book full of character studies for Terry. Filling it with things that have nothing to do with the film, things like his favorite film, snacks, color. What he does on his free time, etc. It’s nothing new from what he’s done with his other roles yet Terry resonates with him in a way no role ever has before—

“Jeongguk!”

Eve’s voice breaks through his haze, he blinks, the sound filters back into his ears and he sees everyone around him standing and clapping for him.

“Jeongguk,” Eve exclaims once more, pulling him up to his feet and pulling him into a hug. “You won! I’m so proud of you!”

He’s in a daze as he hugs her back, burying his face into her bare shoulder, hiding from the stares for just a moment. His heart races, thumping hard against his chest, he blinks back some tears before he pulls away from Eve. Daniela pulls him into a quick one-armed hug before they’re nudging him out of the row and into the aisle.

His smile as he walks down the aisle is small but genuine, he feels a few actors clap him in the back, the director of On the Waterfront pulls him into a quick hug. He feels it but it still feels distant, his state of mind not allowing the sensations to fully settle.

Getting up to the podium and holding the Oscar in his hands is a feeling he never knew he needed to experience until he does. His chest expands as he takes a deep breath and holds the award tenderly in his palms. As he hugs the announcer, an old veteran actress that’s held to a high regard in the acting world she tells him she’s happy for him. He thanks her quietly but the mics next to them catch the small exchange.

When he turns to the crowd it’s just a sea of faceless people, the lights are bright and make it even harder for him to see but that’s good, it makes him less nervous. For a moment he wonders if his mother back home is watching and if his father is burning with rage knowing that the occupation he tried so hard to belittle has gotten Jeongguk to this moment.

“I-it’s much heavier than I imagined,” Jeongguk mumbles referring to more than just the award, one hand coming to play with his hair, his nervous tick. The crowd laughs, as Jeongguk keeps looking down at the podium. “I had so much to say but I can’t for the life of me remember…” Another wave of good-naturedly laughter.

“Never in my life have so many people been so directly responsible for my being so very… very glad. It’s a wonderful moment and I’m indebted to all of you. Thank you.”

 

The after party is full of congratulations, On the Waterfront won a total of eight awards, including best picture. For the half hour, the cast and crew stay near one another, drinking expensive champagne in celebration—minus Eve who has to drink water with lemon. After the initial hour, they all start to mingle. Eve leaves, her feet killing her and her tiredness finally winning out.

She and Jeongguk hug for a long time, both reveling in their wins today. “I’m so proud of you,” Eve confesses. Jeongguk just squeezes her a bit tighter.

With Eve and Daniela gone from his side, Jeongguk picks up another champagne glass—his third of the night—and sips at it slowly. The alcohol is already loosening him up, more than enough to give him the strength to interact with the other actors and actresses that come up to congratulate him.

He’s just about ready to leave when a familiar voice stops him, “Jeon Jeongguk.” The voice has a deep timber and sends chills down his spine. He’s heard it countless times in the movies he’s watched but it’s never said his name.

Jeongguk turns around and is face to face with Kim Taehyung. He’s even more handsome in person, the black and white pixels on the tv or cinema screen don’t capture his beauty enough. His hair is blonde and artfully swept away from his face, except for one unruly lock of hair curled onto his forehead. His eyes are dark and deep, Jeongguk averts his eyes before he becomes trapped in them.

“Kim Taehyung, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

A dismissive wave of his hand, “No, the pleasure is all mine. Congratulations on your win. You did phenomenal in your role.”

“Thank you,” Jeongguk says, stomping down on his nerves. He takes Taehyung’s extended hand and shakes it, his hands are larger than Jeongguk’s, his slender fingers brush against Jeongguk’s pulse point on his wrist and he swears he sees him smirk when his heart rate quickens.  “It’s an honor hearing that from you.”

It doesn’t escape Jeongguk the significance of Taehyung speaking to him. It almost feels like another indication that Jeongguk has made it in the acting world. Taehyung keeps a tight circle, almost as tight as Jeongguk’s.

“You think too highly of me,” Taehyung says. His hand is still enveloping Jeongguk’s, his eyes trapping him.

He gulps before removing his hand, “Excuse me I have to use the bathroom. Too much champagne.”

 

The bathroom is empty and for that, Jeongguk is grateful, he can’t have anyone seeing him like this. He buries the desire to splash some water on his face, he can’t, he has makeup on, makeup to hide some dark spots, his dark circles from eventful or insomniac nights. He is anxious from all the people, all the attention. His mask is starting to slip, he needs to fasten it before stepping foot back outside. But as he stares at his own reflection all he sees are Taehyung’s deep brown eyes staring back at him. His gaze was entrancing. Their conversation was short, simple but Taehyung’s eyes spoke of something else entirely. He looked as he would consume him, eat Jeongguk whole.

He can’t. The last time he allowed someone with Taehyung’s aura around him it almost cost him his career. He can’t.

He doesn’t realize he’s not breathing until it becomes unbearable. He clutches his chest, wrinkling his suite as he does it and kneels down onto the floor, his other hand a vice grip on the counter. He focuses on his shoes and counts down from ten in his head as he attempts to catch his breath.

“Listen to me, Jeongguk,” he says to himself, he sounds haggard, tired. “Let your mind drift, go back in time to a softer place. Think of Busan, think of the beaches, the docks and boats, go back to a time when you were very young. The sand under your feet, the sun on your back.”

He stays kneeled and continues retelling his quiet childhood moments to himself until he’s under control again. His public mask is almost ready to be slipped back on and it’s in that moment that the bathroom door opens. Jeongguk still doesn’t have the strength to stand, he’s shaking a bit, subtly but he doesn’t care because the footsteps are coming towards him and so he stands, his hands on the counter, keeping him balanced, right before he’s revealed.

“You were taking an awfully long time,” that deep timber once more, Jeongguk shivers.

“I’m sorry, were you waiting for me?”

Taehyung hums, his head tilts to the side as he regards Jeongguk. “Just worried is all,” he watches as Jeongguk watches him through the mirror. “Are you alright?”

“Of course, the champagne was just making me a bit dizzy.”

“That’s good,” he takes a step forward, his eyes trailing down Jeongguk’s body, his gaze leaving behind a hot trail.

Jeongguk gives a jerky nod before stepping back from the counter, he knows where this is going, Taehyung’s body language speaks for itself. But Jeongguk doesn’t want to give in, at least that’s what he tells himself. Be reasonable the words echo in his mind this won’t end well. You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.

Yet he does nothing when Taehyung steps into his personal space. He holds his breath as fingers capture his chin and tilt his head up so his lips can meet Taehyung’s.

From there, things are a haze, not from the alcohol but from Taehyung. His scent fills up Jeongguk’s nostrils, his hands all over Jeongguk’s body, his ragged breathing in Jeongguk’s ear as he trails kisses along his jawline. His senses are overcome with Taehyung.

Taehyung walks him back into a bathroom stall, one hand squeezing Jeongguk’s waist the other bracing itself on the stall wall. The Oscars are held at a fancy venue, fancy enough to have the stalls designed more like tiny little rooms for full privacy. Once the lock clicks closed behind them they are completely alone in privacy. Even if someone were to come in they would know nothing of what’s going on inside this stall.

 

“You’re shaking,” Taehyung teases as he clasps his hand onto the back of Jeongguk’s neck and urges him down lower on his arousal. His head lolls back as he moans and thrusts into his mouth. He is, Taehyung’s hands are sure and controlling as he presses them against Jeongguk and it unravels him to his very core. It’s been so long since he’s been in a situation like this. Not the sex, not even the sex with a man—Jeongguk is no stranger to this. Rather allowing himself to be controlled by someone else, submitting himself so easily. He hasn’t done it in years. Not since... Since.

Jeongguk blinks his eyes open and looks up at him, the other curses as Jeongguk’s teary eyes lock onto his.

“F-fuck. Everyone calls you handsome and you are. But you’re so damn pretty too.” He punctuates the word with a hard thrust that makes Jeongguk gag a bit.

Something burning hot, coils in his stomach at those words. He hasn’t been called pretty in ages and he doesn’t realize how much he’s wanted to hear those words until Taehyung says them. You’re so damn pretty. His eyes slip closed and he whines just thinking about them.

Taehyung gives one more hard thrust, the tears slip from Jeongguk’s eyes as he gags once more, but this time he gathers saliva in his mouth as he pulls off and allows it to drool out of his mouth and onto Taehyung’s arousal.

Without a word, Taehyung pulls him onto his feet and turns him around so that his front is pressed against the door and his back is to him. He makes quick work of Jeongguk’s belt and pants button while he bites marks on Jeongguk’s neck.

He’s fast and efficient while prepping Jeongguk, his fingers slick from the small packets of lube he carried in his pants pocket. If he weren’t in such a submissive state Jeongguk would have teased him for being presumptive enough to bring his own lube. But he can barely think let alone string together a sentence. His fingers are long and slender and they move gracefully inside of Jeongguk, unapologetically massaging his walls and stimulating his prostate. Jeongguk can tell he’s smirking against his neck as he moans and struggles to find purchase on something, anything. He gasps when Taehyung’s free hand engulfs one of his against the door, entwining their fingers and giving Jeongguk something to squeeze.

“You’re so good,” he murmurs. “So responsive. So sensitive.”

He almost chokes on a moan when Taehyung presses down hard on his bundle of nerves but otherwise says nothing. He presses his face against the door, seeking the coolness to somehow lessen the blush on his cheeks. “Please,” he begs in a small voice.

“Please what?”

He only whines and squeezes Taehyung’s hand tight, frustration has tears build up. His body is on fire. He’s desperate, so desperate he can’t think straight, he can hardly breathe. It’s been so long since he allowed this side of himself to come out. He’s robbed himself from this pleasure, the pleasure of being under someone else’s thumb, the escape from his own head, from his own self-assigned role. He wants Taehyung to consume him, to leave nothing behind. But how can he possibly say that?

Taehyung seems to understand without words, his fingers slip out and instead something impossibly thicker slides in their place. Jeongguk gasps without a sound, his mouth agape as he ducks his head, squeezing at Taehyung again. He’s going slow, being considerate of Jeongguk by not just slamming inside. It feels like an eternity before Taehyung is finally at the hilt, both of them breathe in deeply as Jeongguk adjusts.

Once the thrusting starts both know they won’t last long. Taehyung still on edge from the blowjob, Jeongguk has been on the verge since Taehyung called him pretty. Jeongguk finds himself in an embrace as Taehyung thrusts into him, his breath fanning against his damp skin, fingers biting into his skin. He’s surrounded by everything that is Taehyung and he finds it intoxicating.

“Come for me,” Taehyung groans. “Come for me, pretty boy.”

And there it is, that word again burning a flame in his belly making him tense up and wrap a hand around himself to finally bring himself over. Pretty Jeongguk wants to say, Pretty. Call me that again. It sounds so good coming from your lips. But instead what he lets out a small whine as he presses his thumb into his slit and he’s gone. His world is painted white as hot waves rolls through his body, making him shudder and throw his head back in a soundless moan.

He hasn’t felt this sated in ages.

 

Once dressed Jeongguk allows Taehyung to pull him into one final kiss. It feels like a goodbye. It should be a goodbye. Jeongguk showed too much of himself, of his nature. It’s not smart, he’s seen the consequences of him being like this before.  And Taehyung is too smart, too perceptive. He only looked at Jeongguk and just knew. If he were younger, back when he first arrived in New York this would have excited him, but now it terrifies him.

Taehyung’s lips are soft and welcoming, the hand cupping the side of his face is gentle and warm. The warmth is something he aches deep in his bones, he wants to melt into the other. He hasn’t felt this naive and reckless in a long time.

Jeongguk pulls away first, it’s a form of self-preservation he tells himself, denying what he deeply aches for will save him in the long run. Taehyung doesn’t look saddened perse more put off when Jeongguk turns his face so that the next onslaught of kisses hit his cheek instead of his mouth.

“I have to go, I have an early flight tomorrow.”

“One minute won’t make a difference.” Despite his words Taehyung doesn’t try to kiss him again, instead squeezes at the back of his neck.

Jeongguk gives him one last smile before unlocking the stall door and walking out to a blessedly empty bathroom. He doesn’t allow himself to look back as he exits.

Saying goodbye to all the people he worked with in On the Waterfront takes only about fifteen minutes, it should have been ten but finding the director took longer than it should have, she was surrounded by a group of men and charming them while holding a flute of champagne. When she saw him she beamed and extended her arm towards him, making the men part like the red sea.

“Jeongguk, darling. Leaving already?”

“Yes,” he says kissing her cheek. “I have an early flight tomorrow.”

“This boy only works and has no fun! But I suppose that’s why he’s leaving with the Oscar tonight.” He knows she can see how he looks, lips red and swollen hair probably a little too tussled to look intentional, his clothes on correctly but rumpled. She knows what he got up to in here, everyone does and everyone will talk, maybe not Rebecca, she’s too loyal to participate in gossip about those she’s close to. And that’s fine if people talk, he’s used to it. There are worse things he can be called than a womanizer he supposes. She pulls him in and kisses him on the cheek before whispering into his ear, “Be safe and allow yourself to be happy for this. Now go grab your award and go home.”

 

Outside there are still paparazzi and they all ask him the same question. How did he feel winning best actor? He grips his Oscar tenderly in his hands as he answers the one question.

“We bring part of yourselves into every character, but some are closer to us than others. Terry was a character I held dear in my heart. I’m happy my first Oscar comes from bringing him to life.”


It’s not until he’s in his cab, getting escorted back to his hotel that he realizes he left his tie behind with Taehyung.

 

Chapter Text

Taehyung waits a strategically long time before he exits the bathroom. A few actors walk in that time in which Taehyung makes small talk while pretending to fix his hair or clothes—they’ve been fixed since the moment he left the stall with Jeongguk, always quick to look his best, Taehyung didn’t hesitate to tidy himself until there was no sign of his previous activities. The only new addition is the tie Jeongguk left behind knotted in a rose style around Taehyung’s collar while his own tie resides in his pocket. He usually doesn’t care for mementos from any previous lovers—especially not from quickies in the bathroom—but something about Jeongguk makes him think this is something unusual.

As he speaks to the various men who walk in and out of the bathroom Taehyung can’t get the other man out of his head, how quickly he submitted underneath Taehyung’s coaxing. He’s no stranger to the rumors surrounding Jeon Jeongguk. He knows of his own reputation of having tunnel vision of the best of the best—it’s not a completely false rumor but he starts to pay attention sooner than people think. A way of scoping out the competition. Taehyung’s known of Jeon Jeongguk for a couple of years now, he’s known for being quite an enthusiastic lover with endless lovers trailing behind him. However, the Jeongguk from tonight does not match the rumors Taehyung has heard. The rumors around Jeongguk paint him to be enthusiastic but always in control and distant. The enthusiasm and distance were there but the control was absent by a long run. He looked at Taehyung as if he was begging for him to take control out of his hands and he did without hesitation. There’s something very powerful about having the elusive and distant Jeongguk looking at him with wide glassy eyes as if asking him to consume him completely.

When Taehyung finally leaves the bathroom Jeongguk is long gone. He grabs a flute of complimentary champagne and easily slides himself into a nearby conversation with his coworker, Jonathan, from a movie dating back two years and a highly respected actress, Amerie, known for not caring but for gossip and also his closest friend.

“Oh, Taehyung. We were just talking about Jeongguk,” Jonathan says.

Amerie raises a brow, “You were talking, I was humoring you.”

Taehyung hums as he takes a sip of the champagne, “His performance for On the Waterfront was phenomenal. I understand why he won.”

“No, no,” Jonathan shakes his head. “Not that, we’re talking about how he walked out the bathroom looking like sex right before he left. He’s known to be a bit of a sex addict but I didn’t think he’d do anything here.”

“Jonathan here is trying to figure out with whom,” Amerie says, sounding incredibly bored and uninterested.

Taehyung gives nothing away, only tilts his head to the side as if in contemplation. “No idea, I assume they had a good experience, though.”

“Oh, no doubt. He’s known for being a sex addict but one that knows what he’s doing.”

Amerie and Taehyung watch as Jonathan laughs at his own comment. He’s right though, Jeongguk does know what he’s doing. He knows exactly how to make his partner feel fantastic.

“He speaks as if he’d know first hand,” Amerie says while depositing her empty champagne flute and picking up another from a waiter passing by with a tray full of them.

Jonathan sputters and looks disgusted. “No, I would never. Nothing wrong with him being a man but the rumors around him? Nasty things. Like the scandal that came out a few years back? Nearly ended his career, I would hate to get involved with that.”

“Oh, please. Nearly everyone has forgotten about it or gotten over it.”

Taehyung looks between the two in utter confusion. “What scandal?”

Amerie looks at him blankly while Jonathan’s face lights up like a Christmas tree at the idea of being able to retell the story.

Amerie tries to gloss over it but is interrupted by Jonathan, “Nothing too serious—”

“The year he debuted as an actor on the silver screen an old lover released pictures of him in… compromising positions. In the throes of sex, afterward. They were almost artistic how well they were captured. Even some with his lover’s release all over him. They could almost be considered beautiful.” He’s gleeful as he tells Taehyung, watching him with hawkeyes to catch his every reaction, but Taehyung stays stoic, face carefully blank even though there’s an uneasy feeling forming in his chest.

“There’s nothing beautiful about one’s trust being betrayed. There’s nothing poetic about someone being exposed to the world in such a way without their consent.” Amerie’s voice cuts through the conversation like a knife, articulating Taehyung’s own feelings on the matter. Her eyes no longer look bored but rather they’re alight with anger. She’s a fearsome woman, someone most men quiver at the thought of angering and right now Jonathan is at the root of her anger with his careless words. “Someone’s own real-life misfortune and heartache isn’t a spectacle for someone else to gawk at.”

Jonathan gulps. “I was just—”

“Leaving.” Amerie says, “You were just leaving.”

Taehyung watches as Jonathan walks away. He can’t say he was ever fond of him, he made it a point to rarely be around Jonathan, but today solidifies it.

“You said heartache,” Taehyung says after a few tense moments. “Do you think the scandal broke his heart?”

She’s quiet as if playing the question in her head and thinking of a proper response instead of blurting the first thing that comes to mind. It’s a quality Taehyung has always appreciated of her’s, they’ve never worked together on a film but they’ve been in the same social circle for years, both starting out their careers rather young, too young to really understand what world they were getting themselves into. She’s the closest thing Taehyung would have to a best friend. She’s a thoughtful woman, with so much sympathy in her heart. “I think it made him close up his heart. He’s called a sex addict but I don’t think that’s it. I think he’s chasing love and hasn’t the slightest clue where to find it so he’s searching for it in random bodies and telling himself it’s enough.” A pause, where he eyes glaze over for a moment, they look far away almost like she’s thinking of someone else. “He was only nineteen when the scandal broke out. Imagine? Being so young and having yourself put out bare for thousands of people to see without your consent. To try and prove your talent to such an unhealthy industry with such a scandal chasing behind you? He’d have to have a heart of steel for that not to break it.”

He can’t imagine. He’s never had a scandal break out, it's almost unheard of seeing how long he’s been in the business but he’s kept his private life very private while still making the public think they knew everything about him. Maybe it’s because they think they knew everything that people hardly probe. But he can’t imagine having himself exposed like that and completely out of his control. Would he even had been able to show his face afterward? Except, for Jeongguk it must have been harder. Those photos would have been the first perception of him the public had. How he managed to come out of that and become as successful as he has and with a general respect from the industry is astonishing and maybe it speaks to how talented he is. He still managed to get hired after such an event.

“Taehyung?” Amerie’s voice cuts through his thoughts making him look up from the gold champagne bubbling in his glass.

“Yes?”

“I’ve never seen you so curious of someone. Is everything alright?”

A moment of hesitation where Taehyung mentally collects himself. “Yes. I’ve just never heard of the scandal is all. It’s a miracle he was able to move past it and become as successful as he has.”

“Talent speaks for itself.”

 

Once home Taehyung strips down until he’s left with nothing. His clothes haphazardly discarded all through his apartment starting from the front door and ending in his room. Usually, he’s not so messy but he’s bone tired from his earlier shooting for the movie to the then hectic setup for the award show all the way until now. It’s five in the morning, the sky is bathed in oranges and pinks as the sun starts to rise over the horizon. He considers the sunrise one of the most magnificent wonders of the world. He can see it from his windows in his room. Thin sheets are covering his lower half as he watches it, a cigarette dangling between his middle and index finger. He’s off today so he doesn’t have to worry about getting any amount of sleep and so he watches and allows himself to indulge.

On his nightstand, beneath his ashtray are copies on top of copies of scripts. Some old, some rather new, they all look old, though. With folded corners and ink stains, pages frayed from constant turning back and forth. The script for the film currently being filmed has coffee stains as well as wine from mornings where he needed an extra pick me up or nights where he needed sleep to come faster.

He doesn’t think about any of that in this moment though, in this moment it’s only him and the sun’s gentle rays.

 

He’s abruptly awakened from his nap when the telephone near his bed starts to ring excessively. His first instinct is to ignore it and so he does but when it rings another three times he can do nothing else but abandon sleep and pick up the call.

He groans when he answers the phone, “What?”

“‘Jeon Jeongguk was seen leaving the Oscars afterparty not looking quite as put together as he arrived, with his clothes quite rumpled and his crimson tie missing. Rumors spread from there but only escalated when Kim Taehyung left the after party later that night wearing Jeon’s missing tie in a romantic rose styled knot’.” There’s a pause in which Taehyung’s manager allows the news to sink in.

“Well… they work fast don’t they?”

“Taehyung, what were you thinking getting involved with Jeon. His reputation will ruin yours.”

“I don’t remember hiring you so that you can judge my personal life.”

“I wouldn’t if your personal life didn’t interfere with your professional one.”

“Jimmy, please. If I slept with Jeon it wouldn’t affect me in any way. He won an Oscar last night. I think more people are thinking of him as an Oscar winner now than Hollywood's playboy.”

“Did you sleep with him?”

He twirls the telephone cords around his finger as he hums, “That’s none of your concern. Do me a favor? Can you get me information on where Jeongguk is currently staying?”

“Tae—”

“Thanks, James you’re a pal!”

 

The next day Taehyung is back on set and it’s where he realizes his co-star worked with Jeongguk on the movie that took home eight awards last night. Nicholas is his name, he’s a nice man, loud and boisterous but pleasant to be around. He’s a big bulking man and if it weren’t for his kindness and the way in which he approached everyone in a friendly and pleasant manner he’d be terrifying. He easy towers over everyone on set but his huge constant grin makes him come off as a sweet bear more than anything. Nicholas had gotten nominated for best-supporting actor but unfortunately didn’t win. Looking at him now, though, he didn’t seem to have a care in the world.  

It’s during one of their short breaks when Taehyung finally asks him.

“Nicholas, you worked with Jeongguk right?”

He gives Taehyung an amused look as he tries to fix a button on his wrist but his huge hands and fingers are too big for the dainty little accessory to do as he wants, “Yes, why do you ask?”

“No real reason. I spoke to him on the night of the Oscars. He seems nice, what’s he like to work with?”

“Jeon. Nice?" Nicholas repeats with a teasing smile. He's a smart guy and he already knows what Taehyung is trying to do. "Not usually the word people use to describe him. This won’t have to do with all those articles about you two that are circulating does it?"

“Of course not,” Taehyung half lies.

Nicholas’ smile says he doesn’t believe him but decides to humor him, his fingers still trying to get the button to cooperate, “He is nice, it just takes a while for his aloofness to go away for that niceness to really come out. He’s very quiet, a man of few words. He only speaks when necessary. Most people think it’s because he’s cocky but between me and you I just think he’s shy.”

“What makes you say that?”

“He just seems like a quiet and shy guy. He’s not like he is in the interviews, not nearly as confident or cocky. I think he puts that persona up as a way to deal with the fame. On set, he keeps to himself. Unless he’s with Eve.”

“Eve?”

“Eve Garcia. She won for best-supporting actress. She brought the most out of him on set, never seen him smile so big like he did when he was with Eve. Think he considers her his safe haven. They’re proper best friends. If I didn’t know Eve was head over heels for her wife I’d assume they were together or at least had a fling. He’d always make a fool of himself to make her more comfortable. They just have that natural chemistry. Don’t reckon it was hard for them to play the romance between their characters. I think a part of them are already in love with each other. One of those tragic love stories. Maybe if they’d known each other earlier it would have turned to something more but…”

“You think they’re in love?”

“I know they are. They’re proper soulmates.”

“But Eve’s wife—?”

“Soulmates aren’t always romantic. They’re in love but not romantically. Maybe in another life, but not this one.”

Taehyung hums, not sure what to say that. He doesn’t know how it feels to have someone understand him so wholeheartedly. Amerie might be the closest thing he has to that. But soulmates? He’s not so sure.

“He’s also known for being a great lover. But you already know that,” Nicholas teases.

“What—”

“You wouldn’t go around asking about him if he wasn’t, Taehyung. Don’t try and get too close, though. Jeon always has a wall up. Maybe the best person to talk to would be Eve, but she won’t tell you nothin’ without consulting Jeon first.”

There’s a silence between them before Nicholas huffs, giving Taehyung a sheepish look, “Can you button this for me, please. These damned buttons are too small for my fingers.”

“Sure.”

 

“Hey, there’s Jeon,” Nicholas says a few weeks later with a happy grin. They’re at a nice restaurant, he, Nicholas and their costar and Taehyung’s love interest in the film, Andrew. Nicholas’ gaze is on the small television, the black and white screen showing Jeongguk’s face, dirt scattered around his face, hair greasy and very unkempt and a torn stained white shirt on. He’s sitting outside on what looks like a rickety chair, the squeaks can be heard from the television whenever he moves on it. Even with his dirty appearance he looks handsome, his grin wide and teasing as an interviewer asks him a question.

The cameras pan away from him to the interviewer as they ask, “Can you tell us anything about the role you’re currently playing here?”

Panning back to Jeongguk. “It’s a role I played before but in the form of a play instead of a movie. The character’s name is Stanley, he’s what you would call a man’s man.”

“You used to dabble in theatre?”

“Before I became an actor on the silver screen I was more into acting in plays. The theatre is where I learned everything I know. Anyways this role in the play is the one that got my name out there before I ever acted in a movie.”

“If you had to pick which would it be, then? Theatre or movies?”

“Theatre.” He answers without hesitation, he has a faraway look on his face as he says it as if thinking of another time or maybe another person. “It was an outlet for me and it made me feel closer to someone important to me.”

“Who?”

The faraway look in his eyes goes away, they shine as he looks around himself seemingly reminding himself of where he is and whom he’s speaking to. A teasing smirk dances on his lips, “Wouldn’t you love to know?”

The interviewer laughs—more like giggles, looking a little flustered. She tugs at her dress a bit as if a nervous gesture but Jeongguk has already looked away from her and focuses on something in his hands that’s not caught on camera. “There was some gossip about you and Kim Taehyung,” the interviewer says while tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. “He was seen leaving the Oscars after party wearing your tie—”

“I’ve heard, the rose knot was cute.” His tone is borderline joking but also dismissive. He didn’t want to talk about it but the interviewer wasn’t giving him a choice.

“Any comment on that?”

“I’m not sure if that’s actually my tie,” he lies easily as he leans back against the back of his chair, the squeaking sounding extra loud through the speakers. “I did leave my tie lying around. I can never wear a tie for too long before it starts to bother me, you see. He must have picked it up and worn it, it is a nice tie after all.”

“Do you have anything else to say on the rumors?”

His tongue darts out to lick his lips before a smile that’s more a small tug at the corner of his mouth than anything appears. “I met him properly that night and it was an honor.” He looks straight into the lens when he says, “And if that was my tie I would like it back.” A pause. “Please.” He then looks back at the interviewer and lets out a good-natured laugh. “It’s quite an expensive tie after all.”

The interviewer and some other unseen staff laugh along with him before the interviewer changes the subject, “So today is the last day of filming for A Streetcar Named Desire…”

Nicholas’ whistle takes Taehyung’s attention back from the screen to the two people in front of him. “Seems like the media won’t let this one go.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes and stabs his sausage with his fork maybe a little too forcefully. “Do they ever?”

“To be fair,” Andrew says as he tears a piece of bread with his fingers, “it’s not every day two of Hollywood’s heartthrobs hook up and make quite a spectacle of it. Especially when one is known as the industry’s illusive playboy and the other is the respected and loved veteran actor.”

“And you’re both very handsome,” Nicholas adds with some good-natured teasing.

“The interest is superficial,” Taehyung says dismissively as he takes a sip of his orange juice. The other two are drinking coffee with their meals but Taehyung hates caffeine, it gets him too jittery and it tastes awful. “It’ll pass in a few days.”

 

Later, when it’s just the two of them Nicholas asks, “So is it his?”

Taehyung is nibbling on his pen as he rereads his script and looks back up at Nicholas in confusion. “What?”

“Is the tie you left with Jeongguk’s?”

“Who knows,” Taehyung lies with a shrug. “I’ll show it to him the next time we’re at an event and we’ll see.”

Nicholas lets out a big belly laugh before handing Taehyung a piece of paper. “You two are a riot I’ll tell you that. So obvious you’d think you both weren’t award-winning actors.”

On the paper is a phone number. “What’s this for?”

“It’s Jeon’s number. He finished filming his movie so he should be back home in New York by now.”

Taehyung flushes a bit, “Why are you giving me this?”

“Why not? It’s fun watching you guys tango around each other. An absolute joy for me.”

“We’re not a soap opera for your entertainment,” Taehyung grumbles but there’s no real heat behind it. He knows Nicholas only means well.

“Oh, so you two are a we now?”

Taehyung’s ears burn from embarrassment as he starts to sputter. “T-there’s nothing going on with me and J-Jeon okay?”

“Whatever you say, Tae.”

“How do you even have his number?” Taehyung questions with a raised brow. “He doesn’t seem like the type to give away his home number, even to coworkers. Have you two…”

“I have a wife and kid, Taehyung. Jeongguk and I were not involved and we never will be.”

“Then how—”

“Jeon is big on reading. So am I. We have a book club of sorts. Jeon, my wife, and I. A lot of it is over the phone since we’re so busy all the time.”

“I thought you said you two weren’t that close.”

“I never said that I said he was closest to Eve. Me and Jeon are friends but we don’t necessarily share our deepest darkest secrets. Besides if I told you everything I knew about Jeon there’d be nothing left for you to learn on your own.”

Taehyung gives Nicholas a look with distrustful eyes and a raised brow.

“Calm down I haven’t been with your boy,” Nicholas says as if Taehyung still didn’t believe him on that matter.

“He’s not my—”

“Whatever you say, Tae.” He repeats with a grin.

 

Taehyung stares at the digits in contemplation, a part of him wants to call but the other part of him is saying not to waste his time. He’s gone as far as to write a list of all the things he’s learned about Jeongguk, mostly from word of mouth, a few interviews, and their one encounter.

  1. He’s distant and aloof.
  2. There’s no point in trying to get close to him, he’ll only close up like a clam.
  3. Unless you are Eve Garcia.
  4. He has a nasty scandal from his past.
  5. He’s clever and knows how to play the media in his favor. (Probably learned from the scandal in his early years).
  6. He’s great in bed.
  7. He’s especially distant after sex.
  8. He prefers the theatre over the silver screen.
  9. He’s lonely.

This is all he knows of Jeongguk and most of this is speculation more than cold hard facts. The last one is more an assumption on Taehyung’s side. And perhaps, for the first time in a long time, Taehyung finds all these things aren’t enough, he needs wants to know more.

He presses the heels of his hands into his eyes until bursts of white appear behind his lids. Jeongguk won’t even let him in, he knows he won’t. He’s closed off and guarded and Taehyung can’t blame him for that but he also can’t help wanting to push himself into the other man’s life. It’s stupid and silly, this hasn’t happened to Taehyung before. He can fuck without feeling, he’s done it tons of times but thinking back to that night and the way Jeongguk looked at him. As if asking for some type of salvation.

There’s an ache in Taehyung’s chest, it’s small, barely noticeable but it’s there as it has always been and it makes him feel hollow and in that hollowness the idea of Jeongguk ricochets against his ribs and arteries, echoing through his bloodstream. It’s selfish to pursue Jeongguk in an attempt to fill up some void inside of him but Taehyung has never pretended to be a saint.

He gets his phone, the cord tangled up in itself keeps Taehyung rooted to the table as it won’t go any farther than that. His fingers shake the tiniest bit as he turns the dial to enter the numbers.

The phone rings for a long time, long enough for Taehyung to almost give up and just hang up the phone, throw away the number and pretend this never happened but then there’s a click. He hears shuffling, just the tiniest bit before a breathy, tired voice filters through the receiver, cracking from lack of use.

“‘Lo?”

His heart skips a beat at the sound and for a second he says nothing, just swallows thickly as he tries to rid of his nerve.

Some more shuffling and the smallest sound of a groan. “‘Lo?”

Taehyung presses his hand to the speaker as he clears his throat to muffle the sound. “Hello.”

“Who’s this?”

“Taehyung,” he says with faux confidence. “Nicholas gave me your number.”

There are a few seconds of silence on the other line before Jeongguk groans, loud and annoyed. “Fuckin’ Nicholas.”

“He’s a joy isn’t he?” Taehyung jokes.

Jeongguk doesn’t say anything on the other line and for a second Taehyung thinks he’s walked away from the phone altogether. But then he says, “To what do I owe this call?”

This has Taehyung hesitating, now that he’s actually on the phone with him he has no idea what the hell he wants to say. He racked his brain for something— anything to talk about. His eyes land on Jeon’s tie draped innocently over the back of his desk chair. “Your tie,” Taehyung says, "apparently you want it back?”

“What?”

“Nicholas made me watch the interview with the pretty reporter.” It’s a half lie, Nicholas didn’t make him watch anything, Taehyung was engrossed from the start. When Jeongguk still didn’t say a word Taehyung elaborates, “The one taken during your last day on set.”

He makes a sound of acknowledgment. “Oh, right. I don’t need it back.”

“But you said to give it back,” Taehyung almost pouts.

“It was for the cameras, Taehyung.” He sounds exasperated but hearing him say his name has a bolt of electricity flash through his body. There’s a pause before Jeongguk huffs, “Listen I don’t do… whatever it is you're trying to do, alright? I don’t need you to try to save me from myself and I’m not going to save you from… whatever it is you need saving from. Keep the tie or throw it out, I don’t really care.”

Was that what Taehyung was trying to do, save Jeongguk? No, he doesn’t think he is. He’s interested in him, it’s plain and simple. He’s attracted to him in more ways than one. And Jeongguk seems awfully lonely. Maybe that’s what Taehyung is trying to save him from. Loneliness. But mainly, he’s trying to save himself from his own hollowness in his chest.

“I’m not a saint,” Taehyung says. “I’m not trying to save you from anything. If you need to be saved that’s your business and that has nothing to do with me.” That’s not what he wants to say, it’s the exact opposite of what he wants to say but it’s what Jeongguk wants to hear and what will keep him from hanging up on him.

“Then why are you—”

“I told you, I’m returning your tie. Not now, I’m just giving you a heads up.”

“I told you to keep it.”

“And I’m ignoring you.” Taehyung licks his lips and winds the phone cord around his finger. “Nicholas told me you two have a book club with his wife. What book are you guys reading?”

“Nicholas has to stop spreading my business.”

“To be fair it’s equally Nicholas’ business as much as it yours.”

There’s another huff coming in from the receivers, Taehyung can picture him looking petulant maybe even with a pout. “It’s none of your business.”

Taehyung laughs, “It’s a book. I can always ask Nicholas, you know.”

“Then ask him.”

“You’re really not making this easy for me are you?”

“I told you I don’t do … this.”

“This?” He teases.

“Whatever it is you’re trying to do. I just don’t do it.”

“You’re back in New York now, right?”

“... Yes.”

“Well I live in New York too and I’m filming here. Let’s meet up for coffee.”

“I hate coffee.”

“Great! So do I, we can hate it together!”

Jeongguk hesitates before he grumbles out a barely audible, “Fine.”

 

Taehyung is almost jittery as he sits in the small hole in the wall cafe, tapping his teacup with his fingers as he observes the pretty design of their napkins. He’s early, shooting ended earlier than expected but he’s still nervous. A part of him thinks Jeongguk will bail on him but he’s also sure Jeongguk is the type to stick to his word.

It takes another ten minutes—still early—but Jeongguk shows up. He’s dressed simply, with a white tee, worn-in jeans, a pair of round glasses and a baseball cap in his hand. He looks so normal, like a college student even. His hair isn’t done so it's fluffed out on his head making him look incredibly young even with the undercut he has.

He makes a beeline for the register to order before he makes his way to Taehyung. He looks polite as can be with the ghost of a smile on his lips as he speaks to the old woman. Taehyung stands when he walks towards the small table and out of habit goes in for a hug. Jeongguk’s looking at him with wide eyes but allows him to pull him in anyway. It’s awkward to say the least, the way Jeongguk stiffens and just pats his back while Taehyung squeezes him. Taehyung loves hugs, it can’t be helped.

“Did you find this place okay?” Taehyung asks as they pull away and sit down.

“Yeah, I’ve been here a few times so.”

“Do you like it?”

“Their sandwiches are good. I like their hot chocolate.”

“You like hot chocolate, how cute.” He coos, resisting the urge to pinch the other’s cheeks.

Jeongguk pouts and his cheeks puff out the slightest bit, it’s adorable Taehyung can squeal. He doesn’t even think he’s aware that he’s doing it, which just makes it cuter. “Whatever,” he huffs as he plays with the hem of his shirt.

“How was it finishing the shooting for A Streetcar Named Desire?”

He looks surprised as he asks, “You knew about that?”

“I did watch the interview, remember?”

“Ah, right. The tie one.” Jeongguk pauses when an employee brings him his hot chocolate. The worker looks at them with wide eyes but doesn’t say anything despite clearly knowing who they are. He thanks them before swirling the drink with a small metal spoon. “Did you bring it?”

“Hmm?” Taehyung knew what he was asking but he chose to play it dumb. The reality is he did bring the tie, in folded up nicely in the pocket of his cardigan but Jeongguk doesn’t need to know that.

“The tie,” he deadpans as he looks at him over the rim of his mug.

“Oh gosh! It completely crossed my mind.”

“Of course it did,” he grumbles before taking a sip of his drink. He lets out a pleasant hum at the taste, his eyes closing for a moment the taste sets in.

“It’s at my apartment nearby,” he takes a sip of his own orange juice with an innocent smile.

Jeongguk gives him a look.

“Wanna go get it?”

“... Let me finish my hot chocolate.”

 

Taehyung’s home is cleaner now, once he became motivated enough to tidy up but he’s still self-conscious as Jeongguk walks in and looks around at all his pictures and trinkets. With Jeongguk in his private space, he notices little things he usually doesn’t pay any mind to. Like the obscene amount of magazines and scripts, he has lying around. Or all the records he has messily lying near his record player. Or the mug sitting on the coffee table half full of orange juice.

“You really like art don’t you?”

The question surprises Taehyung. Usually, people comment on the scripts or some of the pictures he has with other A-list celebrities. Then again Jeongguk is one of those A-list celebrities so the glamour of it wore off for him. He must have noticed all his magazines being focused around art and the various art pieces frames on his wall.

“Yeah, I’m not very good at any of it but I can appreciate it.”

“Who’s your favorite?”

“Van Gogh,” he answers without hesitation.

“Ah, Starry Night.”

“Actually, I prefer Almond Blossom.” When Jeongguk quirks a brow he elaborates, “The colors make me happy.” He points to the huge framed picture above his couch. Jeongguk walks over and takes it in.

“How about you?” He asks.

“Hm?”

“Any favorite artist?”

Jeongguk turns around and looks at him before a blush creeps onto his face. It takes Taehyung by surprise as the other starts to play with his hair as he mumbles, “Gustav Klimt. My favorite is The Kiss.”

“Really?”

“It’s… sweet and romantic…” He looks a little defensive before his face starts to get guarded up again. And maybe Taehyung understands why. He’s labeled to be a playboy, known for his notorious one night stands yet here he is blushing over a painting of something as innocent as a kiss. Taehyung’s starting to think Jeongguk is far more misunderstood than he originally thought.

“Hey, I didn’t mean anything by it. I just didn’t expect it is all.”

“Yeah…” Jeongguk shakes his head as if getting rid of something in his head before he straightens up.

Taehyung walks over to him and squeezes a gentle hand around his waist, dipping his face to kiss at his neck. “Don’t get mad.”

Jeongguk’s hand lands over Taehyung’s and squeezes, “‘m not…”

“You are, you’re putting your guard up again. Don’t do that. Not here. C’mon.”

Jeongguk says nothing so Taehyung trails kisses up his neck before he spots the small beauty mark right under his bottom lip, pressing his lips to it. His breath hitches as Taehyung swipes his tongue over it, a puff of air washing over Taehyung when he exhales. Jeongguk’s body starts to relax against him, finally letting go of the stiffness from earlier.

“There you go,” Taehyung murmurs as his other fingers thread through Jeongguk’s hair and he presses a kiss to his temple. “Come.”

Jeongguk follows easily as Taehyung leads him to this room. This time he doesn’t look around at the decor, he’s focused completely on Taehyung. He’s pliant as Taehyung tugs him to the bed to lie next to him. Taehyung’s not planning on having sex with the other, not tonight.

“Have you ever kissed just for the sake of it?”

“I—no? Not without sex attached…” He looks a little sheepish, embarrassed as he plays with the blanket underneath him.

“Really? I think you’d like it,” he says while cupping his jaw softly. “You’ll like it a lot. Kissing is fun.”

Jeongguk just sort of gapes at him with big eyes as he’s tugged down so he’s hovering over Taehyung and their noses are just barely touching. “You wanna try?” Taehyung asks.

“Just… kissing?”

“Yeah.”

“B-but. That’s… intimate.”

Taehyung snorts and squeezes the other’s earlobe gently. “So is sex, silly. What’s a kiss after anal?”

Jeongguk’s whole face goes red, it’s adorable how he can be so shameless with sex but so shy when it comes to kissing. “Fine.”

“Cute,” Taehyung whispers before their lips meet. Jeongguk may be shy about it but he kisses as good as it gets. He lets Taehyung take the lead, he thinks it’s the start of a trend for them; Taehyung leading and Jeongguk following. He melts against Taehyung, gently laying on top of him as he presses gentle and shy kisses against Taehyung’s lips. The hollowness in his chest had begun to alleviate the moment he hugged Jeongguk but now, with his gentle affection the hollowness is bringing way to a fullness he’s never experienced before. He feels like his chest is going to burst. Like his ribs want to crack open and keep Jeongguk in there forever. It’s ridiculous, they’ve only met on two occasions, Taehyung shouldn’t be feeling this way and yet.

Jeongguk’s shy kisses have turned a bit more urgent, his hands are clutching at Taehyung’s shirt as the kiss deepens. Taehyung pulls away just to rearrange their positions and catch his breath, but Jeongguk whines in a way that makes Taehyung laugh, even more so when Jeongguk glares at him.

“Don’t stop,” he whines as he tries to lean back in and capture Taehyung’s mouth.

“I just had to breathe, angel.” The nickname was unintentional but the shy look on Jeongguk’s face makes him have no regrets in using it.

“Breathing is stupid.”

“Brat,” he teases before pulling Jeongguk back down, meeting him halfway. This time he doesn’t hesitate to lick Jeongguk’s bottom lip until he can delve his tongue into Jeongguk’s willing mouth. He tastes sweet like the hot chocolate, his mouth warm and inviting, his lips a little chapped but otherwise perfect. Taehyung can’t help but slide his hands underneath his shirt to feel his heated, soft skin. That’s as far as he’ll go but it’s more than enough. Jeongguk is so sensitive to touch, so responsive. When Taehyung’s tongue teases the roof of his mouth Jeongguk giggles against him and shuffles his body close to Taehyung’s. When he sucks on the other’s tongue he outright moans.

Taehyung can do this forever. And they do for a while, pulling away to take in gulps of air. Giggling against each other’s lips as they roll around the king-sized bed. They stay pressed together and kissing until Taehyung pulls away to yawn. Jeongguk blinks and then looks outside the window and realizes it’s already dark out.

“It’s late,” he says uselessly.

Taehyung rubs his eyes and nods, “Yeah.” One more kiss to Jeongguk’s cheek before he tightens his arm around Jeongguk’s waist, anticipating the moment when he tries to push away from him. “No,” he grumbles and pulls Jeongguk back down to his chest for a cuddle. “Stay.”

“You’re falling asleep,” Jeongguk points out.

“Don’t care. Stay.”

“I—”

“Shh, stop thinking. Just stay.”

His muscles loosen and his body relaxes against his. He hesitates for a moment before resting his head against Taehyung’s chest, underneath his fingertips is Taehyung’s heartbeat. Steady, strong and sure. “Okay.”

Taehyung’s sure when he wakes Jeongguk will either be gone or be completely prepared to leave the moment he’s up. But it’s okay. Baby steps. He notes Jeongguk didn’t ask for his tie once since they left the little cafe. He counts that as a win as he presses a kiss to Jeongguk’s soft hair.

Chapter Text

Jeongguk stares deeply into his rose tea as he swirls a small teaspoon around the drink to mix in the honey just right. Distantly he hears the sounds of Eve and Daniella speaking to one another softly but he’s not registering the words. His mind wanders to the other day, waking up to a warmth and embrace so welcoming he never wanted to move. Only for the horror of finding himself in Taehyung’s embrace to hit him and send him out the door before the sun even started to rise.

It was stupid and reckless to go to Taehyung’s home and practically spend the night. They were most likely spotted by some sly paps who snapped pictures of them. They weren’t doing anything like holding hands on the walk to Taehyung’s or anything remotely coupley. They stood with the average amount of distance between them. Taehyung had been talking excitedly about whatever went through his mind while Jeongguk hummed along and tried to calm down his nerves.

But the media knows how to play everything in their favor. The rumors will be out soon. He hopes no one was around to catch him leaving the apartment building at the crack of dawn, that will not help the rumors at all. It’s silly for him to worry so much when he barely did anything to help himself in this situation. Going to Taehyung’s apartment was a mistake, they didn’t even do anything but it was a mistake nonetheless. Jeongguk knew Taehyung lied about not having the tie, he has seen it in his cardigan pocket as they walked to the apartment but Jeongguk didn’t say anything. He had let Taehyung guide him towards his home with barely any resistance and his own lack of reservation frightens him.

However, no matter how much he laments the mistake he knows deep in his core he doesn’t regret it. How can he? Taehyung’s warm and gentle hands on his body felt like a type of solace he hadn’t felt before. Kissing just for the sake of kissing with no other motives is something Jeongguk hasn’t thought of since he was a young boy just starting to figure out what to do with the attraction he felt towards others. Before he knew anything about sex or sexual desires. But he likes it. He likes it a lot. An ache he didn’t even realize he had possessed in his ribs was gone in those moments. It returned the moment Jeongguk pulled away to leave. He doesn’t know what that means and he doesn’t want to think about it either.

But Taehyung hasn’t tried to contact him since and that should be a good thing. After all, Jeongguk left his apartment as if they’d had a dirty one night stand. So it’s good Taehyung hasn’t reached out. At least that’s what Jeongguk tells himself but there’s anxiety rising in his chest, he wonders if Taehyung is angry with him or if he took what he wanted and was done with him. It’s so stupid of him to worry about it because he knows how he’d react if Taehyung did reach out. He’d ignore him or push him away. It’s so—

“Jeongguk?” Eve’s voice breaks through his thoughts and his eyes focus back on the tea in his hands, the honey inside has long since melted into the drink. Jeongguk looks up to see matching expressions of worry etched in both Eve and Daniela’s face.

“Yes?”

“You’ve been zoned out for a while there. Is everything all right?”

“Yes… I was just lost in thought. Sorry,” he presses his fingers gently to his temple while taking a sip of his tea. “What were we talking about again?”

“I was saying how Nicholas told me a certain Kim Taehyung has taken an interest in you, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk groans and lays his head flat on the table top, his cheek pressing against the glass. Eve gave him a funny look while Daniela pats his back reassuringly.

“So I take it Nicholas wasn’t joking,” Daniela muses with a teasing smile.

“I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“So there’s something to talk about?” Eve asks with a childlike glee. “C’mon, Jeongguk I saw that interview where they asked you about him! I’ve never seen you so flirty in front of cameras.”

Jeongguk lifted his head and leveled her with a look, “Eve, I always flirt in front of the cameras. It might as well be my public image.”

“Yes, but never to someone specific. You’re usually flirty in general, you surely never flirt with another person through an interview.”

Daniela plays with a lock of her hair while she asks, “Is indirectly flirting through interviews for the whole world to see some weird form of long-distance dating? Or it is foreplay?”

Jeongguk turns bright red and makes a strange sound that he really can’t describe past a combination of a screech and a whine. “We’re not involved,” he whines unconvincingly.

“If only the public can see you now,” Daniela continues to tease while she pinches his cheeks. “Jeon Jeongguk, playboy of Hollywood whining and pouting all cute like a baby.”

He throws a desperate look over to Eve, begging for help. Eve takes mercy on him after holding his gaze for a few seconds, “Oh, Danny leave him be. You know he’s really just a shy baby in reality.” Even places a hand on Daniela’s shoulder and kisses her on the temple, lovingly.

“Then tell him to stop being so cute!”

“You’re not my type,” Jeongguk says flatly.

Daniela bursts out laughing, clutching her stomach. “Oh honey, neither are you. You’re cute the same way a puppy is.”

Eve leans closer to Jeongguk and asks with a twinkle in her pretty brown eyes, “So, was that really your tie Taehyung left with?”

“I… may have forgotten my tie in the bathroom.”

“You two fornicated in the bathroom. Jeongguk, you dog!”

“Please don’t say fornicated,” Jeongguk begs Eve while Daniela laughs into her hand.

“You’re not even denying it. Oh my.”

Jeongguk stuffs a huge piece of cheesecake in his mouth to keep himself from speaking any more. He doesn’t mind the teasing when it’s coming from these two but he can’t help but feel embarrassed. He shouldn't feel embarrassed, having the world know the renowned Kim Taehyung wants anything to do with the likes of Jeon Jeongguk is a compliment in itself but the public hasn’t let it go and even at such a stage where everything is still speculation. Well… until any more photos of the two of them together get published. He doesn’t want to imagine the shit storm that will brew.

 

“I have a proposition,” Taehyung says through the receiver the same day the pictures and rumors of the two of them surface. The pictures aren’t the best quality but it’s clearly them leaving the small cafe, walking to Taehyung’s apartment and then Jeongguk leaving hours later. Eve had called him ridiculously early to yell about it in his ear, Jeongguk had just stammered and assured her it was nothing. He couldn’t tell if his manager was happy or not with the news. On one end being seen with Taehyung of all people is good publicity on the other end Jeongguk’s reputation might bring down Taehyung’s own. “I make you feel good and you make me feel fantastic—”

“We’ve only had sex once,” Jeongguk stresses.

And I really like kissing you. It’s hard for me to get any release when I’m filming and it’s even harder to find someone who understands my busy schedule and is willing to work around it.”

Jeongguk doesn’t like where this is going. “You want us to be exclusive?”

“Not necessarily I know that’ll scare you away. What I mean is we’re convenient for one another. You don’t have to exclusively fuck me and vice versa.”

“Acquaintances with benefits then.”

“Ouch, you won’t even call me your friend? You’re breaking my heart, Jeon.”

“I’ve only spoken to you on four separate occasions, one of them being now and the other three with other motives behind them.”

“You love making things difficult for me don’t you?”

Jeongguk doesn’t grace him with an answer.

“Listen I still have your tie.” He then goes off rattling an address. “If you want it back go there tonight. I’ll be waiting, Jeon.”

Jeongguk pouts as the dial tone rings in his ears signaling that Taehyung has hung up. “I don’t even want the stupid tie back.”

 

“If we’re doing this we need to set boundaries and we need to know where we both stand,” Jeongguk says with faux conviction. He’s pacing around the tiny room, a room Taehyung rented that’s like a tiny studio with barely any square feet. There’s a small kitchen to the side, a bathroom hidden behind the only other door in the room. There’s a huge bed to roll around in, Jeongguk thinks Taehyung has a thing for huge beds. The other things in the room are a small coffee table in front of the big floor to ceiling window door that leads to a small balcony, two chairs, and a small lounging sofa. Aside from that, there’s really no room in this small space. It’s a good thing right now, the lack of space doesn’t allow Jeongguk to pace much so instead he sits at the coffee table and bites his thumbnail as he looks out the window into the night sky.

“I already said neither of us has to take this as an exclusive thing,” Taehyung says easily from where he’s stretched out on the bed eating some strawberries sprinkled with brown sugar. All he has on is a bathrobe that’s barely covering a thing since he sits with his legs wide open, one on the bed the other bent at the knee so only his foot is on the mattress. It’s indecent and his briefs are the only thing keeping himself from being completely exposed where it matters. “And we both know you want to be wrecked.”

Jeongguk’s cheeks flush as Taehyung throws him a teasing smile. “I never said that.”

“You didn’t have to. I’m not blind, Jeon. I have a vivid memory of how submissive you were that first night.”

With a gulp, he says, “If we’re going into that territory we need serious ground rules.”

“Fine,” Taehyung agrees easily. “But before we get to the hardcore stuff let’s focus on the more basics. What are some things you absolutely won’t do?”

“No cameras,” Jeongguk says immediately. The only thing he absolutely doesn’t have to mull over. No cameras.

“Fair enough. Anything else?”

“I… “ Jeongguk hesitates for a moment before gathering his courage. “I don’t like… degradation. I’m not good with it. It puts me in a bad headspace.”

“Noted. I don’t really like degradation either.”

Jeongguk nods and then gulps, trying to think.

“I won’t piss on you,” Taehyung says with a conviction. When Jeongguk throws him a confused look he only waves his hand dismissively. “I had a partner once who was into it. I wasn’t willing to do it then nor now.”

“Uh… same. I don’t see the appeal.”

“Glad we’re on the same page.” A pause. “What about bondage? Nothing too intense, of course.”

Jeongguk’s body involuntary shivers as he thinks about rope tying his hands together and a blindfold rendering him sightless. He knows Taehyung sees it because he smirks over at him. “Define ‘nothing too intense’.”

Taehyung crawls closer to him, the space between the massive bed and where Jeongguk is seated is so small it’s practically nonexistent, yet Taehyung still plants his feet flat onto the floor so he’s seated on the bed right in front of him. He grasps Jeongguk’s hand, pulling his thumbnail from his mouth so his fingers can press down on his wrist, adding pressure to feel Jeongguk’s heartbeat. “I’m not trying to tie you up from the ceiling or anything. Just, like, tying up your wrists.” His other hand comes up to brush some of Jeongguk’s hair behind his ear before his thumb rests right at the outer corner of his eye, his own outer lashes tickle Taehyung’s skin when he blinks as his skin gets pressed with just a tiny bit of pressure as he says, “Maybe a blindfold.”

Jeongguk’s chest is thumping, his pupils dilate as the blush darkens on his cheeks and ears but he says nothing, only lets out a shuddered breath.

“I would usually use a gag but—we both know how pretty you sound. It’ll be a shame to not hear you, so none of that. Are you okay with that?”

“Y-yes,” he croaks.

“Good,” Taehyung purrs, leaning in, his nose brushing against Jeongguk’s. He has to keep himself from leaning forward and pressing his lips onto the other. His breath tickles Jeongguk’s lips, his eyes trap him. “Anything else you want to add?”

“N-no.”

 

Jeongguk quivers while Taehyung runs his hands down his stomach, cupping his arousal through his underwear. He lays his forehead on the other’s shoulder and groans lightly. He can’t see a thing, his red tie around his eyes making him sightless. It’s all about sound and touch. He can hear Taehyung’s breaths, he can feel his hands, the fabric of his clothes on his own bare skin, his puffs of breath on his neck and jaw. He’s in Taehyung’s lap, naked except for his underwear while Taehyung still has his robe and briefs on. It’s exciting, being at Taehyung’s mercy; Jeongguk loves it more than he thought he would. It’s an invigorating experience as well, the anticipation of Taehyung’s every move. Not knowing what’s coming until it’s there.

“You’re so sensitive,” Taehyung murmurs against his neck as he squeezes Jeongguk’s arousal once more, causing his back to arch and a sharp intake of breath. He tuts as his other hand grabs of a fist full of Jeongguk’s hair, pulling his head back so that he can latch his teeth onto the skin of his neck. “Don’t hold back,” he commands softly, “I want to hear you. I know you can make more noise than that.”

Jeongguk shivers hard when Taehyung’s hand finally snakes into his briefs and squeezes his cock with no barriers. He lets out a shy moan when Taehyung’s fingers play with his head and bites at his earlobe. Lightning cracks through his body as Taehyung’s teeth clamp down harder on his ear, his hips buck up and his head falls back as he moans louder this time.

He can feel Taehyung’s smile as he says, “There you go. Let go. You’re safe here.”

Another shudder as Jeongguk processes those words. Safe. He’s safe with Taehyung. He has to be, if not what they’re doing can become dangerous very quickly, especially when his headspace is quickly slipping and handing himself over to Taehyung. Jeongguk has to trust him if not the delicacy of their relationship will crumble before it’s ever really established.

The last time he trusted someone like this it ended with scandalous pictures of himself on every major newspaper and magazine. The last time he trusted someone it ended with drugs in his system and a vulnerable version of himself with someone who had the upper hand the entire time.

Beneath the blindfold, his eyes squeeze shut as he tries to push the thoughts away. He tries to ignore the small voice in his head saying You deserved it. The moment you willingly took those drugs you handed yourself over to him, anything that happened after that was your own fault. Flashes of light burst in his mind, blurred images, wandering hands, and a taunting voice. Jeongguk whimpers, the large hands on him don’t feel good anymore, they terrify him. The once nice touches feel like burning coal on him, melting his skin right off the bone. He can’t trust this—he can’t trust anything.

He doesn’t realize he’s hyperventilating until suddenly he can see light through his closed eyelids and he feels a hand clasp onto the back of his neck. The sensation of a heaving chest and aching lungs hits him hard, he falls forward against another body.

“Jeongguk.” The voice is deep, deeper than the one in his mind and far more gentle. The hand on his neck is bigger and warmer than the one he remembers too. “Breathe, Jeongguk. Breathe for me. Breathe with me.” He feels the chest against him rise and fall with their own intakes of air, his own hands come up to clutch the other’s shoulders and he matches their breaths. He can feel their strong heartbeat against his skin and it grounds him.

When his breathing evens out and his eyes focus back he’s in Taehyung’s little, rented room once more. Right. Taehyung. He’s with Taehyung. He’s not there with that person he’s here with Taehyung. Safe. His eyes flick down to his hands and he’s shocked to see his nails have dug into Taehyung’s skin harsh enough to draw some blood. He’s too out of it to even question when Taehyung managed to take off his robe. He opens his mouth to speak but the only sound to come out is something like a strangled whine.

“Shh,” Taehyung soothes as he runs his hands down Jeongguk’s clammy back. He’d broken out in sweat from the panic attack, his vision is a little blurry but clearer now than before, he no longer sees a place from his memories—he sees the now not the then.

He takes in a deep breath, it’s a little ragged but his lungs expand with the inhale and then his body shudders with the exhale. “‘M sorry,” Jeongguk whispers, his grip on Taehyung tightening as he shuffles even closer as if trying to bury himself in the other man.

“What are you apologizing for, hm?”

“I ruined it. I didn’t mean to.”

Taehyung’s fingers thread through his hair in a calming manner, he’s humming something soothing and it lulls Jeongguk into a more peaceful state of mind. “It’s alright… what happened there?”

He hesitates, buries his face in the juncture of Taehyung’s neck and inhales in an attempt to buy time. Taehyung is patient, letting Jeongguk have his moment, his calming ministrations and humming continuing on until Jeongguk gathers his bearings. “Memories. I remembered something I usually try to forget.”

“... Was it… was it from when… you were younger?”

If Jeongguk were in a better mood he would snort at how Taehyung worded the question, so obviously trying not to open up old wounds. But are the wounds even old? It doesn’t feel like they are. It feels as if only yesterday Jeongguk’s entire world came crumbling down. The wounds never truly healed. It was like putting a band-aid over a stab wound; completely ineffective. Jeongguk’s injuries have been bleeding for years and he doesn’t know how he hasn’t bled out by now.

He wants Taehyung to be straightforward with him—to rip the band-aid and get it over with, but at the same time, he doesn’t. When most people bring up the scandal it’s with an odd sort of glee; none of them see the actual effects it’s had on him, perhaps because he’s a man and when these sort of scandals happen to men it’s taken far too lightly. Maybe it’s even because of his image, strong and stoic; far too indifferent to have any real feelings. He’s not used to being treated gently, like delicate china. He’s used to hard and rough, being banged on miraculously like an ugly and dull diamond rather than porcelain.

But Taehyung is speaking to him in a soft and gentle voice, his hands tenderly stroking his skin. As Jeongguk remains quiet Taehyung wraps the both of them in his big fluffy comforter, he feels safe like this, the world shielded away leaving only Taehyung and himself. He shocks both himself and Taehyung when he shuffles even closer and wraps his arms around the other’s waist for a hug, his face still hidden in Taehyung’s skin.

“Yes,” Jeongguk finally mutters, he’s ashamed; it’s been years he should be over it and yet…

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Yes, it’s eating away at him, he never talked to anyone about it. Not his team, not his friends, not to his father when he was seething and calling him every bad name under the sun because of how much of a disgrace Jeongguk was to the family, at how shameless he was to ruin not only his name but the family name. He didn’t speak about it to his mother either, who asked in that soft way of her's to explain to her that was going it. It was burning at him, the desire to just talk gnawing at his skin but Jeongguk ignores it and instead lies. “No. We can try again. I’ll—I’ll be good if we try again.”

Taehyung hums but shakes his head, “Not tonight. We’ll try again another night. But we need to talk, I don’t want you going into another panic attack.”

“I won’t—”

“Don’t push yourself. You have nothing to prove. We’ll take it slow, okay?”

Jeongguk makes a frustrated sound and pulls away from Taehyung. “No, I don’t want it slow. Just—,” Jeongguk cuts himself off to grasp Taehyung’s hand, squeezing it hard. “Just hurt me, please. I just need—”

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung says in alarm, trying to pull his hand out of his tight grip to no avail.

“Please. I need you to hurt me. I deserve it, just—”

“Jeongguk, no.”

Jeongguk lets out a strangled sound, his eyes are burning from unshed tears and he’s just so frustrated with this. He needs Taehyung to stop caring so much, he needs him to just hurt him. He pushes Taehyung’s hand away, shoving it into his own chest before bringing more distance between the two, “Then why are you here?”

“I’m not here to hit you that’s for fucking sure. I’m adding it to my list, you said no to cameras and I’m saying no to hitting. I’m not hitting you and especially not after you just had a panic attack. If that’s what you’re looking for then we can’t do this, I refuse.”

Taehyung says it with such conviction that Jeongguk can’t bring himself to argue. His chest is heaving as he meets Taehyung’s eyes. The other’s eyes are burning with a fire before it starts to gentle into something softer, something that almost looks like pity. Jeongguk hates it.

“Come,” it’s a soft command, his hand outstretched towards Jeongguk’s like an invitation. He wants to be petty and refuse, Jeongguk wants to get up and leave and forget he ever met Kim Taehyung. Yet, his hand reaches it out by its own volition, clasping Taehyung’s much gentler this time around and allowing him to pull Jeongguk back into his space. The kiss on Jeongguk’s cheek is gentle before Taehyung urges him to lay down. Jeongguk can feel Taehyung’s chest against his back as he pulls him into a tight spoon. “Let’s sleep for a little while, okay? Just a small nap and then we’ll talk. Is that okay with you, Jeongguk?”

Jeongguk squeezes his eyes tight, as well as curls into himself before he says, “Yes, that’s okay.”

“Good,” Taehyung whispers. “Just nap a little. You’ll feel better when you wake up, I promise.”

“Don’t let me sleep all night,” Jeongguk murmurs his eyes already heavy.

“I won’t.” Taehyung is a shit liar.

 

Jeongguk wakes up on his own to Taehyung sitting on the small two-seater table, where there are pastries scattered around the circular surface. The moon is still out and shining in through the window, casting Taehyung in a pretty, blue light making him look unreal and ethereal. When he sits up, Taehyung looks over to him, his gaze leaving the view from the open balcony and falls right onto Jeongguk’s eyes.

“You’re up,” he says unnecessarily while he collects the pastries and places them on a wooden tray along with a glass of milk.

Jeongguk doesn’t say anything as he watches Taehyung make his way over to him, being careful as he knees himself over to Jeongguk, being mindful of the tray in his hand.

“I was worried you’d wake up before I got back. I didn’t want you to wake up alone but we kind of have no food and I thought some desserts will help.” He explains this while he places the tray between the two of them and lays on his side, his head pillowed on his arm as he looks at Jeongguk. It’s sweet of him to think of Jeongguk’s headspace before leaving. Truth be told, Jeongguk doesn’t know how he would have reacted to being all alone after his mental breakdown.

Jeongguk goes for the milk, he’s always loved milk and that preference hasn’t changed at all over the years if anything it’s gotten stronger. “Thank you.”

“Here,” Taehyung says as he grabs a fruit tart from the bunch, this one with strawberries and blueberries. “This one tastes good, I think you’ll like it. Are you a fan of sweets?”

Jeongguk opens his mouth as Taehyung feeds him the treat. It feels intimate—something for lovers more than acquaintances with benefits but he can’t bring himself to protest. Not after Taehyung had to deal with his emotional baggage only a few hours prior. He waits until he’s swallowed his bite to answer, “It’s good. I like a lot of bread.”

“And what about sweets?” Taehyung looks so genuinely interested in something as insignificant as Jeongguk’s preference in desserts. It’s almost endearing.

“I don’t like overly sweet things. Fruit tarts are good but anything too sweet isn’t my favorite.”

He makes an acknowledging sound, his fingers playing with the blanket covering Jeongguk from the waist down, “I’ll keep that in mind for next time.”

“Next time?”

“You want to get into some dark stuff, Jeongguk. Aftercare will be really important for all of that.” Taehyung smiles softly at Jeongguk’s flushed face, “Speaking of which. We need to talk about what happened. I don’t need to know the details,” he says before Jeongguk can protest. “I just need to know enough, What triggered you? Was it being blindfolded?”

It’s hard to explain—it’s hard to explain that no, being blindfolded isn’t really what set him off. It’s his own head. His own past and insecurities. “I… it wasn’t that. I… it was my own head. It’s not right, there’s something screwed wrong in my head or something.” Taehyung goes silent and motionless as he listens intently. “I don’t know what it was. Memories came back and I wasn’t here anymore, I was suddenly there.”

Taehyung hums, he doesn’t ask where exactly there is, instead he grabs Jeongguk’s wrist and squeezes it. His hand is warm and his grip is grounding. “You’re not there anymore. You’re here and you’re safe. How about this: no blindfolds, nothing that makes you forget where you are, okay?”

“Okay,” Jeongguk mumbles.

“Good, now open up,” he says while he picks up a strawberry from one of the fruit tarts and taps Jeongguk’s lips so he can open up. Jeongguk obediently bites into the strawberry, ignoring how it feels. He thinks Taehyung doesn’t know how to be casual about anything. “Finish these and then we’ll try again. This time without the blindfold.”

 

Taehyung creates an ambiance so different from Jeongguk’s memory as to not allow him to lose himself. The lights are off but candles Taehyung had stashed somewhere are lit all over the little room but placed nowhere near anything flammable. He even has a record player hidden inside a small closet Jeongguk didn’t even take note of playing some soothing jazz. The sounds of Chet Baker’s trumpet filter through the small room, bouncing off every nook and cranny in a gentle way. The bed is clear of the pastries from earlier, the red tie throw over one of the chairs, forgotten.

“Good?” Taehyung asks. He’s smiling broadly, looking quite proud of himself as he watches Jeongguk look around the room.

“Ah… yes.”

Without another word, Taehyung reaches for him, Jeongguk sits on Taehyung lap, his knees pressed against the mattress as the other’s hands skim up his back. His fingers just barely touching him, the touch featherlight and teasing. “We’ll replace all your bad memories,” Taehyung murmurs into the skin of Jeongguk’s neck before he kisses the spot, running his tongue over it before sucking. He says it so easily as if the words aren’t throwing Jeongguk off his axis.

Taehyung is a master of anticipation, he knows exactly how much to give Jeongguk to leave him whining for more but never giving him everything he needs. He lets Jeongguk grind their groins together but once he senses Jeongguk teetering too close to the edge he grips his hips so that he can’t move. He’s so composed that if it weren’t for his arousal pressing against Jeongguk’s skin Jeongguk would think he was completely unaffected by all of it.

“You’re so pretty,” Taehyung coos as Jeongguk whines on top of him trying to get some stimulation. “Like a dream.” His fingers skim down Jeongguk’s back and into his briefs. He chuckles when Jeongguk lets out a strangled sound as he rubs a dry finger across Jeongguk’s puckered entrance. “So needy,” he teases.

Jeongguk is on his back lying on the bed before he can retort. Taehyung is digging into the side table for some lube and smiles when he has it in his hands. As Taehyung slicks up his fingers, Jeongguk rids himself of his briefs, they’re damp in the front from precome. He gasps softly as the air hits his cock as it bops against his lower stomach.

Taehyung opens Jeongguk’s legs, exposing him completely in a way that makes Jeongguk blush brightly. He leans down and brushes his lips against the two beauty marks on Jeongguk’s thigh as he pushes a single digit into him.

Jeongguk sighs, his body relaxing as Taehyung massages his walls, slowly unraveling him. The prep takes some time Taehyung is patient, stretching Jeongguk open while he either licks his cock or sucks hickeys into his thighs. By the time Taehyung has two fingers in, scissoring him open Jeongguk is a bit delirious. The blankets underneath him are clenched in his fists as he pulls at them to try and contain himself. When Taehyung presses down on his prostate Jeongguk’s back bows and his toes tingle as his hips raise.

“A-ah,” he moans as Taehyung mouths his neck, grinding his own erection against Jeongguk’s hip. He gasps, “Taehyung, please.”

He takes mercy on Jeongguk, slowly removing his fingers from inside of him and focuses on removing his robe and briefs. As soon as Taehyung slides the condom on Jeongguk sits up, clambering onto Taehyung’s lap, wrapping his arms around his neck and his legs around his waist. Taehyung looks amused by this as he taps Jeongguk’s hips so he can lift them.

“You’re so impatient,” he teases as the head of his cock taps against Jeongguk’s puckered hole. Jeongguk doesn’t care, he rocks down, holding the base of Taehyung’s cock as the head pushes into him making him gasp and sink even lower. There is a stretch and a burn but Jeongguk loves it, it grounds him and makes his toes curl.

Jeongguk sets a rhythm that’s fast and hard making both of them gasp and moan as they switch between kissing each other and biting marks onto each other. Taehyung’s hands on his hips tighten as he lurches forward, laying Jeongguk back down in the bed making the angle change with the position.

“You’re so pretty,” Taehyung praises as he places Jeongguk’s legs over his shoulders, lips briefly kissing one of his ankles before he thrusts inside. Jeongguk squirms against the sheets as Taehyung rolls his hips in figure eights, barely pulling out.

“You too,” Jeongguk moans. “Pretty.”

Taehyung grins before licking his lips. “Yeah? You like getting fucked by a pretty boy?”

Jeongguk whines as his back arches off the bed. Taehyung purposely thrusts against his prostate before Jeongguk can answer leaving him gasping and desperate.

“I wish you can see yourself. So pretty, so pliant. So good.” Another hard thrust to emphasize his point.

“G-good,” Jeongguk repeats, his cock twitching against his stomach at the praise. The heat in the pit of his stomach is building. “‘M good.”

“You are darling.”

Jeongguk whines at the pet name, pulling Taehyung down as he puckers his lips for a kiss. He wants Taehyung to surround him, engulf him. Jeongguk’s entire body is almost completely covered by Taehyung and he loves it. Taehyung kisses him like a starving man, wet kisses against his lips, an eager tongue exploring his mouth and teeth biting at his lower lip and pulling oh so slightly.

The heat in his stomach is building to something dangerous until Jeongguk feels like he’ll explode. “‘M close,” he moans against Taehyung’s lips. “So close.”

Taehyung’s thrusts go deeper as his finger tweaks one of Jeongguk’s nipple, rolling the bud between his pointer and thumb. Jeongguk whines loudly, sobbing as his back arches once more. Taehyung’s grabs his hand and guides it down towards his own erection and starts jerking Jeongguk off with both of their hands. The speed of their joined hands matching Taehyung’s thrusts.

It takes a hand full of tugs and a thumb digging almost painfully into Jeongguk’s slit for the fire in his belly to reach its peak and for his toes to curl in the mind-numbing orgasm that finally hits him. His legs fall open and his body arches as he comes hot and sticky all over his stomach and chest. His vision is white as his lids close and his eyes roll back into his head. He’s floating as hot waves flood throughout his entire body.

He distantly hears Taehyung moan, deep and low as he continues to thrust, letting Jeongguk ride out his own orgasm. But when Taehyung’s body locks up Jeongguk knows he’s coming too. When he’s gathered his senses Taehyung is lying right next to him breathing deeply as his hands roam Jeongguk’s body in a soothing manner.

“Are you good?”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk croaks. “I’m… I’m great.”

Taehyung snorts at his eloquence, digging his nose into Jeongguk’s neck. “I’m glad. Give me a minute and I’ll clean you up.”

 

Jeongguk wakes for only a moment, hours later once both of them are clean and sated. His nose is buried in Taehyung’s neck while Taehyung’s arms hold him loosely, their legs tangled together, the sheets are tangled below their waist. Taehyung is sleeping, Jeongguk can tell from the even rise and fall of his chest. The soft sound of Chet Baker’s Tenderly filtering through the speakers of the record player. He inhales, the scent of the candles soothing him as he takes him how loose and sated he feels.

The moment of clarity only lasts a few seconds before the tiredness takes over once more, the drowsiness sets into his bones and his mind. In that moment of sleepiness, he allows himself to cuddle closer to Taehyung and fall back to sleep.

 

“I can’t eat breakfast with you,” Taehyung says regretfully as he dressed for his day on set. He’s dressed quite casual with a black turtleneck and thick, loose denim jeans. There’s a fur-lined denim jacket hanging on the handle of the door. Jeongguk is still laying in the bed, naked as he lays on his stomach cushioning his head on his folded arms. He watches with half-lidded eyes as Taehyung’s gaze lingers on his barely concealed body. The regret on his face increases tenfold.

“It’s okay,” he yawns as he stretches, feeling a little smug at the gulp Taehyung takes as the blanket tangled around Jeongguk’s waist reveals just a little bit more skin.

“Stop that.”

“Stop what?”

Taehyung’s face is suddenly right in front of him, his hand grasping the back of Jeongguk’s neck, pulling him into a heated kiss. Jeongguk’s hand comes up to grip Taehyung’s wrist, squeezing but not moving it away. He revels in the sensation of Taehyung’s tongue delving into his mouth and rendering weak.

“You think you’re so slick,” Taehyung murmurs when he pulls back to take a breath.

Jeongguk doesn’t bother answering, he simply pulls him back down to kiss him again.

They eventually pull away, Taehyung groaning about how he has to go. He’s serious in his work and so he never gets to set late. If anything he’s one of the first to arrive, and today seems to be the same if the barely rising sun is anything to go by.

A kiss is pressed to his temple as Taehyung asks him, “Will you be okay here alone?”

Jeongguk ignores the feeling in his chest at Taehyung’s blatant concern. “Yeah. I’m not fragile. We didn’t even do anything intense last night.”

Taehyung looks like he wants to disagree but instead, he backs away and pulls open the side drawer to dig something on. Jeongguk watches in detached interest until, finally, Taehyung pulls something out. He opens his hand, a key on a string hooked on his finger, dangling right in front of Jeongguk’s face.

“This is for you,” Taehyung says. “This apartment… it’s not mine it’s ours. So take it. It’s for you.”

Jeongguk hesitates, that’s far too intimate. He should decline, he shouldn’t take it and yet he reaches out for it wordlessly, clutching the key tightly in his hand. It’s heavier than it looks in every way.

“Don’t freak out,” Taehyung teases. “I’ll probably be leaving early most days we meet up. There’s no reason for you to have to leave with me so early. Go back to sleep. Lock the door whenever you choose to leave.” He ruffles Jeongguk’s hair before finally, he turns to walk away, putting on some round glasses as he goes. The door closes softly behind him and Jeongguk is left alone to question just how casual this whole arrangement will really be.

 

When Jeongguk leaves a few hours later, well rested, freshly showered and clothed he eyes the red tie still throw haphazardly on the back of one of the chairs. He can take it now, put an end to all this. But. He leaves without it and tells himself it’s because he doesn’t want it back not because he wants an excuse to return.

Chapter Text

Their arrangement is simple. Whenever they have the time they meet in their little room, most days it’s Jeongguk waiting for Taehyung to get back from set, his schedule open and empty now that filming is over as he waits for both another project and the the premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire. Other days it's Taehyung that calls Jeongguk to come over. It’s nice, Taehyung thinks, having someone to come back to. Having a little safe space, away from the public eye for them to meet and do whatever their hearts’ desire.

Jeongguk, to Taehyung’s surprise, isn’t nearly as unwilling as he assumed the other would be. In the beginning, it was a struggle, but now Jeongguk seems to be just as invested in Taehyung as Taehyung is in him. They make each other feel really good, Jeongguk gives Taehyung most of the control and trusts him to treat him tenderly while Taehyung trusts Jeongguk to tell him when he’s having a bad day when his mindset is bad. It’s shocking how often Jeongguk is over yet the two don’t always have sex. Sometimes Jeongguk comes over and they simply go about their time being in each other’s presence. Some days Jeongguk just wants to kiss, to feel Taehyung in an almost completely innocent way.

Sometimes Taehyung drops by this tiny apartment to rest after work because it’s closer to his current set than his home just to find Jeongguk already there, sleeping but with warm food in the kitchen with a note for Taehyung to eat. Sometimes Taehyung is tired or stressed and Jeongguk helps him run lines to calm him down. Sometimes Jeongguk just reads a book while Taehyung looks over his marked up script. Sometimes Jeongguk goes real quiet with a faraway lost look in his eyes like he’s not really there at that moment, those times Taehyung tries his best to bring him back.  It’s like a small little bubble, just for them. They don’t talk much about their lives outside of this room unless it’s about their jobs. But it’s… nice. Almost domestic. Yet they never really cross that line from acquaintances with benefits to… more.

Taehyung doesn’t even know if he ever wants to cross that line. Jeongguk has some deeply rooted baggage that he never talks about and Taehyung has his own issues he needs to work through. The point of this arrangement is easy satisfaction and convenience, really. But the moment they cross that line it becomes so much more. It will become difficult, Jeongguk would no longer trust Taehyung to take his emotional pain and turn it into something tangible. Taehyung knows once things get complicated Jeongguk will run for the hills. And Taehyung won’t trust to be around Jeongguk either, he will take Jeongguk’s desire to become closer as some publicity stunt, maybe, some way to know all of Taehyung’s secrets and exploit them. They’re both jaded, rough around the edges. They’re no good for each other. This relationship only works like this.

Yet. Yet, Taehyung can’t help but attempt to get closer. To ask Jeongguk about himself, he has to push down the desire to learn everything about him, no matter how mundane. They no longer meet with the pretense of returning the tie but he doesn’t think either of them is ready to explore why exactly that is.

Taehyung kisses Jeongguk down from his climax, the two still tied together, sweaty and limbs loose from the release. Jeongguk’s hands come up gently frame his face as Taehyung deepens the kiss, his wordless way of letting Taehyung know he’s back from his headspace. There’s dried candle wax on Jeongguk’s skin, something they both wanted to try and loved, along with come and lube.

Stroking Jeongguk’s sides, Taehyung kisses his neck, sucking small bruises onto his skin. “How do you feel?”

Jeongguk stays silent for a second as he threads his fingers in the other’s hair, tilting his head a bit to the side. “I feel good. Floaty.”

Scratching lightly at the dried wax, Taehyung asks, “Did you like this?”

“Hm, yeah. It gave me something to focus on.” Jeongguk looks sated with one arm over his head resting against the headboard while his other hand holds onto Taehyung’s forearm in a weak grip. His body lines are long and beautiful, his body is lean muscled and toned. He wets his lips with his tongue and looks back at Taehyung with half-lidded eyes and a small smile.

“Good,” Taehyung kisses his shoulder before he gets up and pulls Jeongguk up with him so they can both shower.

Jeongguk clings to Taehyung in the way he only does right after sex. He wonders if Jeongguk is like this with all his lovers or if it’s just exclusive to himself. He won’t ask, asking would make the other close up. Taehyung always seems to be on very thin ice with him. One moment he’s soft and affectionate and the next he’s distant and curling into himself.

They decide on a bath. Jeongguk is feeling sore so Taehyung fills the tub with warm water that leans towards a little too hot the way Jeongguk likes. He puts in some lavender bubble bath into the tub as it fills while Jeongguk leans against him seeking his body warmth.

“I received an invitation to the screening of your project,” Taehyung admits while he watches the slow rising bath in an attempt to not look at Jeongguk.

There’s silence for a few moments, enough to make Taehyung a little nervous. “Oh,” is all Jeongguk says. Nothing else, only a single syllable.

“Do you want me to go?”

“It probably won’t help the rumors, will it? Afterall, you’ve never been to any of my premieres before this.”

“I suppose…”

“If you want to come then come. But don’t feel obligated to come just because of… this.” Jeongguk gestures the room as a whole as if he has no words for this room and what they do here.

“Will you have a date?”

“No. Will you?”

“No.”

Jeongguk hums before turning off the water and slipping the thin covers off his frame, stepping into the tub. His hair curls up the tiniest bit at the ends from the heat of the water as he gets comfortable. His arm is bent at the elbow over the lip of the tub as he lays his head on the back of his hand. He looks peaceful and serene as he soaks in the bath and Taehyung can do nothing more than watch him. They remain silent for the rest of the night.

 

They don’t see each other again until Jeongguk’s premiere. Taehyung’s filming schedule is getting packed and Jeongguk seems to preoccupy himself with other things he won’t tell him about. Taehyung decides rather last minute to attend. If people assume then they assume, Jeongguk doesn’t seem to care either way.

Jeongguk is surrounded by flashing cameras and microphones from people seeking interviews the moment he exits his limo. Taehyung arrives minutes later and watches from a distance as Jeongguk speaks to the interviewers. He’s dressed in white from head to toe. His shirt is sheer enough to see a bit of the body that’s underneath, his slim waist and tight muscles, ruffles doing diagonally on the chest into two v shapes. His suit jacket is white as well and almost plain except for the pearls sewn in the chest and sleeve and the sheer lace fluttering from the shoulder almost like a cape. It would look silly on anyone else but not Jeongguk because he wears it with an air of confidence. His pants have the same pearls going throughout the outer seams, his shoes are actually quite pretty, with the same pearls sprinkled throughout.

To anyone else, he looks confident and nonchalant but Taehyung can see his little ticks. How his smile is too tight and how he stands a little too straight to truly be relaxed. He knows his hands are itching to touch his hair and duck his head but his mask is on tightly, Jeongguk won’t slip in public.

Soon enough someone notices his arrival and some of the reporters too far from Jeongguk to ask questions turn to him instead. A majority of the crowd stays with Jeongguk, seeing as he’s the star of the movie.

Jeongguk notices the crowd thinning out only a bit before making eye contact with Taehyung, for a second Taehyung sees sincerity there as he gives an extremely subtle nod.

Taehyung has done this enough to know how to get through the interviewing process quickly and making it safely inside. Jeongguk takes longer, naturally since it’s his movie. When he finally makes it into the venue Taehyung is chatting idly with some other actors and actresses that came, Nicholas is one of them and the only one Taehyung knows well enough to truly feel comfortable. Jeongguk doesn’t even get to greet anyone, his manager whisks him away with the sheer cape fluttering behind him as he listens intently to what his manager is saying.

Eventually, Taehyung and Nicholas stand to the side with drinks while everyone around then chats and gossips.

“How are you and Jeon?” Nicholas asks easily but quietly enough for no one else to hear.

“There is no me and Jeon.”

“Liar. I saw how you looked at him when you arrived. Those weren’t the eyes of a random curiosity, you looked at him like you wanted to eat him. Again.”

“I was only admiring the clothes. I was trying to figure out what designer he used so I can contact them for my next premiere.”

Nicholas laughs a big deep belly laugh, “Whatever you say, Taehyung.”

The woman who plays Jeongguk’s onscreen wife, Stella, steps into the venue looking happy if not a little flustered. Maria is her name, she’s well known in Hollywood and easily liked as she is an easy going person.

“Maria!” One of the actors from a small group standing near Taehyung and Nicholas calls out. Taehyung ignores most of their conversation while Nicholas teases him good-naturedly until he hears Jeongguk’s name.

“How was it working with Jeon? I heard he can be quite a handful if not a little rude.”

Taehyung’s ears immediately perk up as do Nicholas’ when he hears his friend being spoken about.

Maria sounds genuinely confused when she asks, “What do you mean?”

“Oh come now, Maria. We’ve all heard the rumors.”

“Jeongguk is a sweetheart,” Maria says sounding put off.

“Ah, I see.”

“You see what?”

“So you’ve slept with him then.”

“No, I can confidently say I have not.” Maria sounds a little offended at the idea that just because she speaks well of Jeongguk it means they have to save slept together. “What does that have to do with anything? Jeongguk was a perfect gentleman. He always spoke to me before and after the more violent scenes between us to make sure I was okay and asked me tell him if anything he does makes me uncomfortable.”

“And what does Angela think of him?”

“Angela told me much of the same. Jeongguk is a dear to work with. He’s just a bit shy is all.”

Taehyung’s grip on his drink tightens, the skin of his fingertips lighten from the pressure he places on the glass as he schools his expression neutral. But his jaw tightens as his fingers do, trying to control his anger while being frustrated with himself for getting so upset in the first place. He and Jeongguk are barely friends. They’re convenient so why is Taehyung feeling so angry?

A hand on his shoulder drags him out of his own head. Nicholas’ hand is big and warm, much like the rest of him. He’s a bear of a man. But right now, his touch brings some type of comfort that Taehyung hates he needs. He says nothing but his eyes are knowing as he steers Taehyung away from the crowd.

“Those comments are normal,” Nicholas says as if trying to console him.

“It’s none of my business.”

“Isn’t it though?”

Taehyung doesn’t answer, but he sees Jeongguk walking with another woman, a brunette with deep red lips. Taehyung has never seen her, he’s sure she’s not in the movie, the implications of what she could be to him make Taehyung feel uneasy. They chat with each other, her arm linked with Jeongguks as her red nails splay against the muscles of his biceps. Jeongguk looks soft and shy now, as they walk down an almost empty hallway and the woman says something that makes Jeongguk laugh. Jeongguk looks young and boyish with a flush on his cheeks.

He makes an effort not to look at them while they enter the main room where the screening will be held. It’s none of his business who Jeongguk spends his time with. Taehyung knows Nicholas wants to say something but decides against it.

“I’m going to go find my seat. You should too.”

 

Taehyung is seated close to the screen, a perk of being a veteran actor he supposes. The main cast sits in the very front row in the middle with their plus ones. Jeongguk is the only one without a plus one. The seat next to him is vacant, the woman from earlier is gone but Jeongguk doesn’t look bothered.

He spends his time looking either at the screen or at Jeongguk. Jeongguk is a phenomenal actor, he already knew that. But the way he plays Stanley is something else; it’s almost like he’s acting from experience. As if he knows a real-life Stanley. He’s read the play and the thought of Jeongguk knowing someone like his character in real life in any context makes Taehyung’s stomach churn.

When Stanley is acting violently on screen Jeongguk looks the most uncomfortable as he sits in the audience and watches. He goes rigid when Stanley yells when he throws things when he hits Stella. His jaw is set, and Taehyung is sure that right now Jeongguk’s eyes are blank and distant the way they get sometimes. Like he’s no longer here with the rest of them but somewhere else. Maybe somewhere safe. Maybe even in their little room.

Before Taehyung met Jeongguk he would have thought he was playing himself on screen. Not so much when he’s being angry and violent but in his more intimidating and all-consuming manliness. A man that can’t be told no. A man that won’t accept no. A man that exudes authority. That is surely how Jeongguk presents himself in front of the cameras. A man’s man with a seductive nature.

But now, Taehyung knows better. Jeongguk is sensitive, he hates loud noises, he hates violence and anything that even remotely leans towards too aggressive or violent—with the exception of what he wants to be done to him in bed. Taehyung doesn’t want to think about that right now, so he doesn’t. He has in his quieter moments or when he and Jeongguk were basking in each other's presence and the quiet. He has thought about how Jeongguk hates violence yet asks to be punished, Taehyung never does it, though. He refuses to until Jeongguk at least tells him why he wants to be hurt. But the picture is being painted right before him.

Stanley is someone Jeongguk knew or even still knows in his life. Whether Jeongguk’s Stanley is the one behind his scandal or someone else, Taehyung doesn’t know. But he knows Stanley is very real to Jeongguk. Flesh and blood, living and breathing.

But Jeongguk is not Stanley, he’s nothing like Stanley. But does he himself know that? Taehyung isn’t so sure he does.

Watching Stanley assert his dominance over the other characters, watching him hit Stella watching him fight with Blanche and how their final interaction eludes to much worse that the character will do to her. And watching Stella leave with their child, leaving Stanley utterly alone. It’s hard. And it’s only hard because Taehyung is almost sure this somehow parallels Jeongguk’s life.

When the credits roll the theatre erupts in applause. He sees the director, producer, and other actors stand up and embrace each other but Jeongguk doesn’t stand. He stays seated as he watched the credits roll until Angela, the actress that played Blanche, pulls him up so he and the two main actresses can embrace one another. Angela places her hand on Jeongguk’s cheeks in a type of caress as she says something to him. She looks motherly as she does it and Jeongguk listens intently before nodding briefly.

Taehyung exits the theatre soon after.

 

He hides away as Jeongguk mingles for the bare minimum amount of time. He’s tucked in a small corner as he sips on some champagne. He’s not sure what he’s waiting for, they didn’t promise to meet or go back to the room together tonight. For all he knows Jeongguk has other plans, maybe with the pretty brunette from earlier. But soon enough Jeongguk finds him. He slides up next to Taehyung until they’re standing side by side, shoulders and arms pressed against one another.

Jeongguk asks, “Did you like the movie?” He’s not looking at Taehyung but blankly ahead of himself.

Swirling the remaining champagne in the flute, Taehyung nods. “It was good. You were really good in your role.”

Jeongguk winces just slightly but Taehyung notices. “Thanks.”

“Are you okay? You looked a little rigid during the film.”

“I don’t like seeing myself on screen, especially so blown up.”

“Is that all?”

Hesitation and then a humorless laugh. “What else would it be, Taehyung?”

“You tell me, Jeongguk. You’re the one full of secrets.”

Finally, Jeongguk turns to him with a scowl. His eyes are burning with something as he holds Taehyung’s. “If you have something to say then just say it.”

He should. He should push Jeongguk to talk a little more, to release so much of that darkness inside of him but they’re not lovers. They’re barely friends. It’s not Taehyung’s place and he doesn’t want it to be. He sighs and the back of his hand brushes against Jeongguk’s as a ceasefire. “Nothing. Are you okay?”

“You already asked that,” Jeongguk says but the tension in his body has lessened.

“No. I mean are you okay.”

Jeongguk goes quiet for a few moments before his pinky brushes against Taehyung’s. He relaxes when Taehyung links them together, translating the gesture for acceptance. “Can we go to our room?”

Our room. Not Taehyung’s room, not the room. Their room. Any speculation he had about the brunette earlier disappears into the air. It doesn’t matter what she is to him because Jeongguk is choosing their room and by extension Taehyung.

“Yes,” he releases the word like a sigh. Like a breath, he’s been holding for an eternity.

 

“What do you want?” Taehyung murmurs as he slowly undresses Jeongguk. He’s careful with the clothes. They’re so pretty and delicate that Taehyung wants no harm to come to them. The silhouette of Jeongguk’s body can be seen from the orange hues the various candles provide.

He seems nervous as he tilts his head back and lets Taehyung mouth at his neck. It’s free now that the suit jacket is off and the buttons of his shirt have been unbuttoned revealing his body underneath. “I,” he pauses as if second guessing himself before he gathers his bearings. “I want you to choke me.”

Taehyung pulls back but Jeongguk’s hand comes up and puts pressure on his head to keep it in place. He can’t see Jeongguk’s face like this, with his own in his neck and he’s sure that’s the point.

“Nothing too extreme,” Jeongguk elaborates. “Just… just don’t let me breathe. I-I need it. Tonight I really need it, please.”

“Jeongguk—”

“Please. I’ll tell you when it gets to be too much. I promise.”

He’s shaking now, his entire body is shaking so hard as if he’s vibrating from the anticipation of Taehyung’s answer. He closes his eyes and buries his nose in Jeongguk’s neck, inhaling his perfume—not cologne but perfume. Something clean and whispey with a slight floral scent. “We need a signal,” he says in defeat.

Jeongguk’s chest expands and then deflates with a deep exhale. “I’ll tap your wrist when I need to breathe.”

“Okay. What about when you're red?”

“You’re hand. If I’m red while you’re choking me I’ll hold your hand.” To prove his point he grabs Taehyung’s hand and intertwines their fingers gently. “Like this.”

“All right.”

Jeongguk is shaking as Taehyung takes off the last of their clothes. He assures Taehyung it’s from anticipation, nothing else. Taehyung trusts him enough to believe him.

The preparation is slow, he warms up the lube in his fingers before pressing one into Jeongguk’s entrance. His entrance is clean and hairless, Taehyung has learned that Jeongguk cares a lot about his appearance even in his most intimate areas.

He's so wound up he rushes Taehyung through the first finger, promising he’s good and he can take more. He finally settles with the second, now more pliant as Taehyung rubs the pads of his fingers against Jeongguk’s walls, as he scissors them open and stretches Jeongguk’s entrance wider. He watches as the pink hole expands with his fingers and takes them in so perfectly. When he presses his fingertips against Jeongguk’s prostate the younger jerks underneath him as his fingers curl around the fitted sheets and his hips jerk. His cock stiffens up against his hip and he lets out a blissful sigh.

“O-oh God,” he breathes as Taehyung keeps stimulating him. Hot waves rolls through his body continuously. He won’t come, not yet. but the pleasure he’s feeling has to be exquisite because his voice rises as he finally moans.

“My name’s Taehyung, actually,” He teases as fingers finally repent and go back to stretching.

Jeongguk’s back that had risen during the pleasurable waves falls back to the bed. He lets out a shuddered breath before he snorts and giggles. his hand coming to cover his mouth as the pretty sounds are released into the world. “Shut up,” he laughs as he playfully hits Taehyung’s arm.

Taehyung’s chest doesn't squeeze at Jeongguk blatant delight or the familiarity of his actions. He swears it doesn’t.

Taehyung gives him a boxy smile before leaning down and kissing him. His tongue prying open Jeongguk’s lips almost immediately to run his over Jeongguk’s. He tastes sweet, like those pastries that were being served at the screening. An arm makes its way around Taehyung’s neck as Jeongguk pulls him down closer until he’s practically smothering the other but he doesn’t seem to care.

Taehyung can feel the other’s erection against his own and in a moment of weakness, he grinds their hips together to get some friction between them both. Jeongguk whines into his mouth while he both tries to roll his hips down into Taehyung’s fingers and up to rub his cock against Taehyung’s.

“Shh,” Taehyung hushes. “Calm down, baby. There’s no rush. We have all night.”

“Taehyung, please,” he begs as he tries to chase his release.

Finally, he’s loose enough so Taehyung removes his fingers and tears open a condom. Jeongguk sits up, his hair mussed, his cheeks and chest flush and his lips red. He reaches for the condom before Taehyung can roll it on and opens his mouth to an ‘o’ shape before placing the rolled up condom in his mouth.

Taehyung watches with wide eyes as Jeongguk runs his hands through his fringe to get the locks of hair out of his eyes. Then he leans down and engulfs Taehyung’s cock. He wasn’t expecting the sudden heat that engulfs him so his hips jerk forward.

“F-fuck.” His head falls back as Jeongguk takes in his entire length before he pulls off and reaches forward to pinch the tip so the top of the condom is on correctly. He strokes down Taehyung’s length to roll down the condom on the small slither of skin Jeongguk didn’t reach with his mouth.

He looks almost cheeky as he smiles at Taehyung before licking his lips and giving him a chaste kiss. Taehyung gently pushes him down onto the mattress as he lubes up his own cock and then grips it at the base. He waits until Jeongguk is lying flat to press his arousal against Jeongguk’s entrance.

With a hand on his cheek, Taehyung asks, “Ready?”

He’s given a nod and then he’s pushing in in one steady and slow thrust. Jeongguk’s mouth opens as he tilts his head back until the crown of his head is pressed against the pillows in a silent gasp. One of his hands grip the sheets while the other clasps on Taehyung’s forearm as his hole expands around Taehyung’s cock.

A broken sound escapes Jeongguk’s lips but nothing more until Taehyung’s in at the hilt. He lets out a breath he'd been holding, they both do. Jeongguk’s back deflates back onto the mattress, his head rolls to one side while Taehyung slumps above him. Jeongguk’s is tight and hot around Taehyung’s dick, his walls tighten as Jeongguk tries to relax.

Taehyung gives him a moment, waits for the rise and fall of Jeongguk’s chest to even out, for his body to relax. When all that happens, Taehyung begins his slow thrusts. He starts off with small movements, making sure Jeongguk is okay, that’s he’s gotten used to the feeling. But Jeongguk becomes impatient first, he wraps his legs around Taehyung’s waist and pulls him in as his moves his own hips to quicken the pace.

“I’m not weak,” he moans. “I can take it. I can take you.”

Taehyung gulps as Jeongguk glares at him. God, he’s a sight. Beneath him, taking him but calling all the shots. No matter what either of them tries to tell themselves Jeongguk almost always calls the shots. Almost anything he can ask for Taehyung will give to him one way or another.  

His hackles rise, Taehyung knows a challenge when he sees one. He grips Jeongguk’s hips and pulls out until only the tip is left and then he thrusts in, his hips hitting against Jeongguk’s. The other’s eyes flutter shut as Taehyung keeps thrusting. The pace harsh and unforgiving but Jeongguk loves it.

He’s moaning so loud, Taehyung worries the neighbors will hear. But he himself is no better, he moans too, the heat and vice grip milking his cock. He purposely keeps the angle so that he doesn’t do much more than just barely graze Jeongguk’s prostate. Each barely there touch has Jeongguk shuddering and gripping his own hair in his fist.

“Mhm, Taehyung,” he moans as he tightens his walls.

Taehyung curses, his hips stuttering as he counts to ten in his head to keep from coming too soon. His hand shoots out and his fingers splays it right next to Jeongguk’s head on the bed. He’s so busy trying not to come that he startles when Jeongguk’s hand wraps around his wrist and tugs. His eyes pop open when he remembers Jeongguk’s signal for red but that’s for once Taehyung has a hand around his throat—

Jeongguk takes Taehyung’s hand and presses it against his own throat. “Please.”

The heat in Taehyung’s belly curls into its self before spreading all through his body. He doesn’t even think about it, his fingers grip Jeongguk’s throat tight. He can feel Jeongguk’s pulse underneath his fingertips. His body underneath Taehyung’s locks up as his airway is blocked, he stares at Taehyung with wide eyes as his mouth opens trying to take in a breath but he can’t. Taehyung keeps thrusting while Jeongguk lies there and takes it.

Jeongguk’s finger’s tap his wrist and Taehyung immediately loosens his grip. Jeongguk’s chest expands as he takes in oxygen. When his lungs are full he stutters out, “A-gain. Tae—Again—”

Taehyung tightens his hand around his throat again, cutting Jeongguk off, causing him to release a choked sound. Jeongguk stares up at him with a look full of—something, Taehyung can’t place it but he looks ethereal. Taehyung didn’t expect to like this, the feeling of Jeongguk’s heartbeat in his hand and his airflow all in Taehyung’s control. The realization makes him thrust harder, his fingers tightening even more for a second before he remembers himself. Another tap of fingers against his wrist and Jeongguk’s taking a deep breath.

He’s shaking, practically vibrating as he breathes. His cock is unbelievably hard and wet against his own stomach. His legs slipped from around Taehyung’s hips and lay pliant on the bed once more.

“Again—”

His hand tightens and then Taehyung decides to aim for Jeongguk’s prostate. Jeongguk chokes around his hand but doesn’t tap his wrist. He gasps silently as his back bows and his body twitches from the pleasure. Taehyung doesn’t loosen his fingers, he trusts Jeongguk and waits for his signal. But the heat is unbearable, the pleasure rolling through both their bodies is reaching its peak. His thrusts are still well aimed but wreckless and harsh but Taehyung is so close. The only thing stopping him from blindly chasing his release is Jeongguk’s finger’s tapping against his wrist again.

“T-Taehyung, I’m so close. I’m so close, Tae,” Jeongguk moans when he has air back in his lungs. “J-just one more time. Plea—”

Taehyung’s fingers grip his neck with a finality. This is it, they’ll both be gone after this. Taehyung jackhammers into him and Jeongguk’s eyes water up and tears spill from the corners of his eyes as he gasps soundlessly. His hand comes down to stroke his own cock and then, seconds later he’s coming, back arched and mouth open in a soundless moan. White paints his stomach and chest and then Taehyung releases his neck. His walls go impossibly tight around Taehyung and that’s enough.

He replaces the grip on Jeongguk’s neck for his hips instead and thrusts a handful of time before burying himself deep in Jeongguk and coming. He moans out his name as the heat in his stomach explodes like a supernova throughout his entire body. His fingers go numb from it and his head goes fuzzy for a moment.

When the white fades from his vision he sees Jeongguk under him, his eyelids heavy as his chest heaves, taking in blessed air. There are red, finger-shaped marks around his neck and similar marks on his hips where Jeongguk is currently pressing his own fingers against, even in his half dazedness.

Taehyung slowly and carefully pulls out, fingers grasping the rim of the condom as he does it. He ties up the condom and throws it haphazardly on the floor before running fingers gently over the marks on Jeongguk’s neck.

“You better pick that up later,” Jeongguk rasps, voice deeper than it’s ever been. “I don’t want to step on a used condom in the morning.”

With a chuckle Taehyung replies, “I will. Are you okay?”

“Yes.”

“Stay laying down,” Taehyung says gently as Jeongguk tries to sit up. “I’ll get a washcloth to clean you up.”

Jeongguk lays back down obidiently and lets Taehyung slip away. When Taehyung comes back from the bathroom Jeongguk is running his hands through his hair, his body spread out comfortably on the bed.

Taehyung cleans him up while giving him chaste kisses and asking him how he’s feeling.

“I feel good, Taehyung. You did everything right.” He pauses and plays with his fingers before sheepishly saying, “Thank you.”

“You don’t need to thank me.”

“I do,” Jeongguk insists. “You trust me enough now to do something like this. So thank you.”

Taehyung holds Jeongguk’s wrist and nods.

 

“Stanley is just like my father,” Jeongguk admits to the darkroom, his voice quiet and vulnerable. All the candles in the room are off now, the only light coming from the moon through the balcony windows. Taehyung is sitting against the headboard while Jeongguk lays on his stomach next to him, hugging a pillow to his chest.

Taehyung stiffens, his fingers pausing their minstrations in Jeongguk’s thick hair where they were massaging his scalp.

Jeongguk continues as if he doesn’t expect Taehyung to speak. “He used to hit my mother when I was younger. He was always angry and always took his anger out on her. She’s so small, my mom and he’s this huge guy. It wasn’t right, she never stood a chance against him. He’d hit her in front of me, even though my mom begged him not to. He’d abuse her up until I was big enough to protect her and then he turned to me. He’s just like Stanley. I hate him.”

His voice shakes as he speaks, he sounds so young, like a little boy talking about a nightmare, Taehyung figures it’s the same. He himself is shaking a little as something protective rises inside of him clawing its way out.

“Before I left to New York City for acting we had a negotiation. I send him money and he keeps his hands off my mother. Turn out he was lying, he’d take the money but he still hit her. I came back home earlier than expected for the holidays and Eomma had bruises. When he came home from work I did to him what he always did to us. They’re still married on paper but I got my mother her own house, far away from him. Closer to her own family.

“I hate him so much. And I hate that he’s everywhere. He’s even in the character’s I play. I hate that every time I was on set I had to think of him.”

“Jeongguk—”

He keeps going, the words flooding out now that the dam has opened. “When the scandal broke out he wanted to kill me. He wanted me dead so bad. He called me a disgrace, said I gave the family a bad name as if he didn’t beat on his wife for more than thirty years. He didn’t even know the story. He didn’t know what happened, how—”

He chokes on a sob that rips out his chest. He buries his face in the pillow as he sobs, his body wracks from the force of it all. Taehyung scrambles to console him. He strokes his back and hair, presses chaste kisses to his bare shoulders.

“Jeongguk.” Taehyung begs, “Jeonggukie, please.”

“I hate him,” he sobs. “Ihatehimihatehimihatehim.”

He repeats himself so desperately the words bleed together into one. Taehyung presses his forehead against Jeongguk’s back and wraps his arms around his waist. He tries to hold together a broken man, tries to keep him from tearing at the seams. But this trauma is from something far before him and it’s been tearing at Jeongguk’s walls for years.

“You’re not in the wrong,” Taehyung whispers, his voice shakes. “You have every right to hate him.”

“It is, that scandal was all my fault.”

“It’s not,” Taehyung insists as his arms tighten around him.

“You weren’t there. You don’t—”

“I didn’t have to be there. I—I know you, don’t I? I know you and I know it wasn’t your fault.”

“You don’t,” Jeongguk argues, he gets up and tries to push Taehyung’s arms away. “You don’t know me!”

“Yes I do,” Taehyung insists through clenched teeth as he doesn’t let Jeongguk go. “Stop trying to push me away, Jeongguk. I know you!”

“You don’t,” Jeongguk cries. “You don’t.”

“I do,” Taehyung persists, pressing a kiss to his forehead. “I do. And once you let me I’ll know you so much more. I know you and you didn’t deserve it. None of it.”

The fight leaves Jeongguk and he goes limp as he cries out so hard he starts to hiccup. He places the back of his hand over his mouth as he sobs out, “He took the pictures without my permission.”

Taehyung stills and watches him but Jeongguk is still crying so hard and looking up at the ceiling to not meet Taehyung’s face. “We had sex and w-we weren’t sober. We took some drugs and when he took the pictures I was gone. I was so gone when he took them. It’s my fault.”

“No,” Taehyung says almost mournfully.

“It was. I-I consented to the sex before the drugs, we thought it’d be f-fun to try fucking w-while—” He cuts himself off and swallows roughly. “I didn’t even know he had a camera with him. He took the pictures and didn’t tell me and I was too fucking gone to even notice and then months later he sold them to a magazine and it was everywhere. A-and everyone blamed me. I should have known b-better. It was all my f-fault.”

“No,” Taehyung says fiercely, cupping Jeongguk’s face. “You said yes to the sex, not the photographs. You did nothing fucking wrong, Jeongguk. He took advantage of you and exploited you. You’re the victim. You were a kid when it happened.”

“I was nineteen,” Jeongguk whispers, the fight has left his body leaving him exhausted. “I was a legal adult—”

“You were a kid. Being eighteen or nineteen doesn’t change that. How old was that guy?”

“O-older.” He gives no more information.

“How much older?”

“Mid to late twenties, probably.”

Anger boils Taehyung’s blood as he takes in the information. “You were a kid, fuck the legal age you were a kid fresh out of high school. He was a grown man and he knew what he was doing.”

“N-no—”

“You’re the same age now that he was then. Would you sleep with a nineteen year old?”

“No!”

“Exactly because they would be a child in your eyes. He saw an easy target and he took advantage but it’s not your fault.”

Jeongguk gapes at him before something clicks in his mind and the tears start all over again. He covers his face with his hands as he sobs, “It wasn’t my fault.”

“No, baby,” Taehyung coos as he strokes his hair tenderly. “It wasn’t you’re fault.”

“I-it wasn’t my fault.”

“No.”

 

That night Jeongguk’s layers crumble. All his walls come crashing down and it’s the start of his rebuilding. Of building himself up again despite all the pain and Taehyung holds his hand through the tears and the reconstruction. They both instinctively knew that night that their entire relationship and dynamic changed.

Chapter Text

Jeongguk wakes first the next morning. The sun is up and shining in through the balcony windows, the birds are singing and Taehyung is sleeping soundly with only small intakes of breath being heard. His face feels swollen not only sleep but from the crying as well. He’s sure he looks a mess but he can’t bring himself to care all that much. He carefully slips out of the bed, mindful not to wake Taehyung. The sheets rumple and make the slightest bit of sound as he slips out from under them. The floor is chilly underneath his feet, the cold waking him a bit more.

He slips on one of Taehyung’s fancy silk, button up pajama shirts, buttoning everything but the top three and then he slips on some clean boxers and some thick socks to combat the cold floors. There’s a book that he hid in one of the many compartments in their little room. Over the course of the time they’ve spent here Jeongguk has found himself leaving small knick-knacks of his, little things he won’t necessarily miss back in his own apartment but that can keep him busy while he comes here to escape. The book is underneath a pile of Taehyung’s jazz records, it’s worn out from multiple rereads with some pages dog-eared and sentences underlined.

Reading is his escape and right now he’s trying to escape the events that transpired the night before. How he revealed everything to Taehyung and fully expected rejection and rightful disgust but was met with resilience, patience and, dare he say fondness. He’s shocked he himself didn’t wake up and run for the hills. But it feels good to open up, to speak about it, a weight has been lifted off his shoulders he’d grown so accustomed to carrying. It’s something he’s never done before not even with Eve or his mother. His deep-rooted fear for rejection just never let him. What would happen if he opened up and revealed his most raw self just to be thrown away? He wouldn’t survive it. It’s so much easier to put up a facade, at least then if he’s rejected it’s not really him that’s being rejected, it’s the character he puts forward that is.

He never thought he’d find acceptance from someone like Taehyung. Someone who admittedly fascinated Jeongguk as a child, who watched him perform since he was young and watched him grow to the veteran actor he’s considered now. He had never expected to find solace in a man he once considered his idol. Yet he has, Taehyung warm hands and dependable arms have made Jeongguk feel safer than he ever has before.

It feels like just as Jeongguk starts to read Taehyung is up, standing behind him with a hand on his shoulder while he leans down and reads one of the paragraphs Jeongguk bracketed the first time he read the book.

“What are you reading?” He asks, voice rough and husky from sleep.

“A book,” Jeongguk replies in deadpan.

“Haha, you’re so funny,” Taehyung says sarcastically before he sits on the chair opposite of Jeongguk and grabs an orange from the small fruit bowl.

Jeongguk only makes a soft sound to that as he keeps reading. Taehyung sits with him in silence for a while before his impatience gets the better of him.

“Read to me?” He sounds like a small child when he asks as if he’s sure he’ll be rejected.

“You’ll be confused. I’m already some fifty pages in…”

“I don’t mind. If I find it interesting I’ll buy a copy and read my own. Or I’ll borrow yours.”

Jeongguk doesn’t say anything to that just keeps reading before Taehyung nudges him on the calf with his foot.

“C’mon Jeonggukie. Read to me.”

Jeongguk looks up at the nickname, raising a brow at him. He’d called him that last night as well, in the middle of his breakdown. Jeongguk was too emotional then to really register the nickname, now he doesn’t know how he feels about it. Taehyung simply grins back, face framed in his hands as he presses them against his cheeks making him look soft and round.

With a sigh, Jeongguk starts to read out loud. “‘You think’, he persisted, ‘that my life is shameful because my encounters are. And they are. But you should ask yourself why they are.’ ‘Why are they shameful?’ I asked him. ‘Because there is no affection in them, and no joy. It’s like putting an electric plug in a dead socket. Touch, but no contact. All touch, but no contact and no light.’”

Jeongguk looks up from his reading to Taehyung looking at him intensely. They share an unexplainable look before Taehyung lets out a breath and mutters, “Keep reading.”

So he does, in a slow and steady voice and Taehyung sits across from him with his eyes closed as he takes in all the words. He makes it two more pages before Taehyung softly interrupts him.

“Read that part again.”

Jeongguk blinks up from the page to look at Taehyung, “Which part?”

“The part you just finished. The part where Jacques talks about fathers and love.”

It’s the only part on that particular page that Jeongguk has underlined. He repeats it, slower and more deliberate. “‘Somebody,’ said Jacques, “your father or mine, should have told us that not many people have ever died of love. But multitudes have perished and are perishing every hourand in the oddest places!for the lack of it.’ And then’”

“That’s it,” Taehyung says and Jeongguk goes quiet as they both take in the words. He runs his hand over the page as Taehyung runs his own through his hair. “Well, he’s right isn’t he?”

“I think so.”

Taehyung asks, “Whoever really dies from love?”

The question sounds rhetorical but Jeongguk replies nonetheless, “No one. I think a lot of people equate pain with love but I don’t think the two can ever exist together. Worst-case scenario, I think people in abusive situations convince themselves it’s love to cope. But really what they feel is fear and it’s a result of the hatred they receive, and I don’t think hatred and love can ever coexist.”

Taehyung doesn’t say anything and so Jeongguk continues, “My father would have never been able to tell me about love. He’s never felt it so how can he tell me or show mewhat it is? He only knew pain, whatever pain he was feeling inside and the pain he’d inflict on my mother and I. My mother was too scared to know love either. A fearful mother raising a fearful son and a loveless father raising a loveless son.”

“I don’t think you’re loveless, Jeongguk.”

“Of course you don’t, Taehyung. I’ve come to realize that you see the best in everyone even when it's not there.”

Taehyung looks like he wants to say something but Jeongguk cuts him off by continuing to read out loud for the both of them, saving them both the pain of the conversation Taehyung wants to have. He doesn’t ask him to reread anything he just listens while he looks at Jeongguk, trying to read him. Jeongguk reads until the second part of the book, deciding that’s a good place to end as any.

“Do they end up together,” Taehyung asks. “David and Giovanni, I mean.”

Jeongguk gives a sad smile before he says, “You’ll have to read to find out.”

He gets a pout in return before a sigh. “C’mon, let’s shower. We never got to last night.”

 

“My parents never really taught me about love either growing up, I think.”

Jeongguk looks up from where he’s leafing through Taehyung’s records, looking for a suitable one to play. He stops what he’s doing and gives Taehyung his full attention, it’s only fair after Taehyung listened to his break down the night before. “How so?”

“It’s odd. I had everything I could ever want or need growing up but my parents… they were always distant. My mother was more affectionate towards her pet cat than me. I really hated that cat as a kid, I thought it was stealing all her love. When it died of old age a small part of me was happy about it. I was probably twelve or thirteen when it happened and I didn’t feel an ounce of remorse.” He laughs at himself in a self-deprecating way. “I was a pretty fucked up kid for that.”

Twelve or thirteen. By then Taehyung was already starring in sitcoms and even some well-credited movies. “You were already a star by then,” Jeongguk says. “I remember some of the interviews you had, one of your parents were always there and everyone looked so happy.” It’s not an accusation, Jeongguk isn’t trying to call Taehyung a liar but he has questions and doesn’t know how to ask them so he states an obvious and hopes for an elaboration.

“It was all an act,” Taehyung clarifies. “Don’t get me wrong they weren’t abusive they just weren’t loving either. I always felt like I was just someone they dealt with but never really loved. But during those interviews, in front of those cameras were the only times I felt an inkling of love from them. It was fake but it was what I wanted. I guess at the core, my entire career is based on me just running towards my parents' approval and love.”

There’s silence for a second before Jeongguk finally picks a record and plays it on the player. The needle scratches out the opening cords that filter through the room before the lyrics start up.

There was a boy
A very strange, enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

As he takes in the lyrics, Jeongguk asks, “I guess that’s all we both are, isn’t it? Just two lost boys looking for love while trying to play as men.”

Taehyung says nothing.

They both listen to the rest of the song before Taehyung makes his way over to Jeongguk where Jeongguk is sitting on the floor near the record player and kisses him. He tastes sweet and smells of his rose soap bar. Jeongguk allows him to gently coax him onto his back, his hands only barely tease him underneath his shirt but make no other move. When Jeongguk wraps his arms around his neck and kisses him back the last lyrics of the song ring through the room and embeds itself into Jeongguk’s head.

The greatest thing you'll ever learn

Is just to love and be loved in return

 

The news made a huge speculation of Jeongguk and Taehyung leaving the premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire as they both knew it would. They point out how Taehyung was wearing Jeongguk’s tie yet again, this time in a classic knot. That night Jeongguk’s nerves had been so high he didn’t even notice. Almost every newspaper and gossip magazine have pictures of the two of them leaving together plastered on the front pages. They weren’t holding hands or anything even remotely romantic but they were leaving together in the same car. It was Taehyung’s ride, and the chauffeur was a man Taehyung trusted, something he assured Jeongguk of as he mouthed at his neck and rolled up the partition. Thankfully no one discovered their small apartment, the chauffeur managed to get rid of the paparazzi following them so once they arrived it was only them. Their small solace is still unknown to the world.

Taehyung had told Jeongguk a few days later that his manager is both very annoyed by the headlines but also loving the attention it’s bringing Taehyung. If Taehyung’s manager is happy with the coverage then Jeongguk’s is ecstatic. Taehyung’s reputation can only boost up Jeongguk, no matter what their relationship is. None of them necessarily milk it,  their managers simply tell the reporters asking them for information that the two have only just recently become close friends and that’s all.

Eve, however, is not dumb and she knows Jeongguk better than most so when he goes to visit her in her home she immediately asks him questions. She’s almost due, her stomach incredibly round, she wobbles when she walks now and has the strangest mood swings but she’s still lovely. Daniela is working, she works a blissfully ordinary nine to five office job and so Jeongguk came to keep Eve company until her wife came back.

“So you and Taehyung. The last time I asked you said you two weren’t involved and yet…”

“We… may be more involved than I anticipated,” Jeongguk admits sheepishly.

Eve looks surprised, her eyebrows rising towards her hairline and her mouth opening up into a small ‘o’. “Are you two dating?”

“No. I don’t think either of us is ready for something so official. We’re not even exclusive. We’ve just opened up to each other a lot is all.”

“Do you like him then?”

“Uh. I mean he’s Taehyung he’s been my idol for ages.”

“Yes but now you know him on a human level not just the abstract idea of him.”

“H-he’s. He’s kind and good. He takes me out of my comfort zone but not in a bad way. He’s shown me more kindness than I probably deserve.”

Eve’s hand covers his own in a comforting way. “Jeongguk. You deserve good things and good people. I know you think otherwise but you do. You’re a good person, one of the best this world has to offer.”

“I know you believe that but I don’t.”

Changing the subject before she gets worked up the way she always does when their conversations get this personal, she says, “You said he and you aren’t exclusive. Have you slept with anyone else since you’ve been with him?”

Jeongguk’s silence speaks for itself. He hasn’t, he tells himself it’s because he’s been busy, he tells himself it’s because he just hasn’t had the drive to try and woo anyone when he has someone so willing anyways. It’s a pretty lie to tell himself because the reality is Jeongguk hasn’t slept with anyone else because with Taehyung was the first time in a long time that Jeongguk was able to be himself in the bedroom and ask for things he’d never be able to ask. Because Taehyung is warm and his touch feels good. Because being so exposed in a place that’s not their little room doesn’t feel right.

Sandra had teased him good-naturedly about it at the premiere, not even slightly offended when Jeongguk declined her offer to go home together. She teased him for the way his eyes seemed to be searching for someone even when he himself didn’t know it.

“Oh, Jeongguk,” Eve sighs. “Do you know if he has slept with anyone since you both started this?”

“No. I haven’t ask. It’s really none of my business anyways.”

“I think we both know that’s a lie.”

“It’s a necessary one, what we have is good, great even and I don’t want to compromise it. I like what we do when we’re together.”

“It can’t be that great if you’re scared to talk about whether or not he’s slept with people. I’m scared you’re going to get hurt, Jeongguk.”

“I won’t. I won’t let myself,” Jeongguk persists.

“You can’t keep closing yourself off like this, Jeongguk. Let yourself be happy.”

“Drop it, Eve.”

“Jeongguk—”

“Eve,” he says more forcefully, “please just drop it.”

When Daniela comes home later she doesn’t comment on the stiff atmosphere or how Jeongguk leaves almost immediately, only stopping to listen to Eve’s final words.

“Jeongguk. I’m only looking out for you, you know that right? Someone has to and you refuse to do it. I just want you to be happy. You understand?”

The fight and stiffness in him leave almost immediately as his shoulder’s slump and he turns back around to see Eve with tears in her eyes and her bottom lip wobbling. He goes to hug her because he can never leave her thinking she did something wrong. “I know, Eve. I’m sorry for getting upset.”

“I just want you to be happy. I don’t want to see you hurt.”

“I’ve been hurt before Eve I’ll survive if it happens again.”

“But you shouldn’t have to. I wish you knew that.”

He really didn’t have anything to say to that.

 

“I have a few new scripts for you, Jeongguk,” his manager says as he places a pile of them on the desk in front of him.

Jeongguk stares at them with disinterest for a moment before he picks up the three on the top and skims them. They’re all very serious roles like the last ones he’s played in the past. He sighs as he reads the melodramatic scripts and then puts them down.

“I want something new. Something I’ve never done before.”

“Is that so,” his manager asks with a raised brow.

“I’m bored of all the same roles. What about a romantic comedy?”

“A romantic comedy? I mean I’m sure there are people that would want you but I never pegged you for the rom-com type.”

“I just want to try something a bit different.”

His manager goes through the pile of scripts, looking for a particular one before he finds it. “Here,” he says, handing Jeongguk a script. “They asked for you specifically but I haven’t gotten back to them, I didn’t think it would be your style.”

Jeongguk sits there for an hour or two, reading the script to its entirety.  It’s fun, upbeat and has musical numbers. Jeongguk is wanted for the role of the love interest, a photographer for a fashion magazine who’s trying to find the next It girl. He has a few singing and dancing numbers, Jeongguk feels strangely excited.

“I’ll do it.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, it sounds fun.”

 

Jeongguk doesn’t even need to do a screen test when the producer and director hear that Jeongguk wants the part they say yes immediately. They hesitate for a moment over the phone only to ask if he can sing to which his manager makes him since a few lines from a song. After that, they say yes. The movie is still in pre-production, they say and they still need to a few more members of the cast, specifically the main role.

“We sent your manager the script but we never dreamed you’d say yes,” the producer explains after he tells Jeongguk he’s the only actor to be cast.

“It sounds fun,” Jeongguk says, “I’ve always wanted to try musicals.”

“We predict it will take at least a few weeks to find the rest of the cast,” the director says. “When it’s time to narrow the choices for the main character I’ll ask you to come in to see which you have chemistry with.”

“No problem.”

“Once everyone is cast we’ll fly you all out to start recording the music and learning the choreography before the filming really begins.”

He’s almost giddy with excitement in a way he hasn’t been since he’s performed in plays.

And just like that Jeongguk becomes Dick Avery the fashion magazine photographer.

 

“You’re going to be in a rom-com?” Taehyung looks genuinely intrigued when he asks and even a little shocked. “I never pegged you as the type.”

“Oh, you’ve pegged me before.”

“Shut up,” Taehyung grins as he playfully shoves him, he does it harder than he means to and sends Jeongguk sprawling on the bed, but the two just laugh it off.

“It just seems like a really good idea,” he explains as he stares at the cracked paint on the ceiling. “Playing Stanley left me so drained and emotionally exhausted. I just need a break from the more serious and melodramatic roles.”

Taehyung lays next to him and places a hand over his own which are folded on top of his stomach. “I think that’s a really good idea. You looked so sad watching the movie during and after the premiere. I don’t like seeing you like that.”

Jeongguk’s cheeks flush, he doesn’t turn to look at Taehyung but he can feel his strong gaze on the side of his own face. Taehyung has been considerably softer and more open with him since the premiere. Asking more personal or mundane questions in an attempt to really get to know Jeongguk as a person and Jeongguk—he can’t help but give him what he wants. He doesn’t know if it’s out of guilt for dumping all his problems onto the other or if there’s a desire deep down in his being to just allow someone in and to be himself.

“It was fine.”

“It wasn’t. I don’t see the point in you acting in roles that only bring you emotional pain.”

“I just get too invested in the characters. Besides I really loved playing Terry in On the Waterfront and most of my other roles.

“You’re a method actor through and through and that’s not a problem in itself, I’d definitely say you’re one of the few actors that commits so much of yourself to your roles but I think Stanley hit a little too close to home for you to be able to bounce back as easily as I’m sure you usually do.”

Jeongguk hesitates, his chest filling up with something as Taehyung compliments his acting. “... Yeah.”

“Just don’t go falling in love with your love interest,” Taehyung jokes, except it comes out sounding a little dry and bitter.

Jeongguk finally looks at him and sees his eyes guarded and his smile a little tight. “That won’t happen, plus I’m not the type women fall in love with.”

“You don’t give yourself enough credit, women fall head over heels for you.”

“I doubt that. I’m too cold and distant, they fall in love with the idea of me. Besides, I sure didn’t fall in love with Maria or Eve,” Jeongguk says, naming his last two co-stars.

“Maria, no, but Eve is definitely debatable.”

With a snort, Jeongguk asks, “What are you on about?”

“If soulmates are real I’m sure Eve is yours.” The bitterness in his voice is back.

“Eve and I aren’t like that.”

“Platonic soulmates are a thing.”

“Maybe but I have no romantic feelings towards Eve and I never have.”

“Just promise me at the end of the day you’ll come back to this room of ours.”

Eve’s urging of him to ask Taehyung whether he’s slept with other people while they’ve been together comes back into his mind. He remembers Taehyung’s words when they set up this arrangement. What I mean is we’re convenient for one another. But once Jeongguk starts filming the convenience will no longer be there. Most of the filming will be done in Paris, while Taehyung’s filming here in New York will continue. It will be convenient to sleep with anyone else but each other at that point. And what happens then? They just become acquaintances who nod at each other in events at best while remembering nights they spent together. But Jeongguk doesn’t want that.

But neither does Jeongguk know how this arrangement will survive under the label of a true relationship. Jeongguk trusts Taehyung because they’re not together and because there is no label Jeongguk can keep himself from becoming too trusting to see any threats that may lie.

“I’ll be in Paris for most of the filming,” he says carefully, making a point not to look Taehyung in the eyes. “It might even be easier for you to bring anyone else to this room in that time than to wait for me.”

“I don’t want that,” Taehyung whispers as he takes Jeongguk’s hand in his own and strokes the back of it. “I don’t want that and I don’t think you do, either.”

“You don’t know what I want,” Jeongguk says, yet doesn’t move his hand.

“I do and you do too, you just won’t let yourself have it.”

Jeongguk gets up and pulls free from Taehyung, his hackles are rising and he can’t help it. It’s instinct at this point. The words that spill from his lips feel like acid on his skin, they’re meant to burn and hurt, “Just because we slept together a few times and I cried on your shoulders doesn’t mean you know me. We’re convenient for one another you said so and that’s where this entire dynamic starts and ends.”

“So that’s what it is then? You’re scared because I called us convenient?” It’s incredibly frustrating how quickly Taehyung can see what’s really bothering him. “At the time I said that, yes, that’s all it was. But it’s been months Jeongguk, you can’t expect two people who practically live together and sleep with one another to not grow attached!”

That’s exactly what he expects and exactly what he wanted in the beginning but the way Taehyung is making him think those weren’t Taehyung’s expectations at all. It sounds like Taehyung used it to get his foot in the door of Jeongguk’s life and hoped he’d get full access.

Jeongguk grabs for his jacket but Taehyung doesn’t let him leave, he makes an effort block him by standing in front of the door. “Stop running away,” he practically hisses. “Stop running away from this and just talk!”

He explodes, “There’s nothing to talk about! There is no this,” Jeongguk emphasizes his point by waving between the two. “We’re just two guys who get off to one another! You’re just another warm body, Taehyung!”

“That’s fucking bullshit and you know it! Why do you push me away every time? It’s like a constant battle with you! We take one step forward and five steps back because you’re too scared to just reach for what you want!”

Jeongguk rolls his eyes, hoping the movement is convincing, “Has it ever occurred to you that you’re not actually that fucking important? I know you’re used to being the most important person in the room but maybe the reason I never reach out to you is that I don’t want you! And it’s not like you open up much either! You telling me about your parents was the first and only time you’ve told me anything even slightly personal about you!”

“You never ask! You’ve never shown the slightest bit of interesting in my personal life! I know you, if I opened up to you you would have run for the hills!” Taehyung’s hand on the doorknob tightens and his eyes are shining from anger or hurt, a mixture of both. There’s suffocating silence for a few moments before Taehyung asks, “Why do you keep running away from what makes you happy? Why can’t you just let yourself be happy?”

He’s frozen and doesn’t say anything and a knocking on the doors keeps him from having to. Taehyung doesn’t look away from him as a voice on the other side asks, “Is everything all right in there? The neighbors are complaining about noise and fighting going on in here.”

Taehyung closes his eyes and exhales to get rid of some of his anger before he turns around and opens the door. The landlord on the other side looks shocked to find two A-list celebrities in one of his apartments. Taehyung must have had someone else comes to look at the house for him and mailed in the signed papers. “Sorry about that,” Taehyung says as he rubs the back of his neck, looking sheepish. “We were running lines and got a little too enthusiastic.”

“Y-you’re Taehyung Kim? And Jeongguk Jeon?” His thick, Italian accent butchers their names.

They both nod, Taehyung with a sheepish but friendly smile while Jeongguk’s face stays carefully blank.

“Again we’re very sorry. We’ll make sure to keep it down.”

“Please do, I’m a huge fan but screaming so late at night is a bit—”

“We understand,” Jeongguk speaks for the first time since the interruption. “No worries, it won’t happen again.”

“Thank you. I always knew you two were great actors but damn was that one convincing argument, I thought I’d have to bust through the door and break up a fight!”

They both pull out fake laughs, Taehyung looking sheepish and Jeongguk arranging his face for the laugh he gives in front of cameras.

The landlord leaves with a wave before wishing them a good night. The silence that follows is deafening. Jeongguk is wringing his coat in his hands as he registers the awful words he spat at Taehyung. He doesn’t deserve that.

“I—”

“This apartment is for us, I told you that in the beginning. I don’t care if you stay in Paris for five months or five years, this apartment will only ever be for us.”

“I know,” Jeongguk admits, he takes two steps toward the bed and plops down, burying his face in his hands. “I know and that terrifies me.”

“I know it does and I know whatever we have does too but that doesn’t mean you can just say what you said. Words hurt Jeongguk.”

“I-I know. I’m sorry, I am.”

“What do you want to hear that will ease your anxiety about this? If you still think I’m doing this out of convenience then you’re wrong. The only convenient night for us was that first night at the Oscars and maybe that night in my apartment. Every other time spent together was an emotional investment on my end. It had to be, if it wasn’t I wouldn’t have dealt with you crying the first night here.”

The words ease him and the pain in his chest but they also make the guilt spike up because Taehyung is being kinder than Jeongguk deserves right now. Not after what he said. He feels Taehyung’s fingers thread through his hair, gently like a soft caress.

“Have you slept with anyone since being with me?” The answer won’t be a deal breaker necessarily but Jeongguk needs to know.

“No,” he answers without hesitation. “Not even since the Oscars.”

“I’m a lot of work,” Jeongguk says almost frantically, ignoring how Taehyung’s response makes him feel light-headed from the relief of it. “I’m distant and sometimes I’ll go days without speaking to you. I get lost in my own head and I have a horrible reputation.”

Taehyung chuckles as he coaxes Jeongguk’s head up to look at him, “You say all of this as if I don’t already know.”

“You don’t want me I’m a handful.”

“I have two very capable hands.” He presses a soft kiss to Jeongguk’s lips and strokes his cheeks.

“I don’t deserve them,” Jeongguk admits in defeat before he swallows thickly and leans into Taehyung’s touch.

“You do and I’ll make sure to remind you of that everytime you doubt it.”

Jeongguk’s bottom lip wobbles before he leans in and kisses Taehyung. “I’m terrified,” he admits against Taehyung’s lips.

“We’ll take it slow. One step at a time. We don’t have to label it as long as we’re on the same page.”

“Okay,” he breathes.

“What do you want us to be, Jeongguk? If you want us to continue like this then we can, but if you want something else, something more you just have to say the words.”

Taehyung is throwing the ball on his court and hoping he makes the right choice, waits for his next move. He’s never been courageous, he’s a coward, really, and of the two Taehyung has always taken the chances, taken the first step. But not this time, Taehyung is making him take initiative, to grab his future—their future in his own hands. Jeongguk musters up what little courage he has and grips it tightly, acting on it before it slips from his grip like grains of sand. “I want to stay with you. I want to be the only one in your life like this. I want this room to continue to be ours and I don’t want anyone else here. You’re the only person who sees me.” Jeongguk grips the sheets as a fake substitute of Taehyung’s hands. “I want to try being Jeongguk-and-Taehyung with you.”

His hands clench the sheets as what little courage he has escapes him. He hopes his words are enough, he hopes Taehyung reciprocates or at least lets him down easy. His eyes are squeezed shut too as he waits for Taehyung to give any indication of an answer. He doesn’t like being vulnerable, he hates it but he’s always been vulnerable with Taehyung since the very beginning when he was able to see right through Jeongguk like clear glass.

A hand caresses the side of his face so gently, the other cupping the opposite side of Jeongguk’s neck. “What are you looking so scared for?” He asks it in a rhetoric way, voice incredibly gentle and fond as he tilts Jeongguk’s head up and taps his cheeks bone until his eyes blink open. Taehyung’s eyes have taken a gentle look to them, an expression Jeongguk has never seen in his eyes before, not even when he’s looking at his love interests in his movies. If he thought Taehyung would look the same as when he played an enamored man on screen he thought wrong. His on-screen persona is nothing compared to the look Taehyung has as he stares at Jeongguk with unabashed fondness.

“I told you if you want more to just say the words,” he continues fondly as his thumb grazes over Jeongguk’s lips. “Being Taehyung-and-Jeongguk sounds more than okay with me. Fantastic even.”

Swallowing, Jeongguk leans in so their noses are touching. There’s a fluttery feeling in his chest. The ache he usually feels in his ribs has subsided as Taehyung’s words settle. “Yeah?”

A quick peck on his lips, “Yeah, Jeongukkie.”

Jeongguk buries his face in Taehyung shoulder, and with a sigh, he says with unguarded honesty, “I’m happy. I think right here at this moment is the happiest I’ve ever been.”

 

They’re both in inconspicuous clothes with glasses and hats to cover their faces as they shop for groceries. Their room has run out of any and all food and drinks leaving them no choice but to restock. Jeongguk is dressed in his normal jeans and t-shirt, the only deviance from his norm being the huge holes on the jeans, one exposing a majority of his thigh. Taehyung barely let him out of their apartment, without trying to tug him out of his jeans. Taehyung in dressed in his most comfortable clothes, something long and formless with a cute creme beret on his head and big glasses. They’re not holding hands just in case of the off chance someone recognizes them but they’re standing close, their hands brushing against one another. Taehyung’s pinky grazes his own a few too many times to be accidental and his smile is far too fond to be casual.

Jeongguk makes it a point to not look back at him, shyness taking over all his instincts as he either looks down at his feet or at the groceries as he inspects them. There’s a permanent blush that’s been scattered on his face for what feels like days. Days is how long it took for them to finally let go of one another. Days is also how long it took them to realize their fridge was empty.

Taehyung pinches his cheeks as he places a big pack of strawberries into the basket swinging off of Taehyung’s arm. “What are you so shy for, hm?”

Playfully swatting at his hand, Jeongguk mumbles, “We’re in public.”

“And?”

“Cameras.”

Taehyung immediately pulls his hand away and puts a good enough distance between them to not draw any suspicions. “Sorry,” he says, sounding genuinely regretful. He’s always so understanding and accommodating, Jeongguk stomps on his urge to hold onto Taehyung’s hand an reassure him. He doesn’t mind the touching but the cameras and the thought of people spreading pictures of them around… The scandal may have happened years ago but Jeongguk still feels anxious when he thinks of anyone taking his pictures without his permission, innocent settings or not.

“It’s okay,” as a middle ground, Jeongguk tugs on his sleeve and smiles shyly to show he’s not upset. “The thought of it just makes me anxious is all.”

Grabbing a loaf of bread and some strawberry jam, Taehyung shoves the items unceremoniously into the basket and mutters. “Let’s hurry. You’re incredibly cute when you’re bashful and I want to kiss you.”

 

They decide that the few weeks they have together before Jeongguk leaves for Paris should be used to get their fill of each other. Taehyung takes Jeongguk to his favorite museums and art galleries, he rents out the places so that they both have the privacy to hold hands and be a regular couple without worrying about photos circulating or new rumors starting. While Jeongguk isn’t ashamed to be with Taehyung, the idea of the public knowing scares him. He doesn’t mind telling their friends and their families when it gets to that point—excluding his father of course. What he and Taehyung have are between the two of them and no one else. They want to stay in their own little bubble for as long as they can.

They spend a lot of time going on inconspicuous dates but most of it is spent in that room. It’s where Jeongguk feels the safest and most accepted, even more so than his own home. It’s almost unbelievable how comfortable Jeongguk has begun to grow in this space and with Taehyung. He supposes it was almost always there, but his stubbornness kept him from seeing how at ease he is in their space.

When it’s time to leave that space for months it’s harder than Jeongguk thought. They’ve cast everyone and Jeongguk showed up to see the finalist for the main role who will play his love interest, he and one woman have enough chemistry and she seems nice enough that once they read lines together it's a unanimous decision to cast her.

Saying goodbye to Eve is always hard especially when she’ll be due so soon and Jeongguk won’t be there for the delivery. But saying goodbye to Taehyung is nearly unbearable. They’ve just barely gotten their feelings together and it feels like they’re being ripped apart. Their relationship is delicate, it always has been but now with the title being mutually agreed on and with all the issues they both have fundamentally as people, it’s more fragile than ever. It scares Jeongguk that he doesn’t know how their relationship will be from such a long distance.

“Don’t worry,” Taehyung soothes him the night before he’s set to leave. “We might be far away but there’s more than one way to communicate. We’ll talk on the phone every day, and we can even send letters. Letters are romantic and years from now we can look back at them together.”

Jeongguk looks up at him from where his head is laying on his chest listening to his heartbeat. “You have faith in us to be together in years?”

“Don’t you?” He has an easy smile on his face and a hand caressing the side of Jeongguk’s neck.

“I wish I was as brave as you,” Jeongguk admits as he runs his hand up and down Taehyung’s soft stomach.

“You are, maybe even braver. The things you’ve gone through in your life… I can’t imagine being able to go through that and still remain as steady as you are.”

“Maybe.”

Taehyung gets up, gently pushing Jeongguk off of him so he can go look for something. He rummages through a cabinet until he finds what he’s looking for: some creme colored lined paper and envelopes. “Look,” he says as he walks over to Jeongguk and hands him the items. “When you get to Paris you can buy those fancy candle waxes and a little stamper to seal the letters. You’ll send them right here, to our little space and I’ll respond to every one of them.”

“If we’ll be talking every night on the phone why would I need to write letters?” Jeongguk asks genuinely, there’s only so much that can be said.

Closing Jeongguk’s fingers around the items, Taehyung explains, “I know you. You have dozens upon dozens of words and ideas in that head of yours that you’re too shy to ever say out loud.” He taps Jeongguk’s temple with a fond smile. “Whatever you can’t say over the phone, write it down here for me. You don’t have to send all of them, only ones you feel comfortable with me reading and I’ll read them all and respond honestly in return.”

Jeongguk’s throat closes up as he feels tears well up for a reason he doesn’t know. Maybe it's the quiet way Taehyung seems to understand him on a deeper level than maybe even Jeongguk understands himself. “Okay,” he croaks. “I’ll write you letters and I’ll send little gifts as well and souvenirs.”

“Take a picture of the Eiffel tower for me. And visit all the art museums for me as well whenever you have time.”

“I will.”

So yes, leaving Taehyung is hard, especially when he can’t accompany him to the airport for privacy reasons. He has to wake up around three in the morning to catch his early flight and Taehyung wakes up with him to say goodbye, making him a quick breakfast while he showers and dresses and then giving him a long and slow kiss before he lets him leave.

“Don’t forget the letters,” Taehyung whispers as he hands Jeongguk his carry on bag.

“I won’t.”

“And call me as soon as you get to your hotel. If I don’t pick up the call from here then call my other house phone.”

“I will.”

“Have a safe flight. I—I’ll miss you.”

 

Paris is beautiful but only because wherever he looks he thinks of how much Taehyung would love it. The first night there the entire cast and crew have dinner together to get to know one another before retiring for the night. They have dancing lessons and they have to start recording the soundtrack tomorrow so the dinner doesn’t last long. Jeongguk stops by a little stationery store to buy yellow candle wax and a little stamper with a sunflower on it just as Taehyung requested. He stops by another store and purchases a camera and film as well. Taehyung can’t be here but that won’t stop Jeongguk from showing Taehyung all the beauty of Paris. He takes a picture of the Eiffel tower, golden and lit up with the full moon hanging over it with its soft white light. He takes one more of it from his hotel room so that Taehyung can imagine looking at the tower from the room with Jeongguk. He’ll ask a crew member tomorrow how to develop the pictures later.

After calling Taehyung and recounting his day as per Taehyung’s sleepy request, he writes his first letter and tells Taehyung everything he doesn’t have the courage to say in person.

Chapter Text

June 5th,

You told me to write you letters of things I can’t tell you in person but for the life of me, I can’t think of anything to say. So, instead, I’ll start by writing about Paris.

Everything in Paris reminds me of you. It’s full of art, love, and romance, all the things that reside within you. I’d love if one day we can come here together, I can already picture how you will look with the Eiffel Tower lights illuminating your silhouette. Whenever I walk by a painter in the street I think of how lovely it would be to have our portrait done by then, as a physical reminder of our time here together.

I left before I could tell you this or maybe I was too much of a coward to tell you this in person but, I’m incredibly thankful for you. For the first time in my life, I feel as if I’ve found someone who wants nothing from me but for me to be myself. I’m so thankful for that, it means more than you can ever know.

I wish I had more to tell you but at the moment I’m tired from all the vocal and dance lessons. I think you’ll like this movie, it’s bright and warm just like you.

I hope this letter is enough, for now, I’ll try harder to tell you my thoughts in the next letter.

Yours.

 

The letter is short but it has more honesty and vulnerability than Taehyung has ever received from Jeongguk. The paper is a bit crinkled as if Jeongguk was debating on sending the letter or ripping it to shreds. His handwriting is neat and very deliberate, unlike Taehyung’s whose handwriting is rather sloppy as he always tries to write all his thoughts down before his brain gets too ahead of itself. The letter had been sealed with pretty, yellow wax that was stamped with a sunflower design. Before Taehyung had even opened it he had held it close to his chest and then kissed the seal gently before peeling it off slowly as to not break the design. Jeongguk had even taken a few pictures of Paris and sent them with the letter, two pictures of the Eiffel tower, a close-up and then one from a balcony that Taehyung is assuming is attached to his hotel room. There are a few flowers as well, and dogs on leashes, cats in the strangest places with the funniest poses.

Now, Taehyung sits at their small table, on the seat Jeongguk usually occupies as he rereads the letter for the fourth time that night. He swears he can hear Jeongguk whispering his words to him in his soft and shy voice. He can picture how he’d sit a little hunched into himself while he plays with his fingers or hair and speaks shyly.

It’s barely been two weeks and Taehyung already misses him like a lost limb.

He checks the clock, it reads twelve am, close to one. So it should be around six or seven in the morning for Jeongguk. Knowing him he’s already up. Taehyung dials his hotel number and asks the receptionist to connect him to Jeongguk.

The phone rings a few times, enough for Taehyung to think Jeongguk may actually be sleeping after all but right when he thinks the call will cut, the ringing stops and Jeongguk’s sweet voice is filtering through the receiver.

“Tae?”

“Hey,” he breathes out, loving the sound of his voice.

“What are you doing up? Isn’t late over there? You aren’t overworking yourself are you?”

“No, no. I just got back from a few drinks with some of the cast is all.”

“How was your day?” He can hear some ruffling from the other end, Jeongguk probably either sitting somewhere or laying back on his bed.

“It was good, infinitely better when I came home and read your letter.”

“Ah,” he sounds sheepish. Taehyung can picture his blushing face, his eyes soft and shy. “It got there faster than I thought.”

“The pictures were lovely.”

“Thank you, I bought a camera just to take pictures for you.”

“You didn’t have to do that.”

“I know. I wanted to.”

“How is everything going there?”

“Good, we’re done recording the soundtrack and almost done with all the choreography. We’re going to start shooting soon. We have to finish by the end of the summer.”

“That’s only four or so months. They aren’t pushing you are they?”

“Don’t worry, Tae. The movie takes place in the summer, it only makes sense.”

“Wait… so you’ll be back by…?”

“September. We have to shoot some scenes in New York that we’re saving for last.”

Sighing happily, Taehyung feels at ease knowing they won’t be apart nearly as long as he thought. “That’s good. I can’t wait.” He thinks of seeing Jeongguk again, maybe his hair will be longer, or maybe shorter but he imagines his smile and the pure unadulterated happiness that will radiate from it. He imagines that he’s the one making him smile like that and it warms his being.

“Me either, the timing of this was off,” Jeongguk admits.

“To be fair our entire relationship was gone about rather backward.” He pauses and looks down at the letter in his hands. “I have a question.”

“What is it?”

“Why don’t you say my name in the letters,” he teases. “There isn’t even a greeting.”

“Ah,” Taehyung can picture him playing with his hair and worrying his lips between his teeth. “I-I’m not sure. I guess I don’t want to put your name in case someone else finds the letters.” He’s always conscious and forever weighed down but the thought of people invading his privacy.

“How about a nickname then?”

“Like what? I’m no good with nicknames.”

“Hm, well what comes to mind when you think of me?”

“Sex,” he responds right away, completely deadpan.

Taehyung sputters out a laugh and he tries to cover his mouth, “Gguks!”

“What? Sex with you is great.”

“More than great, I hope. No, but seriously.”

The other line is quiet for a moment and Taehyung waits for Jeongguk’s courage to kick in. “Safe, whenever I think of you I feel safe and warm. Home? Maybe.”

Taehyung’s throat closes up as he takes in Jeongguk’s words, he sounded shy and unsure when he delivered them and Taehyung wishes he could reach out and hug him. “Jeongguk…”

“When I think of you,” he says softly and with a delicacy, “I think of the sun. Or maybe sunlight. Yes, you make me feel warm, like a ray of sunlight that shines through bleak clouds and caresses my skin and makes me feel safe. You’re my sunshine.” The line is quiet for a moment while Taehyung tries to control the wild beating of his heart and the blush on his cheeks along with a warm feeling making its way up his chest. “Is that good? I can call you sunshine in the letters.”

“Y-yes,” he croaks, aching to hold Jeongguk. “That’s perfect, Jeonggukie.”

 

A few weeks later, Taehyung has a premiere to attend. It’s not his own, it’s Amerie’s and he wouldn’t miss it for the world. He hasn’t seen her since the Oscars where Jeongguk took home the award for Best Actor and he’s missed his friend dearly. They have what some might call a “strange” friendship, they don’t speak every day or even very often but when they do it’s as if no time has passed, there is no awkwardness or uncomfortable silences and Taehyung appreciates that.

She’s starring in the movie, The Three Faces of Eve, a story about a woman who is diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. Taehyung is excited to watch it and more importantly to see Amerie.

When he arrives at the premiere venue he’s instantly bombarded by flashing lights and microphones being shoved in his face. It’s annoying, but he’s grown used to it so he smiles dashingly and teases, “Relax I’m not going anywhere!”

It makes the interviewers laugh and take a few steps back before the chaos ensues once more with an onslaught of questions.

“Taehyung! We hear you’re working on a new project can you tell us any details?”

“It’s a movie,” he replies cheekily but says nothing else.

“Is it in the romance category?”

“We’ll have to see.”

“Is there any romance in your life?”

At this Taehyung laughs wholeheartedly, throwing his head back and places a hand on his abdomen, “On second thought, maybe I do have somewhere to go after all…” He takes a few teasing steps away before the interviewers all exclaim their protests. He laughs once more before standing still and waving his hand for the next question.

“Recently, there have been rumors and pictures of you and Jeon Jeongguk spending a lot of time together. What’s that about?”

“Ah, Jeongguk is a good friend of mine.”

“We noticed you’re wearing his tie again,” a sharp interviewer points out. “Are you two really only friends?”

Smiling easily as to not give anything away, Taehyung nonchalantly shrugs his shoulders and drawls, “Friend’s borrow each other’s clothes. I’ve grown fond of the tie and Jeongguk doesn’t mind so I don’t see the problem.”

With that he leaves, saying he spots another friend of his and waves off the cameras and microphones to escape the vultures.

In the venue, he doesn’t have a moment of peace as actors and actresses flock to him immediately in a flurry of hugs and kisses to the cheek. Someone gets a cup of champagne in Taehyung’s hand without him noticing until it’s already there but he can’t tell who gave it to him. He won’t drink it, he’s heard enough stories about celebrities getting drugged he doesn’t need that to happen to him.

He socializes easily, not drinking from the champagne and giving everyone a smile as they all talk. He can’t help but miss Jeongguk, they barely spoke at events together but back then knowing Jeongguk was at least in the vicinity brought him a type of peace. For a moment he wishes he were more like Jeongguk, who barely entertained people he wasn’t close to, who didn’t mind standing alone in an event and didn’t pay much attention to what people whispered about him as long as it did not concern his scandal. He seemed to revel in solitude and even liked the distance the rumors and his demeanor gave him.

When he spots Amerie he’s grateful, it’s an escape from the people around him as well as the thoughts in his head and the ache of missing Jeongguk. He excuses himself, putting the glass down on a random surface before calling her name.

“Amerie!” He exclaims as he opens his arms wide for a hug.

She has always been quite a closed off person even as a little girl with a serious face and calm demeanor, to anyone else she may look annoyed at the moment but Taehyung knows her well enough to spot the small signs that she’s happy to see him. The slight crinkles in the corners of her eyes as they squint before they widen just a bit, the way she rubs her lips together as if to cover up a smile.

She practically glides into his arms embracing him in a short but nice hug, Taehyung breathes in her gentle floral perfume as he buries his nose in her hair and asks, “How’ve you been?”

“Good. I’ve been resting, keeping to myself in between promoting this film.”

“That’s good,” he says as she extracts herself from the hug and smiles at him.

“And you? There’s been a lot of talk about you in the news. Specifically you and a certain actor. I guess your initial interest in him wasn’t so random after all.”

Shrugging, Taehyung softly replies, “You were right about him. He’s soft and caring but he’s so good at hiding it. He puts on a mask to protect himself but underneath all that… he’s beautiful. He’s beautiful in a way no one else has had the pleasure of seeing. He cares so much and so hard but he’s so fragile as well. I want to protect him.”

Amerie stares at him fondly for a moment before reaching forward and squeezing his hand gently. “You sound like you really love him.”

“I do,” he croaks. He’s known he has since before Jeongguk left, he remembered how he almost uttered the words ‘I love you’ when he was saying goodbye to him. He loves him so much. “I do and it doesn’t make sense. I’ve known him for only a few months but he’s so important to me. If only you could see him the way I do, Amerie. You’d understand it would be impossible not to love him.”

“I’m happy for you, Taehyung. I think you’ve finally found your home.”

 

When he gets home that night, or morning depending on how you look at it, he calls Jeongguk. He’s not expecting him to pick up, it should be around ten in the morning in Paris so he might be on set, as he waits for the receptionist to connect the call but he does.

“Tae,” he says softly into the receiver. “It’s late over there, what are you doing up?”

Giggling, a little tipsy on champagne, Taehyung replies, “It was Amerie’s premiere today. She was wonderful Jeongguk. She may take home another Oscar for this one. But I couldn’t help but think about how much I miss you.”

“I miss you too, Tae. So much. I can’t wait to see you again.”

“And I you, love.”

There’s a pause on the other end. An intake of breath. Taehyung has never called him ‘love’ before no matter how much he’s wanted to. Then, in his tipsiness, he realizes he’s never told Jeongguk ‘I love you’ before either.

He hiccups and giggles out an apology before sighing. “Ah, I love you so much, Ggukie.”

“Y-you’re drunk, Tae,” he says but he sounds like he’s trying to convince himself of that rather than Taehyung. Typical, Jeongguk can never accept anyone showing kindness to him.

“No, I’m not,” he replies in a sing-song voice. “I’m only tipsy. I know what I’m doing I just can’t overthink my every word like I usually do.”

“Since when you do overthink?”

“Around you? Always. You make me so nervous and you see through my facade right away.”

“Tae—”

“I love you. I really really do. I hope that doesn’t scare you off but I can’t keep it in anymore. It’s like someone is pumping love into my chest and I just can’t contain it any longer.” He catches a glimpse of himself in his mirror and laughs at his reflection, his face is flushed red from the alcohol. “Ah, Ggukie. I wish you can see me now, my face is all red! I’m red with love! Love for you!”

“Taehyung,” Jeongguk says with a bit of laughter in his voice but he cuts him off.

“You’re scared I don’t mean it ‘cause I’m drunk but I do! And I’ll say it again you only have to ask. Ugh, wait, no, if I leave you to ask you’ll never ask me to say it again.”

“Taehyung, sunshine. Go to bed it’s really late over there you need some rest okay? Don’t forget to put some medication on your bedside table and a cup of water to take in the morning.”

“Ah, you see. That’s why I love you. You fret and worry but you sound so fond while you do it. So caring and brave and strong . My Jeongguk. My love.”

Taehyung’s eyes slip closed as he reclines into his bed sighing contently as his tiredness catches up to him. He smiles when Jeongguk speaks again.

“Go on,” he urges softly. “I can hear you getting comfortable. Go to bed.”

“Sing to me? You think I haven’t heard you singing under your breath in our little room? I know you sound beautiful, so sing me to sleep. Please?”

“You sing beautifully too, Tae.”

“Maybe. But I can’t sing myself to sleep.”

“What do you want me to sing to you, then?”

When I Fall in Love,” he requests.

Jeongguk is quiet for a moment before he starts to sing softly. Taehyung closes his eyes and imagines Jeongguk is laying next to him, singing softly into his ear, stroking his cheek as he sings. He starts to doze towards the end of the song. The lyrics and Jeongguk’s voice lull him to sleep.

“When I give my heart, it will be completely
Or I'll never give my heart
And the moment I can feel that you feel that way too
Is when I fall in love with you”

He smiles, clutching the phone harder in his hand as he tries to fight sleep just long enough for the last lines.

“And the moment I can feel that you feel that way too
Is when I fall in love with you”

He falls asleep with a heart full of love.

 

July  29th,

Sunshine,

Eve had her baby, it’s a little boy. His name is Gabriel, like the angel, she told me. She’s very religious. She sent me pictures, he’s precious and it made me think of me growing up, even of you and how he’ll never have to know the pain we did, me of a destructive household and you of distant parents. The thought of a little boy being raised in this world right and with love and with emotional intelligence brings me hope.

She named me the godfather, to be honest, that terrifies me but I want that little boy to know all the love and acceptance in the world. That desire to smother him with love overrides any fear I feel in my heart. Eve asked me to get you two in contact, she wants to speak to you so at the end of this letter I’ll include her home phone number. Please, if you can, reach out to her. You two are two of the most important people in my life and I want you to be close, maybe even friends. Is it alright for me to ask that of you? I hope it’s not overstepping a boundary.

I spoke to my mother, apparently, she’s been having some chest problems but she assured me she’s okay. I’m still worried, though. She always brushes her own health to the side since… well since. I want to visit her just to make sure myself but she said she’d be very upset with me if I missed filming because of her and I hate to upset my mother. I hope I’m worried over nothing but there’s an unease building inside of me.

I’m getting anxious again so I’ll change the subject.

Paris is good and fun. My costar twisted her ankle during one of the scenes so shooting has been postponed for about a week or two until she’s better. That means I get to explore Paris for that amount of time. It’s nice to take a small break and really enjoy this city. I’m planning on going to the Louver and buy you some things from the gift shop there.

Remember how I told you that you’re like the sunlight shining down on a bleak, cloudy day? Paris is full of bleak and cloudy days and anytime the sun shines down on me I feel like it’s the universe’s way of telling me you’re there for me and thinking of me. It’s so comforting.

If you’re my sunshine does that make me your moonshine? I can’t think of myself being a celestial being, I feel like that’s for you. I think I need to stay grounded on earth. Maybe you’re my moon and I’m the sea instead? You’re my comfort on a lonely night, letting me know I’m not alone and I’m the sea, always reaching out to your pull.

But you’re still hot and blazing and so strong so maybe the sun suits you best. It’s up to you, either way, I’ll always be attracted to your pull and I’ll always be in awe of you.

Yours

 

Meeting Eve is intimidating not because she looks scary or mean but because of how important she is to Jeongguk. Taehyung is alone which makes it scarier, Jeongguk still hasn’t been able to come over and meet her baby because of his schedule and as he requested, Taehyung had spoken to Eve and couldn’t say no when she asked him to meet in person at her home.

When he knocks on the door Eve answers with the baby in her arms. She’s still plump from the pregnancy but she’s glowing and looks so happy to seem bothered by it.

“Taehyung, come in!”

Taehyung kisses her on the cheek as he steps into the foyer, she returns it and smiles happily while she leads him to her spacious living room. The baby is sound asleep in her arms, a chubby little thing whose innocence radiates throughout the entire house. Taehyung understands what Jeongguk meant about protecting him.

“I’m so happy you can come. I was scared my invitation scared you off.”

“No, no. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I know how important you are to Jeongguk,” he says, thinking back to all the times Jeongguk gushed over Eve and how kindly he spoke of her in his letter that Taehyung has tucked safely away in a box with his other letter.

“I’ll be honest with you, Jeongguk doesn’t talk much about you. I don’t mean this to make you feel bad it’s just Jeongguk is a very secretive person even with me. I guess what I’m trying to say is outside of what I hear of you from the world of cinema I don’t know anything about you.”

Taehyung knows she wants him to talk about himself, but he doesn’t know where to start or how much he wants to disclose. He knows Eve can be trusted seeing as she’s Jeongguk closest friend but he’s still hesitant to share much about himself.

“What do you want to know?”

“To be honest I don’t really want to talk about you. Forgive me I know that sounds extremely rude but… I want to talk about Jeongguk and specifically your intentions with him.”

He’s taken aback by her bluntness for sure, so much so that he laughs more out of nervousness than anything. “I’m sorry I’m not laughing at you I just—I wasn’t prepared for your bluntness.”

“It’s fine. It came out harsher than I intended.”

“As for my intentions… I love him,” he confesses easily. “He’s… everything. He’s so caring and gentle. So different from how people portray him and I want to protect him. He told me, you know? Everything about his past and his scandal I know it all and I just want to protect him and love him for as long as he’ll let me.”

Eve swallows thickly as she nods. “That’s so good to hear. Jeongguk had many people who warmed his bed but… he never had anyone he really cared about or who cared about him. This is good. It’s like you said he’s gentle and he’s strong but he still needs to be handled with care and I hope you can do that for him.”

“I try. I never want to be the cause of any of his pain.”

“That’s all I can really as of you isn’t it?”

Taehyung smiles as the baby in her arm starts to stir. She looks down at her son with such a fond and loving expression that Taehyung’s heart squeezes. He watches as chubby hand peaks out from the bundle of blankets and grabs at the air before Eve puts her finger within his reach.

“He’s such a good baby he hardly ever cries. Would you like to hold him?”

Taehyung’s heart skips a beat. He adores babies. “Can I?”

“Of course! Even better you can hold him as I get us some drinks.” She carefully passes Gabriel to him, reminding him to support his head as he arranges the baby in his arms. He has Eve’s almond eyes but everything else about him looks different. His dark curly hair and dark skin that resembles spun silk are different from Eve’s. She has a lighter complexion and hair that although curly, is not nearly as curly as her son’s. He coos at the Gabriel, making the baby giggle. His joy is contagious.

Eve comes back into the room with two glasses of ice water for them. “He looks more like Daniela than me. Her brother donated his sperm so I can carry him.”

“That… makes sense.”

“Have you ever thought of having a family?”

“I have… but I’m not sure if I’d make a good father may be an uncle.”

“Well, you and Jeongguk can practice with Gabriel, seeing as Jeongguk is the godfather anyways.”

It doesn’t escape Taehyung what that implies. Her acceptance in not only Jeongguk’s life but hers as well.

He stays a long time helping Eve with Gabriel as they talk and get to know each other. He stays long enough to meet Daniela who is sarcastic but funny. Gabriel is the spitting image of her. He understands why Jeongguk surrounds himself with them. They’re a delight.

 

Missing Jeongguk turns from an ache to almost unbearable pain. It’s so odd he didn’t expect this to hurt him at such a magnitude. One day he goes to their little room and starts to clean around a bit. Jeongguk’s scent still lingers somehow and his possessions are everywhere. They bring Taehyung comfort.

As he leafs through his records he sees a book wedged between the cabinet wall and some records. He remembers the cover, it’s the book he made Jeongguk read to him, the one Jeongguk wouldn’t spoil for him.

He flips through it quickly and sees pen marks, sentences underlined and paragraphs put in brackets. He thinks there’s something intimate about reading a book that’s been shown so much love by someone important to you. He gets comfortable and begins to read.

He reads it in one sitting and by the end of it, he cries. It doesn’t escape him, the parallels between the fictional room of Giovanni’s and his own here with Jeongguk. As he reads the slow progression of lust to love to toxicity to heartbreak he vows to not allow that to happen to the two of them.

A line speaks to him and it goes: “The need to act was like a fever in me, the only act possible was the act of love .”

And so, Taehyung acts out of love. He picks up the phone and dials Jeongguk’s hotel. It’s very late there and Jeongguk may be asleep but he allows himself to be selfish this one time. Jeongguk answers in his sleepy voice.

“Mmh, Tae?”

“Jeongguk,” he croaks, hot tears still flowing. He blames the melancholy ending of the book and the lack of Jeongguk’s physical presence for the tears.

“Taehyung?” He sounds more alert now already aware that something is wrong. He can hear the sheets shift as Jeongguk does.

“Hi, love.”

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Why didn’t you tell me the book ends like this? He—he dies Jeongguk and they never end up together.”

“Taehyung, what book?”

“The one you read to me! I found it and I read all of it. It’s so sad, Ggukie. They loved each other but that love turned to something so toxic and—” He stops to catch his breath before barelling on, “How did their little room make them so miserable?”

“Sunshine, calm down. It’s only a book. They aren’t us.”

“Do you think our little room will make us miserable, too?”

“No,” Jeongguk says with conviction. “Never. And—if it does we’ll leave. We’ll leave together I won’t leave you the way they left each other.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because. You’re my sun. I can’t leave you.”

 

August 15th,

Sunshine,

I think by the middle of September we should be done filming and I get to come back home to you. I’m excited, I’ve missed you so much. I was thinking, when filming is over for both of us, what if we come to Paris, just the two of us? I know you’ve been here before but I want to experience it with you and make fond memories we’ll remember forever. Paris is the city of lovers, after all.

My mother insists she’s better but I don’t know if I believe her. I hope it’s all in my head. If I still have this feeling in a few weeks I’ll go visit her.

Eve told me you went to see her and Gabriel and that you even met Danny. She sent me pictures of you holding him. It made my heart full. But it also made me wonder, would you want to have kids in the future? I think you’d be a good father but I’m not too sure about myself, I’d be too distant and I care too much for solitude to be a good father. I think I carry the trauma of my father too deep inside of me. I’d hate to subconsciously put that upon a child.

I’m sorry I didn’t mean to get so gloomy. Sometimes I lose myself writing to you.

As I write this I think about how you called me crying. I didn’t think a book could have you so worked up if it offers any solace I cried by the end of it too. I wanted them to be together in the end as well. I wanted them to be happy in their own little solace. But Sunshine, we’re not them and our story doesn’t need to be tragic like theirs. I won’t let it and I have a feeling you won’t either.

— Yours

 

Jeongguk’s birthday is September 1st and unfortunately Taehyung can’t make it for that specific day, he can make it about two weeks earlier. He doesn’t tell Jeongguk, it’s meant to be a surprise as he shows up to Paris on a gloomy and rainy day. The rain is coming down hard, he regrets wearing the shoes he did because they’re soaked within a few blocks. He didn’t book a room in the same hotel as Jeongguk. Actually, he didn’t book a room at all. He’s only staying the night before he has to fly back. One night is not enough to make up for the last three months but it will do for now.

He leans against the wall next to Jeongguk’s hotel room with his hat tipped down on his head to cover his face. Jeongguk is filming today and it must be a late shooting day because it’s already nearing eleven pm and Jeongguk still hasn’t shown up. But it’s okay. He’ll wait.

Half an hour later the elevator dings and footsteps can be heard before they turn the corner towards Jeongguk’s room and pause. Taehyung tentatively looks up peeking from beneath his hat to make sure it's not a random passerby but no, it’s Jeongguk. His hair is longer than Taehyung has ever seen it and swept from his face in a pretty way. He’s locked in place, his eyes wide and his mouth in the space of a small ‘o’ as he realizes it is Taehyung outside his hotel room.

“Tae,” he breathes out as if it’s his first breathe in forever. He drops the bag in his hand and runs the few feet between them and collides into Taehyung, arms wrapping around his neck tightly as he digs his face in his shoulder.

“Jeongguk,” he says softly as he runs his hands up and down his back. He feels warm and real in his arms. Taehyung sighs contently as he lays his head on Jeongguk’s hair. He’s missed him so much.

They stay hugging for a quite a while before finally with a watery smile, Jeongguk pulls away. “What are you doing here? Why didn’t you tell me you were coming? I would have come earlier! How long are you staying?”

“Slow down, love,” he teases. “Only tonight, it was a surprise I won’t be able to make it for your actual birthday so here I am. I leave tomorrow afternoon. I’m sorry, I wanted to stay longer but I couldn’t get any more days off with filming and all.”

“No no. It’s fine we’ll make the most of it.”

“Let’s get inside,” he whispers, his lips against Jeongguk’s temple dying to kiss him.

Jeongguk shivers as Taehyung hands trail lower down his spine.

As Jeongguk unlocks his hotel room Taehyung retrieves the bag he dropped as well as his own small one. He resists the urge to mouth along the back of his neck but just barely, he doesn’t want anyone peeking out of their own room and catching them.

Jeongguk’s room is quite cozy, it feels homier than most hotels but Taehyung doesn’t get to look at it much because soon enough they’re both kissing and running hands over one another as they walk back towards the bed and fall back into it.

They barely speak as they undress aside from whispered compliments and confessions of missing one another. As they move together chasing pleasure they cling to one another as if afraid the other will evaporate into thin air. Jeongguk whimpers against his lips as Taehyung thrusts inside of him, hiking his legs higher up his back and crossing them so he can rock in time with Taehyung’s hips.

He feels and tastes the same, he’s just as responsive as ever if not more. It’s only been three months but as they feel each other and explore their bodies it feels like it’s been a lifetime since they’ve last touched. But it’s still the same, Jeongguk’s ears are still sensitive, his legs still tremble when Taehyung thrusts at the perfect angle. They still moan each other’s names as prayers. These things are still the same and that brings comfort to Taehyung.

Once isn’t enough. They continue until they can’t anymore until they’re boneless and exhausted. Once they stop the first rays of the sun start to shine out in the sky. Jeongguk is laying on his back, his head turned towards Taehyung as he looks at him with half-lidded eyes. He looks so tired now and Taehyung feels guilty for keeping him up all night when he has to film soon. But he can’t bring himself to regret it as he takes in the red bruises on Jeongguk’s skin, evidence that Taehyung was here. Marks that will turn purple and blue in time and stay with Jeongguk longer than Taehyung will be able.

Jeongguk throws a lazy arm around Taehyung’s torso as he snuggles closer to him. He seems so content as he looks up at Taehyung with a soft smile.

“I’ve missed you,” he admits softly. “This has been harder than I anticipated I don’t know if I can last another month…”

“We’ll do it, we’re almost done and once you come back I’ll be wrapping up my own filming and we can take a vacation together. You mentioned coming back here in your last letter.”

He sits up and his face lights up, “You’d come back to Paris with me?”

“I’d go to the ends of the world with you, Jeongguk.”

Jeongguk kisses him, full on the lips and Taehyung melts into it. He’s missed him so much.

They nap but not for very long, only an hour before Jeongguk’s alarm is ringing and they wake up on each other’s arms. It’s six in the morning and poor Jeongguk looks exhausted.

“I shouldn’t have kept you up all night,” he says regretfully as Jeongguk stretches next to him, groans as his bones pop.

“No, it’s fine. I don’t have to leave for filming until much later anyway, we’re shooting scenes that take place at night. I just want to spend as much time with you as I can.”

“You should sleep, you’ll be tired on set…”

“No,” he refuses with a pout as he rests a hand on Taehyung’s chest and then he rests his chin on said hand. “I wanna spend time with you. We can order breakfast and talk. I’ve missed you.”

He looks so cute, with messy hair and sleepy eyes, blinking slowly at Taehyung as he’s still fighting sleep. As Taehyung strokes Jeongguk’s cheekbone he asks, “What do you want to talk about?”

“Anything.”

Once they have ordered breakfast they’re a little more awake as they had jumped into the shower quickly as they waited for the food to arrive. When it does, Taehyung stays in the bathroom to not be seen as Jeongguk answers the door. When the door clicks closed once more, Taehyung walks out into the room, drying his hair as he does so.

When Taehyung sits next to him on the bed and bites into a fresh strawberry he thinks of Jeongguk’s last sent letter. How he said he wouldn’t allow them to end up like the characters in that book did. “Did you mean it?” He asks softly as he picks at his food.

“Hmm?”

“What you wrote in the letter. That you wouldn’t let us end so tragically.”

Jeongguk pauses as he places the buttered piece of toast back on his tray and turns to Taehyung. “Of course I meant it. Listen… I won’t say we’ll last forever because we don’t know what the future holds or how we may change as people but… even if we ever stop being JeonggukandTaehyung I would want us to end things in an amicable way. I’d want us to always be there for each other and I’d never want our relationship to turn toxic. And I’ll do everything in my own power to ensure that.”

“Me too,” Taehyung whispers as he takes hold of Jeongguk’s hand, “I’ll make sure no matter what that our ending, whether together or not, will never be that melancholy.”

“You’ve already told me you love me, that’s already a little ahead of what David and Giovanni managed in the book.”

“But you haven’t said it back,” he says softly, giving Jeongguk a sad smile. “You don’t have to, I know you might not be ready for that but know that once your feelings get that intense… I’ll be here to accept them.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just scared all the time, not of you or us just…”

“Ggukie, it’s okay. I understand.”

Jeongguk rests his weary head on Taehyung’s shoulder and sighs sadly, “I’m still sorry.”

“Stop this is your early birthday celebration. I didn’t mean to make you sad.”

“You didn’t. It’s the lack of sleep, it makes me emotional.”

Despite the bumpy middle, they spend the next very few hours in a happy bubble. They’re happy and content in that space and Taehyung wonders if that’s how they’ll always be: finding quiet, secluded corners of the world and turning them into a solace. Either way, he doesn’t mind. And when he leaves although he misses Jeongguk he’s happy and content. If happiness can be defined in small finite moments then the night he spent with Jeongguk in his hotel made him full with it. This bountiful happiness will last them until Jeongguk returns—it has to.

 

But of course, things don’t last well forever. The doses of reality hit them in unrelenting waves and it starts with Jeongguk’s mother.

 

Chapter Text

JEON JEONGGUK, 27, OSCAR AWARD WINNING ACTOR HAS LOST HIS MOTHER the headline reads and Taehyung can’t breathe. HIS MOTHER, SOONBOK SONG, WAS TAKEN TO THE HOSPITAL A WEEK AGO WITH COMPLAINTS OF A TIGHT CHEST, DOCTORS CONFIRM SHE PASSED LAST NIGHT IN HER SLEEP ONLY 2 WEEKS AFTER HER SON’S BIRTHDAY. THEY STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT CAUSED IT.

THERE HAS BEEN NO OFFICIAL STATEMENT BY JEON JEONGGUK, WHO IS CURRENTLY IN PARIS FILMING HIS LATEST MOVIE, OR HIS TEAM DESPITE OUR REACHING OUT.

Taehyung gets to his feet, clenching the newspaper in his fist as he runs out the store cafe he was in before he read the news. Not his mother, he thinks. Jeongguk can’t lose his mother, the one person he’s been protecting since he was a child and he couldn’t even say goodbye.

When he gets to their home he’s out of breath and scrambling to get to the house phone. He dials Jeongguk’s hotel number with shaky hands and has to fight the receptionist who says Jeongguk has requested them not to forward any calls under any circumstances.

“Tell him Kim Taehyung is calling, please . He’ll take the call.”

“Sir, I can’t—”

“Please,” he says forcefully. “Just put him on!”

There’s a pregnant pause and then, finally, the woman obliges.

There’s silence for a minute and then the woman’s voice filters back in, “I’m transferring you over now.”

Before Taehyung can thank her there’s a click and then Jeongguk’s voice.

“Tae.” He sounds so sad, his voice gravely and tired and hopeless.

“Jeongguk,” he breathes, “baby, I’m so sorry.”

Jeongguk’s breath hitches on the other line before a soft whine is heard through the receiver and then silence as Taehyung imagines he’s currently covering his mouth to muffle his cries.

“Just let it out, baby. You don’t have to keep it in. Let it out.”

There’s an indescribably helpless feeling that comes with listening to someone you care so deeply for cry out their pain and sorrow all alone and being unable to help them. Taehyung feels useless now when all he wants to do is embrace Jeongguk and tell him things will get better and that’s he’s there for him every step of the way.

“Jeongguk,” he says quietly, “if you want me to come just say the word. I don’t want you to be alone like this.”

“N-no,” he croaks. “You’re almost done filming and—”

“None of that matters, Jeongguk. You’re hurting and all alone right now.”

“No, Tae. It’s fine. Besides, I have to leave for home for the funeral so there’s no point in coming to Paris.”

It makes sense but— “Do you want me to be there at the funeral?”

“No. I mean—yes I want you there but don’t come. It’s not you, it’s my family. My father may be there and I don’t want him anywhere near you. And I know some paps will probably sneak in and I just—I don’t need everyone finding out about us through my mother’s funeral.”

Jeongguk’s father. Taehyung doesn’t want Jeongguk anywhere near that man, especially not on that day. “I understand but will you be okay? With him I mean?”

“I’ll manage. He won’t try anything with her family there and if there are paps he’ll keep quiet. But after… can you be in our room? I want to see you.”

“You don’t even have to ask, Jeongguk.”

“It was her chest problems I was so worried about. They said it was something with her heart and her respiratory system. I knew there was something wrong, I should have gone to see her.”

“No, you can’t blame yourself, Jeongguk. She told you not to come and you respected her wishes.”

“I’m still full of regret, she’s always been physically weak, I should have known better.”

“Jeongguk—”

“I appreciate the effort, Taehyung,” he softly interrupts, “but right now I don’t think any words will make me feel better.”

Taehyung can respect that.

 

The paparazzi are relentless. Even in Paris, they swarm Jeongguk at the airport like vultures to a rotting carcass with meat falling off the bones. They ask him for a statement on his mother but from the looks of it, Jeongguk says nothing and simply pushes through the crowd, with his head down and a hat tipped down to cover his eyes. It’s the same once he lands in North Carolina, where his mother’s newer home is and the same state Jeongguk was raised in after his parents migrated here when he was a young child. In all the photos he looks tired and worn out, physically and emotionally exhausted. Taehyung wants nothing more than to drop everything and be by his side but he has to respect Jeongguk’s wishes, no matter how hard it may be.

The next day is his mother’s funeral, her family waited for Jeongguk to land before going through with it. They speak on the phone that morning as Taehyung quietly reassures him and reminds him he’ll be in their room waiting for him. Jeongguk plans to fly over to New York City immediately afterward, while he’s on amicable terms with his mother’s side of the family he says he doesn’t know how he’ll feel staying with them when her absence will be so strong. She was the bridge and without her, he’s not sure where he stands with them anymore. It makes Taehyung sad that he feels he doesn’t have any blood family left to rely on.

As Jeongguk had suspected there were some paps at the actual funeral, a fact that makes Taehyung sick to his stomach. They yell and shout his name to get his attention, completely disregarding that it’s a funeral they are crashing not a bachelor party. To placate them, Jeongguk attempts to make a statement before the burial but the moment he gets in front of the crowd of cameras, he breaks down. He covers his mouth his hand and sobs before apologizing and turning his back to the cameras, walking away and into an older woman’s arms who looks like she can be his grandmother. The cameras flash wildly when this happens, the chance of catching the stoic and illusive Jeongguk showing so many emotions outside of a set is too good to pass, evidently.

Taehyung knows because a tv station airs it live as it’s happening. For probably the first time in his career, he makes the director wait as he watches the clips. His hands are balled into fists as he watches the entire thing in horror and anger. He can’t look away, the same way one can’t look away from a car crash, it is horrifying but he can’t take his eyes away from the scene. He’s watching it all unfold from the tv onset, and so everyone watches his rigid shoulders and clenched jaw. If no one knew of him and Jeongguk before, the people on set have an idea now.

Taehyung’s lucky the scene they choose to record right after is one where his character is angry because Taehyung is livid. As soon as the clapperboard clicks and the director yells, action! he thinks: How dare they? How dare they invade his privacy and demand his attention when his mother just passed? How dare they not allow him to mourn in peace? How much more does Jeongguk have to sacrifice for the bloodthirsty vultures to be satisfied?

They take and take from him until there’s nothing left and then they find their next victims, uncaring of the mutilated body they leave in their wake and Jeongguk is the receiving end of it once more. It boils Taehyung’s blood, it makes him so angry that the anger starts to become a tangible thing, a burning hot rock in the pit of his being like a neutron star ready to collapse.

He’s alone in this scene, and for that, he’s grateful, in a room where he’s meant to show his anger and frustration and does Taehyung do that. He breaks almost all the props on the set, throws a chair, topples over a table and smashes a mirror with his own hand, slicing a nicely sized cut into the palm of it. But he keeps going. The anger inside of him is all consuming and if he’s going to release it might as well be while in front of the camera where he can hurt no one.

By the time the scene is over, Taehyung is in the middle of a destroyed room, glass broken, wood all around him, blood from his hand all over the furniture he touched. His hair is in disarray and his clothes are messy on his frame, he itches to push his hair back from his eyes but the blood in his hands don’t allow him such a luxury. It’s quiet as he stands in the set, chest heaving as he looks down at his shaking hands and his hair covers his face. It seems as if no one else is breathing as they watch him, and when the director shouts cut! it doesn’t break the tense feeling.

Clenching his fists, Taehyung asks in an eerily quiet voice, “Was that good?”

The director hesitates but finally says, “It was perfect. I don’t think we’ll have to reshoot it.”

“Good,” Taehyung says, looking up and jerking his head to the side to get his hair out of his eyes without having to touch it with his blood-stained hands. “If you need me I’ll be in my trailer.” As he leaves, a hushed silence follows him.

They send a doctor to his room, to stitch up his wound. Taehyung sits still as the doctor sews his skin back together, not even flinching as the needle penetrates his skin. He listens half-heartedly as the doctor tells him when and how to dress his wound and doesn't’ say anything when he leaves.

When the doctor leaves, Nicholas comes in. He was present during Taehyung scene, standing near the director with arms crossed as he took in the expressions of anger and he knows something is wrong. He asks in a strangely serious voice that almost doesn’t suit him, “Was it the news about Jeongguk that set you off?”

“Yes,” Taehyung says truthfully because there’s no point in lying.

“Have you spoken to him? I’ve tried to get in contact with him and so has Eve to no avail. I’m hoping you have.”

Taehyung clenches and unclenches his injured hand as he says, “Yes, I spoke to him this morning before the funeral.”

“And how is he?”

“He’s not good, but he’s strong. Stronger than he gives himself credit for. I’m seeing him tonight. I’ll let him know you and Eve were asking for him.”

Nicholas lets out a deep sigh as he crosses his arms over his chest and leans against the wall. “We’d appreciate that. And how are you?”

“I’m… angry. I’m angry for him. His mother means so much to him and he didn’t get to say goodbye. And then those fucking paps can’t give him any privacy, they circle him like vultures and they think he owes them something when he doesn’t. I just want him to mourn in peace.”

“Then let him,” Nicholas says. “Tonight when he comes to you, let him mourn in peace and let him know no matter what he can rely on you. He can, can’t he?”

“Of course he can and he knows that.”

“I can say this: I hate finding out about you two like this. I had imagined the situation being much lighter with some good-natured teasing. But these circumstances…”

“Shit, I’m sure the entire cast and crew know by now. I should have watched the news from my trailer.”

“No one will say anything. The people here are good and I spoke to them already. To be fair, I’m sure the director doesn’t care about why you performed so well just now, only that you did.”

 

Jeongguk comes late at night. It’s almost three in the morning when he enters their room. The key turns the lock and Taehyung stands from where he was sitting next to the record player on the floor just as Jeongguk steps in the room. He looks haggard, in sweats and a t-shirt with puffy, swollen eyes. Taehyung wordlessly walks over to him and opens his arms, Jeongguk kicks the door closed and launches himself to him.

The impact of Jeongguk hitting his body makes Taehyung stagger but he finds his footing and holds Jeongguk impossibly close, burying his face into Jeongguk's shoulder as the other folds into himself and hides his face in Taehyung's chest.

“Baby,” he coos as he strokes his back, “oh baby.”

Jeongguk lifts his head from his chest and sobs wetly into Taehyung's neck as he clings to him. They stand like that for a what feels like an eternity before Jeongguk looks up at him and begs, “Hold me. Please, just hold me. I want to be close to you. I need to know that I matter. I can’t—” He chokes on his sob and grips the back of Taehyung’s neck to coax him into a kiss.

Taehyung obliges, kissing Jeongguk softly and tenderly while they cling to one another. Jeongguk walks back towards the mattress and pulls them both down onto it. “I need to feel you,” he says. “I need to know you’re real, that you won’t go away. Life is so short, Tae. So short and I just need to know you’re real and you won’t go anywhere.”

“I won’t,” Taehyung promises as he kisses his face, kissing away his tears. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Show me,” Jeongguk breathes into his mouth.

Jeongguk clings to him as they have sex. His fingers dig into the skin of his shoulders, drawing blood as Taehyung works their hips together. Jeongguk chants the words stay and harder until they bleed together into one. Despite his hard thrusts, Taehyung treats Jeongguk softly, he caresses his face and runs fingers through his hair, kisses any available space.

Sometime during the sex, their position changes, Jeongguk’s back is against the headboard when he bites down on Taehyung’s shoulder and comes. A handful of thrusts and Taehyung follows closely behind. They both pant against one another, Jeongguk still clings to him like a lifeline as he kisses the bite mark on Taehyung’s shoulder.

They breathe each other in, waiting for their hearts to slow as they hold onto one another. Jeongguk smells a little different, it must be the added smell of Paris and his mother’s home. His arms around Taehyung’s neck tighten a bit as he hugs him close.

The peaceful moment is quickly ruined when there’s a flash. Jeongguk snaps his head up and Taehyung’s body stiffens, as he tucks Jeongguk’s face into his neck to keep him hidden, it’s a futile attempt because if it’s what Taehyung thinks it is, they’ve already seen Jeongguk and worse of all, they’ve taken his picture. He turns his own head to see someone standing on the balcony parallel to theirs with a professional camera in his hands, aimed at them. Their curtains are open, the pap can see everything. No. Nonononononononono. Not now. Not today after everything.

“Tae,” Jeongguk whimpers as he practically tries to push himself into Taehyung’s ribs to hide from it all.

Taehyung carefully but quickly pulls out, before throwing the covers over Jeongguk. Taehyung doesn’t care if he’s seen, but Jeongguk can’t handle this right now. He just can’t. Taehyung just got him back in his arms he can’t lose him again.

Slipping on some boxers, Taehyung goes over to the balcony, when the pap notices he’s been seen he curses and start putting away his equipment. Taehyung lets out a string of curses of his own underneath his breath, yanks the curtains closed before he’s rushing to put some clothes on. He won’t let him get away.

He’s dressed quickly and peaks once more from behind the curtains to see the man is running back into the apartment and probably getting ready to book it.

Jeongguk whimpers again, pulling Taehyung from his thoughts as he turns to the lump under the covers.

“Jeongguk, stay there, okay?”

Jeongguk throws the covers off his head and asks, “Tae? Where are you—”

Stay.”

And with that, he runs. He’s livid. This day has been too long and sad and stressful and truth be told Taehyung doesn’t know what he’ll do if he catches the pap. He runs down the stairs at a record speed, even jumping down a few steps before he’s pushing open the door to the building just in time to see the pap turn the corner.

Taehyung isn’t a runner, he’s not very athletic, to be frank, but the pure anger and adrenaline is pushing his body as he runs across the street, turns the corner and basically tackles the paparazzi to the floor. The impact can be felt but only barely, like a dull ache more than anything else. Blind rage guides him as he turns the man around onto his back and proceeds to punch him mercilessly.

The man throws a few well-aimed punches Taehyung can taste the blood in his mouth, the hot thickness of it but the pain doesn’t register as he spits the blood out and straddles the man tighter to keep him underneath him. Soon enough Taehyung has the upper hand and he exploits it. The man is yelling for help but Taehyung doesn’t care, his knuckles bleed from the blows and he’s sure the skin there has torn, his injury on set today isn’t helping with the amount of blood.

He doesn’t feel the pain, and he knows there is some—there has to be, he can feel the blood flow from his now reopened wound on the palm of his hand. His knuckles, too are cut and bleeding as he borderline gleefully punches the man in his face. He feels a sick satisfaction when he hears the crunch of the man’s nose breaking beneath his fist.

He thinks of Jeongguk, of how sad and small he looked when he told Taehyung the entire truth of his past. How broken and defeated he looked today in the news when he hid his face in his hands and folded into himself like he wanted to disappear while the sick paparazzi took picture after picture, as the news outlets continued to roll the film and keep it on him. He thinks of Jeongguk over the phone when he received the news of his mother, again so small and sad, so different from the public’s perception of him. And he thinks of Jeongguk when he crumbled into Taehyung’s embrace not too long ago. And then he remembers that such an intimate moment was seen through the eyes of this man. How this man watched Taehyung undress Jeongguk, watched him try to kiss his pain away and reassure him that he was real and alive and going nowhere. He thinks of that invasion of privacy and for the first time, the thought of a camera on him makes his skin crawl. It makes him want to destroy his own body until there’s nothing for anyone to gawk at just masses of disgusting flesh and blood. And for the first time, he fully understands Jeongguk’s phobia and he wonders how he managed to keep this profession after everything.

He doesn’t realize the man has gone silent until he feels someone tug him off. He instinctually starts to fight back against the hands, because it’s not enough. Whatever pain Taehyung inflicts on this man will never be enough. And maybe this man is a little misfortunate, maybe the anger inside of him isn’t all because of this one man but because of what this one man’s profession stands for and because of what this one man can do to him and to Jeongguk.

“Taehyung, please stop it. You’ll kill him!”

It’s Jeongguk and he sounds distraught. Taehyung’s movements jerk to a halt before he looks down at the unconscious man and how battered he is, his face swollen and bloody and barely resembling a face at all anymore. It’s still not enough but then he looks at Jeongguk, whose kneeling next to him, holding his arms and looking at him with his vulnerable, tear-stained face. And suddenly hurting this man isn’t important, protecting Jeongguk is.

His camera, Taehyung realizes he has to destroy the camera, none of this matters if the evidence is still present. Jeongguk’s distraught face will only be the beginning if he doesn’t destroy the camera and film.

Blindly and with jerky movements, Taehyung gets to his feet, stumbling before gaining his footing as he looks around for the man’s bag. It’s a few feet from him, laying on the floor from where it fell when Taehyung tackled the man. He feels Jeongguk try to stop him from moving, but gently—always gently, he will never lay a harming hand on Jeongguk, no matter how angry he may ever get he’ll never take that anger and aggression out on the person he loves. Taehyung nudges his hands away as he stumbles to the bag and gets the camera from within. This stupid little piece of plastic has everything that can destroy his and his Jeongguk’s life and Taehyung won’t let it.

Throwing the camera with a force, Taehyung sends it to the ground and it shatters, but that’s not enough. He stomps on it, crushing the lens beneath his shoes and stomping at the body of it until it’s no more than rubble. He takes the film too, and the other rolls of film in the man's case to be safe before he finally speaks.

His voice is gravely and deep, it doesn’t sound like his at all. He sounds as if he hasn’t drunk water in days, dry and croaking,  “A lighter,” he says, “I need a lighter.”

“Taehyung, what—”

“Check his pockets. Wait. No. Let me.” He doesn’t want any evidence of Jeongguk being here. No fingerprints. He roughly jostles the man, uncaring of any injuries he may have as he checks his pockets, lucky to find a pack of cigarettes and most importantly, a small pack of matches.

“Taehyung,” Jeongguk sobs as he watches him set the film to flames. “Tae, look at me.”

Taehyung only looks at him when Jeongguk grabs his hand in a tight grip before he realizes Taehyung’s wound on the palm of his hand and he goes for his arm instead. “Taehyung, look at me,” he says while he tilts Taehyung’s face towards his own and presses their foreheads together.

Taehyung finally looks at him again, his own eyes hard where Jeongguk’s are soft and vulnerable. When the flame from the film starts to lick at his fingers, he drops it to the ground, never looking away. With bloody hands, Taehyung cups Jeongguk’s face, staining his skin red before he presses a gentle kiss to his lips.

The sound of sirens can be heard in the distance, someone must have called the cops from all the commotion, and that’s when Taehyung pulls away.

“Taehyung, we have to go,” Jeongguk says frantically as he tries to tug him away but Taehyung stays put.

“No, if I run it’ll only get worse. You go, you did nothing wrong. I’m the one that did this.”

“I can’t just leave you, Tae! You can’t expect me to!”

“You will, Jeonggukie. I’m protecting you and none of this will matter if we both go down.”

Jeongguk’s bottom lip wobbles as he searches Taehyung’s face. Taehyung hates that the last image he’ll have of Jeongguk in this night is his crying face and his face smeared with the blood from Taehyung’s fight on his cheeks.

“Go, Ggukie. It’s alright, everything will be okay. I promise. I won’t let you go through that again.”

“I’ll call James,” Jeongguk says as he takes a reluctant step back, the sirens getting closer by the second. “I’ll tell him to contact your lawyer and I’ll see you at the police station.”

“Don’t—”

“I’ll be there,” he says forcefully before giving Taehyung one more kiss, this one a bit rougher, more of a representation of his resolve than anything else and then he leaves.

Good. Jeongguk is safe, Taehyung thinks as he watches Jeongguk round the corner near their room. Nothing else matters.

When the cops come Taehyung holds his bloody hands up and lets the cops round him up. The lights are blinding and they cast his face in hues of reds and blues as Taehyung gets handcuffed and then manhandled into the back of the police car.

Detached, he watches as they check the man's pulse and document the entire crime scene. He’s taken in a stretcher into an ambulance and Taehyung watches the entire thing with detachment. One of the two cops in the front seat, a younger-looking man turns to him with wide eyes. He’s younger than Taehyung and Jeongguk, looks as if he just graduated from the police academy.

“Are you Taehyung Kim?”

“Yes,” Taehyung says with little to no emotion.

The man—or boy, really—widens his eyes even more as he takes in that new information but then his professionalism kicks in a little too late, his young nature has already shone, and he turns back to the front and says nothing else.

For the better, Taehyung thinks as he lays his head against the window with a small thunk, he’s tired. He doesn't want to think anymore today. He closes his eyes and thinks of Jeongguk, not of how panicked he must be right now, he thinks of the soft Jeongguk only Taehyung knows. He thinks of the two of them laying in their bed in each other's embrace. He thinks of how the night should have ended.

 

When he arrives they fingerprint him and give him a light interrogation. It’s a quick and impersonal process and Taehyung gives them the tiny bits of information like his name, date of birth and so on, easily lets them take his fingerprints and mugshot. Afterward, they allow him to make his call. Realistically, it should be to his lawyer but instead, he calls Jeongguk.

Taehyung leans against the telephone booth as he waits, listening to the phone ring. It only rings twice before Jeongguk answers. “Taehyung? Is that you?”

“Yeah, baby. It’s me.”

A sigh of relief and then, “Baby are you okay? Where are you being held.”

Taehyung rattles the county precinct and asks Jeongguk if he’s gotten in contact with James, his manager.

“Yeah, he’s here. We were waiting for your call, we got in contact with your lawyer too. We’re leaving now, Tae, okay? Just wait a little longer.”

 

Taehyung is given his own holding cell, he doesn’t ask for it it’s just given to him. A perk of his celebrity status maybe but frankly he doesn’t give a shit. With the adrenaline and pure rage gone, his body aches. His hands hurt, knuckles cut and bruised with blood coating them. The wound on his hand has opened, the stitches have come undone and look ugly against his skin. He doesn’t think about it, either way, there’s nothing he can do.

Instead, he thinks of Jeongguk, who’s on his way with Taehyung’s manager and lawyer. Regardless of what happens to him, he kept Jeongguk safe. That’s all that matters.

And so, Taehyung waits.

 

When they arrive the police put Taehyung in a small interrogation room once more so he can speak with Jeongguk and the others in private. It’s the one they put him in earlier to ask him basic questions for the case file. Jeongguk immediately hugs him tight, deflating against Taehyung as he sighs in relief before he takes in all his injuries.

“They didn’t stitch you up?” He asks worriedly as he turns Taehyung’s hand over in his to investigate the palm of his hand. “When did this happen?”

“This was from the set, don’t worry about it.”

“What—I didn’t even notice. I’m sorry. But why haven’t they stitched you up? They can do at least that, no?” Jeongguk turns to Taehyung’s lawyer for guidance.

“They should have, we’ll get it sorted out don’t worry.”

Yoongi is an average sized and lean man who at first glance doesn’t look intimidating at all with his soft and round features but his sheer understanding of people and how they work plus his way of always getting what he wants makes him second best to none. He looks rather relaxed as if he wasn’t woken up at five in the morning to one of his most famous clients getting arrested.

“Hi, Yoongi.”

“Taehyung.” Yoongi takes a seat and everyone else follows. “Jeongguk explained most of it to me but care to tell me again in your own words?”

Taehyung closes his eyes for a second before he starts to speak, “Jeongguk and I were having sex when there was a flash and we see that creep taking pictures of us from the balcony of the building parallel to ours. I hid Jeongguk under some covers and then chased after him and well—I assaulted him, I guess. And broke his camera and burned his film.”

“So what I hear is that you effectively got rid of all evidence that this man was stalking you and taking unconsented pictures.”

James winces and Jeongguk looks uneasy while Taehyung remains stoic. “I did what I had to do.”

“Did you now?”

“Yes, I don’t care if he presses charges or even if I have to do time or pay a fine or community service. As long as those pictures don’t get out I’m happy.”

“Taehyung,” James speaks up for the first time sounding frustrated with Taehyung's indifference, “do you understand how this can affect your career.”

“I’m aware, I just can’t bring myself to care.”

James looks surprised by this answer, “Taehyung—”

“He did it for me,” Jeongguk interjects, he looks sad and uneasy as he grips James’ arm and tugs him down from where he’s now standing and leaning over the table back to his seat. “He knows how much I hate cameras and—he did it to protect me.”

“And did you think to stop him?” James sounds accusing as he asks Jeongguk the question in a way that sounds as if he thinks Jeongguk is dumb. It makes Taehyung’s hackles rise as he clenches his fist, the pain from his fingers digging into his gash ground him.

“Of course I did! I tried to stop him as soon as I caught up with them!”

“Is that so—”

“If Jeongguk wasn’t there I probably would’ve killed that man,” Taehyung admits and James once again looks at him as if he’s looking at a stranger. “So maybe don’t speak to him as if this is his fault.”

Yoongi steps in before things get too heated. “Getting rid of the evidence wasn’t the best choice but,” Yoongi says as he raises his hand to keep Taehyung from interrupting him, “on a personal and more human level I understand why you did it.”

Taehyung nods.

“We haven’t heard from the ‘victim’ quite yet so we’re not sure if he’ll press charges or let it go. Either way, at most you’ll walk out with class A1 misdemeanor so that’s good.”

Jeongguk looks between the two before asking, “What does that entail?”

“It’s the highest misdemeanor charge but it’s nowhere near as serious as assault. At most you’ll do about four months in jail but at least you’ll pay a fine. Something around $50,000 given your income. And as me as your lawyer, we’re leaning more towards the fine than jail time, especially since it was a first-time offense for you and the pap was stalking you.”

“If we go to trial we can’t mention what the pictures are, that they’re of me and Jeongguk having sex. It would defeat the whole purpose.”

“Taehyung, you’ll plead guilty but you’ll explain yourself. If you tell the judge he was stalking you and taking pictures inside your of home, especially while having sex it will work in your favor and lower your sentence.”

“But—”

“Tae,” Jeongguk interrupts gently to act as the voice of reason. “You protected me enough. You don’t need to anymore, okay? You destroyed the pictures and that’s enough if people find out what the pictures were of that’s fine, they won’t be able to see them.”

“Jeongguk…”

“I know you want to protect me but you already have. Please, just do as Yoongi says.”

Taehyung nods hesitantly and continues to listen to Yoongi, he makes it sound so easy as if coming out almost scotch-free is a no-brainer but Taehyung isn’t too sure.

“Are you okay,” he asks Jeongguk the moment there’s a lull in the conversation.

Jeongguk gives Taehyung a look as if he can’t believe he’s real, “I think I should be asking you that.”

“I’m fine.”

“Are you, though?” Jeongguk sounds genuinely concerned as he asks the question, big eyes looking at Taehyung with a hint of sadness in them as he plays with his own fingers as a substitution for Taehyung’s own.

There’s a knock on the door before Taehyung can answer, where the police officer asks for Yoongi, and James goes with him to give them some privacy. As soon as they’re out of the room, Jeongguk grabs hold of Taehyung’s hand and squeezes it tight.

“You didn’t have to do all of that,” Jeongguk wheezes, finally letting go of some of the emotion he’s been carrying inside of him. His eyes are bright with tears he won’t let out and his hands hold onto Taehyung’s like an anchor. “James is right, I should have stopped you sooner or stayed with you. I shouldn’t have left. I’m so sorry.”

“Stop,” Taehyung says softly as he turns his hand over in Jeongguk’s and twines their fingers together. “Stop it, you didn’t do anything wrong. I told you to leave. If you had stayed all of that would have been for nothing. You’ve been through enough I wasn’t going to let that asshole ruin you again.”

“Taehyung, whatever backlash you get from this will be so much worse than whatever would have happened if those pictures leaked—”

“I don’t care about my reputation, Jeongguk. It’s—it’s the principle ,” he explains while looking down at their interlocked hands. “It’s the fucking principle, Jeongguk. He had no right to take those pictures in the first place and no one has the right to see them.”

“Tae…”

“Are you okay? I lashed out, I got so violent I’ve never—” he stops talking as he grasps the hair in front of his face in a tight fist, resisting the urge to pull. His tight grip still bites at his scalp either way. “I must have scared you. I was just so angry and I—I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to hurt him and I did. You saw him, his face. You can barely tell who he is. And I don’t regret, not even for a moment. And I would do it again if needed, without hesitation.” He doesn’t dare look at Jeongguk, he doesn’t want to see the look of disgust he must have on his face, to know just how flawed and fucked up Taehyung really is. A monster. He’s a monster.

“I… I don’t know if I’m good for you,” he admits sadly. “You need someone soft not someone like me. I hurt that man and I don’t regret it, I even enjoyed it in that moment and you don’t need someone like that in your life. I might as well be your father—”

“Stop. Stop it,” Jeongguk insists, almost frantically. “You’re nothing like my father. Jesus, Tae my father hurt me for fun. You hurt that man, yeah and we’ll talk about that later but you hurt him to protect me. My father hurt me and my mother for the pleasure and for control. You’ve never laid a harmful hand on me. What do you want?” Jeongguk asks instantly, “you want us to end this?”

“I’m not good for you.”

“I didn’t ask whether or not you think you’re good for me I asked if you want to break up. Because it sounds like that to me and I don’t want that. You’re not like my father, if you were I would have never let you in. You of all people know how hard it is for me to let people in, you know how much I had to contemplate it before actually going through with it? A lot. And if I thought for a moment that you would hurt me I wouldn’t have continued showing up.”

“Jeongguk,” Taehyung croaks as he swallows the lump in his throat, his eyes burn.

“How can you ask me to leave you, huh? After all of this, why would you think I ever would? You’re my sunshine, I told you this. I’m not leaving you. How can I? You hurt that man but you still treated me so gently. How am I supposed to leave you after you kissed me like I was your salvation?”

Taehyung bows forward, his forehead resting on their joined hands as he cries softly. They’re quiet for a moment as Jeongguk soothingly runs his hands through his hair.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Jeongguk whispers. “I promise. You’re my sunshine, Tae. How can I ever leave you?”

Wheezing, Taehyung says, “Tell me how I can’t resist this love. I need to hear it from you, only you.”

“Listen Taehyung. I love you, okay? I love you and if I can open my heart to love then you can find it within yourself to not fight this, do you hear me? I love you so much and I know you love me too and that’s enough isn’t it? Why should we deny ourselves this after everything, especially after today?”

Taehyung says nothing, he only cries and Jeongguk allows him to as they sit in silence before there’s a knock on the door. Yoongi steps in and says, “I need a moment alone with Taehyung now.”

Jeongguk nods, squeezing Taehyung’s hand. “Just give us one more second please.”

Yoongi nods and leaves.

“Tae, I’m not going anywhere, okay?”

Taehyung looks up and wipes his tears with the back of his hand. “I know,” he croaks.

“Good.”

“What about filming?” Taehyung asks, “When do you go back?”

“I don’t need to go back. We finished all our scenes in Paris we just have to film a few here in New York. I told you I’m not going anywhere.”

Taehyung feels gratitude rise in his chest. Realistically, he doesn’t know how he would have made it if Jeongguk had to leave him again.

Yoongi knocks again and walks in, “Sorry Jeongguk but—”

“I understand,” Jeongguk says, standing up and giving Taehyung a reassuring smile. “Hopefully I’ll see you soon. If not I’ll come back tomorrow.”

“Bye, Ggukie.”

When Jeongguk is gone, Taehyung turns to James who’s sitting next to Yoongi across the table. When he speaks its harsh, “Don’t ever speak to Jeongguk like that again. I don’t care what you think he should have done or how he should have handled it, he just lost his fucking mother so leave him out of it.”

“Taehyung—”

“Leave. Him. Out. Of it,” he repeats pointedly. “I made the decision to hit that man, not Jeongguk. He wasn’t even there for most of it so if you’re frustrated with anyone then it’s with me not Jeongguk.”

James stays stubbornly silent, glaring at the table as Taehyung glares at him. Yoongi allows a moment of tense silence before he sighs and leans back against the uncomfortable steel chair while resting his arm on the table.

“Well the good news is the pap is awake, there seem to be no long-term injuries aside from a banged up face.”

“Is he pressing charges?” Taehyung asks.

“Yes but, we’ll win.”

Nodding, Taehyung says, “I trust you.”

“In other news,” James starts, “the press has gotten word of what happened. They’re swarming outside the precinct as we speak. They’re waiting on a comment.”

“No comment. I have nothing to say that will help me out. I’m not sorry for what I did and I’m not going to pretend to be.”

“Taehyung, why do you insist on being so difficult?”

“I’m not apologizing. At most I may admit I went a little overboard but he crossed a boundary first by following Jeongguk to our home and second by taking pictures of us naked in said home. Apologizing will make it seem like what he did was okay and it’s not.”

Turning back to Yoongi, he asks, “Do I have to stay the night here or something?”

“No. Since the pap isn’t concussed or brain dead you’re free to go. They’ll be mailing all the info to both of us, when to appear in court, etc.”

“Good,” Taehyung sighs. “I want to leave.”

“Before you go, take this.” Yoongi hands him a small envelope, Taehyung knows what it is instantly by the neat lettering of his name and the yellow wax sealing it in the back with a sunflower design. “Jeongguk said it came in the mail and to give it to you. He must have thought you’d be staying the night.”

Swallowing thickly, Taehyung thanks him and clutches the letter tightly in his hand like a lifeline.

As he waits to be released he reads the letter, the words seep through the cold walls of the room and the steel barriers over his heart and warm him. That empty space in his ribs comes alive as it fills itself with Jeongguk’s gentle words. It was written on Jeongguk’s birthday when everything in the world was still good and kind. Before Jeongguk lost his mother before Taehyung lost his composure.

He takes in the kind and gentle words that bleed with honesty and love and he holds onto it, squeezing it hard like sand as he tries to keep the grains from slipping through his fingers. It was worth it, he decides whatever comes out of this is worth it and he has no regrets.

 

When he’s released Jeongguk is still at the precinct looking outside at the flashing lights and loud voices of the paparazzi. He looks a little shaken as if he’s not ready to face the crowd and Taehyung doesn’t blame him. When he stands next to him, Jeongguk looks over, a little shocked but the shock melts away to a soft smile. He seems to only see Taehyung, not Yoongi nor James next to him.

He clutches the letter in the pocket of his thin jacket that Jeongguk had brought for him from their room and smiles.

“You ready to face the crowd?” Taehyung asks.

To his surprise, Jeongguk grasps his hand, interlocking their fingers with a shy smile. “Not really but if you’re here I can do it.”

 

The news outlets and magazines eat it all up. They swarm on the first scandal Taehyung’s ever had, they practically lose their minds when Taehyung walks out the precinct holding Jeongguk’s hand tight in his own. They ask questions some more offensive than others, like if Jeongguk was really the one to hit the pap and if Taehyung was just taking the fall for him. That one had Taehyung clutching the letter in his pocket tightly to reign in his anger. He wanted to answer, to defend Jeongguk but he felt the other squeeze his hand as if to say don’t say a word, it isn’t worth it. Someone asks if he’s always had anger issues to which Taehyung has nothing to say. It makes him wonder, though, if he’s always been this angry but only kept it bottled up until now.

They won’t let the story go, they swarm Taehyung’s home and so being there is out of the question. They can no longer go to their room, the address has been leaked and so paps swarm the place as well, they dig for what little information the tenants give them. Like the fact that they had no idea they had two A-list celebrities for neighbors and the types of sounds that would come from the room sometimes. Someone even mentions the fight he and Jeongguk had that was later waved off by the landlord as an acting exercise and running lines. The paps still fucking run with it, creating scenarios including one that states Jeongguk and Taehyung are in some form of BDSM relationship and Taehyung is Jeongguk’s “sex slave” it’s so stupid it's actually funny and pulls the first genuine laughter out of both of them. Jeongguk is shockingly not caring if people found out about them, saying life was too short and as long as he has Taehyung it is okay.

Jeongguk had sent his own manager to get their belongings, Taehyung said he only cared for the box with Jeongguk’s letters, souvenirs and pictures while he was in Paris, thankfully they get those back safely. The landlord had made sure no one went into their room since Taehyung was still paying rent and therefore still a tenant. He’s grateful for that man. If someone had taken those letters… he doesn’t want to think about. When he gets the box back he safely tucks the fourth letter inside, smiling as he presses his fingers to the lid.

Even being on their respective sets is a challenge the first few days after the news breaks out. They don’t even know a whole lot, just that Taehyung beat someone up and that apparently Jeongguk went to see him at the county jail. They don’t know the specifics yet, but they now know the two are an item and that’s enough. Jeongguk said he barely got anything done the first few days on set, something that frustrated him and the director but there was nothing that could be done. It was much the same for Taehyung.

 

Taehyung doesn’t want Jeongguk as a witness but Yoongi and Jeongguk agree that it’s for the best when they meet with Yoongi in Jeongguk’s home to discuss it. It’s best for Jeongguk to be the sole witness for Taehyung because he was there and pictures of him were taken too. Yoongi explains it’s important to play up the emotion card as well, to tug at the heartstrings.

When Yoongi leaves it’s with all of them agreeing with Jeongguk playing witness. Yoongi because it will help Taehyung tremendously and Jeongguk because of the guilt he’s carrying that makes him think it’s somehow his fault. He won’t say as much, not since the first night at the county jail but he gets a faraway look in his eyes sometimes, not the one he gets when he’s thinking of his mother. That look is usually so melancholy, his face scrunching up like a child ready to cry his heart out but in the last minute he takes a shuddered breath and straightens his back as he shoulders on the pain. But most importantly in those moments, he comes to Taehyung to speak fondly of his memories of her and to let her live in through his words. Yet, when he’s thinking about the guilt his eyes go soft and regretful and sometimes he can’t even look at Taehyung.

“Are you scared of me?” Taehyung had asked him one night, as they lay in Jeongguk’s bed one of the first nights back. Jeongguk had barely spoken to him or looked at him for that matter until Taehyung asked him the question.

His head had whipped up as he gawked, “No, Tae… no.”

“Then… why are you avoiding me? You won’t even look at me.”

“It’s not you. I just. I should have been more careful. I should have made sure no one was following me. If I had done that none of this

“And I should have closed the curtains. I shouldn’t have beaten up that pap so bad. There’s a lot that should have been done, Jeongguk but we can’t go back. And I don’t blame you, you were coming from your mother’s funeral and even if that wasn’t the case the pap had no right.”

Jeongguk closes his eyes, leaning his forehead against Taehyung’s shoulder, “‘M sorry. I won’t close up again.”

He still closes up sometimes, goes a little quiet and distant but he allows Taehyung to pull him back to the present and remind him it’s neither of their faults. And sometimes it’s Taehyung losing himself, remembering that anger he felt and worse the pleasure he felt when hurting that man. He thinks about it when he’s not busy, when Jeongguk is wrapping up the final scenes for his film, when Taehyung is in his trailer in between takes, late at night when Jeongguk is asleep next to him. He thinks about it a lot and he doesn’t know what to do about it, because he hates the relief he felt when hurting someone else. It feels inhumane to want to hurt another person and feel nothing but pleasure. He’s terrified of that feeling going from something specific only to those who hurt him and turning into something darker and sinister, he’s scared of that feeling being permanent and being towards anyone. Being towards Jeongguk.

“I was thinking of starting therapy,” Jeongguk says one night after they’ve eaten dinner in front of the television, steering clear of any news channels because Taehyung and his trial are plastered everywhere, the media keeping a close watch on any small detail.

Taehyung looks away from the movie playing on the screen, he can’t say what it’s about because he’s not really watching. “Therapy?”

“Yeah. I think I have a lot bottled in and I need to figure out a way to let it out. To talk to someone.”

“You can talk to me.”

“I know I can, Taehyung but I don’t want to burden you, either. Not when you’re going through so much yourself. You’re my sunshine but you’re not a therapist and it’s not fair for me to treat you as such.” Jeongguk’s hand is now squeezing his own gently and he looks so sure as he speaks, he must have been thinking about it for a while because he’s not asking Taehyung what he thinks, he’s telling Taehyung what he plans to do. A premeditated decision. “You’ve been strong for me but it’s time for me to be strong for myself.”

It’s strange, a part of Taehyung is happy he’s come to this conclusion on his own but another part of him is feeling helpless. For the longest time, it felt like he was Jeongguk’s solace, what happens when he no longer relies on Taehyung then? What happens when Taehyung is no longer the person Jeongguk opens up to?

“I think you should look into it too, Tae,” he suggests gently. “I think it’ll be good for you to talk to someone. Your mind is getting clouded and I think it’s making it harder for you to see the truth.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think right now you think you’re a monster and I’ll be honest: I don’t know what to tell you to make you think otherwise. I want you to talk to someone about it, someone who can help but only if you want to.”

Tightening his hand around Jeongguk’s, he asks, “What happens when we don’t need to rely on each other anymore? It feels like our entire relationship was built on us seeing each other at our worst and getting each other through it. What happens if seeing a therapist takes that need for one another away?”

“Tae, do you want us to be together because we need to, because we can’t function without one another or because we want to? I don’t want to date you out of a necessity I want to date you out of choice. I think if we measure our relationship and it’s validity through how much of each other’s pain we can endure… we’ll end up bad for each other, toxic. I don’t want that.”

Taehyung remains quiet as he weighs the words in his head. They make sense in a way he can’t deny. He’d hate to feel as if they were both trapped with each other just because they can’t cope without one another.

“I’m not saying I want to go to therapy just for our relationship,” Jeongguk explains. “I think I’ve needed it for a while. I used sex to cope with my emotions long before I met you and it never worked, it always made me feel a bit dirty afterward, ashamed. I don’t want to cope like that anymore, I want to deal with my past and my future in a way that will help me be a better person. And I want the same for you, I don’t want you to go to therapy for the sake of our relationship, I want you to do it for you and no one else. Do you understand?”

“I do,” he admits. “Just—what happens if we find we don’t need or want each other? You said you wouldn’t leave…” He knows he’s speaking in circles, he knows he even sounds a bit pathetic but he can’t help it.

Jeongguk’s face adopts this look Taehyung has never seen before, his eyes soften but his lips fall down to a sad frown as he strokes Taehyung’s cheek with the back of his hand. “I promised I would never let our relationship lead to toxicity and that no matter what we’ll remain in each other’s lives. I’m keeping that promise. If we end up splitting up because we realize without the need there is no want then we’ll stop being JeonggukandTaehyung but I’ll stay in your life for as long as you want me.”

 

Jeongguk takes initiative by finding his own therapist first. Taehyung is supportive but makes no move towards seeking his own. Jeongguk looks tired and a little drained after his own first appointment but after a snack and nap, he seems a little weightless, like some of his troubles have lost some of their mass. It takes three total appointments for Taehyung to decide that maybe going to therapy will be a good thing for him. Jeongguk still comes back emotionally drained and needing a short nap but he seems genuinely good, significantly less sad and lost like he used to be.

“It’s good,” he said one afternoon after his nap. He had come to Taehyung’s set so they could have lunch, his own filming for Funny Face is already over. The castminus Nicholashad been shocked to see him and some of the less exposed actors and actresses looked more than a little starstruck. Jeongguk remained cool and composed, his face closed off a bit and only lightening up when he saw Nicholas, who embraced him in a big bear hug that practically swallowed him, and then again when he saw Taehyung.

“Was it?” Taehyung asked timidly, they’re hand in hand in his trailer sitting on his small couch as they wait for their food to be delivered.

“Yes, I cried a lot but it felt good. She was a nice lady and she offered really good advice.”

Jeongguk doesn’t tell him to try it but his eyes are saying what his lips refuse to. Taehyung gets the hint.

So Taehyung goes, his first appointment is only a few days before his trial and so he’s anxious for more than one reason. The therapist is a woman, recommended by Jeongguk’s own because they both can’t see the same therapist, that would be a conflict of interest. The therapist has a private practice in Upper West Side Manhattan across from Central Park, small and quaint. When Taehyung knocks on her door a feminine voice immediately calls, “Coming!”

She looks not much older than Taehyung, maybe in her forties while Taehyung himself is in his mid-thirties. She has a kind and mature face with natural makeup and a pretty locket necklace around her neck. She’s wearing a black shirt and gray trousers, looking comfortable but smart.

“You must be Taehyung. It’s nice to meet you, I’m Olivia.”

Taehyung responds to her greeting in kind and sits down on the couch she gestures towards. It’s a small little room with one chair for her to sit on, a couch across from said chair a small table in between and then the window behind Taehyung. There’s also a small fan and some plants lying around with some abstract art on the walls.

When she sits down across from him he notices she doesn’t have a notepad or pen. She sits and crosses her legs before smiling at him and prompting, “Before we get starting I just want to remind you that everything that’s said in this room is between the two of us and will remain that way unless you show signs of harming yourself or others around you? Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“No questions on that, then?”

“No.”

“Okay, so tell me about yourself.”

“What do you want to know?”

“What do you think I should know? Actually, a better question would be what exactly do you want to get out of therapy?”

What does he want? He wants to make Jeongguk happy, at least that was what he thought but the more times Jeongguk came home from therapy seeming lighter and more full of life the more Taehyung craved that feeling for himself. “I want… to be okay.”

“What’s your definition of 'okay'?”

“I’m not sure.” He admits.

“Well, when did you stop feeling 'okay'?”

“A few weeks ago, with the paparazzi.”

“Right, you’re trial coming up, we talked about that on the phone a bit.”

“Yes.”

“And what about that exactly made you no longer feel 'okay'?”

“It’s not so much the pictures being taken. That made me upset but I feel like I was entitled to that anger, it was an invasion of privacy. But the way I reacted physically to that anger when I let myself loose like that. That’s when I started feeling... not okay.”

“How did you feel when you were letting out that anger?”

“Good. I felt… so good and I hate that. It felt really good to hurt him and even after… once I saw the damage I’d done it didn’t feel enough.”

“What made you stop?”

“Jeongguk. He… he got there and stopped me before… before.”

“And have you ever thought of hurting Jeongguk?”

Snapping his head up Taehyung exclaims, “No! Never! I’d never want to lay a harming hand on him.”

“So with the pap, will you say you lost control or was it something else? Because, you see if you lost control than it wouldn’t matter who was around, whether Jeongguk was there or not.”

Taehyung thought about this. Did he lose control? It’s what he told himself but looking back… he seemed hyperfixated on hurting the man, his mind was on one thing and one thing only. The only person who had managed to make him stop was Jeongguk. But if Olivia was right, if he was out of control Jeongguk’s presence shouldn’t have done anything to stop him.

“I’m… not sure. I think I was solely focused on the man and I… I wanted to hurt him. Nothing seemed enough because it was for Jeongguk’s protection.”

“Did he put Jeongguk in any harm?”

“Not physically, no. Hell, physically Jeongguk could have taken him on even better than I did but… emotionally.” Taehyung worries his hands on his lap as he thought over his next few words. He didn’t know if he should say what he was thinking because it’s not about him it’s about Jeongguk.

“Remember we have confidentiality,” Olivia says softly as if reading his mind.

With hesitation, Taehyung says, “He took… pictures of us. We were having sex and I left the curtains open in our balcony, our bed faces the balcony you see. And so he took pictures of us while… I don’t know how long he was there, he could have been there taking pictures for a while and maybe slipped up and turned on the flash but… Jeongguk has a phobia for cameras. Something to do with his past. If he doesn’t have control over the cameras like he does in films he gets anxious and something like this had happened before and so… I just acted.”

“How so?”

Laughing humorlessly, Taehyung answers, “I chased him. He was trying to leave, I’m not sure where to, maybe his car but. I chased him and when I caught up with him I tackled him and well… I couldn’t stop hitting.”

“And what exactly was your end goal when you did that?”

“I think initially it was to get the camera and the film but once I got a hold of him… You see Jeongguk’s mother passed the day before and he funeral was earlier the same day and I saw how the paparazzi treated him. They went to the funeral they followed him to the airports they dehumanized him and then here comes one more taking private photos of him naked and—it all came crashing down.”

“If this the first time you felt this much anger?”

“No… that same day on set I ruined a set but it was the in the script so I guess I did something right but. The anger was real in those moments.”

“I see. What’s your earliest memory of anger? You don’t have to answer right away, or even today but take a while to think about it.”

“Can I think about it now?”

“Of course.”

He closes his eyes and leans back against the couch, trying to think. His childhood wasn’t full of much anger, it was filled with a lot of loneliness, solitude, and coldness. The only thing that used to warm him were the lights on set, they acted as a weak replacement for his parents' eyes and how he imagined their orbs would radiate love if they only loved him.

But then he remembers when he was much younger, not yet famous. Only in preschool or so, his school bag too big on his shoulders and falling off. He had run home from the bus stop, excited to see his mother that he had barged into the house, in his excitement to show his mother his drawing he forgot to throw off his shoes, tracking dirt throughout the house.

The minute she saw him she scolded him but he didn’t mind because he was sure his picture would make up for it. But it didn’t he had showed her the drawing and she had given it a dismissive look before turning up her nose and ordering him to clean himself up. He had been put out, and maybe that’s the first time he had felt rejected too. He had left his drawing of the family on the kitchen table as he took off his shoes and went about cleaning the mess he made.

When he had come back into the kitchen his drawing was nowhere to be found. For a second he thought his mother had kept it somewhere safe but he soon found it in the trashcan and saw his mother fawning over that fluffy cat of hers, holding the cat to her chest and cooing at it as it purred. Rejection bled to jealousy and then to anger as his young eyes saw a mother that loved a cat more than her son. In his fit of anger, he had stomped to his room and made a right mess of it, trashing every single thing within his touch and continued to do so even when his mother had banged on his locked door and ordered to know what was wrong.

He stayed in his trashed room until his father came home from the office and managed to order him to open up. He had done so, then and took the scolding and had cleaned up despite not wanting to.

But even that temper tantrum did nothing to get his parents eyes on him the way he wanted.

He tells Olivia this economically, voice devoid of emotion, his face blank.

“Would you say showing emotions wasn’t promoted in your home growing up?”

“No. I think my parents liked giving off the illusion of a perfect family but showing negative emotions wasn’t something I was ever really allowed to do…”

“I think this made you grow up internalizing a lot of your emotions, especially your anger. And so now in adulthood, when you get angry enough it doesn’t come out in small waves, more like typhoons and the gates spill too quickly for you to realize.”

“That… makes sense.”

“I think picking up a hobby will be a very good idea, Taehyung.”

“I already act.”

“Yes, and from your movies, I would say you do so wonderfully but it seems to me that acting is something you do to continue to search for your parents love and acceptance or even the world’s not as an outlet for your pain.”

He has no rebuttal for that because she is very very right.

“Have you ever thought of painting?”

 

When Taehyung comes home with a new easel, canvas, acrylic paints and brushes Jeongguk doesn’t say anything he just smiles at him and helps him clear up a space for his belongings.

“Good then?”

“Yeah,” Taehyung admits sheepishly. “It was good.”

“Are you planning on going back to her?”

“I have another appointment in a week.”

Jeongguk grins and kisses him softly on the lips. “I’m glad.”

Taehyung paints the canvas with loud violent colors but it makes the shaking in hands cease and the almost uncontrollable energy inside of him subside. He feels calm and at peace for the first time in a long time.

 

The trial process turns out to be drawn out and tedious, at least it feels that way. After his initial release date, it took weeks for his summons to come in with a court date. The date is to ask what Taehyung pleads, per Yoongi’s advice he pleads guilty but instead of giving him a sentence right then and there the judge decides to give him another sentencing hearing for another day, one he has to wait to hear from Yoongi when it is.

He wishes it were all done in one day but Yoongi insists this is a good thing, it means he can lower his sentence while he exposes the paparazzi for being a known stalker in the celebrity world and leaking private pictures.

Taehyung isn’t sure if he agrees, he just wants it over with.

 

“When this is all over,” Jeongguk whispers one might as they sit out on the balcony of his home facing his backyard, “we should go to Paris. Just the two of us. We can leave the whole world behind for a little while and do all the things we promised to do in Paris.”

He sounds like a romantic as he speaks, his eyes sparkling as he looks up to the night sky. His home isn’t in the city, it’s in the state. They’re alone for acres and Taehyung thinks its very comforting. They’re both flushed, Taehyung’s body aching in a way it hasn’t in a while, his neck marked up by Jeongguk’s mouth. If he closes his eyes he can still feel Jeongguk inside of him, the ghost of him. They’re both wrapped in a blanket, Jeongguk behind him, letting Taehyung lay back against his chest. Their breaths are in tune with one another, Jeongguk’s body is warm and comforting.

“I’d like that,” he admits softly, interlacing their fingers before kissing the back of Jeongguk’s hand.

“We can go to Louvre together and see the sculpture of Nike in person, eat Paris pastries and go to the lounges to listen to the musicians.”

“That sounds lovely.”

“We can bring back gifts for Gabriel, too. We can stay up to watch the sunset. We can take pictures of the Eiffel tower.”

It’s the first time in a long time he’s seen Jeongguk so bright eyed and happy. “I can’t wait.”

 

The day of the sentencing hearing, Jeongguk attends as a witness. The pap and his lawyer are there, Taehyung knows they’ve said his name before but he doesn’t care enough to remember it. His face looks better now, with less bruising and swollen skin. He’s in a weird place where he’s trying to look intimidating and defiant while also looking anxious whenever he and Taehyung’s eyes meet, even more so when he meets Jeongguk's stoic gaze at some point. The moment he looks in Jeongguk's direction Taehyung wants to cover him but he sits still and tries to pretend the paparazzi looking at Jeongguk for even a moment doesn't make him angry.

The judge is an older man with graying hair and tired eyes. The process feels tedious, a bunch of words being thrown around that Taehyung doesn’t bother to understand.

The prosecution goes first and Taehyung tries to tune it out, it’s gross hearing him try to turn any of this into his favor and as he half listens for the first time he regrets hitting him. If he hadn’t then this case would have been easy to win and yet.

His lawyer doesn’t ask him for specifics of what the pictures were, he asks for specifics about how Taehyung attacked him. It paints Taehyung out like a madman and he can feel the judge’s eyes flick over to him. He purposely doesn’t move a muscle.

When his turn is over Yoongi takes the stage and puts on a show with his opening statement, something about the invasion of privacy and basic human decency being absent in the Mr. Jacobs’ actions. It sounds convincing enough and then Yoongi calls Taehyung.

“Can you tell us what happened that led you to chase Mr. Jacobs?”

“I was in my apartment with Jeongguk and we were… we were having sex when a flash went through the room and when we turn to look, Mr. Jacobs is standing on the balcony parallel ours in the next building, taking our picture.”

“You were both naked I presume?”

“Yes, we weren’t covered.”

“What happened next.”

“I threw the covers over Jeongguk to cover him, he has a phobia of cameras you see, despite his profession so I covered him and then I got dressed and ran after Mr. Jacobs.”

“What were your intentions once you caught up with him,” the judge asks instead of Yoongi.

“My intentions were to get the camera, to destroy the film so the pictures wouldn’t be leaked.”

“For yourself or for someone else’s sake?”

“I wasn’t thinking about myself at that moment, I was only trying to protect Jeongguk.”

The judge nods and gestures for Yoongi to continue. “And what happened then?”

“I… when I caught up to him I lost my composure. I did more damage than intended that I wasn’t aware of until after the fact.”

“What made you aware?”

“Jeongguk had caught up by then and he pulled me off. Then I had realized the damage.”

The judge again asks, “You still destroyed the pictures, yes?”

“Yes. None of it would have mattered if I hadn’t.”

The judge hums.

There are a few more questions for him before Jeongguk is called to the stand. He has his stoic face he usually puts on in front of the cameras.

Yoongi asks him questions, which Jeongguk answers honestly, specifically on the fact that he had come to see Taehyung directly after his mother’s funeral for comfort—pulling the heartstrings on purpose—and then the judge asks only one.

“Taehyung says you have a phobia for cameras despite your profession. Why’s that?”

Jeongguk hesitates but answers nonetheless, “When I was younger, pictures were taken without my consent in… a compromising situation and leaked. I’m not comfortable around them anymore unless it’s on my terms.”

“I see.”

The judge is hard to read, he has a better poker face than Jeongguk and that’s saying a lot.

When everyone is back to their original seats, the judge rubs his beard as he thinks. It’s quiet for heart-stopping moments before he leans back against his chair, it creaks under his weight.

He turns to Mr. Jacob’s, “Before I give the sentence I just want to say this: You’re quite lucky Mr. Kim ruined the pictures. Those would have been enough to get a restraining order on you and possibly a hefty fine or even jail time for taking pictures of private property along with other morally corrupt actions.”

Then he sighs and turns to Taehyung. “Given the circumstances, I understand why you reacted as you did. I can even respect it since it was to protect someone you love,” his eyes flick over to Jeongguk before meeting Taehyung’s again, “However, whatever my personal opinion in the eyes of the law you are guilty of the injuries you inflicted and damaged belongings of Mr. Jacobs.” He can feel Jeongguk deflate behind him but he and Yoongi stay sat upright, watching the judge. “You’ll have to pay a fine to cover Mr. Jacob’s hospital bill and damaged equipment but that’s all, you’ll be asked to pay before you leave. And a word of advise: both of you should get a restraining order on Mr. Jacobs.”

“If it were completely up to me I’d have you get nothing, Mr. Jacobs but again you should give Mr. Kim your thanks for ruining the evidence it wouldn’t have worked in your favor otherwise. Case dismissed.”

Taehyung blinks when the hammer comes down, his body jerking back when Jeongguk pulls him back against him, his back digging into the wooden rail dividing them. Yoongi turns to them and smiles.

“Told you you’d leave with the smallest charge. Let’s go pay that fine.”

 

When the media gets a hold of the entire story they practically froth at the mouth, cameras are waiting for them outside of the courthouse, numerous pictures of him and Jeongguk holding hands and smiling as they exit are plastered all over magazines and newspapers the next day. Most of the news articles are on their side too and there are even some interviews in the following weeks with their acting friends who are asked about their thoughts on it during random interviews. Amerie’s response makes Taehyung happy he isn’t the pap because her tone makes him want to curl up and hide. He’s happy she’s on his side. Nicholas’ response during one of his own interviews is funny yet cutthroat, making a joke while also letting it be known that he doesn’t think highly of said pap.

Jeongguk and Taehyung aren’t filming anymore and the films are both in their post-production stage so they don’t have any promotional work to do just yet. Taehyung knows that soon enough Jeongguk will sheepishly hold up tickets to Paris with a hopeful smile and he will inevitably say yes.

 

The first and last time they both step into their little room since that night the sky is dark and it’s pouring outside. It’s colder now, he and Taehyung had spent a little over a month in Paris and came back to New York just when fall is transitioning to winter. Taehyung is outside the door apologizing to the landlord for the trouble they caused and thanking him for not allowing anyone in.

Jeongguk is looking at their room, a room Taehyung had picked out in a whim that ended up becoming so important to them. They won’t be back after today. They’re here to grab what little that’s left that their managers didn’t pick up themselves. He goes over to Taehyung’s record player and finds his records as well as the book they’d both read. It’s even more frayed now, the spine more used up than before. Jeongguk puts the record player and records in a box to take with them, along with the book.

That’s when he sees it. The small red thing, the tail of it peeking out from underneath the bed. Jeongguk bends down and picks it up with nimble fingers, it feels fragile in his hands, the satin material feels delicate. It’s amazing to think it all started with this. This silly tie, their—

“Our own little red string of fate,” Taehyung murmurs as he kneels next to him to touch the tie. “That’s what you called it in your last letter right? Our red string of fate tying us together.”

Jeongguk looks up alarmed before a blush rises in his cheeks, burning his skin. “You read it then?”

“I read it the day you gave it to Yoongi.”

“I just thought… you didn’t say anything so I thought you hadn’t read it yet.”

“No, I read it and it made all of this worth it. You said ‘I love you’ and ‘Taehyung’ both have the same amount of letters and that it has to mean something. Well, you know what? So does ‘I love you’ and ‘Jeongguk’ and I don’t think that’s a coincidence, either because you taught me what ‘I love you’ means too.”

Jeongguk’s eyes widen and he gasps before Taehyung leans in to kiss him softly. His lips are soft and taste sweet, Jeongguk wants to drown in them. When he pulls away a short moment later, he strokes Jeongguk’s cheek.

“You can’t just take my line like that and use it against me,” Jeongguk attempts to joke but his heart is in his throat.

“No one told you to be such a poet. Who would guess the stoic Jeon Jeongguk is really a romantic who has a way with words?”

Taehyung stands before Jeongguk can form a rebuttal and grabs for the box with the player, records, and book. “Is this all, then?”

“Yeah, nothing else here is all that important.”

“Okay, I’ll put these in the car then.”

“I’ll be down in a minute, love.”

Taehyung pauses for a second at the term of endearment and spins around to give Jeongguk one more kiss, this one more insistent than the last. Something warm and fluttery blooms in his chest as he smiles into the kiss.

When Taehyung goes to carry the box down to their car Jeongguk looks around the room one last time, recalling all the memories it possesses before smiling at nothing. They’ll be fine separated from this little room, it was never the room that drew Jeongguk in anyways it was always Taehyung and the way the emptiness in his ribs filled up with his light. It was always Taehyung that was his home.

Putting the tie in his sweater pocket, Jeongguk smiles as his ribs fill up, this time forever and he steps out their room and into the world where Taehyung is waiting, hand held out in the form of an invitation.

Chapter Text

September 1st,

Sunshine,

I’ll be home in two weeks, maybe around the time this letter gets to you. I’ve missed you. It seems unfair that this project came up just as we figured ourselves out. We’ve been apart for more time than we’ve been together as an official couple. However, I’m so grateful you made time to come see me even if it was only for a night, the effort in that means the world to me.

Anyways. While in Paris I met a man, he was a sweet old man who felt like a grandfather to me. He was telling me about love and fate and soulmates, he spoke about a red string of fate and how it connects two people who are meant to be together. It made me think of the Greek myth, you know the one don’t you? The one about how every person was born attached to their soulmate but due to some event they all got separated and they live their lives searching for one another, searching to be complete. This all made me think of you and that silly red tie and how for the longest time I had an ache in my chest as if something was missing and from the first moment we touched I felt that emptiness fill up. You filled up my emptiness,  sunshine. And to think I could have missed out on this love if it hadn’t been for you and that silly red tie, binding us together. Our own little red string of fate bringing you to me and keeping us as one.

I don’t think I’m nearly important enough for the universe to put so much care into my life and into meeting you but you are. I can believe the universe has a bigger picture for you and if I’m in it even for only a chapter, that’s enough for me.

I’ll tell you this here because I’m a coward and I probably won’t be able to say it in person, I was not able to say it when you were here and I’m so sorry for that. Of the two of us you’ve always been brave, so very brave so please forgive me for my cowardice just one last time.

I love you, sunshine. I love you, I love you, I love you iloveyouiloveyouiloveyouiloveyou. That phrase has eight letters and so does your name and I swear that can’t be a coincidence. ‘I love you’ and ‘Taehyung’ will forever be interchangeable in my mind and heart. Taehyung, the one who taught me love and taught me what ‘I love you’ means. You were brought into this world to be loved and if I accomplish nothing else in my miserable life I will make sure to love you like the sea loves the moon.

Thank you for making me happy while asking for nothing in return.

I love you.

Yours Forever