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[How Namjoon convinced Hoseok to stay in Bangtan]

“You are one of the best performers I know. I don’t care what director Bang says, and I’ll beg him personally for you to stay. Jungkook likes you a lot. Seokjin looks up to you. I don’t know who more is going to join, but all I know is that we’ll need you. We won’t make it without you.”

“I’m not a rapper.”

“That’s okay.”

“I can’t sing.”

“Me neither.”

“I’m not pretty.”

“None of us really are,” Namjoon laughed nervously. For a second Hoseok could see something glistering in Namjoon’s eyes that had been hidden all along; fear.

“Seokjin is pretty handsome,” Hoseok countered softly.

“He doesn’t count. No one should compare themselves to him,” another uneasy joke.

“I’m not sure Yoongi wants me here.”

At this Namjoon fell silent for a brief moment and Hoseok grew curious as he wanted to know what counter argument Namjoon would use this time. Namjoon shrugged his shoulders in an almost defeated manner. “You need to stop putting yourself down like that. You’ll win him over, like everyone else.”

 

[#KickJhopeOutBTS is trending]

Bang Shihyuk ended the PR meeting, leaving the members and himself alone whilst dismissing the rest of their team – coordinators, managers and supportive staff. Like that it became quiet in the room.

The meeting had started off very tense. Namjoon had been apologetic when he informed the members that Shihyuk demanded all of them to be present for the meeting. These meetings were a pain in the ass – as Yoongi liked to call them. Hoseok couldn’t agree more. The meetings were necessary, because good PR was everything these days. But the bitter undertone couldn’t be more prominent than in times of a small public crisis. It made the coordinators suggest certain behaviours from the members – “the fans want you to post selfies too. Why don’t you post at least twice a month?” “It’s not good to be making harsh jokes around each other during recordings.” “The fact that you complained during the last music backstage show made fans worry. Don’t do that anymore.” “It’s not our place to suggest this, but you should consider making less aggressive songs. People will like that more.” “Let the younger ones be more on the forefront. Their fans are the most dedicated, so we can’t lose them.” – with fake apologies written on their faces.

The PR coordinators were doing their job, was what Hoseok would tell a hot headed Yoongi. They were doing what they’re supposed to do. After these meetings Namjoon wouldn’t step forward to appease a worked up Yoongi, a confused Jimin, or a slightly more self-conscious Seokjin. Hoseok could see how Namjoon didn’t know what to say because he too felt put on his place and might even be tempted to agree with some of the things PR was suggesting  – they were just doing their job, right? Namjoon was still weak when it came to criticism. Hoseok could tell that much.

Having PR shoving all their insecurities right up their faces as if these were matters of facts, made the hate they got feel validated.

Hoseok was somewhat surprised that the conversation didn’t turn into an inquisition demanding his departure.

“You haven’t been smiling a lot lately,” was the reasoning PR came up with upon seeing the hashtag trending, “You should smile more. That may help. But whatever any of you do, do not address this directly.”

Hoseok was left feeling strange. He felt insulted in a way that he had not understood before. It felt like what Yoongi and Namjoon would try to explain to him when they got shots fired at them from the underground scene. But this was nothing underground. This was out there in the open, trending on Korea’s most used search websites – his parents could see this. Hoseok did not only feel insulted, but also embarrassed.

In the silence of the room with everyone expecting Shihyuk to break it, broke Hoseok’s voice only slightly when he spoke up: “I’m sorry,” Hoseok said to his members, to his boss. “I don’t want Bangtan to have a bad rep., so I’m sorry for this.”

“Why do you feel like apologising?” Shihyuk asked Hoseok back. The members knowing well that they could not suddenly speak up - not when the conversation was serious and Shihyuk was both the oldest and their boss – stayed silent. “Have you done something that we do not know that made the public react like this?”

Hoseok was ready to shake his head no, but couldn’t proceed. Had he done something? Like PR said, the younger ones were favoured. He could not compete with them. He should have smiled more. “I…” Hoseok searched for his words, “I wasn’t that active during our last broadcast, maybe… maybe that set some people off. They expected a more happy, active J-hope. I… I couldn’t deliver.”

“And why is that?”

He had been tired.

“I don’t know,” Hoseok responded. He didn’t know why people would suddenly turn on him. He had accepted to be called the least handsome, but being the ugliest shouldn’t result into people wanting him out of the group. Though the cause could be him. Just him as a human being that did not fit in with how Bangtan was perceived by the public. “I don’t even know if that’s even the reason for all of this,” Hoseok said truthfully, “I don’t know why people hate me.”

“So you’re apologising and you don’t know what for,” Shihyuk concluded.

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok said again.

“You don’t need to apologise, Hoseok,” Shihyuk said. Hoseok could hear agreeing sounds form his members. “No one here on the team believes that this has anything to do with you and who you are.”

“But PR just said that I should-”

“-PR isn’t always right,” Shihyuk cut him off. “They like to play the devil’s advocate a lot. It keeps me focussed, but it can also rub me the wrong way. Like now.” Shihyuk took his time to look at the boys. Hoseok wondered what the old man saw. He wondered whether Shihyuk had regrets – he wondered whether this public crisis made Shihyuk rethink his decision of putting his life savings on the line for the group. Hoseok couldn’t stop thinking about what it would take to make Shihyuk side with the public and kick Hoseok out. “There is a reason why I wanted to talk with you separately. When something bad like this happens – let’s not pretend that this whole thing is not messy – there are a lot of people who believe to know the right way of action. You see PR voicing their idea’s, you saw the manager also coming up with his own. Those people are all on our team, but they are not you. They are not on the receiving end of either the criticism or the love. Their opinions are just that. Same goes for me. Just like criticism, take what PR got to say into consideration. Think before you act. But don’t let them dictate your every move. People will notice when you pretend to be a certain way. Believe me, your fans will notice.”

Maybe Hoseok was a too cynical guy outside of his J-hope persona. Maybe that was what had him overanalyse the advice Shihyuk had given them. The director was letting them loose in some way, and simultaneously letting the responsibility rest on the members’ shoulders. If something went wrong it would be on them. Did he do this on purpose? Was this just another way to keep them in line without having them notice? Hoseok had no relation with Shihyuk like Namjoon did to know whether Shihyuk was playing mind games. All he could do was guess. Hoseok was aware of himself being more cynical, than optimistic. He could at least try to believe what his stage name advocated, right?

Hoseok gave a tight lipped smile at their director. “Thank you.”

-

“The older brothers are probably too embarrassed, and I’m also a little bit embarrassed, but that doesn’t change what I mean,” Jungkook said when he and Hoseok were alone in a cab on their way back to the dorms. “You matter to us. We couldn’t have done any of this without you and regardless of that, we don’t want you to leave.”

“We could start working on Chypher right now,” was Yoongi’s response to all of this while Namjoon was fiercely nodding along.

Seokjin and Taehyung took to social media and made posts heavily hinting on the matter, disregarding PR.

Hoseok had remained silent. He ignored the calls from his parents and sister. He didn’t feel like proving himself or believing anything that the members said.

He had put a lot of effort into making it as far as he had. He worked hard on his rapping and lyrics participation. He tried to up their stage presence by working closely with their choreographers. He was the one who convinced the members to rerun the entire choreography one more time when everyone just wanted to quit. When the younger ones felt like they couldn’t share something with the older ones or their staff, he was quick to sense it and take the brunt if necessary. He had done so much for their group and had nothing in his life to compare his dedication for his place in the group. They wanted to be a shield for those in their teens and twenties. Bullet proof, yet here he was. Taking all the shots and getting repaid like this. He could not pretend to be bangtan. He could not shrug any of this off.

Truthfully speaking, he felt like quitting.

 

[Hoseok, who doesn’t like to drink, is drunk]

The fear of getting recognised by a passer-by simmered down as the soju bottle became more and more empty and as the sky darkened above the park. Sprawled out on the grass, there were no stars to be viewed from his spot. This was not because of the branches of the tree Jungkook had made Hoseok hide under, nor the result of air pollution in Seoul. It was simply because it was cloudy. Jungkook had already mentioned a couple of times that it would soon rain. It hadn’t rained yet. Nothing had happened.

Ever since Hoseok had broken up with his girlfriend, nothing had really happened.

“Brother,” Jungkook tried again quietly, sitting next to the slump body of Hoseok, “maybe we should go home. It’s getting late and I don’t think we parked the car right. We don’t want to have another parking ticket, right?”

Hoseok groaned and closed his eyes. “Why did you let me drink?”

“You insisted,” Jungkook said easily.

Hoseok felt like puking. “I did, didn’t I?”

“I guess…” Jungkook hesitated, “The others said it is like this – when a relationship ends on bad terms-”

“-no bad terms,” Hoseok mumbled inaudibly, “we came to an agreement…”

“-there is always one person left more hurt than the other,” Jungkook sighted, “I guess you really loved her.”

Something wet fell on Hoseok cheek. Hoseok briefly wondered whether crying while being drunk felt different from crying while being sober.

“Shit,” Jungkook cursed, “We got to go; it’s raining.”

-

They were still young. The group had only been around for two and a half year. There had been talks about disbanding and Hoseok had seen it coming. All of their efforts spiralled down to this very sombre night in the park with Jungkook. It reminded him of their pre-debut days, when Jungkook was drawn to Hoseok and would follow him around like a lost child – he was still a child. The difference with then and now was that Hoseok felt like he had gotten too old to feel disappointed about a ruined secret relationship or the failure of their unsuccessful group. The demand of removing him from the group, countered by Namjoon’s words of logic had simply become tiresome.

 

[“I’m your hope. You’re my hope. I’m-”]

“Come on, guys,” Hoseok’s voice roared over the music playing in the dance practice room. “Put more effort in the following moves, alright? It looks shoddy when we’re not on the same energy level. When we get on stage and it’s your moment, that’s when you can lower your intensity, so please keep it up. Keep it up… come on!”

The music stopped. The members dropped. Hoseok watched as they heavily breathed.

Their days were long. Their nights were short. Their nerves were being tested. Yes, comeback was around the corner.

“Namjoon,” Hoseok called. Namjoon looked up and probably knew what was to come. “You’ve been glossing over this one move the entire time. Come learn it with me. The rest can take a break. Seokjin, you should join too.”

Namjoon sighted. “I know, but I will learn it after we got everything down. I don’t want to put everyone on hold.”

Hoseok raised an eyebrow. He knew he could get strict when it came down to performance practising. The members joked that he was scary during those times and Hoseok would feel guilty if it wasn’t for the fact that they were all perfectionists.

“By not standing up right now and getting this move down you’re holding everyone up.”

“Namjoon, come one,” Seokjin said before Namjoon could come up with something to say back. “We do it in one go, yeah?”

Namjoon didn’t respond and looked reluctantly the other way. Hoseok felt indignant by that. “You knew we had dance practise today,” Hoseok said,  “So why did you stay up so late? Right now you’re all tired and don’t even want to-”

“-this has nothing to do with that,” Namjoon shot back. “I just need a breather and you don’t seem to-”

“-no, don’t give me that crap. Why are you giving me a hard time when you’re the one who is lacking-”

“-I don’t pretend to know everything, Hoseok. I know I’m lacking. I’m just tired and-”

“-and that’s why we’re all worked up,” Seokjin cut in again, only this time did he stand up to attract all the attention. “Right guys?” He looked pointedly at Hoseok and Namjoon. “Stop this. This is not you speaking right now, it’s your nerves.” Hoseok bit his tongue and let himself slump down on the ground. Namjoon didn’t meet his eyes and Hoseok decided that he was also indeed tired. “We all take this break” Seokjin said to Hoseok, “After the break Namjoon and I will learn the move, yeah?” He looked at Namjoon. Namjoon nodded his head.

During all of this Jimin had gone and collected some water bottles. The members took sips and passed them around. Hoseok leaned his head against the cool mirror.

This was nothing new. Taehyung was playing with his phone during the break, whilst Jungkook looked over his shoulders. Yoongi was resting his eyelids and Jimin was stretching his muscles. This was nothing new and would probably happen again with different variables tomorrow.

Hoseok got the cool water bottle passed by Namjoon. They looked at each other and nodded.

-

If there was one thing Hoseok could prove himself with, it was his dancing. He knew how to carry his body and he knew how to show off his moves. He was confident when on stage and he was confident in his performance. No mean spirited comment would be able to get him to doubt that about himself. He took pride in their stages and wanted all of his brothers to be there with him. He couldn’t expect the same from Seokjin as he did from Jungkook, but he did expect both of them to give hundred percent when performing and practising. They knew this of him. He didn’t shy away from it and he believed that it was his worth in the group.

 

[Hoseok is a meme]

During a fan meeting someone had taken a funny picture of Hoseok having an overly surprised look on his face. The members liked to use the picture in their group chat and Hoseok didn’t mind. Like their fans the members found the picture fitting for surprised reactions.

The story behind the picture was something more embarrassing. A fan had handed him a note book as a present. Hoseok could not compare his amount of presents to that of the younger members or Yoongi, but he still got surprised when a fan would give him specifically something and not just something that all seven members received anyways. The note book was filled with messages from their fans from across the world, each and every one of them saying in their own language and way that he, Jung Hoseok, was their hope. Upon hearing the explanation from the fan Hoseok drew the surprised face that eventually became the meme.

Reflecting back on that notebook, Hoseok determined he wanted to become a piece of peace to those who support him.

 

[Sope for life!]

Taehyung was sporting the biggest smile while monitoring the performance of Hoseok and Yoongi’s stage in Japan. The concert had ended and they were in vans on their way to their hotel. Taehyung, Yoongi and Hoseok shared a van with some of their staff and listened to noise of the road being accompanied by some bad quality video of Yoongi and Hoseok’s stage.

“This is seriously the best,” Taehyung said watching the video for the third time. “Yoongi, you should sing more.”

“You should rap more,” Yoongi said with the same tone.

Taehyung flipped him off and didn’t let Yoongi’s jab ruin his smile. “Hoseok, you really got the power in this group.”

Hoseok had been a little bit worried about that stage. It was all for fun, but it was no secret that he and Yoongi were no practiced singers. To carry out an entire song like that had been a joke that one of the stage directors had taken as a legitimate idea. He was a perfectionist when it came down to stages, Yoongi was a more chill type of guy when it came down to performances. Despite their differences, Taehyung was heavily satisfied.

“What do you mean - power?” Hoseok asked.

“You managed to get Yoongi to sing this silly song and also look serious,” Taehyung elaborated, “You got the power in the group, really. People love this”

Hoseok frowned at that explanation.

“What Taehyung means is that you have a lot of influence in our group’s mood,” Yoongi followed up. Looking at Taehyung nodding, Yoongi had explained him right.

“You may not know it, but when you’re sad we all feel it,” Taehyung said. “This stage is just the summit of your power.”

“Stop calling it power,” Hoseok said feeling his cheeks burn.

“Seriously… really… power,” Taehyung was teasing now drawling out the last word.

Quietly, when the conversation had died down and was almost forgotten, Hoseok offered a quick ‘thank you’.

 

[Youtube is a place that holds close to one million reaction video’s about Bangtan]

Hoseok’s sister was the one that would actually send him funny reaction video’s when they first started to get popular. Hoseok hadn’t really been interested in things like that back then because he knew better than to put himself in such a vulnerable position. But as the months went by and their fanbase grew and got more attention, Hoseok found that he could name a few reactors on the social media platform despite trying to stay cool about it.

It was addicting to say the least.

The other members didn’t really look themselves up on the platform. They mainly looked up articles written in Korean, but they liked it when Hoseok would send a video or two of reactors in their group chat.

After releasing his mixtape the reaction had been good, but Hoseok had been less keen to look himself up. It was him versus the world. This time around he didn’t have his brothers with him. It was nerve-wracking to say the least. Therefore he found himself stopping after watching two video’s and called it quits.

That was until his sister sent him a link.

J-hope is not your typical idol rapper.

That comment made in the video managed to put a smile on his face.

 

[Citifield October 2018]

Getting of the stage and lowering himself towards the crowd, made Hoseok realise how much warmer it was down there in the pit. The fans started reacting more radically as they saw that Hoseok had descended from the stage to get closer to them. He extended his arm and got to briefly touch the grabbing fingers of the crowd.

These people are real. These people love him.

The security was keeping a close eye on him, but he wasn’t afraid. He had seen the fan in the crowd being a minority by sporting his merchandise on her head. Hoseok took off his pouch and extended his hand towards her. The crowd went wild and he could feel her hand shaking. He gave her his red pouch and left as quickly as he came. People were shouting his name and crying whilst briefly forgetting the song they were performing. Hoseok fixed his earbuds and shut down the concrete shouts coming from the sea of people. Back on stage he couldn’t find where he had given his pouch. As he was skimming the crowed he felt something hard collide on his back.

He craned his neck to see Jimin giggly urging him to give him a piggyback ride. Hoseok couldn’t help but bark out a surprised laugh. He shrugged Jimin off and let himself be dragged to the centre of the stage. There he joined his brothers in their historical stage as the first Korean artists selling out a US stadium.