Actions

Work Header

hate nostalgia

Work Text:

    

I. eastside (benny bianco ft. halsey and khalid)

 

“it’s so weird being back.” maybe it was the way taehyung had no grasp on life when he stumbled into the train that night, calling the only number that wasn’t related to either work, drugs, or getting fucked, but it’s the first night of no regrets taehyung’s had in a long time.

 

“yeah?” taehyung sips at a can of lukewarm beer, cheap shit because nothing else gets exported to a place like this. (a tiny town, in the middle of nowhere, on the eastside of something where nothing ever happens.)

 

the last time he’d made a dumb decision like this was four years ago when a man dressed in straight ralph lauren came up to him on the streets of seoul when he had nothing at all and handed him a paper with a promise of a future. glory. glamor. and you take it because you want the fame, you want the fortune, and for nothing but being pretty, taehyung’s aware he doesn’t deserve it.

 

“yeah.”

 

“like, nice strange or bad strange?”

 

“nice strange.” jimin sighs, turning to face taehyung. “it’s been so long.”

 

“yeah.”

 

“you surprised me though.”

 

“how?”

 

“no offense, i get it, but we hardly talk anymore. i know you’re busy,”

 

“god, i’m sorry dude, shoots and appearances keep busy during this time of the year. you’re—still my best friend, you know?”

 

jimin smiles and it’s brighter than taehyung expected. “not mad, tae. never could be, all i’m saying is that this is nice. real nice, man. thanks for bringing me back home.”

 

taehyung’s eyebrows furrow. “welcome, i guess. i guess there’s a connection to us and this place and there’s no way i could come here alone.”

 

“you never walk alone.” jimin says, smile continuing and the ugly late-sun glow on jimin’s lukewarm skin reminds taehyung of broken eggshells. “you remember who said that?”

 

“yoongi, wasn’t it?”

 

“nah.” and taehyung tenses and he wonders if jimin felt it. but taehyung also definitely knows that he did. “jeongguk.”

 

“what about him?” taehyung feigns innocence momentarily before remembering that yeah, jimin was there too.

 

“don’t play dumb, tae.”

 

taehyung sighs and leans back against the tree in jimin’s parent’s backyard as the sun turns from hot to warm and taehyung’s a little sticky, skin lukewarm in the summer heat, but he’s not uncomfortable.

 

jimin’s straddling one of the branches, twisted about a foot higher than where taehyung sits, trying to shift his arm to cushion his head, trying to breathe through the interminable scent of sweet-tasting-heat and thick amber.

 

“you knew him too.” taehyung accuses, lifting a can of beer to his lips, condensation collecting as three drops of water fall onto the back of his hand.

 

jimin hums. “but you knew him better.” the words you loved him sit at the center of jimin’s tongue, as he decides they’re too heavy to say and swallows it before letting the phrase dissipate on his tongue and puts it in a box at the back of his head with the label “things left unsaid.”

 

“don’t say it.” taehyung warns, and jimin frowns. “love, hate, all the connections are the same shit anyway.”

 

“you’re the worst at lying.” jimin scoffs. despite himself, the vision of the boy doesn’t fail to cross his vision. “but okay. i thought the point of being here was to reminisce. fuckin’ dumb times, being that young, you feel me?”

 

the epitome of cherry lips and deep brown eyes and sex on the beach, taehyung sighs. “elaborate a bit?”

 

“nah. it’s nice you know? sometimes, nostalgia just hits you hard, man. strange being back in this town, back where nothing happened. where things were always simple.”

 

“is this your attempt at poetry? you wanna talk about how pathetically pointless life is at the ripe age of twenty four?”

 

“what can i say? it’s midlife crisis age.”  jimin replies swiftly. “and stop acting like you weren’t mentioned casually on page six of essence like, last week . what’s pathetic about you, gucci boy?”

 

oh , taehyung thinks briefly. if only you knew.

 

so instead of crying, taehyung retorts. “and you? you peter pan or something?”

 

jimin breaks into laughter and taehyung joins in suit as jimin changes his position on the tree so their sides press together as they shake in humor. as it dies down, taehyung finds comfort in the pleasant ache in his stomach. even if it’s a little dry, a little too wet. it’s forced pleasantly, and it’s a strange thing to say.

 

“no.”

 

“what?” taehyung turns.

 

“i don’t miss being twenty. or or eighteen. or seventeen.” jimin begins, eyes tipped towards the sky dramatically. “i just envy the simplistic.”

 

“youth isn’t simplistic. you envy the ignorant.” taehyung glances at jimin’s blonde hair fleetingly.

 

“the youth is ignorant?”

 

“not...ignorant. just—too carefree.”

 

jimin smiles. says, “i’ll drink to that.” their cans cling and taehyung’s mouth is filled with the lukewarm taste of young summer.

 

“this beer is shitty.”

 

“cheap.”

 

“weakass.” taehyung spots the first star in the sky, just on the horizon.

 

and as the second star appears, taehyung’s going back to the last day of school, where the days are warm but the nights remain cool, the heat too shy to make its appearance—right after the sun bids a farewell—you’re reminded of what beauty in the country looks like. in a lukewarm town in the middle of nowhere, a town on the eastside of somewhere, hidden away in a place where nothing ever happens.





(taehyung never even thought about the city until jeongguk, city boy, starry eyes, and taehyung walked like an aimless shadow around the city of seoul once he arrived by train, eye bags deep and cheeks sunken as people passed him, eyes laced with concern.

 

the city was bright.

 

the cityscape was unapologetically urban. there were no trees or city planted blooms, just monoliths of concrete soaring out of the sidewalk in an exact grid pattern. at night it was beautiful in it's own way, so many lights. lights glitter everywhere just like stars when dropping to the earth, huge and small buildings collided in a mixture of shadow and geometry, tiny vehicles rushing along tangled lines of streets creating twisting threads of light -- they all intertwined together in a magnificent mess of dream.

 

that night, a man tapped him on the shoulder and gave him a business card and told him he was pretty before asking to make taehyung a star. and he agreed. and almost five years down the road he’s dressed in louis vuitton in front of a large camera and wears the nickname “gucci boy” on a choker around his soul.

 

and the city life is bustling and bright and it makes taehyung feel alive and now taehyung knows why jeongguk loved the city so much. but he’s in love with this town too.

 

this town that grew him up, that taught him love and pain. platonic understanding and grief. he owes it all to this town. he owes it all to jeongguk.)






taehyung’s in a place he hasn’t been in years, on the eastside of somewhere , the epitome of lukewarm skin and climbing up trees so you can go high enough to touch your dreams.

 

and it sounds like one of the idiotic cliches you’ll see in movies, overused tropes that have lost their sparkle, but he’s seeing jeon jeongguk, with his unruly shaggy hair and eyes wide enough to hold the moon and a voice with a soft melody to envy the lull of ocean waves.

 

and maybe because of that, he’ll never love anything as much as loved the rural town he grew up in, with moon shadows on concrete and perfect midnight with the stars that twinkle along to the beat of the slow song coming from the bar down the street. he might never love anything the way he loved the way the honest moon shone in jeon jeongguk’s eyes.

 

and the night rides in on a horse of pure midnight velvet, and the stars in the sky were pretty enough to ignite the heart of any child, and taehyung was one of the few that bothered to look up as the stars led him to the bustling streets of seoul before leaving him alone in a sea of new lights, none of which are natural.

 

and taehyung’s jumping back to those velvet skies as jeongguk walked away from him, leaving him with nothing but the chilled air and a jeongguk’s favorite stussy hoodie that he didn’t want back because it reminded him too much of taehyung and that was all taehyung needed to realize that jeongguk loved him too. jeongguk might have loved him more but he’ll never know that because he’s always too quick to judge.

 

and as taehyung stood there on the pavement that night, he cursed his own inability to reassure and low self esteem and belief that love has to be loud to be real. and there was a broken green bottle on the street, courtesy of the bar down the block and the drunk homeless guy on the corner and taehyung wonders if this is what all relationships feel like. if this is what true pain feels like. being broken and there is no glue , there is no put it back together. he stood there and wondered, are goodbyes always this hard?

 

and now taehyung looks at jimin, looks at the sky, ponders over his own childish urge to never leave this place again and he tells himself, they are. they still are.

 

they always will be.

 

there’s graffiti on the highest branches of the old tree, a drunk teenage party when some kid—baekhyun was his name—handed jimin an orange can and taehyung a green can with lukewarm fingertips. it should come off as a memory but alcohol doesn’t allow taehyung to remember any of it. he wishes more than anything he could remember that night because that was the night jeongguk first kissed him with the taste of lukewarm bud lite on his tongue and it was dumb and they were both in eighth grade and dumb but taehyung loved it all the same.

 

you spend six years in elementary school preparing for increasing responsibilities, and in the loads of free time you have, you talk about the prettiest girl in the glass before running away from her because girls have cooties. you spend three years in middle school trying to figure out the way you’re supposed to act to slip into the mold society creates for pubescent teenage boys, and you talk about which female has the nicest boobs and laugh about the amount of makeup that irene wears because rumor has it, she has plastic surgery scars all over her nose.

 

in school they teach you science, they teach you facts, they tell you never to pick up a cigarette and never to touch a beer bottle (you do all these things anyway) but all the things they don’t teach are all the things you need to know the most, but taehyung guesses running into life blindly is part of existing. but running blindly is how taehyung fell, and no one saw it coming.

 

in eighth grade you’ll kiss another boy in the closet at your best friend’s birthday party and spend countless nights in confusion browsing the internet for an answer and wondering why you liked the feeling of his lips on yours, but you don’t tell anybody because your mom tells you that there’s no place in middle school for boys who kiss boys.

 

(“society isn’t kind to people like you, taehyung. so just hold on until you can explode and show everybody who you are, okay? just a little longer.”)

 

basorexia: (noun): an overwhelming urge to kiss

 

(he learned the word in ninth year english)

 

even the youngest of kids have secrets and there was a secret behind him and that secret was a boy named jeon jeongguk who kissed him soft under white sheets and who wore too much black with a punk habit of complaining about how he hated this town where nothing happened, on the eastside of somewhere. but his voice was soft and shy and his cheeks blushed rosy pinks when embarrassed. young with a slight overbite and lips like cotton candy and the corners of his eyes wrinkled when he smiled.

 

he used to take taehyung on private dates like picnics on rooftops and rose petals on hotel room sheets as he pressed his face into taehyung’s sweaty neck and whispered praises into his skin. soft, young love. pure understanding. soulmates. bound together by fate because destiny is a bitch, a sadist who finds to much pleasure in pain. maybe it was destiny who wrote fifty shades of grey.

 

but returning to prior thoughts, taehyung found soulmate ship in a bright-eyed boy who moved with the wind.

 

he would tell taehyung about his dream to dance, to get into the city and becomes something (something bigger than this tiny town), to leave his parents and move back to seoul as soon as he had the chance because he hated this lukewarm city in the middle of nowhere on the eastside of somewhere and it pained taehyung until the day he asked jeongguk what was wrong with everything lukewarm.



(“nothing.” taehyung had grinned. “lukewarm is a constant.” jeongguk kissed him. “safe.” kiss. “warm.” kiss. “wet.” kiss. “you’re my lukewarm.” kiss. “i love you.”)



but jeon jeongguk was a flame burning blue flame in a lukewarm town on the eastside of somewhere with dreams running through his veins instead of blood. and when you’re young, you’re brave enough to destroy yourself.



“what’re you thinking about?” jimin exhales, adjusting his position so a jutting broken branch no longer stuck itself into the grooves of his rib cage.

 

“nothing.” taehyung’s thinking of himself at eighteen, with fluffy hair and a boxy smile. he’s thinking of jeongguk at seventeen, with raven black hair and big circular classes and slight pout. “i need a smoke.”

 

➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻

 

II. figures (jessie reyes)

 

taehyung’s standing at the corner of a sidewalk with a cigarette perched between his lips, lighter in his hand as he exhaled a cloud of white smoke, fingers sticky and lukewarm but taehyung doesn’t mind. midday heat is always a constant, alone now with jimin gone to go meet with some friends that taehyung didn’t want to see.

 

there’s a man walking yard long strides down the street wearing a hoodie with “stussy” printed on the back and taehyung’s reminded of his conversation with jimin last night when he asked taehyung, “why didn’t you call him after you moved to the city?”

 

and he had just shrugged at jimin but he doesn’t know why. maybe he was too scared.



(“do you regret it?”

 

“what?”

 

“him.”)



but jeongguk was his catalyst. the boy who grew him up, taught him dreams, taught him love. every day a little more than the next, every kiss a little sweeter. the boy who preached about hating this town when he first showed up in eighth grade, telling millions of stories about a twinkling city called seoul, hundreds of miles away. and he hated this town but he loved it. because he loved taehyung.

 

it’s truth, taehyung found a soulmate. they grew up slowly, with small stuffy classrooms that smelled like chalk and basketball courts after hours where they played one-on-one games of beginner’s basketball before the baskets turned into soft kisses with taehyung having jeongguk pressed against the pole with his leg in between the other’s thighs. they grew up soft, on countryside university campuses and college being too easy because people in the countryside never make enough of themselves. the grew up childishly, with half hearted fights, screaming and crying over jeongguk’s invitation for dance training in america.

 

they found soulmates too young and young soulmates are the worst kind because there’s a battle waiting to be commenced and there’s no fighting if you’re too weak. they say first loves are also the most painful.

 

taehyung exhales another cloud, and begins walking.

 

not long ago, jeongguk’s hand was lukewarm in his.

 

not too long ago.

 

it hurts to think about it.

 

but imagine it. being in love with the same person for nearly a decade of your life, and whoever said that young love always prevails is bullshitting because the world is a fucking scary place if you’re young and stupid.

 

imagine this: being in love with a city boy who bleeds gold, with neon lights shining out of his pores.

taehyung remembers glancing away from the computer screen for what seems like the first time in the past eight hours after working on his fucking psychology paper and watching with fuzzy, bokeh vision as jeongguk slipped into his bedroom with a bowl of instant ramen in his hand that immediately with a sleepy smile and hair fluffed from sleep. taehyung had jumped at the food, something about cheap microwave ramen that always tasted better than the shit he payed twenty bucks for at the stands, but only in his head (because he knew the stand food was better).

 

he always loved jeongguk’s sleepy smile the best, right after he woke up or when taehyung facetimed him accidentally, without remembering the time change as he woke and exhausted jeongguk up at three am at his dorm in l.a.

 

taehyung passes by his old school, only a five minute walk from his parents’ house because this town is tiny and in the middle of nowhere in a place where nothing ever happens, and there’s a boy about five years younger than him who stops and stares for a second.

 

taehyung meets his eyes questioningly and the boy blurts, “are you kim taehyung?”

 

taehyung smiled. “i am.” he expects a request for an autograph or a sincere “nice to meet you,” or something of the sort, but he forgets how this town works sometimes.

 

“wow. uh, god, my friend is obsessed with you,” taehyung cringes a little at the word choice because he wants validation that he’s more, he’s more than just a pretty face with a pretty body (but he knows that’s just all he is).

 

“is that right?” taehyung makes a reach for the pack in his back pocket only to remember that it’s empty.

 

“what--what’s someone like you doing, in--”

 

“in a place like this?” taehyung finishes.

 

“yeah,” the boy responds.

 

“i grew up here. thought i’d be happier, reminiscing on old memories. isn’t really going as well as i want.”

 

the boy’s lips part into an “o” shape. “is your family here?”

 

“they are,” taehyung confirms. “farmer types, never would leave the countryside.”

 

“well, are you doing anything while your here?”

 

“i didn’t have any plans. this was, an impromptu trip, if you will.”

 

“if you’re not busy then, i can keep you company. can i get you a coffee?”

 

taehyung’s about to decline but is betrayed by his own mouth when he sputters out, “i’d like that.”

 

so he follows the boy down the quiet street and taehyung doesn’t recognize where they’re going until it’s too late and he’s standing in front of the coffeeshop. the boy opens the door but taehyung makes no move to go inside, staring at the big bold letters that spell out “eastside coffee shop” in all capital letters. it was where jeongguk took him on their first official date (and many, many others after) when jeongguk didn’t bother to hide his nervousness and showed up outside taehyung’s door with a leather

jacket around his shoulders and a bouquet of white roses in his hand.



(“why white roses?”

 

“too cliched. i feel--i feel like red roses are a symbol of pain. but white? white is angelic, you know?”

 

“drop the act, jeon. it doesn’t suit you.”

 

pout. “i was trying to be romantic.”

 

“keyword: trying.”

 

“you are such an ass--”

 

“there it is.”)



it was where he played sword fighting with plastic straws with jimin and ordered four americanos at midnight with yoongi and jeongguk, because insomniacs don’t sleep easy, they run on the gasoline built for humans and coat their insides with melatonin pills.

 

taehyung’s changing his mind. he hates this town because jeongguk is a boy from the city yet he can’t look at a thing in this fucking town without being reminded of him. fuck it, he really hates jimin for this because maybe if jimin wasn’t so curious there wouldn’t be tears in taehyung’s eyes right now.



(“jeon, i’ve known you for years. i’ve watched you literally shit your pants.”

 

“mark my words, i’m going to end up embarrassing myself somehow,”

 

“nothing you could ever do could make me love you less.”

 

“but--kim, when you’ve been in love with the same person

for two years, it’s kind of--a prayer of not losing them.”

 

“losing them? god, you’re such a loser, have a little faith.”)



he hears the boy’s mouth form a soft “oh” as he asks. “are you...okay?”

 

he wants to go home.

 

“i’m fine.”




and they find a place near the window and taehyung sits down with a large sigh. it was nearly empty this time of afternoon, the quiet noises of the clicking of the waitresses’ heels and the whirring noise of the fan trying to push out the summer heat and it makes the room lukewarm.

 

taehyung learns that the boy’s name is chan and he’s from ilsan, and taehyung mentions a “friend” of his, (kim namjoon, underwear model for calvin klein) grew up there too. namjoon was a right honors student with a secret passion for music production and taehyung’s told him many times to just fuck it and do what he loves but namjoon’s the apprehensive type, always to look at the negative consequences of his own actions. too cautious. not cowardly, but cautious. the type to care too much. (deep conditions his hair twice a day, uses about twenty creams on his face because he knows that in the end, that’s all he’s worth. that’s just how it is as a model.)

 

chan tells him about life in this town as a first year college kid and it sounds the same and taehyung realized that nothing ever changes in a tiny town where nothing ever happens. he sighs.




“art nerd?” taehyung asks.

 

“yeah.” chan responds, excitement leaking out of his pores and it’s a little endearing. he tugs his phone out of his pocket before flipping through the photos app, finally reaching what he’s looking for.

 

taehyung glances over, a painting of a girl laying on her back in the middle of a lake, arms stretched out and dress transparent, sticking to her body. “it looks amazing, dude. you did a great job, hella talented.”

 

“that’s what i like to hear.” chan smiles.

 

“how long’ve you been at it? gotta move out of this place, make it to some big city. could be renowned for shit like this.”

 

“i’m flattered.” he leans over the table. fingers reaching for taehyung’s hand, sharpie in one hand. “this sounds--insane, but i would love to paint you, so, uh, can i give you my number, just in case i get a callback?’

 

taehyung laughs, and it’s genuine this time. “sure.”

 

and he lets chan scratch marks in sharpie on his forearms, covering scars that might never disappear, photoshopped out by the arts of technology and future.

 

taehyung heaves another sigh.

 

“you look like you’re having a rough time.”

 

taehyung snorts. “that obvious?”

 

the boy frowns. chews on his lip for a bit and taehyung can tell it’s a habit. an old friend from high school used to do the same thing and he once bit his lip so hard that it wouldn’t stop bleeding for two hours and taehyung go to honestly thought he was going to die from blood loss. the boy pauses, and he’s in such a deep contemplation that taehyung wants to laugh. “hey,” the boy says. “wanna talk about it?”

 

taehyung laughs. “don’t worry about it.”

 

“really.” the boy pushes. “you can talk to me.”

 

and taehyung’s thinking: what?

 

his manager is going to hate him for this but he can’t bring himself to care because you dress people in versace and treat them like mannequins or dolls only to be shocked that they have a personality to go along with that.

 

“i grew up here, you know?” taehyung looks outside before looking back at chan, whose eyes are attentive and alert. “when i was in eighth grade? had lots of friends. uh, baekhyun, jimin, sejoon, hunsik, all those guys. new kid moved in.”

 

“city kid. straight from the heart of seoul and would never shut up about how much he hated this town. all punk rock style, you know?” taehyung sniffs and his eyes are red, and the eyeliner he applied this morning should surely start coming down his face as soon so he blinks his tears away.

 

“thought he was some entitled asshole at first. always talking about how he couldn’t wait to go back. he danced. fucking good at it too, he--he wanted to go back to seoul and become a backup dancer for some of those idol groups. wanted to be an idol if he had the chance. he only hung out with this one kid, i forget his name.” min yoongi, taehyung could never forget. “they would sit together in their all black clothes at lunch and glare at everyone,” taehyung laughs ruefully.

 

“we became friends,” his throat chokes on a noise that isn’t human. “he was a fucking loser but i fucking loved him, i guess.”

 

“i’m...sorry, taehyung. how long?” chan asks softly.

 

“three years. six years if you count when he moved in, but, like, actually. three years. when i was seventeen to twenty.” taehyung realized how pathetic it sounds and laughs again, dry throat, dry heart. “that sounds dumb, no, i’ve moved on, but this place makes it hurt more than it has in years, and fuck,” taehyung swipes an arm under his nose. “i hate this fucking town.”

 

“looks like he rubbed off on you.”

 

“yeah, well,” taehyung smiles. “he was the one to inspire me to move to the city in the first place. like, to go out. to be something. become something big . i owe him a lot.”

 

“You’ve moved on though?”

 

“in a sense.” taehyung glances over at the waitress. “time heals all wounds, that shit.”

 

“what’s his name?”

 

“jeongguk? jeon jeongguk.”

 

chan smiles. “how long has it been since you last talked?”

 

“it was over the phone, uh, he was back home for the first time since his dance training in la, and he left, and i knew he went back to seoul.”



(taehyung recounts their last encounter than ended with taehyung wrapping himself in jeongguk’s hoodie and crying himself asleep.

 

but what he doesn’t know is that less than two miles away, sitting at the train station, jeon jeongguk was crying even harder, body racking with sobs and lungs unable to expand. he destroyed jeongguk but jeongguk destroyed himself the same and taehyung’s back in this lukewarm town on the east side of somewhere where everything happened.)




it hurts, but taehyung answers. “it’s been over four years.”

 

chan’s bold, taehyung learns quickly, and he’s evidently wise beyond his years and he reminds taehyung heavily of namjoon himself, but without the apprehensiveness. “i think you should call him.”

 

taehyung snorts just as the waitress comes back with two lattes and a small piece of pie and taehyung recognizes her as chaeyoung, about three grades above him when he used to go to the school down the street in this town. “and do what? it’s been years, kid. i look pathetic enough. i’m fine, i don’t cry over this stuff anymore but this town is—nostalgic. it brings back too much for me and i hate it.”

 

“hate nostalgia?”

 

“something like that.”

 

“i don’t think you do.”

 

“don’t, please.”  

 

“don’t call him to get him back or anything, that’s not what i’m saying at all,” a frown pulls at the corners of chan’s lips. “call him for closure. it doesn’t take a lot to see that you’re reopening a healing wound and doused it in salt.”

 

“woah, metaphors.”

 

“all i’m saying,” chan sighs. “is that it couldn’t hurt. doubt he even has the same phone number, all i’m saying is—try, i guess.you won’t know ‘till you try.”

 

“yeah right. hasn’t been here in years. doubt he’ll ever. he hated every second he spent in this place.”

 

“it doesn’t sound like he did.” chan smiles lazily. “he didn’t because of you.”

 

“you’re too young for this. what am i doing?” taehyung buries his face in his hands and he honestly hates how dramatic this is. “i’m fine.”

 

he just wanted to see his parents. see jimin’s parents. walk around a bit and leave. maybe stop by the playground he used to spend hours at when he was a kid. but that too had jeongguk’s name burned all over metal bars. and it’s not because jeongguk is haunting him. it’s because taehyung wants to remember jeongguk because it hurts to keep him around but it would hurt more to forget him.

 

chan stands up and looks at his watch. “shit, sorry. it was really nice to meet, you, kim taehyung. not often you see a model walking around the streets of a place like this, but it was nice to meet you.”

 

“yeah.” taehyung glances up in surprise as chan slips out of his seat and places a comforting hand on taehyung’s shoulder.

 

“don’t forget what i said. you’re not pathetic, taehyung. but everything hurts less once you get closure and i feel like that’s exactly what you need.”

 

and he’s gone, and taehyung’s sitting alone in a lukewarm coffee shop, in a tiny town where nothing happens, on the eastside of somewhere, wondering if it’s too late.



 ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻



III. pour up by dean ft. zico

 

there’s a comfort in overused cliches that feels safer that if there weren’t any at all. and taehyung enjoys a few of them and despite hating those romance films, he finds solace in the small cliches. like red wine and bathtubs or makeouts in closets at a party. and saying this contradicts his former thoughts but while overused cliches when used incorrectly annoy the hell out of him, he likes drama, and all of that? it’s all very dramatic.

 

but taehyung’s a (wannabe) artist, you can’t blame him. he’s called art and filled with contradictions and while he appears cool, he a mess of red and purple acrylics pouring on table tops. but art is a mess, he guesses. art is drama and drama is a form of art and people love the dramatic streaks of red acrylics on white canvases and they love taehyung’s photoshoot on vogue korea, representing wrath, decked out in red as if someone had stabbed the sky.

 

a murder mystery. a cliche. a drama.

 

art.

 

and in his mind, taehyung’s playing the main character in an old film from about a decade ago about a boy who drinks himself nearly to death after he lost the person he loved the most and this role hits a little too close to home. but taehyung’s a brilliant actor. he just hasn’t gotten the drinks in his system and his shame hasn’t dissolved into vodka.



( “been wanting to get you on the acting scene, kim.”

 

“hm?”

 

“can jack some great cash out of this. how well can you hold a role?”

 

“holding one already, sir.”

 

“which role? they’ve got you signed for some dumb kid in this hwarang drama and shit.”

 

“the one as kim taehyung.”

 

“ha, kid, you ain’t kim taehyung to the public. you’re ‘gucci boy’ to the public, don’t forget it.” )



the camera men must be crazy, taehyung thinks, because the bar doesn’t look the same and it’s too early to be drinking and he’s going to regret this is in about three hours but picture this: a young pretty boy with downturned lips shotting vodka at twelve noon due to a breakup with a pretty girl with bright eyes and dark hair, and he tries to figure out where their love spiraled out of control.

 

taehyung isn’t just an actor. playing a character. someone who he doesn’t want to be but wishes he was anyway because maybe he doesn’t like himself as much as he should. but that’s okay. he’s got enough shots and secrets to last a lifetime and it’s okay if he hides them underneath the bitterness of alcohol because hey, everyone does.

 

taehyung’s young. he wants the fame, he wants the glory, he wants the satisfaction knowing he did something but his motivation is as shallow as those six-inch-deep kiddie pools next to the deep end at the community country club designed for the rich and famous, the people who made it. people who made it because of something, not because they looked pretty enough to be put in thousand dollar clothing pieces and pulled and toyed with like a doll. change it’s hair color. paint its nails blue. make it money's worth.

 

make it worth money.

 

money drives existence. taehyung wants to fade out of existence to be sure that all he’s worth isn't just money. (but he knows it is. that’s just how it is as a model.)

 

taehyung is apathy. too little care for existence because he’s only worth a few million anyway. (he’s greed, but not for money, for happiness as someone starved from joy.) too little care for others because he can’t care enough for himself.

 

red wine and bathtubs, the most ultimate pity party.

 

“can i help you?” there’s a boy who looks a few years younger than him standing behind the bar with raised eyebrows and a questioning gaze. his hair dark like the city skies past midnight and his lips parted forming words taehyung can’t hear. if taehyung could give him a name taehyung would call him youth. or innocence. or both.

 

taehyung’s an actor. he already painted over the shreds left of his personality and you’re not a true actor until you can play yourself in a story where you hate yourself the most out of anyone in the room.

 

taehyung just heaves out a sad sigh and overdramatically drapes his arms over the countertop before batting his eyelashes in despair at the bartender, and the boy’s brows furrowed in confusion. “dude?”

 

taehyung’s still playing his role as he smiles with a faux sadness at the boy and says, “you have vodka? smirnoff? botanist? any of the strong stuff?”

 

the boy breaks out into an amused grin. “you look like shit, man.”

 

with that taehyung finally breaks character and laughs, loud and obnoxious, and not all of it is real, earning some dirty stares from the bar goers, faces dark from lack of sleep and eyes sad from break ups and abuse. “ever been broken up with before?”

 

how old is this kid? seventeen? is he legal? is he allowed to serve drinks?

 

the boy nods slowly.

 

taehyung grins so hard it hurts his cheeks and he should really stop playing for drama if it causes pain and causes the cut created by biting down on the inside of his cheek too hard to reopen. “well, you understand then, don’t you? it’s that.”

 

the bartender frowns. “you don’t look too sad about it.” he begins, but taehyung’s quick to cut him off.

 

“don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” because everyone does.

 

“who was she?” ah, and it leads back to jeongguk. picture this: a pretty boy with pretty black hair and a tiny mole right above the left corner of his lip with a slightly big nose (but it suits him) and eyes to rival the ones of anime characters from the days when taehyung used to fanboy over zoro on crunchyroll. a boy with a a heart of gold with an intelligent mind riddled with insécurités. and taehyung didn’t know how to reassure him because he didn’t know how to reassure himself. (love doesn’t have to be loud to be real.)  

 

his mom taught him to be nothing but honest and honesty doesn’t always lead to happiness and reassurance is not longer reassurance but lies in taehyung’s mind where his mom hit him with a belt across his palm after he lied about taking that candy bar from the convenience store down the street in fourth year. tell the truth and get punished or tell the truth and be hated by the people you considered friends because you told jennie that yeah, suho broke up with her because she was too clingy. and taehyung’s alone again, and when you’re alone, you have nobody to hate but yourself.

 

go back to the spiral.

 

“no longer relevant.” taehyung says, and it’s bland.

 

the boy’s smiles drops at the sudden change in tone and taehyung curses himself because he broke character and he’s going to be honest, the downturned lips of the boy aimed his way hurts because hey, obviously he doesn’t like someone who forces themselves to smile. taehyung’s pretty, that should be enough. “sorry.”

 

taehyung’s quick to stop him. “nah, you’re good. don’t worry about it. just, can i get some...?”  he gestures at the numerous clear bottles of thick vodka sitting on the rack right behind the bar.

 

the boy’s eyes jump to alertness again and he nods. “sure,” the boy responds easily, grabbing what taehyung assumes to be a bottle of smirnoff and opens a cupboard underneath the bar and ducks down to where taehyung can no longer see him before returning with a glass as he drops it in front of taehyung and fills the glass up to the brim.

 

“thanks.” taehyung manages a quick smile before he guzzles down the liquid, throat burning and lips stinging from the harsh roughness of it, and he’s already asking for another by the time he slams the glass down on the table, and the young bartender is looking at him strangely, and taehyung recognizes the look. it’s a searching look, an attempt to analyze and place said thing in a box and taehyung hates it.

 

he’s about to say something, but the boy beats him to it. “you’re kim taehyung.” there’s no question in his words, just the jaw slacked surprise in his expression that’s almost laughable.

 

taehyung smiles weakly. “that’s me.”

 

the boy blinks at him for a few seconds. “you’re gorgeous.”

 

and the boy looks a little shocked with himself and taehyung releases a laugh and it’s actually genuine but there’s a hint of sarcasm because the meaning isn’t anything he hasn’t heard before but the term gorgeous has only been used a few times to his face and taehyung knows he’s pretty, that’s why he’s famous. beauty one layer of foundation deep is all he’s good for anyway. and taehyung’s not even wearing foundation right now. just mascara on his eyelashes to make the world look a little darker every time he looks up.

 

“holy shit.” the boy’s lips stretch into a smile. “my sister, art history major at uos? he’s obsessed with you, god.” obsessed with his looks, not him. that’s what they all said because people of all ages have it soft for angelic looking pretty boys who held paint brushes between pearly white teeth. the same ones who would suck a dick for a deal. (but no one knows about that part.)



(“come on, kim. just this once. you’ll get that page on zine that you wanted--”)



“tell him i say hi.” taehyung drawls lazily. “pour up?” he flicks the lukewarm glass (fresh out of the dishwasher) and his fingernails make a clicking noise. “what’s your name?”

 

“felix.” the boy—felix, responds. “and yeah.” reaching back for the bottle, felix doesn’t take his eyes off taehyung, as if he’s trying to commit the picture to memory to describe to mention friend later.

 

three shots down the road, taehyung’s head feels a bit lighter and he’s a little dizzy and one of his mascara coated eyelashes just made a home for itself in his eyes and how he has classically cliched mascara tear tracks running down one cheek but there’s still a freshly filled shot of smirnoff sitting in front of him as felix casts him a wary look from where he stands tending to another customer.

 

“another shot and you’ll die harder?”

 

“something like that.”

 

hangovers hurt less than heartache, a lesson taehyung’s learned years ago. but insécurités are for horny

teenagers and boys don’t like boys and taehyung breaks all the rules anyway.



➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻

 


IV. scared to be lonely by dua lipa

 

jeongguk used to sit in taehyung’s bedroom after school everyday as taehyung tore his hair out over his physics notes and stuff his face with green m&ms. (not red, because humans are fickle creatures created by the devil himself, choosing the prettier option because pretty is what seems appleasing, and humans only believe in beauty only a layer of foundation deep, and now taehyung knows best that people only love him because of his pretty ash gray hair and perfect face. but no one sees the sticky lip gloss in his teeth and no one minds the fact that he never smiles for the camera because humans don’t care for happiness more than their own.)

 

and taehyung lived for the moments when jeongguk got bored and whiny, wrapping his arms around taehyung and pressing his chest to taehyung’s back and pressed butterfly kisses up his neck. and that normally ended in taehyung having jeongguk pinned to the mattress, standing over him with hooded eyes but a soft smile. and it was ridiculously domestic, but taehyung loved every moment he spent with jeongguk, with no one watching. because there, taehyung was reassured that jeongguk loved him real.

 

and now he’s sitting in that same bedroom, worn out from years of reality, age wearing his face, but not in the bad way. but he knows the way his stylists tried to hide his eye bags and the way his manager tells him to talk less and sit still and look pretty as he poses with a pretty female model, his hands pressed against her waist.

 

his phone is in his hand and there’s a number punched in after hours of searching through phone book after phonebook, and this number, it’s not jeongguk’s but it’s close. and it’s hard. it’s hard to stare at the green call button for hours knowing the right person might not pick up.

 

and he’s far from desperate but he has chan’s words echoing in his head and a bottle of cherry vodka on his bedside table. put down the phone and pick up the alcohol, but for once, taehyung’s tired of running. always, running, trying to get ahead, making sure that no one comes close to you.  

 

cherry vodka smells, from jimin’s suitcase from when taehyung helped him sneak it past security. speaking of jimin, jimin’s out with taemin (park?) pouring liquid nostalgia into their open mouths.

 

so taehyung’s alone and that’s normal, but in this town, it’s pitiful and taehyung’s tempted to leave all of this behind and go watch the waves of velvet skies but there’s a determination burning deeper, from a root taehyung can’t find. like those spirits from that movie, brave or something. you reach out for the blue light but it disappears under your fingertips.

 

taehyung’s thumb falls onto the call button and he’s scared.

 

he’s terrified.

 

but when you throw a towel over the monster in the closet, it doesn’t make it any less of a monster. pretend it doesn’t exist but it’s still there. and taehyung would shut his closet doors every night at eight pm, right before his closed the lights because even the bravest kids get scared. even the big kids see shadows in their rooms.

 

there’s a fear that’s nestling behind the bottom of his ribcage. and it’s beginning to rot.

 

ring. ring. ring. and taehyung knows there’s such a small percent chance of an answer, but--

 

“hey!” the voice is cheery and bright and it hurts taehyung’s ears a little because this town is a soft one and the memory of the sounds of city people have faded away with the adaption to silence. but the voice is one taehyung doesn’t recognise, but he tries.

 

“uh—hello?”

 

“can i ask who i’m speaking to?”


“i’m looking for--uh, min yoongi? i—just, uh,”

 

the line is silent for a second and taehyung holds his breath. “yeah! god, i’m sorry. i’ll get him!”

 

taehyung hears the faint call of “min, someone’s on the phone for you.”

 

there’s a quiet rustling as the phone gets passed over and taehyung can hear the city sounds of honking cars and beeping microwaves and taehyung doesn’t have to think to know it’s instant ramen. the only constant in the world, taehyung guesses.

 

“hello?”

 

the voice is soft and sleepy, rough around the edges and there’s a purring noise that begins the word. rough but warm, a little calloused on the edges, but sweet still. like cherry vodka. and taehyung now remembers.

 

“is this min yoongi?”

 

taehyung’s holding his breath.

 

there’s an emotion echoing from his insides, through his skin and bouncing off the walls, and briefly, taehyung wonders if the man can hear it. it’s recognition.

 

“this is him. who’s this?”

 

taehyung exhales a sigh of relief and his mind is going back to the days afterhours at the school, inside the teachers lounge where taehyung would lie on one of the couches, head in yoongi’s lap and donut in his hand as he watch jeongguk maneuver around a kitchen island to grab the box of cereal sitting on the top shelf of the cabinet. there would be rhythms tapped into taehyung’s hair and taehyung would feel the beat of the new song that yoongi’s working on.

 

yoongi always smelled like cherry vodka.

 

“i--taehyung.”

 

the line goes quiet and taehyung wonders if he hung up.

 

“taehyung?” the voice is mellow and it hurts. “taehyung-ah?

 

taehyung crying before he realizes it and he needs to stop crying because his father told him that real men don’t cry. his face is warm and the rest of him is cold but they mix at his neck and become lukewarm. he smiles, feels the tightness in his chest lessen until it becomes obsolete. “yeah--” taehyung sobs out a laugh. “it’s me. i’m here.”

 

he can almost here yoongi smile over the phone. “i know exactly where you are.”



              ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻

 


V. ease by troye sivan ft broods

 

fast forward two days and taehyung’s sitting with shaking hands at the same coffeeshop he sat with chan and taehyung realizes how quickly times flies.

 

his phone pings.

 

from: yoongi

 

sorry i’m late, train came in late and i had

to walk cuz mama min’s too old to drive

 

to: yoongi

 

its no stress

 

to: yoongi

 

never gotta drive in a place like this, too small

 

from: yoongi

 

true

 

to: yoongi

 

i owe you a shiton

you rlly didnt have to come here for this

couldve met back in seoul

 

from: yoongi

 

i wanted to

 

from: yoongi

 

havent been home in so long forgot what it felt like

nothings too much to see an old friend

 

to: yoongi

 

when we’re back in seoul

remind me to take you out for a coffee

 

from: yoongi

 

deal

 

from: yoongi

 

you seem busy nowadays

 

to: yoongi

 

i can make time

 

from: yoongi

 

im here

 

after a long discussion and catching up quietly, yoongi lowering his voice to fit the eastside tone, it felt like decades since he’s seen yoongi.

 

and now taehyung’s looking at him in the face, twenty five year old yoongi with cat eyes and teal colored like the rebel side of him forgot how to grow up.

 

yoongi looks smaller than taehyung remembers, eyes tired from the train journey and arms clutching the backpack that rested on his shoulders. and taehyung looks down at his phone again, scanning the next and picturing yoongi five years ago, untainted and polished with purple innocence, unmarked with the city skies and skin clear from extra sleep.

 

he thinks of himself at seventeen, gawky and awkward, lanky and tall with floppy limbs and the permanent illusion of loneliness in his eyes.

 

he sees himself at nineteen, happy and bright but uncertainty is what people become, those who are afraid of the dark.

 

he doesn’t remember much at age twenty. they say when you wallow in sorrow, existence itself becomes a chore. and maybe that feeling never really faded away.

 

when you turn eighteen, you no longer have chores and you no longer have to follow you parents’ rules so at age twenty-four, who’s telling taehyung he still needs to live?

 

(“yo, joon, you like philosophy, right?”

 

“hm? kim, you drunk as hell, man.”

 

“empty calories, not eating for a week it looks like.

 

“well worth it?”

 

“well worth it. well dying, i guess.”

 

“you wanna die tonight, kim?”

 

“haven’t decided yet. fucking hell, you got any ecstasy?”)

 

he sees himself three years ago, with the loneliness intensified, running away from everyone because he had the belief that only you could understand yourself.

 

taehyung thinks of the question yoongi asked him last night over the phone, voice crackling with the bad reception in this tiny town in the middle of nowhere, on the eastside of somewhere, where nothing ever happened.

 

“what would you say to yourself at twenty?”

 

and he thinks: of course.

 

yoongi walks up to him and taehyung stands up automatically, invitation for a hug open. and as yoongi wraps his arms around him, taehyung allows himself to melt because he hasn’t been given a hug like this in years. and jimin tries and taehyung knows that jimin tries to take away his pain but jimin lives in a different world. and taehyung can’t live there with him.

 

“hey.”

 

taehyung grins so wide, he cheeks begin to hurt by the time yoongi lets go of him. “you look the same.”

 

“you look like shit.” was not the answer taehyung was expecting, but he smiles because it’s not empty like those “you look good” compliments because he knows he does.

 

that’s his one job in life and he silenced his own voice so his looks could triumph over and if there ever was a time when he didn’t look good that would mean he’s worth absolutely nothing. and he’s wearing skinny jeans and his shirt is versace, long sleeved and he’s unbelievably hot inside this coffeeshop that’s supposed to be lukewarm, but he doesn’t make a move to roll up the sleeves. (taehyung secretly fears that if he complains, that his entire being would be replaced with a clothing hanger, because that’s all he is, a clothing hanger. breathing, but not alive.)

 

there’s a pair of louis vuitton glasses on taehyung’s nose and taehyung doesn’t wear prescription glasses. there’s a metaphor inside that but taehyung doesn’t have the energy to unwind it.

 

“so, how have you been, taehyung?”

 

taehyung laughs and looks at yoongi, who’s staring at him with a soft smile. “i’ve been doing okay.”

 

yoongi’s smile dips a little at that, the same waitress from the other day coming up to them and gently placing a mug down in front of taehyung. it’s black. it’s cliche, but taehyung doesn’t like the taste of black coffee. but it’s black coffee or empty calories, and taehyung hasn’t gone to the gym in days.

 

“are you?” yoongi says quietly, and it’s almost a whisper. and taehyung nods, like he taught himself to do. hide his eyes with layers of mascara and hide his true colors under a foundation so light that it never matches his neck properly.

 

(“we might be taking you to get your skin lightened one of these days, taehyung.

the coordinator from klein is noticing how dark you are.”)

 

“i’m fine.” but yoongi can see it. “but how are you doing? you were telling me about your music the other night, how’s that?”

 

“yeah, i’m a radio show host. the pay isn’t great, i host the midnight show but i’m still attending classes at uos while working on a mixtape.”

 

“oh.” taehyung leans over to rest his head on a palm. “mixtape?”

 

yoongi’s face lightens. “yeah, been it for about a year now.” and his eyes flash with nostalgia. “man, remember the days in the shitty studio next to the arts building?”

 

“yeah.” taehyung smiles, “used to sit there for hours for you.”

 

“the station lets me use their studio. i’ve gotten about five songs recorded?”

 

“do you have a favorite?” taehyung takes a sip of his coffee.

 

“got one called blue side, but it’s got my boyfriend’s vocals on it.” yoongi stretches his arms up and squeezes his shoulders back. “funny how we got here, ironic, the song’s about this place.”

 

“mind if i hear this one?”

 

yoongi reaches for his phone and taehyung can still see the callouses on yoongi’s fingers he’s had for years from gripping the pencil too hard and scratching out pure thought until his fingers bled. but taehyung guesses that’s just how it was as a writer.

 

“it ain’t long, quick warning. supposed to be my outro but it doesn't fit the mood of the rest so i might just leave it,”

 

and the song’s playing, starting with gentle crashes of waves on water and a voice starts quick, calming and pulling with the lulls.

 

“we should go to the beach later. tomorrow or somethin’.” yoongi interrupts the soft break of voice.

 

“that strip of sand’s polluted as shit, dude.”

 

yoongi’s lips curl up. “i was wrong then,”

 

“hm?”

 

“this town does age.”

 

“i guess change is your only constant. the world just serves as your catalyst.”

 

yoongi hums in agreement, glancing outside at the fluffed up clouds and the shining sun. silence has it’s good moments.

 

“tell me about your boyfriend, then.” taehyung asks as the first beat hits and the song interrupts into soothing layers of vocals, like soundwaves skimming the ocean surface.

 

“hoseok?”

 

“yeah,”

 

“not much to tell, i guess. i met him after i moved to seoul. had nothing, lived at the edge of the city but he was in the neighboring building. ran into him at the convenience store at three am and had an hour long fight over who got to buy the last pack of potato chips.”

 

taehyung laughs softly.

 

“when did you move to the city?”

 

“uh, well,” yoongi gestures at nothing out of the window. “after we all--fell out, i guess. i left a few months after you, actually, moved to daegu for a bit before going to seoul. after you left, i guess i realized there really is nothing here.” he pauses before adding, “in a place like this, sometimes i feel like even fucking time doesn’t exist.”

 

taehyung remembers when he was seven and his dad told him that he could be anything he wanted. he wanted to be an artist,with gorgeous acrylics and soft oil paint shining with varnish. but there’s only lukewarm watercolor in a town where nothing ever happens.

 

“i feel that too sometimes. after coming back, i remembered why i left.”

 

yoongi hums. “can’t say whether i prefer the city or not though. because the city ages you too quickly. you become one of those mindless monsters who only work to live. in a place with no time, here, you could be young forever.”

 

“hey.” taehyung swallows the lump in his throat and it’s heavy. “are you-- are you and jeongguk in touch?”

 

yoongi’s gaze becomes impossible softer, but his voice is cautionary. “tae…”

 

but it’s okay, taehyung already knows the answer. “no, please, i’m asking.”

 

“yeah,” yoongi sighs, and taehyung feels a stab in his heart because ouch. “he, tae, really?”

“not offended, man. i just, i guess it’s natural for you to take his side, and—”

 

yoongi’s eyes narrow. “don’t be petty, taehyung. he was hurt, you fucking broke him—”

 

“you think i wasn’t hurting too?” taehyung mutters under his breath and it’s almost a whisper but yoongi hears it anyway. “you think i didn’t care?

 

“it wasn’t like that.” yoongi pauses briefly. “he reached out for me once he got to seoul, and i mentioned i was planning on moving there, and i guess—i don’t know.”

 

“so, are you guys, like, buddies? fucking, what, movie night every friday and drinks on you every other week?”

 

“it’s not like that at all,” yoongi breaks into a grin and taehyung feels the corners of his lips turn up without his permission. “we meet every few weeks, he facetimes me when he leaves town, we’re friends, tae. he’s the only piece of my past i got left,”

 

“not anymore,”

 

yoongi’s smile grows. “yeah, not anymore.”

 

“no, it’s fine, i just, i just felt some nostalgia for the past, and i,” there’s no particular person he’s trying to convince so he tries to smile but grimaces instead. “how’s he doing?”

 

“dream-wise?” yoongi asks. “he’s doing well. doing all the shit he promised to do and he’s still going. he’s never one to break his promises and he never did.”



(“gotta promise me, jeon.

 

“promise you?”

 

“that you’ll do all this shit you say you will. world’s gonna hit you fast,

and you gotta promise me you’re not going to let anything stand in the way of the big dream.

even if it’s me. you’re too talented, and i know how much you love this. how long you’ve been waiting for this.”

 

“can you promise too, then?”

 

“what do i have to promise?”

 

“that you’ll see the world as it is. all of it. you have to promise that you’ll see the world.

make the world see you. i want you to be seen, taehyung. for everything good that you are.”

 

“that’s quite the request,”

 

“i’m serious, tae.”

 

“promise?”

 

“promise.”)



“so he’s a dancer?”

 

“part time, big time popular at two of the dance studios in the area. also works for one million, you know?”

 

“remember that. bigass dance company. he really is in the center of seoul, isn’t he.”

 

“sure, the guy just got off tour with some idol group as a backup, he’s doing well.”

 

“happy?”

 

“don’t know. can’t ask.” yoongi sniffs. “strange thing to ask someone, when i think about it. like, uh, are you happy? i don’t know, happiness isn’t a constant.”

 

“i get it. guess he’s doing well then. does—”

 

“he’s not with anyone.” taehyung hates the relief in his chest, because he hasn’t spent this long thinking about jeongguk in years. it’s been years and he hates shaking like this. “he got two roommates, don’t know why though.”

 

“seems like him. the guy gets too stuck in his three am thoughts when he’s by himself. glad to know he didn’t change, that he did what’s good for him.”

“did--do you want his...number?” yoongi leans forwards and taehyung wonders if he can hear his heart pulse knock up so fast it leaves him dizzy.

 

“that’s not what i was saying.”

 

yoongi looks taken aback.

 

“i didn’t miss him this much but this town brings so much back,” taehyung breezes. “i love him still, i think i always will, and that’s so fucking hard for me, you know?”

 

yoongi nods, says, “your first love is the one you always remember,” and that’s all the confirmation taehyung needs.

 

“having lost the one thing i ever loved and it’s too late to get it back?” taehyung takes a deep inhale but he’s not crying. not even close. maybe all his are drained out due to the lack of water he consumes and the warm coffee sitting in his stomach. “i hurt him, didn’t i?”

 

“sometimes,” yoongi begins. “it’s the people we love so desperately, that make us hurt the most.”

 

taehyung snorts. “young love? that’s just what it is?”

 

yoongi smiles. “because of our young blood.”

 

and like the crunch of leaves beneath your feet, something in taehyung’s heart gives, and he’s falling, falling, in a way he hasn’t in years.

 

fuck , yoongi, that was a really shitty song reference.”



➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻

 

 

VI. magic by coldplay

 

it was yoongi who made taehyung realize all those years ago, that insecurity lead to their breaking

point. taehyung thought jeongguk didn’t love him, but jeongguk thought he didn’t deserve taehyung. and taehyung, well, taehyung hated himself and never stopped. caught in a constant cycle of self loathing, he couldn’t reassure jeongguk because he couldn’t reassure himself that it was okay if every move he made was a mistake. but he was happy.

 

jeongguk was the quiet type, with black clothing and big glasses that only made his eyes look even brighter. jeon jeongguk did not do pda, but jeon jeongguk was covered with insecurities like maggots clawing out his insides and maybe spontaneous combustion was a myth but jeongguk felt like he could.

 

but the softest moment taehyung ever spent were with jeongguk nuzzling his neck, warm from sleep and palms gliding over taehyung’s bare skin underneath his shirt.



(“that tickles.”

 

“why do you think i’m doing it?”

 

“stop--”

 

“i love you.”)




i love you.

 

taehyung remembers that jeongguk loved strawberries and lollipops, loved smoking after the age sixteen. jeongguk loved self deprecation and only ate the lemon skittles out of the bag because “all the other ones taste like cherry lube.”

 

jeongguk loved him .

 

taehyung hasn’t eaten strawberries or skittles in years.

 

“do you like your job?” yoongi had asked him at the coffee shop once taehyung had a new contact in his phone labeled “do not call.”

 

and he does.

 

a job as a model is lonely and the loneliness makes the feeling of wanting to cease to exist easier. and he has a group that he calls “friends,” but they’re not friends, they, called as bogum, seokjin, and kim namjoon in the industry, they’re people he gets high with from time to time to try and forget what life is. it’s a cruel world, you live in.



(“are you seriously crying over one piece?”

 

“listen, i’m high as fuck, dude.”)



the thought makes him miss someone important so he picks up his phone and listens to the phone ring.

 

“hey, seokjin?”



➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻



VII. i don’t wanna be you anymore by billie eilish

 

seokjin always had the best advice, with his blonde hair and unlimited years of experience. he was

wanted everywhere because he made it through everything. he’s fallen on the runway, tripped on his own two feet, shaken like a table moves when you bounce your leg too hard underneath it.

 

but he came out of it like an angel, fakely posed on top a high rock with waves crashing behind him because he escaped the drowning.

 

never look at the cameras twice, don’t do double takes. don’t keep your face blank but don’t change your expression either. when you take someone home, don’t give a name. always go back to their place so you have an opportunity to leave.

 

set your alarm for three am, always. don’t ask why.

 

and the truth is that seokjin might be older and wiser but he still shakes sometimes, still has no one to call and one am when he sits with his thoughts and wonders if he’ll have a person to listen.

 

in a phone filled with thousands of numbers, he only calls three.

 

seokjin has a million things to tell but no one to listen. but he’s also an exclusive item only of on sale for two days a year.

 

if they said that taehyung was gucci personified, then seokjin was fresh balenciaga with an old navy heart inside. shiny and regal on the outside, you would never be able to tell how worn out he was. you expect high class models to be stuck up and self confident but seokjin is afraid because he was only sixteen when he learned that life was fleeting.

 

and when his teacher asked him what was wrong that day in class, he shivered and shook, and used point-slope formula to try and forget the baby deer his father hit this morning when driving with too many beers in his system.

 

“life is temporary,” his father said, right before taking another chug and stepping on the gas.    

 

people talk and people tell that models are the loneliness people in the world. stuck in a game where it was tear down or be torn down. they’re lonely and lovely, pretty and sharp, and they’re all smarter than you expect.

 

“do it, tae,” seokjin drawls through the phone, lilt on the end of his words.

 

“you have the number, do it.” there’s a racket in the background and taehyung just assumes he’s in the middle of a shoot. “life is fleeting, you know?”

 

“do it before it’s too late,” taehyung finishes. “but, god, jin, what the fuck am i supposed to say? like, i’m sorry for breaking your heart four years ago?”

 

he can almost hear seokjin smile. “not all cracks are filled with cement. you deserve to be happy, tae. this guy, he obviously made you the happiest. i say go for it.”

 

jeongguk always went for it. always told him to go for it too, chase your dreams like you’re riding danger. seokin doesn’t. don’t check your pockets, don’t adjust your outfit. you’re a clothing hanger when you’re on the runway, and everything black and ugly about you can wait until the cameras are off and everybody’s forgotten who you are.

 

“are you in a shoot?”

 

“yeah. you trust v, right?”

 

taehyung frowns. “yeah, ‘course i do. my first big job, man.”

 

“that one’s still your biggest shoot to date, right?”

 

“yep, went viral off the bat.”

 

“right, anyway, sorry. just offered a cover supposed to come out in september.”

 

“take it, be good.” taehyung sighs.

 

“wonder if the public will take it as me backstabbing you.”

 

“probably.”

 

seokjin groans. “it doesn’t help that you’re not on twitter, tae. can’t clear up scandals. they know we’re friends, right?”

 

“hm.” taehyung hums. “what’re you in right now,”

 

“armani,” seokjin replies smoothly. “new men’s line. silk suits? comfy as hell.”

 

taehyung laughs, reaching to tug a hand through his hair. “really? give them my number then, could do a partner shoot later on, with mina or something.”

 

seokjin chuckles and it’s low. “anyway, i gotta go, take care, tae. and please just do it and fucking do  it, all this nasty insecurity? eats you alive if you don’t kill it, inside and out. can’t have obvious depression eating the nation’s kim taehyung.”

 

“gucci boy.”

 

“you’re kim taehyung to me, asshole. you ain’t just a tagline.” seokjin scoffs. “same boat, man. lonely life we live, just want it to be enough that i can see you.”

 

“it is sometimes,” taehyung responds honestly. “sometimes.”

 

“are you happy, taehyung?”

 

there’s no response on taehyung’s end, but another question. “are you happy?”

 

“sometimes.” taehyung raises and eyebrow even though seokjin can’t see him. “those nights, after the show or after the shoot when i’m with you and joon? those nights maybe bogum or mina join us? in between the weed and the beer, the ecstasy and vodka, the highs and the lows, i sometimes convince myself that i’m happy.”

 

“is it enough?”

 

“to be high while being the lowest?”

 

“the loneliest, yeah.”

 

“sometimes. sometimes it is.” seokjin breathes out. “we’ll talk later, taehyung.”

 

“later, jin. tell namjoon to text me.”



➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻



VIII. good years by zayn

 

“ma?” taehyung asks, walking to the kitchen to see his mom on the couch in front of the tv, old black and white film because taehyung’s mother refused to believe that the world changed.

 

“what’s up, taehyung?” she drawls, not taking her eyes off of the tv.

 

“if you could, uh, go anywhere you wanted for one day, where would you go?”

 

“tokyo.” his mother responds without hesitation. “maybe i could meet your father again.”

 

taehyung smiles softly as he walks over to sit next to her. he’s not surprised, but don’t be fooled, taehyung’s mother isn’t a romantic. probably the farthest thing you could get from it. while most women her age longed to be young again, longed to live in a mansion next to the beach with their partner, rose petal beds and bubble baths, taehyung’s mom just wanted peace.

 

“why didn’t you try to find him?”

 

his mom breathes out, as if there’s a story she still hasn’t told. “your grandmother told me that i was bound to this town. that her soul owned me, that i wasn’t allowed to leave.”

 

taehyung inhaled sharply, even with no memory of his grandmother, dead before he turned three.

 

“but guess what, taehyung. she was wrong. my body was mine. but she ruined me. she made me too scared to leave this place and now it’s too late.”

 

“you never officially divorced him, did you?”

 

“no. i told him i would wait for him, but he just never came back.”

 

taehyung leans over and rests his head on his mother’s shoulder. she smells like ocean water and laundry detergent.

 

“it’s never too late, ma. you can still leave, move back with me to seoul, live with me.”

 

taehyung’s mother chuckles. “i don’t want to be an intrusion. i don’t want to mess up your routine, your lifestyle. you never came to visit so i assumed you were happier. are you having fun, taehyung?”

 

“no.” taehyung responds and she glances at him warily. “i hate it, ma.”

 

“hate what?” she responds softly.

 

“myself. my life. i hate my job, but not really.” he breezes. “i’ve--never wanted to die more. i miss the happy days, ma. i wish i never left.”

 

“i’m glad you came back then,” she smiles. “but i’m glad you left. you’re still young enough to change your story.”

 

“i’m sad. really fucking sad.”

 

“what’s stopping you from being happy?” she reaches for the remote and shuts the tv, baggy clothing draped over her and shrinking her frame to half its size. she reclines back.

“i fucked up my life. the one thing i’ll take responsibility for. am i fucked up, ma?”

 

“nah.” she smiles. “you think you’re fucked up? i think you’re twenty-four.”

 

“is there a difference?”

 

taehyung mom breaks into a laugh that eventually spreads to taehyung and he knows if there’s one love he doesn’t deserve, it’s the love that comes from his mom, who never complains, never talks about herself or her problems. five feet tall of dying coral hair, blue glasses and boxy smiles.

 

“i met a kid the other day. name was chan. told me to call jeongguk back.”

 

“why?”

 

“closure?” taehyung sniffs. “something like that. what do you think i should do?”

 

instead of responding, she stops, says, “i heard yoongi came back.”

 

“yeah. he did.” taehyung says.

 

“did you call him?”

 

“yeah, i did.”

 

“do you feel like you’ve wasted your twenties, taehyung?”

 

“yeah.”

 

“well good.” his mother smiles. “you aren’t human if you don’t regret a few years here and there.”

 

“would you ever call dad back?”

 

“no, that’s different.”

 

“how?”

 

“taehyung, i’m old. too old for love. unlike you, i’ve wasted all my good years in a place like this. you aren’t human without regrets, but i have too many, taehyung.”

 

phone poking uncomfortably at his thigh, it serves as a reminder. “would i be happier?”

 

“i don’t know, taehyung. you have to try.” her voice is cautious, and taehyung’s eyes begin to sting.

 

taehyung feels cold. saying things out loud solidify his feelings, not something he’s used to. he feels pathetic. ashamed. who is he to deserve happiness? deserve closure? and why?

 

he knows his face is covered with guilt, misplaced, maybe, but guilt all the same. splattered black and ugly, red like blood but viscous like honey. there’s want, the kind that makes you guilty to want that much, and it’s the kind that kills you and rips you apart inside, and suddenly, taehyung’s aware why he isn’t happy.

 

what’s your why, seokjin asked him one night. why do you do anything? everything?

 

what if you don’t? do you deserve to die?

 

“for closure?”

 

“no, for recovery.”

 

“am i fucked up, ma?”

 

“no, tae. you’re twenty-four.” she pauses. “a little rough around the edges, but you have good years left taehyung. don’t waste them like i did. don’t give them up either. stay alive, taehyung. i think--i think your best years have yet to come.”

 

“how do i be happy?”

“happiness isn’t a constant.”

 

“how do i live?”

 

“i can’t tell you that, taehyung. the key, it isn’t happiness. don’t teach yourself how to be happy. show your body how to recover. and only you know how to do that.”



➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻

 


IX. when the party’s over by billie eilish

 

“hey, you’ve reached the phone of jeon jeongguk from gangnam. i’m not available right now, leave a message so i can get back to you! thank you and sorry!”

 

beep.  

 

“hello? god, i really don’t know what i’m doing, yoongi gave me your number. it’s taehyung, by the way. and it’s been years, and this must be the last thing you expected, but i’m home. back in this place, it hit me. it hit me hard. life, man. power to me, i guess.

 

god, uh, i don’t really know what to say, i miss you. no, i hate myself? fuck, jeon, i have no idea what i’m doing. i just called to say thank you, i guess. thanks for making me happy all those years and if i could go back and fix all the shit i did, i would.

 

remember the days when we would cut third period and head down to the beach? i went down there the other day. it’s filled with garbage. things really do change, i guess. i thought the sea would give me a second chance, but i was wrong.

 

remember when you kissed me on the basketball courts? those were my favorite nights, i would give years of my life just to go back. i would.

 

i don’t know what to say other than i want to see you again.

 

i was talking to my mom earlier tonight, and i told her that i wanted to die, but she said that the only way i can unfuck myself is to find my own recovery.

 

i called yoongi, and he came back. we had a coffee and walked around for a bit. it was nice, jeongguk. really nice.

 

and i was telling him, it fucking sucks to be in love with the same person for so long, but i guess it’s the joys of first loves.

 

i want to be happy, jeongguk. i really, really do. i don’t know, this place reminded me that i could get there and i know why i’m calling you now. it’s because i still care about you. i always will.

 

some people say i’m apathy but i’m just scared. i’m fucking terrified right now, jeon. i don’t know what i’m doing or where i’m going, all i know is that i’m twenty-four. i don’t even know my own name. maybe i just want you to say it again.

 

i want to see you, and if that’s too much to ask, then i’m sorry. i’m sorry for being this scared and this insecure and i’m sorry for being too worried about myself and--i don’t know.

 

yoongi told me you were doing well. i’m really happy for you. you always keep your promises, and you know what? i never doubted you. not for a second. and i’m glad you left. if i was the piece that didn’t let you go where you are right now, i wouldn’t forgive myself. you made it, did you? i think i did too, but you never did define “making it” to me. everyone’s seen me, jeongguk-ah. i wonder if you have too.

 

so i’m proud of you, jeon. and if you think i’m insane, i am. jimin, you remember him, right? brought in this bigass case of cherry vodka. i might have had too many shots but listen to me, i guess.

 

i’ve been thinking about our times here. like the nights in baekhyun’s truck smoking shit we rolled by hand, watching the sunsets on the dock. the mornings with yoongi in the studio? i remember it all, jeongguk. and you can’t turn back time and fix your mistakes but you can’t hold on to your past, i guess.

 

i don’t know what else to say, but i miss you, again. i hope you sleep well, and i hope your insomnia’s gotten better, do you still take three tabs of melatonin to get ten hours?

 

god, i want to say to much but none of it’s gonna get through in a voicemail, jeongguk.

 

whatever, fucking, i’m going crazy. sleep well, jeongguk-ah.”

 

beep.

 

they say hangovers hurt less than heartache, but recovery is like ice-water and nostalgia is like the ocean and taehyung wants to take the road of being happy because he’s been sad for too long.



➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻

 


X. heavy by oh wonder

 

taehyung wakes up the next morning with a pounding headache, no advil, and two notifications on his phone.

 

from: jimin

 

where were you last night, man?

thought we were going down to the sea

 

to: jimin

 

god, sorry man, completely forgot

was really out of it

 

his phone buzzes again in no time.

 

from: jimin

 

it’s chill

as long as you’re okay.

 

there’s another notification from his manager that he readily ignores, not ready to face reality nor ready to look his down self destruction in the face. there’s no missed calls, and taehyung feels his heart sink before he pulls up one blue notification, a text sent at one thirty am last night.




from: do not call

________________

 

[img:jpg]

 

arrival time: 2 pm

departure: 5 am

 

train: kte

________________

 

taehyung stares at the image for a while, not understanding.

 

then it hits him.

 

jeongguk sent him a picture of his train ticket. his train ticket to here.

 

taehyung’s stomach drops. he’s so fucked, a little giddy, and a little jumpy, but completely, royally fucked.

 

life moves fast, taehyung figures. faster than he remembers in a town where time doesn’t exist.



➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻

 


XI. truce by twenty one pilots

 

the train station is the most crowded area in the town. always, people waiting to get out, stopping over from a ride to somewhere bigger, the train station is the only reason people care about the town.

 

and taehyung? he’s not leaving, but sitting on one of the benches right outside, waiting. and waiting, for the skies to fall and his heart to drop. and he’s half an hour early, and jeongguk never specified whether he wanted to see taehyung at all but taehyung has something he hasn’t in a long time. hope.

 

people change, and taehyung wonders if jeongguk’s arms are cold like doctors offices, warm like springs, or lukewarm, like they used to be.

 

time changes people, taehyung finds. time changes you and you just have to sit and watch it happen.

 

taehyung wonders if jeongguk wants to hurt him. taehyung can’t help but flinch as a girl walks past him, shooting him a look of concern before continuing on.

 

and taehyung realizes, he never really noticed how not okay he was, because no one asked him. no one cares for pretty boys more than a layer of foundation pretty, and no one cares for models who cry depression because when you have everything in the world, you can’t ask for more. that’s why, every one taehyung’s ever met? they’re guilty.

 

no one cares for models who cry depression because all you want is attention, and no one likes a celebrity who can’t smile like they mean it.

 

don’t cry depression, they say, don’t cry anything. seal your lips and don’t say a word (because that’s just how it is as a model).

 

the night taehyung fell apart was the night he remembers most out of anything in the last few years. something shattered that night, and it wasn’t just his heart. he and jeongguk, they were two lost souls with minimal satisfaction for curiosity.

 

see the world, it’s pretty.



(“sending you over to paris in a bit.”

 

“what show?”

 

“yearly thing versace hosts. can’t miss it.”

 

“can i skip? not in the mood for love.”

 

“well, the gucci runway show is in two months. think of this like a rehearsal.

when it comes time for that, you’re the star of the show.”

 

“delightful.”

 

“don’t be like that, kim. pack your bags. kim namjoon will be on the flight with us.”)



there a horrific screeching noise and a train stopped on the tracks. the doors slide open, and people pour out, not as many. tourists mostly, looking for the motels and the sea, awaiting disappointment because this town holds nothing but it’s own uneventful stories.

 

taehyung’s insides feel mushy like dough if you took the cookies out of the oven too early. when you’re waiting for someone, taehyung feels the most real emotions slamming into him out of nowhere, and he hasn’t been this nervous in a long time. with anxiety comes excitement, sometimes.

 

but kim taehyung doesn’t get excited. that, or he has no idea who he is.

 

and as taehyung stares and ponders, he sees.

 

jeongguk. worn from the city, warm from age, older.

 

he’s a dancer, taehyung reminds himself as he allows his eyes to travel down his thighs and back up to build arms carrying an overnight bag hardly big enough.

 

big bambi, eyes, taehyung remembers. they’re even bigger than before. maybe he stole all the stars from the city and held them captive in his eyes, twinkling slow, like he isn’t running out of time.

 

cotton candy lips, all the same. pouts with lack of a top lip, smiles like a bunny with an overbite he never bothered to fix because braces were for the losers who took band in middle school.

 

jawline, sharper than before, age cuts like a knife and it’s been years.

 

black hair always darker than natural but shiny like starlight and soft like velvet, long over his eyes because his insecurity was his youth, big doe eyes and dark hair, he’s the epitome of nostalgia.

 

cheekbones high, eyes bright, jeongguk looks like he hasn’t changed. the city ages you, taehyung always thought. but it also enhances you. because it makes you something.

 

and that’s when taehyung really looks at him, all baggy white shirt and a single tattoo sleeve, like a temptation to get more, but apprehensive like he remembers. like he doesn’t want to go to far. ripped skinny jeans like he’s still eighteen, horny teenager, too old to be sucking on lollipops so he replaces them with cigarettes. tired eyes like saturn's rings, he’s aged but still youth. he’s twenty three but he looks the same as taehyung remembers.

 

but eyes tired like he woke up that morning and got into a fight on his way out the door for leaving into a place that he hated the most.

 

did jeongguk think this was a bad idea?

 

taehyung wonders if jeongguk still smokes.

 

his lungs feel like they’re on fire as he stands up abruptly.

 

“jeongguk-ah.” he says, and it’s horribly anticlimactic.

 

“taehyung?”



➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻



XII. the other side by ruelle

 

they say hangovers hurt less than heartaches, a cliche within itself, but starry nights top it off and taehyung’s relieved that it’s not as dramatic as it was supposed to be.

 

there’s a difference between being alive and living, and his mind races and his body breathes but he’s only alive when he’s back in the small town where he grew up. and they say rooftops after sunset are the most cliche but taehyung still goes through with the motions.

 

because there’s a boy sitting next to him and that boy is named jeon jeongguk. there’s a song playing in the background and taehyung hums along with the tune to mask the disappointment that he still isn’t happy. only the youngest children believe in magic but taehyung wanted to hope.

 

jeongguk’s quiet and taehyung remembers the way he used to laugh, with his head thrown back and the cigarette passing back and forth between their lips until it disappeared. taehyung remembers everything and nothing, and that might be the most conflicting part about it all.



(“wanna jump off a bridge, the dramatic shit.”

 

“little early for that, kim.”

 

“i’m twenty three, shut up.”

 

“where’s the fucking soju?”

 

“fuckin’ seokjin.”)



taehyung remembers the way jeongguk used to kiss him, holding him gently as if not to hurt but tightly as if he were afraid taehyung would disintegrate in his hands, always kissed like it would be the last time. and one of those kisses, it was.

 

jeongguk was the type to plan for the end before it began, always prepared to to told he wasn’t enough. the pessimist in him and taehyung himself wasn’t an optimist but jeongguk always managed to bring it to a different level of pain.

 

taehyung fumbles for the lighter in his pocket, feeling jeongguk’s confused eyes on him.

 

“you want one?”

 

jeongguk smiles. “pass this time.”

 

“so,” taehyung begins, in an feeble attempt to strike conversation, “how have you been?”

 

it’s awkward, painfully so, and taehyung’s still disappointed but what else was he supposed to expect? jeongguk was a paradox, someone successful, who has already achieved all his dreams. and taehyung? he didn’t break any promises but that doesn’t mean he kept them either.

 

“i’ve been good. did yoongi tell you i was a dancer?”

 

“he did,” taehyung grinned. “heard you’ve been everywhere.”

 

jeongguk laughs, and it’s still cautious, and taehyung misses the cigarette smoke and the shift of the bones in jeongguk’s throat as he laughed. “no, i’m serious, yoongi’s never one to talk somebody up so far if they didn’t deliver.”

 

jeongguk reaches up to scratch the back of his neck. “yeah, well.”

 

“it’s good. i’m proud of you.”

 

and they continue to sit in silence and taehyung finally realizes that reunions are never as dramatic as they make them out to be, in the movies, in the books. this is real life and taehyung should be happy that he’s living with no cliches, but he was hoping there would be.

 

jeongguk breaks the silence. “you know, right after your first job on v, i saw it. i wasn’t in seoul at the time but i saw it. yoongi texted me the cover one night and i really didn’t know if i wanted to see it or not but you did it too. i’m proud of you.”

 

“where were you?”

 

“new york.” jeongguk responds. “they sent me out with some artist named tinashe and i worked the shows there.”

 

“ah.” taehyung pauses, unsure of whether to continue. “part of me regrets taking the v job.”

 

jeongguk gives him a look of incredulousness. “are you serious?”

 

“i—i don’t know. in an industry like this it’s kill or get kill.” he tips his face towards the sky. “dog eat dog world, i guess.”

 

“what do you mean?’ and jeongguk’s digging deeper than what should be comfortable and taehyung has been holding on to his own struggles forever.

 

“that page on v? my manager said—he said i would have to let him fuck me for the page.” taehyung can hear jeongguk’s gasp and taehyung wonders if he’s disgusted. if he hates taehyung even more now. “and you know what’s worse, jeongguk? i did it. models aren’t people. and if we are, we’re the loneliest people in the world.”

 

“god,” and taehyung expects a ‘why don’t you quit’ but jeongguk gets it he gets taehyung like he used to and it hurts. “that’s fucking awful, taehyung.”

 

taehyung can only shrugs. “do what you gotta do, i guess.”

 

“but why keep going if you’re this unhappy?”

 

“i don’t know. i really don’t.” taehyung pauses, not letting his voice waver in weakness, not in front of jeongguk. not now. “did you know that three percent of the ice at the poles is penguin urine?”

 

“that’s fucking disgusting.”

 

“i wonder how many people piss in the oceans, what, with their wrecked stomachs?”

 

jeongguk sniggers. “only health junkies go to the beach,’’

 

“but like, kids.”

 

reunions aren’t as dramatic as they seem. but that doesn’t mean they aren’t life changing.

 

“taehyung, about the voicemail—”

 

“can we not talk about that?” jeongguk stops. “i still love you, whatever, yeah, i know.”

 

“then let's start over.”

 

“hm?”

 

“we don’t have to be awkward exes, taehyung.” and with that, jeongguk stands up and taehyung afraid he’ll leave. right here, now, he’ll leave taehyung alone, staring at the stars. but instead he reaches a hand out to taehyung, with a smile with a few scars, biceps flexing in glory.

 

taehyung takes his hand and he’s suddenly being tugged to his feet.

 

reunions aren’t dramatic, but that doesn’t mean they’re not lovely.

 

“you were my best friend first, so let’s start with that. i’m jeon jeongguk. graduated dance major and dancer.”

 

taehyung smiles. “kim taehyung.” it’s weird to hear his real name on his own tongue. it’s strange to call himself a name that he was never sure he deserved, never sure if it was really him. “model.”

 

hangover hurt less than heartaches and reunions are nothing special.

 

“i missed you, tae.” jeongguk says, just as he pulls taehyung in for a bone-crushing hug. and that was all the validation taehyung needed. for someone to say his name like it belonged to him. like he was the only person in the world.

 

something in taehyung’s heart gives quietly, and the tears come down.



                      ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻



XIII. love lies by normani and khalid

 

and when jeongguk kisses him under the bridge on the main street that night, taehyung feels fireworks exploding in his mind. the way they used to, as teenagers would, but softer.

 

taehyung thought jeongguk kissed like it would be the last. he was wrong. jeongguk kissed like he was sparking a fire. jeongguk kissed like he never wanted it to end, jeongguk kissed like the beginning. unhurried, soft yet ruthless as he pulled everything out of taehyung and still asked for more.

 

steal the air out of his lungs, and taehyung’s light enough to fly.

 

taehyung doesn’t know how long they’ve been down here for, jeongguk’s back against the wall, taehyung gripping his shirt so hard he wonders if the fabric will rip. for once in taehyung’s life, he’s doesn’t care about the end, because he’s being kissed like he hasn’t in years, with no backwards desire, no ulterior motives. and jeongguk’s warm skin is rough under his palms, and taehyung can still taste the regret of his own wasted years, but jeongguk’s skin serves as a reminder that he won’t let go yet. sturdy yet strong, unrelenting, jeongguk has the roughest hands and the softest heart.

 

if taehyung were to press hard enough with his nails into jeongguk’s back, he’s sure that gold would start leaking out of his pores.

 

there’s still sadness. there’s still regret. but the thing about life is that it goes, and goes, and goes.

 

and time gives you second chances.

 

second chances to recover.

 

and his mom was wrong.

 

taehyung is fucked up in every way and sometimes he presses his nails too deep into his wrist to watch it bleed and sometimes he bangs his head against the shower door just to let his forehead bruise. and sometimes taehyung shakes, like seokjin after he fell on the runway and sometimes he’s scared like namjoon who can’t decide where to go.

 

lost souls may never find their place, with a never-filled waterlust and penchant for dangerous curiosity.

 

but lost souls are youth and you only waste your good years when you do.

 

you find people that don’t believe in love, some don’t believe in living, but when you find that someone you lost finds their way back years later, it makes a person wonder.

 

some things are bad ideas, like streaking naked in front of your entire frat, and maybe jeongguk’s a little embarrassed that he did that but he was given a second chance. when you have someone with enough passion to power the world and enough compassion to understand even the most closed off, the world will grant you a million second chances.

 

and taehyung, maybe not to the same level, who jumped off the dock the wrong way and sprained his ankle when he was seventeen, maybe he doesn’t have as many chances. for someone with a lack of fate and a lack of belief and a lack of will. but taehyung’s got one second chance. he’s thinking the town granted him a second chance in a world where second chances are as rare as snow during july.

 

seokjin fell on the runway when he was twenty two. he got up and kept walking and maybe that’s not a second chance. maybe that’s just a cry not to be forgotten.

 

but recovery isn’t about falling. it’s about getting up, planting seeds of strength where your throat shifts when you swallow too hard, plant the seeds and watch them bloom into glory. or happiness, because sometimes, fate lets you pick.

 

hangovers hurt less than heartache, taehyung knows. but soulmates do exist and taehyung isn’t happy but he still goes through with the motions because someday, he might be. without the ecstasy and the vodka, with just his own highs and lows. maybe he can be happy.

 

recovery.



 ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻

 


XV. lovely by billie eilish

 

“how was your week, taehyung?” dr. hirai smiles at him and taehyung smiles back, his skin tightening a little.

 

“i’m doing well. my mom came for the first time to visit me, i’m trying to convince her to move in.”

 

“have you been out with friends?”

 

“i went to coffee with hoseok the other day, it was nice. we talked about music and my new shoot from armani with seokjin.” taehyung grins, remembering.

 

“how’s seokjin?”

 

“he’s thinking of retiring from this game for a bit. it decreases your life force, i guess. your will to live.”

 

hirai frowns. “are you thinking of leaving too?”

 

“not yet,” taehyung responds thoughtfully. “i’m gonna keep going for another couple of years. but maybe not. i’m not sure yet.”

 

“how’s your boyfriend?”

 

taehyung blushes soft, so she can’t see. “he’s picking me up, we’re going back to my hometown with another two friends this weekend. going to reconnect.”

 

“it seems that you’re doing well, taehyung.”

 

“i guess.” taehyung smiles as dr. hirai hands him another bottle of pills, because taehyung doesn’t live in cliched world. maybe chemical happiness is better than none at all and taehyung will stop eventually, pour the pills down the sink but not yet.

 

“how are you, taehyung.”

 

her emphasis makes taehyung smile. “i’m doing better, i guess.”

 

she smiles at him, bigger this time, reaching for her paperwork. “i have one more question for you.”

 

in the summer when he was sixteen, the world was a big place where taehyung would run next to his own dreams.

 

in the summer when he was twenty, he lost everything learned to hate the world and himself for forgetting everything he believed in.

 

in the summer when he was twenty four, taehyung made peace with himself.

 

in the summer when he was twenty four, taehyung learned that it was never too late.

 

in the years when he’s twenty four, he’s learning how to love himself.

 

and the months still go on from august to september to november to december to january, and between those months he’ll be twenty five and still alive.



                   ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻



“what would you say to yourself at twenty?”

 

“time goes by slow until it doesn’t, so keep going. maybe it’ll all be worth waiting for.”



 ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻



  (“i love you.” )

 

 

 ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻ ➻



hangovers hurt less that heartaches, and reunions aren’t dramatic. life is anticlimactic and taehyung wonders that if he didn’t sprain his ankle on the dock that day, would the sea have given him another chances? probably not. and maybe, that’s okay. maybe happiness is worth waiting for.

 

song: pink skies by LANY