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a leader is best when people barely know he exists

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He’s worried he’s changed too much, sometimes.

Late at night, after ending a VLive, his room falls into that loud silence that makes him need his headphones on and volume at max. He listens to demos, hashes out new beats, reconfigures new ones, jots down notes about who needs to record hidden backing vocals.

00:12 - hoseok to repeat jimin’s line x2
00:45 - jin to sing first line of chorus in background of jimin’s line
01:15 - suga can rap his reprise as tae sings end of chorus

His pen stops scratching against his paper when everything goes a little blurry. He blinks a few times, but little white dots are clogging up his vision, so he tosses his notebook aside (and hears the pen topple off the desk and laments that it’s gone forever) and buries his face in his hands. He feels tendrils of pain in his temples and rubs uselessly at it. The white lights don’t disappear when he clenches his eyes shut.

He opens them, wincing at the obnoxious light emanating from his PC screen, and squints at the time. 01:23 blinks back at him and he groans. He meant to be in bed by 12:30 at the latest tonight.

It’s fine , he thinks, pushing himself out of his chair and quietly slipping out of his room and padding into the kitchen to grab some water. We have a two-week break - finally - so I can sleep tomorrow, and every other day until we’re back to work .

He flicks the kettle on too; warm drinks help him sleep. He winces at the initial noise it makes, but it peters out quickly enough into staccato puffs of air and he relaxes against the countertops, still squinting through the white blotches in his eyes. He watches absently as the kettle boils, gazing at the steam that wafts into the air and disappears into the darkness of the room, and he wonders if he’s changed.

He has, of course—everyone changes, no matter what. He likes to think he’s better than he used to be; he’s learnt from past mistakes and is willing to learn about anything he’s not well-versed in. He knows he used to think and believe some problematic things; he also knows he embodies some of those same things that his younger self mocked.

In their first couple of years as Bangtan, he and Yoongi often found themselves locking themselves up in that tiny dark recording studio, asking each other if they’d abandoned ‘real’ rap by leaving the underground scene. Both scared, both unconfident, both confused and angry, they’d never answered each other’s questions; they would just sit together and burn through energy drinks and put scores of music together and pretend tomorrow would be better.

(But, while Yoongi was his best friend and hyung, Namjoon was the original member and the leader; he couldn’t show all his weaknesses in front of him. During their shared-dorm days, when they all slept in one room, half on top of each other, he’d tip-toe out into the bathroom and tuck himself under the sink and bite his knuckles as hot tears streamed down his face and doubts ate away at him. Then, he’d wake up in the morning, telling the other six scared boys that they’d do good work today, and tomorrow, until everyone knew their names.)

He’d been right—they’d made it. Even if someone didn’t like BTS, they knew of them. They’d performed in so many cities, heard fans speaking every language, found their songs playing on the radio when they stepped into random cafés. They were here now, where they’d always wanted to be: one of the best known bands in the world, making music that meant something to people, with fans who would travel over oceans to come listen to them.

Sometimes he has to remind himself that that’s good , that it’s okay to be proud of this. Sometimes he wants to walk into Yoongi’s studio, sit on the floor with shitty energy drinks, and ask him: “Did we change too much? Did we leave everything we believed in behind?” and he hopes Yoongi would laugh at him, because it’s stupid and unfounded. He hopes he’d say, “No, Joon-ah; this is what we wanted.”

The kettle cuts off, finished boiling the water, and he pours it over the teabag he’d tossed into his cup. (Oh, this is Tae’s cup, he realises, but doesn’t stop pouring.)

He watches a few errant tea leafs escape the bag and tries to push past his headache to remember what his and Yoongi’s last conversation was event about . Snippets of a hazy, sleep-fogged memory spring to mind: he was leaning around Jin on the plane, talking to an irritable-tired Yoongi about… something to do with schedules? Mixtapes?

He puts the kettle back on its perch and rubs a hand over his face.

These are the moments in which he worries he’s changed—in a bad way. When he can’t remember the last time he and Yoongi laughed together. When he can’t remember the last time his band members didn’t look ready to collapse, other than when they covered their dark circles with makeup and smiled for cameras.

It’s fine, he tells himself again, grabbing his tea and sipping it. Break starts tomorrow. We can all sleep a solid week, then I’ll have another week to just have some fucking fun with them.

He grabs a bottle of water as well before heading back to his room, ready to sleep off the headache. When he wakes up tomorrow, he’ll start thinking about how to thank the other guys for their hard work, smiling at the thought of hanging out in Yoongi’s studio and making something together, or just fucking around and drinking gross sodas.

As soon as his head hits his pillow, he’s out.

The shrill sound of his alarm has him bolting upright and scrambling for his phone. He groans and goes to slide it off, remembering today’s the start of his break and he must’ve forgotten to turn off his alarms, when he realises that he’s actually being called. By a manager.

He shakes off the sleep-daze and misses the answer button twice before hitting it properly. “‘Morning, Sejin-ssi,” he says, clearing his throat when it comes out a little too raspy. “Can I help you?”

“Hi, Namjoon-ah. I’m sorry to bother you so early…”

He pulls the phone away for a second to check the time, fighting back a sigh when he sees it’s only just past six. He wanted to sleep in until midday—but he’s an idol in one of the most successful bands in the world, so he swallows back complaints and switches on his professional mode as he replies: “Don’t worry about it. What can I do for you?”

Sejin’s heavy sigh sends loud static through the phone and Namjoon grimaces, head protesting against the noise. He thought he’d be fine after sleeping. “Again, I’m very sorry about this, but…” Sejin huffs, sounding annoyed despite himself. “There’s no easy way to ask this of you, so I’ll put it simply: would you guys be able to postpone your break by another week?”

Namjoon takes a little too long to register the words. “Uh,” he says, grabbing his half-empty bottle of water. “Sorry, what did you say?”

“Can you guys postpone your break? You’ve been invited for interviews with two big companies, one of which wants you to do it alongside EXO, and it’s hinted that Big Bang might have a small segment on there too. There’s also an invitation for a game show—”

He goes on, explaining all the work-related roles Namjoon thought he could forget about for a fortnight. He shuts his eyes and tries to listen, but there’s a weird fog weighing down his mind and he can only catch snippets of it. All he can think of are his members’ faces falling if he asks them to postpone their break; recalls their fistpumps and shouts of relief when they closed their last show. He imagines Jin’s making plans to visit home—probably Taehyung too, probably all of them, and he can’t not let them do that.

“Namjoon-ah? You with me?”

“Yes, sorry, I was just… thinking about it.” He sighs. “Sejin-ssi, the last thing I want to do is disappoint you, but I don’t think we can agree to this,” he says, letting his head fall against the wall and staring at the ceiling. “Everyone’s exhausted; we just closed a show, got home from the tour—”

“I understand, Namjoon-ah, I do,” Sejin said, sounding like he was fighting back frustration too. “You can refuse if you really can’t do this,” he added, “but BigHit think it’ll be great for not only your image, but also TXT’s—they’d be on the game show with you. On top of that, the interview with EXO will be streamed to the US too; there’ll be live translations, but they also want a segment in English…”

Namjoon swallows, throat dry, and Sejin must hear it because he stops talking for a moment. Namjoon sighs, picks at the fabric of his pants, and glances at the calendar on his wall. “We’ll only have to postpone it by one more week? You’re sure?”

Positive, Namjoon-ah. You’ll receive the full two weeks’ holiday—”

“Make it three, Sejin-ssi,” he cuts in, because he needs to do something to make up for the disappointment. Telling the others this might make some of them cry; he could at least get something for them out of this.

Sejin doesn’t respond right away.

Namjoon exhales shakily. “Please, hyung.”

“Okay.” Sejin sighs and Namjoon hears papers rustling in the background before Sejin begins typing rapidly. “I’ll have to speak to Sihyuk-ssi, but I’m sure he’ll allow it.”

Namjoon nods weakly. Somehow, he still feels like he’s doing the wrong thing, even if he got them an extra week’s break. “Right. Okay, can you send me the schedule and all the details?”

“Just did,” Sejin replies. “Thank you, Namjoon-ah. BigHit appreciates this so much, and TXT really will benefit from this—”

“I still have to speak to the others first,” Namjoon cuts in. “Don’t take this as agreement yet; they have to say yes too.”

Sejin pauses for just a second. “Of course, yeah. Please let me know by midday, okay?”


“Thank you, Namjoon-ah,” he says again, a lot more serious this time. “I am sorry about this.”

“Yeah, it’s fine, Sejin-ssi,” he says, because he has to, even if it’s not fine at all. “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Take care, Namjoon-ah.”

He hangs up and tosses his phone across the room, burying his face in his hands.

He listens to them wake up, one by one, cringes at every ‘good morning!’ he hears, because he’s going to ruin it.

He waits until he hears coffee brewing and cereal being poured and spoons clinking before dragging himself off of his bed. He hesitates at the threshold before the kitchen, drinking in the warm atmosphere for a few precious moments. Jin’s leaning against the counter, hands wrapped around a cup of coffee, laughing as Jimin tries to hit Jungkook for something. Everyone’s chuckling around their cereal and he breathes a small laugh too.

It catches Jin’s attention, who looks up and smiles at him. “Morning, Joon-ah,” he says, then puts down his cup to pour coffee for Namjoon. He feels guilty for it already, but Jin just holds it out to him with a raised eyebrow. “You can come in, you know?”

He does, because it’d be weird not to, and he doesn’t want to set that mood. He smiles as he accepts the cup with a small, “Thanks, Jin-hyung.”

“No problem,” he says, picking his own back up. He glances away when Jimin screeches and Namjoon also looks around, but they both decide it’s nothing when they see he’s just tackled Jungkook to try and get him in a sleeper-hold. “Hey, you okay?” Jin asks. Namjoon’s gaze snaps back to him and he grimaces at the concern on his face. “You look tired.”

“Yeah,” he agrees, sipping his coffee just for something to do. It’s a non-answer, but he doesn’t quite know how to bring up something that would ruin everyone’s week.

He sighs, shutting his eyes. They can refuse, he knows; they can say no, and he’ll accept that and have to tell management. They might be pissed, might question why Namjoon’s a leader if he can’t get them to agree to ‘just one more week’, but he won’t make them do it. He won’t.

He throws back the rest of his coffee and says, “Guys, I’ve gotta ask you something.”

Jin and Taehyung are the only ones to look at him. Yoongi’s half-sleeping with his head in his arms, and Hoseok apparently started joining in on Jungkook and Jimin’s impromptu wrestling session.

“Guys, it’s important,” he says, and Yoongi finally lifts his head up. The other three apparently didn’t hear him, though, because they were still laughing and shoving each other. God, his head hurts. “Everyone, listen to me.” He sounds calm, thank god, even though he’s sure his hands are shaking slightly.

“Guys, chill the fuck out and come sit down,” Yoongi adds.

They finally look away from each other. One look at Namjoon’s face has them sliding into their seats and he—sometimes he hates that. Sometimes he doesn’t like that he has to slip into his Leader Persona and they look at him like he’s one of the managers, like he isn’t their friend. He wants to say guys I don’t wanna do this but they asked me and I feel guilty either fucking way, please make this decision for me, I don’t know what to do—but he can’t say that. Instead, he spreads his hands out on the counter in front of him (not sure if he’s grateful for the barrier between himself and all of them), and sweeps his gaze across them all.

“Okay,” he starts, “you aren’t gonna like this.”

“Great start,” Yoongi says, “keep going.”

The other snicker.

Namjoon just sighs. “Sejin-ssi called me earlier.”

The snickering stops.

It’s hard for him not to look away, but he manages. He looks Jin in the eyes as he tells them: “BigHit want us to postpone our break—”


He blinks, looking over to Jungkook.

He looks embarrassed by the outburst, but not enough to take it back. “We just had our biggest tour yet,” he says, frowning, “we—we’ve broken records, we’ve won awards, we’re in talks for more collaborations… We’ve been working so hard for so long, hyung.”

Namjoon feels his heart sink. “I kn—”

“Namjoon-ah,” Hoseok says, softly, and Namjoon’s eyes snap to him. “Knowing we’ve had this break coming… is all that’s kept us going.”

He closes his eyes again, gritting his teeth. “I know, guys, I know,” he mumbles, because he does. “Which is why we can say no, if you want to.”

They visibly relax at that—except Yoongi, whose scowl only deepened. “If we want to?” he repeats, scoffing. Namjoon frowns. “So you’re saying it’s all on the rest of us if we don’t agree to this.”

Namjoon blinks slowly, then shakes his head. “What do you mean?” he asks, head throbbing. He presses the back of his hand over his forehead.

Yoongi grunts. “You know what I mean,” he snaps, but Namjoon isn’t sure he does. “Tell us, Leader-ssi: what is your decision?”

Something’s clearly wrong, he realises, perhaps belatedly. He tries to push past the sleepiness and sore eyes to grasp onto Yoongi’s words, to catch the meaning hidden under them, but it slips through his fingers. He doesn’t know why Yoongi’s so annoyed. “I’m fine with doing it,” he says, because he can’t not be.

“There it is!” Yoongi says, barking a sardonic laugh that makes Namjoon’s head hurt. His chair screeches as he stands. “Well, guys, hope you haven’t packed your bags, because we’re staying in Seoul another week.”

“What?” Jungkook asks, twisting to look at Yoongi and then Namjoon again, brows furrowed.

Jimin and Taehyung mumble something to each other before glancing between the two boys standing.

“Yoongi-hyung, chill,” Namjoon says slowly, reigning in his frustration. Wasn’t it obvious he didn’t want this either? “I said if you don’t want to do this, we don’t—”

“You know what? No, it’s fine,” Yoongi snaps, glaring now. Namjoon frowns back, confused and kind of upset. “I don’t care. I’ll play idol a little longer. What’s one more week?” He snorts.

Namjoon shakes his head, huffing. Stay calm, it’s not his fault, he’s tired. “Think about it before you decide, Yoongi-hyung. Just tell me by midday.”

Yoongi laughs—a mirthless bark, then storms out of the kitchen. Seconds later, his bedroom door slams.

Namjoon scrubs a hand over his face. He’ll have to speak to him later, but for now—the rest of Bangtan have turned back to look at him, reluctance written over their faces, weariness etched into their shoulders. He did this to them.

“I mean it,” he reiterates, trying to smile, “if any of you really can’t do this, I’ll let the managers know right away. You can say no.” To dissolve the heavy atmosphere, Namjoon breaks eye contact with them to pour more coffee for himself. There’s a pregnant pause as he finishes it, taking a big sip before he turns back to them.

“I don’t mind, hyung,” Jimin finally says. He drags his eyes off his hands to smile at Namjoon, but it doesn’t look real at all. “I’ll do it.”

Hoseok sighs then, rubbing his neck. Namjoon looks at him and he smiles too, but his eyes don’t crinkle at the edges this time. “Someone’s gotta keep Yoongi-hyung in line!” he declares. “I’m fine with it too.”

You’re not, neither of you are , Namjoon thinks, but just smiles at them.

“Namjoon-hyung?” Taehyung calls.

He looks at him, raising his eyebrows. Part of him hopes he’ll say I don’t feel up for it, sorry, so he can cancel and tell everyone not to worry and Yoongi will leave his room and they can just watch a movie together before everyone goes home to see their families. But instead, he stares at Namjoon for a little too long, before beaming at him.

“I’m happy to do it too.”

He hears Jin sigh and hides his own grimace behind a sip of coffee. “Okay,” he breathes.

“I will too then,” Jungkook mumbles, not even looking at Namjoon anymore. He’s staring at his hands, where he’s picking at his nails. Normally Namjoon would tell him to stop, but he feels too guilty to rebuke him.

“You don’t have to,” he says weakly, because they all seem to think they do.

“I think I do,” Jungkook mumbles, then gets out of his chair and leaves the room.

Taehyung glances at them, then looks at Namjoon apologetically before getting up to follow him. Jimin does too, offering Namjoon a smile, and then he’s gone as well.

Hoseok stands when they hear a door shut. Namjoon looks at him. “I’m gonna check on Yoongi-hyung,” he says, and then it’s just Jin and Namjoon.

Namjoon drops his empty cup in the sink and slides into the now-empty chair beside Jin’s. He nudges his shoulder. “Hey… you haven’t said anything in a while.”

Jin hums.

He folds his arms in front of him and tears his gaze off of him. He eyes the clock - 11:43 - and sighs. They have until about 12 to let Sejin know their decision.

“I’m gonna tell them we can’t do it,” he says quietly.

“You can’t.”

He looks up at Jin’s words, but his hyung still isn’t looking at him. He frowns. “But none of you want—”

“No, we don’t,” Jin agrees in a monotone that shuts Namjoon up. He doesn’t like it when Jin sounds like that. Finally, his dark eyes meet Namjoon’s. “But you do, so we’ll do it.”

Namjoon wants to tug at his own hair or punch a wall, but—“We don’t have to do it, I told you.” I don’t want to do it.

“No, but you’re the leader. You’re a big reason all of us are here,” Jin says, looking down at his phone again. Namjoon tries to catch a glimpse, but Jin’s already hit the stand-by button. “Sejin-ssi and the others only need to hear your decision, not ours.”

“That’s not—I came to ask you guys, not tell you,” he says desperately, wanting Jin to understand, to look at him. He wants to act like he isn’t the leader, wants to call Jin ‘Jin-hyung,’ and just laugh with everyone.

But Jin pushes away from the table, tucking his phone in his pocket and finishing the remainder of his coffee in one big gulp. “And we’re telling you: it’s fine. Go ahead and tell Sejin-ssi we’ll work another week, Namjoon.”

He leaves the room, and Namjoon’s alone.

Namjoon had told Sejin that they agreed on postponing their break, but the other man’s relief didn’t console him at all. He’d snuck out of their apartment—not that he needed to since they were all holing up in their rooms—to attend a meeting about the upcoming week, sorting out the schedule, figuring out logistics with TXT and EXO, getting briefed on what the game show entailed.

Feeling overloaded with information, Namjoon requested print-outs, which he is now holding under his arm as he shuffled back home. He unlocks the door and steps inside, a little relieved to hear laughter from the living room. It stops when he enters, and he tries to keep the smile on his face.

“Hey,” he says.

There’s a too-big pause before Taehyung smiles at him. “Hi, Namjoon-hyung.”

No one else speaks, so Namjoon clears his throat (dry, because he hadn’t drank anything yet today) and starts passing the print-outs to everyone. “So, this is our week’s schedule. It should be e-mailed to you too, but I asked them to give us physical copies too—”

“Thanks,” Yoongi bites, clearly meaning the opposite of what he said.

Namjoon stuffs his hands in his pockets before clenching his fists. It’s not Yoongi’s fault; he’s just angry, he’s upset, he’s lashing out and Namjoon can’t blame him for it, as long as it doesn’t affect work. So he just nods.

“One of the interviews is in English?” Jin asks, sighing.

“Yeah,” Namjoon says. “It’s being broadcast on an American radio station, so it’ll be a live online interview.” He looks at them all, sees Hoseok’s head fall against the back of the sofa and Jungkook biting his lips, and has to say something to ease the burden. “Don’t worry, everyone’s English has gotten way better, and I’ll translate anything you guys don’t understand—” He staggers when Yoongi lands a solid hand on his shoulder.

Stop it, Joon-ah.” And, really, hearing Yoongi say his name affectionately despite how angry he is twists Namjoon’s stomach into knots. “You keep—” He stops, shakes his head, and huffs. “Why do you keep trying to control everything?”

He frowns. “I’m…” just trying to help. “I’m not, I just—wanna make this week easier on you guys. I don’t want you to stress.”

Apparently that was the wrong thing to say, because Yoongi wrenches his hand back like he’s been burnt. “Don’t want us to—? If you gave a shit about that, you wouldn’t have agreed to the extra fucking week of work.”

He bristles, digging his nails into his palms. “I said you guys didn’t have to—”

“Bet you wanted the English interview, bet you asked for it, because you love being the fucking leader and you love showing that you’re so fucking good at English.” He slams his shoulder into Namjoon’s as he passes him. “I’m going to sleep. Don’t wake me up.”



“Guess I’ll go practice my English,” Jungkook says.

Namjoon turns to watch him stand, tossing his controller to Taehyung. He doesn’t look at Namjoon as he leaves, once again.

Before anyone else can excuse themselves to get away from him, he heads to his room, yanks his headphones on, and listens to music in languages he doesn’t know.

“Your makeup’s done, Namjoon-ah,” said the makeup artist, patting his arm.

He smiled at her through the mirror. “Thanks,” he said, heaving himself up to go join the rest of his boys. Their conversation lulls as he approaches but he just smiles at them. They’ll be mad this week, but then they’d have a break and be back to normal. Right now, Namjoon can swallow the knot of anxiety and let them be upset, be their outlet.

“You guys ready?” he asks to fill the silence.

“Are you?” Jin counters. “It’s in English.”

Namjoon blinks. “Uh… yeah, I guess,” he says, scratching his neck. “Hopefully it’s just basic questions and we can answer them easily.”

Yoongi scoffs and Namjoon frowns, wants to grab him and shake him and ask why he’s so angry, why they’re all so upset with him when he told them they didn’t have to agree to this. But he can’t; it’s unprofessional. Even so… Yoongi’s his friend, and he really doesn’t want this weird thing to last any longer. Maybe I can speak to him quick before the interview.


“Guys, we’re ready for you!”

Hoseok claps, a bit too loudly. “Let’s get this show on the road!” He slings an arm around Jimin’s shoulders as they head out together.

Yoongi doesn’t even look at Namjoon and it—hurts.

He inhales deeply and sends a (hopefully convincing) smile to Jin. “Jin-hyung, will you stay near me?”

Jin sighs and shuts his eyes a second, then just says, “Yeah, sure, Namjoon,” and follows the others.

Namjoon wishes he hadn’t asked at all, and just feels worse when he takes his seat in the middle next to Jin. Usually Jin leans closer to him, presses their thighs together, claps his shoulder to reassure him, but he’s got his legs crossed and arms folded and is looking straight ahead of him. Yoongi’s in the back, to the right; Jungkook to the left, and Taehyung in the centre. Jimin’s on Namjoon’s left, Hoseok beside him, and no one’s said a word to him. Usually before English interviews, they—they at least say some thing.

“Ready guys? We’re going live in two minutes.”

Namjoon tries to swallow, but his throat is too dry. “Yeah,” he forces out, smiling because he has to. “We’re good.”

It goes fine—at best. At worst, there may be compilations of awkward moments. Long pauses, blank stares of confusion, a couple of questions he had to reconfigure so they didn’t sound rude, a few answers he didn’t know how to translate into English. It really isn’t that bad.

But Namjoon kind of feels like he could cry.

Because—they usually always tried. Jungkook would string together a sentence and look at Namjoon for confirmation even though he usually got it right. Jin would notice Namjoon struggling and start throwing out answers that made him relax enough to speak again. Hoseok would hear his awkward hahaha and spout something that would make everyone laugh and take the edge of stress off.

“Okay, last question! This might be too much to ask, but could you drop any hints about your next album? Themes, anything at all?”

Of course they can’t; don’t the journalists know this? Haven’t they interviewed enough songwriters and music artists to realise that this is a waste of a question? But he can’t say that, so he translates the question and waits.

And waits.

He turns to his band members, but Jin’s staring straight ahead and Jimin’s mumbling something to Hoseok. Namjoon clears his throat, laughs, and repeats it in Korean, looking desperately at Jungkook, who isn’t looking at him.

“Um…” He starts, fiddling with a ring on his finger so that no one sees his hands start shaking.

“Maybe—food,” Taehyung says suddenly. In English.

Namjoon’s head whips around to him, and Taehyung’s hands fall on his shoulders. He leans into it, holding his breath so the mic won’t pick up any shaky sighs. “Ahaha—food? What does that even mean?” he asks, has to keep this going to mask the awkwardness, to end the interview on a high note.

“Mm…” Taehyung hums. “We have themes of… youth? Um, learning to grow and, uh, love yourself?” He looks uncertain about his English, but Namjoon could hug him. His English is perfect; he’s perfect. He squeezes one of Taehyung’s hands that’s on his shoulder, half-afraid he’d remove them.

“Don’t stop, keep going,” he encourages, and maybe “don’t stop” was about holding onto Namjoon rather than about answering the question.

“Food is important! We need to show love for food. It helps us grow.” Taehyung nods.

Namjoon laughs, a little less forced this time. “You’re right,” he says, “we’ll write songs dedicated to everyone’s favourites.”

“Oh, what are all your favourite foods?” the interview pipes up. Unscripted, but easy, simple; an easy note to end the interview on.

“Anything with meat,” Namjoon says, “but if you want a recommendation, come to Korea and try samgyeopsal—it’s so worth it.” He twists his neck to look at Taehyung. “You, Tae?”

“Hmm… Japchae,” he says.

Namjoon turns to Jin, feels his heartbeat pick up. He shoves his ring down a little too hard and stops moving his hands.

“Jin-hyung likes too many foods to pick one,” Taehyung fills in, because he’s an angel.

Jin turns to him and laughs lightly and Namjoon tries to feel relieved, but he’s just—Jin totally ignored him but responded to Taehyung right away.

“Rude,” Jin declares, laughing. “I like naengmyeon… lobster, chicken… Ah, actually, Taehyung-ah’s right, I like a lot.”

The others laugh and Namjoon tries to as well, but it hurts his throat when he does.

Spurred on by Taehyung and Jin’s responses, the others answer the question too. They all bid ARMY goodbye and the interviewer thanks them all, then the cameras switch off and the staff dissipate, and the boys are told to get ready to leave.

They’re already heading to the exit together, walking side-by-side in the stretching hallway, and Namjoon thinks they look good as a group of six: symmetrical.

He trails behind them, not bothering to catch up.

Just five more days ‘til their break. It’d be fine.

Five more days is Namjoon’s first thought when he wakes up.

Today, they have to record the episode for that game show with TXT and EXO before they’ll head to a costume fitting, then in the evening they have to go record backing vocals, and Namjoon isn’t ready for any of it.

No one’s in the kitchen when he gets there. He starts brewing coffee and considers just having that for breakfast, but knows that’s a bad idea. He checks the time – 06:12 – and decides to make everyone breakfast. They don’t have to be up for about half an hour so even if he fucked up a couple of eggs, he’d get enough right by then for everyone to eat.

He measures everything first and checks recipes and timings on Naver before starting, then stops procrastinating and pours pancake batter in the pan. He shouldn’t be nervous about this, but he rarely cooks; isn’t good at it. Besides, he never really had to; his mum cooked for him before he moved out, then Jin did most of it during their debut year, and for a long while now they’ve had chefs and nutritionists to do it for them. But Jin always enjoyed it when he did it, and seemed touched whenever someone else made something, so… he wants to try.

Maybe it’s some twisted form of bribery, but Namjoon decides not to dwell on that.

The first pancake burns because it was too thin and the heat too high, but he realises what he did wrong and easy circumvents that on the next ones. Eventually, he has a huge stack of buchimgae, and then cooks rice, kimchi, and cucumber soup. “ Shit ,” he hisses when the knife slips off the wet cucumber and into his thumb. He drops the knife with a clatter and runs cold water over the cut, grimacing. Blood seeps out quickly, but it isn’t too deep. He dabs it with tissue and keeps a bit wrapped around it because he doesn’t know where plasters would be.

He turns on the kettle when he hears the first tell-tale door opening and footsteps padding down the hall, dishing up some of the buchimgae and spreading out the side dishes.

Jin steps into the kitchen, scratching the back of his head, and—completely blanks Namjoon as he goes to grab the kettle.

“Oh, uh—I made tea already, hyung,” Namjoon says, grabbing the cup he’d just poured and handing it over—a bit too enthusiastically, as a few drops spill out. He laughs sheepishly, on the cusp of too shrill, and Jin stares at it for a second.

“Oh.” He wraps his hands around the cup. “Thanks.”

Namjoon swallows, then laughs again. “Yeah, don’t mention it. I, uh—made breakfast, too. It’s buchi—”

“I’m not hungry,” Jin says. “I’ll grab something after the meeting. Thank you anyway, Namjoon.”

Then he’s gone.

Namjoon slides a few of the pancakes into a tupperware box with a helping of rice and kimchi, then slides it in the fridge for later, mind carefully blank.

“Morning, Joonie-hyung.”

He stands too quickly and hits his head on the fridge door. “Fuck.” He rubs his head with a wince, waiting for the inevitable laughter—but it doesn’t come. He blinks, kicking the fridge door shut behind him, as Jimin glances over the counter full of food. Namjoon grins, rubbing his nose. “Aha, I—thought I’d make breakfast. ‘Cause I woke up early, so…”

Jimin actually looks at him and he smiles, relieved.

“That’s really sweet, hyung,” Jimin says, dropping his gaze to the food again, then looking up with a sad smile. “But I’m cutting my carbs until our break…”

Namjoon falters. “Oh. I mean, that’s fine, you can just leave the rice…”

Jimin’s brows furrow together as he looks at the buchimgae, then smiles nervously up at Namjoon again. “I’d. I’d rather just have some of the soup,” he says, grabbing the bowl and eyeing it like it personally offended him.

Namjoon fights down the instinctive fine, whatever, I don’t care that bubbles up because that isn’t rational. Pushing past the initial cloud of defensiveness, he takes in Jimin’s posture: he’s wrapped an arm around his stomach and he’s staring at the food a bit too intensely. His fingers twitch on the spoon and he’s mumbling under his breath.

“…hundred or so…”

It takes Namjoon a couple of seconds to process it and a spark of nausea jolts up his spine. “It only has about fifty calories, max,” he says.

Jimin’s head snaps up, eyes wide, before he laughs weakly. “Oh. Right.”

“Jiminie,” Namjoon says, sitting down across from Jimin because he doesn’t want to tower over him when he asks: “Are you counting calories right now?”

“No—well, yes—don’t look at me like that, Joonie-hyung, it’s not what you think.”

Namjoon frowns. The fact that Jimin knows what his assumption was… “Okay,” he says, trying to relax his shoulders. “Okay, so what’s up?”

Jimin sighs. “I’m just… tracking my calorie intake until our break.” He pauses. “A dance move in one song that Hoseok-hyung and I have to do together has him lifting me up, I want it to be easier.”

“Jimin,” he says. Jimin’s eyes lock onto his. “The tour is over. You don’t need to do that move right now.”

Jimin runs a hand through his hair. “Yeah…”

“Jimin, look.” He does. “It’s okay to keep on track of what you eat, but make sure our nutritionist knows what you’re doing. It’s easy to fall back into old habits.”

Jimin’s eyes widen, mouth falling open. “Namjoonie-hyung, that’s—I wasn’t trying to…” He trails off.

Namjoon folds a hand over his. “I believe you, Jiminie. Just—if you are ever struggling, you can talk to us. Any of us. Or none of us, as long as you speak to someone. You’re an idol, yeah, but you’re also Park Jimin—we want to keep that around. Don’t try to make yourself less than you are, okay?”

Jimin’s eyes are a little too bright and when he tries to speak, he chokes on a breathy sob.

“Ahh, Jiminie, no,” he says, standing to go to the other side of the counter, wrapping him in a hug.

Jimin sniffs into his shoulder, threading his own arms around Namjoon’s back. “Sorry, I. I really have been better,” he whispers. “I eat what I should, not what I think I should, I just. When we’re working, I can’t stop thinking that I need to control my intake more. I… I worry that one day we’ll perform and it’ll be fine, and the next we’ll perform and people will be Tweeting about how I look like I’ve gained weight…”

Jimin,” Namjoon breathes, pulling away to meet his eyes. “I can’t lie to you and say you’ll stop thinking that way, and we can’t control what people write online. But for all those faceless people who slate us, there are countless fans holding up lights and cheering your name, there’re six guys here who’d do anything for you, there’s your family who are so proud of you every day, and you’ll get to see them next week.” Jimin cracks a small smile. “Even if you’ll never completely stop thinking about how you look or how many calories is in something, it’ll get easier to work past that. You can be aware of what you’re doing and still enjoy it anyway.”

Jimin looks away for a second before meeting his eyes again. “Namjoon-hyung…” he starts, but then dips his head.

“Yeah, go on,” he says softly, rubbing his back. “Ask whatever.”

Jimin chews his bottom lip and sighs at the floor. They sit in silence a while, ticking clock echoing in the kitchen, and Namjoon thinks maybe he’s decided against saying whatever it was he was going to say. Maybe he should offer to make tea—

“Have you ever experienced anything like this?”

His hand falters on Jimin’s back.

“I mean… I know you’ve never had an eating disorder,” he continues, and part of Namjoon is glad he can finally say it without sneering or rolling his eyes (because he didn’t used to believe it even after they all begged him to eat and saw his ribs during dance practise), but part of him aches to hear it, wonders if Jimin would’ve never struggled with this if he hadn’t joined Bangtan. “But… you say things, sometimes. Like you get it, even though you haven’t experienced it.” He looks at Namjoon, tears teetering on the edges of his eyes.

Namjoon grabs tissues and hands him some, watches him dab his eyes while he tries to collect fragmented thoughts and piece them together into something legible.

Sleepless nights in nameless clubs tucked in shadowed alleyways. Sweaty bodies, pounding hip-hop music, lyrics he’d scream into a cacophony where he wasn’t heard. Exhausted days, falling asleep on his school desk, waking up to someone pouring milk down the back of his shirt. Going home and writing lyrics and stuffing them in-between Epik High CDs when his mother came in to make sure he was doing homework.

“Yeah,” he says, and Jimin stares at him, inhaling sharply. “I dunno what I’d call it,” he confesses, sinking into that old feeling to try and explain it. That deep sea that clogged your lungs. “Before Bang PD heard my music—before Sleepy mentioned me to him, I performed underground and uploaded music to some site.” God, it’s surreal to remember. “Everything I wrote was… angry. I was angry—at least, for a while. But as soon as my mother stopped telling me to be quiet and do my homework, as soon as I was alone… I was left empty.” He stared at the countertop, at the little indent where Jungkook once cut through an onion without using the chopping board, and the little scar of a reminder remained there. “Every day I walked to school with my head full of white noise. Sometimes during class I’d make a scene just because I… needed people to acknowledge me.” He grimaces. “It sounds ridiculous, saying it out loud.”

“It doesn’t,” Jimin says, softly, tears teetering on the edges of his eyes. “Keep going. Please.”

He inhales deeply. “I went to these clubs more and more, listening to other rappers.” He huffs a laugh, wincing. “I started believing all the shit they said, all the problematic things. Sometimes I knew it was wrong, but I’d just accept it anyway because I didn’t want them to think less of me. I just regurgitated their words so they’d accept me.” He shakes his head. “It worked and for a few moments I’d feel good. Someone would toss me a beer and I’d drink it and pretend I didn’t hate the taste, then they’d talk shit about girls and I’d nod along.” He traces the counter-top’s scar. “I just listened to their poison because I needed them to accept me. I didn’t even like them, didn’t know them really, but I wanted to fit into the role of a rapper so bad that I lost parts of myself in the process.”

He tears his eyes off the counter to look at Jimin, who’s staring into the distance, deep in thought.

“It wasn’t me,” he continues. Jimin looks up at him. “I was hurting myself, acting like that. I hated myself every time I laughed at jokes about gay guys, I felt sick every time I flirted with a girl just to impress other dudes—and for a while I thought I’d become an alcoholic just because I was too scared to turn down drinks. The first time they got me to try weed, I went overboard, Jimin.” He runs a hand through his hair, scrunching his nose in disgust, recalling the heavy scent of weed and smoke and cologne in a dingy nightclub somewhere in the streets of Ilsan. “I had a bad trip—I dunno how, but I ended up in the toilets, hyperventilating and puking for hours until someone dragged me out of the club at 3am. I passed out—don’t remember it, but I must have, because I woke up in an alley beside a dumpster… and I did it three more times, just ‘cause I felt like I had to live down to these guys’ expectations.”

Jimin’s throat bobbed as he swallowed. “Hyung…”

“Jimin, if you live your life trying to please other people, you’ll never please yourself.” He shakes his head. “Every target you set—you’ll reach it and it’ll never be enough. You’ll kill yourself trying to attain the unattainable.” He grabs one of Jimin’s shoulders, curling his fingers into the fabric of his shirt. “You’ll always live with this, Jimin, but you don’t have to let it define who you are: you’re more than your disorder. Don’t try to be less than you are.”

Jimin blinks and the tears finally escape, dripping down his cheeks. His breath stutters and he brings up an arm to wipe his face, but then abandons the idea halfway to throw his arms around Namjoon instead.

“Thank you, Monie,” he breathes, voice shaking.

He squeezes him and holds in the sigh of relief when he feels hard muscle and not pointed bones. “You never have to thank me for this, Jiminie,” he says, quietly, “just don’t leave us, yeah?” He’s going for joking, but it sounds a bit too strained.

“Oh, Joonie,” Jimin says, pulling away to smile at him through his tears. “Never.”

Namjoon smiles back, heart feeling a little lighter, because it feels like Jimin’s okay with him again.

The game show goes well enough, but Namjoon’s tense the entire time, heart racing a little too fast every time one of the others avoid his gaze or take too long to respond to something he says—but Taehyung and Jimin seem fine with him, laughing at every sarcastic quip he makes, even when Yoongi rolls his eyes.

(He sees the TXT members exchanging glaces every so often, after an awkward lull in conversation, but thankfully no one else seems to notice anything.)

It goes absolutely fine, honestly, so Namjoon isn’t sure why he can’t quite get his breathing under control by the time they’re doing the final challenge. It’s a questions-and-answers segment and Jin and Jungkook get to pick their teams. Usually for this sort of thing everyone picks Namjoon first, claiming his brain holds as much trivia knowledge as Naver, but he’s the last one left.

“We have an equal number on each team,” Jin jokes around laughter, but Namjoon thinks he’s serious, “so maybe Joon-ah should sit this one out.”

“We’ll take him,” TXT’s Soobin pipes up, smiling. “We’ve only got five members, after all.”

Hahaha,” Namjoon laughs. “I appreciate it, guys. Man, my own band doesn’t want me!” He’s trying to sound teasing, but to his own ears it’s strained. “I’m heartbroken!”

“Join our team, hyung!” Jimin calls, waving. Jin glances at him and away again and Namjoon feels like he’s been punched in the gut.

“No, no, you can’t win me back now,” he teases, but his palms are sweating and his throat hurts a little.

The rest of it goes well; he ends up winning alongside his group with Soobin and Yeonjun. He highfives them and they laugh together, but he—he really wants to leave. He just wants to sleep.

Finally, blessedly, the cameras cut. He powers through quick conversations with TXT and EXO, mostly on autopilot and barely remembering what they even said, before he thanks everyone on-set, bows to the producers, and bids their managers farewell as they’re dismissed. His face hurts from smiling and he finally drops it as soon as he exits through the stage door.

“Namjoon-hyung?” he hears Taehyung call.

“One sec’, gotta use the bathroom!” he shouts back, rushing into the nearest one and bolting the door shut behind him.

He leans against it for three seconds before his legs give out and he’s sliding to the floor. His breath catches in his throat and stays there. He clenches his fists, nails digging into his palms, and repeats to himself: four more days, four more days, four more days.

He isn’t sure how long he’s been huddling on the bathroom floor but jumps when his phone pings. He nearly drops it in his attempt to fish it out of his pocket. God, doesn’t he even have time to wallow in self-pity, just for a few minutes?

car’s here joonie-hyung ᶘ ᵒᴥᵒᶅ (11:47)
idk what emoji is meant to convey but it resonates with me anyway (11:48)

He breathes a weak chuckle, heaves himself up, and plasters a smile on his face before leaving the bathroom.

Just four more days.

Chapter Text

They attend the costume fitting before heading to the studio to record backing vocals. Namjoon’s about to pour a cup of instant coffee when they get there, but Taehyung snags the cup before he can lift it to his lips.

He takes a long sip despite how hot it must be and Namjoon raises his eyebrows at him.

“No more coffee for you,” Taehyung declares. “You’ve had three cups already.”

“I’m an adult?” Namjoon retorts.

“An adult whose hands are shaking,” Taehyung agrees with a nod.

Namjoon looks down and raises a hand which, yes, is trembling. Slightly. He runs it through his hair. “It’s fine, we’re just recording now; no one’s here to witness my caffeine addiction.”

“I am, and I’m putting a stop to it.” Taehyung downs the rest of the coffee, makes a face, then tosses the cup into the bin behind him. He grabs Namjoon’s shoulders and turns him around, steering him into the studio. “You’re recording; you can’t afford to overdose and caffeine and stutter out all your lyrics.”

“Untrue – I’ve heard people love my stuttering part in Ddaeng ,” Namjoon retorts.

Taehyung pauses, even halts in his steps, then nods slowly. “True. Listening to Ddaeng is like ASMR for me.”

Namjoon chokes on a laugh, but then Taehyung pushes open the door to the recording studio and Hoseok looks up, curious expression morphing into thinly concealed annoyance. Yoongi doesn’t even glance his way.

Taehyung squeezes his shoulder and that—honestly, that kind of just makes it worse. It means Taehyung knows the others are pissed at Namjoon and, really, he isn’t sure how to respond to the comforting gesture. He feels a knot of burning-hot humiliation that it’s so obvious, that their leader has upset them to the extent that they don’t bother hiding it, that he isn’t capable of keeping them happy.

“See you soon, guys! And just know, if I find out you’re secretly plotting Cypher Pt. 5 , I’ll be back,” Taehyung says in a bright warning with a little wave before disappearing from the room.

Namjoon turns to the room's other two occupants. “So, about Cypher Pt. 5 ,” he says, huffing a laugh. 

Yoongi and Hoseok stare at the music sheets in front of them, silent. Namjoon frowns. This is getting ridiculous , he thinks. Yes, they’re upset at him—he understands why; he thinks they have a right to be, to an extent. But they’re being childish about it at this point and, honestly, even if they don’t care enough about him as a friend to move past it, they should at least respect him as a leader and co-worker.

The words taste like copper and weigh like iron in his mind, but he shoves it down and stalks over to the mic.

“Okay, guys, you know the itinerary then, yeah?” he says, examining the sheet fleetingly. He has it all memorised, anyway. “We’re recording backing vocals—”

“Yeah, we saw the email, Namjoon,” Hoseok cuts in, tone clipped but not outright snipish like Yoongi’s has been over the last few days.

“Great, then we can get started.”

“Thank you for your permission,” Yoongi mutters.

Namjoon takes a deep breath, forcing his retort back into his lungs instead of letting it past his lips, and sends a sharp nod to the other staff in the studio. Time to record.

Let’s get this over with , he thinks, already tired, but then immediately feels a pang that hurts his chest; he’s never wanted to hurry through their time recording. It’s always been one of his favourite parts of his job, but right now he’d rather be anywhere else.

The music starts, and he lets his thoughts break away into lyrics that let him stop thinking for a while.

“—cut. Sorry, Namjoon-ah, could you do that one more time? We picked up Yoongi’s, uh, breathing in the recording.”

This is the third time they’ve had to ask Namjoon to redo his line. The first time, it was because Yoongi and Hoseok had started ‘discussing’ something, just close enough to the mic that it was audible alongside Namjoon’s rapping. The second time, it was because Hoseok dropped his sheets. And now, Yoongi ‘breathed’ too close to the mic. Namjoon had heard him do it, right at the end of Namjoon’s line; it wasn’t a breath, it was a sigh.

“Let’s break a second, guys, yeah?” Namjoon requests. “We’ve gotta talk about something, so just take five.”

It’s vague, but the other staff clearly know what they’re doing to talk about. They mumble their agreements and shuffle out of the room. The door clicks shut and the silence is palpable.

Namjoon takes his headphones off with far more control than he feels, placing them down on the table before him, and then turns to regard Yoongi and Hoseok.

“Whatever you want to say,” he says, “just lay it on me.”

“Holy fucking shit,” Yoongi snaps, a nasty laugh echoing around the studio. Hoseok grimaces. “Do you realise how self-righteous you sound right now?”

“Or maybe you’re just projecting,” Namjoon suggests, actively keeping his hands flat. He’s been digging his nails into his palms too much lately; he’s even got a couple crescent-shaped cuts.

Yoongi stands, stool screeching against the floor and toppling over with a clatter that makes Hoseok flinch. He wrenches his headphones off and slams them on the couch behind him. “I’m not fucking talking to you like this,” he snaps. “I’m ‘taking five.’” He rolls his eyes and storms out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Namjoon counts to ten before turning to Hoseok. “You wanna leave too?”

Hoseok sighs loudly, through his nose, before glancing at Namjoon. “No. It’s fine.”

“So,” Namjoon says, “can I ask you to answer me?”

Hoseok tugs off his headphones too but doesn’t throw them, just holds them in his lap and traces a screw to give himself something to do. “Namjoonie…” he starts and, honestly, it’s a little pathetic that Namjoon softens as soon as he says his name like that. Everyone’s been calling him just-Namjoon and it feels—distant. Like they haven’t lived together for close to a decade. “I don’t—I’m not good with words like you.”

“I think you proved that wrong when you wrote Dionysis,” Namjoon says, quietly, with a tentative smile. “But just… talk. Don’t worry about how it sounds. We can make it make sense after.”

Hoseok looks at him again. “I…” He shakes his head. “Honestly? I’m not mad at you anymore. I feel like a dick after the game show yesterday.” He rubs his neck.

Namjoon relaxes a little. “Really?”

“Yeah, really.” Hoseok purses his lips. “We—that was childish.” He shakes his head. “And it’s kind of embarrassing that Taehyung-ah and Jiminie were acting like the hyungs while me, Yoongi-hyung and Jin-hyung were just…” He huffs, meeting Namjoon’s eyes again. “I’m really sorry for that, Namjoon-ah.”

Namjoon smiles, feeling his spine loosen as he slumps in relief. “It’s fine, Hoseok-ah. I’m sorry too, you know. I really should have told Sejin-ssi ‘no’ right away. I just thought—” He shrugs. “I like to ask you guys first, no matter how sure I am about a decision.”

Hoseok cocks his head. “I mean… you’re the leader.” He smiles awkwardly.

“Yeah, I am,” Namjoon agrees, and Hoseok drops his gaze back to his lap. “And what kind of leader would I be if I didn’t consult you guys?”

Hoseok’s head snaps up again. “Namjoon-ah…”

“I didn’t ask you guys as a formality, y’know. I really meant it when I said you can refuse,” Namjoon says, because he did . “Even after you guys agreed to it… after you all left the room, I told Jin-hyung I was gonna tell Sejin-ssi we weren’t willing to do it.” He bites the inside of his cheek, frustrated; while Yoongi’s been searching for an argument with Namjoon this week, Jin’s been avoiding him altogether. “Jin-hyung said I couldn’t do that, since you all said yes already.”

“…I mean, he’s right about that,” Hoseok concedes, and Namjoon sighs. Is he incapable of making the right decisions? “It’d be like you just… decided for us, if you just went and reported the opposite of what we said.”

“Then why are you all so—” He cuts himself off, jerking his head away and feeling his face heat up. He can’t finish that question; it’s— childish . Pathetic. Stupid.

Hoseok’s stool squeaks and then Namjoon feels a hand on his shoulder. He looks up at him. “Namjoon-ah? What… what were you going to ask?”

And—he isn’t sure what makes him do it, but suddenly his lips are loose and his thoughts spill out into words and he asks, “Why are you all so angry at me?”

God, it’s so childish . He sounds like a whiny little kid rather than the leader of one of the world’s biggest bands, but this week he hasn’t felt like he’s lived up to that title anyway.

“Oh, Joonie,” Hoseok says, then yanks him into a hug.

Namjoon falters, freezing for a second.

“I’m sorry—I didn’t realise you were so upset.”

“I’m… not really…” he mumbles, trying to laugh, but curls his arms around Hoseok to hug him back loosely. He’s still sitting so he has to lean up to do it which is a foreign concept, but… it feels… nice.

“I honestly didn’t think it’d bother you, if we were pissed,” Hoseok confesses, still not pulling away. “You’ve always seemed—I dunno, you’re never not calm, you know? Like you rationalise everything until it isn’t a problem. Before shows, whatever we’re freaking out about, you always say something that makes me think, damn, why am I even worried? Or when we get too tired and take it out on each other, you’re always the one mediating. You’re younger than half of us but you’re always the one fixing everything.”

“That’s not true,” he objects, pulling away to look at Hoseok. “Sure, I interject sometimes before it can get out of hand, but you guys have always been professional about it. Even back when we debuted and we were all hormonal and emotional as fuck, all of you were fucking amazing at knowing when to step down and apologise.” He shakes his head. “That’s what I mean, Hoseok-ah: I’m not a great leader, you guys are just great people. I’m so lucky.”

When Hoseok blinks, his eyes are too bright and they shine suspiciously, but then he beams through it and it feels like the sun coming out after a rainstorm. “Oh, Joonie,” he coos, tugging him back into a tight embrace. “That’s where you’re wrong—you’re the best leader we could ever have.”

Namjoon should laugh it off and say thanks and crack a joke, but—“If that were true, I would’ve handled this better. I would’ve made a decision that didn’t frustrate you guys so much.” He sighs, pulling out of the hug to smile weakly up at Hoseok. “If I was a better leader, I’d understand why Jin-hyung won’t talk to me; why Yoongi-hyung is so angry; why all of you wouldn’t speak to me.” He licks his lips and grimaces—he must’ve been doing it a lot without realising, because they’re chapped and cracked and sting a bit. “Which is why I asked you and Yoongi-hyung to just tell me whatever you’ve been thinking the last couple days. I’m not trying to sound self-righteous; I really just want to understand so I can avoid it in the future.”

Hoseok winces. “God, Joon-ah, when you say it like that…” He shakes his head, frowning. “I mean, I can’t speak for the others, but…” He shrugs, looking guilty. “I’ve always seen you as the leader, y’know? I feel like… if you’ve made up your mind about something, what’s the point in disagreeing? You’re the leader, so you get the final say.”

“Being the ‘leader’ doesn’t make me a dictator, Hoseok-ah,” he says tiredly. “It’s just a title, a title I have because I was the first member of BTS. It doesn’t make me more valuable than the rest of you, and it certainly doesn’t make my opinions more valid than yours.” He tilts his head. “Being a leader means I have to try and bring out the best in you guys, but you don’t even need me for that. You always do your best anyway, which is what makes my job so easy.”

Hoseok smiles at him and he’s just so damn relieved to see that expression again. Two days without it was two days too long.

“Can I tell you something now?” he asks.

“Yeah, ‘course.”

He rubs his arm. “I…” Agh, why is this so embarrassing? “You and me are the same age, so… when we first started BTS, I kinda thought we’d be close.” He rolled his sleeve up just to give himself something to do. “But you always seemed more formal with me than all the others. I used to think maybe you didn’t like me.”

Hoseok’s eyes widened. “Namjoon-ah—”

“I know that isn’t how it is,” he assures him before he can say anything. “But, yeah. I dunno. I just…” He huffs. “I don’t want you guys to look at me and see a leader. I want you to see a friend.” He smiles through the embarrassment, even as his cheeks burn.

Hoseok opens his mouth—and then they both grimace as the door slams open with a bang.

“It’s been five minutes,” Yoongi declares, “so let’s get this shit over with, yeah? I’m already working a week longer than I was meant to; I don’t wanna stay here an extra hour just ‘cause Namjoon has to redo his lines.” He drops into his seat and grabs his headphones.

Hoseok scowls. “Yoongi-hyung, you—”

“Hoseok-ah, it’s okay,” Namjoon interjects, pulling his own headset on. Hoseok frowns at him now, ready to object, but Namjoon waves a hand and mouths ‘later.’ Hoseok looks at Yoongi again before slowly taking his own seat.

And maybe he feels like shit when Yoongi storms out as soon as they’re done, but Hoseok pats him on the shoulder and smiles and he decides he’s gotta act like the leader he’s meant to be. He has to stop this ‘four more days’ shit, has to stop waiting for them to calm down, because then there’ll always be an underlying tension. He doesn’t understand why they’re so upset and a lack of knowledge is a lack of leadership. He can’t keep counting down the days until they go on break, then pretend this hadn’t happened when they’re back.

He has to talk to them.

“Let’s have a movie night?” Hoseok suggests when they’re eating dinner.

“Ohhh, I’d love to!” Jimin pipes up. “We haven’t in ages.”

“I’m down,” Taehyung agrees, “since me and Jungkookie just finished our playthrough of DMC 5 .”

Jungkook grins. “That last boss fight was intense,” he says. “Can’t believe it took us two hours.”

“We’re getting old,” Taehyung says with a sigh.

“Oi, you’re not allowed to say that!” Jin squawks.

Namjoon almost doesn’t want to enter the room; no one’s had anything but stunted conversations this week, always holding their words in when he’s around. But he can’t start avoiding them, so he hopes he doesn’t look as uncomfortable as he feels when he walks in. It’s hard not to when they all stop laughing the second they notice him.

He cracks open the fridge to grab something and is in equal parts surprised and unsurprised to find that the breakfast he’d made everyone is still in its tupperware, untouched. Unsurprised because most of them hate him right now; surprised because it was an olive branch and they’re all usually pretty soft about stuff like when one of them spends their time making food for them.

Part of him wants to grab it all and toss it in the trash in front of them all, see if they feel even the slightest bit guilty—but a bigger part of him knows it’s infantile, so he decides he’ll do it later.

He grabs a bottle of water and sits beside Jimin at the end of the table. The younger man smiles at him. “Hey, Joonie-hyung. We were thinking of watching a movie later. Want to?”

“Sure,” he agrees.

“Great! Okay, what shall we watch? Yoongi-hyung, you said you wanted to see that—”

“Yeah, I’m not gonna be able to,” Yoongi says, chugging his iced coffee even though he normally nurses it for half an hour. He stands and tosses it in the bin. “I’ve gotta work on some tracks.”

Everyone looks between them. Jungkook’s eyes are wide and when Namjoon looks at him, he drops his gaze to his lap, pretending to look at his phone.

And honestly, Namjoon thinks he’s been really patient with everyone making up shitty excuses to get away from him, but he can’t let them go so far as to avoid something like watching a goddamn movie together.

“No, you don’t,” he says with faux-innocence, as if he’s confused. Yoongi stills. “We finished up everything like that in the studio yesterday. Didn’t we, hyung?”

Yoongi turns to face him slowly, fury smouldering in his eyes. “Oh. I guess you’re right, Joon-ah .”

And somehow hearing ‘Joon-ah’ in such a disgusted tone feels like a far bigger jab than just ‘Namjoon.’ But he forces a smile anyway. “Cool, so movie night’s on then!”

If looks could kill , he thought, smiling at Yoongi’s glare, I’d be in the ninth circle of hell by now.

They decide to head out to a cinema rather than watch something at home because Jungkook and Taehyung were bored of watching the same films over and over again, despite Yoongi’s insistence that their collection of movies were the only ones worth watching. (“Except for any of Jimin-ah’s,” he added, which earned him a punch on the arm.)

Namjoon’s sipping the soda Hoseok bought him as he watches the others crowd around the snack counter, fiercely debating over what to buy as if the idiots can’t afford all of it. He scoffs fondly. Although he feels like an outsider right now, it’s still a relief to witness moments such as these: when they can be normal. When they can just have fun and all their thoughts are focused on food rather than work.

For the umpteenth time this week, Namjoon hates himself for postponing their break. They could’ve been doing this sort of thing without the heavy mood every time Namjoon walked into a room. They could’ve all gone and seen their families then come back and share stories and laugh and just have fun.

But I had to ruin it , he thinks, but derails the train of thought before it can pick up more self-deprecating carriages along its way. No, he wasn’t here to wallow in self-pity; today, he was going to make things right. (Unbidden, Make It Right starts playing inwardly, and he decides it isn’t the worst song to get stuck in his head.)

He eyes his band mates, considering. He may have spent the better part of the afternoon coming up with plans on how he’d talk to all of them. It sounded a little controlling, he realised uncomfortably, but shook that off because—well, because he couldn’t afford not to do this. They were all colleagues, idols in the same band who had to work together; they couldn’t let a squabble affect their work. If they had repeat performances like the game show or awkward interview, fans would definitely begin to notice something amiss. It was unprofessional.

“Ha! I win!” Jimin exclaims, tearing Namjoon from his inner monologue.

Jungkook scowls down at his hands. “You cheated.”

“I didn’t, Kookie,” Jimin says, patting his arm with a pitying smile. “It’s just—you always pick rock.”

Jungkook opens his mouth to protest, but Taehyung cuts in with: “It’s true, man. You never do paper or scissors.”

“Go sit with Joonie-hyung while I go buy caramel popcorn,” Jimin said brightly, clearly having won the right to choose the popcorn.

“But I—” Jungkook shoots a glance over to Namjoon and he waves back with a smile, pretending he can’t hear them. Despite how innocent he tries to look, Jungkook lowers his voice to say something to Taehyung, whose brows furrow before he responds.

Can you drink anxiously? Namjoon feels like he’s sipping anxiously.

Moments later, Jungkook rolls his eyes and shrugs out of Taehyung’s grip, and Namjoon half-thinks he’s going to just march past him to go wait somewhere else, but he drags a chair out to sit opposite him.

“Want a sip?” Namjoon offers, holding out his drink.

Jungkook props his hand on his chin, looking more nervous than annoyed. Which is—odd, really, because Namjoon’s fairly certain he’s pissed at him too. He instinctively thinks nervousness is better than anger but then he just feels sad at the idea. He’s more upset that Jungkook wants to quietly avoid him than he is that Yoongi looks like he wants to punch him.

“What is it?” Jungkook asks.

Namjoon pauses. “Uh.” He looks down at it, but the liquid’s indiscernible in its white styrofoam container. He stares at it for a second before looking back up. “I don’t know.”

Jungkook blinks. “You… have been drinking it this whole time, haven’t you?”

He shakes the cup and, yeah, it’s only got about a quarter left in it. “I guess I wasn’t paying attention?” He laughs awkwardly, scratching his nose.

A small huff—he looks up and feels himself grin when he sees Jungkook smiling. “I’ll try it,” he says, and Namjoon slides it over. He takes a sip. “It’s Sprite.”

“Of course it is.” Namjoon rolls his eyes. “So, you lost the right to pick the popcorn, huh?”

Jungkook’s small smile morphs into a scowl. “Apparently I always choose rock,” he sneers, then looks at him. “…Do I?”

Namjoon smiles gently. “Kinda.”

Jungkook pouts.

“But,” he says, sipping the rest of his drink until it’s just ice left over, “now that they’ve pointed it out, they know you know. Which means next time you rock, paper, scissors over something, they’ll wonder if you’re going to do something different.”

Jungkook’s eyes widen. “Holy shit, yeah,” he breathes, like it’s a Gospel revelation. “So should I?”

He hums. “If I were you,” he says, pretending to think hard about it, “when they asked me next, I’d pause long enough to look like I was thinking, then smile and agree. You’ll seem confident, then they’ll question it. ‘Will he do something different now that we’ve pointed it out?’ they’ll ask themselves, but then they’ll go on to think: ‘but wait. Maybe he’s thought about that, and he’ll use rock because he thinks we’ll think he’s going to change his mind,’ and then they’ll second-guess themselves, and will wonder if you’ve thought about it at all. They’ll probably instinctively choose paper.” He tosses his empty drink in the nearest trash can. “Probably.”

He looks up, and Jungkook’s eyes are as wide as when Namjoon told him he was in the band.

“How—” he starts, then shakes his head. “Do you think like that about everything?”

Namjoon blinks. “Uh. Not actively?” Does he? Maybe.

“Hyung, if you…” he trails off, looking up. Namjoon does too and sees the others approaching their table, cradling bags of popcorn and miscellaneous packets of treats. He glances at Jimin, seeing him pop a piece of popcorn in his mouth, and relaxes a little.

“You losers done gossiping?” Taehyung asks around a mouthful of popcorn.

“If you’re done bickering over food, then yes, we are,” Namjoon replies, but kind of wishes they’d taken five minutes longer because now he’d be thinking about what Jungkook had almost said throughout the whole two-hour movie.

He lets the others file in the row of seats first. Noticing this, Yoongi squeezes past first, almost pushing Namjoon out of the way as he goes. Jin follows next, not looking at him at all, but Jungkook looks up with a small, reserved smile, which is a bit of a consolation. He notices Yoongi lean over to whisper something to Jungkook, looking irritated. Jungkook says something back and Yoongi’s eyes shoot up to meet Namjoon’s. He blinks back and raises his eyebrows, which just makes him look angrier. Taehyung tugs his arm and he looks away from Yoongi.

“You gonna watch the movie standing up?” Taehyung tilted his head.

Namjoon flops into the seat on the end. “Just give me some popcorn,” he says. Taehyung grins impishly and holds it out of his reach, pushing Namjoon back to keep him away from his popcorn. But then Jimin snags a handful and he squawks, practically tossing it to Namjoon to keep it out of Jimin’s reach.

(And, really, it’s moments like this that assure him that not everything has changed.)

Namjoon’s flagging.

They’re not even halfway through the movie yet, but his head keeps slipping out of its perch on his palm, and he keeps blinking back black spots. He’s barely slept this week, thanks to their unexpected schedule, complete with the last-minute meetings and late-night phone calls—although, admittedly, staying up last night was his own prerogative; he, for whatever ungodly reason, stayed up to make notes on everyone’s behaviour. Which was maybe a little weird, and definitely overboard, but—

Well, but nothing, really. He knows it was weird, but he did it anyway. And now he’s fighting not to fall asleep because he half-thinks they’d go home without him.

“—’scuse me…”

He blinks a few times to see Jungkook trying to sidle past them.

“Where’re you going?” Jimin whispers, holding his popcorn close like he thinks it’s going to be stolen.

“Oh, I thought I’d go on a quick one-day trip to Paris—I’m going to the bathroom , god. Tae, move your legs.”

He does and Namjoon follows suit as Jungkook slips out and then disappears from the dark theatre.

In the next moment, Taehyung shakes him and he bolts upright. “Yeah?”

“You look like you’re falling asleep,” he whispers, frowning in the low light. “You okay?”

He rubs his face. “Ugh, yeah, just. I didn’t sleep much last night.” Or the night before. “I’m gonna go to the bathroom too, splash some cold water on my face.” And corner Jungkook , he adds inwardly, telling himself that it isn’t weird and that it’s necessary.

How am I gonna do this? he wonders. He seems less annoyed than he does nervous or something. But why would he be? He mulls over possible reasons for it, all intangible thoughts that he can’t string into something substantial to justify Jungkook’s odd behaviour. But then, he objected when Namjoon first mentioned it—had been the only one to outright do so, thinking back. Maybe he felt ignored, since the others all just agreed to do another week and Namjoon hadn’t raised the issue again. Maybe he felt like he couldn’t disagree with the others—maybe he, like Yoongi, thought Namjoon wanted this extra week of work.

He realises, when he reaches the bathroom, that he’s lost time. He wasn’t paying any attention during the walk from his seat to the toilets, which maybe should’ve been a little worrying, but somehow he’d not gotten lost, so he shrugs it off and heads inside.

The low thrum of ever-present music and muffled movie dialogue is muffled by the heavy bathroom door when he shuts it. He goes to turn on the tap, splashing cold water over his face. It wakes him up a little, but does nothing for the niggling headache he’s not been able to shake over the last few days. He knows it’s from a lack of sleep, but what can he do about it? They have two more days left and then they’re off; then he can sleep. Until then, though, it’s his fault they’re still exhausted and embittered and busy, so he’ll put up with the extra meetings and late-night calls.

He stares at his reflection, frowning as he makes eye contact with himself. He’s never looked like a leader, has he?


He looks over to the source of the sound in the mirror and sees Jungkook exiting a stall. Big brown eyes look up and he freezes for a second before shuffling up to the sink. “You had to go too, hyung?” Jungkook asks, but it sounds more accusatory than questioning.

Namjoon pretends not to pick up on it. “Nah,” he replies, “I was just kinda falling asleep. Decided cold water would help.”

“You’re tired?”

He blinks, looking up to meet Jungkook’s gaze. The younger man’s brows furrow as he looks over Namjoon and he wonders if he looks bad. “A little,” he confesses, “but we all are, right?”

“Well… yeah, but…” He grabs some paper towels to dry his hands, looking away from Namjoon as he does.

“Hey, Jungkook-ah,” Namjoon says softly, and large, dark eyes snap up to him. He smiles weakly. “I really am sorry, y’know.”

Jungkook’s eyes widen, but he schools his expression just as quickly. “It’s okay. Work is work.”

Namjoon shakes his head. “Yeah, but we have lives outside of it, no matter how hard it is to remember that,” he says. “I didn’t mean to disregard any of your feelings.” Jungkook is just staring at the floor tiles, mouth pressed into a thin line, so Namjoon drops that line of conversation and instead sidles closer to him to nudge his arm. “Hey, what were you gonna ask me earlier? When we were talking about rock, paper, scissors.”

Jungkook blinks owlishly as he searches his memory, then flushes lightly. “Nothing really.”

He sighs, letting go of the calm leader persona, and his shoulders droop. “Kookie, you can talk to me about anything,” he mumbles earnestly. “I don’t say that to be nice; I’ve always meant it. But if you don’t want to, I get it.” His smile feels a little too wobbly, but it stays in place. He claps Jungkook on the shoulder. “Just know I really appreciate all of you sticking this week through, even though it’s the last thing any of us wanted.” He looks up when the bathroom door opens. A man glances at them before rushing into a stall. “We should head back.” He pats his arm once more before pushing off the counters—and staggers to a halt when Jungkook grabs his wrist. He turns around, raising his brows.

“Sorry,” Jungkook says, face pinched, but he’s still gripping onto Namjoon’s sleeve. “I just—” He shakes his head with a huff, then raises his gaze, steel in his eyes. “Namjoon-hyung, if you think about everything as much as you thought about the rock, paper, scissors thing, why didn’t you think more about this week?”

Namjoon blinks.

“I mean…” Jungkook ducks his head, half-wincing, like it hurts to say this. “I just… I don’t—ugh.”

“Go on,” Namjoon prompts, ready to hear his thoughts—ready to hear anything, as long as he’s speaking to him. Seeing Jungkook, who’s always looked up to him, not even want to look at him… it kind of hurt.

Jungkook cringed. “I… usually think your decisions are for the best,” he says, quiet enough that the other man in the bathroom couldn’t hear them, “but… this time, I was really… disappointed.”

Namjoon twitches, but quickly tries to get his expression under control. His chest hurts. “I’m sorry,” he says, voice a little raspier than it should be. Jungkook doesn’t look up. “Jungkook-ah, I never want to disappoint you guys,” he continues, while his mind is screaming look at me. “But listen, you can always say that, y’know? You can tell me when you disagree, when you want to do something differently.”

Jungkook just shakes his head. “You’re—”

“I swear to god, if you say ‘but you’re the leader,’ I will fight you.”

Wide dark eyes shoot up to stare at him. “Uh.” His lips twitch. “I think I’d win.”

“Okay, you aren’t allowed to: leader’s orders.”

“I’m literally stronger than you; you can’t just decide that.” Jungkook chuckles.

Namjoon grins. “That’s how you should look at everything .”

Jungkook’s smile fades as he blinks in confusion.

“Jungkook, man, look: I’m not ‘in charge’ of any of you, okay? I can never control what you do. I wouldn’t want to. I know I’ve got the ‘leader’ label, but all that means – for me, anyway – is that I should take the initiative when you guys are uncomfortable, I should try to help when you’re struggling, I should be there for you if you need me to be.” He grabs Jungkook’s shoulders, staring into his eyes. “But we all do that for each other anyway, don’t we? So I don’t want you to see me as, like… something else. Above anything else, I’m your friend, Kookie, and you can tell me anything.”

“Joonie-hyung…” Jungkook breathes, and then his wide-eyed expression melts into a smile. “This is exactly why you’re the leader, though.”

He sighs, relinquishing Jungkook’s shoulders. “I’m n—”

“No, listen, I—I get what you said,” Jungkook hurries to say, and now it’s his turn to grasp Namjoon’s shoulder. “I just mean… I dunno. You’re just an amazing person, hyung. I don’t think I’ll ever meet anyone else like you.”

His face feels too warm all of a sudden. “Jungkook…” He clears his throat, veering away from the unchartered territory of compliments and back on the course of mapping everyone’s stormy oceans. “You’re a pretty amazing person too, so I really wanna understand why you’ve been upset. I know it’s because we’re working another week, but I mean beyond that. What is it that’s made you—” He waves a hand awkwardly, because he can’t say ‘what’s made you avoid me?’

Jungkook chews his lip and shakes his head. “I-it’s stupid—”

“It’s not.”

“—but like. I kinda said ‘no’ when you told us and no one else did, so I guess I felt kind of… childish about it. And I thought you might ignore me because I was the only one being selfish.” He runs a hand through his hair, averting his eyes. “Or something.”

Namjoon’s shaking his head before he even finishes speaking. “No, Jungkook—honestly, I… I was kind of pleased you said that.”

Jungkook stares at him, lips parting in surprise.

“Can I—” He exhales slowly, already feeling guilty before even spilling his secrets. “Can I be honest with you?” he mumbles, barely above a whisper.

“‘Course, always,” Jungkook says eagerly, nodding enough that his hair falls in his face again.

Namjoon huffs a tiny laugh. “I… really didn’t want to agree to this week,” he mutters, grimacing at the confession, wondering fleetingly if hidden cameras would announce themselves and Bang PD would jump out of a stall and say it was a test and Namjoon was fired—and then he wonders how he still imagines these ridiculous scenarios years into their role as a popular band. He shakes off the images and continues: “I nearly turned it down before even telling you guys.”

“Why didn’t you?”

He looks at him. “Because I don’t wanna make any decisions without you,” he says, wondering why it wasn’t obvious. “No call is my own to make: we’re a team. Without all seven of us, we’re not BTS.”

“God, Joonie-hyung,” Jungkook breathes, “you’re too—”

Disappointing. Thoughtless. Expendable—

“—good for us.”

He feels his jaw drop and snaps his mouth shut before Jungkook notices. “ Anyway ,” he rushes to say with a high-pitched laugh, “I—never meant to disregard your opinion, Jungkook, honestly. I would’ve said no, too.”

“Why didn’t you then?”

“I just said—”

“No, not to Sejin-ssi.” Jungkook shakes his head. “When you asked us—you never told us what you wanted.”

Namjoon opens his mouth, then pauses. He hadn’t, had he? He feels his neck prickle uncomfortably, embarrassment warming his cheeks, as he murmurs, “I guess I just said what I thought I should… which isn’t helpful at all. Because that probably made you guys feel like you should too, huh.”

“Kinda,” Jungkook says, but he’s smiling, eyes shining behind his bangs where he’s ducked his head. “But it makes me happy, knowing what you really wanted. Hyung, it goes both ways, you know? Don’t forget that you’re our friend. You don’t have to act like you’re fine taking on more work when you’re not.”

He chuckles, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Yeah, you’re right,” he says. “Sorry. I’ll be honest next time.”

Jungkook beams, then yanks him into a hug.

“Oof,” he huffs, but threads his arms around him too, burying his face in his shoulder. A sigh of relief escapes him before he can think about it and he tenses, but Jungkook doesn’t mention it. “Jungkook-ah?”


“Thank you,” he mumbles into his shoulder, “for being honest when I couldn’t be. You’ve really grown.”

He feels Jungkook’s smile against his neck. “Always here to help, hyung.”

Then the creak of a door and footsteps forces them to pull apart, grinning awkwardly at the man who’d possibly overheard their unnecessarily emotional conversation. The man shoots them a very pained looking smile, washes his hands too quickly, and half-jogs out of the bathroom.

“Okay, we really should go back now,” Namjoon says, “before someone recognises us and uploads a photo of us hugging in a bathroom to Twitter.”

Jungkook shrugs. “Better than me drunk Tweeting about you at 3am, but yeah, let’s go.”

“Wait, what?”

They slide back into their seats in the theatre, and Namjoon’s shoulders feel a little lighter than before.

He manages to sit through another ten minutes before falling asleep on Taehyung’s shoulder. The cold water woke him up, but Jungkook calmed him down.

Chapter Text

It's 2:00 by the time Namjoon finishes splicing the backing vocals with the track. It sounds good. Great, even. As always.

Usually now he'd saunter into Yoongi's room to get his thoughts and reconfigure anything that could be better, and he was usually excited to hear Yoongi's criticism; he always found ways to transform a great work into a masterpiece.

He stared at his screen, clicking around and messing with settings, trying to find more and more details to nitpick, to waste time, but eventually he ended up listening to it so many times that the lyrics didn't sound Korean anymore and the beat became white noise.

Namjoon slides his headphones off and stretches, back cracking in three different places. He grimaces at the feeling and watches the clock tick over from 2:00 to 2:05, then decides he’s being ridiculous. He’s known Yoongi for over eight years; they’ve gotten over fights before back when they were far more chaotic, so they could do it again as adults.

But as he draws closer to Yoongi’s door, it feels like his heart’s fighting to escape his chest. He can hear his pulse in his ears and is maybe a little worried Yoongi will be able to hear it too, which would really damage the Calm-Cool-Collected-Namjoon™ façade he’s aiming for. And no matter how many times he tells himself that this is nothing, this is just talking to a friend, it does nothing to quell his fears.

Still, he knocks, because he’s used to powering through nerves and acting like he’s not panicking when that’s all he’s doing.

“Come in.”

If you knew it was me, you wouldn’t be saying that, he thinks with a dull ache in his chest, because this used to be natural; he’d seek Yoongi out when he was scared they were wasting their lives, when he couldn’t talk to the others about it because he couldn’t scare them, but he could spill all his messy thoughts to Yoongi because they’d been in it together since the beginning and knew how frightened they both were. But right now, Namjoon isn’t sure he can tell him anything at all.

He pushes the door open to step inside Yoongi’s monochromatic studio, blinking to get his eyes used to the dark (because Yoongi, for some reason, works with the lights off and the glare of his screen on full-blast) before he can spot the other man in the middle of the room, one leg curled under him as he hunches over his PC. It emits the faintest buzzing noise, the only sound accompanying Yoongi’s fast clicking.

“What is it?” he asks suddenly, too loud in the quiet room. He peels one side of his headphones off. “If it’s about dinner, I told you I—” He turns, and Namjoon can see the moment he realises it’s him. His sleepy-but-friendly eyes harden, mouth drawing into a tight line as his brows furrow and press together. “Oh. Namjoon.”

He smiles as if he didn’t hear the tone. “Oh, Yoongi-hyung,” he repeats with false cheer, politely ignoring the soft scoff. He expects Yoongi to ask him what he wants, but it doesn’t come; instead, he pulls his headphones back on and turns to his screen.

Namjoon swallows the what the fuck are you doing why are you so angry with me I don’t want this I want you back I miss you—and instead drags over a box as a makeshift stool to sit beside him, brandishing his USB and holding it up in front of Yoongi’s eyes.

Yoongi blinks slowly, then takes a deep breath. “I’m working. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Nope, not at all,” Namjoon says brightly, “but since none of you want to listen to me, I figured I’d do some work too and force you to listen to the finished product.” He grabs Yoongi’s hand and shoves his USB into his palm.

Yoongi stares at it, then raises his sneer to Namjoon. “None of us want to listen to you? I’m pretty sure the exact fucking opposite is what happened.”

“Like I said yesterday: I’m pretty sure you’re projecting.” Namjoon nods to his PC. “So, why don’t we go back to frostily ignoring that there’s a blatant issue and just listen to the song?”

With a bitten-back curse, Yoongi shoves the USB in. He drags the file into his audio program and hits the play button so hard Namjoon checks to see if he broke his mouse. He hasn’t, miraculously, but he half-wonders if he should invest in iron-infused computer mouses just for Yoongi—and then quickly wonders why the hell he’s considering buying something for him when he’s acting like this.

He raises his gaze to observe his friend (hyung, co-worker) and bites the inside of his lip when he finds his face is absolutely blank, devoid of anything at all. And, honestly? That’s the reaction he’s always been scared of illicting. He’s always afraid of hearing that his lyrics aren’t meaningful enough, that their music doesn’t reach anyone, doesn’t make you feel . Because he pours his fucking heart onto paper with each song, honest-to-god puts blood, sweat, and tears into his work, so seeing someone listen to his arrangements with apathy makes him want to throw up.

He clenches his fists in his lap, digging his nails into his thighs, and tears his eyes off of Yoongi as he waits for the song to end.

He wants Yoongi to tell him he did a good job. He wants him to smile and say, “You worked hard on this, Joon-ah.” He just… wants Yoongi to be his friend again.

“It’s fine.”

He looks up. Yoongi rips the USB from the port and tosses it to him—and says nothing more. “…That’s it?”

Yoongi rolls his eyes and hits pause again on what he’s working on. “Fucking hell, how much of my time do you want to take before you’re satisfied?”

His eyes sting, but it’s fine. No one can see in the dark. “I just—” Shit, his voice cracked. “Just wanna… know how to improve it.”

“Shit, Namjoon, we’ve only been doing this, what, eight years? You don’t need me to fix your music.”

Fix—? “It’s that bad, huh?” He tries to laugh. It sounds hollow.

“Christ—look, if you just want someone to stroke your ego, post it to SoundCloud, get ARMY to tell you it’s great. Or go to Jungkook; you manipulated him back onto your side already, so I’m sure he won’t mind showering you with compliments.”

Manipulated—?” he breathes, reeling. And—did he? For a fleeting second, he wonders if that’s what he did; if talking to him like that was Machiavellian—but no. He’d just wanted to talk to them all, understand why they were all so pissed and move the fuck on. Why didn’t any of them want that too? Did they just enjoy seeing him lose it? “Yoongi-hyung,” he says, way too tired of this, “I literally just went to the bathroom to wake myself up. I wasn’t gonna force him to talk to me—but I’m not gonna lie and say I didn’t want him to. Of course I wanna sort this shit out with all of you, I—” He looks away, embarrassed. I don’t want you to hate me , lingers on the tip of his tongue, but he swallows it back down.


He looks up at Yoongi’s noise of disgust. “What?” he asks.

He stands up, chair flying backwards. “This is what I mean,” he snaps and Namjoon just doesn’t fucking get it. “You’re acting like—like some fucking disappointed teacher or some shit. You’re so far up your own fucking ass you believe your own bullshit.”

Namjoon jumps up too, but somehow feels small under Yoongi’s glare despite the few inches of height he has on him. “I don’t even know what you’re talking about. I’m not—I don’t know what the hell it is you’re seeing, but you’re wrong .”

Yoongi’s laugh is a razor’s edge. “Of course I am! We all are; only the great leader Kim Namjoon is right,” he hisses, eyes sharp slits in the darkness. “You think you deserve pity because you don’t get why we’re pissed at you? Namjoon, that just makes it a hundred times worse. You don’t get it at all.”

“So why can’t you just tell me?” he snaps, shaking with the effort to hold back his voice.  He’s so goddamn frustrated he could scream. “Is it because you’re afraid, hyung? You’re shit-scared all over again, just like back then: you’re acting like hot shit just to hide how fucking scared you are—”

“Get out.”

Namjoon’s mouth snaps shut.

Yoongi’s eyes flash. “I said: get the fuck out, Namjoon.” He shoves him to the door, wrenching it open, and pushes him again to get him past the threshold. “I’m putting up with you for two more days, then I don’t wanna see your face for two weeks. Don’t speak to me. Don’t come to my room. Just leave me alone.”

Before Namjoon can speak, the door slams in his face.

He jolts awake to clattering and banging.

Throwing himself out of bed, he nearly collapses when the world tilts and just manages to catch himself on the wall. Everything's spinning and a wave of nausea has him crumbling in two, gagging over his trash can.

What the fuck? is his first lucid thought, when his body catches up and realises dry heaving isn't doing anyone any favours. He spits into the bun anyway to rid his mouth of the excess sickly drool building up.

But he shoves the bin aside and stumbles out of his room and into the kitchen, heart thumping like a hummingbird in his chest.

“Guys, what’s—” he starts, myriads of terrible scenarios flashing through his mind—only to stumble into the middle of everyone baking. Together.

Jin’s brandishing a whisk, from which Taehyung is trying to steal the icing off of; Jimin, meanwhile, is skulking behind them, cradling the mixing bowl, while Jungkook is smuggling away what looks like sprinkles and Hoseok is poking some errant icing onto Yoongi’s nose.

And Namjoon—

Is just an intruder.

They haven’t noticed him through the cacophony of laughter and cutlery clanging and—and maybe that’s for the best, because he knows they’ll stop smiling if they do.

So he swallows back the bile climbing up his throat and pads back to his room. He’ll just get breakfast when they’re done, maybe.

He slides back into bed and buries his face in his pillow, clenching his eyes shut so the sting stays inside and can’t get anything wet.

Another interview.

God, when don’t they have interviews? When aren’t there cameras around them? He’s so tired. There are only two days left until everyone can go to their families and Namjoon can wallow in self-pity in between twelve-hour long slumbers. He doesn’t even want to enjoy the fucking break anymore. Doesn’t want to bother making plans with the others. Doesn’t want anything at all.

But the others don’t want this right now either. He has to do his best. For them.

So he responds to questions—practised ones, that he’s memorised answers to, and lets the others fill in the more demanding ones that he doesn’t have the brain power for right now. He never usually lets himself switch off like this unless he’s alone, but… it’s just happened today. He just—everything’s just hazy.

He can vaguely hear talking buzzing around him but thinks, Fuck it, we’re talking Korean, I don’t need to speak, and lets everyone else do it. ARMY probably want to hear less of Namjoon anyway, after their many interviews in the US. That’s fine; he’s tired of talking anyway. Tired of translating, of filling the blanks, of pretending rude questions aren’t offensive.




How can everything simultaneously be so loud, but somehow blur into a singular blurry noise? Like the TV is left on a static channel and it’s turned up to max, like a PC’s fan is struggling but no other noise is coming out, like there’s a crowd of people shouting in another language and you can’t make out a single word.

It’s too much.

He didn’t think it’d ever be ‘too much’ ever again; he thought he’d gotten past that after sweating out his nerves at their concert in Beijing in 2015. But those same scalding-hot tremors are alight in his fingertips right now and they aren’t even on a stage. Sure, they have to perform a song at the end of this interview, but it’s not live. There’s no stress involved. This is one of the most chill gigs they’ve had in—years, probably. But he’s sweating so much he feels like he’s just ran miles without stopping, feels like he could lapse into the asthma attacks he had in high school alone in the stairwells.

Taehyung’s in front of him.

He blinks.

Everything is kind of blur. Have his contacts slipped out? He lifts a hand to adjust them, but Taehyung grabs it. He starts rubbing it and his mouth is moving and, oh. He should really start listening again.

“Sorry, can you repeat the question?” he hears himself say before he even intends to say it. He should probably say: ‘Sorry for spacing out, I don’t know what came over me,’ but… what’s the point? They’re not live anyway.

“Namjoonie-hyung, come here, let’s get some water, yeah?” Taehyung says, dragging him away from the camera’s line of sight and over to drink machines and plastic tables. He slumps against the wall as Taehyung pours him a drink. His mind is blessedly blank as he does so, but he belatedly remembers to mumble a quick ‘thanks’ when Taehyung folds the cup into his hands.

He drops it. Stares. “Oh,” he says.

Taehyung’s talking. Someone else is talking. More people.

And then Taehyung grabs his arm and is tugging him along and everything passes in a grey cloud and then they’re outside.

It’s almost too much: the sudden onslaught of sunlight, the sounds of hundreds of footsteps and chatter and cars, but he winces through it until he’s pushed down onto a bench.

He stares out over a pond.

“Why are we outside?” he asks.

“You were – I—”

“We think you were dissociating, hyung,” comes Jimin’s voice and, well. Namjoon hadn’t even noticed he was here.

He blinks a bit too slowly. “No, I…” but he trails off, because he isn’t sure what he’s objecting to. He shakes his head, tries to dislodge the thick dust that settled over his mind. “We should go back.”

“It seems like the fresh air’s helped at least a little, if you’re saying that,” Jimin says with a small, reluctant smile, which falls as soon as it’s there. “Joonie-hyung, if something was wrong, you should’ve let us know.”

He stares down at his hands. “But nothing’s wrong… I’m just. We’re all tired.” He sighs. “Sorry. That’s my fault.”

Jimin and Taehyung both thread their arms around his shoulders and suddenly he feels solid again. He curls into it—he can’t help it. He knows it’s embarrassing, but he can’t help it.

“Joonie-hyung, stop beating yourself up,” Taehyung says softly. “We know you didn’t want the extra week.”

“I’m sorry any of us were mad at you at all,” Jimin adds, voice close to shaking. “It was obvious you were upset—I guess we just took it out on you.” He shoots a half-teasing smile at Taehyung. “Well, except Tae.”

He nods sagely. “I’m a good boy,” he says.

Namjoon keeps staring into his lap.

“Hyung, come on…” Jimin coaxes softly, slipping his free hand over one of Namjoon’s. He rubs his thumb in circles on his skin. “Why don’t you tell us what’s been bothering you, okay? Time to be honest—no lying to Jiminie.”

He should say no. He should brush it off. He should apologise and take responsibility and pretend this never happened.

“I’m so tired.” It sounds like he’s crying, but he’s not, even though his eyes sting. “I don’t know what to do. And when I try to fix things, I break them more. Yoongi—” His breath hitches. “Yoongi-hyung won’t speak to me. Jin-hyung won’t even look at me.” He clenches his eyes shut when they start feeling wet. “I—I don’t know what to do,” he whispers, a shameful confession that he half-wishes he could take back and cram back down his throat.

(But the other half of him is kind of relieved, because he wants them to know he’s human and he’s not an unflappable leader or a disappointed teacher or a monster who doesn’t understand their feelings—)

“Joonie?” Warm fingers tickle his chin and tug his head up. He stares at Jimin, who smiles softly back at him. “How about we get Yoongi-hyung to speak to you?”

“He’ll kick me out,” Namjoon says, shaking his head. “It’s fine,” he adds, embarrassment returning to him slowly, colouring his cheeks. “I was just overreacting. I’ll be fine—everything will be fine. I won’t let this affect our work—”

“Namjoon-hyung, shut up,” Taehyung says, voice dripping with fondness, and he pulls Namjoon into a tight hug.

“Um,” he says from where his face is buried in Taehyung’s chest.

“You’re not overreacting. It’s okay to be upset—you’ve seen me cry more than my own mother,” he tells him, threading his fingers through Namjoon’s hair. It… feels nice. He leans into it, then immediately hopes it wasn’t obvious that he did. But Taehyung chuckles, so it definitely was. “We’ve all seen each other at our best and our worst,” he continues, “and stuck by each other through it all. You couldn’t show us any part of you that’d make us leave.”

“No matter how big a dick Yoongi-hyung and Jin-hyung are being about it,” Jimin adds, intertwining his arms into their hug.

“So let us help you, just a little?” Taehyung asks.

Namjoon sighs, shoulders slumping, and fights the urge to throw his arms around him. “Yeah, whatever,” he grumbles.

“That’s Joonie for ‘yes please, I love you both so much,’” Jimin translates, and Namjoon doesn’t correct him because, well, he isn’t wrong.

They hug him until a manager appears to ask if they need any medical assistance and Namjoon manages to brush it off as exhaustion (partially because he doesn’t have time to talk about anxiety and dissociation), so the staff just check him for dehydration and give him water and promise to drive them home as soon as they record a quick ‘goodbye’ to finish their interview.

(Sejin pulls him aside to ask if he’s really all right and Namjoon feels some of his misplaced anger towards him crumble, because he’s honestly so good to them. He just claps him on the shoulder and assures him he’ll be fine, and Sejin thanks him for his hard work and says he’ll see if he can’t get them an extra couple days on top of their three weeks.)

Namjoon isn’t sure what Taehyung and Jimin are planning, but honestly? He’s too preoccupied being fucking mortified about his—what even was it? Meltdown?

He watched the recorded footage of their interview and somehow he looks… okay. Like, he’s really quiet throughout the entire thing, but he’s smiling at the camera and, well, that has to be enough because they have no time to re-record it. He’s a little nervous about when they upload it because he knows he’s far quieter than usual in it, but if anyone notices (which they probably won’t), he can just Tweet an apology and a selca and say he was tired. Or something.

Ah, who cares?

(He does; he cares a lot.)

But—fuck. His anxiety hasn’t shot up that much in ages. It’s maybe a little worrying, especially if it’s affecting his work.

He pauses the video – has watched it five times already – and lifts a hand. It’s shaking.

But it’s fine.

He’ll be fine.

His phone resounds with a notification: a reminder about another meeting in an hour. He runs trembling hands through his hair.

He’ll be fine. 

“—Fantastic meeting, everyone. Thank you all for coming. Dismissed.”

Namjoon shuffles his notes into his bag, slings it over his shoulder, and stands.

“Ah—Namjoon-ah, just a moment?”

He turns and inclines his head. “Bang PD-nim?”

“Sit,” he says, kicking a chair back over to him. He does. “Namjoon-ah… okay, wait, I know that look. Stop worrying.”

Namjoon blinks, then chuckles. “Oh, was I—?”

“You were doing that face. That trying-to-look-calm-while-internally-combusting face you have,” he clarifies, like it’s well known.

Namjoon smothers a small laugh behind his hand. “Oh,” he says, “that face. Right.”

“But really,” Bang PD continues with a small smile, “Sejin-ssi tells me you guys have been struggling this week. Are you doing okay? All of you?”

“Ah, um. Yeah, we’re muddling through it. We’re all tired and kind of grumpy, but we’re nearly there.” He raises a fist. “Fighting.”

Bang PD rolls his eyes with a fond laugh. “Yeah, yeah,” he agrees. “Just—take it easy, okay? I don’t want you guys to overdo it. You work hard and we ask a lot of you,” he says, “so if you can’t do these next two days—”

“No,” Namjoon says, a bit abruptly. But—well, like Jin and Hoseok said: they made their decision. Even if it was a result of miscommunication, they’d already agreed to it; none of them would back out now, even if the option was offered. “We want to stick it out. We’ll manage.”

Bang PD regards him for a long moment, then nods. “Okay, I respect that, Namjoon-ah,” he says, patting his knee. “Just call me if you need anything, yeah?”

Namjoon smiles as he stands. “Yeah. Thanks, Captain.”

Bang PD raises a hand in farewell and Namjoon closes the door behind him—then turns and nearly walks right into the three maknae. He steps back before he can actually collide with them.

“You missed me so much you came to meet me,” he surmises. “Thanks, guys. I love you too.”

“While that is true,” Jimin agrees easily, grabbing his shoulders to lead him wherever they intend to spirit him away to, “we have a plan of action.”

“Oh no,” Namjoon says in a monotone. “Someone, save me.” He recognises the next corridor they turn down and actually groans aloud. They’re taking him to Yoongi’s studio. He digs his heels into the floor but Jimin’s still able to push him along. Damn his calf muscles, he thinks.

“Oh, you noticed them? Thank you!”

“Did I say that out loud?” he asks, balking. “Seriously?”

“Poor tired Joonie-hyung,” Taehyung sing-songs.

“Okay, but really,” Namjoon says, “I don’t—” want to do this “—think this is a good idea.”

“Yes, because your ideas this week have been stellar,” Jimin says with a snort.

Jungkook makes a face. “Who the hell says ‘stellar’...?”

(Namjoon didn’t even know they had a word for that in Korean.)

Jimin ignores him and just knocks on Yoongi’s door. “Yoongi-hyuuung, I need help with something!”

There’s a small clatter from inside, followed by a muffled curse. “He dropped an empty pot noodle,” Namjoon narrates for them, then something clangs. “And an energy drink.” More fucks echo behind the door. “Now he’s trying to salvage the noodle-soup-and-fizzy-drink-stained floor—to no avail, obviously.”

The maknae line snicker into their hands.

“Ugh—is it important, Jimin-ah?”

Jimin makes an offended face even though Yoongi can’t see it. “I was taught not to answer stupid questions,” he replies, then pauses and adds, “hyung,” as if that makes his response polite.

“Fine, whatever, just—” The lock clicks open. “There’s some noodles on the floor, just ignore it.”

Namjoon’s side-eyeing Jungkook as Jimin wheedles his way into Yoongi’s anti-social studio. “I expect this from those two, but you, Kook-ah?”

Jungkook just blinks with too-wide eyes. “Well, that’s an oversight on your part, hyung.” He beams. “This was my idea.”

“Mostly,” Jimin adds.

“Mostly?” Namjoon echoes, frowning worriedly.

“Locking you in is my idea!” Jimin chimes, then promptly deposits Namjoon in the studio. He yanks the door closed with enough force to slam—and then the sound of a key turning has his heart rate spiking.

Jimin!” he squawks.


His eyes snap over to Yoongi because he called him ‘Joon-ah’ and for a second he thinks Yoongi’s gotten over his storm-cloud mood, but the surprise gives way to hot fury and he charges over to the door and slams his fists against it. He jiggles the doorknob, but it’s useless, so he punches the door again.

“What the fuck—? Open this. Now.”

“We’ll open it when you two are done talking,” Taehyung says brightly. “Have fun! Jiminie-hyung, Kook-ah, that vending machine down the hall sells…”

His words drift into silence along with their footsteps, and Yoongi’s shock evaporates and twists into a venomous glare.

“Open this goddamn door! Taehyung!”

“I think they’ve left,” Namjoon says, helpfully.

Burning eyes flash to him and his glare warps into a twisted smirk that’s ten times worse.

“Really, Namjoon-ah? Getting the maknae to do your dirty work now?”

He balks, then splutters. “This wasn’t my idea—”

“God, this is beyond manipulative. This is fucking socipathic at this point.” Yoongi shakes his head, a sharp laugh snaking out of his throat that makes Namjoon twitch.

He inhales slowly, trying to stay calm despite his heart hammering in his chest hard enough to hurt. “Yoongi-hyung,” he says, voice far more level than he thought himself capable of. Yoongi’s eyes sharpen. “No, wait, just—listen to me a second, okay?”

Yoongi’s lips twitch into a snarl, but he keeps his mouth shut.

“Okay,” he says, licking his lips and telling himself to breathe normally. “Okay, look: I get it.”

Yoongi’s eyes narrow.

“You’re beyond pissed at me,” Namjoon says, staring at Yoongi’s face like it’s a minefield. “That’s fine, you have every right to be. I’m not saying you don’t.” He wants to fold his arms, to curl in on himself, but he won’t. He’s an adult; he’s the leader of BTS. He doesn’t have to hide. “I’m not gonna try to justify myself anymore ‘cause it’s not doing us any favours, so. I’m just gonna be honest with you.”

Yoongi’s barely moved and, honestly, he’s always been hard to read, so Namjoon isn’t surprised.

“You’re acting like an ass,” he says, bluntly. Yoongi clenches his jaw. “That’s fine—to an extent. You can be as mad at me as you want… but this is getting ridiculous now. You’re making it obvious on camera, in live interviews—hyung, it’s unprofessional.” He takes a deep breath. “If you don’t wanna talk to me about this as friends, then at least be a good co-worker and hide it while we’re working.”

He nearly falls over when Yoongi shoves him—he would have, if Yoongi hadn’t grabbed him by his collar a second later.

“What the fuck—?”

“You’ve changed, Namjoon!” Yoongi yells.

His jaw slackens.

“Who the fuck are you? ‘Be a good co-worker and hide it while we’re working’?” Yoongi repeats, and Namjoon’s too shocked by his words to even flinch when spittle lands on his cheek from Yoongi’s shouting. “Namjoon wouldn’t fucking say that. You fucking idiot—you’ve been clueless as shit all week—no, for months. You have no idea what's—”

He swallows, and it hurts. “So tell me,” he begs, hoarsely.

Yoongi shakes his head, letting go of his collar. He staggers backwards. “We used to work together,” he says, too quietly after his outburst, “every hour… of every day… in a tiny, dingy studio.” He shuts his eyes. “It was shitty—and I loved it. I couldn’t get enough of it.”

Namjoon inhales sharply, hope fluttering in his chest.

But then Yoongi opens cold eyes and says, “And now I can’t get enough of being away from you.”

And that—

That’s it.

Namjoon tastes blood on his lip – he must have bit too hard – and then he shoves Yoongi, hard. “MAYBE YOU’RE THE ONE WHO’S FUCKING ‘CHANGED,’ YOONGI!” he shouts, pushing him again. “What the HELL ever happened to working together, to making it as a team—to always being there for each other?” His throat hurts, his eyes sting, and he can’t stop the words from coming out.

Yoongi cuts him off with a disbelieving laugh. “As if you can talk!” he snaps. “This is what I mean by this self-pitying, holier-than-thou bullshit—you do everything by your damn self! You attend all these fucking meetings without us, you make these shitty decisions that just make more work for us!”

And Namjoon—just balks at that. “You—you have to be joking,” he says, a hysterical laugh bubbling up in his chest. “I didn’t want this!” he cries. “Are you fucking mad ? I’m so tired , Yoongi. I keep passing out at my desk, I wake up puking—I didn’t want this stupid fucking week, but I didn’t want to make the decision on my own without talking to you guys—”

“Oh, don’t give me that shit, Namjoon,” Yoongi sneers. “I had to listen to Hoseok-ah tell me about your shitty spiel—well congrats, you manipulated him into feeling sorry for you! Because that’s always worked before, right? You pussy out and act self-righteous to hide how shit-scared you are and you’re just fuckin’ polite about it.”

“Fuck yes, I’m scared every fucking day?” Namjoon laughs, running his tongue over his teeth before jutting his chin out and trying to stand taller. “We worked so hard to get here—of course I’m terrified of losing it. I’m scared if I don’t work harder I’ll wake up and everything will be gone—but to be honest? It feels like I’m losing it right now because you guys seem to hate me.”

Yoongi laughs like he can’t contain it, throwing his head back. “And there’s the guilt trip!” He shakes his head, a nasty, venomous smirk marring his face. “Maybe Hoseok and Jungkook are gullible enough to fall for it, but I’m not.” He shoves past Namjoon. “Let me the fuck out.”

Namjoon grabs him by the shoulder and slams him against the door. “Just TALK to me!” he roars.

“This literally IS talking?” Yoongi snaps, then rips Namjoon’s hands off of him. “You’re fucking crazy, Namjoon.” He rams his hands against Namjoon’s chest, barging him backwards. “What happened to you? ‘Yoongi, you’re being unprofessional’? You’re prioritising fuckin’ work over PEOPLE now?” He shoves him again. “You act like our boss or manager more than a fuckin’ rapper—did you wanna prove those hip-hop guys right? About idols being soulless dolls?” Another shove. Their shoes squeak against the floor. “Did you even notice that we’ve spent, like, no time together lately? Did you JUST realise I’m mad at you this week? Well, newsflash: it isn’t just because you let management walk all over you and make our decisions for us!” He slams him into the wall with a sickening crack, then drags him down to his height by his shirt. “You’re not the Namjoon I knew!”

His chest heaves as he pants for breath, his fists shaking where they’re curled into the fabric of Namjoon’s shirt, and—


Namjoon’s crying.

Thick, fat tears well up in his eyes and spill down his cheeks in rivers, dripping off of his chin and jaw in three different places.

Yoongi stares. He lets go, hands suddenly numb, and has no idea what to say.

“Of course I noticed,” Namjoon says, so soft Yoongi almost doesn’t hear him. His voice is raspy and hoarse and so painfully sad. “I keep thinking about it. I’ve been scared that I’ve changed too much, so much that you don’t want to be around me anymore. I’ve wanted to talk to you, but—how? When it’s about this? ‘Hyung, I’m scared you don’t like me anymore’? I couldn’t.” It sounds like every word hurts him to say. “I couldn’t because it might fuck up Bangtan—and because it might fuck up us.” His breath hitches and tears just keep spilling over. “A-and I…” He shakes his head, shutting his eyes for a second, which just lets more tears leak out. He hiccups around it, pained little gasps like he’s holding back sobs. “You’ve been the only constant in my life since before we debuted. We suffered together—and lately I feel like I’m. I’m suffering alone and I’m torn between trying to be the leader everyone thinks I am and just pretending everything’s fine and crawling into your studio at night and crying over energy drinks—”

A sob escapes his throat in between all the words that won’t stop spilling out.

“I-I didn’t want this week,” he gasps between hitches and sobs, “and ever since I mentioned it to you all I’ve been hating myself. I always make the wrong decision. I don’t want to make these choices. I didn’t want the English interview, I didn’t want you to not want me on the game show, I didn’t ever want you to hate me.” He looks up at Yoongi again, eyes wide and wet and pleading. “You’re my best friend, hyung. I love you.”

Yoongi stares at him, frozen, as Namjoon just cries. He doesn’t try to hide the tears, doesn’t even swipe at his face when his nose starts leaking too. He’s flushed from the exertion and shaking all over as he just breaks down in front of him—

He lands a punch on Namjoon’s arm, then wrenches him into the tightest embrace he can manage. He squeezes him so hard he must be hurting him, but Namjoon hugs him back just as tight and starts sobbing in earnest.

“Fuck, Joon-ah,” he whispers furiously, burying a hand in Namjoon’s hair to pull his head into his shoulder. “Joonie. Joon, I’m so fucking sorry, I— fuck .” He stops and swallows, squeezing Namjoon as hard as he can, gritting his teeth when he feels tears seep through his shirt and dampen his shoulder. “God, I. I’ve been the worst hyung—the shittiest friend in the world,” he hisses. Namjoon makes a noise against his shoulder. “I just—Jesus.”

“I didn’t—want it,” Namjoon whines, voice cracking halfway through. “I’m sorry, hyung. I didn’t want to do another week. I’m so tired. I’m sorry.”

Stop,” Yoongi hisses. “Stop apologising—fuck’s sake, I’m the one who’s fucking sorry. You were right: this is unprofessional. I’m not sixteen anymore.” He shakes his head sharply. “Joon-ah, I already knew you didn’t want to—that’s partly why I was so angry,” he whispers.

“I don’t get it,” Namjoon says, sounding defeated.

“I.” He sighs through his nose, sharp and frustrated. He was bad at this—but then, so was Namjoon, and he’d been trying all week. He could try now. “I knew you didn’t want to, but you were pretending to be fine with it and—honestly, that isn’t what I was mad about. I guess it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

He peels away from Namjoon to meet his eyes. Namjoon finally seems to remember himself and jerks his arm up to rub at his face, but he’s doing it so harshly it looks like it hurts. Yoongi grabs his arm to stop him, then lifts his own up to gently wipe snot and tears away, even as more tears fell down his face. He sniffed and Yoongi’s lips twitched weakly. He looked so small like this.

“I’m gonna sound really pathetic, so what I tell you doesn’t leave this room, okay?” he says softly, and Namjoon gives one jerky nod. He takes a deep breath. “I… I’ve been worried… we’ve been drifting apart. I guess.” He feels his face heat up. “You’ve—we haven’t hung out. Like we used to.” He grits his teeth, horrified at the things he’s been keeping in the back of his mind for weeks. Being aware of this vague feeling and putting them into words were two completely different things. “I guess… I felt… like you didn’t need me anymore. Want me anymore. Whatever.” He huffs a self-deprecating laugh. “God, this is the most cliché shit I’ve ever said and I’ve written fucking love songs.”

“No, I—well, yeah, it is,” Namjoon agrees. Yoongi glowers, but Namjoon’s weak, wet little laugh makes up for it. “But… I’ve felt like that too,” he whispers, looking away and ducking his head. “Every time I thought about trying to talk to the others about why they were upset, I wanted to come to you and just. I don’t know. Hang out. Make music. See who can throw the most screwed-up papers in the trash can after drinking five beers.” He sniffed again, then slid his hand over his face in a feeble attempt to hide the remnants of his tears. “But before this week, too, I…” His eyes slide over to meet Yoongi’s, wide and shining despite the dim light. Yoongi’s heart falters in his chest, aching at the sight of Namjoon hurting like this. “I’ve missed you.”

And, really, Yoongi’s not good at this.

But Namjoon’s his best friend.

He slides past him and drags open his mini-fridge, grabs a can of beer and tosses it to him, kindly not commenting when Namjoon fumbles and nearly drops it. He opens his own, the loud hiss filling the quiet room, and raises it. “Drink up, kid,” he taunts, “we’re having a paper-throwing tournament.”

Namjoon’s still crying as he drinks his first beer, but he’s laughing when Yoongi misses he bin for the sixth time in a row.

(And maybe he’s missing on purpose, but does that really matter?)

“Calm down, Kookie, we won’t leave you with your arm stuck in the vending machine,” Jimin says calmly.

“Okay, but that’s what you said last time,” Jungkook retorts, frowning up at him.

“I wouldn’t lie about this twice,” Jimin replies as if that makes any sense. “But—wait, can you reach the iced tea?”

Jungkook tries to jostle it, straining his arm to reach. His fingertips graze it and it tips precariously.

“Oh. Fuck.”

Jungkook and Jimin look at Taehyung, who snaps his 3DS shut and stares at them with that forced calm face that means he’s actually freaking out.

“What?” Jungkook asks, nervous.

“It’s been two hours since we locked Yoongi-hyung and Joonie-hyung in the studio.”

They all exchange glances, and then Jimin and Taehyung break into a sprint to the studio.

“Ah—hey, wait! I-I’m still stuck! Guys—!”

(That evening, the fancafé receives one picture of Jungkook with his arm stuck in a vending machine, and one of Namjoon and Yoongi asleep on top of each other, surrounded by scrapped lyrics screwed into paper balls.)

Chapter Text

Namjoon is sitting in the kitchen the next morning, ready for Jin to enter. He keeps having to chug back water and splash it on his face because he woke up too hot and the feeling hasn’t subsided at all. He drums it up to anxiety (and his sweaty palms attest to this) and just resolves to stay hydrated.

Jin’s almost always the first one up (to make use of the clean space before everyone storms in to rain ruin and hellfire upon it), so Namjoon’s confident he’ll be able to confront him here. It’s Jin’s domain, really, so he’ll likely feel more comfortable talking here than he would elsewhere, and Namjoon was certain he’d feel open to discussion if he was on familiar turf. It’d be overstepping boundaries if he stormed into Jin’s room to do it; likewise, the older man would probably feel defensive in Namjoon’s office, and—

He’s overthinking it. He knows he is, but he can’t stop because usually when there’s a squabble amongst the group, he’s the peacemaker, the one who intervenes and makes it right again; this time, he’s the problem. It’s a foreign concept and he hates it. The leader can’t be the source of conflict, yet here he is. Waiting in the kitchen, leg unable to stop bopping up and down, picking at his nails a bit too much, and twitching—goddamn it, as soon as he remembers the twitching, it’s agonisingly annoying again.

His left eye hasn’t stopped twitching since last night after his and Yoongi’s—well, fight. It was a fight, wasn’t it? But that wasn’t quite right. He honestly expected to argue with him: of all people, Yoongi was who he was most comfortable being honest with. It was too easy to snap around him, being someone he’s known for so long. But fights they had in the past… well, they were fights. They’d given each other bloody noses and bruised lips before, and yesterday he almost anticipated that. He was pissed , honestly, that none of them seemed to understand where he was coming from, even though he always tried so fucking hard to understand them. Despite that, they went out of their way to avoid him and not tell him what was wrong. How could he solve anything if he didn’t know what he was trying to solve?

He stares at the spread of breakfast in front of him; once again, he’s made it for everyone, but chose Jin’s favourites especially. His fingers are coated in plasters from how often his knife slipped or he burnt it on a pan that slid from his grip, but he’d finished making it and is privately really pleased with how it turned out. Naengmyeon didn’t qualify as a breakfast food really, but Jin likes it, so he made it. He made doenjang soup, beansprout and spinach side dishes, and even smoked some fish to accompany it. (He hates seafood, but Jin doesn’t, so.) The new teapot he ordered – painted by hand with indigo ink – sits beside it all, filled with hibiscus tea. The steam wafts through the kitchen, draping it in a soft floral scent.

He woke up two hours earlier than he had to in order to make it, knowing he’d have to make a few attempts before he got it right—especially the doenjang soup. But maybe if Jin saw how much effort he put into it, he’d be willing to listen.

The creak of a door was the tell-tale sign of an approach – and, truly, it was a testament to how well they knew each other that he immediately recognised the footsteps as Jin’s. Suddenly his clothes feel too tight and swallowing around his collar is difficult; the pit in his stomach bleeds out and crawls up his throat; his palms itch and fingers tremble and he hides them in his lap, and Jin walks into the room without even looking up.

It hurts so fucking much and he feels his eyes sting, but blinks it back because he just cried all over Yoongi yesterday and losing it like that does nothing to make him the reassuring, comforting presence they all need.

He forces a smile which is kind of difficult to do, but he’s done it for countless shows and interviews that he hasn’t wanted to be there for, so he can do it now. For Bangtan, he thinks, and clears his throat when Jin opens the fridge. “Hyung, I made breakfast,” he says.

Jin doesn’t respond.

He swallows, but can’t quite manage it because his throat feels like it’s closed up. “Haha, c’mon, man, I made naengmyeon for you. It’s one of your favourites, right?” He’s being more upfront than he’d planned, but the silence is weighing on his shoulders like rocks and it feels like there’s sawdust in his mouth and cotton wool in his head.

Jin doesn’t respond.

Namjoon’s breathing is a little too loud for his own ears, and he forces himself to calm down. Or at least pretend to. He pours a cup of tea, ignoring the drops that spill over the edge because his hand is shaking, and takes it over to Jin, who’s still staring into the fridge. “Hyung, here, have some tea.”

Jin doesn’t respond.

More tea spills over the rim because his hands won’t stay still. “Jin-hyung—”

“Morning, Jin-hyung, Joonie.”

The words sound muffled in Namjoon’s ears and he thinks he’s imagined it for a second, but then Jin turns and smiles and says, “Hi, Taehyung-ah.”

Namjoon twitches and steps further into his space, holding out the teacup again. “Jin-hyung, your tea,” he tries again.

Jin doesn’t respond.

After a few seconds, Taehyung clears his throat. “Um… I’ll have some tea, Namjoon-hyung,” he says softly. It sounds like he’s smiling but Namjoon is just looking at Jin, who’s staring right through him. “Oh, wow, breakfast is already made! It looks really good. Did you make it, Jin-hyung?”

“No,” is all Jin says as he pulls a yoghurt out of the fridge.

Namjoon’s fingers are burning where the tea’s spilling over the edge of the cup. “I made it.” His voice sounds raspy, and he fleetingly wonders if it’ll make Jin look at him.

It doesn’t.

“Namjoon-hyung made this? Holy shit, you must’ve spent ages on it,” Taehyung breathes. “Can I have some?”

And he can’t ignore the others like Jin’s ignoring him, so he turns and smiles, grateful that someone wants it. “Of course, Tae, yeah. Go for it.”

Taehyung looks up to smile at him, but it drops when he sees Namjoon’s face. He isn’t sure how he looks, but apparently it’s not good. He pushes his smile a little more to reassure him, because Taehyung’s been the only one this week who hasn’t outright—well, ignored him or avoided him, so he doesn’t deserve to see Namjoon getting upset.

(The again, the others can’t see him upset either; he has to keep it together to try and coax them into talking so he can patch things up and make everything okay, and how could he do that if he wasn’t okay?)

Taehyung’s gaze flickers between his two hyungs and it makes Namjoon feel too small—but too big at the same time, like he’s tiny and insignificant but his height throws it off kilter. A wave of dizziness has him fumbling to grip the counter and the china cup slips out of his hands.

“Shit.” He drops to his knees, ignoring the black spots in his vision, and tries to grab blindly at the fragments.

Slipper-clad feet step into his vision. “Let me help, Namjoon-hyung,” Taehyung says softly.

“No, no, it’s fine, I’m good,” he babbles back, trying to sweep the broken pieces into his hands before Taehyung can help. He doesn’t need help, he doesn’t need it.

He stands abruptly, nearly banging his head into Taehyung’s, and offers him a smile that hurts his face as he rushes to the bin to drop the china into it.

Jin’s standing at the sink, not facing him.

It’s getting harder to control his breathing and he wants to shout at him, at everyone—

You’re my hyung, you’re older than me, why aren’t you acting like it? Why am I the only one making an effort? Why did Yoongi only listen to me when I started crying? Why is everyone letting this happen? Why doesn’t anyone stand up for me?

But Taehyung looks so concerned and uncertain and Namjoon’s his hyung and the leader of Bangtan so he can’t slip up. He can’t.

“Enjoy your breakfast, guys,” he hears himself say, sounding completely normal. “Don’t forget: we’re leaving for that talk show in an hour, so be ready to go.”

He’s in his room before he knows it, doesn’t even remember walking down the corridor. The door clicks shut behind him and he slides down it, staring at his still-trembling hands. They’re littered with tiny cuts, most of which have stopped bleeding already, and only now does he realise they’re stinging.

But he can’t be bothered doing anything about it.

Doing anything at all.

He sits on his floor in his dark room for an hour, until Jimin knocks and tells him it’s time to go.

Sejin pulls him aside as soon as they’re in the studio, grabbing Namjoon’s arms and frowning, looking ashen.

“Namjoon-ah,” he breathes, clearly shocked because he doesn’t usually refer to him familiarly when they’re working, “your hands—?”

“Oh,” he says faintly. “I hurt them a little while making breakfast. Then I dropped a cup.”

Sejin stares at his hands a few more seconds before raising sad eyes to Namjoon’s face. “Namjoon-ah, I’m so sorry for asking you to work another week.” He sighs, letting go of him. “You’re clearly overworked and stressed—”

“I’m fine,” he cuts in, a little offended. He can take this; he’s had worse. They all have.

Sejin sighs again, running a hand through his hair. “Just because you can doesn’t mean you have to,” he tells him quietly.

Namjoon just shrugs awkwardly, not sure what to say. But Sejin doesn’t talk quickly enough and Namjoon has to say something because that pit in his stomach keeps unfurling more and more every time Jin ignores him or the room goes quiet. It’s irrational, he knows, but part of him is terrified that this will never end. “Today’s our last day,” he says. “We’ll manage.”

Sejin stares at him, still frowning, but gives in with a short nod. “Fine,” he breathes, “okay, but I’m keeping an eye on you—all of you.”

Namjoon’s willpower alone stops him from rolling his eyes. He smiles and nods, like he keeps telling himself to do, and then meanders over to the others. Jin’s still talking when he approaches, but doesn’t bother glancing his way or making room for him to join their circle. The others switch between exchanging awkward glances at each other and shooting pitying smiles at Namjoon, which does nothing to help.

(Because if any of the others were arguing or being ignored, Namjoon would step in and do something. All of them would do something. But it was Namjoon, and because it was him, nobody did anything.)

Look at me, please just fucking look at me—I didn’t do anything wrong, please don’t ignore me, I can’t—

He clenches his fists, digging his nails into his palms and grimacing when they pierced the little cuts left over from the china cup earlier.

Why have I been making them breakfast? Nobody fucking wants it. I’m just wasting fucking food. If anyone else made it, Jin would eat it. If Jimin made it, he’d forgive him right away because he’s sweet. If Jungkook made it, he’d forgive him too, because he’s the youngest. He’d forgive everyone else but not me and I don’t fucking get it.

They’re still talking but he can’t tune into more than a few errant words. His breathing is the loudest thing in the room, to his own ears.

Stop fucking ignoring me. Stop it. This isn’t fair—

“Guys, it’s your cue in sixty seconds,” says a stage hand, waving them over. “Head out when the music starts.”

Namjoon steps forward, half-expecting the others to not bother coming out, but they follow him to the stage entrance. Someone brushes his arm and he isn’t sure if it’s intentional, but it’s probably not. No one bothers comforting him.

He doesn’t ask Jin to stay close to him.

“—please welcome: BTS!”

They walk out into almost-too-loud music that does nothing for the persistent headache he’s had this week, but he smiles through it and waves at the live audience who cheer. He shakes the host’s hand, bows, goes through the motions of everything like it’s normal. It’s in Korean, so he doesn’t have to talk a lot. (He still keeps thinking about what Yoongi said: that he accepted an English interview just because he wanted to ‘show off’, and he keeps wondering if all of them think that. He apologises each time for acting as the spokesperson, tries to encourage the others to join in, but he isn’t sure how much else he can do.)

“So, thanks for being here, guys,” says the host, leaning on his desk. “Go ahead and introduce yourselves—although I’m sure you don’t need to.”

They laugh and go through their introductions. Namjoon feels too hot under the studio lights and the dull ache in his head is evolving into a throbbing pain, but he can get through this. This is their last task before their break, then they have their break. For three weeks.

I wish I could sleep through it without waking up, thinks Namjoon, which—he quickly realises is a pretty bad thought to have. He resolves to map out a series of galleries, museums, and independent shops to visit to keep himself busy.

But now isn’t the time to think of that.

“Like I said, I’m glad you’re here—but weren’t you guys schedule to be off work this week?”

Namjoon feels himself twitch. “Hahaha, yeah, uh…”

“Yeah, we had some important work to finish off. It was really tiring, but we managed,” Yoongi cuts in.

Namjoon exhales a breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding.

“Were you all okay with it?” the host adds. “You’re all such mature young men! What good role models.”

“Some of us were kind of frustrated,” Namjoon offers, smiling sheepishly, “but thanks to everyone’s hard work, we’ve pulled through. Everyone – all of Bangtan: these guys, the managers, all of the staff, everyone’s been helpful. It’s hard to be too upset when that’s how it is.”

Jin clicks his tongue and the mic picks it up audibly. Namjoon glances at him, hoping he doesn’t look too nervous, but simultaneously he wants Jin to read his thoughts of don’t throw us under the bus now, today’s our last day, just hold your anger back a little longer.

“Jin-hyung’s just been upset his food tour’s been postponed,” Jungkook pipes up, chuckling.

Jin’s smile looks so forced and he doesn’t even try to laugh.

“I can see it’s been tough,” the host says. “Well, since this is your last interview before your break, why don’t we just play a light-hearted game?” He lifts up a little box and shakes it. “In here are pieces of paper with your names and an emotion on them. Pick one and share a memory you have with that band member.”

“Ooh, sounds fun!” Jimin reaches forward first, sticking his hand in and tugging out a scrap paper. His eyes twinkle and he giggles. “Yoongi-hyung,” he sing-songs, beaming, “an embarrassing memory, hmm…”

“Try finding one,” Yoongi mutters, nudging his shoulder, “I dare you, Park Jimin.”

Jimin’s eyes crinkle as he smiles. “I love dares.” He hums thoughtfully, but it’s clearly all for show: he’s smirking like he had something in mind as soon as he read the paper. “Oh, remember when we had to learn pick-up lines in Japanese?”

Yoongi somehow pales beyond his already-ashen complexion. “Jimin, no.”

“Jimin, yes,” chorus Jungkook and Taehyung.

“We were still in Japan after filming that,” Jimin continues as Jungkook holds back a murderous Yoongi. “We were filming something, I think? Anyway, we went out for dinner somewhere—” They’d actually been to a club, Namjoon recalls, but it’s best not to mention that, probably. “—And we, for whatever ungodly reason, decided to play truth or dare. Yoongi-hyung being Yoongi-hyung immediately says ‘dare,’ so it’s really his own fault. Taehyung-ah lights up and goes: ‘I dare you to use your new pick-up lines on those girls over there.’” Jimin breaks into snickers and Taehyung snorts beside him, eyes glittering at the memory. Namjoon’s lips twitch, but it’s hard to bask in the good mood right now. Jin isn’t laughing either. “So he goes over, because it’s a dare and hyung never turns down dares—well, he does now, probably because of that one…” Jimin muffles his laughter and Taehyung pats him on the back.

“He goes over to them,” Taehyung continues, because Jimin’s cackling too much now, “and it’s the only Japanese he knew back then, so it was literally all he could say. He just looks at them and goes, with the straightest face ever: ‘I’ve realised that I always think of you.’”

“He didn’t know them at all,” Jimin cuts in again, swiping tears of mirth from his eyes. “They looked terrified.”

“And that was the day Yoongi-hyung nearly got arrested and BTS almost disbanded,” Tae finishes with a sage nod.

Everyone laughs (and Namjoon’s is a little over-the-top loud to compensate for how forced it feels, and Jin’s is a feeble imitation of a laugh) and then they all take turns listing off memories, some of which Namjoon recalls fondly; some he’d forgotten; some that feel lifetimes away.

Jin takes a paper and pauses.

He’s quiet far too long, then he reaches for a different one and Namjoon, with a sinking feeling, thinks he knows why.

“Oi, no cheating, hyung!” Hoseok exclaims, trying to pull the box away from him. “Read your paper out to us. We’ll help if you’re stuck.”

Jin rolls his eyes, but forces a smile for the cameras. “Namjoon: a cute memory.”

“Ah,” the host pipes up, “is it hard because RM isn’t one of the cute members?”

He tries not to be offended by that. He shouldn’t be, anyway: he’s the one who’s said before that he didn’t suit aegyo; that he’s too masculine for it… but that was a long time ago, and he’s grown more accepting of himself – is more honest with himself. But if the silence stretches too long it’ll be awkward, and they’ve had enough uncomfortable interviews this week, so Namjoon chuckles and says, “Yeah, this would be easier to answer if it was about Jiminie or Jungkook.”

“Or me,” Taehyung adds.

“Or Tae,” Namjoon agrees, tapping his thigh.

“I think Monie is super cute.” Jimin weaves his arms around Namjoon’s neck from behind. “I can think of so many Cute Joonie-hyung moments.”

Taehyung and Jungkook nod together. “So many.”

Hoseok elbows Jin. “Yeah, I’ve got some if you don’t, hyung.” He forces himself to sound teasing, fights the urge to glance between the two of them. This is what Namjoon meant by unprofessional, didn’t he? Jin was letting his bad mood affect work—fans would definitely notice this. Jin was acting way too out of character.

Jin sighs. “Cute, huh…” He looks up at the ceiling as if the bright studio lights would feed him answers. Namjoon stares at him all the while. “Well… when I first met him, he was drinking black coffee. I thought he was trying too hard to seem cool, but he just looked like a dork with those huge sunglasses.”

Keep smiling, Namjoon tells himself.

“Then he got up to shake my hand—and spilled the coffee all over himself.” Jin snickers. Hoseok, beside him, chuckles awkwardly, feeling like someone had to add something to the moment, otherwise it would seem—well, maybe malicious. “Some of it got on the floor, I guess, because then he slipped and nearly broke everything on the table.”

The host wheezes, shaking his head. “Isn’t that more of an embarrassing memory than a cute one?”

It sure is, Namjoon agrees inwardly, gritting his teeth. He hadn’t liked those damn sunglasses: they were his and the company’s idea to uphold his image of a badass rapper; it had taken him months to realise that wasn’t him at all, that he didn’t want to portray that as an ideal standard, and to convince BigHit to let him stop. Jin knew that.

(He’d been scared of taking them off, too: he wasn’t a visual like Jin; he’d been hearing hate comments from the get-go, everything from ‘he doesn’t look how an idol should,’ to specific critiques about every minute detail to actual racist remarks which, really, were still shocking. He was so worried about what people would say about his looks when he removed those, but he’d also been excited to relinquish the mantle of the scary, brooding leader and be more open—although it took him a while to be able to do that completely. But Jin knew he’d struggled with it. He knew he’d been… insecure. So why would he—?)

“Namjoon-ah’s clumsiness can be really cute!” Hoseok puts in. “He’s always so cool and calm, so when you see him mess something up, it can be kind of adorable.”

“Kind of? Speak for yourself, hyung,” Jimin says with an over-the-top huff. “It’s the cutest thing ever. Oh, but more than his clumsy moments, he’s really cute when we go shopping and we pass by Ryan or Gudetama stores—”

“We always lose him in those,” Yoongi agrees, rolling his eyes, but he’s smiling fondly. “Inevitably, one of us asks, ‘Joon-ah, want to try a gacha?’ or ‘wanna get a keychain?’ and he always says no, but can’t stop staring at them. So he has a drawer full of these disgustingly cute miniature toys and keychains.”

Namjoon’s simultaneously grateful for them jumping in to disguise the awkward moment, and absolutely fucking mortified with what they revealed. He rubs a hand over his face and hides his mouth, groaning. “Thanks for exposing me, guys.”

They go through a few more questions about upcoming plans after their break, then they perform Dionysus , and then they’re saying their goodbyes to the cameras and can finally head home.


Namjoon could just fall asleep where he is.

But he can’t. He follows the others into the waiting room, stays standing when they all sit, and says: “Guys, we need to talk.”

Five sets of eyes snap up to meet his. Jin’s staring at his phone.

Namjoon stares at him. Hoseok nudges him, twice, and he sighs loudly.

“Jin-hyung, I’d appreciate it if you’d listen to me for a few minutes,” Namjoon says, folding his arms.

“Hyung, c’mon,” Yoongi mutters, looking at Jin. “That’s enough.”

“Is it though?” Jin mumbles, turning his screen off and tossing his phone aside. “I know you all gave in as soon as Namjoon gave you one of his ‘talks,’ but I’m sorry, that’s not good enough.”

It’s the first time Jin’s acknowledged this since Namjoon first told them about it earlier this week and, although the battle’s far from over, he feels some tension bleed from his shoulders because being ignored for a week straight has really been fucking with his head.

“I ‘give into’ nothing,” Yoongi snaps at Jin. “I was pissed at Joon-ah, yeah, but it was partially just me being a stubborn dick. I could’ve talked to him sooner and we would’ve avoided everything.”

“I’m fine avoiding everything,” Jin retorts blankly. “I just wanted my break. Now I’m getting it. In two weeks, it’ll be fine; I’ll pretend nothing happened.”

“I don’t want that,” Namjoon cuts in before Yoongi can retort. He’s getting irritated; Namjoon sees it in the tight line of his shoulders and curling lip. He slumps back into the sofa with a huff but lets Namjoon take the reins; meanwhile, Jin drops his gaze back to his lap. “We can’t pretend this didn’t happen, hyung. It’ll just make it worse in the future.” Jin says nothing, as expected, so Namjoon continues: “We can’t have this happen again; we need to talk about this and understand each other better.”

Jin says nothing.

Hoseok tuts. “C’mon, hyung, you’re acting childish…”

“I’m your hyung; you can’t call me that.”

“I think he can,” Namjoon intervenes. “You may be the oldest here, but you’re acting like a little kid.”

Jin’s brows twitch into a frown, but he’s still looking away. “Don’t talk to me like that.”

“Fine,” Namjoon agrees, “if you agree to speak to me like the adults we are, rather than avoiding me like an emotional teenager.”

Jin says nothing.

Namjoon’s gaze sweeps across the room. Everyone’s looking away. Yoongi and Hoseok tried to gently coax him into talking; the maknae derailed the awkward moment during the interview, but no one was willing to actually be the mediator.

He scoffs. “Okay, fine.” He pushes himself off the wall he was leaning on, swiping sweat from his brow. “Don’t speak to me. Fuck off home—for three weeks, by the way, not two. Because I talked them into giving us more time off as compensation, which you all would’ve known sooner if you’d listened to me at all.” He grabs his water bottle, cursing under his breath when he finds it empty, and stuffs it into his bag. “You’ll all come back and we’ll tread on fucking eggshells around each other. Sound good? We can be just like all those other groups that hate each other’s guts and eventually disband, if you want.” He yanks the backpack onto his shoulders. “I’ll see you in three weeks then, I guess. If you bother coming back at all.”

His eyes are burning and his head is pounding and he needs to get the fuck out already. He storms over to the door. He can’t wait for their taxi; he’ll walk home. He just can’t be here. The walls are too close and his friends are too far away. Have been all week.

“Namjoon-hyung—” Jungkook starts, jumping out of his seat.

Jin snorts. “And I’m the immature one?”

“Yeah, actually, you fucking are!” Namjoon snaps, whirling around to face him. “I didn’t fucking agree to it when Sejin-ssi first asked because I asked you guys. You all assumed ‘oh, Namjoon wants to do it, he fucking loves working until he’s exhausted!’ so you decided to make yourselves upset over fuck all. That isn’t on me.”

“This is what Yoongi means when he says you’re self-righteous!” Jin snaps, shutting his head and rubbing his forehead. “You sound like the only one who thinks about things, like you’re the only one in this group making decisions. Sorry, Namjoon, but being the ‘leader’ doesn’t mean as much as you think it does.”

Namjoon’s laugh is shrill. “Holy fucking shit, Jin, what do I think it means? Please, tell me, because everyone else clearly knows better.”

Jin grabs his phone and stands, then walks slowly over to his own satchel to pack it. “I’m calling my own taxi.”

“Maybe this is why we have a leader,” Namjoon snaps, “because you’re too scared to stand up for yourself. You think if you just avoid me, if you pretend you haven’t iced me out this whole week, then everything’ll be fine? You’ll come back in a couple weeks and hop on a VLive where you tell ARMY you were ‘just feeling unwell’ when they ask why you have no fond memories of me? You’ll sit down to dinner with us and joke around like we didn’t spend this week hiding how much you can’t stand me? If you just ignore everything, it’ll all be fine, right?”

“Shut up, Namjoon,” Jin hisses.

“Hell no, I’m not gonna shut up?” He laughs.

“Joon-ah—” Yoongi says carefully.

“No, sorry, but I’ve spent this whole week being respectful of all your decisions to treat me like shit; I’m done.” He yanks his arm away when Yoongi reaches for him. “It took everyone publicly shaming me on a game show for Hoseok to feel bad enough to ‘forgive’ me for a decision I never made.” Hoseok grimaces and Namjoon knows he’ll feel guilty later, but right now he—he can’t stop. “It was only because we went out to a movie that I could speak to Jungkook, because literally all of you wanted to pretend I didn’t exist. Yoongi almost refused to fucking home just because I was going.” Jungkook’s eyes widen and shine and Yoongi clenches his fists in his lap. “Fuck, Yoongi only listened to me when I started fucking crying.” Namjoon barked a laugh, too high and too loud. “Is that what you want, Jin-hyung? You want to see me cry?”

“I don’t care what you do, Namjoon,” Jin mumbles, approaching him without looking up. “Can you move? You’re in the way of the door.”

Make me,” he hisses.

Jin’s eyes snap up. He’s looking at Namjoon, for the first time this week, and he looks like he hates him. It’s almost gratifying, to Namjoon’s furious mind. He’s vibrating with anger, heart pumping far too fast, but he smirks back at Jin’s expression.

Then Jin slams into him. His shoulder rams into Namjoon’s and it knocks the breath out of him, but he plants his feet firmly to the floor.

A chair screeches back as everyone else stands.

“Guys—” Jimin starts.

“Stop it!” Jungkook pleads. He grabs Jin and tries to wrench him off of Namjoon, but Jin yanks himself free.

“Let me out, Namjoon,” Jin snaps.

“If you fucking talk to me, I will,” Namjoon retorts, but his voice cracks towards the end. He doesn’t want to fight with him—with any of them. “Stop ignoring me. Stop pretending I don’t exist.”

“How can I do that? I have to spend every waking moment with you because of this fucking band,” Jin barks. “God, maybe joining BTS was a mistake.”

Jungkook lets go of Jin. The others all fall silent.

Namjoon stares at him.

Jin stares back, eyes wide. He’s staring right at Namjoon, not even looking angry anymore.

Namjoon shuts his eyes for a moment, counts to ten. I’ve already gotten too emotional, he thinks. He’s made this situation worse; now it’s spiralling out of control, and it’s all his fault. He can’t afford to be upset; he has to be the one in charge. It’s too late for a peaceful reconciliation, but it’s not too late for damage control. Suck it up, Namjoon. Your hurt feelings aren’t worth everyone’s career. If there’s any time you need to be a leader, it’s now.

He looks at Jin again, schooling his expression into something less emotional. He extracts himself from Jin’s hold and steps out of the way of the door, but Jin just watches him, unmoving.

He glances at all of them. “I’m sorry,” he says, finally, and they all look shocked. “I’ve been upset, but that’s no excuse to lose it like that.” He swallows thickly, grimacing as his mouth fills up too quickly with more stale water. “I’ve already told you all this, but I didn’t want to do this week either. In the future, we all need to be more open with each other. Jungkook advised me to be honest about my own opinions, so I’ll do that from now on.” Jungkook’s chewing his lip. Namjoon looks back at Jin. “I know this week must have ruined many of your plans. I’ll send apologies to your families and take responsibility. But please know, guys, that I really didn’t want this either. I don’t take my role as the leader lightly, and I’ll try harder to act as one in the future.”

“Namjoon-ah…” Yoongi mumbles, looking pained. “You don’t—I didn’t mean what I said,” he breathes. “You’re not just our leader because you were the first member, you know? It’s because of everything you’ve done for BTS.”

“Thanks, hyung,” Namjoon says, but he’s too drained to try and put stock into Yoongi’s words. “I want you all to enjoy your breaks. I really do, despite this—maybe because of this. Go and chill, have fun, and when you’re back, we should discuss this properly and ensure it never happens again.”

He’s on autopilot now. This is how he has to talk and act in public; he never thought he’d have to do this with his members.

“That’s all,” he says, because no one’s moving and it sounds like no one’s breathing, either. He feels oddly numb, the anger from five minutes ago drained out of him. “I’m walking home.”

Taehyung grabs his arm, frowning. “Let me come with you, hyung—”

“No. Thanks, Tae,” he says thickly, trying to smile at him because he’s the only one who hasn’t been mad at him this week. “I. I want to—” He shakes his head. “I’ll be fine.”

Before anyone can say anything else, Namjoon’s out the door. He shoves earphones in and amps up his music until it drowns out everything else and heads outside.

He slows his pace when he feels his legs burn and ankles ache. A wave of dizziness has him grappling for a wall to prop himself up against, and he twitches when something cold hits his head. Dragging his head up, he finds a greying sky frowning down at him, thick clouds looming over Seoul’s skyscrapers, heavy with rain. It’s already drizzling and he’s oddly lightheaded. He unzips his bag for water but realises it’s empty; he’d forgotten to fill it before leaving the studio. The black spots don’t disappear when he blinks, so he glances around until he spots a nondescript café to duck into.

His music is so loud he doesn’t hear himself order an Americano and water. He gives the barista a fake name when she looks at him, then thanks and tips her, takes his order and goes to sit in a corner by the window.

It’s pouring now, rivulets sliding down the windows like lines of a map. He probably shouldn’t go out in that; he doesn’t have a coat on him. But staying here too long without notifying anyone where he is would cause trouble for someone, so he reluctantly opens Kakao to send a message to Sejin.

Hey Sejin-ssi. Just thought I’d let you know I didn’t return home with the others, I needed a walk. I’ll be heading home soon. (17:19)

Namjoon keeps his phone on the table so he won’t miss Sejin’s reply. He may not be feeling great right now, but he had to be professional.

He takes a sip of his Americano and savours the acidity of it, then glances out the window with his chin resting in his palm. A couple walk by—their umbrella blows out the wrong way and they both pause before bursting into laughter, then the girl grabs her boyfriend’s arm and they walk on through the downpour. Namjoon huffs a laugh.

His phone buzzes.

Okay. Keep me updated. Stay safe, Namjoon-ah. (17:24)

Namjoon doesn’t respond to that, nursing his coffee instead. He removes an earphone to listen to the bustle of the coffee shop: cups and glasses clink where baristas are washing them, milk jugs clank against the counters, and customers fill the space with indiscernible chatter. He catches some snippets – mother should be out of hospital in a few days; no, dad, I didn’t get the job; I confessed to Jaehee, but she doesn’t feel the same; my first choice university sent me an acceptance letter! I got in! – and he has to throw back the rest of his coffee to ground himself. Tuning into other people’s conversations is a surreal thing; it can be both grounding and mystifying to know just how easily the world keeps turning without you.

Would Bangtan keep going easily without Namjoon?

He stands and two girls snag his table as soon as he does. The bell over the door chimes as he leaves, and he’s soaked almost as soon as he’s descended the steps. He fires a quick message to Sejin again.

On my way home. (17:48)

Then he pockets his phone and meanders leisurely to the station, half-hoping some of the others have already left for their holidays. Normally Jin would text him if he hadn’t come home with them, asking where he is, but he isn’t surprised when he doesn’t find one. The last message he received from Jin was last Sunday, this silly cat picture with a terrible pun that shouldn't have made him laugh as much as it did.

He’s dripping wet by the time he’s on the subway, sunglasses and mask firmly affixed to his face. He doesn’t look too out of place; most people have been caught in the rain. He plugs his earphones back in and stares into space throughout the ride and when he blinks he realises he’s missed his stop. He gets off at the next one, tips a busker with a guitar, and walks back home.

When he reaches the front door, he opens it as quietly as possible. He tells Sejin he’s home (with a photo of his feet in slippers as proof) and then pads into the kitchen. The lights are off and it’s quiet, but he hears the faint buzzing of the TV. Probably Jungkook and Tae, he thinks absently, grabbing a glass of water because his throat still feels scratchy.

He drags himself to his room and peels off all of his soaking wet clothes, dropping them into a pile on his floor. He stares at the wall for a few seconds, debating if he should shower, but can’t bring himself to feel bothered. So he just crawls into bed and yanks the covers over his head and wishes, not for the first time, that this week was just a bad dream.

They’re on stage, a kaleidoscope of lights illuminating the arena, fans chanting their names in the familiar mantra.

Namjoon grins and jogs to take his position for their dance—only to stumble to the side when Jin takes that spot. Maybe he just forgot where he starts, Namjoon reasons, and smoothly shifts into another space. The first notes of Fake Love blast from the speakers and everyone moves, Namjoon going to the furthest spot.

It’s going well, he thinks; he’s getting the moves down perfectly. His verse is about to begin and he lifts to mic to his lips—

Only for Jungkook to sing his part.

He freezes, rakes his eyes over the crowd. They’re just cheering. He swallows down the hurt. Did they like it better like that? With Jungkook singing it instead of Namjoon rapping it?

But he can’t ruin the show. He continues dancing, resolves to ask Jungkook about it later, but then his next part starts and—Hoseok raps it.

He can’t help but look around. He tries to meet his members’ gazes. Is this a prank? he wonders. They wouldn’t do this, would they?

Yoongi’s right beside him now so he whispers, “Hyung?”

But Yoongi doesn’t respond. Doesn’t even look his way.

“Yoongi-hyung, what’s going on?” he asks. Maybe he couldn’t hear him over the noise. He nudges his shoulder as subtly as possible—and his. His hand goes straight through him.

He chokes on a gasp and staggers back—right into Taehyung.

“T-Tae, sorry, I don’t—I—”

But he’s gone right through him too. Taehyung doesn’t look at him.

They keep dancing. Keep singing. Keep rapping.

All without him.

And finally he hears the fans’ mantra.

“Kim Seokjin! Min Yoongi! Jung Hoseok! Park Jimin! Kim Taehyung! Jeon Jeongguk! BTS!”

He stares out at them, feeling cold. His legs are jelly. “I-I’m here too,” he whispers. He looks around, feeling sick, and tries to grab Jimin’s arm as he passes. “Jiminie? Chimchim?” he begs, but he doesn’t look his way. “Jin-hyung, please—guys?”

He can’t breathe. He’s going to throw up.

“Please, guys,” he gasps, knees caving in and hitting the stage floor. “Please—don’t get rid of me? I love Bangtan—I love you—”

He wakes up when he can’t breathe.

He bolts upright, hands flying out for something, anything to ground him. He hears a crash and a shatter and realises, oh, that’s my water , and then he knows he’s in his room. He scrambles for his phone to turn on the torch, for once wishing he didn’t have blackout blinds. It lights up the room and he can see his wooden coffee table with notes strewn across it, his Ryan plushies scattered all over his bed, his shelves filled with collectibles—and the broken glass of water on the floor.

He exhales in relief—then chokes on it when his breath catches. He can’t stop himself from coughing and cringes at the feeling of phlegm getting stuck in his throat. He wheezes as it subsides, then sniffs a few times when his nose tries to start running.

Tissue, he thinks. Gotta get tissue.

He drags his legs out of bed and, fuck, they feel like dead weights. He pulls himself up and almost staggers when that light-headedness has the floor swapping places with the ceiling, but he leans on the wall again and tries to breathe slowly until everything shifts back to where it should be.

Avoiding the shattered glass, he shuffles to his door, head pounding so much it’s almost too heavy to keep standing. The hallway keeps swaying suspiciously as he drags himself to the bathroom; it feels like the floor is rocking, as if he’s on a boat. He stumbles a few times, but makes it without falling. He grabs the handle—only for it to open itself and yank open.

He collapses forward from the force, colliding with something solid.

And warm.

He could almost fall back asleep…

Then he’s shoved back and nearly falls over. He shakes off the weird sleepiness and freezes when he’s face-to-face with Jin.

He forces himself not to look away.

It’s Jin who gives in first, shaking his head, and he brushes past Namjoon without a word.

Don’t think about it, he tells himself, heading into the bathroom to grab tissue. His legs start shaking and he glares at them like that’ll stop them. When it doesn’t, he half-collapses onto the toilet, blowing his nose until nothing comes out—but it’s still too blocked to breathe through. He huffs in annoyance—too strongly, because then he’s coughing again, throat itching and stinging at the same time.

He’s not sure how long he spends just sitting on the toilet, resting his head on the cool porcelain sink, but a knock at the door tugs him away from the cliff-edge of falling asleep.

“Comin’,” he mumbles, tossing his tissue in the toilet and flushing it. He grabs more tissue to shove in his pocket, then washes his hands and splashes his face before opening the door to find Taehyung tapping away on his phone. “Bathroom’s free,” he tells him, moving to shuffle past.

“Oh, thanks, hyung.” Taehyung looks up, then frowns. “Namjoon-hyung, wait—”

He pauses to raise an eyebrow. God, he’s so tired. He just wants to go back to bed. He’ll clean up the glass later. “Yeah?”

“You don’t look so good,” Taehyung says, pressing a palm against his forehead. Namjoon moves to step away, but—fuck, it feels nice. To have something cool against his face, and… to have someone worry. Care. “Do you feel sick?”

“No,” he says automatically, but staggers forward a step when Taehyung removes his hand.

His hands land on Namjoon’s arms again to steady him, brows knitted together. “Well, you look it,” he retorts. “Lemme help you back to bed, okay?”

Yes, please, he thinks, but says, “I’ll be fine, Tae.”

Taehyung purses his lips and weaves an arm around his waist, wrapping Namjoon’s arm around his shoulders. “Just let me,” he says. “You can lean on me, hyung.”

And—he says it so softly that he can’t just mean Namjoon’s weight.

Namjoon bites his lip and blinks furiously, eyes stinging. “‘Kay,” he breathes. “Thanks, Tae.”

“Anytime, Joonie-hyung.”

Taehyung half-drags him back to his room and Namjoon absently remembers to warn him about the glass. He maneuvers around it and sets Namjoon down as gently as possible, mumbles something that sounds like ‘be right back,’ and Namjoon collapses back onto his pillows. A shudder ripples through him and he curls up. He wants to hold onto a Ryan plushie, but… not yet.

Taehyung is back quickly, brandishing a dustpan and brush and a fresh glass of water. He drops to his knees and starts sweeping up the glass before Namjoon pushes himself up. “Taehyung, wait, I’ll do th—”

“Oh, shut up, hyung,” he says fondly, “I’ve got it.”

“But it’s my fault,” he whispers thickly, breath hitching. Taehyung’s eyes snap up at that. He drops the shards into a bin and then sits beside Namjoon, swathing his shoulders with his arm, and tugs him into a half-hug. Namjoon stiffens. “Tae—”

“How many times have you done this for me?” Taehyung murmurs, voice low and soft, barely interrupting the quiet of the morning.

“That’s… different…”

“It’s not.” He squeezes his arm and Namjoon has to clench his eyes shut to hold back the tears building up. “It’s okay, hyung. You’ve got me.”

“Quoting Mikrokosmos ?” he tries to joke, but the hitch in his breath probably does nothing for him.

Taehyung tugs him even closer. Namjoon practically falls into his chest. He pushes away gently, flushing in embarrassment, but Taehyung doesn’t let him. He snares him around the waist and hugs him tight, then starts singing, “I got you in the nights that are like pitch darkness, we are each other’s light—”

“Oh my god, stop serenading me,” Namjoon squawks, then erupts into a fit of coughing.

Taehyung chuckles. “Sorry, sorry, seemed appropriate. Like something that’d happen in one of those your-name fanfics—”

“Stop there—” cough, cough. “I don’t want to know.”

Taehyung pats his back to help with the coughing. “You clearly know something if you’re saying ‘stop there,’ and not ‘what the hell are you talking about, Tae?’”

Namjoon wheezes and holds back another cough. “It’s because I know enough that I’m telling you to stop,” he admits.

“Some of them are pretty good, actually—”


“Okay,” he says, then pulls away. “You all right?”

Namjoon smiles tiredly. “Yeah,” he says. “Thanks. For worrying, and…” He waves a hand. “Stuff.”

“No problem. Always happy to help with stuff.” Taehyung nods, but then softens again. “You look tired, hyung.”

Namjoon pulls away from the hug to rub his face. “I am,” he admits, voice shaking.

Taehyung makes a little noise of sympathy then pokes Namjoon’s chest. “Lie down,” he says. “Get some rest.”

He feels himself give in before he can think about it, but then starts sitting up when he remembers—“Wait, do you—” he starts, only to cut himself off by coughing again. Taehyung pats his back and passes him water, but he waves it away. “Do you know…” he says thickly, trying to clear his throat when he sounds too congested, “what everyone’s doing? Like, if they’re going home and stuff?” He runs a hand through his hair, then grimaces. It feels gross; he hadn’t dried it after he’d been out in the rain last night. “After yesterday, I… don’t wanna ask them… but I’ll be worried if I don’t know.”

He pauses, then feels his face heat up.

“Ah—uh, no, not worried—I mean—I’ll—I’ll need to know in case, y’know, something—”

“Aww, Joonie-hyung,” Taehyung breathes, and Namjoon squirms where he sits, mortified by his own admission. He was upset with them all; he should stick to his guns, he can’t be worried—“Everyone’s leaving to visit their families today. Hoseok-hyung and Jiminie left earlier; Yoongi-hyung and Kook-ah are going later, and I think Jin-hyung just left…”

Everyone’s leaving. Namjoon plays with a loose thread on his blanket. “Ah, right,” he says hoarsely, then throws an abortive glance at Taehyung before looking away again. “And, uh. What’re you doing, Tae?”

Taehyung pauses long enough for him to look back up, curiosity outweighing embarrassment. He frowns when he sees Taehyung’s expression.

“Tae? What’s—”

“I was… going to leave tomorrow morning,” he says carefully, “but… I think I want to stay here.”

Namjoon cocks his head. “What? Why? Your family—”

“You got us three weeks off,” he says, “so I can go next week or something, no big deal.”

“I don’t… think I understand.” Namjoon rubs his forehead. “Why don’t you wanna go? Is something wrong?”

Taehyung rubs his neck awkwardly. “No…” he says. “But… you look really sick, hyung, and…”

“No.” Namjoon sits up properly, grabbing Taehyung’s hand and shaking it. “No, man, go home and see your family, okay?”

Taehyung frowns. “But—”

“I’ll be fine, I promise,” Namjoon cuts in, letting go of him and smiling. “It’s just a little cold, it’ll be gone in a couple days. And I promise I won’t break any more glasses.”

Taehyung huffs a laugh, but hasn’t moved. “I mean… if it’s just a few days, I can postpone my trip—”

“Please, Tae, don’t,” Namjoon says softly. “I already feel guilty for this week; I don’t wanna stop you seeing your family even longer.”

“That wasn’t your fault.”

Namjoon blinks, startled by the tone. Taehyung’s jaw is set like he’s gritting his teeth and his eyes are burning and—Namjoon’s… really touched he’s angry for him. But even so… “Thanks, Tae.” He leans his head on the younger man’s shoulder. “I appreciate it,” he adds in English, smiling when he hears Taehyung’s chuckle. “But I’ll feel better if you go. Honest.”

Taehyung sighs. “Okay…” he says slowly, “but I’ll be here tonight, so—let me sleep in your room?”

“For old time’s sake?” Namjoon asks.

He hums. “More for the sake of you not killing yourself with glasses of water, but sure, yeah.”

He headbuts his shoulder. “Do what you want, brat,” he agrees, yawning as he droops against Taehyung’s side.

He hears him say something, but can’t make it out before he falls asleep.

The day passes in a blur. He only feels worse after napping: his head throbs, he can’t stop coughing, and he moves between freezing cold and boiling hot in seconds. He knows Taehyung’s around, hears him talk and feels him press cold, damp cloths against his head. He wakes him up intermittently to pass him water and get him to eat, which is what he’s doing now.

Namjoon slumps against his pillows and says, pathetically, “I can’t sit up.”

Taehyung awww s and adjusts Namjoon’s pillows so he can sit up, then sits beside him as he slides a tray onto his lap. “It’s chicken noodle soup,” he says, offering Namjoon a spoon.

The rush of gratitude Namjoon feels is too much and he has to bury his face in Taehyung’s arm when he feels tears burn his eyes. “Thank you.”

“Joonie-hyung…” Taehyung cards his fingers through his hair. “It’s just soup.”

He shakes his head. It’s not ‘just soup’—it’s the fact that Taehyung understood from the beginning; has been there for him this week; has spent today looking after him and staying with him. But he can’t say that, so he just keeps his face buried in Taehyung’s side.

There’s a knock at the door and he can’t bring himself to answer when he’s so choked up, so Taehyung calls: “Yeah?”

It clicks open. “Ah, I was looking for you guys. Me and Jungkook—” Yoongi pauses. “Is Joon-ah okay?”

Taehyung tightens his grip around Namjoon’s shoulders. “He’s feeling a little unwell, is all.”

“Oh, uh.” Something bumps against a wall and Yoongi says, “Joon-ah? Want me to call anyone for you?”

“‘M fine,” he says, fighting to try and sound as not-congested as possible. “Don’t worry.”

Yoongi rubs his arm. “Joon…” He sighs. “Sorry for this week. I didn’t want to see you cry. I mean it.”

Namjoon’s answering hum is muffled against Taehyung’s side.

“We’ll all talk when we’re back, okay? I’ll make sure Jin-hyung listens.” He pauses. “Me and Jungkook-ah are leaving now. I’ll only be gone a week, but message me or call me anytime, yeah?”

He heaves a sigh that rattles his chest, then pulls away from hiding in Taehyung’s arm to shoot Yoongi a watery smile. “Yeah,” he agrees. “Tell your family I said hi.”

“Will do,” he agrees, ruffling Namjoon’s hair. He bats him away weakly and he chuckles. “Take care of yourself, Joon-ah. I’ll check up on you every day.”

“Gross,” he replies.

Yoongi flips him off as he leaves. “See you later, Tae.”

“Bye, hyung.”

The door clicks shut.

Taehyung grabs Namjoon’s spoon and holds up some soup. “Now, eat.”

“God, okay, okay, you don’t have to feed me,” Namjoon mutters, grabbing the spoon from him. He eats almost all of it and drinks the water Taehyung passes him, then yawns when the tray is removed from his lap. He sags against his pillows, eyes drooping. He tries to stay awake until Taehyung is back, but he just can’t.

He blinks his eyes open when he hears light switches clicking, doors opening and closing, and errant thumps and footsteps. The tell-tale sound of a zip reminds him that, oh, Taehyung’s leaving today.

He sniffles wetly and wheezes when he exhales. He squirms lower into the covers, shivering with cold, and tries to curl into a ball. It’s already quiet with just him and Tae here; it’ll be even worse when it’s just him.

He… doesn’t want him to go. He didn’t want any of them to, wanted them to stay and talk everything out and get back to normal, go out for noodles and play video games… but they’re gone, and Namjoon’s sick, and he’s going to be alone for a week.

His breath hitches and he buries his face in his pillow. Shut up, he tells himself. Tae will feel guilty and stay otherwise. His eyes burn and he shuts them.

His bedroom door opens and he keeps his eyes shut. “Hyung?” Taehyung whispers.

He doesn’t answer, trying to stay as still as possible and keep his breathing even.

“You asleep?” He hears Taehyung’s footsteps approach his bed and wills himself to stay still. The old, damp cloth on his forehead is replaced by a fresh one, and the sound of a glass landing on his nightstand meets his ears. “Take care, Joonie-hyung. I’ll be home soon.” Fingertips brush his cheek, then he feels his blankets being pulled over his shoulders, and something being tucked against his chest—a Ryan plushie?

Then his door clicks shut and Taehyung’s footsteps disappear down the corridor, along with the wheels of a suitcase. The sound of a key in the lock, the front door opening and closing—

And Namjoon’s alone.

Chapter Text

“Namjoon-ssi? Bang PD-nim will see you now.”

He looks up from his book – Norwegian Wood; it’s the third time he’s read it – and thanks the assistant. He stuffs it in his bag, hauls himself up, and knocks on Bang PD’s door.

“Come in.”

He steps inside and shuts the door behind him, half-falling into his usual seat opposite his producer. “‘Morning, PD-nim,” he says, trying not to sound like it’s taking a lot of effort not to cough.

Bang PD hasn’t away from his computer yet. He’s clicking around with something when he asks, “You’re the only one who came, Namjoon-ah?”

“Ah, yeah,” he says. He hadn’t even asked the others to come to this meeting; it was a debriefing for the week they’d had, they always had one before a break. But he couldn’t ask them to come. He couldn’t. “The others booked their trips home a while ago, so I didn’t want to ask them to postpone anything.”

“That’s fine, I understand. I’ll just have to see them when they’re back,” Bang PD says easily, then shuts the software he was using to face Namjoon. His smile drops and gives way to concern right away as he reaches out to touch Namjoon’s forehead. “You’re sick.”

“Oh,” Namjoon mumbles with a snort, batting his hand away, “I hadn’t noticed.” Bang PD raises his eyebrows and he mutters an abashed apology.

Bang PD just huffs a sigh and ruffles his hair fondly.

“You’ll mess it up, PD-nim,” Namjoon whines, because he can.

“Oh, shut it, you don’t have to have styled hair today, Namjoon-ah.” He chuckles.

Namjoon smiles back, but a yawn breaks through. He muffles it with a hand and clears his throat. “Sorry, don’t mean to be rude, I’m just—”

“Tired,” Bang PD finished for him.

He nodded guiltily. He really was tired. His limbs felt like lead; it took all he had to drag himself out of bed for this meeting. Everything was heavy: his head, his arms, his legs. Trudging to his cab felt like wading through thick syrup and he’d all but collapsed into the waiting room’s sofa when he arrived.

Shaking off the lethargy, he unclasps his bag and starts carding through it. “I, uh… I made notes for the meeting, but a lot of it was stuff to be discussed with everyone, so I dunno how much help this’ll be,” he says, tugging out his notebook. “I don’t want to talk about the other guys when they’re not here, really.”

Bang PD stops him with a hand on his wrist. He blinks up at the older man, who just pats his arm. “That’s fine, we don’t have to. I’ll arrange a meeting with all of you when everyone’s back after break,” he replies. “Besides, Namjoon-ah, you really don’t look good. You should go home and get some rest – that’s what these three weeks are for.”

Namjoon breathed a small laugh that sticks in his throat and makes him cough. He takes a few deep breaths to fight it back, then says, “Thank you, I will.”

“Good.” He nods approvingly. “Are you going to be heading to your parents’?”

“Ah… yeah, soon. I’m gonna sleep a couple days first,” he replies, which—it isn’t a lie, but it’s really because he doesn’t feel up to travelling while he’s sick, and he wouldn’t want to see his family for the first time in months just to show up with a cold.

“I understand that.” He chuckles. “Oh, one more thing.” Bang PD’s smile gives way to a hard-set frown and Namjoon hopes he doesn’t stiffen visibly. “Since it is just you and me, is there anything you want to tell me? Something you wouldn’t be comfortable bringing up around the others?”

It isn’t too unusual for him to ask that; every once in a while he’ll ask every member that same question, just to get a feel for the group’s dynamic; ensure they’re still getting along as they should. Instinctively, Namjoon opens his mouth to say no, sir , but pauses, because—is there?

They spent the entirety of this week kind-of-sort-of arguing over a miscommunication. And even when Namjoon tried clearing up the miscommunication, a lot of the other guys seemed to take umbrage with something else: Jungkook, disappointed Namjoon hadn’t given his opinion; Yoongi, thinking Namjoon had changed too much; Jin—thinking whatever he thought. Namjoon didn’t even know what his issue was, which was the most frustrating thing. He could take their anger, that was fine. But he could solve it with them if they were just upfront about why they were upset in the first place.

Maybe he should let Bang PD know…


He blinks and looks up, realising his gaze had drifted away. He glances at the time on Bang PD’s screen and grimaces; he’d gotten lost in his head for six minutes. Shaking himself, he forces a smile and says, “Nah, nothing right now.”

Bang PD’s frown tells him that he knows something is up, but then he sneezes and the older man is tossing him a pack of tissues. “Okay, Namjoon-ah,” he says, “head home and get some rest then. You don’t have to work on anything for the next three weeks, but you can call me if you need anything at all. Sejin-ssi will be available too.”

Namjoon tilts his head. “I thought he was having time off while we were, too?”

“He is.” Bang PD nods. “But he also asked me to let you know he’d make time if you needed him.”

Goddamn it, it’s hard to stay mad at anyone, Namjoon thinks. Except me, apparently. But he gives the other man a nod. “Got it. Thanks a lot, PD-nim.”

“Get some rest, kid.”

With that, Bang PD spins his chair back around to face his screen, and Namjoon slips out the door, heading straight to the taxi outside. All he wants is his bed.

He doesn’t want to think about anything else.

When he wakes up, he’s drenched in sweat. He has to peel himself from his sheets because they’re stuck to his skin and he cringes at the feeling. “Ugh, fuck,” he grouses, swiping a hand across his forehead, wincing again when his hand feels wet afterwards. He wipes it on his blanket; it’s already soaked anyway.

He squints at his phone, which tiredly blinks back a sad 15:42. He’d managed to nap about five hours after getting back from his quick meeting with Bang PD. He hoped he’d sleep longer, but maybe this was better; he’d be able to sleep tonight.

He almost doesn’t want to get out of bed because of how weighed down he feels, but the prickling heat pulsing through his body decides for him. He crawls out and heads straight to the bathroom, flicking the shower on a cool temperature.

“At least I don’t have to fight for the shower,” he mumbles to himself.

Well. That wasn’t really a problem anymore now that they didn’t all always share the apartment; on top of that, they had more than one bathroom. But years of rock-paper-scissoring for first dibs on the bathroom ingrained an instinctive need to snag the bathroom first, since back in their first dorms the hot water ran out after four of them had showered.

He tugs off his shirt—or starts to, but gets too dizzy halfway through and has to drop to the toilet seat before he can keep going. It’s pathetic, how exhausted he is, but it’s fine. He’ll be okay in a few days. It’s a good thing he got sick during their break; he won’t waste any time that way.

(That’s what he keeps telling himself, but he’d had so many plans for their time off: he was going to visit his family, go museum-hopping, travel out of the city for a while, and go on day trips with the other members – he saw an advert about a modern art exhibit Tae would enjoy; a pop-up street food market was due to arrive in Dongdaemun which Jin would love to check out; there was a VR showcase at a gaming convention they’d all have a laugh at—

But even if he wasn’t sick, they wouldn’t want to go with him to any of those things right now, would they?)

He kicks off his pants and trudges into the shower, flinching at the feeling of cold water hitting his overheated skin. It feels like it’s burning, but he knows he has a fever and this will help. Maybe he could’ve done it more gradually but, honestly, who cared?

Eventually his vision starts swimming again and he slides down the wall to sit on the floor, legs splaying out as he watches the water sink down the drain.

Usually he’d spend showers mumble-singing half-formed lyrics, but no words made themselves known right now. He just stared listlessly at the tiles, wondering what the rest of Bangtan were doing.

(If anyone was thinking of him.)

His fingers are starting to look wrinkly, he realises, so he pulls himself up, leaning heavily against the wall as he does. I should wash my hair, he thinks, but just turns off the water. He can’t be bothered.

He’s just tired.

Leaving his clothes on the floor, he grabs two of the biggest towels and wraps himself in them. Because he can’t be bothered changing his bed, he trekked to the living room and fell on the sofa.

Normally, someone would already be in here. Tae and Jungkook would be playing a multiplayer game and Jin would worm his way in, bearing gifts of food to bribe one of them into relinquishing their controller. Hoseok would make a dramatic entrance and collapse in Yoongi’s lap, who would grumble about how noisy they were but wouldn’t move from his chair. Jimin, beaming before he even entered the room, would ask what they were doing and laugh because it was always something silly.

Jungkook would ask him if he wanted a go at whatever they were playing. Jin would tease him about losing, but then teach him how to get better. Taehyung would hold snacks up to him to munch absently on. Hoseok would ask to share Namjoon’s controller so they could work together to beat Jin and Jungkook. Yoongi would cheer his fellow rappers on, and Jimin would join in because he wanted to squish Namjoon’s cheeks when he smiled.

But the TV is off; the console was wrapped up in wires beneath it; the blinds are down; every seat is empty except his and the only noise in the house is the occasional click of an appliance and Namjoon’s ragged, nasally breathing.

Namjoon sniffs—because he has a cold , not for any other reason—and curls up as tightly as he can even though he’s too hot and his skin sticks together uncomfortably. He turns the TV on for background noise and shuts his eyes, pretending Yoongi’s sitting silently across from him watching the shitty game show.

He sniffs again.

He doesn’t know what time it is.

It’s dark outside and the streetlights are on, filtering through the half-closed blinds and bathing the room in an off-white glow, broken only by the shadows caused from the shutters. He stomach gurgles uncomfortably and he thinks oh shit, do I have food poisoning? But no, he’s had food poisoning before; he would definitely know by now if it was that.

It growls again and—oh. When did I last eat?

He actually has to pause to think, which he realises isn’t great. He vaguely remembers sleepily eating soup Taehyung gave him, but he hadn’t finished it. He grabbed a snack bar before his meeting with Bang PD…

I need to eat , he thinks, and doesn’t move at all.

Gazing listlessly around the room to find excuses not to get up, he fumbles for his phone and opens Twitter. He barely has to scroll through the feed before there’s a new photo of Hoseok in the sunny countryside, beaming as brightly as the background.

방탄소년단 @BTS_twt Jul 12 
Don’t forget to walk in the sun sometimes!!

Beneath it was a simple text message telling ARMY to take care of themselves, signed by #JIMIN.

I’m glad they’re staying on top of social media still, he thinks. ‘S good of ‘em to do.

He plays around on his phone a little longer, dappling into BTS World and Fire Emblem: Heroes for a bit before finally giving up on procrastinating.

He hauls himself up from the sofa and the room only tilts on its axis by a few degrees before fizzling back into view again. A violent shudder rips through his spine and he realises that, fuck, he fell asleep with just towels on.

Groaning, he pads into his room to grab actual human clothing, conflicted between searching for his softest, cosiest clothes and not giving a shit at all, and settles on the latter. He isn’t sure if the shirt he pulls out is his, but it was in his closet and that’s good enough. He does grab his fluffiest socks though, because his toes are so cold they sting.

He’s still shivering intermittently after he’s dressed. Suck it up, you’re not a kid, he tells himself, tugging cupboards open with aching hands to find food that requires zero-to-minimal-effort but isn’t so unhealthy that it’ll ruin their nutritionist’s plan. He settles on soup, pouring it into a pot and heating it up before leaning all his weight against the countertops. He can’t stop shuddering but that gross, slimy feeling of sweat is back on his face.

Fuck, I’m dizzy…

He glowers at the soup, willing it to hurry up, but it stares back blankly and doesn’t alter its pace for him.

I wish Jin-hyung was here to make that tea , he thinks sadly, staring at his solitary companion of almost-warm-soup, who agrees with silence. Or that milk drink. I can’t remember what it is, he only makes it when someone’s sick. Does it help with colds? Maybe it’s a Pavlovian thing and I’m just associating the milk with my cold… He shakes his head. He wouldn’t make that for me right now anyway.

A droplet of soup spills over the rim of the pot after it starts bubbling angrily and he sighs tiredly as he takes it off the heat. “Shit, calm down,” he tells the pot, pouring the soup into a bowl and grabbing a piece of wholewheat bread to dunk in it.

His arms are shaking pretty violently as he carries the tray of soup, bread, and water into the living room. He sets it down as carefully as he can, but still gets a couple drops of it on the table. He whines in the back of his throat because no one’s here and he can whine as much as he want.

Because no one’s here.

Which is fine.

He flicks the TV back on and sinks into the sofa, tucking his legs under himself and grabbing the throw to slide over his legs like a blanket. It feels—kind of pathetic, really. He touts loving yourself, looking after yourself, and here he is shaking with cold and not bothering to get an actual blanket.

Whatever. It doesn’t matter.

No one cares.

Stop that , he tells himself, frowning. It took a long time to stop thinking thoughts like that; it was frustrating when they still slipped through those remaining cracks, like weeds growing through concrete.

He knows people care. He knows the rest of Bangtan care; they’ve just been upset. But he’s sick and kind of hurt and doesn’t want to have to be rational.

He huffs and flicks through channels until he settles on a movie – one of Yoongi’s favourites; he’d first watched it in their old studio together one night when neither of them could sleep – and grabs his soup.

It’s a pathetic attempt at self-care: sitting in an empty living room with the lights off, a movie on that’s half making him sad more than comforting him, and quickly-cooling soup in his lap.

His sigh’s a little shaky and his eyes sting and suddenly his soup’s a lot saltier.

But it’s just the cold.

He’s lonely.

He’s not been alone like this for—so long. Once upon a time he would’ve treasured time and space to himself; he hadn’t liked sharing a dorm at first, sleeping so close to six other boys that their hair got up your nose and they kicked you in their sleep (or you woke up hearing one of them cry during the night because they were all scared it was all for nothing).

The thing is, he still enjoys alone time; it helps him recharge. He likes going on long walks in any weather and just drinking in sights: people, places, proverbial ideas. He has fun going to exhibits and libraries and independent stores by himself and finding little keepsakes.

But he doesn’t like this. This, an empty apartment, full of stuff that belongs to all of them, stuff that they always use together; this, an empty apartment, usually with a myriad of lights on or voices or music filling it; this, an empty apartment, where it’s never cold because there’s seven of them.

He pauses outside Taehyung’s door, hand hovering above the handle. He… doesn’t want to sleep in his room; it’s too dark and quiet. But Tae’s won’t be any different right now, will it? He shakes his head, trying to rid himself of this weird sickness-induced sentimentality, and snatches his hand away from the door. He kicks his shut (because keeping it open to see an empty, dark hallway feels wrong) and curls up in his bed, which he still hasn’t changed.

He’s just too tired. Everything aches and his eyes itch and his cough is making his throat hurt.

A low buzz alerts him to his phone’s existence in the room and he starts groping for it, not able to see its outline in the dark. When his hand lands on it, he slides it open to find a few notifications waiting.

Namjoon-ah, I hope you’re taking care of yourself! We’re all proud of you. Love you. X (14:08)

He glances at the time—it’s nearly midnight. Grimacing, he decides he’ll text her back first thing, otherwise she’ll probably worry about him being up late (even though he’s often stayed up far later than midnight when he’s working). He scrolls down to his other messages.

Hyung omg have you seen this puppy? (16:03)
Okay obviously you haven’t because you aren’t here (16:03)
But it’s okay I took ten photos of her (16:04)
Okay I just checked and I actually may have taken precisely 27 photos of her (16:06)
I asked her owner and her name is Moon!! (16:07)
Reminded me of you (16:07)

He breathes a little chuckle and his breath hitches. Something tickles his cheek and he swipes at it quickly before sniffing and tapping out a reply.

she’s really cute Tae (23:34)
thanks for thinking of me ㅋㅋ (23:34)

He’s about to turn off his screen and sleep (his current favourite hobby) when his phone buzzes again.

Hyung! You’re still up? (23:35)

so are you (23:35)

Oh shit you’re right (23:35)
We’re both bad boys (^_-)—☆ (23:36)

okay why have you started using those again (23:36)
I thought we were past this (23:36)

Don’t kinkshame me hyung (23:37)

Namjoon snorts.

But my other kink is taking care of my bros (23:37)
How’re you feeling man? (23:37)
Stay hydrated! Drink water!! (23:37)
That’s what the self-care blogs say (23:38)

i’m good (23:39)
just kinda tired (23:39)

Get some sleep omg (23:41)
Go to bed (23:41)

i am literally in bed (23:41)
or on bed, specifically (23:42)

No one:
Namjoon: uses proper punctuation in messages but everything is lowercase (23:43)

ngl feeling attacked (23:44)
also i prefer the term “lapslock” (23:44)
furthermore, it’s aesthetic (23:44)

Yes Joon it’s aesthetic, you absolute nerd (23:45)
Oh speaking of nerds! Reserve a day for me when I’m back? There’s something I want to do :-) (23:46)

sure, speak to my manager (23:46)
also gross please don’t use whatever that emoji is (23:47)

Your manager is my manager hyung (23:47)
So I’m taking that as ‘yes my favourite dongsaeng i’ve reserved a day for you because i love you lots’ (23:48)
(I even used ~lapslock~ for you) (23:48)
Anyway for real (23:48)
Get some sleep (23:49)

yes fine you can have a day of my life (23:49)
and yeah yeah i’m gonna sleep (23:50)
you too okay? (23:50)

Yes darling ♥ (23:50)
Goodnight Joonie!! (23:50)

thanks man (00:11)
for messaging (00:11)
goodnight (00:11)
♥ (00:12)

You sneaky bitch (07:34)
Messaging me 20 mins later smh (07:34)
Love you Joonie-hyung ♥ (07:34)
Have a good day!! (07:35)

Namjoon wakes up between lucid dreams and hot-and-cold flushes a few times but keeps falling back into restless, uneven sleep. After choking on a cough that rattles his chest and makes him wheeze until he can’t breathe, he jerks up to hack phlegm into the bucket he kept by his bed.

“Nngh,” he groans.

He’s tired. He’s hurting. He’s sick.

He’s all alone.

His breath hitches and a couple of errant tears drip from his chin.

He swipes them away angrily and buries his face in his hands.

Tae created group: Guilt Squad

Tae added Worst Hyung
Tae added Made Joonie Cry Hyung
Tae added Guilted Into Forgiveness Hyung
Tae added Jiminie
Tae added Kookie

Hello assholes (08:02)

Made Joonie Cry Hyung changed their name to Yoongi

I’m not denying the truth but really (08:04)
Also why don’t the dongsaengs get evil nicknames too (08:05)

Honestly because idk what went down between them and Namjoon tbh (08:05)
But they are assholes too anyway (08:05)
We’re all assholes here (08:05)
Hence the name of the chat (08:06)

Guilted Into Forgiveness Hyung
these aren’t the catchiest names TaeTae (08:08)

Guilted Into Forgiveness Hyung changed their name to Hobi

firstly, Yoongi-hyung, have you heard of question marks??? (08:09)
secondly, because we’re cute (08:09)
no not really (08:10)
because we made up with Joonie without making him cry (08:10)

idk it’s still partly bc of us that he was so upset (08:17)
like he said (08:17)
we didn’t stand up for him (08:17)
he spent all week trying to talk to us individually (08:18)
while we all avoided him in one way or another (08:18)

Kookie changed their name to Made Joonie Cry Maknae

So I was gonna keep the mood light in the group chat but (08:20)
Yeah fuck that (08:20)
Jungkook’s right guys (08:20)
Namjoon-hyung was way too grateful towards me just bc I made him soup and stuff (08:21)
I think he nearly cried bc of it (08:22)
Idk that’s just not okay guys (08:22)
He shouldn’t be so happy just bc I did something as small as make him soup when he’s sick (08:23)

He’s sick? (08:23)

HE’S SICK???????? (08:23)

He’s sick??? (08:23)

Made Joonie Cry Maknae
he’s sick?? (08:23)

Hobi changed their name to Guilted Into Forgiveness Hyung

Yoongi changed their name to Made Joonie Cry Hyung

Yeah he has a pretty bad cold (08:24)
I thought about staying but he did that thing he does (08:24)
Where he’s just being selfless but you know he’d beat himself up if you did something selfless back (08:25)
Anyway (08:25)
I want us to plan something (08:26)
To try and make up for giving him such a hard time (08:27)

Made Joonie Cry Hyung
@Worst Hyung dude come on (08:27)

Guilted Into Forgiveness Hyung
@Worst Hyung bitch you know I’ll fight you (08:27)

@Worst Hyung (08:27)

Made Joonie Cry Maknae
@Worst Hyung (08:27)

@Worst Hyung (08:27)

@Worst Hyung (08:28)
we can honestly do this forever (08:28)

Guilted Into Forgiveness Hyung
@Worst Hyung (08:28)
no we can’t bc I’ll end up breaking into his house and dragging him back to Joonie to beg for forgiveness (08:29)

Made Joonie Cry Hyung
@Worst Hyung (08:29)

@Worst Hyung (08:29)

Made Joonie Cry Maknae
@Worst Hyung (08:30)

Worst Hyung changed their name to Jin

Okay stop (08:31)
I’m here (08:31)
Give me a minute (08:32)


Taehyung: Well, well, well, look who’s come craaawling b—

Jin: Namjoon’s sick? Is he alone?

Taehyung: …Yeah, he is. We all left for our breaks.

Jin: I—thought he’d go home too.

Taehyung: He’s still going to, but he wants to get rid of his cold before seeing his family.

Jin: Oh. Right, yeah…


Jin: … [sighs]

Taehyung: Hyung… listen, why don’t you just call him? It’ll make him feel better—

Jin: I can’t do that.

Taehyung: Huh? Why not?

Jin: I—ugh. [Rustling] Hang on, I’m walking somewhere quieter; I’m out with my brother. [ Footsteps ]

Taehyung: …So, why do you think you can’t talk to him?

Jin: [Static-infused sigh] I—that’s—ugh.

Taehyung: If you don’t wanna tell me, that’s fine. But Namjoon-hyung deserves an explanation.


Taehyung: We were shitty to him this week, hyung. You and Yoongi-hyung were especially bad…


Taehyung: I don’t… I don’t like arguments, hyung… I know we’ve fought before, but like. We’re all pretty good about talking afterwards… and Namjoon’s always there to be the mediator. But none of us did that for him and you, so I’m sorry for that—

Jin: No, Tae… Don’t apologise for that. We’re older, we should be—

Taehyung: No, I need to. I kind of looked out for him last week, but… like he said… who stepped in for him? Besides, yeah, you’re older, but only by a few years. You can rely on the rest of us sometimes, you know?


Taehyung: …Hyung? You there?

Jin: Yeah. I’m here.

Taehyung: Well… what do you plan to do?

Jin: [sighs] I. I don’t know, Tae…

Taehyung: You’re going to apologise, obviously. Right?

Jin: Are you forgetting I’m older than you? Because—

Taehyung: With all due respect, hyung, you deserve no respect right now.

Jin: …Fair. Okay. Yeah, I. I wanna explain and say sorry… but just. It’s weird?

Taehyung: Hyung—

Jin: Wait, I’m not using it as an excuse. I’m going to. But. I don’t know—Namjoon and I have argued before, but it’s never been that serious? And we were both in the wrong so we’d just kind of awkwardly say sorry and laugh it off and pretend it didn’t happen, but. This is different.

Taehyung: … Yeah, it is.

Jin: Tae… what do you think I should do…?

Taehyung: Me and you have fought before… and that was over stupid stuff too, but we let ourselves get worked up. Namjoon-hyung got us all to stay professional until our performance was over, then we all sat down and talked about it. That—that was really helpful… I’m not sure I would’ve sought you out otherwise. I think it’s best when we can all talk to clear up any misunderstandings.

Jin: … Wow, Tae. You sound so responsible.

Taehyung: [chuckles] It’s because I’m a good boy!

Jin: [muffled talking in the background] —yeah, okay. Tae, I’m sorry, I’ve got to help my father with something. But I—I’ll message you. About Namjoon. Because I think I need advice.

Taehyung: That’s what fellow international playboy superstars are for, hyung!

Jin: Is it? [laughs] Okay. Talk to you later, Taehyung-ah.


The last few days passed in a blur, most of which could have been a fever dream; Namjoon couldn’t tell and didn’t want to figure out if he’d been hallucinating or not. He messaged his mother every night (because his throat hurt too much to call) and felt his stomach twist with guilt each time she asked if he was visiting.

Messages like your sister keeps talking about you and your father wants to show you something and RapMon needs a new chew toy and I miss you circle his mind, slipping in between all the video-memories of his members being upset with him. It feels like his brain’s an office and the filing cabinets are all collapsing with the weight of what’s contained within them. He keeps tripping over more and more folders filled with his members’ accusations and assumptions and it’s not fair that he keeps thinking about this when he’s not well and just wants to sleep until everything’s okay again.

A weird noise makes him jump. Is someone home? he wonders, jolting up in bed and then swooning back against his pillows when his head swims—then he hears the odd sound again and realises that, fuck, it’s him . He’s making these pathetic little whimpering noises and he’s fucking crying. Again.

“Stupid,” he hisses to himself, swiping his sleeve across his eyes only for fresh tears to stain his cheeks anew. He gives up wiping them away; no one’s here to see anyway. “Tae’s the first one due back and he won’t be here for two more days.” He stares at the ceiling. When he blinks, his eyes spill more water.

His breath hitches and he turns to his side, curling up and latching onto a pillow to hug.

“I don’t wanna be alone,” he whispers.

The empty apartment doesn’t respond.

Namjoon steps out of the shower and leans on the sink for support when little black dots fizzle in his vision. He stares at his reflection and it stares back.

I look like shit.

His fever broke in the night, but he woke up in a cold sweat and had to rinse it off. He felt minutely better—as better as someone who was stressed out of their mind and alone throughout being sick could be.

His stomach growls and, oh, yeah, he hasn’t eaten since—

“When did I last eat?” he mumbles. He thinks he grabbed a snack when he slept in the living room last time, but that was the day before yesterday. Ugh, what did he even eat? Fruit? He shakes his head; he can’t remember.

Still not hungry but too awake after sleeping so much over the last few days, Namjoon tugs on whatever clothes he dragged with him and trudges into the kitchen, opening the fridge.

It’s empty. He blinks owlishly at it, closes it, and reopens it.

He frowns when he finds it hasn’t replenished itself, then slams it with a huff.

I really don’t wanna go out, he thinks miserably, glancing at the clock. It’s 10:00am. His stomach growls again and he sighs, running a hand through his still-damp hair. He goes to grab his shoes, but his back aches when he bends over and his head throbs and suddenly he’s on his knees and leaning against the wall.

He stares at his shoes.

Okay, he thinks, staying on the ground and fumbling for his phone. I’m ordering groceries.

Knock knock knock.

He startles awake and nearly trips over himself in his haste to untangle his blanket. The attempt is half-successful; it’s wrapped around him, but he can walk with it. “Comin’,” he calls, voice thick with sleep. He hadn’t meant to fall back to sleep, but the lull of the TV always did something to him. He was too used to noise now, apparently.

He’s half-way through a yawn when he unlocks the door—

And then it dies in his throat.

“Oh,” he says flatly. “Jin-hyung.”

“I’m home,” Jin says, with an uncertain smile and—no. He doesn’t get to just smile and pretend nothing happened.

Namjoon fights the urge to slam the door in his face and instead just walks away from it. Let yourself in , he thinks bitterly, clenching his fists in his blanket and then thinking, Fuck, I just had to look pathetic when I answered the door, didn’t I?

He knows he should be mature about this. He knows he should be calm and kind and say i t’s nice to see you back and I think we should talk about what happened but he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to pretend he’s not been sick and alone all week, doesn’t want to hide how upset he’s been, doesn’t want to be the leader everyone hates him for.

He’s just Namjoon and Namjoon’s too tired to lead.

He heads for his room to try and force himself back to sleep. Before he can leave the kitchen, though, Jin asks: “Oh, there’s nothing in the fridge?”

Namjoon takes a deep breath. This sort of normal conversation as if nothing happened—it makes his stomach curl. Without turning around, he says,  “I ordered some. Delivery should be here soon.” He steps out of the kitchen.


And shuts his bedroom door.

He isn’t sleep when his door knocks, but he pretends he is.

“Namjoon-ah?” Jin says softly, nudging the door open. Namjoon lies still when footsteps approach and hopes he doesn’t twitch when the bed dips. “Hey… Namjoon-ah, I made you soup…”

He bites the inside of his cheek and fights to keep his breathing even.

A few moments pass and Jin sighs. “I’ll. I’ll leave it here, if you wake up soon… uh, but I’ll come back and get it later and—yeah.” He huffs. “Okay. Sleep well, Namjoon-ah.”

The door clicks shut behind him when he leaves and Namjoon doesn’t move until his footsteps have disappeared.

(Then he gives in and eats the soup because he’s fucking starving and Jin’s cooking is still so good even when Namjoon wants to hit him; even when it’s too salty because his tears keep dripping into it.)

Namjoon books his train to his parents’ place the next morning.

He’s still stuffy, stuck in the ‘still-getting-better’ stage of his cold, but he feels up to managing the travel.

More than that, he doesn’t feel like being around Jin. Doesn’t want to see any of them yet, honestly.

So he crams some clothes and books into a backpack and steels himself before leaving his room. It could get awkward, he thinks, if Jin sees him with his bag, ready to leave. He might ask: you’re really leaving when we’re in this state?

The others might get back before he does, and they could all gather around and say—

Namjoon’s not fit to be our leader when he can’t even stick out the rough patches; if he was better at this, no one would’ve gotten upset in the first place; how can we respect him when he just gets upset and runs away?

No, the rational part of himself cuts in, annoyed that he’s lapsed back into this way of thinking again . Years of unlearning this toxic mindset divided by only a week of conflict results in him doing this again? No, not today. He knew they’d be fine; he knew they’d get over this; he knew they didn’t hate him…

But knowing that somehow still wasn’t enough to believe it.

His hands shake as he closes the door behind him. He walks quietly through the corridor and into the kitchen, which is empty and dark in the evening dusk. Jin’s nowhere to be seen, he realises after scanning the room, and sags in what he tells himself is relief.

(Because he didn’t hope to be intercepted; he didn’t hope that Jin would be the one to seek him out; didn’t hope that his hyung would feel bad and apologise and hug him—he didn’t. It’s relief he feels, not disappointment.)

He shuts the front door and heads for his train.

Hey eomma, I’m on my way home to see you guys. (17:10)

Jin yawns as he pads out of his room, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He pauses as he passes Namjoon’s room, wondering if he should knock and ask if he wants breakfast.

I don’t want to wake him, he thinks, shaking his head. I’ll just make something that can be eaten cold.

He tugs open the fridge to find all the food Namjoon had ordered. It arrived shortly after Jin had and he’d put it all away; it was a small token of an apology that really didn’t mean anything, but seeing Namjoon with red-rimmed eyes and a blocked nose and entangled in a blanket… Jin couldn’t not do him that small favour.

He pauses as he stared at its contents. It had been totally empty when he got home yesterday, as had the cupboards, save for a few cans of soup and an almost-empty bag of rice. His insides twisted uncomfortably at the idea that Namjoon hadn’t been eating—but maybe he had and just ran out…

But no. He’s been sick all week; he probably barely ate.

He starts slicing up fruit and brewing coffee when the door slams open with a bang. He flinches and shoots a pre-emptive scowl up at the perpetrator, only to find Taehyung and Jungkook stuck in the doorway, shoving each other.

“What are you doing,” he deadpans.

They both look up. “Oh, hi, hyung,” Taehyung says. “I thought you weren’t home for another week?”

He shrugs, looking away. “Change of plans,” he mutters.

Taehyung grabs Jungkook’s head and shoves him back. Jungkook squawks in protest, grabbing Taehyung around the waist to tackle him and they land on the floor with a dull thunk.

Jin puts his knife down and leans over the counter to see them rolling around. “I know what fans mean when they say they forget our ages.” He rolls his eyes. “What are you doing?” he repeats.

Taehyung elbows Jungkook in the abdomen and the younger man reels, groaning and rolling away. Taehyung stands and dusts himself off, sending a small kick at Jungkook’s leg. “I wanted to come in first,” he says.

Jin stares.

“So did Jungkook,” he adds, like that explains anything. He must not notice Jin’s confusion, because he just glances around and asks, “Where’s Namjoon-hyung?”

Jungkook pulls himself off the floor at that, looking up with wide eyes. “Is. Is he okay?” He bites his lip.

Jin shrugs awkwardly. “He’s sleeping,” he says, going back to chopping fruit. “He… looks okay.”

Taehyung hums. “I’m gonna go check on him,” he says, leaving the room.

Jungkook leans into Jin’s vision. “Hyung,” he says lowly, “is he really all right? I don’t know how to say this without being rude, but… you’re who he’s most upset at. I’m surprised you’re home.”

Jin nearly cuts himself when his knife slips. He tosses it aside with a clatter and folds his arms defensively. “You really thought I’d leave Bangtan?”

Jungkook’s eyes widen further. “No, that’s not what I meant—just. I meant… I thought you’d put off coming home ‘til last.” He shrugged, looking away. “To avoid Namjoon-hyung, or something.”

Jin swallowed. That… hurt. A bit. Knowing Jungkook thought so low of him, thinking he’d avoid Namjoon like that.

Jungkook must notice something on his face because he winces and tries again: “Sorry, I mean…”

“No, I. I get it.” Jin sighs, unfurling his arms. “I’ve… I know I’ve been… immature.” He looks away. “That’s why… I decided to come back early. To talk to him. Properly.”

Jungkook nods slowly. “Me too,” he says. “I know I’ve, like, spoken to him already and stuff, but.” He grimaces and drops his eyes to his lap. “I kinda called him out for not being honest, but then I avoided him when I had an issue.” He sighs. “I’m a hypocrite.”

Jin frowns. “Ah, Jungkook-ah…” He shakes his head. He can’t let their maknae beat himself up; he’s not the only one who upset Namjoon. “The fact that you know that makes you sound pretty mature, you know?” He tries to smile when Jungkook looks up. “I’m sure just saying that to Joon-ah will make him feel better.”

Jungkook shrugs, unconvinced. “Maybe.”

Well, that… felt like a failed dialogue attempt in an RPG, thought Jin, wincing. Ugh, Namjoon was far better in situations such as these; he always knew how to talk them out of their self-deprecating headspaces. Namjoon knew they all responded better to different approaches: that’s why he tried speaking to them individually, to sort things out the way he knew they responded to best; he knew Jimin felt better after heart-to-hearts, knew Jungkook appreciated it most when you stopped to listen to him, knew Yoongi usually needed time alone before bringing anything up.

It was the kind of thing you only learnt after being around people for a long time. But out of all of them, Namjoon was best at it; it’s part of why he’s the leader: the problem-solver. Sometimes, though, Jin finds it annoying: Namjoon’s constant need to strategise, like they’re all puzzles that need to be solved. He thinks that’s part of why he got so annoyed with him, because he knew Namjoon was denying his own feelings because he thought he had to. 

He sighs. “Jungkook—”

“Guys, Namjoon’s not here,” Taehyung says.

They both look up at him. “What?” Jin asks, frowning.

“I thought you said he was asleep,” Jungkook says.

“I did—he was.” Jin slides around the counter to go check himself. Taehyung steps out of the way and he goes to Namjoon’s room, knocking because he was in there. There’s no answer, but he might still be sleeping like last time.

(But he wasn’t asleep last time, was he? Jin thinks bitterly. He knew what a sleeping Namjoon was: he was restless and messy, mouth wide open, drooling over his pillow, light snores escaping now-and-again, limbs splayed everywhere. A still, quiet Namjoon like yesterday’s… wasn’t a sleeping Namjoon. He knew he’d been pretending.)

He opens the door—and Namjoon’s bed is empty.

The room’s dark and smells kind of stale, like he hasn’t opened the window for a week. Old clothes are strewn across the floor and three drinking glasses are on his bedside table, but his phone and charger are gone, and so is the coat he keeps on the back of his chair.

He strides back out to the kitchen, rifling through his pockets to find his phone because where the hell had he gone ? He’s sick and shouldn’t be going outside and Jin needs to talk to him—

“He left a note!” Jungkook calls suddenly.

He stops patting down his pockets to rush over to Jungkook. Taehyung pops up beside him, frowning at the post-it.

If anyone reads this, I’ve gone to visit my family for a few days.

“That’s it?” Jin breathes, scowling. “Seriously? No date he’s back or anything?” He grabs the paper and turns it over, but the rest of it’s blank.

“Maybe he doesn’t know how long he’s staying,” Taehyung says— reasonably , which is just more annoying.

“Did he have to go now?” Jin huffs, running a hand through his hair. His heart’s still hammering uncomfortably in his chest; for a few seconds, he’d been— scared . “As soon as I got back—” Oh.


Taehyung and Jungkook exchange glances, which just makes it worse.

“Fine,” he says, tossing the post-it aside. “If he doesn’t wanna talk about it, we won’t.”

Taehyung’s face turns to stone. “Hyung, you—”

“No,” he cuts in. “He doesn’t care, so why should I? I came home early to clear shit up, but he doesn’t want to bother. No, I’m done.”

“Jin-hyung, that’s not fair,” Jungkook says quietly.

“Fair?” He snorts. “Yeah, neither is working more than we were meant to, but he was fine with that too.”

“Hyung—” they both start, but he’s already slammed his bedroom door.

Fuck this.

Chapter Text

It’s five days later Namjoon returns to their apartment.

He spent those few days at his family’s place, sitting around and exchanging stories, watching old TV shows and movies that always give him a rush of warm nostalgia, and walking RapMon through old streets he used to wander through every day. His mother made him all the meals she used to while his father tugged out photo albums; his sister came to visit too, giving him life updates and admitting she’d stayed up to date with all Bangtan’s performances and interviews. They all had.

It had been… really nice. He hadn’t realised how much he’d missed them. It was easy to push those thoughts aside, after spending so long away from home and focusing on work. It was just ingrained in all of them to put thoughts of family out of their minds – something Jungkook, Jin, and Taehyung had all struggled with a lot earlier on in their career.

“Sir? We’re here,” says the cab driver, tugging Namjoon from his thoughts.

He shakes his head like it’ll detangle the cobwebs and dust that had blanketed his brain for the entire ride here. “Right. Thanks, man.” He fishes out the fare and a generous tip for him, smiling when he thanks him, and steps out of the car to stare at their apartment block.

It’s late: the sun’s dipped below the horizon and the sky’s a purple canvas scattered with specks of white. Namjoon slips his key in the lock and the streetlamps flicker to life, then he kicks the door shut behind him and starts toeing off his shoes. He looks up—and all of his members are there.

He glances over all of them, blinking slowly. “Uh…” He looks from Taehyung, lounging against the nearest wall, to Hoseok, who’s sitting upright on one of the kitchen stools. Namjoon tosses his keys into the dish by the door. “Hi?” he says uncertainly because—what the fuck is going on?

“Hey, Namjoon-hyung,” Taehyung greets easily with a little wave.

“Welcome home,” Jimin offers, smiling softly.

Jungkook slides around the kitchen counter and tugs at Namjoon’s coat. “Lemme take this,” he says, and Namjoon lets him.

“Uh,” he says again, “thanks?” He looks around the room again, but no one’s moving. He adjusts his bag and shifts from one foot to another, feeling a little self-conscious with all the attention. “Um… Okay. I’m gonna…” He gestures vaguely and moves to head for his room.

“Wait, Namjoon-ah,” Yoongi says at the same time that Jungkook grabs Namjoon’s arm. He turns around and glances between both of them. Jungkook relinquishes him and clears his throat, then looks at Yoongi. Namjoon does too, raising a brow. Yoongi huffs and folds his arms. “We. We want to talk.” He pauses. “All of us.”

“We want to apologise,” Hoseok pipes up, leg bobbing up and down like he’s struggling to remain still. He’s fiddling with a Rubik’s cube, but he clearly isn’t trying to solve it; it’s just in his lap and he’s randomly turning it. A little chuckle escapes him and Namjoon glances back up at his face, realising he’d been staring at the puzzle. “Here,” he says, tossing it to him.

Namjoon catches it without fumbling, thank fuck, and starts fiddling with it absently. “So,” he mumbles slowly, “you want to talk. About last week, I assume.”

Everyone nods.

“Right.” He looks at Jin, who’s staring at his shoulder instead of his face. “Okay, well. Start talking, I guess.”

They blink, like they weren’t expecting that. What, did they want him to initiate the discussion? Begin with a disclaimer or something? Give a spiel about being “over it” and already forgiving them, so they can just lapse into apologies and brush it off without explaining themselves? Nah, he wasn’t doing that. He pushes a row of the Rubik’s cube counterclockwise and waits, listening to the sounds of Hoseok’s foot tapping against the floor, the kitchen sink’s tap dripping, and the clock on the wall ticking every second.

“We’re really sorry,” Jungkook bursts out first.

Namjoon looks at him, trying to remain poker-faced. He’d—well, he’d expected all of them to return to normal, he expected he’d sulk for a few days, he expected they’d all just move on and pretend nothing happened. But even when he imagined them apologising, he kind of thought the younger members wouldn’t; after all, none of them were that bad about it. Jimin and Jungkook were annoyed-and-or-disappointed about it, but they’d gotten over it quickly, and if Taehyung had been upset at all, he hadn’t showed it. So Namjoon really wasn’t expecting any of them to speak up about it.

He’s not sure how to reply, but the hyung in him has him shaking his head. “I’m just glad you explained why you were upset with me, Jungkook,” he says, which was true—but it was equally true he was still sad about the avoidance in the first place.

But Jungkook shakes his head jerkily. “Only after I had to sit and talk to you,” he says, voice hushed like it was a confession. “I was avoiding you… which was immature. I was upset in the first place that you didn’t tell us how you felt about working for another week, but in the end, I did the same thing by not telling you why I was angry.” He rubs his arm, looking away and back again, as if finding it hard to maintain eye contact. “I’m the one who was hypocritical, hyung, and I’m really sorry.”

Namjoon blinks. He… hadn’t prepared for that.

The silence stretches on as he turns Jungkook’s words over in his mind, but then a hand on his arm pulls him out of his head and he turns to find Jimin tugging him to sit beside him. Reluctantly, he lowers himself onto a seat, and Jimin presses a hand against his thigh. It’s a habit of Jimin’s, touching the others to ground himself when he’s nervous—or when he thinks they’re nervous. Namjoon isn’t sure which reason it is right now. Maybe both.

“Joonie,” he starts, voice soft.

Namjoon makes a noise of acknowledgement.

“I’m sorry too,” he says quietly.

Namjoon gives a one-shoulder shrug, turning to his Rubik’s cube. “You didn’t outright avoid me or anything, Jimin,” he replies. Maybe it’s too forgiving, but. Jimin made him feel guilty for the added week; while everyone else hid their reasons for being upset, Jimin had just gotten more obsessive with their diet; it made Namjoon sick to think that he was part of the reason why. He knows Jimin still struggles every day with food; no matter how much ‘better’ he is, an eating disorder is something you live with. He knows that.

“I did a bit,” Jimin admits, looking down at Namjoon’s puzzle as he traces nondescript patterns on his jeans with a finger. “I almost didn’t sit down with you in the kitchen, but I’m weak for Namjoonie-hyung’s puppy eyes,” he says jokingly.

Namjoon tries to smile.

Jimin sighs. “I…” He swallows thickly, then casts a furtive glance around the room. “I was upset… because I was just tired. I know we all were, but.” He shrugs helplessly. “All the choreography, the diet plans, the workouts, the vocal practice—I thought we were done and I could stop thinking about the routine just for a bit, so… it isn’t fair, but I guess, for a moment, maybe I blamed you a bit.” He grimaces and blinks rapidly when tears well in his eyes.

Namjoon makes a little noise and rubs Jimin’s arm. “Hey, no, it’s okay, I get it,” he says softly. “Placing blame—it’s a coping mechanism. I understand, Jiminie.”

“Don’t just take it easy on him because he’s your dongsaeng,” snaps Jin.

Everyone looks at him and Namjoon schools his features into something blank. “That isn’t why.”

“So you admit that you are,” Jin says-not-asks, jaw set.

Namjoon moves to stand and Jin pushes himself off the wall, but Jimin pulls Namjoon back down and Yoongi presses a hand against Jin’s chest.

“I’m not done,” Jimin cuts in, staring at Jin. “Please be patient, hyung.”

Jin looks at him, surprise marring his frown, but then Yoongi mutters something and he huffs and backs down.

Jimin squeezes Namjoon’s thigh again, drawing his attention back. “Really, though, hyung,” he continues gently, “you can tell me if you’re upset at me too. I blamed you unfairly—you have a right to be angry.”

Namjoon drops his eyes to his cube, a shuddering sigh escaping him. “I…” he mumbles and trails off, fiddling absently with the puzzle to avoid looking up.

“Were you, Namjoonie? Upset?” Jimin prompts.

He chews his lip, a rush of shame washing over him and he slumps a little in his chair. “I… yeah,” he breathes, a little roughly. “But mostly… mostly ‘cause I thought…” He swallows thickly and says, quiet enough that only Jimin will hear, “Because it’s my fault you started c-counting calories again. I don’t—I never want you to—”

“Oh, Joonie,” Jimin breathes, then abandons his thigh to throw his arms around him, yanking him down into a tight hug. “Joonie, no, god—never blame yourself for that, okay?” He squeezes him before pulling away enough to look him in the eye again. “I see our nutritionist regularly—she keeps me on track. I’m healthy,” he says vehemently, not looking away like he used to. (When he used to hide in huge sweaters and tug his bony wrist out of Namjoon’s hand and say ‘I’m fine, I’m eating, stop worrying,’ and then just stare at his meals and pretend he’d eat them later and they all tiptoed around it when they saw him taking the trash out when it wasn’t even half-full.) “Joonie—after you talked to me, I called my therapist and I’ve seen him this week. And listen, even if I did relapse, it wouldn’t be your fault—wouldn’t be anyone’s, not even mine.” He squeezes his shoulder. “Okay? Blaming ourselves is just as bad as blaming others. You know that, right?”

He swallows thickly—or tries to, but the lump in his throat makes it harder. “Yeah,” he says, throat hurting like it does when he’s trying not to cry.

“It’s important that you know that you’re not in the wrong here,” Taehyung cuts in, sliding into the seat beside him.

Namjoon glances at him, then around the room. He shrugs, turning back to his puzzle. “I mean… I understand. Why you guys were disappointed,” he says. “I’m the leader; I should’ve just said no—”

“Namjoon-ah, what does being a leader mean to you?” Yoongi asks, tugging his face mask down.

“Hyung?” He frowns.

“What does it mean you’ve gotta do differently from us?” he adds.

Namjoon shrugs. “I… I dunno, I’m. I’ve gotta notice when you guys are struggling, gotta help fix those things—”

“‘Fix’,” Jin snorts.

Yoongi shoots him a glare, but Jin just stares back. Normally he’d cower, pretend to be frightened and hide behind Jungkook, but not now. Jin when he was angry—honestly? Scared Namjoon a little. He’s almost always laidback, shrugs things off easily, but when he’s wound up, he’s really fucking stubborn and doesn’t back down. Back when he and Taehyung got into an argument over their routine and responsibilities, Jin looked exactly how he did now: unremorseful, like he knew he was right.

(But after they talked, he’d apologised to Tae; he’d admitted he should’ve been calmer, said that as the elder he could’ve handled it better, hugged it out and said sorry for making him cry—and maybe that’s what Namjoon was hoping for too. But he was Namjoon, not one of the maknae; not happy-go-lucky Hoseok who looked like a kicked puppy when upset; not unflappable Yoongi who it hurt to see upset because it meant you’d done something awful enough to break through his anger and just hurt him. He was Namjoon.)

“I can’t speak for everyone,” Yoongi continues, sending another glower at Jin, “but that’s—part of why I got so pissed at you.” He scratches his neck awkwardly. “When you asked us about working another week, you weren’t like, ‘fuck, this sucks, Sejin-ssi asked if we’d do more and honestly guys I don’t want to.’ You just—I dunno, you came in like you were a manager, acted really distant and shit and.” He shakes his head, lips pressed in a thin line. “You didn’t sound like the Namjoon I knew.”

Namjoon blinks furiously against the stinging in his eyes because—that’s what he was afraid of. He’s always been scared of becoming someone he’s not, someone his younger self would be disgusted by. He’s had dreams of meeting pre-debut Yoongi, who looks at him with disgust and tells him: so this is it, huh? You became exactly what we fucking hate.

“I get that,” Namjoon whispers thickly, and Jimin plants a hand back on his leg while Taehyung winds an arm around his back. He can’t decide if it’s more comforting or stifling. “I think about it a lot.” His breathing is getting a little laboured and his chest is making embarrassing wheezing sounds because his cold hasn’t fully disappeared, and he tries to cover the noises by shifting in his chair. “But I—we’ve all changed, and people need to stop seeing change as something bad.” He looks up to meet Yoongi’s eyes. “I’m not the same,” he agrees, “I’m not that angry kid who wore heavy chains and wrote about grey cities and no one understanding me. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not.”

This is the self-righteous shit we’re talking about,” Jin cuts in before he even finishes speaking. He pushes off the wall again and stalks forward, eyes burning. “You ‘don’t pretend’ to be someone you’re not?” He scoffs. “Then why did you act like you were fine with working another week?”

“I didn’t want to—” Namjoon says, exasperated; how many times must he say this?

“I know that!” Jin snaps. “We all know that.”

“So why’d I have to corner you all into talking to me about it?” Namjoon demands, tearing himself from Jimin and Taehyung’s grip to stand at full height and glare at Jin. “If you all knew, why the fuck didn’t you just say you didn’t want to do it? I would’ve fucking said no—”

“‘Cause you only would’ve said no if we did,” Yoongi slides in. “You were acting like—”

“A martyr,” Jin finishes for him, venom dripping from his voice.

“Oh, my god,” Yoongi mutters.

“A martyr?” Namjoon echoes, palms itching with pure annoyance. “You think I’m playing the victim?”

“Yeah, actually, I do,” Jin says.

“Oh, look! You can be honest.” Namjoon scoffs. “Maybe if you’d have just brought this up in the first place, we wouldn’t have worked last week, you wouldn’t have humiliated me on national TV, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion right now.”

Humiliated you? That’s—this is what I mean! Why do you think you’re the only one who’s been hurting over this?” Jin demands, crowding Namjoon and shoving up to him.

Namjoon’s tailbone hits the counter uncomfortably and he shoves Jin out of his space. “I never once fucking acted like that!” he snaps. “If I’d been ‘playing the victim,’ I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to speak to you all one at a fucking time. You think that was easy , Jin? When all of you avoided me like the fucking plague?”

“Isn’t it the leader’s job to ‘fix things’, Namjoon?” Jin taunts, lips curled into a bitter smirk and Namjoon thinks if he saw Jin acting on-screen right now, he’d be the villain. “So, well done, you spent the week cornering each one of us in this sociopathic attempt to ‘fix us’ – yeah, that’s normal.”

“What’s the point in talking if all you’re gonna do is twist my words?” Namjoon shouts.

He sees Jimin flinch out of the corner of his eye; he rarely raises his voice, but he can’t fucking help it now.

It’s all bubbling up after lying dormant for so long and the words pour out of his mouth like lava. “Everything, every-fucking-thing I say, you have a problem with! I don’t immediately refuse the work, and I’m wrong. I tell you I’m gonna turn it down, and I’m wrong. I try to act like a leader and you don’t want that; I try to step back and ask you to make the decision, and you don’t want that either!” He’s heaving for breath now, words airy from his hoarse throat. His heart’s beating too fast and his hands are shaking and it’s the anger, it’s gotta be the anger, because if it was anything else he couldn’t keep going. “So what the hell is the point in talking to you, when everything I do is wrong ?”

“Yeah, what is the point in talking? You clearly don’t fucking want to,” Jin retorts, scoffing. “Especially after you left as soon as I got home.”

“How can you even say that?” Namjoon barks a sharp laugh, disbelieving. “As if I didn’t spend all of my free time last week trying to talk to you all. I made you breakfast every fucking day and no one cared— ” His voice cracks and his breath hitches and he chokes, chest wheezing uncomfortably as he erupts into a fit of coughing.

“So you think you can just make some fucking fried rice and that makes last week okay? ‘Oh, here, Jin-hyung, here’s some tea, sorry you had to waste your week off on a shitty game show’—”

“That’s exactly what you tried to do!” he yelled, coughing again. “You fucking—” wheeze “—come home early and—” cough cough “—act like nothin’ happened and make me some soup and then suddenly you’re angry at me again?” He choked on his breath and felt mucus build up in his throat when he coughed.

“Yes, I came back early, I left my family early to come talk to you but you just hid in your room and pretended to sleep when I tried to—”

“I didn’t ask you to!” Namjoon snaps, breathing so quickly it was making him lightheaded. “I wanted you guys to have a good break, wanted you all to see your families, that’s why I got us three weeks instead of two to make up for—”

“Well, it doesn’t,” Jin interrupts, shoving his shoulder and sending him crashing back against the counter again, the kitchen stool toppling over. The side top digs into Namjoon’s back and he winces. Jimin and Taehyung jump out of the way as Jin crowds him back against it.

Jungkook and Hoseok rush over to try and yank him away, but he rips himself away from their hands. “Jin-hyung—” Hoseok tries.

But Jin ignores him and sneers, “If you’re the amazing leader you think you are, why didn’t you just say no ?” He shoves Namjoon by the shoulders but he’s already pressed flush against the counter-top.

Namjoon snarls and pushes Jin’s shoulder again. “That’s a fucking dictatorship, I’m not in charge of you!” Namjoon shouts, fed up with this same fucking question over and over again. Grabbing Jin by the collar, he yanks him closer and yells, “Why don’t you stop repeating that shit, stop being a fucking coward , and tell me the real reason you’re so fucking mad at me?”

Their chests heave like they’ve run a marathon; their eyes are wide as they stare at each other, like animals waiting for a fight. The others all hover around them; Hoseok’s got a hand on Jin’s shoulder again, and Jungkook touches Namjoon’s arm softly, both ready to pull them apart.

But Jin does it himself. He straightens and Namjoon lets go of his collar harshly, still panting. Jin shoves his hair out of his face, a thin sheen of sweat on his forehead. Hoseok steps back, eyeing him warily.

Then Jin looks back at Namjoon and says—

“My father’s sick.”

Namjoon’s jaw clicks shut.

Jin drops his gaze to the floor, eyes devoid of feeling. “We don’t know what it is,” he says, tone dead like he’s repeating someone else’s words from memory. “But he’s been in hospital for two months. My brother only told me last week because he thought I was coming home, and they didn’t want to worry me while I was working.”

Namjoon stares at him. Jin doesn’t look up.

No one speaks for a while.

“Why’d you come back so early then?” Namjoon finally asks, breaking the silence. His voice is thick. It isn’t the most important question, but it’s what comes out first.

Jin shrugs, then meets his eyes. “Taehyung said you were sick.”

He shakes his head, confused. “Only with a cold—”

“You were alone,” Jin says quietly, shoulders slumping like all the anger’s drained out of him. “And I knew you were upset. Of course I knew I’d been a dick.”

Namjoon breathes in but it sounds like a sniff. “Then why—” did you get mad at me again when I got back? he almost says, then aborts it. Instead, he asks, “When… do you think you’ll know about your dad?”

“My mother called me this morning,” he mumbles. “He’s been transferred to another hospital where they can conduct a higher-intensity scan. We should know by tomorrow morning. What’s wrong with him, I mean.”

Namjoon tries to swallow but his throat won’t allow him. “Jin… hyung, you should’ve stayed at home,” he says finally, shaking his head. “You—you should’ve told me,” he whispers.

“I didn’t want to be the reason we turned the work down,” he says, shutting his eyes.

“But I would’ve refused,” Namjoon tells him, heart thumping painfully in his chest. He wonders if they can hear it, it’s so loud. “You—you have to know I wouldn’t have agreed to it if I knew—”

“I do,” Jin admits, sighing roughly. “That’s why I didn’t tell you.”

Namjoon shakes his head, eyes burning and breath hitching. “B-but your dad—”

Jin rubs his forehead like it hurts and offers another shrug. “I’m the oldest; I can’t be that selfish.”

“And I’m the leader and we’ve established that that doesn’t matter,” Namjoon says in a rush, words tumbling out a little too fast. “Me being the ‘leader’ doesn’t mean I make decisions by myself, but neither does it mean I should hide my feelings—and the same goes for all of us.” His hand twitches and he hesitates for a second before grabbing Jin’s arm, waiting for his hyung to look back at him. “Hoseok being ‘the happy one’ doesn’t mean he can’t be sad. Jungkook being the maknae doesn’t mean he isn’t just as important when making decisions.” He squeezes his arm, breath hitching again. “You being the oldest doesn’t mean you can’t tell us what you need.”

Jin blinks furiously, like he’s trying to hold back tears, then turns his face to the side to glare at nothing. His shoulders tremor with the effort of holding something back.

“Jin-hyung,” he says, voice cracking, “please just tell me what you want. Please don’t ignore me.”

Then tears spill from Jin’s eyes and slide down his cheeks and a sob escapes him when he garbles, “I just want—want my dad to be okay—” and then he’s crying.

Namjoon yanks him by the arm into a full-body hug, clutching him tightly and tugging his head into his shoulder. Jin’s body wracks with sobs as he cries, the sounds echoing in the kitchen.

Namjoon nearly staggers when another body latches onto them, and he drags his head out of Jin’s neck to meet Hoseok’s wet eyes. Taehyung wraps himself around them from behind like a blanket, then Jimin curls into them from the side, one hand pressing into Namjoon’s back and the other into Jin’s. Yoongi yanks Jungkook into the pile, entangling their arms into it and squeezing tight.

Namjoon buries his face back into Jin’s neck as hot tears escape him, shaking with the effort to hold it in. But then Jin whispers ‘sorry’ into his shoulder and Namjoon makes a tiny whining noise before he can stop himself, and then Jungkook and Jimin start crying and Yoongi sniffs.

“‘M sorry.” The word escapes him unbidden, slipping out before he could think of how to word it. He wanted to say something inspiring, uplifting to make them feel better, but he was shivering so hard and could barely breathe around sobs and he couldn’t think of anything except I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry. “I’m scared of changing,” he confesses, “I don’t wanna be someone Yoongi-hyung doesn’t wanna call a friend anymore.” He hiccoughs. Yoongi makes a strangled noise in his throat. “I don’t always wanna be the mature one,” he admits, “I don’t want Jin-hyung to not be able to tell me his dad’s sick.” He chokes on his words and a fresh wave of hot tears spill out and Jin pulls himself off of Namjoon’s neck to frown sadly at him, looking pained. “I don’t—I don’t wanna b-be—”

He sobs, words mutated into indecipherable noises as he cries ugly tears; he’s too loud, sobbing in earnest, crying like he never could before. He’s never cried this loud, this openly. As a kid he’d hide in a cupboard and cry until he couldn’t anymore; pre-debut, he’d crawl out of their shared bedroom to weep in the bathroom or just bite his pillow so they couldn’t hear him sob into his sleeping bag; when they first started and hate was rampant and constant criticism of ‘your face isn’t an idol’s face,’ and ‘your lyrics are a betrayal to hip-hop,’ and ‘but Namjoon once said—’ he’d lock himself in his studio and turn off the lights and amp up the music until no one could hear him cry and throw shit and punch walls.

He’s too loud now and he can’t stop it. He’s standing in the middle of his members, his brothers, his friends, and he can’t hide it.

“Joon-ah, Namjoon-ah, you’ve gotta calm down,” Jin says, voice wet, and then his hands are on Namjoon’s face and he flinches. “Joon-ah, you’re breathing too fast.”

“I—” gasp “—can’t—” gasp “—help—” gasp “—it.”

“Joon-ah, you’ve gotta slow down,” Yoongi says, voice stern despite the tear stains on his cheeks. “Guys, move away, we’re crowding him,” he orders, and everyone breaks the hug to take a few steps back.

Unbridled fear is written across their faces and Taehyung looks like he wants to pitch forward and help, but Jungkook tugs him back and holds him in place.

Namjoon feels more exposed with all of them looking at him and he’s crying and he’s sorry and he can’t breathe. “D-don’t—please don’t h-hate me—I didn’t mean t-t—”

“I know, Namjoon-ah, we know, we know,” Yoongi says, grabbing his hand and rubbing his palm slowly.

“We don’t hate you, Namjoon, we could never,” Jin promises in a rush, still crying.

“Please d-d—” But he doesn’t even know what he’s asking for and he can’t speak anyway.

“Namjoon-ah, you’ve got to breathe,” Yoongi says again. “Can you do it with me? Slowly, okay? In—no, slower, calm down.” But he can’t calm down. His knees cave in out of nowhere and Jin scrambles to catch him before he hits the ground. Everyone lurches forward but Yoongi snaps, “Don’t crowd him,” and it sounds angry in Namjoon’s ears.

Jin sinks to the ground with him and Namjoon grabs at his shirt. He hears an ugly gasping, choking noise and realises it’s him. “J-Jin-hyung, I can’t—b-breathe—”

Jin’s lips are moving but everything the muffled; there’s suddenly a lot of noise in the previously silent kitchen but it all blurs together into this cacophony and he can’t make out any words and he can’t turn his thoughts into words and he can’t breathe .

Everything spins and then he’s on the floor, staring up at the ceiling and Jin’s panicked face (why is he panicking?) but he still can’t hear and can’t breathe and his vision is being dotted by hundreds of black spots. He tries to say something, anything, but he can’t hear himself over the sound of blood rushing and doesn’t know if he managed to speak at all—

And then he’s in the dark.

Unfamiliar, tinny voices reach his ears and he thinks, Did I leave the TV on?

He cracks his eyes open and they sting, so he raises a hand to rub them. God, he feels heavy, like his limbs are infused with lead. He drops it back to his side and then realises, oh, he’s not in bed. Blinking the blurriness from his gaze, he finds himself in the living room and, yes, the TV’s on and there’s an anime movie playing that he can’t place right now.


His eyes slide over to where Hoseok’s voice came from, but suddenly the other man’s kneeling in front of him and pressing a hand to his forehead.

“How’re you feeling?” He pauses. “Stupid question.”

Namjoon tries to laugh, but only a breath escapes him. “Wh…” He shakes his head slowly, and it’s hard; it feels like he’s underwater, or trudging through syrup. “Where’re…?”

“The others?” Hoseok offers when he doesn’t finish.

He nods.

“We didn’t wanna crowd you so we’ve been taking turns sitting with you,” he said softly, carding fingers through Namjoon’s hair. It felt—weird. He felt gross and oversensitive, but he also wants more. “Jungkook just left, that’s why this movie’s on.”

Namjoon blinks slowly. “I don’t mind it,” he says.

Hoseok sighs. “I’m disappointed, Joonie.” But he cracks a smile. “You wanna sit up? I’ve got water for you.”

He nods again, but doesn’t movie.

Hoseok breathes an almost-laugh and slings an arm around his shoulders to tug him into a sitting position, then passes him a glass. Namjoon takes it slowly, but nearly spills it as soon as Hoseok lets go. Hoseok grabs it again quickly. “Okay, just take a sip and I’ll put it back down,” he suggests, and Namjoon thinks nothing off it through the fuzz over his mind, leaning forward to sip through the straw.

“Hoseok? Is Namjoon awake?” Yoongi calls from outside the room.

Namjoon relinquishes the straw and it slips out of his mouth. “You done?” Hoseok asks and he nods. He puts it back down and then looks at the door. “Yeah, he’s up,” he calls, then glances back at Namjoon. “You okay with Jin-hyung or Yoongi-hyung coming in?” he asks.

Namjoon looks down at his lap for a second. It’s… hard to think. He feels… floaty, in a dizzy way, and when he tries to build a sentence in his head, it just slips away like a broken chain. So he shakes his head. “Don’t feel like talking,” he admits hoarsely.

“That’s fine, Namjoonie,” Hoseok assures him, patting his knee. “Would you mind eating for us though? You need to get some energy back, okay?”

Namjoon hums in agreement and Hoseok beams in thanks, ruffling his hair.

“Cool, okay. Just a sec,” he says, then jogs out of the room.

He must be really out of it, he realises, because Taehyung enters the room with a tray of food and he’s not sure how long it’s been since Hoseok left. He watches him put it down and then sees a little puff pastry with Ryan’s face on it. He makes a noise.

Taehyung’s deep chuckle meets his ears. “What is it, Joonie-hyung?”

“Can I have that?” he breathes, staring at the bun.

“Of course, Namjoonie, it’s for you,” Taehyung says, laughing softly and dropping down to sit beside him, grabbing the plate and popping it into his lap.

Namjoon pulls at the plastic wrapper it’s in for a solid minute before Taehyung takes his hands in his and gently pries it open. Namjoon manages something that sounds vaguely like ‘thank you’ and nibbles it because he’s too tired to open his mouth properly. After a few small bites, he gets a dose of vanilla cream and hums happily.

“‘S good,” he says softly, mouth full.

Taehyung slings an arm around his shoulders. “Good, Joonie-hyung, eat as much as you like.”

Not long after, the weird haziness dissipates and he is appropriately freaked out about the weird state he was in. Too mortified by his panic attack to speak to everyone, he mumbles something about showering and goes to do that. He’s coated in old sweat and needs to scrub it off. He stays in there longer than usual, but whatever. No one can begrudge him that right now.

He walks quietly to his room, part of him weirdly appeased by the sounds of snoring and typing and soft talking coming from the rooms of his band mates. The quiet, empty apartment had been… lonely.

He sits down and slips his earphones in when there’s a knock at his door. Tugging one out, he sighs and says, “Yeah?” because they probably all just saw him walk down the corridor and it’d be obvious if he ignored them.

Besides, after earlier—

Well, he needs to be more honest. Or something. So.

The door slides open and Jin slides in awkwardly. “Hey,” he says.

Namjoon blinks at him. “Hey.”

They look at each other for a while and then Jin sighs. “Namjoon, I’m sorry.”


“No, don’t. Don’t say ‘it’s okay’, because it’s not.”

Namjoon shuts his mouth.

Jin rubs his arm and stares at the figures on Namjoon’s shelves. The quiet stretches on and he doesn’t speak up.

Namjoon fiddles with his earphone’s wires, counts to twenty-five, and then can’t hold it any longer. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Jin’s shoulders slump. “I don’t know,” he breathes. “I’m an idiot.”

Namjoon cracks a smile.

Jin smiles back, but it falls away just as quickly. “It… started with good intentions. I think,” he mumbles, “I really didn’t want to, I don’t know, make you feel bad—but then I ended up blaming you anyway.” He starts picking at his nails. “I kept sneaking out of makeup to call my mother and ask for news and no one noticed.” He shrugs awkwardly. “It’s—it’s unfair, but it upset me.”

“I’m sorry,” Namjoon says softly. “I should’ve noticed—”

“I should’ve just told you,” Jin corrects, shaking his head. “It isn’t your fault. I knew it wasn’t, I just. I was scared and upset and needed something to blame.”

Namjoon doesn’t know what to say to that, because all that comes to mind is: but why me? and that’s just a little too pathetic for him to say aloud. “I don’t… wanna make you feel worse, ‘cause I know you’re worrying about your dad…”

“No, Namjoon-ah,” Jin says, coming over to sit beside him. Their knees knock together and Namjoon doesn’t want to pull away. “Not being upfront is what caused all of this. Now’s the time to be honest.”

Namjoon looks up at him. “You sound like my hyung for once,” he says.

Jin huffs and he probably would’ve smacked his head if he wasn’t grovelling. “I am your hyung.”

Namjoon drops his gaze and picks at a loose thread on his pants. “I forget that. Sometimes.”

Jin sobers at that. “I think I do too,” he admits quietly. “Not—actively. I know you’re my dongsaeng. But I mean—” He waves a hand. “You’re always so calm and in control. It’s like, you don’t make a decision without thinking it through, and…” He shrugs. “The maknae all look up to you and admire you—it’s no justification, but. Yeah, I guess I… Sometimes I guess I expect more from you?” He says it with a questioning lilt at the end, like he’s not even sure, like he’s never thought about it before.

“They all look up to you too, hyung,” Namjoon says softly. “Maybe they respect me for being, I dunno, good at speaking or whatever, but they look up to you too. For being able to lighten any mood, for calming everyone down when we’re stressed. Like I said: we’re all different, so it’s natural that they show their respect in different ways.” He pauses. “We sound old.”

Jin snorts. “I feel old,” he says, then glances furtively at him. He drops his eyes, then looks up determinedly, trying to hold Namjoon’s gaze. “What about you?”

Namjoon tilts his head. “Do I feel old?”

Jin rolls his eyes. “No, dumbass, I mean—” He shrugs like it doesn’t matter. “Do you? Look up to me at all?”

Namjoon blinks.

“Like. Yeah, I’m the oldest, but I’m pretty immature. I guess I was too used to being the youngest in my family growing up, so even though I’m the hyung to all of you, it wasn’t a natural thing for me? I love it, though, having six younger brothers, but. I’m just not much of a big brother.” He clears his throat. “I can’t expect any of you to ‘look up’ to me. Not really. And especially not after last week.” He shut his eyes, brows furrowing.

“I do,” Namjoon breathes.

Jin’s eyes snap open.

Namjoon feels his face heat up and he rubs his cheek self-consciously. “Sometimes I do feel like the oldest,” he admits. “Like, I don’t mind taking charge, I’m—I’m honestly really happy to be the ‘leader’ of Bangtan. I like, y’know, encouraging you all and helping you get better if I can. I don’t mean I wanna try to ‘fix’ anything about you, I just. I wanna help you when you’re struggling. I wanna be there for you—as a leader, yeah, but also as your friend.” He sighs and it turns into a yawn half-way through, which he muffles with his hand. “But I’m… I’m always really grateful when you sit next to me in interviews,” he mumbles, flushing, “or when you speak English even when you don’t know how to say something properly, or when you just lighten the mood when I can’t wrap my head around a question.” He ducks his head and looks up at Jin, embarrassed. “You’re someone I really rely on, hyung,” he says, “so… I was really hurt when you left me alone last week.”

Jin’s eyes are a little too bright in the low-light of Namjoon’s room, but he sniffs it back and wipes them quickly, then yanks Namjoon into a hug. “I’m sorry, Namjoon,” he whispers vehemently. “I’m so fucking sorry. I’ll never leave you alone again. I swear.”

Namjoon buries his face in Jin’s chest, too embarrassed to respond.

“And I’m sorry I didn’t eat the food you made,” Jin chokes. “It looked so good—I was honestly so impressed, but I was too stubborn to show it and I was acting really fucking horrible—”

“Hey, stop, we’ve already cried too much,” Namjoon jokes, offering an awkward, lopsided half-smile when he pulls away to find tears on Jin’s face again.

“Please cook for me again, Namjoonie, I won’t take it for granted,” he promises, breath hitching around the words.

“Only if you make it up to me by making me noodles all week,” Namjoon retorts.

“I will,” Jin vows, sniffing and rubbing his eyes. “And I’ll buy you more of those Ryan pastries.”

Namjoon chokes on air. “Wh—”

“Tae said you loved it,” he explains, smiling even though he’s still crying.

Namjoon flushes hotly and hides his face, groaning. “I was acting so fucking weird ,” he whines.

“Tae and Hobi said you were cute,” Jin teases, chuckling when Namjoon rolls over his bed to hide his face in his pillow. “But you’re cute like this too, Namjoonie.”

“Fuck off.”

“Okay,” he says easily, laughing quietly. “Goodnight, Namjoon-ah—”

Namjoon grabs his sleeve before he can think, then stares up at him when Jin looks back. He turns red and drops his arm as if it burnt him, turning away.

Jin shifts awkwardly, glances at the door, then back at Namjoon. “Uh,” he mumbles. “Can I—oh, fuck it.” He drops back down onto Namjoon’s bed and throws his arms around the younger man.

Namjoon squirms. “Hey, man, what—”

“Oh, shut up,” Jin says, “I’m hugging you.”

“I can tell?”

“Go to sleep,” he tells him. “Hyung’s orders.”

Namjoon’s face is burning and he squeezes his eyes shut, but he’s less mortified by the cuddling and more about how much he likes it. He presses his back against Jin’s chest and swallows when the older man tightens his hold on him.

His heart stops thudding a few minutes later as the windchimes outside his window and the sounds of Taehyung’s video game in the other room lulls him to sleep.

He’s on the cusp of unconsciousness when he hears Jin whisper, “I love you, Namjoonie.”

His phone ringing startles him awake and he moves to grab it, only to find one of his arms trapped beneath Jin. He grunts and stretches, just on the edge of painful, to reach his phone—and his heart stutters uncomfortably when he finds Bang PD’s name on it. His breath leaves him in a sudden rush and then it’s difficult to get it back again.

His phone is still ringing, way too loudly, but his hands are shaking too much for him to accept or decline the call. He just stares at it, bile catching in the back of his throat, and then flinches hard enough to drop the phone when Jin touches his arm.

“Hey, Joonie, calm down, okay?” Jin says softly, pulling him to sit up and wrapping an arm around his shoulders. “Can I take your phone?”

Namjoon nods jerkily, gasping too much to respond verbally.

“Can I answer it?”

“I—i-it’s—P-PD-n-nim, g-got-gotta—”

Jin frowns and mutes it, which makes Namjoon shake harder. He can’t not answer—but what if he answers and he’s asked to tell the group something else, and they have to do this all over again, and this time they hate him for good and Bangtan breaks up and—

“Joonie, you’re breathing way too fast. Pay attention to me, okay?” Jin grabs his shoulders, then tips his chin up to meet his eyes. “We don’t want you to pass out again, do we? C’mon, look at me, breathe with me…” He grabs one of Namjoon’s hands and holds it to his chest, where his heart is beating slow and steady. “Breathe like I am. You can feel my heart, right? Focus on that. Just look at me, Joon-ah.” He squeezes Namjoon’s hand that’s on his chest and Namjoon tries to slow down his gasping. “Good, yeah, keep looking at me. You’re going to be okay, Joonie, you’re gonna be fine. Nothing bad’s happening. It’s just a phone call and, whatever it is, it isn’t gonna hurt any of us.”

“Th-they might want us to—what if they ask me to t-tell you—?” He can’t finish his sentences, mind jumping between them too quickly, but Jin seems to understand.

“Whatever they tell you, we’re in it together. None of us will blame you; we were wrong to do it before—” He shakes himself suddenly. “We’re gonna talk about that more, okay? Because it wasn’t your fault. I was just being a bitch.” He cracks a smile but Namjoon’s too focused on trying to breathe normally to return it. “Want me to call back?”

“I—but I’m the leader, I’ve g-gotta—gotta—”

“Namjoonie,” Jin says, gently, not letting go of his hand or looking away from his eyes, “you don’t have to do everything. No leader can do everything alone, or they’d have no one to lead.” He squeezes his hand again. “Let us help you a little more, yeah? It’s gonna be okay, Joon, nothing bad’s gonna happen.”

Namjoon’s harsh, heavy breathing has subsided into rushed, staccato breaths that leave him a little dizzy, but he doesn’t feel as bad as last night. “Okay,” he whispers, head falling back against the headboard. “Okay, I’m sorry.”

“No, Joon-ah, never apologise for this,” Jin says vehemently, rubbing his thumb in circles over Namjoon’s knuckles. “I—” He exhales and it’s shaky and when Namjoon looks at him again, Jin’s biting his lip and taking deep breaths – the kind that you do to swallow back tears. “I’m so sorry, Namjoon,” he whispers, voice thick, “I’m so sorry for making you feel like this, I’m—”

“No—hey, hyung, it’s…” but he’s about to say ‘it’s okay’ and knows he shouldn’t, so he threads his fingers through Jin’s hand that’s still rubbing his knuckles, then squeezes. “Your dad,” he says instead, “have you heard anything?”

Jin shakes his head, brows knitting together. “No, not yet,” he replies, “but my dad’s health is no excuse for how I’ve been acting—”

“Yeah, but… I’m glad to know why though,” Namjoon says faintly, looking down at their hands. “I. I really didn’t know what to do,” he admits. “I tried being the ‘leader’ about it, but that just distanced you guys. I tried being just me, and that didn’t work either. Maybe I should’ve just left it alone, but…” He shrugs helplessly. “I didn’t want you to think I didn’t care.”

“But we ended up making you think that we didn’t care about you,” Jin breathes.

“I think,” Namjoon says at length, “all of us ended up being selfish when we thought we were doing the opposite. I thought hiding what I wanted made the decision easier for you guys, but you all thought I wanted to please management more than I wanted to please you. Or something like that.” He waves a hand flippantly, then drops it into his lap.

Jin nods, sighing. “And I told you to stick by the group’s decision, even though none of us wanted to do it,” he mumbles, “and then I resented you for listening to me.” He scoffed weakly, shaking his head. “We’re adults, we’re professionals—and I acted like the opposite of both of those.”

Namjoon shrugs uncomfortably. “It’s ‘cause you were—”

“There’s no excuse, Namjoon,” Jin interrupts sternly, shutting his eyes. He looks disappointed, but Namjoon knows it’s directed at himself. He feels a shameful mixture of gratified and reticent. He’s glad Jin’s aware enough to recognise all of this (relieved, more than anything), but he doesn’t want him to hate himself for it. “I—you’re one of my best friends,” he murmurs, “and I treated you like shit.”

Namjoon releases a breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding, tension bleeding from his shoulders, and he reaches up to tap Jin’s cheek. Jin flickers his eyes open and stares sadly at Namjoon. “Don’t beat yourself up,” he tells him. “Just—next time, if something like this happens again… please just be real with me? I…” He licks his lips. “I. Agh.” He grimaces and runs a hand through his hair, feeling his face heat up. “I was—scared. I know it’s irrational, but I had so many shitty scenarios going through my head, like, what if Jin-hyung leaves BTS? What if we disband? What if we all hate each other and never speak again—?” He swallows and shakes his head, then looks back at him.

The sun’s rising steadily now; warm, orange light breaks through the blinds and bathes a side of Jin’s face in a golden hue, highlighting the unshed tears teetering in his eyes.

Namjoon offers a tired smile, because Jin’s here, sitting right in front of him, knees touching, and he’s sorry and still cares. “You’re one of my best friends too,” he concludes, feeling like he’s missing certain parts of the speech he’d mentally prepared, but maybe the candidness is better anyway. “I just. I never wanna lose that.”

“You never will,” Jin promises, voice gravelly, as he raises their joined hands and holds them tight. “You’re my brother—you all are. Even if we fight, I’ll never stop loving you.”

Namjoon ducks his head, suddenly embarrassed. “Hyung…”

Jin huffs a little chuckle. “I’m glad you can be whiny around me,” he says, grinning impishly when Namjoon pouts at him. “But listen,” he adds, and Namjoon scrambles to put his poker face on. “No—it’s nothing bad. Why does saying ‘listen’ always sound bad?”

“It’s like saying ‘we need to talk.’ You could just start talking normally, but you’re telling someone it’s important.” Namjoon shrugs. “It just sounds… imposing.” He shakes his head. “Just hurry up and say it.”

“I agree that we should all just be honest,” Jin says, “but on top of that… Namjoon-ah, why did you have to tell us?”

Namjoon flinches at that. “I—sorry—”

“No, no, I mean—why didn’t Sejin-ssi or someone call all of us for a meeting, or just make a group call?” he rephrases, feeling a heavy stone settle in his stomach when Namjoon’s reaction is to panic. “It shouldn’t have fallen on you alone.”

“I…” Namjoon trails off, looking uncertain, like he hadn’t thought about that. “I guess… the leader thing…” he says awkwardly. “Fuck’s sake, I’m sick of the word ‘leader’ at this point.”

“We’ll just start using King Namjoon, like ARMY,” Jin offers with a little grin.

Namjoon snickers. “Excuse you, have you been to our Dionysus performances? I’m at least a demigod.”

“I thought he was a fully-fledged god?” Jin cocks his head.

“Yeah, but I’d only be a fledging god next to him,” Namjoon says, as if he’s thought about this at length. “I know very little of winemaking and rituals.”

“While I’d love to read your essay on this—”

“How did you know that I—?”

“I think we need to go back to my original point,” Jin finishes.

“Oh.” Namjoon nods. “Right—what was that?”

Jin rolls his eyes. “Aish.” He shakes his head, but can’t stop himself from smiling when Namjoon sends him an impish dimpled grin. It suits him better than the empty expression he’d been sporting last week. (And those fleeting flashes behind the mask, when no one picked him for their team on the game show and there was a crack where Jin could see his eyes go wide and confused and hurt.) “I was saying… I don’t think it’s fair that you should deliver the bad news. You’re the leader, yes, but you’re also a member of our group, not a manager or marketer or agent.” Jin shakes his head. “I don’t know, it just seems like—you’re being given jobs that aren’t your responsibility?”

Namjoon blinks slowly. “Oh, ha. I… hadn’t thought about that, actually.”

Jin moves their hands side-to-side. “Well?” he prompts. “Did you want to do it?” Namjoon blinks, and he clarifies: “Did you want to be the one to ask us? About more work?”

He shakes his head right away. “No.”

“Cool,” says Jin. “That’s all I wanted to know.”

Namjoon’s brows furrow in confusion. “I… don’t follow.”

“I want to bring it up at our next meeting, after our time off,” Jin explains, hoping he looks as serious as he’s trying to be. He tends to take things lightly and let Namjoon take charge of things, but Namjoon isn’t always great at looking out for himself, so this time Jin’s going to step up as his hyung and act like it. “I want to tell Sejin-ssi and PD-nim that it’s unfair to ask you to do things like this.”

Namjoon’s eyes widen. “Jin-hyung, I don’t think—”

“It really isn’t your job, Joon-ah,” he insists. “Your job is… being a rapper. A writer, a performer. A leader, who helps his members with their problems, who encourages them to speak up in interviews, who lets them accept awards even when they’re unconfident with speeches.” He smiles gently. “And you’re amazing at all of that, Joonie. You don’t have to also be our manager too.”

Wide brown eyes stare back at him, looking a little starry and soft, but maybe that’s just the honey light filling the room. Either way, in this moment, Namjoon looks so small and vulnerable, and Jin can’t not hug him.

He yanks him by their joined hands and laughs when he collapses into his chest with a muffled squawk, then squeezes him tightly. He smiles into Namjoon’s hair when long arms wind around his back.

“We should call PD-nim back,” Namjoon mumbles, muffled against Jin’s chest.

He hums and ruffles his hair. “Want me to?”

There’s a pause, then Namjoon nods shyly, not looking up or pulling away. Jin’s heart stutters because that’s too fucking cute and he wonders if Namjoon noticed, but he hasn’t moved so he tries not to be embarrassed. He grabs Namjoon’s phone (because he’s not sure where his is anyway) and finds Bang PD’s missed call and hits the phone icon.

It only rings three times before the familiar voice of their producer says, “Hello?”

“Hi, PD-nim, it’s Jin,” he says, tracing little circles in Namjoon’s back because he’s always a tiny bit nervous speaking to the man, even after all these years.

“Jin-ah! Good morning—how are you? You having a good break?”

He huffs a tiny laugh, relaxing minutely. “Yeah, I’m good,” he says affably, not up to discussing his father right now when everything was up in the air. If his condition worsened, then maybe—but he didn’t want to consider that right now. “PD-nim, sorry to cut to the chase, but I want to make a request.”

“Oh. Yeah, shoot.”

“So—before break, we had to work another week,” he says carefully.

Bang PD hums in acknowledgement. “You didn’t have to—I assumed Sejin-ssi would’ve made that clear.”

“Maybe he did,” Jin agrees, “but the thing is, he only called Namjoon about it.” Namjoon stiffens against him. “Namjoon-ah told us we weren’t under any obligation, but I—I think it’s unfair. That he had to deliver the news.” He sounds more confident than he feels and thanks his acting roots. “He’s not our manager.”

Namjoon’s trembling ever-so-faintly against him and he feels fucking awful for it. Maybe he wouldn’t be so anxious if Jin hadn’t been so—

“I understand that,” Bang PD says, and Jin derails his own thoughts to focus on his boss. “So, you’re saying you don’t think it should be done this way again?”

“Yes,” he says before he can pause for thought. “I don’t think work-related decisions should fall on Namjoon’s shoulders alone. He may be the leader, but he’s not the only one in Bangtan Sonyeondan. Sejin-ssi should bring it up with all of us.”

“Ah, please don’t blame him alone,” Bang PD says. Jin hears his chair squeak in the background; he must’ve spun away from his PC to focus on the call. “It wasn’t meant to be a huge deal—it’s my fault, really. I should have put more thought into it. I saw these opportunities, realised it’d fit neatly into a week, and asked Sejin-ssi to just call Namjoon-ah and ask if you guys could do it.” He sighs. “I fell back onto old habits, I think. But we’re no longer a small company—these things can’t be undertaken so easily.”

Jin… isn’t sure how to respond. He agrees, but.

“Anyway,” Bang PD continues, like he knows why Jin’s silent. “I’ll make a note of this now and we’ll discuss it in our comeback debriefing in two weeks, but I fully agree with you. Namjoon-ah won’t have to do this again—oh! That’s why I was calling, actually. Is he okay?” he asks. “He was sick last week. I just wanted to check on him.”

And, oh. Jin feels the frustration drain out of him like steam from a kettle. He’d been so prepared to very-politely-argue Namjoon’s case, but it seems he’s forgotten how kind their boss can be. “He’s a lot better, I think,” Jin says, poking Namjoon’s nose. The younger man looks up, nervous but not as panic-stricken as before.

“That’s good to hear,” says Bang PD, sounding earnestly relieved. “Okay, well. I won’t pester you any more. Enjoy your time off, boys.”

“Thank you, PD-nim. See you soon.”

“Goodbye, Jin-ah.”


Jin places Namjoon’s phone on the nightstand beside his bed and then pinches his dongsaeng’s cheeks. “He was just calling to see how you were.”

Namjoon flushes. “Oh.”

“And he agrees,” he adds, “that you shouldn’t have to be the bearer of bad news.”

He blinks owlishly. “Oh.”

“Now say ‘thank you, hyungie, you’re the best’,” Jin tells him, puffing his chest out.

Namjoon snorts and prods his chest, forcing the air out of him in a bark of laughter. But then Namjoon smiles lopsidedly, a little shy, and mumbles, “Thanks, hyung. You’re the best.”

Jin stares at him for a bit too long before yanking him into another hug. Namjoon mutters protests against him, but Jin doesn’t let go until he feels the warmth in his cheeks subside.