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strawberry milk and all the ways to say i love you

Chapter Text

beomgyu didn’t look anything like his mother or his father; barely resembled a human at all, only weighing 1 pound and 12 ounces, much less taehyung despite what the staff at the neonatal intensive care unit cooed. 

it’s a little mean of him to think this, but he couldn’t help it; the word disturbing sat on the tip of his tongue whenever he glanced at his newborn brother—small and red, too weak to be touched or held, puffy eyes still fused shut behind the face mask of the ventilator strapped to his nose. a tube ran through his nose to his tummy, feeding him supplementary calcium and phosphorus, because his stomach isn’t ready for breast milk yet. 

beomgyu couldn’t move still, barely any body fat or muscle to help him.

maybe he did resemble his parents; the dead all look alike after a while. 

the around-the-clock nurses liked referring to beomgyu as a miracle, but taehyung didn’t agree. a miracle would be his parent’s survival because then taehyung wouldn’t have to deal with the pain of witnessing his twenty-six-week-old brother struggle for everything breath with underdeveloped lungs and an exhausted heart. 

he isn’t a good son—wasn’t a good son at all—but taehyung reasoned nobody should know this kind of agony regardless.  

 hours earlier, still reeling and mind numbed with grief, taehyung asked if his brother would make it; “we’ve learned so much of the care of premature infants—we can try to minimize all the long-term problems.” her smile was full of confidence, but it didn’t mean anything to taehyung. 

he didn’t understand why nobody couldn’t answer him; it’s a fairly direct question. the nurse practitioner is never direct with him. maybe she wasn’t expecting a twenty year old as the only caretaker of a dying infant.

he never minded hospitals, but the neonatal intensive care unit turned that feeling into fear. 

he asked again now, just to be sure; “one day at a time, taehyung-ssi,” another nurse smiled kindly.

he nodded and asked if he could step outside, just for a second to make a call. he left his phone home in a rush, and the nurse knew because she asked him if he would like to take pictures of beomgyu. he didn’t know why he lied; nobody would question him regardless. 

the nurse just smiled like she understood.

“beomgyu is strong boy, taehyung-ssi! by the time you’re back, he’s going to be dancing like an idol,” she joked. it felt flat, a little harsher than intentes; taehyung just nodded with a small laugh and tried to not run out of the room. 

he tried to place as much distance between him and the level 3 neonatal units as he could.

when he walked past the waiting area, he noticed jin immediately, then jungkook and namjoon, yoongi trying to comfort a crying hoseok and jimin.

he nearly crumpled at the sight of his best friends. all of them still wearing pajamas, jimin with one hand scrunched into pink-dyed hair to match his own aqua blue, a ringless hand knocking against his thigh anxiously; hoseok couldn’t calm down, openly sobbing and holding namjoon’s hand. jungkook looked lost and jin watched over all of them with a faraway look, as if remembering something tragic. 

taehyung  wondered why hoseok cried like that—like it was his lost, like it should be anything to him. 

(he wasn’t crying for his parents, hoseok was crying for him .) 

despite the disheveled appearance and the expressions of grief, they looked like comfort.

he didn’t wait a second longer, unable to support himself anymore as jimin finally spots him and with tearful eyes just whispered, “ tae .” 

for the first time since he received a call about his parent’s accident, taehyung allowed himself to cry. 

(when his brother held his finger for the first time, taehyung began believing in miracles.) 

Chapter Text

jimin’s pink hair faded into a bleached shade, and the sound of rain echoed in the room despite being so far away from any window.

his roommate listened to the nurse’s instructions carefully, eyebrows furrowed downwards in concentration and sharp eyes reflecting the blue-toned light of the glass-domed incubator in front of him like a dozen of twinkling stars.

“could you show me again?” he asked apprehensively; taehyung lost track of how many times he had asked the same question in the past hour, but each time it seemed to fill him with the same fondness.

the nurse looked amused, smiling warmly. “don’t be so afraid, jimin-ssi,”

beomgyu is gaining weight quickly; quarter of an ounce, nurse practitioner looked proud when she announced how much his brother was growing by the day.

it was great, but he searched it online. it’s called it the honeymoon period of premature babies—at any second, it could be gone and his brother would be another corpse to bury.

he isn’t one to pray, not a devoted follower of any religion or spiritual belief, but he hoped someone heard him for the sake of his brother.

taehyung hasn’t enroll for the next semester yet, didn’t have any plans to either despite what his counselor advised; his best friends understood, and namjoon offered to lend him a couple of books if he ever felt bored. taehyung didn’t think he would get the chance between his brother and his schedule; he traveled between the hospital and his job—he worked as a japanese-to-korean translator a popular manga publishing house—without a pause.

he worried jimin might feel overwhelmed with taehyung’s duties piling on top of his, or lonely because his roommate is never home.

(unbeknownst to him, namjoon arrived in the early morning when jimin has to leave for work, to clean the dust and throw out expired food; hoseok checked the mailbox every single afternoon, keeping certain mail to himself to give to yoongi and jin.

together, they covered the hospital bills.)

it is—hard, terrifying. but we keep going, namjoon told him at the funeral, holding his hand hard enough to leave it as white as the lilies on his mother’s coffin.

taehyung kept going, for his best friends, for his brother.

jimin took a deep breath to control his unsteady hands, and carefully—slowly—reached his hand inside the incubator. still afraid of hurting the too-fragile baby, he rubbed the cotton buds onto beomgyu’s mouth; with light pressure, milk began oozing and slipping into the infant’s opened mouth.

a laugh full of wonder escaped jimin as beomgyu lap up the milk.

“oh,” jimin laughed again, unable to look away from the baby, enchanted as beomgyu’s tiny lips moved. awe clouded his features, another choked-up laugh fleeing him; and tears filled his eyes, then, and jimin looked a little in love.

“oh,” he echoed like a gasp like everything in his heart was settling. “oh,”

the nursed joined his laugher, and taehyung just grinned; they were going to be okay, he decided.

Chapter Text

taehyung knelt on the ground, trying to read the assembling instructions to no avail. it’s a good crib, an expensive one sent by namjoon’s parents from islands; chemical and toxin free, the mattress a tight fit, and other bullshit taehyung didn’t know he had to worry about when buying furniture for a baby.

his bedroom turned into a nursery nearly over night. taehyung didn’t mind—he can sleep on the couch without dying, no matter how much jimin said he’s okay with sharing a bed.

his brother is going to come home soon. that’s enough to make taehyung happy; he will sleep outside if he needed to.

a little sacrifice will be worth it.

the monthly payments he received from renting his parents’ house in busan is enough to cover everything though; he would’ve preferred selling the home but he has to think of his brother now. he thought, how is he going to afford to take care of an extra person? to take as many days off as he may need without worrying about money? the bad memories in that house didn’t matter anymore, his brother did.

the closet is filled with brand new and second-hand clothes, essentials and toys gifted from elated mothers, expecting women and used-to-be mothers. jin likes to talk to his customers at the restaurant about beomgyu, jungkook explained when he had arrived at taehyung’s home with two boxes of diapers and his father’s pick-up truck loaded with dozens of moving boxes in the back.

jungkook was done painting the walls, sweat accumulating around his temples as he began installing the curtains. the room is a pretty mint color, hints of reds and grays and golds in form of furniture and decor throughout the room; according to jungkook, the theme is le petit prince, a book jimin had gifted him for his birthday. a fox doll the younger had hand-stitched sat underneath the window still, an oil painting of the same animal above where the crib will be.

“why aren’t you doing anything?” he asked with a pout, pointing at taehyung who sat on the floor, a little dazed.

“uh,” taehyung said unintelligently. it’s his first day away from the hospital; he worried beomgyu might be scared, or lonely, in that incubator without anyone to touch or keep him company. “i dunno know.”

“taehyung-ssi,” jungkook sounded like namjoon. “how can i help you when you don’t tell us what’s bothering you?”

taehyung looked at the floor, a little ashamed. “i’ll learn one day, jungkook-ssi,” he smiled shyly; his best friends do so much for him and he couldn’t even be honest with his feelings.

“start today then,” the youngest suggested, climbing down the ladder.

taehyung looked at his best friend and hesitated. “i miss my brother,” he admitted. “i don’t think; i’m not used to saying that out loud, still. not that i miss someone, but that i—it’s weird, kookie..“

“that you have a brother?” he guessed. jungkook didn’t know taehyung’s relationship with parents like namjoon or yoongi, but never knew it was bad enough that they never spoke.

from what he heard the night of the accident, taehyung hadn’t known that his mother was expecting, much less that she was healthy enough to even carry a pregnancy.  

he nodded quietly, toying with one of the wooden pieces of the crib. “yes,” taehyung agreed with a sigh. 

he just thought he was going to bury his parents and never have to deal with his biological family again; then a police officer drove him to the hospital and said the baby was in critical condition after his mother went into labor in the aftermath of the car crash.

when he moved with yoongi to seoul, he hoped the memories of geochang county and daegu, of his parents, would fade away like a bad dream.


a timid touch to his hand brought him back. "you're a great brother," jungkook grinned, settling down next to him. "I mean, you basically raised me with the others."

"don't flatter yourself, kook. you're not that young," taehyung snorted. "i was a kid myself."

he isn't just worried about being a terrible brother, exactly; just—everything.

jungkook nodded, thoughtfully. "we're still growing up together," with a soft smile, he continued. "now we just have a new person to love as well."

"a sickly month old fragile baby who will rely on us for everything for the next twenty or so years," taehyung said drily. "or, hey! if he is anything like me, maybe he'll seduce an underground rapper and run away with him, then we won't have to worry about him ever again."

jungkook rolled his eyes. "maybe he'll move to malta with the underground rapper."

"or sweden," taehyung contemplated. "i love sweden—maybe i'll move there and host, like, crayfish parties and film yoga videos on kebnekaise mountain. 

"or sweden." jungkook agreed with a laugh. "kim taehyung," he teased. "college dropout, crayfish enthusiast, lifestyle youtuber, and single father."

the two stared at the ceiling, hands pressed together but not quite intertwined.

"who would've thought?" taehyung grinned.

(it took one hundred and thirty-four days for the nursery to be complete.

beomgyu’s favorite toy is the hand-stitched fox.)

Chapter Text

"okay," jimin typed in the search bar with quick fingers, the reflection of his computer screen flickering across his face. next to the computer, the baby bath tub was filling in with warm water on top of the kitchen counter, foam and small bubbles forming as the shampoo mixed in; taehyung held beomgyu to his chest, watching as jimin hit play on the youtube video.

"here's how we're going to do this, pretty." jimin said, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt. he tested the temperature of the bathtub by sticking in his hand, face contorted with concentration. "listen to the video carefully," 

"bathing your newborn can be a little scary," the midwife's calm voice echoed from the computer speakers. taehyung agreed wholeheartedly. 

"it's fine—just a bit of water," jimin reassured the baby, warily taking the baby from taehyung's hold. he removed beomgyu's clothing, taehyung helping him unbutton the one-piece outfit, jimin taking time to kiss each of the baby’s cheek.

jimin held him over the tub—feet first, gradually lowering the baby in until he was floating in the water, jimin's hands supporting him underneath. beomgyu's eyes widening at the new sensation. "isn't it nice?" taehyung fussed, standing next to jimin, shoulders brushing against each other. "doesn't it feel nice, gyu?"

beomgyu looked—scared, maybe, or a little startled. "baby," jimin cooed as beomgyu's feet kicked the water softly, spreading his small fingers experimentally. his expression slowly softened, and he let out what could be considered a breathy giggle. 

“that’s my baby boy,” jimin cheered as beomgyu enjoyed the water, hair slicking down to his forehead. he looked like taehyung at moment—a little like namjoon too, with his dimple shining—and it absolutely floored jimin with a sense of affection. 

taehyung, who had been preparing a sponge as the midwife directed on video, began rubbing it against beomgyu’s skin as softly as he could. “no dirty boys allowed,” he teased his brother.  

he gently massaged his brother’s tiny scalp, exaggerating his expressions whenever beomgyu looked at him just to see his eyes light up with joy.

“our newest member of our self-care night,” jimin agreed. “face masks three times a week, a lot of moisturizer and sunblock. a lot of water, too. taking proper care of yourself is important, gyu.” 

taehyung smiles goofily at a thought. “imagine when he’s older,” he said to jimin. “when we all go out together—we’re going to look so good.”

jimin grinned, picking up beomgyu from the tub as the video instruction; babies are only supposed to be bathed for 5 minutes, or so said the video. “we already look so good, pretty.” jimin replied. he wrapped a wiggling beomgyu in a bright yellow towel, patting him dry. “that reminds me—we have to go shopping for more clothes, right? and a couple of accessories. 

“he already has enough clothes,” taehyung raised an eyebrow, handing over the baby lotion to jimin.  

“but he needs more,” jimin argued, opening the cap and pouring a small amount in his palm, laddering beomgyu with the moisturizer. “does gucci make baby clothes?” 

taehyung looked up, started. “a baby does not need gucci, jimin.”

“well, no.” his roommate relented. “but is namjoon the only one allowed to spoil him? who gives a baby $500 shoes, anyways? he’s going to outgrow them in months! he doesn’t even know how to crawl yet.”  

taehyung rolled his eyes, picking up his brother with a sigh. “isn’t he crazy?” he asked beomgyu, shaking his head as jimin continued to ramble. 

he carried his brother to the nursery, laying him down on the changing table. poking his brother’s stomach, taehyung let out an amused huff when beomgyu kicked his feet out, eyebrows drawn downwards. 

“sorry,” taehyung apologized as he walked to the baby’s closet and picking up a new pair of clothes without much thinking. quickly getting him into a clean diaper, taehyung picked up a white long-sleeve and stripper navy pants. he changed beomgyu with a proficiency he never thought he would have with a newborn. 

he worried of doing a bad job—as a parent, as a brother. he didn’t want beomgyu to suffer, to feel lonely or afraid. fixing the hat on beomgyu’s head, taehyung brought him close to him, resting his brother’s head on his shoulder. 

“i think i’m doing alright,” he said to himself, gently swaying to ease beomgyu. he hummed a song he heard yoongi sing once, hoping he could calm his brother. he hoped a lot nowadays, but what else could he do? pressing a kiss to beomgyu’s head, taehyung sang him a lullaby. “Don't say anything, not even a word...

when jimin entered the nursery, beomgyu was deep asleep in taehyung’s arms.