Mornings had always been brighter when Taehyung woke up with Jeongguk by his side. They didn’t cuddle in their sleep- the dorm just got too hot with seven boys in one room- but Taehyung loved how he could open his eyes and see the brightest star he’d ever seen. Unfortunately the maknae usually stayed up late and Taehyung had found himself recently unable to stay awake as long as he used to be able to (god he felt 30 years too old ). It was even rarer that they got to snag a section of the bed together, because with only one room that consisted of four beds pushed together they didn’t often get the luxury.
“You’re staring, hyung.” A soft voice whispered and the singer couldn’t hide his smile as Jeongguk weaseled his way out from under the blanket. “What are you doing up this early?”
“You’re awake too, Guk.” He hummed and scooted closer to curl into Taehyung’s shirt. Precious. “‘Shouldn’t have stayed up so late, you know Manager-hyung is coming by later.” Sunlight crept past the curtains and Jeongguk’s freshly dyed hair seemed to glow in the morning light, like a halo for the angel he really was. Taehyung could smell the boy’s cologne in the pillows, his most recent impulse buy; something vaguely vanilla, and more expensive than it needed to be.
“I don’t need to be awake for that.” Jeongguk whined, his nose scrunched up and Taehyung couldn’t help how his heart jumped in his chest as he threw an arm over his waist. There was a small snuffle that threatened their small bubble of tranquility as Hoseok rolled over across the room and smacked Jimin straight on the mouth, but they let out twin breaths of relief when the dancers simply groaned and turned away from each other. “This is nice.” Jeongguk whispered, he let his eyes drift shut for a moment and Taehyung couldn’t pull his gaze away.
“It is.” Beautiful. Breathtaking.
They laid there in in silence for a while and full intended to enjoy the silence, however mornings in BTS had been destined to be a chaotic affair from the moment they’d signed their contracts. It didn’t take long before the other members had begun to shift in their beds; small grunts came from each of them as they cracked their eyes open and shuffled off the beds. They heard the front door swing open and Namjoon groaned as he rolled from his bed and began to pull the other members upright. Taehyung shared a small smile with Jeongguk as they slowly slid out from under the blankets.
“Everyone up!” He called sleepily, “Manager-hyung’s stand-in is here.”
“Stand-in?” Jin asked, more awake than the other boys who were too lazy to pull their jeans all the way up and button their shirts correctly. “Oh my god, Hoseok, stop that.” He smacked the dancer’s slow hands away and yanked the shirt over his head. “It was inside out, you idiot.” Taehyung giggled against Jeongguk’s back as he watched the dancer blink at him in confusion before he looked down at his shirt.
“Mm, thanks hyung.” He chimed in sleepily. “What was that about a stand-in?”
“Seijin hyung is on vacation, and BigHit found a substitute for us while he’s gone. Apparently he hasn’t gone on a vacation with his family in like, four years.” Jimin called as he dug into their dresser. He was the only one that was ever actually able to find anything in that mess. “We had an entire meeting about it last week?” There was an awkward silence in response and Namjoon sighed.
“You guys are hopeless. Hurry up and get out there, he’s already here.”
They weren’t far from the kitchen but they fumbled around each other anyway as they stumbled down the hall; Hoseok draped himself over Yoongi’s shoulders and Seokjin had to nearly drag Jimin across the floor. It was normal for them to eat breakfast together when they could, to start the day together even if their schedules pulled them apart, but the sight of a stranger at their kitchen table made them pause in the entryway, unsure. They hadn’t expected to see him already comfortable in their home. Taehyung knocked into Jeongguk’s back as they all came to a stop and his arms slipped down from around his waist as the man looked up.
“Ah, good morning! Please, sit; I know you’ll want to eat but I want to get the bulk of the information out of the way.” At first glance he seemed friendly enough, however the slick grin that slid onto his mouth made Taehyung’s skin crawl as they briefly locked eyes. His gaze slipped down to the floor and back up and Taehyung was suddenly, painfully aware that his jeans had some nearly indecent rips across the knees.
“That sounds like a plan.” Namjoon sighed. “The sooner we get the day started, the sooner we can get to work.” Jimin groaned and flopped onto the floor, too tired to find a chair.
They all sat in silence as Seijin’s stand-in, Sangmin as he introduced himself, announced the upcoming schedules for the month. It sounded like a lot of the same old at first: practice, practice, practice with some live streams in between more practices until Taehyung realized they were talking about three weeks from then and he’d barely heard his name. Sure, he’d had light schedules before but never in the middle of comeback prep and certainly not right after PD-nim’s meeting last week about ‘trying to ride the wave of popularity’ they had found themselves on. However from what he heard he wasn't going to radio shows, interviews… He was even missing out on a photo shoot with a new potential sponsor! What was going on? His teeth sunk in to his lip as he watched him flip through his paperwork. They’re certainly weren’t being subtle about it, whatever it was. He had no misconceptions on being the weak link but to have his failures announced to the others made his face burn with shame.
Suddenly, Jeongguk turned to him with a smile so bright it was like the sun rose in their kitchen. "I’m going to MC and they want me to start practicing for a solo stage!" He physically vibrated with excitement but it didn’t go unnoticed that the smile he received wasn't worthy of the smiles his love usually gifted him with. "Hyung? What’s wrong?" The other’s hadn’t noticed his mood but Jeongguk cocked his head as he leaned in to grab his hand. His soft, worried expression made Taehyung’s chest clench in a sudden burst of affection, with a hint of worry.
He was so excited. It went every promise he’d made the younger boy to bring his mood down, to take away his excitement. Also there was no need for him to suddenly unload all of his deep seated anxieties and worries to his boyfriend so early in the morning, especially before breakfast. That was an after dinner conversation. "Just thinking about how I'm going to spend all my free time. Aren’t you glad you didn’t sleep in this morning?" He asked and he tried to force his smile to his eyes. Jimin, more awake than before, slapped him in the arm and joked that he’d just spend it getting lost in the city and Taehyung tried to fake a laugh.
"Ah, about that V-ssi." Sangmin pulled their attention away from each other. He held up his packet and Taehyung resisted the sudden urge to flinch. "We’ve increased your practice times. Your coaches aren’t seeing the improvements they wanted to see by this point in time.” It was news to him, and he blinked in surprise but that sick feeling settled over him again as the man stared him down. He didn’t know this man, he didn’t know anything but his name, but something dark curled in his gut. “You’ll need to be putting more effort in to match the others.”
The others seemed to accept the man's reasoning but Taehyung had to physically hold back another flinch as Sangmin stared him down again. He’d been an idol for almost two years then, with a boyfriend for most of it. He’d met men and women alike who wore beauty as if it was their job, and for some it was. He was familiar with attraction in several forms- he knew what arousal looked like. "Of course." He bowed his head. "Whatever the company wants."
He tugged his hand free from Jeongguk’s grip.
“Taehyung!” The singer jumped at the shout; he instantly recognized the shape of the harsher vowels and slight mispronunciation. He could hear the click of the keypad outside of the room. ”So help me, don’t make me drag you out of here by your ear! The others left hours ago- I thought we both agreed you would stop working so late.” There was a bang as the door to the recording studio burst open and a sharp voice cut through the repeating beat in the room. “Solo threatened to fly your parents out here if you don’t get your shit together.” The light in the room was low but when Taehyung turned his chair he could still make out the silhouette of the intruder. The large shape in the dog bed in the corner shifted as light flooded the room.
“Sorry, Jess.” Taehyung frowned and jerked a thumb over his shoulder towards the monitors. “I just wanted to go over this-.”
“I know, Tay, I know.” The blonde woman in the doorway shook her head. “Come on, save what you have and let me drive you home. I told Han I would come get you.” Taehyung sighed and rubbed his eyes, they burned from hours spent in front of a screen. “Not to mention you have an early flight-.”
“I know, I know, thank you.” He waved a hand in the air before he spun back around to power everything down and grab his bag off the small couch. The dog slowly stood up from his bed and stretched his legs, before he ambled over and let Taehyung clip his leash to his harness. She held out his coat as he stepped out of the room and he tucked his nose into the collar; he couldn’t hold in the soft sigh that bubbled out of him as his shoulders finally dropped. A wave of cologne flooded his senses, something vaguely vanilla. “Come on, Simon.” He called to the sleepy pup and the dog trotted along side him.
As they headed towards the elevator she stretched out an arm, “Is this okay?” She asked, she never forgot and he smiled and let her wrap it around his waist and tuck her hand in his coat pocket. It had taken him a long time to grow comfortable with physical contact but she’d never taken advantage of his progress. Even so, they walked together with their arms linked pretty often, which wasn’t the most comfortable when she was nearly a foot shorter than him.
“It always is with you.” He reminded her and she smiled brightly. He liked to remind her that her smile made her look younger, if only so he could laugh at her outraged expression. It was quiet for a while as they both walked in silence. They didn’t speak as they nodded towards the security guard and Jess nudged him gently in the direction of the car. They had gotten used to communicating in silence over the years and Taehyung sighed as he slid into the passenger seat, Simon settled quietly in the backseat, but she didn’t move to start the car. “I’m sorry.” His raspy voice finally whispered into the darkness.
“Why?” She asked simply.
He bit his lip. It was a simple question, and one he’d been asked several times before. It was an easy trick to get him to talk that Haneul had used too many times on him in the past. The car fell quiet again but he eventually turned to meet her eyes. “I’m sorry I’m not listening. I’m sorry I’m not taking care of myself.” She nodded and he licked his lips because they both knew there was still something else. “I’m sorry for not telling you I was going to be at the studio.”
“We both agreed you would tell someone when you stay out this late.” She agreed. “I understand you needed to be alone, but we put these rules in place for a reason. You’re not just some busker on the street anymore, Tay. Paris was about to send a search party after you, but I told them to wait at your apartment while I went to grab you. You should be so lucky to have a manager that knows you so well.” She tacked on with a cheeky smile.
He couldn't help but laugh and the small bit of tension between them dissipated like it had never been there.. “Thanks, Jess.” He’d really never be able to thank her enough. Her, or any other member of their team.
“There’s nothing to thank me for, Tay.” She reached over and gently patted his hand. “Now let’s get you home before someone has a fit. We can stop and get some tacos on the way."
As a general rule of thumb Taehyung didn’t make it a habit to stay up late, so he really shouldn’t have been surprised when Seokjin turned the corner and nearly jumped out of his own skin at the sight of him at their kitchen table. The eldest gasped and stumbled back into the doorway before he realized there wasn’t an intruder and he promptly doubled over as he clutched at his chest.
“Yah! You scared me!” There was no response and Seokjin frowned as he straightened up. Taehyung sat on the floor by the table, swaddled in the largest sweatshirt he owned (actually it might have been one of Hoseok’s) and an untouched mug of tea in front of him. “Hey, are you okay?” There was an itch at the back of his neck, a tingle of warning, that sent alarm bells off in his head. His dongsaeng’s face was blotchy and his eyes were puffy, anyone who worked in their industry would know it was from crying. They all had their moments when the stress got to be too much. When he again didn’t receive a response he hurried over and plopped down next to him with his arms outstretched to pull him into a hug, but he didn’t move to grab him. “Tae?”
“What am I doing wrong, hyung?” The words were soft, and Seokjin almost wouldn’t have heard them if he hadn’t seen his mouth move in the first place.
“What do you mean?” He dropped his arms and leaned in. While it was unlike Taehyung to be so self-conscious, none of them were perfect and they all had their moments. Some, like Yoongi, fell a bit deeper but Taehyung had always seemed to float just a little higher than the rest. Especially once him and Jeongguk had announced that they were going to try dating. After that they both seemed to have found a safety net in each other. “Did someone say something to you?” It’d complicate things if it was true, but he wouldn’t let one of his dongsaengs be pushed around.
That got him moving, Seokjin noted. He shook his head and slowly curled his hands around the mug although it didn’t seem like it had any heat left to it. Seokjin wondered just how long he’d sat there in the dark before he’d walked in on him. “They don’t need to, hyung.” His hair shaded his eyes as he curled in on himself and his voice cracked. He shook his head. “I have eyes, I can see their disappointment.”
“Whatever you’re seeing or hearing is complete bullshit, Taehyung.” His hyung reached out and clasped his hands gently around the mug, and tried to soften his tone. They’d all had a bit of a tough day earlier, and it’d make sense if that was why he was in such a mood. “If this is about practice earlier then everyone has rough spots- I’ve been in a rough spot since we debuted.” He had intended for the younger man to crack a smile but all he received was a crumpled expression and a tear that trailed down his red cheeks.
“It’s not that, the managers-.” Taehyung cut himself off with a sudden wheeze; his arms locked up as his eyes widened and there was no disguising the panic on his face. Seokjin gasped and reached out to pull the boy into his arms like he’d initially intended when Taehyung’s hands started to shake. The mug rattled against the table but Seokjin pulled it gently from his fingers and pushed it out of his reach. Taehyung’s breath caught in his throat but there was nothing sweet or awe inspiring that stole his breath. There was an overwhelming crushing fear in his chest and his breath came out in harsh pants as Seokjin moved closer to try and hold him close.
“Taehyung, what’s wrong?” Hands. Hands. The blindfold, the choker around his neck. His shirt ripped like tissue paper, exposed. His shoes slipped on the tile, where’s the water coming from . Can’t see, I can’t see. Needed to call for help, need to call for the hyung’s- “Taehyung, please talk to me, you’re scaring me, you’re scaring hyung.” Breathe. Can’t tell the hyungs, need to keep it a secret. Breathe. Talentless slut. “Taehyung-!” Breathe.
“I’m fine,” He finally choked out and shook his head violently. “I’m fine, sorry I just spaced out, I’m fine. I’m going to sleep now. I’m fine. I’m sorry.” He stood up so fast from the table his knees knocked against the wood and darted out of the room without another word. Seokjin spent the rest of the night with his eyes locked on the mug on the table, wondering just when the boy had shattered right beneath their noses.