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a series of hellos and goodbyes

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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.

4oclock

“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."

2am thoughts

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.

Chapter Text

Within the first week after he had left, he’d cried more than he had in the last few years combined. He cried his eyes out on the front porch of his family’s home, and then he locked himself in their guest room for days while he cried some more. His siblings whispered softly through the cracks in the door, and his parents asked every day without fail if he’d join them for dinner.

He never responded, but he loved them endlessly for the effort.

At the start of the second week he finally stepped out of the room, puffy faced and in desperate need of a shower. They didn’t bombard him with questions immediately although they couldn’t keep their eyes off of him as he shuffled past them towards the bathroom. However once his siblings were asleep, stuffed animals in hand and blankets tucked to their chins, they couldn’t keep it in anymore.

He didn’t think he’d ever seen them look so devastated as he choked out the ‘why’.

He told them why he’d left, why he couldn’t stand the feeling of his own skin, and then why he couldn’t look at himself in the mirror anymore. He finally told them about the boy he gave his entire heart and soul to, whose heart he broke in return. He talked about the man who’d stolen everything from him and had done it with a smile on his face. Every memory he’d wanted to tell them but didn’t because of the damned social stigma they lived in came out out with rushed words and they held his hands tightly as everything spilled over. They had their own tears to shed and they cried together, before his father finally stood up.

“So we are going to press charges?” He demanded as if it wasn’t even a question, but Taehyung violently shook his head. “Taehyung, he-!”

“I know what he did!” He shouted and jumped to his feet as well. He felt older than he was, but younger at the same time. He was stuck in a limbo of responsibility and liability. “But, I never want to see him again. I never want hear his name. I don’t even want to think about it!” He nails dug into his palm like a grounding wire for his anxiety, although all it did was make his fingers ache and his palms sweat. “I want to escape, I just... want to leave.” It hurt to admit, but everything was different. He couldn’t be V, but he couldn’t be Taehyung either. He didn’t even know who “Taehyung” was anymore. His body didn’t feel like his own and his identity was out of his grasp.

“Well…” His mom spoke softly, “you’ll need to contact the company anyway, right Tae? We need to see what you’re options are, don’t you agree?” Taehyung curled his arms around himself and nodded. He couldn’t just leave and not expect repercussions, he at least knew that much for certain.

It turned out his options were limited to receiving a hefty check in exchange for not pressing charges.

He didn’t quite know how he felt about that, but his parents were furious as they all stepped out from the tense meeting. The secret meeting had been bad from the beginning and the producer hadn’t had enough apologies to give when they’d finally stepped out of his office. To his credit, Bang-PD-nim had looked as shaken as he had felt, but he didn’t know if that made him feel better or worse. They’d stayed silent the entire train ride back home, and deflected the eager questions from his brother and sister when they had finally stepped through the front door. The paperwork sat on their dining table as they stared at each other.

“What about America?” Taehyung asked tentatively, and they both looked over at him silently. His voice was rough but he ignored the itch in his throat. “I graduated early, so I don’t have that to worry about, and I’ve always wanted to go. We can split the money and-.”

“The money is all yours, honey bear.” His mother interrupted, the familiar nickname made him smile on reflex before the atmosphere quickly pulled it back. “We have more than enough, and if you want to go to America we won’t stop you.” His dad nodded in agreement, although the harsh lines of tension in his face hadn’t faded for days. “We can look at some travel times, and some apartments. Maybe,” She shared a look with her husband, “we can look at some therapists?” The very idea made him freeze and his eyes snapped to hers. “Honey bear, you’re hurting so much,” she hurried to say, “and you know we will be there for you in everything but this isn’t something we can change by ignoring it. There’s healing that needs to happen, but only if you want to heal.”

“I…” He covered his eyes and his fingers tugged at his hair anxiously. “I don’t want pity.” He finally whispered, and his mom gasped. “I don’t want the pity, or the judgement.”

“Judgement? Baby, there’s nothing to judge you for.” She moved closer and gently pulled his hands from his hair. “It was completely out of your control, and not a single person blames you for what happened. I only suggested it because they’re professionals. It might be good to at least...talk to someone.” She added, and he nodded slowly.

Later, years and years later, he would call his parents and thank them with tears in his eyes for never thinking differently of him, and for believing so strongly in him. He would FaceTime them with a heavy award in his hands and thank them for being so open minded and accepting to be able to suggest therapy to him in the first place, so unlike the mindset they had been born into.

“I promise I’ll think about it.” He agreed tentatively, and they both looked relieved. “Can we talk more about, like, something else for now?”

“Of course, honey bear.”

It has only taken four weeks. Four weeks of agonizing and staring into space and hating the very skin he lived in, before Taehyung called his mother. The dorm was quiet as he pulled his phone out, and the background made his heart squeeze. It was just a selfie of the seven of them, huddled together as tight as they could be, but the smiles on their faces were big and so genuine. He quickly pulled up his messages to cover it but was immediately bombarded the sight of the missed texts he’d ignored all day. The others had left for their schedules, and Taehyung had been left in the dorm while they went off and did their own things. He had locked himself in their room before Sangmin could try to squeeze a practice into his empty schedule.

There was a variety of messages, but the separate ‘miss you hyungie’ made his heart squeezed painfully. 

"TaeTae! It’s a surprise to have you call me for a change!” The voice was so warm, and the accent was thicker than he remembered but it was so familiar; her voice was like a song that reminded you of home or a blanket that was overwashed and soft with nostalgia- the kind perfect for blanket forts and late nights watching movies. “How are you?” He could already picture her in the kitchen with that patchwork apron she loved, with his little brother and sister pulling at it as they begged to talk to him too.

"Eomma,” His voice cracked and he felt six years old again, as he asked his grandma why his parents couldn’t be home more often, why he couldn’t be enough for them to stay. It was ridiculous when he thought about it now, with what he knew better now, but pain from the heart never truly faded. How ironic that he’d eventually pushed them away only to want so desperately to be that young and dependent again.  “I’m gonna come home.”

“Home? Taehyung-ah, are you okay? What’s wrong, are you hurt?” There was a flood of muffled whispers from the other side.

Such a simple question, but it was like the key to the floodgates and he pulled his bony knees to his chest. He desperately tried to ignore the obviously shaped bruise on his calf, and the harsh prints on the meat of his thighs. “I want to come home. I need to come home.”

Everything after that felt like a blur for a while. There was a ping from his phone as he was sent information for his train and it was easy enough to find his wallet and shove as much of his clothes as he could into one his suitcases. He didn’t have the time to sort or carefully fold the more expensive pieces. He didn’t look too closely to see if they were actually his, but he did hesitate for a moment before he grabbed one of Jeongguk’s hoodies off of the bed. 

A sudden burst of noise made him freeze, a pair of pants hanging from his fingers, and he could hear a lock rattle. The front door swung open and there was a small stampede of footsteps into their tiny apartment. There was a burst of laughter in the silent dorm and Taehyung’s eyes burned. God, I love his laugh.

“Tae!” Jeongguk’s voice carried through the door. “We brought food!” He pulled his attention away from the door as he slung the backpack over his shoulder and pulled the suitcases behind him. He had wanted to leave undetected, to slip out while everyone was away on their schedules. He’d known that he would have a small window of time to step out under their radar. He hadn’t accounted for them bringing an early lunch home. “Baby, where are you?” Deep breaths. He slowly pushed the door open and the sound of wheels on linoleum caught everyone’s attention. Jeongguk’s eyes immediately dropped to the stuffed suitcase. “...Tae?”

“Ah…” The sudden silence was suffocating; there was the soft crunch of a styrofoam container and he heard a plastic bag hit the floor. While his schedule had kept him bouncing between the practice rooms and the dorm, they’d been out, being productive, successful. ‘Not failing’ was what had been whispered in his ears . He hadn’t been in the same room as all of them in a while. He hadn’t even known Jimin had changed his hair again.

 “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Yoongi had never been one to sugar coat his words and Taehyung flinched at his harsh tone. He hadn’t anticipated any of this, and he could feel his eyes water. Whether it was from frustration, shame, or just sadness he couldn't tell. He was so exhausted. “What are you doing with that? Where are you staying?”

“Yoongi,” Jin started tentatively but he went ignored as the rapper dropped his phone onto the table and stepped closer. He hadn’t kicked his shoes off yet and his sneakers scuffed across the yellowed floor.

“I’m going to visit my mom, there’s been some stuff with the farm-.” He was running his mouth, and he could tell, they could tell. He’d always been a crap liar and while it used to be a blessing now he only cursed his twisted tongue.

“That’s bullshit. You know we’re in the middle of the album right now.” Yoongi snapped, and really Taehyung had, had no idea. How long had it been since he’d been asked to come into the studio? His days were full of aching muscles, stress and terror in equal measure in his bones. “Don’t lie to me, Taehyung, what the fuck . What’s really going on?” His grip tightened on the suitcase handle, his knuckles pulled so tight the skin was near translucent. Yoongi had always been one of the hyungs that he could go to no matter the situation despite his cold demeanor. Underneath their opposite exteriors they had found they thought in similar ways, and they held a very similar love for music that the others couldn’t quite relate to. “Well?”

He couldn’t see the hyung he’d grown so close to in this angry man, with his dark eyes and harsh frown.

He hadn’t planned for this. He didn’t want this.

He hadn’t thought about what he’d say, or how he’d tell them. He hadn’t imagined how Hoseok’s eyes wouldn’t leave the suitcase on the floor, or how Namjoon would nearly bite through his own lip at his own realization. Pain shot through his heart when he realized he hadn’t put a single thought into how Jeongguk would stand behind the wall of their hyungs and shake so hard Jimin would be forced to wrap an arm around him to keep him falling to the floor. However, in the very back of his mind where certain thoughts went to never see the light of day, he knew it would be better if they lived without ‘why ’.

He knew he would have been.

“He’s leaving, it’s obvious.” Seokjin pulled a heavy hand through his hair and Jimin furiously rubbed at his eyes. The others watched silently as Taehyung pulled his hat down farther to cover the tears in his eyes. He didn’t deserve to cry.

The silence was so heavy he could choke on it and he barely mustered up the strength to swallow as he adjusted the bag on his shoulder. He had never thought he would become so familiar with the taste of sorrow and desperation. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, Taehyungie.” Jimin choked out, and Taehyung’s eyes tracked the hand that rubbed Jeongguk’s arm- No, he had no right to be jealous at a time like this. His boyfriend didn’t meet his eyes and only curled his arms around himself and tucked his chin into his chest. Taehyung had seen him pull the same move when they sat down for interviews that made them a bit too uncomfortable, or when they asked questions that hit too close to home. He had done that, he had made him close himself off. “Are you coming back?” He couldn’t force himself to answer so he shook his head. The maknae sucked in a sharp breath and Jimin locked his arms around his waist when his legs threatened to drop him to the floor.

“Gukkie,” Taehyung took half a step forward but Yoongi was quick to block his path. “I’m sorry.” As one of the members that was one of the least liked Taehyung had been subjected to a fair amount of hate in their short career, but the fire in Yoongi’s eyes made him crack and he pressed the heel of his hand to his eyes.

“Will you be happy?” Seokjin asked softly and he hesitated to respond, his tongue felt heavy in his mouth. His heart pounded so hard he could feel his pulse in his fingertips. “You know, I hope everything turns around for you. I can only hope you don’t regret this.” He knew Seokjin hadn’t meant to come off as bitter, but he was saying what they were all thinking. What would happen to their careers if they lost one of their vocalists? They were barely scraping by as it was, how were they going to survive if one of their members quit?

“I’m sorry.” He finally croaked, and he shouldered past Yoongi to reach the door. “I’m sorry. I need to go. I’m sorry.”

The words didn’t stop their tumble past his lips until he was in the elevator.

Chapter Text

The streets of Manhattan were different than Seoul, but that was obvious to anyone who’d ever been on the internet, like ever. It was busier, and crowded, but there was more life. He’d only been living in the city for a few weeks but he took every chance he got to explore the city he now had to call home. There were musicians, artists, and street performers on every corner during the busiest times of the day and everywhere he looked he could spot at least one dog. The hush money had gone a long way to buy himself a tiny apartment in a slightly shady neighborhood, where he’d promptly shoved the rest into a savings account to never see the light of day again.

One particular morning found him in front of a line of popular stores in a small crowd around a man playing guitar and singing softly. His voice wasn’t incredibly loud or noteworthy but the sound he could create with the worn instrument in his hands was beautiful. Taehyung had actually come to see him several times before, and had to admit the man had some serious skills. The people around him swayed gently to the music and Taehyung himself hummed along. When he eventually came to an end and they clapped politely, he bowed his head in thanks to the few that had dropped some money into the case on the ground.

“If anyone knows this next song, feel free to join in.” The busker announced and a few people cheered, easily enticed by his sweet smile. He plucked the first few chords and Taehyung was surprised that he recognized the slow cover of an American son, one he couldn’t remember the name of. He didn’t even think about it before he opened his mouth and belted out the lyrics. The woman next to him startled but the guitarist only grinned and played a little louder.

Taehyung couldn’t remember the last time he’d sung anything for pure enjoyment, and he didn’t even feel uncomfortable when a few spectators pulled their phones out in his direction. The guitarist motioned with his head to the empty seat next to him. Fuck it. Taehyung shoved his hands into his pockets and slid forward to sit on the cold bench.

His accent was thick and he couldn’t remember all of the lyrics but the crowd didn’t seem to care; the musician only hummed softly along with him. He felt like a character in a cheesy K-drama but that couldn’t stop the bright smile on his face, the first in who knows how long, as they performed together. The song came to an end eventually and for a moment they sat in awkward silence, before the people around them began to whistle and cheer. In a moment of startling clarity they locked eyes before Taehyung bowed his head, and the dark haired man grinned right back at him. The guitarist stood and spoke to the crowd as they slowly dispersed into the daily traffic.

“Thank you for joining.” The mystery man said smoothly as he spun back around and held out his hand. Taehyung felt like an idiot when it was only when he was inches from the man’s face that he could now see that he was covered in tattoos- there was even a small one by his eye, among the many, many others he had. He might have been intimidated if the man hadn’t just serenaded Manhattan with a love song. “The name’s Haneul.”

“Uh, Taehyung.” He bowed his head again in habit as he shook his hand. “Are you Korean?” The English words were clumsy in his mouth but Haneul smiled and nodded.

“Yeah!” Haneul swiped the money out of the case and shoved it into his pocket before he bent over to tuck his guitar away. He handled the instrument with a sort of reverence Taehyung had only seen from Yoongi with his keyboards. He obviously treasured it, and Taehyung wondered what sort of story the guitar had, or the boy himself. “I’ve spent most of my life here. How long have you been in the states?” He spoke in Korean, although heavily accented, but added a quick. “You can keep speaking in English if you want- to get some more practice.”

“Am I obvious?” He laughed quietly and buried himself in his coat collar. “I left...few weeks ago.” His grasp of English was embarrassing at best but the man didn’t seem to care.

“For school?” Haneul pulled the case into his lap and plopped back onto the bench as Taehyung bit his lip nervously. He had attempted to throw the last several months out of his mind during his move, but Haneul quickly seemed to realize it was a touchy subject and he smiled. “You don’t need to tell me, we literally just met.” He had slipped back into English, but when he noticed Taehyung’s pinched expression he quickly repeated himself in Korean.

“Oh, ah, I was...K-pop trainee? Was bad.” He shook his head and shrugged, in an attempt to downplay the situation. “I want...a new start.”

“Well if you still want to do something, I always welcome having a singer.” He patted the hard case in his lap, and grinned. “You have the best voice I’ve ever heard, I’d love to play with you again.” Taehyung hummed and thought about it for a second, although the bright smile on his new friends face didn’t give him any reason not to join him.

“Oh. Sure.” He paused for a second and then cocked his head; mentally exhausted he switched back to his mother tongue. “Wanna get food? I’m starving, and I’ll pay.”

“I won’t turn down free food.” Haneul laughed and they both jumped up from the bench. “I know this great chinese place a few blocks away!”

They would meet for lunch or dinner several more times after that, where each time after Taehyung would join him with one of the few English songs he actually knew the words to. He eventually discovered that Haneul worked three part time jobs, where he graciously helped Taehyung get a job as a barista at one of them (Taehyung never knew how hard it was to make an espresso before, but he’d also never thought that boiling water could be so dangerous ). They then took advantage of a few of the open mic nights and got to perform in front of more than just a few businessmen on the street. Taehyung loved the freedom that came with performing for strangers, in every sense of the word.

Plus the extra tips every night were always a plus.

It didn’t take long for them to become close and Taehyung would honestly consider the man the best friend he’d ever had. He’d been very close with Bangtan (although he tried his hardest to not think about memories that hurt as much as those did) but Haneul had an energy that let him relax and just be himself. The first phone call he made back to his parents after their first lunch together he hadn’t been able to stop smiling, and he pretended he didn’t hear the tears in his parents' voices as they praised him for working so hard.

Though, with that friendship came trust and Taehyung eventually had to come clean about that fact he had actually been a debuted idol for a short while- even if they hadn’t been popular. Haneul hadn’t been able to keep his questions to himself and he’d immediately pulled up one of their music videos. Of course, after his subsequent panic attack in the closest bathroom the man seemed to understand that there was more than just a bad contract or bad reviews.

They moved in together not long after they met, between an instant friendship and a series of money problems that neither of them could escape from. With becoming roommates Haneul slowly learned what was OK to ask and what wasn’t (even if there was more of the latter than the former), and after some not-so-subtle hints Taehyung eventually took the initiative and contacted a therapist.

“We should make a band.” The comment came as Haneul counted the money that had been tossed into their small bucket. Taehyung was so focused on packing up that he nearly missed it.

“What?”

“A band.” He repeated simply. “We sound really good together, and our mic nights only just confirm that.” The guitarist shrugged and shoved the bills into his pocket- Taehyung had outright refused to take any of the money they made busking. He was steadfast in the opinion that he wanted to work for his money, and Haneul did most of the work when they went out. “If we find a drummer and a bassist we could make some real music, something other than just us covering songs with my crap guitar.”

He couldn’t deny the idea was attractive and he rolled the idea over in his mind as he pulled his coat tighter. He still wasn’t quite used to the harsh wind that cut through the city. After a lengthy moment of silence as they packed away their things Taehyung stopped Haneul from standing with a gentle hand. “I miss performing.” Taehyung admitted softly and Haneul looked over at him with soft eyes and a small smile. “But I think I really miss performing with other people.” The weeks he’d spent on their small bench, or on their stool in the corner of a small cafe, or even that time in Central Park had given him the rush of performing again- but it was fleeting. Their audience always had somewhere better to be.

They were only a short stop in their lives, and he wanted to be a destination.

“I have a good feeling about it.” Haneul reassured and then he reached into his bag. “Plus I already put up flyers. I actually got a call yesterday.” Taehyung could only scoff in disbelief as his friend laughed and waved the pieces of paper in the air. “Her name is Paris, and she wants to meet us for coffee.”

There had been a period of time where Taehyung relished in the ache from practice, the physical reminder that he had put in work just like the rest of them. However, what had once been almost a badge of honor had turned into a mark of shame.

He winced as he shifted on his feet, his eyes firmly locked on the open cupboards in front of him. He was desperate to eat, having missed dinner from a...late practice, but it was already too late for him to be snacking according to their dietician. Already too big, a too-familiar voice sneered in his ear and he chewed on his lip. His stomach rumbled just as he heard a door creak open.

“Tae?” He jumped slightly, which only made him swallow back a hiss of pain, and spun on his heel. The cupboard doors shut with a smack and the owner of the voice stepped into the dimly lit kitchenette. Jeongguk’s sleepy eyes watched him with a frown. “Why are you still awake? We have that show recording in the morning.” They did? He caught his surprised expression and his frown melted into a look of disapproval. “Tae, did you listen to Manager-nim at all this morning?”

The very mention of that man made him flinch and his head ducked down in shame. “Sorry, Gukkie.” He mumbled, but socked feet came into his line of sight and he was pulled into his warm embrace.

“It’s okay, you’ve looked so exhausted lately I shouldn’t have been surprised.” Jeongguk said softly, obviously misinterpreting his sudden change in demeanor. “Come on, let’s get to bed and maybe if we get up earlier we can run out and get breakfast together?” His hands gently tugged him along and he was helpless to allow himself to be maneuvered through doorways and into their shared room. Jeongguk didn’t have to work very hard to push him into the worn mattress. The quiet atmosphere was almost immediately broken by Hoseok’s mumbling and a loud snort from Jimin across the room.

“You really promise that we’ll get breakfast together tomorrow?” Taehyung asked tentatively, once they had slipped under the thin blankets and Jeongguk had tucked himself under his chin. Even with the warmer weather outside they always seemed to gravitate to each other; Taehyung didn’t even have the heart to jokingly complain as he wrapped his arms around him tightly as well. “Like, promise-promise?”

The younger teen snorted and rubbed a hand across his hip. “Of course I do, TaeTae.” Even in the dark he could see the shine of his eyes as he looked up at him. “We won’t even ask the others.” He could almost hear the smirk in his voice and Taehyung finally let his body sag in relief. Even just a half an hour with the boy he loved more than life itself? Perfect.

It was almost enough to block out the sting of the hand shaped bruises along his sides, and the uncomfortable swelling of his knee.

Paris was different than either of them had expected, admittedly. They had stepped into the small cafe and expected to see, well, something different. She was tiny, Asian (which wasn’t necessarily a surprise but it definitely rose some questions) and she had a backpack so stuffed with books it looked ready to burst at the seams. She seemed surprised to see them as well as they introduced themselves and when they’d slid into the booth across from her there was an undeniable awkward silence. Taehyung felt his skin crawl from being so close to a stranger but Haneul patted his knee gently under the table.

“So... you’re a drummer?” Haneul finally asked, and she nodded.

“I was a drummer for my school’s jazz band before I started university.” She rubbed her hands together and sighed. “I miss playing, but my parents made me quit so I could ‘focus on my degree’.” The way she said it made Taehyung frown, even though he only caught about every other word. His English had gotten better but he was nowhere near fluent yet. “I kind of texted you on a whim, to be honest.”

“Do you not want to go to school?” Taehyung asked, and her mouth twisted. “You shouldn’t do anything you don’t like.” He wanted to add more, but didn’t have the necessary words at his disposal. Although he didn’t know if she would have appreciated it, if the frown on her face was any indicator.

“He’s right.” Haneul nodded. “But, on the subject of making music, we would love to play with you for a bit. See if you mesh well. We busk a few nights a week and there’s an open mic at a cafe we both work at that we take advantage of every week.” She was silent for a minute, and Taehyung took the opportunity to stand. He already needed a break from the conversation. “Tae?”

“Gonna grab something to drink, do you want anything?” He gave them both a small smile as he waved his wallet. “My treat.” They both rattled off what they wanted, after a quick reassurance that he really didn’t care about being paid back, and he headed over to the counter. The line wasn’t terribly long but he still found himself stuck behind a couple that seemed to be arguing, and another teen that looked like his entire world had just come crashing down. Despite his anxiety, Taehyung couldn’t help but step closer to him. “Is everything okay?”

The blonde looked up and frowned. “Who are you?” Well, that was a bit rude, Taehyung thought.

“You can call me Tae.” He said instead. “Are you okay? You look...bad.”

“Tay?” His accent was strange, maybe French but maybe not, and Taehyung bit back a smile at the stretched and over-pronounced vowels. “I’m fine. I just got bad news, I guess.”

“Well, I think we will be here a...long time.” Taehyung said as he glanced towards the counter. The poor woman up front had a list in her hands and the fear of god in her eyes. The blonde boy frowned but shrugged and adjusted his bag as he shifted on his feet, they could both already feel the ache from waiting.

“It’s kind of lame, but I just got kicked out my band. Issue with our guitarist.” The singer blinked. How is this my life? “I was crashing on his couch too, and- I don’t know, it’s stupid.” He repeated, but Taehyung only stepped a little closer. A band? Like, a real band? A real life, music band? How was this his life?

“What do you play?” The blonde watched as he bounced on his toes in excitement.

“Well, I played bass,” He said slowly and Taehyung was sure his entire face lit up. “but I can play a few other instruments too.” He waved a quick hand, too focused on the ‘bass’ part.

“So you are free? Want to join my band?” He couldn’t help his grin when the blonde’s jaw dropped in surprise. “I’m the singer, and we are talking to a drummer right now.” He pointed over to where Haneul and Paris were currently in an animated discussion about something that required some rather large hand motions, and the blonde stuttered for a moment.

“You don’t even know me.” He said slowly, and Taehyung nodded.

“True,” He said simply, and then he clapped him on the shoulder, “but friends always start as strangers.”

Chapter Text

 

The band found out his secret the same night the agent found them at a gig.

Nicolas, the blonde Taehyung had met by pure chance, actually fit in with the two of them plus Paris like puzzle pieces. The two of them actually distantly recognized each other when they’d been introduced and somehow having the four of them together had caused something to click for all of them. It took a little bit of work for them to find a sound that worked with all of them, between Nico’s punk background and Paris’s jazz training, but soon enough they were making sweet, sweet music.

It had taken them four months to come up with a name, but within weeks ‘dollHouse’ was a familiar name on notice boards around the city. A house of their own creation, where they were the masters and puppeteers of their own story.

Paris joked that, that was probably the smartest thing that Nico had ever said, and none of them could argue against it.

They’d only performed with all four for roughly six or seven months when a man in ripped jeans and a suit jacket walked up to them and handed Taehyung a business card. They’d just stepped off of their makeshift stage as Taehyung blinked at the small white card. “I work for Universal.” He greeted with a smile. “You guys sound amazing, and I’d love to talk about working together.”

“Oh my god.” Taehyung whispered; they all stared in shocked silence at the printed piece of cardstock, until Haneul full body tackled him into a booth. “Fuck!” The edge of the seat dug into his back and the hard seat scraped against the freshly inked koi on his thigh but he could ignore all that for the moment. He could ignore the tightness in his chest to tightly wrap his arms around his best friend, as Paris crouched down to the floor and Nico stared blankly out the window.

“Taehyung, what the fuck.” Haneul mumbled into his shoulder in pure disbelief. “Did that just happen?” He almost bounced in Taehyung’s hold and he stumbled over his words as he tried to convey just how excited he was, but Taehyung’s couldn’t focus anymore. As fast as he had ignored it, it had come straight back.

His skin felt like it was burning, his was pulse heavy and slow in his ears and sound seemed to dim as his vision narrowed to a single point. He couldn’t even tell if anyone was still talking, or if they were completely silent. All he was aware of was the phantom brush of hands on his neck, a hot mouth on his back, the distant scrape of nails over his hip.

In an explosion of movement he thrashed in Haneul’s hold, in the tight grip he had on his shoulders, and as soon as he was released he was off. There was a wave of confused voices that he ignored as he sprinted out of the cafe, his shoes slapping hard against the hardwood floors. The burst of fresh air was a godsend and he doubled over as he tried to catch his breath, he didn’t notice when his knees gave out underneath him and he collapsed onto the concrete.

The door swung open behind him but he didn’t notice. His head was heavy, but light at the same time, and his chest was tight but too loose. He couldn’t hold his air in but he couldn’t take it in either. There was a disconnect in his body and he could almost see himself kneeled on the ground, forehead pressed to the dirty concrete, from an outside perspective. Everything seemed to swirl around him and he had no concept of how long he lay prone outside the cafe.

“Holy shit, Taehyung, are you okay?”

He struggled to pull oxygen into his lungs, but there was a tentative hand pressed to his back and despite his initial flinch the slow rub helped him regulate his breathing. It took a few minutes of ragged breaths before he could wearily tip his head to the side.

“Tae, are you okay?” Haneul’s familiar voice tried to cut through the fog in his mind and he sluggishly shook his head. “What do you need?” It was painfully obvious that he wasn’t completely there, and his lack of speech made the guitarist bite his lip. “Um, okay, can I touch you?” There was a pause, and then a single nod and Haneul slowly reached out to grab his hand. “I’m going to help you stand, okay? Nico is gonna grab your other hand, and we’re gonna head to his car. Is that okay?” He gave a faster nod and there was a shuffle of feet before two familiar hands grabbed his, their free hands cupped around his elbow, and hefted him to his feet.

His vision swam just briefly but it was enough for him to gag and double over again.

Merde, okay, easy,” Nico sounded like he was holding back a gag of his own- he had a notoriously weak stomach- and Taehyung would have loved to have laughed in any other situation. Would have loved to feel anything but the crushing sense of mental suffocation as he spiraled even further. “We’re not far from the car, but let’s move slowly.” Taehyung couldn’t see her, but he could assume that Paris was close behind, probably with their coats in hand.

Nico’s car wasn’t anything fancy but it got them from gig to gig, and he was the only one who actually had a car so any complaints were automatically swallowed and ignored. In happier situations they would joke that it was his duty as the youngest to drive them around, but this wasn’t a happier situation and Taehyung was more focused on not throwing up on anyone’s shoes than teasing.

“Alright, let’s set him in the backseat. Ris, you good to sit with him?” She must have nodded because Taehyung soon found himself gently shuffled onto the stained leather seats, with his cheek pillowed on her lap. Her perfume was light, but distinctly floral and feminine and it made some of the tension in his shoulders dissipate with a soft groan. Soft was safe. Feminine was safe.

“Hey,” She leaned down just far enough that he could look up into her eyes and she gave him a small, uncertain smile. It didn’t seem right to see such a usually certain, confident woman tread so carefully. “Are you feeling any better?” He nodded against the scratchy material of her pants and she sighed happily. “That’s good.”

“Hey, bub,” Haneul had climbed into the passenger seat as Nico started the car and leaned over the center console, “I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to just jump you like that, I was just...I’m really sorry.”

Taehyung still couldn’t get his mouth to work properly and the colors around him hadn’t quite settled down yet, but he reached out with a shaky hand and pressed a finger into his cheek. “...S’okay.” He finally mumbled, and Haneul gently grabbed his hand to press a sort-of kiss to his palm. It had been strange when they’d first become friends, to adjust to his version of affection, and it’d taken him weeks to allow a simple kiss to the cheek or a hand in his hair as a greeting. Now, it made him smile into Paris’ knee.

The smile lasted until he remembered why he’d dropped to the floor and reacted so strongly. He knew the other two deserved to know, and even from their short friendship he knew they were completely trustworthy, but…

But, but, but.

It was as if his entire life revolved around “what if’s” and “buts”. He’d let his insecurities and shame drive him away from the bright light in his life, and he’d let distance pull him from the closest friends he’d ever had. ‘I would tell them, but’ had circled his mind for months, with ‘I know I trust them, but’. He was tired of the “what if’s” and the “buts”.

“My last manager raped me.” He croaked; there was a squeal tires and they all jerked forward in their seats as Nico slammed on his brakes. Cars honked as they swerved around them and Haneul choked from the surprise but Taehyung only closed his eyes. There was a moment of silence and the car slowly started to move again as a shaky hand pressed against his hair. His stomach rolled but he tried to focus his breathing in the sudden quiet. “I thought you should know.”

“Is this...is that why you moved?” Nico might have glanced over his shoulder, but Taehyung couldn’t see anything; he might have gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles and a grim face but Taehyung wouldn’t have known. Taehyung hummed, he didn’t trust his voice and he knew any further discussion would have pulled tears from his eyes.

The rest of the ride to his and Haneul’s shared apartment was quiet and tense but Taehyung let them trade uncertain looks while he trudged towards their front door. He slumped against the doorframe as he tried to shove the key into the lock but familiar, scarred fingers plucked it from his grasp and unlocked the door. Nico had a strange love for Old Spice and the familiar husky smell made his exhausted brain slowly shut down. He was close to passing out and the blonde gently wrapped an arm around his waist and helped him towards the couch.

He didn’t remember anything from the rest of the night, but when he woke up at nearly noon the next day Paris was a few feet away buried in a text book and Nico had somehow found himself curled up underneath their coffee table. He could hear a slow shuffle from their kitchenette and he knew Haneul was making his “famous” waffles. There was the acrid smell of cigarettes in the air but his sleepy brain couldn’t tell which one of the boys it came from.

“Hey superstar,” Paris greeted with a smile when he slowly pushed himself upright, “we were gonna move you to your bed but you kind of latched onto Nico and wouldn’t let go for a while. Then we all just kinda crashed.”

Just like that, it was as if nothing had happened.

Of course, then Taehyung will accidentally drink a bit too much a few months later and ugly cry into Nico’s brand new leather jacket; they don’t talk about it the next day but Nico doesn’t shy away from affection as much as he used to afterwards. Then when they meet their new manager, Jessica “please don’t call me Jessica” Whaley, he’ll quietly ask to talk to her and they’ll both come back with tears in their eyes but wrapped up in each other as if they’d been friends for years.

They don’t talk about it, but Taehyung knows it’s not because they don’t want to. He knows if he needed to they’d always have an ear to lend, or a shoulder to cry on, and that’s all he needs.

He’ll learn later- slowly but so, so surely- that everyone heals in different ways by different methods and that helps more than anything else.

“You guys are fucking amazing,” Taehyung drawled into the microphone held loosely in his hands and the crowd roared in response; he raised his hand as the music swelled around him and he could feel his heartbeat speed up in anticipation, “so here’s one last song for you.”

Performing was freeing in a way that nothing else was. As he bounced around on the stage and the words belted out of him and the fans fed into the energy, he felt free. There was nothing to chain him to one spot, nothing that required him to act, speak, dress a certain way. He couldn’t keep the smile off his face, and he hadn’t since they’d first stepped out into the lights. There was a level of excitement and energy that came from a dollHouse concert, and Taehyung would fight anyone that it couldn’t be found anywhere else.

They had blown up with their first album, which had been a huge shock to everyone but the company. The quality was great for a band who’d never produced anything before, and the sound was a bit darker than people had anticipated but there was a depth to the sound that pulled listeners in. ‘Easy Doesn’t Do It’ was an album that talked about heartbreak and lost love- and Haneul made sure that everyone knew that Taehyung wrote the whole damn thing. Even with exactly zero experience working as a producer for anything he couldn’t say no to the man who signed their checks. Jackson, the man they worked the most with, claimed it was important to leave a personal touch to every beat he made. It wasn’t much of a surprise that he quickly found solace in the late nights in front of a computer screen, in the work he put into each piece.

Unfortunately, people had found his similarity to the missing member of BTS fairly quickly and part of their popularity came from the idea of a K-pop idol turning into a “bonafide rockstar”. Taehyung had tried to distance himself from the manufactured image of himself, but there was no denying the boost of popularity it gave them. He liked to think that, with the echo of his words on their lips, they came for the novelty but stayed for the music.

“Still like it?” Nico asked breathlessly as they stumbled together backstage, just like he did after every concert. They were drenched with sweat and smelled like dirty socks but nothing could ever bring down their high. The singer laughed and threw an arm over the youngest’s shoulders. “Still get the rush?” Haneul had already dived for the couch, and Paris slid down to the floor, too lazy to fight the guitarist for a seat.

“I live for this.” He said, just like he always did. “The crowd was intense tonight.” His pulled his sweat soaked shirt from his chest with a groan. “Fuck, I think I ruined this shirt.” He complained as he tugged it over his head and tossed it in a random corner of their dressing room. Nico laughed until it landed with a wet slap and he had to fight back a gag.

“Maybe you should stop wearing five hundred dollar shirts on stage.” He snarked and Taehyung only scoffed; the bassist averted his eyes and Taehyung saw the exact moment he noticed the pyramid of Hostess cupcakes on the table. He floated over with a little wiggle that made the singer snort. “Didn’t you literally buy that last week?”

“I didn’t ask you to call me out like this.” Taehyung pointed an accusing finger at him but the bassist only rolled his eyes. “I know you dropped a few hundred on that new gaming system the other day.”

“A Switch has nothing on that fifteen-hundred dollar shirt you bought a few months ago. How many times have you worn it? Once?”

“He wrote an entire song about how much of a boujee bitch he is,” Paris said from the floor as she attempted to stretch out, “you honesty can’t be surprised at this point.” Taehyung nudged her with his leather heel with an exaggerated pout, but she only flipped him off with a bright smile. She was an odd one, but he loved her.

“Are we calling out Tay for his irresponsible spending?” Jessi stepped in with their coats in her hands and a huge grin. They all laughed when Taehyung just groaned and pulled on a spare shirt, a thrift store find he’d bought years ago. They’d all long gotten used to his oddities, especially if they included wearing designer clothes on stage but five dollar shirts in private. “Don’t think I didn’t see that Gucci bag in your living room.” She laid the garments over the nearest chair and crossed her arms. The serious look on her face made them all pause. “Now, not to ruin your adrenaline rush but I got a phone call earlier.”

“About?” It wasn’t unusual for her to have some sort of announcement while they changed and settled down. However, they could feel the excitement from the performance melt away into exhaustion as she shifted on her feet. “Jessica.” Taehyung’s eyes narrowed when she didn’t respond.

“So... you’re up for an award, Best International Artist,” she paused for a moment and met Taehyung’s eyes, and he could almost feel the words that she was going to say next, “at the Mnet Asian Music Awards.” All eyes went to Taehyung and he stared, mouth open, as she fidgeted. “They’re also wondering if you could perform.”

“Oh.” He ran a hand through his hair, and Haneul made a move to step forward but they all froze as Taehyung started to laugh. “How is this my life? Did I destroy a small country or something?” He called to the ceiling and Nico snorted into his cupcake. Jessi bit her lip to hide her smile but it dropped anyway when Taehyung covered his face with a heavy sigh.

“You can turn down performing, Tay.” Jessi held up her hands. “It’s completely in your control. You don’t even need to be there for the award. It’s not like you four won’t be busy anyway.” It was true. They were already in the middle of a tour, and they’d booked themselves for some recording sessions in between. Plus, they’d been offered a spot in Warped Tour’s last run, as a nod to when they’d gotten that popularity boost back in 2014.

“No, no I need to go.” He shook his head and they all looked at each other in confusion. “I can finally go see my parents, plus I don’t want to be the reason we never go to South Korea, because I know we’ve had plenty of opportunities.” The manager couldn’t argue that point and Taehyung sighed again. “I can’t let this shit hold us back from our successes. Even if it’s not a huge award, I don’t know if you guys realize how big it is for them to actually ask us to perform.” Which, wasn’t entirely fair on his part. He was sure they were at least distantly aware that K-pop dominated the music scene in South Korea, but still. It was the principal of the thing.

“It would be cool to see Joon again.” Haneul finally offered, and the others nodded. The collab with the rapper had been the only time they’d ever met anyone from Taehyung’s life before the band and they’d gotten along surprisingly well despite some initial tension.

“So, off to Korea?”

Chapter Text

“You’re not trying hard enough, Taehyung!” The choreographer’s voice snapped through the air and Taehyung slipped across the floor when he missed a step. The song playing had been on repeat for hours and he hadn’t felt like he’d made a lick of progress since they had started- from the older man’s voice he didn’t seem to think so either. “Taehyung...We set time aside during our busy schedules to give you more practice, and you are not giving us the results we ask for.” The man set his hands on his hips and looked up towards the ceiling, so he wouldn’t have to look at him. Taehyung wouldn’t have wanted to look at himself either.

“I’m s-sorry.” He couldn’t help the tears of frustration that welled up but he couldn’t wipe them away fast enough. The tears clogged his throat and he hiccuped but Jonghyun-sunbaenim wasn’t one to tolerate weakness and he already felt ashamed enough. Then, the door cracked open.

“Are you crying, V-ssi?” He froze at the greasy voice and bit his lip hard enough to bleed when a heavy hand settled on his lower back. Very, very low. “I thought we had talked about you crying to get out of your punishments?” Sangmin’s breath brushed across his ear and his stomach clenched in fear. They had certainly talked about it before. “I’ll talk to him, Jonghyun-ssi, don’t worry about it.” The manager waved a hand towards the instructor and the choreographer scoffed even as he moved to leave the room.

“I don’t think you’ll be able to do anything that hasn’t been done, Sangmin-ssi, but go ahead. I’m going to take a 15.”

“Wonderful.” Sangmin’s hand tightened on his hip but neither one of them tried to move until they heard the click of the lock. Taehyung immediately threw out an arm in an attempt to shake him off, but the older man only laughed and wrapped his long fingers around his wrist. It was a sick sound and the very thought of the bastard getting any enjoyment from Taehyung’s discomfort made his stomach roll. “Come on, don’t struggle like that, Tae.” He pressed his mouth to the sweaty skin of his neck and Taehyung cried out as he dragged his tongue across the muscle. No, no, no, no-!

“Get off of me!” He yelled and kicked his legs out. Sangmin wrapped both arms around his middle and pulled him to the floor and Taehyung nearly shrieked when he was pressed into the wood. There was a pressure on the backs of his legs and he furiously tried to kick his feet to throw the man off, or wiggle out from his grasp. “You sick- !”

“Don’t struggle, Taehyung-ah.” There was a grunt behind him and then his hands were pulled behind him and held firms beneath his shoulders, crossed at the elbows so tightly he seriously worried something would snap. He cried out at the burn in his muscles from being pushed too far but he soon fell silent at the too-loud sound of a zipper being pulled. “Just sit there and be quiet. You’ve been a bad boy, Taehyungie.”

“Please,” Hot tears trailed down his face and pooled on the floor as he cried in desperation; his hair stuck to his forehead from sweat and his muscles screamed from being stretched beyond their limit. “Please let me go, don’t do this. I’ll try harder. I promise, please -!” But the only response he got was the press of a mouth back on his neck and the heavy weight of a body over his own. He could only cry and be thankful his clothes had stayed on, thankful that while this was certainly not the first time Sangmin had ever cornered him after a practice it could have been worse.

When he was done, with a dirty grunt into his hair, Taehyung sagged against the floor when the weight on his back lifted. Sangmin kicked his shoe and scoffed as he zipped himself back up. “Get yourself cleaned up, you look disgraceful. Such a dirty boy, aren’t you, you absolute slut.”

“Please, don’t…” He whimpered and slowly pulled his legs to his chest. There was an ache at the back of one his legs and he recognized the strain of a pulled muscle but prayed the pain didn’t show on his face. He couldn’t give him the satisfaction of pain. Sangmin waited until he’d pulled himself to his feet before he stepped closer again and grabbed Taehyung by the shirt. “No, please-.”

“I’ll say this again, if you tell anyone about what just happened, don’t think I won’t ruin your career.” He hissed. “I do this to help you, Taehyung, and you should be so grateful that I take your progress so seriously. I won’t be afraid to get more physical with you if we don’t start seeing some more improvement.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll get better.” He pleaded, his hands clenched into fists uselessly at his sides. Sangmin stared him down for a moment before he let go of him with a nod. The release of his fingers on his shirt felt suspiciously like the first breath after being choked.

“You better.”

Taehyung spent the rest of the night dancing for so long he couldn’t stand straight.

“So I hear your boys are performing at MAMA, too.”

The comment came so casually Taehyung was honestly stunned silent, only the buzz of the machine against his skin echoed in the quiet room as he looked up from his phone. Haneul didn’t look like he’d just dropped a bombshell on his best friend but his eyes were soft as he crossed his legs in his chair.

“What?”

“I heard that BTS is performing at MAMA. You know, that huge award show we’re going to in a few months. The one we’re also performing at.” He paused for a moment and slid his chair closer to the bed Taehyung was sprawled across. “That looks fucking sick.”

The singer looked down at the gloved hands on his ribs and had to agree. It had been a long work in progress, and months of negotiating with various staff about stage costuming so there wouldn’t be unnecessary irritation, but the colors and lines of the ink was pretty fucking sick. “This is amazing, Cat.” He said with an easy grin, and Haneul lightly smacked him in the leg when he ignored him. 

“Of course it is,” She snorted and leaned back to dip the gun in some more ink. She brushed a chunk of hair out of her face that had fallen out of her bun. “I have to say though, this is a damn heartbreaking picture. Who’s this unlucky one you’re immortalizing on your skin?” It was a question that Taehyung had been waiting for and he prayed that his hours of mental preparation had finally kicked in.

He hummed quietly, the answer surprisingly easy to let go. “My sort-of-ex boyfriend.”

“How is someone a ‘sort-of-ex’?” Haneul asked as tattooed fingers flicked across the screen of his phone. Taehyung resisted the urge to lean over and punch him in the arm. Of course he knew the story, and he knew exactly what made him a “sort-of-ex”, but Taehyung had known for years that he was friends with a horrible sadist (when he wasn’t the best friend he’d ever had, that was).

“I left and never said goodbye, or broke it off. I haven’t seen him in years because I moved to a different country and I didn’t tell him when I did it, or where I went.” He shrugged, careful to not move too far. “But, I also dedicate every Instagram post, love song, album, and award to him.”

“That’s a lot of work to put in for someone you’re not with, hun.” Cat remarked, and then laughed when he hissed as she pressed into a particularly sensitive spot. “Also, kind of pathetic.” Correction: make that two sadists he was friends with.

“It is.” He agreed through grit teeth, and then blanched at another sharp spear of pain. “Oh shit, fuck -.” His already exhausted body tensed up from the stabbing pain. They were in the middle of Warped, honestly the worst time to ever get a tattoo, but it was the only time that worked in their schedules. He’d just decided to suffer through the multiple layers of exhaustion and pain in his body. All for the art, he figured.

“Deep breaths.” Haneul said redundantly from behind his phone screen. “Now back to me, because this is serious.”

“I am being serious!” Then he yelped and pressed a hand to his mouth. “Oh my god, why does it suddenly hurt so bad?”

“Last session was all line work, baby,” Cat giggled, “now we’re on the meat of the piece. Don’t worry, if you can stick this out we’ll be done by your next session. You’ve got a crazy high pain tolerance.” They fell silent for a moment and Taehyung watched as the colors bloomed on his skin like bruises; pink, purple, and red from the asters and carnations under his arm, blue from the forget-me-nots in between, and purple zinnia across the bones with small bunches of cumin tucked between the petals. The scale was fairly large and he could already see the twitter explosion that was bound to happen once someone spotted it, but he loved it just the same.

“Taehyung.” Haneul said sharply. “ Seriously .”

“I don’t know what you want me to say!” Taehyung tossed a hand into the air, careful not to move too much. “The last time I saw all of them, they looked at me like I’d murdered their parents. What the fuck am I supposed to say about that? ‘Yeah, I’m so glad to see them, also, thank god I didn’t ruin their careers’?”

“Ok, ok,” Haneul threw his hands up placatingly and sighed. “We’ll just… cross that bridge when we come to it, then.” His boots scuffed across the floor when he stretched his legs out and they both went back to their phones.

“Well, if you need me to kick someone’s ass: call me.” Cat eventually chirped and Taehyung chuckled softly. His skin was well on its way to becoming numb to the pain by that point, and was getting to that buzz he kind of enjoyed. An itch that couldn’t be scratched any other way.

“Thanks, Cat.” He rubbed a hand over the bridge of his nose and they fell silent with the buzz of the gun as their background music, other than the soft jazz that floated from her tiny speakers.

Her tattoo parlor was hidden from the general public. She required an appointment and she met every potential client before the session. After Haneul had pressured him for weeks and weeks about getting something small, he’d found her website. He’d gone in with his heart in his throat, but walked out with another appointment in six months and a tattoo he still cherished to that day. She’d done every piece of ink he’d had done from the permanent henna down his hand and fingers and the kanji down his neck, to the fish that circled his thigh and everything in between; she never let him live down the time he’d called, drunk off his ass, and almost convinced her to give him a tramp stamp at one in the morning. He’d sworn to never touch alcohol again afterwards, and let her give him microdermals on his hips for her silence.

When Cat had finally wrapped his ribs, and he’d paid and grabbed Simon from his personalized dog bed, he reached out to pull Haneul to a stop. “I’m scared that if I see them, it’s going to go exactly how I think it will.” He finally said. The street lights were on and there wasn’t a soul around but he felt like he was suffocating, slowly. The confession did little to settle his nerves but Haneul only nodded and linked their fingers together slowly.

“How do you think it’ll go?”

“Well realistically, I don’t know.” He tried to feign indifference as he shrugged but even as emotionally stunted as Haneul could be at times his friend could hear the waver in his voice. “They could see me, and I could see them, and they could just go on like I don’t exist. They could walk right on by.” He waved his arm weakly. “I’m not the same person I was six years ago. Besides, I don’t think they even knew about the collab until after the album had been released.”

“Okay, first of all: who cares if they knew about the collab or not, they weren’t apart of it.” Haneul started, Simon sat down by their feet as the guitarist pulled out a cigarette and shoved it between his lips, unlit. “Secondly, of course you’re not the same. It’s been six fucking years. I’m damn sure that Namjoon didn’t meet up with you and expect you to look like a Korean Joan Jett but you did, and he treated you like you’d never left.” Taehyung snorted at the comparison but let him continue. “Are you happy where you are? Are you happy with what you’ve done? We’ve done?”

“Of course I’m happy!” Taehyung frowned and he crossed his arms; Haneul eyed him as he dug a lighter out of his pocket. “Why wouldn’t I be? I love you guys, you’re family to me. Between you and my therapist, y’all know more about me than my own parents.” He rolled a shoulder. “But, damn it, you’re right.” His free hand rubbed his eyes and Haneul shrugged.

“Just trust all of us, that’s all you can do. Trust that it’ll all work out.” He reached out and Taehyung leaned into his side as they started walking again towards the car down the street, Simon quick at their heels. “Now, let's get some fucking food.”

The cafe Taehyung picked for the meeting was a hole in the wall, the walls were covered in doodles and the barista behind the counter didn’t look twice when he’d walked in, in a cap and large sunglasses. He’d almost considered caking some concealer on his neck and hands but had quickly realized that he didn’t have enough time, nor product, to cover that much skin. His fingers flicked through his social media as he chewed on his straw, and then there was a buzz as Paris sent a few pictures.

Don’t forget to call us when

you’re done >:)

Simon misses you!!

He laughed quietly at the pictures of her mocking Simon’s dramatic eyebrows and made sure to send a few thumbs up emojis back. The doberman had become an emotional rock for him in the last couple years and while he normally would have brought the dog with him it didn’t feel right to bring the service dog to a business meeting. He was sure it wouldn’t have changed anything, but both parties knew that it was more than just a business meeting below the surface.

“What’s so funny?” The chair across from his was pulled out with a squeal and Taehyung’s eyes widened behind his glasses when the newcomer dropped down into the seat in front of him. With a quick look around the cafe, and the reassurance that no one seemed interested in their conversation, he tucked his sunglasses behind his ears and chewed on his lip ring nervously. They sat in silence for a moment before the man spoke up again. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know where to start.”

Well, fuck, same, Taehyung thought.

Taehyung hesitated to take the lead but he bowed his head anyway. “It’s been a long time, RM-ssi.”

Namjoon immediately frowned and shook his head. “Tae, you don’t need to call me that.” He said around a sip of his coffee. He looked good, but Taehyung already knew that. He’d be a liar if he said he’d completely ignored the success that BTS had suddenly come into. He was immensely proud of them and their accolades, but he tried not to think too deeply about it. It brought a lot of “what if’s” and “buts” into his mind. “So, I’m curious. Was this actually about business?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?” Taehyung asked, his brow furrowed. Strange.

“I thought you might want to talk about why you left,” he started slowly, “or maybe why you decided to move to America. Bang-PD-nim has never told us anything, and you didn’t respond to any of the messages we sent.” Namjoon didn’t seem angry, or upset, but it was obvious that he wasn’t entirely happy or comfortable with his response.

“You messaged me?” It was the first he’d heard of it, although he was hardly surprised. His young age and his circumstance had caused his company, and more particularly his management team, to become almost overbearingly protective over him after they had signed. While few knew the full story, it was enough that his information was kept under a tight lock and key. “I changed my number like a week after I,” he paused, “left. Then when dollHouse blew up I got too busy to think about anything else.” Namjoon nodded, and his mouth twisted like he wanted to say something but had to physically hold his tongue. “Just say it, Joon hyung.” The rapper’s lip twitched a little at the nickname but neither of them commented on it, or on how easily it’d come from the singer.

“Jeongguk fell apart after you left,” His stomach promptly dropped through the floor. “but we all did, to be fair. Do you think you might want to... see him?” The rapper cocked his head as he pushed his glasses up his nose. His voice was soft and Taehyung appreciated it, but softness didn’t stop the beat of his pulse in his ear, or the tightness in his chest. “I won’t force you, but I’m not blind. I know things are different now, but I’d like to think I can still read you pretty well.” Namjoon sighed sadly and looked down as he traced the paper sleeve on his cup. “Do you still love him?”

Taehyung’s jaw dropped.

“Of course I do!” He snapped, voice full with clear disbelief.“What the fuck kind of question is that? Jeongguk was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was the one who...” The anger that had quickly risen was quick to fall and he covered his face with a soft moan. “I was the one who walked out like I hadn’t just left the greatest gift I was ever given to cry his heart out on the floor like an asshole.” His voice dropped as he tried to hold back tears of frustration.

“Taehyungie,” He couldn’t help but jump when the rapper grabbed his hands, but Namjoon didn’t pull away and just gently tugged them from his face. “Listen to me, you might feel that way but trust me when I say that we feel exactly the same way.” The rapper still had the kindest eyes and Taehyung’s shoulders slumped in confusion when he saw them start to shine with tears.

“What?”

“We should have noticed that you weren’t happy, that something else was going on.” He laughed but it was tight with sadness, words tinged with deep seated regret. “Yoongi hyung beat himself up over it for months afterwards for how he reacted when you left; Jeongguk might have felt it worse, but he wasn’t the only one that was affected. We should have tried harder to keep you with us.” He released his grip and Taehyung adjusted himself in his seat as he tried to dry his eyes. “I know Big Hit was a small time company, though, so I can understand-.”

“Is that why you thought I left?” The singer cut in and his chest tightened at the very thought. “Because of the money? You think I went to another country because I wasn’t getting paid enough?” he couldn’t even believe that they would have assumed something so shallow of him. After nearly two years of training and living together, he had thought they would have thought a little higher of him.

“Was it not?” Namjoon’s eyes narrowed but then something in Taehyung’s pained expression must have clicked something together and his hands curled into fists. “Taehyung... did they hurt you?” 

Taehyung didn’t respond immediately and dropped his gaze down to the table. He absentmindedly scratched at a spot on the table, barely seeing when his nail polish chipped from the force. The words came slowly and he spoke just as slowly when he finally looked back up. Namjoon’s attention hadn’t wavered an inch and he stared intently.

“Not…” He chewed on his lip and then looked over at his phone screen where a new message from Jess stared at him. “Not exactly. I really don’t want to talk about that, Joon hyung. I,” He squeezed his eyes shut as he was thrust back to years ago when Seokjin had found him in that small living room after a comeback performance; his skin rubbed raw and the smell of antiseptic still fresh in his nose. He needed Simon. “I still can’t talk about it, please don’t make me talk about it. Can we just talk about work, please?”

Namjoon hesitated, because anyone in their right mind wouldn’t have let a trail like that go cold, but he eventually nodded and reached down to pull a notebook from his bag. “Of course.”

Chapter Text

A few weeks later Taehyung pushed open their studio door with an exaggerated greeting, Namjoon in tow as everyone inside jumped in surprise. 

“Everyone, this is Namjoon. You know him as RM.” Taehyung patted the man’s shoulder as he waved a hand around their studio. “This is our main recording studio. Paris is in the booth right now,” the woman waved from behind the glass as he pointed, a familiar shit eating grin on her face, and Namjoon bowed respectfully, “and that’s Nico and Haneul.”

“Oh, you’re Korean?” Namjoon blinked, and the guitarist laughed.

“Tae said the same thing when we met.” He said as he stood to shake his hand. Namjoon didn’t seem put off by the tattoos, which automatically gave him brownie points in Taehyung’s mind. Haneul’s defining features were the badly done face tattoo and the off center flower on his neck, in his opinion. “It’s awesome to meet you, although you should know that Taehyung has been freaking out about this for weeks.”

“You’re such a dick.” Taehyung grumbled and he moved to plop down in his seat behind the computer; there was a huff and the click of claws as a large dog walked over and plastered itself to Taehyung’s side. “Simon! Where’s Jackson, boy?” He asked in a cutesy voice and he could almost feel Haneul rolling his eyes at the rapper.

“He got a call and stepped out right before you got here- also he says ‘our’ studio, but it’s really just his.” Nico piped up from where he was scrolling on his phone. He laid sprawled out across the couch, neck bent awkwardly as he stared intently at whatever was on the screen. “No one spends as much time here as Tay does.” Taehyung flipped him the bird over his shoulder as he clicked open a few more folders.

“Don’t listen to him, hyung.” Taehyung looked back and smiled when he saw the rapper awkwardly shuffle his feet, Simon settled his head on his lap as he slowly scratched behind his ears. “Come over here and hear what we’ve got so far.” He clicked a few buttons and leaned over so the drummer could see him behind the glass, “Paris you can come back out.” She perked up and nearly knocked over her hi-hat when she bounced upright.

There were a few seconds as she untangled herself from her set before she bounded through the small door. “Hi!” She held out a hand towards Namjoon and he quickly bowed to her as well. “Oh, you don’t need to bow,” she laughed, “you’re older than everyone here.”

“Oh, alright,” He smiled and then turned back towards the soundboard where Taehyung pulled up what they had put together; they all watched with smiles when Namjoon asked if he could pet the dog, and then giggled when Simon proceeded to lick him on the nose. “So, you were telling me it’s more of a ballad?” They’d been texting for a few weeks- since that first awkward meeting at the cafe- to rebuild at least a little bit of the bridge that had burned several years ago. Taehyung had sent over the lyrics he’d started on, and they had traded ideas back and forth through texts and short video calls. Under the impression that they would work with a songwriter Namjoon had been surprised to learn that dH produced just about everything they released themselves..

Long story short, Taehyung had been mildly offended.

“Yeah, we’ve produced ‘ballad’ sounding songs before, and done a couple remixes of our stuff for certain sets,” Haneul cut in and Taehyung nodded, “but Tae wanted to try something a little different for this next album.” A quick press of a button and Taehyung’s voice filtered through the speakers along with the soft sound of Haneul’s acoustic guitar.

“Oh wow, that’s beautiful.” Namjoon said quietly, he sat down in the other office chair and rolled closer to the board. “Are you wanting to keep this in Korean?” A majority of the words were in Korean but Taehyung shook his head.

“I hate to say it, but it won’t sell well if there isn’t a little bit of English. Not from an American based band.” He sighed sadly and pulled up where’d he’d saved his work. “So we’re going to have to find a good balance.” Namjoon nodded, and then it was like his producer mask was pulled on.

The five of them worked for hours in that small studio; Jackson eventually walked in later and after short introductions they were back in the thick of it with the older man’s additional help. They’d already had a bare bones idea for the rap of the song, something dollHouse had never ventured into before, and Namjoon obviously had experience producing so his input was already extremely valuable. By the time the sun had set they almost had a complete song, with a few additional tweaks needed to the percussion and piano parts.

“I’m really proud of you, Taehyungie.” Namjoon whispered as they’d stood in the booth together. Taehyung’s eyes widened as he watched the older man wipe his eyes, a wobble in his voice as he spoke softly. “I don’t know what happened, and I don’t know if you’ll ever want to tell me, but I’m so proud of you.” Taehyung sniffed and Namjoon laughed quietly before he gently tugged him into his arms. The singer buried his face into his jacket as he cried.

“I missed you, hyung.” He choked out and he really hoped the others weren’t listening in. “I missed you so damn much.”

“So, what should we look out for at the awards?” Nico’s voice was raspy from his nap but the sudden break in the silence didn’t startle him. Years spent around them had made him too used to their presence, a luxury that wasn’t afforded to him by many others.

“We don’t land for another five hours, Nico.” He rolled his eyes, but turned in his seat anyway. Simon only huffed as he shifted his head in his lap but otherwise didn’t move from where he was sprawled out along his legs. First class had been an adjustment for all of them to make when they had first started flying for performances and award shows, but now Taehyung was only grateful that he didn’t have to sleep with strangers on either side of him. “But, for argument's sake, what the hell are you talking about?”

“Well, we’re there as an ‘international artist’ right? Aren’t they usually catering to K-pop groups?” He shrugged and tugged his blanket back up to his chin. “We’ve never been to South Korea for a show, so I didn’t know if there was anything we needed to know.” Taehyung was, frankly, surprised by the question. “Like, culturally or whatever, I don’t know.” Nico was one of those people who didn’t give a shit about what anyone thought of him. It was almost touching to hear him worry in his own way about how to act in Taehyung’s home country.

“Well, you’re going to be younger than a lot of people there worth talking to.” He started. “So make sure to be respectful, but otherwise they probably won’t talk to us. They can get weird with foreigners.” He cracked his knuckles and sighed. “I just want to get through this without any drama.”

It was silent for a while as they settled back into their seats. They both watched the clouds roll by and Taehyung’s eyes traced shapes in the sky. “I know you don’t really want to hear this,” The bassist started and Taehyung dragged his eyes back across the aisle, “but I think it’d be really cool to like, you know, meet BTS.”

“Is this because of your recent obsession with K-pop?” His lips pulled back into a grin as the blonde blushed. “Don’t think I haven’t heard you blasting Mic Drop, 24/7.” It had been a surprise when he’d heard an old, familiar song blasting from the younger boy’s earphones, especially when they all knew he couldn’t sit in the same room with anything Top 40.

“I’m sorry.” He had blushed bright red and Taehyung’s grin grew at his obvious embarrassment; it was always such a treat to get such a reactive expression from the bassist, because of how reserved he could be. Taehyung blamed it on the fact that he’d just woken up and burned the image in his memory. “I know you don’t want to talk about it.”

“Nico, I don’t think there’s much I wouldn’t talk to you about at this point, honestly.” He ran a hand through his hair with a slight grimace; he’d been wearing a cap and a wig to cover the new locks as a surprise for the MAMAs and his scalp tingled at the stimulation. “If you want to meet them, then I can call Namjoon when we land. I’m sure we can catch them at the awards ceremony sometime.”

“But,” he frowned, “what about your ex?”

The words made him pause and his hand dropped back down to his lap.

He had tried for months to push the boy out of his mind when he’d left, but it had quickly become impossible. Jeongguk was a light in his life that he’d snuffed out without a second look back. Jess had jokingly attempted to get him on blind dates but he’d shut her down just about every time; even with as young as he had been when they had been together he couldn’t see himself with any other person. Jeongguk had been it for him, would always be it- even if he couldn’t say the same for Jeongguk.

“I don’t know."

Jeongguk was sure he wasn’t the only one that was put off by the new manager. It was as if all he cared about was their deadlines and making sure their schedules were filled to the brim. None of them remembered the last time they’d fallen asleep without being exhausted and worked to the bone. He couldn’t help but feel a little lost when even Taehyung seemed incredibly busy; he didn’t hold it against his boyfriend but they had obviously given him a lighter load and he didn’t know what was keeping him away for so long.

Right on time, the door clicked open and there was a stagger of feet before a bag hit the floor. When he leaned around the corner he grinned when he saw the familiar shape of the singer slumped against the wall. “Were you at dance practice, hyung?” He called as he leaned around, but gasped when Taehyung jumped and lost his footing, which sent him careening to the floor. “Taehyung!” He hurried closer and reached down to pull him to his feet. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

“Just tired, Jeonggukkie.” The other’s lips were stretched into a small smile but his eyes were dark and tired and Jeongguk frowned at the obvious lie. “Don’t give me that look,” he reached out and bopped him on the nose with a soft giggle, “hyung has been practicing for hours. Carry me, Gukkie?” He asked sweetly, and honestly there wasn’t a thing in the world he wouldn’t give his hyung so he let out an exaggerated sigh and crouched down to sweep him up into his arms. “Wah, so strong.” Taehyung cooed and he rolled his eyes as he stepped back to carry him to their small bathroom.

They were silent for a while as Taehyung pulled his clothes off, they had all long since gotten desensitized to nudity around each other; it was pretty common for them all to share showers, especially when they ran late or when they were too tired to wait. Although, Jeongguk couldn’t help but frown when Taehyung threw his pants off as fast as he could, and jumped behind the curtain before he turned the water on. “You never answered my question properly.” He took a seat on the toilet as Taehyung adjusted the spray behind the curtain. “Are you okay?”

“Of course I am, why wouldn’t I be?” The shadow of his body moved before his head popped out the side and he squinted at him. Jeongguk opened his mouth to respond but then his eyes zeroed in on a dark spot right above his elbow and his jaw clicked shut. It wasn’t small. “What?”

“Is that a bruise?” He reached out and his fingers only barely brushed the mottled patch of skin before Taehyung tucked it behind the cover of the shower curtain. “What did that?” One look and he could tell immediately that wasn’t quite right. “Who did that?” He brow furrowed in anger at the thought of someone grabbing him so hard they-

“It’s okay Jeongguk, don’t worry about it.” Taehyung reached out with his other hand and ran a damp hand through his hair. His fingers trailed down his cheek and he smiled so widely his eyes crinkled at the corners and Jeongguk couldn’t help that his breath caught in the back of his throat as he stared. There was something captivating about Taehyung’s smile, his very presence, and Jeongguk counted himself blessed that he got to see it every day. “Jonghyun hyung just needed to move me and he grabbed a bit too hard.” 

Something inside his heart told him he should have pushed that line of questioning a little farther, but when he slid back under the spray Taehyung started humming under his breath again and Jeongguk lost himself in the slow sound of John Legend.

Five weeks later he would curse himself for not pushing harder.

“You’ve been gone for a while.”

Namjoon jumped in shock once he’d shut the hotel door behind him. When he spun around he was met with five displeased pairs of eyes staring him down. “Ah, yeah I had some work to do.” He could still smell Taehyung’s cologne on his collar as he crossed his arms. He hoped the redness of his eyes had calmed down before he’d stepped inside. “So, why are you in my room?”

“Seijin said you were with Taehyung.” Jeongguk snapped, and the leader’s eyes widened in surprise. It wasn’t often that the youngest raised his voice, and Namjoon was almost never on the receiving end. “Why didn’t you tell us that you were talking to him?”

“Jeongguk, easy.” Jimin reached over to rub his shoulder but the maknae pushed his hand off.

“Have you been talking to him since he left?” He demanded and the others watched as Namjoon’s eyes narrowed. It took a lot to get the man angry, but back talk and blatant disrespect was a quick way for him to blow his top. The leader rolled his neck and stared at the ceiling for a second before he stepped in closer.

“How about you sit down before you start assuming things, maknae.” He said through his teeth and Jeongguk blinked, a little stunned. It’d been a while since his position as the youngest had been used against him, but he stayed silent and did as he was told. “I’ve only been talking to Taehyung for a few weeks. He asked if I wanted to do a collaboration.” Namjoon turned and pulled the desk chair up to the bed and plopped down with a sigh.

“What? You know we’re in New York, right?” Yoongi asked from his spot against the pillows. When the young singer had walked out they’d tried for months to get ahold of him or to get Bang-PD to bring him back, but they’d been stonewalled at every turn. They’d eventually assumed he’d gone back home to escape everything. Namjoon didn’t blame any of them for not knowing- he himself had thought it was a joke initially when their manager had pulled him aside.

“For a new single for his next album.” His crossed arms dropped and he sighed when they immediately started throwing questions at him. “Oh my go-, guys one at a time!”

“How long has he been making music?” Hoseok frowned and a look around the room told Namjoon they had a similar thought. Well, a look at Jeongguk only told him the boy was as whipped for their former bandmate as he ever was. Over the years the singer had become a sort of taboo subject around their youngest, and eventually they had stopped talking about him altogether.

“I didn’t get the whole story but-” They listened as he laid out what he knew about dollHouse, a band none of them had ever heard of. It was a shock to hear that their dear Taehyung, their weird kid that lived like he was on a constant sugar high, had formed a rock band in America of all places. “I can’t tell you anything about the new song but I,” he paused and flushed in mild embarrassment, “I might have bought all of their music on the way back. Seriously, they’re just so good.” He pulled out his phone as he spoke. “They only have a couple mini albums, their first full album is coming out this year, but you should see how popular they are. I asked my Uber if they’d ever heard of them and she would not stop talking about them.”

“Wait, who’s ‘them’?” Seokjin piped up as he leaned forward in his chair. “You said he’s in a band, so who are the others?”

“Oh! I got a picture with all of them today!” Namjoon brightened and they waited as he excitedly pulled up his camera roll. When he held it out they all crowded around the screen and stared in a sort of shocked silence. All but two of them were unfamiliar and the face next to Namjoon’s made them pause. His hair was almost silver and it was longer than they’d ever seen it, but it was the colorful ink on his body that really threw them for a loop (and the loop in his lip because- wow, he had a piercing on his face -).

“Wow.” Jeongguk sighed, they all turned to look at him. “I thought I would be upset, but he’s as beautiful as ever.” He said softly, and Namjoon wondered if he’d even noticed the other four people in the picture. “Just... wow.”

“That’s sappy as shit.” Jimin joked and they all slapped him in the arm. “Hey! I’m not arguing, he’s always been attractive. I’m surprised he has so many tattoos though. He looks like the other guy.” He pointed towards the black haired man with the neck and face tattoos and Namjoon hummed.

“That’s Haneul, their guitarist. He’s really nice, a lot sweeter than he looks if I’m honest. Tae said he’s the one who convinced him to start a band in the first place. They live together, I think. I didn’t get to talk to him a whole lot.”

“Are they…” The youngest’s voice trailed off and he looked more than mildly uncomfortable, but the rapper shook his head. “Ok.” Namjoon decided not to comment on how relieved he looked.. 

“The other two are Nico and Paris, he’s French and she’s Japanese-American. She was very clear on that fact.” He pointed to the other two in the frame and then he pointed to the large dog by their legs. Taehyung had a hand rested on its head (where they could all see more tiny tattoos on his fingers as well). “That’s Simon, Tae’s service dog.” He held up a hand when a few looked like they wanted to interrupt. “No, I don’t know why he needs one. I didn’t ask, we’re barely friends.”

It was quiet for a moment as they all pondered the implications, and the mood dropped a little as they stewed in their thoughts. At least until Jeongguk sighed again and moved to flop over Hoseok’s legs. “I want to know what we did.” Jeongguk whined and the leader quickly shook his head.

We didn’t do anything, Guk-ah.” He reassured. “Taehyung doesn’t seem to hold a grudge against any of us.”

“Then why did he leave?” Hoseok’s fingers slowly combed through Jeongguk’s hair and the maknae let his eyes slip closed. They knew the topic was sensitive and everyone knew that Jeongguk, for a little while at least, had blamed himself for his boyfriend’s disappearance. They’d had to remind him constantly that the older boy must have left for much more personal reasons, but they didn’t know if those reassurances had ever actually got through to him. Namjoon had faith in his affection for Taehyung, but no one could ever quite tell just how gone for each other they actually were, despite their relationship they had been remarkably modest about the whole thing.

Namjoon rubbed his eyes as his exhaustion from his busy day caught up with him, and his brief conversation with Taehyung at the cafe came to his mind. The uneasy expression the younger boy had given him, and the shakiness in his hands and voice hadn’t given him a good feeling. He had too many theories, and none of them were any good. “I think...someone hurt him.” There was an immediate jolt from his members and he chewed on his lip. Their expressions ranged from simple surprise to pure horror and he nodded slowly. “I think someone hurt him really bad.”

Chapter Text

Hey hyung, we just landed

Nico and Hannie are about

ready to throw hands- we 

didn’t expect the greeting we

got

Paris is threatening to

castrate the next person who

tries to grab her hair

Namjoon laughed at the texts as they dropped down on the screen over the video he’d been watching. He and Taehyung had gotten more comfortable texting over the last two years, and it wasn’t uncommon for them to send a simple text every few days just to check in. He might have been the only one Taehyung actually contacted, but it was progress.

Next to him, Yoongi hummed curiously but didn’t look up from his own phone. “Tae texted me that they’d just landed, and they got mobbed at the airport.” He typed out a quick reply as the other rapper set his phone down.

You guys okay?

“What’s he in the country for?”

“Who are we talking about?” Seokjin poked his head around the corner, and the smell of dinner wafted in behind him. It had been a while since the eldest had cooked a home cooked meal and he’d announced that they all deserved something that wasn’t ordered in. “Who landed?”

Yeah, security got us to

our car. We’re fine now.

“Taehyung,” he called behind him, “he’s here for the MAMAs; they just landed at Incheon but someone must have leaked their arrival. They got mobbed outside-but Tae says they’re fine.” 

Yoongi frowned. “Why are they here for the awards? Are they up for something?”

“Yah, they were nominated for International Artist.” Seokjin rolled his eyes and stepped out of the kitchen, the apron around his waist looked immaculate despite the smell of meat in the air. “Did you not look at the list of nominations?”

“I was only watching if we were up for a daesang.” He retorted and they both rolled their eyes at the bald faced lie. It hadn’t taken them long to become not-so-closeted fans of the band. Jeongguk tried to hide the small shrine of photos he had stored on his phone but they all knew he flipped through them on his tougher days; it wasn’t unusual to find him scrolling through the band’s Instagram just to find some of Taehyung’s rare selfies. The others had done as much as choreograph a few warm up routines to some of their poppier tracks, or when one of them would take control of the radio it would inevitably come up on someone’s shuffle. “Don’t give me that look.” Yoongi sniffed.

“What look?” Of course that was when Jeongguk bounced into the room, still sweaty from his trip to the gym. They all shared a look and he frowned, brow furrowed. “You’re making The Face again- that’s your Taehyung Face. What is it? You can tell me shit, you know. I’m not 16 anymore.”

“No, hey, we know we can,” Namjoon dragged out, “but we know that it’s still a... touchy subject. We were talking about how he just arrived at Incheon, for the MAMAs. Which we are performing at, as well as them.” It was silent for a while and the youngest singer seemed to become lost in his thoughts as they watched him shift on his feet. “Jeongguk,” He looked up from the floor with a hum and Namjoon leaned onto his fist with a muffled sigh, “do you think you...might want to talk to him?” Taehyung had never asked to talk to the other members, but it was the same from their end as well. There was a line in the sand that no one had been brave enough to cross yet.

“More than anything.” Jeongguk had become more confident over the years, a mix of fame and his lucky genetics, but it had been a long time since they’d heard him sound so passionate. Namjoon smiled behind his hand when the singer reached up and clutched at his shirt, right above his heart. “God, hyung, I just want to see him.” And really, no one could argue that.

Award shows were about the same no matter where they were held, but while they had been to the MAMAs several times before Jeongguk could feel a different sort of energy in the air. Cameras had been pointed in their direction the moment they had stepped from their car, which while- admittedly- was not unexpected they called out questions that were a bit too pointed. They obviously knew that the former member of BTS was in the venue and everyone, including the group themselves, had an eye out for the band. If Twitter was reliable enough it shouldn’t have been so hard to spot them, Jeongguk thought. He’d seen more than a few tweets about a particular man’s choice in style, and not just the tattoos.

They were led towards through the halls towards their seating, and Jimin had made a point to be as close as he possibly could and had immediately started to talk his ear off. He tried to listen to what his hyung was saying but he was focused on the faces around him. Every flash of blue hair caught his eye, more common than one would think when you were surrounded by idols, but each one just disappointed him.

“If you keep staring then the girls here are going to think you’re looking at them.” Seokjin elbowed him as he laughed quietly. “Taehyung isn’t over here, we’re all looking too.” Jeongguk looked over at the others and saw that, yes, they really were all searching the area. Hoseok looked almost ready to climb onto a chair if his bouncing was any indicator. “Try to wait until after the performances to start causing a scene, Guk.” Jeongguk bit his lip but nodded and dutifully followed everyone to their designated seats.

The night was going to be a long one, and Jeongguk didn’t know how he was going to get through the night.

It was a while before the event really started, each group had to find their designated seating and there were last minute checks on the stage. On top of the wait it was also getting louder by the minute, between both guests and staff. Jeongguk could already tell that there were more staff in the building than there usually were.

“There’s too many people here.” Yoongi groaned as they watched dozens and dozens of people cross in front of them to get to their seats.

“Easy, hyung.” Namjoon giggled, and Jeongguk could see he already had his suit buttons undone. They had a while before their own performance. “I heard they had to bring in a whole extra crew just for dollHouse’s set.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised, you saw that video of their show in Tokyo right?” Jimin scoffed lightly. “I still don’t know how they got the entire stage to lift like that.” They weren’t unfamiliar with fame and fortune, and they’d had their fair share of awe inspiring moments on stage, but the four man rock band were something else entirely. They had all had moments where they’d found themselves on an a YouTube binge just to watch the feats the band performed on stage.

The first few hours went by fairly fast. They all used their best smiles when the cameras would point their way, and Namjoon made a fool of himself singing along to a BlackPink song. Jeongguk watched new and old groups perform and receive awards, he waved and smiled at the ones that caught his eye and he recognized. He felt sweaty in a room packed with so many people, but he ignored it as he laughed at the hosts’ jokes and his hyung’s antics. For a while he even forgot why he had been so nervous- so anxious- until one of the hosts spoke again. Jeongguk’s stomach dropped when he spotted a flurry of people sprinting across the darkened stage.

In the darkness he could see the shine of a drum set, the faint outline of guitars.

“And now, here all the way from America for their South Korea debut,” she paused and her and her partner turned to wave a hand towards the main stage, “and to promote their newest album ‘A Heart Unchained’, is dollHouse.” There was a rush of voices from the crowd but the fans around the stage kept surprisingly quiet, if not a bit restless. There had been talk online of which songs the band would perform but the members hadn’t given a single hint on or offline. Jeongguk wouldn’t admit that he’d scrolled through endless Tweets just to read the fan theories.

The soft sound of a piano echoed through the room, a single guitar string reverberated in the background. The lights slowly lifted and brightened, and the figures on the stage came into view: a tall dark haired man with a guitar in his hands, a shorter blonde behind a keyboard (with a bass slung behind him) that swayed to the soft notes and a woman behind the set that tapped out a soft rhythm. Front and center was a tall man with vibrant blue hair cut into a neat undercut, in an asymmetrical skirt layered over leather pants.

Taehyung.

Stigma was one of the first songs Taehyung ever wrote, completely by himself that is. When he’d first moved to America, before Haneul had snagged him that small coffee shop job, he’d spent what free time he didn’t spend exploring- writing. It had been an outlet he hadn’t known he’d needed at the time. 

After he’d started busking Haneul had suggested they use the lyrics during one of their performances, but he’d shut that idea down pretty fast. America was incredibly tolerant in comparison to his home country, but a different environment didn’t change what he’d had shoved down his throat everyday since birth. Even the memories of a loving relationship did nothing to persuade him. He’d eventually convinced them to look at some other songs, and that was that. It would get shoved into a drawer and forgotten about for several years.

It took another two years after their first full length album before they made a second one, and Haneul had taken one look at his lyric book and declared that it was time. It had been hard, to put it lightly, to put it together. He would spend hours and hours staring at the screen with no idea on how to put sounds to the words he’d hurt so deeply over. They’d solidified themselves as a rock band, with strong soul influences, but it was a definite change of pace to create something so soft . His voice had become accustomed to power ballads, strong vocals for stronger beats, and then Jackson had made it even harder and forced him to sing in an even lower register.

Soul for the ears, he had said. Taehyung had threatened to spit in his coffee.

However, he had to admit that through the tears and frustration, they’d made the song he’d always wanted to write. An apology, a confession, and the cry for help he’d always wanted to make.

“How do you feel?” Haneul asked softly. They stood shoulder to shoulder as they stared out over the darkened stage. There was a buzz in the air that made his hair stand on end and he nervously rubbed at the back of his neck across the freshly cut hair. “Stop touching your hair, you look great.”

“I feel like I’m going to throw up.” He shifted to messing with the in-ear monitor and Haneul rolled his eyes but didn’t argue. “Everything changes today.”

“The only thing that changes is that you’ve finally said what you need to say.” His friend moved to stand in front of him and grabbed him by the elbows. His dark eyes made Taehyung freeze but his expression softened into a smile that made Taehyung release a harsh breath between his teeth. Haneul’s eyes seemed to shine in the darkness as he stared him down. “You’re going to go out there and sing your ass off, just like you always do. You’re going to pour out everything you’ve ever wanted to say, and then we’re going to get japchae.” 

There wasn’t time for Taehyung to respond as there was a burst of chatter behind them and they were suddenly rushed towards the stage, but he knew the wide smile on his face said it all. They walked to their marked places on the stage; his hands found the microphone stand and he turned his face to the ground as they heard the host’s speak and joke with one another. One of the staff held up a hand and they held their breath in anticipation, and then the hand dropped and the cameras zoomed in. There wasn’t a video to introduce them, or a skit to show to break the tension. It was just them, and the music.

Nico started, with Haneul close behind, and he waited for the sharp rimshots from Paris before he sighed softly into the microphone. “I’ve been hiding it, I’ve to tell you something…” The words rang through the air, and he could already hear voices singing along with his own. When the album had first launched the internet had gone crazy with fan theories of what, or who, the song was about. It had been widely accepted as a coming out song, which he’d never officially confirmed or denied. Who was he to take that from someone? Now, he pushed the heavy feeling of guilt, of self hatred, into his voice and let it carry into the second verse. “Now cry, it’s only that I’m very sorry towards you…”

As they entered the hook he pulled the microphone from its stand and started to make his way away from the others. The lights followed him down the catwalk like path and he made eye contact with the crying fans, he couldn’t help but point and smile at some of the signs they held above their heads. The music swelled around him and as his sang he felt his worries melt away, the words he’d always wanted to say left out in the open for interpretation, an invitation.

“Stop crying and tell me something, tell me who has no courage...why were you like that to me then?” He let his voice drop as he whispered into the microphone, and the crowd screamed in response and echoed along with him. “I’m sorry.”  It was then that his eyes found it: those dark eyes he still dreamed about. The jacket was new and expensive and the hair was different, but those damn eyes were the exact same.

He hadn’t expected to actually see him in the crowd, as silly as it sounded, but there he was in all his glory. The man’s eyes widened and he could tell even from his distance that he was genuinely shocked to see him, maybe even had been since the spotlights had caught him. The jolt of the music kicked him from his trance and he let the words continue to spill out of him. “Deeper, my chest hurts everyday for the feeble you who received punishment for my crime.”

With a hand pointed out towards the crowd he let them sing the next verse, the ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry’ that echoed in his heart. His feet carried him back towards the band and Haneul flashed him a grin as he slipped the microphone back in the stand. He let them sing until, “Please dry my eyes,” the falsetto that carried up into the register he never used, a range that he’d been told for so long didn’t suit his voice, and there was a wave of screams as he held the note. “Please punish me, please pardon my crime, please.”

The lights dropped, and as darkness draped over them they could see the audience jump up, clapping, whistles on their lips as the fans chanted their name.

“He looked at me.” His voice was soft, and Jimin leaned over with a look of wide eyed concern. When he looked down he could see his fingers shake and he curled them into fists to hide his nervousness. “He looked straight at me.”

“I don’t think he could see you from that far away, Guk.” His hyung said quietly but he shook his head. He didn’t need a reassurance, and he didn’t need to be convinced. Taehyung had turned and locked eyes with him, and nothing would convince him otherwise. There was nothing to disguise the way his eyes widened when he’d finally seen him.

“You couldn’t feel it, or see his face. He saw me.”

“What are you going to do about it?” The large screens on the stage were playing some sort of video in between the songs, the band’s faces flashed across the screen with a strange melody in the background. Snapshots of them on tour, at other award shows, in their daily life. “Guk?” Jimin leaned in again but Jeongguk only shook his head again and tapped Namjoon on the arm.

“I need to see him.”

Chapter Text

The heavy beat in his ears was a welcome change to the heartfelt words he’d spilled into the microphone. The familiar buzz he got from performing flooded his veins and any lingering anxiety vanished with the feedback from the fans.  The crowd was amazing, and they could see the attendees of the show cheering as well; a look to the others behind him told Taehyung that they felt the same rush he did. He let the rhythm of the song, the heavy melody, wash over him and he let the words flow out of him.

 Critics had called Stigma ‘an anthem for the downtrodden’ but Handshake was the ‘theme of a generation’; ‘We Had a Secret Handshake, Do You Remember It’ was what he’d not-so-subtly named it. It spoke of lost love and missed memories, and Taehyung had been endlessly praised for not only his impactful lyrics but also the soul wrenching music that filled the spaces in between. In their first interview after the album had dropped they had been asked about who it was for, and Taehyung had given the same answer he always did: the one he’d pushed away.

His eyes drifted over the crowd but they inevitably traveled back to the group of six he couldn’t tear his attention away from. He couldn’t look away, and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that they couldn’t either. Although, one specific pair of eyes never once left his own. Eyes that used to stare at him as if he’d hung the stars in the sky.

The song came to an end too fast and he bowed deeply at the head of the stage, his best friends on either side of him. As the cameras rolled away from them he lifted the microphone back to his mouth and smiled. “Thank you Seoul, it’s been an honor.” The Korean was a welcome familiarity after the frequent use of English in his daily life, and he couldn’t help but laugh when the others stumbled through their own ‘thank you’s before they hurried backstage.

No matter the venue or the concert it was always a rush to get changed after a performance. They had clothes to get out of, hot water to use up, and now Taehyung had a group of boys to potentially seek out or avoid.

The heels of his boots clicked across the shiny floor and his skirt swished around his legs as they hurried towards their dressing room. He wasn’t blind to the upturned noses and sneers from other staff and stylists as they passed, but he was long past giving a shit about how other people thought of him. However, he couldn’t help but sigh in relief when he stripped off the layers as soon as they’d entered their fashion disaster of a dressing room. The heat from the lights had soaked into his skin and the burst of cool air from the air con made him shiver, but it was a pleasant change from the slowly building layers and layers of sweat.

“I didn’t think it would be so crazy!” Nico was as hyped up as ever and they all watched in amusement as he jumped up and down in place. His arms waved as he talked and Taehyung snorted when he nearly knocked over one of the makeup artists as they tried to blot his face, “I mean, we did the AMAs and this was nothing like that!”

“To be fair, I’m known a little differently here.” Taehyung shrugged, and the other two nodded in agreement.

“I’ve watched this on TV before with my parents,” Haneul’s voice was muffled as he was wiggled into a turtleneck by a staff with thick glasses, “and it’s always a bit of a party.” He huffed once it had been yanked over his hair and ambled over to his makeup chair. “I wasn’t too surprised.”

“Taehyung-ssi, what do you think about this?” One of the women pulled his attention away and he stared at the garment that hung off her arm. He had already stuffed himself into a different pair of suffocatingly tight leather pants as she held a silky blouse that looked like it might slip off his shoulders from the wide neckline, but that wasn’t what surprised him.

There was a train attached, the cut similar to the skirt he’d worn, and it was long enough that there were no questions that it was a skirt. The high-low cut would flatter his broader figure but still give him a feminine appearance, something that had become a sort of calling to his more androgynous on-stage and off-stage appearance (really, it was more of a lifestyle choice at that point). “Is this okay?” She asked curiously and he laughed loudly with a smile bigger than he’d been able to give in a long time.

“That’s gorgeous- please don’t tell anyone if I steal this later.” She giggled but handed it over anyway and then he was surrounded by women. The makeup artists fussed over his foundation as he pulled the shirt on (and he was right, it did hang off his shoulders a bit) and a more comfortable pair of chelsea heels. There was really only so far he could go while in the public eye, but over the years he’d grown more used to pushing the boundaries and their fans had come to expect his rapid disregard for gender norms in fashion. As soon as they were dressed, a long open coat thrown over his shoulders, he pushed his hair from his eyes and they were ushered back into the hall.

There was only the mindless chatter of the staff around them before Haneul nudged him in the ribs. “Taehyung, three o’clock.” Haneul muttered and he looked up in confusion. When he only jerked his head to the side he turned over his shoulder, and his breath caught in his throat. Blood rushed to his head and he came to a sudden stop when his feet stopped working.

One of the staff turned to grab him but Haneul was quick to distract them. Soon they were alone in the tight hallway and he couldn’t look away.

“You look good.”

It was all he could manage.

His hands moved to pull the edges of the coat tighter around him; he almost wished he’d pushed his arms through the sleeves so he could have covered himself up a bit better.

“Is that all you can say?” Jeongguk’s eyes narrowed but he didn’t seem angry. If anything, Taehyung would have guessed he just seemed… thoughtful. “Almost six years, and that’s all you can say to me?”

Taehyung bit his lip, could taste the fresh lip gloss applied resisted the urge to lick it off in his nervousness.

“Trust me,” his voice cracked, “there is so much I want to say to you, Guk. I-.” He groaned and wrapped his arms around himself tighter, as if he could protect himself from his own worries. “Nothing I can do can make any of this right, and I know I can’t say anything that’ll make you forgive me but I’m so sorry Gukkie.” He looked up just in time to see Jeongguk’s brow furrowed in confusion, eyes wide and searching as he stared at Taehyung’s broken expression.

“Wait, go back, what are you sorry for?” He asked lowly, head cocked slightly. His lips pursed in thought and Taehyung...Taehyung was confused.

He’d envisioned their reunion many different times, in many different scenarios, but he had never imagined this. He’d expected more yelling, maybe even a dramatic turn and a slammed door (late night fantasies had drawn up images of a romantic kisses in Central Park, but those were quickly dismissed). He couldn’t allow himself to go down that rabbit hole. It only ended in disappointment.

“For never saying goodbye like I should have, for never telling you the truth.” Taehyung’s fingers rubbed at the smooth material of his coat and Jeongguk’s eyes tracked the movement. He stared at the ink on his hands and on reflex Taehyung tucked his fingers into fists to hide them. It’d been a while since he’d felt self conscious about his tattoos but there was something so raw about exposing a part of himself to Jeongguk now, after so long.

“They’re pretty.” Jeongguk whispered, and Taehyung blinked. There were so close then that Taehyung could see the color on his lids and where he’d chewed off the tint on his lips. He didn’t know when they’d started to step closer to each other but they were now within arm’s reach. Closer than they’d ever been in almost six years. “Your tattoos, and your clothes: they’re very pretty. Although, really, everything you wear is pretty, to be honest.”

“Oh.” Taehyung’s arm’s dropped as he frowned, limbs heavy with anxiety and confusion in equal measure. “I’m sorry, what’s going on right now?” The idol shuffled his feet for a moment before he stepped in closer, and their shoes just barely touched. “Jeongguk…” His voice shook and he bit down onto his lip to keep himself from babbling nonsense to the other boy. “What’s going on right now?”

“I missed you, Tae.” There was something odd in Jeongguk’s eyes as he reached out, and Taehyung watched with wide eyes as he slowly grabbed his hand. His touch was so gentle, and his fingers softly brushed over his knuckles. His skin tingled with every touch and a shiver raced up his spine and buried itself under his hair. “I have a lot I want to say to you too, and to ask you, but right now I just want you to know I missed you.”

“Jeongguk…” Taehyung sniffed and he didn’t feel like the world famous rockstar the media had built him to be. He didn’t feel like the failed idol who’d found fortune as an international singer. He felt like the seventeen year old boy who’d had the world at the tips of his fingers and a boy with sunlight in his hair in his arms. “I missed you too. I missed you so much.”

“Tay, which one should I wear?” The man in question hummed distractedly, but Paris rolled her eyes when he didn’t look up from his phone. She lowered the shirts in her hands and crossed her arms.  “Tay.” She repeated and he raised his eyebrows, eyes still locked to the screen. “Will you at least pretend to listen to me?”

“Sorry,” He finally pulled his eyes away and he at least had the decency to look properly chastised as he gave her a guilty smile. “What was your question?”

“Well now I want to know what you were looking at.” She set the hangers back down on the rack and stepped closer. Their recent boom of success had pulled in some more money and Paris had strong armed him into helping her find a new dress. Taehyung would openly admit it- and had to Buzzfeed once- but he really didn’t need much persuading to spend money. “Are you clothes shopping... while we’re clothes shopping?” She plucked his phone from between his fingers before he had a chance to pull it away. “Oh...”

“I was just looking!” Taehyung jumped up and ripped the phone away, his face was beet red and she watched as he stumbled around to come up with an excuse. The screen hadn’t locked yet and she could still see the result of his search between his fingers. The young woman modeling a long skirt and a flowery blouse stared up at them from the homepage of an online only store. Paris recognized the name from a fashion magazine she’d read a few weeks before. “Please don’t say anything!” He begged, and then it clicked.

“Were you shopping for yourself, Tay?” She stepped closer and gently set a hand on his shoulder. “You know, you can wear-.”

“Please,” Taehyung stressed, “don’t say anything.” He couldn’t meet her eyes and he quickly shoved his phone back into his pocket. She was almost tempted to do as he asked before she scowled and yanked on his hand. “Paris?”

“No, we are going to talk about this!” She pulled him into the dressing room, thankfully empty, and pushed him into the last room. Gently, of course. He was, as she frequently claimed, a ‘sensitive flower’. “Stay.” Taehyung watched in silence as she shut the door behind her and he didn’t dare move from his spot. She was only gone a few minutes but he still felt a tingle of awkwardness under his skin as he waited for her; as soon as she stepped back into the room he felt his shoulders relax a small bit. “Try this on.” Well, until she revealed what she’d left to grab.

She held out a hanger and Taehyung felt his entire body lock up in shock as he stared at the item in her hands. It was a blouse, that much he could tell at least, but he couldn’t tell what kind of material from his distance. The sleeves were loose and it hung off the hanger without any structure, and the bottom hem was bunched up into a small tie. “That’s a woman’s shirt.” He said slowly, and he took a small step back from her as she pushed the shirt closer. “Paris-.”

“Kim Taehyung, I know where you sleep.” She held up a finger and he was suddenly reminded of the one and only time she’d been asked to wake him up. “Try the damn shirt on.” She didn’t even step out of the dressing room, which really wasn’t an issue on any other day. Due to their crazy touring schedule personal space was a luxury they weren’t always able to afford and they’d seen each other in their underwear more times than they could count. He slowly took the blouse from her hands and methodically undid the buttons of his own shirt. The fabric of what she’d brought him was soft and he rubbed his fingers across the seams before he gingerly pulled it over his head. “Wow.” She whistled and he slapped his hands over his face with a groan.

“This is embarrassing.” His voice was muffled behind his hands but she only shook her head.

“That looks really good on you, Tay.” She smiled and reached out to turn him around. His eyes caught the mirror on the wall first before they registered the bodies in the reflection. He almost didn’t recognize the figure in the glass.

The shirt cinched his waist, and the high-waisted mom jeans he’d pulled on that morning were suddenly wasted on the button up he’d tucked into them that morning. The blouse didn’t touch the top of his waistband and there was a small sliver of space where his stomach showed, but he didn’t feel nearly as exposed as he thought he would. The shoulders he’d thought were too wide for his stature were narrowed with the deep v that showed off his tattoos; his newest piece was a sprawling crosshatch of lace that followed the curve of his collarbones and cupped the base of his throat (his mother hadn’t approved but she hadn’t approved off the last four, so-).

“I look…” He cocked his head and reached up to ruffle his hair, “different.”

Pretty.” Paris argued, and he cracked a small smile. “How do you feel?”

“Wrong.” He shrugged and her expression fell. “Ris, I can’t wear this out of here.”

“The fuck you can’t.” As she crossed her arms with a scowl he was suddenly struck with the thought that she had changed a lot from the straight-laced college student they had met for coffee. She had grown into herself, and he couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride even as his skin burned in embarrassment. “You look amazing. I didn’t even know your waist could look that small. Tell me how you really feel, and don’t you dare lie.”

He looked back to the mirror and carefully adjusted the hem of the shirt.

It was incredibly flattering on him, that much was true even to himself, but he couldn’t deny the feeling in his gut. He’d spent countless hours scrolling through the internet looking at different websites to try and find clothes that would suit him. He’d found pants that could pass as mens, shoes that didn’t look too feminine, and shirts that didn’t hug his figure too closely. Years of tradition and self-imposed restrictions had pressured him to never stray from the norm. In an effort to not bring more shame to his family he’d pushed his own wants to the side, for years and years.

However in front of the dressing room mirror with the dark blue material draped across his body he couldn’t really deny anything in the face of the woman who already knew too much.

“I feel pretty.” He finally said softly, and she beamed. “Paris…”

“If you don’t want to buy it that’s fine,” she started gently, “but if you try to hide something like this again I’m going to be very upset with you. We’re friends, Tay, family. I would never judge you for wanting to be yourself.” She held up the hanger with a pout and poked his shoulder lightly. “But, god damn, can we praise your genetics for a second? Who gave you the right to look this good?”

Chapter Text

“Congratulations on the award, you guys.” The call of the familiar voice made Taehyung smile as he turned, Paris’s arm linked around his own. A very familiar brunette waved as he came closer, a wide smile on his own lips as Taehyung bowed his head in greeting. “I mean, it was obvious who was gonna get it, but you know how it goes.”

Taehyung laughed as Namjoon pulled him into a quick hug, “Hey, hyung,” before he pulled in the other three as well. Nico shot him a wide eyed stare over his shoulder that made him shake his head with another small laugh. Paris and him had complained for hours about the language barrier they had been faced with, although Taehyung and Haneul hadn’t let that stop them from taking advantage of their native tongue. It was almost like talking in a secret language around the other two. That- paired with Nico’s boyish obsession with Bangtan's music- was a match made in comedy heaven. “Thank you, but you know it’s bad to get cocky.”

“Yeah, don’t listen to him.” Haneul waved a hand in the air. “You should have seen him at the Billboards, he wouldn’t shut up about how he knew we’d win.” Namjoon laughed and Taehyung flushed in embarrassment before he turned to the singer again.

“So…”

Taehyung felt his stomach drop at his expression.

“Guk told us he ran into you.” Immediately all eyes turned to him and Taehyung’s smile slipped from his face. There was a pinch in his chest but he felt Paris give his arm a gentle squeeze before he forced a slow breath in. “How’d that go?” The three were familiar with Jeongguk’s name, although he’d maybe only talked about him a handful of times. At least the times he could remember.

“I mean, we got interrupted by staff before we got a chance to talk.” He shrugged as if it didn’t bother him, but they all knew better. The talk with the other boy had been cut too short- Taehyung’s name had been called not long after Jeongguk had taken his hand. He could still feel the phantom brush of his fingers over his knuckles, tracing the ink on his skin, even hours later. His skin prickled as he shifted the award in his hands.

“Well, if you want…” Namjoon trailed off and Taehyung looked up just as he moved to the side. There was a pause and he stared at the rapper in confusion until there was a sudden burst of noise. A large group of people turned the corner, guards and managers and stylists alike, and an all too familiar group of men came into view. There was a nudge from behind him as a familiar leash was pressed into his hand, and he could feel a firm palm press between his shoulder blades.

He couldn’t look away from the approaching group, couldn’t even look down at Simon as he licked his fingers and pressed his head into the palm of his hand.

“Tay, deep breaths.” Nico said softly as they got closer, and he nodded jerkily. Deep breaths, he could do that. He tried to follow the suggestion, he really did. Their obvious nervousness only fed into his own and he quickly found himself sinking. His hands and his vision shook, the colors and sounds around him distorted. “Tay!”

He was pulled to the surface, but he was still drowning. Every movement felt waterlogged, his thoughts sluggish, his breaths uneven and strangled. His eyes couldn’t focus and the shapes in front of him were just that: shapes. Faceless, colorless blobs.

Taehyung gasped, and his body swayed as he quickly lost his balance. The award was gently pried from his fingers and the hand at his back guided him to the floor. Someone might have called his name again but he couldn’t focus. There was a solid weight across his legs and familiar hands slowly guided his arms to wrap around the mass that settled on top of him; it was soft, and warm, and he could feel a heartbeat much calmer than his own. 

Time wasn’t a factor in his mind as he choked on his own breaths, as his heart thumped wildly in his chest.

There was a pressure on his back that slowly dragged up to his shoulder and back down to his hips. “Breathe, Tay,” a soft voice broke through the static in his head, “Simon is here, we’re here, just breathe. In...and out…” The voice moved their hands in time with their words and his panic ebbed ever so slightly. “There you go, in and out, hun.” The soft pressure on his lap never moved but he could feel something wet press against his fingers. “Good boy, Simon.” The voice cooed.

Eventually, he breathed, slowly. The colors around him had started to even out and he could finally differentiate the voices. His eyes lifted to meet the faces that had crowded around him and he knew his favorite drummer was at his back. They hadn’t come too close but he still tightened his grip on the doberman in his lap for the security. He felt too sensitive, too raw. Like all of his nerve endings were exposed and he’d taken a bath in battery acid. “Hey, Tay.” Taehyung turned slowly and Paris’ red lips smiled softly at him. “How do you feel, hun?”

“Like shit.” He croaked out in English, and there was a burst of startled laughter around them. He stretched his legs out, as they had fallen asleep from the dog’s weight, and a firm hand helped pull him to his feet. Almost immediately the blood rushed to his brain and he felt a wave of dizziness sweep over him. “Fuck,” he pressed a palm to his brow with a low groan. The bright lights felt like drills to his brain and the weight on his chest had slowly started to morph and slide down into a more violent nausea, “I’m sorry.” He whined.

“Don’t you dare apologize, Taehyung.” He couldn’t have forgotten who was standing around him and he looked up to see Namjoon frown. The rapper shook his head and held a hand to his chest. “I was the one who jumped the gun: I’m sorry.”

“We are too.” A soft voice filtered in from the back of the crowd (he pointedly ignored the idols and staff that hadn’t stopped staring from the moment he’d been pushed to the floor). Jimin weaseled his way to the front and Taehyung was surprised to see tears in his eyes, the shadow on his lids smudged like he’d tried too hard to wipe them away. “We pushed Namjoon hyung to find you so we could talk. I didn’t think… we didn’t think about how you would feel. We just wanted to see you, we’re sorry.”

“You can’t anticipate when I have a panic attack.” Taehyung groaned and tried to shade his eyes. He desperately wanted to crawl under the sheets in a pitch black room but he couldn’t leave just yet. “I haven’t had one in a while, but I have Simon for a reason, Chim.” Jimin’s eyes widened at the nickname but Taehyung only squeezed his eyes shut. “Fuck, I feel like I’m going to throw up.” He gasped, and Haneul pressed in close to his side. “I’m sorry, I need to go. Get my number from hyung.” There was so much more he wanted -needed- to say but his head felt like a cannonball ready to fire.

However as he went to stumble away his eyes cracked open and he immediately locked eyes with the doe eyed boy in the back, and he knew he could survive saying one more thing. He had Simon’s leash in one hand but he lifted the other, visibly shaking, and almost like he’d felt his mental call Jeongguk pushed past Yoongi and Jimin. His palm landed gently on the boy’s face and for a moment they just stared at each other.

He could ignore the fire behind his eyes for just a moment longer.

“I promise to text you back this time.” He mumbled and Jeongguk’s lips curled into a shy smile. Then, with an awkward step closer, he pressed his own lips to his cheek. “I promise.”

Jeongguk’s breath hitched and he could feel his tiny gasp in their close proximity against his skin. There was a louder gasp behind him but neither of them reacted to it. “Get some sleep, hyungie.” The idol said softly, and Taehyung let Nico wrap an arm around his waist to slowly pull him back. His head was killing him, and he would probably puke when he got back to their hotel, but he could keep his eyes open longer if he got to see that enlightened expression on his love’s face.

hey hyung, namjoon hyung

gave us your number

The familiar beep of a new text was muffled but loud enough to crack his eyes open; he huffed as he dug under his pillow for his phone and squinted at the screen. There was really only one person it could be, and the ‘hyung’ gave it away immediately. He smiled into the pillowcase as he pulled up his messages and typed out a response one handed. Simon was spread across the back of his knees and he didn’t have the heart to make him move even as he felt pins and needles in his legs.

Hi Gukkie, you’re texting

me pretty early, what’s up?

All things considered, he was surprised when the response was almost immediate.

so are you

how are you feeling?

If this is about my panic

attack,I’m fine.

I’ve had them before, I just

Get really tired and light

sensitive, a little nauseous

sometimes

Simon helps.

Almost as if he was called the large dog shifted. Taehyung groaned from the large paw pressed into his back as he sat up from the bed and climbed over him to get to the floor. Then there were footsteps outside of his hotel room just before the lock clicked and the door cracked open.

“Hey, Tay.” Nico popped his head around the corner and Taehyung leaned up on his elbow. He was sure he looked like a hot mess but between touring and general life it showed just how much worse Taehyung had looked in the past when Nico didn’t even bat an eye, or offer a sarcastic quip. “We’re going to go get some food, do you want us to take Simon out or leave him here with you?”

“Uh, leave him here.” He rubbed at his eyes as he went through his mental schedule. “I think I might step out later. Have fun.” He tacked on and Nico rolled his eyes goodnaturedly. 

“Be safe, frangin. ” He smiled and blew a joking kiss into the air before he stepped back and shut the door. Simon stretched out and plopped down onto the rug by the door.

doesn’t mean i can’t ask, hyungie

A warmth he hadn’t felt in years bloomed in his chest and he couldn’t stop the bright smile that pulled his lips back. The familiar honorific made him giggle into his sheets before he rolled over onto his back.

I know, Gukkie. Thank you.

He paused with his finger over one of his favorite heart emojis, before he changed his mind and dropped his phone back onto the bed. Taehyung groaned as he pushed himself upright and raked his fingers through his hair before he propelled himself towards the bathroom. The others usually gave him crap for how much time he’d spend in front of the mirror in the morning but there was a sense of peace that always, without fail, settled his nerves as he went through his morning routine.

However he was jolted out of his trance-like state when he heard another ping from his phone. There was toothpaste smeared across his mouth and his toothbrush was still between his teeth as he stared down at the surprisingly lengthy text.

i don’t know if you want to, but

we’re all going to get breakfast

together in like a half an hour

and i think everyone really wants

to see you? i know we didn’t start

off well the other day, but i know

i at least want to talk to you?

it’s just been so long and i really

really really want to see you- i’m

sorry that sounds really needy.

sorry.

There was a pause as Taehyung read through the message before another popped in beneath it.

i think we all have things we

need to say.

He stared at the words for awhile as he stepped back into the bathroom to rinse his mouth off.

The message was left unanswered for several minutes and he waited until he’d pulled a snapback over his messy hair and he had strapped Simon’s service vest on before he opened his phone again. The doberman sat patiently next to him, now aware that he was working as Taehyung slowly stood up.

Send me the location.

There was a split second of silence before a small map and tiny red pin appeared.

I hope they’re okay with dogs.

It was nice to walk around Seoul after so many years away. New York was busy, and he considered it home now, but there was something about being back that made his heart warm and the smile on his face genuine. His appearance pulled a few looks from people on the street, and he was sure the bodyguards around him had garnered him too much attention but he wanted to enjoy the weather, damn it. He refused to be driven around when his legs worked. Besides, dollHouse wasn’t as popular in Korea and it was doubtful he’d be spotted in the first place.

The small restaurant wasn’t too far, and one of the men that walked with him hurried ahead to pull the door open for him as they got closer. “Thank you.” He bowed and Simon trotted happily alongside him. The hostess greeted him with a wide smile, and a cute wave to Simon, but he quickly held up a hand when she went to grab a menu. “I’m here to meet some people.” She nodded and one of the guards pointed towards the back of the building where he could see a small group of boys pushed into a booth.

“Taehyung!” A broad shouldered man stood from the table and he gently tugged Simon along as they weaved between the tables. “Jeongguk said you’d show up, but we didn’t know how long it’d be so we already ordered.” Seokjin gave him a small apologetic smile and he held up a hand again.

“You’re fine, Seokjin hyung.” They shuffled around so he could sit at the empty seat and he tucked the end of the leash under him as he settled down; Simon laid over his feet as he usually did in more cramped spaces. “It’s nice to see all of you again.” He said as he bowed his head. He didn’t need to look at the menu Jin handed to him but he grabbed it anyway for something to occupy his hands, and to distract him from the awkwardness in the air.

“You don’t need to act so uptight, kid.” Yoongi mumbled around his fork. “It’s just breakfast.”

“It’s more than that, and you know it.” Taehyung huffed and he pushed his bangs out of his face as he turned to the woman who’d hurried over to take his order.

There were a few older men a couple tables away that gave him a dirty look when he pulled his hat and jackets off, once the ink on his body was revealed. When they’d had first landed, and when they’d performed, he’d done the best he could to cover most of the color on his skin. Now that they didn’t have cameras in their face he’d opted for the most casual outfit he’d brought with him and a bare face.

“Whoa, you have...way more tattoos than I thought you did. Do they get edited out of your photos?” Hoseok leaned in close and grabbed his hand to look closer. Taehyung flinched at the sudden movement but he was pretty sure he hid it well as he spread his fingers to show off his ink. “Did they hurt?”

“I got needles pushed into my skin, and you want to know if it hurt?” Taehyung laughed, grateful for the small distraction. “Of course it hurt, though my ribs hurt the worst.” He patted the spot where the small garden on his skin sat and Hoseok perked up. “I’m not taking my shirt off, hyung.” He rolled his eyes before the older man could even suggest it.

“Damn.” Jeongguk whistled and Taehyung flushed in surprise. “Breakfast: ruined.” Taehyung looked at him with wide eyes but the maknae only gave him a small grin and ducked his head back down to shovel more food into his mouth.

“Yah, brat.” Namjoon reached over and smacked him lightly on the head. “Don’t make him uncomfortable.” He said with a sigh and then leaned back in his chair. “So what’s the plan for you today, Tae?” An easy start, Taehyung thought, and he felt his shoulders sag in relief.

The singer hummed and sipped at his water as he mentally ran over their itinerary. “Nico said they were going out to eat too, and I think they might go sightseeing. I was gonna call my parents later and see about going to visit them.” He shrugged and crossed his arms. “Might as well take advantage of being here since I haven’t seen them since I moved.” There was an awkward silence that settled over the table at the sudden reminder and Taehyung shifted in his seat.

“I’m sorry.” Taehyung’s head shot up and his eyes widened as Yoongi dropped his fork onto his plate. “I shouldn’t have said what I did- how I did- when you left. I was just...so angry when you left. We were just starting out and it was like we were going to lose our chance if one of us quit-.” He cut himself off and rolled his shoulders with a heavy sigh. “I was being selfish, but you remember don’t you? How hard it was?” He hadn’t seen Yoongi outside of promotional shoots in the last several years, but he didn’t think he’d ever seen the man look so defeated.

Then it was like a shadow fell over Taehyung’s body, and they watched as he sunk into his seat and a hand crawled up to his hair. He didn’t want to remember but… they needed to know. They deserved to know why he left.

He deserved to know why he left.

“Tae?” Jimin kept his voice soft as he leaned around Hoseok with furrowed brows.

He waited as the waitress brought him the food he’d ordered, before he let his hands drop to his lap and he looked up to the ceiling.

Simon pressed against his legs and he took a deep breath.

“None of you should be apologizing to me.” He finally said. “I’m the one who didn’t tell you why I ran.”

“Taehyung, we already went over this,” Namjoon reached over the table but he pushed his chair back on instinct. He looked away when Namjoon’s face fell in disappointment. “You don’t have anything to apologize for-.”

“Don’t act like you fucking know what I’m talking about!” He suddenly snapped in English, and there were a few gasps of surprise. They seemed to get the gist of what he’d said and Jeongguk frowned as he leaned in closer. “Don’t act like you know.”

“Because you won’t tell us!” He stayed in Korean and Taehyung glared. “Just, please explain. Please?” Jin reached over and gently grabbed his hand but stayed silent as he watched and listened. The others ignored the food on their plates and Taehyung’s leg bounced under the table. Simon pressed his face into his knees and he reached down to gently stroke behind his ears in an attempt to calm himself down. “Taehyung, whatever your reason we have nothing to hold against you. We won’t get angry, and we won’t hate you, we just want you to be happy.”

“We’ve been huge fans of yours since you did that song with hyung.” Jimin chirped and Taehyung raised an eyebrow in surprise. “He showed us some of your music, and we’ve all been kind of closet stans ever since.” It was an attempt to break the tension and Taehyung appreciated the attempt. They seemed to realize he needed a moment and they took the bait he offered.

As he listened to them chatter amongst themselves about his music, there was a sense of determination that settled over him, bolstered his resolve, and he straightened up in his chair. “Do you remember S-.” He stuttered over the name- like his brain didn’t want to speak or acknowledge it, didn’t want to talk about anything that had only ever been explained during therapy over many, many months, “S-sangmin?” His sudden interruption caused them to quiet down and all eyes to swing towards himself.

“Sangmin?” Jimin frowned and Taehyung violently flinched back, Hoseok gasped and reached out to wrap an arm around him but he held up his hands, ripping out of Jin’s grasp.

“Please don’t,” he begged, “don’t touch me right now.” Hoseok’s eyes were wide but he did lean back into his chair with a slow nod. He made himself breath in, hold it, and release in an effort to force his brain to relax.

“He covered for Seijin during that one vacation, right?” Seokjin interjected and Taehyung nodded, even as he briefly shut his eyes at the flash of memories. “He left not long after you did, only a few weeks later.” Taehyung could see the wheels turning in Namjoon brain as he shifted in his seat. “I remember him being really strict, I don’t think I’d ever gone to the studio so many times in a week.” It was an attempt at humor, but it fell flat and Taehyung felt his skin crawl.

“He attacked me.”

There it was. He blurted it out and the sudden silence was almost deafening. Jeongguk’s eyes were wide and he could see a dawning horror on everyone else’s face. “He, he would corner me after practice, a-and he would throw me to the ground, and-.” Tears of shame and frustration burned his eyes and he covered his face. “God, I haven’t talked about this in so long...He always said I wasn’t good enough, and that I needed to try harder. Even the choreographer agreed that I wasn’t doing well enough, and he always brought up how well you guys were doing, and…” He cut himself off from his spiraling rant and took a deep breath, so deep it almost seemed to rattle in his chest.

“Oh my god, Taehyung, why didn’t you say anything?” Yoongi demanded but Taehyung could only cry harder, he pressed his palms against his eyes as if that could stop the flow of tears down his face. “Why didn’t you tell anyone about this?” This was the disappointment he’d always feared he’d receive and his chest ached as his shoulders shook.

“I did!” He cried and lowered his hands, they’d gathered the attention of a few tables around them but he could see one of his security step closer to partially block their view. “I didn’t tell anyone for a while because I was so ashamed that I let it happen, but when I left that night I really did go see my parents and I told them, and then we had a meeting with Bang-PD-nim... and all he did was pay for my silence.” Now he just felt angry at the memory, the memory of the packet of paper he’d signed to end his contract and the hefty check he’d been given as ‘compensation’. “He gave me money to not press charges, and I took it and left.”

“He paid you to shut up?” Namjoon was angry, and Taehyung didn’t blame him. “That would explain why he left so soon after you did, what the fuck.” For once their small age difference seemed so much bigger and Taehyung could see the leader the internet had always raved about online.

“Is that everything though, Taehyung?” Hoseok crossed his arms and Taehyung suddenly realized that he was actually one of the youngest at the table; it was unfamiliar ground to not be one of the elders in a conversation. Their protectiveness over their maknae bled over to him, and it wasn’t unwanted.

“I…” His eyes unwillingly flickered over to the youngest and Jeongguk’s expression dropped. “He, uh, he threatened Jeongguk.” The man looked absolutely crushed at the admission and Taehyung wiped at his eyes roughly. “He found out...about our relationship and he just snapped. A-after one of our comeback performances,” Taehyung took another deep breath, the memories were able to pull him in like a riptide but he forced himself to continue, “he cornered me backstage and pulled me into one of the bathrooms. I screamed and I-I cried, and I tried to fight back but no one came and he said that he was s-so disappointed in me and that he couldn’t believe a, "Oh god, “couldn’t believe a slut like me had made it so far.”

There were gasps and pale faces all around the table, and a choked sob from Jimin. “He said he’d tell everyone we were dating, Gukkie,” He cried and locked eyes with the boy on the other side; Jeongguk looked horrified and sick to his stomach, like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing, “you were so young and you were so good - I couldn’t be the reason that Bangtan failed! I couldn’t be the reason you couldn’t make it!”

“Taehyungie,” Seokjin’s voice was soft and brittle, like he didn’t want to say what he was going to next, “when I found you that night in the kitchen…”

“It was then.” He gripped the table cloth tightly. “Just a few hours before. I took a shower and scrubbed my skin raw but I could still feel him and I could still smell him on my clothes. I grabbed one of your hoodies, Hoseok hyung, when I got home and I tried to ignore it but it was so hard.” He didn’t have any more tears to shed but his eyes burned in an attempt. “Someone found me backstage and drove me to the hospital. I got t-tested, but I didn’t press charges.”

“Oh my god.” Simon took that moment to stand up and lift his upper body onto Taehyung’s lap in response to the tears he couldn’t stop. They could all get a good look at the dark blue vest wrapped around his torso as he licked at his face, the words ‘do not touch, working” were emblazoned across the side with the large letters “PTSD” at the top of the patch. “Is that why you have a service dog?” Namjoon nodded towards Simon and he looked down at the large dog with surprisingly expressive eyebrows.

“My therapist recommended that I get one, and I got placed with Simon.” He let the dog lick at his hands as he silently counted his inhales and exhales. He pushed him back down to the floor when he felt his nerves even out; his hands still tingled a bit and his vision was a little blurry around the edges but he didn’t feel like he was going to pass out at any second. He could stay strong a little longer.

“We need to talk to Bang-PD-nim.” Jeongguk suddenly demanded and all eyes snapped to him. “This is wrong.”

“Jeonggukkie, there’s nothing you can do.” Taehyung slowly reached a hand out and Jeongguk quickly leaned in to lace their fingers together on the table. “I appreciate that you want to, I don’t know, yell at him or something but it’s been almost six years . Any more time I spend thinking about that monster is time wasted.”

“TaeTae…” He almost pouted and Taehyung smiled gently, he lifted his free hand and cupped his jaw gently. Such a beautiful, beautiful soul he had. Taehyung could almost ignore the others around them as they stared at each other. He could almost pretend the six years apart had never happened as he slowly swiped a thumb across his cheek.

“It’ll be okay, Gukkie. I’ve been working through this for a very long time. I have friends that help me, I have fans that try to understand me- and I finally got to talk to all of you.”

“You’ll always have us, Tae.” Jeongguk pressed a kiss to his knuckles, and that was when the other boys finally gagged. Taehyung wiped the remnants of his tears from his face as the idol pressed another kiss to his palm. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Chapter Text

It took nearly a year of seeing a psychologist before the topic of a service dog was brought up.

Dr. Ballard was a god send but it had become obvious to both of them that his recovery had begun to plateau. He’d tried journaling, breathing techniques, and he’d even tried hypnotism when his nightmares had gotten out of control. He’d protested, at first, the application for a “crutch” like a service dog (he distantly remembered screaming something about being a ‘public fuck up’ in one of his sessions). However, and he hated to admit it, after a few too many nights spent with Haneul in his bed in an attempt to quell his uncontrollable crying whatever they had done before just wasn’t enough.

He needed more help.

He still had the check from BigHit, in a savings account he hardly looked at, and after several meetings with the psychologist and a few phone calls to breeders he was in front of a woman with a bright smile and a leash in her hand.

“Hi, are you Taehyung?” Her pronunciation was wildly off but he only nodded and held out a hand to shake. “I’m Natalie, it’s great to meet you! This is Simon.” They both looked down as she patted the head of the large dog next to her. He couldn’t help but coo and crouch down to pet him. The dog’s tail started to wag but it was so short his whole body just wiggled in excitement. “He’s been in training for several months now.” Natalie said and Taehyung giggled when he lunged forward and licked his face.

“You’re so cute!” He cooed and Simon pressed his face under his jaw. “Whoa-,” his weight pushed him over and they both toppled to the ground.

“I think he likes you, Taehyung!” She laughed and he grinned. It had been awhile since he’d laughed so genuinely and the tension in his body relaxed as the large dog wiggled in his lap.

“You can call me Tay.” He said with a big smile, and she kneeled down next to him.

“Well, Tay, I think you just found your new best friend.”

It had surprised him at first when she’d pulled a clipboard out of nowhere and held it out towards him, at least until she’d revealed that Dr. Ballard had actually been in contact with them for several months. Simon had been one of the dogs in question to show him, but Taehyung couldn’t deny that when he walked around their small gymnasium with the heavy leash in his hand it just felt right. Natalie walked with them slowly and went over the basic commands Simon knew, she went over what he was trained to deal with and what to expect from having a psychiatric service dog.

“It’s not a cure-all,” She shuffled through some papers, “but there's too much proof out there to say that an assistance animal doesn’t help.” She paused and looked up with a gentle smile. “I, uh, I really hope he helps, he’s a great dog.”

The surprise of having people genuinely worried about his well being had never worn off. Between his friends, his psychologist (and even some of his management), he was usually surrounded by well wishers. Sometimes he had to sit in silence for a few hours and just think about how much his life had changed in just the last year alone.

“Are you ready to work, Simon?” She giggled as the doberman spun in circles and Taehyung’s chest tightened at how cute it was. Adorable. Natalie made sure he had all of his tags and paperwork and when Taehyung mentioned he had the money she lit up and hurried to get everything finished.

Only hours after he’d arrived he stepped outside with Simon; the dog sniffed the ground in interest as Taehyung took a deep breath. He’d been so nervous to get a service dog, with the stigma that followed people that had one, but it was different than he’d imagined. He’d only held Simon’s leash for a couple hours but it was already becoming a security blanket, a tether to his comfort and sense of safety. His phone suddenly buzzed in his pocket and he pulled it out to see new and unread messages in their group chat.

Rizzo

Hey Tay, where are you??

Jackson had an idea for

another of your long ass

song titles

 

French Fry

He said he’d be late to the studio

cause of some therapy stuff

 

Han Solo

Let us know if you need a ride

home bub

Taehyung laughed as Paris went on to send pictures of Jackson’s reactions to the lyrics he’d written a few days before and he tugged on Simon’s leash before they started down the street. He did his best to ignore the looks people gave him as they noticed the dark blue vest as they wandered down to the nearest bench.

Hey I’m in front of that Chipotle

on third if someone would like to

pick me up- I have a surprise

When they pulled up only thirty minutes later, all three piled into Nico’s beat up car, he thought the state’s were might have worth it for their slack jawed expressions. Simon certainly seemed to enjoy the attention as Paris promptly gave him a year’s worth of belly rubs in the backseat.

Less than a month after the MAMAs, dollHouse found themselves on a small break; Taehyung spent the first several days in the kitchen, classical music on in the background as he worked. The smell of ginger hung in the air as he rolled out the dough on the counter. Flour coated both his hands and the rolling pin, and the sink was full of dirty dishes, but he’d never claimed to be a clean baker. He’d never quite gotten the hang of cooking but there was a calmness that came from baking and even if Christmas had just passed their decorations were still up so he still had cookies to make.

“Hey, Taehyung, me and Nico are going to go out to see that new Harry Potter spin-off-whatever-movie,” Haneul ducked into the kitchen as Taehyung hummed. “If you need anything just text me, I’ll keep my phone on.”

If Taehyung had turned around he would have noticed the small smirk on his friend’s face before he turned to head towards the door. As it was he only waved a hand and went back to pressing the dough. “Be safe, the roads are still icy.” He called behind him, but there was only the click of the door and he rolled his eyes. “Ass.” He muttered; he tossed some more flour on the counter before he leaned over to grab the box of cookie cutters. His fingers had only just brushed the cardboard before there was a sharp knock. Taehyung looked down at his feet where Simon laid across the hardwood but he only flicked his ears and he rolled his eyes again. “Hang on!” He called out and slowly wiped his hands off as he stepped around the dog to move towards the door. There wasn’t a peep hole on the door but you had to get buzzed in by security to even be let in past the lobby so he simply flipped the lock and pulled the door open. At first all he saw was ripped jeans and shiny boots and he sighed, “Haneul, I swear to god,” then his eyes drifted up and his mind went completely blank. Oh.

“Hey, TaeTae.” Jeongguk tucked his hands into his pockets and Taehyung couldn’t find any words, his mouth open in stunned silence. “Surprise?” He asked with a tiny smile, just a hint of teeth as he chewed on his lip. His hair looked soft and unstyled and his face was completely bare from makeup, he looked tired from his flight but his eyes were bright. He had a duffel bag on his shoulder that looked like it was about to burst and he still had an airpod in one ear.

“That asshole,” Taehyung breathed, and Jeongguk’s eyes widened-like he thought he was the asshole, “he planned this didn’t he? You both did.” Jeongguk looked a little confused but he nodded slowly. His fingers nervously twisted the strap of his bag around.

“Uh, I got his number when they picked you up from the restaurant? We’ve been texting back and forth.” The idol rocked back on his heels with an awkward smile, expression suddenly more strained than it had been just seconds before. “Was this not okay? I just, I really missed you but I didn’t know what to do and then Haneul came up to me before you drove off and said he’d get in touch-” He was rambling and his eyes looked everywhere but at him. Taehyung could recognize the signs of rising panic anywhere and went to interrupt but Jeongguk only barreled right on past him. “- then he mentioned you guys were going to be on a break for a little while and we’re on a break for a little while, and-.”Taehyung couldn’t watch him flounder any longer.

He didn’t know what possessed him to do so, but he reached out and his fingers curled around the hem of his coat and pulled him close.

Jeongguk squeaked in surprise as he stumbled forward, but there were no protests as their lips met in a soft kiss. Taehyung felt only warmth as he slipped his free hand into his hair. Jeongguk wrapped his arms around his waist, there was a thump as his bag hit the floor, and slowly pushed him back into the apartment. Taehyung’s fingers gently tugged at the longer strands of his hair, a smile on both their faces.

They moved like a well oiled machine, like the time apart had never existed and they’d been kissing for years. Taehyung hummed against his lips and he could feel the other boy’s smile widen as Jeongguk kicked the door shut. “I didn’t think you would want to…” Jeongguk started softly, the palm of his hand trailed slowly up his ribs over his thin shirt and he shivered at the contact, “I don’t want to push you. I don’t want you to...” Taehyung leaned his head back and watched as he bit his lip and looked off to the side again. “I don’t know what I should be doing, Taehyung.” He finally admitted.

“What do you want to do?” He reached up with his free hand and gently cupped his jaw. Jeongguk sighed as he pressed their foreheads together and their faces were so close Taehyung could see the different hues of his ink colored eyes. “I’m not the same person I was six years ago, Guk.”

“Are you saying I am?” He raised an eyebrow and Taehyung cracked a grin.

“Of course not, don’t think I haven’t noticed your muscles you gym rat.” That just made the younger laugh before he tightened his grip on his waist. “I’m just saying that I’m not all bright eyed and bushy tailed like I used to be. I’m practically damaged goods, Guk.” He kept his tone light but Jeongguk shook his head. “Don’t try to deny it, Jeongguk.” He warned. 

“What happened to you doesn’t define you.” Jeongguk whispered and that made Taehyung pause in surprise. “I don’t know anything about your life since you left. I don’t know if you’ve dated or if you still want the same things in life that you used to, but you’re still the same TaeTae to me.” He smiled softly and Taehyung stared. Jeongguk gave him a shy smile and Taehyung couldn’t help but smile back when his adorable overbite popped out.

“So what do you want to do?” He asked again, his fingers pulled through his hair gently and Jeongguk’s eyes fluttered shut for a second. He didn’t have an answer, so Taehyung hummed and changed the question. “Why did you fly all the way here?” The idol opened his eyes at that and shifted to brush Taehyung’s hair out of his eyes.

“Because... I loved you when I was 16 and I loved you when you left, and I love you now and I’ll probably always love you.” Taehyung choked and Jeongguk tilted his head down to press a soft kiss to the corner of his mouth, the warmth from his lips and the shock made his entire body tingle. “I love you with your tattoos and your piercings, and I love you when you write songs about wasting all of your money and about going against the status quo and fuck,” Tears fell from his eyes and Taehyung gasped as they trailed over the curve of his cheek and down his jaw, inked fingers darted up on instinct to brush them away. “I love you when you write songs about me.

“You jerk,” He couldn’t help but cry as well and he buried his face in the idol’s shoulder, his arms wrapped tight around him as his body shook, “who told you I wrote songs about you?” He laughed through his tears and Jeongguk giggled, even if it was a little wet, as they held each other so tightly it was like they worried the other would float away. “Was it Haneul?”

“Namjoon hyung, actually.” He pressed another kiss to his neck and pushed a hand up his back. Taehyung shivered at the pressure, though it wasn't from the anxiety he felt with physical contact. In fact he didn’t feel nervous or uneasy in Jeongguk’s arms at all. “Fuck, I can’t believe I’m holding you right now.”

“You swear a lot more now.” The singer commented and Jeongguk laughed again; they slowly swayed in place as they soaked in each other’s warmth. “We should move to the couch or something,” Taehyung mumbled and he let the younger walk both of them back towards the large black sofa until they both toppled over the edge, Jeongguk twisted so he cushioned their short fall. “This is surreal.” He whispered into his coat and Jeongguk hummed in agreement. He forgot all about the cookie dough still on the counter, or the fact that his bandmates had conspired against him, as he moved to press his ear to his chest. His heartbeat was fast and Taehyung hid his smile in the fabric.

Minutes passed in silence before Simon eventually wandered over, and Jeongguk let him sniff his hand before he flopped down on the floor with a huff. “He’s such a gentle giant.” The younger said quietly as his hand moved back to slowly rub up his back.

“He’s my savior.” Taehyung kept his voice soft and he adjusted so they could lace their fingers together- like they had done at the restaurant weeks before. “I was against getting a service dog at first, but Haneul can’t always be there when I have a panic attack and Simon always is.”

“Like at the MAMAs.”

Taehyung sighed. “Yeah, and you better not blame that on yourself.” He looked up through his lashes and Jeongguk flushed. “Nico triggered one just by opening the door too loudly once, it’s not your fault.” He shrugged. Through medication and therapy his PTSD had gotten significantly better but his lifestyle didn’t allow for routines. It was unfortunate but something as simple as yelling or getting knocked over in a crowd could trigger an attack. It fell quiet again but Taehyung didn’t let it settle and he pushed himself up onto his knees. Jeongguk watched as he grabbed his other hand. “Did you really mean it?” There wasn’t any room for clarifications and Jeongguk squeezed his hands tightly.

“I flew all the way from Seoul just to see you and you want to know if I really love you?” His smile never faded as he tugged their linked hands so that Taehyung dropped back down again. “I would give up everything for you, Tae.” Their second kiss was as warm as the first. Taehyung sighed and mouths parted as their spit-slick lips moved together and Jeongguk pulled their laced fingers to their chest, right over above their hearts. “I love you,” He chanted and Taehyung giggled as he pressed each declaration into his skin, on his cheeks and across his jaw and own his neck. It was surprisingly innocent and Taehyung only tipped his head to the side and let Jeongguk do what he wanted.

“Do you have a hotel to stay at?” Taehyung asked, once Jeongguk had leaned back. He didn’t even have to consider it before he continued. “Do you want to stay here during your break?”

Jeongguk’s eyes widened. “Stay here? Like, live with you?”

“Well I don’t know how long you’re off for but I don’t need to go into the studio for a few more days, and I think Haneul might have a girlfriend he isn’t telling us about. He keeps disappearing during the day.” He shrugged again as if what he offered wasn’t a big deal, and in his current mindset it really wasn’t. “I don’t want you to go, Guk.” He pressed his own kiss to his cheek and Jeongguk grinned. Taehyung didn’t ever want Jeongguk to go.

“I’m not going anywhere, hyung. You can’t get rid of me.”

Chapter Text

On the eve of dollHouse’s release of their second album Paris walked into their apartment crying her eyes out. Taehyung and Haneul had taken one look at her, called up Nico, and pulled her between them on the couch. From that first meeting in that cafe two years before she’d always been reserved and slightly detached from them. Taehyung considered her a close friend but he understood that between the band, and university, she had a lot on her plate.

“What happened?” Haneul was a gentle person, despite his looks, but even Taehyung felt his skin prickle at the furious look on his face. She covered her face and Taehyung slowly slung an arm around her shoulders. “Paris?”

“You were going to see your parents, right?” Taehyung asked quietly but she only seemed to cry harder. “Did they say something?” It had been an unspoken fact that Paris came from an incredibly conservative family; she had never said more about them beyond the fact that her mother was as stereotypically Japanese as she could be and her dad was a typical middle aged white man. Taehyung had never pushed, and the rest had just let the issue die.

“I went to tell them about the album,” She finally croaked, and they scooted closer, “I just wanted them to know that we had actually made something and…”

“What did they say?” Haneul’s voice was tight.

“‘Oh, you’re still playing around’?” She spat out and the mood instantly soured; Nico stepped through the front door just as the words left her mouth. “They just went on and on about how I’m wasting my time, and how I need to finish my degree and everything just sort of snowballed,” she took a deep breath and wiped her eyes, “and then I came out as gay and they kicked me out.” Silence fell over the room and Nico padded over to sit on the floor in front of them.

“What do you mean ‘kicked you out’? Do you need a place to stay?” Taehyung rubbed her back slowly and she shook her head.

“I live in the dorms, so I’m fine until the end of the semester, but,” her expression crumpled, “don’t know what I’ll do after.” She looked over her shoulder at the frontman. “How did your parents react to you coming out?” He blinked at her question, and then frowned. He hadn’t thought about it in a while.

“They weren’t very happy I hadn’t told them I had a boyfriend,” he admitted,  “but don’t take that as a marker. I had some other things going on as well.” He squeezed her shoulder gently. “I’m not an expert by any means, but I’m here for you if you want to talk.”

“I just, I don’t know what to do.” She tried to blink the tears out of her eyes, her lashes were wet and her mascara was smudged under her eyes from where she’d rubbed. “I hate school, and I love this band and I love you guys, but I can’t just...throw away my family?” 

“Why the fuck not?” Haneul had stayed quiet as she spoke but he jumped in as soon as her voice cracked again. “If they don’t support you then they aren’t worth having in your lives. I don’t care if you have to crash on our couch until you can get on your feet, I don’t want you to rely on them.”

Nico reached up and gently grabbed her hands, they watched as he slowly rubbed her knuckles. “I don’t care who it is, I will fight anyone makes you cry again.” He’d always been one of the strong silent types, but they weren’t too surprised to hear the conviction in his voice. It wasn’t a secret that he could be unbelievably protective when the need arose. “Who cares if you like dick or not, or if you want to make music or not. If it makes you happy, then fuck ‘em.” It was a point that had been talked about before- always been Paris had been out of ear shot. It was out in the open now, but it had never been a secret that they had disapproved of the band. 

A few months later Paris had moved onto their living room couch, and she’d officially dropped out from school. She left a voicemail for her parents that had explained why she’d done what she did, and then that night she went out with Nico and they both found a girl they liked. They didn’t show their faces again until well into the next day.

Their second album ‘So Far So Great’ had blown up even more than their first, and they found themselves with more money than they knew what to do with and a tour double the length of the previous. Paris threw herself into each and every performance and after the first week she bought a roll of rainbow tape for each and every one of her sticks. It became a game each show to see just how far she could throw them into the crowd.

Her sudden bout of LGBT representation caused the media to shine on them for a while. Taehyung’s past as a k-pop idol resurfaced again but that time as a ‘gay idol’, which he never argued. He let the rumors run wild and accepted that the sad fact was that where they stood any publicity was good publicity.

Their interviews got more and more personal and it wasn’t long before the topic of relationships popped up and Taehyung and Paris found themselves at the forefront of all of it.

“You four don’t shy away from being placed under the LGBT umbrella, but are you just an ally or more than that?” The sharply dressed blonde woman gave them a picture perfect smile as the cameras focused on their faces. They looked amongst each other to see who would answer the question, but Paris jumped in before they could stop her.

“I’m lesbian, and I always have been.” She said bluntly, and Taehyung couldn’t stop the blinding smile that spread across his face. He shifted to prop a boot on his stool as Nico snorted beside him. “I only came out a little while ago, but I’ve always been a supporter.” The woman didn’t look she had expected a proper answer and Taehyung would have pitied the woman if she hadn’t just taken pot shots at their newest single only five minutes before.

“That’s wonderful, was it hard to come out as a gay woman in a male dominated band?” They all made a face at that and Paris shook her head.

“I don’t really think having three guys qualifies as ‘male dominated’, but it was fine. They’re my brothers, closer than my family, and they’ve got my back through anything.” She glanced over at Taehyung and he grinned and shot some finger guns that made her laugh. “And I’ve got their back too, my sexuality had nothing to do with it.”

“And what about the rest of you?” The woman pretended to look around the three of them, but her gaze centered on Taehyung. 

“Gender doesn’t define love,” Taehyung said shortly, “and I really don’t think that’s important.” He didn’t want to take attention away from Paris’ moment, but as soon as the words left his mouth he cringed. He shouldn’t have said anything, and he could see the exact moment she realized it too.

She took the bait he unwittingly left out. “DollHouse has always had a close relationship with their fanbase, but your dedications in particular have kept people guessing, Tay. Between your Instagram, your albums, and even your awards speeches who is the ‘you’, you mention?”

There was a pop of irritation in his gut, but he should have known someone would eventually call him out on it. He rolled his neck before he sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “I did something really stupid when I was younger. I had one true love in my life, and I let them go. I didn’t fight to get them back. Even without them by my side they’re still the reason I’ve pushed myself to where I am.”

“And who, if I may ask, is ‘they’? Is this a person from your previous career, or someone from school?” He was young, barely twenty, so he knew that she didn’t take his declaration seriously but he still felt irked as he laughed softly.

“Gender doesn’t define love,” he repeated, “but I don’t need to say his name to make a point. He has his own career, his own path, and I have mine.”

“Well said, bub.” Haneul said softly, and the familiar term made his skin warm and his chest tighten; Paris knocked her knuckles against his elbow lightly as the interviewer flushed and looked back down at her notes.

That interview would lead to Paris’s guest appearance on 60 Seconds for a piece on being ‘famous and gay’, the band’s cover of Troye Sivan’s ‘Wild’ (and then their joint performance on AGT), and that episode of Queer Eye where they forced Nico to admit he only looked nice because Taehyung dressed him while they talked about his anxiety. Taehyung kept the facade of being out and confident, as did Paris and Haneul when he outed himself as bi only a year later, but it was hard to keep up a front like that. As a band that had always been vocal about their very liberal views it had been hard to stay out of the spotlight after their album had exploded. With an openly gay frontman and female drummer and songs that didn’t fit the ‘norm’ they’d always been apart of some sort of controversy, true or false. The difficulty of being people of color in the music scene, and successful, had only added to their trouble.

Paris never connected with her parents again and they all felt a bit of that loss every time they had a success, she had no one but them to turn to but they all pulled her in with open arms. Even if Taehyung didn’t have his blood family within reach, he had brothers in Haneul and Nico and a sister in Paris and they had the same from him. When Taehyung was too paranoid to leave the apartment or Haneul’s depression left him in bed for days on end, they could count on the others to barge in and keep them company. They had each other in everything.

Even as they gained fame for all the best and worst things, they had each other.

When Jeongguk was 14, he met the love of his life. It wasn’t anything explosive, and he’d been ignorant of it for a while, but it was what it was. He’d walked into that tiny apartment with one bedroom and the smallest bathroom he’d ever seen and had locked eyes with the boy that would change his world. Taehyung had seen a boy that was out of his element, fresh off the plane from a dance camp in a country he didn’t understand, and had jumped at the chance to become his friend. Jeongguk had taken his hand and never looked back.

As he watched the man doze quietly against his chest while they laid on the couch, Netflix paused on the TV and Simon asleep on the floor, he couldn’t help but think maybe some things were worth it if it always ended with the two of them together.

He was 14 when they met, both too young and gangly with too much false confidence, but he was 16 when he really fell in love. They hadn’t been debuted long and they still performed in shirts that were too big with chains from the dollar store, and all Jeongguk could think about was how much he loved the feeling of Taehyung’s hand in his own. He would step off stage and all he craved at the end of the day was the warmth of Taehyung’s arms as he caged him into a hug. They all shared a bed and a home but Taehyung monopolized his attention at any given time and eventually Jeongguk couldn’t sleep without his breath in his ear or his hand across his waist.

His fingers carded through Taehyung’s faded blue hair as he remembered when he had been talked into dying his hair a bright ass orange; the memory of the older boy as he had pouted while he sat with bleach in his hair in their nonexistent living room made him smile. Taehyung had protested, albeit weakly, to having his hair changed so drastically. Then Jeongguk had made a passing comment about ‘looking good as a blonde’ and he’d caved not long after; the maknae had felt kind of cocky about that for a few days, though he’d felt even better when he’d been proven right later.

“What are you thinking about?” Taehyung mumbled into his shirt. There was a brief moment of silence as Jeongguk adjusted his hold before he sighed softly and nuzzled further into his chest. “Guk?”

“You.” He whispered, and the singer groaned in embarrassment. “‘Thinking about when we met, and falling in love with you.”

Taehyung moved to hide his face with the sleeves of his hoodie and Jeongguk giggled when he blushed. “You’re embarrassing.”

Jeongguk traced the bar in Taehyung’s ear, “You always wanted to make sure I was comfortable, always made sure I was smiling.” He continued and his free hand automatically laced together with Taehyung’s when the singer shifted to lay next to him. “Plus, you’ve always been beautiful so it’s not like that changed. America has been very kind to you.” He teased, but Taehyung rolled his lip between his teeth and sucked on the warm metal.

“Even though I look so different?” Taehyung looked up and Jeongguk frowned in confusion. Other than his style, he didn’t think Taehyung looked any different at all. “I mean, I’m more ink than skin now and I get stopped in metal detectors,” It was a slight exaggeration, but only slight. Taehyung could still remember the only time he’d ever gotten pulled aside by TSA after he’d gotten the dermals on his hips (a tipsy alternative to that tramp stamp Cat had talked him out of).

Jeongguk didn’t see the correlation. “Just because you have tattoos doesn’t change how you are as a person? You’re beautiful inside and out, Tae. Plus, I care more for how you are on the inside than how you look on the outside.” His fingers moved to brush against the kanji that trailed down the side of his neck and Taehyung smiled. “Although, since we’re talking about it- what made you decide to get one? What was your first one?” He hadn’t known of the band when Taehyung had first gotten one, so by the time he’d learned of them Taehyung had already covered quite a bit of skin. It had been a bit of a culture shock to see the ink but he’d never been able to deny how good he looked with them.

“Uh,” He rubbed at his eyes and waved a hand down where their legs were tangled together, “I got a tiny heart on my ankle, after Haneul finally convinced me. It’s really small but I didn’t want to go to a public shop ‘cause we were getting really popular at the time and I didn’t want to get mobbed. She’s really amazing though, and I’ve gone to her for everything since. She’s an enabler.” His hand moved to rub against his side. “Actually, I got a new one a few months before the MAMAs.”

“Really? Can I see it?” As soon as the words left his mouth he could see the panic and surprise in Taehyung’s eyes and he quickly backtracked. “If you’re not comfortable with that, that’s totally okay. You don’t need to show me, Tae.” They hadn’t progressed past cuddling and semi-chaste kissing and he had no desire to push Taehyung. He trusted the other man to know his own limits. He watched as Taehyung chew on his lip, before he pushed himself to his knees and silently tugged his hoodie off. It was actually Jeongguk’s- a Puma jacket he didn’t particularly like- but anything of his automatically looked better on Taehyung, as he’d told the singer when they’d gotten up that morning.

There was nothing enticing about the moment, nothing sexual or arousing, but Jeongguk still felt a bud of warmth bloom in his chest as he realized that Taehyung already felt comfortable enough to show him. He hadn’t been in the apartment long, after all, only a few days. There was something almost earth shattering knowing that Taehyung could show such vulnerability around him.

“It’s for you.” Taehyung lifted an arm to show off the colors on his ribs, and Jeongguk’s eyes widened. The array of flowers that covered his skin were a surprise, although the lace on his chest and the dainty finger tattoos were sort of unconventional as well- against the gender norm, Tae had once said when he’d stepped out in heeled boots and extremely tight leather pants the day before. “I realize now that, that’s kind of creepy.” He added awkwardly but Jeongguk shook his head.

“I don’t think so. Its beautiful, you’re beautiful.” His eyes traced the lines of the flowers, unfamiliar with most of them but he recognized the edges of carnations, and one of them might have been forget-me-nots from his minimal flower knowledge. “Beautiful.” He repeated quietly, and Taehyung’s cheeks reddened. “Do they mean anything?” He looked up at the singer and watched a soft blush travel to his neck and all the way to the tips of his ears. He was so cute, Jeongguk thought faintly .

Inked fingers reached up and he pressed against each of the flowers. “There’s aster for love and daintiness, and cumin for fidelity.” He started softly as he pointed out the smaller flowers. “The pink and red carnations mean ‘I’ll never forget you’ and ‘my heart aches’, a sort of duality I really connected with.” Jeongguk frowned. “The zinnia are for the thoughts of absent friends, I got those for the hyungs but also for you.” Taehyung whispered and looked up at Jeongguk. “You were my best friend before you were my boyfriend, Guk.” Jeongguk felt the bite of tears in his eyes but he held back. The other man sounded so hurt as he explained the meanings for the beautiful flowers tattooed onto his skin. “The ivy around the flowers is for continuity, and the forget-me-nots are for the memories of true love.” He scoffed as rubbed a hand across his ribs. “When Cat asked what is was for, she called me pathetic.”

“Why?” Jeongguk looked up into his eyes as he pulled the hoodie back on, the other pictures hidden from view.

“I called you my ‘sort-of-ex-boyfriend’.” Taehyung shrugged, and Jeongguk held back a wince at the title. They hadn’t talked about that yet, even as much as he wanted to. “Told her about my dedications to you even though I’d probably never see you again, She said it was a lot of work to put in for someone I wasn’t with, then she said I was pathetic. I agreed. I am.”

“I’m here now.” Jeongguk pointed out and Taehyung smiled before he leaned down to lay on top of him again. “Wait, what dedications are you talking about?” He tried to rack his brain to think of what he might have referred to, but he couldn’t think of anything. He’d never read any of their album dedications because he only ever bought his music digitally. “We’ve been following you guys online for a couple years, but I don’t think I know what you’re talking about.”

Taehyung’s eyebrows rose in surprise and he tilted his head up to meet his eyes. “I don’t have many people to thank for our success, so I’ve… dedicated everything to you, essentially. You’re not there physically but I’m always thinking of you. So, everything is for you.” He was so blunt that Jeongguk nearly choked at his honesty.

The words sounded familiar though, and his brow furrowed in thought for a moment before they widened. “Oh my god, wait, your band’s Instagram posts and all those cryptic award show speeches…” Bangtan had talked about it before- the words Taehyung attached to each of his posts- during a quiet night in the dorm. The unanimous decision on Twitter and other platforms was that it was simply fanservice, although there were always a few that wanted to point fingers to other celebrities. They had, had various ideas but Jeongguk had always secretly wondered if maybe Taehyung had gotten in another relationship in America. It had hurt, deeply, to think about but he’d simply thrown himself into promotions.

“Guk, they’re all for you.” He reached up a hand and slowly swiped his thumb across his cheek, Jeongguk’s eyes fluttered shut for a moment before they slipped open again with a look of wonder on his face. “Everything has always been for you. To love you, adore you, protect you.” He whispered; the idol’s face melted into a small frown, and his eyes darkened at the implication.

“I don’t need to be protected anymore, TaeTae.” He leaned forward and gently pressed their foreheads together. “We’re equals, and I will never let anything happen to you again. The fact-,” He cut himself off and squeezed his eyes shut- the tears were back with a vengeance, “the fact it fucking happened in the first place tears me apart.” The very idea that anyone had dared hurt this beautiful, ethereal man was like his heart had been ripped from his chest. Every time he saw him initially shy away from physical contact, or freeze up at certain conversation topics, made him want to find the bastard that had dared put a hand on the love of his life and rip him to pieces.

“I’m not okay, but I’m getting better, Jeongguk.” Taehyung pressed a soft kiss to his cheek, then his forehead, the corner of his mouth, his nose. “Every day I’m getting better. I was a nervous wreck when I met the others- just ask Haneul. My manager had to reroute an entire tour once because I had a panic attack on the bus. Our producer caught me crying in our recording studio when we made our first album, and don’t even get me started on when we got offered our record deal. Hell, Simon is more of a pet than a service dog some days but I don’t know what I would have done if he wasn’t there at the MAMAs.” He joked and the doberman’s ears twitched when they both glanced over at the large dog. “But...I’m always better when I think about you. I always feel better when I think about your smile, your voice, or how you used to hum in your sleep.”

“I still do, Namjoon hyung gets on me about it all the time.” He laughed even as a solitary tear slipped over the small scar on his cheek. “You know, I sort of do the same thing.” He said after a moment of them simply enjoying each others touch, their presence. 

“What?”

Jeongguk smiled bashfully and reached up to grab the hand that rested on his cheek. “Most of my covers were for you, too. Not all of them, because you know how it is, but the ones I was able to choose myself were completely for you.” Taehyung blinked in surprise and his mouth dropped open. There was a beat of silence before Jeongguk parted his lips and took a deep breath. “There's no promise that I won't keep, I'll climb a mountain, there's none too steep.” He sang softly, and the frontman’s eyes widened almost comically.

“Oh my god, we’re both pathetic!”

Chapter Text

“Okay, kid,” Jeongguk’s head jerked up in surprise as Haneul slammed his hands down on their kitchen island; milk spilled over the edge of his bowl but he couldn’t worry about the mess with the guitarist inches from his face, “here’s the deal.” He’d spent most of the time he’d been in America horribly confused as he tried to keep up with the rapid English that flew over his head- his use of Korean snapped him to attention faster than the slap of hands on granite.

“Um, did I do something wrong?” He had only been in the apartment for a little over a week, and he’d barely seen any of the other members of Taehyung’s band. True to Taehyung’s predictions Haneul had spent a lot of his time with a woman he’d been talking to, and he only came back to change his clothes or take a shower. Jeongguk only caught him as he stepped out the door or while he ate breakfast before Taehyung pulled him out to do more sightseeing. As it stood, he didn’t think he’d said or done anything to upset the older man when they’d barely exchanged more than a handful of words. He’d said more to their bassist than he’d said to Taehyung’s roommate.

“Tae needs to go into the studio today,” Haneul’s eyes narrowed, “and I’m gonna need you to help me convince him.”

Jeongguk blinked. “Convince him?” Taehyung hadn’t mentioned anything the day before about having to go to work, although that made sense the more he thought about it. Most of their time together had been spent carefully avoiding the ever encroaching topic of separation.

“He’s supposed to be working on a feature, but he talked Jackson into postponing it.” He rolled his eyes and rapped his knuckles against the table. “Tae knows I’m gonna get on him and I think we both know he can’t say no to you. You’ve got each other wrapped around your fingers.”

The idol flushed but he didn’t argue the point- he couldn’t, really. “Okay.” He nodded and Haneul clapped his hands together with a grin. The happy expression was a bit at odds with his usually somber look but Jeongguk could see why their fans went crazy for his rare smiles. He was a bit biased however because they really had nothing on Taehyung’s anything.

“Great, now let’s go wake him up.” He didn’t wait for a response and simply grabbed Jeongguk by the arm and pulled him up out of his seat. Jeongguk was familiar with the route to Taehyung’s bedroom- the eldest had refused to let Jeongguk sleep on their couch no matter how comfortable it was, and after a short argument he’d found himself pushed past the threshold and tucked into his expensive sheets. He was unashamed to admit it was the best sleep he’d gotten in six years. “Taehyungie,” Haneul cooed loudly as he pushed the door open, “wake up!”

“Go away.” Came the mumbled reply and Jeongguk bit back a smile as they watched Taehyung burrow deeper into his blankets; one of his hands reached out to pat the empty side and then reached out further when his fingers only touched cold sheets. “Hm…?”

Jeongguk took that as his cue and he moved to climb onto the bed and grab the wandering hand. “Hey, TaeTae, I heard that you have work to do.” The older man ignored his words and only squinted up at him with a pout. Jeongguk bit his lip to hold back a smile. His messy hair fell into his eyes, and there was dried drool on his cheek, but Jeongguk still saw the most beautiful man he’d ever seen in his life. Ethereal. “Don’t give me that look,” he laughed, “you were the one who said you were on a break.”

“‘Didn’t want you to leave earlier.” He whined and there was a snort from the doorway but Jeongguk ignored it as he pressed a kiss to the tanned fingers tucked between his own. Taehyung squeezed his hand and tucked it closer to his chest with a sigh. “‘Don’t want to get up, either.” 

“You’re being dramatic, bub.” Haneul piped in and they both looked over their shoulder to the guitarist by the door. “15 minutes, kid.” He waved a hand before he closed the door behind him, leaving the two of them on the bed in the quiet room. Simon huffed from his spot on the floor but otherwise didn’t make a move.

“I’ve been informed that you need to go into the studio today,” Jeongguk kept his voice soft, in an attempt to keep the small bubble of serenity they’d found themselves pushed into. Taehyung didn’t react but his fingers curled tighter around his and they laid in silence for a few minutes. “This reminds me of when we all lived together, in that tiny dorm where we all shared a room.” He whispered, Taehyung’s lips tugged up into a small smile at the memory before his eyes cracked open.

“You still look beautiful in the sunlight.” Jeongguk’s face warmed in surprise but his lips curled into a small smile at the compliment; Taehyung shifted to his side and reached out to gently run his fingers through his hair. It was still damp from his morning shower but that didn’t seem to bother him. “I always thought it was such an honor to be able to wake up next to you, Guk.” Jeongguk could remember when they were together in the old dorm and how he’d wake up wrapped in Taehyung’s arms, their hyungs sprawled out around them. Those were some of the most content memories he had.

“Are you always so sappy when you wake up?” He joked as Taehyung giggled into his pillow. Jeongguk finally let his hand go and Taehyung huffed as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.

“Only with you.” Then he pushed himself up with a groan and lazily attempted to pat his hair down. “Okay, I’m up, I’m up.” His voice was raspy from sleep and his clothes were rumpled but Jeongguk knew he was going to burn the sight of him into his brain. “Let me get dressed and we can get going.” He watched as Taehyung disappeared into his closet, Simon at his heels. “Hurry up and get dressed, Gukkie, you’re coming with me.” He called from inside, only to pop back around the corner before Jeongguk could respond. “Unless you wanted to stay here?” He looked a little worried but Jeongguk quickly shook his head.

“Uh, of course I want to go with you.” He grinned, “Spend the day with you? See where you work? Sounds like fun to me.” The singer flushed and ducked back behind the door before Jeongguk could tease him about it.

It was strange to go without a face mask in public but Taehyung had simply pointed out that in America he would only stand out more, so he’d been stuck with a cap and sunglasses.

It didn’t really take them long to get ready. Jeongguk forced the other man to scarf something down before they stepped out the door and Taehyung made sure that he was bundled up properly for a New York winter. Taehyung refused to let him walk out in public in his usual casual clothes (and Jeongguk refused to be offended) and had thrown a leather jacket and a pair of boots at him. They weren’t his usual style, they had a bit more embellishment than he usually liked, but he liked the idea of wearing Taehyung’s clothes in public. Who cared who the clothes were actually ‘targeted’ towards, or who was ‘supposed’ to wear them.

Then, of course, there was the pleasant fact that Taehyung had no qualms about holding his hand in public.

It was a luxury he never would have been afforded back home and just the very thought made his heart ache. His family back home would have choked if they could see him now, but he really couldn’t give a shit as he squeezed into the passenger side of Taehyung’s car. Their hands rested over the center console and Taehyung pressed a smile into the back of his hand as they cruised along with New York’s horrendous traffic.

“So, tell me about all the famous people you know.” Jeongguk asked as they pulled up to a red light and Taehyung let out a startled laugh. He reached forward to turn the radio down before he reconnected their hands and Jeongguk grinned. “What? It’s a legitimate question.” Taehyung shook his head with a dramatic eye roll even as he mulled over the question.

“I mean, there’s a lot of artists signed to our label? I’ve met a lot through passing like Lady Gaga, but there’s others like Katy Perry and Sam Smith...” He bit his lip in thought and turned his attention back to the road as they started moving again. “I’ve gone out to eat with Ariana Grande a few times? People want us to collab, but we can’t find anything that works well with both our voices so we just end up talking for a few hours about stupid shit. Oh, me and Troye Sivan are pretty close-” He glanced over when Jeongguk started to bounce lightly in his seat and shake their hands. “What?”

“You’ve met Ariana Grande!” He repeated and Taehyung smiled at his suddenly overflowing enthusiasm. “Is she nice? Is she as pretty as she is on tv?”

“Pretty?” Taehyung pouted and Jeongguk rolled his eyes as he squeezed their linked hands.

You are undoubtedly the prettiest person I’ve ever met in my life, hyung, but I need to know if she’s all make up.” He deadpanned and Taehyung just laughed, there was a warmth in his heart that made him feel as light as a feather and he let Jeongguk wave their connected hands in excitement when he nodded.

“Of course she’s beautiful, Guk, she’s Ariana Grande. Actually, I accidentally got her into K-pop a couple years ago- but I don’t know if she still listens or not.” That derailed their entire conversation towards if she’d ever listened to BTS, which then led to Jeongguk frantically pulling his phone out to text the hyungs to freak out that Ariana Grande might be a fan of theirs.

 Taehyung only smiled and listened to him rant as they worked their way through Manhattan- a great distraction from the terrible drivers around them.

It hadn’t taken them long to get ready but it took entirely too long to arrive at the studio, and for Jeongguk to finally ask what it was they were actually there to do. “Haneul-ssi mentioned something about working on a feature? Is it one of yours or are you on someone else’s?” They were bundled into the corner of an elevator, surrounded by businessmen and a couple of men that looked like they’d stepped straight out of Alternative Press. Taehyung felt like he’d been introduced to them before but their names escaped his memory.

“A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked if I could feature on one of her songs, the guy she initially wanted to do it with ran into some sort of complication with the contract because it’s going on a soundtrack for some new Netflix show- I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention when she explained it to me. I let Jess take care of the details.” Taehyung explained. Simon was pressed against their legs in the tight quarters, but Jeongguk didn’t feel a hint of unease from the other man despite everyone’s proximity and he took that as an okay to slowly reach out and rest his hand at his back. When he simply leaned into the touch he smiled and leaned in to press a kiss to his hair. “Oh, this is our floor.” They maneuvered their way out of the metal box still wrapped up in each other, at least until a soft voice called down the hall.

“You’re late, Taylor Swift!” Taehyung grinned and turned them to see a tiny blonde girl leaned against the wall. “Jeez, did you bring everyone you know?” Simon didn’t move from his spot but Jeongguk could feel him wiggle in excitement between their legs when he spotted the girl down the hall, obviously someone he recognized.

“Ease up, Bill & Ted.” He shot back and she only smirked, but it quickly softened to a smile as they stepped closer. There was something familiar about her but Jeongguk couldn’t put his finger on it until Taehyung reached up point at his face. “Billie, this is Jeongguk, Gukkie this is Billie Eilish- I’m sure you’ve probably heard some of her stuff. Don’t let her height, or age, fool you her brother wrestles with her all the time.” The name made his eyes widen and all he could think was that Namjoon hyung’s head was going to explode. After her debut album had dropped it had taken the rapper weeks to stop talking about it.

“Don’t lie to him,” Billie shook her head, “that implies Finn can win against me.” That pulled a laugh from Jeongguk and she held a hand out with a smile. “Just call me Billie, I already get nicknames from this douche.”

“You can call me Jungkook.” He bowed his head as he reached out to shake her hand and she beamed as she yanked his hand up and down. He couldn’t help but giggle at her enthusiasm and Taehyung elbowed him gently in the side.

“Great, now that you two are best friends, let’s get to work Kill Bill.”

Watching Taehyung work was like peering into his soul, Jeongguk noted. He had been sat down on the small couch by the wall, out of the way, and Simon had jumped up to rest his head on his knees as he watched everyone work around each other. The tattooed singer obviously knew his way around a recording studio but he was almost a different person as he bounced ideas off of both the producer (whose name he couldn’t remember) and Billie. Her inexperience would shine through occasionally but Taehyung would only backtrack and explain or sing what he’d intended. His passion was infectious and Jeongguk felt closer to him just by proxy of his revealed genius.

“How about you jump into the booth and we can get a feel for what we’re going for?” The producer said and Billie jumped up from her seat with a bounce in her step as she disappeared around the corner. A lot of the English went over his head but this was an environment he was overly familiar with, so he didn’t feel too left out as the producer started to mess around with the soundboard.

“Sorry if this might be boring, Guk.” Taehyung leaned over from his seat with a frown but Jeongguk shook his head.

“It’s not boring, it’ll be nice to see you sing again.” He said softly and the older man’s eyes crinkled at the corners as he grinned. “Don’t give me that look, you sap, I just want to see as much of you as I can before I need to fly back.”’

The reminder made him frown again and as Billie’s voice started to bleed from the speakers softly Taehyung stood up from his seat and squeezed in beside him. Their hands found each other on instinct and their fingers curled together as he shifted to rest his head on his shoulder. “When do you need to be back?” It was bittersweet to be reminded that their time together was limited, that before long they would be back to being thousands of miles apart with limited communication.

Jeongguk resisted the urge to shrug and avoided the knowing eyes of the producer when he glanced their way as he pointedly looked down at their locked hands. “I’ve already used up all the excuses I can with Seijin and the others, I need to be on a plane back home the day after tomorrow.” Taehyung’s hand tightened but he didn’t say anything for a few minutes. They sat in relative silence as Billie’s voice floated over them, some of the lyrics he couldn’t translate fast enough but the melancholic vibe of her words cast a solemn feeling over the both of them as they listened. “Taehyung, I-.”

“I guess we should take advantage of our last day tomorrow, then.” There was an obvious crack in his voice but Jeongguk was hesitant to call him out on it, they’d only spent the better part of a week together after nearly six years apart. Jeongguk was young, and admittedly inexperienced with relationships, but he thought he was able to read a room fairly well. They simply weren’t close enough again yet for him to dig deep into his problems, into his insecurities. “We can do whatever you want tomorrow.”

Then, the producer spun in his office chair and called for Taehyung’s attention and he stood up without another word and ambled over. Jeongguk could feel the distance between them when their hands disconnected and there was a tightness in his chest that threatened to choke him when Taehyung didn’t look back at him. When he eventually switched places with Billie in the booth she caught onto his attitude change but she only gave him a small smile as she plopped down next to the producer. Perhaps she had seen something in Taehyung as well.

His voice was like the ocean when the music started up again and despite their sudden awkwardness the smile on his face was genuine as Taehyung crooned into the microphone. He’d always held so much power hidden in his voice, even when they were barely old enough to be considered teenagers, but he’d grown so much vocally it was actually crazy. Taehyung didn’t need to belt out the words to pull people in, to drag them under like a heavy current you couldn’t see your way out of. Jeongguk could feel himself drowning in his voice, but he had no desire to drag himself to the surface.

“Every time I hear him live I think I’m imagining things.” Billie laughed softly and it took Jeongguk a second to translate but he nodded in agreement. “You never expect a voice like that to come out of a man who looks like he could break your face.” The very thought made Jeongguk choke and she giggled. “Sorry, I know you two are dating- that was probably mean.”

“Oh,” Jeongguk suddenly frowned as he looked for the right words, “we, we aren’t dating.” Her eyes widened in surprise and even the producer glanced over at him as he messed around with the computer screen.

“What? Why not?”

“Easy, Bill,” the older man warned but she ignored him.

“You’re obviously in love with each other.” She exclaimed and he blushed, his eyes dropped down to where Simon laid on him but she only rolled her chair closer. “You two looked like you were trying to become one person earlier.”

He frowned, “I’m sorry, I,” he had to pause as he racked his brain in frustration, his grasp of English was still so weak and it always came back to kick him in the ass at the worst of times, “didn’t understand that.”

“Oh, sorry, you were sitting really close earlier.” She tried again and he nodded slowly.

“We have history, in Korea.” He hoped she understood what he meant but from her sly grin he was pretty sure she was going to take it the wrong way. However she didn’t give him a chance to adjust his wording and only smirked before she pushed her chair back to the desk and focused back on Taehyung behind the glass.

They worked in relative silence for a while longer, and Taehyung stayed in the booth for the better part of a couple hours while Jeongguk tried to find a way to keep himself occupied.

“Hey, kid,” The producer suddenly spoke up and he jumped in surprise. “You’re in that boyband, right? What do you think of this,” Billie looked over at him in interest as the track played over the speakers again- that time from the very beginning. The melody was slow, and was fairly simplistic, but Jeongguk knew the real power in the song was in Billie and Tae’s voices. They blended together beautifully, but there was a section that he made a face at and the producer stopped it with an expectant look.

“The, ‘oh I hope I’ll make it out of here, even if it takes all night’,” he sang quickly, his words slurred but his point was put across when they nodded; he could see Taehyung lower his headphones and finally lift his eyes to meet his through the glass, “maybe slow it down more? More,” he closed his eyes for a second and replayed the melody in his head, “Oh I hope someday I’ll make it out of here,” he started softly and let his volume raise as he rolled through the lyrics, “even it takes all night, or a hundred years,” his voice was higher than Tae’s and his falsetto wasn’t something he could recreate but Billie’s eyebrows rose with his tone. “Repeating,” he waved his hand up and down, hoping they got the idea he meant his volume, “then Billie’s ‘isn’t it lovely’ is softer?” She clapped her hands when he hit the note on the first try.

“Holy shit!” She exclaimed and he flushed again, he wasn’t used to so much attention to his voice up close. “You’re so good!”

“Guk’s always had a beautiful voice.” Everyone looked up towards the glass to where Taehyung smiled softly; Jeongguk flushed but didn’t look away, sure that a smile of his own was on his face. The warm look in his eyes reassured him he wasn’t upset, not enough to ignore him, and he felt his entire body relax in nearly earth-shaking relief.

Jeongguk didn’t know what he would do if Taehyung started to pull away again.

Chapter Text

It was a bit of a marvel how easy Jeongguk and Taehyung fell back into a steady routine with each other- it threw them for a loop when they had been forced to wake up at the crack of dawn, unwilling to pack the last items to send Jeongguk back to Korea. Only nine days together and Taehyung already didn’t know how he would be able to sleep without Jeongguk within arms reach. The last six years in an empty bed suddenly seemed like a bad dream that he would be forced to relive over and over again.

“You sure you have everything together?” Taehyung’s voice was rough from sleep, his eyes still partially crusted shut. They had shuffled into his kitchen and had collapsed in his impractical, art deco stools with barely a word to each other. The younger man grunted and nodded against the fist he’d propped himself up with. There was a moment of silence before the telltale clicking of claws echoed as Simon’s internal clock pushed him towards his food bowl. Taehyung rubbed his eyes and groaned as he pushed himself back upright. “Did you text your manager?”

“Yeah,” Jeongguk sighed, “texted Joon hyung too. They said they’re excited to throw me into the booth.” Taehyung didn’t reply but Jeongguk could see the line of tension across his shoulders as he crouched to reach into the large bag of dog food under his sink. If he’d been more awake Taehyung probably would have been better at hiding whatever it was that suddenly bothered him, but Jeongguk could see him glance over his shoulder with something dark and sad in his eyes. It was terrifyingly familiar to the night that had ended everything. “TaeTae, are you okay?”

Taehyung paused but eventually nodded and Jeongguk scowled at the obvious lie. His knees popped as he stood up but Jeongguk couldn’t tease him for it when it was so obvious that there was something wrong. He had thought even in the short time they’d been reunited they’d reached a sort of understanding with each other to talk- apparently that had been a one sided thought.

“Tell me what you’re thinking, hyung.” He kept his tone gentle and not demanding, he knew any sort of force would just push the man further away; in their time together he liked to think he’d learned a lot from his body language and how to approach him better.

Taehyung hummed but didn’t look up as he leaned over to pour food in Simon’s bowl. The doberman lumbered over to eat his early breakfast and the two singers watched him quietly for a moment before Taehyung looked over his shoulder through his hair. Jeongguk watched with his head still propped on his hand as the singer seemed to think to himself, before he simply sighed quietly.

“You should eat before you get on the plane.”

The idol frowned and pushed himself up from the island and their eyes locked together as he stepped closer. Each step made Taehyung’s heart race but it wasn’t in excitement. The anxiety in his head had flooded his veins, each brush of their hands or bump from their shoulders made his pulse jump and his hands curled into fists to keep himself from picking at the hangnail he’d worried into his nails. “Tae, please tell me what you’re worrying about.” Taehyung knew better than to think Jeongguk was begging him but there was a hint of desperation that colored his tone and made him sigh and sink into his arms.

His forehead knocked against his shoulder and Jeongguk automatically lifted his arms to wrap around his waist, sturdy and unmoving and as protective as ever. He didn’t want to tell him but the fear of the unknown made his lips part slowly, “I’m afraid you’ll forget about me.” He mumbled.

In any other circumstance he would have been asked to speak up, to repeat himself as Jeongguk giggled about being sleepy and overworked. Instead Jeongguk’s grip tightened before he shifted to pull him into a tight hug, one hand between his shoulder blades and the other firm on his hip.

“Baby,” The pet name was brushed across his ear, lips pressed to his hair as he spoke, “I waited for years to be able to just see you again. Then I got to hold you, and kiss you, and you even let me sleep next to you even after…” He shook his head minutely.

Taehyung was fairly certain there wasn’t a significant moment in his life where he hadn’t bawled his eyes out, but he didn’t dare try to squirm out of his partner’s hold to wipe his eyes.

“I fucking love you.” Jeongguk declared and Taehyung’s heart skipped a beat- but not out of anxiety that time. His own hands shot up to grip tightly at the back of Jeongguk’s coat and his nails scraped across the slick material as his fingers curled as if to lock him in place. “I love you so much, and I will never love anyone more than I love you. I would give up everything for you, Taehyung.” He pressed another hard kiss to his hairline before he shifted down and pressed a softer one to the highest point of his cheekbone; the promise was familiar but the premise made him tremble. “How could I ever forget about you?”

“You’re going to be thrown back into promotions, you have tours coming up- recording sessions- and I’m sure your management already has months worth of full schedules laid out for you as soon as you get home.” Taehyung shuffled forward to press even closer to him and Jeongguk only tightened his hold and shifted to lean up against the large island to fully hold his weight. He couldn’t believe this gorgeous, talented, wonderful man could think that way, could think Jeongguk could ever do such a thing to them.

“We could go another six years apart and I’d still be just as obsessed with you as I am now.” Jeongguk whispered. “But, I think I’d much rather be able to talk to you after I leave. Please don’t think that I’m not going to keep in touch with you, baby.”

“I-,” Any words that might have come to Taehyung at that moment were swept away with the gentle pressure of Jeongguk’s soft lips against his own. It was a sensation that was quickly becoming familiar again and Taehyung sighed into the embrace. Jeongguk made no move to speed it up or deepen the kiss and Taehyung knew he had just one more reason to fall deeper and deeper for the man who was able to treat him so gently, even as he viciously tore his walls down.

New York City was the city that never sleeps and even as they kissed in the dim light of Taehyung’s kitchen they could hear the distant rumbling of traffic and police sirens, but for a moment it was like a dream. The two of them together with no cameras or managers in sight: Jeongguk wasn’t forced to smile like nothing hurt, and Taehyung didn’t feel like he was drowning on dry land.

Of course serenity was never permanent and it wasn’t long before they were forced to break apart as Jeongguk’s alarm blared. Sunlight hadn't even peeked over the horizon yet but their day had already started. The idol sighed, still close enough for Taehyung to feel goosebumps down his spine from the proximity, and reached into his pocket to yank his phone out. He didn’t step out of Taehyung’s grip as he silenced the alarm but he did slowly shuffle the two of them to where his suitcase sat by the front door. “No rest for the wicked.” Jeongguk joked but neither one laughed.

“Let me put Simon’s vest on and then we can head downstairs.” Taehyung whispered and after a second's hesitation he moved to grab the vest off the hook by the door.

It was an easy affair to climb into the car parked at the curb, they both slid into the backseat and gave a tired wave to Jess in the driver’s seat. The tiny blonde had agreed to drive them to the airport as a personal favor despite the ridiculously early flight time, which they had both appreciated immensely. Once they had buckled themselves in Taehyung didn’t hesitate to grab Jeongguk’s hand and their fingers locked together tightly.

“Hyung?” Jeongguk murmured into his hair and Taehyung turned to brush his nose across his jaw as he hummed. “I love you.” Taehyung was silent through the drive, but his fingers were held tight between Jeongguk’s. He softly traced the lines of his ring finger as they sat in silence.

hey hyung, let’s go on a date.

Taehyung’s brow rose in shock as he read the text. Then again, and again. 

“What’s up, buttercup?” There was a creak of a chair and then a sudden weight was thrown over his shoulders as Paris wrapped her arms around his neck. She wasn’t heavy but he groaned anyway just to make her click her tongue in irritation. “You’ve been staring at your phone for a hot minute.”

“I bet it’s John.” Nico snorted, and it was such a difference from the time months before when he’d freaked out about meeting BTS in person.

“Jeon.” Taehyung automatically corrected, but he nodded. “He, uh, just asked me on a date?” His confusion was obvious and Paris cackled into his ear as she reached forward to tip his phone back and read over the text. Of course she couldn’t read hangul but there was another pop as another message came through, just a few question marks, and she laughed again.

“Don’t leave him hanging, Tay. You know he can see you’ve read these, right?”

The reminder made him curse and his eyes widened as he quickly pulled up the keyboard.

That’s kind of hard to do

when we live on opposite

sides of the world, Guk.

There was a few seconds as the little dots waved at him slowly while Jeongguk typed out a reply, and the lengthy message made him frown.

hear me out, please. i know 

everything has been weird-

don’t try to deny it. i try and text

or call you everyday but i know

that i can’t always do that.

i want us to try and do like, a

weekly skype date?

i just

i miss you so much, tae

i wake up and i just want to

see your face or touch your hair

or watch you get ready in

the morning and i just

we spent years away from each

other, but the distance hurts more

than it ever did before.

fuck, that sounds stupid doesn’t

it?

Taehyung felt incredibly immature in that moment.

It had been naive of him to assume over the years that he had been the only one to feel the distance. Jeongguk had proven time and time again over the short time they’d spent together that he’d craved his attention as much as Taehyung had. As dollHouse had gained popularity Taehyung had convinced himself that his near primal need to hold on so tightly to the last connection he’d had to his previous life had been stupid, juvenile, and just plain childish.

Paris had stepped away when the message had come through, aware that mood had changed, and he didn’t hesitate to press the little phone icon. With the phone at his ear he bent forward to bury his face in his knees as the phone rang. It thankfully didn’t go past the first ring before there was a soft click.

“I miss you so much.” He didn’t give two shits if the other three in the room could hear the tears in his voice or even if they were still in the studio with him. All he cared about was the gasp on the other end of the line and the tell tale sniffle from the most important person in his life. “I, fuck, I miss you so fucking much Jeongguk.”

“TaeTae…” Jeongguk whined and Taehyung laughed as he wiped his eyes. “You weren’t supposed to make me cry, damn it.”

“It’s not my fault you texted me sappy shit at,” He pulled his phone away to check the time, “six in the afternoon. Jesus, what time is it over there?”

“It’s only like eight, I think.” Jeongguk sniffed. “We’re just getting ready for some promo shoots, then we have rehearsal later.” There was a pause and a murmur of random voices from the other line before Jeongguk sighed again. “Was my idea stupid?”

Taehyung shook his head even though he couldn’t see and he straightened back up with a small smile. “No, it’s perfect. I’m sorry I’ve been so...absent. I know I was the one who freaked out about contact.” His eyes stared at his computer screen blankly, the soundwaves of the tracks he’d been messing around with and the multiple programs pulled up across the dual monitors. Nico had called him up hours before with the exclamation that he’d had a bass line in his head for days and needed to have it recorded- one thing led to another and then they were all piecing a song together.

“Don’t apologize hyung,” Jeongguk’s voice crackled over the line and Taehyung sighed, “maybe we just need to set some, like, guidelines? We need to get better at talking to each other.” He joked and Taehyung laughed softly as he wiped his face. “What about this weekend?”

The singer hummed and with a glance at the calendar on his wall he cocked his head. “I could do this weekend.”

It was impossible to find a consistent time for them to Skype but Jeongguk was determined to make sure they didn’t go more than seven days without at least hearing each other’s voice. With a nearly 13 hour time difference one of them was almost always groggy from waking up or soaked in exhaustion but Taehyung held each phone and video call carefully in his heart. It was like a dream to be able to have Jeongguk so close again and he cherished each moment he was able to spend in his life again, especially with how busy dH had gotten in the last few weeks.

DollHouse had released their last three albums with just over two years between each one. It had never been intentional but after their first one they all found their inner perfectionist. However, with only a few months since their last release Taehyung found himself in his studio.

It had gotten easier over the years to form sounds and ideas into full songs but he had never had ideas come to him so quickly before. Lyrics spilled out of him easier than they ever had and the others had thrown themselves fully into the direction he wanted to take their music. Paris had laughed initially when he’d played his first completed demo (“you know we’re going on tour in a week and a half right?”) but as the song had continued they’d all fallen suspiciously quiet. When the track came to a close with a rough ending he hadn’t quite polished yet he spun in his chair to hear their opinion.

“I don’t know how we’re ever going to top this, Taehyung.” She said seriously and Haneul nodded slowly. “I’m almost mad you’ve never made anything like this before.” It went unsaid just where the inspiration had come from, but they all knew.

Nearly three months after they’d agreed on their weekly dates she barged in during a Skype call and leaned over his shoulder to grin impishly at Jeongguk’s surprised face. “Hey, JK, you should ask Tay to hear his new demos. I think you might find them really -.”

“Get out!” Taehyung squawked and he shoved her off of his back when she laughed. She waved a hand over his head as she slipped back out of the room and Jeongguk slowly waved goodbye. “God, I hate her.” He said with an eye roll and the idol giggled. Over the weeks Jeongguk had slowly become more acquainted with the rest of the band, something that Taehyung appreciated more than he’d ever say. The most important people in his life becoming closer was more than he ever could have hoped for.

“No you don’t, hyung.” He argued and Taehyung sighed playfully.

“You’re right.”

The brunette shifted in his seat, still dressed in what he’d woken up in that morning. “What does she mean by your demos though? Are you working on new stuff?” The last Taehyung had mentioned they were prepping for another world tour and they spent their days in rehearsals and meetings to get everything finalized. It had cut their time together drastically shorter but Jeongguk had assured a worried Taehyung that he wouldn’t let them lose contact.

“Yeah,” Taehyung nodded hesitantly, “but they’re not demos anymore. We’ve already got several tracks done. Whether they make it to the album is another story.” He trailed off as Jeongguk’s mouth dropped open.

“Hyung! You can’t overwork yourself like that.” He complained and Taehyung couldn’t help but laugh at the worry in his voice. “Hey, don’t laugh at me. Breaks are important you know.” He spoke from experience, and Taehyung knew his worry came from a good place even if it wasn’t necessary.

“I know, Guk, trust me. We’re not overworking ourselves, we’ve just got...a lot of motivation right now.” It was said softly but if his small smile was any indicator Jeongguk still heard it. “You can’t hear them though- you have to wait for the release like everyone else.” The smile immediately fell, and Jeongguk huffed and crossed his arms. It was adorable to see him pout and Taehyung’s heart clenched at the sight. Another thing he’d missed over the years, among the hundreds of other things he had missed about this man.

“What’s the point of being the boyfriend of a rockstar if you can’t listen to their stuff early!” He whined.

Taehyung’s first instinct was to laugh at his petulant tone and that’s what he did, his head tipped back so he didn’t have to stare at Jeongguk’s put out expression.

Then, the words clicked.

His laugh trailed off and his eyes didn’t move from where they were suddenly focusing extremely hard on the slow moving fan on the ceiling. Despite their obvious...closeness, they had never talked about... that. Or was it even that obvious? Stupid. Jeongguk had said he loved him, of course it was obvious he reasoned. Jeongguk wasn’t someone to lead someone on, he knew, he could have simply let their relationship stay as jilted ex-boyfriends but he had taken the initiative to repair their relationship.

Jeongguk had taken the initiative.

Taehyung had let them become a distant memory.

“Hyung?” He startled and his head snapped back down his surprise. Jeongguk’s brow was furrowed in obvious worry and he’d leaned in closer to his camera, as if it would help him see Taehyung better. “What’s wrong?”

For a moment he considered lying, if he was honest. Then he remembered that Jeongguk genuinely worried for him, cared for him, loved him.

“Jagi,” There was an immediate look of surprise at the endearment, “you know I love you?” It came out more worried than he’d intended, softer and more fragile than how he wanted to appear to the love of his entire life. Jeongguk’s eyes widened and his lips parted in shock; it was most definitely too early for this sort of shock to his system. “I just, I know I’m so closed off, and I know I’m not affectionate-.”

“Of course I know.” It was breathed so softly it barely came through his speakers, but Taehyung heard it clear as day. “Baby, of course I know you love me. I love you too, you know I do. Did you think I didn’t know?” Oh god, there were tears. Taehyung’s hands rose to cover his face and he could just barely see the computer screen reflected in Jeongguk’s glassy eyes. “Taehyung, I love you more than I have ever loved anyone, and I’m not just saying that. You know I would never lie to you?”

Taehyung sniffed loudly, stubborn tears still in his eyes as he scrubbed his cheeks roughly. “Of course not. I just…”

“It’s okay to be insecure, TaeTae.” Jeongguk said quietly, but there was a soft expression on his face as he reached out to brush his fingers across his screen. “Just remember that we love each other, okay? Just remember that I know you better than you think I do, okay?” Taehyung had no doubt about that, truly. Their dating history notwithstanding the younger man had always been the one to pick up on the nuances of his mood. Once his own shell had been cracked he’d immediately made it his mission to crack Taehyung open just as wide. He had gone to school with Jimin, but he had bared his soul to Jeongguk. “I like that you called me that, by the way.” He added shyly, and Taehyung’s lips pulled into a small smile.

“Jagi?” He asked and Jeongguk flushed. “I’ll try and call you that more often.” He promised but Jeongguk shook his head.

“Don’t think you need to rush this. We’re taking this at your speed, okay?” If Taehyung could love this boy any more, he would have fallen in love all over again. They simply smile at each other for several long, dopey minutes until Jeongguk suddenly smirked and leaned back in his chair. “So, about those demos…”

Chapter Text

Contrary to popular assumption, Taehyung had attempted to date again- after a while. Which really meant that after nearly four years single he ended up on a blind date set up by Nico, surprisingly enough. He’d been wary to go, and emotionally unwilling to let go of the Jeongguk in his heart (which he had been becoming more aware was an unhealthy mindset), but after meddling from both his friends and his therapist he had finally agreed.

He didn’t remember much of the date, what he could recall only left a bitter taste in his mouth.

He remembered that he had shown up first, Simon in tow like he’d gotten used to over the last few months. Paris had wrestled him into a pair of light wash jeans and Nico had leant him one of his leather jackets, the fabric soft and worn and familiar. He hadn’t wanted to dress too outlandishly until Haneul just had to remind him of the new cute, black, strappy heels he’s just bought and he’d already been convinced to slide them on. The added height was an extra boost of confidence, he reminded himself.

The little restaurant was unfamiliar but the soft lighting and gentle faced wait staff were a welcome sight as he was directed to a small table. Nico had assured him ahead of time they wouldn’t say anything about Simon but that said nothing about what his acquaintance would think. Their bassist barely knew him, he admitted, but had never gotten a bad feeling about him and Taehyung rationalized that he needed to take a leap of faith at some point in his life.

The leap of faith had turned out to be a horrible decision, in retrospect.

The man, Chris, hardly gave him what he’d call an “introduction” when he stepped into the restaurant. He took one look at Taehyung, nodded, said his name, and pulled the menu up to his face. “You’re paying, yeah?” He added offhandedly as his eyes scanned down the laminated sheets and Taehyung frowned.

Taehyung hadn’t even introduced himself yet, and this boy thought Taehyung was going to pay for him? “Uh, my name is-.” He started cautiously but Chris simply waved his hand.

“Yeah, yeah, Nick already told me.” The unfamiliar nickname had thrown him for a loop, before he realized that he must have referred to Nico, and simply cocked his head before he looked down at his own menu. Conversation became nonexistent, which Taehyung became more and more grateful for as the “date” got closer and closer to the end. There had been no comment about Simon or about how he had dressed, there hadn’t been a comment about anything.

Almost like she had been waiting a waitress appeared out of thin air as soon as their silverware stopped moving, a small black book in her hands. “Hello, are you ready for the check?” She had asked pleasantly and Taehyung wondered if she’d noticed just how awful the date had been and had simply been waiting for a chance to come over. He nodded without waiting for a response from the other man and she smiled at him. “Will that be separate or together?”

There were small moments in life that Taehyung cherished, and the moment he opened his mouth to say, “Separate,”? Top of the list. He relished in the immediate look of anger on his “date’s” face. “Thank you.” She had been more prepared than he’d given her credit for and she quickly whipped out two white slips of paper, a pen attached to each. He then gave her a smile as he quickly signed the check, with a hefty tip and an added smiley face, and she winked back.

“Why am I paying?” Chris had asked, obviously irritated and the waitress’s brows rose at his tone. Taehyung rolled his eyes but didn’t dignify his anger with a response and simply pushed himself to his feet. Simon shifted to stand beside him, ears up at the sudden noise. “Don’t fuckin’ ignore me!”

“Um, Mr. Tay Kim, sir, I hope this experience doesn’t stop you from coming by again in the future.” The young woman said, and it was clear they were both on the same page as to ignore the douche still seated. Her attentiveness suddenly made so much more sense when he registered her stutter and wide eyes, and he waved a dismissive hand.

“I’m only upset I couldn’t enjoy the food more,” His eyes shifted to her name tag, “Sophie.” She lit up at the mention of her name and his fingers twisted the leash in his hands. “I’ll make sure to come back.”

Then he walked out the door without a second look back.

“What a fucking dick.” Jeongguk would say when Taehyung reveals his short lived dating history during one of their late night calls. It's just a phone call this time and Taehyung hums into his pillow, the phone just inches from his face on speaker phone. “How the hell does someone go on a date with you and not like, worship the ground you walk on.” It isn’t even phrased as a question and the singer feels his chest tighten.

He laughs and buries his face further into the fabric of his pillowcase. “You’re a special case, apparently, Guk.” There’s a beat of silence over the line and then Taehyung adds, “It felt good to at least try, if I’m honest.”

“Try what?” Jeongguk’s voice is only full of curiosity and Taehyung smiles wryly at the irony.

“Dating someone who wasn’t you. Of course, at the time I didn’t think we’d ever get together again, obviously. In my mind there was no possible chance of us ever even seeing each other again. It was just kind of a collective decision for me to try and get over this...fixation I had of you.” Then he laughs again, quieter this time. “I think it was good that I went, but I have to admit I’m so glad I have you again.”

“You’re sappy when you’re tired.” Jeongguk coos and Taehyung snorts in response, but it’s quickly cut off as his mouth stretches into a nearly obnoxiously loud yawn. “Go to sleep, baby.” Jeongguk says softly. The pet name’s have become more common in their conversations and Taehyung hums contently.

“Sing something,” is what he tries to say before he floats away, but by the time there’s a soft melody from the speakers his eyes have slipped closed and his breathing is already slow and steady.

In the morning he wakes up to a new message and an audio file, and when he clicks it a familiar voice floats into the air above soft melodies.

to help you sleep, baby.

for all the nights i can’t

be there.

“This next one is called ‘We’re Living in a Cat Eat Cat World (And I Like Girls)’.” There was a rush of screams from the crowd and Taehyung reached up to remove one of the monitors in his ear to take it all in. The tour had started with a bang, and had only gotten better over the months. He was covered in sweat and he’d stripped off his jacket an hour ago and his legs were numb from jumping on stage but there was nothing like the high that performing gave him.

There was a quick count off from Paris, her sticks lifted high into the air, and then they were off. Haneul treated every concert like he’d never get to play another, and Nico let himself truly act the way he wanted when they played for the people who had waited so long to see them perform. His girl Paris was always a wild card even from the beginning when it came to concerts. From busking on street corners to stadiums they gave their all and their success reflected it.

They’d had big sets on stage before for smaller, nationwide tours but this was unlike anything they’d ever attempted before. Large pyrotechnic displays, a lift that brought Pairs up so far into the air they couldn’t see her from the stage. That added to the large displays behind them, and the thousands of beautiful faces that song their songs back at them...it was perfect.

“Vegas, you’ve been wonderful. You’ve made the last day of this tour one of the best we’ve ever had.” Haneul’s voice was hoarse from singing but his happiness was clear in his voice as he adjusted the strap of his guitar. “You know, it’s been almost six and a half years since me and Tae found each other,” there was another wave of cheers and Taehyung laughed into his mic, his hands crossed over the stand loosely, “and every day has been a blessing.”

“I didn’t think you felt that way about me, babe.” He said, only for Haneul to flip him off, but he ignored it to raise a hand into the air and grin at their audience. “Vegas, we’re dollHouse and we hope you had a great time because we certainly did. Remember that each and every one of you are important, beautiful, intelligent human beings and I’m so happy you’re all here, today, tomorrow, and every day after this. Stay safe, stay happy, and I hope we see you again.”

Normally, when they walked off stage it was usual for Nico to throw an arm over his shoulder, for Haneul to have flicked him in the ear for their on-stage banter or for Paris to even pull him into a long, back breaking hug before she ran to steal all the venue’s hot water. While it wasn’t entirely unusual for them to not follow that a pattern it was still the tiniest bit suspicious that at nearly 11 at night, when they were all dirty and exhausted, that none of them would be in the dressing room.

“Hey, Jess?” He called as he pushed the door open. “Where the fuck did everyone go?” Simon wasn’t by the door like he would have expected the dog to be and his brow furrowed in confusion. “Simon?” There had been a shift sometime in the last couple weeks where he had started to bring the dog along as simply a pet instead of his service animal. There was a strength that had started to form in himself that had never been there before, even though more often than not the vest was still pulled out.

Then there was the scrape of a chair across the wood flooring that caught his attention and he kicked the door shut behind him. There was a figure beside his rack of stage clothes, dressed in tight acid wash jeans and a large hoodie with the hood up. “Um, who are you?” He asked cautiously, and then the stranger turned around.

“This is becoming a habit, TaeTae.” Jeongguk grinned, and Taehyung’s exhaustion evaporated. His boyfriend took a step closer, and he could see Simon sat beside him, that traitor, but Taehyung didn’t hesitate to scurry forward and launch himself at the idol. To his credit Jeongguk barely moved as he caught his weight nearly effortlessly, their arms wrapped tight around each other. “Hey, baby, surprise.” He whispered into his neck and Taehyung’s entire body shuddered from the contact.

Taehyung’s emotions were already at an all time high so there was no possible way for him to stop the tears that spilled over his cheeks. “This is the second time you’ve nearly given me a heart attack!” Jeongguk’s laugh was muffled against his shirt, Taehyung several inches taller from his platform boots. “What are you even doing here? You’re on tour!”

“So are you, baby.” Jeongguk kissed his forehead, and then pressed another kiss to his temples and his hair. “You must not have checked Bangtan’s tour schedule,” Jeongguk started, “because we just closed a concert an hour ago. Seijin-hyung called me a driver to come surprise you.” It was true, to his credit. Taehyung honestly hadn’t looked at anything BTS had done in years beyond the occasional sneak peek at Twitter. After he’d gotten in contact with Jeongguk again he’d just gone off of whatever information he gained secondhand.

“I love you.” Taehyung breathed. It had never been easy to let those words leave his lips, but there was something about Jeongguk that let him say it as if he’d never said anything else. “What did I do to deserve you, Guk.” It wasn’t rhetorical but a legitimate wonder, and Jeongguk’s eyes crinkled as he smiled even wider.

“It’s got nothing to do with deserving, hyung. It’s just love.” Then he leaned in, slowly, “is this okay?” With a quick nod their lips met in a soft kiss, one of the very few they’d actually shared with each other. Taehyung made a resolution to change that, quickly. He felt no nervousness, no panic, no unease around the only man he ever wanted to be with, the only man he’d ever wanted to share this part of himself with. There was still noise in the hallway, and there was a distinctly female cackle in the distance, but Taehyung ignored all of it to hook his arm around his neck. He needed him closer, always. “I love you, too.” Jeongguk finally mumbled against his lips and Taehyung giggled.

“I know you do, jagi.” It was so obvious now after their talk a couple months ago. It was obvious with every call they had, every term of endearment he whispered, every look he gave him through that computer screen. Years apart and it only seemed to have made them more in love than before. One might argue that their teenage romance had been short lived and naive, but Taehyung knew the elation and love he felt for this man was as pure as any other. Of course he’d keep that between them, he’d leave the arguing to the rest of the world. “Come to our hotel? I don’t want to make you drive back this late. Seijin can send you another car tomorrow, right?”

There wasn’t a moment of hesitation as Jeongguk kissed him again. “I was kind of hoping you’d offer, I’m so fucking tired.”

Taehyung really hadn’t initially intended for them to do anything other than sleep- he really hadn’t.

Then Jeongguk had giggled when he’d gotten his hoodie stuck over his face and Taehyung had helped him out, followed by a sleepy kiss that had lit a fire under his skin. There was a hesitance from both of them to not take it too far and Taehyung would have lied if he said he wasn’t scared. He couldn’t stop his flinch when he felt fingers slip down his back, fingers under his waistband.

“We go at your speed, TaeTae.” Jeongguk reminded him gently, his hands left a trail of heat across his hips and Taehyung shivered in his hold. Unsteady feet carried them both towards the bed, the large queen that dominated the space of the room.

“I don’t want to disappoint you if we can’t…” Taehyung didn’t elaborate but there wasn’t a need. Jeongguk’s face pinched with worry and without a word he moved them both to the edge of the bed.

The tension never left but there was a shift in the atmosphere as his boyfriend lifted his hands to cup his face. “Baby, we could sleep in separate beds for the rest of our lives. I just want to make sure you’re comfortable. Sex isn’t necessary to a relationship, Tae.”

Taehyung frowned. “I know that I just, I want to have this with you, you know?” He leaned in and Jeongguk sighed into the kiss. His hands shifted to grip Jeongguk’s shirt and the palm on his cheek slid down to his shoulders. “You said what happened doesn’t define me, right?” Jeongguk hummed as Taehyung wrapped his other arm around his neck to hold him even closer.

“Of course not.”

“Then make me feel like you used to, when we were younger.”

It was all heat and pleasure, hot hands and sweet touches that made them both gasp and shiver. The heat of the room was low but as the distance between them disappeared the fire under their skin burned brighter, hotter, higher. They kept the light on to see each other’s expressions, and Taehyung could feel nothing but at ease. Jeongguk kept every move slow and in view of Taehyung’s hazy eyes, and Taehyung had never known intimacy so sweet, so gentle.

He had never imagined that someone could treat him so preciously, but still take him apart so intimately. There were pieces of him that would never be the same but Jeongguk handled them with care and kissed him like he’d die without them.

It was like seeing color for the first time, or hearing a song after years in silence.

Jeongguk was an oasis in a desert, and he never wanted to leave.

Later, once they were clean and tucked back into the sheets, Jeongguk pulled him in tight against his chest and Taehyung thanked everything that he had this man in his life. Even after he’d left him, after Jeongguk had been forced to be the one to reach out, to be the one who’d admitted he wanted to repair their relationship- he was just so desperately thankful that he had someone like Jeongguk. His words from earlier echoed deep in his mind and he childishly nuzzled his face into his sleep shirt. His cologne faint but pleasant in his nose, familiar in the way that scents relate to memories. Of younger versions of themselves that held each other like they did now.

“You’re thinking really hard.” Jeongguk mumbled. His face was pressed into the pillow and his hand was firm between his shoulder blades. “Are you okay?”

Months ago Taehyung probably would have brushed it off, asked him to ignore it and go to sleep. Now he had thoughts, ideas, wants. “Did you mean what you said earlier?” The seriousness in his words was broken by the yawn that pulled at his throat, but Jeongguk hummed curiously anyway. “When you said you would spend the rest of your life with me?” He was silent for a moment and Taehyung almost worried he’d taken it out of context, that the exhaustion from their schedules and their time together had caught up with them.

“Of course I did.” He said sleepily and Taehyung’s heart kicked into high gear even as his brain short circuited. There was a tightness in his chest that only ever happened around this boy, an ache that only meant good things. Happy things. “Wish I could marry you, TaeTae.” 

Anything that Taehyung could have said in response died on his tongue as soft snores spilled from his plush lips. The singer’s eyes were wide in shock for only a second before then he smiled and shifted to grab Jeongguk’s hand from behind his back. He fell asleep with their hands linked together and the smell of Jeongguk’s cologne under his nose, something vanilla and familiar.

Chapter Text

A morning in the arms of the love of one’s life would always rank top the list of ‘best ways to wake up’. A younger version of Taehyung might have suggested being serenaded awake by Beyoncé, or being smothered by puppies. Now he knew he only ever wanted to wake up with the warmth of Jeongguk’s body against his, his hair spilled across his pillow, his arm across his waist. 

The sun did wonderful things to Jeongguk, but Taehyung had always known that. It made his skin glow and his hair shine. His eyes when open could give any anime girl a run for their money.

He reached out, both of them still cocooned in the warm hotel sheets, and combed his fingers through his hair. There was an ache in his muscles, and he was fairly certain there was a hickey on his chest, but he could ignore it all as he gently pushed the soft strands out of his face. Jeongguk’s nose twitched as he slept and Taehyung didn’t resist the urge to slide closer and kiss it gently.

“You’re staring again, hyung.”

Taehyung leaned back as dark brown eyes slowly blinked open, but didn’t move from under his arm. “Just admiring the view, Guk.” His hand slipped from his hair and trailed down his arm to link his fingers with Jeongguk’s, their palms pressed together. “When do you need to leave?”

“Hm, by noon.” A glance at the clock on the wall told him it was only around six, too early to be awake but there was no sleeping now with their limited time. Jeongguk shifted and pulled Taehyung’s attention back with a giggle. “So what should we do this morning? We are in Las Vegas.”

He thought for a moment, different activities that he knew were within a reasonable distance popping into his brain.

Then, an idea that had been circulating in Taehyung’s mind for months surfaced, and his eyes dropped back down to their linked hands.

“Tae?”

He hesitated for a second.

“You said last night you wished we could get married.” There was immediate silence to his words. He was hesitant to look up, but more desperate to know his response. Jeongguk’s eyes were wide, all traces of sleep gone from his face, and his lips had parted in his shock. Taehyung pushed himself up and ripped his hand away. “I’m sorry, that was really sudden, ignore me, I’m sorry-.”

“Hey, hey, baby calm down for me-,”

In his haste to practically leap from the bed he had miscalculated the distance from the edge. As his breathing picked up he suddenly found himself careening off the side and his eyes squeezed shut as he prepared to hit the wood floor. Only, a firm hand looped around his elbow and he felt himself being yanked back. Another arm hooked around his shoulder and he felt Jeongguk move around on the bed until they were side by side, thigh to thigh.

“Tae, Taehyung, breathe for me, please? Simon isn’t in the room right now, you gotta breathe for me, okay beautiful?”

In a manner of speaking, he’d had much worse attacks. He could still feel his fingers, there was no nausea. Jeongguk’s hand traced awkward paths up and down his back and he clumsily tried to follow the pattern, in and out with each slide up and down. 

“There, easy, baby.”

His gentle voice was easy to latch onto and as his voice came back to him he reached out with clumsy fingers to grip his shirt. “S-sorry.” He croaked, and Jeongguk immediately shushed him, his tone soft.

“Hey, no apologies. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you upset.”

Taehyung blinked slowly as he felt the overarching panic slowly subsided. It had come and gone so quickly but there was a sort of dissociation that always came with them and his body swayed before he collapsed into Jeongguk’s side. “Sorry.” He repeated, his cheek pressed against his shoulder. “Just...love you.”

“Can I touch you?” It seemed redundant to ask after he already had, but Taehyung nodded either way and let his boyfriend wrap an arm around him. The weight was comforting and he felt his shoulders sag. “Taehyung, I mean it, you don’t need to apologize. You caught me off guard, that’s all.”

“I shouldn’t have mentioned it.” Taehyung mumbled and Jeongguk made a strange sound, a low choked off whimper that sounded like he had tried to hide it. His eyes trailed up to his face and he was shocked to see his gaze trained on the blankets, his mouth pressed into a hard line.

“Right.” Jeongguk said quietly, but Taehyung shook his head.

“No, wait,” his arms felt weak but he adjusted himself so they were eye to eye and grabbed his free hand, “did you actually want to?”

“Of course I do!” Jeongguk’s face had never looked so stern when he talked to Taehyung, not seriously anyway, and the singer frowned. “Tae, I told you I’ve been in love with you since I was 16, hell we’ve been practically sending each other love letters for six years. We,” He bit his lip and Taehyung squeezed his hand. There was a building feeling in his gut, and for once he wanted to see what it turned into. “Of course I do.” He repeated.

“Then let’s get married.” The morning’s panic attack might have unhinged him slightly, but nothing would stop him now. He needed his answer, needed the validation of commitment between them. They were in love, they both knew it. They were young, and in love, and honestly so fucking rich between the two of them it was ridiculous. They had the world at their feet, and it was only seven AM on a Friday.

“Okay,” Jeongguk breathed, his eyes wide and bright and his smile as beautiful as it had always been, “let’s get married.”

As it turned out getting married in Vegas was basically as easy as the movies had made it out to be. A couple quick Google searches and they had all the information they needed.

Taehyung went to grab his phone to send a message to his manager when he caught sight of Jeongguk on the bed with his own phone cradled in his hands. “Guk?” The man glanced up and Taehyung frowned at his expression. He looked upset, although maybe conflicted was a better word. “What’s wrong?” He had the idea that Jeongguk might have had second thoughts but that didn’t seem right, he’d looked so excited just twenty minutes ago.

“We don’t have rings.”

The pout on his lips made Taehyung stop in surprise, and then he burst into a surprised laugh. “That’s easily fixed, jagi.” He giggled, relieved. “After we get the license we’ll find a store. It’s Vegas, they have everything here.”

True to his words less than an hour later they had a license in their hands, and a glass case under their fingers. Taehyung had entrusted Simon to Haneul’s hands as they’d snuck out of the hotel, one less way for them to be recognized in public.

They’d dressed conservatively, to hide both of their identities, but Taehyung was fairly certain that if a fan really got up close he’d be in trouble. There was only so many ways to cover up tattoos in the desert in the summer.

“I didn’t think I’d ever get to do this.” Jeongguk murmured as they looked over the rings, and Taehyung nodded absentmindedly. They had decided to pick out each other’s, in place of having a proper proposal, and he was determined to find the perfect ring for his future husband. Husband. It was a dream to even consider- let alone plan. “My parents know that we used to date, I couldn’t hide it forever, but I think they expected me to get married to some girl once BTS started to lose popularity.”

Taehyung cocked his head, his eyes locked on a particular band tucked into the corner. “Will they be disappointed?”

Without missing a beat Jeongguk’s hand moved to settle at the small of his back and he kissed the side of his head. “It doesn’t matter, it’s not their life it’s mine.” Taehyung covered his mouth to hide his smile but he could still see Jeongguk’s smug grin out of the corner of his eye, he was too observant for his own good. “Do you see one you like?”

“Maybe, what about that one?” He pointed to the band that had caught his eye: a simple beveled, sterling silver band perfect for Jeongguk’s more simple taste for jewelry. 

“I love it.” He hummed.

As if on cue a saleswoman slid up across the counter from them with a wide smile. “Hello, what can I help you gentlemen find today?” She was primly dressed and didn’t have a hair out of place but her smile was completely natural and Taehyung couldn’t help but return it.

“I convinced him to marry me.” He joked and her entire face lit up. There was a pinch to his side that made him jump, but he only leaned into Jeongguk’s arms with a small smile. “I think we found one for him,” he pointed to the silver band and she nodded enthusiastically, rattling off details about the material and durability as she unlocked the counter.

“I just need to find the perfect one for him.” Jeongguk added.

“Do you have a style in mind, or perhaps color?” She asked curiously, her hands crossed on the glass. Taehyung shrugged, the decision was out of his hands, and Jeongguk leaned over the case again.

“I think maybe something black?” The idea surprised him, but Taehyung stayed quiet as he worked through his thoughts. His English had improved by leaps and bounds over the last few months. Taehyung had offered to help him during one of their weekly Skype dates and Jeongguk had jumped at the idea. “But not the whole thing, maybe just the stone?” He looked up at Taehyung with a small twist to his mouth. “How comfortable are you with more ‘feminine’ jewelry?” He asked in Korean, air quotes and all, and Taehyung only smiled and leaned in to kiss the corner of his mouth.

“I wear traditionally feminine clothing everyday, Guk. You know as well as I do how much either of us cares about that shit. Pick what you know I’ll like.” He had no doubt he’d love whatever ring Jeongguk decided on, and by the looks of the sales woman she was excited to hear what he had in store too.

“Well,” He started, back in English, “I would kind of love to see you in this one.” He slid down the counter a little ways, his arm dropped down from Taehyung’s waist, and pointed to a ring he couldn’t see. The woman- Nicole, he could now read from her name tag- followed closely and enthusiastically agreed.

“That’s a wonderful choice, do you think so?” She asked to Taehyung and he hurried over.

The ring was gorgeous, in a word. It was more like two rings, a base and a ‘jacket’ as Nicole explained, with a sizable black diamond surrounded by tiny diamonds that wrapped around the band. The jacket was a small fan of diamonds that cupped the tip of the main gem, a more feminine feature that he was already in love with. “I love it.”

There was a little bit of a wait as they had to get Taehyung’s ring sized but before long they had two black velvet boxes in their pockets and they were back outside.

“What’s next?” Jeongguk asked with a small smile, their hands linked as they walked down the sidewalk. The sun beat down on them, and the cement was hot through the soles of their shoes but Taehyung soaked up the warmth gladly. New York was either deathly cold or suffocatingly hot, so it was nice to enjoy a dry heat for once.

“Well,” As they got closer to an intersection Taehyung could see a particular sign down the next street, “I think now we get married.”

“Of fucking course I do.” The impassioned claim made Taehyung’s eyes widen, and the officiate laughed at Jeongguk’s enthusiasm. The idol only grinned and gripped his hands tighter. Their rings sparkled on their fingers and Taehyung swore he was never going to take it off. A piece of jewelry had never felt so heartwarming, or fulfilling.

“Then you can kiss your groom.” The officiate winked and Jeongguk didn’t need any more motivation than that.

It was the first kiss of the rest of their lives.

“I love you, TaeTae.” Jeongguk whispered against his lips, their fingers twined together. There was no stopping the tear that slipped down his cheek. This was it, they were married. They were tied together for life. The years he’d spent in fear, and lonely, had come to a quick end and Taehyung suddenly only had happiness on the horizon. “Hey, only happy tears, baby.”

“Only happy tears.” He choked out and he desperately pressed their lips together again. “Only happy tears.” Nothing was perfect, but this was pretty fucking close, he thought. He’s perfect.

Chapter Text

“You guys didn’t mention that you were releasing an album so soon!” Jeongguk mentioned when they were back on Skype. Taehyung smiled at his husband- husband- and propped his head up on his chin, the hand with his ring proudly displayed. “I thought you guys waited a couple years between?”

“I guess I just found my muse.” He shrugged, and even through the pixelated screen he could see the bright flush take over Jeongguk’s features. “Hey, actually though,”  His sudden serious tone made the idol sit up and he frowned. “I need to ask something.”

“What’s up?”

Taehyung glanced over at the email he had pulled up on a separate screen. “So, Jess sent me the mock ups for the album cover...and I need to ask your opinion?” ‘Need’ might have been too strong a word, but a particular version had stolen his heart and he needed Jeongguk to see it. “Can I forward this email to you right now?” Jeongguk gave him a quick nod, expression a little concerned, and he sent it.

Only a few seconds later there was a muffled swish from Jeongguk’s phone and he quickly pulled his phone up his face, fingers flying over the screen. “Whoa, that first one is cool. I like the graphic.” He commented, and Taehyung nodded. That one had been a commission but the singer hadn’t been sold on it. “Wait, hey, Tae…” Jeongguk’s voice trailed off and Taehyung wondered what he had found. “Is the title…?” Ah.

“Yeah,” he smiled softly and Jeongguk looked back up, eyes wide and lips parted, “I told you I found my muse, yeobo.”

His smile was stunning even through the webcam and Taehyung’s heart clenched at the sight of his bright, wide grin. Jeongguk had always smiled easily. He could find beauty in everything and he always looked on the bright side first in his frequent bursts of optimism. It was almost out of place with his bedhead and his sleep clothes still on. “I love you.” He said seriously, and Taehyung’s own smile widened.

“I love you too. Now, look at the third one.” He ordered and the idol nodded quickly before he turned his attention back to his phone. His thumb scrolled for a moment, and then he froze. “I wanted to ask your permission. To use the photo, obviously. I know you took it for yourself, but I saw it and I knew it would fit perfectly so I sent it, but I know-.”

“It’s perfect.” Jeongguk said quietly, and Taehyung paused. “I haven’t heard the album yet but I already know it’s perfect.” His looked up through his hair with a small smile. “Of course you can use it, baby.”

“What about your company? Did you tell Bang-PD-nim?” While they had, had constant contact for weeks the topic of their elopement had been pushed to the side as BTS had prepared for their next comeback. Taehyung had heard a sneak peak of their next album and had been blown away by the quality and the effort it must have taken. They had truly outdone themselves again. “I don’t want to out you to the public, Guk.”

“Why not?” He pushed back and Taehyung blinked. “Listen, I sort of told them- I told the company, or like, they told me? They already knew? It was confusing. The guys don’t know yet.” He explained and Taehyung was surprised. He had assumed Jeongguk would have told their hyungs first. “I didn’t want secrets from the company about something so important to me anyway, and…”

“‘And’?” There was a sense of anticipation in his stomach that only increased as Jeongguk smiled and shrugged nervously.

“They told me they’re okay with me coming out? Not immediately, but it’s going to happen.” Something warm bubbled up inside of himself and Taehyung gasped softly. He never would have guessed they would allow Jeongguk to openly announce his relationships. The Korean music industry was so wrought his tradition and social stigma that he’d expected to have to stay in the closet about their relationship forever. “Hey, don't cry!” Jeongguk giggled easily and Taehyung laughed into his hands as he tried to wipe his tears away.

“I’m just so happy for you, Gukkie.” He said honestly. “What are you going to tell them?”

That made the idol wiggle and the singer watched him curiously for a moment. “Well, see, okay, here’s the thing: I want to tell them I’m married, to you of course, but I want to make sure they know that we’ve been together for, you know, years?”

“Jeongguk.” He said. “We dated for six months before we got married.”

“Taehyung.” Jeongguk mocked with a small smile. “We’ve practically been dating for over seven years.”

Well. If one counted the time they’d spent together the first time, plus the years Taehyung had spent pining and semi-openly declaring his love for him to the public… “Well.” He repeated out loud. “Yeah, I guess we have. Wow.” His eyes caught his computer screen again and he frowned. “Wait, so does that mean you want me to use the picture?” Jeongguk nodded and he sighed happily. “People are gonna go crazy on Twitter.” He joked and Jeongguk cocked his head to the side.

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll know when the album comes out, yeobo.” He smiled.

Jeongguk had always been awful at keeping secrets, it was simply a fact. He had an expressive face and even when he tried to keep himself emotionless he just looked angry. So, it was a miracle that he had been able to keep the huge smile off of his face when he had been brought back to his hotel. Seijin had only given him a knowing look when he had finally caught sight of his jewelry but a quick head shake just made him smile and keep quiet.

He was able to dodge his hyungs but as soon as they had landed back in Seoul, Seijin had pulled him aside with a stern look.

“You have a meeting with Bang-PD-nim.” He said quietly and Jeongguk’s eyes widened as he was led to the company car parked on the street. “I had to tell him that you went to see Taehyung.” He didn’t add anything else but Jeongguk didn’t need him to. They had gotten lucky so far that no one had spotted them in public together, but it was simply only a matter of time.

BigHit’s building didn’t look any different from the last time he’d been by, and the route to the CEO’s office was the same as ever. However, the last time he’d seen the older man had been on much happier terms and the fate of his love life hadn’t been put in potential danger.

Shihyuk was behind his large desk like he always was when they stepped in and he looked up from his paperwork with a big smile. “Jeongguk-ssi!” He greeted and the idol bowed before he took his seat. “How was your flight? I’m sorry I called before you could sleep in.”

“That’s all right, PD-nim.” Jeongguk shook his head. “It’s not a problem.” He didn’t ask for a clarification because it seemed like Shihyuk wasn’t about to waste time either way.

“I don’t want to drag this on, Jeongguk.” The producer leaned back in his chair with a sigh. “I’ll be honest with you: the company has always known that you and Taehyung-ssi were in a relationship.” The idol blinked in shock- the conversation had taken a turn he truly hadn’t anticipated. “You weren’t obvious, but over time we could tell and… I’m sure he’s told you what about why he left,” Jeongguk gave him a shaky nod and Shihyuk sighed again. He suddenly seemed years older as he rubbed his temples, “I thought so. In the meeting where we dissolved his contract he made a comment that stuck with me. Do you know what he said?”

Jeongguk shook his head. “No, sir.”

“He said: ‘I know I’m making a mistake by leaving, but as long as you get rid of that monster like you say you are then I know Jeonggukkie will be safe.’” Jeongguk felt his heart jump to his throat and he lifted his hands to cover his face. He felt sick to his stomach at the very thought, that even when Taehyung was so broken he still held Jeongguk above it. He still held his happiness and safety above his own. “We had no idea what Sangmin was doing when we weren’t looking, and I will always feel disgusted with myself for having let it happen beneath our noses.” He paused. “However, that isn’t what I wanted to tell you about today.”

Jeongguk looked up through his fingers and Shihyuk’s eyes caught the silver band on his left hand.

“Congratulations on your elopement, Jeongguk-ssi.” He said with a wry grin and the idol’s hands dropped to his lap like lead. 

“I’m so sorry!” He blurted out, the previous topic gone from his mind for a moment. “I mean, I’m not sorry for marrying him- I love him- but I’m sorry I just did it. It felt so right and-.”

“Jeongguk.” Shihyuk interrupted with a small laugh. “It’s okay. Like I said, we knew when you two were dating the first time around. This second time was much easier to spot.” He smiled. “Your late night/early morning Skype calls are hard to ignore according to your staff. I would have worried for the worst but Namjoon mentioned offhandedly that you and Taehyung were back in contact.”

“So you’re...not mad?” Jeongguk was confused, but if his company wasn’t going to do anything drastic then he wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. To be quite honest he had expected almost the exact opposite reaction.

“You’re under no dating ban, plus Taehyung is also in the media. He knows how to keep out any bad publicity.” Then that sad look came back and he shifted in his office chair again. “Look, I’ll be honest there’s nothing wrong with you being together- as long as you realize you’ll need to keep it under wraps for a little while. Between BTS’s comeback and the media freakout that will happen if this gets out, there’s no telling the outcome.”

“So I’m in the closet...forever?” It sounded awful. It was almost crushing to think that he would never be able to publicly announce that he was taken, that Taehyung held his heart and he held his. That their lives were bound together for the rest of their time on this Earth.

“Not...necessarily.” He shook his head and waved a hand at a few stacks of paper on this desk. “I’ve been working on a plan for you for a couple weeks now, but it’s nowhere near done.”

“…So I can come out? Just, not right now? Does that mean I call tell everyone that we got married? That it’s to Taehyung?” The questions came faster and faster. Any sadness that was left in his system was burned up by the jolt of pure euphoria that burst through his body. His mouth spread into a wide smile and Shihyuk nodded.

“It might need to be in steps, but yes.”

“Hey, Guk, I’m gonna borrow some jewelry!” Jimin’s voice trailed down the hall and Jeongguk didn’t bother to respond. Even if he had said anything his hyung wouldn’t have stopped either way. They usually shared everything anyway and jewelry was certainly the tamest option. He still hadn’t quite forgiven Hoseok for stealing his underwear a year ago.

They were only getting ready to go to dinner at a low key restaurant they trusted- meaning where they knew both the owner and all the exits. Jimin always took the longest to get ready so none of them were surprised when they found themselves in the living room on their phones as he changed his outfit a dozen times.

“Okay, I think I’m ready.” The singers voice was suddenly much closer than before; they all groaned jokingly and with little fuss they were herded outside to their car. Jeongguk ended up in the middle of Yoongi and Seokjin which was a hassle and a half just to get comfortable between them. “Jeez, stop wiggling, Guk.”

“You’re one to talk!” He griped. “You’re in the front seat!” Jimin must have made a snappy comment back as he always did, but Jeongguk’s attention narrowed to a point when he pretended to flip his hair and the smooth ring on his finger caught his eye. “What are you wearing?” His sudden sharp tone made his hyung pause and Jimin frowned.

“What? Are you blind?” Even Yoongi shifted to give him a side eye but Jeongguk shook his head.

“Your ring. My ring. What are you wearing?” That was when Seijin glanced up through the rear view mirror and then over at Jimin.

The pink haired man frowned. “I don’t know, man, you had it on your dresser. It was free game.”

“It was not!” Jeongguk snapped and then his hand darted forward and grabbed Jimin’s wrist. “That’s mine, you don’t get to wear it!” He didn’t know where the anger had come from, or the aggression.

He hadn’t worn it in weeks. His brain had glossed over it like it was simply another accessory.

Can’t wear it until you make it official, he’d thought. Can’t wear it until you’re worth it.

“That’s mine.”

Then, came the tears.

Jeongguk didn’t cry. It wasn’t a brag, he just didn’t normally have the emotional range to push himself to tears. Concerts could do it, Taehyung had certainly been able to a couple times, but as a rule of thumb he just didn’t. His years as a trainee had pushed those urges back, nix the slip up he’d had in front of the hyungs right before their debut. Of course while it had been almost necessary back then, it wasn’t necessary in the middle of the van- on their way for cheap noodles- to sob over a ring.

“Gukkie, hey,” big hands cupped his face and suddenly Seokjin’s wide eyes were in front of him, “what’s the matter? Why the tears?”

He wanted to reply, he really tried to, but as soon as his mouth opened it was like he couldn’t breathe. His chest constricted and his vision went hazy. He didn’t know which direction was which and everything was too close. 

Was this a panic attack? Was this what Taehyung constantly went through? His husband suddenly seemed leagues stronger than he’d ever given him credit for.

Husband

His husband. 

A fresh wave of tears rocked out of him and he felt his head be gently pushed between his knees. “Hey, hey, it’s okay. Deep breaths okay? In, and out.” Yoongi’s familiar timbre suddenly through him back to that morning in the hotel room. Their impromptu engagement that had been kickstarted by Taehyung’s anxiety driven panic attack. Jeongguk had been able to seem so calm then, why couldn’t he be calm now? Why couldn’t he play the part now? Why couldn’t he be the collected man he was able to be so effortlessly before?

Eventually his shaking came a slow stop and his cries died down and he was suddenly aware of a hand in his hair. “You okay?” It was Hoseok’s voice from behind him and he nodded as best he could. A set of hands slowly helped him sit up and his bleary eyes found Jimin’s wide eyed expression just in front of him.

“Gukkie? Are you okay?” He asked softly, and Jeongguk bit his lip.

“You can tell them, it’s okay.” Seijin said quietly and Jeongguk met his gaze briefly in the mirror. They had pulled off into some alley way, apparently. The light was low from the tall buildings on either side.

“I,” he wiped under his eyes with a sniffle and Seokjin rubbed his knee slowly, “I miss Taehyung.” He admitted quietly. “I miss him so much.” He didn’t have to pretend with Taehyung, he could be himself. Well...he could be a better version of himself. He could be the version that Taehyung stayed for.

No, that wasn’t quite right. They were both the better versions of themselves. There wasn’t room for petty insecurities in their relationship, only communication.

Communication that had been sorely lacking lately, he could admit.

Within the first couple months of their comeback they’d tried as hard as they could to find a time to fit Jeongguk’s schedule. DollHouse wasn’t on tour- yet- and so Taehyung was as free as a bird. Jeongguk on the other hand was stuck in 13 hour dance practices and hours long TV recording sessions on top of meetings about costuming, and stage design. They hadn’t been able to call each other in nearly two weeks.

“We all miss Taehyungie.” Jimin said with a smile, but Jeongguk shook his head vigorously.

“You can’t miss him the way I do.” He nearly whimpered. “I love him. I want to spend every moment of every day with him, I want to go to sleep and wake up to him. I can’t...I can’t stand it when I can’t see him.” Jimin frowned and his eyes traveled to the ring still on his thumb, the object that had brought on the conversation in the first place. “I...he bought me that.” Jeongguk looked down at the carpeted floor. “He bought me mine and I bought his and...and…”

“It’s okay.” Seijin reminded him.

“...We got married.”

There were no outcries or gasps in shock from anyone, although Seokjin’s grip tightened on his leg and Jimin’s eyes widened further than he thought possible. He could hear a soft ‘what the hell’ behind him but he ignored it. His attention was on the ring Jimin still hadn’t taken off.

“So this...is your wedding ring?” His hyung asked, and he nodded slowly. “Oh, my god, Jeongguk I’m so sorry.” He yanked it off and held it out. “I wouldn’t have put it on, I’m sorry.”

The warm metal dropped into his hand and he stared at it for a second, before he slid it on his fourth finger. “It’s okay.” He said softly, and then there was a pause before Jimin suddenly grabbed his hand.

“Wait, I’ve seen this before!” His free hand dug for his phone and within seconds he had a specific album from a very familiar artist pulled up. “This is you!”

Chapter Text

The reveal to his hyungs hadn’t changed much, Jeongguk noticed. They’d had plenty of questions once he had calmed down, both about dollHouse’s album and about his marriage in general. The fact that he’d actually hid it for weeks from them had surprised them more than anything. He wasn’t the best liar- although he hadn’t really lied about anything. The only thing that had really changed was a meeting with their management about their scheduling.

“We understand the need for the practices, but we can’t succeed when we’re on our last legs.” Namjoon said emphatically, and that apparently had been all they needed. Their schedules were still packed but they had more room to relax and recuperate.

Jeongguk took the first free day he had, nearly three months after their Vegas wedding, to call up the man he’d missed so much. They’d managed to squeeze in a few other calls along with their semi-constant texting but he needed to see his face again. His fingers tapped anxiously on his laptop as the call attempted to connect on the screen and continued to ring.

Eventually the ringing stopped but the call simply disconnected as it failed to reach Taehyung. Or he failed to pick up.

Or he ignored it.

The thought made him bite his lip and he hurried to grab his phone.

hey, missed you on skype. next time?

He sent it before he could rethink it and there was a bubble of anxiety under his skin that threatened to pop. 

Maybe he had gotten tired of waiting for him.

Maybe he’d realized Jeongguk wasn’t good for him, realized he should have left him behind and moved on.

Before he was fully conscious of it, he stood up from his chair only to have his knees buckle underneath him. His body slammed against the floor and his breathing picked up so quickly he choked. Any sound around him faded to a buzz that sounded like it came from inside his own head, and his fingers started to tingle as he lost feeling in them. There was a burst of chatter in the dorm but he couldn’t hear any of it, couldn’t focus on it.

He knows I’m not worth it. He knows I’m not working hard enough. He knows -.

“Jeongguk!” He couldn’t recognize the new voice, and his mind was so muddled it couldn’t place where he had seen that gold jacket before. Someone dropped to their knees by him and he couldn’t control his full body flinch. “Hey, baby, it’s okay. Can you breath for me?” The low voice got clearer and closer to his ear and Jeongguk tried to follow the mystery voice’s direction. “Can I touch you?” The stranger asked, and he really should have been more worried that his brain couldn’t focus on their face or voice.

Either way, he gave a single sharp nod through his sobs and two strong hands gently grabbed him and hauled him up into an equally strong pair of arms. The voice narrated each of his movements and Jeongguk could feel his body relax ever so slightly at the reassurances. 

Eventually his muscles unlocked and there was a rush of heat as his fingers gained some feeling back. His cries petered off to sniffles. The man holding him- the figure was too firm, too broad, too flat, to be a woman- smelled familiar. The cologne on their shirt collar was faint but he could recognize it anywhere.

He had a bottle of it on his dresser, and there was an identical one in New York.

“Hey, are you feeling better?” The low voice whispered in his ear and Jeongguk’s eyes burned as they filled with tears again. No wonder he’d missed my call. How could he have doubted them at all?

“Taehyungie,” His voice cracked and his husband’s entire body shuddered before their arms wrapped around each other tightly. Fingers curled into shirts, faces tucked into shoulders and their hearts pressed as close as they could ever get. “How are you here?”

“I missed you.” Taehyung breathed and Jeongguk was already on a thin line of emotional stability. He sobbed again into the singer’s jacket and Taehyung shushed him gently as he rubbed his back. “Hey, it’s okay. Everything’s okay. We’re okay.” The assurances let something unravel in his chest and Jeongguk sagged into his embrace. His voice repeated the phrases as his shaking cries calmed down slowly and when his tears stopped, and his body finally seemed to tire itself out, Taehyung laid a kiss to the soft curve of his mouth and sighed. “Rest for a little bit, yeobo, it’s okay.”

“It’s just a few more weeks, and then you can start.”

Namjoon had been surprised by the aptitude of dollHouse’s management team. From the moment they’d all converged in the meeting room the Americans had laid out facts and a well thought out plan that had even impressed PD-nim. However, as they went on and on about scheduled appearances and press conferences and ‘PR nightmares’ he couldn’t really focus on anything but the couple of the hour.

At first only Jeongguk and Taehyung had been in the meeting- until they had requested for the rest of their respective bands to come in as well. From the moment they’d stepped through the door the couple hadn’t left the other’s side, Namjoon didn’t think Taehyung had moved his arm from around his shoulders even once. Jeongguk was tucked under his elbow and had his own arms wrapped around his waist, surprisingly intimate for the professional setting.

“So...a few more weeks, and you’ll allow him to come out?” Taehyung clarified and PD-nim nodded. It really was all on them, Namjoon knew. DollHouse were already quite open with their individual sexualities, and had even shaped their reputation around it. On the flip side BTS needed to be very, very careful before their careers died in an awful media fire- to quote one of the Americans.

Hoseok let out a shaky sigh beside him and Namjoon turned to catch the dancer’s eye. “What’s up?” He asked quietly. He expected some uncertainty, maybe even trepidation because of the coming backlash. What he got was a blinding smile and a few tears. “Hey, Seok, what’s up?”

“I’m so happy for them, Joon-ah.” The dancer giggled as he wiped his eyes and Seokjin glanced over his shoulder in concern. “TaeTae’s suffered so much, and you know Jeonggukkie will push his own needs behind the rest of us. They need each other, and they’re just so in love. I’m just...so happy for them.”

Namjoon looked back up at the couple and he had to agree. No one could look at them and not see the love in every move they made, every look they gave each other. Nothing that had pushed them apart before would keep them apart now.

He wouldn’t let it happen, and by the look of the nine other musicians they wouldn’t either.

When they would talk about it later Jeongguk would tell him about how awful he felt about their sudden distance, but Taehyung understood. Their lives were extremely busy and an idol’s work ethic wasn’t something to sneeze at. He couldn’t go a day without dance practice, or vocal lessons, or even just meetings with their various departments for whatever they needed. So their sudden lack of contact didn’t really worry Taehyung like it would have just a year before. DollHouse could go days without anything to do in between shows when they weren’t in the studio but Jeongguk just didn’t have that luxury, and Taehyung knew that.

DollHouse had a small break before their next tour, of which they’d spent the entirety of August and September planning for, would start. He sent his husband a morning and goodnight text as he went through his days but he didn’t think much of it when he only got a few one word responses. After the Skype call where Jeongguk had told him that he’d told the company about their relationship Taehyung didn’t think there was much of a reason to worry.

Until the text came.

He was just about to start up a movie on Netflix, home by himself other than Simon, when his phone vibrated on the table next to him. He grabbed it with an eye roll fully expecting to see a selfie from Haneul and his girlfriend, or even an itinerary update from Jess. The sight of ‘Min Yoongi’ made him pause.

Hey, have you heard

from Jeongguk lately?

It wasn’t the fact that it was from Yoongi that was unusual, it was the serious vibe he got from the few words. 

No? Is everything okay??

The response came almost instantly and Taehyung’s brows rose in worry.

I wouldn’t say that.

The text immediately made his breath catch and faster than he could stop himself he had the phone up to his ear and ringing. He didn’t let the rapper speak when it stopped. “What’s wrong with Guk?” He demanded, and there was a sigh over the line.

“‘Hello’ to you too,” Yoongi greeted dryly but there was no smile or huff of laughter from the singer. “Don’t jump to conclusions, he isn’t hurt.”

An invisible weight lifted from his shoulders and he sagged back into his couch cushions with a low sigh. “What do you mean, then?” With their sudden drop in contact Taehyung hadn't heard anything from the other man in almost weeks. “What happened?”

“I don’t know if something happened between you, but he’s been working himself to the bone. He’s the first one to practice and the last to leave- Hoseok is about to throw a tantrum if he has to drag him home after midnight again. Did you guys get in a fight or something?” The rapper sounded genuinely curious and worried and that alone made Taehyung’s imagination run wild. 

“Of course not, I’ve barely spoken to him. We’ve both been too busy, and dH has a tour we’re prepping for.” Taehyung explained, not quite sure what to expect. The man could tell him anything and he wouldn’t have enough knowledge to refute it. “I’m sorry, hyung, why are you calling me?” He tried to ask kindly but by the snort over the line he missed the mark.

The rapper sighed after a second. “Tae, I’m sure you remember how... in his head he gets. He starts overthinking everything and he finds faults in everything he does. We think everything is starting to get to him, finally, and the others thought I was the best one to call you up.” That surprised the singer. They weren’t close, they were barely friends. He’d had limited interaction with Yoongi since they’d all met up again. He cared for them all and he would do anything for them but the rapper had seemed to...distance himself.

“Why?”

“I need to say ‘I’m sorry’, again.” Yoongi said plainly. “I pushed you away when I should have been asking you how you were. We should have been paying closer attention to how the company had treated you but we were all too worried about our own success and I was the worst. The very least I can do is make sure that we’re not the reason you and Jeonggukkie can’t work things out. So, I’m sorry, Taehyung. So much.”

“Hyung…” It was so like the rapper to be so nonchalant about such a serious topic but Taehyung only felt touched, his heart warm and his lips pulled tight in a smile.

“If you can make it work we have some tickets for a for a few days…”

His fingers were clenched tight around Simon’s leash even as they climbed into the back of their rented car. The walk through the airport had been as hectic as they’d expected, wall to wall fans with high pitched screams and too bright cameras. The doberman sat between his feet with Paris and Nico on either side of himself, Haneul in the front by their driver, and he was sure their team was in the second car right behind them.

“It’ll be okay, Tay.” Nico said quietly but he didn’t respond. The blonde reached over and patted him on the knee slowly, his touch light and quick so he didn’t push him even closer to the edge. “We’ll get this shit figured out.”

Paris snorted and looked up from her phone with a quirked brow. Her eyes were shadowed from their early direct flight but she hadn’t complained once since Taehyung had called everyone up just a few days before. “You sound confident for someone who’d nearly shit himself at the thought of meeting Jimin this morning.” At the reminder the bassist flushed and Taehyung barked out a laugh; the tension in his shoulders bled out just a little bit and he sagged into his seat.

While they hadn’t argued his need to fly to South Korea almost ASAP Nico had spent hours gushing about meeting Bangtan- completely out of character for a normally so stoic man. “Don’t be a bitch, Ris.” He sniffed and Paris immediately reached around Taehyung and smacked his thigh. “Hey!”

“Don’t be a bitch, Nic.” She mocked and that was when Haneul turned in his seat with a narrow eyed glare. It was as close to a ‘I will turn this car around’ look as the guitarist could get and they all sobered up, although Taehyung stifled a giggle once he had turned back around. “Hey,” Paris whispered in his ear, “but really, don’t worry. We’ve got your back- JK’s too.” She added with a small smile.

“Thank you.” He said sincerely and she just shrugged. It was no big deal, she said, but he knew that wasn’t entirely true. They were a family but they had lives outside of dollHouse. He’d fully expected to have to fly by himself with their management but they had all immediately rearranged their schedules to come along.

‘We’ve got your back’ indeed, he thought with a smile.

They’d initially planned on a night in their hotel before they met up with Namjoon but there’d been a sudden storm and their flight had been delayed an extra eight hours. While it had caused a few arguments it had eventually been decided to get the meet up over with first while management got their hotel situation figured out. Then. they would have their actual, official meeting between labels the next day.

“Go to sleep,” Haneul called behind him as he shifted down in his own seat, his hood pulled up around his face and his hands shoved in his pockets, “an hour is better than nothing.” Taehyung didn’t need another excuse to sleep and without thinking about it he shifted to take up residence on Paris’ shoulder. Simon had moved to lay across their feet and Nico tipped over as he laid down across their laps. 

Years of living in and out of vans and tour buses made it easy for them to pass out to only the rumble of the car and the low murmur of the radio.

Taehyung was too exhausted to dream but too anxious to really fall into a deep sleep and when he was gently shaken awake an hour later he cracked his eyes open with a low groan. “I feel like I slept in a blender.” He croaked and there was a burst of laughter in the background. “Where the fuck are we?” The light was brighter outside and he knew they’d come to a stop; he and Paris had curled further around each other in their sleep but Nico was gone from their laps.

“Our dorm.” The voice sounded distantly familiar but his foggy brain couldn’t put a face to it. His spine cracked as he sat up and he turned towards the open van door; Simon wasn’t by his feet but he could hear the jingle of his tags just outside so Haneul had probably let him out to stretch his legs. There was a tall man in the door, a tall man with dark hair and a bright smile that looked very familiar. Taehyung squinted against the light, and then the man shifted and his face suddenly came into focus as the last dregs of sleep were wiped from his eyes. “Nice to see you again, Taehyungie.”

“Hoseok hyung!” He exclaimed and there was a second of surprise before he slid out of the van and pulled the older singer into his arms. “Hey!” The brunette laughed and hugged him just as tight. Taehyung could now see Nico’s wide eyed stare behind the idol’s back and Taehyung grinned at his obvious internal dilemma. “It’s great to see you.” He said as they separated and Haneul passed him Simon’s leash silently. One of their translators was speaking to a man he didn’t recognize and Jess was off to the side with a phone up to her ear. “Have you met everyone yet? I don’t think I’ve introduced you all to each other.”

Hoseok immediately held up a hand and laughed. “Hang on, hold it until we’re upstairs. I just came down to help you inside. We can do introductions when everyone’s in the room.” That was when Paris finally tumbled out of the van and Taehyung felt her fall against his back, her face pressed between his shoulder blades. By her loud, guttural groan she hadn’t wanted to wake up either.

The great thing about a private parking lot was that there was plenty of attention outside of the lot but between security guards and high fences they were completely separated from any prying eyes. They all followed behind the idol silently, the band was still too exhausted to really hold a conversation. The Universal team had left to deal with their hotel situation and that left just the members to speak with Bangtan.

“Alright, one second,” Hoseok mumbled to himself when they stepped out of the elevator and they waited a moment as he dug in his pocket for his keys. Taehyung glanced over at the others and bit his lip at the way Nico bounced on the balls of his feet, and Paris was slumped over Haneul now. They were exhausted Taehyung reminded himself almost hysterically. If he was awake any longer he might start seeing sound. “Ha!” With a soft click of the tumblers and a press to a thumbprint scanner the door was pushed open and they were met with a rush of vanilla and the sound of bodies moving inside. The dancer announced his return as they stepped inside and the sound came to a stop briefly, and then there was a crash as four men hurried around the corner to greet them.

“Tae!” Seokjin exclaimed with a bright grin and Taehyung didn’t hesitate to step forward and meet his tight hug. “It’s been so long!”

“Hey, Seokjin hyung.” He greeted, and then Namjoon and Yoongi hugged him briefly as well. He and the elder rapper shared a look but Taehyung only squeezed him a little tighter and left it at that. They didn’t need more words. Jimin stepped forward and the two stared at each other for only a moment, a soft tension between them. “Hey, Minnie.” He smiled and the pink haired man lit up with a bright grin. They hugged tightly- their first physical contact in years. “Missed you guys.” He mumbled, and there was a chorus of ‘missed you too’ from the international celebrities around him. Jimin tightened their hug for a second before they separated, and he squeezed his hand briefly. They all had more to talk about later.

“Hey, introduce us, Tay.” Paris chimed in sleepily from behind him and he turned to reveal his bandmates behind him. “‘Sup.” She waved a lazy hand and he heard Hoseok giggle.

“This is my best friend Kim Haneul,” he started and the man bowed as best he could with Paris latched onto his arm, “he’s our guitarist. Then this is my main girl Paris O-, uh, Okada Paris, and she’s our drummer.” Then he moved to clap a hand on Nico’s shoulder and he grinned at his wide eyed stare, confused by all the Korean spoken around him. “This is our youngest, Nicolas Lyon,” the name rolled off his tongue like Nico had taught him and he cast a smirk at the idols, “ and he’s a huge fan of yours, but please take pity on them because he and Paris don’t know a word of Korean.”

Yoongi seemed amused by that but before anyone could say anything Namjoon stepped forward to introduce them as well and then they were all silent in the front room. “Jeongguk hasn’t left his room all day-.” The rapper started, and Taehyung perked up at his husbands name. He was the entire reason they were even there after all. However just as he went to continue Taehyung suddenly realized his phone was vibrating in his pocket and he quickly dug it out, only for it to stop. The screen lit up and he realized just who’s call he’d missed.

“Oh, fuck,” He cursed and his heart leapt to his throat.

Yeobo (1)

Missed Call

“Where’s his room?”

Chapter Text

The leak happened while they were still in Korea, while he was still imposing in their dorm (Jeongguk hadn’t wanted him to leave and after Jeongguk’s panic attack he hadn’t argued). Taehyung woke up to a stream of texts from Jess and an email a mile long from both their PR Manager and one of the bigwigs at Universal. It had been Yoongi who had spotted the trending tag first, ironic when one considered he went on Twitter because their management told him to and nothing else.

#WhyDidntTaeReport ’.

While it didn’t automatically bring Taehyung to mind, from what Yoongi told him later the sheer number of BigHit mentions had caught his attention. He’d clicked on one tweet and over a dozen later he’d found the original thread. It was full of semi-blurry photos of various backstage events that Taehyung was barely visible in and it ended with a video of what looked like a man being slapped by another, slightly larger, man. Taehyung watched silently it as they all sat down for breakfast.

“I don’t know where they even found this shit.” Yoongi rolled his eyes. Jeongguk rubbed his back slowly and Taehyung silently replayed the video again. The sound quality was shit but the crack of the hand across the boy’s face was unmistakable.

“This was the night he found out.” He said numbly, and the hand on his back paused for just a second before it continued. Jeongguk’s other hand clenched around his chopsticks. It became obvious that Yoongi had assumed the pictures and the video were both just bullshit, or had simply hoped, when his mouth dropped open in a sort of horrified shock. “Before he dragged me off.” He added unhelpfully; his skin itched and his body held a phantom ache at the painful memories. “Someone had made a comment about me and Guk- he didn’t take it well. Then it... happened.”

Breakfast was silent after that when he didn’t have anything else to add. That was all well and good, he thought.

At least until Namjoon answered a call from Bang-PD-nim and suddenly Taehyung was forced to make a decision. Or, to be more accurate, forced to make an announcement.

Announcement made it sound like something to be celebrated, Taehyung thought. There was nothing to be celebrated. It was a short period of time that had dictated how he had lived the rest of his life. It had been months of terror and abuse and it would be a scar on his life for as long as he lived.

He had the others, though, as they loudly reminded him. He had Bangtan, he had dollHouse. He had Jeongguk.

“BigHit will suffer. Bangtan will suffer.” He’d said but everyone had shot him down, Shihyuk included as they sat around the meeting room.

“Our wealth and popularity is nothing to your safety and peace of mind.” Namjoon had assured him and they had all nodded in agreement without a second thought.

“It’s the right thing to do.” Jeongguk added in a whisper. “We can finally get rid of him, get him away from others.” And he really hadn’t needed much other convincing.

As long as he had the others to back him up he would do anything to get that monster away from anyone else.

In the midst of the drama of the looming court case it was almost easy to forget that dollHouse was in the middle of their world tour. Manchester, Glasgow, Dublin, Stockholm- the cities were a blur as they moved from venue to venue amid the chaos. A life of music and performing was suddenly halfway on hold as he spent hours on the phone with lawyers. Taehyung had made a point to be available for his and Jeongguk’s Skype calls after their last communication disaster, and he didn’t think he would have stayed afloat without him.

“Knock knock, it’s the fashion police!” A loud bang against his hotel room door startled him awake; Simon let out a sharp bark from the floor but when Paris stepped through the door he settled back down again. “Hands up if you’re not wearing pants!”

His eyes slowly cracked open and he raised his hands above his head once he’d pushed himself up. “What the fuck?” He was so exhausted he didn’t know left from right and his eyes slipped closed even as he slumped forward. However whatever had pushed them into his room didn’t let his exhaustion stop them. “...am I late?” He reached up to rub at his eyes but froze as he suddenly took in the half-a-dozen people in his room. “Uh…”

Paris stood in front of the intruders with a smile, her eyes a little red around the edges and her face a little swollen. “Tay, do you remember what you said during that after party a few years ago, after we got our first win?”

The singer squinted, thoroughly confused, but even through the fog in his brain he could see a few of the tour staff hide huge smiles behind their hands. A couple of them even had their phones up and pointed at him. What the fuck.  “Is that a trick question?” His voice was hoarse from his late night talking to Guk. Paris only shook her head. She looked uncharacteristically fond as she took a step closer and settled on the edge of the bed.

“You said ‘there was no point in shooting for the ground when we had the stars in our reach’ and that really fucking stuck with me, you know?” He could see Haneul and Nico behind her nod with their own grins and Taehyung grew even more confused. “You wanted to get us to the Grammy's, wanted to bring Asian representation to the Academy and prove that we could make it.” There was a fresh wave of tears in her eyes and, damn, Taehyung was lost . “Tay, Tay why do you think we all woke you up?”

Her earnest expression and laser-like focus on him made him frown. His mind whirled as fast as it could with as little fuel as he could give it. Why had she brought up something he’d said half-tipsy and hyper emotional? The Grammy's were so far from their reach it was almost laughable, the same familiar names and faces with the occasional ‘token representation’ to appease the general public. 

However, the look in her eyes...

“Ris,” He started slowly as a couple other phones popped out of pockets, and her face broke into a wider smile; his heart began to beat wildly in his chest at the possibility- the very idea. “I swear to god if you woke me up to prank me I will cut your legs off.” He threatened weakly and she shook her head. Inky strands stuck to her wet cheeks and his voice cracked. “Ris, Ris what are we nominated for?” His voice was small and brittle and he could see Haneul bring his hands up to his eyes.

“Would you believe me if I said we were up for Best Album and Best Record?” She asked teasingly and he couldn’t hold it back. A sob tore through his throat and like a wave there was a raucous cheer in the room as three familiar bodies tackled him back onto the bed. “We’re nominated for a Grammy!” She screeched.

“A fucking Grammy!” Haneul wasn’t even trying to hide his tears and Nico did nothing but blubber uselessly into Taehyung’s shoulder. “Fuck! ” He repeated and Taehyung let out a disbelieving laugh. “Too bad your song wasn’t on this album, huh Nic?” He teased and the Frenchman flipped him off weakly, even as they all clung to each other.

There was a shuffle of footsteps and Taehyung looked up too see Jess grinning with her phone up to her face. “This video is for JK.” She winked, and Taehyung let out a laugh of pure elation.

Even as his past tried to bring him back down he could still succeed, he could still have moments in his career and his life like this.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Kim.” The short, dark haired man jumped up with a bright smile as soon as they stepped through the office door. He stood behind a table covered in fabric squares, a large board of pinned pictures behind him. Taehyung gave him a bright smile as they stepped closer and he held out a hand to shake, but the man pulled him a little closer and giggled as they kissed cheeks instead. “I love the shoes- Gucci?”

“Of course. 2019 Fall Collection.” Taehyung winked and the designer pretended to fan himself.

“I don’t want to think about what I’d do for those.” He joked and the singer laughed. “But enough about those, and more about you- please, take a seat.” They all seated themselves and Taehyung leaned into Jeongguk’s side, their hands tightly laced together. Not from nervousness or anxiety but simply because of the closeness they both craved. “Is this your mystery man?” He asked teasingly and Taehyung was sure he hadn’t expected a response but Jeongguk giggled and kissed his hair before he could answer.

“I’m his husband.” He said. “Jeongguk Jeon.” He had flown in just the day before for this meeting and Taehyung was sure he was exhausted but he hadn’t complained once. Of course, the fact that he was able to speak so freely about their relationship even to just one person perked them both up. His visit wasn’t going to last long so the fact that they could be close even in public was a blessing of itself.

“Pleasure! Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t introduce myself: I’m Christian Siriano.” The brunette said with a smile but Jeongguk only shook his head.

“Hey, I’m just here as the trophy husband, Tae’s the focus.”

Then he elbowed Taehyung in the side and the singer scoffed and shoved him back lightly. “Oh shut up.” He rolled his eyes. “He’s only saying that because there isn’t a hoard of teenage girls screaming his name outside.” Christian laughed at his expression, and they were sure he could tell they were just joking.

As if to prove their thought he leaned over and grabbed a small white binder from under his desk and the tablet beside him. “I’m sure you’re tired of hearing it, but congratulations on the nomination! What are your ideas for your red carpet debut?” He asked, straight to the point. “I understand I’m dressing everyone, although I heard from your team that you had a specific request.”

Jeongguk squeezed his hand silently as Taehyung took a deep breath. “I want to wear a dress.” He confessed. “I’ve always pulled clothes from both sides of the spectrum, but I’ve never worn a dress before. I’ve always wanted to, but… I want to make this both a statement for the public and myself.”

The thought had come to him after he’d scrolled past a photo of the idols on twitter. It was an older picture from an award show roughly a year ago but the effect was the same as he stared at it. 

Jeongguk always looked a little different in a suit: older, broader, taller. He looked as great as always, but that wasn’t what had bothered him. A few posts later in the replies he had stumbled across a fan who had compared the two of them. Jeongguk was in a suit- stern jawline and muscles wrapped in wool- while Taehyung was dressed in his stage clothes- heels, a silk shirt, ripped jeans.

“Spot the man” the caption had said, and while he had disregarded the obviously stupid caption it had gotten him thinking anyway.

Taehyung had asked Jeongguk later, completely serious, but Jeongguk had immediately given him a look like he’d grown another head.

“Would it be easier for you if I changed how I dressed?”

Even through the computer screen the idol’s expression was as clear as day.

“What?” He had asked incredulously, and when Taehyung repeated it his husband scowled. “Even if I cared how you dressed, which I don’t, don’t assume I’d want you to change.” He’d started. “You’re perfect the way you are, baby, and your sense of style is just another thing I love about you.”

Jeongguk had gone on to explain that he truly didn’t care how Taehyung dressed, that clothes said nothing about a person beyond what they preferred to wear. How had how he dressed dictated his masculinity? How had the way Jeongguk dressed dictated his masculinity? His husband was just as tough as he was soft, and Taehyung was no less a man for not caring who his clothes were actually meant for.

The words wouldn’t have meant nearly as much if they had come from anyone else, and they echoed in his head again as Christian’s face glowed from the wide smile on his face. “I love it! Did you have any ideas? Are you looking for a matching suit?” He added with a look towards Jeongguk.

They both nodded but Taehyung was the one who spoke up; Jeongguk still didn’t have too much confidence in his English despite what everyone else told him. “He says he just wants to make sure he looks almost as good as me,” he started and the designer laughed and flipped through a few pages of the binder, “but I don’t really know what I want besides that I want it to be floor length.”

“A full gown? Definitely, with the right cut we can accentuate your height and your figure,” Christian mumbled, and then they were thrown headfirst into planning.

Hours went by in the blink of an eye as they went over dozens of different fabrics and stitching styles, Jeongguk had even had a few suggestions for his own suit when they talked about how to coordinate the two of them, which had shocked the man who knew he lived out of designer sweatpants and baggy t-shirts.

After they were done the designer snapped his binder shut and smiled at both of them. “I don’t think I said this before,” He started quietly, “but I think you’re being extremely brave, and I respect you a lot for this. Being able to be so unapologetically yourself is amazing, and I wish you both happiness.” The surprisingly genuine words made Taehyung’s jaw drop in surprise, but then Jeongguk opened his mouth.

“He deserves it all.” He said. His wide, doe eyes were laser focused on Taehyung and the two singers stared at each other. “I’m so proud of you, TaeTae.” He said in a near whisper, his Korean as soft as the hand that pushed his hair out of his eyes. The fact that they weren’t alone escaped his mind as Taehyung smiled brightly and leaned in to kiss him, a hand raised to cup his cheek.

“Thank you, yeobo.”

The call came while Jeongguk was still in town, the day before he was supposed to fly back actually. His phone buzzed from it’s spot under his pillow and Taehyung’s eyes cracked open with a groan; one hand rooted for it while the other pried the hand off his waist so he could push himself upright. “Hello?” He said slowly, unaware of what time it really was. All he knew was that no light behind his curtains equaled too fucking early.

“TaeTae!” A voice chirped through the speakers. “Why didn’t you tell any of us that you were nominated for a Grammy?” The voice was familiar enough for Taehyung to squint into the darkness of his bedroom before he pulled the phone back to check the ID.

“Jimin, why are you calling me so early?” He groaned, and there was a pause on the other end. Jeongguk rolled over in his sleep, blissfully unaware. Lucky. “I didn’t say anything because I thought Guk told you guys.”

The idol sighed. “Tae, the kid barely remembers to tie his own shoes sometimes.”

He snorted. “Yeah, and I married that kid.” He paused as a yawn broke between his words and he slouched back against his headboard. Almost like it was a signal Jeongguk rolled back over and looped an arm around his waist, his face pressed against his hip. He carded his fingers through his hair, the strands soft across his inked knuckles. Jeongguk let out a sleepy huff at the pressure.

“Oh, don’t remind me,” Jimin laughed, although Taehyung was still terribly confused as to why he was on a call at three in the morning, “you’re all he talks about, but your nomination seemed to slip his mind.” There was another pause and Taehyung felt his eyes slip closed for a moment.

“So, why are you calling so early?” There was another pause, but quite a bit longer, and Taehyung’s eyes cracked open when it seemed to drag on. “Jimin?”

“Yoongi hyung said he apologized.”

Taehyung let out a breath, and his hand paused on Jeongguk’s temple. “Yeah, although he didn’t need to. He didn’t do anything.”

“I know. I’m sorry too.” Jimin’s voice was suddenly hoarse, and Taehyung wondered if he’d simply hidden it behind his jokes and false laughter. “I’ve been thinking about calling you for days, I just...I didn’t really know what to say.”

Taehyung hummed as the words slowly made sense to his sleepy mind. “Jiminie,” He started slowly, “you don’t owe me a single apology, and if I have to tell you guys again I’m gonna fly over there and smack all of you.” There was a wet laugh through the speaker and his face and voice softened. “I don’t blame anyone, Jimin. Certainly don’t blame yourself.”

There was a choked laugh from Jimin and it almost seemed to echo in the silent room, although Taehyung knew no one else could hear it. “Thanks, TaeTae.” He let out a heavy sigh and there was a rustle through the line. “Sorry I called you so late.”

“It’s no problem, Jiminie.” Though he let out another jaw cracking yawn that made them both giggle. “I’ll talk to you later, okay? You can chew Guk out later for keeping secrets.” He teased, and after a quick ‘goodbye’ he hung up and shifted to lay back down again with a sigh.

“Hm, I’ll talk to him later.” Jeongguk suddenly mumbled, and he could see one of his eyes peek open even in the nearly pitch black room. 

“I thought you were asleep.”

Taehyung poked him in the side and Jeongguk jolted before he tugged him closer. “I was until you started playing with my hair.” How ironic, Taehyung thought sleepily. “Go back to sleep, baby.” A hand traced over his spine and he felt the cool metal of his ring swipe across his skin.

“Sing me something?” He didn’t even need to ask, really. Jeongguk had already begun humming and soon enough a familiar song drifted to his ears. “It’s cheating if I wrote it about you…” His words trailed off as his soft voice lulled him to sleep like it did every night, whether in person or by recording.

Chapter Text

Miracles didn’t happen overnight, Taehyung knew that all too well.

The soles of his sneakers slapped against the worn linoleum of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, past closed windows and through the smell of stale coffee in the air. The detective that led him down the hall hadn’t even given him a second look when he’d arrived, a novelty in and of itself. Of course then Jeongguk had stepped in after him and even under a face mask and a ball cap he was just too recognizable- if the strangled squeak the receptionist let out was any clue.

“We can back out at any time.” Jeongguk reminded him, but Taehyung only reached out and squeezed his hand. His husband was almost more worried than he was. Almost. They were silent the rest of the way, through a few twisty halls to where Taehyung assumed their interrogation rooms were kept. If he was lucky this would be the only time he’d ever need to be inside of a police station.

“Here it is.” The detective announced suddenly and he stopped in front two nondescript doors, both without any sort of window. “He’s right through there. Would you like me to stay outside?” He asked kindly and Taehyung nodded, he wouldn’t be long either way and he told him as much.

He pushed the door open.

Jeongguk followed him closely without a second look to the other side of the table, their hands inked together as they stayed standing. Like he had told the officer, they weren’t going to stay long.

“Am I supposed to know who you are?” The third man droned, and Taehyung felt anxiety grip his chest.

He looked the same, Taehyung noted silently. The same dark hair, the same greasy expression and those same soulless eyes that he still saw in his worst dreams. Even after years of therapy there was nothing that could prepare him to fully face this man.

“I suppose you don’t need to.” Taehyung said shakily, Jeongguk’s thumb rubbed across his knuckles slowly. “I just need you to know what I’m going to do. I’ve been talking to lawyers for months, and I finally got a hold of the rape kit I did seven years ago. I’m taking you to court, and I’m going to send you to jail for hopefully the rest of your life.” Sangmin’s face went slack in shock and Taehyung shifted on his feet. “Trust me when I say that no amount of money will get you out of this.” He ended with a glare, and then he turned to Jeongguk. “Let’s go, yeobo.”

“Any last minute regrets?” It was asked softly, quietly in his ear and he shivered from both proximity and the question. “Baby?” He asked again, and Taehyung turned his head to meet Jeongguk’s gaze steadily.

“Never.” He murmured and Jeongguk’s eyes almost disappeared from how wide he smiled. “Cute.” He giggled and he leaned in to press a light kiss to the corner of his mouth- just light enough that their makeup wouldn’t smear. “You’re so cute, Guk.”

“I’ll take cute.” He laughed and then he shifted to slide a hand around his waist. “God, baby, have I mentioned how beautiful you look?” Taehyung flushed at the sudden compliment but instead of arguing he simply leaned into his embrace. The subtle vibrations from the expensive car did little to settle his nerves but Jeongguk always knew what he needed. His arm was a welcome weight and his other hand moved to lace their fingers together. Taehyung lightly traced the rings on his fingers to distract himself. “You know we can call Jessi to bring Simon whenever you want.” He reminded him and Taehyung nodded.

“I know.” He assured and Jeongguk pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Thank you, yeobo.” He said quietly and the other man paused in surprise.

“For what?”

They were pulling up to their destination but Taehyung ignored the growing sound of yelling and camera shutters to give him another short kiss. “For loving me.” He said simply, and Jeongguk practically melted.

“You never have to thank me for that.” He raised a hand to brush his thumb over his bottom lip, and then leaned forward and pressed their foreheads together. “Never.”

“You two are still so fucking disgusting.” Taehyung turned and raised an unimpressed eyebrow at the woman across the seats from them. “Don’t give me that look, hun- I’m the one getting diabetes over here.” Haneul and Nico snorted and Jeongguk looked mildly embarrassed but Taehyung only reached up and pinched his cheek, careful of his new nails.

“Ignore her, Guk.” Their eyes locked for a moment and as Jeongguk stared into his eyes the car slowed to a stop. “Ready?” Taehyung asked just as someone rapped on the window lightly, and the other man nodded. He could hear the others make last second adjustments to their clothes and turned to see them check their appearance in their phones. Haneul’s boo River made an offended noise when someone accidentally sat on her clutch, but he felt his heart warm seeing everyone sitting together. Seeing everyone together for this moment, their moment.

It had taken a few strongly worded emails to get them this moment.

Nico stepped from the car first and they all shot his mom a thumbs up as he helped her from the car. Ms. Lyon was a beauty and he could already hear reporters call for their attention as they took a few steps down the red carpet. The weeks spent giving her tips on how to ignore the cameras would finally come into play, but he didn’t really worry. She was a classy, dignified lady and she’d only winked and patted him on the shoulder when he’d sat down with her.

His favorite drummer, stag and proud, shuffled past him with a light smack to his knee and stepped out just behind them. Her pantsuit would pull everyone’s attention and he was proud of her choice as she posed briefly with her hands on her hips. The muscles she’d gained from performing did wonders for her physique and he was properly jealous of her ability to wear anything. When he’d announced what he’d wanted to wear there hadn’t been any arguments- actually the biggest response had been her demand to wear a suit for once. 

“Let’s get it.” Haneul crowed and with one last fist bump with Jeongguk and a kiss to Taehyung’s forehead he slipped past them too. River took his arm gently and let herself be helped from the car as she hooked her arm through her boyfriends. It’d be the first time she’d experience their fame first hand and he hoped she could keep her impressively straight face all the way to their seats.

“Our turn, baby.” Jeongguk said softly and then they slid towards the open door. The others had taken a couple steps to give them room and Taehyung could hear the calls of his name over the amalgamation of cheers and catcalls from the paparazzi. He wished he could have seen their faces when Jeongguk stepped out first but there was a nanosecond of confused murmurs before the idol turned and held out his hand- just like Nico and Haneul had done just moments before. “Show time, my love.” He mouthed and Taehyung felt his posture straighten up. The confidence that he gained from just Jeongguk’s presence alone was astounding at times.

His heels clicked against the concrete and there was almost an immediate call for his attention when he was finally in view.

For years Taehyung had never really strayed too far into his feminine side. He would wear heels or mix ‘male’ and ‘female’ clothes, but he’d never gone full on. His announcement to the group, and his anxious phone call to Jeongguk later that night, had dissipated any lingering worries he’d still had about it.

The gown was floor length because he couldn’t be bothered to worry how his legs would look- which had made Paris nearly fall over laughing. The open back and off-the-shoulder neckline didn’t hide how wide his shoulders were and the wide sleeves brushed his knuckles and nearly swallowed his hands. He could feel a chill across his back, but Jeongguk’s hand settled on his lower back and he leaned into the warmth. His palm was a steady weight and helped to center his attention.

“Beautiful.” Jeongguk repeated in his ear and Taehyung lightly smacked him on the chest. “Ow.” He teased and Taehyung grinned, there was a burst of clicking cameras but it went easily ignored.

“Behave. Smile for the cameras.” He laughed, and then they were walking the red carpet.

It was unusual for artists to arrive with guests, usually unheard of, but Taehyung refused to let the people who’d pushed them so far go unnoticed. Jeongguk had tried to argue that his own spotlight might make things worse but Taehyung had quickly shut down his complaints. ‘We agreed this was the moment, didn’t we?’ was all he had needed to ask before Jeongguk had sighed and agreed.

It was unavoidable that they’d all have to separate for the big picture, and Jeongguk was as dramatic as ever when he didn’t let go of his hand until they were absolutely forced to. Taehyung was all smiles when Jeongguk squeezed his hand one last time before he continued on with River and Ms. Lyon.

“Tay, over here! Smile over here!”

Paris looked like she was barely holding back an eye roll and Taehyung gently nudged her in the side; Haneul slipped an arm over his shoulder and he settled one hand on his hip. He made sure to keep his ring on display as they posed.

“Tay, why have you picked a dress? Who did you arrive with?”

The shouts only got louder and louder and despite his best efforts he could feel his heart rate spike and his palms started to sweat. Jeongguk was just off to the side, not very far at all, but when he tried to turn his head in an attempt to play it off as a pose someone moved and blocked his view.

Taehyung’s breath caught in his throat and the confidence he’d felt before slipped between his fingers as soon as he lost sight of the man. Then, only a breath later, the familiar doe eyes and pouty smile came back into view and his chest immediately cleared.

They only stood for a few moments before one of the coordinators off to the side motioned for them to continue and Taehyung didn’t hesitate to step back into Jeongguk’s arms. “Okay, I know I said I was okay but you can’t let go of my hand now.” He said as he squeezed his hands. His rings dug unto his fingers and Jeongguk frowned but nodded his head.

“Did someone say something?” Taehyung shook his head. “Are you okay?” Jeongguk pulled him close by the waist and tugged him to follow the others. The singer nodded slowly and adjusted the dress’ neckline. “Remember, we can bring Simon in at any time.” He reminded gently and Taehyung gave him a small smile. “I love you.” He whispered.

“You know I love you too.” Taehyung’s shoulders relaxed and just before they all stepped through the main entrance he slid in closer and gave him a soft kiss. “So much.”

They’d been invited to the Grammy’s before for a performance so the sight of the celebrities around them didn’t do much to excite him- however the whispers around him certainly did. While he had worn the dress for himself just as much as he had worn it as a statement, he felt more like a circus act than a Nominee.

“You know, people used to keep their opinions to themselves.” Hanuel coughed loudly, and one of the girls in front of them jumped and hurried ahead. River snorted into her hand and Jeongguk squeezed Taehyung’s hip briefly.

“You look great, hun, ignore them.” Paris rolled her eyes and if her hair hadn’t been slicked back he was sure she would have flipped it over her shoulder. Taehyung just shrugged in an effort to ignore the bubble of self-deprecation but his hand lifted to grab the hand at his waist so he could feel the cold metal of his ring press into his skin. Jeongguk didn’t need to say anything, his presence meant more than any words could.

“My ass hurts.”

Taehyung snorted as Paris groaned and shifted in her seat, her matte black heels knocked against the row of seats in front of them as she stretched her legs out. “Should have added some extra padding.” He said with a grin, and she glared.

“Fuck you, this ass is au naturale and you know it.” She snapped, quiet enough so others couldn’t hear but just loud enough that Jeongguk was forced to smother his laughter with a sharp cough. “You too, Jeon.” She leaned over and narrowed her eyes, although Taehyung knew she was just teasing. “The arm candy can’t backtalk tonight.” Anyone else would have been offended but his husband only giggled and gave her a mock bow.

God, how he adored this man, he thought with a grin.

He crossed his legs, his skirt just wide enough to allow it, and lifted their linked hands so he could kiss his knuckles. “Just another hour.” He reassured them both, and the drummer groaned quietly.

“There’s a lot of great artists here tonight,” one of the hosts said, some comedian Taehyung didn’t know the name of, “and while many prestigious awards have been given tonight, these last few are some of the biggest of the year.” Taehyung’s hand tightened around Jeongguk’s and his husband swiped his thumb across his knuckles. “The Record of the Year has been awarded to some big names, like Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson- even Adele! Some of the nations favorite songs have been given this honor.”

Her co-host nodded and held up a slim white card. The card. Taehyung’s other hand was suddenly grabbed and he looked over to see everyone between Jeongguk and Ms. Lyon holding hands tightly. “This year, the Record of the Year goes to…”

This was it, Taehyung thought. This was it. The man cracked open the card and suddenly his focus was laser sharp. He could feel the dryness of his lipstick, the hairspray in his hair and the itch of the neckline at his back. They would still make music after this, he would still have Jeongguk after this but this was it. This was the validation they’d all so secretly, desperately craved.

Haneul had spent so long singing on the streets before they’d met, Paris had been forced into a life she hadn't really wanted- even Nico had been bounced between garage band to garage band before Taehyung had talked to him in that coffee shop. By some miracle they had all met each other when they needed each other the most and this was it .

“Taehyung!” His head jerked up and he gasped as he suddenly took in the large screens above the stage.

He knew that single cover. He knew that name.

That was their name.

“What.” He gasped, and he was gently tugged to his feet. “Oh my god.” Jeongguk’s wide eyes entered his vision, his eyes wet and his mouth stretched into a beaming grin. “Gukkie,” his other hand was being wildly swung around by Paris but he leaned in without a second thought and Jeongguk sighed into the kiss.

“Go get your award, baby.” He said softly, barely heard above the cheering and clapping. Taehyung didn’t know if his own brain was making his body move or if he was being pushed or pulled but he nodded faintly, and then found himself moving up the slick black stairs. Haneul had a hand against his back and Nico walked in front of him, both of their faces so bright and happy. Taehyung didn’t know if he could keep the tears at bay long enough to accept this damn piece of metal.

There was a series of handshakes and hugs and he felt a kiss pressed lightly to his cheek and then suddenly he was there, in front of the microphone, a surprisingly heavy award in his hands and thousands of faces staring back at him.

“Wow.” He started, and there was a quiet wave of laughter. “Um,” the names of the people who worked on the record flowed past his lips, the names of those that had stepped up on stage with them and crowded around him like a wall of support and pride. Then his eyes trailed out across the crowd again and he let out a huff and giggled, breathless.

“This is so weird. Years ago I was just a kid on a strawberry farm, then I was just a boy in love and now…” he thought he could almost see Jeongguk’s proud smile even from behind the stage lights and the rows and rows of people. “I’m a man who went through something awful, but I ended up with the best friends I could have asked for, music that people love, and the man I’ve loved for almost a decade by my side.” He held up the award, his loved ones at his side. “Thank you.”

It seemed like they had barely taken their seats again, their faces achy from smiling, when the lights lifted again. Jeongguk immediately grabbed his hand and pulled him in for a kiss that he readily returned, tears in his eyes at the look of pure pride in his eyes. “My husband is a Grammy winning rock star.” He said with a smile brighter than the sun itself, and Taehyung couldn’t hold in his laughter. They kissed again, uncaring of the cameras pointed in their direction or the shocked whisper behind them.

Then there was a sudden slap to his arm and Taehyung sighed and glanced over his shoulder, only to have his eyes catch on the host duo up on stage again with another white card in their hands. “Oh,” Jeongguk squeezed his hand tightly and Paris grabbed his other with an iron tight grip.

Unlike the previous award Taehyung couldn’t concentrate on the words that came out of their mouths, only on the screens above their heads. There were five circles, five different pictures- album covers- for each act that had been nominated alongside them for one of the biggest music awards of the year. The third one an all too familiar hand, the stray piece of a rainbow, a ring that belonged to the man just to his left. 

There was a beat of silence, and then the shorter of the two men lifted the card.

“And the award for Album of the Year goes to…” his fingers flicked open the card and Taehyung could barely believe it, “dollHouse, for ‘me, yours’. Congratulations.” Taehyung couldn’t stop the squeal that left his lips; Jeongguk let out a startled burst of laughter and Haneul gave the most enthusiastic fist pump he’d ever seen a person give.

“Come on!” Taehyung grabbed his husband’s hands and yanked him to his feet, just as Nico helped his mom up and River followed Haneul to the aisle. When Jeongguk gave him a confused look, but didn’t argue, he simply kissed his knuckles and smiled. Their recording team followed them as well up on stage and within seconds there was a crowd of suits, Taehyung’s white dress a stark contrast to the others. Haneul held the Grammy almost reverently in his arms, as if he was worried he’d drop it or it would simply disappear if he looked away.

Paris took the initiative to begin their thanks again, including a few people they had missed the first time around, and as Taehyung stood at her side he felt two familiar hands settle on his hips. “Proud of you.” Jeongguk whispered in his ear and Taehyung reached up to lace their fingers together silently. The drummer said a few final words in teary Japanese, her confident persona slipping as their new reality set in, and then Taehyung stepped out of his grasp to move to the microphone as well.

“We wouldn’t be where we are without those that had supported us from the very beginning,” he looked over his shoulder to see those shining faces behind him, “but I want to give a special thanks to the love of my life. My success, my inspiration, they’re all because of you, and this album wouldn’t have become what it is without you, yeobo.” He said softly, and Jeongguk reached up to cover his eyes but wasn’t quite fast enough to hide the trail of tears from the camera directly in front of them. “This is for you, Gukkie.”

Chapter Text

“When I say I want blush I want blush- not pink!”

Paris watched out the window with a quirked brow as the wedding planner scurried across the botanical garden’s parking lot. The poor woman had a binder three inches thick under one arm, her phone between her ear and her shoulder, and another phone held in front of her eyes as she typed furiously. “Do you think she knows that she can’t fix something in twenty minutes?”

“I think she’ll argue until she gets it for free.” Nico droned from his seat and the drummer snorted.

“Ease off, weddings are stressful.” Taehyung said as rolled his eyes and leaned in closer to the mirror. The woman with her hands in his hair gently pulled him back against the seat, the curling iron inches from his scalp. The stylist was quick to wrap up another section as he readjusted himself in the seat. Simon’s grayed muzzle pressed against his shin from his spot by his feet.

You’re not stressed.”

“I already got married.” He retorted, and then hissed as a hot piece of hair brushed against his ear. “Trust me, between me and Guk if anyone is gonna freak out it’s gonna be him.” It totally wasn’t.

His band mates were true friends and didn’t call him out on his obvious lie, his husband however-. “You can’t tell lies on your wedding day, that’s bad karma.”

Taehyung looked up in the mirror to see his favorite person step through the doorway, cheeks flushed from his walk outside. His hair was pushed out of his eyes to show off his eyebrows (one of the few things Taehyung had demanded when they had decided on their clothes) and the sleeves of his white button up were rolled to his elbow. There was a flash of color that peeked out under a sleeve and Taehyung couldn’t hold back a smile at the memory.

A few years before Jeongguk had worked up the courage to get a tattoo of his own, despite the disapproval of a few of his close friends- Jimin had only laughed and smacked him on the shoulder with a wink. He had stressed over it for weeks, spent hours on his phone looking through pictures of what he might want to get. It had eventually ended with a simple doodle, a few little flowers in the corner of a page that was supposed to hold the lyrics to their newest song. It had only snowballed into an idea that had made Taehyung shed a few tears and Cat let out a boisterous laugh.

“Not as pathetic as I thought, huh?” She had said, and Taehyung couldn’t help but agree as he wiped his eyes.

Red amaryllis for ‘worth beyond beauty’- then daffodil for rebirth, or new beginnings. Gladiolus had a few meanings, as did they all, but Jeongguk wanted it to symbolize ‘strength of character’ and ‘faithfulness’. Then with little sprouts of lilac to signify first love Jeongguk had his own mini garden in Taehyung’s honor. Taehyung didn’t know how it was possible to fall in love all over again, even harder than he had the first time.

That same arm held a bright pink leash that he promptly dropped to allow it’s detainee to hurtle forward. The stylist had enough sense to step back and let the barrel chested dog wiggle and dance around the chair as she let out happy little whines.

“Hey, my little Cookie Monster.” Taehyung cooed and he leaned down to smother the dog in kisses. Her huge head was a perfect spot for them, after all. The blue pit wiggled even harder and Jeongguk laughed when she moved too far and her front feet slipped off the edge of the chair. “My little Cookie Baby,” Taehyung scratched behind her ears a last time before he finally gave his husband some attention, “and my big Cookie Baby.” He teased. Jeongguk rolled his eyes but his bright smile and faint flush were impossible to miss. “Why are you here? Isn’t it bad luck to see the bride before the wedding?”

“Are you the bride in this scenario?” His husband asked with a little smirk, and Taehyung just lifted a foot show off the five inch, pastel yellow heels strapped around his ankle. “Baby, you’re gonna be taller than me!” He immediately whined, and Taehyung pretended to flip his hair.

“Good, you can look up at me as you profess your love in front of a few hundred people.” There was a laugh behind them, but Jeongguk only stepped forward and pressed a kiss to his temple, then to the corner of his mouth. “Hey, you missed.” He pouted, but his husband stepped out of his reach.

“No can do, baby, that’s for later.” He motioned to the slightly less excited dog at their feet beside her halfway unconscious big brother, “I took Cookie out so we should be good for the ceremony. I already put her vest on her-” Taehyung finally noticed the black straps around her chest and the familiar patch across her side. “- and I put Yoongi hyung on Dog Duty.”

“You’re perfect.” Taehyung said simply, and Jeongguk rolled his eyes again. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” he replied easily and as he went to step back out he added in soft Korean, “and you know I’ll tell you how much I love you in front of whoever you want me to.” Then the door clicked shut again behind him and Taehyung was left red faced, hair half curled, with his hands full with an overexcited pit bull.

“You’re not allowed to dirty talk before a wedding. Isn’t that like...sacrilegious.” Paris asked, and Taehyung promptly grabbed the closest bottle of hairspray and lobbed it at her. “Hey!”

“How come you guys didn’t get new rings?” Jeongguk glanced up from where he kneeled, tucking his laces in, with a confused frown. “Like, if this is your wedding re-do, why not get new rings too?” Jimin clarified, but the youngest only shook his head.

“It’s not a ‘wedding re-do’,” he started as his fingers played with said ring as he spoke., “it’s just...a wedding. It’s like the wedding we never had, but also not at the same time- you know?” He could immediately tell by his hyung’s expression that he did not, in fact, know. “Okay, so like, we got married in Vegas- and it was perfect- but we’re different people now than we were back then. We don’t love each other any less, and our relationship hasn’t fundamentally changed but we’ve changed. So-.”

“So you’re renewing your vows as...the new ‘you’s?” Jimin asked, and Jeongguk shot him some finger guns (a horrible Nico enabled habit that Taehyung cursed every time he did it). “That’s remarkably mature of you, JK.” He said with a soft smile, and Jeongguk grinned at the praise. Over the years he liked to think that he could see his growth as both a human and a person, but it was nice to have that validation either way. “Well, as your ‘not-best-man’ I should head outside.” He said with a fake, over dramatic sigh. Neither one of them had chosen a best man, and to put it lightly neither side had ever let it go.

“Oh shut up,” Jeongguk laughed, and they both moved towards the double doors. “Just for that I’m making Namjoon hyung my best man.”

“You bitch!”

Taehyung’s siblings were teens, well into high school, but he’d refused to have anyone else start the wedding procession than them and well...Jeongguk was weak to just about all of his demands. His brother and sister both held bubble guns that they used liberally while they ‘raced’ to the end of the aisle. Their assorted groomsmen and women trailed after them at an easy pace, their footsteps barely in time with the soft guitar through the speakers. His hyungs gave him fist bumps as they filed in beside him and Paris shot him a thumbs up from across the arch.

Then, there was a shift in the music and Jeongguk’s attention snapped to where a figure in pastels ambled closer, their arms looped around a much older man’s. Their appearance made Jeongguk grin, but it was Taehyung’s crinkled, kohl lined eyes and his bright pink lipped smile that made his heart burn. There was the click-click-click of a high powered camera but Jeongguk didn’t think there would ever be a photograph that could perfectly capture the beauty of Taehyung at his happiest.

His husband, and his father, slowly came closer and closer- so close that he could see the lace detail of Taehyung’s shirt and the soft smirk on his lips when he caught Jeongguk’s eyes everywhere but his face. “You look good.” Taehyung said, even though they had seen each other earlier, even though they had picked each other’s outfits just like they had picked each other’s rings. “I’m good.” He said with a wink, and Jeongguk huffed and tugged him a little closer.

“You’re insufferable.”

“Oh, big word.” Then Taehyung, against every rehearsal, leaned in to kiss him. Only to miss and plant one on his chin instead. They both giggled, as did the crowd that watched them with soft smiles and handkerchiefs at the ready.

“Are you two ready?” Haneul’s brows raised in question, his hands on his hips, and Taehyung leaned back with another laugh. Their hands stayed twined together tightly, their rings still firmly on their fourth fingers. “Alright!” He clapped his hands and raised his voice so more than just the wedding party could hear. “We all know why we’re here,” he started, “and it’s not to listen to me talk for half an hour.” That pulled some more laughter and Jeongguk could feel some hidden tension release, he could see Taehyung’s shoulders drop a little as well at the sound. “We’re all here to see two of the most terribly in love people I’ve ever met in my life tell everyone just how in love they are.” His tone was extremely casual, but the look he gave both of them as he patted them both on the shoulder was incredibly sincere. “You two have your own vows?”

Jeongguk nodded and Taehyung’s attention snapped back, his wide brown eyes focused on himself. “I, uh, do you mind if I go first?” He asked, uncharacteristically shy, and Taehyung bit back a smile.

“Go ahead, yeobo.”

“When we first met, you intimidated me.” He started, and he could hear Seokjin hyung’s distinctive laugh behind him. “I was 14, and I didn’t have any friends, but you took one look at me and decided that we needed to know each other.” He glanced down at their hands, and at Cookie just behind her master’s feet, and then back up. “At 16 I fell in love with you, and then we didn’t see each other for over six years.” Taehyung’s expression shuttered for a moment, but then he shook his head minutely and squeezed Jeongguk’s hands. “I spent a lot of time thinking, and wondering, but mostly just worrying and being stupid.” He confessed, to which he heard a hum of agreement from one of his hyungs.

“Then I was 19 and Namjoon hyung had just come back from working with you and he had pictures, and your new music, and I fell in love all over again. You looked so different, but I knew you were still the same Taehyung I had met and fallen in love with when we were so young.” He lifted one of Taehyung’s hands and pressed a kiss to the back, let out a soft sigh against the flower. “We met again when I was 21 and I swear that was the happiest I had ever been in my few years of living. We started dating again not too long after, got married barely three months in-,” He laughed quietly, “by a guy dressed as Elvis in our sweatpants, with receipts to our rings still in our pockets.”

“You almost broke the ring box because you sat on it.” Taehyung reached up to wipe under his eyes with a soft sniffle.

He grinned at the memory; he had no idea how he was able to keep his voice level so far.

“Yeah, and then you used that same box to propose again nine years later, at our concert no less.” The memory was still fresh in his mind. Taehyung had surprised them in London when he was supposed to be over halfway across the world in Chicago. He had stepped out from backstage to the surprised screams of the entire stadium, and after a cheeky smile to the cameras had made a beeline straight for Jeongguk’s stunned form. He’d dropped down to one knee and, without any sort of mic to broadcast himself, had asked him to marry him all over again.

“But I’m forgetting my point: you intimidated me when we first met, but I can’t find a single part of me that wishes you would have ignored me. Even with every misunderstanding or fight, or bad tabloid report or tattoo mistakes-,” he shot Nico a look at that one and the glassy eyed bassist only grinned, “-Every moment we spent together is a moment I’m grateful I was lucky enough to be apart of. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, TaeTae.” He watched fondly as his husband tried to hold back his tears. “I’m so happy I get to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“You ass.” Taehyung choked, and Jeongguk gently pulled him into his arms to the ‘aw’s of their audience. “Fuck, I love you so much.” He whispered, and Jeongguk’s hold tightened. “Wait, I’m going to get mascara on your shirt!” He leaned back, and deft fingers reached up to delicately swipe under his eyes. “Fuck.” He repeated.

“Do you need a break, Tay?” Paris asked with a sly smile, and Taehyung tossed up a middle finger, hidden from their parents by their bodies. 

Contrary to his reaction he did take a second to collect himself and Jeongguk watched as he stared at the sky for a moment before he straightened up and swung their linked hands. “Okay, okay, I’m good.” He sniffed, and then he started. “Jungkookie, I’ve known since that first date that I loved you.” Jeongguk’s eyes widened in surprise. “We only went to that dinky little arcade, and I think you thought we were just hanging out until I said the word ‘date’ a few weeks later- but it didn’t matter.

“You’ve always been so genuine, so loving, and you’re so stupidly self-sacrificing. You looked so shocked that I had called it a date, and then you’d immediately demanded that we have a redo.” Taehyung sounded so fond, Jeongguk didn’t know if he could emotionally handle this. “I know he’s gone now, and I know I shouldn’t bring this up, but what happened to me really… really messed me up.” That made Jeongguk frown. They hadn’t properly talked about that in, fuck, years. “I won’t deny it, I’d only be doing my own progress a disservice if I did. I put people at a distance, and I was barely able to function as a proper human being, but you...” 

“Baby,” Jeongguk started, but Taehyung shook his head.

“You didn’t heal me, yeobo, I’m not saying that.” He paused, and then smiled again. “When we finally saw each other again- backstage at the MAMAs- I had been so worried about how everyone would react to seeing me. I had expected the worst. I remember talking to Haneul about how I was prepared for cold shoulders and disgusted looks.” A glance at the guitarist gave him a teary eyed confirmation. “Instead I got ambushed backstage as we were heading our seats. Do you remember what you said?” 

Jeongguk shook his head, it had been too long.

“‘I missed you’.” Taehyung whispered, and suddenly Jeongguk did remember. Taehyung had stood there with his perfect blue hair and his dramatic eyeliner and his sinful pants, but with eyes that had screamed of years of pain. “You called me pretty, and then you said you missed me. Six years and that was all you wanted to tell me, at that moment.”

“You are pretty.” He justified, and Taehyung grinned. Still so, so beautiful, Jeongguk thought faintly. 30 had always seemed like a lifetime away, and suddenly here they were- past it and just as in love as they were at 16 and 17.

“See? We’ve loved each other for, what, 17 years? I’ve loved you for half my life, yeobo, and you still think I’m pretty.” Taehyung swung their hands a little. “You didn’t heal me,” he repeated, quieter, “but you gave me the determination to get better. You helped me get justice, you helped me find myself. You were my inspiration, are my inspiration.” He looked into Jeongguk’s eyes, his stare so full of confidence Jeongguk kind of just wanted to plant one on him. He’d have to wait, though.

“I know this isn’t as...as sappy, or as cheesy as yours, but I wanted to tell you ‘thank you’. Thank you for being my rock. Thank you for being my man in the corner. Thank you for loving me unconditionally- through the fights, and the bad tabloids, and the tattoo mistakes.” His voice was strong, despite his tone, and Jeongguk barely held back a fresh wave of tears. “Thank you for loving me, Gukkie.”

There was a chorus of sniffs around them and Jeongguk couldn’t hold back a wet giggle, although Taehyung didn’t seem far behind him. “You never have to thank me, baby.” He said hoarsely. “I told you years ago that I would spend the rest of my life with you and I meant it. Whatever we have left- five years or fifty- I want them all with you.”

Haneul tried to discreetly wipe his eyes but was extremely unsuccessful when Nico let out a, immature, cough of ‘loser’ into his sleeve. Taehyung’s immediate snort wasn’t cute by any means, but Jeongguk was endlessly endeared anyway.

“You two are gross.” He said petulantly, and there was a wave of laughter from their guests. “Jeongguk, Taehyung, you two have spent ten years exactly married to each other, and you only seem to fall in love more and more everyday.” He eventually said, a small smile on his face. “Do you both pinky promise to love each other for the rest of your lives, keep the arguing to a healthy amount, and always make the best love songs the Academy has ever seen?” He asked with a cheeky smile, and they both laughed helplessly.

“Of course,” they both said, and Jeongguk lifted his hand to kiss his ring softly. “Forever.”