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Granite Burns

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granite burns

Taehyung/Seokjin

 

 

With gentle strokes, Taehyung runs his fingers through Seokjin’s tresses. He watches as Seokjin’s chest rises and falls and his hands follow the same rhythm. In, out. Seokjin’s hair slips over his knuckles, a little matted with sweat.

The night is tranquil. Taehyung’s fingers are sticky with both his and Seokjin’s tears. His shirt has dried of Seokjin’s tears too, but the fabric over his heart still feels damp.

Usually, Taehyung dislikes falling asleep after Seokjin. It always feels like he’s being abandoned, left alone to himself while Seokjin has gone away for the day. It was a strange notion that he never sorted out, because after some time, Seokjin seemed to make sure he fell asleep only after Taehyung did. 

He wonders if Seokjin knew how he felt.

Despite Seokjin’s face being shadowed with haggardness, he finally seems to be at peace after so much tumult tonight. Free of the burdens he carries with his back straightened to the best of his ability, acquitted of all the wrongdoings he pins upon himself. Taehyung hopes it’ll be the same when morning comes.

Taehyung’s wrought with fatigue, but he can’t bring himself to shut his eyes. He’s more tired than sleepy, a sensation reminiscent of when he closed himself up in the shade of his room.

With the back of his hand, Taehyung brushes away the beads of sweat down Seokjin’s jaw. Seokjin winces, swallowing hard before leaning into Taehyung’s touch.

Taehyung turns up the fan. He thinks about getting a wet towel to wipe Seokjin’s face, with how warm he is. He should get a glass of water for Seokjin too, seeing how much he cried. 

Taehyung grabs a handkerchief and scours the room for a stray mineral water bottle he may have left somewhere. There’s nothing. Taehyung returns to the bed, patting Seokjin’s face dry.

Seokjin will surely be thirsty later. He complains about waking up with his mouth dry, so he has a little bottle of water he keeps with him on some nights.

Taehyung glances at the door. There’s light seeping in from the crack underneath, present since the two of them holed themselves up in here. Taehyung's reluctant—nervous, quite some, to face what could be on the other side. But seeing as it’s 3 AM, the members should have already gone to sleep. Even the most nocturnal of them wouldn’t last this long when they had schedules in the day.

Someone probably just forgot to switch off the lights.

Taehyung curls his fingers. The least he could do, after everything that’s happened, is have a glass of water ready for Seokjin when he wakes up. He'll have to leave this room someday, anyway. He can't hide here forever.

Taehyung slips off the bed. He slinks towards the door and falters for a moment, before creaking it open.

Light rushes in through the narrow slit, so excruciatingly bright that Taehyung grimaces. The creak he makes is unbearably loud, escalating his cowardice, and he stops to listen for any movement.

The lights in the living room and the aisle are switched on, but there are no sounds. Taehyung's eyes painstakingly adjust to the flood of light, a dire contrast to the darkness brimming behind him.

All he needs is a glass of water. His eyes dart to the other members' rooms to find their doors shut. Timidly, Taehyung steps out, wincing as the light drenches his skin.

His footsteps begin slowly and carefully, akin to a child staying up past his bedtime. Then, his conviction grows, and his worry becomes that someone might see him if he's not quick enough. As soundlessly as he can, he scuttles towards the kitchen.

"Taehyung?"

The voice has Taehyung freezing as he enters the living room. He catches a figure huddled in the corner, and instantly, his skin goes cold. 

Namjoon stares at him from where he’s sitting on the floor with his laptop, eyes large.

Of all people, it had to be Namjoon. Taehyung’s heart sinks dreadfully into his guts and he instinctively steps back when Namjoon rises. The first place his gaze goes to is Namjoon’s neck, thankfully free of any telling red marks, and then straight to his own room.

Namjoon won’t forgive him for what he did. He accused him so vehemently and laid hands on him, pinning all of his resentment and hurt on the one person who never warranted it. Despite the years of knowing one another, through all their hardships which Namjoon generously bore more so than the rest, Taehyung had it in him to malign Namjoon as the cause of all his misery.

The sheer shame overwhelms Taehyung. He shouldn’t have stepped out. He's desperate to run back to his little dark sanctuary with Seokjin, where there’s just them two and he’ll never have to care about anyone else and the consequences of his actions.

Namjoon approaches him, face scrawled with surprise. Then, his expression eases, and the tenderness fills his eyes and voice.

“Are you okay?”

Somehow, there's not a shred of rancor in his voice.

Seokjin was right. Taehyung catastrophised so much about what the members would say to him after his damning outburst, sure they’d bear malice towards him and that their friendships would be irreparable. Yes, they may return to some normalcy since they have to work together, but what Taehyung did would never be forgotten. Their closeness will always have that wedge of how Taehyung readily pointed fingers at them in all his hysteria.

Namjoon has every right to castigate Taehyung. Yet, his gaze is tender.

Taehyung swallows. He nods mutely, hiding his nervous fingers behind his back.

Namjoon offers a small smile and reaches out to squeeze Taehyung’s shoulder. The bright lights emphasise his dark eye circles.

“That’s good.” He glimpses behind Taehyung. “What about Seokjin-hyung? Is everything okay between you two?”

Taehyung croaks, “He’s sleeping.”

“Right. You should go to sleep too; it’s late."

"...I came out to get something to drink for Jin-hyung."

“Oh, yeah, you guys must be thirsty. I’ll pour some warm water for both of you, so go back to your room and rest.”

Namjoon speaks like it's just another day and Taehyung had never lashed out at him, but his creased collar blatantly reminds Taehyung of what he did. The crumples remain with all of Taehyung’s ferocious, gall-filled loathing, nail marks enduring on the fabric.

It must have hurt. Namjoon’s hand slips away from Taehyung’s shoulder and he briskly disappears into the kitchen.

Taehyung remains in the living room. The way Namjoon’s warmth lingers makes him feel so terrible. All of a sudden, he’s recalling their debut year, where the exhaustion piled and so did the sense of futility nobody verbalised. With a future so uncertain, the only thing Namjoon could offer in Taehyung’s frustration was that he was thankful it was Taehyung with them—out of everyone else it could have been in the world.

Namjoon emerges from the kitchen with two mugs. He raises a brow and jokes, “What? Is Jin-hyung hogging the whole bed?”

The surfeit of emotions bubbles over Taehyung’s ribcage.

"Hyung." He struggles to speak.

“I’m sorry.” He tries not to tear up, raising his gaze from Namjoon’s crinkled collar to his eyes. “I’m really sorry, hyung.”

“Hey, hey, it’s alright.” Namjoon places down the cups. He reaches over to hold Taehyung’s shoulders assuringly.

Taehyung takes a shaky breath to curb his tears, rubbing them with his wrist.

“...Are you okay? I grabbed you hard—” His voice strains, “I grabbed you so hard.”

“I’m fine. You didn’t hurt me," Namjoon returns earnestly. 

Taehyung nods. “I’m sorry, hyung. I don’t know what came over me. I was just- everything was so much. I’m sorry for grabbing you.”

Despite Taehyung's bid to stay collected, the guilt brims up his trachea and his face contorts miserably. He shouldn’t be pathetically crying for sympathy when he's the one who did Namjoon wrong, just like he did in Seokjin’s arms some time ago—engrossed in only himself and nobody else.

Namjoon’s eyes soften. He coaxes Taehyung into a hug, placatingly rubbing Taehyung’s back.

“I’m alright. Honest,” Namjoon hums. He lets out a small sigh of relief. 

“Thanks for apologising. I was wondering if you were still upset at me, actually.”

“I’m not. It was me, hyung—you didn’t do anything wrong,” Taehyung croaks. “I’m sorry. For shouting at you, and everything I said and did to everyone.”

He folds his lips tight when the urge to cry climbs through his chest again.

“It's fine,” Namjoon hums. “You were going through a lot, weren’t you? I’m not mad at you. I’m sorry for not realising earlier.”

Taehyung muffles his snivels. He gingerly returns the embrace, sinking into a comforting warmth only a friend can give—one that promises to be there without church vows or contractual gains. 

Against the withering 3AM, they stay like that just for a while, no words said. Truly, Taehyung wonders how he roused so much surety that Namjoon was bent on hurting him. Through the euphoric, nerve-wracking fame that came at a gruelling cost, through the debilitating practices of again, again till you get it right, through their petty squabbles that always blew over—Namjoon has always made sure to be a friend before a leader.

 

 

In the after-hours stillness, Taehyung and Namjoon stand on the balcony, elbows touching while they gaze out at the opposite blocks. The breeze weaves through their hair as the stark absence of lights stares back at them. It's not an unfamiliar sight, considering their schedules occasionally end at ungodly hours. But today, the ambience seems eerily peaceful—to be in a space so open with no eyes on them.

He holds his cup of water in both hands, warming them up. Seokjin’s cup is on the bedside table; Taehyung had gone back into his room to place it and pat Seokjin’s face with a wet towel. Taehyung dislikes waking up alone, so he hopes Seokjin doesn’t awake before he returns.

"Every time I stand out here," Namjoon starts, "I always think about how far we've come. We lived in such a cramped space last time."

"Yeah. It was so hot too."

"It's much breezier here, right? We don't even have to turn on the fans in the living room." Namjoon laughs, "I hated fighting over the bathroom most."

Taehyung chuckles along. "Mm. Hobi-hyung always took the longest. I got so mad at him sometimes."

"Well, he's always been a fashionista. Jungkook would take a pretty long time too, right?"

"Yeah. He’d take an hour to style his hair."

“And he’d get so mad whenever we touched it,” Namjoon chuckles. He raises his gaze to the sky. 

“Remember when we’d sit outside the agency after practice? I’d always look up, thinking about how the stars are so far up, wondering to myself if we’d make it.”

He drums his fingers lightly over the railings. “Now, we’re so many floors higher, but they’re still as far away as ever.”

Taehyung smiles. “That’s poetic, hyung. You could write that into a song.”

“Good idea.”

They capsize into the dead of night serenity. Against the chilly wind, Taehyung feels warmth on his shoulder.

"Taehyung, I'm really sorry for making you feel so bad. I had no idea," Namjoon breathes, hand resting on Taehyung’s back. 

"I sensed you were angry at me... but I thought it was just because Jin-hyung was spending a lot of time with me. I never knew you thought I was trying to separate you two—that we felt you were strange."

"We've never felt like that," he speaks firmly. "What Yoongi-hyung said to you that day in his studio... he never meant to phrase it that way. He wasn't sure how to put things and he made a mistake; he should have chosen his words better. He wanted to apologise—I mean it. But he thought it'd be worse to bring it up again."

Taehyung nods gingerly. The expression Yoongi had when Taehyung confronted him is still etched in his mind. He looked guilty, remorseful like he truly didn't mean to cause so much pain.

"I know it sounds like I'm covering for hyung," Namjoon murmurs, "but he said it out of concern, not to be snide."

Concern. Taehyung traces the handle of his mug absentmindedly as the blue-black thumps in his chest. He wonders what perturbed Yoongi most that day—how resentful Taehyung got towards Jimin for "stealing" Seokjin's attention? Did he realise Taehyung was seeking to hurt when he shoved Jimin back—that his inappropriate feelings were burgeoning rapidly like a cancerous growth, and he was so disturbingly unaware?

Namjoon leans against the railings, eyes clouded in thought.

"You know, last year... we worried a lot about you.”

“You went from being so lively to saying just a few words to everyone. You were closing yourself off and staying in your room all the time."

"At first, I thought it was just part and parcel of growing up. But then, I noticed you were avoiding the cameras, and you seemed so anxious every time we got on stage... You'd ask us every now and then if we saw any negative news about you. I'd find you still awake at 4AM, 5AM, even after back-to-back schedules."

"You seemed so exhausted. It hurt to see you like that,” Namjoon's voice dwindles solemnly.

"Whatever we tried just didn't seem to help. We checked in on you, tried to get you to come out and spend time with us… but you always preferred to be left alone. Sometimes, it felt like we were just cornering you further."

Namjoon lets out a hefty breath, spelling every pound of worry he’d held.

"I kept thinking... what could I do for you? And I thought too about what I should have done for you, that I didn’t. I'm sure all of us thought the same. We were all just hoping you'd be okay soon."

"Then," his voice audibly lifts, "Seokjin-hyung began accompanying you to sleep."

"I wasn't for it at first, actually, because I thought what you needed was space. But day after day passed with hyung accompanying you, and I saw you were starting to talk more... you began joining us for meals instead of eating alone in your room, you'd joke around on set with us. Then, you stopped getting so anxious in front of the cameras. You were even suggesting and planning outings for the whole group again."

"You looked so much happier." Namjoon melts into a heartfelt smile. "Really, everyone could see the difference. We were so relieved, you know? You became so close with Jin-hyung and it seemed like you finally found someone you could talk heart-to-heart with. You were yourself again, after so long."

"It got to a point where you guys were pretty much inseparable, and we got so used to it," he chuckles. "It's like, if we were looking for you, we just needed to find where Seokjin-hyung is. On breaks, on our flights, everything."

A pause follows. Namjoon's smile slips a little as the wordlessness draws out. It feels as though he's reached the part of a story where it should have ended with a happy ever after, but it didn't.

“After some time… I noticed you didn't want to come with us for things if Jin-hyung wasn't joining. The occasion didn't really matter—if hyung wasn't there, you weren't going, because, well, you wanted to be with him. And if he was joining, you'd definitely be there... even when you didn't need to be.”

“I mean, there’s nothing wrong with you two being close and wanting to spend time together, alone. We're not demanding that you guys can't do things by yourselves and can only do them with the whole group,” Namjoon clarifies. 

“I'm okay with you guys doing things like asking to be seated together, going out by yourselves, things like that. Just as long as you two weren’t making the others feel excluded, and you remembered that at the end of the day, we’re a team. We’re all friends.”

He presses his lips together, hesitance washing over his voice once again.

“But... it began to feel like you only ever wanted to be around Jin-hyung, and you didn't want to be around us at all. At times… it kind of seemed like we were even getting in your way."

Namjoon's struggling to choose his words carefully, as though a wrong choice may mean brandishing knives instead of words.

"You'd interrupt us when we were speaking to Seokjin-hyung... You'd shove us if we touched or hugged him. I thought you were just joking around, but after a while, it just... didn't feel like it anymore. You were getting rough."

"It became difficult for any of us to spend time with hyung alone," Namjoon quietens. “You seemed like you didn’t want anyone else to get close to him.”

A momentary silence ensues, with a lack of further elaboration they both know doesn’t need to be filled. The details of each strange behaviour Namjoon listed prick at Taehyung's insides and makes his skin crawl with a thorny bareness. Despite the opposite blocks doused in darkness, the windows feel like sheathed eyes.

Taehyung swallows, feeling a tight knot form in his throat. So, this was how he came off to them. It's nothing surprising, considering he can easily sieve out the many memories of acting precisely as Namjoon described.

He grew irritated watching Jimin sling himself over Seokjin. He resented the way Namjoon and Seokjin smiled at each other, like there was some special understanding between them. It wasn’t just one time where he had forcefully pried Jungkook off of Seokjin.

Simply, Hoseok didn’t need to shower Seokjin with so many compliments after their dance practice; he was the one who’s always pushing Seokjin to his wits’ end, anyway. If Yoongi didn’t like fishing, then there was no reason for him to accompany Seokjin—Taehyung could.

It was a noxious jealousy that Taehyung let run rampant, egged on by the quashing of his feelings and his covering justifications. How early had his possessive behaviour began? Seokjin was akin to territory to him, his heart contorting every time the members were close to him.

In the back of his mind, was he hoping, despite the impossibility of it all, to keep Seokjin entirely for himself? With how reliant he was on Seokjin's love and care, did he want to make sure only he would receive them?

“Sorry. I don’t know how to phrase it better," Namjoon exhales, frustratedly brushing back his hair. "I'm not saying you're strange or you're weird. You're not. I know how much hyung means to you and what he did for you."

"It just wasn't healthy, you know?" His voice dwindles. The earnestness in his expression tells with certainty that he's not trying to deride Taehyung. Put together with the efforts he painstakingly made to help Taehyung out of his haunting exhaustion, Taehyung sieves out the care behind Namjoon's eyes, instead of the scorn he always interpreted.

“...You don't have to be sorry, hyung. You're right,” Taehyung confesses hoarsely. “I was keeping all of you away from Jin-hyung."

The admission comes with a frightening vulnerability. One by one, Taehyung unwraps his heinous thoughts for both him and Namjoon to understand, tearing layers off his mind to reveal him in all his rawness.

"It bothered me whenever you guys touched hyung... so much that it was hard not to think of anything else until I got you guys off him. That's why I always stood between you guys and hyung, so you guys couldn't. I didn't like you guys talking to him by yourselves... laughing, making plans with each other, talking about things I didn’t know of."

His pitch rises slightly.

"It always made me so angry whenever hyung doted on Jungkook. I didn't like how they were close and how they played around with each other... I hated him clinging onto hyung. I wanted hyung to dote on me only. I knew I hurt Jungkook sometimes when I pushed him away from hyung, but… I always thought he deserved it."

Taehyung keeps his eyes fixated on the ground, so many floors down. The shame at how disturbingly obsessive he is doesn't stop him from spilling his crooked heart out.

“And when it came to you, hyung, I... was jealous because Jin-hyung opened up to you more than the rest of us. When he's going through a hard time, it's you he goes to. Not me."

Taehyung's voice shrivels.

“I hated how you knew him better than I did… you understood what he was going through and I didn’t. You could tell when he was sad and I couldn't.”

“I didn't want you to. I wanted it to be me who understood hyung, whom he’d turn to if he needed someone.”

There's a brief moment of quietness, and then, Namjoon nods. His hand doesn't slip off Taehyung’s shoulder, much to Taehyung's perplexity.

“Hyung comforted you a lot... you wanted to be someone he could rely on too, right?” Namjoon hums. 

"And I don't think I know him better than you do. Hyung depends on you much more than me."

Taehyung doesn’t know what he was expecting from Namjoon, but empathy was not one of them. He knows every confession that bled out of his mouth was disquieting and irrational. Yet, Namjoon doesn't seem appalled by all he's said.

Taehyung wasn’t asking for Namjoon to prove him wrong—that he’s Seokjin’s stronghold. That’s not what he wants.

Taehyung's chest stirs.

"It's not just that,” he says. He curls his fingers.

“I wanted Jin-hyung all to myself. I wanted him to pay attention only to me; I didn't want him to care as much for you guys. All of his love… I wanted every bit of it."

The aghast still doesn’t emerge in Namjoon’s eyes.

“Hyung was special to you. You hoped you were the same for him,” Namjoon remarks.

Wanting to be special? Is Namjoon really chalking everything up to just that?

Maybe Taehyung's not splaying it out right. He's talking about months of resentment, gall bleeding in his lungs each time one of the members encroached upon his and Seokjin's space. Months of hysteria, full of wrathful accusations that it couldn't be Seokjin who distanced himself—it had to be them sinisterly pulling strings.

It was as Yoongi said: Seokjin was his entire world and nobody else mattered. Not the group, not the music, not his friends and family.

That doesn’t root from a want to simply be special to someone. Kim Taehyung was desperately, deeply, unsoundly in love with Kim Seokjin, and he wanted the entirety of him like a deranged man. Every centimetre, every gram, whatever he kept within his skin and bones.

Taehyung was hoping to reach into places within Seokjin that no one else would get to. He was thinking of being under stained sheets with a man who took care of him like an older brother for over half a decade. Kneeling between Seokjin's legs, having his beloved hyung mould out a space in his body for him, nestle against perspiring skin and swollen flesh.

"No. You don't get it," Taehyung returns, desperation growing in his tone. He's seeking unease and abhorrence from Namjoon, not understanding and warmth. That's the reaction he deserves for his obsessions which stemmed from feelings taken too far. That’s what he should be punished with for ruining a normal, platonic dynamic between them all.

Does Namjoon really not know? The way everyone looked at him just now—it seemed blatant that they all did. 

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Taehyung's heart races. It churns out an atrocious lump into his throat for him to spit out, for Namjoon to truly see him as he is.

Then, Taehyung will finally witness it. The twisted expressions and the irked looks.

"Hyung." 

Taehyung's voice is hoarse. The anxiety billows, but he can't stop himself as he meets Namjoon's gentle eyes.

"I..."

His throat clogs. He deserves censures and reprehension. From them, and from Seokjin, most of all.

"I-I love Seokjin-hyung.”

The guttural words burn in the cool air. Each stings his lips with some dread, but Taehyung can’t find it in him to claw them back.

It’s now that herealises just how exhausted he is. Of anxiously sewing up his heart so no one knows, of hiding and running—enough to simply let whatever consequences await come to him. It's ironic to be petrified of a catastrophe, only to willingly instigate it someday to put yourself out of the misery of wondering.

When will they find out? Do they already know?

Seokjin already knows and Namjoon does now, too. Taehyung can't take it back anymore.

"It's... disgusting. Right?" Taehyung croaks, writing out how the conversation should go by himself.

Funnily, his confession doesn't feel as bloody as when he confessed to Seokjin, where Taehyung thought he was revealing a tumour rather than what should rightfully be flowers. Perhaps because it's already been said to the worst person to hear them, or maybe he has a sad shred of hopefulness from the warmth Namjoon showed just now.

Quietness. The blood thumps in Taehyung’s ears dreadfully.

Namjoon bats his lashes. There's surprise scrawled over his irises.

"What? No... of course not." 

He looks bewildered. "Why would you say that?"

It takes a few seconds before his grimace melts into a sudden realisation. Immediately, the forlornness bruises in his eyes, and he turns to face Taehyung fully.

"Wait—Taehyung, no- was that what you were thinking all this while of us?" He strains.

"Is that what you meant? When you said we looked at you like you were strange—when you said I was trying to separate you from hyung, did you think we were unnerved by how you felt for him?"

Taehyung bites his lip. Namjoon's expression contorts, and he immediately reaches over. 

“No, Taehyung, it wasn’t that…”

Wrought with remorse, he pulls Taehyung close, wrapping his arms around his shoulders.

"We've never felt that way. Not once… not ever. We've never felt you were disgusting for liking hyung," he breathes, voice tinged with distress. "I had no idea that was what you were thinking all this time."

"I swear. It was never about how you felt for Jin-hyung," Namjoon urges. He goes tongue-tied, looking desperate to clear the air but struggling to phrase his thoughts carefully.

Eventually, he relents, explaining apologetically.

"It was because you were growing distant, isolating yourself and Jin-hyung from us... You weren't as keen on performing and making music anymore if Jin-hyung wasn't involved. It was interfering with your work, and you were starting to hurt the other members too."

"It seemed like Jin-hyung was becoming the only thing that mattered to you. You didn’t want us to tag along with you and Seokjin-hyung, you were only interested in spending time with him," Namjoon murmurs. 

"That... was beyond love. You were being possessive… almost obsessive, and it was going overboard. We were worried because of that. Not because you love hyung."

Taehyung swallows thickly. The blunt words sting, but the relief it concurrently brings is so immense. Taehyung tries to steady his voice but it still comes out shaky.

"...So, you don't think it's strange I love hyung that way?"

"No. Not at all,” Namjoon immediately returns. “There’s no reason for me to—no reason for anyone to.”

"But it's not normal."

"It is normal. There's nothing wrong with how you feel. We'd never think you're disgusting for how you feel towards Seokjin-hyung," Namjoon states firmly.

His voice diminishes with guilt. 

"I'm sorry. For making you think all that. You're not strange—believe me, Taehyung. There's nothing bad about having feelings for hyung. It's normal. It's okay."

Taehyung tears up. Suddenly, every bit of blood-stained wariness he had for the members, every venom-filled conjecture he had of them as antagonists, seems to crumble down into nothing. Those looks they sent his way, the way they bit their tongues around him—just hours ago, Taehyung was so sure they rooted from distaste, that he felt the need to be on the qui vive in his own home. 

Below the bitter hostility he showed, he quietly nursed his hurt at being scorned by what he thought was lifelong friends. Oh, how unfortunately he was building weapons to hurt, in hopes of warding off any more harm. He returned their looks with glares and spiteful gestures, their unsaid words with scathing accusations.

"Even though hyung's a guy?" Taehyung quivers. “You really don’t think it’s weird?”

"Yes," Namjoon stresses. "It's okay to feel the way you do for hyung—you're not disgusting for it, and you'll never be. Believe me."

To hear it so plainly from Namjoon that they'd never seen him as he thought—repugnant and berserk—is so painfully relieving. Taehyung wonders if his head had been so warped by his anxieties, he simply couldn't interpret their gazes as anything else but contempt.

The articles the journalists will pen about him, headlines and blurbs written like it’s a gruesome discovery. The way they’ll all turn their backs on him—the fans, the public, the members—like he’s less than human. He was strangled by his conjectures that everything seemed to make sense as they were.

"...I felt like a freak, hyung," Taehyung shudders, dipping his head. “I felt so twisted… so disgusting… like a burden…”

"It felt like all of you knew sometimes and hated me for it, and you guys were so put off and couldn't understand why I'd think that way about hyung—that I was causing problems for the group by liking hyung that way.”

“Every time I’d catch you guys giving me looks, yet not say anything, and I was always wondering what it was you guys wanted to tell me,” Taehyung rasps. “That I’m being strange? Disturbing? Was it to stop and act like a normal person—that it was sickening?”

"We’d never think that about you. Not once did we ever hate you, nor did we ever find you sickening," Namjoon insists staunchly. The conviction dissipates into a remorseful tenderness.

"I’m sorry we made you feel like that, Taehyung… It's normal to love, and for you, it was Jin-hyung. There's nothing strange about that—nothing to feel like a freak for, or that you're creating problems."

"...That's not what people out there will think if they find out," Taehyung croaks. "Of me... of us."

Namjoon's eyes shade and this time, he doesn’t answer immediately. He knows well what consequences Taehyung's referring to. How can they not? The paparazzi latches onto the littlest details, hoping to dig open a trove of dirt on them. The other side of the world paints them as just men in make-up and flashy clothes (men?); all their artistry is dismissed simply because they wear lipstick and don’t sing in English.

They’re sure to dig their teeth into such a juicy vice of his, a powerful ammunition for their detractors.

Despite this, Namjoon asserts, "If they think poorly of you... they're wrong for it.”

“I can’t say what other people will think… but no matter what they do, we won't think that way about you. I promise,” he re-affirms.

It's surprising to hear this from a leader who should prioritise the group over all else. But really, it's not. Taehyung should know, after so many years through thick and thin, what Namjoon would think. He wouldn’t have condemned Taehyung for this. 

Namjoon leans back, gazing softly. “You've done nothing wrong. Remember that. Don't feel bad for how you feel.”

Taehyung brushes his tears with his sleeves, taking some time to collect himself. Every of Namjoon's assurances hold a startling tangibility. They're sincere, heartfelt, and Taehyung tries not to doubt them.

"...I'm sorry, hyung." He stifles the rise in his lungs at how unfamiliar the tenderness feels. “For everything.”

"Don't say you're sorry," Namjoon reminds. "I said you didn't do anything bad, and I mean it."

“Taehyung, if there's ever anything on your mind, anything that's troubling you... tell us. We're friends—we'll always be behind you. Trust us not to turn our backs on you."

Taehyung stiffly nods. He remembers that night where Jimin had similarly said to rely on them instead of just Seokjin. He’d felt the statement was incredulous to him then, so absorbed in the notion that everyone wanted to sabotage his and Seokjin’s relationship. 

"I was scared. I didn't know what you guys would think of me,” Taehyung rasps.

“I know. It’s scary to tell this to anyone, no matter how close you are to them,” Namjoon consoles. 

He squeezes Taehyung’s shoulder. The blue is stark in his words. “It must have been hard on you. To deal with this all by yourself.”

“...It was, hyung,” Taehyung breathes, shrouding his face behind one hand. It was excruciatingly difficult because he counted on Seokjin to always be there to solve whatever rendered him helpless. But there simply was no way to present such unnaturalness for Seokjin to tend to when it involved Seokjin himself. 

“Sorry. I shouldn’t have thought that way about you guys,” Taehyung whispers. “It just… it made sense to me then. Seokjin-hyung was suddenly so cold to me. He and you had a private talk before that—and I found you guys staring whenever I was close to hyung. And after what Yoongi-hyung said… It just seemed like that.”

Namjoon speaks grimly. “With how we were acting, it’d be hard for anyone not to think that way.”

"Taehyung, to be truthful with you, I... sort of guessed you may have feelings for hyung," he admits softly. "But that wasn't the reason I was troubled. Yes, I won’t lie—I was a bit worried, since with how affectionate you two were in public, they might gossip about you. So, I thought a few times about telling you to be more careful.”

“But it was how possessive you were getting over hyung that made me, all of us concerned."

Namjoon rests his arms back on the railings, gazing out at the dark cityscape beyond them.

"I should have spoken to you about it right from the start. I wanted to, several times... but I wasn't sure if I should. It hadn't been long since you stopped closing yourself off, you know? You still got anxious from time to time... It seemed like it was hard for you to sleep unless Jin-hyung was by your side."

"I didn't know if this… possessiveness was just part of your process of healing. I was afraid you'd take it as that we thought something was wrong with you... if I'd ruin things between you and Seokjin-hyung. You two would grow uncomfortable, awkward with each other, and you'd shut him out—shut all of us out."

“That’s why I was always looking at you two, wondering if I should say something… but never doing so. I’m sorry. I should have been more decisive,” Namjoon exhales lengthily, wisp of regret evident in his tone.

"When Yoongi-hyung confronted you… I guess it was because I wasn't saying anything that he took it upon himself to do so that day. When he said you were acting oddly, I think... he felt bad to say it outright to you that, well, you were being too possessive. You were hurting the other members... and it was getting out of hand."

Taehyung winces. He recalls vividly when Yoongi had spouted those words to him, and how the label gradually grinded into his bones as he took in all of the members' bewildered looks. He wonders how he would have reacted if Yoongi had plainly stated the issue—that Taehyung was being obsessive and denying the members any close proximity with Seokjin, and he was going way overboard and hurting the rest for it.

Would Taehyung have accepted it simply and heeded his words? He highly doubts so. Yoongi's words might have instead unearthed a horribly uncomfortable shred of understanding, familiar in the past months whenever he realised he was crossing a line—only for him to trample it down as usual.

He'd therefore probably have vehemently denied it, with a much deeper ferocity, at such disquiet and at his and Seokjin's closeness being threatened. At that point in time, Taehyung had acted however he pleased, leaving his subconsciousness to thrash with a swollen love he couldn't comprehend. 

Namjoon speaks lowly. "It was when you fought with Jin-hyung about Jungkook that I realised I really needed to step in. Yoongi-hyung and I wanted to talk with you that night, actually, but since you were already asleep, we spoke with Jin-hyung."

...That was the conversation that Seokjin passed off as nothing. Taehyung feels his insides turn with bitter embarrassment. He knows they probably spoke about him with care, but he can't help feeling like a sickly defect being discussed on an operating table—with alarming symptoms of prying hands, jealous eyes and territorial warnings. How shameful to be shown as such a broken thing, especially in front of someone he wants so much love from.

"I know, we should have just spoken to you directly," Namjoon heaves, seemingly reading his mind. "Hyung didn't want us to go to you, and at that time, it did seem like it'd be better if Jin-hyung handled things instead of us."

Taehyung bats his lashes. He has an inkling of the reason for it, but he still asks. "Why didn't hyung want you to speak to me?"

"He was worried it'd affect you. We all were."

Taehyung lowers his gaze. And so, the burden of his actions was left to Seokjin to deal with, all because Taehyung allegedly couldn't handle being implied as a problem. He's upset they all assumed so, even though he has little conviction it wouldn't have bruised him. It was his behaviour that was the problem—not Seokjin's.

"You wanted to know what Seokjin-hyung and I spoke about that night." Namjoon clasps the railings absentmindedly. 

"It was honestly hyung that called me out that night. He seemed like he had something serious to say and he wanted to do it in private, so that was why I told you we wanted to eat out alone."

"All he told me was that he wanted to do more songwriting, and he wanted my help. He thought it'd be good too for him to be busy so you'd have to spend time away from him, with the other members, other people instead."

"I didn't think much of it, until I realised that he was giving you the cold shoulder. I presumed you guys fought at first… but there just was no way hyung would be angry with you for so long. He was cooping himself up in the studio, just writing and composing… he barely ate or even talked to me, or the other producers.”

Namjoon’s voice lowers. “I figured he must be doing this because of what we said—that we needed to do something about your possessiveness.”

"I tried to talk him out of it, telling him this wasn't the way to solve the issue. The others did too. But he just kept insisting nothing was going on and avoiding us. Some of us were mad at him for it... But I felt like he blamed himself for why you were acting this way, and he didn't know what to do, so he was resorting to this.”

Namjoon locks eyes with Taehyung earnestly. 

"Seokjin-hyung doesn't hate you or think badly of you. He did something drastic, and he hurt you a lot; I’m not trying to minimise that. He shouldn’t have.”

“But he loves you a lot. He's doing what he thinks is best for you—he just… didn’t get it right,” Namjoon heaves.

His shoulders fall, a wistful look permeating his irises.

“I’m not saying this to excuse Jin-hyung,” Namjoon softly remarks. “I just don’t want you to think you were avoided because he disliked you. It was never because he was disgusted by you or how you felt towards him, I’m sure of it.”

Taehyung doesn’t reply. He gazes out at the blocks engulfed in nightfall, shadows falling into the crevices that miss the lamppost lights. There’s not a single passer-by, 4AM bleeding over the empty streets—spelling an aloneness similar to the end of the world.

Some months ago, at midnight too, Seokjin drove with him down to the convenience store two blocks away for star stickers. That raw exhilaration was the first happiness Taehyung had felt in such a long time. Prior to that, he had wondered if he simply forgot how to be happy. 

In a world so vast with his face plastered on magazines, newspapers, online, everywhere—it was a very real possibility that there would always be someone talking about him, and he would never know what they were saying. Perhaps they were compliments that he didn’t deserve: how perfect he always looks even under such garish lights (it’s make-up); how he would never struggle with a high note; how warm and kind he was to all, indiscriminately. 

Maybe they were taunts, vile, absolutely depraved, wishing him and his family misfortune and death when he’d never even met those people. Never even spoke a word to them, never even locked eyes with them. All because he didn’t rub them right when he said this or that. All because he looked cocky, seemed like he’d be an awful person.

As the unjustified malice piled, Taehyung feared that the love would someday metamorphosise into the same. He was but a prettily packaged box of lies, airbrushed and edited into a flawless figure he never said he was. He had a bit of a temper sometimes, stressed out by a hectic schedule. He said the wrong things occasionally, simply because he didn’t know everything. His voice cracked now and then, no matter how hard he practised.

But nobody seemed to understand that. That meant all of his shortcomings were bound to be exposed one day. He was safe for now, but someday, everyone would find out what a horrific wreck of a person he was. The love he was receiving was a ticking time bomb, and all he could do was wait for it to blow up.

So, Taehyung sought refuge in the darkness. It was a boundless expanse that he hid himself in, hoping, just for a few minutes, to be non-existent. He wanted to be untraceable, to be forgotten, so no one could inspect and realise his flaws. After some time, it seemed like this was the only place he belonged—disappearing into the nothingness.

That night, he and Seokjin set off to find stars and put them up in his ceaseless space of nothingness. They decorated it with moons and planets that glowed gently, unlike the blinding camera flashes and dressing room lights. In that dimness, Taehyung could now differentiate himself a little from the nothingness. It was uncomfortable, but there came a perk—he could see Seokjin a little better as well.

See those twinkling eyes that were always so full of love. See how they never changed as Taehyung shredded out each bleeding piece of his anxious mind for Seokjin to tend to—how Seokjin’s eyes glowed so forgivingly as Taehyung wept and fussed like a child.

Seokjin brought down the sky and made the stars so in reach—just a leap away for Taehyung to touch. He made Taehyung’s world smaller, more comprehensible, less formidable. Taehyung didn’t have to worry about what other people thought if the world he lived in was confined to the four walls of his room. He didn’t need to be anxious over what he needed to be but could never achieve, no matter how hard he leapt.

Taehyung knew everything there was in this tiny world, so there was no need to ruminate and catastrophise about what ifs. In here, there lived only one other person, and he loved Taehyung regardless of how detestable he was.

Oh, how happy Taehyung was. He wanted Seokjin to take as much solace as he did in this little cosmos of theirs; he was going to give back every speck of love he received and more—keep Seokjin safe here forever.

A cold draft flutters over them. Despite washing his hands just now, Taehyung’s palms still seem sticky. The shirt fabric over his heart feels so drenched even though it’s been hours, and Seokjin’s tears have long gone. 

Taehyung swallows.

"Hyung, you shouldn't have gone to Jin-hyung.” 

His words to Namjoon are prickly. 

"He has nothing to do with how I act. He's not responsible for what I do."

"I know. I’m sorry. To both you and Seokjin-hyung," Namjoon whispers. 

"I didn’t mean to make him feel like this was his fault… that there was even anyone to blame, in the first place. I should have just spoken to you. I’m sorry for that.”

Taehyung gulps again. The despondency at how terribly everything turned out is strangling him. It was his fault; he knows. He was the one who began obsessing madly over Seokjin and pushing everyone away. It’s not anyone’s duty to tell him not to cross the line, but Taehyung was simply out of his mind, painfully ignorant of what he was turning into. 

He craved every inch of Seokjin and would do anything to have him. Seokjin was a lovely little moon who sat by his side in the darkness, providing him with just that little bit of light he needed so he wouldn’t succumb to the nothingness.

“...It’s not you, hyung.”

Taehyung clenches his jaw, suppressing yet another pathetic sob. What has he done besides weep and cling onto Seokjin? Always burdening him and everyone else with his fragility and struggles—it’s a given that Seokjin could never have thought for his own well-being with how pitifully Taehyung acted.

“It’s me. It was always me.” 

Taehyung presses his wrists to his eyes, shrouding his shameful tears before they can fall. 

“I should have realised it myself; I shouldn’t need you guys to tell me that I couldn’t be doing all that—pushing you guys away, stopping all of you from going near hyung. I did whatever I wanted without thinking… and I never felt I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

“I just-” 

Taehyung chokes up. 

“I just love Seokjin-hyung so much. I love him so, so much, and it’s driving me mad, hyung. I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m sorry.”

He sobs silently, face twisted in utter misery, his palms gathering tears again. Drip, drip, they fall onto the cement a dozen floors down, leaving such light marks of Taehyung’s sorrow. His heart bruises and he can’t stop feeling Seokjin’s tears down his ribcage.

Namjoon slips his arm around Taehyung’s shoulders and pulls him close. 

“Hey, don’t cry. It’s alright. You didn’t do anything wrong—I said so just now, didn’t I?” He comforts softly.

“It was difficult for you… This was new to you, and it would have been frightening for anyone. You were figuring things out. What matters now is that you’ve realised it. We can work through it together.”

Taehyung smothers a sob. 

“Hyung, just now…” 

His hands quiver. “Just now, I told Seokjin-hyung that I loved him—and he cried. He cried so much, and he wouldn’t stop, no matter how hard I tried. It- it hurt so badly to see him like that.”

Taehyung strains dolefully, “I made him that way. I made him so sad, by liking him like this. I never thought about how hard it was on hyung. He kept blaming himself, saying it was his fault that I liked him, that he should have distanced himself earlier, that he shouldn’t have kept sleeping with me.”

“But it’s not his fault. It’s mine; it’s me that loves him. Hyung didn’t do anything wrong—he only took care of me. But hyung doesn’t understand that. He just kept saying he’s to blame for everything.”

Taehyung furiously wipes his tears, unable to forget how Seokjin withered in his arms. How much guilt had that gaunt frame endured, from the moment he realised Taehyung was insanely in love with him? Taehyung, such a fragile mind, was putting himself and his reputation on the line for him. He no longer feared the camera flashes or the rattling lips if it was for Seokjin.

Seokjin was so, so sorry, as though he had tempted Taehyung and shot a cavity through his heart—in the shape of himself.

“It’s not your fault either,” Namjoon whispers, holding Taehyung tight. “Taehyung, you love hyung. It’s simply that. There’s no need for anyone to be sorry for it.”

“But I’m burdening Jin-hyung so much. I don’t know what to do, hyung,” Taehyung shudders. “I don’t want to make things hard for him anymore. I just- I just don’t want him to hurt so much.”

Namjoon squeezes the nape of Taehyung’s neck, giving some consolation.

“You’re not a burden. It’s in Jin-hyung’s nature to worry… to feel responsible for us and the group as a whole. Especially since he’s the oldest, he takes it upon himself to make sure we’re all alright, and we’ll do well.”

He tastes the words on his tongue, before gingerly murmuring, “If I’m being frank… it won’t be easy if how you feel gets out. People can be awfully close-minded, and even more vile.”

Taehyung shrivels. He knows—and when he goes down, he’ll bring such terrible collateral damage.

“Hyung probably has that in mind, you know?” Namjoon says. “That things would be difficult for you, and he doesn’t want it to be that way. And with how the possessiveness was affecting your work and your relationships… he probably felt like it was his fault.”

“But it’s not. Nor is it your fault. You love hyung, that’s all.” He reaches up, brushing Taehyung’s hair gently.

Unsurprisingly, Namjoon proves once again that he understands Seokjin best.

Taehyung croaks, “Hyung said he didn’t want me to have to give up so much… he was scared of how horrible people would be to me if they found out. He was sorry for hurting me.”

“That is what Jin-hyung would feel. Especially when it comes to you,” Namjoon sighs, expression somber. “It’s good that he apologised. I was worried about how things would go between you two.”

“Were you waiting up for us?”

Namjoon nods. “I was surprised to see you, honestly. I expected Seokjin-hyung to come out first.”

He thumbs Taehyung’s shoulder tenderly. “Did you guys manage to talk things out well?”

“Sort of,” Taehyung whispers. “I told Seokjin-hyung that I’ll stop liking him after some time… that my feelings will go away with time. So, he doesn’t have to worry so much.”

He curls his fingers. 

“Even though I said that, and I know how hard it’ll be for us, for hyung, and for the group...”

Taehyung’s hands are so stained with Seokjin’s tears, but it’s not enough of a scathing reminder to his greedy heart. Against the stickiness that still lingers, Taehyung thinks about the feeling of holding Seokjin’s crooked fingers tight. Of kissing his swollen lips softly, of laughing with and loving him so endlessly.

His voice shrivels. He can barely hear himself, telling of how reprehensible his words are.

“I’m still hoping… that maybe Seokjin-hyung could love me back. That we could be together someday.”

How incredibly shameful Taehyung is. Even after Seokjin bent and broke in his grasp and he couldn’t put him back together, Taehyung’s still clinging onto the littlest hope that there could be a future for them.

“I’m selfish, aren’t I, hyung?” Taehyung rasps.

Another chilly breeze trails over their skin as the bruise-like sunrise of 5 AM approaches. The silence from the world endures, judgemental despite the lack of words. Taehyung opens his palm and stares.

“You’re not,” Namjoon hums. “That’s what everyone wants when they’re in love, isn’t it?”

Taehyung says nothing. He closes his palm and gazes out as the hint of morning red begins to blend into the dark blue of the night.

In a few hours or so, the people will start filling the streets. They’ll mumble about breakfast and the weather, caught up in piecemeal conversations about trivially interesting things from other people’s lives. The neighbour’s daughter moved back home after six years (isn’t she married? ). This idol said this ( really? ), that celebrity said that ( unbelievable). 

Talk, talk, talk. It’s nerve-wracking. 

“What should I do now, hyung?” Taehyung whispers. “I don’t want to burden Jin-hyung and the group any more. And I feel so guilty for accusing all of you. I don’t know how to face everyone after everything I said.”

“I’m afraid things won’t ever be the same again between us… That everyone will remember this and hate me for it.” 

He lowers his head. “I’m sorry for pushing you guys away, for everything I did.”

“Hey, it’s okay,” Namjoon soothes. “Don’t worry about the members holding it against you. We’ve faced much more as a group together, haven’t we?”

Namjoon offers a small smile.

“It already took us so much just to debut. With all our fights, all the disbandment talks, changing members… we’re close enough, don’t you think?”

Taehyung fiddles with his hands hesitantly. Namjoon pats Taehyung’s back to reassure him.

“Trust me. They won’t be angry with you. Confused, maybe, but they’ll want to make up with you as much as you do.”

“How about we take things step by step first?” Namjoon suggests thoughtfully. “I know it might be hard… but I was thinking that all of us need to have a talk with each other. As a group. That way, we can be honest with each other, and there won’t be any more misunderstandings.”

“I’m not asking you to tell everyone how you feel about Seokjin-hyung,” Namjoon quickly clarifies. “It’d just be good if the others can explain themselves to you… and you have a chance to tell everyone what you want to.”

“I’ll be behind you. All the way,” Namjoon makes clear. 

Taehyung folds his lips. Despite his instinctive apprehension, he knows there’s no avoiding it. With everything that’s happened last night, they’ll need to bridge the rift between them with a proper talk—one that’s not laden with distortions and misinterpretations. 

And he has some faith, despite his persistent misgivings, that they won’t loathe him for what he’s done. He’s ashamed of how he lashed out, so clouded by furor that he laid hands on one of them. But if Namjoon can smile so warmly at him after the furious ire Taehyung directed at him… then it’s not so strange to think the rest can, too.

“Tomorrow?”

“Is that okay? Or is it too soon?” Namjoon asks mildly.

After a moment of mulling, Taehyung relents. He murmurs stiffly, “...I was planning to go out and buy breakfast for you guys. As an apology.”

Namjoon laughs, eyes turning into amiable crescents. “You really know how to win the members over.”

The sight puts Taehyung at ease, helping him to muster up some courage. “That’s all we ever think about, anyway,” he jokes along.

“Yeah. That’s the only force powerful enough to divide us… and unite us,” Namjoon quips. 

“Let’s go together,” he offers, the passing wind ruffling up his hair. He glances back at the living room clock to find it’s only 5 AM. 

“It’s too early now, though. Why not you go to sleep first? We can go later so the food will still be warm when everyone wakes up.”

Taehyung nods. “At seven?”

“Mm, that’s good. We’ll be just in time,” Namjoon yawns. “Are we thinking the same? About what we should buy?”

“Yoojung?” Taehyung guesses with a small smile. It’s the restaurant they frequented before they debuted, a homely enough place that brought some relief from the homesickness and pressure. It’s been many, many years.

Namjoon grins, slinging an arm over Taehyung’s shoulders. His warmth never wanes, despite the exhaustion evidently catching up with him and his dark eye circles.

In the quietude, Taehyung finds some semblance of peace, that which has eluded him for so long. He takes in a deep breath of the nightfall as some lights begin flickering on in the opposite blocks. He recedes intuitively, back into the thicker shadows.

Things seem a little more in his grasp now, even with the brewing uncertainty of how they will turn out. He knows at least that Namjoon will be there for him tomorrow.

Taehyung reaches over to clasp Namjoon’s hand on him. 

“Thank you, hyung.” He presses, touching wrinkles and bones, feeling a comforting heat instead of the distorted acrimony. It’s the same as when he spiralled into a pitless exhaustion, and there was always this hand on his shoulder, asking if he was okay.

He’s grateful to Namjoon, to the extent that no words can convey it. The thought of morning and the glaring sunlight still brings nervousness, but he knows it won’t be as heinous as he imagined.

“Really. Thank you,” Taehyung whispers.

Namjoon smiles.

He walks with Taehyung to his room. They crack open the door to find Seokjin still fast asleep, the slit of light exposing his swollen eyes. Namjoon bids him goodnight with a loose hug and Taehyung shuts the door behind him, letting the darkness engulf him once more.

He crawls onto the bed back to Seokjin and leans down to check his breathing. It’s still there, in, out, breaths weak but steady. Taehyung brushes Seokjin’s cheeks, wiped free of any tear marks, and pulls the blanket over his feet.

Things will be okay, Taehyung promises to Seokjin who can’t hear him. Tomorrow, he’ll apologise to the other members, and they’ll eat together like they always have—enjoying a filling breakfast that reminds them a little of home and their younger selves. 

He’ll figure out what to do next afterwards. Seokjin won’t have to worry.

For a long while, Taehyung threads through clumped tresses as the eerie sunrise begins staining the curtains. He gazes, gazes, wondering which of Seokjin’s fossas he should shroud himself in. Against his back, on his chest, in his arms. 

Eventually, Taehyung nudges Seokjin into his chest and falls asleep.

 


PLEASE READ: Hi everyone, I hope you're doing well! Some of you may have noticed that the rating has been bumped up to Mature since quite a few chapters back. I'm very, very sorry for bumping it up in the middle of the story. After reflecting a lot, I decided that there is a possibility to include a mature scene in the future, so, I bumped it up.

Since the warning was lower at the beginning of the story, it won't be fair to readers who expected the content to not be Mature. Hence, if there is a mature scene, it won't be vital at all to the story flow and it'll have very explicit warnings. I plan to make it a separate chapter of its own, with a clear warning and a shortcut link to skip to the next chapter at the top.

Really sorry once again for the change in the rating. :( I hope this will be okay for all of you. If you'd like to discuss or give suggestions on how the mature scene should be presented, you can leave a comment or DM me on Twitter at @hotmilktae.