He slams the door close with little finesse, too rough for it not being his own car, and gently pats at it as if it could understand he’s sorry. Maybe he should tell Namjoon instead, but the guy hasn’t said anything but a chirpy “Hey, Tae,” so he smiles happily, a full on smile.
“Hey, Joonie,” he exclaims, fitting himself on the warm black backseats. God bless who put the option to heat the seats. The air is so cold in Seoul he can’t feel anything.
“Hello, Jimie,” he adds for good measure, and Jimin looks happy that he finally acknowledged him, always in for the spotlight of his attention, or anyone else’s for that matter. Pat him on the head and call him a good boy and you’ll see his wagging tail. Taehyung loves him to bits. He turns into his front seat and elongates his back to plant a wet kiss onto his forehead, “Good morning, babe, how you feeling?”
Taehyungs humms, low and happy, as he fastens his seatbelt, “Amazing, can’t believe we finally managed to convince Joon hyung to let us use his family’s cabin.”
It’s been years since they’ve started asking to let them spend a whole Christmas together in the mountain cabin his grandparents left him. It’s in Pyeongchang, the perfect locality to eat, ski and just enjoy time together, considering they don’t have that much time anymore. It’s sad to say, but growing up takes a lot of time away from the loved ones.
“We?” asks Jimin, sly, “who said we convinced him?”
“Jeez, sorry, I meant you sacrificed for all of us. I can only imagine the suffering you went through,” Taehyung bites out, laying it thick. He can see the top of Namjoon’s ears becoming red from embarrassment, having picked it up.
“You’re joking. I really had to talk with his mom. His mother, Tae. Because he wasn’t sure he could spend another Christmas away from home. At twenty six. No amount of dick sucking produced the same effect. ”
“I, I care about my family?” he tries to defend, sheepishly. Jimin pats one of his thighs, lovingly, squeezing just a bit on top of his knee, “I know, baby.”
“Yeah baby, we know,” Taehyung reiterates. He takes Namjoon’s phone and chooses a song from his spotify’s library that won’t make him think about the only thing he’s been obsessing with the past few days. Basically, he skips anything that has to do with love.
“Sometimes I feel like this is a three way relationship,” Namjoon says, eyes always on the road. He looks good when driving, more grown up and Jimin is shooting heart eyes at him.
“Isn’t it? Or more like, is it? I thought I was the adopted baby of the relationship, just not, like, the sugar baby, you know.”
“No, no. You’re the baby, full stop. We take you out for ice cream, cinema, the baby stuff. I’m not sharing Joonie with anyone. Not even with you, Tae.”
“That kinda hurt, not gonna lie. Thought I was your ride or die.”
“And you are! Just, not the romantic one.”
They get invested in the conversation, on why romantic love and platonic love are different but not on different levels of importance, Taehyung almost tears up at the way Jimin is fighing to show him how much he loves him and Namjoon doesn’t feel threatened in the least. He’s getting into his head, thinking of all the love he has for his friends, how happy he is he’s going to spend a whole week with them like when they were teenagers, singlehandedly creating a big bubble of love written in capital letters.
It kinda shutters down when he gets a new message.
“Hey, why is Yoongi hyung saying we aren’t picking him up?” he arches up a brow , “the others are coming, right?”
“Oh, yeah, they’re coming with Jin hyung’s car,” says Namjoon, “He bought a new Mercedes and was dying to try it out on the snow, you know. And this car was made for maximum five people, we’re six.”
“When has that ever stopped us?” he’s trying not to think that they used to be seven, not six, but seven guys cramped up in Jin’s first car, a shitty small Hyundai his grandfather used to give him when he needed it. They would go to a local store near Itaewon which doesn’t control documents and buy tons of soju and beer, and drink them on an isolated hill. His mind slips and reminds him he wasn’t the youngest, he wasn’t the one they would tease because he still had years to go before it could be legal for him to swing two bottles of soju, because at the time he had – yeah. Had someone younger than him he could tease back. Somehow the memory stops feeling as funny.
He’s pouting and he knows Jimin knows why. It’s also seven in the morning, Namjoon said he wanted to take things calmly, and feelings this early are never a good thing. Feelings in general are never a good thing.
Namjoon snorts, affectionate, “We’re not kids anymore, Tae,” and he’s not being condescending, “Sleep a little, when you wake up we’ll be there.”
“Mmmh” he mumbles, “Yeah, thanks.”
Sleeping in a car is uncomfortable. His face keeps slamming into the window, his elbow keeps slipping and his legs are too long the space he gets between his seats and Namjoon’s. But somehow, he’s too tired to think about it. He’d been writing a paper till three in the morning, and maybe that’s the reason his eyes fall shut and heavy with no difficulty.
Everything is getting dark and he can feel himself falling deep into the sweet slumber. He hears Jimin sigh and mutter something, sadly, however it feels so far he can’t do anything about it, and falls asleep anyway.
When he wakes up, his shoulder hurts, and so does his back, because he slept in a twisted position. He groans, lowly, and tries to focus his vision. He can see there is snow, a lot of it, outside of his window, “Are we close?”
He can see Namjoon looking at him from his retro visor, “Good nap?”
“Yeah. Had my back all twisted and now it hurts, but I slept so good. Are we-?”
“Close? Yep. Ten minutes top.”
“Great. Can’t wait to move my legs and walk around a little.”
“You can walk all you want when we arrive, help us rearrange the house, clean up a bit,” Jimin chimes in, teasingly.
Taehyung rolls his eyes at him. Jimin knows he hates house cleaning.
“Not what I meant, would’ve done that anyway. I’m not Jung- uhm, I’m not like that.”
The sleepiness must have slipped onto his brain control. He hasn’t said the name in six months, even in his mind he doesn’t dare spelling it out in fear of memories coming back all together. It’s childish and that’s how he wants it to be.
“Uh oh, yes, we know. Tae, about that,”
“Don’t. I don’t wanna talk about it, again, I mean.” He grunts, can’t get the words out, “Don’t wanna talk about it again and again. I’m, ok. It’s been a whole year.”
“That’s, not what I was trying to say,”
“It’s ok, I know you do it out of love, but I’m fine.”
“Ok then. Love you buddy.”
“Love you too.”
“… Me too.”
“Same, Joonie hyung.”
“Love you, baby.”
He was sweeping on the living room’s floor, eyes down, and signing between himself the hook of All I want for Christmas is you, because the Christmas ban doesn’t work on his favorite song. The lyrics are sincere and the melody catchy, he can’t get it out of his head. A spot of old food catches his eyes and that’s why he looks up, wanting to call out Namjoon, for something to clean it out with. Someone knocks at the door, and he runs full speed, a puppy excited to see his owner after a long day, screaming I don’t want a lot for Christmas, I won’t even wish for snow, he was opting for a theatrical opening, matching the lyrics to reality, so he opens the door when he’s singing I just want to see my baby, standing there outside my door. He ignores Jimin screaming and almost falling through the stairs, asking him to wait, to let him get them in, so he can explain.
To say the words get caught into his throat is an understatement. He chokes on his own breath and coughs.
He gives Jungkook a full look, up and down. He looks different, but he can’t say if it’s because they haven’t seen each other in a year or because he actually grew up into his big eyes. His brain supplies he should say, hi, how have you been after you ruined my whole life? or at least just hi. There’s too many things inside his brain. So many questions. He glances at his hyungs, they’re wearing sad and cautious expressions, and he explodes.
He turns around, stalks into the next room, anger building up into his throat, a fire that needs an escape or will burn his insides.
“What the fuck.” He spats at Jimin, who’s following him, “What the fuck did you do? Was this all part of some weird plan of yours?”
Jimin shakes his head, nervously. He knows better than trying to act mad back at him when he’s like this, vivid. Can’t fight fire with fire.
“Let me explain. Let him– “
“I won’t let him do shit, Jimin,” he snarls.
Jimin nods and take his hand. Taehyung wants to wretch it away and can’t stop thinking about everyone staring at him as if he went mad and didn’t have every reason in this world to feel like he does. Betrayed. He usually hates letting anger getting over him, preferring giving the silent treatment and let the emotions eat at him until he feels better, but this is too personal, to let go of.
“He was a dick,” Jimin asserts, taking his hand away sensing his discomfort, “I didn’t talk to him for almost three months, you know that. I’m not on his side, or anyone’s side, however he has his reasons and you refused to know…”
This takes a bitter surprised laugh out of him, along wet eyes he blinks almost furiously, “He should’ve been the one to tell me. Not you. He disappeared on me after the. Fuck. The most amazing night of my life. Fuck, I don’t wanna cry again because of him.”
Jimin gets closer to put a hand under his face and dry his eyes with his thumbs, it’s a sweet motion and it irks him even more, “Shit Tae, don’t cry.”
“Don’t tell not to cry, I’m hurt. You should have told me he was coming, I would have stayed at home with my parents.”
It makes him look down in shame, “Exactly why I didn’t. I’m sorry, I was selfish. I wanted you here with me, and at the same time I wanted to see him.”
“Yeah, you were,” there’s no nicer way to say it, “I can’t say in the same room as him and not think about what he did. I was so happy about this… and now… ”
It’s terrible, the sensation of choking up. He hates it. It’s not enough to have feeling playing with your head, they also make you feel as if you’re actually physically dying. At least, that’s how he feels at the moment. More vulnerable than he’s actually showing. He’s angry, rightly so, however that’s not all. Anger is just part of the whole spectrum. What he’s experiencing is a terrible dissidium between what he taught himself and what he wants now that he has the occasion. The outcome is a mixture of longing and frustration.
“I don’t know what to say. Joonie and I can take you back, if that’s what you want. You didn’t agree to this and I don’t want you to hurt…”
Taehyung doesn’t actually want to make Jimin feel bad or think this is going to ruin their relationship, so he gives him a half-hearted smile which doesn’t reach his eyes, but he tries.
“I don’t know, I just think I’ll walk for a little. Can’t stand to be here.”
“Heard there’s a cute coffee shop nearby, I’ll send it to you on google maps.”
“Thanks,” he breathes out, more air than actual sound.
“Tae. I’m sorry, I really am. ”
“I know. ‘M just, mad. A real fucking lot.”
Walking by himself helps, even if just a bit. The pitiless cold on his cheeks and the burning motion of his flexing feet got him back into the real world instead of the one inside his head, which was becoming quite asphyxiating. He’s used to it. Going into his head and not coming back until he’s dissected his mind to little pieces and put it back how he wants it to be. It’s some kind of Chinese torture he inflicts on himself without even trying. Doesn’t do it out of an actual command of self-harm, it’s more of a natural thing for him, which is probably worse.
Overthinking isn’t a weapon for any situation, he’s learnt this at least. Though, this is the typical situation it happens before he can stop himself. Ironically, he started doing it right after the event. He feels pathetic, the mere mention of that makes his eyes sting and his chest burn with frustration at himself for not being able to let it go when it’s the time to. His friends tell him his good heart and hard head are the most amazing things he has, because he can’t stop thinking about the things he loves. He doesn’t lose hope and, in the end, that’s what always gets him what he wants. Or who he wants.
It would be stupid to undermine how much he loved Jungkook. He shakes his head for thinking in past tenses, then shakes it again for not correcting his own thoughts. The most amazing part of it all was how easy it was for him to love him and never ask for anything back. It was never the kind of selfish love. He never felt sad or lost because he wasn’t sure if he was loved back, and in a way, he knew he was. He wasn’t sure how much or in which way, but he knew he was loved specially by that one person who was special to him, and that made him happy enough to never let go of his hope.
Loved, however, doesn’t stand for a lost love, one that leaves only a bitter aftertaste and ugly memories. It means he’s learned to love him differently after a whole year of not seeing him and not hearing anything from him, if not for the news he overheard from the others. It turned less cute, less like rose colored lens and more of a desecrating longing. Some nights, he stared at his phone with Jungkook’s kakao’s chat open and wondered if he should ask for anything, go from hello what’s up to why didn’t you tell me?, only to let it go with tears wetting his night pillow.
It became a love filled with questions, restless with the need of answers.
He checks the place Jimin sent him on Google Maps and gives it a go. All the walking actually made him hungry and in search of something hot to drink. It’s a cute café, one that you would expect to be in a mountain place surrounded by snow. Everything made of dark wood and decorated in pastel or white. They also have a basket filled with books in case anyone wants to fill their time to read and he happily takes one. Reading while drinking warm drinks has always been one of his hobbies anyway.
He spends the first thirty minutes sipping on hot chocolate and munching on an apple based cake he’s in love with, and it’s the most tranquil he’s felt in the last ten days. He’s basking in the moment and praying for it to end as late as it can. It’s not like he has any plans, or official ones, considered the ones he had with the others are obviously cancelled until he says otherwise, and he’s not sure he has taken a decision already. The books is good, too. It’s not a famous novel or by a famous author, however it’s easy to notice that it’s an honest plot that keeps you on your toes without making it hard to keep up with. It’s about a love story and that’s the only particular he regrets, he guesses there is little art that’s not inspired by love. Everyone shares the same feelings and it’s a little comforting, to know he’s not the only loser suffering from some type of broken heart syndrome.
The main character is a boy who falls desperately for this girl, who won’t love him no matter what he does to catch her attention. A little, he can fill those shoes. He never felt like he had to do things in order to get Jungkook’s attention, but god if he didn’t love to have it all for him when he could. He can relate to the need of having the other person validate him, in some way. Just a you were amazing, hyung gave him enough fuel to prepare for the next stage.
“I read that book before,” a voice says from behind him, and he could recognize it anywhere in any circumstance: sad, tired, sleepy, happy, overwhelmed or anxious. When the owner is anxious, it tends to get deeper instead of higher pitched, because he was taught to breathe deeper and talk slower when he has something important to say.
Now, Taehyung can act, he’s been studying theatre for years, crowds with eyes pointed at him don’t make him vomit like they used to, and he wonders why one boy still has that effect on him, paired with a pounding heart. To answer his own question, it might have to do with the whole I’m angry at you situation.
“What are you doing here?” his voice lowers too, he’s the one who taught him to do that, “Jimin didn’t tell you where I was, right? I know he wouldn’t.”
Jungkook shakes his head, and moves to sit in front of him, where the other seat is, but doesn’t make a move to sit down. He knows better than to do that.
“It’s the only place around and I needed to take my mind off things, so...”, he’s tapping with his fingers on the backrest of the chair, looking at him through his eyelashes, not sure of what he should do next. Taehyung laughs at him, meaner than he ever thought he would be to this one boy, “What? You want me to invite you? Tell me how much you enjoyed your year in the States and ask me how I’ve been? Don’t bother, I think you already know the answer.”
Jungkook has a stubborn light in his eyes he’s learnt to read through the years. Taehyung glares at him, jaw clenching from annoyance, as he sits down and nods at his hands, “Hyung, the book.”
Instinctively, he flexes the object into his hands backwards and looks at the cover, “Uh?”
“I told you, I read it. I found it… honest, if anything. Do you plan on reading it all?”
“Cut it off,” he raises his voice too high for the standards of the place, almost jumping out of his seat, his energy has been going up and down so fast this day he’s exhausted. Taehyung runs a hand through his hair fast, messy, and slouches down again, “If this is your way to act as if everything’s fine between us, you better stop.”
In front of him, Jungkook raises his hand in a peace offer. He doesn’t know why a boy who hates confrontation is searching it with someone who loves to find weakness in other’s points. A lamb going right into a wolf’s den. It’s unnerving, how scared but determined he looks.
“It’s not,” he breathes out, brushing a sweaty hand on the fabric of his jeans, a nervous habit, “Just, answer me? After, we can talk.”
Taehyung gives him silence and looks down at the page of the book he was reading. Nothing in particular, no life changing plot twist. Boring. When he starts talking, it’s slow, tired. He lets the object go, lays it down onto the table and fumbles with the handle of the cup, left and right. Looking at Jungkook in the eyes is out of question.
“Honestly?” it’s mumbled, “As you said, it gives a real vibe, but I don’t know if I like the characters that much.”
If he’s surprised Taehyung is going along with his request, he doesn’t show it.
“Why’s that?”, he asks. Voice not judging, just, wondering.
It’s a good question that gets him thinking. “The main character, Sunghwan, I’m not heartless and I see where he’s coming from. It’s, uh, how can someone put their own life into someone’s hands like that? He only cares of what Jieun thinks of him, puts his own thoughts aside because of her. I’m scared of a love like that.”
The other laughs lightly at that. “You don’t understand why he would give Jieun so much space in his life,” he synthesizes.
Taehyung nods, “Yeah, basically. And she takes all that space but never gives some back, if not for the one she chooses to give him, and I feel like that’s unfair to him. I’m almost halfway and he hasn’t realized she doesn’t love him.”
Jungkook hums, taking in his answer. He seems to be in thought for a few seconds, playing with the hem of his sleeves or checking the time on his phone. Stalling. Taehyung thinks he won’t start speaking any soon, so he sips into his hot chocolate, which has become quite cold and not much pleasurable.
“You’re so sure she doesn’t love him,” he says, after a while, “Are you sure you don’t want to read it all?”
He’s starting to lose his patience, already worn thin.
“Tell me already. Does she?”
Jungkook sits more comfortably on his chair, elbows on the table, and directs at him a bittersweet smile. “In the end, Sunghwan gathers enough courage to talk to her and confess his feelings once and for all, he wants to get over her if she doesn’t feel the same and give himself the chance to fall in love with someone else. Unexpectedly, Jieun starts crying and confesses she’s been in love with him since forever, and was waiting for him to realize he didn’t need to do all that for her, when all she wanted was much simpler: to be together.”
It makes no sense, he thinks. He scrunches his nose in distaste and lightly shakes his head.
“It makes no sense,” he says, a little out of breath, “He bared his whole self for her and she couldn’t tell him I love you too, stop this shit.”
Again, Jungkook lets out a breathy little chuckle to himself. He’s looking down and hair falls onto his face, black and longer than he’s ever seen on him. He’s playing with his thumbs now. If they were in better terms, or in terms at all, he’d tell him to stop with all these nervous habits he manages to find.
“For Sunghwan, it wasn’t hard, he didn’t feel like it was a burden for him. He liked the things he did, and if he didn’t like them, to an extent, he ended up liking them when reminded why he was doing that,” he explains, softly.
Taehyung scoffs. Glares at him again, not mad, maybe annoyed. He doesn’t know. He knows this is irking him.
“You talk as if you knew him. He doesn’t exist, Jungkook.”
Jungkook used to tell him the same thing when he started acting: Hyung, you said he was feeling sad while saying this, but he doesn’t exist, how can you know. He used to answer that imaginary characters are still people, that live in a world we can’t see with our eyes, but feel the same things as everyone does. He gives him a glance, and a playful look tells him he’s thinking of the same thing. He wishes their minds were less complicit, considering the situation.
“He may not exist, that doesn’t mean I can’t understand his feelings,” there it is, “He wanted the attention of the person he loved the most in this damned world and he didn’t care how, didn’t care if it made him seem cocky, or arrogant even, when he was actually a shy guy guided by an insane love.”
“Does it seem like a healthy way to love someone? Give them the power to decide what you should or shouldn’t do.”
He watches Jungkook lean back and give him an incredulous look.
“It doesn’t have to be, we know love doesn’t give a fuck if it’s healthy to act in a certain way, it happens and that’s all.”
Taehyung bites his lower lip at the mention of a we. He truly wonders if in Jungkook’s mind, even if for just a second, they ever were a we.
Can’t stop himself from saying, “And after, when you’re hurting, you’ll realize all that shit you could have prevented.”
“Maybe,” he concedes. “It does feel good to love someone and destroy yourself in the way.”
It’s starting to sound too personal, this conversation. He can’t find himself to understand how they went from fictional heart problems to real bleeding hearts.
“Jungkook,” he spits out quite forcefully. Jungkook winces, but keeps talking on his voice.
“I share your idea on Jieun. She was selfish, not telling Sunghwan she felt the same, knowing all he was doing was to win her heart. But… I think I understand, now. She loved him enough to give him the time to realize by himself what was good for him, instead of telling him. In the end, she had to, but he was already starting.”
“If you put it like that, I guess it starts to make sense, but I know what I would’ve done.”
They’re looking at each other’s eyes, wary and digging for some kind of comfort. For some reason, he wants Jungkook to understand what he’s going to say.
“I would have told him I loved him the moment I realized it was mutual. Skipped all the drama.”
Yet, this is a drama. This whole situation. Jungkook swallows down, so nervous something deep in Taehyung wants to forget about his anger and cradle him into his arms.
“Now, from Sunghwan’s perspective, without everything you know, it would make sense for him to think she wasn’t interested, right? You said it yourself,” he points out. He’s wording it as if it should be a ground breaking news to him. Taehyung saying she didn’t love Sunghwan should prove a point. To what. To who.
“Yeah,” he raises a brow, says his next worlds slowly, “I really was sure she didn’t.”
Jungkook keeps talking with the same tone, “If Sunghwan hadn’t said anything, things would have stayed the same, and perhaps he would have fallen in love with someone else. Or, she would’ve.”
“Then they weren’t meant to be.”
“Meant to be?”
“If people belong together, they will find a way to stick together, I’m sure of that. Look at Jimin and Namjoon hyung. He didn’t even know he liked men when he met Jimin, but tried anyway because he had a feeling it would be something good. And it was, it is. The circumstances rarely matter.”
“But you said it yourself, hyung,” Jungkook stresses out the word, clearly trying to convey his point, which gets lost once again on Taehyung, “Sunghwan couldn’t know.”
Frustration has been building up on him the whole time. Sometimes showing, sometimes hiding. He can’t kick away something that has been growing in him for more than three hundred days. Taehyung huffs sharply, chest expanding and quickly emptying. He levels Jungkook with what he hopes is a clear look.
“Why’s this damn book so important? I’m so fucking mad at you. No, mad doesn’t cover it. I’m deluded, I’m hurt, I’m scarred. You fucking used me and threw me away as if I never meant anything to you.”
“Ok,” Jungkook breathes, beaten down and defeated, “it seems that you won’t understand what I’m trying to say until I say it clearly.”
“You never said anything. That’s the whole point,” he growls out.
“I don’t care about the book, Taehyung. I don’t give a fuck, I read it once and threw into the trash after that,” he lays down, first thing.
“But it stuck to me. Wanna know why? ‘Cause it’s the book of my life. C’mon, the main character, a boy who loves to do many things, who’s shy but becomes more outgoing because of the love interest, rings a bell?” Jungkook’s asking things as they should be obvious to him, once again. He wants to yell at his face to be clear, for once. Saying things for the sake of saying them. “I’ve always loved the arts… singing, dancing, painting, photographing, as much as all the kinds of sports, however what mattered the most for me was the praises I got from it. Not anyone’s, I don’t live in favor of what others think of me, but… yeah, I did care more than I should’ve for someone’s opinion of me,” it’s a sheepish admission. “And it kept me going and going. I could never get enough, whenever that person smiled at me, told me I was good, the best, that they couldn’t tear their eyes away from me, that I made them feel something, it’s so cheesy but fuck, I felt flowers bloom into my stomach. The butterflies I’d always thought were an invention of literature,” Taehyung is feeling them too, wants nothing more than have them drown into the hot chocolate he drank not too long ago until he’s sure he understand what goes on, “I wanted them so bad to notice me that I’d do anything. At a certain point, I started to realize they wouldn’t love me the way I loved them, because to them I’d always be their special baby. Someone special for sure, but they would never love me romantically and burningly like I did. So, I decided to apply for a stage somewhere far away, to live for myself and forget that person. But I did something ugly. I didn’t tell them, I didn’t tell anyone,” he’s biting on his lips, locking and unlocking his phone, putting all his nervous habits into a giant one, he looks physically pained at the recollection, but Taehyung, the ever sadomasochist, wants to hear more and bleed some, too.
“And on Christmas day with the help of alcohol I decided to be even more selfish. To take everything I could take, if they wanted to give it to me. And that’s… that’s why I kissed them on the count of midnight, they kissed back, and I didn’t stop, kept doing it until I felts sated enough. Want to know something funny? It never felt enough. I wanted more and more and more. I was starving for his touch. I gave more than what I took, per usual,” he’s started crying somewhere in between of this particular confession. Taehyung has always hated with a passion to see Jungkook cry, even more when he’s like this, sobbing and unable to look at him in the eyes, “That’s what the dynamic had always been about anyway. I… never let someone touch me that way before. Because no one ever had a space in my head big enough to let them do that. I tried, believe me I tried, but I couldn’t. It didn’t feel good past the minimum physical need, nothing I couldn’t do myself. And when it happened, when that person took what I’ve always wanted to give to them and only them, I understood that I was in too deep, no one ever would make me feel that way. I was scared. No, I was terrorized. We were both drunk, it wasn’t meant to happen, it was a mistake. Nothing more. To me, it meant everything. And I ran away. In the end, a coward who couldn’t nor confess or stay. At least, Sunghwan faced his fears. So I respect him, hyung. I do.”
He takes a deep breath, Taehyung right after him. He has been just listening, however he’s so tired. So drained. This is the final step before the fall into the deep end, they both need as much courage as they can get.
“Because maybe, if I followed his steps, I’d have what he has. I’d have my Jieun. I.. I’d have you, hyung.”
It’s too late to realize he’s crying, too. He was too absorbed into understanding what was going on to catch onto the burning in his throat and the sting in his eyes.
“What… Why… This is too much. You, you loved me? You’d been in love with me for a long time, you were scared to tell me? That’s fucking stupid,” he laughs out loud in disbelief, “I’ve always been in love with you, can’t remember since when. At first, you were my baby Jungkookie, I had to protect you from this mean world. Everyone had to see how amazing you were, because you are, always good at what you do because you always put your heart in it and never your ego,” he makes sure to add, softly, and Jungkook seems less tense than a moment before.
“After that, we started growing up together and… you weren’t a baby anymore. You were a grown up guy who could look at me in the eyes without tipping up his head and who didn’t stutter anymore when asking to hang out with me and the hyungs. And you were doing so many things so well I couldn’t not praise you, because it meant everything for me to see you happy with the things you love. It didn’t matter at all if you loved them and not me, seeing you happy was enough, was my own goal, so I’d cheer more and more as the time passed, and you seemed also happier and happier,” he’s blushing, his ears are burning, and he can’t fathom to look at Jungkook straight up, but he steals a quick glance and has to look down again immediately. He’s never seen Jungkook look at him like that, so openly and genuinely admiring him, it makes it difficult to breathe normally.
“I never felt as if I had to have you, because I already had you, even though it wasn’t the same as I wanted you. You belonged in my life in whatever form and in whatever relationship you wanted to cover. I couldn’t see that you felt the same, I never let myself even wonder if you could. To me, it wasn’t a possibility. I thought that if you had those feelings for me, you would’ve told me, that was the vibe you were giving me, of a grow up who didn’t need babying from his hyung. So I let it go, of the selfishness. I didn’t want to be greedy, you didn’t deserve that. And I acted just like Jieun, who got everything. This much I can understand.”
Here comes the hard part. Everything burns. His chest burns, his throat burns, his eyes burn. It feels like he’s on fire, and not pleasantly. “But Jungkook, we had sex the night of last Christmas,” and tears stream again. On both parts. They’re a mess, with runny noses and wet cheeks. “And the morning after you ran away and left a letter saying you were going to the States on the 28th. Three days later. After that, radio silence. What do you think I thought? You said it, we were both drunk,” he hesitates on saying what comes next, remembers the anxiety eating away at him and tingling onto his skin, “I though you regretted doing that with me. I thought you were disgusted and, I don’t know, that I took advantage of you, considering it was you first time and I knew that. And we weren’t that drunk not to know what we were doing, I can say we were too sober to actually say we were drunk when we got to it, and it was… it was special? I don’t usually hold hands and make eye contact with the people I sleep with. I know you felt it, too,” Jungkook nods, it makes him warm once again, destroying fire and pleasant warm fighting in his body.
“That’s why I don’t understand why you jumped to the conclusion that it was a drunk one night stand. And even if I didn’t love you like that, you would never be just a fuck for me. It hurts me to know you thought that of me. You’ve always been one of the most important people for me. The most important, actually. I guess you should know that by now.”
A waiter had been nice enough to bring them a pack of Kleenex. They thank her awkwardly and Jungkook pats at his eyes. He’s smiling, somehow. A tired but settled smile. There’s still that one glow in his eyes. Taehyung is still scared, even though everything that needed to be said was laid out.
“Let me do this the right way, then,” he says.
With stars and galaxies in his eyes, he moves a hand on the table and places it above Taehyung’s. He caresses the skin with his thumb in circular motions and so many emotions move inside him he feels faint.
“Taehyung hyung, I’ve been in love with you since I was fifteen years old and I realized friends don’t think about kissing their friends.”
He confesses sweetly, shily, happiness barely contained. The shadow of a boyish grin makes him look almost that age.
Taehyung’s happy, too. His heart and mind going a hundred miles per hour. Fire and ice into his veins.
“I, I’m in love with you, and uh, I guess since I turned nineteen,” he squeezes the hand back, reassuringly, “But, but Jungkook this is not the endgame, you made me go through hell. I don’t want to go into particulars or have your pity, however I cried every day for months. Couldn’t give my exams or read my scripts and say I love you to other actors. Jimin had to get me to the hospital cause I’d get panic attacks in the middle of the night and he’d sleep with me instead of staying with Joon hyung. You don’t know a lot of things.”
“Hyung, if I knew I’d hurt you that much I would’ve never… I only ever wanted to see you happy. I understand if you need time or decide you don’t wanna give us a chance. I just needed you to know what happened and how I feel about you, about the situation.”
“I need time, ok? Give me time. I waited a long time to hear you say these things, I don’t think I can’t let you go just yet.”
“Then don’t. I’m not ready to let go yet, too. I spent this year far away from you, with no calls, not even a text, and somehow nothing changed. I’m still a stupid young boy who wants your love. And now that I have it, I’m not going anywhere.”
Back at the cabin, Taehyung gives Jimin a warm hug. He doesn’t want to talk to him and tell him what happened yet, and he’s sure Jimin understands. He doesn’t ask him if he decided to stay or if they should prepare to get him back, so Taehyung knows he did understand the situation. He wants to spend these days with Jungkook to see where things are supposed to go. The whole walk back was quiet. Everything was said and out in the open air, all the exchanged vulnerable looks made them blush every time their eyes met. It wasn’t a displeasing silence. They used it to recharge.
Taehyung still has some questions. Most of them are childish and selfish, such as did you meet anyone this past year or what did you do with them and any other variation that meant only, did you let them do what I did to you. It’s not his business, they were never together in the first place and he has no right to get mad at him for it. Which is not what he is. Mad. It makes him feel that way, sure. But he knows it’s not the right name for the emotion. It’s plain ugly jealousy. Taehyung did go out with some guys, mostly to have fun and prove himself he could still do the things he used to. Never anything serious, though he tried. A nice guy, Park Seojoon. Wrong timing from Taehyung’s side wouldn’t let them go past that initial dating part, so they decided to stay friends. That’s why he wouldn’t be angry if Jungkook told he had some stories, all alone on the other side of the world. He would understand, but wouldn’t like it.
They’re all sitting around the chimney, absorbing the warmth. Taehyung likes how the warm light shines on everyone’s faces.
“We were talking about the sleeping arrangements, and Hoseok thought we should be democratic about it,” says Namjoon, spread onto the sofa.
“Jimin and I are occupying the master’s room, cause this is my house and I can do what I want. But, considered there’s only another room apart from ours and it’s a queen bed, and after that there’s the expandable sofa, which is good enough for three people... there’s no way y’all can decide for yourselves. So we’ll let luck do it for you.”
“How’s that happening?” Jungkook asks.
“We put papers with the names of the arrangements in this jar. Whoever gets the same thing, well, sleeps in the same bed. Easy.”
Jungkook yawns and stretches with arms above his head. Arching his back. “Let’s do this. I wanna take a nap before dinner. Tired.”
Yoongi presents them this big jar, too big for the five small pieces of paper. He puts it on the table between all of them, between the sofas, “C’mon, everyone put it in at the same time,” he says.
Jin slaps his arm, laughing high pitched. “Jesus. Did you have to say it like that?”
“Like what? Put your hands in at the same time, for fuck’s sake. What else could I ever mean.”
“I don’t know what you meant, I know what I understood.”
Yoongi arches his eyebrow, “Not my problem, everyone put your fucking hand inside at the same time.”
At that, Hoseok snorts harder. “Actually, it sounds worse now. Like wow.”
“In the jar. Hands in the jar. Please.”
“’F course. Easy peasy.”
Namjoon side glances them all. “On the count of three, understood? Don’t. Don’t grab anything until I count to one.”
“Three.. two.. one… go!”
It’s a mess from the start. No one wants to sleep on the expandable sofa, so they keep catching each other’s hands in the fret.
“Grab the papers, not your hands guys? What the fuck. Everything ok? Broken hands or anything? Good.”
When everyone’s done picking, Jimin pipes up, “So, how’d it go?”
They start from Hoseok, from left to right. He sighs at the crumpled paper, annoyed, “Sounds like I’m sleepin’ here for the next few days,” he mumbles.
Yoongi is next and he glares at the boy. “If you snore, I’m kicking you. It worked that one time,” he warns.
“Yeah. ‘Cause I woke up for the pain.”
“So, it worked. You stopped snoring.”
Sensing a fight about to start, Jungkook intervenes, asking ,“Who’s the third?”
Taehyung was next to acknowledge his faith. He was preparing to sleepless nights because of restless bedmates, when he realized his nights would be restless for completely different reasons. “Oh,” is all he can breathe out.
“Is it you, Tae?”
“Mmh, nope. I actually got the double room.”
Jungkook’s eyes widen at it. He’d opened it before his turn, but it was to be expected, he was never patient to begin with. “Ah. Me, me too, hyung? I mean, yeah.”
They haven’t spoken to anyone about their new found peace, so the room goes tense with the need to avoid any other fight. Jin, being the last one, doesn’t even need to check his fortune to know from elimination he got the worst location possible.
“Want me to switch?,” he asks, careful, “With one of you? I’d be more than down for it.”
Taehyung thinks maybe he should say yes. He gives a quick glance at Jungkook, who isn’t looking at him, and says, “Nope, it’s good.”
Jin seems to be quite surprised at his answers, but lets it go. He tries to joke instead and puts everyone in a better mood. “Name a price. I’ll pay it. I don’t want to sleep with the two of them.”
“Sorry hyung, not on sale.”
“Bad for you, I’m a great cuddler.”
Taehyung shrugs, “I’ll live with it?”
He turns to Jungkook and stops short when he finds he was already looking at him.
“Hey, I’m gonna put my things in our, my room, okay.”
Jungkook wanted to nap and Taehyung is quite convinced he shares the sentiment. They have the queen bed which is, well, only one bed. A big one, just one. They lay down and Jungkook is evidently trying not to touch him more than necessary, but they can’t avoid the contact of their limbs, arms to arms, thighs to thighs. They’re thinking of the same thing. It’s a bit awkward and it’s not. It’s a comforting contact, the weight of another human body next to his. Of Jungkook’s body. Last time they shared a bed, their bodies were sticking together and he was free to touch. He feels abashed at the memory, his cheeks are warm. Jungkook gives him a short surprised and shy laugh.
“Are you ok with this?” he prompts, unsure.
Taehyung twists a little, eyebrows scrunched. He can see where the question is coming from, but still. “Shouldn’t I be?”
“Nope. I, wouldn’t… you know.”
“Are you?,” he asks back, instead.
He stops for a little.
With Jungkook’s body next to his, he can feel the way his body tenses before letting out a snort. It’s a light laugh, he likes it. Means he’s ok.
“We shared a bed infinite times, Tae.”
“Yes, yeah,” he agrees, gets on his side so he can look into his eyes, “But we hadn’t done anything close to what we did last time, so.”
Jungkook scrutinizes him. “What’s exactly bothering you?,” he wonders.
Taehyung isn’t bothered, maybe he is, he says “I’m not bothered,” anyway.
“Fine,” Jungkook rolls his eyes playfully. It’s so good to be playful now. “Not bothered. Something’s on your mind though. You have a question mark in your eyes.”
“I don’t. I, I’m…wondering about things. I guess.”
An admission. Jungkook rolls onto his side, too, so they’re eye to eye. He smiles cheekily at Taehyung, the smile he uses to make him feel better, and his heart is weak at the thought.
“You have ten minutes of my complete vulnerability. Ask me anything,” he proclaims, smug.
Taehyung laughs at him, pushes a hand into his chest a little too hard, because he’s being shy and he hates being shy.
“I’m not sure there’s much more the be sincere about,” he breathes out. It’s partially true.
“You know that’s not completely true,” he knew Jungkook would see right through him, “C’mon, it’s already nine minutes.”
“Alright,” he bites on his lip. “Uh, were you, lonely? Back in the States?”
He hopes he doesn’t look scared of the answer. Jungkook doesn’t react at the question, actually makes a pensive face. It’s cute. “Well. Yes. For a while. It was difficult to make friends because you know me, I’m shy. Awkward as fuck. But I kept trying, and some cool people started talking to me and asked to practice together, so I got a nice circle of people. It’s totally different from here though. I could never imagine doing here the things I did there.”
He wonders. Wonders how much funnier they were compared to his six hyungs in Korea, how many things they showed him they couldn’t even imagine. He wonders if Jungkook compared them and thought he wanted to stay there. He settles to ask, “Different how?”
“They’re much more, I don’t know, free?” he makes a gesture with his hand, “Both in bad and good ways, I guess. Feels like they can do whatever they want, drink, smoke, snort?”
“Wait.” Taehyung stops him, confused and a bit worried. “Your friends in there snorted coke?”
Jungkook’s quick to reassure him, voice guarded and face soft, “Not like, everyone. Just some of them. They never pressured me, don’t worry. Smoked some pot though.”
“’Kay. Great to know you had fun. And what about, you know.”
He wants to die of shame. The words at the top of his tongue are venomous, are going to hurt him and only him. He’s going to get nothing out of all the possible answers. It doesn’t stop him from wanting to know.
Taehyung wonders if he’s feigning innocence to get the words out of him.
“You know,” he presses on, eyes pointed in each other, so that Jungkook can’t misunderstand the meaning of his words with the subtitles in his look, “People and stuff. Did you like someone , or.”
“I liked everyone, I told you. They were all hip and cool people,” Jungkook’s being evasive, so much Taehyung knows he needs to be blunt, shame to death apart.
He sighs, deep breath to send out the stillness in his bones. He caresses the skin of Jungkook’s arm from above his hoodie. “I meant. Uh, romantically? Sexually?”
“Hyung,” he’s pouting, a spoiled brat not getting what he wants, but he’s so open and soft, “Did you actually listen to me? Did you get lost at the part where I said I love you?”
He jumps up on the bed a bit at the sound. He’s not sure he can get used to hear Jungkook saying it directly to him. He must have used the words a lot in his mind to be so free to use them. Taehyung feels like a rock is stuck into his chest whenever he even thinks about it.
“No, I heard that, clearly. I’m not, angry? Or anything,” he’s quick to explain, “I, actually dated some guys, so I’m not one to tell you what’s right. I’m curious, you don’t have to tell me.”
“It’s ok,” Jungkook nods, brushes his nose into his hair, “I know because the hyungs told me. It hurt, but I knew I had no right over you.”
“Yeah. They weren’t really important. They weren’t, well,” he can’t swallow down a smile, “you.”
Jungkook’s grinning back at him, so boyish and so his. He laughs freely, lets the sound come out with no care. Taehyung would like to tell him you look like an idiot, but it would sound too soft to hold any bite.
“Fuck,” he breathes in between that giant smile, looking at the ceiling. “That feels so good to hear.”
Taehyung is delighted, however the question still hasn’t been answered, and his fear is growing by minutes.
“So?,” he prods, Jungkook ‘s eyes back at him, “Have you?”
“Are you asking me if I had a crush or if I acted on it?”
Jungkook hums. “There was this guy, Josh. Real cute. Tall, handsome, nice, a real deal. He liked me, tried to flirt with me for two whole months before I told him it was no story. After that, I made out with some people completely smashed at parties. And that’s all the stories I took back from the United States.”
Taehyung’s jealous, there’s nothing he can do about it apart playing with his hands on Jungkook’s chest, pulling at the fabric of his hoodie. “This Josh sounds like boyfriend material,” he whispers.
“You have no idea. His father worked for the Obama campaign, which means he’s also rich as fuck. It’s a sad thing I was already in love when I met him.”
No words could describe how he feels. He’s elated and shows it to Jungkook by bringing their foreheads together. They’re back at grinning to each other.
“You think you can introduce me?”
“I might just change my idea.”
“Mmh,” Taehyung humms a centimeter before his mouth, “I’m such an asshole, I’m so happy right now.”
Jungkook laughs and brushes their noses together. “Because I didn’t a marry a rich guy to instead come back to you?”
“Yep. The best idea you’ve ever had,” but still, “I kinda feel guilty now,” he offers.
“Hey, I told you to stop worrying. I don’t care if you slept with someone else. And you’ve had boyfriends before, so. If anything, that was much worse.”
Still, Taehyung knows he needs to explain or he won’t feel at peace with himself or this thing they’re doing. A relationship, if things go as he plans.
“I liked the comfort of a body against mine and that I didn’t need to love them to do it. It was easy. Except that I was searching for that kind of intimacy you can only have with someone you trust, so it was never completely satisfying. That’s why I kept going through a lot of them. I also started drinking around that time, and you know how I get, so yeah.”
The thing is, he can’t control himself around alcohol. He likes not having inhibitions, less than the ones he has already. And once he starts drinking, anyone can take advantage of him, and he lets them, only to be horrified with himself the day after. It spiraled out of control after that day, as much as everything else into his life, and now he’s trying to stay away from alcoholics as much as possible.
“Don’t need to explain. I get it. I also had my bad phase. Didn’t sleep and abused a lot of my anxiety drugs to keep away the unwanted emotions and thoughts. Could’ve solved it if I talked to you, but it’s ok now.”
Jungkook’s trying to make him feel better. He’s sweet like that. Taehyung doesn’t like the way he’s doing it, though. He aches, thinking of Jungkook alone, ambushed by panic attacks and pushed to abuse of his medicines. He never wants it to happen again. No matter how much he was hurt, love is selfish and sometimes love is too giving.
“Jungkook,” he uses the hand which was posed onto his arm to pull him closer to his body, hugging him onto his narrow waist, “I want to make something clear. You hurt me, that’s true, I won’t sugar coat it. However I don’t like how you talk about yourself as if you deserved going through more than just a hard time. You deserved the heart break, but not the panic attacks and all that comes with it, ok? You’ll take responsibility as time goes. That’s how life works. Not like that. Not by self -punishments and self – proclaimed sentences. ”
He should talk to himself like that when he gets into his mind and analyzes why no one would ever love him for who he is and not for who he shows. He doesn’t because he doesn’t care about himself as much as he cares for Jungkook’s integrity.
“Stop taking care of me, I hurt you,” it’s half a plead, his voice sounds wet with tears, but none are coming out. It’s good. “Be more rough with me.”
“I couldn’t stop caring for you if the world stopped. But I can be rough, if you want. Didn’t think you’d be into it.”
“Not, like that. Don’t twist my words. I don’t think I can talk about the particulars of, that, yet…”
They’re too close. Taehyung can’t not notice his flushed ears and cheeks. He kisses them, plump and babyish.
“Are you shy?” he asks, teasing, because he knows he is, “I haven’t heard you use the words we had sex. You keep using euphemisms.”
Jungkook makes a weirds sound, maybe a shriek, and pulls some centimeters away, like he can’t stand Taehyung’s body proximity. Like it’s too much. Taehyung feels like it’s too little. A matter of prospective.
“Shut up, stop saying it. I don’t. I can’t, say it. I’m going to get flashbacks and blush to death.”
He’s babbling, tripping on his own sentences. The awkward boy he got to grow up with. It’s so comfortable to deal with him, considered the topic and all. They could talk about how to kill each other and it’d still feel like this.
“Cute. Have you been getting flashbacks all the times I mentioned it?”
He smashes his head into the crook of Taehyung’s neck, who coos and whispers my shy baby.
“Kind of. It’s diffucult to forget some things,” he mumbles. It’s taking him a lot of strength to say it. Taehyung loves he’s doing it for him. He also thinks it’s difficult to forget about that thing in particular. He’s been comparing it to any other experience with no results.
“Agreed,” he responds, because he wants Jungkook to know. He brings him closer again with the hand on his hip, Jungkook protests a little but does nothing to go against the movement. “You’re so cute, what the fuck. So what if it were to happen again, wouldn’t you be able to say it then either?”
“Would it? Happen again, I mean.”
“You don’t want to?”
“Is it a trick question? What you want me to say. It’s embarrassing.”
Taehyung wants to see his face when they talk. Wants to see him always. Taps his face up with a hand under his chin.
“It’s ok, just answer whatever.”
“Yes? I want to, I thought it made it so obvious.”
It takes a moment for Taehyung to catch up the reference.
“Wait. Are you still embarrassed from how you think you acted last time? I thought it was hot, like really.”
Jungkook frowns. “I came across as desperate.”
Taehyung frowns back, deeper and flicks at his nose. He remembers the details and knows desperate isn’t the right word. He was so happy and touchy and Jungkook was so responsive and pliant it’s a wonder he didn’t die of a heart attack in the middle of it all.
“Desperate are fuckers from clubs trying to hook up with someone who made it clear they don’t want to. You were, overwhelmed. Two different things. Tell this hasn’t been bothering you for a year. Like you analyzed any single sound you made.”
Typical of Jungkook, to judge himself in silence. Taehyung knows the key to unlock his darkest thoughts. Patience and care. The boy’s a softie.
“Not every and each, but yeah. ‘M happy you didn’t see it like that. I was really happy and overwhelmed, yeah. Would do it again,” then he adds, for the sake of Taehyung, maybe, “Felt really good too.”
Taehyung feels so warm all over. He can’t believe he has his boy in his arms and they’re planning something to do together, in the future. No matter the specific of the situation. They’re going to last. Affection runs in his veins like a rush of adrenaline. He pulls him closer until he feels his breathe inhale and exhale on his cheek.
“Your ears are on fire. Precious. Let’s stop talking about us having sex before I get any ideas. Last question. Can I kiss you?”
“Oh God. Yes, c’mon. Don’t ask. Makes me nervous.”
The angle is weird because of the pillows and he twists his neck in a weird way, but he can only get a hand to brush Jungkook’s hair from his eyes and peck his nose, reverently, before pecking his mouth, soft. It’s only a brush and he breathes on his face, deep, eyes closed, and kisses him again, this time with more pressure. Jungkook responds back to the kiss, tilts his face with a change of angle and brings him closer with a hand on his neck. Mouths parted slightly. It’s a slow succession of wet kisses. Taehyung feels no rush in doing more, he loves caressing his cheek with the pad of his thumb. It’s no hot making out and it’s so satisfying on multiple levels.
They break apart and Taehyung says the first thing that comes to his mind, the right one. His voice is low and breathy. Tilted happily.
“I need to confess one last thing. When you came through that door, punching you wasn’t my first thought. The first was, if I hugged him right now, I’d know already what he’d smell of and how his body would feel against mine. It made me sick. I knew I’d never get over you, in that moment. And deep inside, I was happy. That’s what made me the angriest. Knowing I couldn’t give up on you no matter what.”