It goes like this: Taehyung is smiling until he isn’t.
Until his heart sinks, solid and dense and cold as rock, all the way down into the bottom of his stomach. His wide eyes must match Jimin’s, the way the dismay is reflected in both of their faces. “I didn’t know,” Jimin is saying, is pleading. “Taetae, I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
He is beautiful even with the way the corners of his mouth are tugged downwards into a guilty frown.
Taehyung realizes belatedly that he’s crying. “It’s okay,” he replies, hollow, thick. “It’s not your fault.” I should have seen it coming, he would add, but the sting is too fresh. Why add to his humiliation if he doesn’t need to?
“This doesn’t have to change anything,” Jimin tries.
Taehyung laughs wetly. The duvet feels scratchy against his knees, and it makes him want to itch out of his skin. Of course things will have to change. Taehyung will have to change.
“I’m sorry,” he breathes through the tears.
“No, no, Taehyungie, baby, don’t be sorry.” It’s saccharine. Jimin, as he usually does when faced with a crying Taehyung, yanks him into a fierce hug and pets his hair almost aggressively, like he’s trying to bat the sadness away.
Taehyung hears himself make a small, broken sound.
“We’re okay,” Jimin murmurs, sounding right at the edge of desperate. His voice is thin, straining. “It’s okay, it’s okay, shh.”
Taehyung sobs into Jimin’s shoulder inconsolably, minutes passing, until he manages to pull himself together. God. This is humiliating, he realizes. He loves Jimin with his whole heart and he’s crying onto him like a kid.
Taehyung pulls away. It leaves him feeling cold. He isn’t usually the one to extricate himself like this, but these are desperate times. “I’m gonna go to the living room,” he manages, and pointedly doesn’t look at Jimin’s distraught face.
And then Taehyung walks into the living room only to collapse onto the nearest couch, rumpled and tearstained, and he barely pays attention as Hoseok and Jungkook, the two closest to him, startle a bit and ask what’s wrong. “Are you okay? Why are you crying?” Why isn’t Jimin with you, they are asking by not asking. What happened in there between the two of you that would have you coming out here alone?
“Someone check on him,” Taehyung manages between shaky breaths.
There’s a pause, concern immediately radiating through the room, but Taehyung is too busy trying to steady his heartbeat to actually process that. Eyes meet above his head. Jungkook’s hand keeps massaging tight circles at the nape of his neck. Taehyung sighs wetly and nudges Hoseok. “Please, hyung.”
Hoseok stiffens. “What happened, Taehyung-ah?”
“It’s not his fault.”
“Was it yours?” asks Jungkook.
Taehyung crumples further. Doesn’t answer.
“Okay,” says Hoseok as the silence stretches between all of them. “I’ll go.”
“Thank you,” says Taehyung.
After Hoseok leaves, the room is very, very quiet. Taehyung breathes slowly with his head pillowed on Jungkook’s thigh and ignores the unspoken questions. Pretends he’s asleep. Hopes, once he feels himself drifting, that his dreams will take him someplace far away from here.
When Hoseok comes in, Jimin snaps to attention, straightening and asking, “Is he okay?” so urgently that Hoseok almost doesn’t notice the tears on Jimin’s face.
“Whoa,” he says. “What happened?”
Hoseok sighs, sits on the bed next to Jimin. “Jimin-ah, please. What happened? You can tell hyung.”
“Don’t wanna talk about it,” answers Jimin, and there’s that set to his jaw, the one that signifies a mind made up, no room for negotiating. It’s the same look he used to get when they’d call him to the dinner table, or ask him to stop watching back his own fancams, and he’d turn to them and say no, thank you, so sweetly they almost forgot how badly he was hurting. The look that means Jimin is about to self-destruct no matter what anyone has to say about it. It sends Hoseok’s heart sinking, sinking.
“Are you okay?” tries Hoseok.
No response, though he honestly hadn’t been expecting one. Jimin just gets up from the bed and starts opening drawers until he manages to dig up some clothes he favors for dance practice.
“I’m going out for a little bit,” says Jimin. His voice is rough. “Take care of Taehyung. Don’t let him be alone, okay?”
Hoseok frowns. “What about you?”
“I hurt him,” says Jimin, stumbling over it. “I can’t be here right now.”
“Jimin-ah, it’s late. Where are you going? Are you really okay?”
Jimin scoffs a little, stripping out of his sweater and into a lightweight t-shirt. “Don’t wait up for me,” is all he answers, and then Jimin is sweeping out of the room, eyes red-rimmed, avoiding the scene in the living room as best he can.
Hoseok can only watch him leave.
It’s Hoseok’s obvious concern about Jimin that makes Taehyung finally start talking, if only to stop the others thinking badly of him—Hoseok seems worried that Jimin has done something terrible or reckless and that he’s just gone somewhere they won’t be able to find him. More than likely, Taehyung postulates, awake still, not able to sleep, Jimin is at the dance studio, because that’s where Jimin goes when he feels guilty.
“Guilty about what?” asks Namjoon, patience fraying.
Taehyung takes a breath and holds this moment—the last before everything crashes into reality—in his chest before answering. “I confessed to him. He was really nice, it wasn’t— it’s not his fault.”
Heaviness descends upon the room. No one says anything until Yoongi breaks the silence. “Hyung, would you swap with Taehyung for tonight?”
Seokjin blinks with surprise, but nods. “If you want to swap, Taehyung-ah, it’s fine with me.”
Taehyung thinks about a night in a new room, with just Yoongi. Yoongi-hyung who likes the quiet, who won’t press at him, whose patience runs as deep as a lake. “Yes, please,” he says.
“Then it’s settled,” replies Yoongi. “Come on, come with hyung.”
Taehyung lets himself be led out of the room, docile as a lamb. His eyes keep unfocusing. Everything feels distant, like he’s wandered into a mirage. Yoongi’s hand around his wrist is the only thing still anchoring him in this moment. Otherwise, Taehyung thinks he might just float away, and realizes that he honestly might not mind that.
“Sit,” says Yoongi, depositing Taehyung at the edge of Jin’s bed.
Taehyung sits and waits as Yoongi disappears into the bathroom. He comes back out a moment later with a damp rag, which feels cool against Taehyung’s hot, swollen eyes as Yoongi gently cleans him up. “Feels nice,” mumbles Taehyung, still a little floaty, kind of far away.
Yoongi shushes him gently, continuing in his ministrations, and then says, “You’re very brave, Taehyung-ah.”
Ha, thinks Taehyung. Brave doesn’t count for anything if you can’t handle the outcome.
Some of that train of thought must show on his face, because Yoongi sighs and puts the cloth down. “Okay, lie down. Hyung’s gonna tell you a story.”
Taehyung squints at him suspiciously, but lies down. The focus being on Yoongi now lifts a burden he hadn’t even realized was there. Taehyung is so used to having eyes on him that the relief of ducking back and away feels incidental most of the time, and it’s especially present now as he tucks himself into Yoongi’s bed, pulling the duvet up to his chin, and turns to watch Yoongi run a hand through his hair with a heavy, world-weary sigh.
Yoongi sits cross-legged at the foot of the bed, and looks small, but Taehyung won’t say that because he likes it when Yoongi is not hitting him.
“I know you’re brave because I wasn’t,” says Yoongi.
The light outside shifts, moonlight peeking through clouds. “Oh,” answers Taehyung.
Yoongi continues like he hadn’t heard him. “What I’m telling you now doesn’t leave this room. Okay?”
There’s an intensity to his face that makes Taehyung feel wobbly and nervous. “Okay,” he breathes.
A heavy pause.
“A few years ago, I thought—” a sigh, and then he shakes his head, tries again— “I started having some really inconvenient feelings. Ones for someone I shouldn’t have been having them for. I thought I was being cool, how I was acting. I ignored him so he wouldn't know, and I tried to date someone else for a little bit. But that fell apart. So I was left by myself, and I still had those feelings, only they were worse after all that, because he was still kind to me.” Yoongi grimaces, staring resolutely at the wall in front of him. “We’re past things being complicated like that, but it was humiliating at the time. Even though he probably could tell how I felt since I was being so obvious, I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t tell him.”
Taehyung scoots toward Yoongi and tips his forehead against the middle of Yoongi’s back. “Ah, hyung,” he says quietly.
“I’m okay now,” says Yoongi, despite the tense line of his shoulders. “It was a long time ago.”
“Does it still hurt?” asks Taehyung, barely a whisper.
Yoongi shrugs, small. “Not usually. Not as much as it did.”
Sometimes, Yoongi is saying without saying, and Taehyung shuts his eyes against the fear that he’ll carry this with him for the rest of his life.
“I wanna go to sleep,” says Taehyung.
“I wanna take it back. What I told him.”
When Taehyung lies down, Yoongi lies back with him and curls their hands together, thumb tracing back and forth across Taehyung’s knuckles. “No, you don’t.”
“No, I don’t,” Taehyung agrees miserably.
They lie like that for a while, silence thickening, until Taehyung feels himself start to cry again. It’s quiet at first, but before long he’s hiccuping, aware enough to hear how sad he sounds but unable to stop all of the emotion from bubbling up and spilling over.
Yoongi’s hand tightens in his. Taehyung curls closer to him. “I don’t want Jimin to h-hate me,” he whimpers.
“Yah,” Yoongi snaps back so sharply that Taehyung is startled out of teariness, “Kim Taehyung, you’re going to be just fine. I promise.”
Taehyung feels very, very young. Young enough to think that Yoongi might actually have all of the answers here, and young enough to believe that what he’s saying is true.
“Okay,” he whispers.
“Sleep,” says Yoongi firmly. No room to argue.
Taehyung shuts his eyes and does as he says.
Jimin wakes up on the couch with a sore back, swollen eyes, and a hyung shaking his shoulder. “Mm?” he asks blearily.
“Up, Jimin-ah,” says Seokjin. “You’re helping me make breakfast.”
Seokjin tugs him into a seated position by the wrist, and Jimin lets him, still just disoriented enough to not bother with complaining. “What time did you get in last night?”
“I don’t know,” lies Jimin. “Maybe around midnight?” It had been at least two when he walked into the dorm, but he’s banking on everyone being too upset with him to care where he’s been or how late he was out.
Seokjin purses his lips and levels him with a look, disbelieving. “Fine,” he says, which is not very comforting. “All right, go brush your teeth and then come back.”
Jimin nods and bats Seokjin’s hands away where he’s still trying to pull Jimin off of the couch. “I’m going, I’m going.”
By the time he’s back in the main living area, Jimin is feeling a lot more human but no less miserable. He finds Seokjin in the kitchen, pans hot, water boiling. There are some eggs on the counter, rice already steaming. “Here,” says Seokjin, handing him a knife and a cucumber. Jimin grabs the cutting board from under the counter and begins to slice it.
Jimin works in silence for a few moments, but Seokjin is just humming to himself, because he knows Jimin will crack, and he does. “Is Taehyung okay?”
“Define okay,” replies Seokjin.
Jimin frowns and tries to peek over Seokjin’s shoulder. “Is he really not? Hyung, is he here? Maybe I should go talk to him again. I don’t want him to feel so bad.”
Seokjin frowns severely at him. “You’re not going anywhere until we’re finished with breakfast. Cut faster.” Jimin finds the hallway empty, anyway, when his gaze finally manages to land on it.
He starts to move the knife more quickly. “Sorry.”
“Stop apologizing. How are you feeling?”
Jimin huffs. “I’m tired, I guess.”
Seokjin hums, and they lapse into quiet. Jimin knows he’s being waited out, and resents it because it works. “Ugh,” he says after a few moments, “Taehyungie is sad, and it’s my fault.”
It’s a non-answer, and it sits between them. Jimin’s awful guilt. The bones thudding together gently at the bottom of the soup.
“You’re not responsible for his feelings,” interrupts Seokjin, tilting broth neatly from the pot through a strainer and into a series of clay bowls. It’s still bubbling, and smells delicious. “I know that sounds harsh. It’s true, though.”
“Jimin-ah, what are you feeling so guilty for, huh? What do you think you did wrong?”
Jimin feels his eyes go wet as he valiantly tries not to cry over the sliced cucumber on the counter. He can’t stop thinking about the way Taehyung’s posture crumpled. How he looked so small. “He trusted me and I hurt him, hyung.”
In the morning light, Jin is the picture of resolution, of wisdom. This is the side of him the world doesn’t get to see, Jimin thinks, taking in the way the sunlight speckles gold across his unflinching expression, and Jimin feels both cowed and grateful under his sharp gaze. “Did you do it on purpose?”
A tear slips down Jimin’s cheek. “No,” he says on a little hiccup. “I wouldn't. Not ever.”
Seokjin nods. “Right.”
“But,” continues Jimin miserably, “he cried because of me. Because I didn’t love him enough.”
“Yah, stop that,” cuts in Seokjin, voice steel. “Seriously, don’t say that. You think to be a good person you have to love everyone who loves you? In exactly the same way? No— don’t answer that, I don’t like your answers.” He pauses for a moment to sigh and run a hand through his hair. “Do you know what you owe the world, Jimin? Nothing you don’t want to give. So stop with the martyrdom. Okay?”
“Okay,” answers Jimin meekly. Another tear slips silently down his cheek. If he cries much longer, his whole face will puff up, and he’ll look about fifteen years old.
Seokjin softens. “Aish, come here.” He tugs Jimin forward, and Jimin lets the knife fall from his slack grip onto the counter. “Hyung is here for you.”
Jimin hugs back, sniffling for a moment into Seokjin’s soft hoodie.
“Okay,” says Seokjin after a moment. “The rice is going to burn.” He turns away to tend to it, and Jimin takes one breath, then another, and gets started on the eggs.
The group has, by and large, done an impeccable job of not taking sides. They’re patient, kind. Really, they’re taking this whole thing in stride in a way Taehyung wasn’t expecting.
Jungkook is the only one that’s mad at Jimin, and Taehyung doesn’t know what to do about it. He thinks that talking it through is the solution, but he’d forgotten that this is Jungkook, and he’s the exception to many rules. He just laughs at Taehyung, a little meanly, and says with a glint in his eye that if Jimin wants to be forgiven, then he should apologize.
“He did apologize,” Taehyung says. “Over and over, and then I stopped letting him, because he didn’t do anything wrong.”
“He made you sad,” answers Jungkook fiercely. “I’m not being mean to him, hyung, I’m just— I don’t get how no one seems to actually care that this is hurting you.”
Taehyung doesn’t have the energy to roll his eyes. “Jimin didn’t force me to confess to him, Kook-ah. You’re being stupid.”
“Just let me be stupid for a bit, then.”
Taehyung only says yes because he thinks Jungkook means a few more hours, not days and days and days. It starts to get out of hand after the first week, when they have a tour stop in Berlin and get dinner after in the only Korean restaurant in a twenty mile radius of the stadium. Jimin goes to sit next to Taehyung, and Jungkook all but shoves past him to get to the chair first. At dinner, Taehyung realizes that Jungkook hasn’t been talking to Jimin at all, if this is the pattern holding.
Maybe Taehyung should say something. The tension is awkward, nearly stifling now that he realizes everyone had noticed but him.
Namjoon beats him to it. “Jungkook-ah, can I speak with you outside?”
Jungkook frowns, spoonful of sundubu pausing halfway to his mouth. “About what?”
"Come on," Namjoon says, not quite gentle but not harsh, either. "We'll be back in a minute, guys."
Jungkook looks like he wants to protest more, but Seokjin and Yoongi are looking at him firmly, too, and Taehyung refuses to meet his eyes, and he must realize he's outnumbered here. For all that he's spunky, gotten more comfortable, he's still surrounded almost constantly by six hyungs, which has given him a good gauge for when he can and can't push his luck.
He follows Namjoon out sullenly, and an awkward silence descends upon the table.
Taehyung sips at his water.
"Was that my fault?" Jimin asks. They've all been tiptoeing, but he looks resolute. "I can apologize to him."
"You didn't do anything wrong," replies Seokjin immediately, so sharp Taehyung is startled.
Jimin doesn't look upset about the censure, though. Just accepting. "I don't think he sees it that way."
"Let them talk, Jimin," says Hoseok quietly. "You trust our leader, right? They'll be fine."
Jimin frowns. "Of course I trust him. I just—"
"Eat," interrupts Yoongi, nodding to Jimin's as-of-yet untouched plate.
Taehyung feels his own hands tremble, just a little. He looks resolutely down at his plate and says nothing as his eyes go hot with tears. This is so— he's so stupid, sitting here silently while other people fight battles for him. But he didn't ask Jungkook to get involved like this, just like he didn't ask Jimin to leave or feel guilty that night. He didn't ask for any of this, and if he'd only thought a little more about the consequences of his actions before spilling his heart everywhere, then maybe they wouldn't be in this situation at all. If he'd stopped himself before being so pathetically optimistic, then maybe—
"Taehyung-ah?" Jimin's voice is quiet, but everyone else goes silent at it. "Are you all right?"
He’d thought, with the way this week has gone, that he would be out of tears by now, but Taehyung watches a couple drip obviously onto the table below and curls his shoulders in. “Sorry,” he manages. “I’m gonna go check on them.”
There’s a token protest from Seokjin, and another from Jimin, but Taehyung ignores them and gathers himself enough to walk outside, where he can see Namjoon and Jungkook having a low but heated conversation on the private patio.
“Hyung,” says Taehyung.
Namjoon looks up, disappointment slowly ebbing from his features as he takes in the state Taehyung has appeared in before him. “Taehyung,” he replies gently. “We’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Can I join you? I mean— you’re talking about me, right?”
Jungkook won’t meet his eyes. Namjoon sighs. “Well, we’re talking about Jungkook’s behavior, but your name has come up, yeah.”
“I wanted to apologize anyway, hyung,” adds Jungkook. He looks remarkably less petulant than he did earlier. “I crossed a line.” He glances at Namjoon, who just looks back at him evenly. “A few lines, I guess. I’m gonna apologize to Jimin-hyung, too. I just— I’ll stop. I didn’t realize I was making it harder on you.”
"It's all right," replies Taehyung immediately. Jungkook has always been like this, feeling so deeply and impulsively that he forgets to slow down and think things through. It's why Namjoon is so often the one who talks him through things. It's why none of them take offense anymore; those days are long since over, and Jungkook has gotten so much better at recognizing his own behaviors that irk the rest of them. Taehyung has them too, after all, goes aggressive and passive in turns, either fires up for a fight or rolls over and plays dead depending on whether he thinks he can win or not. "You meant well, Jungkook. The situation is just complicated. There's no bad guy."
Jungkook doesn't seem to like that, but he doesn't fight back. "I know, hyung. Did you— um, how are you doing?"
Taehyung almost laughs. It's been weird for the others, he thinks, to see him so vulnerable without immediately knowing Jimin will swoop in to dry his tears. "Not too bad. I'll be better if we don't let the food get cold, though."
Namjoon laughs. "Yeah, we should get back. You good, Jungkook?"
Jungkook nods. Namjoon pauses before pulling the younger boy into a hug, which he accepts good-naturedly but not without a little huff of laughter. "We're good, hyung. Sorry I was a brat."
Namjoon ruffles his hair and then tugs Taehyung in, too, so the three of them fall into a messy group hug. Taehyung giggles as someone elbows him in the side, and realizes it's the first time he's laughed in...hell, days.
"My soup," protests Taehyung, and ultimately has to jab Jungkook in the side a few times to free himself.
When they go back in, Jungkook stands next to Jimin and waits for his attention, which doesn't take long. "Hi," says Jimin warily.
"Hyung," says Jungkook right away, no playfulness, no Jimin-ssi, "can we talk later?"
Jimin smiles. "Yeah, of course."
The table seems to let out a collective breath. Taehyung tucks back into his food, and the dinner progresses with gentleness as they all adjust to the tentative truce. Under the table, Hoseok knocks his foot against Taehyung's. A check in, a question.
Taehyung knocks him back and smiles around a mouthful of soup.
Taehyung is crying.
It's not surprising, exactly. He's been sick, and he almost didn't even get to go on stage today. He fought their managers tooth and nail to be allowed to at least walk around, even if he couldn't sing, but the pressure of it all seems to have gotten to him. They have nearly half the show left, Yoongi on stage doing his solo song, and Taehyung is crying his heart out while the stylists flit around him nervously. One of them is holding a makeup brush in her hand, and the man next to her has a sponge with product on it already. They'll need to fix him up as soon as he manages to get himself together, except that isn't happening.
Hoseok is talking to him right now, hands fluttering as he says something to Taehyung that makes Taehyung shake his head rapidly, shoulders trembling. "—need to calm down—" Jimin catches, and then, "—please, honey, you're only—"
It's enough to have him resolving to go over there himself. In the last two weeks, things have been tense, sure, and Jimin knows he's letting the guilt eat him alive in a way that isn't healthy for anyone, but Taehyung needs him right now. They said things wouldn't have to change, didn't they? Or maybe just Jimin said that. Maybe he was alone in hoping to keep their friendship intact.
Still, Taehyung needs him. His Taehyungie. It makes his chest hurt to stand by and do nothing.
Just as he takes a step toward them, he feels a heavy hand land on his shoulder. "Hey," says Namjoon, "Jimin-ah, they need to adjust your outfit."
Namjoon is looking at Taehyung, but speaking to Jimin. "Go check in with Yoori-noona. She said something about fixing your belt."
"My belt is fine," he says. He digs his heels in, but Namjoon isn't pushing, just standing next to him. "Hyung, please don't lie to me."
There's a heavy sigh, and Namjoon shifts his weight, leaning on one leg in a way that shows how tired he really is. "I'm sorry, Jimin. I don't think you going over there will help, that's all. I didn't want to hurt your feelings, but I shouldn't have lied."
"No," agrees Jimin, "you shouldn't have."
"Still," continues Namjoon. "You need to give him time."
"I love him," says Jimin, and then freezes. He hadn't meant to say that. He's not sure he's allowed anymore, no matter how true it is, because it's not true in the right way.
Namjoon's hand on his shoulder squeezes, supportive. "He needs space. Can you love him enough to give him that?"
"You sound like a drama," says Jimin, with a wet little laugh. If he says anything else he'll start crying for real. "Does anyone actually care about my belt?"
"No," admits Namjoon. "But I told them to lie about it if you actually went over there."
Jimin smacks a weak hand into Namjoon's chest. "That's horrible."
Namjoon at least has the good grace to look sheepish. "It was for the greater good."
"Horrible," repeats Jimin, and then feels himself frown again. "I think Hoseokie-hyung is struggling a little. Would you check on them? I'll, um. I'm gonna go stretch. Over there."
"Okay. Let me know if you need anything."
Jimin crinkles his nose at Namjoon. "Sure, if stretching is too difficult I'll let you know."
"Aigo," replies Namjoon, "ah, the disrespect." He waits until Jimin's smiling again before sobering. "We'll take care of him.And it won't be like this forever. You're worrying so much but a year from now I bet you guys will barely remember this."
"Right," says Jimin, and desperately tries to believe that to be true.
A month later finds Taehyung alone in his hotel room very, very carefully painting a pair of jeans. He'd just wanted to do a few shapes on the left side by the front pocket, but had, maybe unsurprisingly, gotten a bit carried away. He's halfway down the right leg now, acrylic paint all thankfully on the pants and not the floor, and is debating going to find some newspaper or something to lay down before disaster strikes when there's a tentative knock at his door.
Taehyung freezes. None of the other members had talked about visiting him or each other tonight. If it's a manager, they'll be annoyed at his lack of care in this literal five star hotel. If it's not...it's been a few weeks since they've had any issues with sasaengs, and Taehyung is not looking to run into any tonight.
The knock comes again, and then he hears, "Taehyung-ah? Please let me in."
He almost tips his paint over tripping to get to the door. "Hey," he says when he opens it. "Um, come in. I didn't realize you were coming by."
"Me neither," says Jimin, laughing a little. Like he's nervous, like he's being careful. "That looks really nice." He nods to the jeans, still splayed across the ground like a surgery, or a crime scene.
"Thank you," answers Taehyung. He dithers for a second, debating sitting in the chair or something, but decides to plop back to the ground and keep working. "What, um—"
"I miss you," Jimin interrupts, and then shuts his eyes, chagrined, like he hadn't meant to say that. "I'm sorry. I'm supposed to be giving you space, I know. But I don't want to never talk to you again."
Taehyung's hand tightens around the brush he'd picked up. "Oh," he says, the sound punched out of him.
When he looks up, Jimin looks so hopeful and apologetic. "I'm still your friend, if you want me to be."
For a brief moment, all of Taehyung's panicky insecurities float right back up to the surface from where he'd been aggressively stamping them down, mostly with Yoongi's help. That he's messed up not only his friendship with Jimin, but the band, too. That they'll all grow to resent him and his feelings. That if he and Jimin can't be close anymore, it'll only be his own fault. That he was selfish when he wore his heart on his sleeve. Jimin is here, looking at him with wide and shining eyes, and for a few seconds all Taehyung can think is I hurt him, and he let me, and nothing will ever be okay again.
But then he thinks past it. Thinks about how Jimin has given him space, and about how knowing this is going nowhere has... settled something in Taehyung. For the first time, he thinks that maybe the not-knowing was worse, because he said the scariest thing and ended up with an outcome he was terrified of, and they still landed here.
No one died. No one got into a screaming match. Some feelings were hurt, but you can't guard against that. Not really.
Taehyung gestures for Jimin to sit down. Jimin folds himself gracefully, the way he does about sixty percent of the time, cross-legged with his hands primly settled in his lap. There's space between them, but the gap doesn't hurt.
Taehyung takes a deep breath. Finds room in his lungs for more, even.
"I'm planning to wear these at our next muster," he explains, gesturing to the jeans. Jimin nods attentively, eyes going rounder as he takes in the design. "If you want to help, or just— just hang out, I would enjoy the company."
Jimin beams. Taehyung's stomach flips, but he can still breathe, and so he does.
He passes Jimin a brush and watches him dither for a moment before deciding to just brush it, dry, over the back of his own hand. "It's soft," he explains when Taehyung just looks at him. "Feels nice."
He's beautiful, obviously, even in the vaguely orange light of the hotel room, but more than that he's Taehyung's best friend. When Taehyung tried to cut off his romantic feelings, he forgot that there were other ones there, too. The fondness, the concern, the care. Jimin looks tired, bags under his eyes, but he looks happy sitting here on the floor. Like he wants to be here. Like he's glad that Taehyung is letting him stay.
"That's really nice, Jimin-ah," says Taehyung.
And it is.