“Are you sure?” Taehyung asked, as he rounded the corner. The sun was beating down on him as he shielded his face, one hand to his brow, the other holding his phone to his ear. The pavement was warm under his feet as he paced his way towards the store.
“I’m looking in the fridge right now,” said Hoseok, on the other end of the line. “We need definitely eggs.”
“You’re not just trolling me, are you?” he smirked, as he approached the corner store. “Do you remember Seokjin hyung’s great egg debacle?”
Taehyung heard Hoseok laugh on the other end of the phone as he slowed. He hovered next to the door, pacing idly back and forth whilst he spoke. “I could have sworn I saw a carton of six in there this morning,” he said, casting his mind back.
“Yoongi used them up. He baked a cake for Jungkook,” Hoseok explained. “Hey – why does no one ever bake me cakes?”
Taehyung smiled to himself. “Are you really jealous of Jungkook and Yoongi, hyung?” he asked, dryly.
“You’re right. I’m going to go outside and touch some grass now,” replied Hoseok, in an equally matched tone. “A carton of twelve, please. Just in case.”
“In case of what?” scoffed Taehyung.
“I don’t know. In case Namjoon starts downing raw eggs before a workout. He’s thick as fuck, Taehyung-ah,” Hoseok said with a chuckle.
“Alright, alright,” laughed Taehyung. “Is that all we need? Are you sure you don’t want me to get eighteen?”
Hoseok hummed for a moment, considering. “You know, I think you should. Food goes missing in this house in seconds. I think we have rats.”
“Those rats are called Jungkook and Jimin,” replied Taehyung, with a smile on his face. “I’ll get eighteen. Just in case,” he teased.
“Alright,” Hoseok sighed. “I’m going to the dance studio. I’m teaching my first hip hop class – wish me luck!”
“You don’t need my luck, hyung.”
“Can I have it anyway? Just in case?”
Taehyung smiled again. “Of course. Good luck, hyung. You’re going to smash it.”
They said their goodbyes and hung up, Taehyung pocketing his phone as he stepped into the store. Overhead, the bell rung as Taehyung gave a small bow to the cashier, who was sat behind the counter on a stool, idly scrolling with his phone in his hand.
“How’s Mrs. Lee doing, hyung-nim?” Taehyung asked him. He was sure he was Mrs. Lee's nephew.
He looked up and pocketed his phone. “Good. She’ll be out of the hospital soon enough,” he replied.
“Please send her my best,” replied Taehyung. The man nodded and Taehyung turned on his heels and began to stroll down one of the aisles.
He went to the refrigerator at the back of the store and opened it up, taking out a carton of eighteen eggs, cradling it on his forearm, and closing the glass door with a gentle thud. Then, he moved further down, towards the snacks, thinking about how he had scolded Jungkook last night for eating the last packet of chips without replacing it, when he noticed a girl hiding behind the rows of cereal.
Her cap was pulled low over her face as she stuffed another packet of chips into her rucksack, careful not to rustle it too much as she did so. Taehyung eyed her for a moment, noticing the way her clothes were worn and ripped. He was well accustomed to noticing the finer details about a person’s appearance and quickly scanned parts of her body that he could see for any bruising, or any way her limbs moved uncomfortably as she filled her rucksack.
She looked okay, and yet she was stealing, Taehyung thought. Clearly, something was wrong.
He walked past her and grabbed the bag from her hands, not even looking back as he strolled towards the counter.
“These, please,” he said, taking the snacks out of the rucksack and placing them down next to his eggs on the countertop.
The server rang them all up, beeping the barcodes under the light, and then waited for Taehyung to pay. Taehyung got out his wallet and flipped it open, looking down at the picture of Ryung-Jin that Seokjin had left behind that was nestled in the clear plastic.
From behind him, Taehyung could feel the girl hovering for a second, before she pushed open the door, making the bell above it ring as she stepped outside. Taehyung looked over his shoulder and watched her go, as he took out a few bills and handed them over to the server, stuffing the snacks back into the rucksack and taking the eggs in his other hand.
He pushed open the door with his shoulder and thanked the server, ducking out into the sunlight once more. Outside, the girl stood on the curb, waiting, with her back to Taehyung.
Slowly, he approached her.
“Here,” Taehyung said. She turned around to him and Taehyung held out the rucksack for her to take. As she looked down at it, Taehyung swore he could see her eyes glisten over with tears before her face hardened and she snatched the bag from his hands.
She hurried away before Taehyung could say anything more.
“You’re welcome!” he called after her, as she stalked off down the street, pulling the straps over her shoulders. “Hey!” he shouted. “What’s your name!?”
But the girl didn’t turn around. She hurried off down the street until Taehyung could no longer see her between the bodies on the bustling street.
Taehyung let out an exhale and began walking in the opposite direction. He couldn’t save everyone. That’s what he had learned. Sometimes, he just had to let go of the fact that people needed to find their own way in the world, and just because things had worked out for him, it didn’t mean it would for everyone. Seokjin had told him enough about the other timelines to know that he was one timeline away from misery, jail, and even death.
But that wasn’t his story. Not in this timeline. This was the outcome where they got to be happy. This was the outcome where they got their happy ever afters, Taehyung reminded himself. He had to let go and trust time.
Then, from the depths of his pocket, his phone rang. Taehyung dug his hand in and brought it out, trying to accept the call one-handed and not drop the eggs.
“Jungkook-ah,” he said. “You okay?”
“Hyung!” Jungkook said, excitedly, on the other end.
“What is it?!”
“I got the job!” he replied.
Taehyung stopped walking, his mouth hanging open, eyes wide. “Jungkook-ah!” he cried. He couldn’t hide the glee from his face. “No way! Well done.”
“Thanks, hyung. I’m so excited,” he said, enthusiastically. Taehyung couldn’t wait to get home and hug that little brat.
“My dongsang is going to be a library assistant!” Taehyung grinned. “I knew the minute I saw the flyer when I walked in the library that day that it was going to be good for you, Jungkook-ah,” said Taehyung, his cheeks round with glee. He started walking again, feet almost skipping along the pavement. “Seokjin hyung is going to be so proud of you.”
“I can’t wait to tell him when he gets back.” Jungkook’s joy was evident, even through the phone. “When are you going to get home, hyung?” he asked.
Taehyung stopped and turned on his heels again. “Not for a while, Jungkook-ah. I’ve got to go back to the store.”
“Why, hyung? I thought you just went there?”
Taehyung smiled as he pushed the door to the store open again, hearing the bell ring above his head. "We need champagne. We’re celebrating tonight.”