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chasing rollercoasters

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open mic night has become some kind of ritual.

 

taehyung doesn't know how it happened. he doesn't even remember now how they heard about it, what led he and jimin to this hole in the wall bar to see what kinds of local talent would show up. most of the time, it's just people embarrassing themselves. taehyung has considered showing off his skills once or twice, but that's usually when he's already three drinks in and jimin holds him back so he won't become one of them.

 

because taehyung isn't an embarrassment. not when it comes to music, at least. he's loud and a little too much most of the time and his attention span is practically nonexistent, but it's different when it comes to music. there's just something there that captures his focus, something different because he's studied the drums, guitar, piano and even took up the cello for a couple of years.

 

he's proud, even if his friends like to tease him at every opportunity about it.

 

"you're already like, some kind of musical genius or something," jimin tells him, leaning over their small table so that taehyung can hear him over whatever noise the person onstage is making. it sounds like two trash can lids banging together, only there's a million of them. maybe it's some weird new kind of performance art.

 

"you know, everyone always assumes the best musicians are crazy. and they are. but they're also brilliant."

 

taehyung just laughs into his glass, eyes shining.

 

"it's not that impressive."

 

jimin gives him a look like he's insane, because, really? is taehyung really trying to humble himself after musing to jimin about whether or not he should take up a new instrument because he's bored?

 

"it's not!" taehyung's eyes widen this time, and he puts down his glass, leaning forward like that will help jimin actually take him seriously.

 

"i haven't even got a steady job!"

 

"but you could," jimin points out easily, refusing to accept taehyung's bullshit. it's his job as the best friend, his civil duty to make sure that taehyung properly presents his talents to the world.

 

taehyung opens his mouth like he wants to retaliate, then closes it again.

 

"you know i'm right," jimin continues smugly. "you could play for anyone you wanted to, anywhere you wanted to. you get bored too easily, that's the problem."

 

taehyung is staring into his glass, making a sour expression at the remnants of his mixed drink.

 

"taetae, you know you've gotta figure it out eventually."

 

taehyung turns his sour expression on jimin instead, though it's more pout than anything else.

 

"i thought we came here to judge open mic night, not lecture me on the lack of stability in my career."

 

jimin can't help but laugh, his gaze growing fond like it always does when taehyung gets like this. he reaches across the table, enough to playfully wiggle taehyung's nose and make him laugh.

 

jimin is a vocalist, someone that taehyung met in high school, the one that specialized in performance and art. the two of them have been inseparable ever since and taehyung loves jimin, could never ask for a better best friend, even if he does lecture him sometimes.

 

"you're right, i'm done. we're definitely here t-"

 

a loud shriek interrupts him and startles them both so much that taehyung nearly falls out of his chair. it's feedback from the sound system, clear once they actually turn their attention to what's going on up front.

 

there are two guys on the stage. they look young, but not too young. decent enough. one of them is holding a guitar, adjusting the levels on the amp he lugged onto the stage and the other one is diligently working to untangle the microphone cord. that one looks nice, from what taehyung can see. he has a handsome face and his hair is styled up and pushed back. his expression is serious, probably too serious for someone who just nearly deafened everyone in the bar.

 

"oh man," jimin says quietly. another loud squeal pierces through the speaker and taehyung's eardrums, making him wince.

 

"oh no," he agrees, going for the last gulp of his drink just as the nice looking one brings the mic to his lips to introduce them.

 

"hey. we're the screaming beans. uh ... enjoy."

 

taehyung doesn't hear the song start, too busy coughing around the parts of his drink that didn't fly out of his nose.

 

jimin quickly stands and comes to his aid, thumping him on the back while simultaneously trying not to break into his snort-laugh. not in public.

 

"did he just -" taehyung cuts himself off, another fit of giggles dissolving into coughs because he can't recover.

 

"screaming beans," jimin replies, and he ends up stretched over the table because he can’t stop laughing and he needs the support.

 

screaming beans is the worst band name taehyung has ever heard. they play three songs, and taehyung completely misses the first one because he keeps sending himself into more giggling fits every time he tries to look at them.

 

by the second song, he's figured out that if he just stares at the table, he can keep it together enough to actually hear what's going on.

 

the screaming beans aren't bad.

 

the sound isn't terrible. sure, the amp is cheap and overall the quality’s a little thin, but that's because they're just working with guitar and vocals. the nice looking guy doesn't have a bad voice. it's clear, could use some control but the tone itself is surprisingly pleasant.

 

what he doesn't expect, though, is the screaming. it catches him off guard, leaves him wide eyed and sends jimin into another episode. but the thing is ... well, that isn't bad either.

 

by the time he and jimin are walking home, arm in arm and just a little bit too tipsy, he's already searched up the screaming beans online.

 

"they're a linkin park cover group," he announces, phone in hand, and jimin snorts freely.

 

"that might have been the best-worst open mic experience of my life."

 

taehyung just shakes his head. "no, that was the weird drunk ajumma who only knew one trot song and performed it for an hour," he responds seriously, and jimin leans into him as he giggles to keep from falling over.

 

he successfully deposits jimin at his own apartment, satisfied enough with getting his best friend to his couch because jimin is kind of a lightweight and taehyung should have been monitoring how much he was drinking. it's only a ten minute walk to his own building, and he kicks his shoes off the second he's in the door, not caring where they land. he isn't drunk but he's a little dizzy, flopping onto his bed once he sheds all clothing save for his boxers because he's a violent sleeper and he'll be too stifled if he tries to sleep in jeans.

 

before he falls asleep he drops his phone on his face trying to google linkin park.

 

 

▁▁▁


 

the screaming beans don’t show up at open mic night again.

 

at first, taehyung is disappointed about it. there’s a part of him that kind of really wants to see that nice looking guy scream into a shitty microphone again, but after three weeks of no shows, he gives up on it. the newest disaster comes in the form of someone trying to do slam poetry, and it’s enough to keep them entertained.

 

roughly six months later, taehyung is jolted out of a nap on his couch by the sound of his front door opening and then slamming closed.

 

“taehyungie!”

 

taehyung never locks his front door, mostly because he’s forgetful and it always works in jimin’s favor. at least, it means that he can come barreling in unannounced, like right now. he crosses the short distance between taehyung’s front door and his couch easily, plopping himself down in the sort of empty space next to him.

 

a slow, lazy stretch of his arms over his head is taehyung’s first reaction. he opens one eye, face scrunched up with sleep and jimin is right there, grinning at him about something that must be at least kind of important.

 

“wake up,” jimin coaxes, tickling under taehyung’s chin with his fingers. taehyung just shifts to accommodate him, stretching one leg out and relaxing with an arm now settled around jimin’s shoulders. the other falls dead weight behind him, hanging off the arm of the couch, and he licks his lips sleepily.

 

jimin just tickles under his chin again, until taehyung opens both of his eyes, and giggles.

 

“you’re adorable. and i think i just found you a perfect job opportunity.”

 

“what?”

 

taehyung’s voice is low and heavy with sleep. ordinarily jimin might have tried to wake him up more before springing something as potentially ground-breaking and life changing as this on him, but he can’t wait. he’s been bursting to share this with taehyung ever since he found out about it roughly twenty minutes ago. that’s why he ran all the way here, but that’s beside the point.

 

“look!” jimin shoves his phone screen right in taehyung’s face. it’s way too bright and taehyung groans in protest, shoving it away with the arm not currently wrapped around his best friend.

 

“just tell me,” taehyung almost whines, and jimin gives a small huff but does it anyway.

 

“okay, fine. so i was browsing craigslist for odd jobs, you know, and there’s one that i think you should call about!”

 

“okay,” taehyung says slowly, uncertainly. he lifts his head up just enough so that he can give jimin a proper wary look. “remember the last time you-”

 

“shush.” jimin interrupts taehyung before he can even finish that question. “that was one time. an honest mistake. this is different, just listen to me.”

 

taehyung sighs and flops his head back down. “go on.”

 

“okay, so. it’s pretty vague but it looks like there’s some group or something that’s in desperate need of a last-second stand in drummer. it says it’s for a debut showcase, taetae. a showcase! that means it has to be a big deal!”

 

taehyung thinks about it for a few moments, quietly mulling over the pros and cons, even though he doesn’t really know what any of the pros and cons are based on just that much information.

 

“if it’s vague, how am i supposed to know it’s not some scam? what if it’s shady? what if i get kidnapped?”

 

“that’s why you have to call!” jimin sounds much too bright for all of this, that tone in his voice that lets taehyung know that he definitely isn’t going to let taehyung turn this down. even if taehyung desperately wanted to, he won’t be able to get out of this one. jimin is too persistent and taehyung can’t really deny that there’s no reason for him not to try. he hasn’t played a decent gig in a while, and, well … extra cash is always nice.

 

“.. when’s the showcase?” taehyung is more awake now, really considering, and jimin knows this. he pauses to check his phone. “uh .. friday!”

 

“friday?!”

 

taehyung’s eyes are open now, wide and staring at jimin like he’s absolutely insane. well, he is absolutely insane. but insane in the good way.

 

it’s wednesday. late on wednesday. this is the bad kind of insane.

 

“jimin, how am i going to play at a showcase for some random group with less than forty-eight hours notice?”

 

jimin just shrugs, which is completely unhelpful.

 

“call them, taetae~” he singsongs, passing taehyung his phone with the unfamiliar number already keyed in.

 

taehyung sighs dramatically, but he presses the call button and brings the phone to his ear because he knows that if he doesn’t, jimin will probably tickle him until he does.

 

the phone rings once, twice, and then there’s a click and a normal enough voice greeting him from the other end. so taehyung clears his throat and proceeds.

 

“uh, yeah. hi! i’m calling about the … ad that you posted? for a drummer?”

 

he can practically feel the relief radiating off of whoever he’s talking to as soon as the words leave his mouth. “oh, thank god,” the guy says, and then seems to remember that he’s supposed to be sounding professional.

 

“i mean, of course! what kind of experience do you have?”

 

“i’ve been playing the drums since i was five?”

 

“great! you’re hired.”

 

there’s a moment of stunned silence because, really? it’s as simple as that? this whole thing is getting sketchier by the minute.

 

“uh, cool. so, how should i … learn the material?”

 

“oh! right. if you could just ... give me an email, and i’ll forward the sheet music to you. along with the other information.”

 

taehyung relays his email over to the guy, along with his name. he seems happy to finally have someone to fill the spot, and, even if it’s insanely short notice, at least taehyung will have something productive to focus on for the next day and a half.

 

he tosses his phone gently off to the side once he hangs up, finally noticing the way that jimin is staring at him. he looks anxious, curious, even though he was sitting right here and heard the entire conversation.

 

“well?” he prompts, and his excitement is infectious. taehyung can’t really help the grin that’s starting to pull at his lips.

 

“i got the job?”

 

jimin lets out what can only be described as a war-cry of happiness, throwing himself at taehyung and launching them into such a fierce hug that they topple onto the floor.


 

▁▁▁


 

taehyung practices.

 

he spends as much time as he reasonably can practicing, and honestly, it feels good. he hasn't given enough attention to his drums lately, but by friday morning he's more than confident in every hit and crash. it's a little odd going in deaf, having no idea what it will sound like with the rest of the music, but it'll work out.

 

the address that gets sent along with the sheet music and notes leads him to a venue that absolutely is not shady. it's huge, and he double checks the address three times before walking through the doors.

 

there's a whirlwind of activity going on inside. people with headsets and clipboards are walking around, which definitely makes taehyung feel a little more at ease and on edge all at the same time. headsets and clipboards definitely mean it's a big deal, but that also means he better do a damn good job.

 

one of the headset and clipboard people stop him, bringing him back from the too many thoughts suddenly crowding his mind.

 

"name?"

 

taehyung falters for a moment, blinking. thankfully he makes a quick recovery.

 

"kim taehyung?"

 

she sets him with a level stare, repeats his name into the headset but brightens considerably when she realizes he's authorized to be wandering around like an idiot.

 

"alright, come with me."

 

there isn't any more conversation, but taehyung is okay with that. he tries not to trip over himself or stare too much at everything happening around them as she leads him away, down a hallway and into a room that's smaller but no less busy.

 

"kim taehyung," she announces, and another headset and clipboard person turns around. this time it's a guy with a bright smile that immediately makes taehyung feel more at ease.

 

"taehyung!" the guy exclaims, hurrying over. "oh my god, thank you for existing. i'm hoseok, by the way, but come on. we've got to get you ready."

 

"ready?" taehyung tries to ask, but hoseok is already steering him over to a few more staff members, patting his shoulders and then flitting off to do something else.

 

"what size are you?" one of the girls asks him, and taehyung just stares dumbly.

 

"uh," he says, and she sighs.

 

"nevermind. those pants will work. here, just put this on." she tosses what taehyung thinks is a shirt over to him, and he catches it but otherwise doesn't move.

 

"here?" he finally asks, and she raises both eyebrows.

 

"let's go. we don't have all day."

 

it's safe to say that taehyung had absolutely no idea what he was getting himself into. the shirt change is one thing, but then he finds himself being pushed into another chair. this time he's instructed to close his eyes and tries to keep from squinting as much as possible while someone puts eyeliner on him. he's never worn makeup in his life, besides that one time that he and jimin decided they wanted to know what it was like.

 

someone else is running rough fingers through his hair, messing it up and spraying so much hairspray that he nearly chokes.

 

"perfect."

 

at least the voice is familiar this time. when he opens his eyes it's hoseok, surveying him and it seems like he approves. taehyung feels like he's permanently stuck in that blank stare, but he can't manage anything else.

 

"i mean, seriously," hoseok laughs. "i know the ad said good looking, and it was kind of a joke, but man we lucked out with you. as long as you don't overshadow jeonggukie, we'll be fine."

 

"jeonggukkie?"

 

taehyung doesn't know why that's the part that he repeats, because good looking? in the ad? what? he'll definitely have to kill jimin later for doing this to him. whatever this is.

 

"the vocalist," hoseok responds happily, not looking up from where he's jotting things down on his clipboard.

 

"i'd introduce you, but he likes to be left alone before performances. and most of the time. anyway, good luck!"

 

hoseok gives a cheery little wave, disappearing as if taehyung should know what to do now. he doesn't, so he settles on watching everyone else around him, his interest piquing when a new person enters the room.

 

really, taehyung can't help but stare. this guy is handsome. like, really handsome. he's tall and toned, because taehyung can see the way that his muscles move underneath the short sleeves of his oversized shirt. it's black and red plaid, the pattern similar to the one he was shoved into, like they're supposed to match. and they probably are, but taehyung is sure he could never pull it off like this mystery guy does.

 

mystery guy's hair is an unnatural color. it’s still dark, pushed back and styled up in a way that looks effortless but obviously isn't. there's a hint of smudged eyeliner around the edges of his eyes when he spares taehyung a short glance, looking at him out of the corner of his eye as he takes a long drink from a water bottle that someone hands him.

 

taehyung swallows hard. fuck. mystery guy is hot as hell, and he almost misses it when someone calls out to get his attention.

 

"jeongguk!"

 

it's another person dressed in some kind of plaid and leather assortment, but taehyung can't worry too much about that.

 

mystery guy must be jeonggukie. he must be the vocalist, and taehyung wants to laugh because holy shit, there's no way he could ever outshine that.

 

now the only thing he has to worry about is keeping his focus on the performance enough to not totally fuck it up.

 

"hey. let's go."

 

the voice is unfamiliar and taehyung didn't even realize that he was kind of spacing out until he's being jolted back to reality. again.

 

this time, it's jeongguk. he's standing over him, staring down with an arched eyebrow and a stare that really, really shouldn't send shivers down his spine.

 

"yeah!" he says, too loud, and then tries again.

 

"i mean, yeah. let's do it!" he jumps up, and swears that he almost sees the corner of jeongguk's mouth twitch before he turns to lead the way backstage.

 

fuck. this is gonna be hard.

 

 

▁▁▁


 

the performance is like nothing that taehyung has ever experienced before, and, really, that’s saying something.

 

taehyung has played in recitals, he’s done group pieces for classes, a few odd shows here and there for some extra money on the side whenever an opportunity came up. he’s even played at a house party or two, and those are the closest things to this that he could reference. but even that doesn’t come anywhere close to this.

 

because this is bright lights, a stage that’s bigger than expected and an audience that’s at least double what he thought would be waiting for them. it’s a debut showcase, but it’s clear that they - that jeongguk? - already has fans. taehyung still doesn’t know if it’s a band or a solo artist or what’s going on, but he does know that there’s an alarming amount of screaming girls holding up signs with slogans and jeongguk’s name all over them, like they’re hoping to get noticed.

 

jeongguk on stage is something that taehyung never could have expected from the short preview of the boy’s personality that he got just a matter of minutes ago. it’s like something happens, like a switch flips inside of him once the music starts and he becomes a completely different person.

 

jeongguk on stage is full of energy, so much that it’s practically overflowing. he never stays still for more than a few seconds, running and jumping around the stage, belting out fast paced lyrics that flow smoothly in and out of the guitar riffs and taehyung’s beats. there’s some fan interaction, but for the most part, he’s in his own world. it’s like he’s one with the music, like he’s just some kid at home alone on a friday night, blaring his itunes and screaming along because there’s no one around to hear it.

 

three songs in and he’s already practically dripping with sweat. taehyung can see it, can feel the burn starting up in his own muscles but the adrenaline overrides everything else. it’s impossible not to get swept up and sucked into that kind of energy, and it’s a good thing he practiced so much, because he can’t take his eyes off of jeongguk even for a moment.

 

the last song come too fast, even if he can feel himself sweating by now. this melody is something that’s striking a chord in taehyung’s mind. it’s vaguely familiar, even if that’s ridiculous. it’s impossible, and it’s easier to distract himself by watching jeongguk’s movements, the way he bangs his head in time with the beat, kicks one knee up occasionally all while perfectly executing notes that seem impossible. sometimes they sound more like screams, but not in a bad way. not in a bad way at all. it’s incredible.

 

nothing could possibly prepare him for what comes next, when the guitar riffs change completely. there’s a rest coming up and he knows it, a pause where he can catch his own breath but that doesn’t happen. instead, his breath catches in his chest and he’s completely blown away because jeongguk just starts screaming.

 

initially, it’s startling. it’s almost enough to make taehyung jump out of his seat, because hearing someone suddenly start screaming their lungs out is one thing, but hearing someone suddenly start screaming their lungs out into a microphone that’s meant to broadcast clear sound to a large audience is another experience altogether. after the initial horror has passed, taehyung can’t deny that he’s impressed. incredibly impressed, actually. impressed enough that he almost misses his entrance back in, simple cymbal taps, and he hopes that no one actually notices the way that he fumbles over the first three before he gets it right.

 

the guitar kicks back in, the same riff as before. he falls back into his rhythm, glad that his fingers can mostly do the work for him because holy shit.

 

taehyung has spent a lot of time watching performers, whether it was something serious or open mic night at the bar, and he’s never seen anything like this. it’s mesmerizing, the way that jeongguk can even make a sound like that, let alone sustain it this long. he’s bent over, eyes closed, mouth open. his fist is clenched hard at his side and taehyung can see the strain, the way that his veins become more prominent, skin still glistening with sweat. he only pauses to take a breath, a fraction of a second before he’s launching into it again, another drawn out scream that absolutely should not be one of the fucking hottest things that taehyung has ever seen in his entire twenty years of living.

 

it’s over just like that. another pause and then jeongguk is launching himself back into the chorus, throwing his head back, voice completely unscathed and just as clear as it was at the beginning of the showcase.

 

the realization doesn’t start to settle in until after the set is over. taehyung is still in a daze, seated behind his drumset and dumbly watching as jeongguk does what seems like some kind of closing ment. he’s wiping the sweat from his face with a towel as he talks, and taehyung kind of wishes he was the one doing it for him.

 

a familiar set of words pulls him back, snapping his attention firmly onto what jeongguk is saying instead of what his fingers are doing.

 

“- back to where we started. so that was a cover of given up by linkin park.”

 

it was familiar. that’s why. the song had come up in taehyung’s google search, he may or may not have downloaded it onto his phone and -

 

oh no. oh god.

 

“thanks for coming to the showcase. the album will be out soon, so check it out when it drops!”

 

that night at the bar. the open mic night. oh god.


“i’m jeongguk, and -”

 

oh god. oh no. oh god.

 

“- we’re the screaming beans.”


 

▁▁▁



 

“no way.”

 

jimin and taehyung are sitting together on taehyung’s couch, legs crossed and facing each other while taehyung recounts every last detail of what happened to him on friday night. it’s a miracle that he managed to wait this long because he’s been absolutely bursting to tell his best friend everything, but unfortunately jimin does have a life outside of taehyung sometimes.

 

but right now, everything else has been completely thrown out of the window. jimin is wide eyed, mouth gaping open unattractively and leaning forward, completely invested in exactly the way that taehyung hoped he would be.

 

no fucking way.”

 

taehyung just nods enthusiastically, eyes just as wide, because he’s still sort of having trouble sorting out everything that his life has become over the past forty-eight hours.

 

"seriously! i should have realized it when i saw him, but i just didn't recognize him, you know? he looked so ..."

 

"different?" jimin supplies, trying to help and simultaneously prompt taehyung to continue when he trails off.

 

"... good," taehyung finally breathes, and jimin sits back.

 

"oh no," he says, and taehyung nods again.

 

"oh yes. seriously, jimin. i never thought someone screaming could be so hot. you should have seen him, the way he was jumping and headbanging and his hair was pushed back and his voice and he was all sweaty and -"

 

"taehyung."

 

jimin's voice is flat, just like the way he's looking at him once taehyung snaps out of his fawning session.

 

"spare me. please."

 

"sorry." but taehyung isn't sorry, at least not entirely. it isn't his fault that jeongguk is so hot.

 

"so? what happened after? did you hook up with him or something?"

 

"what?!" taehyung jerks back, looking positively scandalized. "no, no, god jimin, no."

 

jimin just shrugs, because he knows kim taehyung and it's not like he's the kind of guy who's too pure and moral for one night stands. but that's beside the point.

 

"but he did say hi to me, though. and thanks when i told him he was great. he kind of smiled, too."

 

taehyung looks like he might start fawning again, despite the flush on his cheeks and the way his heart is pounding a little.

 

"wow, what a charmer," jimin deadpans, and taehyung flaps a hand at him in dismissal.

 

"anyway, i met this guy who said he was jeongguk's manager or something? i guess i did a good job, and they want me to play for them again. more. like, maybe a steady thing, and eventually a contract?"

 

jimin lets out a low whistle.

 

"holy shit, taetae."

 

"i know!" taehyung exclaims, and he's definitely more excited about this than he thought he would be. a steady gig wouldn't be all that bad. the money would certainly be good, and the music was fun to play. not to mention he would be guaranteed to see a lot more of jeongguk if he accepts.

 

"you're gonna do it, aren't you?"

 

jimin is giving him that knowing look, the one that means he's about half a second away from a dumb smirk but taehyung can't even be mad.

 

after a beat of silence he can't hold it back anymore. a wide grin starts to break through, eventually taking over his features until his eyes are crescents and his smile turns boxy.

 

he nods vigorously, and jimin doesn't waste any time in tackling him to the floor for another enthusiastic victory hug.

 

 

▁▁▁


 

just like that, taehyung becomes an official member of the screaming beans.

 

it only takes him two weeks to sign a contract, and everything after that feels like the world is on fast-forward.

 

he learns that the screaming beans were, in fact, the same linkin park cover group that performed at open mic night. he learns that jeongguk is the only original member left, because the old guitarist decided he wanted to pursue something more realistic. jeongguk decided to undergo his own vocal training, and eventually crossed paths with his new guitarist, kim seokjin. reviving the band was almost as simple as that, because jeongguk was satisfied with just his voice and a guitar.

 

but when they tried to present their talent to a company, it wasn't good enough. they needed something else, something more, so they managed to find someone who could drum along to a beat well enough. it worked. it was the missing piece, all up until the week before the showcase when the drummer ducked out of his contract and left them screwed and scrambling for something to fill the spot.

 

"thank god we found you," namjoon, the manager tells him once the contract is signed. "you're better than what we were hoping for. we really lucked out."

 

it's some weird fusion between idol group and something more laid back. jeongguk has a hand in most of his music, working closely with some producer named yoongi who taehyung has heard of but never seen. they don't censor themselves, but they do dress in concept outfits and makeup and they'll be performing on the music shows that will accept what they have to offer without changing lyrics or toning down jeongguk's stage presence.

 

this isn't the kind of thing taehyung ever would have imagined himself doing, but it isn't bad.

 

the only sad part is, he hasn't seen as much of jeongguk as he thought he would. the first two weeks have him at the company most of the time, grappling with the basics, learning at least a little bit about the logistics of how this all works along with the rest of their music. he practices with seokjin more than anyone else. he's nice and easygoing and they get along well enough, but taehyung is always looking up every time a door opens or he hears footsteps down the hall, hoping to see that pushed back hair and those dark eyes.

 

he doesn't have to practice quite as much as jeongguk does. he was actually finished over an hour ago, but the company building is far from his apartment and it's late so he's waiting for jimin to be done with whatever he's doing so they can go back together.

 

that's how taehyung finds himself in one of the empty practice rooms, laying on the small couch inside with his feet dangling over the arm on one side. he's recording random, dumb videos of himself to pass the time between now and jimin's arrival, so he barely even registers the sound of the door clicking open.

 

"... are you making dubsmash videos?"

 

the sudden sound of someone's voice makes taehyung's body jerk, startling him so much that he drops his phone on his face. it clatters from there to the floor and he scrambles to scoop it up, wide eyes looking up because oh no, that sounded like ...

 

it is. jeongguk is standing near the doorway, surveying him with something like amusement hovering behind his eyes. or maybe taehyung is just too hopeful. either way, he looks every bit as good as the last time they saw each other, even out of the stage clothes and makeup. his hair is still pushed back, he's wearing loose athletic shorts, an oversized hoodie and timberlands. it should be ridiculous, but it isn't. god, it isn't.

 

"uh," taehyung falters, unsure if he should be embarrassed or elated about the fact that jeongguk knows what dubsmash is. or that jeongguk is even initiating conversation with him in the first place.

 

"yeah," he finally manages, rearranging himself into what he hopes is a normal sitting position.

 

"can i see?" the question comes after jeongguk uncaps the water bottle he's holding, taking a long drink without letting the plastic touch his lips. taehyung tries not to stare. instead, he nods and shifts over, making room.

 

jeongguk steps closer, settles on the couch next to him and taehyung tries not to focus on the way that his heart is pounding. the size of it means they're closer together than they probably would have been otherwise, but jeongguk doesn't seem to mind. he holds out his hand, takes taehyung's phone and watches the last three videos that he had recorded. taehyung can feel embarrassment burning through his veins, but it stops in its tracks as soon as jeongguk starts laughing.

 

laughing. jeongguk is laughing. because of him.

 

"these are pretty good," jeongguk says, offering the phone back. "thanks," taehyung says dumbly, feeling a little dazed as jeongguk starts shifting around again. taehyung is sure that jeongguk is going to leave, but he doesn't. instead he pulls his own phone out of his pocket, quickly keys in the passcode and reveals his own library of dubsmash videos.

 

"oh my god," taehyung says, and jeongguk grins.

 

five videos in, taehyung is already crying of laughter. jeongguk is, unexpectedly, absolutely fucking hilarious.

 

"let's make one," jeongguk says, scrolling through sound bite options while taehyung wipes the tears away with his sleeve.

 

one turns into two. two turns into seven, and seven turns into taehyung leaning with his back against jeongguk's side, laughing so hard that his ribs hurt.

 

taehyung only pulls his attention away for a split second, to respond to jimin's i'm outside text with a sorry jiminnie, i'm gonna stay later. you can go ahead.


 

▁▁▁


 

taehyung is the kind of person that can get close with anyone and everyone, and he does. but he's just as surprised as everyone else to find that jeon jeongguk is not an exception.

 

he's learned from seokjin and hoseok, and even a little bit from namjoon that jeongguk isn't exactly the warm and cuddly type. he doesn't tend to welcome people into his circle with open arms, preferring to keep the friends he’s already had instead of trying to make new ones. taehyung can understand why. jeongguk’s popularity is no joke, and matched with his good looks and talent, taehyung can only imagine how hard it would be to try to form meaningful friendships, to sort through and weed out people only interested in the pros of knowing someone famous rather than actually making connections.

 

maybe it’s because taehyung isn’t just a random person trying to get to know jeongguk, or maybe dubsmash really is the way into his heart.

 

no matter what the reason, jeongguk becomes a part of his daily routine instead of someone who comes in and out once a week, if he’s lucky. instead of being met with cold glances or a brief smile here and there, jeongguk laughs at his stupid jokes and starts to seek him out during breaks in his ridiculous schedule. taehyung becomes more used to seeing him dressed down and bare faced, athletic shorts or black skinny jeans and oversized t shirts, hoodies and beanies instead of stage costumes and eyeliner. he decides that he definitely likes the timberlands that jeongguk is always wearing when he has a say in it more than the dark boots and sneakers he sports on stage.

 

it’s a two-way street. the more comfortable jeongguk gets around him, the more time they spend laughing and joking about nothing, practicing together instead of separately, the less infatuated with him taehyung gets. at least, sort of. he becomes less tongue-tied around him, less starry eyed, but it still gets his heart skipping a beat any time jeongguk initiates contact or calls him taehyung without the formalities. sometimes jeongguk lets taehyung sit in while he’s practicing his vocals, back against the wall and watching while he jumps around the room and belts his lungs out.

 

jeongguk never ceases to amaze him. the infatuation might be dying down, but taehyung can’t deny the way that it starts to shift into something else. it’s easy to be infatuated with someone when you don’t know them very well. because getting to know jeongguk starts to make things a little more complicated.

 

it's more complicated when he admires the sound of jeongguk's laugh more often than the sound of his voice through the speakers. his gaze catches on all the tiny imperfections, like the freckle on the side of his neck or the way his front teeth are just a little too big for his mouth. he goes breathless at the way his nose scrunches when something is particularly hilarious. every light brush of jeongguk's fingers against his skin, every time he touches him without so much as a second thought, taehyung feels like something inside of him is coming alive.

 

oh no, he can't help but think to himself in those moments when he becomes self-aware. oh shit.

 

because, like what seems to be half of the teenage female population of seoul, he has a crush on jeon jeongguk.


 

▁▁▁


 

it's getting late, nearly two a.m. and taehyung can't help feeling like it's odd that he hasn't seen jeongguk all day.

 

it's a strange kind of emptiness, one that sticks out like a sore thumb even though he's grown significantly closer to the others in the same amount of time. they all laugh at his jokes, seokjin passes around homemade snacks and hoseok is unpredictably weird in the best way but something about jeongguk fills up a slot in his day that he doesn't always recognize until it's empty.

 

maybe he's gone home by now, taehyung muses, as he double checks his bag, makes sure he has his wallet and keys so he can head out.

 

maybe he's gone home by now, but ...

 

taehyung finds himself making his way back upstairs anyway, just in case. he doubles back to the room he knows jeongguk frequents the most, can't keep a smile from quirking his lips when he peeks through the small window in the door and sees a familiar frame sitting cross-legged on the floor.

 

that's odd. he's never seen jeongguk sitting with so many things spread out in front of him, but he doesn't even take a moment to wonder if he might be interrupting before opening the door and slipping inside.

 

the click catches jeongguk's attention, but it doesn't startle him. he doesn't startle easily, not like taehyung who still nearly falls off of surfaces when jeongguk sneaks up on him or hoseok who screamed and fell on his ass that one time when taehyung accidentally approached him too fast from behind. he turns to see who it is, and he looks tired. there are bags starting to form under his eyes, eyes that seem like they want to doze off but taehyung's heart skips a beat when jeongguk smiles.

 

"hi, jeonggukie ~" he greets just as enthusiastically as always once he's sure the younger boy is glad to see him.

 

"hey, tae." jeongguk's response has something warm shivering through him before he turns back around, his own way of extending an invitation instead of giving a pointed look or asking why he's here. taehyung takes it, shrugging his bag off and making his way to where jeongguk is, seating himself in a clear spot on the floor.

 

"whatcha doing?"

 

"homework," jeongguk answers simply, flipping a couple of pages in a book that's off to the side, skimming the contents before jotting something down.

 

taehyung had thought that it would be impossible to be more impressed by jeongguk. he's already well on his way to becoming a national superstar, trying to balance hours and hours of practice with sort of living a normal life, but homework? university? taehyung is sure he's never met anyone so ambitious.

 

"wow," he says softly, a comfortable silence falling between them as jeongguk picks up where he left off in his studies.

 

taehyung lets his gaze roam over the countless papers scattered about, reaching out to pick one up out of curiosity. he can't help himself, but jeongguk doesn't stop him.

 

math. he makes a face at the numbers on the page, because who would choose to take math? he's about to put it back down, has no real desire to look at it any more closely until something catches his attention.

 

when he does look more closely, he pauses. math. but it isn't just math. it's .. algebra? his eyebrows furrow together in confusion, gaze quickly moving to take in everything else that's literally surrounding them.

 

he doesn't read everything, but he can see enough. enough for the reality of the situation to slowly start trickling its way into his consciousness. because he knows these things, this material.

 

he recognizes it from when he was in school.

 

high school.

 

"jeonggukie?" he tries to keep his voice normal despite the slow, creeping sense of dread that threatens to fill him up.

 

"hm?"

 

jeongguk doesn't seem to sense that anything is wrong, attention still focused on what he's doing.

 

"is this ... are you .... working on, like, a ged or something?"

 

taehyung wants to give him the benefit of the doubt. he wants some answer that will make sense, because no. there's no way in hell that he's been crushing on, lusting after a high school student.

 

jeongguk pauses then, just enough to give him an odd look. taehyung fills with hope.

 

"what? no, hyung. i'm seventeen."

 

the answer is like a punch to the stomach. maybe that's too much, a little melodramatic, but taehyung can't help it. his mind spins because how did he not know this?

 

jeongguk seems oblivious to his internal crisis. it's probably for the best, even if taehyung still feels like he's in shock hours later, when he finally makes it to his apartment and flops face first onto the bed with a grunt. his bed. this bed.

 

he's jerked off on this very bed, to less than pure thoughts about jeongguk. jeongguk his crush. jeongguk the screaming bean.

 

jeongguk, his seventeen year old crush who's still in high school.

 

"fuck," he groans into his pillow, mostly because he knows that this isn't going to be enough to make it stop.


 

▁▁▁


 

jeongguk being seventeen years old doesn't really change anything. it should, and taehyung knows that it should, but it doesn't.

 

it's just too hard. it's too hard not to let himself fall into it, into the way that jeongguk has wholeheartedly accepted taehyung as one of his best friends. it's clearer and clearer with the time they spend together, because taehyung can always make jeongguk laugh, even when they're supposed to be acting professional.

 

the album drops and just like that, it's a whirlwind again. sales are good, even better than expected and the bigger surprise comes when they're given the green light to perform on music shows, at least for a week or two. it means another round of preparations, measurements and stage costumes, and taehyung is better now at not flinching when the makeup coordis put eyeliner and god knows what else on him.

 

it's all like deja vu, before they go onstage for the first pre recording. taehyung can't help but think back to the showcase, the way that hoseok mentioned jeongguk and his preference to be left alone before a performance.

 

he doesn't expect to see him, so he really isn't expecting it when jeongguk is the one to sneak up on him, scaring him with a sudden grip around his middle and laughing at the sound he makes.

 

"jesus christ, jeonggukie, you almost gave me a heart attack," he mutters, trying to ignore the sudden burn in his cheeks and everywhere from so much sudden contact.

 

jeongguk is only pressed against him for another brief moment before he lets go with a shrug, grinning in that way that makes taehyung silently remind himself seventeen seventeen seventeen.

 

there's fifteen minutes left until showtime, and they spend it watching the other artists on the backstage monitor, jeongguk laughing every time taehyung tries to imitate a dance.


 

▁▁▁


 

with promotions underway, practice schedules become even crazier than usual.

 

jeongguk doesn't seem to be phased by it, but taehyung finds himself exhausted and armed with a newfound admiration for the fact that jeongguk manages to keep up with every aspect of his life as well as he does. taehyung starts getting used to taking power naps on his favorite couch in his favorite practice room, and it surprises even him how much the company building has started to feel like home.

 

sometimes, jeongguk joins him. the couch is way too small for two people, especially when one of them is as tall as jeon jeongguk, but it doesn't matter. they find a way. it usually ends up with taehyung's back against one end of the couch, jeongguk laying over most of it and settled in between the older boy's legs, head pillowed comfortably on his stomach. taehyung was nearly shocked into silent cardiac arrest the first time the younger arranged himself into the position, but he never said a word and since then it's become kind of an unspoken agreement that this is the best way to sit together.

 

taehyung is an affectionate person by nature. he always has been, because he finds himself constantly craving some kind of physical connection even if he can't explain it.

 

he's seen the way that jeongguk is with the others. he's seen the subtle shrugs of a shoulder to get out from under someone's arm, or the way he downright cringes and fights it when hoseok tries to cuddle and coo over him because look at our jeonggukie, he's so cute and pretty.

 

it isn't like that with taehyung. jeongguk has never shrugged away from him, not even once. instead he settles against him with a kind of ease that, at one point, taehyung wasn't sure he was even capable of.

 

he's capable of it. he definitely is and he's demonstrating that capability now, resting with his head somewhere near taehyung's stomach like always and taehyung's fingers gently, absentmindedly carding through his hair.

 

it's nearing four a.m. they've been working and practicing all night and jeongguk would probably fall asleep if it weren't for the way that his phone keeps buzzing against where it's resting on his chest, keeping him involved in his text conversation. taehyung isn't the kind of person to eavesdrop, but jeongguk is really close and the quiet bzz bzz of his phone keeps pulling him back to the surface, too, every time he starts to doze off.

 

he doesn't mean to look. he really doesn't, but he does. a quick glance doesn't tell him much, but at the same time, it tells him everything.

 

he doesn't catch the name, but he does catch the overabundance of cute emojis and winking faces. he knows that jeongguk isn't put off by it, or he wouldn't be responding. and who is he texting at nearly four in the morning, anyway?

 

"who are you texting?" the words come out sleepy, taehyung's fingers stilling in jeongguk’s hair before he elaborates.

 

"your phone is keeping me from taking a cat nap and i am offended."

 

"i'm sorry."

 

jeongguk sounds every bit as tired as taehyung feels, but he chuckles quietly, amused at the way that taehyung is barely a tone away from whining.

 

"it's just a girl i used to go to school with."

 

the answer is more of a mumble than anything else, and taehyung can't tell if it's because jeongguk is half asleep or embarrassed.

 

he tries not to think too much about it. he tries to ignore the slow, sinking feeling in his chest.

 

but it's hard to ignore the way that jeongguk ignores the next bzz bzz, turning his head with a soft, sleepy sigh instead.

 

taehyung resumes the slow carding of fingers through his hair, and they both fall asleep.


 

▁▁▁


 

taehyung tries very hard not to think about the fact that jeongguk has been texting a girl who uses a lot of heart emojis and winky faces. he tries not to think about what that might mean, but the reality check that comes rolling over him in waves isn't something that he can just put away and lock up forever.

 

it's foolishly optimistic, to hope for anything with jeongguk. he's an up and coming star. he's young and good looking, determined and focused and funny and cute and even if they did have something, when would he have the time for a relationship?

 

he has the time to text a girl, though.

 

taehyung is laying in his own bed, lamenting everything. it's also impossible to ignore the fact that it's gotten harder to sleep here, that he's come to prefer dozing off on the too-small couch with jeongguk's warm weight against him.

 

he's pathetic. he's absolutely pathetic. because absolutely nowhere along the way, while he was busy forming this insane attachment, did he even stop to consider the very real possibility that jeongguk might not even be into guys in the first place. maybe that's what he wants, a nice, pretty girl he can settle down with. any of them would be more than lucky to have him.

 

taehyung stares up at his ceiling with a sigh. it's three a.m. and he's wide awake. he fumbles around in his mess of blankets to find his phone so he can send a text to jimin, the one person who can truly understand his suffering.

 

from: kim taetae

jiminnie, are you awake?

 

the response comes roughly thirty seconds later.

 

from: jiminie cricket ✿

a wild kim taetae appears!

what's up, buttercup?


from: kim taetae

i think i have a crush on the screaming bean

 

from: jiminie cricket ✿

taehyung

we've known this since the showcase, remember?

 

from: kim taetae

no, not like that

it's different now

like, butterflies different

i wanna hold his hand and stuff

 

taehyung bites his lip and lets his phone lay facedown on his chest, considering. everything suddenly feels real somehow. it's like admitting the words out loud to someone else makes it tangible, like he can't just keep ignoring it and hoping for the best.

 

his heart feels heavy, and his phone lights up with a cheerful tone that tells him jimin has responded.

 

only when he unlocks his phone, the text isn't from jimin.

 

it's from jeongguk.

 

it isn't a text. it's another dubsmash video, one he must have just taken in the studio. taehyung recognizes the bright lights and the color of the wall in the background. it's the room with the couch, and jeongguk is being stupid and it makes him laugh.

 

but it also makes his heart hurt. his fingers hover over the keyboard for at least five minutes, trying and failing to come up with something to say.

 

when he doesn't, his screen lights up again. another incoming message.

 

from: jiminie cricket ✿

uh oh.

 

 

from: kim taetae

yeah.

big uh oh.

 

 

 

▁▁▁

 

 

 

jeongguk's eighteenth birthday is set to be kind of a big deal.

 

it's the first birthday in this new circle of friends that taehyung gets to experience. he'd be lying if he said that he wasn't excited, despite any weird and unpleasant feelings that keep lingering in his head and his heart whenever he thinks about jeongguk too much.

 

they decide to have the party at hoseok's place. it's big enough and it's a nice change of scenery, good to get out of the studio and sit around on couches and chairs for once instead of on hardwood floors.  

 

jeongguk still isn't legal to drink yet, but that doesn't stop anyone. they all come armed with enough soju to last the night, and even then nobody gets too trashed.

 

hoseok surprises jeongguk with a horrendously decorated cake and a loud, slightly overexcited rendition of the birthday song. everyone joins in, and taehyung is the first to swipe his finger through the icing and wipe it on jeongguk's face. it's an impulse reaction, but he can't regret it. not when jeongguk laughs and the others join in, not even when his chest squeezes hard at the sight of jeongguk happily sitting on the floor afterwards, eating a piece that survived with icing still in his hair.

 

the drinking games go on for hours. people don't start dropping until around three a.m., either passing out from a mix of the alcohol and exhaustion or calling a cab to get back to their own beds.

 

in the end, by some weird twist of fate, jeongguk and taehyung are the only ones still awake and (mostly) coherent. jeongguk is cute as hell when he's drunk, and surprisingly everything hurts a little bit less.

 

or maybe that has to do with the way that jeongguk leans against him more easily like this, throws an arm around his shoulder and laughs too loudly at nothing. it's endearing, like the way he almost slips and falls and lets out a giggle on his way to get another beer from hoseok's fridge. they decide to share it, even if taehyung doesn't really want to drink anymore, because it's jeongguk's birthday and he isn't ready for it to end yet.

 

"did you have a good birthday?" taehyung's question is genuinely curious, and jeongguk nods, giving a little hum of satisfaction.

 

"yeah, it's good. it was good. i feel good."

 

he lets out another little giggle and taehyung can't help but follow suit, nudging his shoulder against jeongguk's playfully.

 

"there's .... one thing missing, though," jeongguk continues after a moment. his voice is thoughtful, or maybe it's just the slow drag of the alcohol catching up to him.

 

"hmm?" taehyung is bright eyed and curious as always, surprising after so many bottles of soju.

 

"a birthday kiss. that's a thing, isn't it?"

 

taehyung can't help himself. he laughs loudly in surprise, both eyebrows shooting up because he definitely wasn't expecting that answer.

 

"you should have spoken up earlier, before hobi hyung went to bed," he teases lightly, "he would have showered you with kisses."

 

jeongguk laughs too, his usual low chuckle but then he clears his throat, fingers tapping idly at the can still in his hand.

 

"i wanna kiss you, hyung."

 

taehyung is pretty sure that he feels all the breath rush out of his lungs. it's like being punched in the stomach, like before, but in a completely different way. suddenly his stomach is a mess and his heart is pounding and he really shouldn't have drank so much.

 

the silence that follows is loud. it's rushing in taehyung's ears like the thoughts that are jumbling too closely together in his mind.

 

he swallows hard and looks at jeongguk. he's looking right back at him, with those deep brown eyes that are more than familiar by now. his hair is kind of a mess, falling from its usual pushed-back style and it's ironic how it's his birthday but it makes him look younger. like the teenager that he is.

 

taehyung things that he looks adorable like this. he looks sleepy, he looks happy, he looks dazed and out of it and taehyung doesn't even know how much he had to drink.

 

he wants to kiss jeongguk. he does he does he does. but not like this.

 

so instead he settles for a small snort of laughter and hopes that it isn't too forced. he hopes that jeongguk won't notice the flush on his cheeks when he knocks shoulders with him again.

 

"alright, drunky."

 

taehyung takes the can from jeongguk's fingers and sets it aside. he pulls jeongguk up, laughs at the way he almost trips again and his heart skips and soars at the way jeongguk smiles, all teeth and a scrunched up nose and god. he's got it bad.

 

"go to sleep. you'll thank me in the morning."

 

jeongguk ends up on hoseok's couch, with a blanket thrown over him because he can't fight the comfort. it doesn't keep him from whining quietly, like a stubborn child, until taehyung gives in.

 

he makes a show of rolling his eyes, but in the end he leans down and presses his lips to jeongguk's forehead. there's a throb and pull in his chest that he tries to ignore, but it's hard when jeongguk grabs for him blindly when he tries to move away, fingers catching on his sleeve.

 

"hyung." his voice is soft and sleepy and taehyung never knew that his heart could hurt and melt at the same time.

 

"what is it, jeonggukie?"

 

his own voice is a soft murmur. he wants to brush jeongguk's hair back from his face, but his fingers hesitate.

 

"stay with me?"

 

taehyung sighs. it's a bad idea. he knows that it's a bad idea, even if he's drunk. it's bad for his heart and his general well being but he isn't strong enough to say no.

 

"alright, drunky," he teases again, but it warms him all over when they squeeze together on hoseok's couch. it's bigger than the one in the practice room, but it's still too small. jeongguk ends up curled against taehyung's side, his head falling against the older boy's shoulder. taehyung can feel his breath against his neck, the way that it slowly evens out, and he squeezes his eyes shut and tries to remind himself that it doesn't mean anything.


 

▁▁▁


 

promotions come and go with fairly wide success. it's wide enough to keep namjoon happy, to know that this whole korea's-first-solo-screamo-artist thing was a good idea.

 

but that doesn't mean that they get a break.

 

preparations for the next album are starting before the promotions for the first one are even completely wrapped up. their schedules go from crazy to crazier, because now there's even more to do. more songs to rehearse, more album jacket photos, even a music video this time.

 

it's nothing overly spectacular. it's just a lot of makeup and bright lights and confusing instructions from the director, but taehyung can't help but feel like he's got it easy compared to jeongguk.

 

that thought becomes especially clear when he finds him sleeping in his makeup chair between takes, head rolling forward in a position that's definitely going to make him miserable when he wakes up.

 

"jeonggukie."

 

taehyung gently tickles him underneath his chin until jeongguk finally comes back to the world, still confused and bleary-eyed.

 

"you're gonna break your neck sleeping like that. find a couch or something, at least."

 

jeongguk lets out a sleepy chuckle, stretching his arms out and yawning widely. it should probably be unattractive, but taehyung thinks it's probably the cutest thing he's ever seen.

 

he hands jeongguk an energy drink, and jeongguk takes it with a grateful smile.

 

"get some sleep after the shoot tonight, yeah? your pictures won't look good later if you're a zombie."

 

"thanks for the motivation, hyung." jeongguk's words are dry but the slight grin on his lips lets taehyung know that he's kidding.

 

still, taehyung won't tell him that he would actually look perfect in any picture he takes, zombie or not. it just hurts his heart to see him so tired.

 

so he’s pleasantly surprised when he’s walking through the main lobby of the company building a couple of days later, not entirely paying attention to where he’s going until jeongguk crosses his path. it makes him stop, because jeongguk has been here morning and night (or at least that’s what it seems like) for days now.

 

he checks his watch. it’s only six p.m. and when he looks back up again, jeongguk meets his eyes and grins.

 

“hey,” he greets easily, and taehyung pulls out one of his earbuds, offering a confused but sincere smile.

 

“hi, jeonggukie. you heading home early?”

 

it’s a relief as much as it is a surprise, because, honestly, jeongguk needs the rest. the bags under his eyes haven’t gone away and his smiles are still tired around the edges. taehyung can always tell.

 

“yeah, i’ll probably be back in tomorrow. i’ll see you then?”

 

jeongguk is the one who’s asking the question, but suddenly he’s distracted and doesn’t seem entirely interested in the answer. his attention has shifted to his phone, thumb quickly swiping across the screen to reveal something that makes him grin and look up, past taehyung, out the windows that face the street outside.

 

he doesn’t wait for taehyung’s answer.

 

“gotta go, hyung. later.”

 

taehyung turns to watch him go, still curious and confused, and immediately wishes that he hadn’t.

 

there’s a girl standing outside. a girl who jeongguk greets with a smile. they leave together, walking too closely for just friends. or maybe taehyung is reading into things too much.

 

either way, a dull ache settles in the pit of his stomach, and he throws himself into practice for the rest of the night.


 

▁▁▁


 

what taehyung doesn’t know is that jeongguk can’t do it.

 

the girl is nice. she’s nice and pretty and everything that he always thought that he wanted, everything that he used to tell himself he would like in a girlfriend. she likes him and it’s obvious. he used to like her, maybe he still does.

 

she smells so much like perfume. there’s a lot of it, swirling in his head every time he inhales, a sickly sweet scent that threatens to make him dizzy. he much prefers the muted, pleasant smell of taehyung’s fabric softener, the way that it lingers on him sometimes after they take a nap together in the practice room.

 

she’s not a bad kisser. she’s not a bad anything, really, and jeongguk tries. he really does. he tries but he doesn’t want this. he wants short hair and long, slender fingers. he wants tanned skin and chocolate brown eyes that crinkle and turn into crescents. he wants rectangle smiles and a weird sense of humor and a stupid laugh at three a.m.

 

this is all wrong. everything feels wrong, so wrong that his skin is crawling. he doesn’t want this. he doesn’t he doesn’t he doesn’t. he doesn’t want the soft skin under his fingertips, the long hair that his nose brushes against, the way her voice gets high and breathy when she says his name. he wants a low voice, husky the way it gets when taehyung is sleepy or tired and someone who won’t go completely pliant underneath his touch.

 

it isn’t even seven thirty when she leaves. he calls her a cab, pays for it because it’s the least he can do. she looked upset when he stopped her, when he pulled himself away with a muttered “no, no, i can’t do this, i’m sorry.”

 

it’s not you, it’s me. he can’t even get the words out. when she’s gone his mind is still reeling. he knows that he should sleep. he knows that he needs the rest, but he can’t.

 

because he wants it. he wants him. he wants taehyung. he wants he wants he wants and it’s absolutely fucking terrifying.


 

▁▁▁


 

after that day, taehyung doesn’t see jeongguk leaving early again.

 

he stays late, working on stage tricks and making sure that he and seokjin know all of each other’s cues. they practice until it’s second nature, until the muscle memory means it’s practically impossible for them to fuck up on stage or in the studio. when he leaves around three or four a.m., jeongguk is still in the practice room, belting out the notes over and over again like he’s trying to prove to himself that he can handle it.

 

when taehyung comes back in around nine or ten a.m. after a few hours of sleep, ready to do it all over again, jeongguk is still there. it’s concerning when he’s still wearing the same clothes. it makes taehyung wonder if he left at all, even though he knows the answer.

 

that kind of practice schedule is impossible to sustain. jeongguk is only human, even if that’s hard to remember sometimes because he pushes himself and still manages so well that sometimes taehyung wonders if he actually is secretly some kind of robot. he isn’t, and everyone has a breaking point. jeongguk just hasn’t found his yet.

 

but he does.

 

taehyung gets a call from namjoon on a rare day off, one that he took because he was sure that if he didn’t, he would probably just collapse from exhaustion. eight hours of sleep never felt like such a luxury, and he’s in the middle of cooking himself something that’s at least a step up from ramyun when his phone starts ringing.

 

“we have to push back the release.”

 

it’s the first thing that namjoon says after taehyung answers, and it stuns him into silence for a few moments before he can actually respond. when he does it’s less involved than it probably should be and he’s sure that he sounds like an idiot, but what else is he supposed to do with that information?

 

“uh … what?”

 

namjoon doesn’t say anything at first. he just lets out a sigh, but it’s enough. taehyung knows him well enough now to know that something has to be wrong. there’s no other reason why they would just be pushing back a release like this, the release of the album that they’ve all been working their asses off for.

 

“what happened?”

 

this time, taehyung is starting to catch up to the fact that something is up, and there’s something in namjoon’s tone that says he silently appreciates it.

 

“it’s jeongguk.”

 

the first thing that taehyung feels is a horrible weight in his stomach. it’s like someone is grabbing his insides, squeezing and twisting hard and his mind promptly goes into overdrive, imagining at least a hundred horrific things that could have happened to him.

 

“what happened?” he asks again, this time with more urgency in his tone. “is he okay?”

 

“he’s fine,” namjoon says quickly, before taehyung can even have a chance to really start spiraling. “he’ll be fine. he’s just been pushing himself too hard. he’s barely left the studio at all the past two weeks … he lost his voice. he needs to take a break and let it recover before promotions start.”

 

“shit,” taehyung breathes without even realizing that the word slipped out at all.

 

“i know,” namjoon replies easily. “count on at least two weeks before we pick up the schedule again as planned. you should try to catch up on some rest too, taehyung. it won’t do anyone any good if all of you are exhausted.”

 

taehyung ends the call and his appetite has suddenly completely disappeared. he doesn’t really want to eat anymore. the only thing that he wants to do is see jeongguk, talk to him, find out if he’s okay. texting would probably be the next logical step, but the burn in taehyung’s chest is too strong for that. he knows jeongguk. he has a feeling that he knows where he’ll be, if namjoon hasn’t forced him home yet.

 

he turns off the stove and grabs his jacket, heading out the door because food can wait, but this can’t.

 

it’s a good thing that he knows jeongguk so well, even if the younger boy can be mildly infuriating in the things he does at times like this. just like right now, when taehyung finds him in the studio, precisely where he shouldn’t be when he needs to be resting and recovering from what just happened.

 

jeongguk lost his voice, but that doesn’t mean that he has to stop working entirely. at least, that’s the way that he sees it, because the boy has a perfectionist nature that makes even the idea of resting grate at his nerves. he’s already angry. angry at himself for pushing so much, angry at his voice for breaking, angry at the way that he keeps thinking about things that he shouldn’t, wanting too much, so much that even throwing himself into everything in an attempt to leave it all behind hasn’t worked.

 

that’s where taehyung finds him, sitting cross legged on the floor with lyrics and composition sheets spread out in a mess around him. it’s like the day he walked in on him doing homework, only jeongguk wasn’t as tired then. tired all the way to the bone, with the dark circles under his eyes even darker than before, turning a gaze towards the soft click of the door that squeezes taehyung’s chest all over again.

 

“jeonggukie.”

 

taehyung breathes his name out more than anything else. he’s panting softly, like he just ran all the way here, and maybe he did. namjoon must have told him. it’s the only thing that makes sense because taehyung was supposed to be taking the day off, and jeongguk wishes that he had.

 

he would say something. he opens his mouth to try, but then closes it again, swallowing with a wince that’s barely there at all but taehyung notices. taehyung notices every little thing about him, whether jeongguk wants him to or not.

 

jeongguk expects to hear more of the same. he expects nagging about how he should be at home, lectures about how he needs to be resting. he expects a lot of things but none of them include taehyung slowly crossing the space between them, gently nudging a notebook out of the way with his foot before settling down beside him.

 

“jeonggukie,” he says again, because jeongguk is looking away. taehyung doesn’t need to know how it feels when they’re close to each other now, how it’s been feeling for too long to keep track of. taehyung doesn’t need to know that he makes jeongguk feel too much, scared and excited and anxious and sick to his stomach and guilty and so selfish because of everything that he wants to take for himself.

 

jeongguk doesn’t know that taehyung feels the same way, and he isn’t going to just leave at a time like this.

 

“are you okay?”

 

the low timbre of taehyung’s voice rushes over jeongguk in a way that’s familiar, hard to hear and everything he wants at the same time. it’s crazy, ironic how in the midst of everything, taehyung is the first person to ask him that. maybe it’s written all over him. maybe he’s more obvious than he thought, than he ever wanted to be but it’s hard to keep fighting it when taehyung is so sincere and he’s so, so tired.

 

taehyung is close enough. he’s close enough for jeongguk to tip his center of balance, to lean against his side and let his head rest on the older boy’s shoulder. he doesn’t say anything, and this time he’s not sure that he would if he could.

 

he doesn’t have to. taehyung knows jeongguk better than that. despite all of the shared insanity, the times spend laughing obnoxiously, joking and moving around like idiots just to make each other laugh, taehyung knows him. he knows that everything the others said about jeongguk the first day that they met was true. he’s a guarded person, but it’s more than that. he’s a hard worker. he’s stubborn, he’s strong and he’s young but he’s someone who doesn’t settle for second best. he works the hardest out of all of them, because he’s a perfectionist and failure or anything less than perfect just isn’t acceptable. he’s harder on himself than any of the critics ever could be.

 

in some ways, it isn’t surprising. the first hint of something damp against taehyung’s shirt isn’t expected, but he doesn’t call attention to it, either. he just wraps an arm around jeongguk’s shoulders, content to let him stay there for as long as he needs to even if his chest is hurting.

 

taehyung tries to be the kind of person that can be okay with this, with just being here like jeongguk needs, like he thinks that jeongguk needs, without overdoing it. he wants to be, but there’s something that’s itching at him from the inside out and he can’t ignore it. he can’t see his face, but he can hear the small sniffling noises that jeongguk is making, the way that he tries to stifle barely there hiccups and god, it should be impossible for someone to be so adorable when they’re exhausted and crying.

 

he bunches up the sleeve of his sweater over his free hand, quietly grateful to himself for choosing to wear it today. it’s soft and a little too big, perfect for lazy days at home but taehyung has a feeling that it will also be perfect for this. he reaches up and carefully uses the fabric to wipe away at least some of jeongguk’s tears, hoping that the material will soak them up and maybe comfort him somehow. jeongguk doesn’t flinch or push him away, which is honestly kind of a surprise in itself, something else that taehyung is quietly grateful for.

 

jeongguk shifts enough to look up at him, and taehyung can kind of feel his heart breaking. jeongguk’s eyes are big and wet and his throat is dry and suddenly it feels like he’s never been this close to him even though he knows that he has.

 

he wants to kiss jeongguk. he still wants to kiss jeongguk just as badly as he had wanted to kiss him on his birthday. he’s not sure that there’s anything in this world that he wants more.

 

but not like this.

 

even that isn’t enough to completely convince his mind and his heart not to do something stupid and reckless. taehyung is an impulsive person. he isn’t good at hiding what he’s thinking or feeling and there’s something about jeongguk that just makes him want to spill everything out at his feet even though he knows that he shouldn’t.

 

instead, he settles for leaning closer, close enough to gently press his lips high against jeongguk’s cheek. it’s like he’s trying to kiss away what’s left of the tears, or any more of them that threaten to fall.

 

he doesn’t say anything, and jeongguk doesn’t either.

 

taehyung’s heart is pounding and jeongguk just sniffles again and scoots closer, nudging his nose against taehyung’s neck.


 

▁▁▁



 

they don’t see each other for a while after that.

 

taehyung isn’t sure if it’s because jeongguk actually listened and started spending more time at home instead of the studio or if it’s because he did the same thing. it’s nice, having time to himself, getting a fairly normal amount of sleep. he tries not to think too much, tries not to worry too much about jeongguk but it’s impossible.

 

every time his thoughts start to turn to the younger boy, it’s like they can’t stop. he launches himself into overdrive wondering about too many things. is he taking care of himself? is he resting well? was he totally freaked out by the way that taehyung kissed his face?

 

he didn’t seem to be. but then, with jeongguk it isn’t always easy. it hasn’t been easy for a while. taehyung has started to type up at least fifty text messages to him over the course of a week and a half, but he never gets around to finishing them and pressing send.

 

it’s harder than he imagined, being away from the studio now that he’s so used to spending most of his time there. but it’s nice to spend more than just a few hours with jimin. he can’t help being so busy, but it doesn’t mean that he likes being away from his best friend so much. it also gives him someone to share his jeongguk problems with, and he really didn’t realize just how many of those he had until he’s piled up with jimin on his couch just like they were months ago when he announced that he had been hired in the first place. taehyung has probably been talking for at least a solid forty minutes, and jimin is patient and attentive like the amazing best friend that he is, even if taehyung has been exceptionally mia recently.

 

“... taehyung,” is all he says at first, once taehyung has recounted all the details of what’s happened over the past few months.

 

taehyung doesn’t seem to pick up on the tone of his voice, so he leans forward to try again.

 

taehyung.

 

“what?” taehyung’s voice is a mixture of miserable and irritated, even if he isn’t irritated with jimin in the slightest. the only person he’s irritated with is himself, for falling headfirst into this mess and getting so completely involved like he always does.

 

“you’re telling me that you guys were taking naps on a couch together? you were playing with his hair? he stopped texting a girl when you told him to?”

 

“but he met up with her after that,” taehyung reminds him, trying not to pout and failing.

 

“he said that he wanted to kiss you.”

 

“before he met up with the girl. and he was drunk.”

 

jimin gives taehyung a level stare. he’s telling him with his eyes to stop moping, so that maybe he won’t have to actually say it out loud.

 

“he leaned on your shoulder and cried and you kissed his face and he didn’t freak out.”

 

taehyung isn’t willing to give in so easily. “but he hasn’t talked to me since then, either!”

 

“he lost his voice!”

 

jimin sighs and throws his head back in exasperation.

 

“taehyung, people don’t just do stuff like that.”

 

“well … how do you know?” taehyung shoots back, even if he’s already doubting himself and jimin knows that. his resolve was never really that strong to begin with, but he’s known taehyung long enough to know that sometimes he just needs some encouragement, someone to push him in the right direction.

 

“because i know, kim taetae.”

 

taehyung isn’t satisfied. he pouts harder, and jimin can’t help cracking a smile.

 

“jokes aside, you have to talk to him. otherwise you’ll be miserable for the rest of your life, wondering if maybe something would have gone differently if you had just told him how you felt.”

 

taehyung doesn’t say anything. he’s still pouting, but the expression is starting to let up a little.

 

that’s how jimin knows it’s working.

 

“what’s worse, taetae? being rejected but knowing or always wondering what if?”

 

there’s a pause. taehyung continues holding his stubborn almost-pout for a few long moments, and then he drops it suddenly with a sigh.

 

“i hate it when you’re right,” he says, and jimin grins.

 

 

▁▁▁

 

 

 

it’s another couple of weeks before they actually see each other.

 

jeongguk’s voice comes back faster than anticipated, after only about a week, but namjoon insists on him resting it longer so that they don’t end up right back at square one all over again. as a result, taehyung doesn’t see him in the company building, focusing instead on making sure he holds up his end of the new album as well as he possibly can.

 

he misses jeongguk. he misses his smiles and his laughs and the sound of him singing and screaming in one of the other practice rooms, muffled slightly but just loud enough to seep through the cracks.

 

the date for the next showcase is set.

 

jeongguk is sent to a specialist to ensure that he’s actually recovered, that it will be safe for him to perform again and comes out all clear. there’s less than a week to prepare, but he does. he’s diligent and hardworking as always, and even though taehyung can hear his muffled singing filtering through the walls again, he doesn’t see him. he doesn’t try to go after him, either. not yet. jeongguk needs to focus, and after his talk with jimin, he can’t trust himself not to just blurt everything out the moment that they see each other.

 

after the showcase. that’s the decision that he’s made, because he knows that he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he confessed right before their first performance in months and fucked it up for both of them.

 

after the showcase, he’ll tell jeongguk exactly how he feels and hope for the best.

 

time feels like it’s moving too fast and too slow all at once. it’s like a weird sense of deja vu all over again, because they’re at the same venue they performed in the very first night that taehyung met jeongguk, the first night that he joined the band and got swept up in this whirlwind.

 

this time, he arrives with the others. they laugh and mess around in between getting put into stage costumes and made up to look good. taehyung’s stomach is a bundle of nerves, and it isn’t because of the performance. he’s confident in all of their new songs, including the drum break in the middle of the third one in the set. performing in front of hundreds of people, the bright lights and the screams don’t get to him the way that jeon jeongguk does.

 

he still hasn’t seen him, and he still can’t help but worry. he can’t help but wonder if he’s doing okay, though he knows that he must be if they’re here, with showtime in less than twenty minutes. it’s just like the first night. jeongguk prefers to be left alone before performances, but taehyung wishes that he could wish him good luck, assure him that he’ll be perfect just like he always is.

 

when he does see him, it all comes crashing down around him even harder than the first time.

 

it feels like it’s been months instead of weeks. it feels like he’s spent an entire lifetime away from jeongguk, which is absolutely fucking ridiculous and he knows it but it doesn’t matter. because jeongguk looks good. he looks every bit as good as he did the first night that taehyung saw him up close, with his pushed back hair and smudged eyeliner and ripped skinny jeans.

 

he’s okay. he’s okay and they’re on stage again and the second the first beat kicks in, taehyung’s heart is soaring.

 

it doesn’t matter that he’s been a part of this band for months. it doesn’t matter how many times he’s seen jeongguk go through the motions, how many times he’s heard his voice. he’s seen him on music video sets, in studios, backstage and in front of cameras and up close, crying on his shoulder and drunk on his birthday but there’s something about jeongguk that still manages to take his breath away.

 

jeongguk has never stopped amazing taehyung, not even for one second. his energy tonight is like nothing he’s ever seen from him before. the rest must have done him good, because he’s practically glowing, or maybe that’s just a result of the hearts in taehyung’s eyes.

 

either way, he’s amazing. he launches himself into the new material headfirst and doesn’t miss a beat. every note is flawless, every scream shooting shivers up taehyung’s spine. it’s contagious, slipping through taehyung’s veins and everything crashes together into an adrenaline high that doesn’t have as much to do with the music as it does the boy jumping around the stage and giving it his all.

 

when jeongguk is performing, he always becomes one with the music. it’s like he’s drunk on the sound of it, consumed by it and unable to pull himself back long enough to notice anything else.

 

tonight, it’s different. it’s different because he catches taehyung’s gaze more than once, looking right at him and right through him with an intensity that threatens to burn him up from the inside out. the first time it happens, it shocks taehyung so much that he nearly fumbles over the next riff. jeongguk just smirks at him before launching himself into the next chorus with a high kick in the air and taehyung struggles to remember how to breathe properly. he’s more prepared after that, but he never gets used to it.

 

by the last song on the setlist there’s more energy buzzing through the air than taehyung could have anticipated. maybe he’s crazy, maybe he’s too hopeful or maybe it’s the way that seeing jeongguk like this gets him all twisted up inside but he swears that there’s something else, some kind of invisible something flowing between them.

 

he feels it even when the song comes to an end, when jeongguk is giving his thank yous and farewells, when they’re standing to bow and wave to the crowd on their way out.

 

after the showcase. it’s after the showcase.

 

backstage is full of people waiting to congratulate them. namjoon is first, capturing jeongguk in a hug even though the younger boy is drenched in a mixture of sweat and the water he poured all over himself and the crowd. he’s smiling because the show was a success, such a fucking success and “you’re a rockstar, jeongguk, jesus fucking christ.”

 

hoseok isn’t far behind, ruffling his hair and beckoning the rest of them over, too. they end up in a disgusting group hug, because all of them are soaked through their shirts and their hair is messed up and makeup is smudging even more than it already was but it doesn’t matter. because the show was amazing, there’s no evidence of a setback and this is exactly what they’ve been working for.

 

“taetae!”

 

a familiar voice catches taehyung’s attention, and when he turns the last thing he expects is to see jimin standing there. it’s like a strange collision of his two worlds, but it’s a welcome one, one that leaves taehyung laughing loudly and practically jumping on his best friend for a hug.

 

“i didn’t know you were coming!” taehyung yells, because even if backstage isn’t that loud, his ears are still ringing from the show.

 

“of course i came! i wouldn’t miss it for the world,” jimin replies, sounding mildly offended but the huge smile that’s crinkling his eyes makes it obvious that he isn’t. “and besides, that cute tech guy would have let me in even if i wasn’t your friend.”

 

“what?!” taehyung finds himself looking around wildly, his gaze eventually settling on hoseok. when he looks back to jimin his best friend is just grinning, and taehyung can’t keep from laughing.

 

“oh my god, hoseok?! oh my god. you’re serious.”

 

this time jimin really is offended, just a little, and he swats at taehyung’s arm.

 

“who says you’re the only one who’s allowed to be infatuated?”

 

taehyung just laughs, the kind where he throws his head back and jimin has to make sure to keep a decent grip on him so he doesn’t fall over.

 

“okay, okay,” he finally says, bouncing a little on his feet from the excitement and adrenaline still pumping through him. “there’s an afterparty, i’m sure. you have to come.”

 

“i will,” jimin promises. “you were great, taetae. and jeongguk too, he’s really something. did you talk to him?”

 

“not yet,” taehyung says, and he holds up a hand to stop jimin before he can start yelling at him for it. “but! i’m going to. right now.”

 

“good,” jimin says, distracted and looking over taehyung’s shoulder at something.

 

“because he’s coming over here. i’ll see you later!”

 

jimin is gone before taehyung can even properly process the information and react, and the next thing he knows, there’s someone tapping at his shoulder.

 

when he turns around, jeongguk is right there, up close all over again. it sends a shock through his system because even like this, even after a show that’s left them all disgusting and in desperate need of a shower, jeongguk looks perfect.

 

“hey,” he says, at the same time that taehyung starts to say “i need to talk to you.” he gets as far as “i need” before he cuts himself off, both of them looking surprised. jeongguk chuckles and taehyung can’t help being mesmerized by the light in his eyes. it’s like he’s meeting him for the first time all over again. it feels ridiculous, mildly pathetic but he’s got to come to terms with the fact that this is just what jeongguk does to him sooner or later.

 

“jeongguk! taehyung!”

 

they both look up. it’s hoseok, waving them over, trying to tell them to come out to the waiting room.

 

“we’ll catch up,” jeongguk calls back, and taehyung feels his heartbeat start to quicken.

 

this is it. this is when he has to tell jeongguk everything. there are too many words swirling inside of his head, and suddenly he thinks that he should have planned this out ahead of time, should have decided what he was going to say before he was met with jeongguk in front of him and how is he supposed to get all of this out without stuttering or sounding like an idiot?

 

it doesn’t matter. before he can even think about opening his mouth to say something, jeongguk steps forward and kisses him.  

 

it all happens so fast, too fast for taehyung to even properly process what’s happening. jeongguk’s lips are softer than he expected, but the kiss is surprisingly heated, no doubt filled with the same adrenaline that’s crashing through taehyung’s system now with a vengeance. jeongguk’s kiss is so charged that it nearly knocks taehyung over, sending his snapback askew and jeongguk has to steady him with both hands on either side of his face.

 

by the time taehyung’s mind starts to pull itself out of the shock of oh my god, holy shit jeon jeongguk is kissing me enough for him to kiss back, it seems like it’s too late. jeongguk pulls back, breath coming a little faster than normal with big eyes that look just as unsure as taehyung has been feeling this entire time.

 

it strikes him hard, right down to the bone because it’s like that one look is the only thing that he needs. jeongguk doesn’t have to say anything. there are a million questions that taehyung could ask him but right here, right now, the answers don’t matter.

 

what matters is that jeongguk just kissed him. jeongguk is here and taehyung wants nothing more than to kiss the insecurities away and make sure that they never come back.

 

“... i’m sorry,” jeongguk starts, and taehyung realizes with a small jolt of horror that he probably should say something. he needs jeongguk to know how important he is to him. he needs jeongguk to know just how much he wants, how he can’t stop thinking about him, how he’s the most perfect thing that taehyung has ever seen and he should never, ever be sorry for something like kissing taehyung because taehyung wants jeongguk to keep kissing him for the rest of his life.

 

instead, he shakes his head and presses a finger to jeongguk’s lips. his other hand reaches for the front of jeongguk’s shirt, curling into the fabric even though it’s damp with sweat because it doesn’t matter. nothing matters more than this.

 

“shut up,” he says, and his voice is breathless but there’s a grin tugging at his lips that melts away whatever hesitation was lingering in jeongguk’s eyes.

 

taehyung pulls jeongguk closer, close enough that their noses are almost touching. his heart is still pounding and he’s aware of everything, of the way that jeongguk’s fingers are resting at the nape of his neck, the smile on his lips that reveals those adorable teeth and the insane feeling that this is too much, too good to be true.

 

but it is true. it’s true and it’s right here, right now.

 

“do it again.”

 

jeongguk does. he kisses him hard, free hand dropping, wrapping around taehyung’s waist to pull him closer. taehyung’s fingers slide into his hair, he laughs into his mouth and there’s no amount of adrenaline, no performance high that could ever come close to this.