“I wanna go to the moon someday,” Taehyung says.
Jungkook snorts. Doesn’t look over at him. They’re lying in the grass and Jungkook has his eyes closed, soaking up their little patch of sun, bees and ants bumbling drowsily all around them.
“’m serious,” Taehyung says.
“Yeah,” Jungkook says without opening his eyes. “I know. You told me before.”
“You wanna come?”
“To the moon? Whatever the fuck for? There’s nothin’ up there.”
“There’s lotsa stuff up there. Rabbits.”
“Ugh,” Jungkook says. He rolls over in the grass, bits of straw stuck to his hair and to the back of his jacket. Conversation over. “Stop bein’ weird.”
Taehyung grins up towards the sky. He likes baiting Jungkook. This is always how their conversations go: absurd, tangential, quickly getting away from them, slipping through their fingers like something alive. Mostly Taehyung is inclined to let it run, but Jungkook prefers to chase things down - what did you mean by this, or this, or this, you know what you just said doesn’t make any sense?
Taehyung doesn’t like making sense. It’s too easy. Why make sense when you can make trouble?
And besides, there are rabbits on the moon, Taehyung’s checked.
“We should go,” Jungkook says. “We get back any later and Namjoon’s gonna be pissed.”
“Since when d’you care what Namjoon thinks?”
“Fine. Seokjin’s gonna be pissed.”
Jungkook gets up slowly. You can’t really move fast in this heat. Taehyung doesn’t budge for a while, stays on his back just to watch Jungkook unfolding overhead. Four perfect, slender limbs. That arch of his neck. How silent he is. Whenever Taehyung gets up from the floor or from a chair or from whatever all his joints groan like he’s in need of a tune-up, a change of oil, the full service. Jungkook moves like he’s made of air.
Jungkook nudges him with a boot, then grins and digs the toe of it into his ribs. Taehyung swears.
“Up,” Jungkook says.
“Why are you telling me this?” Jungkook says, annoyed.
“It’s a story. You said you couldn’t sleep.”
“Bullshit. You said you had somethin’ important to tell me.”
“This is important. The queen’s dead. You don’t think that’s important?”
Jungkook sighs down the phone line. “It’s two in the morning, hyung.”
Okay so the queen is dead and everybody is very sad because now the king wants another queen but he’s developed this new complex for virgins and he just keeps on executing them the morning after so he can have a fresh one every day or something, which really just goes to show what an insecure asshole he is because if you have to end up killing a woman to make her faithful then really -
“Hello?” Taehyung says, eventually. Softly. Testing the waters. “Jungkook?”
There’s no reply - just the sound of Jungkook’s breathing, deep and slow. As regular as the tide.
Taehyung smiles in the dark and hangs up.
He knows this. Everybody knows this.
He thinks even Jungkook must know this, because Jungkook is clever, the cleverest little thing that Taehyung has met.
Jungkook has never said anything about it though. Jungkook is by nature very sly. Coy with his secrets. There is also a part of Jungkook that is capable of immense cruelty, which is why Taehyung has never said anything about it either; Jungkook’s teeth are very pretty, very white, but they’re also very sharp.
“Dunno why you keep listenin’ to him,” Jimin says.
Taehyung opens his mouth to answer. It’s a bad decision. Jimin is holding a hose.
“Don’t try making excuses,” Jimin continues, while Taehyung stands there choking and spluttering and swallowing water. “Y’know he’s just gonna get you in trouble, and you still do it.”
“You’re the one who wanted me to drink it.”
“Yeah, drink it, not fall right into it. Took me fucking forever to make the stuff.”
It’s not like Jimin to grumble like this. It’s Yoongi’s fault. That bleached, unreadable little vampire. For the past few weeks Jimin has been listless, drifting about like a ship unmoored. Taehyung sympathises.
“I asked him to go to the moon with me,” Taehyung says.
It’s testament to their friendship that Jimin doesn’t even bat an eye. “Sure, Tae. He would’ve loved that.”
“He did. He even believed me, about the rabbits.”
“Whatever you say.”
I want that for you, Taehyung doesn’t say. Because it’s nice. At least with Jungkook Taehyung knows where he stands: Taehyung says weird things, Jungkook tolerates it, they have a thing worked out that perhaps isn’t optimal but at least it’s there. At least they both of them know the score. Unrequited love, and all that.
The problem with Yoongi is that he doesn’t really talk. You can’t know the score when there’s no-one taking it down.
“I don’t got any dry clothes with me,” Taehyung says, once he’s well and truly soaked.
Jimin throws the hose aside. “Shoulda thought of that before you jumped in the bathtub, idiot.”
“Can I borrow your jacket?”
Jimin looks at him. His eyes widen. “Don’t - ”
Taehyung tackles him.
Jungkook has a lot of bad ideas, but he likes to pass them off as other people’s bad ideas. What if we tried, wouldn’t it be hilarious if, why don’t we - ? Most of the time these end up as Taehyung’s bad ideas because it’s Taehyung who gets arrested, Taehyung who ends up walking into an ambush with his hands in his pockets and whistling, but Taehyung doesn’t mind. Getting beat up in the name of love is a well-established part of the hero narrative.
“I know a place,” Jungkook says, and instead of getting suspicious Taehyung just says, “Sure. Where?”
This is how they end up crashing an underground poker game.
Jungkook gets them in. They don’t have a dollar between the two of them but somehow they’re both sitting at the table. To be honest Taehyung doesn’t even know how to play poker.
“Raise,” Jungkook says, and Taehyung wants to laugh, because Jungkook looks so serious.
The man sitting beside him scowls. “You sure you wanna do that?”
“Yeah. ’m sure.”
It’s a bad call. Jungkook loses spectacularly, and then everybody realises that they can’t pay a dime, and then Jungkook flips the table - which is hilarious - and they’re out the door, pelting down the pavement, getting chased by a bunch of pissed-off demi-gangsters like something in a B-grade film.
“Why does this keep happening,” Taehyung pants as they skid around a corner.
Jungkook peeks behind them, laughing, then picks up the pace. “What?”
“This. All this - running.”
“What, can’t handle it? You gettin’ old on me?”
“Pfft,” Taehyung says. In reality he has a really bad stitch in one side but he’s not about to let Jungkook in on that, he’d never see the end of it. “Bet I make it home ‘fore you do.”
“Sure, old man.”
“Disrespectful little thing,” Taehyung mumbles. But he doesn’t say it too loud.
Jungkook is gorgeous in motion. Like a brushstroke, or a gunshot. The wind whipping at him. The blood in his cheeks, the gleam of trouble caused and relished in his eyes, gorgeous in a way that makes you wince.
Taehyung forgets he’s even running. There are times when Jungkook does this to him; they’ll be walking along the street talking about Namjoon’s last attempt at making dinner and something will happen to him, a whole-body shiver at the base of his spine like distant thunder, like a firestorm on the way. He can’t really control it. He’s pretty sure that last time he nearly walked into oncoming traffic.
“Hey,” Jungkook hisses at him, grabs his sleeve. “Where the fuck you going?”
“It’s this way, idiot. You’re gonna run us all the way down to the docks.”
“Sorry.” Taehyung grins and Jungkook rolls his eyes. “Sorry, sorry.”
It’s good weather for it though, he doesn’t say. A dip in the ocean. The sharp, sudden sting of salt. The way you don’t really know you’re drowning until you’re drowning. It’s a neat little metaphor for being in love.
Taehyung appreciates metaphors. Even if no-one else does.
“Wait,” Jungkook says. “Stop. I don’t wanna hear it.”
“You gonna do this every night now? I got better stuff to do than listen to you blatherin’ on like this.”
“Like what?” Taehyung says. He settles back against his pillow.
“Like sleeping,” Jungkook says. “It’s two in the fucking morning. Again.”
“But you’re not sleeping. Isn’t that the point?”
“Yeah, Tae, I can’t sleep because you keep on - ” Jungkook sighs. A rush of frustrated static crinkles down the line. “Never mind. Can’t you at least tell me stuff that’s relevant?”
“Relevant to what?”
“I dunno. To you. To me.”
“It’s all relevant. This is me tryin’ to be relevant.”
“Ugh,” Jungkook says. “You’re ridiculous. I’m gonna hang up now.”
Jungkook doesn’t hang up.
Taehyung doesn’t harbour any illusions. The first time Jungkook comes back looking like he’s been put through a mincer Taehyung knows. They all do. They all have fathers. Taehyung’s left pretty early on in the game but he gets what it feels like, the bone-deep sense of betrayal, of love somehow running the wrong way.
He falls asleep at the foot of Jungkook’s bed, wakes up to Jungkook nudging him.
“Jesus,” Jungkook says. It comes out a bit mangled - there are stitches in Jungkook’s lip. “What you doing?”
Jungkook ignores this. “Aren’t you cold? Why you on the floor?”
Taehyung is on the floor because Taehyung knows by instinct not to touch him. No sudden movements. No getting between Jungkook and the only door.
“Jesus,” Jungkook says again. “C’mon. You can’t stay down there.”
So they end up in Jungkook’s bed. Taehyung on the side against the wall, tucked in tight and cramped beneath the covers; Jungkook lying on top of them so that their bodies don’t touch, so that not even the blankets can get in the way of escape if escape is required.
“I meant it,” Taehyung says.
“You just gotta say the word. I’d do it.”
“He’s my dad,” Jungkook says.
So what, Taehyung wants to say. Evil stepmothers get torn apart by wolves all the time.
They don’t sleep for the entire night. They don’t talk, either. Taehyung counts the spiderweb cracks on Jungkook’s ceiling, commits them silently to memory. Counts the in and out of Jungkook’s breath.
Dawn insinuates itself through Jungkook’s window, filling the room with unbearable light.
“Hey,” Yoongi says. “You ‘kay?”
Yoongi is alright. Taehyung actually likes him. Everybody is a bit scared of him because Yoongi knows his way around a phrase, an insult, can cut you to the bone as easily as framing a sentence, but Yoongi’s heart is in the right place. Probably.
Taehyung shrugs. Sits down. “Yeah.”
“Wanna talk about it?”
“Want a cigarette?”
They light up in plain view of the nurse’s station, which gets them kicked out. But it’s fine. Taehyung needed an excuse to get out of there anyway. All that white, all the discreet whirring and the beeping, the lines snaking out from Hoseok’s wrist like veins; Taehyung had felt something building inside him, had fought it and fought. He gulps the smoke into his lungs.
“Did you really kill your own brother, hyung?” he finds himself saying.
Yoongi blinks at him. “What?”
“Sorry. Never mind. Not my business.”
“No, it isn’t,” Yoongi says. Taehyung watches as he blows smoke out the side of his mouth, a thing Jimin has been trying to copy for weeks now. “But yeah. I did.”
Taehyung can’t imagine it. He’s seen Yoongi mad, but never that mad. Yoongi has that untouchable air to him, the sense that you’re viewing him through a pane of bulletproof glass.
Taehyung clears his throat. “How did it feel?”
“To kill him?” Yoongi says. “It felt good.”
Not in the way you’d normally use that phrase - Scheherazade told stories to actually stay alive, night upon night. Fairytales and fables. Myths and the schemes of distant kings. Minotaurs and magic, doors that opened when you tricked them, genies that appeared in the lives of poor people to grant three wishes, anything you wanted, anything at all. Just say the word and it’s yours.
It sounds very glamorous, but all that talking is pretty exhausting. All that invention, the endless postponement of truth. Just one more hour, Scheherazade’s heart whispered to the oncoming dawn; just one. Just a little longer. Please. This one will do the trick, I promise.
Once upon a time there was a boy and his name was Kim Taehyung and one morning when he came down to breakfast he found his mother had hung herself from the kitchen door with his father’s belt.
No. Start again. Wrong story.
Nobody wants to hear that one. Sing something happier. Don’t look so desperate.
Once upon a time -
Okay, so it’s not a real blackout. He knows where he is. Or rather he knows where his body is, which is to the right of the rest of him, tilted like a camera out of focus. And he knows what his body is doing.
He just can’t seem to make it stop.
“How can you stand it?” Seokjin asks, but Taehyung doesn’t mind it. Not really.
It isn’t something Seokjin would understand. You can tell the story however many ways you like but spinning straw into gold is still an alchemically impossible equation. You can’t just wish yourself onto the moon.
Deep down Taehyung knows he’s not the hero in this narrative at all. He’s the werewolf. He’s the thing hidden down in the basement. He’s the monster lurking out in the woods with a palmful of candy and a toothy smile.
Still. Sometimes it’s nice to pretend.
“Hurry up. C’mon, you’re gonna miss it.”
“Where the fuck we goin’ anyway?”
“You’ll see,” Jungkook says.
Taehyung sighs. He clambers over another cluster of rocks. It’s coming on to evening and a chill is descending everywhere, clouds dividing the sky up into a checkerboard.
“If you’re dragging me this far just to see a sunset or somethin’ I’m gonna be pissed,” Taehyung says.
“Pfft,” Jungkook says. “As if.”
They emerge somewhere overlooking the docks. A little outcropping of boulders just above the water, salty shrub pushing up from the soil all around them. They’ve managed to miss the sunset by a matter of minutes. The breeze comes in from the sea, slaps them in the face.
Jungkook plops down on one of the rocks hanging over the water. “Sit down.”
“Why? We’ve missed it already, haven’t we?”
Jungkook grabs a fistful of the bottom of Taehyung’s jacket, yanks him earthward. “I said, sit.”
It’s actually quite nice. They way their thighs barely touch. The way the palette of the sky above them cools by degrees, thin mauve then indigo then dusk. The streetlamps of the city blinking on one by one. The way the light catches on Jungkook’s hair, on the points of his shoulders, on the zip of his leather jacket; dirty light, smudged and bent all out of shape by the approaching dark.
Taehyung gets that feeling again - the one that feels like he’s falling when he’s not actually falling. I would slay dragons for you, and all that. All the air rushing out of him like he’s been slugged in the stomach.
“Stop lookin’ at me like that,” Jungkook says.
“I love you,” Taehyung says.
Jungkook wrinkles his nose. “Ugh. Tell me somethin’ I don’t know.”
They swallow their grins in the dark. Out on the water an incoming ship blows its horn and birds reel out of the shrub all around them, a sudden explosion of movement and sound.
“I love you too,” Jungkook says.
No, Taehyung says. I wouldn’t.
But deep down he knows he would.