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The Days We'll Never Get Back

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1

 

Kim Taehyung is young when he decides he knows everything, everything, there is to know about love. He would call himself a genius, but he doesn’t actually know that word yet. 

He’s at the blossoming age of six years old.

He doesn’t know how to describe the giddiness he feels, doesn’t really know how to call it love, isn’t really sure if he wants to either. So, he settles for the warmth that spreads throughout his entire body when he thinks about the things that make him happy.

A lot of things make him happy.

Butterflies.                 

Oh, he loves butterflies.

His puppy. His, his own puppy! Taehyung loves his soft white fur, but doesn’t like the way he barks a lot. It doesn’t make him happy, but he lets the barking happen anyway since it seems like his puppy looks happy. His name’s Soonshim.

His mother and father.

Taehyung adores his parents. Taehyung deems with all his knowledge of love that his parents are in the Real Kind of Love. They are incomparable and their passion for each other is undeniably so strong, even Taehyung sees it.

He’ll learn over time that he’s always had an eye for these kinds of things. The beauty of the world. Taehyung sees a whole lot of pretty in things that shouldn’t really be all that nice to look at. Maybe he’s just an optimist. Maybe he’s just young. He doesn’t care.

All he cares about right now, is that the sweltering heat of August is too much for Taehyung.

He is sitting on the steps of the porch, the underside of his thighs heating up against the warm wooden panels. His small feet swing back and forth, grazing the next step that he isn’t able to get past yet. He’s on the smaller side of children his age; all skinny and light as feather. Taehyung could go anywhere he wanted to.

His heart was the biggest part of him. Truly, admittedly. It was the part that would always weigh him down the most. He didn’t know it then, how could he at such a young age? He would learn it at some point. Taehyung would learn that he could run from most things but he could never run from what he’s bound to.

He didn’t know about this yet. Wouldn’t know for a while.

Right now, Taehyung is waiting for lemonade. His mother promised him a drink to pass the unbearable heat.

If he had to be outside right now, he would want to be running with Soonshim. He looked on with jealousy, as the small thing ran incessant circles into the grass, never seeming to tire out. Taehyung was getting antsy sitting around.

There were too many things to see, too many places Taehyung wanted to go to, although he was restricted to the confines of the front lawn.

He couldn’t even really go on the lawn, since his mother told him that it was just too hot for him outside at the moment. At the midpoint of the day, his parents would never risk him getting a sunburn, although he really didn’t care about getting a few more colours of the rainbow etched into his skin. Taehyung wanted to be colourful. Instead, his mother tried to compensate by letting him sit on the porch and enjoy some warmth.

Taehyung doesn’t care about enjoying some warmth. He was mad for about two fifths of a second, before his mother coaxed him into understanding with the idea of a sweet drink. Lemonade was his favourite drink in the entire world although it was very, very sweet. His mother didn’t let him have it too often, but it was summer now, and everything was just nice.  

His mother was beautiful. So, so beautiful. Taehyung never had a doubt in his mind that his mother was an angel. She took care of him, like all the times she’s made sure that Taehyung never fell asleep in his ice cream bowl, which he was very grateful for. Since the last time that happened, his hair got all sticky and it took an hour for his mother to brush the tangles out.

He gives his mother a lot of hugs. Shows her a lot of affection. Taehyung always sees his father make his mother smile, and he decided that he wanted to do that to.

He would do anything to see people happy. Anything.

At six years old, he isn’t in love. He also doesn’t think he’s going to marry his mother, much like the other kids his age. Taehyung used to wrinkle his nose at those comments, since he couldn’t understand why someone would want to separate the love between their parents, only to get in the way. He hated getting in the way. Taehyung doesn’t know who he’s going to love, but he’s going to one day. He’s excited.

Now, his father was sitting beside him on the porch steps. Taehyung hadn’t even heard him coming closer, until he felt the solid warmth against his left side. It was way too hot outside, but Taehyung couldn’t resist the urge to cuddle himself into his father.

Taehyung loved him too. His father was a quiet man, but a happy kind of quiet. When he spoke, he spoke kind words of praise or encouragement. He was never angry, only upset sometimes. That made Taehyung sad, since he didn’t like the bad feelings. They twisted and twirled around in his belly like shoots and ladders snakes that often made him cry.

Taehyung has learnt that he does not like to cry.

Vows to never make anyone cry.

“Ten more minutes, okay?”

His father’s deep voice permeates Taehyung’s thoughts, twinging them slightly with anxiety. He doesn’t like time limits. “Why, daddy?” He asked, the tip of his shoe kicking into the step below him.

“It’s too hot outside. Even for the dog.” His father explains gently and evenly, staring out at the expanse of greenery that led to the road and the other houses across from theirs.

Daegu Suburbia is burning under them today, its paint chipping and curling at the edges. Taehyung doesn’t really like it here, feels like there are a lot of secrets buried under the layers of manicured and clean cut grass. Taehyung is too young to feel as conflicted as he does, but he’ll learn to get used to that.

“But it’s nice outside.” Taehyung protests only half-heartedly, since he was kind of tired and he didn’t know why his mother was taking so long with his lemonade.

“You can get a sunburn, Taehyung.” His father’s reply came with no change in his tone. “So, only a little longer. Then we’ll go back inside.”

Taehyung nods his head obediently, his tiny hands moving to grip the edge of step. His fingernails dug into the wood, getting small chips of paint to flake off, and his father would be upset with him for ruining the coat slightly, but Taehyung didn’t mean to. He was just bored.

Finally, finally, his mother comes back with his glass of lemonade, and a different drink for her and his father. Adult drinks. Taehyung pays no notice, he’s elated.

This moment is special to him. He’ll treasure this forever and ever.

His mother moves to sit on the other side of him on the stairs, wrapping her arm around his shoulders and tugs him to her. Taehyung complies happily, absolutely adoring snuggles. He’s a clingy child, he needs constant physical reassurance. His parents weren’t really sure why, but they didn’t mind showering him with affection if it meant that he felt better and most of all, loved.

“Thank you, mommy.” Taehyung whispers somewhat excitedly as he grabs the cup of lemonade.

“You’re welcome. Don’t spill it, baby.” His mother coos gently, steadying his hands and running fingers through his hair gently. Taehyung takes a huge sip, feeling the cool drink slide down his throat, slightly sour, but it was his favourite.  His mother smiles down at him fondly, her eyes crinkling into small lines that resemble the laugh lines of her cheeks. Taehyung decides her face is just meant to be happy.

He’s enthralled, loves the way she treats him. Loves the way people show him love. Taehyung leans upward and kisses the bridge of her nose. Sticky lemon lips are puckered sloppily, but his mother smiles nonetheless, his father looking on at the scene gently.

“Yah, Taehyung!” He beams joyfully. “You’re going to be quite the ladies’ man when you grow up!”

His mother grins happily at her husband’s comment, watches the way their small son looks up with pride. “Really?” He asks excitedly, drinking down more lemonade. His puppy is still running around and Taehyung wonders how it hasn’t exhausted itself yet.

“Of course!” His father chuckles happily. “You’re going to find a great girl one day.”

Taehyung contemplates that for a moment. He wants to love someone really well.

It occurs to him that he has a whole lot of love to give. Taehyung should try to give it to anyone he can. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a girl.

“Or a boy.” Taehyung responds quietly. “Anyone.”

He lifts the cup up to his lips one last time, to get the rest of the lemonade. The brim hits the tip of his nose, obscuring his vision, and he misses the look his father gives his mother over his head.

Misses the glare. The anger. Taehyung doesn’t know about that just yet.

He misses his mother’s worried glance, shaking her head at her husband lightly, as his jaw clenches tightly. He looks away, sipping at his beer, scooting just the slightest bit farther from his son.

Taehyung does feel the hand his mother presses against his head, bringing his cheek to rest against her shoulder.

Doesn’t miss the words she whispers to him when she thinks his father isn’t listening.

“You can love whoever you want, Taehyung.”

 

2

 

Taehyung is eight years old when he meets Jung Hoseok. He’s the new boy. Taehyung’s new neighbour. And God, is he beautiful.

Taehyung finds out the week before September starts, before school is back in session, that Hoseok will be attending the same school as him. They won’t be in the same grade though, since Hoseok is a full year older than him, he’s in grade four.

Taehyung is still in grade three, but that doesn’t bother either of them.

The minute the moving truck pulls up to the stoic, stark white house right next to Taehyung’s, the young boy was jumping around in glee. He didn’t even know who was moving in, but he was already bouncing off the walls.

His old neighbours hadn’t even been gone all that long, but they were boring. An old woman and her husband lived there. A few months back, her husband passed away, and the woman was moved closer to her family, leaving the large house vacant for the most recent while.

Now, there were new people for Taehyung to meet.

His brain was reeling in every single direction, as his small feet scampered around the living room in circles. “Mom! Mom, Mom!” He calls excitedly. Both his parents are looking out the window to see if they can catch a glimpse of the new-comers. “Mom! I want to see!”

Taehyung is still short, unfortunately. He hopes he won’t be for long, but as of now, he still looks seven, which he isn’t.

His excitement courses directly from him into his dog, who began barking happily as well. The noises no longer bothered the boy, who preferred it when his dog was loud.

“Taehyung, quiet down.” His father replies sternly. He didn’t see why his father had to use that tone with him. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He wasn’t even talking to him.

“But listen,” He implores. “What if there’s a kid? What if I can play with someone! What if they have a puppy? Do you think that ours will get along with theirs? I mean,”

“Taehyung, shut up.”

The running around the living room stops suddenly. His mother’s head whips around at what was just said. The dog barks again but the air around them is thick.

She looks between her son and her husband, who is still looking out the window as though he hadn’t just told his eight year old son to shut up.

Taehyung practically curls in on himself, doesn’t know what to say. His father had never, ever, said that. Taehyung knew that it was bad, so why would his dad tell him that?

He’s embarrassed that he was annoying everyone. Taehyung’s bottom lip quivers heavily, more focused on his own sadness than the new neighbours. He didn’t want to cry. He wasn’t a crybaby.

“Taehyung,” His mother’s voice is gentle and dangerously calm. “Go to your room, okay? You’re not punished.”

Taehyung shivers in his skin, before nodding rapidly and taking off towards the staircase. He steals another glance at his father once he reaches the top of the stairs. From this angle he can see the bottle his father’s fingers grip around the neck tightly, and Taehyung shudders again. He sits down at the top of the stairs, as quietly as he can. His knees brought up to his chest, Taehyung wipes the tears from his eyes as he watches his mother and father. He wants to see what’s going to happen because of what his father said. It wasn’t fair.

Only when she thinks that Taehyung’s safely behind his bedroom door, his mother steps away from her husband. “What the hell were you thinking, talking to Taehyung like that?” Her voice was no longer as calm, the anger she had been supressing suddenly boiling forward.

She receives no answer from her husband, who keeps staring out the window. Watching as the movers began unloading the car, although the owners of the house had yet to show themselves.

“Hey!” Her voice is hard, cold. Taehyung didn’t like hearing his mother talk like that. That wasn’t the way she ever spoke to him. Yet there was something about her tone that made it seem to him as though this was not the first time she’d spoken like this.  “Answer me. Answer me! Why would you talk to your son like that?”

Taehyung curls into himself tighter. They weren’t supposed to talk to each other like this.

Our son,” his father began, his voice booming, slurred around the corners. “Was annoying me.”

Annoying? He was annoying?

“Minjoon,” Her voice is positively dripping rage. “You can’t possibly get mad at him for being a kid. Don’t bring him into this.”

“Into what, Seohyun?” His father’s grip tightend around the bottle, before swigging it a few times. “What are you trying to pick a fight about this time?”

But they never fought.

Taehyung’s mother shakes her head, frustrated. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but you better shape up.” His mother steps forward again, much closer to her husband’s turned back. “You’re drinking and it isn’t even noon.”

“Shut up and leave me alone, Seohyun.”

That just hurts Taehyung even more. He isn’t sure if his father’s overly intoxicated voice or his tears were blurrier.

His mother reaches for the bottle. A quick dash of her hand and it was over before it started. His father whirls around, knocking her away from him. Physically shoving her away.

His mother stumbles back, Taehyung’s mouth hangs open. He was taught that using force against someone was wrong.

Did his father just hurt his mother? Was she hurt?

An expression of severe shock is plastered on her face, and Taehyung couldn’t bear to look on any longer.

Taehyung tries to get into his room as quietly as possible, without stumbling too much, although the tears in his eyes make it quite difficult.

Tripping through his room, he moves towards his window, which he lifts and pushes open. It wasn’t easy, he used all of his body strength, but with the window up, he could sit against the ledge somewhat comfortably.

Taehyung felt like he was floating this way. His parents were downstairs, their attempts at keeping their anger hushed were futile. He didn’t understand what was going on. He had never seen either of his parents act like that towards him, towards each other.

Taehyung was growing up, but he was still convinced that his parents loved each other so much. Now, he let himself dangle slightly from the windowsill.

He’d done this before. His tiny frame just the perfect size to not be falling off the edge of his second story bedroom window. If his mother found out, he would be in huge trouble, she would probably lock his window shut, so he always hopped down before she could come in his room. Taehyung didn’t like lying to his mother. Yet for some reason, he didn’t really care all that much at the moment. He’s never wanted to be farther from his house than now.

Taehyung his resting his head in his hands. He tries to slow his breathing slightly, and force the tears to retreat back into his eyes. He wants his mom, but there’s something really wrong right now, and he’s too old to be crying anyways. He was just being stupid.

He annoyed his father and then his mother had to try and defend him. Taehyung wants to ask what’s going on, but he doesn’t want to get yelled at again. He just wants to be told everything’s going to be okay.

“What are you doing?”

Taehyung’s head snaps up, thinks he’s dreaming. There’s no one around him, since he’s thirty feet in the air, but someone was talking to him.

“Over here.

His neighbours’ house has a balcony. A small little one, four or five feet away from Taehyung’s window. It didn’t really have all that much room, except to take three steps out of the house, and then two steps back in. But there was someone on the balcony, and that’s what Taehyung wasn’t expecting.

It was a boy. He was wearing shorts and a tank top, his converse laces tied wrong, and Taehyung isn’t really sure how that’s even possible. Looking over the boy’s shoulder, he can see boxes upon boxes. The new neighbours.

This boy was beautiful.

Taehyung unknowingly wipes his hand under his eyes one more time. “Hello.” He answers quietly, no longer really caring.

“Hi,” The boy answers, his elbows resting against the ledge of the balcony. His teeth sparkle in the glinting sun, and slim fingers run their way through his chocolate brown hair. Taehyung is actually stunned momentarily. “You never answered my question.”

Taehyung looks over at him curiously. “What are you doing?” The boy asks again.

“Oh,” Taehyung’s face flushes at his own incessant stupidity. “Nothing, I’m just,” searches carefully for his words. “Thinking.”

“What about?” The boy asks, and he sounds generally interested. Taehyung doesn’t want to talk about it, doesn’t want to cry again. He shrugs lightly.

“Nothing important.” He answers. He lifts his legs up onto the windowsill. He’s small enough for his body to fit nicely in length. “Are you the new neighbour?” He asks quietly.

The boy nods warmly. “Yeah, that’s me! I’m Hoseok!” The boy, Hoseok, smiles kindly at Taehyung extending his hand over the railing of the balcony.

Taehyung stares at it curiously for a moment, before he reaches his own hand over, closing the distance in an awkward handshake. “I’m Taehyung.” He replies, Hoseok’s thumb grazing against the back of his hand and it sends tingles down his spine.

“Nice to meet you, Taehyung!” Hoseok answers brightly. “Why were you upset before?”

Taehyung almost forgot his sadness. His expression clouds noticeably, since Hoseok is leaning over the balcony a little more, intrigued. “It’s nothing.” Taehyung answers instinctively, wonders why he’s lying so much when it’s wrong. But he can’t be bothered to care because his parents are still shouting downstairs, and Taehyung doesn’t know if his mother is hurt and if his father is in big trouble for being mean.

There’s a lot that’s upsetting Taehyung but he lied and said nothing.

“People don’t just cry for no reason,” Hoseok’s voice sounds light and knowledgeable. He seems older than Taehyung so he trusts that he’s telling the truth. “People cry when they’re sad.”

Taehyung doesn’t know what’s compelling him to spill everything to Hoseok. He doesn’t even know this kid. Although, he had envisioned their first meeting as very different than what was happening now. Hoseok looks really happy, and Taehyung really isn’t, so why should he burden him with his problems?

“It’s just my dad.” Taehyung whispers almost inaudibly and he’s shocked that he even said it at all. He almost cries again at the realization that he’s blaming his father for everything. He’s blaming his father for something that was Taehyung’s own fault.

“Is he a bad dad?” Hoseok asks gently, and Taehyung decides that he likes the way Hoseok speaks to him. Likes the way Hoseok can ask questions gently without unsettling Taehyung too much.

Except this one does unsettle him. His hearts drop into his stomach and fresh tears fill his eyes. His dad, no, no, he wasn’t bad. He was a good person, he was a good dad. He would never want to hurt anyone. “N-No,” Taehyung stammers. “He’s not.”

Is he a bad son?

“Maybe he was just being a little mean, then.” Hoseok suggests, placating the boy, and Taehyung nods slightly.

Maybe he was just being a little bit mean, yeah.

“How old are you, Taehyung?” Hoseok asks him, his smile never faltering once.

Taehyung wipes his eyes again, feeling stupid for crying. “I’m eight.”

“Ha!” Hoseok’s exclamation startles Taehyung slightly, who almost jumps from the windowsill. “I’m nine! I’m older than you!”

Taehyung frowns, doesn’t like the way he gloats. “That doesn’t matter.” He huffs, somewhat annoyed.

“What grade are you in?” Hoseok asks, now super interested in this conversation.

“Grade three…,” Taehyung is skeptical as to where Hoseok is going with this. The older lets out a squeal of excitement which just proves that Taehyung is going to be belittled.

“I’m going into grade four!”

“O-kay.” Taehyung tries not to pout, tries not to let this ruin his mood even more. His waves of frustration die out quickly when he hears Hoseok laugh.

His laugh is the most amazing thing Taehyung’s ever heard. Heavy, kind of loud, but so, so, wonderful to listen to. Hoseok is beautiful and his smile is beautiful and his laugh is actually a masterpiece.

Taehyung loves Hoseok’s laugh.

“You’re cute, Taehyung.” Hoseok’s voice is sweet, really relishing in the whole twelve months of superiority he has over him.

Taehyung wrinkles his nose at the compliment. He’s not cute. He’s eight.

A woman’s voice that Taehyung does not recognize starts calling Hoseok’s name. They have the same accent, he figures she must be his mother.

“I have to go.” Hoseok says, looking back behind him and shouting to his mother that he’ll be down in a second. “Daegu is nice, I hope I like it here. Nice to meet you again, Taehyung!”

“You too.” Taehyung answers quietly. He’s happy, just slightly somber.  He rests his head against the ledge of his window, and he’s aware that Hoseok hasn’t left yet.

“Hey,”

Looks like they aren’t done talking, because Taehyung turns his head again, to see that Hoseok is ready to leave, but still watching him. “Do you go out on your window often?”

Taehyung nods excitedly. “When it’s warm. Even when it’s not warm! I’m always out here.”

Hoseok smiles fondly at the other boy. “Good! See you soon, neighbour.”

Taehyung’s heart flies out of his body and soars into the sky.

---

Taehyung gets off the windowsill an hour later, the sun having set slightly over the horizon. He hadn’t gotten out of his room, waiting until his mother tells him the coast was clear. Although, he didn’t like the fact that he was awaiting a call for safety in the first place. Nothing was supposed to be dangerous.

He had waited a few more minutes after Hoseok went back inside, just to make sure that the other boy wouldn’t come back out. Taehyung didn’t want to miss him if he did.

Once his heart had settled itself back into the hollows of his chest, much to his mild concern that it had fluttered that badly in the first place, he went to lie down on his bed. His parents were still arguing, although now it was mostly his father yelling.

His mother wasn’t saying anything, actually.

Taehyung didn’t know what to do. He’s panicked. Now that Hoseok isn’t here to distract, he can’t help but think that his parents were arguing with each other, they were mad at each other, they were mad at him.

Taehyung didn’t even hear when rapid footsteps on the stairs turn into a gentle knocking on his door.

“Taehyung?”

His mother’s sweet voice, so different from the venom she was seething just an hour before. She calls out to him, as she opens the door and steps into his room gingerly, almost afraid to break something.

Taehyung looked up at her, didn’t want to keep looking at her. Didn’t like what he saw.

Apparently his mother had been crying, a lot. Tear tracts trail down the length of her face, dripping down to rest along her neck. She doesn’t look that warm to him anymore, and it’s the first time Taehyung’s felt anything remotely close to wanting to just leave. Go anywhere.

“Taehyung,” His mother’s voice appeases at the sight of her son, curled up at the edge of the bed. She moves rapidly towards him, almost startling him.

Why was she so anxious?

Taehyung’s apology comes out rushed and jumbled. “I’m sorry.” He whispers against her neck, when she pulls him against her tightly. She’s still shaking.

“Don’t apologize, baby.” She stammers, her hands smoothing over his hair repeatedly. “It’s not your fault, okay?”

Taehyung isn’t getting it. It is his fault. His father got angry with him, and then-and then he took it out on his mother and-

“Taehyung,” His mother’s voice is gentle. Snaps him out of his thoughts. Taehyung looks up at her with wide eyes, and she looks away, doesn’t like to see how innocent they are. “It’s not your fault, I’m telling you. Okay?”

Taehyung doesn’t really believe it. “Okay.” He concedes finally. He can’t hear his father downstairs and he wonders what happened. “Then, whose fault is it?”

His mother tenses, her hands still on his head. Taehyung, for the first time, wants to shove her away. Wants things to just stop being so awkward and he doesn’t even know why.

It takes his mother more than a few moments to answer his question. “Mine. It was my fault.”

Taehyung blinks at her curiously, confusion written into every inch of his expression. His mother looks so sad, and he doesn’t understand why because it’s clearly not her fault.

“It’s not!” He voices his thoughts, shaking his head rapidly. “It’s not your fault!” For a second, he’s almost angry. Why would his mother ever do something worth getting hit for?

“Taehyung,” Her voice shakes when she tries to speak. “It was my fault.”

Taehyung’s going to keep at it, except his mother silences him once again. “I provoked him, okay? Do you know what that means, Taehyung?”

Taehyung shyly shakes his head that, no he doesn’t know what provoke means.

“It means I bothered him until he did something not very nice.” His mother explained, her voice still shaking. Taehyung doesn’t want to look at her, hopes she isn’t crying.

Again.

“But Mom,” Taehyung is still trying and his mother secretly hopes that that part of him will never die. “Hitting is wrong.”

Sobs.

Taehyung hears his mother sob but doesn’t look up, because he doesn’t want to give condolences. Because he doesn’t understand why he’s consoling, or why he was told to shut up, or why is father suddenly became so cold.

“I know it’s wrong,” His mother whispers to him, her hands once again winding their way into his hair. “B-but it was my fault, okay? T-Taehyung?”

He doesn’t answer her, simply accepts the embrace his mother offers him. His eyes scan outside the window, hoping to catch a glimpse of Hoseok on the balcony again, or at least inside his new room. There’s nothing.

Taehyung wonders if he’s just dreamed everything. But he didn’t. Because he’s still sad and his mother is still crying, and Hoseok’s boxes are right there, and his father is downstairs shouting something which is making Taehyung only slightly concerned.

He barely notices when his mother starts whispering to him again. “W-When your father g-gets like this,” her voice is rushed and unsolid. “Y-You have to l-leave him alone, okay? J-Just let him b-be angry.”

Taehyung doesn’t protest this time, since his mother sounds downright terrified, although he doesn’t really understand why. His mother acts as though his father has always been like this.

Taehyung swears he hasn’t.

“Don’t you ever get in his way, Taehyung, n-not for anything.”

Taehyung wants to know why she sounds so scared.

“Okay.” He answers her gently, letting her continue.

“J-Just,” Her voice cracks again at the same time that her husband’s beer bottle collides with the wall downstairs. “Just let him be upset.”

Taehyung snuggles closer to his mother because he doesn’t like thinking that people that he loves are upset. “We should give him hugs.”

His mother downright cries into his hair then, and Taehyung is taken aback. “Don’t say that again, Taehyung.” His mother sounds terrified. “Don’t you ever, ever, go near your father when acts like this. Don’t you ever. Promise me, Taehyung.”

Taehyung doesn’t want to promise. He doesn’t want to keep secrets behind his father’s back, except his mother is so upset that he can’t just say no. “Okay.” He answers again. “Okay, I won’t. I promise, Mom.”

His mother sniffles silently. “Good boy.”

They’re silent for a little while.

Just Taehyung being held by his mother, and it feels really nice because she’s all warm and comforting, and he can’t help but be happy. And he’s so excited about who he just met that he can’t hold it in any longer, even if he wanted to.

He doesn’t.

“Mom,” He practically jumps in her lap. “Mom, I met the new neighbour!”

His mother pulls away from the long hug to look at her son quizzically. “You did?”

“Yes!” Taehyung’s voice raises in excitement. He’s too excited now, even though he’s gone through every single emotion under the sun in less than two hours.

His mother was going to ask how that was even possible, since her son’s bedroom was on the second floor, but his bright smile and eager chatter cut her off. She would never get tired of Taehyung’s incessant happiness.

“Mom, his name’s Hoseok and he’s nine years old and he’s so nice and he’s so so pretty!”

His mother flinches when another bottle shatter downstairs.

 

 

Taehyung is twelve years old when he learns that he can jump from the ledge of his window to Hoseok’s balcony.

Five feet.

It’s only five feet separating the two of them, and Taehyung finds that to be just a little too far away. Hoseok insists it really isn’t, but Taehyung begs to differ. He thinks he’d never be able to make that jump. He thinks he’d fall and break his ass before he even managed to grab onto the ledge of Hoseok’s balcony.

Taehyung doesn’t know how desperate he’ll be to get out of his house when he finally succeeds the jump.

He doesn’t know it yet. He will.

For now, Taehyung is sitting on the grass of his backyard. He’s cross-legged in front of Hoseok, who is trying to hold down the blanket they’re using to lay out all their Pokémon cards. The wind is blowing around them and Hoseok is worried because Taehyung what if they all blow away and we have to start our collections from scratch again.

It’s warm for the beginning of April, but there is the slight cold chill that comes by every few minutes, rattling Hoseok to the bone, although Taehyung doesn’t feel it. He doesn’t really notice the things he refuses to acknowledge.

Hoseok does. Of course he does. How could he not when Taehyung shows up at his door at nine in the morning, knocking bright and excited, wearing only shorts and a t-shirt and asking him to come play outside.

“It’s warm out, I swear!”

A lie.

A huge lie because now Hoseok was freezing his ass off in the middle of Taehyung’s backyard, except he wouldn’t say anything because he really wanted to spend time with him. He wanted to see Taehyung happy, and being outside seemed to do that.

“I don’t understand why we can’t just play inside.” Hoseok had whined at first. Taehyung barely shot him a glance as he shook his head and set the blanket down on the grass.

“I don’t want to go inside right now.” It’s the only time Taehyung looks remotely put off.

“Are they,” Hoseok trails off dumbly, frankly because this topic makes him nervous. The way Taehyung looks up at him from between his fringe, only slightly interested in what Hoseok has to say also makes him nervous. “Are they fighting?” He finally asks, knowing it’s a sensitive topic for the Taehyung.

“Oh.” They both quiet down and Hoseok regrets saying anything. Wants to shove himself face first into the dirt and just never come out.

“They’re fighting, yeah.” Taehyung answers quietly. “But it’s okay.”

It’s not, really.

“I just want to play.”

“Yeah,” Hoseok agrees, breathing out a sigh of relief as Taehyung isn’t running away from him. “Let’s play.”

Taehyung and Hoseok are best friends. Truly. Ever since the day they’d met on the windowsill, they’ve been nearly inseparable. They would spend all day together, and then when they had to go back inside, they would simply keep talking to each other from their bedrooms.

Neither of them realized how wonderful being around each other could be.

Even when Hoseok teased Taehyung for being just a smidge younger than him. Or when Taehyung tossed tiny pebbles at Hoseok’s window because he wanted to play ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ at ten o’clock at night. They were best friends, even though Taehyung’s parents didn’t really want them to be.

To be fair, Taehyung’s parents didn’t really care about who he hung out with. They were always behind closed doors, no matter how many times Taehyung had tried to get them to come outside and meet the Jung’s. They always refused, and then his father seemed to get pissed, so Taehyung just dropped it. It’s their loss anyway, since Taehyung loves Hoseok’s parents.

They’re super nice and welcoming to Taehyung, especially the first time that he ever comes over to Hoseok’s house and he’s nervous that they won’t like him. They do. They really do.

Taehyung doesn’t really know why, but they always make him feel loved when he goes there, and it hurts him when he has to go.

He doesn’t get that at home. Doesn’t get that anywhere else.

Tae,” Hoseok whines and he’s snapped out of his thoughts.

“Yeah?” He asks, thumbing over the cards he’s holding.

“Did you hear me?” The brunet snaps jokingly. “I asked if you took my Blues Eye White Dragon.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes at the question. “That’s not even Pokémon,” He answers, deflecting the question.

He does have Hoseok’s Blue Eyes White Dragon, he just doesn’t want to give it back.

“Doesn’t matter!” Hoseok continues, although when Taehyung looks up at him, he’s greeted by a warm smile. Hoseok is happy and this is good.

“You’re right, it doesn’t. Now, come on, let’s play!”

They play for hours. They play until the sun rises completely, and have only now taken a lunch break. So far, Hoseok’s won three out of four matches.

Now, they’re lying on their backs in the grass, and Hoseok will begrudgingly admit that it’s gotten warmer and Taehyung was right to come outside and play.

“How do you like high school?” Taehyung asks him suddenly, still looking up at the sky.

It’s not like they hadn’t spoken about it before. It was a big topic in their friendship. Hoseok insists that the one grade gap between them didn’t change anything. Taehyung was worried nonetheless.

“What if you find new and better friends?!” He had worried out loud, not even noticing Hoseok’s frown of distaste. “What if you forget me?!”

“What?” Hoseok blurted out, an incredulous laugh toying it’s way into his words. “Taehyung I could never!” The younger seemed slightly appeased. “You’ll be in High School soon!”

“But now you’re thirteen,” Taehyung had insisted and Hoseok wanted to shake him because why was he so stubborn? “And that’s a huge difference.”

“Taehyung,” He reiterated, grabbing onto Taehyung’s shoulders and making sure they were eye to eye. “I was twelve not even half a year ago. You’re going to be thirteen soon too, stop stressing. You’re my best friend.”

Taehyung had smiled so wide at that. He was missing three teeth at the time, and it was the cutest thing Hoseok had ever seen. They hugged tightly and Taehyung almost cried on Hoseok’s shoulder but he didn’t want to be a baby.

Now, well into the school year, Taehyung rarely ever asked how school was. It was almost over though, and Taehyung was curious.

“It’s good.” Hoseok answers somewhat blandly. “It’s really not that different.”

“Do you do cooler things?” Taehyung asks him, blinking up at the clouds.

Hoseok shifts so that he’s resting on one elbow, facing Taehyung. “What do you mean, cooler things?”

“I mean, like,” Taehyung shifts so that he too is resting on his elbow. “Are you super popular?”

Kinda. Hoseok wants to say, but he doesn’t because that would be boasting. Still, people like him at school, since he’s funny and kind. So, that’s good!

“Why does it matter?” He replies with a shrug, and he notices Taehyung looking away slightly.

“It doesn’t. I just wanted to know.” He answers, falling silent afterwards.

They can’t be silent for too long. Because the sound of Taehyung’s father yelling permeates everything.

“Will they ever shut up?” Hoseok questions out loud, and Taehyung’s head whips around to gape at him.

Did Hoseok just swear?

The older boy’s about to feel bad for swearing, but then he realizes that Taehyung is smiling. There’s an excited glint in his eyes that excites Hoseok as well because if anything, he looks impressed.

“You swore.” Taehyung hushes, scooting closer to his friend because this a huge moment.

“That’s not even a bad one.” Hoseok retorts, a grin playing on his lips and he can almost feel Taehyung’s breath hitch in his throat.

“No way.”

“I swear.” Literally.

“Like what?” Taehyung asks, searching Hoseok’s eyes for any indication that he would keep swearing.

Should he? It was a bad word.

This was Taehyung. He knew every single swear word under the sun anyways, since he’d heard his parents say them multiple times. Why he had never bothered to use them on his own accord was something Hoseok had asked himself a few times, since kids younger than Taehyung were swearing. Maybe it had to do with his parents, maybe he just didn’t need to swear. Either way, Taehyung was intrigued, he’d never heard someone else say them.

Fuck.

Taehyung’s whole mind stops.

He was expecting shit, crap, hell.

But not, fuck.

He was enthralled.

Before he could even stop himself, Taehyung had erupted into excited laughter, and his hands flew up to cover his mouth. Hoseok began laughing alongside him, practically rolling in the grass because this was the most rebellious they’ve ever been. Besides that one time Hoseok had snuck Taehyung some sandwiches, because his parents had created a warzone downstairs and he hadn’t had supper yet though it was nearing nine o’clock.

“You didn’t!” Taehyung guffaws, instinctively looking behind him to make sure that no one had heard him. His dog looks back at him from the porch with bored eyes, and Taehyung isn’t concerned that he would say anything.

“I did!” Hoseok beams back excitedly.

“Do people swear like that in High School?” Taehyung keeps asking his questions. Hoseok nods.

“A lot.” He adds.

Taehyung bursts into giggles again, resting down against the grass. “What else to big kids do?”

Hoseok rolls his eyes. “Don’t say big kids, you’re almost my age, dummy.” Taehyung just shrugs. “I don’t really know, it’s not that differenter.”

“That’s not a word.” Taehyung interrupts, wrinkling his nose.

“Taehyung you couldn’t spell ‘extraordinary’ until last week.”

“Stop, you promised you wouldn’t mention that!”

Hoseok begins laughing again, loud and bright and it hits Taehyung directly in the heart. It almost hurts him.

When they finally quiet down, Hoseok remembers something else.  A subtle thought at the back of his mind that really isn’t all that important, except Hoseok kind of wants to tell him anyways.  “Oh yeah, everyone’s kissing each other now too.”

“What?” Taehyung answers rapidly, completely forgetting the swearing. “Really?”

“Yeah. It’s weird.” Hoseok continues.

He doesn’t get why people are so obsessed with trying to be grown up now. But that seems to be what everyone is doing.

“Do they even like each other?” Taehyung asks. He was taught that you kiss people that you love or at least like.

“I don’t even think so!” Hoseok answers incredulously. “They just do it for…fun, I guess.”

“Is it?” Taehyung asks, cocking his head to the side slightly. “Is it fun?”

Hoseok blushes widely. “I wouldn’t know.” Taehyung’s eyes scan his reddened face. He looks cute. “I haven’t kissed anyone.”

“Do you want to?” Taehyung keeps wondering out loud.

“Maybe,” Hoseok answers, somewhat mumbled. “If everyone says it’s cool.”

Taehyung is silent for a few moments, and Hoseok can practically see the gears turning in his brain. He’s about to ask what he could possibly be thinking so hard about but he doesn’t get the chance.

Taehyung sits up, turning to face Hoseok. “Sit up.” He orders, very focused.

Somewhat uneasily, Hoseok does as told and faces his friend. “What’s going on?”

It seems fun.

It seems really fun, and hearing Hoseok talk about everyone getting kissed makes Taehyung want to kiss someone. He wanted to be ahead of the game and kiss someone before he was even in High School.

Besides, he really likes being around Hoseok. He likes everything Hoseok does. He just wants to kiss him. A lot.

So he does.

Mustering up his twelve year old courage, Taehyung leans forward and grips Hoseok’s slightly bony shoulders. He barely registers the other boy’s look of surprise before he closes the distance between them and presses his lips to Hoseok’s.

It’s nice. It’s sweet. Taehyung’s lips are puckered too tightly, and Hoseok isn’t really pressing back enough, but he isn’t pulling away. He doesn’t really have time, since Taehyung lets go after a few seconds, sitting back.

Hoseok’s cheeks are flushed a shade of red that Taehyung has never seen before. He reaches his fingers up to touch his lips, a small smile playing on them.

Taehyung is beaming proudly because he can still feel a slight pressure on his lips and a part of him wishes he was kissing Hoseok again.

“You just stole my first kiss!” Hoseok squeaks, covering his blush with his hands.

Taehyung looks at him somewhat curiously. “Was it bad?”

“N-No!” Hoseok stammers. “It wasn’t bad. I just wasn’t expecting you to kiss me!”

“Well” Taehyung smiles. “You said it would be fun, and I wanted to try!”

They were quiet again, Hoseok stealing quick glances at the other boy occasionally. “Was it fun?” He asks softly.

Taehyung smiles widely, giggles bubbling up from his chest. “It was lots of fun. And hey, you stole my first kiss too!”

Hoseok frowns. “I didn’t steal it. You kissed me.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes and goes to fumble with his playing cards again. “We’re still friends, yeah?” He asks very gently.

Hoseok looks over at him incredulously. “Why wouldn’t we be? Because we kissed?

Taehyung nods shyly.

“Nope.” Hoseok answers confidently. “That doesn’t bother me at all.”

Taehyung smiles widely again. “Good! Good. It doesn’t, um, bother me either.”

They don’t have time to keep playing again, because Taehyung’s mom comes out onto the porch within the next ten seconds, darkening the mood.

Taehyung is sad at the fact that he wishes his mother wasn’t there.

She looks wrecked.

Her hair appears as though it had been pulled and grabbed at, and there were more tears soaking into her cheeks. Taehyung had seen too many tears.

Hoseok looks over at Taehyung when he catches sight of his mother, because, why in the world would she look like that?

“Hello Hoseok.” She greets somewhat coldly.

“Hi.” He mumbles softly, looking down at his hands.

“Taehyung,” His mother’s voice is shaking and Taehyung just wants her to leave. “Say goodbye and come inside now.”

Taehyung’s heart drops lower than he could’ve felt. He doesn’t want to say goodbye to Hoseok. But he has to.

Hoseok leans over and hugs him tightly. He tilts his head so that his mouth is angled at Taehyung’s ear. “Meet me at your window.” Taehyung nods subtly and returns the hug, before collecting his Pokémon cards and standing up.

Hoseok helps him clean up and even folds the blanket, before getting ready to leave. “Can you give me back my Blue Eyes White Dragon?” He asks, as he walks towards Taehyung’s backyard gate.

Taehyung just grins. “Sure.” A lie. It’s a lie.

Hoseok just grins back. “Bye Tae, bye Ms.Kim.”

His mother simply nods and tries to subtly swipe at her cheeks, before gripping Taehyung’s shoulder and pulling him inside the house. He didn’t even get to say goodbye to Hoseok.

Taehyung was about to complain, but figured it wasn’t worth it when he saw the state of his kitchen and living room.

It was a mess.

He was surprised that he hadn’t even heard the sound of the couch being tipped over from outside. Or the glass from the coffee table being beaten through.

Or maybe the cabinet doors ripping of their hinges.

The contents of his refrigerator spilling out everywhere.

His father still wreaking havoc.

“Taehyung, don’t look.” His mother hisses into his ear, as she pushes him gently towards the stairs.

“Seohyun!” His father’s voice is terrifyingly loud and sad and Taehyung is a little bit scared.

His mother is a lot scared.

He can see it in the way her eyes widen when she catches sight of her husband. Her husband who doesn’t even have the decency to compose himself in front of their twelve year old son.

It isn’t the first time Taehyung’s seen him like this anyways.

He’s young, not an idiot. He doesn’t really know if he’ll get why this started happening though, or when it did. Since it wasn’t an overnight change, it was progressive. It frightens him to think that they had this coming, and he didn’t even know it.

Taehyung understands that his father gets angry for no reason, there’s never a reason, and how he always takes it out on his mother. How she rarely ever fights back. Only fights back to defend Taehyung, never herself.

They were arguing about him earlier.

Taehyung just pretends that he doesn’t notice when his mother gets shoved around. When she gets hit, when she cries.

He pretends to not notice because his mother’s relief is palpable when he acts like everything is okay. It’s not.

It’s more than obvious that things aren’t okay. Except his mother protects him from his father, too much at times, and Taehyung is going to have to deal with that. His mother does it out of love anyways.

It’s funny to him, because those are the same words he’ll find curling upwards from his father’s drunken mouth, whispered harshly against his mother’s skin when he’s finished being angry with her.

But that can’t really be love. Can it? Taehyung doesn’t think his mother likes being in love if that’s all that she’s going to get. He thought there was more to it.

And why was his father angry all the time? Why was he always drinking? Why was he so violent? Taehyung remembers, barely a handful of years ago, when everything was good and happy and he just wants to know what changed.

Was it him? Did he do this?

Taehyung swore he would never hurt anyone ever, if his mother was any example to how they would react. He hated seeing his mother like this. And this was the only time he ever saw her.

“Taehyung, room, now.” His mother’s voice is urgent and now Taehyung can see that his father is looking at the two of them.

Taehyung nods rapidly and takes the stairs two at a time. He doesn’t want his father to start shouting again, he wants his mother to be okay.

He doesn’t tell Hoseok about this.

He doesn’t tell him about the hitting. Because his mother calls that a family secret, and Taehyung doesn’t really want to break her heart even more and tell someone. Although, he wants their secret to be silenced.

Taehyung wants all the fighting and all the crying to stop.

Once he’s in his room, he doesn’t have time to close his door before his mother is coming in after him. She shuts it though, resting heavily against it.

“Is everything okay, mom?” Taehyung asks, sneaking a glance out his window to see that Hoseok is in fact on the balcony and waiting for him. He shakes his head subtly and Hoseok looks confused, before nodding and going back inside.

“Everything’s going to be fine, baby.” She hushes to him, although she’s out of breath and there are still tears on her face. Her cheek looks swollen.

“Is it dad?” Taehyung mutters. Stupid question. Of course it is.

“He’s just in a bad mood.” She dismisses rapidly, but Taehyung is no stupid kid and he knows that his mother is lying to him. You don’t just hit people.

“I have to go downstairs and clean up in a few minutes,” His mother continues. “But tell me about your day with Hoseok, did you have fun?” How could she possibly be talking about that now?

Nonetheless, Taehyung smiles brightly at the mention of his best friend, and then blushes because oh my shit they had actually kissed like ten minutes ago.

“I did.” He answers sheepishly, twiddling his thumbs together. Taehyung is overcome with the sudden urge to tell his mom what happened, since he’s so excited and his mother is his number one confidant after Hoseok.

She’s the only other person who doesn’t find him overtly weird and actually cares for him.

Huh.

“What did you do?” She asks, forcing a smile for the sake of Taehyung’s even bigger one. “We played Pokémon which was cool.” Taehyung pipes up. “Except I kept losing.”

His mother’s laughter lifts his pout. “That’s half the fun of playing, Taehyung!”

“I guess it’s because Hoseok has like, a bigger brain or something. Since he’s older.”

Taehyung moves to sit on the edge of his bed, his feet swinging back and forth. His mother sits next to him, wrapping an arm around him and pulling him close. Despite most kids pushing away their mother’s affection at his age, he loves hugs. Besides, he only gets hugs from his mother when his father isn’t around.

“Maybe,” His mother muses. “Maybe he’s just a lucky player.”

“Luck has nothing to do with it!” Taehyung explains, almost exasperated that his mother doesn’t know the logistics of a Pokémon battle. “It’s all strategy.”

“Alright, alright,” his mother gives in. “Maybe Hoseok’s just a really smart Pokémon player.”

“He’s really nice, mom.” Taehyung blurts out, and he’s not entirely sure where that came from but it isn’t wrong.

“I don’t doubt that.” She replies calmly.

“You should meet him.” Taehyung ventures for the billionth time. “Or his parents! They’re so nice, too.”

His mother simply doesn’t answer at that, since Taehyung doesn’t know that his mother can’t leave the hell she’s living even if she wanted to.

“I’m glad we have good neighbours, then.” She whispers tersely, her lips pursed into a thin line. “What else did you do?”

Taehyung fidgets, wavering between telling and not telling. “Um, secret, okay?” he asked, his voice barely over hushed tones.

“What did you do, Taehyung?” She asks, her face not full of playfulness, only concern, although he can’t see that since he’s too busy looking anywhere else than at his mother.  

Taehyung breathes in deeply, before finally looking up at her. His eyes are positively sparkling with excitement. “Mom, I kissed Hoseok!”  

His mother’s face manages to drop even more at what Taehyung just revealed to her, even though his smile is only getting bigger.

“Taehyung!” She snaps, her voice angry, although her face is screaming terrified. “You did not!

Taehyung frowns. This wasn’t how he expected this to go. “I did…” He trails off, unsure of what his mother is angry at him for.

His mother is up from his bed now, stealing anxious glances at the door every few seconds. “Taehyung, why would you do that?” She hisses, moving to grip his shoulders and force him to look at her.

Taehyung cringes at the touch, but feels bad that his mother is stressed out. “Why can’t I kiss Hoseok?”

His mother positively reels at that. “Don’t you ever say that again, never, Taehyung. Not in this house.”

“But why!” His asks, his voice raising as well. His mother shushes him rapidly, before crouching down to be at eye level with him.

“Taehyung,” She starts, panicked and dangerously quiet. Why is she angry? “I don’t want to hear another word about this.  Don’t you dare say anything else.”

“But mom,” Taehyung is almost crying even though that’s stupid of him. He’s pissed off that his mother is getting all riled up because he kissed Hoseok. “Is it because he’s a boy?”

Taehyung!” His mother practically spits on him with the fervor of her words. “Don’t say anything else.”

He doesn’t. Taehyung shuts up right there, although he’s still confused as to why his mother is shaking.

“How am I going to tell your father?” She mutters out loud. “How am I supposed to tell him that, huh, Taehyung?” He cringes.

“Don’t tell him then!” Taehyung pleads. “Don’t tell him.”

“I have to.” She looks sad. “I have to tell him.”

Taehyung doesn’t answer her, just looks out the window sadly, catching a glimpse of Hoseok sitting on his bed.

“Just stay in your room and don’t come out, okay, Taehyung?” His mother instructs him. “You don’t come out at all until I tell you to.”

“How long is that going to be?” Taehyung practically snaps at her. “Why do I have to spend all my time locked up in here!?”

“You’re too young to understand.”  She bites back at him, before rising to her feet. He really isn’t. He’s not stupid, he knows. “Now, don’t you dare leave your room.”

Taehyung doesn’t answer, simply waits for his door to open and then close again, before going to his window. He reaches into his pocket for some pebbles he picked up, and begins tossing them at Hoseok’s balcony door.

It catches his attention, and Hoseok smiles, before moving to open the door. “Come over!” He implores, and Taehyung shakes his head. “You wouldn’t have to throw pebbles if you just knocked.”

“I told you, the jump is dangerous.”

“You like dangerous!”

“I don’t like falling and dying, Hoseok.”

Hoseok frowns at his friend’s somber attitude. “What’s up with you? I saw your mom talking to you. What did she say?”

Taehyung shakes his head, unwilling to talk about it. “It’s nothing important.”

It was the most important thing to ever happen to him and why does nobody even give a shit.

“If you were closer I would give you a hug.” Hoseok contemplates. “You look like you could use one.”

Taehyung laughs lowly at that, before remembering something. “Wait one second!” He gets off his windowsill and retrieves the Blue Eyes White Dragon from under his pillow. Sitting back on the ledge, he sees Hoseok smile and reach out to take it.

“Here.” Taehyung gives it to him, his chest swelling when he sees how happy Hoseok is.

“Thank you.” The older boy breathes out. “Now, I’d really hug you.”

They spend the next two hours talking. Talking about absolutely everything and nothing. They talk until it’s supper time and Hoseok is being called down to go eat. Taehyung still hasn’t been advised to leave his room, although his parents are strangely quiet downstairs.

“Are you going to eat too?” Hoseok asks him, already halfway back into his room. Taehyung shrugs.

“Soon, I guess.”

“Do you want me to bring you something?” Hoseok offers. Taehyung shakes his head.

“It’s fine, thanks.”

“Okay, well, see you later!” Hoseok says brightly, as he leaves Taehyung alone on the windowsill.

He isn’t there for very long, until he hears his father’s thundering voice from downstairs. So much for being quiet.

And it’s with a blood-chilling realization that Taehyung hears his father shouting his name.

Although, he isn’t telling him to come downstairs, no, his father’s voice is coming closer to him. Booming up the stairs and he can faintly hear his mother shouting in the back.

Should he be scared? Should he?

When his father bursts into the room, practically breaking the door off its hinges, Taehyung is scared. He had had the right mind to get off the ledge, now he was seated on the ground under the window.

“Taehyung!” His father shouts, glaring at him from the doorway. Taehyung can already smell the alcohol on his breath, and he tries to make a game of counting how much he had had to drink.

He doesn’t have time to think when his father stalks over to him, standing tall and furious in front of him.

Minjoon!” His mother exclaims when she sees her son recoil. He looks so small next to her monster of a husband.

“Dad,” Taehyung knows what this is about. Except he wishes he didn’t.

“Shut up.” His father snaps, before grabbing at his shirt collar and yanking him up. His mother shouts from the doorway and Taehyung is fucking terrified, god, this man isn’t his father. “You like kissing boys, Taehyung?!”

Taehyung cringes at the statement. It’s shouted into his ears, all booze and anger. He’s practically off the ground with the height is father is holding him at.

“Answer me!” His father screams and shakes him.

“It was just Hoseok!” He exclaims rapidly, as if that’s going to make things better, and over his father’s shoulder he can see his mother crying.

“Let him go, Minjoon!” She sobs, trying to extending her hand to Taehyung.

His father practically growls at him. “You like being a fucking faggot?!

Taehyung doesn’t have time to gape at his father’s insults, before the side of his father’s hand is colliding with his face.

The swipe is quick and harsh. Taehyung can practically feel every single bone in his father’s hand making direct contact with his ear and his left cheek and it hurts.

His mother screams at that. “Don’t you dare!” She moves forward, although his father doesn’t even let go of Taehyung as he shoves her, hard.

She falls.

Taehyung is crying, might’ve been crying this entire time. Crying a lot because his father just hit him and he’s still hurting and his mother is on the floor now. He almost misses the other slap his father delivers to him, before shoving and dropping him to the floor.

Taehyung is hyper aware of the blood dripping from his nose onto his upper lip. He tries to stop crying, to hold in his tears. Except his father is still screaming and the ringing in his ears is too loud.

“You fucking disappointment!” He roars, looking feral. “Don’t you dare bring that shit into this house, ever again!”

Taehyung brings his knees up to his chest, in an attempt to conceal himself if his father tries to hit him again.

Hit him.

His father hit him.

“My son is no fucking fag.” He snaps, before glaring at them both on the floor and exiting the room.

It takes his mother only a few moments, then she’s scrabbling to get to Taehyung. He’s curled himself into the corner of his room, crying into his knees.

“Taehyung,” His mother whispers, her voice shaking. “Taehyung, baby, I’m so sorry. Oh god.” Her hands tremble as she manages to lift his face out from hiding. Both his cheeks are swollen, with a nice bruise already forming on the left side of his nose.

“I’m sorry.” She whispers to him, trying to reach out and hold him but he moves away from her.

“What did I do?!” His reaction is delayed. He shrieks at her. “What did I do?!”

“Nothing!” His mother rushes to console. “You didn’t do anything.”

Numb. Taehyung isn’t getting it. “Leave me alone.” He answers, doesn’t even know why. He doesn’t know why he can’t stop shaking.

“Taehyung,”

“Leave me alone!” His shouts at his mother, hates the way she jumps at that but he can’t stop. “Leave me alone! Get out! Please! Get out!

His mother sobs at the sight of her son pushing her away, but within the next minute, she’s forcing herself up to her feet and leaving his room. She could’ve done more, maybe, but he doesn’t want her to.  

Taehyung cries don’t cease as he pushes himself up too. Tries not to focus on the pain in his head, on his arms, everywhere.

He grabs handfuls of all the ‘Hoseok Window Pebbles’ he had stashed around his room, throwing dozens of them at a time. Taehyung practically whips them at the window, listening to the ringing against the glass and watching them fall.

It doesn’t take long from Hoseok to come running into his room, looking confused and panting slightly. Taehyung stops throwing pebbles only when Hoseok opens the balcony door.

“My mom wanted me to come up here and see what all the banging was,” Hoseok hushes to him.

Right.

Hoseok was with his family and Taehyung interrupted him.

He almost cries harder at that, and Hoseok is five feet away, looking concerned.

It’s only five feet.

Taehyung brings his feet up to the ledge, trying to stand on it, with half his body out the window.

An impulse.

“Taehyung,” Hoseok warns. He doesn’t listen.

Hoseok only moves when Taehyung is air-born and about to crash into him.

But he doesn’t.

He lands on Hoseok’s balcony.

Taehyung is amazed to see his own room from the balcony, and is immediately filled with sadness.

Taehyung,” Hoseok doesn’t know if he should be amazed or concerned. “What happened? You’re bleeding!”

Taehyung tries wiping at his tears but he seems to have an endless supply of them. Besides, every time he touches his cheeks it hurts.

“Taehyung, do you want me to get my mom?” Hoseok asks and Taehyung vehemently shakes his head. It was his family secret.

“No,” He sobs. Taehyung isn’t even aware of when his hands move in front of him to fist into Hoseok’s shirt, grappling him tightly.

“But you’re hurt!” Hoseok retorts. Taehyung isn’t really listening.

Hoseok doesn’t deny the hug Taehyung requests. Wrapping his arms tightly around the crying boy, he lets him weep into his shoulder. Taehyung ends up moving to sit on Hoseok’s floor and the other boy complies, only tightening the hug.

“I told you, you could’ve used a hug.” Hoseok muses, and Taehyung would’ve chuckled into his shoulder if he could’ve. “But why are you crying, Tae?”

Taehyung isn’t even able to answer. The contrast between his father’s booming rage and Hoseok’s gentle voice is too much for him to handle.

“Is this about your parents?” Hoseok whispers, barely audible against the shell of Taehyung’s ear. He wants to get pissed that that’s always Hoseok’s first guess, but he’s always right too. Maybe that’s what pisses him off.

“My dad,” Taehyung finds himself sobbing, pulling away from Hoseok’s shoulder to see that there was now a spot of blood staining his blue shirt, right next to a smattering of tears.

Hoseok was quiet for a moment, before reaching over to grab Taehyung’s arm gently. “He didn’t,” His statement is cut off rather quickly, because Taehyung knows what he’s going to say and simply doesn’t want to hear it.

He doesn’t ever get what he wants.

“He didn’t hit you, did he?” Hoseok ponders out loud. “Because that’s- that’s crazy! He wouldn’t do that, would he? Tae?”

Taehyung wipes his tears again. “No,” He croaks out softly. “He wouldn’t hit me.”

He wouldn’t and he did.  

“Then how did you get the bruises?” Hoseok whispers, and Taehyung swears he can feel his heart beating through his chest.

Taehyung doesn’t want to lie to Hoseok, but his recent experience with being honest has gotten him nothing but injuries so he stays silent.

Waits for Hoseok to figure it out.

“He did.” Hoseok gapes. “He hit you? He hit you!”

Taehyung shushes him rapidly, even though no one can hear them while they’re locked in Hoseok’s room. “Stop, don’t say a word.”

“Taehyung, your dad hit you!” Hoseok snaps. “Does he hit your mom? Oh Jesus, is your dad abusive?”

He’s heard the word so many times before. Skimmed over it just a second too long any time he read anything about abuse. Didn’t think it ever really applied to his situation.

“I-I mean,” Taehyung stammers madly, he’s just so confused. “I d-don’t know, really, I just,” Don’t want to cry again.

“Stay here.” Hoseok says, ready to leave.

“No!” Taehyung all but shrieks. “No, you can’t say anything!”

Hoseok looks at him  as if he were completely insane. “Taehyung, what are you talking about?!”

“You can’t say a word!”

“I’m not going to let him hurt you again!”

“He won’t!” Taehyung has no way of knowing that. “I swear, he w-won’t, I swear.”

“Tae,” Hoseok’s voice softens and suddenly he sounds so mature it shatters Taehyung’s heart fifteen thousand times. “I can tell my mom, or, or someone else, and then he really won’t hit you ever again!” Hoseok is pacing impatiently by the end of his sentence.

Taehyung shakes his head sadly. “Don’t say anything, please Hoseok, please.”

He doesn’t want his family to come crashing down. It’s the only type of love he knows.

Hoseok shifts uneasily, clearly unhappy with Taehyung’s request. “Alright,” he finally abides. “But I want to go get some ice for your nose.”

Taehyung nods. He likes Hoseok taking care of him. Normally he would feel more comfortable with an adult being in charge, but he can’t even look at any parental figures right now.

When Hoseok comes back, he sits cross-legged on the floor in front of Taehyung. He has a damp towel, some ice, as well as a plate of sandwiches.

“Isn’t your mom suspicious?” Taehyung questions, still looking over his shoulder to make sure that his parents aren’t in his room looking for him. Hoseok shakes his head.

“They didn’t notice. But here,” He nudges the sandwiches closer to Taehyung. “You didn’t eat, did you?”

Taehyung’s lack of an answer is enough for Hoseok, who sighs softly and pushes the plate even closer.

He sits still while Hoseok gently dabs at the blood, watching as is dilutes into the water of the towel.

“Can I,” Hoseok starts nervously. “Can I ask why, your dad, he, um,”

 He can’t even finish the sentence.

“Oh.” Taehyung doesn’t want to tell him. Doesn’t want Hoseok to hate him.

“Is it because you kissed me today?” Hoseok’s voice trembles, and Taehyung doesn’t answer. Clearly he doesn’t have to do much talking, since Hoseok already figured it out. Why is he so damn perceptive?

He wonders if maybe his father was so loud that Hoseok had heard him.

His silence comes as clear enough of an answer for Hoseok once again, who just clears his throat awkwardly and goes back to wiping the blood off Taehyung’s nose, careful not to press too hard.

They barely say a word to each other after that, and when Taehyung works up the nerve to jump back into his room, Hoseok gives him a quick hug, before breaking any eye-contact and shutting his balcony doors.

Taehyung wishes he didn’t feel like that was Hoseok’s way of shutting him out.

 

4

 

Taehyung is fourteen years old when he decides he needs to be anywhere than where he is currently. If anything, he didn’t make that decision, it was already decided for him.

It’s on one of those rare days where his mother sneaks into his room to try and talk to him without his father hearing them and then, consequently, getting him angry.

She doesn’t even knock, she doesn’t have to. Taehyung sees her reflection in the mirror, and he scowls at her.

“Hi baby,” Her voice is watery as it’s been for the past eight years, and immediately something mean flares up Taehyung’s spine.

“What?” He asks, twisting around from his perch on his bed so that he can look at his mother.

If she’s upset with his bluntness, she doesn’t show it.

“I just wanted to see how you were,” She whispers gently, stepping into the room.

Taehyung knows what this is about.

Last night, he had been over at Hoseok’s for later than he anticipated. He couldn’t go back through his window since someone had gone into his room while he was out and shut it. Probably his mother. Probably thought she was being kind and making sure he didn’t get a draft.

Taehyung knew that when he stepped through the front door, he was in for a world of pain. And he wasn’t wrong.

By that hour, his father had been too mindlessly drunk to really try and hit Taehyung, too out of it, too fucking happy to give a shit about his useless son. He had simply hobbled over, the vision of a fucking monster and Taehyung didn’t even try to run for it.

There was no point. It was the same thing every fucking day.

His mother’s soft voice tried to appease her husband as he moved towards Taehyung, but it didn’t really matter, a strong and disgustingly clammy fist was already grabbing at Taehyung’s hair.

Taehyung didn’t even wince. He had learned how to navigate with the hand that was grabbing him, making sure there was barely a strain.

“Don’t fuck around, Taehyung.” His father’s voice made him want to throw up, all regret soaked in alcohol. Taehyung was only momentarily put-off when his father tossed him to the floor as if he was nothing.

He’ll never understand how this man is the same person he had admired for so fucking long. He’ll never understand what happened.

He had hit his knees on the cold tile of the kitchen floor, blossoming brightly coloured bruises in the wake of the impact. Taehyung had limped upstairs, never forgetting to shoot his mother a glare before disappearing up the staircase.

Not her fault. And yet it is.

Besides the bruises and Taehyung’s hair that just wouldn’t flatten back down after having been gripped too tightly, Taehyung was fine. No, not fine, but he was alive. And most days he wasn’t sure if his father was going to try and change that.

A scary thought. Doesn’t even phase him. It used to, but not anymore.

Sad.

“I’m fine.” Taehyung mutters to his mother, who uninvitingly seats herself on the edge of his bed.

“Really?” She whispers, as if she cares.

“Yeah, really.” He answers, trying to not sound bitter because as much as he wants to hate her he just can’t. Taehyung could never hate his mother. “I’m fine, mom.”

Taehyung observes her as she looks back at him in such a tender and endearing manner that it makes him want to toss himself out the window. He hates the way she looks at him. Hates how sad she looks.

Hates how everyone looks at him like that these days.

Her hand reaches out before he can move away, and gently tucks a too long strand of hair behind his ear. He shrugs away, too noticeably then, because he can see the way his mother’s shoulders slump in disappointment at his cold-heartedness.

Taehyung doesn’t like being touched.

“I’m sorry,” She whispers to him. As she always whispers to him. Taehyung never believes it, never says anything.

“Okay.” He answers monotonously, looking out his window to see Hoseok sitting on the balcony. “I’m gonna go to Hoseok’s.”

His mother draws back at that, but slowly nods her head. “Stay the night.”

Taehyung looks at her, confused. “What? Really?”

She nods vehemently. “Yes. Your father, he’s in one of his moods,” As usual. “It would be better if you stayed away.”

Taehyung feels the searing rage of his mother’s words force their way down his throat and settle in his stomach. “He’s angry and you’re going to stay alone with him?”

When did he get so protective?

“Taehyung,”

“You want to stay alone in the house with him when he’s like this?” Taehyung interrupts. Wants to shout because his father is out getting more beer. Shout because he can and he’s never done it before and it would feel good.

“Taehyung, listen,”

“No!” Loud. There we go. Hoseok turns towards them, looks up from his book. “No, don’t you dare make this some kind of selfless thing, Mom! It’s not!” He tries to breathe, tries not to panic, or do anything. Taehyung can’t stop. “You keep me out of the house so that he doesn’t hit me while he’s hitting you! While he’s using you as- as his punching bag! I mean,” Taehyung is springing up from the bed before his mother can even react. His feet carry him across the room mindlessly. “Why don’t you ever say something?!”

His mother doesn’t answer. Taehyung just can’t stop.

“Why don’t you ever just call the police? Or- Or tell someone else! Tell Hoseok’s mom or who the fuck ever!”

His mother is going to interrupt, he can see it. So he keeps going. “Why do you let him do this? Why do you- do you just let him hurt us! I hate him!” Taehyung is seething, his chest heaving with all the words he hasn’t said for so fucking long and he doesn’t get why it’s all coming out now.

“Mom, why do you let him do this?” Taehyung wants to cry, wants to feel something. He knows Hoseok is looking at him, knows he can hear everything Taehyung is saying. “This is abuse!” He shouts, ears ringing with the power of his own words. “This isn’t- this isn’t love! This isn’t what love is supposed to be! I hate this! I hate- I hate that he gets to do this! I hate that you let him!”

“Kim Taehyung!

Freezes. He freezes at his mother’s voice. How broken it sounds, how broken she really is.

When Taehyung looks up, his mother is angry but she is also crying. Guilt drops into him like there’s nothing left to replace it and he swallows hard. All the anger leaving is body in a sudden tug downwards.

“You listen to me,” Her voice is like nothing he’d ever heard from her. “Your father, he’s good to us.”

Taehyung wants to throw up. “He- He’s not.” Shakes his head so hard it hurts. What is his mother even saying?

“He’s the reason we have anywhere this nice to live. Why we have anything at all!” She’s screaming at him and Taehyung winces.

And then his mother loses it.

“You selfish, ungrateful, boy! Did I not teach you anything about those who take care of you?!” Her voice is dripping like the acid pooling down her cheeks. “Could you never learn that your father has taken care of us?! That he’s the reason you can eat in the morning, go to school, have friends like Hoseok?”

“That’s not true.” Taehyung mutters, breathless already because he’s never, never, heard this side of his mother and he doesn’t like it.

“You don’t get anything!” She shrieks and he’s terrified. “You can’t get anything about this situation, anything!”

“Then why don’t you just tell me something for once! Instead of letting me get tossed around like I’m nothing!”

Ouch.

“Taehyung, enough!”

And he really does shut up. Because Taehyung doesn’t understand why he’s not crying. He wants to. He wants to feel something. Wants to take comfort in the fact that for once his mother is talking to him but he doesn’t even want to be anywhere near her.

Taehyung doesn’t get the fact that he suddenly hates his mother.

“Go to Hoseok’s.” She snaps, getting up from his bed and wiping her eyes. “Don’t come back tonight.”

Taehyung doesn’t even protest. Doesn’t have the time, since his mother is already slamming the door and the minute she’s gone Hoseok is leaning over the balcony, calling out to him.

“Taehyung!” His voice sounds so distant that it hurts him. “Taehyung, come over!”

Taehyung turns around, offering up a small smile that Hoseok returns with nothing but sympathy.

Taehyung wants to cry.

“Window?” He calls out, trying not to sound loud anymore since he’s managed to crack a dam inside of him that isn’t ready to burst.

Hoseok nods, and Taehyung begins shoving everything he’d need to stay overnight into a backpack. He can always come back if he forgets anything, except he doesn’t want to have to set foot in this house.

Needs to get out.

Taehyung crawls out the window, not before tossing his bag and making sure it lands on the balcony. He’s getting too big to sit out here but he does it anyway. Mostly because Hoseok has a balcony that he’ll never outgrow and Taehyung doesn’t want to leave him. 

When he lands at the entrance of Hoseok’s room, it takes them all of two seconds until they’re hugging each other tightly because Taehyung looks worse than he feels and Hoseok just wants to help in any way he can.

It startles him.

The feeling that erupts inside Taehyung when Hoseok’s arms wrap around his shaking body as they’d been doing for the past six years. When he rests his head against Hoseok’s shoulder and for once in the past year and a half, lets someone touch him and hold him and just be there for him. He’s so used to this, so used to Hoseok in his space, and in his world and his life but there’s something different now.

Taehyung wants more. Suddenly wants to feel all of Hoseok against him, holding him, making sure he was okay. Because he’s the only person who ever bothers to ask anymore, since Taehyung is the only one he’ll even let get the words out. Taehyung needs more of Hoseok than he’s ever had and the fissure that cracks his body in half is too much for him to handle.

They don’t even bother getting off the balcony before Taehyung breaks down.

Hoseok feels it before he sees it. He can feel the shudder in Taehyung’s shoulders, knows he’s embarrassed to be crying and is using all of his force to supress his emotions. He feels the tears wetting through his thin long sleeve shirt and it breaks his heart that he’s actually kind of used to this. That he’s been around Taehyung for so fucking long that he knows how to make him laugh, how to make him smile, how to make him open up and stop sheltering himself.

Taehyung is young and he’s just gotten used to closing himself off.

“You can cry, Tae.” Hoseok whispers in Taehyung’s ear, inhaling the sweet scent of his honey shampoo that would probably smell kind of gross on literally any other human being.

Hoseok is so used to consoling but in the end he’s never going to get tired of Taehyung.

“No,” Taehyung’s voice is mumbled by Hoseok’s shoulder, his teeth practically banging into it. “I- I don’t need to,”

Kind of a lie.

Kind of a big fucking lie. Hoseok sees right through it.

“I don’t give a shit if you want to or whatever,” he shakes Taehyung lightly. “But don’t tell me that you don’t need to, because I see it in you, I’m not stupid.”

“It’s whatever.” Taehyung bites back, frustrated that for once he’s getting out of his father’s grasp and all he can do is cry. Since when did he get to become such a fucking baby?

“But it’s actually like, really not so,” Hoseok hugs Taehyung even tighter, hoping that he wouldn’t try to pull away. He doesn’t.

“Don’t question me on when I should be crying.” Taehyung’s voice is wavering and now Hoseok knows he’s just being stubborn for the sake of being a pain in the ass. But he can’t really help the fact that he’s so tired of seeing Hoseok and only being able to cry.

It doesn’t happen too often. Not really. Taehyung tries so hard to not tell Hoseok anything about what goes on at home. Tries not to tell him more than he already knows. Sometimes Hoseok will say something, anything, and it triggers a flood in Taehyung, which results in a lot of hugging and loving. He needs it. He needs to feel like he’s safe. He always feels safe with Hoseok.

Taehyung hates the way he needs all of Hoseok’s love because he can’t get it anywhere else.

Hoseok sighs soothingly as he holds Taehyung, and he’s so gone he doesn’t even care. Without even letting go, Hoseok can feel Taehyung wavering on his legs, and levels him gently to the floor.

“I-I’m sorry,” Taehyung whimpers painfully into Hoseok’s shoulder, tears soaking into his words.

“Don’t apologize for anything.” Hoseok whispers gently, reaching up to stroke his hair and Taehyung has half a mind to tell him that it’s not going to flatten anyways.

“I k-keep complaining around y-you.”

“That’s what I’m fucking here for, stupid.” Hoseok smiles sadly when he feels Taehyung chuckle quietly. “I’m here for you Tae, when you need to cry, cry.

Taehyung pulls away slowly, Hoseok’s long fingers still trailing up and down his arms. His eyes were brimming with tears, blurring most of his vision, but Taehyung could see Hoseok.

He would look at him forever if he could. Taehyung would totally.

“Are you okay?” Hoseok asks, tilting his head to the side sweetly and Taehyung’s stomach flips over itself and then drops out of his body probably.

“I’ll be fine.” Taehyung nods encouragingly even though he’s not really sure, and Hoseok’s fingers drop down to intertwine with Taehyung’s, swinging their hands back and forth.

“Good, that’s good. Now, come on, let’s do something, since I never fucking see you ever.”

“We’re neighbours.” Taehyung answers, cocking his eyebrow slightly.

“Hell fucking yeah, we’re neighbours.” Hoseok gets up from the bed, pulling Taehyung up as well. “But we barely even hang out anymore!”

“I saw you yesterday!” Taehyung protests gleefully.

“The first time in like, three weeks!” Hoseok answers with a pout. “We’re both so busy, I don’t get to see my best friend!”

Taehyung’s heart aches a little, a lot, at that. It’s true. He hasn’t been seeing Hoseok recently, since they’re both completely swamped. Hoseok, being in every single advanced class at school, often is found studying during lunch and in the morning before school, the minute he gets home, also studying. When he’s not, he’s dancing.

Taehyung loves to watch him dance. Even though Hoseok is shy and doesn’t like to admit the fact that he’s actually really fucking good.

Taehyung doesn’t really do much, which is momentarily a sad realization. He doesn’t talk to anyone at school, mostly because they don’t talk to him either. At this point, there’s no way Taehyung’s going to try and make any new friends, since everything’s already established.

He has Hoseok. Loves Hoseok for being there for him. Except he’s a grade older, and has his own group of friends, and although Taehyung knows he should be the first in Hoseok’s heart, sometimes he feels like he isn’t.

Sometimes they’re just too different.

“Earth to Taehyung!” Hoseok shouts, poking his side gently. Very gently. Doesn’t want to hit a bruise.

“Yah!” Taehyung moves back in surprise. “I’m here now, yeah? So let’s stop being fucking old and reminiscing or whatever and let’s go do something.”

“That’s what I’ve been saying you fucking loser.” Hoseok grumbles, moving towards his bedroom door. “Do you want to go outside?”

Taehyung chews on his bottom lip for a moment, deciding. “In a minute,” He answers, noticing the curious look on Hoseok’s face.  “I want to say hi to your mom first.”

Hoseok gets it. He nods, a smile stretching onto his lips as he throws open the door and shouts. “Mom, Taehyung’s here!”

“He is?” Her response is almost immediate and she sounds excited. “I didn’t even see him come through the door!”

Hoseok and Taehyung share eye contact and break into similar smiles.

“He did, like ten minutes ago!”

Taehyung can already hear Hoseok’s mother’s footsteps on the stairs, and soon enough she’s standing in front of him.

She looks like Hoseok. And she’s beautiful.  She smiles at him, almost sympathetically. And there’s a part of Taehyung that feels like maybe she knows.

She probably does.

She’s hugging him rather quickly, and Taehyung let’s himself be hugged. Even though he’s not a big fan. Except she’s so motherly and gentle, and Hoseok probably gets these all the time, even when he doesn’t want them.

How long as it been since Taehyung’s own mother had given him a hug? Since he’d really asked for one?

“Don’t steal my mom!” Hoseok mutters, except Taehyung knows he’s kidding. Because he knows too.

“It’s good to see you, Taehyung.” She hugs him tightly one last time before letting him go. His smile his small but natural because holy fuck does he ever love this family.

“It’s nice to see you too.” He answers shyly, because Kim fucking Taehyung is clearly inept with family matters. As much as he doesn’t want to be.

“Can he sleepover?” Hoseok asks, even though they both already know the answer.

“He’s always welcome in our home!” Hoseok’s mother chirps brightly. “It’s his home too.”

Taehyung almost cries again.

“Okay, bye Mom.” Hoseok states, trying to usher his mother out of the room.

“Easy, Hoseok,” His mother chides. “Don’t sass me.” But she’s kidding. Of course she’s kidding. Because Hoseok has a good enough relationship with his mother that he can joke with her.

Seems nice to Taehyung.

She leaves after that, and they also exit his room because it’s nice out and Hoseok is demanding they go outside.

“Do you want to go to the corner store?” He asks, once they’re outside.

Taehyung nods, and he turns his head when he hears loud barking. Soonshim is outside on the porch, and Taehyung feels like he hasn’t seen him in forever. He kind of hasn’t. Since he’s not allowed in Taehyung’s room, and Taehyung doesn’t go anywhere else in the house. Hoseok is even more excited than he is.

“Ah, your puppy!” Hoseok shouts, already sprinting towards the white mass of pure excitement.

Not even a puppy anymore. When on his hind legs, Soonshim can comfortably rest his paws on Hoseok’s shoulders, but whatever, he’s always a puppy to them.

Hoseok is sitting on the front lawn, Taehyung’s dog on his lap, in record time. Hoseok looks so fucking happy that it makes Taehyung happy. Although, the anxiety that settles into his body when he thinks that his father could get home any minute and see them, or his mother could come out and scold him for coming back is enough for him to almost drag Hoseok to his feet.

Taehyung settles to lightly scratch behind his dog’s ears, feeling guilty when he leaves Hoseok to come see him, since clearly they’ve missed each other.

“Hey, you get to see him all the time!” Hoseok wails at the dog. “Come see me! I love you!”

“Looks like he’s already decided.” Taehyung states, faking disappointment for Hoseok’s behalf.

Hoseok practically steals his dog back and rests his head against the soft fur at the nape of its neck. “Do you ever sleep on him?”

“What? No.” Taehyung answers, unsure as to why anyone would ever sleep on their dog.

“Why not? This is way too comfortable!”

“Don’t crush my dog!”

“I’m not going to crush him!”

They’re too busy bickering back and forth to hear Taehyung’s father’s car coming down the street. Only when it’s rolling its way up the driveway do they realize that they can’t avoid him.

Hoseok’s never met Taehyung’s father.

“Hoseok,” Taehyung breathes out, his heart squeezing in his chest. His father isn’t even out of the car yet and he’s already whispering. “Hoseok, Hoseok,

“What?” He asks, looking up after Taehyung’s hand incessantly taped against his shoulder.

“Hoseok, we have to go.” Taehyung answered quietly, watching as his father catches sight of them. “Now, now, now.

“What? Why? Tae, what’s going on?”  The air around them has completely changed. Taehyung is practically frozen on the spot, and Hoseok stands up rapidly. “What’s going on?”

“My dad,” Taehyung mutters. “Hoseok, we have to go.”

Taehyung had barely grabbed Hoseok’s hand and taken two fast steps in the other direction when his father was yelling at him.

“Kim Taehyung!”

Winces. Flinches. Hoseok can practically feel Taehyung sink into the ground under them.

“What is it?” He calls behind quietly.

“What are you doing?” His father seethes. Taehyung didn’t have to turn around to know that his father was staring daggers at him.

“N-Nothing.” He stammers, and then curses himself for looking like a little bitch in front of Hoseok. The latter is staring at him now, unsure of where he’s supposed to go. Does he move? Is he supposed to be scared?

First encounters with Taehyung’s father were not supposed to happen at all.

“Doesn’t look like nothing to me.” His father practically bites the words out, and when he shifts, Taehyung can hear the beer bottles clinking together. “What did I tell you about your little problem, Taehyung?”

He almost snorts at his father’s comment. Taehyung’s pretty sure he’s not gay, and he also applauds his father’s semi-decency to not call him a homophobic slur in front of Hoseok. Who also isn’t gay. Okay.

“Not a problem, dad.” Taehyung mumbles. “Anyway, we’re leaving.”

“Where do you think you’re going?” His father shouts, and Taehyung curses himself before Hoseok’s hand clenches around his.

He’s scared.

“We’re leaving.” Taehyung answers. “Mom’s inside. She said I could go.”

“I don’t remember giving your mom permission to do anything, fucking bitch.” He curses the last part under his breath and Taehyung can hear Hoseok’s breath hitch in his throat. This is not good.  

“Okay,” Taehyung mutters. “We’re going to go now.”

Hoseok didn’t even dare move as they waited patiently for Taehyung’s father’s answer.

“Get your shit together, Taehyung.” His father snaps angrily, and he knows what he’s talking about. Although he’s wrong. “Now, both of you, get out of my fucking sight, with that gay shit.”

There he goes.

The front door to Taehyung’s house slams shut as his father leaves and neither of them are moving.

“That’s what your dad’s like?” Hoseok whispers, barely tilting his head to look over at Taehyung, who’s expression is a mix of boredom and fear. Hoseok has never seem him look so empty.  Taehyung nods. Fucking hates that he can confirm that that man is now his father.

Taehyung tries not to feel his heart being torn out of his chest as Hoseok lets go of his hand and turns to face him. “Should we go to the store then?” He asks, his voice still shaking.

Taehyung nods again, not having found his words yet.

Hoseok is afraid of his father.

Taehyung doesn’t blame him. He just hoped that they would never have to ever meet. Because not only had he just been a fucking asshole, he had also just called them both gay, which Taehyung is oddly used to but could’ve upset Hoseok. Now, Hoseok’s just going to completely drop him for his other friends, other friends who have nice families and who can support a friendship. Friends who can have Hoseok over at their house, who isn’t so burdening or demanding-

“I don’t know what you’re thinking,” Hoseok waves his hand in front of Taehyung’s face. “But it’s probably stupid as fuck. So, come on, I want to get popsicles.”

His smile comes back so quickly that it let’s Taehyung know that everything is okay.

Everything is going to be okay.

---

“What are you doing?” Taehyung grumbles because it’s four in the morning and he had passed out on Hoseok’s couch an hour earlier. Only to be woken up by Hoseok flicking the light on and seating himself on the ground with a stack of paper and some pencils.

“I want to make some lists.” He answers, a pencil already in between his teeth.

Somewhere along Hoseok’s development into the youthful bean sprout that he is, he acquired a love for making lists. His room is filled with them.

It keeps me organized, Tae.

But I don’t see why you need to be so organized!

I’ll make a new list right now; Ways to Kill Your Best Friend.

Yah, you little bitch!

Hoseok’s lists really do make Taehyung happy, since they’re normally super cute and uplifting. Hoseok is a sarcastic shit, but he’s optimistic, and Taehyung loves that.

Last Christmas, in Hoseok’s Christmas card to Taehyung, there was a list.

How to Love!  

Taehyung smiled, holding it closely to his heart. Hoseok had worked hard on it clearly, the list was pages long, and he knew that Taehyung needed it.

Taehyung never told him about the time three months ago when his father found it in his drawer, hidden away, and ripped it to shreds. After that, Taehyung seemed to forget whatever lessons Hoseok was trying to teach him.

“But it’s like, eighty o’clock in the morning, Seokie.” Taehyung yawns, stretching his long limbs out on the couch.

“Actually not even possible, and it’s not my fault you took a nap.” Hoseok mumbles, already scribbling something onto a paper.

Taehyung’s quiet for a moment, before he decides to sit up. Regrets it immediately, since he was actually really warm wearing the sweater Hoseok leant him and the blanket that fell off his legs left him vulnerable to the air conditioning.

A nap.

Taehyung almost smacks Hoseok. It’s four in the morning and he begins to think that his best friend is actually an owl.

“Can I make some with you?” Taehyung asks, sliding off the couch and scooting over until his knees touch Hoseok’s. The bruises that were still there make Taehyung wince, and Hoseok casts him a glance, before nodding, a sympathetic look shot over to Taehyung’s injuries.

“What list are you making now?” Taehyung asks, resting his cheek against his open palm.

“Ways to Know You’re in Love.” Hoseok answers, and Taehyung peeks over to see that Hoseok is already at twenty-five.

“That’s deep.” Taehyung ponders out loud, before taking his own loose-leaf and a pencil. He actually has no clue what kind of list he’s supposed to make. Despite himself, he’s still feeling bitchy for being woken up. “‘Reasons Why I Should Go Back to Sleep.’” Taehyung states out loud, before scribbling that down on his paper.

Hoseok scoffs, never looking up from his own list. “’Reasons Why Taehyung is Fucking Annoying.’”

“’Reasons Why We Aren’t Best Friends Anymore.’”

“’Reasons Why We Still Totally Fucking Are.’”

Taehyung laughs at that, too loud for the ass-crack of dawn, and Hoseok tries to shush him as he’s laughing as well.

Hoseok shifts until his head is resting in Taehyung’s lap, his list held above his face. Taehyung’s hand instinctively rests itself against Hoseok’s head, threading through the hair gently and Taehyung’s heart is on fire. He just thinks it’s because he woke up too quickly.

“I want to make a new list about ‘How to Love’.” Hoseok states out loud, grabbing a fresh sheet of paper.

“Do it.” Taehyung encourages, smiling fondly at Hoseok and he doesn’t get how he isn’t tired. Hoseok hums in response, and the gears turning in brain are practically visible.

“One, be kind.” Hoseok states, his hand-writing sloppy from his downwards angle. “Two, always make sure they know that they’re appreciated.”

“I appreciate you.” Taehyung blurts out suddenly, the hand in Hoseok’s hair stilling at his sudden verbal error. Hoseok looked up at him and smiled, before nudging Taehyung’s hand, telling him to keep playing with his hair.

“Three,” Hoseok pauses, chewing on the eraser of his pencil which is kind of gross, and Taehyung is pretty sure that that’s his pencil that Hoseok never gave back, but it looks kind of cute when Hoseok is this concentrated. “Three, be accepting. Be loyal. Be warm. Treat them the way you want to be treated.”

“That’s like four points,” Taehyung comments. “I didn’t know you were so cheesy.”

“Shut up.” Hoseok mumbles. “I just got carried away. Now go, make your own list!”

“I don’t know what to write.” Taehyung’s telling the truth, because he really has nothing to say. And he would much rather watch Hoseok do something he loves and be in his element.

“Make a list of, like, I don’t fucking know, your favourite colours.”

“Lame,” Taehyung comments, flicking Hoseok’s forehead, earning him a slap in the arm. “A list of…I don’t know!”

“Make a list of your favourite things then!” Hoseok provides.

Taehyung rapidly doesn’t take the request, since he already has an inkling of an idea at the tip of his tongue. He just doesn’t really want to say it, doesn’t want to think that he already knows exactly what’s going to be on this list.

He writes the title, trying not to use Hoseok’s head as a makeshift desk. He has only one thing to add to this list.

When Taehyung doesn’t answer Hoseok within the next few minutes, Hoseok pokes head up to see what Taehyung wrote.

“’People I Love’,” Hoseok reads the title out-loud, before startling Taehyung who immediately pulls it away. “Yah, Tae! I better be first on that list!” Hoseok comments, before grinning and settling back down in Taehyung’s lap.

He can’t hear the way Taehyung’s heart is thudding loudly and painfully in his chest. Can’t see the way Taehyung’s cheeks flush with way too much red.

It takes Taehyung a few moments to realize that Hoseok has fallen asleep with his head in Taehyung’s lap, his list dangling limply from his hand.

Taehyung looks down at Hoseok and smiles softly, notices the way Hoseok shifts when Taehyung stops playing with his hair. He looks so peaceful when he’s sleeping, and then Taehyung feels kind of weird for staring but there’s nothing he can do right now.

Hoseok doesn’t look like the snarky, sarcastic piece of shit best friend that Taehyung adores while he’s asleep. He looks gentle. He looks like someone who deserves everything, and he looks that way when he’s awake too. It sends tremors through Taehyung’s body when he thinks that he can’t really give Hoseok anything that he could ever want. He can’t even properly respond to friendly banter, or emotional shit. He wants to. He really fucking wants to, because Taehyung would do anything for Hoseok, he just doesn’t want to admit it. He knows it though. Maybe Hoseok knows it too. He probably doesn’t. And Taehyung can’t decide if that hurts more or less.

There’s only one name on Taehyung’s list.

With the hand that isn’t buried in Hoseok’s hair, he reaches over to where he tossed his list just a few minutes prior. His hand-writing is for shit, but Taehyung doesn’t really care because he isn’t writing this for anyone to ever read.

One name. One name that’s always been with Taehyung, sticking to his heart, heavy and painful, but he really wouldn’t have it any other way. All this emotion is practically nauseating to him. Because it’s too fucking early for this, and maybe he’s just way too tired, but he’s felt it before, he’s been feeling it forever, and it’s just come to nestle itself directly into his mind. And he’s lying right in Taehyung’s lap.

The People That I Love

  1. Jung Hoseok

 

5

 

Taehyung is seventeen years old when he realizes that he’s surprised he’s even made it this far.

He’d lost himself somewhere along the way. He doesn’t really know. Doesn’t know when it started. Doesn’t know if it’ll ever end.

It feels like everything he’s ever held dear to him is ripped right out of his grasp. It feels like someone is pouring salt into his wounds. And it makes no sense to Taehyung because nothing is physical.

There’s physically nothing wrong with him, he’s here, and he’s alive. And yet he’s not really. Taehyung hasn’t been anywhere in a long time, and he’s beginning to wonder if he’s slowly dying from the inside out.

It was manageable at first, sort of.

Taehyung knew there was always something there, except he was always happy, really happy with Hoseok, and he didn’t need anything else. Even if he wasn’t well-off at his house, he didn’t let anything get to him too personally. He had Hoseok and that was supposed to be enough.

He should still be happy with that. And Taehyung hates himself for the fact that he constantly craves more of Hoseok. Constantly wants him to want him back.

Taehyung never told Hoseok he loves him. No more than the friendly ways they had always told each other. Because Taehyung knows Hoseok doesn’t reciprocate like that, and it was okay. Hoseok was still his best friend.

Hoseok had once asked him if he was lonely.

“Well are you?” He pressed on.

They had been sitting on the floor of Hoseok’s bedroom, one making a list, while the other stared blankly out the window, straight into his own room.

“I don’t know.” Taehyung answered, unsure of why his answer wasn’t just no. He wasn’t lonely, he had Hoseok. “I don’t think so.”

“You just seem a little down lately.”

A lot down. A whole fucking lot, except Taehyung was trying to keep it under wraps and if Hoseok thought that it was only a little slip up then he would keep it that way.

“I’m fine.” Taehyung answered, turning away from the window, so he could change the subject and seem less distant to Hoseok. “What list are you making now?”

Hoseok’s brow creased, he rubbed at it tentatively with his hand, nervous. Taehyung waited patiently for Hoseok to spit it out, although he wasn’t even sure why the older was so fidgety in the first place.

“It’s ah,” Taehyung leaned closer, deciding to just read over his shoulder. Hoseok spoke before he even had to. “’How to Tell if Someone is Depressed’.”

The silence settled between them, and Hoseok was afraid Taehyung was going to blow up at him, and Taehyung kind of wanted to. But he didn’t.

“Oh.” He answered quietly, unsure of what the hell he was feeling. “Well, I hope it’s helpful.” He stated, before sliding a little farther from Hoseok and turning to look out the window.

“Oh, Tae, no.” Hoseok answered rapidly. Taehyung wasn’t even looking at him, but he could tell that Hoseok was chewing on his lip nervously, shifting a lot. “I didn’t mean like that.”

As if he wasn’t really talking about Taehyung.

“I didn’t think you did, Seokie.” Taehyung turned to look at Hoseok, a small smile playing on his lips that was fake but endearing as all hell.

The light hit Taehyung perfectly. Which is kind of stupid to say because that’s cheesy as fuck, but it was also true as fuck. It landed perfectly on the top of Taehyung’s head, encircling him in light and warmth. They’d been friends for nine years, and yet Hoseok had never even noticed Taehyung this way. It wasn’t all that different, but it was all the while the most alluring and strange feeling he’d ever felt. When he smiled, Hoseok found his voice was gone.

It felt like his chest was simultaneously being pulled down by weights, while soaring in the sky. Taehyung was a fucking angel and Hoseok didn’t even know what to say or if he should say that at all.

“Fuck, that’s bright.” Taehyung commented, squinting in the light, and just like that, Hoseok’s perfect vision was gone. Although, Hoseok was left with a tight feeling in his chest. “Can I close your blinds?”

That was one year ago.

Taehyung doesn’t know what happened. He tries not to think about it. It wasn’t an overnight thing. Taehyung thinks it would’ve been less painful if maybe it had happened quickly.

He doesn’t know when he started spending more time in bed. Not because he wanted to, since Taehyung got enough shit from his father, he didn’t need his mother to scold him on the rare occasion that she would. He just has no more energy. Taehyung forced himself out of bed every morning to go to school, to see Hoseok, to be okay, and the minute he got into his room he would crumple like dried sand. He wouldn’t even go out on his window anymore. He would wait until the sound of the pebbles Hoseok was throwing died out, or until his cellphone stopped buzzing with missed calls and text messages.

He doesn’t know when he started avoiding Hoseok. Avoiding the sympathy that seemed to be in every single one of Hoseok’s expressions towards Taehyung. Even when Taehyung was happy, Hoseok looked wary. Maybe because it didn’t happened all that often. Or at all recently. Taehyung didn’t want to see Hoseok looking sad for him. Taehyung already did enough sulking for the both of them.  It was so unintentional that it hurt.

Taehyung doesn’t know when he stopped taking care of himself. He never asked for Hoseok to send him daily text messages, making sure he woke up to catch the bus in the morning, or to make sure he ate something since they had gym first period and he didn’t want Taehyung collapsing. Taehyung never asked for Hoseok, or anyone for that matter, to take care of him. Taehyung didn’t want to be such a burden.

Eventually, Hoseok would get tired of him. Of course he would. Taehyung was so demanding, always secluding himself, and when he spent time with Hoseok, it was a whole lot of bitterness and self-deprecating comments. Even though Taehyung assured the other that really, he was fine.

He wasn’t. But he didn’t know what to do about that and he didn’t expect Hoseok to know either.

It wasn’t like Taehyung hadn’t thought about it.

Thought about why he was feeling this way. What had he done to deserve anything of the shit he’s gone through. He tries really fucking hard not to think about any of that, since it doesn’t fix anything.

As far as Taehyung knows, nothing’s broken. There’s nothing to fix. He’ll just never figure out why everything feels so fucking wrong all the time.

Like he doesn’t belong.

He doesn’t belong in his house, in that house, and as much as Hoseok’s family welcomes him, he can’t bring himself to feel like anything else but a huge fucking waste of their time. A weight that nobody needs on their shoulders, because it would be so much easier for everyone if maybe he just wasn’t around. If maybe he had never been around in the first place.

Taehyung doesn’t even know when he started thinking that way. Or when he started being so fucking existential. And God, fuck, why is he so out of answers?

He’s lying in bed when Hoseok texts him. He knows it’s Hoseok, since no one else talks to him, not that he complains. Through his half asleep and half angry-at-being-woken-up haze, he manages to shoot an arm out from under his blanket cocoon and grab his phone.

HoeSucc: come over I haven’t seen you foreverrr you weren’t at school this week.

It’s true, Taehyung wasn’t. He didn’t feel up to it on Monday, and then again on Tuesday, and now it was Friday afternoon and Hoseok had probably covered for him all week.

Taehyung debates whether or not to open the message, whether or not to engage Hoseok in conversation. Whether or not he has the energy.

When did Taehyung start thinking that talking to his best friend was such a fucking chore? He truly doesn’t deserve Hoseok.

Taehyung doesn’t even have time to open it, before Hoseok is texting him again.

HoeSucc: Come on Taeee my mom’s sending me to buy groceries but idfk what to do lol like you know im clumsy with money and shit. I miss you you shit head

Taehyung grins reading the text message in his notice bar. It’s all so Hoseok.  

HoeSucc: btw did you change my name back from hoesucc on your phone

He’s relentless, and Taehyung likes that about him, even when it comes to spam texting. Taehyung slides open the messages, notifying Hoseok, who he presumed was diligently watching his screen for any signs of life, that he had read them.

You: I never changed it back lmao

Hoseok answers immediately.

HoeSucc: bitch I knew u were awake I can see you from the fuckin window chop chop lets go

Taehyung’s heart actually shits itself out of his ass at the thought of moving. He doesn’t want to. And he also doesn’t give a fuck if that makes him sound whiny. He doesn’t want to move but if he doesn’t then that means he’ll have to talk to Hoseok about things and that’s fucking difficult. It’s gotten difficult to talk to the one person in his life that fucking means something to him.

HoeSucc: stop thinking so fuckin hard I can see the wheels turning in your head

You: I don’t want to go

HoeSucc: :((((((( ouch Tae

And he feels like shit.

You: I’m sorry I just

You: I can’t right now

HoeSucc: Tae whats wrong

Taehyung wants to throw his phone across the room. Definitely doesn’t want to be having this conversation right now.

HoeSucc: just tell me whats up

Taehyung almost has to hold back a laugh because how the fuck is he ever supposed to do that? Isn’t it kind of fucking disgusting when the only times he’s gotten out of bed in the last week has been to go the bathroom and occasionally eat? How the only other times he’s out of his room is when he’s being called down by his father and he already knows what’s going to happen there? Isn’t it fucking sick how Taehyung hasn’t properly showered since last week, and his room is a fucking messy piece of shit, although he doesn’t have the energy to clean it. Only seems to have the energy to let people down, over and over again.

You: no nothing’s wrong im ok

HoeSucc: that’s such a fucking lie kim taehyung I’ve known you for almost ten years (8 months till our anniversary!) so I fuckign know when somethings up so spill this tea I wanna hear it

Taehyung curls in on himself tighter, the blankets giving off the slightest smell of rankness that makes Taehyung want to choke himself with them.

He’s typing before he even realizes what he’s even saying.

You: sometimes it feels like I don’t belong anywhere

You: like I cant be anywhere

You: sorry that makes no fucking sense lol

For a moment, it feels good to finally say that. It takes Hoseok a minute to reply, and Taehyung wonders if maybe Hoseok is shooting him that fucking sympathetic glance straight through the window.

Hoseok: how often do you feel like that, tae?

He’s in too deep now, anyways.

You: how often is every fucking day of my life

Hoseok doesn’t message him again. No, he calls him. The ringtone is loud in Taehyung’s closed room and before he’s even registering it, he’s slamming on the decline button.

You: sorry I just can’t talk right now

HoeSucc: Can I come over, Tae? I really want to talk.

No, absolutely fucking not. No.

You: Idk, my mom’s downstairs.

HoeSucc: but not your dad?

You: no, he’s out buying more beer I guess

Hoseok doesn’t answer again, but it doesn’t say he’s read the message. Taehyung hopes Hoseok had just gone to the store, but the sound of loud knocks on his front door and Soonshim barking alerts him otherwise.

Taehyung can hear Hoseok talking to his mother at the door, hears her protest, hears him actually not caring about anything other than Taehyung.

It should warm his heart, really.

The stairs thunder as they’re taken two at a time, and it makes Taehyung inevitably sad that he’s so used to hearing that. He almost expects himself to come running into his room.

But Hoseok opens the door, because Taehyung never locks it. And Hoseok finds Taehyung in bed, where he hadn’t moved, splayed out as though someone had pulled him apart and forgot to put him back together.

Taehyung knows what Hoseok sees around him and he just wants him to get out. Hoseok doesn’t come over often, and when he does, his room’s never looked like this.

Then again, Taehyung doesn’t know the last time his room had been clean.

“Hey,” Hoseok’s voice is quiet and gentle, enough to put Taehyung on the verge of tears on his good days. Now, he just feels nothing more than anxiety pumping through his blood because Hoseok is seeing him like this.

And for some reason he doesn’t care all that much.

“Hey Tae,” He starts again, gingerly stepping over piles of clothes and items knocked over from his shelves.

Taehyung doesn’t even answer, just curls even tighter around himself. He doesn’t like feeling so vulnerable, especially not around Hoseok. Hates the feeling that erupts within him whenever he sees him and thinks that he’s doing pretty okay, and he’s growing up, and he’s going places.

Taehyung is stuck.

He feels the bed dip slightly when Hoseok sits down a few inches from where his feet are. Taehyung shuts his eyes instinctively, thinks that if maybe he can’t see Hoseok, Hoseok won’t be able to see him. At least not the him that he tries so hard to hide.

But he feels Hoseok’s hand trail against his cheek gently, affectionate, warm. “What’s going on, Tae?” He asks quietly, and his voice is nothing more than pure heartbreak and sadness and Taehyung is filled with so much guilt that Hoseok has to see him like this.

It’s enough for him to cry.

“Nothing,” He answers through a set jaw, since he refuses to be so fucking weak.

“I don’t think so, Tae.”

When he cracks an eye open, Hoseok is looking around his room again, the hand on his cheek still has the thumb stroking gently.

“It’s nothing, Seokie.” Taehyung repeats, hates himself a little bit for lying for such futile purposes.

“Talk to me.” Hoseok insists, not missing the way Taehyung shivers because he doesn’t fucking want to.

“Not easy.” Taehyung mumbles, lowering his head to his chest even more, so that Hoseok’s hand was now essentially stuck.

“To talk to me?”

“To anyone.” Taehyung clarifies.

“I want to help, Tae.” Hoseok whispers, one hand reaching up to stroke through Taehyung’s hair, that’s kind of greasy and matted, which only breaks his heart even more.

“You can’t.” Taehyung shakes his head, his voice wavering and he wants to fucking die. All it takes is a little coaxing and a lot of Hoseok for him to talk and that frustrates him. “No one can.”

“Let me try.” Hoseok continues, feeling his heart deflate when Taehyung’s entire body shakes and a first little sob is let out.

It takes less effort than Hoseok thought, for him to pull Taehyung up into a sitting position, only for him to fall down into Hoseok’s lap.

“I can’t,” Taehyung tries to explain, tries to speak through tears that he won’t let out. But he can’t. Not when Hoseok is holding him and rocking him gently because everything is just fucking wrong and Hoseok doesn’t deserve that. “I d-don’t know w-what it is.” He states, reaching a hand up to wipe at his tears, even though he knows it’s of no use since they’re incessant.

Yah! You’re like a water fountain, Tae!

Not my fault you’re so mean that I cry.

You know that’s not true! Give me a hug.

“It’s okay,” Hoseok murmurs gently, although his heart is racing in his fucking chest because who the fuck stole Taehyung from him. And who the fuck turned him into this? “It’s okay Tae, just let it out.” 

“B-But, it h-hurts.” Taehyung isn’t loud with his explanations. There’s a part of him that knows his mother is downstairs, and he doesn’t need her right now. Doesn’t need her ever. “H-Hoseok, it hurts.”

“I know,” He doesn’t. He never will. “I know, Tae. But talk to me, tell me what hurts. We’ll figure this out.”

“Why am I such a fucking burden?” Taehyung’s entire body shakes with the sobs that start leaving him breathless and Hoseok holds him even tighter.

“You’re not,” Hoseok says, louder than he needs to. He knows Taehyung thinks that way sometimes. He can see it. He just never thought Taehyung would say it. “Tae,” His words die in his throat. He doesn’t know why this is happening. “Tae, I swear, I swear, you’re not. You’re not.”

“B-But it feels like I a-am.”

“And I’m telling you that you could never be a burden, Tae! You can’t be. There’s no way.”

It’s silent for a little while after that, save for Taehyung trying to not cry, and Hoseok doesn’t tell him to stop being so difficult about that again.

“Maybe I shouldn’t even be here.” Taehyung mutters, barely audible, head still resting against Hoseok’s knees. The latter practically shits himself, or screams, or cries, because he knew Taehyung was hurting but he didn’t think it was that bad.

It’s always been that bad and Hoseok didn’t even notice.

“Please don’t say that.” Hoseok answers quietly. “You need to be here, Tae. I fucking need you.”

Hoseok’s hands are shaking and he doesn’t want Taehyung to know. Doesn’t want Taehyung to know what he’s thinking.

“Nobody needs me.”

Taehyung isn’t even crying. It’s as though he’d rehearsed this moment in his head, running the words over his tongue in endless circles. Instant playbacks in his heads. Maybe he’d said it in front of the mirror to practice, drilling it into his head before he even got the chance to tell anyone else.

“Not fucking true,” Hoseok insists. He moves Taehyung gently off his lap, much to his protests. Hoseok forces Taehyung to sit, to look at him in the eyes for two seconds before he shies away again.

Taehyung whines, tries to pull away from the hold keeping him upright, and Hoseok wants to fucking hug him until he stops hurting. He just doesn’t know why he can’t.

“Taehyung, listen to me.” Hoseok says, voice harsher than it should be and he knows Taehyung can hear the bite in it. He just doesn’t react, doesn’t really want to. His hands are constantly switching from pushing Taehyung up to making sure that he doesn’t fall over and all Hoseok wants to know right now is why he’s giving up.

He must always feel this way.

“Taehyung, I need you.” Hoseok’s voice is quiet and apprehensive, since Taehyung is still crying and doesn’t even have enough energy to lift his head. “I need you, I need you.”

Taehyung shakes his head, feels the way Hoseok’s fingers dig a little deeper into his shoulders, feels the way they shake. “You don’t.” When the fuck did he get so certain?

“Yes I do, fuck,” Hoseok swears. “Taehyung, Taehyung, you, you are the most important fucking person in my life.” Hoseok feels the words boiling out of his throat. “Why can’t you see that?”

“I don’t know!” Taehyung shouts, and Hoseok is holding him again in less than a second.

And this is the way it’s supposed to be. The way it’s always been. Hoseok holding Taehyung like he’s the most precious thing in the entire world, and it’s taken Hoseok nine years to realize that, fucking Christ, he is. Taehyung is the most precious thing in the entire world and he should’ve tried harder to make sure he was okay. Hoseok knows what goes on in Taehyung’s house, he knows the way he’s hurting, and he didn’t bother doing anything because he was inclined to believe Taehyung when he said that everything was okay.

It’s not, it’s not, it never fucking was and it’s hurting Hoseok like knives digging into his front every single time Taehyung quivers in his hold. And he’s never going to understand why someone like his best friend has got to cry so much, has to feel so many things at once and Hoseok will never be able to understand how fucking hard it is for him.

“I f-feel so alone,” Taehyung sobs, clinging to Hoseok like the first time he’d ever come to his house crying.

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok whispers into his hair. “I’m sorry I made you feel so alone, Tae.” The words are hard to force out, since he’s not crying but there’s something else blocking him. Everything he never managed to say, or never thought he even wanted to say.

“N-Not you,” Taehyung corrects, holding on even tighter to Hoseok, decides that he’s never going to stop loving how solid he is. “Never y-you.”

Hoseok doesn’t want to hear this. Doesn’t want to hear Taehyung not blaming him for being a shitty friend, because he feels so fucking guilty. Hoseok should’ve done something. And it feels too fucking late now because most of Taehyung’s life has just been fucking ruined when it could’ve been good.

It could’ve been great. Taehyung could’ve been so fucking great.

He is. He is.

He’s just sad and hurting and Hoseok wonders vaguely if he’s ever just wanted to end it all, which is kind of rhetorical, since he knows the answer. He’s always known the answer somewhere, the minute Taehyung started hanging out with him less, pulling into himself, claiming he was just tired but that was never it.

Hoseok and Taehyung were meant for each other, they got each other. Hoseok will never forgive himself for not seeing Taehyung the way he should’ve.

“Tae,” Hoseok starts gently. “I want you to feel better.”

Taehyung’s heaver sobs have enough impact for Hoseok to practically launch himself out the window. When was the last time he had even seen Taehyung out there?

“I want to be there for you,” Hoseok continues, unsure of where his words are even coming from at this point. “When you’re hurting, Tae, when you’re happy. I just want to be there for you, always. I swear to fucking God, Tae,” Hoseok holds him tighter. It’s all skin and bones surrounded by layers of blankets because Taehyung isn’t even there anymore, really. Hoseok just wants him back. “I fucking swear I’m never going to leave you.”

“D-Don’t promise m-me that,” Taehyung just about wails into Hoseok’s shoulder.

When did Taehyung’s trust get so fucking skewed?

“I’m promising it.” Hoseok assures soothingly. “I promise the fuck out of that, Tae.”

He manages to lift Taehyung’s head off his shoulder, gently, and mostly unwillingly. His cheeks are sticky and wet between Hoseok’s fingers, tears slipping over the ridges of his hands. “Kim Taehyung, you listen to me,” He starts, cupping Taehyung’s face in his hands. He waits until Taehyung looks at him, until he can really see him. “I swear on everything, on everyone, I am never going to not be there for you. You text me at three in the morning because your father is being fucking crazy? Sure! Go right the fuck ahead. You wanna call me because you haven’t eaten in a while and you’re hungry, but you’re just not feeling it? You call me.”

Yeah, Hoseok gets its.

“You want to hurt yourself,” The air around them dissipates within a second. It wasn’t even a question, it didn’t even need to be. Hoseok coaxes Taehyung to meet his gaze again, which is everything but angry. He could never be angry. “Then you can talk to me whenever, wherever, for however long you want. You can say whatever you want. I just want to help, Tae. That’s all I want.”

“Jesus Christ,” Taehyung grits out, his eyes squinted shut because it’s just too hard not to cry when he has a best friend like Hoseok. “Jesus fucking Almighty Christ, you’re too good.” Taehyung whimpers, shutting his eyes fully as he feels Hoseok wipe up the few tears that slipped out with the pads of his thumbs.

“I’m your best friend.” Hoseok reminds him, for the billionth time. “Who would I be if I didn’t care about you? I love you!”

He fucking means it so much that it wrenches at his heart.

Taehyung pulls himself together haphazardly in the next few minutes. He doesn’t look better, he doesn’t feel better, Hoseok knows that.

“I still don’t want to go out,” Taehyung pipes up, curling his knees up to his chest.

Hoseok scoffs at him, a gentle smile playing on his lips. “Well, we aren’t going to now.”

They don’t talk about what Taehyung is really going through. What it’s really called. Because they both know it, and they’re both not a fan of self-diagnosis, but it doesn’t matter all that much anyways. Labelling things won’t fix it.

“Do you want to eat something?” Hoseok asks him, and everything would be perfect if Taehyung’s mother wasn’t right downstairs, probably hearing everything that just went on. Probably going to tell his father the minute he got home.

“I’m not hungry.” Taehyung tells him, dropping his gaze because talking about this is so much more fucking difficult than he thought.

“I think you still should.” Hoseok insists, and Taehyung knows he right. “How about something small? Like a sandwich.”

Taehyung shrugs, a little smile forced onto his mouth, because the last thing he wants to seem is ungrateful. “I didn’t know you could make food.”

“Yah!” Hoseok snaps, and Taehyung laughs, it feels too fucking good. Too fucking wrong. “You know I can make you a sandwich, I’ve done it before.” He pouts.

Years of sandwiches snuck into Taehyung’s room.

“What if you shower, and I make you something?” Hoseok suggests, and he can see the way Taehyung is internally battling himself; between staying in bed or actually doing something.

“I know you don’t want to. You don’t think you can.” Hoseok’s always fucking right. “But you can do it, Tae.”

He lets out a whine, which somehow lets Hoseok know that Taehyung will actually do it, which is a start.

It’s going fine until Hoseok’s phone rings.

It’s loud and it’s almost a smack in Taehyung’s face because oh. He momentarily forgot that Hoseok, unlike him, actually has a life, and unlike him, actually has other friends, and unlike him, isn’t completely hopeless.

Because Hoseok’s life is going to go on past this moment of complete and utter reveal that Taehyung just went through, and he’s going to be fine.

“One sec,” He whispers to Taehyung, as he’s already lifted his phone to his ear. “Hello?”

Who even is it?

“No, I can’t.” Hoseok answers, pacing the length of Taehyung’s room. “I know, I’m sorry I have to cancel.”

Cancel? What did he have planned?

“Yeah, invite me to the next one though!” Hoseok is bright and happy to be making plans with other people, and Taehyung is just lying there like an idiot. Like a stupid fucking idiot.

“Huh?” Hoseok asks into the receiver. “Yeah, I was totally looking forward to it, shut up. I’m not flaking, I’m just,” He looked over to Taehyung, who met his gaze apologetically. He’s so fucking sorry. “I’m just busy.”

Busy.

Hoseok is busy.

Busy taking care of Taehyung, when he could be out with his other friends that he never even talks about, that Taehyung doesn’t even know the names of.

“Yeah, I have some stuff to do.” Hoseok answers. “I know. Fuck off, I’m not gonna miss my own grad. That’s like, 6 months away too.”

Taehyung rolls over and curls into himself in bed, covering his ears with his hands, because he doesn’t want to hear what Hoseok is saying anymore. Doesn’t want to feel like he’s insinuating Taehyung’s a task that he has to complete.

“Look, I- I have to go, okay?” Hoseok says, casting another look at Taehyung, noticing the way he’s holding himself. “Yeah, yeah, bye.”

The conversation ends just as quickly as it started, and Hoseok shoves his phone back into his pocket, moving back over to Taehyung.

“Sorry, that was my friend.” He speaks up, resting his hand on Taehyung’s shoulder, nudging it lightly.

“I figured.” He mumbles, completely disconnecting.

“You good, Tae?” Hoseok asks. He can’t miss the way Taehyung just seems off.

Taehyung snaps out of his own thoughts and looks up at Hoseok, glassy-eyed. “Yeah, yeah I’m okay.”

“Are you sure?” Hoseok presses, even though there’s a part of him that should’ve known that he wasn’t.

“Positive.” Taehyung mumbles, looking profoundly lost. “Yeah, I’m good.” He sounds so decided and Hoseok doesn’t really know why.

He’s never going to get how much Taehyung is hurting. How much he’s ruining Hoseok’s life.

“You look off.” Hoseok comments, ready to comfort again if he needs to.

Taehyung stands up quickly, sways on his feet, since this is the first time he’s been up in the past two fucking days and everything is nauseating. And there are way too many thoughts rushing through his head, through his heart, and Taehyung doesn’t know what to do anymore.

“I’m fine, I’m gonna go shower.” He answers, having to side-step the piles of his clothes as well.

“Alright, I’ll go make you something.” Hoseok answers, already starting towards Taehyung’s window, because why else would they do things any differently. Even though everything is going to be different. “And Tae?”

Taehyung looks up at him, tries to keep the numbing sensations running through his body to a minimum. Tries to keep his thoughts from running rampant.

“Call me if you need anything, okay?”

Taehyung’s heart crumples and folds in on itself, except he has nothing left to cry right now.

Maybe later.

Taehyung watches Hoseok steady himself as he opens the window and slides out, jumping from his window to his balcony. Watches him get inside and immediately rush out of his room, presumably hurrying down into the kitchen to cater to Taehyung.

To cancel his plans for Taehyung, who was only going to be fussy and wasting his time like always.

Taehyung leaves his room for the first time in two days, and steps into the hallway. His feet hitting the well-maintained wood floor like they’d done for the past seventeen years. Small dents litter the bottom of the wall from years of grappling to them. There are no family pictures, there is nothing home-like about anything in this hallway. There’s nothing.

Taehyung goes into the bathroom, shutting the door immediately, before resting his forehead against the wood.

He wants Hoseok to be happy. It’s the only thing he wants anymore. He wants the one person he gives a shit about to live a long and happy fucking life.

He hears his front door open, hears the way his mother gets out of her chair as soon as his father walks in.

He wonders when she stopped loving him. Because he knows she did.

“Where is he?” Taehyung can hear his father’s voice, more liquor than humanly possible. He wonders if he even has a liver anymore.

“In his bedroom.” His mother’s meek voice lets out.

“When the fuck is he going to get his shit together?”

Taehyung almost cries again. He’s trying.

His father drops the bag of alcohol he’d been carrying on the couch, and Taehyung can hear the bottles clink together softly. He guesses there’s about eight bottles of something in there.

“Are you going to whip him into shape?” His father snaps, his voice angry. “Or am I?”

His mother stammers something, anything, and Taehyung doesn’t miss the slap that he hears resonate through the air. Taehyung is going to fucking lose it in this house. It’s all just too much.

He wants to call Hoseok. Wants to call him right now. Since he’s feeling freshly vulnerable, and he can’t even be anywhere near his parents right now. He needs Hoseok but for some reason he can’t do it. He can’t call him. Doesn’t want to be a burden for any longer.

“This fucking house, I swear!” His father shouts. “Two fucking ungrateful, worthless pieces of shit!”

Taehyung almost falls over, with how fast he runs to the sink, turning it on so it can drown out the sound of his father yelling.

He’s freaking out and he’s completely calm.

To Taehyung, it feels like the walls are closing around him and there’s no way to slow them down from crushing him. It’s either he gets crushed or he jumps out. If he frees himself.

He can’t keep doing this. Can’t keep being here, being anywhere. He has to get out, he needs to be let out and now he doesn’t see what else there is to do. He can’t focus, everything is resounding in his ears, if he could yell, he would. If he could cry, he would. But everything about him is just wrong.

Hoseok doesn’t need him, but Taehyung is never going to forget how much he loves him.

--

 

Hoseok tosses the sandwich in a plastic bag, over the balcony and through the window, before he jumps over himself.

Taehyung’s room was empty, and the water was still running, which was a good sign. He was happy that Taehyung had agreed to take a shower and to try and change at least his day around.

Hoseok didn’t know what he was doing, and he didn’t know how to ask for help about Taehyung. He tried with his mother and seemed to get nowhere.

“Mom?” He asked suddenly, in between buttering slices of bread.

“Yeah?” She replied, from her seat at the kitchen table, mug of tea in hand.

“What do you do, if like,” Hoseok stopped, unsure of what to say. “If you think someone needs help?”

He turned to see his mother frowning at him lightly. “What do you mean? Is someone in trouble?”

“No! No.” He rushed to answer. “It’s just that,” He sighed, chewing on the inside of his lip, thinking about if Taehyung was okay right now. “I don’t know, I’m worried for someone.”

“Okay,” His mother pondered. “Are they depressed?”

“I- I don’t know, Mom.” He answered, turning back to his sandwich. He was surprised by her bluntness. “I think, uh- maybe, yeah? Yes. I think so.”

“You don’t want to tell me who it is?” She inquired further.

It would break her heart, actually.

“I don’t think they’d want me to.” Hoseok replied. “But I just want to help them.”

“The best thing you can do is tell someone. Tell their parents or another adult.”

Or actually none of those three.

“Oh, okay.” Hoseok answered, opening the fridge in search of anything to put on the sandwich. “Mom, we literally have nothing in here.”

“Well,” His mother snapped slightly, even though Hoseok knew she was never really mad. “If you had gone to get the groceries like I told you to, then the fridge would be stocked.”

“Well, it’s a little too late for that now!” He answered impatiently, running to the cupboard in search of peanut butter. “I can’t put peanut butter on butter, Mom!”

“Why are you stressing?” His mother sighed, unimpressed with Hoseok’s actions.

“This is an important sandwich!” He answers, shoving one of the slices of buttered bread into his mouth, as he pulls out some fresh bread to coat with peanut butter.

“I’m not even going to question it.” His mother said, choosing to go back to her cup of tea.

Now, one complete ordeal later, Hoseok was standing in Taehyung’s bedroom, holding a semi-decent peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

He probably wasn’t supposed to be here, but he took it as his only chance. Hoseok crept through Taehyung’s room when he heard his parent’s downstairs.

Hoseok has never heard yelling like that.

“Go to the store, go buy more fucking beer, Seohyun!” He roared, and Hoseok couldn’t see them, but from the way his mother shrieked, he didn’t want to. “I’m going for a fucking drive. You can walk there.”

He snaps, stalking off to the door loudly, and then slamming it as he left. A few moments later, the door opened again, quieter, and Taehyung’s mother was gone as well.

Hoseok still tip-toed out of the room, coming closer to the bathroom where the water was coming from. The closer he got, the softer the water sounded. Which was entirely unlike the water pressure of a shower.

Hoseok moves up to the door, knocking lightly. “Taehyung? You in the shower?”

There was no answer, and Hoseok wasn’t sure why that worried him so much.

Hoseok takes a step back, and it’s only then that he notices his feet are wet.

They were soaked straight through his socks, and he didn’t even bother to wear shoes, despite the autumn weather. If he had, he wouldn’t have noticed the water coming from under the bathroom door.

Looking down, most of the hallway was pooling with water, a small trickle, just enough to raise suspicion. It sure fucking did.

“Tae?” Hoseok calls louder, knocking even harder. “Tae? Tae!” He slams his open palm against the door repeatedly, begging that Taehyung would shout at him to shut up. He doesn’t, there isn’t a single sign of Taehyung.

The water leaking under the door wasn’t fucking normal.

Why hadn’t Hoseok noticed before?

His hand reaches down to the doorknob, twist it, his muscles relaxing slightly when he feels the slide of the door. Taehyung didn’t even lock it.

Hoseok practically threw the door open, his eyes frantically scanning the scene in front of him.

If he could’ve found his voice, he would’ve screamed.

The sink had overflowed, water dripping down and sliding out from under the door. The shower wasn’t even on. The medicine cabinet was yanked open with a force that Hoseok could almost feel. Bottles were knocked over, open, half-empty, completely empty.

Taehyung.

Jesus fucking Christ, Taehyung.

He was there. So fucking there.

The water around him was almost white, from the pills he hadn’t managed to swallow, diluting into the puddles surrounding his body. His left hand still clenched around a bottle of something, and his eyes were closed. Not asleep. Not at peace.

“Tae?” Hoseok whispers, his voice shaking. “Tae?

He stumbles into the bathroom, his legs giving out from under him as he falls next to Taehyung. Next to what was Taehyung.

His fingers tremble when he reaches down to touch Taehyung’s face. He’s still warm, and Hoseok can feel ghosts of breath still puffing out from his lips gently. This was recent. Taehyung did this recently. Of course he had.

“Oh no,” Hoseok whimpers out the only thing he can think of, his heart too tight in his chest. He can’t even look at Taehyung. Can’t look at him without wanting to scream. To know what the fuck had he just done?

His hands fumble madly for his phone, dialing his mother. She answers on the third ring.

“Hoseok?” She asks, and he starts crying at that moment because what if Taehyung is gone and he never gets to hear Hoseok’s mother’s voice again. Taehyung can’t be gone, he can’t fucking deal with that.

“Hoseok, what’s wrong, baby?” She asks again, her voice more serious.

“Mom!” He screams into the receiver, one hand still holding Taehyung’s cheek lightly. “Mom, it’s Taehyung! Help, I don’t know what to do.”

“Hoseok,” His mother isn’t getting any answers. “Hoseok, what happened to Taehyung? Is he okay? Talk to me, Hoseok!”

“Mom, h-he took p-pills!” Hoseok wails, the words ripping their way out of his throat and he just wants to hold Taehyung. There’s nothing else going through his head.

“I’m calling the ambulance right now, Hoseok. I’ll be over in a minute with your father. Stay calm, baby.”

How is she so calm?

How can he ever be calm again?

Hoseok doesn’t register the call ending, but he knows he tosses his phone at the wall, knows it breaks. The tears clouding his vision are too much for him to even try and wipe away, except for when one lands on Taehyung’s cheek.

“Tae,” He sobs out, clutching him tightly. “Please, please, please, Tae, no.” Hoseok practically yanks out his hair, stressing for Taehyung’s life because the paramedics can’t get here soon enough. And he doesn’t know when Taehyung took these, and he doesn’t know if he’s going to make it.

He has to. He fucking has to.

“Tae,” Hoseok cries, his heart-shattering at how lifeless Taehyung looks. Did he want this? Did he know what he was doing?

“Tae, y-you have t-to make it t-through this.” Hoseok’s entire body is shaking, and he feels like he’s going to be sick, or just keel over. But he can’t. He needs his fucking best friend to be okay this is so fucking unfair.

“Taehyung,” Hoseok sobs out, his quivering hands stroking through the damp hair. “I need you, Tae. I love you, I love you, I love you. Please, please, Tae, I know you’re still with me, I know you’re still here, I love you. I’m in love with you, Tae.”

Hoseok hears his mother and father come through the unlocked front door.

“Tae, I n-need to t-tell you that.” Hoseok cries again. “W-when you wake up. W-when you c-come back to m-me.”

Taehyung is held down by the weight of his family, by the burden he thinks he has to carry so that no one else has to. Taehyung is Hoseok’s angel, his fucking lifeline and he needs him alive, he needs him with him.

“Taehyung, come back to me.”

 

6

 

Taehyung spends his eighteenth birthday in the psychiatric ward of a hospital who’s name is too bright for whoever’s in there.

Our Saving Grace.

A fucking lie.

Taehyung doesn’t think all that much while hospitalized. Doesn’t really have time to think about anything. Nobody wants his thoughts to wander too far down a hole he’s really fucking good at digging himself into. They talk to him, make him talk, even though he’d rather just stay silent.

The first face he saw when he woke up was a doctor, maybe there were more crowding over him. He could’ve sworn he saw Hoseok, for a second, even less. Then everything was gone again.

Not forever. Because Taehyung ended up waking fully within the following two days. He woke up in the middle of the night.

Hoseok was holding his hand, just slightly too tightly, and Taehyung wanted to yank it back. He had the sudden urge to push Hoseok away for even trying to help. For doing the right thing, the only thing Taehyung didn’t want him to.

He didn’t want to be here.

His movements woke up Hoseok, surprisingly quickly, who sat up and rubbed his eyes. Taehyung didn’t say a word, just watched him, trying not to be angry. He watched as Hoseok’s adjusted to the dimness of the room, and then he caught sight of Taehyung.

There was no talking.

But Taehyung heard the way Hoseok gasped softly, felt the way his hands shook. It took two seconds for Hoseok to lean over and hug him, hold him, and then he was crying. He wasn’t even quiet.

Taehyung wasn’t crying.

“Why?” Hoseok asked him, his words dropping into hiccupping sobs against Taehyung’s neck. He didn’t answer. Didn’t have an answer.

Taehyung’s head felt heavy, and his tongue dry like cotton in his mouth, he felt like he was going to be sick but he sat still and let Hoseok cry. It’s the least he can do for being so shitty. Shitty enough to survive and make Hoseok cry on him like that.

“Taehyung, why?” He asked again, and Taehyung almost had enough cognitive reasoning to be surprised that Hoseok was actually expecting him to answer.

He doesn’t.

It's too fucking difficult to even breathe around Hoseok, because Taehyung wore him down to nothing. He did this

"How a-am I s-supposed to b-believe it's not-, not my f-fault?" Hoseok wept, sobbing heavily into Taehyung's bony shoulder. He wished he had any words of comfort to offer Hoseok. But he didn't. 

His first words come a few days later.

Taehyung is sitting up in his bed, a tray of food on the small swinging table in front of him. He doesn’t touch it, simply swirls the fruit cup around with his spoon. Hoseok is sitting next to him again, although Taehyung isn’t looking at him. He also isn’t looking at the hospital psychiatrist, who chose to stop by for a ‘little visit’ as he called it. The date on his paper read December 14th.

“Do you know where you are, Taehyung?” The psychiatrist had asked, a man who looks too close to Hoseok’s age to be considered all that professional. Taehyung nodded, opting to not speak. He didn’t really know what to say.

“Okay,” The psychiatrist jotted something down on his papers. “Do you know who he is?” He asked, pointing to Hoseok with the tip of his pen. Taehyung nodded, feeling the way Hoseok squeezed his hand gently. Supposed to be reassuring, only made him anxious.

“Do you know why you’re here?” The psychiatrist asked, and Taehyung feels like he’s being belittled slightly. He’s not stupid. He didn’t do what he did to end up here. Taehyung nods anyway, feeling tired with the questions.

“How come you aren’t talking, Taehyung?” The psychiatrist pondered. “The doctors say you have speech, you just aren’t using it. Why?”

As if that’s going to work. Taehyung remains emotionless.

He heard the psychiatrist sigh, he saw him shoot an exasperated glance towards Hoseok. Although, he couldn’t see his expression, Taehyung somehow prayed he wasn’t annoyed with him. Since he was clearly frustrating the shit out of the psychiatrist, who he didn’t even want to talk to.

“Let’s make a deal,” The psychiatrist told him, leaning in closer, to which Taehyung just moved back. “You tell me one sentence, okay? One sentence, and then I won’t make you talk for the rest of the time I’m here today.” Taehyung’s silence was enough for the psychiatrist to know he was considering it. “Just, one thing, Taehyung. Anything. Do you have something you want to say to Hoseok over here?”

Taehyung’s heart practically stopped beating and he was surprised the monitors hooked up to him didn’t start beeping madly. He had everything to say to Hoseok. He looked over to him, noticed Hoseok’s sympathetic expression, noticed how much he just wanted Taehyung to be okay.

Taehyung also noticed the sparks of fear that danced behind Hoseok’s eyes now. Fear that Taehyung had put there without even realizing it. He didn’t know if they would ever go away.

The psychiatrist noted the tears trailing down Taehyung’s cheeks before he did. “Taehyung? Why are you upset? Say one thing.”

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung’s voice was raspy and cracked. It hurt to talk, it hurt to hear his own voice.

“Why are you sorry, Taehyung?” The psychiatrist asked, seeming less annoyed now that he was getting somewhere.

Taehyung looked over briefly at Hoseok, noticed the way he laced their fingers together.

Hoseok didn’t deserve this. Taehyung hated himself but he would always love Hoseok. And he knew that Hoseok shouldn’t be here waiting for him.

Taehyung dropped his gaze to into his own lap, unable to look Hoseok in the eyes anymore.

“I’m sorry I didn’t just die.”

Hoseok had to leave the room because he couldn’t stop himself from crying. The psychiatrist stayed for another two hours before leaving Taehyung relatively alone. Not that alone. He wasn’t allowed to be.

That was two weeks ago.

Taehyung wasn’t necessarily doing better. But he was talking, mostly only to Hoseok. Sometimes to Hoseok’s parents. When they had come to visit him, three days after he woke up, they had cried like he was their own son, and it was enough for Taehyung to be brought to tears.

He couldn’t have left them. Why did he ever think he could’ve left the only people who cared about him?

Hoseok never left his side, or barely. He would only go home to shower and to change clothes, before coming back and spending all of his time with Taehyung. He would show him things on his phone, since Taehyung wasn’t allowed to have his, let him share his headphones when they listened to music, bring him paper so they could make lists together.

Taehyung didn’t really make them for the most part. He just watched quietly as Hoseok made them. Every so often, he would lean over and hug Taehyung, and the latter never declined. He never got tired of feeling safe.

One day, he was feeling inspired, feeling good to be around Hoseok. It was noon, the medication the doctors had given Taehyung made him hungry and he actually managed to eat something substantial. He had even laughed twice that day. He took a piece of paper from Hoseok’s stack, and a really blunt pencil.

Reasons Why I Want to Be Alive

  1. Hoseok
  2. Hoseok
  3. Hoseok

Taehyung didn’t hide the list, didn’t hide how quickly he wrote it. There was nothing else to write. Not even when Hoseok leaned over and read it, a smile already creeping up his face. He kissed Taehyung’s forehead gently and softly, before going back to his own list.

It was the first time in a long while that Hoseok felt like Taehyung was coming back to him. Really coming back.

Hoseok is Taehyung’s sun, his everything. Taehyung needs Hoseok to survive, thought he didn’t, and really did.

He always will.

Now, it’s the morning of Taehyung’s eighteenth. Hoseok was frankly more excited than he was. Hoseok’s parents were visiting again, and the doctor’s had coaxed Taehyung into good behaviour by promising some time outdoors if he wanted, that is.

Of course he wanted to get out of this place. Where everything smelt sterile and sad and Taehyung shivered every time he thought that he carried that scent with him. Hoseok made him want to really get out of there for good. Made him want to motivate himself. He made Taehyung feel better.

Taehyung is lying in bed, as he’d done for the past three weeks, except this time, Hoseok has crawled in alongside him. He’s technically not supposed to be lying there, but he is, since Taehyung asked him to. No one else is awake enough to be on their way to visit him yet. That being only Hoseok’s parents. His own parents haven’t visited him at all.

Taehyung’s head is resting against Hoseok’s chest, while the latter’s arms are tossed over Taehyung’s back. It would be cute if it wasn’t the literal only way they could both fit on the bed.

Taehyung is flickering in and out of consciousness, although more begrudgingly awake since he’d never been all that able to sleep in hospital beds. The headphone in his ear had stopped playing music a while ago, and Taehyung figured Hoseok was asleep and that’s why he didn’t put the playlist on shuffle again.

“Seokie,” Taehyung whispers, feeling his voice breach the quiet of the early morning. He’s surprised when Hoseok hums in response. He was awake, sleepy, but listening. “I want to go outside today.” Taehyung tells him, craning his neck to see even the slightest bit out the window high on the wall. Taehyung pretends he doesn’t notice the bars trapping him inside.

“You will.” Hoseok answers him, hugging him tighter to his chest. “You’re going to get out of here, Tae, soon too.”

Kind of a lie, since no one ever told Taehyung when he was going to get out. Mostly because he was still underage, but not anymore.

“I love you, Seokie.” Taehyung mumbles quietly, and it’s suddenly too real for it to just be friendly anymore. His head is against Hoseok’s heart and he can feel it beating sturdy and on time, albeit being a little bit fast.

“I love you too, Tae.” Hoseok answers, leaning his head down tiredly to kiss the top of Taehyung’s head.

He feels the younger deflate in his arms and through his sleepy-haze Hoseok alerts himself that something’s wrong with Taehyung. He swore he’d never miss anything again.

Taehyung sighs, presses his nose into Hoseok’s sweater and inhales deeply. It was the same sweater Taehyung had borrowed a ton of times in the past, and he was surprised Hoseok hadn’t outgrown it. “I don’t really think you can.” Taehyung tells him, sounding resigned.

Hoseok isn’t awake enough to correct him, really fucking wants to though. Except he doesn’t want to risk saying anything and have Taehyung slipping from his grasp again. He’s only just gotten him back, and he’s not even fully there.

He’ll have moments of complete and utter Taehyung, which for a few glorious seconds makes Hoseok forget where they are, why they’re here. But nothing’s ever going to be the same. Taehyung is never going to be exactly the way he was before, maybe that’s a good thing, Hoseok doesn’t know. But it’s different. And there’s a part of Taehyung that did die somewhere in the past few weeks, but Hoseok doesn’t want to say anything because how the fuck do you tell someone that? That you think they’re acting weird after just trying to commit suicide, of all fucking things, Jesus Christ?

“Happy birthday, Tae.” Hoseok whispers instead, kissing the top of his head again, feeling Taehyung curl around him gently.

“Mm, thank you,” He mumbles sleepily, before finally tumbling into what Hoseok hopes is a relative sense of calm. Taehyung is only able to sleep at all since he’s more on Hoseok than he is on the bed. They have a few more hours until Taehyung’s parents get there, but Hoseok is wide awake.

-

“I feel like a fucking burrito.” Taehyung is loud when he states that, muffled by the big scarf wrapped around him. It takes all of Hoseok to not just start laughing.

The doctors swear it’s the medication they gave Taehyung, to keep him mildly subdued, which is making him so loopy. Mildly. Perhaps that’s an understatement.

“It’s cold out, we don’t want you getting sick,” Hoseok’s mother replies and her voice is enough to warm the air around them. She’s just happy her little Taehyung who really isn’t so little anymore is alive.

“But I am sick,” Taehyung counters, boots crunching heavily through the snow. He doesn’t even sound sad. Though he is. And he misses the looks that the Jung family exchange on his behalf.

He can’t help what he’s saying. If he’s honest, then he’s honest.

“Isn’t the fresh air nice?” Hoseok’s father asks, watching fondly as Taehyung looks around the hospital compounds. He’s outside, finally, and it still feels like a prison. Maybe that feeling of constantly being locked up isn’t going to change at all.

“It’s nice.” Taehyung placates, drops the hands that were reaching for snowflakes to his sides. “It’s really nice.”

Hoseok think’s Taehyung is The Littlest. He looks so tiny in the hospital jacket, made about three sizes too big with padding on purpose, and the mittens that didn’t allow for any hand mobility, and the extra-long scarf. He was so small.

“You’re eighteen, isn’t this exciting?” Hoseok’s mother asks, trying to keep the conversation from dying, except she doesn’t really know what to say.

“Hoseok, come here!” Taehyung calls, from where he’s already trudged through half the courtyard of snow, ignoring her question. “I found like, a pretty rock.”

Hoseok goes over right away, making his way much quicker than Taehyung had stumbled through the snow.

No one says it. But this is sad. This is sad and so un-fucking-fair, Hoseok wants to punch the medical staff that’s standing at the doorway and just watching. How do they watch other human beings act so fucking lost? They keep Taehyung out of his mind to make sure that he doesn’t lose his mind again, but he can’t keep living like this. He deserves more.

Hoseok can let it go for the most part, since they’re in a hospital, and why wouldn’t there be medication? But not when Taehyung is like this.

Taehyung hadn’t found anything special, just some pebbles that hadn’t been covered by the snow.

“They’re nice, Tae.” Hoseok comments, clearing his throat. “Real nice, yeah.”

Taehyung observes them more carefully, before shrugging. “I don’t know why I thought they looked good, they don’t really.” His hand reaches for Hoseok’s, who complies immediately. Taehyung shifts a little so that he’s looking Hoseok directly in the face, and he’s just a little taller, which is cute.

“It’s really weird, because I don’t know what they gave me, but I know I’m acting strange.”

Taehyung sounds normal, and it makes Hoseok even sadder than he knows this isn’t right.

“It’s just so you don’t stress.” Hoseok explains for shit.

“Well,” Taehyung shrugs lightly. “I guess I’m not stressed. But I’m not acting like myself. I keep trying to, but it’s not really working? I don’t know.”

“No, that makes sense.” Hoseok validates, and he can tangibly see how much that means to Taehyung.

“Ah, I don’t know. I guess I’m in here somewhere.” He ponders out loud, before swinging Hoseok’s hand back and forth with his. “I’m somewhere.”

Hoseok hugs him tightly after that, catching Taehyung off guard enough that his whole body tenses, although he hugs back.

Yeah, he’s in there somewhere.

“Taehyung!” The staff calls, and it’s with a crushing feeling that they realize they probably already have to go back inside.

That’s not the case at all.

Standing in the doorway to the courtyard, wrapped in her coat, shivering like a leaf, is Taehyung’s mother.

He almost didn’t believe it. It had been weeks since he’d heard from her, and of course he’d been wondering whether or not she even knew where he was. Looks like she did.

Taehyung instinctively moved towards his mother, who was now standing a few feet away from Hoseok’s parents.

“Mom,” His voice was gone in the middle of his thoughts.

“We contacted her,” Hoseok’s mother explains, cutting into the conversation. “She um-, she need to know.”

Of course she did. Which meant that Taehyung’s father knew as well.

“Can we have a minute alone?” Taehyung asks Hoseok, who nods immediately and moves out of the cold with his parents.

His mother almost looks sad that someone else’s family is doing a better job at being there for Taehyung than she is. Than she ever could.

“Hello Taehyung,” His mother sounds so drained it almost tires Taehyung out.

He can’t find it in him today to be sympathetic. “What do you want?” He snaps, decides to blame it on the medication. Knows it isn’t.

“What do you mean, what do I want?” She asks right back. “My son is in the hospital, you don’t think I won’t come visit?”

“Three weeks.” Taehyung reminds her, feeling the hurt cut into him. “It’s been three weeks.”

“You know how thing are.” She tells him, as if that’s suddenly going to excuse everything.

“I really wish I didn’t.” He mutters, kicking the snow with his boot. Taehyung looks up to see Hoseok on the other side of the door, giving him a small thumbs up. “While you’re out,” Taehyung starts up. “Why don’t you go to police? Why don’t I?”

“Don’t you dare!” His mother shrieks suddenly, alarming not only him, but those listening in as well. This is frightening, seeing his mother like this. Taehyung hates this. “I’m sorry,” she calms down. “Just, don’t bring that up. Things are changing anyways.”

“How is that going to fix anything now, Mom?” Taehyung asks her, and now there’s no bitterness. There’s no sadness or hard feelings, just curiosity. How can anything be fixed after ten years?

“Your father has stopped drinking, for one.” His mother tells him, and there’s almost a hint of pride in her voice. He hates her. He also doesn’t.

“I wonder how long that’s going to last.” Taehyung snaps and he suddenly wants nothing more than to be back in his hospital bed, curled up in uncomfortable blankets that gratefully didn’t remind him of his house.

“It’s going to last.” His mother sounds so fucking certain. “He-he stopped after you tried to overdose.”

Taehyung winces, instinctively pulls back. He still doesn’t respond to people being too blunt with sensitive topics like that. But leave it up to his mother to be wrong once again.

“I’m sure he was just filled with so much remorse.” Taehyung bites sarcastically.

They’re silent for a moment, and Taehyung looks way, although he knows that his mother doesn’t.

“I want you home, Tae.”

Taehyung laughs at that statement, which is enough cause of alarm for the medical staff to open up the door and listen attentively to see what was going on.

“As fucking if,” Taehyung practically shouts. “There’s no way. No way.”

“You can’t do this anymore, when you get out, Taehyung.” His mother isn’t listening to him and Taehyung feels like he’s going to fucking lose it all over again. He wants to cry, he just wants his mother.

“I’m not doing anything!” He protests loudly. “Don’t you get it?!” Taehyung’s eyes search to meet Hoseok’s through the windows of the door but Hoseok seems to be in deep conversation with his mother.

“Don’t I get what, Taehyung?” His mother is just as adamant as he is.

“I haven’t done anything!” He retorts. “This- This! This is the first time I have ever done anything! And look where it’s gotten me! Look where we are now!” Taehyung screams, and he’s aware of people moving around him. “Is this where you want to be, Mom?” He screams, and his mother lets him.

“You can’t lash out like this all your life.” She tells him because that’s the only thing she can say. The only thing she knows how to do is knock him down and Taehyung doesn’t even want to be mad at her for it. Yet she’s so fucking mean it’s breaking his heart. This is her son, and it’s his birthday, and this is not the woman he loved so fucking much growing up.

This is not the woman he vowed to protect. That woman’s dead.

“You taught yourself how to just lie down let people walk all over you!” Taehyung screams, feels someone come behind him and grab his arm. “You’ve learned how to take whatever the fuck you get, and you don’t ever question it!”

He hears the murmurs of people telling him to calm down now, but he can’t.

“There’s nothing to question, Taehyung. When will you learn that?”

“Maybe when I’m not here!” Taehyung screams, hates the way he made a fucking scene. “Happy fucking birthday, by the way!” He shouts as someone shoves him less than gently towards the door. “Did you forget that?” He asks his mother, who’s still standing in the courtyard.

“I remembered, Taehyung.” She calls out to him.

“I fucking hate you.” Taehyung’s voice echoes in the empty courtyard after, even though he wasn’t even all that loud. His ears are ringing and he doesn’t even notice when Hoseok and his parents pull him inside, apologizing for that.

Taehyung doesn’t cry for his mother.

-

He’s back in bed, waiting for the psychiatrist to come by since the doctors were made aware of his scene, when he notices that Hoseok and his parents aren’t talking. 

They had already left, saying they would be back in a few hours with something special for Taehyung, despite the amount of times he told them that they didn’t have to do anything for him. While they were still there, Hoseok didn’t even look at them. He didn’t say goodbye when they exited, and he didn’t even answer when they spoke to him.

“What’s up with them?” Taehyung asks, nudging Hoseok with his elbow. The older looks up from his phone, somewhat surprised.

“Oh, it’s nothing.” Hoseok tells him. “Just, parent stuff, is all.”

“You never fight with your parents.” Taehyung comments curiously.

“We aren’t fighting,” Hoseok assures, although he really doesn’t sound sure. “They’re just annoying me a little bit about school.”

“Oh.” Taehyung’s heart sinks. “Have you been missing too much, because of me?”

“No, no!” Hoseok immediately negates, closing his phone so he can give his attention to Taehyung. “It’s nothing like that, I’ve just you know, got to start applying to universities and stuff, you know, adult shit.”

Taehyung laughs in agreement, although he doesn’t really know. He hasn’t been to school at all in a while, and there’s a satirical little bitch inside of him that’s mean enough to applaud him for overdosing right before Christmas Break, so he didn’t miss all that much.

Hoseok doesn’t bring up the topic again, but Taehyung can tell that there’s something he’s not saying. Something he refuses to say.

But Taehyung won’t press.

“I hope I get out of here soon.” Taehyung states openly, because there’s a part of him that’s hoping he’ll just be able to move in with Hoseok when he gets out.

He knows that’s impossible.

“You will,” Hoseok assures, taking his hand and lacing their fingers together again.

Taehyung doesn’t get how Hoseok can be so gentle with him. So kind.

He is so fucking grateful for Hoseok.

“I love you,” Taehyung tells him again, a little too often for platonic relationships. “I love you a lot, Hoseok.”

“I love you too.” Hoseok answers, a little smile playing on his lips. It disappears when he sees how uneasy Taehyung looks.

 He hates himself, Jesus fuck he hates himself, why can’t he ever just be fine?

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung immediately rushes out. “I just- I don’t respond well to that.”

“I don’t have to say it, if you don’t want me to.”

“It just doesn’t feel real.”

“I can promise you it is.” Hoseok tells him calmly. “But if you don’t want me to say it, then I won’t say it, Tae. It’s fine.”

“No,” Taehyung shakes his head, resting it down on Hoseok’s shoulder. “No, I want you to say it.”

Hoseok is slightly hesitant, thumb grazing the back of Taehyung’s hand. This isn’t just friendly and it never was, but neither of them want to say anything about that. Neither of them even know what to say. How to make things okay again.

“I love you.” Hoseok whispers to him, his voice strangely resonant in the room.

Taehyung sighs against him, bringing the blanket up to rest right under his chin.

His response comes quietly, like the gentle rustle of wind. Suddenly but not unexpected. Unlike himself.

“It’s okay.”

 

7

Taehyung is eighteen and ready to embarrass the fuck out of Hoseok when he graduates. He even has a sign prepared and everything.

Taehyung’s phone buzzes in his dress shirt pocket and he pulls it out discreetly. The ceremony’s about to start very soon, and the last thing Taehyung wants is to miss Hoseok walking on stage.

HoeSucc: are u here??

HoeSucc: Im outside the venue shitting myself I don’t wanna go in

You: I’m gonna embarrass the fuck out of you so you have to be here

HoeSucc: I’m running away right now thanks for that

Taehyung smiles down at his phone. He can just imagine Hoseok shuffling from one foot to the other, nervous as fuck, but here he goes, and he’s graduating. He’s going to get somewhere.

You: did I tell you how proud I was of you

HoeSucc: stop ur being gross

You: fuck nevermind I’ll just leave then

HoeSucc: okay bye see ya tae kwon do :(((

You: wait what is that seriously my name on your phone still

HoeSucc: :((((

You: hoSeOK nO

HoeSucc: sorry Tae (kwon do)  

Taehyung chuckles to himself, before putting his phone back in his pocket and turning around in his seat to see if he could catch a glimpse of any of the graduates. Or maybe the only one he cares about. He’s sitting with Hoseok’s parents and the rest of Taehyung’s family, aunts and uncles he’d rarely ever met and for the most part, didn’t remember who he was.

Taehyung is so fucking proud of Hoseok when he finally hears that cheesy ass graduation music start playing and low and behold, there he is.

If nervous had a personification, it wouldn’t be Hoseok. Despite how jittery he claimed to be, he also looked ready. There was no place to go but up and Hoseok was going to soar.

Hoseok doesn’t really look in their direction for most of the ceremony, only shooting a brief smile to Taehyung before he had to go back to being a decent graduate. Taehyung had to be a good attendee before he went completely ballistic when Hoseok’s name was called.

 

It feels like all of Taehyung and Hoseok’s joint efforts throughout the years have led up to this moment. All the times Taehyung had stayed up with Hoseok, quizzing him before a huge test, and all the times Hoseok made Taehyung’s memory aids, since Taehyung couldn’t even read his own handwriting.

They’d gone through so much together and at the same time nothing at all.  Taehyung pushed himself so that Hoseok could go far. This was the start of everything.

Soon enough, it’s time, Taehyung’s moment to shine. When the principle calls Hoseok on stage, the loudest voice is Taehyung’s before anyone else even have a chance to compete with him.

“Yes! That’s my boy!” Taehyung shouts, standing up and obscuring the vision of anyone and everyone behind him. Hoseok’s parents don’t even try to stop him at this point. “You go! You own this! I love you, Hoseok-Oppa!”

Hoseok has a hard time getting to the podium after that, laughing his way on stage, especially when he catches sight of the glittery paper Taehyung holds up, Hoseok Oppa scrawled in cursive on the front.

Taehyung is so fucking proud of Hoseok and the only way he can show it is by being a huge fucking meme.

None of the staff look all that happy with Taehyung and his outburst, despite the student body finding it pretty fucking hilarious.

Until the ceremony is over, Taehyung has to be exceptionally mature. Afterwards, he practically jumps on Hoseok, hugging him tightly and almost bowling them over.

“You fucking nerd, you fucking graduating nerd!” Taehyung hops while holding Hoseok. They’re in public, still in the venue hall, although now the graduates are mingling with the guests.

“Hoseok!” His mother greets warmly, Taehyung stepping back to hug Hoseok tightly, while his father took pictures. “I am so, so, proud of you.”

Hoseok’s smile diminishes when he sees his mother, simply nodding politely as a thank you. He loves the love and affection he’s getting, mostly. Taehyung’s being the best of all. Seeing his best friend, glowing, looking healthy and most importantly happy, was the only graduation present Hoseok could ever want.

“I’m so happy.” Hoseok mumbles softly, once he’s again being pulled into a hug by Taehyung.

“You fucking should be!” Taehyung exclaims. “I’m happy for you!”

Hoseok’s bright laughter is the best response he could’ve gotten, before his father is ushering the two of them together for a picture.

“My two boys,” Hoseok’s mother comments proudly, and Taehyung’s heart melts a whole lot. “How handsome.”

“Ugly piece of shit.” Taehyung mutters in Hoseok’s ear.

“Yah! You fucking asshole!” Hoseok snaps, whacking Taehyung in the arm with his certificate. “You’re lucky you aren’t dead right now!”

Taehyung really is. Hoseok didn’t mean it like that, but regardless, Taehyung really is.

“Okay, easy, easy.” Hoseok’s mother chides playfully. “Hoseok, you go have fun, yeah? Call me when you’re on your way home after prom.” Hoseok nods diligently. “Taehyung, I’ll drive you back to your place.”

Taehyung nods, hugging Hoseok again.

“We’ll be in the car,” Hoseok’s father adds, already exiting the building with his wife, leaving Hoseok and Taehyung relatively alone.

“I’m so proud of you,” Taehyung tells him again, and Hoseok chuckles against him. “My best friend, you’re starting your life! This is huge!”

“You’re next, idiot.” Hoseok comments, although he hugs back even tighter.

“Can you imagine?” Taehyung starts up, the future suddenly looking so bright. “Moving in together right after I finally graduate? And then we can get a dog, or maybe just take Soonshim! And it’ll be a really cute apartment somewhere nice like, like Seoul! We’ll have our own apartment in Seoul and it’ll be the cutest fucking thing in the world!”

Hoseok is smiling, but there’s something off. Taehyung notices it, frowns slightly. “What’s wrong, Seokie?” He asks, tapping the tip of his nose lightly.

Hoseok scrunches his face up for a second, before regaining his composure. “Nothing! Nothing’s wrong Tae, don’t worry. That sounds amazing.”

Taehyung smiles for both of their sakes, and he doesn’t want to ruin the moment by asking Hoseok again if there was something wrong. So he doesn’t.

It’s an understatement to say that Taehyung is surprised when Hoseok leans over and kisses Taehyung softly. It’s barely there, but it is. This is the first time they’d kissed since they were twelve. Not that they hadn’t wanted to since then, but neither of them made a move towards it.

Hoseok pulls away rapidly, his face completely flushed to the tip of his ears. Taehyung kisses his nose again, before ruffling his hair.

Everything was okay.

“You go get ‘em, champ!” Taehyung coos, pinching Hoseok’s cheek.

“Knock it off, you’re embarrassing me.” Hoseok mutters. That only makes Taehyung increase his antics.

“My little prince,” He coddles again, and Hoseok pushes him away, laughing heartedly.

“I’ll see you after,” Hoseok says, already making his way to the door where other graduates are gathering.

“If by after you mean tossing pebbles at my window at three in the morning,” Taehyung trails off, and by Hoseok’s expression, he could tell that that’s exactly what Hoseok had in mind. “Then you can at least text me first.”

Hoseok’s mouth breaks into a grin, and he nods, before practically jogging off to catch up with his other friends.

Taehyung is happy for him.

-

Hoseok does text Taehyung when he gets home, although it’s actually at four in the morning.

Taehyung hadn’t been sleeping. He had sat out on the window sill all night, relishing in the warm June air. He was too big to be out there comfortably now, but he was pretty good at balancing himself, so he would be okay.

HoeSucc: im homeeeee

HoeSucc: come outside if you’re awake?

You: I’m awake but I feel like you’re not sober

HoeSucc: INcorrect

HoeSucc: now come to my backyard I wanna see you

Taehyung looks over and sees Hoseok go through his backdoor and sit in the grass, a bottle of water in hand, as well as his phone. He had changed into a t-shirt and some shorts, and lying down under the stars, he looks so beautiful.

You: is your balcony door unlocked

HoeSucc: just for you ;))

Greasy. Taehyung rolls his eyes, before sliding his phone into his short pockets and bracing himself on the windowsill, bringing his feet up and then jumping, landing with a resonating thump. He moves into Hoseok’s room, and tiptoes down the hall and down the stairs, until he makes it to Hoseok’s backyard.

“Hey,” He calls quietly, and Hoseok turns to look at him, his grin breaking into a smile.

“Hey, come sit.” He pats the grass next to him, and Taehyung complies, sitting with him.

“Did you drink tonight?” Taehyung couldn’t help but ask when he notices that Hoseok is actually surprisingly sober.

Hoseok shrugs.  “Like two beers around eleven, I’m okay now.”

Taehyung notices that Hoseok looks even more beautiful right now, up close. He always does, but it’s practically an aura around him. His hair was tousled, the colour in his cheeks just a remnant of the fun he had that night. Hoseok was just smiley and he looked so fucking happy it made Taehyung’s heart soar.

“You had fun then?” Taehyung asks, settling to lie down in the grass and look up at the stars. There weren’t all that many, but it was better than in the city.

“I did.” Hoseok tells him, sighing lightly. “I had fun. But now it’s done. Onto bigger things and shit.”

“That’s philosophical of you.” Taehyung muses, chuckling lightly when Hoseok scoffs and nudges his shoulder. He moves to lie down next to Taehyung.

“We haven’t been outside like this in a while.” Hoseok comments, and it’s true. Taehyung can’t remember the last time he’d done something as simple as sneak out to star gaze with Hoseok.

“Yeah,” Taehyung nods. “I missed this.”

“I missed you.” Hoseok confesses, and Taehyung knows what he means.

He smiles, big, knowing, before falling silent again.

“Do you,” Hoseok starts, his voice piercing in Taehyung’s ear. “Do you ever still, like, think about it?”

It.

“Yeah,” Taehyung admits, never bothering to look over at Hoseok, even though he knows he’s watching. “A lot.”

“Do you still feel like that?” Hoseok asks him, and this is the first time they really talk about things.

“Yes, sometimes.” Taehyung admits. “But not all the time.”

“You can tell me when you do though?” Hoseok asks him, one hand tugging at the grass nervously.

“I do.” Taehyung looks and smiles briefly. “I always tell you.”

It’s true. It’s happened on a few occasions since Taehyung’s release, that he’ll call or text Hoseok, telling him that he can’t sleep, he feels unmotivated, or he just needed someone other than his therapist to talk to. Hoseok listens every time. Even when things got scary a few months ago.

“I feel everything going bad again.” Taehyung had cried into the receiver the minute Hoseok picked up the phone.

It took half an hour of coaxing and soothing for Hoseok to get Taehyung to come over and talk to him, but he did, he didn’t hide himself anymore. At least not from Hoseok.

The occasional medication, bimonthly visits with his psychologist, that Taehyung’s mother silently payed for, and most importantly Hoseok, Taehyung was doing okay. He could be doing better, but he will be doing better eventually.

“You trust me like that?” Hoseok asks him, a gratitude shining in his eyes unlike anything Taehyung had ever seen.

“More than anyone.” Taehyung tells him, shutting his eyes when Hoseok leans over to kiss his forehead.

“Thank you.”

It’s a kiss to the tip of his nose next, and Taehyung leans up to meet Hoseok, unable to wait anymore, melding their lips. It’s gentle, the way Hoseok reaches up to thread his fingers through Taehyung’s hair. Hoseok is never anything but gentle, and it sets a slow burning fire ablaze in Taehyung’s heart.

“I’ve wanted to do that, for the past ten years.” Hoseok whispers when Taehyung pulls away slightly to catch his breath.

“You have.” Taehyung answers, a smile on his lips that quickly spreads from his to Hoseok’s when they meet again.

Taehyung has never felt like his life was more right than it was, here and now. With Hoseok pressed against him, in the middle of his backyard, with absolutely nothing around them. Taehyung is so fucking glad he didn’t go to sleep.

They only break away from each when the sun begins to rise. It’s the only way Taehyung knows that he’s had Hoseok’s lips on his for at least two hours.

He couldn’t get enough.

Doesn’t want to ever stop kissing Hoseok, even whines slightly when the older pulls back.

Taehyung manages to settle back down into the grass, holding on as tightly as he can to Hoseok, occasionally kissing at his cheek.

It’s the best he’s felt with Hoseok in a long time. Ten years is a long time coming.

 “I love you.” Hoseok tells him suddenly, watching the sun scrape over the horizon.

Taehyung nods, takes a moment. He’s working on believing Hoseok. It’s better than what is was six months ago, but it’s still in progress. “I love you too.” He answers, shutting his eyes when Hoseok turns his head to place a kiss against Taehyung’s forehead.

“What am I going to do without you?” Hoseok asks him, out of place, out of time.

Taehyung frowns, shrugs. “You won’t have to worry about that. I’m not going anywhere.”

Hoseok takes a moment to answer, it’s a moment too long. Worrisome. “Yeah.” He replies, and Taehyung wants to know why he sounds so uncertain. “I know you aren’t going anywhere.”

They fall silent for a good few minutes after that, until Hoseok speaks up again.

“Tae?” He asks, making sure that he hasn’t fallen asleep.

“Hm?” Taehyung replies, fully awake, just in his own thoughts.

“Maybe it’s just because I’ve been out all night,” Hoseok starts, which definitely earns Taehyung’s attention. “But I have, this indescribable urge to play Pokémon right now.”

Taehyung is grinning from ear to ear before Hoseok is even done is sentence. “We haven’t played that in years!” He answers excitedly. “Go get it! Go get your cards!”

“Really?” Hoseok asks, his smile growing wider by the second. “At six thirty in the morning?”

Taehyung shrugs. “When’s a better time? Now let’s go, I want to remember what it feels like to win!”

“Yah, fat fucking chance!” Hoseok counters. “I always won!”

Taehyung is going to protest, but Hoseok is already halfway through his backdoor, ready to run and bring his cards down. The excitement is a replica of their earlier childhood days, the days that they’ll never get back, which only saddens Taehyung a little bit.

Because the future is looking bright right now. And they’ve got so much time left together.

Hoseok comes back outside a few minutes later, with a picnic blanket and his Pokémon deck, a boyish grin on his face. Taehyung matches it with his own.

It feels fucking great to be young.

 

8

 

Taehyung is still eighteen when all hell breaks loose. He’s gone through some shitty times, but he’s generally surprised that what he deems as the worst days of his life happen when he’s so young.

Eighteen and tired. Taehyung is too young to be hurting the way he is.

He should’ve known that his father’s good streak wasn’t going to last, it was too good to be true. Taehyung shouldn’t have gotten comfortable over the months, only more apprehensive.

Comfortable is the wrong word. Because Taehyung could never be comfortable in his house, a literal shit hole smack in the middle of suburbia. Not comfortable. He just didn’t really feel like dying.

A start.

Hoseok gets him through most of the summer, especially when his father starts losing his shit all over again. Maybe he thinks seven months is the appropriate amount of time for someone to go back to being abusive, to let Taehyung be abused again.

Maybe he just doesn’t fucking care. As Taehyung already predicted.

And he knows it’s going to start with his mother all over again. Not that it ever really stopped. There were no bruises or ripped out hair littering the floor, but there were still tears on her part. Still yelling on his. Yet neither of them really acknowledged Taehyung’s existence. It didn’t bother him. In fact, he had become increasingly okay with being treated as though he legitimately weren’t around.

But one day his father does acknowledge him, only to glare at him and tell him to shut the fuck up, from where he was talking to Hoseok in front of his house. It takes Taehyung off guard, to say the least, when he hears the ever-present hatred in his father’s voice. But he isn’t really surprised.

Just disappointed that this was happening again so soon.

Taehyung got inside to see his mother on the floor, blood dripping from her split lip. He already knew she didn’t want him to say anything, so he didn’t. He hated himself for it, but he didn’t say a single fucking word until he got into his room and beckoned Hoseok to his balcony.

“Did he do it again?” The older had asked, chewing on the inside of his lip. Hoseok just knows.

Taehyung nods, sighing before sitting down behind his window and resting his head against the sill. “I hate them.” He replied tiredly, looking down to the ground thirty feet below them. Kind of wishing he would fall out the window and just die before things got worse.

Things always got worse. And all Taehyung wanted was Hoseok, but even he started getting to be few and far between.

Summer was theirs and it mostly just became Taehyung’s to be alone.

They weren’t together, him and Hoseok. They didn’t really know what to do. Hoseok was too afraid to say something and upset Taehyung by accident. Whereas Taehyung just didn’t really know how to get beyond voicing his love for Hoseok as much as possible.

They wanted to be together, but they couldn’t. So they simply opted for just being physically together, and it hurt, but it would have to do.

Besides, it wasn’t like Taehyung never got kisses.

And then Hoseok started coming out less and less from his room. Taehyung spent less time where he actually felt safe, and more time just wondering where the fuck Hoseok went.

HoeSucc My Love: I’m sorry I’ve just been busy with like

HoeSucc My Love: uni and shit, you know

Taehyung had no choice but to believe it at the time. What else was there?

You: okidokes just call me when ur free ya dick

HoeSucc My Love: tomorrow?

Taehyung was thinking more that same night, since they were deadass fucking neighbours, but it’s whatever.

You: I guess, yeah

You: I just want to see you

HoeSucc My Love: me too I have to go sorry

Taehyung didn’t hear from Hoseok the next day, or the day after that. Besides the occasional apology texts, it was like Hoseok had completely disappeared off the face of the planet.
Taehyung had considered just going over there, except he didn’t want to bother Hoseok and his parents, if planning for university was as important as he made it out to be.

Taehyung was fine, he was patient. He would be able to wait for Hoseok.

Until he couldn’t.

It was just shy of two in the morning when Taehyung got back to his house. Straddling the line between tipsy and drunk, he tried to be as quiet as possible when he made his way inside.

He was happy. He had spent the night with Hoseok, for the first time in weeks. Things were good.

They parted ways before Taehyung had gone up to his front door, breaking apart with a kiss and a plea from a less than sober Hoseok to tell Soonshim that he loves him. The air was sticky and hot around him, even though it was two in the morning, and Taehyung kind of liked it that way. He knew this was going to be a night he wouldn’t ever forget.

He wouldn’t.

Taehyung knew something was wrong the minute he stepped through the front door, and saw that his parent’s bedroom light was still on upstairs. A bad fucking sign.

He tries to be quiet as he makes his way towards the stairs, but he really doesn’t get very far. Both his mother and father are seated in the living room. His father, an angry glare settled onto his face, one that had probably been fixed onto Taehyung since the second he stepped through the door. His mother was looking away, as if she already knew what was going to happen.

“What the fuck.

His father’s voice alone is enough for Taehyung to almost take off flying up the stairs. But he can’t really do that, since he’s not sober, and he’ll trip and probably smash his face on the floor. Then he’ll be in even more trouble.

Taehyung should’ve known this was coming.

“You snuck out, Taehyung?” He asks, practically dripping venom from his slurred voice, and Taehyung mildly questions whether or not his father is as drunk as he is.

There’s no point in lying, but if Taehyung agrees, then he’ll sound snarky.

Is it sad that he’s trained himself to fool-proof his speech?

“You fucking snuck out to get drunk.” His father shouts, getting up from his seat.

Taehyung is tall. His father is taller. Meaner. Bigger. And suddenly Taehyung is so, so, small. And then he’s a child again.

“I didn’t,” He slurs out rapidly, trying to defend himself at all.

“Don’t lie to your father!” He roars, and Taehyung jumps, instinctively moving away when his father looms closer.

His mother isn’t saying anything and it fucking sucks that Taehyung feels himself getting scared.

“I-I’m not lying.” Taehyung responds, trying to make it to the stairs. Or the door. Whichever one will keep him safer.

“You were with that Hoseok shit,” His father isn’t even asking, it’s as if he knows everything. Taehyung can take getting verbally tossed around, but he won’t let Hoseok. Never Hoseok.

“Watch it,” Taehyung warns before he can even control the words coming out of his mouth. He doesn’t even bother telling himself that it’s liquid courage because it’s not. He won’t take anyone saying anything against Hoseok.

This is the first time he stands up for himself, and it’s not even really for himself.

“Excuse me?” His father booms, his fist coming down to slam on the table, and Taehyung is for some reason, not too scared anymore.

“Don’t bring Hoseok into this.” He clarifies.

“I’ll do whatever the fuck I want,” His father spits angrily. “Especially when my own son is being a fucking disappointment.

“Going out?” Taehyung asks, because now he’s just fucking curious. “Getting drunk? You want to call me a disappointment?” His speech is somehow clearer and he doesn’t know if he’s forcing himself, or maybe he’s practiced these words so many times in his head that it’s automatic.

His father glares at him, his fingers digging into the corner of the kitchen table.

“You call me a disappointment,” Taehyung snaps. “But all I’m doing is being just like you.”

He expects the swing. He knows it’s coming. Taehyung doesn’t miss the way his mother shrieks when her husband lunges at Taehyung, the way his fist connects with the side of Taehyung’s head.

It hurts, but not all that much.

Taehyung barely has time to move out of the way, when his father is grappling for the collar of his shirt. He isn’t going to let himself be grabbed, controlled. He isn’t going to just roll over and die, he’s worth more than that.

Taehyung shuts his eyes and swings, hard.

The sound is resonant. It practically pierces their ears, and the silence that follows is the equivalent to the calm before a storm.

His father’s nose is bleeding. The only indication that Taehyung didn’t miss completely. That, and a sore ache in his knuckles. His face is the same expression as before, despite being even angrier.

“You wanna fucking fight?” His father asks him, wiping the blood from his nose.

No.” His mother speaks up for the first time.

“You wanna fucking grow up, Taehyung?!” His father screams. Taehyung is too startled to respond as his father finally grabs him, landing a punch that Taehyung barely even feels.

Stop it!” His mother shrieks, and Taehyung can’t even hear her from the way he’s zeroed in on defending himself.

“You want to fucking play with the big kids? Wanna sneak you and get drunk? Want to disrespect your fucking father?!”

Taehyung doesn’t want to do this suddenly. But he can’t just back down, there’s nowhere for him to go. His father tosses him into the wall, and Taehyung hears the crack of his head making contact before he feels any pain at all.

He’s too drunk for this. And he was too happy before to have everything taken from him in under ten minutes.

“Why aren’t you fighting back? Huh?!” His father is livid, barely even human at this point, and Taehyung can only flinch when he’s punched again, landing on the floor.

The blood dripping from his mouth is a good sign that things are going fucking terribly. His mother is crying again, somewhere in the room, and Taehyung feels the kick to his stomach, knocking the wind out of him.

Taehyung collapses, and he doesn’t want to fight back. He’s embarrassed that he started shit that he couldn’t continue, but this is his father, and Taehyung is a lover, not a fighter.

-

He doesn’t know when his father lets up.  

It wasn’t all that long, Taehyung can distinguish. Although, his father has exhausted himself when he finally gets off Taehyung, knuckles raw and bleeding.

“I’m going to bed,” His father speaks up, between the consistent groans of pain from his son, and the sobs of his wife. “Seohyun, clean this shit up.”

When he’s gone, his mother runs towards him, lifting his head off the floor and into her lap. Taehyung kind of wants to shove her away, but he can’t really focus all that well.

“You’re awake?” She asks, wiping her tears rapidly with her hands. Mothers are used to treating their children’s wounds, but not like this. Not like this.

Taehyung’s response comes as a groan, since he can’t really muster all that much help. He just wants to sleep on the floor. Everything hurts.

“He shouldn’t have done that,” His mother tells him, and Taehyung isn’t sure where she got a damp towel from, but she’s soon enough cleaning some of the blood from his lips. “He shouldn’t have done that, Taehyung, I’m sorry.”

She’s not. She can’t be. Not when this is her life.

Taehyung coughs, trying to force the words out of his throat. “He wasn’t hitting me,” Taehyung comments, how much fun he had had that night seeming to just disappear.

“I don’t know what you mean.” She tells him, dabbing at his face gently with the towel.

“He wasn’t h-hitting me,” Taehyung persists. “He s-saw himself.”

His mother was silent for a moment, weighing the words her son had just spoken. He didn’t see the meaning behind anything he was saying, but she did.

“You’re right, baby.” She tells him, gently checking his head for any worrisome injuries. “You’re absolutely right.”

It takes Taehyung another hour before he can sit up, before he can stand up, and then slowly make his way to his room. He wants Hoseok, he needs Hoseok. He’s probably asleep, but Taehyung doesn’t care. At least not enough for him to not text Hoseok and see if he’s awake.

He can’t just open up to someone and then close himself off all over again. He can’t do that.

When he gets into his room, Taehyung shuts the door and jams a chair under the handle, a makeshift lock he’s sadly learned how to do multiple times.

You: hoseok

You: Hoseok hoseok hosesoke shosheok hoseok answer

You: hoseok hsoeok hoseok pleas es

HoeSucc My Love: What’s going on I’m here

Taehyung feels the panic constrict his chest, and maybe that’s just some excessive internal bleeding, but he really doesn’t care all that much.

You: I’m sorry I didn’t wan tot  wake you

HoeSucc My Love: I wasn’t sleeping baby are you okay?

You: I need to come over

You: please

Taehyung is already lifting up his window, his mind clouded and hazy, before Hoseok even has the time to answer. He knows this is probably a bad idea, and he might not make the jump with the way everything just hurts.

But Taehyung guesses that he doesn’t actually give a shit and he needs Hoseok to make him momentarily okay.

HoeSucc My Love: tae I don’t think that’s a good idea

HoeSucc My Love: call me okay?

Taehyung doesn’t get the message, because within the next thirty seconds, he’s jumped and landed on Hoseok’s balcony. Everything is aching, he shouldn’t have done that, but he’s alive, which means he needs to talk to Hoseok.

You: Hoseok pl ease open your balcon y

You: pleas e I’m already here

HoeSucc My Love: Taehyung what the fuck why would you jump I told you not to

Taehyung doesn’t get to answer, because the sound of the balcony door unlocking is enough for Taehyung to try and straighten up, waiting until Hoseok lets him in. He also momentarily realizes that he probably looks like complete shit and Hoseok is going to have to look at him.

The door opens and Hoseok is standing there. He’s dressed in pyjamas, looking confused only for a second, before concern is revving through every single part of body.

Taehyung must truly look awful.

“Jesus Christ,” Hoseok mutters, taking Taehyung’s hand pulling him inside his bedroom, shutting the door behind him. “What happened, Tae?”

“I-I’m sorry,” Taehyung immediately stammers, because Hoseok was clearly about to go to sleep and Taehyung had to go and worry him with his stupid shit.

“No no,” Hoseok shushes gently, moving Taehyung so that he could sit on his bed. “Just talk to me, what happened?”

“My dad,” Taehyung starts, wincing when the bed doesn’t offer much support on his aching body. “He just- I don’t know, he just lost it, again.

“I shouldn’t have taken you out tonight.” Hoseok curses, turning the light on in his room to get a better look at Taehyung.

Instinctively, Taehyung moves his arms up to shield his face, to hide his eyes from the light, to protect himself from any attack. He hears Hoseok sigh sadly, before long, gentle fingers are grabbing onto his wrists and lowering his hands to his lap.

“I would never hurt you.” Hoseok tells him calmly, smoothing his hand over Taehyung’s hair, careful not to press too hard. “Can I go get ice?”

Taehyung nods, his brain practically detaching from inside his head with the way everything seems to be on fire. He doesn’t want Hoseok to be away from him even for a second.

“Here,” Hoseok says, going to his dresser and pulling out a t-shirt and pyjama pants. “Change into this.”

Taehyung is momentarily envious of the fact that Hoseok can walk around his room freely, can walk anywhere without being in some sort of pain all the time. Maybe it’s just because he got the shit beat out of him. Maybe he just wants to hate someone right now.

He mumbles a thank you when Hoseok hands him the clothes, bringing them up to his nose before anything else. They smell distinctly like Hoseok, and Taehyung notes with a smile that he even tossed Taehyung the sweater he always likes to borrow from him. He’s built himself a little home in that sweater.

“I’ll be right back.” Hoseok tells him quietly, before disappearing out of his room.

Taehyung sits there silently, relishing in the little comfort he gets from being in a place he’s grown to love. Even if that’s just his best friend’s bedroom. He loves the lists tacked to the walls, tons of them, the rows of CDs on his shelves, the posters hanging crookedly everywhere. Taehyung’s memorized this room, he knows this place.

But he doesn’t recognize the boxes stacked in the corner. Brown, big, they almost feel like an intrusion. Maybe that’s why Hoseok shoved them so far out of sight, so that he could look at them the least amount of times as possible.

Curious, Taehyung pushes himself off the bed with a wince and many hissed-out curses, before limping towards the boxes. They’re empty, although there are little labels made out of tape on each one of them.

Hoseok’s Things (Keeping)

Taehyung frowns at the labels. It’s a little late for spring cleaning.

He doesn’t get all that much time to think about it, when Hoseok comes back, holding ice and a glass of water in the other hand. He stops when he sees Taehyung looking at the boxes.

“Come sit,” He tells him, his throat dry.

Taehyung nods, moving so that he’s within range of Hoseok, but still staring at the boxes. “What are those for?” He asks, a terrible inkling lingering in his gut.

“Nothing.” Hoseok answers immediately, almost knowingly moving to block the boxes from Taehyung’s view.

That’s a lie.

“Why do you just have a pile of fucking boxes in your room?” Taehyung asks, not meanly, just incredulously.

“Can we not talk about this now?” Hoseok asks him, short, clipped.

Taehyung looks up at him, barely missing an icepack hitting him the eye. “What’s there to talk about?” He questions, unsure of what Hoseok’s even getting upset about. “I just want to know-,”

“You shouldn’t have come over.” Hoseok tells him suddenly, dropping the icepack on the bed moving to sit on the floor next to Taehyung’s leg. He presses the heels of his hands into his eyes and groans.

What?” Taehyung asks, worry sparking up his spine at the thought of whatever the fuck Hoseok is hiding. “I w-won’t bring it up, just don’t kick me out!”

“I’m not.” Hoseok answers calmly, sadly, shaking his head. “I just- fuck, it’s late, Taehyung. And you’re upset, and I knew if you saw them then you’d ask.”

“But ask about what?” Taehyung replies. He was so confused. “I don’t know what’s going on! Just talk to me.”

“Tae,”

“Please?” He interrupts, and Hoseok rests his head on Taehyung’s knee for a moment, holding himself together.

“You’re not gonna like it.” Hoseok states suddenly, and Taehyung’s stomach drops.

“There’s a lot of things I don’t like, Seokie.” He clarifies. “Now just tell me, before I guess.”

Hoseok sighs, standing up, only to move and sit next to Taehyung. “Tae,” He starts, looking back over at the boxes, almost as if he has fucking beef with a pile of cardboard now.

“Tae, I’m moving.”

What.”

That’s all it takes, before Taehyung feels himself become frantic. It’s too late, or too early, he’s in too much pain, he’s a fucking idiot for asking.

“Tae,” Hoseok starts again. “Listen,”

“You’re what,” Taehyung’s head feels numb, from the ice, the pain, from Hoseok, he doesn’t know.

“Moving.” Hoseok repeats again, swearing under his breath. “Jesus, I’m sorry, Tae, you weren’t supposed to find out like this.”

Is there ever really a nice way Hoseok could’ve broken Taehyung’s heart?

“When was I going to find out?” Taehyung asks, a bitter laugh clinging to his words. “Huh?”

Hoseok shakes his head, looking worn out. “I don’t know.”

“How long have you been keeping this from me?” Taehyung asks, can’t help the way his voice rises in pitch.

“Tae,”

“How long, Hoseok.” Taehyung asks, almost crying from just seeing the stupid fucking boxes in his peripheral.

“Seven months.” Hoseok answers rapidly, before dropping his head into his hands.

Seven months.

Oh God.

“When, I-I’m,” Taehyung starts, his voice shaking. He doesn’t even know what he’s asking in the first place. He can’t even think straight. “Y-You’ve known for that long?”

Hoseok nods, shutting his eyes. He doesn’t even want to look at the expression on Taehyung’s face.

“Seven months.” Taehyung repeats, the words not going through his head. Hoseok’s known for seven months that he was going to be moving and didn’t tell Taehyung anything.

It starts clicking the same way Taehyung’s heart starts breaking.

“You knew when I was in the hospital.” Taehyung tells him, and Hoseok can hear the sense of betrayal in his voice.

“That’s when my mom told me, yeah.”

Hoseok was ignoring his parents because of this.

Taehyung doesn’t want to believe this. Doesn’t want to believe that Hoseok’s been keeping something as big as this from him, of all people!

“When I needed you the most,” He bites out sharply, feeling the tears stinging at his eyes. “When I needed you around me, all you were doing was lying to me.”

“How was I supposed to tell you that I was moving away, when, exactly, you needed me?” Hoseok hisses, tries not to be too loud.

“Seven months,” Taehyung feels a few tears slide down his swollen cheeks, and he moves when Hoseok reaches to wipe them away. “Seven months, and you didn’t tell me anything. I needed you!”

“I’m sorry.” Hoseok whispers, trying not to cry as well.

“Where are you moving?” Taehyung asks, just saying the words is enough for a sob to lodge itself in his throat, loud enough for Hoseok to hear when he releases it.

“Gwangju.”

Oh, you’re fucking kidding me!” Taehyung practically wails, tears spilling down his cheeks. “Are you serious, Hoseok? Are you fucking serious?”

“It wasn’t my decision.” Hoseok tells him, tears shining in his own eyes. “It was my mom, she- listen, she got a job in Gwangju, a really nice one, and she took it.”

“Then, I’m happy for her.” Taehyung tells him, only slightly sarcastic. “I hope it’s a r-real great fucking job,” Taehyung tells him, glaring at him through his fucking tears because he actually can’t process anything he’s feeling. “I h-hope it’s w-worth tens years of f-friendship.”

“Tae,” Hoseok starts, his voice quivering. “I, I was going to tell you. I swear, I swear. I just, I didn’t know how, and I didn’t want to ruin whatever time we had left.”

“Seven months,” Taehyung repeats, his words cutting off in a sob at the end. Everything hurts more than whatever physical pain he’s feeling. “I trusted you, Hoseok! I opened up to you, I told you everything,” Taehyung wept, shielding his face from Hoseok. “You l-lied to my face for s-so long.”

“No, no,” Hoseok rushes, and Taehyung can hear him sniffling. He moves closer to Taehyung, trying to get him to make eye-contact. “T-Tae, I didn’t want to lie, please, I-, I didn’t know what to do, I’m sorry.”

Hoseok is about as frantic as Taehyung is, minus the anger burning low in his heart.

“You fucking lied to me, Hoseok.” Taehyung whispers and he hears Hoseok start crying.

He doesn’t need that too.

“I d-didn’t m-mean to,” Hoseok tries to explain, although his speech is impeded by the sobs shaking him. Hoseok rarely cries in front of Taehyung. “I should’ve.”

“W-When do you leave?” Taehyung asks, he doesn’t even want the answer. He just wants to jump out the window and not land in his room.

Break his fucking neck on the way down.

“In a month,” Hoseok answers, his chest heaving, wiping his tears. “August 5th , really early in the m-morning.”

Ten years would’ve been on August 6th.

Taehyung is crying again and that’s as good of an answer as Hoseok is going to get. He has nothing else to offer. He can’t possibly be hopeful about the one person he cares about just abandoning him.

“Looks like we’ll make it to nine years and three hundred and sixty four days, then.” Taehyung snaps and Hoseok cries even harder.

He doesn’t even know why he felt the need to be so mean. But Taehyung tells himself to just fucking say what he feels because there’s actually nothing in the fucking world that could hurt him more than losing Hoseok.

And he’s going to.

“This entire time,” Taehyung starts up again. “Y-You’ve been keeping this from m-me! A-And you d-didn’t e-even look g-guilty!”

“It w-was eating me a-alive,” Hoseok sobs, the few inches of distance between him and Taehyung feeling like miles.

“I-It should’ve.” Taehyung snaps.

He’s not going to know this room anymore.

Someone else will. No more balcony jumping. No more late night talks. No more Hoseok and Taehyung.

They’re silent for a few minutes, save for the complete and utter mess of tears they’re in.

“T-Taehyung, please, p-please, don’t be mad.” Hoseok pleads, finally reaching out to grab Taehyung’s hand.

And he’s not angry. He really isn’t. That’s not it at all.

“I’m n-not,” He starts, feeling the tears hot and feverish against his skin. “I’m j-just scared of you l-leaving me,”

He’s just scared. He just wants Hoseok.

“I don’t w-want to go,” Hoseok cries, and Taehyung can almost imagine him saying the exact same thing to his mother countless times after she had told him.

“Y-you c-can’t stay now.” Taehyung tells him, getting up from Hoseok’s bed before the anxiety twisting in his stomach makes him throw up everywhere.

“T-Taehyung,” Hoseok panics the minute Taehyung starts moving towards the balcony door. “T-Taehyung, please, don’t go.”

“I-I’m not the one who’s leaving!” He shouts. Three in the morning. Probably waking up Hoseok’s parents.

Hoseok jumps, startled at Taehyung’s outburst, before he too is getting up, trying to get Taehyung to stay. “P-Please, don’t leave, please.” He begs and it breaks Taehyung’s heart even more than he thought it could.

Taehyung shakes off the hand that places itself on his shoulder, as he limps forward onto the balcony. One month with Hoseok left and they’re cutting it short.

“T-Taehyung please, I love you, I-,”

“Don’t you dare,” Taehyung cuts off, spinning around to face Hoseok. Dizzy. A mistake. “Don’t you ever s-say that again.”

Hoseok shuts his eyes, squinting against the onslaught of tears, he shakes his head. “I’m n-not lying,”

“Y-You’re leaving,” Taehyung tells him, more hiccupping sobs that anything else. “How- How am I s-supposed to believe a-anything you s-say now?!” He all but shouts, feels his throat close with hoarse coughs.

“Hoseok, y-you promised.”

I know.” Hoseok whispers, reaching for Taehyung’s hand that he doesn’t give him. “I know, T-Tae, I’m so sorry.”

“Me too.” Taehyung tells him, fingers gripping the balcony railing, before he hoists himself up rapidly, getting through the window with a precariously practiced ease.

He doesn’t even register Hoseok pleading at him not to go, that he’s sorry, that he loves him.

Taehyung curls up on the wall next to the window as soon as he gets in, doesn’t even bother shutting it. The hot summer air has suddenly gotten so much colder.

He knows Hoseok can hear him crying. He’s sure as fucking loud enough. And he doesn’t even care that everyone else in a three mile radius probably can hear him too. He doesn’t fucking care when his entire world is ending.

There’s a part of him that hopes Hoseok is crying too. There’s a part of him that knows he is.

Taehyung keeps the window open.

Let’s him fucking hear it.

-

It rains the morning Hoseok leaves. Soft, warm, a whisper in the early hours before sunrise.

Taehyung is awake, watches the arthritic hands of the clock move slowly. Knows Hoseok is twenty feet away, moving even slower. He wonders if he’s cried as much as Taehyung has in the last month.

His fingers twitch over the keyboard of his phone, debating whether or not to text Hoseok. A solemn dance he’s grown too accustomed with, in the last thirty days. He decides he shouldn’t text him.

He knows Hoseok is awake, can see the light on in his room, as he packs a few final things, making sure he’s ready to leave.

To leave Taehyung behind.

He’s often wondered if Hoseok will deem him someone he wants to remember. If Hoseok will talk about him with the new people that will fill the holes Taehyung left in his heart. If he’ll just be a ten year long summer memory, a myth, someone he used to know.

He wonders if these were the best days of Hoseok’s life too.

Maybe they weren’t.

Taehyung wishes he had kissed Hoseok one more time. Had left with sweet sugar soothing over the dying words on his lips. He wishes Hoseok had held him one more time.

It’s a shiver in the night, a rustle in the wind, when Taehyung hears Hoseok open the balcony doors for a final time.

Taehyung has nailed himself down onto his bed, unable to move to go see Hoseok. To tell him he loves him.

It rains the morning Hoseok leaves. A break in the acrid summer heat. No one will think anything of the house, now empty. A house that holds all of Taehyung’s fondest memories.

Taehyung’s existence in Hoseok’s life had been a ripple in time. A ten year long ripple, which meant nothing to anyone but them.

Would never mean anything ever again.

They are a shadow of something no one will remember. A product of the saying ‘Things Do Get Better’ and things always getting worse.

Hoseok is as silent as the rain when he slips out of Taehyung’s life. As gentle as he had showed up, as ethereal as he’d always been.

There are no goodbyes.

It stops raining a few minutes after six in the morning. Taehyung sees the rays burning their way up the horizon, casting a heavy glow over the last of Taehyung’s good days.

The house is vacant by dawn.

And with the rising sun, Hoseok is gone.

 

9

 

Taehyung is nineteen years old when he decides shit can’t get any fucking worse. So why not say fuck it.

Getting through his last year of high school was fucking difficult, especially without Hoseok. It was mainly because Taehyung didn’t really go to many classes the previous year, and after spending a month in the hospital, administration wasn’t as lenient as he thought they’d be. They worked him double time for all the stuff he missed, which really didn’t make him want to force himself into working again.

Hoseok had motivated him, but he wasn’t anymore. So Taehyung just fucking did it and graduated.

See ya.

No one came to his graduation, but that was fine with him. Taehyung really didn’t give a shit.

Sometime around one in the morning, after Taehyung had skipped prom and went straight to After Prom, his phone buzzed in his pocket.

Unknown Number: (1) Missed Call

Unknown Number: sorry to bother you, just wanted to say congratulations

Taehyung’s hazy mind tried to process what was written on the screen. He deleted the number, but he’d recognize it anywhere. And Hoseok had remembered.

You: Hos oek ?

Not sober.

Unknown Number: yeah, its me?

You: oh thank s

Unknown Number: you deleted my number

A statement. Sounds kind of angry. Just makes Taehyung sad.

You: yeahhh

Unknown Number: sorry to bother you then

Taehyung wants to tell him that he wasn’t. In fact, that was the near highlight of his night. Getting plastered and throwing up would take second place to Hoseok.

It wasn’t like Hoseok hadn’t tried to reach him before, which only hurt Taehyung more. At first, it had been every day, sometimes Taehyung answered, sometimes he didn’t.

Hoseok: I just got to my new house

Hoseok: I miss you

Hoseok: I’m sorry again tae. I know you don’t want to talk to me

Hoseok: okay, I love you.

Taehyung had cried after he got that message, not having the courage to answer. When he did text back, it was mostly one word sentences, negating whatever Hoseok has just previously said. He was being a stubborn little bitch. Probably breaking Hoseok’s heart.

Hoseok: why do you keep pushing me away im not trying to end this

You: its too fucking difficult being around you

Hoseok: but tae we’re miles apart

Taehyung deleted his number after that, out of pure spite and pain. That had been two months ago, it was the last time Hoseok tried to contact him before his graduation incident. Maybe he just didn’t get that Taehyung was stuck there, stuck where Hoseok left him and he was never going to be able to get out.

Taehyung fucking hated that he couldn’t figure out what was blocking him so much. What was stopping him from opening up to Hoseok again. Why he thought everything was suddenly so shattered. Distance shouldn’t be relative to their friendship, their- whatever the fuck it was.

He knew Hoseok was upset with him now, but he also knew that Hoseok probably had a ton of people around him that made him feel a billion times better. Taehyung was nothing but a subconscious memory, whether Hoseok wanted him to be or not.

After Taehyung’s finished high school, he didn’t apply to any universities, and he’s stopped giving a shit.

So, why not just say fuck it?

His decision comes in the form of an argument with his parents, once again.

His father points to the sweater Taehyung’s wearing, from across the kitchen table, eyes narrowing in on it.

“Burn that shit.” He states, before taking a bite of his food.

Taehyung’s fork stills a few centimeters from his mouth. He shifts in his seat, nudging his dog lightly, who grumbles before moving away slowly. “No.” He answers, before continuing to eat. He doesn’t really care if his father decides to gauge out his eye with a spoon. His mother probably wouldn’t let him.

Taehyung won’t burn the sweater. It was Hoseok’s.

And that’s where his hypocritical ass kicks himself. If only Hoseok knew how much Taehyung held onto his sweater, held on to one of the last things he had left of Hoseok’s good memories.

He had gotten it the day Hoseok left. Later during the day, Taehyung couldn’t help himself, he had to see the house. Had to see how empty it was, even though it was going to kill him. He had to see the bones of his childhood.

Jumping onto the balcony, the doors were unlocked, but only due to vacancy. Hoseok wasn’t waiting for him this time.

And Hoseok’s room was empty, really empty. Besides a mattress lying on the floor with no bed frame, and one lamp, everything was gone.

Taehyung toured the rest of the house silently, feeling like a wanderer in the cavities of soon to be someone else’s smile. He wondered if the new owners would be nice.

He went through Hoseok’s kitchen and into his parents’ room, even though he felt a little weird being in there, before finally going back to Hoseok’s balcony.

And that’s when he noticed the little package that was lying by the window. Taehyung hadn’t even seen it. Bending down, he saw there was a little sticker on top of the brown parcel.

To: Taehyung

Taehyung tucked it under his arm rapidly, before exiting the house and making his way back over into his room.

He’s barely landed safely before he’s tearing open the packaging. There’s only a few things inside. Two lists, Hoseok’s sweater that Taehyung loved, and Hoseok’s Blue Eyes White Dragon card.

Taehyung had cried before he even opened the lists.

The Most Important People in My Life:

  1. Kim Taehyung

 

 

For Taehyung

  1. My sweater ( I know you like it, so its yours!)
  2. My blue eyes white dragon card (it took forever for you to give it back, but now its yours too)
  3. Me, you’ll always have me.

 

The last one was probably not true anymore. Since, he’d forced Hoseok away for so long it must’ve worn him down. Taehyung must’ve tired him out.

But Taehyung could never get rid of Hoseok’s sweater. And he certainly wasn’t about to listen to his fucking father, of all people.

“Excuse me?” His father snaps, when he hears his son disobey him.

“I’m not burning it.” Taehyung tells him again, going back to his food. He can see his mother, looking between, scared that something’s going to happen.

“As long as you live under this fucking roof, you’ll do exactly what I tell you.” His father barks, and Taehyung looks up at him.

He hates it here. He’s never liked being in here.

Fuck it.

“Okay,” Taehyung answers, mind frighteningly calm. “See you, then.” He answers, pushing his chair away from the table and leaving to go upstairs.

“How fucking dare you?!” His father roars, slamming his fist on the table.

“I’m not burning the fucking sweater.” Taehyung snaps, taking the stairs two at a time into his room, slamming the door.

It’s now or never. That’s the way Taehyung sees it.

He grabs his backpack, dumping out all his school shit he’d never bothered to sift through beforehand. He shoves in a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, a shirt, pants, Hoseok’s lists, and the Blue Eyes White Dragon.

It takes him all of two minutes to get everything that he could ever want to take with him. It takes Taehyung two minutes to realize that he never really lived here. Wherever Hoseok was, that’s where he wanted to be.

But he couldn’t anymore.

Taehyung made sure to grab his phone charger, and the ten dollars that he had to his name, before pulling on his shoes and thundering down the steps.

His father was still sitting at the table, his mother too. They didn’t try to stop him at first. Maybe they knew this was coming. Maybe they didn’t think he was serious.

“Where the fuck, do you think you’re going?” His father’s voice is chilling, but Taehyung is fucking flamed.

“You want me gone? I’m gone.” He explains, very easily. Liberating.

There’s nothing difficult about this.

“Don’t you fucking even try to walk away from me!” His father shouts.

Taehyung,” His mother warns as well.

“What are you going to do?” Taehyung taunts. “I’m not the fucking son either of you want, so just let me go!”

His father glares at him soundlessly for a moment. Then speaks up, knocking his plate off the table, the clatter deafeningly loud. “What makes you think you can talk to me that way?”

“I’m fucking done here!” Taehyung snaps. “I’ll do something, I’ll go anywhere.”

“You’re going nowhere!” His father roars.

“Suddenly you want me around?” He shouts back, dropping his backpack onto the ground. “Suddenly you want your depressed, sarcastic, gay disappointment of a son?”

Well, that’s the first time Taehyung’s ever said that.

He sees the white hot flames searing behind his father’s eyes, but he doesn’t make a move towards Taehyung.

“I’m nothing you want as a son! So, just let me go.”

“Is this all because Hoseok left?” His father snaps at him. “Because your little friend did the right thing and chose family over friends? Blood over water?”

“Hoseok has nothing to do with this.” Taehyung bites back.

Hoseok has everything to do with this.

No one makes a sound, as Taehyung reaches for his backpack again, slinging it over his shoulder.

He looks over at his mother, tears brimming her eyes. Calmly, he nods at her. A silent thank you for all the times she’d helped him. He doesn’t love her. But she’s his mother.

“You leave,” His father looks like he’s going to make a move towards him but he doesn’t. “And I never want to see your fucking face again.” His father spits out, and Taehyung can practically see the flames in his throat.

That’s the best thing he’s ever heard.

“You won’t.” He tells his father, before moving towards the door and it’s like a little party is happening inside Taehyung’s ribcage. Maybe more like a funeral. But it’s all whatever to him at this point.

It’s not his father that tries to stop him, it’s his mother, only when he’s out the door.

“Taehyung, Taehyung! Wait!”

Soonshim comes running out behind her, and he’s glad, because he’s going to miss that old dog. He kneels down to nuzzle his face, while his mother stands, watching him.

“Taehyung, don’t leave.” She tells him, almost pleadingly.

“Dad doesn’t want me here.” This should be easy.

I want you here.” She tells him, reaching for him. He steps back.

“You should’ve known I was going to leave eventually. I don’t want to be here.” Taehyung tells her. “You shouldn’t want to be here either, this is fucking- this is all wrong.”

When did they stop reprimanding him for swearing? Years ago.

“Leaving won’t make things right!” She tells him, turning around to see if her husband was coming outside. He wasn’t.

He didn’t care.

“It’s worth a try.” Taehyung tells her.

There’s nothing left for him here.

“This can’t be all for Hoseok.” She whispers to him, her voice stolen by the summer wind.

“It’s for me, Mom.” He explains to her, and it sounds like the most correct statement he’s ever made. “But I have to go.”

His mother shakes her head, a pained expression on her face. The only thing that hurts Taehyung is that Hoseok doesn’t know that any of this is happening.

“Besides,” Taehyung starts up again, almost comically. “He’s going to beat the shit out of me for just saying that I’m gay-,”

Taehyung,”

“Well, I am!” He defends. “I can’t not be in love with Hoseok.”

Oh.

Oh.

His mother’s expression hardens. “You don’t know anything about love!” She shouts, a cry in the night.

Taehyung winces, steps back. “I didn’t learn a thing from you.” He tells her quietly.

Hoseok. It was all Hoseok.

“You can’t leave us, Taehyung!” She shrieks, and that’s when Taehyung knows that he has to.

It’s hard, leaving things behind. Leaving the people he thought he knew, the people who ruined his perception of everyone else. Taehyung is so used to being left and now he has to do things differently.

“I have no other choice, can you get that?” Taehyung tells her, as he hoists his back higher up on his shoulder. “Do you see how there’s nothing for me here?”

His mother doesn’t answer right away, simply wipes stray tears from her eyes. “You can’t just leave your family.” She says through gritted teeth.

“I’ll start my own someday.” Taehyung replies, and it’s the most fucking hopeful thing he’s ever heard come out of his mouth. It probably breaks her heart.

He begins walking away, and he knows his mother is still watching him. “Mom,” he calls out to her. Her answers comes as a sniffle. Knows a part of her scared.

“You,” Taehyung swallows hard, searching for his words. He can’t tell her he loves her. “You should get out of here too.”

He leaves after that, and for once, there’s nothing holding him back. Pulling out his phone, Taehyung pulls up Hoseok’s number from two months ago, he still hasn’t re-made his contact.

You: I think you would be proud of me

The answer is immediate.

Unknown Number: what did you do

Taehyung smiles down at his phone for a second. Hoseok probably isn’t happy, probably wants him dead.

You: I got out

You: I’m going to find home somewhere

Unknown Number: that’s good tae

Unknown Number: that’s really good

Unknown Number: are you safe?

Taehyung fingers grip his phone tightly, as he keeps walking. He crosses the corner store where he and Hoseok used to always buy popsicles around this time of year. He passes by the park they used to play at.

You: im okay

Taehyung takes a chance.

You: Hoseok I hope you’re okay. I really hope youre doing okay, and I hope your mom and dad are okay too. I hope school is going good. I hope youre happy. I hope Gwangju summers are nice and hot. And I hope there are lots of things for you to make lists about. I hope there’s a cute dog that lives near you. I hope you have good people in your life. Im sorry Ive treated you so badly I’m sorry.

Unknown Number: I miss you so much

Unknown Number: I miss my best friend

You: me too

Unknown Number: be honest with me

You: okay

Taehyung frowns. This is the most he’s spoken to Hoseok in a year.

Unknown Number: will we ever see each other again

You: I don’t know

Unknown Number: okay

Unknown Number: bye tae I miss you I hope youre doing okay

Unknown Number: youre finally free

 

Taehyung feels like a weight has been lifted off his chest. He doesn’t know where he’s going to go. Doesn’t know who he’s going to meet.  But he’s going somewhere.

It’s late, it’s dark and getting chilly in the summer air, but Hoseok’s right.

He’s free.

 

 

10.

 

Taehyung is twenty one and surviving.

That’s the only way to put it at this point. He wasn’t really living. But he’d made it through his escape from home, he’d made it through a harsh winter on the streets, an even harsher summer without Hoseok by his side. It hurt, but he was making it.

He misses Hoseok more than ever. Taehyung hasn’t spoken to him since the night he left suburbia in the dust, and he wanted to. The more he thought about it, the more he couldn’t.

He was so fucking in love it hurt. It was kind of pathetic, really.

He wonders if Hoseok has fallen in love again. Maybe even out of love.

He wonders if he’ll ever meet someone who will take away the ache in his bones like Hoseok used to. Like Hoseok still could, if he wasn’t all the fucking way in Gwangju and Taehyung didn’t end up in fucking Seoul.

Taehyung had done a little bit of touring in the last two years.

He didn’t really want to, but he didn’t exactly have a set place to go. By doing any odd jobs people wanted to offer him money for, Taehyung could afford food and bus fare. Not much else.

He probably looked as beaten up as he felt on the inside, but he needed a smile to get money, so that’s what he did. Just smile and try not to make any self-deprecating jokes.

Taehyung visited Busan, four months ago. It was nice, real nice, except he couldn’t help but feel like he didn’t belong. So, he only stayed for a week.

Over time he moved his way from city to city. Geumsan, Daejeon, Cheongyang.

In two years he managed to end up in Seoul.

Taehyung had always wanted to be here. But that was a dream he had let die, along with his hopes of seeing Hoseok again. Being here felt wrong, but there was nowhere else for Taehyung to go. He was weary, he was tired.

He met a saviour in Seoul.

On a terribly freezing winter night, Taehyung was huddled under the little shelter a shop roof provided. He watched as tourists and inhabitants roamed the streets, bundled warmly in heavy coats that reminded him of the one he wore in the hospital. The streetlights were bright and glowing, and it was with a sinking feeling in his stomach that he realized it was Christmas.

Taehyung was sitting on the curb, hugging his knees to his chest, Hoseok’s sweater was warm, but not warm enough for this type of weather. He had no money, he hadn’t eaten in three days. Seoul wasn’t kind to people like Taehyung. People who needed.

Taehyung was practically passing out over himself in exhaustion, when a heavy hand rested itself against his shoulder. He wanted to push it away, not a fan of strangers, not a fan of touching, but he was just too fucking exhausted.

“Come on.” A deep voice resonated, trying to shake him.

Taehyung blinked slowly, moving sluggishly against the cold. When he looked up, through his frost encrusted eyelashes that hurt like a bitch, he saw a man. A really tall man, with a woman beside him, and two young kids.

“Can you hear me, son?” The man asked, concern etched into his voice. He seemed fatherly and Taehyung didn’t want that.

Taehyung couldn’t speak. He could hear just fine, but nothing else was really working. He pointed slowly at his throat, trying to show that he couldn’t speak.

“How long have you been out here?” The woman asked this time, also resting her hand on his shoulder. Too many people around him suddenly.

Too many questions were being asked at once, and he struggled to think clearly. Painfully, he curled his fingers down to show that he’d been out on the streets for three days. Maybe even in counting.

“He looks sick, Woojin.” The woman spoke up, looking at who Taehyung could only assume was her husband.

“We should help him.” He replied.

Taehyung felt himself weakening again, but forced his eyes open when he saw the man he presumed was Woojin, taking off his coat and slinging it over his shoulders.

If Taehyung could cry his tears would freeze.

“It’s Christmas,” Woojin said, turning back to his kids, were looking at their father as though he were a superhero. “Why not do a little act of kindness, eh?”

A hand was being outstretched towards him, and it took Taehyung a few beats to realize that he was supposed to take it.

“Come on,” Woojin ushered, helping Taehyung up when he started swaying on his feet.

“Should we take him to the hospital?” His wife had whispered, and her husband shook his head.

“Not right away.” He replied.

A five minute walk and Taehyung was at their doorstep, being let inside their house. He hadn’t said a word to anyone, not even the young children who kept staring at him. Taehyung wasn’t even upset that they were. He was unfamiliar to them. He didn’t belong.

“I’ll show you where the bathroom is,” The woman told him, taking him by the hand. Taehyung immediately pulled away, and his reaction surprised her. He felt awful. But she gave him a sympathetic glance. “Come with me.” She tried again, and he followed her.

The house was nice. Really fucking nice. It felt like Taehyung couldn’t even be within fifty feet of this house, it was so clean and bright. It felt like a home.

“You must be freezing, you poor thing.” The woman tutted, turning on the water once they’d reached the bathroom, making sure it was warm.

“Don’t worry,” She told him, a motherly smile on her lips. “My name is Haeun.”

Taehyung coughed, loud hacking noises that were the product of him being out in the cold for so long. When he could finally breathe again, Taehyung nodded at her.

“Taehyung.” He said gently. “I’m-ah, thank you.” He tells her, dropping his gaze to look at the floor.

“Not a problem, Taehyung.” She tells him. “Why don’t you shower, I’ll wash your clothes, and you can change into something else after you’re out?”

Taehyung opened his mouth slightly to protest. He couldn’t. He couldn’t accept that because why the fuck were they doing this? “Oh, n-no. It’s- you don’t have to do that.” He told her.

“We want to!” Haeun responded. “The streets are no place to be in this weather.” She was about to leave the room when she turned around again. “Oh, do you have someone you’d like to call?”

Hoseok.

Taehyung shook his head, and she nodded sadly, before closing the door behind her.

When he got out, his clothes were being washed, and he was given a pair of sweatpants that were too big on him, and an equally large t-shirt to wear.

It was awkward, sitting in the kitchen with Woojin, but Taehyung did anyway.

“Tell me, my wife says your name is Taehyung?” He asked, handing Taehyung a mug of tea.

“Yes, sir.” Taehyung answered, too nervous to do much else.

“I want to hear what you’re doing on the streets, Taehyung. No offense, but you don’t look all that cut out for living homeless.”

He’s always been homeless.

But Woojin’s right.

“I’m not.” Taehyung admitted, staring down into his tea.

He talked with Woojin for hours. Taehyung found out that he owns a chain of restaurants in Seoul. By the end of the night, Taehyung has been fed, and promised a job position in one of the restaurants.

He had cried. Of course, Taehyung had cried.

Woojin saved his life that night. He owes him what he’s got.

Now, Taehyung has his own little apartment. It was pretty much nothing, but it was enough for him. He couldn’t afford anything lavish, let alone semi-decent, so his apartment was in a more questionable side of town. It was safe during the day. The apartments next to his were a lot nicer, which made it slightly shameful every time he had to go back to his place. But he shouldn’t complain. Taehyung was surviving.

He went to work in the mornings, early. From seven in the morning until nine at night, he worked, with very little breaks. No one suggested those ungodly hours to him, but Taehyung needed money more than he needed free time at this point.

He never heard from his parents.

Taehyung’s apartment had a balcony. Although, he never went out on it, mostly because of the fact that it was tiny and cramped, and anyone else on their much nicer balconies would see him. Besides, he doesn’t really ever have time to go out there.

It’s different today.

He’s at work, when he’s legitimately forced to go home. He was tired and all his co-workers could see it. They forced him out the door, calling him in sick, before he could even protest. Normally, any other person in the world would be flattered to see people caring about them, but not Taehyung. He had to keep working, he had to be somewhere.

Taehyung is forced to go back to his apartment when the sun is still in the sky, which is new.

He takes the stairs slowly, moving at a snail’s pace to his apartment on the fifth floor.

It’s not hot outside, which Taehyung is grateful for. He’s already feeling bitter, the last thing he wants is to be bitter and sweating.

If it’s not hot outside, it means his apartment is freezing. He’s had issues with the heating ever since he’d moved in, but he couldn’t really complain. He needed this place.

Taehyung unlocks the door to his apartment slowly, shuffling inside and locking the door behind him. He’s tired. But it feels like a permanent kind of tired.

He knows what this is.

Taehyung moves to the kitchen, grabbing a glass and pouring himself some lemonade from the carton in the fridge, drinking the first few gulps greedily. It’s a painful reminder of things that he’d rather forget and he ends up setting the glass down, half full.  He then moves into his only other room in his apartment, his bedroom, to change into more comfortable clothes.

Taehyung throws on Hoseok’s sweater, hating the fact that it doesn’t smell like him anymore. It hadn’t for the past two years. But it’s whatever.

It’s only when Taehyung goes to flop onto his bed, phone in hand, does he realize that he doesn’t really want to be inside right now. He’s really only ever inside when he has to sleep, and Taehyung decides to keep it like that for now.

Getting back up, he hauls himself over to his balcony door, opening it, and stepping out. New.

Taehyung doesn’t really have much of a view. If he cranes his neck, he can see a street with a grocery store. If he looks down five stories, he can see an alley with a garbage can. Right in front of his balcony, less than seven feet away, is another apartment’s balcony.

A nicer apartment means a nicer balcony. It’s a little bigger, enough room for two chairs and a table, although none of those things are actually out there. Taehyung has never seen his neighbour out on their balcony, although he wouldn’t really know. Since he never actually goes out himself.

The weather, with Hoseok’s sweater, is actually kind of nice. It smells like exhaust, which isn’t great, but it’s bearable.

Life is just kind of bearable.

Taehyung looks up from his mildly sketchy alleyway gazing when he hears a cough and a shuffle. He hadn’t even realized someone else was outside.

Taehyung looks up rapidly, throat closing at the sight of his neighbour, sitting on his own balcony.

He’s wearing a university print sweater with shorts, a perfect combination of the weather. He has a textbook balancing on his knees, and he’s stuck his feet through the bars of the railing, swinging them over Seoul.

It would be wrong to say he looks the same.

But he also doesn’t look all that different.

He hasn’t noticed Taehyung. He isn’t really sure how he hasn’t, considering the fact that they’re actually very close to each other, and this is real and actually happening. Taehyung’s head is reeling.

Taehyung doesn’t know what to say. Doesn’t even know if he’ll be able to say anything, but the past two years just came and fucking hit him in the face. He wants to say something, needs to say anything. Says the only thing that comes to mind.

Hoseok.”

It’s like a cry in the middle of the night. Light piercing the tunnel. Taehyung wasn’t loud, but he knows he heard him.

Hoseok looks up quickly, his eyes settling on Taehyung. They widen, his legs stop swinging. “Tae?

It’s a question, but not really. It’s a billion questions. But also not really.

Taehyung nods, eyes scanning over every part of Hoseok. Wants to see how different he is with Taehyung no longer sewn into him anymore.

Hoseok gets up quickly, dropping the textbook to the floor, Taehyung can see his hands shaking.

It goes without saying.

Hoseok moves back, moves out of the way. It’s a different reality if Taehyung falls. He’ll get squished between the two buildings, or snap his neck on the wall, or die in the garbage below.

He jumps anyway.

Six feet.

Taehyung is landing before he even registers that he was even in the air.

Yeah, he could’ve fallen. He could’ve kissed the fucking concrete but the idea of kissing Hoseok is so much better.

It takes them a minute.

“Hi,” Taehyung whispers breathlessly, and he’s only a few centimeters away from Hoseok.

God, he’s missed him.

“Hey,” Hoseok answers him. His eyes can’t stop ghosting over Taehyung’s entire figure and he’s drinking him in.

Hoseok is hugging him in seconds, his arms wrapping tightly around Taehyung, almost bowling them both over. Taehyung hugs back with just as much strength, and it’s with surprisingly quick reasoning skills that he figures out Hoseok is crying.

“Jesus fuck, Tae.” Hoseok whispers into Taehyung’s neck, and it’s the sweetest thing he’s heard in a while. “I d-don’t even know w-what to say.

“I missed you.” Taehyung cuts in, feelings his chest heave with sobs ready to come out and so many words he never bothered to say. “I m-missed you so much,”

“Me too,” Hoseok tells him, holding even tighter. “Tae, I d-didn’t want to l-leave you.”

“I k-know,” Taehyung tells him. And he does. He believes him. He wonders how long Hoseok has waited to tell him that. “I m-missed you too much.”

“I thought I wouldn’t s-see you a-again,” Hoseok tries wiping his tears, and it’s only when Taehyung pulls away that he realizes he had started crying too.

Hoseok is beautiful.

“T-Tae, what are you doing h-here?” Hoseok asks, really wants to know. Because last time either of them checked, they weren’t getting anywhere in their dreams.

“Same to you.” Taehyung answered, and Hoseok laughs a little bit, before hugging him again.

“I found you again,” Hoseok whispers to him, holding him so tightly but gently, and completely Hoseok.

They shouldn’t have ever found each other. Of everywhere they could’ve gone, everything that could’ve happened, and they found each other.

Hoseok tugs Taehyung inside his apartment and off the balcony.

Taehyung is suddenly filled with memories of being in a place so Hoseok, that it feels strange to him that he’s never been in here before. The minute Hoseok left his old house, the feelings of safety and love were gone.

Taehyung learns then that home will follow Hoseok everywhere.

Taehyung is kissing Hoseok the second he turns back to him. It’s the highlight of his life. Taehyung will never get enough of kissing Hoseok, of loving Hoseok.

“I love you,” He mumbles against him, breathless.

“I love you, I love you, I love you,” Hoseok answers him, kissing him back with a passion and fervor Taehyung forgot could light his soul on fire. “I’ve always loved you,”

It’s true. He has. Taehyung believes him this time.

“I’m n-never leaving you, Tae.” Hoseok tells him for the umpteenth time, kissing against his mouth sweetly.

“H-Hoseok, I’m s-sorry,” Taehyung stammers, pulling away from the kiss because he can’t excuse himself for being a fucking ass.

Hoseok shakes his head, grabbing hold on Taehyung’s hand and lacing their fingers together. It’s so right. “Don’t apologize. Don’t apologize to me, Tae. I- fuck, I love you, I have to tell you how much I love you. Y-you have to know.”

He does. Taehyung does.

“I love you t-too, it’s just,” He trails off, shaking his head lightly when Hoseok looks at him. “I- I’m difficult, Seokie.”

The name almost makes Hoseok cry even more, and he’s hugging Taehyung again tightly.

“You’re not difficult, Tae.”

“I am. I’m just-,” Taehyung falls silent, eyes shutting against the feeling of Hoseok kissing against his temple and he’d forgotten how much he’s missed that too. He swallows hard, searching for any grain of strength to not start bawling again. “I just d-don’t know how to love you, l-like, the way you deserve.”

“Y-You’re all I need.” Hoseok tells him, his voice barely over a whisper and Taehyung relishes in that. “You’re all I’ve ever needed, and y-you’re young, Tae.”

Taehyung pulls away, little tears prickling at his eyes and he knows Hoseok is right. He nods, lets Hoseok wipe his tears away with his thumb.

“Y-you’re young, and you’ll learn.” Hoseok tells him, before recapturing Taehyung’s lips in his.

They have a lot of catching up to do. A lot of stories to tell, a lot of crying to do, a lot of love to give. It’s in this moment that Taehyung realizes him and Hoseok were never meant to be apart. They have things to fix, to heal, but Taehyung knows that they will.

When Hoseok pulls away from the kiss, his cheeks are flushed bright pink, his eyes sparkling with excitement.

Taehyung has never felt more hopeful.

It’s with Hoseok pressed against him, Hoseok soothing his worries away, that Taehyung believes him.

Taehyung loves Hoseok.

And yeah, he’s learning.