Taehyung’s been feeling weird lately. He doesn’t tell anyone, doesn’t want to see the smirk on Jungkook’s face as he says, “Tae you’re always weird,” or see the concern on Jimin’s face or have Yoongi quietly worrying about him.
So Taehyung tries to ignore it, tries to keep the smile on his face and Yoongi always does that for him. He knows Yoongi isn’t fond of him being loud in his studio, but Taehyung feels bad and he just wants it to stop. So Taehyung bounds into Yoongi’s studio, loud and excited and throws his arms around the older man, trying to kiss his cheek. The reaction is prompt.
Yoongi’s glowering as he pushes the younger boy off him, “Goddammit Tae, stop being so… annoying.”
It stings, and Taehyung knows the other doesn’t actually mean it, that Yoongi is just tense because he’s trying to work through this writer’s block. But it stings and the word ‘annoying’ hangs somewhere between Taehyung’s stomach and his heart, little jagged edges of the letters tearing his insides to shreds. He can feel his stomach revolting as his heart breaks in two and he tries to keep his breathing in check so he doesn’t burst into tears.
Taehyung promptly slides his arms off Yoongi’s shoulders and walks out the door, hands clenching into fists by his sides as he ignores the confused shouts of, “Tae where are you going? Tae? Taehyung!”
Taehyung tries to keep himself in check for the next few days, tries to tone down on the jokes and puns and tries to reign his laughter in so it doesn’t bounce off the walls. He keeps his hands in his pockets and off the others, stands to the sides and lets the shadows hide his face. Jimin asks him repeatedly what’s wrong, prying his fingers from their prisons, cold despite the heat of his jeans.
“Nothing Minnie,” he repeatedly told him, trying to make his smile seem real, “Just a little tired.”
And there are bags under his eyes. Taehyung is having trouble sleeping because he normally curls up around Yoongi but he doesn’t want to be annoying, so he’s taken to sleeping in his own bed again. It’s uncomfortable and cold and he tosses and turns all night even though Jungkook’s head pops down from the top bunk to tell him, “Knock it off hyung I can’t sleep with all your shuffling,” and the cracking in Jungkook’s voice and the evident sleep deprivation on the youngest’s face makes him feel even worse. Yoongi doesn’t even ask about Taehyung’s absence, just shuts the door quietly after him each night.
It seems like everything is going wrong for Taehyung: Yoongi thinks he’s annoying, he won’t let Jungkook sleep, Hoseok is frustrated because he can’t quite get this new ance down, and he’s making Jimin worry. Taehyung hates this. Taehyung hates himself.
The first sign that of alarm is that Taehyung won’t stop chewing on his nails. Taehyung’s the first to admit he has an oral fixation, but he nixed his nail biting habit years ago. However, one wouldn’t be able to tell by the current mess of his nails: they’re short and jagged and sore, the skin peeling on the sides from his constant licking and his cuticles bleeding from where the skin is curling back. His fingers are a mess and he can’t stop gnawing at them, disgust curling in his stomach at the sight while each of his nerves are lit up with anxiety.
“Stop that,” Yoongi growls, smacking his hand harshly out of his mouth, “You’re making yourself bleed dumbass.”
Taehyung sucks in a breath, closing his eyes as he tries to squash this concoction of pity and guilt and self-loathing currently swishing in his stomach.
They’re getting ready to perform and Yoongi and Taehyung are the last two to get their hair and makeup retouched before heading out. He can hear the other five behind him, doing a quick V app update, but he’s more concerned with the intense way Yoongi is staring at him.
“What’s going on with you?” he asks, only turning his head because the stylist is trying to angle his head better in the light.
Taehyung’s quiet for a second, because his own stylist is dabbing at his lips and he realizes with a start that he had been absentmindedly chewing on them, her napkin coming back stained with blood. The sight of it makes something hot curl in his stomach and he wonders when he started feeling with his stomach rather than his heart. His heart feels dead, pumping listlessly out of necessity rather than want.
“Nervous,” Taehyung answers, though the jitters he feels are definitely not from nervousness.
Yoongi snorts, an undignified sound that almost has a smile pulling at Taehyung’s lips, “Kim Taehyung nervous? Has hell frozen over?”
And if it were before, when words didn’t hang so heavy over him, when other’s opinions mattered more to him than his own, when he was fine and okay and happy, he would have retorted with something like, “Did you know Hell actually freezes over regularly? Maybe you and I could take a trip sometime, you probably miss home,” and Yoongi would give him that signature smirk, the one he rewards Taehyung with when Yoongi thinks Taehyung is actually funny but is trying not to let him know.
But that was the Taehyung of then and this is the Taehyung of now and the Taehyung of now lets a not real smile cross his face as he shrugs and leaves it at that.
Yoongi actually looks a little worried.
Taehyung’s thought about blood before, when he was in school and he had to memorize useless things like how long it takes for blood to replenish itself and what it’s made of and why it’s blue under the skin but red over. He’s thought about it when he watches TV and sees it splash across the screen, staining whatever surface it comes into contact with.
The razor feels light in his hand as he stares down at it, where it’s slicing across the skin on his inner thigh, the sting a nice reminder that he’s here and alive as it does a better job of squashing whatever insecurities he has. Taehyung likes to imagine that the blood currently oozing out in a thin little line, red and heady as it drips onto the toilet paper he has in his other hand that he’s letting the negatives of himself out: that he’s cleansing himself.
He watches himself bleed for a few more seconds, before he presses the toilet paper to the cut to staunch the bleeding. He rubs gently, reveling in the slight ounce of pain before he applies his favorite space band aid over it.
Taehyung hears knocking on the door but doesn’t panic, because they’ve finally set a rule on just walking into the bathroom after having walked in on each other jerking off too many times.
“Tae?” it’s Yoongi’s voice and he’s a little surprised because the older has seemed distant, “Dinner’s ready."
“I’ll be out in a second hyung,” he says and throws the blood soaked evidence in the toilet, flushing it down.
What Taehyung likes most about cutting is that it brings color to his cheeks, a nice little flush that makes him look more alive than he feels. He pats his cheeks a few times before he puts the razor back in it’s original place.
Yoongi is still standing on the other side, leaning against the opposite wall as he scrolls through his phone, most likely their twitter. Yoongi raises his eyes lazily, standing to attention and putting his phone away.
“Hey,” Yoongi starts, grabbing onto his wrist gently, stopping Taehyung from blowing past him, “are you sure you’re okay?”
Taehyung feels his pulse quicken and he hopes Yoongi can’t tell from where his fingers are pressed into his wrist. Taehyung can still feel the sting in his thigh, like it’s yelling at him to just tell someone. But a much bigger part of him is yelling at him to keep quiet, to keep his problems to himself and not bother others. He agrees with that much bigger part of him.
“I’m fine hyung. Why do I not seem okay?” the Taehyung of then would bug out his eyes and make some stupid face so the Taehyung of now does that, in an attempt to be somewhat normal.
It works because it brings a small smile to Yoongi’s face before it quickly turns into a frown and his hand slides down until their palms are pressed flat against each other and their fingers are entirely intertwined. Taehyung startles a little because it’s been a long time since Yoongi has held his hand, or even touched him in a way that was a little more than friendly, a little more than brotherly, and Taehyung’s missed it. He’s really really missed it.
“You just seem… distant,” Yoongi admits, eyes searching his face for something and Taehyung tries to hide it all but Yoongi’s always been really good at reading him, even more so than Jimin, “Tell me what’s wrong.”
Taehyung sighs and shakes his head, a small smile on his face, “But nothing’s wrong hyung. I’m a little tired, but aren’t we all?”
Yoongi’s quiet for a minute and Taehyung tunes into his surroundings, hears the quiet murmurs of the others as they stuff their faces, the exhaustion evident in the lack of conversation.
“Can we go eat now? I’m starving,” Taehyung pats his stomach for added effect and that seems to appease Yoongi who nods his head towards the crowded dining room table.
Just before they exit the hallway Taehyung slips his hand from Yoongi. The Taehyung of then would never have dreamed of letting Yoongi go once the older had given him the greenlight, but the Taehyung of now is crawling in his skin and he doesn’t want Yoongi to catch on or worse, to catch what he has. Taehyung may be okay with hating himself, but Taehyung would be destroyed if Yoongi didn’t like anything about himself.
Yoongi turns to look at him when he feels the absence of Taehyung’s hand but Taehyung has already sat down beside Jimin, chopsticks in hand as he prepares to stuff as little food into his belly as possible.
Jimin notices he hasn’t been eating as much and Jimin is beyond worried, cuddling up with Taehyung on his lumpy uncomfortable bed even when Taehyung had begged him not to, laying on their sides and facing each other even though they can’t see each other’s faces in the dark.
“Tae what’s going on?” Jimin asks, voice low as Jungkook snores on the bed above them, Seokjin asleep on the bed across from them, “Are you okay?”
Taehyung can feel the ugly curl up in his chest at the worried look painted on Jimin’s face. He hurriedly tried to blink the tears out of his eyes but one breaks free and trails pathetically down his cheek, across the curve of his nose before dripping onto the bed. But it must be the small sound that Taehyung makes that alerts Jimin because then he’s being pulled into Jimin’s chest, the other’s comforting arms wrapping tightly around him.
“Oh Tae,” Jimin’s voice is soft and light, mouth pressed against the curve of his ear as Taehyung tries to keep his sobs in check, tears soaking Jimin’s cotton t-shirt, “Tae tell me.”
But Taehyung shakes his head, fingers curling into his best friend’s t-shirt. The guilt is slowly creeping up his body, easing into every crevice of his body. Taehyung has never felt so low.
Seokjin takes one look at his puffy face the next morning, eyes rimmed red, lips starting to bleed from constant biting and pulls out his phone to tell their manager that Taehyung isn’t up to any sort of schedule for the day.
Normally he would feel grateful for the chance to release the exhaustion from his body but all he can think of are the fans, worrying about him and his failing health and he feels like an anvil is settling on his chest. He turns his back on Jimin, who had slept with him through the night, and faces the wall, staring at the plain wallpaper.
“Do you want something to eat?” Jimin asks, laying a hand on his shoulder and Taehyung shakes his head no even though his stomach feels empty. All of Taehyung feels empty; a shell of his former self.
Jimin leaves him alone and Jungkook must already be up because he can’t hear anything over the sound of his own labored breathing. His fingers itch to pick up a razor but his body refuses to move from what little comfort his bed offers.
He doesn’t know how long he lays there, staring at nothing and feeling nothing, before the door opens with a soft click.
“Minnie I said I’m not hungry,” his voice doesn’t even sound like his own and he curls into himself more.
“I just wanted to let you know we’re getting ready to head to practice,” Yoongi’s voice is loud in his suffocating room and Taehyung turns his head to look at the older man.
Yoongi doesn’t move from the spot in the doorway and instead takes Taehyung in, eyes roaming over his figure. Taehyung turns away from him, eyes burning. He’s a little more than surprised when the bed dips beside him and Yoongi slides a hand into his hair, nails scraping against his scalp just the way he likes. Taehyung closes his eyes at the sensation, trying to keep his small sound of contentment at bay. He doesn’t protest when Yoongi uses the hand in his hair to turn his face back towards Yoongi, Yoongi’s eyes curved up into a smile. His fingers jump when Yoongi leans down to kiss him, lips smooth against his own chapped ones and his mouth automatically drops open. Yoongi keeps the kiss chaste though, simple and clean.
Taehyung feels breathless when Yoongi pulls back far enough that he can rub their noses together, a small smile tugging at his lips.
“It’s been a while since we’ve kissed,” Yoongi observes, voice low and murmuring and it settles over Taehyung like a blanket.
He kisses Yoongi again, a little more hotly, a little needier and the fingers resume scratching at his scalp. Taehyung turns his body so he’s lying flat on his back, reaching up to wrap his arms around Yoongi’s waist. The older hums, licking across Taehyung’s broken lips, other hand dropping to rub at Taehyung’s covered hip. His touch sends heat flaring across Taehyung’s skin and the skin on his inner thighs pulse the most. It grounds him and he remembers the little slits he has to see every time he showers and he knows he won’t ever be able to show Yoongi.
So he breaks away from Yoongi, breath coming in pants as he stutters, “I-I thought you guys were getting ready to go to dance practice?”
Yoongi’s mouth twists into a frown but he pulls his hand away and it’s enough to settle Taehyung’s nerves, “Yeah, I bet they’re all bitching in the van waiting on me.”
Taehyung can just imagine Namjoon’s annoyed expression and it brings a smile to his face and he lets out a little laugh. Yoongi’s eyebrows smooth out at the sound and he smiles before pressing a sweet, fleeting kiss to Taehyung’s forehead.
“We shouldn’t be gone to long, text me if you need anything,” Yoongi tells him, patting his hip before standing up from his bed.
Taehyung gives a little thumbs up, “I will, thanks hyung.”
Taehyung doesn’t cut the entire time the others are gone, entertaining himself with napping and YouTube videos and watching random daytime TV shows. He heartily eats dinner with the others, joking and laughing with them like it was Before, when Taehyung didn’t feel the need to watch and monitor everything he did.
He even sleeps with Yoongi that night, slipping into the darkened room quietly, sliding under the covers behind the older man. Yoongi groans and fusses when Taehyung hesitantly runs his cold fingers under the hem of Yoongi’s t-shirt, but then he’s catching Taehyung’s hand, intertwining their fingers as they settle back into their comfortable rhythm: Taehyung’s chest pressed into Yoongi’s back, their hands interlocked and one of Taehyung’s legs sandwiched between both of Yoongi’s.
The familiarity of the whole situation, of Yoongi’s bed, of Yoongi’s smell, of Yoongi, has Taehyung falling asleep faster than he has in months.
Things seemed to be getting better until they get worse, when Taehyung is going through twitter and YouTube comments and Tumblr posts and he’s not sure why but people are being mean today and his heart is constricting in his chest and he can’t breath and tears are spilling down his cheeks. He can feel their words carving themselves into his skin, things like his skin is too dark, he’s ugly and why is he even in this group he doesn’t do anything and he should just die and his fingers are itching for something and he knows exactly what that something is.
He’s not even trying to be quiet at this point, fumbling messily around in his bedside drawer where he keeps his emergency razor. Seokjin is still in the living room but Jungkook is slowly waking, wondering what exactly Taehyung is doing but Taehyung feels like he’s having an out of body experience, like he’s watching from the sidelines.
He can see the taunt way his muscles are pulled, as he leans over his bed into the drawer. He has fat tears rolling down his cheeks but his face is numb and he’s pulled so much skin off his bottom lip that it’s bleeding, mixing in with the tears and making a mess as they fall onto his comforter. He looks wrecked and he feels wrecked as he nicks his finger on the razor, hastily pulling his sweatpants down just enough that he can slice his skin.
Taehyung can hear Jungkook shouting but it doesn’t register, just feels the bliss of the blade, as he runs lines through his already marked skin and watches the words rush out. It’s cleansing, he wants to tell Jungkook who has thrown the door open and is shouting down the hall. He’s grabbing a discarded towel, one he probably used for his shower earlier, and is knocking Taehyung’s hand away from his bloody thigh, razor falling to the floor with a soft plink!
It’s weird, he thinks. Everything feels muted and loud all at once, like everything is happening in slow motion but also in fast forward. One second he can’t hear anything all and the next he can hear everyone shouting, crowding into his bedroom as Jungkook presses the towel tightly against his thigh to stop the bleeding, face white and hands shaking. Taehyung himself feels calm as he observes his surroundings, head cocking to the side as he tries to pick out voices in the cacophony of sounds.
He hears things like Taehyung what did you do to yourself? and Tae why didn’t you tell us? and I told you something was wrong! It’s funny, he thinks, that everyone is only worried now, when he was physically hurt, when he had been emotionally suffering for a while. How they only care now, when he’s so numb he doesn’t know if anything will ever be okay again, when fans and anti-fans are going to continue to criticize his every move, when they’ll discard him the moment they think his usefulness is up.
Jungkook is pushed to the side slightly, the youngest falling to his knees from his crouched position, eyes wide and confused as Yoongi takes his spot, his familiar hands pressing lightly into Taehyung’s thighs, the blood having finally stopped. Yoongi’s movements are jerky, his eyebrows are furrowed and he refuses to make eye contact with Taehyung. He’s talking and Taehyung can’t register what he says but Namjoon darts out of the room quick as lightning. Taehyung wonders if Yoongi loves him anymore.
Yoongi’s eyes finally slide up from the bloodied towel to Taehyung’s face and that’s when he sees it. Yoongi tends to keep his feelings to himself, only letting a select few emotions slip through his cool-guy façade. Taehyung has only seen Yoongi cry a handful of times, but he can chalk this moment down as one in the books because Yoongi has tears streaming down his own face, eyes red as he stares at Taehyung.
The sight is enough to knock Taehyung back into his own body, breath exhaling out of him in a quick whoosh, body slumping over as he lays his forehead on Yoongi’s shoulder. He can feel the sobs wrack his body as Yoongi presses closer to him, kneeling between his parted legs as they hold onto each other. Namjoon has returned by this point, a wet towel and bandages in his grasp that Seokjin takes from him.
But Taehyung doesn’t want to let go of Yoongi, babbling, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” over and over into his shoulder.
“Tae, let us clean you up,” Seokjin’s voice is soft and reassuring and Yoongi moves back just enough to let Seokjin in, but the two of them are still tightly holding onto each other.
Taehyung feels awful as he cries, fingers shaking and clinging onto Yoongi’s sleep shirt and Yoongi isn’t faring any better. His own fingers are clutching onto Taehyung’s thighs, grasp unrelenting but grounding. He feels suffocated as he stares around the room, all seven of them squeezed into one room, but he doesn’t want any of them to leave. He never wants to let any of them go, as Seokjin finishes winding the bandage around his thigh, heaving a sigh as he sits warily beside Taehyung.
“Tae,” Seokjin starts, “I’m not going to pretend to understand what you’ve been going through or what you’ve been doing.”
Taehyung hiccups as he wipes at the mess of tears and snot on his face, eyes dropping into his lap and landing on his bandaged thigh, which is starting to stain a light red. At one point, Taehyung would have liked the sight because it reminded him he was alive. Now it’s ugly and he never wants to see it again and he would close his legs but Yoongi is still leaning in between them, has pushed his face into Taehyung’s stomach. His shirt feels wet and his stomach turns at the thought.
“But goddammit Tae this isn’t fair,” Seokjin’s voice hardens, “I know it’s hard, it’s tough, it’s exhausting and it sucks, but you can’t keep things like this bottled up from us. We can’t help you, or help take the pressure off, or give you a shoulder to cry on if you don’t tell us what’s going on.”
“I know, I’m sorry, I’m so-”
Seokjin takes Taehyung’s face in his hands, turning it up so Taehyung can see the sincerity in his eyes, “Don’t be sorry, Tae, but talk to us.”
Taehyung nods, a few jerky movements of his head and he finally feels ready to spill it all, to bare himself for them to see.
“But in the morning,” Seokjin surprisingly says, brushing Taehyung’s bangs out of his eyes, “It’s late and I just want you to sleep okay? We’ll talk about whatever you want to in the morning.”
Taehyung nods again and Seokjin is satisfied, leaning in to give Taehyung a kiss on his forehead. Taehyung sucks in a breath at the contact, but it’s not a bad thing. It’s comfort, a different comfort than Yoongi gives him but one he still treasures, and Seokjin slides off the bed to be immediately replaced by Jimin.
Jimin doesn’t say anything as he pulls him into a fierce hug, Jimin’s arms enveloping him completely. Jimin buries his face in Taehyung’s neck and Taehyung can feel how wet Jimin’s eyelashes are and he holds onto his best friend that much tighter.
“I’m sorry Minnie,” he chokes but Jimin shakes his head.
“No, I’m sorry Tae. I knew- I knew something was wrong and I should have, I should have done something,” Jimin cries, pulling away so he can look Taehyung eye to eye, “I’m such a shitty friend, I’m so sorry.”
“No Minnie, you’re not. I’m a shitty friend and I-I should have told you,” Taehyung is ashamed, ducking his head down.
Jimin just pulls him back into a hug and Taehyung feels so loved squished in between Jimin and Yoongi, who has settled his head on Taehyung’s uncut thigh, steadfastly ignoring the bandages.
When Jimin finally gets off the bed, Hoseok, Namjoon, and Jungkook take their turns, whispering equally guilt ridden apologies, worry for their bandmate, but more importantly one of their closest friends evident in their eyes. Taehyung’s heart squeezes but it’s different from before and Taehyung wonders how many befores he’s going to have until it’s just Taehyung. Just Taehyung.
Namjoon is the last to leave, giving Taehyung and Yoongi an encouraging smile before the door shuts with a firm click. The two of them are quiet and Taehyung doesn’t remember when his hand has found its way into Yoongi’s hair but neither of them are complaining. Taehyung is so appreciative of everyone and he feels like he could cry again but he doesn’t want to. He wants to be strong, at least for tonight before he ultimately lets his bandmates in on his pain and lets them shoulder some of his grief.
Yoongi is silent as he finally raises his head from Taehyung’s lap, eyes still slightly red, but he’s smiling softly at the younger boy.
“C’mon, let’s go to bed,” his voice is husky though it’s not from lack of sleep and Taehyung’s stomach gives a lurch. He hadn’t mean to make the older man so upset.
Taehyung doesn’t protest as Yoongi takes his hand and pulls him off the bed and Taehyung doesn’t look back at what a mess his sheets probably are, just lets Yoongi pull him down the hall to the room he shares with Namjoon, Hoseok, and Jimin.
Taehyung doesn’t know what it is about Yoongi’s bed that’s so different from his, but he melts into the mattress, body heavy with exhaustion. His eyes feel like lead and he just wants to sleep and he opens his arms for Yoongi to crawl into. But Yoongi has other ideas, crawling over Taehyung to rest behind him, wrapping his arms around Taehyung lightly. Taehyung blinks because he can’t remember the last time he’s been the little spoon: Taehyung is just a little taller than Yoongi, but Yoongi has always fit much better in Taehyung’s arms. But Taehyung can’t deny the comfort of being in the other’s arms, eyes closing in content.
Yoongi is quiet as he lets his hands run over Taehyung in a non-sexual manner, pressing against tight muscles to try and get them to relax. Yoongi’s mouth is by his ear, puffing against it slightly and making the hair on the back of Taehyung’s neck raise in a pleasant way. He loves Yoongi so much and he’s just about to fall asleep when he tells the other this.
“I love you hyung,” he murmurs, voice thick as he cuddles back into Yoongi, head resting on Yoongi’s shoulder from where his arm is curved around and under his body, massaging his hip.
Yoongi sighs into his ear, molded entirely against the younger boy, “I love you too Tae. So much.”
Taehyung sits a little apprehensively at breakfast, waiting for someone to bring it up, for someone to ask. But no one does, just makes gentle eye contact with him paired with equally gentle smiles and stuffs food in their mouths. Taehyung is a little relieved, because he thinks the words would get stuck in his throat, but he’s also a little hurt because have they already forgotten? Do they already not care?
They’re nearing the end of breakfast when, most of them have finished eating but none of them have gotten up from the table yet. Taehyung eyes them, as they all seem to turn to him at the same time, faces open and honest.
“Tae,” Namjoon starts, “do you feel up to talking now?”
Taehyung casts his eyes down, fiddling with his bowl as he thinks. He wants to tell them, he really does, but where does it start? Where did Taehyung start losing control over his life?
“You don’t have to,” Yoongi interjects from beside him, hand dropping down to his knee and giving it a comforting squeeze. Taehyung’s own hand immediately seeks it out, as well as seeking out Jimin’s from the other side of him.
“I want to just… let me think for a second.”
Everyone’s quiet as they let Taehyung get a grip on his bearings, trying to calm his racing heart. With a squeeze to both Yoongi and Jimin’s hands, he opens his mouth and starts talking, and finally, they all listen.