The sound of rustling papers woke Taehyung up. He wiped his eyes and looked around; and he was hit by a balled-up paper.
“Taehyung-ah, can you at least leave a pathway from your bed to the door? I’ve stepped on three papers since I came into the room.” – Jin sighed and tried to collect the papers on the floor into a pile. He stopped after ten.
Taehyung just laughed and sat up. He looked at the balled-up piece of paper that Jin had thrown at him and out of curiosity, opened it. It was filled with doodles that he had drawn when he could not think of anything else to write.
“Out of all the papers, you actually chose the ones with my drawings to crumple up.” – He tried to straighten the paper, but failed.
“The other ones are filled with your writing.” – Jin shrugged.
“Why do you think I threw them away?” – Taehyung countered.
He reached around on his bed to find his glasses. Jin picked them up on the floor and put them into Taehyung’s hands.
“Because you need to outline every scene and storyline before typing them on the computer? Because you don’t want to protect the environment? Because…”
“Hyung, it was a rhetorical question.” – Taehyung laughed.
Jin patted his head a few times before sitting down on the bed next to him.
“Keep the papers, maybe later you’ll like some of the ideas after reading them again, who knows?”
Taehyung groaned. He had not liked any of his new ideas for a month now.
“I’m sick of my ideas, hyung.” – He sighed.
“Listen, Taehyung-ah. Namjoon and I have been thinking…”
“Did you guys break up?” – Taehyung asked with an alarmed tone. – “Please tell me you didn’t break up. I don’t want to choose one of you, I love you both.”
“We’re not your parents.” – Jin laughed. – “You don’t have to choose one of us.” – And then he saw the horror on Taehyung’s face, so he quickly added – “We didn’t break up, don’t worry.”
“Hyung, that should be the first thing you say.” – Taehyung clutched his chest. – “Why do you want me to have a heart attack this early in the morning?” – He let out a sigh of relief. – “Anyway, what have you and Namjoon-hyung been thinking about?”
“Do you think that maybe a change of scenery will improve your mood, and possibly give you more ideas to write?” – Jin asked.
Taehyung thought about it for a while. He was born in Seoul and he had never been to any other parts of the country. On the one hand, he was used to the bustling city and the fact that people never slowed down no matter what they do. He was used to the street food, the crowded roads, the busy traffic, and the never-ending lights that made the day almost permanent, even at night time. But on the other hand, he had never experienced living somewhere else; and the thought of it excited him a little.
“How big of a change are we talking about here? Like Family Outing change? Because I don’t know if I can survive if…”
“Not at all.” – Jin cut in with a reassuring voice. – “I was thinking somewhere like Busan. Jimin lives there so you won’t be on your own. Plus it has been a while since we saw him.”
Like Taehyung and Jin, Jimin was born in Seoul. But when he started high school, his family moved to Busan for work so Jimin had to move as well. They still stayed in touched; and Jimin still visited them whenever he went to Seoul. He had also invited Jin and Taehyung to visit his home in Busan, but Taehyung never got a chance to.
“I’ll call Jimin then.” – Taehyung agreed. – “Are you and Namjoon-hyung going too?”
“Maybe next time.” – Jin said apologetically. – “But you go and enjoy Busan. I think you’ll really like it.”
“I’ll be alright as long as there’s Wi-Fi.” – Taehyung shrugged and looked around for his phone. He swore it was next to him before he had gone to bed last night… well… earlier this morning.
“I put it on the desk.” – Jin stood up to take Taehyung’s phone and handed back to him. – “It was on the floor and I didn’t want you to break another one.”
“That one was an accident, hyung.” – Taehyung sighed, but he pulled up Jimin’s number anyway and pressed ‘call.’
At this point, he was willing to try anything to get his inspirations back.
Jeongguk brought the iced latte over to Jimin. He wanted to talk to him for a little while but there were customers walking in, so he returned to the register instead after shooting Jimin an apologetic look. Jimin just smiled at him in reassurance.
Jimin had always liked the atmosphere in the café. Even though it got crowded sometimes, it was such a calming place. He was sipping his iced latte when his phone vibrated in his pocket. When he looked at the screen and saw Taehyung’s name, he was pleasantly surprised.
“Jimin-ah, how are you?” – Taehyung said cheerfully.
“I’m fine. I miss you though.” – Jimin confessed. – “I haven’t seen you for so long. And I don’t know if I’ll be able to come to Seoul and visit you any time soon.”
At that moment, Jeongguk had finished with the orders of the customers so he walked over and sat down at the empty seat opposite of him. Jimin smiled at him briefly.
“About that, I’m thinking about going to Busan next week.” – Taehyung said. – “Jimin-ah, can I stay at your house? I haven’t been outside of Seoul… ever.”
“Really?” – Jimin gasped. – “Yes of course you can stay with me, you don’t even have to ask. What day next week? And what time? I’ll pick you up.”
Jeongguk stared at him in amusement. Jimin was usually very calm and collected. It was different and refreshing to see him getting excited like this.
“I’ll text you the details later.” – Taehyung said. – “I don’t know how long I’ll stay but I will definitely let you know if it’s long-term or something.”
“Are you working on… the next project?” – Jimin glanced at Jeongguk before finishing his question.
“I’m trying to.” – Taehyung sighed. – “I have no inspirations though.”
“Aw, that’s too bad. Well if you come here, I think you’ll have more inspirations.” – Jimin suggested.
“Hopefully that will happen, Jimin-ah.”
“Text me later, okay? I’ll see you soon, Taehyung-ah.” – Jimin said.
“I will. Thanks for letting me stay with you.”
“No problem. Bye bye Taehyung.”
When he hung up, Jeongguk asked immediately:
“My best friend who lives in Seoul. He’s visiting next week.” – Jimin took another sip of his latte. – “This is exceptionally good today by the way.”
“It’s made with love.” Jeongguk said with a straight face; and Jimin almost choked on the latte.
“Have you finished Stigma yet?” – Jimin asked instead, completely ignoring Jeongguk’s remark.
“Not yet.” – Jeongguk shook his head. – “The book is too sad.”
“But it’s good right?” – Jimin asked hopefully.
“Really good.” – Jeongguk nodded. – “But I feel like I need to mentally prepare myself before I continue. I feel like it’s just gonna be sad at the end as well.”
Jimin just shrugged. He did not want to give the ending of the book away. When Stigma was published, Taehyung had sent him a copy and he was so excited to read it. It was the most heartbreaking book he had ever come across, but it was impossible to put down. So Jimin had lent the book to Jeongguk after he had finished reading it.
Stigma. Chapter 3, page 57.
“And for tonight’s entertainment news: One of the hottest actors in the country has been photographed holding hands with another man while exiting a restaurant. The two then exchanged kisses in a car before leaving. At the moment, there has been no official statement from the star’s agency, but if this is true, it would be a disappointment to the million fans of the actors out there…”
Jack turned off the TV abruptly and threw the remote on the floor. This was why his manager had been calling him non-stop and told him to check the news.
His phone rang again and he dreadfully looked at the screen, expecting yet another call from the manager. However, when he saw his boyfriend’s name on the screen, his heart started beating faster. He took a deep breath before answering.
“So your manager called me.” – The voice on the other side sounded strained.
“Sorry about that, Justin.” – He sighed tiredly. – “And sorry for not being careful enough. I was sure that no paparazzi had followed us but…”
“ …But you can never be certain about that, I understand.” – Justin cut in.
His boyfriend sounded so sad and tired.
“I really want to see you.” – He whispered.
“Jack, it’s not possible. Your manager specifically told me that we can’t meet for a while. Facetime is fine though.”
“It’s not the same.” – He sighed again. – “I’ll talk to him about it.”
“Don’t. I think it’s actually a good idea. We should wait until this fades away. The media has short attention span anyway.”
They had not seen each other only for a few days, but it felt longer.
“I miss you.”
“I miss you too. I have to go to work now, but I’ll facetime you tonight, okay?” – Justin replied.
There was a sense of reassurance and comfort in the voice.
“Okay.” – He nodded.
His boyfriend had a company to run. His boyfriend was an important figure. And he was caught on camera kissing an actor.
“Hey, it’s not your fault okay?” – Sensing his uneasiness, Justin spoke again. – “Your private life shouldn’t be a subject of discussion, but somehow it is. It’s not your fault that people want to know every detail of your personal life.”
“I know.” – He murmured. – “Go to work, I’ll talk to you later.”
He used to feel comforted after talking to his boyfriend, but this time, the discomfort and worry were still there even after the reassurance.
When Taehyung got off the train, the first thing he did was inhale deeply. The air here seemed a little different from Seoul; and he really liked it. He wasn’t sure if it was his imagination or anything, but it seemed a bit fresher.
“Taehyung!!” He heard his named being called from behind so Taehyung turned around. Jimin was waving his arm animatedly and Taehyung smiled before walking over to the car Jimin was standing next to. At that moment, the driver door opened; and a man around their age, with bright mint-colored hair, stepped out.
“Taehyung-ah, it’s been a while!” – Jimin immediately hugged Taehyung when he was closer. – “This is Yoongi, my boyfriend. He’s older than us.”
“Nice to meet you, Yoongi-hyung.” – Taehyung hugged Jimin back and pulled out his hand to shake Yoongi’s afterwards. – “Jiminie, have you grown taller?”
“The shoes he’s wearing have extra-thick soles.” – Yoongi commented as he shook Taehyung’s hand. – “I feel like we’ll get along well, Taehyung.”
Jimin just pinched both of their arms and grumbled that no one was taking his side.
“We have a guestroom, the bathroom is just right across from it, so just make yourself comfortable, okay?” – Jimin said as he unlocked the front door. – “Also, there’s a dog in the house right now. His name is Geureum. I’m looking after him for a friend.”
“There’s a dog??” – Taehyung squealed. – “I love dogs.”
“I know, that’s why I told you.” – Jimin laughed. – “So that you wouldn’t get too excited. He’s really friendly.”
The door opened; and Taehyung heard the unmistakable sounds of dog paws on wooden floor; and he was so happy. Yoongi closed the door immediately and a few seconds later, a small white dog sprinted toward them, barking the whole time.
“Hi Geureum, we’re home.” – Yoongi leaned down and patted the dog a couple times.
After he had jumped at Yoongi and Jimin a few times, Geureum began sniffing Taehyung’s outstretched hand.
“Hi!” – Taehyung smiled. – “I’m Taehyung, nice to meet you Geureum-ah. Aw, you’re the cutest. Whose dog is it?”
“It’s Jeongguk’s.” – Jimin replied and headed down the hallway. – “He’s at work right now, but he’ll come to pick Geureum up when he’s done. Follow me, Taehyung-ah, I’ll show you the bedroom.”
Geureum had taken a liking to Taehyung and followed him whenever Taehyung went to different rooms in the house. The dog even waited patiently outside the door when Taehyung went to the bathroom.
“Jiminie, I think this dog loves me.” – Taehyung was cuddling Geureum on the sofa.
“He’s affectionate.” – Jimin smiled. – “Are you hungry?”
“Not really.” – Taehyung shook his head. – “I think I’m gonna take a nap now.”
He lied down on the sofa and Geureum lied down with him.
“Okay.” – Jimin patted Taehyung’s head. – “We’re going out for dinner later, I’ll wake you up at six.”
Taehyung nodded and closed his eyes, holding Geureum closer to him.
Stigma. Chapter 8. Page 124.
“This is so nice. How come we haven’t thought about visiting Seattle before?” Jack reached out and laced their fingers together.
They were sitting on a rooftop that overlooked the Seattle landscape.
“I don’t know.” – Justin shrugged. – “We were always busy. Me with the company, you with your movies… There was never time I guess.”
He pondered on that for a few moments. They lived in Northern California, not really that far away from Washington, but they never even went anywhere out of state. Sometimes they went out of the country, but only for business purposes. They had never travelled together.
“I want to go to the Space Needle.” – Jack pointed at the tall structure that was clearly visible from where they were sitting.
“You don’t like heights though.” – Justin looked at him quizzically. – “You’re even grabbing my hand really tightly right now; and we’re only on a rooftop. I’m afraid you’re gonna faint once we get to the top floor.”
“But you’re here with me. And you’ll be with me on the Space Needle too. What is there to be afraid of?” – Jack squeezed his hand. – “Let’s go. It’s getting late.”
“Urgh.” – Justin sighed defeatedly but stood up anyway. – “How would you live without me?”
“I wouldn’t know.” – Jack smiled brightly.
Taehyung was awaken later when Geureum moved away from him and jumped down from the couch. And then he heard the sounds of people talking near the front door and Geureum’s barking.
“Hi Geureum. Did you miss me?” The voice did not belong to Jimin or Yoongi so Taehyung assumed it was Geureum’s owner, Jeongguk.
“He has a new cuddling partner today.” – This time it was Jimin’s voice.
“Really? Who?” – Jeongguk asked, a hint of curiosity in his tone.
“Taehyung, the friend who is visiting me from Seoul. By the way, we’re all going out for dinner really soon. Do you want to join us?”
A pause, and then Jeongguk answered.
“Maybe next time. I’m so tired today. Thank you for looking after Geureum.”
“No problem, it’s my day off anyway.” – Jimin said. – “We’ll have a meal together some time later then.”
“We’ll get going now. See you later, Jiminie.” – Jeongguk said.
“Okay, bye Jeongguk-ah. Bye Geureum!” And then Taehyung heard the door closed.
It was Taehyung’s third day in Busan; and he had written a few pages that he did not completely hate. He counted that as an improvement.
“Are you working on your next book?” – Yoongi asked curiously.
It was early in the morning. Jimin and Taehyung had gone for a run before Jimin had to leave for work. Taehyung was lying on the sofa, with the laptop opened on the coffee table, and a notepad in his hands.
“I’m trying to.” – Taehyung groaned.
“Want to go get some coffee?” – Yoongi suggested. – “There is a café not far from here, like fifteen minutes walking.”
“Sure.” – Taehyung agreed immediately.
“Do you want to bring them? In case inspiration strikes or something.” – Yoongi pointed at the laptop and the notepad.
Taehyung highly doubted that he would find inspirations at a café, but he put the laptop and notepad into his backpack anyway.
Stigma. Chapter 13. Page 156.
“Justin, it’s me again.” – Jack sighed when he reached the voicemail. – “I’ve been calling you all day. Are you okay? Can you just call me back or let me know you’re alright, please? I can’t reach your secretary either. It’s fine if you don’t… don’t want to talk to me, but just let me know you’re okay.”
He walked over to the window and quietly pulled a little of the curtain to the side. Outside, the paparazzi were still roaming around, taking pictures of everything. Every time a car slowed down, their cameras flashed continuously until it was clear that the car did not mean to stop in front of his house. He could only imagine that the same thing was happening outside Justin’s building right now. After the pictures of them were taken at the restaurant, Jack had talked to his manager and his label had asked for the pictures to be taken down. But they would resurface after a few days; and eventually people were able to identify Justin.
He sighed exasperatedly and pressed “call” again. It still went to voicemail.
“Justin, I’m really sorry about what happened. Do you want me to come over? Wait, there’s probably paparazzi everywhere. Do you want to meet somewhere? Please let me know you’re alright.”
He hung up the phone and closed the curtain when one of the paparazzi saw him and began walking toward the window. Then his phone vibrated and he hurriedly pressed “accept” when he saw Justin’s name on the screen.
“Are you okay?” – He asked immediately.
There was labored breathing on the other side.
“Justin?” – He continued. – “Justin, are you alright? Do you want me to come over?”
“We can meet somewhere.” His voice was small and quiet; and Jack was even more worried.
“I’ll book a hotel room close to your place and send you the address, okay? I’ll head there straight away.”
“Okay.” – Justin replied weakly.
“What did you have for breakfast today?” – Jack asked while he searched for the hotel on his computer. He just wanted to keep talking to his boyfriend.
“Haven’t eaten yet.” – Justin sighed.
“Okay, we’ll order something to eat later once we meet. Are you… How are you?”
Something seemed really different about this conversation.
Jack blinked and stopped to think about that word. It seemed off. Everything seemed off.
“Justin. What are you doing right now?” – He asked carefully.
He found a hotel and booked a room; then he sent the address to Justin.
“Isn’t it supposed to be ‘what are you wearing right now?’ You have no experience with phone sex, Jack.”
“Okay fine, what are you wearing?” – Jack asked as he walked to the back door, keys in his hand. – “I texted you the address. I’m going there right now but it might take me a while since I don’t know if the paparazzi will follow me or not.”
“I saw your text. And I’m not wearing anything, I was just in the bathtub.”
Justin’s answer was nonchalant, but Jack was still frozen.
“Were you taking a bath then?” – He asked, trying to be as casual as possible.
“What else am I supposed to do in the bathtub babe?” – Justin laughed. – “Anyway, I’ll go to the hotel now too. Don’t know when I’ll get there, but just text me the room number later.”
“I will.” – Jack replied, his hand on the door knob. – “I’ll see you later, love you.”
“I love you too.”
Justin replied easily; and for a moment, Jack felt like he would be okay. They would be okay, as long as they had each other.
The bell chimed when they opened the door; and the smell of coffee made Taehyung inhale deeply. There were a few flower pots just outside the door so Taehyung was careful when he closed it.
“Welcome! Oh, hi Yoongi-hyung.”
A familiar voice greeted them and Taehyung turned around toward the counter. A young man was looking at them, a small smile on his lips and a grey beanie on his head that covered half of his bangs.
“Good morning Jeongguk-ah.” – Yoongi walked to the counter. – “Ah, this is Taehyung He got here a few days ago.”
He turned to point at Taehyung, but then realized that Taehyung was still by the door so he waved him over.
“You’re the one who cuddled my dog instead of me.” – Jeongguk looked at Taehyung and his smile got a little bigger.
Taehyung caught a glimpse of his teeth; and the smile looked really cute so Taehyung automatically smiled as well.
“Nice to meet you.” – He greeted. – “Are you… are you Jimin’s age?”
“No I’m two years younger than Jiminie.” – Jeongguk shook his head. – “Should I… should I call you hyung? Are you Jimin’s age?”
“I am, but no need for honorifics. You can just call me Taehyung.” – Taehyung said right away. – “Your dog is really cute, by the way.”
“Thank you.” – Jeongguk smiled again. – “Uhm… what would you like to order?”
Taehyung stared at his smile for a few seconds. He had no idea if it was the beanie or the bunny-like smile or just Jeongguk in general, but he was having trouble coming up with a drink.
“I’ll have an Americano.” – Yoongi replied instead.
Jeongguk blinked and looked over at him.
Yoongi smirked at them knowingly and then said to Taehyung:
“I’ll grab a table first. Come by when you’ve decided what to drink.”
“Okay.” – Taehyung nodded and turned his attention to the chalkboard menu. – “Uhm, can I have an iced peppermint mocha please?”
“Give me a moment, please.” – Jeongguk said from behind the counter. He had already started making the Americano. – “You can sit down first, I’ll bring the drinks over when I finish them.”
“It’s fine. I can wait here.” – Taehyung responded.
After Jeongguk put the drinks on the counter, Taehyung paid for them and gave him a big tip before carrying the drinks over to the table where Yoongi was sitting.
“Thank you.” – Yoongi said when Taehyung put the drinks on the table. – “Wait, did you pay for them already?”
“Yes.” – Taehyung nodded. – “Don’t worry about it, hyung.”
“Well, thank you anyway.” – Yoongi took a sip of his coffee. – “So how do you like Busan so far?”
“The air is fresher.” – Taehyung replied. – “And it’s a little bit more quiet. I think it makes me not hate all of my writing.”
“I read your book.” – Yoongi remarked. – “I really enjoyed it. It’s very well-written, I read the whole thing in one sitting.”
Taehyung stared at him in surprise.
“Really? I can’t even do that, hyung.” – He replied. – “It’s so long.”
“That’s how much I like it.” – Yoongi smiled. – “I read the copy that you sent Jimin, and afterwards I went and bought one myself.”
This was not the first time Taehyung had met someone who liked his book, but he never knew it was possible to read the whole thing all at once.
“That’s really nice of you.” – He said gratefully. – “I will definitely send you a copy of my new book once I can actually finish it.” – He promised.
“Is it gonna be the continuation of Stigma?” – Yoongi asked, and then backtracked immediately – “I mean… you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, I’m just curious.”
“I don’t really know yet.” – Taehyung said honestly. – “I’ve had little inspirations to write anything lately, but the storyline for Stigma is not over yet, that’s for sure.”
Taehyung was about to say more, but then he saw Jeongguk walking over to them so he took a sip of his mocha instead. It was minty and not too sweet and he really liked it.
“How are the drinks?” – Jeongguk asked them politely.
“Mine is as good as usual.” – Yoongi looked at him and then turned to Taehyung. – “How about yours?”
Taehyung felt Jeongguk’s eyes on him so he quickly nodded.
“It’s really great. Thank you for asking.”
And then he had no idea how to continue the conversation with Jeongguk.
“Glad you like it.” – Jeongguk smiled.
Taehyung really liked his smile. The bell chimed again when new customers walked in; and Jeongguk shot them an apologetic smile, gesturing at the customers.
“I’m gonna head back to the counter.” – Jeongguk said.
“Wait, you’re still coming over today right? Movie night?” – Yoongi asked quickly.
“Yeah, of course.” – Jeongguk nodded. – “I also have to return a book I borrowed from Jiminie, I’ll bring it over later.”
He looked at Taehyung briefly and gave him a small smile before leaving.
“He’s really nice.” – Yoongi said. – “I’ve known him since we were kids. And Jimin met us in in the university. The weekly movie night is our tradition.”
“He is really nice.” – Taehyung wholeheartedly agreed.
And also really cute, he almost added.
Stigma. Chapter 14. Page 163.
The drive from Jack’s house to Justin’s usually took half an hour. The hotel they were meeting at was only twenty minutes away, but it took him almost an hour to arrive. As he had expected, the paparazzi had followed his car even though he had left using the back door. Therefore he had to drive around until they decided not to follow him anymore before he could turn back to the hotel.
He got the keys, texted Justin the room number, and went to the room to wait. He had wanted the suite and had even paid extra so that his name would not be revealed. Right now he could never be too careful.
And then he remembered that Justin had not eaten anything, so he ordered room service as well. The food arrived really quickly, long before his boyfriend did.
He was lying on the bed and flipping through the TV channels when he heard a soft knock on the door.
"It’s me.” – Justin called out.
Jack hurriedly ran to open the door. When he saw Justin, he pulled him in quickly and closed the door after them.
“That happy to see me then?” – Justin chuckled.
“Always.” – Jack replied and hugged him tightly.
The sinking feeling in his stomach disappeared when Justin was with him. There was something really calming about him and being with him made Jack forget about the world for a moment.
“Aw, you ordered room service?” – Justin noticed the cart.
“Yes.” – Jack nodded, still holding him close. – “I ordered a lot since you said you haven’t eaten.”
“But I’m not hungry.” – Justin groaned.
“You still have to eat though. There’s chicken noodle soup and clam chowder” – Jack listed. – “And calamari and pasta and sushi.”
“How many people did you order for?” – Justin laughed and patted Jack’s hair a few times. – “Are you hungry babe?”
“A little.” – Jack said in a small voice, but his stomach grumbled at that moment and based on Justin’s muffled laugh, he definitely heard it.
“Alright, let’s eat then.”
Taehyung was writing frantically on his notepad when the doorbell rang.
“Taehyung-ah, can you get the door for me?” – Jimin said from the kitchen. – “I’m a little occupied at the moment.”
“Okay!” – Taehyung yelled back.
But he still managed to write a couple more words. For some strange reason, after he had gotten back with Yoongi, he had been able to visualize many scenes that he wanted to include in the next story.
The door bell rang again.
“Taehyung, are you still writing? Can you open the door first and then continue?” – Jimin requested.
“Yes yes.” – Taehyung quickly threw the notepad on the table, stood up and went to the door.
Jeongguk was standing on the other side, with Geureum in one hand and a paper bag in the other.
“Hi Jeongguk.” – Taehyung greeted; and Geureum barked at Taehyung so he patted the dog a few times. – “Hi Geureum, I missed you.”
Jeongguk giggled; and Taehyung looked at him in surprise. That sound was really cute.
“Do you want to carry him?” – Jeongguk extended his hand and Geureum grabbed at Taehyung with his front paws. – “He really likes you.”
“I like him too.” – Taehyung immediate put out his hands and carried Geureum. Then he realized that they were still at the door because he had not even invited Jeongguk inside. – “Oh my God, I’m so sorry, please come in.”
When they reached the living room, Taehyung remembered the notepad that he had thrown on the table before going to open the door, so he quickly put Geureum down and picked up the notepad to put it away in his room.
When he went back out to the living room, Jeongguk just glanced at him curiously.
“Do you write a lot?” – Jeongguk asked.
“From time to time.” – He said. – “It’s one of my hobbies.”
Jeongguk nodded at that and looked around.
At that moment, Jimin emerged from the kitchen and smiled when he saw Jeongguk.
“Kookie, hi! Oh have you guys met?”
“Yep we met this morning.” – Jeongguk nodded. – “Taehyung and Yoongi-hyung went to the café I work at.”
Jimin stared at them for a few seconds.
“Taehyung’s my age, Kookie. You should call him hyung.”
“It’s fine.” – Taehyung quickly said. – “I don’t really like being called ‘hyung,’ Jimin-ah. It makes me feel old.”
“You are old.” – Jimin deadpanned. – “You couldn’t even keep up with me on our run this morning.”
“You should be happy that I went running because I wanted to spend more time with you. I could have stayed in bed and slept more.” – Taehyung fake-gasped. – “Is this how you treat your best friend of ten years who is visiting you?”
Jeongguk stared at them and just burst out laughing. Taehyung was silent for a few moments because even his laugh sounded so cute.
Cute beanie, cute smile, cute giggle, cute laugh…
“Is this amusing to you, Kookie?” – Jimin glared at him. – “You should take my side.”
“Nah, I’m good.” – Jeongguk shook his head. – “I’m gonna go play with Geureum.”
Jimin looked so betrayed so he just glared at Jeongguk until he walked away. And then he glared at Taehyung when Taehyung laughed at his expression.
Stigma. Chapter 16. Page 175.
When Jack woke up, he was alone on the bed and he panicked for a few moments. He only calmed down when he saw Justin’s jacket on the armchair and his keys on the table.
“Babe, want to grab breakfast before we have to leave?”
Jack sat up and looked over to the hallway. Justin was just out of the shower so he had a towel wrapped around his waist. His hair was still wet and water droplets were dripping down his chest.
His well-toned, abs-defined chest, Jack thought.
He also unconsciously gulped; and Justin definitely saw it, because he raised his eyebrows and walked closer to the bed.
“It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.” – He sat down next to Jack, who was still watching every movement (of his abs).
“I … ” – Jack started, and realized that his throat was suddenly very dry. – “Uhm … breakfast sounds great.”
“Jack, my face is up here.” – Justin chuckled.
“Huh? Right.” – Jack blinked and looked up at Justin. – “Sorry, it’s just … you’re beautiful. And I can’t believe that I’m with you.”
Justin’s expression changed from mischievousness to blankness in the span of one second. But he quickly smiled at his boyfriend and leaned in to kiss Jack.
“I have morning breath.” – Jack scrunched his eyebrows and leaned back before their lips could touch.
“I don’t care.” – Justin whispered and kissed him deeply.
They made out for a few moments until their lips hurt and their hands had trailed lower on each other’s bodies. The beeping of his phone reminded Jack that he was supposed to meet his manager today to discuss the next steps of his career.
“Want to order room service again? I’m too lazy to go out right now.” – He placed a small kiss on Justin’s neck before leaning back.
“Okay.” – Justin nodded easily. – “What time is your meeting?”
“Twelve.” – Jack sighed. – “I don’t want to go though.”
Justin chuckled. He patted Jack’s hair a few times in comfort. He always liked touching Jack’s hair because it was always soft and silky.
“If I could stay here with you forever, I would.” – He looked at Jack and said in a sincere voice. – “But you know that’s not possible. You have to do your things, I have to do mine.”
“I know.” – Jack sighed. – “I’m allowed to not like it though.”
“You’re always hard to please when you just woke up.” – Justin chuckled and patted Jack’s hair again. – “Come on, go get ready. I’ll order this time to make sure that we don’t go overboard.”
“Hey, we did finish yesterday’s food though.” – Jack countered.
“Barely.” – Justin replied. – “My stomach hurt for a while because I was eating so much.” – He complained.
“Is it hurting still?” – Jack asked with a concerned voice.
“I thought we were arguing.” – Justin sighed. – “Why are you always so nice?”
“Just to you, babe.” – Jack smiled and kissed him one last time before getting out of bed. – “I want pancakes.”
Stigma. Chapter 17. Page 186.
“We have to get going.” – Justin murmured to the top of Jack’s head.
They had finished eating and were currently cuddling in bed, watching TV.
“We don’t have to check out until twelve though.”
“You have to meet your manager, remember?” – Justin kissed Jack’s forehead and moved a strand of his hair to the side.
“I called him when you were in the bathroom. We’re meeting at one-thirty.” – Jack said happily and placed a kiss on Justin’s neck. – “I don’t have to go right now.”
Justin chuckled and pulled Jack closer to him, which was almost impossible since their bodies were almost flushed against each other.
“I love you.” – He confessed.
“Of course you do. I’m so lovable.” – Jack replied almost immediately. – “I’m handsome and cute and nice and funny and … ”
“I get it.” – Justin cut in and laughed. – “You’re perfect.”
After dinner, Jimin searched for movies on Netflix and it was a while before they decided to watch Harry Potter part 4. Yoongi and Jimin cuddled on the couch; Taehyung was lying on the sofa; and Jeongguk sat on the carpet floor, cuddling Geureum.
After a while, Jeongguk suddenly remembered the paper bag he had brought.
“Oh, Jiminie, I brought the book over. Sorry I took so long to return it.” – Jeongguk looked inside the paper bag and took out a book and put it on the table.
Taehyung was frozen when he saw the familiar cover and when the word Stigma caught his eyes, he had to tell himself to act natural.
Jeongguk read his book.
“No problem.” – Jimin glanced at Taehyung briefly before smiling at Jeongguk. – “What did you think about it?”
Yoongi had stopped eating and placed his bag of chips on the floor. On the other hand, Taehyung continued eating popcorn, although he was chewing very slowly.
“I’m so angry at the author.” – Jeongguk huffed. – “The story’s really good and captivating. But like, the main character suffers so much throughout the story and then the author ends it with him contemplating suicide? What the hell? Who would torture their character like that?”
Jeongguk took a deep breath and picked up the book.
“I feel so empty when I finished reading it you know? How am I supposed to go on living my life when my favorite character is suspended in time? I want to know what happens to him.” – Jeongguk sighed and turned to the last page. – “And this is the only book that the author has published too so I don’t know if this is just the writing style or something…”
He stopped himself and took another deep breath. Jimin and Yoongi glanced at Taehyung, whose expression is unreadable at the moment.
“Sorry for going off like that.” – Jeongguk put the book down and scratched his head. – “This book just makes me emotional.” – And then he turned to Taehyung with an apologetic expression. – “And I’m sorry for spoiling the book for you, Taehyung. I know Jiminie and Yoongi-hyung have read it, but I don’t know if you…”
“I read it.” – Taehyung quickly said.
“Really? That’s good then.” – Jeongguk let out a sigh of relief. – “What do you think of the ending?”
“Uhm…” – Taehyung blinked. – “I think it ends on a hopeful note. Yeah, the main character was on a bridge, thinking about killing himself, but the book ends with someone else’s voice, ‘excuse me, what are you doing?’ so like… I think there’s hope that the main character’s not gonna go through with his… contemplation.”
This was the first time Taehyung actually talked about the ending of his book. In the interviews he had done, when asked about the ending, he had always said it was up to the reader’s interpretation. But right now, he was telling the other three about what the ending meant for him personally.
He had read somewhere that the author should not discuss how they end the story, because the story should be understood however the reader wanted it to. But Jeongguk had specifically asked, and for some reason, Taehyung had told him the honest answer.
“So there’s gonna be a continuation?” – Jimin asked immediately.
Taehyung looked over at him with wide eyes.
“In your opinion, I mean.” – Jimin added.
“Probably.” – Taehyung shrugged. He had replied with the most nonchalant tone possible.
Jeongguk stared at Taehyung and Jimin in confusion. It was strange to him that Jimin was asking Taehyung about the continuation of Stigma. Taehyung was just a reader like him, right? How would he…
And then Jeongguk remembered the first page of the book, even before the acknowledgement page, there was the handwriting of the author.
“Jimin-ah, thank you so much for always believing in me and staying by my side though everything. This book wouldn’t exist without you. I hope you like it.” – T.
“Oh my god.” – Jeongguk looked at Taehyung in disbelief. – “It’s you, isn’t it? You wrote Stigma?”
Before Taehyung could come up with an answer, Jimin stood up and grabbed Yoongi’s arm to pull him up as well.
“We’re gonna go check on the pie.” – Jimin said and they both headed toward the kitchen.
Jeongguk had not stopped looking at Taehyung.
“Am I wrong?” – He asked quietly.
“No.” – Taehyung sighed and shook his head. – “No, you’re right. I wrote Stigma.”
“Wow.” – Jeongguk looked away and exhaled. – “I just went off about the book in front of the author.”
He looked embarrassed and horrified, so Taehyung quickly smiled.
“It’s okay.” – He reassured Jeongguk. – “I’m glad that it makes you emotional. That was one of my intentions.”
Jeongguk was still not looking at Taehyung.
“I cried so much at the end.” – He confessed.
Taehyung nodded. It was understandable.
“I cried while writing that part too.” – Taehyung admitted. – “Can I tell you a secret? I actually envisioned the ending before I wrote the book. Everything that happens leads to that moment.”
Jeongguk looked at him with wide eyes.
“No way, are you serious?” – He asked skeptically.
“Yeah.” – Taehyung nodded. – “I knew the ending, I just had to figure out a way to get there.”
“That’s amazing.” – Jeongguk blinked. – “I can’t believe I get to meet you.”
Taehyung glanced at him. Jeongguk was looking at him with amazement and admiration in his eyes.
“I’m really glad I met you too.”
Taehyung meant that. Although he had only met Jeongguk this morning, he already felt like he had known him for a long time.
Stigma. Chapter 18. Page 190.
Jack let out a sigh of relief when there were only a handful of paparazzi outside his house. He would have appreciated it more if all of them had left, but he could deal with a few people. The trick was to ignore everything and headed straight to the door, no looking back.
Surprisingly, when he reached the front porch, the door opened and his mother was standing there, ushering him in, as if she had been waiting for him. She had called yesterday saying that she would come to visit today.
“Is everything okay?” – He asked worriedly as he closed the door.
“You should sit down first.” – She led him to the living room and sat down on the sofa, patting the space next to her.
“Mom, you’re scaring me a little.” – He said after sitting down. – “What’s wrong?”
“Did you … did you just get back from talking to your manager?” – She asked in a shaky voice.
“I talked to him for a few hours and it was really tiring so I went to a bar afterwards. It was a private bar, don’t worry.”
“Jack, when did you last see … Okay I can’t do this anymore.” – She wiped her eyes hastily. – “Jack, Justin was in a car accident. His assistant called your home phone.”
“What?” – Jack stood up immediately. – “When? Is he okay? I just … I was just with him this morning. Is he okay? Which hospital is he staying? How badly was he injured?”
He had not realized that tears were falling down his face until his mother reached out and wiped them away.
“I need to call his assistant. Why didn’t anyone call me on my cell phone?” – He reached into his pockets and realized the phone was not there.
He remembered seeing it on the bedside table just this morning …
“Shit, I forgot my phone.” – He sighed. – “Where’s he staying, mom?”
“Jack, listen to me.” – She said in the softest way possible. – “Justin didn’t make it.”
Jack felt like he had just been struck by lighting, or frozen by ice, or burned by fire, all at once. He blinked a few times, trying to process that sentence.
“What do you mean?” – He asked. – “Mom, what does that mean?”
“He passed away on the way to the hospital.” – She replied with a trembling voice.
She stood up and pulled him into a hug. He hugged her back out of habit, while trying to process what she had just said.
Somehow his voice had gotten so small.
“I’m so sorry, Jack.” – She stroke his head repeatedly.
“He’s gone.” – He closed his eyes and hugged her more tightly. – “Mom, he’s gone. What am I supposed to do?”
The next morning, Taehyung returned to the café by himself. Both Yoongi and Jimin were at work; and he felt like he was not getting any writing done if he just stayed in the house.
When he walked in, he was immediately greeted by Jeongguk’s cheerful voice.
“Hi Taehyung. What can I get you today?”
Taehyung stared at the menu. He never knew why he did it. He always ended up ordering something different from what he had mentally picked from the menu.
“Can I have an iced caramel macchiato with extra caramel please?”
“Sure.” – Jeongguk nodded. – “I’ll bring it over to you.”
“It’s okay. I’ll wait here.” – Taehyung waved his hand in dismissal. – “Do you always work alone?”
“In the morning, yes.” – Jeongguk said while putting caramel drizzle in the coffee cup. – “I usually work part-time, but since it’s the summer, I have nothing to do anyway so I work full time instead. My co-worker usually comes in around noon.”
“I see.” – Taehyung nodded. – “You’re still in college then?”
“Yep, gonna be a senior this fall.” – Jeongguk said proudly and slide Taehyung’s drink over to his side.
“Congratulations.” – Taehyung smiled and picked it up. – “And thank you for this. How much is it?”
“On the house.” – Jeongguk replied quickly. – “Sorry again about yesterday.”
Taehyung smiled at him.
“I already told you that it’s fine. You’re passionate about my book. That’s like… the best compliment an author can have.”
“I’m still sorry.” – Jeongguk said in a small voice. – “The coffee’s on me.”
“Alright. Thank you then. But please don’t worry about yesterday anymore, okay? I really like hearing your thoughts about Stigma.” – Taehyung reassured him.
“Okay.” – Jeongguk nodded and gave him a small smile.
Stigma. Chapter 20. Page 231.
Jack closed his car door and stared down at the envelope in his hands. His heart was aching again so he set the envelope down on the passenger seat and drove out of the garage of the police station.
Earlier, a police officer had handed him the envelope. He had taken it with shaky hands, feeling the weight of the cellphone inside.
“We found these in his suit jacket. The letter is addressed to you; and the lock screen has a picture of the two of you.”
“What about the suit jacket?” – He had asked, willing his voice not to tremble.
Thankfully, the officer only smiled sympathetically and shook her head. The words still echoed in his mind.
“It was covered in blood.”
Jack had thanked her and gripped the envelope more tightly in his hands.
After he had gotten home, his focus was back on the envelope immediately. When he had gotten a house call from the police this morning, he was shocked to hear that some of his belongings were found in Justin’s car. But to think that Jack’s phone and a letter were inside Justin’s suit jacket, it just made Jack want to scream.
In his hands, right now, he held the last things that were with Justin.
He exhaled, quickly opened the envelope, and took out his phone. It was powered off, so he grabbed his charger and plugged the phone in. The phone was also strangely clean, so Jack figured that the police might have cleaned it after …
He went to the kitchen and got a bottle of whiskey. He did not think he could do this without the help of something strong.
Jack ended up drinking the whole bottle before he could finally pick up the phone.
There were many missed calls on that day from his manager, Justin’s secretary, and his mother.
There were many messages too; and most of them were sent after that day, offering their condolences, and asking about his emotional health.
He scrolled down and almost dropped the phone when he saw a message from Justin, at 1:24 pm, that day.
“I hope everything goes well with your meeting, love you. Call me after you’re done?”
Justin must have sent it not knowing that Jack had forgotten his phone.
Jack sighed, reread the message a few times, and slumped down onto the sofa.
This was going to be a long night, he could already feel it.
When Jack opened his eyes, it took him a while to remember where he was. The phone was still in his hand; and he groggily sat up, blinking a few times before turning on one of the lamps next to the sofa.
He felt like crying.
He wanted to see Justin so much.
Jack unlocked his phone and went to the voicemail section. Over the years, he had a habit of never deleting Justin’s voicemails. He just could not bear the thought of erasing Justin’s voice; and sometimes when he was filming abroad, he listened to the voicemails before going to sleep. They made him feel better, like Justin was there next to him even if he was thousands of miles away.
Which was why it would probably hurt even more right now, Jack thought. But he took a deep breath; and scrolled down to the very bottom of the list.
“Hi Jack, it’s Justin, uh, from the event? I was wondering if you’re still up for that date. I texted you yesterday but never got your reply. Maybe you were busy with your filming schedule. Anyway, please call me back. Bye.”
The rational part of Jack’s mind told him to stop and just go to sleep already. But to be fair, the whiskey he drank earlier was stronger that any rationality.
The next voicemail was almost a year after that first one, because Jack had never missed any of Justin’s calls in that period.
“Hi Jack, just calling to check on you. Hope the flight was okay and you’re not jetlagged. Call me back when you have time. Bye.”
After an hour of listening to every voicemail except the newest one, Jack firmly believed that this was officially one of the craziest things he had done.
The four of them were watching Iron Man 3 for the weekly movie night when Taehyung’s phone vibrated. Jin was calling him.
“Hi hyung.” – Taehyung greeted warmly. – “How are you? How’s Namjoon-hyung? Do you guys miss me yet?”
“Of course we miss you. But Taehyung-ah, I’m calling because I have great news.” – Jin said, excitement seeping through his voice.
“What is it? Are you and Namjoon-hyung getting married?” – Taehyung asked. – “Can I be a best man?”
“Why are you so obsessed with our personal life, Taehyung?” – Jin laughed. – “And not, we’re not getting married, at least not yet.”
“I have no personal life so I’m living through yours, hyung.” – Taehyung admitted. – Anyway, so what’s the good news?”
“Stigma has received some offers to be made into a movie!” – Jin practically yelled.
Taehyung had to take a few moments to process what Jin had just told him.
The book that he wrote.
People actually liked it.
And wanted to make a movie based on it.
“Taehyung? Did you hear what I just said?” – Jin asked when Taehyung had not responded in a while.
“I heard you.” – Taehyung replied. – “I’m still… processing it though. Are you sure, hyung? Really sure? Because my heart’s beating really fast right now so tell me that you’re sure.”
“Of course I am.” – Jin scoffed. – “I made sure that I heard them correctly, you know. Yes, three producers called today and said they want to make it into a movie.”
“Oh my god.” – Taehyung covered his mouth. – “Three?”
Jimin had paused the movie and was looking at Taehyung. Yoongi and Jeongguk stopped eating popcorn as well.
“Yeah. I’m telling you now so that you can think about it. I’ll talk to them some more and give you the details later, okay?”
“Yeah. Of course.” – Taehyung replied immediately, still not a hundred percent certain that he was not dreaming.
“Okay. Congratulations Taehyung-ah. You deserve it.” – Jin said cheerfully.
“Thank you, hyung. It wouldn’t be possible without you.” – Taehyung replied before hanging up the phone.
He stared into space for a few moments.
“Taehyung, is everything okay?” – Jimin asked with a worried tone.
“A few producers called. They want to make Stigma into a movie.” – Taehyung said with an even tone.
“What? That’s so awesome!” – Jimin exclaimed and pulled Taehyung into a hug. – “Wait, why aren’t you more excited?”
“I’m still trying to convince myself that I’m not dreaming.” – Taehyung patted his back. – “Am I dreaming?”
“Should I hit you?” – Jimin suggested. – “Or do you prefer tickling?”
“I’m good.” – Taehyung said immediately. – “Jin-hyung said he would call me once he has more details.”
“That’s great news! Congratulations Taehyung.” – Yoongi smiled at him.
“You deserve it.” – Jeongguk said and gave Taehyung a warm smile.
“I don’t understand why people would want to make it into a movie though.” – Taehyung said with a bewildered tone. – “It’s a really depressing story.”
“It’s a relatable one.” – Jeongguk offered. – “Not everything is rainbow and sunshine in life, you know? And it’s not too depressing, there’s a ‘hopeful’ ending.”
He made air quotes at the word “hopeful” and Taehyung laughed.
“I only said that to cheer you up.” – Taehyung covered his mouth with his hand and tried to hide his laughter.
“But still, it’s really great news.” – Jimin patted Taehyung’s back again. – “Let’s go out to celebrate. Taehyung, buy us lobsters!”
“Sure.” – Taehyung nodded. – “But I want to eat crawfish right now though. Let’s find a seafood restaurant.”
“Food! Let’s go get food!” – Jeongguk said excitedly. – “Why am I suddenly so hungry?”
Taehyung was really different from all the people Jeongguk had met. His voice was really deep, but when he talked to Geureum it got really high and sometimes there was even squealing involved. He also seemed cheerful, but somehow he wrote the saddest story that Jeongguk had ever read.
Jeongguk began to look forward to Taehyung’s visit to the café every morning, but he could never pinpoint the exact time because Taehyung showed up spontaneously. And he only ordered three things: caramel macchiato, peppermint mocha, or Americano, always iced. Jeongguk made a game of mentally guessing the drink Taehyung would order, but he had never predicted that correctly.
And the thing that puzzled Jeongguk the most was this. Taehyung always brought his backpack that has a notepad, a pencil case, a laptop, and a charger. He usually wrote in the notepad for most of his stay at the café, and then frantically scratched out at least three papers every day before he finally took out his laptop and typed in whatever was still written on the notepad. And the café got really busy at lunch time; but Taehyung just sat there and wrote. He did not even listen to any music and Jeongguk wondered how he could focus amidst all the noise.
Taehyung had not come in today yet; and it was already almost noon. Jeongguk wondered if he was okay; and then he wondered why he cared if Taehyung came or not. He also asked himself why he had been thinking about Taehyung a lot these days. It must be because Taehyung wrote his favorite book, right?
The door bell chimed and Jeongguk whipped his head up so fast he almost got whiplash. Hoseok, his co-worker, laughed into his hands when he saw Jeongguk’s reaction at the bell.
It wasn’t Taehyung who came in.
“Why are you laughing, hyung?” – Jeongguk glared at Hoseok.
“No reason.” – Hoseok shook his head immediately. – “Just saw something funny is all. You’re hilarious Jeongguk-ah.”
Jeongguk was about to retort, but the bell chimed again and he instinctively had to look at the door. This time Taehyung walked in and waved tiredly and Jeongguk automatically smiled at him.
“Smitten.” – Hoseok fake-coughed and went to the register to take the order of the customer who went in before Taehyung.
Jeongguk stared at him with raised eyebrows. He was not smitten. He wasn’t sure if he even liked Taehyung romantically. Sure, Taehyung was really nice and tall and handsome and he liked dogs and he wrote a beautifully tragic book that would probably haunt Jeongguk for years to come.
But Taehyung was also Jimin’s best friend.
“Hi Taehyung.” – He greeted when Taehyung walked to the second register. – “What do you want to order today?”
His guess was iced Americano, because Taehyung looked tired and sleepy.
“I don’t know.” – Taehyung mumbled and wiped his eyes before looking at the menu. – “What do you usually drink?”
“Me?” – Jeongguk asked in surprise. – “I don’t really like coffee. I only drink it sometimes when I need to stay awake. Like if I have to open at 5 in the morning, I drink a Black Eye.”
“What’s that?” – Taehyung furrowed his eyebrows.
“Brewed coffee and espresso.” – Jeongguk grimaced. – “Really bitter, but it does the trick.”
Taehyung nodded slightly and then returned to staring at the menu.
“I don’t really like bitter drinks.” – Taehyung muttered. – “Can I have an iced cappuccino please?”
“Sure.” – Jeongguk nodded. – “Are you okay? You look tired.”
“I stayed up until 6 this morning.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “Suddenly had so many ideas so I had to type them all.”
“No notepad needed?” – Jeongguk asked.
Taehyung looked at him and raised his eyebrows. Jeongguk screamed internally and tried to backtrack and think of something to say so he would not sound like a creep.
“No.” – Taehyung shook his head and gave Jeongguk a small smile. – “Not at all.”
“Here’s your coffee, Taehyung.” – Hoseok placed the iced cappuccino on the counter next to Jeongguk.
Jeongguk handed it to Taehyung and for a few seconds their hands brushed against each other’s. Jeongguk almost pulled back immediately but he was worried that Taehyung was too tired and maybe he would pull back too and the cup would fall to the floor and possibly on Taehyung and Jeongguk did not want to spill coffee on his favorite author.
With those thoughts running through his mind, Jeongguk held on to the cup, and to Taehyung’s hand.
“I have to go and write right now immediately.” – Taehyung said really quickly and put a few bills on the counter. – “Talk to you later, Jeongguk. Bye, Hoseok-hyung.”
He turned around and went to sit at his usual table. Jeongguk just stared at him without blinking. Eventually, he turned to Hoseok, who was trying to muffle his laughter by covering his mouth with his hand.
“Hyung, what just happened?” – Jeongguk asked in a small voice.
“You guys held hands.” – Hoseok replied like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Taehyung sat down and frantically opened his backpack to get his laptop. The need to write was still there; and he felt like the inspirations had returned to him. More importantly, he had thought of a title for the book.
And he had also thought of an ending for the story, so it meant that he just needed to get there somehow.
He took a sip of the cappuccino and thought about Jeongguk, more specifically about their last encounter. Taehyung had been so sleepy this morning. He had thought about staying at Jimin’s to write; but he had really needed something to drink. And he had also really wanted to see Jeongguk… It had become a part of his daily routine; and Taehyung loved predictability.
When he opened the laptop and continued writing, the words flew effortlessly out of him.
He had no idea how long he had been writing until Jeongguk sat down at the seat opposite of him. He glanced at Jeongguk and smiled quickly before looking back at his laptop and continuing typing.
“I called your name a few times.” – Jeongguk explained. – “Have you eaten lunch? Breakfast?”
“Sorry about that.” – Taehyung said apologetically. – “Sometimes I get really into writing. And no I haven’t eaten.”
Jeongguk waited for Taehyung to finish the sentence, but when he did not say anything more, Jeongguk continued.
“You haven’t eaten breakfast or lunch? Aren’t you hungry?”
“I ate an apple before coming here.” – Taehyung replied; his eyes were still glued to the laptop screen.
“That doesn’t count as a meal.” – Jeongguk huffed.
Taehyung stopped typing and looked at him with curiosity. Jeongguk stared back, unflinching.
“Do you want to go eat something? I’m on my lunch break right now.” – Jeongguk offered. – “There’s a Japanese place that sells the best ramen about two blocks away. There’s also a Korean restaurant that has really good lamb skewers.”
Taehyung felt his stomach grumbling just listening to Jeongguk. Judging by the way Jeongguk was trying to hold his laughter, he had heard the sound as well.
Taehyung did not like eating in front of people, except if they were his family or close friends. For some strange reason, he always thought that eating was something personal and intimate, like it should only be done around the people that he was comfortable with. But right now, with Jeongguk looking at him in expectance with those big brown eyes, he found himself nodding.
“Okay, let’s go then.” – Taehyung put the laptop back into his backpack.
“Where do you want to go?” – Jeongguk asked.
“Wherever you want.” – Taehyung replied easily.
He already felt comfortable around Jeongguk enough…
They decided to go to the Japanese restaurant. It was half-way through the meal when Jeongguk realized that Taehyung ate really slowly. Jeongguk had ordered a large ramen while Taehyung had gotten one roll of sushi, one, that had eight pieces. Currently Jeongguk had finished two-thirds of his ramen, but Taehyung was still munching on his fourth piece.
“Is it not good?” – Jeongguk asked curiously.
“It’s really good.” – Taehyung replied.
“Then how come you’re taking such a long time to eat?” – Jeongguk continued. – “I thought you were hungry.”
Taehyung looked down at his sushi and then over at Jeongguk’s ramen.
“Maybe you’re just inhaling your food.” – He remarked. – “Eating slowly is better for your stomach.”
And then he gave Jeongguk a big smile, a smile where his eyes were crescents and his teeth were showing.
Jeongguk was so weak.
“I…” – He stammered. – “I’m eating at a normal speed.”
Taehyung’s smile had somehow gotten bigger.
“How’s… how’s the writing going?” – Jeongguk changed the subject completely.
“It’s going.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “I was a bit stressed out after Jin-hyung told me about the movie offers, but I’m actually continuing the story now so it’s okay.”
“Really? You’re gonna keep writing the story? There’s a part two? Jack’s not gonna die? Is the other person at the bridge gonna be in the story as well?”
Taehyung stared at him and put down his chopsticks so that he could cover his face.
“Sorry.” – Jeongguk said, embarrassed. – “I’m just excited. I really like Stigma a lot.”
“I can tell.” – Taehyung tried to keep his voice steady. – “It’s nice to hear that. I’m very touched.”
“Then why are you not showing your face?” – Jeongguk leaned over and pulled one of Taehyung’s wrists down.
“I told you, I’m touched.” – Taehyung resisted, maybe halfheartedly, maybe Jeongguk was just really strong. – “Let me be touched in peace. I’m trying to control my expression right now.”
“What do you mean?” – Jeongguk was puzzled. – “You sound fine. Let me see your face. We’re having lunch together, isn’t it weird not to look at each other?”
Taehyung let down one hand, but he used it to pick up a sushi piece using his chopsticks. The other hand was still covering his eyes. Jeongguk could see that his cheeks were a little pink, but he couldn’t be sure.
He needed confirmation.
Taehyung’s hand dropped immediately.
Jeongguk had a satisfied grin on his face.
“Noted.” – He said triumphantly and resumed eating ramen. Seeing Taehyung speechless was a nice experience.
“Bunny.” – Taehyung suddenly said.
“What?” – Jeongguk looked up at him.
“The nickname of the other person is Bunny.” – He explained. – “You’re the first to know, so don’t go telling anyone else.”
“Jimin doesn’t know?” – Jeongguk asked in disbelief.
Taehyung shook his head.
“Is it because I called you ‘hyung’?” – Jeongguk narrowed his eyes.
Taehyung almost choked. Of course Jeongguk would think that.
“It’s because you’re passionate about my writing.” – Taehyung clarified. – “That’s really nice of you. And I’m being nice back.”
“Oh my God.” – Jeongguk exclaimed. – “I can create a twitter account and just randomly say that a character in V’s next book is called ‘Bunny.’ And when I’m right… people are gonna believe everything I say.”
Taehyung burst out laughing.
“You have your priorities straight.” – He commented.
“Wait, I can’t do that. What if you change your mind?” – Jeongguk suddenly realized.
“I don’t really.” – Taehyung shook his head. – “Once it’s typed, it’s there. I mean… unless Namjoon-hyung, my editor, says that he dislikes it or something.”
“I see.” – Jeongguk nodded in understanding.
Taehyung smiled at him and continued eating. Jeongguk stared at him for a few seconds before doing the same.
When Taehyung returned, Jimin was lounging in the living room but he sat up when Taehyung walked in.
“Were you waiting for me or something?” – Taehyung raised his eyebrows.
“I went to the café today.” – Jimin started. – “It was during my lunch break so I thought I’d go and ask you and Jeongguk to lunch.”
“How did… you know I would be there?” – Taehyung stammered.
“You and your routines, Taehyung-ah.” – Jimin rolled his eyes. – “Anyway, imagine my surprise when Hoseok-hyung told me that you guys left for lunch already.”
Taehyung sat down on the sofa next to Jimin and shrugged nonchalantly.
“He was on his break, I was hungry.”
“I thought you don’t like eating in front of people.” – Jimin asked.
“He’s not… people.” – Taehyung responded; and then he saw Jimin’s grin. – “It’s not… why are you smiling?”
“What did you guys eat?” – Jimin asked innocently.
“Ramen and sushi. Why?” – Taehyung still answered, although he felt like something was off about Jimin’s tone.
“Sounds like a fun date.”
He knew it.
“It was lunch, Jimin-ah.” – Taehyung sighed. – “And we barely know each other.”
“He seems to like you.” – Jimin patted his shoulder. – “Jeongguk’s really shy, but he’s not like that around you.”
“Maybe it’s because he likes my writing.” – Taehyung shrugged.
“Oh he does.” – Jimin agreed. – “But that’s not the only reason, Taehyung-ah.”
Taehyung pondered on that for a few moments. But then he had more ideas to write so he ignored Jimin and took out his laptop instead.
“Look at you being all responsible and stuff. My baby’s all grown up.” – Jimin cooed and patted his head a few times.
“You’re only two months older than me.” – Taehyung huffed. – “Please stop treating me like I’m your child.”
“You are my child.” – Jimin cradled Taehyung’s head in his hands.
“My hands are bigger than yours.” – Taehyung deadpanned.
“How dare you?” – Jimin held his head more tightly. – “I took care of you; I watched you grow up. Is this how you repay my kindness?”
At that moment, Yoongi walked in from the kitchen. When he saw the scene in the living room, he just sighed defeatedly.
“Jimin-ah, if he cannot write because you’re messing with his brain, I will be mad. I need to know what will happen next after Stigma.”
“Do all of you like that book?” – Taehyung asked seriously. – “How come everyone I’ve met in Busan so far has read it? Even Hoseok-hyung told Jeongguk that he really liked the book.”
“Ah, that would be Jimin’s doing.” – Yoongi gestured at his boyfriend. – “When it was published, Jimin told everyone we know to read it. As for the copy you sent him, it was on the bed every night. He caressed it before going to sleep. One time I caught him kissing…”
“Hyung, what the hell?” – Jimin yelled, scandalized. – “Taehyung-ah, it’s not…”
Taehyung held both of Jimin’s hands in his.
“I love you.” – He said sincerely. – “I love you the most. You are the most important person in my life. I can’t believe you were that proud of me.”
“I’m always proud of you Taehyung-ah.” – Jimin replied. – “I love you too.”
“What are the two of you doing in front of your boyfriend?” – Yoongi sighed. When Jimin did not pay attention to him, he continued in a louder voice. – “Jimin, it’s your boyfriend speaking.”
“Excuse me, my best friend and I are having a moment.” – Jimin said without looking at him.
They remained in that position for a few seconds, but Taehyung had to write so he let go of Jimin’s hands.
“Jimin, this book is dedicated to you as well.” – He patted Jimin’s shoulder.
“Thank you, Taehyung-ah.” – Jimin replied gratefully.
“So like, am I invisible?” – Yoongi complained.
“Your boyfriend is jealous.” – Taehyung commented.
“I know.” – Jimin sighed and stood up. – “Have fun writing. I’m gonna go make him less jealous now.”
He went over to where Yoongi was and gave him a small kiss.
Taehyung just sighed and resumed typing.
“I really didn’t need to know that. Can I borrow your headphones please?”
Jimin burst out laughing while Yoongi went to his room and got his headphones.
Taehyung was woken up by the vibrations of his phone. He blinked a few times and stared blearily at the screen, surprised to see that Jin was calling him at seven in the morning. He groaned, remembering that he had only gotten two hours of sleep, but picked up the phone anyway.
“Hyung.” – He muttered.
“Taehyung, are you sick?” – Jin asked worriedly. – “Your voice sounds off.”
“Was sleeping.” – Taehyung sighed and closed his eyes. – “Is everything okay?”
“Sorry about waking you up. But Do Jihan wants to interview you.”
Taehyung was awake now.
“Say that again, please?” – He asked.
“Do Jihan wants to interview you.” – Jin repeated. – “You know, the famous news anchor? He emailed me saying that he loved Stigma, and was wondering if you would want to do an interview with him since Stigma is gonna be made into a movie.”
Taehyung almost squealed, but he stopped himself just in time.
“I love him.” – He said instead.
“I know.” – Jin laughed. – “I just got the email and I had to call you right away. So do you want to…”
“Of course, hyung.” – Taehyung cut in. – “Yes I’ll do the interview.”
“You’ll come back to Seoul then?” – Jin asked.
He had no idea why Jeongguk just crossed his mind at that moment.
“I’ll go back for a few days.” – He answered carefully. – “I need to get a few things from my apartment anyways.”
There was a pause; and he knew that Jin was thinking.
“Taehyung, are you gonna stay in Busan?”
“For the moment, yes. I have so many ideas to write about, hyung.” – Taehyung replied. – “I talked to Jimin and Yoongi-hyung, his boyfriend, and they said I can stay with them. I’m paying the rent though, don’t worry.”
“Okay then.” – Jin responded. – “I’m surprised you’re enjoying another place other than Seoul.”
“I’m surprised too, pleasantly.” – Taehyung agreed.
“Did you meet someone?” – Jin asked curiously.
“I met a lot of people.” – Taehyung laughed. – “It’s a big city; and I don’t just write at Jimin’s house, hyung.”
“You know that’s not what I meant.” – Jin snickered. – “And since you didn’t answer it, I can say with confidence that you really did meet someone special.”
“Please let me know when Jihan-sunbae wants to do the interview.” – Taehyung requested. – “I’m gonna go back to sleep now, hyung.”
“Aw, Taehyungie, who is it?” – The excitement was evident in Jin’s voice. – “You can tell your favorite hyung anything.”
“I haven’t… it’s not…” – Taehyung stammered.
Somehow he was still thinking about Jeongguk.
“Aw, my child is all grown up.” – Jin cooed. – “Are you having a crush on someone?”
“I have to go.” – Taehyung said in a loud voice. – “Please let me know about Jihan-sunbae. Good bye, hyung!”
He heard Jin’s distinctive laughter before he hung up.
After that, Taehyung could not go back to sleep because of the excitement, so he got out of bed and went to the kitchen. He heard the sounds of paws on wooden floor; and a few moments later Geureum was at his feet, wagging his tail.
“Morning, Geureum-ah.” – Taehyung leaned down and picked up the dog. – “Are you hungry? Should I get you some food?”
“He usually wants to go for a walk first thing in the morning.”
Taehyung almost dropped Geureum when he heard Jeongguk’s voice. He turned around, eyes wide; and Jeongguk laughed. He was wearing a black hoodie and a grey beanie, the same one he had been wearing at the café when they first met.
“I’m very weak-hearted.” – Taehyung sighed. – “Don’t scare me this early in the morning.”
Jeongguk did not have to go to work today; so yesterday evening they had a barbecue party in the backyard. Hoseok had gone home late at night, but Jeongguk had stayed over with Geureum.
“Why are you awake at seven? What time did you go to bed?” – Jeongguk asked.
“Like five. And Jin-hyung called earlier so I can’t go back to sleep now.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “So you said Geureum needs a walk before breakfast?”
“Yeah, I’m taking him out on a walk right now.” – Jeongguk nodded. – “Do you want to come with us?”
Like he understood Jeongguk, Geureum began barking excitedly and waving his tail more animatedly.
“Sure.” – Taehyung agreed.
Jeongguk picked up Geureum and put a leash on him before they walked to the front door.
They walked around the neighborhood and stopped at a small park. Jeongguk took the leash of Geureum so he could run around on the grass. Jeongguk and Taehyung sat down on one of the benches and enjoyed the quietness of the early morning.
“I’m going back to Seoul.” – Taehyung started.
Jeongguk turned to him so quickly with a shocked expression.
“Only for a few days.” – Taehyung clarified hurriedly; and he had no idea why. – “I’m doing an interview and also picking up some things from my apartment.”
Jeongguk let out a sigh of relief and Taehyung had never been more confused.
“You scared me for a little there.” – Jeongguk put a hand on his chest.
“Why?” – Taehyung asked hesitantly.
Jeongguk blinked and avoided Taehyung’s eyes. He chose to focus on Geureum instead, who was sniffing wildflowers and being his adorable self.
“No reason.” – He shrugged.
“Okay.” – Taehyung nodded, although he did not really believe Jeongguk.
But he also did not want to talk about the vague thing between them.
“I’ve never been to Seoul.” – Jeongguk confessed.
“Do you want to go with me?”
The question left Taehyung’s mouth before he could process exactly what he was suggesting.
“You mean… to Seoul?” – Jeongguk blinked in confusion.
“Yeah.” – Taehyung nodded anyway. – “It’s only for a couple days, so you wouldn’t miss a lot of work… I mean you would miss a few days… I don’t know if that’s okay with you or not… I don’t even know if you want to go…”
“I would love to go with you.” – Jeongguk cut off his rambling and smiled.
It was the smile that showed his teeth; and Taehyung was mesmerized, again.
“That’s… good.” – He said, a little breathlessly. – “So I don’t actually know when to leave yet. Jin-hyung will call me once he knows the interview date. But I will let you know when I know.”
“Okay.” – Jeongguk’s smile became bigger. – “Yay, it’s my first time visiting Seoul.”
“I’m like… feeling really pressured.” – Taehyung took a deep breath.
“What?” – Jeongguk widened his eyes. – “No, don’t feel pressured. I’m just excited. But you don’t have to do anything. I’m just happy to go with you.”
Taehyung was so touched that he could not stop himself from smiling.
“That’s really sweet.” – He commented.
Jeongguk’s eyes widened again and he could feel his cheeks turning red.
“I’m… I mean… It’s not…” – He stammered.
Taehyung was full on grinning now.
“You’re cute.” – Taehyung chuckled and stood up. – “Look, Geureum’s bringing something over.”
Jeongguk just stared at Taehyung’s back. Did he really just call him “cute”?
He was having so many heart problems right now.
Jimin grinned really brightly when he heard that Jeongguk was coming with Taehyung to Seoul. Yoongi looked impressed and he patted Taehyung’s shoulder, saying that he had done a good job at making Jeongguk feel comfortable.
“I don’t understand.” – Taehyung blinked in confusion. – “I didn’t do anything. Isn’t he like that with everyone?”
“No way.” – Jimin shook his head. – “When I first knew him, it took more than a month for him to smile at me, let alone go with me to a strange city. He really likes you a lot.”
Yoongi nodded in agreement. But Taehyung did not want to think about this at all. Jeongguk was cute, adorable even; and he had the cutest smile, and cutest laugh, and cutest giggle that Taehyung had ever known. And sometimes Jeongguk blushed around him, which amused Taehyung a great deal. But he was not sure if it was because of Taehyung himself, or because of V, Jeongguk’s favorite author.
“I’m his best friend and I have never seen him so smitten.” – Yoongi recalled.
“He likes my book.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “Maybe that’s why.”
“Nuh-uh.” – Jimin disagreed. – “You’re so oblivious, Taehyung-ah. I’m telling you, he really likes you.”
“And I’m telling you that he really likes my book.” – Taehyung said nonchalantly.
“What about you though?” – Yoongi suddenly asked. – “How do you feel about him?”
Taehyung froze. He suddenly regretted having this conversation so much. How did they even get to this point anyway?
“He’s really nice.” – Taehyung said in a casual tone.
“That is the most generic answer ever.” – Jimin groaned. – “Anyway, just take your time Taehyung-ah. You’ll get there eventually.”
“Jiminie, why do I feel like you’re looking down on me right now?” – Taehyung narrowed his eyes.
“Because I’ve got life all figured out.” – Jimin said proudly. – “Just… be nice to him, will you? He’s shy and gentle and soft and he deserves to be treated like that.”
“Wait, shouldn’t I be the one to tell him that?” – Yoongi asked. – “I’m Jeongguk’s best friend after all.”
Jimin glared at him.
“Why are you telling me this?” – Taehyung groaned and stood up. – “We’re not even… I’m not… Whatever I’m just gonna go write right now.”
Taehyung and Jeongguk met at the train station the day they had to leave. Jeongguk was really excited to leave; and since Geureum was going to stay with Yoongi and Jimin, he had no worries. He would miss his dog, but he would be back in a few days.
They sat next to each other on the train, with Jeongguk near the window. Taehyung fell asleep as soon as he got on the train, so Jeongguk occupied himself by taking pictures of the landscape that they passed by. When they reached Seoul, he exclaimed and took even more pictures. And then he patted Taehyung’s shoulder to wake him up.
“Taehyung, we’re here! We’re in Seoul.”
Taehyung opened his eyes and smiled when he saw Jeongguk’s excited face.
“Did you sleep at all?” – He asked groggily.
“Nope.” – Jeongguk shook his head and waved his phone around in front of Taehyung’s face. – “I was taking pictures the whole time.”
They got off the train and Taehyung called Jin.
“Hi hyung. I just got to the station. I’ll go find something to eat first, so I should be home in an hour.”
“Please. With your eating speed?” – Jin scoffed. – “More like two hours.”
Taehyung was offended, but he realized Jin was correct.
“Anyway, I’ll be home later. Oh, and I have a friend with me from Busan. He’ll be staying at the apartment for a few days.”
“Who? Is it the one you have a crush on?” – Jin asked excitedly.
“Bye hyung. I’ll talk to you later.” – Taehyung said and hung up.
He put his phone away and looked over to his right. He panicked for a moment when Jeongguk was not there anymore, but then he saw him near the entrance of the station, taking pictures.
He smiled and walked over. Jeongguk looked like he was at his favorite place; and it was endearing to watch him.
“Are you hungry?” – Taehyung asked softly.
“Hm?” – Jeongguk inspected the pictures he had taken. – “A little bit.”
“What do you want to…”
Taehyung could not finish his question, because Jeongguk was putting an arm around him and putting his phone in front of them.
“Smile.” – Jeongguk said while grinning, so Taehyung automatically smiled as well.
Jeongguk pulled away when he had taken the picture; and Taehyung was willing his heart to beat more slowly.
“Welcome to my place!” – Taehyung said in a sing-song voice when he opened the entrance door to his apartment. – “It’s quite small, and also messy, please don’t judge me.”
“Don’t worry about that.” – Jeongguk laughed and walked in.
Taehyung closed the door and put the keys in the decorative bowl in the hallway. And then he heard footsteps coming out of the kitchen.
“Taehyung-ah, how many times have I told you? Please put your keys in the drawer. The bowl is for decoration only!”
Jeongguk was surprised when a man walked toward the hallway and yawned.
“Hyung, how did you know I put the keys in the bowl?” – Taehyung asked in a shocked tone. – “Do you have superpowers?”
“I’ve memorized the sound they make when the hit the bowl so that I can reprimand you.” – Jin sighed and extended his hand to Jeongguk. – “Nice to meet you, I’m Jin.”
“Nice to meet you, hyung. My name’s Jeongguk.” – Jeongguk shook the hand and bowed his head slightly.
“Your name sounds familiar. Are you a friend of Jimin’s as well?” – Jin asked. – “I think he has mentioned you before.”
“I am.” – Jeongguk nodded.
“Hyung!” – Taehyung pulled Jin’s shirtsleeve. – “Hyung, your favorite author is back. Don’t I get a hug or something? Didn’t you miss me?”
“Ah, my peaceful days are over now that you’re back.” – Jin said dramatically but pulled Taehyung into a hug anyway. – “Of course I missed you.”
Jeongguk laughed at the scene unfolding in front of him. Taehyung was clinging to Jin like a koala bear and grinning widely.
“Right, let me show you to your room, Jeongguk.” – Taehyung blinked when he remembered that Jeongguk was there.
“Okay, Tae.” – Jeongguk nodded easily.
Taehyung’s heart was beating so fast because did Jeongguk just give him a nickname?
“It’s this way.” – He kept a controlled voice and led Jeongguk down the corridor.
He opened the door to the guest bedroom and stepped aside so that Jeongguk could walk in.
“There are three bedrooms, Jin-hyung and Namjoon-hyung stay here sometimes when I’m behind on my schedule, but right now it’s just me. Each bedroom has an en-suite too so make yourself at home. Oh, the Wi-Fi password is howcouldyoudothistome?, no caps.”
Jeongguk burst out laughing but he put the password in his phone anyway.
“Jin-hyung changed the password after he finished reading Stigma. And I found it so funny so I never changed it back.” – Taehyung explained.
“I get it.” – Jeongguk nodded in understanding. – “If you don’t mind me asking, why did you write it like that?”
Taehyung blinked and looked away.
“I’ll tell you some other time.”
Jeongguk nodded again and he gave Taehyung a warm smile, a smile where his front teeth were showing.
“Bunny.” – Taehyung muttered.
“The new character? What about them, Tae?” – Jeongguk raised his eyebrows.
It was the nickname again; and Taehyung had no idea why Jeongguk decided to call him that. He really liked it though.
“Nothing.” – He shook his head quickly. – “I just suddenly thought of him.”
“It’s a he?” – Jeongguk gasped.
Taehyung had no intention of letting him know. But oh well…
“Anyway, I’m a bit tired now so I think I’ll go and write for a little while before going to bed. My bedroom is opposite of yours so let me know if you need anything. Oh and even if the lights are off, you can still knock on the door. I like writing in the dark in my bedroom.”
Jeongguk stared at him for a few seconds before nodding.
“I feel like I’m learning a lot about you today.”
“Is that a good or a bad thing?” – Taehyung asked.
He tried to be casual, but he felt like his insecurity seeped through the question.
“It’s a good thing of course.” – Jeongguk replied quickly. – “You’re…”
“I’m your favorite author.” – Taehyung completed the sentence for him. – “Alright, let me know if you need anything, okay? I’ll be across the hall.”
4 O’clock. Chapter 1. Page 3.
Jack opened his eyes at the sound of the voice. For a few seconds, he had imagined that it was Justin talking to him. Rationality returned moments later, of course; and so did the harsh truth.
Justin was not there anymore.
This thought made him inch closer to the edge, his hand gripping Justin’s letter.
“Excuse me? Hey, did you hear me at all? What exactly are you doing?” – Impatience was laced in the voice. – “Can you just step back and talk to me?”
He should ignore the voice and just focused on his task at hand, because this was the only way he could be together with Justin again. But something in him made him turn around and face the owner of the voice.
The person looked really young, almost like he was in high school or college. He was wearing a grey hoodie with the hood up on his head. For some reason, Jack was focused on the contrast between the hoodie and the shorts that the young man was wearing.
“Can I help you?” – He asked in a well-trained polite tone.
“What?” – The young man raised his eyebrows. – “Yes. Sure. You definitely can help me. I need to talk to you right now so please come closer to me.”
“I was being polite.” – Jack let out a bitter laugh. – “Look, you know what I’m about to do right? So just go, pretend you didn’t see anything. Have a good day.”
“How the fuck am I supposed to walk away when I know that you’re about to jump off that bridge?” – He sighed exasperatedly. – “Can we talk? I’m afraid of heights so you will have to come to me.”
This whole situation was just ridiculous to Jack so he burst out laughing. He himself was also afraid of heights, but right now the adrenaline must be helping him because he feared nothing at this moment.
“I’m Jack.” – He stepped off the ledge and walked toward the young man.
“Bunny.” – The other extended his hand.
“What?” – Jack knitted his eyebrows but still shook it.
“I don’t tell strangers my real name.” – Bunny shrugged. – “It just seems like a dangerous thing to do.”
“I told you my real name.” – Jack scoffed.
“How do I know it’s your real name?” – Bunny raised his eyebrows. – “Anyway, do you want to go grab a drink? I need something strong right now.”
Jack was dumbfounded. Did this person really not know who he was?
“I’m kind of in the middle of something, so if you want to talk, we can talk here.” – He gestured at the bridge behind him.
“Nah, let’s talk somewhere else. I’ll buy you a drink. Believe me, you would regret it if you jumped. I’ve been there.” – Bunny shifted on his feet, a hint of vulnerability seeping through his voice.
For some reason, Jack actually followed him.
Taehyung took a few deep breaths. Jin said that it would help but it did not. He was still so nervous because he was about to meet Do Jihan, the prominent reporter, for the first time; and he was going to be interviewed by him.
Taehyung looked around, desperately trying to find something that he could focus his attention on. His eyes landed on Jeongguk, who was looking around the set curiously and talking to Jin.
“Jeongguk.” – Taehyung whispered and waved a hand at him.
Jeongguk saw it and walked over to where Taehyung was sitting.
“How are you feeling?” – He asked and smiled encouragingly.
“Uhm… really nervous.” – Taehyung sighed. – “What if I say the wrong thing and mess up the interview?”
“I think it can be edited out.” – Jeongguk reassured him. – “It’s not a live interview so don’t worry too much about that. And from what Jin-hyung told me, the reporter loves your book so just think of it as talking to your favorite fan.”
“Jimin and you are my favorite fans.” – Taehyung mumbled.
“That’s…” – Jeongguk blinked, not knowing what to say. – “Okay, so just imagine that you’re talking to me then.”
Taehyung looked at Jeongguk skeptically. He was not sure that was a great idea. He would not want to be overly friendly with someone he just met.
“Hyung, I know you will do just fine.” – Jeongguk continued.
Taehyung’s eyes widened at that word again.
“You… don’t just…” – He stammered. – “You can’t just add honorifics all of a sudden. It throws me off.”
“Aw, but I think you like me calling you hyung.” – Jeongguk grinned mischievously. – “So it’s either hyung or Tae huh? Good to know.”
Taehyung had no idea how their conversation had changed to this topic. And how did Jeongguk know that he liked the nickname “Tae” anyway?
The good thing was, Taehyung had stopped worrying about the interview with Do Jihan. He was too focused on Jeongguk right now.
“Tae-Tae is also fine.” – He shrugged. – “I mean now that we’re talking about this, I might as well let you know.”
The playfulness on Jeongguk’s face had changed to something that resembled adoration to Taehyung, but he could not be sure.
“You can call me Kookie.” – Jeongguk replied.
“Jimin calls you Kookie.” – Taehyung remembered. – “I want to call you something that no one else does. It’s only fair.”
Jeongguk thought about it for a while. He did not really have any other nicknames.
“What do you want to call me?” – He asked Taehyung instead.
Taehyung’s reply came almost immediately.
“What? Like ‘rabbit?’ Like Bunny? Like the character?” – Jeongguk asked.
“Yes.” – Taehyung nodded easily.
“You can’t just say something like that.” – Jeongguk covered his face with his hands. – “The next thing I know, you’re gonna say I’m the inspiration for him.”
“You kind of are.” – Taehyung nodded again. – “Just a little bit though. His personality is different from yours. And I feel like I’ve given you too many spoilers, so that’s all I’m gonna say about him.”
Jeongguk burst out laughing. Taehyung looked at him joined in. It was impossible to hear the sound of Jeongguk’s laugh and not smile as well. It was addictive.
“Do Jihan-ssi is heading over here now so I’m gonna go.” – Jeongguk wiped his eyes and said. – “You’ll be amazing, TaeTae.”
“Thank you, Tokki.” – Taehyung smiled at him again.
Jeongguk went over to where Jin was standing; and Taehyung heard someone clearing their throat behind him so he turned around.
The reporter had a friendly smile on his face. Taehyung extend his hand quickly.
“Do Jihan-ssi. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise.” – Jihan smiled at him. – “I’m a fan of your book. I’m so glad it’s being made into a movie.”
Taehyung still felt surreal that it was happening.
“Thank you. It means a lot to me.”
“Should we start the interview now?” – Jihan asked. – “And don’t worry, just be yourself. I will send you an edited version of it, and it would not be published or aired until you’re 100 percent okay with it.”
“That’s really considerate.” – Taehyung replied. – “And yes, we can start the interview whenever you want.”
Sometimes Taehyung felt like he was invincible.
When he finally wrote down a scene that had been in his head for a long time, when he realized that he wanted to be a writer for the rest of his life, when he finished writing Stigma, when he held the first copy of Stigma in his hands… One thing was in common, it had always had something to do with writing.
Which was why it was strange for him to feel invincible right now. After the interview, he and Jeongguk had gone to get dinner and they were currently taking a stroll down the riverside of the Han River. Jin had a dinner date with Namjoon so he had left as soon as the interview was over. The sun had begun to set and the sky had overlapping shades of reds and oranges. The wind was blowing strongly; and Taehyung was so glad he had brought a jacket with him.
“He really likes you.” – Jeongguk said in the middle of taking pictures.
“Huh?” – Taehyung knitted his eyebrows.
Jeongguk turned to him and took a picture.
“You look really good with this sunset background.” – Jeongguk inspected the picture and nodded proudly.
“Why are you taking a picture of me anyway?” – Taehyung asked in confusion. – “Shouldn’t I be the one taking pictures of you since you need a lot of memories of your first time in Seoul?”
Jeongguk shook his head and continued taking pictures of the sunset.
“Nah, I don’t really like being in pictures. And I mean the reporter, Jihan-ssi. I think he really likes you.”
“What.” – Taehyung exhaled. – “Tokki-ah, I’m older than you okay. My brain doesn’t switch topics that fast anymore. And he likes my book, that’s all.”
Jeongguk stopped and looked at Taehyung meaningfully; and Taehyung felt the same invincibleness, like he could do anything at that moment.
“I like you.” – He said sincerely. – “So, should we start heading back now or do you want to wait until the sun sets?”
“Uhm.” – Jeongguk blinked. – “I… probably… what… uhm… can we… stay here for a little while longer?”
“Sure.” – Taehyung nodded easily.
Jeongguk wondered if he had said that to throw him off, like Jeongguk did to him earlier, or if Taehyung actually meant what Jeongguk thought he meant.
He probably meant “in a friendly way” right?
Jeongguk did not know anything anymore.
It was a Friday; and if Taehyung and Jeongguk were in Busan right now, they would be having the weekly movie night with Yoongi and Jimin. But since they were in Seoul, Taehyung wondered if they should watch a movie, just the two of them.
After a few moments of debating to himself, he knocked on Jeongguk’s door anyway. He could always go back to writing if Jeongguk declined.
Taehyung opened the door and almost did a double take. Jeongguk was on the floor, doing push-ups, wearing just sweatpants and a tank top. And Taehyung was definitely not staring at the muscles on his arms or the outline of his abs through his shirt, not at all.
“Tae?” – Jeongguk prompted when Taehyung had not said anything.
“Right. Do you want to watch a movie with me?” – Taehyung suddenly remembered why he wanted to talk to Jeongguk in the first place.
“Sure.” – Jeongguk nodded, still doing push-ups.
Taehyung really needed to look away.
“I’m gonna take a shower and I’ll be right there.” – Jeongguk continued.
“Okay.” – Taehyung nodded and told himself to leave.
He sneaked another look when he was almost out of the room, and caught Jeongguk’s grin. He turned away immediately afterwards.
Taehyung was curled up on the sofa with a blanket when Jeongguk got to the living room. There was another blanket on the other sofa and Jeongguk was touched that Taehyung was thinking of him when he got his blanket too.
“What are we watching?” – He sat down and wrapped the blanket around him. It was a bit cold since he just got out of a shower.
“You choose.” – Taehyung looked at him and frowned when Jeongguk shivered. – “Are you cold? Should I turn up the temperature?”
“I’m okay.” – Jeongguk replied quickly. – “Do you want to watch The Avengers?”
Taehyung had already seen that movie. But he nodded his head anyway. And then he remembered the bottle of vodka in one of the cabinets in the kitchen. He went to grab it and two glasses as well. It had become his habit to eat or drink something while watching a movie.
“Aw, Tae.” – Jeongguk chuckled when he saw the vodka bottle. – “This is really fancy for our first date.”
He meant it as a joke, Taehyung told himself.
“I thought our first date was at the Japanese restaurant.” – Taehyung raised his eyebrows suggestively; and Jeongguk burst out laughing.
Taehyung poured the alcohol into the glasses and handed Jeongguk one of them. Then he started the movie.
About half way through, both Taehyung and Jeongguk had abandoned the sofas. They were now on the carpeted floor, drinking and laughing at everything happening on the screen. Taehyung did not hold his liquor well, but he did not know that Jeongguk was also a lightweight.
“Tae.” – Jeongguk giggled.
“Tokki.” – Taehyung replied, pouring more vodka into both of their glasses.
“Tell me something you’ve never told anyone else.” – Jeongguk said.
Taehyung contemplated for a few moments. He was not a private person by any means. Jin and Jimin knew a lot about him because he usually shared his feelings with them, except when it came to his writing. He always kept those thoughts to himself
“I was depressed when I wrote Stigma.” – He said quietly.
Jeongguk’s smiled disappeared.
“You asked me once why I wrote it the way I did. It’s because I needed to find a way to express my thoughts.” – Taehyung looked at his glass and spun it around, watching the liquid shined from the light emitting from the TV. – “I was a bit suicidal I think, which is why I was really worried that people want to make Stigma into a movie. So I hope that by continuing the storyline, it would be less sad and depressing.”
Jeongguk listened intently. He was sobering up just listening to Taehyung.
“Thank you for telling me that.” – He said gratefully. – “It’s a big secret and I’m honored that you wanted to share it with me.”
Taehyung looked at him and smiled.
“It feels good to finally admit that out loud.”
“Do you… do you still feel that way?” – Jeongguk asked carefully.
“A little less every day.” – Taehyung admitted.
“That’s really good, Tae.” – Jeongguk smiled at him encouragingly. – “Alright, I will tell you one of my secrets too.”
“I’m all ears, Tokki.” – Taehyung replied.
He drank up all the vodka in the glass and set it down on the table before giving Jeongguk all of his attention.
“Jiminie and I used to date.” – Jeongguk exhaled. – “Like, three years ago.”
Taehyung had no idea what he was supposed to say, or why Jeongguk chose to tell him this. And he also did not know why he suddenly felt a little bit sad. His moods seemed to change a lot lately, especially around Jeongguk.
“For how long?” – He found himself asking.
“A couple months.” – Jeongguk shrugged. – “Nothing too serious. And afterwards he met Yoongi-hyung and they’re very happy now.”
“I see.” – Taehyung nodded. – “Uh… why are you telling me this?”
“Because I thought you should know about it before… anything happens.” – Jeongguk hesitated to meet Taehyung’s eyes when he reached the end of the sentence.
Taehyung blinked and wondered if he had missed something.
“What you said earlier when we were by the river.” – Jeongguk continued. – “I never really responded to that.”
And then he reached over and held Taehyung’s shoulders with both of his hands. Taehyung was caught by surprise but he did not look at Jeongguk’s face. Instead he kept his gaze on Jeongguk’s right hand.
And then that right hand was on Taehyung’s chin and gently lifted it up. Taehyung had no choice but to look into Jeongguk’s eyes and he felt his heart skip a beat. There was sincerity, determination, and also vulnerability in Jeongguk’s eyes. Taehyung had no idea how it was possible to convey all of those emotions with just one look, but Jeongguk did it.
“Tae.” – Jeongguk whispered. – “Would it be okay if I kissed you?”
Taehyung’s heart was beating so loud he was certain that Jeongguk heard it too. And he could feel the warmth of Jeongguk’s hand on his shoulder and the almost burning sensation of Jeongguk’s fingers on his chin.
So he inhaled quickly and closed his eyes.
A second later he felt something warm and wet against his lips; and both of Jeongguk’s hands were gently caressing his face. Jeongguk tasted sweet and there was a hint of the pistachio ice-cream that they had eaten after dinner. He could not taste the vodka at all. Was vodka supposed to taste like something? And underneath all that, there was something he could not describe in the way Jeongguk’s lips moved against his own.
This was so new, but Taehyung was already addicted.
His hands moved to the back of Jeongguk’s neck and pulled him in even closer. He heard (and felt) Jeongguk’s hum when their faces pressed together.
Jeongguk let out a soft gasp when he pulled back for air. Taehyung’s eyes remained closed and he had a sudden wish that Jeongguk would not regret this.
“Tae.” – Jeongguk murmured, a little out of breath. – “Can we…”
“Yes.” – Taehyung nodded immediately.
Honestly, if Jeongguk told him that he wanted to continue watching the movie or drink some more or eat some popcorn, he would have agreed.
And if he asked Taehyung to pretend this never happened, Taehyung would have nodded too. Right now, he did not have it in him to deny any of Jeongguk’s requests.
“You don’t even know what I’m gonna say.” – Jeongguk chuckled and took both of Taehyung’s hands in his. – “Look at me, please?”
Taehyung opened his eyes and found himself staring at Jeongguk’s lips. And then he blinked rapidly when he remembered that they were holding hands.
He unconsciously squeezed Jeongguk’s hands more tightly.
“What were you gonna say?” – He murmured.
“Can I stay with you tonight?” – Jeongguk squeezed his hands back.
“You are staying with me.” – Taehyung blinked in confusion.
“I mean in your room.” – Jeongguk’s cheeks reddened. when he realized what that sounded like. – “I’m not… I’m not gonna do anything… It’s just that… It’s lonely to sleep by myself.” – He quickly added.
Taehyung took a few moments to process what he had just said, meanwhile Jeongguk was embarrassed that he even brought it up in the first place.
“Of course you can.” – Taehyung answered. – “I would really like it too. But I usually stay up really late to write though. I mean, I always turn the lights off, but I don’t know if the typing will bother you.”
“It’s okay.” – Jeongguk shook his head quickly. – “I’m a heavy sleeper. As long as you’re in the room, I’ll sleep well.”
Taehyung could not control the way he smiled when Jeongguk said this.
“Alright, let’s get to bed then.” – Taehyung leaned in and quickly placed a kiss on Jeongguk’s cheek. – “Or do you want to finish the movie?”
“Oh.” – Jeongguk blushed again. – “I’ve seen this many times.”
“So have I.” – Taehyung laughed and stood up, pulling Jeongguk with him.
They stopped by Jeongguk’s room to get his things before going into Taehyung’s room. Jeongguk was amazed at the amount of books and bookshelves that took up three of the walls in the room. Taehyung’s bed was in the corner, covered by a big blanket and many pillows. Jeongguk burst out laughing at the various plushies around the room, amidst the books and knick-knacks.
“You like Totoro?” – Jeongguk pointed at the grey plushie on Taehyung’s bed.
“Who doesn’t?” – Taehyung shrugged.
He went to the bookshelf nearest to his bed and sat down so that he was eye-level with the bottom shelf. And then he took out a new copy of Stigma.
“For you.” – He handed the book to Jeongguk. – “You read Jimin’s copy so I assume you haven’t bought your own.” – But then he remembered that Jeongguk really, really liked the book so he lowered his hand. – “Wait, have you?”
“No I haven’t.” – Jeongguk took the book immediately. – “Ah, this is the best thing that has happened to me all day.”
“Are you sure?” – He knitted his eyebrows. – “Are you sure that getting a copy of Stigma is the best thing today?”
“Yeah.” – Jeongguk smiled with fake innocence. – “My favorite author gifted me my favorite book, what can be better, hyung?”
He emphasized the last word and Taehyung scoffed because the audacity…
But then Jeongguk leaned in and kissed him again so he could not really think of anything else.
“Can I have your autograph please?” – Jeongguk asked sweetly when he pulled back.
“I’m beginning to think that you only like me because I wrote your favorite book.” – Taehyung joked.
He meant it as a joke, mostly. He knew that Jeongguk liked Stigma, but he also thought that Jeongguk liked him as himself, maybe.
Jeongguk silently observed Taehyung for a few seconds before replying.
“I like you because Geureum likes you, because you only order sweet things when you go to the coffee shop, because sometimes you forget your contact lenses so you wear glasses instead and you look extra beautiful, because when you’re focused on writing you never pay attention to anything else, and because…”
“Wait.” – Taehyung held up his hand. – “I can’t handle all of this. This is too sweet.”
“Is is as sweet as the drinks you always order?” – Jeongguk teased.
Taehyung unconsciously clutched his heart. What was happening right now? How was he supposed to react to Jeongguk?
“Give me the book.” – He opened his hand and said in the most steady voice possible. – “I’ll write something for you later.”
“Yay!” – Jeongguk said happily and sat down on Taehyung’s bed. – “Are you gonna continue writing the story now?”
“Huh?” – Taehyung still kept his eyes on the book. – “Yeah, I’m writing. You can go to sleep first if you want. I’ll turn off the lights.”
Jeongguk smiled at him before laying down on one side of the bed and pulled the blanket up. He took the Totoro plushie and held it close.
Taehyung almost had a heart attack just looking at that scene. But he told himself to look away and then turned off the lights. He picked up his laptop on the desk, debating whether he should sit down at the table to write. But he brought the laptop to the bed and sat down, resting his back against the headboard.
He dimmed the laptop light and turned to Jeongguk, who was openly looking at him.
“Is this too bright?” – Taehyung asked hesitantly. – “I can go over to the desk if it is, so you can sleep.”
“It’s fine.” – Jeongguk smiled and placed the plushie behind him.
With his free arms, he scooted closer to Taehyung and snuggled up to him. Then he remembered that Taehyung was supposed to be writing; and he wouldn’t be able to with Jeongguk clinging to him like that. But when he went to let go, Taehyung put his hand on Jeongguk’s arm and stopped him.
“Uhm…” – Jeongguk started. – “You can’t really write like this.”
“No worries.” – Taehyung said and lied down on his stomach. – “Don’t read, okay? I don’t want you to have unnecessary spoilers.”
“Are any spoilers even necessary?” – Jeongguk chuckled and placed his head on Taehyung’s back. – “You smell nice, Tae.”
Taehyung thought that his heart could not handle anymore of Jeongguk’s cuteness. He would have confessed a long time ago if he had known this was Jeongguk’s feelings toward him.
“Good night, Tokki.” – He leaned over and kissed Jeongguk on the lips.
“Have fun writing. Don’t stay up too late though.” – Jeongguk murmured.
“I’ll try not to.” – Taehyung hummed and turned his attention back to the screen.
4 O’clock. Chapter 2. Page 14.
Jack was glad that amidst all the chaos going inside his head, he somehow remembered to bring his sunglasses. But then again, it was four in the morning, so he just hoped that he would not bump into anyone that would recognize him.
He was following Bunny into a small park and they only stopped at a small picnic table. Bunny sat down and waited for him to do the same.
“Thought we were getting a drink.” – He commented but sat down anyway.
“I lied.” – Bunny shrugged. – “I think you’d get recognized if you walk into a bar right now, so.”
“So you do know who I am.” – Jack commented. – “That’s good. I thought I was losing my touch.”
Bunny looked up at him intently.
“No, I don’t think so.” – He shook his head slowly. – “I recognized you from the back. I just … didn’t want to startle you then.”
Jack still could not believe that he was standing on the edge of a bridge less than half an hour ago.
“You were right.” – Jack acknowledged. – “I would have regretted it. I am regretting it now. What the hell was I thinking? I don’t even like heights.”
Bunny continued to stare at him.
“Can I ask a personal question? How old are you?” – He asked curiously. – “It’s fine if you don’t tell me, but I don’t think we’re strangers anymore.”
“Twenty-five.” – Bunny replied. – “Why do you ask?”
“You look younger.” – Jack said. – “I thought you were in college, or high school even.”
Bunny sighed and tore his eyes away from Jack. He looked down at his hands and put them into the pockets of his hoodie.
“I get that a lot. And I work in a bar, can you imagine how many times I get asked my age per day?”
Jack imagined and burst out laughing. It still hurt when he did, but he tried not to think of it, or of him too much.
“I’m just imagining that now.” – He replied.
Bunny’s lips quirked up for a second.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” – Bunny said quietly.
So much for not thinking of him.
“Thanks.” – Jack swallowed, realizing that his smiled had faltered. – “Are you a bartender then? What’s your favorite drink to make?”
“Don’t really have one.” – Bunny answered immediately. – “I don’t like dealing with drunk people.”
Jack laughed again. This young man was really good at making him not think about the other things in his life.
“Are you still not telling me your real name?” – He asked.
“Nope.” – Bunny shook his head and smirked at Jack. – “I like being called Bunny. It has a nice tone to it.”
“You do look like a bunny.” – Jack nodded.
He wanted to smoke. Or get drunk. Or anything that would stop him from thinking too much, or at all. Every time he started to think about him, his heart hurt.
“I’m gonna get going.” – Jack stood up. – “My manager has probably called me a dozen times.”
“Probably? And it’s really late.” – Bunny raised his eyebrows.
“My phone’s been off the whole night.” – Jack shrugged. – “Thanks for … earlier.”
Bunny looked at him again.
Jack was used to being the center of attention, being an actor and all. But there was something different about the way Bunny looked at him. It made him feel exposed, like his heart was on display.
“Don’t mention it.” – Bunny replied nonchalantly. – “I’ll see you around, Jack.”
“Sure.” – Jack smiled politely and walked away.
He doubted that they would ever cross paths again.
Taehyung was woken up when something hit him on the chest. He coughed a few times, opened his eyes and was about to let out a string of curses because this was the worst way to wake up. But then he looked down and saw messy brown hair and heard soft snoring.
He smiled to himself when he remembered the events of last night. But then Jeongguk stirred and kicked him in the leg and Taehyung sucked in a breath. He tried to sit up but Jeongguk’s weight on him held him down.
And then he heard footsteps and talking voices outside the door. Chills ran down his spine when he realized that the voices belonged to Jin and Namjoon.
There were knocks on his door.
“Taehyung-ah, are you awake? Want to have breakfast with us?” – Jin asked.
Taehyung briefly wondered if Jin would come in if he did not answer. And then he remembered that his door was not locked; and Jin would come in regardless of hearing a reply from him.
So he stroked Jeongguk’s hair a few times (it was so soft) and patted his arm.
“Tokki.” – He called. – “Tokki, wake up.”
Jeongguk kicked him again.
“Ouch.” – Taehyung grimaced but kept patting his arm. – “Tokki, Jin-hyung’s gonna come in. And we’re kind of in a… compromising position.”
“Hm?” – Jeongguk moved his head closer and placed a kiss on Taehyung’s neck.
“Taehyung-ah!” – Jin called again from outside the door.
Jeongguk gasped and sat up, accidentally kicking Taehyung’s leg (again) in the process.
“I’m sorry.” – He said apologetically and gently stroked the place he kicked a few times. – “Should you answer him?”
“Right.” – Taehyung nodded. – “Hyung, I’m awake. I’ll be there in a moment.”
“Okay.” – Jin’s reply came immediately. – “Wake Jeongguk up too. We’re all going out for breakfast. Or do you want me to wake him?”
Jeongguk looked at Taehyung in panic.
“I’ll wake him up, don’t worry.” – Taehyung yelled.
“Alright then. Namjoon and I will wait for you guys.” – Jin said cheerfully.
“Thanks hyung.” – Taehyung answered and turned to Jeongguk with a grin.
His heart skipped a beat again.
Jeongguk was fixing his hair but one side of it still had strands that were sticking out in different directions. He sighed and wiped his eyes instead when his hair did not follow what he wanted it to do; and Taehyung almost clutched his heart because it was so endearing.
“You kicked me.” – Taehyung said before he could do something embarrassing.
“I apologized already?” – Jeongguk raised his eyebrows.
“You kicked me a few times before that.” – Taehyung laughed and stepped down from the bed. – “I’ll go check on Jin-hyung and Namjoon-hyung. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to return to your room.”
“It’s like we’re sneaking around.” – Jeongguk giggled.
“Is that what we’re doing?” – Taehyung asked, amused.
Jeongguk stopped smiling.
“I don’t know.” – He shrugged and looked away from Taehyung, suddenly taking great interest in the Totoro plushie on the bed.
It was unexpected, so Taehyung did not know how to respond. He stepped out of the room instead and looked around. It seemed like Jin and Namjoon were in the living room because he could hear them talking.
“They’re not here.” – He turned around and opened the door wider for Jeongguk. – “You can go now.”
“Okay.” – Jeongguk nodded and walked toward the door. – “I’ll see you in a few minutes, Tae.”
He kissed Taehyung’s cheek before leaving and Taehyung had never been more confused.
“Ah, you must be Jeongguk.” – Namjoon smiled and extended his hand. – “I’m Namjoon, nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too, hyung.” – Jeongguk shook his hand and bowed slightly before turning to Jin. – “Morning, hyung.”
“Hi Jeongguk-ah. Why is Taehyung taking so long?” – Jin sighed and looked in the direction of Taehyung’s bedroom. – “He’s probably typing away in there. When he’s focused on writing, he doesn’t even pay attention to hunger.”
“I’ll call him.” – Jeongguk said and headed to Taehyung’s bedroom.
He knocked on the door and heard a grunt as an answer, so he opened it slowly and walked in. Like Jin had predicted, Taehyung was sitting at his desk and typing. He had already changed into a white button-up shirt and faded jeans. Jeongguk was amazed at his typing speed and wanted to come closer to him. But then he realized Taehyung was probably writing Jeongguk’s next favorite book and he did not want any spoilers.
“Tae. Let’s go have breakfast.” – Jeongguk said. – “Jin-hyung and Namjoon-hyung are waiting.”
“Be right there.” – Taehyung said without looking at him. – “I just have to finish this paragraph really quickly. You can sit down if you want, just don’t look at the screen.”
Jeongguk still hovered by the door while Taehyung continued writing. But then Jeongguk’s stomach made a loud grumble and the typing stopped.
Taehyung looked over at Jeongguk, who was now starting to blush, and chuckled. Then he turned back to the screen and typed even faster.
“Give me ten seconds, Tokki. Last part of the dialogue now. What are we eating, do you know?” – He asked curiously.
“Please stop mentioning food.” – Jeongguk sighed and covered his stomach but it made another noise. – “I think my stomach can hear you.”
Taehyung laughed and pressed “save” before closing the laptop. Then he walked over to Jeongguk and put an arm around him.
Jeongguk visibly tensed and Taehyung let go immediately.
“Sorry.” – Jeongguk scratched his head. – “It’s just… I don’t want Jin-hyung and Namjoon-hyung to know that…”
He looked so torn and guilty that it hurt Taehyung just to look at that expression.
“It’s okay.” – Taehyung said quickly. – “They don’t have to know.”
He made a mental reminder to keep his hands to himself.
The next few days passed by peacefully. Taehyung and Jeongguk spent almost every minute of every day together. Taehyung had more inspirations to write so he stay at home a lot; but Jeongguk went sightseeing by himself and took a lot of pictures that he happily showed to Taehyung at the end of the day.
Taehyung had let Namjoon read what he had written so far of 4 O’clock. He had thought that Namjoon would dislike it, because it seemed like his writing style had changed somehow, but to his surprise, Namjoon enjoyed it; and he especially liked Bunny as a character.
Jihan had also sent Taehyung a video of the would-be interview, if Taehyung thought it should not be edited anymore. But Taehyung gave the video to Jin instead of watching it himself because he thought Jin had better judgment than him. Sometimes he had strange ways of describing his book, his characters, or even himself.
At the moment, Taehyung was packing because tomorrow he and Jeongguk would return to Busan. He had completely forgotten about it until Jeongguk reminded him this afternoon before going out. And then he was caught up in writing so he only had time to pack now, at eleven at night.
The train leaves at seven tomorrow morning, so Taehyung had to stop writing for a few moments and choose clothes that he wanted to bring with him to Busan. He also packed the Totoro plushie because he had missed it when he was staying at Jimin’s house. He needed to hold on to something when he went to sleep.
So far, he had put three shirts, five T-shirts, and four pair of jeans into his bag. He figured they would be enough and went back to writing instead. Jeongguk had not come home yet so it was not like he could go to sleep now anyway.
Speaking of Jeongguk, over the last few days their… relationship… whatever it was between them, had developed so much. Jeongguk always slept in Taehyung’s bed but went back to his room in the morning. They also held hands and kissed a lot when they were alone in the apartment.
However, whenever Jin or Namjoon was around, Jeongguk reverted to treating Taehyung like he would treat any normal friends.
Which was fine. Taehyung could handle it.
They had been friends first anyway. He just had no idea what they were right now.
Sure, he basically confessed to Jeongguk and they had kissed multiple times. But Jeongguk did not want anyone to know that and they never had a serious conversation about what they were.
But Taehyung was fine with it, as long as the kissing continued. Labels were overrated anyway, right? Who had time for labeling things?
“Tae. Can I come in?”
There was a knock on his door and he heard Jeongguk calling his name.
“Yeah, come in.” – Taehyung replied quickly.
Jeongguk opened the door and took in the sight of Taehyung’s bedroom. Clothes were everywhere and the plushies on the shelves were spread out on the bed.
“What are you doing?” – He asked carefully.
“Just finished packing.” – Taehyung sighed. – “Have you eaten yet? Are you hungry? I really want some jajangmyeon right now.”
Jeongguk had spent the last hours walking around Seoul and he had eaten a lot of street food. But he found himself nodding anyway.
“Sure, let’s go. Uhm, do you have to put your clothes away first? And why are the plushies on your bed, Tae?”
“I was choosing one to bring with me to Busan.” – Taehyung shrugged but began picking up his clothes anyway. – “I’m taking Totoro though.”
Jeongguk just nodded and picked up the plushies to put them back on the shelves. He noticed the Totoro plushie on top of Taehyung’s bag.
… Taehyung’s weekender bag.
“Are you just bringing this bag?” – He pointed at it. – “Are there enough clothes? How long…”
He stopped midway and realized what he was about to ask Taehyung. Taehyung seemed to have realized this as well, because he froze in the middle of putting the clothes back into his closet.
“There’s a washing machine at Jimin’s house.” – Eventually, Taehyung said. He ignored the last question that Jeongguk did not have the chance to ask.
“You’re right.” – Jeongguk smiled briefly at him.
“Let’s go. I’ll clean this up when we get back.” – Taehyung closed his closet and headed for the door. – “I’m hungry.”
Jeongguk nodded and stood up to follow him.
“Did you get a lot of writing done today?” – Jeongguk asked curiously.
They were waiting for the order be delivered to their table. Jeongguk and Taehyung sat next to each other even though there were two other chairs in front of them.
They were out in public, but neither Jin or Namjoon was around, so Taehyung wondered if he could be more cuddly with him.
Jeongguk’s knee was next to his, a tiny bit of space between them. Then he leaned over to grab the disposable chopsticks (which were next to Taehyung) and their knees pressed together. When Jeongguk was done, he leaned back but kept his knee where it was.
“You could have asked me to get them.” – Taehyung commented, amused.
“You’re right.” – Jeongguk smiled. – “So, writing?”
“Ah, yes.” – Taehyung suddenly remembered Jeongguk’s earlier question. – “I got a couple thousand words in, not a lot. Jihan-hyung sent me a copy of the interview.”
“Hyung?” – Jeongguk raised his eyebrows. – “Wasn’t it Jihan-ssi before?”
“We texted each other a few times and talked on the phone once. He told me to call him hyung.” – Taehyung replied.
There was a shift in Jeongguk’s expression to something that resembled sadness.
“I see.” – Jeongguk’s response was casual, but Taehyung felt like it was not real.
“So we’re going back to Busan tomorrow, are you excited?” – Taehyung changed the subject in hopes that Jeongguk would be more happy.
“I guess.” – Jeongguk shrugged. – “It’s my last week of summer before school starts.”
“Last year of college, right?” – Taehyung chuckled. – “What is your major?”
“Chemical engineering.” – Jeongguk grinned. – “A lot of Mathematics and Sciences, but I really like it.”
“The word ‘Mathematics’ alone makes my head spin.” – Taehyung commented. – “But it’s good that you enjoy what you’re studying. Do you have any idea what job you want to do in the future?”
“Not yet.” – Jeongguk shrugged. – “But I want to move to Seoul after graduating. I have wanted to for a while, but this trip confirms the desire. It’s so fun here.”
Taehyung nodded in understanding. He himself loved Seoul as well. It was a good place to grow up and spend his early adult life in.
But he was never sure if he he was going to stay here forever.
The jajangmyeon bowls were brought to their table, so they ate in comfortable silence. Their knees were still against each other, so Taehyung focused on that and tried not to think about anything else.
In contrast to their train ride to Seoul, it was Jeongguk who was asleep the whole time and Taehyung who stayed awake and worked on his book. Taehyung had to stop a few times because Jeongguk leaned on his shoulder and Taehyung needed a moment to calm down every time it happened.
He was surprised to hear Jeongguk’s voice. He had just assumed that Jeongguk was still asleep because his head was still on Taehyung’s shoulder.
“I don’t want Yoongi-hyung and Jiminie to know about us just yet.”
Taehyung stopped typing. Jeongguk’s voice was small and a little timid, like he was not sure if Taehyung would agree with his request.
“Okay.” – Taehyung replied carefully.
He still had no idea what us meant to Jeongguk. And one question kept creeping up at the back of his mind.
He wondered if Jeongguk still had feelings for Jimin.
“You’re fine with it?” – Jeongguk sat up straight and turned to him, surprise laced in his tone.
“Yeah.” – Taehyung nodded. – “Whatever you want.”
He went back to typing, but he could still feel Jeongguk’s eyes on him.
“Hyung.” – Jeongguk called.
“Yes?” – Taehyung replied, but did not stop writing this time.
“You’re so nice to me.” – Jeongguk smiled warmly and put his head back on Taehyung’s shoulder. – “You’re the best.”
“Really?” – Taehyung laughed. – “Better than your childhood friend Yoongi-hyung and your Jiminie too?”
He was teasing, but Jeongguk paused for a few seconds before nodding vigorously.
“Yep. Better. The best.”
His voice sounded so cheerful that Taehyung burst out laughing. He wondered how Jeongguk always managed to make him laugh.
He also wondered how his life would have been if he had met Jeongguk earlier.
Jeongguk pressed the doorbell and he immediately heard barking. As soon as the door opened, he crouched down and as expected, Geureum jumped at him and began licking his face while wagging his tail excitedly.
“I missed you too.” – Jeongguk smiled while patting him.
“Hi Jiminie.” – Taehyung greeted Jimin, who was standing at the door looking at them with a smile on his face.
Jimin held out his arms and Taehyung quickly pulled him into a hug.
“I missed you guys.” – He murmured to the crook of Taehyung’s neck. – “Kookie, how was your first time in Seoul?”
“Really fun.” – Jeongguk looked up and smiled brightly at him. – “I ate so much. And I also took lots of pictures.”
“That’s good.” – Jimin nodded and let go of Taehyung to look at him. – “How are Jin-hyung and Namjoon-hyung?”
“They’re doing well.” – Taehyung yawned. – “They said you should come visit soon and they want to meet Yoongi-hyung.”
“Yeah they told me that when they called this morning too.” – Jimin laughed and noticed the plushie on top of Taehyung’s bag. – “Is that the Totoro I gave you years ago that you keep in your bedroom? Why are you bringing it here?”
“Because…” – Taehyung sighed and lowered his voice. – “… I need to cuddle something when I sleep.”
“Oh right, you told me about that. Sorry I totally forgot.” – Jimin nodded in acknowledgement. – “Right, do you guys want to come in? The AC is running. Why are we talking outside anyway?”
“It’s Jeongguk’s fault.” – Taehyung pointed at him walked past Jimin into the house.
Jeongguk and Jimin shared a look before bursting out laughing.
“I don’t even know what I did.” – Jeongguk shrugged.
“Ah, that’s just Taehyung. I’m glad you guys are getting along.”
Jeongguk’s smiled faltered a little bit and he hoped Jimin did not realize that something was different about him and Taehyung.
“Something is different about Jeongguk and Taehyung.” – Jimin declared when he closed the door after Yoongi had come in.
“Hi, babe. It’s nice to see you too. Did you miss me today? I missed you.” – Yoongi said in a monotone. – “Are they back already?”
“Hyung, listen to me. Something has changed between them.” – Jimin grabbed Yoongi’s shoulders and looked at him in seriousness. – “I don’t know how to explain it, but… they’re a lot closer to each other now.”
“Is that a good or a bad thing to you?” – Yoongi raised his eyebrows.
“What?” – Jimin scoffed like it was ridiculous that Yoongi even asked that. – “Of course it’s a good thing. But I’m just worried about them.”
“Are you ever not worried about them?” – Yoongi teased. – “You care about everyone and their well-being, Jimin-ah.”
Jimin smiled and kissed his cheek lightly.
“That’s sweet of you to say. But… I usually worry about them… separately, you know?” – Jimin sighed. – “Taehyung called Jeongguk ‘Tokki’ now.”
“That’s cute.” – Yoongi laughed, but stopped when Jimin glared at him. – “What? It is cute. And Jeongguk called him Tae-Tae, also cute. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if they were dating. Pretty sure they’ll always be lovey-dovey and into PDA and all that.”
“Right?” – Jimin agreed. – “I think so too. But they’re not like that right now though. So they’re probably not dating right?”
He stared at Yoongi, waiting for his confirmation.
“I don’t know.” – Yoongi just shrugged and patted Jimin’s cheek. – “Why do you care if they are though?”
Jimin did not know why he cared, to be honest. He just really liked Jeongguk; and Taehyung was his best friend. So if they got together…
“What if they break up?” – Jimin asked in horror. – “It would be really awkward. Jeongguk will confide in you and Taehyung in me so the four of us wouldn’t be able to meet at the same time. What will happen to our movie night? If we get married, we still ask both of them to be best men right? It would be awkward again.”
“Jimin-ah.” – Yoongi raised up his hand in surrender. – “Just… take a deep breath, will you? Why are you worried about this anyway? It’s not like they’re even dating. Stop worrying, okay?”
“Right, you’re right.” – Jimin nodded and took a few deep breaths. – “I’m calm. I’m calm. Let’s get ready for movie night. Jeongguk will probably be over soon.”
“Jeongguk, are you staying over tonight? You don’t have work tomorrow right?” – Yoongi asked when he passed Jeongguk a bowl of popcorn.
He did not miss the way Jeongguk glanced at Taehyung for a few seconds before nodding.
“Can I?” – He smiled at Yoongi.
“This kid, why do you even have to ask?” – Yoongi patted his head. – “Of course you can stay. You practically live here these days.”
There was the glance to Taehyung again.
“What are we watching?” – Taehyung asked loudly.
“Geez, you scared me.” – Jimin clutched his chest. – “Why are you yelling? We’re watching My Neighbor Totoro in honor of the plushie I gave you.”
“I love that movie.” – Taehyung smiled at Jimin.
“Me too.” – Jeongguk immediately said.
Yoongi also did not miss the way Taehyung looked at Jeongguk and the way his smile got bigger.
He blamed this on the conversation he had with Jimin earlier.
Jimin was snoring not even half-way into the movie. Jeongguk and Taehyung just smiled at that, while Yoongi sighed and picked him up.
“We’ll head to bed first, good night. See you guys tomorrow.” – Yoongi said to them.
“Bye hyung.” – Taehyung and Jeongguk said at the same time.
When the door to the bedroom shut, Jeongguk turned to Taehyung immediately.
“Tae, wanna cuddle?”
Taehyung had been lying on the carpet floor earlier, but when he heard this, he stood up immediately and went over to the couch where Jeongguk was sitting.
He put an arm around Jeongguk and snuggled him close, inhaling his scent.
“Yay. I’ve been waiting for this.” – Taehyung said.
Jeongguk almost squealed out loud, almost.
“Really?” – He asked instead, proud of himself for keeping his voice stable.
“I’m a cuddly person.” – Taehyung shrugged and let out a happy sigh when Jeongguk squeezed him.
“I noticed.” – Jeongguk laughed, and then added quickly. – “I like it.”
“That’s good.” – Taehyung hummed and kissed Jeongguk’s collarbone. – “I missed you.”
“You were at the café all morning, Tae. And I came by almost immediately after work.” – Jeongguk remarked.
“Yes, but.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “Hey, do you want to sleep in my room later?”
Jeongguk tensed and Taehyung regretted that question immediately.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” – Jeongguk said carefully. – “What if they wake up early and see that I’m not sleeping on the couch?”
“You wake up earlier than both of them though.” – Taehyung contradicted. – “But it’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Forget I said anything.”
“Tae.” – Jeongguk sighed.
“Tokki, it’s really fine.” – He smiled at Jeongguk reassuringly. – “We’re missing the movie. It’s almost my favorite part.”
He loved every part of the movie, so that was not a total lie.
Taehyung was woken up by the sound of a door opening. The darkened room was slightly illuminated from the room in the hallway. He heard footsteps coming closer and assumed that it was either Yoongi or Jimin because Jeongguk was still…
Taehyung sat up immediately and looked at where he had fallen asleep. He was still on the sofa and Jeongguk was using his lap as a pillow. The TV was turned off but Taehyung remembered that he did not do that so he assumed Jeongguk had turned it off after the movie was over.
“Tokki.” – He whispered and patted Jeongguk’s shoulder a few times. – “Tokki, I have to go to my room.”
“Hm?” – Jeongguk stirred and nuzzled his face closer to Taehyung and put an arm around Taehyung’s waist. – “It’s okay, just sleep here.”
“I think either Jiminie or Yoongi-hyung is gonna come check on us soon. Wanna let go of me?”
There was a pause and Taehyung thought Jeongguk had gone back to sleep but Jeongguk actually sat up and fixed his hair quickly. A few strands were still sticking out into different directions so Taehyung fixed them and was reminded once again of how soft Jeongguk’s hair was.
“Alright, good night Tokki.” – Taehyung stood up when he was done and headed toward his bedroom.
“Do you…” – Jeongguk spoke up hesitantly. – “Do you want to go on a walk with me and Geureum tomorrow morning?”
“Sure.” – Taehyung nodded immediately. – “What time?”
“Uhm…” – Jeongguk scratched his ear. – “When we wake up? You can sleep in, it’s fine. We’ll go whenever. I just wanted to ask.”
“I’ll go anywhere with you, Tokki.” – Taehyung winked and noticed that the hallway light was turned off and there were retreating footsteps. – “See you tomorrow.”
“Can I…” – Jeongguk started and stopped. He looked down at his hands instead. – “Nevermind, night Tae.”
“Go on.” – Taehyung sat back down on the sofa. – “You wanted to ask me something?”
Jeongguk took a deep breath and slowly put one of his hands on top of Taehyung’s. Taehyung was not expecting this, but he still turned his own hand over and interlaced it with Jeongguk.
“Do you want to go on a date tomorrow?” – Jeongguk asked.
“I do.” – Taehyung smiled at him and squeezed his hand. – “You have a day off right? I’m free all day so we can go whenever.”
“What about writing?” – Jeongguk looked at their joined hands, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
“I can write some other time, don’t worry.” – Taehyung reassured him. – “But did you want to ask something else? You started with ‘can I’ earlier.”
“Right.” – Jeongguk nodded and his smile got bigger. – “Can I have a goodnight kiss?”
Taehyung was taken aback but a smile broke out on his face.
“Really Tokki? Do you even have to ask?”
“I don’t know.” – Jeongguk mumbled. – “It’s ‘cause I told you that we should sleep separately earlier, and I don’t know if I can still…”
“… kiss me whenever you want?” – Taehyung cut in. – “Yes please. You always have my permission to kiss me. You never have to ask.”
Jeongguk looked at Taehyung in silence, searching for something that told him Taehyung was joking. But right now, Taehyung was looking at him with a sincere and honest expression.
“Really?” – He asked. – “Whenever? Even in front of your fans?”
“Yes, yes, and yes.” – Taehyung nodded. – “And I don’t really have fans, Tokki. I’m not a celebrity.”
“You are though.” – Jeongguk contradicted. – “Your book is gonna be made into a movie. You’re famous. What if I kissed you in a book signing event?”
“That’s fine too.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “I told you, you have my permission.”
“That’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.” – Jeongguk smiled at him again. – “Where have you been all my life? Why are we only meeting now?”
“Well, I’ve always lived in Seoul and you in Busan.” – Taehyung replied.
Jeongguk burst out laughing and squeezed Taehyung’s hand. Taehyung smiled and leaned in to kiss him. Jeongguk was caught off guard, but he still responded to the kiss with enthusiasm.
“I was supposed to do that.” – He said when Taehyung leaned back.
“I was too impatient to wait for you. You can still do it though, anytime.” – Taehyung shrugged and let go of Jeongguk’s hand. – “Night night, Tokki.”
“Okay.” – Jeongguk replied, a little out of breath. – “Sweet dreams, Tae.”
Jeongguk smiled at him one more time and this made it harder for him to walk away.
The next morning, they went on the walk and took Geureum with them on the way to have breakfast as well.
It was all good fun until Yoongi and Jimin walked into the restaurant and saw them as they were sitting next to each other in the same booth, holding hands. Geureum barked excitedly and started jumping on Jimin’s legs.
Jeongguk looked like he had seen a ghost and let go of Taehyung’s hand in a flash.
“So like…” – Jimin gaped. – “Are you guys going out?”
Taehyung was about to answer, but he thought better of it and decided that Jeongguk should be the one to reply to Jimin.
“We…” – Jeongguk started. – “We just finished taking Geureum out on his walk.”
Yoongi knitted his eyebrows whereas Jimin raised them.
“Okay…” – Jimin nodded hesitantly. – “That didn’t answer my question though.”
“We’re figuring it out.” – Taehyung spoke up. – “Nothing is for sure yet. It’s confusing for Jeongguk and me as well.”
He almost said “us” instead, but he had realized how that would have sounded like, so he had chosen to separate them.
Jimin stared at them for a few seconds and Yoongi lightly tapped his shoulders a few times.
“Sorry for interrupting your breakfast.” – He said while looking at Jeongguk and Taehyung. – “Jimin-ah, we should get food too.”
“Do you guys want to eat together?” – Jeongguk asked.
There was a pause before Yoongi replied.
“It’s okay, Kook. You guys have fun. We’ll see you later.”
Jimin smiled at them briefly and waved before walking away. Yoongi just threw them a knowing look.
Taehyung smiled back at them; and after they left he turned his attention back to the half-eaten pancake on his plate. He was purposely not looking at Jeongguk, to give the other some time to process what had just happened.
Underneath their table, Geureum also resumed eating his treats.
“Are you alright?” – Taehyung asked after Jeongguk had not said anything in a while. – “I’m sorry if what I said to them wasn’t okay.”
“It’s fine.” – Jeongguk replied quickly. – “I’m fine. I just… didn’t expect them to know about it this soon. And thanks for replying to them by the way.”
He said all of this while only looking down at the waffles on his plate and not at Taehyung. There was a feeling nagging at the back of Taehyung’s head, begging him to ask Jeongguk why. He pushed it down though, and called Jeongguk’s name.
Jeongguk turned his head so fast to look at Taehyung because they had passed the stage where they called each other’s name. It was usually “Tae” or “Tokki” now.
“I told you already, we don’t have to tell them anything if you’re not…”
“Tae, is there something between us?” – Jeongguk asked suddenly.
He looked hopeful and scared and excited all at once, although his voice was perfectly normal.
“I…” – Taehyung stuttered. – “For me, there is. I mean… I really like you, Tokki, in a romantic way. I think I liked you even before I met because your dog is adorable. And you like my book so much and you were upset with me because I didn’t give the main character a happy ending but I will, I promise. And you are one of the kindest and nicest people I know; and I really like me when I’m with you. You make me want to be the best possible version of me. And I’m really thankful that I met you.”
Jeongguk just stared at Taehyung and his eyes had widened by the times Taehyung finished talking. Taehyung realized that he might have gone slightly overboard so he quickly cleared his throat.
“But that’s just me though. It’s totally fine if you’re not feeling the same way, I don’t really expect you to. And it’s also fine if you want to take this slow. I’m just…” – Taehyung took a deep breath and looked at Jeongguk with sincerity. – “I’m really happy and grateful that you are in my life.”
Jeongguk blinked a few times but kept Taehyung’s gaze.
“That’s the sweetest confession I’ve ever heard.” – He eventually said. – “I mean, it’s the first one I’ve received, but I can be sure that it’s the sweetest. Tae, how do you even… Do I mean that much to you?”
It seemed like the wrong place to bare his soul, but since Jeongguk was the one who asked, Taehyung could only give him his honest answer.
“You do.” – He nodded and smiled at Jeongguk. – “Can I go back to eating? My pancake is cold now.”
“Yeah, go ahead.” – Jeongguk replied halfheartedly and looked down at his own plate. – “Tae, I really don’t know how to respond to… that.”
“You don’t have to.” – Taehyung took a bite and sighed happily when the pancake was still warm on the inside. – “Just my feelings, don’t worry about all of that. You should eat, you know. We’ve been talking for a while now.”
“Right.” – Jeongguk nodded and looked around. – “Did Yoongi-hyung and Jiminie leave already?”
“Uh huh.” – Taehyung nodded. – “They ordered takeout and they waved goodbye to us a few minutes ago when they were leaving. I thought you noticed.”
“I didn’t.” – Jeongguk shook his head. – “I was receiving the confession of a lifetime, so I was a bit… occupied.”
“Overwhelmed?” – Taehyung asked curiously.
“That too.” – Jeongguk replied in earnest. – “Not in a bad way though.”
Taehyung smiled to himself and continued eating. Whenever he imagined the different scenarios for his characters to confess their feelings, it was always somewhere romantic or scenic, with a lot of build up and excitement. In contrast, his confession in real life happened at a breakfast restaurant, where he did not plan out what he was going to say at all.
“Wait a second. Why does the last sentence sound so familiar to me?” – Jeongguk turned to Taehyung. – “‘I’m thankful that I met you…’ Isn’t that a line from your book, Tae?”
Taehyung was both horrified and impressed that Jeongguk somehow remembered what Taehyung had written.
“It is, isn’t it?” – He continued when Taehyung was so stunned that he could not say anything. – “Isn’t that a confession from Jack to Justin? That’s cheating Tae. You can’t use your own line to confess to me. No wonder why I was so touched.”
He looked so offended that Taehyung just burst out laughing.
“I’ve always imagined saying that to someone and actually mean it.” – Taehyung replied honestly.
Jeongguk went quiet and just stared at Taehyung for a few moments. Then he pointedly looked down at his plate before speaking again.
“Hyung, this is honestly the sweetest thing I have ever heard.”
“I meant to ask this earlier, no one has confessed to you before?” – Taehyung raised his eyebrows, skepticism was laced in his voice. – “It’s a bit hard to believe. You’re just so… perfect.”
He said it like it was the most obvious thing on earth and Jeongguk was so endeared and surprised and he wished that his heart would stop beating so loudly.
“Stop it.” – He protested weakly.
“What?” – Taehyung sat up straight and asked immediately. – “Sorry, am I making you uncomfortable?”
“It’s not like that.” – Jeongguk shook his head. – “You’re just being really sweet.”
“And you want me to… stop?” – Taehyung asked in confusion. – “I’m being honest though. You are so handsome and cute and nice and sweet and passionate and…”
“Tae.” – Jeongguk cut in, his face getting redder by the second. – “Okay, I get it already. You really like me.”
Taehyung smiled triumphantly, one of the smiles where his eyes became crescents and his mouth was wide; and Jeongguk felt his heart skip a beat.
This was becoming a regular occurrence whenever he was with Taehyung.
Happy birthday Kookie!!!!!
There was a knock on the bedroom door.
“Come in.” – Taehyung said without taking his eyes off his laptop.
Jimin walked in, closed the door and hovered near the doorway.
“Taehyung-ah, do you have a minute? Can we talk for a little bit?” – He asked in a careful tone.
“Of course.” – Taehyung smiled at him. – “Come in please, is everything okay?”
Jimin sat down on the desk chair since Taehyung always seemed to prefer writing while lying on the bed. He smiled back at Taehyung and took a deep breath before speaking.
“I think it’s really wonderful that you and Jeongguk are together. I’m so happy for both of you.” – He said with a sincere tone.
Taehyung stopped writing and put the laptop on the side so that he could focus on Jimin and their conversation. He had thought that Jimin would be uncomfortable with it, judging by his surprise at the restaurant earlier.
“Thank you.” – Taehyung said gratefully. – “But we’re not… together yet. We’ve just been on a few dates. I really like him though.”
Jimin’s eyes lit up when he heard that.
“He seems to really like you as well.” – Jimin added. – “Okay, there’s something I need to tell you. Jeongguk and I, we used to go out. It was years ago, and only for a few months though. It wasn’t anything serious.”
“Jeongguk told me.” – Taehyung nodded.
Jimin was surprised, but he quickly smiled at Taehyung again.
“That’s good. When did he tell you?”
“Before we…” – Taehyung paused. – “Before anything happened.”
Jimin exhaled in relief and nodded.
“He’s really wonderful. And honestly, nothing happened between us. We didn’t have feelings for each other or anything. And then I got together with Yoongi-hyung afterwards.” – Jimin explained.
Jeongguk had already told Taehyung this, but it still felt good to hear the reassurance from his best friend.
“He used to be really shy.” – Jimin continued. – “I remember when Yoongi-hyung first introduced us, he didn’t say anything to me for the whole time except hello and goodbye. But he’s really opened up to you.”
Taehyung’s first thought was maybe it’s because he likes my book. But then he realized that Jeongguk actually talked to him quiet a lot before he knew that Taehyung was V.
“I think we knew each other for a few months before he agreed to hang out with me one on one.” – Jimin mused. – “Which is why I was so happy that he was going to Seoul with you.”
Taehyung smiled automatically when he thought about Jeongguk in Seoul. It was a special experience for Taehyung as well.
“I think he enjoyed Seoul. He went sightseeing and took a lot of pictures of the city.” – He commented.
“I’m sure he enjoyed more than the city.” – Jimin wiggled his eyebrows. – “You guys look really cute together. And I’m sorry if I acted like a jerk this morning.”
“You didn’t.” – Taehyung shook his head quickly. – “You were just surprised, justifiably.”
“Pretty sure I just stood there and stared at you guys for a long time.” – Jimin laughed. – “Sorry about that, Taehyung.”
“Nothing you have to apologize for, seriously.” – Taehyung stood up and went to the chair to hug him. – “You weren’t a jerk at all.”
Jimin hugged him back and patted his back a few times.
“Thank you. By the way, how’s the writing going? You’ve been writing a lot these days I feel like.”
“I have.” – Taehyung hummed. – “And I’ve shown what I’ve written to Namjoon-hyung and he liked it. So I haven’t scrapped anything so far, which is really rare for me.”
“Yeah, I remember how you used to be. A room full of balled-up papers. Jin-hyung said you’re not environmentally friendly at all.”
“Well, not when I’m stuck with my writing.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “But I do try recycling and all that stuff.”
Jimin laughed and patted his back again.
“Taehyung-ah, I meant it when I said that you and Jeongguk are really good together.” – Jimin said. – “You’re two of the best people I know.”
Taehyung was happy that it seemed like Jimin approved of their “relationship.” But he was also a tiny bit freaked out because it seemed like he and Jeongguk were really in a relationship, which they were not.
At least, not yet.
He would like for them to be, though.
“So… did you guys get together when you were in Seoul?” – Jimin asked curiously.
“Yeah.” – Taehyung nodded and picked up his laptop again.
“Awww.” – Jimin cooed. – “That’s so cute. I noticed that you’ve been a lot closer to each other after the trip. It’s nice to see both of you opening up to someone.”
Jimin shot Taehyung a meaningful glance and Taehyung avoided it. Because they had been friends since they were children, Jimin knew a lot about Taehyung’s childhood. They also went to the same high school, so Taehyung felt like Jimin understood him best out of everyone.
“Thanks.” – Taehyung said and gave him a small smile.
“Taehyung-ah, I’m really glad to see you happy.” – Jimin continued. – “Especially after…”
“Jimin-ah.” – Taehyung sighed. Their conversation had taken an unexpected turn and he really did not want to talk about that right now. – “Thank you for saying that and for being cool about this whole thing.”
Jimin got the message, so he stood up and patted Taehyung’s shoulder a few times before leaving the bedroom.
When the door closed behind Jimin, Taehyung sighed again and focused his attention back to his opened laptop. He was about to continue writing but his phone vibrated. “Yes, Jin-hyung?”
“Taehyung-ah, the casting for Stigma will begin next week.”
Taehyung blinked a few times.
“That’s really soon.” – He commented.
“I know.” – Jin sighed. – “And the director wants you to be there for the final rounds. You’ll have a say in choosing the final candidates.”
“Me?” – Taehyung asked in confusion. – “But hyung, I don’t know anything about acting or casting. Wait, did you say it starts next week? Do I have to go back to Seoul next week?”
There was a little panic in his voice and judging by Jin’s laugh, he definitely heard it.
“Wow, Taehyung-ah. I can really feel like you love your hometown.” – Jin teased. – “But no, you don’t have to come back yet. The final rounds will probably be in two weeks, maybe three, because there have been many applications already. But I’ll let you know in advance when you need to return. So for now, just enjoy Busan and Jeongguk’s company.”
“Hyung, I’m getting a lot of writing done.” – Taehyung added.
“Yeah, Namjoon told me about that too. He said he really likes the storyline you have for 4 O’clock. Have you been eating well?”
“I have. I eat a lot these days.” – Taehyung replied, feeling proud of himself. – “But I miss your cooking though.”
“I’ll cook you something once you get home.” – Jin promised.
Taehyung was about to say that a few weeks were quite a long time, but then he thought about that word. Home. As in, his apartment was his home.
Seoul was his hometown. It was where he had lived for his whole life.
He just was not sure if it should be considered as his home.
“Taehyung? Are you still there?” – Jin asked.
“I’m here.” – He said immediately. – “Just… writing.”
“Okay, I’ll let you get back to that. Please take care of yourself okay? You looked a little bit thinner the last time I saw you.”
“Hyung, you’re the best.” – Taehyung was touched. – “I love you, hyung.”
“This kid.” – Jin chuckled. – “I love you too, Taehyung-ah. Have fun writing. I’ll see you soon okay?”
“Bye hyung.” – Taehyung said cheerfully before hanging up the phone.
4 O’clock. Chapter 3 Page 47.
“Stop moping. No one’s sitting in the bar area because of you.” – Bunny scolded.
“I’m not moping.” – Jack huffed and pushed his sunglasses further up the bridge of his nose. – “And there’re plenty of other seats. It’s not like I’m driving away your customers.”
“Well, your bodyguards look intimidating and all three of you are wearing sunglasses when it’s eight pm and we’re indoors.” – Bunny sighed and put a glass of water on a coaster before placing it in front of Jack. – “Can’t you go somewhere else? I’m working right now.”
There was no heat in his voice so Jack assumed that he did not really mind Jack being there. It was a Tuesday night anyway so the bar was not jam-packed and Bunny was in charge of the whole bar area, where there were no other customers at the moment.
“I’m a customer.” – Jack glared at the water like it had offended him and pushed it back toward Bunny. – “And I would like a scotch on the rocks please.”
Bunny sighed in annoyance but proceeded to make the drink anyway.
It had been five months since their first meeting on the bridge. For some reason, Jack actually found the bar he worked at and he had been coming here every day that Bunny worked. Bunny was starting to think that he might have used his connections to find out about this because there was no way they would meet again. San Francisco was a big place after all.
He also thought it was strange that they always met when it was dark outside.
He put the scotch down in front of Jack and turned to the bodyguards.
“Do you guys want something to drink too?”
He was being polite, because he knew they would not drink when they were working anyway. But still, it was a bartender thing to ask. Like he had thought, both of them shook their heads and Jack smiled at him in amusement.
Jack quickly finished his drink and put down a hundred-dollar bill on the counter next to the empty glass. He stood up and kept his eyes on Bunny, who was knitting his eyebrows while looking at the money.
“That only costs forty-two dollars.” – Bunny remarked.
“The rest is for you. Thanks for spending time with me.” – Jack said and waved a hand as he walked to the door. – “See you later, Bunny.”
Bunny just sighed and picked up the money, then realized that there were actually two bills that had stuck together. When he turned toward Jack, the other man already disappeared from the exit.
The day before Jeongguk started classes, Jeongguk and Taehyung went to an aquarium on a date.
“Starting from tomorrow, I’ll only work at the coffee shop four hours a day from three to seven.” – Jeongguk announced.
“You’ll close the store every day?” – Taehyung asked. – “But do you have enough time to do homework then?”
They were sitting outside the otter exhibit. They had spent almost an hour inside that exhibit alone, just watching and sometimes pointing at the otters when they were being adorable.
“It’s just five days a week. I should be fine. The classes I’m taking this semester are not that heavy.” – Jeongguk shrugged.
He had gone to get some snacks and drinks earlier, and was now opening a water bottle. He did not drink it but put the opened bottle in front of Taehyung, who blinked a few times and took it.
“In about two or three weeks, I have to go to Seoul.” – Taehyung took a gulp of water before saying. – “The casting begins next week.”
He wondered why he said “Seoul” and not “home.”
“You’re not gonna be there for it then?” – Jeongguk took the bottle when Taehyung had finished drinking and put the cap back on.
“I will, for the final rounds.” – Taehyung sighed. – “The director wants me to be there, although I told him already that I know nothing about acting.”
“But you understand your characters better than anyone else does.” – Jeongguk replied. – “You should have a final say in who gets to portray them.”
Taehyung thought about that for a few moments. Honestly, he was not sure he was the best person for this job because he loved his characters in a biased way since he created them after all. They would always have a place in his heart and he felt like he would not be objective enough.
“What if I choose someone that the director doesn’t like?” – He wondered.
Jeongguk had a serious expression on his face, like he was contemplating Taehyung’s question. Taehyung really liked Jeongguk’s face when he was deep in thought.
“Don’t worry too much about it, Tae.” – Jeongguk smiled in encouragement. – “I think you’ll make the right decision when the time comes.”
And when he smiled too.
He actually just liked Jeongguk’s face.
Taehyung blinked. Why was he thinking about this right now?
“Should we keep going?” – He asked instead and stood up.
“Hm?” – Jeongguk raised his eyebrows. – “Right, let’s go.”
Taehyung had not seen Jeongguk in a week.
They still texted and talked on the phone. They just had not seen each other in person for a week. Jeongguk was busy with school and work and homework; and Taehyung had been writing tens of thousands of words per day, so he did not have any free time either. Surprisingly, Taehyung had been writing at home in his bedroom, and only came out when Jimin or Yoongi dragged him out or yelled at him to eat.
He had sent Namjoon more of his work; and he was happy when Namjoon complimented him on the writing. But when Namjoon asked how he could write that much in such a short period of time, Taehyung just said that he had a lot of inspirations, which was the truth.
It just was not the whole truth, because Taehyung could not tell him that he had been sleeping for three hours every night He had a hard time sleeping because he got anxious thinking about the casting in Seoul. And if he could not sleep, he might as well make use of that time by writing.
It was currently five pm on a Friday, and tonight was movie night. Jeongguk had texted Taehyung that he would be coming over with Geureum later; and Taehyung smiled to himself just thinking about the fact that he would see Jeongguk about an hour from now.
His phone vibrated again and he smiled once more when he saw Jeongguk’s text.
“Can’t wait to see you. Miss you so much.”
Taehyung stood up and picked up his computer and charger and went to the living room. He wanted to wait for Jeongguk here, and get some writing done in the mean time.
Taehyung almost leaped to the front door when he heard the doorbell. His heart began beating faster in his chest; and he had to take a few deep breaths with his hand on the door handle to calm himself down. He could hear Geureum’s barks already and Jeongguk’s soothing voice cooing the dog.
So Taehyung yanked the door open.
Jeongguk stopped talking and looked at him.
“Tae.” – He smiled, one of the smiles where his eyes became crescents and his front teeth were visible.
Taehyung felt his heart skip a beat just looking at him.
“Hi.” – He said, and mentally cursed himself afterwards.
They had not seen each other in a week, and the first thing he said was “hi.”
“How have you been?” – Jeongguk seemed unfazed. – “You look thinner. Have you been eating well? And sleeping?”
Geureum barked and waved his tail at Taehyung, so Jeongguk extended his arms and Taehyung carried the dog inside.
“I’m okay.” – Taehyung said, his eyes not leaving Jeongguk even as they were walking to the living room. – “I missed you though.”
Jeongguk paused and looked at Taehyung with an unreadable expression. And then he smiled again.
“I missed you too. I’m staying over tonight.”
He looked at Taehyung meaningfully and Taehyung’s heart was hammering in his chest. That looked excited him and calmed him down all at once and he wondered how Jeongguk managed to do that.
One of the perks about their friends finding out about their relationship was that they did not need to refrain from touching each other anymore. Jeongguk could cuddle Taehyung whenever he wanted to. And Taehyung could do the same. However, Taehyung always checked to see if Jeongguk was okay with them cuddling. Most of the time, Jeongguk was.
Taehyung had never understood why people always cuddled when they watched movies. He had always believed that one has paid money to watch a movie, that person should pay attention to the movie instead of cuddling someone else. But now that Jeongguk and him always snuggled up to each other (all the time, not just while watching movies), he understood the appeal.
A lot of the time, just being with Jeongguk really calmed Taehyung’s mind. There were nights when his thoughts and ideas kept running through his brain and stopped him from sleeping. Jeongguk would always held him close and muttered words of encouragement, either for Taehyung to write them down or to go to sleep. Most of the time, Taehyung never chose sleeping.
“Good night, guys.” – Jimin stood up when the movie was over.
“It’s rare for you to still be awake right now.” – Taehyung mused. – “Usually you would be asleep half way through.”
Jimin glared at him and Yoongi just burst out laughing.
“What are you glaring at him for? He’s just being honest.” – He grabbed Jimin’s hand and pulled him toward the hallway. – “Good night, kids.”
“Night hyung.” – Taehyung said and smiled brightly at Jimin. – “Night, best friend.”
“You’re treating your best friend so nice, Taehyung-ah, like you didn’t just call me out a few seconds ago.” – Jimin sighed but waved his hand at Taehyung and Jeongguk anyway. – “Bye bye.”
“Good night Yoongi-hyung, night Jiminie.” – Jeongguk looked up from the couch.
Yoongi had to pull Jimin toward their bedroom so that he would not go after Jeongguk. Meanwhile, Taehyung and Jeongguk were giggling.
“Should we go to bed as well?” – Jeongguk asked after Yoongi and Jimin had disappeared from their sight.
“Hm?” – Taehyung looked over and smiled at him. – “We can. But I’m staying up for a while longer though. I want to write a little bit.”
“Okay.” – Jeongguk nodded easily and grabbed his backpack that he had brought over. – “I’m gonna get some homework done.”
“On a Friday night?” – Taehyung raised his eyebrows. – “You’re so responsible.”
“I’m doing it while waiting for you.” – Jeongguk shrugged and extended his hand for Taehyung. – “Let’s go Tae.”
Taehyung was in the middle of typing when his phone vibrated once, indicating he had received a text. A long time ago, he would have ignored it and kept writing. But Jin and Namjoon had fixed that habit of his because sometimes they needed to contact him about important things. So he learned to answer calls and reply to texts as soon as possible.
“The director sent me the list of the final candidates for the casting and I’ve forward the email to you.”
Taehyung wondered what good deeds he had done in his past life to be able to know Jin in this life. He was the best manager anyone could ask for.
“Thanks hyung. I’ll check my email right away.”
“Who’s texting you this late?” – Jeongguk looked over and asked curiously.
“Jin-hyung. It’s about work, don’t worry.” – Taehyung smiled at him.
Jeongguk kept his gaze and looked down at his homework after a few seconds.
“I’m not jealous or anything, if that’s what you’re thinking.” – He explained. – “It’s just… I feel like you’re always working.”
Taehyung paused before replying.
“Well… technically that’s true. But the hours are flexible; and I get to do what I love. So I don’t mind at all.”
“Even at one in the morning?” – Jeongguk asked curiously.
This time Taehyung paused for a longer time. He had never really thought about it. He knew that Jin had to be awake himself in order to contact him; and Taehyung did not sleep a lot anyway, so there was always a chance that he was still awake.
“Instead of calling, he texted.” – Taehyung eventually replied. – “He’s considerate.”
Jeongguk nodded, still focusing on his homework. Taehyung took that as the end of the conversation and returned his attention to the laptop screen. He saw the email from Jin and scrolled down to the names. There were twelve people and he recognized almost half of them from the movies and dramas that Jin usually watched. It excited and terrified him at the same time because those established actors took an interest in his book. He was also eager to meet the other actors.
But when he saw the last name on the list, his breath was caught in his throat.
He blinked a few times, but the name was still there.
His first thought was to call Jin and ask about this, but then he thought he was overreacting. And Taehyung tried to calm himself. After all, it was not like there was only one Park Bogum in the country.
Park Bogum who was also an actor.
Taehyung blinked again and looked at Jeongguk, who was staring at him with worry in his eyes.
“Is everything okay? You kinda froze for a moment there.” – Jeongguk sat up and leaned into Taehyung’s shoulder.
“Yep.” – Taehyung nodded, surprised at the dryness in his voice. – “I’m fine. I’m just looking at the list of the actors who made it to the final round.”
“That’s exciting!” – Jeongguk exclaimed. – “Can I see it?”
“Sure.” – Taehyung shrugged and turned up the brightness on his laptop.
While Jeongguk looked at the list, Taehyung took the time to reassured himself that this was not the Park Bogum that he knew. It was someone else, with the same name, definitely.
Even if the Park Bogum he knew was an up and coming actor …
“I recognize a lot of these names.” – Jeongguk commented. – “This is so great, Tae. There are wonderful actors here. Are they all auditioning for Jack?”
“Jack and Justin, since they’re the main characters.” – Taehyung responded. – “But I don’t know who’s gonna audition for which character.”
Jeongguk suddenly sat up and faced Taehyung.
“I need a huge favor from you.” – He said in the sweetest and softest voice that Taehyung had ever known.
He was prepared to give Jeongguk the moon at that moment.
“Can you please get Park Bogum’s autograph for me?”
Taehyung visibly froze, so Jeongguk explained:
“He was in a drama that I watched a few years ago. He wasn’t the main character but I really liked his acting. I mean, you don’t have to if you don’t want to though. It’s totally fine.”
“He’s my ex-boyfriend.”
Taehyung had said it in a monotonous voice, as if he had not just announced that Jeongguk’s favorite actor was his ex-boyfriend.
They stared at each other for a few moments, with Taehyung becoming more uncomfortable as the silence stretched.
“Okay, no autograph needed then.” – Jeongguk eventually said.
“I’m not completely sure it’s him though. Maybe there are other actors named Park Bogum out there. Who knows?” – Taehyung said.
He was not sure if he was reassuring Jeongguk or himself. Maybe both.
“I guess you’ll know when you meet him.” – Jeongguk replied, keeping his tone light. – “Anyway, when did this happen?”
He sounded genuinely curious, without any hints of awkwardness in his voice.
“Uhm… we went to high school together and started dating then. And we broke up when we were in college.” – Taehyung provided.
“Why did you break up?” – Jeongguk asked. – “Sorry, I don’t mean to pry. You don’t have to answer it if you don’t want to.”
“He was manipulative.” – Taehyung answered the question anyway.
He wondered why he had said this without looking at Jeongguk. It had been a long time since he thought about Bogum and admitted out loud that their relationship was unhealthy.
Jeongguk looked horrified and immediately wrapped his arms around Taehyung and stroked his hair repeatedly.
“I’m really sorry.” – He said gently. – “Sorry that you were involved with him and that I made you talk about it.”
“It’s fine.” – Taehyung chuckled at the sweet gesture. – “And you didn’t make me do anything. It was a long time ago so I can talk about it now.”
“It’s not fine.” – Jeongguk held him closer. – “I can’t believe he treated you like that. You deserve the best, okay? And he’s not my favorite actor anymore.”
Taehyung burst out laughing and Jeongguk leaned back in surprise.
“Why are you laughing?” – He raised his eyebrows. – “Did I say something wrong?”
“No, not at all.” – Taehyung shook his head, still laughing. – “He can still be your favorite actor. He’s really good at acting. I mean, he pretended that he was happy when he was dating me and I had no idea.”
“Tae.” – Jeongguk blinked.
“Actually, now that I think about it, maybe he really was happy, since he was always manipulating me and I always let him.” – Taehyung continued.
“Well, you’re not with him anymore.” – Jeongguk said. – “You got out of it. It takes someone who is brave and strong to end that relationship.”
Taehyung stared at Jeongguk in awe.
“I must have done a lot of great things in my past life.” – He caressed Jeongguk’s cheek. – “To be able to meet you.”
“That’s my line.” – Jeongguk smiled warmly at him. – “I’m sorry that he treated you like that; and I’m really proud of you for getting out of that relationship.”
“Actually, it was because of Jin-hyung and Jimin, mostly.” – Taehyung confessed. – “I was still crazy about him when we broke up but they made me realize it was a toxic relationship.”
“So they helped you.” – Jeongguk acknowledged. – “But you’re still the one who ended things with him.”
Taehyung nodded and closed his email tab. He suddenly lost all the motivation to continue writing.
“Should we go to sleep now?” – He shut down the laptop and looked at Jeongguk, who was still observing him. – “I don’t want to write anymore. Sorry, you’re still doing homework.” – He remembered. – “I’ll wait for you.”
Taehyung stood up and put the laptop on his desk. When he sat back down on the bed, Jeongguk was still looking at him.
“Everything okay?” – Taehyung asked with raised eyebrows. – “Is there something on my face?”
“I just think you’re so amazing.” – Jeongguk said earnestly.
“Uh… thank you?” – Taehyung scratched his ear. – “You are amazing too.”
“Let’s go to sleep.” – Jeongguk closed his book. – “I’m not gonna be able to get any homework done right now anyway.”
“Such a good student you are.” – Taehyung teased but stood up again to turn off the lights.
4 O’clock. Chapter 5. Page 98.
“We’re closing in five minutes.” – Bunny looked up from cleaning the glasses when the bell chimed, surprised to see Jack walking in alone.
“That’s okay.” – Jack smiled at sat down in front of him. – “Just here for the company.”
“Do you mean my company?” – He asked in an uncertain voice.
“You’re almost done with your shift right?” – Jack raised his eyebrows. – “I just want to talk to you for a little bit. Do you want to grab something to eat?”
“At thee in the morning? And you mean … together?” – Bunny asked again. – “No thank you. I cooked something before leaving for work this afternoon.”
“You don’t have to sound so offended.” – Jack laughed. – “I ate already so it would be just you eating and me talking. But that’s fine, no worries. What did you cook?”
“Lasagna.” – Bunny sighed happily. – “I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Anyway, what did you want to talk about? You can talk now since you’re the only customer here.”
Jack stared at him for a moment before smiling brightly.
“I just want to say thank you again.” – He said. – “For what you did for me at the bridge. You saved my life, literally.”
Bunny held his gaze and smiled back before continuing cleaning the glasses.
“You don’t have to keep thanking me, Jack. I did what anyone would do.”
“No, I think people would just walk past me or leave me alone after I told them to.” – Jack shook his head. – “I wasn’t in a good space mentally so I would have done something … tragic had you not been there.”
“Well, maybe it’s fate that I was there then.” – Bunny shrugged.
“I think it is.” – Jack agreed and looked down at his watch. – “So, it’s officially closing time.”
“I’m gonna clean up and then close the bar.” – Bunny set the glass down. – “You can leave whenever you want.”
“I’ll help.” – Jack said and stood up, then began to move the barstools closer together.
“What? No. Why?” – Bunny scrunched his eyebrows. – “You’re a customer, and an actor. Just … talk to me some more. What have you been up to? Haven’t seen you in here for almost a month.”
Jack remained standing anyway and walked to the booths to collect the empty glasses, despite Bunny’s protest.
“I’ve been ‘restoring my image,’ as my manager put it.” – He made air-quotes while rolling his eyes. – “Lots of charity, fundraising events, non-profit and the likes. They were quite therapeutic and fulfilling actually.”
“Did you go abroad?” – Bunny asked curiously.
“Yep. South Africa and Guatemala.” – Jack placed the glasses on the bar in front of Bunny. – “I thought that I wouldn’t enjoy the trips, but I loved them. I met so many wonderful people, mostly children, who changed my perspective of life.”
“That’s good.” – Bunny replied. – “Do you want to have children of your own someday?”
Bunny wondered why that question just flew out of his mouth before his brain had the chance to think about it.
“I used to.” – Jack smiled sadly. – “Justin and I were planning to adopt.”
Bunny always thought that he was a good listener. With his job as a bartender, he felt like he had so much experience listening to people. But he just had to ask Jack that question and destroyed the pleasant mood Jack was in.
“I’m so sorry.” – He sighed regretfully. – “I didn’t mean to … ”
“Bunny, don’t worry about it.” – Jack cut him off. – “It’s okay. I’m … I’m getting better talking about him.”
There was a hint of tremor in his voice and Bunny felt like the worst person on the planet for making him feel that way.
“You’re the only person who knows.” – Jack suddenly said. – “I’ve never talked about him with anyone else. People wouldn’t understand.”
“Not even your manager? Or your family?” – Bunny asked with a pained voice.
“Especially not my manager. As for my family, after … after it happened they always look at me like I’m a lost puppy whenever I mention him. So I stopped. But I always miss him, you know? And I can’t tell anyone.”
“You can tell me.” – Bunny replied in an earnest voice. And he sat down next to Jack and put his hand on top of his. – “I would never tell anyone else. I can even sign a non-disclosure form if you want me to.”
“I would never make you sign one.” – Jack shook his head quickly.
“You are way too trusting for someone of your position.” – Bunny laughed and took his hand back.
Jack had no idea why he held on to his hand.
“I’m being honest.” – He eventually said, squeezing Bunny’s hand. – “You’re like my friend. Actually you’re the closest thing to a friend that I have these days.”
Bunny looked surprised, but he put his other hand on top of Jack’s.
“That sounds really lonely.” – He said in a sincere tone. – “Okay, from now on, you can come find me whenever you want, okay? I promise I’ll make time for you.”
“Kim Taehyung-ssi, it’s great to finally meet you face to face.”
Taehyung shook the hand extended in front of him and smiled politely.
“Choi Minho-ssi, the pleasure is all mine. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.”
“Please don’t thank me.” – Minho said reassuringly. – “You are the author after all. I want the movie to be how you want it to be. You have to have a say in picking the main actors.”
Taehyung gulped unconsciously. He wanted to say that he had no idea how to choose actors correctly. He had never dreamed that his book would be made into a movie; and even though it was a reality now, sometimes it still seemed surreal.
“Also, I love the book.” – Minho continued. – “It’s so different and sad but realistic at the same time.”
“Thank you. That’s really nice of you to say.” – Taehyung responded. – “Do you think it’s too sad?” – He asked as an afterthought.
Minho paused for a few seconds, but shook his head.
“I think there’s still hope at the end.”
Taehyung’s eyes widened because it was one of the few times that someone shared his feelings about the ending of the book. He still remembered the reactions of other people. For example, Jin had finished reading it at three in the morning and had sent Taehyung around twenty messages with lots of capitalizations and emojis. The next day, he had changed Taehyung’s Wi-Fi password when he had come to visit; and Taehyung had found it so hilarious that he had kept it from then on.
A day before the book had been released, Taehyung had sent a copy to Jimin. He had received a phone call the next day and had thought Jimin had been sick because of the sniffles he had heard. It turned out that Jimin had been crying after finishing the book.
The only person who had not cried was Namjoon; and Taehyung believed that it was because he was trained to be a professional and editing books so his emotions were always in check.
“That was my intention, yeah.” – Taehyung nodded and gave Minho a more genuine smile this time.
“Great!” – Minho smiled back. – “Should we go in? The audition will start in fifteen minutes. I’ll introduce you to the producers and staff members.”
“Okay.” – Taehyung nodded again and followed him.
Taehyung really felt welcomed after talking to the producers and staff members. They all treated him really well and some were surprised at how young he was. When it was five minutes until the audition began, they all took their seat at a long table, with Taehyung sitting next to Minho.
He eyed the empty stage and suddenly felt more nervous than ever. Everyone here knew what they were doing. They were all professionals; and Taehyung did not know the first thing about acting.
“Are you okay?” – Minho turned to him and asked in a concerned voice.
“Hm?” – Taehyung blinked and looked over to him. – “Ah, I’m just… a little worried.”
“About the auditions?” – Minho asked in understanding. When Taehyung nodded, he continued. – “Just go with your gut feeling. You understand your characters better than anyone ever could. The actors are gonna read some lines by Jack or Justin, depending on which role they are auditioning for, and you just need to choose which ones you feel like best portray the characters.”
“What if I like someone you don’t like?” – Taehyung asked worriedly.
“It’s totally fine.” – Minho smiled warmly at him. – “There’re a lot of people here so it’s not like we’re gonna agree on everything. That’s what make this fun, right?”
His smile was so genuine that Taehyung had to smile back.
“I hope so.” – He replied. – “Okay, I’m less nervous now. Thank you.”
“No problem at all.” – Minho patted his shoulder.
He had not seen Bogum throughout the auditions. But just when he was feeling relieved, the final candidate walked on the stage and Taehyung wanted to hide.
“Hello everyone, my name is Park Bogum and I will be auditioning for the role of Jack.”
Taehyung wondered if he could just silently slide down from the chair and hide underneath the table until this audition was over. Obviously he could not, but he still entertained the thought.
He had not looked at Bogum at all, but Minho was eying him curiously so Taehyung took a deep breath and dragged his eyes toward the stage.
Bogum was looking at him in surprise.
“You can begin, Bogum-ssi.” – Minho spoke up.
The phone only rang twice before Jeongguk picked up.
“How was it, Tae?”
“It was an experience.” – Taehyung automatically smiled when he heard Jeongguk’s voice, even though Jeongguk could not see him. – “The director, Choi Minho, is so nice and welcoming. He’s so young too, only a couple years older than me. And there were a lot of great auditions. We have two days to decide and then we will meet to choose three actors for each character.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed being there.” – Jeongguk said happily. – “Have you eaten anything? It’s dinner time already.”
“I just got home. Minho-hyung invited me to a dinner with the staff but I didn’t feel like it. I’m waiting for Jin-hyung and Namjoon-hyung to come over and then we’ll cook something.”
“You mean Jin-hyung will cook something.” – Jeongguk corrected.
“Hey.” – Taehyung scoffed. – “I help too. It’s not like I’m completely useless in the kitchen.”
“One time you fried eggs and they were all burned.” – Jeongguk supplied. – “But I liked it when you burned bacon though. That was nice.”
“Wow. We haven’t seen each other in three days and you’re already reminding of my inability to cook.” – Taehyung faked being offended. – “Is this a way to treat your elder?”
Jeongguk started laughing and did not stop until many seconds had passed. But when he spoke again, it was with a soft but honest voice.
“I already miss you, Tae.”
Taehyung felt like his heart was about to leap out of his chest. How Jeongguk could tease him in one second and then make him want to clutch his heart the next was beyond him.
“I miss you too.” – Taehyung replied. – “Have you eaten dinner yet?”
“Right now I’m eating, and talking to you, and trying to do my Physics homework at the same time.”
“How can you do all that at once?” – Taehyung asked curiously. – “I can’t even eat and read at the same time.”
“The key point is ‘trying,’ Tae. My book is open and I glance at it once in a while.”
Taehyung laughed when he imagined Jeongguk eating and talking and only sometimes looking at his textbook.
He really wished he was with Jeongguk right now.
“I saw Bogum at the audition today.” – Taehyung said casually.
There was a pause before Jeongguk replied.
“How was it?”
“It was… strange. He recognized me. I think he wanted to talk to me but I pretty much ran out of there once the auditions were over.” – Taehyung recalled.
“Was his audition good?” – Jeongguk asked again.
“Yeah.” – Taehyung nodded. – “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it was really good. He auditioned for Jack, but I feel like he would be better at playing Justin.”
“He’s that good then?” – Jeongguk sounded surprised. – “You think he’ll make it to the final round?”
“I’m gonna call Minho-hyung later and suggest the role change.” – Taehyung commented. – “Actually, I’ll just talk to him in two days. I don’t want him to ask too many questions.”
“I forgot to ask earlier, it’s ‘hyung’ already?” – Jeongguk laughed.
“He told me to call him that.” – Taehyung explained. – “It’s not like I started calling him that in the first place.”
“You always manage to charm everyone you meet. It’s quite amazing.”
Taehyung thought about it for a moment and burst out laughing.
“It’s always the older men, you know?” – He joked.
“Well, you are very likable. And you have this aura around you that seems like you need to be protected from everything.”
“What do you mean?” – Taehyung asked in a surprised tone. – “Am I that… breakable or something? I don’t need protection. Did I mention that I have a black belt in Taekwondo?”
“You’re kidding.” – Jeongguk exclaimed.
“Nope, I’m serious.” – Taehyung responded.
“I have a black belt in Taekwondo too! We should train together sometimes.”
They ended up talking about martial arts and Jimin and Yoongi. Before Taehyung realized it, they had been on the phone for almost an hour.
“Tae, I probably need to really start my homework.” – Jeongguk said in a guilty tone.
“Of course.” – Taehyung agreed. – “Sorry I’m keeping you from being a model student.”
“It’s fine. I like talking to you. I miss you, did I mention that?”
“You did.” – Taehyung smiled and felt his heart swell up. – “But it’s okay. I miss you too. I wish you were here.”
“I’ll always be with you in your heart.” – Jeongguk said quietly. – “Damn, that sounds more cheesy than it did in my head.”
“No, it’s really sweet.” – Taehyung quickly said. – “I like it.”
“It seems like we have the same thoughts about Bogum.”
Taehyung looked up from his phone at the mention of Bogum’s name. Minho was standing in front of him with his hands in his pockets and a big smile on his face.
“I’m sorry?” – Taehyung blinked.
“I also think that he would try out the role of Justin.” – Minho explained. – “I don’t know, something about him really reminds me of the character.”
Taehyung almost scoffed but he controlled himself. Minho did not know about their history, so even if it was the furthest thing from the truth, Taehyung could not say that Justin was much better, personality wise, than Bogum.
“So he’ll be in the next round?” – Taehyung wanted to confirm.
“Yeah.” – Minho nodded and sat down next to Taehyung on the bench. – “Do you guys know each other?”
Taehyung gulped nervously. But he tried to keep his voice steady when he spoke again.
“What makes you think that?”
“He asked about you the other day, when you had to leave right after his audition was over.” – Minho explained. – “He asked if you’re part of the producing crew.”
“And?” – Taehyung held his breath.
“I told him you’re the author.” – Minho then looked at him apologetically. – “Sorry, now that I think about it, should I have kept it private?”
“It’s fine, hyung.” – Taehyung said quickly. – “We went to the same high school and college, that’s all. But we’re not really close anymore.”
“He seems really interested in you still.” – Minho commented.
Taehyung was taken aback, but he quickly smiled and hid his surprise.
“That’s too bad.”
Because now I wanted nothing more to do with him, he thought.
Minho quietly observed him for a few moments.
“Are you trying your best to avoid him?”
“I…” – Taehyung stammered. – “…Yes.” – He finally admitted. – “I think we’ll have to talk to each other at some point, but for now, I’ll continue to avoid him.”
“Okay.” – Minho nodded in understanding. – “I’ll try my best to help you with that.”
It was the day of the final round of casting when Taehyung walked in the theater and almost dropped his coffee because Bogum was sitting on the stage, reading Stigma. It was dark, the only light source in the room was the single spotlight that Bogum was sitting under.
Taehyung’s first thought was to leave and come back later when there were more people, maybe Bogum had not noticed him since it was dark in here. But then Bogum looked up and his eyes widened when he saw Taehyung.
“You’re early.” – Taehyung found himself saying.
“You too.” – Bogum replied and flashed him a smile before looking down at the book on his lap.
It was the same smile that Taehyung had been accustomed to many years ago. For a moment, he was taken back to the happy days that they had spent together. But then he was reminded of the bad memories that accompanied those times, so he quickly blinked and took a seat on the second row. Normally he would sit next to Minho, wherever he was sitting (usually first row, dead in the middle). But Taehyung was never this early; and he thought that he needed at least one row of distance between him and Bogum.
He took out his phone and texted Minho.
“Hyung, you’re later than usual today … I’m at the theater already.”
Minho replied immediately.
“You’re just earlier than normal Taehyung-ah. I stopped by the donut shop and got you a chocolate one.”
Taehyung stared at the screen for a few seconds. He had not eaten since seven pm yesterday; and he was not sure if a donut was a good idea right now for his stomach. Nevertheless, he texted Minho back.
“I had breakfast already, but thanks anyway hyung.”
“Okay Tae, I’ll see in about ten minutes.”
Taehyung smiled at that and looked at the clock on the screen. It was eight forty in the morning. He wondered if Jeongguk had woken up yet.
“Have a good day at school tomorrow, Tokki! I miss you so much.”
He pressed “send” before he could doubt himself. And then he took out a notepad from his backpack and began brainstorming the different scenes he wanted to include in 4 O’clock.
“I really like your book.”
Taehyung tensed and looked up at the stage. Bogum was staring at him again.
“Thank you.” – Taehyung replied politely and looked down at his notepad.
“How have you been?” – Bogum asked hesitantly. – “It’s been years since we last saw each other.”
“I realized that.” – Taehyung answered, a bit too quickly and defensively for his liking. – “I’m doing well. How about you?”
That was the most generic answer, he knew. But generic was the extent of the replies that he was comfortable to give Bogum.
“Trying to find my breakout role.” – Bogum responded. – “It’s a little strange because I originally wanted to play Jack, but then Minho-ssi suggested that I play Justin instead.”
Taehyung nodded along. He was grateful that Minho did not mention Taehyung’s agreement to the suggestion as well.
“Are you rereading the book so you’ll find more insights into Justin’s personality?” – Taehyung asked.
This was beyond generic, but he could not help himself. He was always willing to talk about his characters, always.
“It’s a little bit hard because the book is written in Jack’s perspective mostly. So we see Justin how Jack sees him.” – Taehyung continued.
“Well, then Justin is perfect.” – Bogum commented.
“I wouldn’t say that he’s perfect. No one is.” – Taehyung disagreed. – “But Jack loves all of his flaws.”
Bogum stared unblinkingly at Taehyung for a few moments and Taehyung felt the need to look away. Luckily, the door opened and Minho walked in, waving his hand at both of them before taking the seat next to Taehyung.
“Ooh, new seat today.” – He put the paper bag on Taehyung’s little desk place, next to his notepad. – “This is for you.”
“Thank you hyung.” – Taehyung smiled at him. – “You can sit in the front row if you want. You don’t always have to sit with me.”
“But I want to.” – Minho shrugged and turned to Bogum, who was observing them carefully. – “Bogum-ssi, are you ready for today’s audition?” – He asked in a cheerful tone.
“I’m more nervous than ready.” – Bogum smiled warmly.
Taehyung realized that it was a genuine smile and he was glad.
“I think you’ll do well.” – Minho encouraged him. – “Sorry if I’m distracting from preparing your audition. We’ll be quiet.”
Later that day, when the final round was over, Taehyung knew that Bogum would get the part. His audition was the most touching and realistic one; and Taehyung almost cried when Bogum read the letter that Justin wrote to Jack. Moreover, Taehyung was relieved that he had felt happy when Minho told Bogum the good news instead of feeling dreadful that he would be working with Bogum in the next few months.
4 O’clock. Chapter 9. Page 203.
It was a rainy night, well, early morning, and Jack was driving past the bar when he saw a familiar figure standing outside. He thought it might have been Bunny, but then again the rain made everything blurry, so he was not sure. Still, he turned right at the corner and circled around the block until he reached the bar again. There were plenty of parking spaces on the street at four in the morning, so he figured if he stopped in front of bar, no one was there to complain.
He rolled down the window and looked outside. Sure enough, it was Bunny, who was looking down at his phone and typing profusely.
“Do you need a ride?” – Jack asked loudly.
Bunny looked up and his eyes widened in shock when he saw Jack.
“What are you doing here?” – He asked, confused.
“Was just driving past.” – Jack explained. – “I saw someone familiar, turns out to be you. Anyway, it’s raining hard. Do you need a ride home?”
Bunny hesitated; and Jack wondered if he should get out of the car to try and convince him. He changed the gear to park, grabbed an umbrella that was always in the car, courtesy of Justin, and got out.
“What are you doing?” – Bunny asked when Jack walked closer to him.
Bunny had been standing underneath a covered area, so he was dry. It was then that Jack realized Bunny was taller than him.
“It’s hard to talk when I’m in the car.” – Jack shrugged. – “Anyway, please answer the question that I’ve asked twice, and now three times. Need a ride?”
“It’s fine.” – Bunny refused quickly. – “You should go. It’s really late. What are you doing outside at four in the morning?”
“I was driving back from my mother’s house.” – Jack replied. – “Anyway, I’ll give you a ride. It’s dark, and rainy, and super late, or early I guess.”
Bunny hesitated again, but he realized that Jack was right. He had taken his car into reparation; and it turned out they needed to keep it there overnight. He would have walked home had it not been for the rain.
“Okay.” – He nodded and gave Jack a grateful smile. – “That would be really great. Thank you.”
“Let’s go then.” – Jack replied and held out his umbrella for Bunny to walk under.
They walked to the passenger side; and Jack waited for Bunny to get in before he turned around and headed for the driver side. He got in, closed the umbrella, and put it on the floor in the backseat.
Then he pulled out his phone, unlocked it, and turned to Bunny.
“Address, please? I promise I won’t save it, although I’m quite good with directions. So maybe I’ll remember the way to your house next time.” – Seeing Bunny’s surprised face, he quickly smiled. – “I’m kidding. Wow, I sound like a stalker.”
Bunny raised his eyebrows at the admittance and burst out laughing. He took the phone from Jack’s hand and put his address in.
“Oh, I actually know that area.” – He paused, and read the address again. – “Wait, I know that apartment building too. J … I used to go there, a lot.”
He looked away and blinked rapidly. He had not thought about that place for so long; and it suddenly hit him that he would never be able to see him there again.
Or anywhere, anymore, for that matter.
Bunny must have realized something was wrong, because he turned off the phone and handed it back to Jack.
“Are you … are you okay?” – He asked softly.
“Fine.” – Jack nodded immediately. – “I know the way there already. No need to use the map.”
He was about to drive, but blinked profusely when it was blurry. He had no idea when he started crying, but it was too late to stop now.
Bunny looked at him worriedly but thankfully for Jack, he did not say anything. He took out a pack of tissues from his pocket and wordlessly handed one over to Jack.
“Thanks.” – Jack replied gratefully and started to wipe his eyes. – “Do you always keep these with you? They’re convenient.”
“I’m a bartender.” – Bunny shrugged and turned to the side so that he was facing Jack. – “I’m sorry, Jack.”
“Why are you apologizing?” – Jack waved him off. – “I’m fine, just … a little emotional. Sorry, I’m like that sometimes. Anyway, should we get going?”
“We can stay here as long as you want to.” – Bunny said earnestly.
“You mean in front of a closed bar at four in the morning when it’s raining?” – Jack laughed. – “I’m good. Let’s get going.”
By the time they reached the apartment, the rain had stopped. Bunny had been quiet the whole time, his head turning to the right; and when Jack stopped the car in front of the building, he did not move.
“Bunny.” – Jack called.
“Bunny, we’re here.” – He tried again.
There was still no movement from the passenger side. So Jack took off his seatbelt and touched Bunny’s shoulder.
He sat straight up in a flash and opened his eyes, blinking rapidly. Jack took his hand back immediately.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” – He apologized. – “We’re here.”
“Hm?” – Bunny rubbed his eyes tiredly and yawned. – “Right, thank you for the ride. I really appreciate it. Do you want to come in?”
Bunny froze. Jack raised his eyebrows.
“Sorry, that’s a habit.” – Bunny quickly backtracked, and realized that he had dug a new grave for himself instead, based on Jack’s widened eyes. – “Anyway, thanks for taking me home. Good night.”
“Habit, huh?” – Jack mused.
“Okay, bye.” – Bunny sighed and opened the car door. – “Drive home safely.”
Jack smiled at him when he closed the door. But then Jack rolled down the window.
“Maybe some other time.”
“Wait.” – Bunny called, opened the passenger door again and got into the car. – “Are you okay, Jack? Can you … can you be alone right now?” – His voice was quiet at the end.
Jack blinked rapidly in confusion. Why would he …
“Oh.” – He realized what Bunny was talking about. – “Because I was kinda suicidal when we first met?”
“You were on the edge of a bridge.” – Bunny corrected, and regretted it immediately. – “That’s not what I … I mean, I’m just worried about you.”
Jack smiled at him. He already knew that Bunny was worried about him, but it was the first time he heard the admission from the other.
“Thanks.” – He said gratefully. – “I’m not okay right at this moment, to be honest. But I promise that I’m not gonna do anything reckless. I feel like I’m passed that stage.”
Bunny looked at him skeptically and then looked outside the window.
“Where are you going now?” – He asked quietly.
“Probably home.” - Jack shrugged. – “Why do you ask?”
“Probably?” – Bunny repeated. – “Where would you go then, if not home?”
Jack thought about it for a while. He did not have any particular destination in mind.
“I don’t know. I’ll just keep driving.” – He shrugged. – “It helps me think.”
“I feel like you think too much.” – Bunny commented and leaned his head back against the headrest, closing his eyes.
“You’re the first person to tell me that.” – Jack laughed.
Bunny opened his eyes and looked over to him with a soft expression.
“People don’t know you that well then.”
“And you?” – Jack raised his eyebrows. – “Are you saying you know me well, Bunny?”
Bunny stared at him without blinking, like he had said something unintentionally revealing about himself.
“No.” – He shook his head slowly. – “I don’t think I’ve known you long enough to actually know you.”
“Really.” – Jack chuckled, and put the gear to drive. – “I think you know me pretty well, Bunny. And I take it that you’re coming with me then.”
Bunny blinked and looked outside of his window. Jack could have sworn he saw something that resembled a smile.
“Where are we going?” – Bunny asked curiously. – “Do you know?”
“Not yet.” – Jack shook his head. – “I’ll figure it out on the way. You can take a nap if you want to.”
“A nap?” – Bunny scoffed. – “It’s four in the morning, Jack. I will be sleeping. Wake me up if we’re stopping somewhere.”
Jack smiled and nodded his head.
He had always liked driving alone. He could blast loud music, or opened the windows, or went above the speed limit, or under it sometimes; and no one would ever complain.
But there was something about driving with someone else sleeping in the car. He could turn on the music; but had to keep the volume low; and somehow it made him feel peaceful. The road was empty, illuminated by the street lights. The music soothed his heart somehow; and the sound of Bunny’s soft breathing made him warm inside.
He parked the car and wondered if there were blankets in the trunk. It was a little after five now; and Jack was so surprised he was not sleepy at all.
“Bunny, we’re here.” – Jack called softly.
Bunny was turning his head toward Jack, his mouth slightly opened. He looked so young like this, Jack mused; and then stopped himself in time because Bunny really was young, only 25.
Jack would turn 30 next year and he was still refusing to believe it.
“Bunny.” – Jack called again. – “You know, it’s about time you tell me your real name. We’re not really strangers anymore right?”
Bunny scrunched his eyebrows and opened his eyes, blinking quickly before focusing on Jack’s face in front of him.
There was something Bunny’s eyes in this moment that drew Jack in. Perhaps it was the sleepiness, the way Bunny was so looking at him like he was something precious, and also the way Bunny was raising his right hand toward him. Whatever the reason, Jack leaned in and the hand tentatively touched his cheek. Bunny’s hand trailed down to his neck, fingers tracing his jaw slowly; and Jack felt his heart beating faster.
“Is this okay?” – Bunny whispered.
Jack nodded, not trusting that his voice would be steady if he were to speak. Bunny said up straighter, still turning toward Jack, and smiled softly.
“I think … I think I’m right about this.” – He said hesitantly. – “But please let me know if I’m not, okay?”
Jack nodded again. He saw Bunny’s smile once more before feeling his warm breath getting closer to him. He closed his eyes out of reflex and inhaled sharply when Bunny’s lips gently touch his. His mind went blank for a brief second.
It was then that Jack realized his heart had skipped a beat, and that Bunny’s lips were softer than he had imagined.
“I’ve wanted to do that for so long.” – Bunny murmured against Jack’s lips. – “You have no idea.”
Jack chuckled before kissing him again; and he felt Bunny pulling him in closer. They kissed for what seemed like forever before letting go of each other.
“Is this real?” – Bunny asked when he pulled back a little to look at Jack.
“Yeah.” – Jack smiled at him warmly.
Bunny smiled back blissfully before leaning in for another quick kiss. Then he looked outside the window and back at Jack in curiosity.
“Where are we?”
“Treasure Island.” – Jack replied. – “It’s cold outside so I really hope I still have some blankets in the trunk.”
“What are we doing here?” – Bunny laughed. – “What time … oh it’s five in the morning. And it’s cold and windy outside. Are we really leaving the car?”
Jack smiled. Bunny looked so good like this. Soft and warm and kissed-out.
“Do you want some hot chocolate?” – He asked instead. – “That small kiosk there is always open.”
“I want to stay here and sleep.” – Bunny sighed and closed his eyes, leaning his head on Jack’s shoulder.
“You’re cuddly.” – Jack mused. – “I never realized that.”
“I can’t be all touchy-feely to everyone.” – Bunny shrugged. – “Just a certain someone, you know?”
Jack burst out laughing. Honestly, this side of Bunny made him weak.
“You’re adorable.” – Jack cooed and touched Bunny’s head.
His heart skipped another beat when Bunny sighed happily to the touch.
“I’m not adorable.” – Bunny protested. – “Just sleepy.”
“Do you have work today?” – Jack asked with a concerned tone.
“No.” – Bunny shook his head slightly. – “Go get hot chocolate if you want. I’ll stay in the car if that’s okay.”
The way he was asking for permission just made Jack’s heart swell.
“I’ll get you one too.” – Jack promised and kissed Bunny’s cheek. – “Be right back.”
He pulled away, but Bunny’s hands shot up and touched his cheeks. Bunny looked at him for a few moments before kissing him fully on the lips.
“Just needed a confirmation that I’m not dreaming this up.” – Bunny murmured when he finally let go of Jack’s lips.
“You’re not.” – Jack reassured him. – “Bunny, this is real.”
Bunny blinked a few times at that verification, and nodded before closing his eyes.
“Don’t take too long.”
“I won’t.” – Jack chuckled.
When he came back, he put the drinks in the car before opening the trunk and taking out a blanket. Then he got into the car and draped the blanket over Bunny’s sleeping body.
Bunny stirred and opened his eyes groggily.
“Wanna sleep in the backseat?” – Jack asked softly. – “There’s more space.”
“S’okay.” – Bunny slurred. – “Are you sleepy?”
“I’m fine. I’m just gonna wait until the sun goes up; and then we’ll go, okay?”
“Wake me up then.” – Bunny yawned. – “I want to watch it with you.”
Taehyung was typing furiously when someone sat down next to him.
“Yes? Can I help you?” – He asked in a monotonous voice.
He was not trying to be rude at all. But his mind was in another place right now; and conversing with actual human beings is not at the top of his list.
“I just want to say hi. We’ve never actually talked.”
Taehyung kept typing, but his speed slowed down. This voice seemed familiar yet different at the same time. So he wrote a few more words before turning to face the mysterious person.
“Hi, V-ssi. My name is Kim Minjae; and I’m playing the part of Jack. It’s nice to finally talk to you.”
It was strange to hear someone use honorifics with him since Taehyung was always used to being the youngest.
“You can call me hyung.” – He extended his hand and Minjae shook it, giving him a warm smile. – “It’s nice to talk to you too. How’s everything going?”
“Things are going well, I’m really getting into the character.” – Minjae replied. – “Hyung, I just want to say that I’m a big fan of Stigma. It’s thanks to you that I have this role.”
“Please don’t say that.” – Taehyung shook his head a few times. – “I just wrote the book. Someone else wrote the screenplay and Minho-hyung is the director. So it’s not like I did a lot. And you got the part because you’re an excellent actor.”
“You made me cry.” – Minjae confessed.
“I’m sorry.” – Taehyung said, not sounding apologetic at all. – “I get that a lot. It’s sort of the usual reaction.”
“Can you sign my copy?” – Minjae asked in a hopeful tone and put the book on Taehyung’s desk.
“Sure.” – Taehyung smiled and pushed his laptop to the side.
The book looked worn out; and there were sticky notes in different colors all over the pages. Taehyung felt happy just looking at it.
“I’m always trying to be careful with it, I swear.” – Minjae explained quickly. – “But I’m so clumsy so sometimes I drop it. And I always write in all of the books I read.”
“That’s okay.” – Taehyung chuckled and opened the book to the first page. – “I can tell it’s very loved.”
Minjae blushed and scratched his ear. Taehyung also saw Minjae looking at him in curiosity and a hint of wonder while Taehyung was writing in the book.
“Here you go.” – He closed the book and gave it back to Minjae. – “I’m glad you like my book.”
“Loved it.” – Minjae corrected. – “Are you… are you working on the next book?”
“I am.” – Taehyung nodded.
“That’s so awesome, hyung.” – Minjae exclaimed and stood up. – “Okay, I don’t want to interrupt your writing any further. I’m gonna go memorize my lines now.”
“Okay.” – Taehyung nodded. – “Have fun.”
“Hyung, do you… do you want to go get coffee with me sometimes?” – Minjae asked, hovering in front of Taehyung.
“Uh…” – Taehyung blinked. – “You mean like on a date?”
“Yes.” – Minjae nodded quickly.
Taehyung openly gaped.
He could not think of anyone else except Jeongguk.
“I’m sorry, but I’m seeing someone at the moment.” – Taehyung replied.
“You are?” – Minjae sighed. – “That’s okay, forget I said anything then. I just think you’re really amazing, hyung.”
“Thank you. That’s sweet of you.” – Taehyung said politely before putting his laptop back in front of him.
Minjae got the hint and just smiled at him before walking away.
When he was alone, Taehyung paused and thought about what had just happened. Kim Minjae, the famous actor, had just admitted that he was a fan of Taehyung’s book and had also asked him out.
He was also one of the sweetest people Taehyung had met, and such a perfect person for the role of Jack, in Taehyung’s opinion.
But his mind was filled with Jeongguk.
And he could, not at that moment, imagine being with someone else.
“So how long will you be gone?”
Taehyung paused his packing and looked up at the door. Jin was observing him with a smile on his lips.
“Just a week, hyung. I have to be there for Jeongguk’s birthday but I’ll be back as soon as I can.” – Taehyung replied.
“Did you get him a gift?” – Jin continued.
“Of course I did.” – Taehyung laughed. – “I got two, actually. And I’m gonna surprise him at work tomorrow.”
“You guys are so cute.” – Jin cooed. – “So are you two official yet?”
Taehyung paused and thought for a while before answering.
“I don’t know. We haven’t talked about it.”
The look of surprise on Jin’s face made Taehyung felt like he had said something strange. He firmly believed it was true when Jin came into the room instead of hovering by the door and sat down next to Taehyung on the bed.
“How long have you… been seeing each other? Like exclusively?” – Jin asked in a careful tone.
“I don’t really know.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “We went on a few dates and sometimes sleep next to each other, does that mean we’re exclusive?”
Jin gaped and cover his mouth.
“You’re so precious.” – Jin gasped. – “What was your last relationship like?” – He wondered aloud.
Taehyung’s face fell; and Jin suddenly realized what he had just said.
“Taehyung-ah, I’m sorry.” – He apologized quickly and took Taehyung’s hands in his. – “I didn’t mean to bring up the past.”
“Pretty sure the correct term is ‘toxic,’ but I’m quite over it now.” – Taehyung shrugged again. – “Don’t worry about it, hyung.”
Jin still felt guilty that he brought it up in the first place. But Taehyung smiled at him in reassurance. He was fine.
At least that was what he always told himself.
Taehyung went to the coffee shop immediately after leaving the train station. He texted Jimin yesterday saying that he would be coming back; and Jimin was so excited that Taehyung really thought Jimin was truly his platonic soulmate.
When he saw the familiar sign of the café, his heart started beating faster and he wondered if it was the Jeongguk effect, as in, anything regarding Jeongguk ultimately made his heart do crazy things.
Of course that was when his phone started vibrating. It was an unknown number from Seoul, so Taehyung assumed it was someone from the set.
He almost dropped his phone at the realization of the voice.
“Bogum-h… ssi?” – Taehyung replied anyway, internally sighing. – “How do you know my number?”
“Ah, one of the producers gave it to me. I just have some questions about the characterization of Justin and I was wondering if you can help me with them?”
That sounded so natural and genuine that Taehyung wondered if Bogum had rehearsed it, but because it was about work, Taehyung felt like he had to give him an honest response.
“I can, but I’m not in Seoul right now. I’ll be back in a week so we can meet then if you want to.”
“Oh, you’re not in town?” – Bogum asked curiously. – “Okay I’m sorry if I’m bothering you. Can you just let me know when you’re back?”
“Sure, I can do that.” – Taehyung answered. – “I’ll talk to you later, Bogum-ssi.”
He was about to hang up when he heard Bogum’s next question.
“I’m not ‘hyung’ anymore?”
He sounded sad, but Taehyung was not sure what he was supposed to do about it.
“No, you’re not, Bogum-ssi. Good bye.” – He said with finality and hung up.
Taehyung had to take a few moments to himself before putting his hand on the door handle.
“Good afternoon, welcome t… Taehyung?”
Jeongguk’s voice instantly lightened up his mood, but it was his look of surprise that made Taehyung forgot all about the conversation with Bogum.
“Hi, Tokki.” – He almost ran to the counter, and was happy that Jeongguk actually ran toward him first.
“What are you doing here?” – Jeongguk touched his shoulders and pulled him into a hug that lasted a few seconds. – “Are you back? Is the filming over?”
He sounded so happy and relieved that Taehyung’s heart broke when he had to answer.
“I’m back for a week only.”
His heart broke again when Jeongguk’s face fell. But Jeongguk quickly blinked and glanced back at the counter.
“Are you hungry? Do you want to have lunch with me? My break starts in ten minutes.”
Taehyung nodded quickly and waved his hand at Hoseok when he realized the man was smiling at them.
“I’ll wait for you over there.” – Taehyung pointed at the table that he usually sat at. – “Come get me when you’re done.”
“Okay Tae.” – Jeongguk smiled warmly at him.
It felt so familiar, sitting at the same table and looking at Jeongguk working at the counter. Sometimes Taehyung had to remind himself that he had only been introduced to Jeongguk at the beginning of summer. They got along so well that it seemed that had known each other for a long time.
He was sure that he was falling for Jeongguk, hard. That thought terrified and exhilarated him at the same time. For one, he was not sure they were dating. They did all the things couple usually did, except talking about their relationship. And Taehyung would have been fine with it, had Jin not said anything. But now he was starting to question himself. Moreover, he realized that Jeongguk had never brought it up either.
Why hadn’t he brought it up?
“I’m done, Taehyung.”
Taehyung looked up and saw Jeongguk smiling at him.
“You never call me Taehyung.” – He mentioned in an amused tone.
Jeongguk blinked a few times and smiled again.
“Right, I mean Tae-Tae.” – He replied easily. – “Let’s go get food. What do you want to eat?”
“I’m not really that hungry so I’m fine with whatever.” – Taehyung stood up and put his arm around Jeongguk’s shoulder. He felt Jeongguk stiffen and his face getting blank so he let go immediately.
“Lamb skewers?” – Jeongguk suggested, scratching his ear.
“Sure, that sounds good.” – Taehyung replied and walked to the front door, trying to ignore the hurt building up in his chest.
He told himself that it was because the café was crowded; and Jeongguk did not want anyone to know about their relationship.
He also wondered why it mattered.
They sat opposite of each other, which reminded Taehyung of the first time they went to lunch together. It was surprising because they always sat next to each other every time afterwards.
“It’s easier to eat this way.”
Jeongguk had explained when Taehyung looked at him in surprise.
“Yeah okay.” – Taehyung nodded.
“So how’s the filming going?” – Jeongguk asked curiously. – “Do you spend a lot of time with the actors?”
“Just sometimes. I mostly just sit in a corner and do my own thing and talk to whoever needs me. Usually it’s Minho-hyung.”
“He’s the director, right?” – Jeongguk raised his eyebrows. – “You guys seem to get along well.”
“He’s very friendly.” – Taehyung smiled. – “And he somehow managed to charm Namjoon-hyung, which is so hard to do.”
Jeongguk nodded along and smiled back when Taehyung looked at him.
“That’s nice to hear. How is Jin-hyung? And Namjoon-hyung?”
“They’re doing well.” – Taehyung extended his legs underneath the table and brushed them against Jeongguk’s. – “They miss you. How’s school? Are the classes stressing you out?”
“I slept for two hours last night.” – Jeongguk sighed.
“Are you tired?” – Taehyung asked worriedly. – “What time do you finish work today?”
“I have two hours left.” – Jeongguk stifled a yawn. – “But it’s okay because it’s movie night and I want to hang out with you guys later. Tomorrow’s Saturday so I can sleep in.” – He leaned over and moved a strand of hair away from Taehyung’s forehead. – “Did you go home yet?”
Taehyung blinked a few times, surprised at both the action and the question.
“You mean Jimin’s house? No, I went straight to the café from the train station. But I texted Jimin already saying that I’m here today.”
The food was brought to their table so they started grilling it in silence. Jeongguk stared at Taehyung every few seconds and then looked away quickly.
“Do you have something to tell me?” – Taehyung smiled at him in reassurance. – “You’ve been looking at me a lot.”
“I missed you.” – Jeongguk smiled back, but his smile looked a little sad. – “And I can’t believe you’re actually here.”
“I have to be here for your birthday.” – Taehyung said matter-of-factly. – “Speaking of, do you have any plans for tomorrow?”
Jeongguk put a piece of cooked meat onto Taehyung’s plate before putting one onto his own plate.
“Pretty sure Jiminie’s already bought a cake for me and he’s gonna bring it out tonight. He does it every year. As for tomorrow, it’s my day off so we can go somewhere if you want to.”
“The beach?” – Taehyung suggested. – “I just haven’t been to a beach in Busan before.”
“Yeah, we can go to the beach.” – Jeongguk nodded. – “Let’s invite Yoongi-hyung and Jiminie and make it a picnic or something.”
They ate and talked about Seoul. It was when they stood up, preparing to leave that Taehyung suddenly missed the warmth of Jeongguk’s legs against his own. He counted it as a win because Jeongguk did not take his legs back when Taehyung rested his own against him while they were eating.
Stigma. Chapter 21. Page 254.
I’m sitting at the desk in our hotel suite while writing this letter to you. You’re sleeping in the middle of the bed with your limbs extended like a starfish, so it is a little bit hard for me to keep a serious face right now. Do you know that sometimes you talk in your sleep? It’s endearing, honestly.
I’m sorry that I haven’t been a great emotional support for you lately. I know that things are not going well with the public finding out about our relationship, but you have been handling it and I’m so proud of you.
I’m sorry that we have to be a secret.
You are my world, Jack, and I will do anything to make you happy. And I’m sorry that you’re unhappy now, but I will try my best to fix this situation, I promise. We should go to Seattle again in the future. Or should we go abroad? I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland … (Wow what a tangent … that is not what this letter is about, I swear. Please keep reading.)
Sometimes I wonder how my life would have turned out had I not bumped into you that day at the event. I still can’t believe that you managed to trip on my legs. I could have sworn that you saw me sitting there since the beginning. How exactly did you trip when you walked by? Anyway, you were so flustered and cute so it didn’t matter that you ruined my suit jacket. And you were so different from how you appeared in movies (yes I’ve watched all of your movies before meeting you, I might as well come out with it now).
Thank you for sitting down and talking to me afterwards. Thank you for asking for my number and asking me out on a date in the span of fifteen minutes after meeting me for the first time. You changed my life, literally.
I have never imagined I would ever be able to meet you, let alone date you.
I have never imagined that I could love someone this much.
(You just snored and turned to face me. Maybe you heard my confession in your sleep? Anyway, you looked really cute just now.)
I wish that you can be as carefree and content and relaxed as when you’re sleeping. But I already know that it’s not gonna happen.
I want to protect you from all the bad things out there, but I already failed. However, if you allow me, I will always be with you, through every hardship that’s waiting for us.
If all goes to plan, by the time you read this, you would already see that I’m literally on my knees right now.
So, will you say yes?”
“Are you going h… to Jiminie’s?” – Jeongguk stuttered.
Taehyung took his eyes off the familiar café sign that greeted them as they turned around the corner and turned to Jeongguk.
“I’m just gonna write here for a while.” – He replied. – “If you don’t mind?”
“Why would I mind?” – Jeongguk asked like it was the strangest question in the world. – “I told you I missed you.”
“Yeah, but I’m only gonna be here for a few days.” – Taehyung explained. – “So if you get used to me being here, it’s gonna be harder when I have to leave again.”
Jeongguk stopped walking.
“You said you’re here for a week, hyung.”
His voice was strained and laced with hurt. Taehyung blamed himself for being the reason.
“I’m leaving next Friday morning. What I mean is, I don’t want you to be sad when I leave, Tokki.”
“That’s too bad.” – Jeongguk sighed. – “Hyung-ah, I’m always gonna miss you when you’re not here.”
It seemed like the beginning of an important conversation that they definitely needed to have very soon. But for now, as Taehyung looked at the man standing in front of him, who was bearing his heart out for Taehyung, there was a familiar feeling in his chest that always seemed to appear whenever he was with Jeongguk.
For the first time, he realized he might have a name for that feeling.
“Tokki, I’m in love with you.” – He breathed.
Jeongguk’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped. Of course, when he was about to say something, Taehyung’s phone decided to ring incessantly.
“You should get that.” – Jeongguk gave him a quick smile before looking away. – “I’m gonna head to the café first, my break is over.”
“Uhm… okay.” – Taehyung nodded, mentally cursing his phone.
“We’ll talk about it tonight.” – Jeongguk said with a sincere tone before turning around and running toward the café.
Taehyung looked at him and wondered if he had ruined everything. He sighed, trying to convince himself he was overreacting, and took the phone out of his pocket.
“Taehyung-ah, did you arrive safely?” – Jin asked in a cheerful voice.
“I did.” – Taehyung answered. – “Sorry I forgot to call you earlier when I got to the station. I was… distracted.”
“I see. It’s okay, I was just a bit worried.” – Jin assured him quickly. – “Jeongguk must be ecstatic you’re there.”
“Hyung, I did something bad.” – Taehyung sighed. – “I told him I’m in love with him.”
“You’re in love with him? And you confessed? How is that supposed to be bad?” – Jin asked, a hint of surprise and excitement in his voice; and it had gotten higher by the end of the sentence. – “Taehyung, that’s wonderful! I’m proud of you. Never thought you would be the one to confess your feelings first. What did he say?”
“Then you called.” – Taehyung said earnestly.
Jin was quiet for a moment.
“Taehyung-ah, hyung is sorry. I picked an inconvenient time to call you huh?”
“It’s alright, hyung.” – Taehyung laughed. – “We’re gonna talk about it tonight. By the way hyung, Bogum-h…ssi called me earlier.”
“How does he know your number?” – Jin asked suspiciously. – “What does he want? Did you talk to him? It’s fine if you didn’t.”
“One of the producers gave it to him. And of course I talked to him. Technically we’re working together right now. And he wanted to know more about Justin as a character.”
“That sounds plausible.” – Jin scoffed. – “Promise me you’ll be careful around him.”
“Hyung.” – Taehyung sighed. – “There’s nothing between us anymore. You don’t have to worry.”
He started walking toward the café but paused when he reached the front door. Inside, Jimin was talking animatedly to Jeongguk at the counter; and Jeongguk was giggling every few seconds.
He wondered if Jeongguk looked as happy while talking to him…
“Taehyung? Are you still there?” – Jin’s voice brought him back to reality. – “Did you hear what I said?”
“Sorry, hyung. What did you say?” – Taehyung looked away from the scene, feeling like he was interrupting something.
“I said that maybe you don’t have any feelings for him, but who knows how he feels.”
“Well, if we ignore every part of his manipulative nature, he’s actually a great actor.” – Taehyung explained. – “And a lot of people in the crew really like him, so I’m gonna be civil and professional, hyung.”
“Okay then, Taehyung. That sounds good.” – Jin replied. – “I have to go now so I’ll talk to you later. Call me when you’re coming back. Tell everyone I said hi.”
“Will do, bye hyung.”
When Taehyung hung up and looked back inside the café, Jeongguk and Jimin were still talking, huge smiles on their faces. Then Jeongguk reached over and dusted Jimin’s face with his hand and Taehyung felt his blood run cold.
This is stupid. He told himself. They were friends, very good friends. Friends who went out on a few dates…
He shook his head a few times and placed his hand on the door handle, mentally preparing to put the biggest smile on his face when he saw them.
Jeongguk leaned back against Taehyung and nuzzled his head on Taehyung’s shoulder.
“Yes?” – Taehyung continued typing without looking at him.
“I told Jiminie about the beach.” – Jeongguk said. – “He said that only the two of us should go.”
“He and Yoongi-hyung don’t want to go?” – He asked.
“No, he said something along the line of ‘you guys should go on at least one date while Taehyung is here.’ So I guess we’re on our own.” – Jeongguk replied.
They were on the couch, Jeongguk doing his reading and Taehyung writing while they were waiting for Yoongi to get home for dinner and movie night. Jimin was talking on the phone to Jin in his room. And Geureum was sleeping on the floor by Jeongguk’s feet.
“So it’s a date?” – Taehyung stared at Jeongguk’s head, itching to run his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair.
“I guess.” – Jeongguk shrugged.
Taehyung had no idea why he was bothered by that reply so much.
“Do you want it to be a date?” – He asked, shutting down his laptop.
“It’s like every other time we hang out.” – Jeongguk shrugged again, nonchalance in his voice.
“Do they count as dates?” – Taehyung asked.
He felt Jeongguk tense up. A second later Jeongguk closed his book and sat straight up, looking at Taehyung in confusion.
“Is everything okay?” – He asked carefully.
Taehyung wondered what he was doing leading them into a fight a few hours before Jeongguk’s birthday.
“Sorry.” – He apologized quickly. – “Nevermind, forget I said anything. I’m just a bit stressed right now.”
“What’s stressing you out?” – Jeongguk leaned in and cupped Taehyung’s face in his hands. – “Work? Writing? Personal stuff?”
Taehyung had no idea what to say. Blurting out “I’m in love with you” right now is inconvenient. And it was not like Jeongguk did not already know how he felt.
“A little bit of everything.” – Taehyung smiled and placed his own hands on top of Jeongguk's. – “Don’t worry about it. Keep doing your reading.”
“Not in the mood for that anymore.” – Jeongguk said before leaning forward and kissing him deeply.
Taehyung was pleasantly surprised by this turn of events. He moved his hands to Jeongguk’s waist and pulled him in closer. Jeongguk went along easily and proceeded to straddle Taehyung’s lap.
“I think I know what I want for my birthday.” – Jeongguk whispered against Taehyung’s lips.
“What?” – Taehyung asked breathlessly.
“Hyung.” – Jeongguk smiled mischievously before kissing him again.
Taehyung had started to believe that Jeongguk would be the death of him.
“Do you… do you want to go to the premiere of Stigma with me?” – Taehyung suddenly remembered.
“Of course, I would love to go.” – Jeongguk leaned back and replied immediately. – “When is it?”
“Probably at the end of January.” – Taehyung said, keeping his arms loosely around Jeongguk’s waist. – “I mean, that’s what Minho-hyung told me.”
Jeongguk grinned widely and pinched Taehyung’s cheeks.
“I’m so proud of you, Tae.” – He said earnestly.
Taehyung felt content. All his worries earlier when he had seen Jeongguk and Jimin together had disappeared. So he leaned in and kissed Jeongguk again.
“Why do we keep having movie nights if Jiminie almost always falls asleep?” – Jeongguk chuckled, looking at Jimin who was using Yoongi’s lap as his pillow.
“Gotta keep the tradition alive.” – Yoongi shrugged.
“I don’t know how he can sleep through The Ring.” – Taehyung commented.
“Jimin sleeps through everything.” – Yoongi laughed. – “Okay, we’re gonna head to bed now. You kids have fun.”
He winked at Taehyung and Taehyung felt his cheeks heat up. Earlier, Yoongi had come home at an inconvenient time and had witnessed Jeongguk and Taehyung making out on the sofa.
“Thanks again for the cake, hyung.” – Jeongguk said. – “It was delicious.”
“Don’t mention it, Kookie. The bakery is on my way home from work.” – Yoongi patted Jimin a few times to wake him up. – “Glad you liked it.”
He carried Jimin when there was no sign that Jimin would wake up. When Jeongguk and Taehyung were the only ones in the living room, Jeongguk turned off the TV.
“I was watching that.” – Taehyung looked over at him with raised eyebrows. – “Do you know that the last part of a horror movie is always the best part?”
“Hyung.” – Jeongguk said.
It was one single word, but Taehyung felt like he was melting already.
“Do you really want to keep watching the movie right now?” – Jeongguk leaned in and kissed the corner of Taehyung’s mouth. – “There are so many other things we could be doing instead.”
“Like what?” – Taehyung asked, suddenly feeling like his throat was extremely dry.
“Like…” – Jeongguk kissed the shell of Taehyung’s ear this time. – “… opening presents!” – He giggled excitedly.
Taehyung blinked and it took him a few moments to process what Jeongguk had just said.
“Right, presents!” – He echoed. – “You want to open them now?”
“Yes!” – Jeongguk nodded. – “It’s ten minutes into my birthday already. I want to open everything. It’s so nice of Jin-hyung and Namjoon-hyung to send me presents too. They don’t even know me that well.” – He mused.
“What are you talking about? They love you.” – Taehyung contradicted.
“Do they love me as much as you love me?” – Jeongguk asked in an amused tone and kissed Taehyung fully on the lips this time.
Apparently they were having that conversation right now.
“Uh…” – Taehyung stuttered. – “I think in a different, more platonic way.” – He replied earnestly. – “I mean, I hope.” – He added as an afterthought.
Jeongguk started giggling and put his head on Taehyung’s shoulder.
“Tae, what are we doing?” – Jeongguk laughed.
Taehyung could feel the vibration of his laughter, which made his heart swell up again. So he patted Jeongguk’s head a few times before running his fingers through his hair. Jeongguk sighed happily.
“You want to open presents.” – Taehyung reminded him, wondering if Jeongguk could hear how loudly his heart was beating.
“Should we talk first?” – Jeongguk asked quietly.
“Sure.” – Taehyung nodded and put his hand back to his side.
Jeongguk was still leaning on his shoulder.
“You’re in love with me.”
Jeongguk said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. And Taehyung thought that in some ways, it was.
“I am.” – Taehyung nodded, proud of his steady voice. – “I don’t even know when or how it happened.”
“But we haven’t been spending a lot of time with each other lately.” – Jeongguk replied.
Taehyung nodded, but he wondered why Jeongguk mentioned that.
“Maybe I was in love with you before returning to Seoul.” – He mused.
Jeongguk sat up straight and looked at Taehyung.
“Is your home Seoul?” – He asked.
Okay, so Taehyung did not expect the conversation to change to this. He had noticed that throughout the day, Jeongguk had taken extreme interest whenever he mentioned Seoul.
Or was it the “returning” part? Taehyung wasn’t sure.
“My apartment is in Seoul.” – Taehyung answered honestly.
“That’s not what I asked.” – Jeongguk shook his head and smiled sadly.
“Seoul is my hometown.” – Taehyung explained further. – “But I don’t know where my home is. I’ve lived my whole life there. But the time I spent in Busan with you means a lot to me too.” – He sighed. – “I don’t even know if I’m making sense, Tokki.”
“You are, Tae.” – Jeongguk quickly reassured him. – “I’ve always lived in Busan. It’s as close to home as it can ever get.” – He looked at Taehyung meaningfully. – “But it seems different when you’re not here. Which is ridiculous, I know. We’ve only known each other for the few months you were staying here. Yet I cannot imagine thinking of the word ‘home’ without thinking of you. So you tell me which one of us is not making sense.”
They looked at each other for a while without saying anything. To Taehyung, it seemed like Jeongguk’s confession was as heavy as his earlier love confession.
“I love you.” – Taehyung smiled.
“You’re my home.” – Jeongguk replied.
They moved at the same time toward each other. Jeongguk wrapped his arms around Taehyung and pulled him in so Taehyung moved to straddle his lap.
Then Taehyung’s phone vibrated once.
“It’s probably Jin-hyung.” – He murmured and gasped when Jeongguk placed an open kiss on his neck.
“He usually calls at this time since he knows you’re still awake.” – Jeongguk replied. – “So I don’t know who’s texting you at this hour.”
Taehyung leaned back a little and Jeongguk groaned before pulling him in once more.
“Aw, is my baby jealous?” – Taehyung teased, running his fingers through Jeongguk’s hair again.
“Tae, just check your phone.” – Jeongguk sighed happily at the touch and the nickname, but still pointedly refused to answer Taehyung’s question.
Taehyung just giggled; and Jeongguk rolled his eyes before reaching into Taehyung’s back pocket and fishing out his phone while keeping eye contact with him the whole time. The air around them changed and Taehyung would like nothing more than to have Jeongguk’s lips on him again, but he took the phone from Jeongguk’s hand anyway.
His mood changed when he saw the text.
“Taehyungie, it’s Bogum. This is my phone number, in case you deleted it. Please let me know when you’re back in Seoul so that we can meet. I can’t wait to see you.”
“What the fuck.” – Taehyung exclaimed.
“Who’s that?” – Jeongguk asked immediately. – “Don’t tell me it’s your ex-boyfriend.”
His tone was light, but he had a serious look on his face so Taehyung just showed him the text.
“He called earlier saying that he needed help with the characterization of Justin.” – Taehyung explained. – “I told him we can meet after I re… after I go to Seoul. And now he sends this.”
Jeongguk took the phone and wordlessly read the text repeatedly.
“Taehyungie?” – He asked in an amused tone.
“I hate that he still talks to me like he knows me really well.” – Taehyung grimaced. – “You know what, I’m not gonna meet him one on one. Since it’s work, I’ll just talk to him at the set with Minho-hyung present.”
“He still likes you.” – Jeongguk commented, putting Taehyung’s phone down on the coffee table.
“Too bad.” – Taehyung shrugged and moved a little so he could sit comfortably on Jeongguk’s lap. – “I’m in love with someone else.”
“Does he know about me?” – Jeongguk asked curiously as he put his arms back around Taehyung.
“No. But I’m gonna casually let it slip the next time we talk.” – Taehyung promised.
“That’s good.” – Jeongguk nodded and put one of his arm under Taehyung’s knees and lifted him up. – “Let’s go to bed.”
Taehyung, in shock, immediately put his arms around Jeongguk’s neck as he was carried bridal-style to the bedroom.
“Sometimes I forget how strong you actually are.” – He commented and kissed Jeongguk’s cheek chastely.
“Should I remind you?” – Jeongguk wiggled his eyebrows and asked in a suggestive tone.
Taehyung was certain now.
Jeongguk would definitely be the death of him.
“Tae, is it okay if we stop by my apartment before going to the beach?” – Jeongguk asked when they reached the front door.
“Sure.” – Taehyung nodded easily. – “Wait, your presents. They’re in my bedroom, give me two minutes and we can go.”
“Okay, I’ll wait for you by the car.” – Jeongguk smiled and picked up Geureum.
Taehyung flashed him a smile before turning around and going back into the house.
Right before driving Taehyung to the station, Jin and Namjoon had given him two presents to bring back to Jeongguk. Taehyung himself had prepared two, in case Jeongguk did not like one of them. The safe present was Taehyung’s favorite book, because it had influenced his style of writing and seeing the world. The other was a mixtape of Taehyung’s favorite songs that he had listened to while writing Stigma. He had also made Jeongguk a birthday card.
He grabbed the presents and went back to the front door to see Jeongguk on the phone with someone. As soon as Taehyung appeared, Jeongguk flashed him a warm smile and laughed when he saw the presents.
“I have to go. I’ll talk to you later… Okay, thank you for the birthday wish… Bye.”
He opened the passenger door so Taehyung could get in before walking to the driver side.
“It’s nice of your friend to call on your birthday.” – Taehyung commented. – “We tend to use social media nowadays right?”
“That was my ex-friend with benefits.” – Jeongguk replied.
Taehyung thought he had misheard him.
“Sorry?” – He asked.
“I had a friend with benefits.” – Jeongguk explained. – “But I broke it off with him a while ago. It’s a surprise he still remembers my birthday.”
“Is this before…”
“It’s before we… us.” – Jeongguk cut in quickly.
Taehyung nodded a few times and turned around to put the bag of presents on the seats behind them, pointedly not looking at Jeongguk.
“And is it before or after you went out with Jimin?” – Taehyung asked again.
“After.” – Jeongguk replied and started the car. – “It didn’t last very long, maybe six months.”
“Six months is a long time.” – Taehyung contradicted.
Jeongguk began driving, but he kept looking over at Taehyung every few moments.
“I’m sorry, Tae, for not telling you about it earlier.” – Jeongguk eventually said.
Taehyung looked at him immediately.
“Do you think I’m… I’m not mad about it, or jealous, if that’s what you’re afraid of, Tokki.” – He explained. – “I’ve only met you a few months ago, and I do realize you have your own personal life. It’s just that…”
He sighed, wondering if he should even finish that thought.
“Just what, Tae?” – Jeongguk asked carefully.
“We don’t know a lot about each other.” – Taehyung said.
Jeongguk stared at him briefly before turning his attention back on the road.
“That’s true. But my feelings about you are real though.”
“So are mine.” – Taehyung smiled softly at him and caressed the back of his neck. – “I don’t need to have known you for a long time to be in love with you.”
They spent the whole day at the beach, surfing and lounging on the golden sand. They ate seafood for lunch and went to a cozy restaurant for dinner. Afterwards, they went back to the beach and walked barefoot on the shore, holding hands the whole time.
“Thanks for being here with me, Tae.” – Jeongguk said gratefully and sat down on the sand, patting the space next to him.
“Why are you thanking me?” – Taehyung sat down beside him and asked quizzically. – “It’s your birthday baby, I have to spend it with you.”
“You’re missing work because of me.” – Jeongguk sighed and squeezed Taehyung’s hand. – “And every moment you spend with me, you’re not writing.”
There was a hint of guilt in his tone and Taehyung would like nothing more than to reassure him that everything was fine.
“That’s okay. I can write when I come back to work. Not that there’s anything major to write anymore, I already finished the first draft just before coming b… here.”
“You can say ‘coming back,’ Tae.” – Jeongguk smiled. – “Because that’s how it is to me. I love it when you come back to me.”
He said it with such a sincere voice that touched Taehyung to his bones.
“So you’re my home?” – Taehyung asked softly.
“If you want me to.” – Jeongguk nodded. – “You already know you’re mine… My home, that is. I don’t mean that ‘you’re mine’ as in my possession. You are your own human being and no one can own you.” – He added quickly after realizing what it must have sounded like.
Taehyung burst out laughing.
“I understand what you mean.” – He said, wiping a few tears away. – “Ah, you’re hilarious Tokki.”
Jeongguk looked at him with adoration in his eyes. When Taehyung smiled at him, he smiled back but looked away quickly.
Jeongguk kept his gaze on the sand.
“Do you think we’re moving too fast?”
Taehyung blinked a few times, trying to process the question.
“How do you mean?” – He asked carefully.
“What you said in the car earlier… you were right.” – Jeongguk sighed. – “We met three months ago, it’s such a short time for us to get to know each other.”
“Tokki, my feelings for you are real.” – Taehyung used his free hand to touch Jeongguk’s cheek and made him face Taehyung.
“I don’t doubt that.” – Jeongguk replied. – “My feelings for you are real as well, so real that they scare me.”
“Why?” – Taehyung asked.
“Because we’re not even anything official or exclusive.”
“I want us to be.” – Taehyung said immediately. – “Tokki, I want to be in a relationship with you.”
Jeongguk stared at him, blinking profusely.
The seconds before his answer were the longest that Taehyung had ever experienced in his life. He took his hand back from Jeongguk’s cheek and let it fall to his side.
“You’re the sweetest person I know.” – Jeongguk started.
Everything in Taehyung’s brain told him he messed up, because this seemed like the beginning of a rejection. He avoided Jeongguk’s eyes and purposely directed his attention to the sand beneath his feet.
“And I think that meeting you is one of the best thing that could have happened to me.” – Jeongguk continued.
Taehyung wanted to take his other hand back from Jeongguk’s firm grip, then maybe dig a hole in the sand and just lie down until this was over.
“But I am a very insecure person.”
This caught Taehyung’s attention. He immediately looked back at Jeongguk and panicked when there were tears in his eyes.
“Please don’t cry.” – Taehyung pleaded. – “Please please. I don’t know how to comfort you, Tokki.”
“You live in Seoul, Tae. It will be a long distance relationship.” – Jeongguk held on to his hand. – “I don’t know how those work. I haven’t seen you in a few weeks and it’s already killing me. I can’t imagine being your boyfriend and not being able to see you every day.”
He was absolutely right; and it pained Taehyung so much to admit that.
“Do you want to try?” – Taehyung asked anyway. He tried to keep his voice neutral, but there was a hint of hope there that he wished Jeongguk would recognize.
Based on the surprised look on Jeongguk’s face, Taehyung thought he did.
“Will you wait for me?” – Jeongguk asked instead. – “I’m graduating in June; and I want to move to Seoul afterwards. So it won’t be a long distance relationship then.”
Taehyung looked at him and knew that their feelings for each other were the same. But he also knew that the timing for their relationship was off right now.
And he was willing to give it a shot, but he would also do anything Jeongguk wanted him to.
“Of course I will.” – He replied.
He did not ask until when.
He knew he would wait forever for Jeongguk.
The drive back to Jimin’s house was much more quiet than when they left this morning. It was amazing the differences a few hours made.
Taehyung stared outside the rolled-down window as they drove. There was a gentle breeze with a hint of salt that comforted him. He could still see the beach, illuminated by the moonlight; and he wished he was able to enjoy the scenery more.
“Tae, your phone is ringing.”
He blinked at the sound of Jeongguk’s voice; and got the vibrating phone out of his pocket quickly.
“Thanks.” – He said to Jeongguk before picking up the phone. – “Hi hyung.”
Jeongguk, being the considerate person that he was, closed the windows so it was quiet in the car.
“Taehyung-ah, I’m really sorry for calling. I know you’re on vacation right now.” – Minho sighed. – “But is there anyway you can come back earlier? The screenwriters are having a little problem with one of the scenes and Bogum and Minjae are also stuck. I don’t know exactly the mood that you want to convey. It’s the scene where Justin is writing a letter to Jack while Jack is sleeping.”
“Right, that one.” – Taehyung sighed and scratched his head. – “Hyung, the earliest I can come back is the day after tomorrow. But I will write a little analysis of that scene tonight and send it to you so you have something to work with tomorrow.”
“Really? That would be really great, Taehyung-ah.” – Minho said in an appreciative tone. – “Thank you so much for that; and I’m sorry for bothering you on your free time. And for making you come back early.”
“No problem, hyung.” – Taehyung replied. – “I’ll send it to you later tonight okay? And I’ll see you in two days.”
“Thank you! You are the best.” – Minho exclaimed. – “Bye Taehyung.”
Taehyung hung up the phone and realized they had arrived at Jimin’s house.
“You’re going back early?” – Jeongguk quietly asked.
“Yeah.” – Taehyung nodded. – “It’s work.”
“Why aren’t you leaving tomorrow then?” – Jeongguk raised his eyebrows. – “I mean, not that I want you to leave or anything…”
Taehyung just smiled warmly at him. Whenever Jeongguk felt like he needed to explain himself further, Taehyung found it so cute.
“I don’t know when I’ll be able to come back to Busan again, probably not any time soon with the filming schedule, so I’d like at least one more day to go sightseeing.” – He said truthfully.
He had also wanted Jeongguk to go with him, but he was not sure he should bring that up right now.
“Do you…” – Jeongguk started. – “I can… if you want to, I can show you around?”
“Don’t you have work?” – Taehyung asked.
“It’s Sunday, there’re usually enough employees. I’ll call my boss and tell her I’m sick.” – Jeongguk immediately replied.
“It’s quite frightening how quickly you came up with that.” – Taehyung smiled, amused. – “Are you sure? I don’t want you to get into trouble.”
“I won’t.” – Jeongguk shook his head and took out his own phone. – “I’ll text my boss right now.”
Taehyung found the situation hilarious and endearing at the same time.
“You’re absolutely sure?” – Still, he wanted to confirm.
“Hyung.” – Jeongguk looked over to him. – “It’s your last day here. Of course I want to spend it with you.”
“You make it sound like I’m emigrating or something.” – Taehyung commented.
“Well, you did mention that you won’t come back any time soon.” – Jeongguk replied as he typed into his phone. – “So yes, in a way, you’re leaving.” – He showed the phone to Taehyung when he finished. – “There, I texted my boss. Where do you want to go tomorrow?”
Taehyung laughed out loud at how fast Jeongguk’s decision making process worked. He wished he had that trait.
“Wherever you think we should go.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “I haven’t been sightseeing in Busan except for the few da… times we hung out.” – He stammered.
Jeongguk nodded and was silent for a while. Then he smiled softly at Taehyung.
“I’ll think about them. Good night Tae.”
“Good night. I’ll see you tomorrow.” – Taehyung said and got out of the car, feeling a little strange.
It was when he reached the front door that he realized the reason. Usually they would kiss each other when they said goodbye.
As they sat on the sand watching the sunset, Taehyung was reminded of the conversation they had had yesterday, about their “relationship.” Right now, watching Jeongguk lying on the sand with a peaceful expression on his face, it was hard to think about the past and about the days to come. Taehyung was only able to focus on Jeongguk at the moment.
So he leaned down and kissed Jeongguk. Surprisingly, Jeongguk closed his eyes as soon as Taehyung’s face touched his.
It was a soft and gentle kiss, but it would probably burn in Taehyung’s mind forever.
“This is how I want to remember us.” – Jeongguk murmured against his lips. – “Just the good memories.”
Taehyung nodded and kissed him again, not knowing what to say.
He wanted to remember everything about this moment, the way Jeongguk’s arms wrapped around him, protectively but gently, as if Taehyung was something precious to him, the way their bodies pressed together, the way Jeongguk’s lips felt against his. This moment seemed infinite but fleeting at the same time.
“Every moment I have with you is a good memory.” – Taehyung whispered.
Jeongguk’s eyes widened; and Taehyung felt like he had just confessed something important.
“I had fun today.” – Taehyung said when they reached Jimin’s house.
“I did too.” – Jeongguk smiled and touched Taehyung’s cheek. – “I always have fun when I’m with you.”
Taehyung wanted to kiss him again. It seemed like it had been forever since their last kiss, although that had happened mere minutes ago. He forced himself to look straight ahead instead.
“I should head inside. I unpacked when I first got here so now I have to pack everything again.” – Taehyung yawned.
“Are you leaving in the morning?” – Jeongguk asked curiously.
“Yep. At 7:40. So I’m probably gonna stay up writing until then.”
“I thought you said you’re pretty much done with 4 O’clock?” – Jeongguk raised his eyebrows. – “What else do you have to write?”
“I have the storyline finished, but now I think there’re a few missing scenes.” – Taehyung explained. – “So I wrote everything I wanted to, now I’m adding things that I need to, so that the story is logical.”
Jeongguk nodded in understanding and looked down at his hands for a few seconds before looking back at Taehyung.
“I can’t wait to read it.”
“I’ll send you a copy when it’s printed.” – Taehyung said immediately.
“I love it already hyung.” – Jeongguk gave him a smile where his teeth were visible.
It was the last straw for Taehyung.
Ignoring the rationality screaming in his mind not to do it, he still leaned in and kissed Jeongguk with no regrets.
The guilt started building up immediately afterwards. This possibly, no, definitely, complicated things.
“Tae.” – Jeongguk leaned back for a second, searched his eyes, and closed the distance between their lips again.
“Are you sure we can’t try a long distance relationship?” – Taehyung asked.
“Tae.” – Jeongguk repeated and leaned back properly this time. – “Don’t make this any harder. I’m already dreading letting you go and not being able to see you for a long time.”
“We can still talk, and facetime, and text.” – Taehyung suggested.
Jeongguk’s silence scared him more than he had expected.
“Tokki?” – He looked at Jeongguk intently. – “We can still do those things, right?”
“Tae.” – Jeongguk repeated; there was slight warning in his voice.
Taehyung ignored it completely.
“Are you saying that you’re cutting off communications with me? I thought…” – He paused for a moment.
“I just think it’s for the best.” – Jeongguk explained. – “It’s gonna be really hard not talking to you, but if we do, I feel like I’ll miss you even more.”
“I don’t understand.” – Taehyung shook his head slightly. – “I thought… Tokki, I’m gonna wait for you, I told you that. And I’m going to miss you every moment that we’re not together. But isn’t talking to each other a way to feel better?” – He looked down at his hands and his voice became smaller. – “I mean, at least that’s how it is for me.”
Jeongguk did not say anything.
“Alright, I’m gonna go now.” – Taehyung sighed. – “Bye, Jeongguk.”
The name sounded strange coming out of his mouth. And out of habit, he had almost added I’ll see you later.
Blinking back his tears, Taehyung got out of the car and closed the door softly behind him. Then he headed straight for the house without looking back.
“Tae, wait.” – Jeongguk called.
Taehyung stopped in his track and quickly wiped his tears away before turning around. Jeongguk was running toward him.
“I’m so sorry Tae.” – He took Taehyung’s hands in his and apologized. – “I don’t want to leave like this.”
Taehyung sighed. His heart was aching again.
“Do you really think it’s a good idea, not talking to each other?” – Taehyung looked at him intently, trying to interpret his expression.
“I do.” – Jeongguk caught his gaze and nodded sadly.
“Okay.” – Taehyung took a deep breath and exhaled before nodding. – “Okay, if that’s what you want.”
“It’s not what I want.” – Jeongguk protested immediately. – “I just think it’s for the best, Tae.”
To be completely honest, Taehyung could not care less about “the best.” But he figured saying that would upset Jeongguk even more than he already was, so he held his tongue.
“I’ll miss you.” – Jeongguk looked at their joined hands and ran his thumbs over Taehyung’s knuckles.
“I’ll miss you too.” – Taehyung echoed, feeling like his heart was breaking.
There was a knock on Taehyung’s bedroom door.
“Yes, come in.” – He replied and continued packing.
He had fewer clothing items than he had thought, but then he realized the majority of them he had brought back to Seoul on his last trip. But some things must still be at Jeongguk’s apartment, like his Totoro plushie.
He was dreadful just thinking of how to get them back. Although they left things on good terms, it still hurt to think about Jeongguk and it would hurt even more to see him, since they just finished talking only a while ago. So maybe Taehyung could ask Jimin to help him later.
“Taehyung, do you want to hang out tonight?” – Yoongi walked in and asked. – “Jimin’s visiting Jeongguk’s place so I was wondering if you want to grab some drinks at the bar with me?”
Taehyung wondered if they had known already, but decided against that. They literally stopped talking only hours ago.
“Give me five more minutes to finish packing and then we can go.” – Taehyung replied.
“Sure.” – Yoongi nodded and turned to leave.
“Wait, hyung, you can stay here.” – Taehyung stopped him quickly. – “I’m leaving tomorrow so we don’t have to wait until the bar to hang out.”
Yoongi nodded easily and sat down on the desk chair.
“We almost never hang out by ourselves huh?” – He pondered. – “It’s usually with Jimin or Jeongguk.”
“That’s true.” – Taehyung acknowledged. – “But you did help me a lot when I first came here, so thank you.”
“All I did was made you go get coffee with me.” – Yoongi laughed and lied down on Taehyung’s bed. – “Wait, you met Jeongguk when you were with me. So I guess I’m your matchmaker.”
Taehyung felt his heart ache, but decided to ignore the pain. He just continued packing, wondering why Jeongguk was able to affect him this much when they had only known each other for a few months.
Taehyung looked up from the phone at the mention of his name. Minjae was standing in front of him and smiling nervously.
“I told you to call me hyung.” – He smiled and patted the seat next to him. – “How can I help you?”
“Do I have to need help to talk to you?” – Minjae huffed. – “I just want to ask how you’re doing, because you’ve been away.”
“For less than a week.” – Taehyung raised his eyebrows and said in an amused tone.. – “I… had something to take care of.” – He chose his words carefully.
Minjae nodded in understanding. The actors were having their lunch break and the practicing hall was empty, except for the two of them.
“Is everything okay now?” – He asked hesitantly, seeing the unreadable expression on Taehyung’s face.
“It’s finished.” – Taehyung replied quickly this time. – “Isn’t it lunch time right now? Go eat something. Otherwise your stomach would grumble again the the middle of rehearsal.”
“Ah, hyung. It was one time.” – Minjae sighed but stood up anyway. – “What about you? Aren’t you eating lunch too?”
“I had a late breakfast today so I’m not hungry yet.” – Taehyung answered and took out a notepad from his bag. – “I’m gonna write for a while.”
“Do you want a coffee or something?” – Minjae offered.
“That’s okay, thank you for asking though.” – Taehyung declined with a smile. – “Go have lunch. I’ll see you later.”
“Okay.” – Minjae sighed and started to leave, albeit a bit reluctantly. – “Bye hyung. Have fun writing! I can’t to read the next book!”
After Minjae had left, Taehyung dropped the smile and looked back down at his phone. Still no calls or messages.
He sighed before opening the Messages section and pressed Jeongguk’s name. The last message he received was from two days ago; and it was Jeongguk asking him if he arrived to Seoul safely. Taehyung had only texted back “yes, thank you for asking” although he had wanted to say so much more.
When Taehyung pressed the Phone icon, he was greeted with so many cancelled calls that he had made to Jeongguk, especially in the last two days. Right now, he was dying to press “call” again, although he knew he would cancel the call as soon as he made it.
His phone suddenly started vibrating and Taehyung almost dropped it. His heart started beating faster but then he looked at the screen.
Jimin was calling him.
“Hi Jimin.” – He picked up, already dreading the conversation.
Jimin had just talked to him yesterday, when he called to say he had arrived at Seoul safely. So in Taehyung’s mind, the only reason Jimin would call right now was because of Jeongguk.
“Taehyung-ah.” – Jimin said softly. – “How are you doing?”
“I’m fine. Jimin-ah, is everything okay? We just talked yesterday.”
Jimin did not say anything for a while; and Taehyung knew already why he was calling.
“Jeongguk came to my place this morning. I heard about what happened between the two of you.” – Jimin replied in a soft voice.
“I see.” – Taehyung sighed. – “How… how was he?”
“… He was… okay.” – Jimin stuttered. – “Is that why he didn’t come to see you at the station?”
“Yeah.” – Taehyung nodded, although Jimin would not be able to see him.
“Did it… did it happen on his birthday?” – Jimin asked.
“Yes.” – Taehyung sighed. – “And before you ask, no, I did not break up with him.”
“I wasn’t going to.” – Jimin comforted him. – “Jeongguk told us that he kinda ended things with you.”
Taehyung stared into space at the admission. It made everything so much more final when he heard it from someone else.
“How are you holding up?” – Jimin asked, guilt laced in his voice.
“I’m at work right now.” – Taehyung replied, knowing full well it did not answer Jimin’s question.
The entrance door opened and the actors started walking in. Minho spotted Taehyung and smiled at him before walking over.
“Taehyung.” – Jimin said in a pleading voice, like already knew Taehyung was lying.
“I’ll call you when I get home, Jimin-ah.” – Taehyung said.
“Okay. I’m really sorry about what happened, Taehyung-ah. I know how much he means to you.”
Taehyung sighed, said his goodbye, and hung up. He stared at Jeongguk’s name once more before putting on a smile as Minho approached him.
4 O’clock. Chapter 10. Page 229.
Jack stopped the car in front of the apartment, and looked down at his right hand. Bunny was cradling it in his own hands, even in his sleep. Jack almost cooed at the sight because he looked so adorable.
“I can feel you staring.” – Bunny murmured and squeezed his hand.
Jack chuckled and looked outside the window, where the sun was bright and there were no clouds in the sky.
“Is this the first time we see each other in the daylight?” – He pondered.
“Yep.” – Bunny opened his eyes and yawned. – “I was starting to think you’re a vampire, since we always meet when it’s dark.”
“Touché.” – Jack laughed. – “I thought the same thing about you.”
Bunny smiled at him brightly and let go of his hand.
“I’m gonna go to bed now.”
“Okay.” – Jack turned back to him and nodded. – “Thanks for hanging out with me.”
Bunny froze and looked at him in confusion.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing, just … thank you for spending time with me.” – Jack repeated. – “It was fun. We should do it again.”
“That sounds like what people say at the end of the first date when they know there wouldn’t be a second date.” – Bunny said, eyebrows furrowed.
Jack burst out laughing. He had thought he was being polite by saying that.
“Didn’t even know that was our first date, Bunny.” – Jack wiped the outer corner of his eyes.
“It wasn’t. Since one of us didn’t specifically ask the other on a date. My point is, please don’t say things like that. I don’t … I don’t like it.”
His voice became smaller at the end; and there was a hint of vulnerability in it, so Jack nodded immediately.
“I won’t.” – He promised. – “Uhm, speaking of, do you want to go on a date with me? It would be our official first date.”
Bunny looked down at his hands before looking over at Jack’s. He reached out of took one of Jack’s hand back into his again.
“Are you sure you want to?” – He asked, keeping his eyes on their joined hands.
“Of course I’m sure. That’s why I asked.” – Jack smiled.
“What about Justin?” – Bunny looked up at him.
Jack’s smile faltered immediately.
Justin had not been on his mind since he had looked at the address Bunny had given him earlier this morning.
This was the longest time Jack had been awake without thinking of him. Usually Justin would cross his mind once every hour, since everything around him reminded him of his (ex?)boyfriend.
“I know that you still love him a lot.” – Bunny continued. – “So I’m not like … asking you to choose or anything, because I’m sure your feelings for him are still there. I guess I just want to know if … if there’s a chance that you would ever feel something for me, romantically.”
Jack stared at Bunny in amazement. He wondered how this man, who he had known for less than a year, actually understood him more than people he had known for most of his life.
“There is.” – Jack said. – “It’s very likely, actually.”
Bunny smiled and laced their hands together.
“Are you sure? You’re not just saying that to make me feel better right?”
“I’m not that good at making people feel better.” – Jack laughed and squeezed his hand in reassurance. – “So, was that a yes to the date?”
Bunny looked down again, like he was fascinated by their joined hands, even though they had been holding hands for a while now.
“It is.” – He eventually said.
“Good.” – Jack nodded. – “You should get some sleep.”
“How is it possible that you’re not tired or even sleepy by now?” – Bunny raised his eyebrows.
“I don’t really know.” – Jack shrugged and took his hand back.
He almost melted at how Bunny clung to his hand for a brief second before letting go of it completely.
“Can I have your phone number?” – Bunny asked hopefully.
“Of course.” – Jack unlocked his phone and handed it to Bunny. – “Put your number in. It’s about time.”
“I feel like we’re doing things backward.” – Bunny commented as he called his own number. – “I can’t believe we kissed even before the first date.”
Jack laughed in amusement and he leaned in to kiss Bunny’s cheek. He saw the tighter grip on his phone and patted Bunny’s hair wordlessly to calm him.
“It’s daytime.” – Bunny said.
“So this … ” – Bunny gestured at the almost non-existent space between them. – “ … is happening, then?”
“Yes.” – Jack nodded and continued patting his hair. – “What does it have to do with daytime, Bunny?”
“I guess it makes it more real.” – Bunny smiled and handed the phone back to Jack. – “Alright, I really should go. I’ve been meaning to for a while now.”
“Fine.” – Jack sighed dramatically. – “I understand that you like sleep more than you like me.”
“Do you expect me to think otherwise?” – Bunny took off his seatbelt. – “I like sleep more than anything.” – “I’ll see you later then.”
He opened the door and quickly got out, closed it behind him and turned around to wave at Jack once before dashing inside the building.
Jack stared at his disappearing figure and chuckled to himself. He yawned and turned the car around, heading back home.
He felt so much better now.
It was when he was halfway home that a thought popped up in his head.
He should have kissed Bunny.
Taehyung purposely got to the set five minutes later than the meeting time, certain that they would all have arrived by now. Bogum and Minho, like him, were usually early to everything. And Minjae was punctual. But he felt bad for making them wait, so he bought coffee and donuts on the way.
Although Taehyung did not want to have anything to do with Bogum anymore, they were working together; and Bogum had explicitly asked Taehyung to help him. So out of professionalism, Taehyung agreed. But he knew it would be awkward with just the two of them, so he had texted Minho asking if he could come to their mini meeting. And he had also invited Minjae, because he was the other lead actor after all. It was going to be about the portrayal of the main characters, so it made sense to have both lead actors present with the director.
The filming would start in San Francisco and Seattle soon, since they finished filming all the scenes they could in Seoul; and as much as Taehyung wanted to go visit those places again, he felt like he needed to concentrate on completing his book.
Seeing him at the door, Minho waved and he smiled in return, walking over to where they were sitting. He paused when he saw the seating arrangement though. Minho and Minjae sat opposite of each other; and the open seat was next to Minjae, opposite of Bogum.
“Sorry I’m late.” – He set the coffee and donuts on the table. – “This is for you guys.”
“Hyung, you’re the best.” – Minjae said immediately. – “I haven’t had breakfast.”
“Glazed donut for Bogum-ssi, chocolate one for Minho-hyung, and sprinkled donut for you, Minjae.” – Taehyung smiled and sat down.
“That’s my favorite.” – Minho exclaimed.
“Mine too.” – Minjae added. – “Hyung, how do you know?”
Taehyung caught Bogum looking at him in surprise, so he busied himself by taking out the three espressos from the cup holder and kept the iced cappuccino for himself.
“Observation and memory.” – He replied.
Minjae looked at him with open gratitude while Minho chuckled and took out the donuts to divide them up. There were three in the bag.
“Where’s yours?” – Bogum asked.
“I don’t eat breakfast that often.” – Taehyung replied and took a sip of his cappuccino. – “Please go ahead and eat.”
Minho took a bite out of his donut and hummed appreciatively.
“You are an angel sent from heaven.” – He sighed happily.
“Are you talking to Taehyung-hyung or the donut, Director-ssi?” – Minjae asked cheekily.
“Of course it’s Taehyung.” – Minho replied and used his free hand to pat Taehyung’s cheek. – “You’re an angel.”
“That’s nice of you to say, hyung.” – Taehyung could only laugh.
He had seen Minjae and Minho ordering the same donuts every time he ate with them. As for Bogum, he remembered from all those years ago. Based on the look Bogum had given him, his taste had not changed.
“So you guys are going to the U.S. for filming next week?” – Taehyung asked.
“You’re not going with us?” – Bogum asked immediately.
“No, I have to work on my book.” – Taehyung shook his head.
“You know, since I’m already directing this movie, should I do the next one too, Taehyung-ah?” – Minho asked in a sweet tone.
“One thing at a time please hyung.” – Taehyung laughed again. – “The book is not even finished yet and you already want to make a movie.”
“Because I know everything you write will be amazing.” – Minho smiled.
He told himself that he should get used to hearing people compliment his book by now, because obviously there was something about it that made it worthy of being made into a movie. However, it still amazed him every time someone told him that they liked his book.
“So I have a question about the letter scene.” – Minho prompted. – “Bogum’s gonna do the voiceover for that, and Minjae is going to be reading it. What is the mood that you want to create in that scene? Like, when you were writing it, how did you imagine the feelings of the characters? Because I’ve read the book, and that scene in particular, so many times, and I cried every time. But I want to create your feelings, if that makes any sense. I understand that it’s one of the few times we really get to see Justin’s personal thoughts, as you stated in the analysis you sent me, but I just… I want to make it perfect.”
Taehyung nodded in understanding.
“I think since the book is mostly Jack’s point of view, we don’t really get to know Justin that well except through Jack’s eyes. But in the movie, I think you’re doing a wonderful job, both you Minho-hyung and Bogum-ssi, in showing us Justin’s perspective a lot more.”
“Thanks, Taehyung.” – Bogum smiled at him quickly.
“Minjae-ssi, did you cry when you read that part?” – Minho turned to Minjae and asked curiously.
“Of course I did.” – Minjae nodded right away. – “Who didn’t? And it’s worse since it’s right after Jack listens to all the voicemails left by Justin.”
“You don’t have to cry when you act.” – Taehyung scratched his head. – “I don’t know, as long as you’re emotional, I think we’ll be able to feel it.”
“Pretty sure I’m gonna cry, hyung.” – Minjae laughed. – “I just hope I’ll be able to convey the emotions that you want.”
“What if the two of you act that scene out, and Taehyung could give feedback on it?” – Minho suddenly suggested.
“Me? Feedback?” – Taehyung panicked. – “I know nothing about acting, hyung.”
But with Minho’s insistence, and Minjae’s puppy eyes, Taehyung had to agree. Luckily, both Minjae and Bogum seemed to had a deeper emotional understanding of the scene. Minho and Taehyung sometimes commented on their acting, but after about an hour of going through the scene, all of them were satisfied.
“What are you doing?”
Taehyung looked up from the couch. Jin was standing in the hallway, arms crossed, and looking at him with a serious expression.
“Chilling?” – Taehyung raised his eyebrows. – “Why are you looking at me like I did something wrong, hyung?”
“It’s your birthday, Taehyung-ah.” – Jin sighed and walked into the living room before sitting down next to Taehyung’s legs.
“Thank you hyung. You wished me a happy birthday already.”
“It mean it’s your birthday, you’re not allowed to mope around on the couch.” – Jin patted his leg a few times. – “It’s against the rules.”
“I’m not moping around.” – Taehyung scoffed. – “What makes you think that?”
“You’ve been looking at your phone and putting in down on the table every few seconds.” – Jin replied softly. – “He hasn’t called?”
Taehyung automatically looked at his phone again.
“No.” – He shook his head. – “It’s fine though. It’s not like he’s obligated to. We’re not… ”
Together. He bitterly thought. Has never been.
“I understand, Taehyung-ah.” – Jin soothed and patted his leg again. – “But it still hurts, right?”
“Right.” – He nodded at Jin’s words.
“We’re going out tonight.” – Jin declared.
“Who’s ‘we’?” – Taehyung asked curiously.
“You, me, Namjoon, obviously.” – Jin smiled. – “And I’m gonna call Minho and Minjae. Are you close to anyone else on the set?”
“Wait what?” – Taehyung sat up. – “You mean, going out as in partying? You want to invite Minho-hyung and Minjae out to party?”
“It’s your birthday.” – Jin shrugged. – “If you don’t like going clubbing, we can just have a nice dinner together or something.”
“Yes, that is more my type.” – Taehyung nodded. – “Plus, I don’t think Minjae and Minho-hyung will want to party. They have an image and a reputation to uphold.”
“Got it, just dinner then.” – Jin nodded and took out his phone. – “Start getting ready. I’m gonna call them now.”
“Sure.” – Taehyung nodded.
His phone started ringing and he almost leaped to the table. His heart sank when he saw Jimin’s name; and he felt bad for even feeling like that.
“Hi Jimin.” – He said in the most cheerful voice possible.
“Happy birthday again, Taehyung-ah!” – Jimin exclaimed. – “How is it?”
This surprised Taehyung a little bit. Jimin had just called last night when the clock changed to 12 am.
“Thanks again, best friend.” – Taehyung smiled, even though Jimin would not be able to see him. – “It’s been fine. I’m going out to dinner with Jin-hyung, Namjoon-hyung, and some friends later.”
There was a long pause before Jimin talked again.
“Is that everyone?” – Jimin asked curiously.
“So it’s only Minho-hyung, the director, and Minjae, the main actor.” – Taehyung confessed. – “I don’t know anyone else that well.”
Jimin was silent again.
“I see. Well, have fun!” – He finally said after a long while. – “Tell Jin-hyung and Namjoon-hyung I said hi.”
“I will. Bye Jimin-ah.”
Taehyung woke up when his phone kept vibrating. He opened one eye and scrunched at the brightness of the screen.
“Taehyung? Sorry did I wake you?” – Jimin asked apologetically.
“It’s fine. I got back really early this morning so I have just been sleeping. Don’t worry about it, what’s up?” – He rubbed his eyes a few times and pulled the blanket up over his head to avoid the sunlight.
“Sounds like you had fun last night.” – Jimin commented.
“Kinda. Dinner was fine, but I got a little sad at the end of the night so Jin-hyung, Namjoon-hyung, and I drank a lot when we get back to my apartment.” – Taehyung yawned and closed his eyes again.
“You were sad?” – Jimin asked in a soft voice. – “Sorry about that Tae.”
“It’s not y…” – Taehyung paused and opened his eyes. – “Did you just call me Tae?”
Jimin was suspiciously quiet.
“Jimin?” – Taehyung called. – “Are you still there?”
“I’m here.” – Jimin said quickly. – “I said Taehyung, maybe it’s just bad connections or something. Okay, you should go back to sleep now. I just wanted to talk to you for a bit so I called.”
“Don’t worry about it.” – Taehyung replied. – “I need to get up anyway. I have to go to the set in about an hour. It’s the last day and we’re gonna see a portion of the movie. Do you have any plans for today and tomorrow?”
“The three of us are gonna watch the fireworks tonight.” – Jimin answered.
Taehyung felt his heart skip a beat.
“That sounds really fun.” – He replied honestly. – “Will you… tell them I said hi?”
Jimin paused again. He seemed to do that a lot these days when he talked to Taehyung on the phone.
“Of course I will, Taehyung-ah. I’m gonna go have breakfast now. Have fun at work today, okay? Love you.”
“Love you too.” – Taehyung smiled. – “Bye Jimin.”
Jimin hung up the phone and glared at Jeongguk immediately.
“What have you done?” – He flared. – “Did you hear how sad he is? And he was sad on his birthday, Kookie.”
“I know.” – Jeongguk bowed his head in apology.
“Don’t be too hard on him, Jimin-ah.” – Yoongi patted Jimin’s shoulder to soothe him. – “This is hard for Jeongguk as well.”
“Taehyung sounded like he’s been crying.” – Jimin sighed. – “And it hurts me, so I know that it hurts you too.”
“It does.” – Jeongguk nodded and rubbed his eyes tiredly. – “I’m sorry, Jiminie.”
“I’m not the one you should apologize to.” – Jimin scratched his head and stood up. – “I still don’t understand why you did it, but it’s hurting both of you. Just figure it out soon, Jeongguk.”
“One second please.” – Taehyung replied as he was still typing away.
He was editing one of the final scenes of 4 O’clock. Afterwards, he only needed to send the whole thing to Namjoon and wait for his approval (or disapproval).
He rewrote the sentence and was about to look up at the person in front of him when the word was finally processed in his mind.
The filming was done and today they were watching a snippet of the movie. But Minho and Minjae and almost everyone else had not arrived, so Taehyung was sure there was no way he could get out of this conversation.
He took a deep breath, saved his work, closed his laptop, and looked up.
“Still working hard on the book huh?” – Bogum smiled.
It seemed like a genuine smile, but Taehyung had kept his guard up whenever he was around Bogum these days, so he was not sure.
“Self-editing.” – He replied politely. – “How can I help you?”
“Do you mind if I sit down first?”
Bogum pointed at the empty chair in front of Taehyung, so he had no choice but nod. Bogum smiled again and sat down.
“Thank you for writing the book.” – Bogum said.
Taehyung blinked. He did not expect this.
“Thank you for making my character come alive.” – Still, he replied honestly.
As much as he regretted his past relationship with Bogum, Taehyung had to admit that he was a great actor. Admittedly, he had never imagined Justin being portrayed by his ex-boyfriend, but Bogum did a wonderful job and Taehyung felt like he was able to understand his own character more than before.
“I’m sorry.” – Bogum said in a truthful tone.
Taehyung also did not expect this.
“For what?” – He asked, trying to keep his voice nonchalant.
He had an idea of what Bogum wanted to say, but he did not want to bring up the past anymore. Which was why he was asking himself why he even prompted the conversation, if he was dreading it.
“For how I treated you when we were together.” – Bogum replied. – “I was selfish, and manipulative, and controlling, and overly jealous. And you deserved someone so much better than that.”
Why do you think I broke up with you? Taehyung almost interrupted.
“I regretted everything that I did to you. And I had hoped that I would see you again someday. Which was why I was really surprised when I saw you at the casting audition, and I have been thinking of an apology.” – Bogum took a deep breath before continuing. – “I know this does not erase all the hurt I’ve caused you, and I’m not sure if you can ever forgive me, but I still want to say that I’m sorry.”
Taehyung did not know how to respond.
“And I’ve wanted to apologized to you for a while, but it’s really hard to talk to you one on one.” – Bogum explained.
That was on purpose, Taehyung wanted to say.
Surprisingly, hearing Bogum’s apology, Taehyung realized that he was no longer bitter or resentful. Sure, it was an unhealthy relationship, but he was not in it anymore; and he felt like holding on to past grudges just weighed him down.
“Apology accepted.” – He looked at Bogum, whose eyes widened in surprise. – “And I’m not saying that just because today’s the last day and I will probably never have to talk to you again.” – Taehyung cringed, wondering why he felt the need to add that. – “I accept your apology. Yes, you didn’t treat me well when we were together, but thank you for recognizing that and owning up to your mistakes. And after all, it’s a long time ago anyway. You didn’t have to apologize, but you did, so thank you for that, Bogum-ssi. It means a lot to me.”
Bogum blinked rapidly and leaned forward in his seat.
“You’re… you’re okay with it?” – He asked in disbelief.
“Yeah.” – Taehyung nodded easily. – “Water under the bridge. I really appreciate your apology though.”
“I see.” – Bogum nodded along. – “Well, thank you for being so nice.”
He put his hand in his jacket pocket and took out a small but long box and put it on the table.
“Happy belated birthday, Taehyung.” – He continued when he saw Taehyung’s surprise. – “Please don’t freak out. It’s just a pen.”
Taehyung carefully took the box and opened the lid. He almost could not believe his eyes when he saw the present. Back when Taehyung was still in college, he wrote everything by hand before typing them into the computer; and he had wanted to have a special pen for writing, but he had never gotten the chance to buy it. Recently, he had been typing more than writing by hand, so this pen had slipped his mind entirely. But somehow, Bogum still remembered.
“Thank you, Bogum-ssi.” – Taehyung picked up the pen with care and observed it. It was the exact model that he had wanted all those years ago. – “This is very thoughtful. I can’t believe you still remember that I like this.”
“You remember that I like glazed donuts.” – Bogum shrugged. – “Funny how memory works sometimes.”
“Thank you, again.” – Taehyung repeated and put the pen back in the box. – “It’s nice enough of you to wish me a happy birthday, but you even got me a gift.”
Bogum smiled at him; and Taehyung smiled back, the first genuinely smile he had directed at Bogum in years.
Jeongguk stared at the package in his hand and opened it slowly. It was sent by Taehyung, so Jeongguk felt like he already knew what was inside. Still, he felt a rush when he saw the words 4 O’clock on the cover of the book. He carefully picked it up, and was surprised to see another book under it.
Jeongguk wondered why Taehyung had sent him this, since he would have known that Jeongguk had already read the book.
But then Jeongguk remembered that Taehyung had promised to give Jeongguk a copy, with something written inside. Somehow this excited Jeongguk more even more than having a copy of 4 O’clock in his possession.
His phone started vibrating so Jeongguk put the book on the table and picked up his phone. He was not even surprised Jimin was calling him.
“Jiminie, did you get your package too?” – He asked instead of a greeting.
“I did!” – Jimin exclaimed. – “I just called Taehyung to thank him. He actually sent two copies, one for me and one for Yoongi-hyung.”
“That’s considerate of him.” – Jeongguk commented.
“Have you talked to him yet?” – Jimin asked carefully.
Jeongguk paused and looked down at the other book in the box.
“No.” – He replied and picked up Stigma.
The book looked new, but there were a few scratches on the spine. He then opened the book carefully; and Taehyung’s handwriting immediately greeted him on the first page.
“Tokki, I realized that I never gave you a copy the last time you were in Seoul. This particular one is special to me because this is the one I reread when the movie was being filmed. There’re some notations so I hope you don’t mind.”
Jeongguk inhaled deeply. Nope, he did not mind at all. In fact, it was so thoughtful of Taehyung to send Jeongguk a copy that he had read, because it made it so much more personal.
It also made Jeongguk want to cry a little, but he chose not to focus on that feeling bubbling in his chest right now.
“Kookie? Are you still there?”
Jimin’s voice through the phone made Jeongguk blink. Right, he was talking to Jimin before being distracted by Taehyung’s thoughtfulness.
“Yeah I’m here.” – Jeongguk replied. – “Sorry, I was just staring at the book.”
“I feel you. That’s what I’m doing too. Yoongi-hyung asked me to wait for him to come home and then we’ll read it together. But now I’m so tempted.” – Jimin sighed.
Jeongguk laughed because that was relatable.
“Okay.” – He replied. – “I’ll talk to you later then. I’m gonna go read my book now.”
“You little…” – Jimin yelled.
“Bye Jiminie.” – Jeongguk laughed again and hung up.
His attention was back to Stigma immediately. He flipped through the pages and smiled when he saw Taehyung’s handwriting on the edges. Then he turned to the last page of the book because the ending always got him.
Taehyung did not write anything on this page. But there were shadows of words on the following page, the very last page of the book.
“If you’re crying, please go read 4 O’clock immediately. It’s happier, I promise.”
Jeongguk chuckled and exhaled. He really wanted to talk to Taehyung right now.
Taehyung tightened his tie and looked in the mirror. A year ago, he never would have imagined being where he was now. It still seemed surreal because he was about to attend the premiere of the movie made based on his book, with his next book coming out in just under a month.
He heard the doorbell and Jin’s voice saying that he would get it. Taehyung smiled to himself and looked at the mirror again.
His hair was blond now. He had not dyed this color since he was still in college. But with everything that had happened, he had felt like changing something about himself; and alternating his appearance was way easier than his personality.
There was a soft knock on this door. Taehyung looked at his watch and realized that he still had almost twenty minutes left until they had to leave.
He crossed the room and paused when he heard Jin’s voice, but far away, like in the living room. Taehyung just assumed then that Namjoon was the one who wanted to talk to him right now.
He opened the door and almost closed it out of shock.
“Hi Tae.” – Jeongguk smiled nervously at him.
“Tokki.” – Taehyung cleared his throat. – “I mean, Jeongguk, hi. Uhm… you’re here.”
Jeongguk’s smile dimmed a little bit, but then he looked at Taehyung’s hair and his eyes lit up.
“You’re blond.” – He exclaimed.
“Yes I am.” – Taehyung nodded and stepped to the side. – “Uhm… do you want to come in?”
He just now realized that Jeongguk was wearing a black suit and looked extremely gorgeous. Normally he was beautiful already, but Taehyung thought that he was even more captivating tonight.
Jeongguk walked in slowly and paused after Taehyung closed the door. The air between them was different now, a little tense, but still charged with unresolved tension.
“I promised that I would come to the premiere with you.” – Jeongguk explained.
“Right.” – Taehyung remembered now.
But that was before they were…
“I really like your hair.” – Jeongguk smiled at him again.
Taehyung just wanted to cross the distance and pulled him into his arms.
“I like your suit.” – He said instead, frozen in place.
“Thank you.” – Jeongguk chuckled. – “Yoongi-hyung and Jiminie helped me choose it. They said that I need to look presentable.”
“You look really great.” – Taehyung had no idea what he had said that, but he figured he might as well go all out. – “Like… your outfit is so well put-together and you’re beautiful.”
Jeongguk just stared at him without blinking for a few seconds. And then he put his hand in his pocket and took out a small box.
“This is for you.” – His voice was a little shaky. – “Congratulations, Taehyung. I am so proud of you and I think you deserve all the best things in the world.”
So you’re not one of them then? Taehyung bitterly thought, but quickly pushed that thought aside and opened up his palm.
Jeongguk put the box in his hand and gently put his own hands around Taehyung’s palm to close it. Taehyung stopped breathing for a few moments because Jeongguk kept his hands there.
“I’m really sorry for what happened, Tae.” – Jeongguk said, looking at their joined hands.
“You apologized already.” – Taehyung replied in an understanding voice. – “I thought that we left on good terms?”
“We did.” – Jeongguk nodded and squeezed Taehyung’s hand. – “But I’m still sorry. I thought about it every day since you left.”
“You mean since I returned to Seoul.” – Taehyung corrected. – “My apartment is here, Jeongguk. I didn’t have a place in Busan.”
“You had me.” – Jeongguk whispered. – “You still have me.”
Their eyes met and Taehyung was taken aback at the sincerity present in Jeongguk’s eyes. Jeongguk still looked at him the same way he had done months ago, back before everything went to hell.
And Taehyung was sure his own feelings were still the same.
“I…” – Taehyung paused when there was a knock on his door again.
“We’re leaving in five minutes.” – Jin said from outside the door.
“Okay, thanks hyung.” – Taehyung replied quickly and turned his attention back to Jeongguk.
His hands were still around Taehyung’s and it seemed like he had no intention of letting it go any time soon.
“Are you staying here tonight?” – Taehyung asked softly.
“… If I still can?” – Jeongguk blinked, like he had not considered that Taehyung would ask this question. – “Sorry, I can go somewhere else if it’s more convenient for you.”
Taehyung smiled and put his other hand around Jeongguk’s and squeezed it.
“Of course you can stay with m… here. Stay here.” – Taehyung corrected himself. – “I always love it when you do.”
“Okay.” – Jeongguk nodded quickly. – “Thank you.”
“Would it be alright if we continued this conversation later?” – Taehyung removed his hand on top of Jeongguk’s to look at his watch. – “We have to leave now.”
“Sure.” – Jeongguk nodded again and took his hands back as well.
“Thank you for the gift.” – Taehyung smiled warmly. – “And for coming. I’m glad you’re here, Tokki.”
Jeongguk’s eyes lit up at the nickname and he grinned and Taehyung felt like he had fallen even more in love. He tried to push down the feeling swelling up in his chest and headed for the door.
Thank you so much for reading! The last chapter will be up as soon as I finish editing it :D
Here is the final chapter of the story. It's slightly longer than usual because of the epilogue :D
I'm really sorry for the long wait. Grad school is hard...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Have you lost weight?”
Taehyung blinked a few times and turned to Jeongguk, who was pointedly looking at his own shoes when asking that question.
“I don’t really know.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “I sleep a lot less, but I still eat the same amount as usual.”
“You don’t even eat all that much.” – Jeongguk replied with a hint of pain in his voice. – “Is it… is it because of all the stress you’re under?”
Taehyung thought about it for a while. He had finished writing 4 O’clock and the book was scheduled to release in less than a month. He had also been visiting the set of Stigma almost every day for the past few months in preparation for the release of the movie. Usually writing was his job, but he had spent a lot of time with the producing crew lately and he really enjoyed it.
“Not stress, exactly.” – Taehyung shook his head. – “I’ve been a bit busy so there hasn’t been a lot of time for sleeping.”
“I really like 4 O’clock.” – Jeongguk mentioned. – “Thank you so much for sending me the books, by the way.”
“Well, I promised.” – Taehyung smiled warmly. – “I’m glad you enjoy it. Did you cry as well?” – He added as an afterthought.
“A little bit, but like in a happy, fulfilled way.” – Jeongguk replied. – “Jack is happy, so I’m happy.”
Taehyung nodded along and looked outside the window when the car slowed down. They were approaching the movie theater.
“We’re almost there.” – He looked at Jeongguk.
Jeongguk visibly gulped and peered outside. There were a lot of photographers and the lights were flashing every second.
“There are so many people.” – He murmured.
“Yeah.” – Taehyung agreed. – “I kinda want to just skip the whole red carpet thing and just head inside.”
“Jin-hyung will kill you if you do that.” – Jeongguk stared at him in horror.
“Yes he will.” – Taehyung sighed. – “But it’s still fun to think about that, you know? I’m not really into the whole spotlight thing.”
“Tae, I’m pretty sure everyone is expecting you.” – Jeongguk turned sideways so that he was facing Taehyung. – “Tonight is your night.”
That did not help Taehyung one bit.
“I’m totally not feeling pressured at all.” – He huffed.
Jeongguk sighed and looked down at his hands. Then he reached over and held both of Taehyung’s hands.
“Please listen to me, Tae.” – He said in a sincere voice. – “Tonight is a celebration for you. You’re the reason that there is a movie called Stigma right now. You are so great and wonderful and creative and you have written a terrific book. I am so proud of you, okay? I know you’re probably tired of hearing that but…”
“Not from you.” – Taehyung cut in. – “Never from you.”
Jeongguk paused and smiled softly at him. There was the same warmth that Taehyung used to bask in back when they were… them, back when he could lean in and kiss Jeongguk whenever they were this close to each other.
Taehyung blamed it on his nerves, his never-ending reminiscence of the past, and the familiarity and surrealism of Jeongguk being here for what he was about to do.
He took his hands out of Jeongguk’s and placed one of them on Jeongguk’s cheek and the other behind his neck to pull him in closer.
Strangely enough, Jeongguk was the one who closed the final distance between their lips.
“Missed you. Missed you so goddamn much that I slept in your room whenever I stayed at Yoongi-hyung and Jiminie’s house.” – Jeongguk murmured between the kisses.
Taehyung was overwhelmed with emotions: happy that they were kissing again, bitter that this might be the last time, surprised that Jeongguk would be this vulnerably open to him, and dreadful that they would need to have a conversation about this sooner or later. But he pushed those thoughts away when Jeongguk nipped his lower lips and pulled him in closer.
“The bed sheet still smells like you. And Geureum misses you too. He keeps smelling your T-shirt. Did you know you leave one at my house? I brought all your stuffs back to Jiminie’s but I kept that T-shirt and the Totoro plushie.”
They were still kissing and it was familiar yet different at the same time. And when Jeongguk let go of him, there was a look in his eyes that made Taehyung realized there was more to what he said.
“I missed you too.” – Taehyung responded instead. – “More than I ever expected to, actually.”
Jeongguk stared at him for a while. He opened his mouth a few times to say something but the words never came out.
“We’re here.” – Taehyung sighed when the car came to a stop.
The photographers stopped taking pictures of other people and started walking toward them. Jin and Namjoon stepped out of the other car and began talking to Minho and Minjae.
“How are you feeling about this?” – Taehyung faced Jeongguk and asked in a serious voice.
“About what?” – Jeongguk raised his eyebrows. – “Us?”
That was a whole other topic that he did not have time to think about right now.
“Uh…” – He stammered.
“Shit, it’s not.” – Jeongguk sighed and nervously scratched his hair. – “You mean about this, right now. I’m okay, actually. But I’m gonna support whatever you want to do. If you want to run straight to the theater, I’ll follow you. And if you want to walk the red carpet, I’ll be there by your side.”
“That’s… that’s one of the sweetest things anyone’s ever said to me.” – Taehyung smiled. – “Okay, let’s do this. You’re gonna be with me right?”
“Always.” – Jeongguk nodded, but his smile faltered a bit when he realized what he had just said. – “I said that back then as well, huh?”
“Let’s just… let’s just talk about this, I mean us, later.” – Taehyung sighed. – “Okay, let’s go. Jin-hyung’s looking at our car and looking down at his watch repeatedly so I think we had to be on the carpet like five minutes ago.”
Jeongguk nodded and put his hand on the door handle, but Taehyung placed his own hand on his arm to stop him.
“I’ll open it. You’re my date.” – He smiled and opened the door.
This time Jeongguk was the one who pulled him back and kissed him deeply.
“You’ll be amazing.” – Jeongguk whispered to Taehyung’s lips.
Taehyung sighed happily. He wondered how his life had gotten to be this great. He stepped out of the car, smiling politely at the swarm of photographers and the non-stop flashing lights. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Minho walking over. He walked to Jeongguk’s side and opened the car door, extending his hand to Jeongguk’s surprise.
“What are you doing?” – Jeongguk asked nervously.
“Give me your hand.” – Taehyung smiled at him. – “You’re my date, Tokki.”
“Are you sure about this?” – Jeongguk stared at his hand in hesitation. – “Taehyung, you’ll be holding hands with a normal guy.”
“I’m sure. And you’ll be holding hands with an author.” – He suddenly realized. – “How do you feel about that?”
“I feel great.” – Jeongguk smiled and put his hand in Taehyung’s while getting out of the car.
Taehyung noticed that Jin was surprised when he saw them holding hands; and a part of him wondered if he should have mentioned this to Jin before doing it. But then Jin smiled at the pair of them so Taehyung pushed that thought aside, shifting his attention back to the warmth of Jeongguk’s hand in his.
They walked across the carpet, stopping and smiling at the cameras a few times before reaching the entrance to the theater, where everyone else was waiting.
“V-ssi, you look wonderful.” – One of the interviewers smiled politely at Taehyung. – “How are you feeling tonight? And you brought along such a good-looking date!”
She extended the microphone in front of him so Taehyung flashed Jin a questioning look. He received a slight nod in response so he pulled Jeongguk closer to him.
“I’m pretty nervous, but excited as well.” – Taehyung smiled. – “And I have a wonderful date, so tonight will be great.”
“He’s the most important person tonight!” – Minho came over and patted Taehyung’s shoulder affectionately. – “Without him, we wouldn’t be here.”
“Hyung, what are you talking about?” – Taehyung laughed bashfully.
Jeongguk squeezed his hand and Taehyung looked back at him. The interviewer wished them a happy evening before leaving them at the entrance.
“This is Jeongguk, my date.” – Taehyung squeezed his hand back and stepped back a little so Minho could see him. – “This is Minho-hyung, the director of the movie.”
“It’s very nice to meet you, Minho-ssi.” – Jeongguk extended his hand and Minho happily shook it.
“You’re Jeonggukie! I’ve heard so many good things about you.” – Minho greeted him delightedly. – “Taehyung-ah, you have wonderful taste.”
Taehyung laughed when he saw Jeongguk’s face getting redder.
“He’s amazing.” – Taehyung smiled and looked at him fondly.
“He used to go on and on about you when we were filming.” – Minho fake-whispered and pointed his finger at Taehyung. – “Never talked a lot about anything except Stigma and you.”
“Hyung, I did not!!” – Taehyung gasped, scandalized. – “What are you doing? Stop embarrassing me in front of my date!”
Minho proceeded to ignore him completely and just focused on Jeongguk.
“But your boyfriend is a very wonderful person, isn’t he?”
Taehyung tensed immediately and saw a look of panic in Jin’s eyes. Jeongguk glanced at Taehyung briefly but it seemed like decades. All the brain cells in Taehyung’s mind were looking for a response that would both answer the question and ignore the “boyfriend” part.
But then Jeongguk looked back at Minho and smiled while holding Taehyung’s hand even more tightly, interlacing their fingers together.
“He’s perfect.” – He replied in the most honest tone Taehyung had known.
In that moment, Taehyung was reminded of the conversation he had with Jeongguk on his birthday. It seemed ironic that the first time Jeongguk acknowledged Taehyung as his boyfriend was now, when they were over.
They went inside the theater quickly afterwards. Taehyung introduced Minjae and Bogum to Jeongguk, who looked starstruck for a few moments before holding onto Taehyung’s hand even more tightly to Taehyung’s amusement. Taehyung also saw Bogum looking at the two of them quizzically before putting on the ever polite smile.
“There are so many famous people here.” – Jeongguk whispered when they sat down at the reserved row next to Namjoon and Jin.
“It’s a movie premiere baby.” – Taehyung smiled and took out his phone to put it on silence. – “I think Minho-hyung has the seat next to us. Do you want to sit next to him or should we switch?”
He looked at Jeongguk and realized Jeongguk was staring at him with an unreadable expression on his face.
“What’s wrong?” – Taehyung asked, eyebrows raised.
“You just called me baby.” – Jeongguk explained before looking away and standing up quickly. – “We can switch if you want to. Not sure I have a lot to talk about with Minho-ssi.”
Taehyung blinked a few times, let go of Jeongguk’s hand, and stood up as they changed seats. Jeongguk was still not looking at him.
“Sorry, it was out of habit.” – He apologized.
“It’s fine. I don’t mind.” – Jeongguk immediately said and laced their hands back together. – “I’m just… surprised, is all.”
Taehyung himself was surprised. The word just came out before he had realized what he was saying.
Jeongguk turned to Jin and started talking to him. A short while later, Minho sat down next to Taehyung and they chatted about the movie. When the light dimmed and everyone was quiet, Taehyung suddenly realized that he was still holding hands with Jeongguk.
It was a comforting feeling. And Taehyung told himself that he should savor the moment instead of reminiscing about the past and what could have been.
But he also reminded himself that they were not together anymore.
Actually, they had never been together, just almost.
Somehow that thought hurt even more.
When the lights came up, Taehyung immediately looked over to Jeongguk, wanting to know his thoughts. But the question never left his mouth, because Jeongguk was crying.
“Tokki, are you alright? What’s wrong?” – Taehyung squeezed his hand.
“I’m fine.” – Jeongguk wiped away his tears quickly using his free hand. – “It’s just… the movie is really good, Tae. It’s a wonderful adaptation of your book.”
Taehyung felt his heart swell up and he had to resist the urge to kiss Jeongguk right now. Instead, he settled for pulling him into a one-arm hug, while still holding his hand.
“Thank you.” – He murmured to Jeongguk’s shoulder. – “It means a lot to me that you like it.”
“Minho-ssi, you’re a phenomenal director.” – Jeongguk said to Minho, who was looking at them with an amused expression.
“Thank you, Jeonggukie.” – He replied. – “It’s mostly because of the storyline and the actors.”
“What are you talking about, hyung?” – Taehyung let go of Jeongguk and turned to look at Minho. – “You’re the director, you made the movie what it is.”
Jin silently tapped Jeongguk’s shoulder so Jeongguk and Taehyung stood up. People were beginning to leave the theater. Some of them congratulated Minjae and Bogum on the way out, as they were standing near the exit and thanking everyone for coming.
“Do Jihan wants to interview you.” – Jin murmured. – “He only contacted me just now. But he’s waiting for you by the entrance of the theater.”
“Again?” – Taehyung asked in surprise.
“Yes.” – Jin nodded. – “He wants to know your reaction of the movie. Remember to mention that your new book will come out on February 8.”
Taehyung looked at Jeongguk apologetically. Jeongguk just smiled in understanding and let go of his hand.
“I’ll wait for you with Jin-hyung and Namjoon-hyung.” – He said reassuringly. – “Have fun. You’ll be amazing.”
“I’ll see you guys later then.” – Taehyung smiled and started walking toward the door.
As expected, Jihan was leaning against wall, talking on the phone. When he saw Taehyung, he smiled quickly and said his goodbye before hanging up.
“It’s good to see you again, Taehyung.” – He extended his hand. – “You look great. Love the blond hair.”
“Thank you, hyung. It’s been a while since I last saw you. How have you been?”
“I’m doing well.” – Jihan replied. – “Is it okay if we talk somewhere more private? I saw some empty sofas in the lounge when I first arrived.”
Taehyung nodded and followed him. He was glad Jihan suggested this place because he did not want to take any attention away from Minjae, Bogum, and Minho, who he thought were the most important people of the evening.
“Thank you for agreeing to this, by the way.” – Jihan said. – “I know it’s quite last minute.”
“No problem at all, hyung.” – Taehyung replied politely.
“Okay. So it’s like last time, except I’ll be recording you instead of filming. And I’ll send you the interview before it’s printed. It won’t be published until you’re completely okay with everything. Also, at any time you want to, you can say ‘off the record’ and I will not use that information.”
“I’ll just be asking about the movie and the upcoming book release.” – Jihan explained. – “So just relax, okay? You’ll be fine.”
“You know about my book?” – Taehyung asked, eyebrows raised. – “How?”
“Your manager just texted me.” – Jihan smiled. – “He told me to ask you to talk about it.”
Taehyung laughed. Jin was such a thoughtful person.
“Should we get started?” – Jihan prompted.
“Okay hyung.” – Taehyung replied.
True to his words, Jihan asked about the movie and the process of filming. Then he asked about the release of 4 O’clock and whether it was a sequel to Stigma.
“It is the continuation and completion of the story, yes.” – Taehyung said. – “I feel like I’m finally happy with where the story ends and my characters finally have the endings they deserve.”
“That sounds a little ominous, V-ssi.” – Jihan joked.
“Ah, sorry.” – Taehyung laughed. – “Don’t worry, all of my characters get their happy ending. It just depends on how ‘happy’ is defined.”
“You’re giving me a heart attack right now.” – Jihan sighed. – “I can’t wait to read the book, which will be released on February 8.” – He closed his notepad and suddenly looked at Taehyung in all seriousness. – “Is it okay if we talk about your personal life a little V-ssi? After the last interview I did with you, I received so many tweets and comments asking if you’re single.”
Taehyung stared at him for a few moments in disbelief.
“Off the record?” – Jihan picked up the recorder.
“No, it’s fine.” – Taehyung shook his head. – “I’m seeing someone at the moment.”
“That’s nice.” – Jihan nodded. – “Did you bring that person to the premiere?”
It took Taehyung less than one second to answer this time.
“Off the record.”
Jihan smiled in understanding.
“That concludes the interview.” – He pressed the stop button on the recorder. – “Thank you so much again for doing this, Taehyung. I can send a copy to you in three to four days.”
“You don’t have to keep thanking me, hyung. I’m the one who should say that since you’re interviewing me.”
“I’ll let you get back to your date now.” – Jihan smiled and stood up, leading Taehyung back to the entrance of the theater. He saw Namjoon talking with Jeongguk, and Jin was standing next to them, talking on the phone.
Jeongguk saw him first, and smiled brightly.
Taehyung automatically smiled back.
“All done?” – Namjoon asked and shook hands with Jihan when they came closer.
“Yes. Apologies for the wait.” – Jihan replied and turned to Jeongguk. – “I think we have met before? Ah, you went with Taehyung to the last interview we did, right?”
Jeongguk stared at Taehyung before smiling at Jihan.
“Yes, it’s nice to see you again, Jihan-ssi.”
Jihan nodded in understanding and smiled at everyone, gesturing outside.
“Well, I’m gonna get going. It was really nice talking to you guys.” – He turned to face Taehyung before continuing. – “Bye Taehyung-ah, I’ll send you the written interview soon.”
“Bye hyung.” – Taehyung replied.
“Should we head home?” – Namjoon asked after Jihan had left.
Jin finished talking on the phone and turned to them.
“I have some business to take care of.” – He sighed. – “Namjoon, do you mind driving me?” – He looked at Jeongguk and Taehyung then. – “Can you guys get home on your own?”
“I don’t mind.” – Namjoon shook his head quickly and looked at Taehyung. – “You have your keys with you right?”
Taehyung nodded immediately.
“Okay, sorry Jeongguk, Taehyung. We’ll probably head home afterwards so I’ll see you guys tomorrow.” – Jin apologized. – “Namjoon-ah, let’s go.”
“Bye guys.” – Namjoon waved at them before walking toward the garage with Jin.
Taehyung watched them leave and felt Jeongguk stepping closer to him.
“How was the interview?” – Jeongguk asked gently.
“It was fine. I didn’t get nervous all that much.” – Taehyung smiled. – “Do you want to get going now?”
The car that drove them to the premiere stopped in front of them and Taehyung turned to face Jeongguk, waiting for his answer.
“Can we… can we get something to eat? I didn’t eat anything on the train ride.” – Jeongguk said, embarrassed.
“Of course we can.” – Taehyung responded immediately. – “Do you want to take a walk?” – Seeing Jeongguk nod, he continued. – “Okay, I’ll tell the driver we can get home ourselves and we’ll get going.”
Taehyung explained himself to the driver, thanked him for driving them, and gave him a big tip then walked back to Jeongguk.
“Can we eat jajangmyeon?” – Jeongguk asked softly.
“Sure.” – Taehyung agreed immediately.
Taehyung was not hungry, so he sat there and watched Jeongguk eat. They sat opposite of each other this time, which was fine to Taehyung, since he was not sure he could handle sitting next to Jeongguk right now.
Of course, he had not taken into consideration the fact that he would be looking straight at Jeongguk. It still seemed surreal he was actually here.
“Are you sure you don’t want to eat anything, Tae?” – Jeongguk asked.
He was picking up the noodles with his chopsticks, but stopped midway when he saw Taehyung staring.
“I’m sure.” – Taehyung smiled at him and took out his phone. – “Can I take a picture of you?”
“Yes.” – Jeongguk nodded slowly. – “But why?”
Because I miss you. Because you’re really here and I’m still having trouble believing that. Taehyung thought.
“You look good.” – He said instead.
Jeongguk raised his eyebrows but quickly smiled when Taehyung pointed the phone at him. Taehyung was not lying. Jeongguk looked really good like this.
“How have you been? How’s school? And Geureum?” – The questions flew out of him before he had a chance to think them through.
“Geureum’s fine.” – Jeongguk replied. – “And I stopped working at the café since I’m taking a lot of classes this quarter.”
“Are they all heavy classes?” – Taehyung grimaced. He got stressed just thinking about classes and school in general.
“Capstones and stuff.” – Jeongguk looked back down at his hands. – “I’m graduating in March.”
“You’re graduating early.” – He said.
“Yeah. That’s why I had to add extra classes this quarter so that they let me graduate in March. It’s just two classes more than usual, so it’s not too bad.” – Jeongguk explained.
“I see.” – Taehyung nodded and smiled sincerely. – “Congratulations. It’s great that you can graduate early. I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks Tae.” – Jeongguk smiled back before continuing eating. – “How was… how was your birthday party?”
“It was…” – Taehyung started, but then paused. – “Wait, how did you know I had a birthday party?”
Jeongguk froze and looked like he was caught doing something illegal.
“I… It was… a logical assumption.” – He stuttered and looked down again. – “You know, it’s the day before New Year’s Eve, and it was a weekend, so… party.”
Taehyung observed him for a few moments. Jeongguk resumed eating, like nothing was wrong, but he seemed nervous. And Taehyung would have believed him, had he said that he had asked Jimin about it, but Jeongguk did not mention this at all.
“Tokki.” – Taehyung said quietly. – “How did you know?”
Jeongguk sighed and put down his chopsticks.
“I was in Seoul that day.” – He confessed. – “And I went to your apartment. But then I saw Minho-ssi and Minjae-ssi arrive and you, Namjoon-hyung, and Jin-hyung, were about to leave with them. So I just… I went home.”
His voice got even more quiet at the end; and Taehyung wanted to cry.
“Why didn’t you call me?” – Taehyung tried to keep his voice steady.
“It was meant to be a surprise, Tae.” – Jeongguk murmured.
“Baby, you went all the way to Seoul for my birthday.” – Taehyung reached over and placed his hand on top of Jeongguk’s. – “That’s so sweet.”
“I would have liked to talked to you.” – Jeongguk looked at their joined hands and said wistfully.
“Why didn’t you?” – Taehyung asked again. – “I would have loved to see you and talk to you as well.”
“I don’t know.” – Jeongguk replied. – “You looked really good and you were about to leave with famous people. I didn’t want to impose on that.”
“Baby.” – Taehyung held his hand and looked straight at him. – “Seeing you would have made my birthday a thousand times better. I only went out because Jin-hyung was sick of me moping and around the house and being all… angsty.”
“Why?” – Jeongguk asked worriedly.
“Because I haven’t been talking to you. Well, I suppose we stopped talking before that. But it was my birthday, and you didn’t contact me at all.” – Taehyung replied honestly.
It sounded silly talking about it now. But at the time, Taehyung had been really sad and Jin had had to call up the others in an attempt to cheer him up.
“I’m sorry Tae.” – Jeongguk laced their fingers together. – “Happy belated birthday.”
“Thank you.” – Taehyung smiled sincerely. – “And thanks for coming all the way from Busan to see me.”
Jeongguk smiled back, one of the smile where his crinkles appeared at the outer part of his eyes and his teeth were visible. And Taehyung looked at him, feeling like he was caught off guard.
There was so much adoration and love in that smile.
“I’m gonna keep eating this before it becomes two bowls.” – Jeongguk looked at the jajangmyeon and reached for his chopsticks.
Taehyung blinked and took his hand back quickly.
“Good idea.” – He said, trying to think of anything else beside Jeongguk in an attempt to make his heart stop beating so fast.
Afterwards, they decided to walk back to the apartment instead of calling a cab. Jeongguk still enjoyed Seoul very much; and he kept taking pictures of the nightlife in the city.
“I’m sorry I didn’t go sightseeing with you a lot the last time you were here.” – Taehyung apologized.
Jeongguk was currently pointing his phone at Taehyung.
“Don’t worry about it Tae.” – He quickly said and came closer to put an arm around Taehyung. – “Smile.”
It reminded Taehyung of the picture they had taken in front of the train station the first time Jeongguk had visited Seoul.
“Should we head back or do you want to walk around for a little while?” – Taehyung asked after Jeongguk had taken the picture.
“We can go back.” – Jeongguk replied and put his phone back in his pocket. – “How long is the walk to the apartment?”
“About twenty minutes from here.” – Taehyung estimated. – “Or I can call a taxi?”
“It’s fine. I like walking, hyung.” – Jeongguk waved his hand in dismissal.
“There you go again with the random honorifics.” – Taehyung shook his head. – “Just wanting to catch me off guard, huh?”
“You know me.” – Jeongguk laughed.
They walked in comfortable silence. Sometimes Jeongguk would stop to take pictures; and Taehyung would patiently wait for him.
At one point, their hands brushed against each other. Taehyung thought it was a coincidence and did not mind it too much, but it kept happening again and again.
So Taehyung held on to Jeongguk’s hand the next time it touched his.
Jeongguk turned his hand so he could lace their fingers together.
For the first time in a long time, Taehyung felt like his heart was soaring.
It was when they reached the door of the apartment, still holding hands, that Taehyung realized maybe Jin had set this up. It was too convenient that he just happened to receive a call and ask Namjoon to leave with him, and that both of them were not staying the night at Taehyung’s.
“I’m gonna give Jimin a call.” – Taehyung said as he unlocked the door. – “Feel free to take a shower and relax. Did you bring clothes?”
“Yes.” – Jeongguk pointed at the backpack on the sofa. – “That’s mine.”
“Okay, just make yourself at home. The guest room is made up.” - Taehyung took out his phone. – “I’m gonna call…”
He stopped when he saw Jeongguk’s change of expression. He looked sadder.
“What’s wrong?” – Taehyung asked in a soft voice.
“Nothing.” – Jeongguk blinked and the sadness disappeared, even just for a moment. – “Call him, I’m borrowing your shower.”
“There’re three showers Tokki. Choose whichever one you like.” – Taehyung said with a smile and started walking to his room.
He turned around too quickly and missed Jeongguk’s pained expression.
“Taehyung-ah, how was the premiere?” – Jimin picked up after the first ring, like he had expected Taehyung’s call.
“It was fine, a bit surreal for me. There were so many people. It’s too bad you and Yoongi-hyung couldn’t make it.” – Taehyung replied. He thought for a second before continuing. – “So Jeongguk’s here.”
“Thanks for sending us the tickets for the showing in Busan though. Did you enjoy the surprise?” – Jimin asked hopefully. – “I was so happy when he said he wanted to go, since you weren’t able to see him on your birthday.”
“You know about that too?” – Taehyung asked in surprise. – “Oh my God I feel even worse now. He only told me that today.”
“It’s okay, please don’t feel bad about yourself.” – Jimin soothed. – “How was the movie? Yoongi-hyung and I are seeing that on Monday.”
“It’s good.” – Taehyung laughed. – “But I don’t know, maybe I’m biased. But T… Jeongguk cried, so maybe it’s really good.”
“Oh my God he cried?” – Jimin exclaimed. – “Then I’m probably gonna weep throughout the movie.”
“Call me after you watch it.” – Taehyung reminded him. – “I want to know your reaction, and Yoongi-hyung’s as well.”
There was a soft knock on his door so Taehyung told Jimin to wait for him before opening the door.
He almost dropped his phone.
Jeongguk was standing there, shirtless, with water dripping down from his hair.
“Can I borrow a T-shirt?” – He asked in an innocent voice.
Taehyung felt his throat going drier by the second. He willed himself to focus on Jeongguk’s face and prayed that his eyes would not trail down Jeongguk’s body on their own.
“Yeah.” – Taehyung swallowed. – “Of course, come in. Give me one second.”
He tripped on his discarded clothes that he had thrown on the floor earlier when he was getting ready and almost fell onto the bed. And then it took him a few tries to remember the right drawer that had his T-shirts.
“Here you go.” – He said, finally handing Jeongguk a white T-shirt.
Jeongguk had a smirk on his face when Taehyung looked at him.
“Thank you. I’ll leave you to continue talking to Jiminie.”
“Jimin?” – Taehyung raised his eyebrows and suddenly remembered the phone in his hand. – “Right! Jimin! I was talking to him.”
He swore that he heard Jimin’s laughter through the phone.
Jeongguk nodded, still smiling, and proceeded to put the T-shirt on.
Taehyung wanted to scream.
“I’ll be in the living room.” – When he was done, Jeongguk said with the same innocent voice that he had used when he first came into the room.
Taehyung watched him leave, and wondered how watching someone put their clothes on could get him all hot and bothered.
“Jimin-ah.” – He breathed into the phone. – “I think I’m gonna die.”
Jimin laughed lauder.
“Is it because of Kookie?” – Jimin asked in wonder.
“He just went into my room shirtless, asked to borrow my T-shirt, and then put said T-shirt on right in front of me.” – Taehyung recounted. – “I know taking clothes off is very mesmerizing, but how the hell did he make putting clothes on so attractive? My heart won’t slow down. This is very bad for my health.”
“Taehyung-ah, stop it.” – Jimin said between each laugh. – “I’m gonna cry from laughing too much.”
“What am I supposed to do now?” – Taehyung sighed.
“What do you want to do?” – Jimin asked curiously. – “How do you feel about him?”
“I just did an interview and said that I’m seeing someone.” – He recalled. – “Even though I’m only thinking about him. So I guess that’s how I feel.”
Jimin was quiet for a few moments.
“Taehyung.” – He said in a serious voice. – “Hang up the phone and go talk to him.”
“You mean right now?” – Taehyung asked in confusion. – “Why the urgency? I’ll talk to him later.”
“Tell him how you feel.” – Jimin said.
“He already knows how I feel.” – Taehyung admitted.
“That was a while ago. How can he know you haven’t changed your mind? You know that he’s very insecure, right?”
Taehyung did not know how to respond. His feelings about Jeongguk were still the same. But he understood why Jeongguk would not be sure.
As a matter of fact, he did not know how Jeongguk felt either, so it was time they sat down and had a real conversation.
“Okay.” – He conceded. – “I’ll talk to you later then. Let me know what you think about the movie.”
“I will.” – Jimin promised. – “Have fun confessing, Taehyung-ah.”
Taehyung hung up and stared at his phone for a few moments before deciding to go out to the living room, feeling like he was about to walk into a battle.
Jeongguk was on the phone when Taehyung sat down on the sofa opposite of him.
“I’ll talk to you later, hyung.” – He said while looking at Taehyung and hung up.
Taehyung looked back, wondering if he should join Jeongguk on the loveseat. But Jeongguk made the decision for him, since he stood up and went over to sit next to Taehyung instead.
“Yoongi-hyung said hi, and congratulations.” – Jeongguk said.
The playfulness that Taehyung had seen in his bedroom had disappeared from Jeongguk’s face. Instead, the younger seemed a little nervous now.
“That’s really nice of him.” – Taehyung smiled. – “So, what should we do now? Movie?”
He wished that Jeongguk would say no.
Jeongguk paused before saying:
“Can we talk for a little bit first?”
His voice was soft and hopeful; and Taehyung felt his heart speeding up again. It had not slowed down since earlier.
“Okay.” – He nodded and waited for Jeongguk to speak first.
“I’m graduating in March.” – Jeongguk said. – “I know I told you already, but I didn’t tell you about this part. When I was in Seoul for your birthday, I also went to an interview for an intern position of an architectural firm here in Seoul.”
“Did they… did they reply?” – He asked in a careful voice.
“Yes.” – Jeongguk nodded and smiled. – “I was hired. I’m gonna start working right after graduation.”
Taehyung gasped and pulled Jeongguk into a hug.
“That’s so amazing!” – He patted Jeongguk’s back a few times. – “I’m so proud of you, really, really proud. You are so wonderful and hardworking and you deserve all the best things in the world.”
Jeongguk chuckled and hugged Taehyung more tightly.
“Thank you Tae.”
“You’re so talented.” – Taehyung continued. – “And remarkable, and I know they’re gonna love you. Where is the firm by the way?”
“Like ten minutes from here.” – Jeongguk murmured to his neck.
“That’s…” – Taehyung paused. He was about to say “convenient,” but stopped himself right on time. – “… Really close!”
“It is.” – Jeongguk agreed and rested his chin on Taehyung’s shoulder. – “So I’m gonna move to Seoul in two months.”
“Do you have… did you… decide on a place to stay?” – Taehyung stammered.
He really wished Jeongguk would not be able to feel how fast his heart was beating right now.
“…Not yet.” – Jeongguk shook his head slightly.
Taehyung had to stop himself from screaming “you can stay here!”
“I wanted to tell you about that first before… uhm… I was wondering…” – Jeongguk continued. – “If… if I can rent your guest room.”
Taehyung’s heart soared.
“Why do you need to rent though?” – He asked, confused. – “You can just use it.”
Jeongguk leaned back to look at Taehyung properly.
“You can stay here if you want.” – Taehyung shrugged. He mentally applauded himself for not yelling that sentence at Jeongguk.
“I can stay with you?” – Jeongguk asked in bewilderment. – “Really?”
“Of course you can.” – Taehyung nodded immediately.
I love you, he almost said.
“Are you sure?” – Jeongguk asked again. – “Because we… I mean… I guess we haven’t really talked about… us.”
“Okay, let’s talk about us.” – Taehyung looked at him and removed his hands from Jeongguk, who followed that action with his eyes.
“Do you still…” – Jeongguk stammered again. – “Do you still want to be an ‘us’?” – He asked hesitantly, keeping his eyes on Taehyung’s hands instead of his face. – “Because I don’t think that I have the right to ask this of you. I basically cut off our communication and I made you sad, especially on your birthday.”
Taehyung leaned in and lifted Jeongguk’s chin up, forcing Jeongguk to look at him.
“You asked me to wait for you.” – He said slowly. – “And I did, and I am still waiting for you. Yes it was really hard not talking to you for months, but you’re here now; and you’ll be here in March.”
Jeongguk looked surprised and touched; and he held onto Taehyung’s hand.
“I’m really sorry about the way I acted, Tae.” – He said sincerely. – “I’ve never been in a proper relationship before; so I wasn’t sure how to behave around the people I know. Like, I don’t think they would judge me, I just… I don’t know, I guess I was scared.” – He squeezed Taehyung’s hand. – “You are so wonderful, Tae. And I’m so sorry for hurting you.”
Taehyung nodded and wrapped his free arm around Jeongguk’s back, holding him close.
“I really missed you, Tokki.” – He murmured.
“I missed you too.” – Jeongguk’s reply was immediate. – “I’m sorry again, Tae. I know I was a jerk for treating you like that.”
“It’s okay, baby.” – Taehyung rubbed his back soothingly. – “You didn’t mean to.”
“I didn’t, I promise.” – Jeongguk shook his head. – “I don’t know what I was thinking. Why did I care so much about what others thought of me? It shouldn’t matter.”
He sounded like he was about to cry, so Taehyung rubbed his back again.
“I treated you badly, Tae.” – Jeongguk leaned back and looked at Taehyung. – “I don’t know how I’ll ever make up for that. And when I realized that, I was afraid that you’d never want us to be together again; and I couldn’t ask you, because I have no right…”
“Tokki.” – Taehyung softly said. – “Baby, listen to me. Yes, I was hurt. But I understand why you did what you did. You were scared; it’s understandable. And you’ve apologized multiple times already, okay?”
“I never want to hurt you, Tae.” – Jeongguk closed his eyes and quickly wiped away a few tears that had made their way to his eyes. – “You are the most precious person to me; and I don’t ever want you to be hurt. You told me how you were treated in your last relationship and I don’t want…”
“Tokki.” – Taehyung cut in again, desperate to soothe him. – “You’re nothing like my ex-boyfriend; and honestly, our almost-relationship is more genuine and it made me a thousand times more happy than my relationship with Bogum-ssi.”
Jeongguk looked at him and Taehyung gave him a small smile. He wiped the final tears away from Jeongguk’s eyes and waited for Jeongguk to calm down.
“I’m still sorry, Tae.” – Jeongguk eventually whispered, looking so earnest that Taehyung’s heart ached.
“I know, Tokki.” – Taehyung nodded. – “And I’m still waiting for you.”
“You’re still waiting for me.” – He repeated, the realization finally dawning on him.
“Yeah.” – Taehyung nodded, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. – “And of course I still want us to be together. My feelings about you haven’t changed. I’m still very much in love with you.”
It amazed Taehyung that he was able to speak out his feelings without wanting to cry because sometimes just thinking about Jeongguk made him emotional.
But right now, Jeongguk was the one who looked like he could burst into tears again at any moment. He pulled Taehyung into another hug and Taehyung could feel his shoulder getting wetter by the second. He patted Jeongguk’s back soothingly and held him close.
They stayed like that for a little while, just holding each other. Eventually the sobs stopped and Jeongguk turned his face to the side, so that he was facing Taehyung’s neck.
“Sorry about your shirt.” – He hiccupped.
“Don’t worry about it baby.” – Taehyung smiled and touched his hair gently. – “Are you feeling better now?”
“I’m emotional.” – Jeongguk wrapped his arms around Taehyung’s waist and pulled him in impossibly closer. – “I can’t believe that you’re still…”
His voice trailed off at the end and he sat up to look at Taehyung. There was adoration and vulnerability and so much love in his eyes that Taehyung was overwhelmed with the need to kiss him.
“I love you so much.” – Jeongguk whispered.
Taehyung stared at him without blinking, trying his best to process what Jeongguk had said.
He loves me. He loves me. His heart screamed.
“Shit.” – Jeongguk exclaimed. – “Oh my God what have I done?”
“Uh… you told me you love me.” – Taehyung helpfully supplied. – “Is that… is that not true?”
“Huh?” – Jeongguk panicked. – “It’s completely true Tae. It’s just that… we’re still… I mean, the timing…” – He sighed exasperatedly and covered his face with his hands. – “Tae, I’m not gonna move to Seoul until March.”
“Okay.” – Taehyung nodded, still not understanding what the problem was. – “I’ll keep waiting for you then.”
Jeongguk froze, and then quickly removed his hands from his face. Then he leaned in and looked at Taehyung intently.
“Hyung, do you realize what you just said?” – He asked in a serious tone. – “Do you really mean that?”
“Yeah.” – Taehyung smiled at him. – “It’s only two more months, Tokki. I’ve been waiting for you all this time, I can wait until March. But please keep talking to me in the mean time?”
Jeongguk stared at him in wonder. Then a smile began to form on his face as he wrapped his arms around Taehyung once more.
“Okay, I’ll call and text and facetime you every day if you want me to.” – His voice was choked up. – “You made me cry again, Tae.”
“I’m sorry.” – Taehyung apologized and rubbed his back soothingly.
“I don’t even cry in front of my parents.” – Jeongguk continued. – “But I can’t count how many times I’ve cried in front of you.”
Taehyung chuckled and held him closer.
“Maybe four or five times?” – He guessed. – “What if you cry because of me though, because of the books, I mean? Do those count?”
“Why would you mention Stigma right now?” – He sighed. – “I just stopped thinking about it and now you’re reminding me.”
Taehyung rubbed his back again. Their conversation had taken a strange turn.
“So that’s decided then?”
“Hm?” – Jeongguk hummed, not lifting his head up from Taehyung’s shoulder.
He sounded like he was falling asleep.
“You’ll move in with me in March?” – Taehyung asked, a hint of uncertainty in his voice.
Jeongguk did not reply immediately, so of course Taehyung thought he was reconsidering that decision. But he waited, and heard faint snoring noises and felt Jeongguk’s even breathing on his shoulder.
Jeongguk was asleep; and Taehyung found the situation ridiculous but cute at the same time. Their conversation and the crying must have taken a lot out of Jeongguk.
“Tokki.” – He kept rubbing circles on Jeongguk’s back. – “Baby, we’re in the living room. Wanna head to bed?”
A pause, and then:
“Carry me, hyung.”
Taehyung had never thought that he was particularly strong. Sure, he knew martial arts, but he learned Taekwondo for fun and had never tried those moves out, so he had no idea if he was really strong. But right now, with Jeongguk’s sleepy request, and the sweet voice that he had asked Taehyung, of course Taehyung would maneuver him into his arms and tried to stand up. He applauded his legs for not shaking.
“Please don’t throw out your back.” – Jeongguk sniffled and murmured as he wrapped his arms around Taehyung’s neck.
“How old do you think I am?” – Taehyung scoffed, but walked toward his bedroom anyway. He did not want to waste his precious strength arguing with Jeongguk.
They paused in the hallway so that Jeongguk could turn off the lights, and headed to Taehyung’s bedroom, where Jeongguk opened and closed the door, grumbling the whole time.
Taehyung put him down on the bed and moved away, but Jeongguk pulled him down so they were both on the bed.
“Your present.” – Jeongguk murmured. – “Open it, Tae.”
Taehyung looked at him in confusion for a minute, before remembering the small box that Jeongguk had given him before they left for the premiere. It was still in his pocket; and Taehyung sat up as he looked at the box in contemplation.
“Is this my birthday present?” – He asked jokingly.
Jeongguk was watching his expression, and smiled when Taehyung looked back at him.
“Yes.” – He nodded and sat up, facing Taehyung. – “Open it, hyung.”
Taehyung nodded and looked back down at the box. It looked like the present would be a ring.
He really wished it was a ring.
But maybe it wasn’t though. Because technically, Jeongguk wanted them to be together when he moved in; and that was still two months away.
Taehyung wondered why his first thought was of a ring.
“Tae?” – Jeongguk called softly.
“Hm? Yes I’m opening it.”
Taehyung opened the box but closed his eyes. He heard Jeongguk’s chuckle and a second later his hands were wrapped in Jeongguk’s.
So he took a deep breath and opened his eyes.
In the box was a necklace with the letter ㅌ.
“I love it.” – Taehyung murmured. – “Aw, I should have worn this to the movie.”
Jeongguk beamed and squeezed his hands in response.
“Thank you so much, Tokki.” – Taehyung smiled at him.
“No problem Tae.” – Jeongguk replied. – “I saw it and thought of you.”
“Really?” – Taehyung returned his gaze to the necklace. – “Because I’m looking at it right now and I’m thinking of you. Tokki.”
Jeongguk blinked; his eyes widened; and his cheeks got redder.
“It’s supposed to stand for your name.” – He replied in a small voice.
Taehyung honestly had to refrain from clutching his heart. He settled for holding on to Jeongguk’s hands instead.
“Isn’t it nice that it’s both?” – He chuckled. – “This just shows how thoughtful you are, baby.”
Jeongguk blushed even more; and he looked around. Taehyung’s bedroom had not changed at all. The plushies were still everywhere, except for the Totoro one that was currently in Busan. And Taehyung’s bed was still so comfortable.
Jeongguk yawned tiredly and Taehyung patted his hair.
“Can we go to sleep now?” – Jeongguk asked.
“Sure.” – Taehyung almost cooed at how cute and cuddly he looked.
“Really?” – Jeongguk was surprised. – “Usually you’d stay up a little bit more to write.”
“4 O’clock is finished and I’m not working on anything right now.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “So I’ve been going to sleep earlier than usual.”
“That’s music to my ears.” – Jeongguk smiled happily and leaned in to kiss him.
Taehyung sighed contently into the kiss. When they let go of each other, he turned off the lights and went back to the bed. Jeongguk pulled him into a hug immediately; and Taehyung closed his eyes.
“I can’t believe this is real.” – Jeongguk whispered.
“I can pinch you if you want?” – Taehyung suggested. – “Or tickle?”
Jeongguk giggled and Taehyung’s heart wanted to jump out of his chest. That sound.
“Thank you so much Tae.”
“For what, baby?” – Taehyung asked in a small voice.
Jeongguk’s voice was soothing; and Taehyung felt like he could fall asleep any second now. But he wanted to stay awake for a little longer; because the truth was, he was having a hard time believing that Jeongguk was here.
“For still wanting to try this with me.” – Jeongguk said sincerely.
“Of course I do.” – Taehyung replied and squeezed Jeongguk’s waist. – “I love you, baby.”
There was the giggle again.
“I love it when you call me baby.” – Jeongguk sighed happily. – “Night Tae.” – He murmured and leaned down to kiss Taehyung’s lips.
“Good night.” – Taehyung whispered back, closed his eyes, and felt so happy his heart could burst.
He could feel the steady beats of Jeongguk’s heart and the warmth surrounding him. It had been months since they were in bed together; and Taehyung wished that this was how he could go to sleep every night.
“Tae?” – Jeongguk softly called. – “I forgot to tell you something.”
“What is it?” – Taehyung replied without opening his eyes.
“When Jiminie called you the day after your birthday, I was there.” – Jeongguk confessed.
Taehyung opened his eyes immediately.
“I knew there was something shady when Jimin kept pausing.” – He responded.
“Yeah.” – Jeongguk nodded. – “He scolded me afterwards, saying that I was a jerk to you.”
“You were, baby. But I forgive you already, okay?” – Taehyung pinched Jeongguk’s cheek. – “Let’s sleep, Tokki. I’m so tired.”
“I love you, Tae.” – Jeongguk said.
Taehyung felt himself drifting off again. He really wished he had replied to Jeongguk before falling asleep.
“Does he seem nervous?”
Jimin reread the text and smiled to himself. Opposite of him, Jeongguk was listening to music from his headphones and humming along. When he caught Jimin’s gaze, he quirked up his eyebrows in question, but Jimin just shook his head slightly.
“Not at all. I think he’s in a good mood actually.” He texted Taehyung back.
Yoongi grumbled and opened his eyes when his head hit the glass window of the train, and leaned on Jimin’s shoulder before going back to sleep.
“Who are you texting?” – Jeongguk asked curiously. – “Is it Tae?”
“What makes you say that?” – Jimin laughed.
Jeongguk took the headphones off his head and fixed his hair quickly.
“The only other people you talk to are either asleep, or me.” – Jeongguk shrugged. – “So it can only be Tae that you’re talking to. Why isn’t he texting or calling me?”
Jimin burst out laughing, and the vibrations made Yoongi grumble again. Jimin just patted his head in apology.
“Is that jealousy I heard in your voice, Kookie?” – Jimin smirked.
“No.” – Jeongguk scoffed, not meeting Jimin’s eyes. – “That… that was curiosity. Like… I was just genuinely wondering. No big deal.”
Jimin laughed harder.
“Whatever you say, Kookie.” – He nodded. – “But you do realize Taehyung and I are best friends right?”
“Well, Yoongi-hyung and I are best friends too.” – Jeongguk replied. – “But I have never made you jealous of our friendship.”
“So you were jealous.” – Jimin smirked again. – “Good to know.”
Jeongguk just glared at him and took out his phone and pulled up Taehyung’s number.
“I’m not talking about this anymore. I’m calling Tae.” – He said.
Jimin laughed again; and this time he woke Yoongi up.
“How are you feeling about moving in with him?” – Jimin asked.
Jeongguk looked up from his phone.
“Isn’t it a bit late to ask that, Jiminie? We’re literally going to Seoul right now, not a good time for me to have cold feet.” – He said matter-of-factly.
Yoongi observed him for a few seconds before leaning forward and patting Jeongguk’s hair a few times.
“It’s normal to feel nervous.” – He reassured Jeongguk. – “This is a big step.”
“You make it sound like I’m getting married or something.” – Jeongguk huffed.
But he was indeed nervous, because he would be living together with Taehyung, who he loved, who wrote his favorite books, who was so kind and caring and who still loved Jeongguk even though he fucked up so many times.
Jeongguk had no idea how Taehyung even loved him.
“Kookie, are you okay?” – Jimin asked softly, after Jeongguk was quiet for a while.
“He’s so wonderful.” – Jeongguk said in disbelief. – “What is he doing with me?”
Jimin and Yoongi shared a look and a lot of raised eyebrows were exchanged between the two of them. Eventually Yoongi sat down next to Jeongguk and patted his shoulder.
“Taehyung loves you.” – Jimin said.
“But why?” – Jeongguk looked up in confusion. – “You know I didn’t even call him on his birthday.”
“Yeah, but didn’t you guys already talk about that?” – Yoongi asked. – “Why are you bringing it up now, Jeongguk?”
“Because I’m freaking out.” – Jeongguk sighed defeatedly. – “What if we live together and he realizes I’m not worth his time?”
“Well, I think you would need to wait and find out.” – Jimin joked, but seeing Jeongguk’s terrified expression, he quickly added. – “But speaking as Taehyung’s best friend, I don’t think that’s ever gonna happen.”
Jeongguk still looked skeptical, so Yoongi patted his shoulder again.
“You know you did a ton of shitty things right?” – Yoongi asked bluntly.
Jimin was about to protest and maybe smack Yoongi for being so frank, but Jeongguk nodded immediately.
“At least you apologized to him and you’re trying to make things better.” – Jimin added. – “But please don’t make him sad anymore, Kookie.”
“I’m sorry.” – Jeongguk looked down again.
“I’m not the person you should apologize to.” – Jimin shook his head. – “But if you already talked to him, then it’s fine. Just…” – He took a deep breath and looked at Jeongguk in all seriousness. – “He’s my best friend. And he deserves someone that loves him unconditionally. It seems like he chose you, so I hope he made the right choice and that you’re gonna make him happy.”
“I’ll try my best, Jiminie.”
“Why do I feel like I’m about to give my son away to his husband?” – Jimin looked at Yoongi in confusion.
“I think that’s exactly what you’re doing.” – Yoongi laughed. – “Don’t worry Jeongguk, that means you’re my son, and you already made a good choice with Taehyung.”
“Hyung, what the fuck? That means we’re in-laws.” – Jimin laughed.
“Please stop. You’re traumatizing me.” – Jeongguk burst out laughing.
His worries subsided a little after talking to Yoongi and Jimin. He still felt surreal that Taehyung would ever want to be with him, but Taehyung had already told him his feelings.
Now he just needed to make sure that Taehyung knew how much he meant to Jeongguk.
Taehyung nervously shifted on his feet and looked down at his phone. They were about to arrive any minute now; and he had no idea why this was so nerve-wrecking for him.
“You okay there, Taehyung?” – Jin asked in a concerned tone. – “You’re a bit… jumpy. What’s wrong?”
“Hyung, what if I made a mistake?” – Taehyung asked. – “What if this is a mistake? Are we moving too fast? What if this doesn’t work out?”
“Whoa, just slow down.” – Jin touched his shoulders and searched his eyes. – “What are you talking about?”
“T… Jeongguk.” – Taehyung breathed. – “Do you think we’re moving too fast, hyung?”
“Isn’t this a little late for that?” – Jin joked, but quickly changed his expression to seriousness when he saw the horror flashing across Taehyung’s face. – “I’m kidding. What I mean is, you’ve thought a long time before asking him to move in with you when he gets to Seoul, right?”
“Nope.” – Taehyung shook his head immediately. – “That came out on an impulse when I learned that he would be moving here.”
Jin stared at him and blinked profusely.
“Okay, okay that’s… that’s fine too.” – Jin patted both of Taehyung’s shoulders. – “I know you don’t really do things impulsively, Taehyung. So it must mean that subconsciously, you really want to live with him.”
Taehyung pondered on that thought. He loved Jeongguk, wanted to spend every minute of every day with him and cuddle him at night. His whole life had rearranged itself around Jeongguk and Taehyung was completely fine with that. He looked forward to living with him, even. But sometimes there was this doubt at the back of his mind, saying that everything was too good to be true with Jeongguk.
“I love him.” – Taehyung confessed.
Jin’s eyes softened when he heard that and he pulled Taehyung into a crushing hug.
“That’s good to hear.” – He murmured on Taehyung’s shoulder. – “I’m really glad that he makes you happy.”
“Hyung, you’re suffocating me!” – Taehyung’s voice was muffled against Jin’s chest.
And then Taehyung heard the sound of throat clearing. Jin let go of Taehyung and turned around to see Jeongguk staring at them with a blank expression. He was wearing a huge backpack and rolling a suitcase. Jimin and Yoongi were behind him, snickering, having some luggage of their own.
The thing was, Jeongguk still had to walk a few more steps toward Jin and Taehyung, but the sound of him clearing his throat was loud that it was heard by them.
“Tokki.” – Taehyung smiled automatically when he saw him.
“Tae.” – Jeongguk greeted back. – “Hi Jin-hyung.” – He bowed slightly and when he stood straight up, his eyes went back to Taehyung immediately. – “Why were you guys hugging in the middle of the station?”
Taehyung could see that Jimin was laughing into Yoongi’s shoulder as they walked over. But Jeongguk had an unreadable expression on his face.
“We were talking about you.” – Taehyung replied honestly. – “Jin-hyung was saying that he’s just so glad that you make me happy.”
Jimin gasped and covered his mouth immediately, whereas Jeongguk widened his eyes and turned red at the admission.
“That’s… that’s…” – He stammered and scratched his head, before bowing to Jin once more. – “That’s really nice of you to say, hyung. Thank you.”
“I’m just telling the truth.” – Jin laughed and patted Jeongguk’s shoulder. – “Thank you for taking care of Taehyung.”
“Hyung.” – Taehyung protested. – “You make it sound like I’m your kid or something.”
“You are my kid, Taehyung-ah.” – Jin patted Taehyung’s head this time and turned to Jimin and Yoongi. – “Sorry about all this. Hi Jimin-ah, it’s nice to see you again. And you must be Yoongi, Jimin’s boyfriend. I’ve heard so many good things about you.”
Yoongi smiled and shook Jin’s hand. Jimin just giggled at them before enveloping Jin in a crushing hug. Jin hugged him back just as tightly.
They went to a restaurant near Taehyung’s apartment to meet Namjoon there. Conversations flowed easily, with Jin asking Yoongi many questions that Jimin sometimes answered for him. Then Jimin asked Namjoon about his hobbies and Jin answered some of those questions as well.
Taehyung and Jeongguk sat next to each other and ate the meal in comfortable silence, since Taehyung had not eaten breakfast; and Jeongguk had only had a snack on the train earlier.
At some point, Jeongguk grabbed a piece of grilled shrimp with his chopstick and wordlessly put it in Taehyung’s bowl.
The conversation around them stopped.
“What’s wrong?” – Taehyung looked at the others in confusion. – “Why did everyone stop talking?”
Jin and Jimin turned to each other and Jimin wiped a non-existent tear away from his eye while Jin sighed happily.
“Look at that, Jimin. Our son has grown up so well; and he picked such a nice boyfriend.” – Jin turned to the side and patted Taehyung’s head.
“I know right?” – Jimin joined in immediately. – “Taehyung-ah, keep this one.”
Jeongguk burst out laughing and hid his face behind Taehyung’s back.
“Your son?” – Taehyung raised his eyebrows, looking at Namjoon and Yoongi for their reactions. They were trying to hide their laughter. – “Jimin, you are two months, I repeat, two months older than me. And hyung, your boyfriend is literally right here. What are you saying about having a child with Jimin?”
Namjoon was covering his mouth his his hand, but he just let it drop and burst out laughing.
“Yes Namjoon is my boyfriend.” – Jin reached across the table to squeeze Namjoon’s hand. – “But Taehyung, you are my child. Jimin and I raised you together.”
“Why are you guys like this?” – Taehyung huffed. – “I just wanted to eat in peace. You’re making Jeongguk uncomfortable.”
Jeongguk laughed harder into Taehyung’s back.
“He seems fine to me.” – Jimin shrugged and turned to Yoongi, putting a piece of meat in his plate.
“There.” – Taehyung pointed at that and looked at Jin. – “Why aren’t you reacting to that, hyung?”
“To what, Taehyung?” – Jin just stared back at him nonchalantly.
Jeongguk, bless him, patted Taehyung’s back to sooth him right when Taehyung was about to protest the difference in treatment.
“Are you sure you guys don’t want to stay over tonight?” – Taehyung asked as he walked with Jin and Namjoon to the door of the apartment.
“We’re sure.” – Namjoon smiled at him reassuringly. – “Go have fun with your friends. We’ll all go out for breakfast tomorrow.”
“How about lunch instead?” – Taehyung suggested. – “Because I don’t know if I’ll be up in time for breakfast.”
Jin laughed and patted his shoulder.
“We understand. Namjoon means breakfast as in the first meal you’ll eat in a day. Call me when everyone’s up and we’ll come over, okay?”
Taehyung nodded immediately.
“Thank you for having lunch and dinner with us today. It was really fun.”
“It was fun.” – Jin agreed. – “I got to meet my future sons in law; and they’re both amazing.”
Namjoon laughed; Taehyung blinked rapidly.
“See hyung, now you’re just confusing me even more. So both Jimin and I are your sons?” – Taehyung mused. – “And I thought Jeongguk was my boyfriend earlier, he’s had a promotion now?”
Jin laughed and pulled Taehyung into a hug.
“Honestly Taehyung, please keep him. I have never seen you so happy and relaxed as when you’re with him.”
Taehyung smiled against Jin’s shoulder and caught Namjoon smiling at him as well.
“I’ll try my best, hyung.” – He promised.
When Taehyung walked back into the living room, Yoongi and Jeongguk were debating on what movie to watch. Jimin just handed him a bowl of popcorn and Taehyung smiled as he took it. But then he remembered he had left his phone in the bedroom when he was changing earlier, and put the bowl down on the coffee table.
“I’ll be right back.”
Jimin just hummed in response.
Taehyung walked toward his bedroom and paused when he saw suitcases on the hallway. And then he saw Jeongguk’s backpack there as well.
Then he heard footsteps and turned around to see Jimin walking toward him.
“You can put your things in the guest room here.” – Taehyung said and opened the door next to his bedroom.
He was surprised because there were already two backpacks inside.
“I did.” – Jimin answered. – “These here are all Jeongguk’s.”
“But why…” – Taehyung started. Usually Jeongguk put his things in Taehyung’s bedroom, except for the last time he was here, at the movie premiere. But that was because he was not sure about their relationship. But now…
“Which room is his, Tae?” – Jimin asked softly.
“He can stay with me.” – Taehyung motioned at his own room.
“Yes, but do you think that he needs a separate bedroom?” – Jimin continued.
“I…” – Taehyung paused. – “I haven’t asked him about it.”
“I asked him earlier, when we were carrying the luggage in.” – Jimin smiled at him sympathetically. – “And he said that we should leave them out here since he doesn’t know where you want him to stay.”
“What?” – Taehyung asked, surprised. – “Of course I want him to stay with me, in my room. Why would he think…” – He sighed. – “I’ll talk to him later.”
Jimin just nodded and squeezed his shoulder once in reassurance.
“Jiminie, you’re the best.” – Taehyung smiled at him gratefully.
“I know.” – Jimin laughed and turned around, walking back to the living room. – “They’ve decided on what movie to watch already, so come back soon, okay?”
“I will.” – Taehyung smiled, as he looked down at Jeongguk’s luggage.
And he opened his bedroom door and began to put them inside. When he closed the door and turned around to head back to the living room, he almost had a heart attack because Yoongi was in front of him.
“Hyung, you scared me.” – Taehyung clutched his chest and almost slumped to the floor. He leaned against the wall for balance.
“Sorry.” – Yoongi was holding back a smile, seeing Taehyung’s shocked expression. – “I just want to say that I think you and Jeongguk are really good for each other.”
“That’s nice of you, hyung.” – Taehyung nodded. – “But like, I’m still trying to calm down right now.”
“Sorry.” – Yoongi was laughing. – “You just look really funny right now.”
Taehyung laughed as well, and stood straight up.
“Thanks for letting Jeongguk stay here, Taehyung. And thanks for making him happy.” – Yoongi said in a genuine voice. – “I know that he’s hurt you in the past, so thanks for giving him another chance.”
Taehyung smiled. Yoongi and he had never had a conversation about Jeongguk and his relationship with Taehyung, but seeing that Yoongi was Jeongguk’s best friend, Taehyung realized that this conversation was bound to happen eventually.
“I love him, hyung.” – He said. – “And I really hope that our relationship would work out.”
“Jeongguk’s crazy about you.” – Yoongi chuckled. – “He told me a few times how happy you make him, and how he’s so lucky that you still want him after everything.”
“It’s in the past.” – Taehyung shrugged. – “I can see that our feelings are mutual, so that’s all the reassurance I need from him. And we’re gonna be living together.”
He hoped he sounded excited, but Yoongi’s raised eyebrows told him maybe his voice betrayed him a little.
“Are you nervous about that?” – Yoongi asked softly.
“Do I sound nervous?” – Taehyung chuckled drily. – “Yeah, I am, actually, a little bit.” – He admitted with a sigh.
“You’re not alone. Jeongguk’s nervous too.” – Yoongi commented. – “But I think you guys will make it work.”
Taehyung hoped so too, because even though he was nervous, he was also looking forward to living together with Jeongguk.
“That movie is really good.” – Jimin commented.
“The ending though.” – Taehyung chimed in. – “I didn’t expect that at all.”
Jeongguk was about to say something, but he stopped in the middle of the hallway, causing Yoongi to accidently bump into him.
“Oh, sorry hyung.” – He turned around and apologized to Yoongi quickly.
Jimin and Taehyung shared a look; and Jimin took Yoongi’s hand in his immediately.
“We’ll see you guys tomorrow morning.” – He opened the door to the guest room and pulled Yoongi inside. – “Good night.”
He shut the door before Taehyung or Jeongguk could say anything else.
“Should we head to bed too?” – Taehyung turned to Jeongguk.
Jeongguk was still staring at the empty hallway.
“I put your luggage in my bedroom.” – Taehyung continued and gulped when he Jeongguk did not look at him. – “I mean… there’s another guest room, you stayed in that one before. So I can… put your stuff in there instead… if you prefer.”
Taehyung had no idea why he was stuttering. He was an author, shouldn’t words just flow effortlessly out of his mouth instead of this mess?
Jeongguk took a deep breath and finally looked at Taehyung.
“Hyung, I really want to sleep with you.” – Seeing Taehyung’s widened eyes, Jeongguk quickly continued. – “I mean… in the same room, with you. I’d like that, and I really want to. It’s been months since I was last here.”
Taehyung had to tell himself to stop focusing on the “sleep with you” part, because he needed to pay attention to what Jeongguk was saying right now.
“But you want your own space.” – Taehyung concluded.
“I do, yes.” – Jeongguk nodded in relief. – “I would really like it if… if we sleep in the same bed every night. But I just fear that if we’re always in each other’s space, it can be… I don’t know… too much sometimes? Like when we’re fighting.”
“If we’re fighting.” – Taehyung corrected.
Jeongguk chuckled, and stepped closer to Taehyung to kiss his cheek.
“If we’re fighting.” – He repeated.
“You’re right. It’s always good to have our own space. Okay.” – Taehyung nodded and opened the door to his own room and started picking up Jeongguk’s bags.
Jeongguk opened the door opposite to Taehyung’s room and turned on the lights. He had not stepped foot in here since the very first time he visited Seoul.
“It’s so clean!” – He exclaimed.
“Why the tone of surprise?” – Taehyung scoffed as he set Jeongguk’s backpack and bag down at the end of the bed. – “I do clean up around the house, you know? I mean, not that I want to though, Jin-hyung makes sure I do.”
“That seems more believable.”
“Hey.” – Taehyung glared at him. – “Way to treat me nicely after not seeing me for two months.”
Jeongguk giggled and Taehyung was knocked out of his breath, both because of that sound and because Jeongguk had run toward him and tackled him onto the bed. Taehyung yelped in surprise and realized then that one of Jeongguk’s hand was supporting his head as it hit the mattress.
Then he heard the sound of a door opening and footsteps. And then a second later Jimin’s head peered through the door.
“Are you guys okay?” – He asked worriedly, and then blinked rapidly when he saw Jeongguk and Taehyung on the bed. – “You know what, ignore me. Carry on.”
And then he closed the door.
“It’s nothing, hyung. They were just…”
“I don’t need to know.” – Yoongi cut in quickly. – “Let’s just go to sleep.”
Taehyung laughed when the conversation was over and he had heard the closing sound of Jimin’s door.
“Sometimes it just hits me, this time literally, how strong you are.” – Taehyung mused.
He looked at Jeongguk and felt his heart skip a beat. Jeongguk was observing him, a smile on his face and warmth in his eyes; and Taehyung felt so happy and loved.
“There are still three of your bags in my room.” – Taehyung pushed Jeongguk’s chest away slightly. Since when had they gotten so close?
But Jeongguk pulled Taehyung’s head back onto his shoulder and began patting his hair. He hummed in satisfaction when Taehyung wrapped an arm around his back and pulled him in closer as well.
“Let’s just fall asleep like this.” – Jeongguk murmured.
“Our arms and legs are gonna cramp in the morning.” – Taehyung responded. – “Plus I need to change into comfortable clothing. Who can sleep in jeans? Besides you, I mean. And I need to finish an email I’m supposed to send to Minjae. And…”
“What’s the email about?” – Jeongguk cut in.
Taehyung laughed into his neck.
“Of all the things I mentioned, you had to ask about that one huh?”
“I’m just curious.” – Jeongguk replied, a bit too nonchalantly and defensively. – “Do you still keep in touch with him?”
“Yes.” – Taehyung nodded.
“And Minho-ssi too?”
Taehyung paused and leaned back to look at Jeongguk properly.
“Why would I keep in touch with Bogum-ssi?” – He asked. – “Minjae and Minho-hyung are my friends; and Minjae emailed me about an event he’s organizing in June for Minho-hyung, but I haven’t replied to him yet. I think it’s about Minho-hyung’s next project or something, I need to reread the email.”
Jeongguk nodded in understanding and ran his fingers through Taehyung’s hair.
“Tokki.” – Taehyung called. – “There’s nothing between Bogum-ssi and me, okay? We worked together on the movie, but now it’s over, so there’s no reason for me to keep in contact with him anymore. Yes he apologized, but that’s…”
“When?” – Jeongguk asked immediately. His hand went still behind Taehyung’s head. – “When did he apologize to you?”
“A few months ago, after I got back from Busan.” – Taehyung replied. – “It’s not that big of a deal, Tokki. He apologized, I accepted his apology. That’s it. Doesn’t mean that we’re friends now or anything.”
Jeongguk nodded again and Taehyung smiled before leaning in to kiss him on the cheek.
“What was that for? I wasn’t jealous.” – Jeongguk chuckled.
“Never said you were.” – Taehyung pinched his other cheek. – “I just felt like kissing you. Is that allowed?”
“Yes, but you should do it properly. That was like a sniff, hyung.” – Jeongguk teased.
“Fine, you do it then.” – Taehyung shrugged.
That was all Jeongguk needed to hear before leaning in and kissing Taehyung breathless. It was only their first night living together, but Taehyung already wished that they would be like this forever.
“Are you guys ready yet?” – Jin knocked on the door a few times. – “Yoongi and Jimin are all out here, what’s taking you guys so long? Please don’t tell me you’re making out or something. This is like, a really inconvenient time.”
The door opened immediately and Jeongguk stepped out, his face a little red.
“We’re not making out, hyung.” – He explained quickly.
“Well, not right now.” – Taehyung appeared behind him and put his arm around Jeongguk’s shoulder. – “We were interrupted.”
Jeongguk got redder, and turned around to pinch Taehyung’s side in embarrassment. Then he quickly looked back at Jin and shook his head.
“I don’t know what he’s talking about hyung. Anyway, we’ll be out really soon. We’re still looking for Tae’s favorite tie. Apparently there’s a Van Gogh pattern on it?”
“The Starry Night one, right?” – Jin supplied. – “I saw it on the carpet in the living room so I put it on the coffee table.”
“That’s the one.” – Taehyung smiled appreciatively. – “Thanks hyung. I’m gonna grab my phone and we’ll be right out.”
Then he took Jeongguk’s hand and led him back into the bedroom, promptly ignored Jin’s question of “why do you need him to go with you to get your phone?”
Taehyung closed the door and pinned Jeongguk to the wall.
“What are you doing?” – Jeongguk asked in an amused tone, smirking.
“What does it look like I’m doing, baby?” – Taehyung narrowed his eyes playfully. – “We were interrupted earlier, so I’m just picking up where we left off.”
Jeongguk burst out laughing at that; and Taehyung was not sure if he was endeared or offended.
“You’re cute.” – Jeongguk leaned his head against Taehyung’s shoulder and laughed.
“I’m not.” – Taehyung protested. – “I’m trying to be sexy and alluring.”
Jeongguk laughed louder and looked up at Taehyung before pulling him into a kiss.
“You are sexy and alluring; and you’re also cute.” – Jeongguk murmured between the kisses against Taehyung’s lips. – “And I’m so proud of you. And I love you so much.”
Taehyung smiled before kissing the corner of Jeongguk’s mouth again.
“I love you too.” – He repeated. – “And I’m so glad that you’re here with me.”
“Of course I’m here.” – Jeongguk caressed his cheek. – “It’s the premiere of your second movie, Tae. How are you feeling? Still nervous like last time?”
Taehyung pondered on the question for a while.
“Not right now, but probably because I’m with you. And I mean you’re here as in, in my life, Jeongguk. I’m so thankful for you.” – He replied, pulled away from Jeongguk and grabbed his phone from the desk. – “Should we get going?”
Jeongguk did not reply so Taehyung turned around, surprised when he was pulled into a heated kiss.
“You can’t just say something like that and follow it with ‘should we get going?’ hyung.” – Jeongguk murmured against Taehyung’s lips.
“What should I have followed it with then?” – Taehyung smirked and put his hands on Jeongguk’s cheeks.
“At least wait for me to reply or something.” – Jeongguk responded. – “I’m very thankful that I met you too, hyung. And I’m so happy that you’re in my life as well, and that I get to be a part of yours.”
Taehyung blinked. Jeongguk was still looking at him with sincerity and adoration and love in his eyes.
“Aw, are you proposing to me, Tokki?” – He teased, because this was not what he had expected at all.
He knew Jeongguk loved him; they had been together long enough for Taehyung to see his love through his actions. And he had also told Taehyung he loved him quite a few times. But right now, there was something in his eyes that meant more.
Jeongguk widened his eyes and looked down at his feet, avoiding Taehyung’s eyes completely.
“Wh… what are you talking about?” – He stammered. – “Tae, we… we’ve been dating for only a year. I need… I need more time. I’ve always wanted to be in a relationship for at least three years before getting married.”
Taehyung found him so adorable when he felt like he needed to explain every thought going through his mind.
“Tokki.” – He pulled Jeongguk’s face upwards and look into his eyes. – “I was kidding. But thank you for telling me your honest feelings. I’ll keep them in mind when I propose to you, okay?”
Jeongguk’s eyes were even wider.
“Hyung.” – He scolded, his face getting red. – “You’re… you’re not supposed to tell me that you’re gonna propose to me.”
“Really?” – Taehyung mused. – “How should I do it then? Just… catch you off guard, baby?”
“You won’t.” – Jeongguk replied. – “You already told me your plan. Now I’m definitely expecting it, your proposal. It’s a promise, hyung.”
Taehyung laughed. Did he really just get roped into proposing to Jeongguk?
“Okay.” – He nodded and raised his pinkie. – “I promise that I will propose to you.”
Jeongguk looked at him for a few seconds before lacing his own pinkie with Taehyung’s.
“You promised. I’m gonna be so mad if you end up marrying someone else, Tae.”
The honorifics were gone and Taehyung felt a sudden warmth in his chest, looking at Jeongguk like this.
“Well, I promised to propose to you. I didn’t say anything about marrying you though.” – He winked.
Jeongguk just rolled his eyes and pulled Taehyung toward him for a kiss.
“You do now.” – He smiled slyly as he nipped Taehyung’s lower lip. – “Sealed with a kiss. Can’t break any of these two promises, okay?”
Taehyung laughed at his antics, but nodded anyway.
Of course, that moment, there were knocks on the door again.
“Should we get going now?” – Taehyung asked.
Jeongguk nodded and extended his hand to Taehyung, who took it in a heartbeat, a huge smile on his face.
“V-ssi, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you! Looking as wonderful as ever.” – Jihan greeted and extended a microphone in front of Taehyung.
Taehyung smiled bashfully and felt Jeongguk squeezing his hand.
“Thank you Jihan-hyung. It’s good to see you as well. You remember Jeongguk, my boyfriend?”
“Of course.” – Jihan nodded and extended his hand for Jeongguk to shake. – “Jeongguk-ssi, nice to see you again. Are you excited to see the second movie based on your boyfriend’s second book?”
“Thank you Jihan-ssi. Yes, I am thrilled to be seeing it for the first time.” – Jeongguk replied politely. – “I cried after the first movie ended so maybe I’ll cry this time too, who knows? T… V-hyung always seems to have a way with words.”
Jihan smiled brightly at them when he heard Jeongguk’s response.
“V-ssi, how are you feeling? Do you think that Choi Minho-ssi and the actors have done a wonderful job, as they did with the last movie?” – He looked at Taehyung.
“Minho-ssi is a terrific director, and Minjae-ssi is a wonderful actor. I think they worked together perfectly in the last movie and I am so blessed that they decided to come back for this one. There are amazing new actors as well and I am just blown away by the talent of the cast and crew.” – Taehyung answered sincerely. – “I have been getting to know them and catching up with others for the past few months and it is an unforgettable experience. I think that the movie will be really good, and I am so excited to see it.”
“I’ll let you two get to the theater now. Thank you so much for the interview. I hope you’ll have a good time.” – Jihan said and Taehyung and Jeongguk slightly bowed at him before walking to the entrance of the theater.
“You’re fine with it right?” – Taehyung asked when they were out of earshot. – “Me saying that you’re my boyfriend?”
“I am.” – Jeongguk nodded. – “Why do you think I squeezed your hand?”
“Jealousy?” – Taehyung wiggled his eyebrows; and Jeongguk burst out laughing.
“Tae, if I’m gonna get jealous every time someone compliments you, I don’t think I’ll survive.” – Jeongguk replied. – “You’re wonderful, hyung.”
“Okay, it’s been more than a year.” – Taehyung sighed. – “Are you still gonna do the random honorifics thing?”
“It still gets you every time.” – Jeongguk winked. – “So yes, I’m gonna keep doing that. It’s because your reaction is so cute, hyung.”
“Now I think you’re just doing it to tease me.” – Taehyung rolled his eyes, but of course, not telling Jeongguk to stop.
Maybe he had a hyung kink.
Was that a kink? He wasn’t sure anymore.
When the lights turned on, Taehyung immediately turned to Jeongguk, who was wiping away his tears.
“You’re crying again.” – Taehyung blinked. – “Tokki, there’s a happy ending.”
“I know.” – Jeongguk nodded. – “I’m happy for them; I’m cheering through the tears.”
Taehyung smiled in understanding and squeezed his hand before turning to his other side, where Jimin was blinking rapidly and Yoongi was sniffling.
“You too?” – Taehyung asked in surprise. – “The actors are really amazing, huh?”
Yoongi nodded and cleared his throat a few times.
“I think they got the ending right.” – Jimin commented. – “It’s exactly how I imagine it to be when I was reading the book.”
“That’s good to hear.” – Taehyung turned to Yoongi then. – “Hyung, are you also… emotional because of the movie?”
“Stop mentioning it Taehyung.” – Yoongi sighed. – “They get me, okay? Your books and now these two movies.”
Taehyung nodded. The only time he cried was when he was writing the ending of Stigma. As for 4 O’clock, he thought it was a happy ending. But apparently it was an emotional one too.
“I’ll see you guys back at the apartment.” – Taehyung waved when everyone had gotten into the car.
“Midnight stroll?” – Jimin raised his eyebrows and looked between Taehyung and Jeongguk. – “Always knew you were a romantic, Taehyung-ah.”
“It’s just our tradition.” – Taehyung shrugged.
And before Jimin could say something else, Yoongi rolled up the window and waved a hand at Taehyung and Jeongguk. In the front seat, Jin just burst out laughing.
As the car drove away, Taehyung turned back to look at Jeongguk, who was scrolling through his phone.
“What are you doing?” – Taehyung asked curiously and extended his hand out in front of Jeongguk, out of habit.
Jeongguk, still looking at the phone, took Taehyung’s hand in his immediately and squeezed it.
“Checking twitter.” – He replied. – “That interview with Jihan-ssi was live, you know?”
“Wait what?” – Taehyung widened his eyes. – “He didn’t tell me it was live?”
“Jin-hyung did.” – Jeongguk looked up at him. – “Like a few days ago, when he told you that Jihan-ssi was gonna interview you at the premiere, he mentioned it would be broadcasted live.”
Taehyung blinked at him in confusion.
“You were there?” – He scratched behind his ear. Seeing Jeongguk nod, he continued. – “Where was I? What were we doing?”
Jeongguk paused for a moment to think about the questions, while absentmindedly running his thumb across Taehyung’s knuckles.
Taehyung always loved it when he did this, but Jeongguk did not seem like he was conscious of the action.
“Pretty sure we were watching a movie.”
“No, not our movie night.” – Taehyung sighed. – “How does Jin-hyung expect me to pay attention to anything else on a movie night other than you and the movie?”
“I…” – Jeongguk stammered, not really knowing how to respond to that admission. – “Uh… maybe that’s why he told you when I was there, so I’ll remind you or something. Which I forgot to do, sorry.”
“Not your fault.” – Taehyung quickly replied. – “I was the one who didn’t pay attention. Anyway, what’s the reaction? I don’t remember what I said at all.”
Jeongguk smiled reassuringly and showed Taehyung his phone.
“So far, so good. People are complimenting your suit and your hair, and how handsome you look. And they’re even complimenting me. Want me to read some comments on the interview?” – He pulled the phone back in front of his face. – “’V is so handsome I die.’ ‘V’s date is gorgeous.’ ‘Wait are they boyfriends now? That’s so cute.’ ‘I would give everything to be Do Jihan right now.’ ‘They look so beautiful together I cannot.’ And those are the top comments.” – Jeongguk laughed and squeezed Taehyung’s hand once more. – “People love you, Tae.”
Taehyung sighed in relieved. He was worried that there would be backlash against Jeongguk. He himself could not care less if people called him names, but if anyone said anything against Jeongguk, he would not leave that alone.
“They love you too.” – He smiled and looked at Jeongguk meaningfully. – “So, should we get going now, boyfriend?”
Jeongguk perked up at the last word.
“Where to?” – He asked and put the phone back in his pocket. – “Are we getting food, hyung?”
“If you want to.” – Taehyung replied. – “Are you hungry?”
“Kinda.” – Jeongguk lowered his voice. – “I know we just ate before going to the see the movie, but…”
“It’s okay.” – Taehyung smiled reassuringly. – “Let’s go find something to eat then. You’re still growing after all.”
“And you’re not?” – Jeongguk laughed.
“I don’t think there’s any hope left for me, baby.” – Taehyung sighed dramatically and pulled Jeongguk’s hand as they turned right at the corner of the street.
Jeongguk pulled him back and Taehyung almost fell backwards onto him. Sometimes he really forgot how strong Jeongguk was.
Jeongguk was looking down at their joined hands.
“I really like it when you call me baby.” – He whispered.
Taehyung felt his heart swell up.
“That’s good.” – He replied and stepped closer to Jeongguk, holding his other hand as well. – “I like calling you baby too.”
Jeongguk blinked in surprise and a smile began to form on his face before becoming a full grin, where his teeth were visible.
Taehyung thought that he was used to this, but it still took his breath away every time. He leaned in and kissed Jeongguk’s lips quickly, mindful that they were still in public, but glad that they were away from everyone else, even just for a moment.
“Let’s change the names on our phones.” – Jeongguk suggested when he pulled away. – “You would be ‘hyung’ and I would be ‘baby,’ maybe some heart emojis after that. What do you think?”
Taehyung laughed but took one of his hands out of Jeongguk’s grasp and took out his phone anyway. He placed it in Jeongguk’s hand.
“Your name is Tokki right now though.” – Taehyung pointed at the screen. – “Sure you want to change that?”
Jeongguk looked torn.
“Yours is TaeTae.” – He looked at Taehyung. – “But there’s a heart after that. Why is there a bunny emoji after my name but no heart?”
“I don’t…” – Taehyung blinked. – “Uh… I can add a heart? I just thought the bunny emoji is very… you.”
Jeongguk typed something into Taehyung’s phone before handing it back to him.
“There.” – He smiled innocently. – “It’s better now.”
Taehyung stared at the screen and chuckled. Jeongguk had changed the name to “Tokki baby who I love very much.”
“Sure you don’t want to change it to ‘who I love the most’?” – Taehyung teased.
Jeongguk stared at him and smiled softly.
“No, I don’t think I can do that, Tae. You have to change that on your own.”
Taehyung started typing and smiled to himself. When he finished, he handed Jeongguk the phone.
Jeongguk’s eyes widened immediately.
His number was now saved under “Tokki baby that I love the most and will propose to in 2 years and marry in 3.”
“Happy?” – Taehyung asked, hesitantly, because even now, he was still not sure.
Jeongguk looked back at him. The same expressions: adoration, surprise, love.
But Taehyung felt like he saw something like acceptance as well.
“You have no idea.” – He smiled as he typed something in his own phone.
Taehyung felt his heart beating out of his chest as he read the words.
4 O’clock. Epilogue.
Jack held the bouquet of flowers more tightly in his hands and stared unblinkingly at the tombstone.
“I’m gonna go find water to put into the vase.” – Bunny squeezed his shoulder once before walking away.
Jack nodded absentmindedly, still pointedly looking at the tombstone, and more importantly, at the engraved name.
“Hi babe.” – He said, to Justin, to no one, to himself, to the universe. – “It’s been a while. Sorry I haven’t been visiting a lot. Usually I come every weekend, but I just got back yesterday so I’m really sorry for not being around.”
He sighed and realized that he was already crying. He always cried whenever he visited Justin.
“I hope that you are doing well in heaven.” – He took a deep breath. – “I missed you. It’s been … it’s been two years, Justin, two very long years. To be honest, I don’t know I got through them, because it’s … it’s really hard without you here.”
Through the tears, he saw Bunny walking over with a bottle of water in his hand. Bunny poured water into the vase and Jack knelt down to put the bouquet in. Seeing Jack’s tear-stained face, Bunny just smiled softly and held out his hand in comfort. Jack took it almost immediately, like it was his lifeline.
“Justin, this is Bunny, my boyfriend.” – Jack announced.
Bunny squeezed his hand once.
“Hi Justin, it’s nice to talk to you again.” – Bunny spoke up.
They stood in silence in front of the tombstone, the only noise being Jack’s occasional sniffles. Eventually, he let go of Bunny’s hand and walked closer. He took out from his front pocket a small envelope, and leaned it carefully against the tombstone. He then put his hand back in Bunny’s outstretched hand’s, smiled at the tombstone, and turned around.
It’s been a while since I’ve really talked to you. You’re almost always on my mind, but I don’t think I’ve really talked to you, so that’s what I’m doing now. I have had some trouble coming to terms with the fact that you’re not here anymore, and that I’ll never be able to see you again. It still feels surreal to me, every time that I wake up, because one minute everything is fine; and then I remember that you’re gone; and my world is turned upside down. This happens almost every morning. Sometimes I think I’m better at coping, other times not so much.
I miss you.
There hasn’t been a day gone by that I haven’t thought of you. It’s so hard to live without you, Justin. And there are many times that I want to go to you, but I figured you’d probably not approve of that.
Meeting you is one of the best things that had happened to me.
Here is the secret that I’ve been hiding from you. Well, I think I’ve hidden it, maybe you know about it already.
I’m seeing someone at the moment. I think you know him. He lives in the same apartment building that you
live used to live in. I don’t know if you knew him by a different name, but he told me to call him Bunny.
I am so sorry for bringing this up right now. I’ve been feeling like I’m betraying you; and no one is here to tell me otherwise.
This is hard.
Justin, I think I’m in love with him.
You’re the first person I’m telling. I feel like I need to let you know first.
I still love you so much, and I am so sorry that I am not in love with you anymore. You are the hardest person to get over. I guess I am asking for your permission to move on, because I don’t think I can do that without talking to you first. But then again, I have no idea how you’ll give me a reply.
Is it okay that I love him?
Is it okay if I move on, Justin?”
A light breeze swept through the ground and Jack turned around, afraid that the letter would fly away, but it was still leaning against the tombstone, like a gentle reassurance.
*The letter on the necklace is ㅌ for 태형 (Taehyung's name). But to Taehyung it's for 토끼 (Tokki).
Thank you so much for reading and leaving kudos and commenting!! I hope you enjoyed the story and hopefully I will see you in the next one :)