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The Great Pretender

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Oh yes I’m the great pretender

Pretending I’m doing well

My need is such I pretend too much

I’m lonely but no one can tell

Taehyung doesn’t quite know what’s going on. 

He and Yoongi have always been close. Whether it be because of their shared hometown, or because of their shared love for hand holding, or because of the thin red string that ties his ring finger to Yoongi’s pinky – they’ve always been close. Inseparable, almost. So Taehyung doesn’t know why, all the sudden, his mind is telling him something different.

They’re all congregated in the living room of their new dorm, having a kind of house-warming party for just the seven of them. Yoongi is curled up in his arms, playing idly with the string running between them, obviously enjoying Taehyung’s presence, and yet – 

Something is wrong.

“Something wrong, Tae? You’re being kind of quiet,” Seokjin asks, leaning over the back of the couch to gently card his fingers through Taehyung’s hair. Seokjin plays with his hair for a minute before gently tapping Taehyung’s forehead, obviously wanting an answer.

Taehyung hums. “Yeah, hyung. I’m fine.” He’s not lying, not really. Because he is fine, he just – doesn’t feel fine. “Just tired.”

It’s a good excuse; they’ve been moving furniture all day and unpacking boxes to try and get some semblance of a house together. Jimin is currently passed out face down on their living room rug as Hoseok traces small circles on the small of his back. Truthfully, Taehyung is exhausted. But he knows he can’t blame it all on the move, there’s something bothering him, something that’s just not quite right, he just doesn’t know what it is. What he does know, though, is that it will pass, and there is no reason to get his hyungs in a tizzy about something that won’t bother him in two day’s time.  

“Want to go to bed, Tae?” Yoongi asks, tilting his head up. They have the space to all have their own rooms in this apartment, but Yoongi had stolen Taehyung’s good pillow off his bed and put it on his own earlier today – a not so subtle hint at where Yoongi expected him to sleep tonight.

Yoongi is already pulling Taehyung off the couch by the time he says “sure.” Taehyung follows silently behind him as they make their way down the hallway to Yoongi’s room. It’s at the end of the hall, right next to Taehyung’s room, and the other members had all teased them about taking the rooms farthest away from everyone else. Taehyung has bruises on his ribs from Jungkook’s overzealous elbowing as he winked and made a lewd motion with his hand.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Yoongi asks, pushing Taehyung’s hair away from his face. They’re close enough that, if he wanted to, Taehyung could lean down and kiss Yoongi square on the mouth, but he doesn’t. 

“Yeah, I’m good. The move took a lot out of me,” Taehyung says. Yoongi nods and turns away to get his pajamas. Taehyung merely strips to his boxers and climbs under the covers, tucking one pillow under his head and stealing another to hold in his arms. Once they’re situated, Yoongi pressed up against Taehyung’s back and Taehyung gently playing with his fingers, Yoongi whispers, 

“Goodnight, Tae. I– I like you, alot.”

“I like you, too, hyung,” Taehyung says. Despite knowing for seven years that Yoongi is his soulmate, Taehyung doesn’t quite know what they are. During debut, they’d ignored it: the red string, the itch to be near each other, the longing they felt when they were away from each other for too long. They’ve been in this odd limbo for a while, the I recognize that you’re my soulmate and we flirt but definitely aren’t dating limbo. And it’s okay most of the time. Taehyung is fine with holding hands and sleeping in the same bed and shyly admitting that they like like each other when no one else is around to hear them.  

And yet–

Something is missing.

Taehyung just doesn’t know what. 

– 

“Tae, wanna go get food with me?” Yoongi asks, head poking into Taehyung’s room. They have the day off today and Taehyung is completely prepared to spend it laying in bed watching shitty reality TV, but he notices that Yoongi has on his nice jacket and his hair is styled.

“Yeah, hyung, just let me get dressed,” Taehyung says. Yoongi nods, smiling to himself as he exits the room. Taehyung walks to his closet, fighting against the weird funk in his brain trying to hold him back. He sifts through his clothes almost blindly and ends up putting on an outfit that doesn’t match before he finally comes back to himself. Taehyung looks at himself in the mirror and narrows his eyes, pointing at himself menacingly as he says, “you will have a good day. Yoongi hyung is cute and excited and you will not ruin it.” 

After he’s changed into an outfit that actually makes sense, Taehyung hurries to join Yoongi in the living room. His hyung is pacing back and forth, nervously twiddling with the string tied around his pinky. Taehyung can feel the vibrations on his own finger, and he very gently grabs the string to hold it still. Yoongi looks up at him, startled, his cheeks red.

“You ready?” Yoongi asks. Taehyung nods and follows him out the door, pointedly looking away as he reaches for Yoongi’s hand. Yoongi makes a small noise and curls their fingers together as they make their way towards the elevator. 

The ugly feeling in Taehyung’s chest is still there, but every time Yoongi swings their hands back and forth, or gently runs his thumb over Taehyung’s, he can feel himself walking with a lighter step, feels the hint of a smile playing at his lips. 

They end up at a small restaurant near their dorm where the owners know Yoongi. They get their own private table in the back, away from prying eyes, and once the waiter has walked away Yoongi leans over the table and gently bops Taehyung on the nose.

Taehyung grins, a bit of the ugliness leaving him. It’s been a few days since they moved in and the feeling he had on the first night in their new dorm is settling. He knows it will pass, it always passes, but he’s still excited to be able to think a little clearer – at least for now.

“I’m so glad we get the day off today, if I had to run DNA one more time I was going to break my own foot,” Yoongi says. Taehyung laughs, nodding. The practices for their upcoming album have been nonstop, between dance practices and vocal lessons and preparing for the comeback in general. How they found time to have a day off in the midst of this, Taehyung doesn't know, but he’s thankful for it.

“So how did you find this place, hyung?” Taehyung asks. He knows that Yoongi and Namjoon did most of the research for their new place, wanting to find the perfect area for them all to live with enough things nearby that, if they do get the day off, they can explore, but not so much stuff that they can’t leave their dorm without being recognized and mobbed.

Yoongi hums, gently running his foot over the top of Taehyung’s. It makes Taehyung feel warm – the unconscious contact Yoongi always seems to keep. “Seok and I came here, once.”

And that’s – less warm. Maybe the darkness isn’t as gone as he thought it was. Taehyung nods and distracts himself with taking a drink of his water, but he can’t help but think: when did they come here? Did they sit in this secluded room too? Did Yoongi gently play footsies with Hoseok under the table too? But then Taehyung thinks about the red string tied around his ring finger, and the thoughts calm, somewhat. Yoongi has no reason to be flirting with Hoseok, and Taehyung’s brain needs to just be quiet. At least – as long as he’s with someone. When he’s home, curled up in his bed where no one can hear him or see his face crumple, he can deal with these thoughts then. Not now. Not when Yoongi is looking at him like he knows something is wrong but doesn’t quite know how to voice his concern.

“That’s awesome,” Taehyung says. He inwardly cringes at himself because he never says awesome. He’s pretty sure he hasn’t used the word awesome since he was thirteen, in reference to his best friend’s broken arm.

Yoongi nods, pursing his lips. “Yeah, pretty awesome.”

The air around them grows awkward after that, and Taehyung kicks himself. Soon enough, their food comes, and Taehyung gratefully stuffs his face to avoid further conversation. There are a few times where Yoongi opens his mouth to say something, thinks better of it, and snaps it closed again. Taehyung feels terrible.

“So, um,” he starts. Yoongi looks up at him, and Taehyung pushes around his food on his plate. This is his hyung. This is his Yoongi, who he’s known for years, who used to let him sleep in his bed and cry on his chest when he missed home too badly. It’s not supposed to be awkward between them – but yet. Here they are.

“Taehyung,” Yoongi says very quietly. Taehyung stops fidgeting, but still doesn’t look up. “What’s going on? You’ve been weird all week and you’re making hyung really worried.” Taehyung isn't quite sure if Yoongi is talking about himself or Seokjin, but he’s sure both options apply. 

“Nothing,” Taehyung says.

Yoongi frowns. “Please don’t keep lying to me, Taehyung.”

“I’m fine,” Taehyung says. He’s just – in a funk. It always goes away, if this episode is lasting a little longer than usual, that’s his business. He’ll deal with it. “Please stop asking.”

“Okay, just–” Yoongi pauses. Licks his lips. Contemplates if he should push any more. “Just remember that I’m here for you always, yeah. Soulmates or not, us Daegu boys have to stick together, yeah?” 

“Yeah, hyung,” Taehyung says. His throat is tight, and he looks down to blink away his tears before Yoongi can notice, but he’s sure that he already has. His hyung is observant like that, always quietly watching and assessing and taking quiet care of things as he needs to. When he looks back up, Yoongi is looking at him with soft eyes, still looking concerned, so Taehyung smiles at him.

The waiter comes back and gives them their bill, telling them to take all the time they need, but Yoongi already has the money on the table before the waiter walks away. “Ready to go home, Tae?”

“Yeah, hyung,” he repeats; he feels a little bit like a broken record – a bit more broken than record, maybe. “Wanna watch Haikyuu with me when we get back?”

Yoongi doesn't really care for anime. He can appreciate the animation and coloring, but it never makes him want to join a team sport like Taehyung does after they finish a season. Usually, when Taehyung asks him to watch anime, Yoongi brings his laptop and they just kind of – coexist. Sitting in the same room, pressed against each other, but each in their own little world. This time, however, Yoongi reaches for Taehyung’s hand, intertwines their fingers, and says, “I would love to, Tae.” 

Too real is this feeling of make believe

Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal

— 

Things are okay, for a while.

The darkness in Taehyung’s head disappears, or is pushed aside, at least, the more they prepare for comeback. Taehyung sneaks into Yoongi’s room in the middle of the night sometimes and they giggle about stupid things until the sun comes up. Yoongi lets Taehyung hear some demos he’s been working on for his newest mixtape, and then pets Taehyung’s hair when he cries a little bit because there is so much people don’t know about Yoongi – things Yoongi hates to talk about – and Taehyung’s heart breaks every time Yoongi trusts him enough to share a little bit of himself with him. 

A few times, Yoongi steals Taehyung away from practices and fittings to take him on “dates.” One day they sneak away and explore the building they’re in for some interview, hiding in a storage closet when their manager comes looking for them, giggling into each other’s hands as they try desperately to stay quiet. Another day Taehyung sweeps Yoongi into his arms and runs off with him while the other members yell from behind them, please just let us film we want to go home.

For weeks, Yoongi and Taehyung circle around each other like two satellites afraid they’ll fall out of orbit if they stray too far. Taehyung spends more time in Yoongi’s studio than he ever has before. Yoongi actually gets involved in Haikyuu, actively seeks Taehyung out when they have free time, cuddles him close and yells at the screen when he gets frustrated.

But then –

But then.

“Where’s Yoongi hyung?” Taehyung asks, already wearing his most comfortable pants. He and Yoongi are scheduled to start a new anime today – Free! even though Taehyung has already seen it, he has to show it to Yoongi, has to know if he ships makoharu or rinharu.

Jungkook looks up from his game for only a split second as he shrugs. “Out with Hobi hyung somewhere. They left a while ago.” 

Oh. Well. “Did they say when they would be back?” Taehyung asks. Yoongi could not possibly have forgotten. Taehyung has been excited all week about today, Yoongi was excited too, he thought, but – maybe not. Maybe he was pretending just for Taehyung.

Jungkook shrugs again. “No. But they both took bags with them, I assume they’ll be out all day.”

“Okay,” Taehyung says smally. He leaves, retreating back to his room. Quietly, he closes his computer and blows out the candle he knows Yoongi likes. He lights it every time they watch anime together, says it makes him feel comfortable. Taehyung puts all the pillows back on the bed, now that he doesn’t have to make extra room.

Taehyung sighs and crawls into his bed. Realistically, he knows that Yoongi isn’t being malicious. Maybe he just forgot, or there was an emergency that needed tending. Maybe Hoseok drug him out of the house even though Yoongi told him he needed to stay.

Just because he’s missing our anime time doesn’t mean Yoongi hates me, Taehyung tells his brain firmly. We’re all busy, it probably just slipped his mind.

When Yoongi finally does come home, he knocks on Taehyung's door almost immediately. Quickly, Taehyung rolls over and covers himself with his blanket.

“Taetae?” Yoongi says quietly, poking his head into the room. “Are you sleeping?”

Taehyung doesn’t move, wills his breath to stay even, and he hears Yoongi’s quiet footsteps as he pads across the room. Suddenly, there are fingers in Taehyung’s hair, smoothing it back before it flops into his face again.

“Maybe another time, then.” Yoongi pats his head once, twice, and pulls up the blanket before he leaves the room. Once the door is shut, Taehyung rolls onto his back.

He covers his face with his hands and exhales, breath shaking.

A few days later, Taehyung is curled up on the couch letting Jimin connect his moles with a marker when Yoongi and Hoseok stumble through the door. Yoongi’s nose is bright red, as are Hoseok’s ears, but the cold doesn’t seem to bother them because they’re laughing. Hoseok’s mouth has taken on full heart status, and Yoongi’s eyes are glistening in that way they do after they’ve won an award or when his mother sends him pictures of Holly.

“You guys have fun?” Jimin asks, not looking up from his handiwork. He’s moved on from merely connecting Taehyung’s moles to trying to make pictures out of them. 

Hoseok nods as he takes off his coat. “Loads. Hyung slipped and fell on his ass, like, four times.”

“Shut up,” Yoongi says, smacking Hoseok on the stomach. His cheeks are bright red to match his nose, and Taehyung turns his head away from them.

The worst part about the way he feels is that he doesn’t know why. Taehyung can’t figure out why it always feels like there’s an elephant on his chest, doesn’t understand why most days it seems like he’s fighting against some invisible current.

“Hey, Tae,” Yoongi calls. Taehyung glances at him and Yoongi points towards his room. “Wanna watch that swimming anime now? We have the rest of the day off.”

“No,” Taehyung says simply.

Frowning, Yoongi says, “oh. Okay. Well, just tell me when you want to watch that.”

“Okay, hyung. Will do.” Jimin is looking at him oddly, and Taehyung merely sighs as he rolls over, gently pulling his leg out of Jimin’s grip as he curls into the couch.

Things don’t get any better, after that.

Yoongi keeps doing things with Hoseok on their days off, and Taehyung keeps hiding in his room and staring at the ceiling because nothing seems right. Usually, when Yoongi gets home, Taehyung turns down his offers to hang out because – well, he doesn’t know why.

The other members are starting to notice the weird distance Taehyung has put between them. Taehyung catches Yoongi and Seokjin speaking in quiet voices as they make breakfast one morning, can see Yoongi agitatedly fiddling with the string around his pinky as they talk. Another day, Namjoon drags Yoongi out of the dorm to go to the studio, but then Taehyung finds Namjoon’s computer still on his desk with his audio files pulled up when he goes into his room searching for a hoodie to wear.

Then, one day –

“What goes on, Tae?” Hoseok asks as he walks into the living room. Taehyung has his sketchbook on his lap, staring at a few drawings he did of Yoongi a few months ago, before this funk started to take over his brain. 

Taehyung shrugs in response, and Hoseok walks over to him to gaze at his sketchbook. Taehyung curls over it, doesn’t really want anyone to see, but Hoseok makes a quiet hmph sound anyways.

“I’m surprised you still know what he looks like,” Hoseok says. Taehyung sits up, ramrod straight, and says,

“Excuse me?” Hoseok shrugs and moves around the couch to sit next to him. Taehyung’s heart is beating fast – other than the pointed looks and the occasional are you okay? ’s, no one has bothered to call him out on his behavior. Frankly, it’s none of their business, but it’s especially not Hoseok’s business.

“I just mean you’ve been avoiding him, Tae,” Hoseok says. His voice is soft, like he’s trying to coax a scared animal out from under the couch. Taehyung turns away from him slightly, and Hoseok sighs. “It’s not like you’ve been exactly subtle.”

“Shut up, hyung.” Taehyung closes his book and tries to walk away, but Hoseok grabs his wrist. Taehyung glares at him, but he knows it’s not very effective when Hoseok bites his bottom lip, obviously trying not to be endeared. “It isn’t your business.” 

“It is my business, it’s everyone’s business,” Hoseok says. He turns Taehyung to look at him and gently holds onto his hand. “You haven’t been yourself lately and we’re worried. We’re going to have music shows soon, and then we’re going to America. You need to be on your A-game.”

“So now I’m negatively affecting the group?” Taehyung asks, face contorting. He knows that’s not what Hoseok means, knows that he really is just worried, but he can’t – his brain won’t let him think anyone can actually be concerned for him. “Whatever, hyung.”

Taehyung pulls his hand away and hurries back to his room, ignoring Hoseok as he calls to him from the couch. Taehyung slams his door behind him, breathing heavily, and drops his sketchbook on his desk. Taehyung sinks to the floor and cradles his head in his hands.

“What the fuck,” Taehyung mumbles. It feels like his head weighs a thousand pounds, like his chest has rocks in it. “What is wrong with me.”

“Taehyung?” There’s a quiet voice and a knock at his door. Taehyung moves so he’s not against the door anymore and makes a quiet sound, a sort of come in. Yoongi opens the door makes a sad sound when he finds Taehyung curled in on himself on the floor. “Hey, Tae.”

Yoongi sits down beside him and immediately brings a hand to Taehyung’s hair, gently running his fingers through it. Taehyung leans against him, shutting his eyes. He just wants to feel better, and with Yoongi’s hands in his hair, with their legs pressed together, Taehyung can pretend.

He can’t pretend, however, when Yoongi says, “want to tell me why you’ve been avoiding me?”

“I haven’t,” Taehyung says. He pulls away from Yoongi’s hand and his stomach feels like rocks. “We just haven’t had time.”

“I offer to hang out with you every time we have a day off, Tae.” Yoongi looks confused, and Taehyung turns his head away from him.

“Yeah, after you hang out with Hoseok hyung,” Taehyung grumbles. Yoongi leans back, mouth open, as he stares at Taehyung. And Taehyung – knows better than to push it. But yet, “you’re always hanging out with Hoseok hyung.”

“What?” Yoongi asks, seeming genuinely confused. “Sure, I hang out with Hoseok a lot but I always offer to do things with you when we get back. You’re the one who always turns me down!”

“Because I know you’re just doing it because you have to!” Taehyung says. He’s trying not to raise his voice, but he can’t help it. He knows Yoongi merely pities him, knows he would rather spend time with Hoseok than him.

“Taehyung, what are you talking about?” Yoongi asks. His voice has gone back to normal level, and he’s furrowing his eyebrows, obviously confused. Taehyung scoffs.

“You’re just hanging out with me because you have to,” Taehyung says. He picks up his hand, pulling mockingly at the string that follows it. “I get it, you just- you just pity me.”  

Yoongi looks at him, frowning. “That’s not true, you know that’s not true.”

Somewhere, in the very back of Taehyung’s brain, he knows it’s not true. But right now his brain is heavy and his anxiety is off the charts and all rational thought just – doesn’t exist.

“I know you’d rather spend time with Hoseok hyung. I know you don’t – you just pretend when you’re with me,” Taehyung says. His heart hurts. His head is throbbing and his heart hurts. “So just– just stop pretending.”

“I’m not pretending!” Yoongi says, throwing his hands in the air. He’s obviously exasperated, and Taehyung knows it’s because of him, but he can’t help but be insecure. “The string means nothing, Taehyung!”

“Then why aren’t you spending time with me!?” Taehyung shouts. He stands up, running his fingers through his hair, and Yoongi follows him. The string swing between them, but for the first time Taehyung doesn’t find any comfort in it – it means nothing, Yoongi said.

“You're being like this because I’m not spending enough time with you? I’ve asked to spend time with you every single opportunity we have. You’ve been in a funk for weeks because I’m spending time with Hoseok – my friend? ” Yoongi asks, raising his voice. “I’m not allowed to have friends?”

“No!” Taehyung cries. Yoongi scoffs, looking taken aback, and Taehyung shakes his head. “No, hyung, that’s not what I meant. I don’t care if you have friends, I’m just– I feel so– I don’t know.” 

Yoongi backs up until he can grab the door handle, and he shakes his head. “Well when you figure it out, let me know.”

He leaves.

Taehyung stands in the middle of his room, watches the door wobble with the force with which Yoongi slammed it. Inside him, it feels like part of his funk has dislodged and is just – floating inside him. He doesn’t feel any better for it, in fact, he feels a little bit like he might pass out. For the past few weeks, Taehyung hasn’t cried a single time. Even after the first time Yoongi chose Hoseok over him, even when he found out his favorite k-drama character died before he could watch the episode.

Biting on his sleeve to muffle the sounds, Taehyung sobs for the first time in what feels like years. The tears run down his cheeks in a dramatic sort of way, so fast that he doesn’t bother trying to wipe them off. Yoongi would usually do it for him, but – he’s not here. The string connecting he and Yoongi is hanging limply in front of him, mocking him, and Taehyung bites back a sob.

It means nothing. Yoongi’s voice echoes in Taehyung’s brain. He wonders, briefly, what would happen if he just – cut it.  

“No,” Taehyung shouts at himself. He hears all the commotion outside his door cease for a second, before tentatively picking back up after he makes no other sound. He walks to his bed and flops onto it, face down, burying his head in his pillow. He’s still crying, doing his best to muffle the sounds.

He wants to call his mom, wants to hear her sweet voice and wants to let her soothe him. But – he doesn’t deserve it, he thinks. No, Taehyung hurt Yoongi. He told him he couldn’t have friends, and even though Taehyung is hurting, too, he hurt Yoongi and doesn’t deserve to be comforted. 

After what seems like hours, there’s a knock at Taehyung's door. For half a second he thinks that maybe it’s Yoongi, but. Taehyung hurt him. He probably doesn’t want to talk.

“Taetae?” Jimin almost whispers from behind the door. Taehyung chokes back another cry – Jimin sounds concerned and he – he doesn’t deserve it.  

“Please go away, Jimin,” Taehyung says. His voice is hoarse from crying, and he cringes at himself. He can hear Jimin shuffling behind the door, contemplating if he should leave or push, and Taehyung says again, “go away.”

“I love you, Tae. We all love you,” Jimin says.

Taehyung starts crying all over again.

“Five, six, seven, eight.”

Taehyung trips over his own feet as he attempts to keep up. He’s just tired. A few days ago he had this dance down pat, but now he can’t seem to tell his right foot from his left. Maybe it has to do with the fact he didn’t sleep well last night. Maybe it’s because he didn’t wake up early enough for breakfast. Maybe the way Hoseok grips his wrist just a little too tight when they practice DNA is throwing him off.

“What’s the problem, Tae?” Their choreographer, Hyungsik, asks. Taehyung looks over at him, sweat dripping into his eyes, and he shrugs. “Well figure it out.”

Well when you figure it out, let me know.

Taehyung nods, mostly because Hyungsik is still looking at him, waiting for an answer, but also partly because he wants to dislodge the sound of Yoongi’s words from his brain. 

“Let’s run it again. Five, six, seven, eight.”

He focuses harder this time, knows that they need to record a practice video tonight, too, and they can’t do that if Taehyung keeps falling over himself. He’s doing well, almost perfect, and then he moves his hand in front of his face and watches as the red string moves along with it.

The string means nothing.

Taehyung trips, falls into Namjoon, and gasps. “Sorry, sorry,” Taehyung says, pulling his hands close to his chest. The music stops again and Taehyung can feel everyone’s eyes on him.

“Tae–” Namjoon starts, reaching out for him. Taehyung flinches away and takes a step backwards, consequently bumping into Jimin.

“Sorry, I’m sorry,” Taehyung says. He looks between Jimin and Namjoon, both looking concerned, and – runs.

He’s out of the practice room before anyone can stop him, running wildly through the halls to find a place to hide. He remembers exploring the floors with Yoongi a few weeks ago, remembers giggling as he pulled Yoongi into storage closets and down long hallways.

Taehyung turns down a hallway and quickly finds himself in the same place he hid from his managers with Yoongi all those days ago. He closes the closet door behind him and sits on the floor. He can hear footsteps in the hallway, can hear someone calling his name, but Taehyung ignores them. There’s only one person who can find him, only one person that has a map right to him attached to his finger.

Yoongi doesn’t bother to come find him. Taehyung leaves the storage closet when his knees start to cramp and his heart has calmed down. He finds the members all crowded in the practice room, huddled around each other, laughing and talking. Yoongi is there, too, playing on his phone. Yoongi had a map to him the whole time and he didn’t come find Taehyung. Didn’t care enough to come find Taehyung.

Jimin notices him first, runs to him and throws himself in Taehyung’s arms. Distantly, Taehyung wonders if Yoongi was worried or not. 

“You okay, Tae?” Jimin asks, pulling Taehyung out of his thoughts. Jimin’s hands are on the side of his face and his eyes are running over every inch of him quickly, looking for damage. He won’t find any, though. At least not physically. 

Taehyung nods. “Yeah, Jimin. I’m okay.”

Jimin keeps running his hands over Taehyung’s face, though, obviously not believing him. “Okay. Ready to go home? I want to watch Ponyo.”

Taehyung nods, and Jimin leads him out of the room without a glance back at the others. Their dorm is close enough to walk, and the whole time Jimin holds his hand and runs his thumb soothing over Taehyung’s. When they get home, Jimin lets Taehyung curl around him as they – more so Jimin, Taehyung is just kind of staring – watch the movie. Jimin doesn’t push him to talk about it, but does gently pull Taehyung’s hand away when he notices him scratching the place where the string attaches to his finger.

Taehyung doesn’t talk to anyone about it. He doesn’t talk to anyone about anything, really. He can feel his hyung’s worried gazes on him, notices that everyone is being very, very careful around him, but he doesn’t want to talk about it. Taehyung just wants to be alone until this passes – until the dark cloud hovering over his head is gone and the rock sitting where his heart is goes away.

Just because Taehyung doesn't want to talk about it doesn’t mean that the other members don’t try to get him to talk about it, though. 

“I brought you lunch, Taetae,” Seokjin says one day. It’s been a few hours – maybe a day – since Taehyung has left his bed. After their last dance practice he went straight to his room and flopped onto his bed. He hasn’t moved since, expect to close his curtains. Taehyung turns over and looks at his hyung, who pouts at him. “Do you want to eat, Tae?”

“Not hungry, hyung. But thank you,” Taehyung says. Seokjin sits on the edge of Taehyung’s bed and presses the back of his hand against Taehyung’s forehead. Taehyung closes his eyes, and Seokjin brushes the hair away from his face.

“You have to eat, Tae. I know you’re upset but that doesn’t mean you can just let yourself waste away.” Taehyung rolls over, and Seokjin sighs. “We just want to make it better, Taehyung.” 

“You can’t,” Taehyung responds. “I messed up and I don’t want to talk about it. Please go away.”

“Okay, okay. We don’t have to talk about it. But I’m not leaving until you eat something.”

Reluctantly, Taehyung pushes himself up and eats half of the sandwich Seokjin brought him. He notices that Seokjin has left his bedroom door open, and with a clear shot of the living room, Taehyung’s heart crumbles once more. Yoongi is laying across Namjoon’s lap, showing him something on his laptop. He looks happy, like maybe he’s definitely not as affected by their argument as Taehyung is. Maybe Taehyung is being dramatic.

“I’m done,” Taehyung says. He sets the sandwich back on the plate and crawls out of bed, looking for a change of clothes. If Yoongi is fine, then Taehyung will be fine, too. He’ll shower and brush his teeth and play games with Jungkook and be fine.

Before he turns the water on for the shower, he hears Seokjin tells someone, “I told you a little bit of home cooking would perk him right up.”

— 

Oh yes I am the great pretender

So Taehyung pretends.

He goes to practice and perfects dance after dance, the fans comment on how silly he’s acting and how they’re happy to see him so happy. In front of his managers and his members and his fans, Taehyung is perfectly fine. But behind the closed door of his bedroom he’s – well, not fine.

And maybe it’s because he’s putting on a front that his band mates think it okay to bring up god and Yoongi’s argument. Maybe it’s because Taehyung is smiling that they think he’s somehow become invincible. 

“You should talk to Yoongi hyung,” Jungkook says one day while they’re playing video games. Taehyung promptly dies because he’s so caught off guard, and Jungkook throws his character off a high building, killing him, before he turns to Taehyung.

“What?”

“You should talk to Yoongi hyung,” Jungkook repeats. Taehyung looks at him like he’s sprouted another head, and Jungkook shrugs. “I don’t know what you did, but every time I go to hyung’s studio he’s just sitting in his chair, staring at nothing, fiddling with that damn string.”

“What I did,” Taehyung says. “So you’re blaming me?”

“That’s not what I meant, hyung. You know that’s not what I meant.” Jungkook turns more towards him, looking at him imploringly. “I don’t know what happened. Is that better? I don’t know what went down but I’m really sick of you two moping around and avoiding each other.”

Taehyung wants to tell Jungkook to mind his own business. He wants to tell him that he and Yoongi are fine, they’re just… taking some time off from each other, but even Taehyung knows that’s bullshit.  

When he gets up to leave the room, Jungkook quietly says, “you have to stop running away, hyung.”

Taehyung scurries out of the room, metaphorical tail between his legs.

When he passes Namjoon in the hallway, Taehyung smiles. Namjoon smiles back and steps in front of him, stopping Taehyung from entering his room.

“Hey, I wanted to talk to you about something.”

Immediately, Taehyung says, “if it’s about Yoongi hyung I don’t want to hear it.”

Namjoon frowns at him, and Taehyung sighs. Of course it’s about Yoongi hyung. No one has attempted to talk to him about anything else lately; it’s always hey have you talked to Yoongi this or how are you and Yoongi doing? that. Taehyung shouldn’t have expected anything else, and he brushes past Namjoon with a huff.

“He’s in his room, just so you know,” Namjoon says. Taehyung doesn’t bother to turn around.

When Taehyung gets into his room, he throws himself onto his bed – a very familiar spot for him, as of late. He pulls out his phone and scrolls through Twitter for a minute, laughs at some of the replies to their latest tweet, contemplates following a fansite account for himself just because.

He glances briefly at the messaging app. It would be so easy to just – text him. Text anyone. Just to get these feelings off his chest.  

To: yoonie hyung

I’m sorry

Taehyung shakes his head and backspaces. He can’t just say I’m sorry. That’s not nearly enough. He sighs and drops his phone on his chest. He’s not quite sure if there are enough words in the world to describe how he’s felt the past month or so, and especially how he felt the day he and Yoongi fought. Taehyung picks his phone up again and just starts typing, hoping that his message makes some sort of sense.

To: yoonie hyung [19:50]

hi hyung.. i just wanted to let you know that im

really sorry and i acted really stupid but there’s

just this gunk in my head and i don’t know how to get it to go away and it feels like my heart is a rock and i didn’t mean to say that you couldn’t have friends because that’s not what i meant i just feel really lonely and i don’t know why and i shouldn’t have taken it out on you and i hope you can forgive me because i miss you a lot and even if you never talk to me again that’s okay i just had to tell you how i feel

He sends it, even though his fingers are shaking, and waits. After a few minutes without Yoongi even having read the message, Taehyung panics.

To: yoonie hyung [19:56]

um and im not telling you this so you pity me or anything because im not searching for like comfort or anything i just wanted to try and explain and im really really sosry hyunf

Taehyung shoves his phone under his pillow and wipes at his eyes. His hands are shaking and his chest hurts, but he tries to ignore it in favor of listening to Yoongi through the wall. Maybe he’ll hear Yoongi read his message, or something. He tosses back and forth, tries to play a game on his phone to distract himself, but there is nervous energy running through his veins and he can’t stop his hands from shaking.

Distantly, he wonders if everyone in the living room can hear his heart beating like he can. Taehyung feels it in his stomach, in his throat, and he desperately tries to calm himself. He feels cold but his skin is hot, and Taehyung obsessively refreshes his notifications, hoping hoping hoping that Yoongi has at least read his message.

Another ten minutes pass, and Taehyung’s heart is a stone in his chest, and his stomach keeps turning over itself as he paces back and forth in his room. Yoongi is never going to to forgive him – he messed up too badly, ignored him for too long. He should have tried to fix things sooner. Now it’s too late, and Yoongi hates him, and Taehyung hates himself. The black, murky, sadness that seemed to be filling his brain slowly impedes on him again, making Taehyung’s hands shake and his vision blur.

He doesn’t deserve – has never deserved – Yoongi. He never deserved the hand holding or the cuddling or the lunches out. Yoongi was just pretending – the same way that Taehyung has been pretending – to spare his feelings. Taehyung runs his hands through his hair and takes a shaking breath. He can see the string in his peripheral and – he doesn’t even deserve that, does he?

No. Because of the string, Yoongi has felt obligated to be nice to him; he has felt obligated to do things he doesn’t want to just to appease Taehyung. Maybe if Taehyung just cuts it off, Yoongi would he happier.

Taehyung opens and slams closed drawers as he searches for a pair of scissors. His hands shake and he sifts through piles of papers in his desk, searching for anything to cut the string with. Eventually he finds a pair of scissors, and he – 

Cuts it.

He watches, blankly, as the string slowly drifts to the floor. Nothing happens for a moment. There’s just stony silence as Taehyung stands there and just – stares. He’s been attached to Yoongi, whether he knew it or not, for twenty years. And now they’re free of each other. Ironically, Taehyung doesn’t feel any lighter. 

“TAEHYUNG,” someone shouts, banging on his door. The sound comes so suddenly that he drops the scissors, just narrowly avoiding his own foot. The door handle jiggles but Taehyung locked it before coming into his room.

“Taehyung!” Yoongi yells again, and this time it sounds like he’s crying. “Taehyung please! The string– it’s- it’s just hanging.”

Taehyung looks down at the floor where the string fell, only to find it gone. Frantically, he searches the ground, even looks at his own hand, but finds nothing. It’s disappeared.

The banging at his door doesn’t cease; he can hear Yoongi crying from the other side. Instead of letting him in, Taehyung crawls under his comforter and puts on the noise cancelling headphones Namjoon bought him for Christmas. 

“Taehyung please, please talk to me,” Yoongi cries.

It will be better this way.

Just laughing and gay like a clown

I seem to be what I’m not, you see  

This time around, it’s Yoongi who doesn’t leave his room for days on end. He sees Seokjin disappear into Yoongi’s room once and a while, either carrying a plate of food or a stack of laundry. One time even Jungkook sneaks into Yoongi’s room with two heavy blankets, wearing his favorite pajamas and doesn’t come back out until late into the night.

Taehyung attempts to act as normal as possible – he actually joins everyone for dinner, he cracks jokes that have Jimin hunched over with laughter, he even helps Hoseok fold towels one night.

But yet –

There are eyes on him. Different from those of the past few months. Less concerned, more accusatory. Taehyung assumes that everyone knows what happened, even though he didn’t tell them. He does his best to ignore them all, and takes special care to avoid Namjoon when he has on his I need to speak with you face.

At practice, Yoongi stands as far away him as he can and keeps his hands in his pockets. If he has to use them, he makes sure to keep his eyes away from his hands, avoiding the very thing that Taehyung himself had once found comfort in. He can no longer see Yoongi’s string, but he assumes the dangling red tie mocks him as much as it did Taehyung.

A few times, they make eye contact in the mirror and Yoongi immediately looks away. And Taehyung – can’t even feel sad that Yoongi wants nothing to do with him. Glancing down at his hands, Taehyung doesn’t feel relieved, or sad, just – empty. He feels completely devoid of emotion, has felt so for the past few days. It’s almost worse than the funk from before. At least then he knew he was capable of feeling.

But that’s in the past. This is better. This has to be better.

“Hey, hyung, wanna play?” Jungkook asks that night, holding up a PlayStation controller. Taehyung just looks at him, trying to place his feelings. Why isn’t he excited? He likes playing games with Jungkook, loves messing around even though Jungkook always, inevitably, wins.

Taehyung smiles, albeit it a little tense. “No, Kookie. But maybe next time.”

Jungkook nods and turns around, happy to play without him. Taehyung sighs and gets up from the couch, trying to find something to entertain him. He’s already scrolled to the end of his feed on all of his apps, has played all the iOS games he has on his phone, but can’t seem to sit still enough to read the book Seokjin recommended to him.

Taehyung finds Jimin curled up in his bed watching YouTube videos. Silently, he cuddles up next to him. Jimin slings an arm around his shoulder and holds him tight, but Taehyung finds himself unfocused and completely out of it.

This feeling – empty, unsatisfied – has only plagued him like this one other time. In their trainee days, if they weren’t practicing for hours on end or going to meetings or being schooled on their new diets, they would be left with absolutely nothing to do. They found ways to entertain themselves, though. Jungkook liked to make faces at himself in the mirror, Namjoon and Seokjin liked to read and share philosophies, Hoseok and Jimin liked to make up choreography and have competitions on who was more flexible, and he and Yoongi – they would just sit with each other, leaning against one another or holding hands, once they got past the initial shyness, and talk about home.

One time in particular, during an especially hard day of dance practice, Taehyung remembers telling himself, soon it will be you and Yoongi hyung. Soon everything will be okay. Afterwards, Yoongi held Taehyung’s fatigued, emotionally-drained body and told him about Daegu. They grew up on opposite sides of town, and Yoongi would always share stories of his experience with the underground rap scene and what it was like having to choose between bus fares and food.

Taehyung remembers the first time he and Yoongi property discussed their red string. Yoongi had told him nothing had to change, said that they could still be best friends, that nothing would change the fact that they’re the boys from Daegu, and Yoongi would always protect him. Taehyung, with all the awkward, eighteen year old bravado in his body, had shyly asked Yoongi what would happen if he did want things to change.

Taehyung had always found comfort in the string, after that. Sure, he could always hold Yoongi’s hand or hug him or cuddle him on the couch, but he could do that with anyone. The string tied around his finger, though, that was something only he and Yoongi had. Something special just for them. Taehyung looks down at his hands – bare.

The string means nothing , Yoongi had said.

But to Taehyung, the string meant everything.

And he cut it away.

— 

“Yoongi hyung, can I talk to you?” Taehyung asks. He’s bending down, speaking through the air duct between their rooms. He knows Yoongi can hear him; they spent a lot of time in their last dorm whispering to each other through air vents after the rest of their members had gone to sleep. Yoongi doesn't say anything, but Taehyung can hear him shift, so he says, “you don’t have to respond. I just– I’m so sorry.”

Taehyung didn’t plan to cry. In fact, he didn’t even plan to apologize tonight, but he couldn’t go another day with this guilty weight on his chest. He ran into Yoongi in the hall the other morning and his hyung felt so thin . He obviously hasn’t been eating, and it’s Taehyung’s fault. He has to do something.  

Crying into a vent, though, wasn’t really the plan.

“I just– I still don’t know how I feel-felt. I know how I feel now, hyung, and I feel so bad. I think I was just lonely, or something, and the darkness was coming back and I didn't want to tell anybody because it passes, you know it always passes.” Yoongi has been on the comforting end of one too many of Taehyung’s sleepless nights, when the thoughts are too loud and the murk in his brain too thick for him to fall asleep. Always, without fail, it’s gone within a few days and Yoongi always tells him that he doesn’t mind helping Taehyung through his bad nights, but yet– 

Taehyung sniffles, plopping down completely next to the air duct and hiding his face in his knees. “I just miss you so much, hyung. And I know that I’ve been acting like I’m okay but I’m not. I haven’t slept and I know that you haven’t slept or eaten and it’s killing me because I know that I caused it and–”

“You have to calm down,” says Yoongi, voice as soft as ever. Taehyung chokes on his tears, hasn’t even noticed he’s been sobbing until Yoongi says something. “Hyung can’t understand you. Do you want to come over?”

“Can I?” Taehyung asks, already standing up. Yoongi’s door is open by the time Taehyung gets to his room, and the first thing he wants to do his throw himself into Yoongi’s arms, but – Yoongi is standing with his arms crossed, curled into himself like he’s not sure he made the right choice in letting Taehyung come over. “Hyung–”

“Let me talk for a moment, Tae,” Yoongi says. Taehyung gulps, nodding. His nervous heart is thudding in chest, but Yoongi called him Tae and – and that’s good, right? That’s good, because that means Yoongi still likes him, at least a little bit, right? Yoongi clears his throat, and Taehyung looks up at him, biting his lip nervously.

“I want you to know that I forgive you for our first argument. I know that sometimes the funk gets to you, and I should have pushed a little harder when it was so obvious you weren’t fine.” Yoongi sounds a little angry at himself, and Taehyung opens his mouth to say something, but Yoongi holds up a hand, cutting him off. “But I can’t– I don’t understand why–” 

Yoongi stops, pursing his lips for a moment before his face crumbles. He turns away from Taehyung and covers himself with his hands, trying to hide his crying. Taehyung reaches forward, desperately wanting to comfort him, but Yoongi steps away. 

“Why would you cut it?” Yoongi asks. He turns to look at Taehyung, eyes red and tears running down his cheeks. He looks so tired and so so hurt that Taehyung’s heart breaks all over again, and he can’t help the tears that gather in his eyes. Yoongi points an accusatory finger at him. “You– you don’t get to be sad. I know you were upset, and I know that you were jealous, but why– how could you ever do that?”  

Taehyung hastily wipes his tears away and forces himself to look at Yoongi, who’s furiously wiping his nose as his shoulders shake with sobs. Quietly, he asks, “how could you do that?”

“Because I–” Taehyung’s breath catches when Yoongi looks at him. He looks so much more than hurt; he looks heartbroken. And it’s all Taehyung’s fault. “Because I didn’t think you wanted this, hyung.”

Yoongi makes a confused noise, and Taehyung has to force himself to maintain eye contact. He says, “I thought that the string was forcing you to hang out with me. I thought you were happier with Hoseok hyung, and that you just – tolerated me. I know I shouldn’t listen to myself when I get sad, but I can’t help it, sometimes. And I don’t know why I’ve been feeling so weird but I can’t–”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Yoongi asks, shoving his hands back in his pocket. “Why didn’t you tell me? We always work through these things, Tae. Why did you push me away?”  

A sob catches in Taehyung throat, the emotions from the past few months finally catching up with him. He presses the heels of his hands to his eyes, shaking his head fervently. “I don’t know, I don’t know.”

Taehyung just wants a hug. He thinks that Yoongi wants a hug, too, but he’s crossed his arms back over his chest. 

Quietly, Taehyung says, “you said the string meant nothing. It was like you meant–” Taehyung heaves a shaking breath, curling in on himself. Looking up at Yoongi, he says, “it was like you said that we meant – mean – nothing.”  

Taehyung sits down on the ground and hides his face as he cries. He hasn’t admitted it to himself – didn’t want to accept that Yoongi doesn't love him like Taehyung does. His sobs are loud and Taehyung covers his mouth to try and muffle them. Yoongi isn’t saying anything and all Taehyung can this is it’s true, it’s true, he doesn’t love you – has never loved you.

“What? Taehyung?” Yoongi sits down next to him and throws his arms around Taehyung’s shaking shoulders. He wants to pull away, doesn’t want Yoongi to feel like he has to comfort him, but he’s feeling selfish and so – he turns and buries himself in Yoongi’s arms. He grasps at Yoongi’s sweater, wrinkling it in his fists, holding it tightly, afraid that maybe Yoongi will leave.

“I know I’m probably being stupid, we aren't even together, right? But I’m still – I still feel lonely, hyung. You were always so close to me but I felt so lonely anyways. And then you said that the string – the only thing that was for just us – didn’t even matter and I– my heart– just broke. I feel broken, hyung.” And this is– this goes past the last few months. Taehyung’s been feeling and feeling for years without telling anyone, has held certain truths from Yoongi even though they promised to always be honest with each other.

The truth, though, is that after Yoongi told him that it was okay if things changed between them, the hand holding and the cuddles and the late night talks have never been enough. There was always something that felt just out of reach, something Taehyung could never put his finger on but still made him feel so, so lonely, always made the bad days worse.

“I’m sorry,” Taehyung whispers. He feels like he should let go of Yoongi, maybe go back to his own room and never leave again. But he feels comforted, for the first time in a long time, and he doesn’t want to give that up. So he buries his head in the crook of Yoongi’s neck and prays that he doesn’t pull away.

Eventually, Yoongi says, “you are stupid.” Taehyung clenches his eyes shut. Here it comes – Yoongi is about to reject him, call him weird for reading too deep into their non-existent relationship. “I’m in love with you, you idiot. I have been, for a really long time.”

Taehyung looks up, finds Yoongi’s eyes and stares at him for a long moment before stuttering, “but the string – you said-”

“That it didn’t matter, I know,” Yoongi says. He finds Taehyung’s hands, runs his thumb over the place Taehyung’s string is meant to be tied. “I meant that I would hang out with you no matter what. You kept saying that the string made me, like I’m not an adult that can make my own decisions. I was never pretending to be excited about things we did together, and I was never, ever, pretending to love you.”

“Oh my god,” Taehyung says. He should feel relieved, should be happy that Yoongi loves him, but yet– “And I cut it off. I cut it off. Hyung I’m so sorry, I’m so, so sorry–” 

“Stop, Taehyung, stop.” Yoongi gently touches the sides of Taehyung’s face, holding him carefully. Taehyung is crying again, a few tears slipping over his cheeks, and Yoongi diligently wipes them away. “I was angry, you were already hurting, and I don’t blame you for taking my words the way you did. I’m still hurt that you would even think to cut it, but– I get it, I think.”

“I just – you mean everything to me, hyung. If it weren’t for you I probably would have run home the minute training got too tough. I have you to thank for– for everything, and to think you thought of the string– of us, as nothing, it just- I couldn’t–”

“Well good thing I don’t think that way, huh?” Yoongi says. He brushes the hair away from Taehyung’s face gently, always so gentle, and Taehyung’s heart clenches in his chest. He leans into Yoongi’s chest, and Yoongi plays with the hair on the nape of his neck. “Things aren’t perfect, Tae. It’s going to take a minute to get back to the way we were, I think, but I want you to know that I forgive you. And, string or not, I love you so, so much.” 

“Hyung,” Taehyung says, rolling onto his side. Yoongi is situated behind him, spooning Taehyung to the best of his ability. They’ve been watching Free! for the better part of two hours, locked away in Taehyung’s room to avoid doing the dishes from breakfast. Yoongi hums at him and runs a hand through Taehyung’s hair. He’s been touching him more recently, as if to make up for the fact that they’re no longer attached physically. Taehyung finds Yoongi’s free hand under the blanket and slots their fingers together. “Thank you.”

“Stop it,” Yoongi replies, rubbing his nose gently against Taehyung’s. “We talked about this.” 

“I know, but still,” Taehyung says. It’s been a few weeks since the ordeal in Yoongi’s bedroom, and ever since Taehyung has taken special care to appreciate Yoongi. Not that he didn’t before, but now he knows what life is like without him, and he never wants to experience it again. He realizes that Yoongi didn’t have to forgive him, that he could have told Taehyung to never speak to him again after what he did, but – he didn’t. And Taehyung will never be able to repay him for that. 

Taehyung looks up at Yoongi and finds him already staring back at him. Yoongi smiles, albeit shyly at having been caught, and Taehyung grins back. The past few weeks have been great. Yoongi has been having sleepovers in his room and holds his hand under the dinner table and always shares a blanket with him when they watch movies with the other members. Taehyung gets to wake up to Yoongi every morning and he loves it, even when they have to wake up at four am to practice or travel to a location interview.

However, something is still missing – but this time, Taehyung is actually going to talk about what he wants.

“Hyung,” Taehyung says again. Yoongi tilts his head the best he can against the pillow, and Taehyung bites his lip shyly. Yoongi pushes Taehyung’s bangs away again, and Taehyung feels the sudden urge to capture this moment and keep it in a jar.

Yoongi smiles at him, and with a honey voice asks, “what is it, Tae?”

“Will you kiss me?”

And this – this is new. Even before, they have never kissed. Sure, Taehyung got a forehead kiss or a comforting peck on the temple, but never anything – on the mouth. Even thinking about it had him blushing like a schoolgirl, and he knows his cheeks are flaming now but he can’t force himself to look away from Yoongi staring down at him, looking fond fond fond. 

“Of course, Tae,” Yoongi says. He leans down slowly and Taehyung’s eyes flutter shut. He unknowingly purses his lips, and he can feel Yoongi’s grin as he presses his lips to Taehyung’s cheek. Taehyung opens his eyes, pouting before Yoongi can even pull away and smile at him teasingly. “Happy?”

“No,” Taehyung says. He wants to cross his arms over his chest but Yoongi is holding his hand. Yoongi just keeps smiling at him, all gums, and Taehyung nudges his chest with his forehead. “Hyung, please.”

“Okay, Tae, okay.” Yoongi leans down again and Taehyung keeps his eyes open this time to make sure Yoongi actually kisses him. The second Yoongi’s mouth is on his, though, Taehyung closes his eyes and presses in close. Yoongi moves his hand from the back of Taehyung’s head to his chin, cradling him gently as pulls him closer. There are no sparks, and no fireworks go off in the distance, but Taehyung feels warm and comfortable and so, so in love.

When Yoongi pulls back Taehyung grabs his shirt and presses back in. Yoongi’s laugh is muted by Taehyung’s mouth, eager and needy after years of wanting and not asking. Yoongi lets go of Taehyung’s hand to grab his waist, and Taehyung wraps his arms around Yoongi’s shoulders to pull him impossibly closer. Taehyung throws his leg over Yoongi’s waist, and Yoongi makes a surprised sound.

“I- uh, I’m sorry, I just– want to be close,” Taehyung says. Yoongi smiles at him, lips a little red, and Taehyung’s heart flip flops in his chest. Yoongi pulls Taehyung completely into his lap and sits up against the headrest. He leans forward and kisses Taehyung, hard but soft, intense but still so, so gentle. Yoongi slots his fingers between Taehyung’s and holds them to his chest, like he’s overwhelmed and doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. Absentmindedly, Yoongi runs his thumbs over Taehyung’s, and after a moment, he pulls back, eyes wide.

“What–” Taehyung starts, watching as Yoongi fiddles with their hands.

“I know it’s not, quite the same, but um–” Yoongi nervously runs his fingers over Taehyung’s, like he’s contemplating something, and Taehyung presses a kiss to his forehead to try and calm him. Yoongi picks up Taehyung’s hand and Taehyung holds it up for him as Yoongi grasps at something Taehyung can’t see.

Slowly, Yoongi winds thin air around Taehyung’s pinky and ties it in a bow. Of course, Taehyung can’t see it anymore, but it’s there – the string.

“Aw,” Taehyung says, already choked up. Yoongi smiles at him, eyes watery, and Taehyung sniffles before leaning down and kissing him hard. Yoongi immediately cradles the back of his head and Taehyung holds the sides of his face. Suddenly, the kiss tastes very salty, and Taehyung pulls back to find that they’re both crying. He laughs, because this is so ridiculous. 

Yoongi pulls him close, resting his forehead on Taehyung’s. He laces together their tied together hands, and even though it doesn’t actually exist, Taehyung can feel the weight of the string on his finger, can feel it pulling he and Yoongi closer together.

“I love you, Tae. So much,” Yoongi whispers, like a secret shared between just them.

This time, Taehyung knows he’s not pretending.