Kim Iseul wakes up, on the day of her fifth birthday, with too much excitement to hold in her tiny little body. Her parents are instantly made aware of this because she jumps onto their bed at six in the morning, bouncing on the mattress with no regard for whatever limbs may be in her way. Taehyung groans, still half asleep, as she manages to land a foot too close to his groin for comfort. He cracks an eye open.
“Appas, wake up, wake up, wake up!” Her hair is all up in the air, bunny plushie floating up behind her and bouncing around as she does, limbs flying every which way. “It’s my birthday, I want the pretty pancakes, like in the movie.”
He feels Jimin stir next to him, freeing one of his arms from the blankets so he can pull Iseul down in between them. She giggles as he gently rolls down on top of her, kicking and squirming about.
“Noooooooo, appa you’re crushing me!” Jimin acts like he can’t hear her, making a show of pretending to go back to sleep, loud snores and everything.
Taehyung laughs at them, eyes still heavy with sleep, and then resigns himself to properly waking up, reaching over to tickle Jimin so he flinches away, allowing Iseul to finally escape his grasp. She rolls over so she’s laying half on top of him instead, and he wraps his arms around her and presses a kiss to her hair, resisting the urge to flinch at the sloppy kiss she gives him in return, drool cooling on his cheek as she pulls away to sit on his chest.
He can’t help the smile that takes over his face at seeing how excited she is. “Good morning baby. Happy birthday.” She bounces up and down again.
“Thank you! Pancakes now? Pretty please.” She puts her little hands together, puppy eyes making an appearance. Jimin huffs a laugh from beside him, getting out of bed and up to his feet, rolling his eyes at Taehyung good naturedly.
“Alright, off we go then.” He picks her up off Taehyung’s chest and carries her over his shoulder as he makes his way to the kitchen, Iseul’s laugh ringing out in the quiet of the morning.
Taehyung takes the opportunity to doze off for a couple more minutes, snuggling back in the covers and allowing his mind to drift off. They were up later than they should have been last night and he definitely feels the effects of it now.
By the time he manages to roll himself out of bed both Iseul and Jimin are engrossed in their cooking duties, bowls and supplies spread all over the counter with seemingly no rhyme or reason. Iseul’s hair has been tied up in a neat ponytail, now bobbing on top of her head as she mixes the food coloring in her bowl with enthusiasm, standing on top of a chair so she can reach it. Jimin is at the stove, a stack of shockingly blue pancakes growing on a plate next to him, and Taehyung goes over to wrap his arms around his waist, resting his head on his shoulder.
“Well well well, look who finally showed up.” The fondness pokes through the teasing, slight smile on his face when he turns to look at Taehyung. Clearly the grooming session Iseul was subjected to didn’t extend to him, hair still sticking up every which way, eyes puffy with sleep. Neither of them have ever truly gotten the hang of getting up early, despite Iseul’s tendency to never stay asleep past 8am.
Sure enough, Jimin turns back to his pancake with a massive yawn, flipping it over to the plate on what looks to be muscle memory alone. He pours out more batter, bright red this time, and then sinks back into Taehyung’s hold, who gives in to the urge to drop kisses all over the side of his neck and face.
“Appa.” Taehyung pulls away, turning to look at Iseul. “I’m tired of mixing, you do it.” She sticks the whisk out in his direction, dripping purple batter all over the counter and as soon as he takes it she launches herself out of the chair, making Taehyung instinctively twitch in her direction, but she’s off and running before he has time to move and catch her.
He sighs, watching her disappear into the living room. “One of these days she’s going to split her head open.”
“That’s what you get for letting her go to the park with Jeongguk unsupervised. Now she thinks everything is climbable and has no fear of throwing herself off high places.”
Taehyung snorts. “Last time you were home alone with her for the whole day I came back to find you teaching her how to blow things up, are you sure you want to talk about ‘reckless behaviour’?”
“That was a controlled environment. It was an educational experience, it’s completely different.” Taehyung can’t help but laugh at that too, and Jimin cracks a smile at him over his shoulder.
“Come on, make yourself useful, since my cooking assistant has abandoned us. I’m almost done with the red pancakes and we’re still missing three colors.”
“Don’t rainbows usually have seven colors?”
Jimin sighs. “They didn’t have them all when I went to the store. We’re missing the yellow and the indigo. Pass me that purple bowl please.”
Iseul comes bouncing in again when Jimin is down to the last batch of pancakes, one of her capes from playing dress up haphazardly thrown over her shoulders, an attempt at a knot dangling at the end of the threads. She climbs on top of the chair still positioned against the counter, draping herself over the surface. Taehyung feels smug satisfaction at the fact that he thought to wipe it clean earlier, but it's a short lived moment, interrupted by the suspicious amount of stains he spies on her outfit. He sighs, resigning himself to having to wrestle her into a very thorough bath when they’re done eating after all.
“Iseul-ah.” She gazes up at him, innocent as can be. “You know you’re not supposed to play with the paints by yourself baby.”
She straightens back up, crossing her little arms together, head raised defiantly. “I’m not a baby, I’m big now. I can paint.”
“You’re always my baby. And you can paint, but you have to ask first, right? That’s the rule.”
She gives a big sigh and Taehyung hears Jimin snicker from behind him. He resists the urge to roll his eyes. The two of them are exactly alike, always with a penchant for the dramatics. “Sorry appa, I forgot.”
“Alright, just remember for next time okay?” Jimin has finished up the cooking process in the meantime, stacking the different colors on their plates in rainbow order. “Now, come eat. Your pretty pancakes are done.”
Her eyes immediately light up, clambering down to the ground and dragging the chair back to its place at the table, bouncing in her seat while they bring the plates over. She gasps at it, peering around to look at the stack from every angle, Jimin watching her with a pleased smile of his own.
“You like them?”
“They’re so pretty! Just like the movie!” She pokes at them. “Fluffy. Can I eat with my hands?”
Taehyung sighs. “There’s a fork right here Iseulie.” She just continues staring at him, unfazed by that answer. “Fine, eat with your hands.” And that’s all the incentive she needs to stuff her mouth with the biggest bite she can manage.
“Do you think we could eat these with chopsticks?” Jimin is pensively regarding his own colorful stack.
“Probably? They seem pretty heavy though, Jiminie.”
He takes the chopsticks in hand, pointing them at Taehyung. “Is that a challenge I hear in your voice Taehyung-ssi?”
Taehyung snorts. “Sure. Prove me wrong if you’re man enough to do it, Jimin-ssi.”
Jimin sends him one last defiant look before turning his focus to the task at hand, trying to balance the pancake enough to bring it up to his mouth. Eventually, he succeeds, letting out a triumphant AAH! before taking a vicious bite out of it, making a show of chewing it. Taehyung laughs at him.
“You guys are weird.” Iseul speaks up from her seat, half of a pancake still clutched in her hand.
Jimin sputters out a laugh before scolding her. “Yah! Iseul, you shouldn’t say that.”
“Why not? Uncle Jin always says it.”
Taehyung sighs. “Because it’s not very nice, baby. Your uncle is just joking, but you shouldn’t call other people weird, okay?”
“Okay.” She nods, not seeming particularly concerned one way or another, before cheerfully redirecting her attention back to her half-eaten pancake. In the end she only ends up making it through less than half the plate before pushing it away, but that was to be expected.
After her bath she insists on picking her outfit herself so Taehyung leaves her to it, going off to take a shower of his own. The door opens halfway through, and he pokes his head out, thoughts of Iseul barging into the bathroom with some fashion emergency popping into his head. It’s only Jimin getting ready to brush his teeth though, so he goes back to washing his hair. By the time he steps out and starts drying himself off Jimin has progressed to moisturizing his face, patting it down with his fingers. Their eyes meet in the mirror and Jimin smiles at him playfully, eyeing him up and down with a raised eyebrow. Taehyung steps closer, draping himself over his back, damp chest sticking to Jimin’s thin sleep shirt, eyes still locked together in their reflection.
“You’re dripping water all over me.”
Taehyung hums in response, dipping his head down to run his nose down Jimin’s neck, leaving an open-mouthed kiss at the junction of his shoulder, making Jimin shudder. He kisses back up his neck, slow and purposeful. Jimin turns around, sliding warm hands up his sides. Taehyung tips forward, reaching for him.
“APPA!” Jimin turns his head, Taehyung’s lips landing on his cheek instead. He straightens up, calling out to Iseul.
“WHAT IS IT?”
The answer comes back immediately, exasperation clear in her tone. “NOT YOU, OTHER APPA.”
Jimin rolls his eyes at him playfully, dropping a kiss on Taehyung’s shoulder before going to her rescue, leaving him by himself once again.
When Taehyung emerges from the bathroom the two of them are waiting for him in the living room, Iseul with her hair done up in two neat little braids, secured at the end with her favorite butterfly elastics, which Taehyung deduces to be the cause of the previous yelling.
He raises an eyebrow at her outfit and Jimin just shakes his head at him. The days in which Iseul dresses herself are notorious for their eclectic combinations, and today is no exception. She has on a perfectly normal dress, an early present from Hoseok which she had been saving for this outing all week, a short and flowy number with little flowers embroidered at the edges, but she paired it with her most grass stained and paint splattered jeans, and an undershirt that is almost too neon to look at directly. Taehyung didn’t even know she owned a shirt like that. They really should start paying more attention to what their friends drop off in her closet. Last time they went through it for clothes to give away, Jimin almost had a breakdown over the amount of tiny bucket hats they had seemingly accumulated.
“Appa, finally, we’ve been waiting for ages.” Iseul slides down from the couch, ending up sprawled on the floor by the end of the sentence. Taehyung gathers all his resolve to try not to laugh, ignoring the way he can see Jimin’s shoulders shaking, one of his hands coming up to cover his mouth.
“Well, thank you for being patient sweetheart. Shall we go then?”
She immediately gets up, bouncing on her way to the front door. Jimin extends his hands out to him and Taehyung rolls his eyes before going over to “help” lift him off the couch. But instead of taking the help Jimin purposefully makes himself go limp, almost succeeding in dragging Taehyung down to the couch with him, laughter spilling out as he continues to resist Taehyung’s attempts to pick him up.
Iseul comes stomping back in before Taehyung has time to properly retaliate, pout firmly in place and Jimin finally gets up on his own, letting go of Taehyung’s arm so he can straighten up too.
“Alright, alright, appa’s sorry, we’re going now. Let’s go see the fishies.” Iseul doesn’t dignify that with a response, simply stomping back to the door. Taehyung almost expects to see her tapping her foot on the ground as she waits for them to put their shoes on, such is the impatience on her face. Eventually everyone gets bundled up enough to face the still chilly March weather and they finally manage to leave the house, Iseul’s annoyance forgotten in favor of making them swing her by the arms as they walk to the subway.
Iseul talks all the way to the aquarium, keeping up a steady stream of chatter about the weather, the weeds poking out on the sidewalk, what she did at the park the other day, the dog she saw the last time she rode the subway, what her favorite kind of animals are. Taehyung spies the people around them giving them amused glances, watching as she practically bounces on her seat. She has the kind of contagious energy that lights up every space, people falling into her spell as soon as they step into her bubble, leaving with smiles on their faces. Taehyung can relate to that.
By the time they approach the Lotte World Aquarium entrance, Iseul is still too busy listing all the fishes she wants to see to truly pay attention to her surroundings, only noticing there’s someone waiting for them when Jimin nudges her.
She gasps, wiggling out of his grasp.
“Eunji-yah!” The other girl barely has time to turn around before Iseul crashes into her, the both of them clinging to one another as if they haven’t seen each other for months, instead of the two days that had passed in between the last playdate. Eunji’s mother shakes her head at them, turning to smile at Taehyung and Jimin when they finally catch up.
“Hi noona, how are you?”
Before she has time to answer they’re interrupted by Iseul getting in between them, pleading up at Taehyung with wide eyes.
“Appa, is Eunji coming with us to see the fishes?”
“Iseul-ah.” She turns to Jimin at the scolding in his voice. “We were talking. You didn’t even say hello to Soojin-ssi.”
She sheepishly turns around so she can bow and mumble a greeting, pressing herself up to Taehyung’s legs, perking up when Soojin laughs and wishes her a happy birthday, confirming that yes, Eunji is going with them to see the fishes. And with that the girls are off again, babbling excitedly at each other. Jimin goes to buy their tickets, the two of them following after him like particularly excitable ducklings, practically vibrating with energy.
“Good luck dealing with them, Eunji was almost crawling up the walls this morning.”
Taehyung cracks a smile. “Yeah, Iseul was the same. We’ll manage. You sure you want to wait around noona? We can take her home after lunch.”
“Don’t worry about it.” She flaps her hand at him. “It’s been a while since I got to do some shopping. If anything I should be paying you for the free babysitting.”
“Just tell me how you get your energizing tonic to be so potent and we’ll call it even.”
Soojin snorts. “And give out all my secrets to the competition? Not a chance Taehyungie.” She pats him on the arm. “Aren’t you some kind of potions master? Figure it out yourself. Noona believes in you. Fighting!”
He groans and she laughs at him, patting his arm again before starting to walk off.
He calls out after her, “At least let me have your cookie recipe!” but the only answer he gets is a cheerful wave over her shoulder before she disappears around the corner.
A look towards the aquarium’s entrance reveals Iseul and Eunji running around playing some sort of game of catch and Jimin watching them with an indulgent look on his face, the girls’ discarded jackets held tightly in his arms. His heart feels fit to bursting, hit with a sudden wave of feeling, warming him up all the way down to his core. He knows he must have a dopey smile on his face because Jimin raises his eyebrows at him as he approaches, his own mouth tipping up involuntarily. Taehyung sneaks in a kiss, delighting in the way Jimin instinctively chases after him when he pulls away, ignoring the amusement in his eyes in favor of calling the children over.
Both of them come promptly enough, Iseul still bouncing in place with excess energy. He crouches down to their eye level, taking a moment to straighten out Iseul’s clothes.
“Okay. I know you’re excited, but before we go in we need some rules.” He waits until the both of them are focused on him. “No magic. No running. If there’s a lot of people you have to stay close, no trying to sneak closer to the tanks by yourselves. If you lose sight of us you stay put,” he sends a pointed look at Iseul, who has a habit of wandering off if given too much free reign, “and wait until we come back for you. Understood?” They nod eagerly at him and Taehyung smiles. “Alright let’s go have some fun.”
He straightens up and reaches to hold Iseul’s hand, who in turn reaches for Eunji and immediately takes off, all but dragging him along in her urge to get going.
Both of the children gasp as they get inside, the room decorated to resemble a forest with fairy lights strung all over. Iseul throws him a sceptical look when he explains that it’s just electricity, not magic, but she soon forgets about it in favor of pulling Eunji along to gawk at a chameleon.
Fortunately, it’s not that busy inside, allowing the girls to dart around to their heart’s content, giggling to themselves about something or other. Taehyung follows them around, hand clasped with Jimin’s, thoroughly enjoying himself. Seeing how excited they are is almost more fascinating than watching the animals. Eventually Jimin disentangles himself, pressing a kiss to Taehyung’s knuckles before letting go, crouching down next to the girls in front of one of the tanks, pointing out the various fishes and their names in a quiet voice as the girls loudly ooh and ahh over every statement. Taehyung trails behind them as they move from section to section, saddled with holding their belongings, but he doesn’t mind, happy to take his time.
Then they get downstairs and it’s like time stops for a couple of moments. The tank here is enormous, covering a whole wall and towering over them, the whole room covered in soft blue light. Eunji goes up to press herself against the glass immediately but Iseul hangs back, craning her little head up trying to take it all in. Jimin wanders up close to the glass too, childlike glee hidden behind a deceptively neutral face.
Taehyung feels a tug on his hand, looking down to see Iseul clinging to it, a frown between her brows.
“What’s wrong pumpkin?” She tugs on his hand again, so he crouches down to her level, and she shuffles forward until she can whisper in his ear.
“Appa. Are you sure it’s not magic?”
He suppresses a smile, pulling back to look at her face. “Yeah baby, I’m sure.”
Iseul’s frown deepens. “Then how did they do that? It’s so big.” Her hand tightens around Taehyung’s fingers, eyes going wide with concern. “Appa what if the fishes hit the glass and it breaks?”
“It won’t Iseulie. That glass is very very strong, they made it special to make sure it wouldn’t break even if someone went to knock on it.” She still looks dubious, little face scrunched up in distrust. “You don’t have to get close if you don’t want to. We can just hang out here.” Her lips push out into a pout. “Or, appa can carry you, and we’ll both go over there, hmm? How does that sound?”
Iseul nods, so he lets go of her hand with one last squeeze, wrapping his arm around her instead. “Alright, up we go monkey.”
He hoists her up with only one arm, the other one still holding onto Iseul and Eunji’s jackets, and she clings tightly to him until they’re right up against the glass. Jimin throws them a questioning look from where he’s seated on the ground next to Eunji and Taehyung subtly shakes his head, telling him it’s nothing serious. And sure enough, after a couple of minutes of fish watching Iseul seems convinced of the structural integrity of the whole thing and asks to be let down to the floor. From there it takes no time at all before she starts chasing one of the stingrays as it swims close to the glass, prompting Eunji to get up and join her game.
Taehyung sinks down to the floor next to Jimin, watching them weave their way between the people also scattered around the room. Technically they’re not supposed to be running, but there’s not so many people around that they’re seriously getting in anyone’s way, and they’re not going out of eyesight before turning back around and starting over, so he figures there’s no need to reign them in just yet. Besides, Jimin seems to be keeping an eagle eye on them, ready to intervene if need be, so he lets himself relax, allowing his mind to drift.
He and Jimin used to go to the aquarium, when they were younger, making fun of the kids screaming and running around while still going wide eyed at the sharks themselves, both of them pretending to be tougher than they were. They had their first kiss on one of those dates. That’s not what they called them at the time, but that’s what they were. Taehyung always associates this particular hue of blue tinted light with Jimin’s sweaty palms, the quick beat of his heart, and a little spark of barely suppressed magic.
They stopped going once they officially got together, ditching the aquarium in favor of holing up in Taehyung's room and making out, deciding there were better uses for their money. It was a short lived phase, all things considered, everything now blurred together by time and distance, leaving behind only fondness and vague imprints of color.
So many things are different now. Namely, having a kid of his own screaming and running around. But sitting by that big tank with Jimin by his side feels as familiar as it did back then, dreamlike atmosphere blurring their edges and giving way to something sweet and delicate.
He doesn’t have long to get lost in his thoughts before Iseul comes crashing into them, Eunji hot on her heels, no signs of her previous apprehension.
They take their time walking through the underwater tunnel, their last stop on this floor before going back upstairs. Every once in a while Iseul halts in her tracks and turns back to look at him, pure wonder shining in her eyes, as if to check if he’s seeing this too. This isn’t the first time she’s been to the aquarium, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from looking at her now.
Sometimes, when he and Jimin get busy with work and Iseul is one of her moods, when the weight of the world and his responsibilities seems just a little too heavy to bear, he forgets how lucky he is. These are always little blips in time, never more than that, but in moments like these, watching his daughter as she takes careful careful steps, eyes glued to a fish lazily swimming overhead, it seems inconceivable that there should be a single second where he wouldn’t think his life is a miracle.
He catches Jimin’s eyes over the girl’s heads when they’re already on their way out, Eunji busy spinning a fantastical tale about starfishes and mermaids and Iseul trying to decide whether she believes her or not. Jimin’s amused smile falls a little when he sees the look on Taehyung’s face, replaced instead for something more tender, eyes softening. He lets himself fall behind, reaching to intertwine their fingers together and giving them a reassuring squeeze. Taehyung bumps their shoulders together, allowing himself to indulge in his sappy mood for a couple more minutes. Iseul and Eunji continue their arguing all the way to the next floor, before they get distracted by the penguins and forget all about it.
They meet up with Eunji’s mother again once they leave the aquarium, the five of them going out for a quick lunch before finally parting ways for good, Iseul and Eunji appeased by the prospect of seeing each other again once the weekend is done, Soojin rolling her eyes at Jimin and Taehyung good-naturedly as the girls spend an inordinate amount of time saying their goodbyes.
After all the excitement of the morning it’s no surprise that Iseul starts nodding off on the way home, head dropping on Jimin’s shoulder halfway through the subway ride, blinking around dazedly when they eventually have to move and she’s woken up again. She wakes up a little when they get home, enough to take her coat and shoes off by herself, but not even ten minutes go by before she’s yawning again, so Taehyung puts her to bed, ignoring her grumbling. Getting her to take off her outfit is a bit of a struggle, stubborn pout on her face as she insists she’s not going to sleep anyways, so there’s no need to take the dress off. Taehyung settles for getting her out of her pants and calls it a day, Iseul climbing into bed without much fight after that, snuggling up to one of her plushies and visibly fighting the urge to close her eyes.
“Don’t need to nap, I’m a big girl, naps are for babies.”
Taehyung smiles, running a hand through her hair.
“Okay, you don’t need to sleep if you don’t want to. Let’s just have some quiet time, hm? Appa will come get you before your uncles arrive.”
“Okay.” She yawns, letting her eyes flutter closed for a couple seconds. She blinks them open again, giving Taehyung a sleepy glare when she sees the smile on his face. “ ‘m not sleeping. Just closing my eyes for a little bit.”
He bites back a laugh at that, dropping a kiss on her forehead before getting up. He stops by her little dresser and picks up the glass star charm, setting it afloat before softly shutting the door, colorful light spilling over Iseul’s sleeping form.
When he gets to the living room Jimin is sprawled on the couch, an arm thrown over his face, and Taehyung feels his previous amusement return in full force. He goes to crouch next to the couch, laying a hand on his stomach. Jimin startles immediately at the touch, just like he knew he would, letting his arm drop and blinking blearily up at Taehyung.
“Hi love. Were you sleeping?”
Jimin huffs out a breath, eyes heavy with sleep. “No. Was just closing my eyes for a moment.” The words come out mumbled, like he can’t be bothered to properly move his lips and Taehyung can’t help the smile that creeps up on him then, filled with love up to the brim.
“Your daughter just said the exact same thing.” At that Jimin smiles too, just a sweet curve at the corner of his mouth, eyes halfway to closed again.
“Good to see she’s learning something.” He reaches down to lace their fingers together, bringing Taehyung’s hand up to rest on his chest.
“Yes, lovely to see her pick up all of our nasty habits.”
Jimin snorts. “Do you remember when she used to pretend to be upset so that Joon-hyung would give her cookies?”
“Hmm.... Wonder where she got that from.”
“Oh shut up, you’re just as bad about the dramatics as I am.” His smile dims, amusement fading into something quieter. “We’re doing alright though. Right? She’s a good kid.”
The insecurity in his voice is faint, but there if you know where to look. And Taehyung always does. He leans forward to press a kiss on Jimin’s shoulder, feeling the warmth of his skin through the thin fabric of his shirt.
It feels like they’re going through life blindfolded sometimes, trying to reassure themselves and each other that they’re doing things right with no real way to check if that’s the case. But he guesses that’s normal. All they can do is try their best.
“Yeah.” He lays his head on Jimin’s arm. “She’s the best.”
Quiet falls over them, Taehyung focusing on Jimin’s quiet breaths and the way his thumb is running over his knuckles, both of them content to just sit there for a moment.
“This time next year she’ll be in school.” Jimin’s voice breaks the silence, the mood shifting from peaceful to melancholic, both of them already missing something that hasn’t disappeared yet.
“I know. I feel like she grows up without me knowing every time we look away.”
“We better keep our eyes peeled then. Soon enough she’ll be moving out and then what do we do.”
The faux despair in Jimin’s voice makes Taehyung laugh, almost against his will. “Stop, don’t even joke about that.”
“It’s important to make plans. We could get a dog.”
He picks his head up so he can slap Jimin’s chest with his free hand. Jimin intercepts it, now holding both of his hands beneath his chin, mischievous smile on his face. Taehyung lets him, sending a little warning zap of energy his way, not enough to hurt, but making Jimin’s smile break down into an over exaggerated pout all the same.
“Once she moves out I’ll divorce you, how’s that for a plan.”
Jimin laughs. “We’re not even married, you doofus.”
“We could be.”
“We could.” Jimin’s smile turns up a few notches, bright and radiant, taking over his face in delight. It’s not the first time they’ve talked about it. They’ve had this conversation countless times by now, everything ranging from silly jokes to whispered conversations under the covers, but Jimin always smiles the same whenever it’s brought up. They haven’t discussed any concrete details. Nothing but vague wishes and what ifs, talks of potential honeymoon destinations and what the guest list would look like. But still. They could be. One day they will.
Taehyung feels his own lips curve up into a smile, heart stuttering when Jimin winks at him, ridiculous as it is to still be flustered by that type of thing. He gets off the floor so he can squeeze next to him on the couch, taking advantage of the fact that they have a couple of hours to lay there uninterrupted. The calm before the storm.
Jimin runs his fingers through Taehyung’s hair, lulling him into a light sleep, tiredness catching up with him all at once. He wakes up when their front door opens, blinking groggily up at Yoongi as he peers at them bemusedly from the doorway.
“Aish.... napping in the middle of the day? I didn’t know there were three babies in this house.”
Taehyung feels Jimin huff at him, letting his eyes slip closed once again. “I’d like to see you get through the day after you’ve been woken up at 6am by an over-active five year old, hyung.”
“Just go to bed earlier Jimin-ah. There, problem solved. You’re welcome.”
Taehyung doesn’t hear anything in response, but he feels Jimin shift beneath him, wiggling one of his arms free from Taehyung’s embrace to, presumably, flip Yoongi off. His lips twitch at the mental image, but it’s not incentive enough to open his eyes, instead burrowing his face deeper into Jimin’s neck.
He gets another couple minutes of blissful rest before Jimin sighs and begins the process of trying to get up. Taehyung frowns, stubbornly clinging to him.
“Come on Taehyungie. If Yoongi-hyung is already here you know Jin-hyung isn’t far behind. It’s either get up now or deal with him when he arrives to find you sleeping.”
So Taehyung reluctantly complies, shuffling to the bathroom to rinse his face with some water in hopes it will wake him up. When he reenters the kitchen Yoongi has already started cooking, Jimin roped in to chopping duty, so Taehyung starts setting up the space.
It’s nothing much, just some balloons, magical and non-magical ones mixed together, set loose around the living room, a big rainbow 5, and special brightly colored napkins requested by the birthday girl herself. When asked if she wanted a theme for her birthday party Iseul had simply answered “Colors.” which made the decoration process significantly easier. He’s looking through their cabinets for their fancy dishes when he hears what sounds like someone trying to kick their door down.
He opens it to find Seokjin, cake box in hand and dazzling smile on his face.
“Taehyung-ah! Take the cake, I’ve been carrying it for god knows how long and my arms are about to fall off.” And with that he barrels inside, leaving Taehyung to close the door and follow after him. He leaves the cake at one end of the table, seeing as the kitchen has now been taken over by three people trying to function all at once and counter space is starting to be difficult to come by.
In the middle of all the commotion it’s no surprise that Iseul wakes up, coming padding into the kitchen still clutching her plushie, not yet fully awake, dress now all rumpled.
Seokjin gasps as soon as he sees her, making a show of crouching down and opening his arms wide so she can jump on them, which she promptly does.
“Here is my sweetest girl! I was just asking your appas what they’d done with you!” He dives in to press a smacking kiss on her cheek. “Happy birthday! What did you do today, did you have fun?”
Iseul lets him hoist her up, perking up as she starts recounting their trip to the aquarium, picking up steam as she goes. Eventually she seems to notice that there’s someone there who she hasn’t greeted yet, making grabby hands at Yoongi until he abandons the stove, trading places with Seokjin in order to hold Iseul, who starts her story over from the top, making sure he’s all caught up.
Hoseok arrives a little while later, making his arrival known by yelling into the house before he’s even past the threshold.
“Hello hello!! Ah, you guys, it smells good in here! Where’s the birthday girl?”
Iseul wiggles in Yoongi’s hold and he sets her down, patting her butt as she takes off running towards the living room, matching Hoseok in intensity with her excited squealing. Taehyung follows her out, finding the bags that Hoseok must have been carrying scattered all over the entryway, and the two of them twirling around the living room, kicking balloons left and right, Hoseok’s exclamations over how pretty Iseul looks in her dress echoing across the space. He sighs, starting to pick up the bags, and then almost gets bowled over as Namjoon enters into the room at full speed, only just barely managing to avoid tripping over him. Taehyung takes a moment to seriously contemplate changing the code on the door and make them ring the doorbell like regular people instead.
Namjoon closes the door behind him, shrugging off his jacket and kicking his shoes off haphazardly.
“Hey Taehyung-ah, how are you? Sorry I’m late.”
“You’re fine hyung. We’re still missing Jeongguk anyways.”
Namjoon smiles, dimples making an appearance, pushing his glasses up from where they were knocked askew. “Cool, I’ll make sure to rub it in once he arrives.”
Iseul comes skipping towards them, Hoseok going to bother Jimin instead, if the sudden squawk resonating from the kitchen is anything to go by.
“Uncle Joonie!” She bounces up and down, pulling on his hand. “Did you know there are camelons-”
“Chameleons.” Taehyung corrects.
Iseul rolls her eyes. “-chameleons at the aquarium? I thought it was only fishes!”
Taehyung tries to sneak off in the middle of the conversation, finally finished with gathering all the bags, but the rustling of plastic attracts Iseul’s attention again, metaphorical ears perking up.
“Yes.” He cuts her off before she can open her mouth again. “After dinner okay?” She pouts. “Ggukie hasn’t arrived yet. Can’t open presents without everyone, right? Tell Uncle Joon about the penguins.”
She reluctantly lets him carry the bags off, setting them on the other side of the room. Namjoon takes the penguin prompting and runs with it, starting up a steady stream of chatter about animal facts and soon enough she’s pulling on his hand so they can go sit on the living room rug, asking more questions than Taehyung would know what to do with. Namjoon just nods though, folding himself up carefully before launching into an explanation, hands flying through the air as Iseul looks on in wonder.
Taehyung goes to check on his other guests, chatter filling up the house along with the smells of food, something in his chest settling in the busy atmosphere. They try to meet up as much as they can, but it’s not often that all seven of them can get together for dinner like this, all of them busy with their own lives. It makes the special occasions all the more special, all of them trying to speak over each other, laughing before they even finish sentences.
Sure enough, Jimin and Hoseok are leaning over each other, giggling, as Seokjin pretends to nag at them, waving his spoon around as he goes on and on about what a shoddy job they did at the Council assembly the other day, apparently embarrassing him by association just by virtue of knowing them.
Taehyung is not entirely sure what the whole story is, catching only bits and pieces. Something about them being called to solve an issue regarding a curse and some big hotshot with more influence than common sense, which apparently went sideways when it turned out the man hadn’t been entirely truthful about the circumstances regarding said cursing. From what Taehyung can gather it resulted in him spending 40 minutes stuck as a particularly plump rat, which was the cause of the current hilarity. By the way Seokjin keeps breaking character to join in on the laughing, it must have been a sight to behold.
Taehyung leaves them to it, starting to plate up the side dishes and taking them out to the table, Yoongi trailing after him with his pot of miyeok guk. Iseul calls out as soon as he comes into view.
“Uncle Yoongi! Do you know how they build the big tanks? Uncle Joonie said you did.”
Namjoon’s protests that he “said he might know, not that he did know” are promptly ignored as Yoongi goes over to join them on the rug, already pulling his phone out so he can look it up. Iseul climbs on his lap, settling in like a queen on her throne, presenting her doubts that anyone could build something like that without at least a little magic, no matter what her appa says.
Taehyung shakes his head at them, finishing setting the table. With Yoongi gone, Hoseok and Jimin have decided to more seriously lend a hand, which from Seokjin’s exasperated laughter is going about as well as it usually does.
Finally, Jeongguk crashes through the door, a neatly wrapped box nestled under an arm, the size of which makes Taehyung narrow his eyes at him, and a radiant smile on his face, not looking at all concerned with his tardiness.
“Iseul-ah! Happy birthday!” Iseul is already halfway across the room, waiting impatiently as he takes off his shoes and sets the box down so she can throw herself at him. Jeongguk throws her over one of his shoulders, smiling even wider at her giggling, picking up his present with his other arm and carrying it over to the rest of the presents. Once he’s free from his cargo he reaches for Iseul again, maneuvering her until she rests securely against his hip. Taehyung jolts when she then throws herself backwards, instinctively moving forward, but Jeongguk has already grabbed her around her bent knees, letting the rest of her body dangle freely.
Iseul laughs like she’s having the time of her life, waving her arms as Jeongguk sways them back and forth. Taehyung, on the other hand, feels like he has aged twenty years in the last ten seconds.
“Jeongguk.” Taehyung turns around to see Jimin setting down the last of the pots, lips twisted down into a frown. “Do you mind maybe not killing my child before we’ve even sat down for dinner?”
“Chill hyung. I got her.” He gathers her up again, setting her down safely on one of the chairs. He gestures to her as if to say see? safe and sound but Jimin just continues to glare at him. It lasts only up until Jeongguk goes over to scoop him up in a hug, at which point Jimin breaks into a smile, ruffling the back of his hair in revenge when he finally gets set down.
It takes multiple attempts to call Yoongi and Namjoon over to the table, the two of them apparently too engrossed in arguing about glass tempering techniques to look up from Yoongi’s phone (even though - as far as Taehyung knows - none of them have any actual knowledge in the area), but at last, all of them sit around the table, a little cramped, with elbows and knees knocking together.
They keep getting into each other’s way as multiple people reach for food at the same time, but it’s not like that has ever bothered them, simply batting arms and hands out of the way as they see fit.
Iseul is regaling Jeongguk with her aquarium adventures, retelling the same story for what must be the fifth time in the last couple hours. He’s a good listener though, gasping on all the right places and making sure she still remembers to eat in between convoluted sentences. Taehyung watches everyone around the table, his family, as they yell over each other, passing plates and drinks around, smiling by reflex as laughter erupts from the other end of the table. He doesn’t catch the joke, only sees Jimin bent over Seokjin’s shoulder, Hoseok slapping Namjoon’s arm while he cackles and Yoongi’s shoulders shaking up and down, but it’s enough to make him want to join in on the laughter too. He catches Iseul’s eyes in the middle of the commotion, pulling a face that says can you believe these guys? crazy the lot of them and she smiles goofily up at him, chubby cheeks bunching up. She’s clearly been more interested in talking than eating so far, plate still mostly full, but she happily eats a piece of meat off Jeongguk’s chopsticks when he feeds it to her, tapping him on the arm when she’s done so that he gives her another one. There’s a small piece of seaweed stuck to her cheek. Taehyung never knew it was possible to hold so much love in his heart.
They move back to the couches once they’re done eating, piling the dishes in the sink to be dealt with later, and finally, the presents are retrieved, with Iseul holding court from her place on the floor, gleefully tearing wrapper and opening bags.
She gets a little music box from Yoongi, his craftsmanship written all over it, charmed to play a variety of piano melodies. A book from Namjoon, more advanced than what she’ll be able to read for a while, but with gorgeous colorful illustrations, covering everything from butterflies to the solar system. She flips through it gently, gently, almost as if afraid to touch it, eyes lit up in awe.
Another pair of light up shoes from Hoseok, who had technically already given her a present, but it didn’t stop him from sneaking in another package in the middle of all the bags. They really had to stop hiding the presents at his house. The man had no self control when it came to gifts.
Jeongguk’s big box reveals itself to be a skateboard, which turns Iseul into a little ball of unrestrained energy, only just barely managing to be intercepted before she starts trying to ride circles around the couch. She’s slightly mollified by the fact that there’s still presents to be opened, but Taehyung’s mind is already running through all the possible scenarios, seeing his life flash before his eyes. She’s going to fall off the thing and break her head open.
Jeongguk, for once, seems to have been expecting the death glares, speech prepared as soon as they turn to him.
“I’ll teach her how to ride it! I got her a helmet too. Safety first, safety second, coolness third. Promise.”
Iseul joins in the silent pleading, looking up at them with wide eyes. The power of both Jeongguk and Iseul’s puppy eyes combined is more than any of them has ever been able to bear. Taehyung feels himself crumble, resigning himself to his fate.
Jimin and Taehyung’s present almost seems bland in comparison, just a new set of art supplies, glittery paints that will probably end up smeared all over her clothes, but Iseul breaks out into a smile anyways, clapping her hands together in delight.
The last present left is a tiny little box, able to fit in just one of her tiny palms. Iseul frowns at it, perplexed, shaking it side to side before finally opening it. Inside there’s a little strip of paper. Iseul mouths the words carefully, once, then twice, before turning to them in confusion.
“In the office?”
Seokjin winks at her. She scrambles off the floor and down the hallway, leaving the rest of them just as bewildered as she was.
“Hyung, what the hell. Did you break into the house while we were gone?”
“It’s not breaking in if I have the code, now, is it Jimin-ah?”
A gasp echoes from down the hallway. Taehyung gets up, curiosity getting the best of him, vaguely registering everyone else doing the same behind him.
The office, which Iseul usually is not allowed in, at least not without supervision, looks the same as it did last night when Taehyung left it. Except now there is a massive, massive teddy bear leaning against the wall, Iseul thrown over its belly, practically swallowed up by it.
“Aw, I always wanted one of those.”
Taehyung ignores Namjoon’s muttering over his shoulder, too busy trying to figure out where they’re going to keep that damn bear. The size of the thing makes the rest of the room seem to shrink by comparison.
For now, Iseul insists on bringing it out to the living room so she can sit on it for the rest of the evening. They all abandon Seokjin to deal with it by himself, Jeongguk cheerfully whipping his phone out to film as he struggles to get it through the door.
They settle down to play some games after singing happy birthday, trying to tire Iseul out after all the cake, but with only limited success. She abandons every attempt at playing after 15 minutes, opting instead to jump from lap to lap according to whoever she thinks is winning at the time. Jimin manages to trap her in his hold for a couple minutes, asking for her “help” with which cards to put down, which Iseul magnanimously grants, but she just as soon declares him beyond all hope, and flees again.
Jeongguk ends up roping her into some made up tournament involving the kicking of balloons and running back and forth, using the rest of them as touchstones for different “levels” which are really nothing more than an excuse to throw balloons at their heads.
It’s by now way past Iseul’s bedtime, but birthdays are special occasions, so they let her run around to her heart's content, even as she gets more and more overtired.
Eventually the yawns start coming at a frequency too great to be ignored, energy finally giving way to sleepiness as she crashes into her giant teddy bear, blinks getting longer and longer.
Jimin goes over to her, running a hand over her now disheveled hair.
“Alright pumpkin, time for bed. Let’s say goodnight to the uncles.”
She whines, giving them her best pleading look, even as she remains slumped over, but when neither Jimin or Taehyung budge she reluctantly gets up, pout firmly in place. She does the rounds, giving out hugs and kisses, dragging it out as much as she can, movement barely above a snail's pace. Jimin gives her a look when she refuses to let go of Namjoon, but it seems like her stubborn streak has decided to kick in, declaring that she’ll only go to sleep if Uncle Joonie is the one to pick out her pajamas. Which then turns into she can only go to sleep if Uncle Yoongi helps brush her teeth. And after that she needs a glass of water, but only if Uncle Hobi is the one to bring it to her.
Taehyung feels his patience draining fast, and Iseul can tell because she digs her feet in even more, testing to see how far she can push it. The situation is defused by Jeongguk poking his head in, offering to read a bedtime story and Taehyung gladly leaves him to it, making a beeline to where Jimin is standing and slumping into him, letting him pat his hair.
It’s now past midnight, birthday officially over. Taehyung feels just about ready to crash into bed himself. But before that there’s still cleaning to do. He shoos Seokjin away from the sink, taking over the dish washing, the rest of them going in and out of the kitchen around him, collecting trash and putting away leftovers. By the time he’s done the others are back to being sprawled around the couches, except for Seokjin, who has decided to take up post on the giant teddy bear. It doesn’t dwarf him quite as much as it does Iseul, but the size of it still looks absolutely ridiculous. Jeongguk emerges from the hallway, wasting no time before throwing himself on the bear too, snuggling up to Jin, who pretends to be annoyed even as he moves to make more room for him.
Taehyung feels absolutely exhausted, letting his head drop down to Jimin’s shoulder, listening to everyone else talk over him, quieter now that there’s no Iseul to entertain.
After Hoseok starts yawning too, the rest of them are quick to start saying their goodbyes as well, causing a traffic jam on their entryway as everyone tries to find their respective jackets and shoes, bumping into each other as they struggle to give out goodbye hugs at the same time. Taehyung clings to Yoongi, the one unmoving object in the middle of the flurry of limbs, until he too manages to leave with one last smile in their direction, closing the door softly behind him.
The sudden quiet of the apartment rings in Taehyung’s ears, offset by the comforting weight of Jimin’s arms as they wrap around him. He feels the soft pressure of a pair of lips on the side of his neck, a kiss before Jimin lets go with one last squeeze.
He checks on Iseul before going to bed, finding her twisted around the covers, half of her body uncovered, shirt rucked up and exposing her belly. He breathes out a laugh, fondness overcoming him, stepping fully into the room to tuck her back in.
She stirs when he moves her, eyes opening up a slit. “‘ppa?”
“Go back to sleep baby.”
“‘kay.” She blinks slowly, still mostly asleep despite the talking. “Appa, kiss?”
It’s hard to make out the words, mumbled as they are, but Taehyung has had plenty of practice, and so he leans forward, dropping a kiss on her forehead, and then another one on her cheek, just for good measure.
Her eyes close, breathing evening out again. He sits there for a couple minutes, taking in the sight of her, just like he used to when she was a baby. It hits him again, how fleeting these moments are. There will come a time where she won’t need to be tucked in, where she won’t jump on their bed first thing in the morning, where she won’t so promptly ask for kisses and cuddles. It simultaneously seems like a lifetime and no time at all has passed since they had to carry her around everywhere. He can’t help but feel like this too will pass him by, slipping through his fingers before he knows it.
He’s broken out of his trance by the bedroom door opening wider, turning his head around to see Jimin leaning in the doorway, glasses on and already in his sleep clothes.
“Was she up?”
Taehyung shakes his head, getting up with one last kiss on Iseul’s head. Jimin backs up as Taehyung walks towards him, until they’re both out on the hallway and the door can be closed again. Jimin reaches for him, pulling him forward until Taehyung bumps into him, arms sneaking their way around his waist. He lets himself slump forward, resting his forehead against Jimin’s.
“Aigoo... guess Iseulie wasn’t the only tired one, huh?” There’s a smile on Jimin’s voice, everything about him soft soft soft. “My babies. Can’t even handle a party.”
Taehyung doesn’t respond to that, simply breathing him in, focusing on the beat of his heart. He winds his arms around Jimin’s shoulders, dropping his head to the crook of his neck instead, feels Jimin’s arms tighten around him reflexively.
“You alright Taehyungie?”
It’s quiet for a few moments while Taehyung tries to organize his words, but the tiredness has put a fog over his brain and what comes out is: “Maybe we should get a dog.”
Jimin lets out a burst of laughter, swaying them in place. “Aish, seriously.” He disentangles himself, pulling back so they can look at each other, face melting when he sees the look on Taehyung’s face. “Baby. She won’t grow up that fast. We have time.”
Taehyung knows. Feels ridiculous for even being upset about it. Watching Iseul grow and change into a person of her own is genuinely one of his favorite things, cataloguing what of her they’ve had a hand in molding and what is intrinsically her own, seeing how she pieces the world together. Still, sometimes he wishes he could freeze time. Live in the quiet moments just a little longer.
“Yeah.” He doesn’t explain any of his tangled thoughts, doesn’t quite know how, but Jimin, wonderful, precious Jimin, seems to read them off his face anyway.
He doesn’t say anything, just brings his hands up to cup Taehyung’s face, thumbs rubbing across his cheekbones, pulling him down so he can press a kiss against his forehead, lingering there until all of Taehyung’s thoughts seem to fade away, pulled apart by Jimin’s touch. He pulls back, letting his hands slide down all the way down Taehyung’s arms, smoothing down his shirt, tangling their fingers together when he reaches his hands.
“Let’s go to bed, hmm? C’mon.”
And Taehyung lets himself get pulled along, the pressure of Jimin’s hand around his as familiar as his own heartbeat, weight of it anchoring him within himself. Jimin pulls, and he follows, feeling lighter with every step.