The quiet curse from the corner of the waiting room was surprisingly audible, and Namjoon looked up from his phone, with the "leader-glare" on his face. Even if they weren't currently on camera, waiting for GFriend to finished filming their section of the CF, swearing when there were cameras around at all wasn't good for their image. Especially when they weren't in Big Hit, where everyone knew the backstage cameramen and whom to avoid when they wanted privacy. Here, where they didn't know any of the CF crew, things like that were a bad idea.
Most of Bangtan were good about remembering the little rules and details about this, it was usually only the dongsaengs who forgot, in moments of high tension. But Taehyung and Hoseok had gone to go and flirt with GFriend's stylist noonas, and Jimin was asleep, head propped against Namjoon's shoulder, after a late night of dance practise. So Namjoon, expecting to have to scold Jungkook, was much more surprised to see Seokjin, face white, even under the thick layers of bb cream, despite sitting close to a sleeping Yoongi.
"Hyung." Namjoon reminded, a voice a tad more respectful than it would have been for anyone else.
But Seokjin ignored him, gesturing that Namjoon get up from his seat. Namjoon's eyebrows crinkled, in more than a little worry, and he carefully untangled himself from Jimin, careful to not wake up the sleeping boy. He'd been so exhausted this morning that nobody had wanted to wake him up, leaving Sejin-hyung to be the bad guy. Carefully he looked over Seokjin's phone to see the Joong Ang Ilbo newspaper.
On April 1, reports revealed that 10 individuals were booked without detention on charges of smoking marijuana on several different occasions. They were sent to the prosecution on March 30.
The identity of one these individuals has been revealed to be rapper Iron whose legal name is Jung Heon Chul. The 24-year-old was the runner-up on “Show Me the Money 3.”
What. What, what what. Namjoon took the phone from Seokjin's hands and scrolled by the anonymous "Kang" producer, who he didn't really care about, until he found more information about Hunchul.
The police arrested and investigated the other nine individuals. They also tested positive for marijuana and informed the police about how they met foreigners at a club in Itaewon and purchased marijuana through the internet. Also, they revealed that they smoked marijuana because it gave them confidence and helped them focus.
Meanwhile, the other individuals involved in the case besides Iron and Kang include a former first-generation idol group member, a hip-hop producer, a concert organizer, celebrity hopefuls, and more.
Namjoon groaned, lowly, pained and scared as he lowered the phone and ran a hand over his face, not even caring about possibly smudging his makeup. "Oh shit."
Seokjin's eyes flickered upwards, features grim. "You didn't know, right?" he said, carefully, eyes tracing over Namjoon's mouth, as if to check the veracity of his statement
Namjoon shook his head, dumbly, unable to take his eyes away from the damning words on the glowing phone screen. "Nah, he hasn't been around for a while, but he does that sometimes, just sort of, you know, sinks into his work. I assumed he was busy preparing for a new album. Idiot bastard." He stared at the article again, truly speechless.
Hunchul, Iron, one of the best upcoming rappers in the mainstream world of music, one of his closest friends, in jail? For weed? Namjoon was shocked and appalled and all sorts of frustrated, but mostly just shocked Hunchul had been caught.
"Are--are they right?" asked Seokjin, hesitantly, a sort of hesitation that Namjoon rarely saw from Seokjin anymore, not now he'd found his place in the world and what he was good at doing.
Namjoon licked his lips, and smiled, wanly. "Yeah." he said, quietly, "You think songs like Blu and Don't Be Shy were made completely free of weed?" He handed the phone back to Seokjin, carefully, and pulled another face. "I just thought he'd have better friends, ones that wouldn't rat him out for a reduced sentence."
There was a look of disbelief on Seokjin's face, perhaps about how casually Namjoon was treating the news, or because of something else, but the hesitancy didn't go away from his posture. If anything, as his fingers gently pressed against Namjoon's shoulders, he only looked more and more tentative, as if waiting to be shouted at. A look he'd had almost permanently etched on his face, once upon a time when they'd both struggled with Sondeuk's choreography, back when they'd been rookies, but a look that was near non-existent nowadays.
"There's....Namjoon, did you?" asked Seokjin, and his eyes were gentle but also afraid.
"Wha--No!" Namjoon said, shaking his hands, in frantic panic, before Seokjin shushed him, eyes darting over to the back of the room. To his relief, the other staff in the room didn't seem to be looking in their direction, that would be a disaster of huge proportions. "God, I haven't touched weed since you and Taehyung joined Big Hit."
"But....you have touched weed?" asked Seokjin, eyebrows raising.
Namjoon pulled a face and waited until some of the staff had left the room, leaning into Seokjin's touch, to assure him that he wasn't ignoring him. "Yeah, in high school, when I worked with DNH. Never liked it much, honestly, I much prefer soju, but people like it for improved creativity with songs. Brings down inhibitions, so you stop second-guessing yourself, so you just put down whatever you're thinking at the time. Good for some people's music, not so good for others." he explained, quietly. "But god, I promise you, haven't touched it in years. It's not that addictive either, so it's okay."
Seokjin's face was disquieted nonetheless. "If that gets out..."
"It won't." Namjoon murmured, firmly, hands fisting in his clothing. "Big Hit knows about it, and they'll cover it up for me as long as possible. I also wasn't stupid enough to leave any evidence around. So, if worst did ever come to worst, all the evidence that the police would have are rumours, and I won't admit to anything."
Seokjin nodded, slowly, his beautiful face still worried and curious. "Namjoon...if all of DNH were using weed...?" He trailed off and his head ducked down, the brown hair falling down into his eyes, in the shy attractive way that made their fans go nuts, and which gave him a slightly warm feeling in his chest, despite how distressed Seokjin usually was when he wanted to hide from the world. Namjoon let him gather himself, for a moment. he was smart, sure, but not smart enough to read minds, even if he and Seokjin were fairly close, all things considered.
"If all of DNH used weed, would Hyosang have?" asked Seokjin finally, and Namjoon made a noise of comprehension, in the back of his throat. Right. Hyosang. Sometimes, he forgot that Seokjin had been friendly with parts of his old crew, that Yoongi and Hoseok knew them pretty well as well, even if they'd never been bosom-buddies. It was easy to forget when Hoseok and Yoongi never talked about anything except their families and their future, and Seokjin never mentioned Hyosang, not anymore. Namjoon knew they'd been tight once, to the point where Seokjin would sneak out to go and meet him. But now, any mention of Topp Dogg made Seokjin stiffen up a little, and the only idol friends he went out with were Ken and Sandeul.
"I mean. He was pretty enthusiastic about it when Ikje-hyung used to crack it out during group production sessions, you know? But I don't know if that continued or not. I've not kept up with him that much since he started having problems with Hunus." Namjoon admitted, honestly, reaching out to tangle his fingers with Seokjin's comfortingly. "But his company probably made him go clean. Hunus aren't stupid about that shit. About music and promotion and money maybe, but not that."
Seokjin squeezed Namjoon's hand again, but his gaze was distant. "Yeah....but he's not with Hunus anymore, is he? And the article mentioned that another person arrested was a hip-hop music producer." Seokjin said, voice low and harsh.
Namjoon felt a skip in his chest, instantly, because his first thought when it came to hip-hop producers in DNH was Donghyuk. But then he told himself to stop being stupid. He'd seen Donghyuk not four days ago, Donghyuk obviously hadn't been arrested. "If it was him, they would have mentioned it." Namjoon said, rubbing his thumb across the back of Seokjin's hand, soothingly. "Don't worry. hyung."
"I'm not worried about that asshole!" snapped Seokjin, but at Namjoon's look, he exhaled. "I just....it's a dumb thing to get arrested over, right?"
"Tell me about it." Namjoon said, quietly. "What a way to ruin a career." And maybe he was a bit too bitter in his voice, because Seokjin leant in closely, until they were pressed up close together.
Seokjin's eyes were soft. "You wanted that career, right? A way to keep your integrity as an underground rapper, and still be popular?"
Namjoon exhaled, bitterly. "Yeah. Yeah." On this issue, he suspected he was entirely transparent, especially after how raw 4Things had made everything, it was no surprise that Seokjin had been able to pick up on it. "It was just us two at the beginning, right? Me and Hunchul-hyung and we were going to be a hip-hop duo like Dynamic Duo or Untouchable. And then things just kept growing and expanding,. and he left to get the career I always wanted. And I became an idol. And you know, we're the biggest goddamn rookie group internationally and that's great. But he's got respect."
"Had respect. Gone now, with these allegations." Seokjin said, softly. "While you just keep getting lauded by industry heads. Yoo Jae Suk loves you, that's the highest fucking compliment ever."
"And Swings, San E, Dok2 and The Quiett all think that Iron is one of the best rookie rappers in the industry." Namjoon said, dryly. But he exhaled and pushed back a few stray stands of his gelled hair back. "Whatever man. It's all over. he fucked up the plum chance he got. Polaris didn't even resign him yet. I'm not making the same mistake he did."
Seokjin nodded, easily. "All we can do now." His face was still troubled though, and Namjoon knew he was worrying about Hyosang, even if he didn't want to be.
"Want me to call him for you? Ask him? It's been a while, but I think he'd probably still pick up." Namjoon offered, tentatively, "I won't mention you. I want to know, anyway. I didn't know shit and nobody's really been active in our group chat for a while, anyway.
Seokjin's face lightened a little, but before he could answer, a low, scratchy voice cut in. "Doncha fuckin' dare, Joon-ah." Yoongi hissed out, in almost incomprehensibly satoori, and Namjoon jumped in surprise.
"You're awake?" he said, with a blink, exchanging looks with Seokjin, who looked equally shocked, eyes open wide in the exaggerated way he always did on variety shows, "Did we wake you?'
Yoongi pushed himself up, rubbing at his eyes and staring at them with a look of frank annoyance. "Couldn't fucking get to sleep, and then you idiots didn't help, god. Genius IQ of 148, he says, and he suggests fucking calling Hyosang-hyung."
"What's wrong with calling Hyosang-hyung?" demanded Namjoon, feeling his shoulders tighten immediately in response to Yoongi's half-asleep venom. It was practically a defense mechanism at this point.
Yoongi rolled his eyes. "Think, you moron. If he has been booked, he won't have access to his fucking phone. The police will. And guess what they'll be looking for? More leads, because when are drug rings only ever made up of ten goddamn people, right? And when Hyosang-hyung's name hasn't been released to the public, why the fuck would people be calling him and asking if he got arrested unless they know something. You'd be placing yourself under suspicion, don't be goddamn stupid."
Seokjin exhaled, ruffling his brown hair with a tired look on his face. "So you really think he has been doing weed?"
Yoongi's smile was grim. "I don't know anything for sure. But you know what? Better safe than sorry. Wait for Dispatch or shit to reveal the other ten participants, hyung, it's safer for all of us. If Hyosang-hyung did do it, they'll definitely reveal his name quickly; former-idols getting into trouble is something that the public laps up. For that matter," he said, turning around to Namjoon, "Don't respond to anything DNH says for a while, yeah? Just to be on the safe side? Tell them you're busy with comeback preparations and all."
Namjoon groaned and buried his head in his hands. It was advice that made sense, that was the worst part, but god. God was he just going to ignore everything? Bury his head in the sand? Like the purposefully-ignorant people he usually hated?
"Think of your parents, Namjoon, don't get fucking arrested or investigated over something like this. We're idols now." Yoongi said, seriously, hands reaching out to smooth over Namjoon's knee, in a comforting shake. Seokjin's presence was still at his side, and although he knew they were trying to help, he almost felt worse. "We gotta think of ourselves. Think of the kids too. We can't care. Not now."
"Yeah." Namjoon said, lowly, with a slow nod. "Yeah, I know." It didn't mean he had to like it, but he knew.
That night, he woke up, shaking so hard from a nightmare he barely remembered, but the name on his lips was Ikje, and the weakness made him feel extremely cold. He had not thought about DNH and what his future could have been, the Bangtan Boys before they'd become a dancing, singing group. And to think about it now, when it was further away than ever, was stupid, but here he was anyway. Luckily for him, Jungkook, who'd managed to get used to any noises Namjoon made at night, was still fast asleep, head half buried into his pillow, legs askew like a starfish.
With a fond smile, Namjoon slipped out of his bed. The room was too hot. He was burning, everything was slowly being incinerated, going up into flame, and he was tired. Exhausted, in fact, but he knew that he would not sleep well.
The living room was only marginally better, so Namjoon traipsed into the kitchen, careful to aim his phone's flashlight in his path (the last time he'd tried to navigate in the dark, he'd practically obliterated Taehyung's packets of strawberry pocky by crushing them, and had been met with puppy eyes for the rest of the day and childish whining), to open the fridge door and let the cold of the food settle into his bones.
Instead, perched on the kitchen counter, glass of water in hand and half-nodded off against the oven ventilator, was Hoseok. "Hobi-yah." Namjoon said, shaking Hoseok's shoulder gently, gaining a sleepy, befuddled look from the other boy, before he realized where he was.
"I'm awake! blurted Hoseok, a bit too loudly for their quiet apartment, and Namjoon immediately slapped his hand over Hoseok's lips and listened. Jungkook was probably asleep still, Taehyung slept with earphones in and Jimin who'd been extremely exhausted had passed out so deeply he'd missed his shower slot, so Namjoon was sure that the younger boy wouldn't wake either. The problem were Yoongi and Seokjin, who were extremely light sleepers, despite everything. But there was no rustling or loud cursing, which meant they were okay.
Hoseok's white eyes, wide with a mixture of confusion and sleepiness, met Namjoon as he pulled away his hand from the dancer's face. "What are you up for, Hobi-yah?" asked Namjoon, opening the fridge door to illuminate their faces a little better.
"Just got back from the studio, was working late to make up for last week where I did shit all." Hoseok said, with a slight yawn. "I enjoyed your alpaca jin spam though, saw that on my way home. Did hyung annoy you?"
Namjoon shrugged, with a sigh. "Easiest target." he said, lying quietly. Talking about Hyosang and Donghyuk and Hunchul felt like too much, and he didn't want to bring it up with Hoseok, who was always too perceptive. "And he always gives as good as he gets, so it's funnier for the fans."
Hoseok's glance was sharp, and unconvinced, but he seemed content to let it drop, and that was one of the reasons that Namjoon much preferred late-night Hoseok, without makeup or cameras, the Hoseok who was easy to talk to. "What about you, then?" asked Hoseok, easily, "Why are you up? Wake yourself up with your snoring again?' he teased, slow, teasing grin spreading across hi sface.
"Screw you." Namjoon said, eloquently, sticking his forehead against one of the fuller milk cartons in their fridge. "It's just too hot to sleep, so I was trying to cool down."
"Drinking the milk instead of fondling it might help with that." Hoseok said, dryly and Namjoon's response was a very graceful middle finger behind him. One of the one advantages of reshooting the Do You MV about a billion times, he managed to make flipping the bird look beautiful. Well, if the fans had anything to say about it, he made anything look nice.
"Who the fuck just drinks cold milk?" asked Namjoon, but his words were more mumbled as he felt the cold breeze of the fridge start to reach his skin and soothe him
Hoseok reached around, grabbed the water jug they'd put inside the fridge, and shut the door, quickly. "Before it starts beeping." he explained, pouring Namjoon some iced water and shoving the cup into Namjoon's hands. "Though, I admit, I'm not sure how you're too hot when it's like 7 degrees Celcius outside right now." he said, eyes against Namjoon with a significant raise of his eyebrows.
Namjoon met his gaze with as much dignity as he could, when he was pressing the bottom of the cup against his forehead, before giving in, because seriously, he could fight against Yoongi and Hoseok's probing, on most occasions, but he was also really tired. "Freaky dream." he said, "But I really do feel too hot."
Hoseok looked at him, and his eyes narrowed to observant slits. "Because of Hunchul-hyung's arrest?"
Fuck. How did he do that? Come on, Namjoon had the right to have some secrets, right? "...yeah." Namjoon admitted, draining the cup in one gulp. The cold water gave him a little bit of brainfreeze, a cold ache starting up against the edge of his teeth and his temples, but he did feel a little more awake.
"Me too." Hoseok said, seriously, gaze falling down at his too-red toes, "I just keep thinking about what could happen if we got involved in that shit too..."
"We're not involved in it, and aren't likely to be. None of us are idiots." Namjoon murmured, letting his eyes shut. "It's not something you gotta worry about, Hobi-yah. There are lots of other things in the world to be scared of, let's not worry about stuff that won't happen."
"Then what are you worried about?" asked Hoseok, sliding off the counter to crowd Namjoon back against the sink. Hoseok was shorter than him, but it didn't matter when they were practically pressed up against each other, Hoseok allowing no room for escape. "Because hypocrisy doesn't suit you, Joonie." Hoseok whispered, practically against Namjoon's lips.
Namjoon pushed Hoseok forward, a little, to give himself some room to breath. "I'm not scared for the future. I'm terrified of the past. Of what I missed, of what could have been." Namjoon said, quietly. Hoseok was quiet, his lips pressing together in an expression that was entirely unreadable, and suddenly, Namjoon felt exhausted enough to sleep through the burning in his skin.
"I'm going to bed. G'night, Hobi-yah. You should head off as well." Namjoon said, pressing a hand to Hoseok's shoulder as he traipsed back to his room.
The next article came out almost one whole month later, in the middle of Fire promotional schedules and preparation for the Epilogue concerts. By that point, being busy wasn't even a lie, and he found himself with very little time to do his online shopping, yet alone exchange real messages with DNH beyond 'happy birthday's and liking instagram posts of London, but when Seokjin and Hoseok barged into the Bangtan Room still sweaty from practise, phones in hand, Namjoon knew it couldn't be good. He looked up from his barely started track, with a mild glance of confusion.
"Namjoon, you didn't see it yet?" asked Seokjin, looking extremely concerned.
"Ikje-hyung just got revealed to have been arrested too." Hoseok said, face serious, and somehow, it was Yoongi who almost up-ended their chicken all over the poor synthesizer, and Namjoon who managed to save the destruction from happening. The world was ending.
"Shit." Yoongi said, face pale. "Seok-seok, the articl--"
Seokjin instantly brandished his phone at them and Namjoon peered over Yoongi's shoulder as he grabbed it from Seokjin's hands and scrolled through the article. "Used fucking bitcoins to smuggle weed into the country, what a fucking smart idea, Choi Ikje, that's really going to go unnoticed in this day and age, fucking hell, is this 2010?"
"So that's how he always had weed for the practise sessions." Namjoon said, mildly, pressing a hand to his temples, with a sudden exhaustion that swept over him. "Fuck, this isn't good."
"No kidding." Yoongi snarled, pushing back in his swingy chair, almost collided with the wall, in his anger. "You know what the worst part is? They're really clear on mentioning he's a former Bangtan trainee in the article, they say it like three times, fuck, fuck, this is not good."
"Both of them were former Bangtan members, this throws us under the bus badly." Hoseok agreed, darkly, "How many people are going to think about us after reading this article, think that we were also involved?'
"Everybody, obviously." Namjoon said, voice tired. "If it's mentioned in the article that many times. But it's not going to be more than a flittering doubt. We're well liked and well-respected as hard-working idols at the moment. We don't boast about drugs and we've revealed our production process on numerous occasions, I don't think people will think we're on drugs."
"Not in the public eyes, maybe." Hoseok agreed, voice thoughtful, collapsing down in their sofa, legs spreading out to make himself more comfortable. "But what about the police? Wasn't that what Yoongi was talking about last time, not incriminating ourselves to the police?"
"It's been a month since they booked everyone. If they were going to investigate us, they would have done so by this point, right? Why would an article released a month after the fact change their opinion?" asked Seokjin, looking at Yoongi and Namjoon, eyebrows raised.
"I really wouldn't put it past them to be really fucking slow about this, though." Yoongi said, slowly, "Putting aside corruption and laziness and shit, it's like common sense. If you used drugs, you'd lie low for some time before attempting to contact your dealer again. So they'd probably keep tabs on the others and think about who's in contact with him and who was close to him."
"Yeah, but isn't us avoiding them is like admitting we're guilty? I mean, a smart user wouldn't contact their dealer ever again." Namjoon said, rolling his eyes. "And I do send them messages fairly frequently, changing my habit would be more incriminatory. And think about it, his mother sends him loads of messages, right? And she's not taking weed. Everyone around them is hardly involved in the scandal. Avoiding Ikje-hyung would look more suspicious. We're innocent and we know it, so we just have to go about our normal lives."
"But would the police see it like that? Musical friends and producers are much more likely to be involved in a weed scandal than his fuckign parents, Joon-ah. We have so many antis, any of them could frame us and make things seem worse than they are. And what if they bring up stuff about the past, huh? You could make the argument that addiction's not that easy to beat." Yoongi said, with a shrug, fingers messing with the cords of his headphones, "I mean, we've seen the same films, man, that weird indie one where the dude was struggling with heroin."
"Heroin is not the same as weed, hyung, don't even." Namjoon snapped, rolling his eyes. Neither of them were fucking addicted from the few production sessions together where they'd tried weed, and decided it was unhelpful for their style of music. And anyone who made that argument had clearly never tried weed in their life.
"And putting that aside," Yoongi said, cutting over Namjoon with a look, "Avoiding them isn't a sign of guilt. When someone does something wrong, everybody who's smart moves away from them to distance themselves from the problem. Like think about that time--"
"I'm really fed up of us acting like we're guilty." Seokjin said, conversationally, as he took a seat next to Hoseok, but was ignored by everyone, summarily.
"--when Taehyung accidentally insulted Big Bang. None of his friends responded to his messages until it blew over. It's something obviously part of human nature." Yoongi continued, and Namjoon could only feel himself grow colder. It was so much easier to deal with Yoongi when he didn't make sense. He wanted to counter the false equivalence between weed and heroin, but it derailed from the fact that Yoongi was right about avoidance, and there was a tense air in the room, as Hoseok and Seokjin looked between them, with worry and uncertainty.
"But I'm not sure, hyung, did the rest of DNH get investigated? Because I feel like things would be a lot easier if we knew for sure who was investigated, cleared and whatnot." asked Namjoon, not looking towards Yoongi. He knew that if he did, there would be problems of the violent sort, and Namjoon didn't want to get to blows inside the Bangtan room again because both he and Yoongi were incapable of keeping their tempers off-camera. This time, it wasn't even either of their faults, it was damn Ikje and Hunchul and the idiots who'd forgotten their dreams of the future, in search of a perfect present. "I haven't checked the chat since the last time..."
Hoseok pulled a face, and sat down on his hands, leaning forward with interest. "I dunno, wouldn't Donghyuk have complained about it if he had? You know how whiny he gets when even the slightest thing goes wrong..."
"Donghyuk? I heard P-Dogg-hyung mention he went on an extended leave of absence, after the London Event... He sounded really pissed about it too, apparently it was abrupt." Yoongi said, darting upwards, suddenly, with a nervous tension that didn't suit his figure.
Seokjin watched, quietly, and Namjoon pulled a wan face at him. Seokjin's eyebrows rose, with quiet commiseration. Namjoon just sort of wanted to go hide somewhere where he didn't have to think about his best friend having maybe got booked for taking drugs, where the pressure of knowing the truth was balanced with making sure his group stayed popular and relatively scandal-free. He was tired, and their promotional struggles didn't help with anything.
"He could have had a family emergency, absence of leave could mean anything." Seokjin tried, softly, but the words rung hollowly in the air, and Namjoon couldn't help but turn around, one spin in the spinny chair to get his expression under control, because. Because. Goddamnit.
"He's not that stupid." Namjoon said, his voice harsh, as he fumbled around in his pockets for his phone, the urge to call Donghyuk and check too much. "He works for Big Hit, he can't be that fucking stupid. The other producers wouldn't let him...he wouldn't have been able to head off to London with Hyosang if that was the case...."
Yoongi grabbed the phone from Namjoon's shaking hands as soon as he unlocked it. "Joon-ah." he said, but his voice was gentler this time, and his eyes almost soft, under the dim lighting of the Bangtan room. "Don't be stupid, man. Breathe."
Hoseok's hands settled on Namjoon's shoulders, gently drawing circles onto Namjoon's back, and he felt almost more stressed by their actions, because it wasn't what any of DNH would have done. They would have slapped his back, called him a pussy-ass-bitch, and thrown water at his face, with joking laughs on their faces. Not soft touches, and wide eyes, and concern, not like Bangtan, who were anything but understated in their love for him, who showed their love for him whenever they could, in their pact to make sure that they would never break apart because of petty reasons.
"I gotta know, hyung." Namjoon said, voice far too calm for his inner turmoil. "Just let me ask him. He'll know about Hyosang too, I need to ask about everybody else. Once we know, we can make plans about exactly how we mitigate the effects upon us." He turned towards Seokjin, hoping that he'd have at least one person support him, but Seokjin's fingers were in his mouth, biting at his fingernails, looking between them all, face turning paler and paler, and he didn't seem to be ready to say anything.
Yoongi shook his head, bringing up Namjoon's kakaotalk chat, instead, and clicking on DNH. "You gotta stop, Namjoon-ah. You can't call them. You can't contact them. Don't even think you ought to have the temptation to talk to them, honestly. Not yet. Not until it's sorted, Not until the investigation is over, and they've stopped revealing names."
"It's not just you in this!" snapped Yoongi, and Hoseok's hands tightened on Namjoon's shoulder, and he knew that Hoseok was glaring at Yoongi, but god, he felt numb at those words. "There are seven of us, in this. Seven of us together, against the rest of this fucked-up world. And I'll be damned if your curiosity ruins us, Namjoon, not now. Please, not now, not when Taehyung's got a drama, and you, Hobi and Jimin are getting variety shows, and we've got a billion CFs done and lined up for us, and our music can hit international iTunes and stay up in the top ten for months on end..."
"They might not be under investigation!" Namjoon snapped, eyes unable to take away from the small glimpse of the chat on his phone, his username still set to 'Runch Randa' and emojis of himself, from the BTS kit, that Taegyun liked to use mockingly, and the laughter of Samsoon and Hyosang.
"Yeah! But what if they are, Namjoon?" demanded Yoongi, letting the phone drop to his lap in his frustration. "What if they are? And what if we get fucked? You can't be nice, not now, Namjoon, not now. You left them behind already, and they fucked it all up. We gotta keep looking forward."
"Hoseok. Hobi-yah, what do you think? Seokjin-hyung...?" asked Namjoon, voice remarkably not shaking, but Hoseok's fingers started to shake on Namjoon's shoulder and when he looked up, Hoseok's eyes were shiny and he looked innumerably sad.
"I-I'm sorry Joonie, b-but--" Hoseok said, and that was all they both needed to hear. He understood. He understood, that was the worst part, especially with Hoseok finally getting the attention and love he'd been deprived of during their trainee days. God, but he understood where he was coming from. Namjoon turned towards Seokjin, slipping out of Hoseok's grasp, grateful that the dancer let him. On the couch, Seokjin's face was blank, and serious in the way that fans thought was sexy, but just made Namjoon nervous.
"I don't know." he said, quietly, playing with his fingers, "Letting go of our roots is rarely a good idea. But when your roots are starting to prevent you from reaching to the stars...Namjoon..."
Namjoon let his eyes close, the feeling of overwhelming pressure taking away his breath for a moment. He felt almost immeasurably lonely in that moment, despite their presence near them, and sometimes he hated how effortlessly pragmatic all of his hyungs were, how they tore away his heart and made it perfectly reasonable. "So what, Yoongi-hyung, you want me to delete their numbers so I'm not tempted to call them and it doesn't look like I'm in contact with the rest of DNH?" he asked, not opening his eyes.
"Yeah. Delete the chats too, from your phone memory. If they did a deep-search of your phone, they'd probably find it, but if you delete your current contacts with them, they won't have any reason to dig deeper." Yoongi said, and his voice was almost empty. "If you say that you fell out of contact with them after the success of I Need U..."
"--Nobody would blame me or suspect otherwise." Namjoon said, woodenly. "No reason to investigate, no reasons for any efforts by antis to ruin us." No proof of his connection to the underground, no connection to the people who'd introduced him to Untouchable and Bang Sihyuk, no more late-night chats about what the real meaning of a sell-out was.
Sure. He didn't talk to them that much anymore, with their barely-hidden jealousy about his position and his own business, and their more and more sniped words at times. And sure, he'd long since lost the street cred he'd once had, long since lost the easy slang and dialect of the rappers in the underground heart of Seoul. But this was final. And Namjoon hated endings. More than anything.
"Hyung, just go ahead and do it." Namjoon said, voice quiet. There was a sound of tapping on the screen, and when the weight of a phone in his lap returned, Yoongi looked tired, exhausted, like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He stood up, noticing Namjoon's gaze on him, and pressed a small, apologetic kiss to Namjoon's forehead, before leaving the room, silently, his new tracks unsaved.
Hoseok's fingers brushed along Namjoon's neck, before he slipped out, no doubt to follow Yoongi. And Seokjin stayed on the couch, head in his hands, silent and unmoving. Seokjin was in pain, but Namjoon was numb.
Goodbye Runch Randa.
Even with the numbers gone from his phone, they weren't gone from his mind. Namjoon still knew Donghyuk's phone number off by heart, after that time he'd destroyed his phone by accident during a rave in high school, and had been using pay phones to contact everybody instead. And Donghyuk had always used the same sim-card for all of these years, just switching from one unlocked phone to the next, which meant his number was the same.
He'd promised Yoongi that Rap Monster wouldn't contact Donghyuk, but who'd ever said that Soomin-noona wouldn't?
Namjoon was well-liked amongst the staff at Big Hit. They all knew him well, from his high school days, and they'd all watched him grow up, with fondness and love. And he knew how to charm people with quiet respectful words and a dimpled grin. So it was easy to beg Soomin-noona to use her phone the next day, if he promised to pay for the minutes used with cash. She shooed him off with a pat to his cheek, and a promise to cover up his call to his girlfriend. He hadn't bothered correcting her, that was easier o explain than what he was doing now.
Ducking away into another room, grateful that his members were either asleep or filming for a Bangtan Bomb, Namjoon grabbed the phone and dialed the number he knew all too well and hoped that Donghyuk was not asleep or in the shower. To his relief, the phone went through.
"Yo, Shin Donghyuk speaking." he said, formally, in the lazy drawl that made him sound drunk, even when he wasn't.
"Hyuk-ah, it's me." Namjoon murmured, leaning back against the wall, letting the blue hair flop into his eyes. "Sorry."
"Joon-ah?" asked Donghyuk, voice sounding shocked. "You get a new number and not tell me?"
"No, I'm borrowing one of the stylist-noona's...." he said, quietly, and there was a soft sound of comprehension.
"Sneaky, sneaky, using your genius brain for good, I see. So there was a reason why you removed yourself from the group chat." Donghyuk murmured, sounding a mixture between worried and sarcastically angry. "Did they finally break into your phone and tell you whom you can and can't text? I told you it was going to happen some time soon, other idols aren't allowed to use their phones like normal human beings."
"Hyung asked me to. After the news broke..." Namjoon said, quietly, and there was silence over the other line, just the sound of Donghyuk's breath, for a few, long moments. "Hyuk?" asked Namjoon, all too aware of his time restraints. "Hyuk, did you....are you.... is there an investigation around everyone in DNH? Or just Ikje-hyung and Hunchul-hyung?"
There was an exhale across the line. "You won't like the answer, Joonie." Donghyuk murmured, words slurred.
Fuck. Namjoon hung his head down, and breathed heavily, and the numbness which had filled his veins since yesterday had gone, replaced instead by pain, sharp and agonizing through his bones. "Hyuk. Hyuk, you didn't..." he said, and his voice caught in his throat.
"Are you crying, you goof?" asked Donghyuk, and his voice was almost reverent. Namjoon didn't have an answer. He'd only cried when he was happy about something, overwhelmingly happy, like at concerts or when they won prizes. Not like this. But the thought of all of his old friends in jail, because one little error, because they hadn't been fucking smart enough with whom they'd shared their weed with....
"Shut up. Who's involved? Hyosang-hyung too? Are you booked?" demanded Namjoon, voice low.
"Not booked, there's just some weird phonecalls every now and then. Dunno if Hyosang-hyung's been going through the same shit, we've just been producing. Don't like to talk about other shit. I've been lying low since the stuff about Ikje-hyung broke out, anyway. CEO-nim confronted me on April 10th, after we came from London. I told him I'd done weed, on-and-off, and got it from Ikje-hyung. He told me to burn everything, get rid of my phone and burn all traces of it, that he'd try to cover up for as long as he could. I did, and he told me to go and stay away from the company for a bit, to make his life easier."
Namjoon groaned, as quietly as he could, ruffling his hair, without a care. "Hyuk, that's destroying police evidence, that's a jail sentence if they find out."
"I'm going to prison anyway if they find out. This, at least, means that there's a chance they won't stick me in prison." Donghyuk said, fiercely, "Can you believe that hyung was stupid enough to do stuff with bitcoin? Everyone knows that you trace bitcoin for illegal activity, motherfucker."
"He was always too old for the internet." Namjoon murmured, trying to joke, but failing, as his eyes started to really blur. "You know who Kang is?"
"Have an inkling, even if I'm not entirely sure. You don't know him, he hasn't been around for very long, fairly new to the scene, if I'm right. But we're all fucked because of him, fuck." Donghyuk said, angry and stumbling over his words in his fury. "If I see him again, I'll throttle him. Seriously, don't trust people, Namjoon, that's my best advice. You're the only one you can trust in the end."
Namjoon couldn't stop the tears escaping his eyes, and now it was too real, it wasn't a slight hitch in his throat or a sheen over his eyes, he was crying, by himself, in a spare room clutching someone else's phone, trying to pretend he had it together, that he was okay about this whole situation. Pretending that he wasn't freaking out over fears of the past, wasn't freaking out about the slim chance of returning to the underground disappearing, wasn't freaking out about how Runch Randa of DNH was evaporating faster than his dreams to be a sport-player at age five. "Donghyuk, I'm sorry, I want to hel--"
"Don't you dare fucking apologize." Donghyuk hissed, over the phone, "Rap Monster, known internationally and loved internationally, getting caught up in a scandal and scene that hasn't been his for years? Turn away and walk away, that's for the best. You're an idol now. Think about that."
Namjoon wiped the corners of his eyes, careful to try and not smudge the eyeliner. "You should have stayed in Bangtan." he said, softly, without the strength to even be ashamed of his tears, "Ikje-hyung was too ugly for an idol group, and Hunchul-hyung was too independent, but you should've stayed. Bit of makeup, decent haircut, and you'd have fit right in. You wouldn't have to lie low." He didn't know how Donghyuk's harsh words would have meshed well with Yoongi or Jungkook, whether he'd have been too much for Jimin to handle. But he knew that even if Donghyuk insulted the music they did, sometimes, he had loved the beats to Baepsae and We are Bulletproof Part 2, and had enjoyed working on Cypher 3, and still promoted them on his instagram. Donghyuk could have done it, been an idol.
"I wasn't happy there, and I didn't fit in there. I'm doing what i want to now, We've been to London. On tour. And I've featured for you, and I'm doing what I need to." Donghyuk murmured, "Me and Hyosang-hyung just weren't cut out for idol life. It's alright. Stop crying, you motherfucker, you're fine. You're safe. It's the rest of us fuckers are that fucked over if the police seize down on us."
"You think I want to cry over you, asshole?" snapped Namjoon, and that drew a low chuckle from Donghyuk. "Can't believe you and Hyosang-hyung literally released a song with a cover photo of weed everywhere a week after Hunchul got arrested, were you tempting fate?"
"Hey, Hunchul-hyung made a song on SMTM calling out Park Bom for being a druggie, man, if that's not the ultimate irony, I dunno what is. Music's supposed to make you laugh every now and then." Donghyuk defended, but there was a grin to his tone that Namjoon didn't quite appreciate.
"It was a shitty song, I hope you know that. Hoseok gave you the biggest nope face ever." Namjoon said, with a low chuckle, sinking down against the wall, pressing the phone closer to his ear.
"We literally sat and ate chicken for the entire time we got to work on the song, and made this in the last day, to make it look somewhat productive. There was no other way I was going to get time to hang out with him." Donghyuk said, with a low laugh, "Don't take shit like that seriously."
"You're worse than a slacker officer worker." Namjoon grumbled, but his tears were drying up a little, as Donghyuk kept joking. If he wasn't scared for his future, how could Namjoon keep feeling fear? He had to look forward, like everyone kept telling him. No more looking behind him, no more worrying and wondering. If only it were easier, if only he didn't keep thinking about Runch Randa, if only he didn't long to take part in DNH's recording sessions again. "Donghyuk, don't get caught, alright? I want you to write another song for our new album."
"Yeah. Yeah, I'll be back." murmured Donghyuk's cutting voice, strong and determined. "Go back to your rehearsals. I'll be cheering for you, lord knows I have nothing else to do."
"Yeah. Vote for Fire to make an all-kill this week, yeah?" asked Namjoon, getting his voice under control again, properly, now that he'd stopped crying.
"Twice were better, you know." said Donghyuk, voice lilting, "You may have to bribe my votes. And what a scandal that would be, yeah?"
"Asshole." Namjoon said, and hung up. His eyes were probably too red to hide the fact he'd been crying. But he hoped that nobody would ask why. With a heavy breath and exhale, Namjoon closed Soomin-noona's phone and walked out to hand it to her. She tutted over his makeup being ruined, but didn't ask any questions that Namjoon wasn't ready to answer.
Upon returning to the dorms, exhausted but relieved about the Inkigayo win, and the release of the Save Me MV being received well, Namjoon was all ready to collapse in bed and sleep soundly. What he wasn't expecting was to be accosted by Taehyung, Jimin and Jungkook, who all gave him hugs, with small pecks to his cheek and a quick word of encouragement.
Getting hugs and encouragement from Jimin was the normal thing, it happened all the time, to the point where Namjoon could easily consider Jimin to be his favourite dongsaeng. Taehyung was also exuberant with hugs, but it was usually behind stage or during fansigns, where he'd take advantage of the fans and cameras watching to annoy Namjoon a little, and squeeze the breath out of Namjoon's poor ribs. but Jungkook never instigated skinship, not with Namjoon. Not once, which was why he was left more than a little speechless by Jungkook's little shy smile.
Namjoon stared as the maknaeline all disappeared to go and take a shower, bickering idly, before turning back towards Hoseok, who was pulling off his shoes, and Seokjin who was idly flipping through the TV screens.
"You're really shitty at covering up your tears, I hope you know that." Yoongi said, shoving past Namjoon, "Cold spoons, man, cold spoons."
God, but he both hated and loved his teammates.