Actions

Work Header

fever chills

Chapter Text

It’s not like he’s surprised. If Taehyung’s being honest, Jungkook probably deserves it for how he treats his body: practicing past midnight and satisfying it only with little bits of sleep at a time, as if it’s a problem he can keep putting a band-aid over instead of actually fixing. It happens around every time the weather starts getting colder. Jungkook goes from sniffling to coughing to hacking out his lungs with watering eyes and trembling hands, all the while still refusing to acknowledge that he’s actually sick, because he’s Jungkook and he’s the Golden Maknae and apparently that means he doesn't have time for the whole sickness thing.

 

Usually Taehyung feels a vindictive sort of pleasure when it happens, because at this point, it's almost what Jungkook deserves. Not that Taehyung wants to see their maknae in pain – far from it, actually – but there is something almost like an accomplishment when Jungkook slips from his pedestal of perfection so that Taehyung can coddle him and leave tissues around the house and put up with his whining of “I’m not sick hyung” when actually, pretty sure he is. More than anything, it serves to remind Jungkook that he’s human too. Or at least Taehyung hopes it does, because that’s one thing the boy can’t seem to wrap his head around.

 

So it goes like that. A cycle that Taehyung and the other boys are largely used to at this point. It's as clockwork as any routine: when the weather starts getting a bit crisp, Taehyung is already expecting it. A cold, and Jungkook will act like nothing’s wrong, and Taehyung will cuddle with him (fighting for the honor with the likes of Jimin and Hoseok) to make sure he’s warm, and in a week it’ll be gone with no real consequences.

 

But that's where the issue arises. They become so used to it that they don’t stop the behavior, don’t force Jungkook to sleep a full eight hours or take his medicine because it’s inevitable that their maknae will work himself into sickness anyway, regardless of anything they try to do to stop him. It makes it dangerous, because when the shit actually hits the fan, and hits it hard, Taehyung is not even close to prepared.

 

But he doesn’t know that when it first starts, on a Wednesday during practice. Jungkook sneezes once, and the rest of the members share conspicuous little looks with each other, all knowing smirks and eye rolls. During their water break, Jimin nods over at Jungkook, nudging Taehyung in the side. “Right on time,” he says.

 

Taehyung tuts, loud in his exaggeration. “Kookie is getting too predictable.”

 

As if on cue, their maknae tries to hide a cough in his elbow. 'Hide' being more of an attempt than a success; six pairs of eyes shoot his way at the sound. Seokjin, the only one, perhaps, that doesn’t care if Jungkook needs to learn a lesson or not and simply wants to dote on him for all of eternity, makes his way over to the youngest.

 

“Jungkook-ah? You-“

 

“Are fine, hyung,” Jungkook answers. Taehyung is smart enough to know that the irritation tight in the corner of his eyes isn’t directed towards Jin but towards himself; it's his own perceived weaknesses, of any kind, that Jungkook clearly hates the most. Taehyung still remembers the night the younger had snuck into his room before debut, shoulders heaving as he explained through sobs that he couldn’t get some dance part down, just couldn’t, and he was weak and he was embarrassed and he hated feeling less than. Taehyung still sees the wide-eyed fifteen year old in this Jungkook, the one who gets mad at himself for something as simple as sickness.

 

Yoongi, beside Jimin, lets out a breath. “Here we go.”

 

But Seokjin presses on. “Are you sure? Because I’m sure we could stop by the pharmacy on the way back and get something to clear that up.”

 

“There’s nothing to clear up,” Jungkook protests. After a moment of deliberation, he softens the sentence by tacking a "hyung" onto the end. His eyes are already getting a bit pink, and the twist in his face makes it clear that he’s holding back either a sneeze or cough for the sake of his dignity. Taehyung walks up, pushing a knuckle gently into Seokjin’s back, his subtle way of telling the other to back down. It won’t result in anything anyway, except for Jungkook growing more outwardly upset. Besides, Jungkook’s always worse at pushing off his hyungs’ affections when he’s too sick to care, and Taehyung thinks that that doesn't sound entirely horrible.

 

“Come on – if we hurry up we can go home early,” he says, and Jungkook huffs, already frustrated.

 

“Moody teens,” Namjoon grumbles, but his voice is fond and Taehyung doesn’t miss the way that he sets extra tissue boxes in every room when they get home. Hoseok follows behind him with the casual placement of cough drops, and Seokjin hints at least three time that the medicine cabinet is freshly restocked. Jungkook ignores them, of course, but that's as much a part of the routine as everything else, so it's not much of a cause for concern. 

 

They salvage up enough time in the evening to play a few of the new games Seokjin's bought for his Smash. Predictably, the last three standing are Taehyung, Jimin, and Jungkook, the maknae line a bickering pile on the couch long after the hyungs have stumbled off to their own rooms. They end the night that way, warm and soft and Jungkook’s coughing a bit more, and has taken to rubbing at his head when he thinks no one's looking, but it’s nothing big. If anything, it's normal, and normal is good. Taehyung can deal with normal.

 

Thursday comes and sure Jungkook begins to show more aggressive symptoms, obvious stiffness and what seems to be a persisting headache, but nothing big and nothing to really be worried about. Taehyung guesses by tomorrow he would’ve been forced to cave by Seokjin’s nagging and then they can all have a big movie night and Jungkook can fall asleep on Taehyung’s shoulder and all will be good in the world and - 

 

“So Tae and Kook, it’s just you two here tomorrow.”

 

Taehyung snaps up, cocking his head at Manager-nim before oh, right. Tomorrow’s the day the other boys are all scheduled up. Namjoon and Yoongi representing the band in a radio interview, Seokjin doing a solo photoshoot for a magazine article, Jimin and Hoseok guest starring on a show Taehyung can’t for the life of him remember the name of. Taehyung doesn’t mind, really; he feels long overdue for a break, and though the kid wouldn't admit it, Jungkook is always long overdue for a break.

 

So they spend one last day all together, and that night while Jungkook is showering Taehyung gets quite the rundown from the parents featuring Yoongi (or is it the parents featuring Namjoon? Taehyung can never decide who out of the three are really the mom and dad).

 

“Make sure he sleeps.”

 

“Yes mom.”

 

Scratch that, Seokjin’s the mom no matter what.

 

“All the medicine he may need is -“

 

“In the medicine cabinet,” Taehyung interrupts Seokjin easily. “Hyung, I’ve got it.”

 

“You better,” Yoongi says, crossing his arms and shifting his weight to one side. “He’s too in denial to do this shit on his own.”

 

“He’s gotten better,” Namjoon tries, defending the maknae in his absense. “I mean, I’m almost positive he’s been taking the cough drops.”

 

“Ah, no, that’s Jimin-hyung,” Taehyung corrects.

 

Seokjin’s eyebrows furrow inward. “Jimin’s sick now too?”

 

Taehyung shakes his head. “Nah – he just likes the taste of them.”

 

Yoongi takes in a deliberate breath and rubs at his temple. “I refuse to be a part of the band that falls apart because of a cough drop scandal.”

 

Taehyung cackles, and Seokjin shoots a disapproving look at Yoongi before continuing.

 

“None of us will be back until tomorrow morning. You have manager-nim’s number if anything happens, and ours too, so if you need to call someone or are in any trouble just -“

 

Taehyung raises his hands in a 'stand down' gesture. “Listen, guys, really, it's going to be fine. I'm more responsible than you give me credit for.”

 

Three sets of eyebrows shoot up. Taehyung grimaces. “Ok, worth a shot. I'm at least semi-responsible though.”

 

“Better,” Yoongi says. “As long as you don’t let anyone die on your watch, we’ll be fine.”

 

It’s a joke, of course. And Taehyung really isn’t sweating it. They’ll watch movies and play video games all day, and he can have some quality Kookie Time all to himself.

 

They wake up late Friday – almost at noon, and Taehyung would feel gross waking up so late if not for the fact that they’ve been so overworked he’s pretty sure he needed it – and it’s just the two of them in the dorms. They lounge around for a bit, Taehyung eating the leftovers Seokjin packed in the fridge while Jungkook just plays with his before announcing he’s not hungry. An hour passes like that, until Jungkook insists on going to practice, and Taehyung thinks that’s probably a bad idea because really, it’s their day off and he’s sick for fuck’s sake. But no one can stop a determined or restless Kookie, so Taehyung rides with him to the company building before getting bored and eventually leaving. He wanders around the training complex for a bit, hoping to catch a glimpse of someone or something else to entertain him, and when that doesn’t happen, heads begrudgingly back to the dorms.

 

He texts Jungkook to “hurry his ass up” and even goes as far as bribing him with the promise of a “gourmet lunch” (even though it’s two and well past lunch time) that will be waiting for him when he gets back. Jungkook doesn’t respond, which is typical and just Taehyung's luck. So Taehyung hitches a ride back to the dorms and tells himself to get going on actually making lunch but ends up just setting the ingredients out on the counter before he gets too engrossed in the k-drama playing on the television in the living room. Before he notices, an hour has passed and he’s almost crying because no, that’s your boyfriend, how do you not remember your own boyfriend? He tears his eyes away from the screen only when he hears the door swing open and Jungkook stumble in.

 

“Mm – back early?” Taehyung teases, because no one needs that much practice on their off day. Jungkook doesn’t seem to get the joke though.

 

“Yeah. I still had some footwork to fix but…” he trails off, and when Taehyung mutes the show and turns around, he sees Kookie staring at his feet.

 

“But?”

 

Jungkook shrugs loosely, head still down. “I don’t know. I started to feel like shit.”

 

Taehyung tsks. “Language Kook-ah.”

 

At that Jungkook looks up and glares, but the glare lacks its usual heat, eyes tired and slightly red. Taehyung notes that that’s probably not good, but this is just another step in the usual process. No biggie.

 

“Do you wanna finish watching this with me? It’s pretty good.”

 

Jungkook doesn’t answer at first, so Taehyung continues. “Girlfriend got in a car accident and lost her memory. Boyfriend keeps trying to make her remember by like bringing her flowers and stuff but it’s just freaking her out to get flowers from a stranger because remember, she lost her memory? And that’s not even mentioning her sister, who finally got her greasy little hands on –“

 

“I think I’m just going to go rest for a bit.”

 

Taehyung feels his eyebrow arch, but just nods. “Sure? You can change the channel if you want, I don’t care.” He even scoots over generously and holds out the remote like the kindhearted monarch he is.

 

Jungkook shakes his head. “Nah, it’s fine.”

 

Taehyung nods, squinting his eyes as Jungkook shuffles past the couch. “Yeah, ok. Sweet dreams cutie,” Taehyung coos, and Jungkook flicks him off before trudging up the stairs and out of sight.

 

And sure Taehyung had really been looking forward to the whole “let’s cuddle together Jungkook!” part of the day, but it’s probably good that Jungkook’s actually sleeping. It’ll help fight off whatever is in his system. The k-drama finishes with him in tears, and it’s only when the credits are rolling that he remembers lunch was supposed to be a thing. He cooks up some noodles and meat for two, eating his while it’s hot. Jungkook’s, however, becomes cold as the minutes tick by and the boy remains in his bedroom. Taehyung decides it’s not a huge deal and sprawls out on the couch again, channel flipping until he can find something he deems worthy of his time. Halfway through the fifth shitty sitcom in a row he decides to go use the restroom, and when he wanders back into the living room, he’s surprised to see Jungkook awake, curled up on the side of the couch.

 

“Well, goodmorning Sleeping Beauty! Congratulations on looking like complete shit!” Taehyung says it in a chipper tone, but the words curl up on his tongue towards the end when Jungkook looks up at him. And Taehyung had meant it as a joke, honestly, but Jungkook does look like shit. Really looks like shit. Really. Taehyung swallows and then forces himself to relax. Surely he’s just overreacting, because this doesn’t happen. Jungkook rides out his sickness and it never gets worse than a common cold. But, if Taehyung is being honest with himself, this at least looks kind of worse.

 

Jungkook is wrapped loosely in a blanket from his bedroom, knees tucked up to his chest, hair mussed from sleep. His skin is paler than normal - a shade that would probably make even Yoongi-hyung seem tan - and his eyes are big, glossy, and red, the same color as the high spots of heat on his cheeks. He peeks up at Taehyung’s voice, and for a small moment all that shows on his face is confusion, like he doesn’t remember when he traveled from his room to the couch.

 

“Kook?”

 

The fog clears and Jungkook puts on his best smile. It’s not very impressive, and Taehyung feels something tight quietly settle in his stomach.

 

“Sorry Tae. Did I take your spot?” He says the words slower than normal, voice languid but rough, like he has to concentrate to form every word before it passes from his tongue to his lips.

 

“No,” Taehyung says after a moment of just staring. Jungkook’s obviously trying to appear fine, still smiling, but Taehyung doesn’t miss the heavy, panting sound of his breathing, harsh against his ribs as if just talking has overexerted him. Maybe it has. Taehyung doesn’t know. He just knows he doesn’t like it, whatever it is.

 

“Mm,” is Jungkook’s response, head tipping back against the side of the couch. Taehyung stands still for a moment, hands shifting against his sides in the desire to do something but not knowing what that something is.

 

“Jungkook-ah, are you ok?”

 

Jungkook nods, not really a nod but a small tilt of the head. “Yeah. Fine. Just tired is all.”

 

“But you just took a nap. Like, a three hour one.”

 

Jungkook doesn’t respond to that, and so Taehyung decides to brush forward. “Are you hungry?”

 

Jungkook’s face noticeably falls and he makes a noise that Taehyung interprets as a no.

 

“But Kook, you have to eat something.”

 

“Not hungry.”

 

“Have you eaten today?”

 

Jungkook’s silence is answer enough. Taehyung’s eyes feel big because it’s almost six now and Jungkook hasn’t eaten anything and had been stupid enough to practice on top of that and now he’s on the couch wrapped around himself like he’s trying to keep the sickness inside where he can control it and deny its existence all the same.

 

“What about yesterday?”

 

Jungkook meets his eyes again, and Taehyung doesn’t miss the haziness there. “Yesterday? What about yesterday?”

 

“Did you eat yesterday?” Taehyung repeats, slower this time, and Jungkook nods. “What?” Taehyung asks.

 

“A bit of rice.”

 

“And?”

 

“And that’s all.”

 

Taehyung sighs, rubbing at his eyes, trying not to sound exasperated or worried or both. “Kookie, you have to take better care of yourself, we’ve talked about this before.”

 

“I’m fine hyung.” Only Jungkook doesn’t say it in the snipping, aggravated tone that normally accompanies the statement. His voice is dry, scraping against his throat, sounding uncharacteristically worn. His hand sneaks up and rubs at the back of his neck, and his face pinches in a wince.

 

“Ok well, I’m, uh - " Taehyung trails off, because what’s he supposed to be doing in the first place? This isn’t his job; this is Seokjin and Yoongi-hyungs’ area of expertise and Taehyung is a certified master in all things Kookie but that doesn’t mean he knows how to deal with him when he’s sick. He decides to tackle the one thing he can handle – food, and Jungkook’s lack thereof.

 

“I’m gonna heat up your lunch. Or pretty much dinner now I guess.”

 

Jungkook groans in protest. Taehyung sighs, fixing the younger with what he hopes to be a hard, Namjoon-esque look. “Jungk-“

 

“Not hungry,” Jungkook repeats, not seeming very intimidated by Taehyung’s stare. “Nauseous,” he adds, voice softer, eyes still closed, lashes fanning cheekbones flushed that unhealthy shade of red.

 

“Ok then we’ll try some soup, hm? Something easy?” Jungkook doesn’t agree or disagree, so he counts it as a win and shuffles into the kitchen. In the end, he settles on a light soup and a cup of Jungkook’s favorite tea. Jungkook opens his eyes enough to squint at it where it’s sitting on the table.

 

“Come on Kook – I made it with love.”

 

Jungkook snorts, but even that is weak.

 

In the end, it’s probably good that Taehyung didn’t put much time into making the meal, because Jungkook manages only a few spoonfuls of the soup and the tea is only halfway done by the time it’s cold.

 

“At least drink some more tea, you need to stay hydrated,” Taehyung says, because he remembers Seokjin mentioning something about hydration.

 

“It’s cold," Jungkook whines.

 

“Then I’ll heat it up.”

 

“You’re being annoying,” Jungkook says through a long breath. At that, Taehyung finds a smile creep up, and he just holds back a laugh because with his hair all ruffled over his eyes and his lips in a pout and his cheeks a bright shade of pink, Jungkook looks all the little kid he really is.

 

“Oh, am I now?” Taehyung says.

 

“Yes, you are. You sound like my mom or something.”

 

Taehyung reaches forward to poke at Jungkook’s cheek, and the boy squirms as much as he can in his blanket cocoon. “Well there goes my cover. Joke's on you. I’ve been your mom this whole time, just in disguise as a devilishly handsome piece of ass.”

 

Jungkook rolls his eyes, but his lips tug in a semblance of a grin, and Taehyung allows himself to relax enough to bend forward and plant a big sloppy kiss on Jungkook’s forehead. The fun ends as quickly as it began though, and Taehyung pulls away, face scrunched.

 

“You’re warm.”

 

“I prefer the term hot,” Jungkook says, obviously trying to backtrack from the sudden turn in conversation.

 

“Have you checked your temperature?”

 

Jungkook visibly deflates, and Taehyung almost feels bad.

 

“Ok, well then I’m going to get a thermometer. And I’m heating up your tea while I’m at it.”

 

Jungkook doesn’t answer, just snuggles himself further into the edge of the couch, glaring from where his chin is tucked over the blanket. Taehyung grabs as many bottles of medicine as he can while he’s up, returning with full hands and dumping everything on the coffee table.

 

“Mm, two of these?” he says, grabbing the bottle of Tylenol. Truth be told, Taehyung’s not positive what he’s doing, but fever-reducing and pain-relieving sound pretty good and not extreme enough to accidentally kill the younger with, so he goes for it. He tosses Jungkook the bottle, ignoring the way the boy doesn’t catch it and has to fumble around to dig it out of his blanket, and gets the thermometer out from the pile. He turns to Jungkook, passing him a glass of water he’d filled, only to see the boy still struggling to open the childproof lid, fingers trembling and slipping off of the plastic. Taehyung takes it, uneasy, and unscrews the cap, eyeing Jungkook nervously. Jungkook notices, shooting him a pretty pathetic glare that does nothing to soothe the growing tension in Taehyung's chest.

 

“It's too cold in here,” he says as an excuse. Taehyung's not so sure, what with the heater cranked up and him feeling fine in just a tee and sweats, but he doesn’t say that, just nods along and deposits the pills in Jungkook’s palm and the glass in his other hand. Jungkook takes the Tylenol obediently with a short sip of water and Taehyung pops the thermometer in his mouth when he's done, tapping his foot as he waits.

 

“Hyung, stop being so nosy,” Jungkook complains when Taehyung leans over his shoulder at the beep of the thermometer, trying to see the number there. Jungkook doesn't tell him what it is, doesn't even make a face, so Taehyung has to snatch the thermometer out of his hands.

 

“39.8 degrees (**103.7 in Fahrenheit),” he reads out, feeling something cold settle in his chest. “Jungkook isn’t that, isn’t that bad? Like, you know. Too high.”

 

Jungkook just shrugs, suddenly quiet again. Taehyung watches the way he holds his hands tight to stop the trembling.

 

“Maybe we should bring you to the doctor.”

 

“No hyung,” Jungkook says immediately, voice pitched in a plea. “I hate the doctor. Please don’t make me go.”

 

“But – “

 

“It’s not a big deal. I promise.”

 

“Well let’s at least call Seokjin-hyung or Y-“

 

“No, they’re all busy. Please Taehyung, I really am fine. I don’t wanna bother anyone because of a little cold.”

 

Only Jungkook’s eyes are squinted in the corner and his teeth keep gnawing at his lips in a way that suggests a pain more serious than what is expected from a ‘little cold.’ But with the way Jungkook’s looking at him, wide eyes and chapped lips and pale face, Taehyung gives in.

 

“Ok, ok. We’ll see if the medicine helps at all. But if it gets worse, I’m telling the hyungs.”

 

Jungkook hums his agreement, rubbing hard at the base of his head before falling back into the couch cushion, spent. Taehyung tries not to watch him too intently, only walking to grab more blankets when he notices Jungkook’s shivering increase. He piles them on, unsure, but takes it as a good move because Jungkook pulls them as close as possible. He shifts into a spot beside the other, nudging the remote towards Jungkook. Jungkook should take it and choose a show and make sure it is one Taehyung hates just so he can annoy him. He doesn’t. In fact, he doesn’t even seem to notice that Taehyung is pushing the remote his way, so Taehyung just coughs.

 

“What do you wanna watch?"

 

A sort of pained grunt, and then a quiet “You pick.”

 

“Fine. Then we’re watching more sappy k-dramas.” And Jungkook should give him a glare at that, at least a frown, maybe even a punch to the shoulder. But, again, he doesn’t. Taehyung moves on briskly though, acting as if Jungkook had given his best glare (nothing compared to a Yoongi glare of course, but the kid can try) and settling on a show with an interesting sounding title. Jungkook doesn’t seem to be paying much attention anyway, eyes fixed on the TV but dusted over with the same haziness, squinting against the light, so Taehyung uses the moment to pull out his phone.

 

Luckily for him, they have a group message for moments like this – one Jungkook doesn’t know about, for obvious reasons, like the fact that he’d castrate them if he knew the other six were all in a group chat named ‘Kookie Protection Squad.’ In his defense, it’s because Jungkook is an idiot, the kind of idiot that suffers all quietly and shit, and they always need to be on the lookout when it comes to him. Plus, and Taehyung won’t even deny it, they all have a ridiculously huge soft spot for the maknae.

 

‘hey when is a fever bad? like too high?’ he texts, picking at his nail, waiting for a response. He knows it probably won’t come quickly; his hyungs, after all, are busy. And then he feels guilty, because he shouldn’t be bothering them. He should be smart enough to handle this on his own. Jungkook is under his care, and he should be doing a better job than this. But Taehyung's given him medicine and food and tea and blankets and has put a tissue box and trashcan within reaching distance and a show on the television and he doesn’t know what else there is to be done. Clearly there's something though, or Jungkook wouldn't be looking this pathetic, all curled up and shaky and quiet.

 

He’s broken from his thoughts by a particularly bad shiver.

 

“Still cold?” Taehyung asks, and he shouldn’t be in the oversized hoodie and pile of blankets but Jungkook nods, the motion small and careful. When Taehyung goes pulling up the blanket, Jungkook whines, and in most circumstances the noise would probably make Taehyung smile. It doesn't this time though, and Jungkook looks at him imploringly until he realizes that Taehyung is lifting up the blankets to tuck himself in besides Jungkook. As soon as the blankets are readjusted, resting over the both of them now, Jungkook abandons his position curled against the edge of the couch to shift his weight onto Taehyung, instantly snuggling into the body heat with a content little sigh.

 

At that, Taehyung does smile. “What a cold little Kook.”

 

Jungkook flushes and elbows Taehyung, but when Taehyung goes to squirm away from his elbow Jungkook quickly removes it from Taehyung’s ribs, pulling in closer to the older boy, who must feel like some sort of human furnace to the shivering maknae.

 

“Better?” Taehyung asks. Jungkook just nods, and Taehyung feels rather than sees it, Jungkook’s head shifting from where it’s slanted against his shoulder. Taehyung hums, reaching an arm around Jungkook’s neck, hand curling to play with the hair at the base of his skull. He runs his fingers through the fluff of brown, pulling lightly at the strands, grinning at the way Jungkook unconsciously leans into the touch. When he scrapes his nails on the nape of Jungkook's neck, the youngest shivers, sinking further into Taehyung’s side.

 

“You’re so clingy today,” Taehyung says, and he’s not complaining, not even close to it. Jungkook doesn’t respond, and that’s ok too, because the fact that he doesn’t pull away is response enough. Jungkook adjusts himself a few times, squirmy and obviously stiff no matter how he settles into Taehyung’s side, but after a while he quiets, breath becoming long and thick until he’s snoring lightly, mouth parted and head sliding down Taehyung’s shoulder. Taehyung does his best to help the other into a more comfortable position, moving him with gentle hands so that he doesn’t simply slip off of Taehyung’s chest. It takes a bit of work and a few little noises out of Jungkook but eventually Taehyung has him in a position that seems comfortable for the both of them. Jungkook’s cheek is on his shoulder now, head pressed into the crook of Taehyung’s neck, and one of his legs is draped over the other’s lap, arms curled close to his chest. It’s warm – maybe bordering on hot, but Taehyung doesn’t mind – and he can almost forget Jungkook’s sick. He reaches out a spare hand to turn the volume of the television down, and goes back to running fingers through Jungkook’s hair like he does when the other is upset or stressed or, apparently, sick.

 

It’s comfortable, and as Taehyung feels his eyelids get heavy, he figures he can take a short nap too.

 

When he wakes up, it’s because he’s sweating. For a moment, it’s just a delirious fog of wait, where am I again and why am I on fire? Then he blinks and turns and sees Jungkook’s face pressed into the back of the couch and remembers. He stretches out a yawn, blinking slowly. It’s dark outside, and a glance at the clock shows it to be just about the middle of the night.

 

So much for a short nap. He doesn’t feel too bad though; it is a break day after all, and he’s pretty sure he could sleep for a full week and still be tired with how worked their bodies are on a daily basis.

 

Still, as refreshing as sleep is, he can’t help but feel sticky and gross. It’s hot, way too hot, under the pile of blankets: a miniature sauna between the heat of two bodies and thick covers combined. He shimmies his way out carefully, not wanting to wake Jungkook, who looks almost dead in his position pushed against the couch, mouth open just slightly and hair a mess. Once he’s free, he stretches, glancing around. The TV is still playing on near silent, and Jungkook’s bowl of soup is sitting cold beside his tea and the pile of medicine bottles. He searches the room for a moment before finding his phone face down on the ground. He picks it up; 11:37 it reads, and he has a handful of unread texts. He slides open his phone, getting comfy on the chair besides the couch so that he can cool down.

 

All of the texts are in his group chat with the hyungs. He yawns as he opens it up, reading them quickly.

 

‘Normally anything over 38 degrees is starting to get bad. Why? Is Kook ok?’  That’s Seokjin, and Taehyung swallows as he remembers the flashing 39.8 he'd read earlier. That’s probably not good.

 

Jimin had responded with a ‘i mean aren’t fevers supposed to fight infection????? so does that mean its doing its job????'

 

‘i mean not really. if the fever gets to a certain temperature it’s no good. it just means it can’t fix the infection on its own and it’s just gonna get higher trying, aka possible death if it doesn’t stop.’ Yoongi. Blunt as ever.

 

Then Seokjin with ‘Please don’t scare the kids Yoon’ and Namjoon with ‘we don’t even know what his fever is yet guys calm down’

 

‘yes dad’ from Hoseok and a water gun emoji from Namjoon.

 

‘no but rly – whats his fever at tae?’ from Jimin, followed by sets of question marks from the others when Taehyung never responded.

 

He feels guilty almost, knowing he'd probably worried them, so he texts back as quickly as he can. ‘sorry guys i fell asleep.. and his fever was at 39.8 earlier??’

 

The response is almost instant, and judging by the time, each of them are done with their individual tasks and no doubt at various hotels for the night. And, knowing them, staying awake until they get more news from Taehyung.

 

that’s high’ Yoongi texts, quickly followed by ‘you might wanna get him to the doctor’ and ‘what medicine have you given him?’, both from Seokjin.

 

Taehyung thumbs out an answer. 'some ibuprofen. hold up imma check his temperature again and see if it’s gone down brb’

 

Taehyung stands up and tosses his phone on the chair, walking back over to the couch. Before he even puts his hand on Jungkook’s forehead, he remembers the unbearable heat under the blankets, how it had seemed almost unnaturally hot, hot enough to have him waking up covered in sweat. His stomach twists and he swallows before leaning over and pressing his hand to Jungkook’s forehead.

 

The heat that meets his touch has his stomach instantly dropping.

 

He pulls back. He blinks. He puts his hand back on Jungkook's forehead, then on the boy’s cheeks too, just to be thorough. He blinks again. His mind is blank. His mouth feels dry. This is bad. This is bad.

 

Even now, beneath a tower of blankets that probably aren't helping with the fever, Taehyung can see the way Jungkook is trembling in his sleep, curled up tight as if to preserve body heat. Taehyung's heart feels loud in his head and suddenly he needs to wake Jungkook up, needs to see him talking and smiling and moving around like this isn’t as bad as it’s starting to feel.

 

“Jungkook,” he tries. Nothing. He reaches down and rubs at Jungkook’s shoulder. “Kook. Kook-ah. I need you to wake up for hyung, hm?”

 

Jungkook doesn’t so much as twitch, and Taehyung’s really panicking now, pulse in his throat, stomach in knots. “Jungkook I know you probably wanna sleep but I need to check your temperature, ok? Come on Kookie, it’s Taehyung-hyungie. Can you wake up for me please – it’ll only be for a bit, I promise.”

 

He keeps talking, pushing lightly against Jungkook’s shoulder before switching tactics. He pinches at Jungkook’s neck, taps at the boy’s cheeks, and finally resorts to grabbing onto a piece of his hair and pulling. This seems to get Jungkook’s attention, because he makes a noise and stirs before his eyes are slowly, slowly opening.

 

“Jungkook?”

 

Their maknae looks confused, eyes bleary, even foggier than before as they slide once around the room, finally focusing on Taehyung.

 

“Kook?” he repeats, voice sounding shaky even to him.

 

“Mm,” is Jungkook's answer, and he tilts his head back against the couch, eyes staring blankly at the ceiling.

 

“I need to check your temperature ok? How are you feeling?”

 

“C-cold,” and that really, really shouldn’t be the answer. Something’s wrong, something’s wrong something’s wrong something’s wrong. “Head hurts. What time is it?”

 

“It’s the middle of the night. Listen I’m sorry, I know you wanna sleep and waking up sucks, but let’s just check your temperature for now, yeah? And see if it's gone down, maybe that's why you're cold. But if you're too hot we may wanna take off the blankets, I guess?”

 

Jungkook just nods, and Taehyung bites his lip.

 

“Listen I – “

 

He wants to say he’s sorry. He wants to say he’s a horrible caretaker and he wishes one of the others was here because he knows that’s what Jungkook really needs; someone who knows what he’s doing because Taehyung feels horribly out of place and for all he knows he’s making this worse. He doesn’t let the words out there, takes a deep, shuttering breath instead and holds out the thermometer. “I need you to open your mouth for me.”

 

Jungkook shifts so he’s sitting straighter and his mouth opens obediently. Taehyung feels something like a rush of fear and love for the younger, who must feel like shit and is still being good for Taehyung, despite his known hatred for coddling. Taehyung slips in the thermometer, not missing the way Jungkook gags slightly at the foreign object in his mouth, and waits. After what feels like an eternity, the thermometer beeps. Jungkook barely leaves time for Taehyung to pull it out before he’s slumping back against the couch, eyes slipping closed again.

 

Taehyung looks down at the thermometer and feels his blood run cold and there's the sudden, rushing feeling of a bad situation becoming a dangerous one. Of ok teetering off the edge to become not ok, not ok, not ok.

 

40.5 (**104.9 in Fahrenheit). The number blinks up red on the tiny thermometer screen. It’s a bad number. It’s a really bad number.

 

“Jungkook – shit, Jungkook, you need to go to the hospital. Jungkook this isn’t ok it’s 40.5 and that’s not just high that’s bad high oh shit, oh shit Kook. No, that’s it, we’re going to the hospital. I’m calling Sejin-nim.”

 

Taehyung goes to move but a hand shoots out from under Jungkook’s covers. The boy’s fingers wrap around Taehyung’s wrist, clammy and weak. He wouldn’t even have to try to break Jungkook's hold, but it's that that makes him pause.

 

“No Taehyung – please. I don't wanna go t-to the... I don't like the doctor.”

 

Taehyung wants to rub at his eyes, wants to rip out his hair, wants to run away from this mess he's suddenly found himself surrounded by. Jungkook looks so small and pale and tired and wrong and Taehyung wants it to go away, but it won't.

 

“Jungkook I know, but this has gone too far.”

 

“Not yet," Jungkook insists desperately. "I... let's just take off the blankets." Jungkook tries to on his own, fingers pushing at the covers in restless bursts of movement. His eyes are still blurry with confusion, his voice soft and weak and barely there at all.

 

“Ok – ok,” Taehyung says after a few long moments of watching Jungkook struggle with the blankets, panting and shaking and needy. “We’ll take off the blankets and I’ll give you twenty minutes. Only twenty. But if your fever doesn’t go down, I’m calling Sejin-nim and we’re going.”

 

Jungkook just nods, breath wheezing out between parted lips as Taehyung gently pulls each layer of covers off. He makes sure to grab his phone before sitting on the couch next to Jungkook, letting the younger nuzzle weakly into him, his forehead clammy and burning against Taehyung’s neck. Taehyung pulls out his phone, not even trying to be discreet because in the state Jungkook’s in, he doubts the maknae will notice anyway.

 

He ignores the three texts the hyungs have sent, no doubt pestering him for Jungkook's current temperature, and types out his answer.

 

it’s 40.5 – if it doesn’t get better in 20, we’re going to the hospital.’

 

Even over the group message, it feels like a deafening silence meets his words. Then ‘shit’ from Yoongi and ‘that’s really bad Tae’ from Seokjin and ‘i’m calling sejin-nim now’ from Namjoon, all popping up in the same instant. A breath later, and Jimin is responding with a ‘pls bring him somewhere tae, pls pls this is scary’ and ‘fuck. our poor bby’ from Hoseok. Taehyung feels something wet and hot in his eyes, but he can’t cry. It’s his job to be the strong one in this situation, what with Jungkook breathing too quickly and shallowly against the edge of his collarbone, body warm and limp on his side.

 

Taehyung tries to make conversation with Jungkook, asking him how practice was, what specifically is hurting, but the boy only answers in tiny bits in pieces, each word shaking with effort, before going quiet again. Every response is pitched as a question, like Jungkook himself isn't even sure of what he's saying. His body is a radiator against Taehyung’s, and when Taehyung tries to pull away to find some more medicine for him, Jungkook whimpers. Taehyung freezes, because Jeon Jungkook doesn’t whimper, and yet here they are.

 

“Jungkook, you need medicine.”

 

Please.” The word is hardly audible, coming out broken and tiny, fragile in the darkness of the dorm and Taehyung feels his breath catch. Jungkook – or maybe it’s just the light, because this never happens and surely Taehyung’s being overdramatic but even in the shadows he’s almost positive – is crying. Eyes red and glazed and something shining in patterns down his cheek. Eyebrows pulled inwards and lips gnawed to shreds. Eyelashes in wet clumps and nose leaking and face a deathly white aside from two high splotches of heat, red blending into the shadows under his eyes, eyes that don’t quite meet Taehyung’s, somewhere else entirely.

 

Taehyung decides enough is enough. “No. It's time to go to the hospital Kook.”

 

Jungkook’s eyes squeeze shut and he lets out a shaky breath. “Ok.” And it should be worrying that he gives in this easily now, but Taehyung’s too busy panicking about everything else to think on that for long. He glances at his phone for a moment, just for confirmation that Sejin-nim is already on his way, and stands up. Jungkook doesn’t make a sound, eyes still closed.

 

“Coats,” Taehyung mutters, jogging to the door to grab them each a coat. Jungkook doesn’t protest as Taehyung pulls it on over his hoodie, or when he tucks his head in a beanie, or sits him down to wrangle his feet into socks. For good measure, Taehyung forces two more pills down Jungkook’s throat, praying that they’ll help, and leaves Jungkook with his head resting on the couch arm while he bustles around, making sure they have everything. He comes back to slip shoes on Jungkook's feet and steps back to observe Jungkook for all he is: pink hoodie, ratty coat, obnoxiously red shoes, hair a mess and eyes droops. It's quite the sight. He wants to laugh about it, Jungkook's state of general disarray. Wants to be able to joke later and say ‘hey, remember how you were so deathly sick you let me dress you like we'd just raided a garage sale? Yeah, ha, ha.’ He feels sick to his stomach. He wants to sleep. He wants this to end.

 

It feels too long before there’s a knock on the door, and Taehyung bends down next to Jungkook, tapping at his head.

 

“Kook, come on, we’re going.”

 

“What – where?” Jungkook says, voice thick.

 

“To the hospital.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Taehyung doesn’t know whether to try to carry Jungkook or not, because he knows the boy hates feeling anything but independent, but really, this isn’t the time. He settles for almost completely supporting Jungkook’s weight against his hip as they shuffle to the door. Sejin-nim is waiting, mouth a thin line and eyebrows drawn in when he sees Jungkook. His expression only gets more grim on the elevator ride down when he presses a hand to Jungkook’s forehead and winces at the temperature.

 

“Kook-ah, it’s gonna be ok,” he says softly, wiping his thumb at the tears slowly leaking, unnoticed, down Jungkook's cheeks. Jungkook doesn’t react, eyes fixed on the wall behind Sejin.

 

They pile into the van, Taehyung opting to sit by Jungkook instead of in the passenger seat. Saying Sejin drives fast is an understatement; Taehyung has never seen their usually calm tempered manager do anything quite so recklessly. He keeps Jungkook plastered to his side to make sure the youngest won’t be thrown around in the car. Jungkook doesn’t show any sign of being bothered by the occasional bumps in the road, hand fisted in Taehyung’s jacket and knuckles white from squeezing so hard.

 

They pull into the ER lot in record time, Taehyung nudging at Jungkook. “Kook, we’re here. Kook-ah. Jungkook!

 

Jungkook barely reacts, eyes blinking open lazily. “Mm. Mm-kay.”

 

Taehyung and Sejin exchange a look that feels heavy on Taehyung’s lungs, and then they’re working together to maneuver Jungkook out of the car. The rest feels too fast. Sejin-nim checks them in. Taehyung sits down with Jungkook on a set of old, uncomfortable chairs. Jungkook puts his head on Taehyung's shoulder as he asks where they are. Taehyung responds patiently that it’s the hospital, remember, you’re sick?

 

"They're saying it's a busy night," Sejin-nim says upon return, dragging a hand over his face, which is uncharacteristically drawn. He must've just woken up and been thrown right into this mess. Taehyung doesn't even have it in him to feel bad, too busy feeling stressed and nauseous and everything else. "We might have to wait a bit."

 

Taehyung clenches his fingers at the edge of Jungkook's shirt sleeve. The boy makes a catching noise somewhere deep in his lungs, eyes squeezing shut. His skin looks almost translucent, or maybe it's just the fluorescent lighting. "Can't we try to speed things up?" Taehyung finds himself saying. "Even just a little?"

 

Sejin-nim looks doubtful, but something in Taehyung's face makes him nod and turn his way back to the front desk with a short "I'll try." And then it’s just Tae and Jungkook again.

 

“T-tired,” the boy whispers. He either doesn’t care that he’s crying at this point or still doesn’t realize. The tears create fresh tracks on his face where some had already dried.

 

“I know baby, I know. We’re almost there.”

 

“Wanna – wanna go home.”

 

Taehyung bites his lip. “It won’t be long. You’ll be ok.”

 

“Don’t – don’t feel… I don’t…”

 

Taehyung runs a hand through the boy’s hair, scooting down a chair and shifting Jungkook with him. “Here, lay down. You'll feel better if you relax.” Jungkook does as he’s told, resting his head in Taehyung’s lap, nose pressed against his hyung's navel, breath weak. Taehyung stares at where Sejin is trying to explain the situation again to the woman at the desk, and Taehyung gets it – really, there’s a blood stain on the floor, and the lobby area is full, it’s obviously a crazy night – but something feels horribly off that he’s here with Kookie, who is shivering and hot under his touch, and being told to wait.

 

Jungkook's back shudders, face pressing further into Taehyung's abdomen, and Tae can feel the moisture there grow as the boy's tears come in a new, harsher wave. “T-Tae, p-please… don’t like it here – I wanna go h-home, please.” It’s not silent crying anymore, but sobs that turn into coughing splutters of noise and he wraps tight into Taehyung’s jacket and Taehyung shushes him and pets his head and everything feels off-kilter, like he’s surveying the situation from above, a third-party viewer to a movie that isn't real, just a work of fiction, not anything that's actually happening because this isn't actually happening and this can’t actually be happening.

 

In the end, Taehyung knows Jungkook is just a kid. Sure he's been thrown into this very adult life, and has to manage himself in a very adult way, but Taehyung knows he's not as unbreakable as he pretends to be. And yet, he’d never entertained the possibility of something even close to where they are now; to Jungkook, who pushes himself too hard, too much with too little, curled up below him, face hot even through the fabric of Taehyung’s shirt. It's ironic, he thinks, that the very hyungs who had sworn to protect Jungkook had let something as simple as overexertion and a lack of self-care slide for years until it became this: Taehyung sitting in the hospital as Jungkook shakes in his grasp and Sejin-nim tries to find a way for them to get in earlier even though the room is full of people who have probably all attempted the same.

 

Taehyung squeezes Jungkook’s hand, tight in his, and Jungkook doesn’t squeeze back. The room is quiet and smells like antiseptic and sickness. Jungkook’s forehead is hot against his chest and Sejin sounds desperate.

 

Taehyung has never felt so scared.