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This Unlikely Pair

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Most companies discouraged dating if not outright banned it based on this assumption that celebrities, be it singers, idol groups, rappers, actors, or models, formed connections with their fans based on some perceived exclusive relationship. So, an actor dates no one other than the fans whom he may call his pretties, lovelies, or more directly girlfriends. The fans thrive on this, albeit miniscule, possibility that they could someday enter into a real relationship with their idols. If a celebrity fractured this carefully constructed falsehood by entering into a relationship with someone in the public eye, fans would leave for other mouths that will whisper ‘i love you’ and ‘stay with me.’

Yoongi thought entertainment companies gave no one in this equation enough credit. Sure, fans might be attracted to their favorite celebrities, but surely not everyone who bought albums or watched dramas really thought that they were going to marry them some day. Not to mention all of this implied heterosexuality. And, let’s say the fans did think this way, if they were more often exposed to famous people dating in the limelight, the assumption that the attraction could lead to a potential relationship would lessen, right? Companies banning dating also implied their talent couldn’t control themselves or still do their job if they were in a relationship. Companies didn’t even seem to be able to trust themselves. Surely a multi-million dollar entity could handle PR for a couple of young people getting coffee and going to the movies.

Yoongi supposed he was lucky to one, not care enough about dating for any of this to apply to him and to two, work under management that couldn’t care two shits what he did in his personal time. As long as he steadily produced enough content to make them the money they desired, he was free to do as he pleased. Within reason, of course. He was always a representative of the company. But even that representation was open to more negotiation than many other management groups were willing to allow. Yoongi rapped about his sexuality, his mental health, how shitty working for that exact company was sometimes. In the end, his managers knew that he gained more followers by being blunt and honest than he ever would if he only wrote about cookie cutter bullshit.

So, if Yoongi didn’t care to date, and if his company didn’t care if he dated, why, Yoongi asked himself, was he currently at a press conference announcing his budding relationship with the ever-popular actor Kim Taehyung?

--

 

One Week Ago

Yoongi only had two tracks left, and the new album would be finished. Two tracks. He had an idea for each. An idea he had to find a way to write into a story, a beginning, middle, and an end with a chorus dancing throughout. He was halfway through jotting down a potential story arc when his phone lit up with a new text notification.

Manager Jin Hyung:
Are you at the studio?

Yes, hyung. Why?

Manger Jin Hyung:
Can I stop by?

Sure. Door is open.

Yoongi knew it wouldn’t take Jin long to walk one floor down to where his studio was located in the company building, so he put away his ‘idea’ notebook and tidied around his desk until he heard the doorknob turn.

Jin walked in wearing black slacks and an oversized tan sweater that should have looked too casual for the office but managed to look striking and commanding hanging on his broad frame. His hair was messier than usual, Yoongi thought. Ringlets fell across his forehead in a way that didn’t seem planned or styled. Perhaps someone who hadn’t known Jin for the past decade wouldn’t have noticed at all, but Yoongi was pretty sure something was wrong.

“Is everything okay?” he asked tentatively.

“Define ‘okay,’” Seokjin replied with hands balled into fists hanging down by his sides.

“Sit down, hyung, what’s the matter?” Jin moved toward the couch but didn’t look any more relaxed as he sat forward on the worn out leather. He placed his elbows on his knees and buried his head in between his arms. Jin let out a groan.

“Okay, you’re going to have to use your words here.”

“Something happened, Yoongi.” Jin’s head was still squished between his arms, but his words were clear.

“Something?”

“Yes,” Jin groaned.

“I’m going to need you to use more words, hyung.” Jin finally looked up with a dramatic slide of his palms down his face. His hair looked even more out of place.

“You know the actor Kim Taehyung we represent?”

Taehyung’s face immediately popped into Yoong’s mind. How could he not know him? The younger man’s face was everywhere inside of this company building and out. Yoongi thought he could probably draw the curve of his nose from memory if he had to.

“Yes?”

Jin took a deep breath. “I’m just going to start at the beginning.” Yoongi nodded. “Taehyung was recently photographed with an idol who isn’t allowed to date. When her managers confronted her with the pictures, she insisted that they weren’t actually dating, but the damage was pretty much done.”

Jin didn’t elaborate on the “damage,” but Yoongi could imagine the fancafe posts and forum entries.

“The head of the performance department said that the only way to ensure fans believed her was to prove Taehyung was dating someone else.” Jin looked over at Yoongi tentatively. Yoongi looked back with eyebrows raised, unsure of what this had to do with him.

“Yoongi, you were the first person I could think of,” Jin said almost at a whisper.

That shot Yoongi’s eyebrows down and scrunched into confusion. “Hold on a minute. Ignoring the fact that you picked me of all people for just a second, in what world can this girl’s management force you to say this? Couldn’t you just say no?”

“Taehyung begged me. He didn’t want her to get in trouble or ruin her career.”

“So you’re going to ruin mine instead?” Yoongi’s voice was louder than he intended.

Jin’s hand stilled in his hair. “This isn’t going to ruin your career, Yoongi. You’re out, and you’ve always said in interviews that we don’t ban you from dating. The fans have always known this was a possibility.”

“What about Taehyung? Isn’t half the country in love with him?” Yoongi asked.

“This was his choice. I think he’s okay to face the consequences as long as she’s protected.”

He’s an idiot, Yoongi thought. Yoongi then ran his hands through his own hair with a sigh. “I’m assuming I don’t have a choice? Can I just say no?”

“Of course you have a choice, Yoongi. I won’t force you to do this. I just thought...I thought you’d be able to handle it. You’re not interested in dating anyway, so pretending would be easy. Go for coffee a few times, and then we’ll announce a breakup.” Jin paused for a moment and then said quietly, “If you say no, I’ll figure something out.”

Jin was right. This would be easier for him than it would be for most other people working in this building. He’d be mildly inconvenienced by having to plan and attend fake dates, but fans already expected him to be private. Yoongi probably wouldn’t have to post selfies or talk about Taehyung really at all.

“I don’t want to lie to the fans,” Yoongi said after a few moments of silence. “I don’t want to mislead them, Jin hyung. This is wrong.”

Jin’s hands found their way back in his hair. “I know, I know. The fans can’t know it, but we aren’t lying just for the sake of it. Taehyung wants to protect this girl’s career.”

“That has nothing do with me, hyung.” This wasn’t his business. It wasn’t his problem.

“Listen, this is my fault. I dragged you into this when I had no right to. I’ll fix it, Yoongi, don’t worry about it.” Jin suddenly stood up from his seat on the couch and walked towards the door. “Don’t forget we need the last two songs by the end of the month,” he said before walking out of the studio, closing the door behind him.

*

That night, Yoongi turned on the tv in the living room of his one bedroom apartment to see a familiar face. The evening entertainment news shows must have been beside themselves with dating rumors surrounding Korea’s most talked about actor. Yoongi watched as they showed a clip of Taehyung leaving a building while whoever was behind the camera yelled questions at him.

“Kim Taehyung, is it true you’re dating Choi Jiyoo? How long have you been dating?” Taehyung, dressed in loose fitting black pants and a blue and pink checkered button down, turned his striking eyes toward the camera.

“We’re not dating. Jiyoo is focused on her career and wouldn’t disrespect her company this way.” Taehyung spoke with respect and a smile, but his eyes were serious.

The clip ended and the show transitioned back to the anchors in the studio. “So, for now, it seems Kim Taehyung and Choi Jiyoo will continue to deny their relationship,” the male anchor said. Yoongi scoffed, though there was no one in his apartment to hear the noise besides his brown calico cat, Parker.

“But the fans aren’t buying it, are they?” The green screen behind the hosts displayed comments on a recent article written about the pair. Yoongi read the comments with increasing disgust.

Jiyoo isn’t an ugly girl but come on Tae deserves better
I thought he was dating Bogum????
She would never be good enough for him
As if wearing those ridiculous outfits weren’t enough she just really wanted to prove how much of a slut she is
Can this whore leave him alone?

Yoongi shut off the tv and tried to steady his breathing. He always assumed management companies were overreacting when they said dating would ruin a celebrity’s career, but Yoongi underestimated the hate women received from other women and male fans just for fracturing that delicate, supposed exclusive relationship between idol and fan. Maybe he did understand why Taehyung would want to protect her.

“Parker, Am I really dumb enough to do this?” Yoongi asked the cat sleeping next to him. He picked up his phone and dialed Jin’s number.

“I’ll do it.”

--

“Good morning. Thank you everyone for being here,” Jiyoo’s manager began right as the clock struck 9am for the scheduled press conference. Yoongi was sat at the end of the long, in his opinion overly dramatic table at the front of the room. Beside him was Taehyung, with Jin on Taehyung’s other side followed by Jiyoo’s manager and finally Jiyoo herself. There were a dozen or so reporters sat in chairs in front of them with cameras held high and audio recorders ready.

Yoongi knew what the managers were going to say: Taehyung and Jiyoo are same-age friends and were hanging out just as friends do; Taehyung and Yoongi have been dating for a few months; Jiyoo is single and not dating at all. So, he tuned them out.

Instead, he looked down the table at Jiyoo sitting on the far end. Yoongi had never met her before today. She was incredibly pretty, short red hair curled just slightly under her chin.  And from the comebacks he irregularly kept up with, she had a lovely voice. Yoongi wished she didn’t have to go through this bullshit. She didn’t deserve it. None of them did.

His eyes scanned over to Taehyung whose chair sat a few feet away. This was the first time he had seen the actor from this angle in person. No wonder his features were nationally famous. His face wasn’t that angular, not really. HIs cheeks were rounded and soft, the tip of his nose sloped downward. His bangs were long and resting right above his eyelashes, making him look younger than he looked the last time Yoongi saw him.

--

Four Days Ago

Yoongi woke up with an uneasiness in his stomach. He checked his phone to see only the time staring back at him. He swiped the lockscreen, and his phone opened to his last used app before going to bed: messages. Meet him before the press conference. You don’t want to look like strangers, Jin had said with an accompanying number for Yoongi’s supposed new boyfriend. Yoongi buried his face in his pillow and let out a groan that Parker answered with an equally exasperated meow.

“Okay, okay. I’ll feed you.” Yoongi dragged his body out of bed and headed toward the kitchen to refill Parker’s food bowl. The cat purred happily as she ate. Yoongi poured himself cereal for breakfast and sat down on the couch with phone in hand.

Before allowing himself to pick up the spoon submerged in layers of milk and granola, Yoongi forced himself to type out a message.

Hello, Kim Taehyung. This is Min Yoongi. Jin hyung suggested we meet before the press conference on Monday. Are you free any time today?

Yoongi threw his phone into the armchair across the living room and shoved a spoonful of cereal into his mouth.

*

It was midday when Yoongi finally got a response. He was sat in his studio, halfway through free writing his second to last song idea, when his phone buzzed.

Kim Taehyung:
Hi! I should be done with work around ten. I know that’s late, but we could get a drink?

Yoongi didn’t really like the idea of drinking on a weekday, but he figured he might be able to get through the entire ordeal more easily if he had alcohol in him.

Sounds good to me. Name the place and the time.

Luckily, the bar was within walking distance of the company building. Yoongi arrived early, nervously early, and ordered a double rum and coke. He took a seat in a corner booth and waited for Taehyung. Yoongi was grateful the bar wasn’t too crowded. There was just enough noise and chatter to drown out individual conversations, but it wasn’t too hectic that they couldn’t comfortably talk. He was almost finished with his drink when his pretend-boyfriend finally walked into the bar.

Taehyung was dressed just as comfortably as Yoongi remembered seeing him on the news. His pants looked the same--large, baggy. He wore sandals with two straps over the tops of his feet, and his shirt was long and ripped near his collarbones. The informal clothes contrasted with his face, still caked in makeup, and hair, still styled like whatever character he was playing. Taehyung’s bangs were parted and pushed off of his forehead. From the neck up he looked like handsome, dashing actor Kim Taehyung; from the neck down he looked like a college kid, someone going to get a late night snack before crashing with their face in a textbook.

When Taehyung had his drink, something pink and fizzy, he made his way over to Yoongi’s booth. Yoongi felt momentarily stunned at the bright smile Taehyung flashed when he was just a step away from the table. The smile was boxy, showing off his perfect teeth, and this time Yoongi thought his eyes looked kind, too.

“Do you want me to get you another one?” Yoongi expected a proper greeting, so he was stood, half bowed, when Taehyung asked to refill his drink.

He lifted upright awkwardly. “Um, no, I can get it.”

“Yoongi-ssi, please, let me.” Then Taehyung bowed, exchanged his own, full glass for Yoongi’s empty one and turned back around toward the bartender. While he watched the expanse of Taehyung’s back stood waiting at the bar, Yoongi registered just how much taller and broader the younger was. He was older, had more experience in the industry, but he felt unmistakably small when he stood to greet Taehyung.

He sipped his second drink more slowly.

“Uh, I wanted to start by apologizing for dragging you into this,” Taehyung said after Yoongi gave an approving nod that his drink was to his liking. “This had nothing to do with you at all, and I’m causing you a lot of trouble. I’m really sorry for that.”

“Well, you didn’t involve me specifically, Jin hyung did. So we can collectively blame him that I’m here right now.”

“Jin hyung is a good man. He did all of this just because I asked him to.” Taehyung’s voice sounded regretful, Yoongi thought. He did seem genuinely upset that he was putting everyone through this ordeal.

“Yeah, he said you begged him pretty convincingly,” Yoongi said, hoping to give Taehyung an opportunity to explain more about what exactly Yoongi was needed for.

When he just looked down at his lap, Yoongi was more direct. “You really care about protecting her, don’t you?”

He watched Taehyung carefully. A small, sad smile found its way to his lips. He looked up from his lap and nodded slowly. “Yes. She deserves none of this trouble.” Taehyung paused before realizing, “And neither do you.” His eyes were suddenly serious not unlike the clip Yoongi saw on that tv show.

Yoongi thought back to the comments he saw last night. “I won’t get nearly the same amount of hate she’s already getting. This is for the best.” He stretched out his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Kim Taehyung. I am apparently your current boyfriend, Min Yoongi.”

Taehyung smiled that wide grin of his. “Nice to meet you, Yoongi hyung. Call me Tae.”

--

“Yoongi and Taehyung have been dating since August but have not been seen publicly because they made a conscious effort to date privately. They ask that even though now you are aware of their relationship, you allow continued privacy. Thank you.”

Everyone stood up from the table and bowed at the reporters. Yoongi led the way down the stairs sitting at the side of the stage, and as he lifted his foot to step down, he felt an arm wrap around his waist and a hand fall to his hip.

--

Four Days Ago

Yoongi was still nursing his second drink and judging by the three pink, fizzy things Tae already downed, he wasn’t even drinking anything alcoholic.

“I guess we just have to seem like not total strangers at the press conference, right?”

“Yeah, and we’re not even saying anything, so we just have to look like we’re dating.” Tae responded.

Yoongi sighed. “What do people in relationships even look like?”

“When was the last time you dated, Yoongi hyung?” Yoongi didn’t mistake the teasing tone of the question.

“That’s absolutely none of your business,” he said with a pointed look down at his drink.

Tae seemed to sense that he wasn’t going to get anything out of Yoongi that he didn’t want to share, so he moved on. “We have to look comfortable and adoring.”

Yoongi looked up worriedly. This would be a problem. Throughout the years, managers, friends, and fans alike told Yoongi that he looked indifferent and sometimes awkward on camera or in large crowds. If he was with people he knew well in a familiar environment, he was okay. He laughed easily, talked too much even. But, on camera talking to disembodied strangers or at events surrounded by people he didn’t know at all, Yoongi looked tense. Sometimes, that outward appearance was representative of exactly what he felt like on the inside. Other times, even if Yoongi simply just made no conscious effort to look relaxed and happy. his face seemed to default to tense and uptight. He genuinely meant every word he’d ever said or written to his fans, so when it involved them--award shows, interviews, company content, broadcasts, vlives--he made sure to outwardly convey his love and appreciation. How was he going to convey the same kind of feelings with no origin, no base?

“We’re going to have to work on that because you look constipated right now.”

Yoongi snapped out of his own thoughts but made no effort to look anymore at ease. In fact, he contorted his face into an even deeper scowl.

“What about skinship?” Tae asked. “I don’t want to make you uncomfortable in any way, but we’ll probably have to touch some. Just a picture of us holding hands would squash doubt, you know?”

Yoongi looked at him skeptically. He didn’t really like to prove affection with touching because that was stupid, but if he was proving fake affection with touching, he supposed he didn’t really care.

“Okay.”

“Okay?” Tae seemed surprised.

--

Yoongi did his very best not to visibly flinch at not the touch itself but Tae’s need to walk side by side down a small staircase. Yoongi wondered if this was a real relationship would he be the one guiding Tae down the stairs. He was older, but Tae was taller-

“Try not to look like you would like nothing better but to kill me right now,” Tae whispered in his ear. Yoongi narrowed his eyes at the younger, a warning that he could do whatever he wanted outside of confirming that they weren’t really dating, but he gave Tae an exaggerated smile next. Judging by the roll of Tae’s eyes, his smile probably looked no more convincing.

Tae continued to guide Yoongi past the rows of reporters into the main lobby of the building. “I’m going to walk you out to the company van and we’ll leave together,” he said quietly again near Yoongi’s ear. Yoongi tried his best not to feel annoyed that Taehyung was in complete control of this situation. He didn’t really want to be guided or told what to do, but these were Tae and Jiyoo’s fans they had to convince, not his own. He would be stupid not to let Tae lead.

The late morning sun all but blinded Yoongi as they walked through the heavy doors of Jiyoo’s company building. He was relieved to see that anyone who cared about this “scandal” seemed to be inside the building rather than loitering on the sidewalk outside. Though, Tae’s hand didn’t leave Yoongi’s waist even as he guided the older into the van. It shifted to his lower back; Yoongi even thought he felt a few small circles massaged into muscles there, taught and tensed from the press conference.

Once the van door was closed, Yoongi turned to Tae, who looked surprisingly worried in the bucket seat next to him. “You didn’t have to keep holding on to me once we were outside. There were no reporters.”

“Yoongi hyung whenever we’re in public we’ll have to keep this up, whether we physically see cameras or not. People photograph me constantly even if it’s just from their phones.” Yoongi wondered in that moment why the universe would force him to be a fake boyfriend to the most famous actor in Korea of all people. Surely he could have been dragged into a scandal with an indie artist.

“Though, couples aren’t always all over each other, so don’t worry,” Tae assured him. He turned to face toward the front of the van and picked silently at his fingernails. Everything was okay, the managers spoke as planned, and all the reporters would have a shot of them walking with Tae’s arm around Yoongi’s waist as they left. But Tae looked worried.

Yoongi wanted to dislike him, wanted to begrudge him for getting them all into this mess, but if Yoongi was honest with himself, Kim Taehyung was thoughtful and unwaveringly nice.  

“Let me buy you an early lunch?”

--

Four Days Ago

“Let me buy you dinner,” Yoongi said once their discussion of acceptable skinship was over. Yoongi settled on Taehyung keeping his lips away from him, and Tae requested that Yoongi allow him to use his hands within reason. Tae noted that his fans were used to seeing him hug and cuddle people who were even just his friends, and they would immediately know it was fake if he wasn’t his normal, affectionate self. Yoongi wondered what his own fans would think. He was a solo artist who was rarely seen out with anyone who wasn’t a manager or industry friend. And Yoongi wasn’t hugging or cuddling those people. His mind somehow flitted to whether or not they would expect him to start writing about romance, a topic he didn’t broach despite often writing about his physical attraction to both men and women.

He was pulled out of his thoughts by Taehyung’s words. “Yoongi hyung you don’t have to-”

“Please, Tae. I’m your hyung, and I’ve taken away the minimal time you have outside of working. Let me feed you.”

Tae’s grin returned, despite the clear exhaustion set in the redness in his eyes and the heaviness of his eyelids. “Okay, sure.”

Yoongi was grateful the kitchen stayed open this late. He watched as the younger ate typical bar food--a burger and fries--happily. He had assumed Tae would order something lighter, given his job, but Tae didn’t hesitate before selecting the greasiest things on the menu.

“Are you sure you don’t want anything, hyung? You can have some of my fries,” Tae offered around a bite of hamburger.

“I’m okay. Eat up.”

Yoongi was silent while Taehyung ate, but once he wiped the final remnants of french fries from his mouth, Tae asked, “So, what do you want to know about me, hyung? We’ve never met before.”

“Hmmm,” Yoongi hummed thoughtfully. “Why did you want to get into acting?”

“I liked the idea of getting inside someone else’s head.” Taehyung responded almost robotically, like he had been asked that question a million times before.

So as not to bore Tae, he went in a different direction. “Where are you from?”  

“Daegu,” Tae replied. Yoongi thought so, thought he heard a layer of Daegu under Tae’s well-practiced standard-Seoul.

“Me, too.” Yoongi grinned, happy to have found at least one thing they had in common.

“I spent most of my childhood living on a huge farm with my grandparents,” Tae explained. “I go back and visit whenever I have time off. I’d love to retire back to Daegu.”

His words made Yoongi’s skin prickle unpleasantly. Tae was just as sincere as he had been all night, but something about the thought of loving the place they both called home made Yoongi want to crawl out of his skin. Yoongi had pride for Daegu, for Daegu having given birth to him and his passions, but he was happy to have escaped that town; he hoped to one day make enough money to move his parents and brother out to the city, too.

“When did you move to Seoul?” Tae asked.

“Right after I finished my degree in sound engineering. Jin Hyung was a senior when I was a freshman in college, and he was already working here once I graduated. He invited me out to audition for the head of the performance department.”

“So you rapped in college?”

“I rapped with a crew, yeah. It was always what I wanted to do, but I figured I should get a degree just in case it didn’t work out.”

“That’s smart. I didn’t have any backup plan. I just auditioned for the company and hoped for the best,” Tae said with a small chuckle.

“You don’t seem like much of a planner, Kim Taehyung,” Yoongi teased.

“Hey,” Tae said with a nudge to Yoongi’s leg under the table. “I planned this meeting, didn’t I?”

“I texted you first.”

Tae scrunched his eyebrows together in concentration. “I planned a cover-up for Jiyoo’s scandal.” His expression smoothed out with self-satisfaction.

“Her management suggested it, and Jin hyung took care of the rest.” Tae visibly deflated.

“Anything else?” the waitress suddenly asked as she came by to pick up Tae’s empty plate.

“No, just the check, please,” Tae responded with the least amount of enthusiasm Yoongi heard in his voice all night.

--

This time, Tae was treating. Yoongi wanted to argue, but Tae pleaded that he needed to repay Yoongi for sitting through the press conference. A free meal was a free meal, he supposed.

So, their driver dropped the pair off a few blocks away from Yoongi’s studio at a restaurant Tae assured him would be worth having to fake a smile at a dozen cameras at nine in the morning. As soon as they were out of the car Tae moved his arm to what he apparently wanted to be a permanent resting place on Yoongi’s hip, but Yoongi moved quicker and laced their hands together instead.

Tae peeked down at Yoongi with a surprised, satisfied look on his face, met only with an eyeroll and a pinch on the back of his hand from Yoongi. Tae’s expression turned to one of over-exaggerated hurt and pain which caused Yoongi to throw his head back in equally exaggerated, silent laughter. Tae didn’t allow Yoongi to amuse himself with his pain for long and yanked their clasped hands towards the door of the restaurant.

*

“So,” Tae said as they waited for their food to arrive. The restaurant was nice, as Tae suggested, but not too formal that Yoongi felt nervous. He couldn’t really imagine Taehyung going to overly fancy restaurants anyway. “I have a few interviews coming up for my movie that’s coming out next month. I’m slightly worried they’re going to ask me about us.”

His use of the word ‘us’ made Yoongi’s stomach twist uncomfortably. “What kind of things do you think they’ll ask?”

“Probably just how we met, and how it feels to have the relationship go public,” Tae responded. He kept his glass of water sitting right below his chin, straw in his mouth even as he talked. He seemed to take tiny sips and otherwise just liked to have the straw resting at the ready. No, Yoongi definitely couldn’t envision him in a swanky restaurant.

Yoongi thought for a moment. “I mean, we both work for the same company, so it makes sense we would have seen each other around before,” he offered. Of course, in reality, they had never once crossed paths. Yoongi spent all of his time behind a closed studio door; he imagined Tae spent most of his time on set or at photoshoots. The public didn’t have to know that, though.

“So, what, we just struck up a conversation at an office Christmas party? No, we need a story that will cause the hearts of the nation to flutter.” Tae finally disengaged his mouth from his straw and gave a wistful grin toward the ceiling.

“Don’t you think an over the top story will sound even more suspicious?” Yoongi asked. “I mean we’re already completely incompatible people, I don’t know how anyone is buying this.”

“Hey! I’m a catch.”

“I’m not saying you’re not. I’m saying I wouldn’t be the fisherman trying to reel you in.”

“Yeah? And what kind of fish would you be trying to catch?” Tae was learned forward in his seat, brow furrowed.

“I don’t know, someone into music, someone serious-”

“Fish can be neither of those things, Yoongi-”

“Here you are,” the waitress interrupted. Not even the smell of grilled steak could distract Yoongi from how disappointed Tae sounded in his response.

They ate in silence, only the sound of chopsticks on plates and sips through straws providing background music for their meal.

*

When they left the restaurant, neither Yoongi nor Tae made an effort to fake skinship. Yoongi thanked Tae for the meal and hailed a cab back to the studio. It was only later that evening, after his food was settled and his free writes were done, that he realized they never settled on a story.

How about we got caught in an elevator together?

Kim Taehyung:
How does that not fall under ridiculous for you?

It’s believable. Elevators get stuck all the time.

Kim Taehyung:
And what about this elevator incident made us fall for each other?

I don’t know, my undeniable charm?

Kim Taehyung:
This has to be believable, Yoongi

Yoongi scoffed out loud without even Parker around to hear him.

I pried the doors open with my manly strength and you couldn’t help but to kiss me right then and there.

Kim Taehyung:
-.- I’m going to bed.

Yoongi fell asleep that night with the unignorable feeling that he somehow screwed up something he didn’t even know he was meant to keep in tact.

*

Yoongi woke up the next morning to a text from Jin that said “I think they’re buying it” with an accompanying link to an article. Yoongi, with sleepy eyes and an incessantly meowing Parker beside him, clicked on the attachment. The headline read “Kim Taehyung and Min Yoongi seen holding hands, laughing in downtown Seoul.” Not very catchy, Yoongi thought. He scrolled down to see a picture taken of them as they stood outside the restaurant. Yoongi didn’t remember seeing any photographers around. Maybe Tae was right, they did need to assume they were always being watched. The picture captured Yoongi’s head thrown back in laughter. Their hands were locked, and Taehyung stood close enough to Yoongi that their shoulders overlapped. Yoongi was surprised to see a fond look of amusement on Tae’s face rather than the exaggerated pout he remembered him to be wearing just seconds before he started laughing. He couldn’t help but to think of what Tae’s face looked like the last time he saw him: normal grin downturned into an expression of disappointment.

Yoongi skimmed the text of the article. It reported that Yoongi and Taehyung were out for lunch and playfully flirted on the street while holding hands, that they stayed at the restaurant for thirty minutes and then left in separate vehicles. Yoongi found it creepy that not only did someone see them in front of the restaurant but that they waited long enough to know how much time had elapsed when they left.

Fighting all instinct, Yoongi scrolled down to the comments. Many of them expressed shock that Yoongi looked so relaxed and happy (that reputation of looking indifferent and tense on camera preceded him), some seemed relieved that Taehyung and Yoongi could finally stop dating in secret, and a few were clearly upset that Tae was dating below him. Even so, the wording was different from what fans directed criticism toward Jiyoo:

This guy is short and his gums are too big. What does he see in him?
What could they even be laughing about Yoongi is boring
How much is Yoongi paying him for this free publicity….

Yoongi was nearing the end of the comment section when he received another text from Jin: If you’re awake, turn on Channel 4.

Motivated by Parker’s desperate pleas for food and Jin’s mysterious text, Yoongi got out of bed and headed towards the living room, stopping briefly in the kitchen to refill Parker’s bowl.

He stood in slippers one size too big and a robe one size too small watching the morning Channel 4 news.

“And it seems the dating rumors between Kim Taehyung and Choi Jiyoo have finally been put to bed. Managers from both Taehyung and Jiyoo’s companies spoke yesterday on their behalf to clear up the confusion over pictures recently surfaced of Taehyung and Jiyoo appearing to be on a date. Instead, they revealed, Taehyung is actually dating rapper Min Yoongi, also represented by Taehyung’s management.” The picture of Jiyoo and Taehyung on the screen behind the anchor switched to the photo of Tae and Yoongi outside of the restaurant. “Immediately following the press conference, the actor and rapper were seen holding hands and getting lunch at a nearby restaurant. Fans seem perplexed by this unlikely pair.”

The green screen switched to two photos side by side: one of Yoongi’s most recent album cover and one of Tae’s most recent photoshoot. The background of Yoongi’s picture was completely black. He stared at the camera straight-on with jaw clenched and gaze sharp, black, smokey eyeshadow on top of his lids. Tae’s picture, on the other hand, was bright and playful. His bangs were held back with a beret, and his grin reached his eyes which seemed to be alight with kindness. Someone at this news station obviously knew how to choose contrasting pictures for rhetorical effect.

Yoongi thought back to Tae’s discomfort during their conversation at lunch. He implied that they weren’t compatible, and now news outlets were focusing on the same thing. Yoongi wasn’t sure why gorgeous, famous actor Kim Taehyung would care if he was Yoongi’s type or not, but he didn’t want to be the cause of Tae’s smile faltering, and he certainly didn’t want the public questioning the authenticity of their relationship just because they weren’t the most similar of people.

There was one person who seemed to know them both well enough to maybe help. So, he called Jin’s number.

“Man, a picture is worth a thousand words, huh?” Jin said as way of greeting.

“Good morning to you too, hyung.” Yoongi sat down on his couch and Parker, whose belly was now full, napped comfortably in his lap.

“That lunch date is probably enough to hold everyone off for a while.” Jin sounded hopeful, happy.

“I don’t know, everyone seems fixated on how unlikely of a couple we are.”

“Don’t people love when opposites attract?”

“Not when said people are already suspicious that Tae is dating someone else.”

“Oh, good point,” Jin said. Parker filled the ensuing silence with soft purrs as Yoongi scratched gently at her ears.

“Like, realistically, how would we have ever even gotten together? We don’t really have anything in common, hyung,” Yoongi said.

“I think if you got to know him better, Yoongi, you’d be surprised. Remember, he’s a public figure. What you know of him is a persona.” What did Yoongi know of him? In pictures, he oscillated between strikingly beautiful and incredibly playful. Yoongi had never watched any of his dramas or movies, but he knew from social media that Tae was known for being optimistic and bright, if not a bit weird sometimes. Having talked to Tae in person several times now, Yoongi thought those public perceptions were pretty spot-on. He was gorgeous and genuinely nice and slightly goofy.

“And besides, none of that matters. We’ll have you guys break up in a few months anyway. You’re overthinking it. Go on a date every couple of weeks, and it’ll be fine. I promise.”

“Okay, will do. Thanks, hyung.”

“Thank you , Yoongi. You’re doing a lot for someone you barely know.”

Yoongi thought about Taehyung being someone he barely knew long after he hung up the phone. Tae was a household name, a billboard face. A man he’d spoken to, eaten with, touched. What exactly was he misunderstanding? What was he missing?

--

Per Jin’s self-made timeline, Yoongi went out with Taehyung again two weeks later. To Yoongi’s surprise, Tae invited him to a concert. It wasn’t exactly the concert he would have chosen himself, as he listened to fairly few idol groups, but Yoongi was glad they were doing something other than sharing a meal. The less they talked, the less likely Yoongi would say something stupid.

Tae suggested they wear masks and hats so as not to cause a mobbing of people around them, and he assured Yoongi that despite how little of their faces the concert goers could see, at least one person would recognize them and leak a picture. Otherwise, what was the point.

They settled into the back row of the first balcony and snacked in silence on the popcorn Yoongi was surprised they were allowed to bring into the venu.

“Tae?” Yoongi asked after the silence became uncomfortable.

Tae looked up from the bag of popcorn he was seemingly transfixed on. “Hm?”

“What’s your favorite kind of music?”

--

A Week Ago

“Surprisingly, the biggest news surrounding you is not this movie, but your dating life,” the interviewer said with a smile. Taehyung sat opposite a lady with a well-rehearsed smile holding surely a predetermined set of questions on note cards. The poster for his upcoming movie placed upright behind him, Taehyung looked relaxed and charismatic fielding questions. He was dressed more professionally for this press junket; his shoes were closed-toe and his slacks hugged his legs as if they were tailored just for him, but his shirt was still loose-fitting.

Taehyung looked down at his lap shyly.

“For those of you who have been living under a rock the past couple of weeks, Taehyung is dating rapper Min Yoongi,” she said toward the camera. Turning back to Tae, she asked, “So, the question on everyone’s mind. How did this unlikely pair meet?” Yoongi, sat on his couch, unable to turn away from the interview Jin advised him to watch, thought it was odd the interviewer was talking about Tae like he wasn’t sitting across from her.

“I’m not sure why this is such a burning question,” Tae began with a small chuckle. Yoongi thought back to their unnecessarily metaphorical conversation about fish and winced. “I’m a fan of Yoongi hyung’s music.”

--

“I listen to everything, really. If it makes me feel something or makes me happy, I listen to it,” Tae responded.

They arrived to the concert early enough that no one was sat close enough to hear their conversation. For that, Yoongi was grateful, as his questions may have sounded suspicious considering Tae told the public that they bonded over his music.

“I actually originally auditioned for the performance department,” Tae confessed before shoving a handful of popcorn into this mouth.

“Really?” There was surprise in Yoongi’s voice, but in the seconds it took Tae to chew and swallow his popcorn Yoongi thought maybe that did fit. He looked like an idol: unattainably beautiful. And he was strikingly good at fanservice.

“Mmhmm. I didn’t have much confidence in my voice, but I really wanted to be a singer. My teenage mind decided I could train for a few years, debut, spend another few years getting my face out there and then maybe I could act in a few things later on.”

Yoongi waited patiently while Tae paused to seemingly collect the story from his memory.

“Pretty early on after they accepted me, I played a background actor in a sunbae’s music video. That’s actually fairly common for trainees so that they can get camera exposure while they’re training,” Tae explained when Yoongi’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“Jin hyung was there,” Tae said Jin’s name fondly as he always did, ”and he said he couldn’t take his eyes off of me when he monitored the playback. At the time I didn’t think I was doing anything spectacular, but he’s told me since then that I created an entire character and story for my minute long cameo. He was impressed enough to suggest I switch my major in school.”

Yoongi wondered if this was an origin story on his wikipedia page, one he told often, or if this was a story just for him.

--

One Week Ago

Of all things he expected Tae to say, it wasn’t that.

“Really?” the interviewer asked. Yoongi wondered if it was possible to sound more condescending.

“Yeah, he’s incredibly talented,” Tae said seriously, the ever-present hint of aegyo gone from his voice. “I think I fell in love with his voice first before I ever met him.”

Yoongi couldn’t keep his chest from tightening. He knew Tae’s story was made up, he knew it wasn’t real. But he couldn’t keep his chest from tightening.

“And how exactly did you meet then?”

“I went to one of his concerts.”

“Did he invite you or did you go without him knowing?” Yoongi felt a prickle of annoyance that she kept interrupting him. Just let him tell the story.

“Oh, no, he didn’t invite me. I wasn’t sure he knew I existed.” As if anyone doesn’t know you exist, he thought. “And I was in the back of the house because, even though I wanted to, I couldn’t be up at the barricade hoping he’d sweat on me.” Yoongi considered that to be a weirdly specific detail. Taehyung must have thought about this story a lot since the last time they talked about it.

“I dm’d him on twitter while we waited for the encore with a picture of the stage and how great of a show it was. I didn’t expect him to respond at all or to even see it until after the show, but he responded before he went back out on stage for the last song.”

“And what did he say?”

“He asked if I wanted to come backstage after the show. And I said yes.” Yoongi didn’t miss the suggestive lift of Tae’s eyebrows.

“Oooohhhhhh! A Taehyung dating exclusive!” the interviewer cooed.

“Ah, there’s not much more to it than that. We just hit it off.” Taehyung paused for just a second and looked at the camera to say directly to the audience, “He’s as cool off stage as he is on stage.”

As the interviewer steered the conversation, finally, towards the movie Tae was actually there to promote, Yoongi turned off his tv.

He scratched behind Parker’s ears with one thought clear in his mind: Kim Taehyung was a great actor.

--

Yoongi enjoyed the concert much more than he expected. He expected to go, suffer through awkward silence with his still-annoyed pretend boyfriend, and then leave. What he found was Tae talking easily with him before the concert began and an energy that radiated from the younger until the last note played that was so infectious Yoongi couldn’t help but to have fun.

Tae wasn’t a sit and tap his foot kind of music listener. No, he knew every step of choreography, every line, and he couldn’t contain his enthusiasm just to himself. He bumped Yoongi’s shoulder, he sang verses directly at Yoongi--all the cheesiest of romance songs--maintaining eye contact while he belted out the lyrics, he leaned into Yoongi’s space excitedly, even laid his head on Yoongi’s shoulder during a slow song.

Yoongi didn’t just go to a pop concert. He went to a Kim Taehyung Experience Concert. He couldn’t help but to smile when Tae danced embarrassingly with exaggeration; he couldn’t help but to laugh when Tae was leaned in too close poking his chest in tune with the beat.

“Was that your first time seeing an idol group live, hyung?” Tae asked as they walked out of the venue into the overly crowded parking lot.

“It was.” Yoongi was grateful to see that the sea of people leaving the venue seemed to be more engrossed in their own excited recountings of the concert than the conversations around them.

“How do you feel, hmm?” Tae nudged Yoongi’s arm with his elbow lightly.

“Eh, it wasn’t so bad,” Yoongi replied. He peeked up at Tae to see a knowing expression behind the younger’s eyes. Yoongi wasn’t sure what he thought he knew, but he seemed pleased, and for that, Yoongi was also pleased.

He didn’t even feel annoyed when Taehyung danced and sang loudly to pop songs the entire drive back home.

*

At this point Yoongi wasn’t ever surprised to wake up to a text from Jin. He wasn’t sure how exactly Jin knew what every single news station and gossip forum was saying about his fake relationship with Taehyung, but Yoongi supposed he was grateful to be in the know.

The morning after the concert, Jin sent him two things, first of which was an article showing a picture of them sitting in the last row of the balcony. The description was nothing of note, but Yoongi was struck by the image itself. It must have been during one of the slow songs because Tae’s head was resting on his shoulder. What Yoongi didn’t know at the time was that Tae’s eyes were closed a he quietly sang along to the lyrics. His features were relaxed; he looked blissfully content in a way that was different from the grins and the smirks Yoongi was used to seeing on his face. Tae’s features looked simultaneously softer and also more serious. Yoongi’s face was surprising too but in a different way. Although he was mostly passively watching the concert, especially during the slow songs where Taehyung wasn’t forcibly making him participate, Yoongi’s face didn’t convey the familiar indifference or annoyance. His head was tipped just slightly toward Taehyung’s, though not enough to rest on top of the younger. His eyes seemed bright even in the dark amphitheater.

Jin also attached a tweet from what appeared to be a Taehyung fanaccount, which Yoongi was very suspicious of how he found, that read “In the same week Tae reveals they met at Yoongi’s concert they go to a concert together. Awwwwww.” Yoongi hadn’t thought about that. He wondered if Tae chose this particular fake-date for a reason.

Yoongi was about to put his phone back down on his nightstand and try to squeak in a few more minutes of sleep before his alarm went off when he received a text from Tae.

Kim Taehyung:
Thanks again for going with me last night

Yoongi made no move to respond or to put his phone to sleep. He didn’t move at all, just stared at the message as if temporarily stunned. It was just a text, a simple message of gratitude, but Tae didn’t usually contact him outside of arranging fake dates. Did they know each other well enough to text casually? Did Yoongi really know him at all?

It was no problem. It wasn’t the worst way I’ve ever spent an evening.

Kim Taehyung:
And what’s the worst way you’ve ever spent an evening?

Probably cleaning up my roommate’s alcohol-induced vomit off the carpet in college the night before our parents were coming to visit for family weekend

Tae’s typing bubble appeared immediately after every message. Yoongi rolled onto his back and brought his comforter up under his chin.

Kim Taehyung:
Hyung, that’s gross it’s too early for this

Hey, you asked and he’s the one who threw up I am in no way responsible for this. And yours?

Kim Taehyung:
My what?

Worst way you’ve spent an evening

Yongi thought he might have said something wrong when Taehyung didn’t immediately reply. He reasoned with himself that it could have been coincidental. Maybe Tae got in the shower just then. Maybe his coffee was ready. Maybe the director called action. Yoongi didn’t have much time to contemplate it further as his alarm finally went off and he hauled himself out of bed.

*

Taehyung didn’t text him back, and neither had enough time to plan fake dates between Yoongi working on finishing his final two songs and Tae finishing up movie promotions before the official release. He was grateful, he supposed, that there was no time taken away from his work: he only had a little over a week to finish the rest of the album.

With a rough cut of both songs recorded, Yoongi and Jin agreed it was probably time for him to talk with his fans. He tweeted every couple of days, even a selfie every now and again, and replied to at least one fan account every time he posted, but the company liked to push their talent to broadcast to their fans as much as possible. They painted over it with talk of connecting to fans, building relationships, revealing personalities, but under the fresh coat of primer was the bare fact that Naver paid companies good money to broadcast with them.

Yoongi didn’t really mind. He liked being able to talk to the fans on his terms without a leading interview question or a radio script written by the managers. So he sat in his studio, phone on a selfie stick, in a jumper too thick and warm for the weather.

“Hello, hello,” he said once the app confirmed he was live. “Okay, I’m not going to say anything until we have a thousand viewers.” It was a strategy fed directly from Naver. He sat making faces at the camera, ranging from blank stares to goofy smiles to exasperated, over-exaggerated scowls.

“Ah, okay, okay. One thousand of you are here. How are you?” Yoongi watched as comments scrolled across the screen quicker than he could keep up. “Ah, so many of you’re saying tired. It’s 8pm why are you so tired.”

He paused to read their responses. It was an odd way to have a conversation, but outside of fansigns, it was the only way to talk to the people who gave him purpose, gave him strength.“Oh my god, someone literally said ‘because loving you is exhausting,’” Yoongi said with a laugh. “Is that even a compliment?”

Yoongi didn’t let his grin falter, but one word was coming through in the comments way more frequently than anything else: Taehyung.

--

Two Days Ago

Jin asked him over for dinner, and as Yoongi never turned down food he didn’t have to waste time making himself, he agreed. It didn’t hurt that Seokjin was an amazing cook. Yoongi was pretty sure Jin’s cooking was the only thing he ate most days in college.

“What’s the occasion?” Yoongi asked when he arrived at Jin’s apartment. It wasn’t that they didn’t hang out casually outside of work, as they were friends, but it had been a while.

“No occasion. Just wanted to reward you for working hard,” Jin replied as he scooped rice into two bowls.

“I don’t deserve a reward yet, I’m not finished.” Yoongi hung up his jacket and took a seat on the couch, still within hearing-distance of the kitchen.

“You know yourself that you’re past the hardest part. You have the beat and the lyrics. You just have to record.” Jin was right, so he didn’t argue.

They ate in the living room with easy conversation and a pleasant amount of premature-celebratory alcohol.

“How’s it going with Taehyung?”

“It’s good, I think.” Yoongi thought about telling Jin about the unanswered text, but something told Yoongi the issue was personal, so he left it at that.

“I’m thinking we wait until the hype around Tae’s movie just dies out, and then we give a breakup statement. It’ll be good publicity, and you guys won’t have to keep this up much longer than a couple more weeks.”

“It’s good publicity for him . Why can’t we wait until right when my album comes out, huh?” Yoongi said. He was teasing, he was meant to be teasing, but his tone sounded more like indignation.

“That wouldn’t be for another two months. You really want to keep this up for that long?” Jin asked. Yoongi didn’t miss the hint of surprise in his words.

“I was kidding, hyung.”

Before Jin had a chance to respond, his phone buzzed. “Oh, Tae’s doing a Vlive. We should watch.”

Yoongi ignored the unexpected quickening of his pulse by eating his last bite of rice. “Why do we have to watch?”

“This is the first broadcast he’s done since the press conference because he’s barely even slept in the past month. You’re bound to come up.” Yoongi didn’t try to protest as his mind wandered to the fact that Tae probably didn’t respond to his text simply because he was busy. There was nothing more to it than that.

Yoongi grabbed his bowl and went to reach for Jin’s. “You watch. I’ll clean up in here.”

“Oh, no you don’t.” Jin put a protective hand over his own bowl and grabbed Yoongi’s out of the younger’s hands. “I’ll deal with the clean up later.”

Yoongi slumped back into the couch in defeat while Jin grabbed his laptop. “Who even watches these on a computer,” he mumbled petulantly.

“Shush.”

When the broadcast finally loaded on Jin’s dinosaur of a laptop, Tae’s bright voice filled the living room. As much as Yoongi considered staring at the floor in defiance of having to watch someone’s boring broadcast when you weren’t even a fan, he found himself fixing his eyes to the laptop screen. Tae was wearing a red t-shirt that settled on his chest low under his collar bones. His bangs were parted just slightly, revealing parts of his forehead and eyebrows. He talked as animatedly as always, but his eyes looked tired.

“Do you want to know what song I’m loving right now?” Tae asked the fans. “Guess.” He grinned at the phone while reading the comments. “You’re all suggesting good songs, you know my taste so well. No one’s gotten the exact name yet.”

Tae looked down at his own phone, not the one the company kept in the building specifically for broadcasts, presumably to find the song he wanted to play. He looked back up after a few seconds and said, “Someone just said Yoongi oppa’s song.”

Yoongi hadn’t expected to hear his name even though Jin assured him that he would come up. It caused his stomach to knot uncomfortably.

“No, it’s not Yoongi hyung. Though, you all should listen to Yoongi hyung’s music. He has a new album coming out soon, so make sure you listen well. He works really hard for you, so stream a lot, okay?” He read out a few people commenting “yes” and “of course” before saying, “Someone asked why I liked Yoongi hyung at first.”

Yoongi’s pulse increased once again. They never discussed the story; Taehyung had come up with it on his own. Did he think this far ahead? Could he think of something convincing on the spot?

“Ah, Yoongi hyung…” Tae drifted off into what Yoongi imagined to be a quick scrambling to think of something to say. “You know how honest Yoongi hyung is in his music? I liked that about him at first. The entertainment industry, you guys know how it is. Everything is about an image, right? Does Yoongi hyung really stick to an image? He just writes about his life. I think that’s cool.”

Yoongi saw Jin looking over at him out of the corner of his eye. He knew he must have looked confused. His eyebrows were scrunched together and his lips were slightly parted. They didn’t talk about Yoongi’s music in the little time they spent together. He had to assume Jin told him about the public’s perception of his music before they met for the first time.

“But in real life, he’s a little different.” Tae put his elbow up on the desk he was sitting at and rested his face against his hand, cheek scrunched up softly against his eye. “Like when you see him on stage he has this presence and this fierceness, and his lyrics are strong and he delivers them with a growl.” Tae let out a breath like he was replaying scenes of Yoongi on stage in his mind. “But then in person he’s a man who makes stupid jokes sometimes and is caring in really small ways. And he’s smart. I don’t know. He’s a complex person. I like that I’m always learning something new about him.” Tae grinned at the camera when his words were finished. Wistful and almost even bashful.

“Why did you let me go off on such a tangent? See, this is why you can’t ask me about Yoongi hyung, I’ll never shut up. Let’s listen to the song.”

Yoongi finally tore his eyes away from the screen. Jin was looking at him carefully, scanning his face for something, though Yoongi didn’t know what it was he was looking for.

“You must have given him a thorough debriefing before we started dating,” Yoongi said finally when Jin’s gaze held more meaning than he was willing to handle.

Jin’s eyes switched from searching to confused. “What do you mean?”

“I haven’t talked about my music with Tae. He couldn’t have made all of that up on the spot. You told him.” Yoongi’s voice sounded confident and definitive, but the look on Jin’s face made him falter.

“I didn’t tell him anything, Yoongi.” Jin shook his head slowly. “I gave him your number when you told me you’d do it. I briefed him on the press conference so he’d know what to expect just like you did, but I didn’t tell him anything about you. I wanted to let you handle it in the way you were most comfortable.”

“Oh.” Maybe Tae did the research on his own. Maybe he made an effort to get to know Yoongi in a way Yoongi hadn’t made an effort to get to know him. Jin’s reminder that what he know of Tae was just a persona echoed in his head.

--

“I’m almost done with the album, everyone, almost done. I’m excited for you to hear it. I think you’re going to like it, truthfully,” Yoongi said to the fans watching his broadcast. He saw a comment asking if there was a song about Taehyung, but he pointedly ignored it. There was a song called ‘first love’ that everyone was probably going to lose their shit over initially, but it was completely different from what they would expect.

“Everyone is asking me if I’m going to the premiere. What premiere?” A flood of responses with Tae’s movie scrolled across the screen. Right, Tae’s promotions have been pre-release. Tae hadn’t asked him, but if Jin’s plan to wait until the movie hype dyed down ended up happening, they would still be fake dating when the movie premiered.

“Um, maybe. We’ll have to see.” Yoongi tried his best to make his voice sound matter-of-fact.

He realized that opening the door to Taehyung-Talk meant that every single comment was now about his fake boyfriend or his fake relationship in some way. “Why do all of you just want to talk about Tae? I haven’t seen you in so long and you’re just interested in my boyfriend?”

‘My boyfriend’ felt odd and heavy coming out of Yoongi’s mouth. “I’m offended. Do you like him more than me?”

Yoongi saw a smattering of “no,” but plenty more comments requested that he say a few words about his relationship. “Okay, look. We’ll talk about Tae for a few minutes and then I’m going to play you a preview of a song, okay?” He figured the best strategy was to give them what they wanted and then force the entire broadcast to move along.

“What do you want to know? I’ll answer the first thing I see.” Yoongi hoped he didn’t end up regretting that.

“Alright, you want to know my favorite thing about Tae.” He took a steadying breath and, without overthinking said, “He’s unfalteringly caring. He cares about his fans, his friends, his family, probably strangers on the street.” He paused for a moment. “He cares about me when he has no reason to. I don’t know, this probably isn’t news to you guys because he seems really nice in interviews and stuff, but he goes out of his way to make sure that everyone he knows is doing okay. He has a caring heart,” Yoongi ended in almost a whisper.

The comments were all hearts and “awwww” and crying emojis. Nothing Yoongi said wasn’t true. What was truth and what was fake anymore, he wasn’t sure.

*

That evening, long after the broadcast was over, Tae finally responded.

Kim Taehyung:
Worst way I’ve spent an evening? When I went to your concert last May and was too scared to introduce myself to you

*

Yoongi woke up the next morning with what felt like a hangover. An emotional hangover. He didn’t even bother looking at his phone. He sat up, allowed the blanket to fall to his waist, and rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

Parker, excited that Yoongi was awake, immediately came pet-begging, of which Yoongi couldn’t deny.

“Parker, what have I gotten myself into?” She only purred in response.

Yoongi looked up at the ceiling and reviewed what he felt like he knew. What he thought was Taehyung acting in the movie press interview was him telling the truth. A half truth. Apparently Tae really did go to one of his concerts. Which meant what Tae said in his broadcast was probably true, too. Jin didn’t feed him all of that stuff about his music being honest or not having a persona. Tae didn’t just do his research either, which is what Yoongi originally thought. Taehyung knew about Yoongi as an artist, wanted to know him as a friend, maybe more who the fuck knows, before all of this happened.

Tae already knew him, knew all that Yoongi shared in his music, which was more than he shared with even his friends, and Yoongi managed to make no effort to get to know Tae. He didn’t even watch any of Tae’s movies or dramas. No wonder he was upset Yoongi said they weren’t compatible. Tae wanted to know him, and Yoongi dismissed it because they were different people. He was an idiot. A proper idiot.

So, he was going to fix it.

*

“Hello?” Tae answered when Yoongi called him after he ate breakfast and gathered the necessary courage.

“Hey.”

“Hey?” Tae seemed obviously confused Yoongi was calling him, as he had never called him before. They always just texted back and forth.

“Um, are you busy today?” Yoongi sounded weirdly out of breath even to himself, so he stopped pacing and planted his feet firmly in the kitchen.

“No, actually, I have a day off from shooting.”

Right, Tae was not only promoting the film that was about to come out, but he was filming a new movie on top of that. On top of keeping up with a fake relationship. “Do you want to hang out?”

“Uh, sure, hyung.”

Yoongi let out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding. “You choose what we do. I’m good for anything.”

“Want to come over?”

A couple of hours and three outfits later, Yoongi pulled up to Kim Taehyung’s house. A house far more impressive than his two bedroom apartment in the city. But, considering Taehyung’s success and fame over the past five years, it wasn’t extravagant.

When Yoongi rang the doorbell it only took two seconds for Tae to appear with door open and grin wide. He was dressed comfortably as always. Yoongi even felt slightly overdressed in his black skinny jeans and black buttondown. He thought maybe he should have gone for the blue jeans and t-shirt he tried on first, but that doubt was quickly squashed when Taehyung greeted him with a “you look nice today, hyung.”

“Just today?” Yoongi quipped as he toed off his shoes across the threshold.

Tae giggled. “No, everyday. But especially today. I like this shirt.” He reached over and toyed with the end of Yoongi’s sleeve. Yoongi could barely feel the touch through the fabric, but he felt his face heat up regardless.

“Come on, I’ll show you around.” Tae guided Yoongi through every room of his house. The walls were a lavender purple throughout, and his furniture was a deep, chocolatey brown. There were pictures covering any wall space not covered by art, everything from the abstract to the hyperrealistic. Yoongi saw what appeared to be pictures of Tae’s family, of him when he was a toddler, of his friends in college. Even a picture with Jin. Yoongi couldn’t help but to stop in surprise in front of that one.

“Did you two date or something?” Yoongi asked half-teasingly.

Tae giggled soft and light, a sound Yoongi hoped to hear a lot of today. “No. I don’t think the world could handle us being a power couple, I mean have you seen our faces?”

“Are you suggesting the public accepts our relationship because I’m ugly?” Yoongi said with an exaggerated drop of his jaw.

“That is exactly what I’m suggesting. So don’t wear outfits like this when we’re out on dates, no one will be able to handle it.” Tae turned back toward the picture and mumbled quietly, “including me.”

Yoongi tried his best not to grin with satisfaction. “I didn’t know you two were close,” he said gesturing back toward the picture.

“Well, he was the one who I guess ‘discovered’ me as an actor. I owe a lot to him. And now helping me with Jiyoo...he’s a person I’m grateful to have in my life.”

Tae’s mention of Jiyoo sparked a question Yoongi didn’t even realize had been nagging him. As he followed Taehyung further down the hallway, he asked, “Were you two actually dating? I never really asked what it was we’re covering up.”

Tae waited until they made it to his bedroom to answer. The walls were the same purple as the rest of the house, but the soft carpet was a light cream color. Tae’s dresser, sat opposite the bed, had the biggest mirror Yoongi had ever seen. The walls were surprisingly bare in this room, the room that perhaps should be the most personal. He gestured for Yoongi to sit on the large, king size bed, fitted with a dark green comforter set.

Instead of sitting down with Yoongi, Tae unceremoniously plopped down and laid facing the ceiling. Yoongi took his lead and laid back as well.

“No, we were never dating. We were just friends.” He paused for a moment. “I’m telling you this because she told me I could, back when the fake dating thing was first proposed. I would never out anyone without their permission.” Yoongi nodded. “She wanted to make sure the public knew we weren’t dating not just because of the fans and the company but also because she’s gay. She can’t come out, not safely, but she felt like people thinking we were dating was kind of a lie. She wouldn’t have been dating a man anyway, you know?”

“She sounds like an amazing woman,” Yoongi replied. Here he was, lying to all of his fans about a fake relationship, meanwhile she did everything to make sure her fans didn’t think she was something she wasn’t. “And you’re amazing, too, for helping her.”

Tae turned from the ceiling and looked over at Yoongi. His features were soft; he looked the most comfortable Yoongi had ever seen him. “You are insanely busy with both movies, and you’re taking time to go out with me. Don’t you feel exhausted? How are you holding up?”

“I’m okay, hyung. I always wanted to be busy with acting. Work means I’m doing well, you know? I’d feel way more exhausted if I was sitting in my house all day waiting for the next audition.” Tae finally looked back toward the ceiling. “And I’ve figured out ways to relax over the past few years. I paint a lot.”

“Really? Wait...are any of those paintings in the foyer yours?”

Tae let out a laugh. “No, I wish I was that good. Those are all by professional artists. Even just looking at them calms me down a lot, though. The last room I have to show you is my studio. I just keep the finished canvases in there. I might auction a few off soon for charity.”

Yoongi couldn’t help but to look over at the younger, whose gaze was still pointed at the ceiling. How was he so selfless and kind? Yoongi was older, but he didn’t feel like he was doing enough, not now knowing the kind of man he could be, the kind of man Taehyung was.

“Show me?”

Tae led Yoongi back out toward the center of the house to a door Yoongi didn’t realize they passed on the way out to Tae’s bedroom. The studio didn’t technically look any different than the rest of the house, purple and rich brown layout still present, but the sheer amount of canvases of all sized leaned against every inch of the walls made the room feel somehow simultaneously cluttered and comfortable.

Just like the variety of paintings Tae chose to display in the foyer, his own canvases ranged from delicate, fragile flowers to large, black funnels with dark grey shading. There was no furniture at all, just four easels placed in the four corners of the room. Yoongi didn’t know anything about painting, but he wondered if, because there was a large set of windows in this room, Tae chose his easel based on the lighting.

Yoongi imagined him in baggy, black pants and comfortable, ripped t-shirt spending his mornings off in this room, humming as his brush brought whatever he was feeling to the canvas. It made him want to watch, to see it in person.

“You know how you put your stories into your music,” Tae asked quietly. Yoongi nodded.

“I put other people’s stories into film. I put myself in these paintings.” Yoongi nodded again. He wasn’t sure what to say, but he was happy Tae was sharing this with him.

“I don’t know how you do it, really. These are just for me. I don’t let anyone come here. I mean, I’m hoping to auction them off, but otherwise I don’t give this part of myself to anyone. But you give yourself to your fans in every word you write. Is that not scary for you?”

Yoongi looked at Tae directly for the first time since they entered the studio. His features still held that ease only being in his own home could bring, but he looked vulnerable, too. He didn’t share this with anyone, but he was sharing it with Yoongi.

“It’s more cathartic for me. I’m not good with words or expressing my feelings without music. So I can put all of that into written lyrics, and that allows me to release it without having to face it fully. It’s less scary for me, actually, even though thousands of people hear it. It’s easier to rap it to ten thousand people than to say it out loud, face-to-face, with one person.”

Tae huffed out a sad kind of laugh. “Yeah, I guess we’re different in that way.”

“Come here,” Yoongi pulled on Tae’s sleeve to get him to follow him out of the studio. He wanted to apologize, but he felt wrong doing so in that room specifically. That was a place for Taehyung’s own problems and feelings not his own.

Yoongi led him to the living room where they both took a seat on Taehyung’s couch. “About that...I’m sorry about that whole ‘we’re not compatible’ thing. I didn’t know you knew anything about me or had tried to get to know me before. I thought we were strangers in separate fields with opposite personalities that no one would believe were dating.” Tae searched Yoongi’s eyes while he talked, trying to find what it was Yoongi wanted him to know. “But I said that without even trying to get to know you outside of what I knew from TV. So, I’m sorry for that, Taehyung.”

“It’s okay, hyung,” Tae started to say.

“No, don’t be nice. Tell me I’m a piece of shit, that I didn’t give you a chance,” Yoongi said, voice desperate and sad.

“There’s no way you could have known I was a fan of yours. It’s okay. I was just sad because I thought we could actually get along well if we had met outside of these weird, awkward circumstances.”

“I do think we get along well,” Yoongi said. “I have fun when I’m with you.”

“Did this house tour just really knock your socks off, hyung?” Tae teased with a grin.

“Yeah, actually, it was really nice getting to know you better. You’re too good of a person for me, I still don’t know how anyone is believing we’re dating.”

“You sell yourself short, Yoongi hyung.”

“Who are you calling short, Kim Taehyung?”

Tae rolled his eyes but laughed despite himself. “You’re just full of jokes today, aren’t you?”

“Apparently,” Yoongi replied.

“Do you want lunch?”

*

They ate take out with their legs curled up on the couch, knees touching. Tae decided since he chose what they were doing today and the restaurant they ordered food from, Yoongi could pick the movie they’d watch while they ate. Yoongi settled on a comedy, and a good decision it was, as he watched Taehyung try to laugh while shoving his face full of noodles.

When their bellies were full and the movie was only a quarter over, Tae grabbed a blanket for them to share. Yoongi settled further into the surprisingly comfortable couch, and lulled by the food settled nicely in his stomach and the warmth of both the blanket and Taehyung’s body heat pressed into his side, he slipped into sleep.

He awoke some time later with the groggy feeling that afternoon naps tended to leave. Yoongi didn’t have much time to groan about the fogginess in his mind once he realized he was tucked into Tae’s side, head buried in his neck, with Tae’s arm draped around his shoulders. The same warmth that allowed him to slip so easily into sleep was now suffocating him, but he didn’t dare move.

Tae was still asleep, head leaned against Yoongi’s and long eyelashes fanned against his cheek. Yoongi felt overwhelmed not just by the warmth of his body heat but also the cologne he must have sprayed on the pulse point of neck, now sitting just next to where Yoongi’s lips rested. Tae smelled of pine and citrus and a comfort Yoongi only ever felt when Tae was close.

Still sleepy, still satiated by how nice he felt, Yoongi nuzzled against Tae’s neck. The movement must have roused Tae awake, as the younger groaned lightly and placed a soft, barely-there kiss to the top of Yoongi’s head. Yoongi, instinctively he supposed, pressed his own lips against Tae’s neck.

“I don’t want to get up. Let’s sleep all day,” Tae whined. He wrapped his other arm around Yoongi and pulled him into his lap. Every instinct in Yoongi’s body said to protest being picked up by someone younger than him, but the feeling of both of Tae’s arms around him and their chests pressed close together kept his mouth shut. He only whispered a quiet “Okay” against Tae’s neck.

They did get up, eventually, when Yoongi really did get unbearably overheated and his back began to ache. By the time he crawled out of Taehyung’s lap, the sun was setting.

“I don’t know what you have planned tomorrow,” Tae said with a stretch and a groan while they tried to rid the grogginess from their bodies, “but I would love for you to stay and have a drink with me. We can make dinner a little later.”

“That sounds perfect.”

*

Yoongi realized two drinks in that this was the first time he had seen Taehyung with alcohol in him. That first night they met, he had something that only looked like a cocktail. As it turned out, slightly buzzed Taehyung wasn’t that different from sober Tae. He was giggly and funny still. Yoongi remembered Tae saying that he was known amongst his fans as being very physically affectionate, and it was clear to Yoongi that was astronomically true when he was drinking.

They were talking on the couch, not unlike they were earlier in the day, but they faced each other with knees touching, and Tae’s hand never left Yoongi’s skin. It was on his thigh, his knee, his hand, sometimes even randomly massaging his foot. Tae seemed to need to keep contact, and surprisingly, Yoongi didn’t mind. Every time Tae’s hand would lift to cover his mouth while he laughed or to pick up his drink, Yoongi mentally counted down the seconds until the feeling of long, pretty fingers returned to him.

“What concert did you go to,” Yoongi asked in a lull of conversation.

“Huh?”

“The worst evening. What concert was that?”

“You were promoting the last album in May. You played the whole album and like three previous title tracks, I think. You wore a red coat and a white hat, and you gave thanks to-”

“Okay, Tae, I remember which one,” Yoongi interrupted with a laugh.

Tae laughed, too. He placed his hand over Yoongi’s own resting in his lap. “Sorry. It was good, though, hyung, one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen period.” He squeezed Yoongi’s hand to emphasize his words.

Yoongi felt shy under the praise. He spoke down at their hands. “Thank you. I like performing way more than I like recording. I think my music is best heard live.”

“Mm. I agree.” With no ceremony or permission, Tae repositioned his hand and laced their fingers together.

“You should release a live album,” he said. Yoongi didn’t respond immediately, barely even felt like he heard the words, because Kim Taehyung was holding his hand. Not in public where they were supposed to be holding hands to pretend like they were together. But in his home, where no one could see at all. In the same night that he kissed Yoongi’s hair and asked him to stay. In the same day Tae showed him his paintings, showed him pictures of his family.

Yoongi carefully put down his drink and pulled his fingers free from Taehyung’s. He ignored the way Tae’s face fell as he watched Yoongi pull back.

“Tae, are you drunk?”

Confusion found its way in between Tae’s eyebrows. “No. Are you?”

“No.” Yoongi fixed his eyes intensely on Taehyung’s mouth.  “I’m going to kiss you now.”

And he did. Tae’s lips were smooth and warm and slightly tasting of beer. Tae kissed him back immediately, bringing his hand up to cup Yoongi’s cheek, and before Yoongi had time to talk himself out of it, he climbed back into Taehyung’s lap. Yoongi wrapped his arms around Tae’s neck while Tae rested his hands on Yoongi’s lower back. They kissed easily, slowly, as if they had infinite hours to explore each other’s mouths.

Yoongi couldn’t believe he ever for a moment thought they weren’t compatible when Tae slipped his tongue past his lips and painted secrets and stars in Yoongi’s mouth. Even when the kiss deepened, it still wasn’t urgent. Tae took his time nipping at his bottom lip, fluctuated the speed at which he made Yoongi feel dizzy with how well his tongue slid against his own, even pulled back completely and peppered Yoongi’s cheeks with soft, light kisses.

Tae let his lips linger on Yoongi’s forehead as he said, “Was that a fake dating kiss or a real I-like-you kiss because I don’t want to alarm you, but there are no cameras or random stalkers hiding in my house.” His words were playful, but Yoongi could hear the worry in his voice.

Though he didn’t want to move from the feeling of Tae’s lips on his skin, Yoongi pulled back to look the younger in the eyes. Yoongi somehow didn’t expect to see pink, swollen lips and blown out pupils, but he was met with a blissfully beautiful version of Taehyung he had never seen before. He bit his lip in an effort to hold back the smile that wanted to find its way onto his face.

“That was a I-would-love-for-you-to-go-on-a-real-date-with-me kiss. And also a please-kiss-me-more kiss.”

Tae giggled, sweet and melodious and the prettiest sound Yoongi thought he’d ever heard. And then Tae kissed him again.

--

“Taehyung over here! Over here!” the photographers yelled as Tae and Yoongi stood on the red carpet, dressed in the fanciest suits Yoongi had ever seen in person, for the second movie premiere they had attended since they started real-dating that night after the kiss. Yoongi’s arm was draped around Tae’s hip, and he did his best to smile at the camera in a way that wouldn’t look completely forced and ridiculous next to Tae’s easy and well-practiced grin.

They moved a few more feet down the red carpet, and Yoongi was ushered away from his real-not-at-all-pretend boyfriend so that Tae could take pictures with the rest of the cast. He watched from the side as Taehyung flashed his signature boxy smile to every photographer, as he captured every person in a five mile radius’ attention with his endearing aegyo. Every single member of the cast who stood with Tae looked at him with love and adoration in their eyes. Yoongi felt unbelievably lucky to be the one person Tae returned that look to.

--

Ten Months Ago

Tae looked down with intense concentration at his fingers weaving either end of Yoongi’s bow tie into the correct knot. Yoongi already felt too warm in the heavy fabric of his suit jacket and his shirt collar was digging into his neck, but when Tae looked at him after an excited “done!” Yoongi didn’t feel like he minded being his boyfriend’s date for his movie premiere.

It was going to be their first real outing as what would have been fake boyfriends but what turned into real boyfriends, and Yoongi was unmistakably nervous. If they were still pretending to date, he probably would have felt nothing at all. But since they kissed, since they went on several dates where Yoongi learned even more things he loved about Taehyung, like how tongue-tied he got when he was nervous, how he sometimes trailed off in the middle of his sentences when he got too excited, how serious he was when he was working on set, Yoongi felt high school-grade butterflies in his stomach at the thought of bearing his relationship in front of cameras and prying gossip sites.

Tae was used to this process, so he radiated calmness and comfort. As he smoothed over the front of Yoongi’s jacket and reached down to grab his hand, Tae absorbed some of Yoongi’s nervous energy and replaced it with his own ease. He walked out to the company car with shoulders relaxed and fingers comfortably laced with Tae’s.

Jin was waiting for them in the car dressed in his own expensive tux. “Ah, there they are.”

“Don’t talk about us like we’re not right here,” Yoongi said.

“Shut up, I’m just happy. You two look good together.” Yoongi told Jin about their real-dating after they went on a few dates and Yoongi was confident they weren’t just making out on couches for the fun of it, though it was fun.

“Thanks, hyung,” Tae said giddily. He held Yoongi’s hand all the way to the venue and before they got out of the car, Tae gave him one adoring look that instantly made him forget how nervous he was to walk out into a sea of cameras.

“Alright, let’s do this.”

--

He made eye contact with Yoongi across the crowd of people even though he was meant to be looking forward at the cameras. Tae’s expression transformed from the smile he used for interviews and red carpets to a look of easy, comfortable love Yoongi saw that first night he went to Tae’s house.

The headlines were right; they were an unlikely pair. Unlikely as it may have been, nothing felt so right as Taehyung striding over to him with a smile on his face, hooking his arm around Yoongi’s waist, and pulling him into a kiss in front of every camera to see.

----