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Communication Breakdown

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The door creaks, and he knows what is going to happen. There’s no reason for him to leave the door unlocked, as he could easily lock it and no one would ever question it, but for some reason, he leaves the key unturned.

He always sleeps with his back to the door, so that he doesn’t have to see Taehyung when he walks towards the bed and slips under the covers next to him. If he keeps his back turned, then he is not responsible for what happens next.

“Hyung,” Taehyung always says, “Hyung, is this all right? Hyung?” Hoseok would rather not answer, would rather not confirm something that is a lie. In reality, it’s not all right, it’s not all right at all, it will never be all right. Hoseok sighs rather than speaks.

“All right,” he breathes out, “it’s all right,” and that’s all the encouragement Taehyung needs. Hoseok never speaks beyond that point. There’s no reason to.

Taehyung grabs Hoseok‘s t-shirt. He likes to sleep in oversized t-shirts that can be easily slipped over his head, so that he doesn’t have to turn over and face Taehyung. It’s peeled off his body and on the floor before he really knows what’s happened. Taehyung is skilful, and he has also had a lot of practice.

It’s always the same after that. Taehyung rolls the covers down off Hoseok‘s body and stares at his back.

“You’re beautiful, Hyung, beautiful,” he says and drags Hoseok‘s pyjama shorts down his legs, exposing his backside. Then he runs his fingers over the flesh and slaps lightly. Hoseok can feel that he would like to hit harder, but he never asks so Hoseok never suggests it. Taehyung is rough, and Hoseok is sure that he would be a good deal rougher if he dared, but as they never speak, nothing ever changes.

Taehyung kneads Hoseok’s back and his buttocks, and Hoseok thinks that is not what he wants but perhaps it is what he needs. He spans his large hands around Hoseok‘s waist - “so tiny” - and the recipient is not sure what it makes him feel. It makes him feel vulnerable and weak, but that shouldn’t feel as good as it does. Hoseok is sickened by himself and by Taehyung; a large presence in his bed with his wide hands and long feet, taking up all that space and the air to breathe.

Taehyung leans up and kisses the back of Hoseok‘s neck. Instantly the tears spurt into Hoseok‘s eyes. He tries not to sob, not to show a reaction. He doesn’t want Tae to turn him around, look at him worriedly and ask, again and again, is this all right, Hyung? He also doesn’t want Taehyung to ignore the sob and carry on as if nothing had happened. It would be hateful to confirm the coldness he assumes is in Taehyung’s heart. So it’s best that he suppress the sob. He doesn’t want to explain to the man currently squeezing his waist and kissing down his spine, that the sob is for someone else, for something a lot more innocent than what is happening now.

He doesn’t want to explain that the sob is in fact for Jungkook and his innocent kisses to the back of Hoseok‘s neck, and for the way Jungkook used to bury his nose in Hoseok‘s neck to smell the familiar scent there. Jungkook has grown up. Like Tae, he is taller than Hoseok now and no longer a baby for Hoseok to love and cuddle. They’re still friends, but it’s not the same. It’s not like the way Jungkook made him feel as if he were the only one who could look after him, comfort him and whose praise was more important than any other person’s in the world. He used to feel like a parent to Jungkook, now he feels like a much-loved toy that has grown worn and old, and has outlived its usefulness. You keep it in the corner of your room or in the attic because you are too sentimental to throw it out.

Instead, Hoseok has Taehyung. He has always had Taehyung, rough, jealous, wild, madly talented and handsome. Taehyung has always frightened and fascinated Hoseok in equal measure and it took him a long while to figure out what Taehyung wanted from him. Hyung, is this all right?

Taehyung backing him into corners, grabbing him by the shirt, declaring in front of everyone that he wants more of Hoseok’s attention, assuring Hoseok of his affection and complete adoration in private, in public, but always with that rough edge that Hoseok, with all his underlying gentleness, can never quite understand. Hoseok still doesn’t understand what it is that Taehyung wants. Is it just a release for his urges? But Taehyung is way too serious for that and it’s been eight years. Eight years of Taehyung pursuing Hoseok and half a year of Taehyung asking: is this all right?

There wasn’t anything specific that happened half a year ago, either. Taehyung was suddenly in his room, slipping under his bed covers and running a hand over Hoseok’s flat stomach, over his perfect dancer’s body. Is this all right? he said, and Hoseok felt as if something had settled on his chest, making it impossible to breathe.

“It’s OK,” he had said, haltingly, wondering what the hell he was doing, and why Taehyung was in his bed with his hands all over him. He still doesn’t know.

Still, when Taehyung is two fingers deep inside him, he can’ t suppress a moan and can feel Taehyung massaging with new vigour. He’s sure that if he could see Taehyung’s eyes, he would see the glint of triumph there, the same glint he saw when Taehyung left his room that first night, looking as if he had won a battle. Hoseok is sure that is what Taehyung looks like every night when he leaves Hoseok’s room. He doesn’t know, because he never turns around to watch him leave. He never asks him to stay, either.

Hoseok can hear himself moan, quietly; it’s a disembodied moan that doesn’t belong to him. He wonders if Namjoon in the room next door can hear it. Maybe he thinks that Hoseok is pleasuring himself. But maybe he hears the door click shut when Taehyung enters the room before the moaning starts. Perhaps he wonders which of the members silently enters Hoseok’s room at night. No, if Namjoon knows he has a nightly visitor, he probably knows who it is as well.

Taehyung has never made a secret of his affection for Hoseok, even when Hoseok went to lengths to push him back. At some point, Taehyung wore down his defences. When he begged for more of Hoseok’s attention, then that was the end of Hoseok’s resistance. Hoseok is nothing if not a people pleaser. He lives to make people happy, even to his own detriment. Taehyung knows this, he has remarked on it before. But Taehyung doesn’t care, because he will take whatever he can get from Hoseok. They are both pitiful, in a way.

He can hear the snap of the condom and the click of the lube bottle being closed. Hoseok has no idea where the lube and the condom come from, but Taehyung must keep them somewhere for this purpose specifically. It’s not like a condom would be necessary, not while they are spending months and months together training with hardly any time to phone, let alone to see anyone outside of their circle, but Taehyung always wears one, the thin silicone membrane seperating his skin from Hoseok’s most intimate part.

Whether he uses the key Hoseok once gave him to invade Hoseok’s private apartment in the middle of the night, or whether they spend each day together at the training dorm, Taehyung has a condom. Maybe Taehyung sleeps with a whole string of people, Hoseok muses as Taehyung forces his way inside him. As usual, he’s too tight, too tense, and it hurts. The thought hurts, too.

Taehyung always makes the same sound when he is inside Hoseok, it’s almost like the sob that Hoseok suppressed earlier thinking of Jungkook. There is no way of knowing what makes Taehyung so emotional, but Hoseok doubts that it is him. Maybe it’s just the physical ecstasy. There is no way of knowing what Taehyung actually feels when he is inside Hoseok, and Hoseok never turns around to see his face. He can feel Taehyung’s grip on him as if he were afraid that Hoseok might just and leave, never turning around once.

Hoseok himself usually feels empty. Not physically; physically he feels comfortably full. No, emotionally. He feels emotionally empty and as if there were nothing at all that could fill that void.

Nevertheless his body never fails to respond, he is young and healthy after all, and from then on, he concentrates on the feeling of Taehyung inside him and his own hand on his body. Taehyung tried to touch him once, but Hoseok batted his hand away. He never tried to use his hand on Hoseok again after that.

Taehyung grunts through his release, biting Hoseok’s shoulder as he does. Hoseok curls in on himself and tries to be silent. He hates that he will have to change his linen. Taehung’s teeth always leave marks. Sometimes, Hoseok presses on them to make the feel of the bite return. The pain never lasts long.

There’s a moment after they are finished that is awkward. Hoseok knows he should say something: just stay the night, Tae, or: that was nice, Tae. So they always wait for the other to speak, but neither of them does. He’s quick enough to ask me if he can fuck me, Hoseok thinks bitterly, but he can’t ask if he can stay. He can’t just hold me tight and make me safe. Why doesn’t he hug me and ask: Is this all right, Hyung?

Taehyung sighs, he always sighs. “Good night, Hyung,” he says, perfectly politely, “thank you for letting me in.” He always uses this stilted phase with the double meaning, and it makes Hoseok want to hit him, so he never replies and he never turns around to look at him. Taehyung pauses, then there is a click when the door is shut.

***

The next day, everything is as it was before. Hoseok slips into his J-Hope persona, laughs raucously when Jungkook makes a joke, and wonders why it is that Yoongi never looks at him any more. They used to be so close. Hoseok doesn’t know what has changed between them.

There is dance practise that morning, so Hoseok concentrates on that and only that. He loves dancing and he loves to teach the others. When he dances, his head is clear of negative thoughts and he feels as if he could dance around the world and up into the sky. His mood, which he never ever shows to the others, clears up considerably.

He forgets about Taehyung completely, although he is dancing right next to him. Taehyung is a competent dancer and he rarely has to correct him. His heart isn’t in his dancing though, and although Taehyung loves to perform and has a versatile and truly fascinating singing voice, he’s not a born dancer, not like Jimin for instance. But then nobody is like Jimin.

He’s snapped out of his reverie by Jungkook’s whining, he’s still hard-wired to react to the youngest member as if he were his mother.

“Hyung, we’re hungry, we need a break,” Jungkook complains, sliding an arm around Hoseok’s waist and trying to pull him towards the door. Hoseok checks his watch, it’s half-past one. Jungkook is right, they have been training for hours now.

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok always finds himself apologizing. “You go on ahead, I’ll be with you in a minute.” He rolls himself out of Jungkook’s arm and looks away. He wants to stay lost in the music for another few minutes. He hears the others file out of the practice room, voices low. For some reason, he can’t turn around.

When the room is silent, he takes a deep breath. He raises his arms to dance to the music in his head, when the silence is broken.

“Hyung.” It’s Taehyung’s deep voice. Something heavy settles in Hoseok’s stomach. He won’t turn around, he doesn’t want to see whatever there might be in Taehyung’s eyes.

“Go on ahead,” he answers, words firm and precise, “I’ll follow along after. I need to practise just this one move.”

“Hyung, I...” Taehyung seems to want to say something. Fearful, Hoseok cuts him off.

“Later,” he says in a strict voice, “we can talk later. Now go.” Taehyung is sighing again, but his steps move away and then the door clicks shut. Hoseok expels the air from his lungs that he doesn’t realise was trapped there. He lifts his arms again and dances.

It’s late afternoon before Hoseok comes back to himself. He feels better, as if he has just returned from a holiday. Everything is washed in brighter colours, like the trees after the rain. Hunger hits him in the gut like a miniature steam train; he hasn’t eaten since breakfast. The others will have saved something for him like they always do.

The corridor is empty, so Hoseok skitters into his room. He doesn’t want to see anyone just yet. He throws his sweaty dancing clothes into the laundry basket and skips under the shower. There’s a dark mark around his left wrist and a bruise like a fingerprint on the inside of his thigh. The bite mark on his shoulder. The others must have seen it, unfortunately he had worn shorts and a loose t-shirt. His mood flips back again.

Dressed in long track suit bottoms with a long-sleeved, high-necked t-shirt, Hoeseok scurries along the corridor to the kitchen. Nobody is in there, neither staff nor members. He peers inside the fridge. There is a plate covered with aluminium foil that he grabs, nearly dropping it when he hears Yoongi’s voice.

“I see you’ve changed.” Yoongi’s voice is expressionless. Hoseok sets the plate on the table and closes the fridge. Only then does he turn around.

“I only just stopped dancing, Hyung,” he explains, knowing very well that is not what Yoongi is referring to. “My clothes were dripping with sweat.”

“Good choice.” Yoongi is eyeing him up and down. Hoseok feels himself flush. He tugs his left sleeve down, his wrist is exposed and Yoongi is focusing on it. “I see you found the food we saved for you.”

“Thank you, Hyung,” Hoseok stutters, “I’m very hungry. That’s just perfect right now.” He’s babbling and rubbing the back of his neck as he speaks. He always does that when he is feeling nervous, but he can’t stop. He can feel more senseless babble on the tip of his tongue, but like an angel, Jin appears in the doorway.

“So you’ve finished punishing yourself, haha,” Jin smiles at him. Jin never just smiles with his mouth, the smile always seems to seep out of the corners of his eyes as well. Despite the fact that he knows Jin very well and also confides in him up to a point, Hoseok is never quite sure when the eldest member is serious and when he is joking.

“Dancing is never punishment,” he smiles back at Jin. Yoongi is still looking at him critically. He feels as though he is at an examination and that it is imperative to find the right answers.

“Not for you, haha,” Jin laughs, “it is for me, though.” It is well known that dancing is not one of Jin’s strengths and that he is not fond of having to practice.

The smile drops out of Jin’s face suddenly. “You should eat properly,” Jin cautions before leaving the room.

Yoongi stares him down for a moment. Hoseok can’t look at him any more, so he looks down at his own bare feet.
“You should take better care of yourself,” Yoongi adds tonelessly before he too leaves the kitchen.
“Yes, Hyung,” Hoseok whispers after him. The food turns to ashes in his mouth.

In the evening, Hoseok joins the others to watch television in their living room. He’s robotic, functioning largely under the automatism of his J-Hope persona. He is sitting on the arm rest of the sofa, laughing, talking and fidgeting, hidden inside his own cocoon. He catches Jimin’s eye, and they both collapse laughing. Namjoon next to him keeps complaining: “Can’t you sit still for two minutes, Hoseokie?” In the end, Namjoon grabs his wrist to still him. Then he blinks and immediately lets go. It was Hoseok’s right wrist, not the bruised one, but the room suddenly goes quiet. Something horrible creeps up the back of his spine.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Namjoon apologizes, making everything instantly worse. Namjoon and his elephantine affection, huge, unforgetting and very, very clumsy.

“You didn’t,” Hoseok answers with a reassuring smile, but he is quiet after that and secretly slinks off to his room when nobody is looking. At least Taehyung won’t be there, he never comes two nights in a row.

Instead there’s Yoongi, coming in without knocking and smacking the door against the wall.

“Stop hiding,” he snarls, and grabs Hoseok’s chin. “You’re such a coward, and you know it. It’s just us, no one will judge you. Quit beating yourself up like this. You’re hurting others. Just stop it, I can’t bear to see it.” With that he leaves, slamming the door shut.

Hoseok wakes to the familiar sound of the door creaking. He hears Taehyung’s footsteps, but there is no dip in the bed behind him. Instead, there is a scraping sound. Taehyung is suddenly on the other side of the bed, right in Hoseok’s field of vision, dragging the chair from Hoseok’s desk. He sets the chair on the floor firmly and sits down on it.

“I want you to look at me,” he tells Hoseok. His voice is firm, deep and sounds very grown up. Hoeseok wishes he would go away, but he daren’t roll over, daren’t turn away from Taehyung. He doesn’t know what will happen if he does, but he is sure it is a bad thing, a catastrophe.

“Hyung,” Taehyung urges, “Hobi Hyung, look at me.” Hoseok raises his eyes grudgingly to look at Taehyung’s face. He looks sad, lost and very young.

“Hoseok Hyung, why are you like this?” Taehyung looks very handsome with his eyes full of unspoken feelings. Hoseok doesn’t understand what he means. He’s given Tae his body, what more does he want? His soul?

“Hyung, let me see your eyes, please let me see your eyes.”

It’s the hardest thing in the world for Hoseok to focus on the other man’s eyes. His eyelids are as heavy as lead, his eyes are unfocused, his pupils pinned to a certain point on the floor. When he does, he thinks he understands.

It turns out that his soul is exactly what Taehyung wants and needs to be happy. Maybe giving his soul to Taehyung will make him happy, too. He knows Taehyung would be only too willing to offer him his own soul as in return. Taehyung wouldn’t call it his soul though, he’d call it his heart.

Maybe it’s worth a try.