Ease - Part 11
Summary: You and your best friend Taehyung have recently got into the same university in the capital of Seoul. Hoping that this was your year to finally admit your romantic feelings towards your said best friend, uni seems an exciting prospect. But of course, the future never really goes according to plan.
“I want you to update me on what happens,” said Jungkook, the night before your field trip. “What Taehyung says to you and all that.”
You scoffed. “Jungkook, stop being protective. Taehyung’s never going to do anything; he’s also still probably broken up over Yeji, so I can’t exactly not talk to him.”
“Still,” he shrugged shiftily, “you’d better tell him that I’m with you now. Even if it might be difficult.”
He hugged you tightly before you left, while you muttered that you’re technically weren’t ‘official’, but Jungkook ignored you.
“Remember to text me how it’s going!” he called to your retreating back.
It was the first time you’d seen Taehyung since the night of the café, so not only were you worried about how he’d been coping, but also how to tell him, without rubbing it in his face, that you were seeing Jungkook.
Your major class had been taken on a trip to a museum, which was a large building with several floors and rooms branching off in every direction. The ceiling was impressive by itself, as the patterned glass with a large chandelier allowed light to flood the room. Jungkook’s words rung in your head, but you’d seen a huge ‘no phones’ sign as you entered and there were numerous members of staff milling about the place, so you weren’t going to risk sending a message for the sake of Jungkook’s motherliness. Instead, you scanned the crowd for the familiar face of your best friend, but you couldn’t see him anywhere.
“You may go off and do your own thing, but remember to have lunch and meet me back here at 4,” announced your teacher. “No excuses. Remember to be respectful to others and take notes; I may include some of this in the test next week.”
Although everyone nodded, there were several small sighs as they realised that they couldn’t completely slack off. After thank you’s had been said, students split off from the group as they went to explore, leaving you standing at the entrance by yourself. You hadn’t needed to make any friends in your class, as you’d always relied on Taehyung being there, and no one had bothered with you, either. In fact, you were pretty sure no one even knew your name.
However, as the crowd thinned, you finally spotted Taehyung standing next to a statue, peering up at the chiselled face in wonder. As your heart rate increased at the sight, you almost bounced over to him, a relieved smile on your face.
“Tae! There you are. I couldn’t see you on the coach.”
Taehyung turned around, and you were surprised to see that he looked relatively healthy. Although he still had dark circles and his eyes lacked their usual shine, he didn’t look like he was suffering from heartbreak. But then again, that’s Taehyung for you, you thought to yourself. He’s the king of hiding his emotions so you think he’s fine, but in reality, you never know what’s going on underneath.
“Hey, Y/N,” he said, lacking enthusiasm in his tone.
“Have you been eating properly?” you asked, as he avoided eye contact. “I hope you’ve been okay, I know these past few days haven’t been-”
“I’m fine,” he interrupted, readjusting his cap so that his long hair covered his eyes. Shoving his hands into the pockets of his denim jacket, he walked away, leaving you by the statue. He stopped not far off and looked back, as if he expected you to keep up with him despite the moody response he’d given you.
Sighing at his obstinance, you followed the older boy, throwing him more questions but earning similar, half-hearted replies. Taehyung refused to look at you, and with a mask covering his mouth, it made you feel as if he’d shut himself off, building a wall so that you couldn’t go near him. You racked your brains to figure out if you’d done anything wrong, but as far as you were aware, you’d parted on good terms. Perhaps this was just the consequence of the Yeji situation, you thought.
Taehyung stood behind a glass case, looking down at the objects inside and reading the labels alongside them. You tried to do the same, but you weren’t really looking, the objects merging with one another as you struggled to come up with ideas of what to do next. Clearly, words weren’t working, seeing as Taehyung had clammed up and refused to say more than two words at a time.
“Do you want to talk about it? Because if you don’t, just say and I’ll stop bothering you. I don’t really fancy having a one-sided conversation for the whole day.” You didn’t mean for it to sound sassy, but recently you’d found yourself getting annoyed at the smallest of things. It was mainly directed at Jungkook, as whenever he got snappy you found yourself arguing back, or whenever he talked about Taehyung you backed up your friend instead of him. It was out of character for you, because usually with Taehyung, you knew when to take a step back before things got too heated. But the stress of the dance competition and the pressure from Jungkook and the worries of Taehyung were taking its toll.
So, when Taehyung moved on to another glass case instead of answering your question, you spun around and stalked off, his behaviour beginning to make your skin crawl. You didn’t trust yourself to talk calmly, and that’s why you found yourself glowering on a couch in a silent room. The seat was shaped like a large splodge of paint, with places to sit formed between the rise and fall of the arms. It was on the fourth floor at the back of the museum, so although it had a huge, old clock facing outwards on the window with rusting Roman numerals for visitors to look at, it was dead. Sitting with your arms and legs crossed and staring out the clock at the river below, you let your annoyance fizzle out by grumbling a stream of curse words under your breath in as many languages as you knew.
You understood he was going through a tough time, and you could make allowances for his behaviour, but at that moment, you needed to take some time off. Taehyung rarely had mood swings and you rarely got angry, but since going to university and experiencing all of the hardships that went along with it, both of you had taken cuts and bruises, leaving you raw.
You’d only been sitting there for a few minutes before you heard someone totter into the room, making their way to the strangely shaped couch. They sat in the seat next to you, but due to the circular design and the small hills between each seat, you could only see their legs stretched out in front of them. Luckily, you knew Taehyung’s wardrobe inside out.
“I want to talk about it,” was all Taehyung said.
Without much hesitation, you leant forward in your seat so you could see his face. This time, you could clearly see the pained expression as he stared at a single spot on the floor, his eyes shining and his interlocked hands twisting. There was something in his eyes that you hadn’t seen before, despite all the years of knowing him. It was a mix of regret and disappointment, but the muscle popping in his neck suggested anger. You got up and squashed yourself next to Taehyung, even though there was barely enough room for one person, but Taehyung never cared about personal space when it came to you, so thankfully he made as much space as he could.
It felt odd having him that close to you again, with your hips pressed firmly together and your bodies so packed in that you felt his ribs contract and relax as he breathed. He still had his honey scent, and you couldn’t help feeling nostalgic to all the times where you hid in storerooms together to avoid doing sports or got in the back of Taehyung’s parent’s car with his siblings when they had a very small car. The memories made your heart lift, but you forced it back down again.
You’re seeing Jungkook now, you told yourself firmly. Move on.
“Yeji told me the reason she dated me,” he swallowed, looking down at his lap. Although you grabbed his hand in comfort, you felt your palms go clammy as you realised what Yeji must’ve said to Taehyung. “To put it simply, she never liked me in the first place. I remember everyone being so shocked why Yeji asked me out so quickly after we first kissed, and so did I, but I didn’t question it. I just thought that she had been wanting to date me for ages. In fact, I wasn’t really focused on a lot of things. I think I barely noticed that she wasn’t very happy with me, because I was… I was in my own little world.
“Yeji told me everything. She actually fancied Jimin, but Jimin had told her to ask me out before he would consider dating her. He apparently told her that it was a joke, but she thought she’d do it anyway because then Jimin might take her seriously. But Jimin found out about us dating and told Yeji that she shouldn’t have gone through with it because he still wasn’t going to date her. That’s what I saw them arguing about the other day. So, the only reason Yeji was with me was to get Jimin’s attention. She never liked me, Y/N, never. And I feel like a damn fool. She told me all this and then she split up with me, saying that I deserve someone who loves me and to go chase… whatever.”
The more he spoke, the worse you felt. You tried to shroud your heart to make it thicker, but the bitterness in his tone tore it to shreds and you were left feeling terrible. You couldn’t say anything to console him, because you would’ve been lying through your teeth. This wasn’t news to you, and the guilt was putting your acting skills to the test. You rubbed your thumb against his hand and rested your head against his, letting his hair tickle your cheek while hoping that Taehyung didn’t ask you any questions.
Luckily, he tried his best at making things light-hearted as he grew uncomfortable with the silence you’d created. “But I’ll get over it. Worse things are happening in the world, right?”
“Yeah, but it’s still difficult,” you muttered. This reminded you of what Jungkook had said to you earlier: ‘you’d better tell him that I’m with you now. Even if it might be difficult’. Was this the right time? Is it best to just get all the hard words out of the way?
Telling Taehyung would feel like you were lying to him. It would suggest that the feelings you admitted for him were gone, and that you were completely focused on Jungkook. As much as you wished that were true, the burning sensation in the pit of your chest and the nervousness running up your legs told you otherwise.
Taking a deep breath, you made a quick decision. “Tae, I’ve got something to tell you too.”
Taehyung nodded, his usual steady gaze now darting across the wooden panels on the floor. “I already know,” he whispered softly.
When you didn’t respond further, he slowly nodded, his eyes still flickering downwards. “That’s great.”
You swallowed your pride and nodded in agreement. When you were with Jungkook, it was easy to forget about your feelings for Taehyung and instead focus on whatever you had with Jungkook, but in that moment, you couldn’t help wondering if you were doing the right thing. Of course, Jungkook was sweet and funny with a childish side that kept you on your toes, but there were also things about him that got you questioning whether you were forcing something that would never work. He was hot-headed, protective, and he hadn’t established which lines he shouldn’t cross with you. Being with Taehyung reminded you of how comfortable you could be, because you knew each other inside out so you didn’t need to try with your friendship. It just… happened.
You shook yourself out of your reverie. Taehyung was probably well aware of what you felt for him, and yet there were no signs that those feelings were reciprocated. He didn’t see you in that way, whereas Jungkook did. Sure, you were going to have to work hard for your relationship to work, but you were determined not to pine for what could’ve been with Taehyung. Jungkook was right; he hadn’t been thinking of you. Although he’d made up for it when it was pointed out to him, not once had Jungkook forgotten about you or left you for someone else. You were doing the right thing. Doing the best thing.
“And do you still… like me?” he asked tentatively, causing your stomach to flip.
The answer was at the tip of your tongue, one breath away from slipping out of your mouth. It was the real answer, the one taking a beating at your conscience every time Jungkook smiled at you with gentle eyes and blushed cheeks. The easiest option was to say that you liked the boy who saw your dancing and the joy in your eyes, but the boy currently pressed against your side saw your fiery temper and learnt your deep thoughts, and still accepted you as you were.
But you sometimes, the easiest option wasn’t always the most honest.
Taehyung looked up with a sorrowful gaze, and as you locked eyes, you knew he saw straight through you. Although you didn’t respond to his question, a shy smile appeared on his lips, making you turn red and look away in shame. However, Taehyung squeezed you hand as if to say it’s okay, I understand.
“Come on,” Taehyung said suddenly, standing up and holding out his hand to help you. “We’ve got hours left here, and it’s only fair to celebrate that you’re no longer single, because that’s a miracle in itself.”
“You little bastard,” you groaned, but there was a smile on your face, knowing that Taehyung’s coping mechanism was keeping busy and insulting you at the same time. “The sad thing is, I’m technically still single, just not available.”
Taehyung grinned, his eyes glinting. “It’s a miracle that you even managed that,” he said cheekily.
“You’d better run, Taehyung, while you still can,” you threatened.
However, Taehyung just laughed, throwing his head back as he did so. The sound filled your heart with happiness, the nagging thoughts of Jungkook and the guilt about Yeji disappearing. “Come on,” he repeated, “let’s go have some fun.”
Taehyung took your hand gently and pulled you into room after room, and you soon relaxed and let the weight of your worries be lost in the back of your mind. Taehyung found most of the paintings hilarious, laughing at their expressions and managing to mimic the same face in each one, causing your camera roll to be filled with Taehyung posing next to paintings. It was just like old times, as you pointed out the ugliest statues and said ‘that’s you’ while Taehyung said he couldn’t tell the difference between you and the litter bins. It was as if time had been rewound back to your high school days when you went on similar trips, with your classmates asking Taehyung to hang out with them, but he always refused and stayed with you. You constantly objected, telling him to be with his other friends, but his response was always ‘who needs other friends when I have an idiot best friend?’ or ‘they don’t laugh at my jokes like you do’.
There were small booths playing videos explaining the history behind the knowledge in the museum, which you and Taehyung were more than happy to sit in to rest your legs. Taehyung watched each video eagerly, leaning forward on his seat as his eyes followed whatever was on the screen. You found yourself getting fidgety during an extremely long video about science, and you couldn’t keep still. Taehyung was intently focused, so you thought you would slip away to grab a snack in the café room before you fell asleep.
“I’ll be back,” you whispered in his ear.
However, Taehyung flung his arm across your lap to prevent you from standing. “It won’t be long now,” he muttered, knowing that you were getting bored.
His hand gripped onto your leg, and although he wasn’t holding on very tightly, you didn’t try and fight him. Instead, you let him absentmindedly play with the fraying rip in your jeans, his thumb stroking your exposed skin and sending tingles through your veins. Not good, your mind was shouting at you. Think of Jungkook, think of Jungkook. But you couldn’t. You knew that there had to be boundaries, but you couldn’t bring yourself to build them, especially when you’d been having such a good time. It was funny how the simplest act of affection from Taehyung left you immobile, whereas if someone else had done the same, you wouldn’t have noticed the roughness of the hands or the coldness of a bracelet trailing against your skin. But you removed Taehyung’s hand and went to the café anyway, telling yourself it meant nothing to you.
After leaving the museum and arriving back on campus, you turned on your phone as immediately it bleeped and buzzed with the missed calls and text messages flooding the screen, with one name on each one: Jungkook.
Not bothering to read his frantic words, you called him back straightaway. The phone only rang twice before he picked up. “Why didn’t you text me?” he asked, not bothering with hellos.
“We weren’t allowed phones inside,” you explained, watching your classmates say goodbye to each other before making their way home. “I would’ve got it confiscated if I’d tried.”
You heard him sigh at the other end. “I was so worried,” he muttered, but despite how quietly he spoke, you picked up on the upset tone.
There was a silence, in which you imagined Jungkook biting his lip in thought. “I think we should practice tonight.”
“Ah, Jungkook,” you moaned, “I’m so tired! Let’s do it another night.”
“Well… if you’re sure… it might do you good, you know. I don’t want you being sad by yourself.”
“And why would I be sad?”
“You saw Taehyung today. Usually that doesn’t put you in the best of moods.”
You thought about it for a few moments, thinking back on the times where you yearned for Taehyung so much that it reduced you to tears whenever you realised that you didn’t stand a chance. “No, I feel better. Much better, actually. We had a good time.” Telling Jungkook this probably wasn’t your best plan of action, but you didn’t want to lie about feeling happy.
That’s what hit you the hardest. You should’ve been feeling worse, you should’ve been aching for him and wishing that it could be different, that there could be more between you. All the anguish and sorrow from the past few months was no longer there, and you knew it was because Yeji was out of the picture. You wished there was some part of you that was sad, as talking to Jungkook and hearing the longing in his voice would’ve been easier to accept if you had been. Because when you were sad, Jungkook could pick you up and take you under his wing, but because you were happy, you didn’t need his comfort. You didn’t need that longing. Sometimes, loving Taehyung got you out of bed in the morning, but sometimes, it left you crying into the sheets and wishing someone could help you up.
“I’d better go home,” you uttered, before hanging up the phone on the silent Jungkook.
He wasn’t happy, and you knew it was because he didn’t like the idea of you having a good time with Taehyung. Jungkook was aware that you hadn’t moved on from him, so his protective side was in overdrive because of it.
Were you just giving Jungkook false hope? Could he really help you move on? He was willing to love you, but it felt like a fairy tale; it was a pleasant idea, but when put into the real world, it felt flat and unthrilling. Instead, you yearned for something you couldn’t have, along with the intense fear that it would be all you’d ever feel.