"Psst, c'mon, over here!" Namjoon was smiling, a candy-apple green lollipop keeping his teeth from touching. He was slowly getting off of cigarettes through Taehyung's gift of lollis. Taehyung grinned back. He liked Namjoon's attention, and he found himself looking for his approval or validation.
He didn't want to be alone.
Hurrying, Taehyung ran to keep up with his hyung. He shifted the bag on his shoulder, hearing the cans inside clink against one another noisily.
"Do you know what we're going to do this time?" Taehyung never really got to do it, but he was an accomplice, so he considered he and Namjoon a 'we.' Namjoon nodded though.
"Yeah. A flower." Taehyung nodded like he understood. He didn't, not really. He knew that Namjoon had a significance behind all of the graffiti that Tae had helped him with so far, but he didn't know what it had been yet, for any of the pieces.
So far, he had done a pack of cigarettes, a camera, a record, and a lone Icarus, flying towards the sun. Taehyung thought that maybe it was representative of their friends, but he could only tell the camera and record to be the two oldest. He had actually no idea who the flower could have been.
Taehyung liked watching Namjoon work on his spray-paint designs. He was always so focused. They were small pieces, but he knew exactly what to put where to make it look perfect. Taehyung admired that. Nothing he ever did in life was perfect.
His father had seen to that.
"Hand me the lighter pink?" Namjoon had a cardboard stencil held to the wall with one hand, the other extended towards Taehyun, expectant. Tae liked that Namjoon took him with him. It made him feel wanted and important. Neither of those were common feelings to the college dropout.
Taehyung handed the requested color off and set to watching Namjoon as he focused on his task. Namjoon was good at losing himself. He did it when he wrote as well. Short stories, poems, song lyrics. If either of them could play guitar, Taehyung would have probably taken to singing them by now. Yoongi had always told Tae that he could have made it big as an idol or something. Maybe a model, as least, with his looks, but Yoongi thought that Taehyung could sing well.
"What do you think?" Namjoon's voice broke into Taehyung's thoughts, preventing the younger from crying. When Taehyung looked at the finished image, he was impressed. Like he usually was with his perfect hyung.
The flower was a light pink and lilac carnation with a broken green stem. It was beautiful.
Taehyung let out a low whistle. "Wow, you really outdid yourself, hyung, it's awesome!" He smiled widely to assure his hyung that he was telling the truth, since he knew how Namjoon was about liars. The now bubble-gum haired man smiled, almost ashamed.
"Really? Thanks, Taehyungie. That means a lot." He glancced at the wall art once more and then around the street, which was still as empty as it had been. Taehyung capped all of the spray cans and placed them back in the black bag before slinging it over his back. He smiled again, remembering the first time Namjoon had brought him, how they had almost gotten caught. That had been a wild ride, and frankly, Taehyung kind of wanted to do it again.
"You might as well move in with me," Namjoon said suddenly as the two boys headed to the subway station. "I mean, you practically live with me anyway. And your place has too many...memories." Neither of them mention that Jeongguk had been killed right outside in the street. Or that there were fights that had gone one a lot between some of them when they were shit-faced drunk or high off their asses, or sometimes even both.
"Might as well. I don't see any point in having my own place if I haven't even been there in a few weeks." Namjoon nodded. In reality, they were both scared. Neither of the boys wanted to be alone while all of their friends were dead, having died from terrible deaths. It was better for them to be together, and Namjoon thought that not only was there safety in numbers, it was less likely for either of them to commit suicide if they were together - Yoongi, Jimin and Hoseok had all been their own downfall, and Namjoon was not liking those odds.
"Do you have anything we need to get from your apartment?" Namjoon figured that it was best to get it now, before they got on a train headed to his own place in the opposite direction of Taehyung's.
"Yeah. Some clothes, a picture or two." Taehyung looked down, knowing the significance of what he was going to get. Namjon nodded and bought the train tickets headed downtown, where Tae's apartment was. Honestly, he wouldn't be surprised if they would have to break in to get the stuff since Taehyung probably hadn't paid rent in a while.
They rode on the train in comfortable silence, Taehyung resting his head on Namjoon's shoulder. Both of the boys were lost in thought, but woke up when their stop was coming up. Taehyung shifted the bag from the floor, onto his shoulder, enjoying the rebellious 'clink' that the spray-paint cans gave off. They just oozed trouble, and Taehyung loved it. Even downtown, it was somewhat quiet, since it was three in the morning.
Namjoon followed Taehyung even though he knew where the place was. It was like the boy was possessed, headed towards a place he'd hoped he'd never have to see again after this.
Luckily, the door wasn't locked or sealed, even though it had been a few weeks since anyone (Jeongguk, actually) had been there. With a hesitant hand, Taehyung pushed the door open. It smelled bad in the all-but abandoned apartment, but that was to be expected.
Namjoon kept silent as he found a bag in the top of one of Tae's closets. He shook it open and held it out for Taehyung to put his things into. Tae dropped in a few shirts that he liked, a jacket, an extra pair of shoes and pants. And then two picture frames. One of the photos was a picture of all seven friends, taken at that ice rink when they had gone out of the city with Jeongguk, and then the other one that Seokjin had taken - the ones that had won the photography contest back in high school, with Taehyung wearing Jin's had at that dingy and drab playground with the dull bark chips.
Namjoon stayed silent as Taehyung walked around one more time, looking at the walls that had seen more of him that many of his friends ever had.
Namjoon had also kept silent as Taehyung nodded and walked out of the apartment, ready to leave that piece of him behind in the dust, reeking of booze and spoiled food.
The two boys - Namjoon holding Taehyung's bang, and Tae carrying Namjoon's - headed out to the subway station once again, this time to go to Namjoon's place, out in the outskirts of the city rather than in the center.
It was quieter out there, and the two boys didn't always want to fill the silence, but sometimes they did. Sometimes, Taehyung would sing songs that his mother taught to him ages ago, before she disappeared, leaving him and his sister with his father. Sometimes, Namjoon would teach Taehyung what English he remembered. They kind of passed time in a state of purgatory, between life and death, almost lost.
A few months later, Taehyung was walking home from his job at a supermarket. He headed towards Namjoon's job to hang out. He was listening to music, happy that his life was turning around, when he found himself wanting to do something stupid. He knew that Namjoon was almost finished with his 'art pieces,' which had been added to. A pair of wire glasses and a single lily flower joined the first five pieces. Tonight is the last piece.
With a wide smile on his face, Taehyung ran to Namjoon's gas station to ask permission for something.
"Namjoon!" Taehyung was out of breath by the time he got to the gas station, but luckily, Namjoon was outside. He watched with amusement as Taehyung bent over to try and fix his heart beat.
"Hey, what's up Tae? And aren't you forgetting something?" Taehyung blinked.
"Ah, sorry hyung." His heart dropped, realizing how familiar the words sounded.
"It's okay. You look excited." Namjoon smiled. "What did you want to ask?" Namjoon looked around, but there wasn't anything for him to do without customers. He knew Taehyung was itching to ask for something,
"Ah, I want to, when we go out tonight, I want to maybe do a piece like you do?" Or to mess around with the paint?" Taehyung had a light in his eyes that was different from any that Namjoon had seen before. He smiled and nodded to the younger boy. Taehyung's face lit up and was so excited.
"That sounds like fun, Tae. I get off in a little bit if you don't mind waiting for me before we head home?" Taehyung pretended to think.
"Okay, hyung. I'll go wait inside for you." Taehyung's smile, which had been buried for so long, was finally shown, and Namjoon smiled as well. He watched Taehyung go inside the convenience store before turning to watch a truck to pull into the gas station. He walked up to the driver side to ask if they wanted help.
Inside, Taehyung wandered up and down the short aisles, looking at what the decent store had to offer. Tae looked into his wallet and was pleased to find enough for two bowls of ramen. Excited, Tae ran outside to ask if Namjoon wanted any. He did, and for the flavor, he said to surprise him.
Taehyung chose two random flavors of ramen when he went back inside, wanting to try them both. He knew when Namjoon got off, so he waited to make it, sitting outside, chewing gum as he watched.
Gum that he had swiped while the girl at the register had rung him up, but Namjoon didn't know that.
When Namjoon finally got off his shift, Taehyung grabbed the plastic bag with the two cheap ramen bowls and stood up, stretching. Taehyung was supposed to have been thinking about what he was going to paint, but that's not what he did.
Instead, he thought about his sister.
What was she doing? She was a year and a half younger than Taehyung, so he hoped that she was maybe living on her own now, or with a friend. Maybe she went to school, she had always been talking about how much she loved to draw - maybe she had made it into art school? Or maybe she was just working, like him, trying to make ends meet. He'd have to try and visit her sometime. He hoped that she had a phone now.
He'd probably have to go back to his father's house to find out. He wasn't looking forward to that. He hoped that she didn't still live with him, taking his drunk and abusive behavior every day. That would absolutely destroy Taehyung, knowing that he had left her to such a fate. He'd have to go look soon.
When Namjoon and Taehyung were done eating, Taehyung pulled out a notebook and practiced writing different words to see what he thought would look the best.
"Hey hyung, how do you write 'unnecessary' in English?" Taehyung looked up, wondering if the word would look better like that than in hangul. Namjoon looked up from his book and spelt the word aloud for Taehyung. Diligently, he copied it down and thought about how it looked.
"I like it. Namjoon-hyung, I wanna do this one." Taehyung took the notebook over to Namjoon to show him the word. "See?"
"That's nice. Do you know what color yet?" Taehyung shook his head at Namjoon's question.
"I think that I'll figure it out while you're doing your thing. Hopefully." Taehyung chuckled dryly, turning to look again at his handwriting, set to memorizing the spelling.
"You know, you can write it down on your arm, Taehyungie. Unless you want me to write on your arm for you?" Namjoon chuckled, reaching for a pet to write on Tae' shockingly tan skin. Tae grinned and watched he the older boy, admiring the way his letters looked in red ink. Namjoon had very different handwriting from Taehyung's.
"When are we leaving, hyung?" Taehyung looked up innocently, looking ignorant enough for anyone to erase doubts that he had killed a man.
"I think in a little bit. I'll be quick this time since I know where I want to do my piece, but you should decide were you want yours." Taehyung nodded.
"Will we be anywhere near downtown? There's almost no way that we can get anywhere near uptown, so I think that'll be easier."
"Yeah," Namjoon said. "I think that's doable." Namjoon placed the red pen on the table next to Taehyung's half-empty notebook, and then headed to put his book away before changing. It was kind of cold outside, so he needed to dress warmer.
Taehyung started to daydream. Or rather, he slipped into a memory.
He was seventeen, and his sister had yet to turn sixteen. She would in a month or so, she was still fifteen. She was too thin and pale for her age, in Taehyung's opinion.
She was pretty though, and she'd be absolutely stunning if she'd ever have a good night's sleep. But the fear prevented her from that, the nightmares keeping her from sleeping completely through the nights, even if Taehyung slept with his body encasing hers.
His sister was everything then. But when he started to hang out with Jeongguk and when he was given dreams of college, to study the mind and to find out why it happened like this, he jumped and he took it.
Regardless of the price. Taehyung was hoping that it had just been half of his sanity, all but one friend, and any chance of sleeping through the night. He hoped his sister was okay.
Kim Jae-eun was an innocent girl that didn't deserve what life had given her. Taehyung was going to find her as soon as possible.
Taehyung remembered her birthday. Their father was working that day, and some of Jae-eun's friends at school had made her look so nice with makeup. She looked so cute, but she sad;y didn't have anywhere to go, even in that dress that Rae had managed to buy from the secondhand store with money scraped together from vending machines and couch cushions.
Their father didn't share money.
Seokjin had given Taehyung a cupcake earlier that day, and Tae saved it so that Jae-eun could have it. She had loved it, Taehyung knew. It was a nice sixteenth birthday for her, better than any birthday Taehyung had had.
But it hadn't lasted. Their father had some home early, before Jae-eun could wash her face and hide the dress.
That night wasn't the first he had been knocked out, only to wake up with an aching stomach and a bruised, crying Jae-eun.
"Ready to go, Tae?" Taehyung was snapped out of this thoughts by Namjoon.
"What was that? Sorry, hyung." Taehyung looked ashamed, but Namjoon shook his head and repeated himself. "Ah, let me grab my jacket, and we can go!" Taehyung tried to look cheerful again, but when he didn't think that Namjoon was looking, we was serious once more, Namjoon knew that Tae had secrets, but he always tried to let him have his space.
Taehyung grabbed his jacket and shrugged it on, along with grabbing his boots and the designated spray-paint can bag. Taehyung liked to call it his ARMY bag. Namjoon let him leave first, and locked up behind him, even though Taehyung had a key himself, he was too lost in thought. He'd probably forget. Namjoon didn't really want any vagrants to wander or make their way inside of his and Tae's place.
There was a silence between the two boys once again as they made their way to the subway station, but neither of them saw a need to fill it. Taehyung was thinking, and Namjoon was respecting that he needed time to do so, and was even happy to give it. The younger had paid the same respect many times in the years they had known each other.
"You looked spooked earlier, Tae, is everything alright?" Namjoon knew that it was a dangerous question to ask, but he waited up until they were on the train to ask it. Taehyung looked up from place on the floor he had been staring at.
"It's my sister. I'm worried about her." Taehyung confessed to Namjon, figuring that there was no reason to hide anymore. Namjoon blinked.
"You have a sister? I thought you were an only child?" Taehyun smiled bitterly and shook his head.
"It wouldn't be so bad if I was an only child, but I have to worry about Jae-eun. She never was too good at standing up for herself, and she doesn't bite back like I do." Taehyung blinked slowly, looking forlorn and like he missed his sister too. They must have been close, Namjoon thought.
"Why would you have to worry about her? It sounds like she depends on people, but if you're her brother, I'm sure that she has to at least pick out good people." At this, Tae started laughing bitterly.
"Namjoon-hyung, no offense, but I'm fucked up. There's a whole lot wrong with me, so I can only hope that I was selfish and took all the shitty traits, leaving her with all the good ones." Like the ones that made her out to be an easy target, someone their father took his time with when he was even minorly inconvenienced.
"Taehyung, we all make mistakes. We can't help that, it's part of being human. But you have good in you. I mean, I still hang out with you, right? I still sleep right next to you in my bed."
"Mainly because the only other places to sleep are the floor or the couch." Taehyung was in a sour mood, Namjoon could tell.
"I wouldn't let you stay with me, Taehyung, if I didn't want you in my place. You should know this by now." Namjoon put an arm around Tae's shoulders to try and reassure the younger boy. Namjoon didn't really know what else he could have done in that moment.
The train arrived.
The two boys stayed quiet as they headed to where Namjoon wanted his last piece. Taehyung had to resist the urge to hold Namjoon's hand as they walked. It would have made him feel safer.
"Hyung, what's your piece this time?" Taehyung looked both ways before duping the black ARMY bag on the ground, the cans inside clinking noisily against one another. Namjoon grinned.
"Just watch, you'll see." He sent a wink over his shoulder and held his hand out. "White?" Taehyung saw that he was free-handing this piece. The only other one he had done like this was the eyeglasses. Tae dug through the bag and handed the correct can to Namjoon.
The only other color he used was blue. A light blue and a dark blue, and it turned out to be a single butterfly. The pale colors of the wings stood out against the dirty wall, a ray of hope that Tae knew would soon be erased.
"What do you think?" Namjoon glanced at Taehyung, his finger still on the spray nozzle.
"It's perfect," Tae said. "You're brilliant, hyung." Namjoon flushed, still not used to people understanding his intentions. He nodded and capped his spray can. He tossed it in the bag, and Taehyung was amazed that it actually made it.
"Let's get something to drink before we go to your spot?" Tae nodded and zipped up the bag, throwing it over his shoulder. Namjoon and Taehyung made their way to a nearby 24-hour mart and that was when Namjoon realized that he only had money for one drink. He didn't see Taehyung snatch the second drink.
When the boys were far away enough from the store, Taehyung pulled out the stolen drink, and Namjoon was shocked, yet impressed. "Holy cow,Taehyung, that's, well. It's not okay, but that's a cool trick." Namjoon tried to play the part of a concerned parent, but it obviously didn't suit him. It would have suited Seokjin though.
Taehyung shrugged and took a sip. "Aw man, I was going for alcohol." He looked at the label and saw that he had grabbed a cider or soft drink instead. At least it wasn't juice. Namjoon laughed at Taehyung, and then covered his mouth. But then Taehyung started to laugh too.
When Namjoon and Taehyung got home later, a new scarlet word painted on the city, they both fell asleep quickly. It was so late. Taehyung relished in the small distance between him and his hyung. That didn't stop him from having a nightmare.
"How does that look, hyung?" Taehyung looked over to Namjoon, who was leaning against the wall that Taehyung was spray painting. Tae was trying to get Namjoon's seal of approval, and the older man smiled, but before he could speak, a light came on. The cops had caught them in the act, and so they did the most logical thing - they ran.
Of course they were caught. They hadn't gotten far, and Taehyung winced when he was shoved against the patrol car, being handcuffed. He looked to Namjoon, desperate to know if his hyung hated him or not, reaching for any handful of reassurance, but Namjoon just looked pissed and his glare was looking straight through Taehyung, even if he was smiling.
He had failed. Taehyung didn't have anyone left in the world that liked him. Surely his sister hated him, since he had left her with their beast of a father. Taehyung was all alone now.
"Taehyung!" Namjoon's shout had woken Tae, the older man having been moments from shaking Tae. "Taehyung, you were whimpering, and even though you had all the blankets, like usual, you were shivering. What were you dreaming about?" Taehyung didn't say anything and simply started to cry.
"Hyung, I'm sorry." He sat up and hugged Namjoon while bawling. "I'm, so, so sorry hyung. I'm sorry." They sat like that for a while, until Taehyung couldn't cry anymore, and even past that, until Taehyung fell back asleep. Namjoon stroked Taehyung's back the entire time, hoping to help the haunted boy. He reassured him that everything was like it had been and that he only had a nightmare, but Taehyung had just sobbed.
Not just over the nightmare, but over everything. He finally cried over the loss of all of their friends, over how relieved he was to have gotten out of his father's house, over how many bad things he had done. He was sorry for everything, not just allowing Namjoon and himself to be caught in the dream.
He really was sorry.
Because of the restless night, Taehyung ended up sleeping most of the day while Namjoon kept his regular schedule, and even called in for Taehyung, saying that he was sick and couldn't make his shift.
When Taehyung woke up, Namjoon told him the time and made him food. Taehyung was timid and small in the moment, a look that almost scared Namjoon. Taehyung really didn't want Namjoon to work his night shift.
"I can't miss, Taetae, I'm sorry. I can't miss, I don't have any more sick days and we can't afford for me to not work." Taehyung felt like something was wrong when he saw Namjoon leave that evening. He felt like he was making a mistake.
While Namjoon was gone, Taehyung wandered around the small home. He didn't know what to do with time. Eventually, Taehyung pulled out a phonebook to look for one Kim Jae-eun. There wasn't one. It wasn't surprising, but it was really saddening. That left him no choice but to call up his dreaded father.
The phone rang only once before it picked up. Taehyung's father was not the one to pick it up. It was Jae-eun.
"Hello?" Taehyung hadn't heard her voice in so long, that he forgot everything that he was going to say. He was planning on speaking to his father anyway, despite it being some three or four i the morning. Taehyung hadn't even picked up on the fact that Jae-eun was whispering.
"Jae-eun?" He whispered too, but out of a numb, shocked sense rather than a scared one.
"Oh my God, Taehyung?" She got a little loud and realized it, squeaking before falling quiet again. "Where did you dgo?" Taehyung thought for a moment about everything that had happened.
"That's not important. What about you? Jaeeun, are you still with dad?" Taehyung's tongue stung with the question, but it had to be asked, even if he already knew the answer.
"Tae, you don't understand. I tried to leave, but I couldn't make it on my own, and my so called 'friends' were no help. I had nowhere to go." And he couldn't take her in when he had been drunk and high ninety percent of the time. He was sober now though.
"Jae-eun, come live with me and my hyung. Namjoon-hyung would be understanding. Do you have a job?" Taehyung wasn't going to let Jae-eun stay with that bastard if he could help it.
"Yeah, but Taehyung, I can't let you do that." She spoke softly. And that's when Taehyung realized why.
"He's home. Is he asleep, or is he blocking your calls?" she hesitated.
"Well, both. The only reason I can talk is because he's asleep."
"Pack up. I'm coming to get you, Jae-eun. Be quiet, I'll be there soon, I promise." Jae-eun was living a life that nobody should have to live, of course Taehyung was going to get her.
"Okay, I'll see you soon, Tae, I love you." Taehyung smiled. She hadn't said that to him since middle school.
"I love you, Jae-eun." He hung up and grabbed his keys, his wallet and his phone, putting them in his jacket pocket. He made sure to lock the door, and as he was halfway to the subway station, he realized that it was dark out. He didn't know what time it had been, when he left the house, thinking that maybe it was ten at night? It really wasn't.
Taehyung sat on the edge of his seat, bouncing his leg. He couldn't believe that he was doing this.
As Taehyung was on the train, and Jae-eun was packing a little too loudly, Namjoon was standing out by the gas pumps, bundled up against the cold.
He didn't know what was about to happen, in any regards. A truck pulled up to get gas, one that he had seen before, but when the window rolled down, he saw Seokjin.
"Hyung?" Jin smiled at Namjoon's shocked face, and opened his mouth, but the voice wasn't his.
"You're gonna pay for ruining my paint job, lollipop boy." Namjoon linked, and a number of things happened in succession. A loud shot rang around the gas station, resonating in the empty, early morning. Namjoon's mouth opened in shock, a toxic green lollipop falling to the ground. It seemed like slow motion, and he fell too, soon after, as the truck drove away. Namjoon was cold, despite the layers of clothing he wore.
His co-worker was playing his music too loudly to notice and wouldn't know what happened until another two hours later, when another customer found Namjoon's lifeless body, his cell phone ringing in his pockets silently.
While Namjoon was attacked, Jae-Eun had accidentally woken her father, and he saw her packing. He lashed out, hitting her flush against her cheek. A bruise started to form immediately. Five minutes later, as he was holding her up by her wrists to knee her in the stomach, Taehyung opened the door that Jae-eun had left unlocked for him so that he wouldn't have to knock. He saw the position they were in, and he snapped. It wasn't okay for her to be abused. It wasn't okay for their father to hit them, so Taehyung did what he did next out of pure anger.
He didn't intend for it to go so far. But next he knew, he was grabbing a beer bottle and lurching forward, pulling Jae-eun out of the way and breaking the bottle over his father's head. When the man started to throw punches, Taehyung took that as a sign of his not submitting before him, and fought right back.
Up until he stabbed his father with the broken bottle, right in the spot where he could potentially hit vital organs.
It was an accident, but Taehyung wasn't even on anything, not like he had been with Seokjin, he swore. He hadn't taken anything or gotten drunk since Hoseok had cleaned his place out, and he didn't want to insult their memories.
Oh God, this was the second person he's killed. He hoped that he hadn't killed his father, and found himself regretting every time he ever wished that he would go die, but with the blood on his hands and Jae-eun's screaming, he didn't know how likely it would be for his survival.
With Seokjin, Taehyung had been frozen with realization and pain, but this time, Taehyung fled with fear and a painful glee. He ran, and ran, and ran, until he couldn't anymore.
He ran to the only place he thought he couldn't be found, and that was the abandoned pool that Jeongguk had showed them roughly five years ago. The memories had been nice there, but Taehyung felt like he was tainting the place with the negative vibes rolling off of him in not just waves but in sheets and blocks and entirely impossible amounts for any sane person.
He collapsed in the maintenance shack nearby to try and avoid the main pool area and sat, shock still for a good hour or two, collecting his thoughts. He didn't even realize that he was crying, shaking, rocking himself until he snapped out of it, the birds around him chirping loudly. He was in the forest after all.
Looking around, face numb yet with tears still leaking at a much slower rate, he spotted a water bottle. Lucky. He wouldn't have to look at the red on his hands anymore. He hated the color red now.
With a sluggish hand, as he swallowed thickly, he hesitated. He tried to call Namjoon, but the man didn't pick up. That was typical of him, since he avoided answering his phone during work. With a still-shaking hand, Taehyung dialed a number of someone he hadn't seen in a year.
"Hyung," he said, when the answering machine prompted him to leave a message - he hadn't been expecting a dead man to answer after all. He tried to not fall apart again, not wanting to sob into the receiver. "I want to see you, hyung."