Title: give all these secrets away
Pairing (or character): Jin, BTS
Warnings: allusion to depression, dark thoughts
Prompt: Jin - how does jin see himself in bangtan?
Summary: They were inching slowly toward success, and Jin was happy they were. But they weren't doing it the way he imagined it. The longer they went this way, the more Jin became an excess. There was a mountain and a half between Jin and his usefulness as a group member.
(Canon AU, Jin-centric)
Author's notes: Idek why I’m writing a fic this dramatic and sad for an anniversary, but the rapper line wrote ‘So 4 more’ so at least I’m not alone. My beta called it a love letter to Kim Seokjin, I would call it an angst-laden character study of Jin. A (late) short fic somewhat inspired by Sara Bareilles' Islands.
Seokjin gave up musical theatre to become BTS Jin. It was not a fact widely known. Jin kept it close to his heart, as a reminder to work harder. He still remembered the heat of the stage light directly pointed at him as he sang his heart out to live bands and backup singers, the palm of his classmate - the female lead, running lines and staying up all night to make props, being aware of his every move as he acted out that climax scene - from his first school club musical in junior high to the day he auditioned to be a theatre major and all he got was a big fat no.
He especially recalled the judge telling him that musical was not for him, he was too weak a singer for the effort of training for professional stage to be worth it. The man recommended Jin try something else. And Jin did. He traded costumes for flashy stage outfits, white stage lights for colourful strobe lighting, live music for heavy electronic dance backtrack, acting for dancing, and co-actors for group members.
It was mostly about adjusting to a different lifestyle, musical acting to idoldom. Forever a creature of habit, it took Jin too long to even have a trainee friend.
Jin lived with this thought every day, hoping it would go away but it refused to. That he never belonged here and one day somebody would take him off the stage and tell him to go home, his contract had been cancelled.
The fear kept Jin from making too many mistakes, despite not being exceptional in anything. And because of that fear, Jin had changed himself to fit within a mould, to assure his marketability as an idol. Performing was put on the back burner, and Jin became a visual. As in boosting-average-attractiveness, being-eye-candy-to-teenage-girls, token-member visual.
It was easy, so easy to step into the role. Firstly, because Jin had experienced the advantages of being pretty since he was young. No doubt in his mind that had he not won the genetic lottery, he would be rotting away at university trying to study for a 9-to-5 job while begging his parents for plastic surgery. So, he considered being hired for his looks a damn great deal, all things considered. Secondly, because Bangtan Sonyeondan was a group of boys so stubborn and focused on their music that they would no doubt in the future forget about selling their images. Jin was casted to be the one keeping that in check. He had almost no pressure to prove himself musically when the group was already so good with their craft.
But then, that's also the point where the entire dilemma started.
Nobody expected him to do well. The group's focus was on hip hop and rapping, leading to the vocal line having no chance to sing anything note-worthy. Bang PD-nim even waited until the last possible minute to sign him, perhaps expecting another good-looking talented trainee rapper to join Bighit and complete their hyper competent hip hop group. But awkward Jin who sang at sub-vocal level was all that they had got, so it was Jin they chose. The fact that Jin looked damn good on pictorials with the minimum amount of make-up was just a plus.
Nobody knew he spent most of his high school years perfecting vocal techniques he couldn't use anymore, nobody asked and he never answered. There were people commenting about the fact that he seemed the most out of place and lacking in BTS. Saying that even the V kid got some use to him with that deep voice and his variety-friendly 4D persona. That Jin was literally a flower planted among the cactus to soften BTS' image.
Jin knew exactly what he was getting into, despite people thinking otherwise. He knew of the masks he had to put on, the criticism that would be bestowed upon them for years to come, the numerous restrictions on his professional life as well as his personal one.
That, he could cope with at first. There was even the hope of returning to musical thanks to his job as an idol. But it only took a few months of non-stop schedules, a lot of dissing, and exhaustion, for pessimism to settle in.
The music production for the group was undertaken by the rappers - understandable for a hip hop group. But their rappers weren't the best people at arrangement and harmonisation. They had been trained to be on stage to intimidate, to impose - not to seduce. Jin might not be physically able to carry out some heavy singing, but Jimin and Jongkook might. They should be singing, but they weren't. The imbalance showed in their stages. Jin felt out of place, useless. The black leather, the shiny accessories, they suffocated him in ways he thought not possible for inanimate things to be.
Even worse, they became successful. They got a lot of media attention and fans thanks to their powerful concept. They received so many rookie awards. Their CDs sold. The rappers were praised for being good rappers, "artists" who were somehow better than the average idol. Jin knew Namjoon, Yoongi and Hoseok worked damn hard for the recognition and he couldn't begrudge them that, but it meant the vocalists would be even less heavily featured in their songs. Just Jin, actually, since he was sure all the other 6 members could contribute somewhat to their sound. Jin's style of singing just wasn't for hip hop; they had to auto tune him so much. The more successful BTS became, the less involved Jin was in their success. It was a fact, and one which weighted on him heavily.
His job as a visual was almost non-existent as their music-heavy promotion went on. His role as a vocal could very well be passed onto Jimin and Bangtan's sound would still be the same. Basically, Jin was simply not necessary if BTS went deep down the route they were taking.
His bad mood started affecting his work. Being on camera became burdensome. He smiled, but it was fake. The facade he built crumbled, bits by pieces. It's terrifying.
The robotic lifestyle, the negative comments, his own weariness all accumulated into something dangerous. Neither the fans, nor the attention, nor the success helped in dissipating it, not by much.
There were the rare days they didn't have any schedule, and all Jin felt like doing was staying indoor and not think for a few hours. He tried to convince his limps to move, but it felt better to just sit there in the dark and not see the sun, to forget that he chose something that might crush him slowly to death. It didn't even matter that he knew it could happen and was prepared for it. It was all too obvious that at that moment, the stage he was on felt more wrong than the musical stages he left behind.
All the members had other worries on their minds, from Namjoon who was in an on-going existential crisis to the younger members who should only be worrying about how to perform well and not be pulled down by more worries. Jin kept his worry to himself, and it worked, more often than not. Sensitive Hoseok looked at him weirdly sometimes, and their competent maknae always stayed by his side - probably knowing something was wrong - but Jin usually brushed them off.
He dealt with it the best way he could. He snuck out early in the morning to run himself ragged and clear his thoughts. He climbed up to the rooftop and just sit there, trying to find any ounce of liveliness to give. He showered last and cried his worries out so no one would notice because they were all fast asleep by the time he got out.
It would sort itself out, Jin reasoned.
One winter day, it all felt like too much for Jin to take. He kept messing up the vocals on one of the tracks meant for their next album. They were tight on time, and it was the worse place for Jin to be breaking down. Namjoon looked like he could be smashing doors by then, which was 4am in the morning, but all he did was gritting his teeth and telling Jin where to fix. At the end, Yoongi decided to stop them and just autotune what they have.
They must be really unsatisfied with him, Jin thought as they packed up and left. They didn't even stop him when he told them he would stay behind to practice more.
Past five in the morning, he opened all the doors to the practice room to let the cold air in. It seemed like a good idea at first, something to wake him up.
But in the end, he sat shivering in the corner of the small production room while looking at the huge discrepancy between the different versions of digital sound waves and trying not to cry.
The disappointment was stifling. He could not even do one simple task. His job was already so little, why was he not doing it right? He could felt his eyes welling up, and had to remind himself that he would look horrible the next day if he so much as shed a tear.
It felt like forever until he could calm down. But the stress settled deep into his bones; something he knew would be bad if left gone on for long. Jin needed to de-stress right that damn second or else he was going to explode and whatever that was on his way would be wiped out immediately, whether it be his band members, the staff or even this freaking useless singing career Jin sold his soul for.
The first thing that caught his eyes was a stack of blank music sheets shoved into a corner shelf, dusty and forgotten. The rappers didn’t make use of them, and the vocalists didn’t really need sheets since they usually learnt by the keyboards or through voice guides. But they were there because musicians simply had to have them at hands.
It’s his voice, having the basis but no substance to support. It’s his career, the kind of music that was genuine but backed by digital sound bites, modern mixers and layers upon layers of one and zeros, not notes and half-notes and pitch and clef. It’s him, simply a waste of space.
He angrily pulled them down, and then started writing furiously. He learnt a lot of lead sheets by heart, of which more than half he would only forget once he hits the grave. He began with simple stuff - his first song, his first duet, his first solo, his audition songs, some of the reserves he had learnt to show off his techniques without context, his favourite arrangement, a few that required vocal acrobatics and difficult English pronunciation that he would never be able to pull off but learnt out of spite. All of them musical music.
Then it got harder, and his pen slowed down. He switched tactics after finishing “Summer Nights”, turning on his old playlists and jotting down non-stop. His writing got sloppy and perhaps some of the notes were wrong but he couldn’t care less, just switching into a new sheet once the song was over. Black ink stained his fingers. Everything flew out with the music, from his anger to his frustration to this weariness from deep inside that he didn’t realise existed until right that moment where the playlist ended and his current favourite pop song started playing.
The lyrics talked of loneliness, of experiencing isolation to the point where no one could understand unless they were lonely themselves. Like an island standing in the middle of the deep sea. The music was simple but haunting.
It hit home, hard.
Jin’s eyes blurred once the female vocalist’s voice began the chorus.
Taehyung mostly didn’t manage to drag himself out of bed before nine in the morning, no matter what day. But the following comeback was less than two months away, and he had moves he needed to master because of his position at centre. So he dragged Jimin up at eight in the morning, pushed the rascal into the bathroom and had them at the entrance of the company’s building before eight thirty. Taehyung considered this an incredible feat, signifying a great day ahead.
- Hoseok hyung said to check up on Seokjin hyung in the studio, the hyungs’ recording session last night didn’t go well so the old man might be brooding in there. – Jimin said, lazily checking his phone and leaning against the wall.
Taehyun frowned. Seokjin hyung was the type to keep it bottled up, and Taehyung usually wasn’t the best person to console him, tried as he might as Seokjin’s favourite.
He ran up immediately once the security guard let them through.
The light in the studio was on. Jin hyung had locked himself in, but they could see clearly because of the transparent glass making up three fourth of the door. Their eldest was staring straight at a wall, only his left profile visible to them. He was writing music, actual notes on a music sheet with the kind of speed and intensity Taehyung only saw at rare times when Namjoong hyung or Yoongi hyung were inspired by something brilliant. Around him were sheets strewn haphazardly on the floor, signifying that he had been writing for a long time. He had headphones on.
Taehyung banged at the door urgently, hoping Seokjin would notice but to no avail. He could hear Jimin behind him, calling Hoseok hyung saying they needed to come, right fucking now, because something happened with Seokjin hyung.
Their oldest hyung looked devastated. Eyes hollow. Like he was broken. Like he lost something.
Taehyung couldn’t stand even one more seconds.
His fist hit the door harder, he even called out though he knew the door was sound proof and Jin would never hear or notice anything with those headphones on.
A body slammed onto the door next to Taehyung at the moment Seokjin hyung started crying.
- Hyung! – Jungkook screamed and his palm collided with the glass door harshly.
Yoongi hyung had to drag both of them away from the door and tried to calm them down. Jimin and Hoseok hyung was trying to pry the only window open, and Namjoon hyung had the security running around to find the spare key while simultaneously making frantic phonecalls.
All Taehyung could fathom was the image burnt straight to the back of his eyes, of Seokjin hyung pressing the headphone against his ear, crying and singing something all of them couldn’t hear. Taehyung had never felt how far Seokjin hyung was from them, but the muted movements of the oldest’s lips and the tears falling down his cheeks, those were the sight of something deeply wrong.
The sound of a sliding door being forced out got his attention. Hoseok hyung had the tiny window above the door opened, and sound started pouring through.
Jin’s hyung voice sound scratched, raw. He was singing some kind of English ballad. His voice was jarring, but the projection so loud Taehyung could make out the lyrics. Taehyung remembered something about not suitable volume and Seokjin hyung having to change his vocalisation, but that’s not important at the time. The lyrics seemed to mean something the way Seokjin was singing it, so Taehyung stopped and listened. They all stopped.
“It's like I'm standing on the edge with just a telephone wire
Trying to get to you first to say the world's on fire
Holding my breath until I know you're alright
Because the water will only rise”
He looked over to Namjoon hyung for answer, only to see their leader struck with this look. It was a mix of pained surprise, guilt and anger, a look Taehyung saw for the first time on somebody.
- We can’t wait for security anymore. I’m breaking down that door. – Namjoong hyung said. Jungkook nodded silently, and in a few seconds flat, both of them were slamming repeatedly on the door with their shoulders.
The latch bent difficultly, and it took until Jin hyung’s voice dying down for them to force the door opened.
They rushed through to find their oldest hyung staring at them with tears stained cheeks.
Taehyung could hear his heart breaking.
Jin honestly lost track of time. He didn’t even remember putting the song on repeat. The next thing he became aware of after crying was the sound of the door being slammed open against the interior wall of the studio and all of his band members looking at him. There was really no point hiding the fact that he had been crying, but he wiped his cheeks anyway. They must have arrived for morning practice.
- Sorry I made a mess. I will clean up.
He smiled, but it felt so wrong Jin winced internally. Namjoon looked murderous for some reasons, Hoseok had that resigned look in his eyes, and the others were just simply stunned.
- Taehyung, Jungkook, pack up Jin hyung’s stuff. – Namjoon ordered. – Hoseok, tell the guards I broke the door, we need it fixed later. Yoongi hyung, Jimin, help me clean up the studio; just shove all the papers aside or something. I’m calling PD-nim, practice is cancelled today. We leave in ten.
Namjoon stopped and caught Jin’s eyes directly for the first time since the members arrived. The leader’s shoulder looked heavy, and Jin wondered if they finally figured out they had a broken Kim Seokjin on their hands. He looked down, ashamed.
- Hyung, let’s go home. – Namjoon said, soft as a whisper but enough for anyone in the studio to hear.
As if on cue, Seokjin saw feet movements around him, Jimin’s deft hands picking up the filled sheets, Jungkook’s black sneakers near the couch where its owner were probably arranging Jin’s backpack.
Jin wanted to stand up, maybe help them, maybe tell them to stop because they needed to practice, especially Jin, why were they heading home? But his legs felt dead from sitting too long and having no motivation.
All Jin could manage was getting on his knees before the world turned around him and he almost collapsed on the spot. He slammed his hands down to keep balance, the heel of his palms taking all the painful weight. Someone dropped something onto the floor with a crash, but Jin held up his hands to stop them from coming towards him.
The dizziness hardly passed. He gathered enough strength to stand up. If getting back to the dorm was what his members wanted, then he would make sure he damn well followed them. Enough of being a burden.
Between the studio and their dorm’s living room, Jin’s awareness was minimal. All his strength was focused on putting his foot down one after the other. His eyes stared at them to make sure they didn’t tangle. Jin knew the boys were forming somewhat of a protective circle around him as they walked, but it was not the kind of things he could contemplate at the moment.
As the eldest came back to himself, he could feel smoothness of wood surface under his fingers, smell the familiar detergent, and see sunlight coming in from the window.
The kids were all scattered around within his field of vision, on purpose or not Jin was unsure. Namjoon and Jungkook were in a corner talking in hushed tone, Yoongi was making coffee in the kitchen; and he had Taehyung as well as Hoseok on either side of him, Jimin hugging a blanket sitting directly opposite him, all three of them within reach.
As soon as he made eye contact with Jimin, the kids offered him the blanket wordlessly. He looked like a kid presenting their parents with a painting drawn with efforts, which made Jin’s heart felt a bit lighter. He accepted the blanket, wrapping in around himself and even managing to move the corner of his lips to form a slight upwards curve.
- Hyung, talk to us.
Jin looked over at Taehyung. The kid was worried. He didn’t like making his favourite worried.
- I’m feeling better now. I always am after crying.
Jin thought saying that would make his kids feel better, but Taehyung’s frowned deepened.
- Do you… cry a lot, hyung?
Namjoon acted on instinct earlier that morning when he decided to cancel practice, but once they had Jin hyung sitting in the living room with unfocused eyes, Namjoon knew he was right. Though, now Namjoon didn’t know what other things to do to resolve the situation. Forcing Seokjin to talk was certainly not an option, but calling a psychiatrist or bringing him to the hospital didn’t seem right either. The leader had no experience with breakdown. Even before when the younger members had an episode or two due to pressure, Hoseok was usually the one dealing with that. Moreover, this breakdown of Seokjin hyung felt more serious.
So instead of crowding around Jin hyung like Jimin, Hoseok and Taehyung were doing, Namjoon pulled Jungkook aside to ask about the music sheets. The maknae brought all of them back to the dorm, hugging them to his chest as if he needed to salvage them – that’s why Namjoon became curious.
Jungkook reluctantly explained to Namjoon his guess about some hints Jin hyung let slipped regarding a past prospect career of musical acting. Sometimes, they got glimpses of a different Seokjin – weird techniques, surprisingly insightful musical comments, wishful looks – and it all made sense that before becoming a trainee Jin hyung must have been involved with musical theatre. Jungkook was in the midst of telling Namjoon about the few photos of past projects Jungkook had seen on the eldest’s phone when the subject of their conversation spoke up. They both tuned in immediately without moving from their spot.
- Do you… cry a lot, hyung? – Taehyung’s voice was full of hesitance.
- I... do, actually. Crying is a good method of stress relieving. Dealing with the swollen eyes is difficult though. – Jin answered.
A small whimper escaped Jungkook’s throat that Namjoon’s sure only he could hear. He gripped his shoulder, trying to reassure the maknae. The kid grabbed onto his hands and squeezed tightly.
Their eldest hyung continued in a raspy voice.
- I’m sorry you all had to see me in that state. Normally it’s not so bad but yesterday was a bit overwhelming and… Yoongi! Put the tray down before you spill everything.
Namjoon looked towards the entrance of the kitchen to find Yoongi hyung holding onto a tray full of coffee cups with shaky hands. He hurried over to relief Yoongi of the thing, putting it on the table near the corner where four of the members were sitting.
Naturally, they all flocked towards Jin since he seemed more receptive to human contact than before and they all wanted to provide comfort.
As all six squeezed into the small space in front of and around Seokjin hyung, Namjoon saw Jin’s eyes slowly following their movements. He looked at Jimin and Hoseok, at Yoongi, at Jungkook, at Taehyung. He met Namjoon’s eyes lastly as Namjoon was now the one directly in front of him.
The vast hollowness of the eldest’s eyes caught Namjoon off guard, reminding him of the past hour, especially the sadness etched into each note of that song they heard. The lyrics spurred Namjoon into actions then, and now Namjoon couldn’t stop repeating it in his head. The leader in him nagged at his conscience, for him to do something, say something.
He reached for Jin’s hands with the carefulness equivalent of walking on eggshells. The other eyed him questioningly, but accepted his hand nonetheless. Namjoon intertwined their fingers, and chose his words very carefully as he spoke. He trusted that brain inside his head to do its job at this crucial moment.
- Hyung. I got you. We got you. We’re a team. You don’t have to do this alone, and we don’t want to do things without you. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to carry it all, and you certainly don’t ever have to sing alone. Let us help.
Namjoon held Seokjin’s gaze with determination, willing the eldest to listen. He held it for so long he felt like saying something more, he held it until something inside Seokjin’s brain switched and his eyes cleared.
- I can’t. I can’t continue like this. I can’t tell you all of my thoughts right now but I promise I will try so please listen when I do. Help your useless hyung, dongsaeng ah.
Tears welled up once more inside Seokjin’s eyes, as well as Jungkook’s and Taehyung’s. But Namjoon reckoned this was the good kind of tears, the kind carrying the pain out of the mind with each drop falling. He moved his fingers against Jin hyung’s knuckles in a comforting manner.
It’s alright, hyung. We’ll get through this together.
It might turn out alright. Because, surprisingly, these kids sharing food and house and dream with Seokjin wanted to see him through these hardships.
He put on a genuine smile for the first time, teary but real. Namjoon pulled him into a hug while still holding onto his hand tightly.
It’s alright, hyung. We’ll get through this together. Whispered Namjoon against Jin’s ears.
Jin trusted that with his whole heart.