Title: chewed us up (and spit us back out)
Fandom: Bangtan Boys/BTS, Jungkook-centric
Pairing: mentioned Rap Monster/Jin
Summary: Jungkook had not exactly been smooth sailing through life, but sometimes, hardship came with a blessing.
Warnings: cussing because I think Jungkook curses a lot in real life, homophobia
Prompt Used: Hong Jin Young – Cheer Up (MV & Lyrics)
A number of months and years later, Jungkook would look back and realise he had been expecting, dreading this phone call. He should not have been surprised.
“I’m caught. With my tongue down some guy’s throat in Itaewon.” Seokjin said, his voice so strangely calm compared to the bomb of information he had dropped on Jungkook. Jungkook didn’t ask the obvious – it’s the biggest scoop of the year and no amount of money could buy out that kind of news, it wasn’t anyone important because if he were Seokjin would have given him a name, and Seokjin called, because once he was outed, Bangtan’s name was going down the drain and all of their past actions would be questioned, no matter how absurd it all seemed.
Namjoon hyung should know. Jungkook thought suddenly, of their US-residing leader, who he hadn’t seen in a year.
“So is this a warning call?” – Jungkook asked, and started shutting down all of his computers. Composing did not take precedent over their careers in jeopardy, bloody fuck, now it had hit Jungkook like a train. There had been few (three) celebrities coming out/being outed over the years Bangtan had been in the entertainment industry, but none of them was an idol – ex or not. There was no precedent for this, and though Jungkook prided himself on having back-up plans to his back-up plans, this was never in the picture because Seokjin was supposed to be so deep in the closet he wouldn’t even admit to being gay. He breathed in deeply, decided that he was not a seventeen-year-old anymore and he would do this without being a brat. He registered that Seokjin had continued talking.
“Hyung, sorry, could you repeat that?”
“I…” – Jin stumbled on his words, and that was the first sign of distress. “I pumped them with enough money and a promise for an exclusive interview in exchange for 48 hours. So yeah, I’m calling to warn anyone with a vested interest in my continued popularity, then I’m meeting some of the producers I’m working with to do damage control before the news hits.”
He stopped the conversation, and Jungkook realized that Seokjin was the one with his whole life hanging by a threat here. Public scrutiny, career coming to a halt, discrimination, banning by the industry – and here he was, never indicating whether he was okay with Seokjin’s sexuality or not.
“I knew. It’s okay. You’re still my hyung.”
The sound of a breath being let out broke through the static of the phone. Seokjin mumbled a thank you, I love you too before hanging up. Jungkook felt as if he just talked his mother through a divorce after a bad marriage.
He called up Taehyung and caught him hanging out with Jimin at his flat.
“Jungkook, come over and get shitfaced.” – Jimin screamed, and he winced at the volume. Taehyung’s bloody habit of putting people on speaker.
It’s not a bad idea though.
Jungkook woke up to a hangover worse than the day he discharged. He stumbled over Taehyung’s leg and Jimin’s bag before he registered the direction of the kitchen. After stuffing himself with enough orange juice to put his stomach into an acidic mess, he pulled out his phone, and contemplated calling Namjoon.
Instead, he checked the new portals. There were no articles yet.
He decided to go make pancakes. Taehyung hungover was manageable, but hungry hungover Taehyung was goddamn awful to deal with.
Yoongi called Jimin’s phone, which was lying carelessly on the kitchen table. He picked up.
“The 95line decided to deal by the good old way of alcohol. Please tell me you did better or else I’m losing faith in you.”
“Oh, Jungkookie. Good. I was gonna call you right after. I told Namjoon.”
Jungkook stopped in his tracks, before turning off the stove and leaning against the wall, rubbing his head.
“You think it’s a good idea?”
“He will find out anyway.” - Yoongi hummed, and let his phone drop too close to one of his mixers, the tapping sound grating on Jungkook’s nerves. Fucking Min Yoongi, still working as if they didn’t have a publicity disaster coming their ways.
“I don’t think telling him would do any good though? I doubt he would come back.”
“You’re telling me, that the guy who had been in love with Seokjin for half of his twenties and some more, who moved to the US so he didn’t have to deal with compromising his band because of those feelings, wouldn’t come back for his unrequited love interest who is facing an outing? If he didn’t come back to win Seokjin’s heart at all I would bet my mixers on him at least bringing his ass back to Korea to see Seokjin through the fallout. Which will be a few years minimum.”
Jungkook nodded, and after realising Yoongi couldn’t see him, made an agreeing noise at the back of his throat. It made sense, especially from Namjoon’s best friend.
“Seokjin is on the fucking morning news.”
And that’s the moment it all went to shit.
Seokjin decided to come out instead of passively letting his sexuality get out with a scandalous photo, which earned him favourable points, both in bravery and planning. The photos still hit the news portals, but twelve hours late when everyone and their mothers had seen official statements from Seokjin’s agency, analysed it to bits and voiced their opinions, whether in support, boycott, or simple indifference.
All of them were called back into work one by one to deal. Taehyung was called out first thing, being one of Seokjin’s oldest acquaintances in the industry and sharing the same agency. Jimin headed out in a rush, his manager apparently in dramatic yelling mode about how Jimin did not warn him of this fact, as if it’s Jimin’s sexuality to tell. Jungkook was the least rushed out of them all, because he got lucky and got Hobeom still as his manager and some people at Bighit must have known, in some capacity.
They asked him if he knew (which he denied), if Seokjin told him he would be coming out (which he denied), if he had known any of Seokjin’s previous relationships or even been in one with Seokjin himself (which he denied and made protesting noises at because fuck no ew.)
They finally let him go after pumping him full of rehearsed responses and non-answers regarding the issue. He shoved the offending piece of scripted answers into the pocket of his jacket, intending to burn it at the first opportunity available.
Hoseok was inside the studio with the group of near-debut trainees, running them through some routines that looked impossible, now that Jungkook was in his thirties. How Hoseok even managed to choreographed them, he didn’t know.
“Hoseok hyung, can we talk?”
He called from the threshold, then louder so Hoseok could hear him over the thumping music. Hoseok shouted for a break, and broke out into an uneasy smile as he met him outside the door.
“Nasty business, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. Just checking up on you.”
“Well, it’s not me who’s gay and had the whole nation known of the fact. Even you public people would be more affected than me and Yoongi, we hadn’t seen the spotlight in years.”
“You chose to.”
Jungkook said, leaning against the wall and realised he was being bratty again when Hoseok narrowed his eyes at him.
“Not about me. Seokjin isn’t holding up very well, he thinks it’s best to stay in the house for a whole month like Hong Seokchun did.”
He shook his head. Jungkook should shout at Seokjin about how unreasonable he was being, about how time had changed and he should be going about as if normal or else the public would think he was scared.
He didn’t finish the thought when a loud crash came from the practice room. He and Hoseok rushed in, to see the trainees holding back two people who were well on their ways to a fight.
"Fuck you, Seokjin has more kindness in him than all the people in this room combined, and you open your dirty fucking mouth which can’t even hold a note right to say shit like that about him."
The other trainee screamed back, something about it being his opinion and he could think what the fuck he wanted, but Jungkook focused on the former. He racked his brain, and then remembered Bighit did ask Seokjin to mentor some of the trainees in the acting department, and this must be one of them.
The fight ceased when Hoseok started banning anyone involved from the recording studio. Jungkook squeezed his shoulder, before slinking back to his own personal studio which nobody could ban him from.
Everyone in the band was better equipped to deal with this shit more than he was. He should stay put and shut his mouth.
It’s a disaster viewed through a tinted lens for Jungkook, the following few months. Human rights organisations and social organisations and a lot of public figures decided to have an opinion on Seokjin and his coming out, whether welcomed or not. The topic was the new rating-boost device, with every talk shows on air discussing. There’s a skit on SNL Korea emphasizing Seokjin’s photos rather than his coming out, which made Jungkook wondered if they got permissions from the agency before airing.
Seokjin was fired from most job, except for one movie. Hoseok sent him the script, and he immediately understood why. It was a typical melodrama trying to make itself look more artistic and failing miserably. Seokjin would play the second lead, with a healthy amount of appropriate friendly fussing over the female lead’s romantic escapades, and had an almost-romance with the brother of the male lead. They never kissed, never confirmed the relationship despite the blatant homosexual undertone, and the brother ended up marrying some random girl while Seokjin’s character moved to Canada after the double weddings of his friend and his might-have-been.
He heard it was a fad these days. Having secondary homosexual relationships to support your hetero main leads, but never confirming them or making them happen. He found it in very bad taste, and wondered if the Kim Seokjin before coming out would choose it at all. Seokjin of now could choose to reject and make a statement, or accept to prove to the public that he would be fine but run the risk of being typecasted for the rest of his career.
Seokjin accepted the role, causing outrage and heated debates from netizens. Jungkook wondered if he shouted at Seokjin, like he did before Namjoon left for the US, Seokjin would refuse? The result would probably be the same.
You could not judge whether Seokjin’s career was going down hill or up, a B-list actor now receiving the attention of the whole nation. But his personal life was in shamble.
He did stay in door for almost a month, despite his friends and Hoseok beating down his door. The first time he tried to go out, he broke down badly and called for Hoseok to come pick him up off his own doorstep. Jungkook was with Hoseok when it happened, so he came along. He stood while Hoseok coaxed Seokjin into bed and promised to come with the elder next time he decided to go out. He stayed up all night on the couch while Hoseok sat sleeping against the door of Seokjin’s bedroom, coming back in each time Seokjin woke up in a sweat babbling about people hating him. He read all hate mails being sent to Seokjin the next morning while Hoseok cook breakfast, then nailed the fucking mail box shut with all of his strength. He reminded himself to tell Taetae to redirect all the mails to his house instead.
After Seokjin had gone out a few times, to the grocery store, to the park in front of his house (Hoseok told him, he did not know of the sequence or the timing or if Seokjin had another breakdown, but he was glad Seokjin decided to face the world head on.), he invited all of them out to the oldest The Min’s, their old haunt - it was somewhere familiar, comfortable, and Changmin hyung had publicly voiced his support of Seokjin. He arrived with Hoseok, bundled in stuffy scarves and a long black coat. Yoongi poked at his hollowed cheek, and told him the diet he was on was making him looked terrible, really hyung, you couldn’t think about how bad it was for your perfect skin. He swatted Yoongi’s hand away and laughed, some redness returning to his face.
Jungkook sighed in relief, before steering the talk towards his upcoming album. Taehyung prided himself on the feature (which was admittedly very good in Jungkook’s opinions), Jimin told Jungkook if the choreo was easy he would shit on him when he came back early next year, Yoongi grumbled about giving Jungkook tracks and it never making into the album (it did, Jungkook just hadn’t told Yoongi yet), Hoseok promised to come to the showcase and they all put a big fucking smile on Seokjin’s face.
None of them mentioned the coming out, or the gaping hole of their missing ex-leader.
His filming started a week later, and he went like the champ that he was. He joked that after this he was unemployed and poor, so they better be treating him well. Jungkook called him mom, and sent him ginseng, citing filial duty. Seokjin personally came down to Bighit to throttle him, ignoring the stares from the staff. Jungkook considered it a personal victory.
Jungkook started his album promotions, and despite each appearance being carefully calculated by Bighit, Jungkook was still irritated by the fact that they wanted to talk to him about his hyung’s sexuality, instead of all the hard work he put into the album, or his performance. It’s fucking awesome, thank you very much for asking. He gave out non-answers, as rehearsed, at first. But then, the questions turned into prodding, asking him about his friendship with Seokjin, as if wanting the dirty but too afraid to put the primary source on TV so they were settling for over-analysing secondary sources like Jungkook.
He called Yoongi to vent, and Yoongi complained back at him about people bothering him for interviews despite not having public activities for three years counting now. They continued to shout at each other, not listening to the other party, until Jungkook screamed something about unfairness and responsibilities and fucking Namjoon who ran away like a coward he did not have that kind of leader and Yoongi screamed back at him about Namjoon flying to Korea as they spoke.
It’s their way of bonding ever since young, screaming at each other until emotions and secrets started coming out. Jungkook deflated, mumbled something about missing dorm days, with Yoongi making agreeing noises at the other end of the line. Silence followed - Jungkoook sat thinking about a mixtape dissing all the people insulting his hyung while Yoongi composed, nothing but annoying tapping sound on mixers filling the static. Jungkook fell asleep listening to unheard beats.
The next time he appeared with people probing at his hyung’s love life, he thought, fuck publicity, and started a whole speech praising Seokjin, as if he hadn’t lived with the man for eight years with all of his bad habits, instead sounding like a son defending his parents, blind to their faults. He ended it with something which may or may not allude to Seokjin liking one of the members, which made enough people scandalised to assure him that corner would not get cut. Park Myungsoo, the MC who was making crude remarks about Seokjin being unable to marry, shut up for the rest of the recording. His co-host, Yoo Jaesuk, came to apologise to Jungkook and personally show support, saying he was happy Seokjin did not have to hide himself.
Jungkook smiled tiredly at that.
Hobeom shouted him stupid on the car, all the way back to the company. He never talked back, his face planted flat against the glass. Years into this industry, and Jungkook still hadn’t mastered how to navigate it without exhausting himself. He wondered if he had Namjoon he would fare better, then immediately shook himself from the thought. Yoongi said he was back, but the elder hadn’t called once.
Hobeom had stopped shouting, but there were still voices inside Jungkook’s head.
There was an unknown number calling Jungkook, which hadn’t happened to him since he was a barely-legal idol with an army of stalking fangirls. He picked up the call.
He froze at the voice.
“Jungkook?” - said Namjoon, tone both strange and familiar.
“So you decided to come back after it has all gone to shit? Glad to know your level of commitment.” - Jungkook said, and mentally started preparing snider remarks to throw at Namjoon. Because fuck Kim Namjoon.
“Jungkook, I just wanted to say hi.”
“Go say hi to Seokjin. He hasn’t had a job offer in three months, and we’re lucky if he goes outside willingly.”
“I know. I’ve been by.”
Jungkook stalled at the timid tone. He wondered if Namjoon had ever used that kind of voice before, deciding that if he had it was too long ago to remember. Jungkook sighed, before deciding on an answer.
“Try harder, hyung.”
He said, before hanging up. It’s kind of rude, but he said hyung, so it’s not that rude.
“I came by Seokjin’s today and Namjoon was inside. Making tea. At nine am in the morning.”
Jungkook had been holed up in his studio for days, most of his schedules cancelled due to the last time he blew up on TV. There were articles, some of them wildly speculative, so Jungkook had been working like he was at early twenties, too many hours inside, not enough hours under the sun. He couldn’t be blamed for the slow reaction.
“What? Seokjin let him in?” - he turned back from his computer to look at Hoseok, who was leaning against the door with a frown.
“I don’t know. The last time I checked the Namjin situation was three days ago. Seokjin complained about Namjoon standing guard in front of his doors for hours.”
“Oh my god hyung why are you so dense when you’re the closest to him!? He had started complaining, the next thing you know he will turn all soft and mushy and forgiving on Namjoon.”
“Oh.” said Hoseok, and he could hear the fucking lightbulb switching on all the way across the room. “That’s… a good thing right.”
“No.” he pouted, and it must have looked a sight, thirty-three-year-old famous solo vocalist Jeon Jungkook being a petulant child, because Hoseok laughed his ass off and walked away.
Someone bursted into his studio, and it took him a moment to realise it was the trainee who had a fight with others trying to defend Seokjin. He made a point to ask Hoseok his name.
“Hello, Kyunghoon. It’s Jungkook-sunbaenim for you. Or at least Jungkook hyung.”
“Fine, hyung. I want to go see Jin. Hoseok saem wouldn’t take me.” - he said, his eyebrows furrowing as if he did not understand Hoseok’s action.
“Why should I?” - he asked, spinning his chair around to face the kid and crossing his arms. It looked cocky, intimidating, he had been told.
“Because I’m debuting and I need to tell him!” - the kid immediately brightened at that. “And…” he switched to a more solemn tone. “I haven’t seen him since he came out, except for the time he came to see you. I’d like to visit.”
Kyunghoon stood just outside Jungkook’s circle of barely organised digital instruments, shoes scuffing against the carpeted floor. Jungkook wondered if Seokjin had spoiled him as much as he spoiled his own maknae line. He looked barely sixteen, younger than Jungkook used to be when he debuted. He could see Taehyung’s boisterous manner, Jimin’s insecurity, and his own stubbornness draping over the kid. Bighit had a way of choosing fine characters, Jungkook snickered to himself.
“Fine. But you do exactly as I say, and your managers will never hear a word of this extracurricular trip.”
The kid cheered. Brat.
They were at a red light, and Jungkook’s eyes were wandering around until he caught sight of a pink banner. His eyes widened in surprise, taking in each words carefully. “Kim Seokjin, we support your right to love.”
Kyunghoon noticed his line of vision, then smiled.
“You didn’t know? Haven’t looked at your fancafe since then? The fans organized a campaign, there are dozens of banners like that all around Seoul.”
An invisible weight lifted from his shoulder, and he smiled. The car behind fucking horned, breaking the moment, but he was in too good a mood to bother so he just speeded away.
Kyunghoon had no manners whatsoever, so when Namjoon opened the door he stared for three seconds, bowed, then barrelled through screaming for Seokjin. A brat, and a force of nature.
Namjoon smiled at him uneasily.
He tensed, shoulder slightly raised, lips set together.
“Hello.” - Jungkook greeted, deliberately polite, making a point.
“Who was that?” - asked Namjoon, unease settling into his features as well. Jungkook was awful to deal with when he was in one of his more stubborn moods.
Namjoon furrowed his eyebrows, obviously refraining from asking questions.
“If Seokjin had procreated, I would have known. Haha.”
“You would, if you had been here.”
That shut Namjoon up, and Jungkook’s hackles raised even further, waiting for Namjoon to start making some bullshit excuses.
Coming here was a mistake. He didn’t understand how Seokjin could let him back in so easily, when Namjoon had done what he had done. Just upped and left one day. Yoongi said the signs were obvious, back then, but that’s no reasons for Jungkook to start forgiving him.
“Look, I’m sorry. That I left. I was stupid, and scared.”
Jungkook slumped, suddenly so tired. Tears prickled at the corner of his eyes, and he shut his eyes, because fucking Kim Namjoon left, carried with him half his dream, most of his support system, and all of Seokjin’s heart (whether anyone knew or not, nobody could convince Jungkook otherwise, that they had been in love with each other since the start.) He left, and it was so painful to lose his leader, but he was his fucking leader and the leader came back for his eldest hyung and he wouldn’t be able to not forgive his leader.
“You missed Jimin getting his master, you missed Taehyung’s engagement, and Yoongi meeting the love of his life, and Hoseok choreographing for fucking Beyonce. Fuck you Kim Namjoon.”
He spitted out, then took a deep breathe. It’s been awhile since he had meant something so much.
“I’ll try to make up for it, I swear.”
Kyunghoon was laughing boisterously inside, retelling tales of butt-kicking any trainees who dared badmouth Seokjin, and there were a softer laugh, one Jungkook hadn’t heard for so long.
“Try harder, hyung.” snapped Jungkook, but his expressions eased. He said it smiling like a loon, and he opened his eyes to find Namjoon smiling too.
He’s sixteen again, with Namjoon in front of him, telling them, all six of them, that they were debuting.
He was sitting in the car, pulling himself together to drive back to Bighit. Kyunghoon digged his pocket, and in a lightning fast movement, had pressed something onto the back of Jungkook’s hand.
It’s a purple seal, saying “Cheer Up!”.
“I know it’s hard, not only on Seokjin, but on all of you. So, cheer up!”
He smiled at Kyunghoon’s words, ruffling the kid’s hair. He’s reminded of Taehyung, and a sudden thought jumped to his head. He had a backlog of self-produced songs large enough that he could say it. "Let's do a reunion album."
(But that would have to wait. Maybe in a few years. Three.)
They came back to Hoseok’s frowning. He said he had covered for them, told management that he sent Kyunghoon out with Jungkook to see some street dance performances. Kyunghoon skipped up to him, kissed his cheek and stamped his hand too. Hoseok’s look of bewilderment sent Jungkook rolling onto the floor, laughing his guts out.
It wasn’t all sunshine afterwards. Seokjin didn’t find much work the year after, but they invited him on “Healing Camp” and he smiled himself through some insensitive jokes to tell his earnest story, and the public opinion slowly turned more favourable.
He still couldn’t get out sometimes, once coming to Jungkook to have a breakdown because he had went to the fish market nearby and some old geezers threw a bucket of salt water at him. Jungkook held the towels angrily around Seokjin as he shook and shivered. He called Namjoon instead of Hoseok, that time.
But there were also better times, when he went to Hong Seokchun’s restaurant and took a selfie with the owner, gaining a surprising amount of attention. Jungkook wondered why nobody realised that was a popular celebrity date spot, why nobody noticed, because Namjoon also instagramed a photo of himself, saying he was back in Korea for the fans, and it’s the same fucking restaurant. Kim Namjoon had never been known for subtlety.
Jungkook were still slaving away for his solo career, but he had a potential group comeback to plan, and sometimes it’s tiring to think of strentrous idol work when all of your groupmates were approaching forties, but he found it in himself to say that he was happy.
They entered the industry too young, all of them, and Jungkook knew if they had chosen any other paths in life, it would have been better. But they were here, suddenly complete, and they were more okay than before, so it’s enough for Jungkook.
A/N: I wrote this in 20(?) hours after I lost my initial fic of 12k to a dead laptop and submitted it in a hurry so this is a revision of the one over at olymfics. This is the first challenge I did this year and I'm so proud of myself <3