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15 March 2016 @ 01:55 am
I accidentally did a Bangtan  
Title: Tale As Old As Time
Fandom(s): Bangtan
Pairing(s): none, Suga-centric
Rating: PG
Warnings: Some post disbandment talk, mentions of guns
Word count: 2,786
Summary: Yoongi and Namjoon work through fame at their own paces

Also on AO3

Here’s a story you might be familiar with – a hare challenges a tortoise to a running race and loses. Sounds ridiculous when you think about it, but you stopped thinking about it a long time ago. This is primary school stuff, five years old learning how to read and how to point a moral compass. Back when you were little more than an atom bomb of untapped potential, and one of the first lessons they thought to teach you was that slow and steady always wins.

It’s the kind of story we turn back to when we’re watching everyone else get on with their lives as we struggle to stay upright. Nothing like a bit of premature glee to stifle the panic clawing up your throat that you are not moving hard enough, fast enough, with enough purpose. You are slow and steady, and one of these days you are going to swan right on past the people who burned bright so very much younger than you, and in that moment you will feel vindicated.

Poppycock. All of it. I think we’re more or less supposed to figure that out, in the real world hares don’t lose to tortoises, after all. The people who start out on the right foot tend to stay there. You may be moving slow and steady, and you may finish the race, but you don’t get to win. I’m sorry – better luck next time.

If indeed there is a next time. If the only options are tortoise or hare I rather hope everyone gets a turn.

So now you have to wonder, why feed us up on all that bullshit in the first place? What’s the point of it all? Is it tortoise propaganda, designed to paint them as the mightier race despite their obvious shortcomings? Or are the hare’s the secret spin-doctors, lulling the tortoises into a false sense of security?

Or is there a third player, lurking offscreen, without whom the full scope of the story cannot be appreciated? Enter the farmer, stage right, with his rifle tucked neatly into his shoulder and his crosshairs trained on a pair of velvet ears moving fast through the undergrowth.

So let me tell you about the farmer, let me tell you about the part of this story you can’t see. Let me explain that slow and steady has little if anything, to do with it.

Yoongi is fourteen, with the weight of his parent’s expectations and his school’s career’s advisor bearing down on his shoulders. A few years down the line and he’ll joke that they pushed so hard he was never able to push back, thus missing his growth spurt and having to stay short forever. In all honesty, he probably doesn’t have it that much worse than anyone else, but he bites his nails to the quick stressing over a future that doesn’t seem tangible enough to put into words.

There are kids in his class who want to be doctors, lawyers, football players and firemen. They seem sincere and motivated, noses to the grindstone and heads in books. It doesn’t look particularly easy, but it would appear to come naturally to them.

(Somewhere in an Ilsan private school, far away from Daegu, Kim Namjoon is listening to Life After Death for the first time and feeling the world open up before him. He finds himself stepping out of the expectations placed on him by himself and his family. He sees the sun riding high in the clear summer skies and thinks it has never before looked so very beautiful; he feels free)

Min Yoongi sits himself down at the piano because that’s the only thing he’s ever been any good at. He slips through scales and stumbles through Chopin, but he’ll get there, it just takes time.

“I’m going to be a musician,” he tells his mother with a smile.

She doesn’t seem very happy at the idea. She thinks he’ll grow out of it. She should know better than to underestimate him.

Yoongi is seventeen, alone in Seoul for the first time in his life. He will not be alone for long, but just for now he’s going to appreciate the thrill of having made it this far on his own.

The streets smell of smog and open drains, of barbecue joints and overstocked cosmetic shops. It’s glorious and wild, a frenzy of life tearing through the city at breakneck pace everywhere he goes. From the top of Namsan to the depths of the subway and out to the beaches at Incheon, everything is within his grasp, just waiting to be taken.

That’s not the point. He didn’t come here to sightsee. Yoongi still finds his fingers twisting through classical pieces from time to time but his focus has shifted. He loves hiphop now, and in a city like Seoul that’s not something he has to be shy about.

“Hey there new kid,” Ikje grins from the other side of a pathetically tiny recording studio.
Yoongi doesn’t care about size, he came here to make music. This rag tag collection of boys that form a not-quite-idol group are here for the same reason, and together they might just be able to pool enough creative resources to stay afloat.

(Kim Namjoon has already been here for half a year, he is already in charge. He’s just a kid compared to Yoongi but he has fans and a reputation and all the other trainees look up to him. He’s living the dream before the dream has even gotten started.)

Hyosang thinks on the macro scale, Donghyuk on the micro. Ikje is the wit of the group and Hoseok is almost painfully pragmatic. Yoongi finds he’s more of an ideas guy, but he needs a team to put his ideas to good use.

Namjoon arrives from a meeting with the CEO two hours laterlooking remarkably laid back, “looking forward to working with you,” he says as he shakes Yoongi’s hand. As if he ever needed any help.

Yoongi is twenty, more tired than he would have thought possible. The final realisation of the past three years’ hard work is about to hit pay off. He has poured his all into these meagre four songs and the dance routines that accompany them. He has poured countless hours into raging as to why he should even have to dance at all.

“Maybe we’ll be famous,” Taehyung hums, like it’s so very hard to believe that all this effort might be worth it in the end.

Jungkook and Hoseok roll their eyes in unison. Yoongi smiles to himself, everyone’s got their tells. They wait for the cameras to start rolling and then recite the lines so carefully prepared for them. Their big introduction to the wider world.

(Kim Namjoon needs no introduction, but he gives one anyway. It’s easy to imagine people already picking him out at the one to watch, he has the flair of the natural born artist, destined to flourish in the public eye)

It’s not an overly successful debut, but it’s not bad. They don’t get much sleep between shows, and the possibility of days off is quickly stamped out by the demand for a second album. Yoongi rather thinks that particular demand is more of a company thing than a fan thing, but he keeps his mouth shut.

Yoongi plods on, learns the motions, then goes through them.

Yoongi is twenty three, and as far as he’s concerned, he’s done. His wrists are the thickest part of his arms and his side still twinges from the appendectomy he was never allowed to recover from properly.

That was almost three years ago now, he can’t work out why he’s still here.

“I’m leaving,” He snarls when Seokjin casts and questioning glance at the neatly packed suitcase sitting in the middle of the living room floor.

Of course, Yoongi doesn’t leave. He spends the evening furious at the injustice of how much of his life is being snatched away from him under the guise of fame and fortune, but he wakes up to Namjoon snoring loud enough to wake the dead nonetheless. This life has become too much, all the time. The pace of the city, hell of the whole wide world, catches up to him, until he finds himself running just as fast as he can to maintain his unchanging position.

If he stops running, he’ll slide backwards, of that much he is sure.

(Kim Namjoon is also exhausted, but he has more to show for it. He gets invited on variety shows, releases solo songs, and gets a whole officially sanctioned mixtape to himself. He can’t pretend it doesn’t make him feel validated, he loves his group mates, but he doesn’t do this for them. When he walks down the street, people recognise him, and he feels mighty.)

Yoongi wakes at odd hours and drags himself to the studio against his better judgement. He knows there are people out there, scattered far and wide across the globe, who admire and look up to him for who he is – as Suga or Min Yoongi, whichever takes their fancy. But he feels lost, submerged below the waterline of this group’s greatest success stories. Fame came to them as a whole, but only to Namjoon as an individual.

Yoongi is twenty six, a second rate contract lawyer clucking at his shoulder as they pour over the terms of his break from Big Hit together.

“Cross that out…and that…and that…” the lawyer grabs the pen from Yoongi’s hand after the third amendment and edits the document herself.

Yoongi’s embarrassed to say that he can’t even remember her name.

Signatures. Dotted lines. The end of life as he knows it. Yoongi’s terrified of the world outside the confines of his sheltered idol lifestyle, but he can’t stay here any longer. He goes to collect the last of his things from the studio and finds Namjoon, swamped in one of Seokjin’s old hoodies, pouring over yet another new track.

Yoongi watches him, wondering what it takes to keep that kind of focus, “man, aren’t you tired?”

(Kim Namjoon has forgotten that there exists a state at which the human body is not tired. He is no longer wired like a regular person, he’s a workaholic musical megalomaniac with a reputation to uphold. His second solo album is due to drop sometime over the next three months, and when it does it’s going to eat up the national charts like no Bangtan album ever could.)

“Nope,” Namjoon replies. He doesn’t even look up.

Yoongi never sees him again.

Yoongi is twenty nine, the world is not so forgiving as he had hoped. He lives in a two bedroom flat, alone, with unsold copies of the only album he ever made solo filling up the spare room, like a particularly malicious poltergeist. Sometimes he goes in, grabs one, and breaks it, but it never offers him the catharsis he’s so sure he deserves.

He turns on the TV and sees Namjoon everywhere. Sometimes he catches a glimpse of Hoseok or Jungkook, and the dramas are full of Seokjin’s pretty face, but Namjoon commands a different position from them. Both a celebrity and an artist, variety shows love him, he adds a touch of class without diluting the good humour of their carefully constructed dynamics.

(Kim Namjoon is crumbling. Fans bought his last album in droves but the public never caught on. He’s forced to maintain a steady face for the sake of his image, but he can feel the teeth of jaded newcomers, eager for him to get out of the way so they can steal his fandom and have a proper chance of making it, snapping at his heels.)

Yoongi takes himself out to the Gangnam night clubs for lack of anything better to do. He finds all those hours spent slaving away in dance studios are best put to use down here, where he can sway into the music and get as drunk as he wants without anyone telling him not to.

A pretty girl catches his eye across the dance floor. Yoongi offers to buy her a drink. She’s never heard of Bangtan Sonyeondan but she likes his sharp tongue and sharper cheekbones, she says she wants to meet him for coffee – to be sure this isn’t a trick of the lights and the booze.

Yoongi feels a burst of forward momentum beneath him. She likes caramel macchiatos, and hates men who get stuck on their glory days.

Yoongi is thirty two years old, starting to realise that he’s really not that old at all. Young enough to daydream about all the years he has ahead of him, and already an entire career under his belt. He’s found himself reacquainted with the piano in the past few years, never quite as good as he could have been, but Fur Elise sounds divine echoing around his apartment.

Sometimes Jimin comes up from Busan to stay. He takes the spare bedroom, there’s nothing in there to pass comment on.

These days the panel shows and comedians poke their best laughs out of has-beens and sell-outs, pointing gleefully to the stars of yesteryear and demanding to know where they are. Namjoon’s name gets brought up every now and then, and Yoongi’s surprised to find he doesn’t really care.

(Kim Namjoon has lost his hold on the industry. A few of the older hiphop crowd still show him deference, but he’s old news. Big Hit can no longer wring a profit from him, so he signs to a new label and swears blind that the next album…well it’s got to do better than the last, right? He marches straight into the studio and sets to work, on the same track he’s been running since he was fifteen years old, convinced he’ll rekindle the magic if he just pushes hard enough.)

Yoongi works part time at an insurance company, because he had to do something to bring in steady money and despite his preconceptions he finds he doesn’t hate being in an office. The days he has free, he teaches piano to anyone who will pay him to learn, hoping one day he’ll have enough customers to get lost in the music all over again.

The thing is, no one expects anything from him anymore. No one wants a new album, or a pretty face, or a legend of Korean hiphop. People don’t really want anything from him, and so Yoongi’s free to take from life whatever he chooses.

He chooses music, because he’ll always choose music, but at a different angle. One afternoon, a little girl in for her third lesson hands him an old copy of Skool Luv Affair and says that it’s her mum’s favourite. That feels like enough.

Yoongi closes his eyes and feels the sun on his face, riding high in the clear summer skies; he feels free.

The farmer fires once, twice, three times at the hare. It’s a fairytale you see, after a fashion, everything always happens in threes.

So does the hare make it out alive, you ask? Well that’s really a matter of interpretation. The tortoise doesn’t see what happens to the hare, it tucked itself into its shell and hid while the hare ran ragged around the meadow. It’s so easy for one of them to stay safe from the farmer, a very different challenge for the other. Those long ears are one hell of a giveaway.

Perhaps the hare was shot and skinned and stewed – I’m sure it would make a poor farmer a marvellous dinner if he were fast enough to catch it. Or perhaps the hare merely runs so far trying to doge the bullets that it can no longer find its way back to the path, and so it can no longer win the race.

But the tortoise, well, the tortoise is safe, all it has to do is bide it’s time. If it stays still for long enough, the farmer will lose interest in the hare and then it’s just a matter of crawling out of its shell and trudging on towards the finish line. Do you get it? It’s the tortoise that stops to rest along the way, the hare is just distracted, running for its life.

It all comes down to the farmer, waiting to step in and spoil the picture. Keep your eyes peeled, tuck your ears in. If he cannot see you, he cannot hunt you down. With just a little patience, you’ll see this thing through, and by the time you cross the finish line, the winners and the losers will be immaterial.

Race well.