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Glitch (not the end of the world)

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Yoongi's first clue that there's been another glitch in the multiverse is when he wakes up to the sound of Hoseok screaming.

"What the..." he hears Seokjin mutter, and there's a brief burst of light in the room as he checks the time on his cellphone. "Ugh, it's 4 am."

There's another scream and a thump from the next room, as though someone's fallen to the floor. This time they both sit up, exchanging glances, before getting out of bed and heading for the door.

"Where am I?" Hoseok says, tearstained, clutching his knees to his chest as he sits on the floor by the bed. Jimin kneels beside him and wraps a comforting arm around his shoulders. "What's happening?"

This guy isn't his - not their Hoseok, Yoongi corrects himself - that's pretty clear at a glance. His hair is plain black, longer and messier than it should be. His face is rounder, softer. And just visible on his left thigh, peeking out colourful and tangled from under his shorts, there's a tattoo that Yoongi has never seen before.

"So it's happened again," Namjoon says with a sigh, crowding up against the rest of them all gathered in the doorway. "Another glitch."

"Glitch?" Other-Hoseok says blankly. "What - what do you mean? Someone tell me what's going on!"

"We will, I promise," Jimin says soothingly. "We'll explain everything."

Other-Hoseok wipes at his eyes and finally looks towards the crowd at the door. "Yoongi-ah," he says, very familiarly, eyes widening with what looks like recognition or hope, and something warmer. "Thank goodness, you're here too."

"No, I'm not - I'm not," Yoongi says, shaking his head, biting his lip hard enough to bleed. "I'm not your Yoongi."

Other-Hoseok just stares at him a moment, eyes dropping down for some reason to Yoongi's legs, then abruptly bursts into tears again.

So that goes well.

 

It's been happening for a few months now - glitches in the multiverse, fallout from some interstellar battle or a divine war. It must be happening in some place, some time that too far away from their own strand of reality to affect them more than the occasional ripple.

Some days the sky flickers green, then red, before returning to blue. The cornerstore is suddenly a seafood restaurant, and a few hours later a cornerstore again. Dogs start to meow, terrifying themselves as well as their owners, then quickly and with relief resume barking again.

More often, it's people that are affected - whisked away elsewhere and the vacuum quickly filled by their other selves, the could-have-beens and what-ifs and alternate versions of the multiverse. It was weird at first, but humans are adaptable, and very soon it was no longer shocking to hear that so-and-so had to skip a few days of work or cancel on a scheduled dinner due to being temporarily and inconveniently misplaced in the wrong timeline.

"Just last month, we had four full days with the girl version of Namjoon," Yoongi says. "She was like you, she wasn't an idol in her world either. One day she's at university, studying history of literature or whatever - then the next thing she knows, she's here with us."

"Wow, really?" Other-Hoseok laughs, his eyes crinkling above his facemask. "Was that very strange, meeting Namjoon as a girl?"

"It was a little odd," Yoongi admits. "But she was just like our Namjoon, honestly. She talked a mile a minute, and she listened to a lot of hip hop, and she cared a little too much about fashion."

(There's still a section in Namjoon's wardrobe given over to the surprising quantity of clothes and shoes that Other-Namjoon had managed to accumulate in less than a working week. "I like looking at them," Namjoon confessed when Yoongi suggested he give them away and reclaim the space. "Other-me had really good taste."

"And," he says more slowly, quietly, stroking the sleeve of one of her coats, "I liked her life. Just being a student, just going to class and learning new things all the time. Four days, hyung. I could've easily stayed four weeks. Longer, even."

"Joon-ah..." Yoongi doesn't know what to say.

"Ah well," Namjoon says, flashing him a quick, dimpled smile that only seems a little forced. "Maybe one day, right?")

They're walking down by the river as the sun sets, both of them with their facemasks pulled up and snapbacks tugged low over their hair. Other-Hoseok chafes at it, disliking the need for disguise, but he hates being cooped up in their dorm even more. In his own timeline, he lives an ordinary life as a private citizen; and Yoongi's pretty sure he's not the only one who looks a little wistful when he hears this, remembering a time before their faces were plastered across billboards and the sides of buses.

Luckily this is a period of downtime, a breather between tours when they should be working on new songs and new choreo. So they have the time to take him out of the dorm and get to know him a little. Namjoon takes him to the studio, Jimin and Jungkook to dance practice, Seokjin and Taehyung out for meals or shopping.

Yoongi does a little bit of all the above. He probably - definitely - spends the most time with Other-Hoseok out of them all.

"I'm comfortable with you, hyung," Other-Hoseok says simply, when he seeks Yoongi out after dinner to ask if he wants to go for a walk, or slips into his studio and curls up quietly in a corner, watching Yoongi work on a song. "I like being around you. Everything in this timeline is so strange to me, but when I'm with you, I almost forget you're not-"

Almost, Yoongi thinks, something twisting in his gut, but not quite, watching as Other-Hoseok cuts himself off, looking away with a flush on his cheeks.

 

In the world Other-Hoseok comes from, he and Other-Yoongi are lovers. More than lovers, perhaps. Something deeper and more destined than that.

"See, right here," Other-Hoseok said, the morning after he's abruptly dropped into their strand of the multiverse, curled up on the couch. The others had gone back to bed by then; Yoongi had offered to keep Other-Hoseok company, as the one person he seemed to recognise.

He pulls up the leg of his shorts - and Yoongi swallows, glances away quickly, before looking back again - exposing the dark swirls of blue and green that start mid-thigh, looking like nothing so much as a glyph or a character from an unknown language, the same way seaweed washed up on the shore can sometimes look like words. "That's our mark, in my world. So I could see straight away that you weren't him."

He reaches out and taps the same spot on Yoongi's thigh, and Yoongi almost jumps right out of his seat.

"Sorry," Other-Hoseok says, unsuccessfully trying to smother a laugh. "I didn't mean to startle you."

"That's okay," Yoongi says, shifting. He's still confused. "But what do you mean, 'our mark'? Does the other me have a matching tattoo or something?"

"Tattoo?" Other-Hoseok says, equally confused. "This isn't a tattoo, this is a - I mean - you do have marks, right? In this timeline?"

"Have what? What marks?"

They stare at each other for a while before Yoongi says, cautiously, "Okay, you go first. Tell me what this mark means, in your world."

So Other-Hoseok tells him.

Yoongi really does fall off the couch this time.

 

They find a seat by the riverside and for a while they just sit and drink their bubble teas, watching the light fade from the sky, letting the crowd pass them by.

A couple walk past, hand in hand, each sneaking shy glances when they think the other isn't looking, pink dusting their cheeks when their eyes accidentally meet. Young love, sweet and simple.

But Other-Hoseok doesn't see it quite the same way. "How do they know?" he says, when they're out of earshot. He watches them go, a furrow in his brow that Yoongi wants to reach over and smooth right out.

"Know what?" Yoongi says stupidly.

"If they'll last," Other-Hoseok says, and beneath the mask his mouth must be turning downwards, steadily unhappier. "If it's worth it. If they're meant to be." He shakes his head, voice dropping to a whisper. "How do they know?"

"Well," Yoongi says at last. He feels a little sick; it must be the bubble tea. "They don't, I guess. They just... they just have to trust that it's true. And sometimes it isn't, and that's okay too."

"It's so - so strange." Other-Hoseok is still staring after the couple, who are down by the water now, their arms around each others' waists. "I watched some dramas and movies set in worlds like this," he says, with a little laugh that doesn't sound happy at all. "Where everyone is confused and uncertain, and people fall in love but they don't believe the other person returns their feelings. I always thought those stories were the saddest of all."

Yoongi's never been one for regrets. But he finds himself wondering what it must be like to live in a world where love's that simple, that clear and easy. No guessing, no hiding.

Other-Hoseok looks away from the couple at last, turning to Yoongi with intent eyes. "Have you ever been in love? How did you know?" He tilts his head and he looks in that moment so much like the real Hoseok, Yoongi's Hoseok, that it takes his breath away. "Did they love you back?"

"No," Yoongi says tightly, heart thudding hard in his chest. "No. I've never been in love. I've never-"

 

In another world, in another timeline, Yoongi the sound engineer and Hoseok the dance teacher met at a party, introduced by a mutual friend.

Their hands brushed and that was it, that was the moment they both knew for sure.

Later that night in Yoongi's apartment, shedding their clothes and stumbling into bed, they showed each other the matching marks to prove it. It was little more than a formality, just the final confirmation of what they'd known from the moment they first touched skin to skin.

They dated for a while, holding hands and going to dinner and kissing in the back row at the movies, but after three months Hoseok said, move in with me, because why waste time when you know you've found the one? They fit together, complemented each other, a key in a lock, a hand holding a hand.

That was two years ago now and since then they've talked casually about getting married, though without any firm plans. Hoseok does want to do it, one day. Sure, it's just another formality, matching rings for their matching marks, but there's something special about the idea of declaring it formally to the world. Plus, it's a great excuse for a party.

Just the other day, Yoongi said casually, Saturday night. Keep it free. I made plans. It's not a birthday or their anniversary, so could it be...? Since then Hoseok hadn't been able to stop thinking about it, wondering if Yoongi is going to ask him for real. He fell asleep on Friday night still wondering, hoping, wishing-

-and abruptly woke up in a dorm, in a room with a stranger, in a world not his own.

So he'd screamed. Wouldn't anyone?

It's been two weeks now. Stuck here, in this strange timeline, this fishbowl idol life, where nothing is quite right, where he doesn't fit in, where he can't even go for a walk without a million layers of disguise in case he gets mobbed by teenage fans. This place where love is a game of bluffing and luck, and everyone's cards are hidden.

He misses his home. He misses his job, his friends, his family. He misses-

At least there's Not-Yoongi, who's gruffly kind and thoughtful like his own Yoongi, who looks at him like he misses Not-Hoseok as much as Hoseok misses his own Yoongi. But it's not the same.

Two weeks is two weeks too long. Honestly, all Hoseok wants is to go home.

Soon, they tell him. These glitches never last very long.

 

It's getting worse. It's getting really, really bad now.

The glitches are no longer just lights in the sky or a school where once there was a hospital, no longer your cat turned tabby instead of ginger. Things are going downhill very rapidly in almost no time at all.

There's a crack in the world where Hawaii should be, and all the news outlets - the ones that are still managing to provide updates, that is - are reporting that they lost contact with Australia twelve hours ago. The Han River flows backwards, and the birds have disappeared.

When the moon finally rises, it's the colour of a fresh bruise.

The Bighit offices and studios are empty. Everyone's gone home. There's no point going on with business as usual when there's no guarantee that their timeline will continue to exist beyond any given moment.

For once there are no schedules, no managers. There's no one to tell them what they should or must do. So they drag some futons and picnic blankets up to the roof, grab a few bottles of champagne and cases of beer, and wait for the end of the world.

"Make a wish," Taehyung says, head pillowed on Jimin's lap, pointing towards a falling star with a sparkler. Jimin reaches up, catches air.

"But look," Namjoon says moments later. He points to another part of the sky. And then another. And then another.

Seokjin starts to laugh, because what else can you do, when the sky is literally falling? "At least," he says, "we'll go out with a beautiful view. Kookie," he says, dragging Jungkook to his feet. "Let's take selcas!"

"Whyyy," Jungkook whines, but he takes his phone out anyway.

"You could've gone home," Other-Hoseok says quietly, sitting side by side with Yoongi as the others fool around. He looks worried, biting his lip. "You could be with your family right now. Why didn't any of you leave?"

Yoongi shakes his head. "It's too late to go back. Too late for any of us. You saw that footage of the roads, right?" Honking cars backed up for miles, on highways that flickered in and out of uncertain reality. "Besides," he says, shrugging, looking away from Hoseok and up towards the sky, "it's not so bad being here with - with all of you."

Other-Hosek takes his hand, interlacing their fingers. His hand is warm and callused and fits perfectly in Yoongi's own, and if Yoongi doesn't look so closely he can even pretend...

"Yoongi-hyung," he says, a little sternly. "You lied to me, didn't you?"

"When did I do that?" Yoongi says blankly.

"You lied when you said you'd never fallen in love," Other-Hoseok says, bumping their shoulders together. "I think you know that's not true. I think you've known it for a long time."

"Yeah," Yoongi says at last, because what's the point in denying it now? "I wish. I wish he was here. I mean, I'm glad he's not gonna die here with the rest of us but - I still miss him."

"I bet he misses you too," Other-Hoseok says, squeezing his hand.

"I wish I'd had the guts to say it back when I had the chance - when I had so many chances." Yoongi hears his voice crack. "Even if he didn't feel the same way, even if we're not meant to be together, I should've said something."

"If we somehow get through this," Other-Hoseok says firmly, cupping Yoongi's face in his hand, "promise me you'll tell him."

"I promise," Yoongi says, and means it.

"And if we don't make it, well." He manages to smile despite the world falling to pieces around them, and fuck, Yoongi thinks, he's beautiful. "I hope they're happy together, my Yoongi and your Hoseok."

"I - I really hope so too." Yoongi closes his eyes and leans into Other-Hoseok's kiss as the clock strikes midnight, as the stars flee the sky.

 

"Yoongi-hyung," someone says, softly at first, and then louder. He shakes Yoongi's shoulder. "Hey, wake up!"

Yawning, irritated, Yoongi opens his eyes just a fraction and croaks, "What?"

"Hyung," Hoseok says, sounding both overexcited and annoyed. "It's me. I'm back!"

Yoongi sits up so fast they bump foreheads. "Fuck," he says, but Hoseok just leans back and laughs, long loud peals of laughter that wake up the rest of the group. Fuck, Yoongi thinks fervently. He'd missed him so damn much.

They'd all fallen asleep up on the roof, waiting and watching everything go dark, certain it signalled the apocalypse. And yet. Here they were, with the sun coming up over the horizon, and the city all intact, and Hobi was back, with his blinding smile and his silly laugh.

"Oh my god, Hobi-hyung," Taehyung cries joyfully, and collapses on Hoseok all in a heap. "You're back! And we're not dead!"

(Later on, they'll find everything has returned to normal. The glitches are gone, and don't come back. Somewhere, sometime, the wars are over and all the timelines have snapped back into their right places, only a little worse for wear.)

For a while it's chaos, everyone falling over themselves trying to be the next one to hug him. "Aish, calm down, there's enough of me to go around," Hobi says, giggling, delighted really at all the attention. "Take a ticket and get in line!"

Eventually, they gather up their things and empty bottles and cans, and head back down to the dorm. While the kids are squabbling over who's first for the bathroom, and Seokjin is moaning to Namjoon about his sore back ("Why did you ever let me fall asleep on that awful futon? What kind of leader are you?" he demands; "Well, in my defence, we did think we were all going to die," Namjoon replies), Yoongi finds himself standing in the doorway to Hoseok and Jimin's room.

"Ah," Hoseok says, flopping backwards onto his bed with a blissful air. He wriggles around, finding a comfortable position. "It's so good to be home! I missed this bed!" He looks over at Yoongi and pats the mattress. "Stop hovering and come over here."

As soon as he sits down on the edge of the bed, Hobi grabs him by the waist and pulls him down, his head hitting the pillow with a thump. "I missed you as much as I missed my bed!" he says, wrapping his arms and legs around Yoongi gleefully.

After a moment Yoongi just gives up and lets himself be spooned. "That much, huh?" he says.

"Yeah," Hoseok says, nuzzling a little at the back of Yoongi's neck. "Maybe even a little more."

They lie like that for a minute or two, until eventually Yoongi can't stand it any more and turns in Hoseok's arms, so they face one another, almost nose to nose. "Hobi," he says. He takes Hoseok's hand, interlacing their fingers.

"Yoongi," Hoseok says, cheeky.

"Did you." He thinks of his promise and forces himself to go on. "Did you meet the other Yoongi, while you were there?" At Hobi's nod, he says, "And you saw the... the mark?"

Hobi blinks rapidly. "Yeah," he says, suddenly shy, eyes flickering downwards to their interlocked hands. "Yeah, I did."

How do you know? Other-Hoseok had asked.

Maybe, he thinks now, maybe you didn't need to know. Maybe you didn't need marks or destiny when you had seven years of history and knew each other better than anyone else in the world, when you trusted each other completely, when you'd carried this around with you for so, so long and there was no reason anymore to keep it hidden.

No, he didn't know. But he was willing to find out.

"Do you think," Yoongi says, squeezing his hand a little tighter, "do you think if we had those in our world, that we- that you and I would be-"

"Yeah," Hoseok says, finally looking at him again, red to the ears and everything Yoongi ever wanted, in this world or any other. He's smiling. "Yeah, I really do. Even if we weren't," he says, bumping his forehead softly against Yoongi's, "I'd choose you anyway."

It's not the end of the world when they finally kiss. Not the end of the world at all.