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A Soft Sound

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The old, black Volkswagen drives down the street, engine noisy, music blaring from the open windows. Min Yoongi is at the wheel, his heart pounding in his chest, grateful for the loud music--otherwise, he’s sure that his heartbeat would thunder right through his chest and against the car, barreling out into the night. He catches his reflection in the side mirror: dark cap over dark hair, pale skin, silver earrings, black hoodie. Yep. Dressed up for the occasion. Well. I tried.

Up in the night sky, the moon is full, lending the shadows of trees cast on the gray road a ghostly quality as they drive over them--watery, not really there. In the passenger’s seat, Jungkook is uneasy: tonight is Friday, usually reserved for movie nights in Yoongi’s basement with him and Namjoon, not driving down the rich kids’ neighborhood with the manicured lawns and shiny Range Rovers parked in the driveways. The closer they get to where Jungkook suspects they’re going, the more frantically he chews the pink gum in his mouth, already tasteless, a little too ground-down. When they pull up to the curb, Jungkook blows half a bubble before clicking his tongue against it, making a popping noise that Yoongi hears even over  the din of The Ramones’ Rock & Roll High School.

Jungkook turns to look at Yoongi. “Kim Taehyung’s house? This is where we’re going?”

The glow-in-the-dark rosary Yoongi’s grandma had given him sways from the crux of the rearview mirror as Yoongi hits the brakes, puts the car in neutral. The plastic bobble-head dog on the dashboard shakes its head as the bass reverberates. Jungkook reaches over to eject the old cassette from the radio, interrupting Johnny Ramone mid-sentence. 

“Hey! You know the radio rules--”

“--yeah well, they don’t apply when you don’t tell me where the hell we’re going and why we’re outside annoying rich kid jock’s house. Fuck. Namjoon’s going to kill us for bailing on him for this.”

Yoongi shrugs. “I’m sure my mom will make him dinner. He’ll be fine. We’ll be all of thirty minutes.”

Jungkook reaches into the pocket of his jeans, pulls out a half-pack of cigarettes and lights up. “Yoongi. You know these kids are assholes, right?”

“And we aren’t?” Yoongi pilfers a cigarette from Jungkook and lights it, rolling his window down too. “Didn’t we just cut fourth period to spray paint an alley for no good reason other than we like the way the floor gets all colorful when they wash it off? Who the fuck does stuff like that?”

“That’s different--walls don’t have feelings. We don’t stuff them into lockers for fun or tease them for not being able to afford new shoes when they’re on the track team.” A crease forms between Jungkook’s eyebrows as he exhales, cigarette smoke curling out of his slightly-parted lips.

“Weren’t those the track kids? Isn’t Taehyung on the soccer team?”

“Same difference.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes as he turns the engine off. They’re parked a couple of houses away from the Kim residence where, as Hoseok had told Yoongi earlier that afternoon while they were pressed up against each other in the back of the very van he and Jungkook are currently sitting in, Hoseok’s fingers brushing against the hollow of Yoongi’s hip, playing with the waistband of his boxers: “things are going to get fucked up in the best way possible--you should come.”

“Look. I want to go because someone invited me and I don’t want to be rude.”

“Someone invited you,” Jungkook repeats dumbfounded, falling into a bout of relentless laughter. “To Kim Taehyung’s house. A party at Kim Taehyung’s house. And who might that be? Jung fucking Hoseok or something?”

Yoongi looks at him pointedly. “If it is, are you going to shut up and just trust your goddamn hyung?”

With that, Yoongi rolls up his window, opens the door and gets out of the van. He smiles as he hears Jungkook’s curiosity get the better of him as indicated by the passenger door slamming shut. Yoongi tosses him the keys. Jungkook catches them, easy--still an athlete despite having been booted off of Track last year--and locks the doors before catching up to Yoongi. They cross the street toward the Kim’s house: three stories, beautiful lawn, trembling with music, dripping in light. Jungkook takes a deep breath.

“I hope we don’t into a fight.”

 

 

Hoseok knows he’s made a mistake when he feels Taehyung’s fingers slip up and under the hems of his sheer white shirt--before he knows it, it’s a little bit too late, he’s already backed up against the grand piano, his fingers pressing down against random keys that send melody throbbing through the living room: it would be noise if the whole place wasn’t already pulsing with music from Taehyung’s parents’ expensive sound system. He can hear people jumping into the pool outside, Jimin and Seokjin’s familiar laughter as they horse around with the rest of the team seeping into the living room through the open sliding door. The first problem is muscle memory: the quick, almost instinctive way that Hoseok responds--it isn’t the first time that he and Taehyung have done this. In fact, before the summer, before camp, before the whole thing with Yoongi ( wonderful, funny, incredible Yoongi ), it was pretty much all they did when they were alone together, easy peezy: Hoseok’s hands on Taehyung’s ass, Taehyung sucking on Hoseok’s neck, both of them grinding against each other, playing games, teasing until they were both almost too hard to walk and inevitably ended up fucking (or some variation of it) in one of the empty rooms. Tonight is a familiar situation too--one they’ve been in hundreds of times before: a party, a little too much to drink.

Now, Hoseok leans back against the piano as Taehyung trails kisses up his neck, big, warm hands roaming the expanse of Hoseok’s back. Hoseok tries to form the words, to say Tae, I have to tell you something but then he would have to explain--to tell them the thing that’s happened to him over the summer: the strange, wonderful, beautiful thing that none of them would understand. Hoseok hasn’t told them about the dance thing, the hip-hop thing, the not-just-chasing-a-soccer-ball-around-forever thing and he isn’t quite sure how to bring that up. All their lives since fifth grade they’d been running out on the field together: Seoul Lions versus the Incheon Eagles, Seoul Lions versus the Daejeon Warriors. Whoever it was they were facing, the Lions went out onto that field together.

Their star core team, in particular, has a game perfected not just from practice but from years of actively competing with one another: Taehyung is the best goalie because he pits himself against Jimin every chance he gets, Jimin the best striker because he’s gone up against Seokjin a billion times, Seokjin the best mid-fielder because he’s tried to block every one of Hoseok’s shots since they met all those years ago, Hoseok the best sweeper--and eventually Captain--because he’s had all of them to play against. It isn’t that he couldn’t tell them, he just didn’t quite know what to say. So when school let out, he’d said his parents had sent him home to Gwangju to hang out with his grandma. It wasn’t a total lie: the camp was, in fact, in Gwangju.

Taehyung presses closer, starts to lick the lobe of Hoseok’s ear. Hoseok finds himself responding like clockwork: legs between legs, the rhythm of Taehyung rocking against him familiar, the old desire rising like a sunken ship. But when Taehyung kisses him on the mouth, deep, all tongue the way that Taehyung likes to kiss, all Hoseok thinks of is Yoongi: Yoongi laughing that small, deep, stone-brook of a laugh against his lips, Yoongi nipping at the mole on his upper lip, Yoongi, Yoongi, Yoongi.

“Tae--” Hoseok puts a hand up to Taehyung’s chest. “Tae, I can’t--”

Taehyung pulls away, eyes questioning, full of hurt as they search Hoseok’s face for an explanation. “Hobi? Are you okay? Sorry, did I hurt you?”

“No, it isn’t that--” As he’s about to finish his sentence, Hoseok’s eyes land on the far wall, heart racing as he realizes that leaning against it, right by the table holding the ugly Monkey lamp and a bowl of chips, staring at him deadpan is Min Yoongi, the occupant of every mushy-as-fuck daydream, every hot, steamy shower fantasy Hoseok’s had since the first time they’d made out in the back of his van that summer. Hoseok suddenly remembers his callous invite earlier that afternoon: things are going to get fucked up in the best way possible--you should come. He should’ve asked him properly, he should’ve taken him to the goddamn party-- I will, eventually, I swear --but right now there isn’t quite time to think about what he should’ve done because Yoongi is already walking away, making for the entrance.

“--I--I just--Tae, I need to go--”

“What did I do wrong?”

Yoongi takes his friend, who Hoseok remembers was one of the track team’s star runners until he quit suddenly right before the summer meet, by the wrist, making a dash for the door. Hoseok backs up off the piano and follows them, Taehyung at his heels, Hoseok still not quite sure what’s going to happen when he catches up to Yoongi--they haven’t been speaking in school, have only been meeting up at the empty lot behind Hoseok’s house after. Hoseok crosses the street as Yoongi starts the engine on the van and drives away.

“Fuck.”

Taehyung barrels into him from behind, stopping short. “Hobi. What the fuck is happening? Who were you running after?”

Hoseok shakes his head, still out of breath. “I’m sorry, Tae. It isn’t your fault, alright? I just can’t explain fully right now. I just have somewhere I need to be to take care of something.”

Taehyung frowns. “What the hell is happening to you, Hobi? I’m worried. You haven’t been the same since you got back. You’re always leaving right after practice, you never play video games with us at Seokjin’s anymore--fine, I get you don’t feel like making out but you don’t have to be so fucking insensitive. I mean, an explanation would be nice. Wait--is it a family thing?”

Hoseok sighs, tugs at Taehyung’s wrist. “It’s--not a family thing. Please just trust me. I promise I’ll explain soon, alright? I’m really sorry. There’s just something I’ve got to go take care of right now. Enjoy the rest of the party.”

Taehyung rolls his eyes but claps him on the shoulder before making for the door. “I swear to god if it were anyone else--”

Hoseok grins, slipping his hands into his pockets. “Good thing I’m me, then. See you at practice tomorrow?”

“Yeah, see you.”

Hoseok waits until Taehyung is back inside the house and then breaks into a run: down the road, and toward the bus stop to make his way across town to Yoongi’s house. His footfall on the pavement sounds like a faucet left on, tap dripping into a pool of waiting water--or the sound of Yoongi’s voice as they’d laughed at nothing in particular that afternoon, still so full of sunshine and summer. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

 

 

“Alright. What the fuck was that?” Jungkook studies Yoongi’s profile as he makes the harried right turn. “Yoongi. HYUNG. What was that?”

Yoongi doesn’t respond, only pushes the cassette tape back into the stereo, Johnny Ramone picking up where he left off: right between the rock and roll --that’s right, Yoongi thinks. Caught between a rock and a goddamn hard place. Well, we didn’t make any promises. Why the hell are you mad? A car beeps at them as they get on the main road, missing it by the fraction of a hair.

Jungkook slams on the eject button so hard the tape jumps out of the slot and projectiles against the passenger’s seat. Jungkook catches it, rolls down the window. “I swear to god, Yoongi. Tell me what happened or Johnny Ramone gets it.”

“If you do that, I will drop you off right on the curb,” Yoongi says, his voice choked from having held back both tears and anger, jealousy and the need to look cool, composed.

Jungkook lets out a cocky laugh, tongue flicking the inside of his cheek. Yoongi hates it when he does that--he knows Yoongi wouldn’t do it, could never leave any of his friends (but least of all Jungkook) out on the open road. Yoongi pulls over, leans toward Jungkook so that they’re pressed shoulder-to-shoulder, Jungkook pressed up against the passenger seat door, and wrestles the tape out of Jungkook’s grasp.

“If I tell you, you have to promise not to tell anyone. Especially not Namjoon.”

Jungkook grins. “Deal.”

 

 

This is how it starts: Hoseok needs an extra shirt, simple as that. It’s a hot day in the second week of Hip Hop camp and the people who are there for music are sweaty from the humidity, their shirts almost transparent from being soaked with sweat but the people who are there for dance have it bad on a whole other level: there are puddles forming at their feet. Hoseok has already taken his shirt off, wiped off with a towel, but the sweat keeps dripping--down his torso and under the waistband of his baggy jogging pants, making the fabric heavy so that it tugs as he dances, holding him back. The problem becomes that it’s laundry day but the power is out because of a power shortage, and the generators only back up the admin buildings and practice studios; dormitories (including laundry machines) are dead. Their dance teacher, Mr. Son, tells them to gather their things--they’re heading into the city for dinner because the kitchens didn’t have enough power either. Hoseok looks around for someone he could possibly borrow a shirt from and his gaze lands on Yoongi. Ah, yes. All-in-black, smoking-behind-the-bleachers Min Yoongi.

For the past weeks of camp thus far, it’s as if they’d both taken some kind of solemn vow to ignore one another--Yoongi had applied to the program specifically to get away from everyday life and he can’t help but feel a kind of annoyance at the fact that of all the kids at school, it had to be Jung Hoseok, newly-crowned Soccer Captain, who turned up there. Hoseok was conscious, suspicious: would Yoongi tell on him? No one except his mom knew about the dance thing--they’d told his dad and his sister it was soccer camp, had told the coach at school that it was a family affair for which he’d be missing that first week of summer soccer practice. It hasn’t been easy either, this game of pretending the other doesn’t exist because camp tradition has it that at the end of the summer, the best in music and production wrote the musical sequence for the best in dance’s final number during the Autumn Performance. Hoseok and Yoongi are currently on top, having aced challenge after challenge after challenge thus far.

In the end, it’s Hoseok who ends up breaking the ice: tables turn when the only kid you know is the one you’ve been purposely ignoring and you literally need someone to give you the shirt off their back. He sidles up to where Yoongi’s sitting cross-legged on the studio floor, mixing and remixing tracks, trying different renders on his laptop.

“Hey, Yoongi right? From Seoul High?”

Yoongi looks up at him and his heart gives an involuntary kick--he’s seen Hoseok before but never shirtless, dripping with sweat, hair swept back. He suddenly understands all of the screaming girls at the soccer games (although, there had been rumors about Hoseok being...like him), finds himself losing all capacity to put up an icy facade. What comes out of his mouth is neutral at best. “Yep. What can I do you for?”

“Um. Okay this is going to be a super weird thing to ask but--do you have a shirt I could borrow? Mine got all sweated through and I didn’t get to my laundry--well, you know how it is.”

Yoongi sighs but grins at the thought of the cliche. “Why do you popular kids only ever talk to people when you need something?”

Hoseok opens his mouth to say something defensive but ends up laughing instead, the bluntness catching him off-guard. Also, it was kind of true--after all, here he is, asking for a shirt after not having previously said a word. “I--have no rebuttal for that.”

Yoongi grins, clicking the Save button on his laptop before brushing himself off and standing up, pulling a ring of keys from his pocket and turning it on his pointer finger-- ka-chink. “I’ve got some shirts in the back of my van. You can choose.”

The thing that Yoongi doesn’t expect is that Jung Hoseok is cute--not cute the way Tom Cruise is cute but cute the way that dogs are cute. Yoongi is, in fact, quite fond of his dog. For one thing, Hoseok takes his shoes off before climbing into the back of Yoongi’s van like it’s a house or something. His socks are printed with tiny dogs. When he sees Yoongi’s assortment of band shirts that he keeps on him for when they have gigs back in Seoul and starts laughing. It’s the most open, carefree, loud laugh that Yoongi has ever heard.

“They’re all black,” Hoseok says, clutching his stomach.

Yoongi smiles despite himself. “I cater to a very specific market.”

What Hoseok doesn’t expect is that Min Yoongi is funny and not at all the stereotype of a kid who wears all black and makes sure everyone knows he is generally unpleasant--instead, Yoongi is quick-witted and matches him for every quip, Yoongi makes jokes about them living double-lives as best friends and then suddenly pulling the rug out from under everyone at home (“Imagine the Kim Seokjin’s face when you come over to sit with me at lunch--”--Hoseok laughs because he could imagine Seokjin’s face and because Yoongi is laughing and it lights up his face, the laughter is infectious), Yoongi makes the most straightforward observations in the most non-threatening way. It’s refreshing because no one back home ever calls Perfect Guy Jung Hoseok out on his shit: he gets good grades, has a lot of friends, is the star of the Soccer Team. No one dares. Well, except maybe his dad--but that’s a different story.

When Hoseok picks an Incubus: Morning View shirt, Yoongi rolls his eyes in jest. “Of course you had to pick the most basic one.”

Hoseok grins. “Oh I’m sorry, Edge Lord Sheeran. What would you recommend?”

Yoongi grins at the pun. “Ed Sheeran is pretty basic too. You couldn’t go with Edge Lord Norton?”

Hoseok tilts his head to the side. “I don’t know who that is.”

“Holy shit, Hoseok. What rock have you been living under?”

Hoseok opens his mouth to reply but a The Ramones shirt hits him square in the face.

 

 

The next few weeks, they’re inseparable: Hoseok waits for Yoongi outside the Music Dormitory every MWF and TTHS, Yoongi gets up early to sit outside the Dance Dormitory. On Sundays, they meet at the cafe down the road for pancakes and coffee.

They do things alone together: sharing studio space as Hoseok practices his dancing and Yoongi composes different songs. By the end of that second week they spend together, they’ve subconsciously come up with Hoseok’s Autumn Performance routine. Yoongi plays the music on one of his more melodious, R&B-inspired hiphop tracks a little too loud, watching as Hoseok adapts to the beat, the melody, his body flowing and then breaking, stopping and then popping--Yoongi has never seen anyone move like that. In turn, he starts adjusting the music to Hoseok’s idiosyncrasies: tweaking the beat so it lands where Hoseok’s natural rhythm tends to, tinkering with the length of the interlude so that Hoseok can come up with a more cohesive if lengthier dancebreak.

And then there’s the extra time, the languid afternoons that stretch into just-warm-enough evenings when they’re meant to be working on their final projects except they’ve both already finished all the work they need to do earlier in the day--Yoongi’s van ends up being kind of like the clubhouse neither of them have ever had. It isn’t that the other kids aren’t cool, they are, but there is an added intrigue, Yoongi thinks in hindsight, to spending time with someone you wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole in real life. Also, he absolutely understands the appeal of Hoseok now: he just wants to be around him all the time.

Hoseok loves that Yoongi knows so much about movies: they go through Edward Norton’s entire discography, a couple of Tarantino films (Hoseok, Yoongi learns, is also intensely squeamish and scares easily as ten minutes into Kill Bill, Hoseok has pressed himself up against Yoongi, clutching his forearm like he’s going to die if he lets go), some popular French subtitled flicks--Amelie (Hoseok’s favorite), A Very Long Engagement (Hoseok cries), the entire Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight trilogy (Hoseok cries again), and finally, the famous Spanish film: Y Tu Mama Tambien. It’s this last one that does them in: the film is famed for a threesome scene that happens toward the end which Yoongi tells Hoseok is meant to be a statement about promiscuity and adventure, a blurring of the boundaries between what society tells you to want and what you actually want.

They don’t make it to that scene, though, because Yoongi finds himself suddenly remembering those rumors floating around about Hoseok--him and Taehyung, was it? Jimin?--and finds himself following that train of thought, is simultaneously worried and excited at the thought of him “taking this the wrong way”, of him thinking this might be more than it is--because in a way, it kind of is. Hoseok’s heart is beating fast in his chest because outside his core group of friends he hasn’t really verbalized the thing to anyone else, and now there is this thing and he isn’t really looking at the screen anymore because he doesn’t care about the two golden boys kissing on the screen: what he wants to do is blur the line between him and Yoongi. Funny, sweet, sardonic Yoongi. He watches Yoongi’s face bathed in the blue light of the laptop’s glow--mysterious eyes, cute nose, beautiful cheeks, delicate chin, and that mouth, oh that mouth. But Hoseok is scared, terrified at losing him because what if he isn’t inclined? So he turns back to the screen. But now Yoongi is watching him, Yoongi is making up his mind about being brave and going for what he wants for the first time in his life. The touch starts small. He moves his hand so that his and Hoseok’s pinkies touch, feels his heart soar as Hoseok curls his finger around his.

And then Hoseok turns to look at Yoongi, catching his gaze, and before they know what’s happening, Hoseok is tilting Yoongi’s chin toward him and all of the pent up energy between them for what’s now been almost the past month comes surging forward in full force. Yoongi opens his mouth before Hoseok even makes motion to ask, their tongues meeting in the space between the kiss like moons in orbit or opposing currents that create a tidal wave. Now, Hoseok is pushing Yoongi back against the van’s comforter-padded floor, hands holding him close, supporting his back, holding them chest to chest, hearts beating against each other. Now, Yoongi is slipping his hands under Hoseok’s shirt, slipping his thigh between Hoseok’s legs, pulling him down toward him, bucking up against him as he kisses Hoseok’s neck, as Hoseok runs a hand over Yoongi’s chest, pausing at the soft flesh of his nipples before continuing their pursuit lower, down the thin skin of his ribs, the hollow of his hips, and finally the pulsing, almost-painful erection in Yoongi’s too-tight jeans. Yoongi finds himself whining into Hoseok’s ear as Hoseok starts to move: palm to thumb, base to shaft to head, going slow and deep, steady, enjoying Yoongi beating against him like a heart, thrashing like the ocean. Yoongi in turn manages to get Hoseok’s shorts and boxers down, slung over his hips--Hoseok is like putty in his hands, except that putty is soft and Hoseok is hard, the head of his cock already leaking pre-cum, Yoongi using his broad palms to work his head, savoring the sound of Hoseok’s breath hitching, the feeling of him thrusting into Yoongi’s palm as Yoongi keeps going: fast enough to keep him riled up but not fast enough to climax. In the end, it’s Hoseok that goes over the edge: takes both of them into his hands, sitting up across Yoongi’s hips and holding them together as they cum--hard, hot, thick from the lack of release.

Panting, Hoseok collapses onto the van floor beside Yoongi. They lay there for a while until the ceiling of the van stops spinning. On the laptop screen, the credits are rolling. Hoseok reaches for Yoongi’s hand, intertwining their fingers. Yoongi starts to laugh, Hoseok joining him before leaning over to kiss him, not just on the lips but all over his face: forehead, eyebrows, hollows of his eyes, temples, cheeks, nose, chin.

Everyday after that, every chance they can, they spend in the back of the van, first, watching movies or reading comics, listening to music until they’re making out, making out until they’re doing more--trying it different ways: Yoongi riding Hoseok until they’re both reduced to a moaning mess, Hoseok on top of Yoongi, fucking him with his knees held high over his hips until Yoongi begs for release, Hoseok curled around Yoongi as they fuck steady and slow, Yoongi’s hands up against the walls of the van, Hoseok kissing his neck, enjoying the taste of Yoongi’s sweat against his lips. And then the rude awakening: the invite to the Autumn Program, a warning for the end.

Hoseok finds his heart growing heavy--without realizing it, he has fallen in headlong in love with Min Yoongi, almost as though their life back home was some kind of bad dream they’d woken up from. He doesn’t want to fall back asleep now that he’s woken up but already the haze is calling, already this tiny flame is in danger.

“What happens when we get back?” Yoongi asks on the night before the Autumn Performance as they’re lying in each other’s arms.

Hoseok frowns. “Let’s not think about that nightmare.”

Yoongi would ordinarily press for answers but just then, he doesn’t really want to know.

 

 

Silence pervades the air in the van as Yoongi finishes telling his story, eyes not meeting Jungkook’s, keeping them trained on the gas station logo, the K in SK flickering in and out, casting red on the conversation like a warning. Jungkook lets out a low whistle.

“Yoongi?”

“Hmmm?”

“Don’t take this the wrong way--”

“--yeah?”

“But you’re really, truly, absolutely fucked.”

 

Chapter Text

Namjoon opens the front door before Yoongi so much as puts the key to the lock. Behind him, the living room is quiet except for music playing from the basement. Yoongi sees his mom’s left two bowls of ramyun covered on the table for him and Jungkook. He makes a mental note to thank her before going to bed.

“What the hell happened to you guys?” Namjoon turns to Yoongi. “Your mom fed me and then went to sleep, I think. I thought the whole neighborhood was going to go to bed before you guys got here. Even I took a nap. At this rate, we’ll get about a quarter of a movie in. Or like, an episode and a half of a TV show.”

Yoongi sighs. “Sorry, Joon. It’s a long story.”

Jungkook ignores Yoongi, doesn’t even bother to try and explain. Instead, he makes a face and rubs his stomach. “Sorry, Joon-hyung. Maybe we should put movie night off this week. I’m not feeling so well.”

Namjoon looks at Jungkook, eyebrows knitting together in worry--Jungkook hardly ever gets sick, has an immune system of steel. More pressingly, Jungkook never calls anyone hyung unless he’s emotionally or physically compromised. This kid should be in the drama club, Yoongi thinks.

“Do you want some Pepto-Bismol? I think I might have some in my bag--”

“--different kind of pain,” Jungkook says. “Like. The kind you shouldn’t be at someone else’s house for.”

“Oh. Oh ,” Namjoon says, catching on. “Um--”

Yoongi shoots Jungkook a grateful look. Thank you. They both know Namjoon would never let anyone, let alone Jungkook, walk through their neighborhood alone at night. Namjoon puts the back of his hand to Jungkook’s forehead, checking for fever.

Yoongi waves a hand at Namjoon. “It’s alright. I’m feeling a bit out of it too. I think it might’ve been from something we ate earlier. Sorry again, Joon. I”ll make it up to you.”

Namjoon shrugs. “Your mom fed me so it’s fine. See you tomorrow.”

Yoongi hangs out until they turn the curb and start the short walk three blocks over to their side of the neighborhood. When they disappear from his line of sight, Yoongi walks to the part of the garage that he knows his mom can’t see from her room. He lights a cigarette and takes a long drag, holding the warm smoke in his mouth a moment longer before letting it out into the cool autumn air. He thinks of what he’d just witnessed: Taehyung and Hoseok, bodies pressed together, the way that Hoseok’s head had tilted back to accommodate Taehyung’s kisses like it was second nature, like it was nothing, like they’d done it like that a million times. They probably have. Yoongi feels the threat of tears building again. The thing that gets him isn’t so much that they’d kissed--although that bothers him a fair bit too--but that it was at a party, in public, unabashed. I guess Hoseok isn’t ashamed of being gay, he’s just ashamed of being with me. Yoongi takes another drag, traces the coiling smoke with a finger before it disappears. Maybe happiness is like that--great until it’s gone. He makes a mental note to save that line for some kind of future project. Yoongi reaches into his pocket, puts one of his earphones into his left ear before hitting the play button.

Morrissey starts to sing softly into his ear. Perfect. Even the mp3 player knows I’m pathetic. He leans back against the post and takes another drag.

Good times for a change,

See, the luck I’ve had

can make a good man turn bad

“Yoongi.” The sound of the breathless voice startles him out of contemplation and as soon as he places it, he feels a rush of mixed emotion--anger and desire, jealousy and hurt, but also somewhere underneath it: joy and exhilaration, a kind of relief that Hoseok is there, has chased him, has come to find him.

Yoongi doesn’t say anything, just half-turns in the moonlight to look at him. Hoseok is drenched in sweat, obviously having run there from the station, his white polo shirt sheer, see-through. “Sorry but I don’t think I can lend you any shirts right now. Unless you want to buy one for 15,000 Won.”

Hoseok walks toward him, the moonlight playing tricks with the sheen of sweat on his skin--he looks god-like, ethereal, illuminated. Yoongi tries not to stare, tries his best to look at anything else: the pavement, his sneakers.

“Yoongi,” Hoseok says again, voice cracking. “Yoongi, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Yoongi tosses his cigarette on the pavement, putting it out with the soles of his sneakers. “For what?”

Hoseok frowns, reaches for his wrist. “You know for what.”

Yoongi studies Hoseok’s face: almond eyes, lip mole, dimples. Who wouldn’t want him?

“Look. You fucked me in summer camp. It happens. In film, it’s called a trope: Grease Lightning, Dirty Dancing. Hot guy meets off-beat, kinda strange girl--or well, in our case, guy. You are fully entitled to make out with whoever the hell you want. Just do me a favor and don’t invite me to any of those insipid parties ever again.”

Hoseok sighs, stepping closer. “Dirty Dancing has a happy ending. They do the against all odds thing in that one.”

“Actually,” Yoongi says, meeting his gaze. “It’s open-ended. They just all end up dancing but who the hell knows if they end up together? Just because nobody puts Baby in a corner, doesn’t mean no one else makes out with Patrick Swayze against a fucking piano--”

“--aha,” Hoseok says. “So you do know what I’m talking about. I understand why you’re mad--”

“Why would I be mad?” Yoongi kicks one of the nearby stones. It ricochets off of the van’s rear tire and into the gutter. “You’re not my boyfriend or anything.”

Hoseok reaches over and draws figure-eights into the skin of Yoongi’s wrist, feeling his pulse race against his thumbs. He pulls Yoongi closer. “Do you want me to be?”

Yoongi laughs. “Oh, come on. I’m not an idiot. You’d be too embarrassed. You can’t even tell your friends you like to dance. How are you going to tell them that you’re dating me ? I mean Kim Taehyung is one thing--all perfect bone structure and goalie of the world, his living room is bigger than my whole house. He’s so perfect people will almost forgive you for being gay if you’re dating him , but me ? They’ll tear you apart. Jung Hoseok and his fall from grace. Jung Hoseok and Min Yoongi. The weirdo from the film club? The guy who spilled glue on Park Jimin in sixth grade? What the hell did Soccer Captain Jung Hoseok see in him ?”

“Hey,” Hoseok scolds, his tone curt, tense. “Don’t ever talk about yourself like that again. Oh, Min Yoongi. If only you could see what I see.”

Yoongi bites his lip, looks into Hoseok’s eyes, knows that it’s a mistake the moment he does--he’s being earnest, sincere, begging for Yoongi to let him say what he’s going to say. When Yoongi speaks again, his voice betrays him: it’s shaky, too full of breath to be indifferent, too much tremble in it to not be angry or in love. Maybe that last one, especially--because the thought of losing Hoseok runs through him like a hurricane: Yoongi is all shaking shutters, slamming doors.

“What do you see?”

Hoseok closes the gap between them, brushing Yoongi’s hair away from his forehead.

“I see a man who is insightful and intelligent--impossibly funny and clever and talented. He’s a little bit grumpy sometimes but on the whole he’s the kind of guy who’ll help you if he can, who will always have your back. I see someone who has confidence in his principles, knows what he believes in and what he doesn’t. On top of that, he’s kind of an absolute babe: he’s got skin that’s the most delicious drink of milk I’ve ever tasted, lips that put strawberries to shame, eyes that make me feel like I’m drowning.”

Yoongi pouts, unable to keep the whine out of his voice. He puts a fist against Hoseok’s chest. “Then why the fuck did you kiss Kim Taehyung? It wasn’t just a peck either, you idiot--he was grinding on you and you fucking let him.”

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok says, leaning his forehead against Yoongi’s, closing his hand over Yoongi’s closed fist. “He and I used to be fuck buddies before the whole summer thing happened. Believe me when I say I panicked, I froze up--and I can’t blame Taehyung for initiating it, he didn’t know. And I didn’t know how to react because I’d never turned him down before. I was scared too--I’ve never really had a boyfriend, you know? I’ve never really had anyone to tell other people about, to defend. I just didn’t know what to do--”

Yoongi rubs his nose against Hoseok’s. “Are you saying you want to be my boyfriend?”

“I’m scared to death, Yoongi. I don’t know how to tell people about it or to approach it--”

“--it’s okay if you don’t. Don’t try to pin this on me, you’re the one who brou--”

“--but I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything more. I can’t stop thinking about you. When I close my eyes, it’s Yoongi, Yoongi, Yoongi. When I jerk off in the shower--”

“--how romantic--”

“--no really, twice just this morning--”

“--only twice?”

“I want to be your boyfriend if you’ll let me.”

“What’ll you tell your friends?”

Hoseok bites his lip. “Honest answer? I don’t know. But I’ll figure it out. Just give me time and I’ll figure it out. You won’t be sorry, I promise.”

Hoseok laces their fingers together. Yoongi can already feel himself caving--can already feel himself agreeing to the question, the premise, the proposition: if a relationship falls in a forest and no one hears does it fall at all? But I’ll know, I’ll know that he’s mine.

“I’m okay with keeping things low-key but if you kiss or do anything like that with anyone else again, we’re done.”

“I promise. I promise, I promise, I promise.” Hoseok presses their lips gently together and Yoongi sighs into the kiss. Don’t let me down.

 

 

Jungkook lies awake long after he and Namjoon wave good-bye as Namjoon continues down the road, four doors down to his house. Jungkook turns the lights off but the room seems too bright: the full moon makes the entire night look like some kind of farce--the phantom of an evening. He doesn’t want to be angry or petty or annoyed but he feels the anger coiling inside his heart like a snake eating its own tail: round and round and round, each time coiled tighter until it sits like a stone: heavy, immovable.

He half-closes his eyes, trying to find sleep but it evades him: his gaze falls on his track jacket, number 01, Seoul Lions, Seoul High Track & Field. Running would help just about now--but he’s given that up too. It isn’t fair, he finds himself thinking again and again. It isn’t fair that people like Hoseok and Taehyung and all of the other “golden” kids get to shit on them all the time. He thinks of the evening that's passed and feels helpless. If he’d known at the party why they were really there, he would’ve torn Taehyung and Hoseok apart and given one--maybe both--of them a black eye at least. It was their turf but Jungkook is strong: growing up on the rough side of town and having be both smart and tough does that to you. How the fuck could they do that to Yoongi?

Jungkook is angry about a lot of things he can’t control, has accepted that life jerks him around sometimes, but he is especially protective of Yoongi--Yoongi is the one non-negotiable on his list of priorities. He’s the one person who’d been there for him since the beginning when he was an awkward Freshman with an interest in film and photography, he was the one who’d introduced him to Namjoon who has become like a rock to him in his tumultuous life, it was Yoongi who’d stuck up for him even when he was outnumbered five to one (even if he ended up cutting his upper lip and nearly dislocating his left shoulder) when the track kids were bullying Jungkook about his old, second-hand running shoes last year. Jungkook wishes he’d told him earlier about the Hoseok thing--is a little hurt that hadn’t--but he can’t begrudge Yoongi even for that.

Jungkook sighs, turning on his side and hugging his pillow close, as if doing so will somehow brace him against the overwhelming hurt that surges through him.  He feels a kind of humiliation creep up on him: things wouldn’t be so bad if this was before the whole ordeal of his eighteenth birthday but now that that’s done, it drives everything home even further. Yoongi had had him--and decided that he wanted someone else.

Jungkook had only really wanted two things when he turned eighteen at the beginning of the last school year (another perk of starting school late, he thinks, watching the wind blow in through the window--being an eighteen-year-old Sophomore): the first was a tattoo (which he couldn’t get on account of it being against school rules, not to mention kind of bordering on illegal in South Korea, and extremely expensive to boot), and the second was--well, the other thing. The losing his V-card to Yoongi thing. He’d decided he would ask Yoongi about it casually (he’d practiced for weeks, trying to find the best way to word it, and had come up with “Would you do me for my eighteenth? No strings, just wanna do it with someone I trust.”) and when he did and Yoongi had said yes, albeit with a little confusion in his tone, it was the single best thing that had happened to Jungkook up until that point.

It was the best moment of his life until his actual birthday arrived because that remains the apex, the crux, the happiest, most iridescent moment of his young life: shining bright like a neon sign at the end of a wind tunnel. When the fateful night finally arrived, Jungkook found himself drunk on happiness as Yoongi picked him up in the van, wearing a party hat over his then-platinum blonde hair.

“Ready, birthday boy?”

He’d bought one for Jungkook too and they wore them on the entire drive downtown. The entire ride, Jungkook kept stealing glances at Yoongi, wondering how he managed to look so good in just a plain white shirt and faded jeans, whereas Jungkook had curated every item of clothing so carefully: down to that particular flannel shirt, those particular sets of earrings.

They’d rented out one of the better motel rooms downtown--Jungkook didn’t have much saved but Yoongi had helped out: consider it part of your birthday gift . The room was a little dingy but nice enough, with a wide, white bed, and a pink-on-yellow sign that shone through the window--it lent the room what Jungkook felt was a romantic feel, a kind of mood. They bought beef skewers nearby and some cheap wine which they drank from the bottle while laughing and talking, waxing sentimental about life and time and making memories, Jungkook joking that Yoongi and Namjoon would be leaving him behind when they graduated, Yoongi reassuring him that wouldn’t happen. And then Yoongi took a small package from his bag: a fancy, if a little dented, red velvet cupcake with a candle. Yoongi lit the wick with a lighter. Make a wish. Jungkook’s mind had gone blank from being too excited but looking back on it now, he knows what he should’ve wished for. Fall in love with me, he wishes now, tucked into bed, curled around his pillow.

Jungkook knows that he’d been good at the sex part, just like he’s good at most things--Yoongi had guided him, had let him choose top or bottom (he’d chosen top first, and then bottom the following morning), had shown him how the condom thing and the lube thing went and then had let him go ham. Jungkook knows he’d had a good time from the way that Yoongi’s voice cracked as he moaned against the pillow when Jungkook thrust into him, knows from the way his hands curled around the sheets as Jungkook nibbled on his ear, from the way that he shook and shuddered when he came. Jungkook knows he’d been good at both roles, too, from the way that the signature crease between Yoongi’s eyebrows formed as Jungkook pulsed against him, squeezing the length of him. Jungkook knew he'd made some kind of mark from the way that Yoongi couldn’t stop kissing Jungkook right before he spilled into him that morning, the rising sun’s first rays of light filtering into the room. And while they hadn’t ever done it again, had only maybe kissed a couple of times after, Jungkook had always harbored that secret, silent hope: that one day, when he was strong enough, good enough, old enough, he would win Yoongi’s heart.

He sighs at the thought of the summer past: part of him wishes it undone, the sting of thinking of Yoongi-- his Yoongi--in Hoseok’s arms, kissing him, holding him, showing him all of his beautiful, candid smiles, telling him all of his funny jokes, his unexpectedly wise insights, striking against his chest, but the other part of him, the part that is hopelessly in love knows he can’t even fully do that. If Yoongi is happy, then he’s happy. Jungkook falls asleep as the sun starts to come up, his eyes finally fluttering shut from exhaustion. Hoseok better treat him right or he’s got a whole fucking other thing coming.

 

“You okay, Tae?" Jimin asks, clapping Taehyung’s shoulder with a hand. Taehyung is sitting on the edge of the pool, face illuminated a luminescent, aqua-blue from the pool lights. Everyone else has passed out or gone home--the entire house a mess Taehyung’s parents don’t get back until Tuesday so he’s been pretty lax about cleaning up.

Taehyung nods, smiling as Jimin takes a seat beside him, dipping his legs into the water.

“I’m fine.”

“You weren’t your usual crazy self. Also, did Hobi leave?”

Taehyung shrugs. “Well, you know. A host never has the most fun at his own parties.”

“Hah. Never stopped you before.”

“Maybe I’m getting old.”

Jimin splashes him with water from the pool. “Is it because Hobi’s been acting all weird and spaced out?”

Taehyung sighs, looking up at the full moon. “Partly, I guess. It’s weird. It isn’t even the whole friends with benefits thing, you know. I just feel like he’s so distant these days--like there’s so much going on in his head but he just won’t tell me any of it. I feel like I was suddenly locked out of my favorite cafe but I can see into the glass, can see the cupcakes and the coffee. It makes me sad and kind of angry. I was hoping we could bond tonight--but I guess not.”

“Are you ever going to ask him out, ask him out?’

“He said he doesn’t want to make out with me anymore.”

“Like, ever?”

“That’s what I got from it.”

“You don’t think he might just be waiting for you to ask him in a more serious way? You know how sometimes, you like someone and you kind of fool around then you want to go out with them for real but you don’t know what to do because you’ve already got it backwards? And also, it's like, if you've been waiting forever for someone to ask you out, it makes you want to push them away? Like, you want them to figure it out on their own? I mean, after all: how do you ask someone on a date when you’ve already had your dick in them?”

Taehyung grins mischievously. “Or they’ve already had their dick in you."

“TMI.”

“Well. Maybe. But he was kind of running after someone tonight, I think. I didn’t see who it was because I was too shocked and also hard as a steel fucking rod after not being up on him for so long. Maybe he met someone over the summer?”

Jimin laughs. “At his grandma’s? In Gwangju? Come on. I think it’s time you man up and ask one Soccer Captain Jung Hoseok out or  you’ll regret it. I don’t know what you’ve been waiting for, you guys are pretty much meant to be anyway. Everyone knows it. The perfect soccer couple: sweeper and goalie. Plus you’ve known each other forever, have been pretty much in sync since day one when you scared him with a spider. I love me a long, romantic story but don't you think it's about fucking time? You didn't even ask him to prom last year.”

"Hey, I asked! It's not my fault he thought I meant all of us going as a group."

Jimin rolls his eyes. "You didn't clarify. The great thing about proms though is you get a do-over Senior Year, kinda."

Taehyung watches the water ripple and flutter against the pool wall. He glances at his phone. It’s almost four o’clock and he still isn’t sleepy. Maybe Jimin’s right--maybe it is time that he and Hoseok give it a real go. Maybe it’s time they took that step past being friends with benefits and just fucking went out. You guys are pretty much meant to be anyway.

“I guess you're right. Thanks, Jiminnie.”

Jimin grins up at the moon. “Anytime, my friend. Anytime.”

Chapter Text

The next few weeks pass by in a kind of flurry for Yoongi--he is dizzy with anticipation, high from settling into a kind of hypnotizing routine with Hoseok: the alternating absence and presence of him giving Yoongi that extra kick, that higher high whenever he was around. Maybe there is something to this whole secret relationship thing. He feels the goosebumps rise along his arms whenever they’re talking in the hallway and Hoseok strolls by with the soccer kids, laughing, talking, kind of ignoring Yoongi where he’s huddled by the lockers with Namjoon and Jungkook--and Yoongi knows two things for certain: first, that before they round the corner to homeroom, Hoseok will linger and catch his eye and wink at him, and second, that they will meet in the fourth floor supply closet between second and third period when Hoseok is on the way to Biology and Yoongi is on the way the English Lit and make out until the bell rings, hungry mouths and searching hands, eager hips and moans aching to escape, needing to be silenced. The rest of the day would go by like an itch he couldn’t scratch--and then it’d be off to practice with Namjoon and Jungkook, an enjoyable two hours before he dropped by the parking lot farthest from the soccer field to pick Hoseok up.

Another thing Yoongi is particularly enjoying is how he’s been so productive; he hasn’t written this much music in such a short amount of time in his whole life--he’s written more than twenty songs in a little over three weeks, which he knows is driving Namjoon and Jungkook a little bit crazy, as they’ve had to learn them all on the drums for the punk-rap trio he, Namjoon, and Jungkook play in (The Electric Pink Souffles).

Today is a Wednesday and Yoongi, Namjoon, and Jungkook are sitting in the studio space they’ve rented for the next two hours. Namjoon is sitting on the drum stool already, water bottle nearby, face towel slung over his shoulders, but his earphones are still plugged in, listening to the demo track that Yoongi has sent them. Jungkook is sitting cross-legged on the nearby couch, strumming the chords to the song--he’s incorporated some complex plucking into the power cords Yoongi’d written, is trying to memorize the sequence.

“Jesus, Yoongi,” Namjoon is saying. “You’ve actually done it this time. This is really, really good. The raspy vocal goes well with it too. And if Jungkook backed you up on the as cold as the night , I think it’ll be flawless.”

“Thanks,” Yoongi says, grinning a little as he puts the strap of his bass guitar over his shoulder.

Jungkook grins up at him. “It’s got a lot of groove, alright. People at the bar are going to go fucking crazy. We might actually get a BUGS!TV feature if we do well.”

Yoongi smirks. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves--”

“--or,” Namjoon interrupts. “Let’s be our first fans. The Electric Pink Souffles everyone!”

Jungkook smiles, getting up from where’s he’s sitting on the couch and walking over to the mic beside Yoongi. “Sorry, I”m kind of with Joonie on this one.”

Yoongi shakes his head a little but can’t help smiling wide. “Shall we rock the fuck out, then?”

In response, Namjoon puts his drumsticks together, counts them into the song: “One, TWO, ONE TWO THREE--”

The guitar riff and drums kick in, Yoongi joining in with the bass on the downbeat. The extra lead bits that Jungkook has written into the melody are spectacular, the syncopated beats Namjoon is playing with sends Yoongi’s heart soaring as he leans into the mic.

Stop making the eyes at me, I’ll stop making my eyes at you

What it is that surprises me is that I don’t really want you to

And your shoulders are frozen (cold as the night)

Oh, but you’re an explosion (you’re dynamite)

Yoongi grins at Jungkook, really liking the way that his breathy vocals lend something sensual to the track, a slick contrast to Yoongi’s rough-cut, full-of-character vocals. Jungkook grins back, closes his eyes as they head into the pre-chorus.

Your name isn’t Rio but I don’t care for sand

And lighting the fuse might result in a bang, bbbbang-go

Yoongi lets a woop out into the mic, banging his head to the rhythm of Namjoon drumroll that builds up to the chorus.

“THE ELECTRIC PINK SOUFFLES!” Jungkook yells as they kick into the chorus. “Believe the goddamn hype!

Yoongi laughs and lets the chorus carry him away, eyes shut, body moving to the beat.

I bet that you look good on the dance floor,

I don’t know if you’re looking for romance or

I don’t know what you’re looking for

I said I bet that you look good on the dance floor

Dancing to electro-pop like a robot from 1984

Well, from 1984

By the time the song ends, they’re all ecstatic, buzzed from the thrill of the music, the raw guitars, the thumping beat, the lyrics that hit anyone who’s ever been in love with anyone hard. They go through the song a couple more times until they hit a final arrangement that Namjoon records using his phone wrapped in cloth, stuffed into a guitar case to weed out the feedback from the amplifiers.

“Fuck yeah,” Jungkook says as they sit on the floor, playing the recording back. “I’m hyped for the Halloween gig. So fucking hyped!”

“Do you guys think we could sell an EP?” Yoongi asks carefully.

“You’ve got more songs?” Namjoon asks.

Yoongi wiggles his eyebrows. “There’s something to that whole striking while the iron is hot thing, turns out.”

Namjoon grins. “So when can we meet him, Yoongi?”

“What?” Yoongi glances at Jungkook in panic. Jungkook shakes his head frantically-- I didn’t tell him anything .

“The guy you wrote all of this about. I know you, Min Yoongi. Usually your love songs are right out of a textbook--slow, ambiant, rhythmic--or you write these songs about money and cars and black leather. But stuff like this about wanting to see someone dance? There has to be a muse. And I want to meet him.”

“There isn’t--”

“--I saw that look you guys exchanged. The kid knows something.”

“I’m not a kid!” Jungkook says, strumming his guitar in random, frenzied notes.

“It’s not--”

Namjoon rolls his eyes, wipes his face on his face towel. “It’s okay, I’m not hurt about it. You don’t have to explain. Just bring him to the Halloween gig. I’m sure he’d love to hear a song about him.”

 

 

Hoseok runs down the soccer field, the sunlight illuminating his lean torso, his hair, his lashes, bringing out the amber in his eyes as he signals to Jimin, who is already running toward him, Seokjin at his heels--today, they’re playing shirts against skins today with the core team and some of the younger players: Jimin, Hoseok, Hoshi, Jun, Minghao, Seungkwan, and Dino on Team Skins, Taehyung, Seokjin, Seokmin, Joshua, Woozi, Jeonghan, and Mingyu on Team Shirts. The game is a challenging one, with everyone playing to their strengths for once, the randomness of the picks working for them and against them at the same time: making the game at once easier and more difficult. Hoseok passes Jimin the ball and Jimin goes swift, steady toward the goal, kicking it past Taehyung, who misses it by less than a centimeter, the ball’s smooth surface grazing his fingertips. There is a mix of cheers and groans. Jimin is grinning. Taehyung is rolling his eyes.

The coach blows the whistle, signaling the end of practice--the game ends with Hoseok’s team winning 15 to 14. Hoseok watches Jimin run toward him, waving at everyone, giving them high-fives. He’ll be a good captain next year, Hoseok thinks as they all line up for the handshake. Jimin is giving Hoshi some tips, showing him the difference that a slight angling of the foot can make. He could be a good captain, even now. Not for the first time in the past few weeks, Hoseok finds himself fantasizing about the end of his term as captain. For so long, soccer had been enough for him, had given him a purpose, had brought out the competitive streak in him, had been the centerpoint of all his ambitions, but being able to be immersed in dance and music for a whole three months--to have been able to not just follow steps but to make them, to create routines, to express so much emotion with his body that he’d thus far used only to play a game--that had changed everything.

He can still play, can still function but there’s something about it that feels routinary and not in the way that it used to: practice used to feel like he was building up to something, like he was working toward a kind of momentum--college, an athletics scholarship, maybe a place on the National Team. Nowadays, it just feels like, well, running after a ball. After the handshakes, Hoseok feels a kind of elation at practice finally being over. He can’t wait to get his things and run to the parking lot, can’t wait to be in Yoongi’s arms or talking to Yoongi or kissing Yoongi or just being around him. It reminds him that there’s hope after the prison that high school’s become. Yoongi doesn’t care what people say, only wants to pursue what he’s passionate about, only wants to make and make and make.

The past weeks have consisted of Hoseok breezing through practice, telling the rest of the team he had a family thing, and then texting his parents he’d have dinner at Taehyung’s or Seokjin’s or Jimin’s before running to the parking lot where Yoongi would be waiting with the van. They’d head to Yoongi’s and spend the afternoon in his basement, sometimes watching movies or listening to music, sometimes making out or more, sometimes ordering pizza when they had extra money. Hoseok would stay until around 7:30 pm or when Yoongi’s mom came home (she is very pleasant and Hoseok finds himself wishing he could introduce Yoongi to his mom as well)--whichever happened first--and then Yoongi would drop him off at the nearest station and he’d take the train home.

Today, they’re going to be reviewing Usher’s entire discography, preparing for audition reels and tapes they’re sending off to different Performing Arts Academies. Hoseok doesn’t know if they’ll get in or if they do, how he’ll break it to his dad, or how Yoongi will make the tuition--probably with his smarts, as with the camp--but he knows that they have to try, that he has to try or something inside him will die from knowing he didn’t.

“Hobi,” their coach says, clapping him on the shoulder. “A word.”

“Coach, I can’t, I have a--”

“--a family thing, I know. You’ve told me that everyday of the week for the past month. It’ll be quick, only five minutes.”

The coach’s voice is stern--Hoseok knows it well; it’s the I’m serious tone, the I’ll call your parents if you don’t give me what I want tone, so Hoseok lets himself be pulled aside by the bleachers.

“What is it, Coach?”

“We only have a few months until Soccer season begins and as the holidays approach, I expect you to be driving everyone--including yourself--harder. I expect there to be more drills and more skirmishes and  more motivational speeches; you haven’t given a pep talk in forever. You’re playing well for someone who doesn’t seem like he wants to be here but that won’t tide you over the past few months. This season is crucial for you seniors. There will be scouts from universities there. Your entire future will depend on this.”

Hoseok is looking at the time on the coach’s watch. 05:30 PM. Yoongi will be waiting at the parking lot--so he nods. “Sure, coach. I’ll step it up, promise.”

“Good. And Hoseok? Spend time with your teammates, they miss you.”

Hoseok takes a deep breath, already backing away from the bleachers, starting to make for the locker rooms. “Yes, coach.”

As soon as the coach waves his hand to dismiss him, Hoseok breaks into a sprint: across the field to the locker rooms where he doesn’t bother to shower, just gets his things and bolts for the parking lot before anyone can ask him to hang out or walk home together or go anywhere. He just has to get make it to the van and he’ll be fine. Yoongi, Yoongi, Yoongi. He feels his heart skip when he sees the van’s dusty, black exterior parked by the wire fence. He opens the door and steps in, setting his stuff down on the floor.

Yoongi has some The Donnas on, Brett’s voice coming in cool and calm through the speakers against a backdrop of sparkly guitar riffs: Go on and take it off, take it off baby for me . He smiles wide at Hoseok as Hoseok puts on his seatbelt.

“God. It should be illegal for you to walk around shirtless like that.”

“OH, so this song wasn’t some sort of subliminal messaging ploy for me to take it off baby for you?”

“You wish.”

Hoseok grins back at him and digs through his gym bag for his extra shirt, pulling it over his head in a rush. “Sorry. I have a hard time keeping my shirt on when I know you’re in the vicinity. You’re cute when you’re all flustered.”

“Flatterer,” Yoongi says, grinning. “I look more like Strawberry Shortcake.”

Hoseok chuckles, turns up the volume on the radio. It feels so fucking good to laugh. “I never watched that cartoon. But if you say she looks like you, then I guess she’s hot.”

“Let’s get out of here.” Yoongi puts the car in first, and steps on the gas.

 

 

“So what do you guys want to play?” Seokjin asks, bringing a huge pot of hot ramyun into the den, the spicy, savory smell filling the air. They’ve got the big LED screen on, the controllers at the ready. He glances at Jimin. “Anything but Soccer for Wii, I’m so fucking tired of thinking about soccer.”

Jimin laughs, flopping onto the couch. “That’s what I was going to suggest.”

“Whatever, let’s decide after eating.” Seokjin sets the big bowl down on the low table in the middle of the room, starts distributing the smaller bowls and plastic chopsticks. A tense silence fills the room as he sets aside the fifth bowl, the fifth pair of chopsticks.

“Why do you even bother?” Taehyung asks softly. “You know he’s not coming.”

Seokjin shrugs. “Force of habit. And we shouldn’t be all mad without knowing what’s happening. He’s probably going through some serious shit--remember when my grandma was sick and I never felt like going out? When he’s ready, he’ll tell us.”

Taehyung frowns. “But see you told us you couldn’t go out because your grandma was sick. He just keeps waving it off, refusing to explain. I hardly even see him at lunch anymore! We’ve all gone through some serious shit. Parents divorcing, money problems, severe injuries that kept us from playing. We didn’t go and disappear. I’ll forgive him when he apologizes.”

Jimin rolls his eyes. “I’ll forgive you when you do the thing I told you to do.”

“What thing?” Seokjin asks, pouring them their share of the hot, steaming noodle soup.

“Jimin is convinced that the reason Hobi is acting weird is because I haven’t properly asked him out. At this point, I think that’s ridiculous. How can you ask a ghost out? Am I supposed to follow him home? Pin him down with a table until he listens to me? It’s probably something else. This doesn’t feel like just a small thing like that--”

“--to be fair, I mean, who asks someone out on a group prom date? I’d be irritated with you too.” Seokjin starts laughing, shoulders shaking.

“He misunderstood!”

“You didn’t clarify!” Seokjin says, spilling some of the ramyun on himself.

“Why don’t you surprise him one of these days? I mean, he says it’s family stuff, I know, but anyone would feel happy seeing their friend stop by their house right? Maybe you guys could go for a romantic walk or something after dinner. His parents love you. I mean I’m not sure how much they’d love you if they knew you were doing their s--”

“--well, they wouldn’t have anything to worry about, would they? On account of me not, anymore.” Taehyung turns his attention to his noodles, ignoring the way that Jimin is gaping at him.

“Tae,” Seokjin says, finally. “Maybe Jimin does have a point. I’m not saying stalk Hobi or anything but I’m just saying maybe it wouldn’t hurt for you go and talk to him.”

“Hrrrm.” Taehyung regrets sipping the soup so quickly--the noodles at the bottom are still hot, burn his tongue, but he keeps it in because otherwise he might say something he regrets. On the contrary, Seokjin--it could hurt. It could hurt a whole fucking lot.

 

 

Jungkook has started running again. Maybe he’d never get back on the track team, maybe he could never face those kids again, but hell if he’d have to stop doing something he loved. The adrenaline rush helps him keep his mind clear, helps him both emotionally and physically--a kind of meditation. Instead of running the school track, he’s decided to keep to their neighborhood, circling around it in a figure-eight, three times over: from his street and into the next, looping down Yoongi’s street before going into one of the side-streets and reemerging a little bit south of Namjoon house. He likes running this particular route because it reminds him of his two best friends, treats their houses like touchstones, bases: they’re friendly, make him feel safe, encouraged. The first few times he’d started, he’d been winded by the end of his third lap, but Jungkook recovers quickly: soon, he’s hardly sore by the time the third lap rolls around.

Today, he’s feeling extra energetic, some relaxing Troye Sivan blasting in his earphones, the sun shining in the sky, low enough not to be too hot, but bright enough to be beautiful, uplifting.

Leave this blue neighborhood,

Never knew lovin’ could hurt this good, oh

And it drives me wild

He decides to go around the route one more time, to push himself past burn-out and that’s when he sees it: Kim Taehyung driving slowly down Yoongi’s street in his shiny, red Chevy AUV. Oh no. A couple of thoughts run through Jungkook’s mind: the first is that driving a car like that in a neighborhood like this is one of the dumbest things that anyone’s ever done--second is that he’s a hundred percent sure Kim Taehyung is looking for Yoongi’s van. Fuck. Fuck fuck. What if Yoongi and Hoseok were--indisposed? In an act of impulse, Jungkook runs after the car, pulls open the passenger door and hops in.

“HOLY SHIT!” Taehyung screams, slapping Jungkook as he shuts the door behind him.

“CALM DOWN!” Jungkook yells back, deflecting Taehyung’s fists. “And for god’s sake don’t take your hands off the fucking wheel!”

 

 

The thing is, Taehyung was going to take Jimin and Seokjin’s advice. He’d been thinking of talking to Hoseok after practice but the coach had held him back. Taehyung waited in the locker rooms until he was positive everyone had left but Hoseok hadn’t shown up. After they finished up at Seokjin's, he’d gone to the Jung residence but his sister said Hoseok had said he was hanging out at Jimin’s, which, Taehyung knew for a fact he was not. He was worried, a little angry: should he find him? Was he in trouble? Was he interfering without being asked? Should he?

He’d driven himself halfway home when he saw the black van from the party parked outside a 7/11 a little off of the main road: no mistaking it, the electric guitar sticker on the hood a shiny, iridescent blue--Taehyung pulled over for a bit (just to see, just in case), and sure enough, a few minutes later, Hoseok had walked out of the convenience store carrying a brown paper bag of what looked like snacks and some drinks, gone around to the passenger’s side and climbed in. Taehyung didn’t see who was driving because of the glare off of the windshield but he sure as hell knew that whoever that was, they definitely had to do with Hoseok suddenly ghosting, suddenly becoming distracted. And so,  here he finds himself: driving down one of the rougher neighborhoods, one very cross Jeon Jungkook sitting in the passenger’s seat.

Taehyung comes to his senses and regains control of the wheel. Oh my god. Am I being held up? “Fuck, please--take whatever you want.”

“Asshole. I’m not a fucking thief. But you should really lock your doors on this side of town.”

He glances at Jungkook recognizes him from school but can’t quite place his name: he is--was?-- on the track team and Taehyung had seen him leave Sehun, the school’s best runner to date, in the dust during one of the meets. Of course, the fast kid had to be the one to spot him doing the dirty work. Why the hell does this always happen to me?  Taehyung frowns.

“Or you know, you shouldn’t go running after cars and climbing into them.”

“I know why you’re here.”

“No you don’t.”

“You’re looking for Jung Hoseok.”

Taehyung’s mouth falls open. “Who the hell are you? Are you psychic? Do you do love readings? Are we going to win the next--”

“I’m not psychic. I’m trying to save you from a whole lot of heartache, is what I am, Kim Taehyung. I saw you guys at the party and I think you should go home before you stumble onto stuff you wouldn’t want to. Just forget about this whole snooping thing you’re doing and go home.”

“Was it you , then?” Taehyung peers at Jungkook closely: he’s handsome enough, for sure. He has that strong bone structure that Hoseok likes--or liked , he thinks to himself bitterly. Where would Hoseok even meet someone from track? Was it Sungjae? Or maybe N that introduced them? Was it before or after Gwangju? Jungkook reaches over and steers them toward the sidewalk as they nearly hit a cat sitting in the middle of the road.

“If you can’t keep your eyes on the road, will you fucking pull over?”

Taehyung steps on the brakes. They lurch forward.

“Talk.”

Jungkook sighs. “Alright, let me be a decent human being. Sorry for jumping into your car. I promise I had the best intentions. You probably don’t know me because people like you treat people like me like scum even if I can beat all of you at athletics any fucking day. I’m Jeon Jungkook. And if you mean am I the guy that your boy chased out of the party, I’m not. But just leave it alone, I’m telling you.”

“Why did you quit the track team?”

“What?”

“I mean I remember you from the Spring meet and obviously you have enough talent to go and chase after a speeding car--”

“--I would hardly call your grandpa crawl speeding --”

“--if you have enough talent to run like that, why the hell don’t you run like that? I saw how you left Sehun in the damn dust and I’ve been watching that guy run since I was a freshman.”

“Since we were freshmen. I’m in your grade, you idiot. And the reason I don’t run track anymore is none of your business. What makes you assume I quit anyway?”

“They would never kick someone with your form off the team--”

“--you’re an optimist, huh? I can see it leaking out of your ears. And since you seem to care so much, I didn’t quit, they kicked me out. So please --if you know what’s good for you, just forget this entire day happened, leave the whole Hoseok thing alone and never come here again.”

Taehyung grins. Jungkook sounds like he’s talking about some kind of spy operation, some sort of FBI hidden agenda, and not just where Jung Hoseok might like spending his afternoons these days. Taehyung leans in and says in a stage whisper, “I might come by again just to scare you shitless.”

Jungkook smiles smugly, cocking his head a little. “I don’t scare easy.”

And with that, he opens the passenger seat door and runs. Taehyung watches him disappear around the next corner. He waits a moment, wondering what to do, and finally decides to trust Jeon Jungkook for now, heads for the route home.

 

 

“Aaaaaand, we’re done.” Yoongi says, smiling as he turns off the recording feature on Hoseok’s camera. They’re in his basement, Hoseok dressed in jogging pants and a hoodie, having just finished one of the routines he came up with to a short R&B sample Yoongi’d mixed.

“How was it?” Hoseok asks, taking his black face mask off as he makes his way toward Yoongi. They both squint down at the tiny screen as Yoongi prepares for playback--the dance is less than four minutes long but is slick, pops in all the right places, showcasing Hoseok’s talent for rhythm and refined movement.

“Damn, Hobi. It’s really good. You should put a watermark when you edit this, though. You wouldn’t want someone taking credit for it if it finds its way online.”

Hoseok shakes his head. “Shit, I’d never put that online. I would be humiliated.”

Yoongi frowns. “I hate it when you talk about yourself like that.”

Hoseok sighs. “I know. I’m sorry. But yeah. For now, all I can muster is sending it out to dance schools. That should be enough for now.”

Yoongi nods, leans over and kisses him. Hoseok smiles at that and moves over to hug Yoongi tight. “Thank you so much for helping me, babe.”

“I love it when you call me that.” Yoongi nuzzles against Hoseok’s neck, brings his arms around his waist. “And you’re welcome.”

“Mmmmm. You’re the best, you know that?”

“I know,” Yoongi says.

Hoseok rolls his eyes but kisses the cleft of Yoongi’s ear before leading the way to the couch where they’d left the snacks they’d gotten on the way over--some honey chips and crackers, cider. All the dancing’s made him really hungry. Hoseok opens the chips and reaches for the can of cider, pops it open with a fizz. Yoongi follows suit, sitting on the sofa and draping his legs over Hoseok’s lap, reaching for some of the chips and stuffing them in his mouth.

“Hey, Hobi--um, any plans for Halloween?”

“Not really.”

“Well. I know you aren’t ready for anything crazy but do you want to go to one of our gigs?”

Hoseok pauses to think about it. “Where?”

“Hongdae.”

“Who’ll be there?”

“--me, Jungkook, Namjoon--I mean, I know it's weird on your end but my friends are pretty cool about stuff and of course you don’t have to go if you don’t want to, I just thought it’d be nice so you could see me play and meet them and I mean it'll still be low-key not like we need to hold hands or make out or--”

Hoseok pinches Yoongi’s nose fondly. “--Yoongi. I’ll be there.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Stop playing with your food.” Hoseok’s dad’s voice echoes through the dining room.

The atmosphere in the dining room is so tense Hoseok thinks he could probably kick a ball from the doorway and it would catch, in the tension just hang suspended above the dining table until they finished eating. He is sitting up straight, holding the chopsticks right, moving his fingers the way he knows he should, but isn’t really touching the food on his plate--he just kind of pushes it around so it looks like it’s going somewhere.

Today hadn’t been a very good one: the coach had insisted on extra drills and extending practice by nearly an hour which made him late for hanging out with Yoongi which made him late for dinner which would ordinarily be fine--but today, his dad has just gotten home from a business trip and Mr. Jung is nothing if not punctual. He’d been cross, to say the least, had refused to let Hoseok sit down to eat until he’d recited a full apology and briefed him on the details that lead up to his being late (made up, of course,with emphasis on the extra drills). And then the subject of soccer had come up--the subject of applying to colleges, of expectations riding on him, of his future, of the family business. Hoseok’s dad had been a semi-professional soccer player himself before moving onto business ventures by selling athletic equipment and merchandise, on which he’d built their family fortune. His one great dream to date currently consists of Hoseok becoming a soccer star and being able to endorse all of their products.

Talking about soccer, however tense it made him these days, wouldn’t usually bother him (it being both a facade he’s perfected and about the only thing he feels comfortable talking to his father about) but that afternoon, Hoseok’s game had been off: he played shirts today, his team losing for most of the game--stuck in stasis at 15 to 9. He’d glanced toward the sidelines and saw the coach giving him the eye, the look that said I told you you wouldn’t half-ass your way through this , and so he’d tried to put his head in the game, had saved his team’s score but at the expense of his temper. He’d lost it when Taehyung had missed blocking the last goal from the other team--even if, at that point, they were clearly going to win, even if at that point, Jimin’s team wasn’t really trying anymore, were playing more for sport than for score. He’d caught the ball and thrown it hard into the goal, missing Taehyung intentionally, but startling him nonetheless. And then he’d yelled something about focus and concentration and had gotten a little personal, had mentioned the fact that Taehyung played too much video games for his own good, that he wasn’t doing what he could to get better. He’d gone too far, could tell from the way everyone--even Seokjin--was quiet after, the way no one followed him into the locker rooms. I’ll call him after dinner.

“Hobi, you should finish your chicken,” his mom says softly, laying a hand on his arm.

Hoseok nods, and puts a morsel of chicken on top of rice before scooping into his mouth, smiling for his mom, wanting to show her his appreciation for the food she’d spent so much time cooking. He catches his dad’s eye and when his father looks down to finish the last of his dinner, Hoseok thinks that he sees a glimmer of disappointment cross his face. And to think he doesn’t even know about anything yet.

After dinner, the decision is pretty easy, runs through  him like a current rushing through a river, something he knows he would never work up the nerve to do again: he makes his way to his room, locks the door, turns on his computer, slips the memory card with his dancing videos on it into the small card reader, and starts editing: he trims the start and the banter between him and Yoongi--saving them to a separate file to watch back on his own--then lays Yoongi’s track (labelled For You Inst.mp3 , which makes Hoseok smile) onto a fresh layer after un-grouping the video from the original boombox-grade audio which he deletes.

Put a watermark. Hoseok shakes his head, grinning a little. How is it that Min Yoongi manages to know what to say even before the fact? Slowly, he clicks the button to insert a logo or watermark and thinks carefully before selecting the standard square and inputs in simple font: HOPE ON THE STREET. Before he can change his mind, he hits the Export button, saving it as Episode 1: Hip Hop / R&B Basics.

He types up the description while waiting for the video to finish rendering, chooses his words carefully so as to make sure no one who tries will be able to tie it to him, is careful not to mention anything about Seoul High or soccer or Gwangju. In the end, he boils it down to a couple hundred words:

Hi! I’m H.O.P.E., an aspiring dancer from South Korea. I’ll be uploading practice videos and links to information on different genres of dance. Please enjoy and like/subscribe if you want more.

 

Music credits to Gloss_1993, check him out on Soundcloud!

 

When the final video is done, he holds his breath as he drags it to the YouTube screen and hits the Upload button. Here goes nothing.

 

 

Kim Taehyung is a man on a mission. Ever since the day he’d gone looking for the mysterious van, one thing has become clear to him: Jeon Jungkook is the key to finding out whatever the fuck is happening with Hoseok. Taehyung has theories: someone new, maybe, or new friends or--god forbid--something that could get him kicked off the team (performance enhancing drugs, maybe?).

When Hoseok had lashed out at him the other day at soccer practice, Taehyung felt something in him snap: he’d crossed a line from being hurt to being angry, from being sad that one of his best friends was acting like he didn’t know him to being determined to find out what the hell was going on, to give Hoseok hell for it until he apologized. Over the years, they’d had different fights over stupid things: who got to be sweeper (it was the position Taehyung initially wanted to play), who got to kiss Jimin first during their first game of Spin The Bottle (Taehyung had won that one), whether or not cilantro belonged on a pizza (Hoseok was vehemently against it, Taehyung decidedly pro-Cilantro all the way)--and always, Taehyung had been the first one to come forward, the first one to concede, to say: it’s okay, Hobi, you’re right. Sure, Taehyung had fudged the block--but they were winning anyway and Hoseok had never yelled at him like that before, however impatient he may have been in the past, so the way Taehyung sees it, they’re square. I missed by less than a fucking centimeter, jeez. Taehyung almost doesn’t feel guilty for skipping out on practice because of a fever he doesn’t quite have.

He’s trying to keep it casual, to look nonchalant tailing Jungkook down the hallway and out toward the running track when class lets out. It isn’t hard: Jungkook is pretty tall, like a sporty grim reaper in his black hoodie and cap, the rings punched into the cap’s visor swinging as he walks out into the sunlight. Taehyung makes sure to keep some form of architecture between them: a post, a block of bleachers, some old lockers, a tree. The information that Taehyung needs is simple: he just wants to see who owns the black van. There was something about the way that Hoseok was smiling when he opened the door, something in his expression as he climbed inside that has makes Taehyung sure whoever was driving the van is the person at the center of this shit storm: he knows this precisely because that was the face Hoseok used to make whenever Taehyung showed up at his door--the big smile, the dimples like two points on a map, the eyes disappearing into half-moons.

They’re about a quarter way to the track when Jungkook turns suddenly, as if realizing he’s being followed--Taehyung ducks into one of the open utility closets. He holds his breath, counting to ten before peeking around the corner to see if Jungkook has started walking again. He sighs a small sigh of relief at the sight of Jungkook’s back and starts following him again, heart pounding in his chest.

 

 

The video goes viral. Yoongi can’t stop reaching for his phone every chance that he gets, watching with wide eyes as the numbers climb up and up and up every time he turns his data on, the buffering interface looping round and round like a circle, a snake eating its own tail, taking too long no matter how quickly it loads. When Hoseok told him about it a couple of days ago, they were both excited: had spent the whole day antsy with the idea of their work being out there, the irony of people watching it, seeing it, even if they had to keep their identities hidden--they’d regarded it with a kind of morbid curiosity, not unlike listening in on a conversation about you without people knowing. What would people say? Would anyone watch it at all? However optimistic they’d been, neither of them had expected the reception to be like this. That morning, as they stood cramped in the supply closet, lips still slick from kissing, hearts pounding from having their hands on one another, they’d fallen into a fit of giggles of disbelief. Yoongi remembers that feeling of leaning against Hoseok’s chest, feeling the ebb and flow of their laughter reverberating, echoing between them until neither of them knew who started it--a current of gladness that rocked them both as it grew between them, a storm of happiness.

People had gone crazy for the short dance routine--the likes and Subscriptions to the channel had just kept (just keeps) rising, the number of views going up to nearly 200,000 in less than 48 hours. Yoongi can definitely see why: he’d had a hard time keeping composure himself as he’d filmed Hoseok, watching his body move, an animal in its element, the wind in a hurricane, a body of water hitting the shore of music that Yoongi had written. There was something too about the person that Hoseok became with the mask on: like he shed that upstanding golden boy he so often tried to be in school or in the field, his shoulders relaxed, his gait became easy, confident in a different way--a way that was more natural to him, less posturing, more a revelation, a falling away of a curtain to reveal the show, the number, the single, glittering star.  It makes Yoongi swell with pride to see the video pop up everywhere: from his Facebook timeline, shared and reshared by friends and family, to a small, 250-word Buzzfeed article (South Korean Dancer Takes Social Media By Storm) he’d found through Naver search.

Yoongi has to admit--he is basking in the limelight himself, seeing his Soundcloud account get more action than it has the entire four or so years it’s been up. In the past two days, he’s taken to uploading more of his newer music (was slightly sad about not being able to plug anything for The Electric Pink Souffles) and taking down some earlier covers of pop songs (acoustic, his voice off-pitch, crackly) that he felt kind of embarrassed about now.

Today, he’s sitting in the little secret fort that he, Namjoon, and Jungkook had made under the bleachers by bringing beanbags and a couple of chairs a few years ago--their own tiny space where they usually went to smoke or hang out between classes--hitting the refresh button again and again and again, while trying to finish his math homework. It’s after school and he’s waiting for Hoseok to finish up with practice; no band practice for them today. His heart skips as he sees the number jump suddenly: 392,937.

“What’s up, Mr. Famous?” Namjoon ducks in through the tarp they’ve used to conceal the entrance, backpack slung over one shoulder, a lollipop in his mouth. Yoongi jumps, almost dropping his phone. Fuck. He’d forgotten that Namjoon followed him on Soundcloud.

“Shut up.”

Namjoon straddles one of the chairs, dropping his bag on the ground. “So is that the guy?”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

Namjoon laughs, then smirks, narrowing his eyes at Yoongi. “I bet you met him at that camp thing you went to. All this time, you’ve been all secretive and writing all of these awesome songs about this hot dancer guy and you didn’t even tell us. Once we meet him, you owe me a first hookup story. A body like that--I bet it’s a good one.”

Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “I don’t remember you ever giving me a hookup story about any of the people you’ve dated--guys or girls, they just suddenly showed up at practice, making googly eyes at y--”

“--none of them made googly eyes--”

“--they all make googly eyes--”

“--name one--”

“--Moonbyul, Ji-ho, Solji, Jackson --”

“--so tell me about H.O.P.E. Do you call him that in bed or is that just a professional thing?”

Yoongi throws his textbook at Namjoon, missing him by a quarter inch. Namjoon bursts into laughter before checking the time.

“Where is Jungkook by the way?”

Yoongi looks up from his phone, which he’s refreshed again. “I think he mentioned something about going home to run?”

 

 

If it hadn’t been for Hoseok--or, well, H.O.P.E.--putting his and Yoongi’s video up, Jungkook may not have ever gotten the courage to run the track ever again. Last year had been humiliating for him: there was something especially painful about loving to do something and having it slowly morph into something that you dreaded. It was a visceral kind of ache: seeing the way that the track rounded, the way that it curved around the green field, made him break out in cold sweat, made his stomach turn.

However, watching the short clip of the routine, seeing the confident way that HOPE moved, the way that Jungkook could tell Yoongi tailored the melody to his routine, the way he could tell they worked hard on it, and were now releasing it into the world, everything be damned, kindled a kind of courage in Jungkook. Yes, he is still afraid, but he is no longer willing to give into his fear. Seeing the view count climb and realizing how difficult it must’ve been for them not to be able to claim the fame, how much was on the line if they were found out--and that they’d taken the risk anyway, goads him on. He doesn’t really know Jung Hoseok and part of him will always resent him for winning Yoongi’s heart--the wound still fresh, there--but he has to give it to him: the guy has guts. Jungkook can respect that.

He takes a deep breath as he tosses his duffel bag to the side of the track, puts music on, and starts stretching, warming up. He is thankful the track kids aren’t around as he gears up for the first lap, leaning low, raising his hips-- ready, set, go! Suddenly, Jungkook lets himself fly again, that old rush in his chest, that ache in his legs as he goes as fast as he can, the wind in his face, the earth steady under his feet. He grins, feeling the sun warm his face, the air rushing against his skin. Before he knows it, he is rounding the bend, ready to start again. He runs the nine laps against the strain of his muscles, his chest heaving, begging for more air, his heart thundering in his chest. He pushes himself a little further, goes for that one last lap, starting off again one more time. Night is darkest before the goddamn dawn. He feels the runner’s high kick in mid-route, a fresh rush of adrenaline kicking in, pushing him forward--he is grinning, laughing, elated, until he gets to the finish line and all of the track kids are there, waiting for him. Sehun is holding up his bag by the strap.

“Well, well. Look what the can dragged in.”

Jungkook doesn’t say anything, just keeps panting, his stomach suddenly turning, his vision suddenly swimming, the rush-and-stop of blood suddenly making him queasy, the shift from exhilaration to fear too quick, too sudden for him to process properly. Leave the bag and run, his mind is saying, but his body doesn’t listen. Instead Jungkook stands stock-still.

“We were kind of hoping you’d learned your lesson,” another one of the kids says, making a clicking sound with his tongue. “I can’t believe you had the gall to show up here after the stuff you pulled during the Spring meet. Did you actually think that beating out the captain didn’t have any consequences?”

One of them laughs but Jungkook doesn’t look up to see who. He just stares at his trainers--still his old, trusty, worn-out trainers.

Sehun tosses Jungkook’s bag at his feet. “Just go and we’ll leave you alone. If we see you here again, Jeon Jungkook--you’ll have another thing coming.”

One of the kids--Sung Gamja, codename: Potato Head--shoves at Jungkook’s shoulder. It rocks him but still he can’t move, like he’s rooted to the spot, held in place by some kind of cruel tether.

“Will he, now?” The voice is deep, smooth, laughter mingled with bravado, a lilt in it veiling a kind of threat under the honeyed tone.

Jungkook looks up, surprised, and finds himself staring at the approaching figure of Kim Taehyung: tall, handsome in the late afternoon light, casting a golden glow against his skin, his hair. His hands are in the pockets of his letterman jacket, his stride confident, strong as he steps closer to them. Jungkook feels tears start to sting the backs of his eyes. Fuck. Why the fuck does this guy keep on fucking popping up? He feels anger start to build up in his gut: first, from having to face the stupid track kids again, second, from the humiliation of having Kim Taehyung see him cry--but his anger is soon superceded by shock because what Kim Taehyung does next is push Gamja so hard he feels to the ground. Dirt kicks up from the track, a flurry of gold in the late afternoon.

“Woah, Tae--don’t be unreasonable, man--”

“--mess with him again and I’ll set the whole damn soccer team on you. Last fucking thing you guys want are Hoseok and Seokjin out for blood.” Taehyung’s voice is dripping with anger, lending it an edge that is sharp, cutting. He picks up Jungkook’s bag, slinging it over his shoulder, and pulls Jungkook along by the sleeve of his hoodie. “Come on, Jungkook. Let’s go.”

“What are you doing?” Jungkook hisses as he follows, the tears still falling freely down his cheeks.

Taehyung sighs, his voice quiet but firm. “Saving your ass. Obviously."

Chapter Text

When his feet hit the hot asphalt of the parking lot, Jungkook snaps back to reality: realizes what's just happened, realizes that Taehyung is still holding him by the sleeve of his sweater like a toddler who's had a temper tantrum, realizes that Taehyung's still holding his bag, that they're walking toward his car. Jungkook stops short, jerking his arm out of Taehyung's grasp.

"Give me my bag."

Taehyung turns to look at him, raises an eyebrow. "I'll drive you home."

"I'd rather die. Give me my bag."

"Look, it's really not a big deal and you're in no shape to be commuting--you might get on the wrong train or get hit by--"

"--I've been roughing it for more than eighteen years now and I know how to handle myself. I don't need some stupid rich kid who thinks he knows what he's talking about to tell me what to do."

Taehyung lets out a scoff, lips lifting into a smirk. "Is that right? Well. You know, a thank you would be nice because from what I could tell, if I hadn't stepped in, you would've been in hot shit with that jerk, Gamja."

"Isn't Gamja from your crowd? You fuckin' uptight, rich assholes who just have everything handed to you on a goddamn silver platter--all your lives, you just had to show up and look good, fuck it if there are other people more deserving of your places in society than yourselves. Fuck it if people run faster, run harder than  you; they'll get bullied until they give up because it’s natural selection, isn’t it? Your people are on the fucking top of the food chain and there’s nothing that we can do about it--”

“--you’re right, but you’re also wrong,” Taehyung says, tossing Jungkook’s bag at him.

Jungkook catches it, doesn’t even flinch. The cloth strap feels rough, heavy in his hands. His hands curl into fists--he feels the edge of the fabric cut into his palms.

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

Taehyung leans back against the hood of his car. “Life is unfair. You don’t think that I know I’m lucky? You think that my balls don’t shrink back into their sacs a little every time I take money from my parents? Every time people are nice to me because of my last name or my face or whatever? I know it’s unfair and I know it sucks. So I’m thinking a good way to balance that out in whatever way I can is to be nice to people. To help people out when I can. So who’s really refusing to change the fucking status quo here, Jeon Jungkook? Is it me? Or is it you?”

Jungkook opens his mouth to say something but comes up empty. He watches Kim Taehyung unlock his car, climb into the driver's seat, and back the Chevy out of the parking space and double-back for Jungkook. He lowers the window.

“What’ll it be, Jeon?”

Reluctantly, hands still shaking, Jungkook opens the passenger door and climbs in.

 

 

Hoseok and Yoongi are lying on the couch in Yoongi’s basement, Hoseok on his back with pillows propped up under his head, Yoongi on top of him, bracing himself on his forearms, hands playing absentmindedly with Hoseok’s hair. Hoseok watches Yoongi, the way that the late afternoon sun filtering into the room highlights his lips, his eyes--the way they widen when they watch Hoseok’s face. That look is all Hoseok’s lived for these past months, the only thing that’s gotten him through these long days.

Today, they’ve just finished listening to a few new songs that Yoongi’s come up with, Hoseok showing him some of the dance moves that he’s working on. Yoongi’s mom isn’t home and so it had inevitably ended with them making out, Yoongi backing Hoseok up against the wall--and suddenly it was all hands travelling up shirts, grazing nipples, hungry mouths working magic against skin, leaving it to bruise, to pulse, to ask for more in its heat, blood rushing to the surface. Hoseok had then carried Yoongi to the couch, where they’d let their lovemaking unravel them further: Yoongi riding Hoseok until he came, hot and shuddering, hands greedy for flesh as he held Yoongi’s hips down, riding out his climax before seeing to Yoongi’s pleasure--stimulating his prostate while jerking him off until he spilled himself onto them both, leaving them sticky and exhausted, sated but also shaking with pleasure.

Days like these, Hoseok wonders when someone will wake him up, tell him he’s been living in a dream, tell him that none of it is real. A pang of guilt hits him as he remembers having snapped at Taehyung, remembers meaning to talk to him but forgetting about it as he and Yoongi had let themselves get lost in the hype, remembers not having talked to his friends about any of this. I will. I swear to god, I will.  In that way, he envies Yoongi: how he’s able to talk to his friends about so many things, how he’s so calm and confident about himself, however low-key he might project himself to be.

“What’re you thinking about?” Yoongi asks, smoothing the crease between Hoseok’s brows with gentle fingers.

Hoseok smiles. One of the things that he loves about Yoongi is that he can tell him pretty much anything, it eases that part of him that he’s forced to hide, to shut up inside him at home and in school.

“I’ve been feeling really bad about my friends--especially Taehyung. Sorry, is that a sore topic? Mind if I talk about it a little bit?”

Yoongi tilts his head a little. “I still hate him for kissing you in this really childish way but sure, we can talk about him.”

“I snapped at him the other day at practice--he didn’t really do anything wrong but the coach was just riling me up and making everything fucking terrible and I know the tension and resentment have been building up between us since that night I ran out on him. He’s really one of my best friends, you know. All of the sexual stuff aside, he’s been my best friend since we were kids and it’s killing me not to be able to tell him about us, about the H.O.P.E. thing.”

“Then why don’t you? He can keep a secret, can’t he?”

“I’m scared,” Hoseok says, staring up at the ceiling. “I’m terrified of hurting his feelings and I’m also scared of him judging me. I know he wouldn’t but knowing and feeling are two entirely different things.”

Yoongi nods. “I understand but you kind of just have to trust people if they’re your friends, you know? There’s no guarantee but that’s what it means to be friends with someone. You bank on them.”

“Is that how you told Namjoon and Jungkook?”

“Well, Namjoon hasn’t fully figured it out but I want to see his face on Halloween. That’s the photo that I want on my tombstone. Jungkook--Jungkook is something special. I wasn’t going to tell him but he knew something was wrong the minute we drove into Taehyung’s neighborhood. He knows me well and I trust him with my life.”

Hoseok feels a pang of jealousy but pushes it out of his mind. Stop being stupid. “Was there ever anything there--with you two?”

Yoongi pauses thoughtfully. “Full disclosure, we had sex once.”

“Oh.” Hoseok tries not to let the strain come through in his voice. He thinks of Jeon Jungkook: tall, handsome, athletic--while a part of him is jealous as hell, hurts at the thought of him with Yoongi, of them kissing, holding each other close, knowing how beautiful and how vulnerable Yoongi can be, he knows on a rational level that this is being told to him in confidence, knows that the fact he’s been made privy to the information is an act of trust. I won’t let you down. “What went on there? It never carried over?”

Yoongi leans in to kiss him, smiling a little. “It was just a one-time thing, though. It was a special occasion. I’m not really sure why that never escalated but we’re good as friends, you know? We’re easy with one another and even if that initial attraction is there, I don’t think it’s enough to move us past that. There’s a certain fire required, I think, to be with someone.”

Yoongi traces the line of Hoseok’s collarbones, the outline of his jaw, the curved cupid’s bow of his lips. “I’m sure you understand what I mean.”

Hoseok grins, leaning into Yoongi’s touch, pressing his cheek against Yoongi’s palm. “Mmmm.”

“So if you want my advice,” Yoongi says, leaning down to kiss Hoseok. “I’d say just talk to Taehyung about it. Trust him and let the rest take care of itself. If he doesn’t understand, if he tells, then at least you know. If he is fine with it, then you have your best friend back.”

Hoseok grins, putting a hand to Yoongi’s nape and pulling him into a soft kiss. “I fell in love with a fucking genius.”

They both realize what he’s said halfway through the kiss, mouths suddenly careful, hesitant, slow. When they pull apart, they’re both blushing.

“Um. I mean--in case you didn’t know--” Hoseok starts. “That that’s how I felt--”

Yoongi grins, narrowing his eyes at him playfully. “I had my suspicions. You’re lucky though.”

“Mmm?”

“I’m pretty fucking in love with you too.”

 

 

It’s almost dark when Hoseok starts walking to the station from Yoongi’s house. They’d showered together, taken their time cleaning up, and when they’d finished putting their clothes back on, had heard Yoongi’s mom’s car pull into the driveway. Hoseok likes this side of town at twilight, it lends the neighborhood a softer feel, the skyline looking beautiful in its asymmetry, the dim lamplight lending a fairytale-esque atmosphere to the otherwise urban landscape.

He jumps when a car drives up to him, beeping. He turns and sees Taehyung’s red chevy. What the fuck is he doing here? Is he following me? He remembers Yoongi’s advice: trust, friendship. Taehyung rolls the window down.

“Need a ride?”

He’s grinning, seems to be in a good mood. Hoseok laughs, opens the passenger’s seat and hops in. He feels himself relax against the passenger’s seat, the familiar smell of Taehyung’s car--like lollipops mingled with mint--reminding him suddenly how much he’d missed him. They don’t speak for a while, the radio playing some of Taehyung’s favorite trot music. It’s Hoseok who breaks the silence.

“What’re you doing on this side of town, by the way?”

“I was just dropping a friend off,” Taehyung says nonchalantly.

Hoseok raises an eyebrow.

Taehyung waves him off as they stop at an intersection. “It’s a long story. I’ll tell you next time. How about you? Are you alright, by the way? The guys and I have been worried about you, you know. You just seem to be--somewhere else all the time these days.”

Hoseok nods. “I know. I know I’ve been a jerk. I’m really sorry for yelling at you the other day. Tae, there’s a lot of stuff that I need to tell you. Do you want to come over for a bit? My dad’s home but we can say we’re working on homework and get some quiet time. I think this is the kind of conversation I need to hug my stuffed toys for.”

“Sure,” Taehyung says as they turn onto the main road. “Sure, we can do that."

 

 

Hoseok locks his bedroom door and starts to tell Taehyung everything: the dancing thing (Taehyung says he’s always kind of known), the camp thing (Taehyung punches him on the arm--hard--for lying to them), the falling in love with Min Yoongi thing (Taehyung makes a joke about being jealous--not quite passing it off as a complete joke, his voice cracking a little--but says he’s happy for him), the being scared shitless of telling people thing (Taehyung says he won’t tell a soul), the coach talking to him about his performance thing (Taehyung does an impression of the coach that makes Hoseok double over in laughter), the dad putting pressure on him for scholarships thing (Taehyung waves it off what’s new )--and finally, the H.O.P.E. thing (Taehyung starts to scream but then realizes he shouldn’t and instead ends up trying to put his fist in his mouth which sends them into a fit of laughter).

“Holy shit,” Taehyung says when Hoseok is done talking. He lets the big picture sink in, almost hates himself for being so angry with Hoseok: so much had changed for him, so much about who he thought he was had fallen away over the summer, had probably started falling away a little bit before that. He himself can’t quite picture his life without soccer, without the game they’d played for so long, so he can only imagine how it must be for someone like Hoseok who’d played so intensely for so long.

“Do you hate me?” Hoseok asks. “This is going to sound conceited as hell--but I’d always kind of thought you liked me liked me. I was most scared to tell you because I was afraid it’d put strain on our friendship because of how--complicated we made it.”

Taehyung tilts his head thoughtfully. “Well. I will miss being fucked into oblivion by your hot ass but how could I hate you for being happy, Hobi? It’s all I’ve ever wanted for you. And you’re right, you know. I did like you. That’s why I tried to ask you to prom--”

“--no you didn’t! You said we should all go--”

“--no, you assumed I meant we should all go--”

“--oh.” Hoseok’s eyes are wide, the entire thing dawning on him. “OH. I’m so dense.”

Taehyung laughs sadly. “You really, truly are.”

“I’m sorry, Tae. I’m so, so, sorry for hurting your feelings."

Taehyung hits him in the face with a pillow. “It’s okay. Thanks for trusting me. It means a lot. It stings like a motherfucker but I’m really glad you told me.”

Hoseok smiles. “You’re my best friend.”

“You should tell the others too, you know. They miss you too.”

“Maybe when I’ve gathered a bit more nerve.”

“Hah,” Taehyung says. “The great H.O.P.E. can do anything.”

“Sure he can,” Hoseok says laughing. “It’s that weirdo, Jung Hoseok, I’m worried about.”

 

 

“Let me get this straight,” Seokjin says as they’re all gathered around the ramyun pot after practice a few days later--Jung Hoseok included--a few days later. “You, Jung Hoseok, are not , as a matter of fact, going to be at our annual Halloween party? You, king of the getting-drunk-by-nine-in-the-evening? You, king of wearing a skeleton costume every fucking year?”

Hoseok smiles sheepishly, slurping the last of his ramyun. He and Yoongi had worked out a good arrangement: Tuesdays and Thursdays, Hoseok would go and hang out with the soccer kids at Seokjin’s, giving Yoongi time to spend with Jungkook and Namjoon. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, they’d hang out as usual, Yoongi picking him up after practice: same time, same place.

“Sorry, Jin-hyung. I already promised I’d go to another Halloween thing.”

Seokjin rolls his eyes. “Is that why you’ve been acting all weird? You’ve made new friends?”

Hoseok shrugs. “Sorry, I was being stupid. But yeah. I can’t make it.”

“Why don’t you just ask them to go to the party? We’re nice.” Jimin is flipping through a comic book nonchalantly.

Taehyung laughs. “ You’re nice but the rest of the people we hang out with? Not so much. Also, if the track kids are going to be there, then I’m not going.”

Seokjin puts down his bowl forcefully, the ceramic making a loud clinking sound against the wood of the floor. “Of course the track kids are going to be there. It’s tradition!”

“Do you guys ever think of how the track kids are only nice to us but are kind of jerks to other people?” Taehyung says, anger rising in his gut. “They’re assholes--especially Gamja, but Sehun too for not doing anything about how his team behaves. A Captain should take responsibility for his men. They shouldn’t bully people for performing better than them. They’re terrible and I refuse to party with them.”

Jimin looks up from his comic book. “Did they do something to you, TaeTae?”

Taehyung shakes his head. “Well, no, not to me but--”

“--should I talk to Sehun about it?” Seokjin asks.

Taehyung pauses thoughtfully. “No. What the track team needs is some character development. Let them figure it out, put their brains to good use for once.”

Jimin shakes his head. “I don’t get you.”

“Tae, you know why we can’t uninvite the track team right? The annual party is usually sponsored by Gamja’s dad’s company--they supply the mobile bar with free-flowing alcohol.” Seokjin says, scooping more ramyun into his bowl.

“You could find other people to supply the alcohol,” Hoseok says.

“Or,” Taehyung says with indignation. “I could just not come.”

 

 

They decide to move movie nights to Thursdays at Jungkook’s house because his dad works late shifts, giving them more time to commandeer the living room. Also, Jungkook realized by accident earlier that week that the projector they’d been using as a makeshift end table was an actual functioning projector with an HDMI function so they could hook it up to Yoongi’s rickety-but-useful old laptop. Today is Namjoon’s turn to pick and they’d sat watching Jamais De La Vie, a French-Belgian flick about a nightwatchman who questions society’s imbalances and picks courageousness over survival. By the end of it, all of them need a cigarette or two, tension built up in their shoulders.

Now, they’re sitting outside by the front porch, smoking in silence, caught up in their own thoughts: Yoongi contemplating the repercussions of speaking up against the status quo, Namjoon thinking about a particular scene where the lead character’s self-worth had been tied to the amount reflected on his paycheck, making a mental note to come up with something more political for the EP--Jungkook thinking about Kim Taehyung standing up for him, wondering how that fit into his view of the power index, how it had rocked the way that he saw things. What if the people you thought you hated were kind? His thoughts also inevitably wander toward Hoseok and Yoongi’s relationship--Hoseok, too, was one of them , and yet, Yoongi, who as far as Jungkook is concerned, is the model of everything good and right and reasonable, hadn’t just given him a shot but had gone as far to fall in love with him. Was there a film for that? Was there a song? If not, could Jungkook be the one to write it?

“Hey, Kookie,” Yoongi says, calling him over as he puts his cigarette out and tosses it into the nearby bin.

“Mmm?"

“Holy shit. There’s something in your mailbox.”

Jungkook raises an eyebrow. Their original mailbox had been ripped off by one of the gangs who’d had a brawl on their block a couple of years ago so Jungkook and his dad had instead decided to build another one from an old trashcan which was a) iridescent orange and b) pretty much just a trashcan they’d stuck onto the mailpost. That meant most people didn’t leave their mail there but brought it up to the porch instead--and also, they never checked it.

Jungkook walks over to inspect the package. It’s wrapped in plain blue paper, no stamps: someone must’ve stuffed it in there while they were in the living room. He wonders if it’s from one of his dad’s creditors--maybe a threat or a collection notice, a box of bills. Dread starts to build in his gut. Maybe I shouldn’t open it.

“You okay?” Namjoon calls, coming over to help Jungkook with the mailbox.

“It’s weird--there are no stamps.”

Namjoon peers closer. “I think it’s a gift. That’s wrapping paper.”

Slowly, Jungkook pulls it out of the mailbox. The box is rectangular, feels heavy in his hands. He shakes it but only makes the slightest of sounds. “Do you think my dad has an admirer? That’s weird.”

“Maybe it’s for you?” Yoongi says, piping up.

“For me ? Should I open it or wait for my dad?”

“Turn it over--” Namjoon says, peering at something written on the underside of the box.

Jungkook does as he’s told and sees the text written in large, clumsy handwriting: JEON JUNGKOOK.

“I guess it’s for you.”

“Well, don’t kill us with suspense. Open it.” Yoongi says, leaning in.

Jungkook tears off the paper with shaking hands, stuffing the discarded wrapper into the mailbox. His eyes grow wide as he realizes what the package is: a shoebox, and inside, under layers of blue tissue, new running shoes--white streaked with red, the new-shoe smell making him want to cry as he lifts the paper. He hadn’t smelled that clean, rubber-on-cloth smell in so long.

“Shoes?” Namjoon asks, confused. “Maybe it’s from your dad? Maybe he ordered it online?”

Jungkook knows who they’re from. A card rests just under the last layer of tissue in the box. Again, that awkward, large, looping handwriting. So unlike the person. Jungkook finds himself reading it aloud, his voice barely above a whisper.

 

Life is locomotion, if you’re not moving, you’re not living. But there comes a time when you have to stop running away from things and you’ve got to start running towards something. You’ve got to forge ahead, keep moving. Even if your path isn’t lit, trust that you’ll find your way.

 

He starts to laugh to himself, clutching the sneakers to his chest.

“What does that mean? Is it about traveling?” Yoongi asks. “Maybe your dad thought you were graduating this year? I guess you could keep them and just thank him next year?"

“Why does that quote sound so familiar?” Namjoon purses his lips thoughtfully.

Jungkook grins, his voice coming out softer than he intends. “It’s a quote from The Flash.”

That night, after Yoongi and Namjoon have gone home, Jungkook finds the courage to send the Facebook message  he’d started composing after they’d left. In the past hour, he’d fluctuated between a long, drawn out thank you and a short, curt thanks! but had decided instead on something mid-way, a kind of inside joke.

To: Kim Taehyung

Fr: Jeon Jungkook

 

I’m more a Marvel kind of guy but thank you for everything--I’m sorry for acting like such a jerk. I’ll keep running.

 

Jungkook grins as he sees the three dots, signalling someone is typing. The chat window turns blue when the reply comes in.

 

To: Jeon Jungkook

Fr: Kim Taehyung

 

MARVEL!?! I AM OFFENDED> Also, don't sweat it. Fuck the system. ;) See u on the track, then, Quicksilver.

 

 

“Running shoes, huh?” Hoseok says into the phone, making sure to keep his voice low. Yoongi’d called him before going to bed, had told him the story of Jungkook and the shoes. Hoseok remembers Taehyung driving by the other day, the bit about the track team that he’d mentioned when they were over at Seokjn’s.

“Yeah. It was bizarre. I hope someone isn’t stalking him.”

“I doubt it,” Hoseok says, cradling his phone against his shoulder while typing into the Facebook Messenger chatbox.

 

To: Kim Taehyung

Fr: Jung Hoseok

 

Is there something you want to tell me? About why you were where you were that time u picked me up? U sneaky bastard. >:)

 

“Well, I hope it’ll be fine,” Yoongi says. “He’s really sensitive about the track thing. He used to get bullied a lot.”

“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Hoseok says. “Looks like he has people on his side.”

The chat window pops open.

 

To: Jung Hoseok

Fr: Kim Taehyung

 

Why u gotta ask if u already know !>

 

“Hrrrrrrm. Yoongi?”

“Yeah?”

“Would you mind if I brought Taehyung along to the Halloween gig?”

“Hrrrm. Not really, I guess--if that’s fine with you. I’ll try not to be too jealous or unpleasant.”

Hoseok chuckles. “Yeah, I think it’ll be great, actually. He didn’t feel like going to the party either so I figure, a change of scenery will be in order.”

 

To: Kim Taehyung

Fr: Jung Hoseok

 

So. U up for watching a gig w me on Halloween?

 

To: Jung Hoseok

Fr: Kim Taehyung

 

As long as there's a) booze and b) cute boys (who aren't u obvi, NOT FLIRTING WITH U OK JUSTMAKING IT CLEAR)

 

To: Kim Taehyung

Fr: Jung Hoseok

 

Idiot. And yes, I'm sure there will be boys u'll find cute

 

Hoseok grins into the phone. “It’s a plan, then.”

Chapter Text

“Alright. Face me.” Taehyung smudges the line of Hoseok’s right eyebrow with his pinkie before cleaning up the outline with some concealer. Hoseok turns and Taehyung studies his face, smiles at his own handiwork--Hoseok is beautiful: eyebrows perfectly arched, cheekbones contoured just right, peach blush dusted over his cheeks, lips plumped with sheer gloss. “Okay, there. Perfect. Let me get the wig.”

Hoseok tucks loose strands of hair into his nude wig cap before letting Taehyung fix the strawberry blonde wig in place. They’d done it up beforehand so that the hair is sectioned off evenly into two braids with pink pompoms at the ends. Once it’s done, Taehyung grins. Perfect.

Hoseok walks to the mirror, takes in the sight of himself: white polo shirt tied at the midriff to reveal his toned torso and a little bit of the black lace from the bra he’d pilfered from his sister, loose gray cardigan hanging loose over the rolled up sleeves, his black pleated skirt falling from his hips to just above his knees, a sliver of skin showing between the hem and the garter of his black knee-high socks. He adjusts the stuffing of the bra a little bit, grins. Hit me, baby one more time. He spins once, landing with his arm held out, hands graceful, pigtail braids swaying from the momentum.

Taehyung lets out a low whistle. “It’s Britney, bitch.”

Hoseok laughs. “Ready, Harley?”

Taehyung grins, winks at Hoseok in the mirror. “Damn right.”

Hoseok grins back at him, giving Taehyung a once-over in the mirror. Taehyung has done an awesome job with himself as well, is dressed up as his favorite DC character. Taehyung’s had the costume for ages--a body suit he’d gotten on a trip to Japan with his parents a few years ago. When he bought it, he’d told Hoseok it was a mispurchase, that he’d meant to buy the Joker outfit, but from the way the suit fits him like a dream, the way it hugs his body, the way it accentuates his tall, generous frame, emphasizes where his waist tapers in, where his hips flare out, giving way to flesh and sinewy limbs, Hoseok knows now that Taehyung had been lying through his teeth. The suit is made for him. The jester's headpiece frames Taehyung’s face: the dots of glitter he’s artfully added to the corners of his eyes offset the darkness of the mask that encircles them, his long lashes have been curled and coated in mascara to look even more mischievous and coquettish than usual, the highlight he’s brushed over the tops of his cheekbones accentuates his bone structure, his wide mouth is done up in Ruby Woo--retro, classic red--making his lips look even more shapely than they already are. In the mirror, Taehyung poses with his toy gun, jutting out a hip just to see how it looks. Hoseok grins, feeling gladness and excitement spread through him for the night to come.

They’ve decided to go all-out for Halloween: dress up the way they’d never be able to if they’d gone to the varsity party. It’s a risky plan, one that started off shy--both of them brainstorming costumes before slowly admitting to one another that they already, as a matter of fact, knew what they wanted to go as. Taehyung’s parents are out of town, making the decision to get ready at his place easy enough. Hoseok had told his parents he was going to the Halloween party as usual and sleeping over at Taehyung’s, had left the house wearing his usual skeleton costume that he’d worn year after year after year. They’d spent the morning listening to early 2000s hits, Lady Marmalade and Oops! I Did It Again playing on loop over the sound system as they went through Hoseok’s sister’s ten-step skincare regimen that Hoseok had seen from videos online would help them with the make-up application.

Now, they’re sitting on the couch, eating chips from a bowl using chopsticks and drinking soda through straws so as not to mess up their lipstick--a lifehack Taehyung learned from his mom. After, they add the finishing touches to their costumes: temporary punk tattoos that Yoongi had given Hoseok last time they hung out. They grin as they peel back the wet layer of plastic and paper, the outline of the tattoos stark against their skin. Taehyung has chosen the small, traditional bleeding heart, has put it on his left cheek. Hoseok has gone with the black safety pin, has stuck it in onto the hollow of his hip, half-visible over the waistband of his skirt--if for no other reason than to drive Yoongi a little bit crazy.

Outside, the sun is starting to set--orange on black as the twilight seeps into the horizon, perfect for the occassion. Only an hour and a half left to go until the gig. Hoseok feels his heart skip with excitement. He can’t help but wonder about how Yoongi will react to his costume: Hoseok thinks the schoolgirl theme kinda fits the punk, campy aesthetic of the films they’d watched over the summer, hopes it’ll go over well. Also, he hopes he’ll find it irresistible, that he won’t be able to keep his hands off of him by the end of the night. There’s that too.

 

 

“Fuck, why did you have to pick that one?” Namjoon asks as Jungkook enters the studio. He’s wearing a clown costume, ruffles up to his neck, the homemade one-piece made from polka-dotted fabric sewn over an old jumpsuit. He’s wearing a curly, white wig but has yet to do up his makeup. “Clowns freak me out.

Jungkook slings his guitar over his shoulder. “What? I’m The Clown from the Circus of Crime comics.”

Yoongi sighs, rolls his eyes as he lumbers into the studio with his bass in tow. It’s mid-afternoon and they’re at their studio practice space to give tonight’s setlist one more go before heading to the venue for soundcheck. They’d decided to go with a simple setlist: each band got five songs so they’d decided to trim it to the best they had along with one cover of a Joan Jett classic to get the audience going before they ended with Yoongi’s most recent banger, quite intentionally entitled Sex.

Namjoon gives the bass pedal a couple of kicks, adjusting his seat accordingly. Jungkook starts tuning his guitar, adjusting the position of his distortion pedals.

“You should’ve gone as The Joker. I know you’re obsessed with Marvel but just this once it’d be nice if you could dress up as someone the audience could recognize. You seriously just look like any other clown. Why didn’t you go as Iron Man? You love Iron Man.” Yoongi undoes the clasps on his guitar case.

Jungkook stares at him point-blank. “Iron Man isn’t scary. And I don’t have the equipment to build a suit.”

“Well you got the scary part down--” Namjoon says, tightening the screw on the hi-hat.

“--and The Joker is overrated. You know that The Clown rides a unicycle? And that later on, he undergoes Gamma Corps mutation and becomes the Griffin?”

Yoongi sighs. “You should’ve gone as The Joker. It would’ve taken you like, fifteen minutes and a trip to the thrift store to put that together.”

“Oh ‘cause your costume is the most mainstream ever,” Jungkook shoots back, starting to tune his guitar.

Yoongi is dressed in a black and white pinstripe suit over which he’d made a papier mache collar to flare out, the tails of the coat stiffened up with starch. His face is painted to look like a skeleton--he didn’t own a wig cap so instead he’d slicked his dark hair back with pomade in a 50s-style backcomb.

“What? I’m Jack Skellington. Nightmare Before Christmas? Only the most fucking famous Halloween flick in the world.”

“Isn’t it a Christmas film?” Namjoon asks. “I mean it’s literally called--”

Yoongi adjusts the mic to his height. “--Namjoon, the real question is: who are you supposed to be?”

They both look at him, take time to study what he’s wearing. Namjoon is wearing round spectacles and is dressed in a suit with a bowtie over which he’s thrown an oversized brown coat. He’s donned a fake mustache which he strokes thoughtfully in jest. On his head is a black bowler hat that he adjusts as if moving it slightly to the left will help them recognize who he’s going as. After a minute of silence, Namjoon sighs exasperatedly. “You guys are ridiculous. It’s so damn obvious. Nietzsche.”

“Okay. Neither of you get the point of Halloween. Let’s practice before they figure out we’re losers and decide to kick us off tonight’s line-up.”

Namjoon grins, puts his sticks together and counts them into their first song.

 

 

Yoongi sees Hoseok right as they’re setting up for their turn: he doesn’t recognize him at first--the bar is dim, all the tables save for the ones right by the stage that management had reserved for the bands already occupied, but when Hoseok walks in with Taehyung, something about them catches Yoongi’s eye: the sheen of Taehyung’s suit, the bounce of Hoseok’s pigtails. Wow, some people really brought Halloween. Yoongi glances up and watches them strut into the bar, their eyes wide as if searching for someone. Yoongi wonders who they’re looking for, half-wishing he’d worked harder on his costume.

It’s only when Hoseok spots him on stage and smiles wide, dimples appearing at the corners of his mouth as he waves at Yoongi while jostling against people to get to him that Yoongi realizes who he’s been staring at. Hot fucking damn. Yoongi takes in the sight of him: the way that his handsome face blushes pretty under the colored lights, his lips slick (or sticky?) with something Yoongi can’t quite identify (lipstick? lipbalm?) but which he knows he wants to kiss off the said lips later in the night for sure. He watches the graceful way that Hoseok moves, his legs slender but shapely, muscles on his calves tensing as he does his best to walk in high-heeled Mary Janes. Yoongi lets his gaze wash over the view of Hoseok’s collarbones, his chest, the peek-a-boo lace where his polo shirt is undone one button too many, his lean torso, the safety pin temporary tattoo on the skin of Hoseok’s hip where it dips into his skirt, the small puckering of flesh where his knee-highs hold up against his legs. For a moment, Yoongi can’t move, isn’t sure if he’s breathing--and then he hears Jungkook say something into the mic that he seems to have forgotten he’s holding.

“Fuck.”

The sound engineer looks up questioningly at the stage from the soundbooth. Yoongi flashes him the all good sign before glancing at Jungkook who still doesn’t seem to have any idea what he’d just said or that he’d said it for the whole bar to hear. He is standing stock-still, mouth open, staring as Kim Taehyung saunters toward them behind Hoseok, blowing kisses and aiming his toy gun at people from the audience who are raining compliments of Great costume! and Work it, sweetheart! down on him as they let them through. They take their seats at the Electric Pink Souffles’ table and Jungkook is pulled out of his trance when Taehyung aims the gun at him and winks. Jungkook drops his guitar pick, fumbles around the wires looking for it for a moment. Yoongi finds it by his distortion pedal and tosses it at him. Jungkook catches it.

“Fuck,” he says again. “Fuck fuck fuck.”

Yoongi grins, straightening up and looking at Hoseok who’s looking at him. Yoongi winks, signaling at Hoseok with his hands. I’m watching you. Hoseok blows him a kiss.

“Yoongi!” Namjoon hisses at him. “Is that Jung Hoseok?? You’re dating JUNG HOSEOK?”

“Why don’t you shout it for the whole world to hear, Namjoon?” Yoongi turns back to his bass, grins, committing Namjoon's shocked face to memory.

“And is he wearing a Britney outfit? And oh my god--is that KIM TAEHYUNG?”

“Namjoon-hyung?” Jungkook says, turning toward him.

“What?”

“Shut up.”

Yoongi chuckles, adjusts the strap on his bass.

“Fuck. Now I’m nervous. Fuck fuck fuck.” Jungkook says again, giving his guitar a strum as the sound engineer calls the check.

“I told you you should’ve gone as The Joker.”

 

 

Hoseok is transfixed, enamored, mesmerized--he’s sure there are a lot of other words for what he is but he can’t quite find them at the moment. Seeing Min Yoongi perform live, in his element, makes him feel a number of things: awe, excitement, adoration, arousal, maybe a fever coming on if he isn’t careful or if Yoongi’s hair comes apart from his brush-up a little more, the curlicue drooping just-right over his forehead.

While hearing him make music at camp was one thing, seeing him perform is something else entirely. Yoongi had mostly focused on composition and production back during the summer, had been doing backstage stuff more than letting himself be seen . But as soon as the lights went out, the pink stage lights went up (as is standard for an Electric Pink Souffles gig, Yoongi informed him the other day), and Yoongi’s voice came pouring out through the speakers, all gravel and force, lilts and peaks, drawl prominent, intense as he cried out, “WE ARE THE ELECTRIC PINK SOUFFLES THIS ONE IS CALLED HALLOWEEN--”

Hoseok found adrenaline running through his veins, goaded on as the crowd went wild to Jungkook playing the main riff and Namjoon kicking the drums into the song.

Sympathy, this is my best disguise.
My skin stepped out for my bones to dry up
For the rest of the world outside to see.
You see I, bleed on the side.
It's a part time thing, a private affair.
I try to keep it out of the light.

I must confess, I didn't recognize you tonight
Dressed up like my love.
And I hate these things but I always attend
A little sip of something to take off the edge
And I make my way through the ghosts in the room
Trying to crack a smile

And who are you supposed to be?
You look like heaven tonight
Me, I'm a tomb, a corpse in a suit,
Trying to look a little alive
Are you alright?
Cause I worry sometimes
Are you dressed up to take my life?

Keep it coming, keep it coming.

 

The music was beautiful, the mingling of Yoongi’s Tom Waits-esque voice with Jungkook’s smooth vocals against the wailing of the guitar, the slick bass licks, and Namjoon’s intense drum rolls made the hair on Hoseok’s arms and the back of his neck stand up. By the time they play the last line of the first song, the entire crowd is clapping along, singing along to the WHO ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE so loud that Yoongi steps back from the mic a bit, lets them finish the track. The next song, Gimme Chemicals, is a major banger, the whole crowd coming alive, everyone dancing, singing, jumping to the rhythm.

By the time that they go into their rendition of Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation , Hoseok is already shifting in his seat. Sweat is shining off of Yoongi’s forehead--even through the face paint, Hoseok can see Yoongi’s beautiful bone structure, finds himself staring at the small v at the hollow of his throat where he’s undone the button, loosened his tie, follows the beads of sweat as they disappear under his shirt where Hoseok so desperately wants to be. I don’t give a damn bout my reputation. Hoseok joins Taehyung in whooping as they hit the bridge and launch into the guitar solo but his voice doesn’t reach its full timbre, there’s a frog in his throat that only Yoongi can free. For a moment, Hoseok worries about whether or not he’s--well, actually physically aroused; he crosses his legs, finds relief at finding that he’s not in fact, in danger of flipping people off with his actual dick. And then they go into their last two songs and this is when Hoseok is in trouble, the want coiling in his gut.

“These next two songs,” Yoongi says, panting into the mic, and grinning mischievously. “Are for the baddest ass bitch in this club, my boyfriend--a Mr. Britney Spears. This first one’s called I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor.”

Yoongi winks at Hoseok. The crowd goes wild. Hoseok’s heart is thundering in his chest, the way he’s sitting with his legs crossed suddenly uncomfortable, almost painful--he realizes why around the same time that he starts to comprehend the song’s lyrics. Warmth spreads in his chest, tears starting to brim over his eyes, his body aching for Yoongi's: to hold him, to kiss him senseless. Taehyung hands him some tissue.

“Don’t cry, Brit. You’ll ruin your eye make-up.”

Hoseok punches him lightly on the arm, pats his eyes with the tissue.

From the second-to-the-last song, they kick right into the finale, the feedback from the guitars making the atmosphere sizzle, filling the air with excitement and anticipation as Jungkook plays the shiny, electric opening riff, brow furrowed in concentration. Yoongi’s grin is wide, ecstatic as he goes wild on the bass line, closes his eyes and starts to sing.   And this is how it starts. The crowd jumps to the beat as Namjoon kicks in with the bass drum, the snare loud and clear, hi-hat crisp.

You take your shoes off in the back of my van
Yeah my shirt looks so good
When it’s just hanging off your back

And he said use your hands and my spare time
We’ve got one thing in common, it’s this tongue of mine
He’s got a boyfriend anyway
(He’s got a boyfriend anyway)

Before they know it, erection be damned, Hoseok finds himself getting up from his seat and following Taehyung right up toward the stage where they join in the moshing, singing along to the chorus. This is my song, Hoseok thinks as he looks around him at the flurry of bodies, the whirlwind of lights, the music thumping through him as though his heart isn’t what keeps him standing but this beautiful music that Yoongi’s written for him. He wrote this for me.  

 

 

The rest of the night goes by in a beautiful blur, the happiest that Yoongi can ever remember being--too quickly for his satisfaction: the gig was amazing, the crowd was wonderful, and then they’d stayed to listen to the rest of the bands, had joined in on the dancing, the thrashing about to music before heading back to their table and downing their drinks of choice.

“Pick your poison,” Taehyung had said, coming back from the bar with an assortment of drinks they’d given him free for winning Best Costume. As much as he would’ve liked to hate Kim Taehyung, Yoongi is so endeared by him, he absolutely understands Hoseok’s (and, he suspects, Jungkook’s) attraction to him: he’s funny, charismatic, but also extremely candid. He isn’t afraid to make a fool of himself (literally, tonight) to make other people feel at ease, is always looking after everyone else’s good time as well as his own.

Jungkook and Namjoon took the beers, Yoongi picked Vodka on the rocks, and Hoseok chose Sex On The Beach. When Yoongi had given him a sidelong glance, Hoseok winked, slipped his hand from Yoongi’s knee up to the inseam of his pants.

Bottoms up.

A few drinks later and they find themselves in the alley, Yoongi pressed up against the wall and Hoseok, his hands busy as they undo the knot on Hoseok’s shirt and then roam his torso, his chest, enjoying the way that the garter on the bra snaps against his fingers when he undoes the clasp and puts his fingers to the flesh of Hoseok’s nipples: already hard, terse against his fingertips. Their kisses are warm and sloppy from being tipsy, Yoongi holding onto Hoseok for dear life, Hoseok holding him steady as they grind on each other. Yoongi is rendered helpless by the way that Hoseok’s skin feels under duress of his hands: the way he’s shaking, the way his hips buck urgently against him. Yoongi finds himself unable to find any of his usual technique and swagger, is only allowed by the moment to react to whatever Hoseok’s doing to him--now, undoing a button, now, pulling the zipper of his pants down, now slipping a hand under the waistband of his underwear.

“Oh god,” Yoongi says in Hoseok’s ear, breathing heavy, hands clutching Hoseok’s waist as Hoseok starts to stroke him, moving the flesh between his palm and forefinger against tje head of Yoongi’s cock. “I”m going to die on Halloween. In an alley in Hongdae. Fuck.”

Hoseok grins, kissing Yoongi again, slow but deep. His lipgloss (Yoongi found out from Taehyung that this is what it's called) tastes like vanilla.

“Don’t die yet, baby. You don’t know what else I can do in this outfit yet.”

“How am I supposed to not die when you’re touching me like that?” Yoongi growls back, nipping at Hoseok’s ear and eliciting both a moan and the quickening of his hand against Yoongi’s cock, Yoongi more sure than ever of his impending death.

But Yoongi doesn’t die--about what feels like a hundred kisses, one orgasm, twelve hickeys, and a lost black, lacy bra later, they find themselves back where all of it started, the song stuck in their heads as the windows of Yoongi’s van start to fog up. They tear at each others clothes: Hoseok undoing Yoongi’s pants, his underwear, Yoongi hiking Hoseok’s skirt up as he pushes him up against the van wall. His eyes grow wide as he sees that Hoseok is, in fact, wearing lacy black panties to match the bra they’d probably left somewhere between the alley and the parking lot. His cock is hard, the head straining against the fabric, leaking pre-cum into the lace.

“Goddamn, Jung Hoseok. The fuck did I do to deserve you?”

Hoseok smirks as Yoongi kicks off his pants and underwear. “You could do me . There’s that.”

“Oh we’ll get there, believe me.”

Yoongi accidentally hits his head against the roof of the van as he reaches into the compartment by the speakers, for a sachet of lube, condoms, momentarily forgetting about the limited vertical clearance.

“You’re so hot when you’re all flustered.”

“You’re just hot. All the fucking time. Unfair.” Yoongi says as he crawls back to where Hoseok is sitting.

Hoseok pulls Yoongi toward him in a kiss. Yoongi sucks on the skin all down Hoseok’s neck, his chest, trailing bruises in the wake of his mouth, making his way down his torso, and then lower, still, sucking the hardest, leaving the most pigmented, purple bruise on the inside of Hoseok’s thigh. Hoseok’s breath hitches. Slowly, Yoongi brings his mouth to Hoseok’s cock, licking the head of his cock through the fabric of the panties.

“Fuck--”

Yoongi grins as Hoseok’s cock twitches against his lips. Yoongi slowly pulls the panties down Hoseok’s hips but leaves them rolled up against his thighs, holding them together, liking how Hoseok strains against them. Yoongi kisses Hoseok’s cock from tip to base, using his tongue to tease him before taking the head of his cock between spit-slicked lips, tongue sliding across the slit: slow, torturous. He circles and then starts to take Hoseok deeper, letting him rut and buck as much as he can, until his moans turn rough, gruff.

“Yoongi--ride me--please--”

Yoongi climbs onto his lap, coat and shirt still on,pausing to roll the condom onto Hoseok’s cock before he poises a hand on Hoseok’s shoulder and brings himself down, riding him slow, taking his time, enjoying the way that Hoseok squirms under him, calling his name out softly, voice hoarse from making so much noise--at the concert, in the alley, in Yoongi’s mouth. Hoseok throws his head back against the wall. The windows drip. Yoongi runs his thumb across Hoseok’s lips before rubbing his nipples through the fabric of his shirt: faster and faster until Hoseok is frantic.

“What were you trying to do to me, wearing this evil fucking beautiful outfit, huh?”

Yoongi whispers, voice low, strained. He clenches his cheeks, thighs as he moves up over Hoseok’s cock. Hoseok lets out a sharp cry as Yoongi moves back down, taking him in: tight, wet. Yoongi tugs softly but firmly on one of Hoseok’s braids, traces the slightly elfin shell of his ear with a finger.

Hoseok grins, watches Yoongi watching him: eyes full of love, wanting so badly to pleasure him, taking pleasure in it himself, hands already shaking as they find their perch on Hoseok’s shoulders. Hoseok runs his hands along the thin skin of Yoongi’s ribs, enjoying the way that he shivers, pulses against him as he trembles from the way that Yoongi is teasing him: fucking him good but too slow to cum, building the desire painstakingly slow.

“Well. I was trying to get you here doing this, obviously.”

“Oh yeah?” Yoongi asks, grinning, moving a hand down to trace the outline of the bottom of the pin tattoo sticking out where Hoseok’s skirt has ridden up. “I was thinking maybe you’d like something more like this--”

With that, Yoongi pulls on the garters of Hoseok’s knee highs, holding his knees in place before going fast, hard, making sure that the head of Hoseok’s cock tips against his rim with every thrust. Hoseok holds onto Yoongi tighter, hands curling into fists against the fabric of Yoongi’s polo shirt as he is reduced to a wailing mess, sweat and spit trickling down his chin. Not sure where to put his mouth, Hoseok leans against Yoongi’s chest, lips parted helplessly against Yoongi’s nipples until Yoongi goes down a final time, sends Hoseok over the edge and into his climax, filling the condom while still inside Yoongi, whole body trembling, humming with pleasure.

“Oh my god, Yoongi. Babe--fuck, oh fucking hell.” Hoseok pulls Yoongi in by his loosened tie, kissing him sloppy, wet, all tongue and teeth. Yoongi smiles against Hoseok’s eager mouth, sinking into the kiss.

After Hoseok slips out of Yoongi and does away with the condom, the wig and cap, they lie in each other's arms for a while, feeling their breathing start to calm down. Yoongi snuggles against the crook of Hoseok’s shoulder. Hoseok holds Yoongi close, kisses the top of his head.

“Thank you for the beautiful songs, Yoongi. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a more beautiful gift ever. The he’s got a boyfriend anyway bit though--”

“That’s what was running through my head when I saw you and Taehyung at the party and--”

Hoseok silences him with a kiss. “Never again. You will never have to think those words without thinking of yourself ever again.”

“Jeez well never say never--”

“-ahh, let me be cheesy just this once--”

“--fine.” Yoongi grins. “Well. You know. Thanks for coming to see me play. It means a fucking lot to me.”

Hoseok smirks, lets his eyes flutter shut as he brings his arms tighter around Yoongi. “Emphasis on fucking.”

Yoongi gives an exhausted chuckle. The light from the streetlamp comes in dimmed, frosted from the still-fogged over windows. They fall into a peaceful lull, a kind of half-sleep, only fully snapping awake when there is a loud banging on the car door.

 

 

It isn’t that Jungkook has a crush--well not really. It’s just that Kim Taehyung knows how to wear a bodysuit. This is what Jungkook thinks to himself as he and Taehyung head out of the bar and start walking along the buzzing Hongdae streets. Everywhere, people are walking around in their costumes. D isguises , Jungkook thinks as he watches a ballerina hold hands with her vampire boyfriend. There are people busking in the square and skaters doing tricks. They stop at one of the mobile cocktail bars and buy more drinks--something purple and fizzy for Taehyung, something green for Jungkook. They’d left the bar after Namjoon's current boyfriend picked him up. Taehyung had asked Jungkook if he wanted to get some air, working on the premise of hitting two birds with one stone and looking for Yoongi and Hoseok as well--this last bit was kind of a ruse because Jungkook had passed by Yoongi’s van while he was out for a cigarette and had very clearly seen the windows sweating. Meaning, he thinks to himself, it’s better that we really do walk around for a bit before “finding” them.

He reaches into his pocket for his pack of Camels, offers one to Taehyung. Taehyung takes it and they walk until they see a corner of the park that has empty swings. Jungkook is taken aback at Taehyung accepting--he wonders to himself how much more he was wrong about when it comes to Kim Taehyung.

Taehyung grins at him as they take their seats on the swings and as if reading his mind, says, “I only smoke on special occasions. Otherwise it fucks with my game.”

Jungkook nods, giving them both a light. “I’ll stop one of these days, I guess. Smoking is heaven when you’re tipsy though so god knows when that’ll be.”

Taehyung exhales, letting a thin stream of smoke out through his lips. “Agree. How’d you start playing guitar? You’re really good.”

“Ultimate-Guitar.net? I can’t read notes, I just listen and try to copy. I upload tabs sometimes.”

Taehyung nods. “Cool. Which of the songs earlier did you write?”

“What I makes you think I wrote any of them?”

Taehyung smirks. “Oh come on. Someone can’t brood that much and not write a good song at least. Who tells someone off for defending them? I’m sure you must’ve written that chip on your shoulder into something--”

Jungkook kicks some dirt at Taehyung and misses. Taehyung sticks out his tongue. The moonlight gives his Harley get up an ethereal glow. For a while, Jungkook thinks about how surreal the entire situation is: he, Jeon Jungkook, is sitting on the swings in Hongdae with Kim Taehyung, who has cross-dressed for Halloween. What the hell.

“The first song is mine. Halloween. The second one, Gimme Chemicals was a collab between all of us. The cover, as you know, was by Joan Jett-sunbae, if you will. And then Yoongi wrote the last two.”

Taehyung chuckles. “Halloween is the most brooding one. So full of angst. Who are you supposed to be? Dressed up like my love for Halloween? Did I get it right?”

Jungkook flinches like he’s been slapped. Taehyung’s voice is beautiful--soft, low, with a tone between blues and honey, jazz and a violin. “Yeah--you got it right. Look. I wanted to say thank you for standing up for me. And for the shoes and for coming tonight.”

Taehyung tilts his head, grins mischievously. “You didn’t invite me tonight. Hoseok did.”

Jungkook feels himself blush, is suddenly thankful for his clown makeup. “Right. Well. Either way, I had fun. I’m having fun. You’re funny and stuff.”

Taehyung sticks out a hand and tugs at Jungkook’s swing, pulling him closer. He leans in, peers at Jungkook. Jungkook sees him up-close for the first time: long lashes framing beautiful, brown eyes, honey-tanned skin, red lips. His heart is pounding in his chest. Taehyung peers at him a second longer and then lets the swing go, as if coming to a conclusion.

“Even if you went as literally the worst, most obscure Marvel character ever, I gotta say I’m having one hell of a good time too. I’m a little sad you didn’t go as the Joker.”

“You know what?” Jungkook sighs. “Me too.”

And then he kicks off from the ground and starts swinging, full force. He smiles, feels the cool wind rush through his hair. It isn’t that he has a crush, not really. He just likes hanging out with Kim Taehyung is all.That's okay, it's allowed, isn't it? That's what you said about Yoongi before you developed your crush on him too. Jungkook sighs.

Behind him, he hears Taehyung’s phone ring, hears him pick up a call, and then hears his voice go high-pitched with concern. Jungkook stops his swing hard, his sneakers squeaking from the friction.

“What’s happening?”

“Holy shit,” Taehyung says. “That was Hoseok’s sister--their dad just called her. She said that their dad dropped by the varsity party because Hobi forgot his skeleton mask--andddd that Seokjin and Jimin said they didn’t know where we were, just that we said we weren’t going. So now he’s super mad and also headed to my place to look for us. She was calling his phone but he isn’t picking up. Fuck. I knew something like this would happen.”

Jungkook stands up. “I’m assuming Hoseok’s dad doesn’t know--”

“--Hoseok’s dad doesn’t know anything about him. Fuck. Okay. We need to get him back to mine and sobered up, out of the Britney outfit, in pretend pajamas. I’ll say he got sick. Diarrhea. No one ever wants to know about that. The varsity party was near Everland so thankfully that gives us like, an hour-ish if he just left a few minutes ago?”

Jungkook nods. “You try calling him, I’ll run ahead.”

Taehyung dials Hoseok’s number, gives Jungkook a thumbs up. “Go save our friends, Quicksilver.”

 

 

“We have to go,” Taehyung says when he catches up with Jungkook at the car. He runs his gaze over Hoseok--no more make up, no more wig, but he's also lost all the buttons to his shirt, has hickeys all over his chest, and is still wearing a really short skirt.

“What’s happening?” Yoongi asks, hair tousled, shirt untucked, only wearing boxers.

When Taehyung explains, Hoseok’s face becomes a mask of worry, is suddenly tense, clutching his shirt around him. "Oh no. Oh no no no no no."

Yoongi is already jumping into the driver’s seat, still not wearing his pants, is already putting the key into the ignition.

“Okay. Shut the door. I remember the way. I’ll drive you guys. Taehyung, you start cleaning up Hobi’s face. I have spare shirts in the blue duffel bag.” He catches Hoseok’s gaze in the rearview mirror. “Baby, look at me--don't panic. okay? We’ll make it. Wear my pants. Sorry if there’s still some you-know-what on them but it’s better than nothing--”

Jungkook picks up the pants, tosses them at Hoseok. Taehyung moves to get the shirts and then wipes the remainder of Hoseok’s makeup off with his discarded polo shirt. Hoseok wriggles into Yoongi’s pants--a little loose in the waist, short in the legs, but overall fine. His heart is beating in his throat. Taehyung scrubs the makeup off of his own face afterward, pulling off the top half of his suit, unzipping his boots. Hoseok looks out the still-misted window.   If I get caught tonight, at least I had fun for once. At least.

Yoongi drives as fast as he can--down the main road and over the river, taking every shortcut, hoping against hope that no one stops them for speeding. They go through one of the smaller roads, cutting through one of the vacant lots he’s pretty sure you’re not allowed to drive over, and comes out one street away from Taehyung’s house.

Yoongi pulls up to the Kim house, brakes screeching to a halt. They look left and right and then make a dash for the house upon seeing the coast is clear. Hoseok rushes to the guest room puts on pajamas, wraps himself in the duvet, turns out the lights and lays in bed, his heart pounding. Everyone else hides in the darkness of the den, refusing to leave until they know for a fact Hoseok is safe. Taehyung has washed his face until even the temporary tattoo rubbed off, put on one of Yoongi’s shirt and a pair of old soccer shorts. He sits in the living room, pretending to watch TV.

Hoseok’s heart is in his throat as he hears the familiar hum of his dad’s car, the doorbell ringing. He hears Taehyung talking, explaining about how they went out to dinner and Hoseok ate something bad because he was too eager to eat everything so they’d decided not to go to the party because of the diarrhea situation. Taehyung describes in detail how Hoseok had gone through two packs of tissue while he was in the bathroom, how he’d been given painkillers and hydrite at the clinic, how he’d gone right to bed after the last bout of loose bowel movement and how Taehyung really doesn’t mind having him stay over since he’s already asleep. Please believe him, please believe him. Even I almost believe him. Hoseok hears his dad walk down the hall, hears the guest room door creak open, his dad leaning in to check on him. Hoseok closes his eyes tight. He hears his dad telling Taehyung that they should’ve called and to please have his son back home before lunch the next day. The door closes shut again, careful. He hears Taehyung say he will have Hoseok home by 11 am and that it was nice of him to check up on them. The front door shuts.

Hoseok heaves a sigh of relief as his dad’s car drives away, the sound of the engine disappearing into the night. After a few minutes, they all barge into the guest room and Yoongi launches himself at Taehyung. Jungkook feels a pang of envy, but is confused as to whom it's geared.

“Thank you for saving Hobi, you’re a god send.”

Taehyung grins. “All part of the friendship protection program.”

Yoongi then moves to sit on the bed next to Hoseok, curling around him like a koala. “You okay?”

Hoseok leans into the embrace, closes his eyes and smiles. “I’m great. Minus that whole thing with Monsieur Jung almost busting me and my having fake Diarrhea, it’s been the best night of my damn life.”

Chapter Text

Namjoon hits his drumsticks in a sixteenth-beat rhythm against the railing of the fort under the bleachers--considers it practice before practice. He’s humming the new Haim single, not really knowing any of the words, voice cracking on the higher notes. Yoongi is lying on one of the old bean bags they’d dragged in a couple of months a go, playing a game on his phone while tapping a foot along to the beat Namjoon is playing. They’re skipping gym: this week, it’s baseball. Namjoon almost hit the coach with the bat last time, accidentally letting it go a beat too soon as he’d swung, the ball hitting the back of his shoulder, getting him an express ticket to the school clinic. Today, he’s decided it just isn’t worth it--he knows that his presence will be missed but not missed . His absence is, he thinks, a form of mercy. Gym is the one class that Jungkook won’t skip with them: math, sure--chasing a ball, never. Namjoon doesn’t blame him though; a lot of guys who are good at sports are cute--if he was any good at it, he’d stay to watch them too.

Yoongi has tagged along out of laziness, exhausted after the Halloween rush--they’d all stayed at Taehyung’s until the sun came up, had ordered pizza and gone swimming, Jungkook and Taehyung pretending to be appalled at the number of hickeys along Hoseok’s chest, Hoseok and Yoongi teasing them about their matching clown costumes which they’d shed by then, all of them telling Jungkook once and for all that he should’ve gone as the damn Joker. They’d cleaned out the beer stash in Taehyung’s parents’ fridge, pilfering a bottle or two of wine as well. They’d all left as soon as the sun came up, Yoongi and Jungkook making for their side of town in the van, Taehyung opting to drop Hoseok off right after breakfast. It was fun but exhausting--and also a little bit bizarre: were they all really there? The four of them hanging out, laughing, easy? Yoongi isn’t very comfortable with ease, hasn’t ever found it to not collapse and give way to something difficult or terrible. When his parents made up and took him to an amusement park, for example, it was right before they’d split up for good. Even after Yoongi had gone home and tucked himself into bed, he found himself turning it around and around in his mind. Is it okay? Are we all safe like this? Is no one getting hurt?

One of the things that he’d worried about in the beginning was how Jungkook would take things. Not that he thought the kid liked him like that beyond the whole messing around thing, but worrying about Jungkook had become second nature to him especially after last year with the bullying and the quitting the track team. The kid--well, the kid was something alright but he never seemed to know it, always seemed to doubt himself. He thinks back to what Hoseok had told him, about how he and Taehyung had had history, and for a moment, Yoongi had thought maybe the two situations were similar, realizing early that morning has he lay awake in bed that that idea didn’t quite sit right with him: the difference being well, that Kim Taehyung was Kim Taehyung and Jeon Jungkook was Jeon Jungkook. He’d never have guessed that maybe a friendship between them would make things easier. Maybe sometimes things work out? He frowns as he loses the game on his phone, large, green font blinking GAME OVER up at him. He finds himself suddenly missing Hoseok, feeling longing build in his chest, bidding the time to move faster so he can hear him laugh, so they can talk about what to do next for their channel. He and Hoseok hadn’t seen each other all day, both of them foregoing their supply closer rendezvous to make it to class on time. He wonders when Hoseok will be ready to tell people, and when he is, if Yoongi will be strong enough to help him face whatever backlash would come their way.

“So,” Namjoon says, finally putting the sticks down. “You owe me a first hook-up story."

Yoongi rolls his eyes. “No I don’t. Also, you bailed on us the other night. So much shit went down and no I’m not going to tell you because you would know if you’d been there."

Namjoon shrugs. “Sorry. When the booty calls, you answer."

Yoongi raises an eyebrow. “It was Jackson, wasn’t it?”

Namjoon rolls his eyes. “So what if it was?”

“Well, if it was, then your high IQ is going to waste, my friend--it’s always a cycle with you guys: hook up, get together, break up, hook up, get together, break up. And you always get super irritable when you’re in your break up phase. I’m not looking forward to that.” Yoongi studies Namjoon face, squints at the way that he’s smiling. “And from the looks of it, you’re a hundred percent in the get together phase.”

“Okay, give me the hook up story and I’ll tell you whether or not it was Jackson.”

“How about you ask me questions and I say yes or no and you don’t tell me whether or not it was Jackson.” Yoongi leans his head back, looking up at the makeshift ceiling, watching the small cracks letting the sunlight in, trying to get his eyes to adjust to the blue brightness of the slivers of sky. “I’m too lazy to narrate.”

Namjoon sighs. “Sometimes I wish I had a bestfriend who spoke properly.”

Yoongi grins. “Sometimes I wish I had a best friend who wasn’t so damn nosy.”

“Touche. So. Does the great Jung Hoseok bottom? Or is he only asking you to hit him baby one more time in costume?” Namjoon is smiling, dimples creasing in his cheeks.

“Very subtle. No--or well, I haven’t had the opportunity, yet. Not sure if I want to. The dick is too good. I see how he might, though. Next question.”

“First time was at a hotel? Your house?”

“No.”

“Oh god. The van?”

Yoongi grins. “Almost all the times were in the van.”

“Jesus. I’m bringing a blue-light in there next time before I sit down.”

“Don’t worry, I made sure to get all the cum just on our clothes.”

“You’re disgusting. Does Jungkook know?”

“Yes.”

“Wow. How did that go?”

“I thought we were sticking to yes or no questions.”

“Ugh. Did it go well? Is he okay with it?”

“Yeah, he’s fine with it. Or well he seems to be anyway.”

“You know that kid’s got like the biggest fucking boner for you, right? That he would literally jump in front of a train for you if you asked?”

“Pass. I call friendship shenanigans.”

“Fair enough. Did you meet Hoseok at that camp thing? Or was this going on before the summer? ”

“Yes we met at camp. I mean duh. Where else would we mingle? A party at Kim Seokjin’s?”

Namjoon snorts. “Seokjin’s super hot though. I was in swimming with him once and I was never absent even after I accidentally got tangled in the little buoy things at one point. He’s straight though--I know one guy who tried to get with him, got turned down.”

“Too bad. I’d pay him to steal you from Jackson.”

“He wouldn’t need your money. He drives an Audi.”

“I’d pay him in food stubs. Didn’t he win the food relay last year?”

“I love a man who eats. So tell me about Kim Taehyung hanging with us. Weren’t Hoseok and Taehyung like--I dunno, I heard rumors--”

“They used to mess around but things are okay now. That’s done, Taehyung knows about us.”

“What about the others? The guys with the hip names: DK, Hoshi, Woozi. Too cute. They sound like they could come with a Happy Meal.”

“Naw, they don’t know.”

“Isn’t he tight with Kim Seokjin and Park Jimin? I heard Park Jimin’s an animal in the you-know-where--” Namjoon wiggles his eyebrows.

“Where do you even hear all of this gossip? Jungkook with the boner and Seokjin with the straightness and Park Jimin with the animal--”

Namjoon grins smugly, runs a hand along his torso. “--when you’re a tall drink of water like this, people tell you things. They talk because the long legs butter them up. But don’t worry, hyungie, being a cute cup of milk is good too. I hear lots of people find you attractive--”

Yoongi imitates a buzzer on a gameshow. “--next question.”

“Do you love him?”

Yoongi doesn’t hesitate.

“Definitely.”

 

“Good game,” the coach yells as Jimin’s team takes the afternoon’s game by two points. They’d played intensely: close, competitive, each team pulling out all the stops. “Hit the showers! Hobi, stay behind a bit. We need to talk about the schedule. You too, Jimin.”

Jimin and Hoseok exchange a quizzical look but stay behind, Jimin clapping a hand on Hoseok’s shoulder. Hoseok grins, knowing what this means. They’re breeding Jimin for next year.

“What’s up coach?” Hoseok asks, wiping his face on his grass-stained white shirt.

“Alright. As you both know by now, Soccer season is fast approaching. We’ve got around a month and a half until the opening. Last year, we took silver under Chanyeol and as proud as I am of him for being an awesome captain and player, I think that we could definitely take gold this year. There will be scouts there Hobi--and I know how much you and your dad have worked toward this. I want you to work on making even the hardest moves look easy. You struggle with your Rabona sometimes and so I’ll have you do an extra fifteen before or after practice to work on that. Jimin, if you didn’t already know, this is me saying you’re in the running for captain next year. Last year, Hobi pulled a Neymar with his Hocus Pocus and that won us the game. You’ve got big shoes to fill but I’m sure you can do it if you work together. I want you guys to come up with a training plan for the boys, practicing with picking the best players for the best team--both core and back-up. We’ll start intensive next next week and then the first skirmish with the Incheon kids the week after that. I’ll e-mail you guys the schedule.”

Hoseok frowns, thinking of all the time that it’ll take, all the time he’d rather spend working on new content for the YouTube channel project or coming up with new routines. Recently, he’d come up with a new mantra for everything that isn’t dance or Yoongi or music, a slogan ironically stolen off of the classic Nike campaign, verbatim but for a single caveat-- Just do it (to get it done). He thinks this as he hears Jimin agreeing with the coach, discussing different members and their progress, talking about who the captain of the Incheon team was this year. He feels ghostly, like Jimin’s shadow as they start to walk back to the locker room.

“Seokjin-hyung is kind of upset at you about the Halloween thing,” Jimin says quietly.

Hoseok watches the grass bend under their feet. “The not going part?”

“The not telling us where you guys actually were and your dad showing up and saying you said you were going to be with us part,” Jimin says.

“Is he upset with TaeTae too?”

“Mmm. But he’s more annoyed at you. TaeTae didn’t use us as an excuse.”

“I’ll talk to him.”

“I’m a little bit hurt too, you know, Hobi.” Jimin stops walking right on the edge of the overhang that marks the end of the soccer field. They face each other, Hoseok in the shadow of the narrow roof, Jimin in the stark sunlight, foot toeing the shade but never quite crossing it. “If something happened to you guys or if you guys were off doing something dangerous, we would have felt accountable for not knowing about it. And I’m not sure what friendship means to you but to me it means having each other’s back. We can’t do that if you won’t let us.”

Hoseok feels his throat go dry, thinks of the other night and how close a call it had been--how they’d barely just made it. He knows that he’s in the wrong but also thinks of all the risks: Seokjin is kind of everyone’s Switzerland, the hyung they all went to with their problems and concerns. On one hand, this is good, reflective of his character as the kind of guy who would help always help a brother out if he could--on the other hand, it makes him blind to certain bad traits that the other kids possess. To him, everyone is nice, everyone is someone just left of properly understood: the track kids, for example, would never be bullies in his eyes, just someone a little jealous, just someone acting up. The question that bothers Hoseok has hung in his mind for the past couple of weeks: will Seokjin stand up for him if the need arises? If it goes up against the people who’d bullied Jungkook? If the camaraderie of people like Sehun and Gamja hung in the balance? Jimin, he knows, will keep the secret, but will also press him to tell Seokjin, will insist on all of them being a team both on and off the field. Just this once, Hoseok wants something to himself.

“I’m sorry,” Hoseok says. “I really, truly am. That kind of thing won’t happen again. I’ll see you guys tomorrow at Seokjin’s. Please hear me out and try to understand. I’d tell you guys if I could.”

Jimin frowns. “You told TaeTae.”

“That’s different--he was directly involved.”

“Suit yourself,” Jimin says, and with that, takes the long way to the locker rooms, leaving Hoseok to walk into the sudden darkness of the cool hallway alone.

 

Jungkook looks up at the big, white facade of the house, takes in the polish of the awning, the way that the bevels curve into what is most probably a custom pattern--tries to cost it in his mind, remembering his dad’s construction charts at home. The awning itself probably costs more than their entire house, Jungkook thinks--theirs is ironically a prefab, already half-furnished when they’d moved in. Jungkook’s hands tighten around the strap of his acoustic guitar, suddenly nervous. He’s never really played or sang with anyone other than Namjoon and Yoongi before, is scared a little bit shitless, to be honest. Taehyung unlocks the door, nods toward the den.

“Why aren’t your parents ever home? Don’t you have like--a nanny or something?”

“A nanny ? I’m eighteen going on nineteen. Why would I need a nanny? We have a cleaning lady who comes over everyday for a couple of hours every morning. And my parents are doctors so they’re always away at conferences and things.”

“Oh.” Jungkook says. “I guess that makes sense.”

They walk into the den, put their things down before Taehyung gestures to the kitchen. “Let’s get some snacks. You want iced tea?”

“Sure.” Jungkook watches Taehyung, still in his soccer shorts and knee-highs but having changed into a sky blue Lacoste shirt that offsets the golden hue of his sun-warmed skin. Jungkook watches him make them a pitcher of iced tea, mixing the powder into the iced water before opening a cupboard and pulling out a bag of Doritos.

“You okay with Nachos Cheesier?”

Jungkook shrugs. “I’d be okay with anything.”

Taehyung grins, takes the pitcher and the bag of chips. He nods at Jungkook. “Get us some glasses from the dish rack please.”

Jungkook does as he’s told, takes two tall, clear glasses--they’re heavy, matching. These probably cost more than our dining table . He follows Taehyung into the den where he’s already set everything up on the coffee table.

“Okay,” Taehyung says, running a hand through his hair, eyebrows knitting together. “Let me hear what you’ve got.”

Jungkook bites his lip, suddenly nervous. When Taehyung had said you like ballads and things? he’d expected a link to some Ariana Grande, maybe John Legend, not a jam session in his den where he was suddenly forced to sing the one song he’d been keeping a secret from Yoongi and Namjoon the past year-and-a-half that they’d been playing as the Electric Pink Souffles.

“I’m warning you, it’s cheesy as fuck.”

Taehyung grins. “You’re talking to the king of trot appreciation. The cheesier the better.”

Jungkook takes a deep breath before taking his guitar, poising himself to play. “If you tell anyone--especially Jung Hoseok--about this, I’ll murder you.”

Taehyung nods. “Deal!”

Jungkook strums the first few chords, letting the music rile him  up, flow through him. He hasn’t thought of or played this song in a while but still knows all the words, has played it in secret for so long. When he starts to sing, his voice lilts, lifts, takes off perfectly.

 

I wanna sleep next to you
But that's all I wanna do right now
And I wanna come home to you
But home is just a room full of my safest sounds
Cause you know that I can't trust myself with my 3AM shadow
I'd rather fuel a fantasy than deal with this alone

 

He glances up at Taehyung, watches him watching him. Oh god, does he hate it? Jungkook breaks off before the next verse. “What?”

“I have an idea.” Taehyung gets up, walks to the piano. “Go on. Sing it again.”

“Oh so that thing isn’t just for grinding on someone? It actually works?”

Taehyung frowns, remembering that night of the party, Hoseok chasing Yoongi through the room, outside, across town. “You saw that, huh?”

Jungkook smirks. “Unfortunately.”

“Well. It’s all in the past, anyway. And yes, this piano works. Now, go on. Sing it from the start and into the next verse. I’ll improvise.”

Jungkook hesitates. He’s never done piano before aside from the synth and keyboard licks that Yoongi sometimes played around with for the band--even then, they usually laid them over Namjoon’s more electronic-driven tracks. Taehyung gives him a look as if to say well? Go on. So Jeon Jungkook goes on.

As he strums in the intro, Taehyung plays a few chords on the piano. The hairs on the back of Jungkook’s neck stand up as he sings the first few lines--it’s perfect. He watches Taehyung, eyes half-shut, eyebrows knitted together in concentration as he listens, starts to play more fluidly.

When Jungkook hits the pre-chorus, Taehyung starts to sing softly--little oooh-oooh-ooohs that make Jungkook smile. The next verse, where Jungkook imagines drums start up, comes rolling through and Taehyung sings the soft, lower bassline as Jungkook floats, flits through the higher notes.

 

I wanna hold hands with you
But that's all I wanna do right now
And I wanna get close to you
Cause your hands and lips still know their way around
And I know I like to draw that line, when it starts to get too real
But the less time that I spend with you, the less you need to heal

 

“And that’s it,” Jungkook says, shrugging. “I have more verses but no chorus.”

“A song doesn’t have to have a chorus,” Taehyung says, shrugging. “What’d you think of the oooh-oohs?”

“I liked it. It was really hook-y.”

Taehyung nods. “You can have it, then. Not all songs need choruses. Sometimes they just need the verse amplified. I was thinking drums? I have a drum machine, we can try.”

Jungkook smiles. “Yeah, I was thinking drums too. But you’re not getting out of this so easy, Mr. Born Singer. You need to let me hear your song too.”

Taehyung sighs. “I think it’s a great song but it might suck. I’ve never really let anyone hear it before. Like. Ever. So. Go easy on me.”

Jungkook shrugs. “Sure. I can lie to you if you want.”

Taehyung pulls a face, flaring out his nostrils, rolling his eyes back into his head.

Jungkook laughs, opens the bag of chips. “Well. Go on.”

The first few piano notes are jumpy--neat little staccatos before they give way to Taehyung’s melodic voice. His voice is soft but strong, the bass in it contrasting well with the playfulness of the piano.

 

We were running off our midnight mouths
Saying things that we don’t mean
When you’re playing in the dark
Well, nothing’s as it seems

 

By the time he goes into the pre-chorus, the song is so catchy, Taehyung’s voice so hypnotic that Jungkook finds himself singing along, harmonizing. A small smile plays at Taehyung’s lips, as if pleased at what he hears.

 

It’s just the lonely, just the lonely talking
So don’t tell me that you’re falling for me now

The chorus hits, piano rippling, Taehyung’s voice curling up and over, around the melody--and Jungkook is genuinely blown away, suddenly convinced that someone needs to get Kim Taehyung a recording contract, that if it doesn’t happen, the world is going to go to shit.

We’re in too deep, so let go of my hand
Can’t you see you mess with my head just because you can
Can’t fool me, you’re lying through your teeth
Could be anyone, you just want just want somebody

 

Taehyung looks up in surprise as Jungkook starts to sing the pre-chorus slowly, using it as a hook for the chorus. It’s just the lonely, just the lonely talking. As the piano fades out, and they sing out the last lines, they end up staring at each other. So don’t tell me that you’re falling for me now.

It’s Taehyung who breaks the silence. “So. Was it absolute crap?”

Jungkook grins. “Sure. If crap sounds like something that should win a Grammy.”

Taehyung tilts his head to one side. “What’s a Grammy? Isn’t that like--a math award? Alexander Graham-Bell or something?”

Jungkook bursts out laughing. “Okay, first off. Who doesn’t know what a Grammy is. And second, Alexander Graham-Bell is the guy who invented the telephone.”

Taehyung nods, faux-seriously. “I see. I’ll consider him my Sunbae, then.”

Jungkook snorts iced tea through his nose, pulls up the hem of his shirt to wipe his face. “You’re craz--”

He looks up to see Taehyung, staring at him, a strange expression on his face like he’s studying him, coming to a conclusion.

“What?”

Taehyung smiles a small, mischievous smile. “Nothing.”

 

“Alright. Are you ready?” Yoongi asks, adjusting the shot a little bit so that Hoseok’s whole body is in frame but the rest of the details--the Ramones poster, the mini refrigerator--of the house are left out of the shot. He swallows, a little hot and bothered at the sight of Hoseok today: he’s worn a loose sweater that shows off his collarbones over black ripped jeans that follow the line of his hips. He’s also put on a snapback--slowly becoming Yoongi’s weakness--and a black facemask. How can someone have their face covered and be hot? It’s not fair.

Hoseok nods. “Bring it, baby.”

The track starts--a sexy mix that Yoongi’s made with heavy, melodic keys, ambient reverb, and a thrumming bass line. It’s half R&B, half dance music, the snare playful, popping against the sampled vocals, just a couple of copyright-free oh-oh-oh-ohs to provide a hook. The dance is heavily inspired by Usher, cut with some old-school street dance: relying on the ebb-and-flow of music to alternate between sensual body rolls and crisp pops of movement. Halfway through, Hoseok stops, to Yoongi’s dismay and surprise. He turns the music off.

“What’s wrong?”

“It doesn’t feel right,” Hoseok says, pulling his facemask down to his chin.

“What do you mean? It looked great. I mean. I’m not just saying that because you look great. I mean. It was a good routine: crisp, sensual--”

“I need someone to dance on.”

“Excuse me?”

Hoseok grins, eyes playful. “Come on. Put on a mask.”

“You know I can’t dance. I can play the bass while balancing on the back of a moving train, probably, but dance ? I have all the grace of a chicken on crack, I’m pretty sure.”

Hoseok smiles, lips lifting to one corner in a way that makes Yoongi’s heart skip. He pulls Yoongi closer by the hems of his baggy shirt, lets his hands roam the expanse of Yoongi’s back. “I’ll guide you.”

“No fair,” Yoongi says, pouting. “You can’t use Hobi Charms. It’s unfair.”

“Hobi evolves into Hoseok and then Hoseok-zard when he’s provoked. Look it up. It’s in the pokedex,” Hoseok says, lips skimming over the shell of Yoongi’s ear. “Then he’s deadly convincing.”

Yoongi pulls Hoseok into a deep kiss, his hand on Hoseok’s nape, thumb softly grazing the hollow between his earlobe and neck. “I hate you.”

Hoseok jumps with glee, hugging Yoongi tight. “You won’t have to do anything awkward, I promise. Just let me lead.”

Yoongi sighs, annoyed but already making to put on the facemask. Hoseok presses record on the camera. Yoongi pulls on a black beanie, reluctantly lets Hoseok drag him in front of the camera as the music starts up again. “Okay. Just stay still. You’ll know when to move by how I move.”

Yoongi feels his heart racing, the red light blinking at them. Hoseok starts the routine as Yoongi had previously seen it: feet working quick, arms strong in their arching, looping, the line of his back perfect, crisp as he turns, dives, pulls himself back onto his feet. It’s on the pre-chorus that Yoongi feels his heart jump to his throat as Hoseok suddenly puts a hand on his chest.

“Walk two slow steps back, babe--one-and-two-and,” Hoseok whispers breathlessly. Yoongi is surprised that his feet are able to move at all, let alone follow instructions, what with Hoseok’s gaze intense, sweat trickling down his temple. The chorus swells and Hoseok puts his hands on Yoongi’s hips, dips him low before pulling him back up, grazing his neck with his nose before turning, pushing up and off of Yoongi’s chest. The oh-oh-oh-ohs come on and Hoseok slings a leg over Yoongi’s hips, starts to grind one-and-two-and-- before he walks back to the center, finishes the routine by looking over his shoulder at Yoongi and nodding, beckoning with a finger.

Instinctively--and also because he’s not one to resist Hoseok calling to him--Yoongi walks up to him, trying to find the swagger he usually reserves for the stage. Once he’s within reach, Hoseok pulls him closer, a squeak escaping from Yoongi’s lips as the music ends.

Even with the facemask on, Yoongi can tell that the smile on Hoseok’s lips is a wicked one. “And cut,” he says playfully.

They watch it back once and Yoongi can tell from the first time round that Hoseok is right: the routine is fire, the tension between them palpable in the two-or-so minutes for which the song runs. Somehow, Yoongi’s fumbling works to his advantage--builds chemistry between them: the confident, peacocking dancer, and the flustered, stoic man he’s seduced into a trance. The gasp that escapes him toward the end of the clip makes Yoongi’s cheeks flush with color.

“I can edit that out if you want--” Hoseok starts, watching the blush creep all the way up to the tips of Yoongi’s ears.

“No,” Yoongi says softly, tracing the veins on the backs of Hoseok’s hands. “No, keep it in.”

 

The video is a hit. Hoseok posted it the night before and by the time he wakes up, they’re up to 600,000 subscribers, more than a million hits on the new video. He grins as the numbers keep going up, up, up. He’s also intrigued by the comments which excite him, something about keeping such an important secret out in the open where everyone can see it. No one would know it was them, but they would know there was a them--somewhere. In his own way, Hoseok feels as though he’s represented, that same high he’d gotten on Halloween coursing through his veins.

H.O.P.E.--is he gay? Is that guy--?

No, they’re just iffy about relationships and stuff in South KR. Skinship is okay tho.

Oh my god they’re totally together someone kill me now the tension so thiccccc you could fucking cut it with a knife

I wonder who he is. And who’s this guy?

Okay, I know ya’ll are hyped about the chemimstry BUT THE DANCE MY MANS and also, Gloss does it again. The music is hyped. I worship @ the altr of his soundcloud tbh

It’s this adrenaline, this high, that he pours into everything else. He uses it to get through the rest of his classes--taking Math and English seriously, trying to get all of the work done so it’s done. Just do it (to get it done) . He works on his homework with Taehyung during his lunch break so they both don’t have to deal with the looming pressures of the jock table where they hadn’t sat for the past few days. It’s what gets him through practice, through winning the skirmish, and enduring the awkward sit-down he and Jimin have to talk about the training plans. It’s also what helps him work up the nerve to go to Seokjin’s house with the rest of them despite the fact that he would much rather do anything else.

Other than the fact that no one is talking, everything proceeds as normal: Jimin is starting up the console, Seokjin is walking into the den with today’s pre-dinner meal--today it’s sausages, rice, and some kimchi from the fridge, a pitcher of grape juice. Wordlessly, the settle down around the coffee table. It’s Seokjin who breaks the silence.

“So. Are you going to apologize or what?”

Hoseok sighs, bows a little. “I’m sorry, Seokjin-hyung. I’m sorry, Jiminnie. I’m also sorry that I can’t tell you exactly what happened--see, it isn’t just my secret to tell. We went to another party, that’s all I’ll say. And I had to sleep over at Tae’s which is why I told my dad that I was going to be at the other party. I didn’t know that he was going to go there and--”

“--we really didn’t mean for you guys to get in trouble,” Taehyung says.

“Look. I consider myself a pretty nice guy and a pretty decent friend,” Seokjin says. “I know that you can’t exactly talk about everything out in the open but I’d like to think at least that if something happened to two of my bestfriends, I would know about it.”

Hoseok nods. “I understand. You guys have the right to be mad.”

“Can you at least tell us the premise?” Jimin asks. “I mean. I know you can’t reveal details but what is happening ? Where have you guys been going? You know that this asshole--”--he nods at Taehyung-- “--skipped out on us yesterday too?

“Hey!” Taehyung says. “Just because I don’t want to spend every afternoon here, suddenly I’m a bad guy?”

“You were the one most affected by this! You were the one moping and saying let him say sorry before we forgive him and now you’re alright with it just because you’re in on it? Seokjin-hyung might be level-headed but I’m still annoyed. At both of you.”

“Well. If you really have to know everything about me, yesterday I went home and ate chips and drank iced tea and practiced the piano. Sometimes people just want to do things they want to do. It doesn’t mean that they love their friends any less--especially not someone as wonderful as you and Seokjin-hyung, Jiminnie. I thought you would know that.” Taehyung says, putting a hand on Jimin’s shoulder.

“How about a compromise,” Hoseok suggests. “From now on, we’ll tell you guys the vague summary of whatever absence from normal activities we’ve got? Like, Taehyung can say practicing the piano or I can say--”

“--hanging around Hongdae on Halloween?” Seokjin says slowly.

Hoseok’s hands go cold. “Going to another Halloween party for a change.”

“I know that something’s up with you two and I figure if you were able to get back to Taehyung’s before his dad, then you must’ve been somewhere around the Hongdae area which is why you didn’t tell us. You know that highschoolers aren’t supposed to hang out there. That’s college kid territory.”

“Honestly, what’s the difference between drinking in Hongdae and drinking at Tae’s house? Get drunk, check. Do stupid things, check. I don’t see why it matters so much--” Hoseok says, hands balling up into fists.

“Maybe it’s exciting but if you guys get caught, there’s going to be trouble for sure--especially with the coach. I mean look at those weird kids who hang out under the bleachers. I hear they’re there every weekend and I’m sure as hell that they aren’t going to get picked up by the sports universities,” Seokjin explains. Hoseok can tell he’s trying to keep his tone even.

“Duh,” Taehyung says, laughing. “Cause they don’t play sports. So of course they won’t get chosen by the sports universities.”

Seokjin sighs, swats at Taehyung, smiling despite himself. “You know what I mean.”

“But the thing is that we do,” Jimin says softly.

“What?” Taehyung asks, not catching what he said.

“They don’t play sports but we do--and that’s the difference.”

Hoseok and Taehyung exchange a look and they both know that a line has been drawn in the sand. Maybe one day, they would tell them the truth about Halloween--maybe one day they’d be able to open up and explain. Maybe one day, Hoseok would tell them about dancing and Yoongi and the videos--maybe one day, Taehyung would elaborate to say he’d been writing songs with Jeon Jungkook, track team exile and extremely gifted musician. But as they concede and continue to apologize for worrying Jimin and Seokjin, both of them know, even as they’re forgiven, even as the tension in the room gives way to videogames and good food, that that day is not today.

 

Namjoon peers closely at Jungkook. Jungkook raises an eyebrow, follows Namjoon’s gaze as he scrutinizes Jungkook, watching him like a hawk. They’re at band practice, going over some songs for the EP they want to release at the next gig, are thinking about maybe shooting a music video--nothing fancy, just them sort of walking around, playing instruments, jamming out to their songs. Jungkook has just asked to play a song he’s come up with that could, as he’d put it, possibly put the EP over the top.

“What are you doing?” Jungkook asks pointedly.

“Just trying to see if you’re going to pull a crazy-in-love on me, just like this guy over here. Whenever the songwriting is good, it always has something to do with love,” Namjoon concludes, turning to adjust the skins on his drumset, tightening it with the key, trying it out--one, two.

“If that’s true then why aren’t songs coming out of your ears? Aren’t you and Jackson like, terribly in love, against all odds?” Yoongi shoots back.

Namjoon doesn’t look up, only inhales sharply. “You can’t lose what wasn’t yours.”

Jungkook rolls his eyes. Break-up phase, he mouths to Yoongi. Yoongi makes a face, adjusts the strap on his bass.

“So. Alright. Play us the song, Kookie.”

“Okay.” Jungkook takes a deep breath. “This one’s called Knee Socks. It’s just guitar but feel free to add in the bass and the drums--I was listening to a lot of old school songs, Elvis, The Beatles so it might be less 80s and more 60s.”

Namjoon and Yoongi nod, at the ready to play along.

The blues-inspired guitar kicks in, shiny but with less crunch, more glide that Jungkook’s usual riffs. Before the words come in, Yoongi joins in with the bass, knowing right off the bat what kind of song this is going to be--a little jazzy, a little moody, a little bit sexy. Kind of like Jungkook, he thinks. Namjoon kicks in with the drums--playful but stripped back, bass-driven--as Jungkook starts to sing.

 

You got the lights on in the afternoon
And the nights are drawn out long
And you’re kissing to cut through the gloom
With a cough drop colored tongue

And you were sitting in the corner with the coats all piled high
And I thought you might be mine
In a small world on an exceptionally rainy Tuesday night
In the right place and time

 

Yoongi and Namjoon exchange a look as Jungkook starts to get into the chorus, eyes closing, his voice taking on a new, higher register--one that he hadn’t used for any of the tracks they had so far, even the already-soulful Halloween. Namjoon shifts to the hi-hat, pulling a subtle sixteenth beat as they go into the chorus. Yoongi keeps the bass going, enjoying the playful, semi-staccato as Jungkook sings.


When the zeros line up on the 24 hour clock
When you know who’s calling even though the number is blocked
When you walked around your house wearing sky blue Lacoste
And your knee socks

 

When Jungkook goes into the next verse, Yoongi finds the melody stuck in his head--thinks of composition and arrangement; it’s a good outro-melody too. Maybe used as a latter backing vocal on the bridge or the final chorus.

Well you cured my January blues
Yeah you made it all alright
I got a feeling I might have lit the very fuse
That you were trying not to light
You were a stranger in my phonebook I was acting like I knew

‘Cause I had nothing to lose
When the winter’s in full swing and your dreams just aren’t coming true
Ain’t it funny what you’ll do?

 

“And that’s it,” Jungkook says, putting his guitar down. Namjoon and Yoongi stop playing too, both of them blown away by the song. It’s fresh, soulful, if a little bit slower than what they’d usually write. Yoongi and Namjoon start laughing.

“Do you guys hate it?” Jungkook frowns. “I mean it’s okay, we can shelve it--”

“It’s fucking perfect,” Yoongi says. “That’s it. This EP is going to be hotter than chili. It’s going on the record. Maybe we can work on the bridge, the arrangement--backing vocals. But it’s good. That’s fucking. Wow. I mean I liked your other songs but this one is so...layered?”

“It’s love,” Namjoon says, sighing from behind the drumset. “You don’t fool me, Jeon Jungkook. Shit like this isn’t some I-watched-Franz-Ferdinand-on-loop-last-night type shit. This is some I-spent-a-million-hours-going-through-someone’s-Facebook-profile type of shit. You better spill.”

Jungkook snorts, his heart swelling with pride. He glances at Yoongi, thinks of Taehyung. All the songs I write are like that though. “So, we work on this today?”

Chapter Text

“Alright, so I’m thinking: let’s keep it simple,” Namjoon says as they sit gathered in Yoongi’s basement. He draws three frames with stick people in different settings: a subway station, what looks like one of the platforms off of the Han river, and what Yoongi thinks might be Hongdae, if the large Chicken N’ Beer sign behind the stick person’s head is any indication. Then he draws two more frames where three of them are in the frame together, the background blank. “Sorry, I kind of suck at storyboarding.”

Jungkook sighs, taking the small whiteboard and marker, beginning to re-do Namjoon’s drawings. “Let me do it. You're the brains, I'll be the brawn.”

Namjoon laughs at that. “The track is exactly 02:58 long. That’s a little bit short but better short and sweet for our first vid than long and winding. I’m thinking we could do a simple flicker effect to the intro--maybe black into electric pink? Just The Electric Pink Souffles? Then an opening shot of all of us playing, three simple close-up shots kind of introducing each of us, and then group shots. Then the last one is another flicker-shot announcing the EP?”

Yoongi nods, turning in his swivel chair. “Alright. That sounds do-able. But we’ll have to find a way to carry all of the equipment around--so we have to be strategic with our locations: guitar or bass in the subway for sure because we definitely can’t bring the drum set down there.”

“Then drums in Hongdae?” Namjoon says. “We can get a thirty-minute permit for the play area. Maybe we can even busk a little.”

“Do you think we’d get censored if we did a graffiti scene? Been a while since we painted the town red,” Yoongi notes, mentally counting the number of spray paint cans he still has in his truck.

Namjoon shrugs. “This isn’t 1theK. I’m pretty sure no one will care about a bunch of kids playing music and causing a little trouble. I mean. People reprimand graffiti artists and then take photos near the damn graffiti wall, captioning it with hearts. How is that fair? We’re actually doing people a favor. We’re making their lives--and their dates--more interesting.”

“Don’t you and Jackson have a photo like that up on your Instagram?”

“Not anymore.”

“So yes to the grafitti?”

“Yes.”

Jungkook groans, holding up an elaborate storyboard. “Does this mean I have to start over?”

 

 

Hoseok gets the message on a Sunday, as he’s sitting at his desk, monitoring Hope On The Street comments--he clicks on a couple hundred boxes, flagging them as spam: people trying to sell diet pills, online courses, a couple of hate messages telling him to deactivate his channel, someone asking for a follow back.

The message is below a couple of collaboration requests for Gloss_1993 that he screencaps and sends to Yoongi over Messenger for him to reply to himself. The last message is short, from one of his favorite dance channels, DNCE Seoul. His heart leaps in his throat, his pulse quickening, hands suddenly clammy.

 

Yo, H.O.P.E.!

Was hoping to have you on our Dance Intro segment, talk a bit about how you guys got started, ur process. Bring Gloss if you like. Great stuff! Holla back if you’re interested.

DNCE

 

Hoseok nearly falls out of his chair as he uses the snipping tool to copy/paste into his and Yoongi’s chatbox.

 

Jung Hobi (Jung Hoseok)

BABY OH MY GOD BABY LOOK

 

Min Yoongi

WTF

 

Jung Hobi (Jung Hoseok)

So. I say yes? Of course? For both of us??

 

Min Yoongi

Only if you have any shred of sanity left.

 

Jung Hobi (Jung Hoseok)

Ok. Okay. Okay babe. Oh my god. I’m actually replying to DNCE.

 

Min Yoongi

You deserve it. You worked hard.

 

Jung Hobi (Jung Hoseok)

We worked hard.

 

Min Yoongi

Min Yoongi is typing….

 

Jung Hobi (Jung Hoseok)

Are you actually typing or is msgr being weird?

 

Min Yoongi

Do you think he’ll ask us about personal things? Don’t want to be a downer but it’s killing me not to be able to say. :< Why is life so hard, baby?

 

Jung Hobi (Jung Hoseok)

Me too, babe. I’m scared. But it’s better than nothing.

 

Min Yoongi

I mean--it’s music and dancing, it’s not like we’re robbing people or harming anyone. Why can’t we just be two men in love who want to make good stuff?

 

Jung Hobi (Jung Hoseok)

We are two men in love who want to make good stuff, the best stuff. The rest of the world just hasn’t caught on yet.

 

Min Yoongi

How are you so hot?

 

Hoseok laughs out loud, feeling butterflies in his stomach as he imagines Yoongi’s smile, the way he’d lean against him if they were together, the way that he’d ruffle his hair or kiss his temples. With that, he gets up lock the door, draw the curtains, before replying. A slow grin spreads across his face as he types in his reply.

 

Jung Hobi (Jung Hoseok)

What are you wearing?

 

 

Seokjin looks at the pantry and then back down at his list, double-checking for quantity and need: this year, he’s offered to host the Start Of Season Shindig at his place because Taehyung’s parents would be home for once and they’d all kind of counted on using his place, not bothering to reserve at any venues and now it was too close to the date to do anything about it. He makes a mental note to ask at practice the next day whether people would prefer tacos or nachos, pizza or pasta--after the copious amounts of vomit that they’d had to clean up at last year’s party, he’s decided to limit the amounts of tomato-based anything.

“Read it back to me.”

Jimin taps a pencil against the notepad, ticking things off of Seokjin’s list. “Eight ten-pack disposable plastic shot glasses, five packs of 10-pc. Large garbage bags, five pairs of rubber gloves--seriously, hyung, are we planning a party or a murder--”

“--you’ll thank me when you’re knee-deep in puke--now, go on--”

“--twelve bags of Doritos, twelve bags of Lays, two cases of Chilsung, 3 kg of ground beef, nachos/tacos depending on team preference, five large cans of tomato sauce, garlic, bell peppers, onions, 3 kg chicken wings, Yangnyum dressing.”

Seokjin nods. “Okay, that ought to cut it for now.”

“Oh also, hyung--Gamja said that the delivery guy for the booze is out for a family emergency and we’ll have to pick the booze up in advance at the liquor store in Hongdae Friday night.”

“Can he do Saturday morning? I’m watching a movie with my parents Friday.”

“Alright, we can ask him. Do we take your car or mine?”

“We can take mine. It should fit in the back of the Range Rover. I’ll pick you up at around two? After lunch?”

Jimin nods. “Sure.”

“Hey Jiminnie?”

“Mmm?”

“What did Hobi and Tae say?”

Seokjin already knows the answer but asks anyway--he’s sure the excuse will be a good one, is sure that whatever it is, they’ll both have found a way to circumvent his and Jimin’s suspicions, to try and keep them from being concerned, but he is worried nonetheless, had been hoping for the best anyway. Seokjin is the kind of guy who prizes two things above all: rapport with other people and doing the right thing. When he’d met Hoseok, Taehyung, and Jimin in the fifth grade, he remembers the thing he loved about them the most was that they were the kinds of kids who knew the soccer manual front-to-back, who had respect for the game even if it was just that: a game.

The Halloween thing he could let go--he knows that Hoseok’s dad has always been hard on him, he knows that Hoseok deserves a good time for a change--but when it came to the team, when it came to this, if Hoseok, their Captain wasn’t going, it would demoralize everyone. It’s their senior year, the time for their legacy: however they fared against the other teams, that’s what they would leave behind.

“Well,” Jimin answers, shrugging helplessly. “You know.”

“And Tae?”

“Well--”

“--I know.”

 

 

Sunlight filters in through the small windows of Yoongi’s basement. He and Hoseok are lying on the couch: Hoseok’s elbows propped up against the couch as he plays with Yoongi’s hair. Yoongi holds onto him tighter, looping his arms around Hoseok's torso. They were supposed to be working on the set of questions DNCE sent them about their music and dance influences, about how they met, how the collaboration started--they’d started by picking and choosing what truths they would leave in, where they’d paraphrase: they could talk about dance camp but leave out the part about them going to school together, they could talk about music but leave out the part about where Yoongi had other projects outside of Gloss_1993, they'd both agreed it crucial they don't reveal they're still in highschool. They could talk about the fact that they were together and believed in LGBTQ+ rights but would leave out the details: age, for how long.

It’s that last bit that had set Hoseok off: the way that Yoongi had been so intent, so serious, so adamant about talking about that, about them--how he’d gone on and on about how they needed to use the influence they had in a good way, how he knows it’s risky and he knows that Hoseok has a lot of things riding on their semi-secrecy but the interview is anonymous anyway and he can do all the talking if Hoseok doesn't feel like it. At that point, Hoseok had found him so attractive: this man, his man, so young but full of wisdom, just his age pretty much but already knowing exactly how he wanted his life to play out, the kind of life he wanted to live. I’m so lucky. And with that, he’d pulled Yoongi’s laptop away from him, slowly setting it down on the coffee table, before leaning over to kiss him. The rest is history, clockwork: hand chasing hands, time flying past.

“Why do the afternoons always go by too fucking fast?” Yoongi asks.

“Tell me about it. I wait around nine hours to be here, and then I’m here, and I’m waiting again.” Hoseok sighs, leaning against Yoongi, pressing an ear to his chest and listening to his heartbeat. “Hey. Have you thought about prom?”

Yoongi snorts.

Hoseok starts, sits up to look at Yoongi. “You don’t mean that you’re not going?”

“I’m not sure if you noticed from the all-black and the punk band and the skipping gym, but I’m not really a prom kind of guy.”

“But. I’ll let you take me to a hotel and pretend to take my virginity after,” Hoseok says, tugging at Yoongi’s shirt.

“And how would we explain that one away? How about you go with your friends and I pick you up after?”

Hoseok frowns. “But I want to dance with you.”

“We can dance here.”

“You know that up until a few years ago prom wasn’t even a thing in South Korea? People had to actively push for a western tradition to be incorporated into the educational system--”

“--are you saying that prom is a form of protest--”

“--you think you’re the only one who can wax poetic about revolutions?”

Yoongi blushes, thinking back to the piece he’d worked on during their summer camp that had bored everyone but himself and Hoseok: a think-piece rap track about the Gwangju uprising. “Well no, but--”

“So come to prom with me.”

“What’ll we tell Seokjin? And Sehun? And oh god--Namjoon and Jungkook?”

Hoseok pinches Yoongi’s nose, laughing at the shocked expression on his face. “We’ve got a couple of months. I’ll make gold at soccer and get into dance school and milk our project for what it’s worth and we’ll show them, then. I'll be strong enough by then.”

“You want--to come out on prom night?”

Hoseok thinks about it before nodding slowly. “Yes.”

“With me?”

“No, with some other guy named Min Yoongi.”

“Oh in that case--”

“--Yoongi.” Hoseok tilts Yoongi’s chin up toward him so that their gazes are level. Brown eyes, long lashes, wide smile. He’d give up his entire world for that.

“What?”

“Come to prom with me.”

“Okay.”

 

 

Saturday is sunny--great for camera work but a little bit more difficult for everything else. Jungkook is sweating buckets even in the loose, seventies-inspired white polo shirt that he wears over blue jeans, ripped at the knees. They’re standing in the subway at Hapjeong station, Jungkook holding the guitar up in the air on one of the less crowded platforms. They’d started early to avoid security and big crowds, but now the afternoon has settled in and there are more and more people coming in. Their slot at the Hongdae play space starts in forty minutes. Yoongi’s watch reads half-three.

“Jungkook-ah,” Yoongi says. “Adjust the strap, it’s wrinkling your shirt.”

Jungkook fixes the strap. “Good?”

Yoongi flashes a thumbs up before glancing at Hoseok. “Hobi, how’s it on your end?”

“Ready,” Hoseok calls back, squinting through the viewfinder.

Yoongi and Hoseok have taken over camera duties, using Yoongi’s DSLR on a tripod that they used to film the Hope On The Street clips, and Hoseok’s small but effective GoPro that he used mainly for filming and monitoring soccer games, leaving Namjoon to do playback on the bluetooth speaker. At Yoongi’s ACTION! , Namjoon plays the song back and Jungkook starts to rock out on the guitar, grinning as he makes eye contact with the camera, smirking in a way that makes even Yoongi blush.

They get in a couple of takes before deciding they have enough footage and moving back up toward Exit 3, walking to the gasoline station parking lot where Yoongi’s van sits. They’d turned it into a dressing room for today: loaded with different shirts and jackets, face towels, Namjoon’s drum kit, a cooler filled with bottles of mineral water.

“Jesus. What a day.” Jungkook takes a face towel and wipes himself down. His shirt is so soaked through it’s almost transparent.

“Just one more and we’re done,” Namjoon says, taking a cold bottle of water from the small cooler, relishing the way his hand feels against the ice-water.

“Why isn’t Taehyung here?” Hoseok asks, eyeing Jungkook’s torso through the fabric of his shirt. “I mean. I could’ve asked him. I think he would’ve wanted to be here. Definitely.”

“Oh I asked him,” Jungkook says, pouring some of his water over his head before toweling off. “He said he’ll come meet us here before heading to Hongdae. He said he has a surprise or something. Knowing him, it’s probably ice cream. Or food.”

“Oh yeah?” Yoongi takes his denim jacket off, swapping it for his signature black leather, checking his reflection in the mirror as he wipes sweat off of his forehead, with a discarded shirt that he’d worn when they did the spray paint scenes along one of the walls in an empty lot. “Then we might finish earlier than expected. He can help Hoseok with the--”

Right then, as if on cue, Kim Taehyung’s voice comes booming into the parking lot over the rumble of a large engine. They turn to look at what’s happening and find him driving a huge pick-up truck--a black Ford F150 that gleams in the afternoon sun. He honks twice.

“Well, what do you guys think? Rock band takes busking to another level? Parades the Hongdae playspace on the back of a pickup truck?” Taehyung grins, parking the car with a screech of the brakes.

 

 

Everyone loves it. The Electric Pink Souffles start from Hapjeong, tethering the GoPro to the dashboard of Yoongi’s van which Hoseok drives, making sure to keep them in view for the entire ride. Yoongi plays the opening riff to Knee Socks, getting the bass thumping, Namjoon joining in with the drums as people start clapping along. Jungkook comes in with the playful, fidgety guitars, their amps plugged into the rigged industrial batteries that Namjoon had been charging all day, and the gathering crowd goes wild. As they drive into the playspace proper, they’re met with gasps and applause as the awestruck crowd parts to let them through as Jungkook starts to sing the first few lines, his voice reverberating, loud and clear.

Hoseok goes to park the van upon seeing the Taehyung has stepped out of the pick-up and is taking shots of the crowd, of the band rocking out, Yoongi playing bass with a leg poised on the ledge of the pick up, Jungkook leaning forward as he sings You got the lights on in the afternoon .

Once the van is parked, the ticket safely in his pocket, Hoseok runs with the small camera on its monopod and pushes into the throes of the crowd, thick now, people dancing, grooving along. Finally, he makes it to the front row on Yoongi’s side, his heart swelling with pride as he watches Yoongi get his bass face on: eyebrows creased, lip straining against his teeth where they’ve bitten down on the swell of flesh. Without warning, they kick into I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor , Yoongi taking over the mic, dropping his bass to half-rap, half-sing the first verse as Jungkook goes hard on the guitar, Namjoon’s drum rolls crisp, solid. Hoseok feels his heart beating to the bass drum thrum. When Yoongi pulls the mic out of the stand and tosses it, catching it in time to sing, the crowd goes loses it: now, people are trying to sing along, are cheering, dancing, letting out the occasional whistle. I’ll stop making my eyes at you if you stop making the eyes at me.

By the time they get to the last song, everyone is so caught up in the music, in the moment, that none of them notice they’ve gone over the half-hour limit--none of them notice the policemen who have started to make their way through the crowd, trying to get to the heart of the crowd. Hoseok himself has decided he’s gotten enough footage, has tucked the camera away, is just dancing, singing along to all the lyrics he’s memorized word-for-word so he can sing along at gigs.

He notices them a split-second too late, the man in blue two rows away from reaching them. Hoseok pulls his cap on and makes a run for the center, grabbing Taehyung’s sweater. Police , he mouths. The police.

Taehyung sees them--gets in the car, and starts it. Hoseok climbs into the passenger’s seat, opens the back window.

“NAMJOON TELL THEM TO HOLD ON TIGHT! We’re going.”

Namjoon hears him incidentally, pausing for the bridge.

“Oh fuck. JUNGKOOK! YOONGI! HOLD ON!”

Slowly, Taehyung starts to drive them away, the police shaking their heads-- these kids --as they start to move. Hoseok glances nervously at the clock. They’re over by just five minutes. Please don’t let them chase us. Please. They finish the last song and the crowd is still frenzied, yelling for more! More! More! Even as the police start to get them to disperse. Hoseok brings the camera out, filming from inside the car, the crowd chasing them as they drive away.

In the back, Yoongi and Jungkook high-five each other as they see the police going back to normal operations, walking back to their booth as someone calls them---not too big of a fuss to go after, and anyway they were gone, and anyway the racket was being toned down. Namjoon lets out a loud whoop, the wind whipping through his hair as he leans back against the pick up’s back window.

“Thank you,” Jungkook yells into the mic. “WE ARE THE ELECTRIC PINK SOUFFLES!”

Hoseok and Taehyung can’t stop laughing as they watch them in the rearview mirror: sitting down, lying low as they turn onto the main road. They sigh with relief as they pass through a back route where they stop to pick up Yoongi's van and move the equipment, carrying the amps and guitars and drumkit back.

“So,” Taehyung says, cracking his knuckles. “Party back at mine--?”

“What happened to your parents being home?” A smooth voice interrupts. Taehyung stops cold as all of them turn to look and set their sights on Kim Seokjin, tall, handsome in a blue plaid shirt tucked into dark jeans worn over sneakers. At his heels is Park Jimin, wearing his letterman jacket over a plain sweater and blue jeans, his pretty face frowning, lips down-turned.

Jimin runs a hand through his hair. “I’m so confused right now.”

Hoseok walks up to them. “Look, Seokjin, Jiminnie--let us explain--”

Seokjin smiles, handing Hoseok a permit violation ticket worth 50,000 Won stamped with the green, bold PAID across the front. “Of course. You are all coming over and explaining what the hell is going on because I paid your way out. I’m your friend, Hoseok, Taehyung--that’s how I expect to be treated. Now, let’s go. We'll convoy. Taehyung and Hoseok know where. We’ve got time before the others come over and I intend to make the most of it.”

Yoongi opens his mouth to say something but Seokjin cuts him off as he gestures to Yoongi, Jungkook, and Namjoon. "Yes, even you three. I want to hear everything. I'll make the ramyun, you get your stories in line."

Chapter Text

“Okay. Talk.”

Seokjin sets the big pot of ramyun down on the table around which all of them are gathered, cross-legged and straight-backed, the air in the room tense. The smell of the spicy stew fills the entire room. Hoseok is sitting beside Yoongi, their hands clasped together, fingers intertwined. Hoseok’s lips are down-turned in a frown, Yoongi glancing at him worriedly. Don’t lose your temper. Don’t frown, baby. No. No no no no no. Yoongi squeezes Hoseok’s hand.

Seokjin has prepared seven bowls for all of them, Yoongi notes, taking this as a good sign. You wouldn’t prepare bowls for people you intended to beat to a pulp. He looks at Taehyung, sitting in a corner with Jungkook, both looking terrified of Park Jimin, who hasn’t said a word since the parking lot, is just calmly wiping off the metal chopsticks for the ramyun. Namjoon is the only one who looks at ease, studying the stack of books that sit on one of the end tables, noting titles and authors.

“Well. What do you want to know?” Hoseok asks, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Okay. How about why you said you wouldn’t come to the party tonight because you were busy, only for me to find you in Hongdae, assisting in some kind of mildly illegal, juvenile prank?”

Hoseok grins. “I was busy. Because I was in Hongdae, assisting in the music video shoot for one of the best upcoming punk groups, The Electric Pink Souffles. Why do you have to think everything that doesn’t involve you or sports or a college sponsorship a joke ?”

Jimin sits down beside Seokjin, sighing. “This is what I mean, Hobi. You’re talking like someone I don’t know . Since when are you into punk music? Why have you been hanging out with these people? Why are you talking to Seokjin-hyung like this?”

Yoongi looks at Jimin’s face and then Seokjin’s: underneath the exasperation, he sees a genuine concern, a kind of yearning to understand why their friend has been acting so strange, why after years of being content, he would suddenly go off of his rocker and decide to hangout instead with kids who made a clubhouse under the bleachers, who cut class, who did “pointless” things. Yoongi can identify with that feeling of hurt and confusion, had felt a little bit like that when he was younger and his parents both started dating other people after they separated. Isn’t this enough? He thinks he might know just how to fix it.

“Okay. Look,” Yoongi says.

“I was talking to Hobi--” Jimin starts, shooting Yoongi a sidelong glance.

“Yeah, well, tough luck. I’m talking to you because Hobi is a little emotionally compromised right now. You say you want an explanation, so take it or leave it because this is probably the only one you’re getting, judging from the angle of the upside-down triangle Hobi’s mouth is forming right now.”

Seokjin puts a hand on Jimin’s shoulder as if to say let him explain.

Yoongi looks at Hoseok, now leaning against him, cheek brushing against Yoongi’s hair. Hoseok nods, as if giving his assent for Yoongi to explain.

“We met during summer camp. We’re in love and that’s that. I make music and Hoseok dances. He’s one of the best dancers that I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t want to play soccer for the rest of his life. He has his own dreams, he has his own things that he wants to achieve.”

“What?” Jimin asks, his upset expression giving way to confusion. “Hoseok likes to dance? And you’re his boyfriend? And that’s why you guys have been acting like martians?”

Seokjin doubles over in laughter, slapping his knee. “Let me get this straight. Our friendship was falling apart because Hoseok likes to dance and he has a new boyfriend? That’s it ? Not illegal drugs or drunk driving or anything?”

“Ah, hyung,” Taehyung says, tossing one of the throw pillows at Seokjin. “You’re laughing now but remember what you said last week? Remember the way you talked about kids who hang out in Hongdae? And you, Jiminnie--the way you were talking about how people like us do sports so we need to focus more than other people? How we needed to draw a line between ourselves and them? And you guys wouldn’t listen to me about Gamja!”

“What the hell does Gamja have to do with any of this?” Seokjin snaps.

“He used to bully Jungkook! Weren’t you there at last year’s meet? Jungkook demolished them and those assholes tore his confidence apart. The school is losing out on one of its best athletes and all because Sehun can’t get his ego and his lapdog in check. I told you guys not to buy booze from them. I told you guys they were only nice to people who they think are ‘worthy’ well, what makes someone worthy anyway? What brand shoes you’re wearing when you chase a ball down a strip of grass?”

Jungkook puts his hand on Taehyung’s shoulder. It tingles where they touch. “It’s okay, Tae.”

Seokjin looks at Jungkook. “So that’s why you looked familiar. What did they do to you?”

“Nevermind--”

“--look, if we’re going to help, you need to talk about it.”

“I--” Jungkook glances at Yoongi. Yoongi nods at him, encouraging him to open up. It’s okay, Kookie. When Jungkook speaks, his voice is soft, scared but indignant. “--I won against both Sehun and Gamja and was chosen to represent the Lions at the big meet last season. They said I couldn’t because my shoes were so old they’d probably disintegrate on the track and we’d lose and it would be all my fault. Then they started stealing my stuff and once I was forced to talk to the parking lot in my underwear and we got into a huge fight. Yoongi-hyung stood up for me but he’s tiny so they roughed him up pretty badly. I quit after that. It’s not worth it if the people you love suffer--and for what? So you can run down a track faster than some other assholes in brand-name sneakers?”

The room is silent for a moment.

“Try out for the team this Thursday,” Seokjin says, starting to pour noodles and soup into the bowls.

“Are you insane?” Jungkook snaps. “That would be like committing some form of social suicide. First it was Yoongi and then it was Tae--every time I try to get back into running, someone has to intercede on my behalf I--”

Seokjin puts down the ladel. “People will always intercede on your behalf--and they should, if someone is mistreating you, if someone is keeping you from doing the best you can somewhere that you obviously deserve to. That isn’t just friendship. It’s humanity. Those are the rules and on the soccer team, we play fair. So try out on Thursday. We’ll be there.”

“I--Seokjin, you guys don’t have to--”

“Well, if Taehyung’s dating you, then we kind of do--”

Jungkook and Taehyung both put their hands up in protest. “No, we’re not--”

“He’s not--I don’t--”

“--anyway,” Seokjin says, continuing his soup-kitchen enactment. “Back to the star-crossed lovers over here.”

“So Gwangju--your grandmother’s--?” Jimin asks Hoseok, his tone softening as he hands Seokjin the polished chopsticks.

“The camp was in Gwangju,” Hoseok says softly, his voice wavering now. “And I’ve been wanting to dance for so long. I love Usher and Michael Jackson, I love choreographing routines. I love the way that bodies can express so much emotion, the way that they can use music as a conduit to show feelings and the things that we love, the things that hurt us. I’m really sorry I’ve been such a shit Captain--I’m really sorry I let you guys down. I know I should’ve told you but--but I was scared of being judged. I am. I still am. See, Yoongi and I have this project--Hope On The Street--”

Jimin’s eyes grow wide. “ You’re H.O.P.E.?”

Hoseok nods, still afraid to look up.

“And he’s…?”

“Gloss_1993.”

“Oh my god. The whole thing went viral--it was all over my feed. That routine that you guys did--” Jimin holds a hand up, closing one eye to get a better view, covering his view of the lower half of Hoseok and Yoongi’s faces. “--oh my god. Oh my god it is you guys. I can totally see it. That was risque. That was crazy.”

“But it made you feel something, didn’t it?” Yoongi says, smiling a little as he sees Hoseok’s mouth curl into a small smile.

“And we do all these risque things anyway, you know? Fact of the matter is: it’s dangerous to be alive. Shouldn’t keep us from living.”

Jimin sets down the chopsticks and pulls Hoseok in for a big hug. “I’m sorry, Hobi. I’m sorry I’ve been so terrible. I’m sorry, I’m sorry to everyone too.”

“I’m sorry too, Jiminnie, Seokjin-hyung--I was just so terrified. Thank you for understanding--thank you--” Hoseok squeezes Yoongi’s hand before letting go to reciprocate Jimin’s hug. A tear trickles down his cheek, his chest filling with warmth, gladness, relief.

“Yah,” Seokjin says, nodding at Namjoon. “Are you just going to stare at the Sartre book or do you want to borrow it?”

Namjoon smiles sheepishly, as he pulls the books toward him. “...and the Murakami too?”

“Fine.” Seokjin nods curtly. “Look, Hobi. I’m not upset anymore. I’m glad to know the truth. You know I’m a by-the-rules kind of guy and all I can say is that the number one rule of life is to chase your passions with everything that you’ve got. But you made a commitment as team captain so you have to step up there, you can’t let us down--however, you should also give everything you love your hundred percent: the dancing, the routines. I believe in you. I believe you can do both. You broke the number two rule of friendship which is to always trust your friends. But we’ll let it slide because of rule number one.”

“What’s that?” Jungkook asks, curious.

“Always be there for your friends when they need you most.”

 

 

Thursday comes too quickly for Jungkook’s liking. His heart is pounding in his chest, loud and resounding, at once fast and slow, each beat lingering a second too long, making him feel like he’s going to pass out. Official try-outs weren’t open anymore but the coach loved Jungkook, had asked him to please stay after he’d handed in his letter of withdrawal, begging for Jungkook to tell him what happened but Jungkook had been too afraid--and so when he’d texted that weekend, the reply had been simple: Yes, see you. 4:00 PM, track 12.

Jungkook takes a deep breath, thinking it would be easier of Yoongi or Namjoon or Taehyung were with him but they’d all said they would meet him there--Taehyung is coming from practice with the rest of the soccer kids (Jungkook prays that they show up, please ) and Yoongi and Namjoon had gotten into detention for cutting class the last week.

Today, he’s pulled out all the stops: is wearing his favorite white shirt under his favorite black hoodie, his favorite gray sweatpants, his favorite Iron Man socks (washed one too many times--now really just a faded red), and of course, the trainers that Taehyung had gotten him. Feet don’t fail me now. He isn’t sure what’s going to happen today, but he’s decided that Seokjin was right: if you were going to love something, you should just love something.

The coach is waiting for him, already sitting by the bleachers. Cold sweat prickles in his palm like ice. He sees Sehun, Gamja, and the rest of the team there too: waiting like vultures in the bleachers, waiting until it’s over, until the coach has packed up and left before honing in on their prey. Jungkook hasn’t brought anything but himself today, his backup plan for if they try and get to him being: run, run, run.

“Hi, Coach.”

“Hey, Kook. Good to see you back. You have no idea how relieved I am.”

“That makes one of us.”

The coach grins, shakes his head a little, asking Jungkook to sign on the dotted line of the try-out waiver form before he checks on a couple of files. “This isn’t going to be easy, Kook. They’ve really stepped up their game and you haven’t been around. You’re going to have to do the entire 400 meters in 1:10 or less. Sehun clocked in at 1:11.”

Jungkook nods, glancing up at the bleachers as the wind blows across the track, the dust settling like fine, gold dust in the afternoon light. Gamja nods at him, gesturing with his pointer finger drawing a line across his neck. Jungkook sets his jaw, pushes the sleeves of his jacket up. “Understood, coach.”

“Alright then. Ready when you are.”

Jungkook has already warmed up, has come prepared, and immediately takes his place by the starting line, assuming first position, watching the track as it disappears into the horizon. You can do this, Jeon Jungkook. When the coach’s whistle sounds, he’s off like an arrow honing in on its target--everything else glides past, the bleachers reduced to gray-on-blue watercolor. Jungkook feels the iron pumping through his muscles, his legs as the ground comes and goes beneath him, arms working hard to keep himself aerodynamic. He takes the curve of the track in stride, careful to keep himself balanced so that when it straightens back out he has enough energy to launch himself forward--making it swiftly across the finish line.

“Oh my god,” the coach says, laughing as he comes around to greet Jungkook. “You’re really something else, Jungkook. Fifty-eight seconds. That’s less than twenty seconds away from the Olympic record. Please come back, I’m begging you.”

Jungkook beams, breathing hard, pride and satisfaction blooming in his heart. “Of course, Coach. I’m the one who asked for a second chance, remember?”

“Don’t leave me hanging this time, alright?” The coach claps him on the shoulder. Jungkook glances up, notices Gamja, Sehun, and their troop start to move down the bleachers, making their way toward the track.

“Promise, coach.”

As soon as the coach gets up to leave, Jungkook starts to leave as well, tries to walk alongside him but he’s not quite fast enough, the couch making a double-loop into a faculty-only area. It’s Gamja that grabs him by the hood of his sweatshirt.

“You really just won’t quit, will you? You’ve got new shoes and now you think you’re good enough, is that it?” Gamja’s voice is loud, harsh, echo-ey against the empty bleachers. “You make friends with someone like Taehyung and suddenly you’re the shit?”

“Jungkook-ah,” Sehun says, coming up behind him. “You know I hate to keep seeing you go through this? You think I like Gamja jerking you around? But there is a certain order to things, Jeon Jungkook--”

“--and what order is that?” Kim Seokjin’s voice cuts through the tense atmosphere.

Jungkook turns around to see Seokjin walking down the track toward them, shoulders broad, stance proud against the afternoon sky. Taehyung and Jimin are in tow, walking slightly behind him.

“Oh, hey, Seokjin--ah, yes, Taehyung--if you could care to explain--”

“--maybe,” Jimin says slowly, “you should explain what it was, exactly, that you guys were implying by saying that there is a set order to who gets to make it on track or not?”

“Just that there are people who’ve been running this track for a long, long time. There are people who’ve worked their asses off for years, created bonds with each other, built a kind of culture , if you will--”

“--a culture of bullying and extremely corrupt politics?” Hoseok’s voice cuts into the conversation as he, Yoongi, and Namjoon approach from the other side of the track.

Sehun opens and closes his mouth as if about to say something but nothing comes out. He narrows his eyes at Yoongi. “ You.

Gamja frowns. “What the hell is going on here? Why are you guys even hanging out with these losers? What do you guys have to do with Taehyung’s sugar baby anyway?”

Taehyung lurches forward and pulls Jungkook out of Gamja’s grasp. “If you ever lay a hand on him again or say anything like that to him again, I will make sure that you’re suspended for misconduct.”

“You guys used to be cool--what the hell is happening?”

“Well, you know,” Seokjin says, shrugging. “You didn’t used to be an asshole so--”

One of the track thugs steps up to them, making a swing at Seokjin. He dodges and Jimin is off like a slingshot, pushing the guy back. “Sehun, what kind of captain are you? We grew up together and I don’t know about you but the soccer team doesn’t tolerate picking on other people--”

“--it’s different,” Sehun says, speaking up. “Soccer is a team sport. Track isn’t.”

“And yet it’s called the track team for a reason,” Hoseok says. “There is only one rule, one culture that athleticism values: fair play. We work hard to make our scores, we work hard to be able to play. Jungkook has worked hard, has obviously beat all of you or you wouldn’t be so upset. So don’t worry about the coming games because you won’t even get to play. I’m filing a misconduct report tomorrow--”

“You wouldn’t.”

“Oh, I would. Captain’s honor.”

Hoseok grins, winks as they all start to walk away, making for the school parking lot.

 

 

Movie nights have been a little bit different lately. Still every Thursday, still at Yoongi’s house, but Yoongi’s mom has had to do none of the cooking. Today, they’re sitting in the basement, Seokjin serving rolls of Kimbap, lemonade, little bowls of flavored popcorn sprinkled with what he called Jin-Mix (a sprinkle of salt and pepper over a dash of caramel powder). Namjoon is setting the screen up, Yoongi looking for the cable to connect his laptop. Hoseok is babbling about how he wishes I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor had made the single instead of Knee Socks, explaining that he loved Jungkook’s song but Yoongi’s one just head a kind of flavor, a kind of pizazz that he can’t explain.

“Because it’s about you, you narcissist,” Taehyung says jokingly, throwing some popcorn at Hoseok.

“Well, look who’s talking. Isn’t Jungkook’s song about you , Mr. Sky Blue Lacoste?”

Taehyung opens his mouth in shock, as if the idea had occurred to him for the first time. “I--I didn’t look up the words--I just thought it sounded better--”

Jungkook looks up from where he’s tinkering with Yoongi’s laptop and blushes when he catches Taehyung’s eye. He takes his earphones out and asks, “What?”

“Nothing.”

“You’re both being stupid,” Namjoon says, finally getting the projector to get the images at the right height and width. “There’s going to be a second single of course. And a billion more. ‘Cause we’re going to be famous.”

“Hopefully future singles won’t involve breaking the law,” Jimin says, taking a bite into his Kimbap.

“Maybe next time you can be our tiny dancer,” Namjoon shoots back, breaking into a horrendous Elton John impersonation.

“You’re insufferable.”

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” Jungkook pipes up, excited for them to hear the song, to see the video. Thus far, only Yoongi had seen it, having edited and color-graded it himself with a little bit of help from Namjoon.

Jungkook pulls up the YouTube page, sets it to the fullscreen setting. Everyone is quiet for the first time in the evening as Yoongi kills the lights and the video starts to play. All black gives way to flickering pink text as the opening riff plays. Fade into different timelapses of Seoul, color-graded to give it a grainier, 90s feel. When the bass kicks in, the scene cuts to Yoongi sitting by the Han river, playing his bass, grooving in a denim sweater and concert tee as the wind ruffles through his dark hair. Yoongi bobs his head to the groove--percussions come in, the scene cutting to Namjoon in Hongdae, a lollipop in his mouth, winking before he starts to kick against the bass drum pedal. The camera pans to another quick montage of them playing in the back of the van before the vocals come in and the film gives way to Jungkook playing his guitar and singing at the train station, all sexy eye contact and smirks at the camera.

“Jesus,” Taehyung says.

“Sorry,” Jungkook says, a little bashful now. “I didn’t mean it.”

“No, I mean it’s--”

“He means he likes it,” Seokjin says, keeping his eyes glued to the screen. “So don’t be sorry.”

Taehyung turns to Jungkook, opening and closing his mouth like a fish left to flail on land. Jungkook turns his attention to the screen, suddenly hyperaware of Taehyung’s gaze. They’re both blushing pink in the bluish projector light.

On the screen, they’re spray-painting the walls in the vacant lot, running through different half-empty cityscapes, playing music against different urban backdrops. The video goes into footage from the concert at Hongdae. Yoongi, having at it with the bass, a leg propped up onto the ledge of the pick-up truck. Namjoon playing it cool, headbanging to the beat, doing fancy tricks with his drumsticks, coming back on the downbeat. Jungkook singing into the mic, voice curling around the knee socks highnote--everyone cheering, clapping along to the bridge as Namjoon and Yoongi come in with the backing vocals. The escape scene--the car rolling them out of the playspace, the crowd chasing after them--starts on the last chorus. The last scene is taken from Hoseok’s GoPro, taken from behind them: the three boys looking at the crowd as they pull away, laying their instruments down as the song ends, the wind playing with their hair. And finally, Jungkook saying, “Thank you, we are the electric pink souffles!”--the screen goes black and electric pink font flashes against it, announcing the EP release date and their social media pages.

Jimin lets out a low whistle.

“Wow,” Jungkook says as Namjoon turns the lights out. “Wow. You guys really outdid yourselves thsi time.”

Namjoon and Yoongi high-five each other. “ We outdid ourselves this time.”

Jungkook laughs. “Now, let’s see if people actually watch it.”

 

 

Taehyung insists on walking Jungkook home and then just taking the bus after. Seokjin and Jimin roll their eyes as they climb into the car, waiting for Hoseok who is planting a big one on Yoongi. When they pull away, Yoongi lets out a laugh, waving as Hoseok gets into the back of Seokjin’s car.

“Hey, Namjoon, we’ll drop you off,” Seokjin says, rolling down the window.

“What? It’s okay. I live like, a couple of blocks away. Jungkook and I--oh--” Namjoon realizes what they’re doing as his gaze falls on Jungkook and Taehyung already walking down the street, eyes downcast, hands in pockets. “--okay.”

Yoongi watches everyone go, a good feeling in his chest. He reaches into his pocket, lights a cigarette. In the clear, black sky, the moon is smiling at him too.

 

 

Taehyung puts an arm around Jungkook’s shoulders. Jungkook smiles to himself. He likes that--the way that Taehyung is so easy with him, so carefree and casual: but also, he admits to himself, he likes the possibility of him being a little less casual, a little more, well, something else. He glances at him now, looking up at the moon, not really saying anything. Jungkook stops short.

“Taehyung.”

“What?”

“Why did you buy me those shoes?”

“Because you needed to run.”

“Why did you invite me to your house?”

“Because I wanted to hear your songs. And let you hear mine.”

“But why? I mean why do you care so much? Why did you ask to walk me home?” Jungkook looks at Taehyung, watches the calm expression on his face. “At first I thought it was because you liked Hoseok then because you thought I was your charity case and then for a moment I thought you might like me but I changed my mind.”

Taehyung grins. “Why’d you change your mind?”

“Because I know that a guy like you would go for what he wants. And you haven’t gone for me--so what is it?”

“Why’d you write a song about me?”

“I--”

“--I read through the lyrics. Why’d you let them invite me to the Halloween party?”

“I--”

“--why did you come over? You could’ve said no. See, I thought for a while that it was because you wanted to get back at me for the Hoseok thing or for the Yoongi thing--”

“--I--”

“--but then we just ate and played music and then you asked me to the shoot--”

“--well why did you go?”

Taehyung grins. “Checkmate.”

“What now, then?” Jungkook plays with the thread on his hoodie.

“Hrm. How about I give you something to sing about?” And with that, Taehyung pulls on the hem of Jungkook’s hoodie until they’re so close their tips of their noses brush against one another. Jungkook nods slowly as Taehyung cups a hand to his cheek and slowly presses their lips together in a soft, deep kiss.

Chapter Text

Yoongi comes walking down the basement stairs, munching on some of the popcorn he’s brought down for them to enjoy while watching the interview. Hoseok is sitting on the couch. He rolls his eyes when he sees Yoongi already eating the popcorn. “There’ll be nothing left.”

Yoongi shrugs, grins. “There’s plenty left for you--unless you want to eat it from my mouth.”

Hoseok looks at him pointedly. “Why is that hot when you say it? It’s supposed to be gross but it isn’t.”

“Because you love me.” Yoongi sits on Hoseok’s lap, pressing the play button on the YouTube video before leaning back.

Hoseok’s arms loop around his waist, helping him hold the bowl of popcorn on his lap. Hoseok squeezes Yoongi closer, rests his chin gently on Yoongi’s shoulder. “Yeah, there’s that of course.”

Yoongi feeds him some popcorn, taking it between his lips before turning to kiss Hoseok softly. Hoseok takes the popcorn from him with his tongue. It’s warm, salty. When they pull apart, Yoongi raises an eyebrow.“Not gross?”

Hoseok smiles. “Not at all.”

They turn to the screen. The signature DNCE Talk segment opening sequence comes in, a flurry of 80s-inspired font set to dance music, the last beat giving way to the title, the week’s featured artists. Yoongi and Hoseok had sent their video of them answering the questions over last week and had been waiting eagerly for it to air.

The opening segment is DNCE talking the audience into the segment, introducing H.O.P.E. and Gloss_1993 before he lets the video run into the interview proper, colorful screens with the questions popping up before it cut to them answering--both of them sitting in Yoongi’s basement, against one of the blank walls, both of them in masks but putting their own spin on their outfits: that’s to say, Hoseok is wearing a beanie his sister had bought him for his birthday last year, and Yoongi is wearing a black cap.

 

How Did You Guys Meet?

They glance at each other, burst out laughing. Gloss_1993 rests a hand over H.O.P.E.’s. Their smiles are evident even under the facemasks. H.O.P.E. takes off his beanie, runs a hand through his dark hair.

“I think you should take this one.”

Gloss_1993 sighs. “Well. He needed a shirt. We were at Hip Hop camp--him for dance, me for music--and this guy didn’t do his laundry. So he needed a shirt. I lent him one.”

H.O.P.E. rolls his eyes. “He doesn’t do it justice. It was a bit funnier than that because there was a blackout and he had a bunch of shirts and he threw one at me--”

“--that doesn’t sound funny either.”

They burst out laughing. H.O.P.E. looks at the camera. “Anyway. Yeah. Long story short, we met at hip hop camp.”

 

What’s your collaboration process like?

Gloss_1993’s eyebrows furrow. “This part is both complicated and easy to explain. Usually, he comes up with a routine to a generic beat, I review the routine, tailor the music and rhythms to his movement. But there’ve also been times when I’ve written some music and he’s kind of danced along to it. And then we just try it out, see how it looks on camera.”

H.O.P.E. nods. “It’s always a give-and-take. We don’t have a set thing especially because Gloss has so many other things going on. Do you wanna talk about that?”

Gloss_1993 nods. “I write a lot of songs across different genres from hip-hop to electrodance to punk rock. I’m more comfortable working under a pseudonym so I can’t really say much except to please watch out for more stuff on my SoundCloud. There will definitely be project overlaps, collaborations with other artists.”

 

Who are your influences?

They look at each other and grin. “There are so many people to mention--maybe in the future we’ll do a blog post or a video,” H.O.P.E. says.

“Maybe this goes without saying but we definitely influence each other. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t get into the funkier stuff like R&B. And if it wasn’t for me--well, you saw the last video.” Gloss_1993 nods, as if to punctuate his sentence. “I think we’re definitely trying to keep up with the times content-wise.”

 

Speaking of the last video, we couldn’t help but notice the chemistry--will there be more videos like this in the future?

Their eyes meet, Gloss_1993 lets H.O.P.E. take over--allowing him to take charge, to share as much as he is comfortable with for now. H.O.P.E. pauses for a moment, takes a deep breath before he speaks, every word carefully chosen.

“We read the comments on our videos--we know what people are saying. And all we want to say is that it is what you probably think it is. We support being open about these things even if it isn’t safe for us to be well, open in our real lives. We’ll continue to work together and to bring you good dance routines and good music. Please anticipate us coming out with new stuff. We work really hard on it and if you guys like Gloss dancing even if he isn’t too good at it, let us know.”

H.O.P.E. looks up. Gloss_1993 is looking at him. They smile.

 

The closing credits roll, snappy music playing as their URLs are flashed on the screen. The video ends. Yoongi smiles, feeling Hoseok’s arms pull him closer, feeling him kissing his hair, his ear. Yoongi smiles, lets his eyes close for a moment, savoring the moment.

“We make a pretty good team, you and me.”

 

 

The cheering from their side of the field is so loud that Hoseok swears he goes a little bit deaf for a couple of seconds. It’s the first game of the season--they’re playing the Incheon Eagles. Their team is good, really good: the game ends with the Seoul Lions winning by three points--all thanks to Seokjin’s awesome defense, effectively stalling and giving Taehyung to set up before the rival team’s offense kicked in. Hoseok leads the run around the field, their school chant ripping across the field as the crowd does a wave. He holds the school flag as he runs at the head of the pack, shaking sweat from his hair. He lifts his shirt a little to wipe his face and the crowd goes wild. Hoseok looks up as Jimin, Taehyung, and Seokjin fall in line behind him.

“I swear to god,” Seokjin says. “If people reacted like that when I lifted my shirt--”

“--you never lift your shirt, hyung,” Jimin points out.

“Because no one yells . Hobi has been positively reinforced all his life. It’s second nature. It’s a skill that’s a bit too late for me to learn now.”

Taehyung pats Seokjin on the back. “There, there, hyung. Everyone still yells at you about your shoulders--”

“--and my good looks.” Seokjin sends a flying kiss up toward the bleachers. Screaming pierces through the air. A soft chant of Kim Seok-jin Kim Seok-jin slowly building.

Hoseok looks up at the audience, scanning the crowd, grins as his gaze settles on what--or rather, who--he’d been looking for: in the audience, the only person wearing black in a sea of green and gold: Min Yoongi waving a flag nonchalantly, looking a little bit lost but cheerful. Beside him, Jungkook is sitting in his black leather jacket joining in in the yelling. Namjoon is beside him reading a book. Those three are so weird.

“Lover boy came to support, huh?” Seokjin says, clapping him on the back.

“Yup.” He feels his heart sink a little as he thinks about the post-game celebration. “Too bad we can’t ask them to come along to the afterparty.”

“I mean we could--” Seokjin starts.

“--it’ll be awkward.”

Jimin shrugs. “Why don’t we just have our own after-after party on Monday?”

“Good point. That’ll be fun. They’ve got a gig Friday too”

The coach sounds the whistle and the victory run ends: they finish the second lap around the field and fall back into flank formation as they march onto the field to shake their opponents’ hands. Their relationship with the Incheon kids is fond if competitive, full of play-fighting and banter: someone throwing a just you guys wait until we wipe the floor with Daejeon and come get you guys during the championships! in there, much to everyone’s delight, the uproar getting even louder. Once the handshakes are through and they start to make their way to the locker rooms, Hoseok comes face-to-face with his dad, standing by the bleachers, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Hobi.”

“Appa. We won.” Hoseok says, as if the entire victory run hadn’t been evidence of this truth. He tries to look proud--always a feat of some sort when it comes to his father--by smiling, raising his chin.

“Yes, but only by three points. I’m glad the team won, son. But it was the defense that saved you--Seokjin and Taehyung were the stars of this show. I’m afraid that’s not going to be good enough to get you on the National Team. That’s the goal remember? I worked so hard talking you up to the scout I was sitting next to so you’ve got to get your head in the game.”

“It’s only the first game--”

“--that’s a losing mindset.”

Hoseok looks at his father, watches the disappointment that sits like a staple on his face: sure as a blemish or a freckle or a mole.

“I talked to your coach and you’re going to do extra training runs on days that there aren’t practice.”

“Appa, I can assure you that I--”

“--your mother told me about Gwangju. She’s a kind person, Hoseok. I understand why she wanted you to have fun. But there’s time for play and there’s time for real-life responsibilities. Time to get rid of the summer. Time to focus. Put away childish things and what not.” His dad claps him on the shoulder before steering him down the hall toward the locker rooms. When Hoseok steps into the shade, it feels cold, clammy against his sun-kissed skin.

 

“Hey, stranger.” Jungkook is leaning on the hood of Taehyung’s car when he walks out of the locker rooms, freshly bathed. Taehyung grins--he’d suspected an ambush of some sort and is glad he’s prepared: he’s dressed up today, is wearing his now-signature Lacoste shirt over pale blue jeans, white sneakers. He runs a hand through his hair, takes in the sight of Jungkook: tall, broad frame cloaked in his black leather jacket worn over an old band shirt tucked into dark jeans.

Someone dressed up for the game.”

“Look who’s talking. Nice shirt.”

“Are you coming to the after party? I mean. Sehun and Gamja got suspended for the season, you know. So they won’t be there.”

Jungkook smiles. “I know. But we’ve got band practice in about an hour and then I have to go and run a little after--I promised coach I’d do at least 400 meters a day in preparation for the Winter meet.”

Taehyung tries to hide his disappointment with a shrug. “Oh. Ok.”

“But I was thinking if you could spare an hour before the party maybe we could drive around or get take out or something. Super late lunch?”

“You’re suggesting we drive around--while leaning against my car? I love how you’ve basically got me pegged as your chauffeur.”

Jungkook pops his tongue against the inside of his cheek before grinning. “Naturally.”

“You’ve gotten cocky since I kissed you,” Taehyung says, unlocking his car, putting his gym bag in the back.

Jungkook grins. “Do I hear regret?”

Taehyung shuts the door, comes up on the other side of the car, taking Jungkook by surprise as he playfully tackles him, pinning him against the car’s metal body. Jungkook’s heart is going a mile a minute from Taehyung being so close: eyes bright, smile wide, his hands on Jungkook’s waist. He wants to kiss him. Wants to pull him in by his belt loops. Taehyung meets his eye, nudges Jungkook’s nose with his.

“Tae--someone might see--”

“Let’s get out of here, then. I’m your chauffeur remember?”



The guitar riff pierces through the air in time with Namjoon’s heavy bass drums, the floor toms rolling and landing on the crisp snare as Yoongi starts with the percussions, trading his bass momentarily for the tambourines, leaning into the mic to sing the opening lines.

Hey, gimme, gimme chemicals

Gimme the fix, gimme back control

A white-hot white revival,

We're gonna be saved tonight

They’re at the studio space, practicing for their gig-slash-EP launch this coming Friday. Gimme Chemicals is one of their most famous (or well, most played on Sound Cloud) songs but the one they tend not to play because a lot of people seemed to mistake it for being about illegal substances when really, it was about their absolute dependence on coffee. They’ve got everything planned: the setlist, the EPs, the outfits (they’d decided on a 60s throwback theme). After a lot of huffing and puffing, Hoseok and Taehyung had gotten Seokjin and Jimin to help them out too--while they still wouldn’t set foot in the Hongdae clubs, they had agreed to help with online marketing. Yoongi’s Soundcloud notifs had been doing his old smartphone dirty since Seokjin posted the teaser (captioned with a heart emoji) on his Facebook wall the night before--so much so that Yoongi’d turned the damn thing off, felt that this was doing the poor device (which had been stuck on the homescreen) mercy.

When they end the song, Jungkook singing all of the smooth, high “oohs” providing a canvass for Yoongi’s raspy “HEYs” and Namjoon’s drum-heavy interlude, all of it tying together neatly with a crash of the cymbals, all of them are in an especially celebratory mood.

“We should go out for some pizza,” Namjoon says, wiping sweat off of his forehead on the sleeve of his shirt. “It’s the least we can do. I mean can you imagine we sat through a whole damn football game and still had enough braincells left to play through our entire set.”

“What’re you talking about?” Yoongi shoots back, laying his bass down carefully in its faux velvet-lined case. “You were reading so of course you have braincells left. I was just watching a ball go back and forth.”

“I’m only going to say this once,” Namjoon says. “For everyone’s mental health. But. No one minds watching balls go back and forth as long as they have hots for whoever owns the balls so I’m sure you weren’t too bored.”

“Eww, god, please don’t infect our minds with your sick hobbies--” Jungkook starts.

“--your hickey’s showing.” Yoongi says, deadpan, pointing to a spot at the hollow of Jungkook’s neck.

“I--it’s a bruise--”

“What’d you do? Sprain your neck while running?” Namjoon teases. “Is the track team doing some strange Exorcist-style shit now?”

“Hey, Joon, don’t pick on the kid--”

“--thanks Yoongi- hyung --”

“--I’m sure there are lots of other ways to get a bruise in the shape of Kim Taehyung’s open mouth.”

With that, Namjoon and Yoongi double over in laughter. Namjoon does a badum-tss on the drumset. Yoongi makes kissy sounds.

Anyway ,” Jungkook says, trying to ignore them. “As we were discussing before you guys decided to be the most fucking mature people on the planet--pizza?”



They devour the pizza in minutes, all of them not quite realizing how hungry they’d been. Now, Namjoon is sitting on the couch, checking the stats on Yoongi’s computer. Their soundcloud has more than 10,000 people following it now, most of the follows coming in after the Hongdae gig and the music video release--by no means breaking the stats counter, but it’s still a pretty good development. The Knee Socks music video (shared by Jimin on his Instagram, captioned with the fire emoji) has just reached over 100,000 views, the comments section filled with notes and comments from people at school.

school_days01828

Came here via Seokjin! Wow! You guys go to our school!

 

j@neisplan3

O h my god I was there at Hongdae that day these guys are s i c k

 

Heyho_0218

The bassist is so damn hawt

 

Namjoon starts replying, leaving little witticisms and references where he saw fit, flagging comments as spam when they were mostly junk. Jungkook is sitting on the floor, playing Yoongi’s acoustic guitar--a song that Yoongi feels like they’ve heard before but which he can’t quite place. Something about talking someone down.

Yoongi is lying on the couch, finally getting through their SoundCloud notifications and marking them as read, his phone functioning well enough for him to read his messages.

He grins as he opens the one from Hoseok.

 

Hobi

My dad is being an a-hole but what’s new. :< :< :< :< :< Not sure if I’ll be able to sneak out for the gig Friday but I’ll try. I really hope I get into dance school baby. Don’t think I can take faking it for four more years.

 

Yoongi’s heart clenches in his chest, thinking of Hoseok and what his dad might’ve told him, how in place of pride and happiness he should be feeling over the amazing (well, Yoongi thinks, he’d looked amazing for sure) gameplay, he’d instead been met with some kind of dissatisfaction or malcontent. He wants to hold him, wants to make everything alright. He types his reply out carefully.

 

You did so well. You were amazing. I’m not into sports but I waved a flag and it was one hundred percent worth it. I hope you saw my tiny flag. Did you like my flag? Anyway, you guys won. And you’ll get in. Have you seen yourself dance or are those mirrors in dance studios just for show? And even if you don’t, we’ll find a way.

 

He hits send, sighs as he leans back against the couch.

“Yoongi!” His mom’s voice comes echoing down the basement stairs as he hears her open the door and start making her way, half-running down to where they are.

“Eomma?” Yoongi gets up to meet his mom at the foot of the stairs.

She’s smiling, holding something behind her back. Everything seems to happen in slow-motion as she hands him the big, heavy envelope with the Seoul Institute of the Arts seal on the front. “They say it’s a good sign if you get the big envelope.”

Yoongi’s heart is pounding as he takes it from her, the thick paper smooth against his hands. He takes a deep breath before breaking the seal and lifting the flap. He scans the parcel’s contents: the letter saying you have been accepted, the scholarship form, the student record kit, the list of requirements for enrollment. When he looks up, his mom is already teary-eyed, holding her arms out for a hug. Yoongi takes her up on the offer and gives her a hug, both excited and terrified.

“More pizza? We need to celebrate.” She smooths his hair, planting a kiss on the top of his head. “I’m so proud of you, my Suga Baby.”

“Eomma don’t call me that--”

“--what’s happening?” Jungkook asks. Namjoon looks up from the computer, looking just as clueless.

Yoongi ignores them and nods. “I’ll call. Pepperoni.”

“Alright. I’ll leave money on the dining table.” His mom nods and heads back upstairs.

Yoongi stands there for a moment, transfixed, his heart doing somersaults in his chest: he did it! He got in! He could work on his music for the following years. He could chase his dreams. Sure, it won’t be easy--but for now, getting the chance feels like more than enough. His gaze falls on his cellphone, one new message from Hoseok marked by the small, orange envelope on the screen. He feels fear start to curdle his excitement, a skin of anxiety building in his gut. Please. Please let Hobi get in too.

Chapter Text

“Do you ever think about what’s going to happen next year?” Jungkook asks. He and Taehyung are lying on Taehyung’s bed, watching TV. They both had sports practice earlier that afternoon: Taehyung still wearing his shorts with grass stains on them, Jungkook still in his jogging pants and dirty white shirt. They’re sweaty but comfortable where they are and so neither of them make a move to get up or shift their posture. Jungkook has his head resting on Taehyung’s chest, Taehyung’s hand absentmindedly playing with Jungkook’s hair.

“Sometimes,” Taehyung says. “But mostly, I just kind of like to wing things.”

“It’s going to be weird not having Yoongi and Namjoon around,” Jungkook says, pressing his cheek against Taehyung’s chest, his free hand playing with the skin under Taehyung’s shirt. “I can’t help but think about how lonely it’ll be. I know that Yoongi’s still going to be in Seoul but it’ll be hard for me to be alone in school--”

“--the last Electric Pink Souffle in Seoul High,” Taehyung says. “You know, you could hang out with me and Jimin. Seokjin and Hobi are leaving next year too.”

“Hmmm.”

“You don’t sound convinced.”

“I really hated Hobi for a while, you know,” Jungkook watches the outline of Taehyung against the light from the far window--the line of his nose, his lips, his chin, the hollow of his throat. “I felt like he took someone away from me. I felt like he was this stupid buffoon who just kind of stormed in and took the person I loved away.”

Taehyung smiles, leaning over to kiss the top of Jungkook’s head. He thinks about the animosity he’d felt toward Hoseok and by extension, Yoongi earlier in the year, the hatred he’d felt for whoever the elusive owner of that stupid van was--a far cry from the way that he sees Min Yoongi now: smart, kind, sweet in his own aloof way. “I know.”

Jungkook sighs, snuggling closer to Taehyung, all sighs and smiles. “I was wrong about that.”

Taehyung raises an eyebrow, looks down at Jungkook to see a small smile playing on his lips. “What do you mean?”

Jungkook’s smile widens. Taehyung can see his smile lines, his cheeks puffing out like apples he wants to take a bite out of. He pulls him closer, rocking until he’s on to of Jungkook, Jungkook landing with a soft puff on the pillows, his eyes wide, taken by surprise.

Taehyung leans down and gives him a peck on the lips. “What do you mean you were wrong, Kookie?”

Jungkook just smiles up at him, bringing his arms around Taehyung’s waist, pulling him in closer to kiss his neck, his chin, his lips. “I like you, TaeTae. I’m really happy--even if it hurt at first, I’m grateful that Yoongi met Hobi because that means I get to have you. I’d be so lonely without you.”

Taehyung’s brows are furrowed, eyes scanning Jungkook’s face: serious eyes, lips that curl upward a little to the left, nose scrunching a little as he chuckles. He brushes Jungkook’s cheek with the back of his hand, using his thumb to fondly tilt his chin up toward him. When their lips meet, the kiss starts out soft: both of them smiling a little, Jungkook’s front teeth getting in the way a little until Taehyung moves to take Jungkook’s lower lip between his teeth, until Jungkook’s lips part and his tongue seeks Taehyung’s out--and then the kiss plunges deep like a boulder into the sea. Taehyung relishes the heat of Jungkook’s tongue against his, the way that his strong arms are both controlling and helpless, holding them close but trembling as if barely keeping it together. He moves to kiss Jungkook’s neck before sucking at the soft skin, leaving bruises to bloom there, enjoying the breathy moan that escapes Jungkook’s lips as he brushes a thumb over his sensitive nipples through the fabric of his shirt.

Jungkook slips a knee between Taehyung’s legs, rolling his slips slowly, keeping both of his palms flush with Taehyung’s cheeks. Taehyung lets out a low moan at the friction, hands tugging at Jungkook’s shirt.

“Kookie--”

“Tae--I--”

“--we don’t have any protection.”

Jungkook lets out a long, deep breath as if to calm himself, leaning his forehead against Taehyung’s.

“We can wait--”

Taehyung nips at Jungkook’s lower lip. “Or we could 69?”

With that, Jungkook rolls his hips harder, hands tugging at the waistband of Taehyung’s shorts. Taehyung palms at Jungkook’s erection before hooking his thumbs into the garter of Jungkook’s jogging pants and pushing them down past the hollow of his hips. They pull apart briefly to discard shorts, pants, underwear, before Taehyung makes sure that Jungkook’s pillow is fluffed, supportive as he turns around, taking Jungkook’s cock slowly into his mouth as he dips his own cock into Jungkook’s open mouth. The pleasure is almost unbearable. He lets his tongue work the head of Jungkook’s cock before taking him in entirely, using the slick movement to go from tip to shaft to base. When Jungkook hits the back of his throat, he relishes the sound Jungkook makes, the surge of pleasure he feels running through him as he thrusts slow, deep into Jungkook’s mouth. Jungkook moans against Taehyung’s cock, going faster now, trying to last past the overstimulation. They go like that for a while, both of them trying to get the other to cum first--Taehyung slipping a saliva-slicked finger into Jungkook’s fluttering hole, Jungkook using a warm palm to play with Taehyung’s balls--until they are both mewling, bucking against each other. Jungkook comes first by the fraction of a second, shooting his load into Taehyung’s mouth. Taehyung does his best to swallow, effort thwarted as his own climax washes over him. They drip on each other, Taehyung leaving a mess on Jungkook’s lips, his neck, his chest, Jungkook’s cum settling hot and thick on Taehyung’s tongue before dribbling down his chin.

“TaeTae,” Jungkook finally says after a moment, trembling and breathless but still managing to pout. “TaeTae please hold me.”

So Taehyung slowly makes his way back up to Jungkook and holds him until they are both peaceful, calm and kissing, slow, in each others’ arms.

“Kookie?”

“Hmm?”

“Do you want to go to prom with me?”

“Can you ask me that when I’m not covered in your jizz?”

Taehyung takes his shirt off and wipes Jungkook’s face before cleaning himself up. He tosses the shirt into the nearby hamper and kisses Jungkook softly.

“Now?”

Jungkook laughs. “Okay, yes.”



They’re about to win their second game, this time against the Suwon Bears, and by a much bigger lead. There are four minutes left in the game and Hoseok plans to make the most of it, making sure that the nine-point gap between them is maintained if not significantly widened. Take no chances. At this point, he has taken to using gameplay like a mask, a facade: he is determined to play so well that his dad won’t be able to find any way to fault him, to keep him from doing what he wants. He’d use it like armor, a shield, a sword if needed. Hoseok signals to Jimin. Jimin nods and circles Suwon captain Hui, who makes to evade him, passing the ball to Shinwon. Jeonghan steals it from him, passing it to Jimin, who makes across the field quickly before passing it to Hoseok who kicks it into the goal, the Suwon goalie, Yeo-One, missing the ball by a split-second. The whistle rings, shrill across the field. The Seoul High school anthem sounds, confetti raining down on them.

Hoseok, Jimin, and Jeonghan give each other high-fives as they all jog to the podium to start the victory run. Seokjin catches up with them, breathless but excited, saying something about going out to eat after. The game is in Suwon and Hoseok is sad at not having Yoongi in the audience but is comforted by their win nonetheless. The one upside to this is that his father isn’t there either--but he knows the coach will be his eyes in the crowd, probably talking someone up about him. He knows that if he behaves, he can definitely make something up to use as collateral to be able to make it to the EP launch that Friday.

He closes his eyes and dreams of the week to come: thinks of filming videos, of dancing, of music, of having fun with his friends. Hoseok knows Yoongi has gotten into the school that they’d applied for, is incredibly happy for him--but still there is a knot of fear in his stomach that the same fate might not await him. Yoongi has had years of practice, Hoseok has only had one summer. He knows he’s good but is he good enough? Right now, he would give the world to find out. He holds onto this desire for confirmation as they go through the motions: the victory lap, the waving of the flag, the handshake, and then the long walk to the locker rooms where they were to get showered as soon as possible so that they could be on the bus back to Seoul before dark.

In the locker room, the mood is celebratory--Hoshi and Minghao have come up with a new cheer, complete with dance moves (not bad, Hoseok notes), Seokjin has decided to treat everyone out to samgyeupsal when they get back, Dino and some of the other kids have taken to betting on the final game: outcome and lead, being so cavalier as to bet on whether or not they’d run against Jimin for Team Captain as the year ends.

Hoseok slings his face towel over his shoulders as he steps out of the shower and walks to his locker. He makes to get dressed, enjoying the sounds of merrymaking and camaraderie. He’s so caught up in the moment that he doesn’t notice the coach come up beside him as he’s pulling on his shirt. When he taps Hoseok on the shoulder, Hoseok startles, banging his knee against the metal of the lockers.

“Sorry, Coach. I didn’t hear you.”

“It’s alright, Hobi.” The coach turns to his left, gesturing to a well-dressed man in  a suit. “I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Kwon, the head scout for Korean National Sport University. Mr. Kwon, this is Jung Hoseok, our Team Captain. He’s lead us into victory for every game this season and is one of our most seasoned players. His dad is Mr. Jung of Jung Sportswear.”

Mr. Kwon nods, reaching out to shake Hoseok’s hand. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Jung. I’ve been watching your games since last year. I’m very impressed. A lot of good players have that fire, that kick, but they don’t have that consistency to keep it going.”

Hoseok bows, tries to look gracious. “Thank you, sir. My team works hard.”

“Your father must be very proud. I hear that he himself was a semi-pro back in the eighties. How are you feeling about the rest of the season? Two out of four games and then the championships. It’s looking like gold. One more game and that’s a guaranteed bronze at least.”

Hoseok hesitates. “I’m--”

“--he’s very confident but likes to play humble. Don’t count your eggs before they hatch and all that,” the coach interjects. “But we’re pretty sure we’ve got the gold in the bag. Park Chanyeol was one of ours you know.”

“Ah, yes. Chanyeol--silver, last year, wasn’t it? I recruited him too,” Mr. Kwon says. He turns to Hoseok. “I would’ve made this offer anyway but I want you to know that a scholarship is on the table for you, Mr. Jung--a spot on KNSU’s soccer team. It’s rigorous and it’s intense but you’ll learn a lot. I’m sure your coach will be proud and your dad will be proud. What do you say?”

Hoseok bites his lower lip, furrows his eyebrows. “I’ll think about it.”

“Excuse me? Son, this isn’t the kind of thing you think twice about. I’ve seen all the teams play and this is the first offer I’ve made--”

“--ah, forgive him, Mr. Kwon,” the coach says, throwing Hoseok a sideward glance. “He and his father are very close. All Hobi means is they’ll have to discuss it--”

Mr. Kwon stops looking offended and instead pulls out a calling card, offers it to Hoseok who accepts it with both hands, bowing. “Thank you, Sir. I’m afraid the coach is right. I didn’t mean any offense.”

There is a sinking stone in the pit of his stomach. The merriment dies down and everyone starts to make for the bus. Before he follows Mr. Kwon outside, the coach claps Hoseok on the shoulder. “Think about this decision well, Hobi.”

Hoseok nods but as soon as the coach is out of earshot, he crumples the card and stuffs it into his gym bag.



The guitars wail, the drums come in the snare like an explosion of stars as the lights go haywire, beams of electric pink and white, the cymbals lending weight to the euphoria of the evening. Hoseok is flush with sweat from dancing and excitement. He and Taehyung had come in early from booth duties because all of the copies of the EP they’d had produced had sold out. On stage, the band is down to their second-to-the-last song, the first verse of Gimme Chemicals blasting through the sound system. The crowd is singing along so loud that Yoongi lets them take it during the hook, Jungkook getting up on the edge of the stage during the guitar riffs. Namjoon does tricks with his drumsticks.

Taehyung and Hoseok laugh, alcohol coursing through their veins as they down the last of their beers and leave them on the table before pushing through the crowd until they’re right up front by Yoongi and Jungkook. Yoongi spots them and his face lights up, he shoots Hoseok a hand-heart. Hoseok’s heart jumps like a fish over the moon. Tonight, they’ve told Hoseok’s parents that Hoseok is at Taehyung’s playing video games (this time they had Jimin and Seokjin to back them up--at least via phone) and that Taehyung would drop him off after--not past midnight, but not earlier for sure.

Hoseok glances at his watch. They have a little over an hour. For now, they let the music carry them away into the last track. The crowd starts jumping as I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor comes in like tide--Hoseok lets himself be swept into the groove until he doesn’t feel like a single person but an entire body of water, the moshpit thrumming, all limbs and sweat and singing. Yoongi’s voice is raspy, deep, like worn velvet when he sings the first verse, Jungkook and Namjoon coming in with the backing vocals that the crowd sings along to.

Time goes too quickly--before they know it, the song ends, the lights go out as Yoongi yells, “We are The Electric Pink Souffles! Thank you!” And then Taehyung and Hoseok are running toward the side of the stage, bodies still feeling too light from suddenly being able to move as the crowd starts to disperse into the rest of the evening: to get drinks, to prepare to watch the next performers. Hoseok grins as he sees Taehyung move to help Jungkook with his guitars, sneaking in a soft kiss as they make their way toward the back entrance. He’s glad about how that’s turned out, even if they have yet to grill them about the details (which they will definitely get around to--Hoseok swears it on his life). His smile grows even wider as he steps in to kiss Yoongi on the last step of the stairs leading down from the stage. They hadn’t seen each other properly the past week what with Hoseok’s extra practice hours and Yoongi’s preparations for the EP launch. You beautiful man. Yoongi smiles against him, arms coming up around Hoseok’s neck, his hard guitar case sliding down the last step. Yoongi pulls Hoseok in closer, parting Hoseok’s lips with his tongue, kissing him slick, all tongue and want. Hoseok pulls him in by the waist, slipping a hand under Yoongi’s leather jacket, pressing the palm of his hand to the small of Yoongi’s back--a promise. This week, we’ll see each other more.

“Hobi!” Yoongi yells, pulling away.

“What?” Hoseok asks, a little grumpy at the kissing being interrupted.

“I think the next group is going to come up on stage,” he says, nodding at some people they know from the band scene who were getting ready to climb the stage, their spot being the last of the evening, the main act. They’d launched their first EP alongside the Souffles’. “Sorry, Jae.”

“No problem, take care you guys. Keep that love alive, ya feel?”

Hoseok helps Yoongi with his guitar and makes for the back entrance.

“Your phone was vibrating, by the way,” Yoongi says as they walk to Yoongi’s van where everyone is already waiting for them. Hoseok reaches into his jacket pocket to check his phone.

“Make out session done?” Namjoon jokes.

Yoongi rolls his eyes. “Whatever, fifth wheel.”

“Hey, look, I swear to god if Seokjin wasn’t straight and if Jackson wasn’t an asshole--”

“--that is the most disturbing sentence I have ever heard,” Taehyung cuts in.

“Fuck.”

Everyone turns to look at Hoseok, who’s staring at his phone in shock.

Yoongi tosses his guitar into the van. “What is it, baby?”

Hoseok holds up his phone. It’s a text from his mom.

 

Eomma ❤❤❤

Hoshikie, the envelope arrived. Good news, baby. Well, partly. Good news is that you got in! I hope you don’t mind that I opened it. I was too excited. I’m so proud of you, Hoshikie. The bad news is that your Appa was the one who received the letter at the door. He’s upset and we have some explaining to do. Could you ask Taehyung to bring you home earlier than expected? Love you. Text me as soon as possible.

 

“Tae--” Hoseok looks up but Yoongi is already pulling him to the van by the wrist, ushering everyone into the car.

“Come on. Let’s get you home. You got this, baby.”

Chapter Text

It’s so quiet that Hoseok swears a feather dropping onto the carpeted floor would sound like a million church bells ringing out over townsquare. He is sitting at the dining room table beside his mom, both of them facing his dad. The warm light he usually associates with home, with being safe, belonging, lends something sinister to the atmosphere--Hoseok thinks about the inside of an oven, the way that a fireplace looks when the flames are still hungry for wood. On the table are the dismantled parts of a letter Hoseok would’ve otherwise found an absolute relief, a cause for celebration: the thick, white envelope, the letter with congratulations! printed out in small, serifed font, the registration sheets, the list with relevant dates on it. Along with that are other things: USBs, his GoPro.

His father is stone-faced, eyes not quite seeing either of them. His mom’s hand is warm where she holds his but she can feel that she is nervous too, her pulse beating against both their palms. Please don’t worry about me.

“Hoseok,” his dad finally says. “I will give you a chance to explain.”

“Darling,” Hoseok’s mom starts. “Please--”

“--I want to hear it from him, dear. You can’t keep coddling him. He has to learn how to defend himself. He has to learn to talk about the things he wants. You can say your piece later but for now, I’d like to hear from Hoseok himself. I want him to tell me why he’s been running around the Hongdae area when he knows that’s a place for university kids, why he’s been doing it during soccer season, why he applied to a dance school, why there are videos of him dancing--like that with another boy.”

Hoseok’s mom squeezes his hand under the table. Hoseok takes a deep breath, tries to clear his voice of any trace of tears before he starts to talk.

“Appa. I know you have a lot of dreams for me. I know that you want me to do everything that you didn’t get the chance to and I’m grateful for how hard you worked. I’m grateful for everything that you’ve done for me. Playing soccer taught me so many things,” Hoseok says, not daring to look at his dad’s face. He closes his eyes, trying to wipe away the expression he knows is going to be looking back at him: a nonchalant disappointment, easy, natural.

“It taught me to be the best at whatever you do, to strike true, to not hesitate when opportunity knocks--it also taught me to look out for a team, to think outside myself. Teamwork makes the dream work, right? But it also taught me that you can’t do anything for the team if you don’t first take care of yourself. You can’t accomplish anything properly if you’re injured. And the way that I’ve been living, or the way that I’ve been hiding--my soul is injured, Appa. I’m not free. I feel like I’ve been living a double-life. Soccer is a big part of who I am and always will be but I’ve fallen in love with dance. It’s what I want to do. It’s the one thing that’s given me as much as I’ve given it. You know that split-second after you win a game? Between when you score the winning goal and the confetti comes raining down? That’s nothing compared to the feeling that I get when I’m able to dance even if it’s for less than a minute. That’s when I’m most myself and when I feel like I can do anything that I want to. I got an offer from KNSU--”--in his periphery, Hoseok sees his dad flinch--”--but I’m going to turn it down. I know I’m lucky to have it--but should a life be lived on luck, Appa? That isn’t striking true. That isn’t doing what’s right. About the Hongdae footage and the dance tapes. I’ve been uploading dance videos. And I’ve been helping some friends with music. They aren’t bad people. They’re talented and brave and creative and smart and some of the kindest people that I’ve ever met. As for the boy--”

Here, Hoseok starts to grip his mom’s hand even tighter. He looks up to meet his dad’s gaze which until now has been fixed somewhere past Hoseok’s left shoulder. His father blinks once, twice, face unmoving. Hoseok takes another deep breath, decides to go on. Go big or go home.

“--Appa, I love him.”

Tears brim from his eyes, spilling down his cheeks. Hoseok’s mom reaches over to hug him and he falls into her embrace. She strokes his hair, whispers, “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

When she speaks to Hoseok’s dad, her voice is resolute. “Darling, Hoseok has said what he needs to. And now let me say what I need to. I think that when we become parents, our sole duty is to love our kids: to provide what we can for them, to hope for the best for them. If dancing will make him happy, it’s our duty to make sure he dances. If this young man will make him happy, it’s our duty to make sure that he is able to love him to the best of his ability. Don’t you agree?”

A couple of beats pass in silence, the only sound in the room the ticking of the clock from the kitchen.

“I’m a hard man,” Hoseok’s dad starts, addressing his mom. “I think we might have different opinions about what a parent’s duty is to one’s child. I thought my duty as a father was to make sure my children didn’t go astray, to make sure they kept to the right path, that they became successful. We’ve made our family’s living from sports and that is the path set. You do well in school, you do well at your job, you meet a nice girl, you get married, and settle down. I’m not so much angry as I am confused at this point. Did I do something wrong? Was this formula not working? Didn’t it work for so many people? Didn’t I make it clear how things should be?”

“I’m not a mistake,” Hoseok says, voice angrier now, if quieter, the tears ceasing to fall from his eyes. “You made some mistakes, sure, but I’m not one of them. I refuse to be one of them. I am who I am just like you just are who you are and Eomma is who she is. Is a path necessarily the wrong one just because it isn’t the one you’ve taken? Isn’t the selection of a partner supposed to be based on love? Aren’t formulas put together by taking other set values apart?”

Hoseok’s father contemplates this for a moment. His mom sighs, sits up straighter in her seat. She meets his father’s gaze.

“Hoseok will go to the dance school. I know he will excel at that. Do you know that his YouTube channel has more than 700,000 subscribers? Do you know that he comes up with his own routines? Do you know that every video he and Gloss_1993 put up gets over 100,000 views? Isn’t this acceptance evidence enough of his acceptance? He has the power to influence change, to influence the way that people think and all of that doing something that he loves with someone he loves. How could we ever ask him to give that up? If you won’t pay for it, then I will. And if I can’t afford it, then I’ll foot the first year and then he’ll get a scholarship after.”

“Eomma, how did you even know about--”

“You really think those first thousand views came from anywhere else but your mother having the page on auto-refresh? And I’m not an idiot, Jung Hoseok. A mask won’t keep me from knowing my son when I see him--also, you never clear the cache on your computer.”

Hoseok blushes, trying hard to recall what else he may have left on his browser history.

“Gold,” his father finally says, cutting through the room’s tense atmosphere.

“What?” Hoseok and his mom ask in unison.

“I’ll pay for dance school if you win gold at the championships this year,” Hoseok’s dad puts a hand over his. When Hoseok looks up at him, he realizes that his dad’s eyes are filled with tears. “It’s not what I would’ve liked or wanted or intended--but you know that I value hard work. If you want this future, then it will be like it was with soccer: you’ll have to earn it. If my son is quitting soccer, he’s going to quit it at the top. Am I making myself clear?”

“Yes, Appa.”

“Is the boy taking you to prom?”

Hoseok tilts his head in question. “I--I’m actually escorting him.

“We will have to meet him, then. He will not wait in the car, he will have dinner here beforehand. Maybe the world has changed and is more modern now but I won’t have some hooligan in a mask dragging my son around town without winning my approval first.”

“Appa?”

“Yes, Hoseok?”

“I won’t disappoint you.”

“I know.”

 

“Jesus, it’s like you guys have built some kind of underworld down here.” Hoseok pushes through the hanging flaps of tarpaulin used as a makeshift door as Yoongi leads him into the fort under the bleachers. “Are there going to be weird booby-traps? Maybe a bookshelf with a book that’s actually a secret passageway somewhere?”

“Oh sorry to disappoint--we had to stop at the suit of armor that’s actually a spy cam,” Yoongi shoots back.  

Namjoon looks up from where he’s lying on the said couch, reading a book. Jungkook cranes his neck to see who’s there from where he’s lying on one of the bean bags, playing a videogame on his phone.

“How did you guys even get a couch down here without anyone noticing?”

”There are perks to not being a minor celebrity, Hobi,” Jungkook says. “When you’re pretty much invisible no one really cares what you do.”

“You guys aren’t exactly invisible anymore, are you?” Hoseok asks. “There are rumors they’re going to ask you guys play at prom due to popular demand.”

“Punks at prom,” Yoongi says, shaking his head. “Alice Cooper is turning in his grave.”

“Alice Cooper isn’t dead yet,” Namjoon says, face serious. “Jesus, Yoongi.”

Yoongi shrugs. “You know what I meant.”

They’re interrupted by a crashing noise as someone bumps--hard--into the tarpaulin sheet. “Ow, fuck--”

A minute later, Taehyung emerges through the entryway, holding a paper bag full of snacks, a couple of sodas for everyone. Seokjin and Jimin are at his heels, both of them carrying monobloc chairs.

“What the hell,” Yoongi says. “Why are you guys bringing those in here? What if someone saw you guys? They might find us and clear us out.”

“You don’t think that the fact that the bleachers seem to be talking and playing punk music is a dead giveaway that there are people here? If they wanted to kick you out, they would’ve done it ages ago,” Seokjin says, putting his chair down beside Jungkook’s beanbag. “And we didn’t want to sit on the grass.”

“You guys are soccer players. You literally roll around in the grass,” Yoongi points out.

“Do smokers like inhaling secondhand smoke?” Jimin shoots back. He puts the plastic chair he’s holding down in the middle so that Taehyung can set the snacks down on it. They’ve got some tteokbokki, a couple of bags of chips, some juice packs, and cans of soda.

“Scoot over,” Jimin says, sitting down beside Namjoon as Namjoon sits up. “Couch hog.”

“You’re small enough to fit anywhere anyway.”

“And yet, you end up doing what I say--”

“--oy, no bickering. The tteok is getting cold,” Seokjin says, leaning over to lift the lid before handing everyone their chopsticks. “So. Fill us in. What the hell happened over the weekend? I thought I was going to have a heart attack when TaeTae messaged us about your dad.”

Hoseok waves him off. “I don’t want to put pressure on anyone but my future now relies on two things: us winning gold this season and Yoongi wearing a suit and having dinner with my parents.”

Seokjin and Jimin groan. The past week Hoseok and the coach had been extremely tough on them, each drill going for far longer than it was supposed to, every skirmish having scores pushing closer and closer--the wins going by one, two, three points with the best players being pitted against each other.

“You know that Yoongi doesn’t own any loafers right?” Jungkook asks pointedly. “And that the only suit he has is the one he wore to the Halloween gig? So your parents are basically going to have to be okay with you dating a skeleton in combat boots."

“What?” Hoseok looks at Yoongi’s feet, notices that he’s wearing beaten up black Doc Martens. He wears DMs under his uniform.  

Yoongi shrugs and spoons the hot tteokbokki into his mouth. “Hey, you’re the one who chose to go to prom with me. You chose this, Hobi. No backing out now.”

Hoseok reaches for a bag of chips, pulling the tabs open with a pop. “Good.”

Chapter Text

Yoongi takes a deep breath as he walks up to the Jungs’ driveway. He’s seen the house a billion times, has dropped Hoseok off countless times, but Yoongi realizes suddenly--perhaps at the worst moment to realize something like this, what with his stomach brewing up a storm--that he’s never been inside it. Hoseok had told him a few Fridays ago as they lay in the back of Yoongi’s van, sweaty and sated, that he shouldn’t worry about it: he had more than two weeks to prepare, it would just be casual, Hoseok’s mom would be cooking, Hoseok’s dad is quiet if a little grumpy and intense (“Come to think of it, you guys might get along”, Hoseok had said--Yoongi had made a Freud joke) but wasn’t the type to make a fuss around guests. While at the time, with Hoseok’s arms tight around him, his breath warm on his nape, Yoongi had been eager to take comfort in these reassurances, tonight, as he stands with clammy palms outside the front door of the Jung home, he struggles to hold onto them. What if they don’t like me? What if they don’t want me dating Hobi? Giving a damn about what people think of him has never really been Yoongi’s thing but goddamn does he want the Jungs to like him.

He wipes his palms on his jeans for the nth time in the past few minutes and with a trembling finger, presses the doorbell. He hears footsteps thunder down wooden steps, Hoseok’s voice yelling, “I’ll get it!” and then the undoing of locks before the door swings open. Hoseok looks amazing ( as usual ) in a plain white shirt and dark blue jeans. Yoongi peers at the house behind him: the place looks warm, the couch is white, cushions puffy, throw pillows an assortment of pale pastels and deep jewel tones, the dining table is laden with hot food, Hoseok’s mom and sister already seated at the table.

“Are you just going to stand there or--?” Hoseok grins, offering Yoongi his hand.

Yoongi takes it, warily stepping over the threshold and into the house, the door clicking closed behind him. No backing out now. Hoseok clears his throat. His mom and sister look toward them. Yoongi notes that they all have the same, warm smile. Right as Hoseok is about to speak, his father comes down the stairs. Yoongi finds himself bowing, greeting them good evening in a way that is more formal than he’s ever greeted anyone in his life--he and his mom, Yoongi thinks, are more Gilmore Girls than Von Trapp family kind of people.

“Good evening,” Yoongi says.

Hoseok grins as Yoongi straightens up, cheeks flushed from the sudden rush of blood to his face. Cute. He’s so nervous. “Appa, Eomma, Noona--this is Min Yoongi. Min Yoongi, this is my Appa, my Eomma, and Dawon-noona.”

“Nice to meet you, Yoongi. Sit, sit,” Hoseok’s mom says as she goes to get the wine to accompany dinner.

“Hi!” Dawon waves at him.

Yoongi flashes what he hopes is a friendly smile.

Mr. Jung is silent as he makes his way to the dining table, the only indication of his having heard Yoongi a small nod. Yoongi lets out the breath he’s been holding in slowly. Hoseok leads him to the table where they sit beside each other. Hoseok squeezes his hand under the table. Hoseok’s mom comes back in with the bottle of white wine and settles in her seat.

“Shall we?”

And with that, dinner starts.

“So, Yoongi,” Mr. Jung says, taking a sip of his wine. “Hoseok says you got into the Seoul Institute of the Arts as well.”

Yoongi almost chokes on the bit of potato he’s chewing on. His throat goes dry. “Yes, sir--I am going for music production.”

“Full scholarship?”

“Yes, but not not including miscellaneous and material fees.”

“I see. That’s quite impressive. How do you do in school?”

“Fair enough, sir. Mostly As, a few Bs here and there. Science and literature are my favorite subjects.”

Yoongi and Hoseok exchange surprised glances as Hoseok’s dad smiles. “You know I almost became a literature professor?”

“You never told us that, Appa,” Dawon chimes in.

“It’s true,” Hoseok’s mom affirms.

Hoseok’s dad nods. “I got top scores in all of my literature courses. I was especially fond of Dickens and Kim Manjung. I got such good grades the head of the Literature Department asked whether or not I would consider changing my minor to Literature because of their ladderized program but in the end, I thought that Political Science was still a better way to go. I was on a Sports scholarship already while majoring in Business Administration, minoring in Political Science--adding one more thing to have to work my way up in wasn’t ideal.”

“I’m pretty fond of Oliver Twist,” Yoongi says. “Although Great Expectations is my favorite Dickens.”

Hoseok nudges him, grinning. “Yoongi thinks he’s something of an artful dodger. You know. All brooding and mysterious and stuff.”

Hoseok’s father’s expressions grows serious. “That’s not a bad character to identify with, in a way. For all his faults, Jack Dawson is smart and cunning. Which I suppose, leads me to tonight’s more serious subject matter--”

“--Darling, we said we’d keep it light,” Hoseok’s mom says, putting her hand over his. “Maybe we can wait until after dinner?”

“It’s okay, Mrs. Jung,” Yoongi says, meeting Hoseok’s dad’s gaze. “I would feel more comfortable as well if we cut to the chase.”

“What are your intentions regarding Hoseok? I don’t mean to be intimidating but if a man looking to date my son is going to be intimidated by me, then they don’t deserve to date him. Do you plan to keep on seeing him throughout college? What about after? Are you hardy enough to stand criticism? Not everyone is open about LGBTQ relationships. People will give you flack for it, people may put you in danger for your relationship. How do you intend to stand up for yourselves?”

“Appa--” Hoseok’s voice is high with panic.

Yoongi puts a hand over Hoseok’s, finding his courage like a slippery rope in the darkness and holding on for dear life. “With all due respect, sir, I was raised by a single mother on the tough side of town. We don’t have anything that we haven’t worked for--I’ve been talking to landlords and loan sharks since I was twelve, I’ve been helping my mom with everything since my dad split and so almost nothing intimidates me. Sure, I get scared. Sure, the future is uncertain. But your son is the best person I’ve ever met. He’s passionate about everything that he does, he’s kind, he’s funny. He’s incredible. I know not everyone will understand but maybe you can think of this situation right here as a microcosm: we stood up for ourselves in front of you, didn’t we? I’ve been standing up for myself for nineteen years--and I don’t even like myself all that much. But I love your son and so you can rest assured, I can and will stand up for me and Hoseok for however long he’ll have me.”

There is silence in the room. Hoseok and his mom are both glassy-eyed. Dawon has her mouth slightly open as if unable to believe someone has spoken that way to their dad. Hoseok’s father nods slowly, starting to slice his steak.

“Very well, then. You will pick him up an hour before prom and have dinner here. Photos will be taken in the living room. You will have him home by half-past midnight.”

 

When Yoongi gets home, his mom is waiting for him. She’s sitting on the couch, watching TV and eating some freshly-popped popcorn; Yoongi can still smell the butter and salt in the air. She pats the seat next to her and Yoongi sits down. They’re watching the last episode of the current season of RuPaul.

“Gah. Spoilers,” Yoongi says.

“Sometimes it’s nice to know the ending and watch from there,” his mom says, handing him the popcorn bowl.

“Huh. I like her, I’m glad she won,” Yoongi says, stuffing his mouth with popcorn.

“How’d tonight go?”

Yoongi grins. He knows his mom is using her trying-not-to-pry voice, is trying to get him to talk about it by pretending that she isn’t asking. Yoongi gives her a short rundown of the evening: how he’d been scared, how Hoseok’s mom and sister were a lot like Hoseok--warm, funny, always smiling or looking like they were just about to, how Hoseok’s dad was intense but alright in the end, how he just cared a lot about Hoseok, and when it came right down to it, Yoongi definitely couldn’t fault him for that.

“Should I have interrogated Hoseok when I first met him, then?” Yoongi’s mom smiles a little. “What do you plan to do with my genius son? Why are you practically living in our basement? Things like that?”

Yoongi snorts. “Then we would’ve scared him away and your genius son would be lonely for the rest of his life.”

“I highly doubt that. I don’t think a pack of wolves would scare Hoseok away from you. And I don’t think you’d really be lonely as long as you can make music. Although you know what? I’d always kind of thought you would’ve ended up with Jungkook or Namjoon. The original basement crashers. Didn’t one of them used to have a crush on you?”

“How do you know all these things?”

Yoongi’s mom shrugs. “Nothing comes from nothing, kid. I’m the original genius."

“Eomma,”” Yoongi says, trying to keep his face still, trying to pretend he’s watching Sasha Velour say something on screen.

“What?”

“Thank you for raising me. I know it wasn’t easy especially after you and Apeoji split up. And I mean, I know I can be kind of hard-headed--”

Yoongi’s mom snorts. “Kind of, he says.”

“--okay, fine, very hard-headed. But I just wanted to tell you I really appreciate how hard you work and how you accept me and just let me do what I love. I know this is kind of an old school thing to say but thanks for never having qualms with me being gay. Other kids have it tougher than me. I know that. Just. Thank you.”

Yoongi’s mom ruffles his hair fondly. Yoongi smiles, leans against her--and for a moment, he feels like a little kid again. That’s how they’ve always been--not very talk-y, and he knows that by ruffling his hair, his mom is saying no problem and I love you, son.

“So,” Yoongi’s mom says, taking a handful of popcorn. “When are we going to buy a suit? Or are you really going to wear your Halloween costume?”

 

Usually, Hoseok could care less about what Yoongi is wearing--he thinks he looks gorgeous in anything--but when prom night arrives and he opens his front door to find Yoongi standing there in a dark silver suit with black lapels over a white silk shirt with a ribbon that does up at his throat, Hoseok thinks he might actually faint. Up until then, he thought he looked pretty good: he’d chosen a classic black suit on his sister’s recommendation, had taken her advice to wear his hair up and off his forehead for once. But now, looking at Yoongi, Hoseok is a little bit floored, suddenly feels underdressed. He’s gorgeous.

“Hey, baby,” Yoongi says, smiling and handing Hoseok a single, white rose.

“Hey,” Hoseok says, taking the flower, unable to stop staring at Yoongi and smiling. “You look amazing. Well, fair warning about the Jung household. They’re all super hyper right now. Especially Noona. She styled me so she’s kind of obsessed with everything looking good for her portfolio.”

Yoongi gives Hoseok a once-over, letting his gaze linger at the line of his hips, the taper of his waist, his shoulders, his throat, before finally coming to fix itself on his face--those lips and the faint mole like a period on a sentence, the dimples like stars, the almond-shaped eyes, his eyebrows that frame everything.

“She shouldn’t have anything to worry about, then.”

Hoseok rolls his eyes as he and Yoongi walk through the doorway. “Sweet-talker.”

Yoongi grins. “Sap who secretly wants the photos taken so he can make them his wallpap--”

“--Yoongi! You’re finally here--oh wow, that’s a great suit.” Yoongi is cut off by Dawon running toward them. She looks like she’s working a fashion shoot--complete with a belt bag around her waist, the tiny makeup puff still hanging off of her ring finger. She circles Yoongi, peering at the threading more closely before stepping back to observe him: hair, earrings, shoes. “Wow. I love how everything is elegant and then offset by the earrings and the DMs. Who’s your stylist?”

“My mom?”

Hoseok hadn’t noticed the shoes. He starts laughing. “Of course you’re still wearing those.”

“What kind of punk would I be if I didn’t?”

“Well, okay, punk ,” Dawon says, clapping twice before taking Hoseok and Yoongi by the wrists and dragging them to the living room where she’s set up a couple of ring lights and a DSLR on a tripod. She arranges them on the couch: Hoseok sitting with his legs crossed, one arm draped over the back of the couch, the other one resting in his lap, and Yoongi beside him, snuggled just-close-enough as not to cover the embroidery of Hoseok’s suit.

“That’s lovely, Dawon,” Hoseok’s mom says, coming in to join them with the tea.

“Alright!” Dawon says, getting behind the camera. “This is going to be a series of ten shots. I need you two to look in love.”

Hoseok grins, leaning forward to whisper in Yoongi’s ear. “Easy-peezy, then.”

 

The theme is “Galaxy”--Seokjin had made a billion Samsung jokes but everything aside, none of them can deny it’s pretty damn beautiful. Everything is in black--the curtains, the backdrop, the tablecloth--with a galaxy light pattern being projected onto it in luminescent shades of purple, blue, and pink. Everything is illuminated, romantic, a visual feast. The punch is raspberry: held up to the light, it too, looks like a glass dipped in starlight.

“I want to eat it,” Taehyung says, looking up at the ceiling onto which a nebula in motion is projected as it bursts, expands. “I mean. It kind of looks like a jawbreaker.”

Jungkook looks up, glances at Taehyung, wonders how someone who can look so absolutely gorgeous in an all-white suit can want to eat a ceiling because it reminds him of candy that won’t fit in his mouth. “It is my duty to make sure you don’t try to do it.”

Namjoon is using the cutlery to drum against the edge of the table. He’s decided to go the avant-garde route, sporting a black leather jacket over a dress shirt and tie, wearing them half-loose, half-tucked into his slacks that he’s cuffed at the ankles. Jimin is sitting beside him, giving him a once-over.

“What?” Namjoon asks, looking at him pointedly. “It’s practice for our set later.”

“And I was just about to compliment you.”

Namjoon drops his fork. “What?”

Jimin gets up to join Seokjin on stage as the music for the programme starts--they’re co-hosting.

“You look good.”

Namjoon follows Jimin with his gaze as he walks up the stairs in his navy blue suit, noticing for the first time the way that it offsets his skin. Huh.

 

As Seokjin announces them, the milky-way printed curtains giving way to the illuminated stage, the blocky ELECTRIC PINK SOUFFLES sign glowing an iridescent purple on the dark backdrop, Namjoon kicks it off with the drums sa they go into a cover of Fall Out Boy’s Dance, Dance, Yoongi taking the rap-inspired verse, Jungkook going in for the smooth, high chorus.

I’m two quarters and a heart down
And I don’t want to forget how your voice sounds
These words are all I have so I write them
I need them just to get by

Dance, dance
We’re falling apart to half time
Dance, dance
And these are the lives you love to lead

Taehyung, Jimin, Hoseok, and Seokjin do a kind of chicken dance before Taehyung takes the lead and starts a conga line, grinning as the other kids from their class join in--seniors and juniors alike, both the noisier kids from varsity that they knew, and the kids who didn’t participate much being swept up in the moment, roped in by the fact that kids from their side of the social spectrum were playing punk music at the prom.

On stage, Jungkook and Yoongi roll their eyes at each other, both of them wondering what kind of guys they had to be date losers who did the conga to a punk song. As the song ends, everyone on the floor scatters like light through a pane of glass--Namjoon starts the next song, the one he’s been rehearsing for all day, drum sticks running through the signature syncopation that has a collective oh going through the room as kids pair up. Yoongi goes into the signature bass riff, letting the rumble of music fill his chest as Jungkook kicks off the verse of Blink 182’s I Miss You.

Hello, there,
The angel from my nightmare,
The shadow in the background of the morgue,
The unsuspecting victim of darkness in the valley.
We can live like Jack and Sally if we want.

Where you can always find me
And we’ll have Halloween on Christmas
And in the night we’ll wish this never ends,
We’ll wish this never ends.

He catches Hoseok’s eye as Hoseok waves from the edge of the stage. Yoongi grins, not taking his eyes off of him as he leans in to sing his part of the song. When he does, he thinks of the entire summer, the entire year past, how much their lives have changed--how in a way, however odd a shape the situation had come in, Hoseok had cut through the night of his life like a shooting star: except, he hadn’t had to make the wish, it had just come true.

Where are you?
And I’m so sorry.
I cannot sleep, I cannot dream tonight.
I need somebody and always
This sick, strange darkness
Comes creeping on so haunting every time.

And as I stared I counted
The webs from all the spiders
Catching things and eating their insides
Like indecision to call you
And hear your voice of treason.
Will you come home and stop this pain tonight?
Stop this pain tonight.

The light bounces off of other couples dancing but all Yoongi sees is Hoseok: dapper in his suit, mouthing the words to a song that he hadn’t known before meeting Yoongi. That’s what it feels like to make a difference in someone’s life. In that moment, Yoongi realizes the one drawback (aside from the incredible irony of being punks who play at prom) of their new-found popularity: playing at prom means you can’t dance with your date.

As soon as he finishes his verse, he glances at Jungkook and Namjoon then nods toward Hoseok, mouths I’m going to dance with my man. Wide-eyed, Namjoon and Jungkook watch as Yoongi slowly slips off the strap of his bass guitar, setting it slowly down on the stage as he walks down the steps. The crowd parts to let him through, heads turning as they wonder at the shift in music. Jungkook signals to Taehyung who clambers onto stage. He whispers something to Namjoon and there is a moment of silence as the song shifts into Dua Lipa’s Lost In Your Light, the drums and guitars coming in, Taehyung’s low, smooth voice crooning into the sound system as the spotlight follows Yoongi down the dance floor as he cuts through the crowd, reaching Hoseok who is staring, mouth half-open from shock.

Over and over
Waves of frightening feelings
Floating, weightless, I’m willing
My will keeps bending and breaking, honey
Hold me, trust me
Let me ride in your love all night, babe

Yoongi grins, reaching out a hand. “May I have this dance?”

Hoseok raises an eyebrow, running a hand through his hair. “I thought you didn’t dance.”

Yoongi winks. “I thought you needed someone to dance on.”

Hoseok takes Yoongi’s hand, leads them both to the dance floor as the crowd makes room for them. Seokjin lets out a low whistle. Jimin starts to sing along, everyone chiming in as Taehyung hits the chorus and Hoseok spins Yoongi out--the H.O.P.E. routine dialed down, romanticized, made sweet.

Lost in your light, baby
I wanna stay right here all night, baby
Let’s get lost in the light, baby
I wanna stay here all night, baby

The lights spin around them, the galaxy flickering in and out of being, the stars arranging and rearranging themselves to the rhythm and movement of Hoseok’s feet, to his ministrations that move Yoongi in turn: spinning, being caught, a burning star flung into space. All Yoongi sees is Hoseok--the way that his eyes half-close in passion at the turn, the way that he sings along to some of the words, the way that his gaze runs over Yoongi’s form and meets his own, the way he feels both heavy and weightless, euphoric and drowning in those eyes. When the music ends and Hoseok spins him in, their noses touching, their lips barely centimeters apart, Yoongi has a single thought: love is dancing with all of time and space.

Chapter Text

Wind ripples through the trees, the green grass of the soccer field, the gold-on-green flags held up on sticks, Yoongi’s dark hair. Try as he might, Yoongi can’t ever remember being as nervous as now: not a gig or a test--not even the night he’d first met the Jungs. Since prom, he and Hoseok have worked hard, non-stop on content for H.O.P.E., the comments blowing up after they’d done the dance--some people sending them a link to, well, themselves dancing, saying it was an amazing cover, others speculating in the comments who H.O.P.E. and Gloss_1993 actually were . Their next video was a dance-response to the comments: a three-minute piece of choreography set to Dua Lipa’s Lost In Your Light. The comments section had exploded.

They’d also been working extra hard on Hoseok’s game plan: Yoongi had helped the boys come up with a computer program that made tracking their progress faster, more efficient, with graphs of Effort vs. Goals Scored; Hoseok and Jimin had worked together to make every team--both core and back-up--as strong and quick and well-prepared as they could. There was a short break after they’d won against Daejeon when they’d let themselves relax--and then, it dawned on them: they’d be playing against Incheon again. Incheon, their good friends and worst rivals. This was the game. If they won, they got gold: Hoseok got to go to the dance academy, got to chose his dreams. If they won, they got silver: not bad, yes, but Hoseok would then take KNSU up on its offer for the Sports scholarship. Not bad, sure--there are times when not bad just isn’t good enough. Gold, Yoongi chants to himself. Come on, baby.

Yoongi lets out a small breath as the referee calls a short time-out. He glances up at the scoreboard. The competition is close. For the past hour and a half, the scores haven’t been farther than three points apart. They’ve entered the last round: Incheon is leading by two points. He glances at the clock--they’ve got exactly four minutes to change the course of things. Yoongi cranes his neck, trying to see Hoseok. He sees him at the center of the huddle, his eyebrows furrowed, lips down-turned into that shape that Yoongi hates seeing: the opposite of his beautiful, brilliant smile. Yoongi startles when Jungkook claps him on the shoulder.

“Don’t forget to breathe, hyung.”

Yoongi takes a deep breath. “I’ll try.”


Hoseok sees Yoongi from where he’s standing by the bleachers, gulping a small cup of blue Gatorade. He can see the somber expression on his face. Today, he’s decided to wear school colors, knuckles white as he grips the flag like some kind of parody of school spirit. I’ll get us there, baby. Hoseok tosses his cup into the nearby garbage can and goes to join the rest of the team.

The game is close--too close. Everyone comes in for the huddle: Hoseok watches their faces, all of them serious, determined, focused on winning gold. Seokjin and Jimin are giving it their all, Taehyung is covered from the chest down in mud, trying not to miss a single goal--frustrated at already having missed two goals more than they can afford.

“We have to keep everything tighter, closer,” the coach is saying. “We’ll go with the Trojan Horse formation. Seokjin and Hoseok: you guys will make like you’re stealing the ball, provide a good distraction. Then you fake and pass it to Jimin who will be waiting to run in like a bullet and kick it into the goal from the midline. Seokjin and Hoseok will then hone in and catch their defense off-guard. Taehyung, you stay alert in case they manage to steal it from us. If they do, Jeonghan, DK, make sure that you guys are ready to steal and pass it back to Jimin then things go according to plan. Clear?”

“Clear!”

The whistle blows.


It happens in slow motion, a moment that Yoongi will never forget: the clock going from 00:00:001 to 00:00:00, his arm raised stiff, holding up the school flag as some sort of prayer to the gods of soccer or of punk rock or hell, maybe of love to please, please, please. The Incheon Eagles hadn’t taken gold for the past five years for nothing. Their offense, their defense are incredible. The Lions had tried one of their star formations: Trojan Horse, they called it, after the Greeks. It was brilliant, going swimmingly at first: the Eagles responded as one was supposed to--offense focusing on Hoseok and Seokjin, defense guarding the goal. What they hadn’t accounted for was that the Eagles captain, Yook Sungjae would be so receptive. He saw through the deception in time: blocked the pass to Jimin, steered the game down the other half of the field.

The Lions’ defenses were on point too: Jeonghan and DK giving Sungjae all they’d got, Taehyung wary, on-guard, ready to glide or jump or slip or slide should the ball come swooping toward him. Jimin shot forward like a bullet from a cocked gun, speeding down the field. Hoseok and Seokjin hung back, waiting for the ball like the sky waits for fireworks on New Year’s: heat like silence, waiting for the sizzle to wake it. It’s DK that ends up stealing the ball--a curve of the ankle, a slip of the foot and the ball spins toward Jimin. From Yoongi’s point of view, it looks like a marble gliding down green glass. Please, please, please. Jimin passes it to Hoseok who kicks it at an angle. There is a collective holding of breath and for a minute, Yoongi swears that he isn’t really breathing, that everything has stopped, that the void has taken the stadium and swallowed it whole: he can’t hear anything until the ball swoops past the Daejeon goalie Youngjae, hitting the net--and then the noise is too much, the yelling, the cheering, the confetti raining down on them. For a minute, Yoongi has to make sure that the glitter is the correct color: green, gold. Milk and honey. Gold. Gold. The numbers on the clock, the scoreboard burn into his retinas. 71 to 69, Seoul Lions. Yoongi tries to stand still to take a mental picture but already he’s running down the stairs, skipping steps as he goes. Hoseok spots him and for a moment, they just smile at each other, unable to do anything else.

Hoseok runs toward him too, discarding his sweaty shirt as he goes, using it to wipe the sweat from his hair. Yoongi jumps over the boundary, feet kicking up dirt as he lands on the soft earth of the soccer field. They’re both breathless by the time that they meet.

“Baby--” Hoseok starts.

Yoongi tosses something at him, letting it hit him square in his handsome face.

“--Yoongi.” Tears fill Hoseok’s eyes as he realizes what it is: a Ramones shirt, all-black, the logo faded.

Chapter Text

H.O.P.E. glances off-screen as the video starts rolling, waiting for Gloss_1993 to come over and join him on the couch after he finishes fixing the angle at which the camera is tilted. Gloss_1993 moves a stack of H.O.P.E.’s toy catalogue magazines over to the end table before taking a seat beside him. They look at each other. H.O.P.E. nods at Gloss_1993.

“Hi, everyone,” Gloss_1993 says into the camera. “It’s me, Gloss_1993 and I’m here with H.O.P.E. to do a special kind of video today--one that we’ve been thinking of doing for a while now. It’s been almost two years since we started this channel--or, well, since H.O.P.E. started this channel, and I just kind of joined in, making music for him, and we thought it would be about time.”

H.O.P.E. nods, trying not to glance at the oven in their kitchen, in which a chicken is roasting. “When I started this channel, it was as an outlet for my singing and dancing and the reason why we’re making this video isn’t to be self-indulgent or to share too much information about ourselves but just to maybe help inspire other people who are going through the same thing. Maybe we can have a separate Q&A video after this one. Write your videos in the comments below and we’ll pick out the best ones.”

Gloss_1993 hums in assent. “We know that this video is going to get a lot of hate so we’re going to moderate the comments but we’ll be leaving the non-offensive ones up. It isn’t that we’re trying to limit discourse it’s just that we don’t want other people struggling with what we’re going to talk about to be exposed to that scrutiny or to instill any fear in our audience. No one gains anything from being called the kinds of names we’re going to get called after this--”

Gloss_1993 looks up, sees that the oven timer has gone off. He nods toward the kitchen. H.O.P.E. nods as if to say I’ll take it from here and Gloss_1993 gets up to check on dinner.

“--right. I guess we should just dive into the deep end. I started this channel because I was the Captain of my highschool soccer team and while I loved the sport, I really had no one to talk to about my love for dance and performing arts. I was feeling super alone and I was also in the throes of my first love with--umm, well. You know, my still-love, that loser Gloss_1993 who’s off checking on the roast chicken and singing Buddy Holly too loudly--”

“--hey!--”

“--anyway, yeah. He and I are lovers, as many of you have suspected in the comments. We read everything and it’s been hellish for us not to be able to say because we love the LGBTQ+ community so much and we have so much support to give, especially given the number of people subscribed to this channel. I know you guys might have some questions about why we kept it a secret for so long and mostly it was for safety. We’re both studying at a more liberal school now that we’re in university but back in highschool, things weren’t quite so open. You guys know how it goes, the stupid things that kids can do. We also thought that it would be best if our friends and family knew first; they had no idea when all of this started but they’ve been very supportive and even if it hasn’t been easy, we’re just so happy that they let us explain, let us be ourselves.”

Gloss_1993 plops back down onto the sofa. “The chicken’s good. I’ve mashed up the potatoes too.”

H.O.P.E. laughs, leans over to put an arm over Gloss_1993’s shoulders--easy, relaxed. “Thanks, baby. Anything more you want to add?”

Gloss_1993 pauses to think. “I guess just to stay safe and true to yourselves: don’t let anyone else tell you how to live your life. Out and proud when you can be, hidden but proud if you’re forced to be. It’s not going to be easy but we’re making this video to say hang on, it gets better. There is, if you’ll forgive the pun, hope.”

“Which leads us to the last thing,” H.O.P.E. says. “I think it’s time we introduce ourselves properly.”

Gloss_1993 nods, slipping off his mask. “Hi, everyone. I’m Min Yoongi. You guys can call me Yoongi. I also play for a band you may have heard of called The Electric Pink Souffles.”

H.O.P.E. follows suit, unhooking the straps of his facemask from his ears. “And I’m Jung Hoseok, you can call me Hobi. I love to dance and it’s great to finally meet you.”

They smile at a the camera for a moment, Hoseok flashing the peace sign, Yoongi holding a thumbs up. And then they look at each other, both unable to stop smiling.

“Um--” Yoongi says, wanting to kiss Hoseok but holding back because the camera's still rolling.

Hoseok grins, noting the flush spreading slowly across Yoongi’s cheeks. “Yeah. That’s it guys. We’ll see you next time.”