PART One: Winter
“Our future will only have happiness,
So put away your fear.”
I'm Fine, BTS
2 January 2018 – Hannam the Hill
Sometimes when they lie in bed together, he wonders if he has any right to be this happy.
He keeps looking at his bracelet, dangling it above his eyes, staring at its interlocking links until they blur into gleams beneath the lamplight. In that way, they look like infinity.
Beside him, Seokjin sleeps face down in his pillows, his dark hair covering the sweep of his cheek. His arm loops over Taehyung's waist, his palm cupped loosely on his hip. He can't be comfortable twisted up that way, but Seokjin's always been a pretzel when he's sleeping. Taehyung doesn't try to move him.
Instead, he burrows deeper into the duvet. It's warm and smells like a forest – a combination of Seokjin's muscle cream and his sandalwood face wash. It's quiet – save for the feathery scuffles of the sugar gliders in their cage – and it's clean, like freshly-fallen snow.
He holds up the bracelet again. It glistens like starlight.
As if a farm in Daegu hadn't been enough.
As if months of patience and planning hadn't been enough.
Seokjin took him shopping for his birthday. It's becoming a sort of tradition with Seokjin. He likes the occasion of it, the opportunity to spend one-on-one time together. They go for dinner, maybe a drink or two, and then they go to a shop where he buys matching pieces of jewelry to commemorate the day. Friendship bracelets with Jimin, Hope, and Kook; a necklace with Yoongi; an earring set with Namjoon.
And with Taehyung, this.
He holds it up again, to gaze at it beneath the light. He traces the rings with his thumb.
“This is the one you want?” Seokjin had asked. “This one?”
He'd sounded amused and incredulous.
“Why?” Taehyung had asked. “It's beautiful.”
Seokjin had shrugged, had glanced at the store clerk as if enlisting her assistance.
“It is beautiful,” she said, taking Taehyung’s side.
“It looks like handcuffs,” Seokjin said.
Grinning, Taehyung had answered in English, “We like handcuffs.” The clerk smiled like she wanted to agree, but she didn’t understand.
“Fine,” Seokjin said. He rolled his eyes before fastening the clasp. “You have to wear it everyday.”
“Everyday,” Taehyung repeated.
“And you have to show everyone.”
“Everyone. I promise.”
Seokjin had enclosed Taehyung's wrist in his hands. His fingers trembled. Taehyung could feel his pulse beneath his thumb.
Then they came home. They set their phones to silent, and they spent the day in each other's arms. Now it's late, or early? and Taehyung lays beside him, thinking back on the year that has passed, looking forward to the year that is to come.
Though he's been slow to realize, he knows the true gift he's received. Undeserving as he was, Seokjin showed him mercy. And Taehyung understands: A part of him he didn't know was wounded has quietly begun to heal.
The dorm apartment sighs beneath the snowfall outside. Namjoon, Jimin, and Jungkook went home to visit family. Yoongi and Hoseok disappeared after the song festival, and they’ve been absent from their chat ever since. At the end of the bed, Yeontan scritches his ear, his collar jingling like a silver bell.
Beside Taehyung, Seokjin mutters, “Did you chop the leeks?”
“Yah, the leeks,” Seokjin says. “Did you chop them?”
“Hyung, are you cooking in your sleep again?”
Seokjin mumbles, “I need the number one pan.”
Taehyung chews his lip to keep from laughing. He says, “I am your number one pan.”
Before leaving Daegu, Taehyung's sister, Eunjin, had roped them into watching an episode of Oh My Ghost . It was a show about this meek chef's assistant who wanted to be a cook. She gets possessed by another, much bolder girl who had been a cook before she was murdered. She possessed the body of the meek girl and became entangled with the famous chef who yelled at her all the time.
Eunjin adored the chef. She and Seokjin bonded over him. Seokjin liked his style; Eunjin liked his acting. Several times on the drive back to Seoul, Seokjin mentioned to his father how much he missed cooking, and how much he liked the chef's character.
Taehyung had enjoyed seeing his sister and his boyfriend so fully absorbed in conversation. They'd met a few times, here and there over the years, but this was the first time they really talked. Seokjin already chats regularly with Taehyung's Mom. Now he imagines Seokjin and Eunjin FaceTiming over k-dramas, and again, he has to smile.
He catches himself projecting to the future, to Chuseoks and Seollals, birthdays and anniversaries. It's easy to do, knowing they've got a place adjacent to his Grandfather's and this promise of forever linked between them.
Seokjin slides sideways and opens his eyes. He shakes his head before tucking Taehyung against him. He murmurs, “You should be asleep.”
“I know,” Taehyung says.
After a moment, Seokjin asks, “Is your mouth hurting again?”
“The ghost nightmare?”
“No, hyung. I'm fine.”
Seokjin brushes his face against Taehyung's neck. His voice gruff, he groans, “Jagiya, go to sleep.”
“Yes, love,” he says. Their arms snug together. If not for the bracelet, Taehyung might have difficulty telling where Seokjin’s end and his begin. He angles his wrist so the rings catch the light.
Does he deserve this happiness?
Not yet, he thinks. But I’m going to.
Because Seokjin’s not the only one capable of making plans.