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Another Time

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The lift is broken.

"Of course," Yoongi groans, shifting his briefcase onto his good shoulder so he can pass his bag of groceries into his left hand. "Of fucking course."

Seven days had never passed so slowly. A client demanded redraws after their budget shrank and needed new plans in two days; when Yoongi blinks, he can still see AutoCAD's toolbar. To make things worse, he’d gotten caught in a spring shower on his way home and now he’s soaked, shirt clinging uncomfortably to his skin and hair dripping with water. He hates April. All he wants is to take a hot shower and to be horizontal for ten plus hours, but the concrete stairwell yawning above him is a much bigger obstacle to his fourth-floor apartment than the lift is. He sighs, pats his face with his free hand, and starts to climb.

On the second floor, he stops to take a call, dropping his groceries. It's his supervisor, Sungmin, asking if he doesn't mind coming in tomorrow morning to sit in on a consultation. Yoongi does mind, actually, but as a lowly architectural assistant there's no way he can say that to the man who can fire him at will. Instead, he tells him yes and ends the call, grumbling as he sets his alarm for six am and pockets his phone.

It's while he's steeling himself to start the trek again that he hears a loud screeching noise. He smacks his head a couple of times, glancing worriedly at the fire alarm, and that's when the child collides with him.

Collide is an understatement. The child slams straight into his knees, knocking him off balance and leaving him teetering on the top step. With reflexes he had no idea he possessed, he grabs the child by the hood to stop them hurtling down the stairs and cracking their head open; the other hand clamps onto the stair railing as he flails heroically. The child screams gleefully as it dangles from his grip, legs wrapping tightly around one of his own like some sort of high-pitched yellow monkey. After several tense moments, he manages to regain his balance, crumpling onto the landing as the child giggles, entirely convinced that he is about to have a heart attack. The cause of said heart attack hits his shoulder and says, "Again, again!" Her hair is gathered into two gravity-defying bunches, secured with orange bobbles. Her yellow raincoat's hood is shaped like a duck's head. It's all violently adorable and a little too much for him to process right now.

"Who do you belong to?" Yoongi asks dazedly.

"Papa!" Oh. Well. That makes sense. A child would belong to its parents.

"Where is he?"

The little girl points up with impeccable timing. A man comes clattering down the stairs at high speed, and if that didn't tip Yoongi off, the sheer relief on his face when he sights the little girl does. Papa is Yoongi's age or younger, wearing a misbuttoned shirt and one house slipper. Yoongi thinks about being a father at such a young age, and feels vaguely ill. He can hardly remember to feed himself sometimes.

"Bitna-yah!” The little girl detaches (Yoongi discretely shakes his leg out) and runs to her father, leaping into his arms. "Where were you?" He buries his face in her hair, and Yoongi, feeling like an intruder, retrieves his groceries and makes to leave as the little girl chatters.

"I went downstairs to say hello to Mrs Lee but the ajusshi was in the way and we almost fell but he grabbed me, like Superman. I went 'whee!'" The little girl swings from her father's shoulders; he lets out a surprised shriek. Only when Yoongi has exited the stairwell do their voices fade.

He had a Jeolla accent, though Yoongi can't tell exactly where he's from. It's strange. Most people he knows that weren’t raised in the capital drop their accents in favour of the standard Seoul dialect; the only reason he hasn't quite managed it yet is because all the people he went to college with and the people he served with spoke in dialect too.

His door swings open to reveal an empty apartment. Yoongi stares at it blearily. He needs to put away his groceries and vacuum the floor and scrub the counters and clean out his fridge.

But.

Well, he just narrowly escaped death by toddler, didn't he? He deserves a drink, a shower, and some sleep, not necessarily in that order. There's a can of Gangseo left in the fridge from the last time Seokjin came over, and it's calling his name...

 

"What the fuck," Yoongi complains, two days later. Someone is knocking on his door at nine in the morning like a fucking animal. It's a Sunday, his only day off this week, and – well, it could only be Seokjin or Namjoon. Maybe Zhoumi. Hunchul, at a push. They're the only ones who would brave him before noon.

"Coming!" He hops out of bed. The knocking continues, only more quietly. Yoongi contemplates putting on a shirt and brushing his hair, and concludes that there's no point, they've all seen each other buck-ass naked by now, who cares. He wrenches the door open with rather more force than is strictly necessary. "Alright, I'm here, I'm alive, what's wrong – oh." That is not Namjoon, or Seokjin, or Zhoumi or anyone who cares enough about Yoongi to come to his apartment.

It's the father from yesterday, who is politely ignoring Yoongi's lack of attire (he hopes fervently that the sweatpants he's wearing aren't the ones with a hole in the waistband) and bed head. "Min Yoongi-sshi?"

"The one and only," Yoongi manages as he fumbles around on the coat rack behind the door to grab a hoodie. He tugs it on as the little girl studies him from behind her father's legs. Her hair is down today, held back by a glittery hairband with butterfly antennae. "Who are you?"

"It’s a pleasure to meet you! I'm Jung Hoseok." He extends his hand to shake it. Yoongi does so, limply, largely not awake. The cold band of a ring presses into his fingers. "This is my daughter..." The little girl stares up at him mutely. He wonders where all the screeching vanished to. "C'mon, sweetie. Say hello to the nice gentleman."

"...Bitna." She presses her face into her father's thigh. Her hairband sparkles prettily just like her name. Yoongi rubs at the back of his head and crouches down. She meets his eyes for a second, then looks away, evidently a little scared.

Though it opposes all the instincts he formed as a tiny, chubby-cheeked, fluffy-haired twerp in the underground rap circuit, he tries to look less menacing. He lets his shoulders slump and relaxes his mouth into something he hopes is agreeable. "It's nice to meet you, Bitna. How old are you?" After a pregnant pause, she holds up four fingers. "Four?”

She nods. He peeks up at her father, who is smiling a little. It's a charming smile; it opens up the rest of his face, reaches his large eyes, so like his daughter's. "Bitna has something for you.”

"You do?"

"Mhmm." A piece of paper sticks out from her clenched fist; she presses it into his hands. "Thank you for not letting me fall down the stairs. I won't run down 'em anymore."

Yoongi unfolds the drawing carefully, only to see blobs. He squints and they gradually resolve into figures; a person in black and white, a purple cape streaming from their shoulders, with something yellow and orange dangling from their hand.

Oh. Of course. It's him, even though he wasn't wearing the cape. Papa is in the corner perched on stairs, mouth open in a big pink O.

"Thank you." He refolds the paper with care. "Look where you’re going next time, okay?"

"Yes." Her head pops out again. "Ajusshi, does your shower work? You can use ours."

Yoongi raises an eyebrow, more at the question than being addressed as ajusshi; twenty-six is ancient to a four-year-old. Hoseok makes an embarrassed noise. "Yes. Why do you ask?"

"You got a drawing on you." She frowns. "Is it in pencil? I have a real good eraser you can use. It’s made like a star."

"No, thank you," Yoongi says smoothly. "Though it's kind of you to offer. It's supposed to be there."

"You can get drawings on you?" Bitna gapes up at her father, asking for confirmation.

"You can. They're called tattoos. They draw them in special ink that stays on you, so only grown-ups can get them." Yoongi is faintly impressed by how clearly Hoseok explains it. He loves his parents but they rarely explained anything to him; it was up to him to sate his many curiosities, trawling through encyclopaedias and his brother's textbooks. "Bitna-yah, will you go home so Papa can talk to Yoongi-sshi? I'll be there in two minutes and then we can get ready."

"Okay!" she chirps. "Goodbye, ajusshi." She wiggles her fingers at him and darts away at high speed to enter the apartment two doors down, the one with the plants outside the door.

"You live on this floor?" Yoongi straightens up, back protesting. Hoseok is a little taller than he is. He muses, bitterly, that he should probably be used to it by now.

"Yep." Hoseok watches the door swing shut behind his daughter. "Moved in last year."

Yoongi knows all the units on this floor are one bedroom, and Bitna seems too old for a cot. He doesn't say anything about it. "How'd you know my name?"

"The building ajummas – well, if you do the recycling properly and carry their laundry for them, they'll tell you everything you need to know." Hoseok leans against his doorframe, a comfortable smile settling on his face. "They're like the NIS in floral trousers and gilets. They had a lot to say about you."

"They did?" Yoongi, on principle, tries to keep to himself, but perhaps his silence has spawned more rumours. It's not his fault he looks so intimidating; it's the only way he can make up for his slight frame.

"They’re worried about how pale and skinny you are. They're all conspiring to marry you off to one of their daughters so they can feed you properly." Yoongi lets out a sharp bark of laughter. Hoseok's eyes sparkle. "Your architect's salary has nothing to do with it, of course. Do you want me to tell them about the tattoo and scare them off?"

Hoseok is still smiling pleasantly, but Yoongi wonders if he'd actually do it. "It's okay," he mutters. "I'll just get a boyfriend and parade him around."

"Oh, they've considered that – then they'd try to marry you to one of their sons." Yoongi laughs properly this time; it takes him by surprise, makes his ribs creak. Hoseok's grin widens.

"I had better go show my face," Yoongi says. "Quell the rumours." He pauses, and before he can talk himself out of saying it, adds; "Maybe I'll meet you down there?"

"Maybe. Thank you again, Yoongi-sshi. I'm sorry for waking you. Sometimes I forget that the entire world doesn't run on toddler time."

"It's okay." It really is. Now that he's up and awake he can get the day started early, carve out some previous time for music. "Nice meeting you, Hoseok-sshi."

He doesn't watch him leave; he turns into his own apartment, and wonders how different the Jungs' is. Are there toys all over the floor? Is there a bunch of flowers on the sideboard? Are Bitna's drawings pinned to the fridge?

Speaking of. There's an unused magnet on the fridge from Seokjin's last trip to Japan, a metal box of Pocky. Yoongi, after a long pause, smooths the drawing out and pins it up on the fridge door.

He examines it, the characters of her name – 정 빛나 – clearly shaped by her father's guiding hand, but still messy. Something pinches tightly in his chest. He's the baby of his family, so he’s never had to deal with small children before, and he'd never given them much thought, outside of being confused when he saw a child on campus or becoming irritated whenever he got stuck on a bus with a wailing toddler.

But Bitna, he supposes, is cute. This is what he tells Namjoon when he spots the drawing on his fridge the next night and asks him, flatly, what the hell it is. Yoongi explains the entire thing, from Bitna's near-manslaughter on the stairs to Hoseok, leaning on his doorframe like he belonged there.

"Cute?" Namjoon looks blankly confused, before a smirk twists his lips. "Or is it her dad that's cute?"

Yoongi makes a dismissive noise. Jung Hoseok may be cute, but he’s a morning person, and an obnoxiously cheerful one at that. Yoongi will not tolerate anyone who has the energy to be that bright on a Sunday morning, no matter how much he likes their smile. "Not my type."

"Yeah, you like tough guys."

"And tough girls," Yoongi adds, in the interest of clarity. "And tough everything in between."

Namjoon snorts. "Never change, hyung. Hey, get his birthday and Seokjinnie hyung can do out his natal chart and check if you're compatible." Yoongi splutters and coffee comes out his nose. "Hyung, that's disgusting."

"Shut up," Yoongi gasps, dabbing forcefully at his face with the napkin Namjoon hastily hands him. "Does he believe in that shit?"

"I dunno, man. According to him, it's because of his rising sign."

"I thought people only had one sign?"

"No, you have one for every planet. I think. I just tune him out after Mercury, usually."

"How do you date him," Yoongi says, sincerely curious. Namjoon smiles that smile that means he's trying not to smile, but he can't help it, his dimples betray him. "Okay, upon further consideration, I don't think I need to know. Do you want me to help you with that mix or not?"

 

His headphones hate him.

"God damn it," he swears, as they unpair from his phone, filling the gym with the dulcet tones of Orange Caramel. Yoongi is a self-professed music snob but for some reason he can’t work out without girl group music. Seokjin theorises that it’s a holdover from his two years in the military. He jabs ineffectually at the screen of his phone, trying to run and not 'oye hoi hoi!' along simultaneously and doing an awful job at all three. "There," he sighs, as his headphones cooperate, silencing Catellena mid-chorus.

"Aw, no, I was kinda enjoying it," someone says amusedly.

Yoongi almost face plants, but he has just enough presence of mind to hit the emergency stop before he breaks his nose. "Uh – Jung Hoseok-sshi?"

"Good morning!" Hoseok is wearing a translucent white t-shirt and a headband. "Enjoying your run?"

"Not really, no," Yoongi mumbles, grabbing his water. "I, uh. Don't usually run into you in here."

"Yeah, well." Hoseok moves over to the rowing machine. "My old gym membership ran out last week, and I’d go running but I don't like leaving Bitna alone, so..." He bites his lip. "I mean, if I'm bothering you while you work out, I can leave. I get it."

"No, 's fine. You pay rent same as I do. I'm not that much of an asshole." Hoseok’s arms are defined and muscular and he’s vaguely envious. Yoongi doesn’t enjoy working out, but his doctor had recommended it to him to aid in the rehabilitation of his shoulder, still aching eight years later. (The sole advantage of his injury was that it had landed him a cushy military service; they’d put him managing artillery guidance systems. Yoongi would trade it all to be able to lift heavy things without almost dying.) Perhaps Hoseok can help him out. "You might be motivational, actually."

Hoseok smirks cartoonishly, and flexes a little. Yoongi snorts, shoves his headphones back over his ears, and starts the treadmill up again.

Hoseok isn't really a distraction, though Yoongi can’t resist sneaking the occasional glance at him. He's listening to music too, humming along to something that sounds suspiciously like SISTAR. His forehead, bared by the headband that Yoongi had thought silly but is now rather jealous of, gleams with sweat.

Eyes forward, Min Yoongi. He glances at the screen of his phone, which cheerfully informs him that he only has ten minutes left to work out before he needs to go get ready for work. He runs on, steps off when he's done, wishes Hoseok a good day and thinks no more of it.

Until Hoseok is there the next morning, and the next, doing crunches and squats and burpees and lifting twenty kilos more than he can. Yoongi swallows his pride and asks for tips.

He gets them, and more besides, and before he knows it he's got a workout buddy, Jung Hoseok with the never-ending collection of headbands and the careful hands that prod him into place when he's deadlifting and the encyclopaedic knowledge of girl group dances. Me Gustas Tu is Yoongi's personal favourite, purely due to how hilarious Hoseok looks when he's trying to skip and smile attractively and make eye contact and hit high notes all at once.

The actual dancing is impressive, though, if a little hard-hitting for girl group choreo. That's because Hoseok’s a professional dancer; he teaches at a studio in Gangnam. "It's convenient," he tells him, as he does another pull-up. His knuckles whiten with strain. "I know Shiah and Junsun from college and they let me keep an eye on Bitna while I'm teaching. The kids love her."

Bitna seems rather difficult not to love. Hoseok talks about her like Yoongi talks about sleep – with infinite, unending affection. Every week he has a new photo of her as his lock screen – one of her gnawing mutinously on celery, the next of her sticking her fingers up her nose, and, currently, one of her doing what Yoongi can only describe as disassociating, gazing vacantly at the camera with a two-thousand-yard state he has only seen in pictures of soldiers from the Korean War. It’s unnerving and funny for reasons he doesn’t care to understand.

Yet, through all the hours they spend in the gym, not once does Hoseok mention a mother. Yoongi hates to pry, but with each good morning he gives to Bitna as he and Hoseok return to their respective apartments, he gets a little more curious. Hoseok is so young – by Yoongi's reckoning he can't have been much older than twenty, perhaps twenty-one, when she was born. When Yoongi was that age, his biggest concern was finding clean clothes to wear each morning. That Hoseok made the decision to have a child – or beyond that, made the decision to keep said child – at such a young age still astounds him. Surely he didn't make that decision alone? He thinks he was wearing a ring the first time he met him, but there’s no guarantee it was a wedding ring, and he hasn’t worn it since. Did she leave him, unable to deal with the responsibility?

Or was she never in the picture at all?

Chapter Text

Seokjinnie and the Two Babies

Today 6:53 PM
Joonie
Hyung when will you be here???
Please let me know within the next ten minutes
I’m going to strangle Jackson if he doesn’t shut up
Should be there by half seven couldn't find my jacket
Where's Seokjin hyung
Jinnie
I'm conducting a perfectly civil conversation with Sandeul and you two are not permitted to interfere.
What's Jackson done to his hair?
Joonie
Some sort of treason
Get here now hyung or I’m sending your boss that video of you drunkenly crying over how much you love him
Leeteuk sunbae knows I tried to propose to him at the Christmas party
Perfection takes time Namjoon-ah I'll be there soon

Yoongi shoves his phone in his pocket, resolutely ignoring any further buzzing. He dusts off his leather jacket from where he found it under the ironing board and pulls it on. Thanks to his morning workouts with Hoseok, it's a little tighter around his arms than it was when he bought it; he preens in the mirror, straightening the buckle of his belt, adjusting the high neck of his turtleneck. Namjoon loves making fun of him for constantly wearing black, and it’s probably a bad idea tonight given that it’s July, but he doesn't care, he makes it look good. He gathers his wallet and his keys, dabs on a little aftershave, and heads out the door.

He waits for the lift (which only got fixed last fucking month) impatiently, scrolling through his Instagram; Jackson's story is of Hongbin with two straws up his nose. When the lift dings open, he expects it to be empty; instead, the doors slide open to reveal Hoseok, his phone pressed to his ear, Bitna's hand held tightly in his. "Ajusshi! You smell."

"Thanks. It’s very nice of you to say so." He crouches down. Bitna is used to him now from his morning greetings; instead of hiding quietly behind her father’s leg, she steps forward with a bright smile to say hello. "Is everything okay?"

"I don't think so." Bitna peeks at her white-faced father. "Papa got a bad call."

"Hoseok-ah." The younger man, despite Yoongi’s protests, asked if he could drop his speech last month, on the grounds that hyung was easier to say than Min Yoongi-sshi. Yoongi had little other recourse than to agree; he holds formality sacred, but Hoseok-ah is a lot easier than Jung Hoseok-sshi. "What's wrong?"

"Two secs," Hoseok says to whoever’s on the other end, lowering the phone. "Hyung, thank God. I need a favour."

Seokjinnie and the Two Babies

Today 7:01 PM
Sorry guys something came up
Joonie
You better be getting some that's the only excuse I'm accepting
Nah being neighbourly and doing some emergency babysitting
Joonie
Really? Must have been a real emergency for you to willingly deal with a child
Jinnie
Don't actually sit on them. Please tell me you know that.
Is this your gym buddy's kid?
He's a dance teacher and one of his students was badly injured in a rehearsal for a showcase tomorrow so he's got to go handle things
Joonie
Jesus
Jinnie
That's awful
If you need help I can come by? I used to babysit for the neighbours.
No I think I've got it. All I really have to do is put her to bed. Thanks hyung. Enjoy your night
Joonie
Doubtful

Bitna sniffs him loudly. "You still smell. Are you sure your shower works?"

"Yes, I'm sure." He finishes keying in the Wi-Fi password Hoseok had left, along with his number, instructions to put Bitna to bed at eight, a pile of apologies for ruining his night and a free pass to raid the fridge. "What did you do today?"

"Uhh." Bitna gnaws on her fist. He removes it from her mouth as gently as he can. "I had playschool. We made sand castles from fake sand. One of my Maltesers was hollow. Chunyulie got to my favourite puzzle before I did but I didn't cry or get angry, I just looked at him weird and he gave it to me. Then Papa collected me and we went to dance school and Taetae oppa taught me a new finger game." Her lip sticks out, and she fiddles with the hem of her pyjama top, which is, of course, patterned with ducklings. "I hope he's okay. He's so kind and pretty. I want to marry him when I'm old."

"When you're old?"

She gives him a Duh look. "You gotta be old to get married. Mama and Papa were old." Ah, it was a wedding ring. She examines him acutely. "I don’t think you're old. Does that mean I can't call you ajusshi? Papa said you’re not married, and you're shorter than him."

Yoongi, to his credit, doesn't laugh. "Bitna-yah, I'm his hyung. I'm a year older than him."

She’s visibly unconvinced. "Are you sure? Does that mean I can call you oppa?"

"Yes." She casts him a doubtful look; Yoongi is half-tempted to show her his ID. Instead, he changes the subject. “Can you teach me the game you learned today?”

Bitna lights up, just like her father does when Yoongi asks him to spot him. “I can! I’m good, though. Taetae oppa lost a lot.”

It turns out that poor Taetae was not, as Yoongi had thought, letting her win. He never knew chopsticks had so many rules. His natural instinct is to cheat, so he does, but Bitna catches him and disqualifies him; he makes it up to her by promising to delay her bedtime a little. She chatters excitedly all the while, though her inherent loudness is muted slightly by the late hour. By the time they’ve both had enough of chopsticks, the score is Bitna twenty-five, Yoongi three. Bitna does a victory lap around the living room, and runs off to introduce him to her toys.

The apartment’s layout is the same as his, down to the sloped wall in the kitchen and the small bedroom, made even smaller by a child’s clutter. A piece of net strung across one wall holds all of Bitna’s toys. She tugs out several choice ones; Nala the leopard, Jasper the Dalmatian, Mona the cat, Boko the rubber duck, Blanky the blanket, Goon the robot, and Minnie the baboon.

“Minnie has a big butt,” she informs him solemnly. “He used to be called Jane, but Papa’s student Jiminie oppa has a big butt too, so now he's Minnie.” She presses Nala into his hands.

“You’re a funny kid, Bitna.” Nala’s fur is rough under his fingers and worn with age.

“I know. Mama used to say so.” She plays with Jasper’s ears. “She bought me all these. Papa’s sad because I don’t have any new ones, but I don’t mind. I like all my toys.”

Bitna’s eyes droop sleepily as she positions her toys, maintaining a running monologue about their actions. “Would you like a new one?”

“I guess.” She considers it for a few seconds. “I’d like… a blue-ga. You know, the ones you get at the…”

“Aquarium?”

“Yeah, there. We went there for my birthday and I saw a… a pod of ‘em? They’re so cool.”

“A beluga,” Yoongi says softly. “Alright.” He glances at his phone; it’s past eight o’clock. He decides to pull out the trick Seokjin taught him (it’s usually deployed on Namjoon when he doesn’t want to leave a nightclub) and gives her a false choice. “Do you want a drink of water, or do you want to brush your teeth first?”

Bitna isn’t thirsty, so they head for the bathroom. He helps her wash her face and brush her teeth, though she only wants to brush her teeth if he does too, so he makes do with his finger, puffing out his cheeks to make her giggle and spit up toothpaste all over herself. He ends up having to carry her to bed, and by the time he pulls the covers up, she’s fast asleep; there’s drool on his shoulder to prove it. He tidies her toys away, leaving Blanky clutched in her arms. She’s tiny, dwarfed by the expanse of the double bed she must share with her father. The nightlight on the nightstand casts pretty constellations on her face. He’d like one himself; perhaps Hoseok can tell him where he bought it.

He leaves the bedroom door slightly ajar and wanders into the living room. In the corner where he has a pile of empty bottles there’s a potted plant, festooned with homemade decorations made out of paper. On the desk where he keeps his audio editing rig Hoseok has placed a dinged-up laptop, hidden under drifts of official-looking envelopes. Instead of the game consoles he has under his TV, the shelves here are stacked with boxsets of children’s cartoons. The cabinets in the kitchen are all childproofed and stocked with healthy things like granola and brown rice. The pictures on the sideboard are filled with different friends, different families. Pictures of Hoseok with a woman who smiles just like he does; a group photo of him with a class of students, three in particular hanging off a laughing Hoseok like baby monkeys.

The picture in the middle, the one that draws the most attention, is of a woman dimpling at the camera, hair piled precariously on top of her head. The incense burner in front of the frame is unlit. The photo to its left shows her again, staring at the camera with exasperation, a much smaller Bitna clambering over her. The photo on the right is a professionally taken one of Hoseok, an infant Bitna, and the woman; they’re dressed in their Sunday best, and they’re all making terrible faces. Hoseok’s face is screwed into a concentrated grimace as he makes a heart with his hands, and the woman is doing a spot-on impression of Voldemort. Bitna is drooling. To the right of that one is a wedding photo in black-and-white. Hoseok, in a suit, has his back to the camera. His bride’s arms are slung around his waist, and she’s giggling, nose scrunched up.

Yoongi tears his eyes away and retreats to the couch, feeling like the worst kind of voyeur. He pulls out his phone.

Seokjinnie and the Two Babies

Today 8:11 PM
Jinnie
Did she get to bed okay?
You sure you don’t want me to come over?
Yeah she’s asleep
I’m covered in toddler drool
Joonie
I’m covered in Jackson drool
Seokjin hyung if you love me you’ll rescue me
Jinnie
Hmm. No.
Stop texting each other, you’re at the same goddamn bar

While Yoongi is trying to decide if he should send a few emojis to soften the blow, another notification comes in.

Jung Hoseok

Today 8:13 PM
Did she go to sleep alright for you?
Out like a light.
Everything okay on your end?
Taehyung will live, though he'll have a nice manly scar. That'll teach him to practice alone
I should be back within the hour, I'm so sorry for imposing on you
It's fine. Bitna’s more intelligent company than my friends.

Another text in the group chat distracts him.

Seokjinnie and the Two Babies

Today 8:15 PM
Joonie
Any word from cute gym dad?
His name is Hoseok
Yeah says he should be back soon if you guys are still out I should make it
Jinnie
Invite him!!!
Joonie
Why would he come out with us? He's got a kid to mind
Jinnie
Well extend the invitation anyway
SIt's always nice to be included

“Hyung knows best,” Yoongi sighs, putting his phone away. Hoseok hasn't responded. He hopes everything is okay.

He turns the TV on to a low volume to distract himself from Seokjin and Namjoon bickering in their group chat. He can’t concentrate on it; he keeps having to check in on Bitna, just to make sure she’s still alive. It's a little more obvious to him now why Hoseok is so wary of leaving her alone, why he spends half his gym time checking the app connected to the child monitor in her room. Yoongi knows, logically, that she's perfectly fine, fast asleep in the room right next door to him, but some primally paranoid part of his mind insists that he needs to make sure that she hasn't suffocated in the five minutes since he last looked.

He's contemplating checking in for the eleventh time when the door swings open. Yoongi leaps up, ready to fight off any home invaders, but it's just Hoseok toeing off his shoes in the entrance, taking a moment to slump against the wall. There's a tiny smear of blood on his t-shirt.

“Hyung.” Hoseok greets him in a low voice, so as not to wake Bitna up. “Sorry I'm late.” He moves over to the bedroom and peeks in, sighing in relief when he sees her asleep. Yoongi moves over to the door to observe as he settles on the bed beside his daughter, brushes her hair back from her face, tugs the quilt up to her chin as he quietly croons her name. The soft light of the nightlight casts his face with stars, reflects off his wedding ring as he pets her arm. “I can't believe she didn't give you any trouble. You have no idea how many bedtime battles I've had to fight this month.”

Yoongi smirks. “I'm just that boring. She couldn't bear me any longer so she went to bed.” Hoseok smiles at that, and Yoongi feels victorious; it's small and weary but it's there, and that's what counts, right?

“Did everything go okay at the hospital? What happened exactly?” Yoongi asks, as they return to the living room. Hoseok drops onto the couch; Yoongi sits beside him.

“I'm surprised it took this long for Taehyung to injure himself. He’ll trip on thin air.” Hoseok rubs his chin idly. Yoongi thinks he needs a shave. “He's a guy in my advanced class. He's best friends with two of my other students, but they're a little better than him. It's not his fault, Jimin’s been dancing near as long as I have and Jungkook’s ace at everything he turns his hand to, but I think Taehyung feels like he has to be as good as they are.”

Yoongi knows that feeling. It’s tough being friends with Kim Namjoon, Actual Genius. “So he pushed himself too hard?”

“Yep. Decided to go through choreo alone after everyone else had gone home. He tore a ligament because he didn't stretch enough and fudged a jump but he kept going, fainted from the pain and cracked his head on a wall. Broke a mirror and everything.”

“Jesus.” That explains the blood on Hoseok’s shirt.

“I know, right?” Hoseok shakes his head. “Stupid. He’s lucky Shiah stayed late and found him, he could have gone into shock and died right there in the studio.”

“At least he won't do it again.” Yoongi shifts uncomfortably in his seat as a thought comes to him. “You… won't get in trouble for this, will you?”

“I probably should. Those three are my… pet project, I suppose? I should have seen it coming.” Hoseok cards a restless hand through his hair. “Shiah and Junsun says it's fine, that it could have happened to anyone, but I don't know if I believe them...”

“Hey.” Yoongi places a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. He stiffens under his grip; Yoongi ducks his head forward, trying to lock eyes with him, but Hoseok is studiously avoiding his gaze. “Don't think like that, alright? It happened, nobody died, and there's nothing you can do to change anything. The milk’s spilt. No point beating yourself up over it.”

Hoseok eventually meets his eyes. Yoongi holds his breath as the guilt ebbs away, to be replaced by quiet acceptance. “You're right, huh?” He grins. “Did I just get life advice from Min Yoongi, the ghost of the fourth floor? I’m honoured!”

Yoongi pinches his shoulder. Hoseok yelps, and they both freeze, staring at the bedroom door, Bitna visible through the gap. When she shows no signs of stirring, they relax. Yoongi releases the vice grip he has on Hoseok's shoulder and subtly puts a little space between them. When did they manage to get close enough to touch thighs?

“I shouldn't keep you,” Hoseok says eventually. “I've already ruined enough of your night. You look great and everything, so go have fun.”

“No, I don't mind being late. Means everyone else will be drunker than me and I can get blackmail material. Actually, uh...” Yoongi seriously hopes he's not blushing, but, well, Hoseok said he looked great, alright? “You wanna come with?”

There’s something indecipherably earnest in Hoseok’s eyes. It makes Yoongi’s stomach feel funny. “I'd love to, but I should stay here with Bitna and get to bed. Long day tomorrow.” He smiles. “Though it's kind of you to offer, hyung.”

“It's pretty selfish, really. My friends are assholes. I need new ones.” He hesitates and, in a moment of extroverted madness, says, “Another time, maybe?”

He thinks Hoseok might be smiling. He can't look directly at his face right now, he's too embarrassed. “Another time,” Hoseok agrees. “I'll buy, you saved my ass tonight. I could have left Bitna with one of the ajummas but… I felt better knowing she was with you.”

“I should do the babysitting thing full time,” Yoongi muses as he gets up to go to the entrance and put on his shoes. “I can take payment in soju bombs.” He over-balances a little as he tugs one boot on; Hoseok steadies him with a hand on his hip, gone before Yoongi even realised that it was there. “Seriously, I’d be happy to mind her any time. She's a funny kid.”

“She's a little weirdo, right? My crazy baby.” The fondness in Hoseok’s voice makes him smile. “Thanks, hyung. I'll keep you in mind. Enjoy your night.”

Yoongi waves as he leaves and, two hours late, finally makes it into the lift.

 

He arrives at the bar to much fanfare; his usual crowd of idiots is stuffed into a booth, hooting as he enters. The look the bartender gives him would sour milk. Namjoon shuffles over to make room for him, causing Jackson to complain loudly as he gets squashed closer to Hongbin. Seokjin, flanked by Jaehwan and Sandeul, slides a drink over to him immediately. “Catch-up time,” he proclaims, with an evil sparkle in his eyes. Yoongi does as he's instructed and downs it.

As he predicted, everyone else is already much drunker than he is, but Seokjin keeps buying him rum and cokes (even though Yoongi hates mixing with Coke) and by the time their hourly shot is brought over (it's eleven pm, so it's Sambuca, which is vile and disgusting but he knocks it back anyway) he's flushed bright red, a sure sign that he's had way more than he can handle. He's shocked they haven't been kicked out yet.

“I can't believe you abandoned us to go babysitting,” Hongbin yells across the table. “What happened to you?”

Yoongi scrambles to respond, but Namjoon gets there before he can. “He's got the hots for her dad!”

The table begins to ooh in that entirely embarrassing way only young men can manage. “Fuck off,” Yoongi snaps. “I was doing my neighbour a favour. He promised to buy me a drink sometime.”

“That's a date!” Jaehwan springs up in his seat.

“If that's a date then this is a date,” Sandeul says. He reaches across Seokjin to grab Jaehwan by the cheeks and tries to kiss him. Seokjin squawks when Jaehwan head butts him in his attempts to evade Sandeul, and hops out of the booth. He drags Yoongi out of his seat, and Namjoon tags along.

The smoking area they end up in is blessedly cool. Yoongi leans his hot face up against the wall. He thinks the other two might be kissing, and he's seen them do enough of that to last him a lifetime, so he stays where he is, and wonders if Hoseok meant it like that. A date? With Yoongi?

But he doesn't even know if Hoseok swings that way. He knows Yoongi likes men – he didn't react weirdly when Yoongi mentioned that one asshole ex-boyfriend he had in college who spent half the time they were together bragging about how much work he'd done in the gym – but being accepting of queer people doesn't mean that he's queer.

“He said I looked great,” Yoongi mumbles when the two others return, faces almost as red as his. “Does that mean he's not straight?”

“He said that?” Seokjin grabs him by the elbow. Yoongi nods against the wall. “Yoongi-yah, straight boys don't tell other boys that they look great, especially when they're dressed like the grim reaper.”

Namjoon turns him around by his shoulders and stuffs a cigarette into his mouth, handing him his lighter. “You could just ask him, you know.”

“Yeah, not a chance.” The lighter clicks and the cigarette catches; Yoongi inhales the smoke with relief. He hates this stupid drunken habit, but he rationalises that only smoking when you're drunk is better than smoking constantly, like he did during his service. “He… he said he felt better knowing I was with Bitna.”

“Yoongi-yah,” Seokjin says, with wonder. “You're serious? He trusts you with his kid?”

Yoongi hands the cigarette back to Namjoon. “’M not lying.” Namjoon and Seokjin exchange a long, meaningful look. “Can you two lay off with the nonverbal couple communication thing?”

“You're going for drinks with him,” Seokjin says, with finality.

“We won't let you mess this one up.” Namjoon blows out a ring of smoke. “This guy is a good guy. You need a good guy, not another dickwipe.”

“Need? I don't need anyone.” He snatches the cigarette back from Namjoon.

“Of course you don't,” Seokjin says gently. “But wouldn't you like someone?”

Yoongi looks at Namjoon’s arm around Seokjin’s waist. He thinks about all the houses of cards he's built with people who never cared about him. He touches his hip where Hoseok’s hand had steadied him, made sure he didn't fall over. “I'd… uh.” God. He’s known Hoseok all of four months, but… “I’d like him.”

“Then it's settled.” Seokjin takes the cigarette and extinguishes it in the ashtray. “You're going on a date with him. Now, let's get back and make sure Jaehwan’s still alive.”

 

The next morning, Yoongi wakes up with the biggest hangover he’s had in at least six months. “Motherfucker,” he mumbles, patting the sheets to make sure he didn’t bring anyone back (he didn’t, thank God, right now he's not able to kick someone out) and fumbling for the two painkillers he keeps in the drawer of his nightstand for mornings just like this. He swallows them dry, incapable of getting water.

Then, of course, the Fear hits him. What did he do last night? How much money did he spend? Did he send any drunk texts? Did he disgrace himself? He thinks he might have cried, his eyes are all red and sticky. Fuck. Fuck. He groans, and shambles out of bed to get ready for the day. He keeps having flashbacks that make him stop, mid-action.

As he showers, he remembers the three cigarettes he smoked. He was hoping he wouldn’t, his throat always feels all scratchy and disgusting the morning after, but whatever.

He’s rooting around in search of clean clothes when he remembers that he arm-wrestled with Jackson and hit Sandeul in the nose. Great, he owes him an apology, and Sandeul isn't going to let him forget it.

He’s brushing his teeth when he remembers serenading a statue with Eyes Noses Lips. Okay, fine, Namjoon definitely filmed that and he’s going to put it up on Twitter for his birthday. Fuck. Alright.

He’s stirring his morning coffee when he remembers Hongbin piggybacking him to the takeaway and hitting his head on the lintel. That explains the bright red mark on his forehead.

He’s pushing cereal around a bowl when he remembers telling Seokjin and Namjoon that he liked Hoseok and that they were going to go on… a… date. He lets out a moan of pain and presses his face against his table. It’s sticky and disgusting and he can’t bring himself to care.

His phone starts buzzing. He eyes it with hatred, until Hoseok’s name flashes up on screen, and then he eyes it with terror. Did he drunk dial him last night? Did he tell him how weird and broody he felt when he told him he trusted him with Bitna? Did he tell him that when he put his hand on his hip it made him feel safe? Did he tell him how sorry he is about his wife? Did he tell him that his ass looks amazing in those sweatpants he wears?

He musters up the courage and answers it with something that he hopes is comprehensible. It must work for Hoseok, because he starts laughing. “Good morning to you too, hyung. If you hadn’t picked up I would have gone over to check if you were alive.”

“I am. Unfortunately. Jesus.” He grabs his wallet and fumbles around in the billfold. “Oh, God, I spent eighty fucking thousand won last night. I want to die.” He checks the clock; it’s a quarter to eleven, well past his usual gym time. “I missed the gym this morning. I’m sorry, Hoseok-ah.”

“No need to apologise. I was pretty sure you wouldn’t make it.” In the background of the call he can hear a pan hissing and Bitna, talking to the TV. “I have to head off to that showcase soon, but I’m making breakfast first. Do you want some? I find that steamed eggs are the best cure for a hangover.”

Yoongi glances at his cereal, now soggy and disgusting. “Do I ever.”

“I’ll leave the door unlocked. Come over whenever you’re ready.”

By the time Yoongi looks and feels human enough to manage the four-metre trek to Hoseok’s apartment, breakfast is on the table. Bitna tries to greet him with her mouth full, only to be reprimanded by her father. Yoongi slips into his seat and whistles at the spread. “This is impressive.” He grabs a spoon and starts piling rice into his bowl. “Is that beef and radish soup?”

“It’s my favourite.” Bitna pushes the kimchi over to him. “I helped make this!”

“You made kimchi yourself?” Yoongi turns to Hoseok, awestruck. Making your own kimchi is a level of adulthood Yoongi can only dream of.

Hoseok shakes his head vehemently. “God, no. You know the Lees, on the second floor? Mrs Lee made it. She enlisted the help of every child in the building and gave us all a jar as payment. Here, try the eggs.”

With each bite he takes, Yoongi realises just how big his tiny crush is. He’d never thought about how much he liked Hoseok before last night, but now – but now – there’s a siren wailing in his head, shrieking about how amazing he is, and it gets a little louder each time Hoseok clucks at Bitna as she sprays rice over the table.

He’s in too deep. It’s like he’s drowning, but pleasantly, willingly; a wanted death.

 

Over the following months he only drowns deeper. In addition to their dawn workouts, the weekend breakfasts become a regular thing; on Saturdays Hoseok makes breakfast like his mother used to, and on Sundays Yoongi drops by with coffee and pastries from the bakery down the road. He witnesses epic battles between parent and child over vegetables (he has a suspicion that if you held a gun to her head Bitna still wouldn’t eat green peppers), watches more cartoons with Bitna than he has since college, and feels disgustingly guilty with each meal Hoseok puts before him. Proper food like this isn’t cheap, and he hates how Hoseok’s portions are almost smaller than Bitna’s. It isn’t his place to say anything, so he holds his tongue, and alleviates the shame by helping Hoseok out in kitchen, letting him put him in a flowery purple apron, dicing and frying and stirring to the best of his limited ability.

God, he wishes he could do more. He notes Hoseok’s worn sneakers, the battered yet well-cared-for cutlery he uses, their ancient TV, and he feels for him. Hoseok’s rickety old desk is perpetually stacked with threatening-looking letters. Yoongi would never pry, but he’s noticed some from utility companies, and others from a law firm located in Gwangju; the return address is to a family called Seo.

He can’t intervene. Hoseok, for someone who acts humbly, is prideful; proud of his daughter, of his job, of what he’s accomplished. Yoongi acknowledges that he's entitled to it, of course, but it’s a hindrance too. He would be happy to help in whatever way possible, but he knows Hoseok would never accept it.

He feels even guiltier when Hoseok starts appearing in his dreams. Sometimes it’s normal, just him and Bitna being weird, pasted over the events of his day, but other times…

Hoseok, straddling him, their skin sticking together with sweat; on his knees in front of him, eyes dark under his long eyelashes; keening his name in the darkness of his room…

They’re frustrating and shameful and he hates it. Yoongi keeps waking up, hot all over and painfully hard, and on the rare occasion that he manages to gather the energy to jerk himself off, he does so to thoughts of Hoseok. He does his laundry when he knows Hoseok is out so he won’t notice his suspiciously wet sheets. He can’t help it. He's usually more attracted to people he actually likes, preferring committed relationships to one-night-stands and fuckbuddies, and he likes Hoseok too much for his own good.

He doesn’t even know if Hoseok likes men that way. Christ, he doesn’t even know if Hoseok likes him, but Yoongi keeps on falling, hoping he’ll be there to catch him at the end.

Chapter Text

“He’s into you,” Seokjin whispers.

“What?” Yoongi glances at Hoseok, who is entirely distracted by his daughter. Bitna has managed to get a piece of carrot wedged up her nose, and is rather less distressed than her father is about it. Namjoon is egging her on. He doubts Hoseok will hear them, but he leans in close to Seokjin anyway. “How can you tell?”

“He looks at you like…” Seokjin shakes his head impatiently. “Just trust me. He called you Yoongi-yah!” He widens his eyes significantly. “And you let him. He’s your dongsaeng!”

“He was joking,” Yoongi grumbles. “I would have hit him, but he was holding Bitna.” He's seriously beginning to regret letting Seokjin and Namjoon tag along to breakfast. At least his worries that they would scare Hoseok off proved unfounded. Bitna fell immediately in love with Seokjin, and now refuses to call him anything except Prince, and it turned out that Namjoon and Hoseok, in addition to being same-age friends, attended the same college, though Hoseok dropped out before he could graduate.

Seokjin gives him a Look. Yoongi responds by shoving a piece of leek into Seokjin’s mouth, and leaves his hyung to suffocate.

He shouldn’t have. Seokjin may be sweet and genteel and charming in comparison to his tall, rough, unwieldy boyfriend, but between the two of them Seokjin is infinitely more terrifying. Namjoon is hapless and helpless, but Seokjin is a shark in a fluffy pink sweater, and he scents blood.

“What’s up with you two?” Hoseok returns from the kitchen, Bitna’s nose carrot safely disposed of. He grabs her hand as she makes another attempt to hide a vegetable in her nostril. “Bitna-yah, no.”

“I was just asking Yoongi if you’d taken him out to drinks yet,” Seokjin says smoothly. Yoongi feels himself flush an ugly red.

“Oh!” Hoseok’s hand slackens. Bitna makes a desperate grab for a bean sprout. “I completely forgot. I’m so sorry, hyung.”

“’S nothing,” Yoongi manages. Namjoon is sniggering. “I don’t really mind…”

Hoseok makes a dismissive noise. “I mind! We said another time, didn't we? It’s another time. I’d love to.” He gives him a smile that leaves Yoongi feeling weird and melty, like an ice-cream left out in the sun. “To tell the truth, hyung, I’m glad you reminded me. My sister’s in town next weekend, and she wants quality time with her niece so she’s kicking me out.”

“Auntie Jiwoo?” He nods, and Bitna lets out a squeal of joy. “I hope she brings Mickey!” She expresses her joy by attempting to stuff a bean sprout into her father’s ear; he has just enough presence of mind to fend her off.

“Wonderful!” Seokjin claps his hands together. “Namjoon’s friend took over this old jazz bar in Itaewon, you should check it out. As a matter of fact, Namjoonie should have vouchers…” Namjoon stares at Seokjin blankly. Seokjin kicks him under the table.

Manfully holding in tears (Seokjin always aims for the spot between muscle and bone where it hurts the worst), Namjoon roots around in his wallet and extracts two crumpled flyers which he passes off to Hoseok, who juggles them with the bean sprout. “Hyung, I was looking forward to that,” he hisses to Seokjin, who kicks him again.

Yoongi cradles his head in his arms. Hoseok is giggling. “Ah, married life,” he gasps. “Brings back memories.” Yoongi’s head shoots up. There’s a bittersweet twist to Hoseok’s mouth.

“We’re not actually married,” Seokjin admits. “Well, like, we obviously can’t actually get legally married, but also Namjoon won’t get off his ass to go ring shopping.”

“Hyung,” Namjoon moans. “I’m just taking my time, alright?”

“Don’t take too long. Life is short.” Hoseok glances at the pictures on the sideboard; Yoongi only notices it because he’s looking for it. “Does Saturday night sound okay to you, hyung?”

“Yeah,” he croaks. “Sounds great.”

 

Saturday night finds him lounging on the balcony outside Hoseok’s door, admiring the city lights. He’d tried to go in but had been greeted by someone who was presumably Jung Jiwoo, and by greeted he means she shrieked at him not to come in and slammed the door in his face.

Hoseokie

Today 7:03 PM
She said you can’t see me ‘til I’m ready? But I am ready? She’s just lecturing me?
Okay I love her and all but shes trying to put eyeliner on me
I don’t think you need eyeliner
That’s sweet of you but according to noona your opinion doesn’t matter

Yoongi lets out a bark of laughter, and the door swings open. Bitna peeks out, eyes big. “Hiya, oppa.”

“Bitna-yah.” He reaches out for the hug he’s gotten used to receiving. Bitna is tiny and warm and vaguely sticky and smells like tear-free shampoo and hair detangler. It’s relaxing. “How was your day?”

“It was fun! Auntie Jiwoo took me to an arcade and we played games, and then we went to the cinema and saw a film and we had popcorn, and then we went for a walk along the river with Papa. Then we came home and baked muffins. I saved one of the ones I made for you. You can have it tomorrow, when you and Papa come back. Auntie Jiwoo told Papa that she wasn’t going to let him in if he came back early.”

There is an alarming number of people in on the conspiracy to get him and Hoseok together. “Thank you.” He smiles at her, and she giggles. “What?”

“You smile all gummy! Papa told me that he thinks it’s cute. See, you’re doing it again!”

While Yoongi is busy processing the fact that Hoseok thinks his awful smile is cute, someone calls for Bitna. A woman sticks her head out the door. “Oh, there you are.”

“Auntie! This is Min Yoongi oppa, Papa’s friend. He’s funny and smelly and he has a – a – tattoo!” She nods proudly. “He gets us nice pastries and his friends are old but they’re not married. Yoongi oppa, this is my Auntie Jiwoo. She makes clothes. She gets really angry at dramas and she does my face green when I go to bed and she has a dog called Mickey.”

“Nice to meet you,” he says awkwardly, extending his hand.

Jiwoo doesn’t take it. She scrutinises him; he squirms until she says, “Adequate. I’ll trust Bitna.” She grabs her by the hand and returns inside, leaving him feeling slightly bamboozled and vaguely scared.

Hoseok stumbles out the door about five minutes later. The door slams shut behind him; he starts banging on it. “Noona! You ass! Open the door!”

Jiwoo’s head pops out of the bathroom window. “Enjoy your date, my cute dongsaeng.” She grabs his cheek and pinches it.

“This cute dongsaeng is going to murder his noona.” Jiwoo retreats back inside before Hoseok can get at her; he can hear her cackling inside, Bitna joining in. Hoseok huffs and backs away. “Sorry, hyung.”

“It’s alright. Bitna told me she wasn’t letting you back in. You can crash at mine. So, uh.” He hooks his fingers into his belt. “Is this a date?”

“Do you want it to be?” Hoseok’s stare is direct and as sharp as his smile. Something warm unfurls down Yoongi’s spine. He nods towards the lift. “Let’s get out of here before we get booked for noise.”

They stroll onwards, chattering easily. Yoongi thinks Hoseok might have lost the eyeliner battle, but he’s not sure; he’ll have to check under better lighting conditions. He’s wearing a black suede jacket with bands of neutral colour around the elbows, a black polo shirt and trousers that look suspiciously like they’re made of leather. They’re certainly tight enough. A simple cord choker cuts into his neck to leave white marks as he talks. The familiar smell of his aftershave, tobacco and vanilla, is oddly comforting.

The bar is everything Yoongi hoped it would be. It’s underground, small and intimate, dimly lit with butter-yellow ceiling lamps and the odd neon sign. Exposed brickwork and polished wood complete the atmosphere. Busy, but not packed, they find a table easily, secluded yet with a clear view of the stage. Hoseok smiles as he gazes around, takes in the ambience. “This place is pretty chill.”

“Yeah. Definitely Namjoonie’s kind of spot.” He slides his herringbone overcoat off his shoulders and onto the back of his seat, straightening the collar of his khaki shirt. Hoseok is covering his mouth with his hand. “What’s so funny?”

“For once I’m the one wearing black and hyung’s the one wearing colours.” Hoseok grins. “It’s not a bad thing. You look hot, hyung. I like your jeans.”

Hot. Oh, God. Yoongi mumbles something indistinctly, rubbing at the back of his neck, tugging at said jeans, which Namjoon has christened his Ass Jeans. They’re tight, stonewashed and ripped to shreds, leaving his knees to peek out at inopportune moments. They have a ninety percent success rate at ass getting. He tells himself he only wore them because they were the first trousers he saw that were clean.

The music, to his pleasant surprise, turns out to be decent. Yoongi is more of a J. Cole man than a Nat King Cole man, but he knows good music when he hears it, and this is certainly quite listenable, by turns mellow and jagged, brash and muted, sedate and energetic. Hoseok hums along sometimes as they talk about anything and everything. They drink much more slowly than Yoongi had anticipated; oftentimes he gets so sucked into what Hoseok is saying that he forgets his drink, leaving him to drink whiskey diluted with ice-melt.

“You know some of this?” Yoongi is on his fourth whiskey and he's definitely red-faced but he can’t bring himself to care. “I wouldn’t have thought you a jazz man.”

“I listen to a little bit of everything.” Hoseok takes a sip of his drink (some kind of gin thing, when he’d made Yoongi try it the botanicals had stung his nose) and he watches, cotton-mouthed, as his throat shifts delicately under his choker. “I like anything I can dance to, and jazz is great if you’ve got a partner.” He indicates the floor, where a few couples are jittering around. “I could teach you the Lindy Hop, hyung.”

“You’re outta luck there. I don’t dance. I fucked up my shoulder a couple years back and it ruined my flexibility.” Yoongi leans back in his seat to watch the cellist, who handles her gigantic instrument like it weighs nothing. “Anything else you like to dance to?”

“Swing’s fun. It’s happy, you know? Especially electro swing. Tap’s another one I like to dance to, but that doesn't necessarily mean I can dance to it. I used to do a lot of street dance, like, underground? B-boying, popping, krumping, all that. I have trouble with soft movements. I like stuff that’s hard-hitting. Hip-hop, trap, that kinda stuff. I mean, I can do contemporary, but I’m not as fluid as I should be.”

“You were underground?” Hoseok nods. “Huh, so was I. Small world. I rapped, though. That was how I met Namjoon.”

“Seriously?” Hoseok leans forward. Their shins brush. “You two were rappers? Man, how’d you get into that?”

“I can’t speak for Namjoonie but I, uh. Used to play piano when I was a kid.” He thinks of the piano in the corner of his childhood living room in Daegu. How reassuring the old wood had looked, how pleasing the patina had felt to his childish hands, how tall it had seemed. “Gave it up, though. Piano wasn’t cool and I was busy with school and basketball and boxing and stuff. Then, when I was in… sixth grade? I think? You remember Stony Skunk?”

“Do I ever.” Hoseok is grinning widely. “Ragga Muffin, was it?”

“Yeah, heard that, and I was like, ‘This is the only thing I ever want to do.’ I wasn’t sure if I wanted to just produce or rap too, and then Epik High released Fly and I knew I had to be a rapper. I was crazy. I worked part-time to earn money, skipped out on meals to save up for MIDI equipment, wrote verses in my school books when should have been studying, snuck out to go record in some sketchy-ass studio in Namsan. Gave my parents hell. We weren't – we didn't really have the money, but I pursued it anyway.”

“What was your name?” Yoongi shifts uncomfortably. “Don’t be like that, I know you had one.”

“Uh.” This is so stupid. He hates himself. “Gloss.”

“Gloss?” The English is awkward on Hoseok’s tongue. “Where’d you get that from?”

Yoongi grimaces. “I ran my name through Google Translate and it told me Yoongi meant gloss in English.” Hoseok bursts out laughing. “I fucking know, alright? It actually means, uh, burnish? I can’t say it. Namjoon’s was worse, his was Runch Randa.”

“Runch Randa!” Hoseok spits his drink out into his glass.

“That’s disgusting. Anyway. Gloss is dead and buried.”

“What happened?”

“Well, I busted my shoulder up. I had to stop doing sport and I was drugged up half the time to deal with the pain, so I lost loads of weight. Creatively, I wasn't getting anywhere. No matter how hard I tried, no-one would give me the time of day. I didn't think about it like that back then but looking back, I was definitely depressed. Used to think about ending it all. Never went through with it, but I thought about it.” Yoongi doesn’t – he doesn’t like talking about this shit, but, well. He wants Hoseok to know what he’s getting into. “Then, in my last year of school, my dad had a heart attack.”

“Hyung,” Hoseok says softly.

“He recovered fine. He’s healthier than ever nowadays. It scared him into exercising and eating well. But… I realised how much stress and heartache I was causing my parents, and how much they had sacrificed for me. I gave it up.” He’s surprised to find the beginnings of tears in his eyes. “I decided to study building acoustics. More chance of a proper, steady career. It’s still music, you know, and I liked maths, so it suited me down to the ground. It was a difficult choice but I’m glad I chose what I chose. The music industry – it chews you up, spits you out. It would have broken me. I like my job, I like the people I work with, and I do a little music on the side. Namjoon’s a producer with this company called BigHit – you know, GLAM? – and I help him out sometimes. Got a few credits and all.”

“That’s so cool,” Hoseok says, earnestly. “You’ll have to let me listen to some of your stuff sometime.”

“I will,” he promises. “Hey, uh.” He stops dead. For all his extroversion, Hoseok can be surprisingly tight-lipped when it comes to his past. He decides to throw caution to the wind and chances it. “How’d you start dancing?”

The waitress drops another round over, and the music changes, slows down like runny honey. When Hoseok finally starts talking, his voice is low and stilted. “It wasn’t anything so dramatic. I danced for a talent show in elementary school and I… just kept dancing. Went to professional lessons and everything. I used to steal my mom’s purse to pay. You know Seungri from Big Bang?”

“Who doesn’t?” Yoongi is enthralled. The alcohol must have loosened Hoseok’s tongue – he’s never been so forthcoming.

“Yeah, he sponsored this dance school in Gwangju. I got to attend for a while.” Hoseok’s eyes take on a dreamy cast. “It was amazing. I danced underground for a long time, performed at festivals, won competitions. People knew my name. I even auditioned for JYP, made it to the second round. I don't know what I was thinking. Can you imagine me as a flower boy idol?” The dreaminess vanishes. “Of course, it was only amazing for me. I ran my parents into debt. My dad hated it. My mom worked two jobs, even ended up getting a job abroad for a while to pay things off. They have it all sorted now, but it was tough at home for a while. Sort of… like you, I guess.”

“Do you regret any of it?”

“No.” Hoseok quiets for a long time, fiddling with his drink. “If I hadn’t started dancing, I… I wouldn’t have found Hyerin again.” Hyerin. It’s easy to figure out who Hoseok’s talking about. The woman in the photo, the woman with Bitna’s jaw and ears and nose. “You… you don’t mind if I talk about her?”

“Why would I?”

“I just… I haven’t talked about her in such a long time. None of my family mention her, her family has cut me off, Bitna barely remembers her, I’ve lost touch with all her friends. It’s…”

Hoseok takes a deep breath, visibly terrified. Yoongi says nothing. There isn’t anything to say. All he can do is wait.

“We were… childhood friends. You know the type. I remember when I was seven, we said we were getting married and we got chased around the schoolyard by a horde of kids wanting to go to our wedding.” His voice is wistful. “We never actually thought we would get married for real. She moved away when I was eight. When we reconnected in the dance academy we ended up liking each other, a lot, but we knew we’d change as we grew up, and we didn’t want to be in love with people who didn’t exist anymore. So, when she graduated a year ahead of me, we decided that she would head off to Seoul and go to college, and when I was done with high school I would enlist and get my service out of the way, and that for those three years we would cut contact entirely. If, after all that, we still had feelings for each other, then it was meant to be.”

“You both sound so grown-up,” Yoongi notes.

“We weren’t.” Hoseok lets out a hiccupping laugh. “Believe me. So, I finished school and joined the army and she went off to college and I missed her so, so much. It felt like I was missing a limb. I thought I’d stop thinking about her over the next three years but my feelings for her never changed. I knew she was it for me, that there was no point fucking around wasting our precious time. The day they released me I hopped on a bus to Seoul, found her outside a lecture and proposed with my mother’s ring. She almost murdered me… but she still said yes.”

“How old were you?”

“Twenty. She was twenty-one.”

“Fuck off.”

“Told you we weren’t mature.” Hoseok grins brightly. “We got married three months later, and then… well, Bitna happened.”

“Happened?”

“Well, she wasn’t exactly planned.” Hoseok makes a face. “Okay, that sounds bad. She was planned, but not quite so soon. We were both college students, and what college kid is an ideal parent? I would have supported any decision Hyerin made – if she wanted to get an abortion or have it adopted or whatever – and she wanted to keep it. She was born a month before Hyerin finished school. I haven’t a clue how she did it, but she graduated with a four point five grade average and a degree in vocal performance and training. We were gonna set up a performance school together.”

“That’s sweet.”

“Sweet and unrealistic. She’d be the vocal trainer, I’d be the dance trainer, Bitna would be our mascot and we would take the entertainment world by storm. We even had a name – Ugly Duck Studio. Hyerin really liked ducks for some reason, but she said we’d turn people into swans. All I had to do was graduate.” Hoseok inhales heavily. “I was on track to do that. Hyerin was working for a vocal academy, I’d just started my final year. Things were difficult but we got by. The morning of Parent’s Day, we fought. I don’t even remember what over, I think Bitna might have been teething, but I was so petty that I left without telling her goodbye. A couple of hours later, I got… I got a call from an unknown number.”

“Hoseok-ah…”

“It was the paramedic, calling Hyerin’s next of kin. She was teaching a student, Bitna was on her back in a baby sling, and she dropped. Never woke up again. Some kind of aneurysm. She was twenty-four.”

“Jesus, Hoseok. I’m so sorry.” Twenty-four. Twenty-four years of life, a husband, a daughter, a degree, ripped away in a second.

“She was so good, you know? She was an organ donor. They told me she saved five people.” He smiles. “Who would have thought? My idiot, saving lives with her own. It's been… God. Almost a year and a half. It’s still as painful as if it were yesterday. Sometimes, when I wake up, I expect her to be sleeping right there next to me, but…” He shakes his head. “I’m so sorry, hyung. I can’t believe I’m on a fancy date with the guy I like and I spent half it talking about my dead wife.”

“It’s fine.” Yoongi lays a hand on his elbow. “You want to talk about it, you talk about it. I got terrible hearing but I’ve been told I’m a great listener.”

“I. God.” Hoseok presses a hand to his face. “I really want to kiss you right now,” he admits. “Even though I know I… I know I…”

“Another time?” As much as Yoongi would also like to kiss Hoseok, it's a bad idea. They're both too drunk to make any kind of rational decision and Hoseok must be feeling vulnerable, given the magnitude of what he has revealed to him. Yoongi doesn't want to fuck this up. Hoseok is too decent, too precious; he needs to take care.

“Another time.”

 

Yoongi wakes up the next morning to a yell. “What, what the fuck,” he mutters, back sore and stiff from the night he spent on the couch. He'd argued Hoseok into taking his bed, though he'd had to pull the ‘I’m your hyung so do as I say’ card, and it was another battle entirely to convince him that he didn't need to share. As much as Yoongi would like to wake up beside Hoseok, he knows it would have been a profoundly terrible idea; his self-control is good, but not that good.

Hoseok bursts out of his bedroom, crazy-eyed and way too energetic for someone who didn't get back until three last night. “Bitna-yah? Wait, hyung?”

“Wrong apartment, man.” Yoongi yawns, and gets up to go into the bathroom. “She's with your sister. Check your phone.”

“Oh.” Hoseok, shamefaced, retreats into the bedroom. Yoongi snickers as he closes the door of the bathroom.

By the time Yoongi’s presentable enough to head back to the living room Hoseok has emerged, phone in hand. “I think I got eyeliner on your pillowcase. Sorry, hyung.”

“You're forgiven.” He squints at Hoseok, who, amusingly, resembles a raccoon. “You know where the bathroom is. Use whatever. The orange toothbrush is new.”

Hoseok shuffles off. Yoongi starts pulling the blankets off the couch and tosses them into the laundry basket in his room. Hoseok has already remade his bed, the sheets pulled taut and tight into a nurse’s tuck at the corners.

Yoongi steps out onto his tiny balcony, leaning against the railing as he checks his phone. The chill air stings his face and bites at his nose, but it wakes him up better than caffeine ever could.

Seokjinnie and the Two Babies

Today 9:34 AM
Jinnie
How'd it go????
It went well
The bar is cool you guys should go
Joonie
Did anything happen?
Well we talked
And I think he said he liked me
Jinnie
Okay baby steps!!!
Joonie
No kiss?
I think he's still a little hung up on his wife
Jinnie
Oh no
She only passed away last year
We talked it out and decided to take it slow
Joonie
Damn
Jinnie
I didn't know

“Hyung?” Hoseok blinks at him from the door, fringe still damp. He's still wearing the t-shirt and sweatpants he leant him last night; they suit him better than they ever did their owner. Yoongi motions him over. They watch the cars pass outside. A teenage boy is trying to walk a dog, dragging the recalcitrant animal along with little success.

“Sleep well?” Yoongi asks, once boy and dog have vanished from view.

“Ugh.” Hoseok looks like Yoongi feels. “I think I went a little overboard. I'm too used to shitty beer. I can't handle strong stuff anymore.”

“Next time we'll get chicken and beer and watch soccer,” Yoongi promises. “Perfect for classy dudes like us.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m très chic.” Hoseok tosses his hair dramatically. Yoongi laughs despite himself. “Speaking of classy… How many cleansers do you own?”

He ponders it. “Six? One for winter, one for summer, one for oily skin, one oil cleanser, one for removing makeup and another for breakouts.”

“Hyung, that's terrifying.”

Yoongi shrugs. “You only get one skin, you gotta treat it well.”

“You also only get one liver.”

“Smartass.” He punches him lightly on the shoulder, unable and unwilling to hold in his smile. His hand stays where it is. “You cold?”

“A little.”

He hesitates, and slides his arm around his shoulders. Hoseok’s stiff at first, but he loosens up, slings an arm around his waist. “Better?”

“Better.” He feels Hoseok turn his head to press his lips against his temple. He jerks in surprise; Hoseok lets him go immediately. “Was that okay?”

Hoseok has gone pink, and not just from the cold. His hair is still wet and curling slightly, and he’s worrying at his lip. “You,” Yoongi murmurs, pulling him back into his arms, “are making it really hard not to kiss you.”

“It’s intentional.” Yoongi is close enough to discern the individual flecks of brown in Hoseok's irises, the fine, delicate lines surrounding his eyes. “Jiwoo told me not to bother coming back if I didn’t at least get a kiss. Is it another time?”

“No,” Yoongi sighs. Hoseok pouts. “Stop that. Good things come to those who wait, right?”

“Right,” he says, audibly unconvinced.

They stay there for a while, wound up in each other, Yoongi’s face gradually going numb. “This is cute and all,” he says, regretfully, “but I’m fucking freezing. Can we go inside?”

“You came out here first,” Hoseok says acerbically, but they go inside anyway, hand in hand. The metal of Hoseok’s wedding ring is cold, and it presses into his fingers like an unwanted omen.

Chapter Text

Little by little, Hoseok opens up to him. Sometimes – and by sometimes Yoongi means sometimes – he even talks about Hyerin. Yoongi won’t deny that it hurts a little to hear her name, but if that’s how he feels, then Hoseok, her grieving widower, must feel so much worse. If talking about her makes him feel better – helps him heal – then Yoongi will gladly listen.

Hyerin was goofy and funny and her existence completely explains Bitna’s general oddness. He can’t bring himself to believe half the things Hoseok says about her, but, well, Hoseok’s his only source. All her friends have drifted away from him, and her family…

“They blame me,” Hoseok tells him, one night. They’re on his balcony eating ice-cream. It’s October, and the lady had given them the strangest look when they asked for three Jaws bars, please and thank-you, but it was Bitna’s way or the highway, and Bitna’s way was ice-cream shaped like a ‘blue-ga’, and the Jaws bars were the closest they could get. The catch was that she couldn’t have it until tomorrow, but she didn’t mind, and had gone to bed easily. “They say it's my fault Hyerin passed away.”

“Why? How on Earth could it be your fault? Those things just happen, Hoseok-ah.”

His ice cream is melting onto his hand by the time Hoseok speaks. “They think that if she hadn’t had to support Bitna and I, she would have had enough money to go the doctor and he might have caught it. It’s horseshit. She did go to the doctor complaining of a headache, but he just said it was because of her eyesight and told her to get new glasses.” He makes a noise as ice-cream drips down his fingers. “They just want someone to blame, so they can rationalise it. It’s fine. I get it. I just wish…”

“You wish?” Yoongi prompts, when Hoseok clams up.

“They took me to court after Hyerin passed. They wanted custody. Hyerin was an only child, and Bitna’s their only descendant. They claimed I was an unfit father and tried to get one of the guys I fooled around with in high school to testify to my so-called deviancy.”

Yoongi is speechless. “That’s vile.”

“I know. He refused point-blank. It turned everyone against them. Like, everyone who had ever talked to me spoke in my defence.” He takes a bite of ice-cream, revealing the shark’s creamy pink insides. “They lost the suit. They’re still appealing it, but I’ll never let them get their hands on her. I hate that Bitna has to grow up without her grandparents, but I won’t let them have any contact with her until they drop it and let me have full custody in peace.”

“I think…” This is totally not Yoongi’s place, but whatever. “She’s better off without them.”

“That’s what I tell myself.” Hoseok sighs as he scoops out some of the strawberry ice-cream with his finger. “I feel shitty that it ruined their relationship with my family. My mom and her mom went way back.”

“It isn’t your fault. They made their choices, and you…”

“Made mine. The milk’s spilt. I know.”

“I can’t believe you remembered that,” Yoongi says, amusedly.

“I’d never forget sage advice from the ghost of the fourth floor.” Yoongi kicks his knee. “Ow, hyung!”

“Finish your fucking ice-cream before it melts.”

Hoseok complies. The next time he speaks, all that’s left is two lollipop sticks and shredded wrappers. “Sometimes, I.” He hesitates. “Sometime I think they’re right. That I am an unfit father.”

“Don’t say shit like that!” Yoongi starts to puff up with anger, only to be cut off by Hoseok, who knocks their shoulders together reassuringly.

“I just think that maybe Bitna would have been better off with them. I… I can’t do as much for her as I’d like. I mean, I struggle to pay for day-care, and it’s only going to get worse. There’s going to be school uniforms, and after-school academies, and extra-curriculars...” He presses a hand to his mouth for a second, exhaling heavily. “I don’t want her to grow up in poverty. I worry that I’m fucking her up, that I’m doing something wrong, that I’ll ruin her life. I want her to be happy, you know? Maybe she’d be happier with them.”

“In my inexpert, uneducated, unfounded opinion, none of that matters.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean.” Yoongi pauses. “Hagwons, toys, all of that crap. None of it matters. I had it all and here I am, an antisocial queer man with a history of depression. You think that was what my parents had planned for me when they sent me to an international preschool?” Hoseok snorts at that. Yoongi hits him with little force. “Asshole. Hoseok-ah, all that matters is that you love her, right? Grandparents are great and all, but there’s nothing like a parent’s love. The only thing that got me through the dark times was knowing that no matter how badly I screwed up, my parents would still accept me for what I was. They would have cut you out of her life, and that would have fucked her up for sure. You’re her father. The best thing you can do is love her. You love her, don’t you?”

“More than anything in the world,” Hoseok says, with such earnestness that he has to take his hand.

“Then love her.” He squeezes his hand reassuringly. “I’m sure the rest will follow.”

“The rest will follow,” Hoseok muses. “Huh. Hyung, you can be real smart sometimes. Emphasis on the sometimes.”

Yoongi twists his hand behind his back. “This fucker,” he snaps. “See if I ever let you spill your guts to me again.”

“Lemme go!” Hoseok gasps. He does so, and he springs back. “Jesus, hyung, no, I need you. You’re cheaper than therapy.”

He rubs his wrist in apology. “It helps, right?”

“Right. Especially… talking about Hyerin. I can’t – you’re the only one I can talk to about her, hyung, and it helps so much. Every time I talk about her it feels like I’m letting her go. I know it sounds stupid, but it’s like… it’s not just on me to remember her, right? I can forget a little, because you’ll remember her too.”

“I’ll certainly remember that stupid-ass face she’s making in that photo.”

Hoseok bursts out laughing. “Oh God, me too. She’d try to surprise me with it, right? Like, she’d come into the bathroom while I was trying to shower and just make that face at me from the door. One time I got such a fright that I slipped and tore our shower curtain in two.”

“Please tell me she took a photo.”

She did. It’s priceless. Yoongi sends it to himself immediately. Hoseok objects loudly, and kicks him out.

 

When he visits Daegu for Chuseok he finds himself missing Hoseok and Bitna acutely. His older brother teases him for never getting off his phone. He can’t help it, Hoseok just sent him a picture of a mulish Bitna dressed in a tiny yellow and orange hanbok that he already knows she’s going to destroy.

Hoseokie

Today 2:23 PM
She's so cute isn't she????
I mean I'm totally not biased or anything but I think she might be the cutest child in existence
I gotta agree, she's adorable
Oh
Uh
She just tore it
Jiwoo is trying not to be angry but she’s pissed
Go Bitna
Screw annoying parents who dress you up in embarrassing costumes for every holiday
Pics or it didn’t happen

“Mom, where’s the picture of me dressed as a pumpkin?”

From the kitchen, she yells; “In the blue album with the gold vines! About mid-way though!”

“Songwol-ah? You alright?” His father peers over the top of the paper at him with undisguised concern.

“Fine.” He flips through the album, sniggering at the infamous picture of his brother, perched on the draining board, wearing nothing but a towel and a big grin. He finds the one he’s searching for, takes a picture, and sends it.

Hoseokie

Today 2:31 PM
Some American we were hosting took Korean Thanksgiving a little too seriously
I’ve never seen a toddler look so murderous
Not even Bitna when we took her to the opera
You literally have not changed???
Surely I’ve at least changed a little
You might be taller
Not by much though
Still as cute and fluffy ^^

“Dick,” he mutters fondly. His brother shoots him a weird look, and moves subtly away from him. Yoongi is too busy smiling to care.

 

Of course, for all the good days they while away together, there are bad ones. Days where Yoongi is grumpy from overwork and ignores Bitna no matter what mess she gets into, days when he ends up avoiding the Jungs in the sanctity of his own apartment. Days where Hoseok is snappish and withdrawn, usually as the end of the month approaches and bills pile up, days when he pushes Yoongi away each time he tries to touch him, twisting his wedding ring around his finger.

Still, Yoongi can count the number of times he’s seen Bitna cry on one hand. Usually, when something upsets her, she reacts by increasing in volume, which, well, Yoongi didn’t actually think that was possible, but it is, and it’s not a pleasant experience. He supposes she learned it from her father. Hoseok is, to put it bluntly, an emotional, albeit heavily guarded, mess, and Yoongi has never even seen him so much as shed a tear.

One evening, when Yoongi comes in late from work and pops over to say good night, he lets himself in to find Bitna and Hoseok engaged in one of their bedtime battles. Bitna is clinging to the kitchen table, purple-faced and yowling. Hoseok is trying to coax her off it, duckling pyjamas waving temptingly in his hand, looking for all the world like a toddler matador. “Sweetie, come on.” He sounds close to tears; when Yoongi glances at his phone it tells him it’s half past nine. Bitna should have been asleep an hour and a half ago. “Aren’t you tired? Let’s get you dressed and Papa will read you a bedtime story, alright?”

“No.” She presses her face into the wood. “’M not going to bed. I’m stayin’ up and there’s nothing you can do.”

“Bitna-yah,” Hoseok admonishes. He finally notices Yoongi, peeking in the door. “Hyung. You’re home late.”

“Got stuck in traffic. Do you, uh… want me to leave?”

“No, it’s fine. Bitna is going to bed soon. Aren’t you?” He crouches down behind her and tries to pull her loose; she starts screeching and he releases her quickly, as if burned. “Jung Bitna! Stop that!”

“No!” She casts him a baleful look. “Mama wouldn’t make me go to bed!”

“That’s because she was a push-over and made me do it,” he grinds out. “Bitna, you have to go to bed. You’ve got playschool early tomorrow. Yoongi hyung is tired, and you’re keeping him up.”

“Don’t want playschool!” She monkeys around the table until she’s hidden from sight, still wailing. “Don’t want bed! Don’t want Yoongi oppa! Don’t want Papa! I want my mama!” She glares out at them, eyes reflecting the light like some kind of nocturnal animal. “She’s been gone for ages! I’m sick of you! I want her back!”

Yoongi, with no small amount of panic, realises that he’s in way over his head. Hoseok falls back on his heels and gets up, robotically. “Hoseok-ah,” he begins softly.

He turns to him, face void of any emotion. The pyjamas slip out of his hands and flutter to the floor. “Hyung. Sorry. I can’t… I need to go.”

“Don’t – Hoseok-ah!” Yoongi tries to block the door, but Hoseok is stronger than him and shoves him forcefully out of the way, barging out the door into the hallway and down the stairs. When he recovers enough to look back at Bitna, she’s sitting on the ground, having scrambled out from under the table to watch her father leave. The sheer shock on her face would be comedic under other circumstances. He should pursue Hoseok, he thinks, before he gets into trouble, but Bitna is breathing frighteningly fast, and he can’t leave her alone like this.

 “Oppa,” she says, in a very small voice. “Papa left. Did I make him go? I didn’t really want him to go. I’m not sick of him… Did he go to get Mama?”

“No.” Yoongi settles down, cross-legged, on the floor beside her, even though he’s wearing his work clothes and should really be more careful. “He can’t. Your mom’s gone, Bitna-yah.”

Bitna makes a face. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“Why?”

“Everyone else has a mom. Papa has a mom, you have a mom, you showed me a photo of her. Why don’t I have one?” She’s beginning to yell. “Where’d she go? Papa said she can’t come back, but why? She liked me a lot! She got me toys and she sang to me! She wouldn’t leave me alone!”

“She didn’t want to,” Yoongi tells her, in an even tone of voice, betraying none of his internal panic. He needs to stay calm. If he loses it there's no telling how upset Bitna will become. “It wasn’t her choice.”

“Then who made her go?” Her voice is loud and furious. “Did Papa make her go, so he could be friends with you instead?”

Oh, God. “No, no, no, I promise that’s not it.” He raises his hands placatingly. “Where did you even get that idea?”

“Ms Choi.” Bitna is sullen. “Mr Kang is sick so she had us today. We made paper flowers for our moms, but I told her I couldn’t give them to her. She asked if there was any way we could visit her and I told her we only get to see her box once a year.” Her box? Does she mean where her ashes are kept? He thinks Hyerin’s remains were taken back to Gwangju. “So I asked if I could give them to you, and she asked why, and I said because you were nice to me and Papa, like Mama was, and you read stories better than both of ‘em and Papa goes all squeaky and pink when you hug him, and she got mad at me and told me you and Papa were bad.” She shakes her head vehemently. “Are you bad? I don’t think you’re bad, oppa, even though you stink sometimes. Your hair is too fluffy and Auntie Jiwoo said you were sweet and –”

Five years ago, Yoongi would have been enraged by this. He would have stormed into the school and demanded that the teacher be fired. Now he’s just tired. Angry, yes, but tired. He interrupts Bitna, who is rapidly running out of breath. “I’m not bad, and neither is your father. It’s not bad to make people happy. You make me happy too.”

“Then why’d she say so?”

“Because she’s a bitter old hag.”

Bitna’s mouth falls open. “You said a bad word.”

“Don’t tell your father, he’ll kill me.” He takes Bitna’s small hands in his. “Do you remember that plant you had outside that you had to get rid of?”

“The roses.” Her face crumples. “They were so pretty.”

“What happened to them?”

“The slugs got at ‘em and hurt them real bad. We couldn’t fix them.”

“They died, Bitna-yah.”

“Died?”

“It means they got hurt badly and now they're gone forever.” This metaphor is getting unwieldy, but Bitna appears to be following along. “That was what happened to your mother.”

“The slugs got at her?”

“No, no.” He taps a finger against her forehead. “She got hurt in here. You can’t see it when you get hurt in there, so it’s dangerous.”

“In her brain?” She raises a hand to where he touched her. “Couldn’t a doctor fix her?”

“No. It was too bad. So, she… she died.”

Bitna crawls into his lap, and curls up, quiet. “Like the roses.

“Like the roses.”

“Do you know anyone who died, oppa?”

“My mom’s parents. They were old. It was their time.”

“Oh.” She fiddles with his tie. “Do you miss them? I miss Mama.”

“I do.” He brushes her hair out of her face. “Do you remember her hugs?”

“Yep.” She spreads her arms wide. “She used to start making chicken noises and run at me all flappy. She did it to Papa once and he fell over and he was limpy for ages.” The mental image of Hyerin clucking at an injured Hoseok is hilariously vivid.

“Whenever you miss her, just think about that, alright? It’ll make you feel better.”

“I s’pose.” She nuzzles into his shoulder. “Is Papa coming back?”

“Soon,” he promises, even though he has no idea where Hoseok even is. “Why don’t we wait for him on the couch?”

She falls asleep ten minutes later, tired out by all her histrionics. Yoongi tries valiantly not to do the same, but he can’t help it; he had work from eight in the morning to eight at night today, and the long commute home wore him out. He dozes off, Bitna a warm weight in his lap.

He awakens to a shirt soaked in drool and an exhausted Hoseok. Bitna is sleep-chewing on his buttons. Hoseok removes her carefully from his unresisting arms. He can’t stay awake long enough to see where he takes her.

The next time he wakes up, he’s in his own bed, still fully clothed but for his shoes. Hoseok is perched on the end of his bed, illuminated only by the moonlight coming in the balcony door. He must have carried him to bed like he did Bitna. “Hyung. Sorry, I let myself in. I took your keys from your briefcase.”

Yoongi sits up laboriously, rubbing at his eyes. “What time is it?”

“Half past eleven.” Hoseok can’t seem to make eye contact. “I’m… I have to apologise. I shouldn’t have run off like that. I just couldn’t deal with it, but… that’s no excuse.”

“I’m not the one you need to apologise to.” It isn’t his place to criticise him, but… “Did you ask her why she was upset?”

“She wouldn’t tell me.” His face, or what little of it he can make out, is strained. “What did she say?”

Yoongi tells him about the teacher and his extended rose metaphor. Hoseok droops with each word until his head is in his hands and his shoulders are trembling. “Don’t cry, Hoseok-ah.”

“I’m not!” When he gets close enough to look, he sees that he’s telling the truth; his eyes are dry. “I’m just… I’m pissed off with myself.” Yoongi rubs his back as comfortingly as he can. “I can’t believe I ran off like that. Hyerin would be so disappointed in me.”

“It’s done. You came back. That’s the most important thing.” Hoseok grabs his hand and twines their fingers together. “Just… don’t do it again, alright? You gave us both a real scare. Where’d you go, anyway?”

“Went for a walk around the neighbourhood. Saw all the kids my age out getting drunk and having fun.” His voice is bitter. “I’m terrible, aren’t I? I have this amazing weirdo daughter who I love to pieces and here I am, jealous of all the people who can go out drinking without worrying if the babysitter is looking after her properly.”

“No. You’re human. Look at me, Hoseok-ah.” He looks up at him, staring at him with tired eyes. “You fucked up. That’s fine. It was one time, and you were stressed. You’re in a shitty situation, and you’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got.”

“I don't know about that…”

“The best,” he repeats stubbornly. “Look at Bitna, Hoseok-ah. Everyone she meets falls in love with her. She’s so bright and funny, even if she doesn't understand the whole indoor voice thing and enjoys shoving pieces of food into people’s ears.” Hoseok giggles. “You have to be doing something right. That kid loves you, Hoseok-ah. She was so scared you wouldn’t come back. You have to promise you won’t do it to her again.”

“I won’t. I don’t think I could ever…” Hoseok’s hand tenses in his. “I never thought I could love anyone more than I loved Hyerin, and then they put Bitna into my arms. She was so ugly, you know? They hadn’t even cleaned her up yet. She was all sticky and bloody and she smelled vile. She didn’t have any eyelashes and she was so jaundiced that she looked like one of the Simpsons and she was screaming like a demon.” His voice is thick with affection. “I… I fell in love immediately. It was like my heart got bigger, just to make room for this weird thing I helped make.”

Strange. That’s how he feels, too, like Bitna has grabbed his heart and stretched it beyond its limits. “You gotta think about that, even when she’s being a nightmare. Especially when she’s being a nightmare.”

“Tonight wasn’t even that bad. You should have seen her when she was teething.” He shudders. “True hell is a toddler with an ear infection and two molars coming up.”

They sit in silence as Hoseok calms down, Yoongi’s chin leaning on his shoulder. “You alright?”

“Yeah.” He rubs his thumb over Yoongi’s knuckles. “Thanks, hyung. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“Neither do I,” Yoongi says softly. Hoseok is so close, so warm, so tempting, but he reins himself in and puts more distance between them. “You should get back. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Tomorrow.” Hoseok gets up, but doesn’t release his hand. “Thank you. Seriously. I mean it.” Yoongi smiles up at him. He squeezes his hand one last time, and leaves.

Yoongi falls back on his bed and rubs at his face. His shirt is still sticky with drool and the knees of his trousers are all scuffed. “Get up, Min Yoongi…”

He wakes up like that the next morning, still in his shirt and tie and trousers, and swears.

Chapter Text

Yoongi hates to be overdramatic, but he has to admit that little in his life goes as planned. It’s like his signature opening move back when he boxed; the one-two combo, the first weak jab that lulled his opponents into a sense of security, followed by a wicked right cross that knocked the breath clean out of them.

Here is the jab –

“What are you doing for Christmas?” Hoseok asks.

Yoongi stops dead mid-washup. Suds trail down his elbows. Bitna attempts to lick them off; Hoseok grabs her before she can do it, lifting her up onto his hip, where she settles for blowing into his ear. “Dunno. Usually I go to a show or something with Namjoonie, but he’ll be busy with Seokjin. Why?”

“No reason,” Hoseok says airily.

Yoongi eyes him suspiciously and aims for the weak point balanced on his hip. “Bitna-yah, tell oppa what’s happening.”

“We’re having a dance party!”

“Sweetie, that was secret.” Hoseok huffs. “Whatever. The plan is, on Christmas Eve the studio is putting on some kind of Christmas exhibition. You’ll probably be bored, it’ll all be ballet and Christmas carols, but Taehyung and Jungkook and Jimin are conspiring to do Jingle Bell Rock and they’ve asked me to facilitate it.”

“Like in Mean Girls?”

“Like in Mean Girls.” Hoseok pauses, and says, with meaning, “Exactly like in Mean Girls. Come with me?”

“Deal.” Hoseok bursts out laughing, frightening Bitna, who starts violently poking him in the cheek. “What’s so funny, Mister ‘I can dance Touch My Body better than Hyorin can’? Someone’s going to have to stop you from going up there and joining in.”

“You know, when I first met you, I thought you were nice.” He plops Bitna down on the counter and grabs two towels, one big one for him and a little one for her. Bitna is permitted to dry the tougher objects, like her plastic plates and sippy cups, and Hoseok handles the fragile glasses and crockery. Once they're dry, he reaches up into the cupboard to put them away, and his shirt pulls up to bare his tanned, toned stomach, bisected by a trail of hair.

Eyes forward, Min Yoongi. He focuses intently on scrubbing the frying pan as Hoseok hums along to the song on the radio, Bitna’s tuneless, wordless, singing harmonising oddly with it. The dishes clink, the water swishes and Yoongi savours that deep-seated peace, the kind that only comes from being with family.

 

The dance performance turns out to be everything Hoseok had said it would be. As far as Yoongi knows, most dance studios don't have an auditorium, but this one has a small one attached, just big enough to fit each performer’s friends and family. Bitna, who has spent the past hour charming people with her bright red dress and sparkly reindeer antlers, naps in Yoongi’s lap as class after class take the stage. There’s the requisite Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy, followed by a mournful contemporary dance set to In the Bleak Midwinter. “Qian did that one,” Hoseok whispers. “Isn’t it depressing?” Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree is next, the dancers creating said tree from their own bodies, and, somehow, they put on a hip-hop number. Yoongi didn’t think he needed to hear someone rap Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and he was right. Number after number, Yoongi takes more pleasure in watching Hoseok react to the dances than the actual dances – the serious concentration on his face, the pained grimace when someone messes up a move, the proud smile and inevitable hoot he gives when someone pulls off something particularly impressive.

Hoseok vanishes before the last number, the one he choreographed. It’s a song Yoongi has never heard of, about Mary rocking her baby or something, but each move is executed flawlessly, knife-sharp and cheerful, the students dipping each other only to lift them back up again. The stage darkens, the curtain begins to fall as they applaud – and then it stops, and hauls hastily back up. There’s a loud bang and someone yelling – scratch that, it’s Hoseok yelling, Yoongi would recognise that up-and-down pitch anywhere – and the house lights flicker into life to illuminate three boys. They’re dressed in red crop-tops and matching PVC miniskirts, both trimmed with white fur, complete with Santa hats, silk opera gloves and black patent boots.

Hoseok slips back into his seat, red-faced and grinning. “I snuck them onstage. If Shiah asks I was in my seat.”

“Oh my God,” Yoongi murmurs. “I thought you were kidding.” One of the boys – Yoongi has a sneaking suspicion that this must be Jimin, because in the last drawing Bitna had done of Hoseok’s students, the one labelled Jiminie had magenta hair, and what little he can see under this boy’s hat is a vivid cherry-blossom pink – strides forward, lowering the glittery boombox on his shoulder onto the ground, bending at an exact ninety-degree angle to give the audience an unobscured view of his ample thighs. The skirt struggles valiantly to keep him decent. A chorus of wolf-whistles erupts in the auditorium; Jimin flushes and scurries back to his place between the other two sniggering boys, his red face hidden in his hands. They settle into position, arms propped on each other’s shoulders, butts thrust out. Yoongi feels like crying.

“The lanky one is Taehyung,” Hoseok whispers, nodding at the boy with the honey brown hair and dopey grin. “The muscle pig is Jungkook.” Jungkook’s pectorals are, indeed, straining against his flimsy shirt. He pokes Bitna. “Wake up, sweetie! You don’t want to miss this!”

Bitna yawns awake as Taehyung clicks the remote and the music starts. What follows is the most bewildering two minutes of Yoongi’s short life. He doesn’t remember the dance in the movie being this athletic; Jimin, at one point, does the splits, face contorting with pain as he hits the floor. Taehyung sings the entire song, his slurred baritone voice and heavily accented English contrasting hilariously with his vigorous shimmying. Jungkook refuses to make eye contact with anyone in the audience, instead choosing to focus very hard on his body rolls. The thigh smack makes the entire auditorium wince. Yoongi still feels like crying; Hoseok is crying, laughing hard enough that tears roll down his cheeks. Bitna is dancing along as best she can while trapped on Yoongi’s lap.

They finish with a flourish, arms raised high in the air; they grab each other’s belts and jingle off stage, bellowing cacophonously as applause rings in the auditorium. Hoseok leaps up, and starts calling for an encore, but Yoongi drags him down with a hiss.

“We’re getting out of here before your boss murders you.” He jerks his chin at Shiah, who is making for them like a pleasantly homicidal steam train.

“Shit.” Hoseok tugs him down the aisle towards an emergency exit. Yoongi just about manages to grab Bitna, propping her on his hip, stammering apologies at the people they steamroll past.

They burst into a noisy changing room, filled with people in bits of costumes and half-removed stage makeup. The three boys are the centre of attention, and when they spot Hoseok they barrel towards him, grabbing him to jump up and down and shout incoherently. Yoongi nods awkwardly at the people who stop to coo over Bitna, who is relishing all the attention.

“Get off, get off,” Hoseok manages, breathlessly. “Here, this is the friend I was telling you about. Yoongi hyung, these are my students; Jimin, Taehyung and Jungkook.”

“Nice performance,” Yoongi smirks, letting Hoseok take Bitna from him.

“Thanks!” Jimin chirps. “We worked really hard.”

“You and I worked really hard,” Jungkook grumbles, voice acrid. “Taehyung hyung barely practiced at all.”

“Hey, I was sick!” Taehyung clings to Jungkook. His cheeks are ruddy with blush and his forehead gleams with highlighter.

“With all due respect, hyung, you got out of hospital months ago.”

“Guys, stop,” Jimin interrupts. “Hoseok hyung told us to make a good impression, remember?”

“Well, you’ve certainly made an impression,” Yoongi says. “How long has Hoseok been teaching you?”

“Uh…” They exchange looks. “A year and a half?”

“I kinda took them under my wing when I started here.” Hoseok tweaks Jungkook’s rather large nose. “Us country boys have gotta stick together, right?”

“Me and Jungkook are from Busan,” Jimin says brightly. “Taehyung’s from Daegu.”

“You’re from Daegu?” Yoongi asks with surprise, slipping fully into dialect. “So am I!”

“Man!” Taehyung hits him in the side. “We’re best friends now, is that okay?”

“Fine by me,” Yoongi agrees. “What exact neighbourhood are you from?”

They spend the next ten minutes talking about home, about the places where their disparate lives might have intersected; Yoongi’s favourite Korean beef place in Deurangil, the stand in Seomun Market where Taehyung buys knockoff jerseys, Paldong Mountain where every kid in Daegu went on weekend camping trips.

“This is like a Gyeongsang party,” Jungkook says with a snigger. “Look at hyung, he’s no idea what's going on.”

“I have understood maybe thirty percent of this conversation,” Hoseok admits.

“You sure you wanna stick with him, Yoongi hyung?” Jimin says, teasingly. “My mom says Jeolla and Gyeongsang couples never work out.”

“I’ll try my luck,” Yoongi ruffles Hoseok’s hair. “He can’t help being from Gwangju, poor thing.”

“Hyung, that’s literally the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me,” Hoseok says drily. “I hate to break up this regional reunion, but it’s way past Bitna’s bedtime. We should be getting back.”

“Don’t be a stranger, Yoongi hyung!” Taehyung wrestles his phone off him; when he gets it back he finds three new contacts (‘Jiminie pabo’, ‘Kookie’ and ‘Taehyung ^ㅁ^’). They leave, Taehyung waving at them energetically as Jimin blows goodbye kisses to Bitna.

“Is Shiah gone?” Yoongi asks, once they’re outside the dressing room. The crowd has, mercifully, thinned out. The taxi he called is due to arrive soon.

“It’s fine, she can never stay mad at me for long. She’s a big softie, really.”

Outside the studio the air is frigid, dusting Hoseok’s nose with pink and making Bitna snuggle into her father’s scarf. They settle on a bench to admire the flashy lights strung across the road. Trust Gangnam to go all out on the Christmas decorations.

“What did you think of the guys?” Hoseok asks. “They’re crazy but, y’know, they’re good at heart.”

“They’re cool,” Yoongi tells him. “Loud, but by now I’m used to high volume people. I mean, how long have we known each other?”

“Eight months,” Hoseok says, softly. “It’s so strange. I feel like I’ve known you my entire life.”

“Same here.” He hesitates. “Uh, Hoseok-ah?”

“Hyung?” He’s smiling at him, the lights bringing out the brown in his hair and his eyes and the cold reddening his face and he’s beautiful. Yoongi can’t believe that he likes him, that Hoseok has chosen him; that even with all the suffering he’s been through, he still has enough love in his heart for Yoongi.

“What time is it?”

“Midnight, by now.” Hoseok blinks at him in confusion. “Why, what’s wrong?”

Yoongi leans forward to kiss him, a chaste peck on the cheek; Hoseok stares at him in shock. “Merry Christmas.” He pulls the red envelope out from its hiding place in his coat and passes it to Hoseok. It’s still warm from his body heat.

“You shouldn’t have,” Hoseok says, eventually. He opens the envelope, careful not to tear the edges, and when he sees its contents, his face whitens, mouth going slack.

 

Yoongi had forgotten about it. He thought it wasn’t coming, but here it is. The cross. The ‘you fucked up, Min Yoongi, what did you do?’

 

“You shouldn’t have,” Hoseok repeats, voice strange. “It’s too much.”

“It’s Christmas,” Yoongi stammers, face going red with embarrassment. “New Year’s soon, too, and Bitna’s birthday, and yours the month after. It’s… just, a thank you. For making the past year better than I could have ever dreamed.”

Hoseok says nothing, just stares at the money in the envelope. Worry roars in Yoongi’s head, rushing blood like war drums in his ears, and by the time Yoongi is fit to stand up and leave, Hoseok opens his mouth and says; “I don’t want it.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“I meant I don’t need your charity.”

“It’s not charity,” Yoongi says dumbly. “It’s –”

“I heard you the first time,” Hoseok snaps, and Yoongi balks. Hoseok doesn’t seem to care. “I’m not taking it.” He tosses the envelope at him.

Yoongi stares at it, and back up at Hoseok. There’s something on his face that makes his stomach turn, a condemning mixture of shame and anger. “Hoseok-ah, don’t be an idiot.”

“I’ll do what I fucking please, Min Yoongi,” Hoseok hisses. “You think – you think I don’t have any pride as a father? I know I’m poor compared to you and your designer clothes and jazz bars and your six fucking types of cleanser, but I’m – I don’t need your help. I’m doing fine. I don’t need hand-outs.”

“That’s not how I meant it. It’s a present, just take it!” Against his better judgement, Yoongi feels himself getting angry, that sickening flare in his stomach that sears his lungs, worse than any cigarette. “I wanted to, alright? Don’t be such a piece of shit about it!”

Guilt boils up in his throat when his raised voice wakes Bitna. She senses the tense atmosphere, and, to his dismay, starts to cry. Hoseok doesn’t even notice. “I will be a piece of shit, alright? You don’t tell me what to do, Min-sshi. This isn’t a present.” He stands up roughly, Bitna wailing in pain as her arms jerk. “This is pity, and I don’t want anyone’s pity, least of all yours.”

“Hoseok-ah.” Yoongi reaches desperately for Bitna. “Bitna, you’re –”

“Bitna is my daughter.” The vitriol in his voice makes Yoongi freeze. Bitna sniffs miserably. “Not yours, not anyone else’s. Mine. Don’t stick your nose in where it isn’t wanted.”

The taxi pulls up. Hoseok wrenches the door open. “Get in.”

“Hoseok-ah, don’t –”

“Get in,” he repeats coldly. Bitna is sobbing now, little hiccupping tears like tiny sucker punches. “Get in before I do something I’ll regret.” The implications of what he’s saying – of the desperation in his eyes – make Yoongi feel sick. There are already people looking at them suspiciously. If some kind, misguided Samaritan calls the police Hoseok might get a warning, or, even worse, get arrested, and there’s no way they’d let him keep Bitna after that.

He can't be responsible for that. He gets in. Hoseok slams the door hard enough that the car rocks with the force of it and tells the driver where to go. Yoongi reels, punch-drunk, as Bitna reaches for him, snot dripping out of her nose. He winds down the window and tries to reach out and grab her flailing hand, to let her know that it's okay, but Hoseok backs out of range and turns his back to him. Yoongi watches her tiny white face, barely visible over her father’s shoulder, until the taxi rounds a corner and they both disappear. He slumps in his seat, the adrenaline vanishing, leaving only the charred remains of dread.

“You okay, son?” The driver leans back to talk to him directly, visibly concerned.

Yoongi shakes his head, ears still ringing with fear. “No,” he croaks. “Thank you for asking.”

The cross, he thinks, as he stumbles into his apartment, too shocked to do anything but collapse into bed. The red envelope, discarded on the bed stand, mocks him. He should have seen it coming. He should have stayed on the defensive, kept Hoseok and Bitna away.

He didn't. He let his guard down, and he lost the match.

He lost them.

Chapter Text

The week passes without word from Hoseok. Yoongi hadn't expected him to forgive him easily – he can’t believe he was stupid enough to think prideful Hoseok would accept such a present, even if it was Christmas – but he also hadn't expected him to vanish off the face of the Earth.

Yoongi spends that Christmas Day outside Hoseok’s apartment, banging on the door, calling for him until his voice is hoarse. He stops when the ajumma at the head of the building association reprimands him, and he only goes back into his own apartment when she comes back to give out to him for loitering outside Hoseok’s door. All the while, Hoseok’s apartment is as silent as a crypt.

Yoong, with horror, begins to wonder if he's run away. He never sees him out on his balcony, he doesn't meet him in the gym and none of the ajummas gossiping in the laundry room have seen him either. He even calls into the studio and asks Shiah if she’s seen him, who tells him that he took all the holidays he was owed. Jimin, Taehyung and Jungkook ask him to wish Hoseok a happy New Year for them; he hasn't the heart to tell them that Hoseok doesn't want any of his good wishes.

He must have gone back to Gwangju. Yoongi knows he wasn't planning this – that the next time he was going to go home was Lunar New Year, which isn’t for a month, and that he'd saved up that many holidays just in case Bitna got sick and he needed to take care of her. He must have packed overnight and left. Yoongi drove him away from the city, out of his home.

It hurts. It shouldn't hurt, and he doesn't want it to hurt, but it hurts, and –

“Kid? You okay?”

Yoongi startles at the cup of coffee placed before him, and stiffens under the reassuring hand placed on his shoulder. “Heechul sunbae. Thank you.” He grabs the coffee. It's too hot to drink, but he swallows it down anyway. It tastes like ash.

“Yoongi-yah, you're supposed to wait!” Heechul jerks it out of his hands and seats himself on his desk. “Don't think I didn't see you avoiding my question. Something’s up. You can tell hyung.”

Can he, really? Can he tell hyung that he tried to be kind for once and got his heart broken for his troubles? Chul’s a good sunbae – he’s the one who calls him a driver when he's too sloshed to get home unaided, he gives his help freely when he's stumped by a project, and more than once he's defended him from Siwon, the asshole office homophobe – but Yoongi already knows what he's going to say. That it was okay, that he didn't do anything wrong, that Hoseok overreacted and that, in any case, Hoseok doesn't deserve him. Maybe he's right.

But he’s beginning to think that maybe he's wrong. That Hoseok’s reaction was warranted; that he was so busy playing house like a child, so wrapped up in his notions of white knighthood that he didn’t see his gesture for what it was.

Pity. Patronising, unnecessary pity.

“Just some relationship trouble,” Yoongi mumbles. “Nothing serious. It won't affect my work.”

Heechul examines him critically. Yoongi doesn't even try to pretend like he's okay. He just doesn't have the energy. He erases a corner in his sketch and fillets it. “If you say so,” Heechul says doubtfully. “You don't look all that great. Do you want me to talk to Sungmin sunbae about getting you a few sick days?”

“No!” Heechul jerks back. Yoongi didn’t mean to snap at him, but Heechul’s a big boy; he’ll get over it. “No, don't waste your time. I'm fine.”

Heechul doesn't need to know that the only thing that gets him out of bed in the morning nowadays is knowing that he has to clock in. If he didn't have work, today would have gone like this:

He’d chain-smoke out on his balcony, dial Hoseok’s number fruitlessly and listen to his voicemail (“It’s Jung Hoseok! I'm sorry, but I can't come to the phone right now, so please leave a message after the…”) just to hear his voice. He would only go back inside when his fingers were too cold to hold the damn cigarette. Then he'd slump at the kitchen table in a fugue state, drinking more soju than he can handle and staring at the drawing Bitna had given him that Sunday morning in April, still pinned to the fridge, until it was too dark to see anything.

“Okay, okay,” Heechul tells him, mercifully backing off. “Just… let me know if there's anything I can do.” He puts the coffee back down and pushes it within Yoongi’s reach.

“Sure, sunbae,” Yoongi agrees, voice monotone. “Thanks again.”

Heechul, after throwing him one more worried look, returns to his cubicle. Yoongi stares blankly at the drawing on his screen; it's supposed to be a school gym, but it's nothing but lines to him, blue construction lines and dashed hidden lines and solid white main lines, all flat and meaningless.

Why does he feel this awful? They weren't even official. A few chaste kisses and a hug or two do not a couple make, but Yoongi feels desiccated, a dried-out, bitter husk. He misses Hoseok acutely, and Bitna even more, and more than once he finds himself halfway down the stairs, keys in hand, half-contemplating making the three-hour drive to Gwangju. The only thing that stops him is that he doesn’t know Hoseok’s home address. Besides, would Hoseok even want to see him? That fucking envelope – all his good intentions – had wrought a gulf between them that nothing could span.

Eyes forward, Min Yoongi. Work is work. This is no time for self-pity. Get over yourself. Get on with it.

 

Yoongi goes on with his life. He gets up, goes to the gym alone, goes to work alone, comes home alone and goes to bed at seven, out of a lack of desire to do anything else. Blank screens, blank faces; life without Hoseok and Bitna is monochrome, and he tells himself he doesn’t need colour. Seokjin and Namjoon are worried about him, and stage several unsuccessful interventions. He appreciates the sentiment, but a boozy night out or a heart-to-heart with his best friends isn’t going to help. They’re too in love. Seeing them together forms what-ifs and might-have-beens in his mind, and he needs that like he needs a hole in his head.

Luckily for him, they give up after a few weeks, and leave him in peace to work and gradually self-destruct. He pulls as much overtime as he can manage, and even talks Zhoumi into letting him help out with SUJU Architectural Design’s newest project; a purpose-built auditorium at the Lotte World Aquarium in Songpa. Leeteuk was so gleeful about snatching the contract from the mouths of their rival firm, SNSD Acoustics, that he, in addititon to giving them all a sizeable bonus (the bonus that was still in a red envelope in his bedroom), placed a boastful ad in the paper just to rub Taeyeon’s pretty nose in it.

The first thing they do, of course, is go on a field trip to said aquarium. A suit guides them through the exhibits; children stare at them enviously as they pass though doors labelled ‘STAFF ONLY’ and ‘PRIVATE’ and ‘NO ENTRY PERMITTED’.

“Cheer up, kid.” Heechul elbows him in the ribs as they enter the site where the auditorium is to be constructed. “C’mon, we got a free trip to the aquarium! Did you see the size of those manta rays?”

Yoongi nods, like he even saw the manta rays. All he can think about is how much happier he would be if he were here with Bitna and Hoseok. He would carry Bitna around on his shoulders and pretend to dump her into the shark tank, and Hoseok would crouch down by the angelfish and do his fish impression just to embarrass him…

“We’re planning on doing educational talks here.” The exec gestures to the blueprints laid neatly on the table in front of him, titled BLACK OCEAN AUDITORIUM. “We’re hoping to target the school tour market, both for elementary and middle schoolers and college students studying marine biology. We’re hoping for a power efficiency of...”

Yoongi contributes just enough to the following discussion that Heechul won’t worry. In his head he’s drifting, unanchored, away from his colleagues into a hazy unreality. He hasn’t slept properly in days; his eyes are all fuzzy and itchy and his brain is liquid, threatening to leak out of his ears. His diet of soju, cigarettes, ramyeon and coffee has left his insides feeling raw and rotten. A break-up, if this is even counted as a break-up, has never hit him as hard. It wasn’t anywhere near this bad when he broke up with Byulyi, his college girlfriend of two years, and he spent three straight days in bed after that one.

Maybe it’s because he’s never been dumped? He's usually the one who cuts ties, blocks people, abandons them. Now that he knows what it feels like, he never wants to go through it again. Ever.

Mercifully, they wrap up the consultation so they can leave. Their guide lets them exit through the shop; Zhoumi stops them so he can buy a present for his nephew. Yoongi ends up in front of a display of stuffed marine animals, largely populated by seals.

He thinks about Bitna, her toys spread out around her, pushing one into his grasp. “A blue-ga, huh?” He kneels and begins to root around in search of one; he emerges triumphant, one white, misshapen stuffed toy in hand. He stares into its beady eyes, made beadier by its bulbous head. “Of course she likes the ugly one.”

“Who?” Zhoumi pops up beside him. “You get a girlfriend I didn’t know about?”

“No, sunbae. Far from it.”

The beluga’s gaze bores into him from its bag all the way back to the office. There’s a sympathetic look on Heechul’s face. Yoongi steadfastly ignores them both.

 

The bag from the aquarium is placed on his desk and summarily forgotten about. Yoongi keeps going, but he doesn’t get any better. The thoughts never come back – he is, luckily, years past that point – but the inexorable slide into blankness is frankly terrifying. He never felt this empty before. Hoseok and Bitna have carved out a place in his heart, and, now unoccupied, it grows and grows and grows until all he feels is hollow. No sadness, no anger, no fear; just… nothing.

He doesn’t even feel anything when he wakes up one Saturday morning to find a notification on his phone informing him that today is Bitna’s birthday. She turns five today; she was so excited. Hoseok was planning an excursion to Seoul Grand Park, and a small dinner with friends after. Yoongi is, he presumes, no longer invited.

He dismisses the notification and, after several long minutes of staring at the ceiling, gets up, and thinks no more about it… that is, until Taehyung calls him. Nine times. Yoongi ignores the first eight, but after five calls apiece from Jungkook and Jimin, he reckons he should answer and give them what they want. Maybe then they’ll fuck off and leave him to wallow alone.

“Yoongi hyung?” Taehyung sounds worried.

“I’m here.” Yoongi coughs, and tries to clear his throat. His voice is wrecked from all the smoking he’s been doing in the past month. “What’s up?”

“Ask him if he’s home,” someone hisses. Given the high, nasal tone, it can only be Jimin.

“We know he’s at home, we heard his phone ringing.” That bluntness… it’s definitely Jungkook.

“I was getting to that! Hyung –”

Yoongi hangs up. He hears three gasps of surprise outside his front door and a burst of rapid-fire bickering. He wonders if they’ll take the hint and go away, but no; ten minutes later they’re still there, whispering until they finally come to a consensus.

“Let us in, hyung!” The sentence is punctuated by forceful banging. “We know you’re inside!”

“We need to talk to you! It’s urgent!”

“We’re gonna come in anyway. If you don’t let us in the front door, I’ll climb onto your balcony from Hoseok hyung’s!”

“Taehyung-ah, I think that might be illegal...”

“Hyung, shut up. He’ll actually do it!” Jungkook bangs on his door again. “He'll fall and die! Do you want his blood on your hands?”

“Fuck you, I won't fall – hyung!” Yoongi whips the door open and immediately regrets it. The three boys gape at him in horror.

“Get out.”

They exchange looks and, as one, swarm over his threshold. Yoongi tries to fight back, but he just doesn’t have the motivation or the energy. They drag him into his sitting room and immediately recoil.

The place is a fucking mess. He’s been too lazy to sleep in his bed lately, so his couch is a nest of smelly blankets and bare pillows. The floor is covered in cigarette butts and empty plastic bottles and takeaway wrappers. The coffee table is piled with old ramyeon containers, many of which are only half-eaten and beginning to stink. Yoongi himself isn’t doing much better; his skin has taken on a grey cast, his hands are pinched and red from nicotine, and his scant facial hair is coming in all patchy.

“Make yourselves at home.” Yoongi sits down on the couch, uncaring. The boys pick their way around all the rubbish to settle wherever they can find space.

“What happened after the showcase?” Taehyung asks, when Yoongi fails to break the silence for him. “Hoseok hyung wouldn’t give us the details.”

“What did he tell you?”

“That you…” Jungkook hesitates, tongue moving restlessly inside his mouth. “He told us to fuck off, basically. That you two weren’t involved any more, and not to say anything to Bitna.”

“I thought Hoseok hyung was doing bad.” Jimin takes the room in sadly.

“Doing bad?” This is news to Yoongi.

“He smiles too much.” Taehyung’s mouth is set in a grim line; it doesn’t suit him, morphs his handsome face into an icy mask. “It’s fake and he’s too cheery but when he thinks you’re not looking he just looks empty. He keeps blowing up at us when we get things wrong. He made Jimin cry. It’s not nice, it’s not him. He wasn’t even like this when he started at the studio right after…”

Jimin places a supportive hand on Taehyung’s thigh. “Bitna is so quiet lately, too. She won’t eat and she keeps asking about you, if you’re hurt. He just says you’re gone.”

“I think…” Jungkook shakes his head. “I can’t say it.”

“She thinks you’re gone where her mom is.”

Like the roses. Yoongi lifts his head slowly, hoping beyond hope that Jimin is kidding, but all he sees in his eyes is truth.

“You’ve gotta talk to her,” Jungkook says, softly. “Let her know you're okay.”

“I… I can’t.” Yoongi presses a hand to his forehead. “Hoseok doesn’t want me to, and she’s his daughter. I won’t go against his wishes.”

“Hyung, please,” Taehyung pleads. “Even just to let her know you’re alive, that it’s not her fault.” Yoongi shakes his head mutely. The blankness is threatening to crack, and it’s all he can do to hold it together.

“All due respect, hyung, but what the fuck.” Jimin stands up. Taehyung reaches for him, but he smacks his hand away. “You’re both being fucking idiots. Put yourself in her shoes, why don’t you? Think about it.”

“I can’t,” Yoongi repeats plaintively, voice cracking. “I can’t, I can’t…”

That’s the last straw; Jimin strides over him and grabs his shoulders. Jungkook and Taehyung spring up and unsuccessfully try to pull him off as Jimin starts shaking him, hard, hard enough that Yoongi bites his tongue and tastes blood. “You selfish piece of shit! She’s already lost one parent!” There are furious tears in Jimin’s eyes. “Are you going to make her lose another?” Yoongi stares vacantly at Jimin as he yells, spittle flying from his mouth, face screwed up in pain.

Put yourself in her shoes, Jimin had said. So Yoongi does.

When Hyerin died, Bitna lost her mother and one set of grandparents in one fell swoop. Hoseok moved them from the only home she’d known and began to change, the worry of paying bills and fighting a custody battle and raising her alone wearing him thin. Yoongi came into her life and soon became a constant, there every morning for eight months; a new parent figure, someone who would listen patiently to all her news and let her put butterfly clips in his hair and hug her when she needed to be hugged. Someone who read her stories and sang along to her favourite cartoon’s theme tune and praised her drawings. Someone who made her father happy. Someone who loved her.

Gone.

“I’m a fucking idiot,” Yoongi says. “Is she at home?”

The boys won’t let him go immediately, on the grounds that he would probably frighten her looking like he does now. Jungkook pushes him into the bathroom to clean up and Taehyung picks clothes out of his wardrobe. When he emerges, dressed, scrubbed and shaved, aquarium bag in hand, Jimin has thrown out most of the rubbish and all his remaining soju and cigarettes.

“Thank you.” Yoongi nods at the door. “Let’s go.”

The wait in front of Hoseok’s apartment is the longest of Yoongi’s life. He wants it to open – he wants to see Hoseok, he needs to see Bitna – and he doesn’t want it to open, because he doesn’t think he can take the sneer of disgust that will inevitably be on Hoseok’s face.

It opens; Yoongi holds his breath, and releases it when Jiwoo’s head pops out. “You’re late!”

“Can we come in?” Jimin smiles at her prettily. She melts and opens the door. Yoongi shuffles in last; her mouth drops into an O when she notices him, but at least she doesn’t slam the door in his face, and he’ll take whatever he can get.

Hoseok greets the the boys with a grin when they enter; it slides off his face immediately when he sights Yoongi. For a second, he looks shocked, and Yoongi imagines, for said second, that he might be forgiven.

It doesn’t last. “What the fuck,” he seethes, drawing himself up to his full height, “do you think you’re doing here?”

“My neighbour invited me to her birthday.” Yoongi holds out the bag. The baleful look in Hoseok’s eyes turns his stomach. “I’m just going to give her this and then I’ll leave. That’s all.”

“Are you stupid? We’ve been over this. I’ve made it clear that I don’t want any of your presents, Min-sshi.” Yoongi doesn’t know if he can do this. Hearing the acrimony in Hoseok’s voice – seeing the hatred on his face – makes him want to turn tail and run far, far away like the coward he is.

In fact, he’s about to do just that when a tiny voice stops him in his tracks. “Yoongi oppa?”

“Bitna-yah,” he breathes, and before he knows it Bitna’s in his arms, clutched tight to his chest. Hoseok makes to grab her away from him but the boys restrain him with a chorus of protests. Jiwoo watches, white-faced, from the door to the kitchen. “Happy birthday.” She smells like Bitna; hair detangler and tear-free shampoo. It’s still relaxing. She feels a little bigger. Is this how fast children grow?

“I thought you were gone,” she sobs. “I thought you got hurt and you were – you were – gone to Mama.”

“No, baby, no, don’t cry.” Yoongi wipes the tears and snot off her face with his t-shirt. Hoseok has gone limp in the boys’ grip, watching the reunion avidly. “I just had to go away for a while, okay? Nothing to do with you. I was right here. I’ll always be right here.”

“Two doors down?” She gazes up at him.

“Two doors down,” he promises.

“Won’t you be lonely?”

“I won’t be lonely as long as I know you’re okay, alright?” She nods. “Okay. I can’t stay for long –”

“No!” Bitna squeals in dismay. “Don’t go! I have so much to tell you! I went to Gwangju and Nana and Grandan took me to visit Mama because my other Nana and Grandan won’t let Papa go, and Mickey and I made friends with a fluffy black poodle and it reminded me of you and Auntie Jiwoo got me a book and it’s so pretty and I want you to see it and and and,” she takes in a hiccupping breath, “and Papa is so sad, can’t you make him happy again? Please?”

Hoseok lets slip a tiny, pained moan. Though it takes everything he has not to go to him and soothe it all away, Yoongi stays right where he is, Bitna’s hands wound in his. “I’m sorry. I have to go. I don’t want to go but I gotta. I’ll be back soon as I can, promise. Here, I brought you something for your birthday.” He shows her the bag. She reaches into it and pulls out the toy.

“A blue-ga,” she says, with awe. “Oppa, you renembered.”

“Beluga,” he corrects, “and remembered. How could I forget?”

Bitna begins to wail in earnest. Yoongi pulls her in for another hug, patting the back of her head, murmuring to her quietly. “Don’t go,” she hiccups piteously. “Don’t go.”

“I have to. I’m so sorry. Promise me you’ll be good for Papa?” She nods, sniffing heavily. “That’s my girl. I know you’ll miss me, and I’ll miss you too, but will you do one more thing for me?”

“Anything!”

“When you miss me, look at this beluga, okay?” He shows her the toy. “See, it’s real pale and beady-eyed and big-headed, just like me.” She giggles despite herself, snot bubbling out of her nose. “Give it a big hug and I’ll feel it. Tell me all your stories and I’ll hear them. I know it’s not as good as the real thing, but it’ll be fine. I love you, Bitna-yah.”

“I love you too, Yoongi oppa.” She hugs him again. He tries to preserve that moment in his mind; how small she is in his arms, how sweet she smells, how soft she is. It might be his last contact with her, this tiny human who brought light and colour to his boring sepia life.

It’s so hard to let go. It is, in fact, the hardest thing he has ever done; harder than giving up on music, harder than letting Hoseok put him in that car, but somehow, he does it. Jiwoo scoops Bitna up immediately and snuggles her tightly to her chest.

Hoseok, when he turns to him, looks shell-shocked and hateful and perfect. Yoongi thinks he might be in love with him. The boys hold him loosely. Jungkook is crying silently; the other two are just plain bawling, even harder than Bitna had.

“Hyung.” Hoseok’s voice is rich with some emotion that Yoongi will not – cannot – understand.

He can’t think of anything to say, so he simply bows, deep and low. He maintains it for as long as his back will let him. “I’m sorry,” he says, once he’s vertical again. “For everything.”

Hoseok examines him for a long while, searching his face for something that he doesn’t find. “You should go,” he says, in that soft, gentle way he has that makes his heart ache with affection and want.

When has Yoongi ever denied Hoseok anything? He goes. He steps out the front door, and doesn’t look back as the door swings shut behind him.

Back in his apartment – his cold, empty apartment – the dam breaks. For the first time since his father’s heart attack all those years ago, he cries. He sobs, he bawls, he wails and keens and snivels and weeps until all the tears are gone, until he heaves dry, painful sobs, then he drinks some water and cries some more. He’s astounded, really, by just how much he cries, but the wells of his sorrow run deep and he is determined to drain them, right here, right now. He has to be okay. He has to recover; he has to move on. If Bitna can do it, he can do it – and he owes her that much.

He owes her that.

Chapter Text

“So you're feeling better now?”

Yoongi nods as he sips the tea Seokjin pours for him. Namjoon slides a coaster over to him. “Mind the table.”

Yoongi rolls his eyes, but he places his cup down on the coaster anyway. Seokjin moved in with Namjoon last month, and already the apartment is beginning to resemble a home, rather than just a place where Namjoon showers and sleeps.

“Yes. I’m mostly fine now. I'm sorry for putting you two through all that crap. I didn’t think I'd fall apart like that.” Yoongi traces the rim of his cup. His reflection wobbles in the surface, pale and dark-eyed but no longer hollow.

“It's fine, hyung.” Namjoon pats his back. “I mean, I know you weren't dating him, but you still lost two people in one go. That kinda shit hits you hard, doesn't it?”

“It does,” Seokjin agrees. “Have you heard anything from him since?”

Yoongi shakes his head. Seokjin lets out a disappointed ‘ah’. “I don't mind. I feel better, now that I at least got to say goodbye to Bitna. It’s up to him from here on out. Whatever he decides… I’ll accept it.”

“Would you take him back?” Namjoon sneers at the thought. “If he came crawling back I'd dropkick him out the door. Hyung, some of the shit he said to you…”

“I don't think that's quite fair.” Seokjin frowns as he pours a cup for himself. “You've got to consider where’s coming from. He's young and alone and a child is a big responsibility. You said he's not doing all that well, financially, and you said he's having trouble with custody too, right?” Yoongi nods. “That's a lot of stress. He was bound to break eventually. Remember that time he ran off on you? Happy people don't just up and leave their kids like that.” Yoongi remembers the soft little thud of duckling pyjamas on the floor, the high pitch of Bitna’s fear, the beaten look on Hoseok’s face as he sat on the end of his bed and wondered what was wrong with him. “You just provided a catalyst, even though you didn’t mean to.” Seokjin takes a sip, eyes fastened unerringly on his. “All that anger… Though he may have directed it at you, I don't think he was actually angry at you, necessarily.”

“Then who was he angry at?” Namjoon questions.

“I don't know. Any number of people. His wife, for dying and leaving him alone? His daughter, for being a burden? Himself, for thinking that way?” Yoongi and Namjoon gape at him. Seokjin shrugs. “I know it sounds ugly, but if I were him… that's how I'd feel.”

“I never even thought about it like that,” Yoongi admits. “I just assumed that some part of him hated me all along…”

“How could he hate you?” Seokjin smiles at him sweetly. Yoongi, to his dismay, flushes an ugly red and rubs awkwardly at his neck. It's just – Seokjin is pretty, alright? That smile, especially when coupled with a compliment, is a lethal weapon.

“Aw, hyung,” Namjoon teases. “Look at him! He's all pink! Can I hug you, hyung?”

“I'll kill you,” Yoongi spits. Namjoon doesn't get the message and tackles him in a bear hug. He attempts bravely to fend him off; they go down like a sack of bricks, tussling as Yoongi endeavours to bite his way out of Namjoon’s grip. Seokjin squawks as the teapot threatens to hop off the table. After rescuing it, he retreats into the kitchen to grab a jug of water, the contents of which are used to force Yoongi and Namjoon apart.

“I'm glad you're feeling better,” Seokjin says, voice saccharine, “but try not to kill my boyfriend. I value parts of him.”

Yoongi chokes on his tongue. Namjoon thumps his back weakly as he starts giggling. Once recovered, he hides his face in the towel Seokjin tosses him, and wonders, disconnectedly, why on Earth they tolerate him, or, indeed, why he tolerates them.

 

Though the trip back to Daegu is long and boring, the sight of his childhood home is worth it. On this particular Friday night, with five days left in the Year of the Dog, it’s a sight for sore eyes. Yoongi may be a grown man of twenty-seven (well, in five days he’ll be twenty-seven), but that doesn't mean he doesn't need his mom.

She enters his room uninvited that evening as he's trying to unpack, staring curiously at two identical t-shirts. “Why did I pack both of them?”

“Because they're black.” She takes one shirt from his unyielding hands. “Honey, you look lovely in colours. Why don't you wear that nice baby blue shirt I bought you?”

“Tomorrow,” he promises. “You don't need to help me.”

“I want to.” She folds the shirt expertly and places it in his wardrobe. “You've been quiet ever since you came home. It's not like you.”

The last time he was home was Chuseok. He'd mentioned his next-door neighbour and his daughter, but he didn't imply anything beyond simple friendship. His mom is sharp, though; when he came out to her she thanked him for telling her, told him she loved him, said she’d known for about four years, asked him to take care and would he mind washing the rice for dinner, please? She might have caught on.

“I… Do you remember the Jungs? My neighbours?”

“Yes. The young father, right? You showed me that photo of the little girl in the hanbok.” His mom lets out an aigoo. “Oh, how cute! It's been such a long time since I got to dress you up like that.”

“What are you talking about? You still do.” He shakes out the violently pink jumper she got him for his last birthday. “Anyway, I…” He hesitates. He doesn't know if he can tell her.

“Go on, Yoongi-yah.” His mother clucks as she straightens a crumpled pair of trousers. “Tell me. You know I'll always listen.”

What else can be he do but tell her everything? The date, Hyerin, the breakfasts, Bitna, the dance showcase, the red envelope, the beluga; he tells their sorry story and, in the retelling, lives it again, every tear and smile and yell and fleeting touch. So little, in the sum of it all, and yet so much to him.

By the time he's done his mother has settled down beside him on his bed, hands wrapped around his. She says nothing, just smoothes her thumbs over the back of his hands. “I don't know, mom,” he finishes, a little brokenly. “I think I can move on, but I don't know if I want to get over him. It would be fine if it were just him, but…”

“The little girl.” He nods, sniffing. “Oh, Yoongi-yah. I think…” She sighs heavily. “I think your friend is right.”

“Seokjin?”

“Mmhmm. I know you tend to take things to heart, but grief… it does funny things to the mind.” She smiles at him sadly. “Do you remember when my parents passed away?”

“Yeah.” He looks at the picture of him with his grandparents on his desk. His grandfather passed away when he was in high school, from lung cancer; his grandmother only died three years ago.

“I hated them too,” she tells him. “Even though my father had been ill for years, even though my mother was a good age when she passed. I still resented them for leaving me, and they were with me for more than forty, fifty years. I can't imagine how terrible your friend Hoseok must feel, knowing that his daughter is going to grow up and become more beautiful and his wife won't be around for any of it. It must feel so unfair.” She squeezes his hands. “Your friend Seokjin is right. I don't think it was your fault, really. All you did was trigger something that was a long time coming. In any case, if it was your fault, don't you think you've made up for it?”

“I hope so. I know he was awful to me and I should let him go, but…” He leans into her. “I really like him, mom. He's so kind, even with all he's gone through. He’s such a hard worker, and he always knows just what to say, and I miss them both so much that it frightens me.”

“It'll work out,” she tells him, rubbing his back soothingly. “I know, right now, that it all seems hopeless, but you just have to give it time. Promise you’ll introduce him to me, and sooner rather than later, alright? I have Mom Veto and I’m not afraid to exercise it.” He nods into her shoulder. “Do you mind helping me make some jeon? I'm afraid all of your cousins have decided to visit us this year, so I keep worrying I haven't made enough.”

“I've literally never known you to cook too little food.”

“Don't be disrespectful.” She rises with an exhalation of pain; he supports her on the way up, hands flat against her back. “Now, are you going to help me or not?”

 

“Hyung! Get the door!”

“You get it! I'm busy!”

Yoongi throws his book at his brother’s bedroom door. It thuds against it uselessly. His father cuffs him on the back of his head, making him wince. “Don't be a brat, Songwol-ah. Go answer the door.”

“I'm not getting it next time,” Yoongi grumbles, rubbing his sore head as he shuffles into the hallway and wrenches the door open. “I’ve been answering it all day! What am I, a door…” Abruptly, he falls silent.

“Yoongi-yah? Yoongi-yah, what's wrong?” His mother slides into the hallway, swiftly followed by his father and brother.

“Hello,” Hoseok says, awkwardly, and bows. “Nice to meet you. I'm Jung Ho– Bitna!”

It's too late. Bitna, with a high-pitched shriek of delight, rockets in the door to cling to Yoongi’s legs; she knocks him flat on his ass, making his mother leap back with a yelp. “Oppa! You’re here!”

“Jung Bitna!” Hoseok hisses. “Sweetie, come here, you're being rude.”

“No.” She clings tighter to Yoongi, migrating up to his neck. Her sharp, bony elbow is digging painfully into his windpipe. “I'm staying right here with Yoongi oppa and you can go home. Bye, Papa.” She frees one hand to wiggle her fingers at him.

“Bitna-yah,” Yoongi wheezes, trying to shift her somewhere less damaging. “Please let go.”

Bitna, predictably, does not let go. Hoseok dithers in the doorway, caught between needing to yank her off him and not wanting to come in uninvited. His mother is giggling helplessly, and his father and brother just stare. Yoongi begins to wonder if he's going to die right here, suffocated by a toddler in the front hallway of his own home.

His mother stops laughing long enough to invite Hoseok to stay for dinner. Bitna relaxes her grip on him when she glimpses Holly, torn between hugging Yoongi and hugging the puppy. The puppy wins. Yoongi lies, gasping, on the floor, until his brother hauls him up and dumps him at the dinner table.

“I don't want to impose,” Hoseok says, a little desperately. “I didn't realise it was this late. I can just talk to hyung and leave…”

His mother is scandalised by the notion of sending a guest off unfed, even one that had broken her son’s heart. “Not at all, Hoseok-sshi. I wouldn't dare send you and your little girl back to Gwangju hungry! Sit down, sit down!” Hoseok is wrestled into the seat beside Yoongi, who is downing water as he recovers from his near-death experience.

“I'm so sorry,” Hoseok mutters to him. “I just – I didn't think it would be dinner time, I can leave if you want…”

Yoongi shuts him up with a hand on his thigh. He snaps his mouth shut so fast he hears his teeth click. “Stay,” he rasps. “This is the second time your daughter has almost killed me. I think you owe me this one.”

Hoseok stays. Once she's done cooing at Holly, Bitna comes over to them, but Yoongi intercepts her and brings her over to the sink to wash her hands. Hoseok tries to persuade her to sit properly at the table for dinner, but she stubbornly refuses to so much as open her mouth to eat unless she's allowed to sit in Yoongi’s lap.

His brother stares, gaping, a piece of kimchi held limply in mid-air, as Yoongi feeds Bitna, setting aside the leanest cuts of beef for her and tricking her into eating the vegetables by hiding them in rice. His mother watches them with a nostalgic look on her face. At her side, his father is very close to tears; it was he, after all, who had taught both his sons how to eat, and Yoongi had sat at his left for every meal until he went to college. Bitna chatters sweetly the entire time, telling Yoongi in detail about her past few weeks, about their unplanned visit to Gwangju and the events of her birthday. She makes up for Hoseok, who is uncharacteristically quiet, though perfectly polite. More than once Yoongi catches him peeking at him, tiny little glances filled with something indecipherable.

Once all the plates have been cleaned of food, Yoongi offers to do the washing up. His mother is having none of it. “No, your brother and father can do it.” Both men splutter, obviously not involved in the decision. “You and Hoseok-sshi should go catch up. Why don't you go for a walk to catch up, hmm? Bitna and I can stay here and play with Holly, can't we?” Bitna nods happily, scrambling off Yoongi’s lap and making a bee-line for Holly. “Lovely! After all, this is the closest I'm ever going to get to having grandchildren.” She glares at him and his brother in turn. His brother vanishes into the kitchen, his father in tow, and Yoongi escapes out the door, grabbing their coats with one hand, Hoseok’s hand held tightly in the other.

He doesn't let go until they reach a quiet rise on the edge of the neighbourhood. It overlooks the city, and though the magnitude of the urban sprawl doesn't even begin to compare to the view from their balconies in Seoul, the familiar view sets Yoongi’s heart at ease. This where he was born and raised; this is where he will be buried, if he has his way. Daegu will be here for him, no matter what.

They say nothing, for a long while, leaning against the railing in silence. Hoseok keeps looking at him; Yoongi can feel his gaze on his back. He’s still not one-hundred percent sure if he's dreaming all this, if he'll wake up in his bed only to find that Hoseok was nothing more than a figment of his imagination. Just to make sure that this isn't one involved fever dream, he breaks the silence. “How'd you find out where I lived? I don't recall telling you.”

“I, uh.” Hoseok rubs the back of his neck. “You told me Namjoon worked for BigHit, so I… kinda went there and begged him for your address.”

“What?” Namjoon didn’t tell him this. Yoongi is going to murder him.

“It was… I’m pretty sure he hates me – it’s okay, I deserve it, given what I did to you – but I got it out of him before he kicked me out. I only worked up the courage to drive out here today because Jiwoo was sick of me moping and practically forced me into the car.”

“Hoseok-ah…”

“Your family is really nice,” he babbles. “You look really like your dad. I’m, uh –”

“I'm sorry,” Yoongi blurts out, at the same time Hoseok does. They stare at each other confusedly.

“You first,” Yoongi says.

“No, you,” Hoseok responds. He smiles wryly. “I don't think you have much to apologise for. Let's get that out of the way first.”

Yoongi takes a deep breath. The apology he's been practicing sounds hollow and strange, so he makes up a new one as he goes along. “I'm sorry for pushing you too hard. I didn't mean to offend you, and you have to understand, my intentions were good. I get why it came off like – why it came off like pity, but it wasn't. I can promise you that. I just… I wanted to help.” Hoseok’s eyes glitter in the darkness. “I really care about the both of you, and I wanted to show that in a material way. I'm sorry.”

“Don't be.” Hoseok wraps his arms around himself. “I was… God.” He shakes his head. “I'm so sorry. I was such an asshole to you. I missed you so much.”

“I missed you too,” Yoongi admits.

Hoseok’s eyebrows knit together in bemusement. “Why would you miss me? Hyung, I treated you like shit. I don't know what came over me. I just… lost it. I knew you meant well but I freaked out anyway. I was so angry, at – at me, at Bitna, at Hyerin, and I took it all out on you for no reason. I'm so sorry.”

“It's okay.” The last of Yoongi’s anger – the remains of the hurt – has evaporated in the face of Hoseok’s genuine contrition. “I forgive you.”

“How, though? You shouldn't. You should hate me. I'm a bad person, hyung.” His face is twisted with self-loathing. “I was so horrible to you. I made Bitna cry, what sort of father does that? She's just a baby, and sometimes I hate her.”

“Hoseok-ah...” Oh, God. Hoseok is beginning to shake. Yoongi doesn’t – he’s never seen Hoseok cry before, and he’s ill-equipped to deal with it. He watches, horror-struck and powerless to help, as the tears begin to fall.

“I hate her,” he gasps. “For ruining my life. I hate that I had to drop out, I hate that I can't provide for her like a proper father. I wanted to take your money, you know that? I needed it. I knew I needed it and that’s why I freaked out. I didn’t want you to see me like that, like some tragic figure to be pitied. I want to be your equal, hyung. I want – I don’t want to be a burden to you.”

“You’re not, Hoseok-ah. You could never be a burden.” He just – he hadn’t thought. Hadn’t considered all that. Hadn’t considered Hoseok’s issues, his pride, only his own, and he thought he owed it to him. “I just – it was Christmas. I got a bonus, you know, some stupid contract we won, and I wanted to give it to you. No offense, but it’s my money. I can do what I want with it, alright? You don’t get to dictate that.”

“I know, I know, but… Oh, God, hyung, how can you forgive me? I…”

Yoongi doesn’t say anything. Something tells him that he has to stay silent; that he has to let Hoseok get this all out, every last bitter drop.

“It’s not just Bitna. I hate Hyerin. I hate her, hyung, I hate her because she passed away! What kind of monster hates their dead wife? We were supposed to do this together, we were supposed to be a team, and she left me alone.” He’s struggling to get the words out, throat choked with tears. “I had Bitna, I wasn't supposed to be lonely, but I was. Then you came along and I didn’t mean to fall for you and I shouldn’t have and I feel so guilty, like I’m betraying Hyerin even though I know she’d want me to be happy, but – hyung, you saved me. If I – if I had you, I wasn’t alone, and I drove you away!”

“I'm here, Hoseok-ah.” He can’t stay away any longer. He unwinds Hoseok’s arms from around him and takes his hands in his. “You won't be lonely. You just have to talk to me. I know you think you have to deal with everything yourself. Believe me, you don’t. I’m here.”

He meant to reassure him, to comfort him, to let him know that exploding wasn’t the only way to deal with his emotions. Instead, his words only make him cry harder. He tries to calm him down, but Hoseok’s near hysterical, thin shoulders shuddering with each sob, gasping as Yoongi tugs him down onto a bench.

“Sorry,” Hoseok moans. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I don’t deserve you. I need…” He hiccups miserably. “I need…”

Everyone’s ugly when they cry. Hoseok is no exception. Yoongi thinks, wearily, that it doesn’t bother him at all, that all he sees when he looks at him is the man he loves.

It would be easier, not to love him. To just be friends. To let him slip out of his life, like he has let so many other things; music, friends, opportunity after opportunity… yet, this time, he wants to hold on.

It would be easier, not to tell him. Hoseok is wracked by guilt, for falling in love with someone who isn’t his wife, for the way he treated him. Yoongi thought he’d still resent Hoseok for that, had hoped that when he looked at him, he’d not feel that terrible fondness again, but here it is, warm in his chest, winding fingers around his neck to squeeze the words out.

He should tell him another time. A better time.

But if he doesn't tell him now, he'll never do it. Another time will never come.

“Hoseok-ah,” he starts, when Hoseok is beginning to quieten, the torrent of tears reduced to a trickle. “I need to tell you something.”

“Yeah?”

“I think… I think you might be it for me.”

Hoseok freezes, hands going limp in his, eyes wide. “Hyung?”

“You hurt me. You really did. I don't know if I'm quite over it yet. I understand why you did what you did, but that doesn't make it any better. But through the last month… I couldn't bring myself to hate you.”

“No?” That emotion flickers over Hoseok’s face again. Yoongi thinks it might be hope.

“I tried, believe me. I couldn't. How could I? You…” This is it. Now or never, Min Yoongi. Say it. Tell him. “I thought I knew what this felt like. Turns out, I don't. I love you, Jung Hoseok.”

The silence that follows his words is heavy and thick and suffocating. Yoongi would like nothing more than to run away and hide in a hole somewhere, but Hoseok is keeping him here, trapping him with those big brown eyes, his hands wound in his. “Hyung…”

“Don't… Don't feel like you have to say anything.” Yoongi reaches up to thumb away some of the tears still clinging stubbornly to Hoseok’s cheeks. “It’s fine. It’s kinda terrifying. I understand.”

Hoseok shakes his head. “No,” he says, voice strangled. “I gotta… Hyung, when Hyerin passed away I thought I was done. I thought I'd lost my only chance.”

“Hoseok-ah…”

Hoseok looks up at him, the terror in his eyes reflected in his own. “I love you, Min Yoongi. I love you, and…” He swipes away some more tears. “I don't know what to do. I keep hurting you. I'm a mess. I still – Hyerin hasn't been gone two years and I shouldn’t, I really really shouldn’t, but in the past month I kept thinking, what if something happened to you and I never told you how glad I am that you’re in my life? What was I gonna do if you found someone else and I lost you? I couldn’t go through that again. I couldn’t put Bitna through that again. She kept asking for you. She drags that damn beluga with her everywhere she goes. You know what she called it?” Yoongi shakes his head. “Suga. Like sugar, you know? Because once you told her you were a honey boy.”

“Oh my God.” Yoongi can’t help the giggle that bursts out of him, even though Hoseok is still teary. “She remembered that?”

“She’s a smart kid. She talked to Suga the beluga more than she talked to me.” The smile on his face is bittersweet.

Yoongi can’t help it; he pulls him into his arms. Hoseok melts into him, and Yoongi thinks he might be crying again. “Hoseok-ah,” he sighs. “We’re ridiculous, aren’t we?”

Hoseok nods against his shirt, and, after a short while, draws back to look at him. His hands settle on his chest. “Please tell me it’s another time, hyung. Please?”

Yoongi doesn’t answer at first, just takes his head in his hands, caressing the sharp line of his jaw. Hoseok’s mouth falls open under the pressure of his fingers. “It is,” he agrees, and leans in to kiss him.

It’s chaste and quiet and unhurried, their lips numb and their cheeks cold and their noses bumping, but Hoseok is warm and yielding, fingers clutching at his jacket, faint happy sobs issuing from his mouth when they break apart for air, breath misting. Yoongi’s cheeks are damp from Hoseok’s tears.

“You’re not supposed to cry harder,” Yoongi murmurs, wiping the tears away with his thumbs. “Am I that bad a kisser?”

“I’m just so glad you forgave me,” Hoseok blubbers. “I – I can’t stop!”

“You’re so unattractive right now. I love you.” Yoongi kisses him again, and again, and again, until the tears dry up and Hoseok is putty in his arms, moulding to him like he never wants to let go.

 

Hoseok tries to say goodnight and drive home, but Yoongi’s mother plants herself in the doorway. “Nonsense,” she trills. “It’s a three-hour drive back and you’re not feeling well, are you?” Hoseok stammers something in his defence, but his face is all red and streaky; he looks exactly like he just bawled his eyes out. Yoongi’s jacket is still all wet. “Bitna is tired as well.” Bitna is indeed yawning. She’s using Holly to keep herself upright, one hand knotted in his curly brown fur. The dog bears it with good grace. “Stay here, and you can have breakfast and go back in the morning. The two of you can sleep in Yoongi’s room, I’ll change the sheets. I can get Yoongi’s old cot out for Bitna if you’d like?”

Hoseok shakes his head vehemently and throws Yoongi an apologetic look. “I can sleep in hyung’s room,” Yoongi tells him. “It’s okay. He lost weight so he doesn’t snore anymore.”

“I never snored,” his brother says, irate. Yoongi waves him off.

Three hours later, Yoongi is dozing lightly. He’s too wired to sleep properly. He relives the day, in his head, the scream of joy Bitna had given when she saw him, the warm solid weight of Hoseok’s waist in his hands. He feels like a giddy teenager; he keeps pressing his hands to his face to find that he’s still smiling.

He’s just about to drift off for real when a tiny whimper reaches his ears. He can hear low voices from the direction of his bedroom, where Hoseok and Bitna should be asleep. He doesn’t even think once before he gets up and, taking care not to wake his brother, leaves the room to enter his own, pushing the door open and peeking in.

Hoseok and Bitna are awake, sitting up on the bed, Bitna curled up in her father’s lap. Hoseok is bleary-eyed, whispering sleepily to his daughter as she bleats Yoongi’s name. “I want Yoongi oppa,” she sobs. “I don’t want him to go again.”

“He’s asleep, baby,” he murmurs, cradling her close. “We can’t bother him. He’ll be there in the morning, alright?”

“I’m here now,” Yoongi interrupts. Bitna reaches for him, and he kneels beside the bed, caressing her cheek with his hand. She’s small and soft and sticky and perfect, stubby eyelashes clumped with tears, button nose dripping with snot.

“I didn’t mean to wake you,” Hoseok says, regretfully.

“’S fine. Couldn’t sleep anyway. I’m here, Bitna-yah. I promise I won’t leave.”

“You won’t?” Bitna sniffs heavily, nose bubbling with snot; Hoseok sighs and grabs a tissue to clean her face. Yoongi doesn’t question it. Hoseok always has tissues. It’s like a side effect of fatherhood.

“No way. I’ll be here tomorrow, and I’ll be there when you and your father come back to Seoul. I’ll always be there.”

“Can you… can you stay in here tonight?” Yoongi and Hoseok exchange a look. “Like Mama and Papa and I used to sleep all together, like fish. Can you do that?”

Bitna’s pleading gaze is impossible to resist. “Can I?” Yoongi directs this at Hoseok, who pats the bed beside him.

 “Room for one more. Especially a small one like you.”

“Asshole,” Yoongi mutters, sotto voce so Bitna won’t hear, but he gets up onto the bed anyway.

It takes some doing, given that they’re trying to cram two adults and a toddler into a single bed, but they figure it out. Yoongi lies with his back against the wall, hand clasped in Hoseok’s. The other holds Bitna between them, her back tight against his chest. Hoseok lifts their entwined fingers to his mouth and presses a kiss to his knuckles. He ducks his head and kisses Bitna’s nose, making her giggle. “Good night, Bitna-yah.”

“Night, Papa,” she mumbles, as she drifts towards sleep. “Night, oppa. Love you…”

Hoseok shifts under the sheets, ruffled by sleep and slicked in moonlight; Bitna’s heart thuds reassuringly under his hand, hair tickling under his chin. “Sleep,” he tells him. “I’ll be here in the morning.”

Hoseok leans forward and kisses him gently, sleepily. “Goodnight, hyung.”

Yoongi falls asleep just like that, keeping an eye on the slow, steady rise and fall of Bitna’s chest, Hoseok’s legs tangled with his.

When he wakes up in a panic in the middle of the night, they're still there. Bitna’s elbow digs into his belly. Hoseok is drooling slightly, hand running up and down his arm. He thinks, irritatedly, that's he's never seen anything so beautiful in his life.

He sighs, and, snuggling Bitna a little closer, sleeps properly, deeply, for what will be the first night of many nights together.

Chapter Text

Hoseok leaves around noon, laden down with jeon and tteok and all the food his mother could fit into his car. While Bitna is occupied bidding Holly an involved, emotional farewell, Hoseok catches Yoongi against the side of his car and kisses him, long and hard, teeth rough on his lips, hands broad across his back under his shirt. It’s almost like he's trying to imprint himself onto him. It’s just – ten months of sexual frustration, of chaste touches and lingering looks and now that it’s another time… Yoongi feels it too, the want burrowing in under his skin like an itch he can’t scratch.

Still. They’re in public, and Hoseok’s slipped a bit too much tongue for comfort. “Jesus, Hoseok-ah!” He grabs Hoseok’s wandering hands before they near the waistband of his jeans, pinning them behind his back. He darts a look around; the street is empty, thank God, he doesn't need any awkward conversations with his neighbours about the guy he was being publicly indecent with. “We’ll be back together soon, alright? Let's take it easy.”

“I’m making up for lost time!” Hoseok extricates his hands from Yoongi’s grip with ease and slots his leg between his. “I’ve wanted this for ten months. Ten months, hyung. It's that stupid tattoo’s fault. I kept thinking about it, hidden under your shirt, and then I started wondering what else you were keeping under your clothes…” Yoongi can't resist after that. How could he? The metal of the car is cold against his back, but it is no match for Hoseok’s heat against him, and his crowding limbs will hide him from the prying eyes of his neighbours.

“You've gotta… you gotta leave.” With what force he can muster, Yoongi pulls Hoseok off him by his belt loops, wriggles out of his grasp and steps backwards, away from the car and away from his boyfriend. (His boyfriend!) “I'll see you next week. We’ll have all the time in the world.”

“Still not enough.” Hoseok is leaning against the car for support, breathing hard, eyes dark, hair mussed. Yoongi doesn't even remember touching his hair, but he must have. He looks gorgeous and fuckable and oh, God, he hasn’t had sex in such a long time, this is terrible, why is he leaving again?

Before he can think any more about it, he hears a shriek, shortly accompanied by a Bitna-shaped lump clinging to his midsection and thumping him with little fists. “I’m not leaving! I don’t wanna leave! I’m staying here with Yoongi oppa and Holly!”

The dog starts barking, Yoongi groans periodically in pain when Bitna hits the sore spots on his back from the night he spent against the wall, Bitna is wailing plaintively, his mother is unproductively omo-ing and aigoo-ing all over the place and Hoseok is trying to persuade Bitna to let go of hyung, okay, I promise we’ll see him soon.

Finally – finally, after copious goodbye hugs for Bitna and one last searing kiss that Hoseok sneaks while Yoongi’s mom is settling Bitna into her car seat – Hoseok leaves, car rattling off down the road, Bitna’s face squished up against the window as they wave her off.

“Well,” Yoongi asks nervously, as he lowers his hand. “Did he pass the Mom Veto?”

His mother seizes his arm in a vice-like grip. “A ready-made grandchild,” she tells him, in an awestruck tone. “Yoongi-yah, you couldn’t have done better. I can’t wait to rub this in your aunt’s face.”

She goes back inside, humming merrily. His father claps him on the back and follows her. “Hyung,” Yoongi says, helplessly.

His brother shakes his head. “Better you than me,” he tells him, and leaves. Yoongi wonders, distantly, if it’s too late to call Hoseok and ask him to turn back so he can go to Gwangju with him. Celebrating the New Year with the Jungs is sounding like a better idea with every second.

 

He waits up the last night of the New Year holiday alone. He knows, logically, that Hoseok and Bitna will arrive soon, that he’d called an hour and a half ago from a rest stop an hour and a half outside Seoul, but that doesn’t stop him worrying. What if they get into an accident? What if Bitna gets sick? What if Hoseok decides that he hates Yoongi again and turns back to Gwangju?

His worried are proven unfounded by a loud knock at his door. Bitna bursts in exuberantly, dragging Suga the beluga along the ground behind her. The grin Hoseok gives him is tired, but the kiss he presses to his cheek is just as fond.

 

They fall back together with ease, though Hoseok is still – still a little sheepish. Still sorry. Sometimes, he kisses him like he’s trying to make up for something.

It would be easy to become irritated, Yoongi thinks. Some days Bitna clings to him, paranoid that he'll leave again if she lets go, and Hoseok spends more time looking at Hyerin’s portrait than at him, and on those days he can barely bite back the words that lie sharp in his mouth, acidic enough to send him back to the silence of his own apartment.

He doesn't. He bites his tongue, tells himself to take care, and, gradually, they get better, figure each other out. Yoongi pays for dinner and doesn't let Hoseok pay him back. Hoseok discusses his problems with him – the workload at Shiah’s, the custody battle, now in its death throes – and as they settle back into their old routine, the worn familiarity of Hoseok counting reps, of Bitna trying to feed him his croissant, new rituals emerge.

Like waking up to Bitna belly-flopping onto his face so she can say good morning before he goes to work. Like bathing her when Hoseok is too tired to and emerging from the bathroom completely soaked, bath toys shoved into his pockets. Like taking the two of him to his favourite spots in the city, the café where he wrote bars with Namjoon, the park where he skipped lectures to nap under a tree, the street corner where he met Seokjin busking, now crowded with all kinds of music. Like helping Hoseok put Bitna to bed, wordless lullabies and soft hands. Like, once Bitna is safely asleep, Hoseok laying him down on the couch and kissing him everywhere he can reach, lips and face and neck and ears and chin and chest, hands following in his wake, stoking little fires in his belly.

Hoseok is doing just that, nipping delicately at the dip of his collarbone, when a call interrupts them and he pulls away. Yoongi sighs impatiently and feels immediately guilty. It’s not his fault, but this is the sixth time they’ve been halted; Bitna kept getting out of the bed to ask for a drink of water, or a story, or to be tucked in. Yoongi hoped that, with her finally asleep, they would get a little private time together, but he guesses not.

It’s just – now that he can kiss Hoseok he never wants to stop. He knows they’re taking things way too fast, but, well, they've wasted so much time. It took them long enough to figure everything out that Yoongi is comfortable with this, this hurried learning of each other’s bodies, though they haven't gotten exactly that far yet. He just – he really wants to see Hoseok’s dick. He has theories and they need to be validated, and now that he can, now that he knows Hoseok is as clean as he is and is willing to sleep with him… it's difficult to concentrate on anything else.

Hoseok takes a moment to compose himself. Yoongi sidles over to him, winds his arms around his waist and slides his hands up his belly, determined to pick up where they left off. It’s Hoseok’s birthday, after all, and he had rejected any other presents. “Hello?” he answers breathlessly.

“Who is it?” Yoongi traces the toned v of his stomach, dipping precariously close to his waistband. “Tell them to fuck off.”

Hoseok grabs his hand to still him. “Namjoon-ah! Yeah, yeah, I’m free…”

“You’re not,” he reprimands, nosing against his neck. “Tell him to go away.”

“Wait, what?” The shock in Hoseok’s voice stops Yoongi’s petting immediately. “You’re serious? Oh my God. Oh my God! Thank you! I just have to turn in my… I get it. No, thank you. Namjoon-ah, seriously, I owe you. Bye, bye, bye!” He turns his head back to look at him with delight. “I got an audition.”

“What?” Yoongi lets his hands drop out from under Hoseok’s shirt, and moves around to stand in front of him. “Where? Whom with?”

“With BigHit!” Hoseok is practically vibrating with excitement. “Namjoon showed their performance director some videos I sent him and they want me to come in and do a trial! I mean, it’s just an interview right now, but he basically implied that I’m a shoo-in. They’re getting ready to debut a new boy group next year and they want someone with my underground experience. You should see… oh my God, hyung, they’re offering me so much. The salary is double what I’m on right now, and they have a deal with a nearby crèche. It’s practically perfect.”

“Hoseok-ah, that’s amazing!” He pauses. “I mean, you’ll have to work with Namjoonie, that’s shitty, but still. Congratulations!”

“I don’t even care,” Hoseok says dreamily. “Have you seen the stuff GLAM does? They’ve won awards. My routines could be on TV. On Inkigayo! On Music Bank!” He grabs Yoongi’s hands. “This calls for celebration!”

“Celebration? What do you – mmph!” Yoongi goes down heavily, completely unprepared for the force of Hoseok’s kiss.

“By celebrate,” he clarifies, a wicked gleam in his eyes, “I mean get back to what we were doing.”

Yoongi gazes reverently up at his boyfriend. “Happy birthday to you, huh?” He hooks his arm around Hoseok’s neck and drags him down, down, down, until their mouths meet and their tongues meld.

Yoongi thinks he could die happily like this, Hoseok licking hungrily into his mouth, hips rutting insistently against his. A tiny little part of his mind was scared that they wouldn’t gel sexually, that Hoseok would be as terrible at sex as most serial monogamists are. It wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker anyway, but Hoseok had surprised him pleasantly (it makes sense, of course, Hoseok is eager to please and willing to learn; why wouldn’t that extend to the bedroom?) and picks up blessedly quickly on his preferences. Yoongi likes it slow and steady, a drawn-out smoulder rather than a rushed blaze, gentle hands and the torture of pursuit. In a word, he likes everything Hoseok is doing right now, down to the fingers brushing lazily against his sides, just light enough to tickle.

One particularly well-aimed roll of Hoseok’s hips surprises a moan out of him. Hoseok draws away from him, grinning wickedly. “You like that, hyung?”

“Shush.” Yoongi sits up, pulls himself out from under him. Their crotches brush and Hoseok’s arms falter, dropping him to the floor. He keeps his voice low, mindful of Bitna asleep in the other room. Luckily, she's a sound sleeper; they just have to keep quiet. “Have you got condoms? Lube? Wait, actually, I don’t think we’ll need the former.”

“Condoms, yes. Lube, no. Why won’t we need condoms?” Hoseok raises an eyebrow and starts petting Yoongi’s thigh. “What? Aren’t you gonna take my virginity?”

“You have a child.”

“That’s, like, dick virginity. Ass virginity’s a whole other ballgame. C’mon, hyung. What have you got planned for me?”

“A surprise.” Hoseok pouts. “Hey, it’s your birthday. Chill.”

“Chill?” He looks scandalised. “With this in my pants?” He gestures at said sweatpants, which are doing precisely nothing to hide his boner. Yoongi wills himself not to stare.

“Wait here,” he tells him. “Lock the bedroom door, I am not letting Bitna see this, she would be traumatised forever. Grab a towel or two you don’t care about ruining, put them on the couch and sit on them. Don’t you dare touch yourself.”

“How would you know?”

“I just will. Do it for me, okay?” He leans forward and presses a quick kiss to his lips; Hoseok chases after him when he pulls away and lands a kiss on his chin. “I’ll be right back.”

Even though it’s been a depressingly long time since he got laid, he still has the requisite supplies in his bathroom. He triple-checks the expiration dates and shoves them into his pockets, anticipation making him rush. He peeks out the window; the coast is thankfully clear. He doesn’t know what he’ll do if an ajumma waylays him while he has a raging hard-on and pockets filled with lube.

Hoseok is exactly where he asked him to be, perched on the couch on two ratty towels. He took the liberty of discarding his shirt, exposing his toned, sculpted chest and flat stomach. “You lock the door?” Hoseok nods. “Good,” Yoongi praises, cupping his jaw and pressing a kiss to his cheek.

“Hyung, you took forever.” Hoseok’s forehead is beaded with sweat. “I’m going to die if you don’t get me off.”

“Good things come to those who wait.” He grabs a cushion off Hoseok’s couch and kneels on it, eye-level with his stomach, and sets down the lube within range. He peeks up at him, smirking, settling his hands on Hoseok’s hips and running them down his thighs. “Relax, sit back. I promise I’ll take care of you, alright?”

Hoseok sinks back into the couch. Yoongi leans forward and nuzzles into his belly, nosing at his navel, at the trail of hair that vanishes behind the waistband of his sweats, hands going around to cup his ass and lift him closer. He loves Hoseok’s body, all that bronze skin and wiry muscle; the muscles of his stomach flex as his breath hits them. “Hurry up,” Hoseok whines, hands fisted in the couch.

“Be patient.” Yoongi starts tugging his sweatpants off him, inch by gradual inch, baring his thighs, rubbing little circles into his skin. His boxers do little to hide his erection; he caresses it through the fabric, and Hoseok lets out a pitiful mewl, lifting his hips so he can pull both items of clothing off entirely, his cock on full display.

“You’re so fucking hard.” Yoongi, with no small amount of awe, gets up close and personal to inspect Hoseok’s dick. He noses into the juncture between his legs, biting and licking to coax little needy noises out of Hoseok. His hands brace against his thighs as he draws back. “It’s flattering, actually.”

“Do you know,” Hoseok grinds out, “how long it’s been since someone saw my dick? You should be honoured.”

“I am. Can I show you?”

Hoseok nods; Yoongi lowers his head and laps at the head of Hoseok’s dick. His reaction is immediate. The muscles of his thigh spasm, and his head drops back, exposing the graceful column of his throat.

Eyes forward, Min Yoongi. He takes another lap, and another, light kittenish licks all the way down Hoseok’s cock and back up again, dragging his tongue against the veined underside. Hoseok tugs restlessly on his hair. “Good?” Yoongi asks.

“Good.” Hoseok’s hands gentle, card carefully through Yoongi’s hair. “Please keep going.”

What else can Yoongi do, when he’s asked so nicely? He takes the head of Hoseok’s cock into his mouth, sucking delicately, tongue digging into the slit. Hoseok whines, increasing in pitch as Yoongi takes in more of him, cheeks hollowing around his length, tongue working up and down until he pulls off again with a pop. He repeats this, again and again, saliva dripping down his cock, hand fisting what he can’t suck, the other stroking up and down his thigh until Hoseok is shuddering from over-stimulation and bats him away. “Easy, easy,” he protests, breathless. “Take pity on me, hyung. It’s been a while, alright?”

Yoongi rubs his mouth clean with the back of his hand, smearing with it precum and drool. The ache in his jaw makes him wince. “What, did you think that was it?”

“Uh. Maybe?”

“Then what the fuck did I get the lube for?”

“Um… just in case?” Yoongi sits back on his feet, unimpressed. “Wait. No way. Butt stuff? I thought you weren’t gonna take my ass virginity?”

“Butt stuff,” Yoongi confirms. “What do you mean, ‘no way’? Here we are, two naked dudes, and you didn’t think there was going to be any butt stuff? Like the only thing I can do is stick my dick in your ass?”

“You’re not naked,” Hoseok points out, after an awkward pause.

“I’m naked in my heart,” Yoongi says drily. “Anyway. Back to the butt stuff. You okay with that?”

Hoseok consents enthusiastically by leaning forward and kissing him. Yoongi melts into it. Hoseok really, really likes kissing, more than anyone he’s ever been with. He thinks he could get used to it.

Hoseok pulls away and leans back, watching him dribble lube into his hand and rub it to warm it up. “That’s a lot of lube,” he says, with no small amount of apprehension.

“Better safe than sorry.” His fingers squelch. “You haven’t done much of this before, right?” Hoseok nods. “I’ll be extra careful with you. There’s no way I’m taking you to the hospital with a torn anus.”

Hoseok blanches. “Way to kill the mood.”

“Yeah, well, torn anuses do that. You ready?”

“No, oh my God, you’re the one talking about torn anuses.” Hoseok’s voice cracks high with fear. Yoongi forgets, sometimes, how much of a coward he can be; Hoseok acts so responsible, puts up such a strong front, and then flails when confronted with a two-meter drop. Or anal.

“Hyung won’t tear your anus,” Yoongi says with as straight a face as he can. “Unless you want me to, of course.” Hoseok starts giggling helplessly, and that sets Yoongi off too, until he’s muffling his laughter in Hoseok’s thigh. It has the intended effect; Hoseok calms down enough for Yoongi to nudge his legs open. “Can you hold them open? It’ll make this easier.”

Hoseok nods, pulling his legs up to his chest, hands hooked behind his knees. “Go on.”

He traces his fingers back, past his balls and perineum, until his fingers are circling his rim. “Does that feel good?”

“I dunno,” he mutters. “Keep going.”

 Yoongi keeps going. He massages his rim until he’s relaxed enough for him to slip the tip of one finger inside. Hoseok’s face contorts amusingly at the intrusion; Yoongi monitors him from where his face is pressed into his shoulder, one hand spanned across his hip. “How does that feel?”

“Weird,” Hoseok admits. “But sexy weird.”

“Sexy weird,” Yoongi repeats. “I can work with that. Relax, Hoseok-ah. You’re doing so well.”

Slowly, slowly, keeping up a constant stream of reassurances, Yoongi pushes his finger in deeper. He waits to let him get accustomed to stretch, and, bit by bit, introduces another. The discomfort has vanished from Hoseok’s face, replaced by slack dreaminess. His cock is still temptingly hard.

“Okay,” Yoongi murmurs. “I’m going to start moving now.” He pulls his fingers out, just enough, and crooks them, gently; Hoseok tenses, and clenches around him.

“Do that again,” he mumbles, eyes heavy-lidded with pleasure. “Oh, I love your hands. Fuck.”

Yoongi curls his fingers, locating his prostrate and brushing a few featherlight touches across it. Hoseok tosses his head back, mouth falling open. He scissors his fingers, his pace lazy to begin with but picking up speed, until Hoseok’s hips are circling, his hair stuck to his forehead with sweat as he makes strangled, breathy noises.

Yoongi goes in for the kill. He withdraws his hand entirely, Hoseok crying out at the loss, and lubes up again. This time, when he re-enters he adds one extra finger for a total of three. Hoseok lets out a stifled moan as he prods intently at his prostate, and, pooling saliva in his mouth, Yoongi bends down and seals his lips around his dick.

“Hyung, oh, fuck, what are you-!” Hoseok freezes as Yoongi sinks down his cock, fingers pumping in his ass, lube and drool and precum absolutely everywhere. Thank God for the towels. Hoseok’s on the big side, but Yoongi’s practiced; he deep-throats him with relative ease, nose bumping against his pubis. His throat flutters around the head of Hoseok’s cock, making Hoseok paw at him, babbling incoherently. Once his gag reflex begins to fail, Yoongi pulls back enough to breathe through his nose and pats his hip with his free hand; Hoseok gets the message and starts fucking into him, forward into his mouth and back onto Yoongi’s fingers.

He’s a glorious mess, and Yoongi can’t believe how turned on he is, it’s a testament to his self-discipline that he hasn’t come in his pants. He takes pride in how good he is at getting people off, but Hoseok is different, because it’s Hoseok, the man he wants to wake up beside for the rest of his life, writhing and whimpering and still so fucking hard under his hands, his mouth; his, totally, entire.

“Gonna,” he gasps, one hand tugging hard on Yoongi’s hair, jerking his mouth over him roughly. “Gonna come. Hyung, hyung, please…”

Yoongi keeps going; he’s going to see this thing through to the end. He drives his fingers purposefully against his prostate, hollows his cheeks and sinks down until he chokes, moaning Hoseok’s name around his cock.

Hoseok comes, shriek muffled into his arm, hips spasming, back arching. Yoongi takes him through it, massages his prostate to milk every last drop of cum out of him and swallows it all, only pulling his fingers out and his mouth off him when he’s limp and gasping. “Hoseok-ah...” He gets up onto the couch to kiss his cheek, wiping his slick hand on the towel. “Are you alright?”

Hoseok isn’t particularly capable of speech right now, head propped up by the back of the couch, breathing heavily, but after a while, he manages to hold his hand up in an a-ok gesture. He’s sweaty and fucked out and gorgeous, and he can't help the prideful smirk that spreads across his face as he hauls himself up onto the couch to straddle him.

“’M marrying you,” Hoseok manages. “We’re gonna get married.”

“You’re seriously only going to marry me because I stuck my fingers up your ass?”

“Jesus fucking Christ, hyung, I thought the tongue technology thing was a joke.” Hoseok’s eyes pop open. “Can you eat me out?”

“Another time.” Yoongi nuzzles into his neck, pressing little butterfly kisses against his sweaty skin. He didn’t think Hoseok would be into that, but the more Yoongi thinks about it…

“Wait.” Hoseok sits up. “Did you get off?” He palms down Yoongi’s pants. “No way. You’re still hard!”

“It doesn’t matter.” Yoongi’s traitorous dick disagrees, and jumps at Hoseok’s touch.

“Yes, it fucking does.” Hoseok is pouting. Yoongi cannot believe this. “No boyfriend of mine is getting blue-balled.”

“I can take care of it if it bothers you that much.” Yoongi reaches into his pants to do just that. He's so close as it is that it won't take more than a minute or two, but Hoseok smacks his hand, hard. “Ow!”

“I’m doing this.” Hoseok leans closer, leering at him lasciviously. He runs his hand up the side of his neck to cradle his jaw, one thumb running across his poor abused lips. “Please? Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it.” Yoongi has. A lot. More than he’d like to admit. Hoseok licks his palm, sucking each finger into his mouth, maintaining eye contact the entire time, and frees his dick. Yoongi lets out a pathetic mewl. “Tell me. I want to know.”

He can't believe he's doing this. How many times has he come to thoughts of Hoseok? “I’m in the shower after the gym,” he starts, wriggling his pants down just enough. Hoseok tilts his head so he has to look down, at his hand around him, long fingers wrapped around his swollen cock. Oh, God. “You’re in there with me. You pin me against the wall. You’re taller than me, you know?” Okay, Hoseok knows exactly what he's doing. He’s applying just the right amount of pressure, treading that hazy boundary between pleasure and pain. “Everything’s all wet and slippery. You’re hard, you fuck up against my ass. I grind against the wall, but…” Yoongi has to stop; Hoseok is flicking his wrist, mouth open as he leans down to drool on his cock for added lubrication. “It isn’t enough. I keep begging you, but you won’t touch me. I have to start crying before you grab my dick.” Hoseok squeezes lightly, the pain making Yoongi buck against his palm. “You’re forceful, and fast, and… fuck, just like that, good, good. I can’t breathe, I get… I get all dizzy…” He thrusts into the circle of Hoseok’s hand, tight and wet and, oh, Yoongi can’t wait to fuck him properly, spread his legs and make him scream. “I can’t breathe, it hurts and I come so hard, kiss me like that, Hoseok-ah, please, please…” He leans forward and kisses him, teeth and tongue and moaning as he comes all over Hoseok’s stomach, pale semen painting his golden skin.

They’re both panting as he comes down, spread out in the couch. He slumps into Hoseok’s shoulder and looking up at him, is struck, suddenly, by the sharp lines of his jaw, the elegant curve of his neck. Hoseok catches him staring and raises an enquiring eyebrow.

“You’re beautiful.” Hoseok makes a dismissive noise. “What? Hoseok-ah, you’re the most attractive person I’ve ever slept with, and you look even better covered in my cum.” Yoongi, in a move he will regret when he thinks back on it the next day, leans down to lick a stripe bare up Hoseok’s belly. He grabs his face and kisses him messily, cum leaking out of his mouth. Hoseok swallows lewdly, hands digging into his hips. They break apart, gasping, Hoseok’s eyes blown wide.

“Okay, while gross, that was seriously hot.” He kisses his nose. “I didn’t know what I was getting into that day, did I?”

“The day you came over with the drawing?” He nods. “No, you didn’t. Aren’t you glad you did?”

Hoseok grins. “Approval pending. Fuck me and then we’ll talk.” Yoongi grumbles; Hoseok heads off a tantrum with more kisses, growing sleepier and lazier until they’re basically just breathing into each other’s mouths. “Get off me,” Hoseok says eventually. “I need to check on Bitna. Also, your cum is drying and there’s sticky lube all over my thighs. It’s vile.” Yoongi shoves him off the couch. Hoseok lands on his behind with a yell of pain. “Be careful! I just had three goddamn fingers up my ass.”

“Get used to it,” Yoongi tells him, voice slurred with sleep. “Butt stuff is best stuff. Bring back a towel and clean me up, I’m too tired to do it.”

Hoseok kicks up a fuss but he does it anyway, sponging his thighs down gently and pulling his sweaty clothes off him. After a quick look in on Bitna (who is, mercifully, still fast asleep, tiny fists balled up into the sheets and cheeks flushed) they collapse in a tangle on the couch, because Hoseok really does not want to share his daughter’s bed after all that and Yoongi isn't feeling doing a four-metre walk of shame.

“Everything was okay?” Yoongi has to check again. He thinks he took it slow enough, but one can never be too sure. “Just tell me if you don’t like something. I can take it.”

“It was perfect.” Hoseok, unsurprisingly, is more tired than he is; he just about has the energy to tug a blanket over them. “You were perfect. Now be quiet and go to sleep, okay? I love you.”

“Love you too.” Yoongi drifts off just like that, cocooned in Hoseok’s arms.

Chapter Text

Hoseok, surprising absolutely no-one, is offered the job. Yoongi picks him up from his last day at Shiah’s studio; Jimin, Taehyung, and Jungkook are inconsolable.

“You gotta stay in contact, hyung,” Jimin sobs, wound around Hoseok. Taehyung is talking intently to Bitna, instructing her to mind her father for them and to be a good girl. Jungkook has planted himself firmly beside Hoseok and is in visible distress. Yoongi watches the tableau with more than a little amusement. “Promise you won’t forget us?”

“How could I?” Hoseok pinches Jimin’s cheeks. “How could I forget my mochi Jiminie?”

Hyung,” Jimin moans, lip wobbling, and starts to wail. Jungkook dashes into the bathroom to cry in manly solitude. Taehyung hugs Bitna so tightly that she squeaks indignantly and starts hitting his back.

“It’s not like we’ll never see you again,” Yoongi points out.

“Yeah!” Hoseok pats Jimin’s head. “It’s hyung’s birthday next Saturday. Why don’t you all come along?”

“Wait, what?” Jimin’s tears dry immediately, Jungkook returns from the bathroom, and the three boys surround Yoongi like they’re lions and he’s a wounded antelope.

“Can we come, Yoongi hyung?” Taehyung releases Bitna to turn the full force of his square grin on Yoongi; Bitna runs to her father, disturbed by the sudden turn of events.

“We’ll behave, Yoongi hyung.” Jungkook tries to smile cutely, but the devious glint in his eyes ruins it.

“We promise we’ll get you a present, Yoongi hyung,” Jimin finishes, with a flourish of his signature greasy aegyo. “Pretty please?”

Yoongi tries to be stoic. It goes about as well as he thought it would, given the puppy-dog eyes they're giving him. “Alright,” he sighs, and the boys dogpile him. “I rescind that invitation!”

“Hyung-ah,” Taehyung sings childishly. He thinks Jimin might be grabbing his butt. Jungkook stinks of cologne. Yoongi catches his boyfriend’s eye and mouths a death threat at him. Hoseok responds with dual finger hearts, closely mirrored by Bitna.

 

The day before Yoongi’s birthday, he is awoken at ten am by Bitna jumping on his stomach. In his vaguely hungover state, he has just enough presence of mind not to shove her off the bed. Instead, he grabs her by the waist and pins her down, gathering her into his chest. “Bitna-yah, what did we say about oppa and mornings?”

“I know that you're grumpy before the two hands point straight up but Papa told me to wake you up.” She wriggles out until she's seated beside him. “Oppa, your hair is funny.” She sets about making it worse, fisting her hands in it and mussing it until it clumps together.

“Let’s just stay here and sleep,” he mumbles into the pillow, his head jerking around under Bitna’s ungentle ministrations. He didn't get home until well past one last night; Zhoumi harangued him into being his soju bomb buddy. “The park will still be there in two hours.”

Bitna, unimpressed, grabs two handfuls of his hair and yanks, hard. Yoongi springs up with a yelp. “I'm up, I’m up! Go tell your father I'm awake.”

Bitna slides off the bed with his aid; he keeps his hands hooked under her arms so she won't fall. “No,” she says mulishly, once she's safely on the ground. “He told me not to come back until you were out of bed.” The one time he doesn't want her to, she obeys her father. She plants herself by the bed and starts tugging on his hand. “Up. Up. You a lazy bum.”

Out of the mouths of babes. He stumbles out of bed, using Bitna’s head to support himself. “Alright, alright. Jesus. C’mon, go tell him.” He chivvies a protesting Bitna out of the room and shuts the door firmly behind her, making sure to lock the door. The last time she burst in on him while he was dressing, he put a foot through a hole in his seventy-thousand won jeans and ruined them.

They leave for the park an hour later, washed and fed and watered and largely awake. When they get there, it's already a little busy. Families mill around, sleepy toddlers peering out curiously from their buggies, older children screeching as they play in the fountains. Yoongi tries to pay for admission, but Hoseok distracts him by pointing his daughter towards said fountains; by the time Yoongi retrieves her (thankfully before she could get soaked), Hoseok is holding three tickets, including admission to the museum.

“You genuinely think she's going to be able to concentrate on a museum?” Yoongi stares up at the glass building apprehensively.

“It's a children's museum, it's designed for her,” Hoseok says, nettled. “She's not that bad.”

“Oppa,” Bitna says, awe-struck. “That dog is wearing clothes.” She slips his grasp and promptly hares off again. Yoongi gives Hoseok a Look and dashes off to catch her before she forces the poor animal into her coat.

Hoseok gets the last laugh. When they first enter, Bitna is moody due to being parted from her new friend – they have to hide in a cloakroom and quiet her while she throws a high-volume tantrum – but when she glimpses the first display, a cluster of hanging prisms that she can manipulate to see how the light bounces through them, she is instantly enchanted.

“Told you she'd love it,” Hoseok says, smirking at him as Bitna dashes over to the next exhibit, which houses mannequins dressed in national costumes from around the world. “Stay here and keep an eye on her, I'm gonna go find the bathroom.”

Yoongi folds his arms petulantly and stays where he is. Bitna is wrapping some sort of robe around a little boy, clucking at him with irritation when he complains about how forceful she's being.

“She'll be the boss when she grows up,” the boy’s mother says, giggling at Bitna’s snippy tone when she tells him to stay still.

“She already is,” Yoongi sighs.

They make pleasant small talk as they watch their children play. Her name is Suran, she’s a software developer, and she lives in the same neighbourhood as he does. It’s easier to chat like this, Yoongi thinks, when you have something in common. Though he isn't Bitna’s father (and, under the law of this country, he never will be), sometimes the affection he feels when he looks at her can only be described as paternal.

“She doesn't look like you at all,” Suran notes. “She must favour her mother.”

“No,” he says automatically, “she takes after her father. Same eyes.” He freezes. Shit.

“She's not yours?” He shakes his head. “Oh, you seemed… Are you her uncle?”

“Oppa.” Bitna, tired of playing dress-up, tugs on his sleeve. “Where’s Papa? Did he get lost?”

“I'm here!” Hoseok pops out of nowhere to slide an arm around Yoongi’s waist. “Got stuck in a line. C’mon, I saw a cool one over there.”

Yoongi lets Hoseok take him away. When he looks back at her, Suran is staring at them with shock, her son gathered to her. Yoongi glances around him, ignoring Hoseok’s chatter. They're definitely attracting attention, some curious stares that linger too long for comfort. It makes his skin crawl.

Eyes forward, Min Yoongi. Bitna is clambering up onto some wooden contraption, pushing pedals and handles to produce gusts of air that slap her father in the face, making him squawk.

He soon forgets Suran. He's never seen Bitna interact with other children before – Hoseok’s work schedule keeps him too busy to facilitate play-dates, and the few other children in their building are a little too old for her to play comfortably with – and it's funny, really, just how like her father she is. She doesn't take charge, exactly, but she makes her presence known, monkeying around exuberantly, squealing and laughing enough to keep the mood up even when some children sulk. She has a bad habit of talking over the other kids, her natural enthusiasm getting the better of her, but she takes special care to include the quieter ones in their games. One little girl in particular takes a shine to her, and Yoongi can only barely handle hearing his little Bitna being called unnie.

“Well?” Hoseok asks, as Bitna bids her new friend farewell.

“I need a pee.”

“You went twenty minutes ago.” Hoseok crouches down to look her in the eye. “You don't need to pee.”

“Need a pee,” she repeats flatly. A small staring contest ensues. Hoseok, as per usual, gives in, and pulls her towards the bathroom. Yoongi waits for them in the front lobby, leafing boredly through the brochures in the display.

“Min Yoongi-sshi?”

He startles, but it's only the mother from earlier. “Shin Suran-sshi,” he says, with a little trepidation. What could she possibly want?

To apologise, it turns out. “I didn't mean to act so rudely,” she says, fiddling with her son’s collar. “I just… you caught me by surprise.”

“’S fine,” he says gruffly. He's been treated much worse for being queer. Suran’s ignorance is, in the grand scheme of things, harmless.

“No, let me make it up to you.” She hands him a little square of paper with a link to a Facebook page. “It's just a group for young parents in our neighbourhood. We try to organise events – coffee mornings, play-dates, you know. It's easier when you've got someone who's going through what you're going through, right?”

“Comrades-in-arms,” Yoongi mumbles. “Thanks.”

After some awkward bowing, Suran leaves. Yoongi turns around to see a wild-eyed Hoseok and a suspiciously damp Bitna making for him. When he ruffles Bitna’s hair, it's… crunchy.

“What did you two get up to?”

“I took my eye off her for a split second – literally a millisecond - and she got an entire container of soap on her head.”

“I wanted a bubble wig!”

Hoseok glares at her; Bitna dimples back at him cheerily. Yoongi senses trouble. “The zoo’s closed, but they have botanical gardens,” he interjects, before someone’s feelings get hurt. “Why don't we go check them out?”

“Flowers!” Bitna perks up and rushes out into the sunlight.

Flowers, indeed. The gardens are in a glasshouse; the air is sticky and warm, but the beds are lush with life, overflowing with orchids and irises and camellias and roses and more blooms beyond that he can't even name, never mind pronounce. Bitna frolics down the pathways, vanishing behind a cluster of asters to reappear near the ranunculi, her father in close pursuit. Several times, he has to dive in to prevent her from consuming potentially toxic plants. Yoongi trails them from a safe distance, observing the spectacle.

They emerge hours later, blinking, into the cool evening. Bitna is covered in dirt and pollen and Hoseok is looking worse for wear; he fell into a hawthorn bush while trying to get Bitna away from the foxgloves. “Dinner?” Yoongi questions.

“Jjajangmyeon!”

“No,” Hoseok says, face thunderous. “I'll be cleaning jjajang sauce off you for the next week.”

“She's filthy as it is, Hoseok-ah.” Yoongi slips a hand into his. “C’mon. My treat.”

Three bowls of jjajangmyeon later (and, to Hoseok’s resigned dismay, one jjajang-smeared Bitna later) they finish their last stroll around the park in front of the fountains, the sunset washing them in an orange glow.

“Shouldn't we head home?” Hoseok hitches Bitna up on his hip; it's been a long day for someone with such short legs, and she’d given up on walking shortly after they left the restaurant.

“No, let’s hang around a little longer.” Yoongi slots into Hoseok's side, uncaring when a few passerby shoot them looks.

The light show starts just as it gets properly dark, coloured lights illuminating the plumes of water to fashion fantastical monsters. The illuminated spray twists and turns, watery fires and liquid dragons reflected in Bitna’s big brown eyes, and she claps as a faux-firework explodes over their heads. Hoseok’s side is warm against his; Yoongi can't help kissing him, though he stops swiftly when Bitna tries to bite his nose off in an attempt to defend her father from what she thought was an attack.

“I think that's a sign we should head home,” Hoseok sighs, rubbing Yoongi’s poor abused nose as the lights switch off, leaving them in darkness.

Bitna dozes off on the way home. Yoongi is perilously close to sleep himself, but manages to stay awake long enough to watch Hoseok settle Bitna in for the night.

No matter how much he may complain about his little hellion, it's plain to see how much Hoseok loves his daughter, if you know where to look. It's there in the way he smooths the blankets up to her chin, tucking them in around her. It's there in how he adjusts her head until it’s settled comfortably on the pillow, though she always slides off it and ends up sleeping with her head on the mattress. It's there in how he pets her, like he says his mother used to, until her breathing slows and deepens. The love on his face when he stands up to turn on the nightlight – it reminds Yoongi how blessed he is, that this little family embraced him with open arms.

They curl up on the couch together, the TV playing a movie neither of them are interested in, too tired to do anything but cuddle. Yoongi isn't a particularly cuddly person, but, well, it's Hoseok. His phone buzzes; he gropes around in his pocket for it and comes up, instead, with the slip of paper. Hoseok takes it from his fingers, examining the text curiously. “‘Toddler Support Group?’”

“Some woman I met at the museum today gave it to me. It's a group of parents in this neighbourhood who organise community stuff. I thought it might be nice for Bitna to make friends with her neighbours. You should go.”

“Sounds good to me. Let’s go together.” Yoongi stiffens. “What?” Hoseok's voice is warm with amused affection. “You've given her baths, haven't you? Anyone who's willing to wash that little monster has earned at least some parental rights.”

Oh. Oh. “Hoseok-ah,” he manages, a little choked up.

“Don't cry, hyung!” Hoseok pats his face fondly. “Aigoo, Min Yoongi. You pretend like you're real tough, but you're a big ol’ sap, aren't you?”

“Shut up,” he grouses. Hoseok apologises by kissing him, soft and sweet, until his complaining fades into pleased sighs, until the sun finds them in the morning hanging off the edges of Hoseok’s bed, Bitna sprawled out length-ways between them.

Chapter Text

They wave Bitna off a couple of hours later; Jiwoo is taking her home to Gwangju for the weekend, ostensibly to visit her grandparents, but largely because they don’t want to expose her to drunk Jimin. Yoongi and Hoseok pass the morning idly, reading each other excerpts from the paper, filching bits of each other’s breakfast and apologising with lazy kisses, too tired from the previous day’s exertions for anything more strenuous. Seokjin and Namjoon show up at six pm on the dot, enough food and alcohol in tow to cater for a party of thirty.

“How many people did you think there was going to be at this thing?” Yoongi sneaks a piece of kimbap while Seokjin’s back is turned. Namjoon and Hoseok are out in the living room, discussing work. As far as Yoongi can tell, the boy group debut isn't going according to plan.

“You can never have enough food.” Seokjin dries his hands off. “How many people are coming?”

“Well. Me and Hoseok, duh. You two. Taehyung, Jimin, Jungkook. That’s it, I’d say.”

“What about Hongbin? Your co-workers?”

“Hongbin’s sick, I think, and I went out with the SUJU crowd Thursday night. We ended up in the same bar as SNSD and I swear to God, I’ve never seen Leeteuk so pissed as when Taeyeon downed her pitcher before he downed his.”

“Hmm.” Seokjin starts plating the japchae. “Are these three Hoseok’s old students?” Yoongi nods. “I’ve never met them before. What are they like?”

“You’ll love them,” Yoongi promises.

 

“I love them!” Six hours later, Seokjin has had enough drink to drown Bitna in. Jimin is slumped on his shoulders, giggling. “I love you all. I love Joonie special but I love you all! Even you, Yoongi-yah!”

“They weren’t supposed to get along this well,” Yoongi hisses, alarmed, to Hoseok. “They’re going to unite for world domination. Did you hear him call them Jinmin?”

Neither of them technically qualify as sober right now, but everyone else is so fucked that they're fine by comparison. Seokjin and Jimin are tussling over a single banana despite the bunch lying on the counter. Namjoon, Taehyung and Jungkook are genuinely playing with some of Bitna’s toys. Namjoon keeps trying to give Jungkook paternal advice, who, in response, blasts him with a water gun. Hoseok makes a face. “Maybe we should cut them off?”

“It’s, like, three hours too late for that.”

The night started out promisingly. The three boys turned up about seven and presented Yoongi with a designer baseball cap, with rings in the brim and katakana embroidered onto the strap. Yoongi stuffed it straight onto his head, hasn’t taken it off since, and doesn’t intend to in the near future. Seokjin gave him a retro instant camera, with the condition that he take a roll of film’s worth of photos just of Seokjin. Yoongi tried his hardest to take ugly ones, going to such lengths as making him laugh so his face scrunched up and lying down on the floor to take them from a low angle, but no matter what he did, each picture came out perfect. It’s disgusting, really, how photogenic he is.

Namjoon, the rich asshole, gave him a Maschine. Yoongi point-blank refused to take it, but Hoseok accepted it in his stead. “It’s an old one Bang PD gave to him,” Hoseok whispered to him later. “Take pity on the poor thing and accept it before he destroys it.”

After the gift-giving and card-reading and general piss-taking, they sat down to eat dinner. Yoongi was fed special birthday seaweed soup; the rest feasted on galbi and japchae and lettuce wraps and a frankly excessive amount of side dishes, finished off with a birthday cake of titanic proportions and accompanied by copious volumes of wine. Seokjin made it his personal mission to ensure that everyone’s glass was always brimming full, despite none of them being in any way able to handle that volume of drink.

Yoongi and Hoseok stopped drinking then, both just about buzzed enough to laugh at Seokjin’s dad jokes, which is drunk enough for any reasonable person. The rest kept going, and now Jimin and Seokjin are playing cowboys with bananas, hollering and destroying Hoseok’s kitchen table. Namjoon is quoting Buddhist philosophy at a rapt Taehyung, waving a piece of Lego grandiosely. “‘The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.’ You know?”

“The most beautiful moment in life,” Taehyung agrees, mouth agape, his drink spilling, slowly, out of his hand, a teddy bear clutched in the other. “It’s the moment we’re living in right now?”

“Yes! Yes!” Namjoon snaps his fingers. “You’re good. I like you.”

“I like you too,” Jungkook says mulishly from the floor, where he is spooning Namjoon’s thigh, the water blaster having been confiscated from him by an irate Hoseok when he got water on his TV. Taehyung pats his ear inattentively and somewhat forcefully. Jungkook doesn’t seem to care.

“RAP BATTLE!” Jimin screams, hitting about two octaves above anything Yoongi can handle right now.

“RAP BATTLE!” Namjoon yells in reply, scrambling into the kitchen, falling flat on his face halfway through and recovering with as much grace someone as drunk as he is can possess.

“The most beautiful moment in life,” Taehyung repeats, staring into the far distance, with the air of someone achieving self-actualisation.

“Hyung…” Jungkook sniffs. With the oversized hoodie he has wrapped around him, Yoongi finally sees the resemblance to a bunny rabbit. “Why doesn’t IU know who I am? I could make her happy, I know I could. Jieun noona…”

“Don’t challenge me,” Seokjin warns. “I rap like Jay-Z.”

“I wanna go to bed,” Yoongi says plaintively.

“I want to watch the carnage,” Hoseok says, an evil glint in his eye. “Let’s break in that fancy new camera of yours.”

So, to Yoongi’s great dismay, they have a rap battle. Yoongi still can’t freestyle, Namjoon still sounds like Joey from Friends when he speaks English, and Jungkook rapping destroys some fundamentally important component of his mind. The rap battle, to his even greater dismay, turns into a dance battle; in Yoongi’s unbiased opinion, Hoseok wins hands down (the body rolls alone clinch it for him), but Seokjin’s traffic dance wins because it made Jimin laugh so hard that he got a stitch and had to go for a lie down in Hoseok’s bed. Hoseok tries not to sulk, but he keeps pouting when he thinks no-one can see him.

The party, mercifully, winds down around three in the morning. Jimin, Taehyung and Jungkook are sprawled in a pile on Hoseok’s bed, knees in stomachs and arms hooked around necks; Namjoon is asleep on the couch, Seokjin perched precariously on top of him.

“I can’t believe I have to clean up after my own birthday party,” Yoongi whines, wrapping a container of rice in cling film. “Who does that?”

“My apartment, my rules. Next time, we’re doing it in yours.” Hoseok backs into the table and screeches in pain. “Why is there banana under my table?”

“Jimin.”

“Jimin.”

Between the two of them, they get the place cleaned up, excepting the lugs who are snoring loud enough to wake the neighbours. He thanks God that no-one vomited.

“You never gave me my present,” Yoongi grouses, just as he and Hoseok fall into his own bed. His apartment is blessedly quiet and fragrant, compared to the odour of alcohol and unhygienic twenty-somethings that lingers in Hoseok’s.

Hoseok presses a finger to his lips. “Tomorrow. Go to sleep, hyung. It’s a new day.”

 

Yoongi blinks awake alone. His hangover is nothing more than a faint buzz in his ears, and will fade into nothingness given enough coffee. He stretches luxuriantly, burrowing back into the sheets. They smell like Hoseok; sweat and Bitna’s baby lotion and the vanilla and tobacco aftershave Jiwoo insists on buying him.

He’s considering going back to sleep, just for fifteen minutes or so, when his phone starts buzzing. He grabs it off the nightstand, his fumbling hand knocking a bottle of lube that he definitely didn’t leave there. What’s Hoseok got planned for him?

Seokjinnie and the Two Babies

Today 10:47 AM
Jinnie
Sorry about the mess Yoongi-yah
We’ll make it up to you! I promise!
Joonie
Great party though I want to die
That’s always a marker of a good night
Thanks
You all gone home?
Jinnie
Yeah the three boys cleared off when Joonie pointed out that you and Hoseokie probably fucked in that bed
Uh no gross that’s where Bitna sleeps
The couch though…
Joonie
Oh God
Oh no
We slept on the sex couch
We put down towels it was all very hygienic
Joonie
SEX COUCH SEX COUCH
Jinnie
He’s puking. Thanks Yoongi-yah love you bye

“Idiots.” He feels irrationally fond of them. Three more texts come in.

Jiminie pabo

Today 10:55 AM
I’m sorry for getting banana all over Hoseok hyung’s kitchen TT
Thank you for the party ^^ it was a lot of fun~~ Let’s do it again sometime!!!

Kookie

Today 10:55 AM
I want to die hyung. Thank you for the good night.
Can I borrow your hat? I tried it on, I look hot in it.

Taehyung ^ ㅁ ^

Today 10:55 AM
asdfgtfdsdfg
aaaaaa
hyung-ah happy birthday im never drinking ever again
say hello to bitna for me when you see her!!!!!!!!!!

Yoongi decides to respond later. There’s someone humming tunelessly in the kitchen, and when he sniffs he scents the unmistakable aroma of eggs frying.

Hoseok is in the kitchen, making breakfast, and though that’s great what’s more important is that he’s wearing nothing but a skin-tight pair of black boxer briefs and an apron emblazoned with the phrase ‘MR. WORLDWIDE’ and a picture of Pitbull. It’s patently ridiculous and Yoongi is so in love.

“Now, this is what I like to wake up to.” Yoongi slots himself against Hoseok’s back, hands sneaking down to squeeze his ass, small yet perfectly formed. His skin is slightly damp; he must have just come out of the shower. “What’s the occasion?”

“You survived your birthday!” Hoseok wriggles out of his grip and swats him with the spatula. “Hands off the goods, champ. Food first, fucking later.”

“There will be fucking?”

“There will be fucking,” Hoseok confirms. “At least, if I have anything to do with it. I genuinely prepared. Do you know how long I spent in the shower this morning?” He gestures grandiosely at the table. “Sit, sit. Have some coffee. Stare at my ass, flat as it is; it is all I have to give.”

Yoongi settles down as he's told to and pours himself a cup, stirring in just enough milk to colour it. It’s nice to watch Hoseok cook; he’s assured and confident, multitasking with ease, but it’s even better now that he can watch the muscles shift in his back as he reaches for the salt, see how his quads bulge as he crouches down to grab another bowl from under the counter. Nearly naked Hoseok is always a treat, and nearly naked Hoseok in an apron is even better. Viewed from the front, he gives the impression that he’s wearing nothing at all. It would be hotter if he wasn’t wearing that stupid joke apron Namjoon got him for Secret Santa two years ago, but he’ll deal.

Breakfast is Western-style for once, fried eggs sunny-side-up and bacon and sausages and all the trimmings. Yoongi is as ravenous as he always is after a night of drinking, and he devours every last morsel, choking the odd time when Hoseok’s foot slides far enough up his leg to brush against his crotch. “Someone’s eager,” Yoongi teases, once his plate is clean.

“Pot, this is kettle. You’re black.” The apron has been discarded carelessly over the back of his chair, leaving Hoseok, for all intents and purposes, bare. He hasn't eaten anything. “We don’t often get this kinda chance, you know. I’m gonna seize it.” He pauses. “Firmly. With both hands.”

“Can you go ten seconds without making a sex joke?”

Hoseok makes an irritated noise. “I can’t help it, okay? You’re really…” He gazes at him with enough intensity to make him squirm. “You’re kinda irresistible.” Yoongi snorts. “What? Don’t tell me you don’t think so.”

“’M not,” he mumbles.

“Hyung.” Hoseok leans forward, a serious look on his face. “You're gorgeous, don't you know that?” Yoongi shifts uneasily. “No. Listen to me.” Before Yoongi can protest, he has a lapful of nearly-naked, slightly damp Hoseok. “I'm going to compliment the shit out of you and there's nothing you can do about it.”

“Nothing?” His arms wind around Hoseok's waist.

“Nope!” Hoseok smiles at him cheerily. “You've got these cute chubby cheeks, and I know you hate them but they make me want to squish your face.” He grabs his cheeks and presses on them hard, making Yoongi squeak. His eyes drag down Hoseok's chest. “Your eyes are so heavy on me, you know? I can always feel you staring. I love your weird double chin. That little dip… it fits my lips perfectly.” He lets go of his face to press a kiss to the concave curve of his jaw. Yoongi spans his hands across Hoseok’s back, trying to keep him steady. “Your hands… they're so big and strong, you've got piano hands, yeah? Your fingers feel so good inside me.” Yoongi flushes and, despite himself, smiles. “Oh, your smile, I could talk about your smile for weeks! You have this hesitant one, y’know, it starts out small but it gets so big, it's like watching the dawn break. Then there's the gummy one. Oh, man, the gummy one. Every time you do it I fall in love all over again. You're beautiful,” he finishes, breathlessly.

Yoongi just – kisses him, has to, needs to, hooks his arms around his neck and pulls him down. The soft buzz of his hangover is beginning to vanish, and now everything is coming into proper focus. The sweat-and-shower-gel scent of Hoseok’s skin, the give of his body under his hands, the insistent dig of fingers into his shoulders as he deepens the kiss, licking into Hoseok’s mouth, teeth grazing against lips, the wanting noises muffled between their mouths, and the pressing heat of him in his lap, just kept decent by his underwear.

“Consider me thoroughly complimented,” Yoongi tells him, in a low, rough voice, once they break apart. “Thank you for breakfast.”

“You're welcome.” One last kiss, and then Hoseok gets off him, stretching; Yoongi watches, dry-mouthed, as his muscles ripple, as he easily pivots sideways, having forgotten how flexible he is. “Now, go brush your teeth, okay? Your breath stinks and I need to clean up.”

Yoongi grumbles at being ordered around, but does as he’s told. He emerges from the bathroom ten minutes later, nervous anticipation thrumming in his belly, and it intensifies when he sees no sign of Hoseok. “Hoseok-ah?” he calls, taking a tentative step or two into the living room. “Where’d you – ah!” Someone slides their arms around his shoulders and under his knees and before he knows it Hoseok has him in a bridal carry, smiling down at him wickedly. Yoongi lets out an undignified squeal and hurriedly twines his hands together behind his neck. “This is awful. I cannot believe you’re doing this to me.”

“Shush. Birthday boys get special treatment.” Hoseok carries him into his bedroom, and he won't lie, it is kinda sexy to be carried like this, secure and safe in his boyfriend’s arms, in the knowledge that he won’t drop him.

Hoseok lays him down on the bed with as much care as he can muster, caressing his knees as he lets go. “Can I undress you?” Yoongi turns his head to one side. “Hyung, please.”

“So demanding,” Yoongi grouses. He cooperates anyway, leaning forward to let Hoseok pull his t-shirt over his head, baring himself to Hoseok for the first time since that Sunday morning so long ago.

Yoongi doesn’t particularly like his body, but he’s come to terms with it. He’s narrow and flat and a little fluffy around his stomach and hips and it’s all his stupid shoulder’s fault. You can’t put on muscle if you can’t pick up a dumbbell without crying in pain.

The way Hoseok is gazing at him, mouth slightly ajar, makes all those thoughts vanish. Now he gets what Hoseok said about feeling his eyes on him; he can almost feel them trailing down his torso, following the helical lines of his tattoo. “What does it mean?”

He reaches around to caress the delicate black lines that wrap around his midsection; two parallel rings, one just under his non-existent pectorals and the other a half-inch above his navel, joined by a curve that snakes around from under his heart on his left and around his back, terminating just above his right hip. “It’s a helix. They’re infinite – well, under certain conditions, but I won’t get into the technicalities. You were a performance arts major, it’d just go over your head.”

“Stop being a dick. It’s not sexy.” Hoseok is making that displeased face that makes him look like an emoji.

“I did engineering, I can’t help it. Back on topic. My helix is a reminder that things don’t end, no matter how much you may want them to. You gotta keep going, no matter what.”

“It suits you.” He flattens his hand to where it passes over his back. “Did it hurt?”

“Kinda, around my spine and my ribs. Why?” Yoongi flicks his forehead. “You thinking about getting one? You’re the one who fainted when Bitna had to get that hepatitis vaccine, and you weren’t even the one getting stuck.”

“Shut up, okay? I’m a coward! I confess!”

“What would you get?” Hoseok is silent. “Tell me.”

“A duckling. For Bitna. It’s her favourite animal, if you haven’t guessed, though she's taken a shine to belugas lately. It was Hyerin’s too.”

That’s so cute that Yoongi has to kiss him, and it’s sweet at first but, well, they’re both shirtless and Hoseok’s wandering hands are slipping his pants down and when he pushes him back down on the bed Yoongi’s completely naked, pale golden skin and bony thighs laid out just for Hoseok’s reverent gaze.

“You’re glowing,” Hoseok whispers, and it’s true. The late morning sun streams in from the balcony, lighting up his skin. “You’re so... It makes your tattoo stand out.” He trails his fingers over the greenish-blue veins in Yoongi’s wrist.

“Basement tan.” Hoseok snorts, and moves his hands to Yoongi’s neck, tipping his head back to examine it, thumbs digging into the soft underside of his chin.

Hoseok has a thing for necks, Yoongi’s in particular. He loves touching it, and he always has a hand on the back of it when they’re sitting on the couch, fingers combing through the short hair on his nape. He leans in close now, pressing tiny, light kisses down his throat. Yoongi swallows in anticipation of the first bite. It comes sooner than expected; he nips at the hollow of his collarbone, reddening the skin, tongue soothing away the pain. Another, and another, each one coaxing tiny noises out that stick in Yoongi’s teeth, more delicate on his bad shoulder but rougher up to his jaw until his neck is blooming with bruises, purple and red stark on bare skin. Hoseok is breathing heavily, already half-hard against Yoongi’s leg.

“You’re such a Neanderthal. You really had to mark me like that?” Yoongi rubs at one big one and bites back a curse. He'll have to wear a scarf all week.

“Yes,” Hoseok mumbles, eyes half-lidded and hazy. “So they know you’re mine.” His hands knead at Yoongi’s chest, one thumb drawing calculatedly across a nipple. Yoongi hisses, and decides that his boyfriend’s had the upper hand for too long. He yanks him down and bites, hard, on his ear. Hoseok goes boneless, collapsing onto him.

It’s really weird, but Hoseok’s ears are strangely sensitive. He sucks on the lobe and Hoseok breathes in sharply. “We’re gonna get your ears pierced someday. I swear you’d pop the most embarrassing boner ever.”

He pushes at him. “Dick.” Too annoyed to be gentle, he tweaks Yoongi’s nipples; his mouth falls away from his ear and Hoseok slides down to lick at the abused skin, massaging the other with more care. Yoongi goes pliant underneath his ministrations, running his hand across Hoseok’s shoulders, down his back, the other spread on the back of his head. “Wonder if I could make you come like this?” He punctuates the statement with a bite, making Yoongi buck.

“’Bout… ah, about ten years too late for that...” Hoseok’s hands are everywhere, down his thighs, up to his shoulders, tight around his waist as he moves to the other nipple.

Yoongi’s not really – well, he’s never really let himself be taken care of like this. After a few ill-advised experiences as a bottom, he’s stuck to topping, to being the active partner. He can’t help it; he likes being in control, and he doesn't trust other people to know what he likes. But he knows Hoseok will take care of him, trusts him to make him feel good, and it’s nice to be pampered. Hoseok is enjoying it too, judging by how he grinds against his thigh with each needy noise Yoongi makes.

When the stimulation gets a little too much for him to handle Yoongi drags Hoseok back up and kisses him, teeth hard against his lips, mouths wet and noses banging. While Hoseok is distracted Yoongi trails a hand down to palm at his erection through the thin fabric of his briefs. “I think,” he starts, “that maybe we should get these off.”

“About fucking time.” Hoseok wriggles to help him pull them off him.

Yoongi tosses them off the bed and runs a hand down the small of his back and over the swell of his ass. “Wait. Did you shave?” Yoongi wriggles out until he's sitting behind Hoseok, who, on his hands and knees, looks back at him quizzically from over his shoulder. He strokes the bare skin, making a shiver run down Hoseok’s spine.

“I almost died. See here?” He indicates a yellowing bruise on his hip. “I fell into the showerhead! The sacrifices I make for you.”

“It’s appreciated.” Yoongi noses at his perineum, and, as gently as he can, kisses his rim. Hoseok shudders. “Is it another time?”

“Yes!” He sounds overjoyed.

“Grab the lube for me.” Hoseok doesn’t just get it for him; he slicks Yoongi’s hand up and his own, adding more when he tells him to, and holds his ass cheeks apart. He’s never met anybody so enthusiastic about bottoming. “Good. Tell me if you want me to stop.” When he finally pushes his finger in, there’s less resistance than there was last time. Hoseok sighs blissfully. “You’re getting really into this.”

“You were right. Butt stuff is best stuff.” His voice breaks as Yoongi flicks his finger inside him, pulling out and pushing back in again to the knuckle. “C’mon, I can take another.”

“If you’re sure.” One more finger, then, added as slow as he can bear; he scissors him open and Hoseok rocks back to meet him, face pressed into the sheets to stifle his moans.

It’s several minutes slow, steady work, Hoseok bearing down, down, down into the mattress until he's almost totally spread out, before he thinks he’s ready to take his tongue. He withdraws his fingers and Hoseok almost growls with annoyance. “Don’t be so needy.” He pulls him down until he's hovering over him, and presses an open-mouthed kiss to the juncture between pelvis and thigh that makes Hoseok tremble. “Now, sit down.”

“Holy shit.” Yoongi has genuinely never seen Hoseok so delighted. “Am I gonna sit on your face? Is that how we’re gonna do this?”

“Get on with it.” Yoongi reaches up and hooks a hand over Hoseok’s hip, caressing him. “Slowly. Hold your ass apart and keep your legs as spread as you can. Move up if I pinch you, I’ll need to breathe. If you break my face I’m breaking you.”

Yoongi’s only done this a couple of times, but the pressure on his mouth, on his chest, is just as he remembers it. He teases at Hoseok’s rim first, taking as much time as he can bear; blows on it, traces the edge, flits the flat of his tongue against it, never applying quite enough pressure, never putting his tongue where Hoseok wants him to. He whines with frustration, and reaches back to fist Yoongi’s dick. It has the intended effect; Yoongi slides his tongue in, the remains of the lube making him wrinkle his nose. He laps it away and Hoseok clenches around him, grip on his dick tensing and loosening rhythmically as Yoongi tongues him, speeding up until Hoseok is gasping threadily, and slowing down with torturously mellow licks, hips canting up to meet Hoseok’s slick fist.

“Jesus.” He grinds against his face and Yoongi, his lungs about to burst, pushes him up to breathe. Hoseok is flushed down to his chest, lips bitten. “Oh, God, hyung, your face, you’re ruined.”

Yoongi grins, running a hand back to cup his balls. Hoseok’s head lolls back. “Think you can handle a little more?”

He lowers his hips back down. Yoongi nips at his rim and slips his tongue in again. No mercy this time; he curls his tongue with intent, flicking it inside him in figures of eight, thrusting up and out and around until Hoseok whines, wanton, hips rolling jerkily as he fucks himself on Yoongi’s tongue. He keeps coming up for air but Hoseok never lets him breathe for long, and Yoongi’s head is spinning from lack of oxygen, from the uneven pumping of Hoseok’s hand on his dick, and how fucking hot Hoseok is, wriggling on top of him, begging him to tongue him harder. Once Hoseok is babbling he considers letting him come, but decides against it, and pulls away, easily manhandling Hoseok off him.

“Why’d you stop?” He slides his hand down to palm shamelessly at his dick, red and swollen with need.

“I want to fuck you.” Hoseok’s hand freezes, and his dick twitches in his grip. “You’re the one who was begging for it. Actually, for someone who presumably topped a lot in the past, you’re pretty insistent on getting penetrated.”

“I’ve always liked the view from below.” He leers at him. “How do you want me?”

Yoongi considers it. Having Hoseok on his hands and knees would be easier, but he wants to see his face when he fills him. “On your back.” He pushes him down by the shoulders, and can’t stop himself from running his hands down Hoseok’s body; down his arms, his ribs, across his hips, to his thighs, muscles fluttering under his gentle touch. Slim limbs, carefully maintained musculature; he has a dancer’s body and Yoongi wants to make him flex and bend, see how far he can go, see if he can make him snap. Another time, maybe. They've got plenty of it.

He hops off the bed and fumbles around in his nightstand for a condom. He rolls it down and strokes on a little extra lube, momentarily distracted by the friction of his hand; his head tips back. Hoseok huffs at him, splayed out on the sheets, watching him with big, dark eyes. “Hyung. Please.”

“I’m here.” Yoongi crawls back onto the bed and pours more lube into Hoseok’s ass, massaging it until he's sure that he's wet enough, his hips tipping up towards him. He lowers his head, pressing his tongue into his rim, and moves up to give his cock one dragging lick for good measure. Hoseok’s back arches. “Well? Last chance to back out.”

“Never.” Hoseok’s eyes are sure, and he pulls his legs up against his chest. “Stop dawdling, hyung.” He makes a tiny sound of pleasure as Yoongi lines up, head brushing against his ass. “Fuck me. Please.”

Yoongi pushes in one fluid thrust and groans. Hoseok is so tight, so warm, so perfect. His face is screwed up, chest heaving, eyes unfocused. “You okay?”

“You’re big,” he breathes. “Give me – give me a chance...” It’s hard to wait, but he does it. Finally, just as the need to move becomes unbearable, Hoseok squirms a little, whimpering. “I think… go on.”

Yoongi grabs Hoseok’s hands in his and pins them above his head as he sinks in further, down, down, down, until he’s fully inside him. He breathes in, deeply. Hoseok contracts around him and it's all Yoongi can do to stay still. “Is that good?”

“Good,” he manages. “I’m so – so full. So full.” He rocks, deliberately, and Yoongi’s head falls to his shoulder.

“I’m gonna –” Yoongi draws out as far as he can bear, and plunges back in. The slide is just slick enough, and he pulls out a little farther and sinks back in, slowly, slowly, groaning at the friction. It’s been so long.

“Faster.” Hoseok smiles up at him, and Yoongi’s heart fills with affection. “I won’t break.”

Yoongi pulls out farther and farther with each thrust and pounds back in with a little more pressure, figuring out how to angle his hips so his cock nudges against his prostate. “You’re so tight, Hoseok-ah.” He withdraws completely and plunges back in, hips colliding painfully. “God. God, you’re perfect.” Hoseok flushes bright red at the praise; Yoongi nuzzles into the crook of his shoulder as he begins to speed up, mouthing at his neck.

Hoseok’s hips swivel against him, the movement growing jerkier and jerkier as Yoongi, though he drags it out for as long as he can, picks up the pace. The air is thick and heavy, a symphony of choked mewls and hurried gasps and the lewd slap of skin on skin echoing around the room in an infinite feedback loop, until Yoongi is dizzy, gasping, head swimming with want. “Hyung, let me go, let me go, I need to – ah!”

Yoongi lets go and sits back to hold Hoseok’s hips up for better access, spreading his ass and slinging one of his legs over his shoulder, angling in as deep as he can. Hoseok braces himself with one hand scrabbling for purchase against the headboard, banging loudly against the wall with each movement of Yoongi’s hips, sweaty bedsheets rucked underneath him. The other goes to his dick, jerking himself off with sloppy, rushed movements. He’s open-mouthed, whimpering with each thrust and Yoongi doesn’t think he can take it anymore. “Come on, Hoseok-ah.” He pounds into him with abandon, twisting his hips, fingers digging painfully into Hoseok’s ass. “Scream. Scream my name, let everyone know I’m fucking you, come on, come on –”

Hoseok certainly screams, though he’s not sure if it’s his name; his own orgasm hits him as Hoseok contracts around him, body flooding with that unique all-consuming heat. He mouths his name into his neck as Hoseok writhes underneath him, bringing him down, slowly, dropping into the sticky sheets, breath coming in strangled gasps.

They break apart as Yoongi pulls out of him with a satisfied sigh, pinching the condom around his base until he can safely tug it off, tying it and tossing it over his shoulder. Even that little exertion exhausts him; he collapses into Hoseok’s side. “Don’t bitch,” he mumbles, mind slowly piecing back together. “I’ll clean up later.” He snuggles into him. “Well?”

It's a long time before Hoseok gathers enough breath to reply. “I’m so glad I came over to give you that drawing.” He pecks his forehead. “Happy birthday, hyung.”

Yoongi smooths his hair back out of his face. Hoseok can’t hold his grin in. “I’m glad too.”

They lie there tangled for a while, basking in that post-coital glow, until Hoseok’s breath gets suspiciously slow. Yoongi sits up and unceremoniously pinches his ass. “Ow!”

“Don’t you dare fall asleep. We’re showering, I need mouthwash, and you’re washing your cum off me.”

“I’ve had a busy morning! I made you breakfast! You just fucked me! Let me sleep!”

“We have…” Yoongi checks his phone. “Four more hours until Jiwoo’s due back. Four more hours of uninterrupted private time. You owe me at least two more orgasms.”

“Hyung…” Hoseok considers it for a while, and sighs. “Alright. But we’re going out to eat, okay? I’ll pay.”

“You don’t have to…”

“I’ll pay,” Hoseok repeats, “and I’m buying you the most expensive thing on the menu.”

“What if I don’t like the most expensive thing on the menu?”

“You’re eating it anyway.” Hoseok stumbles out of bed and immediately crumples onto the floor with a wince. “I can’t walk?”

Yoongi pulls Hoseok up, mindful of the sore spots. “And you told me you could handle it. Hurry up, Hoseok-ah. I have a fantasy to live out…”

Chapter Text

By the time Hoseok takes him home to Gwangju to introduce him to his parents, the cherry blossoms are beginning to die off, pink petals piling into brown drifts. The sunlight dapples Bitna’s hair as she walks sedately along between them, hands held tightly in theirs, face tilted up towards them like a sunflower.

“They liked you,” Hoseok reassures. “They’re just a little wary.”

“I suppose,” Yoongi sighs. He’s never met the parents before, and he’d really rather never do it again.

“C’mon. You had it easier than I did, remember? I thought your brother was going to stab me over dinner.”

“You did break my heart.” He leans over to kiss Hoseok and smother his apology. “It’s fine. It brought us together, didn’t it?”

“I suppose.” Hoseok squeezes Bitna’s hand. “Well, sweetie? What do you want to do today?”

“Park.” She’s been a little quieter, lately, in the run up to Hyerin’s second anniversary. That’s the real reason they came back to Gwangju. The only time the Seos will permit Hoseok to visit his wife’s resting place is her anniversary, the 8th of May. If they find out that he was there at any other time he’ll be banned from the columbarium permanently. It kills him, Yoongi knows, but he can’t push it. They’ve only just dropped the custody suit, and that’s enough for now.

“Alright.” Hoseok picks her up with an ‘oof!’ of exertion. Soon, she’ll be too big to carry. “Will we show Yoongi hyung how to feed the ducks?”

“Yep. You’re not supposed to give ‘em bread, only veggies.” Bitna considers something, nose scrunching up. “Can we get a duck? They can eat my peppers for me.”

“I think one duckling is enough,” Yoongi tugs her yellow hood up over her head. “Lead the way, Hoseok-ah.”

 

The halls of the columbarium are busy yet muted, filled with tearful families and solemn children. It's Parent’s Day, after all. None of the other visitors take any notice of the short man in the black jumper, a bouquet of cyclamen clutched in his hand. The niche he’s searching for is in the section labelled Seo and he finds it after only a few minutes.

Hyemi, Hyemin, Hyerim, Hyerin. Seo Hyerin. Here.

It’s a different photo to the one Hoseok has at home. She’s not smiling in this one, staring seriously at the camera. It makes her prettier, but unreachable, and he supposes she is. Two wedding ducks flank the picture. Flowers and ribbons and strings of rice festoon her niche. The date etched into the case is two years ago exactly. Hoseok and Bitna already visited her this morning; Yoongi declined to accompany them, not wanting to intrude. He slipped out of the house while they were distracted to pay his respects on his own.

He places his own bouquet in the vase, wiping his hands on his trousers and just looks at her for a long while, at her still-youthful skin, the sticky-out ears her daughter inherited, all the tiny things Hoseok fell in love with.

“Hello,” he begins, eventually, feeling stupid talking to a picture, but whatever. “I shouldn’t really be here, but… I wanted to say thank you.” He pauses. “Okay, that sounds like I’m thanking you for dying. I’m not. I wish, more than anything, that you were alive. I wish I had known you. I know… I know you would make him happier than I ever could, and Bitna deserves to have her mom.”

Breathe in, breathe out. It’s okay, Min Yoongi, you can do this. “I want to say thank you for Bitna. She’s such a sweet kid. She’s so weird and I love her more than I ever thought I could love someone, even when she’s being a brat. I want to watch her grow up and look like you. Isn’t that strange? I can’t wait to see what she does. She’s special, I just know it. I promise you, I’ll do what I can to help her grow up well. No matter what.”

“One more thing. Then I’ll leave you in peace.” He rubs his neck. “Thank you for loving Hoseok. You should have gotten to grow old together, but in what little time you spent together… You loved him so much. He’s so easy to love, isn’t he? Thank you for all the love you gave him, because that meant he had enough left in his heart for me. I promise I’ll take care of him, until the day I die. He won’t ever want for anything. I’m not much, I know, but what little I am, what little I have… It’s all his, for as long as he wants it, and I hope he always wants it, because I’ll always want him. I love him, Hyerin-sshi. I really… I really do.”

He backs away and bows, hands pressed together, eyes squeezed shut, back protesting. When he straightens up again he spots something glittering in the niche.

It’s a wedding ring. Hoseok’s wedding ring, if he’s not mistaken. Maybe… maybe he doesn’t feel that awful guilt anymore, the shame he tries so hard to hide. Maybe he’s moved on. Yoongi sighs. “Thank you,” he says, one final time, pressing his hand to the glass. “Rest well.”

He leaves, then; emerges, blinking, into the sunlight. If he squints across the carpark he can just about make out Hoseok and Bitna, no longer in their mourning clothes, seated on a bench. Jiwoo must have told on him. Bitna scrambles up when she sees him to wave him over; Hoseok grabs her before she overbalances and secures her on his lap, smile visible even from this distance.

Yoongi looks at his family. Thank you, he thinks, and goes to them, calling Hoseok’s name.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.