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someone's hand opens; i hold it, it begins to rain

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I.

The rain thrums against the roof of the taxi. Through the fogged up window, Yoongi can see the rolling hills of the Scottish countryside; deep, relentless green in every imaginable direction.

The inside of the taxi smells like old cigarettes and leather, something up in the dashboard has been rattling for the entire drive, and Yoongi is tired. He thinks the driver has been ignoring the blinking of the low tire pressure light since they left the airport.

Yoongi had accepted his company’s offer to get out of Korea faster than he could sign his own name, even if travel writing isn’t really his thing. Anti-tourism, his boss had said. Something about experiencing a place instead of just observing it through smudgy glass. Three months, living with a local, write what you want.

So, yeah, Yoongi took on the project because Seoul makes him feel like swimming through molasses, like he’s just clutching at doorways without learning to pick the locks.

It’s not that anything was particularly awful, really. Just hollow; the kind that caves in under a bit of pressure. Lonely, maybe.

And Yoongi doesn’t mind being alone. Often prefers it. But he moved to Seoul two years ago and still feels like he doesn't belong anywhere, still feels like something is missing, still feels like he’s just sitting in a segment of time that never hits the floor. He thinks something might be wrong with him. Knows it, actually, but likes to pretend it isn’t there, on occasion. Just for kicks. Yoongi has the money, but can’t seem to find the energy to move out of his shitty studio apartment. Jungkook would probably love to come visit, but Yoongi can never seem to find it in him to just call.

So; change. It’s supposed to be good.

The taxi swerves halfway off the one lane road to let another car go by, and the luggage in the seat next to him slides into his thigh. Over his shoulder, the taxi driver mutters something to Yoongi in English that is probably about how close they are to the destination. Yoongi just nods and leans his forehead against the cool, foggy glass of the window, watching the raindrops stream sideways; pressed against the car by the wind.

 

 

 

II.

Yoongi wakes up as the taxi slows to a stop. When he steps out, tiny rocks in the dirt of the driveway crunch and shift under the soles of his shoes. The rain drones on, the taxi’s engine hums.

The old house they’ve parked in front of looks like it might have grown right out of the ground a hundred years ago, deep set in the grass and sagging in the middle. The paint on the shutters is peeling.

As Yoongi drags his luggage from the trunk of the taxi, the front door of the house squeaks open and closed. Yoongi turns and looks at the man now standing on the drooping porch, suitcase in hand.

“You must be Yoongi-ssi,” he calls, smiling and loud, hands on his hips. Yoongi’s glasses are sliding down his nose and littered with rain drops. He can only see a blurry image of dark brown hair, a bulky sweater, flannel pajama pants, and two bare feet planted firmly on the wood.

From his spot next to the taxi, Yoongi nods. “That’s me,” he says, “so you must be Hoseok-ssi.”

Hoseok’s smile grows wider, reaching all the way up to his eyes, from his spot on the porch. “Thats right,” he grins, “let me grab my shoes. I’ll help with your luggage.”

“Oh, no, that’s quite alright--” Yoongi protests, but Hoseok has already disappeared back inside the house, door hinges groaning with age.

Yoongi hikes his bag higher up his shoulder and leans down to pick up his suitcase as the front door scrapes open again. Hoseok steps out with a pair of ratty slippers and makes his way down the driveway, taking the suitcase out of his hands and holding the door open with his foot as Yoongi walks past. Yoongi toes out of his wet shoes by the door, letting Hoseok pad farther into the living room.

Inside, it’s warm. The fireplace is burning, aged green wallpaper creeps up above the dark wood panelling, the shelves overflowing with books and trinkets, an old radio buzzing from somewhere in the kitchen. The bay window lets the pale light creep in through the curtains.

“Your room is this way,” Hoseok says, leading Yoongi down a dim hall and into a tiny bedroom with a twin bed and a scratched wooden desk. There's a dirty mirror, a full bookshelf, a deep red rug, and the window is cracked open a few inches, curtains lifting in the breeze.

“You can close that if you want,” Hoseok says, “it just smelled like dust in here for a while.”

He takes Yoongi’s suit case and lugs it onto the bed while Yoongi sets his other bag down on the rug.

“Do you want coffee?” Hoseok asks, filling the silence. He had tugged his slippers off back at the front door and his toes curl into the rug when he speaks.

“Yeah,” Yoongi replies, “if you don't mind.”

“I never mind,” Hoseok replies. “Anyway. Make yourself at home. I’ll come get you when it’s done. How do you take it?”

“Black,” Yoongi drawls.

Hoseok smiles at him. “I thought so,” he chimes, disappearing out the door and down the hallway. Through the walls, Yoongi hears Hoseok turning up the radio, humming along, metal pots clanging as he rifles through the cupboards.

Yoongi decides that he might as well start unpacking his suitcase, sorting his clothes into the drawers of the dresser, laying his laptop and his notebooks out on the desk. He’s come at the feeble beginnings of fall; somewhere between the buzzing hum of summer and the time where everything starts to shrivel.

Yoongi kicks his suitcases to the side and takes a closer look at the bookcase; an old fashioned alarm clock, a white candle, half melted on a tin tray, misshapen stacks of aged, dusty books. There's a picture in a frame of what looks like a young Hoseok standing up in a canoe in front of a man with the same high cheekbones. His father, probably.  Down on the bottom shelf, a pressed butterfly in a golden frame, lying on top of A Picture of Dorian Gray.

Yoongi can smell the coffee, can still hear Hoseok humming somewhere in the kitchen, an english song with lots of guitar and high notes plucking away. Out the window, the rain continues.

He sits down on the bed, curls his fingers into the soft fabric of a quilt.

Yoongi listens to Hoseok's footsteps approaching his bedroom again, and pretends to be occupied with his laptop when he peeks his head around the doorframe.

"Coffee's done," he says.

Yoongi follows him quietly down the hall and into the kitchen, poignant with the bitter smell of his coffee. Hoseok hands him a steaming mug and motions for Yoongi to sit down at the tiny table in front of the window while Hoseok goes back to the fridge.

Hoseok pours orange juice into a mug and sits down across from Yoongi, overcast grey light from the window catching on his hair and his fine boned face.

Yoongi keeps his hands around his warm coffee, breathing in the smell of it.

"Hoseok-ssi," Yoongi begins, curious, "my boss told me you've lived here your whole life, right? If you don’t mind me asking, how do you know korean so well?"

"Ah," Hoseok says, "my parents moved from Korea into this house when I was...three years old, I think? They always spoke it to me at home, and I just sort of picked up English as I got older."

"What was it like? Growing up here?"

Hoseok smiles, the apples of his cheeks casting delicate shadows down the smooth planes of his face. "It was amazing," he says, eyes crinkling up at the corners, cheeks dimpling. "The lake, the hills, all of it. When you're young, you know, you don’t really know how to be anything but happy. I wouldn't have traded it for the world, back then."

"Starting to lose it's charm?" he supplies.

"No," Hoseok hums. "It's just different now. A little more lonely."

Yoongi nods. That, if nothing else, is something he can understand.

He listens to Hoseok's stories from his childhood until it starts getting dark; hours spent in a canoe, rolling down hillsides, weaving grass into chains. Something about stew in the evenings, biking to town, the sprawling dark beside the bonfire, Hoseok’s voice tinny and happy and bright.

 

  

 

III.

Hoseok is already awake when Yoongi stumbles out of bed in the morning, eyes puffy, hair a mess. He can smell coffee, can hear Hoseok in the kitchen with the radio again.

Hoseok is kind and friendly but Yoongi is introverted by nature, so he hesitates in the doorway, for a moment, and sits in the only chair he’s already sat in out of self preservation.

When he finally peels his eyes all the way open, Hoseok is struggling with a waffle maker while  coffee boils and steams in its pot.

Inexplicably, Hoseok is wide awake, hair ruffled, eyes bright and alert, still in his pajamas.

“Yoongi-ssi,” he begins, “your piece is on the general Loch Ness area, right?” He seems hesitant to take his eyes off of the waffle maker, untrustworthy.

Yoongi nods and scrubs at his eyes, trying to wake himself up enough to have a real conversation.

The floorboards creak under Hoseok’s weight as he shuffles around, opens the fridge and closes it again. “I guess I have to give you the full Loch Ness experience, then,” he says.

When Yoongi only makes a vague noise of approval, Hoseok continues. “Well, it’s a really lovely day. We can start with the touristy stuff, if you’re up for it.”

“Mm,” Yoongi hums, scratching at his shoulder. By lovely day, Hoseok must mean that occasionally the sun makes its way through the clouds, and it probably won’t rain until later.

“Not a morning person?” Hoseok asks, trying to unstick a waffle from the griddle.

Yoongi shakes his head.

 

 

 

IV.

The opening of the cairn is dark, the muted light casting a harsh shadow into the tunnel. Around the rocky hill, eleven stones stand resolutely in a circle. Hoseok’s old green car is parked in the distance somewhere, and the sound of the tires crunching over the gravel sticks in Yoongi’s head like bubblegum on the bottom of his shoe.

Hoseok leads him to the stone archway, so low they have to crouch to fit underneath it.

He had explained to Yoongi in the car, a bit, about where they were going. It’s a burial ground, he had said. The corrimony chambered cairn.

Hoseok looks back at Yoongi from where he is ahead of him in the passageway.

“The entrance faces southwest,” he says, and the light bleeds in behind him from the other end of the tunnel, “so the souls can migrate towards the stars, they say.”

Yoongi’s hand on the stones where he crouches suddenly feels out of place, and he rests it back on his knee.

This isn’t anything like the tourist attractions he’s usually sent off to in Korea, at all.

They’re the only two people here, for one, and the air smells of stone and packed earth, for another. Hoseok’s voice echoes strangely against the walls.

The passageway transitions into a chamber carved into the hill, opening up to the gray-blue slate of the sky. A little breeze ruffles Yoongi’s hair, and he looks down at his feet, standing on a grave. The stones that line the walls are rounded and smoothed out with age and wear from the rain.

“Here,” Hoseok says, “look.”  He puts his hands on Yoongi’s shoulders over his jacket and maneuvers him until he faces the passageway again. “If you stand right here, every 18.6 years, there’s a lunar standstill, and you can see the moon down the tunnel.” His breath tickles the back of Yoongi’s neck.

Yoongi crouches down to check if it’s really true; and from the lower viewpoint,  he can see down the passage and across the field, all the way through to a split in the birch trees.

Hoseok looks down at Yoongi, tilting his head as he peers down the tunnel. He’s interesting. That--Hoseok is sure of.

Hoseok climbs up the rocks and out of the chamber, reaching a hand down to Yoongi to help him up, too. His palms are rough against Yoongi’s smooth ones, warm. On top of the cairn, the glen spills out in every direction and the wind whispers through the trees, leaves, rattling. There’s a circle of grass before the stone starts again, and their shoes sink into it slowly.

“Wow,” Yoongi says, head turning in every direction, his skin pale and smooth in the harsh flat light. “This is...nice.”

Hoseok laughs. It sounds like the wind chimes he keeps out on the back porch. Hoseok has taken him to a grave on a cloudy, colorless day, and Yoongi thinks it’s nice.

 

 

 

V.

Once a week, Hoseok has to go into work at the grocery store he owns, just to make sure everything's in order. This morning, Hoseok looks up at the sky and tells Yoongi it isn’t going to rain, and then he drags a canoe out of the shed and leaves it by the lakeshore before he gets in his car and goes.

Take it out, Hoseok had said. Don’t go too far. It’ll be good. He looks a little antsy as he says it. Yoongi figures he’s just running late for work.

All day at the store, Hoseok and Taehyung squabble over what channel the tiny, grainy TV in the backroom gets left on. Taehyung keeps switching it to some channel running old sitcoms, and Hoseok keeps switching it to the local news.

Taehyung is supposed to be stocking aisle four, so Hoseok doesn’t really understand how he keeps getting into the back room, but he’s never really been that hard on him, anyway. Taehyung is a good, albeit rowdy, employee, and the closest thing he has to a friend.

“Did you have a vision, Hoseok?” Taehyung says, laughing, hands in the pockets of his green apron. He’s just caught Hoseok glancing at the news channel more frequently than is ever necessary, again. “Is the world going to end?”

Back at the house, Yoongi watches the fog roll out over the lake in waves, hiding the landscape like the water goes all the way to the horizon, and it feels like seeing where everything ends. He turns the canoe, and runs right into more mist.

In the gray haze, Yoongi doesn’t think he’s been here long enough to know which way is home, but he does. The glass surface of the lake ripples behind him, warping the reflections as he pulls it back up the shore. He drops the oar into it as he leaves, and it makes a hollow sound as it hits the wood.

“Oh,” Hoseok says, when Yoongi comes in through the back door, all of him a little damp from the air. “There you are.” He’s still antsy. Yoongi runs a hand through his hair, trying to wipe the moisture away.

“Here I am,” Yoongi echoes. He’s holding his muddy shoes in one hand and can’t figure out where to set them down.  He lifts them up, starts to say where?

“The front porch,” Hoseok supplies immediately. “My shoes are out there too.”

When Yoongi returns, Hoseok is in the kitchen, pulling something out of the fridge. “How do you feel about breakfast for dinner?” he asks.

The lighting is soft. Hoseok is handsome everywhere that it hits him.

Yoongi wishes it was easier to stop noticing.

 

 

 

 

VI.

“Yoongi-ssi,” Hoseok says one night, coming out of the hallway. He’s forgotten that Yoongi-ssi makes Yoongi feel old, again. His smile bleeds mischief. Yoongi thinks he might be doing it on purpose. “I think I need to introduce you to Scotland properly.”

“Properly?” Yoongi asks, laughing. “I’m already here.”

“Properly,” Hoseok repeats. He starts pulling Yoongi’s jean jacket off the hooks by the door. “I’m taking you to Johnny Foxes.”

Yoongi barely catches his jacket when Hoseok throws it at him, and the sleeve smacks him in the face. “What the hell is that?”

Hoseok rolls his shoulders to flatten out the wrinkles of his coat. “Take a guess,” he replies, house keys clanging as he sides them off the table. Yoongi hasn’t even moved from the armchair yet.

Yoongi squints at him. It’s become increasingly difficult to discern if Hoseok is being friendly or flirting with him. He settles for replying somewhere in the middle.

“Is it haunted?” Yoongi asks dryly. “I hope it’s haunted. It’d be what you deserve.”

Hoseok shakes his head, holding open the front door. Like always, the hinges squeak.

“Hyung,” he smiles, “I hope you like whiskey.”

 

 

 

Johnny Foxes, as it turns out, is a boisterous, poorly lit bar, shoved beneath a hideous building on the Inverness riverfront.

The music that’s playing isn’t loud as much as it is pervasive, drowning out the sound of Hoseok calling the bartender by name and asking for the cheapest single malt available.

He finds Yoongi in the crowd again carrying two glasses, and Hoseok makes them knock it back like a love shot--which should be embarrassing, but for some reason, most things with Hoseok are just fun.

“Do you dance?” Hoseok says. Or rather; yells.

“Not if I’m sober.”

Hoseok clinks their empty glasses together with a wink, disappearing to the bar again with something that sounds a lot like I can fix that. The leftover ice rattles as he goes.

It’s only four glasses later that Yoongi feels that tell-tale buzzing settle in under his skin, and everything starts to feel fuzzy.

At some point, Yoongi doesn’t even know what kind of music the band is playing, dragged out onto the crowded floor by Hoseok, both teetering on the sober edge of drunk. Hoseok has managed to befriend a small group of people they’re dancing by, the music changes, and the room dissolves into shouting.

In english, Hoseok leans over and yells dashing white sergeant! into his ear, and Yoongi stares at him blankly before he remembers Hoseok telling him about the traditional dances they were all forced to learn in elementary school.

“What?” Yoongi shouts, anyway, as he gets roped into a circle of people. Hoseok just smiles lazily at him, a lopsided thing across the circle, and Yoongi does his best to follow along. Somebody spins him, the circle comes back together again, and now, Hoseok is next to him, the line order all screwed up, nobody sober enough to care, to fix it. The song goes on and on and on, color high in Yoongi’s cheeks, sweat dampening the strands of hair that fall around Hoseok’s face, and it feels good, like community, when Yoongi get’s all the steps down, following easily. They start laughing when the accordion plays a wrong note, and then they really just don't stop.

Everything's a blur, the orange haze of the lighting washing over the room, music blending together into one, relentless buzz, but for a moment, everything clears up as the song starts to end and Hoseok dips him.

It was meant to be a joke, but all the sudden their faces are inches apart, and Yoongi can see Hoseok’s chest heaving as he breathes, strands of his hair plastered to his forehead with sweat.

Oh, Yoongi thinks. Forming any thought beyond that is beginning to feel like climbing into a coffin; ugly and loud, chest unburied. Oh, oh, oh.

Yoongi notices, for the first time, a mole that Hoseok has, right on the very edge of his lip. Can feel Hoseok’s lungs expanding and contracting beneath his palm.

Hoseok just blinks at him. Wonders how it might feel to close all that distance.

Don’t, Yoongi almost says, even though it’d be the opposite of what he wants, flustered and unsure, even though Hoseok wouldn’t be able to hear it over the sound of everyone clapping and the band changing songs, anyway. It feels, in almost every way except carnal, like something they shouldn’t do, but still, they both lean in for a moment; some gravitational pull, the laws of the earth always just doing whatever feels natural.

Somebody bumps them, their corner of the universe breaking.

Hoseok pulls Yoongi back up, spins him away into someone else’s arms. Goes to get another whiskey.

Back at the counter, he catches Yoongi’s eye through the crowd, over the shoulder of a woman trying to show him how to dance with the changing music. For a moment, Yoongi is reminded of the cairn, when he had looked down the tunnel through that perfect split in the trees, the same way the crowd parts for a split second and reveals Hoseok’s flushed, handsome face across the room.

Already, Yoongi doesn’t feel like the same person who arrived here. Tonight, he feels like poetry; dark-bloom, a bundle of twigs snapping under a storm cloud, how everything he wants to say comes out like taxicabs and sunspots. Eyes open, mouth damp, hands soft. The woman he’s dancing with hooks their arms to turn them, and his body feels split open, like tugging at wishbones, ripe for the picking.

He sees Hoseok doing a shot out the corner of his eye. Thinks about how there’s some people who get a hold on you and just pull.

Someone offers to buy Yoongi a drink. He wonders, absently, if it would be better or worse, to not remember this tomorrow morning.

 

 

 

VII.

Yoongi shows up in Hoseok’s grocery store on a Tuesday, smack in the middle of the day with the sun casting short, faint shadows through the thin, gray clouds.

He’s biked here--something Hoseok told him he should try--and it had been a pleasant mile and a half, had warmed him up enough to leave him holding his jean jacket in place of wearing it.

“How can I help you?” chirps some boy in a green apron, standing with his hands folded neatly together behind the register.

“Um,” Yoongi says, picking his brain for enough english words to form a sentence, “is...is Hoseok here?”

“Mhmm,” he says, sticking a foot out to kick the green door behind him, hard enough to rattle it on its hinges, casually. Like he does it all the time.

The door swings open.

Taehyung,” Hoseok scolds, but then Taehyung jerks his head in Yoongi’s direction, and the little crease between Hoseok’s eyebrows smoothes out. “Yoongi-hyung,” he says, “did you bike here?” Yoongi relaxes visibly, returning to Korean.

Taehyung looks from Yoongi to Hoseok and back again before he elbows Hoseok and goes, “ oh, so he’s--”

Taehyung, ” Hoseok repeats. He turns back to Yoongi. “How was it?”

“I liked it. I was thinking...I could make dinner later? Since you’re working.”

“Oh,” Hoseok says. “Yeah. Yeah, that’d be good.”

“I could do barbeque. Like back home.”

Hoseok nods. He’s wearing a green apron, too, and a shiny little name tag. It’s kind of cute.

“Okay,” Yoongi confirms. Hoseok points him to the refrigerated aisle, and Yoongi stands there for a while trying to decipher the english labels, looking strange and tinted slightly green in the glow of the fluorescent lights. Yoongi doesn’t have enough time to make a lot of side dishes, so he just settles on picking out some shiitake mushrooms and carrots from the produce aisle. Hoseok has the rest of the ingredients at home, in the cupboard above the stove, and Yoongi checked the spice rack next to the window before he left, just in case.

He overhears Hoseok and Taehyung speaking quietly to each other in English as he deliberates over his carrot selections, and Taehyung keeps laughing while Hoseok keeps scolding him good naturedly.

“Why are you so flustered, Hoseok?” says Taehyung.

“Shut up!” hisses Hoseok.

Flustered, Yoongi repeats in his head. He doesn’t recognize that word. Yoongi says it outloud to himself, but it just doesn’t roll off his tongue quite right. Flustered?

He tries to look up a translation, but his phone service is spotty at best.

When Yoongi goes back to the register, Taehyung is still there, looking equally as chipper before, but Hoseok is gone again. Taehyung scans everything and puts it all in a plastic bag that reads thank you! four times down the side in red.

As Yoongi turns to leave, he bows his head quickly, before he remembers that’s not how he’s supposed to say goodbye. Taehyung just chimes, “have a nice day!” and then Hoseok comes out of an aisle holding a crate of oranges, sleeves rolled up past his forearms.

“Oh, Yoongi-hyung, you didn’t have to pay,” he says, eyebrows furrowing.

“It’s okay,” Yoongi interjects. He’d feel bad not paying. “It’s your business. I want to.”

Hoseok looks like he’s going to say something else, but he just snaps his mouth shut again and nods goodbye.

“See you at home, then,” Yoongi waves.

Hoseok nods again. As the door closes behind Yoongi, bells ringing, he hears Hoseok and Taehyung making a ruckus at the register, and then that word. Flustered.

 

 

Back at the house, Hoseok comes in through the front door while Yoongi stands over the mushrooms, stir frying in a pan, the whole place smelling like barbecue and spices and the food Hoseok’s mother used to make on saturdays.

Yoongi’s looked up the word. Flustered.

Hoseok pads into the kitchen and picks a mushroom out of the pan, making a pleased little sound at the taste, hovering behind him, and Yoongi decides he feels a little flustered, too.

 

 

 

 

VIII.

In the dark, everything is lit ghoulishly from below, stained demon orange, the fire red. The wood crackles and snaps, sparks sent swirling up into the sky as Hoseok pokes at it, the flames shifting.

Everything sends up thick, gray, smoke; the wood and leaves and twigs perpetually damp from the mist. Hoseok had gone into town to pick up marshmallows to make s’mores, and now Yoongi turns his slowly over the fire, aiming for golden brown. He’s been watching Hoseok try to discreetly eat some of the chocolate while they wait, though he’s not doing a very good job at hiding it.

Hoseok’s marshmallow catches fire and he curses as it nearly melts off onto the wood. Yoongi helps him put the s’more together with the burnt marshmallow, the blackened parts of it crackling as they crush it between the graham crackers.

Yoongi puts his own s’more together and pushes down on the bubbling urge to wipe the bit of white stuck at the corner of Hoseok’s mouth away with his own thumb.

He wonders, not for the first time, if Hoseok remembers anything about that night in Johnny Foxes. Wonders if he remembers those few lonely inches between them, such a small, insignificant distance that anyone could have closed. All anyone had had to do was just reach.

Through the thick of the smoke, behind the demonic glow of the flames, Yoongi is as strikingly handsome as always, the sharp, stormy angles of his face always softened by the curve of his cheekbones, catching orange in the light.

Yoongi is a special kind of person, Hoseok thinks. He doesn’t fill up a room in an instant, he’s not loud in the same way that Hoseok is, the way that most people are. Instead, something about him ripples outwards, aching, and lingers.

If they’re staring at each other thinking the same things, there’s no way to know. The smoke is too hazy and the light is too indecisive, unsettled.

There is smoke, there is Yoongi, and then, suddenly; wilderness. That’s where Hoseok’s eyes start to lose their way in the dark.

Yoongi remembers, often, Hoseok’s face swimming closer--the feeling of his chest rising, his lungs expanding and contracting beneath the palm of Yoongi’s hands.

Hoseok adds another log to the fire and the sparks rush up as the wet wood pops, just the signs of something singing.

The smoke, after all, is just smoke.

It’s always the burning thing, that changes.

 

 

 

 

IX.

“What are you doing?”

Hoseok looks up at him from where he sits on the bathroom floor next to the tub, the sleeves of his crewneck scrunched up to his elbows. “Laundry,” he says.

“By hand?”

Hoseok nods. “The washer broke.”

“Oh,” Yoongi says. And then; “let me help.”

“Wait,” Hoseok says. The entire bathroom smells like lavender. “Grab yours, too. We can do both together.”

When Yoongi comes back, Hoseok takes Yoongi’s laundry out of his arms and drops it into the tub with this own.

“Here,” Hoseok says, handing him the bottle of laundry detergent, turning on the faucet in the tub. While they wait for the clothes to soak, for the soap to sink in, they drink tea in the kitchen; that much coffee really can’t be good for you, hyung, I’m serious.

When the fifteen minutes are over, they return to the bathroom, and Hoseok steps barefoot right into the tub.

“What?” Yoongi says, confused.

Hoseok laughs. It rings like little bells against the tile in every direction. “C’mon,” he says holding out a hand to Yoongi, the other braced on the wall, “it’s like grape stomping but with less satisfying results.”

Yoongi takes his hand and steps into the tub, too. Hoseok’s palm is still as rough as it was back in the cairn. He tries not to think about it.

When they move, water sloshes out onto the tile floor, and the soap foams up, everything slipping.

“You know,” Hoseok says thoughtfully, “when my mom and I used to do this, we would play this CD of Italian music the whole time. Really added to the feeling.”

Yoongi eyes him for a moment and then he just starts laughing. Hoseok figures he must have realized how stupid they look, doing this, catching their reflection in the mirror, and starts laughing, too.

Shhh, ” Hoseok says, smacking Yoongi on the arm. Yoongi quiets for a moment, but when they make eye contact, the silence breaks again.

“Shut up, ” Yoongi cackles, bent over at the waist, winded.

“I didn’t say anything!”

This goes on for some time, until the bottoms of Hoseok’s jeans have unrolled, slipping down his calves, dampening in the tub. Yoongi has one hand on Hoseok’s shoulder for balance and the other on the tile wall.

Hoseok steps out onto the tiles and Yoongi follows him. The tub drains, and then Hoseok turns the faucet on again, kneeling down.

“Rinse,” Hoseok says, handing Yoongi half the wet clothes to wring out.

Eventually, the water runs clear of suds, and they put the damp clothes into a basket to take outside and hang.

When they stand, Hoseok slips on the wet floor and falls on his ass.

Yoongi snorts. “Are you okay?” he asks. His voice is serious but his eyes are still shaped like a laugh.

Hoseok stares at him for a little too long; his sleeves are rolled up to his elbows and his fringe is a little damp where he’s been running his hands through it. The open window is letting pale light fall strangely across his face through the blinds, stripes of it across his cheekbones and neck, catching a bit in his irises and the little silver hoops in his ears.

Hoseok takes Yoongi’s offered hand. “Yeah,” Hoseok says, finally. “Yeah. I’m okay.”

 

 

Outside in the yard, there’s four clotheslines hung in neat little rows, parallel to the line of the lake shore.

The wind blows Hoseok’s hair off his forehead, parting it messily down the center, the water a little choppier than usual. His skin looks so much lovelier against the green of the hills in the distance than it does pushed up next to anything else. Yoongi has never been able to imagine Hoseok in a place as gray as Seoul.

Across from Hoseok on the other side of the clothesline, Yoongi clips his sweaters, heavy with water and dripping into the grass, to the wire. He can still smell the lavender of the detergent, above everything. Hoseok is humming a little tune under his breath, so quiet it’s almost just white noise.

Yoongi is slower, and his sweaters keep slipping out of their holds, so Hoseok finishes faster, coming around the other side to help him.

Closer, now, Yoongi recognizes the song that Hoseok is humming--it had been playing that morning on the radio as he made breakfast, and Yoongi nearly fell asleep at the table in front of the window, warm in his t-shirt.

It’s charming, somehow. Yoongi doesn’t really understand why.

Water drips onto his shoes, there’s a bunch of snails making their way through the grass, and the wind chimes on the back porch ring out against the wind that comes off the water.

Yoongi is struck, suddenly, by the realization that he wants to kiss Hoseok. Or maybe, he knew it already and it just sort of just fell on him.

He looks over at Hoseok. Thinks about how he might be tanner if he lived somewhere where it didn’t rain so often. Thinks about how he lives all alone in this old, empty house, about how he could just stay out here forever and never be found. Homes, like people, are all the same in the end, Yoongi thinks; waiting to be filled, and then waiting to be emptied, made so often to be left.

“There you go,” Hoseok says, Yoongi’s last sweater hung up on the line. He runs his hand down the curve of Yoongi’s spine as he passes, walking to the back porch of the house.

There’s a moment where Yoongi allows himself to feel flustered by it, and then he pushes down on it like a paperweight, heavy. He realizes, perhaps a little belatedly, that Hoseok has forgotten the basket in the grass.

When he bends down to pick it up, Yoongi thinks that he might be seeing something in the water through a gap between two hanging shirts. But then the wind picks up and everything shifts, the back door slams as he jerks back up, everything blocking his view.

A prickly feeling creeps its way down Yoongi’s spine. He stands there, staring, for just a little longer.

The moment passes.

 

 

 

 

X.

Yoongi digs his toes into the sand, ruining the perfect pattern of ripples the receding tide has left imprinted in it.

The sun is bright, and there’s a maze of thin, reedy grasses leading away from the shoreline. Hoseok is laid out half asleep next to him on a beach towel. It all feels difficult to navigate.

Yoongi sleeves go all the way down to the bone of his thumb, but he thinks he might be getting a sunburn on his nose. He stands. Looks down the long, narrow beach.

It may be sunny, but it’s altogether not that warm, and they’re the only people the beach, save for a family of four a little ways down; the parents seated on a blanket near the grass, their two daughters building a sandcastle in fun colored windbreakers.

Yoongi goes down to the water, and the sand there is cold and wet beneath his feet. Wandering a bit, there’s the mangled remains of what looks like a fish. All that seems to be left is the head, a part of the spine spilling out where it’s been detached from it’s body, the rest nowhere to be seen. If Yoongi was still wearing shoes, he’d want to poke at it a bit with his foot. But he’s not, so he just stares into it’s weird, glassy eye. Gross.

He crouches down to look at it some more. For a second, he thinks he sees bite marks, but then he looks up and--

“What is that?” blurts one of the daughters. She’s holding hands with the other girl, clearly younger now that he sees them up close, matching freckles splattered across their faces.

He racks his brain for the right word. “Fish,” he says.

“Fish,” the younger one repeats. She screws the f sound up a bit, the exact same way Yoongi did. He smiles.

Hoseok appears next to him. He crouches down, too. “It’s an arctic char,” he says to the girls. The younger one parrots it back to him. From there, the conversation speeds up and Yoongi loses his way, only catching on random vocabulary like friend, and monster.

While they talk, Yoongi keeps looking down at the fish corpse. That’s definitely a bite mark.

He starts to get a little creeped out by it’s one, hollow looking eye, pointed up at the blue sky. The older girl reaches down and puts her hand on the scales.

“Ah,” Yoongi stutters, pulling her tiny fingers away, “no.” Yoongi doesn’t claim to know much, but he does know you probably shouldn't go around poking at dead things with your bare hands.

Instead of letting go, she just keeps holding Yoongi’s fingers, and all he can do is kneel there feeling strangely embarrassed while everyone else speaks in english and Hoseok smiles at him, his dimples appearing and disappearing while he talks.

“Bye,” Hoseok says, and then Yoongi’s hand gets let go of as the girls turn and run in the other direction down the beach, laughing. He looks over to Yoongi. “Cute,” he says, and for a second it feels like Hoseok talking about him. Yoongi nods, still a bit red.

“Oh,” Hoseok says, squinting, leaning in a little, “I think you’re getting sunburnt.”

Shit, Yoongi thinks. His nose does feel a bit raw but that doesn’t explain the rest of his face. He covers his cheeks with his hands. “My hat’s in the car,” Yoongi blurts, a lie, instead of something equally as embarrassing. “I’ll go grab the keys.”

Yoongi stands again, walking back to their towel.

Hoseok crouches there a little longer, looking between the fish and the water a few times, his back turned and tense.

“Hoseok-ah?” Yoongi calls.

Hoseok glances over his shoulder, looking startled, the breeze blowing his bangs sideways. He brushes his hands off on his jeans, straightening up. Yoongi’s eyes are almost hazel in the harsh, pale light.

“I’m coming,” he says, jogging to catch up. “I’m coming.”

 

 

 

 

XI.

Yoongi stands in the open doorway of the pub, his back a silhouette against the rain spilling out in front of him, glittering in the streetlights and the glow of flashing neon signs.

Hoseok doesn’t know what time it is--it could be midnight, it could be four in the morning, it could be seven days since they arrived here.

The point is; it’s almost impossible to tell. The point is; it hardly matters. All Hoseok knows is rain, rain, rain, and the rush of white noise.

It's strange, almost. Hoseok doesn't know the word to explain the way Yoongi looks, stepping out into the storm. Thinks that maybe he'll have to invent one. Because when Hoseok looks at Yoongi, new language springs up. New words, new feelings; discovered. When he had arrived here, Hoseok thought Yoongi seemed built for the bustle of the city he had come from, but looking at him now, the only other person on this cobblestone street, soaked right down to the bone, it feels eerily as though he might be made for this, too.

It's an alarming duality.

Drunk, Hoseok figures that maybe he does know a word for the way Yoongi looks, the way it makes him feel.

But love, like a birthday wish, is often something you never share until what you’ve hoped for comes true. Love, and all the feeble, darker things that come before it.

So; the rain falls, the same way it always does. So; Yoongi shivers, as if pulled from the banks of the river. So; everything spins, avoiding puddles on the walk home, jinxing it all over again when someone opens an umbrella indoors.

So; what?

All of life is only once, Yoongi thinks.

 

And sometimes, it glows.

 

 

 

 

XII.

“Can you go into my room and grab that old binder?” Hoseok says. “It’s got all my mom’s old recipes in it and this doesn’t look quite right.”

Yoongi leaves the kitchen as Hoseok stirs the pot of seafood stew, grimacing as the steam rises up into his face. It should be on the bottom shelf of my bookcase, Hoseok calls.

Yoongi flicks on Hoseok’s lamp and crouches down on the rug, pulling the messy contents of the bottom shelf out towards him. When he slides the binder out, a few other things come with it; the manual for the radio, car repair receipts, and a newspaper that's beginning to yellow and curl at the corners.

LOCAL FOUND UNCONSCIOUS ON SHORELINE, the headline reads. Underneath it there's a grainy, unassuming photo of one of the beaches along the loch, pristine and empty. Its dated ten weeks ago. Yoongi skims the tiny font.

Long time resident Jung Hoseok discovered by fisherman unconscious on Nairn beach, he reads, jumps to victim refused or possibly unable to give statement, does not remember incident. Reading it in english is slow.

“Yoongi?” Hoseok calls, and the sound of his footsteps halt in the doorway as he peers around the corner. His eyes catch on the newspaper in Yoongi’s hands and then drag up the line of his arm, flicking to his face and settling there. His eyebrows pull together like the taut string of a bow.

“Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi murmurs. “What is this?”

He moves as though he’s going to come take the paper out of Yoongi’s hands, but after two steps forward, he stops. “It’s stupid,” Hoseok says.

“I really doubt that.”

Hoseok exhales slowly through his nose, shoulders relaxing with the motion of it, and Yoongi can almost see something in him closing.

Hoseok revises his statement. “It sounds stupid,” he says.

“I doubt that, too.”

Yoongi stands, hands Hoseok the article, the sound of the aging paper crinkling between their hands. The radio drones on, muffled from its place in the kitchen.

Hoseok weight shifts and the floor creaks. He stares down at the paper in his hands.

“What happened?”

For a moment, Hoseok says nothing, the tendons that roll over his knuckles tensing and relaxing, over and over and over. His eyes stay trained to the plain, black and white cover photo.
“I...don’t know,” Hoseok murmurs. Yoongi waits for him to continue, but he never does. The tag of his sweater starts to itch. He ignores it. A beat passes where they just stare at eachother.

“If you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine,” Yoongi says quietly. “If it’s not...If it makes you uncomfortable.”

“No,” Hoseok says quickly, “I mean--I really just...don’t know. Last thing I remember is swimming out in the backyard, but then someone found me unconscious on Nairn beach.”

“Isn’t that…?”

“Yeah,” Hoseok replies. “A few miles from here.” He sits down on the bed. The springs protest with age. Yoongi sits down next to him and pretends not to notice when their knees knock together softly.

Yoongi doesn’t really want to push on him, doesn’t want to pry Hoseok open if he doesn’t want to be seen. Even Yoongi has things he hasn’t really told Hoseok. Scars after all, can only become scars when you finally stop picking at them.

Hoseok knocks their knees again and continues talking as Yoongi shoves his hands under his thighs, unsure what else to do with them.

“I had this nasty bruise all up my right side,” he says. Hoseok still remembers how it had looked; shifting from blue to purple, and then to a sick, yellowish green. For two weeks the whole right side of his body had been sore and tender, difficult to move, even moreso to sleep. The very worst of it had curled around his ribcage like a cobra, red for so long until it was just a ghoulish yellow stain and then; just skin, again. He remembers how he used to push on it, watching the skin go white until the blood rushed back in to remind himself it was still there. “I woke up in the sand with a bunch of paramedics and reporters around me, and then I spent one night in a hospital before they sent me home.”

Hoseok remembers that, the most; all those faces peering down at him like he was seeing the world through a fisheye lens, warped. When one of the paramedics had asked him who they should call, and the only person he could think of was Taehyung, to let him know that he wouldn’t be at work tomorrow. That, in some strange ways, had hurt a little more than the bruise.

“And then,” Hoseok continues, one hand rubbing over the hard ridge of the rib that had stayed bruised the longest, “all the lochness monster fanatics came after me, you know? They showed up at work, even here at home, and I never said anything because either way I’d sound crazy, right? Even if I had proof, right there on my body, that something had happened to me.”

Yoongi considers, quiet. “Do you think--”

“Yeah,” Hoseok says. “Yeah, I do.” Just a reflex to a question he’s already asked.

 

 

 

XIII.

Hoseok holds the screen out of the way as Yoongi climbs through the window onto the roof, barefoot, dragging a knit blanket from the living room behind him. Yoongi sits down, leaning back on his elbows, the slope comfortable, and Hoseok follows carrying a quilt of his own.

There’s a chill in the air--the kind that comes from a crisp night and a dark sky, stitched full of stars.

Something white flashes across the sky, hidden halfway by clouds. It’s the feeble beginnings of a meteor shower, an annual thing that Hoseok watches every year, either from the roof or a lone canoe, spinning idly in the water.

Yoongi lays all the way back on the roof, arms folded neatly over his chest. Hoseok remains sitting up. It’s quiet.

Yoongi counts the meteors falling, one, two, three, thinks about slippers at the foot of the bed that aren’t going anywhere, about drawers thrown open, about blue, about fishhooks, spider bites, elbows, hands, and knees.

Four, five, six. Dark figures swirling underneath the still surface of the lake. Hoseok’s face, still mind blowingly beautiful through all that rain. A dance, an almost kiss.

Seven, eight, nine. The spaces of time between the sky falling is inconsistent. Hoseok figures he and Yoongi are a bit like that, too.

Hoseok lays back on the roof. Ten, eleven, twelve.

“Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi says, soft, “why are you out here all alone?”

A kick in Hoseok’s chest, somewhere between enamoured and afraid. He feels peeled, pried open. Yoongi has a way of doing that, when he wants to; a lighthouse illuminating the dusty corners of any dimension just to find something , just to help bring it home.

“I just...am,” Hoseok replies. It’s not like he’s the only twenty-something living alone somewhere, but that’s not really what Yoongi means. “My parents always wanted to live here, so they did. For a long time. Almost 20 years, you know? But eventually they wanted to go home.”

They don’t turn and look at each other. Unnamed parts of Yoongi want to search out Hoseok’s hand. Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.

“Korea is home to them,” Hoseok murmurs, and all the sudden, Yoongi can see the boy he once was as Hoseok tucks his knees in a little closer, pulling the quilt in around him. Through the split in the clouds, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen; white streaks across the sky that eventually die out, leaving everything deep, impossible purple once more.

“But I grew up here,” Hoseok says, and his voice is wherever all the birds seem to go when it rains. “And it’s home, to me. No matter how lonely.”

 

 

 

 

XIV.

“Hyung!” Hoseok chirps, materializing in the bathroom doorway.

Yoongi startles, whipping around, his toothbrush still between his teeth. He knocks three things off the sink in the process; a cup of water, a tube of toothpaste, and an orange bottle of pills with a peeling label.

“You scared me!” Yoongi accuses, and it comes out garbled and watery around the foam. He spits the toothpaste into the sink, looking helplessly at the water spilling out over the floor.

Hoseok puts a towel down, and Yoongi pouts, wiggling his toes on the damp bathmat.

They bend down at the same time. Yoongi reaches for the toothpaste, Hoseok reaches for the bottle, and that’s when Yoongi freezes.

But then, Hoseok just looks at it for a second, and hands it over to Yoongi. It rattles.

He feels, suddenly, very exposed, crouched on the bathroom floor.

They stand at the same time, too.

Hoseok leaves and comes back with another towel just as Yoongi’s finished washing his face, bangs damp, water dripping from his chin. Yoongi’s refilled the glass of water, and the bottle sits open on the sink.

Hoseok continues standing there, arms folded, head leaning on the doorframe.

“Stop that,” Yoongi says, squinting at him.

Hoseok shakes his head, dimples forming as the corners of his mouth tug up. Yoongi wants to stick his pointer fingers in them.

Yoongi taps a pill out into his palm. It tastes bitter on his tongue, for a second, before he washes it down with water.

When Yoongi was younger, it felt like the only person he needed in life was himself. Even that was too much sometimes.

Every now and again, he’ll come across someone who just makes it feel like facts; we live 5,285 miles apart, he thinks, looking back at Hoseok through the mirror. The lake is 744 feet deep. This is what I’m like sometimes.

There in the bathroom, it’s like Hoseok can’t stop seeing the skeleton inside Yoongi, sliding beneath his skin.

“C’mon,” Hoseok says, as Yoongi watches the rest of the water swirl and drain in the sink, “I got a fire started. Something stupid is probably on cable.”

 

 

 

 

XV.

They take the old fishing boat out onto the lake, and Yoongi watches as Hoseok unties it from the creaky wooden dock, uneasy.

Hoseok keeps insisting that it's fine, that he needs to get back out on the water at some point, and Yoongi can only nod and comply.

The motor sputters and then hums to life after they've settled in on the benches, rumbling. For a split second the wood of the boat vibrates and then stills, again, as they pull away from shore.

The water, for the most part, is quiet; just the thin sound of it lapping up at the green paint that peels away from the side of the boat.

They had intended to fish, but Hoseok couldn't find the key that unlocked the shed, and Yoongi had just watched in amusement as he overturned the contents of every drawer in the house. Now, they're armed with a box of tea cakes, a bottle of cheap red wine, and a deck of playing cards laid out on the wooden bench space between them, so old they're beginning to fade.

All the while as they play cards, always nearly knocking over the bottle of wine, Hoseok glances furtively out at the lake; pensive.

It had taken so long to teach Hoseok the rules of egyptian ratscrew that the sun has started to slink down behind the hills, burning straight into Hoseok's eyes and then Yoongi's as the boat slowly turns in the current.

Hoseok’s eyes flick out to the lake again. Yoongi's just put down another king on the stack of cards, two in a row, but no one does a thing.

Yoongi takes another swig from the bottle of red wine.

Hoseok turns to him.

"Do you think I'm crazy?" he says.

Yoongi looks at him. Into him. Through him. "No."

Hoseok doesn't seem satisfied with that answer, gaze heavy.

Yoongi smiles at him, lightly, one corner of his mouth quirking up. "Do I think it's a little weird that you put your orange juice in a mug? Sure. But this, Hoseok-ah? I don't think you're crazy."

"Are you sure?"

The boat spins lazily. Light falls, revolving; Hoseok, Yoongi, Hoseok. Yoongi thinks about how Hoseok's always running his hand up his ribcage where the bruise was, how he's always looking for something in the water, restless. Thinks about why Hoseok feels so undone by this, still, flipped inside out and rubbed raw. The truth is--Hoseok can't help but feel like he may have gone insane; there is not--will never be anyone who can help him figure out what happened that day.

He had been sent home from the hospital, back to his empty bedroom with dust collecting in every corner, alone. Left to face the aftermath, which had turned out to be a few reporters and one hospital bill, his name in the newspaper and the sudden realization that he had no one to run back to. Just one text from Taehyung; don't worry about coming in all week at the store, i'll handle the deliveries on monday. see you soon.

Not quite loneliness, just the feeling of being pitted like a peach.

Or maybe, if Hoseok can admit it to himself, truly, wholly, resoundingly; loneliness.

A different kind, though. A loneliness where you still go out on the weekends, still smile at waiters, keeping up with your laundry, but you stop talking to your parents, start keeping some of the doors in the house permanently closed, hoarding words in your mouth when there's no one to give them to. Loneliness like coming home from work on a Thursday and listening to the quietness of your house. With the radio off. No breeze for the windchimes. Silence, after all, is born from nothing.

"I'm sure," Yoongi says. Thinks; I believe you.

Something bumps the underside of the boat. Rocks it, lightly. Hoseok’s eyes stay trained on Yoongi’s face, wild.

“Okay,” Hoseok nods. Okay. It seems he’s speaking mostly to himself.

Yoongi leans over the side of the wood and only sees his face reflected back in the water, everything tinted yellow, orange, pink from the sunset. Parts of the lake surface swirl as if run through by oars. He sits back up.

“Okay,” Yoongi agrees. He hands Hoseok the bottle of wine.

From there, everything starts feeling velvety and slow; the wine bottle empty, the tea cakes gone, the cards shuffled and spilling out over the floor where they’ve been abandoned.

Hoseok, tipsy, lets Yoongi sit a little closer to him than usual by the motor where he steers them-- past Nairn beach and back towards the house. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he registers that he and Yoongi are starting to smell the same; Hoseok’s lavender laundry detergent and the ripe, blooming scent of ash trees.

The thought makes Hoseok’s heart rise up in his throat, makes him lean into Yoongi’s shoulder as the centrifugal force pulls Hoseok towards him, nearing the dock.

Darker, now, everything a little blue in the paling light, Yoongi climbs out onto the wood a little clumsily as Hoseok anchors the boat to one of the posts.

Yoongi looks out at the sun, just a tiny sliver behind the hills, and thinks of how his parents used to tell him the sun will flash electric green right before it disappears, how he had spent all those years in Daegu trying to see something over the horizon, tip toed on the balcony. Yoongi hasn’t seen it, after all these years, but still, he watches. Waits. Searches for it, without fail.

If nothing else, his time here has taught him that it's not wrong to keep searching for things that don't exist.

“What are you looking at?”

Yoongi looks down at Hoseok where he still stands in the boat, tying knots in the ropes, and feels that terribly familiar warmth roll into his veins, slow, like a stormcloud. Yoongi just shrugs, a little. The temperature is dropping, his whole body feels like molasses, and Hoseok is stupidly endearing in everything he does.

Hoseok steps one foot out of the boat and onto the dock, the dinghy starts sliding away, and Yoongi pulls him up by the collar of his sweatshirt and kisses him.

Hoseok makes a helpless little noise in the back of his throat, and his hands that had spread out beside him for balance come up to Yoongi’s neck and the underside of his jaw, feather light.

Fuck, Yoongi thinks, Hoseok’s mouth parting and everything tasting like wine, fuck, fuck, fuck.

This is, Yoongi knows, in almost every capacity, a terrible, stupid, awful idea. Yet here he is, doing it anyway, feeling, for the first time, the dungeon of language; it’s failings, like now, when there’s nothing to say; or rather, no way to say it. He thinks of words like chada in korean; it means to kick, to wear, to be cold, to be filled. He thinks of words like run in english; it means a journey, to move, to melt and then flow, to fill a bath, to fail to stop, to compete. So many things can get lost in translation.

Yoongi’s hand tightens in the fabric of Hoseok’s sweatshirt and then he pulls back, his brain catching up to his body. The first thing that registers is Hoseok’s face, flushed pink across his cheekbones, a little red in the ears, staring back at him, his fine, dark hair falling into his eyes.

Yoongi smacks his free hand over his mouth, everything curling inward, and Hoseok eye’s flick between Yoongi’s irises in the barely there light. Hoseok opens his mouth and closes it again. Almost says something stupid like don’t be scared. I think I love you. I think we’ve discovered opposite of loneliness.

A beat passes.

“I--” Yoongi croaks. His voice is muffled and rough through his hand, still stuck over his mouth in shock. Hoseok’s hands slide down Yoongi’s neck to his shoulders and settle there. His heels still hang over the edge of the dock. “I--”

Yoongi takes a step back, abruptly, vision going red, his heart kicking against his skin in a snare drum beat, everything unraveling.

He turns, untangles his hand from the faded fabric of Hoseok’s shirt. Starts for the house, the blood rushing in his ears downing out the sound of Hoseok yelling hyung, wait! and the splash of him falling back into water; unbalanced when Yoongi had let go of him.

The back door slams behind him, and through the window Yoongi can see Hoseok climbing out of the water, shivering.

Fuck, Yoongi thinks. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I’m such an ass.

Yoongi rips open the linen closet in the hall, grabs more towels than is really necessarily, all of them softened with age and mismatched from different sets.

Yoongi goes back down the hall, out onto the back porch, and runs straight into Hoseok.

“Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi sputters, shoving a towel at him, “I’m--so sorry, fuck, come on, the loch is so cold--”

Yoongi pulls him by the wrist into the house, down the hall, drags him into the bathroom. Shoves another towel at him, starts running a hot bath.

“I’m sorry,” Yoongi blurts. His ears go red. There’s water dripping from Hoseok’s hair, his clothes, pooling on the floor and seeping into the bathmat. The house is mostly dark, but the warm yellow light from the hall spills over the floor, leaving a halo of light around Hoseok where he stands.

“It’s okay,” Hoseok says, and his head tilts like he’s trying to get into Yoongi’s line of vision that’s been so busy avoiding his eyes.

“I shouldn’t have kissed you--or, let go of you,” Yoongi rambles. He motions for Hoseok to sit down on the edge of the tub while it fills, the steam rising and rolling out into the hallway. Hoseok sits. Yoongi picks duckweed out of his hair and off the fabric of his sweatshirt.

“I didn’t really mind,” Hoseok says. He pulls the towel in tighter around his shoulders. “The kissing part, I mean.”

Yoongi sees red again, flustered, and forces another towel towards Hoseok. He removes a piece of duckweed from under Hoseok’s eye. Any remnants of tipsiness have long disappeared.

“Hoseok--just...what are we doing?” Yoongi says, sounding a little like he’s about to cry. “I’m leaving. I don’t want to hurt you.” His heart aches like a mouthful of rainwater, like a light he can’t turn off--he claps his hands, flips the switch, disconnects the whole damn circuit and nothing.

“Hyung,” Hoseok murmurs. “I don’t care if you hurt me.” The sound of the bath filling feels loud and pervasive, refracted against the tile. “It’s already been done. You will leave. You will hurt me. It’s all the same.”

“I’m sorry--just--sorry,” Yoongi rasps. It feels like he’s gone and swallowed a bunch of yeast and whatever it is that’s twisting up in Yoongi’s ribcage has suddenly doubled in size.

Hoseok waves his hand, shaking his head as if to say don’t be.

Yoongi feels like he’s spent all his time here mindlessly stringing all these moments with Hoseok together into one big mess, and now when he pulls on the strings, it all just comes away in a knot.

He imagines putting this into an article to send back to headquarters. Did you know? Our entire lives are composed of a few, vital axis points. I think touching you was one of them. Come to Scotland and think about love. Compare it to something ancient, go find something that hides itself in the face of the water, some old turn of magic bowing gently into the night. Drink whiskey. Drink wine. Kiss someone. It’ll be good. It’ll be good.

And Hoseok wants nothing more than for Yoongi to just crawl into his lap, kiss him, press their damp foreheads together or just sleep, but it’s cold, there’s lakewater pooling on the floor, and Yoongi being here only means that, inevitably, he will leave.

Yoongi leans over Hoseok’s shoulder and shuts off the faucet in the tub. The corner of Hoseok’s mouth tugs up, endeared; Yoongi is still holding all the towels.

Hoseok stands, toeing out of his shoes, moving to peel out of his clothes, and the space in the bathroom contracts. The few inches between them crush slowly, crackling, electric.

Hoseok, Yoongi says, quiet, quiet, quiet, at the same time that Hoseok says hyung.

Yoongi can almost see the final two weeks of this trip, shoving itself between them. Both can hear the unspoken we shouldn’t, right?

Hoseok's head tips down and his mouth meets Yoongi's, ignoring the unsaid. They kiss, languidly, Yoongi pulling forwards on the towel around Hoseok's shoulders with one hand, everything conjuring up a bunch of ugly little promises like it'll be easy , or; you don't have to go.

Hoseok's hands cradle Yoongi's face, thumbs spread under his eyes, and when he pulls back he stares a little too long at the contrast between their skin. Yoongi's eyelashes cast delicate shadows across his cheekbones, still closed. He has twin moles on his nose and the space next to it, so faint they're hardly visible at all.

Yoongi leans up on his toes and kisses him again, chastely, and then rolls back on his heels, all the towels still crushed tightly into his chest with one arm.

“Warm up in the tub,” Yoongi mumbles, “I’ll be in the kitchen.” He turns to leave, hand lingering on the doorknob before he decides to just leave it open. He returns a few minutes later with Hoseok’s pajamas; the flannel bottoms he had been wearing when Yoongi had arrived here, and a loose black t-shirt with holes forming near the hems, leaving them on the counter by the sink.

From the tub, Hoseok listens to Yoongi clanging around in the kitchen as the radio warbles on.

 

 

 

When Hoseok tiptoes out of the bathroom, he looks down the hall and sees Yoongi at the tiny kitchen table by the window, asleep with his head rested on his arms. He’s made himself tea, poured Hoseok a mug of orange juice like they do at breakfast, and changed into his own pajamas, too. Just a ratty green crewneck and black boxers, feet bare, ankles crossed underneath the chair.

Hoseok turns the radio off, picks up his glass of orange juice, smoothes his hand over Yoongi’s hair. Jostles him, as gently as he can manage.

For a second when Yoongi wakes up, he looks as though he doesn’t know where he is. He scrubs at his eyes with the heel of his palm, exhaling heavily through his nose.

“Hyung,” Hoseok says, pulling him up from the table, ushering him down the hall and into the guest bedroom that's mostly just become his own, “go to bed.”

A kiss, pressed to Yoongi’s temple. A feeling, like being carried to bed when you’re young and have fallen asleep in front of the television.

Yoongi’s door closes, softly.

Hoseok’s does, too.

 

 

 

 

 

XVI.

Hoseok nudges open the door of Yoongi’s room, pausing  when it creaks briefly on it’s hinges. He’s just returned from a day at the grocery store to find Yoongi still in bed. The lights are off, the curtains drawn closed, and Yoongi hasn’t shown any signs of stirring. It’s almost four.

From the doorway, Yoongi lies on his side in bed, his back turned to Hoseok, one of his hands tucked between the side of his face and the pillow.

Quietly, Hoseok walks over to the nightstand on the other side of the bed, sets the steaming mug of tea down next to Yoongi’s prescription, his glasses, and his phone.

Hoseok turns to leave, but Yoongi’s hand shoots out and grabs hold of Hoseok’s own, eyes blinking open in the dark. Yoongi threads their fingers together, pulling on him.

Yoongi rolls over onto his other side, making room, taking Hoseok with him under the covers. Their hands, still woven together, rest against Yoongi’s stomach, Hoseok’s chest pressed to his back in the tiny twin bed.

Hoseok presses his face into the nape of Yoongi’s neck instead of kissing it, feeling Yoongi’s inhale, exhale, inhale against his entire body, hooking their ankles together.

“Bad day?” Hoseok whispers, his breath ghosting across Yoongi’s skin, leaving goosebumps in its wake. Yoongi’s hair smells like jasmine, tickling Hoseok’s nose.

Yoongi shakes his head. Bad day isn't really the right combination of words.

He remembers, back in college, the first time Seokjin had sat him down somewhere and said I think you need help, Yoongi-yah. The kind I can’t give you. He was right, like Seokjin usually was, and had driven him to three appointments in a week long succession; a therapist, a psychologist, a psychiatrist. Yoongi left each one feeling more and more like he had had all the air punched out of him, and Seokjin had sat patiently in each respective waiting room, serene.

The first months had been the worst--sitting around and having all of his unhealthy behavior pointed out and thrown back in his face, trying to get used to a medication that mostly just made him nauseous and sleepy. A lot of looking in a mirror and trying to remember when he had gotten so thin.

It had been kind of nice, in some ways, to not know what was wrong with him, before. Then, it still felt like maybe it was temporary, like it was something he could ignore. Two appointments in, the therapist had said depression, and an hour later Yoongi stumbled out into Seokjin’s car, unsure how he was supposed to feel.

It had been another year before Seokjin had sat him down, in an eerily similar fashion, cradled Yoongi’s face in his hands and said I don’t think I’m helping you, Yoongi-yah. And Yoongi had wanted to say well it’s not like you’re hurting me, either, but he had been with Seokjin long enough to know that he would never feel like that was enough.

He had been right about that, too, and also about Yoongi maybe spending some time alone. It was a strange breakup; amicable but sad, and Seokjin still calls him every now and again, genuinely wondering how Yoongi is doing.

Things got better and worse in inconsistent ways, but Yoongi figures he’s alright. He functions. He has a job, an apartment. It feels hollow sometimes but Yoongi can never pinpoint exactly what direction that’s coming from.

So; bad day? Hoseok asks.

Not really. Just one that feels incredibly long, with the gravity cranked up a couple notches, heavy.

“I don’t know,” Yoongi says, his voice crackling with disuse. “Maybe I’m just tired.”

Hoseok hums in response, and Yoongi can feel the vibration of it against his back.

And maybe you don’t have to understand someone to love them, Hoseok thinks. Maybe you just love them. Something in Hoseok’s chest tightens, the size and color of a bloodied fist.

Sometimes you just get kicked open, caught off guard. Sometimes you get a vision of a fish hook through the finger, of coyotes pawing silently at graves, and then; you love them. You just do.

 

 

 

 

XVII.

Hoseok wakes up to the sound of Yoongi’s footsteps creaking through the house, and when he looks out his open window, he sees that it’s still night; bleak, indiscernible colors against the impossible dark of the landscape. He lays there, for a while, only halfway out of sleep, trying to figure out if he’s hearing things.

Hoseok sits up in his bed, reaches to the nightstand to turn on the lamp, blinking away the tired spots in his vision. When he creeps out into the living room, he spots Yoongi curled up in the armchair, the light from the dim floor lamp leaking in behind him, one of the quilts from the basket next to the fireplace draped haphazardly around his shoulders and spilling into his lap.

He’s wearing those wire frame glasses Hoseok rarely sees somewhere other than the nightstand, and they cast faint, delicate shadows across his face.

Yoongi looks up from the notebook he’s been writing in when Hoseok appears in the doorway, blinking. It’s too dark to see the clock hanging behind his head clearly, but he think it might be 3AM.

“Can’t sleep?” Hoseok says. Whispers. The silence is too fragile to break completely.

“Yeah,” Yoongi replies, equally quiet. Out the window they can hear beetles clicking in the fields, the trees. Even after almost three months, Yoongi still finds the stillness of this place jarring.

“Should I make some tea?”

Yoongi shrugs like he thinks it’s not going to matter much either way, but Hoseok will take that as a yes, either way, turning down the hall and gathering the chamomile he’s been drying on the windowsill. The water boils slowly, and when Yoongi finally makes his way into the kitchen, Hoseok notices, belatedly, that the navy sweater Yoongi is wearing is one of Hoseok’s own. Their laundry has been getting mixed up more and more as the time passes, the washer still broken, the loads always done in tandem in the tub. His thighs are soft and smooth where they meet the hem of his boxers.

The sight of Yoongi makes Hoseok feel warm all over. He wishes he had something else to do with his hands, now that the flowers are steeping in the water, herbal and earthy, staring down at the contents of the teapot slowly changing colors.

Yoongi sits down at the kitchen table, and for a second, Hoseok is thrown back to a week ago, when Yoongi had fallen asleep there in almost the same position; head in his arms, ankles crossed under the chair.

Hoseok sets two mugs down on the table, catching the flowers in a sieve when he pours out the tea, steam billowing upwards and dissipating.

Hoseok sits, smiles to himself behind the mug as he and Yoongi take a sip at the same time, matched. He kind of wishes he had turned the radio on, or could at least stop getting so tongue tied all the goddamn time, but then Yoongi sighs into his mug, looking up.

“This tastes like dirt,” he says serenely, a blank look on his face, and then he takes another sip, the steam obscuring his eyes.

Hoseok starts laughing, and Yoongi just smiles at him across the table, his eyes scrunching up, the way his mouth stretches always a little feline, lion-like, predatory. Trying to claim something, clawing at him.

Eventually, the mugs are left empty, everything abandoned in the sink, and Hoseok is watching Yoongi as he’s about to disappear into the guest bedroom, standing in the doorway of his own.

“Hyung,” Hoseok says, the hesitation in his voice the loudest thing in every room, “do you wanna…”

He trails off, glancing back at his own room behind him, and Yoongi turns, looking to him from down the hallway. Do you want to sleep in my bed?

Not for the first time, Yoongi is struck by just how careless they’re being--whatever it’s going to mean when this final week rolls to a close--but he nods, anyway.

Yoongi turns his light off, and when he steps into Hoseok’s bedroom, the lamp is on, everything is tinted yellow, Hoseok leaned up against the headboard, plugging his phone into a charger. The smell of the ash trees and the water drifts in through the open window, Hoseok flicks off the light, and then everything is on the very edge of blue. The way the room is set up--the bed shoved up against the wall beneath the window, Yoongi has to crawl up to the pillows on his hands and knees.

Suddenly, Yoongi becomes aware how he’s left everything untouched, and the rest of the way up the bed feels like earth left unturned. Yoongi leans--all of his weight pushed forward onto his hands, pressing their mouths together languidly, and he doesn’t need to believe in anything at all to know that he and Hoseok are clawing their way out of the same dark room.

Hoseok’s hand comes up to cup the side of Yoongi’s face, and Yoongi’s lips part, his head tilting, mouth making a slick little popping noise as he pulls away to throw a knee over Hoseok’s lap, settling his weight down on Hoseok’s thighs.

“Hi,” Hoseok says, his breath lost somewhere in the room, eyes adjusted enough to see the soft glint of the porchlight catching in Yoongi’s eyes.

“Hi,” Yoongi replies, pressing a chaste kiss to the corner of Hoseok’s mouth, winding a hand into his hair, noses bumping as he kisses him again. He pulls back.

Hoseok reaches up and slides Yoongi’s wire glasses of of his face, gently. He tucks some of his slightly grown out hair behind his ear as they come off, feeling kind of stupid for finding the little red marks they’ve left on the bridge of Yoongi’s nose endearing.

Yoongi can feel all the muscles and tendons in Hoseok’s body shifting beneath him as he twists to place Yoongi’s glasses on the nightstand. He slides forward, a little, eager, and catches Hoseok’s lips in another kiss as soon as he turns to face him again.

Yoongi squeezes his knees in around Hoseok’s hips just to have known what it feels like, solid and sturdy beneath him; the spot where all the lines of Hoseok’s lithe, willowy body come together with purpose.

When Hoseok leans forward off the headboard, his hands find their place somewhere between Yoongi’s hipbones and his waist, a helpless little noise making it’s way out the back of Yoongi’s throat, desperate.

“Is this okay?” Hoseok says, right against Yoongi’s cheek as he falls forward, the air scrambling out him. Yoongi nods, and Hoseok feels it against his body more than sees it, pausing one two three before licking into his mouth, pulling Yoongi towards him as he leans back against the headboard once more.

On Hoseok’s lap, Yoongi has to lean down a bit to kiss him, and it leaves Hoseok leaving small and slightly interesting, having to look up to meet his eyes through the spiderweb of electricity strung between them.

Fuck, Hoseok thinks, Yoongi’s hand curling into his hair, tilting his head to the side, laying open mouthed kisses all down his jaw and neck, sure that the pulsing of his heart might be visible. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

Yoongi’s free hand slides down, down, down, a lazily constructed line from Hoseok’s collarbones to his navel, pausing there, and then dropping lower until Yoongi’s palm presses into his cock through his pajamas, the pressure nowhere near enough.

Ah--” Hoseok breathes, the sound of it mostly just air rushing out of him, his whole body tensing and then relaxing, the feeling of his thighs flexing underneath Yoongi’s weight.

Yoongi shifts above him, and then he pulls at the hem of Hoseok’s shirt, leaning back, smiling like he’s got a trick up his sleeve as they make eye contact, Hoseok lifting his arms as Yoongi pulls the cotton over his head. His fine, dark hair falls into his eyes, and then something in the air just settles.

Hoseok feels his face heat up as Yoongi’s eyes make paths across his newly exposed skin, trailing his pretty fingers down the faint divots of his abdomen, watching his chest heave up and down as his lungs expand, contract, searching for air.

Stop looking at me like that, Hoseok wants to say, but then he realizes he has no answer for the inevitable like what? Yoongi would counter with, no answer that isn't like a voice crawling backwards, like frostbite, like you’re leaving, like when you love me it’s forever.

Instead, he just lets Yoongi lean in and suck a mark high on his neck as his hand slips into his boxers, shoving his pajamas and underwear out of the way, pulling his cock free, watching the shiver that makes a graveyard of his body as the cool air hits the wet head. Yoongi thumbs at the tip, spreading the precome, and Hoseok might feel embarrassed about how hard he is if it were anyone else.

Hyung,” Hoseok whines, the sound of it swallowed by Yoongi’s kiss, the tight grip of his hand pumping Hoseok’s cock teasingly slow. The pace increases tortuously, and Hoseok tries to roll his hips for friction, trapped under Yoongi’s weight, helpless.

Hoseok’s arms get laid over Yoongi’s shoulders, pulling him forwards, crushing their mouths together, everything messy and unhurried and warm.

Yoongi torques his wrist on the upstrokes, and Hoseok goes pliant beneath him. His spine bows forward and he rests his forehead in the crook of Yoongi’s neck, breathing warm and damp against Yoongi’s collarbones. The pace is slow; Hoseok’s hands gripping Yoongi’s shoulder and hair loosely.

Ah,” Hoseok pants, and Yoongi smiles before he presses a kiss to his temple. Hoseok is loud as a whole, but now, he’s dissolved into a few breathy sounds, quiet. Just the sound of the air going out of him, and the slickness of it all.

At the end of every stroke, Yoongi squeezes at the base at the same time he pulls, a little, on the soft hairs at the nape of Hoseok’s neck, tugging hushed sounds and full body shivers from him.

More, ” Hoseok gasps, “please, Yoongi-hyung, I--”

Yoongi thumbs at the slit again, and Hoseok jerks up, back arching, hitting the headboard with a hollow thud and a moan. “Oh ,” he says, “fuck, hyung,” eyes scrunching closed, mouth falling open, a few red marks splayed out across his neck like the sky with all the stars stitched into it.

He looks down at Yoongi’s hand on him, forehead back on Yoongi’s shoulder. Watches the bones and tendons shifting under Yoongi’s skin as he strokes Hoseok from base to tip, his other hand sliding out of his hair and down the column of his neck, settling at the hollow of his throat.

Yoongi makes a soft, pleased sound as Hoseok, falling apart from the outside in, tries to reciprocate what Yoongi is giving him, turning his face to mouth at his neck, palming at the wet spot thats formed on the front of his boxers.

Mm” Yoongi hums, right into his ear, infuriatingly in control, but then then he pushes Hoseok towards the headboard, back arched, chest exposed, thumb still pressing at his throat. A little dangerous.

Yoongi picks up the pace of his hand, everything burning and wet with Hoseok’s precome as he watches him unwravel. “C’mon, Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi says, more gentle than dirty, though it still sends a little fire hurrying down Hoseok’s spine, “I want to see.”

I want to see, Hoseok repeats in his head, feeling powerless, heavy, overwhelmed with Yoongi all over him, all around him, the darkness pressing up against their bodies, the room a dark, sinking blue.

I want to see, and then Yoongi just sits back on Hoseok’s thighs and watches him. Somehow, his gaze doesn’t make Hoseok nervous, doesn't make him self conscious, just improves on everything all at once.

Yoongi presses down on the hollow of Hoseok’s throat, his grip on Hoseok’s cock tightens pleasantly, and Hoseok comes with a gasp, arching, pulling on Yoongi’s sweater. His sweater.

His come lands on his taught stomach, on Yoongi’s hand, drips down the side of his dick, spread as Yoongi strokes him through his orgasm, hips jumping through the overstimulation.

“Fuck,” Hoseok says, suddenly very aware that Yoongi is still visibly hard in his boxers, shifting a little desperately in his lap, untouched.

Hoseok pulls his boxers and pants back up messily, kind of wet and uncomfortable, but it doesn't matter. He slips his palms underneath the hem of Yoongi’s sweater, and Yoongi brings his own wet palm up to his spit slicked mouth and licks it.

Hoseok doesn’t know what his face looks like but right now, but it makes Yoongi laugh and say, “What? I’m not gonna wipe it on your sheets.”

Hoseok just picks Yoongi up a bit, leans him back until he’s laying on the bed, his legs still spread around Hoseok’s hip as he looms over him. Black, inky shadows are cast in the space between them.

Yoongi blinks owlishly up at him, and when Hoseok kisses him, Yoongi’s mouth opens immediately, head tilting, licking into Hoseok’s mouth. His sweater has ridden up to his navel, and Hoseok’s hands slip under it again, spreading neatly around his ribcage.

Yoongi’s thighs squeeze at his hips, and then Hoseok starts kissing down, down, down, the sweater rucked up under his armpits.

Hoseok mouths wetly at the divot carved down the center of Yoongi’s chest, kisses his sternum, the smooth skin above his navel, and then, an inch above where Yoongi’s hip meets his underwear.

Hoseok looks up, sees Yoongi flushed, leaning up on his elbows to looks down at him, and the air in the room just bristles. Hoseok’s thumbs trail lightly over Yoongi’s hipbones, arms hooked under his thighs, and the sudden shyness he sees in Hoseok is jarring, endearing.

“Um,” Hoseok says, the side of his face leaning into Yoongi’s inner thigh, soft. “It’s…been a while.” His face is pink again, visible even in darkness.

Yoongi reaches down and grabs one of Hoseok’s hands, weaving them together, tangling things that go beyond just fingers.

“Yeah,” Yoongi replies, voice brittle, shaking. “Yeah, me, too.”

“Yeah?” A kiss, pressed to the inside of Yoongi’s knee.

Someone squeezes. A thumb, roaming. “Yeah.”

Something dissolves.

Hoseok drops a kiss at Yoongi’s hip, mouths at him through his boxers, and Yoongi falls back on the bed with a breathy moan, head turned to the side. Hoseok starts to peel the fabric away, standing up on his knees to help Yoongi kick it off his legs.

When Hoseok settles back down, Yoongi is all laid out before him, his cock pink and leaking against his stomach, his breathing, visible, the room so dark it might as well be underwater.

“You’re pretty, hyung,” Hoseok says, free hand gripping the base of Yoongi’s dick.

Yoongi throws an arm over his face, hidden in the sleeve of his sweater. Hoseok strokes him once, twice, and then licks a wet stripe up the underside as Yoongi’s thighs try to close and a funny purring noise, like an old car engine, rumbles out of him.

When Hoseok finally takes the head into his mouth, Yoongi’s hand untangles from Hoseok’s and comes down to wind into his hair. Pulling, a little. Hoseok groans around his cock, and Yoongi arches off the mattress for a moment before bowing back down.

Hoseok takes Yoongi farther in, running his tongue along the underside of his cock as he moves, and when he looks up through his eyelashes, Yoongi has his other hand over his mouth, the sleeve of the too big sweater obscuring parts of his face.

Hoseok unfolds himself, crawls up Yoongi’s body and pulls it away. Kisses him, languidly, thigh pressing against Yoongi’s erection.

“You don’t have to be quiet,” Hoseok murmurs. “It’s only me.” Yoongi’s hips kick against the firm muscle of Hoseok’s thigh, a whine spilling out of him. And then, Yoongi realizes, as Hoseok makes his way back down, it really is just Hoseok. There’s no one else in the house, no neighbors, nothing else for miles but the lake and the bugs and the trees.

Hoseok takes Yoongi into his mouth again, sucking, and the pressure feels so good that Yoongi’s hips jerk up before Hoseok can move to hold them down. The hand in his hair pulls again, bangs shoved out of his eyes, and Hoseok’s eyelashes flutter closed as he pulls back to the tip and sinks all the way down again. He holds Yoongi’s thighs apart as his head bobs, and all Yoongi keeps saying is oh, Hoseok--oh, oh, oh.

Yoongi deliberates over sitting up to look down at Hoseok--so damn pretty; lips red, dark eyelashes fanning out across his cheekbones, messy hair falling into his eyes--or laying back so he can last a little longer.

Hoseok hooks one of Yoongi’s legs over his shoulder, and looking back, Yoongi thinks this is where everything deteriorates.

Hoseok pulls off with a wet pop, and starts leaving hot, open mouthed kisses along the shaft of Yoongi’s cock, thumb rubbing over the slit.

Yoongi leans up on one of his elbows, the angle of all his weight on one shoulder harsh and dynamic, his lips red from kissing, earlier, and swollen, now, from biting them.

Hoseok continues mouthing at the base, staring back at him through his fine eyelashes as the muscles in Yoongi’s stomach tense and relax, rhythmic. He gives Yoongi a bit of a show, now that he’s looking; the head of his cock resting flat on Hoseok’s tongue, hand pumping slowly at the shaft, slick with spit. He takes his mouth away, hand moving just as slow, and starts kissing high on the inside of Yoongi’s thigh, pale and smooth before he moves to his hips, sucking little marks there as Yoongi pants above him.

“So cute,” Hoseok rambles, mouth trailing along Yoongi’s lower stomach.“Love your hips and your chest, hyung, wish I could give you more.” When Hoseok glances up again, Yoongi’s face is turned to the side, embarrassed but pleased, looking like he’s trying to hide in the collar of his sweater.

He slips Yoongi’s dick past his lips again, bobbing shallowly, spit leaking down the side of Yoongi’s cock. A hand reaches up and scratches at his sides, lightly, tiny red marks left in the wake.

Yoongi shudders, and Hoseok wants to fuck him so badly, wants Yoongi under him or on top of him, sweaty bangs in his eyes and flushed all the way down to his chest, but he doesn’t have any condoms or lube, and fucking Yoongi is maybe the only idea that is worse than this one.

Yoongi grinds up into Hoseok’s mouth shallowly, hips shifting in little circles, and Hoseok lets him, watching him work for it.

Please,” Yoongi finally blurts, desperate and rough, his thighs, shaking. “More, Hoseok-ah, I-- hah --need more--”

And that’s all Hoseok really needs to hear, no desire to tease Yoongi tonight, letting the head of Yoongi’s cock bump the crown of his throat as he swallows, breathing through his nose. Hoseok pulls him forward by the hips, and Yoongi’s elbow slips as he drops back onto the blankets.

Fuck, Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi breathes, lungs searching for air, “you’re so--”

Hoseok works what he can’t reach with his mouth with his hand, picking up the pace, enjoying the whole new catalogue of sounds Yoongi is making beneath him.

“I’m-- ah fuck-- I’m close,” Yoongi grits out, and when he speaks, it sounds like Daegu chewed him up and spit him out, right here in Hoseok’s bed; the accent thick, heavy, almost tangible as his hands stretch up above his head, back arching

Hoseok pulls away, kissing the tip of Yoongi’s dick, sucking at the head, wet sounds overlapping with their breathing, now coming out in harsh burts.

He feels Yoongi’s dick twitch in his hand, watches every muscle in his body tense up as his back arches harshly, listens to the sweet sound of Yoongi hissing fuck, fuck, fuck, Hoseok--oh, as Yoongi comes in his mouth. Hoseok continues sucking him through it, some of his come leaking out the corners of his lips, and Yoongi can’t even find it in him to look, boneless, orgasm tearing through him.

Hah--” Yoongi breathes as Hoseok pops off his dick with slick sound, swallowing. When Hoseok leans up, looms over him, Yoongi’s sweat soaked bangs stick to his forehead, and nobody can seem to do anything except try to breathe.

“So handsome,” Hoseok says, smiling, and for some reason, it makes Yoongi more flustered than calling him pretty had. Yoongi’s chest heaves up and down, color high in his cheeks, and Hoseok leans down to kiss him, lazy and hot, before collapsing on his back next to him.

His hand searches for Yoongi’s, holding it, and for a few minutes, nobody moves. At some point, Hoseok realizes that they're laid out all wrong on the bed, feet at the headboard, faces under the window. If he turns to look at Yoongi, there's a perfect triangle of faint orange light falling across his cheek through the window, reflected strangely off the porchlight fastened to a column on the back porch.

Eventually, Hoseok has to get up, going to the bathroom to wet the corner of a towel, wiping down his stomach. When he comes back to bed, Yoongi is still lying the wrong way in bed, and Hoseok laughs when Yoongi goes boneless as he tries to flip him around, the blankets twisting beneath him. Yoongi shivers a bit, the towel now a little cold, as Hoseok cleans him up, too, pulling a new pair of boxers for him out a drawer.

Hosek slips back into bed, and Yoongi sidles up next to him, the side of his face pressed into the juncture of Hoseok’s shoulder, already half asleep. Hoseok’s arm curls around him like a cobra.

The window is open. Everything is still blue. Nothing keeps the night from coming in.

It’s difficult to ignore how easily this has become easy.

Hoseok doesn’t know exactly how people navigated land before they were all shook free from it’s touch, but he imagines that it was something like this; the pads of his fingers curling neatly into the ridges of Yoongi’s ribcage, the tangible memory of Yoongi’s hands weaving into his hair. Or maybe, the way his thoughts become unspeakable--nothing but a symbol of language’s failings.

 

 

 

 

XVIII.

The taxi rolls up to the house, gravel crunching under the tires. There’s a strange moment where Yoongi almost thinks it’s the same one he came here in, but he looks at the number painted on the side, and it passes.

It’s raining, again.

Yoongi scrubs at his eyes, bending to pick up his bag up off the porch. He’s about to step down into the grass when Hoseok squeezes his wrist and says wait, disappearing into the house for a few seconds. When he returns, he unfolds an umbrella and places it in Yoongi’s hand.

“Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi says dumbly, kind of wanting to cry all over again, “I’m only walking to the car.”

“I know,” he replies, and his smile is like a line drawn in damp sand, unhappiness pulling a bit at the edges.

“Just--” Yoongi mutters, shoving the umbrella back at Hoseok. “Keep it.” His voice comes out brittle and tight. It’s just an umbrella. Hoseok has always had a way of making things feel bigger than they are.

He places the umbrella handle in Yoongi’s grip again. “For the airport, then. For Seoul.”

“Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi says, but it sounds like ducking for cover. “You’ll need this.” But he won’t, really. There’s two other umbrellas hanging on the hooks by the door.

Hoseok shakes his head, and then pulls Yoongi in by the front of his raincoat, arms tight around his ribcage, Yoongi’s face pressed into the crook of Hoseok’s neck.

Yoongi exhales, but the air claws it’s way out of him in a shudder.

Hoseok presses a kiss to Yoongi’s cheek and then goes back to squeezing him, feeling melted and insignificant. You’ll return it, he wants to say. I’ll see you again, right?

Then his eyes burn and he turns Yoongi around, watching him pick his way down the uneven driveway. Everything stings. One of the wheels on Yoongi’s suitcase gets a piece of gravel jammed into it, and it wont roll. Hoseok laughs, but somehow it just results in him crying, a hand clamped over his mouth.

Yoongi gets everything into the trunk, and he’s halfway into the cab before he looks up, and then everything contracts like some diseased lung. Tight before it heaves outwards. Push, pull, push.

“Bye,” Yoongi says. Hoseok wants to crawl inside a photograph and stay there for a while. English, now. “Goodbye, Hoseok.”

Yoongi gets in the taxi.

 

 

 

Hoseok has always been a cryer.

You’ve got the whole lake inside you, Hoseok, his dad used to say, wiping at his eyes. You just gotta let it out.

Hoseok sits down on the edge of the dock. The clouds roll, turned belly up like a school of dead fish, and the rain becomes mist.

He sits down on the edge of the dock, and he lets out the lake.

 

 

 

 

XIX.

Hoseok pours two cups of tea the next morning. Sits out on the back porch and drinks them both himself when he realizes that Yoongi is gone.

The bed in the guestroom is unmade, still. Yoongi’s handwritten notes for his project are still in the top layer of the trash. Hoseok pulls one of the folded up papers out, smoothing it’s creases. It looks more like a letter than anything else, the longer Hoseok stares at it. Crumpled up, scratched out. A legible sentence, here and there.

Hoseok, it says. For the record; I love you. A few lines of scribbles. Something about bad dreams. Just the words half dark; like you. Scratched out sentences. Something circled and then slashed with a different pen. At the end, parts of a question that looks a little bit like where else would I go?

Hoseok sets it down on the kitchen table, looks up. One of Yoongi’s sweaters is still drying, out on the clothesline, twisting in the wind like a flag.

Like middle school bathroom graffiti; I was here.

 

 

 

 

XX.

“Yoongi-ssi,” his boss says, “this is really great work.” He’s flipping through the mockup for the magazine spread Yoongi was assigned to do, and a pile of side pieces they’ll archive for the future.

“Thank you,” Yoongi says, bowing his head, a little.

“Maybe we should send you overseas more often!” his boss continues, laughing. “You’ve really discovered something, here.”

And Yoongi figures that’s true, in some ways. There’s nothing about Hoseok or how much is haunted, nothing about a grocery store or two wooden canoes, but there’s certainly something about becoming a part of a place instead of simply walking through it. Which is, Yoongi thinks, kind of the same, in the end.

Truthfully, Yoongi doesn’t really want to go anywhere else. When his boss had called him in here, the ugly, shadowy part of Yoongi’s brain had kind of hoped that he would fire him so he could go be miserable somewhere else. But then, Yoongi had thought about how Hoseok would go hyung! and hit him on the arm for being negative, feeling a terrible pang of longing hit him somewhere in his ribs.

“I’ll think about it,” Yoongi says, eyes trained on the floor.

And he will. Yoongi’s always had a rule for himself; he gets one third of the time something lasted to move on from it. He used it in college, after he and Seokjin had ended it. He used it the first time he got rejected from a university. He’s still using it now, having moved from Daegu to Seoul.

So; Yoongi gives himself a month to get over Hoseok. To get over Scotland. And then, he adds two more, just to be sure.

From there, he doesn’t know what he’ll do. He just wants to be sure, wants to do what will make him happy. Want’s to feel like he’s being a responsible adult about something.

Later, he sits down in his office chair, feeling like the version out of himself that crawled out of his dreams; the one where the rain whips at the walls and all the trees bend sideways like ribbons, the one where there's a flash of light too yellow to be anything but more darkness, in the end.

 

 

 

 

XXI.

For a month, Yoongi doesn’t call.

In his free time, he writes. Edits all the work he abandoned in his final year of university. Actually attends a work event, for once. Spends the majority of a weekend sprawled out on his living room floor. Makes it work, again.

He unpacks his suitcase. Flushes, immediately, when he pulls out Hoseok’s navy blue sweater from the bottom of his bag. It still smells like the house--tea, jasmine, and somewhere; trees. He shoves it into the bottom of a drawer.

Occasionally, Yoongi wonders if Hoseok is part of the hole in his heart, or the thing that's supposed to help fill it.

 

These days, he thinks it might be both.

 

 

 

 

XXII.

“Yoongi-hyung,” Hoseok says. His voice doesn’t sound the same through the phone, and Yoongi’s heart does a complicated sort of tug in his chest. It’s never been this hard to accept that he only gets to exist in once place.

“Hey,” Yoongi replies. It comes out quiet and soft. He exhales. The sound of it crackles and bounces back through the speakers, refracted.

“Hi.”

There’s a comfortable silence that settles, there; bittersweet in one way and painful in another. Hoseok’s silences are always a little jarring; his voice is the kind that carries through the house, through walls, over music.

Now, when he speaks to Yoongi, it’s so, so small.

Yoongi’s hair is damp, pressed into the pillows of his bed where he lays on his side. He’s still a little screwed up from the jet lag, and had taken a bath in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, anyway. His bed is warm.

Yoongi looks at the clock, does the math in his head. The sun should be setting, now, back in Scotland.

“What’s the sky look like?” Yoongi asks.

There’s a bit of shuffling on Hoseok’s end of the line, maybe he’s walking to one of the windows, maybe he’s moving to stand out on the back porch.

“The clouds are purple,” Hoseok says, so, so small. “But the sky is all red and orange.” The sound of wind crackles through the speaker, and Yoongi swears he hears Hoseok’s old windchimes in the background somewhere. The porch, then.

Yoongi just makes a little noise of acknowledgement through the phone. He sighs, rolls over in his bed.

Hoseok’s heart threatens to liquefy and spill out through the gaps in his ribs. Without Yoongi here to make it mean something, all these sunsets are just another 6PM.

It’s really late--or really early in Seoul, Hoseok knows. Yoongi might be falling asleep.

“I miss you,” Hoseok says, quiet, quiet, quiet, the sun sinking it’s teeth into the line of the horizon.

Yoongi has set down his phone next to his head on the bed. He stares at Hoseok’s name on the screen, touches his elbows to his knees to remind himself he’s real. “Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi murmurs, “I miss you, too.” He’s never felt so acutely far away from someone before.

Another silence. More windchimes in the distance.

“Goodnight, Hoseok,” Yoongi says.

He listens to the steady, familiar sound of Hoseok breathing for a moment, and then he hangs up the phone.

 

 

 

 

XXIII.

“I think it might be good for you, hyung,” Jungkook says. “I think it already has been.”

Yoongi blanks, the wording reminding of Hoseok sitting on the edge of the tub. It’s already been done. You will hurt me. It’s all the same.

Yoongi had begun this conversation ready for Jungkook to shoot him down. Ready for Jungkook to tell him he’s looking for an escape, just running from something. Or rather; running from nothing. But Jungkook is nothing if not honest, and he folds his hands neatly under his chin as the conversation pauses, feeling strange about an outside perspective thinking he’s doing the right thing.

“Are you happy?”

Yoongi smiles. “No,” he says, shaking his head.

Jungkook laughs. “Oh?” he replies. “You usually say ‘I don’t know.’”

And it might sound strange, but for the first time in years, Yoongi is able to see exactly what makes him unhappy, able to see what’s wrong, what to change. Often, it’s just a big, black sheet thrown over him, held down with weights, left alone in the dark to crawl his way out or just stay stuck there forever.

Occasionally, Yoongi feels like his love for Hoseok is so big that for a while, he couldn't really see it at all, and now, thousands of steps back, thousands of miles away, he takes a look at it, spilling out over the ocean, all he can think is oh. And; whatever is in me still loves you deeply.

 

 

 

XXIV.

“You could have someone better,” Yoongi says, radio voice through the speaker of Hoseok’s laptop, shitty wifi lag. Start, stop, start. Difficult to tell exactly when he’s talking. He looks like he’s teasing, a little, but something about it still pops and rips open like buttons plucked from a shirt; exposed.

“Well,” Hoseok murmurs, “I only ever wanted you.”

Yoongi’s face scrunches up all funny, embarrassed but pleased, and Hoseok just laughs.

He remembers, then, as he looks at Yoongi’s blurry, grainy face, shifting sleepily through the pixels of his computer screen, the only time his grandmother had ever visited in Scotland. He had been nine years old, and she had pushed his hair back off his forehead and smiled. Told him, this is what god would have wanted if he had lived long enough to see it.

Hoseok isn’t--has never been--religious.

 

For a moment, though, he thinks he understands.

 

 

 

XXV.

The rain thrums on the roof of the taxi. Through the fogged up window, Yoongi can see Hoseok, coming down the lawn, barefoot across the grass. He throws open the car door before Yoongi can.

Hyung--” Hoseok blurts, pulling him up and off the leather seat, “Yoongi-hyung--”

“Hi, Hoseok-ah” Yoongi says, crushed against him in a hug, barely a foot from the open door of the cab.

Hoseok brings his hands up to either side of Yoongi’s face, thumbs under his eyes, holding him there a moment. Raindrops form intricate patterns on the shoulders of Hoseok’s shirt.

“Hi,” he replies, and then; they’re kissing. Their noses bump. Someone smiles.

Yoongi makes a helpless little humming noise in the back of his throat, pulling away, eyes blinking open. He closes the car door, pries open the trunk. Hoseok reaches out and snaps the elastic of Yoongi’s underwear peeking out from his jeans when he bends over. Yoongi gives him a dead eyed look over his shoulder.

Hoseok stares at Yoongi’s luggage; his entire life shoved into three suitcases in the back of a taxi, and it hits him all over again. As little as Hoseok feels he’s given Yoongi, it’s only ever been everything he has.

“I’m really glad you came,” Hoseok says, and his voice is just another heart shaped hole in the wall, covered clumsily with plaster and sanded away to look smooth. “As you are. I’ve missed you.”

All the suitcases stand upright in the gravel, the rain. The taxi drives away. Yoongi hands Hoseok the umbrella he gave him all those months ago.

I’ve missed you, Hoseok tells him, and all Yoongi hears is I know about the bad thoughts, I know about the sadness that peels itself from you like a sticker from the wall. I know about the letter you wrote and later destroyed. I know how you try hard to be better, how sometimes all you do is the dishes, how you crack jokes and shove words under your tongue until there's nothing left to do but spit them out in one sharp, kinetic burst.   

I’ve missed you, Hoseok says, and all Yoongi can think is finally.

“I love you,” Yoongi says dumbly, bangs plastered to his forehead with rain, water in his shoes. His eyes follow the path of a raindrop down the slope of Hoseok’s nose. Somehow, Yoongi knows, the light falling across Hoseok’s face looks exactly like the light that crashed onto his own that first night here, when the sun sank sideways in the sky, yellow, orange, pink through the window.

“I love you, too,” Hoseok says, picking up a suitcase, holding open the squeaky front door.

Something rattles inside a bag as it’s set down. Yoongi’s hand runs lightly over the right side of Hoseok’s ribcage.

Pain, like so many things in life, can never be fixed.

 

Just carried.