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Guns and Roses

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Perhaps it's still hot to wear hoodies, but Jeongguk's already begun to wear them. It's not only because he likes winter clothes, but also he feels more comfortable with them, because in that way, in his big grey hoodie, so big his hands and a bit of his ripped jeans are hidden, with his hood on, he's sure no one sees his face from behind.

Although in the capital he has no one who can recognize him. Fortunately or unfortunately. He's starting his sophomore year, and yet he has no friends. Well, he has classmates, he gets along with them, despite being a little shy and reserved he's a nice guy, but Jeongguk has not met anyone yet who deserves the friend label.

No one to go out for drinks with, no one to be with in his free afternoons, wasting the time playing games. No one to share passions with.

Jeongguk pulls his cell phone out of his jeans pocket to skip the song. This is a hard rock song, perfect for the current weather, he thinks. He's one of those people who needs music all the time, but not any music, only that one that fits perfectly with the atmosphere of the moment. He can not be listening a pop punk song on a rainy day, nor depressive rock or doom metal during a trip to the beach. Jeongguk has to be listening always the right song for each scenario of his life.

The sun is already set, days are getting shorter, and even more will be when his classes start tomorrow. When the traffic light turns green he crosses the avenue and enters a narrow perpendicular alley that takes him directly to that district where he doesn't frequent.

Even alone, Jeongguk likes to drift around. It's a dark alley, so what really attracts the attention is a bright hot pink neon sign that blinks shakily, leaving a buzzing electrical noise that Jeongguk gets to hear even with his earphones on, the sound of cars and the music from the interior of the store.

It's a tattoo studio. Quite bright and clean even in the district that it is located, the only tattoo studio nearby he knows. He's gone there before, last year, when he got his first tattoo behind his family's back, but now he's not looking for more ink on his skin. Now he goes for something simpler. Relatively.

"Yeah?"

The girl at the counter doesn't raise her head from her magazine when she spots Jeongguk. She is chewing gum, her arms full of colors and lines and Jeongguk thinks that although she should not have many more years than him, that look makes he feel younger. Without removing his earphones, no song is playing on his phone now, he approaches and licks his lips before speaking.

"Uh, yes, hi, I wanted a piercing. Well, two actually."

"Lobe?"

"No."

"Cartilage?"

"Um, no." Jeongguk hesitates. "You know, here, in the chest," he says, timidly wandering his hand over his lower chest.

Finally the girl looks up and stares serious at him for a few seconds before realizing and talking again.

"Oh, okay, you mean nipples."

He nods quickly, suddenly feeling even younger.

"Cool. Just fill out this sheet with your info. You're an adult, aren't you?"

"Yes," he answers, taking the sheet and reading everything in a look, all formalities.

The girl returns to her magazine while Jeongguk writes down, then in a reflex act she leans again towards the counter.

"Oh by the way, you'll have to wait. The piercer is not there, so Seojoon— I mean the tattoo artist is who will be pinching your titties."

Jeongguk barely opens his mouth to nod, presses his lips and holds his breath for a second. He is sure that he wants to do it, even without telling anyone; in fact, telling that he has always wanted to have pierced nipples would have been worst, maybe even mockery or strange faces from his hometown friends.

But just thinking about getting pierced in such a delicate area is not the same as actually listen to it from the tattoo studio girl, realizing that now it's becoming real. Jeongguk is not afraid of needles, but neither feels special contempt for his little nipples. He must be looking kind of a way from the outside, because seems she notices something in his expression. She rolls her eyes before looking down again.

"Don't worry, he also does piercings. He'll be free in a moment."

It's not that they are his first, he already has several piercings and a plug in the ears, but none that sounds so sensitive or embarrassing. Right in the silence between song and song Jeongguk takes a few steps back and sits in one of the two black leather armchairs in the room while waiting.

The small glass table in front of them is filled with tattoos, make-up and high-risk sports magazines, but he doesn't touch them. It is a small store indeed, the wall has framed many of the tattoo artist's designs and some photos of models with extravagant and quite suggestive and BDSM-ish clothes.

Jeongguk waits while some clients enter asking prices or buying piercings, all of them in casual clothes. When he was a child the people who had tattoos were just those weirdos, people different from the rest, people who were not afraid to spoil their skin forever.

Now almost everyone has the desire to get some drawing on their wrist or ankle. Maybe not as much as his goal, he thinks, but over time people are more accustomed to body modifications, and discrimination for the body's appearance descends, even if it's only a tiny bit.

It's only been fifteen minutes, but Jeongguk feels it as an eternity. It's almost twenty when, time after the sound of the machine stops, the door of the tattoo room opens and the tattoo artist comes out, taking off the black latex gloves from his hands. He is a big and strong guy, strong inked arms, his neck full of drawings, and ears and nose plugs. Jeongguk's nipples hurt in anticipation.

"How are we doing?"

"Two nipples," the girl says pointing to Jeongguk, "and the tattoo of the eight thirty girl."

"Fine. Get this tattoo paid and pass me in five minutes the nipples boy."

The big tattoo guy gets lost down the back hallway, leaving Jeongguk awkwardly nervous in that tiny hall, still waiting for something he was so sure and now it's starting to regret. Then, from the tattoo room, silently, comes out the client who just printed something on his skin.

At first Jeongguk doesn't want to look at him, does not want to exchange glances, not after everyone in the store and some people that walked by the street have find out he is going to pierce his virgin nipples. But Jeongguk's curiosity makes, when that guy turns around to head the counter, to analyze him completely.

Jeongguk first looks for the place of his body where the guy got the tattoo, but it's useless; except his hands and face, he has nothing on his body exposed, everything is covered by his black hoodie and his black skinny jeans, also his black military boots, even a dark cap with a skull in the middle hides almost all his grey dyed hair. The tattoo could be anywhere.

The guy shakes his head slightly, fixing some free grey strands of his bangs. And Jeongguk bites his lower lip, somewhat excited. He is more than used to seeing his favorite artists; all tattooed, pierced, rainbow dyed hair, crazy hairstyles, extravagant clothes. Seeing it live, however, from someone so normal on the street, is something Jeongguk doesn't usually experience.

He holds a timid smile. He likes grey. He thinks about how beautiful a hair would be on that color, now that guy is half revealing his. Jeongguk has always loved colored hairs, but also believes that anything pastel or garish is not going to suit him, so he still keeps his natural black hair.

Jeongguk hears the girl speak, the grey-haired guy doesn't talk much though. Jeongguk didn't listened to his voice although the girl at the counter has asked a couple of questions. So when he actually open his mouth at last Jeongguk opens his ears as much as possible.

"Thanks," he says.

"Thanks to you. So, it hurt so much?" The girl asks.

"Nah, I usually fall asleep with large tattoos."

Jeongguk narrows his eyes. So that guy has more than one tattoo, many more so he usually falls asleep with the large ones. His voice serious although the soft hair color. They exchange some words, she laughs, she does not stop looking at that guy with a wide smile, and Jeongguk wonders if they know each other already, or it's that he looks like a loser, because she hardly looked at Jeongguk when he entered half an hour ago.

"Glad to hear it," she smiles again. "Hope you decide for another soon, and let Seojoon do it, of course."

"Sure."

Eventually the guy fixes his cap and says goodbye. And is then, when he turns around, when Jeongguk can see his face. It's only for a few seconds, even less, a few thousandths, but long enough for both of them to make a brief eye contact. And for Jeongguk to think he is so cool.

Jeongguk keeps looking at his back, at how he walks away, at how he leaves the place. And even though he's already out of the studio he doesn't stop staring at the door like he may come back. Not even realizing that the provisional piercer is already calling him.

Jeongguk himself has always felt a little different from the rest in terms of his clothes, his style, maybe darker than normal, maybe more urban than he should, but Jeongguk doesn't feel that people look at him thinking he is different. Thinking he's cool.

Not like that guy, for example, the people who give off a special aura that they don't seem to seek, a coolness that they don't intend to pretend. Jeongguk gets up on the third call of the big tattoo guy and his guts swoop. Perhaps he is being slow, but he wants to believe that in the future he will feel like the people he admires.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

Jeongguk didn't meet him on the first day of class because actually he didn't appear, but he does the next. He should not be there in the first place, Jeongguk called it destiny. Taehyung is two years older than him, but still has to pass two subjects of the second year that he has pending.

They say appearances can be deceiving. However Jeongguk felt so good when he saw him coming from the door, not even knowing his name. He is a boy different from the others, physically, his clothes are not normal at all, and that's something that Jeongguk can not help but catch his attention.

Neither are normal his gestures, the way he talks, the way he addresses the teacher or the way in which everything seems funny to him. But it's because of Taehyung that they get to know each other, because Jeongguk, no matter how much he wanted to talk to him since the first moment, doesn't intent on doing it.

Not when Taehyung walks next to his table, not even when he accidentally drops one of his pens and they have to exchange glances and a polite smile. Not even then Jeongguk makes the slightest sign, so it's Taehyung who walks up to him in the hallway during the break. Also because Jeongguk is the only person in the place who is not surrounded by people.

"Are you alone?"

Taehyung speaks with his eyes wide open, as if everything he said moved himself. His are quite large eyes, in addition to the thin black line of eyeliner on his eyelids that gets them even bigger. He is wearing a pastel pink sweater, but on its neckline and shoulder it has several rips, as if he had made them himself, threads hang free from those rips.

The sleeves are wide and long, like the sweater itself, which almost reaches his knees. His pants are black skinny jeans, and his black and white leopard pattern Creepers make Taehyung look taller than Jeongguk.

However what most catches his attention is not that white choker with a bell under his Adam's apple, but Taehyung's hair is red and shiny as fire. Jeongguk thinks he really loves colored hairs.

"Yep."

"It would be nice to have friends here, you know," Taehyung continues. "Need someone to lend me their class notes before the exams."

Jeongguk fakes a smile when he doesn't know what to say, and that guy notices it.

"Just kidding, bro, don't be so serious," he chuckles, lifting a hand like under oath. "This time I'm gonna to pass the subjects by myself, I swear to god."

Jeongguk feels himself smiling, although his appearance may be strange or intimidating to most of the people, this guy has a particularly friendly smile.

"But the having friends thing is true. I know like no one in this year's classes, and you look like... yeah, I think we could be on the same rock."

"On the same rock?"

Taehyung looks around, Jeongguk follows him with hesitant gaze, so now he thinks he knows what he means. And in a way that pleases him.

"You like music, don't you?"

"Sure, everyone likes music," Jeongguk answers.

"Yep, but I get the feeling that you like my music."

Taehyung's eyebrows perks up twice with another of his smiles, tangling his long fingers into the shiny strands of his red hair. Jeongguk smiles shyly back at him.

"Most probably."

At that moment the professor enters the classroom and all the students follow him, including Jeongguk and Taehyung. They have barely exchanged a few words, but it works for Taehyung to spend the classes that he has to pass sitting next to Jeongguk. Even one more in which he is not even registered.

Throughout the day they talk a lot, during the breaks, during the classes themselves. Taehyung is so nice, and Jeongguk doesn't know why he would have so much interest in him, a normal guy. But likes it, finally feels himself appreciated in some way, even if it's just for Taehyung and him sharing the same musical tastes.

"You remind me a lot of me."

"Hm?"

Jeongguk turns his head to look at Taehyung's statement when he knows the professor is not watching. It's the last class of the day and he's quite tired, but he still doesn't want to miss the lesson.

"When I started college, the first time. I was like you, I didn't really have friends, because there was nobody that liked me. And I only wore black clothes back then."

"I don't wear only black" Jeongguk complains.

"Please."

Taehyung lowers the zipper of Jeongguk's black sweatshirt to show that, in addition to his dark ripped jeans, he's wearing a black Metallica t-shirt.

"It's just— I don't like colorful clothes that much, okay?"

Taehyung smiles at his flustered face and pats his head, a sudden and silly closeness that he never experienced with some friend before. Jeongguk doesn't know why, but the warmness, the trust that seems to have this guy with him without barely knowing him doesn't bother him at all, helps him to open himself too.

Now the classmates he used to talk look at him astonished, because they don't know why he has sat down with the weirdest guy in the class.


After weeks they two continue sitting together in the classes they share. Jeongguk feels that Taehyung is a little lost in the subjects so Jeongguk helps him, even if the elder swears all the time he didn't come to him at first for help. But Jeongguk wouldn't mind if that was the case, because for the first time he really enjoys someone's company.

What he doesn't understand is how his red hair looks always so intense no matter how much time passes, as if he dyes it every day. Being Taehyung the person he is, that would not surprise Jeongguk at all.

His today's choker has a thin silver chain that goes down to his collarbone, ending in a cross, and below it a loose white sleeveless fishnet T-shirt is covered by a leather jacket. He's like a model, as if he really takes care every morning to thoroughly prepare his daily outfit.

"Huh? Didn't notice you had a tattoo," Taehyung whispers.

Jeongguk stops moving and looks up, flushed. He has already removed his hoodie because in the study room it's too hot, the heating on like they're in Santa Claus Village, so now that he is in short sleeve T-shirt, Taehyung can the three dark red roses that come down his arm, each one more open than the previous one, from his inner upper arm to almost the hollow of his elbow.

Jeongguk lifts just a little bit the fabric of the shirt to show more skin to Taehyung.

"Yeah, I did it last year."

"You have more?"

"No, this was the first."

Taehyung observes it for a while, quite certainly long, even comes close enough to touch it. Jeongguk hides a smile.

"Has a meaning?"

They both are talking low, but they should not even open their mouths in the study room. Although there are only a few people at that time everyone wants to study or work. Jeongguk stands still as he stares into the Taehyung's eyes.

"Uh, that, actually, you know— I just did it 'cause I liked the drawing."

Taehyung rolls his eyes, sticks his tongue out to dismiss the criticism.

"Don't worry, it's fine. Tattoos are not necessarily meant to have a meaning," says. "But the drawing you chose tells so much already, actually."

"You think so? And what it tells?"

"Better we go talk outside, yeah?"

Taehyung gets up from the chair, carefully drags the legs trying to make as little noise as possible, then leaves the room. Jeongguk hesitates, but eventually follows him. Once outside Taehyung walks towards the vending machine for a coke. He takes the bottle out of the metal drawer, then a long, lingering bubbly drink.

He hands the bottle to Jeongguk and takes off the leather jacket he has been wearing all the time, even in the heat of the study room. Then Jeongguk can appreciate that Taehyung has actually both arms full of tattoos; not too close together, not an entire template but different drawings, almost all in black ink, simple designs, symbols.

"Look," Taehyung suggests, "what do you think they mean?"

Jeongguk hums, gripping tightly the jacket.

"Dunno… Random facts of your life?"

"What, no," Taehyung chuckles, shaking his head and his red bangs. "Each of these is a relationship."

"Really?" Jeongguk snorts, but Taehyung's being serious.

"Really."

He takes silent seconds to stare at the endless tiny and not-so-tiny tattoos of Taehyung's arm's skin.

"You had so many relationships then."

"Yeah", Taehyung sings, "that's relative tho. For me in particular, every crush has been an important point in my life. I like sex by itself, you know, but I must admit that no one has ever gotten out of my bed as fast as has come in."

Jeongguk feels a chill down his spine. Although he's always been very clear, this is the first time that Taehyung talks to him about something as personal as his bed.

Suddenly feeling awkward Jeongguk takes one of Taehyung's arm in response, starts looking at each of the drawing. There are so many, but of a line so fine that neither overlaps the other, all of them having their own room in Taehyung. Jeongguk bites his lip, focused. He notices Taehyung also has a small red rose, less dark and realistic than his own.

"What does your flower mean?"

Taehyung caresses the little flower, clicks his tongue.

"The first. It's for the person I lost my virginity with."

"Oh."

Jeongguk nods, embarrassed but curious. It has some pretty red and pinkish colors, the cutest of all his tattoos, buried in the hollow of his inner elbow.

"You know, the sword and the rose."

Carefully he caresses the drawing as well, as if he could notice the strokes of the machine. Seconds later though Jeongguk frowns and looks back into his eyes.

"But doesn't the rose usually mean, you know, the woman side? Well, the submission and, that stuff."

Taehyung grins.

"Yes, exactly."

Immediately Jeongguk's cheeks heat up a dark color.

"Uh, so, you are—, shit, okay, sorry."

Taehyung lets out a big chuckle at Jeongguk's face, who tries not to look at him again, more embarrassed than before.

"Yes, Jeongguk, you see, my very first time was with a boy. You okay with that?"

Jeongguk opens his eyes wide and nods quickly, scared of being misunderstood.

"Oh, yes, yes, of course, more than okay, don't— sorry, I just, I didn't know."

Now Jeongguk's not sure if Taehyung is smiling because he's mocking him or because his blushed face looks funny, but on the inside he's feeling really uncomfortable.

Jeongguk has never been the type to know how to do relationships, even if he would love to find a person who share everything with. He's scared of being too honest, to trust, to lie in order to not to hurt.

Jeongguk chews on his bottom lip. Taehyung always looks so relaxed, so calm, so expectant.

"In these tattoos there are more girls than boys anyway," Taehyung continues, sighing. "Unfortunately."

Still embarrassed he swallows, nods trying to appear normality, the normality with which Taehyung speaks. He takes the jacket and the coke from Jeongguk, gulps another drink and extends his other arm. Looking for more tattoos Jeongguk's eyes end up in a snake that circle two times his left wrist.

"This?"

"A mean bitch."

If he searches, Jeongguk really can find anything. Some words, a boat knot, birds flying, chains, a bullet, horns, a mask, a butterfly. Each and every one of the tattoos seem beautiful to Jeongguk, but the one that catches the most attention is the one that he has in the left forearm.

Is not so big, but so detailed, so dark and bright at the same time. Not the most original design, but it's the one who stands out the most. This has color, like the little rose. The tattoo is n old key, not for a door, a key for a chest, a jeweler or something small.

"I especially like this one," Jeongguk says, pointing it out.

Taehyung nods, serious, makes a sound with his lips, eyes lost in the group of people that approaches from the end of the hall.

"Yeah," replies, moves his arm away and begins to put on his leather jacket. "I especially liked him too."

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

Jeongguk comes out of the class, almost running, and looks around. Every day he does the same thing, every day that Taehyung doesn't share classes with him; he hopes to find him in the hallway, on his way home or in the restroom. He hopes to find him, basically. Or directly look for him.

Jeongguk likes to be with Taehyung, feels he has many things that he wants to tell him, things he can talk to him without prejudices or weird gazes. When he sees him at the end of the hallway he's glad indeed. Without looking back Jeongguk says goodbye to his classmates and speeds the pace so that Taehyung can not escape.

Today the weather is especially hot for autumn, so he's only wearing a pastel plaid shirt with some rock band T-shirt underneath, but his red shiny hair differentiates him from many meters away. Jeongguk slides among the people who come out together from the classrooms being careful not to shove anyone until he reaches where Taehyung waits for him leaning against the wall, already knowing Jeongguk is coming.

Taehyung looks especially relaxed today, a special cool aura that always surrounds him which Jeongguk can't help but being amazed of. He's eating jelly beans from a plastic bag, and, next to his backpack, resting on the wall, a large black guitar case waits as well. Jeongguk frowns before looking into Taehyung's eyes, but can not help but point it out and ask.

"It that a guitar?"

"Hi."

"Um, yeah, hi."

Taehyung offers jelly beans but Jeongguk politely rejects them. He's actually starving, it's past lunchtime.

"You got class now?"

"Nope," Jeongguk says, "just finished my last class."

"Wanna eat something with me? I was going back home an hour ago but this friend told me he picks me up here after lunch, so I have to wait here for him."

"Sure."

Taehyung nods pleased and hangs the backpack and the guitar on his shoulders before heading to the cafeteria. They are on the second floor, the building has a total of four floors, and the cafeteria is down the hall. They don't go down the main stairs, Jeongguk follows Taehyung who guides him towards more hidden back stairs, which the first days of college Jeongguk thought were fire stairs. They always take that path.

"It's a guitar, yes, I think it's pretty obvious."

"I know, I know, I was wondering if you play the guitar. Maybe belongs to a friend of yours or—"

"It's mine, I play guitar. I started learning a couple of years ago. I'm not that good, tho," he says, and lifts his head thoughtfully. "I'm not the lead guitar of my band but the rhythm one."

Jeongguk stops abruptly.

"Wait, you have a band?"

"I have the best band."

Taehyung resumes their steps. Jeongguk swallows thickly, pretends he's not shocked.

"I'd have to confirm that."

The two of them descend from the last step at the same time, and before continuing towards the cafeteria they stop in front of the hall.

"You want to come over, maybe?"

"Where?"

A guy passes by and slaps Taehyung on the back, and Taehyung makes a joke as a greeting before gesturing to Jeongguk to go on his way.

"This afternoon, the rehearsal. Every Friday we meet after classes to play, you want to come? So you know my bros and can confirm that we are the best band," he says, winking in a way that makes Jeongguk move his eyes away.

Jeongguk snorts to the side, but can not help but press his lips to hide a childish smile. The truth is the idea is so exciting. Despite having friends with the same tastes he has never met anyone who played a rock instrument, much less who played in an actual band. Not someone like Taehyung. For a moment he stops to think what the other members of the band will be like.

They eat cheap sandwiches and wait until Taehyung's friend picks them up. A boring wait for Taehyung, a nervous one for Jeongguk. When Taehyung's phone rings he hangs up the call, quickly leaving the table.

"Get up, Seokjin's here."

People continue leaving the building. Some of them wait for the bus near to the road, some of them stop in the middle of the entrance to chat, to parting wishes. Jeongguk and Taehyung walk towards a red car instead, illegally and momentarily parked just in front of the university building.

When they get in the car Jeongguk can barely see Seokjin's face more than the view from the rearview mirror. He is older than Taehyung, for the way he talks, for the way he scolds Taehyung for something he did before. For the way he rolls his eyes at Taehyung's jokes. Something pleasant tickles Jeongguk's guts.

After the greetings Seokjin spends all the journey asking questions to Jeongguk, about how they met and why Taehyung has brought him suddenly and without warning. To Jeongguk looks like the same type of chill guy, like Taehyung, but he doesn't dress as extravagantly as he does. In a subtle, still grungy way, he only wears a shabby, ripped denim jacket; a pair of thin chains hanging from his neck. His hair's light blonde, but seems to have traces of what once was a light pink color.

"So, you're not in Tae's class, Jeongguk?"

"Kind of, I'm in my sophomore," he replies.

"And you could not meet someone better?"

Taehyung hits the arm of Seokjin that rests on the gear stick, pretends to be offended.

"I can tell there's no one better in my class," Jeongguk laughs, honestly.

"Those boring people sucks," Taehyung adds, sitting properly in the passenger seat, sticking out his tongue with a disgusted grimace on his face. "Can we succeed already? I don't belong here, I'm a born artist."

Seokjin scoffs weakly, focused on the road.

"You're a born lazy."

The path is not too long hearing the absurd funny comments of Taehyung. Jeongguk looks out the window, still some traces of dust and drops of rain from hours ago.

"Everyone is coming, right?" Taehyung sounds. "I want to introduce everyone to Jeongguk."

"Yeah. Yoongi is in a good mood today."

Taehyung huffs, clicks his tongue, slides his ass down until Jeongguk almost doesn't see his hair anymore from behind.

"Gotta fight Yoongi's annoying mood."

"He's busy and hardly sleeps, let him be."

"Who is Yoongi?" Jeongguk asks.

They are in the outskirts, or somewhere far away, Jeongguk doesn't know the neighborhood. Like an industrial district. At the door of what seems to be the place where they rehearse there's a guy with purple hair, his back resting on the wall, a cigarette resting on his lips. The guy waves his hand when the car gets close enough.

"Yoongi," Taehyung lingers, serious. Looking sideways out of the window. "The leader of the band."

Seokjin is the first to get out of the car, pulling out his guitar before heading to the guy at the door. Jeongguk feels an outsider. Taehyung immediately opens the car door for him like a butler. The place is quite different to the surrounding buildings. The walls are painted black, the painting already old and broken, and where there should be a sign there is a well done graffiti with a big BULLETPROOF that makes Jeongguk wonder if it's the band name or just something they like.

It's a cool place, he thinks, after all. The coolest and weirdest place he's been, and he just saw the outside. They approach Seokjin and the purple haired boy who are casually chatting, and then a third guy leaves the building to receive them.

"Look," Taehyung introduces as he and Jeongguk get closer. "These are Joonie and Hoseok."

"Hi, I'm Namjoon" the purple-haired boy comes up, "who is he?" asks looking at Seokjin.

"Friend of Tae, he wanted to see us play."

"Fuck, really? Nobody wants to see us play" the other guy adds, chuckling. "I'm Hoseok by the way, Hobi if you prefer."

Taehyung waits for Namjoon to put out his cigarette to guide Jeongguk inside. Behind the front door it's a long dark hallway full of doors, and makes Jeongguk wonder what that place would be like before it was derelict.

"Hoseok plays the bass," Taehyung comment. "He's really good, as Jin is. And Namjoon, he messes around here."

"You brat," Namjoon complains from the outside of the building.

"Well okay," Taehyung corrects himself, "he wrote most of the lyrics of our original songs, and helps us with the sound check and the production."

Jeongguk smiles nervously, looks around as they walk towards what is supposed to be the room where they rehearse. It smells like damp wood, smoke, alcohol and vanilla incense. Smells like music. Jeongguk curves his mouth, asking himself many questions without answer, too trivial to ask them out loud for now.

They reach the end, a room a little bit larger than a living room, two old leather couches over the red carpet in front of a beautiful and bright dark green drum set. Next to it are the amplifiers and all that tangle of wires that barely lets the floor be seen. There are also on the left wall, in addition to all the posters and magazine clippings, a kind of bar with bottles, some empty and some full, and an old fridge.

Jeongguk takes his time to analyze all the corners of the rehearsal room, rather a place to rest, to chat, to hang out with friends, along with the small set of instruments next to the wall. A private room to do small private concerts. Something moves inside Jeongguk's chest. Even if it's dark and dirty, it look incredibly cool for him.

The sound of a guitar distracts him. Seokjin and Hoseok have enter the room and start to place and plug their instruments, tune them, test the sound before starting. Taehyung leaves his backpack on the floor and sits on the couch getting comfortable.

"You're not going joining them?" Jeongguk asks, sitting next to him.

"You see any drummer? I've got time yet."

Jeongguk looks up and checks that, as Taehyung said, there is no one sitting in front of the drums, only Namjoon is pacing the room.

"You guys don't have a drummer?"

"Yeah, yeah, probably he's outside smoking with Jimin. But he always takes soooo long to start."

Jeongguk hums, waits for a seconds, unsuccessfully trying to memorize the new people.

"Okay, too many names, you'll have to make it easier."

Taehyung chuckles, takes off his boots and throws them on the floor.

"Yoongi, the leader, he's our drummer. Jimin is— was the vocalist. He had to leave the band, but comes over all the time."

Jeongguk nods, understanding.

"Studies, I'm guessing."

"Yah," Taehyung chews, "kind of."

A couple of minutes of silence after Jeongguk rubs his hands in his jeans, trying to dry them. They all laugh at their own jokes, talk about people that Jeongguk doesn't know. And if he's honest, he's feeling a bit nervous about the rehearsal. He has never witnessed a band rehearsing live, not even a small one, and although they are not professional, it feels like a concert for him. That those Jimin and Yoongi are taking so long to get in doesn't help.

"So," Jeongguk mumbles, clearing his throat, trying to get conversation, "everyone smokes?"

"No way. I don't smoke, I hate tobacco," Taehyung replies. "Oh, and Hobi just smokes weed."

Jeongguk arches his eyebrows, silently looks at the boys making noises a few meters away. That Hoseok looks cheerful, since they got in there he's not stopped joking with Seokjin. His hair has different shades of brown, almost blond when is illuminated by the light, even though all the lamps in there are reddish.

He doesn't wear a jacket, just a wide sleeveless white T-shirt and short pants that look more like a swimsuit with tropical motifs. Shabby black Vans, white socks. Jeongguk looks at him closely and thinks the bass' sound suits him.

At that moment the rest of the members, both of them, finally enter, and Taehyung gets up instantly. In the front walks Jimin, a boy a bit shorter than the others, black parted hair, earrings with crosses freely hanging from his ears. Apparently no tattoo, not yet, not so showy like the others. Jeongguk wonders what his striped sweater is hiding.

On the other hand, Namjoon's arms are covered in dark colors from the wrists to the shoulders, Hoseok's calves and shoulder blades have several mandala drawings, and under the neckline of the shirt of Seokjin can be seen a phrase that crosses his chest from side to side.

Jimin immediately smiles when he sees his friends, and waves at Jeongguk as well, who doubts for introducing himself. And behind the awkward greeting Yoongi appears. Suddenly Jeongguk goes blank.

It's been weeks now, long enough to forget a random guy from the street, but that time was something different. Jeongguk opens his eyes wide and presses his lips, a sudden warm feeling burning his cheeks. The drummer of Taehyung's band is the grey-haired tattoo guy Jeongguk saw when he got his nipples pierced.

Yoongi doesn't greet, doesn't look at Jeongguk or smile. He just walks to get his position on the drums.

When everyone is placed, while discussing matters that Jeongguk doesn't really understand, Jeongguk dedicated to fully analyze that Yoongi. He is not physically a big man, he is not tall, looks quite thin, soft hair color, soft face. However, somehow, Jeongguk still thinks he feels so cool So respectable.

For a moment Jeongguk wonders about his mood, as Seokjin said before, and what is even that mood. He is wearing a cap, his black skull one, but when he finally sits in front of the drums he takes it off. Just for a few seconds, to tousle his hair with his fingers before putting it on again, but it's enough for Jungkook to finally appreciate how beautiful is his grey shiny hair.

His bangs almost covering his eyes; dark, serious, sharp as the eyes of a cat. Skillfully he grabs the drumsticks, and before the official start he makes them spin between his fingers, hits the toms a couple of times, as making sure that everything is as it should be. The blows resonate in Jeongguk's heart, strong and exciting.

He believes it's amazing how live music feels. Already amazing to hear the songs with headphones, without missing any of the melody's sounds, the slightest echo coming directly from his ears into his brain, but this is different. Jeongguk hasn't had the opportunity to go to many concerts, so for him this is quite novel. His chest starts to pound nervously.

"Okay, give me a beat," Seokjin demands.

Yoongi nods and spins the the drumsticks again, then begins to beat the drums, setting the rhythm necessary for the guitar to make its entrance. Not even a few thousandths passes to Jeongguk for open widely his eyes, so excited, because he knows the song perfectly. It's not an original song from the band, but an Alice in Chains's one, and he can't help but get up a little from the couch, curling his toes inside his sneakers.

Namjoon rests at his side, but Jeongguk's too lost in his own thoughts to notice him. Taehyung looks incredible, they all do, Jeongguk thinks they really look like a real band, and he just heard the beginning of one of his favorite songs.

Nevertheless, something is missing. When the part where the singer starts singing comes no one does it. No one but him, who is mumbling the lyrics, but none of them are in front of the microphone. Even though, it's only Jeongguk who seems surprised.

He waits until they finish the song. Excited, for him they played incredibly well, and even raises his thumb to Taehyung as he moves his fingers away from the guitar at the end of the song.

"I told you!" Taehyung shouts, loud, though with the noise of Seokjin's guitar distortion his voice is muffled, but Jeongguk understands perfectly.

They play some more songs, and Jeongguk enjoys as a kid. To his surprise they look very professional, just with gazes they already understood each other, and the way in which they play, touch the instruments, as if caressing them, as if another limb of their bodies, is for Jeongguk fascinating.

For a moment in his chest grows an enormous envy that increases with each song, sharing a passion like that, being able to create and not just expectate. They all stop the moment Yoongi asks for a break to breath and smoke.

Carefully Taehyung gets rid of the strap of his shoulder, leaves his guitar on the floor, separates from his friends to sit between Namjoon and Jeongguk. Namjoon grimaces and gets up because Taehyung is flushed and covered in sweat.

"So great, right?"

Jeongguk nods, widely smiling, showing all his teeth. He can not help but show his excitement, what for some may seem routine to him is a new world, completely different from his own.

"These motherfuckers play like hell," Taehyung says, his eyes bright, wide open as usual. "I'm actually the most neophyte. But I'm great too, don't you think? How I look from the pit?"

"You look like a famous artist."

"Thank you," replies, biting his tongue in the smile. "I was expecting a you look hot but whatever."

Gradually the remains of music fades, disappearing completely. It's a long break, everyone is leaving their instruments on the floor, Jeongguk even sees how Namjoon pulls out two six pack of beers from the fridge.

Taehyung excuses himself to go to the bathroom, and at the time he disappears down the hall Yoongi makes his entrance again. He didn't look at Jeongguk before. They have not had time to exchange glances even, so when he starts walking to the couch where Jeongguk is, Jeongguk entrelaces his fingers together. After a quick glance and a big sighs Yoongi sits next to him.

The first seconds are awkward. The silence between them is not shared, Jeongguk doesn't open his mouth but he's expecting something, Yoongi just looks around instead, relaxing in his new comfy place. When the first minute passes, though, Jeongguk feels that maybe he should be breaking the ice that he never breaks when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

He's clearing his throat when Yoongi happens to spot him.

"Hey," Yoongi begins, a quick glance to his side.

Then he comes back to his initial position, his elbows on his knees, with his fingers trying to fix his messy hair.

"Hi," Jeongguk replies.

Then there is another whole minute of awkward silence between the two of them. Jeongguk inhales and tries to fill himself with absurd bravery. With the rest of the members it has not been difficult to exchange a few words, but Yoongi's aura is different. Jeongguk clears his throat again.

"I'm Jeongguk."

"I know."

"Ah."

Yoongi rubs his nose, slightly turns his head from above, looks directly at Jeongguk.

"I heard Taehyung before when he told Jimin. You know him from college for what he said."

"Yes. I'm a couple of years younger tho."

Jeongguk doesn't look directly into his eyes as Yoongi does because he's very close, but can notice Yoongi's not thinking what he's thinking right now. Yoongi definitely doesn't remember him. Is not so strange after all, he thinks. Jeongguk feels himself like a very ordinary guy.

"So," Yoongi shifts, losing his eyes forward again. "Did you like what you saw?"

Jeongguk holds a smile before answering.

"I think you guys are so good. Haven't met many musicians anyway, but damn, I got goosebumps."

"That's great, glad to hear it."

This time he looks at him of the corner of his eye and sees Yoongi smiling proudly.

"By the way, I wanted to ask." Jeongguk clears his throat for the third time. "Why is no one singing?"

After a paused silence Yoongi snorts, and finally rests his back on the back of the couch so Jeongguk can look him in the face.

"Ask Jimin."

Instinctively Jeongguk looks at Jimin, meters away. He's talking at the back of the room with Seokjin and Taehyung, drying on his shirt his wet hands from the bathroom.

"Taehyung told me that he had to quit," Jeongguk adds. "Does that mean you don't have a vocalist anymore?"

Yoongi turns his face completely to him.

"Interested in the position?"

Jeongguk laughs nervously, shakes his hair. He can't really feel relaxed, despite being more serious than the others, Yoongi looks so cool that is even embarrassing to talk with. The way his voice speaks, steady and husky, the way his small eyes stare so intensely. The way Jeongguk can appreciate his arms' colored tattoos since he's wearing short sleeves.

With a quick glance Jeongguk looks at the details now that he's closer. The collar of the T-shirt is so loose that also allows him to see part of his chest full of necklaces of all sizes. His black skinny jeans are tucked into his shabby black leather boots, the same ones he was wearing the first day Jeongguk met him in the tattoo studio. He wonders which was that last tattoo.

Yoongi moves, Jeongguk wets his lips and looks forward for a few seconds. But eventually his eyes come back to the place he really needs to watch, because since Yoongi entered that room Jeongguk noticed that, from somewhere in his chest, a beautiful drawing of a tiger starts to crawl up to his collarbone and neck.

"I was being serious," Yoongi insists.

"Pardon?"

Hoseok walks over and gives them both two cans of beer. Seems like it's going to be a long break, the day it's already dark, but they need to get their strength back. Or maybe they just want an excuse to drink. Jeongguk opens his beer can and looks pleased to Hoseok, thanks him, who wiggles his hand before leaving.

"You sing?" Yoongi asks.

Jeongguk opens his mouth, takes the breath to speak but remains silent. He takes a sip of his beer instead, keeps his eyes on Yoongi, who's waiting for his answer.

"I like to sing" he replies, hesitant, "like everyone else."

Some wry smile borns in Yoongi's lips.

"Yeah. But you know what I mean." Yoongi takes a sip of his beer too before continuing. "Not everyone can sing.

Suddenly, without Jeongguk himself knowing the reason, his hands begin to sweat.

"I've been looking at you during our rehearsal and looks like you knew all the lyrics."

"I knew the songs," Jeongguk comments.

Yoongi takes a drink, leaves the cold beer between his thighs. Stares up, lashes down.

"Yeah, you did. Every breath, every backing, every pause and change of tone."

Jeongguk doesn't make it and looks down, his cheeks darkening. If he had known that Yoongi was looking at him all the time while he freaked out the songs he definitely would not have even open his mouth.

"Maybe I'm wrong," Yoongi mutters, "but you didn't look like a common person singing. So gonna ask you again. You sing?"

This time there's no hesitation. Jeongguk just nods, firmly. Because actually he does. He sings. He loves music, he loves to sing. But for him, singing is more than just a taste. He still doesn't know how to play any instrument, but feels that he can make music with his own voice, and so doesn't feel himself useless.

"We really need a vocalist, and today I don't feel very demanding."

Yoongi's words makes his heart rumble. This is real, this is stupidly real.

"It would be nice if you're interested in joining us. Can we hear you at least?"

It's barely noticeable, just a slight tone of his voice, a different shine in his eyes, but Jeongguk feels a bit of desperation of Yoongi's words. Desperation to find a singer. It's almost cute. But Jeongguk knows thinks he definitely can't help.

He is too embarrassed to sing in public. He has never sung to anyone, not even when he was younger and his family was home. He was always very shy to show his voice like that, and although his closest friends tell him that he does it incredibly well, he has never felt the courage to demonstrate it properly. Jeongguk bites his lower lip, disappointed by himself.

"I appreciate it, but sorry. I don't really like— you know. To sing in public."

Calmly Yoongi shakes his head in response, and looks ahead. Jeongguk presses his lips because feels that he's a bit disappointed too.

"Don't worry, I understand."

Eventually the others approach the couches and sit with them. They not only have beers in their hands, but Taehyung has opened a couple of bags of snacks and brought a bottle of alcohol that Jeongguk doesn't recognize.

After a brief personal talk they try to make Jeongguk feel comfortable, asking him about how he met Taehyung, his hobbies, and a lot of rambling about music. The place is a real den, almost all wear shabby clothes, and many people would look bad at them for their tattoos and piercings, but Jeongguk thinks they are the most joyful and unprejudiced boys he has ever known.


That night Jeongguk can not sleep. Seokjin left him at his apartment before 2 am, and even though it's so late something spins in his head and he can not concentrate to sleep. He thinks he enjoyed so much and wouldn't mind seeing them all again. He wants to. He wants to be actual friends with them.

Jeongguk huffs and turns around in bed again. It's almost 4 o'clock in the morning and still wide-eyed. He wants to come back another friday, wants to know properly each of them. Wants to listen to their rehearsal.

Maybe participate. Jeongguk swallows thickly, and remembers Yoongi's proposition during the break. He'd really love to sing in a band like theirs, he would love to just sing next to someone, someone as cool and professional as Yoongi, someone like they are.

His heart begins to pound faster as he asks himself what would happen if he accepts that proposition. Yoongi may reject him, surely he doesn't wants any singer but a singer who suits the band, still there are so many types of voices in the world.

Nevertheless he can not help but feel some hope. Excitement, that what would happen he never follows even if it's too tempting for being as reserved as he is. After an encouraging talk to himself Jeongguk suddenly gets the bravery to get up from the bed, to sit in front of his laptop.

His playlist of music is endless, many genres, many types of voices, slow songs, fast-paced, easy singing, difficult but worthy. Jeongguk needs to find a suitable song for him. A song that he is sure Yoongi knows, so that he can appreciate his voice properly, a song not too noisy, with a melodic voice, and that Jeongguk knows the whole lyrics.

It's so freaking late but Jeongguk is ambitious. It takes him about forty minutes to find the perfect song, and even when he finds it he thinks it isn't perfect, but after too much thinking he believes it'll work. Then he plays it once. And then once more.

The song begins with a slow guitar, silent, atmospheric. And although he's listened to it more than a thousand times, now something is moving inside him. Finally Jeongguk turns on the voice recorder of his phone and clear his throat. Waits a few seconds, taps the play button.

"Bury all your secrets in my skin."

Before he sings the second sentence his cheeks are already burning in embarrassment. Just to know that Yoongi is going to listen this too gets him so nervous. He tries hard to control his breathing and his tone, to do his best. When the song ends, Jeongguk presses the stop button and bites his lower lip, an amused grin oh his mouth. He feels like a kid, but he can not help it.

Then he grabs his phone. Looks for Taehyung among his contacts. Breathes out.

 

Jeongguk [04:56]:

hey

can you give me yoongs number?

 

Jeongguk waits for a response, not realizing it's five in the morning and not everyone is as night owl as he is. After looking stupidly at the screen until it turns itself off he thinks he better goes back to bed. However, when he begins to push aside the sheets a bell notifies him of the new message, making him run again for the phone.

 

Taehyung [05:01]:

what

what do you want it for

Jeongguk [05:01]:

what are u doing awake?

 

When Taehyung sends the phone number Jeongguk saves it on his contacts and opens a new chat, but closes it when Taehyung talks again.

 

Taehyung [05:03]:

it's friday night

what do you want me to be doin

hey you didn't answer my question

Jeongguk [05:04]:

yes i didn't

 

Taehyung replies with an emoticon and Jeongguk reopens Yoongi's chat. It's still empty, and that makes it even more difficult to spoil. Also because he barely knows him, Jeongguk doesn't know if he's going to even bother him. He doesn't know how he's going to react. But somehow he wants to give it a try.

After wasted minutes of thinking, in a suicide attempt he sends the audio file without even looking at the screen. Jeongguk huffs and intends to leave his phone on the nightstand, but actually he stays waiting in bed wondering if the drummer of the band is awake too. Realizing minutes later that, actually, he is.

The chat shows Yoongi is online, and Jeongguk curses thinking he should have greeted first, at least tell who he is, because it's not a normal thing for an unknown number to send you a five-minute audio file at that hour in the morning.

Time passes, and when at last Yoongi starts typing Jeongguk bites his lip.

Typing... Typing.... Typing...

Then nothing. Jeongguk gets so nervous and closes the chat, locks the phone, then unlocks it again, opens it once more, but the screen says Yoongi's still typing. His bottom lip is already red, tender. Nevertheless, the time Yoongi takes to type and send the message doesn't fits the message itself.

 

Yoongi [05:32]:

fuck

 

Then nothing again. Jeongguk gets anxious, not sure of how to take that fuck, nor whether to wait or respond. He doesn't know if it's something good or bad, if Yoongi was sleeping and he has woken him up, if Yoongi thinks now he is being creepy, if he doesn't like it. Finally sees how Yoongi is typing again, so Jeongguk swallows his nerves and ends up waiting.

 

Yoongi [05:33]:

im guessing you're jeongguk and not this brat taehyung messing around

Jeongguk [05:33]:

yeah i'm jeongguk

sorry i did not say it before

i feel more comfortable if i show it to you this way

so

what do u think

Yoongi [05:34]:

dunno

just fuck

i mean why you breath like that?

 

Jeongguk feels a chill, a bad one. He presses his lips, shuts his eyes, thinking maybe he should not have sent that audio. Thinking that maybe he fucked it up. That maybe he doesn't sing that well, that he is still a novice to the ear of a real musician. Feeling the embarrassment through all his body Jeongguk faces it again.

 

Jeongguk [05:35]:

um

sorry

is it that bad?

Yoongi [05:35]:

wtf no

i got a boner

 

Jeongguk gasps, his heart stops abruptly. He inhales deeply and reads twice the chat, his eyes widen open, almost stinging. For a moment wondering if what Yoongi said was just joking, to mess with him. With trembling fingers he tries to reply in the most natural way possible.

 

Jeongguk [05:37]:

wow

i figur e yuo liked it then? ?

 

Jeongguk curses at the typos.

 

Yoongi [05:37]:

yeah

just come back next friday kid

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

The next Friday Jeongguk stays in front of the mirror for a moment before leaving home. Now the days that are less tiresome, and he's looking forward to the weekend so that he can go back to that place and hear them play. Besides, this time may be not only just to be with them, but to participate.

Certainly Jeongguk is nervous thinking about it. He's wearing a large grey T-shirt with a big Thrasher in the middle, and over it his denim jacket, the one with a light grey sweatshirt hood. Few final seconds to fix his bangs before putting on his black beanie and hangs the backpack on his shoulder to go college.

The days begin to be very cold, he's a heat-sensitive person, but regrets not wearing a coat. Jeongguk thinks he should at least take care of his throat, he doesn't want the boys to hear a badly oiled door when he opens his mouth this afternoon.

He tries to be relaxed, really tries, but he has never sung in front of so many people, literally in front of people. He doesn't see Taehyung in all day though, even after his last class. He sent Jeongguk a message a couple of hours before saying they would meet in the afternoon at the bus stop in front of the building, so that he does, waits for him until Seokjin's car appears again to take them to that secluded building in the city.

Jeongguk puts on his earphones and lets a random song sound from his already chosen playlist. Then he thinks of Yoongi. They have barely spoken since last week, just a couple of messages to ensure that the Jeongguk was going to return to the band's rehearsal.

He is so grateful that Yoongi is truly interested in hearing him sing, that he can become his new vocalist. He doesn't know why, but gaining the respect of the leader, apart from the band, seems even more exciting.

Now, however, Taehyung doesn't answer his calls. Jeongguk has to wait almost half an hour at the bus stop, watching people come and go from college, hit by the cold autumn wind. Finally, after long minutes that seem like hours, a shiny black sports car honks the horn from the corner of the street, a few meters away, muffled heavy-metal music playing through the windows.

It's Seokjin, no one in the copilot's seat, and Jeongguk grabs his backpack and runs toward him. Seokjin's hair is becoming lighter, like his clothes, a pink sweater with a big slit on his shoulder.

"I hope you haven't waited too long."

"Nah, I just got out," Jeongguk lies.

Seokjin rises a hand so they fist bump and waits for Jeongguk to put on his seat belt to take the road to the Bulletproof building. He drives in silence, tapping the steering wheel with his fingers to the rhythm of the song, chewing gum. The car inside is impeccable, it's a different one from the last time, this is newer, more expensive for sure, and the next song of the shuffle play gives him goosebumps.

"This car today?"

Seokjin looks both ways before crossing the avenue. Today the traffic is slower, and for a moment Jeongguk feels somewhat guilty about having Seokjin as his personal driver when they barely know each other, even more if Taehyung is not even here.

"Yoongi's car," he says, "mine is in the garage. That little shit has less life left than a fly."

Jeongguk his lips and nods silently, observing every corner of the car in detail now he knows is Yoongi's. He doesn't really understand much about cars, but it can appreciated that Yoongi likes them. In the pocket of the driver's door he sees a pair of sunglasses, in the copilot's a box of tissues, tinted windows. Everything is clean and tidy, yet he wonders what will be in the storage compartment.

Three more songs and, despite of the traffic, the car arrives to its destination. This time everyone is already inside. When they come in nobody greets them, as if they were already there from before. There is no heating but the site is warm so Jeongguk can take off his jacket.

Everyone but Jimin are there, sitting and lying down on the couches and the carpet, Yoongi with Seokjin's guitar in his lap, tapping some melody without amplifier as Hoseok is asking him, Taehyung chatting in his phone next to Namjoon.

After a weak greeting Jeongguk sits next to Taehyung, who, when raises his head to look at him, shows a wide smile. His hair is in a mess, as if he had been entangling in his fingers on it just seconds ago; his brilliant yellow patent leather Dr. Martens next to the couch, barefoot, but this time his pants are rolled up.

Jeongguk can see on his ankles two tattoos, a sun and a moon. Taehyung's so colorful himself. If he got lost in the woods he would be found quickly, Jeongguk thinks, he is also wearing a yellow and black plaid shirt buttoned up to his neck, and for the first time after all this time he notices that under his bangs he has his left eyebrow pierced.

Jeongguk doesn't say anything, just smiles back. He would need to spend a lot of time to get to know them properly, both the inside and the outside. Finally, timidly, Jeongguk looks at Yoongi, who has not looked away from the guitar at any moment.

"What's up, we're waiting for you" Hoseok greets, looking up lazyly after long minutes. "Yoongi told you're going to show us something today?"

For a moment he had forgotten why he was there. His cheeks burn sharply.

"Ah, yeah, well—"

"Show us something?" asks Namjoon getting himself into the conversation.

"Apparently Jeongguk can become our new singer."

"What, really?"

"Oh my god, you sing?" Taehyung adds, "I want to hear you sing!"

Namjoon looks at Jeongguk, who suddenly can not look up, everybody harassing him with excited eyes. He has never liked being the center of attention, that's why he feels that singing carries a lot of pressure.

In a band, the instruments support each other, overlap each other, each of the sounds can be helped by the next and by their own distortion. Nevertheless, being the only vocal in a group means a bigger responsibility. After all, nobody sings the melody of the guitar or the bass but the lyrics.

"I had no idea, you could have sung with us last Friday."

"Yeah, why didn't you show us? We're really desperate to get a fucking vocalist, honestly."

Jeongguk doesn't really know what to say, nor how to start singing, this way, all of a sudden. It's too cold, too awkward, he could fail, he could disappoint them. A cold sweat runs down his spine. This is not what he wants, his throat dries with so many eyes looking at him at the same time.

Taehyung crawls a little forward and insists, his eyes wide open, as always, Hoseok and Seokjin waiting with a smile from ear to ear. They may not have bad intentions, but this type of attention sucks. With a dull sound Yoongi stops tapping the strings of the guitar and leaves it on the floor, then gets up and goes into the group, who eagerly awaits a reaction from Jeongguk.

"Stop assholes, don't overwhelm him, this is not a fucking casting," he grunts. "You want a beer or something? Jeongguk, you too?"

Jeongguk breathes heavy through his nose, presses his sealed and nods in response, relieved by the rescue. Casually the rest obeys, stop pressure Jeongguk, try to dismiss the conversation.

In matter of minutes several cans of beer are served, still Jeongguk wondering who brings the supplies every Friday. Bit by bit and with a warm conversation the time passes quickly, and the lights seems to dim. Half an hour later Jeongguk takes a look around, the situation changed a lot.

It's like today there were not rehearsal, no apparent reason, instead they are all lying on the floor over the carpet, a smooth guitar sounds in the background from the music player. Hoseok and Namjoon are rolling a joint as they listen to the intense talk of Seokjin, something about the last concert he went to and what his impressions were.

Taehyung is still at Jeongguk's side, though his phone chat seems more interesting than him. Yoongi, however, is in front of Jeongguk, drinking his beer in silence at the opposite side of the circle.

Eventually Jeongguk begins to lose the thread of Seokjin's conversation, instead he focuses on the stupid feeling of that Yoongi has not stopped staring to where Jeongguk is. Now every slight movement he makes feels tense.

In a quick gesture he picks up his beer can and drinks it, empties it in one gulp, assuming a little bit of tipsiness could help. Then, Jeongguk chews on his lower lip and looks to the front. To Yoongi. For a moment they make eye contact.

Seokjin's phone rings in the middle of the noise, quickly he picks up the call. After a brief talk he is looking at Taehyung while making a gesture.

"Go open the door, Jimin is outside."

"Oh, c'mon, the bitch has a key," Taehyung protests.

"He lost it or some shit, I don't really care, just go and open."

Taehyung grunts and puts on his boots without even tying them before getting up, then heads for the hallway. Yoongi take advantage of the free space now and gets up, walks over to grab another two cans of beer. Then sits next to Jeongguk and offers one.

A nervousness stuck in his throat with no reason. He doesn't know if because he still has to sing, for being in a group of friends that he doesn't belong to, or for the fact that Yoongi just sat by his side. Long seconds pass for Jeongguk before Yoongi starts talking close to his ear, a calm, low voice that he hears despite of the background music.

"I'm not going to pressure you, you know."

Jeongguk's skin crawls.

"Yes, I know."

Yoongi opens his can and the gas resonates between his fingers, then takes a long drink. Jeongguk supposes that they all have a big tolerance to alcohol. On the other hand he feels his own cheeks are so hot already.

"I understand why you are afraid, not everyone likes to sing in front of an audience," Yoongi continues. "It's just that I think you've really got talent, and it would be a shame to waste it."

Jeongguk lowers his head to bite a smile, shyly. Not that he's embarrassed just for a praise, but Yoongi's voice is so serious that he's feeling he really means it.

"You do?"

Yoongi holds his beer with two fingers and takes another drink, the liquid slowly running down his throat like a ball. Jeongguk looks up, at him, straight in the eyes for the first time in their encounters. They are very dark, small but with an intense gaze. Yoongi leaves the can on the floor next to his hip, gives a sigh that moves his chest up and down before talking again.

"Yeah. I really enjoyed that audio file."

Jeongguk feels how his skin bristles in a way it's painful. Yoongi doesn't move, just stares at him, parted lips and serious expression. Jeongguk doesn't want to make up things, still can not help but feel his stomach swoop. His mouth dry, his heart beating like a beat. This is something he never felt before.

When the front door opens, though, Jeongguk thanks Jimin and Taehyung for making the noise that moves Yoongi's eyes from him. He needed a break. Jeongguk needed to think about what just happened inside him.

Jimin and Taehyung, however, aren't smiling, playfully talking like last Friday. They both are serious, even when Jimin kindly greets everyone. Taehyung gets quickly behind the bar, like a waiter, to serve Jimin a drink. He gives a big, resigned sigh before starting.

"So, what you fucking want."

"This is on me, Jimin!" Namjoon shouts out of nowhere, and Hoseok burst out laughing with no sense.

No one pays attention, used to random behavior when they are drunk or high.

"Beer," Jimin says.

Taehyung scoffs.

"Don't be a pussy."

"Then fucking whisky?"

Taehyung rolls his eyes and looks among the whiskey bottles to serve Jimin. Then put two ice in an apparently clean glass and start pouring the liquid without hesitation.

"Hey, hey, stop, that's too much."

"Too much, huh?" Taehyung goes. "No complaints when it's a dick tho."

No one pays attention to anything more than their own conversations. The other three are laughing, but by their own jokes. Jeongguk arches an eyebrow, the only really aware of Taehyung and Jimin, and looks at Yoongi, an impassive expression as the others. Not too much into the conversation of the guys at the bar, but shakes his head a bit and sips his beer in response to Jeongguk.

"I don't really get their relationship," Jeongguk mutters.

"It's a normal thing," Yoongi replies.

"Gotta get used to what is normal here then."

Yoongi licks his lips, denying.

"It's just, Jimin's his ex."

Jeongguk frowns.

"That makes it even weirder."

Yoongi snorts, weakly laugh in silence for his naivety. Showing his teeth, the first time he does it in all this time. At this point Jeongguk is not surprised that Yoongi has a really sweet smile. His eyes are red, perhaps by the weed's smoke around them, by the alcohol; all of them have reddish eyes, Jeongguk believes his own eyes may be too.

The sure thing Jeongguk knows is that he can feel a little anesthetic happiness that reassures him, even if he is not smoking; the atmosphere is warm and pleasant. And also that, although they are seven in there, he knows that his conversation is is completely reserved for Yoongi.

Jeongguk inhales, gives a little sigh that makes him notice in his lungs that he is tipsy. Somehow, braver.

"And what's his tattoo?"

Yoongi frowns questioning.

"Taehyung, his arms. He told me each drawing represented one of his relationships, what is Jimin's?"

"Oh, that shit," Yoongi realizes, humming, nodding. "On the forearm, like a key or something like that."

Jeongguk endures the smiles as he nods, he remembers that tattoo perfectly. He remembers almost every drawing he saw, but particularly that one that seemed so nostalgic for Taehyung. Yoongi stands up a bit to put his hand in a backpack and look for the pack of cigarettes and a lighter.

"You have any?" he asks without staring, working on his cig.

"Tattoo?"

"Yeah."

"Um," Jeongguk hesitates, "just one." Leaving the can on the floor he starts to rolling his sleeve to show him in the best way the three roses that go down his upper arm. "From last year."

Yoongi gets a little bit closer and observes it without subtlety, analyzing the drawing while he nods, clearly into this.

"It's well made. And beautiful, really. Where did you get it?"

Jeongguk lowers his sleeve carefully, then chews his lip, feeling like a stalker now for perfectly remembering Yoongi in that tattoo studio.

"RED Studio, you know it?" he fakes.

He fakes. Of course Yoongi knows the place, Jeongguk saw him there. Yoongi literally got a tattoo there.

Taehyung and Jimin continue joking or arguing or whatever it is from the back of the room, the other three have stopped laughing finally, eyes all red and bulging, now Namjoon telling a story that seems to move instead. So it's only Jeongguk who sees how Yoongi has not stopped looking at him, with that smirk all the time.

"Fuck, yes," Yoongi says in a lower tone, a quick glance at his own body, "that's where I usually get inked. Almost all of these are by their tattoo artist. The last one was about a month ago."

Then he sips his beer and wets his lips with his tongue, drinking the beer remainings. It's a weird sensation. Jeongguk doesn't feel intimidated, in fact a part of his inside wants to go along with him. But, until now, he never had such a warm conversation with a man. Maybe not the topic, but the words, the closeness. The looks. The curiosity. The tingling inside him.

Jeongguk bites his lower lip and arches his eyebrows, still on his acting.

"Oh really, what a coincidence," he says, feeling the nerves in his stomach. "And what tattoo you got?"

Yoongi's wearing a plaid T-shirt as Taehyung, but a bit less eccentric, a dark bluish one. With no words he starts moving, puts his cigarette between his lips and begins to unbutton the garment. Jeongguk keeps his lips closed. The first thing he fees is the need to look away, even though he knows Yoongi's literally undressing to show him his tattoo.

But it's just weird. The first time Jeongguk's getting this weird sensation looking at a friend undressing. With every move of Yoongi's fingers Jeongguk can see more of his skin, his pale chest almost full occupied by the great tiger that looms over the collar of his shirt. Jeongguk swallows, saliva and his heavy breathing.

Yoongi takes a hands-free drag, and blows the smoke aside before taking the cigarette between his fingers again, the shirt open almost completely. Jeongguk gasps, tries not to. He can say that it's due to alcohol. Due to the unfamiliarity, due to this man right next to him is just too freaking cool.

In an attempt that Yoongi doesn't notice the shaky beating of his heart Jeongguk gives a big sigh and looks for his beer to drink. He's getting ridiculously anxious and still can not accept the reason.

"This one from here," Yoongi points out, and Jeongguk looks there. Right under the ribs, to one side of his abdomen. No subtle in his eyes as he stares at his bare chest. He can no longer do that.

It's a gun. A big colored gun, bright, in grey and black tones, with brown butt. But is not firing, at least not bullets, but from the end of the barrel many colors drip until they fade into the skin. Jeongguk is silent but really wants to curse, because it's an incredibly beautiful tattoo. He wants to touch it, and by Yoongi's expression thinks that if he did it he would not care.

Jeongguk makes a move, an awkward one, but stops right there. Jeongguk contains himself. Yoongi narrows his eyes, seems to realize. Shows a mischievous smile.

"You can touch if you want to."

Jeongguk shivers, and presses his lips holding his real excitement. The tattoo shines as if it was freshly drawn, like the ink of the pen on paper. Then he brings his fingers close to Yoongi's abdomen, not too fast so he doesn't looks anxious for touching it. He is. Jeongguk hopes that his hand are not sweating right now.

Then, when he is finally drawing a line from top to bottom over Yoongi's skin, he can actually notice the relief of the path of the tattoo machine. It's a special sensation. How soft the tattoo feels on him. How at the contact with Jeongguk's fingers Yoongi's skin bristles. Too smooth beneath his fingertips, his body moving peacefully as he breath.

"Didn't give you permission to steal friends, you bastard."

Jeongguk is still staring at him, but Yoongi decides Taehyung's intrusion is a good reason to stop the exhibitionism and to button his shirt again. Taehyung approaches the two and looks at them with an annoying expression, mainly he wants to sit where he was sitting before, but now the drummer occupies his place.

"He's my friend now." Yoongi replies as he puts his hand on Jeongguk's neck to grab it, and Jeongguk moves closer to him unconsciously, perhaps because his cheeks are as hot by the alcohol as Yoongi's, perhaps because he feels like it.

Taehyung rolls his eyes and snorts in response.

"The tiger always so possessive with its prey."

"Don't scare him," Yoongi grunts.

"Right. No worries Jeonggukie, this tiger is more like a domestic cat," Taehyung says as he waves his hands, goes looking for sit next to Seokjin to chat.

Jeongguk laughs instead, softly, and lets Yoongi caress his neck until he decides to take his hand away. But they don't move away of each other anymore.

They spend a while chatting warmly and drinking, until the silence comes, a silence no longer uncomfortable. Suddenly Jeongguk can hear better the music that is sounding, the one that he long ago had forgotten. The rest of the boys are in their own business, so Jeongguk doesn't mind closing his eyes to reinforce his sense of hearing. Then shows a shy smile that forms at the corner of his lips.

"I love this song."

Yoongi hums and looks at him in silence. Jeongguk has begun to move his fingers on his knee to the drum beat of the song, then his head, slightly, and without realizing also begins to murmur the lyrics. Little by little, but after a while he takes confidence and sings loud enough for Yoongi to hear. His heart doesn't shake in nerves, his hands are not trembling, they don't because he has his eyes closed, because he feels confident with him alone, just in this moment, and because the satisfaction of knowing that Yoongi really likes his voice is bigger than his shame.

Yoongi says nothing, just remains silent, letting Jeongguk sing calmly, straight from his lungs, though he has to wet his lips a couple of times to prevent the others from noticing his goosebumps. Because when Jeongguk has started to sing, everyone got silent, turned their heads to look at him.

The song is not over, but before the last chorus Jeongguk opens his eyes and suddenly feels his eyes wet in stinging, twelve pupils watching him sparkling and fascinated. The music begins to fade, the song ends, and with it the silence of they seven.

"God, Jeongguk," Namjoon says, broken voices by the smoke and the astonishment. "Be our fucking vocalist."

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

Jeongguk opens his eyes after a long time and looks at the sky. It's a great day despite the cold, it's just that the sun has risen and its rays warm enough so they can be lying on the grass of the university building. His guts sound even though he has just eaten, so he sits up and takes a sip of Taehyung's bottle of coke.

"Taehyung."

He's been thinking a lot.

"It's me."

That Friday, all of them were in that Bulletproof building together until very late, they even managed to play some songs with their new vocalist, although thanks to too much alcohol and weed everything was a mess, but fun after all. Taehyung turns his head to look at him, which is resting on Jeongguk's leg.

"Can I ask something?"

"Shoot that gun," Taehyung says, gun fingers.

Is not just something. Jeongguk feels a bit coward. Rapidly he wets his lips and nods, though he doesn't even know how to start not to sound too direct.

"Um," he starts, wavering, "Yoongi'smaybelikegay?"

Jeongguk speaks too fast to understand. But the other understand perfectly. He was waiting for it. First Taehyung contains the laugh, but ends by snorting and chuckling, until he has to rise up because if it's hard for him to laugh lying that way. He was wearing a grey beanie, so his hair is scruffy. His eyes shine more than ever under his eyeliner.

"I knew it!" Taehyung shouts.

"You knew what?"

"That you like Yoongi."

"Wait, wait, wait," Jeongguk stutters, "I don't like him.”

"Oh fuck yeah you do."

"Can you just answer my question, please?"

Taehyung snorts at his annoyed face and Jeongguk looks away embarrassed. It takes some time for the other to quit from all those stifle laughter and swearings.

"He likes you too," says.

"What you mean."

"I mean," Taehyung emphasize, "that Yoongi's a fucking cock-sucker and has a crush on you."

Jeongguk's hands begin to sweat ridiculously, weak, so he rubs them against his jeans. He must admit that of all things he didn't believe Taehyung would tell him something like that.

"No, no, that's a lie, how you even know?"

The big grin of Taehyung's face just makes Jeongguk feel more embarrassed.

"He didn't tell me but I know him enough to be sure he likes you, like fuck— he can't take his eyes off your ass."

Jeongguk covers his burning face with his hands to huff and hide his shy smile.

"Oh, come on, don't toy with me."

"I bet my Madonna leather jacket it's true."

The air moves and Jeongguk can feel his bangs moving along with it. He had never felt this way, not with any of his relationships; it's a different situation, something he has never felt, never experienced, and does not know if he likes it or not.

"Okay, this is weird."

"So you like him then?"

Jeongguk shrugs.

"Well, no? Or maybe— I mean, I don't think so? "Taehyung's eyebrow perks up at him, frowning in advance. "I never— you know, he's a man, and, me— anyway."

Jeongguk stops because Taehyung's expressions begins to feel uncomfortable. He doesn't want to pretend, he just wants to feel grasped.

"It's fucking weird for me," he continues. "I never dated a guy before, I wouldn't know what to do, or if this even real attraction."

"You think it's different?" Taehyung asks. Honest, and serious, so serious for him. "We are all humans, we are all the same."

After a couple of silent seconds Jeongguk shakes his head, shameful. He knows that if he likes someone it doesn't matter what they are, but he can not help something inside feeling weird. Not thinking about intimacy, not about sex.

"No. I think it's... embarrassing," he finally says. "I cannot deny the fact he's something new for me. What if— maybe what I feel is not liking but, I don't know, respect for him?"

Taehyung snorts, paused, ironically, and rest his body in both his palms on the grass. Jeongguk looks around as if everyone could hear their conversation.

"Last Friday you were like a kitten at his side, that's not just respect."

Jeongguk protests.

"My ass a fucking kitten, what are you—"

"So basically you are saying you're afraid of his dick?" Taehyung hurries, cuts off, and Jeongguk's eyes open wide before checking again that they are really talking in private.

A cramp goes down his back, a mixture of feelings when making words the fact that Yoongi certainly has a dick. Jeongguk gives a big sigh and tries to speak in a lower tone.

"Please don't. I wouldn't even want to start by that," he clears his throat. "Firstly, in the hypothetical case that I liked him, because I don't know if I like him , I'd have first to overcome the step of, you know, kissing him. Maybe it's easy for you but for me still feels weird."

"Because he's a man?"

"Because I'm shy," Jeongguk responds, small mouth. "And, yeah, maybe because he's a man, maybe."

Suddenly, too fast for Jeongguk to notice, Taehyung cups his face with his hands and moves closer to him so that he can feel for a thousands his breath in his throat. And without giving him time to react, he kisses Jeongguk.

At first it's a normal kiss, only caressing their lips until they dampen, but then Taehyung quickly slides his tongue into his mouth. Jeongguk really doesn't have time to think, he is practically handcuffed. Just for a few seconds though, until he actually realizes what's happening and open his eyes as he shoves Taehyung.

"The fuck are you doing?!"

Burning in embarrassment Jeongguk looks around, this time with a reason, but apparently, and thanks for his own yelling, they have not gone unnoticed for most people around them. His cheeks are quite dark now, he even thinks his brain is going to be flooded for so much blood on his head.

"I'm a man and you kissed me, you see? You can do it."

"I don't—, I mean, you—, agh!"

Jeongguk shuts his eyes and shakes his head violently to process what is going on.

"The first step is just as easy," Taehyung continues, brushing his fire hair with his fingers. "Then I'm sure you'll want to get the dick as soon as possible."

He looks up, his eyes bright to the sun. Jeongguk on the other hand has a visible black aura around him, low voice.

"You just fucking stole my first kiss with a guy, you know that."

"Oh honey, what a romantic," Taehyung mocks, "don't tell me you wanted Yoongi to be your first."

Jeongguk narrows his eyes in a ironic expression, and Taehyung can't help but lying down again as he cracks up out loud, now everyone is aware of their position, dozens of eyes looking directly at them. Jeongguk grabs his hair with his hands as if he could protect himself from the world. And gives the biggest of his sighs.

"I hate you so much."