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Love Defined

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I.

 

The night that Yoongi’s father walks out on them again, Yoongi just knows that he isn’t coming back this time.

“Divorce” is the word that his parents use for it. It’s a foreign word that feels so strange on Yoongi’s tongue. It’s a word that makes his nose scrunch up and his brows furrow together. Divorce is a word that Yoongi’s seven-year-old brain has a difficult time understanding. It’s hard because he’s seven years old and his father is gone and Yoongi doesn’t understand why.

Where is he even going? Why would he leave them like this? How come he isn’t coming back?

Questions go unanswered, for the most part. Yoongi’s mother doesn’t say more than a handful of words over the span of two days. Something must be wrong with her. Yoongi doesn’t know what it is. He just knows that he misses his father and wants him to come home.

He won’t, though. For whatever reason. Yoongi is old enough to understand that, at least.

Yoongi’s older brother takes it a lot harder than he does. His brother loses his temper more often, refuses to play with Yoongi most of the time that he asks, and sometimes completely ignores him. This type of behavior confuses Yoongi, too. Upsets him, even. At least his brother doesn’t seem to mind his presence during the night, when Yoongi climbs into his bed and seeks the comfort that he’s no longer receiving from either parent.

Not the one who is physically absent, nor the one who is mentally unavailable.

When Yoongi’s mother does start speaking again, she resumes the daily task of caring for the family and their home as if nothing has happened. As if nothing is missing. She throws away a lot of things, though; things that belonged to their father that he left behind. She cleans and she cleans and she cleans some more, until the house feels sort of empty and less cozy.

Until the house feels a little less like a home.

Yoongi is seven years old and he sits at the kitchen table in the spot that has always been his. His father’s chair remains empty. Has been for weeks now. Yoongi quietly eats his lunch and watches his mother as she cleans the dishes in the sink.

She’s always cleaning, these days. She works a lot, too, much more than she used to. Sometimes it feels as if his mother never stops moving, and she looks permanently tired as a result. When Yoongi is tired, he takes a nap. He has a feeling that a nap won’t fix his mother, though.

Yoongi is seven years old and he sits at the kitchen table in the spot that has always been his. Today is the last time that he ever asks his mother why his father isn’t coming back home. Today is the day that she tells him plainly, without sugar coating her words, that his father left because he doesn’t love her anymore. She tells him plainly, simply, that they’re on their own now.

Still, Yoongi doesn’t understand.

He doesn’t understand the concept of falling out of love with someone. He doesn’t even understand the concept of love itself, he just knows that all mommies and daddies love each other. That’s how things are supposed to be, right? In every movie that he’s seen, every cartoon show that he watches diligently, love is always the one factor that brings people together. So why does his family have to be the exception?

Why did his father have to abandon them?

Yoongi is seven years old and he sits at the kitchen table in the spot that has always been his. Nothing about this situation makes sense to him, but he stops asking questions and accepts things for what they are right now.

Subconsciously, he also stops believing in the so-called power of love.

***

For Yoongi, going to school isn’t nearly as fun as it used to be.

Before his father left and his mother stopped speaking and his brother stopped playing with him, Yoongi always found joy in walking the two blocks to his primary school, hand-in-hand with his father whose smile was as warm as the morning sun. After arriving at the schoolyard and before going their separate ways, his father would always kneel to Yoongi’s height and remind him to be good, because the world needs good boys like him. Yoongi would nod, smile, and then they’d hug. Before entering the classroom, he always waved at his father from over his shoulder and watched as he finally left.

Nowadays, Yoongi’s mother drives him and his brother the short distance to the school and he watches as the car speeds off so that she won’t be late for work. His brother reminds him to keep his shoelaces tied (the laces being Yoongi’s greatest nemesis at this age) before walking off to his own classroom on the opposite side of the school. As always, Yoongi enters the classroom alone.

It isn’t until recess time that Yoongi starts to have fun again. He’s convinced that recess will always be fun no matter what the rest of the day is like, because he enjoys playing outside and he likes the freedom that comes with running around beneath the sun. He also likes playing with the bouncy rubber balls and seeing how high he can bounce them, although it’s a bit of a challenge acquiring one due to the limited number available.

Sadly, the very last ball gets taken just before Yoongi can even attempt at getting one. He almost considers asking the other boys if he can play with them in their game of kickball, but then quickly decides against it. His shyness never fails to make an appearance at the worst of times. Sometimes he wonders if he’ll ever be able to make even a single friend.

Yoongi isn’t too bummed out, though, as he instead makes his way towards his most favorite tree. His tree happens to be the best tree in the whole schoolyard. It provides the largest amount of shade to sit under during the hottest days, while also giving him something to do on days like this when he has nothing and no one else to play with. Yoongi will simply climb his favorite tree and sit among the leaves, even though he isn’t supposed to climb trees at all. He still does it, anyway.

However, the day continues to be unkind when Yoongi’s favorite tree comes into view and he finds that someone else is sat beneath it.

Yoongi immediately halts and squints at the intruder sitting several meters away. Just who does he think he is? That is Yoongi’s tree. Everyone knows that. Well, no, they don’t. But they should. No one else sits beneath this tree during recess but Yoongi, yet here is another boy who thinks that he can just take what doesn’t belong to him and—

This time even Yoongi’s train of thought comes to a pause when he notices that the boy is crying. As in, full-on weeping right there beneath Yoongi’s favorite tree. All of a sudden, Yoongi starts to feel a bit uncomfortable. He doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do in this situation. He only knows what his parents would do whenever he’d cry.

Or rather, what they used to do.

Going against all instincts that tell him to get a teacher for help, Yoongi cautiously approaches the crying boy sat underneath his favorite tree. He’s fully prepared to give the kid a piece of his mind when the boy finally notices his looming presence and looks up, his big eyes filled to the brim with fresh tears and his nose a little runny.

A strange, unfamiliar feeling settles deep within Yoongi’s tummy as he stares back at the boy, his own eyes wide with curiosity. And just like that, Yoongi forgets all that he had planned to say. Well, except for the obvious.

“Um,” he nervously begins, shifting his weight from one little foot to the other. “I dunno if you noticed or not, but—but this is my tree.”

The crying boy sniffles loudly, grossly, and tilts his head to one side as he continues to stare up at Yoongi.

“Huh?”

“This is my tree,” Yoongi repeats, unrelenting.

He watches with uncertainty as the boy rubs at his reddened eyes with the back of his hands, though the action does nothing to stop the tears. They continue falling one by one, rolling down his round cheeks in big drops that almost look unrealistic. At least he’s no longer wailing, though. That’s a relief.

Yoongi shifts again, still uncomfortable yet unwilling to give up the “fight” for his spot.

“S-Sorry, I didn’t know this was your tree,” Crying Boy says eventually. He hiccups and sniffles again, yet shows no sign of moving. He wipes at his eyes once more and adds, “It’s a—a really good tree.”

Curiously, Yoongi asks outright, “Why are you crying?”

He must have unknowingly triggered something with that question, because all of a sudden, the boy is wailing again. Yoongi winces at the sound, his ears not appreciating it one bit. Through the other boy’s incoherent blubbering, Yoongi manages to pick up something about a toy and a group of kids that Crying Boy points to just across the playground. In an instant, he comes to understand the situation.

See, Yoongi knows all about that particular group of boys. He knows that they’re a year older than he is and he knows, more importantly, that he’s a lot smaller than they are so it wouldn’t be wise to challenge them. However, he also knows there’s only one thing that they enjoy more than taking toys away from others: worms.

The only reason that Yoongi goes in search of the biggest worm that he can find beneath the wet grass is so that he can finally get his spot back. It’s the only reason that he approaches the older boys without hesitance, without fear, the long worm dangling between his index and thumb as he announces:

“Look what I’ve got.”

Of course the sight of the gross, slimy thing immediately gets their attention, all three of the boys surrounding Yoongi to get a closer look. But he holds it out of their reach until he gets what he wants in return. The leader of their trio only contemplates the trade for a few seconds, before nodding his head and eagerly handing Yoongi the Snoopy doll in exchange for the worm.

A minute later, Yoongi drops the Snoopy doll into Crying Boy’s lap. Like a miracle, Crying Boy is no longer crying when he sees that his toy has been safely returned to him. Instead, his pout from before instantly shifts into the biggest smile that Yoongi has ever seen before, missing teeth and all.

“Snoopy!” the boy gasps, hugging the toy to his small chest. He examines the toy for injuries. “Did they hurt you? No? Okay, good! ‘Cause I was super-duper worried, you know.”

Yoongi doesn’t mind that he doesn’t receive a single thank-you or any other expression of gratitude. He just wants his tree back. As if coming home from a long day of labor, he plops down beneath the tree with a sigh and assumes that the other boy will finally leave him in peace.

He doesn’t, of course.

The boy stares directly at Yoongi without shame until Yoongi finally gives him attention. Again, his mouth spreads into a wide, friendly smile that’s truly hard to ignore. So, Yoongi doesn’t.

“Hi! My name is Hoseok and I’m six years old,” says the boy—Hoseok—in a way that sounds so practiced as if he’s been repeating it to himself every night before bedtime. “What’s your name?”

“Yoongi,” says Yoongi, and he suddenly feels so shy again. It’s hard not to, with those wide, honest eyes baring into him.

At his answer, Hoseok nods firmly as if this is all that he needs to know. That single bit of information is the answer to everything that has ever been and everything that will ever be. He nods as if he’s so positive that Yoongi is the key to something greater, and his bright smile doesn’t waver.

“Okay, Yoongi. I’m sorry that I took your tree. Do you want to be my friend?”

“Oh.” Yoongi blinks rapidly, dumbly, his mind struggling to keep up. Still, he answers, “Okay?”

The bell for the end of recess begins ringing before anything else can surprise him. Like every other kid on the playground, Yoongi bolts up from the ground and begins making his way back to the classroom, not sparing a single glance back at his favorite tree. That’s why it takes him by complete surprise when he joins the line in front of the classroom door and turns his head to find—none other than Hoseok, of course, who has followed him instead of going to his own classroom.

“Um.” Yoongi falters with what to say next, ever-so distracted by the permanent smile on Hoseok’s tear-stained face. “The bell rang.”

Hoseok nods but he doesn’t go anywhere.

“So, you have to go back to your class now.”

“Oh, yeah, I know.”

“Okay… see you later?”

“Okay!” Hoseok agrees, and then he’s hugging Yoongi without warning and Yoongi just lets him because—

Because what else can he do? Nothing, really. He merely stands there in mild shock until Hoseok decides to release him. Yoongi continues to stand there a little awkwardly as Hoseok retreats, waving at Yoongi with the Snoopy doll still clutched in the other hand, that smile still on his face. Yoongi waves back and doesn’t notice that he’s smiling now, too.

It feels as if he doesn’t stop smiling for the rest of the school day.

***

When Yoongi’s mother picks them up from school that afternoon, he eagerly tells her that, apparently, he’s made a friend.

For the first time in what feels like ages, she listens to him talk about his day the entire car ride home.

***

As it turns out, Hoseok had been completely serious about the two of them becoming friends. It’s evident when he waits for Yoongi beneath the big tree the very next day, and then the next day, and the day after that as well. He shows up time and time again, following Yoongi around the playground like a lost puppy so that the two of them playing together very quickly becomes routine.

Of course, Yoongi isn’t complaining. He’s finally made a friend at school and best of all? Hoseok looks at him with a certain type of admiration that no one ever has. It makes sense; Yoongi has always been the younger one in any equation, but suddenly that has changed—and to be completely honest, he really likes it.

Hoseok doesn’t learn his lesson about bringing toys to school, but it’s fine because the toys that he does sneak into his backpack are ones that he shares with Yoongi at recess. They spend basically everyday beneath that tree, playing silly games with the toys and coming up with new ones whenever they get bored. Hoseok has quite the imagination, Yoongi learns. He likes that, too.

To put it simply, it’s only a matter of time before Yoongi’s mother officially meets Hoseok’s mother when she finally finds the time to do so. And that’s essentially how Yoongi ends up spending the night at Hoseok’s house for the very first time, less than a month after becoming his friend.

Yoongi really likes Hoseok’s house. It’s not much bigger than his own home, though Hoseok does have far more toys that he somehow manages to keep neat and tidy in a toybox in his bedroom. But the aesthetics aren’t what Yoongi cares about, not really. He likes being at Hoseok’s house because it feels like a breath of fresh air.

Why? Because Hoseok has a mom, a dad, and an older sister. All of them are nice to him, making sure that he has a good time while he stays with them, making sure that he’s fed.

There is love in this house, whatever love is, whatever love means. Yoongi is seven years old and he still doesn’t understand, even though he used to think that he did. He doesn’t understand but he feels it. The love wraps around his bones, nice and snug, and it doesn’t let him go so long as he’s here.

That’s what Yoongi likes the most about being at Hoseok’s house.

Actually, make that second most. The only thing that he likes even more is the Jung family’s dog, Mickey.

“Look, look! Watch what Mickey can do.”

Hoseok calls the puppy’s name to get his attention, which had been lost in favor of sniffing one of the many toys laid out on the floor of Hoseok’s colorful bedroom. Yoongi watches his friend and the puppy closely from where he sits cross-legged just beside the other boy. When Mickey comes back over to them, Hoseok gestures with his finger and tells the dog to sit. After the second attempt, he does.

“See? He’s so smart!” Hoseok giggles, beaming at Yoongi. He returns his attention to the puppy. “You’re so smart, Mickey, did you know that? So cute and so smart. I love you, okay?”

The dog shows no signs of acknowledging those words as he sniffs at Hoseok’s hand in search of a treat. Yoongi huffs out a small, quiet laugh at the sight. His amusement attracts Hoseok’s attention once more, who again tries to show off.

“Mickey can dance, too. Wanna see?”

“Huh? Dogs can’t dance.”

“Yuh-huh!”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Mickey can because he’s smart and he can do everything.”

“Okay. Show me, then.”

With a nod, Hoseok carefully lifts the puppy from the floor and positions him so that he’s only standing on his hind legs. Mickey doesn’t even squirm or attempt to escape as Hoseok holds him and makes him “dance” by wiggling back and forth. Technically, that’s no trick at all, since Hoseok is doing all the work. Yoongi doesn’t hesitate to call him out on it.

“Not fair, you made him do that!”

“But he did it, right?” Hoseok’s smile is both cute and mischievous. “I never said how he could do it, I just said that he could.”

While Yoongi doesn’t appreciate being tricked like this, he must admit that he’s impressed with the other boy. He isn’t the only one with tricks up his sleeve, though. That’s for sure.

“Hey, you’ve got a noodle on your shirt,” Yoongi claims, his index finger pressed to Hoseok’s chest as he pretends to stare at a remnant from tonight’s dinner.

Hoseok instantly takes the bait and glances down at himself.

“Where?” he asks.

And Yoongi easily lifts his finger upwards to flick Hoseok in the nose. His naïve friend gasps in surprise while Yoongi giggles behind his hand, though the victory doesn’t last for long. Out of nowhere, Hoseok tackles him while roaring like a lion cub and Yoongi finds himself on his back with a slightly heavy six-year-old on top of his chest. It quickly turns into a wrestling match that has them both giggling and gasping for breath from the strain.

They’re vaguely aware of Mickey watching them from somewhere across the room, who they determine as the referee for their impromptu skirmish. They roll around for what feels like ages but might’ve only been just a few minutes, until they’re both too tired to continue and Hoseok has Yoongi pinned to the floor again. Despite being younger, Hoseok’s got a little more meat on his bones and a lot more willpower. It makes sense that he’d win eventually.

“Got you!” Hoseok declares with a smile, still hovering over Yoongi, his chest heaving with every breath. “Do you give up? Huh?”

Yoongi knows that he could probably push Hoseok off him if he tries hard enough, but he doesn’t try at all. He laughs with what little breath he has left and nods his head, surrendering at last. Pleased with this answer, Hoseok releases him and rolls over to lie next to him instead.

The room is silent for a little while, save for their heavy breathing that gradually slows and the sound of Mickey’s jingly collar as he roams the room to find something to chew on. Yoongi closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Hoseok’s body feels warm next to his own. Almost too warm, but not quite. Yoongi can’t recall the last time that he’s felt so comfortable, so relaxed and unbothered.

The moment of silence comes to an end when Hoseok’s bedroom door is pushed open and his mother appears, her tone warm and loving.

“It’s almost bedtime, boys. Who wants to take a bath first?”

Yoongi and Hoseok sit up at the same time, their eyes meeting for a wordless exchange. It’s Hoseok who finally says aloud:

“Rock, paper, scissors?”

Yoongi truly doesn’t mind one way or the other, but he plays the little game anyway. For Hoseok’s sake.

After bathing and brushing their teeth, they reluctantly say goodnight to Mickey, who has his own doggy bed (that he usually ignores) in the living room downstairs. Hoseok kisses the puppy on the nose and encourages Yoongi to do the same, just before Hoseok’s father takes Mickey outside for one last bathroom break.

“Papa!” Hoseok calls after him from down the hallway, “Don’t forget to come back!”

His father laughs at his son’s adorable antics and reassures him that he certainly won’t forget. Hoseok returns to the bedroom and gives his full attention to Yoongi again, who waits patiently on the floor, wondering what to do next. He has no clue; it’s his first sleepover, after all.

“You didn’t bring a stuffie with you,” Hoseok notes. He immediately goes over to his array of stuffed animals organized neatly on one side of the bedroom and asks, “Wanna sleep with one of mine?”

It’s almost uncanny, the amount of hospitality that Hoseok shows for a six-year-old. His kind offer brings a tiny smile to Yoongi’s face, though he politely declines.

“No, it’s okay. I don’t sleep with one at home, either.”

Hoseok frowns upon hearing that confession, but the expression is gone just as soon as it’d came. Much like with everything else, he easily turns his focus to the next thing that interests him. This time, it’s Yoongi’s adorable duck-patterned pajamas.

“I like your pajamas,” he says. As soon as he plops down on the floor in front of Yoongi, he reaches out to touch them, his skinny fingers easily gliding down the soft fabric. “They’re really cool.”

“Thanks,” Yoongi mutters. He’s still getting used to how touchy Hoseok is. “Um. Yours are cool, too.”

“Really?” Hoseok absolutely beams from the compliment. “It’s Mickey Mouse, see? I like it ‘cause of my dog, Mickey, but the mouse called Mickey is kind of cool, too.”

Yoongi fiddles with the hem of the oversized Mickey Mouse shirt that Hoseok is wearing while he rambles on and on about his favorite Disney characters. He’s also wearing a pair of pajama bottoms with bananas printed on them and it doesn’t match the shirt at all, but it’s still cute. Just like him.

It isn’t long before Hoseok’s father returns and Yoongi watches, both confused and curious, as Hoseok asks the older man to check various spots in the bedroom for possible monsters. Hoseok’s father is completely patient and pliant as he aims the flashlight into the closet, beneath the bed, and even a random corner that Hoseok is apparently afraid of. When the job is done and no monsters have been discovered, he tucks the both of them into bed and kisses Hoseok on the forehead.

“I’m just a few rooms down the hallway if you need anything, alright?” he says, mostly to Yoongi, but Hoseok nods his head anyway.

“’Kay. Night-night, Papa.”

“Goodnight, Mr. Jung.”

His father laughs at the formality. “Night, boys. Sleep well.”

When he’s completely gone and they’re left alone once more, Yoongi rolls onto his side and pokes Hoseok in the ribcage. He’s surprised when Hoseok practically jolts awake, having nearly fallen asleep already. Perhaps falling asleep easily is the price to pay for being a rather hyperactive individual.

“Hey,” he whispers to the other boy, “How come your papa checks your room for monsters?”

Hoseok frowns at the question. “’Cause that’s what all papas do. Doesn’t yours do that for you?”

There’s a long, almost uncomfortably long pause before Yoongi shakes his head.

“No.”

“How come?”

“Because…” but Yoongi trails off, not really having an answer to that.

Another silence follows suit where Yoongi spends more time staring at the soft light reflecting from Hoseok’s nightlamp and less time thinking of the answer. It doesn’t take long for Hoseok to come to his own conclusion, and then he’s speaking without hesitation.

“Yoongi hyung… do you not have a papa?”

“I do,” Yoongi quickly assures, “but… but he doesn’t live in our house anymore.”

“Oh.” Hoseok frowns again. “Why?”

“’Cause of the divorce.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s what happens when grown-ups are married but then they don’t love each other anymore, so they stop being married.”

“Oh,” he repeats. It’s clear that he just doesn’t understand, especially when he asks, “How come your mama and papa don’t love each other anymore? Did they do something bad? Can’t they just say sorry?”

And these are questions that Yoongi has been wondering about since the very beginning. They’re questions that he’s asked before and have only received confusing answers, because he just doesn’t understand it, either.

Love is supposed to be forever, but apparently, it isn’t.

Yoongi understands that much, at least.

“I-I don’t know,” he says at last, frustrated and confused. His small hand clenches the soft duvet draped over them. “I don’t know anything, okay? I just—I just don’t know, Hoseokie.”

“Oh…” Hoseok murmurs sadly. There’s an unspoken apology there as well. Yoongi doesn’t blame him, though. “Are you sad?”

This question is completely different from the others. This question is one that surprises Yoongi, because no one has asked this question before. And it’s only three simple words, words that his seven-year-old heart can definitely understand, but they feel so heavy on his conscience.

He answers quietly, simply, “Yeah…”

Suddenly, there’s a hand in his hair as Hoseok begins gently caressing him. He pets Yoongi the same way that he pets Mickey, yet somehow, it’s so comforting and reassuring that Yoongi absolutely melts into it. Just like magic, the heaviness is lifted to be replaced with a light feeling that he can’t quite describe.

“It’s okay, don’t be sad,” Hoseok murmurs comfortingly. “If you want, I can share my papa with you? I don’t mind sharing just as long as you don’t keep him all to yourself, okay?”

Yoongi ends up giggling at that, his laugh slightly muffled by the pillow as he presses his face into it. He can feel how tired he’s become after trying to keep up with Hoseok all evening. Combine exhaustion with the gentle hand in his hair and he’s falling asleep already.

“I dunno if it works like that,” he says around a small, adorable yawn. “But… okay, then. Thanks, Hoseokie.”

“Of course,” Hoseok replies. He yawns then, too. “You’re my bestest friend in the whole wide world, yeah? And you can’t forget that, okay?”

Yoongi nods. “Okay.”

By the time that both of them are completely knocked out, they sleep half-way on top of each other in a position that doesn’t look at all comfortable. Yet against all odds, it’s the most satisfying night of rest that Yoongi has gotten in a very long time.

***

These days, Yoongi gets excited about going to school again, and all of that excitement stems from being able to see Hoseok.

His best friend waits for him in the schoolyard that morning, just before the day begins and students are ushered into their respective classrooms. Hoseok waits just behind the school gates, and he’s the first thing that Yoongi sees when his mother drops them off that morning. It’s a few seconds later when Hoseok sees him too, and then he’s bouncing in place, hand waving enthusiastically, a smile on his face that feels just as bright and warm as the morning sun.

Yoongi hastily bids farewell to his mother and runs over to where Hoseok is waiting for him. They immediately throw their arms around each other. Yoongi has grown used to these hugs. Has grown fond, even. They squeeze each other a lot tighter than usual because it’s been three days since they’ve been together, thanks to the long holiday weekend.

Normally, Hoseok’s parents might invite Yoongi to the park with them on Saturday afternoons, where he’ll spend hours chasing after Mickey with Hoseok. They’ll play game after game, enjoy sandwiches for lunch, and then play together some more. But this past weekend had been different, because Yoongi’s mother dragged him and his brother all the way to Daegu for a weekend with the grandparents. It had been okay, but Yoongi had missed Hoseok dearly.

None of that matters now, though. He’s not in Daegu anymore and Hoseok is standing right here in front of him. Smiling at him.

Yoongi instantly begins to feel comforted.

“You got a haircut?” Hoseok asks, his small fingers gently tugging at the neat strands of hair across Yoongi’s forehead.

Yoongi nods and feels a little bashful. Thankfully, his friend only continues to smile at him.

“I like it. It’s good,” says Hoseok, matter-of-factly. Then, he giggles. “I’ll ask Mama if I can get a haircut like this, too!”

That brings a pleasant laugh out of Yoongi, who teasingly shoves Hoseok’s shoulder. The compliment makes him feel good, though. So, so good. That happiness is cut short when the bell rings and they must get to their respective classes, but they promise to see each other again at recess. Just as they always do.

Recess doesn’t come soon enough, but Yoongi forgives the slow passage of time when he finds himself sitting beneath his favorite tree with his favorite person. For today’s imaginary adventure, Hoseok has brought various bearbrick toys for them to play with. He tells Yoongi that these are some of his favorite toys and that they must be careful with them. Yoongi promises to do so, and minutes later they are completely immersed in their own little world.

However, a lot has been on Yoongi’s mind as of late. Certain thoughts and possibilities have plagued his young heart and he thinks that he needs to talk about them with Hoseok, because.

Because he talks about everything with Hoseok, of course.

And so Yoongi blurts out, “We might have to move.”

Hoseok stops pretending to make the bearbricks talk to each other so that he can give Yoongi his full attention. He lowers the toys to the soft grass beneath them as his brows furrow together, confusion ebbed into his expression.

“Move where?”

“To a different house.”

“Oh.” Hoseok scratches the back of his head, puzzled. “What’s wrong with your house now?”

“Nothing,” Yoongi starts to explain, “but Eomma says that there are people who want money that she doesn’t have right now. We have to give it to them or else they’ll make us move.”

“Oh,” Hoseok repeats. He doesn’t look any less confused. “Why would they make you do that?”

“I don’t know, it’s so confusing.” Yoongi forgets about the toys for now and lies back in the grass with a heavy sigh. “But when we went to my grandma and grandpa’s house, they said that they would help, I think. So… we won’t have to move after all?”

“Woah. That is confusing.”

“Yeah. But if we do move and… and we move somewhere far, far away, then I can’t go to this school anymore and—”

“And we can’t be friends anymore?” Hoseok finishes for him.

Yoongi swallows the lump that begins to form in his throat and nods sadly. He glances up at the blue sky littered with fluffy clouds and wonders what it would be like to fly. If he had such a superpower, maybe he’d be able to fix everything. If Yoongi could fly, he’d do everything that he could to make his mother happy again. If Yoongi could fly, he’d find his father and bring him home at last. Then, everything would go back to how they used to be.

That’s all that Yoongi really wants.

“I won’t let them,” Hoseok mutters suddenly.

“Huh?”

“The people who wanna make you move,” he elaborates, “I won’t let them take you away.”

Yoongi rolls over onto his side in order to face his friend completely. The expression that Hoseok wears is serious, far too serious for a six-year-old who understands even less than Yoongi does about this complex situation. It’s so plain to see that he cares, though. He cares so much and that revelation stirs the butterflies in Yoongi’s tummy.

His best friend truly is the greatest.

“Really?”

Hoseok nods with confidence.

“Yeah! If you move, then who will play games with me?”

“Probably Mickey.”

“Mickey can’t play Dragon Ball Z.”

“No? But I thought that Mickey could do everything.”

Yoongi’s unnecessary sass gets the same reaction that it always does. Hoseok pounces on him a second later and sits on top of him, Yoongi whining about how heavy he is but not doing anything to push him off. As always, Hoseok giggles adorably and stares down at him, triumphant. In truth, Yoongi doesn’t really mind.

Hoseok tells him, “I still won’t let them, okay?”

And Yoongi asks, “How?”

“I dunno. I’ll have to think of something.” With a finger to his chin, Hoseok thinks for a long, long time. Then, he gasps. “Oh! Maybe you could just come to my house and live with me instead! I don’t mind sharing my room and my toys, plus we could play together every single day if we lived in the same house.”

Truthfully, Yoongi can’t think of a scenario that he’d prefer more. The thought of being able to see Hoseok whenever he wants to is so appealing that it excites him, makes his lips curl into a smile despite the weight on his chest. He knows that it just isn’t realistic, though.

“I don’t know if Eomma would want that… or your parents, either.”

Hoseok scoffs, “Why wouldn’t they? You’re a good boy and Mickey likes you, too, so I don’t see the problem.”

And it’s an argument that Yoongi knows he won’t win, so he doesn’t even try to.

Instead of arguing at all, he allows his best friend to pull him up from the grass. He allows his mind to be at ease as they go back to playing with the bearbricks. He allows himself to be a kid and do kid things, because it’s all that he can do right now.

***

It’s at the very end of the school day, a time that Yoongi has come to dislike because it means saying goodbye to his best friend, when Hoseok places one of the bearbricks into his hand and tells him to keep it.

“You need it a lot more,” is what Hoseok says when Yoongi asks him why. “And did you know that bearbricks are magical? You just have to talk to it. I’ll hear you with my bearbrick and then it won’t matter where you are.”

Yoongi doesn’t really believe in magic these days, but he wants to believe in this.

He wants to believe in his best friend, just like his best friend believes in him.

***

Even several minutes after Hoseok is gone, Yoongi remains clutching the bearbrick toy to his chest in awe. No one has ever given him such an important gift before. He tells himself that he’ll have to take extra special care of it.

Of course he will, it’s from his best friend.

Therefore, it’s irreplaceable.

“Yoongi-yah, what happened here?”

At the sound of his older brother’s voice, Yoongi tears his gaze from the parking lot where they’re currently waiting for their mother to pick them up, several minutes late. It’s the usual situation nowadays, given her hectic schedule. But Yoongi prefers waiting a few extra minutes after school, if it means not having to deal with their old babysitter who had never been particularly nice to him.

“What?” he asks, bewildered, until he sees exactly what his brother is pointing at—it’s a small hole near the bottom of his school uniform shorts. Yoongi doesn’t remember ripping the shorts, but it shouldn’t be too surprising. Most seven-year-olds pay little mind to their attire.

His brother, on the other hand, looks increasingly disappointed in him.

“How did that happen?” he questions, but when Yoongi shrugs, he lets out a heavy sigh. “You need to be more careful instead of roughhousing and getting dirty. Now Eomma is going to have to fix your uniform, or buy you a new one, and I don’t think that she can do that right now.”

Yoongi frowns from the chastising and turns away, already annoyed. Maybe his brother is right, maybe he really is going to be an inconvenience for their mother, but Yoongi is still annoyed anyway. These days it seems that his brother is always chastising him or telling him what to do. He’s not even twelve years old, yet he acts as if he knows everything, acts like Yoongi is his responsibility.

His brother acts as if he is their father, and it bothers Yoongi to no end.

It didn’t always used to be this way. As a matter of fact, Yoongi’s brother used to be really fun to be around. He used to be funny, used to be more carefree, used to play with Yoongi at any time of the day. Nowadays, he’s just trying to fill a gaping hole that has been left by their parents.

The one who is physically absent, and the one who is busy working even when she’s home.

“Where did you get that?” his brother asks, pointing to the bearbrick toy now.

Yoongi instinctively clutches it to his chest again, looking both protective and possessive over the small piece of plastic.

“Seokseok gave it to me. It’s mine.”

His brother raises a brow. “Seokseok?”

“Hoseok,” Yoongi corrects, his cheeks turning a bright tint of pink. He repeats, “It’s mine.”

Relief floods through his body when his brother mutters that it’s whatever, he was just curious and he’s not going to take it away. Yoongi is glad for that. He wouldn’t be able to face Hoseok the next day if he had lost the toy already. No, definitely not, because best friends take good care of gifts given to them by best friends.

That’s just common sense.

***

Summer vacation is a huge inconvenience for their mother.

Summer vacation means that Yoongi and his brother stay home at all hours of the day, which isn’t possible, because their mother needs to be at work and doesn’t have time to watch them. Because of this, they end up spending most of the day with the elderly woman who lives down the street. She smells strange and lets them eat stale cookies, but Yoongi still prefers her over their old babysitter.

Summer vacation gives Yoongi mixed feelings. On the one hand, he doesn’t have to go to school and socialize with loud children who mostly ignore him. But on the other hand, no school means no Hoseok. At least, not as much Hoseok as usual. Sure, they still hang out at Hoseok’s house or at the park, but it’s not the same as seeing each other at school every day.

It’s not the same as playing beneath Yoongi’s tree.

Their tree.

It’s their tree now, Yoongi has decided. It’s been their tree for quite some time now and he doesn’t mind sharing. If it’s Hoseok that he’s sharing with, Yoongi never truly minds.

On the rare days that Yoongi’s mother isn’t working, Yoongi tries to spend as much time in her presence as possible. Even while at home, there are things that she needs to do, but that’s fine. Yoongi just wants to be in the same room with her.

Today his mother sits at the desk and does grown-up work on the computer while Yoongi lies down on the floor. He lies on his stomach and practices his drawing skills, which aren’t very good, but that’s fine, too. Yoongi hums to himself and scribbles all over the page with his favorite crayons. No one else can touch Yoongi’s crayons.

Except Hoseok, of course. Hoseok is the exception to most things.

The doorbell rings just as Yoongi is trying to figure out which colors are supposed to be used in a rainbow. He watches as his mother gets up from the desk chair to answer the door and see who is visiting them. Yoongi knows that he shouldn’t follow, but he does anyway. Partly because she might need his help, mostly because he’s nosy.

But as soon as the door is opened to reveal Hoseok and his mother standing on the other side, Yoongi’s heart bursts with joy.

“Hoseokie!” he shouts before he can stop himself.

The other boy reacts in the exact same way, already bouncing with excitement and looking as if he wants to cross the threshold to pounce on Yoongi, like it hasn’t been only a couple of days since they were last together. Their mothers are still very much in the way, though, and Yoongi watches impatiently as they exchange polite greetings in the boring way that all adults do.

“Yoongi left his sweater with us the last time that he slept over,” Hoseok’s mother explains. She smiles down at her son and gently smooths back his long hair from his forehead. “This one insisted that we give it back immediately, just in case he misses it.”

“It was under my bed,” Hoseok explains, holding out said sweater for Yoongi to take. He looks proud of his great deed.

“Thanks, Seokseok,” says Yoongi. His own expression is a little more on the bashful side.

Hoseok’s mother apologizes to Yoongi’s mother for not calling first, but then Yoongi’s mother is inviting them inside for their troubles and, honestly, Yoongi couldn’t be any happier. He takes Hoseok by the hand and leads him into the other room with the incomplete drawing. When the first thing that Hoseok does is compliment the picture, Yoongi blushes.

He offers with a smile, “Let’s finish it together.”

It turns out that neither of them excel at the art of doodling, but that’s okay. Yoongi is ecstatic to share his artwork and his crayons with Hoseok, who scribbles across the page as if he knows exactly what he’s doing. When they run out of room, they turn the paper over and doodle some more. Hoseok tries to draw Mickey that ends up looking more like a monster, while Yoongi tries to draw Hoseok.

“Guess what,” says Hoseok, barely able to contain his excitement.

“What?”

“You have to guess.”

Yoongi hums for a long moment, his hand stilling as he stops moving the crayon cross the paper. He really has no idea what could possibly have Hoseok so excited today. He answers with the first thing that comes to mind.

“Mickey finally learned how to play video games?”

Hoseok cackles. “No, silly! Guess again.”

“I don’t know. I give up.”

His friend pouts at his lack of motivation but it doesn’t last for long. Hoseok eagerly blurts out the answer only seconds later, his eyes practically twinkling as he explains the situation.

“We’re going to a really fun place this week,” he says as he resumes the drawing. “Mama says that there will be lots of water and lots of pools to play in, also rides! I’ve never been on a water ride before. Anyway, I want you to come with us so she’s gonna ask your mama today.”

“She is?” Yoongi stares at his friend, unable to believe what he’s hearing.

Hoseok nods. “Mhmm! She’s probably asking right now. Wanna go check?”

Of course Yoongi wants to confirm this, so the two of them stand up from the floor and make their way to the living room. Yoongi takes Hoseok’s wrist and stops him before they round the corner that leads into the room, opting instead to eavesdrop on the adults’ conversation. Pressed to the wall for cover, they poke their heads out just until their mothers come into view, who are currently sitting on the sofa. Perfect timing, Yoongi thinks, when he hears what Hoseok’s mother is saying.

“—and we were thinking that Yoongi should come with. Hoseokie really wants him to, in fact, he wouldn’t stop begging until I promised to come and talk to you about it. But it wouldn’t be any trouble, we enjoy having Yoongi around.”

“What’re they saying?” Hoseok whispers from just behind Yoongi.

“Shh! I’m trying to listen,” he whispers back.

The interruption causes Yoongi to miss the first half of his mother’s reply, but he tunes in for the rest of it.

“—don’t think I’d be able to afford sending him on a field trip right now. I only just noticed that he’s getting too big for his school uniform already, so I have to purchase an entirely new set. Those things get so pricey, don’t they?”

“They really do,” Hoseok’s mother agrees, “but you wouldn’t have to worry about the trip. We know how tough things have been so we’ll take care of the expenses, we really just want the boys to have some fun this summer. And to tell you the truth, I’ve never seen Hoseok care about anything as much as he cares about Yoongi.”

Yoongi’s mother smiles at that. “They really are two peas in a pod, aren’t they?”

Bored of this conversation that doesn’t seem to be going in the right direction, Yoongi decides to go with his second tactic: pleading. He reveals himself from behind the wall and quickly waddles over to his mother, desperation clear on his face.

“Can I go? Please? I’ll be good, I promise. Please?”

Yoongi has never been the type of child to beg and plead for things until getting what he wants. His parents never put up with such behavior, so he quickly learned not to do it. Right now, however, is a completely different story. This is basically an emergency, okay, and he wants to go on this trip more than he wants anything else in the world.

Hoseok joins in. “Pretty please with sugar on top? And whipped cream? And a cherry?”

His tactic is even better, Yoongi thinks, because grown-ups just can’t resist how adorable Hoseok is. Yoongi mentally thanks him.

Their mothers glance at each other in the middle of all the begging, and then a decision is made at last when Yoongi’s mother sighs but nods her head.

“Well, alright, but—”

And Yoongi doesn’t hear the rest of it, as he’s far too busy celebrating with his screaming best friend. Their parents let them have their moment, though. Meanwhile, Yoongi focuses entirely on Hoseok, who begins rambling about all of the fun things that they will do and see together.

But Yoongi is sure that it’ll be fun regardless of what they’ll get up to, because anything is fun as long as Hoseok is with him.

He’s absolutely sure of it.

***

It’s three days later when the morning of their trip finally arrives, but the wait feels like decades and Yoongi has never been so excited in his seven years of life.

That morning, his mother wakes him up early and he doesn’t complain, doesn’t whine as she reminds him time and time again to be a good boy and to stay with Hoseok’s parents at all times. Yoongi nods at her words and he nods some more, a tired yawn escaping him while he gets ready for what the day has in store for him.

Yoongi’s swim shorts have tiny green turtles on them. He thinks that Hoseok will like the outfit. His mother lets him wear his only pair of tiny sunglasses that he’ll probably end up losing during the day. By the time that he puts on his sandals and the backpack that his mother has stuffed with sunscreen, extra clothes, and a towel, Hoseok’s parents have arrived and are waiting for him just outside.

“Remember what I said, alright?” his mother reminds him once more, smoothing down his bed-hair. Beneath her usual exhaustion is a layer of anxiety, but she smiles at him anyway. “Be polite and make sure to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ You’re a good boy, I know that you will.”

“I will,” Yoongi confirms. He accepts the forehead kiss and quickly bolts out of the door before she finds another reason to keep him.

Hoseok enthusiastically greets him from beneath the red bucket hat on his head. Along with the multi-colored pair of shorts that he’s wearing, Yoongi thinks that he looks pretty cool. He tells this to Hoseok immediately, and Hoseok smiles. After his parents make sure that Yoongi’s all buckled up and ready to go, Yoongi waves at his mother who stands in the doorway before they drive off.

The journey to Caribbean Bay waterpark is only half an hour long, but Yoongi and Hoseok fall asleep around the ten-minute mark. The first five minutes are spent listening to Hoseok attempt to recall the lyrics to his favorite songs so that he can sing them in the car, which is adorable in itself; but he eventually gives up in favor of talking to Yoongi instead, who is already dozing off. It isn’t long at all before Hoseok follows suit.

The next time that Yoongi gains consciousness, they’re in a parking lot of an unfamiliar place and Hoseok’s mother is asking if he feels better after getting a bit more rest. Yoongi nods and thanks her for no particular reason, earning him a smile and a gentle squeeze to the shoulder. He almost stumbles when he gets out of the car, but a single glance at the tall waterslides up ahead and suddenly he’s wide awake, feeling twice as excited as before.

“Look, look!” Hoseok excitedly shouts, having appeared at Yoongi’s side out of nowhere. “Isn’t that so cool? See, I told you that it’d be fun. Papa says that there’s even a pool that moves. Do you think we’ll find it?”

Before Yoongi can even attempt to answer that question, Hoseok’s older sister speaks up from where she stands behind them.

“Not if a shark eats you first.”

The mention of sharks has Hoseok turning his head so fast that he nearly gets whiplash. His big, innocent eyes are wider than the moon when he replies to her, his voice small and frightened.

“A… a shark?”

His sister nods with the most serious expression that Yoongi has ever seen on her ten-year-old face.

“Yeah. Don’t you know? Sharks live at the bottom of all pools and if you go underwater, they’ll eat you right up. Chomp, chomp!”

While saying those last two words, she mimics the shark’s jaws with her hands and claps them in Hoseok’s face while adding sound effects with her teeth. Of course, Hoseok falls for it. In a matter of seconds, he’s screaming in terror and clinging to Yoongi’s arm for comfort and protection. Not that Yoongi would be able to protect him in the event of a real shark attack, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

“No! I don’t wanna be eaten by sharks!” he shrieks.

All of the noise gets the attention of Hoseok’s mother, who frowns at the teasing from where she’s organizing their belongings near the trunk of the car.

“Please don’t terrorize your brother, Jiwoo.”

His sister only shrugs before skipping off to join their father as if nothing has happened. Hoseok remains cowering at Yoongi’s side, his tight grip on Yoongi’s arm becoming a little painful now. Yoongi hopes to ease his worries by patting his head with the other hand that isn’t occupied.

“It’s okay, Seokseok, there’s no sharks in the pools. She’s just trying to trick you.”

Hoseok looks up at him with watery eyes, his two front teeth worrying at his bottom lip.

“Are you sure?”

Yoongi nods. “Yeah. Sharks only live in the ocean, ‘cause that’s where all of the salt water is. I read that in a book, once.”

“Really?”

“Mhmm. And don’t worry, sharks aren’t mean or evil. They’re just hungry like the rest of us.”

Hoseok gasps in awe. “Oh… you’re so smart, hyung! Would you protect me from a hungry shark, then?”

The way in which he’s looking at Yoongi now, with so much trust and admiration, elicits a warm and pleasant feeling in Yoongi’s stomach. He thinks that Hoseok is the only one that causes this good feeling. It makes him swell with pride, makes him feel as if he can do anything that he puts his mind to. If Hoseok believes in him, then maybe he really can.

“Yeah,” Yoongi reassures with another nod. This time, he grins. “I’d protect you. Always.”

Turns out that those words are exactly what Hoseok needs to hear. He laughs all of a sudden, loud and bright and beautiful, and the sound of it elicits another feeling within Yoongi that he can’t quite put a name to yet. No, he won’t put a name to this feeling for many years to come, but none of that’s important at the moment. In this moment, all that matters is being able to have fun with his best friend.

Yoongi knows that Hoseok would agree with him. In fact, he doesn’t let go of Yoongi’s arm the entire time that they follow the others to the entrance of the park. And, as always, Yoongi doesn’t mind. Not in the slightest.

The rest of their day goes a little something like this:

Yoongi and Hoseok spend much of their time in the kid-zone along with Hoseok’s mother to supervise them, while his father and sister go off together to enjoy the water rides. Before separating, they make plans to meet up later for lunch and, afterwards, a bit of group fun in the wave pool. Hoseok eagerly tells Yoongi that the wave pool is the one that moves, which they should be most excited about.

In the meantime, they have plenty of fun splashing each other in the shallow waters, running under pseudo waterfalls and trying to dodge sprinklers. Hoseok giggles nonstop while Yoongi chases after him, trying to get revenge for having water dumped on his head. They only stop running when a lifeguard warns them about possibly slipping and hurting themselves, and it’s ironic, when Hoseok slips and scrapes his knee only seconds later. He’s quickly patched up with a waterproof band-aid while Yoongi wipes his tears for him, then makes a funny face so that Hoseok will smile again.

It works like a charm.

Some minutes later, they find themselves playing in the water once more, only this time they stay in one place. Yoongi wants to do more, though. So much more. His eyes wander towards the waterslides on the other side of the kiddie pools, and he gets an idea.

“Let’s go down one of the slides,” he proposes.

Hearing those words, Hoseok instantly looks nervous, since he’s still feeling very cautious after falling and hurting himself. Yoongi doesn’t blame him. That had been a scary moment for the both of them, but he’s positive that nothing bad will happen on the waterslides.

“Won’t that be scary?” asks Hoseok, while anxiously twiddling his fingers.

“Not really,” says Yoongi, and when that doesn’t work, he adds: “It’s just like the slides at our school, except with water instead.”

He gives his best friend a long moment to think about it, not wanting to force Hoseok into doing anything scary even if it doesn’t seem scary to Yoongi. Hoseok is much more likely to do things when he’s encouraged, not forced, so Yoongi tries to be supportive.

“It’ll be fun, I promise.”

Yoongi holds his hand out and waits for Hoseok to take it. He does without hesitation. Maybe it’s his curiosity about the waterslides, or his unwavering faith and trust in Yoongi; either way, he takes the hand and allows Yoongi lead him out of the water and over to his mother, whom they ask to take them to the nearest slide.

It turns out that the nearest waterslide is one that requires them to sit on a round, yellow double tube together, and it’s perfect because Hoseok is still too afraid of the normal slides. They’re not too high up when they finally reach the top, but they’re still pretty high and Hoseok clings to him more and more as their turn approaches.

Finally, Hoseok mutters, “Hyung. I’m scared…”

His eyes are wide with fear and he’s trembling all over, more from being frightened than the gentle breeze that coasts along their wet skin. Yoongi tries to think of something comforting to say, but then the lifeguard is ushering him towards the slide and he takes a seat at the front of the tube so that Hoseok can sit in the spot behind him.

But Hoseok is frozen in place right now, only moving when the lifeguard gently coaxes him forward because he’s holding up the long line. He struggles to actually sit on the tube and looks as if he wants to make a run for it despite having nowhere else to go, so Yoongi pats his knee and seeks to reassure him.

“It’s okay, Seokseok. Hyung is here and nothing bad will happen to you, okay?”

Hoseok gives a shaky nod and clings to Yoongi’s back instead of clutching the handles of the tube, his eyes tightly clenched shut, and seconds later they’re gliding down the waterslide at full speed. Yoongi screams out of pure excitement while Hoseok shrieks like he’s dying, his arms tightening around Yoongi’s middle. They reach the bottom of the slide in the blink of an eye, and suddenly it’s all over.

Standing up takes more energy than sitting down had, but thankfully the lifeguard at the bottom of the slide helps them off the yellow tube. Hoseok’s legs are shaking and his eyes are still wide, but now he’s smiling from ear to ear and Yoongi feels relieved.

“See? That wasn’t so scary, right?”

Hoseok shakes his head and quickly replies, “Can we do it again?”

Yoongi, of course, would love nothing more.

Lunch time comes and goes and so does their time in the wave pool, which is spent jumping over the artificial waves while laughing, hand-in-hand, their mutual happiness loud and clear for all to see. It really is the most fun that Yoongi has ever had. He can’t imagine having half as much fun without Hoseok here by his side, his best friend who keeps him afloat whenever Yoongi feels like he’s sinking. He can’t imagine it and he doesn’t try to.

The final stop that they make before leaving for the day is, naturally, the gift shop. Yoongi gets a green turtle plushie that matches the turtles on his swim shorts. Hoseok gets that same turtle plushie to match Yoongi. They hold hands and make the turtles talk to each other on the short journey back to the car, but on the drive home, Yoongi and Hoseok are quick to fall asleep again while leaning against each other, exhausted and satisfied from the day’s adventure.

For the first time in a long time, Yoongi doesn’t dream. His sleep is a peaceful one, completely relaxing, and he misses it as soon as he’s forced to open his eyes because—because suddenly they’ve arrived outside of his house again. Time has passed so quickly that it almost feels as if he imagined the entire trip to the waterpark, the only evidence that it actually happened being his turtle toy and the scent of chlorine that sticks to his skin.

Yoongi wants to go back, wants to do it all over again, but he knows that he can’t. So, without any complaints, he stretches his tired limbs and makes to get out of the car. Hoseok’s mother starts to do the same in order to walk him to the front door, but then Hoseok announces:

“I want to do it!”

With his parents’ permission (and equally amused grins on their faces), Hoseok climbs out of the car behind Yoongi to walk with him up to the front door. It’s a very short journey, but Yoongi’s legs feel like lead and his heart feels even heavier and he doesn’t know why. That’s okay, because Yoongi is seven years old and he doesn’t know a lot of things, but he does know that he wants to be by Hoseok’s side forever.

Hoseok throws his arms around Yoongi as soon as they reach the front door. Yoongi happily returns the hug, his arms tightening around Hoseok’s waist, not wanting to let him go. But when Hoseok pulls back and Yoongi sees the warm smile on his young face, he knows that he doesn’t have to worry about a thing.

They’ll see each other again soon. Just as they always do.

Knowing that, Yoongi is able to smile back at him.

“Bring your turtle the next time you come over to my house to play,” Hoseok tells him. “We’ll have lots of fun together again, okay?”

Yoongi nods. “Okay, I will.”

They hug each other a second time, and then Hoseok is skipping down the driveway and back to the car that awaits him. Yoongi watches him go, despite knowing that they won’t drive off until he’s safely inside of the house. But Yoongi watches and he waits for the moment that Hoseok turns around to wave at him, smiling with his eyes and his mouth and his entire being.

The little heart in Yoongi’s small chest beats a tad faster. It takes a lot of effort to turn away from that smile, to reach up and ring the doorbell as he waits for his mother to answer. By the time that he watches from the window as the Jung family drives away, he misses Hoseok already.

***

That four-letter word shows up again the first week of class after summer break has ended. It’s the same word that has confused Yoongi for some time now, a word that he used to think he knew the meaning of until his whole world began to change.

Love.

It’s the word that his teacher uses when she tells them what they’re going to be doing today. She tells them that she wants them to draw something or someone that they love, and Yoongi is completely stumped. He stares at his blank sheet of paper and feels anxious. The other children around him draw pictures of their pets, their favorite food, their favorite toys, their family.

All of those things seem right, but they also seem wrong to Yoongi. He can’t bring his hand to move. His fingers tighten around the crayon and he knits his brows together, trying hard to concentrate.

“Yoongi-yah?” His teacher is at his side suddenly. She’s taken notice of his lack of progress. “You haven’t drawn anything. Do you remember what you have to do?”

Yoongi’s teacher is a very kindhearted young woman. He looks up at her and sees the slight concern in her pretty face, then he realizes that he really doesn’t want to disappoint her. Still, the art assignment is more difficult than he’d like for it to be.

“I do,” he mumbles, a little embarrassed as he stares down at the paper again. “But… I don’t know what to draw. It’s too hard.”

Ms. Park kneels down beside his desk and hums in thought, encouraging him to brainstorm with her for a moment. Then, she says:

“Well, what is it that you love, Yoongi?”

Yoongi only shrugs. He supposes that he loves his favorite toys and his favorite food. If he had a pet, he’d love it, too. He supposes that he loves his family as well, because they take care of him and you’re supposed to love your family, right?

But it isn’t that simple. He’s supposed to love his family, but his father doesn’t love his mother anymore, doesn’t love Yoongi and his brother enough to stay. He’s supposed to love his family, but what if he’s wrong? Yoongi doesn’t even know what love means.

That’s just it, then. Yoongi doesn’t know anything at all.

“How about a person, then?” Ms. Park suggests when he doesn’t answer her question. “You could draw your eomma, or—”

“How do you know when you love someone?”

His sudden question takes her off-guard, her eyes widening slightly. Yoongi watches and waits for the answer, hoping that she will finally solve this ever-growing mystery for him, needing someone to make sense of things. He hopes, and hopes, and hopes.

But Ms. Park seems to be just as bewildered as he is. She answers simply:

“You just do.”

There’s a bit of sympathy in her eyes when she stands again and places a gentle hand at the back of Yoongi’s head, clearly wishing that she could give him a better answer. She tells him that he can draw whatever it is that makes him happy, so Yoongi nods and watches as she walks away to help another student.

Ten minutes before they’re supposed to be finished with the assignment, Yoongi decides to draw his favorite tree. Beneath the tree, he draws himself and Hoseok with big smiles on their faces as they play with the bearbrick toys.

Ms. Park looks proud of him when he shows it to her, so Yoongi will just assume that he made the right decision.

***

“Hoseokie, do your parents love each other?”

They’re sitting beneath their favorite tree as usual when Yoongi drops the question. It’s too hot outside to do much of anything else, the remnants of the summer sun still beating down on them without mercy. Yoongi sits with his back against the tree trunk and Hoseok’s head resting on his thigh. The younger boy had come down with a cold during the last week of summer vacation and he’s still recovering from the icky feeling in his chest.

Yoongi wishes that he could take the pain away. For now, he comforts Hoseok by running his fingers through the boy’s hair.

“Yeah?” Hoseok replies a moment later, as if the answer to that should be obvious. “They love each other lots.”

“But how do you know that?”

This time Hoseok thinks long about his answer before saying anything. Yoongi continues carding his fingers through his hair, smiling whenever Hoseok lets out the occasional sigh from how good it feels. After several seconds, he finally comes up with his answer.

“Well, ‘cause one time Mama and Papa got really mad at each other, but then Papa got sick and Mama took care of him, just like she takes care of me. And then, Papa got better and they weren’t mad at each other anymore and it’s ‘cause… ‘cause they love each other a whole lot, I think.”

Yoongi supposes that it makes sense. Most parents do love each other, after all; it’s just that his own parents are the exception to this supposedly universal rule, and that still very much upsets him, but.

But there isn’t anything that he can do, so Yoongi tries not to envy his friend.

“Do you love them?” he asks next.

Now Hoseok’s answer comes instantly.

“Duh! Doesn’t everybody love their mama and papa?” To emphasize, Hoseok sits up from Yoongi’s lap and spreads his skinny arms out as far as they can go. He’s smiling when he says, “I love them this much, to infinity and beyond! My papa always says that, did you know? I love my noona, too, even though she’s mean to me sometimes… oh! I also love Mickey a whole lot. ‘Cause Mickey is the best. And I love you, too, hyung.”

Yoongi feels his chest tighten upon hearing that little confession. Hoseok’s words make him feel so warm from the inside out, a deep blush forming on his cheeks that has nothing to do with the summer sun and the hot weather that surrounds them. Who knew that it could feel so good to hear those words from someone completely unrelated to him?

That must be the reason that he feels this way. Yoongi can’t find any other explanation for this feeling in his chest.

“Oh.” He blinks and looks away, unable to meet his friend’s eyes. “You do?”

Hoseok laughs as if Yoongi’s shock is the funniest thing in the world. He laughs, and he laughs, and he laughs, and—and Yoongi knows the truth now. He knows that no other sound in the world could ever rival that laugh, and that’s a fact that can’t be disputed.

“Of course I do, silly!” says Hoseok.

He pounces on Yoongi not even a second later, and Yoongi sees it coming but he doesn’t stop it from happening. He allows Hoseok to push him to the grass, to sit on top of him, to smile down at him in that triumphant way that he always does. And as always, Yoongi doesn’t push him off, doesn’t do anything except smile up at him.

Because Yoongi will always smile for Hoseok.