Yoongi found the channel when he was fifteen and in his second year of high school. At the time, it only had about fifty subscribers (or so the ‘wow there are 50 of you???’ video seemed to indicate). Yoongi doesn’t remember how he stumbled upon it, but he does remember the first time he felt the need to actually eat something while watching.
(Tuesday, November 10th, 2009. A new EatJin video had been posted that morning and Yoongi watched it on his phone on the way to school. He nibbled on crackers he had packed for his lunch that he hadn’t planned on eating. They were nothing but crumbs that needed dusting off his thin fleece by the time he disembarked the bus.)
From that day forward, EatJin was--it was something magical. Yoongi would eat almost every time he watched. He wouldn't necessarily eat a lot when he did, but every once in awhile, he'd have a regular portion of something.
(The first time he ate something substantial while watching the prerecorded video of the teen—another Korean-American teenager!—was probably one of the best days of his life.)
(Except that, the next day, he puked multiple times. But that could not be helped and the previous day’s meal wasn’t even at fault: he'd eaten four bowls of cereal for breakfast and that was Not Okay.)
(And, to make matters even worse, he only realized how disgusting he was halfway through the ride to school. He excused himself during first period to the nurse's office, mumbling about an ill stomach, and he threw up in the bathroom, stopping only when all that came out was bile and tears that pricked and dampened at the edges of his vision, catching and holding onto his lashes.
The nurse offered to call his mother, but he assured her a nap would be all he needed.)
(But, honestly, his mother wouldn’t have come. His father either. They loved him; Yoongi knows they do. Knows they did. But it was just difficult for them, sometimes. His father had lost his job when Yoongi turned ten and they had had to move to a smaller house in a smaller town and his mother had to get a job to help support the household, and it just didn’t leave much time for Yoongi.
And he understood--or at least, he thought he did. They needed to work so they could buy him things. So they could clothe and feed him and, really, didn’t he have such chubby cheeks? He was ten ; shouldn’t those be gone by now? They should, right? And his stomach was squishy and most of his classmates’ weren’t--or they said they weren’t. The kid that sat in front of him and two rows over said he had a six pack and, well.
Yoongi was too inadequate for this school. And if he wanted to be less of a burden, there was an easy way to do that.
Yoongi wasn’t dumb.
So he adjusted.)
It had started innocently enough. Yoongi skipped breakfast. His mother bought him cereal and toaster pastries, but Yoongi ignored them. He drank a bottle of water before school and called it done. His mother slowly stopped buying as much for breakfast, narrowing it to one box of sugary, colorful cereal Yoongi fondly remembers eating while watching cartoons as a child.
(She had asked, of course. Worried. A little worried. Yoongi just shrugged and said he didn't really like eating a lot for breakfast anymore. He promised he'd been making up for it at lunch. With no reason not to believe him, his mother had stopped buying breakfast goods past the single box.)
But that hadn’t been enough. All he managed to do was eat more at dinner time, giving himself an extra serving of whatever his parents had put in the fridge for him. It took all of three weeks to realize the extra he’d been eating was supposed to be his father’s lunch for the next day.
So Yoongi stopped that, too. What he did eat tasted of sandpaper and guilt and, when Yoongi was in fifth grade, he threw up, purposefully, for the first time. He’d heard the girls a few grades above him talking about it during lunch, once. How they needed to lose weight to stay on the cheer squad, so they shoved fingers or toothbrushes or spoon handles down their throats until they gagged. Until what they ate in front of people could easily be flushed away without concern for their waistlines.
Yoongi didn’t care about his waistline, but he figured that if he made himself throw up enough, his body would learn to dislike food. He reasoned that that made sense. It would be a learned behavior. It would be--it was like that guy with the dogs and the bell. He’d train himself to dislike the taste of food by making himself throw it back up.
And no one liked throwing up.
In strange contrast to Yoongi’s initial plan, the act of puking became almost therapeutic in and of itself. Sometimes, even on days Yoongi wouldn’t eat, he’d find himself slouched against the toilet in the house, cheek resting on the cool seat, warming it slowly the longer he sat. He’d breath in deep and let it back out in short puffs, eyes closing in every attempt to ground himself back from whatever he needed to forget about.
The smell wasn’t bad, per say. It wasn’t as though the toilet smelled like shit when no one had used it for a few hours, and there was no piss on the seat. It was just--strange? He’d started to associate the smell with throwing up, and throwing up made him feel good . It got him closer to thinner cheeks. To a flatter stomach. To eating fewer calories so his family could spend less to fill him up.
He was conditioning himself.
Yoongi likened it to a runner conditioning himself for a marathon.
His sport was being thin. Being less.
Of a burden.
In the way.
Less of a lot of things.
Yoongi graduated high school on time. Eighteen and the Class of 2011. He didn’t walk--he would have been in the photos, and Yoongi stopped joining in on non mandatory group photos when he was twelve and felt as though he got in the way. He wanted to give everyone else a chance to shine, so he stayed away.
(When he couldn’t get out of the photos, he’d hunker in the back, arms tucked close to his body in every attempt to be As Small As Possible. His mother, when she saw him, would ask him to try and get to the front just once.
He’d shrug and mumble something about assigned photo positions.)
It didn’t matter that Yoongi could barely get out of bed on graduation day, choosing instead to stay curled under a thick duvet, shivering every so often and wondering if it would be too much effort to turn the lights on.
College was necessary, Yoongi knew. His parents--god, bless his parents. Working so hard for years to make sure he had clothes good enough to attend school, electricity and internet to do his homework, and food--had made a savings account when they had moved. It was small, having been dipped into a few times when things got rough, but it would be enough to start Yoongi out for college. It could at least help with his text books for the first year.
So Yoongi applied and Yoongi got accepted, joining an architecture program in the neighboring city. He took the bus and carried only what he could move with his own two hands. His clothes, though he wore them baggy, didn’t take up more than one suitcase anyway.
His entire world in two pieces of luggage and a back pack, folded neat and easily on wheels.
But college was a lot harder than anticipated. In high school, he could get away with skipping a few days. He was smart ( is smart) and caught up easily on the work he missed when he couldn’t drag himself out of bed (whether from physical weakness or just a general inability to convince himself to crawl his way from beneath suffocating blanket folds).
It was different here. The work was harder. It moved at a faster pace. Yoongi could barely keep up.
Three months in and one of his professors pulled him aside, worried.
“Perhaps you should talk to the counselor, Yoongi?” She’d said. “It’s free for students, and I think he’d be able to help you.”
Yoongi had simply smiled, lips closed around stained teeth. The expression didn’t reach his eyes but, then again, it rarely did. “Thank you; I’ll think about it.”
But what would be the point? Yoongi knows what the problem is.
It stares at him in the mornings when he looks in the mirror.
Yoongi bleaches his hair when he can’t explain away the unusual thinness with ‘genetics’ anymore.
He eats less on days people bump into him when walking around campus.
He faints in the quad on the way to his third class of the day. It’s Wednesday and it’s slightly chilly. He’s wrapped in an undershirt, a button down, a sweater, and his coat, but still couldn’t fight off the ice inside his blood.
His parents hadn’t done anything to his bedroom, but Yoongi finds no solace in his old sheets. In the old blankets. In the posters and mementos that changed little since he’d moved here so many years back.
But, even so, Yoongi came back home. Yoongi stayed in bed and Yoongi stayed ill.
But--but!--every other Wednesday, and the last Friday of every month, EatJin would post a video. And every other Wednesday and last Friday of every month, Yoongi would watch.
And so, sometimes, Yoongi ate.
Yoongi’s mother threw her bathroom scale out after Yoongi had been back home for two weeks. She didn’t say anything, but Yoongi took it as a sign. He put on a few pounds, being at home. It wasn’t nearly as stressful being here than at school.
Yoongi stayed in bed most days. When he crawled out from under his blanket prison, he’d do something in the house--wash dishes or clean the bathroom. He tried to be helpful. He tried to be less of a burden. Less of a disappointment. Just less.
Sometimes, Yoongi would play an old video of Jin eating, just to listen to it. The sounds the man made--usually, eating noises threw Yoongi off. They made his stomach clench uneasily. Jin’s did none of that. Jin’s sounds were cute. They were soft and contemplative and, often, he would comment about ingredients while there was still food in his mouth. He’d moan and ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ and Yoongi could (and often, would) lose himself in the sounds.
Jin made a suggestion one day--it was offhanded, but Yoongi caught it.
A live stream? There might be a live stream?
Yoongi could get behind that.
The show was late. Oh God. Oh God? Maybe something happened to Jin? Maybe there was a car accident? Hadn't his twitter said something about getting take out?
(Of course it had. Yoongi follows his twitter religiously. He checks every new post immediately. He smiles at the jokes. (And God they're dumb. They're so dumb. Just the other day, Jin had asked if birds have trouble paying their bills, and how it was unfair that they were born with them. It was so dumb. ) He thinks, even if it's for a moment, about what the food Jin shows must taste like.
So yeah. Okay. Jin said he was getting take out. Yoongi read it on Twitter and committed it to memory. Who cares?)
Yoongi’s hands hover over the keyboard, but he stops, staring at the scratches and scrapes along his knuckles. The tinting on his fingernails. What does he even say? What would he even bring up? Wouldn't it be weird? It would be weird. It would be so, so strange and everyone else watching would think he was weird and it just--
“Sorry I'm late!” the screen of Yoongi’s laptop goes from black to strangely red-yellow-pink as Jin manhandles the camera, making sure it's lined up properly. “The delivery guy got stuck in traffic. This first stream is starting off great, huh?” And then he smiles and it's lopsided and pulls his face funny and Yoongi sucks a breath, sharp, in through his teeth.
They ache with the movement, but he ignores it in favor of leaning closer to his laptop, wondering at the man on the other end of the camera. Yoongi’s tongue swipes across the dull yellow of once white teeth, brows scrunching when he pushes too hard on the tender gums.
“I guess I should have ordered peanut butter. You know. Because a traffic jam?” Jin laughs, and it's high and hiccuping and Yoongi purses his lips, caught between scowling at the joke and smiling at the reaction Jin gives himself.
‘the joke could have been butter’ Yoongi finally types into the chat box. He yanks his hands back immediately, staring at the screen in mute horror. Had he just--what had he--oh God.
His first comment ever-- ever --and it was a pun. Jin was going to block him. Yoongi would have to make a new account and follow again, wouldn't he? This was just--
Jin laughs and Yoongi frowns, brows furrowed while he watches the screen, confused.
“Excuse you, MinAgustD, but I think my jokes are top notch.” Jin opens the take out container. Or at least one of them. Yoongi counts two more off to the side and wonders what Jin will be eating today. Yoongi has two pieces of plain toast set aside, ready if he gets peckish, but now his stomach is turning and churning and, sure, Jin responded, but like. Still. Still?
“Alright. Anyway, shall we get started? First live stream on YouNow is a-go! So, I ordered Chinese from this place downtown. Super tasty, and honestly, it's kinda cheap, which is good because I eat a lot. I'm gonna miss this place when I switch schools next year and I hope my new university has something like it.”
Yoongi swallows past the lump in his throat while Jin talks. He shows the food to the camera, chattering as he does. Each dish gets gestured at with cheap, disposable chopsticks, but Jin doesn't start eating until he's pointed everything out. It's enough food to make Yoongi sick just knowing Jin will eat it all. If Yoongi ate that much at one time…well.
(He has eaten that much, of course. But he spent a good long while getting more well acquainted to the toilet in his apartment or his parents house or the school when he had the chance afterwards. But Jin wouldn't have. Jin isn't a mess. Jin isn't disgusting. Jin would have done what he says he always does--spend a little extra time at the gym. Nothing too extreme. Just a half hour more of whatever his routine dictates.)
It's only a minute or two in, and Yoongi finds himself getting distracted. The camera for the live show is set in a different spot than the recorded ones. Or at least there's something different in the background and, of course, Yoongi notices. He's subconsciously memorized the layout of Jin’s living room and kitchen. (He hadn't meant to, of course. It just kind of…happened. And then one day he was watching a video and Jin gestured to the left and Yoongi had absent-mindedly thought ‘oh, the beat up recliner is over there’ and that had been that.)
(Yoongi feels… creepy knowing all of this. There are a lot of things he doesn’t know about Jin--no one knows much, and Yoongi has looked. He’s scoured the internet trying to find something-- anything --that would hint at information, but nothing came up. So the fact that he knows what his apartment is like freaks him out--Jin wouldn’t like that, would he?)
‘i like the lamp on the end table’
Jin leans toward the laptop he has set up on the side so he can read comments, and he grins.
“Thanks, MinagustD! It was a gift from--well. It doesn't matter. It was a gift. It only really lets out dim light, though. But it is tinted blue, which is cool, right?”
Yoongi smiles at his laptop and reaches to the side, dragging the plate of toast closer.
‘well, it’s nice. thank them a little better’
‘butter, i mean’
And Jin laughs again.
And Yoongi finishes his toast by the time Jin signs off, saying the live stream was a success and thanking everyone for joining him for dinner.
The next day, Yoongi offers to do the grocery shopping for the week. His father jumps at the suggestion (Yoongi? Getting out of the house? Of his own choice?) and leaves a detailed shopping list on the kitchen counter. Yoongi knows enough to get the cheapest, but there are a few things you don’t buy generic, and his father’s marked them on the paper.
But walking into the grocery store is almost overwhelming. Yoongi had done his shopping for school at the local gas station. It had just enough and the right kinds of what Yoongi needed to eat to live and little else. When he needed more and more and more food, he’d buy the cheap candies and cup ramen.
(Cheap because--well. He couldn’t afford expensive food and he also knew, in the back of his mind, that he’d be throwing it up anyway. What’s the point in puking good food down the toilet?)
But Yoongi finds himself staring down the produce aisle, expression one of practiced indifference despite the internal confusion he’s feeling. After a moment, he lifts his phone and snaps a picture of the fruits and vegetables, hesitating for a few seconds before sending it to Jin’s Twitter by way of a DM. It’s attached to a short message that reads ‘what the hell kind of options are these; how does anyone make a decision?’
Yoongi doesn’t know why he waits, but he does, staring down at his phone. He knows that he and Jin are in the same time zone--Eat Jin’s first livestream happened at the same time for Jin as it did for Yoongi. And it’s currently mid-morning (or, really, Too Early, if you’re asking Yoongi, but it’s usually too early, if you ask Yoongi, and no one ever really does), so the other man should be up, right?
Then again, he may be in a class. He still goes to school, doesn’t he? (Of course he does. Yoongi knows this.) So there’s every possibility he won’t answer.
And besides--he’s talked to him twice--only twice! And it was at the same time! There’s no reason for him to want to--
‘Oh! MinAgustD! I didn’t realize you followed my twitter too! Thank you so much’
‘And, it seems daunting, but it’s actually pretty easy; what are you looking to get?’
Yoongi stares. He only blinks when his eyes dry out too much and they start to burn.
He can totally do this.
Actually sending the first DM had been relatively easy. There was a chance (a nearly perfect chance, if asking Yoongi, but no one ever does) that he wouldn’t respond. Everything would stay as it was--Yoongi would watch his videos without worry. Sometimes Yoongi would eat. Jin would continue to do things Yoongi secretly wishes he could.
(But Yoongi isn’t Jin. Yoongi is disgusting. Yoongi is gross. Yoongi is too much .)
But now, there’s a response. It’s just--it’s sitting there. It was read; Yoongi knows that Jin knows he read it. But the minutes still tick by. But Yoongi stares at his phone.
He realizes he sent a response when he gets one in return and, really, he doesn’t even know what he typed.
‘Mangoes? Oh those are easy! Don’t go by colors; everyone thinks that’s right, but it’s not.’
‘It should, like. Be a little soft? Not rock hard, but not squishy. And smell the stem’
‘It’ll smell like fruit!’
Yoongi’s response is a simple ‘oh, thanks’.
He goes home with three mangoes and leaves them on the kitchen counter. The next afternoon, EatJin uploads another video--he’s not only eating, but cooking mango rice. Yoongi manages to eat half of the fruit he cuts up, and slides the remainder into the fridge.
Going back to college is hard. It's difficult. But Yoongi has a little more weight to him. He hasn't felt like fainting in over two months. His mother thinks he looks a little happier, but Yoongi doesn't know what part of him she's seeing. He looks in the mirror and sees frizzled hair, bagged eyes, stained teeth, and bitten lips. But he supposes it's a Mother Thing. She looks at him and sees the little baby she once held rather than the fragile man he grew to be.
But it is what it is. The world is harsh and, once upon a time, Yoongi had been malleable. He'd been innocent and easily swayed. (Once upon a time, Yoongi ate three meals a day and snacked between. Once upon a time, his cheeks were rosy. Once upon a time a lot of things, but those are no longer.)
Now, Yoongi is rigid. He is set in ways he, himself, barely understands. He is no longer soft clay to be formed by the hands of those around him. Too much has been picked away and molded into form, and he's been tossed into the kiln to solidify and harden.
Yoongi shares an apartment with a tall framed, skinny man named Namjoon. He's taking engineering classes, but often randomly winds up in history or biology or music theory. Yoongi discovers Namjoon loves to learn, so he sometimes leaves his architecture textbooks sitting on the kitchen table for Namjoon to leaf through. On the rare occasions they go out together (Namjoon has his own friends. His own people. His own problems. When he and Yoongi hang out outside of being home at the same time, it's due to the busy schedules of Namjoon’s usual entourage and not because Namjoon wants to do something with Yoongi) (Yoongi assumes, at least. Rarely do people chose him for any occasion or reason other than necessity or guilt) Namjoon will question what he sees. He inquires as to whether the columns on the church they pass are ionic or corinthian (the distinction easy to make, but often forgotten if not studied well enough) or asks what kind of archway a building has.
Yoongi give answers if he cares enough. Usually, he's just content to be moving around and will gladly correct Namjoon should the opportunity present itself, but for the most part, he's a silent partner in their expeditions.
Usually, the pair go out to eat. They'll walk to a restaurant in town and order lunch or dinner or, once in a blue moon, breakfast. Yoongi is really good at pretending to eat a lot. He distracts with conversation and pushes the food around the plate, every so often pulling an empty fork to his mouth.
He takes the leftovers home, knowing he'll pick through them later, but mostly throw it out when Namjoon isn't paying attention. He doesn't know why that bothers him, but it does. That he has to make sure Namjoon doesn't know. That he has to worry about something like that. Namjoon probably doesn’t notice either way.
Namjoon doesn't question him, though, which is a miracle in and of itself.
Other than Namjoon dragging Yoongi to meals every so often, he stays in. Classes are a priority, of course, but even then, it's hard sometimes. Dragging himself out of bed or into the shower on the worst days is too much. He skips classes when the energy isn't there and, once he wakes up and realizes there's no way he can fix it, the guilt sets in. And guilt, with all its other problems, just makes him queasy.
‘do you know if there's a food to help a sour stomach?’
Predictably, Jin responds quickly, as though he has nothing better to do than watch twitter. (Yoongi chides himself for thinking like that. It's probably just the timing, that's all. The clock on his phone says it's two PM, so it's possible Jin is done with classes and taking a break.)
‘Apples and bananas are good. Sipping water might help--small sips! And crackers or toast. Anything plain and grainy you have lying around’
‘I'm sorry you're not feeling well’
‘My mom also always made me drink ginger and mint tea? But don't make tea unless you can be sure you won't drop the kettle’
Yoongi plays his fingers around the sides of his phone, unsure how to answer back. They've spoken like this from time to time--Yoongi asks food related questions and Jin answers. So far, he's never seemed wrong, which is nice. It's reliable. (Yoongi likes that he's reliable. It somehow calms some of his thoughts, and he doesn't understand why.) But it's also strange--Yoongi knows very little about Jin. Other than what he's picked up from the channel, there isn't much Yoongi has figured out.
(The biggest achievement so far: his favorite colors are pink and blue. In contrast, Jin knows Yoongi is an only child, his major and intended career path, about Namjoon. Jin knows Yoongi's name--first name, at least--though he never uses it, which is odd. He always calls him Agust in his DM’s.) (Occasionally, Jin mentions him during his videos. ‘I was talking to Agust the other day’ or ‘Agust mentioned eating this and I got super hungry for it’. Simple things, but always amazing in Yoongi’s eyes.)
(He always eats something when Jin mentions his name. Always.)
So Yoongi pulls himself out of bed, tummy turning, and pads to the kitchen and the fridge. He pulls out water to drink and, within the hour, he feels better. Not great--not even good-- but better. It’s a start.
‘the water helped. thanks.’
There's no reply, but Yoongi doesn't sweat it. What would Jin have said? ‘You're welcome,’ probably. Which isn't even worth the bother, honestly. So Yoongi let's it go.
(Later that night, he realizes he hadn't thought about it once. He hadn't thought that Jin was just annoyed or irritated with him too much to respond. It's nice.)
There isn't any real dramatic changes during this spring semester. Yoongi doesn't go to the counselor like he told his professor he would, he hasn't started eating more (save the few times he eats everything and then goes about removing everything), he doesn't put on any dramatic weight. (Though he does gain a few pounds. He doesn't know the number, but he can just feel it. He knows he weighs more, but Namjoon doesn't have a scale, and Yoongi doesn't want to go to the gym and use theirs.)
But he does stay for the entire spring semester. He finishes it out and officially becomes a sophomore by the school's standards. A second year student. It's a good thing, he decides. To be moving on. To be doing well enough to pass his classes. (Perhaps not with amazing grades, but there's no cause for alarm. His professors find him a pleasure in their lectures, despite a general wish that he'd talk more.)
So Yoongi goes home for the summer. He watches EatJin. He sends him messages about food or day-to-day goings on that he thinks will interest the man. (His neighbors adopt a puppy--Holly, they name it--and Yoongi, dog sitting for extra cash, sends endless pictures of the canine. Jin responds favorably and Yoongi is content with himself and the knowledge that, at the very least, Jin likes dogs.)
(“You know,” Yoongi starts one day, threading his fingers through the curly caramel of Holly’s fur, “that one day, you'll grow big and strong. Or, I guess not big. You're a miniature poodle, so you'll only get a little bigger. But you'll get stronger, kinda. And maybe a little less cute.” Yoongi pauses, face contorting unhappily for a moment. “No. You’ll just get more cute. Maybe not puppy cute anymore, but personality cute, I guess,” he shakes his head.
“Whatever,” Holly tips her head. “You’ll get a little bigger and a little stronger and a lot more like you .” Yoongi smiles. It’s soft and fond and, god. God does he love this dog. She’s quiet and gentle and, yeah, okay. Sure, sometimes she chews on his shoe laces or the sleeves of his sweater. Sometimes she yaps and yips nonstop and gnaws on his fingers. But she’s cute. She’s perfect. She’s--
“Holly, no, come on. Stop eating grass; you’ll throw up. Anyway, as I was saying….”)
Summers end, as they always do. Holly grows older (and more mischievous. Once or twice, she somehow manages to sneak into Yoongi’s house. There are no low windows and no doggy door. It's an absolute mystery. But Yoongi always hides her away in his bedroom for a few hours. Cuddles on the bed and talks to her quietly while she licks at his thin wrists and chews on his unwashed pillows) and the dry heat gives way to breezy autumn. Yoongi gets his hair cut and rebleached, packs his bags, and leaves.
It'll be fine.
Despite all odds, Namjoon actually wanted to room with Yoongi again. It’s a surprise, considering how many other friends the engineer has under his belt. Yoongi hasn’t met them, but Namjoon references them in enough conversations that Yoongi can follow along. They’re all different majors, but met through the honors group at the school and, really, if anyone should be in the honors program, it’s Namjoon Fucking Kim. Yoongi assumes his friends are the same way--smart and kind--but doesn’t go out of his way to meet any of them. He’s decently okay in his own little world, but easily remembers the things Namjoon says about his friends.
(Often, conversations wind up with Namjoon being surprised-- “So, Taehyung was talking--wait, sorry, he’s my friend from--.”
“Biology, first semester. He has a dog, but that doesn’t stop him from asking to pet every one he sees. He helps his grandparents with their strawberry farm every summer and is working on a long-term experiment concerning crop cross-breeding.”
“Oh. I...yeah. Yeah. So. Uh, anyway!”)
Yoongi starts eating plain toast for breakfast most days. His stomach doesn’t protest too much, and he’s--well. He’s proud of himself, somehow. He can’t explain it--everything feels a little better.
Until it doesn’t.
The night is like any other, really. It’s the last Friday of August--the last Friday of the first month of college. Jin had premade videos to post while he was getting settled into his new university, and this day was no exception. Yoongi watched it late at night, sucking the juice from his mango slices before chewing them slowly and carefully.
His phone buzzes and, instinctively, Yoongi manages to locate it, pick it up, and unlock it without looking. Inevitably, he has to glance down, and he does so after pausing the video only to see, to his surprise, a Twitter notification.
Jin had messaged him first.
Jin had messaged him first.
Yoongi swallows back the bundled nerves in his throat, feeling it tighten in his chest. There’s nothing he can really do about that at the moment, so he settles for opening his messages.
‘my mothre,’ Jin has typed, ‘says evyone onlin hides thingss. what r yuo hiding augusssstt. who ar yoou?’
Yoongi panics, but he’s unsure why. He closes his laptop harshly and shoves it into the corner of his desk without much though. The remaining mango slices are tossed into the trash and Yoongi warms a corner of the toilet with his cheek after he throws up.
He’s lucky the following day is Saturday. He wouldn’t have gone to his classes anyway.
Yoongi wakes up in his bed and doesn’t remember how he got there. (Later in the afternoon, Namjoon will ask how he’s feeling and apologize for moving him. But he had come home from a night out and needed to piss, and Yoongi was sleeping on the bathroom floor, so he’d just picked the man up and tucked him in and got him a bowl for the nightstand in case he had to throw up again.)
Yoongi wakes up to his twitter inbox holding more notifications and unread messages than he’s ever seen it.
They’re all from Jin.
Yoongi closes his eyes and rubs his palms into them, as though that will make the situation better. It doesn’t. The messages are still there.
‘Oh my god.’
‘I’m so sorry, Agust.’
‘I’m SO SORRY.’
‘I was out last night with some new friends and got drunk.’
‘I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I wanted to delete it in the morning because I knew I sent it, but you’d already read it.’
‘And I know you didn’t respond, but please, just. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.’
Yoongi swallows and tosses his phone back onto his bed. He needs a shower. He needs a shower and something to drink.
It takes longer than he’ll admit to roll off his mattress and get into the bathroom. In the end, he mostly stands under the shower’s spray, but at least he shampoos his hair before getting out. There’s coffee and water for breakfast, and he stays inside all day. Namjoon is nursing a hangover and Yoongi’s only suggestion when asked for a cure is to try ‘hair of the dog.’
And then Yoongi shuts himself into his room for the remainder of the day.
The weekend passes in an almost blur. Yoongi doesn’t respond and he doesn’t finish the video he had started on Friday. He sits in his bedroom, drinks water, and does a few short, beginning of the year assignments that will only grow harder as time progresses.
Monday rolls around far too quickly, but Yoongi goes to class. It helps that he and Namjoon both have a class that starts at nine in the morning. Yoongi almost wants to skip, but hearing Namjoon moving around outside his door all but forces Yoongi to get up as well. Namjoon has two plates of buttered toast sitting on the table and Yoongi pauses to watch it, glancing between the empty chair and Namjoon.
“I mean,” the younger starts, “It’s no Waffle Shop, but it’s something to keep you from starving all day, right? Or at least until lunch--you’re lucky. Your classes are next to the dining hall. Mine are all at EC and it’d take me twenty minutes to walk for food. I’m taking a granola bar or something with me, I guess.”
Yoongi swallows thickly. He can’t argue with Namjoon. The man knows he hasn't eaten yet today. Namjoon has seen everything Yoongi’s done that morning and he knows--he knows .
So Yoongi sits and he half chokes back the toast.
“Yeah. Lucky, I guess.”
His first class is still mostly empty when he gets there. He’s early, which is fine. It gives him the opportunity to settle into a desk of his choosing, as opposed to a forced last-pick option. So he goes for the back left corner--it’s by the windows, but the large pine keeps the morning sun from streaming in too much.
Yoongi pays little attention to what’s going on around him until he hears the voice--a voice he would know from anywhere. From anyone.
“This is Intro to Health, right? With Mr. Dutch?” the question isn’t for him, but Yoongi still looks toward the door and spots Jin--Jin. Jin. --standing there, backpack and class schedule in hand. “I transferred into this class at the end of last week, but wound up sitting through a green sanitation class on Friday by accident, so I’m just double checking.”
“It is, yeah” another student--not Yoongi. It will never be Yoongi--responds. “Why didn’t you just leave the other class?”
Jin slides into a seat next to the student in the front, smiling easily in her direction. “There were only six other people there and the professor was so intriguing? You could tell she really loved the subject, you know? So I stuck around.”
The girl laughs and the pair continue on with small talk as the room begins to fill, but Yoongi can’t concentrate on much other than the man sitting across the room and in front of him. All sound filters out, save for his own bodily functions--the beating of his heart is heavy in his head. He can feel and hear the churning of his stomach. His inflation and deflation of his lungs as he breaths in shallow gulps of air. It feels like a panic attack--he’s had enough to familiarize himself with the feeling--but he doesn’t want it to be.
That would just be perfect. Finally meeting Jin--finally seeing him. In person. In the flesh. Right there--and having a panic attack. Yoongi isn’t--he’s not ready. It’s too soon.
(He’d thought, perhaps, that one day they’d see each other. When Yoongi wasn’t so disgusting and in his own head. When he could face the man in his mirror without fear or judgement. He had known, of course, from the way Jin had spoken and the things and places he referenced that they lived in the same state. Maybe not around the same area, but at least the same state. So it was always possible that, one day, they’d meet. But.
But Yoongi isn’t ready. )
(Truth be told, he’s not sure he’d ever be.)
Yoongi can’t concentrate on the class. It’s a gen-ed anyway--a review of what he’d learned in high school. There will be a unit on alcohol and cigarettes and birth control. They’ll talk about stress and exercise and, probably, menstruation.
But everything is a mess.
How is Jin here?
How is he here?
Yoongi manages to force the panic attack down. He’s not sure how, but the fear of drawing attention to himself (from Jin, mostly) might have been enough. He’s not positive. But, even though he hadn’t gotten ill, he still didn’t attend the rest of his classes that day. He goes home and sleeps. Or he tries to. No, Yoongi lays on his bed and tosses and turns until he gives up and slides to his knees in front of the toilet. His knuckles are already scarred, but Yoongi presses fingers back into his mouth, scraping against his teeth, until he’s choking on bile and partially digested toast. Everything hurts.
Everything just hurts .
“I need to tell him,” Yoongi’s working up the courage to brush his teeth--his gums ache and his teeth are sensitive, even to the special toothpaste he gets--but also gearing up for Intro to Health. “I can’t just...not. He deserves to know. It’s been months-- years. I need to. I need to. ”
Yoongi doesn’t tell him.
Seokjin--Yoongi had found out his full name from the attendance sheet the professor passed around each class. Seokjin Kim--walks into the class at his usual time and takes his usual seat in the front. He speaks to his friends (he’s so good at making friends, Yoongi finds. All he has to do is turn and talk and, immediately, everyone loves him) and ignores the back corner where Yoongi sits.
Most of them do anyway.
But--but Seokjin has to be different, right? He has to be the same man that’s been on the other side of Yoongi’s computer screen. If he wasn’t?
Then who had Yoongi been caring about all this time? Who had he wasted his time on?
So, two weeks into class, Yoongi bumps into Seokjin while leaving. Typically, Yoongi is one of the last to leave. His next class is only a few floors down, so he doesn’t have to rush. But today, he gathers his things and tries to initiate a meeting.
He didn’t actually mean to run into Seokjin so hard he knocks himself over, but Yoongi winds up on the floor regardless of his initial intent.
“Oh my god--are you okay?” Yoongi turns his head up, blinking slowly when he meets Seokjin’s eyes. He’s not--he doesn’t seem to be angry. He doesn’t seem to be disgusted, even as he continues to stare down at Yoongi and his thin cheeks. The burst veins that scatter across his face. His eyes, bagged and dull. Seokjin just watches, gaze undisturbed and caring. “Here,” Seokjin holds out a hand, “let me help you up. I didn’t see you coming out of the door. I’m really sorry! You didn’t lose anything, did you?”
Yoongi wets his lips, sucking in a slow breath. He starts to reach up, but his hand shakes and he’s not sure if it’s nerves, the cold, or the fact that he suddenly feels like he’s going to puke, but Yoongi starts to pull his hand back. Seokjin is faster, snatching Yoongi by his wrist (his fingers curl around it entirely, encircling Yoongi’s arm like a snare) and starting to pull the smaller man up to his feet. If he notices the scars, rough and ragged along Yoongi’s knuckles, he doesn't say anything.
Yoongi is sure he noticed.
“Here,” Seokjin uses Yoongi as leverage, continuing to hold down his hand while he bends to pick up Yoongi’s bag and the notebook that had fallen out. Once he's standing again, though, he releases his grip. “Is this everything?”
Yoongi reaches out carefully, thin fingers curling around the loose strap that Seokjin isn't holding. “I…think so, yeah. I, um--I need to--I watch--,” he stops each sentence, abating the thoughts before they finish.
He can't tell Seokjin. He can't. Yoongi is an absolute mess. A terror. Disgusting and insignificant and not worthy of being in the presence of someone so…amazing. So kind and so--unapologetically himself.
Yoongi pulls his bag hard and turns, starting quickly down the hall and, with a heavy shove, gets the stairwell door open and runs down the steps as soon as he's out if Seokjin’s sight. The other man stands in careful contemplation, confused and worried, if only for a moment.
“You forgot your…notebook. Okay, well,” Seokjin opens to the first page as his voice trails off to little more than a quiet mumble. “I guess I'll return this to you on Friday, Yoongi Min.”
Yoongi burrows into his blankets the rest of the day. He heaves air in and out until his chest aches. He squirms on his bed, restless and unable to get comfortable. Unsure if he deserves to be or not. It’s stuffy under the covers with his breath fogging and warming the air, but he doesn’t leave, even when sweat matts his hair to his forehead and the nap of his neck. It takes him an hour to realize he left his shoes on and two more to remember he had an exam in his eleven o’clock trigonometry class. He’ll have to email his professor and ask-- beg --for a retake. Trig is a required class for his major and he has to pass it with at least a B- to eventually graduate.
Namjoon knocks on his bedroom door a little after seven at night, but he doesn’t come in. He doesn’t even try the knob, despite knowing the door isn’t locked. He allows Yoongi the privilege--he gives Yoongi the right--to wallow in his own room, mostly undisturbed.
“I’m going out with some friends tonight, Yoongi. I should be back by midnight, but you know how Tae and Jungkook can get when there’s alcohol involved,” he pauses, contemplative for a moment. “It’s a weekday, so I won’t get too drunk and I’ll make sure the kids stay out of trouble. Don’t worry about them or me, but I’ll text you when I start for home so you’ll have an idea of when to expect me.”
Namjoon doesn’t move and Yoongi knows it. There were no footsteps leading away from the door. Yoongi can hear Namjoon’s heavy, nasal breathing above his own. (All of Namjoon’s snoring had come from somewhere, of course. It seems he always had a weird nose problem--a nasal voice and small snorts when he laughed too hard. He even sneezed weird, the sound cutting off too soon to make a loud mouse-like squeak with nothing coming out. It was no wonder he snored like a goddamn freight train.)
It takes another three minutes before Namjoon reveals the real reason he hasn’t moved.
“I ordered takeout for dinner. I got you some of that mango rice from the Thai place down the block? It’s in the fridge, and you and I both know it’ll taste super funky in the morning or whatever. But it’s there if you want it. I know you’re probably feeling super gross--Hoseok said you missed the trig exam, and he told your prof that you were laid up in bed with food poisoning--but sometimes putting something in your belly helps settle it out. Or that’s what my mom says, at least. Sometimes she says weird things,” Namjoon pauses again and Yoongi shifts on his bed. It squeaks loud enough that the man in the hall hears and Yoongi hisses under his breath. Now, it’s clear he was listening--Yoongi doesn’t move when he sleeps. “I need to go before I’m late and Jimin complains that his hairspray is going to lose its effect or something. Who knows, right? But uh. Just. Yeah. Thai food. Mango rice. Fridge. Feel better, Yoongi.”
This time, Namjoon does leave and Yoongi waits until the apartment door is closed to throw the blankets off his head, greedily sucking fresh air in as though he had been starved of oxygen. His lungs ache with the harshness of his breathing, but still, he continues. Yoongi only stops pulling in sharp, heavy breaths when his too-warm body cools to a manageable level.
Namjoon bought him dinner--it’s small and, sure, Yoongi knows how much it costs. It’s not much--barely five bucks for a large order--but it's in the fridge.
Namjoon bought him dinner, and Yoongi needs to eat it. He has to. Namjoon spent money on it and, sure. Namjoon isn't from a family like Yoongi's, but he's a college kid without a job, so he’s not much better off at the moment. Yoongi can't let him waste that money.
But he doesn't feel like eating. He doesn't want to. (He doesn't remember the last time he thought about wanting to eat. It's always been have to have to have to . Have to to survive.)
Yoongi brings the rice into his bedroom and finally-- finally --pulls up EatJin. It's strange to see that powder pink header logo. It's strange to see that face in the thumbnail when he sees it three times a week in class.
It's strange, but Yoongi needs to eat.
He watches the newest video. He's missed a few, so there is enough material to last for a few days. A few meals.
At least a few pieces of toast, if Yoongi’s being honest.
But he eats the rice. It’s sweet and makes his teeth ache. Some bites taste sour on his tongue, but he cleans the bowl. Yoongi heads to the kitchen to throw it out--if he tosses it into the trashcan in his room, he’ll have to keep smelling it. The scent will linger longer than it will after having just eaten it, and that’s not something he wants to have happen.
He doesn’t go back to his bedroom.
Instead, Yoongi makes a sandwich--bread and peanut butter and honey. He eats it standing over the sink to catch the crumbs, and follows it with the remainder of a bag of chips he finds in the cupboard. A package of ramen. An apple. Two candy bars from the fridge.
By the time Namjoon comes home--midnight on the dot--Yoongi’s eaten through half the food in the apartment and made a trip to the gas station across the street to purchase fifteen dollars worth of ramen cups. In the time they’ve lived together, Namjoon has never come home to such a mess. Yoongi’s eating influxes have conveniently always coincided with a long break and Namjoon’s return to his home town, or a trip the honors group had planned. Namjoon’s never seen this.
This time--this eating indiscretion--Namjoon joins Yoongi in the bathroom, rubbing between his shoulder blades while Yoongi dry heaves, no longer having anything to spit up. Yoongi’s fingers shine with his own bile and saliva, but Namjoon doesn’t mention it when he wipes them down with a wet washcloth, following up with Yoongi’s face, just to cover all his bases.
“Come on, Yoongi,” it’s soft. The quietest Yoongi’s ever heard him talk, even when it’s midnight and he’s on the phone with his younger sister, whispering to not disturb Yoongi. (He does, but Yoongi wouldn’t admit it.) “Let’s get you into bed, okay? Can I change you into something more comfortable? Would that be okay?” There’s not really an answer, but Namjoon does it anyway, carefully removing jeans and the two top layers Yoongi had on. He leaves the elder momentarily in his briefs on the bed, shivering and quaking and stomach churning irritably.
Yoongi sees it in Namjoon’s expression--he doesn’t want to stare, but it’s hard. Yoongi is rarely seen without sweaters and pants--usually sweatpants, but jeans if he’s feeling well enough. He knows he’s a sight to see. Jutting ribs and slight wrists. Pale skin contrasting against the navy of Yoongi’s comforter. Namjoon takes a step toward the bathroom, looking as though he'll be sick, and Yoongi swallows, watching him with dull, cloudy eyes.
Namjoon digs through Yoongi’s dresser instead, and pulls out clean pajamas--thick flannel. Warm--and awkwardly works on redressing the man on the bed. Yoongi, for his part, allows Namjoon to manhandle him easily. He doesn’t resist and shifts with each gentle press of Namjoon’s hands.
“I’m going to stay here until you’re asleep, okay?” Namjoon works the blankets gently out from under Yoongi, pulling them up and over the prone form in front of him. He tucks them in, carefully fitting the covers against the sharp angles of Yoongi’s body. Namjoon doesn’t leave the bed when he’s finished. He lays across the foot of it, parallel to the headboard, and watches the ceiling, lost in his own thoughts, but mostly listening.
He waits for Yoongi’s breathing to even out before he gets back up.
When Yoongi slinks out of his bedroom the next morning, the apartment is clean. The food wrappers and packages he’d left litter the floor and kitchen counters are gone. The trash has been taken out and there’s a note on the table, next to an empty glass and a pair of orange pills.
‘Don’t worry! I wanted to clean the kitchen
anyway; drink water, take the pills. I’m
bringing home chicken soup from the Hall
for lunch. Email trig prof about exam!!
The writing is messy, but legible, and Yoongi reads it four times to be sure he properly understands. The pills are downed with a few sips of water, and Yoongi collapses onto the couch, limbs refusing to hold his weight for longer than they need to in order to get him from the shitty kitchen table to their equally as shitty sofa. (Which Namjoon had found sitting on the curb during a yard sale that past summer. It had been old--so old, in fact, that the owners had given it away, not bothering to ask for payment. There were questionable stains on some of the cushions, but Namjoon and Yoongi just turned them over and found--well. More stains, yeah, but smaller ones. The biggest selling point, however, was the pink and yellow floral patterns. “Perfect,” Namjoon had told Yoongi over the phone once he’d finally convinced Taehyung to haul it in his pick-up truck, “for two, young bachelors living in almost-squalor just off campus.”)
He lays there for god knows how long. He gets comfortable. He is exhausted.
And so Yoongi falls asleep.
He wakes to the apartment door opening and Namjoon kicking his boots off. When the younger realizes Yoongi’s in the living room, he freezes, watching him carefully as though trying to decide if he’s asleep or not. Yoongi helps him out.
“I...thank you, Namjoon. For--.”
“You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to.”
Yoongi swallows. He wants to. He wants to. But does Namjoon deserve it? What has he done other than be otherworldly in his kindness? Yoongi sits up.
“Thank you for last night. And for his morning,” a pause. “I haven’t emailed my professor yet, but I will.” Yoongi stands, moving forward until he can reach the bag Namjoon is holding. “I’ll...reheat the soup for our dinner?” His face reads uncertainty, but Namjoon doesn’t argue, just nods slowly and releases his grip on the plastic bag.
They eat dinner in silence, Yoongi chewing on small bites and, mostly, just drinking broth. But it eases his swirling stomach and Namjoon’s racing mind, so he finishes the bowl and washes the dishes.
“I'll help with the email,” Namjoon insists once everything is settled. It won't take long, and the story will match better with Hoseok’s lie if Namjoon assists.
Yoongi doesn't argue.
On Monday, Yoongi’s notebook is waiting on his desk in health class. He keeps his head down and refuses to make eye contact with the other man sitting in the front row. Refuses to even look up from his desk top, even as the professor talks about possible lesson plan alterations.
“I don't want you to be surprised, but I forgot to tell you,” Namjoon is making whatever it is seem like the end of the world and, okay. Maybe sometimes it is with Namjoon, but Yoongi is pretty positive this isn't one of those moments. “Hoseok is coming over for some help with trig. He said he didn’t too well on the last exam and just wants to study and get preemptively ready for the next one. Try to get a better grade.”
Yoongi nods, shifting his legs out from under him and standing up from the couch. “Alright. I'll just head to my room. Give you two some space and quiet.” Not that Yoongi generally makes a great amount of noise.
Namjoon’s brows furrow. “Yoongi,” he reasons, “you’re in the class too. It’d probably help Hoseok if you were there--you know. To ask your own questions. Sometimes he’s a little…,” Namjoon trails off, one hand shifting through the air as though Yoongi will understand what it means and not question the action. Yoongi sits back down. He can’t argue with that. “And, besides. You have your retake on Wednesday. This isn’t that material, but I can answer any questions you have about it too.”
Hoseok comes after dinner time. Yoongi’s grateful if only because he doesn’t have to fake eating in front of two people. He doesn’t have to pretend nearly as hard with just Namjoon.
(Namjoon seems content if Yoongi takes even a few, small bites. He always questions whether the food is good enough or warm enough or anything enough if Yoongi doesn’t eat at least five bites. After that, he usually quiets down and talks about his classes and friends. It’s exhausting , if Yoongi were to be honest.)
“Okay,” Hoseok purses his lips, brows furrowing. “So is Angle-Side-Side an option? Because literally everything else is.”
Namjoon snorts. “There’s no swearing in math, Hoseok.”
“What does that even mean ?”
“A-S-S. It’s not an option. So stop being one and just pay attention.”
Hoseok grumbles, but writes out the new equation along with Namjoon. Yoongi’s quite, but that’s not new. He scribbles along his own paper, writing out numbers and formulas when Namjoon asks him to.
“How do we remember what everything goes with again?” Hoseok furrows his brows, staring blankly down at his paper. Namjoon sighs, but Yoongi answers in place of him.
“Some Old Hippy Caught Another Hippy Tripping On Acid,” he doesn’t look up and draws out the formulas--S=O/H C=A/H T=O/A--carefully before turning the paper so Hoseok can see it. Hoseok hums and copies down the writing onto his own paper as Namjoon stands up.
“Alright,” he flips the textbook around and points at a problem toward the bottom of the page. “Work on this problem while I take a piss. I’ll be back.”
Yoongi leans toward Hoseok, then stops, second guessing himself. Hoseok stays patient and quiet, waiting for what’s to come. When Yoongi finally speaks, it’s hesitant and soft, but audible. “Want to know a secret?” Hoseok’s brows go up and he nods quickly. “He’s not peeing,” shyly, Yoongi glances up at Hoseok, then back to the text, writing the important parts down onto the paper. “When he has to pee, he just says he has to use the bathroom. If he says he has to pee, that’s not exactly what he’s doing.”
Hoseok snickers, not bothering to write the problem onto his paper. “Can I tell you a secret?” Yoongi tenses, glancing up a little worried. He shrugs. Hoseok leans forward, lips quirking up in a smile. “Joon’s told us you’ve been feeling kind of sick, so I thought you might not be studying for your retake in a couple days. I actually passed the last exam, but this is all the stuff that she tested on. Huber won’t make an effort to change the exam--maybe the numbers, but not the questions. So now you know what’s going to be on the test!”
Yoongi isn't sure what to say, so he laughs. It's quiet and awkward and he's sure Hoseok can see right through it. He's positive the man can see through the disgusting exterior to his miserable insides. That he can see the bruises upon his soul and gashes along his self confidence. That he can--
“Want some?” Hoseok holds up the zip lock of blueberries he's been eating during the study session, smiling brightly at Yoongi. “They're a good study snack. High in, like. Potassium, iron, and calcium, I think. They're really good for you. Got, like. Heat disease fighting shit in them or something crazy. I think my dad told me they stop you from getting cancer? Anyway, he told me to eat them because of my genetics and whatnot. You know, family things.”
Yoongi blinks, wetting his lips carefully. “Uh, no. No, it’s okay. We don’t have a history of anything like that in my family. It’s fine.”
Hoseok raises a brow. “Oh, come on,” there’s a laugh. He grabs a small handful of fruit from his bag and offers it over. “Don’t be a sourpuss--these’ll go bad in like. Two days. They were on sale and I bought a shit ton. Help a man out here. ”
Yoongi hesitates, chewing on his tongue for a moment. A few blueberries won’t be the worst, right? They are healthy. He takes a few from Hoseok’s hand. Pops them into his mouth. There’s a hard lump in Yoongi’s throat when he goes to swallow. It aches, but he manages.
Hoseok smiles. Offers the rest of the handful. Yoongi takes them carefully, glancing between the grin on Hoseok’s lips and the berries.
It could be worse.
He eats a few more and settles into the problem before them.
The exam on Wednesday is easy, after the studying. Everything Hoseok said would be on it is on it--Yoongi cheated. Kind of. But he cheated.
But he passes.
And, okay, yeah. He feels bad. He feels really bad. Namjoon coaxes him out of his bedroom the day after he gets his A+ and offers him tomato soup and half a grilled cheese sandwich he no longer wanted to eat.
(Yoongi doubts that’s the case when he watches the man scarf down six cookies from the package of Oreos in the cupboard, but Yoongi still eats the sandwich, hunched over the kitchen table.)
It’s a few days--a few, glorious days. Nothing changes. No one expects anything too much of him. He works on school, writes a few papers, emails his mom. (They don’t call. His mom is busy when Yoongi is free and visa versa. Email works better, so they exchange them once a week, every week.)
But no one intrudes.
Not until Saturday night.
Yoongi answers the door when it’s obvious Namjoon is too busy to leave his bedroom. Doing what, Yoongi isn’t sure, but it’s too much to handle at the moment, it seems, and the knocking was about to give Yoongi a headache.
“Uh, hello?” he tries and the man in front of him glances up from his phone, looking more pissed off than Yoongi thinks he should be. They’re strangers after all. What has he ever done to wrong this man before?
But then Yoongi sees his leather pants and his hair and it’s Saturday night and everything kind of makes sense. “Oh. Uh. Jimin Park, right?”
The other man’s eyes disappear and Yoongi takes a step back more from pleasant surprise of the smile than out of politeness, but Jimin comes inside the apartment either way, gently nudging past Yoongi and moving to sit on the couch.
Yoongi’s more shocked that his pants don’t squeak with each step than he is with the stranger coming in.
“And you’re Yoongi Min? Joon’s super quiet roommate?” Yoongi swallows.
(It’s odd, isn’t it? Hearing how other people describe him. ‘Quiet’ Namjoon says. Not ‘gross’ or ‘disappointing’ or ‘the worst’.
“Yeah,” he finally decides on, shifting awkwardly until he gathers enough courage to sit on the sofa, taking the spot furthest from Jimin and not quite understanding why he feels like he doesn't belong here anymore. On his couch. In his apartment.
“He never told me you bleached your hair.”
Yoongi blinks, glancing over, confused. “Um. Yeah.”
“I’ve been thinking about bleaching mine soon,” Jimin reaches and Yoongi thinks to pull away too late for it to be acceptable. The small hand carefully pulls on a few of Yoongi’s destroyed locks, rubbing them between pudgy fingers. He pauses, though, face pulling tight. “How long have you been doing this for? Bleaching, I mean.”
“A few years?” He’s not sure where the question comes from, but he’s assuming it’s not good. Questions accompanying faces like the one Jimin is making are never good.
“I...well, I don’t want to be rude or whatever,” Jimin moves his hand from Yoongi’s hair and leans toward the coffee table, setting his phone down. “But I think you might want to take better care of it. It’s really thin, Yoongi. And super brittle--and I think this bit right here is melted ? I’m no expert--I’ve never bleached my hair, I mean, but I have done a lot of research into it and, uh. Yoongi, I think you should go to a salon or something. Maybe they can help?”
Yoongi glances down into his lap. That's not at all what he expected to come out of Jimin’s mouth, but that’s what reaches Yoongi’s ears. It makes him part way queasy, part way frustrated. How can this kid who’s never bleached his hair know more than Yoongi? How can he so easily see an issue and try to resolve it?
But as it stands, Yoongi can barely muster the ability to wash his hair every other day. So maybe Jimin has a point.
Jimin offers a tight smile and points at one of the doors. “Namjoon’s?” Yoongi’s nod is sharp and Jimin stands up, scooping his phone from the table as he moves to bang on the bedroom door. “Joon! Get your ass out here! We need to be there by ten if I want to get a good seat at the bar--and you know I want to get a good seat at the bar. How else am I supposed to get free drinks?”
‘its jimin park?’
‘from the other day? the guy in leather pants that sat on your couch?’
‘and weirdly touched your hair?’
‘sorry about that btw it was really weird sorry’
‘i might have pregamed with hoseoki whoopsies am i right’
‘Um. Hello. I remember. How did you get my number?’
‘June gave it to me!’
‘i asked him for it so we could make plans’
‘Plans? Did we have plans? I’m sorry, I don’t remember?’
‘well not really no’
‘but i was thinking about bleaching my hair’
‘and thought youd want to come to the Saloon with me’
‘*salon jeeze sorry.’
‘the Saloon is my favorite bar off-camp so autocorrect you know?’
‘i made us both appointments for today’
‘joon told me youd be free’
Seeing Jimin again was strange. He wasn’t in leather pants this time and, instead, opted for skinny jeans. The fabric stretched tight across his thighs and, with Yoongi sitting next to him while they waited for their respective hairdressers, the elder couldn’t help but make unnecessary comparisons.
(Huge. Impossible. Disgusting. Yoongi hated his thighs. Jimin’s were strong. Muscular. Perfect. They may not show a gap when Jimin stood straight with his heels and knees together, but they looked great on him. Yoongi’s were just a disaster.)
“I picked this place,” Jimin says offhandedly, pulling Yoongi from his thoughts, “because they have free, little finger sandwiches you can take.” He stands, moving to the receptionist desk and coming back with four small triangles, holding two out to Yoongi. “You’d think they’d taste weird and be super cheap, but they’re actually really good? Like. I’m glad I found this place,” he sinks back down into the seat--leather. Comfortable. Yoongi should realize this isn’t a ten-dollar-trim-chain salon at this point, but he’s too preoccupied with the half sandwich Jimin’s holding out--and Yoongi awkwardly takes the food, staring down at it. “Super tasty, right?” Jimin speaks with his mouth full and Yoongi turns his head to see what Jimin’s doing.
The younger isn’t watching him. His eyes are down on his phone. Yoongi could throw the sandwiches in the can next to him, but something tells him that would be entirely inappropriate for the situation. “Yeah,” he grunts, taking a small bite. “They’re good.” He’s not lying and, maybe, when he starts on the second triangle, he sees Jimin glancing at him from the corner of his eye, but Yoongi can’t be sure.
They sat next to each other through the entire process. The hairdresser Yoongi got stuck with chided him for the mess his hair presented her. She cut and combed and deep conditioned. Made him sit for nearly a half hour with just the conditioner in his hair while he watched Jimin get all wrapped up tight to settle with his bleach.
Yoongi was tense throughout the entire process, mouth drawn down while the woman worked. While Jimin chatted easily about hometowns and old pets and Yoongi could barely get past his name and major. It makes him anxious and a little annoyed.
But it’s not Jimin’s fault Yoongi can’t function. It’s not Jimin’s fault Yoongi struggles.
Jimin walks out with oddly shaded hair, needing another appointment or two in the future to bleach his black hair completely.
Yoongi leaves with a too-expensive bottle of conditioner Jimin buys for him with a card he carelessly almost loses twice on the walk back to the bus stop.
Namjoon goes home Sunday morning for his younger sister’s birthday. He returns that evening, arms stacked high with plastic containers.
“She cooks for a goddamn army , Yoongi. Look at all this--does she think I run a restaurant?” The words may seem angry, but Yoongi detects the fondness Namjoon says them with as he pushes the containers into the fridge. “Whatever. It’ll get eaten, right, Yoongi?” There’s no response and Namjoon pops his head up around the fridge door, tipping it to one side. “Huh?”
“I--didn’t say anything?”
Namjoon raises a brow. “Could have thought you did.”
“No,” Yoongi pauses. “But I guess, yeah. It’ll get eaten.”
Monday comes again. Yoongi glances to the front of the room. Seokjin is talking to the girl next to him. Of course he is. He returned Yoongi’s notebook--why would he need to keep talking to him?
Wednesday arrives. He thinks about sending something through twitter, but doesn’t.
What would he say? What is there to say?
Seokjin doesn’t know. Seokjin can’t know. MinAgustD isn’t a mess to him. Even if they don’t talk anymore, Seokjin at least respected MinAgustD. And, sure. When they talked in person that one time (or Seokjin talked. Yoongi ran away and left his notebook on the hallway floor) Seokjin hadn’t seemed turned off by Yoongi’s disgusting appearance, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t just a good liar.
Everyone on the internet is a good liar.
Yoongi just doesn’t know what Seokjin is lying about yet.
“On Monday,” Yoongi registers the professor saying, “I’ll be passing out an updated syllabus and announcing a new project. Come prepared for some changes.”
Namjoon has classes almost all day Thursday, so Yoongi assumes the knocking means his roommate forgot his key and wanted to stop by on his break. He opens the door without looking and steps back, ready to chide Namjoon for his ever present forgetfulness when--
“Oh, uh. Hey.”
Yoongi’s head snaps up, mouth drawing into a tight line.
“You’re Yoongi, right? Nams’ roomie? That’s chill. That’s chill. So, uh. I heard Mrs. Kim sent him home with a shit ton of food so I’m here to eat you out of house and home if that’s cool?” The stranger steps in, kicking off damp, muddy shoes at the door and nonchalantly heading for the fridge. “Oooh,” the man hums, reaching to pull out a container, “macaroni salad! My favorite! I need to ask Nams to get me the recipe from his mom.”
Yoongi swallows, looking down at the shoes, then back to the kitchen as the man searches through the drawers until he finds a spoon. When he sits, Yoongi speaks, closing the door. “You must be Taehyung.”
Mouth full and spoon getting more food, Taehyung looks up, head tipped to one side. He speaks, but Yoongi can’t understand him, so Taehyung swallows and tries again. “I said ‘how did you know that?’ I don’t have a name tag on, right? And like. You can’t see my underwear right?” he turns his head to check, glancing back to Yoongi when he’s satisfied that his shirt and pants sufficiently hide his briefs.
Yoongi’s brows twitch. He sits carefully at the table, fingers playing with the long sleeves of his sweater. “Namjoon talks about his friends a lot. You’re in biology, right? Uh. Field labs?” Taehyung makes an affirmative sound around the spoon he pushes into his mouth. “Your shoes are really muddy and you have a stick in your hair.”
“Oh,” Taehyung manages, even with his cheeks puffed with pasta. He reaches to pull the twig out, shooting it toward the trashcan like he would a basketball to a hoop. He misses, but doesn’t seem too irritated with the loss. “Want some?” he tries, holding his spoon out toward Yoongi. The man shakes his head and Taehyung pulls the spoon back, popping it into his mouth. He stands and goes back to the fridge, fumbling around for another container. It gets shoved into the microwave and he grabs a second spoon, returning to the table to take another bite. “You know, Nams talks about you all the time. Does he talk about me?”
Yoongi swallows, nervous. “Yeah. You have a dog and a pickup truck. You got us our couch.”
Taehyung grins. “Yeah! Shimmie! The cutest dog in the entire world!” The microwave beeps and Taehyung pops up, pulling the cheddar broccoli soup out and sliding it in front of Yoongi, dropping the clean spoon down into it. “Eating alone kind of wigs me out,” his nose wrinkles. “And Nams says you’re sick a lot-- tummy sick --so I figured soup would be the best. I don’t know how you feel about broccoli though. I only eat it if my mom makes it. She’s the best cook, you know?”
“Oh...yeah?” Yoongi stirs at the soup. He already knows it won’t be heated through well enough. Taehyung hadn’t stirred it while he microwaved it. It’ll be warm and cold in spots if he doesn’t mix it now. The man across the table nods, taking another bite, but seeming to chew thoughtfully, watching Yoongi play with the food as opposed to eating it.
“Oh. Do you really not like broccoli? Or is it the cheese? Are you lactose intolerant? You know, about seventy-five percent of the human world is lactose intolerant--and about ninety-three percent of all people of Korean descent are!” Yoongi opens his mouth, but Taehyung keeps going. “And on top of that, most adult mammals are lactose intolerant too because--oh! So you’re not,” Taehyung grins as Yoongi pulls the spoon out of his mouth.
Just like he thought. Weirdly heated.
Classes are cancelled on Friday due to a local fair and Yoongi has every plan to stay inside.
Namjoon, however, made plans for him.
“Yeah, so Jungkook’s been excited for this movie for ages . Probably since he was born . And, besides, it’s good for us to get out of the house, right, Yoongi?”
Yoongi knows Namjoon isn’t talking about himself. No, he’s referring to Yoongi who only ever really leaves for classes and the occasional run to the store.
“And--oh! There he is! Jungkook! Over here!” Namjoon waves a hand through the air as though he’s not nearly six feet tall and easily spotted from a distance. When he knows Jungkook’s spotted him, he turns back to Yoongi. “You’ll like him, Yoongi. He’s quiet and nice. Can get a little cheeky when you know him long enough, but he’s a good kid.”
“Joonie!” Jungkook grins, coming to a stop in front of the pair. He’s baby faced, Yoongi decides, chewing on his tongue and shoving his hands into his pockets. He’d scraped his knuckles anew last night and the bandages bunch when they fingers push into his jeans, but he doesn’t pull them back out.
“We’ve got just enough time to get to the theater before the movie starts.”
They make it to the theater, but are stopped before they can get their tickets.
“No, hey! Jimin, calm down. Okay? Okay. Yeah. Okay. Right. I know a lot about Asian Economies. Yeah. I mean, I was going to--yeah. I know I do. Okay. Be there soon,” Namjoon hangs up, frowning at his phone and then apologetically at the pair. “Okay, so, uh. Change in plan, guys. Sorry, Jungkook. Jimin forgot that he had an exam on Monday in World Econ and needs help. So maybe we can do it another time?”
Yoongi is quick to agree, but Jungkook seems to wilt. “Uh, yeah. No problem, Namjoon. It’s fine. I’ll just go another time,” but the words come out slow and measured, as though he’s simply saying them because he has to.
Namjoon nods, apologizes once more, and races back to the bus stop, hoping to get back before he has to wait too long for another to come.
“Well,” Yoongi shifts his weight from foot to foot the moment Namjoon is out of sight. “I guess that’s that.” He turns, ready to wish Jungkook a good night. Ready to.
But Jungkook is smiling at him. It’s odd--a little sad. A little tight. “Yeah. I guess. I’ll see the movie some other time.”
Yoongi’s brows bunch. “You can go see the movie on your own, you know that, right? You...don’t need someone to see it with you. It’s not like it’s rated R or anything.” But Jungkook just shrugs and mumbles something about watching movies alone in a theater being depressing. He seems so resolved to give up that Yoongi sighs. “Alright. Movie and then home. But you’re buying the tickets. I didn’t bring anything because Namjoon said he’d cover me.”
Jungkook does buy tickets. And two bottles of water. And a medium popcorn to split. Yoongi doesn’t eat much of it, but sometimes Jungkook throws a piece at his head and Yoongi tosses one back. It’s quiet fun, nothing destructive. The movie has been in theaters for a while--honestly, if they hadn’t seen it this weekend, Jungkook would probably have had to wait on the DVD--and the room was mostly empty. There was only a couple in the backmost row and Yoongi would bet his life they weren’t here for the show.
The only issue Yoongi really has is that he’s freezing. Ten minutes in and his sweater isn’t stopping the chill of the theater from cutting against his skin. He shivers once, then twice, and then he can’t stop. His hands twitch when he reaches for popcorn to throw. Jungkook eyes him oddly for a moment before simply offering the bag of popcorn over. Yoongi takes it, confused, and tries to keep himself from dropping the bag.
“Here, Yoongi,” Jungkook half-whispers--why try to be quiet when no one actually cares--draping his light coat over Yoongi’s front while he takes the bag back. “It’s not much, but it’ll probably help. Body heat and all. Might smell a little funky--sorry,” he manages an embarrassed laugh, but there’s a toothy smile there that scrunches the youngers nose.
Yoongi swallows. Jungkook’s t-shirt looks thin. He’ll probably get chilly later. But. “Thanks, Jungkook. I...thanks.” Jungkook hums lightly, but doesn’t speak the rest of the movie.
(It didn’t pass Yoongi’s attention that, when the movie ended, Jungkook crouched to pick up as many pieces of stray popcorn as he could before Yoongi reached the end of the isle.
Yoongi turned back to help.)
“It was fun, kid. A decent movie--I haven’t really been to a theater in a long time.” Yoongi fiddles with his phone, trying to find a bus schedule so he can get home without waiting a million years.
Jungkook grins and snags the mobile from Yoongi’s grasp, tapping away before offering it back. His own phone pings in his pocket, a familiar song playing for a moment before going silent. “There’s my number. Text me anytime you want to see something, okay? I’ll always be up for it.” His phone goes off again and Jungkook actually checks it this time, ignoring the text Yoongi knows he sent to himself. “Ah--shit. That’s Tae. I was supposed to meet him for milkshakes fifteen minutes ago--if I run, I can be there in five. Gotta go, Yoongi--”
“Milkshakes?” It’s quiet.
Jungkook pauses. “Yeah,” the word is drawn out. Unsure. “Would you...like to come with me?”
Yoongi swallows. He fiddles with the sleeves of his sweater. Of the borrowed coat he’s still wearing, even if they’ve left the theater and he looks stupid with the jacket pulled on over such a thick jumper.
Yoongi can only safely stomach a few swallows, but between the other two--Taehyung, loud and grinning too much. Jungkook, quieter, but so endearing it’s not funny--it doesn’t go to waste.
He doesn’t think about throwing up the entire trip home. The entire night.
He’s pretty decent.
And, for him, that’s better than nothing.
But Monday has to come eventually.
“Alright, class. I hope you've all picked up a syllabus from the desk by the door. If not, make sure to get one on your way out.”
Yoongi had. He'd tucked it away into his folder without much thought--he never used them anyway. The only good thing about a syllabus change was the distraction it gave the teacher, always pulling away from the lessons to discuss what was going to happen from that point on.
So Yoongi relaxed as best he could. The morning had been tough.
After his Friday night milkshakes with Jungkook and Taehyung, Yoongi hadn't planned to eat a lot on the weekend, but Namjoon hosted a small get together with Hoseok and Taehyung, having them both over to watch a TV show on Saturday. There was chips and pop and meatballs Namjoon’s mother had cooked and frozen for her son to unthaw whenever he felt peckish.
Yoongi hadn't understood the show, but he nibbled on a little bit here and there, comfortable on his corner if the couch, even if Hoseok was pressed close to his side.
Sunday, Namjoon had made breakfast that Yoongi picked at and, Monday morning, there was toast waiting for him. Yoongi knew something was going on--he wasn't dumb. Namjoon was trying to…Yoongi wasn't sure . Whatever it was, he was anxious about it, constantly fidgeting around and pulling at his clothes, afraid they'd be pulled too tight around his large frame.
Yoongi had puked in the bathroom on the second floor of the health building before continuing to the fourth for his class. But now he was feeling ill and nervous and the professor just wanted to talk about how today was the entire lesson on cigarettes. Because the time they would have spent on it would be used to--
“I feel like it'll be helpful for you all to learn about this stuff. So, we'll be doing group projects and you'll have a presentation in a few weeks to show your research to the class.”
The room filled with chatter as friends started turning to each other. The girl sitting to Seokjin’s left reached to tap his desk and the man smiled in return. Yoongi's stomach churned.
“Don't get too excited. I picked partners and topics. You'll get them on the way out after class. So settle down and listen, folks. Don't smoke. Now, say it with me….”
But Yoongi had stopped listening. Cigarettes weren't his vice. They weren't his issue. He didn't smoke. He never wanted to.
But the professor had definitely said the lessons would be centered on mental disorders common among college age students.
So Yoongi sits, tense, the rest of the lesson.
“Tasha B., you’ll be with Eric and work on depression--this is serious business kids. Don’t laugh about it. Jason, you haven’t gotten your assignment yet, hold up, I think you’re next on the list,” and the professor keeps going. Keeps prattling on and Yoongi halfway hopes she forgets about him. Most people do, somewhat. Most people ignore him. So maybe she will too.
He can only hope, right?
“Seokjin,” and Yoongi swallows. “You and Yoongi Min will research and present on anorexia.”
His heart kind of stops, but he’s not sure why. Maybe it has to do with the dryness in his throat? The stickiness of his mouth? The way his palms start to sweat and his skin heats. He feels like the entire class is staring at him.
They want a response. A reaction. And Yoongi decides he’s not going to give them one. So he nods to the teacher and ducks his head down.
Nothing could be worse.
Except that it is.
Namjoon returns from a volunteer event around ten that night. Yoongi’s aware that Namjoon knows exactly where to find him--he damn near left a trail of empty chip bags and candy bar wrappers. Namjoon will have to go to the store to get more study snacks the next day, but Yoongi can’t bring himself to care. Not when he’s staring into the toilet and Namjoon is rubbing gentle lines between his shoulders.
‘so here i was’
‘thinkin u and i couldstudy for trig’
‘and then namjoon tells me ur kinda sickand now i feel like i shouldnt ask’
‘want me to bring belly medicine?’
‘namjon said u were throwing up?’
‘Would you like to go get milkshakes or something yoongs?’
‘Ill buy you one from the place like last time.’
‘But well have to go tonight because i have some exams coming up’
‘and he dicked me down so fucking hard i’m still feeling it’
‘it was awesome you wouldn’t believe it’
‘yoongi! sorry this is the wrong messenger whoopsie daisies’
‘i was supposed to be texting taetae’
‘but how are you? joon says you missed tues classes because you were sick?’
‘if i come over to steal yur leftovers wld you eat with me?’
‘it’s all the way acrosst campus so i don’t want to come if you won’t’
‘have any food’
‘so i’ll start going over when you textme back kay?’
‘Sorry. I’m fine now.’
‘I know it’s late, but thank you for thinking about me.’
‘Maybe we’ll do milkshakes another day.’
‘I’m better and should be going to classes today.’
‘Thanks for checking. And congrats, I guess?’
‘Sorry, Taehyung. I wasn’t feeling well.’
‘We didn’t have any leftovers anyway.’
Sending the last one makes Yoongi’s stomach churn.
There were none because he’d eaten them all.
Yoongi knows going into his health class on Wednesday is going to be a mess. He knows this before he steps into the room.
He can say with absolute certainty when he actually does.
Seokjin’s already there. He came early to take the seat next to Yoongi’s usual space. The girl who sits there might be a little ticked, but Yoongi’s sure Seokjin could charm her not to care. Yoongi, on the other hand, has no reason not to sit in his normal spot.
(He could, of course. He could sit anywhere else in the room--it’s almost empty. He has his pick, much like the first day. But he’s a creature of habit--nibble, nibble. Gorge. Purge. Sleep--and so Yoongi has no choice.)
His steps are careful as he goes. He’s quiet when he sits, pulling out his notebook and gnawing on his lower lip. His head turns to look out the window, trying to do anything to avoid looking at Seokjin, but the man is persistent.
“Morning, Yoongi. I thought maybe we could exchange numbers so we can work on our project more--I also think you room with one of my friends? Namjoon Kim?” he laughs as though Namjoon is a joke they share between them both and Yoongi’s insides shudder uselessly. His toes curl in his shoes and his fingers pluck at a loose string on the inside of his sweater. “You can’t really miss him, you know? Tall and thin. Could be a fucking model but who knows with that brain--not that models are dumb. Everyone thinks I could have been one, but I’d rather cook. Maybe I’ll be a famous chef with a TV show, you know? Best of both worlds.”
It’s clear why Seokjin’s charming. Even on camera there was a certain something about him. How he speaks so genuinely. How it seems anything but scripted. Making mistakes and fixing them just as quickly. Tangents and segways that add important information about the kind of person he really is.
“Uh,” Yoongi swallows. “Yeah. I live with him.” He can’t bring himself to look at Seokjin. Seokjin’s so--well. He’s not perfect. Yoongi knows objectively that no one is perfect. But if there’s someone close, it’s the man beside him.
On the other hand, Yoongi is trash . He’s a mess . He’s sick, sick, sick and a disaster.
But, even so, he finds himself offering over his unlocked phone, not quite able to meet Seokjin’s eyes.
“Namjoon talks about you a lot, you know. All good stuff. All good stuff,” Seokjin rambles, Yoongi discovers. But he can’t be mad. It’s endearing. Anyone else, and he’s sure it would get annoying. But Seokjin just seems so focused on his words that it doesn’t seem to matter.
(Yoongi thinks, for a moment, that it might be hero worship, what he’s feeling. This weird, unending and excessive admiration. But he knows Seokjin has flaws--he gets drunk, sometimes, and sends texts he doesn’t mean to send. He’s skeptical and weary of those he meets online. He’s a million other things that make him imperfect and unable to be worshiped as a hero.
But he’s helped Yoongi for years, and that has to mean something.)
Yoongi picks at the spiral binding of his notebook, shrugging a little. “He’s mentioned you, I think. In passing.” Namjoon hasn’t. Yoongi would have noticed. He would have paid attention to the name, now that he knows it. But Namjoon has never mentioned having a new friend and Yoongi knows just as much about Seokjin now as he did when they were messaging on Twitter.
“Okay, so I was thinking we either split up the research--one of us does, like. History and symptoms and the other does statistics and treatments--or we just hang out and do it all together. I don’t care whi--.”
“Together,” Yoongi speaks before he knows he’s said it and immediately looks out the window, biting down on his tongue almost hard enough to draw blood. The clenching makes his teeth ache, so he releases and relaxes until it stops hurting. “I--I mean, it’d probably be easier? And we’d be both doing the same amount of work.”
Yoongi glances back over to see the smile spreading across Seokjin’s face. It’s gentle, but nothing different than he’s shown other people in the class.
“Together it is,” Seokjin sets Yoongi’s phone on top of the notebook Yoongi’s still playing with. “So when are you free?”
Seokjin visits for the first time on Friday. He greets Namjoon with a one arm hug and smiles at Yoongi over the younger's shoulder. “Hey guys. Thanks for letting me come over--my apartments a little messy. My roommates are shit, you know,” he nudges Namjoon and the man nods in agreement, already up to date on the stories.
“I’ll leave you two to it--there’s leftovers from last nights dinner in the fridge. It’s just pizza, but you can heat it up if you want to. I don’t care one way or the other,” Namjoon claps Seokjin on the back and heads off toward his room. “I’m doing a video call with a friend from back home though, so I’m going to have my door closed, but you can come get me if you need help or whatever.” He disappears before Yoongi can even think to ask him to stay.
They’re alone together, now.
Just Yoongi and Seokjin and the elephant in the room.
“Alright,” Seokjin works on getting everything set up--notebook, pens, highlighters. His laptop easily connects to the wifi hotspot Namjoon had texted the password for earlier that day. It’s organized and Yoongi can appreciate that Seokjin in real life is as tidy as he appears on the screen.
But thinking about it makes Yoongi’s stomach a little queasy, so he leaves the thought for another time.
“So. Where do we start? Just a general search for ‘anorexia’ or ‘eating disorders’,” Seokjin isn’t looking up and Yoongi is glad. He flinches to the words but refuses to think about why.
“I guess,” he finally responds, stretching his fingers out before starting to type on his own laptop. He doesn’t search anything important, letting Seokjin do that for now. It’s the first meeting of what Yoongi fears will be many; there’s time to spare.
“Alright. Well,” Seokjin clicks a few times once he’s typed what he wants. “Wikipedia starts with: anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by a low weight, fear of gaining weight, a strong desire to be thin, and food restriction ,” his nose wrinkles. “I can even imagine anyone restricting food,” Seokjin’s eyes flick up to watch Yoongi, but the other man hasn’t really moved. “I absolutely love food.”
Yoongi wets his lips. He can’t argue--Seokjin certainly does love food. He has an entire Youtube channel dedicated to it. A twitter even. Yoongi wouldn’t be surprised to find a Tumblr or even a MySpace filled with recipes and cooking tips.
It takes a moment, but Yoongi realizes Seokjin has stopped talking and started watching Yoongi expectantly. “I--sorry. I got a little sidetracked,” he knows his cheeks are red and turns to look at the far wall to hide them. “What was that?”
“I just wanted to make sure you were comfortable doing this topic is all--sometimes people have friends who’ve gone through things like this and it can be really hard to study it, you know? I always struggle when there are lessons about drunk driving because my best friend in school lost their dad to a drunk driver,” Seokjin shrugs. “I get why she assigned topics, but I’m sure she’d change it if we had a good enough excuse.”
Yoongi swallows. It’s an out. A way to put this monster behind them. Maybe study multiple personality disorder, if that’s even a thing anymore. He won’t have to sit here multiple days a week feeling sick and uncomfortable while Seokjin stays handsome and kind and true.
“It’s fine. You’re right. We might know someone. All the more reason to study it.”
Seokjin studies him for a moment, but Yoongi doesn’t pay attention to how long, too busy googling the history of anorexia as a documented illness.
Yoongi doesn’t want to admit that it’s difficult to do anything at all for this project. The research makes him sick. Thinking about the presentation has him in the bathroom. He misses his Tuesday classes the week after Seokjin sends him a video he wanted an opinion on having for their power point.
Namjoon is visibly worried, but Yoongi tells himself it’s not about him. Namjoon has hard classes. He has exams. He’s not fretting over the fact that Yoongi hasn’t eaten more than a few bites at any meal Namjoon’s been present for.
Yoongi knows he’s not worth the worry.
“Alright,” Seokjin shifts on the couch, legs curled underneath him. It’s been two weeks. Yoongi’s barely slept. He’s barely eaten. If Seokjin notices the bags under Yoongi’s eyes, he doesn't bring it up.
“So I have the symptoms slide done, I think,” be brings the slide up and turns his laptop so Yoongi can see. “It’s got cute animations so they come up as we say them,” Seokjin clicks and words start sliding across the screen. “Extreme weight loss--of course--dehydration, sleep loss and fatigue, low blood sugar, thinning hair and nails, and dizziness. It’s not all of them, but there are so many different symptoms that it’s impossible to list them all--we’d have to take an entire class period if we did that, and we’ve got, like. Twenty minutes max, I think,” Seokjin puts his laptop onto the coffee table and digs around in his backpack, producing two granola bars.
Yoongi tenses. He can see what’s coming and he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want Seokjin offering him food. He’ll feel obligated to take it and, even if he doesn’t, he’ll have to sit and listen to Seokjin eating his own. And Yoongi isn’t sure how good or bad the sounds Seokjin makes translates over camera.
He’s worried it’ll sound better.
He’s not sure what he’ll do about it.
Yoongi stutters in a breath. His chest aches and he’s a little light headed. It’s too much, isn’t it? Being so close, but Seokjin not knowing.
“No--no, I’m…,” he swallows. “I’m okay. Thank you.” He can feel Seokjin watching him. He doesn’t want to look. He doesn’t want to see the judgement that’s surely spreading across Seokjin’s face.
Seokjin opens one of the bars--Yoongi hears the wrapper crinkle as he does--and takes a bites, chewing thoughtfully for a moment before he speaks again. “Almonds. It’s got almonds,” he adds for clarification. “And little bits of chocolate--and I think cinnamon?” Yoongi glances over to see Seokjin turn the wrapper over and start reading the ingredients list.
Yoongi stands. “I’m going to get a glass of water. Would you like one?” Seokjin hums pleasantly as an answer and takes another bite as Yoongi works across the living room.
His head spins.
Seokjin is at his side quickly, frowning while Yoongi leans on the wall. He doesn’t remember how he got there--how he managed to not hit the ground and, instead, just pressed his weight to the side of the room.
“Yoongi?” It’s soft and careful and Yoongi hates it. His vision swims and he grips the arm Seokjin has against his own, fingers shaking before he manages to hold on better.
“I’m okay,” Yoongi finally manages. “Haven’t been sleeping well. Classes. Exams. This project. You know how it is,” he pushes off from the wall, releasing Seokjin’s arm.
Seokjin doesn’t bring it up.
Yoongi silently thanks whoever’s in charge of small miracles.
Time passes slowly. Yoongi counts it in mentions of the project. In Seokjin sending him links to websites containing treatment paths. In quotes from those who’ve overcome the illness.
The nights start to chill.
Yoongi is sick.
(Sick er . He’s been sick for years, but for now, it’s a stuffy nose. It’s red eyes. It’s an immune system that can’t fight off simple colds and, with the chill in the air and never enough layers to combat it, he’s coughing and sneezing and, overall, miserable.)
“We can do this later?” Seokjin suggests, frowning as Yoongi blows his nose for what seems like the fifth time in ten minutes. The action racks his body, shaking more than it really should. “When you’re not so sick? It’s just fine-tuning the essay and double checking the power point. Nothing we can’t do the night before. You know, like real college students?”
Yoongi swallows and shakes his head, breath coming shallow through his mouth. “No, it’s fine,” but he wants to take Seokjin up on the offer. Meeting with him is hard and, if they finish today, they won’t have to see each other in private for the rest of the semester. Yoongi can stop feeling like a mess. Like he’s a walking disappointment--the man behind the camera wouldn’t want him as a fan.
And, besides, Seokjin hasn’t spoken to Yoongi through his MinAgustD account since the drunken night incident. Yoongi is positive Seokjin’s forgotten all about it. All about him. He’s not memorable--he asked a few questions and sent photos of his neighbors dog. It’s not like Seokjin revealed secret information about himself.
Yoongi shakes his head again. “It’s fine. We’ll finish up tonight.”
It goes by quickly. At some point, Namjoon and Hoseok pop in; Namjoon to change and Hoseok to steal enough ingredients to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and eat it over the trash can. They leave when Jimin calls and Seokjin tells them to have fun.
“You could have gone with them,” Yoongi mutters a few minutes after the pair leave. “I wouldn’t have minded.”
Seokjin laughs a little, glancing up from his notes to offer Yoongi a smile. “You’d have been all alone, and what then? You just sit here bored all night?” He shakes his head. “No, we’ll finish this up and that’ll be that.”
Yoongi plucks at a loose string he finds on the blanket he’s covered up with on the couch. His toes curl against the fabric and he rearranges his legs to get more comfortable. “If you’re sure.” Seokjin smiles again, a little more.
“Positive. Mind if I order in pizza though? I’m starving --what toppings do you like?”
“It’s, uh,” Yoongi shakes his head, waving it off. “I had a big dinner. It’s fine. You get whatever you want. Numbers are on the fridge.” Seokjin’s lips purse, but he leaves the couch to pick a place and order. Yoongi stays seated, but he wonders, for a moment, how much longer the night will last.
They don’t meet up in private again. Not in a planned sort of way.
“Yoongi, my--my laptop . My laptop crashed.”
“What?” Yoongi rolls over, squinting at the clock on the nightstand. “It’s barely two thirty AM, Seokjin. What are you saying?”
Over the phone, there’s rustling and then a jingle and then a bang. Yoongi swallows dry and sits up. His head is throbbing and his bed is cold. He needs to get something in his system soon or he’ll have more problems, but he had finally gotten to sleep. And then his phone rang .
“Yoongi. My laptop crashed. The one with our entire project on it. I’m coming over right now so we can do it again on yours. It’s due in two days--it took us half the semester to do it the first time and we have two days !”
Yoongi sucks in a sharp breath and his teeth throb. “But Namjoon--.”
“Is at Jimin’s. They went out tonight, remember? He got shit faced--there’s an entire Snapchat story dedicated to it. So get up, put on some pants, and get your laptop fired up. We’re not failing this class because my laptop crapped out on me last minute.”
When Seokjin arrives, Yoongi’s sitting in the living room. He’s tense. His chest is aching. Earlier, his breath had been hard to catch and hard to find, but it’s a little better now. Still not quite right, but better.
The faster they get this done, the better.
“Okay,” Seokjin slides down to sit in front of Yoongi’s laptop, fingers ready. “Let’s go over as much as we can remember. Symptoms?”
Yoongi swallows. There’s no ‘hello’s. No ‘I’m sorry for waking you up’s. Seokjin is ready and he is primed to start typing.
“Uh,” Yoongi chokes on the sound, but forces the rest of the words out. “Lethargy. An obsession over calorie intake,” he tenses, hands balling into fists. “Thinning hair and not being able to get warm.” A chill runs down his spine and Yoongi gasps on air. “It--it can be coupled with bulimic tendencies like purging. When you--you--you make yourself throw up,” he shakes his head.
Up until now, he hasn’t listed them. Seokjin has always been the one talking. Yoongi has done his share of the work--he ordered the slides and edited the layouts. He wrote half the paper and edited Seokjin’s portion (as Seokjin had done to his). But he hasn’t spoken about the topic in detail until this moment. Until now.
His stomach churns.
“Teeth get stained and--and there is usually scarring on the knuckles.” Reflexively, Yoongi pulls his hands into the sleeves of his sweater. He tucks them under his armpits to hide them further.
He doesn’t notice he’s shaking until Seokjin touches him--the stillness of the older man’s hand contrasts so startling against Yoongi’s movement, that he flinches, stumbling back a step.
“Oh god,” Yoongi breaths. It’s more panic than fear. More panic than understanding. He shakes and he trembles and Seokjin stares.
“Yoongi, please just--it’s okay. It’s okay .”
“No, it’s not ,” Yoongi is definitely on the way to a panic attack and he knows it. His chest feels too tight and his heart three sizes too small. Air isn’t circulating well, and he knows he needs to calm down or else things will get Much Worse Too Soon.
Seokjin reaches out again to try and steady Yoongi with a hand on the younger’s shoulder, but Yoongi jerks away, arms flying up defensively. He’s not frightened of Seokjin--that’s not the issue. Right now, his breathing is erratic and ragged and, honestly, if he could just calm down , things would get a million times better. But the situation is just terrible. It’s horrible and if Yoongi can just ignore it , maybe it will go away.
Maybe it will go away.
“I’m tired , Seokjin. I’m so, so, so tired. I just--I don’t want to be this anymore,” Yoongi gestures downwards at his body. He isn’t looking up, pointedly staring at the space between Seokjin’s feet. “How do I not be this?”
Seokjin swallows. “You get help, Yoongi,” careful and calming and quiet. All he’s ever really been. “You try and get help.”
The laugh that bursts from Yoongi’s chest is bitter and harsh. It fights at the back of his teeth and makes them ache. His lungs burn. His face is hot. It scorches. “That easy, huh? Just like that? Just--just go and tell someone--just walk up to them and say--,” Yoongi trips over his words more than he has in the past. Forming the sentence properly isn’t easy. The phrase is shameful. It’s terrible. If he doesn’t say it, it’s not true.
(He remembers, for only a second, his very first semester in college, before he had to take a break. He remembers the psychology class he had to take and the discussion of infant object permanence. How, when you play peek-a-boo with a baby, they think you’ve disappeared. How, hiding an object behind your back causes said object to cease to exist. Yoongi feels like this is similar. If he doesn’t say it--if he just pretends someone has hidden the name behind their back--then it’s not true. It’s not true and it never was. It doesn’t and didn’t exist . Out of sight. Out of mind. Out of his life.)
“Yoongi,” Seokjin whispers. He doesn’t reach out, but his hands tremble in the air, still where they’ve been since Yoongi rejected the touch.
“Just--,” a shaky breath. “Just say ‘I have an eating disorder’ like it’s that easy? Like it’s easy to just say it like that--that I have--I have--that I’m sick and I don’t know how to fix it?”
The tension between them snaps. It breaks into millions of pieces and falls, broken.
Somehow, a dam Yoongi hadn’t realized he’d built, crumbles. He doesn’t know how he winds up there, but he’s tucked against Seokjin. The tank top the elder is wearing--it’s almost winter. There’s almost snow on the ground. But the dorms and classrooms are already turning up the heat and most students dress in layers to shed the minute they open a door. It’s hot and heated and Yoongi is still wearing long sleeves and sweaters even with the heat cranked up--is soaked clean through. Seokjin’s arms are tight around Yoongi’s slight shoulders, holding him through the trembling and tears.
“It’s okay, Yoongi. It’s okay,” Seokjin threads a hand delicately into Yoongi’s hair, scratching gently at the bleach abused scalp. “It’s okay to be sick. It’s okay to admit you are. It’s okay. I’m going to--to try and help you fix it, okay? Do you want me to try and help?”
Yoongi doesn’t know what to say. It’s not only that he can’t talk. It’s that he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to respond. He’s already admitted it. He’s spoken the words out loud. He’s broken that little piece that held him in place.
He’s not sure he even knows who he is anymore. And Seokjin wants him to talk ?
The hand in Yoongi’s hair stops scratching to pet instead, running over the crest of Yoongi’s head and rubbing at the nape of his neck. When done, the motion repeats. Soothing. Careful. Yoongi sucks a sharp breath.
“Please,” he croaks, not looking up.
“Baby steps, then,” Seokjin curls his fingers into the dry hairs at the bottom of Yoongi’s head. “Why don’t we get your hair manageable?”
Yoongi’s tears stop almost immediately, shocked into silence. It takes a moment before he can muster the ability to speak again. “My...hair?”
Seokjin smiles down at him, nodding sharply. “Yoongi, it’s going to be quick. A few, well timed salon visits, and it’s done. A change . Something controllable . And I’ve spent half of the semester studying this. You need to take control of something , and if it’s just your hair, then so be it. Let’s go blond to black.”
There’s a shuddering breath. “I...know a place,” Yoongi murmurs. “They serve little finger sandwiches to the guests….” It brings a wide grin out of Seokjin and Yoongi counts that as a success.
A success towards what, he can’t say.
But it still makes him feel a little better.
It takes longer than either assumed it would for Yoongi to show up to a get-together with black locks, but he does. Jimin bemoans the loss of bleach--his own is now ruddy brown. The blond hadn’t stayed long--but still runs his hands through the black hair, enjoying it just as well. It’s thin, still, but a little healthier. There’s a softness to it that wasn’t there before.
“You can’t see him,” Seokjin starts, watching the camera in front of him. It’s going to be a recording, so he can edit it all later, but for now, he’s treating it like a live show. “But I have a special guest here with me. I made a new friend at my university, and told him about what I do with this channel, and he thought it was really cool!”
Behind the camera, Yoongi flushes, turning his head away so he doesn’t have to watch the cheesy acting Seokjin is doing--pretending he’s talking to an audience when it’s just a camera.
A camera and Yoongi. And two plates of pancakes.
But mostly the camera and fake audience.
“So, I invited him over to hang out while I film and, maybe, I’ll get him to sit beside me next time, but he’s a little camera shy right now. So give him lots of love, and we’ll see if it gets him over his butterfly tummy,” Seokjin laughs and stabs his fork into one of the pancakes, pulling it up from the plate without cutting it up.
“I got these from the Waffle Shop,” he explains, continuing to talk about the pancakes, even when they’re stuffing his cheeks to bursting. Yoongi takes his time, carefully cutting his three strawberry and banana pancakes into manageable bites. He knows--boy does he know--that this won’t be fixed over night. It’s going to take work. So, so, so much work.
But pancakes and a live EatJin broadcast is a good first step.
And he’s not cured overnight. He’s not mended in a month. Yoongi and Seokjin video chat each night during winter break. They sit and talk and eat a full meal. Seokjin comments on the flush in Yoongi’s cheeks. The shine to his hair. The spark in his eyes.
“I found your channel a long time ago,” Yoongi admits one night, curled up on the bed in his house and hiding under blankets as though the light from the laptop would disturb his parents in the other room. It’s not often they wind up talking without food, but there was a lull in both of their schedules (mostly Seokjin’s. He has friends back home. He visits them and his other family. Yoongi just watches Holly and mourns the loss of puppy soft fur), so here they are.
“Did you?” Seokjin’s surprised and it shows in both his voice and expression.
Yoongi nods. “When you had about fifty subscribers. I found it and, I don’t know. I would watch your new videos and I would eat something. It was...well, usually toast? But I found out I really liked mangoes, so that was kind of cool, you know?”
Seokjin smiles softly. “That’s such a long time! Why didn’t you tell me before, Yoongi? That’s really cool! Did we ever talk?”
Yoongi shifts, glancing off and scratching at the back of his head. “I’m MinAgustD. So, yeah. A little bit. And, it’s really nothing. We didn’t talk about anything important.”
“Oh!” Seokjin seems excited at first, but sobers up quickly. “I’m really sorry, Yoongi. I...for what I said back then.” Yoongi opens his mouth, but Seokjin keeps talking. “I think about it, sometimes. How I never got a response? It’s not everyday you get to meet the people you talk to online, so I’m always weary. It’s just...sorry.”
“It’s fine. I understand.”
It lulls after that, quite, but not uncomfortable.
“Why didn’t you tell me before now?”
Yoongi doesn’t hesitate. “I was ashamed, I guess? I...I mean, I’m not dumb, Seokjin. I knew something was wrong. I know something is wrong. But it’s just...hard? To deal with on your own. I didn’t know where to turn to or what to do, but,” Yoongi takes a breath. “But you helped a lot. Your videos. They were great. I almost always ate something when I was watching.”
Seokjin looks pleased. He looks happy. “Well,” the grainy footage manages to catch him licking his lips. “Well, I’m glad I could help, Yoongi. I’m glad I was there for you, even if I didn’t know it. But now I do, and I’ll be here for you as long as you’ll need me.”
Yoongi’s phone buzzes and he shifts to check it, brows popping up. Seokjin hums in question, leaning forward as though he could see the text through the laptop.
“It’s Taehyung. He and Jungkook are going back to school early and passing through town,” Yoongi shifts. “They want to know if I’d be up for milkshakes and a movie tomorrow afternoon.”
Yoongi glances up, then back down, fingers hovering for a moment before he finally responds to the text. “I think it’s a little cold for milkshakes.”
“Right. It is cold out.”
“So I suggested hot chocolate instead.”
When winter break is over, Seokjin can only offer Yoongi more support. More time. More everything .
“Hey everyone! It’s time for another EatJin live broadcast on YouNow--and you’ll notice we’re at an actual restaurant this time; isn’t that cool?” Seokjin reaches to fix the camera, but Yoongi bats his hands away, shifting to make sure the shot’s lined up well. Seokjin, and then an empty space to the left.
“You’ll also notice I’m not center frame today, and that’s because--drumroll!” Seokjin lightly taps his fork and spoon against the edge of the table, drumming out a simple rhythm. “I have a guest! You’ve heard his voice folks and seen his hands--usually hitting mine when I do something he doesn’t think is funny but it is funny and he’s a spoil-sport, but please, for the first time in EatJin history! Welcome MinAugstD to the stage!”
Yoongi’s laugh is more an embarrassed chuckle than anything, but he still rounds the table, sliding nervously into the empty spot, eyes focused on the laptop screen to make sure he’s not taking up too much space--he’s still much too skinny. Gaunt and pale and sickly. But there’s definitely something that’s better. A healthy flush and a brightness about him.
He’s happy, usually.
But, even so, Yoongi stares at himself on the screen, still-tender teeth worrying along his bottom lip. Seokjin furrows his brows and taps the back of Yoongi’s hand to get his attention, offering a careful smile when Yoongi turns his way. They hold the look for a moment before Seokjin glances back to the camera, smiling a little wider.
“We’re at this little local Italian place and we already ordered--the food should be here really soon. I just wanted to make sure the feed was up and wor--oh! Speak of the devil!” It goes relatively quiet as the dishes are slid down in front of them and to the table. They thank the waitress--pretty, manicured nails on the camera--and settle in a little closer to each other before Seokjin turns his attention back to his recording. His lips part to introduce the meals--twin plates of spaghetti and meatballs, heavy with mushroom and tomato sauce--but Yoongi stops him with a forkful of pasta and Seokjin cuts his words with a muffled yelp, but sucks the rest of the noodles in and starts to chew the moment the fork is out of his mouth.
“Eat more, talk less, yeah?”
Seokjin offers a closed lip grin, cheeks puffed with partially chewed spaghetti and lips red with sauce. He moves faster than Yoongi expects, pressing his closed mouth to Yoongi’s. The sauce smears and stains, and they can both hear a mass of pings as comments roll in faster now than they had before. Seokjin pulls back and swallows too soon, and the words he speaks come up rough and slightly choked out.
“ Always eat more. But talking is important, too.”
“Yeah,” Yoongi agrees after a moment, turning to his plate and smiling shyly down at the food.
“Yoongi, you’re beautiful.”
The man in question raises a brow, skeptical. “You sure? Me?”
Seokjin snorts. He slaps a pillow down against Yoongi’s chest, throwing it off the bed when he’s finished hitting the other man. He cuddles into Yoongi’s side for an ineffective apology, glancing down when the man doesn’t respond.
Seokjin puckers his lips and knits his brows, but Yoongi still doesn’t relent. Seokjin whines. It makes the apology that much more effective and Yoongi sighs, wrapping his arms around Seokjin’s torso and getting comfortable.
“Yes, you ,” Seokjin finally whispers, once Yoongi’s snuggled tight to his body. “You’re the only Yoongi in here.” Yoongi huffs and presses his face to Seokjin’s chest, hiding away. Seokjin’s hands wander, then, pulling comfortably through thick black hair before dropping to rub at the nape of Yoongi’s neck.
“You’re beautiful here,” and Seokjin’s hands travel lower, resting comfortably at the small of Yoongi’s back.
“You’re beautiful here,” his fingers trail carefully across hips--fuller and soft. Something to rest his hands on when they walk down the street in close contact.
“You’re beautiful here,” and he pokes childishly at Yoongi’s stomach, enjoying the feeling of the slight pudge giving way. He doesn’t miss how Yoongi tenses, but also takes note of how quickly Yoongi relaxes once more.
“Jin, it’s been five years,” Yoongi finally protests quietly, fingers curling against the back of Seokjin’s sleep shirt. The words came out weak; barely a fight.
“I know,” Seokjin laughs and pulls back enough to kiss Yoongi’s forehead. “I just like to remind you that I think you’re super pretty.”
Yoongi snorts and buries himself back against Seokjin. He doesn’t get cold as easily anymore, but he’s found an odd appreciation for cuddling. “The prettiest ?”
“No,” Seokjin teases, kissing the top of Yoongi’s head this time. “But second prettiest. I’m the prettiest, duh. Our kids would be gods, though. Which, okay. Yeah, great. But also unacceptable. No one can be prettier than me; that’s illegal.”
Yoongi laughs, and it’s good. It’s fine and fun.
And he’s full from steak and french fries and mango milkshakes.
And it’s perfectly okay.