It starts like this: Yoongi is a starving college kid; Hoseok is a starving part-time-worker, part-time dancer, and full-time student; Namjoon has too many academic scholarships to count, but no money for food or rent, so he's a starving college kid too.
Yoongi remembers that he’s got sticky fingers when his manager tells him not to bother coming back because he’s late to almost every shift anyway. It’s not his fault that his class schedule is an absolute mess this semester. Yoongi’s shocked it took them this long to fire him, but his manager really, really liked him. Yoongi’s actually absurdly glad to be away from that dead-end job and old, sketchy manager, even if now he only has a dollar-seventy-two in his bank account.
Yoongi just doesn’t tell Hoseok or Namjoon where he’s been getting his cup-ramens recently - until he’s put in holding for petty theft. Both Hoseok and Namjoon are amazed and furious at him when they get his phone call… but Yoongi is just glad they picked up.
Somehow, they gather enough money from their own threadbare pockets to pay bail and enthusiastically defend him against his charges (by paying the store owner off). They go home on the midnight train, having gotten Yoongi off of his charge of petty theft, dead silence between them and the few other passengers on the train.
When they get home, Yoongi is sat down on the couch and given the lecture of a lifetime - he can’t even get a word in edgewise for several minutes. It’s not ‘til Namjoon and Hoseok are blue in the face from scolding him like a child that Yoongi realizes that they’re not yelling at him for stealing. They’re yelling at him for getting caught.
He stops yelling; he starts laughing .
At first, it was just Yoongi. Sitting in an old, unused practice room, claimed for doing nothing except doodling notes in the margins as he listens to a video drone on about- well, it’s something he has a test on tomorrow. It’s cold in the room, but it’s better than being outside or being kicked out of the library at this time of night. The janitors in this building like him, so they turn a blind eye.
A storm enters in the form of an attractive kid with silver-blonde hair, stumbling over a - “Hey, I’m Namjoon and I have a deadline tomorrow can I please use this room? Great, thanks.” Not even waiting for a response. Yoongi does a double-take before shrugging and shifting to sit in the corner of the room with his bag and coat. Yoongi has no problems with sharing the space, as long as the kid isn’t an asshole, he supposes.
“Um… By the way…” The kid is looking at him strangely and Yoongi shifts his bag closer to himself. The kid is still not sitting at the piano as Yoongi expected him to, but instead fidgeting, he asks, “I - hate to bother you, but are you - did you take Powell’s Advanced Comp 203 last year?”
Yoongi frowns, preparing himself mentally to flee the scene and find somewhere else to sleep tonight - “Yeah? Why do you ask?”
“Powell’s Advanced Comp OST project… I completely forgot about it until, like, yesterday, and then all the practice rooms were closed or full… I’m stupidly late on it.” He gives Yoongi a surreptitious glance as if he’s going to rescind his offer. “I’ve just gotta get a few rough recordings in but I have no idea what she wants! How did you do on this project? Do you know what she means? I’m sorry to interrupt you but I need help!” The kid rambles on, gesticulating wildly.
Yoongi’s eyes widen - “Oh, no worries. I wasn’t really doing anything anyway. You’re taking Powell? I took that last semester and failed it… so hard.” Yoongi shakes his head at himself, “She’s insane but the only teacher for it. I gotta retake it, but it’s all full up.” Yoongi sighs and locks his phone, his test tomorrow can wait, he won’t let another person get caught off guard by Powell’s deceptive assignments like he was last semester. Because that was definitely the only reason he failed that class. Definitely.
“Really? You failed it?” Namjoon looks despondently at his crumpled sheet work. Yoongi panics and tries to reassure him -
“Well, yeah. But people fail that class all the time - I’m not special. Powell isn’t the absolute worst or anything, you just have to learn how to deal with her and look smart…” Namjoon still looks sullen, though, so Yoongi trails off. “Here, I can look over your sheets and see if I can give you some pointers? I think I remember something about this project… Would that help?”
At this, the kid finally looks alive, “Really? You really mean it, Yoongi?”
Yoongi tilts his head, “I didn’t tell you my name, did I?” He honestly can’t remember if he told this kid his name because he hasn’t slept in 19 hours, but he doesn’t tend to give his name out, because then people start giving him Looks .
Namjoon, though, blushes. “Uh - no? Sorry… But I did recognize you from - around campus. A few of the upperclassmen have... pointed you out before.”
Assholes, Yoongi thinks vitriolically, they should keep their mouths shut. “I see.”
Namjoon raises his hands defensively, “None of them said anything! They just mentioned that you got the music scholarship for their year.”
Once upon a time. “You shouldn’t listen to them,” Yoongi bites out, before forcibly letting go of the tension in his shoulders. He shouldn’t be getting mad at a kid who looks so young and tired. “Sorry. How old are you anyway, kid?”
Namjoon blinks, “20, this is my second year here, technically, but - um I got to CLEP out of a couple of classes and my AP credits cover some of the basics…” He rambles a little nervously and Yoongi can guess that some upperclassmen didn’t take well to the fact that this sophomore skipped classes they still had to pay for.
Yoongi nods, “That’s pretty cool, kid.” Namjoon breathes an obvious sigh of relief, “Anyway, about this project, in particular, I think that…” Yoongi goes to take a seat next to Namjoon on the bench, cramming close on the hardwood bench so that he can straighten out Namjoon’s sheets and point out this note on the piano and this chord on Namjoon’s sheets.
He shows Yoongi a little of what he has planned, and Yoongi grins to hear it, eyes brightening with each note. Still, there’s a couple of points where Namjoon is unsure, so Yoongi tries to reassure him and singles out a few things he can do here and there- before he yawns on Namjoon’s face. It’s silent for a moment before Namjoon yawns back on a reflex and they share a laugh before returning to their work.
Yoongi’s not really surprised to wake up in the practice room, leaning against the wall and covered by a jacket, as it’s a more common happenstance than he would like to admit. He does get a surreal jolt of surprise when he sees Namjoon next to him, but he just snuffles a sleepy sigh and snuggles back into the warmth they’ve created, it’s unfamiliarly comforting - before his alarm goes off. He and Namjoon groan simultaneously, and Yoongi pats his jacket to find the off button.
He glimpses the clock as he slides the button to turn it off: 10 a.m., his class is at 12 p.m. so he’s got two hours to shove this calculus down his throat so he doesn’t fail the test. Fuck.
Namjoon sits up as well and rubs his eyes blearily. He checks his own phone and grunts when he sees the time. Last night had been kind of a blur, fixing up his project draft, then recording, then submitting the whole thing at the last possible minute. Yoongi packs up his backpack as quickly as he can while Namjoon watches him, confused and with sleep in his eyes. Yoongi yelps out a, “See ya, kid!” As he stumbles out of the room and then the building into the morning light. He blocks his eyes to let himself adjust before rushing out to the campus cafe. He claims his seat in the back of the store and has pulled out his textbook and notes before he realizes that - ugh, he left his jacket back at the practice rooms. It’s okay because the janitors really like him (because he doesn’t ignore them or treat them like they’re lesser or make fun of their Russian accents behind their backs like the other students do) so they’ll keep it safe and he can go get it after his test, but the cafe is freaking cold and Yoongi hates the cold (and he likes to have some sort of a barrier against the people who like to stare at him). He just hopes that kid doesn’t steal it, although he definitely didn’t seem like the type, Yoongi has had people do things like that before. He rubs his arms and braces himself to just ignore it and power through - he has to pass this test.
It’s almost thirty minutes later when there’s a crash and the cafe door opens. Yoongi - his phone hadn’t been charged either, otherwise he’d have his headphones in - looks up on cringing reflex and blinks when he sees Namjoon in the doorway. Holding his jacket. Oh, this kid is a blessing.
Namjoon looks around for him before spotting him and making his way over, picking through students sprawled out similarly to Yoongi. “Hey, you forgot this but you left too fast for me to catch up - “
Yoongi snatches it from his hand and has it on in a flash, snuggling into the soft fleece-denim combination. It’s the most expensive piece of clothing he has, though he didn’t buy it. He probably should have burned it last semester, but he held on to it for some inexplicable reason. “Fuck, thank you so much, Namjoon.”
Namjoon laughs breathily, watching him pull the jacket closer. “It’s - It’s really no problem.”
Yoongi sighs and looks back to his work. “Sorry, I’ve got a test in - what, like an hour and a half? But I don’t understand this.” Yoongi gestures helplessly and runs both hands through his hair.
Taking a closer look, Namjoon follows a line in the textbook with his finger - “Oh, integrational calculus? That’s not that bad, where are you?”
Coming to a realization, Yoongi looks up at Namjoon in wonderment, “Not that bad? Did you take calculus already?”
Again, Namjoon blushes. “Yeah, I took some in high school - APs and all. Math is okay to do, but I tend to make stupid mistakes thinking about everything.” He scrunches his nose, “It’s why I chose music and literature, instead.”
Yoongi nods, he understands that. “I used to be pretty good, which is why I chose it as my gen-ed, but after a while of not using it, it all falls out of your head, y’know?” Namjoon nods. “Could you maybe give me a hand? Explain some to me?”
Namjoon gapes - “Oh, I dunno how helpful I’d be.”
“Please, anything would help at this point,” Yoongi pleads
Namjoon takes a seat, “Okay, I’ll try my best!”
Next semester, it’s Hoseok who stumbles into their practice room.
It’s not their practice room , per se, but they’ve good as claimed it, and Yoongi has upperclassman rights for reservations now, so they’re usually left undisturbed. It helps that no one remembers the basement room anyway. (Namjoon, upon joining Yoongi in their room to study and practice, had also quickly endeared himself to the janitors, even picking up some phrases in Russian to talk to them.) That is, of course, until Hoseok bursts into their room in the middle of a project. In a manner that is eerily similar to Namjoon’s entrance into his life, Yoongi hears the orange-haired kid mumble something that sounds like, “Hey, I'm Hoseok, can I crash here for a couple? I -” he interrupts himself with a yawn. “I - promise not to interrupt, whatever, it is you're doing." He waves a tired hand, which is covered in road-burn. This time, both Namjoon and Yoongi give him a small double-take (the guy is weirdly built and, wow, that’s a nice face) but give a shrug in suspicious acceptance.
It turns out that Hoseok did actually come here to sleep, snoring quietly in the corner and Yoongi often joins him. Neither of them has a steady place to stay and they quietly bond over long sleepless nights on hard surfaces, though Hoseok disappears often enough to some friend or another’s house, and Yoongi occasionally cajoles his way into sleeping at a frat house for a few days. Soon, Hoseok has become a permanent feature in their practice room, always quietly curled up in a corner. Yoongi even shows Hoseok his stash of warm blankets in the cupboard and offers to share.
Namjoon and Yoongi worry about Hoseok, probably more than they should, considering that they hardly know each other. As much as they’ve never talked to the guy, it was kind of impossible not to realize who he was after a while: Jung Hoseok, junior, near-unanimous president of the dance club, street busker, and handsome, friendly guy who everyone likes. They’re basically strangers, only catching glances of each other outside of the practice room, seeing Hoseok with his dance group and Hoseok isn’t proud enough to not give them a small smile when they make eye contact in the wild, and it’s not much, but they smile back.
But when Hoseok comes into their practice room, practically their home by now, he sits down at the rickety table in the corner and starts his own homework while Namjoon and Yoongi do their own thing - so it’s hard to start an actual conversation about Hoseok’s eating and sleeping habits. It’s not like they can really say anything, anyway.
It finally reaches a breaking point when Hoseok comes in with a black eye one autumn night.
Namjoon stands and pushes the bench back when he sees Hoseok enter and Yoongi looks up at the interruption. "Namjoon -" He starts but then stops when he sees Hoseok. And Hoseok's impressive black eye. And Hoseok's split lip. And the way Hoseok is holding himself off of his right leg ever so slightly.
Yoongi pushes the bench back further, briskly stepping over to Hoseok, who's still leaning against the door, as if he's too tired to hold himself up. "What the hell happened to you?" He asks, incredulous. He moves to support Hoseok and helps him walk over to one of the chairs along the wall. Quickly turning and grabbing the Advil he keeps in his bag along with the extra water bottle Namjoon brings.
Namjoon seems to be in shock, standing still, staring at Hoseok's black eye. "Sorry I- I didn’t have anywhere else to go...." He tries to refuse the Advil that Yoongi offers.
"What happened to you?" Yoongi scolds lightly, fumbling - "Listen, I know we aren’t close, but we care about you and want to help..."
Hoseok finally accepts the Advil with a bowed head and knocks it back with a sip of water. "Thank you guys so much..." He frowns then winces at the resulting pain in his face. "I appreciate you guys... you don’t expect anything from me like everyone else does. And you brought those blankets and that one time you brought me a coffee- I just. Thanks for worrying about me, but you don't have to be so nice to me just because ."
Namjoon, who's been silently considering their words, walks over to them and interrupts Yoongi's retort at Hoseok's dismissive tone, "Hoseok, we’re really not doing this just because . Who beat you up?"
Hoseok sucks in a breath just to sigh and rub the back of his neck, finally relenting to their interrogation, "No one I recognized, just some really drunk kids on the street while I was out busking. Apparently, they disagreed with my music choice." He chuckles and winces when his ribs twinge.
Namjoon sighs at this and Yoongi shifts on his feet, looking as if he’s ready to go find the assholes who beat Hoseok up. "Where do you busk that you get drunk guys passing you? Why would you work in such a dangerous area?" He's this close to shaking Hoseok's shoulders like an upset and scared parent. It’s not exactly an uncharacteristic reaction for him, but Yoongi can still feel the broiling uncertainty in his chest that his overprotectiveness is weird, too sudden.
Hoseok just shrugs wearily. "I need cash? Drunk people are stupidly generous. We're starving college kids, we’d do anything for cash.
Now, instead of being Yoongi , alone in a practice room, he’s become YoongiandNamjoonandHoseok . He tingles, thinking about how the feeling is foreign and unsettling. Yoongi wouldn’t have it any other way.
Looking back, it’s a wonder they hadn’t resorted to this alternative earlier.
It starts like this. With Hoseok and Namjoon by his side in this new endeavor, Yoongi becomes a lot more confident. It doesn’t take long to teach Hoseok how to filch from store displays and pickpocket drunks, as nimble as he is. Namjoon himself isn’t that bad, but his nerves always get the better of him and he backs out before he even starts. It’s not a huge loss, however, as Namjoon’s talents lay more in the strategy department, and his sweet, unassuming face makes him perfect for scouting and deception.
Yoongi doesn’t really consider the consequences of their actions, because well, he needs it more. They’re only worried about their growling stomachs and approaching deadlines and frantic course loads as they scramble for credits to graduate on time. Yoongi is already late and he’s determined not to stumble again, running on pure spite.
Yoongi uses his light fingers to make some of the stuff on the shelves ‘disappear.’ Hoseok laughs and smiles and charms and, most importantly, distracts, the clerk, the businessman on the street, the policeman outside the small convenience store. Namjoon leans on a pole across the way, eyes on his phone, as if waiting for them to leave. Then they all walk away slowly.
None of them are ever caught again.
They start in the small corner stores, then, as they all get better at what they do, they graduate to the rich businessmen on the street who’re walking home late. Namjoon buys an RFID scanner secondhand, which lets them take advantage of the technologically-ignorant businessmen who bump into them on the street as if they own the sidewalk. They only use it occasionally though, preferring to keep to the traditional methods of pickpocketing wallets and phones, fencing the whole credit card and phone to some kiddie hacker that Namjoon knows in the computer club. Still, it’s easy to make a profit in the crowded streets and subways, and easier still in the tourist areas of their city. These are places that they could never afford to live, the middle of the city that’s filled with hipster coffee shops and bars, boutique avocado shops and rich start-up businesses.
The only reason they managed to afford the place they have now, on the outskirts, is thanks to Hoseok agreeing to join a lease with them in November. It has a bedroom and a kitchen and enough room for a couch and a desk and that’s about it. It’s not much, they’re still living by the skin of their teeth: their lock is still half-broken, the microwave only works if you look at it a certain way, but it’s home now. It’s home because Namjoon and Hoseok are there. It was home when Namjoon and Hoseok yelled their worried lungs out in their living room and it’s home when Namjoon whispers dreams of grandeur into their ears. They gesture and tilt and mumble late at night on their raggedy, too-small couch, watching an old movie that Namjoon had picked out, packing in close like sardines to conserve heat, conversations becoming softer and smaller as they drift off to dreams of making it just like Namjoon says.