Hoseok has found love in many places.
He’s found it in the way the sun goes down, slowly, sometimes without fanfare, but always beautifully. He’s found it in the way the wind whispers through leaves, especially in the dark; you can’t see it but you can hear it, and it’s gentle, comforting. He’s found it in the crinkle of Jungkook’s eyes, in the timbre of Namjoon’s laugh. Jungkook and Namjoon are two people that Hoseok loves a lot, and always will.
He hopes, at least.
Hoseok found love in a pair of honey eyes and calloused hands, but no good thing lasts forever.
He’s heard that the most intelligent of us are the most miserable, the most lost, because we know exactly what this world can’t provide for us, and often it’s the thing we want the most.
When the only thing Hoseok ever wanted left him bruised and broken, he became smarter, more miserable, more lost. He had been stupid enough before to believe that something—someone—that had once been good could be lasting and true.
No good thing lasts forever.
Jungkook is asleep, head on Namjoon’s lap and legs on Hoseok’s, when Hoseok says he’s going to Switzerland.
“Why Switzerland?” Namjoon asks, not bothering to keep his voice low. Jungkook could sleep through a hurricane.
Hoseok shrugs, leans back against the couch in Namjoon’s living room.
“The lake is clear, the mountains are pretty,” he says simply in reply. “I have the money.”
Namjoon runs the fingers of one hand through Jungkook’s dark hair, curling it around his index finger at the end of the strands.
“What part?” Namjoon asks.
“You know they speak French there,” Namjoon warns him, and of course Namjoon knows.
Hoseok shrugs again. “Can’t be too hard to pick up,” he says, pulling a string from the hem of Jungkook’s t-shirt. The boy stirs in his sleep, tightens a fist around the handful of Namjoon’s sweater he’s got in one hand. “Especially if I don’t speak to anyone.”
Namjoon arches an eyebrow at him and Hoseok knows what he’s going to say.
“I know that the point of going to a new country is to immerse oneself in it,” he says, and Namjoon huffs a laugh between his teeth. “But I’m not really going to Switzerland to speak French, Namjoon-ah.”
Namjoon rubs at one eye, regards Hoseok with the other.
“Why are you going, then?” he asks.
Hoseok looks away, stares at his socked feet kicked up on the coffee table.
“Just to go,” he says, and he isn’t sure what he means. In fact, he knows he doesn’t know what he means. “To… go.”
Namjoon reaches out with the hand that isn’t in Jungkook’s hair to tap Hoseok’s cheek with two fingers.
“You’re a mess, Jung Hoseok,” he says, fond, and Hoseok heaves a sigh, feeling the corners of his mouth lift a little despite not actually wanting to smile. Namjoon has a way.
“How long will you be?” Namjoon asks.
Hoseok tells him three months, as long as his passport will allow him.
Jungkook twists on the couch so he faces the ceiling, and his lips are parted, small, sleepy breaths pushing into the air around them.
“He’ll miss you,” Namjoon says, and Hoseok nods. He knows. “I’ll miss you, too.”
Hoseok lets his gaze meet Namjoon’s, slow and heavy, and his friend only smiles. Namjoon doesn’t understand, but he accommodates. Just as he’s always done every time Hoseok runs off or away, whether it’s down the street or across the country. This time, it’s across the ocean. Hoseok isn’t sure going somewhere will make anything better, but he knows he has to go.
His flight is direct. It’s long and cold and he’s got an aisle seat. To his left is a woman holding a baby so small, Hoseok almost couldn’t tell it was another human pressed to her chest. They’re Korean, like him, although a lot of the people on this flight are dark with round noses, hazel eyes and full cheeks. He hears little to no Korean among the passengers. Hoseok realizes with a start he’s leaving his native language behind.
Ten hours later, as they’re landing, Hoseok cranes his neck to see out the window two seats down. It’s morning here, it seems. He sees lush fields, small cabins and gardens, a few bodies of water, and in the distance, mountains. The sunshine is so bright and crisp—nothing like Seoul, where the light is muted and somewhat gray. He feels the wheels of the plane touch down and gets goosebumps.
After two hours of bus rides, struggling to read Roman letters, and one broken conversation in English, Hoseok finds himself at his Airbnb, which resides in an apartment block made of dark metal with yellow awnings hanging over the balconies.
When he finds the right door and knocks three times, an older woman with skin darker than any he’d ever seen opens the door, and her smile is warm. She steps aside to let him in without a word.
She clumsily introduces herself as Anne, a name Hoseok has heard on television before, and he tries saying it a few times. She seems to really like it. He tells her his name and brings a hand to his chest. She nods with understanding and pats his shoulder.
The apartment is small, he realizes as Anne gives him a quick, wordless tour—only two bedrooms and two bathrooms, along with the kitchen and the living room. It’s very simple and modest but warm and welcoming, just like Anne.
His room is quaint. The floor and walls are made of wood, and his bed is a wiry cot with a thin mattress, but there are lots of blankets and pillows. Anne places a lanyard with a key, a very ancient flip phone, and a small stack of papers on the bedside table. She holds one of them up, saying a word he recognizes: Wifi. There’s a single window above his bed, and Anne shows him how he can turn the handle near the bottom and push it open. It’s big enough so that he could climb through and sit out on the roof if he wanted.
She says something in very quiet French as she leaves the room, shutting the door behind her. The way she speaks is very gentle, like a mother. Hoseok decides he very much likes her.
He unpacks his suitcase, putting his clothes in the dresser at the foot of his bed. He empties his backpack, plugging in his laptop and his phone. He catches the time—10am—and wonders if he fell asleep now, he’d be able to sleep until the sun came up the next day.
He connects his phone to the wifi and is flooded with texts from Jungkook and Namjoon. Mostly Jungkook, because the younger boy texts in streams of consciousness and photos. He sends a selfie to their group chat and Jungkook replies almost immediately with hyung you made it you’re so cool look at you!!!! Namjoon replies a little later with glad you made it safe. get some rest.
Hoseok falls asleep mid-reply.
That night, he dreams about a loud voice in his ear and the faint, distant pain of old bruises.
He wakes up at 4am Swiss time, and after a quick Google search, he finds that it’s 12pm in Seoul. It’s dark and he feels like he got hit by a train. He also feels filthy—he hadn’t even changed out of his travel clothes before falling asleep. He strips to his boxers and stretches, taking a deep breath in.
It’s the beginning of September and he half expects it to be chilly when he pulls the window open, but the air is warm, stagnant, feels like summer. He clambers onto the windowsill and settles there, observing the darkness settled over the village. Meyrin, it’s called, from what he could recall from the signs and heard from the robotic voice of the bus listing off stops. He works the name on his lips a few times. It doesn’t fit well, but he’ll keep trying.
Something catches his eye in the distance, something that looks sort of like a spaceship settled on the ground. It’s lit up with yellow lights, glowing in the thick dark, tracing round edges. He squints but it doesn’t help much.
He leans over the windowsill to grab his phone and snaps a picture of the dark. Not much comes out in the photo except the dome in the distance, the yellow glow over-exposed. He keeps it, despite it not being the best picture. If anything, it has sentiment. He locks his phone and continues to look out over the village until he notices the sky start to brighten behind the mountains. The curve of the earth is soft against the growing light. There’s plenty of mountains in Korea but the ones here are different—not as jagged or tall, more rolling and gentle. He likes them.
Hoseok waits until the first edge of the sun hits the mountains before taking another picture. There are no clouds in the sky and the sunlight is pure. A few rays are shed on the round structure in the distance and he sees that it’s taller than he thought, some kind of building. His intrigue only grows.
As the sun continues to rise, the air warms up. Hoseok tries to recall what day it is and has to check his phone to confirm. Sunday. He wonders if Anne sleeps in. He carefully steps off the roof back into the room and closes the window. After gathering clothes and a towel, he tiptoes into the bathroom across the hall to shower. Even the water feels different, he realizes, letting some of it run into his mouth.
Hoseok leaves the apartment as quietly as he can, locking the door behind him. On the elevator down, he catches his reflection in the mirrored wall. He tries to smooth down his hair. He looks tired, despite the sleep he’d gotten. Maybe it’s the jetlag. The elevator dings four times and the doors pull open. He asks himself, for a split second, What are you doing here? before stepping out. He might not be able to answer that question now, but maybe it would come to him soon.
He studies the directions of the trams when he reaches the nearest stop and picks the one going the direction of the dome he saw earlier in the morning, ignoring his growling stomach. The last time he ate was on the plane, more than twelve hours before, but his nerves are keeping his stomach full.
As he settles on the next tram, Hoseok realizes quickly that the Swiss are many things, among them being quiet, stoic, and absolutely expressionless. Most of the people on this tram have headphones in with stares dead ahead. There are a few children scattered through the car who are ghostly silent, and it rubs Hoseok the wrong way. He focuses on watching the buildings pass out the window. He’s almost too enamored with the way the apartment buildings turn into rolling sunflower fields to notice the dome come into view from behind a green hill. He raises his eyebrows as the tram stutters to a stop right next to it. The same robot voice from the bus speaks in stiff French and everyone in the car gets to their feet. Hoseok startles and does the same, pulling his backpack straps tight before making to step outside through the nearest sliding door.
Everyone around him seems to have someplace to go. He slips into a nearby bench and waits until the crowd has thinned a little before getting to his feet again and turning to look at the dome. It’s rather ugly up close with the lights off in the daylight, a dark rust color, and as he moves closer, he realizes it’s made of wood. His curiosity is pounding against his chest as he looks up at it. There’s a stream of people entering it on a ramp nearby, and Hoseok follows.
It’s dark inside, save for hundreds of small colorful lights pointed at the round ceiling that makes it look like a night sky. There are silent videos with strange shapes and colors being projected on the walls, screens hung up here and there with writing he can’t understand. A planetarium?he thinks, but he doesn’t see any photos of planets or stars. He wanders through the dark, dodging a pair of children running after their mother, touches a few interactive screens and buttons even though he’s lost as to what any of it means.
He nearly hops out of his skin when a swell of music begins and a nearby wall and half of the ceiling are illuminated with a projection of—well, Hoseok really can’t tell what. A man is narrating in English, and he can’t make out the words. There are numbers on the walls, strange graphs and indications, and Hoseok thinks his brain might melt out of his ears if he tries any harder to decipher it. It lasts only a few minutes before the room is plunged back into its original darkness, the small colorful lights returning. Hoseok runs his hands through his hair and heaves a sigh. He’s starting to feel like he’s on a different planet.
“That was my first reaction, too,” a voice says from behind him. He isn’t sure what he registers first—the slight lilt in the deep voice or the fact that he can actually understand it. Hoseok whips around to end up face to face with a man who is definitely Korean and is definitely regarding him with smug humor.
“Jesus Christ,” Hoseok breathes, and wonders if it would be inappropriate to give the man a hug. “I can’t tell you how incredible it is to hear you speaking Korean.” He trips over his words a little at the end of his sentence—when was the last time he’d spoken to anyone out loud?
The man chuckles and his eyes squint into double crescent moons.
“I can say the same thing about you,” he replies with a tilt of his head. “It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to speak anything but French.”
Hoseok’s heart seizes in his chest. “You can speak French?” he asks.
The man shrugs, waving his hands in a small, nonchalant way. “Enough to get by,” he says. He holds out a hand and lets the other fall back to his side. “Min Yoongi.”
Hoseok swallows his relief and shakes Yoongi’s hand. “Jung Hoseok,” he returns. “Min Yoongi, you have made my entire fucking week.”
Yoongi smiles again and the apples of his cheeks are round. “You must be visiting,” he observes. “I can smell your fear.”
Hoseok chews on the inside of his cheek. “It’s that obvious?” he asks.
Yoongi smirks. “I’ve literally never seen anyone more lost,” he says. “I saw you almost break your brain over that presentation.”
Hoseok feels his face burn.
“Don’t worry,” Yoongi assures him, lifting a hand to clap him on the shoulder once. “This place isn’t on my ‘easy to navigate’ list.”
Hoseok very quickly makes a decision.
“Do you… happen to live here?” he asks, and Yoongi perks up.
“Sort of,” he replies. “It’s kinda complicated. Right now, I live across the street.” He jerks a thumb over his shoulder. “Did you see all of those buildings inside that iron fence?”
Hoseok nods even though he doesn’t really remember.
“That’s where I live.”
There’s a few moments of silence as Hoseok tries to think of a way to ask Yoongi for help that won’t make him seem like a burden. Before he can open his mouth, the other man speaks again.
“I can show you around,” he says. “If that’s what you’re getting at.”
Hoseok averts his eyes. “I understand if you’re busy or something,” he says, immediately feeling embarrassed. “I can figure this place out on my own—”
Yoongi makes a disgruntled noise and Hoseok looks back up to see him shaking his head.
“Don’t be silly,” the other man says. “Of course I’ll help you out.”
For the second time in less than five minutes, Hoseok gets the unbearable urge to hug a total stranger. “There aren’t words to say how wonderful that would be,” he sighs, feeling the tension in his shoulders leaking down to his wrists.
Yoongi seems to preen at the words. “You’re lucky it’s my day off, Jung Hoseok,” he says, turning towards the exit door of the dome and motioning at Hoseok to follow. “Otherwise you might have been stuck.”
An hour later, Hoseok finds himself following Yoongi closely through a crowded train station. It’s a maze of shiny tile floors and store windows and escalators, but Yoongi seems to know exactly where he’s going.
“We’re going to the gare,” Yoongi had told him on the tram ride over.
“Gare?” Hoseok echoed. The hard “r” was rough on his tongue.
“It literally just means ‘station’ in French,” Yoongi said. “It’s where we can get you some money.”
So here Hoseok is, listening to Yoongi converse in French with a stern looking woman behind one of a few counters in this small exchange station. He asks Hoseok for all of the won he has, and he hands it over. The woman takes the money, taps away on a calculator for a few seconds, then shoves the won into a drawer. She reaches into another and pulls out a stack of unfamiliar paper bills, says something to Yoongi, and waves down the next customer. When they pause outside the exchange station, Yoongi presses the money into Hoseok’s palm.
“Francs,” he says. “Try not to pay with your card, if you have one. It’ll work here but the international fees aren’t worth it.” He points down the way they came and tells Hoseok there’s an ATM he can use to get more cash if he needs it. “I’ll show you on our way back.”
Hoseok nods, folding the bills up and moving to put them in his pocket.
“Ah-ah,” Yoongi warns. “Zip it up somewhere. There’s pickpockets here.”
Hoseok does as the other man says, keeping some of the money in his hand. “Can we find something to eat?” he asks. “I haven’t eaten since the plane.”
Yoongi looks at him pointedly. “When was the plane?” he asks.
Hoseok winces. “Sometime yesterday.” His stomach clenches as if on cue.
Yoongi raises his eyebrows, looking half impressed and half worried. “Yeah, we can do that.”
He takes Hoseok down an escalator and leads him through a long hallway lined with small trinket shops that eventually brings them outdoors. Hoseok tries memorize how they got here but his sense of direction is muted by his hunger. They eventually make it to a two-story McDonald’s, where Yoongi orders him a ten-piece nugget and a large fry. They settle upstairs at a booth too big for them, Yoongi pulling a Big Mac out of his own bag.
“So you said you kinda live here,” Hoseok says around a mouthful of French fries. “What do you mean?”
Yoongi smiles as he takes a sip of his Coke. “That dome we were in? And all the buildings surrounding it?”
“That’s the CERN. I work there, for now,” he says. “I’m a nuclear physicist.”
Hoseok swallows his food with wide eyes. “CERN,” he repeats thoughtfully. “What is it?”
Yoongi gathers himself, as if explaining is going to take lots of energy. “Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire,” he says.
Hoseok taps his temple once. “Yoongi, please, Korean,” he whines.
Yoongi arches an eyebrow and curls his lip. “Then that’s hyung to you,” he snaps good-naturedly, and Hoseok lifts two hands in defense.
“European Council for Nuclear Research,” Yoongi continues. “We study anti-matter. How to make it, what to do with it if we do.” He pauses to lift the bun of his sandwich and grimace at what he finds. “There’s a machine underground called a particle accelerator 27 kilometers long that we use to run protons or ions into each other and see what happens.”
Hoseok hopes his face doesn’t betray his information overload, but Yoongi must see through him.
“It’s a lot,” he says sheepishly, pulling the pickles from his burger. “I’ve been here for six months now.”
“What about you?” Yoongi prompts. “You’re visiting. For what?”
Hoseok runs a French fry through the ketchup he’d poured on a napkin, trying to decide if he should make something up or just be honest. He figures the least he should tell Yoongi the truth after his help.
“I’m not sure, really,” he says simply, popping the fry into his mouth. The ketchup tastes different here. “Just needed somewhere to go and found this place to be the prettiest.”
Well. It’s not a lie.
He looks up at Yoongi to find the other man studying him, not judgmentally. He meets Yoongi’s gaze steadily, and notes how his eyes are very dark, how they almost match his hair—deep, deep brown, nearly black. Hoseok blinks a few times and looks back down at his food.
“I’ll take it,” Yoongi says. “For now.”
Hoseok can hear the smile in his voice.
The day after Yoongi meets Jung Hoseok, he can’t focus.
He’s supposed to be monitoring the particle accelerator today, taking notes in Korean to send to Jimin who will translate the notes into French, because Yoongi can’t write in French and Jimin can. But none of that really matters right now because Yoongi’s mind is swirling with the funny way Hoseok can’t pronounce the hard “r” in “CERN” and how his hair parts perfectly down the center and curls just so at the ends so it almost creates a heart on his forehead. He could miss something hugely important about anti-matter and ions and other things that could change the course of man’s scientific journey because he’s thinking about the pretty slope of Hoseok’s nose and the way his eyes sort of look like crushed autumn leaves. He’s thinking about just how on earth he became so damn infatuated with someone he just met.
“It’s probably because you haven’t seen any Koreans in person in over six months,” Jimin is saying matter-of-factly that night over Skype as Yoongi makes a stir fry with almost-expired vegetables and the sad excuse for chicken he’d managed to find at the grocery store in the city. “The Swiss are hard on the eyes, don’t you think?” His friend is cross-legged on a couch, a popsicle in one hand. It’s blue, and Jimin’s lips match.
“I guess so,” Yoongi agrees quietly, poking at a piece of meat in the pan that won’t seem to cook. He can hear Taehyung in the background of the call yelling about something.
“Taehyung-ah!” Jimin shouts, and Yoongi has to laugh at his tone, as if he’s scolding a child. “I’ll help you in a second, I’m talking to hyung!”
“Hyung?!” comes Taehyung’s reply, and Jimin is grunting and huffing and holding his popsicle out of the way as Taehyung appears suddenly on Jimin’s lap.
“Hey, you oversized puppy,” Yoongi says, waving the wooden spoon he’s got in one hand.
“Hyung, tell Jiminie to help me with my homework,” the boy pouts, and Jimin rolls his eyes so hard, Yoongi can almost hear it through the screen. “My cosmology paper won’t write itself.”
“You’re supposed to write it, idiot,” Jimin snaps from where he sits behind Taehyung, poking his cheek with the popsicle. “I told you when you signed up for that class that you’d hate it.”
Taehyung wipes his face with a hand and opens his mouth to argue but Yoongi clears his throat.
“Could you guys resolve this off-camera please?” he says. “Your banter is aggravating my migraine.”
“Hyung met a Korean boy today,” Jimin tells Taehyung, who perks up almost instantly. Yoongi scoffs at just how quickly the argument is forgotten.
“No shit?” Taehyung responds, moving his face close to the camera so only his eyes and nose are visible. “Was he hot?”
“Very hot,” Jimin answers, pulling Taehyung away from the camera by his shirt, and Yoongi tries hard not to blush.
“I didn’t say he was hot,” he tells Jimin over the sizzle of the vegetables in the pan. “I said he was handsome with nice hair.”
“So, hot,” Taehyung says, taking Jimin’s popsicle from him and biting off the tip. Jimin looks horrified.
“Whatever,” comes Yoongi’s mumbled response as he turns off the stove and works on transferring his meal into a bowl on the counter. “Jimin-ah, I need those notes translated by Wednesday, alright?” He sees Jimin cock an eyebrow at him over Taehyung’s shoulder.
“Only if you tell me you’ll go find Korean boy again,” his friend fires back, and Yoongi thinks Jimin should be grateful they’re not on the same continent.
“I will hang up on you,” he threatens, grabbing his laptop with one hand and his dinner with the other.
“We’re bugging you for your own good,” Taehyung says, finishing off Jimin’s popsicle and he almost sounds sincere. “You need to branch out, hyung. How long has it been since you spoke to anyone besides us?”
Yoongi sets his laptop on his tiny kitchen table and takes a bite of the stir fry. “I talk to barista at the Starbucks in the city,” he says, which is true. Yoongi goes to the Starbucks at the gare often, and there’s a barista there who Yoongi sometimes chats with while he makes Yoongi’s latte. His French is still not the best, even after hardly speaking anything else for half a year. Yoongi hates French, but it’s the only way to communicate here.
“That doesn’t count,” Jimin scolds him. “You need a friend there, hyung, someone who understands you.”
“And not just in language,” Taehyung adds.
“You guys understand me just fine,” Yoongi says around another bite of his food. The meat is awful.
“We’re thousands of miles away!” Jimin says and Taehyung nods urgently. “Hang out with the Korean boy.”
Yoongi listens to the crunch of the vegetables between his teeth.
“If he’s as lost as he sounds from what you said, he probably needs you, too,” Jimin states simply, and Yoongi sighs. Jimin is right. Hoseok had looked absolutely bewildered standing alone in the dome, even through the dark. Yoongi would probably feel guilty for months if he never saw Hoseok again, would imagine him lost on a bus somewhere or struggling to order food on an empty stomach.
“Okay, so what if I do want to see him again?” Yoongi asks. “I don’t know where he’s staying. How will I find him?”
“You know his full name?” Jimin asks, and Yoongi nods. “Find him on Facebook, you giant nerd.”
Yoongi furrows his eyebrows. “You’re right,” he mutters, dropping his fork and pulling his phone out of his hoodie pocket. Taehyung accidentally elbows Jimin in the neck as he opens the Facebook app on his phone, and Jimin responds with a choked whine.
“Tae, please try to keep your boyfriend alive for me a little longer,” Yoongi says flatly as he types Hoseok’s name into the search bar. “I’m not due back to Korea for another six months.” He glances up to see Taehyung cradling Jimin’s head in his hands and pressing kisses to his temple. His heart swells a little as he watches Jimin bask in the affection.
Jimin and Taehyung have been together since before undergrad, before Yoongi even met them at school. Yoongi was the TA for Taehyung’s quantum mechanics lecture, and after Taehyung had put in far too many office hours requests to be deemed appropriate, Yoongi had suggested they just meet outside of class. They’d been fast friends and it wasn’t long before Yoongi met Jimin, too.
Some of Yoongi’s fellow TA’s teased him for hanging out with a couple of undergrads, but he found better friends in the pair than he’d found in anyone else in his time at university. Taehyung is a physics prodigy, a genius at the least, with the worst work ethic on the planet, but he’ll listen to Yoongi talk about nothing for hours and the way he sings quiet tunes while he studies gives Yoongi goosebumps. Jimin is a linguistics major and when Yoongi met him, he could speak four languages fluently. He’s been working on Mandarin Chinese for the past year. The shorter man has a different hair color every few months (ash gray, currently) and his smile makes any dark day bright. Yoongi had taken the job at the CERN without hesitation, eager to represent their country in the science field, but he’d hardly been prepared for the loneliness he felt without his best friends a short drive away. They Skype at least once weekly, sometimes more, and often, Yoongi will simply listen to the pair talk, just to hear their voices.
Yoongi finds Hoseok’s Facebook profile quickly and swipes through his profile pictures. The part of him infatuated with the man searches the photos for anyone that might qualify as a significant other, and his heart sinks when he sees a few recurring faces, one with deep dimples etched into his cheeks and another with broad, round shoulders and an innocent smile. Was one of them his boyfriend? Which one? They’re both gorgeous, he thinks, coming across a photo of Hoseok squished between the two other men on a bench much too small for all three of them.
“Did you find him?” Jimin’s voice comes from the laptop, and Yoongi replies with an absent nod.
“Show us!” Taehyung barks.
Yoongi looks at the screen to see that the two had switched places, Jimin fitting perfectly between Taehyung’s legs, and he feels a familiar stab of jealousy. He’s always been a little envious of their relationship—they fit each other so well, compliment each other perfectly, and Yoongi wants that, too. He’s never had it, and doesn’t know if he ever will.
“Not yet,” he says, a little too loudly, and holds his phone to his chest. “I’ll show you if we hang out again.”
Both of his friends pout and Yoongi mocks them.
“I’m not gonna be creepy, okay?” he says, looking back down at his phone. Hoseok’s current profile picture if a photo of him holding a cat in what looks like a cat café. He isn’t surprised; Hoseok very much seems like a cat person. He holds his breath and taps the “add friend” button. Jimin and Taehyung try to pester him a little longer but it’s nearly 2am in Daegu, and Yoongi tells them to go to sleep.
“Tell us when he accepts your friend request!” Taehyung demands as Jimin picks up his laptop and peers into the camera.
“Do us and yourself a favor,” he says. “Don’t let him slip away.”
Yoongi pretends to shove a finger down his throat—Jimin has always had a flare for the dramatic. His friend shoots him a vulgar hand signal that Yoongi returns.
“Good night, Jiminie,” he mumbles.
“Good night, hyung,” Jimin replies, giving him a small wave before he hangs up the call.
Yoongi friend requests Hoseok on Facebook the day after they meet, and he’s glad that he didn’t have to be the one to do it. He’d hoped that Yoongi’s help hadn’t been just a Good Samaritan act of kindness. The other man had been mild and gentle and Hoseok’s surroundings had made a little more sense with Yoongi by his side that first day. He couldn’t fathom going out into town again without Yoongi as his guide.
Yoongi: we should probably stick together here, don’t you think?
The message comes a little while after Hoseok accepts his friend request.
You: i guess we should~ ^_^
You: how else will i get mcdonald’s if not with you??
Yoongi’s response is a Kumamon sticker holding a cheeseburger, and Hoseok laughs out loud.
They message for a while—Hoseok learns that Yoongi is from Daegu and that his university sent him to the CERN to have a Korean presence in the field of nuclear science. Hoseok tells him he’s living in Seoul but he’s from Gwangju, where he’d been a contemporary dance teacher from the time he was in high school. Yoongi says he wants to see Hoseok dance one day, and Hoseok doesn’t make him any promises, but he thinks about how long it’s been since he danced last, and he thinks that he misses it, a bit.
It’s late when Yoongi tells Hoseok he’s got head to bed.
Yoongi: i need my seven hrs… i’ve got particle accelerator duty again tomorrow
You: that sounds… exciting if anything
Yoongi: it’s really not as cool as it sounds -____- have u ever watched protons run into each other for hours at a time??
You: i can’t say i have so i’ll take ur word for it
You: goodnight then hyung!!
Yoongi’s typing bubble bounces for a short time, and Hoseok isn’t too sure why he’s stopped breathing to watch it. The other man’s message comes a moment later:
Yoongi: i get off at 4 tomorrow. wanna find food somewhere that isn’t mcdonalds??
Hoseok tries not to overthink. Yoongi is possibly the only Korean in this country who speaks French and also happens to have a boopable nose and a voice like running water. Yoongi himself had said he couldn’t remember the last time he spoke anything but French—he’s probably just as lonely as Hoseok is in this country.
You: i’d like that a lot actually!!!
He bites one of his nails as he waits for Yoongi’s reply.
Yoongi: me too :-)
Yoongi: i’ll message u before i leave work tomorrow—make sure u’ve got wifi!!
Hoseok sends him a thumbs up emoji before plugging his phone in and flopping onto his back on his bed. He tries to calm the racing of his heart, but it’s fruitless—he’s excited to be seeing Yoongi again, and it’s not because the other man knows how to navigate the bus system.
Weeks pass and Hoseok learns.
He learns what times the trams and buses run on certain days of the week and how much time it takes him to run from the elevator of the apartment to the nearest stop. He learns that Anne’s next door neighbor has a cat that often hops onto her balcony, and that it is very, very mean. He learns how to say “good morning” and “good night” in French, and what time the sun sets, so he can watch it disappear behind the mountains. He also learns that Min Yoongi might be his savior and his only friend in this entire country.
Yoongi teaches him useful phrases in French, like “what time is it?” and “where’s the bathroom?” He watches Yoongi interact with the people around him, how he always smiles but almost never speaks, because the Swiss don’t want to talk to anyone. He listens to Yoongi talk about work over black coffee and scones, lets him teach him about the Higgs boson particle, which is apparently very important and exciting, even though, at the end of the day, he can’t make sense of anything Yoongi says about it.
Hoseok learns that Yoongi is a little jumpy, a little cautious, especially when they’re crossing the road when the walk sign isn’t lit up and Hoseok is saying, “Hyung, it’s fine, there’s no cars coming,” but Yoongi always thinks worst-case scenario and is convinced a bus will come roaring around the corner at any moment and strike him dead.
Hoseok learns that Yoongi is sweet, smart, and quite unlike anyone else he’s ever known.
Yoongi takes Hoseok to champs Frechet on a warm Saturday.
“It basically means ‘Frechet fields,’” he tells Hoseok on the bus ride. “Frechet was a French mathematician in the early 1900’s.”
“Why did they name a bunch of fields after a mathematician?” Hoseok asks, bracing himself against the side of the bus as it rumbles to a stop.
“No clue,” Yoongi replies, eyeing a group of rowdy kids at the front of the bus, all olive skin and almond hair. They’re yelling loudly and he winces. “The Swiss put unnecessary emphasis on strange things. Ah fuck, this is our stop, come on.”
He smashes the yellow stop indicator button beneath the window and gets to his feet. He feels Hoseok follow him closely and sends a wave to the bus driver, who only nods, looking exasperated.
“Are we gonna find that bus in a ditch later?” Hoseok asks when his feet hit the concrete sidewalk. “Those kids were insufferable.”
“If we do, I get that one boy’s shoes,” Yoongi scoffs, pressing the crosswalk button. “He was too young to be wearing Pumas.”
Hoseok agrees, startling a little when the bus kicks up leaves as it pulls away.
Yoongi knows the way to the fields well; he’d discovered them on his own his first week in the country. He’d been wandering, a little lost, if he’s honest, when he rounded a corner and came face to face with acres of sunflowers and forest, with the mountains not far off. It had been spring then, and the flowers turned their faces to the sun, reached for it, tall and straight. He hasn’t been in a while and wonders what they look like now.
Hoseok talks while they walk. He tells Yoongi about his roommates, Jungkook and Namjoon. Namjoon has been his best friend since childhood and Hoseok taught Jungkook’s hip-hop class senior year, only to meet the boy again halfway through college and have him attach himself to Hoseok’s hip.
“That’s them in your Facebook pictures?” Yoongi asks as nonchalantly as he can, though his heartbeat betrays him.
“Yep, that’s them,” Hoseok says, brightening a bit at the mention. “We moved to Seoul last year,” he continues, hopping onto a short concrete wall to walk along it slowly. “Namjoon graduated and I dropped out and Jungkook wanted to dance there, so we just figured it would be best to go together.”
“You dropped out of school?” Yoongi echoes, looking up at Hoseok where he walks on the wall.
“Yeah, I did,” he replies. “Ran into some stuff, you know.” The man doesn’t lift his gaze, focuses on his feet until the wall ends and hops back onto the ground.
Yoongi only nods, not wanting to pry, though he itches with curiosity. Hoseok seems smart and passionate, a little frazzled at his worst. He wonders what it could be that Hoseok ran into. He decides he won’t ask.
They walk a little farther along the familiar sidewalks, Hoseok stopping every now and then to look up at the towering concrete apartment blocks. This part of the village is older, poorer; most of the balconies are stuffed with belongings and dead plants along with drying clothes. A cat hisses from a first floor railing and Hoseok hisses back, sending Yoongi into a choking fit of laughter.
They finally reach where urban Meyrin meets rural, and Yoongi leads Hoseok through a break in a row of trees, watches his face when the fields and mountains come into view. The other man’s eyes widen, his jaw dropping a little, and Yoongi can’t help but smile.
“Gorgeous, right?” he says, sweeping his gaze over the fields. Hoseok only nods, enamored.
The sunflowers have mostly died, brittle and broken on the ground, but it doesn’t take away from the beauty of the place. There are patches of them that are still alive, yellow and bright and chasing the sun. The forest beyond is starting to turn dark orange and red where it had been green before. Yoongi takes a deep breath in and hears Hoseok do the same.
“It’s so… big,” Hoseok observes, eyes still round with fascination.
“It’s a nice break from the city,” Yoongi says, stepping onto the gravel path that leads between two fields. Hoseok falls into step beside him, hands in his pockets. “I used to come here to read a lot.”
“Used to?” Hoseok questions him, glancing sideways.
“Yeah,” Yoongi says simply, meeting his eyes. “When I didn’t have any friends.”
Hoseok huffs a laugh and looks out farther, towards the mountains.
“Have you been to the mountains?” he asks.
Yoongi shakes his head. “They’re in France,” he says. “I’ve been to the border, though. It’s in the forest a few miles from here.”
“You’ve been a few miles into the forest?”
Yoongi shrugs. “I was a lonely man before you, Hoseok,” he says with some drama. It pulls a laugh from Hoseok that makes Yoongi’s stomach flutter.
They talk for a little longer until the path forks into a wall of trees.
“Wanna go in?” Yoongi asks, and Hoseok considers. The sun is bright today but the trees are dense, throwing the path into shadow.
“Yeah, let’s go,” Hoseok replies, throwing Yoongi a smile.
They walk for a long time between the trees, Hoseok stopping often to snap photos of things on his phone—a fallen tree, a small bug on a leaf, even a rock shaped like a heart. Yoongi finds Hoseok’s child-like wonder the most endearing thing about him. He finds joy in the smallest, simplest of things, and Yoongi wishes he could do the same. As a scientist, everything is complicated to him.
“Do you still dance?” Yoongi asks when Hoseok is balancing on a log off the beaten path, his shoulders square and straight.
“Not anymore,” he says, and his voice is wistful. “I broke my arm pretty bad a while back and I wasn’t allowed to do much.” He lifts one foot from the surface of the log, steady as a rock.
Hoseok places his foot back on the wood and hops back onto solid ground. “Nasty fall,” he says simply, not meeting Yoongi’s gaze. “It’s hard to dance with a cast up to your shoulder.”
Yoongi nods, following Hoseok as he continues along the path. It’s changed from gravel to dirt, topped with a layer of dead leaves. Hoseok is humming to himself and Yoongi watches his back, studies the slope of his neck, and wonders what his body looked like painting the air with music.
September makes its way into October and the weather cools down. Hoseok spends hours memorizing bus and tram stops, and soon, he can make his way through the village and into the city by himself with ease. He decides he likes Meyrin better than Geneva—it’s small and the people aren’t in as much of a rush as they are in the city. There’s a few parks and even a horse stable among all of the apartments, and Hoseok often takes walks to watch the groups of children taking horseback riding lessons. He discovers a grocery store right down the street from Anne’s place, where he buys too much chocolate, ready-to-eat noodle dishes, and ingredients for orange marmalade and cream cheese sandwiches.
Yoongi works a lot, but on the weekends, he accompanies Hoseok into Geneva, where they walk around the lake and Hoseok chases any bird he can find.
“They’ll chase you back,” Yoongi warns him one day, to which Hoseok responds with a scoff.
“I’m faster than a goose,” he says, stepping hard on the concrete to scare a pigeon nearby.
“You were chasing a swan, Hoseok, don’t let them hear you calling them geese.” Yoongi eyes one of the huge birds perched on a boat in the water.
Hoseok gives him a skeptical look. “Hyung, if anything, they understand French, not Korean.”
Yoongi rolls his eyes and Hoseok cackles.
A chilly breeze blows and ruffles their hair, and Hoseok zips his sweater up tight.
“Does it snow here?” he asks Yoongi, falling back into step with him when there are no more birds nearby.
“I think so,” Yoongi replies. “I haven’t been here long enough to know yet.”
“Guess we’ll see it together, right?” Yoongi says, and Hoseok glances at him sideways. The shorter man is looking thoughtfully at the sky, his mouth curved into a small smile, and Hoseok nods.
“Yeah, we will.”
A little while later, they’re riding the tram back to Meyrin, and Yoongi knocks Hoseok with his elbow. Hoseok turns to look at him and Yoongi’s got something bright in his eyes.
“Thanks for being my friend,” he says simply, and Hoseok tilts his head.
“Of course, hyung,” he replies, knocking Yoongi back. “Thanks for being mine, too.”
Yoongi grins, a little crookedly, and Hoseok repeats the words, in the back of his mind, Thanks for being mine.
Yoongi spends a lot of time with Hoseok, and he finds himself wondering what the spaces between his fingers feel like and if the way he breathes when he sleeps is the same as when he’s awake; a little quick, kind of shallow. Hoseok’s laugh is contagious only to him, it seems, and Yoongi can’t get enough of it, starts making a fool of himself in public just to see Hoseok smile. His chest pulls together in this tight, affectionate way when the other man tries to speak French or waves at a child on the bus.
Hoseok is somewhat closed off in certain places, almost anxious at times, but there are days the veil falls and Yoongi can see the brightness that shines from within him.
Yoongi knows that Hoseok lives in Seoul, but he lays awake at night and wonders, Where did you come from, Jung Hoseok?
Hoseok spends a lot of time with Yoongi, and he finds himself memorizing the beat of Yoongi’s steps as the walk around the lake, learning how many sugars he puts in his coffee before he’s satisfied (it’s four). He would know Yoongi’s hushed, gentle tone anywhere, even among a room of people speaking hundreds of languages. He wonders if Yoongi’s skin is as soft as it looks. He often thinks about touching it.
Yoongi is blunt, practical, if not a little neurotic, but Hoseok starts to feel a warm comfort around him, especially when they’re seated on the bus or tram, their knees brushing slightly.
Hoseok knows that Yoongi is tender and kind, but he lays awake at night and thinks, You terrify me, Min Yoongi.
Every Sunday morning, Yoongi meets him at the stop outside Hoseok’s Airbnb and they ride the tram together to the lake, where they drink coffee and talk and watch the Jet D’eau, a huge spout that blows water hundreds of feet into the sky in the center of the lake.
“It means ‘water jet,’” Yoongi tells him one day. There’s a concrete dock that sticks halfway into the water that Yoongi leads him along, slowly, because the wind over the lake is strong, knocking them this way and that and throwing water into their faces. Hoseok squawks at the cold and Yoongi laughs, covering his eyes with one hand.
“I like looking at it better,” Hoseok tells him later when they settle at a café with a latte each, their bangs still damp from the lake water. “It’s pretty from here.”
Yoongi takes a sip of his coffee instead of saying, So are you.
October bleeds into November and brings relentless, freezing rain.
Yoongi calls Hoseok one dreary Thursday morning and tells him he’s got the next two days off work.
“Cinnamon rolls?” Hoseok asks, and he hears a chuckle from the other side of the line.
They meet at the village bakery, two bus stops from Anne’s apartment, where they order two huge cinnamon rolls and sit at the table farthest from the door, so that they don’t feel the cold when people come and go. Yoongi had asked to get the rolls warmed, and when Hoseok bites into his, he has to swallow a lewd moan. The other man regards him with shocked amusement, muttering, “There are children here, be appropriate,” his eyes alight with a laugh, and Hoseok very suddenly finds that his entire world, in this moment, is focused on Yoongi, in the soft light of this bakery that smells like dark roast coffee while he’s got the taste of cinnamon and sugar on his tongue. He’s thrown back to their day at champs Frechet, how Yoongi’s hand had brushed his, and he’s looking at both of them now as they pull apart the layers of the cinnamon roll on his plate and Hoseok can’t help but think I want more of you.
“Yah, Hoseok,” Yoongi says, pulling Hoseok out of his head. “What are you thinking about so hard?”
Hoseok blinks a few times, willing his head to clear, and leans back in his chair. “Trying to remember how to say ‘I want to eat four pounds of black bean noodles’ in French,” he says flatly, and smirks when Yoongi barks out a laugh.
“I never taught you how to say that,” he says around another bite of his cinnamon roll.
Hoseok tilts his head. “Are you sure?” he asks. “Because I’ve been thinking that exact phrase for the past month.”
Yoongi nods and tells him he’s sure he didn’t teach Hoseok such a thing, but he could. Hoseok shakes his head.
“I feel like no one here will have black bean noodles to give me, even if I ask,” he whines, and the other man looks sympathetic.
“We should go to my place today,” Yoongi says after a pause. “You haven’t seen it yet and it’s raining too hard for us to do anything else.”
A part of Hoseok perks up at the offer while another part hides away, but Yoongi is expectant and his eyes seem lighter here in the bakery and Hoseok agrees. He ignores the warning siren in his head that is screaming You’re getting too close.
One tram ride and one mad dash through the rain finds them in Yoongi’s apartment. He lives on the CERN campus, which requires a keycard to enter. The guard at the gate had regarded Hoseok with some suspicion, but Yoongi mumbled something at him in French and pulled the sleeve of Hoseok’s raincoat when the gate clicked open.
The apartment is small, not unlike Hoseok’s Airbnb, and filled with books. They’re everywhere—stacked on the coffee table, scattered on the couch, peeking out of drawers.
“I take it you’re a reader,” Hoseok jokes, picking up the nearest book and turning it over in his hand. It’s leatherbound with words stitched into the front that he can’t quite make out.
“More like a hoarder,” Yoongi replies with a huff, shaking his hair free of rainwater. Hoseok flinches away from the wetness and Yoongi smirks.
“Have you read them all?” Hoseok asks and the other man nods.
“Pretty much,” he replies, stepping over a stack of very thick paperbacks. “I have a lot of time on my hands when I’m not working. Or, I did before you showed up here.” He looks over his shoulder at Hoseok with mock accusation. Hoseok threatens to throw the book. “You want something to drink?” Yoongi disappears behind a wall, presumably into the kitchen.
“You got whiskey?” Hoseok asks as he moves a few books from the couch to the floor to sit down. He hears a noise of disbelief and Yoongi’s face peeks out from around the corner.
“It’s not even noon,” he scolds, eyebrows furrowed, and Hoseok laughs behind a hand. “Besides,” Yoongi continues as he disappears again. “No alcohol on campus. CERN rule.”
Hoseok rolls his eyes, taking time to survey Yoongi’s living room. There isn’t much on the walls besides a framed photo near the front door of what looks to be a dog. There’s a bookshelf, of course, a small table that holds a very old television, and a poorly upholstered loveseat across from the couch. When Yoongi returns, he’s got a water bottle in each hand.
“I forgot that I only buy water,” he says contritely, tossing one to Hoseok.
“Whiskey can wait, I guess,” Hoseok mumbles and looks at Yoongi, who’s taken a seat next to him on the couch.
”Have you ever watched A Silent Voice?” Yoongi asks suddenly, turning to look at him. “It’s an anime, about a deaf girl and redemption.”
Hoseok thinks that’s a very interesting combination, and says that no, he hasn’t, but he’d like to.
Yoongi offers him a soft smile. “I’ve got it on DVD.”
They spend the afternoon in front of Yoongi’s ancient television, watching A Silent Voice. Hoseok sees Yoongi cry multiple times, the most when the deaf girl, Shoko, is crying at the feet of her childhood bully, Shoya, after she tried to kill herself and he saved her, hurting himself in the process.
“Ah, hyung,” Hoseok teases after Yoongi lets out a particularly wet sob, nudging him gently with his shoulder.
Yoongi sniffs once and wipes his nose on the back of his hand. “This happens every time,” he snaps weakly. “I’ve seen this movie so many damn times and I still can’t pull it together at this part, I swear—” He’s almost weeping at this point, and Hoseok feels his chest bloom with warm affection. “I’ll be okay, I promise, just-just keep watching, I’ll be back.” Yoongi disappears down a darkened hallway and a few moments later, Hoseok hears him blowing his nose. When Yoongi returns, he’s clutching a handful of tissues. On the television screen, Shoko and Shoya are holding each other’s wrists on a bridge over a river filled with koi fish, and the music is swelling in a way that gives Hoseok goosebumps.
Yoongi is trembling a little beside him and Hoseok wants to slip arm around his shoulders, pull him close and tell him It’s okay, hyung, they’ll be happy soon even though he knows nothing about how this movie ends. He wants to bury his nose in Yoongi’s neck and learn the way he smells a little better, close his eyes and let the thorns between the gaps in his ribs die so he can keep Yoongi close. Instead, he keeps still, hands in his lap, and listens to Yoongi snuffle and sniff. He keeps his eyes trained on the screen, watches how the characters are holding onto each other so tightly and thinks about how much he wishes he could let go long enough to do the same.
It’s nearly December when Yoongi asks the one question he’d been dreading since he woke up one morning and was hit with a simple fact: he is in love with Jung Hoseok.
“When do you leave?”
They’re browsing one of the souvenir shops on the bottom floor of the gare because Hoseok wants to bring back gifts for Jungkook and Namjoon. He carefully places the porcelain tiger he’s been looking at for the last minute back on the shelf and avoids Yoongi’s gaze, as if he didn’t hear the question.
“The beginning of January,” he says after a while longer, letting his fingertips trace over the glass of a display case that holds gold jewelry. “Right after the new year.”
Yoongi feels something very deep in his chest and decides it’s probably similar to what being struck with an arrow feels like. A month, he thinks, counting the days in his head. It doesn’t seem like enough time.
Time for what?
He plucks a book from a shelf nearby and flips through the pages, not seeing the words.
“What about you?”
Yoongi looks up to see Hoseok peering at him through the jewelry display case, his eyes sharp and light through the glass.
“You’ve been here longer than a passport can allow,” he says.
Yoongi closes the book and squeezes it between his palms.
“Work visa,” he replies. “May will be my year mark here. They’ll send me back to Daegu after that.”
Wait for me in Seoul, he wants to say. I’ll come find you.
Hoseok lets his eyes fall again, trains them on a jewelry box on the top shelf of the display case.
“We’ll both be back home,” he says, the words wrapped in a small smile. Yoongi nods absently in reply.
He turns the word over in his head and watches Hoseok pick up another porcelain animal, long fingers wrapping around the fragile statue with care.
Home is with you.
“I don’t know what to do, Jungkook.”
“Hyung, maybe you should just—”
“Give him a chance? That’s what everyone said about Jaehwan, too, don’t you remember?”
“Of course, I do, but-but Yoongi-hyung sounds different to me—”
“I can never know.”
“Not until you try.”
“I’m not strong enough to try!”
“I’m sorry, Kook. I didn’t mean to yell.”
“I just want you to be happy again.”
”Does Yoongi-hyung make you happy?
“Yeah, he does. But that’s not the question I need answered.”
“Does he make you feel safe?”
“Hyung, it’s been a long time since Jaehwan.”
“Be respectful, Jungkook.”
“He doesn’t deserve my respect.”
“I’ll be however I please about the person who fucked up my best friend.”
“If Yoongi-hyung makes you feel a way that Jaehwan never did, then it’s not the same.”
“I’m just scared, okay? And not of him, not at all. It’s just… things were good with Jaehwan once upon a time, too. Before they got bad.”
“You got dealt a bad hand. It happens and you moved on, right? You can never know how something ends until you let it happen first.”
“Do you love him?”
“Then let him in.”
“I don’t know how.”
“Do you trust him?”
“I think so.”
“Then it’ll happen, hyung. Trust him and he’ll find his way in.”
“I love him, Tae.”
“Does he love you back?”
“I don’t know. I can’t tell. He’s… hard to read, so hard. His eyes are always sort of… like he’s looking at me through glass.”
“So break it.”
“I don’t know how.”
“I don’t want to scare him, Taehyung. He’s fragile.”
“How do you know?”
“I just know. I know him.”
“Then you should know how to get through to him.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“It is, hyung. You find someone you want and you learn them and you make sure that they’re yours. You only have so much time left.”
“What will I do when he leaves?”
“Follow him home.”
It snows on the 20th of December.
They’re sitting on the roof of Anne’s apartment, each of them wrapped in a blanket when the first flakes fall from the sky. One lands on Hoseok’s nose and he goes cross-eyed to look at it, pulling a laugh from Yoongi. It melts on his skin and he looks up, seeing more and more snowflakes start to fall from the sky. Yoongi lets out an energized whoop, squinting as he watches the snow fall.
“Do you think it’ll stay long?” Hoseok asks, pulling his blanket tighter around his shoulders. “We can make snow angels.”
“I hope.” He shakes his hand when the snow melts, water droplets falling from his skin.
Meyrin is quiet as the snow falls. It’s like everyone has stopped to watch it. Everything’s a little quieter when it snows, and Hoseok closes his eyes.
“Hey,” comes Yoongi’s deep, smooth voice, the one that wraps around Hoseok’s fingers and tugs him close.
Hoseok hums in response, feeling a few more snowflakes settle on his face.
“I’d really like to kiss you right now,” Yoongi says. “If that’s okay.”
Hoseok’s heart jumps into his throat and he opens his eyes. He turns to look at Yoongi, who is looking right back at him with his dark eyes and round nose and soft hair. He wants to feel Yoongi under his palms, hold his face and touch his clothes and learn, learn, learn—
“That wouldn’t be best,” he says instead. “That… hyung, that wouldn’t be good for me.”
Yoongi’s face falls and Hoseok hates it. His eyes move to look over the village and his shoulders are tense when he pulls the blanket up to his chin.
“I’m sorry, then,” he says, and his breath is mist in the air.
“It’s okay, Hoseok-ah, I get it.”
He looks over again and his eyes hold defeat.
“Let me, uh, let me head home,” Yoongi says, turning quickly to climb back into Hoseok’s room. Hoseok hears his bed creak as Yoongi’s weight hits it. “Keep an eye on the snow and we’ll make some angels later, yeah?”
Hoseok makes it back into his room and Yoongi is gathering his shoes and his keys, putting an arm in his coat.
“You don’t have to leave—”
“I think maybe I should,” Yoongi replies, not pausing in putting on his coat. “I, um, I’ll go and—”
“Hyung, stop.” Hoseok is stern, suddenly, using a voice he hasn’t used in a long time, and it startles Yoongi into silence. “Please. Stay.”
Yoongi visibly clenches his jaw before dropping his shoes and letting his coat fall from his shoulders onto the floor.
“I’m sorry,” Hoseok says, sitting on his bed. He pats the space beside him and Yoongi eyes it cautiously before settling there. He puts a few inches between their thighs, and Hoseok doesn’t like it. “I didn’t… mean it how I said it.”
“Don’t apologize, I-I obviously…” He trails off, wringing his hands in his lap. “I shouldn’t have… I obviously have been reading you wrong.”
Hoseok runs a hand over his face. “No, hyung, you read me right,” he says. “I want you to kiss me.” Now that’s saying it out loud, he can’t deny its truth. “I want you to touch me and I want to touch you and it’s been like that for a while, since-since you talked so much about that Higgs boson particle and taught me to speak French and showed me that I’m not alone here.”
Yoongi looks at him and his mouth is slightly agape, his eyes wide, and it’s cute.
Hoseok thinks Yoongi is cute.
“But I don’t know how to… let people in my space anymore,” he says, so quietly he almost can’t hear himself. “I did it before and it was a waste.”
He realizes Yoongi is very close, close enough that Hoseok could reach up and drag a knuckle across his cheek, but his hands are stuck, frozen in his lap.
“I like you a lot, Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi whispers. He’s transparent, honest, no-bullshit. He’s a scientist. “And I don’t think there’s any going back.”
Hoseok nods and he hates the way this hurts.
There’s a silence between them that Hoseok wishes he could fill. He wants to look at Yoongi but he’s scared of what will happen if he does.
“Don’t you trust me?” Yoongi murmurs finally, and Hoseok has never heard his voice do that thing it’s doing, wobbling, like it’s teetering on the edge of something.
“Of course I do, but I don’t know if I can… with this.” His voice cracks on the last word and it’s desperate. “I trusted Jaehwan, too, and he…” Hoseok stumbles over words, can’t get them out of his mouth. He settles with the simplest statement for the most complicated of thoughts. “He hurt me.”
Yoongi is fidgeting and it drives Hoseok crazy. He wants to reach out and still the other man’s hands with his own, maybe hold them for a little while, maybe touch them to his lips, but he can’t. He won’t.
“I’m sorry,” Yoongi says. “I’m sorry for whatever he did.”
Hoseok shakes his head, runs a hand through his hair.
“It’s fine,” he says, even though it’s a lie. “It’s… passed.”
Yoongi shakes his head this time. “Doesn’t matter,” he says. “Whatever it is, it’s still valid, no matter how long it’s been.” Yoongi’s eyes are somewhere else, focused on something that isn’t Hoseok. “It’s allowed to not be fine.”
They sit in silence for a while longer until Hoseok becomes hyperaware of Yoongi’s breathing again and matches it; in, hold, out. In, hold, out.
“Jaehwan broke my nose eight months after he kissed me for the first time,” Hoseok says, and he sort of feels like he can’t breathe. “He left bruises in the shapes of his fingers on my neck and told everyone it was what I asked for. He said that about a lot of things.” He can feel himself shaking and tries to match Yoongi’s breathing again.
In, hold, out.
“And I was too stupid and scared to tell anyone the truth,” he goes on. “I loved him more than I loved the thought of being free.”
Yoongi is looking at him and he can feel it, through his skin and into his bones.
“He snapped my arm one night and I called Namjoon and that was the end. That was why I stopped dancing. That was why we moved to Seoul. I couldn’t stand being in Gwangju, seeing all of the places where things had been good once but aren’t anymore.” There’s a lump in his throat and he will not cry, he will not cry. “That was over a year ago and I haven’t seen him since but sometimes I still dream about his hands around my throat.” The backs of his eyes are stinging and he blinks once, twice, three times. He will not cry.
Hoseok hears Yoongi clear his throat. The other man hasn’t spoken for a while, and when Hoseok looks at him, he sees Yoongi’s eyes are cast down again, staring at the wood floor of Hoseok’s room.
“Hoseok, I—” Yoongi’s voice is tight, too tight. It sounds choked, the same as it did when they were watching A Silent Voice, when he couldn’t pull himself together during the scene on the bridge.
“Don’t—don’t cry, Yoongi-hyung, it’s okay, please don’t,” Hoseok says, placing a hesitant hand on Yoongi’s shoulder. Hoseok doesn’t touch anyone, not often, but hearing Yoongi’s voice breaking is pulling him in. He sniffs once, holding back his own tears. He doesn’t want to be weak here, in front of Yoongi.
“It’s not okay,” Yoongi bites back. “Don’t you tell me what he did is okay.” He lifts his head and Hoseok sees his eyes are shining with unshed tears. “You are the last person on this earth to deserve being treated like that.”
Hoseok watches a tear fall and mark a track on Yoongi’s cheek.
“You are sweet and kind and beautiful and bright and—” He shakes his head, breathes in deep. “I’ll kill anyone who hurts you.”
Hoseok squeezes Yoongi’s shoulder and breaks a weak smile.
“That’s a bold claim,” he jokes.
Yoongi wipes his eyes, sitting up a little straighter. “I keep my promises,” he replies. “Especially when it comes to you.”
There’s another beat of silence between them, and Hoseok hasn’t moved his hand yet. Yoongi’s shoulder is sharp, a little bony, but the feeling of someone else’s warmth—Yoongi’s warmth—under his hand is a comfort.
“I love you,” Yoongi says, without reservation, and Hoseok lets his eyes fall shut.
He isn’t sure how long it is before Yoongi speaks again.
“Are you scared of love?”
Hoseok slides his hand from Yoongi’s shoulder to his wrist, his fingertips brushing over the soft, pale skin.
“I’m scared of love not being enough,” he replies.
Yoongi opens his hand, offering, and Hoseok lets his fingers find their way to the other man’s palm, tracing the lines there.
“What does this mean?” Yoongi asks. He’s whispering.
Hoseok shrugs, as he often does. “I don’t know,” he says. “Just… don’t go.” He watches their hands, notices the gossamer veins under Yoongi’s skin.
Hoseok falls asleep and Yoongi watches.
Watches how his eyelids twitch and his mouth falls open. Watches how his hair fans out on the pillow, the color of Nutella and milk chocolate. Watches how his chest rises and falls under his t-shirt, slow and steady.
Hoseok’s breathing doesn’t sound the same as it does when he’s awake.
Yoongi watches the snow falling outside the window, watches the sky flash a faint pink before the sun goes down.
He watches the ceiling until all of the light disappears and night falls.
He puts space between him and Hoseok on the bed, even though it feels like he’s moving farther away from the sun.
Yoongi falls asleep to the sound of Hoseok’s breath.
Hoseok dreams of Jaehwan.
He’s beautiful, he always has been. Long nose, honey eyes, broad shoulders, pink lips.
He holds Hoseok’s wrist in one hand, grips his chin with the other.
“Don’t you miss me?” he asks, and his voice sounds like poison.
Hoseok tries to say no but his throat is closing up tight.
“Hoseokie,” Jaehwan coos, and his grip tightens on Hoseok’s wrist. He can feel the man’s calluses against his skin.
Yoongi opens his eyes and Hoseok’s breathing is quick, shallow. Awake.
It’s not dark but it’s not morning either, and when he turns over, they’re face to face, like Hoseok had gotten as close as he could to Yoongi without touching him. In the muted light, Hoseok’s eyes are puffy, from sleep and from tears, some that are still making their home on his skin. He’s got his knees to his chest, the blankets kicked away.
Yoongi says his name and the tension in his shoulders eases a little. “Are you okay?” he whispers.
Hoseok’s eyes focus on his face and he blinks once.
“Just… a dream.”
Hoseok scoots a little closer, the heat of his breath hitting Yoongi’s face.
“Give me your hands.”
Yoongi complies, bringing his hands into the space between them. Hoseok takes them in both of his and presses his thumbs into Yoongi’s palms, runs his fingers over his knuckles. Yoongi gets goosebumps at Hoseok’s touch.
Yoongi’s laugh is a short puff of breath that ruffles Hoseok’s bangs.
“Thank you,” he says.
Hoseok smiles, though it’s distant.
Minutes pass and sunlight brightens the room. Hoseok keeps Yoongi’s hands between his own, bringing them to his chest. Yoongi listens to the sound of his own heart, skipping beats every time Hoseok looks at him.
“You make me feel safe, hyung,” Hoseok’s voice says, soft and cracked. He takes one of Yoongi’s hands and brings it to his face, presses it to his cheek.
“Good,” Yoongi replies.
Hoseok turns his head and ghosts his lips over the skin of Yoongi’s hand.
Yoongi aches to move closer, pull Hoseok to his chest, hold him tight and breathe him in. Hoseok is all soft edges and tan skin, smooth curves and beautiful lines. He’s made of starlight and Yoongi wants to bask in him. But he holds his ground, closes his eyes and focuses on the feeling of Hoseok’s lips on his knuckles.
“I won’t turn my back on you, okay?” he whispers, turning Yoongi’s hand over to press a kiss into his palm. “It won’t be easy but I’ll… I’ll try.”
Yoongi opens his eyes and nods, brushes his fingertips over Hoseok’s brow, traces the curve of his cheek. “I’ll wait for you,” he replies, and feels Hoseok smile against his hand.
They celebrate Christmas at Yoongi’s apartment.
Hoseok comes across peppermint hot chocolate at the grocery store and Yoongi bakes an apple pie.
“Jimin sent me the recipe from some American food magazine,” he says as Hoseok shoves almost an entire piece in his mouth, reveling in the taste. “Fuck, Hoseok, chew your food, please.”
The only thing on Yoongi’s tiny television is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in French, because he only has local cable. They curl up on the couch, mugs of hot chocolate in hand, and Hoseok has trouble focusing on the movie because 1. It’s in French and 2. Yoongi is wearing his glasses because his astigmatism makes his contacts fall out sometimes and today is one of those times. They’re thin, wire-framed, and sort of make him look like a professor, which Hoseok finds undeniably sexy.
Yoongi catches him staring halfway through a sip of hot chocolate and purses his lips as he swallows.
“What are you looking at?” he demands, and Hoseok bites his lip.
“Nothing, it’s just—” He reaches out and taps the frame of Yoongi’s glasses. “I’m not used to your glasses.”
Yoongi grimaces and scrunches his nose up a little. “I’m not either. I really hate them, but I’m blind as a damn bat without them.” He slips the glasses off his nose and wipes a lens on his t-shirt.
“I like them a lot,” Hoseok blurts out. “You look… cute.”
Yoongi glances at him with an amused smile as he puts the glasses back on.
“Thank you,” he replies, and Hoseok would dare to say he looked flustered.
Later, Hoseok gives him his Christmas present: a knitted red scarf that he found in a very small shop in Geneva. He tells Yoongi how he had to find his way there alone and even use some French in his exchange with the store clerk. Yoongi wraps it around his neck, burrows his face into it a little and Hoseok can see his smile on his eyes.
Yoongi gives Hoseok something, too: a glass sunflower.
“So you won’t forget champs Frechet,” Yoongi says.
Hoseok holds the flower carefully in his hands, turning it over and over and watching it catch the light of the room. When he puts is back in its velvet lined box, he catches Yoongi’s eye.
“I won’t forget,” he says, and he’s sure Yoongi knows he’s talking about more than champs Frechet.
Yoongi takes Hoseok to a very large tree on the western shore of the lake where meters and meters of rope and wood are hung from the branches as a playground. During the day, it’s crawling with children, but tonight at 11:50pm, it’s empty. They sit side by side on a long wooden swing, feet brushing the dirt beneath them. Their shoulders brush and their knees knock, and Hoseok even fishes one of Yoongi’s hands from his pocket to hold it tight.
“Any New Years resolutions?” Yoongi asks, enjoying the feeling of Hoseok’s hand in his but wishing they could take their gloves off.
“Stop biting my fingernails,” Hoseok says flatly. Yoongi feels him wiggling his fingers. “You?”
Yoongi shrugs, pushing against the ground so the swing takes them a little higher. “Get rid of some clutter, maybe,” he muses. “Sell some of my books.”
Hoseok looks at him sharply, and Yoongi scoffs. “Hoseok, I’ve read them all,” he says. “They’re just taking up space in my apartment.”
“Give some to me,” Hoseok says, sounding determined. “I don’t want them to go somewhere strange.”
Yoongi has to laugh out loud but agrees to give him a few. Hoseok seems satisfied, pressing a little closer into Yoongi’s side.
There’s no celebration or ceremony for the New Year here, or at least not this year. It might be the snow, Yoongi thinks, as he glances at his phone to check the time. Three minutes.
You won’t kiss him, Yoongi tells himself. You’ll wait for him. You said you would.
They swing together in silence and it’s very quiet. The lake is in the center of the city and it’s usually bustling here, even late at night. Yoongi watches his feet as they brush over the dirt, adjusting his hand a little in Hoseok’s grasp.
They let the swing come to a slow stop, and Yoongi is trying so hard to keep his eyes straight ahead, to just let the new year come and hold Hoseok’s hand because that’s enough for him, it could be enough for the rest of his life. But he suddenly feels a warm breath on face, feels Hoseok move even closer. The tip of the other man’s nose brushes his cheek, and Yoongi feels like he’s being lit on fire.
“You can kiss me now, hyung,” Hoseok says quietly, though there’s no one around to hear. “It’s okay. I promise.”
Yoongi turns his head slightly and he’s nose-to-nose with Hoseok, who he’s learned smells like cotton and ginger. It’s dark but there’s a streetlight not too far away and he can see the color in Hoseok’s cheeks, bright red from the cold. Yoongi swallows, momentarily unable to do anything but look into Hoseok’s eyes.
“Come on,” Hoseok urges, his lips pulling into a smile. “You’ll be late.”
So Yoongi leans forward, tilts his head and closes his eyes, and presses his lips against Hoseok’s waiting mouth.
It’s chaste, long, warm, gentle, and tastes like winter. Hoseok sighs through his nose and melts against him, and Yoongi could cry with relief at the way Hoseok’s hands move to touch his face, a few gloved fingers pushing into the skin of his neck. Yoongi’s chest is bursting and he brings a hand to hold one of Hoseok’s wrists, to ground himself, to know this is real. Hoseok opens his mouth and takes Yoongi’s bottom lip between his, and Yoongi is aflame, burning hot from the starlight beneath Hoseok’s skin.
Hoseok leans back after a time and when Yoongi opens his eyes, the other man is smiling big, glowing in the dark.
“Was it good?” Yoongi asks dumbly, and Hoseok must find it funny, because he giggles behind a hand. “It’s—I haven’t kissed someone in a long time.” Yoongi can feel himself blushing.
“Yes,” Hoseok says, pressing the single syllable into Yoongi’s lips.
Two hours later, they’re tangled beneath the sheets of Yoongi’s bed. Hoseok is curled around Yoongi’s back, tracing the curves of his bare shoulder with a hand, forehead pressed into the back of his neck.
“Hoseok-ah,” Yoongi says, and Hoseok hums. He can feel the vibration of it in his bones. “‘Je te veux.’”
Hoseok’s fingers pause.
“What’s it mean?” he asks. Yoongi feels the shape of his lips against his skin.
“‘I want you.’”
Hoseok presses a little closer, and his breathing is deep, slow, steady. Awake.
“Want you, too.”
Hoseok leaves Switzerland on the third day of January. Yoongi goes with him to the airport, walks as far as he can with him until they hit the security line.
“Don’t stay, alright?” Hoseok says, holding one of Yoongi’s hands tight. “Just—go back home, and I’ll call you when I can.”
Yoongi has never looked so small, the scarf Hoseok got him wrapped loosely around his neck. His dark eyes are sad, and Hoseok wishes more than anything he didn’t have to go, didn’t have to leave Yoongi alone here.
“O-okay,” Yoongi says with effort, and Hoseok recognizes his tone.
“Please,” he whispers, stepping closer to cup Yoongi’s face in both of his hands. “I hate it when you cry.”
Yoongi chuckles humorlessly. “I’m a crybaby, Hoseok, it’s who I am.”
Hoseok wipes the first tear away with the pad of his thumb, wills the rest of them to stay in Yoongi’s eyes at least until he leaves. He’s not sure he’ll be able to hold it together much longer.
“This is the last and only time I’ll leave you,” Hoseok says.
Yoongi’s expression crumples and Hoseok pulls him to his chest, holds him there and feels the shake of his shoulders, the warmth of his tears soaking Hoseok’s shirt. They stand like that until Yoongi pulls away and reaches up to brush Hoseok’s bangs from his forehead.
“Au revoir,” he says. “Until I see you again.”
Hoseok watches him turn and walk away, and decides this hurts more than any bruise or broken bone.
Yoongi doesn’t go home. He takes the 57 bus to champs Frechet, where he walks along the frozen gravel path and thinks about how he feels very much like the flowers scattered dead and brittle in the fields: cold, and without a sun to reach for.
Hoseok arrives in Seoul to find Jungkook and Namjoon waiting for him in the airport, Jungkook holding a sign with his name written in bright red letters and Namjoon waving a huge hand. They know about Yoongi, about the pain and how hard this is, but they smile big and hug him tight. They take him home and make him black bean noodles and Hoseok has never felt so full and so empty at the same time.
He sleeps in Jungkook’s bed that night after a teary phone call with Yoongi, lets the boy brush his hair and tell him hyung, it’ll be okay soon even though right now, it feels like nothing will ever be okay again.
A week after Hoseok gets home, Yoongi calls him in the middle of the day. He’s flipping through the pages of one of the books the other man had given him, an anthology of French short stories translated into Korean. He’s bewildered when he sees Yoongi’s name on his phone—it’s the middle of the night in Switzerland.
“Hyung, why are you awake right—”
”Come to the front door, Hoseok.”
Hoseok can’t register the statement, only drops the book into his lap and presses the phone tighter to his ear.
”I said, come to the front door.”
Hoseok gets to his feet, relies on muscle memory to get him to the door of his apartment. He pauses with his hand on the knob, holds his breath, and pulls the door open.
Yoongi is standing in the hall, suitcase by his feet. He’s wrapped in the scarf Hoseok got him for Christmas, and his nose is a little pink from the winter chill.
“Hi.” His deep voice is accented by a smile.
Hoseok’s phone falls from his hand and he couldn’t care less if it shatters on the ground. He throws both arms around Yoongi’s neck, buries his face in Yoongi’s shoulder and feels himself coming to life again after seven days of living in a blur.
“What on earth are you doing here?” he asks, voice muffled as he presses himself against Yoongi as close as he can.
“I quit,” Yoongi replies, snaking his arms around Hoseok’s waist.
“You quit? Your job?!” Hoseok yelps, pulling back to look at him. Yoongi is smirking.
“Yeah,” he replies. “I couldn’t… I couldn’t go back to how I was living before you.” He takes a handful of Hoseok’s shirt and squeezes. “Could you kiss me, please? I didn’t come all the way here to have you question me.”
Hoseok bites his lip and shakes his head. “You’re something else, Min Yoongi,” he says, leaning forward to catch Yoongi’s mouth with his.
Yoongi kisses him back deep and long, and when he leans back to look Hoseok in the eye, he says something very gently in French.
”Korean, please,” Hoseok says, and Yoongi smiles, small and soft.
“‘I missed you.’”
Hoseok kisses him again, right on dip of his cupid’s bow, and says in response, “Missed you, too.”