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jungkook watches as the amount of dishes in his sink slowly starts to lower in number. it’s these moments that he finds he dissociates the most, rather than in front of the mirror in the morning or at the convenience store at 1am. no, it’s washing fucking dishes. his knuckles are hot-water-red, scrubbed with dishwasher soap and his fingerprints are pruning. possibly, if he killed someone, it wouldn’t matter, because he would have any fucking prints. that’s how harsh his damn dishwash is. at least it smells nice, like lemon, and jungkook wonders if he should buy lemon scented stuff more. maybe he’d smell like dishwasher.

at the end of it, he’s half washing up plastic containers from previous take-out excursions that can be good enough substitutes for high end containers and the few dishes that he actually owns. not only does he want to drown and forget thinking about the shittier things in life – loans, his parents calling him at 8pm with their worried and condescending voices, the pile of bills on his small coffee table – jungkook thinks about watching music bank and following dance steps with his eyes.

he gets there, eventually, when his hands are cooling off in the dry air of his living room. he sleeps on his couch, pretty much. it’s comfortable there, the shape of his body already imprinted on the three seats. thrown over the end of the couch is a stack of his blankets, ranging from fuzzy to warm and puffy. he loves puffy blankets. his favorite pillow is already situated at the perfect position. jungkook thinks about how hard it is for him to get that one sweet spot when he’s sleeping on his bed – that one spot where all of his body is comfortable and warm – and figures that if sleeping on his couch and risking back and hip problems is what it takes to knock out faster, then he’ll take it. it’s not like he’s dancing much, anyway.

music bank is both enjoyable and painful for him to watch. he likes mumbling along to the songs. on a good day, he’ll be testing his belting limits; on a bad day, he watches the screen mutely, eyes wide with dark circles. today’s an in-between day.

his phone dings with the kakao noise. jungkook’s arm flops over as he tries to get a hold of it, bringing it up to his face and squinting at its brightness – god, why the fuck does he have automatic brightness on – and sees that it’s from jimin, asking if he’s seen some boy group or the other perform yet.

taehyung’s going, god, don’t be so gay. with a little winky face, of course, because they know that being gay is the only thing that brings them all together. or, well,  had brought them together in the first place. now they’re stuck together because of drunk nights out and secret judging sessions of whether who is hotter: rain, or yunho. jungkook sticks by rain. jimin and taehyung are still fighting it out, changing their mind based on the day, the weather, the number of cracks on the sidewalk, jungkook doesn’t even know.

shut the fuck up, jimin promptly replies, @ lovely bar in itaewon, come be gay with me asshole

uh, no thanks, don’t want stds

says the fuck boy

jungkook shuts off his phone and puts an arm over his eyes, wishing that he didn’t hear that in their voices. the problem with taehyung and jimin and him is that they all swore that they would be their own friends, that they would be the only three against the shitty world – immigrate to america, go to fucking taiwan if they wanted to get married – but in the end, taehyung and jimin ended up dancing around each other with feelings that edged on the romantic. jungkook didn’t want to say that he felt left out, but he did. in no world would he imagine himself part of their relationship – just because he liked dick didn’t mean he liked every dick that came by – but it felt. a little lonely. sometimes they would be in their own tete-a-tete, eyes meeting over the table, and jungkook would be out of their orbit. sometimes it felt like that.

it’s been feeling more like that often, now. it’s been a little too bitter in his mouth.

if only he had done the things he wanted to, jungkook thinks a little miserably. he gets like this sometimes, blinks up at his ceiling and wonders about his what ifs. he had auditioned for the wrong company, gotten in and spent a miserable year as a junior to a bunch of stuck up i-made-it kpop idols, and he wondered, back then, why he even wanted this. no one paid attention to him, he was supposed to hit a weight limit that left his stomach permanently unable to digest too much food at once, and he had never felt more insecure about himself – his body, his face, his singing. eventually, he decided to terminate the contract when he started to crush on one of his rare, nice seniors, imagined kissing him and holding his hand until the thought of it physically choked him.

so he ran, horrified with his new found sexuality and just fifteen, entered seoul arts and threw himself into studies. he was still on good terms with his parents – as well as he could be, when the both of them disapproved of his love of music and dispassionately told him he’d never get anywhere and never be anyone with a goddamn singing career – and jungkook, maybe, somewhere in him, believes it. that realistic, sordid part of him believes it. maybe he didn’t use to, but maybe after seeing himself in the mirror at his label and finding only flaws, he had started to soak in what had been able to roll off his skin so easily before.

jungkook sometimes thinks if – what if he had chosen another label? what if he had just looked a little more, ahd not been so eager to go to the first one that took him? everyone knew that superstar contracts, any contract out of a singing show didn’t hold long. jungkook, barely-a-teenager jungkook, believed too hard. he loved too much and thought, dreamed, maybe hoped too much of his own capabilities. he knows better now.

kakao keeps pinging. jungkook sets his phone on do not disturb.

now he works at another label, a much more famous one. it’s good work, he thinks to himself bleakly. helping create songs, lending his voice to background vocals, teaching the trainees how to sing. if he sometimes thinks about his own time as a trainee, well, it’s all a blur anyways.

he falls asleep to the sound of pop music coming from his tv.

/

jimin has a cruel ability to not sustain a hangover. he feels shitty for a moment, he says, but then gets over it quick. jungkook got over the hype of drinking once he turned legal, so hangovers for him are few and far in between. he gets headaches, maybe, from when he’s out with coworkers, but that’s it. taehyung is the worst of all of them: he barfs spectacularly all through the morning and complains at any slight hiss of noise or peek of light, and is a general mess. he’s never a pretty drunk, either. jungkook doesn’t have his driving license (though he wants to get it, just can’t afford a car to practice) but jimin does, and more often than not they’re the ones tag teaming to take care of taehyung’s hot mess. why he drinks when he knows how he gets, jungkook will never know.

taehyung eventually joined jimin last night at the club, jungkook learns, and got blackout drunk. jimin, only there to dance and have a little fun, called a cab to take them back to jimin’s apartment. that’s where they are now, and that’s where jungkook is heading.

jimin opens the door, fresh faced and rubbing a hand through his hair, brightening at the sight of jungkook.

“hey, gguk,” he says, motioning him in. “did you bring the goods?”

he wordlessly throws the bag from the pharmacy at jimin’s hands, rubbing his eyes of sleep in the meanwhile. he still feels a little woozy.

“where’s taehyung,” he asks, tired.

“still sleeping in the back. the little shit drank himself to death, i told him that i only wanted to dance,” jimin shakes his head.

“hyung, he was going to drink if there’s a bar nearby. you shouldn’t have said anything,” jungkook rolls his eyes. they both know how taehyung gets, but jimin’s always been weak to having fun. dancing, singing, having fun. that’s what it is, right, that’s what it is.

he’s working as a dance instructor in some celebrity dance studio, but the pay is shit and the work hours are shit. jimin hasn’t choreographed anything, so his name’s not on any roster. the most fame he gets is comments on youtube – where the dance studio has posted numerous videos of dance routines – and some randos on the internet says, wow that guy with the blue shirt is mad hot. jimin watches the videos religiously. jungkook knows that he’s waiting for his chance.

taehyung’s a trying actor, listed on some unknown label, modelling for shopping malls in his free time. they all had big dreams about the stage that never got realized. that’s how the roll goes, jungkook thinks. some people make it, but there’s so much more that don’t. hard work doesn’t amount to anything, sometimes. some of them – jungkook, jimin, taehyung – are hit hard with rock bottom, pulling themselves up with whatever they can to get themselves fed. get into work.

“are you going to the company, soon?” jimin asks, opening up his fridge to hand jungkook a banana milk he always has stashed in his fridge. jungkook, whose stomach is rumbling a little, points at the box of cereal neatly tucked on top of the fridge. jimin gets that down for him too.

“soon,” jungkook says, and they eat breakfast in quiet.

taehyung eventually stumbles in a good forty five minutes later, rubbing his eyes and hitting his own head harshly. jimin wordlessly pulls his hand away, giving him a level look, and taehyung blurts: “kill me.”

jungkook snorts into his spoonful.

“you’re only twenty four but i bet you’re gonna have a shit ton of liver issues,” jimin says conversationally, before patting taehyung on the shoulder a little bit too harshly, taehyung looks physically green. “go wash your face and eat something greasy. water, too, lots of water. i’ll fry up some sausages for you. jungkook?”

“i’ll make you soup,” jungkook offers.

taehyung snuffles, leaning forward to lug his stupidly heavy arms around both their necks. “i love you guys. you’re my real – my real bros, you know that? i fucking love you.”

“i’ll make you soup after i come back from work,” jungkook revises, pushing away taehyung’s face when he tries to kiss him. he looks stupid, with his outstretched and over-exaggerated kissy face. “how ‘bout that?”

“can we have dinner together, then?” jimin pipes up.

“sure, my place?”

with their plans set, jungkook leaves to go to work. he’s supposed to be there by ten am, and right now it’s only eight. he had woken up at six, the crack of dawn, mostly because he slept at some time last night where even elementary school students would be awake at. now he’ll feel sleepy at seven pm; his entire sleeping schedule, ruined. jungkook rubs at his face and fixes his bangs, an odd little anxious quirk, and pulls on his face mask. the bus ride to work from jimin’s apartment is twenty minutes, compared to jungkook’s ten.

there’s pretty much no one there, especially because he’s there by eight thirty five. jungkook rubs his stomach, uncomfortably full from breakfast, and pulls up his mask so that the bridge of his nose is better covered. a couple of people recognize him by his bag – a well-loved black side bag, covered in pins – and he clocks in early for the day. maybe he can clock out early, or get extra pay.

one of the hyungs, a slightly older guy in his thirties (way older, who is jungkook kidding, he’s only fucking 23) waves at jungkook and offers him a cup of coffee. “you’re looking way too peaky, hoobae.”

“thanks, dohoon-hyung,” jungkook sighs, taking the cup and feeling it warm his fingers. “i slept early so i woke up early.”

“oh, man, i don’t know how, i would sleep through ‘till the afternoon.”

“internal alarm clock?” jungkook guesses. his limit is ten hours. any more and he’d be staring at nothing wondering about the nature of existence. jungkook isn’t the most philosophical, either, so it mostly thoughts about whether cats will one day achieve world domination or if they’ll be stopped by a dog army soon enough. (jungkook has thought about this more than he’d like to admit.)

“slow rabbit is going to have some guys over today to work on some new tracks,” dohoon says, patting him on the shoulder. dohoon, a somewhat shorter and a bit stockier guy, with his plaid button ups and skinny jeans, looks like some kind of teacher trying to look hip and new age. he’s a genuinely nice guy, though, and he’s produced a lot more songs for more groups than jungkook can count. while he may look stern while focused and in the zone, jungkook can’t think of a single time he’s raised his voice at any of the juniors. patience is something instilled in dohoon so intimately that jungkook feels like he could spill all of his secrets at his hyung’s feet and he wouldn’t bat an eyelash. he doesn’t, of course, but that’s what it feels like.

another thing he likes about dohoon hyung is that he’s really ambivalent about everything. he doesn’t care much for fame, just about how well his songs do, no matter who is singing them. he’s calm and composed, and even though he’s produced a lot of number one tracks, he still helps around with teaching the younger producers and trainees. slow rabbit and pdogg are two other producers at big hit entertainment, but their style of music is way different. jungkook personally prefers slow rabbit’s, and a secret fantasy of his is to one day make a song with him – sing it, even, maybe – at carrot express. it would be nice, he thinks.

“should i take a different room?” jungkook asks, blinking awake finally. the coffee, though a bit bitter for his taste, is enough to make him more than just-awake-but-not-really-thinking.

“no, no,” dohoon smiles, “just make sure that you’re not too surprised about some unfamiliar – or, maybe familiar, faces.”

“okay,” jungkook says, slowly. he sniffs, pulling at his bangs again, and goes, “hyung, you’re acting weird.”

dohoon laughs. “sorry, jungkook. hyung is going to buy something for breakfast, want anything?”

jungkook thinks about his uncomfortably full stomach. “no thanks, hyung. i’m going to head to the studio.”

the first group of people to see him would be the group of male trainees trying to debut as a five member boy group. three of them are singers, so they’re the ones that usually spend more time with him, but the other two rappers need the most help in harmonizing and learning how to balance song and rap. jungkook likes working with them; it’s the sort of mindless, numbing work that makes him glad he doesn’t need to think about it. their songs are pop, mostly, without much vocal technique, so he can deal with them.

it’s around noon where his work picks up more vigorously, and he has to train a couple of others in perfecting their breathing while they’re belting or when they’re doing complicated runs. blinking at the computer, jungkook clears the desk of his studio and turns down the lights so that it’s not too harsh. he doesn’t have a big studio, and his equipment isn’t the best, but he loves it all the same. it’s the first time he has a studio of his own, even if it doesn’t have a name of any kind and is comprised of old software. jungkook loves it all the same. he’s learned the temperament of the boards, the switches, and the mics – just how close to sing, just how far to stand, how the filter picks up on his breathing and how well the sound translates into a final cut. for that, the company’s let him use this studio as much as he wants. pretty much no one else uses it.

jungkook pulls up one of his old files. it’s a song that he’s been working on for a long time – a whole three months, maybe – and despite having this studio to himself, he’s never able to tinker around with it unless he has free time, time like this.

it’s a song about coming out, but of course he’s going to sell it as a forbidden star crossed lovers song, jungkook thinks distantly. if he ever sells it at all. it probably won’t make any pop hits, seeing as how it’s more of a ballad than a pop song. maybe an ost. there’s bound to be a drama in need of a song that’s bound to bring on pain. sometimes jungkook listens to drama osts with his head down, letting the words float through him, letting the raw vocals grip his heart. something about them – the fact that they’re not an actual music video, that they’ve got no production set to win a prize, something about them makes jungkook love it more.

he’s clicking around with some music samples, wondering if he needs to get to the piano to redo the melody – it sounds a little pitchy, his keyboard at home is shitty beyond all measure – when the door opens and someone goes, “wow, this place has changed.”

it’s a nice, husky voice. jungkook scratches at his wrist and turns around, surprised, meeting dark, intense eyes from underneath a baseball cap.

“uh,” the guy says, eyebrows raised. he looks kind of familiar, jungkook thinks numbly, from the shape of his face to the way he carries himself. “sorry, i didn’t know anyone was going to be in here.”

“of course there’s going to be someone in there, yoongi,” another voice calls out from behind him, pushing yoongi into the terrifically tiny studio with aplomb. this voice is more familiar, and jungkook slowly stands up from his seat to see two people he knows very well: slow rabbit and rm. slow rabbit is one of the senior producers at big hit, and rm is part of the super popular rap group, destroying all the charts. despite the fact that they’re both in casual wear, jungkook feels suddenly cold and underdressed.

“oh, hey,” slow rabbit says first, smiling; he’s tall and handsome, jungkook swallows, looking away when he notices that rm is the same. “sorry, jungkook-ssi. i didn’t know this was your studio.”

“it’s a recent development,” jungkook says, voice no higher than a whisper, before he shifts back, trying to hide himself in the corner, where the table meets the wall. this has always been a safe space of sorts for him, and now it feels all wrong. encroached upon. he wishes that he came later on, at his proper time instead.

“dohoon-hyung gave you yoongi’s old studio,” slow rabbit reaches out to pat yoongi, who shoots him a mock glare, rubbing at his shoulder. “when he was just a trainee, before he made it big even in the underground, he used to spin tracks here.”

“it’s as big as i remember it,” the one named yoongi says, looking around at the room like it’s a memory. jungkook thinks about it’s bare walls, it’s lack of personal touch. “wow, the move must have been recent, huh?”

“three months,” jungkook says, voice a little flat, and clears his throat. “sorry, did you need something, sunbaenim?”

“oh, nah, i was just showing them about, all the changes and stuff,” slow rabbit says, smiling kindly. “namjoon, what do you think?”

rm smiles, dimpling. “it sure is bigger than what i used to work in, which was my room, ha. by the way, sorry for this hyung – he didn’t even introduce us. i’m kim namjoon, it’s really nice to meet you.” he outstretches his hand for jungkook to take, and jungkook stares down at it for a moment before slipping his hand in namjoon’s. his hand is pale and clammy compared to namjoon’s warm, tan skin. “next to me is min yoongi. we’re better known as rm and suga, part of the cypher trio.”

“jeon jungkook,” he says, distant, and slips his hand away.

he remembers when he was in college, when he was obsessed with the underground and indie music. there were so many artists that he followed, obsessively watching after any albums they dropped, wondering if he could ever catch them performing live in seoul. rm used to be one of them – possibly one of the first rappers jungkook had really fallen in love with, listening to his voice go rough and angry and then exhausted and resilient. it made him feel less angry, hearing that kind of rage, that kind of fire in someone else’s voice. he supposes, in a way, it was cathartic. then rm had made it big, jungkook got into grad school for music, and he lost all sight of that kind of stuff.

almost abruptly, jungkook is taken out of his thoughts when he feels more than sees someone burning a hole through the size of his head. he turns to find that yoongi – suga, he reminds himself – is staring at him curiously, mouth pursed and expression carefully blank. jungkook leans back onto the table, wishing that he could feel less claustrophobic.

he knows, logically, that rm, suga, and the last member of their trio – j-hope – are all signed under big hit, but he was hoping that he wouldn’t ever see them.

suga – yoongi? jungkook isn’t sure which to use – is still staring.

“excuse me, sunbaenim,” jungkook mumbles, though he’s not sure who he’s talking to. all he knows is that he slips out of there in the next minute, disappearing under their comments about the room and reminiscence about the “old days”. he still has time before he actually has to be in the studio, so jungkook heads out to the nearest convenience store to buy himself snacks. snacks never fill him up, so he doesn’t have to worry about feeling full over a bag of chips or four.

people are getting coffee at this hour, still. he texts jimin and taehyung and asks what they’re up to, and when they respond with their random ass coordinates – i want to put a drill through my brain to get all this noise to stop says taehyung, why the fuck is kimbap so hard to make??? says jimin – he texts back, fingers hanging over the edge of his phone, i met rm and suga today.

whoa, no shit??? taehyung is the first to answer.

damn. wow, did your embarrassing crush on rm show on your face?

jungkook scowls; just for that, he exits out of the app so that every other text jimin sends will be left with one unread. it’s a technique jungkook employs often, and jimin catches on quick when he realizes that jungkook isn’t answering back. he can still see the texts in the notification previews, though.

aw, gguk, don’t be that way

it’s not our fault ur boy has nice ass dimples

juNGKOOK HOW U GONNA BE MAD

JUNGKOOOOOOK

jungkook pays for his snacks and settles them in the crook of his arm. he wanders around for a while, watching with unblinking eyes as people pass him by, and when it finally turns ten o’clock, jungkook heads back to his studio.

it’s blessedly empty this time. jungkook sets his snacks on the table and is about to prepare for his first job of the day when he spots a note stuck to his monitor, taken from one of the cute notepads he likes to sometimes buy when he sees  them around 100 won shops.

sorry about that; it was pretty insensitive of us to pretty much kick you out of your studio. we’ll remember to knock next time.

it’s signed min yoongi, scrawled quick and fast, and jungkook thinks about the way yoongi had stared at him, unabashedly, in front of all his colleagues. jungkook doesn’t know why he feels weird about it. there’s no other way to really say how he feels. so instead, he does the closest thing to getting rid of min yoongi – and suga and slow rabbit and rm – from his life: he crumples up the note and throws it in the trash.

/

it would have been fortunate, jungkook thinks, if he had chosen a different company. when he entered big hit, he was so happy to be part of this booming team, so happy to take part in a group of people that created music. in a way, it was the closest to his dream that he would ever get. jungkook craved it deeply, like wanting to pick a scar, wanting to keep on opening what used to hurt. he’s never been good with scabs. he wasn’t going to go for a big ass company like his dumb kid self did; wasn’t going to go through all of that again and see hospital bills and medication labels on the kitchen counter. so he went for the company in between – the company wasn’t too well known, but had produced a couple of famous artists. just good enough for people to give it a try, not so famous that it became a death contract.

the unfortunate part was the famous people. jungkook wonders, now, if maybe in all of that convoluted time that was his trainee life, he had somehow escaped a fate worse than what he has now. sure, he feels fuck-all about his life, but at least he can go out in the streets without being suffocated. no, jungkook has never been good with crowds, he’s never been good with expressing himself freely to people. even more so now.

these famous people find their refuge in their company buildings. heavily guarded, secured, a place where everyone knew them. trainees would find wisdom in them. that’s the only explanation he has for seeing the three rappers of cypher in the same dance practice room as him.

he’s not there to practice dance, of course.

when the trainees that he’s supposed to be dealing with see him, they all turn a flustered shade of embarrassed pink – give him a look like, a couple more minutes, please? – and the eldest trainee is his age. they give each other solid looks, and jungkook sighs. he’s not good with confrontation. nor is he good with authority (rather, being authority). so he stands in the back and watches as j-hope, the one with the bright red hair and the wide smile, teaches some of the younger kids how to breakdance.

jungkook remembers when he wanted to dance.

he loved the feeling of it, moving his body. something about it was so freeing, so good. when he was a trainee, he would dance until his limbs ached and his lungs burned. it felt nice, that burn. it felt like an accumulation of his hard work. when his limbs started to fail on him, jungkook remembered crying in the hospital room, wishing he could find the strength to dance again. sometimes he dances in his apartment, when he’s feeling goofy or fun or when he’s with jimin and taehyung. when it feels more like a hobby, a pleasure, instead of a competition.

(still, some part of him keeps in muscle memory the feeling of sweat, burn, of winning.)

yoongi is the first to see him. squished in between the choreographer and some other people he doesn’t know too well, jungkook likes to think he’s faded into the background. being in the dance studio isn’t good for him. he wants to join them, he realizes, he wants to join them like every other damn time. and this is why he prefers to stay in the studio.

while he’s looking at his phone, scrolling through his twitter feed and liking a bunch of random videos – including one of a cat petting a banana, he sends that to taehyung, because he knows taehyung will appreciate his cat videos – yoongi manages to walk right up to him. he doesn’t notice until the older is speaking.

“are you one of the choreographers, too?”

jungkook blinks. “uh, no,” he starts, confused. “i’m here to take them back to the studio. i’m their vocal coach.”

“oh?” yoongi raises an eyebrow. a smile crosses his face, easy and a little impressed. “you’re pretty young? twenty five or something?”

“twenty three,” jungkook corrects, and turns off his phone. his thumb runs across the home button, just to feel the familiar groove of it. “i guess. i graduated school early.”

“you go to university here?”

“k-university,” he says, feeling himself become more and more closed off as the conversation continues. it’s moments like these that he can’t help but look around, taking note of every eye – every possible eye – on his body. oh, it’s paranoia, that’s what it is. it’s dead set fear of being figured out, about something on his forehead labelling him – gay gay gay – and he wants to curl up and die. thinks about his father’s words spitting at him, his mother crying, and jungkook thinking – is this why i can’t love anyone? oh, oh, oh – oh, that’s why. he’s wired wrong, he thinks.

jimin tells him it’s bullshit. he was crying when he said it too. it’s bullshit. it’s bullshit. you tell yourself something enough times, you start to believe it. jungkook is too afraid to say the words out loud, not in public. he doesn’t like talking to guys because of it. doesn’t like talking to girls, either.

“no shit,” min yoongi says, not aware of jungkook wanting to curl up in his skin. “i graduated from k-university too. did you do their masters program? the one in musical composition?”

“yeah,” jungkook mumbles.

“it’s really one of the best in the country,” yoongi says, running a hand through his hair. he laughs, a little at himself. “i remember freaking out over the exam to get into the program, and then all the interviews – i didn’t know how the hell i was going to convince them i was serious about music when it felt like all people saw of me was a caricature.”

jungkook blinks at him blankly.

yoongi meets his eyes and freezes; jungkook looks away first. he doesn’t know what that was about, but it was weird. min yoongi makes things weird. he feels it in his skin, too, a weird crawling over it like heat pinpricks, and it’s weird, he’s uncomfortable, he wants to go home.

“are you guys ready yet?” he calls to the trainees, and they start packing up. rm and j-hope notice him as he goes, and jungkook nods to yoongi – “it was nice talking to you, sunbae,” – and heads out of the dance room.

that night, jimin takes them all out for samgyeopsal; he looks like he’s grimacing while he’s doing it too, with his lord kill me face on.

“you dyed your hair blond,” jungkook blinks at him, feeling a little bit like the world has tilted off its axis. for most people, going blond means that you look more washed out, because it just doesn’t suit your skin tone, but jimin pulls it off with aggressive fervor. jungkook hates him a little. he wonders if he would ever dye his hair another color – brown, maybe. he’s never really thought of it, too thrown off by root damage to his much pained after soft hair from what he’s seen of taehyung’s numerous jobs.

“i lost a bet,” jimin says shortly, giving taehyung an evil side eye. taehyung’s already heading toward the nicest table in the restaurant, the one that they all know has the best grill and a nice view of the sidewalk and is near the heater. “that’s why i’m treating.”

jungkook muses on this for a while. then he says solemnly, “i’ll eat well, hyung.”

taehyung snickers as they get close: “damn right, jungkookie. wanna get the two set for both of us? one each?”

shaking his head, jungkook laughs and says that he’ll only get one, thanks. jimin groans and steals the laminated menu away from taehyung’s hand, even though they both know it’s futile. the three of them have come to this barbeque place so often that the manager knows them by name and face, and holds a running list of who pays when so that they can all make specific points at specific times (most notably, when jimin and taehyung are arguing about who is paying, and jungkook flips a coin and motions at one of them to the waitress while they’re arguing. when she brings back the final check to whoever was unlucky that night, it always shuts them up). jimin waves at the waitress, who laughs at them all pleasantly, and gives them a pencil salute.

they end up with a substantial amount of food, but not enough to make jimin want to throw himself off the edge of a lake. they both know jungkook doesn’t eat much anyway, but it never stops either of them from trying to pay for his food and poke at his hipbones, complaining that you’ll never find a boyfriend like this, gguk!

jungkook eats a bit more just to keep them happy.

he can’t deny that having barbeque isn’t delicious, so he does eat a bit more than he normally would. he feels ravenous, for once, so hungry that it tears at his stomach a little. jungkook reminds himself to pace, or else all he’ll be facing tonight is the front of a toilet seat.

“how was work, gguk,” taehyung asks, making a leaf wrap for himself. he casually feeds it to jimin, whose mouth purses over the end of his fingers. taehyung’s eyes are a bit too dark when he pulls back, so jungkook grimaces and jabs jimin painfully in the knee.

“it’s fine, like usual,” jungkook answers. “i saw cypher again.”

the words spill out of his mouth before he can think about it properly. out of all the things that happened to him today, though, that is still the most out of place. it’s one thing to see his sunbaes around, it’s another to have one of them make active conversation with him. jungkook’s not the most…alive when he’s at work, and that’s largely due to not feeling like he’s fitting in. when he gets like that, all fish out of water, all of him shuts down.

“huh,” jimin slaps taehyung’s hand when he tries to take pickled radish from his dish. “was it rm? did your big crush show on your face?”

“no,” jungkook sets down his chopsticks, that weird feeling overtaking him again. “it was – suga?”

“oh?”

“you know, i heard he’s bisexual – ow, fuck,” with a swear, taehyung jolts back from where his forearm touched the grill. jungkook winces, leaning forward to get a look at his skin. if there’s a burn, he might have some ointment for it at home.

“who the fuck cares, taehyung. besides, it’s not like shiny idols are going to say shit about their sexual orientation. straight until proven otherwise, remember?” jimin raises an eyebrow. “even underground-turned-mainstream artists. people go shit insane just from het couples.”

“het couples,” taehyung repeats, with a little nose wrinkle. “well, girls are cute, but i don’t want to date them, you know?”

jungkook lets them talk about double standards and lesbianism in popular culture (more like the lack of it) and continues to eat, making his little wraps and taking some of jimin’s kimchi. if he lets them go like this, they always forget about what he’s talking about, which almost tips to his advantage. later on, if something were to happen and they would bring it up, jungkook could use this moment to exclaim, i did tell you! examples from previous years past show that taehyung and jimin have yet to learn this lesson. jungkook’s just not good at lying.

their minds off of suga makes it so that jungkook takes his mind off suga too. he lets the thought die and eats until his stomach hurts.

/

it’s eight am again, and jungkook catches yoongi smoking outside of the company building.

there’s quite a bit of people milling around, but most of them are near the other entrance of their company building, near the intersection. a large commotion, but not too big. it almost looks like they’re tourists walking around, maybe hiding behind metaphorical bushes for their favs to walk out of the building perfectly dressed and willing to have fangirls (and boys) hug them and do possibly worse things. jungkook blinks at his own train of thought.

his nose wrinkles at the smell of cigarette smoke – it’s one of the stenches that he hates. his dad smokes. anything that reminds him of his parents now is a big red flag, but even then, the stench of cig smoke is never pleasant. his head turns to catch the source of it, hopefully telling him which direction to flee in, but when it comes from a steadily recognizable figure, jungkook has to hold back his grimace.

unfortunately for him, min yoongi has sharp eyes.

he flicks ash away, giving a half smile. “don’t like smoking, huh?”

jungkook turns away, but he’s unable to move forward. he’s just out of sight, enough for the people in front of the building to not notice him. one wrong move means that he’s bringing attention to himself, especially since there’s no one on this side of the road.

“what’s everyone doing outside?” jungkook recognizes slow rabbit standing out there with j-hope, and dohoon hyung is on his cell phone looking harried.

“someone locked themselves in the building,” yoongi sighs, setting his cigarette out beneath his heel. “and by someone, i mean a fan of namjoon’s. he’s not around here, see? they’re getting the police here. you just caught the tail end of everyone realizing this shit show.”

jungkook actually gapes. “wait, what? aren’t you worried about him?”

in response, yoongi holds up his phone. the screen – cracked to the side – shows a kakaotalk chat window with a dark kumamon themed background. jungkook can’t see the words, but yoongi says, “he just texted me about the whole thing. said that he found the fan and calmed them down, apparently they’re in the middle of some breakdown – “ at the look on jungkook’s face, he laughs, “yeah, i don’t know either.”

“so we can’t go inside,” jungkook cranes his neck, as if he can see this mysterious fan through the steel bars and concrete. he squints. “seriously?”

“the day’s off, i think,” yoongi says. he motions to the crowd, now steadily growing larger with the amount of big hit employees that are standing at its door. “when the police get here, the crowd is only going to get bigger.”

jungkook texts dohoon hyung, because he’s the first person he can think of that holds any sort of authority. hyung, is it okay if i go home?

i was about to tell you just that, is dohoon’s answer. take the day off, jungkook. i’ll telling some of the others to do the same, and all the trainees have been told to stay at home.

jungkook clicks off his phone. guess that means he can go home and sleep a little more. maybe he can play some rounds of overwatch today – he hasn’t been able to play in a while, and his fingers itch to maybe smash out his recent frustrations on a keyboard. maybe he can snoop around for a couple of new games, too. jungkook knows that he has the money for it, at least.

before he can walk away, though, yoongi is stopping him with his voice: “hey, jungkook-ssi. want to get breakfast?”

what jungkook is thinking about right now: going home, changing into his pajamas, and getting into bed. maybe he’ll make himself some instant ramen as a poor late lunch. maybe he’ll find it in him to clean up his apartment, and maybe he’ll drop by jimin’s dance studio to screw around with the music placement and learn some new moves that makes his bones ache. he certainly doesn’t want to get breakfast with a national star. jungkook gives yoongi a wary look, one that makes the other snort and rub the back of his head.

“it might be pretty weird, i know, but you’re the kid that’s working in my old studio,” yoongi starts. “it feels… sort of like i just need to get to know you. most people wouldn’t stick around that decrepit old place, you know.”

for a moment, jungkook is silent. then, “it’s temperamental, not decrepit.”

with a smile, yoongi nods. “it sure is. just got to know what buttons to press. so, breakfast?”

yoongi hides himself well. he covers up with a baseball cap and a wide black mask. with his large coat – the coldness of january can’t be forgotten – and his easy way to slip in between the crowd, it’s quite easy for him not to be recognized. he looks like any other korean man. jungkook rubs his hands together to get warmth to flood back into his fingers.

he follows yoongi for the most part, letting himself be led to a small coffee shop and breakfast place a block or two away. it’s fairly empty, to his surprise, only one or two people milling around.

“it’s better known as a brunch place,” yoongi admits, “more sandwiches than anything.”

jungkook gets for himself a vanilla bean latte and a croissant. yoongi gets himself something heartier with an egg and sausage sandwich, along with a tall black coffee. he pays in cash; jungkook tries to pay, too, but yoongi waves him away saying i told you to come with me even though it looked like you didn’t want to – let me pay. jungkook has no qualms about that.

his latte is warm and frothy, the way he likes it. jungkook takes a sip and winces when he burns his tongue. frowning, he pulls away from it and lets his mouth rest.

“it’s a bit cold today,” yoongi says.

“yeah,” jungkook takes a bite of the croissant. it’s buttery and flaky. he tries to focus on it taste of it, the weight of it falling into his stomach.

they sit in silence, bumbling noises of the kitchen – the register – employees moving rags against the table tops.

“you don’t like me much, do you?” yoongi asks, quiet, and jungkook jerks up to meet his gaze.

“i don’t not like you,” he evades. if there’s one thing that being friends with taehyung has taught him how to do, it’s how to evade questions like a goddamn pro. taehyung hates talking about his home life – has polaroid pictures and red room photos of his family, his siblings and his parents all over the walls of his apartment, but it’s one of those things that’s rigidly sealed in a do not discuss box. taehyung keeps the pictures up, but they’re ghosts pasted on his wall.

yoongi seems to be waiting for more, and jungkook pulls up whatever bad luck he’s had in his life and swears that he’s going to stop drinking milk from the carton from now on. “i mean. i don’t really know you. can’t really dislike someone i don’t know,” he finishes a bit awkwardly. jungkook takes another bite of his croissant, a little aggressive, a little bit too much please don’t make me talk more about my feelings.

“oh, well,” yoongi has no answer to that. he stirs the sugar spoon in his coffee. “i liked one of your songs.”

jungkook chokes. “excuse me?”

yoongi shrugs, but he looks more than guilty. “that day when you left your studio, dohyung pulled up some old files and one of them was unnamed, so namjoon played it. i figured it was yours, because it looked like a work in progress, but the rest of them didn’t say anything about it.”

it makes more sense now, jungkook muses, because there was no way that yoongi would talk to him of his own volition. there he shifts his shoulders and thinks about how much he had worked on that song, and how much he knew that it wouldn’t be played in any major radio station anytime soon.

“oh,” jungkook says, relief and displeasure a weird jumble inside of him, “if that’s what you’re worried about, then it’s fine. everyone hears everyone else’s stuff once in a while.” there’s no secrets in that goddamn building.

“you’re one, though.”

wincing, jungkook hates himself for saying that last part out loud. “sorry, i’m not following.”

yoongi gives a little unworried shrug. “i mean, dohyung says that he barely knows you, and no one can really get a hold of you. i felt guilty about seeing someone else’s song – “ jungkook’s right, he thinks to himself viciously – “but it’s not just that, you know. you just kinda…do your work and then leave.”

“i’m not good with people,” how embarrassing; to have brought up his lack of social prowess. jungkook’s always been the quiet kid in a crowd, just how he likes it. it’s easy to be loud around jimin or taehyung, because they’re loud people themselves. worrying about how loud he is doesn’t even cross his mind around them. in any other situation, he’d rather prefer being by himself. (not always, but - )

“neither am i,” yoongi adds, snorting at the expression on jungkook’s face – he must have made an ugly expression, sort of like you’re fucking kidding me, right – “no, really. half the people i know either like me a lot or hate me entirely. i’ve never had an in-between friendship. kinda made me wonder why you suddenly seemed to hate me, but i figured that you somehow knew about the song.” a pause. “i am sorry about seeing that.”

“well,” jungkook clears his throat, feeling two sizes too small for his clothes, “uh, apology accepted.” honestly, he’d forgive yoongi for running over his pc setup if he would just let jungkook go on his separate way. well, maybe not entirely forgive – maybe he’d hold a slight tiny grudge – but he wouldn’t be too beat up over it. honestly. maybe he shouldn’t make up faux situations and end up with a subconscious dislike toward one of his sunbaes without even doing anything. no one ever said jungkook ever did things logically.

yoongi holds up one long finger. “lemme have one day to make a good impression,” he starts, as soon as jungkook cuts in with – “oh, that’s really not necessary – “

“seriously. one day.”

“i don’t understand why this is so important,” he sighs, but rubs his eyes and goes, “yeah, sure, okay. are you going to pay for everything, sunbaenim?”

“if you call me hyung, i will,” yoongi says, and then sighs. “i’m going to go broke, fuck.”

/

“why’d you get here so late,” jimin starts in a very pointed voice. jungkook can feel his stare like a thousand light sabers beaming onto his back. “what were you doing. were you on a date.”

“like jungkook would go on a date without telling us, his parents,” taehyung snorts from the couch.

“shut up,” jungkook says needlessly. neither of them are even paying attention to him. “hey, i’m – hyung, those are my shoes, nothing are in my shoes.” jimin squints his eyes at him one more time, as if he can x-ray his way into figuring out jungkook’s secrets, but he eventually drops the boot in his hands primly and goes over to kick taehyung into giving him space. “i wasn’t out on a date. i was spending a day with a coworker.”

“oh, and you’re not drunk? a shame.”

“not everything is about alcohol,” jimin rolls his eyes.

without looking away from his round of call of duty, taehyung kicks jimin in the shin. payback for earlier. “it is when it helps me forget about having a shitty life in a shitty society that wants to shit on me.”

a ponderous pause. jimin goes, “huh. i’d drink to that.”

“same, brother.”

“your liver is going to kick your ass when you’re forty,” jungkook plops down on the single sofa so that he can pull his legs up and curl onto the seat without much grace. there are kinks in his neck and his body feels sore. the muscles in his lower back, especially, ache the most. “hyung, do you have any soda?”

“grape soda,” jimin says, and taehyung retches. “shut up, you plebe. no one asked you.”

“your future boyfriend is going to pick up a drink from your fridge and it’s going to make his tongue purple, and then when he tries to blow you, how do you think you’re gonna feel? being blown by an oompa loompa.”

“jesus, soda doesn’t make your tongue change color, that’s candy. dumbass.”

“i don’t like grape soda,” jungkook frowns.

“ha,” taehyung croons loudly, and jimin scoffs, “this is my house, my soda. if you don’t like it, buy your own damn soda. and stop playing on my console.”

stretching out his legs so that they’re on the coffee table, jungkook rubs at his knees. taehyung and jimin mumble stuff to each other as the game continues on, mostly about arguing where to go – jimin is a head on kind of guy, washing himself out at first opportunity but always the first kill. taehyung’s the type to pretend he’s a secret agent and kid himself on an illusion of stealth, his whole body locking up as he inches around without a sound. like it’s that important, or like doing it in real life will somehow help him become better in game.

“can we watch iron man?” jungkook says, getting both of their attention. he freezes, feeling much like deer between two lions as both jimin and taehyung raise their eyebrows in perfect unison. jungkook will swear his entire collection of white shirts that they practice that in the mirror when he’s fucked off somewhere.

“you only watch iron man when you’re feeling shitty,” jimin starts, standing up. “who hurt you. i’ll bury them.”

“you said a coworker earlier,” taehyung narrows his eyes. he also likes to act like he’s a korean sherlock holmes. “who is this coworker. what sort of coworking was going on.”

“those aren’t questions,” jungkook, disgruntled, turns to his side. “i want to watch iron man 2, hyung.”

“aegyo or nothing, kid,” taehyung rebuts immediately, while jimin: “first tell me who i’m going to prison over.”

“seriously, can we watch a movie.”

taehyung pushes at jimin’s side, and both of them share one of those looks that always makes jungkook feel left out. he pretends not to notice and tucks his head against the cushions, watching the tv screen mindlessly. after a moment, jimin switches to get iron man on with the korean subs. jungkook wishes he had a blanket right now.

yoongi’s a pretty okay person. recalling his day, jungkook doesn’t think he’s had that much fun since he went out with taehyung and jimin to roll around doing nothing in hongdae. there was a music festival that yoongi and namjoon were apparently planning to go to before namjoon got caught up with a crazy fan – it was full of people and a little too loud for jungkook’s tastes, but he’d never been to a music festival before and the easy atmosphere was nice. yoongi criticized every single one of the acts until jungkook had – “as if you can do better.” – maybe let him know, gently, that there was always room for improvement. after that had been a long talk about mixing songs and putting them back together, how yoongi used to have a shameful weakness for trap music, and jungkook’s ability to play the flute with his nose. (he played the flute in school. the most useless instrument, but okay, mom, dad.)

it was nice, he had to admit. even when he ended up going back to big hit to take care of some stuff and yoongi parted ways with him, he had to admit that yoongi wasn’t … what jungkook had thought of him. not that he thought anything about him in the first place. they knew fuck all about each other. jungkook sees him on billboards and on the melon charts and in the halls, huddled with pdogg and slow rabbit and other famous producers, a headphone pressed against his ear. forget being something closer than friends, or going on dates – they were barely friends as is. their existences simply happened to be in the same sphere. yoongi felt guilty enough for practically booting him out of his own studio and looking at his songs, on top of that, and all he wanted to do was make up for it. jungkook would feel like the worst type of shit for peeking on someone else’s work, too.

the light dims and dims, and vague explosions range wide across the screen. he isn’t even watching, so caught up with his mind running full speed through the day. picking out hand motions and probable stolen glances, convincing himself that it’s nothing, fitting into his ribs the belief steady and real no matter how painful it is: he’s not gay.

and then, even more painful, a little bit personal:  he’s not into you.

not that jungkook would want that. he doesn’t like yoongi, and yoongi probably doesn’t like him. it doesn’t stop him from wanting it, though. not yoongi – but. someone. anyone. maybe he just wants one person to want him.

jimin throws a blanket over his still form. he’s been fading in and out of sleep for the past hour, the movie all forgotten. not like he doesn’t have it memorized, word for word, but usually he’s wide awake when watching any iron man – even the shitty sequels, because he’s a loyal bitch – and now he can’t help himself from knocking out.

vaguely, he hears jimin say, “shit, what happened to gguk?”

“i don’t know,” taehyung replies softly, and jungkook falls asleep.

/

yoongi is there in front of his studio when jungkook gets there at ten am the next day. he’s holding a cup of coffee in his hands, tapping out something on his phone, and the bottom half of his face is completely hidden behind his dark mask. jungkook’s pattering of feet lightens, halting before he can actually get to the door.

catching sight of him, yoongi pulls down the edge of his mask and holds out his cup of coffee. “this is yours, kid.”

unsure of what’s going on, jungkook takes the cup and has it warm up his hands. he rubs over his knuckles to make sure the skin won’t crack later. a sip tells him it’s the same vanilla latte that he had from before.

“thanks, hyung,” jungkook unlocks the door to the studio and heads inside, leaving the door open for yoongi to walk in as well.

“i know this may seem a little weird,” yoongi starts, “but is it alright if i stay here for a while?”

his shoulders are tense, and there are dark shadows underneath his eyes, speaking of a restless night. jungkook sets down his coffee cup on the desk, knowing that there’ll be a small ring imprinted on the polished surface. jungkook runs his fingers over the edge of the desk, taking in all the grooves. he’s made a couple there himself, knocking pencils against it in moments of focus.

“why?”

“i’m not too happy with namjoon at the moment,” yoongi explains shortly. “nor is he happy with me. hoseok never knows how to handle us fighting, so he just sticks to one person. this time it’s namjoon. i’m not…up to being found, i guess.” turning to him, yoongi says honestly, “i won’t get in the way of you working, i swear it.”

immediately, jungkook feels guilty. it’s not that he had been ignoring yoongi – or shutting him out – but he did use work as an excuse – yoongi’s not that bad. he’s a good friend – would be a good friend? – a loyal person. whatever they fought about, jungkook knows that it must have taken its toll with his piece of mind. he probably needed the coffee more than jungkook, honestly.

“if you think you can work here,” he says, uncertain.

that elicits a small smile from yoongi. “i know it doesn’t seem like it, but i did have shit once upon a time. i’ll be fine. mind if i take that chair?”

so there they are, sitting next to each other in jungkook’s little second hand studio. it’s raining outside, slow drops of water hitting against the window pane in a steady, thumping rhythm. it’s been a couple hours since he’s come in – the group that was supposed to work with him had a schedule today – and he doesn’t have much to do but work on his own things. there’s paperwork and log ins that he has to finish and a bunch of stuff that his seniors want him to do. dohoon-hyung sent him a file of stuff to look over. jungkook needs to do all of these things, but what he’s actually doing is a lot less important.

dark eyes flicker between the window and the man sitting next to him. yoongi brought his own laptop, leaning over the top to push his weight onto one arm. the light of his laptop screen illuminates the harsh lines of his face. he looks a lot older than his naver profile picture, crinkles around the corner of his eyes, acne scars and sagging mouth. yet there’s something much more handsome about him than his white washed photos online, more pragmatic about the line of his jaw. he tweaks his ear often when he’s looking at whatever he’s looking, pushing aside sennheiser headphones. jungkook rotates attention between him and the window, wondering if he could go outside to get some snacks.

“is there something you need?”

jerking awake, jungkook falls out of his half-conscious state and a little bit out of his chair, too. guess this is what it means to “feel the asmr”, as jimin dubs it. (jimin watches a lot of things on youtube when jungkook leaves him alone, and on jungkook’s account, too, so he always ends up with asmr baking videos and a day in my life vlogs in his recommended.) the rain had nearly lulled him to bed.

“no,” jungkook stretches and rubs the back of his neck, feeling it ache. “i was just…” yoongi’s raised eyebrow is doing nothing for his embarrassment. jungkook scratches at his cheek and wills it to go away, to die in a burning fire and bury itself in the ashen remains.

“staring?”

“i wasn’t staring,” he argues defensively, “your face was just in the direction i spaced out in.”

so smooth, jungkook, he smacks himself mentally.

he’s grateful, thankful, to both every god in the world out there and jimin’s collection of silver earrings that yoongi turns back to his screen without much of a comment. (jimin always did say his earrings were lucky. jungkook always said they would get him killed if someone pulled on ‘em during a fight.)

“i wish there was a piano in here,” yoongi laughs suddenly, leaning back to rub at his eyes. “it would be a lot easier if i could just…play out some notes.”

“a ballad?” jungkook queries, getting yoongi to glance at him from the corner of his eye. “i thought you did a lot more…heavier stuff.”

“wow, you listen to cypher’s music? i’m honored.”

flushing, jungkook further stuffs his head in the cradle of his arms and clicks at something on his computer screen. “i like listening to hip hop and stuff sometimes. it’s just not my preferred style.”

“you like slow songs,” the other discerns, and jungkook nods. he’s always liked that slow, dreamy feeling a song can give you, how easily it can lift you off your feet and transport you somewhere else. jungkook likes feeling things through music, because somehow they seem more vivid, more vibrant, than his emotions without them.

yoongi wheels his chair over, tugging at the edge of jungkook’s own seat. “can i get your opinion on a song, then?”

“what?” this man only continues to surprise jungkook. he wonders if there will ever be a day where he’s not taken off guard by yoongi. “but…” jungkook isn’t a famous producer like the people yoongi usually works with. he still struggles trying to make something he considers worthy – not something that will get by with a good grade, or something that will have a profit in the big, corrupt market. something that feels as real as he doesn’t.

whatever jungkook wants to say dies as yoongi gives him a look. almost like he knew something self-depreciating was about to spill past his lips. never one to mull on being caught out for things, jungkook shuffles closer to yoongi’s laptop, blinking at the program that he pulls up.

“it’s a slow song,” yoongi says, “and it’s for the mixtape i want to release soon.”

“oh?” jungkook looks at the numerous tracks all disproportionately labelled, shuffled into one folder. the song that yoongi’s pulled up is called feeling of you. “what is it about?”

for the first time, jungkook sees yoongi hesitate. “i mean…i guess i can’t explain. just listen to it.”

so jungkook takes the headphones, their fingers brushing, and listens.

it starts with a slow, even beat. almost soft, he thinks, which is so different from what the rest of yoongi’s group tends to put out. the song, full of ups and downs, has no lyrics and no hard, heavy bass line. it’s fairly short, still in need of a bridge and the ending chorus. what is so lovely about it is that – jungkook could close his eyes and go far away listening to this song, simply immersing himself in its rhythm, allow it to move him up and down through the clouds. that’s what it reminds him of, the steady movement of being rocked to sleep or taken by the hand and walked through an endless, bright field. a summertime melody. when it ends with a ringing note, jungkook is hesitant to let it go. he wants to hear it again.

opening his eyes – unaware he had even closed them in the first place – he meets yoongi’s awaiting gaze. “what do you think?”

“wow,” is all he says, properly taking off the headphones and running his thumb over the seam. “it’s beautiful.”

yoongi’s eyes widen. “you think so?”

jungkook nods. there’s something about it that’s very uplifting. not angry or aggressive or even hateful, just a nice song for a nice day.

“if you added a gayageum here,” jungkook starts, mind running with possibilities, “it would sound a lot like some really calming traditional music.  you know, the type that moms like to do cleaning and yoga to.”

“i don’t know whether to be compliment or insulted?”

“it’s a compliment,” jungkook says lowly. his memory transports him to a time long ago, when he would pick his feet up from the floor so his mother could vacuum the carpet, playing songs from her small mp3 tucked into a pocket of her shirt. she would mumble some words, but they were never anything substantial. his mother, who looked so at peace then even when she was working her fingertips down to the bone. “it’s a beautiful song.”

“it wasn’t my intention to make it sound traditional,” the elder pulls up a closer look of the file. “i wanted it to sound calming, maybe zen. i definitely wasn’t going to rap, so.”

jungkook shifts closer, interested. “can’t you sing, instead?”

a suddenly loud laugh, dry and disbelieving, jerks jungkook away from where he’s looking at the list of instruments used in the making of the song. yoongi is incredibly meticulous in detailing out all of his work. “what?”

“you have never heard me sing,” he says. “and that’s why you’re saying this now. hoseok stuffed my mouth with tissue once at karaoke just to get me from ‘making his ears bleed’,” accompanied with wry air quotes. “i’m good at rapping, not so much at singing. that’s why i figured i would ask you – what kind of voice would you suggest for this track?”

the question is surprising. jungkook isn’t expecting yoongi to look for his opinion, but here he is, staring down one of the most popular idols this year, his mouth drying up as yoongi waits for his answers. truthfully, jungkook doesn’t know what to think about this song – other than that it would be a really pretty solo piece, finishing up the end and polishing it off a bit – does it really need vocals? but the point of music is to make something that might work into something better. to make it more than what it already is. he figures that if yoongi wants to keep on going for this feeling, a harmonious and calm timbre, then there’s always ways to make it work.

“something with a lyrical voice, i’d say. handles falsettos well, maybe has a stylistically airy quality? if you want to make the song sound dream-like, having a voice that seems to be higher pitched would be your best bet, but someone with a lower tone could make the song very bittersweet.”

“huh,” yoongi notes this down with a couple of keyboard strokes. “know of anyone like that?”

jungkook lists off a couple of girls in the same company that yoongi could contact, all of them in the mezzo-soprano range. “we don’t have a real soprano between all the singers here, so if you want to find someone outside of the company, just remember what i mentioned.”

“what about a male singer?”

“a male singer?” jungkook blinks, frowning. “well, i would still say try to get a tenor voice, but it would be a bit more difficult. a lot of the male singers here have either deeper voices or don’t have the kind of vocal quality that would be considered fitting with the song. i mean... i would ask kim seokjin, maybe.” jungkook can hear seokjin singing this song. “do you know him?”

“he’s under bighit?”

“ah, no, but i’m sure if you asked one of the producers, he could get you in touch with him. seems odd for a love song, though.”

yoongi stills. “a love song?”

“yeah,” jungkook continues, unaware of the other’s pause. “i don’t know, it sounded like a love song to me. i kept thinking…it sort of sounded like a goodbye.”

“there wasn’t even any words.”

“music never needs words,” jungkook edges his chair away, feeling his shoulder ache with how long he’s been sitting in the same position. “i’m glad i could help, hyung.” he smiles, wide and bright, excited that he’s made a difference – at least a little ripple – in someone else’s musicality for once. yoongi doesn’t answer for a while, just staring at the edge of his smile until it fades into something less overbearing. jungkook pulls at the edge of his collar.

“it didn’t start out as a love song,” yoongi begins unexpectedly. “i began it a couple weeks back but after a flash of inspiration, i guess you could call it, i added a lot more yesterday. i haven’t finished it, but…”

“hyung must be in like with someone,” jungkook laughs. he stretches out his legs, too. listening to yoongi write and compose his own songs kind of makes him want to do the same for himself, to get back to working on that one file that he’s been obsessing over for months. maybe he’s not like yoongi, who looks like he can write a whole album in a couple of weeks. jungkook struggles in trying to express himself the way he wants to through music. to create a sound that epitomizes all that he can give.

“i change my mind,” he plays with a pencil on the desk, a fondness growing in him. “you’re really cool, yoongi-hyung.”

“you think so?” yoongi responds, voice a little weak, and jungkook gives him a lazy side nod. “well that’s good. wouldn’t want to be considered lame by my own friends.”

jungkook likes that label: friends. he doesn’t understand why his chest aches.

/

“i have a bad feeling,” jungkook says when he’s sitting firmly on jimin’s couch. their weekly dinner is in full motion, chicken and beer strewn across the dented coffee table jimin owns. “like, a really, really bad feeling.” jungkook is already maybe a little bit gone, having drank as soon as the beer had come in. his head feels a little fuzzy, but he can still count up by a factor of four.

“are you talking about taehyung? because he said that he would come over way later, i’m hoping we can finish the alcohol by then so he doesn’t get his hands on it.”

“no,” jungkook sullenly takes another large gulp, because jimin isn’t wrong. “yoongi told me that i was his friend.”

sprawled across his two seater, jimin frowns. he’s rubbing heating pads on his calves and running his hands through his hair when the pain gets to be a little too much, soreness building in every muscle. jungkook knows that jimin just doesn’t stretch properly or works himself too hard. most of the time, it’s the latter. he’s always putting something on his body to push away the pain for another day.

“yoongi?”

“suga,” jungkook translates, reaching over with his chopsticks to take another piece of chicken. he’s sitting on the floor, legs crossed underneath the coffee table. the space heater is working wonders for his side. “from…cypher?”

straightening, jimin puts his legs over one edge of the couch. “so you’re upset that a famous person is going to be your friend? i thought you had a crush on rm anyways.”

“that was years ago, quit bringing it up,” he hisses. “besides, i rarely see rm.”

“and…you see yoongi more?”

jungkook falls quiet. he’s been seeing a lot of yoongi recently. around the company, walking through the hallways, giving him unasked for advice and making him laugh. he thinks too much, mind moving over thousands of different possibilities, different ways of making him want to tear down the growing pains of his heart.

“jungkook.”

“i have a bad feeling, hyung,” jungkook grimaces, “i think i’m in trouble.”

jungkook doesn’t like falling in love. he doesn’t like feeling attraction, either, but he knows that these are lies he tells himself to not want to fall in love with boys. he knows desperately that it would be so much easier to just love a girl, go back home and pretend he didn’t want a boyfriend, go home and tell his mother that he’s going to give her everything she wanted from him. it’s more than just thinking at times i don’t care what they think of me, they can’t control my life because no matter how much she yelled and screamed at him he still misses her. he misses the sound of her voice. never really realizing how much he had lost for his heart after he had lost it all.

jimin catches on quickly. giving him a long, long look, he starts, “he’s an idol, jungkook.”

and when jungkook’s voice cracks – “you and taehyung said he might be bisexual, after all.”

“no,” jimin breathes, and jungkook buries his face in his hands. hating it all. “jungkook, seriously? seriously? i thought you didn’t like him!”

no, he didn’t. he told himself desperately, ragingly, that he didn’t like yoongi. this weird feeling – this burn in his heart, the way his skin prickles – he doesn’t like yoongi. jungkook has never gotten over feeling. having capacity to feel. jimin grabs onto his shoulder and jungkook wants to break down.

“i didn’t mean it,” he inhales shakily, head pressed against the heels of his palms.

“he was that coworker?” jimin half asks, dropping down beside him when jungkook nods. “gguk, i’m sorry.”

“i’ll get over it,” jungkook tells jimin, tells himself. for now he lets his heart love and grieve.

/

jungkook’s main plan of attack has always been one of cease and desist: he does what he does best and avoids. he avoids yoongi’s kind words and his morning greetings go by with a little nod and a hurried side eye, i have to go really quick i’m sorry i can’t stay here any longer. it’s  good timing because it’s almost the end of a whole month cypher has been around the company building, preparing for their next round of variety show appearances and comebacks. people are tracking numbers of album sales and there are bets between how long it takes to drop and rise. this week, all of the members of cypher huddle together in the main production team’s room and work on what they need to work on. jungkook is left in his tiny studio room with its dusty wood floors and improperly closing windows and temperamental machinery by his lonesome, and this is – this is what he wanted.

yoongi texts him, sometimes. jungkook responds in short kind, unable to be as standoffish as he once was, not now. not while knowing the way yoongi can be strange and gentle, how he listens to sad songs just to hear something else other than the roaring of his own mind. jungkook likes to think about the day they had spent in his studio, where yoongi asked for his opinion on a song. jungkook hopes that he would use it. his opinion. maybe the song, too. no one else would know about it, but jungkook would listen to the song with the knowledge that he helped in some little way.

he meets rm and j-hope by accident, both of them catching onto him with their interested eyes when he’s in the break room. usually dohoon hyung can be found there, sipping on a cup of coffee at some odd hour, but jungkook only found those two looking on curiously.

“you’re jeon jungkook, right?” rm says, ambling forward and smiling enough to show his dimples. jungkook is abruptly reminded of why he had a shallow crush on rm in the first place. “yoongi-hyung points you out to us sometimes.”

“does he,” jungkook says faintly.

“nice to meet you! i’m jung hoseok,” j-hope clarifies, holding out a hand. jungkook shakes it with clammy palms. “yoongi-hyung really likes you; he mentions you a lot when talking about music, haha. it’d be really nice to hear something of yours, sometime!”

just like that, something warm diffuses in him. jungkook gives a tentative smile and goes, “really? thanks.” he’s nothing too special, but it’s nice that yoongi talks about him. as a friend he wants to introduce to his band members, probably. his stomach twists. friends, he can do friends, he wants to be friends.

he’s not being a very good friend right now, is he?

“it was nice seeing you around! we have to go to a recording now, but hopefully we see you around, jungkook-ssi.”

waving at them as they leave, hoseok shoots him one more beaming smile before disappearing behind the closed door. jungkook inhales, capturing the moment in his lungs. yoongi’s been doing too much, he thinks, pushing at his chest painfully. yoongi shouldn’t be talking up about him to other people. yoongi shouldn’t be doing any of these things, because it makes it difficult for jungkook to see him as the weird hyung who wants to make a good impression again. he makes it very, very difficult.

he could ask for help. ask jimin or taehyung to give him a night to forget, take him to a club out in itaewon. he could let someone feel him up and it would be another guy, their broad palms, their deep voice, their wide shoulders. no soft lines. nothing but the harshness of skin. jungkook doesn’t like intimacy without actual intimacy but he doesn’t know how to else to stop feeling like combusting.

in the end, he doesn’t ask. it won’t help him, taking a random one night stand and fucking pain away. he’s known too many people do that to themselves, use something else as a cover so no one could see the person underneath. sometimes it hurt. sometimes it lasted years. jungkook just wants to last another day. he can convince himself at the end of each one that the next won’t be as bad.

so he continues to avoid yoongi. it’s not too difficult; if he sticks around and does his job just as he always does, goes home at the time he needs to – ignoring calls from coworkers to come out with them for a drink and dinner – he doesn’t have to see yoongi. instead he sees his friends with much more vigor than before. meets up with taehyung and jimin at cat cafes, eunha at the karaoke place, yugyeom and mingyu in hongdae. he always has somewhere to go and someone to be with, and that, at least, makes it easy for him to take his mind off things.

it doesn’t go unnoticed by him that most of his friends swing for the other team, too.

it’s difficult having straight friends. not that they’re awful or that they don’t support him, because jungkook can’t count the number of people on four hands that have shown support. for every one person that has deemed to bring him down, there’s at least two to show support. but they don’t get it, don’t get how terrifying it is to look at someone else and think i like you but i can never have you. to wonder if you confessed, if they would deign you to be a sodomizing monster or a gay friend or a i will try really hard to show my support yet ostracize you at the same time by making your gayness the only thing that matters. it doesn’t. jungkook has dreams, and for the longest time, none of those dreams involved getting it on with a man.

he took that chance, once. took it with his family, and now it’s a wound he can’t close.

so everyone in his circle runs like a circle. except maybe mingyu, but even then, mingyu’s always been someone who keeps his cards close to his chest. jungkook doesn’t bother prying.

it’s dumb, acting like he has to declare his sexuality for the world. it’s his, why does he have to answer? it can’t be hard to leave him alone, it can’t be hard to let him just like the boy he likes without feeling this terrible, terrible guilt. this guilt that he knows is irrational but this guilt that persists anyone, the one that whispers boys shouldn’t like boys like that; this guilt that has been so buried with him that it feels like he’s already six feet under. even when he gets upset at people who say it loud and proud – homosexuality is a sin! – even when he snarls and tells them that it’s not, that it’s just love it’s just people

some part of him is still struggling to come to terms with it too.

jungkook thinks a lot about these things nowadays. he thinks about yoongi and his weirdness, and thinks that maybe yoongi wasn’t the one who was weird. he was the weird one. not because he likes boys but because – because he thinks everyone else has a problem with it and he needs to stay away from boys just to make sure it’s not written across his face. jungkook shouldn’t give a fuck about what other people think about him. he shouldn’t care, but he does.

jimin’s voice of irritation, taehyung’s yells of frustration, all of them are feelings that he harbors inside of himself. it doesn’t matter it doesn’t matter let me love – but then, then, he feels this guilt again, and it swallows all of those words whole.

yoongi catches up to him by the next week. if he’s noticed that jungkook is actively avoiding him, he doesn’t mention it, or even be passive aggressive about it. instead, when he catches up to jungkook just walking out of the building, holding onto his elbow briefly for his attention, yoongi’s eyes are bright.

“hey,” he starts, voice rough, running just to match jungkook’s pace.

“ah, hyung.” he’s glad his voice is even. he’s glad his chest doesn’t jump start. jungkook calms; friends is okay. friends is okay. even if he wanted more –

“jungkook, i have a really big favor to ask of you.”

/

somehow jungkook finds himself following after yoongi to his car, a black sleek thing that he drives on off days where his manager, sejin, doesn’t tote him around. he finds himself putting on the seatbelt and he’s suddenly hanging high up and dry. waiting for something to happen. yoongi looks antsy, a little uncomfortable, but mostly – focused. centered.

“what’s the favor?” jungkook prods, because it looks like yoongi is never going to tell him if he doesn’t say it first.

for a moment, all yoongi does is lick his bottom lip and tighten his grip on the steering wheel. “so, i went to one of the female artists that you suggested to me, just to hear her voice. in that time i – i finished the song and i sort of wrote some lyrics, i think, i just wrote the first verse just to hear how it sounds. she wasn’t really what i was looking for – gave me the pansori sound, kinda, i don’t even know how, but that’s not what i wanted. i wanted someone – yeah, like you told me. either way, i went onto the next female artist, and then i even asked one of my friends if she would sing for me but…” yoongi shakes his head. “she’s already singing for another track of mine.”

frowning, jungkook picks at the end of his jacket. “did you find anyone?” don’t focus on him listening to you, jungkook. don’t think about that.

“that’s the thing,” yoongi says, and he sounds more nervous this time around. “so i was asking one of the trainees to sing for me, someone else you recommended, and she had a really nice sound. but she wasn’t…perfect, you know? there was just that little bit missing from her voice. i asked her if she knew anyone that sang similarly, and she told me that whatever she learned, she learned it from her vocal coach. you.”

at the stop light, yoongi turns left, into a district that’s more isolated, filled with live in apartment buildings. yoongi had wanted to talk about this outside of the building, but jungkook insisted they leave. i’m going back to my apartment, yoongi had mentioned. i was going to order in something, i guess. jungkook, feeling brave and scared at the same time, hopped into yoongi’s car and stuck around with him.

he isn’t sure if it’s some macabre want to see where yoongi lives and breathes, where yoongi goes to be a person and not a celebrity, or if it’s because he didn’t want to be outside with yoongi in public, where everyone could see him and maybe read his feelings, plain as day, on his face.

“she showed me those videos that you send them to help them with their techniques,” yoongi continues, finally. “and the song that you sang for them, the pop song they were practicing for their maybe-debut. it was beautiful.”

unwilling to think about it – unwilling to focus on it, jungkook’s throat closes. “thanks,” he rasps out.

“would you sing for me?”

there he is, in yoongi’s apartment. the walls are different shades of brown. it’s strangely sparse, but it makes sense: cypher moves around a lot, and on the way here, yoongi mentioned that namjoon and hoseok share an apartment just to save themselves money and the taste of loneliness. yoongi didn’t want to live with either of them – he wanted his own space – and so he had his own apartment, but more often than not, he’s over there anyways. the walls are stripped of most decoration except for a couple of hung albums, all of them belonging to cypher. there’s a nice couch set and table, a flat screen tv, and a small kitchen connected right next to it. the whole place is small, with only two bedrooms.

“one of them is the one i turned into my studio,” yoongi explains, scratching the back of his neck as jungkook takes off his boots. “do you want anything to drink?”

“water, please.”

the floor beneath his feet is cold. jungkook is thankful; it keeps him awake. his resounding sure, hyung, i would love you rings resolutely in his brain. sometimes it feels like he isn’t even talking with his brain anymore; sometimes it feels like he’s doing all of this involuntarily.

yoongi comes back with a bottle of water for him. jungkook uncaps it and takes a long drink.

“thanks again, jungkook,” he’s quiet, but there’s that dark intensity in his eyes again. jungkook has never realized how well purpose looks on yoongi. where his apartment is bare, yoongi’s studio is most decidedly not; it looks like a place he would spend all his time in. the walls are dark as is the furniture, but there are little snippets of his personality here where there wasn’t before. a jersey reading “93 SUGA” is hung up on the wall. a basketball held up by a claw is taking up the space above a large cabinet. the gold of it glimmers in dim light. there’s a couple figures of kumamon, a few statuettes from places he’s been in, postcards stuck up on the wall next to photos and polaroids. a corkboard is full of schedules and fan written letters, post its, and other miscellaneous stuff jungkook doesn’t know the story behind. there’s soft carpet underneath his feet. it even smells like yoongi, of his pine and sandal scent.  

“can i listen to the final song?” jungkook asks as he settles down on the other free seat, unnerved by his own attention to detail. “the instrumental version?”

“sure. you can listen to everything.”

and by everything, he means everything. yoongi lays out all the recordings he’s made with the previous artists, the lyrics, the old cuts, everything. jungkook reads the first few lines of the song, fingers tracing across the page, while yoongi patiently waits for him to finish. “this is…really sad? but they’re meeting for the first time?”

“it’s like a love that can’t happen,” he explains. tapping a pen on the desk in front of him, yoongi brushes aside dust from his hooked up keyboard. “the person singing is upset because they know that they’re attracted to someone, but they can’t follow through with it.”

the words hang heavily on jungkook. it feels too much like yoongi is talking about him. it’s stupid, it’s preposterous. yoongi doesn’t know. no one else but jungkook knows what kind of turmoil is bubbling in him, and even he isn’t sure of it all the time.

“where’d you get the idea for that?” he laughs, but it falls a little flat. yoongi won’t meet his eye, either. he’s frowning down at the keyboard, intent on the black and white keys.

“something that happened to me, some time ago.” so very vague about it. “either way. uh, do you want to – “

jungkook composes himself. “yeah, hyung, give me a couple of minutes to get the rhythm down.”

he replays the song like a record. starting from the beginning, with its sweet soft melody, trilling low and high as it moves further and further away. there’s a really cool sound movement here, almost like a dancing note, physically swirling around him. jungkook will never not be in awe of the way music works. a cluster of noise brings him back to the present, where yoongi setting up a microphone. an exchange between them leaves jungkook breathless.

he’s not supposed to want this.

it’s what he thinks when the mic is nudged over to him, yoongi’s warm fingers brushing against the edge of his own. i shouldn’t want this, he thinks, and his heart thumps painfully, so painfully, jungkook can hear it cracking against the edge of his bones. fingers curling, moving the mic closer to him, jungkook puts on the headphones and says – “play, please.”

and he sings.

some might say that he’s found it all, a culmination of childhood dreams and talent. scouted by the big players of the game until he couldn’t keep up with the demands. brightest and best of the lot until his face – body – voice – wasn’t enough anymore, not for him, not for them. maybe staying home and sleeping was the better option. maybe he would have been better off. he can’t tell how it is now – how would it be now? – because it’s done and over with. nothing can bring them back, he thinks. nothing can bring his family back to him.

he sings about love, about love, about how much he wants it. how he aches for it, such a simple fruit of life, so long he’s gone without it. how his body is cold at night and he aches for warmth, swaddling himself in his blankets until he’s suffocating. how it feels to look at holding hands and hidden smiles and how he wishes, oh, can i be like that please? can i please? just for once. just one time. i want it just once, and i’ll never ask for it again.

just once.

it’s a relationship that will never last. i’ll always go after you, staring at the edge of your shadow. i remember the shape of your smile. all i ask is – just one time, for you to smile at me. i want it just once, i’ll never ask for it again.

i’ll never ask for it again – “ the last line rings and rings and rings, louder and louder with each repetition, like it’ll come true if he says it long enough. without the rest of the music, it’s too quiet. jungkook cracks open his eyelids and light floods back; the dim room, the scent of pine, yoongi sitting footsteps away from him. now only a couple of paces away from him, reaching closer and closer. sparks dance across jungkook’s skin, a burning warmth forming at the base of spine.

yoongi takes off the headphones, his thumbs brushing across jungkook’s cheek. the touch is strangely gentle, even if it’s not on purpose. where skin met skin tingles. weird feeling. with his half pounding heart that won’t be willed to calm down and the ringing in his ears, jungkook doesn’t think he’s felt so young, not since he’s had dreams of something bigger. yoongi keeps staring and staring, his eyes like dark pools. filtered shadows cause something sharp in his gaze, so focused. so focused.

“how did i do?” he whispers, afraid to break something in the air. oh, it feels so tense, so easy to shatter. jungkook can’t understand what it is, this recklessness inside of him spurred on by the way yoongi looks at him. by the way yoongi always notices.

“i…” even he trails off, unsure what to say, and jungkook leans forward to hear the inaudible tone of his voice. he can count the individual strands of hair falling into yoongi’s eyes, the fineness of his brows, the sharp cut of his face. he’s always looked very average to jungkook – maybe jungkook thinks too much of men and their attractiveness – but now, now…something is different. the heat comes from within. neither of them move. jungkook, he can feel yoongi’s breath on his face, warm and pleasing. if he –

it’s always been about space with jungkook. space between the boys he liked, space between the girls he didn’t like, space between himself and the world. if people got too close, they saw the hidden underbelly of him, all the sorrow of him he was unwilling to share. if they strayed far, then oh, he’d be happy, but they would be far. jungkook, for all that he’d push, wanted someone to push back. wanted – wants someone to care enough. and space is part of that, not exactly a test of courage but a test of faith. if i believe, then no one can hurt me. if i believe, then no one can get close enough to hurt me more than i hurt myself. with jungkook, it’s always been about space – the paces – the suffocation, how he wants none and how he wants all at the same time.

yoongi reaches up, can’t help himself, and his thumb rests at the corner of jungkook’s mouth.

when he told his parents his sexuality, they kicked him out. jungkook, angered and heartbroken, ran all the way back to seoul and changed his contacts, his address, his hair, his clothes, his personality. it felt like a rebirth. it felt like a continuation. they couldn’t love him, not even when he was – is – being him. they couldn’t love him even when he begged. it took so long for him to trick himself into happiness, contentment, transforming knowing into believing; this is him, this is just him. there is nothing wrong with him. it doesn’t lessen the guilt, but at least he knows – he knows –

yoongi’s mouth against his is a new feeling. he kissed a girl once, just to make sure. jungkook didn’t like it; it felt like a wet drag of their mouths burdened by inexperience and no attraction. but this, this, this –

he tilts his head. yoongi’s palm moves to the back of his neck, pressing forward. his mouth is warm and dry; they don’t meet head on, at first. no, first, yoongi grasps his lower lip, tugging at it until jungkook is following by a hair’s breadth. when yoongi pulls back and then comes in again with his teeth, tugging jungkook’s mouth open by gently pressing his bottom lip, sparks dance across the seam of his mouth. yoongi moves to kiss the corner of his mouth, the top of his cupid’s bow, only to slot their mouths together the moment jungkook inhales sharply.

he can’t really tell who moves first – him or yoongi. the same time would make more sense for the wicked way their limbs fall into each other. it would explain jungkook’s arms reaching up to press yoongi closer, his lips inviting and alive, no time to breath in between. fingers press against the narrowest part of jungkook’s waist, burning, asking to come closer, closer, it’s not enough. yoongi presses against his jaw and i shouldn’t want this i shouldn’t want this i shouldn’t want this but jungkook does, and guilt – grief – none of it can stop the way yoongi drags his hand up his side, curls his fingers against his spine. if he can breathe, it’s only for yoongi’s minute pause as he presses a kiss against the hollow of jungkook’s throat.

they still.

“i,” yoongi starts, voice low and wrecked. “you’ll sing the whole thing?”

it’s a heat of the moment thing. pressing a kiss against yoongi’s forehead, a muted yes, yes, yes.

and yoongi, his hands drop to jungkook’s hips, searching for purchase. pulling closer to his heat, to his heart. jungkook doesn’t like intimacy without the intimacy, but –

“i can’t do this,” yoongi says, and the space between them grows. “i can’t, i’m – “

“i’m a guy,” jungkook sounds inaudible, drowned out by the rushing of his blood falling, going from his head past his heart to bleed on the floor.

“no,” yoongi answers with no pause. “i’m not. the cameras are on me all the time, jungkook.”

“you kissed me,” he says, desperately throwing it out there. wanting to sound angry, falling flat to forlorn. “you kissed me.”

“i didn’t think you’d kiss back,” yoongi’s dark eyes are so dilated that every inch of brown has disappeared into black. jungkook reaches up and messily pushes aside his bangs. their knees bump into each other, jungkook half on top of him. “i thought you’d hit me and leave. i was thinking stupidly, just all caught up in the way you looked – “

“the way i looked,” he repeats, tracing down the side of yoongi’s jaw. he reaches up to stop his hand. jungkook didn’t realize he had been doing it, felt it so surreal, so out of place.

“i can’t,” yoongi says, upset. breathing heavy.

jungkook feels the painful thud of his heart, loud and clear.

“okay,” he accepts, and moves away – makes a move to leave, to put space between them, to bury it deep where no one else can see it, but yoongi pulls back. kissing him again. groaning into his mouth, reaching up to cup his face, tilt his body to meet jungkook’s, the lines of them parallel and beautifully fit.

yoongi doesn’t stop this time. can’t can’t can’t but here they are, pushing, pulling, i shouldn’t want this. yoongi stands. jungkook keeps holding on.

this is the first time jungkook falls into his bed. on the way down, a mess of hands and legs interconnecting falling tangling together inexplicably tight, clothes moving past shifting skin and the sound of yoongi’s breath on his throat a music all on its own, his mind blanks until the only thought absent – of guilt – of grief – yoongi yoongi yoongi - just once, he tells himself. just once.

/

blurry.

his pillow is softer than he remembers it – jungkook likes firmer pillows, for head support – and the comforter around his shoulders is longer than usual. his is an old one that, falling in love, he had never thrown out. cracking open his eyes a bit registers dingy light. oh, the thinks mutely. oh, this isn’t his own house, nor is it his bed or his cough.

the comforter makes for a good replacement, overtaking the feeling of fingers against his skin. jungkook exhales in lingering warmth, curling his hand over the empty space next to him. as he becomes accustomed to the amount of dark light in the apartment, it all floods back – yoongi’s mouth on his throat, his stomach, his own mouth – and the endless tingle of his bottom lip, the curve of his elbow, still remains. the side of the bed yoongi had occupied is empty.

jungkook sets himself upright with the blanket around his shoulders. he doesn’t want to let go, not yet.

there’s a note on the side table, next to his phone. he checks for the time first – it’s only 9 am, earlier than he expects – before pulling at the little blue post it. there’s messy handwriting on it.

jungkook, i’m sorry i left early – got a call from namjoon saying that they wanted us at ceo’s office seven am for meeting,, don’t know why. i didn’t want to wake you. there’s money to take a cab back, i’m sorry.

yoongi’s name is scrawled on the bottom. whatever large, empty abyss that had been growing jungkook stops for a brief moment as he reads the note over and over, tracing the way yoongi writes his letters. the words themselves, however, take a moment to actually sink into his brain. yoongi left, earlier than jungkook expected, because he had to get to a meeting. of course, there’s always things to think about. relief and numbness spreads in him, equal parts debilitating and motivation.

he picks up his clothes off the floor, ignoring the pebbling of his skin in the sudden dank air, and opens the dark blackout curtains to allow for some sunlight. it warms whatever cold residue is residing on his skin.

and the abyss grows and grows. jungkook leaves the money on the dining table where yoongi had left it, calls his own cab, and heads back to bighit studios.

nothing feels different, except for a possible easiness in his limbs. like stress had been literally fucked out of him. when he looks out people walking by, a recurring pastime of his, the world seems to be tilted between a set of saturated classes. colors were not always this vivid. he wonders if it’s a situation of circumstance. idols can’t tell they’re dating, after all. the largest secret that you can hold for your career until your label is telling you it’s okay, until property limits of the nation are finally written off your skin. jungkook still feels his touches. he’s not a girl. yoongi would – could – never.

it’s only once, jungkook tells himself.

when the day is ending – dohoon hyung gave him paperwork, he did more vocal training, he worked on a song – when the day is ending, when jimin calls him to invite him over for dinner at his place (taehyung brought food) is when realization hits. jungkook agreed, said yes to yoongi’s plea for him to sing his song, and now he’s sitting in limbo between the man he likes and he man he slept with.

it’s no surprise that he comes to jimin’s door half articulate, already on his way to an anxiety attack.

“whoa, whoa,” jimin grabs at his shoulders and pulls him in, letting jungkook collapse at the front of his door with a groan. stars dance behind his eyelids. “jungkook? jungkook!” even voices sound a little dilated and distorted, as if hearing them through a looking glass. “jungkook! shit, taehyung, help me – “

pairs of arms help him up and get him to the sofa. jungkook curls onto his knees, breathing shallowly. it feels like his chest is full to bursting but at the same time so small, not small enough, squeezing tighter and tighter until he’s asphyxiating. a palm rubs down his back and another shakes him gently, and they’re all saying things, they’re all saying things, but he can’t think straight. all shrinking, putting him in a small little box until he’s unable to breathe, jungkook is all about space. sometimes he wants it, sometimes he doesn’t, now he wants it – he wants it so bad, just once, just once just once justonce.

taehyung puts something underneath his nose, and jungkook jerks back abruptly into reality. harsh coughing breaks out of his throat as jimin shrilly goes, “tae!”

“they help,” taehyung says, a bit sharp. the usual happy tilt of his mouth is pointed downward. jungkook blinks away the lights moving in front of his eyes and thinks about something – anyone – traces the lines of taehyung’s face desperately, memorizes the way one of his closest friend moves. yes, this is taehyung, with his green streaked hair and his makeup acne and the perfect bridge that jungkook’s always been jealous of.

“what was that,” he starts with some difficultly, tinging spikes felt at the back of his throat.

“smelling salts,” taehyung admits, looking a bit sheepish. “don’t ask why i have them.”

“why in the world do you have smelling salts?”

“jimin, buddy, i just said not to ask.”

jungkook stiffly moves his body so that he’s sitting limply against jimin’s side. his hand moves from his back to jungkook’s hair. like the way yoongi did, but no, jimin is different – jimin’s fingers are familiar, so kind, a reassurance. he can feel the cool edge of jimin’s ring on his scalp.

three of them are silent for a moment, and then, “what happened there?”

“you haven’t had an attack in months,” jimin starts, quiet, and jungkook just focuses on the sound of his heart. this is someone who cares about him. “what brought this on?”

taehyung reaches out to place a hand on jungkook’s knee, comforting. even when jungkook has never been good at figuring things out for himself – when he had been spiraling – jimin and taehyung were always people who knew how to snap him out of it. they didn’t know him better than himself, no, but they remember him when he couldn’t remember himself.

“i fucked up,” jungkook chokes out.

ever so kind, taehyung smiles, eyes considerate. “gguk, whatever you did, you know you can make it better. we all fuck up, right? we can unfuckup, too.”

“something at work?” jimin prods gently.

“i slept with yoongi.”

it feels real, saying it out loud like that. not a simple fabrication of his memory.

“was he good?”

“shut the fuck up, taehyung, god.”

“at least you know he’s bi, confirmed,” taehyung jokes, but it falls flat.

a withered laugh forces it’s way out of his throat, but it’s more helpless than he’d like it to be. jungkook himself doesn’t know why he’s freaking out – why his throat closes up and why his head feels like it’s spinning in a million different directions – so he slept with yoongi, so what? so what, they have to see each other, so jungkook will have to live with the knowledge of yoongi’s fingers pressing on the dips of his body, so he –

“jungkook,” jimin says, low and hurried, “i...”

“it can’t happen again,” he breathes, “god, no. he’s a fucking idol, someone in the spotlight. it can’t happen again. i just – it was just a moment of…of weakness.”

jimin’s fingers on his shoulder tightens.

taehyung is the one that jungkook can see. grounding himself is the only thing he can do right now. if taehyung is uncomfortable, he certainly doesn’t complain. watching with dark, contemplating eyes, taehyung reaches out to pat him on the cheek. gentle. a brother’s touch, so familiar to him, something he’s been missing.

“oh, gguk,” he starts, and it’s written across the planes of jungkook’s face – oh, how he had liked, how he had let his traitorous heart beat for someone who didn’t – who it shouldn’t have beat for. jungkook clutches the center of his jacket now, coming down from the anxiety as swiftly as he got there. leaving a hollowed out hole, an emptiness growing in the pit of his stomach. flushed and bleary, jungkook pulls away from jimin. drinks some water. thinks: it was just once. he won’t do it again.

/

two days later, it happens again.

/

it’s because he had seen yoongi in the studio. not jungkook’s studio, but yoongi’s studio. the one that resides on the sixth floor, the one that he shares with the rest of cypher, the one that jungkook had once thought about going into just to see how it looked like from the inside. he’s not the only one; on good authority, he knows that some of the trainees wonder what a professional’s workspace looks like too. jungkook can argue he’s a professional all he wants, but until he’s on stage, they only see him as their vocal coach.

he’s there in the first place because dohoon hyung stops by his studio in the last dregs of the day, past sunset. the air outside bites when dohoon stands at the edge of his door, watching silently as jungkook packs up his things.

“i’m afraid you can’t go just yet,” dohoon tells him with some level of hesitance. “one of the older producer hyungs asked you to see them before you left.”

“older? you’re the oldest here, hyung,” jungkook jokes, but that tight, inescapable feeling holds steady over his heart. what does one of the older producers want with him? other than looking over him as they choose a couple of the juniors to help over some periods of time, they haven’t ever taken a second look at jungkook.

dohoon pats him. “it’s room 610, see you tomorrow, jungkook-ssi.”

despite being older, dohoon never fails to address him by the honorific. jungkook doesn’t know whether to tell him to stop or not; he doesn’t want to feel like he’s reaching, but there’s no way in hell he’s going to be that disrespectful, either. he and dohoon are mildly close, and if the elder wants to use ssi with him, jungkook won’t say anything in return.

he hopes that whatever it is, it’ll go by quick. jungkook doesn’t want to spend more time here than he has to - instead, he wants to go back to his usual methods of forgetting. including a night up playing overwatch and watching stupid lets plays is part of that to get rid of that awful, stinging sensation he can’t shake off.

the producer that’s waiting for him in room 610 isn’t slow rabbit or anyone else that he’s expecting. it’s namjoon, sitting by the edge of one of the couches and on his phone. the doorknob in jungkook’s hand is cool metal against the warmth of his suddenly sweating palm.

“oh,” namjoon looks up, surprised. “hey, sorry, did someone call you over here?”

“dohoon-hyung told me it was one of the older producer hyungs that asked me to come over,” jungkook explains, shying away from the entrance. he closes it behind him and stands near the wall, much like a new student introducing themselves to the class. this studio is much nicer than the ones on his floor, padded soundproof walls and warm carpeted floors. there’s enough space to fit an entire group of people here.

“oh, i think yoongi had something to do with that,” namjoon comments, unaware of the way jungkook jumps at the sound of yoongi’s name. “he mentioned that you’re singing a song for him for his mixtape? dohyung said that he wanted to check it out, and invited you over.”

“dohyung?”

“slow rabbit,” namjoon clarifies. with a sweeping motion of his hand, he says, “this is his studio.”

if he wasn’t so anxious out of his skin, jungkook would take the time to marvel. there’s a lot of carrot paraphernalia around, strangely enough, but also a lot of gold trophies and disk awards spread across the room. even still, the details seem to blur as jungkook finds himself watching namjoon warily, a shudder building its way up his spine.

“i’ve gotta get going now,” the other says, standing up and smoothing down his coat with a sorry smile. “promised a couple of people i would meet up with them for dinner before heading home. i think hyung should be here soon.”

“okay,” jungkook nods, holding his chin close to his chest. namjoon offers him a friendly wave and then goes.

with nothing else to do and feeling strangely like he’s on a chopping block, he sits down on the available couch and wonders - what does slow rabbit want with me? - he and yoongi are a little bit close, he knows, maybe - no, his head is spinning -

the door opens before jungkook can focus on his phone screen. yoongi walks in quick, shutting the door behind him, cursing underneath his breath. something is irritating him so bad that it speaks from the lines of his tense shoulders. yoongi hasn’t seen him yet, not until jungkook stands up on near instinct. the shuffle of sound makes it so that yoongi turns to see the intruder, eyes flashing, and -

“oh, jungkook,” yoongi breathes, and the way he speaks jungkook’s name, the way the syllables fall from his mouth is almost too much.

“i,” he swallows. “i thought slow rabbit wanted to see me...”

“he did?” yoongi’s expression doesn’t change. “i’m not sure where he is. we were supposed to talk about my mixtape, but it looks like he’s just disappeared somewhere? damn, lemme just text him really quick.”

“hyung,” jungkook says softly, not missing how yoongi stops immediately. “i’m tired. can we just - “

“sorry,” he breathes. moving forward, closing the space between them, a testament to jungkook’s memory of him. yoongi’s breath over the soft space of his neck. pleasure-wrought voice in the dark, whispering his name.

jungkook takes a step back. something flashes in yoongi’s eyes. “we need to finish the song,” he starts, feet placed firmly on the ground. “slow rabbit wanted to hear.”

so he goes behind the screen, setting studio grade headphones over his head. the mic in front of him is shiny and black, virtually untouched. he wonders how many other artists have had the opportunity to stand here, if yoongi ever stood here himself.

his fingers brush over the edge of the stand, setting it so that it’s higher up.

“ready?” yoongi’s voice rings from the speaker, and jungkook nods without looking at him.

jungkook has never given anything less than his all. even now, when he feels like fracturing, the words printed on such a small piece of paper ground him. he’s not going to do anything less than this, he knows. it’s not because yoongi is the one asking, and it’s not because he slept with him a couple days back, it’s because - it’s because singing is the only thing jungkook knows how to do. in between every sodden day and unmanageably stifling morning, singing is the only thing that gets him through without wanting to disappear into dust.

and maybe it’s something magnetic, like that, like this finished song - when the last line is pulled out of his throat - i’ll never ask for it again -

yoongi is already pulling into the studio, unaware of the consequences, pulling him in for a kiss. they fall together like that again, just so casually severe, so easily fit into each other’s parts. jungkook heaves a heavy breath into his mouth, and the rest - the rest is a blur, from the car ride to falling into bed to the rock heaviness of night.

/

yoongi is there, this time, in the morning. jungkook’s shoulders and thighs ache with a pleasurable burn. he’s swaddled in warmth and comfort, practically melting into the mattress, when he realizes where he is again. yoongi’s arm bends at an odd angle, over the top of his head. jungkook’s smushed between his shoulder and the pillow, spaces of immeasurable skin between his fingertips. thin slivers of light from the blinds - the blackout curtains pulled back - create pinpricks of sun across his skin. jungkook reaches out to trace on that rests on yoongi’s collarbone.

his knee is pressed against yoongi’s shin. unsure of himself but too disillusioned by yoongi’s rising and falling chest, jungkook entangles their legs. just a moment more, he thinks to himself, and when he’s slinging an arm across yoongi underneath the covers, a huff sounds from above him.

“what are you doing?” he rasps out, still tinged with sleep and ease. jungkook likes his voice like this, gravel and kindness.

“dunno,” he mumbles in return. yoongi’s arm stretches from where it’s underneath his head to turn over an brush brunette bangs out of jungkook’s eyes. his touch is strangely gentle. treading lightly across his skin, a rock skipping over water, yoongi presses his thumb against the swell of his bottom lip. jungkook presses a brief, minute kiss there.

“what are we doing?” jungkook breathes, letting it exhale from his body. yoongi doesn’t answer.

it’s very early in the morning. yoongi’s phone rings once, but he doesn’t pick it up. it’s difficult, impossible, to move from their entangled position. jungkook revels in sentimentality, the traitorous thud thud thud of his still beating heart, of how easily yoongi can reach out and reach in for it. jungkook has always been like this: running race forward, reckless, to what he wants despite what hurt it may cause him. the hardest part is getting over the starting point, and once he runs, he’s gone for good.

yoongi is a race he’s not sure he can win.

everytime he muses over it for more than a second, he remembers - that the space is here, in between the cotton threaded sheets of yoongi’s bed, the plain colored walls of his apartment. jungkook can fantasize all he wants, but this like, this emotion, burns dim and will die with a flicker of a breeze. it’s not forever. there is no forever for him, not with yoongi, possibly not with anyone but especially not with yoongi. while jungkook is crawling his way up from job to job, promotion to promotion, yoongi is sweating into the mic for millions of fans. he’s on tv. he’s in the social sphere, and jungkook’s face is virtually meaningless. he can’t see how they would work - how they would mesh - just because their bodies match doesn’t mean that the rest of them do.

“it’s the weekend,” yoongi murmurs, still rough from disuse. jungkook takes to tracing the outline of his ribs underneath the covers. “you don’t have to go back.”

“are you gonna make me breakfast?” jungkook jokes, but the thought of it is nice and terrifying. nice, to see yoongi’s calm, guileless expression; terrifying because it feels like letting him taste something that he can’t really have.

contemplating it, yoongi reaches down to pat the small of his back. “i can pour you a bowl of cereal.”

this finds him sitting on one of the high chairs of yoongi’s kitchen, in his boxer shorts and one of yoongi’s spare shirts (his own is crumpled and stained with something very suspicious, jungkook won’t wear that in the house forget going outside until it’s been properly laundered). there’s a heater right near his chair, and everytime it rotates to his direction, deliciously warm air hits his legs. he sets his head against his crossed arms, watching yoongi set out a bowl of rice in front of him and warm up some soup on the stove.

“i’m not the best at cooking,” the elder admits, yawning a little. his back, wide and a little hunched over, is toward jungkook. “most of the time i just order out, even for simple stuff like korean food. it’s too much effort to cook, and takes too much time to learn a new recipe. usually i can’t get it right on the first try.”

“oh.” so different from jungkook, who rarely has that problem.

“don’t blame me if it tastes a little funny,” he warns, setting the pot of it on the table in between them. as yoongi sits, jungkook kicks his foot out and runs it up yoongi’s leg. the other raises an eyebrow at him.

“i’m sure it’ll be fine.”

“are you playing footsie with me?”

jungkook scrunches his nose. “your foot just so happened to be where i was kicking. so full of yourself, hyung.”

with a scoff, yoongi pushes his bowl of rice at him. despite his teasing, jungkook doesn’t complain about the food - it’s not awful, anyway, just has the taste of a day old meal - and what’s better than that is having yoongi’s full attention, all of his lazy morning intensity and his slow-on-the-uptake realization. sensations rest easy and heavy in jungkook’s belly, so wonderful and tepid. it feels like sleepy morning languishing, yoongi moving the finished dishes from the table to the sink, starting up the water -

“let me do it.”

“it’ll take like, ten minutes.”

jungkook steals the sponge from his unwilling hands. “it’s only fair, right? besides, i’ll be quick. which faucet is the hot water?”

they finished all the stew, filling their stomachs with broth and kimchi. jungkook hums melody to harmonize with the sound of running water. his fingers prune a little under the water; even as he washes his bowl and yoongi’s, there’s still other dishes underneath that are already a couple of days old. scum on the sidelines.

yoongi’s arms move around his waist, a heavy weight at his back. “you don’t have to do all of them,” he says. “i should buy paper plates and cups so i don’t have to do this shit.”

“at least you’re not being wasteful.” every exhale is a movement against his ear. his chin stubbornly rests on jungkook’s right shoulder. “me and my hyung used to wash styrofoam cups and reuse them to make castle models.”

for a moment, yoongi is silent, soaking in the sound of rushing water, dishes clinking against each other. “my hyung is a bit of a neat freak,” he snorts. “i guess that’s why i’m not that super into it. each time i would go for dinner, he would look at me with this nasty look if i didn’t wash my hands. even my own mother wasn’t that anal about it.”

“your rebellious years were against your brother instead of your mom?”

“sometimes he felt more like a mother than the woman who gave birth to me, sure.” a thumb slips into jungkook’s button down, stroking his stomach. “he was always super caught up with this stuff, don’t know why. my mom always said that it was just how he is. can’t stop people from being born the way they are.”

the last of the dishes end up next to the sink with a final clink. jungkook washes his hands of soap and dishwash - different from his own, more citrus - and yoongi presses a kiss against his pulse. a hand lays flat against his stomach, spread across the expanse of it. yoongi’s thumb reaches his ribs; fingertips near the very far line of his torso. pressing back a little more to the person behind him.

it feels like a sex thing. it definitely feels like a sex thing, if the way jungkook’s body responds is any indication. breath shortening, heat pooling at the base of his spine, mouth falling open - but it’s not, it’s not. it’s something he can’t exactly pinpoint, but it comes in the form of yoongi’s forehead pressed against his shoulder blades, his mouth leaning down and - not kissing, but a simple press of his mouth against the thin material of his shirt, enough for a simple whisper. that’s what it is, a whisper. amiably, yoongi pulls away to keep both his hands on jungkook’s hips. twisting, jungkook gives him a little curious look.

“do you like historical dramas?” he asks, mouth pulled up to the side, half smirking.

“not really, no,” jungkook flicks his wrist. “why do you ask?”

“isn’t goblin a historical drama, sort of?”

“it’s urban fantasy,” jungkook deadpans. “don’t argue with me about it.”

“what? no, it’s like - modern historical.”

“i’ve already had a debate about this with my friends, and it’s like a - an urban mythological fantasy romance. you can’t tell me different. i’m prepared to destroy you in a debate if you push the topic.”

“i was going to rewatch it,” yoongi hums, “want to join me?”

“all the episodes today?”

“what else to do on a weekend, right?”

jungkook doesn’t question it. he would be doing the same, though his days would definitely be broken up with a lot of other stuff in between, which includes probably exercising in the gym, playing games, and sending taehyung ridiculous pictures of stupid stuff found on twitter. jungkook doesn’t like rewatching dramas unless they’re his absolute absolute favorite, because he gets impatient at some parts and just skips through most of the stuff he would have watched the first time around. with yoongi, he settles into the sofa so yoongi can pull up all the episodes and start on one.

halfway through the third episode, time spent just shifting on the couch with minimal comments about each character - about what little details jungkook had missed the first time around - yoongi says, “you know, i don’t even like dramas.”

jungkook shifts to look at him, head laid to rest on the arm of the sofa. his legs are half on yoongi’s lap. “then why are we watching this?”

“i don’t know,” yoongi chuckles, rubbing the back of his head. “i watched this because hoseok wanted to, long ago, and namjoon didn’t have time when it came out. it popped up in my head randomly back there, but then you got all fired up over it.”

“did not.”

“so you weren’t going to take this to the podium and verbally strike me down about genres?”

“of course not,” he huffs, flush creeping up his cheeks. with a petulant little kick, jungkook goes, “shut up and watch, hyung, jeez.”

yoongi stops his playful kick with a hand on his ankle, tugging at it briefly before jungkook shakes him off in surrender. yoongi doesn’t let go.

“i’m going to get a cup of coffee,” he starts when the episode is nearly done. “do you want any?”

“not really,” jungkook straightens, setting his legs on the floor instead of yoongi’s lap. “is there anything else you have?”

thinking over it, yoongi heads to the kitchen before calling out, “i think i have one of those instant hot cocoa packets.”

“i’ll make that!” jungkook scrambles up to join him, catching sight of the box and getting excited. as soon as he heard “instant hot cocoa’, his mind travelled back to the little yellow and white box that would be apparent in their home every cold season. his mom refused to buy it for them any other time of the year, citing too much sugar, so it was a special treat for him and junghyun every snow season and fall. “do you have milk, hyung?”

with a querying look, yoongi points to his fridge. it’s good old whole milk, too, none of that fat free or skim stuff jimin is fond of. jungkook pours himself a whole mug of it before grabbing a saucepan he noticed earlier with the other dishes. yoongi’s at the coffee machine, pressing a couple buttons and waiting for it to start up and grind.

“i used to have these a lot as a kid,” he picks up the box, looking at it front and back. “i always thought it was too sweet, though. at least for me.”

“i loved these,” jungkook bounces on the balls of his feet, ready for the moment of nostalgia at the smell of it wafting through the air. right now, all he can hear is the whirring of yoongi’s coffee maker. “i’d save up all my allowance to buy a cup of it from one of the vendor uncles in the winter. they did something to it that made it taste better, but these are good just as they are, too.”

“where did you live as a kid?” yoongi’s question is quiet, gentle, almost soft enough that jungkook could ignore it if he wanted to. maybe that was yoongi’s way of giving him an out.

“in busan,” he answers. “i have an accent, if you didn’t notice.”

“i did, but i wasn’t sure,” the other chuckles. “i’m from daegu.”

“we’re both gyeongsangdo people,” jungkook smiles at him, and yoongi clears his throat. the tips of his ears are slightly pink.

when their drinks are done, yoongi wraps his hands around the bottom of his mug and drinks a large gulp of it right away. staring at him, jungkook gapes as he shows no signs of combusting as half the contents of his mug disappears. jungkook is still blowing steam off of the top of his.

reaching out, he goes, “didn’t you burn your tongue? what the hell?”

“i need at least three cups of this to wake me up in any form of coherent,” yoongi says wryly. “this just feels like i need to go back to sleep. i think i’ve desensitized myself.”

“you must have, with an addiction like that.”

raising his mug again, yoongi doesn’t refute that.

this time, jungkook sits at the far right side of the room, crossing his legs and grabbing the coverlet hung over the single chair situated at an angle to the two seater he’s one. yoongi settles down next to him, a lot closer than before, their knees practically touching. starting up the drama again, jungkook leans back and recalls the time he, jimin, and taehyung watched this for hours on end, marathoning the first five episodes and then waiting every week for the very next episode because taehyung was obsessed with the series. jimin was watching a medical drama at the same time, so he wasn’t as fervent in making sure to get all the episodes, but taehyung would strap them down to the table until they watched it with him and, at some point, got both he and jimin hooked.

hours melt by easily. yoongi finishes his coffee first, setting it down on a stack of magazines on the coffee table, and jungkook savors his hot cocoa until the end. he places his slightly smaller mug (they were mismatched) inside of yoongi’s.

somewhere around halfway through the entire drama, when it was already a good portion into the afternoon, yoongi groans and rubs the back of his neck. his head has been moving this way and that for a while now, maybe unused to the amount of time he’s been sitting still. jungkook has a problem with that himself, but marathoning things is a special talent of his. he can force his entire being to just calm down if it meant being able to watch sixty four episodes of an anime all in a row.

“i’m going to lie down, alright?” yoongi sighs, standing up to stretch his back. jungkook blinks, muttering out a quick okay, expecting him to head to his bedroom -

yoongi settles back down on the two seater couch, throwing his legs over the edge of the sofa, his head falling straight onto jungkook’s thigh. with a sniffle, he closes his eyes and goes, “i hope you don’t mind.”

throat tight and attention shot, jungkook goes, “no.”

as the episode ends, it transitions to the next queued show - some random indie drama that jungkook has never heard of before, with flowery language and (is it about mother in laws? what) his lower half feels paralyzed. if he looks away from the screen, he’s afraid of what kind of expression he’ll make with the man lying on him. jungkook doesn’t dare look away at all. even when the minutes pass by slow and decadent, he doesn’t dare. the sound of snoring is what finally startles him hard enough to jerk, quickly watching the head on his thigh with alarm.

yoongi is still asleep. in slumber he looks much more peaceful. reluctant, jungkook presses chilly fingertips against the edge of his ear; since he’s laid down, yoongi has rolled to the side so that his nose is tucked into jungkook’s stomach. he sleeps with his arms crossed, surprising enough, but it doesn’t seem uncomfortable. with soft rising and falling breathes, he’s already fast asleep.

his fingers trace the line of his jaw, down to the tip of his chin; yoongi exhales a little, and jungkook pauses with an uptick of his heart. when he calms down again, jungkook’s hand moves to strands of dry blonde hair, washed free from product and hairspray. unsure, he runs his fingers through yoongi’s hair.

there’s not a large change in his expression, but maybe - a small relaxation, a little bit less tense. his mouth not too pressed together, eyebrows smoothed out. a little less.

jungkook leans back and closes his eyes. he doesn't know what he’s doing.

/

this is the first time that jimin and taehyung have decided to use jungkook’s home as their meet up point for whatever they want to do over the weekend, or on fridays, for a couple of months - at least six, he frowns to himself - and when he finally reads through the texts about it on the group chat, it incites a quick rise of panic in him.

for the last two weeks he’s been practically living at yoongi’s place, staying over the night six nights out of seven, only heading back to get his own clothes or something or the other. at some point his clothes have mingled with yoongi’s - at some point, he’s forgotten what his own shower gel smells like, he’s so used to the dumb medicinal one yoongi uses for himself. jungkook hasn’t been habitating his own home for a significant amount of time (which will be great for his bills this month) but that also means that he’s got a lot of shit at home he needs to clear out before jimin and taehyung get there. mostly because jimin starts sneezing when his dust allergy acts up, so the least jungkook can do so he won’t be complaining by the tissue box all night is sweep the floor. taehyung and he have gone through this the hard way and they both agree it’s just better to suck it up and clean.

this is the main reason why jungkook left in a rush from yoongi’s apartment after lunch, a late meal of black bean noodles and this new peach tea that namjoon gave yoongi five bottles of (“i don’t even like tea, what the hell.”) heading to his apartment because damnit, silence from jungkook usually means okay (they went over this years ago, because jungkook hates checking his text messages) and he really needs to check his texts.

throwing aside his shoes and scrubbing the side of his face, not really feeling up to human interaction, jungkook puts on a song that he’s been obsessed with for a while as he shuffles the big blankets on his couch to side, seeing as how they’ll use that eventually. he brooms a bit and grimaces at the amount of dust that’s gathered up in his absence. it’s not like jungkook doesn’t like cleaning, but he can put it off for days - weeks - before being overtaken by some raging cleaning spirit and going on a twelve hour binge. this isn’t one of those days. the most he wants to do is work his muscles to the minimum amount and maybe change the trash, it really, really stunk.

it’s only six when jimin and taehyung come, knocking on the door in four short raps. jungkook calls out for them to open the door distractedly, looking through his fridge for something cold to drink. he still has the taste of peach at the back of his throat.

“heyo, i brought the goods,” taehyung holds up white plastic bags with a big, cheeky smile. “it’s chinese! i was really craving dumplings, so me and jimin stopped by this place before we got here - “

“it smelled so much like soy sauce,” jimin crinkles his nose, shutting the door behind him with an outstretched foot. at least he locks it, from what jungkook can hear. he takes a swig of the water bottle he fortunately located.

“i think there were soy sauce stains on the ceiling.”

“ew,” jimin laughs, sinking into the couch. “oh man, gguk, how have you been? we haven’t seen you in so long!”

“i’ve been fine,” jungkook smiles, sitting on the floor as his friends take the other two spots. “how was the showcase, hyung?”

jimin’s dance studio was holding a studio for a couple of their main dancers, and he knew that jimin really wanted to be able to showcase an original choreo of his own. though the last week has been a bit of a blur, he does remember that jimin’s showcase was a couple of days back. if it weren’t for the audience being restricted to people who belong to the dance studio only, jungkook would have been there in the seats along with taehyung, screaming his lungs out and holding up a jimin jjang! sign. taehyung had one prepared on the off-case they would need it in the future anyway.

“it went well,” jimin beams, “i mean, i think one of the sunbaes i really wanted to notice me actually noticed me, but i won’t know for sure until they contact me or - or something. some sign.”

taehyung opens up the packets of stir fry noodles and a whole separate white container of dumplings. the smell perforates warm and thick through his apartment, and jungkook eyes the dumplings with no small amount of interest.

“hey, gguk, we bought shrimp, beef, and chicken, so you gotta choose one.” taehyung points at each accordingly with his chopsticks. “if you take the beef, i’ll take the chicken and jimin will have the shrimp.”

“i want the chicken, jerk.”

“i’m only taking the beef if jungkook takes the shrimp. don’t make me fight you for the chicken, i will win.”

rolling his eyes, jungkook shakes his head. “i’m good, guys. don’t worry about me, i ate like...three hours ago.”

taehyung and jimin share an infuriatingly unreadable look with each other. jungkook huffs and steals a dumpling just to get them off his case, chewing through the skin to the flavorful pork filling.

“you’ve been eating normally, right?” jimin says, voice subdued. while he’s not looking, taehyung’s pulling out the food from their containers and setting them on whatever mismatched plates are in jungkook’s apartment. the fact that he dumps all of the chicken on the plate and pushes it in jungkook’s direction doesn’t go unnoticed.

“yeah,” jungkook pushes the plate back at him. “i had black bean noodles a couple of hours ago, i’m really not all that hungry. i’ll eat some of the dumplings, don’t worry about it.”

“but,” taehyung starts, frowning, and then jimin shakes his head and goes, “alright, have at the dumplings. eat half so taehyung will be left hanging and will use his own money to buy his own damn food.”

“you’re older than me, you should buy me food,” taehyung argues, shoving a mouthful of noodles so he won’t have to speak.

unimpressed, jimin starts more mildly on his food. “was it with your coworkers, gguk? you mentioned they were taking you out for food a lot more. don’t eat too much, you know?”

“um,” jungkook swallows, “yeah. i - it was with them. that’s why i ate, i didn’t want to say no...”

he’s not sure why he keeps this from jimin and taehyung, exactly. he knows that they wouldn’t really berate him - jungkook is an adult, he can do what he wants, and both of them know that perfectly well even when they try to joke and say they’re his gay parents. they’ve never really stopped jungkook from doing something if it didn’t harm him directly, only let him know what they thought about the situation gently - like jimin had done when after his first night with yoongi. but he doesn’t want them to know. in between the three of them, there are secrets that each other doesn’t touch - why jungkook doesn’t eat much, why taehyung is still taking shady modelling deals, why jimin never calls home on chuseok - and he wants this to be another one.

perhaps it’s because jungkook knows, logically, that getting into this...whatever it is with yoongi is a bad idea. not only is yoongi an idol, he’s a well known one, a rapper that made it big from the underground with his own songs and his own talent. while jungkook was always a fan of namjoon’s, it’s not like he didn’t know who the rest of cypher was (other than their real names and faces, he sort of always focused on namjoon in the middle of his crush, but he knew of their existence) and they’ve only gotten bigger since jungkook was a fan.

it’s not just being a celebrity - it’s being in the public eye in general. despite rainbow parades in busan and all the support that’s been conglomerating, jungkook knows that there are people out there who would want him dead just for who he is. it scares him, he won’t lie. once upon a time he believed that he should die for being who he was, too.

he doesn’t anymore, but it’s not easy to shake something like that off. he’s terrified of falling into a relationship, always has been. while jimin and taehyung visited gay clubs (he’s not sure why, they’re kind of obvious of their more than friendship feelings for each other) jungkook never went along for anything else other than the music and the occasional drink. his crushes always die painfully under the heel of his foot, because he’s terrified of coming out. he doesn’t know how to handle it. coming out to his parents was an ordeal in itself, and an entire mistake, too.

and with yoongi - a relationship with yoongi - means that he’s got to deal with the looming fear of a scandal, double the amount of media attention because it would be with him instead of a her. not everyone will be so sympathetic. he doesn’t want to drag yoongi into the mud with him, but - but -

he can’t forget the way his limbs felt with yoongi’s, so close to his chest that jungkook could count every individual thump.

and so he’ll do anything to keep this secret, even if it means denying it in front of his friends. he’s the least vocal of his friends about his life, anyways, it shouldn’t matter.

“is that a new shirt, gguk?” taehyung comments in between his chewing, opening up the television. “it’s nice. where did you buy it? it looks like a brand - “

“oh, uh,” jungkook fumbles over his words, hating how it’s so easy to tell when he lies. “i was - i bought it a long time ago? probably from one of those...knock off places, you know?”

“nice.”

thankfully both of them are watching the screen to pay too much attention to him. jungkook exhales into his palms and blinks, wondering how he’ll keep this from the both of them when he can’t even keep a straight face telling a white lie, and reaches for another dumpling. he notices that they’ve both left the chicken stir fry noodles for him, and it makes him smile.

his thing with yoongi won’t last long, anyways. jungkook knows that sooner or later, it has to end. yoongi is a public face, jungkook works in the same company he does, they’re in it together for the sex. at some point yoongi - or maybe jungkook himself - will get tired.

/

six months later, he’s still sleeping in yoongi’s bed.